Category Archives: Books

Happiness is a Box from Amazon

There isn’t much that can make me happier than a box from Amazon, especially when it’s filled with books.

The last two weeks have been hard. My thyroid levels have been low, so I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted, so I’m not exercising. I’m not exercising, so my anxiety levels are high. Put all that in a bowl, stir in lots of bad news, a pinch of PMS and a history of low-grade depression. Bake for an undetermined amount of time at 45 degrees and you pretty much have my spring.

As we wait to hear back from T’s graduate school of choice, I’m stressed out about our lack of direction. As we try to get answers, I’m saddened by our fertility troubles (okay, panicked). And P-Phil is a dirty little liar with his “early spring” BS because it’s been freezing cold here and yesterday it snowed.

Exercise is one way I cope with life’s curveballs. I’ve been too tired, so that’s not been helpful. Ice cream, as you’ll know if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, is another coping mechanism for me. Fortunately, as I type this post, my Cuisinart ice cream maker is spinning me a pumpkin coconut milk concoction that my husband and I will shortly be eating as we sit our fat asses in front of the T.V. (I said concoction. Hee hee hee.)

But there are other ways I deal as well. One I’ve not previously mentioned is books. When I get in a funk, I read books. Actually, I always read books, every chance I get. But when I get in a funk, I read comfort books, which usually means young adult literature. You know – the books I read as a kid; sitting on the porch with a popsicle, when the world was a happier place. And the deeper the funk, the lower my chosen reading level. I’m not kidding .When I’m reading Ramona Quimby, Age 8, things in my life are pretty fubar-ed.

Which is why one of the best parts of my week was getting an Amazon box in the mail. I savored every second as I slit the tape, pried open the flaps and drew out my precious bundle.

My preciouss.

First item:

Perfect Fifths

This is the fifth book in a series I’ve been reading:

Jessica Darling series

The protagonist is an angst-ridden teen named Jessica Darling and nicknamed “Notso” by her father. The series follows her through high school and college as she tells her story via her raw and perceptive journals as well as by her letters to her best friend, Hope, who has (symbolically) moved away.

I’ve read that the fifth and final book doesn’t live up to the first four, but I already own the rest of the set so I can’t very well stop short. That would be like leaving out The Deathly Hallows.

Next item:

Secrets for a Health Diet

If you don’t follow the Nutrition Diva’s podcasts, you should. She is the most practical, down to Earth nutritionist I’ve ever come across and believe me when I say food is more than an obsession for me: it’s a way of life.

Haha! Get it? I crack myself up.

But seriously, she’s brilliant.

She also wrote this book:

The Inflammation Free Diet Plan

Since I want to be the Nutrition Diva in my next life and since inflammation and autoimmune diseases are so closely related, I wanted to check this book out as well.

Next item:


I read Eat, Pray, Love and became enamored with Liz Gilbert’s writing (the movie didn’t live up). This is her next book. I’m reading it.

And finally. The pièce de résistance. The true measure of my week. The book I’m quite possibly the most excited about.

The one. The only. The prequel:

The Summer Before

That’s right. Ann M. Martin wrote a prequel to The Baby-Sitters Club series. I’m not even kidding. It came out in paperback on April 1st.

Yes, I’m 35 years old. Yes, I have a head half-full of gray hair. Yes, I have a full-time job and too many responsibilities and the stress-related ailments of the many adults who try to keep this ridiculous pace of the Western world.

But as a kid I spent my summers reading these books. My friend K and I once tried to start our own BSC (which failed miserably, I might add – but we had a lot of fun planning it). Hell, at one point I even kept a notebook where I started to rewrite the first Super Series book with myself added as the sixth sitter.

So, yeah. I’m going to read the book. And I’m going to love every flippin’ forget-I’m-an-adult minute of it.

And while we’re doing True Confessions, I might as well throw this in there:

The BSC Series

Shut up. You know you want to borrow them.

How about you? What do you do to defunkify yourself?

Book Review: The New ME Diet

The New ME Diet, by Jade Teta and Keoni Teta

The New ME Diet

The New ME (Metabolic Effect) Diet challenges the reader to rethink traditional diet tactics and adopt practices for healthy, sustainable weight loss.

The Writing

Admittedly, this post will be more of a review of the exercise plan than of the actual book. The writing certainly wasn’t meant to be literature. It’s educational and instructive – it explains the premise behind the program and it lays out a plan for eating and working out.

The text tends to be repetitive and I can’t decide if that is to help reinforce the learning, or because the book is set up to be read or referred to in segments. Or both.

At any rate, it is a quick read and the basics are easy to understand. The case studies are only marginally helpful, but they are interesting. There are plenty of lists and charts to refer to as well.

The Introduction

I probably would never have heard of this book had it not been recommended to me by my naturopathic endocrinologist, who has been helping me regulate my wacked-out thyroid. Had I left that up to my conventional doctor, I would now be sans thyroid function and permanently on thyroid replacement hormones. However, my holistic doctor has my respect, so I picked up a copy.

I particularly like the book’s dedication:

This book is dedicated to the dream that one day nutrition and exercise will replace pharmaceutical drugs as the cornerstone of a physician’s education and will be used as the first line of defense for both the treatment and prevention of disease.


The Premise

Hormones control virtually everything in the body, including fat-burning and weight loss. The authors explain that, for a variety of reasons, the balance of hormones can become compromised and the body experiences metabolic resistance.

The Metabolic Effect program uses the combination of a high-protein, modified-carb diet and  a rest-based, hybrid weight training to stimulate the proper hormone balance.

The authors argue that calorie counting and aerobic exercise is the wrong model for long-term weight loss because this method often causes the body to cannibalize its own muscle. It is the type of food that you eat, more than the quantity, that makes a difference in how your body functions.

The Diet

The book identifies three types of “burners” (muscle burners, sugar burners and mixed burners), but the nutritional guide is very similar for each: eat often and well. Vegetables and lean meats should make up the majority of the meal plate and carbs are limited, more or less stringently depending on the type of burner.

No surprise there.

The Workout

The workout consists of four groups of hybrid exercises that are done with free weights. Each hybrid works several muscle groups at once, which increases the heart rate and makes you sweat your can off. It’s awesome.

Pick one hybrid from each group. Do twelve reps of each. Start over. Complete as many cycles as you can in 20 minutes. If you can complete five or more cycles in that time, you’re ready to move to the next weight.


My Experience

To be honest, neither T nor I are being stringent about diet part of the program at the moment. T has very limited control over his food choices on post. My eating habits aren’t too far from what the program recommends. We have both added more protein, but could probably stand to cut some carbs. I’m not going to worry about it right now.

What I really like is the workout and here’s why:

  • It’s easy to follow.
  • The only equipment needed is a pair of dumbbells.
  • I can do the workout outside.
  • I get winded and sweaty, so I know I’m working hard.
  • I could see progress as early as Week 3.
  • The repetition allows me to focus on good form.
  • It only takes 30 minutes (including warm-up and post-stretching).

The Rating

I give this book three out of five paws.

I give this exercise program – when combined with walking and yoga – five out of five paws.

Please note that this review is not intended as medical advice. It is a highly simplified summary of the information included in The New ME Diet book. Any participation in the program is entirely at the reader’s own risk. Please consult a physician with questions or concerns.

Review: Three Cups of Tea

Reading is one of my obsessions passions. I read so much as a kid that most of my books had wavy pages from dropping them in the sink while brushing my teeth. I even tried reading in the shower by propping the book open on the toiletries bar until I started getting headaches from the low light.

It got to the point that my dad banned me from bringing books into the bathroom because I was taking too long to get ready for bed. He would do a visual check before I went in. Fortunately, he didn’t pat me down, because I learned to stick my book into the waistband of my pajama pants.

My love for books has carried over into adulthood and is now spilling from the six bookcases in our house. I’d like to share the love, so I’ve decided to add a new section to Mowenackie called, In The Bookcase. Please feel free to read, browse or ignore my book reviews and ramblings.

And I’d love to hear what you’re reading, too, so post a comment or drop me a line!

Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Three Cups of Tea

In the months before T deployed for Afghanistan, we saw this book displayed prominently each time we went into a bookstore. I would point it out to him saying, “Honey, you should read this book before you go.” He would smile patronizingly at the silly civilian and head to the Fantasy/Sci-Fi section. I would stick my tongue out at him and, having expressed my feelings in a mature and productive way, wander off to look at what was new in teen fiction (making my former literary professors proud).

Lo and behold, a few weeks into the deployment, T called me from Camp Atterbury to tell me that as part of an officers’ enrichment program there was a booklist and Three Cups of Tea was on it. He’d read it and it was “pretty good”.

“Wow!” I said encouragingly, but with perhaps too much enthusiasm. “That’s fantastic! I wish I had thought of that!”

I did NOT, however, say, I told you so. Because I’m mature that way.

A couple of months later I bought the book for myself. A couple of weeks after that I picked it up and read the introduction. Then I put the book down and reread the entire Harry Potter series.

The moral of that story is, don’t read the introduction.

If you skip that, you’ll be fine. Feel free to go back and read it after you’ve finished the book, though. It has more credibility once you have the evidence that Mr. Mortenson is, indeed, an uncommon man.

The rest of the book tells the story of how Greg Mortenson’s failed attempt at summiting K2, the world’s second highest mountain, brought him into the Korphe village in northern Pakistan. Once he regained strength enough to explore the village, he discovered that the “school” was simply a clearing where children scratched math problems in the dirt with sticks and were taught only three days a week by a shared teacher.

Mortenson promised to build a school for the children of this remote area where the people had shown him such kindness and hospitality, despite their obvious poverty. The book details his intense struggle to keep that promise and to go beyond it by continuing to build schools for other remote villages, both in Pakistan and later, in Afghanistan.

“Dr. Greg’s” unwavering determination is inspiring, but what are more moving are the glimpses into the hearts and lives of the people of Pakistan: the patience of Haji Ali and the courage of his granddaughter, Jahan; the fierce loyalty of Faisal Baig; the shifty cunning of Changazi. These people, and many others, share Mortenson’s views on the importance of education. It is education, argues Mortenson, that is the key to a productive future for the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan – one where they are less likely to tote a banner of hate. One where they can support themselves instead of the Taliban.

Three Cups of Tea is a smooth read and offers an insightful look into tribal and religious customs. As someone with a vested interest in the area, I was happy to learn more about it.

I give this book four out of five paws.