Wednesday, February 26, 2014

star talk live! @ bam

On Monday night, Kurt and I went to see Star Talk Live! at BAM (in the gorgeous opera house) hosted by our favorite astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. We really didn't know what to expect but were looking forward to some entertaining and nerdy science talk. The panel ended up being really stellar (science pun!) and very fun. It featured neuroscientist Heather Berlin, actress and scientist (and vegan cookbook author) Mayim Bialik, comedians Eugene Mirman and Michael Ian Black, and actor Paul Rudd! About a third of the way through the talk, NdGT took a break to introduce a new guest and the crowd erupted. We were sitting in the nosebleeds, so it took me a while to register who was getting so much applause. It was Bill Nye the Science Guy!! So exciting! The talk focused on the brain and how it works and doesn't work and how we research it. The scientists were incredibly knowledgeable and interesting and the comedians interjected random humor throughout. It ended up being very hilarious and entertaining. Who knew science could be so much fun?!

Monday, February 24, 2014

new laptop!

Isn't it beautiful?!?! So my post-graduation (i.e. six years ago) Dell laptop had been on its last leg for a while. I typically only used it for some basic photoshop editing and the internet, but it wasn't even cutting it at that anymore. I've grown quite fond of my iPhone and how it operates and Kurt is a major Apple fan, so I figured it was time I give up my PC days and invest in a Mac. The only problem is they are so expensive! Luckily, I stalked the Apple website for a while and was able to get a discount on a refurbished model with some pretty stellar credentials. Thanks to a solid tax refund and some birthday/Christmas gift cards, it wasn't the most painful purchase ever. And it's so pretty and light and doesn't die the second you unplug it and actually connects to the internet and...the list goes on forever. I'm still getting used to some of the keystrokes and touch pad functions and organization but I think we are going to be very happy together.

etsy // baggu // etsy

Now I need some accessories! After dropping such a huge chunk of money on this thing, I want it to be protected if I ever decide to leave my apartment with it (right now we're in that 'newborn, nobody come near my baby' stage). I'm really digging the leather options I found (isn't the upper left one from South Africa gorgeous?!) but could also be very happy with that graphic Kate Spade version. Decisions, decisions! Which do you like best? Do you have any other sources I should be checking for cute cases/sleeves? Please send your Apple tips my way!!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

[workout wednesday] elements fitness studio and dance motivation fitness

Sadly, this is my last installment of Workout Wednesdays for a while. I finished the 10 classes with Classtivity and had a blast trying out some new studios and classes. I found a lot of the sessions tougher than I thought they would be, but instead of being discouraged forever I'm hoping to keep pushing my boundaries to continue getting stronger/faster/more flexible. Trying all these places was intimidating at first, but eventually I learned that the instructors were there to help and thrilled you were even taking their class. They were all super sweet. (Must be all those exercise endorphins.) So don't be afraid to try a new class and ask questions! And if you hear of any fun classes in NYC that aren't too pricey, send them my way!

[elements fitness studio: cardio boxing/piloxing]     This class ended up being really small (me and two other girls) so we had lots of interaction with the instructor who was really nice and helpful. She broke it up into several different phases like punching cardio, resistance bands, hand weights, mat work, holding balls between our legs etc. so there was never a dull moment. It was a great all around workout with emphasis on toning. The small class was nice, so the teacher could come around and help you with your form if need be. 

[dance motivation fitness]     I was really excited about trying this class. It sounded like fun way to get a cardio workout that didn't feel like work. I like the idea of dancing but really don't do it very often. But I forgot I'm really quite rigid and not a very good dancer and my hips certainly do not move like Beyonce's. When the class got started, I was really floored at how tough the choreography was and how fast it moved. I know that the main point of the class was to keep moving, but I would have rather gotten a few of the steps right instead of flailing around while trying to keep up. (Plus, the class was in one of those dance studios with mirrors everywhere. I know it's good for correcting your form but I would rather not watch myself look like a moron.) So because I was very self conscious, I didn't have very much fun for the first half of the class. Eventually, I started to get the hang of some of the moves (or at least enough to fake it). I looked around and saw all these other ladies having a blast. No one was an amazing dancer and no one cared a bit about what I was doing. So from that point on I tried to let loose, wipe that terrible "I'm frustrated" scowl off my face, and try to have some fun. And it sort of worked! The music was fun and the instructors were really encouraging. I chatted with one of the organizers after class and she said the first time is always a little rough, but they use a lot of the same moves in each class so the more you come the more familiar you become. That's how they get you hooked! :) Anyway, I'm tempted to go back because it has the potential to be a really fun class. I think I will practice some of my Beyonce moves in the privacy of my bedroom first though!

See the previous editions of Workout Wednesday here, here, and here.

Monday, February 17, 2014

snow. soup. snow. repeat.

With all this freezing weather, I've been on a bit of a soup kick. Kurt has solidified his role as pasta master in our house, so I'm hoping to lock down soups as my specialty. Plus, they usually only require some chopping and simmering to get a meal on the table. Bone warming. Easy. Quick! Here are a few of my current favorites that have been in rotation:

[Purple] Carrot Soup     I used this recipe for Coconut Carrot Soup but didn't bother with the coconut flakes. Kurt found some purple carrots* at our local food co-op which gave the soup that awesome color. Next time I might add some cream or not-light coconut milk to give it a little more heft. We've also made it once and sprinkled in some bacon after pureeing (LOVE my immersion blender, btw). You really can't go wrong with bacon :) 

*Did you know carrots weren't always orange?! Apparently they used to come in all sorts of shades (red, yellow, purple etc) until the Dutch bred them to match their national color. Now it's really hard to find the other colors! 
**Also, don't peel your carrots. Most of the nutrients live in the outer layers of the skin, so just give them a good scrub before chopping.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili     I started with this recipe as my inspiration for quantities, but used sweet potatoes instead of butternut squash, sour cream instead of yogurt, and added some chicken sausage. I also used cumin instead of coriander and oregano. I think I will use more black beans next time because they get lost in the mix. It's pretty tasty and made a ton, so I'll be eating it all week for lunch. It's great paired with cornbread.

Sausage and Kale Orecchiette Soup     This soup is so tasty but so surprisingly easy. Kurt and I eat an obnoxious amount of kale salads at our house, so this is a nice way to mix it up. I made it once and added white beans to make it more filling, but I like it better without. It's a pretty solid meal on it's own.

So that is what we've been eating to survive the winter. Do you have any favorite soup recipes? I'd love to add some new recipes to our rotation.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

[workout wednesday] synccycling, yoga vida, and cko kickboxing

[syncstudio: synccycling basics]     I had never taken a cycling class before, but people seem fanatical about them so I figured I must be missing out. Since I was a newbie, a basics class sounded like the perfect place to start. It was a bit of a hike from the train in Williamsburg, but the studio seemed fun and inviting and not too intimidatingly hip. The instructor was bright and peppy and was really helpful getting me set up on a bike. There were lots of what seemed like regulars, but I was thankful to see I wasn't the only spinning virgin. The class was really fun! The music was awesome and the moves weren't too hard to follow. It was kind of like doing dance moves on a bike--while riding really hard. The one negative was all that pedaling put a lot of pressure on my right foot (lopsided much?) so I stopped a few times to shake it out. I think having those snazzy clip in shoes would help. Other than that, I had a great time and got a stellar workout. While I liked the vibe of SyncStudio, I don't really see myself trekking back to Williamsburg all that often, so I hope to try the spin class at my YMCA.

[yoga vida: flow with live music]     I convinced Kurt to join me for a weekend yoga outing (in Manhattan no less). I was really excited to try a live music class. Like I've said before, most yoga practices are a bit too hippy for me, so unless they called in a Buddhist monk to play some music, I was looking forward to something different. I'm glad we arrived early because the class was super full. The room was big but there must have been at least 50 people crammed in there. Our teacher was young and really approachable. Since the class was so full, she was walking around a lot and verbally instructed. Luckily, there were some more experienced people in class I could copy when I was lost with just her words. The class was a lot more active than most I've taken but not impossible. It was nice to be challenged but still power through the moves. My shoulders were certainly feeling it the next day though! And the music was really nice. We just had one guy playing a guitar and singing. I honestly didn't notice it all that often, but when I did, it was a nice addition. He was really talented! Live music yoga was great!

[cko kickboxing]     Lesson learned: don't go out the night before you have an exercise class the next morning. I wasn't exactly in fighting shape when I arrived for kickboxing, so my lack of motivation can't be blamed completely on the class, but it wasn't my favorite. After a short orientation on the moves (jabs, hooks, kicks etc) I donned my puffy boxing gloves and started wailing away at these huge punching bags with the rest of the class. I'm not exactly what you would call "tough" so I felt pretty silly trying to beat up this bag. My neighbors were pretty serious about their battle, but I never really got into the fight. We mixed up the punching and kicking with planks and push-ups but they was super awkward with my gloves on. Plus, our instructor was kind of shrill (not sure if that is her nature or just my hangover talking) and I wasn't in the mood for her yelling. So needless to say, the class wasn't really for me. However, other people seemed to like it, so go into it with an open mind and you may awaken your inner boxing champ!

Monday, February 10, 2014

weekend in review

The weekend got kicked off with a fun happy hour and continued on with some tasty, culturally diverse meals (including Vietnamese and French-Caribbean). I had a couple exercise classes and did some wandering around Red Hook before a (what seems like bi-weekly) trip to Ikea. All that action called for some relaxing time at home napping, writing Valentines, and watching lots of Olympics. Go USA!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

[workout wednesday] circuit of change, nalini method, and ymwc

[Circuit of Change: Mindbody Bootcamp]     Kurt and I regularly take this bootcamp class at our YMCA. We love the instructor and the class is a great mix of cardio and strength training. So when I looked over the Classtivity list, I was very intrigued to try a different bootcamp class, especially when it was offered by a place that looks like a yoga studio. I was foolishly skeptical of how hard a workout could be when you're barefoot on a yoga mat (psh! where are the dumb bells?! the steps?! I can't burn calories without my sneakers!) but I quickly learned otherwise. The instructor was an absolute maniac--but it a good way--and the class was like yoga on crack. We were constantly moving, jumping, rolling, bouncing. Up! Down! Punch! Kick! It was super energetic and fast paced. Sometimes the moves were a little complicated, but I felt like as long as I was moving, I was getting some benefit. And before I knew it, we started winding down for a nice long stretch and cool down. Overall, the class was super fun. It would be fun to go back with some girlfriends to get a great workout AND laugh at each other bouncing around and fake punching the air like crazy people.

[Nalini Method]     I'm going to start off by saying this class totally kicked my ass. I went in completely unprepared (see my aforementioned skepticism of bare feet and yoga mats) after a late night on the town and one too many drinks. But even if I had been at my prime, I think it would still have been brutal. The class focused on strength training with weights/body weight and and used some barre methods. The moves were slight but we did what felt like a million reps. Oh the repetition! At one point we were doing leg lifts on the floor with ankle weights and I was nearly in tears. Meanwhile, my superhuman neighbors were barely breaking a sweat. Anyway, once you get past the burning and shaking muscles, it's an incredible workout. The instructor was sweet (but tough) and really helpful. She makes a point to learn everyone's names and encourages you (or corrects your form, in my case) often throughout class. If I can swallow my pride enough, it would be fun good for me to go back. Maybe I should brush up on the podcasts at home first!

[Your Movement Wellness Center: Pilates]     I had never taken a Pilates class before but always assumed it was a more intense version of yoga. I guess they are similar but Pilates seems to flow less smoothly between moves. It also focuses more on strength training specific areas instead of stretching. And I'm pretty terrible at it (not that I'm any sort of expert yogi). A lot of the moves require core strength which I apparently lack completely. Fortunately, the class was really small, so the instructor was able to help me with the moves. I guess you have to start somewhere, so I think once I get a foothold on the basics, it will be a great strength building addition to my regular routine. I'm hoping to find a class at the Y and start building some nonexistent abs! Any Pilates tips out there?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

puppy bowl x

On Saturday, Kurt and I could not pass up the opportunity to witness the cuteness that is the Puppy Bowl (Animal Planet's attempt to compete with the Super Bowl). We braved the crowds of out of town football fans to see the exhibit at the Discovery Channel building in Times Square. The whole set up was hilariously over the top. The dogs were out-of-control adorable. And we had a blast simply watching a bunch of puppies romp around in a ring. It really is a genius idea.

Kurt and I posed with the most well behaved lab ever (please pardon my post-workout 'glow'). He sat so still, I could have sworn he was stuffed.

The arena!

Sometimes the pups were sleepy and took naps. Other times they chewed on all the toys strewn about the 'practice field'. And sometimes they jumped all over their handlers for love. Sounds like the best job ever. I might give up architecture and devote my life to future puppy bowls.

If the puppy bowl wasn't sweet enough to begin with, all the participating 'athletes' were up for adoption and the local ASPCA was on hand to get people matched up. It took some self control to not walk out with a new best friend. Instead, I just bought a t-shirt.

We don't have cable, so I haven't actually seen this year's Puppy Bowl, but I'm hoping to catch some highlights from the main event. Whatever you watched, I hope you had a great Bowl weekend!
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