Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard by Belinda Roberts

Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard: A Tale of Tide & PrejudiceIt is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a yacht must be in want of a female crew...

The balmy seaside resort town of Salcombe boasts the best in bikinis, sandcastle contests, and a fiercely competitive squad of buff local lifeguards as Regatta Week approaches. And if that weren't enough excitement, Mrs Bennet hears that the splendid villa Netherpollock has been rented by a young man of great fortune. She is determined he'll go out with one of her daughters, until Mr Darcy glides in on his stunning yacht Pemberley and she decides he would be the better catch...

Jane Austen has never been so hilariously recreated as in this modern seaside retelling of
Pride and Prejudice, complete with a Mr Darcy you won't soon forget!

*          *          *

Going on vacation this weekend?  Or maybe in this economy, perhaps you’re choosing a “staycation”?  Regardless of how you choose to spend some free time this summer, if you’re looking for a fun book to read while on a road trip, sitting by the pool or lounging on deck, you may want to consider Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard by Belinda Roberts.  For Pride and Prejudice fans who aren’t opposed to having a little fun with the original plot and characters, this short novel provides a fun diversion and delightful story.

Set in the seaside town of Salcombe, Overboard features all the main players in the Pride and Prejudice tale, but with some modern twists and embellishments.  In the case of the titular Mr. Darcy, he is indeed the master of Pemberley, only this time it’s presented as a yacht rather than an estate.  Lady Catherine now has the surname de Brrr and dons garish clothing, but she still retains her wealth, ridiculous self-importance and delusion over her nephew’s future with her daughter.  Bingley is delightful and romantic as ever, but is a bit more of a surfer dude in his manner.  Lydia is unbelievable as always, swinging from extremes never before seen in the Austenesque novels that I have read.  And Lizzie still enjoys the outdoors, however she now goes for jaunts in and on the water instead of walks across the countryside.

While Mr. Darcy Goes Oveboard was a fun read, it’s important to keep in mind that one cannot take a purist’s stance in regard to the characters or writing here.  The dialog sometimes sounds like it’s directly from Regency England one moment, and then in another characters sound like they’re from the Valley in 1983 southern California.  There are all sorts of holes and ridiculous choices in the plot, and it seemed that every other minute a character was falling down or into the water.  But I found that I wasn’t really concerned with this.  It’s just a fun read with characters that I love and with a general plot that has held up for generations.  To quote Roberts, “But who cared when such happiness abounded?  Who cared when two young people were caught in such a splendid, delightful, seaweedy entanglement of love?”*  And while that statement doesn’t hold up for every philosophy in life, it works for me in Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard.  It’s a charming, frothy tale with colorful characters we know and love, retaining the twists we expect but bringing humorous moments that we do not necessarily anticipate.  Climb aboard and enjoy this short little cruise; it will brighten your day and make you smile.  It is one can I definitely recommend—with alacrity!

*          *          *

Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard Giveaway

Want to take the plunge?  I'd love to share my ARC with one of you!  It's a slim little volume that I think I can afford to ship out, at least to a winner on this continent anyway.  If you'd like to try to win my advance copy, here's what to do:

  • Leave a comment below; this counts as your entry.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm on Wednesday, July 20th
  • The winner must supply a US or Canadian mailing address for prize shipment.
  • Make sure at least one posted comment includes your email address. If you'd rather not have your email posted here, you may contact me directly to give me that information after you've entered here.
  • I will compile the entries and the winner will be chosen by, so even one entry can make you a winner.
  • Should you win, I will contact you on Thursday the 21st.  Please take measures to ensure that my email will make it past your spam filters, lest you miss my message. ( You'll have 72 hours to respond before I pick another winner.
  • More information on the giveaway policies can be found on the Contact / Policies page.

Bonus Entries

Please make note of all your bonus entries in your comment(s).  You may post separate comments or a single large comment.  Here are your bonus entry options:

  • Follow The Calico Critic by clicking on the Google "Follow" button on my sidebar (old or new followers both get the bonus entry, just please let me know that you're following).
  • Follow me (@LHartness) on Twitter and tell me your @UserName.
  • Tweet about this giveaway on; be sure to use an URL linking back to this blog posting in your tweet. You may do this as frequently as every 8 hours between now and July 20th at 11:59pm EST.  For each tweet, please come back and post the direct URL link to that specific tweet, not just your @Username.   Here's a sample tweet you can use:
@LHartness Calico Critic Giveaway "Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard" by Belinda Roberts @Sourcebooks #PrideandPrejudice

    That's it!  Thanks for stopping by, and good luck to all!
    If you'd like to be alerted anytime a giveaway is posted here on The Calico Critic, here are three notification options:

    Subscribe to The Calico Critic via email (see left hand side bar)

    Follow us on Twitter:  @LHartness

    Join The Calico Critic on Facebook

    *          *          *

    *Quotation taken from page 190 in the Uncorrected Advance Copy.  Text in the final edition may vary.

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    Book Review: The Constantine Codex by Paul L. Maier

    The Constantine Codex (Skeleton Series)Harvard Professor Jonathan Weber is finally enjoying a season of peace when a shocking discovery thrusts him into the national spotlight once again. While touring monasteries in Greece, Jon and his wife Shannon—a seasoned archaeologist—uncover an ancient biblical manuscript containing the lost ending of Mark and an additional book of the Bible. If proven authentic, the codex could forever change the way the world views the holy Word of God. As Jon and Shannon work to validate their find, it soon becomes clear that there are powerful forces who don’t want the codex to go public. When it’s stolen en route to America, Jon and Shannon are swept into a deadly race to find the manuscript and confirm its authenticity before it’s lost forever.

    *          *          *

    Years ago I was one of the millions who read Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code.  Initially I enjoyed the mystery and page-turning plot, but ultimately I was saddened and frustrated with the lies that it promoted within the story.  I was even more disconcerted when I saw the damage that this work of fiction was doing within the general public, causing unnecessary doubt and confusion regarding the Word of God. 

    Paul Maier’s The Constantine Codex in some ways provides a better alternative to such an inaccurate, false novel.  Filled with mystery and adventure surrounding ancient Christian manuscripts, Codex may fit the bill for some readers.  It’s the third in a series from Maier, who has over five million books in print.  Following A Skeleton in God’s Closet and More Than a Skeleton, Codex is respectful of Canonical Christian scripture, but also posits an interesting notion—that there may be undiscovered writings worthy of inclusion into the Holy Bible. 

    Maier also tackles the difficult topic of Christian/Islamic theological conflicts, with much of the plot centering on an internationally televised debate between main character Jon Weber and Abbas al-Rashid.  Between the drama surrounding Weber’s quests in Biblical scholarship and the international furor that is set off by the debate, there is much to cover in this novel.

    While I respect Maier’s obvious education and Biblical knowledge and am grateful for such Biblically respectful intrigue, ultimately The Constantine Codex fell flat for me.  It stands on its own in the series, so starting with Book 3 was not a problem in the least.  References to previous books’ plot points were handled well.  I just found the overall execution of this story to be less compelling than I had expected.  I felt that much of the exposition to be a bit immature in tone, yet some of the scholastic topics to be so lofty I had no interest in what was being discussed. The main characters were bland and uninteresting, although I admire their positive marital relationship and loving interaction.

    Despite my weak response to this novel, I do believe there is an audience for it.  My mother is an instructor at Southern Evangelical Seminary, a leading center for Christian Apologetics in the United States.  Through my interaction with SES, I’m sure that many students of apologetics, Christian debate and those who study ancient manuscripts would enjoy The Constantine Codex.  It’s a quick, clean read, and one that I certainly recommend to my Christian apologist friends.  It may not go down in the annals of history as a great Christian novel, but it would make a fun title for seminary students needing a break from dense textbooks and seemingly interminable term papers.  They may learn a thing or two, and will certainly have a little fun in the process.

     *          *          *

    Interested in more Christian fiction?  Check out my giveaway of Thunder of Heaven!

    Tuesday, June 28, 2011

    Peak Fit Challenge - End of Week 6

    Wow-- Six weeks down.  I can't believe I'm 3/4 of the way through the Peak Fit Challenge program.  I feel great and can't believe some of the things I'm performing in these workouts.  It hasn't been easy, but it's so worth it!

    Click here to watch video excerpts on the PeakFit Challenge website.

    Fellow PeakFit Challengers, share your thoughts, too!

    Get your body in peak condition in just 8 weeks with the PeakFit Challenge™, the revolutionary exercise and nutrition program that will help you burn more calories so you can get that lean, ripped, head-turning body you've been dreaming about!

    * * *
    Week 6, Day 1  (6.1)
    Today’s Workout:
    Pure Strength II
    Weekly Weight: 158.6

    The perseverance from weeks past has finally shown up on my scale!  I am so thrilled to report that I have finally broken through that strange wall that was in front of me, and my weight has gone down.  At 158.6, I am now lighter than I have been in about 2 years.  In 2009 I was dealing with a very difficult family situation, and I ended up putting on 50 pounds due to the side effects of anti-depressant medication and apathy toward my personal wellness.  Through a change in (and now eradication of) my medication, God’s hand in my life through the First Place 4 Health program and the Peak Fit Challenge, I’ve made some huge progress.  According to most medical charts, at 5’7” and 158 pounds, I’m finally back at a healthy weight!  And not only that, but I feel stronger and fitter than I did two years ago.  I am so grateful.   On the BMI Chart my middle-healthy weight (right now I'm on the upper end of the range) is about 138 1/2, so I'd still like to lose some more, but at this point I'm just grateful to be where I am.

    Today’s workout went well.  I took fewer breaks and used my 12-pound weights for all of the heavy sections, even those tough curtsey dips where we release the weights and pick them up again!  Whew!  I still needed to stick with my 6 pound weights for the light sections, but I was able to incorporate my 8 pound weights a couple of times.  The range of motion is getting better with the PFC band, and I’m even starting to see some movement in the “break the band” portion! So, overall a great workout and a good start to Week 6!

    Day 6.2
    Today’s Workouts:
    Core Dynamics & Pure Cardio

    Last week on this date I had the option to do Core Dynamics in addition to the cardio workout, but I chose not to.  In order to up the ante this week, I’m going to do both.  I got Core Dynamics out of the way first, so I wouldn’t be tempted to skip it later.  It went pretty well—I’m still pitiful in a lot of ways, but I’m seeing improvement.  I didn’t hook the band to my shoulder as much as I used to, my form is getting better overall and I’m finally getting some range of motion out of my bands.  I still have a long way to go in core and upper body strength, but I know this video is one of the tools that can get me to where I need to be.  Interestingly enough, as I type this, the muscles on my left shoulder blade are twitching…

    Pure Cardio went pretty well, although I think my lunch was a little too big.  I went into the workout with a really bright outlook, but I faded fast as the food in my gullet was weighing me down a bit. I still got in a good workout, but I think tomorrow I’m going to take it easy on my pre-workout meal.  I stayed within my calorie level today, but next time I’m going to spread things out a bit more.  I still really love this workout, though. I always wear my purple to match Michelle and I can hear the music in my head before we even get started!

    Day 6.3
    Today’s Workout:
    Cardio Strength II

    While dressing this morning my husband caught a glimpse of my midriff and exclaimed, “Wow—look at your abs! You look great, honey!”  This was very encouraging to me, especially after enduring the discomfort of yesterday’s Core Dynamics.  I won’t ever have a true six-pack due to the damaged skin around the lower abs, but I’m going to do my best with the rest of it!

    Today’s workout was interesting—I’d had another rough evening and morning with my elder son and felt very demoralized as a parent.  To be honest, I really didn’t want to work out at all.  But I’m staying committed to this and I know how the endorphin-producing routines can really help us feel better.  So I charged ahead and tried to psyche myself up.

    Michelle has encouraged me to “let it all out” during my workouts, releasing the tension that builds up in our lives.  We might not be able to have temper tantrums like our children do when they’re upset, but we can let loose a bit as we’re exerting ourselves in the Peak Fit Challenge.  I took her advice to heart, but I think I took it a bit too far in releasing my frustration, because about 41 minutes into it I broke down crying into my towel.  Today’s workout went well, I lost plenty of sweat and pushed myself as usual, but I felt physically and emotionally spent when I was done.  Not sure if I’m going to repeat that again.  It makes for a drained mom and wife…

    Day 6.4
    Today’s Workouts:
    Pure Strength I and Dynamic Flexibility

    After another rough morning as a parent, I wasn’t in the mood to work out, but I was in the mood to feel better.  And I knew exercise would help with this.  I haven’t done Pure Strength I in 3½ weeks, so I was looking forward to doing something different today.

    I was amazed at my gains in strength since my last time with this workout!  I used my 12 pound weights throughout for the heavy moves, and my 6 pounders for the light.  However, on the warm-up I was able to use my 8 pound weights for the light.  Wow!  I did about 95% of the pushup/plank work on my toes, and I’m getting better range of motion with the PFC band.  With the increase in the weights it’s still a challenging routine, but I was so excited with my improvement.  I also noticed some sharper angles on my shoulder caps as well.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before!

    Dynamic Flexibility wasn’t super-fun for me today, but I like the way I feel now that it’s done.  I decided to do PSI and DF back-to-back, as my husband was away with my younger son on a fun catamaran ride with a friend.  With storms coming in, I knew I’d have limited time alone to get these two routines done.  Jonathan kept emailing me pics of son Colson on the boat as I worked out, and it was so nice to know they were off having a good time while I had time to myself. Being out in the sun and heat isn’t my thing, so this worked out perfectly.  Now that my 77 minutes of the Peak Fit Challenge are over for the day, I’m going to enjoy the rain that has arrived and curl up with a good book!

    Day 6.5
    Rest Day

    Rest day!  Whoo-hoo!  I enjoyed taking it easy today, reading a book and just hanging out.  After church we were to attend a picnic, with food provided for free.  I was grateful that we were given a free meal, but I decided to opt out.  Instead of hamburgers, hot dogs and brownies, I brought my own veggies and fruit.  I missed having the picnic food, but the lack of regret at the end of the day was worth it!

    Day 6.6
    Today’s Workout:
    Cardio Strength I

    I woke up to monthly water retention, and I determined in my mind that I would do everything I could to do my best until weigh-in day on Wednesday.  If I have a weight gain for the week, it won’t be because I slacked off on food or exercise in any way.  I really kicked it up another level in the workout today. I eliminated half of my water breaks, only pausing at the end of each 10-minute segment, instead of taking a few more breaks at each Basecamp, which are 5 minutes apart.  The 12lb weights were used for heavy and even I even used the 8lb weights a few times for light.  I’m getting closer to reaching a goal of matching Michelle’s weights—when she teaches class she uses 8 & 12-lb weights, and when she is a class member she uses 10 & 15.  I’m getting close to her teacher-level ones, which is really exciting!  I know those are lighter for her so that she can talk and instruct her class, but it’s still a goal I’d like to contemplate at least!

    Day 6.7
    Today’s Workout:
    The Anywhere Workout

    When I awoke, my body awarded me with a headache, fatigue, continued water retention and a cloudy attitude for most of the morning.  My boys were away from the house for 3 hours in the morning, but I could not bring myself to work out.  I honestly wanted to just get back in bed.  I managed to not get horizontal, but I didn’t get the workout done then.

    In the afternoon I had a few hours before my husband was to join us, so I knew it was then or never.  My son began whining about leaving our tiny den so that I could exercise.  He’d really worn me out the day before with misbehavior, and it was all I could do to not just burst into tears and skip the workout all together.  I talked to him about how we sometimes have to do things we don’t want to do, simply because it’s the right choice.  He didn’t want to go entertain himself, and I didn’t feel like working out, but it had to be done.  I’m committed to this.

    Fortunately, I was able to get through to him and I got the workout done.  I’m a sweaty mess now, but I feel SO much better.  Those endorphins really do help lighten moods.  I’m also pleased with my progress since two weeks ago when I did The Anywhere Workout last.  I was able to do all pushup-related moves on my toes. And while it was a big struggle, I was able to complete a few of the last Peak moves, where we tuck jump and then jump out to plank.

    There may be several hours of challenging parenting left today, but at least I accomplished this goal and feel better in general.  It was worth it.

    So-- overall, a tough week, but I'm making progress.  Two more weeks to go!

    *          *          *

    Check back next week for the next installment of my PeakFit Challenge experience!

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Book Giveaway: Thunder of Heaven by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall

    Thunder of Heaven: A Joshua Jordan Novel (End Series, The)Like millions of others, I was really into Tim LaHaye's Biblical End Times Left Behind series in the mid 1990's.  While some may debate the details of Eschatology until the end of time itself, I found Left Behind to be entertaining and at least got me thinking about the issues presented to us in Revelation and other books of the Bible.

    Last year Tim LaHaye returned to the genre with a new apocalyptic series, beginning with Edge of Apocalypse, co-written with Craig Parshall.  Now comes the second title in the collection, Thunder of Heaven.  Here is some information on this exciting new series:

    Best-known for the Left Behind series, LaHaye and his co-author Parshall introduced readers to The End series with last year’s Edge of Apocalypse. Now, in Thunder of Heaven (Zondervan; on-sale June 28th), lead character Joshua Jordan is back. In an epic story ripped from the headlines of world events and filtered through Scriptural prophecy, Thunder of Heaven chronicles the earth-shattering events which eventually lead up to the Apocalypse foretold in Revelation. 

    You can find out more about The End series by liking “Col. Joshua Jordan’s” Facebook profile and following “Jordan” on Twitter.

    According to TV personality Glenn Beck, “Tim LaHaye’s books always entertain, educate and thrill, but Thunder of Heaven takes it to a new level.”

    In addition, there have been a few video teasers produced for Thunder of Heaven that you might want to check out-- these trailers on YouTube have really piqued my interest!

    Video #1
    : Joshua Jordan at the White House, reporting to the "Round Table"
    about thwarted terrorist attacks from al-Qaeda. 

    Video #2
    :  Joshua Jordan reports to the "Round Table" from Israel just outside Tel Aviv regarding potential conspiracy attacks against the US government.

    Video #3
    : Joshua Jordan reports to the "Round Table" from prison confirming the Iranians have weapons of mass destruction.

    Sound interesting?  I'm going to be starting this series soon, but in the meantime has given me the opportunity to give away a copy of Thunder of Heaven to one reader!  Here are the contest rules:

    Thunder of Heaven Giveaway

    • Leave a comment below; this counts as your entry.
    • Entries accepted until 11:59pm on Wednesday, July 20th
    • The winner must supply a US or Canadian mailing address for prize shipment.
    • Make sure at least one posted comment includes your email address. If you'd rather not have your email posted here, you may contact me directly to give me that information after you've entered here.
    • I will compile the entries and the winner will be chosen by, so even one entry can make you a winner.
    • Should you win, I will contact you on Thursday the 21st.  Please take measures to ensure that my email will make it past your spam filters, lest you miss my message. ( You'll have 72 hours to respond before I pick another winner.
    • Thunder of Heaven will be distributed to the winner by an associate from
    • More information on the giveaway policies can be found on the Contact / Policies page.

    Bonus Entries

    Please make note of all your bonus entries in your comment(s).  You may post separate comments or a single large comment.  Here are your bonus entry options:

    • Follow The Calico Critic by clicking on the Google "Follow" button on my sidebar (old or new followers both get the bonus entry, just please let me know that you're following).
    • Follow me (@LHartness) on Twitter and tell me your @UserName.
    • Tweet about this giveaway on; be sure to use an URL linking back to this blog posting in your tweet. You may do this as frequently as every 8 hours between now and July 20th at 11:59pm EST.  For each tweet, please come back and post the direct URL link to that specific tweet, not just your @Username.   Here's a sample tweet you can use-- I'm pretty sure it fits!
    Enter 2 win Tim LaHaye's newest:"Thunder of Heaven", co-author @CPauthor101. Hosted by @authorsontheweb @TyndaleHouse

      That's it!  Thanks for stopping by, and good luck to all!
      If you'd like to be alerted anytime a giveaway is posted here on The Calico Critic, here are three notification options:

      Subscribe to The Calico Critic via email (see left hand side bar)

      Follow us on Twitter:  @LHartness

      Join The Calico Critic on Facebook

        Tuesday, June 21, 2011

        Peak Fit Challenge - End of Week 5

        Another week gone-- done with 5 weeks of the PeakFit Challenge! This was a big week for me-- I saw gains in strength, muscle tone, and FINALLY a drop in weight!  All this eating right and exercising is really paying off.  It took a little while for my body to figure it out, but I think it's caught up to all the work that's been done and showing results.  This week made the other tough weeks of perseverance worth it, I tell you!

        Click here to watch video excerpts on the PeakFit Challenge website.

        Fellow PeakFit Challengers, share your thoughts, too!

        Get your body in peak condition in just 8 weeks with the PeakFit Challenge™, the revolutionary exercise and nutrition program that will help you burn more calories so you can get that lean, ripped, head-turning body you've been dreaming about!

        * * *

        June 15, 2011 - Week 5, Day 1 (5.1)
        Today’s WorkoutPure Strength II
        Weekly Weight – 162.0

        After really pushing myself this week and doing my best to stay on track with my eating, the scale was finally down this week! 3.4 pounds gone! I also took my mid-program measurements and was pleased to see my numbers either stay the same (larger biceps, but less fat) or become smaller (an inch off my waist!). Yesterday was tough, as some stressful situations at home had me leaning towards some bad choices in the kitchen. But thankfully, by God’s grace I managed to push through and stay on track.

        Today provided its own hurdles for me—I was preparing to do my workout at around 2pm when I realized that it felt a little warm in the house. I went to check the A/C and was horrified to discover that it was completely disabled. With the temperatures in south Florida reaching the mid to upper 90s today, I knew it was only a matter of time before my house turned into an oven. I popped the Pure Strength II workout into the player and got right to work before it was too late to function in the heat.

        While my strength and energy were up from yesterday, the workout was interrupted several times by issues with the kids (ugh!) and once when my husband finally called back with the A/C solution (yay!!). So while this workout could have gone better, it wasn’t too bad. I stayed on my toes for all of the pushups except the tricep ones, used my heavier weights frequently and had a better range of motion with the PFC band (except on that one impossible break-the-band move)!

        Babysitting at a friend’s house later that evening, I had the opportunity to enjoy some cheese pizza, and after a difficult incident at home at 4:30pm I really wanted to indulge. But I’d brought my own carrots, apple, low fat cheese stick, 100-calorie Muscle Milk and light yogurt to have for dinner. These were better choices for me, keeping me on track and not defeated by the negative factors around me.

        Day 5.2
        Today’s WorkoutPure Cardio

        Today was great! I really enjoy Pure Cardio, and I was actually excited about working out today. There are only a couple of moves within this routine that have the “dread” factor—the rest of the 52 minute workout is nothing but challenging fun! My energy was great, I pushed myself hard, and I did well in keeping up with the cast. My kids stayed occupied and I didn’t have to pause the video for more than water breaks. At one point my son passed through the room and said, “Wow—that’s really intense!!” It was intense, but I love it! That evening as I reached over to turn out the light, the music from Pure Cardio was running through my head. I think all of this is getting burned into my brain!

        Later in the evening my husband and I were watching a DVD episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars while the kids were away. He and I were talking about my workouts and he congratulated me on my hard work, patting my pants on my left thigh. As soon as he did, he paused, his eyeballs got wide and he said, “Whoa! Your leg!! You’ve got some serious muscle going on under there!” While my thigh measurement hasn’t changed very much, the composition of it certainly has. There’s a lot less pudge there and plenty of new muscle. It’s toned and getting tighter. Results like this make all those atomic lunges worth the effort!

        Day 5.3
        Today’s WorkoutCardio Strength II

        While I wasn’t dreading my workout today, there was a little bit of, “What, this workout again?!” when I read the schedule. This one has been on high rotation, and while I like it, the frequency is starting to get to me. These DVDs will definitely be well-worn by the end of the 8 weeks!

        But as far as workouts go, it went very well today. I pushed myself with 6 and 12 pound weights, only once going down to 10 pounds. The total amount of time I spent in water breaks was probably more than last time, but I was pushing myself harder during the workout. I jumped higher during our peaks and just gave it my all while we were working. The kids remained occupied with The Empire Strikes Back in the other room, so everyone was happy. Feeling great!

        Day 5.4
        Today’s Workout: Pure Strength II

        This is the first Saturday in which I didn’t have a lower-key workout to do—this was a full-blown one! I did well on Pure Strength II, pushing myself and making new gains. I’m getting a bigger range of motion out of the band and overall am feeling stronger. My weight has been dropping like crazy for the past few days with no change in my healthy diet or calorie level, so I can tell that all this work is starting to kick in. I was really starting to wonder there for a little while, so this is a relief. After today’s hard workout, I was thankful that tomorrow is a Sabbath/Rest Day with no workout required!

        Day 5.5
        Rest Day

        Other than doing my best to cater to my sweet husband for Father’s Day today (special breakfast, general royal treatment), I took it very easy and just had a nice lazy day. I’m amazingly not sore from these workouts, but it’s nice to have a day off once in a while to let my body rest.

        Day 5.6
        Today’s Workout: Cardio Strength I

        As I haven’t done this one in a couple of weeks and have had great gains in muscle strength along the way, I went into this workout with such a positive attitude, I think I was over confident! I figured that since I’ve been doing CSII for a while, going back to CSI would be a piece of cake. WRONG! Within a few minutes of starting the routine we were jumping down to do burpees—one of my worst! And while I’m still not up to the same level as the cast members, I’m very pleased to report that not all of my burpees were “burpettes”. I really did manage to do a few 100% correctly, which is really saying something! I was also able (just a few times) to jump back into the plank position later on in the routine when we performed the frog jumps, going from plank to frog and back.

        I took quite a few water breaks, as I was pushing myself really hard and at times just couldn’t keep up. But I was able to maintain a better form throughout and I got in a great workout! Later in the evening, I had hubby give a quick poke on my obliques and he was just stunned! I may never have super-taut lower abs (babies, C-section, years of obesity), but my obliques have a good shot at success! It makes those awful “tiger” plank/pushup/side crunch things worth it!

        Day 5.7
        Today’s Workout: Cardio Interval Burn

        I knew today’s workout would be a tough one, the longest in the series. At the same time, I’ve enjoyed it in the past and actually was looking forward to it today. To prepare, I had a bit more carbohydrates for breakfast and lunch, fueling up with 1 ½ ounces of oatmeal and later 3 ounces of salmon on 1 ½ ounces of whole wheat bread. When it came time to work out, I felt great! I was able to keep up with the video, with fewer breaks to catch my breath & get water. I still could use some improvement in the Peak zones, but everywhere else I’m right there with Michelle and her cast. The time flew by, and if my body hadn’t been fading I could have gone longer!

        I think this week was the most productive so far. I saw huge gains in my abilities, I lost a few pounds, and my muscle tone is really improving. It really makes me glad that I stuck to the program during those weeks when the scale was climbing with no end in sight—I knew I was gaining muscle, and as long as I stayed on track, I had faith that my metabolism would kick in at some point and show some big changes. The changes are showing up, and for that I am grateful.

        *          *          *

        Check back next week for the next installment of my PeakFit Challenge experience!

        Tuesday, June 14, 2011

        Peak Fit Challenge - End of Week 4

        Here we are, the end of Week 4 of the PeakFit Challenge!  I can't believe I'm halfway through already.  While I wish the number on the scale was smaller, I made some big strides in strength and fitness this week.  My clothes are getting looser and people are really taking notice.  Recently I ran into an old friend who hasn't seen me in a while, and she remarked, "Wow! You look amazing!"  That's some great positive fuel to the fire!

        Click here to watch clips of the workouts on the PeakFit Challenge website.

        Fellow PeakFit Challengers, share your thoughts, too!

        Get your body in peak condition in just 8 weeks with the PeakFit Challenge™, the revolutionary exercise and nutrition program that will help you burn more calories so you can get that lean, ripped, head-turning body you've been dreaming about!

        *          *           *

        June 8, 2011 - Week 4, Day 1 (4.1)
        Today’s Workout: Pure Strength 1
        Weekly Weight: 165.4

        Of course yesterday’s transgressions + lots of weight training this week meant my weight was up again this morning.  My clothes are getting looser, so I know some of it is loss of fat and gaining muscle, but it’s still frustrating.  Today I managed to stay on course, taking in less than 1,700 calories with lots of healthy choices.

        Today’s workout was a new one!  I’ve never done Pure Strength II, so I was excited.  I purposefully backed off on my weights to be safe this first time around, using 5-pounders most of the time for the light weight and 10-pounders for the heavy.  I had to modify a few moves to keep up, but overall I did really well and enjoyed it!  Once again Michael Jackson-esque music made an appearance near the end—loved it!  The only move I absolutely could not do was a certain stretch on the Peak Fit Band that works the upper body.  Michelle says, “Pretend you’re trying to break the band.”  I doubt I could move it 1 inch in that particular position, much less stretch it to the limit!  So that will be a way to measure my progress for sure.

        With the completion of this video, I’ve now done all of the PeakFit workouts.  I must say, they have definitely pushed me to the limit more than once.  But Michelle and her cast have a great spirit and even make the really difficult moves as fun as they can be.  And while I wish the number on the scale was going down, I’m very impressed with the tangible evidence of changes in my muscle tone and my endurance during workouts.  This is an excellent program, and I’m looking forward to the next month of milestones.

        Day 4.2
        Today’s Workout:
        Pure Cardio

        First day of summer for the kids—my usual solitary, 10am workout time was not going to happen.  Fortunately, my husband was home in the afternoon and took my two boys away for an hour so that I could work out!  Today’s workout was Pure Cardio, which is definitely one of my favorites in the collection. I was actually excited about doing it and couldn’t wait to get started!

        As this was my 4th time doing Pure Cardio, I was more familiar with the moves than ever, and I was able to really focus on putting in a big effort instead of trying to figure out how to keep up.  I really gave it my all, giving 100% throughout the entire 51 minutes.  While in Downward Dog position during the cool-down, I just had to chuckle when the sweat ran up (down?) my face, back into my eyes, stinging them.  The DVD was paused so I could mop up and keep going.  I feel great and am so thankful that my body, joints, muscles, etc. are capable of this.

        Day 4.3
        Today’s Workout:
        Cardio Strength II

        Not long before my workout I was telling my boys about how sleepy I was and how I’d prefer a nap over a workout, but that I was going to do the routine anyway.  To keep them out of my hair for an hour, I set them up with a Star Wars video and they were happy as clams.

        This was my second run at Cardio Strength II, and while I knew it would be tough, I didn’t have any fear regarding my completion of it.  I knew the trick was to find the right weights for my abilities and to just push myself as best I could.  After getting warmed up, I really gave it my all.  Now that I’ve been at this for over three weeks, I really feel a difference in my fitness level, and I’m able to keep up with the rest of the cast better each time.  I’m doing more pushups on my toes, my planks are getting better, and my Mountain Climbers are almost respectable!

        By the time we got to the end and I was in the Downward Dog position, I just had to laugh at the sweat running up (down?) into my eyes again.  I had given it 100% and had the sweat stinging my eyes to prove it.  A wave of gratitude rushed over me as we finished—I was so proud at how well I’d done in such a tough workout routine, and I was extremely thankful that my parts still work well enough to accomplish this.

        Day 4.4
        Today’s Workouts:
          Core Dynamics & Dynamic Flexibility

        I was feeling a bit more energetic and my schedule allowed for it, so I was able to do both Core Dynamics and Dynamic Flexibility this week.  Again, I was glad that CD is only 21 minutes, because it’s still really challenging for me.  I think I did see a few areas of improvement, though.  I’m now using the PeakFit Band exclusively, and I’m getting a larger range of motion with it.  I don’t know if it’s just getting looser from use, but I’m hoping that maybe I’m a tad stronger than I used to be.

        Later in the day I did DF, which I enjoyed as usual.  I actually broke a slight sweat this time— not sure why.  But as always, this one is so relaxing and perfect to do after many days of PFC workouts and a busy lifestyle.

        Day 4.5
        Rest Day

        Oh, but yes!  I enjoyed being lazy and not doing much today.  I definitely felt that I’d earned a true Sabbath Day for sure.

        Day 4.6
        Today's Workout
        - Cardio Strength II

        again today!  I’m glad I like this one, because it’s been on high rotation lately.  I didn’t have the luxury of an empty house this time, so getting through this was a challenge.  In addition to my occasional water breaks, the DVD got paused quite a bit. There were several times when I’d be going full-tilt in a Climb section and one of my children would come in with a non-urgent issue that just HAD to be attended to at that moment.  A couple of times I ended up fussing at them to just wait a few minutes so that I could finish, which wasn’t fun.  After the workout was over, I sat the boys down and talked to them nicely about the importance of not interrupting me, equating it to the frustration that Olympic runners feel when a “false start” occurs.  There’s something about that abrupt stop that really causes a loss of energy.

        I also explained that if I had anything to say about it, I would never work out again.  I don’t naturally enjoy it.  I do it because I have to, and because I want to obey God and be a good steward of this gift He has given me.  I enjoy how I feel afterward and the health it brings me, but it’s always going to be somewhat of a chore.  And having interruptions just makes it that much more difficult. (How I miss those days when I lived in a big house with a separate basement workout room all to myself!)

        The workout (aside from the unwanted interruptions) went really well today.  I pushed myself to new levels, using 6 and 12 –pound weights this time.  Some of the bicep curls were killer!  For the over-the-head-after-curtsey-dip move, I really think I’m almost ready for a 7-pound weight, but I don’t think they sell those.  Maybe I’ll strap on some 1-pound ankle weights on my wrists or something next time. 

        When it was over, I was positively dripping in sweat.  It looked like all of the water came from my head, though.  My shoulder-length hair looked as if I’d just emerged from the rain or something!  But I felt great, proud that I’d done so well and thankful to God for a healthy, working body.  As I got cleaned up, I sang out loud through the house the chorus of James Brown’s old classic, “I Feel Good”!!

        Day 4.7
        Today’s Workout:
        Anywhere Workout

        Today was rough.  I had a hard morning with my elder son, I think I had too few calories at breakfast, and yesterday’s workout was especially taxing.  As a result, my performance in the Anywhere Workout was less than stellar.  I could barely get my body off the ground for jumping jacks, and my adrenaline just never engaged as it usually does after the warm up.  While in general I feel in better shape than two weeks ago when I last did this DVD, I had to pause the video more than usual.  It was also a big mental challenge to push through to the end.  While I did modify some moves, I did get in the best workout I could given the circumstances.  It’s a good thing that this workout is only about 41 minutes, because I don’t know if I could have taken much more.

        Despite this sub-par workout, it’s been a good week.  My weight has finally come down a bit, and I’m getting more and more toned as the days go by.  I’m halfway through the 8-week program—it’ll be interesting to see what’s possible in a month or so!

        *          *          *

        Check back next week for the next installment of my PeakFit Challenge experience!

        Monday, June 13, 2011

        Book Review - Hiding Behind a Mask

        Hiding Behind A Mask: Overcoming Depression and Bipolar DisorderRecently author Cheryl Bolton Van Winkle contacted me to review her book Hiding Behind a Mask: Overcoming Depression and Bipolar Disorder.  As she is also a Christian and my 11 year-old son has struggled with Bipolar symptoms for most of his life, her title piqued my interest.  While not diagnosed as clinically depressed, from April 2009 to April 2011 I was on medication to deal with the despair and situational depression I’d been dealing with in parenting my son.  So I felt that I could relate to this book on a number of levels.

        Cheryl has struggled with depression for most of her life, and she has been through quite an ordeal.  Thankfully, the Lord has been with her and has brought her much comfort and help, both through medical science and through spiritual healing.  She has bathed herself in God’s word probably more times than she can count, and as God has lifted her out of the black pit of depression, He has allowed her to go on to minister to others. This book not only details her journey from childhood to the present, but it also gives advice for others who are struggling with depression or are caregivers of those who do.

        On many levels, I enjoyed Mrs. Van Winkle’s work.  Like her, I know the pain and despair that can come upon you in times of grief and depression.  I appreciate the fact that she sees medication as a tool, a viable choice even for Christians.  It is not her only tool, as she also relies on the Lord for comfort and strength.  I am no longer medicated, but my son is, and while his meds are an essential part of his treatment, he is not a robotic, perfect child.  He still has his hard days, and I still pray for him and share God’s truth with him on a regular basis.  I’m glad that Cheryl has that perspective—meds are okay.  However, they aren’t the complete solution—we still need to rely on the Lord for strength, just as everyone should.

        While I enjoyed the overall message of Hiding Behind the Mask, the writing can sometimes be inexperienced in tone.  It’s clear that this is just a down-to-earth layperson who is sharing her heart with the world.  This title may not win stacks of awards in writing style, but Van Winkle’s heart is well intentioned.  She has been to the darkest corners of her humanity and has been rescued by the One who loves her more than she loves herself.  Her struggle has been a long and hard one, and in Hiding Behind the Mask she endeavors to reach out to others and minister to them in their times of trouble.  In that regard, I wish Cheryl all of God’s blessings as He bestows upon her a crown of beauty in exchange for the ashes of her inner turmoil.

        Friday, June 10, 2011

        Book Review: Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman by Maria Hamilton

        Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a GentlemanFrom Goodreads:

        When Elizabeth Bennet refuses his hand, Darcy is devastated and makes it his mission to change. By every civility in his power, Darcy slowly tries to win her affections, but Elizabeth is not easily swayed. Darcy vows to unlock the secrets that will make her his. He curses himself for his social awkwardness and appearance of pride, and sets out to right the wrongs he's done her family.

        Elizabeth's family and friends misunderstand his intentions, and being in Elizabeth's presence proves to be both excruciating for the shy Darcy-and a dream come true. For the first time in his life, he must please a woman worth having, and the transformation leads him to a depth of understanding and love that he never could have imagined.

        *          *          *

        ***SPOILER ALERT:  Specific plot points are discussed within this review***

        Like other Pride and Prejudice retellings, Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman picks up Jane Austen’s classic tale just after he has failed miserably in proposing to Elizabeth Bennet in Kent.  He is horrified at his behavior, regretting his condescending and thoroughly unromantic offer.  Over time and a series of events, letters and visits, he manages to not only win the heart of Elizabeth, but also repair the relationship between Jane Bennet and his dear friend Charles Bingley.

        While this plotline may be similar to other P&P-inspired novels, I was interested to see how new author Maria Hamilton would bring Darcy and Elizabeth from alienation to matrimony.  Fitzwilliam may have been well bred and a seemingly proper English gentleman, but he had much to learn about how to properly court the object of his affection.  For Elizabeth’s part, she eventually had to overcome her negative impressions of Darcy in order to see him for the good man that he was.

        I found Gentleman to be such an enjoyable novel.  Maria Hamilton’s writing style is a pleasure to read, with an authentic and subdued feel.  There are no cataclysmic scenes of peril or overly heightened drama, only great dialogue and plot development.  As in other Austenesque novels, there are the usual misunderstandings and societal obstacles to surmount, but Hamilton weaves her story in a delightful, fresh way.  Lizzy and Darcy have wonderful chemistry, Mrs. Bennet is as neurotic as ever, and Caroline Bingley doesn’t fail to deliver her contemptible behavior.  As a Janeite, I truly gobbled this one up and was just about to rank it as one of my favorite Austenesque novels.

        My opinion began to change near the end of the book, however.  I had so enjoyed Maria Hamilton’s storytelling, how she was able to convey the drama of the characters’ relationships in such a talented, satisfying way, without the use of excessive adult material.  Even within the story, it was acknowledged that while Darcy and Elizabeth yearned for each other, they wanted to be models of propriety, knowing they should wait until after their wedding to consummate their marriage.  Like many engaged couples, their passions were running high, and it was difficult to stay true to their moral compass in the weeks leading up to their wedding.  And like many modern Austenesque writers, Hamilton decided to have her characters succumb to their desires before taking their vows.  This was very frustrating to me, as it seemed to divert wildly from the general tone of the entire book.  I’m not shocked that such a scene occurred, I was just disappointed.  It would have been so easy to have a similar passionate scene play out on their wedding night.  Why not?  I know it’s not the standard today, but many still adhere to that, and in the 19th century, even more held to that code of conduct.  Mr. Darcy did indeed grow as a gentleman in this lovely retelling; I just wish it had also included within his bedroom.

        I hesitate to give Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman a negative review. For the majority of the novel, I was highly entertained and loved every minute of it.  Maria Hamilton’s Harvard education shone through with her ability to immerse her readers into Austen’s world in such a delightful way.  As the book neared its end, I was not looking forward to its conclusion, the end of my experience with it.  I suppose if there could be a way to omit the last 25% of Chapter 21, this novel would be near the top of my Best of 2011 list.  However, we must take the production as it is.  And as such, I would say that I do recommend this title, but with that one caveat.  Mr. Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman is a charming production and is sure to please many an Austen fan around the world.  I look forward to reading more from this new author in the world of Austenesque novels.

        This title was provided to me by Sourcebooks Landmark.
        No obligation other than an honest review was required.


        Tuesday, June 7, 2011

        Peak Fit Challenge - End of Week 3

        To those of you following along, here are my thoughts after the end of Week 3 of the PeakFit Challenge.    Click here to watch clips of the workouts on the PeakFit Challenge website.

        Fellow PeakFit Challengers, share your thoughts, too!

        Get your body in peak condition in just 8 weeks with the PeakFit Challenge™, the revolutionary exercise and nutrition program that will help you burn more calories so you can get that lean, ripped, head-turning body you've been dreaming about!

        *          *          *

        June 1, 2011 - Week 3, Day 1 (3.1)
        Today’s Workout: Pure Strength 1
        Weekly Weight: 162.4

        Well, I wasn’t thrilled with a weight gain this week (+1.6 lbs), but there were multiple factors that went into it, and there were also other measures of success for the past week.  Last Wednesday I re-incorporated grains into my diet, I over indulged that night, there was monthly water retention, and the workouts have been building muscle.  I’m pleased with the progress of my muscle tone and definition, and there have been measured strides in strength increasing. So while this wasn’t a perfect week, I still have much to be excited about!

        Today’s workout, Pure Strength I, is one that is now becoming very familiar to me after this third go around.  Once again I saw strides in my abilities, using my new 12 pound weights more often, frequently staying off my knees for plank/pushup work and even using the PFC Challenge Bands every time they were required! I still don't  have the range of motion that the cast members do, but there is definite improvement. I was able to use the bands very well in our squats and chest presses.  However, my bicep curls and chest pull-downs were very weak indeed.  So I still have plenty of room for improvement, but I’m getting better!

        Day 3.2
        Today’s Workout:  Pure Cardio

        After doing some work on the computer in the morning, I noticed the day was starting to get away from me.  Time to get the workout done before it’s too late.  This really emphasizes the importance of doing your workout as soon as possible in the morning, if you can.  It’s so easy to let the events of the day take over, and before you know it you’ve run out of time in which to exercise.  If at all possible, working out should be a scheduled item during the day, as routine as brushing our teeth.

        I did really well in Pure Cardio today.  My energy level was good, and I’m modifying the moves less and less each go around.  This particular DVD is one of my favorites in the series.

        Day 3.3
        Today’s Workout: Cardio Strength I

        You know, it’s funny how lack of sleep and a bitter attitude can hamper a workout.  Cardio Strength I went pretty well today with a few steps of improvement, but I struggled with my energy level.  I stayed up way too late the night before, and this morning I’ve been angry with a friend.  Nothing life-shattering, but enough to put a damper on my enthusiasm in general.  I’m excited that my strength is growing and I’m seeing better definition in my arms, but I think the next time I do this routine, I could do better.

        Day 3.4
        Today’s Workout: Core Dynamics

        I still have gratitude over the fact that this one is pretty short at 21 minutes.  Some of the moves are still really tough, although I am improving.  I didn’t use my lighter weight stretch band this time, but I did have to modify some of the moves with the PFC band.  On a side bend where Michelle takes the band over her head, I had it hooked to my shoulder, for example.  Between my strength growing and the band becoming slightly worn, I’m getting better range of motion with it, but I still have a long way to go.  Full planks are still really hard, but I know they’re great for the core.   This DVD isn’t the most fun of the bunch, but I know it’s effective and will make a big difference for me during the rest of the week.

        In the past I’ve also done Dynamic Flexibility on the same day as Core Dynamics, but between a busy schedule and just feeling really tired, I didn’t get around to it today.

        Day 3.5 – Rest Day

        Glad for a Rest Day today.  The workouts have been tough, and it’s a been a busy week.  Results are starting to show, though. While the number on my scale isn’t moving much, I received at least half a dozen comments this weekend about how I’m shrinking.  This shows me how I’m building muscle and burning fat, becoming stronger and leaner.

        Day 3.6
        Today’s WorkoutCardio Strength II

        A new workout!  Yay!  I actually was looking forward to this, in anticipation of doing something new.  I was not disappointed!  This workout was super-challenging, pushing my strength and stamina to the limit.  My washcloth for wiping my brow was soaked by the end of the 56 minutes.  I only had to modify a few moves, and I think the biggest challenge was just keeping up with some of the fast choreography.  One thing I would recommend—when doing Cardio Strength II for the first time, you might want to take a step back in your weights the first go-around. That way you can master the steps better and maintain proper form.  I went back down to 5lb and 10lb weights (and even 8lb on a couple of sets) instead of the 6 and 12 pounders that I’d been using last week.  It made getting through this tough routine for the first time much more doable for me.  When it was over, I felt thoroughly trained, stronger and ready to face the day!

        Day 3.7
        Today’s WorkoutCardio Interval Burn

        Today was tough--  While really behaving myself with my menu, my weight continues to climb on the scale.  I know it’s muscle, as my clothes are getting looser and people are starting to notice changes.  But I just wish it would ultimately take a turn and show a lower number when I weigh in.  I really need to quit fixating on this, as I’m really making strides in my fitness level and muscle tone.

        Despite feeling demoralized and thereby less energetic, I made it through the tough, 64-minute Cardio Interval Burn today.  My performance was much better than two weeks ago, with fewer stops and greater endurance overall.  I even received an encouraging phone call from my husband about halfway through that really helped me keep going.  He’s working on having a healthier diet, and called me from work to say that he was resisting temptation.  I vented about not being in the mood to work out, but that I was going to finish it anyway, and this really helped.  In my frustration, I can’t say that I ate well for the rest of the day, but at least I conquered the workout.  Tomorrow is the start of a new week, and I will do my best to press on as well as begin again.

        *          *          *

        Check back next week for the next installment of my PeakFit Challenge experience!


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