Tag Archives: yoga

Element Yoga DVDs: Review and Giveaway!

Thank you for your kind, supportive words about my honesty at the end of yesterday’s post. Each time I open up on this blog about the “other side” of my feelings about food and drinks, I am rewarded by your comments and tweets…and just any form of encouragement I receive. It helps more than anyone knows!

After receiving an Anchor Bay Fitness AM & PM Yoga DVD by Element in my Fitness Magazine Meet & Tweet swag bag (you can read a great review of that DVD on Meredith’s blog, Dare You To…, here!), I contacted one of their reps to find out if they had any power yoga DVDs for me to check out. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile then you already know this, but on days I have class or an event after work, I like to do a yoga DVD or online video in the morning since I can’t make it to the gym. Well…I suppose I could. But doing a gym workout just isn’t what I want to be doing at 6:15am – so I do yoga instead 🙂

My at-home yoga “studio” – complete with TJ Maxx mat!

It turns out Element has many yoga DVDs to choose from! I was sent the Yoga for Weight Loss and Power Yoga DVDs to review. I want to note that though I am reviewing the Yoga for Weight Loss DVD, I am NOT reviewing it from the perspective of someone trying to lose weight. If anything, I am working on being OK with gaining back some healthy weight, and I look at yoga as an aid in that journey because it helps me find peace in doing a less-intense form of workout.

The Element Yoga for Weight Loss DVD with Ashley Turner actually turned out to be extremely fitting to that purpose because it really was a nice balance of power yoga and the more relaxed, stretch-focused types of yoga. According to Ashley herself, the practice is meant to combine vinsaya yoga with poses that can foster “self-acceptance, focus, forgiveness, and gratitude – reducing stress and creating happiness from the inside out…so you will want to treat [your body] respectfully and maintain a lifestyle that is good for your health”. I appreciate the recognition that weight loss is a journey consisting of so much more than simply burning calories.

I definitely felt accomplished and at peace after completing this DVD. The low music, serene Pacific-Ocean-view setting, and calm manner with which Ashley delivered her instructions effectively combined to create what I felt was a judgment-free zone that a beginning yogi would find helpful while attempting new poses. I don’t think someone completely new to yoga would have an easy time understanding the poses (so they can be attempted) during an initial viewing, but after a couple of runs through the DVD, the routine wouldn’t be to hard to get a grasp on.

I always have my mason jar of water handy while I’m practicing!

The Element Power Yoga DVD certainly focused much more on the physical challenge – a true lower body, and at times cardio, workout! Ashley Turner once again teaches in the same serene setting, with the same low music and patient-sounding voice. However, the instructions she delivered were for more challenging poses with quick flows and longer isometric holds! At one point during this DVD, when my left leg had been in a right angle for what seemed like years, I literally yelled, “SHIT!” as I fought through the burn. Yes my friends, this Power Yoga DVD enduces cursing, so if you have little ones you better make sure they’re out of earshot before beginning. 😛

Don’t worry, she doesn’t ask you to do this! Source

I don’t want to scare anyone though! I clearly felt challenged, but also accomplished and strong after the DVD’s conclusion. I enjoyed the pattern of poses – those emphasizing the core were scattered throughout, and a nice backbend sequence wound down the practice. It’s usually very difficult for me to fight the urge to just shut my yoga videos off as they enter the savasana portion, but in this case I felt pretty pooped and the rest period was most welcome! I wanted to just chill out in corpse pose before I had to get ready for work.

Anchor Bay Fitness has two new Element DVDs coming out 9/25: Yoga for Energy & Relaxation and Accelerated Pilates with Resistance Band. The former features yoga expert Tamal Dodge and consists of a 30-minute energizing practice and 40-minute relaxation practice. I love that the DVD “categorizes” both series of poses so that if one does not have time to do both, or is just looking for an energy boost or a relaxing stretch, the viewer can easily choose which portion of the workout to complete.

I hope to get the chance to try out the latter DVD, Accelerated Pilates with Resistance Band, for endless reasons! Firstly it’s just a 30-minute total body workout and 10-minute ab routine, which fit perfectly with my yoga/pilates attention span. 😀 Ssecondly, I was a HUGE fan of the resistance band’s uses in Physique 57 and would love to see how trainer Lisa Hubbard incorporates the (PINK!) band into this practice. The fact that the DVD calls this pilates “accelerated” also jumps out at me because though I don’t do pilates often now, I did it a few times a week during my senior year of college after I had just entered recovery and was in great need of a form of workout far less intense than what I’d been doing. For that reason, I have always felt a special bond with pilates because of the way it kept me “sane” when I was forbidden from higher-intensity workouts. Any chance to try out a new routine is welcome to me because every instructor does pilates so differently!

You can purchase all Anchor Bay Fitness DVDs in stores or on Amazon.com!

I’m partnering with Anchor Bay Fitness to give TWO lucky Cait Plus Ate readers the chance to try BOTH of these DVDs! Two readers will each win a copy of both new Element DVDs, Accelerated Pilates with Resistance Band and Yoga for Energy & Relaxation! The giveaway is open to US readers only. Entries will close Saturday 9/8 at 11:59PM EST!

To enter, you can do the following – and leave a separate comment for each:

  1. Comment on this post (mandatory) and tell me which of the four DVDs mentioned in this post you’d most want to try!
  2. Follow @CaitPlusAte on Twitter, and comment with your Twitter handle saying you did.
  3. Follow @AnchorBayEntFit on Twitter, and comment with your Twitter handle saying you did.
  4. Tweet “I’m entered to win two @AnchorBayEntFit #yoga #pilates DVDs from @CaitPlusAte! #fitfluential http://wp.me/p1SfTW-1rd” and comment here with the link to the tweet.
  5. Repin something from Element on Pinterest and comment with the link to the repin.
  6. Follow CaitPlusAte on Pinterest and comment with your Pinterest name saying you did.

Though it’s not an option for giveaway entry, you can also like Anchor Bay Entertainment’s Fitness page on Facebook! Good luck to all who enter!

I received free copies of the Element Power Yoga and Yoga for Weight Loss DVDs to review. All opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review/giveaway.

Active Rest Day: How I Did

Amanda of  Run Principessa took my #AmazingMe list one step further and did a VLOG of hers! Check it out and make your own list if you haven’t already – I want to eventually do a post that links up all of them! Make sure to email or tweet me with the link!

Drawing on the chalk tables at ION with Heather. Thanks for the pic, Jenny!

You may remember on Friday that I asked for your support and thoughts as I headed into a weekend of personal challenges. I’m not going to lie and say everything went swimmingly. On Friday night I met up with Jenny and Heather at It’s Only Natural (ION) in Middletown for what should have been an absolute blast of a vegan meal, but I just wasn’t all there. I felt stressed and dragged down by my negative thoughts. I’d had a longer day at work than I’d expected when I woke up that morning and was running late to meet the girls at the restaurant – a ton of little things just combined to create a perfect storm and I had a hard time being present. The food was AMAZING as per usual. The sweet potato fries made my heart sing. My friends were being wonderful and understanding, but I felt guilty as I drove him for not being able to sit back and enjoy. Guilt guilt guilt!

My meal – the blackened tempeh special with the sweet potato fries and a small side of their cold mashed potatoes. I also had a beet salad to start.

The next morning brought part of the challenges I’d discussed on Friday – Om Street Yoga from West Hartford Yoga. Jenny, Heather, and I met in West Hartford center and took ourselves and our mats over to LaSalle Ave, which had been closed down for the second year of this free outdoor 75 minute yoga class.

Call me stereotypical, but yes I wore my Birkenstocks from the Fitness Meet & Tweet to a yoga event.

There was a great turnout! Mic problems only came up a couple of times during the practice, and a live percussion group was present playing relaxing music, complete with a gong.

The class actually ended up being more intense than I’d expected, which I enjoyed! My heart rate got up there during a ridiculously fast dancing warrior series, and my legs were on fire from all the chair poses we did. As I sunk into the last one, I literally whispered to Jenny, “Are you serious?!” I’d thought they were over!

Texting and folding 😉 it’s safe!

Child’s pose may or may not be one of my favorites #sorrynotsorry

My favorite moment came as the entire class was in a goddess pose, doing a series of powerful arm movements. We pushed our arms up to the sky, to the side, in front of us, and downward, each time shouting out “HUH!” Sounds cheesy but it felt great, like a release, and right as we completed the series the sun broke through the clouds. Our instructor declared we’d “brought out the sun” and the crowd broke into applause. In that moment, I felt united with every single person on LaSalle Ave!

During the class I was continuously impressed with Jenny’s yoga skills. She is actually a yoga teacher and considers the practice to have saved her life. Her movements were so very fluid and I am envious of her flexibility! I’d love to get my om on with her again soon 🙂

Jenny’s yoga pants are amazing.

A part of my personal journey over the last couple of years has been working on being more mindful. Each time I do yoga, I have to admit that I am not living in the present. In fact, I rarely find that I am being present in any aspect of my life. This is something I’m trying to change and I was making an effort to be hyper-aware of mindfulness during the final portion of Om Street Yoga, savasana. My mind continued to wander forward to my plans with Heather and Jenny following yoga, forward to my tasting event later that evening, even back to the chair poses during the class and whether or not they were enough of a leg workout. I’d like to say that it was a zen, peaceful savasana, but instead I felt a bit panicked that it was SO damn hard for me to live in the moment. Why couldn’t I just enjoy?! Still, I followed the teacher’s instructions at the end to wish myself happiness, healthiness, and ease; it gave me some peace.

I suggested Hartford Baking Company nearby for our post-yoga coffee fix. I’d had their food before but had never had the chance to sample their pour-over coffee. My friend Matt was working and he recommended an Ethiopian blend from Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Brooklyn; it tasted excellent, possibly also because he did a good job making it! I liked the glass pitcher it was served in – my kind of pitcher!

Heather and I sipped our pour-over coffee black, while Jenny went with a large regular coffee with her beloved soy creamer!

I had a great time chatting with these ladies, and our sunny cozy table made this coffee trip extra special. But I still know I wasn’t 100% there. Negative thoughts associated with stressing over situations to come, an active rest day, whether or not I was disappointing my friends, and more crowded my mind. When I dropped my friends off at Jenny’s and headed out, I was feeling really upset and frustrated with myself.

I was cheered up relatively soon, however, when I ran into my best friend Lidia at Daybreak Coffee Roasters (I stopped by to get iced coffee – decaf, because I’d had enough caff for one day). I felt like it was fate because it also happened to be her birthday! I sat outside with her, her mom, and a family friend of theirs. We just caught up and I was having such a good time that I really did lose myself in our conversation and not think about the fact that I wouldn’t be putting in a gym trip that day.

Losing yourself over coffee is easier when you love it so much 🙂

It got more challenging though when I got home and finished doing my “blog errands” (photo editing and uploading). I had a couple of hours of free time before my next activity, and didn’t know what to do with myself. Free time?! I felt like a slacker for not taking advantage of it and hitting the gym. I almost felt angry with myself for publicly declaring an active rest day to all of you guys. I thought to myself, well I could save this rest day for a day I’m literally too busy to work out. Why should I waste today, a day I have so much time for the gym?! A lot of the reason I didn’t go was because I didn’t want to disappoint those who had left me such supportive comments on my post, Facebook, Twitter, and more.

I consciously attempted to pull my mind to the positives of the situation, and also to the fact that I needed to do this challenge for ME. I had time to put away my laundry while listening to NPR, something I really enjoy doing. I finally got a chance to get iTunes set up on my laptop and attempted to load all my music onto my iPhone (something I gave up on halfway through, but oh well). I got to zen out on the back porch while doing my blog errands and eat baby carrots with Yummy Hummy curry and lemon cilantro hummuses (humm-i?)

In the end, I know that I did a workout on Saturday. I took a 75-minute yoga class that worked my body, stretched my tired muscles, and quieted my mind (even if only a bit). I had a chance to unwind in the middle of the afternoon before headed to my CT Bloggers event that evening, which probably ended up helping me handle that event well in the end (more on that later). And the next morning when I went to the gym for 45 minutes of spinning and an arm workout, I had a ton of energy and kicked some ass. So I did it. I took an active rest day and challenged myself. I’m not extremely happy with how I handled the entire situation, but I handled it and am a work in progress. I’ll get there. I know it!

How do you handle taking rest days?

Have you ever done outdoor yoga?

How do you keep yourself in the moment and present?

Fashion Friday Shows Some Leg

Thank you to Meg, one of the blog world’s brightest rays of sunshine (I’m a sap but it’s true), for including me in her weekly High Five Friday post! It always is great to get props for something positive I’ve done, especially since I often need reminding about why I’m #AmazingMe. And she’s now joined in the fashion fun (yay alliteration) with her Shopping Spree Sunday!

Sorry that I’ve been a bit MIA! I’ve been really busy at work and have also been trying not to put too much stress on myself and just chill. It’s been pretty amazing to be at home for dinner every night this week eating a home-cooked meal and drinking a glass of wine with the DVR. That being said, I’m completely 100% excited to be going out to dinner tonight with my rocksHeather and Jenny, at one of our favorite CT restaurants, It’s Only Natural. I often find vegan dishes to be the most unique, so I’m pumped to have something for dinner tonight that I’ve never had before. Then tomorrow morning, the three of us are attending a free outdoor yoga event in West Hartford center called Om Street Yoga, sponsored by West Hartford Yoga. The 75 minute all-levels class in the fresh air is just the thing I need, and I plan to challenge myself by making it my ONLY workout tomorrow. It’ll be hard, especially since I have an amazing CT Bloggers meetup scheduled tomorrow evening at J. Timothy’s Taverne in Plainville, where food and beer will be a-plenty. But I need to prove to myself that not only can I go to the event and stay in control, but I can also do so on a day in which I did not get an intense workout in. I got this, but would appreciate it also if you all kept me in mind and sent positive thoughts my way tomorrow!

But you know what day it is, right? It’s Fashion Friday! Here’s what I’ve been wearing lately! You will notice more legs happening…I have been in such a mood for dresses, shorts, skirts…I just don’t want my legs covered. No, not because I’m a skank, but because when you live in CT  you have to take advantage of warm weather while you can!

Cardigan/Dress: sister’s (so likely Urban Outfitters or Nordstrom)

Headband: American Eagle

Watch: Fossil

Heels: DSW

Necklace: Forever 21

Dress: J. Crew Outlet

Watch: gift from my grandpa

Wedges: H&M (I saw them at the Newbury St. location in Boston this past Saturday, FYI!)

Dress: sister’s (so Urban Outfitters or Nordstrom)

Watch: Michael Kors

Shoes: Forever 21 (Heather borrowed him during her last visit!)

Necklace: Francesca’s (featured in a previous Fashion Friday)

Tank: H&M

Shorts: Nordstrom Rack

Sandals: Steve Madden

Sunglasses: Nordstrom Rack

Tank: Urban Outfitters

Watch: Fossil

Shorts: Hollister

Shoes: Birkenstock (from #fitblognyc!)

It’s safe to say I’m obsessed with the back of this shirt, and insisted that Matty take a photo for me when I wore it to Wildflour with him and Heather on Sunday after Color Me Rad!

Which outfit is your favorite?

Anyone else been tempted to wear outfits that let your legs breathe in these lovely summer months?

Any advice for me as I take on my fitness and event-related challenges tomorrow?

Shake Your Soul Dance Yoga

Hey guys! How was your weekend? I spent mine continuing to smile thanks to your support. It really helped me to have all those new mantras and the abundance of encouragement as I went into the weekend! I’m also pleased to announce that I had the last day of my double-weekend summer class yesterday, and have banged out three credits! Just three more to go this summer!

I’m trying to be optimistic because this morning, I have a REALLY bad case of the Mondays. At first the fact that my alarm was accompanied by a clap of thunder made me happy – I love thunderstorms, especially morning ones, because they are always a surprise. But once the rain came down during my commute, I realized it wasn’t an ideal time to have a thunderstorm. Hello, traffic! I also had to pull over to refill my tank at a Shell station, and as I got to work putting my credit card in the pump, the clouds decided to dump a Six Flags water park-sized bucket of rain from the skies. Then the pump decided to decline my card twice (there was no reason for it to do so).

Not as psyched as these fine folks. Source.

I dashed back into my car now soaked to the bone, and ready to burst into tears. Instead I took a deep breath, pulled out my umbrella, and pumped my gas using a different credit card. And it worked. And now I’m drinking black Mudslide coffee from Peaberry’s and trying to keep calm and carry on, as they say. At least I have this blog as an outlet.

But I want to share my thoughts on the new fitness class I mentioned that I was trying on Friday, Shake Your Soul dance yoga! The class was held at Granby Yoga in Granby, CT (I highly recommend this studio for any local readers, the Wednesday power class with Laura is amazing) and was full before the day of the event even arrived. It was only $22, which I felt was totally worth it to try such a unique class that combined two of the things I love, dancing and yoga. The instructor, Jayne Dean, is a Certified Expressive Movement Therapist and certified by the creators of Shake Your Soul, the Levin Institute.

Some examples of benefits of Shake Your Soul include:

  • release of body tensions and movement of body fluids
  • learning to trust the body’s “intrinsic ability to dance” (I love that!) and feeling more comfortable in your ski
  • cardio workout and strengthening of core and lower body

I definitely have to say that I felt all those benefits during the class. Usually on Fridays I go to Group Step and sweat my face off, but I still got a bit sweaty during dance yoga. More importantly, I also had FUN. I’m a huge fan of dancing (anyone who saw me doing Ilyse Baker‘s cardio dance at Reebok knows this) and my favorite songs were the hip hop ones (I recognized Black Eyed Peas and Talib Kweli), especially since Jayne gave us the chance during that part of the class to just freestyle and dance as we wished. We also did group and partner dances, line dancing, and African dance!

Our teacher, Jayne, in action. Source

I have to admit that I felt a bit guilty about doing a workout that was “less intense” than my typical Friday fitness class, but I did something new and something that I love, so I was trying to and still am trying to reflect on that fact and feel proud of myself for going outside my box and breaking routine. It’s not easy for me to do that! I danced my hardest and tried to make each “move” as intense as my body felt comfortable with. My quads were DEFINITELY burning during the plie squats and lunges we did. Many of the moves also combined cardio and strength because not only were they quick with lots of arm movements (cardio), but they required us to stay low in our legs (strength). And if you think about it, that makes perfect sense since dance is one of my favorite ways to get cardio in and yoga is a great way to strengthen the body.

Jayne does other classes around CT, and Granby Yoga wants to have the class again, so I hope I get to do Shake Your Soul again soon. You can look for a teacher in your area here! And I’ll be sure to mention when I’m going again, in case any local readers want to join 🙂

If you want to see examples of Shake Your Soul dancing and student perspectives, check out this cool video from Kripalu! I wish I had videos or photos from my event…maybe next time I can ask Jayne to snap some shots for me!

After the class, I went to a friend‘s birthday dinner at my favorite restaurant, J. Gilbert’s, and got a dish there that I’d never tried, the Lobster Cobb Salad! I also enjoyed a couple glasses of red wine. Again, I felt a bit guilty getting the wine after doing a less intense cardio workout for the day (and I’d taken a rest day the day before), but once I was with my friends I relaxed a bit. I also talked to my mom before dinner, and as usual she had plenty of encouragement for me. She also told me she was proud of me for skipping Step in favor of something new and unique. Hearing that really perked me up and helped wipe my mind of annoying guilty thoughts so that I could enjoy dinner!

Greens, balsamic vinaigrette, lobster, sweet potato straws, avocado, hard-boiled egg, corn nuts, black beans, corn, tomatoes, and mango salsa. Boo flash.

Started with a glass of Syrah! Like my post-yoga-dance look?

Had to embarrass Jeff with this photographic evidence of his death grip on my shoulder.

Is it hard for you to try a new fitness class (and break your normal routine)?

Have you ever done some kind of dance yoga workout?

What was the best dinner you had this past weekend?

Who are your sources for support if you are struggling with food and/or exercise-related guilt?

What’s the worst case of the Mondays you’ve ever had? How’d the Monday turn out?

CT Veg Fest 2012!

Can you believe Connecticut didn’t have a vegetarian and healthy living festival of some kind in the Hartford area until this year? Me neither! Although if you’d asked me a few years ago, I probably would have scoffed at the idea of attending such an event.

Luckily my eyes have been opened to the wonderful world of my adventurarian lifestyle 😉 and even though I am not vegetarian or vegan, I still enjoy reading about other eating “lifestyles” and trying vegetarian and vegan foods. They are just as delicious as the rest! No bias here. After all, that’s what being adventurarian is all about. And that’s why I was beyond excited to attend the 1st Annual CT Vegetarian and Healthy Living Festival this past Sunday!

Registration and donation area.

Entry was free, but monetary or non-perishable food donations were encouraged, and it looked like a great turnout for both. I think that ideas for healthy living should be accessible for all, so Veg Fest organizers hit the nail on the head by making the donations optional. I donated money because I am able to do so, but those who cannot should still be able to attend something like this and learn about the options they have!

Erika, Bethany, and I.

I started out the event solo, but ended up meeting up with my blend Bethany and her sweet cousin Erica after they got out of the sessions they were attending when I arrived. Erica was awesome and even knows Jenn of She’s a Fit Chick, who was one of the first bloggers I ever discovered and is also an original founder of FitFluential! Small world.

I knew I was in the right place (the CT Convention Center in Hartford, to be precise) when I walked in, looked to my right, and saw this guy grinding out fresh wheatgrass shots!

I didn’t even know CT grew chickpeas!

I am not a huge beauty product hoarder (lucky for me, though I do hoard plenty of magazines about them) so I didn’t spend too many time at the all-natural beauty product booths, but there were plenty of them.

Soaps from CT Natural Soapworks.

Tower of yummy Fanciful Fox soap flavors.

The mother and daughter duo working this booth were handing out free soap “scraps”, so I got a piece of the green bar above, called Wise Guy.

Soap doubling as a centerpiece?! Gorgeous!


Just one variety of product offered by Hartford-based company Soul Purpose.

The small part of me that doesn’t have to be practical ALL the time paid $1 for one of the blue crystals below. The girl at the booth had so much faith in their ability to absorb only positive energy – I guess this specific kind is often used to clear negative energy from other crystals, that’s how many “good vibes” it carries. So I figured, why the heck not?! I tucked it into a pocket in my purse and have been carrying it with me since.

Erica, Bethany, and I also got to enjoy a free yoga class – they were running every hour on the hour! I had gone to Step that morning and my quads were sore from doing leg-heavy workouts the couple days before that, so the yoga felt good, and it was another great way to give free access to an activity that many may have been unfamiliar with, averse to trying, or doubtful of. Yay yoga!

Lots of speakers and cooking demos going on too, including a Smoothie Workshop for kiddos!

Whole Foods kids smoothie demo.

Now, let’s get to the products! I love that this event gave so many passionate vendors the chance to get the word out about the foods they have worked so hard to create. All that many of them want is shelf space at a grocery store – it seems like little to ask for, but shelf space is actually VERY scarce with all the big corporations out there (and their big wallets) – getting even a little bit of shelf space is a BIG deal. If you ever attend one of these kinds of events and try a product you love, suggest to your grocery store that they start carrying it – it often takes the voice of the people to convince a store that they should stock a product, because of course they exist to make money, and want to be positive it will sell.

I don’t use dressings on my salads at home (I find that I really don’t need it at all, since my beasts include about 10-15 ingredients on average, many liquid-based, and “marinate” in my fridge overnight) but if I did, I’d be all about purchasing one of the above bottles of Wholesome Creations salad dressings. The green tea and ginger dressing on a cup of greens blew me away.

Mama Micki’s was sold out of all three varieties of their vegan cookies by noon – a good sign for this all-natural bakery that is trying to get into stores! I sampled all three varieties – molasses, chocolate orange walnut, and oatmeal raisin sunflower seed (pictured above). I’m a sucker for a good molasses cookie, but have to declare the chocolate orange walnut the winner for its unique, complex flavor.

Soya Foods of MA had a generous amount of flavors of their Creative Chef Tofettis for patrons to sample – all of these are made with non-GMO soybeans!

I tried BBQ, Brazilian, Hot & Spicy, Lemon Garlic, Jamaican Jerk, Teriyaki, and a faux “chicken nugget” as well (not pictured).

Seitan is a meat substitute I’d never had and I loved how it perfectly mimicked the texture and taste of ground beef. Upton’s Naturals of Chicago offered traditional, chorizo, and Italian varieties. I tried all three and especially loved the chorizo – it would go great in tacos or atop a big pile of nachos.

Bethany and I totally adored these Kathy’s Kitchen SuperSeedz. Kathy and her partner had plenty of flavors of these pumpkin seeds on hand, as you can see from the sign above!

I sampled Original Curry, Coco Joe, and Cinnamon & Sugar. The Original Curry flavored seeds were awesome and the chocolate-y coffee flavor of the Coco Joe was perfectly balanced. The Cinnamon & Sugar were good (can’t go wrong with that combo) but not nearly as remarkable as the first two flavors.

Local chip-makers Pan de Oro of Hartford (I sent a bag to Diana for foodie pen pals this month) partnered up with Good Neighbors of NH (love that) and provided a carb-tastic vehicle for sampling of salsas, salads, and hummus.

I’ve bought Good Neighbors black bean spread before at Whole Foods and it was awesome. I didn’t know they sold falafel too – or as they call them, veggie burgers? Check out the cute snack pack offerings as well!

Love me some tabouli! I may be one of the few bloggers who can take or leave quinoa but it was still tasty. And LOTS of salsa choices, hand it over!

Oh geez, where do I begin?! I wish I hadn’t downed my hummus samples so quickly because I honestly didn’t taste a  huge difference between the flavors I tried (cilantro jalapeno, spicy chipotle, a couple others I can’t recall). However, the flavor I tasted was certainly delightful.

CT Veg Fest = free lunch!

One of MANY courses.

Check out this nifty magnet Bethany snagged for me from a booth! I notice the Splenda I use at home isn’t on there, oops, haha…

One of my favorite products of the day came from The Olive Oil Factory of Waterbury. Gourmet olive oils and balsamic vinegar seem to be “all the rage” now, and I’m certainly glad because that means more and more unique varieties are coming out.

I opted to receive my samples on vegan brown rice bread in the spirit of Veg Fest, but a non-vegan bread was also available. I started with the below chocolate balsamic – it blew me away! Holy crap. I just wanted to drizzle it (or pour it…) over a mound of fresh strawberries.

I also tried blueberry, lime, and peach balsamic. All were so, so fantastic. The blueberry balsamic drizzled on a scone or muffin would seriously be the perfect weekend breakfast.

Another favorite of the day? Boston-based Biena Snacks Roasted Chickpeas! These have plain-Greek-yogurt-mix-in written ALL over them.

The Sea Salt flavor was good but compared to the other two, Lime & Chili and Cinnamon Maple, it was just blah. That’s because the other two flavors were so amazing! I’ve always wanted to try roasted chickpeas and am glad I finally was able to.

Pan de Oro had their own booth of course, but by the time I got there they had run out of all their new varieties of chips (I missed out on the GARLIC!!!). I still wasted no time in sampling the original flavor. Erica had stopped by earlier than me and purchased two bags of the garlic chips!

They were kind enough to sell their chips at a discounted price at the event (many vendors were doing this).

The Simply Bar is probably the most impressive bar I’ve ever seen, from a nutritional stats standpoint. I tried the Cocoa Coffee, which contains real caffeine, and enjoyed its taste as well! These bars are VERY low in sugar and saturated fat, unlike most bars I’ve seen, which remind me of candy bars.

Being a long-time blog reader, I’ve seen Sun Warrior and Vega proteins all over the place. I’ve never been that interested in protein powder though, so have never bought any. Perfect opportunity to sample some – expertly prepared by VeganProteins.com!

I liked the vanilla Sun Warrior protein shake! The desire to drink any more than a few sips, though, was not there.

And I had no desire to drink another sip again of the chocolate Vega protein shake. Sorry – not for me! However, I know that protein powders are something that is enjoyed by many a blogger and blog reader, and it’s great that there are so many vegan options. My twin Heather is a huge Vega fan and uses their powder to make protein pudding oats almost every day!

The Taza chocolate above had an amazing flavor different from any chocolate I’ve ever tried, because it is made from stone-ground cacao nibs. Due to the manufacturing process, the cacao nibs are not completely ground up, which leaves a lot of the cacao flavor in the bars. It’s very complex and hearty.

And check out all the benefits of Chocholistic chocolate! Its creator is Kenzie Harrick, a Certified Health Counselor with a sweet tooth and a passion for healthy eats. Those two things drove her to create “the only chocolate that you can eat every day that will improve your health while you eat it”. Like the Taza, the complex, rich flavor left me feeling very satisfied. I’d take this stuff over a regular candy bar any day (even a Twix!)

Cedar’s is the hummus brand of choice in my house and they passed out a ton of these nifty snack packs! Can’t wait to munch on mine.

Coconut butter is another product that’s been very popular in the blog world, but I hadn’t been able to try it until now. Nature’s Approved had the great idea of serving it up with a dallop of chocolate atop a graham cracker – just as good as any s’more! Well OK, maybe not, because there’s nothing like a charred-to-a-crisp marshmallow. But this was darn close.

Of course Vitamix was there, because it’s not a food event without Vitamix!!

I sampled a handful of freeze-dried corn from Raw Foods Central. It was really good – nice and sweet. I wonder how the peas would taste!

Litchfield based Boxed Goodes Pantry served their herb dips with fresh-cut bread. Not only did they taste delicious, but the packaging was so gorgeous and colorful. A set of jars in a kitchen filled with these herbs would really brighten up the place.

What a FUN event! Bethany and I are heading to Wesleyan University this weekend to attend 2012 Foodstock next. Loving all these FOODIE conferences!

Clearly we were prepared to get our yoga on!

Have you ever been to a vegetarian and/or healthy living festival?

Have you ever tried any of the products I sampled?

Fashion Friday

Do you have any idea how long I’ve been waiting for a Friday to come along in which I happened to have time to write a post about FASHION? Just so I could use that alliteration in the title? Awesome alliteration, that is 😉

Sorry if I’m alienating my male readers, but I have a slew of fashion photos I’ve been accumulating. And now it’s Friday the 13th, but it also happens to be your LUCKY day (I’m such a cheeseball today), because I’m sharing some outfits and the sources of their components. I hope you enjoy!

Top: Ann Taylor Outlet

Pants: Urban Outfitters

Shoes: PacSun Outlet

Ring: Forever 21

Watch: NYC flea market

Blazer: Forever 21

Top: Ann Taylor Outlet

Watch: Fossil

Cardigan: Ann Taylor Outlet

Necklace: BJ’s Wholesale Club (seriously)

Jeans: American Eagle

Shoes: Wal-Mart (again, seriously)

Top: Ann Taylor Outlet

Jeggings/Belt: American Eagle

Shoes: Toms

Bracelet: Forever 21 (2 for $1 on Black Friday!)

Blazer, Top, Necklace: Forever 21

Jeggings: American Eagle

Shoes: Steve Madden

Watch: Michael Kors

This post got long quickly, so I’ll cap it at five outfits. Yes I have more to share. Who knows when the next Fashion Friday will be, but I sure hope it comes before  the next Friday the 13th – in July.

I hope everyone has a fun weekend planned! I know I do. #brag #sorrynotsorry

  • Launch of the latest release of GROUP STEP after work!
  • Drinks & dinner tonight on Hartford’s Franklin Ave, famous for its Italian eats, with a new friend!
  • A sweaty cardio workout tomorrow morning followed by HW time at Daybreak Coffee Roasters
  • Attending Taste of Wethersfield tomorrow night – very affordable event, only $30 ($35 at the door)
  • Possible Bikram date with my friend Alexis on Sunday morning, followed by a coffee date (Daybreak again, of course)
  • Tea party with Kim on Sunday afternoon – we’re making tea-infused scones and tea-infused bellinis from the Alice’s Tea Cup cookbook!
  • Sob session with Rachel on Sunday evening AKA seeing Titanic in 3D

Wow, making that list got me even MORE excited. Is it 4:30 yet?! It will be soon!!!

What’s your favorite place to get affordable, cheap fashion?

What’s your favorite place to splurge?

Tell me something fun on your agenda this weekend!

Feelin Blah and ION (Not At All Related)

Happy Hump Day, or as I’ll call it this week, Happy Thursday, because I don’t have work this Friday! Does anyone else have the day off?

Yesterday I was feeling blah. I was supposed to head out to eat with Rachel for one of our foodie dates, but ended up kinda crawling into an anti-social shell from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep. Ever have days like that? I didn’t sleep well the night before, had a group project presentation in which I helped team-teach our two-hour class, and had to stay after class to get feedback. It was just a LONG day (first world problems). I wanted nothing more when I left campus than to go home and watch last week’s “Smash” with my mom (so glad we’ve found a show we can enjoy together). So that’s what I did, while enjoying a delicious dinner of Moe’s black beans, leftover roasted Brussels sprouts, and Newman’s Own frozen veggie pizza, baked to crispy perfection in the oven on a pizza stone.

Recycled photo, yes I’m wearing PJ’s.

I was super bummed yesterday to discover that when I went to do my usual Tuesday morning Yoga Works Body Slim video on Hulu, it and all other Yoga Works videos were GONE! I am so bummed. I loved that video and I ended up with a lame substitute from Exercise TV. This only contributed to my crappy mood. I have P90X Yoga to do tomorrow as I usually do on Thursday mornings before work, but I don’t want to give up on Yoga Works just yet. Does anyone know where I can access Yoga Works videos for free? I couldn’t find them on their website and a YouTube search did not prove to be fruitful.

I did want to take a moment to do a quick review of It’s Only Natural, a vegan/vegetarian restaurant that I’ve been to a couple of times, including with Heather of For the Love of Kale when she came to visit. She even did a write-up of her opinion and our experience.

Located in Middletown, Connecticut’s newly-developed downtown area, It’s Only Natural (ION) has a cozy, chill vibe and quaint decor. It’s a place where no matter who you are, or what your eating philosophy may be, you are bound to feel comfortable and welcome.

The tabletops even double as chalkboards! Each table is well-equipped with plenty of multi-colored chalk. So much cooler than the whole draw-on-a-paper-tablecloth concept (sorry, Macaroni Grill).

The menu has something everyone would love, even the most avid meat-eaters. Unique craft beers are also offered, in addition to a pretty good wine selection. During one of my visits I had a Tempranillo that was yummy.

I’m a chronic decision-avoider. Decisions stress me out, even ones from menus. This is why I love sampler platters. Thank goodness for the ION Tribute, a sampling of the cajun tempeh, cajun crab cakes, and potato spinach pierogis. The waiter even put up with my annoying side-subbing habits.

I went for sauteed greens and pinto beans. This meal was beyond amazing. The vegan “sour cream” and “tartar sauce” were both fabulous. I’ve had bad experiences with too-salty tempeh before, but my tempeh-aversions are now completely gone thanks to ION. I can’t say enough good things about this dish. I think the tempeh crab cakes were my favorite part though I honestly was all over the pinto beans.

I really think a visit to ION is incomplete without ordering these fresh-cut sweet potato fries with homemade ketchup. Honestly, the best ketchup I’ve ever had and also quite possibly the best sweet tater fries too. The ketchup has tomato chunks in it, that’s how fresh it is.

I went sweet potato crazy when I went to ION with Heather, finishing her sweet potato fries for her 😉 (least I can do) and ordering the sweet potato enchiladas with vegan “cheese”, pinto beans, and veggies for myself. Had to get the beans again! Just as amazing as the first time and the enchiladas and vegan “cheese” were more than I could ever ask for in a unique meal. Not to mention the veggies were seasoned to perfection and not super oily like so many restaurants prepare them.

This dessert was sent out to our table during my first visit, courtesy of  The Sexy Carrot, the voice behind ION’s social media. All I can say is THANK YOU! ION desserts are no joke. This vegan coconut cupcake blew me away. The icing especially was a winner. I’m an icing freak. I could’ve eaten a tub of it.

My companions also ordered a slice of the vegan coconut cake, which was essentially the cupcake in cake form, except it came on a plate garnished with some kind of tasty apple butter. 

Can you spy The Sexy Carrot?

I can’t wait to go back to ION again and again. I’m not lying when I say I want to try everything on the menu.

Have you ever been to a vegan or vegetarian-only restaurant? Is there anything like that offered close to your home?

Do you ever get in those blah moods that bring you down all day? How do you snap out of it?

Sweat and Food

Please take a moment to vote for me (up to 10 times…a day…) in round one of the Hartford Courant 2012 Websters for CT’s Best Blogs! I’m nominated for Best Overall Blog, Best Health Blog, Best Food Blog, and Best Social Media Account! Thank you to those who nominated me, and voting for round one closes this Friday 3/30 at 11:59PM EST.

I’m glad that so many of you seemed to enjoy yesterday’s post about my appreciation for the friendships my blog has brought me! Sounds like a lot of you can relate – and that’s a great thing!

My makeshift home yoga "area"…computer booting up to play P90X Yoga this morn! My #PROOF.

I feel like it’s been forever since I just wrote about what was on my mind (instead of recapping the latest and greatest restaurants and events). I love doing that, but I also find it really therapeutic and cleansing, cheesy as that sounds, to just write whatever is on my mind! And based off of comments and feedback from my readers, it seems those posts are often enjoyed MORE than the ones where I share my delectable eats. Perhaps I’m giving you guys too much food porn? Do I need to take it away for awhile? 😉 OBVIOUSLY I’m kidding.

Typical healthy eats food porn…some may drool, some may wrinkle their noses.

I had a great workout yesterday. I have to share it with you guys! I did an hour-long spin class that totally kicked my butt and had me pouring sweat. I just LOVE how sweating makes me feel. It’s more refreshing than jumping into a pool on a hot day. Downside of sweating, just like getting out of a pool sometimes – I was FREEZING after that spin class. Complete icicle. Even 20 minutes of arm-breaking (don’t worry, not literally) weights after the class couldn’t warm me up. Once I got home I realized why – my sports bra, AKA undergarment completely 100% in contact with my skin, was totally drenched through. I don’t remember the last time it was like that after a workout. I TOLD you I sweated like a mad woman!

I came home and after a refreshing, HOT shower, I went upstairs to see what was for dinner. I was craving CARBS like a mad lady. No surprise after 1.5 hours at the gym! Thank goodness, my mom had heated up the last of our free Dr. Oetker’s Organic Veggie Frozen Pizzas that I received through a BzzAgent campaign, thanks to a coupon. She added garlic and leftover steamed broccoli to the pie, and heated it in the oven on a pizza stone. Perfection! After a few more minutes under the broiler, and with a pile of black beans for protein, this really hit the spot.

I also had half of a turkey burger, and later sampled some of my new Love Grown Foods granola (review/giveaway to come once I’ve tried every flavor!) with 0% plain Greek yogurt. I had it while reading the first 18 pages of my latest library find, “The Summer Without Men” by Siri (lol) Hustvedt. I already LOVE this book and am already gonna say that I recommend it to all of you , even though I’m 18 pages in.

I will leave you with this hilarious gem…someone playing a prank on my cubicle neighbor at work!

Do you ever get really cold after a workout, because of how much you sweat?

What did you have for dinner last night?

Have you ever read the book above, or any of Siri’s other books?

Rambling and Photos

Hey guys. I feel like I haven’t done a really good, this-is-me-writing-what’s-on-my-mind post since last week. Probably why I’m having the urge to just write whatever is on my mind! But I also have photos from my trip to Boston a few weekends back that  I never got to share – I ducked into Barrington Coffee Roasters quickly so my friend Ken of Pete & Gerry’s Eggs could grab a coffee, and was impressed by the cafe’s use of space and simplistic, clean decor. I had to take photos and really want to show them to you all, so I’m going to borrow a tactic one of my favorite bloggers, Danielle, uses and just disperse the pictures of the coffee shop throughout my rambling (hence this post’s title).

So what’s up with me on this Hump Day? Well, I’ve been having great workouts lately. This past weekend included a Grammys-themed spin class, tough StepMill HIIT session, and some leg work. Monday I got out of work on time to attend my favorite high-intensity Step class, and yesterday was an active rest day in which I utilized a My Yoga Online trial membership (ended today – sad :() and completed a 40 minute video called Grounding Yoga Flo that was really the perfect mix of flow and quad-burning poses in the beginning, followed by relaxing balance and twist poses (like eagle – I LOVE that one, so fun to try and stay stable) til the end.


Work has been going well – last week was pretty busy but that made it fly by. This week things have slowed down and I’m glad, though at times finding myself looking for more to do. I probably just jinxed myself…

…but even if I did, no big deal, because next week is my first official big-girl-job vacation and I am leaving this Saturday afternoon for ORLANDO! Despite the fact that we have been blessed with the warmest winter since the year I moved here (2001-2002 winter), I am still so ready to fly South and also see my grandma and grandpa. I have already done a TON of restaurant research for my trip and my parents and grandparents are ready to let me plan all of our evenings – I have impressed them in the past with my restaurant choices, and I’m always in charge of picking places during trips!

I definitely want to get my shop on in Orlando, and Jeanette of J’s Everyday Fashion was kind enough to provide me with the Top 5 Places to Shop in Orlando. I pretty much want to hit up every. single. one. but don’t know if that will be possible! My priorities, in that case, are on the Premium Outlets (hello, deals) and Park Avenue in Winter Park (because I want to eat at a BUNCH of places there too). Downtown Disney is probably happening anyway – I love walking around there with my parents!

Just writing this has gotten me even MORE excited for vacation, if that’s possible. I cannot wait to lay by the pool reading magazines each day. I ADORE magazines and I have a huge stockpile of them that I’m packing, because reading a magazine inside in the winter sucks, so I save them all for outdoor reading. Does anyone else do this?

I’m off – I feel like I’ve sufficiently rambled and photo-shared enough for one post. Not sure what will be on my workout agenda tonight, depends on when I get out of work (either Interval Training class or Spin), but either way it’s gonna get me sweaty and leave me feeling awesome.  I also have to share with you guys the FANTASTIC dinner I had last night (which ended with a complimentary dessert) at one of CT’s only vegetarian restaurants, It’s Only Natural in Middletown, CT. I’ll get on it!

What do you think of the decor of Barrington Coffee Roasters?

What was your best recent workout?

Have you ever been to Orlando? Do you LIVE in Orlando? Shopping/restaurant recs are welcome!

Lazy Snow Day

Make sure you check out the guest post I did yesterday for Heather of For the Love of Kale! It’s got some new lower body workout ideas – and felt! You’ll see…

Hey, guys. I hope your weekend was fabulous! Mine really was. I went to bed around 1 or 2AM both Friday and last night. If you know me even a little bit, then you know this is unheard of. What’s even more unheard of is that I slept til 10:15AM yesterday. And I got out of bed, saw that it was a “snow day”, and declared it a day to relax.

The timing couldn’t have been better, because yesterday was really completely in line with the “happiness goals” I outlined for myself in Friday’s post. I started the morning off with YogaWorks Body Slim (link on the Workouts page because it was such a good cardio workout) by the fireplace, and followed it up with a snack.

Rug = yoga mat?

1% cottage cheese with blueberries and a sliced banana. Kellogg's freebie bowl.

I tore my way through the DVR with Kourtney and Kim Take New York (no shame), Grey’s Anatomy, and Dance Moms (again, no shame). Coffee by my side all day.

I have the same PJs as Kourtney, and my dad can't take a steady iPhone photo.

Half regular, half toasted butternut decaf. Vera Bradley mug.

And I accomplished one of the happiness goals of taking a bubble bath (more decaf coffee instead of wine, because I was going out later).


Honestly, the bubble bath was not a de-stressor! Ah! I was trying not to get my hair wet, and kept slipping and almost going under the water as I tried to lean back and read, so that was a bit annoying. And since I wasn’t submerging myself, I kinda started sweating and did not feel like I was getting very clean! This paragraph is FULL of first world pains, but this happiness goal backfired just a little bit.

Also made sure to post my to-enjoy list, even if Friday’s was a bit late. Saturday’s needed TWO tweetsgood sign!

Getting a manicure yesterday helped me de-stress too! Color is OPI's Warm & Fozzie (Muppets collection).

I’m adding another goal to the list as well, thanks to the inspiring blogger Kasey of PowerCakes! Yesterday, she came up with a great idea called #MirrorlessMonday. Today, and upcoming Mondays, you can comment on her blog or tweet her (@PowerCakes) with a part of your body you love the most with the #mirrorlessmonday hashtag. Also, try making a conscious effort not to scrutinize yourself or even any little part of you in the mirror. This is a good goal for every day, but sometimes when it’s a habit (I know it is with me), it’s good to start small. I’m adding #MirrorlessMonday to my list of happiness goals!

I have to admit for me today, #MirrorlessMonday has already not been mirrorless. This is a bad habit! At least it’s increasing my mindfulness throughout the day. It’s a step.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post (there was a teaser picture for it up on the blog yesterday), because I have a fun night at the casino to share with you guys – I met someone pretty awesome there!

What do you think about #MirrorlessMonday? How was your weekend??