Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Favorites

Open letters are everywhere these days, as more and more people use the Internet as an outlet (or a wall to hide behind after spewing things they wouldn't dream of saying in person). Some are good, and some are really bad. Either way, I love reading them and hope to write a few myself sometime.

After reading this one to Gwyneth Paltrow after her unsurprisingly obnoxious statements this week, I thought I'd share a handful of the other ones I like!

1. This one to Miley Cyrus (I know there are more than several).



Have a great weekend! We might hit 60 degrees here on Sunday, so I know I will!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My first "spin"

Even though I go through phases, I consider myself to be in good shape. I cried laughed that thought away this week when I finally had my first “spin” adventure.

I use quotes because – this was news to me but probably not to anyone who knows a thing or two – Spin, like Zumba, is a registered trademark name, so gyms without a Spin license can’t call their similar classes spinning classes. My gym calls it cycle, so I officially took my first cycle class, but from what I’ve heard, it’s basically the same thing. 

Whatever you call it, it has never appealed to me for one pretty big reason: the bike. I strongly dislike riding a bike because not only can I not balance enough to stay upright very long, but the lack of control I feel on one freaks me out. Yes, these are stationary bikes, but if there’s anything I dislike more than trying to stay on a bike, it’s sitting – on anything – but especially on a tiny, uncomfortable “seat.” 

However, my curiosity tends to get the best of me sometimes, and when something is so popular among so many different people, I want to know what all the fuss is about. I’m fascinated by the number of cycle fanatics we get at the gym. The strategies people come up with to make sure they snag a spot in class amaze me.  I was also intrigued by this article responding to claims that too much Spinning gives you bulky thighs. To me, bulky = muscle, and since my legs were not made to be slim to begin with, I’ll take bulky muscle over bulky jello. 

For a few months now, I’ve been wanting to try a class, and my schedule only allows for early morning options. I have even impressed myself by the number of different ways I’ve been able to talk myself out of going, but last weekend I finally gave in.

What I expected
First and foremost, I expected to leave the class a soggy, shaking mess. I also expected a fired-up instructor shouting out commands – and not in the endearing way Jillian does it (in her DVDs at least). I wanted to make sure to grab a bike in the back corner – obviously – because I had a feeling I’d be sitting while everyone was standing and sitting still while everyone else was pedaling up a storm. I was especially nervous about getting the bike situated just right because the last thing I wanted after getting up early to do two of my least favorite things was to not get as much as possible out of my workout. Plus, I don’t have the fancy, clippy spin/cycle shoes so I wanted to figure out the pedal situation. I also assumed capris to be a better option than shorts as to keep the thigh flappage to a minimum.

What happened
What happened is what usually happens on the rare occasion I venture out of my comfort zone: I regretted not doing it sooner. I was so happy to arrive with enough time to choose the perfect spot – middle left, back row. The girl a few bikes down was a newbie too (accompanied by a workout buddy, of course – a foreign concept to me), so I felt less nervous right away. The instructor recognized me from working the front desk and helped me adjust the seat, handle bars and pedals. I don’t know how official Spin bikes are set up, but these pedals were made to accommodate both cycle shoes that clip onto one side of the pedal and regular athletic shoes you stick into a little cage-like contraption with an adjustable strap to tighten around the front of your shoe. 

Before going around the room to help a few other non-experts, she also took the time to explain the screen that displays the time, speed and mileage and how to change gears. Two of my biggest worries were immediately solved – success!

I had heard the seats would be painful, and I have never wished so badly that I had been lied to. 

I’ve got plenty of cushion, but after just 15 minutes sitting in the softest, most comfortable seat imaginable, I get extremely sore, so you can imagine how awesome I was feeling after just one minute on the bike. As people started trickling in, I pedaled along with the rest of the group warming up, desperately trying to fit in and somehow hide the ridiculous amount of squirming I had to do to keep myself from running away and calling it quits. What helped was sitting in the back; it's not only a great spot for hiding – it’s a great spot for people watching, and I was able to keep my mind off the pain a little by being entertained by the rest of the participants, from the super serious to the oddly indifferent.

As luck would have it, five minutes into the class, as I reached down to tighten the shoe straps, I pulled the right one all the way off. Instead of doing the smart thing – switching to the empty bike right next to me –  I tried to just tuck the broken strap under my foot, hoping for the best. It was manageable, but my foot and ankle definitely paid for it later that day and into the next. For the next 55 minutes we climbed hills and did sprint intervals, alternating a lot between pedaling using just the right or left leg, which I hadn't expected or thought of but liked.

Two things surprised me the most: 1. How out of breath I got! I realize it’s a cardio class, but I didn’t expect it be so aerobic, I guess. It was awesome. 2. How sweaty everyone else was. I build up a pretty good sweat just walking across the street (I’m just lucky that way), so seeing how much of a workout it was for everyone else was less embarrassing.

OK, I guess three things surprised me, with the third being how much I loved it. I can’t quite explain the feeling I got when I was standing and pedaling as fast as I possibly could, with music at just the right volume with just the right beat. Even though I was surrounded by others, I felt like I was alone and racing the wind, as corny as that sounds (and there was no wind). It was just very freeing.

The instructor was awesome . She explained things very well and perfectly balanced words of encouragement with just staying silent and letting us do our own thing.  I really like that you’re able to control your own pace and resistance. Of course I was a creep and tried to do exactly what the ripped girl in front of me was doing, but I had no problem switching down gears when the burn was just too much. 

Overall, the only thing I wish I would have done differently (besides not staying on a bike with a broken pedal strap), was how much I pushed myself. I kept trying to save my energy since I didn't know what to expect next, but this resulted in me not getting the best workout I probably could have. My legs still felt it the next day, but not as much as they should have. 

The good news is I can incorporate this lesson into my next class because I will definitely be making this a regular part of my workout routine, and I strongly recommend it to you too if you haven't tried it yet (although, most people probably have since it's been around for quite awhile - but better late than never seems to be my life motto)!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday LEAST Favorites

For someone so passionate about the written word, there are more than a few words I really...really...dislike; I could probably fill pages. So, I thought I'd change up Friday Favorites a little bit today to share five of my least favorite things. We've all got our pet peeves, no matter how odd or trivial they may be. Here are five words I would be happy to never see or hear again:

1. Utilize. I realize there are a handful of situations in which this word is necessary, but more often than not, what you really mean is USE, so just say USE. 'Utilize' does not make you sound intelligent. It does not add value to what you are saying. It is just four extra letters and two extra syllables that

2. Fetus. Because it sounds really gross.

3. Totes. Because you sound like an idiot. It is not cute in any setting - especially in a workplace, where I have unfortunately heard it too many times.

4. That. The next time you read something, be it a paragraph, an article or a book, pay close attention to how often you see the word 'that.' Every time you do, stop and reread the sentence without the word. Does it still make sense? Of course it does. This is the case 95 percent of the time.

5. Fat. This word is not only ugly - it's harmful in the way it's usually used today, and I've had enough. There are better words to use.

Have a good weekend - and clear these out of your vocabulary:)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A glimpse into the life of. . .

              MATT AIKEN
The first of many things I learned working in the unique and crazy world known as the hospitality industry is that it is comprised of quite an assortment of characters - in every sense of the word. 

Today I bring you one of the very best. Matt works in food and beverage management - not only behind the scenes but also directly in front of every client and guest of the hotel restaurant and banquet department. The thought alone of dealing with this many people (not to mention the number of employees he manages as well) day in and day out at the level he does exhausts me. 

He, however, not only goes above and beyond what is required, but does it with an energy and attitude that anyone in any industry would do well do learn from. Never without a joke or smile (or sarcastic comment), you will not walk away from this guy without feeling a little lighter, and what do you know - he's got a few words of advice as well.

Current profession:  Food and beverage operations.

First job ever:  Movie theater concessions employee.
Dream job:  Is that a real thing?  Nothing specific - just needs to have a great work/life balance.
Words of advice for someone pursuing a similar career path:  Take care of you, and everything will be great.

Thus far, what has been your biggest career challenge?  Advancing at the same property.
What is your favorite part about your job?  The connections created between co-workers and guests.

Three words to describe where you're at in life right now:  In the middle.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned throughout your 20s? It is OK to be selfish from time to time.

When you are 50, what do you want to be able to look back and say about your life right now?  That I made the right choices and have been successful in the process.

How do you define success?  $$$ and personal happiness.
What's the secret to your perpetual positive attitude?  Life is too short to freak out about everything. Let things go, swallow your pride, take a bullet for someone else.  The self-wealth is insurmountable.
Who has been your biggest influence, personally or professionally?  Surprisingly, Anthony Stewart-Moore (GM at my current place of work) and my father, Gary.
What hobbies and activities do you enjoy in your spare time?  Playing hockey, lacrosse, racquetball and just being active.  Giving as much as I can to help others.
What is number one on your bucket list?  Go to South Africa’s Wild Coast

Favorite ice cream flavor:  Mint chocolate chip, although I am always trying new flavors since you can pretty much make anything into ice cream. (Agreed)

Thank you, Matthew!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday! This week absolutely flew by. Maybe because we hit 50 degrees!?!? It's amazing what the weather will do to your attitude. On a completely different note, here are five random things I'm loving this week!

1. This mascara - Cover Girl Flamed Out Mascara in black. When it comes to lashes, the bigger, bolder and blacker, the better, I say, and this gives me exactly what I want - with just one coat!

2. Old Spice Wolfthorn deodorant. Old Spice is not just for your dad anymore - or men, for that matter. And I'm pretty sure the company knows it because this is just one of a few scents that smells a little too feminine to not be geared toward women. Plus, I just read this article that proves I'm not alone. Why buy women's "clinical" product or any of the other fluff they try to sell when I really just want something that actually works? The wonderful scent is just a bonus!

3. My crock pot! We received one as a wedding gift, and I used it for the second time in over three years this week. I know they're more of fall/winter thing, but I feel an obsession coming on. I made this four-ingredient barbecue chicken recipe and was unnecessarily and extremely proud of myself.

4. I FINALLY got my hands on one of Ben & Jerry's new core flavors, and the wait was well worth it.

OK, I've maybe tried two now, with the other being the Karamel Sutra Core.

5. Season 3 of "Billy on the Street" began this week! What would I do without my husband and all the magnificent things he gets me addicted to?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Oh, woe is smartphone-less me

Please ignore the scary face - and yes, my cats are my
display pictures.
I am one of maybe 50 people left in this country without a smartphone. I still use the phone I was so excited to get three and a half years ago because it had a sliding keyboard - a huge step up from my bright pink flip phone. 

When smartphones were first all the rage, I didn't really care or pay much attention. Now that they're the norm, I'm starting to feel a little out of touch, and until my husband's unlimited data runs out, my phone will remain hidden as much as possible in public places; you should see some of the looks I get when I have to haul it out - it's like I'm using the giant bag phone my parents kept in the Jeep my sisters and I all drove in high school. 
Yeah, I guess I've always been pretty trendy with my phone usage.

Here are some disadvantages (D) and also some advantages (A) of this great tragedy of mine:

D: It's one of many reasons I feel like an 80-year-old. If I need to borrow a phone and I get handed a smartphone, I really have no idea what to do with it.

D: I'm missing out on so many apps! Navigation apps, weather apps, music apps, fitness apps, health apps, shopping apps - I want you all!

A: I'm not addicted to or constantly looking at my phone.

D: Technology-wise, I feel behind everyone else my age (you know, the impressive age group that's insanely tech savvy?) - and even 10-year-olds!

D: Trying to get to Facebook on my phone is a ridiculous process, but it's easier than getting to any other website, so there is no email, blog, Pinterest, Twitter or LinkedIn-checking on my phone. I only get on Facebook when I am so desperately bored while waiting for something, I don't mind the 10 minutes it takes just to see the first couple of lines on my home page.

A: I'm not addicted to or constantly looking at my phone.

D: I do not have an Instagram account, and I am so jealous of everyone else's! I know you don't have to have a smartphone to use it, but it's just not the same when the pictures are not instant. I still use my little digital camera to take pictures and then go through the whole process of hooking it up to my computer, downloading all the pictures and finally sharing the pictures days or weeks after whatever it is that happened, happened. And just to rub in a little more salt, the pictures aren't even as good as the ones smartphones take.

D: No Skyping over the phone for me - such a shame since everyone probably wants to not only converse with me daily but look at me too.

A: I'm not addicted to or constantly looking at my phone.

D: I can't use my phone as a boarding pass. No, I don't fly often, but when I do, it would be one small thing to make the process an easier and smoother one.

D: I definitely cannot stream music from my phone.

A: I'm not addicted to or constantly looking at my phone.

OK, so are you noticing a pattern here? Yes, the benefits outweigh the downsides, but besides the price difference, the huge disadvantage of being a smartphone owner is the power it holds over you. Seriously, people, look at yourselves (I'm sure you are right now, actually, using your mirror app to fix your hair before taking and posting your fifth selfie of the day). Everywhere I look, I only see the tops of people's heads - and it's not because I'm some five-foot-two giant. It's because you are all looking at your phones ALL.THE.TIME.

On a date? Scrolling through your phone. Out to dinner with friends? You're all checking your phones instead of talking to the people you're actually sitting across from. At a movie? Sporting event? Wedding? At the cash register? Bar mitzvah? Family reunion? Church? Your kid's concert? Justin Timberlake's concert? Same thing. And this is coming from someone who avoids as much human interaction as I can get away with.

I'm sure what you're looking at is fascinating, and I know it's important to stay and feel connected, but at what cost? When I finally have a smartphone of my very own, I know I will be tempted to behave the exact same way. I totally get it, and I don't even have one. But what I've observed as an outsider to this trend that's not even much of a trend anymore is that life still happens outside of those screens, and you can miss out on a lot if you're not careful. Make the effort to spend a little less time on your phones and a little more time living your lives. I promise you won't regret it.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday Favorites

The phrase, "It's the little things that matter" may be exhausted, but it's as true as ever. It's easy to take things for granted, but making a point to appreciate all the little moments that happen during each day and week can make a difference in your attitude. Here are 8 of my favorite moments from this past week:

1. Finding out I'm getting a . . . NEPHEW!

I'm so excited! My sister and her husband will be amazing parents - and this little boy will learn all about how to respect and value women:)

2. Reconnecting with friends I haven't talked to for a while. I think Facebook is good and bad for friendships. It's great to be able to keep up on friends' lives through pictures and posts, but 'liking' their life events rather than having actual conversations about them is not a good habit to get into.

I've never thrown out a #TBT. . . but how about #TBFF (throwbackfridayfavorites)

3. Getting some great advice from my younger sister. I'm supposed to be the older, wiser one, but I'm not. I called her to talk about a "woe is me" situation, but she just gave me some blunt words of wisdom, and for that I am thankful.

One of my favorite pictures of us
4. Having my current favorite song come on the radio.

Does Ingrid Michaelson have any bad songs? No. She is divine, and lately I can't get enough of her "Girls Chase Boys."  Lucky for me, it came on right when I needed something to crank up and screech sing along to.

5. Mixing up the workout routine. On nights I only have 30 minutes to run on a treadmill, I have a couple of go-to routines I usually turn to. But I recently saw a 15-minute workout in Fitness that looked fun, so I doubled it and went for it. It wasn't as intense as what I normally would have done, but it was hard! I really didn't expect it to be that hard, and it was fun to do something new!

                     Set the incline to 10.0
                     Time(min)                               Speed(mph)
                     0 to 3                                      3.0
                     3 to 4                                      4.0
                     4 to 5                                      5.0
                     5 to 6                                      6.0
                     6 to 7                                      3.0
                     Minutes 7 to 15: Repeat the sequence in           
                     minutes 3 to 7 twice more.

6. The pure happiness and feeling of peace I get while lying in bed each night snuggled up to my husband and our furry little angels:)

        I love knowing that no matter what life throws at us, we are in it together.

7. Snagging the last bag of frozen fruit that's on sale at Target! Smooooooothies!!!


8. Seeing the snow start to melt from gradually warmer weather.


Have a good weekend, and 
take a moment to appreciate the small things:)