HIIT Me, Baby

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Day 2 of our post-holiday sweat sessions introduced me to a whole new cardio-concept: High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT.  Up to this point my cardio go-to has been a good moderate jog, using distance as my main benchmark. 3-5 miles: good day. 6.5-8 miles: great day. My concentration has been on building endurance and getting in shape. But realistically it's probably not the best way to train, at least, all the time. Lucky for me, Travis is continually researching different types and styles of exercise and I'm more than willing to play guinea pig. So...HIIT, as you might assume from the name, is an exercise style that intersperses periods of high intensity workout, such as sprints, with less strenuous activity such as a moderate jog. While Travis likes to fully understand the science behind the fitness, I usually go for the Wikipedia-style overview. Here are a couple of the key benefits that sold me on trying this new format: Wikipedia cites a study by Gibala et al. which "demonstrated 2.5 hours of sprint interval training produced similar biochemical muscle changes to 10.5 hours of endurance training." All I have to say to that is, "Yes please!" I seriously love the idea of being able to see the results of my workouts in a fraction of the time. Wikipedia also mentions a study by King suggesting HIIT increases resting metabolic heart-rate for 24 hours post-workout. Meaning: I can feel slightly less guilty about the occasional chocolate slip-ups. So, today we tried our first HIIT workout at the local track. It was a great opportunity to debut my new pink Nike AirMax running shoes....

They were super comfortable and cushion-y, (and hello, pink!) but the jury is still out on whether they will replace the Nike Lunar Eclipse as my favorite running shoe. All in all the workout was definitely tougher than I thought it would be...2 miles worth of intervals left me winded. And I fully anticipate needing a soothing massage sometime this weekend! But I'm intrigued by this new concept and it looks like we'll be making interval training a regular part of our 2012 exercise routine. What cardio works for you? Have you ever tried HIIT?

4 Days of Christmas and a Ring

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Happy Holidays!

I have to admit, with all the driving/visiting/family events we had planned for Christmas weekend, I fully expected to be completely overwhelmed/exhausted/borderline miserable by the halfway mark. Turns out I was wrong! As busy as it was, I enjoyed every minute, so fortunate to be surrounded by amazing friends and family.

My 4 days of Christmas began with a 3 hour drive to visit the bestie and her beautiful new baby.  This girl has been the sweetest, most loyal friend on the planet to me  for 27 years now. (Holy cow! That makes me feel old!) I don't get to see enough of her these days.

Our just-for-fun trip to Santana Row (shopping Mecca) at the height of the holiday frenzy has me convinced that baby Abby has definitely inherited mama's shopping-gene. What a little angel!

Christmas Eve-Eve the boyfriend (Travis) and I took some of my family out for dinner. Pretty sure I spent most the evening laughing non-stop. Even though they don't live too far away, it's a treat to be able to get together with Dad and brother at the same time. They are two amazing guys.

Christmas Eve meant driving to a large family gathering at the home of Travis's parents where we enjoyed some Hot Apple Pie (best holiday drink ever, IMO) and the company of a host of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.

Is it weird that my dogs have their own Christmas stocking??

Christmas Day itself was filled with more family and friends, more love and laughs than I could have hoped for! But the very best part of the day came as Travis and I were exchanging gifts at home in front of the fire place. The very last present I opened was a tiny, black velvet box, with...an engagement ring! While I was still in shock, my boyfriend got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife :-)   (Of course, I said "yes!")

The fiancee

The Ring
I hope you have all had an amazing holiday and been able to experience the blessing of family and friends this season. Can't wait to see what the new year will bring!

A New Aquaintance

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32 days of pure, unadulterated gluttony, and-dare I say it?-greed (maybe not in general, but at least for all manner of sugary treats) has finally come to an end. Time to get back to running, gym-ing and eating healthy (or at least paring down on the sweets and carby goodness.)

I met the stairmaster today.  I mean, it's not like I'd never seen it before or didn't know what it was. I've actually been studiously avoiding that particular piece of butt-kicking gym equipment for most of my adult life. I preferred to spend my cardio time becoming aquainted with the crossramp and making friends with the treadmill, occasionally saying hello to the stationary bikes and completely snubbing that little corner of the room where the women always appear about to keel over with exhaustion. But, with the Fight For Air stair climb benefitting the American Lung Association coming up in March...I figured it was time. With Travis's instruction and motivation I summoned my courage. I lasted all of 10 long, painful, about-to-have-a-heart-attack minutes. But I did it! There's a strong chance stairmaster and I never become bff's. At this point I'll settle for frenemies.

Attention Beauty Junkies!

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T minus four days 'till Christmas! This being the case I feel I should probably take the opportunity to blog about philanthropy, and good works, and maybe even wax a little philosophical about the "reason for the season."  And that would be fine. Those things are important!

But let's be real. What I really want to talk about right now is something completely different: beauty samples. Oh yeah. I said it.  Now, I'm not entirely sure whether I'm completely behind the times on this one or if its a relatively new concept, but here's what I discovered while perusing beautytidbits.com the other day: you can actually buy a beauty sample subscription.

                                                        What?? Are you kidding me??

I did a little research and it turns out that there are several websites that offer this phenomenal service. The top two contenders IMO (in my opinion) are Birchbox and myglam.

myglam bag

Each of these two websites, for a small fee ($10/mo) will mail you a once-a-month  package with 4 or 5 deluxe high end beauty samples ranging from skin care to hair products to cosmetics. Hallelujah! It's like the beauty-junkie equivalent of telling a crack addict they can order their fix through drugstore.com. Now, the only tough question is: which of these fabulous services do I order for me and which one goes as a gift subscription to the bestie?

Hmmm. Maybe there's potential for a giveaway here...

Have you ever tried a sample subscription? Love it or hate it?

Cookie Love

I am definitely reveling in the Christmas Spirit this winter! By December 1st, I had completed most of my holiday shopping, decorated the house, and persuaded my boyfriend to bring home the perfect little tree. Now, this may not seem like a big deal, especially to all the super-motivated go-getters out there, but given the extent of my usual procrastinations (Christmas Eve shopping trip, anyone??) I'm feeling way ahead of the game this year. Which has left plenty of time to enjoy one of the absolute best, most glorious traditions of the holiday season: cookies! I had the pleasure of attending a cookie-baking party yesterday where the girls and I made enough to feed a small army (or at least our families, friends, neighbors, and most of the local fire stations...)

Looks like I won't have any problem satisfying my sweet tooth for the next couple weeks...

I used the opportunity to try a new Betty Crocker recipe for these Strawberry Almond-Paste Shortbread Bars. Yum!  The highlight of the day though, had to be the sea-salt caramels made by the craftiest person I know: Erin, who blogs over at The Bright Owl. Soooo good!

What are your favorite holiday treats?


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A former book purist, over this past year I have fallen head-over-heels for my Kindle.  I still occasionally miss the look/texture/smell of real-deal books but I'm adjusting nicely to the advantages of technology. I love the Kindle's portability-it fits right in my purse. Plus, it holds about a zillion books (or at least a couple thousand) which for a "reader" is basically like having a pocket sized piece of heaven.

Given that my Kindle has practically become an extra appendage for me, it made sense to add some book reviews to the blog. Here are some of my recent fave reads, all available for Amazon Kindle:

The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman
I've read several of Hoffman's other books, but The Dovekeepers was far and away my favorite. (Note, I may be slightly biased as I love and adore all types of historical fiction.) This particular novel tells the story of several Jewish women fleeing Roman persecution in Judea during the early 70's A.D., and chronicles their time as refugees in the fortress of Masada. Each of the novel's four main characters has a section in which she tells her story from the first-person perspective, and each of the stories is woven together to form a wonderful tapestry of a book. I enjoyed the touch of mysticism Hoffman added to her well-researched descriptions of history and religion.  Rather than detracting from the story, I felt it added a compelling extra dimension.

Bottom Line: Well-developed characters and rich story line.  A satisfying read.

A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
Harkness's debut novel took me back to the way I felt as a kid, reading Frank L. Baum's Wizard of Oz series for the first time: magical! This book has it all: witches, demons, vampires and a relatable protagonist finding love and suffering an existential crisis. The storyline is a little predictable at times, but the history, mystery and magic make it a thoroughly enjoyable ride.

Bottom Line: Wonderfully imagined....where's the sequel already??

Current read: The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom

What books do you love??

"Mini" Style

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I have to confess: I have a bit of a shopping addiction, and I absolutely love, love, love a good sale.  Scoring a great deal is satisfying in an almost primitive, survival-of-the-fittest kind of way! And what better time to indulge in guilt-free (or slightly less guilty) spending than Black Friday? Judging by the turnout this year, I'm not the only one who felt compelled to single-handedly put our economy back on track.  I found some fabulous gifts at killer prices and even managed to cross a few things off my own Christmas list, although my shoppings strategies weren't nearly as subversive as some (yes, I'm talking to you Pepper Spray Lady!)

My personal favorite score this year was a sequined sparkly mini dress from Express.  (I am absolutely loving all things shiny and sequined at the moment!) At 40% off plus a $40 off coupon, it was practically a steal. I ordered it in silver, although the gold was tempting....

Sadly, the small was a little too large for my less-than-statuesque frame, so I'm still waiting to receive the exchange. I don't know if it will arrive in time for the holidays, but it will definitely be in the suitcase next time the boyfriend and I head to Vegas for a weekend!

What was your favorite Black Friday deal this year?

Blood, Sweat & Tears

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Okay, I have to be completely honest here. I really do enjoy running and staying in shape...for 11 months out of the year anyway. But...from Thanksgiving to New Years my fitness routine has a tendency to morph from sweat-sessions at the gym to a workout of the hand-to-mouth variety. Like a bear. Preparing for hibernation.

                                             ....can you blame me?
              Holiday parties, family dinners, cookie exchanges...but I digress.

What I really want to talk about is a newfound hobby/borderline obsession I discovered this fall: obstacle racing.

                                        Obstacle what??

Obstacle racing seems to be a relatively new phenomenon, swiftly gaining popularity over the last couple years. Courses vary in length and difficulty, but the general idea seems to be about teamwork, pushing yourself to the limit and having a great time!

This past September I joined a courageous group of co-workers, (along with countless men and women in tutus/camo/sparkly shorts/face paint) at Squaw Valley for the NorCal 
Tough Mudder.

For those of you not yet in the know, Tough Mudder is a 10-13 mile course (depending on location) with 24 military-style obstacles designed by British Special Forces. 

Events are held around the country and benefit an awesome cause: Wounded Warrior Project.

What an amazing experience! By mile 13, we had trekked up and down and up the mountain, crawled through mud and snow and "walked the plank" for a swim in delightful 50 degree water. I had rope burns, skinned knees and a strained ankle. I was exhausted. And thrilled. And completely hooked. I've already pre-registered for next years' TM!

Next up: Spartan Race!

The Beginning

It can be so easy -for me especially- to get caught up in the status quo of work and daily life. Suddenly I realize that without being aware of it, I've just been moving forward, head down, forgetting to look around, explore and fully appreciate everything life has to offer! Recently I've stumbled across some really great blogs: about art, fashion, life. So many of them have been inspirational in different ways, and they've reminded me about something important: that everyone has a voice and every voice is unique. I think I'm ready to find my voice! :-)
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