My Year in Books – Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge

If you don’t know about Goodreads, check it out! Anyone can post reviews of any books, like quotes, join forums, and more. But my favorite is the yearly reading challenge!

In 2012, I only read 17 books.
But this year, I managed to read over ten more, and beating last years goal was a motivator.

The books I read this year were:

“The Hippocrates Diet” by Ann Wigmore

“DIY Projects for the Self-Sufficient Homeowner” by Betsy Matheson

“Essential Soil Science” by Mark Ashman

“The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe” by Lynne McTaggart

“Visualizing Geology” by Barbara W. Murck

“The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman

“Natural Resource Economics” by Barry C. Field

“State of Fear” by Michael Crichton

“Off On Our Own” by Ted Carns

“Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman

“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

“Self- Reliance and Other Essays” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert M. Pirsig

“Looking for Alaska” by John Green

“The Fault in our Stars” by John Green

“Rocket Mass Heaters” by Ianto Evans

“Sustainable Critical Infrastructure Systems” by National Research Council

“Introduction to Botany” by Murray Nabors

“The Fifty Dollar and Up Underground House Book” by Mike Oehler

“Freakonomics” by Steven D. Levitt

“Nancy Clark’s Sport Nutrition Guidebook” by Nancy Clark

“Compact Cabins” by Gerald Rowan

“Introduction to Forestry Science” by Lawrence DeVere Burton

“The Believing Brain” by Michael Shermer

“The Earth-Sheltered Solar Greenhouse Book” by Mike Oehler

“Mini-Farming: Self- Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre” by Brett L. Markham

“Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert

“Handmade Houses” by Richard Olsen

“Yoga Sequencing” by Mark Stephens

“The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle

“Divergent” by Veronica Roth

“Insurgent” by Veronica Roth

“Allegiant” by Veronica Roth

“Farmacology” by Daphne Miller

I read a total of 34 books this year. Based on this, I’m going to go for 40 books next year! 🙂

How many books have you read?

& Happy New Year to all!


25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the End of 2013

As I’m sure you figured from my last “end of the year” post, I’m a big fan of self reflection at the end of the year. I saw this posting from the same website as the other one and I had to post. I hope this adds some insight into your life. 🙂

25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before the End of 2013

1. What am I most proud of this year?
2. How can I become a better _____________?
3. Where am I feeling stuck?
4. Where do I need to allow myself grace?
5. Am I passionate about my career?
6. What lessons have I learned?
7. What did I my finances look like?
8. How did I spend my free time?
9. How well did I take care of my body, mind, and soul?
10. How have I been open-minded?
11. When did I feel most creatively inspired?
12. What projects have I completed?
13. How have I procrastinated?
14. In what ways can I re-structure my time?
15. How have I allowed fear of failure hold me back?
16. Where has self-doubt taken over?
17. When have I felt the most alive?
18. How have I taught others to respect me?
19. How can I improve my relationships?
20. Have I been unfair to anyone?
21. Who do I need to forgive?
22. Where is it time to let go?
23. What old habits would I like to release?
24. What new habits would I like to cultivate?
25. How can I be kind to myself?

Reposted from Mind, Body, Green

Motivation to Exercise in the Winter

I hope everyone is having a wonderful winter holiday, if you celebrate, and enjoying the end of the year. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, I went overboard on the celebrations for the past couple of days. Craig and I spent our first holiday alone this year- while I definitely missed my family, especially my nieces first Christmas, it was nice to spend time with just Craig. I made a lasagna and some french bread for Christmas Eve; and a big plate of grilled bananas and homemade french toast for Christmas morning. I bought us some little treats for our stockings- organic chocolate bars, nuts, chapstick, and clif bars- so needless to say, I’ve been feasting (worst of all, on the Christmas cookies sent to us in the mail!) And I am feeling the extra sugar and fat sinking in…

So I’ve been thinking a lot about holding myself accountable and really motivating myself to exercise. I have shaky motivation to begin with, so this move to Northern Maine has really taken away all of my willpower. When it’s three below zero in the morning, it’s pretty hard to tear myself out of my warm sheets or out from behind my space heater to go exercise.

I came across this great article that really hit home- and it got me to go on a long walk in the snow after reading it (perhaps I should read it more often).

“10 Tips to Shut Up and Run in the Cold
As we creep into winter, here are some tips to keep motivated despite the plunging temperatures:

1. Be grateful: Stop your whining and remember that you can run. You get to run. There are many people too sick, disabled or injured to do what you are complaining about. Some people would kill to go just one mile in your frozen shoes. So, adjust your attitude fool!

2. Know that cold is easier than hot: Running in the cold can actually be less taxing on your body than running in the heat. Your body doesn’t have to work as hard to cool down and this can increase performance and energy.

3. Sleep in your clothes: If you are really desperate, sleep in your running tights and base layer. That way you don’t have to go through the extra step of getting undressed and dressed in the morning. You might get up easier, but I’m not promising this will do wonders for your sex life.

4. Get the right gear: Not only should you make sure you’ve got the correct cold weather gear for your climate (see HERE for some guidelines), but treat yourself to a new, fun, sassy running item (thongs might be inadvisable). Maybe this will make getting dressed and hitting the road a bit easier.

5. Have someone waiting on you: I’ve said it before, but there is almost no better motivation than to know someone or a group is waiting for you to show up for a run. Do you really want to be the pussy of the group?

6. Have a warm reward: Know that after your cold run, you will treat yourself to something toasty and warm like a latte, a hot bath or a cup of tea by the fire.

7. Remember the bad-ass effect: Not everyone runs when it’s cold outside. It takes stamina, balls and determination. Tell yourself that every car that passes you is impressed by your fortitude. You may be lying to yourself, but at least it can provide temporary motivation.

8. Know you’ll be less SAD: Research has shown that running in the cold can actually reduce symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Running can release feel good hormones that stave off depression, decrease anxiety and promote a general feeling of contentment.

9. Let your goal stare you in the face: If you are training for something, want to lose weight, or are simply just trying to stay in shape, write your goal down on a sticky note and put it on your alarm clock or bathroom mirror. Sometimes these little powers of suggestion can be the extra push you need.

10. Sign up: There are all kinds of short races throughout the winter time –Peppermint Schnapps 10Ks and Freeze Your Ass Off 5 Milers. Sign up for one just to keep your head in the game.”


While a lot of these, I have not tried- rewards always work well for me. A sweet, creamy, warm hazelnut coffee and a hot shower are heaven after an hour long trek ( I say trek because I only jog periodically- I’m afraid of breaking my neck on some ice) in the snow.

Also, some other good motivators-

1. Weight training: Any indoor exercise can be a lifesaver in the winter. Plus, building up muscles will keep you warmer. I like Jillian Michaels DVDs, especially 30 Day Shred and No More Trouble Zones.

2. Yoga: If I had a better humidifier, I’d do a hot yoga. There are plenty of great DVDs out there and Erin Motz on youtube is an excellent instructor. “Yoga Sequencing” has a number of sequences for all levels, if you’re interested in individualizing your practice.

3. Start a challenge! I’ve always wanted to complete a 30 day challenge, for something like Insanity or P90X. I have both programs and it may be something I begin for the new year.

4. Get a gym membership: I had a gym membership back in Maryland, but it was through my job and much, much cheaper. I would have to save up for it here and there’s still the chance that I won’t go because it’s too cold out. It’s better for me to exercise outside or at my apartment for now… but it could be the motivation you need to get movin’!

This post was an attempt at motivating myself to get excited to get in shape! I hope it inspired you. 🙂

Do you have any suggestions for motivation to work out when it’s cold?

12 Days of Yoga: Tree

Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

Merry Christmas! I thought it was appropriate for the day of Christmas and the last 12 Days of Yoga posts to write about my favorite balancing pose, Vrksasana: Tree pose!

(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

Vrksasana is great for strengthening your legs, as well as your alignment- working your balance muscles independently gives you greater balance in your everyday movements.

To prepare for Tree Pose, be sure to include Uttanasana and Downward Facing Dog in your Sun Salutations, and practice a few before coming to Tadasana at the front of your mat. Be sure to pick an immobile point on the wall or floor in front of you to focus on. Lift and spread your toes, then bring your right foot up to your lower leg or the inside of your thigh. For me, it is easier to place my foot high on the inside of my thigh and squeeze into the midline, because that makes it easier to balance. Inhale your arms overhead, hands either together or spread out like branches. Breathe here. If you are having trouble balancing, feel free to make your lifted foot a “kickstand” at your ankle.

Release the pose after a few breaths and repeat on the other side.

This concludes my 12 Days of Yoga Series. I hope you enjoyed reading!
Enjoy, be safe and namaste!

Stephens, M. “Yoga Sequencing”. North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, 2012.

12 Days of Yoga: Bow Pose

Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

Bow Pose is one of the more challenging poses that I’ve included in this series. Dhanurasana stretches out the shoulders, chest, back, abdominals and quads- it is truly all encompassing, but it definitely takes warming up to. To begin, be sure to include plenty of cobra and upward facing dog poses in your sun salutations. These poses will open up your chest gradually.

When you’re warmed up, come to lay on your mat, on your stomach. Bring your arms out to your sides and your feet back towards your hands. Grasp your ankles firmly and, keeping your knees in, inhale and arch your back up, chest out and look up. Hold for five breaths and release. Repeat one to three times, and assume Child’s Pose when finished.

Enjoy, be safe and namaste!

Stephens, M. “Yoga Sequencing”. North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, 2012.

12 Days of Yoga: Dolphin

Shishulasana (Dolphin Pose)

(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

Dolphin Pose is an important part of a vigorous practice, especially in vinyasas and to prepare for shoulder, arm and headstands.

To come into Dolphin Pose, prepare your muscles as usual, including plenty of Downward Facing Dog Poses, as that is the basic posture you will take for dolphin. Then, when you are ready, starting from Downward Facing Dog, begin to lower your forearms to the mat. Bring your hands to a triangle position at the front, keeping your arms flat. Bend your knees if you need to; keep your back straight and your shoulder blades down the back to keep from losing your neck. Tilt your hips up and back towards the ceiling, then if you can, straighten your legs by lowering your heels down and back towards the mat. Stay here and breathe for as long as you feel comfortable.

This pose is a great preparation for a Dolphin Style Armstand or Dolphin Push Ups- to do, you bring your body weight forward into plank and then exhale back into Dolphin, keeping your arms and feet in the same position.

Maintain your alignment, enjoy and namaste!

Stephens, M. “Yoga Sequencing”. North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, 2012.

12 Days of Yoga: Boat Pose

Navasana (Boat Pose)

(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

Boat Pose is a great addition to a more vigorous, aerobic practice. This pose in particular targets the abdominals mostly, as well as increasing flexibility in the legs.

To come into Boat Pose, first begin your practice with Sun Salutations (including Uttanasana, as well as some more vigorous standing poses, like Warrior I, II and Triangle) and other poses to warm up your muscles. Then, when you are warmed up, come to a seat at the top of your mat. Bring your knees up and place your heels in front of you where it’s comfortable. Inhale and exhale; begin to balance back on your sitbones, keeping your back straight. Inhale here; then bring your legs up and out in front of you, getting them as straight as you can without arching your back. It is important to keep your alignment here, and not slumping your shoulders. Also, bring your arms up and out straight in front of you, engaging your abdominals and being sure to breathe deeply and even.

Enjoy, be safe and namaste!

Stephens, M. “Yoga Sequencing”. North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, 2012.

12 Days of Yoga: Happy Baby

Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)

(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

This pose always makes me feel like a baby. 🙂
A great, restorative pose: Happy Baby is a very easy hip opener.

At the beginning or end of your practice, come into Ananda Balasana by lying on your back. Bring your knees into your chest and allow their weight to press into your chest. Bring your knees out slightly to the side and reach forward grabbing your toes, your heels or your ankles. Let your elbows relax back towards the ground, allowing the weight of your arms to open your hips further. If your legs and hips are higher, that’s okay- be aware of your own flexibility.

Stay here for as long as you like, breathing deeply. You can rock from side to side, giving your lower back a massage. To come out of this pose, roll to one side, using your arms to raise yourself to sitting to protect your back.

Enjoy, be safe and namaste!

Stephens, M. “Yoga Sequencing”. North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, 2012.

12 Days of Yoga: Upward Facing Dog

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose)

(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

Upward facing dog is a great opening pose, if you are flexible enough. Warming up with standing forward bends, and especially Cobra Pose and Chaturanga to gradually open the chest and back before going into the deeper backbend that Urdhva Mukha Svanasana offers.

Begin with a few sun salutations, focusing on Chaturanga and Cobra pose at first, and adding in downward facing dog. When you are ready, come to a plank pose (phalakasana) at the top of your mat. Keeping your weight in your arms and abominals, place the tops of your feet, toes back, into your mat and push your legs and hips down to the mat, without resting all the way down. Arch your back back, with your shoulders relaxed and blades down, lean your head back slightly keeping the neck relaxed. Breathe. When you’re ready to come out of the pose, step your toes down or jump up to balance on your toes and press your hands into the mat for downward dog, pushing your hips back and your heels down.

Be safe, have fun and namaste!

Stephens, M. “Yoga Sequencing”. North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, 2012.

12 Days of Yoga: Warrior II

Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II Pose)

(Image Source: Yoga Journal)

Warrior II is such an empowering pose! When I come up into it, I actually feel like a warrior. 🙂

You have to be properly warmed up for this pose- it usually comes after a few sun salutations which include standing forward bends and runners’ stretch. So prepare and begin your practice as usual. Before you come into Warrior II, exhale your right foot back into Runner’s Stretch, turn and place your back foot down, exhale completely and then inhale and spiral your arms out parallel with your body, left arm back. Be sure to track your alignment, keeping your knee in line with or behind your toes.

This pose is opening and strengthening- particularly for the hips and quads. It is also a balancing exercise as well.

Have fun, be safe and namaste!

Stephens, M. “Yoga Sequencing”. North Atlantic Books; Berkeley, 2012.