Wednesday, February 23, 2011

30 Before 30 Update: Zumba

One of the items on my 30 Before 30 list was to try out Zumba. It is offered at my gym and I've been wanting to give it a try for years now. Many of you are probably already familiar with it, but for those that aren't, I will just say that it is basically Latin dance aerobics, with high impact and fast-paced moves that are based on salsa, merengue, hip-hop, etc. You can watch a few videos of Zumba here and here .

Last Thursday I finally psyched myself up enough to give it a go. I'd like to thank my 30 Before 30 List (and my boyfriend) for convincing me to let go of the fear and do some of the things that I'd been putting off for ages. Turns out a lot of people LOVE Zumba. There was a line of people waiting to enter that winded halfway around the gym. The room was warm--very, very warm--and very crowded. The teacher entered and immediately began playing some reggaeton-type music. When she started dancing, it looked like the world's best hip-hop dancer fused with a Latin dancer and then put on fast forward. For the first half hour, I was mostly trying to keep up and not get run over by the people around me. Once I got the hang of it, it was a lot of fun!

Upsides of Zumba: It was quick and high impact, so I was definitely sweating and burning some calories. Unlike many other group classes, it was a lot of fun and didn't feel like I was in a workout class. The music really keeps you going. Some of the women in my class said that some songs have defined moves, so if you learn those, it will make future classes easier. If you are one of those people that likes to work out with mostly women, this may be the class for you. There wasn't a single guy in the class of 40-50 students. And lastly, you could probably use some of these moves out on the town.

A few downsides: It can be difficult to see what the teacher is doing. The dances move so fast that by the time I got one down, we were already on to the next one. The fact that it is high impact can be hard on your joints (my ankle, knee and back have been hurting since Thursday).

If you are thinking of trying Zumba: Wear supportive sneakers, take a water bottle and a towel, and stand where you can get a good view of the teacher's feet. Do not try to hang out in the back because you won't see the moves and won't get in a workout. Most importantly, be able to laugh at yourself. A lot.

Have you tried Zumba? What did you think of it?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Mission for a Long Weekend

Jesse and I drove up to New Jersey this weekend to visit family and friends. My Mom and I hosted a Pampered Chef party on Saturday. It was so much fun! It started at 3 pm and the last of my friends ended up leaving around 11. I am excited about all of the kitchen goodies I was able to order too.

On Sunday we ventured out to the bookstore to get a guide to San Francisco and the wine country areas of California. We are heading there for about five days in late May to play tourist and visit some friends. So far our wish list includes (need to do some editing!): winery tours and tastings, Tartine Bread, Gracias Madre, San Francisco Museum of Art, Chinatown, Girl and the Fig and Muir Woods. I'd love to add Milennium and/or Chez Panisse to that. If you have any suggestions of things to do, see or eat, please let me know.

On Sunday night, we decided to complete a mission. You see, for the past few months, Jesse and I have been obssessed with the Food Network show, "The Best Thing I Ever Ate". Unfortunately, we can't eat about 85% of their picks since they contain meat, but we still make a note of the dishes they mention and their locations for anything that we can eat. A few weeks ago, the coconut cream pie from Ritz Seafood in Voorhees, New Jersey was raved about. Jesse asked if we could go the next time we were visiting my family, since they live about an hour away from Voorhees.

So we went. Here were are waiting for our delicious desserts. Jesse looks less than thrilled in this picture, but I assure you he was excited.

It turns out that the peanut butter banana cream pie was also featured on The Food Network. Since I don't care for coconut, I decided that this would be the dessert I would try. After all, it's famous! And for good reason. The peanut butter was baked into the crust and the whole thing was just spectacular. Even Jesse admitted that my dessert was the best. Don't worry--I shared mine. And it's back to green smoothies and healthy eats as of this morning.

And lastly, the reason we made this trek: the famous coconut cream pie. It was topped with toasted coconut and white chocolate shavings. Jesse loved it and said it was every bit as good as the show said.

If you go, you should know that it is located in a strip mall, you have to bring your own alcohol, the decor is a little "eh" and the tables are close together. However, the seafood is delicious, the servers know the food inside and out, and the desserts are amazing. You need to make a reservation (even for a Sunday night). It's totally worth it for the great eats.

Friday, February 18, 2011

What I've Been Reading Lately

-Save Your Recipes Before It's Too Late, a moving essay by Monica Bhide in Bon Appetit about the importance of food, tradition and family.

-This Washington Post article on vegan eats in Philadelphia. Road trip, anyone?

-This NPR books review of An Exclusive Love by Johanna Adorjan, which is a poignant and beautifully written memoir about the author's grandparents, both Holocaust survivors, that committed suicide together in the early 90's. I was going to write a review of it here, but I think the review captures it perfectly. It's a very small book that packs a big punch.

-A review by Kathy Freston on Crazy Sexy Life of one of the most important books I've read, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. I especially love the last paragraph of the review. I've said it before, but if you haven't read this one, you must.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

30 Before 30 Update: Facial

It took me about a month to compile my 30 Before 30 list. I simply couldn't decide what would make this year particularly stellar AND was actually doable. However, "get a facial" was the first thing I added because it had been on my to-do list for quite some time. When my sister surprised me with one on my birthday, it seemed meant to be.

I had a 60 minute facial at the Aveda Institute here in Washington, DC. Full disclosure: my sister works for Aveda. And I love their products. However, I will still give you my honest opinion of the experience, starting with this: If you go, keep in mind that this is a school and the person doing your facial is a student. This is what makes it very cost-effective. If you go in expecting the same type of experience that you would get at a high-end spa, you will be disappointed. So go in with an open mind, relax and be grateful for all of the money you are saving!

You enter through the retail space, which is both good and bad: it provides a less spa-like experience but is a good opportunity to eye all the products and make a wishlist for later! I was taken upstairs to the waiting room for the treatment area. You could smell the Aveda products in the air! I filled out a form about my skin, allergies, spa experience history and what I wanted to get out of my treatment.

My esthetician brought me back to a curtained-off area where she would be doing my facial. She had me change and then came in with three different essential oils that she had picked based on the form I filled out: vanilla, peppermint and tangerine. She hit the nail on the head since I am allergic to a ton of flowers. I loved them all, but I went with peppermint. She spent the next hour massaging my upper body and feet, and giving me several face mask treatments, steam, extractions, etc. She ended by giving me a short back massage. Everything had a hint of the yummy peppermint-y smell. At each stage, she explained exactly what she was doing and described each product that she was putting on my face. She was so fantastic that there is no way I would have known that she was a student. I was totally relaxed and my skin felt amazing. The only downside is that because there are not actual rooms and only curtains, I could hear conversations going on in the other rooms and in the hallway. At the end, she brought me water, her teacher checked in on my experience and she took me down to the retail space to show me what she used on my face, while repeatedly telling me that purchasing the products was optional. I appreciated that a lot, even if I did buy a whole bunch of them!

If you go: the Washington, DC Aveda Institute is located at 713 7th St, NW in Chinatown. Their number is (202) 824-1624. A 60 minute facial is $50.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My 29th Birthday in Pictures

Beautiful purple orchids that Jesse sent to my office.

My party planning committee: My sister, Allie, and Jesse. Allie arranged for me to have a facial before dinner at Aveda.

Dinner at Co Co. Sala: artichoke tart, guava enchilada.

And the portobello mushroom risotto.

Jesse attached a tag to my owl-themed apron that said, "Hoo's My Favorite Birthday Girl?". I love my adorable dorky boyfriend.

Allie's dessert: sticky toffee pudding cake and ginger coconut ice cream.

Jesse's raspberry and white chocolate dessert.

My birthday dessert: S'more Co Co, which was chocolate creme brulee topped with marshmallows and graham crackers, a small brownie and a chocolate shooter. Delish! Perfect way to end the night! Now it's back to the diet.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

30 Before 30

It's official--only 365 days until I turn the big 3-0! For now, turning 29 today is shocking enough. I figure the only way to gracefully hit 30 is to accomplish some things, big and small, along the way. And so I give you.....

My 30 Before 30 List

1. Try out art journaling
2. Get a facial (I've only ever had one in my life!)
3. Take a Zumba class
4. Meditate for 30 days in a row and blog about the experience
5. Visit Annapolis, MD. I live so close and I've never been.
6. Learn to cook food from a different culture
7. Adopt an animal from either Poplar Springs or Farm Sanctuary. Maybe go visit my adoptee!
8. Travel to a state I've never visited before
9. Travel to a country I've never visited before
10. Go to a Phillies home game at Citizens Bank Park
11. Bake a pie from scratch
12. Take a tour of the US Capitol Building (lived here 11 years and never officially toured it!)
13. Go camping
14. Learn about different types of sea vegetables
15. Volunteer my time for a great cause
16. Bake whoopie pies from scratch
17. Pay off one of my credit cards
18. Create 1, 3 and 5 year goals (personal, professional and financial)
19. Get a full astrology reading
20. Read one book on each of the following places: China, Africa, North Korea, Iran
21. Tour a winery
22. Work up to being able to run a 5k.
23. Get to know Washington, DC better. I spend 95% of my time in Northern VA, Foggy Bottom, Farragut West and DuPont Circle. So much more to explore!
24. Perform a random act of kindness.
25. Go on a picnic.
26. Learn to read a crochet pattern.
27. Lose 50 pounds.
28. Host a New Year's Day brunch (I'd like to make this a tradition!)
29. Go apple picking
30. Spend my 30th birthday somewhere fabulous surrounded by the people I love!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Healthier Junk Food

We had a few friends over this past weekend for a very small Superbowl get-together. I made the nachos that Jesse requested, a not-too-delicious white bean and roasted red pepper dip (must try to work on this recipe), some pizzas we picked up from the Homemade Pizza Company and, my favorite, the "OMG Onion Rings" from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite for Reduction. I'm sure that by now you are very sick of me writing about this cookbook, but I had to tell you all about this recipe. Since I got the book, the picture of her onion rings has been calling to me. I needed to try them!

They take a bit of work to get set up. And if you aren't careful, they can be a little messy to put together. But they are SO good that it doesn't matter at all. I even put them together about two hours before I needed to bake them and stuck them in the fridge until it was time to eat.

Here are the onion rings just prior to going into the oven:

And here they are after coming out of the oven. They were really crispy and even better than fried!

I love, love, love this cookbook!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January Goal Recap and February Intentions

My goals for January were:

-Finish Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. DONE! I thought it was good but not as good as The Corrections. I felt like it could've been edited down a lot. And I should've bought this on my Kindle because it was a pain to lug a book this giant around on the metro. Lesson learned.

-Lose 5 lbs. DONE! In fact, I lost 10.

-Pick an international travel destination for my anywhere-in-the-world tickets. PARTIALLY COMPLETED. We want to go to South Africa, but we need to take some time this upcoming weekend to check out prices, dates, etc. to see if it is feasible. If not, we'll try a different location.

-Get back into a regular yoga/gym routine. IN PROGRESS. I went to the gym with Jesse on Friday night (aren't we so wild and crazy??) and to yoga on Sunday. A massive head cold really got in the way of developing a routine this month, but now I am motivated and ready to keep going.

February Intentions

-Lose 5 more pounds.

-Continue a regular gym/yoga routine.

-Celebrate my birthday (February 10th!) and Valentine's Day with wild abandon!

-Plan out a trip to California and a big one to South Africa (or some other exciting locale!).

-Begin a meditation practice.