April 27, 2010

Book Review - The Happiness Project

A few Sunday's ago was our second meeting for my book club. Our book was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. The book is about the author's 1 year journey to identify things in her life that she could change to make her happier. Rubin goes on to break down the book in month by month chapters, where she goes over in detail her goal for the month and some examples on how she works to achieve that goal.

I can't give a full review of this book because quite honestly, I never finished it. I was surprised that I didn't pound right through the pages on this one because I am usually one for "self-help" type books, or at least ones that motivate you to start trying news things or seeing things in different ways. I'm not really sure what it was about The Happiness Project that didn't grab & keep my attention, however Rubin does offer up some really good "rules to live by" and identifies them as her "12 personal commandments".

1. Be Gretchen.
2. Let it go.
3. Act as I would feel.
4. Do it now.
5. Be polite and be fair.
6. Enjoy the process.
7. Spend out.
8. Identify the problem.
9. Lighten up.
10. Do what ought to be done.
11. No calculation.
12. There is only love.

With these commandments, Rubin goes on to work on various ways to improve her life throughout the month. With each challenge, she tries to remind her self of these commandments and live by her new established set of rules - trying to live by these statements, while working on change in her life.

The Number 1 commandment stood out to me - Be Gretchen. I think this can sometimes present a challenge in real life. I want to be able to tell you that I am always myself, I'm always the same LJ, no matter who is around, but to be honest there are times when I hold back or I'm not always true to my feelings. Most of the time, I find that these are cases where I don't want to hurt other people's feelings or cause conflict. I'm going to challenge myself to start Being LJ all the time, being true to my feelings 100% of the time, even if it might result in an uncomfortable situation.

That's about all I got for the second book club review - not much really - but even though I didn't really enjoy this months book, I really have enjoyed meeting some new people and gathering with them once a month to learn more about each other's lives. I'd recommend checking out a book club if you are interested in reading new material and getting together with friends - old and new.

April 22, 2010

Banana Muffins

This week we had a few left over bananas in the fruit bowl, so I thought in honor of Earth Day today, I'd bake up some banana muffins - instead of throwing 3 bananas in the trash. (See how I tied that one together!)

I used the recipe below from allrecipes.com:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat muffin pans with non-stick spray, or use paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  2. Combine bananas, sugar, egg, and melted butter in a large bowl. Fold in flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Scoop into muffin pans.
  3. Bake in preheated oven. Bake mini muffins for 10 to 15 minutes, and large muffins for 25 to 30 minutes. Muffins will spring back when lightly tapped.

I had a few dried cranberries in the pantry, so I threw a few of those into the last bit of batter. Lots of recipes call for chopped walnuts, which sounds good - if you are a nut lover; me - not so much. I was intrigued by the recipes that added chocolate chips - which is totally more my style, maybe I'll add those next time!

April 13, 2010

Brains on Bikes

I saw an article on CNN this morning that I thought was very interesting. The article is part of a series of articles on the website geared toward the 2010 census and how people define their identity.

This particular article introduces Anne Feeley, who is a brain cancer survivor. She is spending this Spring biking across the country to raise awareness (and money) towards the fight against brain cancer. Here are the opening 2 paragraphs to the article:

"My name is Anne Feeley. I am an American, a mother, a feminist, a baker, a wife, an atheist and a liberal Democrat. I am also a brain cancer survivor and an activist for brain cancer research and patient care.

But when I fill out the Census, all it will reflect is that I am a 55-year-old white woman, and nothing about how I got to this point in life."

Quite a good way to grab the readers attention at the beginning of the article, I thought. The piece goes on to tell Anne's story and how she started the project called Brains on Bikes. Right now, as I type, she and a friend are riding bikes from San Francisco to Washington DC, aiming to finish on July 15th.

You can follow the journey live on the Brains on Bikes blog - they plan on posting updates from the road to this site. I know I'll be checking in on their progress. You can also subscribe to them on their You Tube channel, where you can watch some great videos and meet Anne Feeley.

Who knows - maybe I'll make a road trip down to southern Kentucky in a few weeks/next month to cheer them on in person (anyone care to join me ?!?)

April 02, 2010

JD, the curious cat

Those of you who know me well may remember that I am not a "cat lover" - in fact in college, while living with 5 other ladies, one of the roomies brought home a kitty and I strongly opposed having this kitten in the house, so she sent it home to live with her parents. I am not allergic to cats and I'm not even scared of them (anymore), so all in all, I'm not really sure where my strong feelings against cats even came from. Maybe growing up without them in our house has something to do with it, maybe it's their sneaky ways to pounce upon you when you're least expecting it, who knows the real reasons. All that being said - I am now (and have been for a few years) a cat owner!
Our cat is named JD and he came with as part of a package deal when JJ and I started dating. JD the cat was found in the woods back in the day when JJ was on a hike with some friends. This cat was totally wild and had a broken tail. JJ nurtured the cat back to health and named him JD for John Doe, since he didn't have a name to tell the vet when he took the cat in for his first visit. Mister JD is an indoor/outdoor cat, who has his claws and just simply enjoys being outside roaming the neighborhood. We live on a great street where are our neighbors love JD and his friendliness - some people have even been known to feed JD & give him cat treats.

Last week JD went missing - no one had seen him for a few days and he hadn't come in at night when I called for him at the end of the day. Somewhat strange for him to be gone, but the weather is warming up, so I wasn't too worried for the first 2 days. Then 2 days turned into 3 and 4 days and still no sign of JD. After being prompted by several questions from neighbors as to JD whereabouts, I decided to put a call into the SPCA to see if anyone had turned him in as a missing cat. No luck on that, so I printed up some flyers and posted pics of our missing pet.

After about 5 days, I got a knock on the door from a guy down the street who had some great news - they had found JD! There's a saying about cats that *almost* rings true in this case - "curiosity killed the cat" - perhaps you've heard of that? Well, curious JD had taken a stroll through our neighbors back yard and crawled into her shed last Wednesday while she was out doing yard work. Not knowing he was in there, she closed up the shed. After worrying about him over the weekend and trying to think of the last time she saw him, for some reason on Monday evening she decided to grab a flash light and open up the shed to see if that's where he was hiding. As soon as she opened up the shed, JD popped out and was back to his old ways, walking all around her yard.

We are very lucky that she thought of the shed, who knows how long he would have lasted locked up in there without food & water. Once he was freed, he scarfed down 2 cans of cat food in no time. Life is back to normal now (after a bit of a scare) and all is well in JD's world - he's out roaming the lawns again & loving the warmer weather and we are all loving that he's home!

(Especially Ella - they are "best friends" - you know!)