"A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking." Jerry Seinfeld


Evidence 004: Biggest Loser Simple Swaps

Title & Author: The Biggest Loser: Simple Swaps by Cheryl Forberg
Publisher & Pub Date: Rodale 2009
Source of Review Copy: purchased at Joseph-Beth Booksellers

Every single January, I make the delusional resolution that I'm going to lose weight. This year, I decided to start early by using the program that works, with awesome results. I've watched The Biggest Loser since the beginning, usually falling in love with a player/team within the first show (this year, it's the Yellow Team - I can't wait for them to come back!). Their success makes me want my own and The Biggest Loser: Simple Swaps has put me on the right path.

The premise of the program is to swap out 100 of the foods you eat with healthier alternatives, adding in a workout program and calorie counting. I started keeping a food journal, listing everything I ate, along with their caloric content. I'll admit I've strayed from the journal, but I keep a running tab in my head. I've also started paying attention to how much fat is in a serving - but that doesn't mean I'm giving up peanut butter any time soon!

While the book is broken down into chapters like "The Power of Protein" and "Creating a Game Plan," the most helpful sections are the swap boxes on every page. They suggest everything from "swap lettuce for spinach" to "swap a donut for a phone call" to "swap a dinner plate for a salad plate". The swap boxes explain why each swap is a better alternative and are rather convincing. I now have a can of chickpeas in my cupboard - I hate chickpeas. But they are loaded with protein and the recipe for Spicy, Crunchy Chickpeas was too tempting to pass up.

The recipes are easy to follow and don't require a lot of super-fancy, super-expensive ingredients found in a lot of weight-loss and diet cookbooks. The recipes focus on fresh ingredients found in the perimeter of grocery stores -- lots of fresh produce, meat, and dairy. Everything is lean, fat-free, low-sodium, whole wheat, but not missing in taste when combined in the right portions with the right ingredients. In my last shopping trip, in which I had a Swaps Only grocery list with ingredients for six recipes, I spent $80 & ran out of room in my fridge. And it's full of color!

The first recipe I tried was the Sweet Grilled Cheese Sandwich (pg 108). If you know me, you know I'm very particular about my grilled cheese. It is sacred; my temple is Melt. So, provolone on cinnamon raisin bread raised my eyebrows but encouraged my tastebuds. I burnt the hell out of the first sandwich (heat was on too high). But the second sandwich...oh boy...I'll never eat American on white again.

Last night, I made Veggie Lasagna (pg 63). I never made "regular" lasagna so I was a little daunted. There's no pasta in this recipe -- the layers are made up of a sauce (red pepper, onion, lean turkey Italian sausage), thin sliced zucchini, and a seasoned ricotta mixture. It took me about 30 minutes to prep, cook, and assemble the pan. After baking, it looks nothing like the picture, and doesn't hold together like regular lasagna, and the 1/2 tsp of pepper was too much, but it was very very good. And filling but not in an "I'm so stuffed I'll never eat again." I was full but I had energy & wasn't craving sweets. The meat sauce will also taste amazing over pasta.

Since I started the swaps, I've saved myself $20 a week in groceries. I've gone from a size 14 to a 10/12. I snack on things like snap peas, green beas, and peppers instead of crackers or candy. I get full but not stuffed and I have more energy. I haven't been able to get into a steady workout routine & I'm debating joining a gym. I've joined a hiking group and am looking into the Field Trip program at the Museum of Natural History. Slowly, but surely, the weight will come off. Simple Swaps really lives up to its name.


Evidence 003.2: Bloggiesta wrap-up

I'll admit to being a little averse to participating in Bloggiesta this year -- as newbie, I didn't think I actually needed an entire weekend to tweak what little I had. Fortunately, Friday's horrific weather prevented me from going to work but gave me ample time to really look at my blog. And I'm so glad I did.

It took me almost two hours to figure out how to fix my comments, although I'm still not sure why my date won't show up. (I'm going to need to bribe my brother to take a look at my html.) Blogs are tagged, I have a sticky note list of ones to use in the future, a review policy and copyright are up, I have a review template and a cheat sheet, and I made an RSS feed (although I might find a better button at some point). I also became a member of the Book Blogs Ning which has already paid off; I've also had a few people from Twitter and my personal Facebook account say thanks for updating them with my link.

I have yet to sit down with my coworker to discuss the social media card, mainly because we haven't worked together yet and secondly because I keep changing my mind. I also haven't signed on for Goodreads yet. Oddly enough, I got an email today from Ellen Wittlinger (whom I worship) asking me to join up with her. I will definitely start the account, mostly to motivate myself to work through my TBR pile a little faster. There are still a few pieces of my layout to work on (font size, text bars, etc) but, again, I need a brotherly expert. (It also doesn't help that most of it was written in Spanish!) My biggest challenge left is to start following fellow book bloggers - the only way to get read is to read, so I need to start weeding through the shared RSS feeder and some of the bloggers on the Ning.

All in all, Bloggiesta helped me make my blog even better. I'm really looking forward to participating next year after I've got a few more posts under my belt.


Evidence 003: Bloggiesta

Once a year, the weather in Cleveland becomes too dicey to chance my 25-miles-one-way drive to work. Today is that day and with Bloggiesta, the timing could not have been more perfect. Bloggiesta is in its second year and is a time for bloggers to get all spruced up for the new year. For new bloggers like myself, it's the perfect time to tweak the things my betas and first readers have noticed/suggested for my blog. Below is a to-do list -- I'll report back on Monday, but you'll see a few cosmetic changes if you hang out with me this weekend!

Bloggiesta To-Do List
*Troubleshoot comments link (done, but now dates disappeared)
*Outline social media business card w/elevator pitch for blog
*Update Twitter & personal FB with blog links (done)
*Create review policy (done)
*Goodreads account "what I'm reading" widgets
*Create favicon/gravatar (done - not what I expected)
*Become a member of Book Blogs ning group
*Create labels list (done)
*Do as many mini-challenges as possible
*Go through the What Book Is That tips post (done)

That's from the original list - I'll edit to add more as the weekend continues.

Setting Goals
The strengths of this blog will be its consistency. I love my CSI-type theme and I'm excited to use it and write often. My reviews will be honest and timely. I plan on staying dedicated to this blog and its subject matter. I plan to write about my store, my co-workers, the books we sell, and why supporting local business is so vital to a community. My challenges lie in making sure the daily bookstore responsibilities don't overwhelm me and my dedication to keeping this updated. The other major challenge is getting this blog to stand out against all the other book blogs that already exisit - I think I need to find a stronger nitche, or a better way to market myself in order to make a name for myself.

I plan to write twice a week on Thursdays and Saturdays. I will advertise on Twitter, via email, and on my personal Facebook. I am also going to ask a coworker to help design a social networking business card that I can use for my bookstore connections. I would like to get more involved with my local NaNoWriMo group that will continue to meet during the year. I would also like to begin networking with other book bloggers on a more regular basis. I'm also planning to stay current with my 2010 Genre Challenge...I just need to finish the fiction I'm reading now so I can start!


Evidence 002: The Diehards

The snow season has officially arrived in Cleveland, albeit a little bit late. (Not that I'm complaining. Much.) With it comes the slushy, icy, at times impassable, roads. This weekend's twenty-four hour snowstorm took its toll - it took some of our managers almost two hours to get to work, and it's caused me to wait for the plows instead of chancing the drive. But that doesn't stop our regulars who have earned the Diehard moniker.

Our Sunday New York Times reader still showed up. The lady in the purple who shops our bestsellers with a basket in hand still came in brandishing her Gives Back card. Teenagers with giftcards burning holes in their pockets showed up to buy Vera Bradley bags before heading back to school this week. The professor from CSU who holes up in our rocking chairs stayed for her three hours on Sunday. Our fresh-from-the-gym omelet-eater said good morning to the entire staff, wolfed down his food at the Bistro, and headed back into the breach. And we've had our share of the browsers, the new faces, and the recurring characters coming in asking for a good read for these cold days.

Even though we've done in a day what we did in an hour just a week ago, we still had a great day because we still mattered to these people. To these shoppers, we're worth the risk. And to the customers who will wait for the plows and maybe a peek of sunshine, we promise to be ready and as grateful as we are to the ones who were crazy enough to come visit during the snowstorm.