Genre: Non-Fiction

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9 Lessons from The Whole Health Life

January 29, 2017 Book Review, Life Well Lived, reviews 7

9 Lessons from The Whole Health LifeThe Whole Health Life by Shannon Harvey
Published by The Whole Health Life Publishing on November 17th 2016
Genres: Non-Fiction, Wellness
Pages: 320
Source: complimentary review copy
Amazon
Goodreads
four-half-stars

I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and is in no way influenced by the company.

At the beginning of January I shared my nutrition experiment of giving up sugar.  I’m now through an entire month of little to no sugar and still no migraine! I’ve had a couple of days of a low-grade headache that didn’t want to go away, but nothing like the daily migraines that were crippling me. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Goodness knows going from being a sugar-aholic to no sugar has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The trick is in telling myself this is an experiment – an experiment to see if all those health and nutrition books I’ve read are right, or just a fad.

The latest book I’ve read, and probably the best overall with regards to health, nutrition, and exercise, is The Whole Health Life.  Written by Australian journalist, Shannon Harvey, The Whole Health Life is an in-depth look at the scientifically-proven connection between mind, body, and health. The book covers a range of possibilities affecting our health, from stress and emotions to food, environment, and even our sleep patterns. The more I read about health and wellness, the more I realize how interrelated/interconnected everything is.

9 Lessons from The Whole Health Life

  1.   We must find healthy outlets to relieve stress. It is literally taking years off our lives. A few recommended stress-relieving activities include listening to music, dancing, walking through nature, even wood-working – whatever helps you to get out of your head and into the moment.
  1. We can invoke a “relaxation response” to counteract the bad stress by simply including prayer and/or meditation in our lives. The rituals of most major religions incorporate the meditative mindset we need to counteract cortisol damage or the flight or fight response.
  1. A surprising finding is that women who perceived themselves to have a great deal of stress in their lives had a greater rate of cellular aging. In fact, women who perceived themselves to have high stress had aged the equivalent of 9-17 additional years.
  1. Meditation makes our brains stronger, fitter, younger. “Meditating for only 20 minutes a day over three days results in a significant decrease in sensitivity to pain.” I’m on day 15 of a daily meditation regimen. I’ve only worked up to 10 minutes/day but I can tell a difference in my overall wellbeing.
  1. The power of the placebo is scientifically proven to be valid! Did I mention worrying makes us sick? Literally! Our minds are powerful tools.
  1. Consider a mindset reset. “ Thinking things like ‘This task is exciting,’ rather than ‘this task is scary’ can help change how you perceive the situation.
  1. Exercise in spite of obstacles. Something my MS doctor has been telling me for years. The more I can exercise my muscles the more I will be able to use my muscles.
  1. Not only is exercise important but a variety of movement is also critical. For example, if running is your jam, add some yoga and strength training into the mix.

9. Make technology work for you rather than against you. Set hourly reminders to stand up and move, roll your shoulders, stretch. Your body will thank you.

 

Sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour. Zen Proverb

 

Final Thoughts

As I was reading the book a second time, I was amazed again at the wealth of information covered in The Whole Health Life. Not only that, but the scientific papers the author had to read (and decipher) were numerous. I kept thinking why have we not been told this stuff before?

At the end of each chapter the key takeaways are noted, but more importantly, tips on how to get started making the small changes in your life based on the science and information shared in the respective chapter. AND, for a bookworm this is probably the best – each chapter ends with additional recommended books to read!

As an additional resource, the author created a documentary making this information even more accessible. Plus, there are in-depth interviews with many of the scientists who have made breakthroughs with their mind, body and health studies. The information Shannon Harvey has made available through the book, the documentary and her blog, broken down into bite-sized chunks in non-scientific speak, is resourceful and invaluable. If you are looking to improve your overall health, The Whole Health Life is the book for you. I know I will continue to work through the recommended changes to see if I can not only knock out the migraines but also throw the MS into a permanent remission!

To view the first fifteen minutes of the documentary, visit The Connection here. Purchase The Whole Health Life from Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Indiebound.

To learn more about Shannon Harvey or to follow her blog and podcast, visit The Whole Health Life. You can also connect with Shannon Harvey on Twitter | Facebook.

 

four-half-stars

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CookBook Review: 100 Days of Real Food Fast and Fabulous

October 24, 2016 Book Review, reviews 4

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

CookBook Review: 100 Days of Real Food Fast and Fabulous100 Days of Real Food: Fast & Fabulous: The Easy and Delicious Way to Cut Out Processed Food by Lisa Leake
Published by William Morrow Cookbooks on October 25th 2016
Genres: Non-Fiction, Wellness
Pages: 320
Source: complimentary review copy, purchased
Amazon
Goodreads
five-stars

 

It was a blustery December afternoon on my grandparent’s farm in Tennessee. The cows had to be herded into the barn and the never-ending farm chores had to be done before the snow set in.  Herding slow-moving cows in freezing temperatures is not the most relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Especially if you’re nine years old and have the latest Trixie Belden waiting for you. Let’s just say I was not my happiest.

Trudging back to the farmhouse after falling in the creek, all I could think of was standing by the wood stove to thaw out, a hot shower, and something warm to fill my belly. My mom told me we were having chili for supper, and I’m sure she could tell by my expression I was not thrilled at the prospect. At least it wasn’t greens ~ my Granny made me sit at the kitchen table til I finished a giant helping of greens. I’m still traumatized by that event!

Once I had my shower and found a spot amongst all the relatives in the living room, my mom brought me a small bowl of my uncle’s famous chili. Whenever we had a major holiday, like Christmas, relatives came out of the woodwork to hunt and help on the farm.

I took my first hesitant bite after blowing and blowing to be sure the chili was cool enough. Then I took a second bite. Nine bowls later I became a family legend. Guess what my favorite food is, still, to this day?

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When I found out Lisa Leake, of 100 Days of Real Food blog fame, had a new cookbook coming out focused on meals 30 minutes or less, I pre-ordered immediately. Then my food idol put a call out for cookbook ambassadors, and I was over-the-moon ecstatic to be selected. The day I opened the package with the book I went through every mouth-watering recipe making lists. My goal was to spend a week cooking out of the one cookbook – both as a healthy challenge and as a way to see if I really like the recipes.

The first recipe I made was the sausage and mushroom frittata. I planned to pair it with the hash brown casserole but changed my mind at the last minute. It’s only me eating this week, my sweetheart is out of town, so making a big huge meal just didn’t make sense. As this was my first frittata ever I think I did pretty darn good….or maybe it was the recipe was so good? Either way, it didn’t feel like I was denying myself anything by having a home-made/non-processed meal. In fact, I didn’t feel weighted down or bloated after eating. Oh, and the frittata? Scrumptious! I ate it for dinner and then again for breakfast two mornings in a row.

My next recipe to try was the black bean protein bowl. Oh my goodness y’all! There’s a southwest restaurant near our apartment in Scottsdale that makes the most delicious protein bowl. One week, between lunch and supper, I had that bowl five times! Now before you go thinking me an absolute pig – three of those times was the leftovers. Suffice it to say, I am a glutton for protein bowls. So when I saw the recipe for my favorite bowl in the 100 Days of Real Food Fast and Fabulous it was meal number 2 to attempt. Yes. It was also fantastic. The only thing missing was the chipotle ranch dressing that Locos Patron doles out with their protein bowls. I haven’t had a chance to scan the 100 Days of Real Food website to see if Lisa has a dressing to experiment with but regardless, her recipe was pretty darn close to the real thing {and probably a lot less on processed food}!

[Tweet “‘Fast and Fabulous’ is understatement for new cookbook by @100daysofrealfood blogger/author!”]

Remember how I shared that chili is my favorite food ever? That’s any kind of chili – including white bean chicken chili. If you could have smelled the combination of spices with the onion and jalapeno as I cooked – absolutely divine. I cheated just a little and used a rotisserie chicken instead of cooking the chicken breasts. Lisa’s definition of real food is either whole food like fruit or vegetables, dairy products and packaged food ‘with no more than five unrefined ingredients.’  I used jalapenos out of a jar – six ingredients – all were real food except the calcium chloride.  Aargh! Aside from that, this ‘real food’ chili was delicious. Not quite spicy enough to set my mouth on fire but savory enough to have all my taste buds singing. Definitely a new favorite recipe! I’m so glad Lisa suggested we make a double-batch to freeze!

A few extras that make the cookbook even better

  • The real-food supermarket product lists: a top 10 list of real food to buy from Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, even Walmart!
  • The Look For/Avoid charts: Includes what to look for in added sweeteners, cooking fats, meats and more.
  • The seasonal 7-day meal plans + shopping lists
  • Recommendations for work-week/school-week meals

What I like even better about the second cookbook

In the first cookbook Lisa goes in-depth explaining how and why the 100 Days of Real Food blog and subsequent cookbook came about. I think there’s about the same number of recipes in the 1st cookbook as there are in the second one, but I feel somewhat overwhelmed by the first cookbook. Maybe just adding ‘fast and fabulous’ to the title made it more doable for me, less intimidating. All I know is as much as I liked the first cookbook, this second one is my new favorite.

While this is not my uncle’s famous chili recipe, it’s pretty darn close to 9-bowls-worthy! Try it and let me know if it’s your new favorite chicken chili!

white bean chicken chili
5 from 1 vote
white bean chicken chili
Print
White Chicken Chili
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 

GLUTEN-FREE

NUT-FREE

FREEZER-FRIENDLY

Servings: 4 people
Author: Lisa Leake
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 1/2 jalapeño minced
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels no need to thaw
  • 2 15 oz cans of white beans, (such as Great Northern or cannellini) drained and rinsed
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
Instructions
  1. In a medium soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño and cook, stirring, until the onion has softened, 2 to 3 minutes. 

  2. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is lightly browned on the outside and no longer pink on the inside (add more olive oil if the pot starts to dry out), 4 to 5 minutes.

  3. Toss the minced garlic and spices into the pot and turn a few times to coat the chicken evenly. Add the corn, beans, and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, about 20 minutes.

  4. Break up some of the beans with the back of a wooden spoon to help thicken the chili. Stir in the cream, garnish with the desired toppings, and serve! 

Recipe Notes
TOPPINGS: Chopped cilantro, sour cream, grated Monterey Jack cheese, diced avocado, and/or corn tortilla strips
 
LISA'S TIP: This dish is also great with leftover cooked chicken. Just skip
step 2 and add the cooked chicken with the garlic and spices in step 3
 
 

[Tweet “Best white chicken chili recipe ever!”]

five-stars

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NFBookClub: The Poisoner’s Handbook Discussion Part One

October 21, 2016 Book Review, Book Talk, reviews 2

NFBookClub: The Poisoner’s Handbook Discussion Part OneThe Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum
Published by Penguin on February 18th, 2010
Genres: Narrative, Non-Fiction
Pages: 319
Source: Local Library
Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

 

My friend, Katie, over at DoingDeweyDecimal ,hosts a nonfiction read each month. For October, she appropriately chose The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York. It reads like a modern-day thriller with a fast-pace and in-depth narrative. If you’re looking for a creepy nonfiction book you can’t go wrong with this one! Plus you learn so much about how forensic science is developed. I promise it’s not all dry!

I see poisoners—so calculating, so cold-blooded—as most like the villains of our horror stories. They’re closer to that lurking monster in the closet than some drug-impaired crazy with a gun. I don’t mean to dismiss the latter—both can achieve the same awful results. But the scarier killer is the one who thoughtfully plans his murder ahead, tricks a friend, wife, lover into swallowing something that will dissolve tissue, blister skin, twist the muscles with convulsions, knows all that will happen and does it anyway.

1. How are you liking the book (the organization by poison, the way the science is written, etc)?

This has been one of my most favorite non-fiction books to read. The personal anecdotes of the poisoners and the poisonees was fascinating. Wait, does that make me sound morbid?!?

There are a few spots where the author goes deep into the science and lost me, but those sections were few and far between. Reading The Poisoner’s Handbook inspired me to do a couple of fun experiments with my grandson, like create elephant/dinosaur toothpaste. Although the Little Monkey informed me dinosaurs do not brush their teeth – cheeky little devil, yes?

2. What’s your favorite fun fact or story so far?

Not sure I would call it a fun fact/story;  however, the ingenuity of the Medical Examiner, Charles Norris and Toxicologist, Alexander Gettler discovered the keys to unlocking this case. A large immigrant family initially presented with the mom and children with their hair falling out.  Soon, two of the children got deathly ill. Ultimately, several members of the family died.  The father was arrested and charged with murder as his mother-in-law and some of the children slowly recovered. Without Norris and Gettler’s experimentation and research, the culprit would never have been discovered. Hint: it was not the father.

3. Do you check out the citations in narrative nonfiction like this? If so, did you find the citations in this book satisfactory?

Absolutely! I’m a bit nerdy like that! The Jazz Age was such a pivotal era in history. Medical breakthroughs were happening almost daily.  Forensic science exploded during this period. Both Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler were at the forefront of forensic science, especially within the States. Once I finished the book I wanted to learn more about the men behind the book. The citations and Google helped me delve a little deeper.

4. Did you know anything about early forensic science before reading this book? Did anything surprise you?

I knew nothing at all about early forensic science. It’s fascinating to read how Norris and Gettler conducted incredible experiments to discover how someone died. Quite a few of the experiments were gross and had me cringing. The imagination of the two men at creating the tests to figure out how and which poisons affected the body were nothing short of genius.

[Tweet “Perfect Fall read with #NFBookClub and The Poisoner’s Handbook”]

To learn more about the author, Deborah Blum visit her WebsiteTwitter. Public Television did a PBS Special on The Poisoner’s Handbook along with providing an interactive comic book, teacher’s guide, and forensic science timeline. It’s a pretty cool resource for history and science buffs!

Are you interested in forensic science? A sucker for all the CSIs, Bones, Law & Order, etc? If so, then you will enjoy this book!

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four-stars

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How to DIY MFA

July 12, 2016 Book Review, reviews 1

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

How to DIY MFADIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community by Gabriela Pereira
Published by Writer's Digest Books on July 8th 2016
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 294
Source: complimentary review copy, purchased
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

In 7th grade Mrs. McNeary introduced me to Madeleine L’Engle. Although we were surly middle schoolers, Mrs. McNeary read A Wrinkle in Time to us every afternoon. By the time the third day rolled around I had already been to the school library to check out A Wrinkle in Time. By the fourth day, I had the book finished and had checked out A Wind in the Door, Book 2 in the Time Quintet Series. I remember thinking that if I could write like anyone, I wanted to tell stories just like Ms. L’Engle. I also wanted to be a pilot, Navy Seal, and marine biologist, but writer was always at the top of my list.

Fast forward to adulthood where I never quite made it to pilot school, the Navy didn’t want me, and marine biology was only a passing interest because of A Ring of Endless Light. . .my absolute favorite L’Engle novel. Somehow I fell into the non-profit world, children’s advocacy, and writing grant proposals. I didn’t consider myself a writer though. Most grant proposals are dry and technical – where’s the imagination in that?

While trying to find other readers to talk with about books I fell into book blogging. I thought that writing reviews and sharing my world was not real writing. Where’s the imagination in talking books? In order to be a real writer I would have to get my MFA. or so I thought.

Then I came across Gabriela Pereira’s site DIYMFA.com

All of the sudden I realized, wait, I am a writer. I may not be Pulitzer-Prize-worthy, but I’ve been a writer for years! Can you imagine the elation and relief I felt?

So when I read that the entire DIY MFA method was being published in a book I knew I had to get it. As much of a resource as the site has been, the book, I knew, would be chock-full of wisdom. I pre-ordered the book even though I had access to the advanced reader’s copy. After reading the first few chapters I quickly figured out that this book was going to be a much-used and much-loved writing resource, along with my copy of On Writing, Bird by Bird, and Writing Down the Bones.

[Tweet “From writer’s voice to writing workshops the book @DIYMFA is sure to be a favorite resource.”]

Gabriela lays out the foundation of writing in a methodical and easily-understood manner. The book is sectioned into the 3-part mission of DIY MFA: “write with focus, read with purpose, build your community.” From there the book is pared down into bite-sized chapters with clear actionable steps/homework. For example, in the Read with Purpose portion we learn to “Read Like a Writer,” and the four types of books a writer should utilize {also known as “the four C’s”}: “competitive titles, contextual books, contemporary books, and classics.”

Gabriela is a big fan of acronyms and tips which further helps to cement the tools learned. For example, the term ‘habits’ becomes:

H = Honor Your Reality

A = Add Constraints

B = Block Time and Batch Tasks

I = Iterate

T = Ten Percent Rule

S = Set the Mood

Gabriela is candid and practical throughout the book. There is no shortcut to becoming a good writer. Practicing is repeated over and over, or actually, what I came to term as Gabriela’s favorite word ~ “iterate, iterate, iterate.” That was my only issue with the book – why say iterate when practice works just as well?

If you have any desire to improve your writing, whether as a blogger or a long-time writer, pick up this book. It is sure to become your favorite writing resource – I know it is now mine!

Side Note: There’s countless worksheets and cheat sheets and even a private online resource for those who purchase the book. And while I would highly recommend purchasing the book, there are still plenty of free resources at DIYMFA.com

Gabriela also hosts a podcast with fantastic guests and resources! Learn more here.

Connect with Gabriela Website | Twitter | Facebook

What writing books/memoirs/resources have you read and/or use?

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four-half-stars

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Book Review: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

February 6, 2016 Book Review, reviews 12

Book Review: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the EndBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
Published by Metropolitan Books on October 7th 2014
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 282
Source: purchased
Goodreads
five-stars

 

With the population of the aging skyrocketing over the past few years more & more thought leaders are looking at what it means to care for the aging. Physician and Harvard Medical School Professor, Atul Gawande, is exceptionally qualified to share his opinion and analysis of death, dying and living while dying. Speaking from both his professional background and his personal situation of caring for aging parents, Gawande makes a particularly relevant case for a revamping of the ‘nursing’ home concept of caring for the elderly.

Your chances of avoiding the nursing home are directly related to the number of children you have.

We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being.

Of particular note to me was Gawande made it clear that the nursing home method is the least favorable. Yes, there are some really great nursing homes to be found – the problem comes when patients in the nursing home are required to adhere to the nursing home schedule – eat at this time, sleep at that time, wake up at this time, etc. etc. Of course for the ease of caring for all the patients a regimented schedule is necessary, but I know that I for one would resist every second of it.

The situation is not entirely bleak as Gawande shares in the last few chapters. There are people such as Karen Wilson and Dr. Bill Thomas being true innovators in the care of senior adults & end-of-life care.

…terminally ill cancer patients who were put on a mechanical ventilator, given electrical defibrillation or chest compressions, or admitted, near death, to intensive care had a substantially worse quality of life in their last week than those who received no such interventions. And, six months after their death, their caregivers were three times as likely to suffer major depression.

Our reluctance to honestly examine the experience of aging and dying has increased the harm we inflict on people and denied them the basic comforts they most need.

I’m having a difficult time narrowing down the quotes to include as I write this review. So much in Being Mortal  is not only great writing but conversations that we should be having, in our families, our communities, and society.

Why I read Being Mortal?

My daughter is hosting a Death Over Dinner event and to prepare for the conversation I thought this book would be truly enlightening. I had no idea how much I would learn! While I’ve had a plan in place for years in case the multiple sclerosis gets so bad I have to have constant nursing care, reading about the nursing homes has me terrified of being stuck in one! My son who has worked for 3 years providing music therapy in nursing homes teases me that he’s already got mine picked out! But seriously, this book woke me up to how much more I need to communicate with my sweetheart and my children about end-of-life wishes.

This book is best for

Anyone with aging parents; anyone aging; anyone concerned with the ever-increasing aging population; anyone who works with the aging…..

Resources

The book itself is a tremendous resource, giving us 4 key questions to consider and/or ask when faced with end-of-life decisions.

  1. What is your understanding of the situation and its potential outcomes?
  2. What are your fears and what are your hopes?
  3. What are the trade-offs you are willing to make and not willing to make?
  4. And, what is the course of action that best serves this understanding?

Frontline Documentary with Atul Gawande

Karen Wilson, founder of first assisted living home in Oregon

Dr. Bill Thomas, founder of The Green House Project

Atul Gawande’s website has a wealth of research, articles and video.

Atul Gawande on Twitter

[Tweet “Important discussion of what it means to be aging and dying in America #being mortal”]

 

 

five-stars

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