17 November 2015

Book Review: Inferno

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)Inferno by Dan Brown
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Finally finished. Having really enjoyed Dan Brown's previous Robert Langdon stories, I was excited for this one. The professor wakes up in an Italian hospital with no memory of his previous three days. Brown incorporates Dante's Inferno throughout the novel in an intriguing thriller mixed with scientific theories and philosophical discussions concerning the overpopulation of the world.

The first two thirds of the novel moved fast. It was interesting. I found myself fearing for Langdon's safety. I found myself surprised at Sienna Brooks, the one person Langdon thought he could trust when he woke up in a strange hospital in Italy with no memory. I found myself rooting for Langdon and Brooks as they were chased throughout Italy.

Then the intensity just kind died. I found myself scolding the characters and wishing they would find the virus already so I could shelve the book. I did finish it and I am glad. There is a nice twist leading to an interesting end. The loose ends all get tied up neatly and yes, I will seek out another of Brown's books ... just not immediately.

View all my reviews

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015

08 November 2015

Excited for the FUN Biggest Loser Holiday Challenge

I have kind of fallen backwards a bit. This past month, I haven't been getting all my steps in, have not made many goals and worse I actually gained back four pounds. So when I got the invite to join the "FUN Biggest Loser Holiday Challenge" through Facebook & Fitbit, I jumped at the chance to redeem myself!

I am keeping my step goal at 10k/day despite not making it too often lately. This seems to be the minimum goal of most health care practitioners is the reason I am leaving it. I want to also increase my activities for two reasons: one to loose weight faster and two (let's be honest) to eat more! Eating healthier is also an obvious goal.

Part of the FUN BL Holiday Challenge is to keep a food journal. This has the potential to be highly embarrassing. I do see the positive side of it though. The accountability - I think - will help keep those extra nibblings under control!

The challenge runs 22 November through 2 January so ... wish me luck!

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015

02 October 2015

Children Displaced by Ukraine Conflict Receive Relief

Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is responding to the urgent needs of the Ukraine conflict's most vulnerable victims with emergency food assistance for 900 children under age three living in areas directly affected by the violence in Eastern Ukraine.
Nearly two years of armed conflict has driven 1.5 million Ukrainian people from their homes. UNICEF estimates that nearly 180,000 of those displaced are children. Among the most severely impacted are infants and toddlers, as well as mothers with special needs children. As Ukraine's brief autumn turns into winter, the living conditions these children face will only worsen.

IOCC, working in cooperation with local relief partner, Slavic Heart, is distributing kits containing essential baby food and hygiene items such as infant formula, baby cereal, juice, and baby wipes. The kits are being directed to vulnerable families living in Svyatogirsk, a small town in the Donetsk region sheltering the highest number of displaced families; and to Svetlodarsk in the Donetsk region and Bryanka in the Luhansk region. Families in these two towns near the front line of conflict face hunger daily as food prices climb and supplies grow scarcer due to damaged roadways and ongoing fighting restricting the movement of commerce in these volatile regions.

The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine continues to deteriorate as the number of Ukrainians in need of assistance has now reached a total of five million people. IOCC continues to assess opportunities to expand its presence there in response to the growing humanitarian needs.

You can help the victims of poverty and conflicts around the world by making a financial gift to the IOCC International Emergency Response Fund which will provide immediate relief, as well as long-term support through the provision of emergency aid, recovery assistance and other support to help those in need. To make a gift, please visit iocc.org or call toll free at 1-877-803-IOCC (4622), or mail a check or money order payable to IOCC, P.O. Box 17398, Baltimore, MD 21297.
The above article is - in its entirety - a press release from the IOCC.

11 September 2015

Asters are the flowers of September

Each month has its own flower of the month. September's flower is the beautiful aster.

Asters are very popular in butterfly gardens. They are a later summer/fall bloomer and flower a blue, white or pink star-like flower.

The aster comes in many varieties. It can grow as small as just eight inches or as tall as eight feet, depending on the specific variety. Be sure to place your aster in a sunny area - at least five hours a day.

Stauffer's of Kissel Hill offers this great video on the general care of asters and other fall flowers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015

02 September 2015


Yesterday I made my 10k step goal as well as my 10 stair goal. Barely - but I made it! Stairs are tough some days because the only stairs I generally do are the ones in my house and unless I'm off from the nursery and it's laundry day, I do not really run up and down them.

Sad news this morning. My girls started back to school on the 31st and yesterday there was already a stabbing. It happened at a nearby park not actually at the high school but all the same - still scary. A 16 year old boy, according to the local media, stabbed a 15 year old girl on a bike path in the park across the way from the high school. Since they are minors, names are not being disclosed by the media but I'm sure the girls will know by end of the school day today.

I have a pile of books that I have to read. The one I must finish this month is by Paco Underhill, titled "Why We Buy." I got the book to read through a program at work but it's a tough book since it so dated and things have changed so much. It is also more oriented to traditional retail - like grocery stores, pharmacies or a clothing store - as opposed to a nursery. Speaking of ...

Garden mums are on sale today at the nursery! A sure sign that Fall is on the way. A nine inch plant is just $5 today.

Earlier I had transplanted my two Russian Sages and the one took with no problem but the other well I thought I had killed the poor plant. I moved them to make room for my fairy garden and to place them away from the windows since one of my girls kept complaining about the bees. I have tried talking to the plant, and watering it daily. I even watered it with holy water! Yesterday, I noticed green on it finally!

On Sunday, we (hubby and I) went to the PA Renaissance Faire (girls work there) because it was the Irish/Scottish day and I wanted to hear the bands. A couple years ago we went and really enjoyed the band Circa Paleo. The band was not there this year but its drummer Joshua was there with his brother. They were part of the trio that made up Saxon Moon. They were good too but I did not like them as much as the folk like music of Circa Paleo. After Saxon Moon played, a Scottish group called Tartanic went on.

They were awesome! Two bagpipers and two drummers. I have always had (ok since college) a thing for drums and drummers and these guys were just ... wow!
At one point one of the guys asked if the bagpipes were loud enough. I didn't realize how loud I was when I said they were fine but the drums needed to be louder! Next thing I knew, I was dancing with the four guys and I was sandwiched in between two drums! The set ended with me getting a lap dance from one of them.

It felt nice to feel young again!

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015

01 September 2015

September - a time for Fall and updated goals

September already! Can you believe it? The girls went back to school yesterday. Things at the nursery are starting to look more fall-like. In fact, I believe we are getting pumpkins in today! Tomorrow, garden mums are on sale.

At the beginning of each month I like to re-evaluate my goals. I also take my measurements the first of each month. I have a lot of work to do this month.

 My focus this month:
* To consistently attain 10k steps daily
* To consistently remember to log all my foods (meals are easy but snacks ...)
* To continue to participate in relevant challenges on Fitbit.
* To continue to experiment with herbs and Essential Oils.
* To post on a more regular basis on here.
* To get my transform my garden for Fall.

 Genealogy related goals will be focused on at my "Genealogical Gems" blog.

New month. Updated goals. Now I just pray I have the energy to attain them all. 

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015

27 August 2015

A1C down

NSV ... Back in February (last time at doctor) my A1C had jumped up to 7.9. Since then I dropped 17 pounds and on Monday my A1C came back at 6.9. Yea me!

22 August 2015

Increased step goal leads to tough week

This week was a tough week for me. I had been not only reaching my 7k step goal consistently but I had been averaging 8k to 9 k so I upped it last weekend to 10k. Then my lower back and my left butt cheek area really started to hurt. Monday, I was so glad I was off from the nursery because I could barely get out of bed. As the week progressed, I realized once I did actually get up and move around then it did not hurt as bad, tho I still felt it.

I went to my chiropractor yesterday (LOVE those visits) and he said it could be a combination of things. One thing may well have been the sudden increase in steps. I suppose 3k is a big increase so that makes sense. I was pushing too hard too fast in other words.

I decided to keep my goal at 10k a day although I understand that some days I might simply not make it. The goal is to continue until I do make it consistently and then SLOWLY continue to increase my daily goals.

One other thing I noticed is the caloric burn while exercising. Since I still want to loose 89 pounds (that may change after my doctor visit Monday), caloric burn is important to me.

I noticed that my walk (which I went on with one of my girls) burned 238 calories. The walk took about a half hour at a casual talk as we walk pace. Earlier in the day I tended my flower garden and my fairy garden at home. It only took about 15 minutes since I do so nearly every day. Those 15 minutes burned 101 calories.

That just seems off to me. By those figures, I burned almost twice as many calories gardening as I did walking. Am I choosing the wrong exercises? The wrong movements? Is my goal focus off?

Over the course of the day yesterday, I did burn 2,923 calories all total, according to Fitbit, and I registered 64 active minutes. Much of that burn was most likely from work. I noticed, understandably so, that on days when I work at the nursery (plants not babies) that I am more active and burn more calories throughout the day.

That all said ... Should I change my focus not to the number of steps I take but rather to my caloric burn?

21 August 2015

Review: Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding Hearts (China Bayles, #14)Bleeding Hearts by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another great little murder mystery by Susan Wittig Albert. This time her heroine, herbal shop owner and former lawyer China Bayles, is asked to investigate some sad allegations against the town's bigger than life football coach. What she discovers reveals some dark secrets. Those secrets led to a college girl's death, the coach's death, and two suicides.

While the book was a great read (I do love this series), there really was not many surprises. In fact, the only real surprise (for me at least) had nothing to do with the above mentioned murders and suicides. Instead, it was the side story of China's father and his death.

View all my reviews

10 August 2015

Fitbit challenges push me onward

This is my trophy for getting first place in the Weekend Warrior challenge this past weekend! Saturday I felt like all I did was walk. I got in over 20k steps though and it paid off obviously. Although now, I'm looking at what's around the next bend and I swear I can hear my thighs screaming at me but that's okay because the goal is to get rid of them and the belly! Love my #Fitbit

On top of that, I have joined a Facebook challenge group for Fitbit users as well. The first week I was placed in the Standby team - meaning spaces were full and I had to wait for someone to be eliminated. Think Biggest Loser here by the way. Today, I was moved to a team!

For now however I have to focus on a Daily Showdown competition. I was leading earlier today (great day at the nursery) but now I see I am 4k behind the new leader. Sigh. Guess that means I have to put my sneakers back on and see if I can close the gap!

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015

09 August 2015

The dangers of aspartame; forgo the diet soda

The August 2015 issue of PreventionMagazine had a short piece on skipping diet soda. They mention – rightly so – that the “fake sugar” increases the risk of headaches and diabetes. The piece points out that aspartame and sucralose overwhelm our taste buds and actually leave us wanting more sweets and more saltier foods, which of course add to more weight.

Aspartame caused me such grief about 15 years ago. There are almost 100 known side effects of this nasty substance. It affects the eyes, ears, chest, skin and allergies.  Other affects include neurological, psychological, gastrointestinal, endocrine, and metabolical systems. It also mimics many other diseases. 

When I had issues with it, I was the overnight waitress at a 24/7 restaurant. My twins were still young but toddling around. I used to drive diet coke by the liter bottle. I started having problems with my eyes but the eye doctor said everything was fine and in fact my prescription had changed much. I had a ringing in my ears. I had migranes that were so intense. I was so tired all the time but I just figured it was because I was working all night and coming home to very active twins. I started forgetting things but thought it was just because I had so much on my mind. I was irritable and depressed. My heart always beat a mile a minute (palapitations) and I was often short of breath, but I thought that was because I had put on a few pounds. I had a pain in the area of my left ovary. My hair was falling out. My teeth even hurt but the dentist said everything was fine although, he pointed out, I might have developed sinus issues. 

No one had any answers. Then one night some rowdy high school kids were jumping around between tables and I was carrying back a coffee pot. Some kid jumped up right in front of me and the hot burning coffee went all over my face and the left side of my chest. I did not feel a thing. I did not even realize it got on me until my manager (who finally came out to kick out the kid) said something. 

My family doctor ran every test you could think of and still had no idea what was wrong. Finally he diagnosed me with Bell’s Palsy. Basically that meant he had no clue what was going on or why it happened. The symptoms, assuming it was Bell’s Palsy, would go away on their own but he did warn me that they could come back at any time too. 

A little while later my mom called saying she was watching some health report on the news about the dangers of aspartame. She said I had a lot of those symptoms. I read up on and promptly threw out the just opened two-liter bottle of Diet Coke in the fridge. ALL my symptoms went away. 

To confirm that it really was the Diet Coke and not Bell’s Palsy (remember it goes away and comes back with no rhyme or reason), I had a glass one day and the headache came on so fast. My eyes even hurt. That was with just a couple sips. 

Today anything that says “diet” is a no-no for me. It does not matter if it is soda or gum or anything else, I simply cannot have aspartame without some of the side effects returning. 

My advice: read the labels first and avoid aspartame.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015

08 August 2015

Steppin' Out

I DID IT! I'm not sure what possessed me this morning when I stated my goal was to reach 20k steps today since I generally average 7k, but whatever it was moved me through the day. I finally finished my goals at 11:17 p.m. Nothing like cutting it close!

Since I did 20k steps, that pretty much ensured me attaining the 3 mile goal and the 30 active minute goal.

I hate the mall but today I went over there before going to pickup the girls at work and I walked around the mall. I went in a few store but not many moved me. Well, there were a few that moved me ... to keep going!

In addition the awesome all green goals here at the right, I also got two new badges! I got one for 20k steps in a day and another for 25 stairs in a day!

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015

Peppermint oil tames mosquitoes

The mosquitoes found me this summer. My hand itched so bad that I thought I at first I found poison ivy while weeding. Upon a closer look though I could clearly see these were bites not a rash. I grabbed my lavender essential oil and dabbed some on the affected areas. It still burned and itched so I Googled (because isn't that what everyone does for health solutions anymore?) "essential oils + mosquito bites" and found this video by "My Life With(out) Corn.".

For me personally, relief was not as fast as she implied it would be but it took the itching away soon enough to be sold on this one!

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015

07 August 2015

Fitness Friday inspiration

A friend posted this on her Facebook page today and I thought I would share this piece of Fitness Friday inspiration!

What is YOUR Fitness Friday inspiration?

05 August 2015

Morning walk

I walked a similar route today as Monday although I did change it a tad. I added an extra block but in doing so I did not go up the little incline on Roseville Road that I did on Monday. The results were almost identical.

Like Monday, the walk was just over one mile. It took me about two minutes longer today. The only difference in my pace was at the beginning. My girls walked the first little bit with me because they wanted to check out something at the basketball courts nearby. My pace was 21’52”, a little slower than Monday.

I did notice that about a quarter mile into my walk, my shins started to feel the walk. By three quarters of a mile, they were fine. Hence, I am assuming that is fine. 

Unfortunately, I did not feel I could go any further than that one lap around. However I have noticed too that if I am working at the nursery (plants not babies!), I can easily meet my 7k goal and often surpass it without hurting. My goal therefore is to build up my morning walk over time.  

I also need to find some music to listen to while I walk. I think that may help as well. I am open to suggestions for music to walk to! Please leave your suggestions in the comments field below.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015

04 August 2015

Playing peek-a-boo in my fairy garden

Went out to water the plants this morning and found a little fairy playing peek a boo!
I just caught her on the left, sitting in among a Silver Mound.

Two more were hiding on the side of another Silver Mound. 
© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015

03 August 2015

Morning workout creates some questions

I didn't do so well yesterday as far as reaching my goals so this morning I decided to get out early and take a walk around our complex. I also wanted to map it and see exactly how many steps/miles it really was around once. The workout however left me with some questions.

First, I knew it would not be 7K steps - my daily goal at the moment - around. I realized it would be well shy and that I will still need to move around a bit today. I walked the perimeter of the complex plus I added a little on the top side there because I knew it was enough of an incline to count as a stair but not enough to kill me.

It turns out that a walk around was just over one mile. It took me almost 24 minutes walking a constant walk. I could have walked faster but that really wasn't the point this morning. I wanted to map it out (since I finally figured out how to do that using my Fitbit app) and see what my "normal" walk would be like.

The Fitbit app told me my walking pace was 21'0". What does this mean? Is that good? Is that horrible? Is there hope for me or should I just go retreat now?

The walkingsite.com site states, "An average fitness walking pace is close to a 15 minute mile." If that is the average then I suppose that means I have a new goal to meet. I need to almost double my pace.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015

01 August 2015

Time to refocus on simple goals

I was hoping to increase my step goal this month. It is currently at 7K steps a day and 10 stairs a day. However after looking at my overall performance for July, I think my August goal will be to get back on tract and meet my daily goals consistently.

In addition my weight hasn't gone down much at all (tho it did not increase either!). So, I think that - in conjunction with getting back on track - I will aim to eat better and record my intake better.

Exercise is another area I need to start being more consistent with as well. I work at a nursery so some days (if it is really busy) I may be behind the register practically all day. No steps or exercise. However on slower days, I may redesign a display or help the guys out in the yard or water under the roof. Lots of steps and exercise. On days I am off from the nursery I am usually working on genealogy which again could be sitting all day or a lot of walking.

So my August goals:
  • Consistently make 7K steps a day.
  • Consistently make 10 stairs.
  • Eat better and record what I eat.
  • Make time to exercise regardless of work schedule.
  • Be more active in various Fitbit challenges and goals.
  • Take part in the FCG Biggest Loser Challenge. (I'm on a standby team currently).
One other goal this month is to really learn more about essential oils and natural health. Have a great month!

27 July 2015

Looking for snoring solution

 HELP! Hubby snores fierce. Has sleep apnea. Refuses mask. Tried a mix of Marjoram & Eucalyptus to no avail. Suggestions?

22 July 2015

Review: Guests of the Sheik An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village

Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi VillageGuests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was not quite sure what to expect when I started reading this book but I loved it. Absolutely! Elizabeth Warnock Fernea recounts her visit with her newly wed husband, both Americans, immerse themselves into the daily lives of an Iraqi village. She offers a glimpse into the daily lives of the women there during her stay in 1957/1958.

Her husband, Bob, is working towards his Ph.D. in anthropology. They are visitors of the Sheik and as such they do have some allowances (like a refrigerator and a servant hand picked by the Sheik). However she describes their modest little mud hut and its lovely garden. She describes the difficulty at first of submitting to wearing an abaya. She describes too times when she was grateful for the anonymity it provided.

She recounts observing some parts of major religious festivities. I found myself thinking some of those prayer services and festivals really did not sound too different from those of my own.

Fernea shares stories of the women. Their marital problems, while different on many levels, are also similar to many of ours: health, financial, love. Family is a huge part of life there, as is social standings.

So many things were different and yet so many were similar enough to bring me in and make me feel close to these women too. I was sadden by the memory of a death within the tribe. I was excited when Seema was pregnant. I worried for Lalia when she and Fernea were out with a non relative male.

In all the book was written quite well.

View all my reviews

19 July 2015

Treating dry skin naturally with Coconut Oil

I was searching YouTube today for some natural help for dry skin. I came across Holistichealth's channel. She is easy to understand and gave so many relevant easy ways to use coconut oil.

 This particular video (below) is titled Coconut Oil Beauty Uses.

I am using it today for dry skin and eczema. So as I write this, I have coconut oil seeping into my scalp and on my forehead and cheeks.

The one I bought is Nature's Promise Organic Refined Coconut Oil. No special reason I went with this one except it was a brand name I recognized as being around for awhile and it was organic.

15 July 2015

Review: Go Set A Watchman

Go Set a Watchman (To Kill a Mockingbird, #2)Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have missed Scout. Despite being 26 now and living on her own in New York, Jean Louise Finch is still the same Scout. Maycomb County however is changing. And Scout, well she comes home to learn some hard facts of life.

Set in 1950s, Harper Lee had supposedly written this book before her famous “To Kill A Mockingbird,” which was set in the 1930s. In this book an adult Jean Louise Finch is living in New York, takes the train back home to Maycomb and spends time learning who her father is and who she herself is.

Jean Louise discovers a side of her father, Atticus, that she simply cannot grasp. She believes that Atticus, the man who we all loved when he defended an innocent black man and won, is actually a racist. She learns that sometimes life is not always – pardon the pun – black and white. She also learned that her father was human too, a tough lesson at any age for a child to learn.

There is no courtroom drama to pull together around in this novel. However, the timing of this novel’s release is spot on. This novel, which looks at racial differences and the birth of the NAACP and its affect on a controlling white community, is released amid heated nationwide discussions of our nation’s historical symbols like the Confederate flag and as racial tensions continue to swell.

The book itself reads differently that To Kill A Mockingbird, which Scout narrated. This book is written in more of a third person narrative. Some of the passages are very similar to the other.

Did I like the novel? I do not know. I think it has to sit with me for awhile. I am glad to know what happened to those charters we fell in love with in To Kill A Mockingbird. However, I was surprised at how political the book actually is.

View all my reviews

13 July 2015

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back Ebates is a great way to shop. I personally love it. If you are interested in earning money while you shop, simply click on the logo!

07 July 2015

Disappointing webinar today

I was so excited for Aromahead Intsitute's webinar this afternoon featuring Andrea Butje. Her YouTube videos are great. Very helpful. The webinar was to be "Aromatherapy for Natural Living: Reduce Allergies Naturally."

I got home from work early and hurried to log on and I waited. And when it was finally time to start, my screen changed and ... I got an error message and could not access the webinar.

The error message read "SELECT * FROM users WHERE webid='9ejmwqe6n' GROUP BY name ORDER BY userid DESC 2 real names failed Got error 28 from storage engine." I have no clue what that meant nor do I really care to be honest. I just know I rushed home, skipped lunch and ... nothing.

I tried a couple minutes later and now I get "Page cannot be displayed." Hopefully her PDFs will still be available as promised.

04 July 2015

Morning scents

Started my morning with a mix of lavender & peppermint. Interesting combo.  What is YOUR favorite way to start your day?

02 July 2015

Vick’s Vapor Rub

Vick’s Vapor Rub was and still is a God-send when the kids or I would get sick. This past spring I noticed some Vick’s plants (plectranthus tomentosa) for sale at the nursery so I thought I would try it. I forget the cost of the plant but it is a perennial so if I can do what I want then the cost would very much be worth it. Plants are growing nice – much better than the other herbs in there.  

I am just beginning to experiment with Essential Oils and natural remedies and I would like to try using my little plant to do so. Naturally I turned to the internet for guidance.  

Several sites mention that the smell is stronger when you crush the leaves. This seems kind of obvious. I personally noticed that when I rub a leaf between my fingers, my fingers then smell of that camphor and menthol aroma.  

Feeling congested? Boil some water. Add some crush leaves to hot water. Inhale the steam. For even better results, place a towel over your head. You will feel your airways open. After you are done, leave the bowl sit out and enjoy the aroma. 

My husband has been feeling a bit congested lately. I did this for him and, while he won’t admit it, he is coughing less and he sounds less congested. 

About Plectranthus tomentosa:
I bought my plants at the nursery at Stauffer’s of KisselHill in Lititz back in the spring so I do not recall the price. Lititz (PA) is in Zone 5 and as such all the plants are suitable for that planting zone.

Review: Zoo

ZooZoo by James Patterson

James Patterson has thrilled again with this sci-fi thriller! Biologist Jackson Oz has warned the world for years of changes in the animal kingdom. Almost overnight his worst fears are realized as the animals - wild and domesticated pets - turn on humans. With the help of ecologist-turned wife Chloe Tousignant helps Oz gain the attention of the scientific community. Events worsen as humans find themselves feeling like caged animals while the animals, all operating solely on primal instinct now, roam free. The scientists do finally come up with a cause for the behavioral changes and even a way to fix the issue ... but are humans ready to realize our own impact on the earth and the environment?

The book was a great read and I am so glad I finished it in time for the new CBS series based on the novel. It was a two day read. I simply could not put the book down!

View all my reviews

30 June 2015

Goals met

Usually on days off from the nursery I do not come close to making my goal, which is a conservative 7K steps. Today I got up and walked around our complex - an easy almost 2k. I had some errands to do but really did not feel as though I walked around much. Then tonight before dinner I noticed I was close so I went and took another walk. That one put me at my daily steps and my daily stairs since there was a bit of an incline. In addition I managed to make my daily miles.

Came back in and hydrated and then rubbed a drop of Marjoram Oil on each calf muscle. No cramps whatsoever! Feelin' good.

29 June 2015

Muscle pain relief

I was searching YouTube today for some easy essential oils and natural healing techniques. I came across Andrea Butje's channel. She is with Aromahead Institute and is easy to understand and her recipes are simple - which is what I need being quite the beginner!

This particular one (below) is an easy mix for muscle pain relief.

From time to time I will add more that I find helpful.

Book Review: Picture Them Dead

Picture Them DeadPicture Them Dead by Brynn Bonner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I won this little mystery murder through Goodreads. It really was a great read. Sophreena and her friend/roommate Esme have a genealogy service that ties in well with the story. Esme's gift of empathy is beautifully described. It is truly a gift that often can help when researching families and/or crimes.

The characters were well developed. The plot was solid. Even though this was a series book, there was none of that annoying recounting of every other book in the series or otherwise forced transitions. It was a smooth read.

View all my reviews

22 June 2015

Family vacationing on a budget

Families can be stressful sometimes, especially on vacation. Things have never been financially easy for us in our 20+ years of marriage but this year I was determined that we were getting away. The twins are 16 already and soon they will be on their own, like our 22 year old who came home last week to announce she is getting married in the fall and moving to Italy for two years right afterwards. In any case, this vacation – and the point of this post – is vacationing on a shoestring.

Our vacation is a short one (yesterday through Tuesday) and it is relatively close (New Paltz, NY). We left Glenn nag-avate since it was Father’s Day (and this way he could not complain if we went off the beaten track). We took the scenic route up stopping here and there to check out various sites and vistas, including Tobyhanna Lake.

We stopped for lunch at Kerhonkson Diner in Kerhonkson. When we pulled up there was a crowd out front. I assume they were all locals, which of course is always a good sign. The diner staff was very friendly and courteous. The place inside was clean. The helpings were HUGE! The girls split one chicken Cesar salad and still took a leftover box with us. Glenn got a burger and fries – also huge. I chose a shrimp basket that was served on a bed of fries and literally took up the whole plate. All total, with a nice tip, the meal came to $48.

Once in New Paltz, we visited Historic Huguenot Street (on a genealogy/history related visit). It was Family Day so admission was free yesterday.  Afterwards we checked into the hotel before taking a drive through town.

I chose America’s Best Value Inn. The girls, since they are under 17, were free if they stayed in the same room as us. SO one room, two double beds. It is a very clean hotel with a cute little coffee/breakfast nook off the lobby. There is free Wi-Fi, though that doesn’t really matter since I could also have one of the girls Hotspot me through our AT&T phones. There is a very small (two machines and some free weights) fitness room but, sadly, no pool. I do miss swimming. Anyway, I was not really looking for amenities. We are only here from yesterday afternoon (Sunday) through Tuesday morning. The hotel staff, thus far, have been great – very friendly and seemingly conscientious. I would be happier if breakfast would start earlier. It begins at 6 and I am starving already (it’s 5:30 as I write this!). There is no real view from any direction although the hotel is easily accessible from the highway. It is also located right across the street from a Shop Rite, so last we bought some water bottles and some snacks and stuff. The entire stay for the hotel is just $168.
We unloaded the car and freshened up and then drove around a bit. It began to rain so we headed back to grab some dinner. The plan was to grab a quick pizza and head back to the hotel room to eat and relax. Glenn added a hoagie to the order after one of the girls offered to pay for dinner last night.

This morning I woke up to Glenn’s snoring and to find my eczema had really flared up so hopefully today I can find some relief for that since I forgot my lotion at home. Today is an open day, meaning I have nothing lined up yet – just a nice (hopefully) day together!
Expenses so far:
$  48 ... Lunch
$168 ... Hotel
$216 total spent

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015

19 June 2015

Beginning my journey with essential oils

I recognize the importance of essential oils and really want to be more holistic in my Journey ... but I feel like such a noob! So I tuned to YouTube and found Oils with Miss Jess. In this particular one, she discusses the three oils she started with: lavender, lemon, and peppermint.

Peppermint is one of the ones I bought first too!

18 June 2015

Refocusing, restructuring and a re-introduction

Welcome! I am Jeanne and - as you can see - we are undergoing a major change here. I do not write on a freelance basis as much as I was and my interests have taken on a more simplified direction. I wanted something separate from my genealogy blog, which is quite active.

Join me in a Journey to a Better Us! We will cover subjects such as health and fitness (and my addiction to my new Fitbit), and gardening (love my fairy gardens!) and essential oils (I have just started to delve there) as well as a variety of other topics. As you read along please feel free to make (constructive) suggestions or even write a guest post!

In the next few weeks, I will be tidying up quite a bit so please excuse the dust!

02 June 2015

Review: A Dilly of a Death

A Dilly of a Death (China Bayles, #12)A Dilly of a Death by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another great little murder mystery by Susan Witting Albert. China finds herself in the middle of things again as small town Pecan Springs prepares for the annual Pickle Festival. Ruby's daughter Amy shows up with some unexpected surprises of her own. Sheila's unsolved murder and string of burglaries may get her canned. McQuaid's first client winds up pickled. Pickle Fest gets cancelled after the Pickle Queen shows up dead. Everything is related and China is right there in the middle again!

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30 May 2015

Keeping clean

My Fitbit would not charge the last few days. The battery shows I was only at medium so I was not too frightfully worried but all the same today is my day off work so fixing it was on my very long to do list!

It had been working fine and still tracked my steps with no issue but when I plugged it in to my USB cable, nothing happened. I changed USB ports and still nothing. Everyone on Fitbit's Facebook page raves about their customer service and how if you loose or break yours that the company will send out a replacement. That is great to know but, being married to a techie for the past 20+ years, I just knew their would be a fix. And there was ... my toothbrush!

Reading through the Help section on chargers not working, one of the articles mentioned cleaning. I wiped down my charger and still nothing so I read a bit more. The contact part itself needed cleaned and Fitbit suggested using my toothbrush or a toothpick to clean it. I opted for the toothbrush (time for a new one anyway!).

My charger was cruddy. It never dawned on me that working outside in a nursery all day, I do tend to sweat and get dirty. Everything does!

Hopefully this fix will work. I have it charging right now and at least it shows that it is charging. Before it did not even read that much! So my advice ... remember to clean your Fitbit!

29 May 2015

Review: Indigo Dying

Indigo Dying (China Bayles, #11)Indigo Dying by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great read. New characters were nice. Love the way Susan Wittig Albert weaves in information on herbs - in this case indigo - and dying of colors. Nice twist concerning the murderer. Fast little read. Seemed as soon as I started, it was over already.

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24 May 2015

Review: Bloodroot

Bloodroot (China Bayles, #10)Bloodroot by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this one! Susan Wittig Albert has done it again. Ex lawyer now herb shop owner China Bayles returns to her family home only to discover an incredible family history. Being a genealogist myself, I have to admit I was hooked. A great little who done it mixed in with some old family secrets/mysteries coming to light.

I am reading the series in order and the change of scenery was a welcome change. In addition, Mississippi and Texas are different growing zones, so new herbs were introduced as well.

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22 May 2015

Review: Mistletoe Man

Mistletoe Man (China Bayles, #9)Mistletoe Man by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finally - a surprise! I've been following China Bayles (ex lawyer now herb shop owner and modern Jessica Fletcher)and her friends now for some time and this time Susan Witting Albert finally surprised me! Well done.

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16 May 2015

Review: Lavender Lies

Lavender Lies (China Bayles, #8)Lavender Lies by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Much better than Chile Death! Amidst plans for China and McQuaid's marriage, they solve two murders and uncover several other secrets in the small town of Pecan Springs. I have followed China Bayles and her friends from the beginning novel (Thyme of Death) and this one was the first I which I was truly surprised by the ending!

Susan Wittig Albert does a great job making this fictional town come to life and seem real. I've already got my copy of Mistletoe Man and can not wait to see what China and her friends uncover in this one.

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13 May 2015

Review: Chile Death

Chile Death (China Bayles, #7)Chile Death by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Love this little series about China Bayles - an former lawyer turned herb shop owner - but this one read differently than the ones prior. It seemed slow to get moving on the mystery so much so that it seemed only to be about China and McQuaid's relationship for the first 100 or so pages. Finally a murder occurred then ... but even so, it did not seem to be the focus of the book. It was almost like an afterthought. That said, I do enjoy Susan Wittig Albert's writing and already have the next book in the series ready to read!

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05 May 2015

Review: Love Lies Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding (China Bayles, #6)Love Lies Bleeding by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love the China Bayles series ... normally. This one just did not grab me. The affair between McQuaid and Margaret was disappointing. A real let down on behalf of McQuaid. The dirty Ranger was just way too obvious. I like how the characters - for the most part - stay true to themselves, the obvious exception being McQuaid, through the series. Dorothy's past life was a bit of a surprise for a brief moment but even that really was not a grabber. I do like the way the town and surrounding areas are given life, as if a character in and of themselves.

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26 April 2015

Review: Second Street Station: A Mary Handley Mystery

Second Street Station: A Mary Handley MysterySecond Street Station: A Mary Handley Mystery by Lawrence H. Levy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second Street Station is a delightful read. Historical figures, such as Edison and Telsa, play key roles in the story. A female hired by the Brooklyn Police Department was a great protagonist. Loved watching her mind work and unravel the mysteries before her.

My only disappointment was near the end when Mary discovers the fate of the Chungs and revenges their deaths. That part simply felt a little forced. That may have been, however, because the main murder had been solved and the case was closed.

All the same, I can't wait to see what Mary uncovers next!

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02 April 2015

Review: Finding the Way: From Prussia to a Prarie Homestead

Finding the Way; From Prussia to a Prairie HomesteadFinding the Way; From Prussia to a Prairie Homestead by Alfred Wellnitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An easy read follows Prussian born immigrant Karl Mueller to America. While this is a fictional account, it does include many historically accurate facts and events that many an immigrant faced in the late 1800's. It is a great story, not just of an immigrant's dream, but also of friendship and love.

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22 March 2015

Review: 10th Anniversary

10th Anniversary (Women's Murder Club, #10)10th Anniversary by James Patterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The 10th Anniversary is a great read. The Women's Murder Club solves two crimes in this fast paced mystery. Looking forward to see what Patterson has in store to top this one!

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05 March 2015

Review: The Fifth Gospel

The Fifth GospelThe Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Fifth Gospel, by Ian Caldwell, is a page turner. It grabbed my interest from the opening Historical Note on a literary and a religious level. The novel follows two brothers. One is a Roman Catholic priest. The other is a Greek Catholic priest with a son. Both are intelligent. They grew up and live in Vatican City.

It is set in 2004 at a time when Pope John Paul tried to bring the Catholic Church and the Orthodox back in Communion with each other. A curator, who both brothers knew and had recently helped with an upcoming exhibit, was murdered. One of the brothers is accused. Church secrets, and lesser known facts, are about to be disclosed.

Having grown up Roman Catholic and now Ukrainian Orthodox, the text drew me in. The discussions of the Shroud of Turin, the Diatessaron, the curator’s theory of Jesus and Thomas were most interesting. The “who done it” aspect had me surprised at the outcome. I did figure it out before being told, but not by much.

It left me wanting to go read Caldwell’s previous book The Rule of Four and also feeling the desire to catch up on some religious readings.

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04 February 2015

Sequel to "To Kill A Mockingbird" is expected out this summer

After To Kill a Mockingbird was published by J. B. Lippincott in 1960, Harper Lee set aside Go Set a Watchman and never returned to it. The original manuscript of the novel was considered to have been lost until fall 2014, when her friend and lawyer Tonja Carter re-discovered it! And now ... it's coming out in July!

Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, has announced it has acquired North American rights to Go Set a Watchman which will be published on 14 July 2015.

"In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called Go Set a Watchman. It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout's childhood, persuaded me to write a novel from the point of view of the young Scout," said Harper Lee. 

Go Set a Watchman is set during the mid-1950s and features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father, Atticus. She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father's attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.

Jonathan Burnham, Senior Vice President and Publisher, Harper, says, "This is a remarkable literary event. The existence of Go Set a Watchman was unknown until recently, and its discovery is an extraordinary gift to the many readers and fans of To Kill a Mockingbird. Reading in many ways like a sequel to Harper Lee's classic novel, it is a compelling and ultimately moving narrative about a father and a daughter's relationship, and the life of a small Alabama town living through the racial tensions of the 1950s."

Go Set a Watchman will be published in the UK and Commonwealth by William Heinemann, an imprint of Penguin Random House Inc.

Information above was from a press release from HarperCollins Publishing.

Wikipedia, public domain image