Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Lights and Fun

Just over a week ago we went with Nathan`s family (minus his sister and her family from out west) to Boston Pizza for supper and then to Christmas at the Taylor`s and Canad Inn`s Winter Wonderland.

A description of Christmas at the Taylor`s.....

Since the first train rides in 1996, The Assiniboine Valley Railway has given rides to over 130 000 passengers through the Taylor family’s Christmas light display. The display grows every year and now has over 98 000 lights. The Assiniboine Valley Railway features four 1/8 scale trains transporting up to 45 people at a time through the 7 acres of forest. The railway winds through trees and light displays.

The trip takes about 6 minutes and can accommodate up to 700 people per night. Tickets can be purchased at the station, where you can also warm up and enjoy hot chocolate. Visitors must walk in from Roblin Blvd or from the 1 hour parking area in order to purchase train tickets. Those walking in will enjoy a 1000 foot lighted pathway in the bush, which will not be accessible to those who drive in. You can also enjoy a longer path of about 2000 feet that takes you deeper in the forest. This trail will take you past the new Gingerbread Village that can only be seen from this trail or by riding the train on the old line. This trail has been improved this year and has more lighting along its length. It is a natural trail so watch for roots and trees, etc.

It was a fairly nice evening when we went but we got there well after 6:30 (when it opens) and ended up having to wait almost an hour for the train ride.  We decided it was worth it (considering it wasn`t too cold!) but if we did it again we would make sure to come for exactly 6:30 so we wouldn`t have to wait as long.  The tickets were $2 per person or $20 for 12 people I think.
Nativity scene on display while waiting in line for the train.

Walking the light-lit paths.

After that we headed to Canad Inn`s Winter Wonderland which is a drive through light display.  The light displays are quite amazing, but for the price ($15 per vehicle) it is a little disappointing - there should be more displays.  But at least you stay warm!  

Next year we`d like to do Christmas at the Taylor`s again, but we`d likely skip the Winter Wonderland and rather head to Candy Cane Lane, Polar Bear Lane, etc in Lindenwoods for some beautiful lights viewing in a warm vehicle.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Book Review: A Christmas Homecoming by Maryann Diorio

About the Book: Seven Christmases have passed since Sonia Pettit last heard from her daughter Jody. Since Jody's departure, Sonia's world has been turned upside down. Her husband has died of a broken heart, and her son, bitter over his sister's destructive actions, has become rebellious.

Her greatest desire is to have her family together at Christmas, but after what Jody has put them all through, can Sonia truly forgive her daughter?
Jody Pettit O'Dair ran away to experience a life of adventure and excitement, but since her departure, her world has been turned upside down. She's been abandoned by the man she met and married, lost her job, and is unable to care for her two children. With nowhere else to turn, this prodigal daughter begins the long journey home and prays she will be welcomed after walking away so long ago.
Will Jody find forgiveness in the arms of her family as easily as she received it from God? 

My Thoughts:  A Christmas variation on the Prodigal Son story, this short story is a quick and inspiring read.  

Our decisions, big and small, can have a lasting impact, not just on ourselves, but everyone around us.  We often tend to think of ourselves as isolated entities but nothing could be further from the truth.  Jody realizes this in a big way as the reality of her rash choice comes crashing down on her and she throws herself on the mercy of God and then her family.  

God will always forgive a repentant sinner, but people are not always quite as willing to do the same.  Hurt often gives way to bitterness, resentment, anger and hostility and it can take time and the healing work of the Holy Spirit to break down those walls in order for reconciliation to occur.  I loved the way the author brought about reconciliation between Jody and her brother - I won't say more because that would be a spoiler!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Insanity - Final Fit Test!

After 9 intense weeks of exercising, I am done the Insanity workout and it's time for my last update!

I am so glad I'm done.  It was an amazing workout but man was it tough, and it was long.  I will probably do it again in a couple of months, but I think I might just do my own variation.  I'll probably do just the first month's workouts (the second month are just too long to do on a long term regular basis) and intersperse them with some Jillian DVD's - particularly some of her weight training ones.

So, here is my final Insanity Fit Test update....

Switch kicks: 82, 85, 94, 96, 101
Power jacks: 43, 50, 56, 58, 59
Power knees: 80, 88, 94, 98, 105
Power jumps: 22, 30, 32, 33, 35
Globe jumps: 8, 10, 11, 11, 12
Suicide jumps: 11, 14, 15, 16, 18
Push-up jacks: 16, 23, 25, 27, 32
Low plank oblique: 32, 40, 43, 46, 56

I improved on every single exercise!  Some more than others, of course.  I even beat the DVD participants on a couple of them! I tied them on one, and they kicked my butt on some of the others. ;)  But there was a significant improvement if you look at the difference in the numbers between my first fit test and my last, that's for sure.

So, yeah, that's one effective workout!  If you're looking for a challenge, I'd definitely recommend giving it a try.

I'm just sorry I didn't take any before/after pictures - if I had, they would give me a free shirt!  Oh well. Maybe next time, if there ever is a next time :)

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Operation Christmas Child 2012 Edition

Packing Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes is a tradition in our house and the kids absolutely love it!  Our kids know that this is likely not only the only Christmas gift these kids will get, but could be the very first gift of any kind that they've ever received.  If you've never seen some of the YouTube videos showing the reactions of these kids, you need to check it out. (Here's one).  Getting to go along on a trip where they hand out those boxes would be an amazing experience, don't you think?  I think that one's going on my bucket list.

Each of our kids packed a shoebox for a child their age/gender. 

Here's some of the things (that I remember!) that we packed in our girls boxes - facecloth, box of soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, pencils, pens, pencil crayons, fun erasers, notebook, bracelets, hair ties and clips, sunglasses, blurp, hard candy and a stuffed animal.

The boy box included all the gender neutral stuff from the girl boxes, and then instead of the girlie things we added little toy animals, a Hot Wheels car, a monster truck and some more stuff that I can't remember right now!

Each of our kids made a card for the box recipient to receive along with their gifts.  Unfortunately, this year I've been slacking on getting our family Christmas photo card done so we couldn't put that in this time.

Yup, a good time was had by all!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Book Review: No Safe Harbor by Elizabeth Ludwig

About the Book: She came to America searching for her brother. Instead all she's found is a web of danger.

Cara Hamilton had thought her brother to be dead. Now, clutching his letter, she leaves Ireland for America, desperate to find him. Her search leads her to a houseful of curious strangers, and one man who claims to be a friend-Rourke Walsh. Despite her brother's warning, Cara trusts Rourke, revealing her purpose in coming to New York.
She's then thrust into a world of subterfuge, veiled threats, and attempted murder, including political revolutionaries from the homeland out for revenge. Her questions guide her ever nearer to locating her brother-but they also bring her closer to destruction as those who want to kill him track her footsteps.
With her faith in tatters, all hope flees. Will her brother finally surface? Can he save Cara from the truth about Rourke... a man she's grown to love? 

My Thoughts: I've always loved a good "coming to America" story, and this one captivated me from the beginning.  I have not read many books of Irish fiction, so this was a nice change of pace and an interesting historical plot line.  

I really appreciated the way the author portrayed Rourke's internal struggle between "good" and "evil", and how easy it can be for us to declare evil good, and good evil, how our sin blinds us and twists the truth until we hardly even know what it is anymore.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and look forward to the next book in the series.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Insanity Update - almost done!

Time for another Insanity update!

The past 2 weeks (even on our mini-vacation!) I've been doing the workouts from the last 4 weeks of the Insanity workout.  These workouts are longer (usually between 50 min - 1 hr) and harder.  As in crazy hard.  Insane!  This workout is aptly named, I'll give you that.  I can't even finish the warmup at the same speed they perform the moves without pausing for a rest!  I'm getting better every day, but it's really, really hard.

So, today was another Fit Test Day (followed by yet another 50 min workout - I'm taking a quick break in between right now to get this post up and my breath back).  I improved on every single move except one that I tied from last time.

Here's the results from Weeks 1 - 4

Switch kicks: 82, 85, 94, 96
Power jacks: 43, 50, 56, 58
Power knees: 80, 88, 94, 98
Power jumps: 22, 30, 32, 33
Globe jumps: 8, 10, 11, 11
Suicide jumps: 11, 14, 15, 16
Push-up jacks: 16, 23, 25, 27
Low plank oblique: 32, 40, 43, 46

I'm almost done!!  Believe you me, I am counting down the days.

Book Review: Resurrect by David E Stevens

About the Book: Book 1 in the Resurrect Trilogy.

Preventing his burning fighter from crashing into a neighborhood, Navy Commander Josh Logan ejects ... too late.

Critically injured, he's offered a new life and mission exploit highly classified military technology to stop a global cataclysm. The price? He'll be dead to everyone he knows.

He wakes in a city hospital with a genetically enhanced body and no identity. With the help of his brilliant, Neuro ICU nurse, and guided by nothing but a voice, he must infiltrate the military-industrial complex to develop the world's most powerful weapon ... to protect humanity? 

My Thoughts:  I really liked this book.  If you're at all interested in the navy or fighter jets, if you enjoy watching movies about the apocalypse or the good guy having to save the world despite impossible odds - you'll love this book.  I'm not into fighter jets but I love a good "Mission Impossible" storyline, and this book hit all the right buttons.

Though some of the jargon was a little hard to follow for an unmilitary, unscience girl like me - I loved the storyline, absolutely enjoyed the characters and was reading as fast as I could to find out what happened.  From the first page to the last, I was hooked.

I can't wait for Book 2!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Not Me Monday

This past Sunday was just one of those days.  I mean, was not one of those days!  Because I never have one of those days - not me!

This weekend both Sophia and Olivia had hockey tournaments in two different towns - one a good 45 minute drive away, and one about 1/2 hr away.  Nathan was sweet enough to take Olivia to her 8am game Saturday morning while I slept in with the other kiddos.  Both girls won one game and lost one game on Saturday and a great time was had by all.

But that was Saturday.

Sunday morning Nathan was going to take Sophia to her game which started at 9:30 45 mins away and I was going to take Olivia and the other kids to her game at 9:00 about 30 mins away.  Saturday evening we discussed that we would both end up leaving about the same time and I asked Nathan what time he was setting the alarm for - he said 7:30, and I certainly did not assume that he would wake me up and therefore did not conclude that I didn't need to set my own alarm.  Nope, not me!  I know what assume means, after all.

It goes without saying, therefore, that Sunday morning I did not wake up as Nathan walked into our room, squint at my watch and freak out as I read the time - and since I had been planning to leave at 8:15, my watch certainly didn't read almost 8:25!

I didn't have to frantically race around the house, calling for Emma to quickly get ready to go, while hurrying Jacob through the bathroom and changing him out of his pyjamas.  Nathan didn't have to help Olivia get on her equipment while I quickly changed and brushed my teeth/hair before grabbing a couple of granola bars for the kids to eat after we got to the arena.  And I certainly didn't wrongly assume that because Olivia and Sophia were both dressed that Olivia had eaten breakfast.  Nope, not me!

I certainly didn't exceed the speed limit in an attempt to make up for lost time after miraculously getting out the door in about 15 minutes.  And since I had just driven to this same arena via both Nathan's instructions and GPS the day before, I obviously didn't assume I didn't need the GPS for this go 'round.

Which means I didn't drive past the correct turn-off, end up turning onto the wrong highway and driving several extra minutes before seeing a sign for a town I knew I shouldn't be seeing.  I didn't need to turn on said GPS and call Nathan frantically as I turned down another highway in an effort to make my way back, wondering if I should even bother showing up at the game.  I didn't need to attempt to phone one of the coaches, luckily reaching him at his son's game instead of ours and ask him whether or not we should still go to the game.  He didn't need to confirm that yes, I should still go, they would still want her there.  And I certainly didn't end up walking through the arena doors with only a couple minutes left in the first period.

And THEN, I didn't put Olivia's helmet, gloves and skates on so fast that I forgot something.  I didn't have to bring her to the bench (luckily exactly in between the 1st and 2nd periods) and laughingly explain to her coaches what had happened.  After running back to the van to bring Emma and Jacob inside and joining the other parents in the stands, one of the other parents certainly didn't have a story to tell me - about Olivia repeatedly falling on the ice over and over and over, because I certainly didn't forget to take one of her skate guards off before sending her out on the ice! Oh no, not me!

Nope - it definitely was not one of those days!

Book Review: The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann

About the Book: Corporate turnaround specialist Morgan Spencer, dubbed the "success guru," has a Midas touch in business. But losing his wife sent him to the brink, and his two-year-old daughter, Livie, is all he's living for-until they encounter a woman whose trouble just might draw him out of his own.

Four years ago Quinn Reilly did the right thing. Now the man her testimony put in jail is getting out. Though she has put up barriers to protect herself and those around her, she has come to care for the Spencer family, especially the winsome Livie and her mercurial father. Unwilling to put them at risk when the threats begin, she requests something she hopes the super-successful Morgan might be able to deliver.
Fixing problems is what Morgan does best, but his counterproposal takes them in a direction neither is equipped to handle. Determined to confront the past, will they survive to build a future?

My Thoughts: Kristen Heitzmann is an amazing storyteller and romantic suspense is her forte.

I loved the characters in this book (it is a sequel to another one I've read previously but it's not necessary to have read the previous book in order to enjoy this one).  Both Quinn and Morgan have gone through incredible loss and hardship, and both deal with their grief in different ways.  Their mutual difficulties draw them together and help them work through their grief, with God's grace and mercy shining brighter as the situation grows darker.

Loved the suspense, loved the romance, loved the characters, loved the storyline, loved it all!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Honouring those who fight for us - on earth & in the heavenlies

This is a little late for Remembrance Day but I thought this post by a blogger named Carla Anne, was so meaningful, so poignant and so rich that I just had to share it.

Here's a small quote from the post - you can read the rest here.

I hope to stand in front of Jesus, like the Petty Officer Lawrence McAllister stood in front of the officials today, and receive my reward. I may not fight on the front lines for my country, or fly fighter jets, or serve as a medic. But I want to be a soldier who fights, who goes to battle, for my own freedoms and the freedoms of those around me.
I want to be, like Mr. McAllister, a soldier who fights, and maybe who dies, so that others might live. I’ll fight on my knees. I’ll fight in the heavenlies. I want to fight to know Jesus so closely that others will know his presence when they are with me.

Book Review: Courting Cate by Leslie Gould

About the Book:  In Paradise, Pennsylvania, Cate Miller is known more for her sharp tongue and fiery temper than her striking appearance. Her sweet and flirty sister, Betsy, on the other hand, seems to have attracted most of the bachelors in Lancaster County!

But the sisters' wealthy father has made one hard-and-fast rule: older Cate must marry first, before younger Betsy can even start courting. Unfortunately, untamable Cate has driven away every suitor-until Pete Treger comes to town, that is.
Prodded by the men of the area, Pete turns his attention to winning Cate's hand. But is his interest true or is there a scheme at play?

Book 1 in The Courtships of Lancaster County series.

My Thoughts:  I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

It was so easy to empathize with both Cate and Pete, despite seeing (and cringing at!) their character flaws.  

Not only did this story sound a wake up call to what can happen when we allow past hurts to create a prickly shell around us in a futile attempt to protect ourselves from future loss, but it also was a good reminder for us to try to see past such prickly exteriors in those around us to the reason(s) behind it.

When we allow hurts to turn ourselves inward, shutting out both man and God, our soul shrivels and we end up creating a vicious circle of self-fulfilling prophesy in our lives.  As hard as it is, the only way to heal a broken heart is to expose it to the healing power of God's love, mercy and grace and to risk loving again.  Easier said than done, but the alternative is oh, so much worse.

OK - now I've made this story sound very intense and brooding, but the author managed to weave these truths (and many more!) into this story while still keeping it light and entertaining.  I was enthralled by Pete and Cate's relationship and couldn't wait to see how the story would unfold.

It was very different from any other Amish book I've read and I just really enjoyed it.  A great take on the Taming of the Shrew!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Insanity Update

Time for an Insanity update as promised in my original post.  Since finishing my Tyson Method classes, the last two weeks of which I supplemented with the Insanity workouts, I've followed the Insanity program precisely without missing any days.  This past week (Week 5) was a recovery week where we did the same workout all 6 days and it was not quite as intense as some of the previous ones.  In fact, yesterday I was able to do the entire workout without stopping or pausing at all (most of the video participants didn't even do that!).

This coming week we're taking the kids down South for 3 nights for some shopping and swimming.  Normally I don't exercise when we're on holidays.  But I've decided to take the Insanity DVD's with me.  Partly because I don't want to mess up the schedule, but mostly because I know if I do skip that many days, I'm going to die when I get back and go into Week 6 which looks crazy hard!  So, I think I'm going to have to do it.

You're technically supposed to do the Fit Test on Day 1 of Week 6, but I don't want to have to do 2 workouts in one day while we're on holidays, so I did it today instead - Day 6 of Week 5.  So, virtually the same difference.  Except that, after doing the Fit Test, the "recovery" workout was insanely difficult after all!

Here are the results of my 3 different Fit Tests.  The first number is from my original Fit Test on the first day with the program, the middle/2nd number is from the Fit Test I did on Week 3 Day 1 of the program and today's is the 3rd/last number - I improved on every single exercise again and am very pleased with the results.

Switch kicks: 82, 85, 94
Power jacks: 43, 50, 56
Power knees: 80, 88, 94
Power jumps: 22, 30, 32
Globe jumps: 8, 10, 11
Suicide jumps: 11, 14, 15
Push-up jacks: 16, 23, 25
Low plank oblique: 32, 40, 43

I have to say, I am nervous about the next week of workouts - they're all new ones that I haven't done yet and they all have "Max" in the title.  Yeah, enough said.

I'll keep ya posted.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Olivia's artwork

This is the pastel artwork Olivia brought home this week - I was quite impressed!  

They did both a colour one (still hanging up at school) and the black one.  Because it's pastel it rubs off the paper easily, so I told Olivia I'd take a picture of it before throwing it out.  Yup, I'm one of those moms that throws out the majority of the paperwork they bring home.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

School Remembrance Day Ceremony

Since there is no school tomorrow and Remembrance Day falls on a Sunday this year, the school had their Remembrance Day ceremony today already.  I don't always attend the ceremony but this year Sophia's class was singing "In Flanders Fields" so I went.  Sophia is almost exactly in the middle of the "choir" in a white shirt.  

They also showed this video during the ceremony.

They also had a tribute to all the soldiers that had fought and died from our very own hometown in WWI and II - the Gr 8 class each walked by carrying a name of one of the fallen soldiers as their teacher read them out one by one.

One of the band trumpet players played the Reveille to end the ceremony.

I thought it was very well done.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Halloween 2012

Here in the Great White North you need at least two costumes for Halloween.  One that fits as normal clothes to wear to school, and one to fit over top of a parka.

First, school costumes.

Sophia as Little Red Riding Hood (found the dress for 50 cents at local thrift store and Nathan's mom made the hooded cape using this tutorial from leftover material she had on hand - so, free!)

Olivia used one of her dance costumes and was a dancer

Emma and her friends decided to just dress in neon colours.

And here are the outdoor Trick or Treating costumes.

Emma is a gypsy (bought the shirt from local thrift store for 50 cents, black skirt given to her by one of my friends, and wearing one of my scarves on her head).
 Sophia is an iPhone (thanks Pam for letting us borrow this costume!  It was missing a few icons that I reprinted from this website, but there were still 2 spots open and Sophia wanted them filled in, so I made them myself for two of their favourite games - Super World Adventures and Subway Surfer).
  Olivia had her turn as Little Red Riding Hood.
And Jacob is wearing a transformer costume that I bought new.

Here come the Trick or Treaters!

And here is their loot - wow, that's a haul!  And they were only gone for less than an hour and a half!  Those two bowls are full of mini chocolate bars plus all the rest of the sorted piles.  All their candy always gets dumped together and then sorted by category (chocolate bars, chips, licorice, suckers, candy bags, etc) and they get to pick one thing for dessert for school lunches and for suppers - it lasts forever it seems!

I sometimes dress up to hand out candy to Trick or Treaters while Nathan takes the kids out - this year I dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz (dress from the thrift store for 50 cents, my belt, my red shoes)

Emma changed into a pirate costume used in a previous year to help hand out candy after they were done TorTing.

The friendly pumpkin greeting the kids at our door, carved by Olivia and her dad.  Nothing fancy, but she loved carving it with him.

The Gideon's gave out Bibles at our church this Sunday before Halloween for us to give out to kids that were trick or treating (they're no longer allowed to give them out at schools). We were supposed to make sure to give them to kids approximately Gr 4+ (though younger siblings were also welcome of course) and ask them if it was ok if we gave them a Bible along with their treats. If they said yes, we could give them one. If they said no we were supposed to say something like "That's ok. Enjoy your treats and have a great time tonight!" I wasn't totally sure how well it would go over, so I only picked up one pack of 10.

I admit to being a little nervous about doing this, which them made me feel ashamed. I chickened out when the first two age appropriate kids came. But when the next group of 4 came along, I asked them and they said "Sure! We'll take anything!" ;)

The next group was 3 girls and they said "That's cool!"

"That's neat, I've never seen that before". And then when they went off to go rejoin some other friends I overheard them say "You missed the house that gave us a Bible!" They seemed really happy to get them.

I only had 3 left after that so I prayed that a group of 3 kids would come because I didn't want it to be a larger group and have to leave anyone out. And sure enough, the next was a group of 3 girls. They were a bit older and by their reaction they seemed to think it was a bit uncool, but they said yes anyway.

So, that was our Halloween for 2012 - a good time was had by all!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Jesse Tree

Well, it's getting to be that time of year again - Christmas is approaching!

Thought I'd repost the link to the "Bonanza of Jesse Tree Options" post that I did last year in case anyone's interested in doing this with your kids - it'll give you lots of time to pick the right one for your family!

Check it out.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Insanity and more

So, after a lot of time, energy and commitment spent on losing those last 10 pounds after Jacob was born, I've regained them, plus 2.  Argh.  It's a vicious circle really.  Something will motivate me to lose a few pounds (like going on our cruise), and I will, but then I'll regain them while on the cruise.  And then I'll wait till something else really motivates me, repeat, rinse, repeat.

Exercise isn't really the problem.  I've exercised 4-5 times a week for almost 15 years now, so consistency with exercise is all good.  Eating is my main issue.  The issue is I like to eat too much.  And yes, I mean that both ways you could take that.  ;)  And the things I like to eat in particular aren't exactly healthy unfortunately.  Chips and chocolate.  Why couldn't it at least be one or the other?  But noooo, it's both.

So, yes,  I need to get more of a handle on watching my "bad" food intake - I'm going to have to make some rules.  And what I really should do is ask Nathan to ask me every day if I followed the rules or not.  That would make me accountable.

My rules are somewhat flexible because I believe in everything in moderation.

Rule #1 - no eating dessert during the week unless we are guests or have guests over for dinner.
Rule #2 - weekends are not a dessert bingeing opportunity.  Desserts are allowed, but not necessary.
Rule #3 - all desserts needs to be rated at least 9 out of 10 on my own personal scale - no point eating dessert I don't love
Rule #4 - no chips unless served at mealtime (might have to start serving them with every meal!  JJ)
Rule#5 - continue intermittent fasting (based on Brad Pilon's Eat Stop Eat philosophy) once or twice a week (see my previous review/thoughts here)

And I suppose the day after Halloween is a good a time as any to implement these new rules, otherwise I'll be eating mini chocolate bars and bags of chips like there's no tomorrow.  I'm not telling you how much of the kids stash I ate last night.

Anyway, I've also decided to ramp up the exercise so I started the Insanity program by Shaun T.  Yes, it is insane.   I started it while I was still finishing up my Tyson Method classes I had signed up for, so 2 weeks of Insanity took me 3 weeks to complete, but since then I've been doing solely Insanity.  It is cardio like you have never experienced cardio before.

Consider this.  At one point during the workout Shaun T moves on to the next exercise but can't quite spit out the name of it and he yells "I'm so tired I can't even remember the names of my moves!"  I don't think I could even talk during these workouts, nevermind remember the names of any of the moves.

Even though it is intense cardio there is some muscle conditioning involved in the cardio moves because there's a lot of power jumps and squats, even power pushups, and then there is a cardio recovery workout once a week that focuses on stretching and muscle conditioning using moves like slow squats, lunge holds & pulses, planks, etc.

Right now I'm in Week 4 and really enjoying it.  About every 2 weeks you do a Fit Test to see how you're progressing, and I was very pleased to see that I did improve quite a lot in the first two weeks.

Here are my results:

Week 1
Switch kicks: 82
Power jacks: 43
Power knees: 80
Power jumps: 22
Globe jumps: 8
Suicide jumps: 11
Push-up jacks: 16
Low plank oblique: 32

Week 3
Switch kicks: 85
Power jacks: 50
Power knees: 88
Power jumps: 30
Globe jumps: 10
Suicide jumps: 14
Push-up jacks: 23
Low plank oblique: 40

So, there you have it.  I'll keep you posted with my Week 6, 8 and 10 tests!

Now, I better go change and do my Insanity workout of the day.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Book Review: At the Feet of Jesus by Joanna Weaver

You were made for more than serving God; you were made to know Him.

Intimacy with God-to know Him and be known by Him. It is what our hearts desperately need, but somehow life conspires to keep us busy and distracted.

For anyone who struggles when it comes to daily devotions, At the Feet of Jesus extends an irresistible invitation to set aside your duties and find the amazing peace and incredible joy that come from time alone with Him. Drawn from Joanna Weaver's beloved Bethany trilogy, each reading in this 365-day devotional includes a Bible reading passage and reflection question. All-new material and "Going Deeper" sidebars are also woven throughout.

Discover for yourself the riches that come from spending a portion of each day alone with God. At the feet of Jesus-where true life begins!

Includes a unique One-Year Bible Reading Guide.

My Thoughts:  I really appreciate the diversity and flexibility of this devotional.  Each day has a verse of scripture that the devotional focuses on and then there's a "digging deeper" section with additional scripture and some thoughts for reflection.  

I love that there is flexibility with how much time you may have to spend doing devotions.  On days you are rushed, you can read just the verse and devotional - it doesn't take long, but the devotions are right on target and you will find yourself renewed or challenged by Weaver's thoughts on the scripture for the day.  But, on days where you do have the time, you can dig a little deeper on the same subject.  I love that she has more than one scripture for the topic and her reflections make it easy to focus on that topic and to personalize it or make it relevant to your life.  

And finally, there's a unique plan for reading through the Bible in a Year - something any long time reader of this blog knows I am now very passionate about!

Both approaches to scripture are important - focusing on small sections of scripture to focus on meaning and personal application, as well as getting a broader view of scripture that can only come with reading the Bible in its entirety.  This devotional contains it all in one volume.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Book Review: Hot Buttons by Nicole O'Dell

About the Book: Nicole O'Dell helps address the Hot Buttons in teens' lives before the issues become problems 

From dating to drugs, modesty to purity, morals to popularity, teens face all sorts of tough issues. How teens respond to these hot-button issues can have lasting effects on who they want to be and who they actually become. What if parents can help their teens prepare for these hot buttons-before the issues become a problem?
The uniquely packaged Hot Buttons Series is an accessible, quick-reference resource that parents can use to equip their children to make the right decisions, even in the face of peer pressure and outside influences. More than just another how-to manual, Hot Button Dating Edition offers practical real-life situations that parents can read and discuss with their preteens. Topics include: physical activity, missionary dating, and violence/abuse in dating relationships.
Author, mom, and broadcaster, Nicole O'Dell provides short scenarios followed by three or four responses that a teen might choose in that particular situation. Parents are then encouraged to help their children explore the issue, ask questions, and discuss the options, so when a similar situation comes up in real life, the teens are already prepared to respond.

Hot Buttons Dating Edition offers practical real-life situations that parents can read and discuss with their preteens. Topics include: physical activity, missionary dating, and violence/abuse in dating relationships.
Hot Buttons Internet Edition helps parents prepare their teens for online challenges they may face. Topics discussed include: internet activity, file sharing, social networking, and internet predators.
Hot Buttons Drug Edition braves the scary world of substance abuse, equipping parents with facts, warning signs, and real-world scenarios on: alcohol; Marijuana and other drugs; inhalants; and prescription drugs.
Hot Buttons Sexuality Edition offers the facts about teen sexuality, backed by statistics; specifics for how to talk frankly about sex with your kids, discussion about the growth of homosexuality and bisexuality among teens; and compassionate advice for guiding your teen to reclaim purity.

My Thoughts: When I saw these books available for review, I immediately scooped them up.  I love reading parenting books, and with our oldest daughter well past her 11th birthday, the teen years are coming up quickly so this was well-timed.

Something that often irritates me about parenting books is that they often have a lot of wonderful information but have little practical or specific tips on how to apply all that newfound knowledge.  With these books, that's the focus and my favourite part - the strategic scenarios.  The entire book is no nonsense, straightforward and hard hitting - always something I appreciate.  But the strategic scenarios is where these books shine.  Best teaching happens in conversation or "stories" anyway, these books give you scripts (or even just ideas) on how to proactively begin the conversations you need to have with your children on the tough issues.

I couldn't recommend these books highly enough - if you're a Christian parent with teens or tweens (or a non-Christian parent concerned with the above topics - keep in mind it will be presented from a Christian point of view), you need a copy of this series!  I usually end up donating many of the books I receive for review to our church library - but not these ones.  These are staying in my home library!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.


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