Family Movie Night

Fall is one of my favorite seasons. Not only is the weather in Georgia more cooperative, it’s the best time to have fun with your family! One thing that my husband and I love to do is watch holiday movies together. Since it’s Halloween time, that means we get to watch movies like Hocus PocusThe Nightmare Before Christmas, and The Addams Family. In a couple years, Noah can pick what he wants to watch…but since he’s only 19 months, he’s stuck with what Mama and Dada wants to watch.

Movie time isn’t really complete without awesome snacks. Since I’ve been trying to eat healthier, I’ve had to change my snacking habits. I’ve been relying on SkinnyPop popcorn  recently to get my salty fix. It’s the perfect addition to my healthyish lifestyle. Each serving has between 30 and 50 calories, which is great when I want to eat a ton and not worry about calories as much.

When I was little, my mom and I would watch a ton of movies together. We’d mostly watch Rogers and Hammerstein musicals; some of my favorites are Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and The King and I. We’d always pop popcorn and eat apples. It sounds like a weird combo, but it works. The apples help get the kernels out of your teeth, and you get a wonderful salty-sweet combo. I’m thinking I want to try SkinnyPop’s sea salt and pepper popcorn with a Golden Delicious apple (my favorite). I have a feeling I’m going to adore that combo!

Another snack that my family loves is Chex Mix. We especially love the cheese mix. I think a fun update to the traditional mix would be to add SkinnyPop Aged White Cheddar with all the yummy pretzels and nuts. It would be lighter and more delicious! Other fun add ins could be dried fruit, jerky, and candy…kind of like a combo of Chex Mix and trail mix. 

Once Noah can eat popcorn, I think he’ll love all these snacks! For now, he loves anything crunchy and made from potatoes. His movie snacks can just be apple slices for now. When he’s a little older, I’d love to make more fun snacks, like popcorn balls and ants on a log.

What are your favorite movie snacks? What movies do you look forward to watching this time of year?


Health and Fitness Tech

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If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll know that I’ve been trying to improve my health for some time. As of now, I’ve lost about 25 pounds! I’m really proud of myself for sticking with this, and I owe a lot of it to technology. Fitness and health tech has really improved over the years, and I’ve been using it to my advantage. Here are some apps and sites that have worked for me, and some that I would like to try in the future.

Tried and True Tech that Works for Me


This has been a game changer. Since I got a Fitbit about a year ago, I’ve been focusing on moving more often. I really love the hourly reminders to move. If I’m stuck in my cubicle all day and I feel that buzz on my wrist, I take that opportunity to get more water and walk around the building. I’ve noticed that since I’ve been moving more consistently, my knees definitely hurt less.


I mainly use this app to track my calories. This might sound kinda oblivious, but I really never knew how many calories I was eating…until I tracked it all. Wow. Also, I had no idea that some foods that I thought were “healthy” actually weren’t. MyFitnessPal has really helped me with eating at restaurants. I tend to look at the menu online and try to make a better choice before I go.


I had seen some pins on Pinterest about using your fitness tracker to earn money. Part of me thought it was a scam, and another part of me wanted to try it out. I’m here to tell you that Achievemint is the real deal. You can sync a lot of your fitness apps to it (for me it’s Fitbit and MyFitnessPal) and you accumulate points for doing things like walking and tracking your food and sleep. Once you get 10,000, you get $10. It’s pretty awesome.


Tech I Want to Try

Pocket Yoga

I’ve noticed recently that I’ve had some intense lower back pain. It’s been bad enough that it’s taken my breath away. The closest thing I can compare it to is back contractions during labor, and those weren’t fun. A friend of mine suggested I look into yoga. I found a few moves that are meant to stretch your back, and those have felt wonderful! Now I’m really interested in trying to do yoga more often. I love that the app seems to be dummy proof; there’s a lot of beginner information that I would definitely use.

Couch to 5k

I’m still debating on if I want to start this program or not. I think it would be the next natural progression in my fitness journey, but I also don’t imagine myself as a runner. The 5k I did a few weeks ago was a fun walk. I don’t know if I could run it. However, the whole point of the app is to train me to do it. I think I’m going to look into it more before I make a concrete decision.

Warby Parker

In case you haven’t noticed before, I wear glasses all the time. When I went to the eye doctor earlier this year, I had the hardest time narrowing down what frames I wanted. Warby Parker has this awesome feature that allows you to pick 5 frames and have them sent to your house so you can try them with your outfits and style. I think this is the coolest idea. I could pick my frames while I’m in my pajamas!

Do you have any favorite sites or apps to try?

Happy Birthday!

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It’s my blogging anniversary today! I’ve been playing with this site for 8 years now. Can you believe it?! It’s certainly grown up along the way, and I think I have too.

I started this blog as What Fiction Means, and I intended it to be solely a book review blog. I got bored with that idea pretty quickly. Now it’s morphed into Meaning Beyond Words, a bookish lifestyle blog, and I’m really enjoying the feel of this more. I’m posting more consistently (although I’d like to do it even more), I’m putting more thought and care into my posts and pictures…I’m treating this like a real thing.

I think I’ve grown as a blogger over the years. I’m trying to be a bit more analytical with my book reviews. I still struggle with finding the balance between research paper and simple review, but I think I’m getting there. Adding more lifestyle posts breaks things up, and I hope you guys can connect to me more this way.

Happy 8th birthday blog! Here’s to many more!

Grad School Decisions

grad school

Something that I’ve wanted to do for a while now is get my Masters’ degree. Although getting a pay bump is a huge plus, the main reason I want to get it is because it’s something that I want to do for me. I had always thought that I’d get it in English, then later pursue a Doctorate degree, but since I’m not in education anymore, I don’t really know how much that would benefit me. Now I think I’ve really decided on what I want to do.

I want to get my MLIS (Masters of Library and Information Science).

I think this is going to be a really fun program, with lots of benefits:

I get to be around books all the time.

Sounds like every bookworm’s dream, right? I can look at books all day long! I can check out all the books I want and fulfill my book cravings.

I can help people.

I love that I can help people find their new favorite book. I can also help them with getting their passport, completing a research project, and pretty much everything else they would need.

I can have more time with my son.

This is the big one for me. I’d like to get the dual certification as a media specialist so I can work in a school setting. I would basically have the same schedule as my son, so I can spoil him rotten and spend as much time as possible with him.

I think the one thing that is really holding me back right now is money. If I just get the MLIS without the media specialist certification, I would save myself about $4000. But at the same time…I don’t know if I’d make it back to school again in order to get my certificate. Plus, I’m trying to go back to school with no additional student loans. I’m still paying off my Bachelors’ degree, and I graduated in 2012! I’ve started a little nest egg for school, so slowly I’ll be able to afford it.

Any suggestions on what path I should take and how to afford it? Leave me some comments!

The Celestine Prophecy


A book that has been passed from hand to hand, from friend to friend, since it first appeared in small bookshops across America, THE CELESTINE PROPHECY is a work that has come to light at a time when the world deeply needs to read its words. The story it tells is a gripping one of adventure and discovery, but it is also a guidebook that has the power to crystallize your perceptions of why you are where you are in life…and to direct your steps with a new energy and optimism as you head into tomorrow.

This book certainly seems to promise a lot, doesn’t it?

I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked it up at Books by the Pound (more on this wonderful store in a later post). I thought it would just be a fun, short adventure book. However, I wasn’t expecting to think some deep thoughts, you know what I mean?

The deep thoughts are spiritual-esque in nature; author James Redfield focuses a lot on the concept of synchronicity, meaning that coincidences are more important and insightful that one would originally think. I feel like I agree with that idea somewhat. I’ve had some experiences in my life that lined up a little too perfectly, and I thought that something or someone was working in the background. I started reading The Celestine Prophecy with an open mind because of my previous experiences, and because I’m starting to explore my spirituality a bit more.

The story starts with the male main character (which is nameless, probably to have more of an everyman feel) at a metaphorical crossroads in his life, when “coincidentally” he meets up with an old friend who tells him about a mysterious manuscript in Peru that will totally change his life. Naturally, he hops on a plane the next day and flies to Peru, where he meets with people from different walks of life who are all after the same manuscript.

But what’s in the manuscript?

In this book, there are nine Insights that the characters realize throughout the plot. These Insights, in my super-basic understanding, illustrate the point that everything and everyone is connected to one another, and our interactions are a kind of energy struggle. I don’t necessarily hate this concept, but it’s definitely something new to wrap my brain around. I do feel that we’re all connected, but I don’t know if I necessarily buy the energy struggle idea. There are three more books in the series, and I plan on reading the rest. If anything, I’ll learn more about this interesting topic.

My Journey to a 5K

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If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I’ve been actively trying to work on my health. I’ve been trying to lose weight (rather successfully, I might add), and last weekend I did something I thought I’d never do.

I completed a 5K.

Granted, I walked. But I did it.

And it felt so good.

My work has a wonderful wellness program. We’re able to work out on the clock three times a week. I’ve been doing that as much as I could (and as much as the weather allowed me). On my lunch breaks, I would walk on our walking trail that goes throughout our campus. It’s about a mile, and I’d try to get about two loops in before I had to go back to work. This year we decided to start a weight loss challenge, and rumor has it that I might have won!

Through my health insurance, there are fitness challenges that you can sync with your Fitbit. I’ve been doing that and earning money. I’m saving up so I can get a treadmill!

I’m combining all of this with watching what I eat. I’ve been tracking my food with MyFitnessPal and trying to make smarter choices. I’ve decided that I still want to allow myself to eat the foods I want (meaning fast food and the like), but I have to make better choices when I do.

All of this work made the 5K much better than I thought it would be. The American Heart Association hosted it at a local college, and we basically did three laps around campus. It. Was. Amazing. The weather was perfect, the track was nice and flat, and I had good company with me. Overall, it’s something that I definitely want to try to do again. Maybe one day I can run a 5K!

Where have all the Polish-Americans gone?: Guest Post by Donna Urbikas

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Lately, and surprisingly, there’s been much in the news about Poland, not all very encouraging if you are a student of democracy.  But what about Polish-Americans like me?  What news of us?  Have we all assimilated so quietly and deeply into American culture that our Polish heritage and culture has given way to nothing more than football, hot dogs, and peanut butter?  Shame on us if it has.  Most Americans (defined by their family’s American longevity and multi-ethnic blood) with whom I talk about my book, My Sister’s Mother:  A Memoir of War, Exile, and Stalin’s Siberia, don’t know much about what happened during World War II in Poland, and why it matters in today’s political climate.

For most Americans, World War II began in 1941 with the attack on Pearl Harbor.  By then, Russia or the Soviet Union under Stalin, known as “Uncle Joe” by Americans, was already an ally of America, Britain, and France.  Little attention gets paid in American history books to the crucial fact that it was not only Nazi Germany who attacked Poland in 1939 at the real start of World War II, but also Communist Soviet Russia, only two weeks later.  My mother and sister were caught up in all that when they were deported from what was then eastern Poland by the Soviets to a Siberian labor camp.  The book is also about what it was like growing up with a mother who talked non-stop about her wartime ordeals, my trying to assimilate into American culture, and coming to terms with the fact that I would never have the same bond with my mother that my sister had.

My Sister’s Mother is about that immigrant experience, what it was like growing up Polish-American, accepting the fact that one is never completely at home in the world when war and exile has imposed itself.  What does “home” mean to us Polish-Americans, often with one foot in American culture and the other in Polish culture, stubbornly clinging onto what our parents, grandparents, ancestors experienced?  Those from earlier waves of immigration, before the world wars, whose identity is wrapped up in vestiges of Polish culture tied to church, community, food, and music cling to that almost forgotten identity.  What does “home” mean to any immigrant?  How do we identify?  Who are real Americans?  In the current world developments those questions have taken on a new urgency and challenge our commitments.  It is my desire and hope that some of those questions are answered by the story of our family described in My Sister’s Mother:  A Memoir of War, Exile, and Stalin’s Siberia (University of Wisconsin Press, 2016).


DonnaUrbikas 72 dpi FullColorBorn in Coventry, England, Danuta or “Donna” Urbikas immigrated to the USA with her parents and sister, the subjects of the book, in 1952, settling in Chicago, Illinois, and growing up in the Polish community.  After attending Catholic grade schools and a public high school in Chicago, she graduated from the University of Illinois—Chicago Circle with a degree in biology and began teaching high school biology.

In 1976, she took her first trip to Poland to meet relatives and explore her parents’ home towns.  On the cusp of the Solidarity Movement, her movements were restricted by the Communists and the trip became a significant life experience.  Later, she graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois, with a Master’s Degree in Environmental Engineering.  The author has published her thesis, technical articles, worked as a teaching and research assistant and served as president of the Society of Women Engineers in Chicago, participating in numerous public speaking engagements.  She went on to work as an environmental engineer and project manager in charge of water and wastewater compliance at coal and nuclear power plants and as an industry spokesperson.

The author is a cancer survivor, currently working as an Illinois Licensed Real Estate Broker, community volunteer, and writer, living in Chicago with her husband. My Sister’s Mother is a finalist in 4 award competitions: Chicago Writers Association, Society of Midland Authors, The Midwest Independent Publishing Association, and Foreword INDIES.

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