Posts made in December, 2012

wellness calendar: january 2013 (free printable)


Posted on Dec 31, 2012 in Motivation


Just in time for the ball to drop, I’ve got the first Wellness Calendar of 2013 ready for you guys to print, hang up and enjoy! If you’re just joining us, each month I pull together a calendar full of nutrition, fitness and general wellness tidbits. The idea? Small decisions throughout the month add up to a healthy and happy January. Download the PDF, print it out and pass it around for everyone to use!

Happy New Year!


my 2013 goals: less and more


Posted on Dec 31, 2012 in Motivation

First things first, I’ve got some fun news to share. If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, you’ve already seen photos of our newest addition to the Johnston family. Meet Sookie!


We adopted this playful little kitten from our local animal shelter this weekend, and we’re totally in love with her. We don’t know much about her because she was a stray, but we’re, of course, already calling her Kittyface. Her and Puppyface are slowly getting used to each other. We’ve evolved from barking and swatting to sleeping next to each other on the couch. Progress! I mean, they’re the exact same color, that must mean they’re meant to be bestest friends, don’t you think?

kittyface and puppyface

So this weekend I spent a lot of time hanging out on the couch surrounded by sleeping animals. Which gave me lots of time to admire the snow out our window and reflect on 2012 and contemplate what I want to accomplish in 2013


I’ve been going back and forth for a few weeks now about whether or not I wanted to write any 2013 goals. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that I’m a pretty big fan of goal-setting. And every year, I give myself a list of very specific goals to hopefully achieve in the new year.

But this year, something is different. I already have so many of the concrete things I desire. I have a wonderful family. I have my health. I have financial security. I’m happy. And while I think even the happiest person has room for improvement in his or her life, I honestly had a really difficult time coming up with hard and fast goals that I wanted to achieve in the next 365 days. Life is pretty good right now.

puppyface kittyface

And then, I saw this list going around on Facebook, and I knew I’d found the format for my 2013 “goals”. Sure, they aren’t your standard “I want to lose 20 pounds” kind of resolutions, but the simplicity spoke to me something fierce. I wasn’t looking for goals that I could chart on some printable spreadsheet. I wasn’t looking for goals that were inflexible. I was looking for a way to gently guide my upcoming year without the pressure of a “resolution”.  And this idea of less and more really seemed to fit the bill. So I used the format to write my own set of guideposts for my 2013. I think if I just did a little less of the things on the left and a little more of the things on the right, 2013 will be an incredible year.



What are your resolutions or goals for 2013?

friday freebie: restore the core DVD set (CLOSED)


Posted on Dec 28, 2012 in Fitness

This giveaway is now CLOSED.

Tune in every other Friday for a new giveaway!


I do a lot of fun foodie giveaways here for Friday Freebies, but this week, I’m switching over to the sweatier side of healthy living thanks to a special fitness giveaway from my friends at Karna Fitness! To all the mamas out there (and anyone else who is interested in trying out mat-based core strengthening), listen up. Karna has been focused on bringing quick, easy, Pilates-based workouts to new (and not-so-new mothers) through their Baby Boot Camp for years, now they’ve released a new DVD that focusing solely on building core strength—Restore the Core. Today, Karna is giving away one copy of Restore the Core plus a two Pilates balls, a pump and resistance band to one lucky BTHR reader. Karna likes to focus on fitness for moms, but this giveaway is open to anyone looking for a good core workout!


  • PRIZE: One Restore the Core DVD, two Pilates balls, one air pump and one resistance band.
  • TO ENTER: Comment on this post and tell me what your favorite core exercise is.
  • GIVEAWAY CLOSES: Tuesday, January 1st, 2013 at Noon (12pm) EST
  • ELIGIBLE FOLKS: This giveaway is open to everyone! Yay! But, international readers, please be aware that you will be responsible for all duty and customs fees.
  • WINNER ANNOUNCED: Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 on this here post!
  • LEGALESE: To enter you must be 18 or older. Winner will be chosen by random drawing from the pool of comments on this post. To be considered for the prize, you must provide a valid email address. One entry per email address. Once a winner is notified and verified, Karna Fitness will be provided with the contact information of the winner and they will be responsible for  prize fulfillment. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. To enter, leave a comment on this post. No purchase necessary to win. Entries will close on Tuesday, January 1st, 2013 at noon (EST). The winner will be contacted by email on or before Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013. If the winner does not claim the prize within seven days, the original winner forfeits the prize and a second random entry will be chosen from the pool. This contest is sponsored by Karna Fitness and is void where prohibited by law.
  • DISCLOSURE: In exchange for this blog post, as well as posting this giveaway, I was compensated with a Restore the Core DVD and ball and band set.

We have a winner! Congrats to Lauren who loves a good old fashioned sit-up to work out her core. Enjoy, Lauren!

bthr book club discussion: the book thief


Posted on Dec 27, 2012 in Lifestyle

book club header


Good morning, everyone! It’s time for us to delve into some awesome discussion about December’s BTHR Book Club selection: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This discussion will have three parts. First up, I’ll share a series of book discussion questions that are you are welcome to answer in the comments. Secondly, I’ll share my review of the book. And thirdly, toward the end of the post you’ll find a link-up party to share your review post on your own blog (if you wrote one) so other members of the book club can check out what you had to say! And at the end of this post, you’ll find the announcement for January’s book club selection! Yay!

A warning: If you haven’t read the book, this post (and the comments) will be chock full of spoilers. So just skip on over this post! 



Discussion Questions

These questions come originally from the Gailsburg Public Library, but I edited them a bit to fit our discussion (and questions I have).

  1. Did you like the book? Why or why not?
  2. Which of the characters did you like the most? Which did you dislike?
  3. What is the symbolism of Death as the omniscient narrator of the novel? Did you find Death as the narrator effective? Why or why not?
  4. Liesel has complex relationships with her foster parents, Hans and Rosa. In what ways do they show how they feel about her and about each other?
  5. How does Max’s life give Liesel  purpose? At what point do Liesel and Max become friends?
  6. Liesel and the mayor’s wife have a complicated relationship. Eventually, the mayor’s wife leaves her a plate of cookies, and Liesel later returns the plate to the doorstep. Afterwards, “her brother never climbed into her sleep again.” (p 472). Why?
  7. Liesel lives to be an old woman. On the last page of the book (p. 550), Death says that he would like to tell the book thief “about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know?” How does her life represent beauty in the wake of brutality?
  8. Has anyone had an experiences that relate to places or experiences in the book?

Make sure to ask any questions you have in the comments. Happy discussing!

My Review

To be totally honest, I really struggled to get through this book. It wasn’t that I disliked the plot or the writing (both were amazing) but I’m just not sure this was the “right” book for me to read during such a busy time like December. I had to actually schedule time into my to-do list to read the book, instead of just wanting to read it whenever I had a drop of freetime. If I didn’t have the deadline of the book club, I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to finishing it until January.

Part of that I think is because I feel like the first half of the book moves at an excruciatingly slow pace. I realized that stuff was about to go down, just from the historical timeline, but still, it felt like the plot was moving at the speed of molasses. Thankfully, that sped up quite a bit in the second half. I was totally hooked in by the time Max Vandenburg came to stay with them. I’ve been fascinated for a long time with the stories of non-Jews who went out on a limb to hide Jews in Nazi Germany (so much compassion and selflessness), that I immediately got drawn in thanks to Max’s story and his friendship with Liesel and the rest of the family.

If nothing else, Zusak’s writing style was very unique. I went back and forth between thinking, “This is the most amazing writing I’ve ever read” to “Okay, this is annoying.” I particularly struggled with the death as the narrator aspect. It was very distracting to me. It would seem like we would go pages and page (chapters even) with it not being mentioned, and then suddenly, the fact that the narrator was death was important to the story. It always took me a few sentences to remember, “Oh yeah, this is death talking.” For the historical time period, it feels totally appropriate (and for the story, much more appropriate in the second half of the book), but at first, it was a difficult concept for me to grasp.

I felt like Zusak’s descriptions of feelings and events were so intriguing, different and completely accurate. So often I think authors get stuck using a handful of phrases to describe a character’s feelings and emotions, but Zusak did such a great job creating colorful phrases to really get at the heart of the moment. It’s the type of writing that made it so blatantly obvious that he is an insanely naturally talented writer. The plot itself (and the writing to describe the plot) really showed the power of words.

Of course, we all knew the ending was going to end badly, didn’t we? It wasn’t a matter of if they were going to die, just a matter of who and how. Even though Death has foreshadowed Rudy’s death for chapters and chapters beforehand, I was still totally crushed  when Liesel realized he was dead and he’s never get his kiss (well, living).

Overall, I really wanted to love this book, and I could appreciate the beauty of the prose, the characters and the story, but it just never grabbed me the way some books have in the past. Maybe it was a case of the right book at the wrong time, and I’ll reread it again at another time in my life and be swept away the way a lot of folks have been.

January 2013 Book Announcement

Last month we voted for the book for December, but I’m breaking away from that a bit for January because we have a unique opportunity to chat and interact with a brand new author of a book that is skyrocketing in popularity. The January 2013 BTHR Book Club Selection is….


Follow Terra Rhodon through a dystopian future where the planet’s natural resources have been depleted and the rich and powerful have fled to cities in the sky. Eighteen-year-old Terra makes her living as a scav, collecting valuable recyclables to turn in for profit. Terra’s life is changed forever when a routine scavenging leads her to a discovery that turns her world upside down. From there, she finds herself being rapidly introduced to a world she never knew, as well as to Adam, a boy unlike anyone she has ever met. But Adam has secrets, and with him, Terra embarks on a journey that will lead to an earth-shattering revelation – one that will test the bonds of friendship, family, and love.
The first book in debut author Gretchen Powell’s anticipated Terrestrials series, Terra is action-packed, full of intrigue, and sure to leave you waiting breathlessly for the sequel.
You can find our how to purchase your copy of Terra on here. The Kindle version right now is a whopping $4.99 and totally worth every penny and more! Well come back together on Thursday, January 31st for a discussion of Terra. Happy reading!


what i ate wednesday: christmas eve


Posted on Dec 26, 2012 in Food

I hope you all just had the most wonderful Christmas day yesterday! Our day was super relaxed and cozy and amazing. And now! We’re waking up to snow! It came a day late, but we’re under a blizzard warning today and we’re supposed to get up to 10 inches. Can you tell I’m crazy excited? We’ve got plenty of food and firewood, plus we’ve got no place to go. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Anyway, my WIAW pics for this week just happened to be from Christmas Eve (I usually do my WIAW pics on the Monday before). So enjoy in my revelry from a few days ago. Warning: there is lots of booze.











  1. Coffee (x3). I finally found a new mug to replace my favorite (may she rest in peace). This big guy is a Christmas mug from Meijer, but I love it so much I think it’ll probably stay out all year long. It holds two cups of coffee! Win!
  2. Breakfast was two poached eggs on toast plus a side of yogurt with some berries, honey and peanuts.
  3. Somewhere around late morning, Babyface informed me it was time to start drinking by delivering this eggnog cocktail. I have no idea what was in it (other than eggnog) but it was, uh, strong. And delicious!
  4. While drinking, we snacked on some Nuts & Bolts sent in a care package from Canadian Mommy.
  5. I switched over to cranberry-infused vodka mixed with Sprite. I had more than one of these. They were delicious.
  6. Heated up some leftover seafood fettucine for lunch.
  7. Our Christmas Eve tradition is always fondue! We did a cheese, oil and chocolate fondue this year. We had a crazy selection of dippers. Steak, sausage, scallops, lobster tail, shrimp, bread, broccoli, pound cake, bananas, strawberries, marshmallows, oh my!
  8. We set everything up by the fire and the Christmas tree—and plugged in a laptop with A Christmas Story.
  9. And drank wine, of course.
  10. The chocolate dipped strawberries were my favorite. Although the oil-fried bread cubes followed by a quick dip in the cheese fondue was a close second.

Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?