20 books and 20 lbs (week 6): nearly 2 of each down!

…Well, nearly so. In the past two weeks since my last update, I’ve managed to finish off two books and drop another 1-1/2 lbs! I’m about to start my third book, and I’m down 4-1/2 lbs since the start of this challenge. NOT BAD. Of course, it’s not like the weight is flying off my body – but that’s on me (quite literally) for not having gotten into a full-on exercise regimen yet. This weight loss thus far is all about tweaking my diet. I’m not even making major changes.

The good news about making tweaks is that I don’t feel like I’m giving up anything. So what if I don’t have flavored coffee in the morning? The farther away I get from having it, the more I can taste the HFCS in the flavor and simply DON’T WANT IT. It’s not that I don’t want a bagel twist or a donut because it’s the faster way out of my local Dunkins; it’s that I know that the donuts aren’t getting me where I want to go and I can have a multigrain bagel and feel fuller anyway.

The downside to tweaks is that you don’t see big results. I’m not really seeing this as a bad thing, though, since I look at this as a long-term life change I’m trying to make, not a “biggest loser” competition or something, where the goal is to lose as much as possible as fast as possible. If I’m going to lose weight and get healthier, it’s not going to happen with crash dieting.

As it is, I have a new product to test out that I’m excited to talk about in a few weeks, once I’ve had a chance to let it kick my ass about a bit. Here’s something else – and a reason why I want to hug hug HUG Elizabeth Comeau at the Boston Globe. My sweet friend, @BeWellBoston, introduced me to #plankaday and though I’m not at a six-pack, I see that even from having done this EVERY DAY since the start of the year, my belly IS getting flatter. No, really. It’s kinda crazy and kinda awesome and I can’t wait to see the result when I get another month and a half in.

In other words, progress is being made towards the 20 lbs and I couldn’t be happier about it.

So, then we get to the books side of things.

Book #1: “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

For those who haven’t read Dickens, he’s not exactly the one to keep you rolling in the aisles. And perhaps putting in all those hours reading Neal Stephenson’s “Baroque Cycle” tenderized me to that particular time period, but I was really drawn into the book. Sure, it took about 150 pages before I really started to get a sense of where he was going (the book being just under 400 pages, in the paperback version I read), but once he gets there, it’s just a riveting read.

For the majority of the book, “A Tale of Two Cities” careens back and forth between London and Paris around the time of the French Revolution that sent so many of the aristocracy to oblivion, courtesy of Madame La Guillotine. The London part of the story follows a former prisoner of the Bastille and his sweet daughter, who falls for yet another French émigré living in England. The story in Paris is one of greater intrigue, centered on a wine shop run by a couple who not only brew but pour out the boiling oil of proletarian dissent across all of France.

The relations between all the various parties get incredibly complex and the threads eventually converge in Paris, where fear, domination, lies and love create an atmosphere as charged as that of a thunderstorm. It’s not a fast read until you get to maybe the last 100 pages, and it can be difficult to keep some of the male characters straight early on, but the reward is definitely there. It’s a fascinating, frightening, and ultimately tragic read that I’d highly recommend.

Book 2: “Crooked Little Vein” by Warren Ellis

I was introduced to Warren Ellis by my sister and BIL, who told me of this mad hatter writer who was a prolific and perverse tweeter. I started to follow him during the last World Cup and I can’t say I was ever disappointed. Ellis is the mastermind behind many graphic novels, including “RED” (which inspired the movie of the same name), and “Crooked Little Vein” was his first (non-graphic) novel. Well, I say that and yet “graphic” is an easy way to describe it. Ellis draws his characters and scenes with such intensity and depth of description that you can’t help but have perfect images in your head…some of which you wish you had brain bleach to dissolve.

The story follows a hapless private detective who is a magnet for just about every awful thing you can’t dare to imagine. Much of it scatalogical or sexual (or both), these horrors just seem to make him even more resolute that whatever higher powers exist must hate his guts. When presented with a high-paying job to retrieve a mythical lost alternate Constitution, he takes off on a cross-country chase with a smarmy sidekick who quickly turns into more. As they race across the country in search of the lost tome, they encounter even more vileness, danger, and complete losses of humanity. And while this all could be terribly discouraging, there’s something still rather comforting in knowing that Ellis is drawing these people as the caricatures – the people on the outskirts of normal reality, rather than the examples of the Everyman.

Having only previously read Ellis’ stunning web-based graphic novel, “FreakAngels”, I already had a sense that he’s a twisted, mad bastard of a writer who enjoys taking no prisoners and pushing the boundaries of what polite society can’t fathom tolerating. There’s no benefit to only ever reading that which stays within your comfort zone, lest you never learn to expand that bad boy. “Crooked Little Vein” is a fast, engaging read that will challenge you NOT to run for the hills…and if you stay for the whole show, you’ll be glad you did.

Book #3: “Sunken Treasure” by Wil Wheaton

I’m starting this one tonight and if it’s anything like the other stuff of Wheaton’s that I’ve read, I’m going to devour this book in very short order. Note that you can’t buy this (easily) on Amazon in print form, but it IS readily available via the publisher (lulu.com), if you want to play along at home. E-book versions are also available, if that’s how you roll.

Skipping the CSA this time around

So, the veggie box program at work was SO successful that they’ve decided to offer a “Deep Winter” box. DH and I looked it over and determined that it’s the same stuff we were having trouble getting through (even at one box every other week) and the value was no better. Thus, we’re skipping the CSA for the first time since I jumped on the bandwagon. BUT, we have agreed that we’re going to try to take the lessons from the CSA experiment and work them into our regular routine – trying to put more fresh fruits and veggies on the table and incorporating them into our meal planning – just not based on the random stuff that shows up in a box. When the Spring boxes start to come out, we’ll jump back in…

Of course, the amusing part is that this week’s meal plan is still fairly light on the veggies, so we’ll be supplementing with in-season fruits and other things we can get our hands on that aren’t necessarily in season here (like grapes, which the kids practically inhaled at lunch today). I’m not ditching the idea of the CSA – but the winter veggie boxes just aren’t our cup of tea and don’t have the same value as the fall boxes did.

That said, the crock pot will be bubbling in the early part of this week – Mexican Meatloaf on Monday and Sour Cream Salsa Chicken on Tuesday. Both make great multi-night dinners, and I’m going to try out one of the slow cooker liners that dh got me for Christmukkah to see if that helps make cleanup easier from the meatloaf.

Experimentation will continue, one way or the other…




In other semi-foodish news, I just devoured the Hunger Games trilogy. Took me next to no time to get through these books because they were so incredibly engrossing. Well written, deeply affecting, and really great reads. HIGHLY recommend! (Also, now very much looking forward to the movie of the first book, which is supposed to come out later this year. Yeay!)