Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I can't believe this weekend is Superbowl Sunday. Fun with friends, little nibbles, great commercials... And, oh yah, the game!

Last year, I shared a few delicious Beer Cocktails. And this year, I highly recommend you make Party Mix... The Very Best Superbowl Party Mix!

This recipe is from the kitchen of our dear relatives, Jan & Doug. They've been making this for family get togethers ever since I can remember. And, it's always everyone's favorite.

I made a big batch this past weekend and it couldn't have been easier to prepare. Enjoy and happy game day!

The Very Best Superbowl Party Mix 
6 tablespoons butter
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Lawry's salt
4 cups Chex cereal
2 cups Cheerios cereal
1 cup small pretzels
3/4 cup mixed nuts (roasted, salted)
3/4 cup cashew pieces (roasted, salted)

Melt the butter, Worcestershire sauce and Lawry's salt on the stove until combined. Pour the melted sauce over the Chex cereal, Cheerios cereal, pretzels, mixed nuts and cashew pieces. Mix ingredients together thoroughly and place on large sheet pan or roasting pan. Bake at 225 degrees for one hour. Stir well every 20 minutes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Modern Workout Day 2:: SOUL CYCLE

Finally, my body has stopped hurting from last week's AEROBARRE workout! While it was SO much fun and I can't wait to go back... This week had a new exercise adventure: SOUL CYCLE.

Now, don't get me wrong, I attend spin class often, as it's my favorite fitness routine. I guess you could call me a "regular", as I tend to go to the same place, with the same instructor, at the same time... But, no more!

At the Tribeca studio, some classes fill up almost the second they open for the week ahead. The 6:00PM session with Charlee falls into that category. This past weekend, I was lucky enough to score a last minute spot. I don't think I knew what I was in for!

The 60-bike studio was completely full (surprising to me being Saturday evening in New York). As I looked around, I almost had to laugh. There was some sort of memo I didn't receive: all the guys were wearing beanie caps and the girls, bandanas... Only during warm-up, of course. Was I at the gym, or a club?

All that aside, the second class began, I knew it was going to be awesome! The music was a combination of pop mixes, upbeat instrumentals and hip-hop. I had so much energy I almost forgot I was peddling (at a sprinting pace).

SOUL CYCLE has a way of combining a typical spin routine with an upper body workout of push-ups, weights and core exercises. What I loved most about this class was that every routine made me feel like I was dancing... Honestly, as I questioned above, "was I at the gym or a club"? It made the workout so much fun!

The ride was the most intense session I've had, since first attending the studio. And, no wonder there is a "cultish" following. At the end of this cardio party, I felt proud and energized.

*Images via Soul Cycle

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

DIY:: Eucalyptus Bath Sachet

Unfortunately, it's that time of year. Both the Mr. and I spent the weekend sick with some sort of never-ending cough/cold. After several days of rest, soup and lots of water, we're starting to feel better. Thank goodness!

During our Saturday of doing nothing, however, I spent time catching up on some recent magazines I hadn't yet read. In the January issue of Martha Stewart, I found this simple solution to help clear congestion and create a spa-like bathroom, in your own home.

The scent of Eucalyptus is energizing and refreshing; especially appealing when you're feeling a little under the weather.

To make the sachet, you only need a few items: fresh eucalyptus (available at Whole Foods), one coffee filter and small piece of twine/string.

Simply place the eucalyptus into the coffee filter and secure with a tie. Hang the sachet from the shower faucet. As the hot water runs, the healing essence of the eucalyptus will perfume your bathroom and clear your sinuses. Ah, it's a good thing.

*Image via Martha Stewart Living

Monday, January 14, 2013

Modern Workout Day 1:: AEROBARRE

Last week, I announced my need for a new fitness challenge. No longer will I simply "go through the motions" of my daily workout, but I will fully commit to new challenges, beyond my comfort zone!

This new exercise routine kicked-off Wednesday evening. My sister-in-law, Trish, chose the class and studio: AEROBARRE at AEROSPACE. AEROBARRE is an amazing ballet, boxing and sculpting workout that takes the grace of a ballerina and the grit of a boxer and fuses them together for an original workout that stays true to their arts and provides the most balanced workout you may ever experience.

Founders Michael Olajide, Jr. and Leila Fazel teach almost every class at this celebrity-packed studio, so it was no surprise that Leila started class promptly at 6:00 PM. 

Class opened with a 10 minute warm-up, composed of basic ballet positions and slow movements. We then grabbed a jump rope and weights, for 45 hard minutes of aero-tone intervals.  Jump Rope - Box - Ballet. Jump Rope - Box - Ballet. Jump Rope - Box - Ballet. The combination of these three rotations plays havoc on your muscles. My legs were literally shaking at some points!  

While the cardiovascular intensity of the class was high, the most difficult aspect, being a beginner, was keeping up with the boxing sequences. When I got home, the Mr. had to show me the correct stance and tweak my jabs and punches because I struggled to keep up. I'm determined to get better, however, because the class was so fun!

While this was Trish's first AEROBARRE class, she has been frequenting the gym for over a year now (needless to say, her boxing technique stood out compared to mine, haha). Let's see what she had to say:

"First things first.....GREAT JOB ELLEN!!! You made it through your first class of AEROBARRE! And, despite your claim that your skills as a ballerina had long since faded, you handled the class quite elegantly….putting me to shame.

It’s been just over a year since my first visit to AEROSPACE, and like Ellen my visit was an effort to rejuvenate my workout routine, which had become mundane. You all know what I am talking about…. jamming in the headphones, lifting weights and doing all sorts of other ridiculous exercises to give your toosh a lift, like walking backwards on an inclined treadmill. All this just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.

But then I found AEROSPACE...

I won’t lie, starting at AEROSPACE is demanding. The classes require coordination, endurance and pure perseverance to get through them and the days that follow, as your body works to repair the sore aching muscles. No doubt you will hear the same voice I heard, whispering in my ear “never go back”, but you have to flick that little-horned-pitchfork-armed-demon off your shoulder and tell him to “never come back!.”  I’m glad that I did because after going to a couple classes plus some one-on-one sessions with Leila, it quickly became apparent to me that my previous routine wasn’t mundane but worse, it was motionless, breathless, it was DEAD, DEAD, DEAD!

AEROSPACE resuscitated my whole fitness routine. Even though the classes were challenging and frustrating, the encouragement of the AEROSPACE community kept me going back.  

The progress that I’ve achieved in my jump rope/boxing skills over the past year has been mentally rewarding and has spurred additional motivation to see these skills continue to develop, and not solely focusing on seeing my toosh improve…. although it certainly is a nice perk …….lol!"

*Image via AEROSPACE

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A New Fitness Challenge

About a month ago, as I mindlessly climbed on the elliptical machine, I realized that I had fallen into a fitness rut! Who else has been there? 

As I gave more thought to my lack of motivation... The reason was simple. I've basically had the same gym membership and workout routine, since I graduated from college. My 45 minute, semi-hard workouts certainly had their benefits... But, I've definitely reached a plateau and my muscles have become used to the same repetitive exercies. Hence, I'm not improving my strengh, endurance or flexibility. Ah, yikes... No wonder I'm in need of a change! So, here we go... It's time to shake things up a little bit. 

Over the next few weeks, you'll find me exercising beyond my comfort zone; fully embracing the new world of gym classes NYC has to offer. And don't you worry, each class will be followed by a review, with commentary from not just me, but also my sister-in-law. We're in this together!

Our first class will be tonight at boutique boxing studio, AEROSPACE NYC!

Former middleweight boxing champ Michael Olajide Jr. and ballet dancer Leila Fazel (who also created Ian Schrager’s Agua spas), opened this sleek, industrial-looking fitness center in the meatpacking district in 2005. The studio offers a handful of total-body workout classes, all of which use a variation of techniques that stem from boxing, including the signature Aerobox class, the upper-body-focused Aerosculpt, and Aero3, which, like the rest of the classes offered here, is set to loud dance music and uses only free weights and jump ropes for equipment, focusing on footwork sequences that require not only endurance but quite a bit of coordination. Aerobarre, taught by Fazel, incorporates ballet moves like saut├ęs (jumps) and is designed to give lean, dancerlike results. (NY Magazine).


Monday, January 7, 2013

A Neat & Tidy New Year

While I don't usually make formal resolutions for the New Year, I do believe that January is a time of new beginnings and starting fresh. With the Mr. traveling on business, there was no better time to sweep, scrub and Swiffer our apartment this past weekend. So, today, I'm revealing a few of my favorite ways to achieve a clutter-free home for 2013.

1. European Sponge Cloths - So much better than paper towels... Extremely absorbent and reusable.
2. Smarty Dish - One capsule = Clean, shiny dishes, every time.
3. Wine Glass Cleaner Brush - The rounded shape eliminates all red wine spots and stains.
4. Pretty Dish Soap Bottles - Pour dish soap into pretty bottles to display on your counter.
5. Acrylic Cosmetic Organizer - Arrange cosmetics neatly in an acrylic organizer.
6. method All Purpose Cleaner - Great for any surface and the scent is nice too.
7. Casabella Water Stop Gloves - Always wear glove to prevent dry skin.
8. 1-Litre Shampoo & Conditioner with Pump - Stock up, and use a pump to release the exact amount.
9. Miele Olympus S2121 Canister Vacuum - The BEST vacuum - Perfect for hardwood floors!
10. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser - White walls demand a Magic Eraser. I use mine once per week!
11. Elephant Bank - Have a place to save loose change... It adds up.
12. Vase of Fresh Eucalyptus - A fresh, hoom scent in the winter is invigorating!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pineapple and Mint Infused Water

Clearly, I over-indulged throughout the entire month of December (and maybe the second half of November, too... Shhh)! The chilly weather called for warm mugs of hot chocolate, apple cider and eggnog... And, festive holiday parties had to be celebrated with Champagne.

But now, as we welcome the New Year, I find it hard to say good-bye to all those delicious cups of yummy goodness (so quickly), and hello to just plain water. To ease the transition, I'm going to make this essential beverage a little more fun.

I love to put fruit in my water to make it sweet, yet very low in calories. One of my favorite combinations is Pineapple and Mint. It's extremely flavourful and refreshing. And, only takes a couple minutes to make. The fruit and herb essence develops over time - The longer the water chills in the refrigerator, the better. 

Pineapple and Mint Infused Water
1/4 Pineapple, peeled and sliced thin
8-10 Mint Leaves

Place 8 cups water in a pitcher or large bowl. Add pineapple and mint leaves. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before using for best taste. Keep refrigerated up to 2 days. Strain before serving, if desired. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happiest of Holidays

I'm a little late in wishing everyone the happiest of holidays... So, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Mr. and I just returned from a ten day trip celebrating the season with our family and friends in both Minneapolis, Minnesota and Calgary, Alberta. We had a wonderful time, filled with festive treats, company and cheer!

Today, as we all say hello to Two Thousand Thirteen, I want to wish you, and yours, the very best in the new year! Enjoy, and see you back on the blog!