Tag Archives: read

TWSM Book Review ‘The Four Winds’

If you are looking for a novel to make you smile, cry, and marvel at just how strong a single mom can be, The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah is a great choice. Set in the dust bowl of the 1930s, The Four Winds follows the story of Elsa, a woman with the odds stacked against her from the start. As she puts one foot in front of the other no matter what, she finds strength that she didn’t know she had and love that she didn’t know she deserved.

The Four Winds is a New York Times bestseller that delves into environmental disaster, economic collapse, workers rights, and fresh starts. The story is profoundly sad, but it is ultimately one of triumph. It will also make you angry about the treatment of women and glad that you live in the twenty-first century (after Elsa becomes a single mom, at one point she is told to continue to wear her wedding ring because it would help her to stay physically safe and be viewed as respectable enough to get a job and housing?!).

Some of my favorite quotes from The Four Winds include:

“She’d learned how to disappear in place long ago. She was like one of those animals whose defense mechanism is to blend into the landscape and become invisible. It was her way of dealing with rejection.” (Chapter three)

“ ‘The things your parents say and the things your husband doesn’t say become a mirror, don’t they? You see yourself as they see you, and no matter how far you come, you bring that mirror with you.’ 

‘Break it,’ Jean said. 

‘How?’ 

‘With a gosh dang rock.’ “ (Chapter thirty)

“A warrior believes in an end she can’t see and fights for it. A warrior never gives up. A warrior fights for those weaker than herself. It sounds like motherhood to me.” (Chapter thirty-five)

The Four Winds is a novel that will draw you in, tug at your heartstrings, and leave you in awe of the grit and triumph that can come from love. I highly recommend that you put it on your reading list. Once you pick it up, you won’t want to put it back down.

Rating 4 stars out of 5 

Copyright 2021 by Visible Ink Corporation

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter and their two cats. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘Breathing Lessons’

TWSM Book Review ‘Breathing Lessons’ by Anne Tyler

For this review, I chose a Pulitzer Prize-winning contemporary classic, Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler. This novel is chock-full of lovable and quirky characters that Tyler brings to life with her incredible sense of detail, descriptions of family relationships, and perfect comedic timing. 

Breathing Lessons was originally published in 1988, giving it the feel of stepping back into the retelling of a family story from that era. Maggie, the main character, is like a warm, crazy aunt who wants to meddle in everyone’s life, but of course doesn’t see her actions that way at all. She is intent upon reuniting her adult son, Jesse, with his ex-wife Fiona and daughter Leroy. Maggie’s husband, Ira, is supportive, but more level headed than Maggie and along for the ride. 

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Breathing Lessons

“Just once in your life, Maggie, I wish you would manage not to stick your nose in what doesn’t concern you.” “And if I didn’t, who would?” she asked him. (Part 2, Chapter 1) 

“It was amazing, Ira often said, how people fooled themselves into believing what they wanted to. (How Maggie fooled herself, he meant.) He said it when Maggie threatened to sue the Police Department that time they charged Jesse with Drunk and Disorderly. He said it when she swore that Spin the Cat sounded better than the Beatles. And he said it again when she refused to accept that Fiona was gone for good.” (Part 2, Chapter 2) 

“They were one of those happily childless young couples with eyes for only each other, and no doubt they were returning from dinner in a restaurant and now would…do what? Put on some romantic music, maybe something with violins, and sit conversing graciously on their spotless white loveseat, each raising a wine glass made of that thin, extra-breakable crystal that doesn’t even have a lip around the rim. Or maybe they would dance.” (Part 3, Chapter 4) 

Breathing Lessons is a great read that is fun, poignant, and manages to respect each of the characters in the book and his or her individual strengths and foibles. As a novel from the 1980s, it also has the advantage of being available for free from your local library app (or can be found for next to nothing used — bonus!). 

I highly recommend that you add it to your “to read” list of fiction. Enjoy! 

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter and their two cats. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.

TWSM Book Review ‘An Invitation To Self Care’

“An Invitation To Self-Care” by Tracey Cleantis

An Invitation to Self-Care by Tracey Cleantis is a deep dive into taking good care of ourselves. Cleantis explores self-care in many areas of life — body, mind and emotions, relationships, finances, work, and play. The book includes exercises for assessing your current level of self-care and making plans to up your game. 

Tracey Cleantis is a licensed marriage and family therapist and the author of the critically acclaimed book The Next Happy: Let Go of the Life You Planned and Find a New Way Forward. She includes examples from her own life in her books, which help to make them accessible and humorous. As she says, “Even french fries and facebook have their place.” 

An Invitation to Self-Care uses 7 key guidelines 

  1. Self care is a daily lifelong practice 
  2. Self-care is self-love 
  3. Self-care means taking personal responsibility 
  4. Self-care means noticing what matters to us 
  5. Self-care requires attention and responsiveness 
  6. Self-care must be realistic to be effective 
  7. Self-care precedes self-fulfillment 

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book: 

“To engage in self-care is to admit that you are a human being with limited energy and resources, and a fragile body that has an expiration date.” (Part One, Chapter Two) 

“You may be responsible for all kinds of jobs, tasks, and people, but ultimately what you are really and truly responsible for is your own well being.” (Part One, Chapter Two) 

“Knowing and responding to your introversion or extroversion will likely mean modifying your self-care based on what feeds you uniquely.” (Part Three, Chapter Five) 

An Invitation to Self-Care is about reflecting on how you learned to take care of yourself, how well you are doing that now, and how you can nurture yourself more deeply going forward to increase your health and happiness. If you are looking for a 15-minute read that will change your life, this isn’t it. By the way, please let me know if you ever find that book, because I don’t think it exists! I recommend that you take An Invitation to Self-Care one chapter at a time and see how you can use it as a valuable self-care tool on your journey.

Rating 4 out of 5 stars 

Copyright 2017 by Tracey Cleantis 

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.

‘The Glass Hotel’ TWSM Book Review

 The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel 

The Glass Hotel is a novel that takes the reader on a thrill ride that includes unusual characters and a ponzi scheme like the one for which Bernie Madoff was convicted in 2009. The main character, a woman named Vincent, is a bartender with a complicated past. When she meets Jonathan Alkaitis while working at a hotel that he owns, she believes he is a legitimate businessman. She also agrees to be swept into “the kingdom of money” by living with him as his fake wife. In The Glass Hotel, themes of guilt, wealth, and unintended consequences create drama and tragedy. This novel is a page-turner.

Some of my favorite quotes include:

“The thing about Alkaitis, a woman from Philadelphia wrote some years later, in a victim impact statement that she read aloud at Alkaitis’s sentencing hearing, is he made you feel like you were joining a secret club.” (Chapter 3)

“In a ghost version of his life, a version of himself that he’d been thinking about more and more lately, Oskar closed the door to his office and called the FBI. But in real life, he called no one. He left the office in a daze, but by the time he reached the corner he realized that he couldn’t pretend to be shocked, and he knew he was going to deposit the check, because he was already complicit, he was already on the inside and had been for some time.” (Chapter 10)

The Glass Hotel is a New York Times bestseller, and St John Mandel’s fifth book. Her previous novels include Station Eleven, which was a finalist for a National Book Award. I admire the fact that she thanked her nanny in her acknowledgements section of The Glass Hotel. We often envision women who are famous or high achieving as “doing it all” as opposed to going out and getting the support they need to make it happen, which more often than not includes child care.

The Glass Hotel is a great read. I highly recommend it.

Rating 4 Stars out of 5 

Copyright 2020 by Emily St. John Mandel

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.

‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ TWSM Book Review

 

Where the Crawdads Sing

by Delia Owens 

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens has been on my “to read list” for months now. When I finally started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. Owens draws her readers in with a tale of love and loss so strong that it leaps off of the page, while including a murder mystery and stunning descriptions of the North Carolina marshland where the story takes place. 

Owens is an American author and zoologist. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel, and it has been on New York Times Best Sellers lists for over a year. Since it came out in 2018, you may be able to access it for free via your local library app without a waitlist (bonus!). 

Kya, the main character, is abandoned as a child. She manages to survive on her own in a shack in the marsh which is her home. While scraping through each day and trying to heal, she stubbornly stays alone in the wilderness which gives her comfort, yet she yearns for love and connection. She is taught to read by Tate, her first love, and is wronged by Chase, a local boy of privilege. Where the Crawdads Sing is her story — one of pain and ultimately one of triumph. 

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Where the Crawdads Sing: 

“Marsh is not swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky. Slow-moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea, and long-legged birds lift with unexpected grace — as though not built to fly—against the roar of a thousand snow geese.” (Prologue) 

“It seemed that now, Kya being more vulnerable than ever, was reason to trust others even less. Standing in the most fragile place of her life, she turned to the only net she knew — herself.” (Chapter 44) 

“Tate remembered his dad’s definition of a man: one who can cry freely, feel poetry and opera in his heart, and do whatever it takes to defend a woman. Scupper would have understood tracking love through mud.” (Chapter 56) 

Although Where the Crawdad’s Sing is a wonderful book, if you are in the mood for light reading or a hearty laugh, pick something else — for now. Just don’t let Owen’s novel fall off of your “to read list”. You’ll be mesmerized when you eventually get to it. 

Rating 4 ½ out of 5 Stars 

Copyright 2018 Delia Owens 

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her younger daughter and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family. She is savoring the time that she has left before her younger daughter flies from the nest, yet she is also secretly looking forward to a time when she can travel more and not worry about anyone borrowing her socks.

How To Read A Food Label

How To Read A Food Label

Last week we covered navigating the grocery store and how to best go about that to stay on track with our health and wellness goals. This week I want to help you learn how to decipher the black and white box aka a nutritional food label on the back of our food boxes. Learning how to read a food label in the grocery store as we are shopping is crucial to helping us make wise decisions that align with our goals. 

While I think most of us could recognize a food label, I am not sure that we all know how to read and interpret one. Nutritional food labels can be confusing at best and misleading at worst. It’s important to know how to read a food label so that we can make educated and wise choices when it comes to the food we are nourishing our bodies with. I want to break down this little black and white box so that the next time you head to the grocery store or pull something out of your pantry, you can read it, understand it, and be empowered to make healthier choices. Knowing how to properly read a food label can not only help us to limit nutrients like unhealthy fats (saturated and trans), but also give us an insight into increasing nutrients that we often do not consume enough of such as dietary fiber and calcium. 

The purpose of a nutrition food label is to help consumers make quick, informed decisions when it comes to food. A nutrition label can help educate us to make healthier food choices based on the information provided.

So, what are the key components to a food label? Every food label provides the following information (from the top of the label to the bottom)- serving size, calories, nutrients (macro and micronutrients), % DV (daily value), and a listing of each ingredient. Now- let’s break it down further and discuss each of these areas of a nutrition food label.

 

SERVING SIZE: The serving size is the amount that people typically eat at one time. This information is critical to how we read and interpret the remainder of the information below on the food label. The nutrition facts and information on each label are based on one serving size. For example, if the serving size is one cup and you consume two cups, you then need to double the calories consumed and double each of the other nutrients listed, as well as the % DV.

 

CALORIES: This area displays the total number of calories in a single serving. This number would need to be adjusted if you eat more or less of the serving size. The calories listed can help us manage our weight as calories are the measure of the amount of energy you get from one serving of that food. As a general rule of thumb, a food that contains 40 or less calories is a low-calorie food, a food with 100 calories is moderate, and a food containing 400 calories or more is a high caloric food. This guide is based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

 

MACRONUTRIENTS: Macronutrients include carbohydrates, fats, and protein. 

Carbohydrates- Carbohydrates are measured in grams on a nutrition label. Sugar, starch, and dietary fiber make up the total grams of carbs on the label. Fiber is a healthy nutrient that we want to aim to get 100% of the DV. Choose foods that have at least 2-4 grams of fiber per serving. It’s important to watch our sugar consumption as foods with added sugars add calories but do not provide essential nutritional value. Read the ingredient list to make sure added sugars are not in the first few ingredients. Sugar comes in many different names so be on the lookout for these words- sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, and fructose. 

Fat- When looking at the fat content on a food label, we want to pay attention specifically to the amount of saturated fat and trans fat. Trans fats raise bad cholesterol and lowers our good cholesterol, therefore we want to choose foods with 1 gram or less of trans fat. We also want to choose foods low in saturated fat to help prevent heart disease. 

Protein- Protein is an essential nutrient used by our body. Food labels generally do not provide a % DV for protein, so use the grams listed as a guide. Each gram of protein provides 4 calories. I typically encourage my clients to aim for 20-30 grams of protein per meal and around 10 grams for snacks. 

 

 

MICRONUTRIENTS: Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals, which are found in the lower section of a nutritional food label. Most Americans do not get enough fiber, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, calcium, and iron in their diets. When reading a food label, we want to be sure to get enough of these essential nutrients. Aim for a higher % DV (daily value) for nutrients like Vitamin A, C, D, calcium, and iron. 

Sodium- Sodium also known as salt, is one of the micronutrients that we need to be really watchful of. Most sodium in the American diet is hidden in packaged, processed foods, which is why we need to know how to read this portion of the food label. Look for 140 mg or less of sodium per serving. The daily recommended allowance for sodium is 2,300 mg but more ideally we should aim for around 1,500 mg of sodium per day for adults. 

 

% DAILY VALUE: This percentage is based on the daily value recommendations for key nutrients based on a 2,000 calorie diet by public health experts. The percent DV that you see on a food label is for the entire day, not just one meal or snack. For example, a food that has a 5% DV of fat provides 5% of the total fat a person should consume when eating 2,000 calories a day. A low % DV is 5% or less. We want to aim for low DV % in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. A high % DV is 20% or more. We want to aim for higher % DV in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

 

INGREDIENT LIST: Any food that contains more than one ingredient, must list out each ingredient on the label. Ingredients are listed with the largest amounts first and in descending order by weight or amount used in the food item. The fewer the ingredients, the better. Another rule of thumb I like to go by when choosing foods is whether or not I am able to pronounce the ingredients listed. If I cannot pronounce certain ingredients or I don’t out rightly know what they are, I likely don’t want to be putting it into my body. Also- if you see any sugars listed in the first 3-5 ingredients, it’s best to leave it on the shelf and find a healthier option. A few other tips when it comes to reading ingredient lists- steer clear of bleached, white flour and words like fortified and enriched flour as these grains are refined and more heavily processed. Look for words like whole, sprouted, rolled, and stone ground. These are all unrefined, whole grains which are a much healthier option. 

There is one way we can avoid having to read a food label and that is to choose foods that do not have a food label- fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. We should aim to eat more fresh, whole foods that are not processed but I know there are times when we cannot avoid eating something that is packaged. I hope this post educated you on how to properly interpret a food label so that you feel empowered the next time you are at the grocery store so you can fill your cart with the healthiest choices.

Meghan Meredith
HomeBodySoul, Founder
Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Certified Personal Trainer

TWSM Book Review ‘Tara Road’

Tara Road is a great read. It is one of those novels that has you rooting for your favorite characters from start to finish. Although I am new to Binchy’s work, I am sure Tara Road will not be her last book that I read.

Binchy’s novel has a unique premise. Two women, Marilyn from America and Ria from Ireland, switch houses for a summer. A chance phone call leads them to consider this possibility. Both characters are primed for adventure by wanting to escape from personal pain and find peace and distraction.

As the story unfolds, the reader comes to know Ria from Dublin, along with her entire cast of family and friends, and Marilyn from California, a much more reserved woman. No spoiler alerts here, but there are secrets, twists, and turns that keep the reader turning the pages. Both women grow through the new experiences which they are thrust into by exchanging houses (and thereby cultures, and even family and friends) for the summer. By the end of the novel, they have become true friends.

Binchy nails the relationships of her characters in ways that can make you laugh out loud, gasp, or reach for the kleenex. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Tara Road:

When Ria and her teenage daughter went shopping for clothes in Chapter 3…

“I mean, it’s not even as if you were really old,” Annie said. “Lots of people your age haven’t given up.”

With great difficulty Ria forced herself not to take her daughter by the hair and drag her from the shop.

 

When Ria receives shocking news over dinner in Chapter 3…

“The noise in the restaurant changed. People’s cutlery started to clatter more and bang loudly off people’s plates. Glasses tinkled and seemed about to smash. Voices came and went in a roar. The sound of laughter from the tables was very raucous. She could hear his voice from far away.”

 

 

When Marilyn realizes how she has changed in Chapter 9…

“But Marilyn had been down that road before; she wasn’t going to travel it again. What had happened to Gertie’s husband was not her fault.”

 

Tara Road was part of Oprah’s Book Club in 1999. The fact that the characters use answering machines on their land line phones might make you smile, but with that exception it stands the test of time. The age of this novel also makes it easy to find at your local library or to buy used to save a few dollars. If you are looking for a novel that is full of warmth, empowerment, and hope, I highly recommend Tara Road.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Tara Road Copyright 1998 by Maeve Binchy

Liz is a technical writer by day and a humor writer by night. She lives in Minnesota with her two teenage daughters and their cats, Beau and Phoebe. When Liz is not reading, writing, or searching for new books to review, she can be found practicing yoga or enjoying time with friends and family — usually around a fireplace or a lake. She is savoring the time that she still has with her daughters under her roof, yet she secretly dreams of being an empty nester who can travel more and not have to worry about other people borrowing her socks.

TWSM’s Book Review of ‘My One and Only’ by Kristan Higgins

Found this one to be romantic and dramatic with unexpected twists… “My One and Only” was a heartfelt and fun read! It is actually a bit addictive and hard to stop listening to. The characters are compelling and you are quickly woven into their lives.

The lead character, Harper is a top-notch divorce attorney which certainly helps skew her view on the institution of marriage. Add her failed marriage of less than a year many moons ago and you’ll begin to see why she views all things romance as better for somebody else.

Infamous and despised by many of the losing divorcees on Martha’s Vineyard, 30 year old Harper James is driving even the local priest crazy with her dry wit and scathing cynicism regarding all things ‘love’. Harper believes herself to be a ‘habitual realist’. That said, she proposes to her boyfriend at the beginning of the book with what is more like an opening statement in a court case rather than a romantic plea…needless to say it doesn’t go quite as planned…instead the phone rings and she finds out that her younger sister is going to marry her ex-husband’s brother in 2 weeks’ time. THIS is news since Harper didn’t even know they were DATING! Since Harper has not seen or spoken to her ex (Nick) since they spilt this throws her completely off her well-organized game.

We are then off and running with Harper on a series of adventures that takes us all over the country and end up teaching Harper how to become a better person. She is also confronted by the fact that she never really got over her first husband…and that is all that I am going to say about that!

Higgins again delivers us an excellent heroine in an engaging story full of what it really means to love people. Lots of making peace with the past in this one and I am quite certain that everyone will find something here to relate to.

Another book that I highly recommend! 🙂

***Although this isn’t part of the promotion, I am currently part of a paid sponsorship for Audible’s Romance Package. Also please note that I truthfully LOVE the books that I have been listening to and this endorsement has been one of my favorites!