Saturday, February 23, 2013

A bestselling fitness book from a Butte College instructor


"I have a long and colorful diet and exercise history," Lani Muelrath writes, "30 years of constantly battling my weight, being at war with food and with my body, and not having the lasting success or real results I craved." Even workouts weren't working.

What was missing? Balance, what she calls "the three pillars of successful body transformation": exercise, diet and mind-set. In developing a balanced fitness and plant-based food program, and focusing on achievable, motivational goals, Muelrath was able to lose 50 founds (and keep it off) while at the same time eating until she was full (no caloric number crunching) and exercising in a way that didn't take over her life. Her encouraging guidance is available in "Fit Quickies: 5-Minute Targeted Body-Shaping Workouts" ($19.95 in paperback from Alpha Books/Penguin) and at

Muelrath will be speaking and demonstrating her "Fit Quickie" approach Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. at Lyon Books in Chico.

Her book presents fourteen "Fit Quickies" (from "7 Seconds to a Flat Belly" to "Shoulder Shapers") which can stand alone or be part of a regular gym program. Each "Quickie," including repetitions, lasts only about three to five minutes. The key is to isolate the muscles that help shape the body, challenging them so that they "sit up, take notice, and change shape."

The book also provides combinations of Fit Quickies for ten-minute workouts (one bundle focuses on "Bums and Tums"). "Fit Quickies," she writes, "are perfect for revolutionizing your workouts. These research-driven, physical therapist- and exercise physiologist-approved targeted exercises promise to change the shape of your muscles and restore your strength in a refreshing and innovative format."

Muelrath doesn't neglect diet and motivation, either. The calorie-counting "rabbit food" approach only leaves the eater hungry and prone to keep eating. Her approach: "By day's end, if I were to take all the food I ate that day and put it on a big tray, half of it would be starchy veggies and whole grains, and the other half would be high-water-content vegetables." The rule: "Eat when hungry until you're not." As for motivation, "practice for success." When a setback comes, forgive yourself. Evidence shows it's easier to get back on track.

With "Fit Quickies," readers have a wise and compassionate coach.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Upbeat poetry from a Chico writer


Looking for just the right time? Well, consider: "It's not too late / It's not too soon / To watch the stars dance toward the moon. / Paint rainbow colors across the sea / Invite the ladybugs for tea. / Ride the clouds to fairy lands / Grow cookie gardens in the sand. / To see a world where nothing's wrong / And make it so through silly song. ..."

"Just the Right Time: A Magical Mixture of Poetry and Paintings For Folks of All Ages" ($7.99 in paperback from CreateSpace, available in Chico at Lyon Books and Postal Plus) is a collection of poetry by Robyn Alana Engel. It's beautifully illustrated by Robin Mead, "a Mixed Media, Water-coloring, Acrylic using Artist" who uses digital tools for added effect.

According to an author's note, which is worth quoting in full, Engel "is a native Californian and Bay Area migrant who proudly made Chico her home two years ago. Her writing spans various genres, and Robyn is best known for her humorous dating antics. She's published in Being Single Magazine and the Journal of Jewish Communal Services. Currently, Robyn freelances for as a local expert on Sex and Relationships. Besides writing, she enjoys dancing and eating chocolate, though not necessarily in that order nor simultaneously. When she's not working in social services, you'll find Robyn devouring chocolate while blogging at Life by Chocolate,"

The poems, the author says, grew from thinking about the special people in her life. In "Kindred Spirits" the poet writes of "Fragile souls / Enduring ties. // Secrets known / Never shared. // Countless fears / Never scared. // So much achieved / Though never proud. // So much lost / Though not out loud. // My ground / My heart / My love and calm. / My kindred spirit / My soul // My mom."

So much change to face in the modern world! "Back in the Day" "... Courage and valor defined one as great - / Not being a whiney, crazed parent of eight. / Actors could act and performers could sing / Reality shows starred Carson an Bing."

Nevertheless, "No Matter What": "Whatever the season / No matter the reason / May you love beyond fears / And laugh past your tears / May you like what you see / And hear harmony."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chicoan makes a list and checks it twice


For a long time the Carol Williamson had in mind publishing a fill-in-the-blanks reference book that would keep the information about one's life close at hand. As a publicity release puts it: "With all the special dates and events to remember, important checklists to accomplish, valuable documents to keep track of, life just seems to be one giant juggling act."

Now the Chico resident's dream has come to fruition with "Know It All: The Book About You" ($19.99 in paperback from Xlibris at; also available in Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook e-book formats). About the cover, she notes that "my daughter-in-law, Kaci Koistinen ... took the picture of the Oregon Coast with my granddaughter Sarah and her dog Cooper. It signifies how big the world is and how we'll never really 'Know It All.'"

The book begins with a list of topical areas throughout the remainder of the work. Williamson begins with an opportunity to write in must-have telephone numbers (she suggests appliance dealer, baby sitters, piano tuner, plumber, and many more). Scattered throughout are already populated lists, like "Anniversary gifts by years" (for thirty years of marriage, it's still pearls), "Herbs and spices," and a checklist of "Items packed in my car."

I asked Williamson by email why she would want to produce primarily a printed book when so many "get organized" apps were available for computers and smartphones. "People like myself," she responded, "feel more secure that this book is something that whatever the reason, they could just grab it and go. Although there are various apps out there, I really think that people would be more apt to buy this book for convenience. No matter if they are knowledgeable at electronics or not."

Some of the lists are serious, such as "Important things your family should know." It suggests everything from adoption papers and auto registrations to warranties and wills and then provides space to fill in a location code (wallet? file cabinet?). Others are more whimsical, like "Memories to my grandchildren," which includes space to enter "my favorite hiding place" and "my favorite hymn,"; and "Sayings I've made up or lived by."

You could say that here is a book that fills you out without putting on weight.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

A return to Avalon from novelist Darien Gee


Avalon is "a small, simple river town in northern Illinois," but the people there are not so simple. Darien Gee (whose husband, Darrin, has relatives in Chico) returns, after her last novel, "Friendship Bread," with a new Avalon story. "The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society: A Novel" ($26 in hardcover from Ballantine; also available in Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook e-book formats) intertwines the lives of a number of young women, each in search of love, each surprised at how it finally arrives.

This unlikely group is brought together by old Bettie Shelton ("the town fussbudget") "with her mobile scrapbooking business." She pokes her nose into everyone's business. Those she doesn't know she invites to the next meeting. Take thirty-eight-year-old Isabel Kidd. Childless, her dentist husband Bill left her for his assistant, Ava, and they had a child together. Bill died soon after in an accident and Isabel is still trying to put the pieces together. She wants to sell her house and get away.

But Bettie gets to her first. Come to the meeting! What meeting? "'Scrapbooking.' Bettie straightens up to her full height, 4'11". 'I'm president and founder of the Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society, in case you didn't know.'"

Scrapbooking has taken hold in Avalon. (The author provides scrapbooking tips at the end of the novel as well as a series of recipes, including Connie's Mountain Dew Apple Dumplings; there are more resources at For Bettie, "scrapbooking isn't about making things pretty on the page, but about how you feel about the details in life that are special, that feel good. Invite others to take an emotional journey with you. Using textures in your layouts is one of the fastest ways to get people there."

The novel itself is a scrapbook. There's Connie, an outsider who finds belongingness working at Madeline's Tea Salon--now charged with goat-napping. And Yvonne, a plumber who looks like a model, who ends up dating her enemy. Reed and Frances, attempting to adopt a medically-challenged little girl from China. And Ava, who wants desperately to meet Isabel.

There are surprising twists, but Gee ties everything together with a rich texture of memories and the promise that when love seems all but lost--it may not be.