Monday, December 23, 2013

Michelle Dozois: Body Fit 360 (Review)

You know how much I love Michelle Dozois, especially her Peak 10 videos.  I was super excited to learn about a different video from Michelle that is very complimentary to the Peak 10 series.  It's her Body Fit 360 which focuses on a wide range of exercises to get your blood-pumping and to work on your flexibility by incorporating pilates, yoga, plyometrics and dance. 

As much as I was looking forward to this video, I readily admit that it's a lot more challenging than I anticipated.  I don't love it, yet, but it's challenging in a way that I think I need and can benefit from. 

Michelle begins with a short warm-up and then moves into chair poses and some low-impact cardio.  Your body gets warm very quickly.  Michelle moves you through some balance work and then on to some yoga.  The yoga is challenging, especially the moves that have you going to the floor and back up over and over.

There are some tricky moves in here that Michelle explains in a segment of the video that you can choose to watch at the beginning.  I highly recommend watching these and trying out the moves before you do the work-out.  They're innovative and challenging - and hard to catch on to. 

There is a short ab section at the end, followed by some great stretching.  Michelle is a great teacher and this workout is unlike anything I've ever come across.  It's a challenging combination of stretching and toning that's intense enough to get your heart rate up.  You will not be bored with this one, I promise.  And there's always room to improve.  Flexibility is something we so often neglect and so this video would be a great addition to your workout cycle. 

For a clip, go here.  I cannot wait for more videos from Michelle!

Bottom Line: If you're doing high intensity aerobics and weights, this is a great addition to your video collection.  If you're starting out, the moves may be a bit tough but you'll slowly get the hang of it.  A great workout, all around!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Victorian Tea Cakes

Okay, back to Christmas!

Every year, I try to take cookies to the neighbors. This year, I also wanted some cookies to take to my new co-workers, who deserved a treat.  I turned to one of my favorite Christmas recipes, Victorian Tea Cakes (mentioned here).

Because time was short this year, especially when a week was taken up with a cruise, I made the dough one night and rolled the cookies out the next.  

These are so delicious - not too sweet but great with tea, coffee, or hot chocolate.  Everyone who has them, loves them.  Even my new co-workers!

Happy holiday baking!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Valley Church, Antigua

We're back from our cruise, having narrowly missed the epic ice storm that hit DFW.  Actually, we left a day and a half early to miss it!  

The cruise was wonderful; we saw new and old places, all beautiful!  One of the new spots we found was on Antigua, an island we visited for the first time in February.   For this stop at the island, we decided to hike to several beaches.  We were dropped off at Darkwood Beach and walked around the corner to Ffryes.  Then, we peaked at Coco Beach before climbing up and down a hill to Valley Church.  Our last stop was a thirty minute walk from there, Jolly Beach, the most popular and populated of them all.

Valley Church took our breath away.  I have to share some pictures with you.  The water was unlike anything I've seen.

There were shells on the beach but after a few feet in the water, they gave way to the softest sand you can imagine.  While sitting on the beach, we realized that as the waves crashed over the shells, the shells made a sound akin to wind-chimes.  Just beautiful!

We will definitely be returning to Valley Church - and to Antigua.  It's moving up and up in my rankings of favorite places.  And with 365 beaches, it has a lot to offer!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Checking Out

We're off on a Caribbean cruise this week....  So check back next week to hear all about our adventures!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

More Holiday Baking!

Now that I've introduced you to a new workout video, on to some more holiday baking.  Ha!  

For a nightly snack this week, I decided to make my all-time favorite Pumpkin Bread.  It's so good that I can't bring myself to make any health-conscious ingredient substitutions.  The holidays are about the only time I in went the sugar (instead of Splenda), eggs (instead of egg substitute), and shortening (eek!).  

Betty Crocker knew here stuff: this bread is the best there is.  I love it!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Jari Love: Get Extremely Ripped 1000 (Review)

Among the Jari Love videos I rotate through is her Get Extremely Ripped 1000 (2009).  It is similar in format and setting to her Get Extremely Ripped.

I must say that though it's similar to Extremely Ripped, it's a lot easier for me to get through.  Like Extremely Ripped, Jari divides the video into two 30-minute workouts.  You begin with a warmup of light cardio and weights.  Then a good 30-minute workout followed by abs and a cool-down. 

Both workouts alternate between cardio and weights.  The weights are similar to the exercises in Extremely Ripped but since they alternate with cardio, it's much easier, I think.  So, a weighted exercise followed by jacks, weights and then knees up....etc, etc. 

My few gripes of this video are....  Sometimes Jari does an uneven number of reps, like she's forgotten to count or is surprised by the ticker than comes up onscreen.  I find myself alternating sides so that they're even (I'm a bit OCD).  Jari explains that they decided to do a "tribal" theme for this video.  The outfits are a little out there but this should not keep you from getting a great workout.  

Jari is more conversational in this video and Extremely Ripped.  It's annoying, but I think mostly for her crew onscreen.  She's still very motivating and less annoying than Jillian MIchaels.  So, this does not deter me.  

Even though three of her crew use a step, it's not necessary.  I don't have a step.  Jari and two of her crew in front do everything without a step.  Also, a lady does a low-intensity modification for most of the cardio sections.  Very helpful!  For a clip, go here.  

Bottom Line: This is a great workout for someone who is getting more serious about incorporating weights into their workout.  The cardio is great and keeps your heartrate up throughout the weight sections. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

First Batch of Christmas Cookies!

Since I have limited holiday time this year (due to our December cruise), I've begun baking.  My first Christmas cookie of the season: America's Test Kitchen's Triple Chocolate Cookies. 

I discovered these when a friend made them years ago.  I've made them about 3-4 times, but not in a couple years.  When I went to make them this time, I remembered the frustration of having to let the dough chill before baking the cookies. 

Well, the day I chose the make the dough turned out to be a crazy day and I never got around to baking the cookies.  They had to wait until the next morning.  And, oh boy, let me tell you, I think that's one of the secrets to chocolate chip cookies, of any kind.  I rolled the dough into what seemed like balls way too big - 3T worth of a ball (per the recipe instructions).  I let them bake for 12 minutes, rotating halfway through.  They turned out decadently soft and lumpy, not spread out. 

These are the best these cookies have ever been.  Never again will I make the dough and bake them on the same day! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Denise Austin: Sculpt and Burn Body Blitz (Review)

Denise Austin has been around for so long that I can't believe she's still putting anything out, at least in the way of videos.  Needing to mix it up, I decided to try one of her recent DVDs: Sculpt and Burn Body Blitz (2011).

The video is divided into sections (four 10-minute sections plus warm-up and cool-down) so you can pick and choose what you do.

Warm-up: Some unusual moves here but good overall.

Mixed Martial Arts:  Some punches and kicks interspersed with cardio (jacks, mainly).  The cuing is not great with the punches and such but it got my heart rate up!

Athletic Conditioning: Some interesting moves in here and I really liked this segment.  In fact, I wish it was longer!  

Kettlebell-Insprired: Thankfully, this uses one dumbell instead of a kettelbell.  Good but light strength training.

Cardio Sculpt: My weights were almost too heavy for this section but with light weights, I can see that it would be a good workout.  

Cool-Down: Stretches.

My favorite segments were the first two.  But even in them, Denise was hard to follow since her voice was so light and wispy.  And annoying.  I know, I'm picky, but I guess that's the reason why you're given the option on the DVD to hear her instructions or not.  For a clip, go here

This is not an intense workout but it is a good workout to have in your rotation. 

Bottom Line: I would recommend this to anyone who wants to add some sculpting and toning into their cardio-heavy exercise regimen.  It's a good place to start.

Friday, November 22, 2013

December Daily 2013

I so enjoyed doing a December Daily mini-album last year that I was literally counting down the days until I could order this year's kit!

However, when October Afternoon finally announced this year's edition, I was a little disappointed.  It has changed a lot, including the album type.  In general, OA's Christmas line this year is less nostalgic and, therefore, less to my liking.  But I decided to order the kit anyway, knowing I would probably like most of it.  

It arrived a few days ago!  I can't wait to get started!  I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fall = Soup!

Now that it's fall, I'm back to freezing soups for us to eat for lunches and quick dinners.  I love how easy this makes life during the week! 

I recently tried a new recipe and it was great!  Chicken Enchilada Soup!
  To make it diet friendly, I cut out almost all of the cheese and skipped the tortilla chips.  I added only a tablespoon of 2% shredded cheddar cheese and Mr. Higgins was fine without even that.  We both really liked it.  It is a nice addition to my chili and taco soups - and different enough to be distinctive and exciting!  I'll be making this very often!

Mr. Higgins loves cornbread so I've been trying to perfect my skillet cornbread skills.  I'm doing pretty good!  

I'm already wanting to get started on Christmas baking.  There's so much I want to make (and eat!) and not enough time, as usual.  We have another December cruise this year which makes the holidays even crazier.  So I'll have to get to baking SOON!


Monday, November 18, 2013

Amy Bento: Kickbox Xtreme

You've read my opinion of Amy Bento.  However, after reading some good reviews, I decided to give her a second chance.  Her Kickbox Xtreme Workout (2008) arrived from Netflix and I tried it out on a day that I needed some heart-pounding cardio.

I'm not going to break down this video.   You warm-up (for a bit too long) and then you move into kick-boxing.  At the end of each combination is "power-burst" that consists of jumping and jump kicks.  

Because the nature of this workout is kickboxing, it was a little easier to follow than Bento's Hi-Lo Xtreme Workout.  However, my main problem with Bento remains the same.  She doesn't cue well and never demonstrates a move before going into it and expecting you to follow.  For example, while doing a convoluted move, she'll say, "next, we're going to do a jab, punch, block right, block left, kick, and then jack."  W...T....H....  This is not the way to lead a workout.  If you must do a convoluted combination, demonstrate it while we catch our breath.  After a few tries, we'll get it.  When you tell us, it takes twice as long to finally pick something up.  

(She did the same thing in her Hi-Lo Xtreme Workout, but it was even harder to follow, "now, let's do a grapevine, silly cross hook, jack into a twisty turn spin out."  I just rolled my eyes.)

Sigh.  I got a good workout with this video.  If I couldn't get something right way, I substituted my own move.  I kept moving and my heart rate stayed elevated.  

My other problem with Bento is that her moves don't flow well.  She'll be doing something on the right and the next move requires you to do something that feels completely unnatural on the left.  I guess good choreography is a gift and not everyone has it.  Bento does not have it.  

So, basically, if you want to know how to NOT lead a workout, or design a workout, watch Bento's videos.  She creates effective workouts, I give you that, but they're not in any way well-done or well thought-out...or well-cued.  To see a clip, go here

Bottom Line:  If you have a telepathic connection to Amy Bento, perhaps you can follow this video.  If not, jab and punch and kick until you can figure out what the heck she's doing.  This is an advanced workout, but on a scale of 1 to 10, it's a 1 as far as level of advanced (if that makes sense). 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tatiana and Alexander

I recently finished the second book in The Bronze Horseman trilogy.  Here's the review I posted to Goodreads:

When I finished The Bronze Horseman, I thought, "how can the sequel live up to the first book?"  Well, I don't know how, but it does.

This book follows Tatiana's new life in America, with her son, Anthony.  In parallel, we learn of what Alexander is going through in Russia and Europe, as he fights to return to the woman he loves.  What happened to POWs and Russians after the war was not something I knew much about - and it was fascinating to read. 

The lovers get through it all with their memories of each other and their time, so fleeting, together.  Of course, that means reliving much of their "honeymoon," which means a lot of explicit togetherness.  But it wasn't as bad as the first book.

You can't help but love the story of Tatiana, a small but strong woman, and Alexander, the flawed hero who loves her without fail.

I highly recommend this series - just skip all the "honeymooning!"

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Crunch Super Slim Down: Pilates Yoga Blend (Review)

I own three workouts by Ellen Barrett, one of which was reviewed here.  Perhaps my favorite of her pilates/yoga workouts is Crunch Super Slim Down: Pilates Yoga Blend (2005).

Ellen begins with some breathing and back bends before moving into some yoga sequences - warrior pose, triangle pose, reverse warrior.  I really like these.  In fact, sometimes I'll just do the first 10 minutes of this video to feel refreshed and stretched out.  And this is the type of yoga I like - upbeat without all the breathing and meditation.

The next Pilates series is deceptively challenging - you go from child's pose and lift up and back with a push-up and end  in a plank position.  This really gets your arms!  Next up is a sequence of leg exercises - while on your side and then sitting up.  I really like this - not too hard but fun and challenging!  Then Ellen finishes with some ab work, done on your back. These are familiar pilates moves tweaked to get your abs burning!  

This is the closest workout to pure yoga that I own and I really like it!  Ellen is great and her moves are a great combination of unique and traditional.  Despite all the weights and cardio in my workout routine, I will occasionally do this video and my arms will always hurt afterward.  Ellen has crafted a workout that targets muscles we frequently forget about.

Bottom Line: This is a great video for beginners of yoga and/or Pilates.  If you're crazy advanced at either, this may be too easy for you.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A New Beginning

On Friday I said good-bye to my job of seven years.  Today, I begin a new chapter in my work life.

In the religion department, and possibly in every building on the east side of campus, to go "across the street" is to sell out.  What one sells out of, I don't quite know, even after seven years.  Is it selling out of academia?  Selling out of being a rebel on the other side of campus?  Selling out to go to administration? 

I have no idea.  But, I'm selling out - by going to work in administration.  And my new job is, to make matters worse, in the swanky building where the Chancellor works.  At least I'm not on the same floor as the Chancellor - because that's an even bigger evil, according to university veterans.

But.....  I don't care.  I'm so excited to begin anew!  Wish me luck; my first week is sure to be overwhelming and exhausting!  But exciting!! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Farewell

And so it's my last day in the religion department.  The last two weeks have been a blur - of good wishes from colleagues, awkwardness with my boss, packing up my stuff, contemplating the future....

My office is (mostly) packed up.  I spent a sleepless night wondering what to do with my favorite office plant that cannot live at home or in my new, windowless office.  I've packed away the books my old boss game to me when he retired.  There are seven years worth of memories in this office.  

This office has seen me go through two heartbreaks and seen me meet my future husband.  It has witnessed the saga of online dating and the joy of wedding planning.  This office has seen me  mourn a cat and adopt two.  It has seen the stress of a boss' retirement and the up-and-downs of a new boss.  

It has been a good office, a good place to spend 9 hours of every day.  But it's time to move on.  It's time for new challenges and a new routine.  

But thank you, dear office, for being a constant these past seven years.  Thank you.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Halloween Page

Even though I'm not a big fan of Halloween, I decided to make a Halloween page for the 12x12 frame.  

I can't  remember where I got the papers for this.  I know some of it is October Afternoon; the tags came in a random bundle I got on sale.  It was fun to make!

And now that it's November, I must think about Christmas....and Christmas cards.  Eek!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Jari Love: Get Extremely RIPPED! 1000 Hardcore (Review)

Among the Jari Love videos I rotate through is her Get Extremely RIPPED! 1000 Hardcore (2011).  

The format of this video is unique to Jari's other videos. There are two workouts included.  For both, the warm-up (squats, steps, stretches) and cool-down (stretching) is the same.  The workouts alternate between a weight segment (3 minutes) and a cardio segment (5 minutes).  You will need weights and you can use a step (I never do and the workout is still extremely effective).

The first workout is my favorite, because it makes my thighs burn like crazy!  First off, you do deadlifts and back rows.  Then a cardio segment of straddle runs.  And another round, on the other side, of deadlifts and rows.  Then back to straddle runs.  The next weight segment is curtsy squats and triceps.  OUCH!  You will feel these curtsy squats!!  The next cardio: jumping jacks and squat jumps.  Then you repeat the curtsy squats and triceps on the other side.  Next is ab work.  (A little over 30 minutes total workout.)

The second workout has more cardio, it feels like, and is tougher for me to get through.  You start with squats and lunges with biceps.  Then the cardio segment is a variation of jacks.  Then legs and shoulders with weights.  Next up is cardio: pulse squats (ouch!).  More leg and shoulder combos.  And the the fun cardio: burpees.  Finish off with push-ups and abs. 
(A little over 30 minutes total workout.)

When choosing a workout option, you can also opt to combine both workouts for a full hour.  Or you can choose to do all the cardio segments OR all the weight segments.  I'm not suicidal so I generally stick to one workout.  All the cardio segments have levels of intensity so if you're a beginner you can stay at level 1 and work your way up. 

Jari's personality is, as always, one of the best in the business.  She's not in-your-face like Jillian Michaels; she's positive without being too talkative.  Her team, including Laurie, is a constant inspiration.  None of this workout is particularly ground-breaking or complex so a beginner can easily get started with light weights and the lighter cardio modifications.  I like having this video in my rotation as it's unique and different from Jari's others.  See a clip here

Bottom Line:  If you're wanting to get in some strength training but without sacrificing your cardio, this is a good option. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Great News!!

After seven years in my current job, I finally, finally was offered a new position!!!

I'm leaving the academic side of the university and moving to the administrative side, something I've wanted to do for quite a while.  In fact, I've been looking, sometimes very seriously for a job, on and off for five years.  But I think I've found the right thing for me.  

As most of you know, my job since my new boss arrived, has changed dramatically, and not for the better.  It's been a constant frustration for over a year and I was beginning to lose all hope for change.  But, as always, God has a plan and I think it's a great one.

I get a promotion, more pay, interesting (new!) work, and new co-workers.  Even better, since I'll be in a more professional setting, I won't be the lone staff member sequestered away with a bunch of academics who don't know or care about me.  I'll be part of a team; I'll have an office that's mine (with no common printer and common key lock!); I'll be in the same building as the Chancellor.....  There are a ton of benefits to this!

There are a few drawbacks, mainly the hours that will mean more traffic to deal with. But I'm staying focused on the positives because I'm so very, very excited!!!

Yay!!  I start my new job in a little over a week!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chandor Gardens

Mr. Higgins' parents were recently in town for my birthday and we wanted to do something different and fun, especially since the weather was finally supposed to be nice.  And so we headed to Weatherford, TX to visit Chandor Gardens.

Chandor Gardens was designed by a British protrait artist, Douglas Chandor, who moved with his wife to her hometown of Weatherford in the 1930s.  

Over the course of twenty years, Chandor converted four acres of land into a lush garden.  The gardens are amazing, even in the off-season.  

There are a lot of Asian influences - statues, Buddhas, dragons....among the fountains and plants.

There are fountains, a waterfall, pergolas, bridges...  The gardens are an oasis within downtown Weatherford.  The fountains drown out the noise of traffic and it's a very peaceful place to relax. 

There were some flowers in bloom and they were beautiful!

If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend a visit to Chandor Gardens, a lovely escape from the city noise and concrete.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Michelle Dozois: Peak 10 Cardio Interval Burn (Review)

I'm loving the Peak 10 workouts by Michelle Dozois.  Her Cardio Interval Burn (2010), as usual, does not disappoint.  

As with all the Peak 10 videos, the workout consists of 5 segments with two peak intervals within them - so, 10 peaks for a total of 50 minutes of crazy cardio.  This is not a negative, but I can tell that this Cardio Interval Burn was the first.  If Michelle's More Cardio Interval Burn is a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 in difficulty, this first video is a 9.5.  But when you're talking about this level of intensity, that is not a bad thing.

The great thing about this video is that it's the only Peak 10 workout, that I've reviewed so far, that does not go to the floor for burpees, push-ups, etc.  You're on your feet the entire time.  That sounds like a small thing but it's not.  It's a very small relief.  Ha!

Michelle starts with a 5 minute warm-up which consists of some very light cardio and then stretching.  In each interval you have a "basecamp" which is the time to catch your breath.  This flows into a 2-3 minute "ascent" where you may do some punches, some kicks, and low-impact cardio.  Then the tempo increases and you're at the 2-3 minute "climb" - full-out high-impact cardio: jacks, jog with knees up, speed skates, etc.  This all climaxes in the "peak" - one crazy move that you do for a minute and that will leave you breathless: 180 degree lunge jumps, jump with one leg up, etc.  Basically, a jumping move.  The workout ends with a lovely stretch. 

Let me tell you, even after all these videos I've done, I still can't do these moves where you have to bring your knees up and in front of you.  That's just crazy!  So, I substitute that peak move with something else.  

I really like this video.  There's really only one "move" I dread and it's quick feet (jog) into a
plié.  For some reason, I hate it.  
But I love the workout.  It's a real challenge without being exhausting.  Your heart rate will not lower for fifty minutes.  Michelle and her crew are fabulous, as always.  I really have no idea how Michelle keeps coming up with such great workouts.  Hopefully, she keeps them coming!!
Bottom Line: I would definitely do this video before the More Cardio Interval Burn.  It's just a half-step under the later video.  But still advanced. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Bronze Horseman

I just finished a book that I loved...  Paulline Simon's The Bronze Horseman.

This was my review:

When I picked up this book, I thought I was going to be reading about the siege of Stalingrad. I did not know I was going to reading one of the most beautifully frustrating love stories of all time.

The first half of this book was incredible; I could not put this book down. Never have I read anything as heartbreaking, poignant, and terrifying as the story of the Metanova family during the siege. Simons definitely has a gift for writing; the reader lives through the siege.

And then came the "honeymoon" time, which was just a bit too much. Suddenly I was reading romance instead of historical fiction. But the characters are thrown back into war and Simons once again flourishes by making the reader FEEL so very much for the characters.

I look forward to reading the rest of the story. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Method: Cardio Boot Camp (Review)

Having seen Tracey Mallett lead a fun dance workout, I searched for her other workouts and found this Cardio Boot Camp (1999). I decided to try it, on loan from Netflix, for one of my Monday cardio workouts. 

This video definitely has some negatives to go along with quite a few positives.  Here's a breakdown...

Segment 1: The only warm-up you get is about a minute of breathing and stretching.  Tracey leads you through jacks, kicks, push-ups, one plyometric move, etc.  She gets your heart-rate up and gives you only a few opportunities to bring it down.

Segment 2: This starts off with a few minutes of Tai Chi, which is not easy to follow, but relaxing.  Then on to some kick-boxing: punches and kicks.  At the end, Tracey grabs some light weights (she uses 3 lbs) and you do some arm exercises.

Segment 3: The first time around, I thought this segment was repeating the first.  It isn't, but they're very similar.  A cool-down consists of one move done at the end.  No stretching.

The run-time of actual exercising is forty minutes.

Negatives: This video, as you would imagine, is extremely dated.  (But, as I've said before, the outfits, the setting, the music should not stop you from doing a video.)  Tracey is extremely young and her cuing is not great.  She's also very annoying.  I usually find her adorably chipper but here she's just annoying.  But if this is her first video, I can forgive her.  No explanation is given for the Tai Chi so you just follow along as best you can.  The entire thing could benefit from a good warm-up and cool-down.  Since the first and last segments are so similar, I can see getting bored with this video very quickly.  I was bored the second time around. 

Positives: My heart-rate went up and stayed up.  I felt like I got a good workout, without getting killed in the process.  This is not "a keeper" but if you're on Netflix and need a change for a week or so, try it out.  

Bottom Line: A good, different, moderate cardio workout.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Temple of a Thousand Faces

One of my favorite books of all time is Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors.  When I saw that Shors had a new historical fiction novel out, I ordered it.  It's about a topic I know nothing about: medieval Cambodia.  

This is the review I posted on Goodreads: 

History, architecture, and historical fiction are some of my favorite things. John Shors frequently, and successfully, combines all three to make beautiful stories. Temple of a Thousand Faces is no exception.

Angkor Wat and the history of Cambodia were both foreign to me, making this book very appealing; I love learning about new places! Shors tells us the story of the Cham invasion of the Khmer kingdom in the 12th century. A Khmer king flees the invaders and must find an army to battle for his kingdom.

Shors does an excellent job of telling the story from several points of view. In this story, you hear about a soldier, a king, a captive, and a family struggling to survive the Cham oppressors. It's a story filled with religion, hope, and history - a great read!

This is why I love historical fiction: you learn a bit of history while reading incredible stories.   

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


It's been a while since I've had a vacation.  Mr. Higgins and I like to try to space out our three weeks of vacation time throughout the year.  For some reason, this year, we're going from June to December without a vacation.  Oy.  It's tough.  

We've already been thinking about our next cruise, at the beginning of December, where we'll get to visit our favorite place again: St. John, USVI.  After spending the morning on the beach (probably Cinnamon Bay), we'll go into town and shop, visit some of our favorite places, and have a drink at our favorite bar.  

One of my favorite drinks to get on St. John is the Painkiller.  It's deliciously pineapple-y!  Here's the recipe:

2-4 oz of dark rum (we use Cruzan, from the Virgin Islands)
4 oz pineapple juice
1 oz cream of coconut (aka Coco Lopez)
1 oz orange juice
a dash of nutmeg on the top of each drink

Oh, boy.  I can just feel the island breeze as I sip one of these at home.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Crunch: Fat Burning Pilates (Review)

When I first started working out, I did a lot of Crunch videos, because that's what was on Netflix.  Back then, I really liked dance and pilates workouts.  I stumbled upon trainer Ellen Barrett by doing her pilates workouts, which are a lot of fun.  One of her videos that I own is Crunch's Fat Burning Pilates (2003).

This is a bit unlike traditional pilates.  There is a lot of standing work that doesn't resemble normal pilates.  But some traditional floor work comes next, which also incorporates some nontraditional "fat burning" moves. 

My first impression of this video was "holy cow, this is a lot of pliés!"  Literally - my thighs were burning.  There is a drummer on the set who provides a nice upbeat tempo for the standing work. Again, this is nontraditional pilates - more like fast-paced ballet/pilates combined in a dance-like format. The floor work includes a lot of leg and bum toning. 

Ellen Barrett is a very good instructor.  She's motivating and not at all annoying - except that she really likes pliés in this video.  

After a few years of doing this workout fairly regularly, I no longer go to it very often.  I don't find it very challenging.  But when I need a light workout, like when I don't feel well, I turn to Ellen's pilates.  There's not a lot here to challenge you, outside of the pliés, but you end up feeling nice and refreshed.  For a clip, go here.  

Bottom Line: This is a nice introduction to dance-like pilates.  You can't go wrong with Ellen Barrett and I'd recommend her for good, beginner workouts.

Friday, October 11, 2013

My Workout Schedule

Recently I was a little miffed when Mr. Higgins brought up working out and my dad said, "well, now you need to get Doniamarie working as hard."  Mr. Higgins, to his immense credit, responded, "Doniamarie works out ten times harder than I do.  She's doing long, crazy workouts most days."  I was so proud of him, right then!

But my dad was almost blacklisted for such a comment, especially when he knows I work out all the time.  

I hope my reviews of workout videos have been helpful.  Now, I'll share with you how I put them all together into a weekly workout schedule.  Here it is....

Mondays - random cardio such as The Firm's 500 Calorie WorkoutStar Trainer's Cardio (I workout plus some additional cardio), Shape's Bikini Body Camp Transforming, or a different cardio workout from Netflix.  45-60 minutes.

Tuesdays - Jari Love's GET RIPPED! Slim and Lean or a similar Jari Love workout, interspersed with my own cardio segments. 45-55 minutes.

Wednesdays -  Michelle Dozois' Peak Ten Cardio Interval Burn (review to come) or More Cardio.  I alternate between the two.  50-55 minutes.

Thursdays - Jari Love's GET RIPPED! 1000.  50-55 minutes.

Fridays - rest.  A margarita.

Saturdays -  Michelle Dozois' Peak Ten Cardio Strength or More Cardio Strength.  I alternate them.  45-50 minutes.

Sundays - A Jari Love workout.  I alternate between three, one of which is Get Extremely Ripped.  40-50 minutes.  If I have more time, I may shorten this workout to 35 minutes and add 20-30 minutes of yoga.

Abs....  I'll either do an ab workout video (review to come) on the weekend or be diligent in adding 5 minutes of ab work a day.  The exception is on Wednesdays, when I'm too beat after Michelle Dozois' cardio to attempt anything more afterward.

Notice that I try very hard to not do weights two days in row.  The exception is Saturday and Sunday, but neither of those workouts is a strenuous weight workout.  My hardest workout with weights is on Thursdays, so my Friday day of rest is always nice. 

When to work out....  Monday through Thursday, I work out after a full day of work.  And some days, after working out, I'm completely exhausted.  Sometimes it's all I can do to not just sit and read the rest of the night.  

On Saturdays and Sundays, I tend to work out an hour after a very light breakfast.  This breakfast is usually coffee with toast or a Breakfast Cookie.  Though I do it occasionally, it's a lot harder for me to roll out of bed and work out without anything in my stomach.  I can barely muster the energy to get through a workout, especially a difficult one. But, if I eat something, wait an hour, and then work out, my body has something to burn and is a lot happier.  

This is what works for me.  I'm maintaining the weight I want to be - the lowest my body can get, apparently - and I'm perfectly happy with this.  I hope my routine helps you to find one that works for you.  Everyone is different so be sure to find a schedule that keeps you motivated and happy.