Winter Reading List 2016

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini, 2015, 256 pages

She starts off her book giving you a bullet point list of all her sins - adultery, sending hateful emails/texts, and being on occasion a horrible person. Just to get that out of the way so the Church of Scientology won't have anything to discredit her with. Before marrying, she said she treated men badly and didn't have much respect for them and talks about her promiscuous period in her early twenties. She says it came from her father because her heart had been broken. The church always made her guilt-ridden for her behavior and she was always beating herself up. Leah has given over $1 million to the church. She explains how the church makes ordinary people call their credit card up and up their limit to $10-25K and use that credit limit increase to make a donation to the church.

Leah is a funny lady so expect a lot of humor throughout the book. She shares stories of her first trip to Italy (for Tom Cruise's wedding) where no one knew who she was. How Tom Cruise's celeb-filled wedding was just a PR ploy. She tells stories of Tom behind the scenes and what an immature ass he is. Jennifer Lopez' stylist helped style her outfits for Italy because "I'm half Italian, so they could be planning a homecoming parade for me." She asked Tom's kids why they don't talk to Nicole Kidman and they said she was a 'Suppressed Person'. Katie Holmes wrote a knowledge report about Leah which said her behavior during her wedding weekend was "very upsetting" and "disturbed me greatly."

She was kicked off The Talk after one season which she honestly admits she was angry over for a long time. Her co-star Sharon Osborne once said, "The only reason you care (about this show) is because you're a loser, and you have nothing else going on in your life." She still struggles to fit in in Hollywood.

Leah said "There is no "right" way to be. I am flawed and imperfect but am uniquely me. I don't fit in and probably never will. And I don't have to try to anymore. That other person was a lie. And let's face it, normal is boring. We all have something to offer the world in some way, but by not being our authentic selves, we are robbing the world of something different, something special."

She thanks her husband for being with someone as annoying and trying as her. To the people she pissed off, personally and professionally, she asks for forgiveness because she's not sure much will change.

                                                                                              You Deserve a Drink: Boozy Misadventures and Tales of Debauchery by Mamrie Hart, 2015, 274 pages
Comedian with her own youtube channel shares her hilarious drunken stories. It was rated one of the top humor books of 2015 by amazon and goodreads. We both stayed at the most random (now closed) motel in Key West, a clothing optional gay motel. I think I went off season because the pool was closed, but she shares some hilarious stories from her stay there. lol My college experience clearly was not as fun as hers! She's funny and crazy, watch out for a ballsy memoir that will have you laughing as you read!

The Piano Teacher by Janice Lee, 2009, 328 pages
I enjoy reading a lot of historical fiction but that typically involves World War II stories focused on the Holocaust. It's harder to find books that explore the non-Western experience. The Piano Teacher alternates between two different periods of time in Hong Kong and explores how lives in Hong Kong were affected by the Japanese invasion during World War II and life after the war. It's an interesting peak of life among the British ex-pats and their society which was a topic I knew nothing about.

The characters include Will's experience in an internment camp with other Westerners, and Trudy's attempts to make nice with the Japanese and provide for her own survival. Claire, the piano teacher, was much less interesting, and despite her title billing never seemed like a true protagonist. A young wife new to Hong Kong, Claire finds herself unexpectedly entangled in Will's secrets after they begin their own affair. I'd like to learn more about Hong Kong in this time period as a result of the 1940s sections of the book, but the 1950s chapters were just not very interesting, and some character traits (for example Claire's thefts that open the book) are not carried convincingly throughout the book.

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende, 2015, 336 pages
From an internationally bestselling author, here's an epic love story. It starts with Alma who fled Poland as a child to avoid the Nazis was sent to live with relatives in San Francisco in 1939. She befriends their Japanese gardener who later is sent to
internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. When I went to Los Angeles a couple years ago I visited the Japanese American Museum I learned so much about this period in American history that I think is not well known. The book touches on some very historical events with great detail and touches on aging and friendship.

The Happy Vegan by Russell Simmons, 2015, 230 pages

As a vegetarian who loves cheese I thought I'd read this book, honestly not really expecting too much a celebrity book but I was really surprised as it gives a convincing argument for a vegan lifestyle. It's a tiny delightful book and an inspiring read. He dispels common misconceptions, explains the health benefits of a plant-based diet, the destruction of the environment, the horrors animals endure to feed us and even provides a helpful how-to guide to changing your lifestyle. I learned  that all the glass/plastic recycling I do does nothing compared to the impact of  environmental destruction by the meat industry and the large amount water it uses. He says you better check that your eggs are really "free-range" because the definition is very fluid.  Russell explains that once you transition to a plant-based diet your taste buds will change. He juices every day to make sure he's always getting enough leafy greens. Vegans can easily consume enough protein without eating animal products as there's enough protein in plants (beans, lentils, nuts, soy), as the average American eats too much protein. A few pages are dedicated to Bill Clinton and how he improved his health and heart disease through a vegan diet. Ellen DeGeneres says "she became a vegan because she loves animals and cares about the planet and her health. The way we are creating our food now is hurting both." I highly recommend you watch the documentary Forks Over Knives which connects how an animal based diet leads to health problems.

After You (Me Before You #2) by Jojo Moyes, 2015, 384 pages
This book is a sequel to the book Me Before You which is coming out as a movie in March. If you loved the first book like I did, you wanted to know what happened to the main character Lou afterward. Unfortunately, I have to say I didn't like it as much as the first book, isn't that what usually happens with sequels? But definitely check out the movie Me Before You.

2016 New Years Resolutions

I’ve decided that 2016 is the year that I'm motivated to make my healthiest and happiest! I want to focus on spending money on experiences/travel, not things/clothes. I’ve been blessed to have traveled to some really amazing places already so my goal is to continue that journey. My closet is so full I've run out of hangers and I'm not buying any more. I want to purge and declutter. I'm continuing my daily green smoothies (recipe 1 and recipe 2). I’m maintaining a food planner & journal (pic above) and scheduling all my workouts.  Here are a couple free workout planners you can use:  One and Two  Sunday is meal prep day and I make my lunch for the week at work. Keeping a food journal also helps me plan what I’ll eat for dinner in advance. I also set a reading goal of 60 books for the year, I’ve read 6 books already this month! I’d rather read than mindlessly surf social media. Reading in bed also helps me to unwind. Here's my vision board I created for this year, you can view my past ones here and here.

I looked at my calendar for fall last year and I worked out 5x a week without fail but my weight only climbed due to mindless snacking, liquid calories on the weekends and late night pizza. (And a special shout out to Rye Triscuits and Snap Pea Crisps - my weaknesses!) Exercise has always been my healthy addiction, it was just the food aspect I struggled with. Since I’ve starting maintaining healthy eating choices this year I’ve already lost 5 lbs. My goal is to lose 30 lbs by May 1. It’s important to have measurable goals with a date attached to it. 

I joined Orangetheory Fitness and am going twice a week. Like the name, the dark studio is lit up with orange lightbulbs. You wear a heart monitor (pic above) and everyone’s heart rate is displayed on a screen during class. Your heart rate will be in a blue, green, orange or red zone based on intensity. The goal is to be in the "orange zone" for 12 to 20 minutes of the class, which is helpful for knowing when you need to push yourself harder. The workout switches between interval training on the treadmill, a water rowing machine, TRX, free weights and abs. On the treadmill whether you are power walking or running you always have to be on an incline which I had never done before and is a bit difficult for me. I've learned that being on an incline not only tones your butt and legs, but it also gets my heart rate up and burns significantly more calories. I’ve slacked off on running last year so I’m glad to have a weekly appointment to do it. The class makes me push harder when I see my classmates on the screen (pic below) are burning more calories than me. 

I went to my first CorePower Yoga class and plan to go once a week. CPY is an invigorating flow yoga done in a hot room set to music. Five years ago I was a Bikram regular, going 2x a week for 6 months straight. So transitioning back into hot yoga is a bit hard for me. I love the way my ab muscles are always sore the next day!

The other three days of the week I rotate between spin class and workout DVDs. I recently went to a ladies of the 80s themed spin class and I sang out loud to all the songs! lol As you can tell exercise makes me happy and I'm dedicating myself to getting fit. I’m scheduling all my workouts in a very strict way on my calendar for the month as I need that structure to stay committed. If you want success at anything, you have to take it seriously and that's what scheduling does for me. 

I’m dedicated to making weight loss and myself a priority. I’m not happy where I am and am not going to settle for it. But I'm not wallowing in the negative, I'm grateful that I have a strong body capable of exercising. The adjectives I want to describe this year are success, confident, happy, gratitude, and adventure. I keep reminding myself that exercise keeps me healthy and happy. It's been scientifically proven that exercise has a huge effect on your mood and energy levels. It helps me to stop obsesses over the littlest problems as I can be very passionate about some things. 

Speaking of which another goal of mine is to steer clear of negative people. The toxic person who is chronically whining, unreliable when I need them,  always late, and then affecting me with their negative energy with craziness. Yolanda Foster had a birthday this month and said this about it which describes how I feel. "Your birthday is a chance for friends and family to express their love and gratitude. My birthday lunch was special for so many reasons. It made me so happy to look around the table and see my die-hard inner circle: the ones that stood by me through the good and the bad times, especially these past four years. I have learned that friendship isn't about who you've known the longest, it's about who came and never left your side. I used to think I had and needed so many friends to feel loved. I know now that if you have one or two, you are good. More than that, you are great."

I checked back on my resolutions for 2015 to make sure I'm still keeping up with those and yes I'm still keeping a gratitude journal and surpassed my reading goal by 200%! In 2016 I'm making being healthy a part of my daily routine, being mindful about eating as I'm truly motivated to reach my goal. Here's to a year filled with crushing my goals!

Glowing Green Smoothie

I've been drinking this smoothie for months now. It's delicious, gives me a lot of energy and glowing skin. And the high fiber content keeps me full. I make a large batch and put it in separate mason jars in the fridge for the next two days. I also add bee pollen to it to get more beauty minerals and a shot of energy. I buy all of the ingredients organic at Trader Joe's and $11 yields 6 servings, so it's a lot cheaper than buying from a juice bar.


  • cups filtered water
  • 7 cups chopped spinach
  • 1 small head of romaine lettuce
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 apple
  • 1 ripe pear
  • 1 banana
  • 2 TB fresh lemon juice
  • ½ ts bee pollen (optional) per serving

  • Directions: 

    Mix the water and greens first on low speed. Then add the fruit and increase the speed. It's best to blend the greens first to ensure they have the most time to break down. If your pear isn't ripe it won't be able to sweeten the drink. 

    Makes 3 - 16oz servings

    Recipe source: The Beauty Detox Foods by Kimberly Snyder

    Winter Skin Care

    If you want your skin to glow and look flawless, you have to up your skincare routine. Here's my update to my winter skin care post from last year. Growing up my skin was far from flawless, I had acne for a really long time, and frequently went to the dermatologist to try new products. Now other than a few hormonal outbreaks on my jawline, I am almost acne free, but still a little oily. My new issue is hyper pigmentation or melasma. I've tried the Fraxel laser, LED facials, hydra facial, peels and look for products that brighten skin.

    Tastes Like Ice Cream Kale

    Crushing my new years resolutions for a fit bod, I'm obsessed with vitamin enhanced smoothies. This recipe is a spin on a top-selling recipe by the SunCafe in Los Angeles. "Superstar kale, which is loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants, oxygen-producing iron, and bone-strengthening vitamin K, makes it as healthy as a bowl of greens, while bananas, cashews, and dates render it as indulgent as dessert." You can freeze your leftovers for later.

    Peanut-Ginger Chickpea Curry

    I had a package of dates at home so I looked for date recipes and found this one which has now become one of my favorites in frequent rotation for my lunchbox. This recipe is quick and easy to make on a Sunday and then I divide it into 4 containers for lunch. "Medjool dates contain fiber, 16 essential vitamins and minerals and have more potassium than a banana (weight for weight)". Dates are a great way to add sweetness and nutrients to your recipes.


  • ½ red onion
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 2 tsp curry powder 
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter 
  • 2 TB maple syrup, grade B 
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled 
  • 2 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped 
  • salt, black pepper, cayenne, turmeric (to taste)
  • 1 mango 

  • Directions: 

    1. Saute onion and ginger.
    2. Add in the peanut butter, almond milk, curry powder and maple syrup. Stir well until a yellow thin sauce forms. Lower heat a bit if edges begin to brown - peanut cooks very fast.
    3. Transfer mixture to blender and mix until smooth.
    4. Return mixture to saucepan over medium heat and add chickpeas and dates.
    5. Serve over brown rice with chopped mango.

    Nutritional Analysis:
    4 servings
    247 calories, 31g carbs, 6g fiber, 9g protein, 16g sugar

    Recipe source: Healthy Happy Life

    Gel Nail Polish

    I love gel nail polish because my nails stay flawless for 3 weeks! I know a lot of people only make it 2 weeks with it, but mine easily stays chip-free for 3 weeks. No matter how hard I tried, my natural nails were always peeling so they couldn't grow long. And I tried every nail strengthener out there and vitamins. So last fall I decided to give gel nail polish a try for a few months. If you're wondering if it's safe, the experts say that you should wear sunscreen on your hands to protect it from the aging affects of the ultraviolet light. I do think the removal process makes my nail weak as the chemicals and scraping dehydrates and damages my nails. I also hand wash all my dishes so my hands are frequently in water. So to counter act all that damage I've started using Cutemol skin cream which is pricey but is really good for my nails.

    I often google nail polish shades to see what they look like applied but rarely see my tanned color skin. So I thought I'd share how these color look on me. You can also see how I organize my nail polish here.

           CND Shellac Wildfire, a vibrant red for Christmas

    OPI Taupe Less Beach - looks purple in this pic, but is more a beige grey

    OPI Mod About You - reminds me of my favorite CND color Cake Pop

                                           OPI with a nice finish - I loved this orange!

    OPI tiramisu for two - loved this pink on my nails but when I used the regular OPI color on my toes in the same shade it didn't look pink
    OPI ce-less tial is more - on my ring finger

    While in San Francisco I tried out ibd Just gel polish in Go-Go Above and Beyond

    Check out my birthday nails.

    Packing List for a Beach Vacation

    If you're lucky enough to travel to sunny Mexico this winter, I want to share my packing list for Cancun last month. Even though it's an international flight, American Airlines still charged me $25 to check my bag so you may want to try just travelling with a carry on. I used the Triplist app to create reusable lists that I use for every vacation because it reminds me of little things I would forget to pack. Then I used the Stylebook app to show me which outfits from my closet I will be taking. 

    First check out my previous packing tips where you can see my pink suitcase which makes it very easy to spot in the luggage claim at the airport. If I were to buy another suitcase, I'd get one with 4 wheels so I don't have to pull the heavy weight.  Here's my beach packing list that might contain some things you probably wouldn't have thought of. 

    • space saver bags
    • travel pillow
    • lysol wipes
    • sunglasses
    • books
    • aloe vera gel 
    • insect repellent
    • healthy snacks
    • photocopy of passport
    • print outs of flight & hotel reservations
    • travel journal
    • shoe bags
    • comfy walking shoes
    • plastic rain poncho
    • gum for popping ears on the flight
    • probiotics
    • makeup wipes
    • white linen pants - a beach staple for me
    • hats
    • swimsuits
    • flip-flops
    • beach coverup
    • a nice dress for the evenings

    I highly recommend taking probiotics with you when travelling to a country where the food you eat could cause stomach problems, it will keep your gut strong. I packed cashews to have as a snack while on the beach everyday. I didn't buy the all inclusive package at my hotel so I bought oatmeal with me to eat for breakfast. I had planned to use the coffee pot in the room to heat up water for it, but ended up going to the local grocery store and bought plain yogurt to mix it into.

    I was so glad I brought the plastic rain poncho, it really came in handy in the random short rain showers I had daily. It was light enough that it wasn't hot to wear in the hot weather. To prevent myself from getting sick from germs on airplanes, I always bring lysol wipes to wipe down the surfaces. Also the TV remote in hotel rooms has been proven to be the most germ filled surface in your room. I had a hard time finding lip balm with SPF at multiple CVS' so I had to order it online. It never fails that my lips get sunburned.

    Lip Balm with SPF
    A friend of mine turned me on to a Cooling Towel a few years ago, I have to say it's the best invention ever! The way it works is you dip the towel in cold water and it stays cold for hours! It's nice to have around your neck on super hot days.
     I use a Slim Packing Cube to pack my undergarments so they're easy to find in my suitcase.
    I bought another steamer in the past but it didn't work very well so I returned it. My co-worker travels a lot for work and turned me onto My Little Steamer.  It's small and has just enough water to steam a few garments before it runs out, but it's really strong and works!
    I bought this waterproof case for my Iphone but was scared to use it but saw so many people using it at Xcaret in the lazy river so I decided to give it a try myself. When I went swimming in the Cenote, I got looks from people shocked I was swimming with my phone around my neck, but it completely kept my phone waterproof! And it took much better pics in a dark location than the disposable camera I bought that uses film that I had to mail off to get developed.

    Vegetarian Mexican Food

    I enjoyed tons of authentic vegetarian Mexican food while in Cancun I was worried I would have to eat cheese quesadillas every day but that wasn't the case. The restaurants I went to had entire vegetarian menus! Instead of the traditional hard taco that we have, their tacos were all soft tortillas.

    What to do in Cancun

    Cancun offers five-star hotels, sparkling sapphire waters, diverse restaurants, and a booming nightlife. Outside of the resort life, you'll find  underground water cenotes, water amusement parks and the spectacular cliff Aztec ruins of Tulum. You can't run out of things to do, just be prepared to spend a lot of money on all the activities as they're not cheap. But it will make your vacation a unique experience versus just spending all your time on the beach.

    Christmas in Cancun

    After my trip to San Francisco, my travel bug was itching so I booked a trip to Cancun for 10 days at the end of December as I had 3 weeks off from work. I've been to Mexico a few times. I did a summer exchange program in Colima which included trips to Mexico City and Guadalajara. I've taken a Mexican Riveria cruise to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. My very first international vacation as a kid was Christmas in Cozumel.

    Books I Read on Vacation

    Happy New Year! I traveled to Cancun for 10 days at the end of December and will post about that later in the week but first I wanted to share the books I read while on vacation.

    The Architect's Apprentice by Elif Shafak, 432 pages, 2015 
    Written by a well known Turkish author, this book spins an epic tale during the Ottoman Empire. In 1540, twelve-year-old Jahan arrives in Istanbul as an animal tamer in the sultan’s menagerie as he looks after the white elephant Chota and befriends  the sultan’s daughter Princess Mihrimah. A palace education leads Jahan to Mimar Sinan, the empire’s chief architect, who takes Jahan under his wing as they construct (with Chota’s help) some of the most magnificent buildings in history. Yet even as they build Sinan’s triumphant masterpieces—the incredible Suleymaniye and Selimiye mosques—dangerous undercurrents begin to emerge, with jealousy erupting among Sinan’s four apprentices. Jahan is a fictional character, however Sinan was the most famous and iconic architects's in the ottoman era.

    Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois, 384 pages, 2013
    This book is a fictional account of the Amanda Knox story, different characters, different location - Buenos Aires, but same story line. 

    Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola, 240 pages, 2015
    A brave memoir of a young woman successful in her writing career yet had a drinking problem. Her social drinking led to frequent blackouts where she couldn't remember the entire night before. It's a funny book from a woman who laid out every one of her flaws and her evolution in life.

    Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings by Michelle Knight     252 pages, 2014                                                                                I downloaded this book on my kindle which I read on the flight home. I had just watched the movie (staring Taryn Manning) before leaving for vacation so I thought I'd read the book to learn more about Michelle. She had a traumatic childhood following by being imprisoned in a house in Cleveland for 11 years with 2 other girls.  She was rescued in 2013 and has overcome this horrible episode in her life with such a positive attitude. It was a tough read but her brave spirit to find hope after all the terror she experienced is amazing.