Catching Katy

Reads, Eats, & Everything Else


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Echelon Fit

I loved spin class when I was a member at a gym (nothing is close enough now where we live) and my husband likes a stationary bike for exercise. Cardio is hard on his knees. So we’ve talked about buying one for at least a year now. Obviously there is a lot of hype around the Peloton and I have numerous friends who have one, so that was a great gauge. But my husband set out to do some comparisons as well.

And boy did he compare. He literally spent weeks comparing different bikes. He got it narrowed down to two – Peloton and Echelon Fit – then did a week or so more of comparing and contrasting. This is not a cheap purchase, so we wanted to be sure about out decision! There were obviously pros and cons for both, but ultimately we went with the Echelon Connect Ex-5 Bike. It was significantly cheaper then the Peloton and still had great reviews. The main complaints were about the app, but we figured we’d try it and at the very least subscribe to the Peloton app instead. And Echelon had a deal that included a free iPad, which we figured would be more useful than a screen connected to the bike. So here’s what we think.

We love it! The shipping took a little while – we pulled the trigger and ordered right when we started to work from home. But it came in one giant (and heavy) box pretty much ready to go. As with anything, it took a little while to put together and some instructions were a little vague, but it wasn’t bad. This was one difference between the Peloton is that they set it up for you. But we also didn’t want anyone in the house by then.

I have already been doing Beachbody for a while, so I don’t use it every day, but my husband uses it most days. He’s had a few issues with the app syncing the workout but overall we’ve loved it! He likes the scenic routes and I’ve done both scenic rides and on-demand classes. There are also live classes, which we have not done yet. The on-demand classes I’ve done so far are great. I’ve tried a handful with different instructors and enjoyed them!

Overall, we love the bike and am so glad it’s an option for at home exercise. Let me know if you have any questions about it!


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Orphan Train

Thanks to my mom for sharing this book! Like the last book, this is a story set in two different times. But the two main characters share a very similar life. Both orphaned at a young age and left to survive the system. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline is still historical fiction but it wasn’t directly set during a World War. Many historical events are happening during the story but they are not the main story. I had no idea that in the 1920s orphans in the northeast were put on trains and taken around the midwest to try to find families, so this was an interesting new piece of history.

Molly is seventeen and has been through many foster families. When she gets in trouble and has to do community service, she ends up at the house of 91-year-old Vivian. She’s there to help her go through her attic and get rid of things, but quickly realizes Vivian doesn’t actually want to get rid of anything. What she begins to learn, though, is that Vivian has a fascinating story and one that mirrors her own, to some degree. Vivian was also orphaned as a child and began an incredible and sometimes horrific life journey at the age of seven.

This was a great quick read and definitely a unique story line. Enjoy!


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The Things We Cannot Say

I have a new favorite book for the year! Of course it’s historical fiction. If you’re not into historical fiction, I apologize, but I am trying to mix it up. It just so happens that the books the keep coming off my holds list or that are available are the historical fiction! I do have a stack of books my mom gave me, though, so I’m working through those and one one is this genre.

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer was great. It jumps back and forth between present day and the start of WWII in Poland. Alina knows she will marry Tomasz when he returns from medical school, but before that happens, the Nazis infiltrate their town near the Germany border. Her family must make tough decisions to survive, including choosing between their own children and keeping the farm up and running for the Nazi but also keeping themselves alive.

In present day, Alice tries hard to balance being there for her dying grandmother, her son with special needs, and the rest of her family. And when her grandmother sends her on an epic journey around the world to find answers from birthplace, she gets way more than she bargained for. I love how Rimmer wrote the timeline and how, as a reader, you were about a step ahead of the characters, but never knowing all of the information at once. It was a very emotional story about love and survival, in both time periods. Even though I keep reading the novels set in WWI and WWII, they’re never the same. There were so many experiences and views of those times that each story is unique. I definitely recommend this one, even if you’re not a huge historical fiction fan. Enjoy!


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The Silver Star

This was a great, quick read and a welcome hiatus from the historical fiction I seem to keep picking up! The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls takes place in the early ’70s, following a family made up of Charlotte, the mom, and her two daughters, Liz and Bean (nickname for Jean). Charlotte disappears occasionally and this time the girls make their way from California back to Virginia to Charlotte’s small hometown of Rye. They find their uncle in the large family house and ultimately end of staying there a while.

The story hits on a lot of issues and is a little heavy at times, but keeps moving along and seems to be fairly accurate of small town life at that time. There are major class issues between the higher ups of the cotton mill, the main employer of the town. Race issues abound as the high schools desegregate. Pride issues flare as the the girls break tradition of their family being at the top of the totem pole, at least for appearances sake. And a major justice issue of one man taking advantage of anything and everything because of his race, gender, and position of power. But does he get what’s coming to him? You’ll have to read to find out!

Again, this was a great quick read – I think I sat down 3 times from start to finish. Great for small reading breaks to break up the monotony of working/living/being at home 24/7. Enjoy!


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The Age of Social Distancing

Well, we’ve been home a month now. Actually 32 days as of this posting. And when I say I’ve been home, I have been home. Like many of us, I have a pre-existing condition, so if I were to catch this nasty virus, it could be really bad. So although my blog now is mostly books, I do have time to post more now! I thought I’d give you a glimpse into what this time looks like for us – married with 2 dogs and no children.

First off, I am very thankful for our situation. We both are still working (from home, obviously) and getting paid. We have a nice house that we bought a year ago (the townhouse would have been more of a struggle) with a fenced in yard in a nice, large walkable neighborhood. And we have each other. I understand that many people – too many – are in a much worse situation because of all this. And we are trying to help where we can.

So what does one do for 32 days at home when not working?

Puzzles. I have always loved puzzles. Did them growing up with my dad. And I actually was already on a puzzle kick before all of this started. I must have sensed something was coming. I have finished 2 since being at home. A friend and I did a puzzle trade and she had the BEST puzzles!

Reading. Again, I’ve been reader. My goal for this year is 50 books. But, I usually read a lot on the train to/from work and not necessarily at home. There are so many more options of things to do at home! So I’m actually one book behind schedule to finish my 50 this year, so I’m working to read more instead of watch tv. But I’ve finished 4 books since stay home day 1.

Movies and TV: We are obviously spending a lot – probably too much – time in front of the TV. There is literally an endless amount of content to watch through all of the streaming services. We don’t even have cable! My favorite movie so far was definitely Knives Out. We also watched Yesterday (it was cute), Clue (yes, the 1985 film based on the board game – it’s still great. It’s on Prime), The Farewell (it was good – dramatic comedy – about half is subtitled), The Zookeeper’s Wife (WWII film – not a happy pick me up but good, though not as good as the book), Aladdin (classic), and Overnight Delivery (we came across this on HBO, from 1998 – it was funny but a little too ridiculous). As far as TV, I’ve kept watching my usual handful of shows, which are one by one reaching their season finales, or in Modern Family‘s case, the full show finale after 11 seasons. But don’t worry – Love Is Blind and Tiger King made it into the mix already and both were binged in no time. Both ridiculous, on different levels, and VERY entertaining. We’re now halfway through season 1 of Community and it’s hilarious – I can’t believe I never watched it!

Get outdoors: I am very thankful that this is happening in spring and not the middle of winter (at least for us southerners). We have been able to get outside a lot and luckily what seemed like non-stop rain the first couple f months of the year has turned to more sunny days. Walks almost daily, both with and without the dogs. Yard work because there’s now no excuse. Even a couple trips to the neighborhood tennis courts so I can practice a new serve and give my better half some “lessons”.

Games: Again, we were already game people. But we’re trying to make a point of not just sitting in front of the tv every night. So we’ve been going through the games. Five Crowns, Wits End, Sequence, Murder Trivia Party and Guesspionage (both Jackbox games), Oregon Trail, and Mario Kart have all made an appearance so far.

Exercise: I was lucky to have already been exercising at home, so this wasn’t much a change for me. Although it does take a little more self-motivation to get up and do it knowing that you’re not leaving the house. But now, a month in, I feel I have finally gotten into a good routine. I’ve kept up with my BeachBody workouts (started a new program last week). And towards the beginning of all this we ordered an Echelon bike that we had been eyeing. We love it (sorry Peloton fanatics) and I’ll do a full post with a review soon.

There’s been FaceTimes and Zoom calls and even a Zoom birthday. Between working every day and all of this, we really can’t complain. Although it will be nice when things can go back to “normal” – even if it is a different normal that usual. We are hopeful that God has a plan in this and that we will all get through this together (but distanced). How are you surviving and keeping busy through all this? Would love to hear!


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The Summer Before the War

I have definitely been on a historical fiction kick lately. Not completely by choice, though, and I’m itching to switch it up a little bit. But they’ve been books I was either reading with friends or became available from my holds list. My last book, Lost Roses, was I think the first WWI historical fiction I had read and it just so turned out that this one was too – just from a very different perspective.

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson begins in England 1914, the summer before the country joins WWI. A young woman, Beatrice, has just been hired to be the new latin teacher at the school in the coastal town of Rye, which is unusual at best. She is a single woman whose money is wrapped up in a trust left by her late father and controlled by her vicious aunt. But she is determined to make a life for herself. She arrives in the summer to get settled and tutor some students. She is quickly taken under the wing of Agatha, who went out on a limb to get her hired as the first female in such a desired teaching position, and her two nephews who are staying for the summer.

The summer turns exciting when the town begins taking in Belgian refugees to do their part in the pre-war effort. This of course comes with plenty of drama as the wealthier class shuffles for recognition, not realizing what is coming for England. As the summer rolls on, Beatrice becomes close with Agatha’s two nephews, Hugh and Daniel, who are polar opposites and stir up some drama of their own. Hugh thinks he is in love with his mentor’s daughter and Daniel is a poet and everything is dramatic.

The war eventually comes to England, and Rye, and the end of the book is a whirlwind of battles, both local and abroad. But I won’t give anything away. The book was a little slow at the beginning but redeemed itself. And fair warning, I did cry a little at the end. I’m just glad I wasn’t riding the train when reading it – thanks corona virus! Can’t wait to discuss with my friends!


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Picture Perfect

Surprisingly, this whole staying at home thing is putting a hitch in my reading challenge. I usually spend 2-2.5 hours reading per day riding the train and before bed, the bulk of that being on the train. So without the train time, I’m quickly falling behind schedule to reach my 50 books for the year. When I’m at home, I gravitate towards tv or doing a puzzle. So I’ll have to come up with some self-motivation to get more home reading time in!

I recently finished Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult. I generally like Picoult’s book – some I love – but this one just fell into the ‘like’ category. The book begins with a woman, waking up in a church cemetery, with amnesia. She doesn’t even remember her name. A cop, who was starting his new job with the LAPD the next day found her. It’s definitely unexpected when she turns out to be an anthropologist, Cassie, who is married to a big shot movie star. That alone is pretty far-fetched. I like my fictional love stories to at least have a bit of plausibility! 🙂 And this movie star, Alex, also has some dark secrets that I guess she slowly remembers.

At the beginning of the book, Cassie has small, momentary flashbacks, which were plausible to me. But then the whole middle of the book is her entire past leading up to the current day – I think it was maybe a week after she woke up in the cemetery. I am not neurology expert, but it seems a little unlikely that a women has amnesia to the point of not remembering her name or any of the decades that happened before she woke up, then miraculously within a week remembers everything from her childhood to how she ended up in the cemetery.

It didn’t help either that there weren’t any characters that I really loved. Cassie was the most likeable, but she also had her moments. Ultimately, the story is a fairy tale gone wrong, which is more realistic, and of a woman who takes back control of her life. Good overall message but the details didn’t do it for me. Let me know what you think if you read it!