2013 Reading productivity reflections Uncategorized

January in Review: Reading and Goals

February 22, 2013


A little late, but I’m still going to recap some of my January goals, annual goals, and blogging. Obviously, a public blog is not the place to share all my goals, but just a select few in areas which I’ve found motivational and inspiring for me to read about other people’s goals.

One thing I’m learning is that I need more margin around the start of the new year! Last year, we were out of state when January 1 rolled around, and anticipated it being easier this time around since we weren’t traveling around that time; however, we hosted two holiday family gatherings in our home back to back, and the dynamics of that were different than I’d anticipated, as far as the energy I’d need to recover as I started the new year.

Still, I felt like I made some definite progress for some of my January and annual goals, and I also have to remind myself that taking on new challenges and learning new habits often feels like you’re swimming upstream at first.


I only read five books this January, so that puts me a little behind my personal schedule goal for the year. I’m not too concerned, though, as it usually evens out over the months. I also reviewed them all, although I didn’t complete all the reviews by January. These were the books I read in January:

  1. Moonwalking with Einstein (review here)
  2. What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend (review here)
  3. Bad Religion (review here)
  4. Work Shift (review here)
  5. Last Child in the Woods (review here)

January’s Monthlong Goal: Health and Fitness

Improving health and fitness was my monthly goal for the month of January.

Healthy Eating

We made it our goal to cut out refined sugar for the month of January and to practice clean eating. Not only was this helpful in cutting the sugar out, but it was helpful to see just how much food contains refined sugar and added natural sugars. (Refined sugars include granulated sugars, super-refined sugars such as the obvious HFCS and corn syrup, but even inlcudes “substitutes” such as agave nectar.)

At first, I was not going even eat anything with high natural sugar content (including fruits such as apples with high sugar content), but found that to be too restrictive and probably unnecessary. 🙂 (A month of kale, anyone? :)) The first two weeks of cutting out any added sugar were rough, I’ll admit, especially following Christmas season when I did eat a little more sugar than normal. (I mean, raisins, dried cranberries, and ketchup (even organic/only natural ingredients) are all eliminated due to added sugar.) But by the time we entered February, it was a rather easy adjustment. And we realized there is a lot of sugar–everywhere you look in food.

The Gracious Pantry was a helpful resource in clean eating and no sugar recipes. (There is also a “Clean Eating 101” section there with explanations, recipes, shopping lists, and more.) When craving something sweet, we had a weekend indulgence and I used the Gracious Pantry’s recipe for Freedom Brownies, which are gluten-free and also use only Maple syrup as the sweetening agent.

I did manage to also eat gluten-free about 90% of the time, but have since put more effort to make sure it is 100% of the time to see if this change could help even more.

Overall, this was a helpful challenge, and one we’ll likely take on again later in the year.

Wellness and Fitness

I also endeavored to exercise at least 3 times a week at Anytime Fitness, and then do some exercises at home, as well. I accomplished this goal with the exception of last weekend of January, when our kids started to get sick.

I am still seeing a Physical Therapist to improve my postpartum pelvic floor health (though it was not necessarily caused solely by pregnancy–I had lifestyle habits for many years that would have brought about some of these issues sooner of later). To assist here, I’ve been doing Katy Bowman’s Aligned and Well DVD program, a biomechanics based program designed to restore proper body movement and alignment. I did this program nearly everyday, and when I went back for a Physical Therapy appointment three weeks later, my therapist and I were both amazed that I had improved my pelvic floor strength so quickly. I am continuing to use this, and am thankful to be regaining strength and increasing core strength. (I’m also hoping that for any future pregnancies, my pelvic floor problems will be completely eliminated. If you have any pelvic floor issues in pregnancy or other areas of life, I highly recommend learning the principles behind proper biomechanics.)

My goal was also to start getting to bed early (as in, before 10p.m.), but utterly failed on this account. For the first few weeks, I was usually getting to bed by midnight or later. Not good when health is your goal. But, I’m thankful for progress in the other areas, which I think will push me forward overall.


For the month of January, I made it my goal not only to pay cash only for groceries, but to pay for our groceries using cash I earned that month. I did this successfully, and other than gas and our normal monthly bills, I didn’t really use our credit card or debit card (bills are automatic withdrawal anyway). I guess some people refer to this as a “no spend” month.

A few unexpected spending opportunities arose, but thankfully, I had stashed cash available for that: food for family and friends, a little snack or juicebox here and there while out with the girls, etc… (Although on some of these occasions, I thought to myself, “Whoa! That ‘fill-in-the-blank’ just cost me selling x-amount of clothes or writing a certain number of articles, by having extra cash already set aside it didn’t feel quite as “painful.”)

I did this mostly by selling clothes to cash-payout consignment stores (Jordan’s Closet in Mauldin and the new Once Upon a Child in Greenville, for those who are local). I also sold a couple of items on Craigslist. (We are a relatively populous city, but not such a big city that everything is possible to sell through CL. But we’ll see–I’m going to put my rice cooker up for sale and see what happens. 🙂 )

I also made it my yearlong goal to save up money following a plan similar to this (there’s still time to catch up for the year; graphic floating around Pinterest, not sure of original source):


I also picked up a few new freelancing jobs, but most of that is being saved online in my ING account (now Capital One–not sure what to think about that!) or used as Paypal spending money (as opposed to being used as cash for groceries).


We are working on habit-training with our kids in a variety of areas. Johanna (at My Home Tableau) and I had a e-discussion about that, and you can read some of her thoughts on the subject here.

Another goal that I had to work with myself and our kids is making sure I am reading to them more frequently, trying to get in several per day. I have been doing the majority of our reading time during their snack times, which we do during Justus’s naptimes (he has 2, currently). The girls have memorized a lot of classic poems and nursery rhymes by listening to me read them over and over together during this time, which in my eyes is ample “schooling” for this time in our lives. I also use the AmblesideOnline reading list to get good classic reading material. We try to keep our books and reading simple–reading the same stories over and over, rather than reading from a large number of books only once or twice.


Hana Kate and I attended her first orchestra together, which was to celebrate her fifth birthday. It was wonderful, and she did great and loved the whole thing. Oh, to have season passes! Though, the anticipation for it was definitely a highlight! We somehow got front row seats (at a discount, nonetheless), on Row A. Other than it making it a little harder for her to see up over the ledge (and me feeling like everyone was watching us), this was perfect for her first trip to the orchestra, and left her greatly mesmerized.

We are working on some other exciting stuff, but mostly that’s been in February, and this is a January update! 🙂

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  • Johanna Hanson February 22, 2013 at 6:00 am

    Love your update! I’m was thrown off by the change at ING too 🙁 …

    You did awesome with our goals. I’m posting a muffin recipe soon that I only use maple syrup in. We need to do a month off of no sugar. I find the tricky thing to be guests. We have 3 weekends of out-of-town company this month which makes eating goals a little hard. I need to talk with you about no gluten. I really need to try it as there are some issues I’m having that I think might improve with lower gluten.

    • Keren February 23, 2013 at 12:59 pm


      Oh, I will look forward to your recipe! 🙂 We had guests over twice during our no-sugar challenge (had another time scheduled, but canceled due our friends sickness), and yes it is a little more challenging. Both times, Daniel grilled some pork, and then we had veggies as a side. A fruit salad is a great medium sweet alternative if you aren’t going to have dessert, we found. I did also make the Freedom Browning for guests, but if your guests aren’t used to a less sweet dessert, they might not be fond of them (sort of reminds me of a European style dessert). (The Gracious Pantry website has some good recipe alternatives, too.) But I agree–any time you have guests during a time you’re trying to revamp eating, it is more challenging, as is being a guest! 🙂

  • Catherine @ A Spirited Mind February 22, 2013 at 11:01 am

    We’re planning to do a Whole30 (whole foods and no sugar etc for 30 days) in March. I’m hoping it will help all of us feel a bit better and maybe help some of the crazy around here (some of which I suspect is due to too much sugar and refined carbs).

    We used the Ambleside lists (plus the Sonlight lists) up through last year, and it was a great foundation. I realized this fall that since I was doing other school reading with the big kids, Sarah was missing out on the great preschool books I read to the other kids. So I’m trying to integrate preschool book time every day after we get our other school work done.

    Thanks for the link to the alignment site. I don’t have pelvic floor issues, but I get major hip pain issues after delivery, so I’m hoping this will help me too!

    • Keren February 23, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      I hope you report about your Whole30. Cutting out sugar definitely helped overall, though I did let our kids have a few treats with sugar here and there (cranberries, raisins, etc…) while we were being more strict. Tweaking our sugar and carb intake has definitely given me a lot more energy.

      I am currently doing the “Down There for Women” DVD, but Katy does have some material specifically for hips. (There is a “Knees and Hips” DVD, and you can alternatively download the video via an app.) I had a lot of hip pain as well, but mine seemed to be muscular pain from tensing my hip muscles to compensate for other areas of pain and weakness. Hope it helps!