From the library | Recent Reads v.2

Reading has taken a hit recently because I have to study for the GRE, but here are some reads:IMG_2826

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri | This was a fairly predictable read, but was engaging with character development and how challenges were addressed. I puttered out in the last ¼ of the book, but overall enjoyed stepping into this family’s life as they navigated coming to America and struggles they encountered. One thing that continues to stand out to me is how the family wanted to hold onto deep-rooted traditions from the country they moved from while assimilating into America. What they did not want to leave behind was precious, however, some (not all) traditions that were common did not line up with life in America and they frequently had to choose. It was also striking to me when phone calls back to their family were shared–they saw that life went on as “normal” without them and it was devastating after the call, knowing their nearest and dearest were continuing life as normal while they continued to have to work hard for familiarity and friendships.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck | A reread. If you have not read it, please do. That is all I have to say about this. Timshel!

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamond | I picked out this book at the recommendation of my former book club and it was delightful. It followed a young woman living through many of the twentieth century’s major changes and it was such a good read. I do not think we realize how significant some of the things we are living through are, until it is 5, 10, or 15 years past and this book reflected that.

Weekending | June 18-19, 2016

I am going to call it that the weekend started early with a trip to Bantam and Biddy and a shopping trip with a friend. On nights that J has class we meet in the afternoons and I take his car and he takes MARTA home so he does not have to pay to park. I had about 5 miles to go to get to the mall and it took me nearly an hour. This photo captures well everything I hate about driving in Atlanta:

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(Note the light turned red and those jokers decided to go ahead and go and block the intersection). #unhappies

Bantam and Biddy was tasty, but nothing out of this world. However, the company was delightful and we had a blast in Banana Republic. I scored this dress for $26! And the striped one on the chair behind it. Stripes…can’t stop, won’t stop.

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Friday was a normal workday and after running the stairs headed home to relax with J, work on season 5 of The Walking Dead, and go to bed fairly early. On Saturday we hit the ground running. After a quick breakfast we departed for errands. While at BR on Thursday I noticed (and participated in) a $50 off of $100 sale and J got a couple shirts for work. Following grocery shopping we headed back home for lunch and then I had some friends come over for a pool day. It was totally cloudy and below 90 so no actual pool time was had, but it was delightful to catch up (and not bake in the sun). While hanging out someone mentioned “milkshakes” and a craving hit hard. After my friends departed I was scrolling through Insta and someone posted a faux milkshake—frozen banana, milk, and unsweetened cocoa powder. I used to make those all the time and had forgotten about how tasty they were! J heated up the remainder of some chicken pot pie soup I made last week and I had my shake for dinner—we were both pleased with our dinner decision. (Side note: I do not recommend the soup. The flavor was on-point, but the appearance was too unappetizing).

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Sunday I made my return to church after weeks of travel, and we had a low key afternoon. I meal prepped a few things, we went on a long walk (including a stop at Shake Shack for ice cream), and wrapped up TWD.

Weekending | A wedding weekend for Brooke and Zach!

My dear friend and former roomie entered marital bliss on June 11! She had her bachelorette night on June 9, the Thursday before her wedding. I drove to Athens and we first painted pottery (one of her favorites) before dinner at Marker’s 7 (another of her favorites). I painted a mug with a “P” for the near-newlywed and at dinner enjoyed every single one of my raw oysters (sometimes sharing is not caring).

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Friday brought the rehearsal! After a late departure from Atlanta (complete with tears and frustration), J worked miracles and managed to get us to Athens only 7 minutes late to the rehearsal. Brooke got married at the same church J and I got married in and it was sweet to be back there (the first time since getting hitched!). J snapped pics while we ran through the ceremony. We had the same wedding planner, and she’s brilliant! She always runs through the rehearsals starting with the recessional, and it flows so well—we get lined up and in place to begin with, and the show gets going. The rehearsal dinner was in the fellowship hall, and included a sweet slideshow of the newlyweds to be. I loved getting to catch up with dear friends who I do not get to see frequently!

Following the rehearsal J and I went to check into our hotel with a quick stop at an Athens bottle shop (note: beer is cheaper in Athens). We got ourselves checked in, and then met Brooke and her other bridesmaids at my favorite Athens bar—Highwire. J and I enjoyed a good laugh at my delicious cocktail price–$5. $5! Following hanging out at Highwire for a while we walked around trying to choose a place before landing on Fuzzy’s (me mostly remembering my amazing champagne strawberry margarita I enjoyed at some point during the week of my wedding; J dreaming of chips and salsa). I crashed hard while at Fuzzy’s so we called it a night (with no margarita, kthanks), ensured Brooke (who was in no way tipsy and was totally calm and collected) got home okay, and went to sleep ourselves to get ready for WEDDING DAY.

In the weeks prior to Brooke’s wedding I reached out to fellow bridesmaids and her family members and close friends asking them to prepare an encouraging and loving note for her. After collecting the notes on Friday, Saturday morning I pasted them all into a journal to give to her at her bridesmaid breakfast. I choose a journal because I received a great piece of wedding advice from my dear friend Katie—following her wedding she and her husband journaled their wedding day and honeymoon memories so they would not forget them. J and I did that as well and we love it! I was hoping Brooke and her groom would be able to do the same in her new journal.

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The bridesmaid breakfast was at Momma’s Boy…YES!!!! We had a fun breakfast and presented the book to Brookie. After breakfast we went back to the hotel to get our dresses and make-up and headed to the church to get ready! Okay…confession time. When my bridesmaid dress arrived 4 weeks earlier (it came in while I was eating my way through NYC) it did. not. fit. Seriously. J got me into it, snapped in the back panel, zipped it, and I gingerly walked into the bathroom to look in the mirror. I took a deep breath and SNAP. There went the back panel. Yikes. Commence operation no-bread-no pasta-no-sugar-no-alcohol till Brooke’s wedding weekend. And guess what!? It worked! Other than two small cheats (a glass of wine one night, and pizza and beer at the lake) I was diligent and the dress zipped and snapped on that day and I was able to (mostly) breathe. Anyways, getting ready at the church was fun—I did lots of gal’s makeup and snapped pics for Brooke of her getting her hair and make-up done. We got into our dresses, snapped some pics, prayed for Brooke, and then it was time for the ceremony! The ceremony was lovely and after a few more pics, we headed off to the reception.

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S.U.C.C.E.S.S.

The reception was at a local barn-venue and BBQ was served. There was some dancing and J was appointed to be in charge of decorating the getaway car. They departed, we cleaned, and then headed off to go celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary of some amazing friends. I was able to see a lot of my Athens Link crowd at this party and it was so good to catch up. After the party J and I decided to go big since we had a downtown hotel and went to the rooftop bar for a couple beers before calling it a night. After leaving I was seized with a desire for a waffle (remember no carbs?) at midnight (hashtag: shame). Shortly thereafter we learned that our bodies (really) hate grease. Waffle House was unkind to both of us and resulted in us dragging ourselves out of bed pretty late on Sunday morning. We walked over to Big City Bread before walking around campus for a few hours. It was fun to show Joe where I was a RA at and where my classes were and we loved looking in the gardens (and checking out the turtles). After a couple shopping stops we were homeward bound for Atlanta and overjoyed for our friend’s new marriage!

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Weekending | Lake Edition!

The following weekend we traded the ocean for the lake! We were kindly invited by a friend to join him and some other buddies at the lake for a weekend and it was a blast. After a run to Publix for sammies and a minor mishap getting the boat going (note: always make sure the kill-switch is not activated when trying to start the boat), we were off for an afternoon of mostly sunny (sometimes slightly stormy) fun on Lake Lanier. My happy place is the water and it was so much fun going around the lake.

J, no surprise, picked up water skiing with ease (as well as knee boarding) and he was a total hottie going around the lake.

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I, no surprise, did not naturally pick up water skiing and lacked the physical strength to pull myself up on the kneeboard, so I had fun being dragged behind the boat for a while (tubing is more my game).

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J got some time driving the boat so our host could ski, and consequently blow us all away with how well he skied. After he demonstrated moving in and out of the boat wake J was committed to doing that as well. It is bad to laugh, but in one run while he was trying we looked back at him and saw him completely horizontal in the air before going down. Hashtags “ouch” and “yikes” and “darn I am sorry I was not filming.”

Our fun day on the boat was wrapped up when the sun started to set, and we retreated inside for pizza and beer. All of J’s friends enjoy good beer, so there was a tasty selection to try and enjoy (including some homebrew). After dinner and much conversing I called it a day and fell asleep. The next morning we made breakfast…or tried to make breakfast. J makes great omelets, but when we make them at home we have two pans to work with so the turnaround time is not long. Here, we only had one pan to work with (which is normal) and we edited the plan to scrambled eggs. After buying whomp biscuits we then learned the oven was out, so I tried to make them in a frying pan, which for the most part worked (note, keep the lid on to let them steam). Following breakfast and clean up we went out on kayaks, which was super fun! We paddled around our bit of the lake before calling it a day. We headed home, stopped at the grocery store, meal prepped, and watched Walking Dead till bedtime.

PCB Weekend | Memorial Day 2016

Following a fun weekend in NYC, J and I packed up to go to PCB for the Memorial Day weekend. Traffic was forecast to be hellish, so we were quick to make our way out of town and the drive was uneventful, save the most horrific traffic accident either of us have ever witnessed. We were about to cross into Florida and the accident had just happened—it involved two SUVs, a huge motorhome, and a couple of trucks. We looked up the accident later and discovered speed was the contributing factor and two lives were lost. That sobering moment sparked some tough conversations for the remainder of the drive. We, like so many, get caught in the idea of “we can avoid the bad”, etc. but in that accident we saw those involved had only seconds to react…bleh. It was hard, it was tough, and continued prayers for those families involved.

We arrived to PCB and did our usual Wal-Mart stop before heading to the house where we met up with J’s dad. We made burgers and hung out till J’s mom arrived, and I quickly fell asleep. The next morning we slept late, I cut the grass, and then we hauled ourselves out to the beach for a while. Our beach time got cut short because J’s eyes were bothering him really badly, so we went back inside for what remained of the day. Sunday dawned and we went to visit J’s grandma before heading to an afternoon of the beach (before getting chased away by a storm).

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The storm left a rainbow!

Despite the short storm the beach was perfect! Gentle waves, crystal clear waters…gulf > the Atlantic coast, any day.

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It was definitely hard to leave on Monday, but real life beckoned us away from beach life!

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T’s wear pink on the beach.

 

We are both totally relaxed at the beach (as most everyone is). I do not even bother to pack a hair dryer when we travel, and I rarely bring my computer (except I did this time to work on editing a family photo shoot). We always want to contribute while at the house and somehow we became exempt from any cooking the entire weekend, so instead we cleaned to do our part—me grass cutting (I LOVE cutting the grass), Joe wiping down doors and windows. I was studying for the GRE by upping my literature game was reading East of Eden for the trip, and J read his Harvard review articles on the beach. It was such a relaxing (and sunburn free) weekend! If only it was not a 5.5-6.5 hour drive away!

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A flower from J

A NYC Weekend | May 2016

In May I finally got up to visit my dear friend N in NYC!

Since MARTA is so close I brought my suitcase with me to work and after work hopped on the train to the airport. It is awful to go south from Atlanta on a weeknight and it was awesome to zip along on MARTA right to the airport. The news in recent weeks had been full of reports about how awful the security was but I made it through in 10 minutes–I was so excited! My flight did not leave till nearly 10:00 p.m. so I walked each of the concourses looking for a suitable dinner option and then went to my gate to work on East of Eden until departure. The flight was not too full and the seat next to me was empty, win! I read for most of the flight until I fell asleep about 10 minutes before landing. The C family picked me up from the airport and N and I chatted for a couple hours before falling asleep. Let it be noted that I was awake until 2:00 a.m. For this gal that is almost unheard of.

Up in NYC it gets brighter earlier than it does in Atlanta and at 6:00 a.m. I jumped up, thinking it was nearly 9 based by the light. Once we got up and moving we first made our way to Manhattan for a lunch stop at Serendipidy. Honestly, all I wanted was the frozen hot chocolate and it was a sweet delight. Nothing looked too great on the food menu so I went for the “ultimate BLT” forgetting that I’m not crazy about bacon. It was tasty though! That frozen hot chocolate though…it did NOT disappoint.

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Following gorging ourselves on frozen deliciousness we made our way over to Dylan’s candy bar, then went and walked around Central Park for a couple hours. It was every bit as lovely as it looks in films, and far more crowded than it’s every portrayed.

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We wandered through the zoo bit and I LOVED the huge clock with the spinning animals. After a good long walk (and a fizzy water to recharge) we made our way to walk the High Line and good gravy. We walked SO much. Fortunately it was a lovely day and the walk was along the water so it was most delightful (and crowded). We ended our walk at Chelsea Market and were both desperate for refreshments. Following a glass of wine happy hour we grabbed a bit of sushi to share, shopped a bit, and journeyed on to our next snack stop–Sweet Revenge, a cupcake and bar.

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Dinner was now necessary and I was all “pizza sounds amazing” and our waitress was like “go to Joe’s!” and we figured that 1,300 positive Yelp reviews couldn’t be wrong, so off we went. And hey guess what! 1,300 positive Yelp reviews definitely CAN be wrong. The pizza was awful!! Maybe best edible when tipsy? We traipsed through another couple parks then decided “let’s go find a rooftop bar!” While on route to the rooftop bar I found the one thing I had been talking about since before I bought my ticket: Mister Softee.

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It was every bit as wonderful as I knew it would be! After dying with delight over my soft serve we found a rooftop bar with beautiful views. However, the scene was a little bit too clubby for yours truly so we exited before committing to a beverage.

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Options abound in NYC so we decided to just stop at the next place that looked tasty, and it did not dissapoint! We had a yummy cocktail and some nibbles, then went back to N’s apartment (and I may or may not have fallen asleep on the subway).

The next morning dawned bright and early so after getting ready we headed off to the Museum of Natural History. Friends–this was a huge disappointment. It was smelly and cheesy and the only thing remotely exciting were the dinosaur bones. Everything else was a lot of taxidermy. After crossing the museum off our list we headed over to lunch at Eataly. The establishment was an entire block–full of restaurants, food shops, wine shops, etc. We were told it would be a while until our table was ready so we went to their rooftop to get a beverage. As soon as we had our wine/cocktail in hand our table was ready and we had about 4 minutes to down our very full beverages. We gulped them down (#classy) and got to our table, desperately requesting carbs to absorb the adult beverages we had just finished. Lunch was delightful and we rolled ourselves away from the table with very full bellies to go do some shopping (it’s what we do).

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They were a little stingy with the basil on the margherita pizza.

It was getting colder and rainier, so after a spot of shopping we went to Grand Central. Y’all. It was lovely, and probably my favorite stop of the weekend. The intricate detail in so many elements of the building was totally gorgeous! N knew of a small bar in Grand Central and we relaxed there for a while (sipping on our cocktails instead of gulping as earlier). I was majorly craving indian food so N called her hubs who ordered in as we got onto the train and had dinner waiting on us when we got home. We tried a movie (I tried. She watched it) and then passed out exhausted.

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Sunday morning brought with it my plane ticket home! We grabbed breakfast at a restaurant in her neighborhood (salmon eggs benedict) and then went to her favorite bakery. Oh gosh. Second favorite food stop. I took a video of the desserts, and then thoroughly indulged in a Napoleon.

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I taxied to the airport and got home to my love. You may have noticed, wow, was eating all she did in NYC? Why yes, yes it was. We also walked over 40,000 steps in 3 days, so I’ll take it for what it is. Cheers!

From the library | Recent Reads

Checking in with what I’ve been reading lately:

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“Food A Love Story” I got about 30 pages into this book before tossing it away in frustration. I found the tone to be whiny and material to be unoriginal. I can see where he was going with the book, I just was not interested in following through.

“Unbroken” Y’all. I half-heartedly grabbed this book thinking it’d be so-so and boring. Instead it was awesome and I could not put it down for the 3 days or so it took me to finish. I cried. Laughed. Was horrified. All the feels! I did not see the movie (and if it’s anything like how The Martian played out I probably do not want to) but wowzers. Get this book.

“Orphan Train” was a good “fun” read! It was not entirely predictable, pretty well written, and had some plot twists that got me by surprise! Oh, and a few heartbreaking moments that make you want to punch a pillow, so all in all a good read.

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Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors but like the Food book mentioned above, I found “The Lost Continent” to just be whiny and rude, and I did not finish it. I tried to read these two in quick succession so maybe I was just in a mood?

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Circling the Sun” was another good read. The plot moved quickly, but you couldn’t read too fast because there were a lot of characters to keep straight. I enjoyed this read!

In Athens I was part of a book club and while I do not make it to book club anymore, I do usually pick up whichever book they are reading. “Luckiest Girl Alive” was one of them (I think? Or else I got it from stalking another blog) and I can see why it was popular. I had no idea the middle of the book plot twist was coming till we got there, and yikes. I was pretty down after reading this book (sheesh, watching the news will do that to me too) but it is definitely a good “beach book.”

I picked up “Life after Life” from a book club members recommendation and it did not disappoint. I hardly know how to describe it, other than to say “go get it now.” It really explores the effects of one decision as compared to another…again, hard to describe but trust me on this one. Similar to Station 18, this had me thinking (and texting my friend) for a while.

Weekend recap | May 7-8, 2016

The first weekend in May I was all set to volunteer at a work event ALL Friday night and Saturday but then those plans unexpectedly fell through, giving J and I a full weekend together!

On Friday night I prepped for our Mother’s Day Brunch, making the cake and herb gravy. Whenever we host an event I try to cook anything possible in advance, leaving the day of just for reheating and plating. J and I cooked (and cleaned) together, before some of our nightly Walking Dead.

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Saturday morning we hiked Kennesaw Mountain!

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J had hiked the mountain plenty of times before but I had not, and we enjoyed hiking it together! The views were beautiful, and it was not too hot. On our way home we stopped in the Marietta square, looking for an ice cream shop I had remembered going to over 12 years ago…it was that good. And lo and behold IT WAS STILL THERE! It was just as amazing as I remembered, and I had J promise me that we could stop each time we are in Marietta.

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Sunday brought Mother’s Day! My in-laws came up and it was fun to show them our home, serve them lunch, and then go look at paint samples together (they are renovating a home). Our lunch menu was a balsamic pork tenderloin, mashed red potatoes, herb gravy, green beans, and lemon-blueberry pound cake.

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Recent Recipes

One of my favorite parts of the week is meal planning. I meal plan, shop on the weekend, and tend to cook all of our food on Sunday. My favorite sites for meal planning and tasty recipes are Budget Bytes and Skinny Taste–I have yet to find a dud! Here is some of what I’ve been cooking recently:

J’s birthday cake!

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The Mr. requested a “chocolate cake with vanilla filling and caramel frosting.” …he really likes sugar, if you cannot tell. The first vanilla filling recipe I tried TANKED, and TANKED in a bad way. I now really, really hate gelatin. But that is neither here nor there, and take two of just butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar did the trick!

Lunches

J’s lunches tend to be tuna noodle salad or a sammie of some sort (other than the week he requested to have my kale salad). My lunches tend to be the aforementioned kale salad (kale run through the food processor mixed with a homemade dressing, beans, a grain like couscous and whatever veggies are on hand) or lentils and spinach.

Veggie lasagna

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I made this when N and her husband came to town. It was so tasty! I used broccoli (frozen), onion, garlic, carrots, zucchini, and homemade tomato sauce with the noodles and cheese.

Strawberry Shortcake

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Strawberry shortcake is one of N’s favorite desserts and I made a recipe that was easy to make small portions of. She could not stay long because she had some errands, so I made her some to go!

Beef tips and rice

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J requested beef tips and rice, and almost EVERY recipe calls for corn starch. I was not a fan of putting that into my food, so for this I cooked down onion, garlic, mushrooms, and beef, and then to thicken it I cooked green beans and ground them up with my immersion blender. It worked so well! Well…it was more like dirty rice, but there were no complaints on the taste.

Going on in our world | April 2016 Edition

Last weekend we celebrated the Mr.’s birthday with a trip to Serenbe.

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We arrived for our reservations at The Hil on The Hill with plenty of time to spare. After first perusing the menu I was worried that J would not like anything and we debated going elsewhere, but we were glad we stayed. Our mushroom pizza appetizer was out of this world, and J’s crab cakes were some of the best I’ve ever had.

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My salad was simple, which allowed the flavors to really shine. Following lunch we walked around for a while and then made our way back to The Hil for dessert (the parfait. It is life changing). The outing was just what we needed. We’ve been in the city non-stop for weeks and the brief getaway was rejuvenating and we appreciated the time to get away.

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Aside from our getaway and a pub night with friends, our weekends have been full of spring cleaning (me) and paper writing (J). I have post-poned my graduate school plans by a semester (to have more time to study for the GRE), so my evenings are filled with making wedding photo books, studying the GRE, reading for fun, and The Walking Dead.

Yes, The Walking Dead. When I first heard about the show and its premise I said to myself “I’m never going to watch that show!” I hate gore. I hate violence. I hate killing. I hate scary…all things The Walking Dead has in SPADES. When we were first married I would ask J to not even watch it while I was at home. Then one night I relented and he watched it while I read in a chair that is not in direct line of sight of the TV and my interest got piqued. Then came the next week when I tried to read again with it on in the background. That episode happened to be the season finale and when the screen cut to black I knew I was hooked. I rented the first season from the library and we’ve been working our way through. I still hide my face at the scary bits (which is a lot of the time on certain episodes) but I am hooked on the character development.

My office has temporarily relocated and I now have the opportunity to run stadium stairs during lunch. I LOVE getting to do my workouts during the workday. Results yet? Even with carb cutting?

Not yet. Goals, though!