September 27, 2017

The Great British Baking Show, My Love

It can be hard to put into words the feelings you have about something you've enjoyed-- especially when that something isn't a thing that one typically waxes poetic about.

Like, if you're trying to describe the love you have for your child, or the beauty of a flower, you may search for just the right words to capture its elemental heart, but everyone already gets the gist of what you're describing-- particularly if they've experienced it themselves.

But when you're trying to capture the essence of how a simple television show made you feel, it's...well...a bit weird.

But I'm going to do it anyway.

Because this show that I've been obsessed with since the first of July, this BBC marvel, this so-much-more-than-a-bake-off, this tiny-teeny baking show just made me feel so good.

Watching it, I felt somehow...lighter and brighter; warm and cozy, yet uplifted. It made me smile, a lot. It made my heart feel good. It was so basic, yet so lovely. And, strangely, so different from any other competition show I've watched.

In the past, I've enjoyed shows like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Project Runway, and so on. In fact, I'm in the midst of a Project Runway season right now. And I like it.

But it's different.

How can I explain this?

The people on The Great British Baking Show are nice. (At least everything I've seen of them on the show.) They're all nice people. They're all humble and respectful. Not in a fake, 'I'm on television' kind of way. But they're all just genuinely good. No one person bad mouths another. No one's mean-spirited or rude-- judges included. It's a competition with themselves, more than each other. Each person striving to do their very best, rather than striving to beat the other contestants. It's good sportsmanship and good humanbeingship.

I actually liked all the people on the show. And that's saying a lot, because I didn't just watch one season. I watched 4 seasons. All the seasons...all this summer.

It started when we went to visit my folks in Michigan this summer. My mom was watching the current season (4) and I happened to watch an episode with her one night. Immediately, I was hooked! So we went back and watched the season's episodes I had missed. Then I went home and finished the season as they aired the episodes weekly on PBS.

I was so sad when the season was done. I missed it. That is, until I discovered seasons 1-3 on Netflix. (Hooray for Netflix!)

Well, I just finished the last episode of season 3 (possibly my favorite season...though that may just be because it's the one I just watched), and I feel like I'm floating on air-- that's how sweet and uplifting it was.

There's something about watching people go after their dreams that is just heartwarming and inspiring, regardless of the outcome. Watching the show makes me want to go after my dreams even more. The winner of season 3, just after receiving the crystal cake plate trophy, said something like, "I will never again say 'I can't do that.' Because I can. I did."

That's some powerful stuff.

In addition to showcasing great people and some seriously great baking (that makes me want to bake grand cakes and treats, and experiment with different flavors and new ingredients), this show also has two of the most amusing hosts ever.

I've never had particularly strong feelings one way or another about a competition show host. They're mostly fine and just, sort of, there. But these two women, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, are an absolute delight. They're hilarious...and also kind and supportive; and they clearly care about the contestants. Mostly, they're damn funny in this goofy, off-beat way I find supremely charming.

The judges-- the aptly named Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood-- are also lovely. They're tough, but kind. They always look for the bright spot, even when it's a baking fail. And you can see that they're always hoping that everyone succeeds.

So there. I've done it. I've waxed poetic about a television show. And a baking competition show, at that. Showing my true freak-colors. I may as well admit to one of my other television loves...James Spader as Red on The Blacklist-- don't even get me started on that man's ability to deliver a line....and follow a tangent (like a man after my own heart). New season of Raymond Reddington starts this week! Squee!

But I digress...

Here's my point-- yes, I have one-- my point is, that The Great British Baking Show gives something I think can be sorely absent from typical American media fodder (especially of late): Kindness. Respect. Decency. These are the things I find myself craving, along with the pastries they're whipping up. I want to see goodness. I want to be made to feel warmth and lightness. I want to relax in front of the telly with a spot of tea for an hour; I want to enjoy that hour; and I want to feel better when it's done than I did when it started. And this show gives me all that, in, British accents! <3

Until next time, go make a cup of tea and enjoy a lovely episode of The Great British Baking Show. (And drool over their amazing bakes!) THEN, be inspired to go after your own dreams...

September 20, 2017

Book Reviews: What I Read This Summer that You Should (or Shouldn't) Pick Up

I haven't posted anything about books since my July post on A Man Called Ove. (Read it. So good.) So, I thought I'd share my thoughts on the books I read this summer. This isn't necessarily an exhaustive list of all I read, but it gives you a good flavor...and maybe a few ideas on what, and what not, to grab on your next library (or Amazon) visit.

Okay. Let's do this.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
I found this book both entertaining and disappointing. The book rides the wave of mystery-thrillers with unreliable narrators that's so popular right now. (Confession: I'm kind of annoyed by unreliable narrators-- especially those with a drinking problem.) Anyway, the mystery was fun and kept me guessing throughout, but there was a big lag in the middle. A great editor could have helped speed the pace of this book and make for a more edge-of-my-seat read the whole way through.

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer
If you like Young Adult Dystopian Future books with strong female leads, then this is a fun series. Meyer's futuristic take on the classic fairy tale princesses is fun and engaging. A light, fast, enjoyable read.

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
Tears, tears, and more tears. If you're a dog lover...if you've ever lost a beloved pet...then park yourself on the couch with a box of tissues and pick up this book. In the vein of Marley and Me and (my favorite) The Art of Racing in the Rain, Lily and the Octopus tells the story of Steven, his beloved dog Lucy, and her tumor, aka the octopus. Rowley's humorous take on how crazy we can be for our animals, and the amazing way they can possess our hearts, is unique and funny and sweet. He goes a little overboard (pun intended-- you'll get it if you read the book) with his metaphorical battle with the octopus toward the end, but it doesn't steal the book's quiet thunder.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
The premise of this book is SO WEIRD. Weird enough that it kept me from reading it, despite good reviews, for quite a while. But I found it cheap in a used book store, so I brought it home. And I'm glad I did. I laughed out loud many times while reading this book-- I think I even read some lines to my husband because I thought they were so good. This book is really entertaining, and more than a bit weird, but it's golden ticket lies in Smith's ability to capture the teenage boy's mind (and heart). It's a rare feat, and he does it so well. Worth the read.

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
I grabbed this slim volume from a "recommended reads" shelf in an independent bookstore-- which rarely leads me astray. But this one fell flat for me. The premise was cute and there a were certainly passages I enjoyed, but overall, I thought it was pretty disappointing.

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
I really liked this book. It made me think and wonder and question. And I like that. It's well written and well paced, and provided a nice, little roller coaster of emotions for me. Definitely worth the read.

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
This is a middle grade book that I think kids-- especially those who are really into books-- will enjoy. From an adult perspective, I think the premise is fantastic and the book's opening is strong, but I felt like it wavered a bit toward the end. It had a few different paths it could have taken late in the story, and I kind of think it chose the wrong one. Just my opinion, of course. Still, a fun romp!

Love and Trouble by Claire Dederer
I have to say that I was quite disappointed in this memoir. I had an idea about this book, based on the description and recommendations I'd read, but the book didn't live up to the hype. It was a matter of performance vs. expectations for me on this one-- I was expecting a book about a woman's midlife reckoning (as per the subtitle), but what I got was a retrospective of a, somewhat troubled, 80s & 90s childhood in Seattle. Plus, a narrator I couldn't really relate too. I made myself finish it because it was for bookclub; I would have given up otherwise.

The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis
Another middle grade adventure that I think kids would enjoy. Again, the premise and the start are fantastic, but, also again, it lost me a bit near the end. I still enjoyed it. I still recommend it. But with such a great start, I had super high expectations and they weren't quite met.

So that's a taste of what I read this summer. Some good, some not so much. But I consider my horizon's expanded. Right now I'm reading The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (our next book club selection)-- on recommendation from my mom. And, 100 pages in, I'm already pretty amazed at how well the author paints her picture of slavery in the south. I feel like I'm there. Up next is Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. I'm super excited for this one for two reasons: 1) The author's book Code Name Verity is one of my faves! (So well done. Read it!) and 2) The author is coming to Hershey to speak at our library next month-- I can't wait! (Book geek.)

Did you read anything good this summer? What are you reading right now? Let me know.

Until next time, happy reading!

September 13, 2017

My Danette May "Forever Fit" Lifestyle Update

A pic from shortly after the 30 Day Challenge
So, September 9th was my 8-month anniversary with Danette May. (Yes, I realize that's sounds a bit like we're dating in high school, but I assure you, this is so much more serious that all that.)

In case you haven't read my other posts on this:
Eight months ago I pretty much dropped everything and decided to focus on my health (right on the heals of dropping everything for a month to focus on the holidays and everyone else...which wasn't super successful in the "make me happy" department). I began changing lots of things, but the biggest change I made at the time was joining Danette May's 30 Day New You Challenge. And in the eight months since then, so much more than weight loss has happened.

(Click here: to read more about my 30 Day New You Challenge experience.)

The photo above was taken shortly after I completed the 30 Day challenge. At that point, I think I'd lost about 10 lbs, but I was down a pant size (hence the new jeans) and was falling in love with my body again. I love this pic because I remember how I felt when I snapped it. I was beginning to feel like me again and I was so excited I took a pic to share with my Forever Fit friends. (Forever Fit is an on-going lifestyle group that Danette May put together for people like me-- people who started on the 30 Day Challenge and want to continue with the lifestyle. It gives you on-going access to clean recipes, meditations, workouts, and a support group.)

It hasn't always been the easiest road. It hasn't all gone seamlessly. There have been ups and downs. Things haven't always moved in a straight line from Point A to Point B. But there is So. Much. Goodness. There.

So much.

So, here's a quick recap of the journey of transformation...

- I have lost about 20 lbs and am back in the weight-range in which I spent much of my 20s and 30s. But the number isn't nearly as important as the feel. I FEEL like myself again. I FEEL like I'm living in my own body again. I recognize this body. But, interestingly enough, I am lovin' on it much more. When I last lived at this weight, I wanted to lose weight; I thought I was overweight; I didn't appreciate it. Now I appreciate it for what it truly is: healthy and happy. Me.

- I have all these amazing habits that are helping me feel better in a way that goes far beyond how my body looks. Yes, I look slimmer and more fit than I did 8 months ago. And, yes, my pants are a smaller size and my muscles are more defined. But the real gift is that I feel better physically and mentally thanks to the healthy habits I've formed.
     - I meditate for 5-30 minutes every day.
     - I exercise for at least 20 minutes every day.
     - I eat a clean, healthy diet 90% of the time. (Yes, I sometimes eat and drink off plan.)
     - I use all-natural supplements and foods to enhance my health and wellbeing.

- And the results of these new habits are amazing:
     - I'm beginning to really change my self-talk. I'm becoming much kinder and gentler with myself.
     - I'm developing greater patience (most of the time) with, and appreciate of, those around me.
     - I have a healthier response to life's stressors-- I'm developing better coping mechanisms.
     - I'm expanding my dreams. I feel more capable of going further than I thought I could. I'm stretching my goals and I feel more capable of actually living my dream life everyday.
     - I'm taking real, actionable steps everyday to live a healthier, more natural life.

I referred to this earlier as a journey, because it is. I fully expect this journey to continue throughout my life. I view it now as one of those "paths less taken" kind of things... you know, "I came upon a fork in the road and I chose the path less taken"? I feel a bit like there were two options in front of me back in January: continue my life's journey while including less healthy stuff and feeling like crap, or continue my life's journey with more healthy and natural things...and I chose the healthy path. I chose to treat my body like a friend, not a foe.

I didn't realize how big a change that would be-- I didn't realize how angry I'd become with my body and how much it needed to be loved again. I have Danette May to thank for helping me love my body again. That is no small thing for a woman in today's world, my friends. Think about it.

So, if you're interested in kick-starting your own health and well-being journey, Danette May is launching another 30 Day New You Challenge next week. It's how I got started and it was a real game-changer for me.

Here's the link to sign up for the 30 Day Challenge that starts September 18th: (12/29/17 Update: New Link! Click Here to sign up for the next 30 Day Challenge:

If you're interested, but have questions, please ask me. And if you decide to do it, you can count on me for support along the way-- all you have to do is ask and I'll answer questions, give tips, and cheer you on. I'm not selling something here, folks. I just really, really believe in this program and this lifestyle.

Until next time, make at least one healthier choice for yourself every day-- choose to move your body, choose to meditate, choose to say kind words to yourself, choose the fruits and veggies-- and see how you feel.

In the words of Danette May-- No one ever finished a workout and said I wish I hadn't done that, and no one ever finished a healthy meal and said I wish I hadn't eaten that, I wish I'd eaten some junk instead.  

One healthy decision at a time makes for a healthier you. Even baby steps are steps forward, my friends.

P.S. Want to know more about the eating plan, workouts, and meditations in the 30 Day Challenge? Click here: to learn about eating, and here: to learn about the workouts, and here: to learn about the meditations and affirmations in Danette May's program.)

September 7, 2017


When I planned my and my husband's wedding, I remember being a bit baffled by the fact that here I was working on this wonderful thing-- this thing that I wanted so very, very much-- yet I was massively stressed out. I was overwhelmed by all the work...and all the change. We got engaged, we sold my house, we moved in together, I quit my job, I started a new one, we planned a wedding, we got married, we went to Hawaii...

It was a lot.

But it was all good. I felt like I should have been Mary-Poppins-kind-of-happy. Instead I was more roller-coaster-ride-of-emotions. High highs. Low lows. Lots of stomach dropping into my shoes. 

You know what I mean.

Now, it is once again a time of change. Again, it is all good. It is mostly stuff that I want. But it is-- like getting married, like having a baby-- change to a new way of life. And again, I feel discombobulated.

My kids went back to school this week. For the first time, they are both full day, five days a week, and at the same school. Super cool. In many ways I've been looking forward to this day. But, here I sit on Thursday, and I feel...scattered...overwhelmed...lost?

I know, logically, that I need to give myself time to adjust and to establish a new routine. But I can't help but feel off. I have so much I want to do. So much I envision being able to do. So many stretch goals that I haven't been able to even consider before now. 

But I'm frozen.

So instead of happily embarking on this new adventure, instead of getting to work on those big goals, I'm falling back on the old, comfortable habits-- running errands, sending emails, doing paperwork. You know, busy work. The stuff you need to do, but not the stuff you really want to do. The stuff that can fill up a day without you even realizing it. (Oh, crap! Is it bus time already?)



My therapist once told me that life can't be all good, all positive, all upbeat, all the time. Life has highs and lows. We have highs and lows. And we have to recognize that and allow for it.

I think she's probably totally right.

But I also think that that's stupid. I just want to surf that high all the time. I want to be up and energetic and happy 24/7/365. Why is that so much to ask for?

Alright, I know I sound stupid. When you say it out loud like that it sounds ridiculous. But that's the underlying expectation that I have. Which is why I get annoyed with myself when I get like this. 


I told myself today, while driving home from a random, post-school-drop-off Target run (busy work), that I would give myself not only this week, but the whole month of September to adjust to this new way of life. That seems more than reasonable, right? We'll see. 

We'll see if I can manage to cut myself some slack and ease into things. And then go after those big goals. I WILL fill my days with the "what I want to be doing" and not the busy work. I will.

Anyway, that's my "Dear Diary" post for the week. Thanks for listening. I hope that if you find yourself in a space of transition, you'll be able to cut yourself some slack too. It's probably something most of us should do more often anyway-- just plain cut ourselves some damn slack.

Here's to getting it right on the fifth or sixth try, and not worrying about the first. Here's to going easy on ourselves and being gentle with those around us, especially in times of change. It's okay to be a mopey-pants for a few days. It's okay to take your time. It's okay to not be, ever. 

Until next time, lean into those changes in your life-- let them wash over you like cool waters. Don't fight the current, just flow.