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Friday, November 30, 2012

The TV Workout

If you’ve ever had one of those nights where you just can’t bring yourself to go to the gym but want to get some kind of exercise, you can try what I call the TV workout. If you’re watching a television show that is on for one hour, about one-fourth of that time is spent on commercials. That’s 15 minutes of stuff you probably don’t care about. Why not use that time to squeeze in a few moves to get your heart pumping?

Commercial break #1:
  • 50 jumping jacks
  • 10 push-ups
  • 10 squats

Commercial break #2:
  • 10 burpees
  • 15 mountain climbers
  • 30 seconds of high knees

Commercial break #3:
  • 30 seconds of butt kicks
  • 10 plie squats
  • 30 seconds marching in place while making arm circles

Commercial break #4:
  • 50 jumping jacks
  • 30 seconds stepping side-to-side
  • 10 side lunges

Commercial break #5:
  • 10 push-ups
  • 20 walking lunges, alternating legs
  • 20 squat pulses

Of course you don’t have to follow this routine exactly—it’s just something to give an idea of what kind of moves can be squeezed into commercial breaks. If you can do more, go for it! Something else I like to do is break out my exercise ball or yoga mat and do some stretches or ab exercises while I watch TV. It makes me feel productive while I’m relaxing and watching my favorite shows.

What are your ideas for squeezing exercise in on lazy days?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Health & Nutrition: Spaghetti Squash Recipe

I've seen spaghetti squash at the store before but never knew how to make it and didn't know you could actually eat it as a pasta substitute. Well folks, I'm happy to report that in fact, spaghetti squash can be used in place of spaghetti. After this past week of indulging in Thanksgiving festivities I bring you this recipe at the perfect time. How do you make it, you ask?
Well it's simple. Cut your spaghetti squash lengthwise and remove the strings and seeds. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place your squash (cut side up) in a baking dish. Cook for 35 minutes or until your squash is tender.
Now comes the fun part -- take a fork and scrape along the squash to get "noodles". You will be shocked at how much you can get from just one side. Repeat for the other half.
Garnish with some olive oil, crushed black pepper and fresh Parmesan cheese. I added some pesto to mine and it was delicious. I didn't miss the normal spaghetti at all!

Have you made spaghetti squash before? What did you think? Let us know if you try this!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Adrianne's November Birchbox

November’s Birchbox was all about giving—the products are from brands that give back. Also included was a small gift box to encourage a little giving of your own.


1. Lulu Organics® Lavender + Clary Sage Hair Powder 

2. Mox Botanicals Lip Butter 
3. One Love Organics® Aromatic Body Serum 
Birchbox GIVE gift box

4. ModelCo FIBRE LASHXTEND Lengthening Mascara 

5. John Varvatos Artisan 2.5 oz

1. Lulu Organics® Lavender + Clary Sage Hair Powder: No matter how hard I try to get into the routine of washing my hair every other day or occasionally skipping a wash, I just can’t do it. My hair gets too oily during the day and I don’t even use many products to style it. I’ve tried sprays and dry shampoos, but I hadn’t yet tried a powder. This organic hair powder has a really light and sweet fragrance. You’re supposed to pour a little into your hands, rub them together, then massage through your roots and brush your hair. I did as instructed and was pleasantly surprised with the results. Just after brushing, I ran my hands through my hair and noticed that it didn’t feel as oily. Later in the day, though, my hair went back to being oily. If you wash your hair every other day and are looking for a product to add to your second day hair routine, give this powder a try. 

2. Mox Botanicals Lip Butter: As soon as I tried this product I was hooked. I received the pomegranate and fig scented balm, and it smells wonderful. The product is organic and all natural, and relies on shea and avocado butter as well as jojoba and meadowfoam seed oil (which I hadn’t heard of before) to relieve dryness and keep your lips looking great. Though I’m typically not a fan of lip balms you have to apply with your fingers, I’ll overlook that in this case because this lip butter does everything it’s supposed to do!

3. One Love Organics® Aromatic Body Serum: This body serum is a very lightweight oil scented with neroli to energize, chamomile to soothe, lavender to heal and rose for femininity. The product is organic and made from a blend of plant oils. As with any serum or body oil, the product doesn’t completely blend all the way into the skin so a light layer is left. Though I didn’t notice any energizing or healing, the serum is a good moisturizer and left my skin smelling sweet. 

4. ModelCo FIBRE LASHXTEND Lengthening Mascara: I cannot tell you how excited I was to receive a full size mascara in my Birchbox. Aside from the super sleek packaging, one side of the tube has a mirror on it – great idea! Unfortunately, I wasn’t blown away by the actual product. With that being said, I think most of my issue with this mascara is that I like my lashes to have a lot more drama than this product gives. In addition, the description of the product promises much more than what the mascara delivers. This mascara is supposed to mimic false lashes by depositing tiny fibers onto your lashes to thicken and lengthen them. When I took the wand out of the tube and looked at the brush, I was anticipating good results because of the large brush. What I got was a darker tint to my lashes and a very natural look—not the drama I was promised. If you love a natural look, I would recommend checking out this mascara. If you’re like me and you want your lashes to look as thick and long as possible, I’d recommend skipping this one.

5. John Varvatos Artisan Cologne: Well, this is a first. I received a MEN’S cologne sample. Being that the theme of this month’s box is all about giving, I think Birchbox is hoping for me to give this sample away. In any case, I did smell the cologne and it’s a very light and mild scent. If I hadn’t read the description of the product, I might have thought it was a women’s perfume. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fitness: Stability Ball Core Workout

I did this stability ball workout  for my core last night and I'm SO sore today. After Thanksgiving indulging this was exactly what I needed to get me back on track!
You'll want to do each exercise 10 times and repeat the whole thing 3 times to complete the workout. The mountain climbers were the HARDEST thing ever and I felt those immediately. Make sure you do 10 of those with each leg so 20 total.

Let us know if you tried this one and what you thought! Do you have any other killer core workouts we should try?

Monday, November 26, 2012

How To Stay Fit Over the Holidays

Thanksgiving dinner menu

The holidays are all about eating—big dinners, piles of desserts work parties, LEFTOVERS. It’s so hard not to overeat when you’re constantly being bombarded with all sorts of delicious food. It’s not even like you have to go looking for it—it’s just there!

Think it’s impossible not to gain weight toward the end of the year? Read on for a few tips.

Pick your spots: This is so important. Some people have multiple family parties, work parties, get-togethers with friends, etc. If you eat everything you want at all these events, you’ll be sorry later. I choose where to indulge, and no, it’s not at every party. For me, I’d rather splurge a little at my big family dinners than anywhere else. So, at work parties I take very small portions and even avoid some of the calorie-laden options. At the office food seems to magically appear in the kitchen for all to partake—I just don’t take any. If you get tempted at the office, bring your own snacks or treats. If you can, just avoid the areas where food is set out so you don’t see what’s available.

Up your workouts: This might sound a little counterintuitive since the more you work out, the more you need to eat, but hear me out… When I am consistently going to the gym and putting in so much effort to strength train, I don’t have the desire to binge eat at holiday parties. If you make your fitness a priority, you won’t want to wreck all your work by overeating during the holidays. For me, working out more makes me want to eat healthy. If it’s not possible for you to work out more since it’s such a busy time of year, try to maintain what you’re already doing and squeeze in pockets of exercise at home.

Don’t skip meals: The worst thing you can do before a holiday party is not eat all day. I’ve done it before—I arrive to a Thanksgiving dinner not having eaten anything during the day and I overeat and pay for it later with an achy stomach. If you’re heading to a party in the afternoon or evening, get up and eat a breakfast high in protein. The protein will help you feel satisfied and you won’t have to go through a half day with a growling stomach.

Control your portions: When there are so many great food options at holiday parties, it’s hard not to take some of everything. When I make a plate at a holiday party, I take a small portion of all the foods I want to eat and choose one (yes, only one) dessert to have. This way you get a taste of almost everything that’s available. And if you do skip some side dishes (or desserts) during the meal, you can always take some home with you.

Limit your leftovers: Okay, so you made it through the meal by not overeating. Then before you leave your party you get handed a giant container full of leftovers. Now what? If you can, ask to pack your own leftovers so you can control how much food you’re taking home. If that’s not possible, ask to take home less food than your host is offering. If you’re the host, you can prevent having a mountain of leftovers by getting an accurate head count of who plans to attend your shindig and prepare enough food to serve everyone plus a small take-home bag for each person.

Indulge, a little: Though I try to eat healthy and maintain a good diet, it’s just not realistic for me to cut out every single kind of junk food. The more I tell myself I can’t eat something, the more I’m going to want to eat it. So, indulge just a little over the holidays. The holidays are meant to be enjoyed and you shouldn’t totally deprive yourself. Just make sure you’re watching how much you eat and keeping up with your fitness routine.

Bottom line: Remember that it’s a lot easier to practice portion control and stay consistent with your workouts than it is to try to drop a few pounds after the holidays! 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Shrimp and Feta Pasta Recipe


Shrimp and Feta Pasta 
What you'll need:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cloves chopped garlic
3/4 cup chopped tomato
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound shrimp
1 handful chopped parsley
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1 box pasta of your choice
What to do:
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
2. Heat the oil in a pan
3. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes
4. Add the red pepper flakes and garlic and cook for 30 seconds
5. Add the tomato, oregano and vegetable broth and simmer for about 5 minutes
6. Add the shrimp and cook for about 30 seconds per side
7. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley
8. Transfer sauce to a baking dish and top with the feta cheese
9. Bake until the sauce is bubbly, about 10 minutes
10. Cook your pasta based on the instructions on the box.
11. Remove sauce from the oven and top your cooked pasta with your delicious sauce.
12. Enjoy!
I made this pasta the other night for Jay and I and we both cleaned our plates -- a sign of a great meal! I loved how light this dish was and the feta cheese was perfect with the shrimp. If you like spicy dishes I'd recommend adding some more red pepper flakes -- next time!
Let us know if you try this one out! We'd love to hear what you think :)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Cherry Pie Recipe

Looking for a dessert to bring to a holiday party? This cherry pie recipe takes a while to prep and cool, but it’s really easy to make and tastes great. Here’s how to make it:

What you need:
  • 2 pounds of cherries; pitted and halved (get fresh cherries – it makes the pie so much better!)
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • All-purpose flour for rolling 
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 1 tablespoon of turbinado or sugar
  • Pie dough
  • Aluminum foil
  • Parchment paper
  • Pizza roller
  • Kitchen shears
  • Pastry brush
  • Pie dish

How to make it:
  1. If you listened to my advice and got fresh cherries, the first thing you need to do is pit and halve them. This takes a while, but trust me, it will be worth it. Set the cherries aside in a bowl.
  2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and put the rack in the lowest position.
  3. I typically buy pre-made pie crust. If you make it from scratch, do that after you pie and halve your cherries. Lay parchment paper on your counter and sprinkle flour over it. Roll a 14-inch round of dough. Gently lay the dough onto your pie dish and press onto the bottom and sides. Make sure not to stretch the dough at all. If the dough overhangs the pie dish, that’s okay for now.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the cherries, cornstarch, lemon juice and sugar. Toss the mixture until all the cherries are coated. Pour the mixture into the pie crust.
  5. Roll another 14-inch round of pie dough on floured parchment paper. Using a pizza cutter, cut the rolled pie dough into 8 half-inch wide strips. Discard the shortest two. Weave the strips on top of the pie to form a lattice. Not sure how to do this? Click here. 
  6. Once you’ve finished your lattice pattern, use kitchen shears to trim all the overhanging dough so that only 1 inch is left hanging over the sides. Tuck the lattice strips under the rim of the bottom crust and press to seal it together. Use a fork and gently press the edge all the way around to make a crimped effect.
  7. In a small bowl, mix an egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water. Using a pastry brush, brush the mixture onto the top of the pie crust. Use 1 tablespoon of sugar to sprinkle all over the top of the pie.
  8. Bake the pie for about 60 to 70 minutes, or until you can see the cherry filling bubbling all over. Tent with foil when the crust starts to brown, at about the 40 minute mark. Not sure how to do this? Click here. 
  9. When the pie is finished baking, remove it from the oven and let it cool until it is room temperature, or for about 3 hours.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Amanda's November Birchbox





The theme of November's Birchbox was Give - pretty fitting, no? I got a good mix of products this time around and I was very excited to try them all out. Good thing I have Jay in my life otherwise the last sample (men's cologne) would have been pretty useless to me. I know what they were trying to do here, but I don't think it was executed correctly. Maybe they could have included that as a bonus item instead of the 5th one? Here's what I got:
1. One Love Organics® Aromatic Body Serum
According to the Birchbox Breakdown: We have plenty of nourishing potions and lotions for the skin on our faces, but from the neck down it’s a bit of a wasteland. That’s all changing thanks to this brand new body serum from One Love Organics. Handmade with ethically sourced essential oils, the spray-on treatment hydrates skin and leave it lightly scented. Plus, it’s a Birchbox exclusive!
My Review: I wasn't sure what the heck this was when I first opened it until I read more about it. As you can see in the photo above the bottle had leaked a little when shipped. It's an odd concept to have a spray hydrating treatment for your body but for someone who ALWAYS has dry skin this was a fun alternative.
2. Oscar Blandi Pronto Texture & Volume Spray Travel Size
According to the  Birchbox Breakdown: We love the sexy bedhead look, but our hair rarely looks hot right after we roll out of bed in the morning. That’s why we’re totally obsessed with this volumizing spray from celebrity stylist Oscar Blandi. All we have to do is lift sections of hair while spraying it from ends to roots, and voila! We’ve got sultry, tousled strands in less time than it takes to get a vanilla soymilk latte en route to the office.
My Review: I was really excited for this sample. I've read really good reviews on the Oscar Blandi brand and knew I would be happy with the product. It's safe to say I will be sad when this little bottle runs out. So fun for a night out or anytime I want to give my hair a little boost. It smells great and lasted all day!
3. ModelCo SHINE Ultra Lip Gloss
According to the Birchbox Breakdown: Sydney-based ModelCo prides itself in creating products that are fuss-free but high impact—ideal for off-duty beauties (models and non-models, alike). This non-sticky gloss goes on smoothly and gives lips a soft punch of sheer, slightly shimmery color. This slim tube has a built-in mirror so you can reapply on the go.
My Review: I love the packaging. The mirror on the side is so convenient. Unfortunately, I didn't like the flavor at all and the gloss was really sticky. I really wanted to like this because the packaging was so darn cute.
4. Caldrea Hand Soap
According to the Birchbox Breakdown: In the world of hand soaps, this isn’t your usual in-and-out, get the job done formula. This polished number is the sort that waltzes in, meticulously cleans your skin, and then disappears, leaving a luscious fragrance behind. Made with ethically-sourced aloe vera gel, olive oil, and essential oils, the soaps are formulated to soften and purify without drying out skin. Plus, the modern packaging looks straight out of a spread in a design magazine.
My Review: I wasn't too excited about receiving soap ... that is until I smelled these samples. Holy amazing! They left my hands smooth and smelling so great. I'm very tempted to pick up a bottle for myself!
5. John Varvatos Artisan Cologne
According to the Birchbox Breakdown: Gift someone special this subtle, summery eau de toilette from Motor City designer John Varvatos. It’s the cologne equivalent of your favorite jeans and a just-washed tee: classic, cool, and easy-going. Even the packaging—a flask wrapped in hand-woven rattan—exudes laid-back class.
My Review: Well since this is a men's cologne I can't really give much input. However, it did have a light scent and Jay seemed to not mind it. I guess that's a big thumbs up in guy land ;)

Want to try Birchbox for yourself? Click here for more info.

Have you tried any of the products listed above? What did you think of this month's box?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Clothing Haul

At least one time each year, I go through my closet and pick out a bunch of stuff to donate. It’s never easy, but let’s face it, we all have things hanging in the closet that we never wear. For me, it’s hardest to part with shoes. The good news about parting with some of your clothes is that it makes room for new ones! If I haven’t worn something in the past year, it’s really time to give it away and replace it something I will wear regularly.

It’s a great time to shop. Yes, black Friday and cyber Monday deals will soon become available but a lot of stores are also running some great sales and specials to get people shopping now. I got several items from Old Navy and The Limited, who were running deals like buy one, get one 50% off and 50% off certain items. I also scored some cute shoes from Target.

Here are a few items I recently purchased:

Women's Mossimo® Valerie Blingy Flat - Pewter
Mossimo Valerie Blingy Flat in Pewter, Target

Women's Tall Buckle-Strap Boots
Tall Buckle Strap Boots, Old Navy

Women's Sequin-Front Jersey Tanks
Sequin Front Jersey Tank, Old Navy

Women's Cable Boat-Neck Sweaters
Cable Boat Neck Sweater, Old Navy

Quilted Bomber Jacket, The Limited

Cropped Cowlneck Sweater, The Limited

No Closure Jacket, The Limited

Have you gotten anything good on a recent shopping trip? Share in the comments!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cheesecake Recipe for the Holidays

I know we like to share healthy recipes on this blog but in the spirit on the holidays I couldn't resist sharing my all time favorite cheesecake recipe. Beware: this is not healthy at all but it's seriously delicious.


The Best Cheesecake You'll Ever Taste Recipe

You'll need:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 stick butter
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
What to do:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. If you can't find graham crackers already in crumb form (like me) you'll need to crush those bad boys up. I used a package and a 1/4 of graham crackers to get 2 cups of the crumbs. I put the graham crackers in a ziplock bag and sealed it (this is very important unless you want crumbs all over your kitchen) and I used a rolling pin to create small crumbs. This takes a lot of elbow grease so be prepared for a workout while doing this.
3. Mix the crumbs and 3 tablespoons of sugar together and melt the butter and stir into the crumb mixture. Press the mixture into the bottom of a greased (I used more butter) 9-inch round, springform cake pan. Set aside.
4. Using an electric beater, blend the cream cheese and the remaining sugar together until creamy, wiping down the sides of the bowl and the beaters with a spatula to incorporate all of the cheese.
5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
6. Add the vanilla and lemon juice to the cream, then slowly stir into the cheese mixture.
7. Put the prepared round cake pan into a slightly larger rectangular pan.
8. Pour the cheese mixture into the round cake pan.
9. Set both pans in the oven and fill the rectangular pan with water, half way up the sides of the round pan. It's important not to put any water into the rectangular pan until it's in the oven. I didn't do that the first time and water went everywhere. Lesson learned.
10. Bake until firm and golden brown, approximately 55 to 60 minutes. I'm not sure if it's my oven but I had to leave it in for 10-15 minutes extra to get the top of the cheesecake to be golden brown. Make sure to check on it every 5 minutes or so.
11. Cool completely before removing from the pan.
12. Enjoy. It may not be healthy but it sure is delicious. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving Cocktail Recipes

Can you believe Thanksgiving is less than one week away? Me either! 

I usually don’t host Thanksgiving, but for the people who do (or for those of you who want to bring something fun to your gathering), why not a perfect Thanksgiving-inspired cocktail? Check out these great recipes:

Spiked Apple Cider (makes 8 servings)

Spiced Apple cider

What you’ll need:

  • 2 quarts apple cider
  • 1 cup apple brandy
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder

How to make it:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large pot over high heat, then simmer. Lower the heat and keep warm. Strain and serve.

Pecan Pie Martini (makes 4 servings)

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • Ice cubes
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) vodka
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

How to make it:

  1. Place your brown sugar and chopped pecans on two separate plates. Dip your martini into a bit of corn syrup, then into the brown sugar and pecans. Repeat with all glasses.
  2. Place ice inside a cocktail shaker, then add 1/4 cup vodka, 1/4 cup corn syrup and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Strain into 2 glasses. Repeat with the remaining items.

And one for the kiddies, or those not consuming alcohol:

Kiddie Cocktail

What you’ll need:

  • 6 ounces of 7UP or Sprite
  • 1 ounce of grenadine
  • Lime wedges
  • Cherries
  • Curly straws or umbrellas

How to make it:

  1. Pour the 7UP or Sprite over ice. Add the grenadine and stir.
  2. Garnish with a lime wedge, cherries and decoration.

Have fun!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Beauty: LUSH Ultra Bland Review

If you don't know what LUSH is yet you've got to go check them out. Fresh, handmade, organic cosmetics -- yes please! My mom introduced me to LUSH back in the day and I love so many of their products. I've tried several and have yet to be disappointed. I feel great knowing that I'm using fresh organic ingredients on my face and body.  

One of my newest favorite items is Ultra Bland. Sounds pretty boring right? Wrong! This magic potion removes all makeup and leaves your skin silky smooth (even in the winter months).

I've used this product after going through my extensive bedtime routine and I was shocked at how much extra makeup was still left on my face!

When I opened the jar I was intrigued. It looked like a thick paste and I was a little terrified to put that all over my face. I took a quarter sized amount and in upward circular motions  I covered my entire face (including the eye area) and let sit for about 5 minutes. Then I used a warm damp washcloth to remove the product as well as a ton of extra makeup that was hiding on my "clean" face. It left my skin super soft and smooth and not greasy at all (make sure to remove it all completely or you will still have that slick feeling on your face).  

Since I began to use the product my face is much more hydrated and has a glow. I can't rave about this product enough! Thank you, LUSH!

Bonus Tip: Save your black LUSH pots. When you have 5 empty clean ones bring them back to a LUSH store and you'll get a free face mask of your choice!

Have you tried any LUSH products before? What ones are your favorites?