Friday, October 19, 2012

In Our Time-Crunched World, What Counts as Exercise?

A simple walk?  Dancing with your little one?  Cartwheels on the lawn?

Yes to all of the above!
I had the "what counts as exercise" discussion with a time-starved mother the other day.  She lamented the fact she didn't have to exercise and she was desperately looking to drop the fat that she couldn't lose almost 18 months after giving birth.  She was shocked that I work out at least five days a week, work full time and have an 11-month old at home.  I've said time and again I exercise in place of going to therapy because nothing makes me feel better.  I'm not spending hours at the gym.  It's 30 minutes to an hour tops, many times just a quick half-hour.

Much of her issue has to do with diet but she feels as if she doesn't have enough time to devote a simple 30 minutes a day to some form of exercise, which in turn, means herself.

I had to cry BS.  Of course she does.  We make time for what we prioritize and, while she has a full schedule, she can definitely carve out a block to focus on her health.  The Department of Health and Human Services suggests 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, as well as strength training twice a week.

150 minutes equates to 30 minutes five times a week.  Anyone can do that without a gym.  Go a little more intense to shorten the time.  Here are some examples of moderate activity:
  • A brisk walk, kick it up a notch by pushing that kid in a stroller.  Try walking briskly up some hills.
  • Dancing with your kids.  Ever try to do the Chicken Dance for 30 minutes?  Yeah, killer workout.  Seriously.
  • When was the last time you played on a playground or took a ride in a swing?  That counts, too.
  • Mowing the lawn, cleaning the house.
For more vigorous options try a combination of running, jumping rope and jumping jacks.  You can also incorporate exercise apps.  I recently professed my love for the Nike Training Club app and finally did an advanced workout without feeling the need to puke.  I also use Pocket Yoga HD and Air Boxing.  Nike Training Club is free while the other two apps cost $1.99 each, I believe.  I also have pilates workouts from ExerciseTV, which is now available on Hulu, on my IPad that I use all the time. 

If you're just looking to start toning and get a bit stronger, push-ups, squats and dips are the perfect way to start.  Spend some time stretching.  Flexibility, in my opinion, is the fountain of youth.

One crazy tip: do 10-20 squats every time you get up to use the restroom at work or home.  You'll get the blood pumping.  I do it in-studio sometimes in breaks during the hour-long Fan Sports Show on TXA21.  The floor crew giggles but the squats are an instant energy boost.

In my experience, simply getting the blood going, experiencing the fresh air and noticing your clothes fitting a bit looser are motivation to move more.  No matter how busy you are or how much the kids are driving you crazy, getting those vital 30 minutes of "me-time" will reap benefits in all areas of your life.
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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fabulous Boutique Hotels in Texas

As much as I love my hometown, I've always lamented that those of us in Dallas and across North Texas aren't so geographically desirable.  Sure, we're a three-hour flight from either coast but if we want a quickie weekend getaway, there aren't a lot of awesome options. 

Think about it: LA has Montecito/Santa Barbara 90 minutes north on the 101, New York has the Hamptons, Phoenix is two and a half hours from skiing in Flagstaff.  You get the idea.

What do we landlocked North Texans have?  Cedar Creek Lake.  Possum Kingdom.  Eh, I guess.  Personally, I'm not a lake person.  In fact, I've taken to relaxing and insulating at hotels for mini-getaways.  I'll do a weekend at the Ritz-Carlton with a spa treatment, some pool time and a stack of magazines.  It's decently refreshing.

But what about really getting out of town to decompress?  Taking advantage of new experiences in-state?  It's easy to fall into that "let's go to the lake this weekend" rut.  Close to DFW would be great, but hardly anything in Texas is close.  

November's issue of Texas Monthly offers inspiration for great Texas travel in The Wanderer :: Where To Stay Now 2012 // The Ten Best New (Or Improved!) Texas Hotels.  I love a good hotel and this has a list of interesting new spots as well as some familiar ones that have gotten a facelift.  How fun was this assignment?

Here are some of the suggestions:
  • Hotel Zaza, Houston - I've stayed here a few times.  Zaza is pet-friendly and in a wonderful museum district location, directly across the street from the Museum of Fine Arts outstanding sculpture garden.
  • Hotel Galvez, Galveston - this is my go-to Galveston spot. It truly evokes turn of the century glamour.  It's gone through a much-needed renovation.
  • Rancho Loma Restaurant + Rest, Talpa - fabulous-sounding modernist outpost near Abilene.  This sounds like a great place to digitally detox.  Honestly, I'd never even heard of Talpa.  It's 200 miles west of Dallas, just north of Brownwood.
  • The Inn at Dos Brisas, Washington - I've been dying to try this luxury resort that offers perhaps one of the most luxurious Texas escapes with an indulgent culinary focus. It's expensive, both financially and calorically, with rooms starting at $665 per night during high season. 
The complete list has a more options in Marfa, Austin, San Antonio and also features Dallas' Joule Hotel.

Courtesy: Gage Hotel
I would add the Gage Hotel in Marathon.  It's a heck of a haul from DFW but is a great rustic resort near Big Bend National Park.  It's a Vaquero-style oasis in the middle of nowhere but a decent base if you're looking for a higher-end retreat while hiking Big Bend.


The Indian Lodge in Davis Mountain State Park is a unique option built with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps.  The adobe buildings are a gorgeous contrast to the west Texas skyline.  The rooms feature the most beautiful handmade wood furnishings.  It's a really cool place.

Courtesy: Indian Lodge at Davis Mountain State Park
All of these embrace that Texas lifestyle I would love to have: one that travels the expansive state and takes advantage of the diverse cultures and topography it offers.  Unfortunately, real life gets in the way.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sleep - The Solution for Weight Loss and Overall Health

Remember when an all-nighter used to mean a wild night of partying?  Now that I'm a mom, an all-nighter refers to Jordan sleeping through the night.  Fortunately, she's been a solid 12-hour a night sleeper since she was about six weeks old.  Any parent knows a good night's sleep is important and it continues to prove to be vital to overall health.


Study after study cites the importance of sleep in weight loss.  The sleep sweet spot seems to be between seven and nine hours a night.  A new study publish Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine indicates that not getting enough sleep seriously affects metabolism by damaging the body's cells and causing insulin resistance which is a precursor to diabetes.  This disease runs rampant in my family.  I've seen it's devastation firsthand and it's beyond ugly.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Tired of la Tour Eiffel? Discover Europe's Best Big City Alternatives

So you've climbed the towers in Barcelona's Sagrada Familia enough to give the tour.  And you've waited in that line at the Eiffel Tour more times than you care to imagine but you still have that travel bug for your favorite European outposts?  Scope out of some of those cities' hidden gems, profiled in this Sunday's New York Times travel section.  Experts from Athens, Copenhagen, Moscow and more offer interesting places to visit, each and shop all over Europe.


Sagrada Familia
This piece couldn't have been more timely for me, as I am planning on a trip to Paris in November.  I have no desire to do the Louvre or Eiffel Tower again but am always looking for unique, out-of-the-way options.  Ex-pat Elaine Sciolino, who also authored La Seduction: How the French Play of the Game of Life, a decent French-focused book on how to flirt in the real world, offers a fun bistro:

Notre Dame
Paris at daybreak has little to offer creatures of the night. But starting at 5 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, Pouic Pouic, a sliver of a bistro that opened last June in the St.-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, serves serious food to post-party-goers with big appetites. Diners craving breakfast may go for ham-and-cheese omelets or maybe spaghetti carbonara (which is, after all, eggs and bacon with pasta instead of toast); meat lovers can opt for veal chops, cheeseburgers, steak tartare and entrecôtes.

I would also suggest, Les Ombres located in the Musee du quai Branly.  I discovered this place through some TripAdvisor suggestions.  It was wonderful  My husband had the seasonal summer menu and enjoyed gorgeous views of the Eiffel Tower and Seine well past 11pm.  

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Perfect Pear Salad Recipes

With a plethora of pears at the supermarket right now, it's a perfect time to experiment with them.  Not only does my 11-month old love them sliced but they're a perfect fruit to add to salads.  The New York Times' Mark Bittman hits another home run with his 10 recipe suggestions for pear salads.

Spinach, apple and pear salad
From a pear relish to a spinach and apple recipe these look delicious and are so easy.  I always appreciate his recipes for their simplicity and seasonality. 

I don't make much but I can make a mean salad.  Here is my personal pear salad recipe that takes literally three minutes to make: 

Spinach
Sliced Pear
Crumbled Blue Cheese
Walnuts
Any Protein: turkey, chicken, even canned tuna or salmon  

I prefer to dress my salads simply with a good balsamic vinegar.  Perfection! 
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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Best Green Smoothie Recipe Ever

The amazing green smoothie recipe keeps getting better.

It's a perfect "kitchen sink" recipe because you throw whatever you have on hand in the blender for a fabulous breakfast, snack or quick lunch when paired with a few nuts or some string cheese.

The double bonus: your kids will love it.  My daughter, Jordan, has a spinach smoothie almost every day at breakfast.


My original green smoothie recipe  featured berries, bananas and Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk.  Easy, delicious and only about 220 calories.

Add two handfuls of spinach to make the smoothie a nutritional game changer.  It packs a powerful antioxidant punch with few additional calories.  The crazy thing is you can't even taste the spinach.

I've started added frozen kale to the mix, too.  It offers the amazing nutritional green boost while thickening the consistency.  The kale does add more of a "green" flavor, though but it's not overwhelming.


Here's the basic base recipe:
  • Eight ounces almond milk (again, I love Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla)
  • One big handful of berries
  • One banana
  • Two handfuls of spinach
  • Optional: chia seed or flax seeds
Another view
The finished product

You can use any fruit combination with a few greens.  Pictured below is another version with the Almond Breeze, half a mango, half a banana, a few strawberries and two handfuls of frozen kale.  Delicious!
Mango Kale Smoothie
These are so good that they can be served as a frozen dessert treat.  Just use less milk and add more frozen ingredients for a thicker, soft-serve consistency.

*Almond milk is not safe for those with nut allergies and should not be used as a substitute for infant formula or breast milk.
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