Tuesday, January 31, 2012

the fitness class experiment: SH'BAM

I stayed for several weeks at my parents house over the Christmas break. One day, my mom, a faithful my less serious life follower, suggested that we try a new class at her gym that many folks may not have heard of for my fitness class experiment, SH'BAM. "Sh'what?" I said. "Exactly." She replied.

I was skeptical to attend another 'dancy' class after Hip Hop HUSTLE. But, for the sake of the experiment and my efforts in encouraging my mom's fitness journey, I said yes. Despite my hesitations, I went in to SH'BAM as regular ole Sara, and I left...well, my friends I left as a Superstar (see Figure 2).

Results. SH'BAM is a pre-choreographed Les Mills workout that pairs simple and fun popular dance moves with popular music. Unlike Hip Hop HUSTLE, each of the 12 tracks in SH'BAM is a completely different dance routine and workout. The class mixes high intensity tracks with lower intensity tracks for an interval style workout that aims to blast an estimated 500 calories per 45-minute class.

So, I'm not sure if what I am about to say discredits my "I am an athlete, I am not a dancer" statement, but I loved this class. After the first track or so I was 100% into it. I was waving my arms as high as I could, floating across the floor with the best of them, and possibly, just possibly adding in my own dance accents just because I could. I'm not sure what came over me, but I was a dancing fool and finished in a sweaty and ecstatic high. This, dear readers, was 45 minutes of workout bliss.

Because this is a Les Mills class (like Body Pump), their website is a great resource for information and details. The dance moves in this class were, for the most part, simple and basic and because the songs were a bit more 'popular' they were easier to follow than those in the hip hop class (I guess I'm just not up to speed on my hip hop music). As noted above, I loved this class and thought it was a moderately intense workout (intensity score = 4). I would most likely re-attend this class, but alas it isn't offered at my gym. Like Hip Hop HUSTLE, no special equipment, clothing, gear, or prior experience is really necessary.

In summary, I surprised myself and really loved SH'BAM, a dance inspired moderately intense cardio workout.

Sh'bam that.

(images 1, 2, 3)

Monday, January 30, 2012

weekend review: noteworthy

Figure 1. In preparation: kale salad with walnut and feta.

Comment: I don't usually comment to much on my weekend review posts, but this meal was so quick to pull together and so delicious it is worthy of note. This tomato-olive relish turned ordinary pan-seared chicken into a Mediterranean-inspired treat, Jenna's (the creator of my beloved caramelized Brussels sprouts) kale salad was crisp and fresh and impressed my boyfriend who hates raw veggies, and the texture of this pearled couscous was a pleasant divergence from the non-pearled variety. 

Figure 3. In preparation: baked polenta pie filled with creamy Parmesan polenta, roasted eggplant, zucchini, squash, and red peppers, a homemade tomato sauce, and topped with mozzarella. A cheesy wonderland.

Figure 4. Sunday night's dinner: baked polenta pie, a spinach salad with grape tomatoes, cucumbers, and toasted pine nuts, and nut and seed bread.

Comment: Polenta is amazing. And this baked polenta pie is even more amazing. It is similar to lasagna except the noodles are replaced with an amazingly creamy and smooth polenta base. This, accompanied by glorious roasted vegetables and decadent cheese make this dish AMAZING. You must make this dish, and make it soon my friends. You will not be disappointed.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

the unexpected color combination experiment

Background. Remember when you thought that your top had to match your shoes, or that black didn't go with brown, or when the idea of pink and red together in one outfit made you cringe? It wasn't too long ago that I subscribed to these fashion 'rules' myself. That is until I discovered that fashion, specifically color combinations in fashion, is much more fluid than the 'no black and brown together' mentality. Fashion is about pushing boundaries and one of the most direct ways to do this is with unexpected color combinations.

Are you trembling in your fashion boots (that are perfectly coordinated with your fashion bag)? Don't. Just follow along as I dive in and provide you with some unexpectedly colorful fashion inspiration.

Objective. To style four completely different looks using unexpected color combinations to provide excitement to my wardrobe and (hopefully) inspiration to my readers.

Methods. Create four fashionable outfits with a focus on combining colors in an unexpected way. Take photos and record my feelings, others' reactions/complements (if any), comfort, confidence, and overall experience. I hope to push myself to try new things and inspire my readers to get creative with color.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

what i ate wednesday: issue 18

Figure 1. Pre-run fuel: 1/2 banana and coffee.

 Figure 2. Breakfast: a bowl of Kashi GoLean Original mixed with Post Great Grains Raisins, Dates, and Pecans cereal, 1/2 sliced banana, and almond milk.

Figure 3. Lunch: a yogurt bowl with plain Greek yogurt, pumpkin, cinnamon, Nature's Path Optimum Blueberry Cinnamon cereal, a sliced fig, and peanut butter. I need to eat yogurt bowls more often...

 Figure 4. Afternoon snack: (I am a woman of many surprises) a Gala apple and almonds. I also had an un-pictured Nature Valley peanut butter granola bar, because clearly I needed to celebrate national peanut butter day (again).

Figure 5. Dinner: scrambled eggs with ketchup, wild mushroom & herb couscous (Near East), and roasted broccoli and cauliflower doused in balsamic vinegar. I must confess that I centered this dinner around the ketchup. I wanted it and the eggs were merely a delicious vehicle for my ketchup consumption.

Figure 6. Dessert: this 'Dinant' chocolate (a creamy ganache center spiced with cinnamon and bits of speculoos (?) cookies and finished with an enrobing of milk chocolate). See that box on the table behind my hand? I still have all those chocolates to eat. Score.

And that concludes another What I Ate Wednesday (featuring what I ate Tuesday, January 25). I'm not sure what's up with the WIAW image below, but I'm just going with it...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

my less serious day: tick tock

I have no idea why, but reading the mundane details of others' lives captivates me. Since my life is quite fascinating*, I thought I'd change up this week's my less serious day post and give you an hour by hour breakdown.

*If you are fascinated by working out and eating a lot, that is.

5:50 AM. Wake up (even though my alarm was set for 6:00 AM). I am horrible at laying in bed once I'm awake.

5:50 - 6:00 AM. Feed the dog (L), let L pee, let myself pee, and boot up my computer.

6:00 - 6:30 AM. Eat pre-run fuel: 1/2 banana, 1/2 mug black coffee, 1 pint of water. Upload my blog post and check e-mail/facebook/twitter/pinterest/weather.com. The important things in life.

6:30 - 7:30 AM. Workout: 30-minute run at working pace with the pup + post-run walk + stretching. Shower and put PJ's back on.

7:30 - 8:00 AM. Eat breakfast: 2 pints of water + a bowl of Kashi GoLean Original mixed with Post Great Grains Raisin, Date, and Pecan cereals, 1/2 sliced banana, almond milk and more coffee. Enjoy breakfast while reading blogs.

8:00 - 8:20 AM. Dry my hair, get dressed, put on makeup.

Top, cardigan, & skirt: LOFT; belt: Banana outlet; tights: Target; necklace: gifted via mom; shoes: Tsubos.

8:20 - 8:22 AM. Commute to work. Be jealous.

8:22 - 12:30 PM. Work. Ya know, curing cancer and things like that.

12:30 - 1:30 PM. Home for lunch. Pacific Natural roasted red pepper and tomato soup, a piece of whole wheat toast, and a salad beast with spinach, raw cabbage, grape tomatoes, baby Bella mushrooms, roasted red peppers, hummus, and rice vinegar. Eat lunch while watching a ridiculously old episode of Take Home Chef via Netflix. Take outfit pictures, pack afternoon snack, let L out, do not do the dishes.

1:30 - 4:50 PM. Work. And at some point, okay at exactly 3:00, I eat my afternoon snack: a watery Gala apple and almonds

4:50 - 5:30 PM. Drive to the gym and change into workout gear.

5:30 - 6:30 PM. Workout: 60-minute Body Pump class.

6:30 - 8:00 PM. Drive home, feed L and take care of her drama, tidy the house (put those dishes away and fold the laundry), shower, and put PJ's on. Cook dinner.

8:00 - 8:30 PM. Eat dinner on the couch while watching another ridiculously old episode of Take Home Chef (I may have developed a mild crush). Tonight's dinner was caramelized Brussels sprouts with toasted walnuts and sweet potato fries with smoked paprika and drizzled in ketchup.

8:30 - 9:00 PM. Do the dishes and work on my blog. In fact, right now it is 8:42 and I am writing these very words. Creeeepy.

9:00 - 10:00 PM. Turn the computer off, enjoy something mindless on TV, and eat dessert: Quaker Oat Bran cereal and chocolate chips.

10:00 - 10:30 PM. Prep coffee pot for the morning, let L out, get ready for bed, get in bed and read. Asleep by 10:30 PM.

And that, my friends, was all you ever wanted to know and more about my less serious day on Monday, January 23.

Monday, January 23, 2012

weekend review: repeater

These two recipes are good enough to make again. And I repeat. Again.

Figure 1. Friday night's dinner: pasta with oven roasted eggplant. goat cheese, and mint.  Pasta previously seen here.

Figure 2. In preparation: salmon with red pepper pesto.

Figure 3. Sunday night's dinner: salmon with red pepper pesto, brown rice pilaf (Near East), and parmesan roasted asparagus. Salmon previously seen here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

my less serious day: pest control

This morning I stood up and had this thought: "I should do the dirty dishes before the pest control guy comes."

I paused and then had this thought: "Last time he was here he got down on my kitchen floor, squashed an ant with his bare hands, and sniffed it."

And then I sat back down.


Jeans: GAP; blouse: J Crew; sweater & necklace: LOFT; shoes: Lucky Brand via Piperlime


This morning began with a cold yet fantastic 1 hour 14 minute run with L at easy pace. 1.14 may seem like a random amount of time to you, but I assure you it is all part of my master plan. I went on a short walk during my day and finished up with a 60-minute RIPPED class (check out Courtney's recent post on RIPPED from an instructor's perspective).


Pre-run I had 1/2 banana, 1/2 mug of black coffee, and 1 pint of water. For breakfast I had a heaping bowl of Kashi GoLean Original mixed with Quaker Oatmeal Squares, chopped dates, 1/2 sliced banana, and almond milk.

Lunch was an Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Tortilla spread with peanut butter, smashed banana, chopped dates, and cinnamon and served as a quesadilla.

On the side two whole raw carrots (yes, I ate them Bugs Bunny style).

My afternoon snack was a Pink Lady apple and almonds. I also had a Fiber One Oats & Chocolate bar before my afternoon workout.

Dinner was Annie's Organic Shells & Aged Wisconsin Cheddar, hard boiled eggs (one whole egg + one egg white), and this (and more) roasted broccoli.

Dessert was this 'Waterloo' chocolate (I'm working my way through a delicious box), white chocolate with a mocha butter cream layered on top of a dark hazelnut praline base.

Note: this post represents what happened in my world on Thursday, January 19. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

what i ate wednesday: issue 17

Figure 1. Breakfast: a bowl of Kashi GoLean Original mixed with Quaker Oatmeal Squares, 1/2 sliced banana, and almond milk.

Figure 2. Mid-morning snack: a Pink Lady apple and almonds.

Figure 3. Lunch (for the camera): a spinach and raw cabbage salad topped with grape tomatoes, raw broccoli & cauliflower, pickled beets, toasted pecans, chopped dates, hummus, balsamic vinegar, and s & p.

Figure 4. Lunch (in reality): this salad got even larger with addition of more raw cabbage/broccoli/cauliflower and added to a mixing bowl so it didn't fall all over the floor upon tossing/eating.

Figure 5. Afternoon snack: dry Quaker Oatmeal Squares and almonds.

Figure 6. Dinner: a baked sweet potato topped with leftover 'healthier' turkey meatballs alongside roasted cabbage. Just so you know, meatballs + sweet potato = perfection.

Figure 7. Dessert: this 'Gent' chocolate (milk chocolate with an almond praline filling, blended with roasted almond bits). You know when something is so good it forces you to close your eyes so you can savor it that much more? This little treat did just that.

And that concludes another What I Ate Wednesday (featuring what I ate Monday, January 16).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

the cereal experiment: Nature's Path Optimum Blueberry Cinnamon

It has been quite some time since I have posted an update to the cereal experiment. When starting this experiment, I was skeptical that I would find many cereal candidates. Turns out, if you look hard enough there are (what seems like) endless options of healthy cereals. Now, I enter a great debate: continue on with this experiment until I have exhausted my options? Or call it quits a bit early and move on to a new, fresh food-related experiment? Or both (i.e., continue this experiment while starting another). If you have an opinion on the matter please express it. In the meantime I should tell you about Nature's Path Optimum Blueberry Cinnamon cereal.

Results. I recently reviewed Nature's Path Organic Optimum Slim cereal and therefore new I was in for a treat when I came across this sister product. Not only does Optimum Blueberry Cinnamon boast that it is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, but it reaches this goal with two of my favorite components: blueberries and cinnamon. The cereal is reminiscent of an one of my old favorites, Cinnamon Toast Crunch. And...if that statement gets your heart pumping like it does mine than this box of cereal is for you.

Optimum Blueberry Cinnamon is texturally noteworthy. It combines crunchy flakes, puffs, twigs, and blueberries for exciting bite after exciting bite. It stays crunchy and turns your milk into a cinnamon-y wonderland. All this for a solid 200 calories per cup. 

Nature's Path Optimum Blueberry Cinnamon is a powerhouse of nutrition. Of note, its protein level is amongst the highest so far (9 grams). This, along with its commendable stats for fiber, fat, and percent of calories from sugar allow this cereal to take 3rd place, just after its slightly more fiber-filled sister product Optimum Slim.

All in all I am a fan of Nature's Path Optimum Blueberry Cinnamon cereal. Next time I get a hankering for Cinnamon Toast Crunch you better believe I'll be reaching for this healthy box, instead.

Monday, January 16, 2012

weekend review: you win some, you lose some

 Figure 1. Saturday afternoon baking: carrot muffins. Win. These carrot muffins are moist and delicious and perfect for a snack or breakfast.

Figure 2. Saturday night's dinner: microwave honey-soy chicken, cauliflower fritters, and roasted green beans. Lose. The oven bag exploded, the marinade went everywhere except the chicken, the chicken was partially undercooked and flavorless. And these cauliflower fritters were okay, after dipping in ketchup, but nothing like I the delicious treat that I had conjured up in my head.

Figure 3. In preparation: homemade 'healthier' turkey meatballs (my first meatball making experience!).

Figure 4. Sunday night's dinner: homemade 'healthier' turkey meatballs over angel hair with roasted broccoli. Win. These meatballs are delicious AND healthy. A big, big, win.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

the fitness class experiment: Hip Hop HUSTLE

Today, the fitness class experiment starts with a bang. A big, hip hop bang. Remember: the goal of this experiment is to step outside of my comfort zone and try new group fitness classes. And then report back and attempt to encourage you, my readers, to do the same. First up: Hip Hop HUSTLE.

If you read my background and introduction post to this experiment, you may remember that this particular group fitness class sends shivers of fear down my spine. I am an athlete. I am not a dancer. Just ask my boyfriend. Rhythm? I don't think so. So, trying a group fitness class called Hip Hop HUSTLE was just down right scary (even this picture makes me a little uncomfortable).

One of my group fitness buddies and I promised each other we would 'man' up and give it a try together. Before class I sat outside the studio waiting for my friend to arrive and the class to begin. I literally had butterflies in my stomach for fear my friend wouldn't show and I would have to face the class alone. Meanwhile, the teacher was warming up decked out in a hip-hoppy outfit and shaking her hips like I have never seen hips shake before. 

After much anticipation my friend showed up and we faced the music, together.

Results. Hip Hop HUSTLE is a per-choreographed class that blends hip hop and dance moves for a moderately intense cardio workout. Each class focuses on one popular hip hop song and the instructor slowly teaches you a choreographed dance routine. Because moves are built slowly one on top of the next, even the most uncoordinated of us (read: me) can follow.

There was shimmying and wiggling and booty shaking and hip rocking and floor slapping and partner grinding and chest shimmying. My face turned red and I probably looked ridiculous, but I laughed while having fun and breaking a sweat. Click here for a video of actual moves from the Hip Hop HUSTLE folks (yes, I actually did these moves).

This class requires a good deal of rhythm and coordination to follow the dance choreography. But, the moves were introduced slowly and for the most part pretty straightforward. My instructor was amazingly supportive and encouraging leading to an overall feeling of enjoyment and welcome-ness. I had fun, but wasn't 100% into all the moves (= enjoyment score of 3.5). By the end of the class I did break a sweat and would rate this workout as moderately intense.

No special equipment, clothing, or other gear was required. No prior experience is really necessary, although if you've been out dancing in the club on a Friday night you are more or less ready to go.

Overall, I liked this class and am happy to have conquered a fear, but I am unlikely to re-attend in the future. I prefer more of an athletic-based and less dance-inspired experience. But, for those of you who like to dance - this is the perfect class.

(images 1, 2, 3)