Jana Says

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Tag Archive: challenges

2016 personal reading challenge

I know you’re thinking “Jana, it’s Christmas Eve. Shouldn’t you be writing about Christmas traditions or something that’s not books?” Hear me out because I am writing about a Christmas Eve tradition! Sure it’s in Iceland but how awesome is this–Iceland has a tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve and then the nice, bookish Icelanders spend the rest of the night reading. It’s a wonderful tradition, called Jolabokaflod and it means “Christmas Book Flood” (read all about it here)

I seriously need this in my life. 

Instead, I’ll lovingly glance at the pile of library books and hope that all the books I’m giving as gifts tomorrow are appreciated as much as I want them to be. 

Which brings me to no good way to segway into the point of this post, my 2016 personal reading challenge. I love reading challenges because they provide incentive and motivation to read books I’ve put off or wouldn’t otherwise consider or are in the deep recesses of my TBR. It’s why I did the Literary Ladies one over the summer and it’s why I’m participating in Erin’s this winter. The seasonal ones are great but my personal challenge, though, is year long. Because I need to give myself time for no other reason that so many books.

I haven’t decided which books I’m reading yet in all the categories so if you have favorites or suggestions or recommendations, let me have them. 

Here’s the categories. Twelve, so I can read one a month:

  1. Book of poetry
  2. Classic business book 
  3. Play
  4. Modern classic 
  5. Historical memoir 
  6. Written before 1900
  7. Biography of a political figure
  8. Graphic novel
  9. Frequently banned book
  10. Turned into a classic movie
  11. Over 500 pages
  12. Written by non-US author

I have another reading challenge I’m working on that I might launch in the spring or summer but I’m not 100% sure yet. I think this one and Erin’s will keep me busy enough!

Happy reading, Merry Christmas, and I’ll see you back on Tuesday for the bonus year end edition of Show Us Your Books!

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A Whole30 experience: An interview with myself

Once I realized I wanted to recap my Whole30 experience for you guys, I figured the best way to do it was to interview myself with some of the most common questions I’ve been asked. Warning: it’s a lot of words. There’s a TL;DR summary at the bottom. 

Let me know if you have any questions I didn’t answer!whole30

Why did you choose to do a Whole30?

For me, it was more of a mental challenge than anything else. I’d been feeling off, like I couldn’t successfully complete any goal I set, and I figured if I could get through one of these, especially through Thanksgiving, anything else would seem easy. Or, at the very least, less insurmountable. The weight loss and health benefits were a bonus but more incidental side effects. 

Okay, that all makes sense. But what the hell is a Whole30?

You can visit the website for an actual, technical definition and explanation but in Jana’s words, it’s a 30 day restrictive, paleo, elimination eating plan. Basically, you avoid grains, dairy, legumes, and sugars and any sweeteners (including honey and maple syrup). It leaves meats, eggs, potatoes (a new addition this year), fruits, vegetables, and various substitutes/changes like almond and coconut flour, coconut milk, spaghetti squash, etc. 

With all those limitations, what did you eat? 

Eggs. A lot of fucking eggs. In fact, I am so damn sick of eggs I can’t even look at them right now. But for lunches and dinners, we ate bunless burgers with baked sweet potatoes, vegetable soup using broth made from the stock created when you cook a chicken, coconut chicken patties, spaghetti squash and meat sauce (made with my frozen garden tomatoes), stuffed peppers using ground turkey and cauliflower rice, fried “rice” (also using cauliflower rice)…things like that. We got pretty creative and there are a ton of resources on Pinterest and Instagram and the interwebs to help. We found ourselves eating some surprisingly delicious recipes despite not being able to use normal, typical ingredients. 

It was easier to make substitutions than I thought it would be. For instance, cranberry sauce is a family favorite at Thanksgiving but the recipe I ordinarily use requires a lot (A LOT) of sugar so obviously that was out this year. I found a recipe that used only cranberries, frozen cherries, and apple juice (fruit juices are okay as sweeteners). Let me just say that this recipe kicked the ever loving shit out of my normal recipe and going forward, it’s the one we’re going to use at all the holidays. Same with guacamole. I dipped carrots and peppers in the guac instead of chips. Same avocado deliciousness, less bloat, more fiber. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that, for the most part, I was never hungry. There were days I didn’t snack so by the time dinner rolled round, I was willing to gnaw on anything that wasn’t nailed down but if I remembered to have a snack, I never got those horrible hunger pangs you hear from people when they’re on a diet. It has to do with the real, whole, unprocessed qualities of the foods you’re eating. There is such a difference between this way of eating and what the Whole30 founders call the “Standard American Diet” (SAD)

Was it hard? 

In a word? YES. Oddly, though, it was harder during the second half of the month than it was in the beginning. In the beginning, there was momentum and hey, I’m really doing this! But then it just started to drag. I grew tired of planning everything. I wanted to eat something that wasn’t chicken or a vegetable. Or an egg. I wanted peanut butter or cheese with my afternoon apple. I wanted to stop going to the grocery store every few days. I wanted to bring in dinner when I didn’t feel like cooking. I wanted to stop being conscious of every single label and just eat. But then I remembered why I was doing it and how different I felt and it made it easy to power through. 

Thanksgiving was way easier than I’d anticipated, though, so that was nice. 

There seems to be so many perks to this. Are there any downfalls?

Absolutely! While you can’t deny the health benefits of moving away from the SAD, this is not an easy way to eat. Many of the foods are more expensive, it requires extensive meal planning and there’s none of that “hey, we’re out and about, let’s just grab something quick” (or, if you choose to do it, there are very few options), you will spend an obscene amount of time in the kitchen either every day or once a week to prep for the whole week, and it gets boring. Especially breakfast. As I mentioned earlier, I am ridiculously sick of eggs. I know that a lot of people who’ve done this use their leftovers for breakfast but that’s what the husband takes for lunch so it really left eggs. I would have loved to make muffins or a bread using an acceptable flour substitute but almost every recipe called for syrup or honey which is verboten during the 30 days. 

After 30 days of drastically altering how you eat, you must have learned a thing or two. What are some of the lessons you took away from it?

First, I learned which foods trigger my stomach issues. I’ve had stomach problems for as long as I can remember (remember how I had to have a colonoscopy?) and working through a Whole30 helped pinpoint which ones really bother me. Second, I learned that sugar is in basically everything. EVERYTHING. Even places where you don’t think it should be, it’s there and now, I check labels like a fiend. Third, I learned that I do really well achieving goals when I have strict parameters and deadlines. And fourth, I learned that I do even better when I have an accountability partner (thanks, husband!).

But the big lesson I learned is that people are willing to support me. Asking for help and being public with my goals is something I struggle with big time. I live in a weird world in my head where people will judge me and ridicule me and wonder what the fuck I’m doing telling them all this crap. Which is weird because I love when people share their goals because I find it inspiring and I enjoy watching their progress (and supporting them along the way) yet I can’t do it for myself. When I mentioned I was doing a Whole30 and shared some pictures of my food, I received mostly supportive comments. It floored me. I now need to take that lesson and run away with it. 

Now the big question. How much weight did you lose?

I lost 10 pounds during the challenge, along with a few inches. It’s more than some people lose, less than others. The founders of the challenge encourage you not to check the scale or worry about losing weight but for me, I need to see that progress to keep going (some times nonscale victories just aren’t enough) so I weighed in once a week. 

Please keep in mind that the 10 pounds are merely a drop in the bucket of what I need/want to lose but I’m extremely pleased with the start. 

Speaking of nonscale victories, did you have any of those?

So many. I sleep better, I broke my dependency on sugar, I stopped checking the scale every day, I’m much more conscious of what I (and my family) eat and how we shop, and my bras fit a whole lot better. Most importantly, I feel stronger mentally. Making it through this accomplished exactly what I wanted it to: to prove to myself that I can achieve a goal no matter how difficult or unrealistic it might seem. 

Now what are you going to do?

Well, after a 5 day binge of eating everything I couldn’t during the 30 days and feeling like absolute shit, I’m committing to 100 days of paleo eating. I’m tracking it with the don’t break the chain method and after that 100 days, I’ll revisit and see what I want to do next.

Would you recommend doing the Whole30?

It depends on the person. There are some people I say yes, absolutely do it. There are others who I’d say nope, don’t even try. Most people I know fall in the middle and really, it depends on your mindset. If you think you can commit the time and effort and discipline, then go for it. If you think even for a minute that you’d quit halfway through, don’t. Or maybe just commit to 15 days because the health and nonscale benefits alone are worth it.

TL;DR:  I did a Whole30. I didn’t starve despite not being able to eat a lot of foods, I had scale and nonscale victories, I learned a ton about my body, my support system, and my ability to achieve goals, and I recommend that people give it at least a two week try.

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Winter book challenge picks

Another day, another books post. I’m really starting to think I need to change the focus of this little blog and maybe give it a facelift to reflect that. Thoughts? 

This time we’re talking book challenges. What I like most about them, besides the hosts, is that they make me think about reading books I ordinarily wouldn’t read, they encourage me to dive into my TBR and pull out some books that have been hanging out longer than they should, and they give me a chance to geek out with other book nerds about the awesomeness of reading, not to mention I love seeing the variety in the books that other challengers put on their lists. Plus, a little competition is nice, too. 

I didn’t do one for the fall (not sure why) and I missed signing up for the semi-charmed winter book challenge (or something like that and my apologies to the lovely blogger who thought of it. I also apologize for ALWAYS WITHOUT FAIL singing Third Eye Blind when I see your blog name) but, like she always does, my girl Erin came through with hers. So I decided to join. Here are the categories and my picks:

5pts – Read a book, any book that is at least 200 pages long. My pick: Remember Mia by Alexandra Burt
10pts – Read a book that begins with the letter “D”. My pick: Departure by AG Riddle
10pts – Read a book with a four word title. My pick: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
15pts – Read a book with one of the following words in the title: “Mother(s), Father(s), Son(s), Daughter(s), Child(ren). My pick: Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell
20pts – Read a book by amazon’s top 100 authors from an author that you’ve never read before http://www.amazon.com/author-rank My pick: Wayward Pines by Blake Crouch
20pts – Read a book set in Asia. My pick: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
25pts – Read a book with a season in the title (“Summer”, “Spring”, “Winter”, “Autumn”, I’ll even allow “Fall”) My pick: Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell
30pts – Read a book that will make you laugh from the attached list:http://www.buzzfeed.com/…/books-guaranteed-to-make-you-laug… My pick: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris or The Broke Diaries by Angela Nissel (haven’t decided yet)
30pts – Read a book that is a friend or family member’s favorite (or favorite book from another participant of this challenge) My pick: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (thanks to Steph and Kathy for this one)
35pts – Read a book published the year you were born (for me, 1977). My pick: This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind–Ivan Doig

Book Challenge by Erin 4.0

The rules for the challenge, verbatim (and by that I mean, completely copied and pasted) from Erin:

* First and foremost, have fun. Don’t stress. No one is being judged, graded, or penalized. Even if you finish only one book the entire challenge, if you enjoy it and it’s an accomplishment for you, then that’s awesome.

* The challenge will run from January 1, 2016 to April 30, 2016. No books that are started before 12 a.m. on January 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on April 30 will count. (We live in different time zones – follow this according to your own time zone.)

* Each book must be at least 200 pages long. Audio books are fine too.

* A book can only be used for one category, and each category can only be completed once. If you want to switch the category of a book, or change the book you originally chose, no worries.

* You can read your books in any order you choose.

* Rereads can be used only once. If a book you love fits into a category, go ahead and visit it again. Read it in its entirety. But, only do this once for the challenge.

* There will be a photo album for each category with links to books chosen. Please comment on the photo for each of your books when you finish reading them. A comment can include a review, a rating, a recommendation…other readers want to hear what you thought of your choice. (if you need help with this, let me know…or there is a file attached to our group explaining what to do.)

* There will be 10 book categories with a possibility of earning 200 points. That’s 10 books in four months. For some of you, this will be a BIG challenge; for others it will be easy peasy. It’s all for fun, remember!

* Book categories will be posted December 1st to give you time to gather books in preparation.

* After the categories are posted, please post a preliminary list with books of your choice according to their categories on the facebook group page by December 15th (if possible). If you need help with a particular category or want a book suggestion, we as a community of reading enthusiasts can help each other. (Late entries will still be accepted)

* The first three people who finish the challenge will be invited to contribute a category for the next challenge. The top winner will get a small prize from me! Plus, everyone who completes the challenge will gets all sorts of recognition and support

* Lastly, have fun.  Don’t stress. No one is being judged, graded, or penalized. Even if you finish only one book the entire challenge, if you enjoy it and it’s an accomplishment for you, then that’s awesome.  Wait, I’ve read that somewhere before…Good luck!

She has a Facebook group you can join if you want, and you’ll be able to share your lists there if you don’t want to write a post or if you don’t have a blog and you can see the other lists, too, which is pretty interesting. Very diverse choices. Lots of people picking Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places, though.  So there’s that. 

What do you think? Will you join? 

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P.S. Steph and I are hosting a BONUS Show Us Your Books on December 29! We’re asking, if you want, on that day, to link up with your favorite reads of the year. This is in addition to next week’s regularly scheduled Show Us Your Books. 

Literary Ladies Summer Reading Challenge final check-in

This summer, I participated in the Literary Ladies reading challenge hosted by the lovely Kay, Kristen, and Kari (pretty much the only acceptable time KKK is acceptable). I posted my original list in June (you can read it here), I reviewed the books I read throughout various Show Us Your Books linkups (which you can access on the archive page), and here’s how my final list ended up.

literary ladies

Some changes were made due to issues with the library being completely uncooperative but the main point is that I finished and I remembered to check in this time so that’s a double win for all of us, really. Even if I didn’t win the contest. Which is fine because this is literally the first challenge I’ve ever completed so it’s a personal victory. And I rewarded myself by reading more books. 

Seems like an appropriate prize, right?

And, on another note, I want to say that I love these types of challenges (Erin, I promise I’m going to work on your next one) because they get people reading books. Lots of books. Books that they might not have otherwise read. All reading is good reading, and diverse reading is even better (that said, if anyone is putting together a reading challenge and needs some category ideas, I’ve got them aplenty). So thank you to the hosts of all the challenges. 

Final List

YA Book: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

Book by a non-US Author: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Book recommended by a blogger: Dirty Rush by Taylor Bell (recommended by Steph)

Book on my TBR list for more than a year: Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler 

Book with a kickass female lead: Let It Be by Chad Gayle (I was disappointed by the amount of kickassness of the female lead but later in the summer I read Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart, which has a completely badass female lead–in fact, the book was about one of the first female deputy sheriffs in the U.S.–so even though it wasn’t an official substitution, I feel like I legit completed this category)

Book that is or will be a movie or TV show: The Long Home by William Gay (you can see here for the casting for this one)

Book by a comedian/celebrity: I Regret Nothing by Jen Lancaster (original pick was Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg which I just received from the library last week, right before I left for Charlotte)

Book with a one word title: Confess by Colleen Hoover 

Suspenseful/mystery/thriller book: Trust No One by Paul Cleave (original pick was Radiant Angel by Nelson DeMille which I just received from the library yesterday)

Book about summer/with summer in the title: Summerlong by Dean Bakopolous (who followed me on Twitter last week and I *might* have screamed)

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The Fall Film Challenge: Jana’s picks

A few weeks ago I noticed some of my favorite bloggers were participating in a fall film challenge. I figured I wouldn’t be able to do it because 25 movies by November 30 is pretty much impossible but then with some encouraging peer pressure and an acknowledgement that there’s no way in hell I’d get it done and that’s okay, I thought I’d give it a shot. At the very least I could assemble a list and work through some of the movies left on the AFI 100 Best Films since watching all of those is on my 40 by 40 (which, at this point, needs a major overhaul). 

Picking movies was hard, y’all. It nearly broke my brain. But I did it and this is what I came up with and also, please don’t judge me too hard on some of them because yes, I like baseball and have never seen Field of Dreams. Also, finding a movie starring someone with the same name as me? HAHAHAHAHA. That was superfun. I did it, though, but I’m not looking forward to watching it. 

Some of the rules: had to be a movie you’ve never seen. No duplicates (so I couldn’t use one movie in two categories). Has to have an IMDB page. No made for TV movies.

I told you. HARD.

So here we go. Jana’s Fall Film Challenge List. 

  1. A movie set in NYC–King Kong*. The Kyle Chandler version. Because Kyle Chandler is in it. But I’m counting it towards my AFI list
  2. A movie featuring hot air balloons–Around the World in 80 Days
  3. A movie with a child as a main character–American Graffiti*
  4. A Disney film–Mary Poppins. No, I’ve never seen it. I know.
  5. Set in Egypt/with an Egyptian character/Egyptian actor–The Mummy. I like Brendan Fraser. #noshame
  6. A close friend’s or family member’s favorite–Duck Soup* This is one of my dad’s favorites. If I can’t find it, Blazing Saddles. Also for my dad.
  7. The word “great” in the title–The Great Train Robbery
  8. Starring Harrison Ford–Raiders of the Lost Ark* No, I’ve never seen this one either. I know.
  9. An idiot as a main character–Get Hard. I’m pretty sure anything with Will Ferrell qualifies.
  10. On Levi Strauss’s list–Rear Window* Aiming for the original but the remake will have to do.
  11. About a knight–First Knight
  12. A love story–Love, Actually. I told you there were lots of common movies on the list I’ve never seen.
  13. Something miraculous–Field of Dreams Judging me is totally appropriate at this point
  14. Same name as you–Approaching Midnight (actress: Jana Kramer)
  15. About the Olympics–Munich or Chariots of Fire
  16. On Time magazine’s list of newspaper movies–Zodiac
  17. Question in the title–Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?*
  18. 90% or more on rotten tomatoes–Serpico or The Last Picture Show*
  19. Superhero movie–Iron Man. I do love RDJ
  20. Subtitles–Amelie
  21. Featuring unicorns–Blade Runner*
  22. Personal victory–The Martian. Fiction, yes, but the man grew potatoes from his own poop. On Mars. Because he scienced the shit out of it.
  23. Black or white in the title–Black Swan or Meet Joe Black
  24. Set in a country you’d like to visit–Green Street Hooligans Charlie Hunnam, pre-Jax Teller. Alrighty.
  25. Set in a zoo–We Bought a Zoo. Two Matt Damon movies on the list? Don’t mind if I do.

*denotes movie on the AFI list of 100 Greatest American Films of All-Time

For all the rules, visit the original post: The Fall Film Challenge

So what about you guys? Are you doing it? Have you seen any of these? Any I should replace?



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