Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Plan a Local Holiday Outing

The holiday season is an easy time to put your feet up and relax at home, but there are so many ways you can enjoy your time without a) lying around all day, or b) spending a fortune.

Two weeks ago, Eric and I planned such an outing based on this NYC tour put together by The Huffington Post.  It started at Macy's/Herald Square and worked its way up to the Upper East Side, stopping at impressive holiday shop windows, city holiday displays, and tasty treats along the way.

An outing like this is not only free, but also keeps you on your feet for a few hours as you walk around without even noticing the many steps you're taking!

Another bonus is that you can spend some time outdoors!  Getting outside has plenty of benefits, but unfortunately happens too rarely during winter.

To warm up along the way, we stopped at Maison Kayser, as per HuffPo's recommendation to get a croissant and hot chocolate there.  Eric had the croissant and I enjoyed the hot cocoa.

Some shop windows were too crowded for us, as was Rockefeller Center (of course).  These parts, we either rushed through or skipped altogether.

Our favorite windows were those at Saks Fifth Avenue, which portrayed classic fairytales with a New York City twist.

"Once upon a time in New York...
Rumplestiltskin was the most feared spin class instructor in all the land."

"Once upon a time in New York...
Red Riding Hood gasped,
'Oh my, what a bit suite you have...'"

"Once upon a time in New York...
Cinderella fell madly in love
with a pair of designer shoes." 

Overall, it was a really fun afternoon. We enjoyed rating the window displays (some far better than others!) and seeing the city all lit up for the holidays.

Some quick Google searching will undoubtedly churn up something interesting local to your area.  Save it, take notes, do whatever you need to store the information for later.

Then, when the weather's nice, bundle up and head outdoors!

You'll be glad you did :)

Wishing you a bright 2015! 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Friday Features

It's the return of Friday Features!  Lately, I've been seeing more and more articles promoting some research findings that I've been living by for a while. Vindication! Love having a quick link to send to my friends, family, and YOU that unearths and explains some important science that impacts your life.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science
recaps a research study's findings about the negative impact
of e-readers' light on participants sleep quantity and quality,
as well as their alertness and functioning the following day!!

Yet another publication has caught up to the times:
"Nutritional experts say it's time to stop fearing fat."
The article as a whole is tentative, as the title indicates
by placing responsibility on the "nutritional experts."
It goes back and forth, asking expert after expert about their take
on a recent research study.  Some advice holds back,
saying saturated fat is still bad (I'm over it), yet other parts say it like it is:
"Compared with carbohydrates, saturated fats appear to have a neutral effect
on cardiac health and diabetes, he said. 
Compared with trans fats, sugar, and refined carbohyhdrates, saturated fats almost surely are healthier. "  
My takeaway?  The word "healthy" is relative, and
there are more dangerous demons to deal with; fat should be forgiven. 

Suffering from dry hands in this cold weather, 
 Liz & Amanda suggest some worry-free, natural 

Lastly, Laura Shoenfeld, MPH, RD dares you to
Take a Play-cation, with six reasons to back her up!  

That's all for now! 

Enjoy, and have a great weekend :)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Put the Camera Down

Pictures.  I've always been a picture person.  Come to think of it, it's a wonder I didn't invent Instagram, myself!  I was the friend who used to always bring along a disposable camera (remember those?), and then a digital camera (my Canon is my favorite), and now still often insists on bringing a real camera even though our phones take fantastic photos.

I'm the one who shouts "Smile!!" to capture a fun moment.  I snap candids, too.  I photograph, share, scrapbook, and reminisce.   I believe photos are an important tool to hold on to and re-live happy memories.

So why am I daring you to put the camera down?  

Truthfully, I could just as easily tell you to TAKE PICTURES, and maybe someday I will. But for now, this is a dare I have personally been working on this past year.

Last summer, one of my best friends got married.  It was the most beautiful ceremony, followed by the most fun reception.  As a bridesmaid, I was occupied throughout the day and, of course, during the ceremony, so simply couldn't be snapping too many pictures.  Then, during the reception, my instinct jumped in and told me "Go get your camera!  Look how great this is!  Capture it, capture it!"  I ignored it for a while, because I only wanted to be on the dance floor.

Then, when I stepped out for water, I grabbed my camera from my purse before returning to the dance floor. Sure, I'll snap a few fun pics.

Pictures, I got, but I was quickly weary of holding the camera.  I'd had so much fun before picking it up, and now it was a burden. It was small, but I wanted my hands free to wave, shake, and hold others'.  Holding the camera and taking photos would have been nice for the future, but I could tell it would rob me of fully immersing myself in the experience happening here and now.

So I put the camera down.

It sounds small, but any camera-holics like myself will understand how difficult this simple action can be.  I often feel personally responsible for documenting my friends' and family's experiences, so I told myself, "There are professional photographers here. They will do a better job than I ever could. Leave your camera behind and have a ball!"

It was liberating!

Since then, I've made a conscious effort to leave my camera in my bag for the majority of the events I attend.  Celebrating a birthday with friends?  Take a few snaps of the candle-blow, and that'll do.  Attending a concert?  Taking a few great shots is fun, but do I really need one hundred photos of the same stage?  I'm learning to home in on a select few moments that really matter to best capture the memories of the night.  

Now, I'm daring myself and you to put the camera down.  

It's taken a while, but I've become better at knowing when enough is enough.  For example, when I go to a concert, I used to snap photos all night long.  Now, I take one or two in the beginning, and that's it!  I only take out my camera again if there's a particularly cool set design or something.  The photos all end up looking similar anyway, and the same is true of many social events!  Just take what you need and find satisfaction in that.  When, later on--in a week, a month, or six years--you find the photos to review, it'll be enough to recall the experience.

[ Note: This dare does not apply to travel, babies, or puppies.  Never enough photos of babies or puppies. ] 

Do you have fun plans for Christmas, for New Year's Eve?  Great!  Bring a camera, by all means, but don't let it be glued to your hand.  It's great to have your phone to check messages or snap a shot or two for Instagram, but then put it away.  Remain present and enjoy the presence of others.

No need to record every second of the day; just get a few shots to help you savor the memories later, but be sure you create real memories to savor.

Now go out, celebrate and have happy holidays! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Let It Go

Hello, friends! How is your holiday season going??

Last month, I dared you to move on Thanksgiving, and I'm pleased to report I heeded my own advice.  First, I helped my mother in the kitchen with the chopping of manyyyyyy colorful veggies.  Later on, I was able to spend a decent amount of my holiday playing with my cousin's adorable two-year-old!  His energy was contagious and I found myself out of breath more than once just following him around.  I moved around, ate my vegetables, and enjoyed time with my family, so overall it was a happy and healthy holiday.

My Thanksgiving Day

The morning after Thanksgiving, I even went to my old favorite Spinning and yoga classes! It's always fun to visit and work out with my first and favorite instructors.

I've successfully continued easing back into exercise, but what about easing back into BLOGGING?  Hellooooo, please forgive me for my neglect!  Sure, I've checked in with a few fun dares (have you tried sunchokes yet??) and some cool events and products I've had the pleasure of trying out, but I've been too busy working my day job to post as frequently as I used to, and I miss it!! I really do.

So I'm going to start up again, with dares and with tidbits, with info and with --- anything!  I'm simply daring myself to blog more regularly once again, easing back in just like my fitness.

First, let's announce the winners from last month's cookbook giveaway!! Congratulations to Carolyn B. and Debra C.!  You'll each receive a copy of The Paleo Approach cookbook, signed by the author, Dr. Sarah Ballantyne.  Enjoy!!

Next, I want to indulge in a little bloggy #ThrowBackThursday to a few DARES that are relevant once again:

  • It's been a while since I shared with you my obsession with podcasts, but podcast-talk has recently slammed hard into the mainstream thanks to the new hit Serial.  It's different from my previous podcasts in that it's a continuous (true!) story told over time, week after week.  My friend LT got me hooked, and you will be too. if you're looking for a compelling listen, I dare you to check it out--just be sure to start from the beginning!

  • Winter's here, so it's the perfect time to curl up with a warm cup of bone broth.  If you want to know what's up with bone broth--what its nutritional and health benefits are, as well as how you can make it at home--check out this post on bone broth.
Dare You To...

Finally, let's talk about having healthy holidays:

My dare here for the next two-three weeks of holiday parties and meal gatherings is simple: don't stress.  Many people who are health-minded (as you likely are if you're here reading this) will drive themselves nuts by trying to stay "on track" during the holidays.  Eat this, don't eat that... setting unrealistic expectations and then kicking themselves afterwards.

If you're worried about overindulging or eating the "wrong" foods, please remember to forgive yourself and move on.  Stress causes chemical changes in the body that are just as, if not more, unhealthy as some of the foods you might feel badly about eating, so I dare you to let go of this stress!

This time of year should be a joyful time, and while food can be part of the fun and cheer, try focusing on surrounding yourselves with people you love and have a good time. If that means you eat one too many cookies or agree to eat a dish you'd usually steer clear of, then simply know that your decision was just that--a choice. You made a choice, and it's done; let's carry on and enjoy the rest of the party!

Cheers :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ease back into exercise

Health update: I'm finally well again! 

After over a month of pain, my cough has finally disappeared. My recovery makes me really glad I made the hard but healthy choice not to run the 10k in October--definitely the smart decision.  While I was sick, I intentionally stepped back exercise because my lungs couldn't handle it and I really wanted to get better.  There's little glory in coughing myself through a workout, no need to put additional stress on an already stressed body.

BUT, feeling well and ready to work out... how do I get back in?  

For me, it started with walking.  As I explained in my post about not running my 10k, even walking around the city was leaving me short of breath.  So, that's step one: Early in November, I began going on the treadmill on a slight incline, walking at 3.0 mph for 20 - 30 minutes.  Later, I increased to 3.5-4 mph and also added in yoga stretching to warm up my muscles again.

In the second week, I tried the elliptical to get my heart rate up a bit more.  I also did some at-home workouts using DVDs (mostly bodyweight and dumbell exercises).  Finally, I went back on the treadmill and tried to kick it up to a 6mph run.  It lasted a few minutes before my knee woke up and whined to me.  (If only I had a Zero Runner...)

Interestingly, this made me think of Spinning and how much I used to enjoy it.  I had a great teacher until I moved, and I've been unable to find a class I love since.  Trying to get my heart pumping again, though, without shocking my joints, cycling seemed like a great solution.  Dusting off my spin shoes, I tried a few classes near me and immediately found a few teachers I enjoyed enough--if didn't love--and a few I did not.  After so long away from the bike, though, I must say I was happy to be back. After sitting around for so long, I loved the feeling of my heart soaring and then coming down again.  During the cold winter when I'm less inclined to head out for a run, I definitely see myself continuing to spin once a week or so.

This past week, I've done some Pilates and a strength class.  The class involved a lot of switching between exercises--bodyweight and dumbell--with three very short cardio intervals.  I was able to keep up and felt great after.  My legs were quite sore, but the good kind!  My back has felt amazing since I got a massage on my sister's birthday two weeks ago, so I don't want to do anything to upset it (like BODYPUMP, perhaps).  I'll probably continue doing bodyweight exercises (avoiding the barbell for now), yoga, and a bit of cycling; we'll see how it goes!

I'm still figuring out what my new routine will be, but easing back into fitness has finally gotten me to a place where I'm ready to decide and get moving! 

After illness or time off, how do you get back into fitness?