A trip down Gluttony Road

I'm not proud of what I'm about to share with you, friends. I have done far, far greater things in my existence than what I accomplished this weekend. As someone who prides herself on being fit and eating healthily, what I am about to show you does not reflect my entire outlook of enjoying a balanced life. Moderation went out the window, and with it, so did a little of my dignity. Follow me, will you, on a trip down Gluttony Road...

Friday night, Eric and I headed to Madison to see the Minneapolis punk band Banner Pilot. I'll write more about that show later, but as this post is dedicated to gluttony in its truest form, we'll begin at a little place called the Paradise Lounge.
The Paradise Lounge is a typical dive bar that serves a very atypical burger: The Dise Burger. The Dise Burger is hands down the best burger I have ever had - and that's saying a lot. It's greasy, oozy, savory and sweet. The lightly-toasted, buttered bun essentially disintegrates in your hands - which is why it is necessary to use a minimum of three napkins while eating.
Nearly every time we visit Madison, a trip to the Dise is a must. It's more an addiction than tradition, I'm afraid. Other things that must happen while at the Dise: You must play $5 worth of songs on the jukebox, and you must drink plenty of these:
We finished up at the Dise at about the same time all our jukebox picks ended. We had a few drinks before heading to the show. After the show, we met up with friends at a nearby bar, where we stayed until after closing. Many of the above were slugged.

We didn't get home until around 3 a.m., which, if you know me, is waaaayyy past my bedtime. And I slept until almost 10 a.m. the next morning, which also is waaaaaayyy past my wake-up time. Needless to say, my body was all sorts of out of whack, and upon my waking I immediately needed water, coffee and something big, delicious and artery-clogging for breakfast. To the Original Pancake House we went!

The Original Pancakes House, in Middleton, is your typical breakfast diner, specializing in pancakes (of course), waffles, gigantic omelets and sweet crepes. It took everything I had not to order the entire menu, but I think I narrowed it down quite well.

First up: The Three Beverages. After a night of imbibing, one beverage simply will not do for me. Coffee is standard, as is water. The third beverage is drinker's choice: either chocolate milk or orange juice. Saturday morning called for chocolate milk.
Apparently, it also called for not one, but two breakfast dishes in one. That's right, my friends, my order for the morning was the bacon waffle:
At first glance, this may just look like a standard waffle, topped with crumbled bacon pieces. Oh no, kiddos, THIS waffle had bacon pieces mixed right into the batter. It was a very special thing.

As if a breakfast dish that actually was two breakfasts in one was not enough, I added to it a side of hashbrowns, which are not pictured because I wolfed them down faster than my shutter speed could catch. The were perfect: crispy on the outside and creamy and soft in the middle. I can't decide if I liked them even moreso than my waffle.

I rolled out of the restaurant feeling completely stuffed. I'm not proud to say that I ate nearly the entire waffle with bacon (I gave Eric a fourth of the waffle) and polished off the hashbrowns, as well. I could have certainly gone the rest of the day without eating.

But, of course, I didn't.

We drove back to Milwaukee, cleaned up, relaxed for about an hour and then headed over to the Downer Theater to catch "The King's Speech." The theater was packed, especially for a 4:20 showing! Apparently, everyone wanted to squeeze this film in before the Oscars. And maybe I'm the only one who thinks this, but I was completely underwhelmed with the movie. Perhaps I went in with such high expectations after hearing from everyone how fantastic it is, but I was just mildly entertained. Colin Firth deserves the Best Actor Oscar for sure, but I'll admit, out of the six Oscar-nominated film I've seen, this is probably my least favorite, with "Black Swan" coming in at the top (I've yet to see "The Social Network," by the way).

After the movie, we walked across the street to Cafe Hollander, and apparently everyone else in the theater had the same idea - it was wall-to-wall in there, and we had to wait about 35 minutes for a table. So we killed some time taking a look at their beer list (Cafe Hollander has over 100 beers to choose from!), and we ended up choosing the same one: The Corsendonk Christmas Ale.
It was a really great beer, with hints of nutmeg and cocoa, but also slightly fruity. I was definitely glad I picked it.

I'd only ever been to Cafe Hollander once before, for brunch. Taking a look at their dinner menu, it was hard to choose! Though I'd just had a beast of a burger the night before, I couldn't turn down the Tulip Turkey Burger, which was topped with Sriracha mayo and bottomed with curried ketchup. 
It was phenomenal. The spicy mayo and curried ketchup complemented each other perfectly - both flavors were distinct, but they mixed so well. The butter-topped bun was soft, sweet and lightly toasted. I was really impressed! But can we please talk about Cafe Hollander's frites?? Ohhhhhh, the frites. A perfect crispy texture and just the right amount of salt. I don't know what they're seasoned with, but they were some of the best fries (excuse me, "frites") I've ever had. I only allowed Eric to eat three of them.
For the third time this weekend, I completely cleaned my plate, and even though I was absolutely stuffed (a recurring theme, you might've picked up), my sweet tooth got the better of me. Eric suggested we try their bread pudding, as bread pudding is one of his favorite desserts. In my nearly 26 years, I have never once tried bread pudding. After tasting the bread pudding a la mode at Cafe Hollander, I realized those 26 years were not complete. It was delicious. It tasted like Christmas drizzled with caramel.
So there you have it, gang - one weekend that probably wrecked the last 10 workouts I've done. And I have to say, it was probably worth it. But oh, how I crave tomorrow's Meatless Monday. Veggies are calling my name. But, you know, right after I polish off this hot chocolate....


Bob Harper Inside Out Method: Pure Burn Super Strength (a Review)

I've already review his Yoga and Cardio Conditioning DVDs, but the final post in my review of Bob Harper's Inside Out Method DVDs is also what I think is the most difficult: Pure Burn Super Strength. This total-body workout focuses most on building muscle while also burning fat. Most of the exercises are based on using lighter weights and higher reps, so your heart rate is constantly up while building strength.

I began the workout with 10 lb weights, which I used for the first set of squats, biceps curls and bent-over rows. When I got to the second set of bent-over rows (while lunging), I had to downgrade to 5 lb weights, and stayed with the 5'ers the rest of the workout (which was about 40-45 minutes longer). I went through plenty of sets of squats, lunges and biceps curls, but the muscle groups that really got the most work throughout the DVD were my shoulders and triceps. Let's just say holding out weights like a "T" for 20 seconds is pure torture. My shoulders were SCREAMING, and even just holding up those measly five pounds was extremely hard work.

You spend about 45 minutes lunging, curling, pressing and extending (the triceps extensions followed by skull crushers made my triceps absolutely melt), and then comes what I believe it the most difficult part of the workout: push-ups into side t-planks. Holding a straight-armed plank, you do a push up and immediately shift your weight to one arm, while holding the other up in the air, and hold the side plank for about 10 seconds until going back down to do another push up, and shifting to the opposite side, then repeat, repeat, repeat. All the plank-holding really exhausted my already burnt-out shoulders, and my abs were shaking holding me up. On the DVD, you can hear the girls groaning, crying out for the torture to end, but Bob just pushes them (and you!) further. I definitely "expressed my frustration" with him during this set.

After the planks from hell, the work out ended with some abs and some light stretching. I definitely felt taxed at the end of this workout, and the high, fast reps made my arms feel like Jello. And though it is supposed to be mostly a strength workout, it's also a test of cardio and endurance, as well. My heart was always pumping hard, and I was dripping sweat at the end.

I feel completely different after Bob's Super Strength workout than I do after a session of P90X. P90X makes me feel pumped up, muscles swollen and absolutely maxed out and shaky to the core. Because lighter weights are used in Bob's workout, I don't have the pumped up feeling, but muscles do burn and they definitely feel tired by the end of the long workout. I figure, in my regular workout routine, I will incorporate one intense P90X upper-body workout, and another day of this Super Strength workout, to keep things balanced and my muscles confused.

I loved this DVD for its focus on the entire body - it's a long workout (about an hour and six minutes total), but that's because you need to hit every part of the body in just one workout. Again, Bob is a stern trainer, but also has that sweet demeanor, reassuring you that you can do everything the trainees on the DVDs are doing (and honestly, you'll be amazed at what they can do!). He gives you a modified, easier option for almost every exercise, so if you feel overwhelmed, you shouldn't feel bad about dropping to your knees every once in a while for the planks.

I'm definitely glad I gave Bob Harper's Inside Out Method DVDs a try - they've got enough similarities to P90X and Insanity that I'm confident doing all the exercises, and they are challenging enough for me to sub them in for a P90X or Insanity workout any day (and sometimes, I feel these workouts may be harder). Bob's a fantastic trainer, and he's a great personality leading you through these workouts. His Inside Out Method DVDs will most definitely be in regular rotation in my workout routine, and I'm happy to have a few more ass-kicking programs to keep me on my toes.


Meatless Mondays

Sometimes, you've got to make some decisions and change things up to make life interesting.
Sometimes, your life is so boring that setting a theme to a particular day's diet really excites you.
Sometimes, you realize you are a hopeless nerd.

I have officially declared the first day of the work week "Meatless Mondays" in my world. No meat, in any form, shall be eaten on Mondays. I've got a good mind to go completely vegan on Mondays. But sometimes you just need a little butter in your life - butter is a thing that should not be ignored. Butter leads to all things good. Like the best cookies on Earth.

I began my conscious journey with Meatless Monday last week, and thought it would be a fun idea to carefully plan and take note of what I'm eating for one day each week (like I said - nerd alert!). Actually, this shouldn't be a difficult undertaking, as there are plenty of days I don't eat meat. I don't often crave meat, and if I do, I've got six other days in which I can mow down some barbecued pork if so inclined.

This week, Meatless Monday consisted of a big bowl of almond-butter and raisin oatmeal, a big-ass Whole Foods salad and some buffalo tofu - an idea inspired from one of my favorite blogs: Carrots 'n Cake

It was my first experience baking tofu, and here's how it went:

I drained the water from the (extra- firm) tofu's package, and then went on to press out any additional water. Seeing as how I don't own a fancy-schmancy tofu press, I opted to use the dishtowel method.
After wrapping the tofu in a clean dish towel, I pressed it down in the most classy of ways: with a cookie sheet and a slow-cooker pot filled with potatoes.
Don't judge. I am not a fancy lady.

After pressing the tofu for about 40 minutes, I unwrapped it and cubed it all up.
Now, many people think plain tofu is tasteless and a little off-putting. Oddball that I am, I tend to enjoy bland foods, so I could gladly eat these chunks of soy au naturel. However, for most people, enjoying tofu means it must have a little kick.
So, I coated the cubes in Frank's hot sauce, dusted on a little Extra Spicy Mrs. Dash and popped them in the oven at 475 degrees for about 15 minutes (until they started to firm up). 

Gang, I know it does not look pretty, but this spicy tofu kicked serious meatless BUTT. On the side, I enjoyed a dinnertime staple: sugar-snap pea stir-fry veggies.

Meatless Monday was a fantastic success! I'm looking forward to keeping this tradition going and hopefully broadening my vegetarian/vegan cooking skills a little more. I often think I could go vegetarian without much regret, and maybe trying my hand at new, flavorful meatless recipes would help make that decision a bit easier. But then again, (and I'm sorry, Wilbur), I don't think I could go the rest of my life without eating another rib again....

Do you have any self-imposed diet restrictions? 
Are you a vegetarian/vegan? If so, send any favorite recipes my way - I'd love to try them!


Bears Nachos and Consolation Cookies

Ooohhh poor Eric. In case you're not a football nut, his beloved Bears lost the NFC Championship to the Packers today. He was so nervous going into the game, saying it was "the biggest football game in his entire life." Well, it seemed like the Bears waited until the 4th quarter to really show up, and it was just too little, too late. The Packers played really well, and now I'm excited that the team from my state is going to be in the Super Bowl! And, seeing as how I absolutely loathe the Steelers, you better believe I am going to be cheering for the Packers with every fiber of my being.

Rewinding to before today's game, we ended up deciding against going to Replay, a sports bar up the street, just because it was going to be so incredibly packed, and we wouldn't be able to sit with our friends anyway. So we opted to watch the game at home. I didn't care either way, but watching at home meant we would need game-time snacks! So I decided to make a little theme pig-out food: Blue-and-orange (Bears colors!) nachos. 
Except... we loaded the nachos up with so much stuff the blue-and-orange motif kind of gets lost. On top of the blue corn tortilla chips, we added chipotle cheddar cheese, diced red pepper and onion, mashed black beans and pickled jalapenos. After popping them in the oven at 375 degrees for about 6-8 minutes, they came out perfect. We were pretty gluttonous, and polished off the entire pan before the first half was over. Looks like that hour of yoga we did this morning was completely wasted. Oops!

Like I mentioned before, the first half of the game was pretty boring. It was such a low-scoring game, and not much exciting was happening. Clearly, it was not holding Mr. Pancakes' attention:
Things didn't look good for the Bears from the get-go, and even around the third quarter, I could tell Eric was feeling defeated. I knew it would ruin his evening, so right after the game ended, I went straight into the kitchen to whip him up a little something that might make him feel better. Some Consolation Cookies, if you will.

These are actually what I've coined my "To-the-Max" Oatmeal Cookies. What makes them so maxed-out? Well, I've loaded them with all things good: Toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, chocolate chips and sweetened, flaked coconut.

I highly recommend these cookies for anyone who's feeling a little down after their team's loss. Except if you're a Bengals fan like me - then you'd be baking them nearly every Sunday, and it wouldn't fare so well for your wasitline.

First, combine all your dry ingredients: oats, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, toasted walnuts, cranberries, coconut and chocolate chips.
 In a separate bowl, cream together your softened butter and brown sugar until it gets nice and fluffy.
Then, add your egg and vanilla to the brown-sugar-butter mixture. Make sure it all gets combined well.
Then, add your dry ingredients to the wet, and beat until just combined.
Finally, dump the dough by the tablespoon (I like to use an ice cream scoop - bigger cookies!) onto your cookie sheet, press them down a bit, and bake! Ten minutes later, you'll get these chewy, comforting little babies, sure to take away any pain that might be lingering in your sports-broken heart.

To-the-Max Oatmeal Cookies (or "Consolation Cookies")
(please note that I halved the recipe so we'd only have about 10 cookies to drown our sorrows in)

3/4 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375.
In a medium sized bowl, stir together the oats, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, walnuts, coconut, cranberries and chocolate chips. 
In another bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and beat until just combined. Don't overmix!
By heaping tablespoon, scoop the dough on a lined baking sheet. Flatten them a bit with your hands. Bake for 10 minutes.


Pardon the Interruption

Breaking away from my usual blog format, I just had to post about the absurdity that was yesterday for me. 

Yesterday, factoring in the windchill, it was -23 degrees in Milwaukee. That's dang cold. And that's about the dang coldest it's been in years (or at least since I've lived here). Murphy's Law states that if there is the possibility for something to go wrong, it usually will - and at the most inopportune moment. Yesterday, I got into my car to go to work, and it would not start. We're not even talking a sputtering go-getter try. It simply would. not. start. What luck! So I went inside, called AAA (Thank you, Dad, for keeping my membership up to date), and was told a local company (I wish I could remember the name) would be there within the hour to give me a jump. Because it was freezing, I asked if the company would call me five mintues before they came, so I could wait inside. They said "certainly," so, I stayed near my phone (while taking in some "Live: With Regis and Kelly" - I'll miss you, Reeg!!) and peered out the window every few minutes waiting for the tow truck to arrive.

Time passed, "Live" ended, and still no call.It was about 10:30 when I really started to get impatient. And it was around 11:15 when I finally called AAA back, inquiring about the status of the tow company. The AAA rep pulled up my info, and informed me that they had  CLOSED MY ORDER because the tow company said they called me, got no answer and then left 10 minutes later. Well, this is an outright lie, because I did not receive one phone call within that timeframe, and, as I was constantly checking out the window, did not see any truck pull up next to my car.

I was honestly irate. I had missed half a day's work for nothing, and finally had to call Eric and have him leave work to jump my car. And it didn't take at first - it took about 10 tries for the engine to finally turn over. Needless to say, I was a little angry on my drive to work, but eventually calmed down (after plucking a couple Pizza Hut cheese bread slices from the office pot luck for lunch). At around 3:00, I went out and started my car, which was comforting to see it actually started on my first try.

And I did the same after work, two hours later. But no such luck.

My car was dead as a doornail, yet again. I flagged down a coworker to try to jump my car, but it wouldn't work. We even tried someone else's car to see if it had more power, but yet again, my car just wouldn't turn. So I waved my coworkers on home and called AAA once again. I braced myself for the news that I'd have to spend my Friday evening at work, waiting for AAA for another two hours.

But, this time, AAA came through! Grube's towing, in Mequon, called not four minutes after I hung up with AAA and said they'd arrive within five minutes. Sure enough, they showed up quickly, ran a test on my battery (The good news: I don't have to buy a new one!) and charged me up enough to get home. They were quick and friendly, and the whole situation made me a lot less irritated with my AAA service.

It was definitely a long day, full of annoyances. But the good news is that I went out to my car this morning and it started on the first try! Hopefully my dead battery issues are over for a while. I don't want to be going through that mess again soon. I was so unhappy with AAA in the beginning, but after my positive experience with them at the end of the workday, I'm once again happy to be a member.

Have you had bad experiences with AAA or another road club? Or have you had a really positive experience? Yesterday morning's was the only bad experience I've had with them, so I'm just curious how often it happens to anyone else.


Bob Harper’s Inside-Out Method: Body Rev Cardio Conditioning (a Review)


As promised, I’m following up my review of Bob Harper’s Yoga for the Warrior DVD with a review of the next in the series that I tried: Body Rev Cardio Conditioning. As the title alludes, this is Bob’s workout to get your heart pumping and keep it pumping fast for an hour – and also to absolutely exhaust you from head to toe.

Now, I fancy myself a fit girl. As I mentioned before, I’m a graduate of the P90X and P90X Plus programs many times over. I’ve also been doing the grueling Insanity workout program for a couple of months, and I’ve been very focused on fitness my entire adult life (which, for the record, is about 10 years now). So please take into consideration what I am about to say. Know that I didn’t just roll off the couch, Cheetos bag in hand, and try this workout after years of being sedentary. I’m supposed to be kick ass, you know.

The workout will make a humble fool of anyone who thinks he or she is too kickass for any at-home fitness DVD.

You begin innocently enough: a few ballistic stretches and some light exercises to warm up. Then you start with the seemingly endless swinging squat raises, done with what Bob calls your “heavy weight” (I used a 5-pounder, but next time I might try 8… no one should ever need more than 12 lbs. Yes, even you, Hulkanator). You continue with these swinging squat raises for quite some time ( my only gripe is that this segment goes on entirely too long), switching from holding the weight in both hands, to the right hand, to the left hand, and then alternating. I started off a little disappointed in the intensity, but by the end my lower back was really feeling it, and my heart was indeed pounding. And that was just the warm up. You then move into jump squats with your lighter weights, which absolutely floored me about how hard those were. It was really, really difficult to try to keep up with the trainees on the DVD with the weighted jump squats. It felt like I could barely get off the ground! My quads were spent.

After some serious leg work (so many static squat holds!!! I’ve never felt such a burn), you move directly (there are no break here, children) to a little more shoulder-specific moves. Even with the light weights (Gang, I was using 3 lbs… and it was HARD), the weighted jump ropes and jumping jacks wore me down. I had to break periodically just so I could force my arms up for the movements. My entire body was worked from head to toe.

Now, I’ve left out all the times I muttered “Damnit, Bob!” under my breath as we moved from exercise to exercise. There were plenty of those. I’m fairly certain if Bob were actually training me in person I would have thoroughly pissed him off with all my cursing and “Oh, come ons!” But, as he said, “You wanted me as a trainer, well now you’ve got me.” He’s not just your cute little tattooed, vegan yoga buddy. He is a fantastic personal trainer, and this is your taste of training with him. He never shouts, but doesn’t want you to stop. He’s encouraging, but not soft. It’s just what I’d want in a trainer.

Nearing the end of the workout, after you’ve done about 400 static squat holds and you’re unsure how much longer your shoulders will stay attached to your body, you go back to those all-too-familiar swinging squat raises you did so many times in the beginning. That kind of serves for your five-minute cooldown, then you do a little stretching, take your ass back from Bob, which he has thoroughly handed to you, and take a little time for some self reflection (which, in my case, meant sopping up sweat from my face and my living room floor).

Bob’s Body Rev Cardio Conditioning workout completely humbled me in a way I thought I was far past, after experiencing Insanity’s MAX workouts. And while I’m mentioning Insanity, I like Bob’s cardio workout because it’s not as plyometrics-centric as Insanity. It’s a lot easier on the joints (my bum right knee tends to flare up when doing any explosive jump squats), but it still sends your heart rate skyrocketing. Having only done Bob’s cardio workout once, I can’t say for sure which program I like better – they’re both phenomenal – but Body Rev will be nice to sub in when my knee is particularly grouchy.

Let me warn you that after the first time you try this workout, if you’re anything like me, you will be sore up to three days after. My lower back hadn’t experienced that much muscle concentration in a long time, and it took quite a long time to feel back to normal (in a good way!). My inner thighs, four days later, are still a little sensitive….

And wasn’t I supposed to be so kickass?

Soon-to-come is my third and final review of the series: Bob's Super Strength workout DVD. Let's just say after three days in a row of workouts with Bob, my shoulders are never going to forgive me.


Bob Harper's Yoga for the Warrior (a Review)

If you follow me on dailymile, you probably know winter is the time where I focus on strength and overall conditioning workouts, rather than running. You also probably know that I’ve been doing P90X and P90X Plus for about two years, and have been incorporating the Insanity program into my routine for a couple months now. I haven’t had a gym membership in more than two years, and I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been (including those tricky years in college when I was workout obsessed).

I’ve learned you don’t need to pay $50 + a month to be in great shape (though I do miss the treadmills and step mill from time to time). But I know I need to follow a program if I really want to push myself. That’s where my workout DVDs come into play. P90X and Insanity are fantastic programs for those who want to push themselves to the limit and really test their abilities. While I stand by these programs whole-heartedly, I know to keep any fitness routine going, you need variety.  Enter: Bob Harper’s Inside-Out Method series.

I always check out online reviews of any DVD workout program I’m considering, because I really need it to be a hardcore, butt-kicking workout if I’m going to spend my hard-earned dough on it. However, you can find these DVDs for $9 each at most stores, so the program won’t break your bank. By all accounts, these workouts WILL kick your butt. They WILL make you curse Bob’s name (isn’t he supposed to be “the nice one?”). And they WILL get you in fantastic shape. Added to my home-fitness arsenal are Bob’s yoga, cardio conditioning and strength DVDs. I will review them in separate posts in the coming days.

Yoga for the Warrior:
I am not a yoga gal. I’ve tried long programs for yoga at home and mostly just get bored by repetitive movements or annoyed by the host’s soft, sing-songy voice. When I’m working out, I need to sweat. I need to feel challenged. I even need to whine a little at times. I was cautious going into this workout, but it was a Sunday, and if nothing else Sunday workouts are good to just stretch out for the coming week. Maybe calm me down for the day. Maybe just an excuse to put on workout clothes and pretend I did something productive.

This is not just a meditation. It’s not just your weekly stretch out. You do get the chance to quietly ponder, but mostly at the end, after you’ve pushed yourself. You do get stretched out, but that’s only while tackling challenging poses. This is the best yoga DVD I’ve tried. I like it scores more than the P90X yoga workout because you don’t repeat the same vinyasa 40 times; you’ll do each movement or pose to target both sides of your body and move on to the next one. Even though the workout is an hour long, there’s always a new challenge just a minute or so away, so it’s incredibly refreshing and also a fantastic way to hit every muscle in your body.

I don’t know about you, but chair poses make me their bitch every. single. time. Holding a chair pose for even 30 seconds gets my legs shaking and burning like you wouldn’t believe. There are plenty of chair poses in this workout – they’re tough, but welcome: I may cry out in pain, but my legs will only get stronger. And so will yours.

Being a naturally flexible girl, I did well with most of the more advanced poses, but there were plenty of times I knew I wouldn’t be able to make them last (Hello, goofy airplane pose!). This only makes me want to do this workout more often so I can nail them all with more practice.

Another reason I loved this DVD is that it was somewhat of an interval workout. You get your heart rate up, hold a few static poses that make your shoulders or legs scream (my quads have a love-hate relationship with Warrior One), but then move into an elongating, peaceful stretch. Then you’d go back to making your muscles cry again. I never felt overworked, but also never felt like I wasn’t pushing my muscles enough.

At the end of the hour you’re given a little time to stretch out and silently meditate, which I actually surprisingly welcomed. It cleared my mind and made me appreciate the workout that much more. After I rolled up my mat and got showered (you’ll need to shower – you will sweat!), I was left feeling relaxed, loose, lengthened and strong. The next day my shoulders were definitely tight, and it wasn’t exactly easy to walk on my sore legs, either. I was incredibly surprised how my body reacted to yoga, and I’m looking forward to seeing if, when doing this workout regularly, it will lengthen my muscles at all (craving that lean, strong, yoga-girl look!).

Bob Harper’s Yoga for the Warrior DVD is a fantastic piece to anyone’s fitness routine. He’s a great trainer: calm, but stern. He doesn’t let his trainees on the DVD slack one bit – they’re expected to hold every pose, no matter how they shake. He cuts you, at home, a little slack, but even though he can’t see you, you still don’t want to let him down. I’m such a fan of this workout, and you can be sure it’s going to become a weekly part of my regular fitness routine from here on out.

Where I felt happy, poised and strong during the Yoga for Warriors workout, I absolutely got my ass handed to me during Bob’s Cardio DVD…. Stay tuned for my review on the second DVD in the series I tried, and how it left me whimpering alone in my living room, and still sore three days later...


No Time for Cooking, Football is on!

I've got a confession that some of my Wisconsin readers are not going to like: I live with a Bears fan. That's right, Eric is a born-and-bred Wisconsinite, but a Bears fan through and through. Don't worry, he not the scum of the Earth a fan of the Cubs, but he does love his Bears. It's mostly his grandfather's influence, so don't take it too had on him.

So you can imagine his anxiety/excitement as the Bears took stage Sunday afternoon to  play for a spot in the NFC Championship game. Adorned in his blue and orange, Eric was a bundle of nerves... right up until halftime. If you watched the game, you know that the Bears won rather handily and now go forward to play.... of all teams... the PACKERS on Sunday for the NFC Championship. Apparently, it's a pretty big deal around these parts, and I think Eric is a little scared about the game.

Normally, we like to cook a nice lunch/dinner on Sunday, a little more labor-intensive than usual. But Eric had just one thing on his mind, so there was no cooking to be done. We were both feeling like pizza, but were on a pretty healthy streak for the weekend so far and didn't want to mess it up, so decided to have our pizza while keeping it healthy. Enter: Pita pizzas!

The "pizzas" were so amazingly delicious - better than a lot of pizza chain thin crusts I've tried. We simply bought some standard-size pitas from Whole Foods, topped them with pizza sauce, garlic powder, slices of fresh mozzarella, red peppers, mushrooms, onions and some crushed red pepper. They went into the oven on 400 degrees for about eight minutes and came out warm, crisp and perfect. We each had one for lunch and liked them so much we made them again for dinner that night!

I'm pretty sure next Sunday will be a no-cooking Sunday, as well, as we'll more than likely go watch the game somewhere (and Eric will be frantically searching for another Bears fan for support in a Packers bar). As for me? Well, you know I am unfortunately a Bengals fan, so my interest in football waned about mid-November. I will enjoy a game between such a heated rivalry come Sunday, but in most cases, Mr. Pancakes and I have the same attitude when it comes to football Sundays, and it is this:


Cross-Country Skiing

I love running. Really, I do. But I don't like running in snow or super-extreme cold. I know it is possible, I just choose not to do it so much. Instead, I tend to take a break from running during the winter and use the time to switch my focus to other facets of fitness, and to go on new wintertime adventures.

I'd been wanting to try out cross-country skiing since the fall, and couldn't wait for the mounds of inevitable Wisconsin wintertime snow to form. Sitting, dreaming about the feet of snow that would accumulate through December, imagining myself strapping on the skis and effortlessly gliding along the glistening countryside - I'd never wanted a blizzard more in my life.

Midway through December, the snow never really came. The end of the month was dry, as well. After the first week of January I was wondering if we'd see any snow at all. Then, finally, it came this week. We got a nice three-to-four inches across Milwaukee, and it was finally time to for my foray into XC skiing.

(Edit: I recently wrote about the need-to-knows for cross-country skiing at FitMilwaukee.com. Check out the article here, and look around for plenty of other fun, informative fitness stories while you're there!)

First thing's first: I got dressed. I somewhat followed the "20-degree rule" that applies to dressing for running (dress as you would if the current temperature were 20 degrees warmer): Running tights, long-sleeved compression shirt, fleece zip up, two pairs of socks, running hat, gloves and snowboarding pants (which I got for Christmas two years ago and hadn't even removed the tags).

We hopped in the car and drove up to Wheel & Sprocket in Fox Point to rent the skis. The process was really simple - sign a waiver, tell 'em your shoe size, whisper your weight (to get the right-size skis... don't worry, they won't judge!), pay $25 and off you go! 

I had to snap a picture of this giant picture on Wheel & Sprocket's wall. This would be a comparison to the adventure Eric and I were just about to embark upon. Although it was exactly like the daydreams I'd had leading up to this experience, somehow, I didn't think it would be quite the same.

From there, we headed over to Brown Deer Park, which was bustling with cross-country skiers and sledders, alike, everyone excited about the first weekend with a sizable snowfall. 

Neither Eric nor I had ever been skiing before, but we were confident in our ability to pick up a new sport, so we just snapped our skis on and took off. There was a slight learning curve, where we struggled getting the rhythm down to really take off on the skis, but after a while (and a few wobbles and trips), we really had the hang of it!

The main thing I had to keep reminding myself of was that you're free to move your heel up and down in the skis. Unlike downhill skis, you're only locked in by the toes, so the motion really is a lot more similar to running. As long as I kept my knees slightly bent and my heels moving, I was gliding right along! I really surprised myself how easily I picked it up, and after a while, I started challenging myself to go faster.

But even though I was getting a good workout in, it never felt like "work." I barely realized it was tiring me out, until I would stop and hear myself breathing heavily. I was having a blast! And I never passed up the opportunity to snap a picture here and there on the trails.

Though the winds were gusting a bit, I never really felt cold, which is fantastic for me, as I'm a real wimp in cold weather. After about an hour and a half of skiing, and over 700 calories burned (!), we started feeling hungry and decided to head home. We'd had a a blast and decided on the spot we would buy our own cross country skis at the end of the season, when they go on sale. 


It's funny how I never felt cold once while I was skiing, but after one minute in the car, I was FREEZING! I came home, took a long (read: 20-minute) shower, but still felt cold! Only one thing could remedy this problem: White-chocolate dulce de leche hot chocolate, with about half a cup of mini marshmallows.

Mmmmm. Marshmallowy, caramely, chocolaty warmth in a mug. 

After having warmed up, I'm already excited to go out to cross country ski, again! If you've got an aversion to downhill skiing because of, you know, the falling down... and you want a killer workout without slipping on slick, snow-covered pavement while running, I would seriously look into cross country skiing. The rental is cheap (and, bonus, no lift ticket!), you don't feel like you're working and it's a great way to get outdoors without freezing your butt off (but you might work it off... cross-country skiing is said to be the best aerobic workout, aside from swimming!). I'm hooked already - I just hope the snow here in Milwaukee stays put while it's supposed to.



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