Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Second Anniversary

Today was Seth and my second anniversary. We had scheduled to take the day off from work to celebrate and spend time together.

We decided to start the day off right with a nice breakfast. Seth had been doing some work on finding some smoothie recipes for either breakfast or for a healthy dessert alternative (depending on the calorie count). Seth had found some good smoothies on Fitness Magazines website. They had a nice list of nine. The calorie count ranges from the low 100s to mid 300s. The former being good for snacks, I think, and the latter for meals.

Seth started by making me the Chocolate and Peanut Butter smoothie. This smoothie was made with berries, peanut butter, chocolate milk, and yogurt. It was 355 calories, which is fine for breakfast (although a bit more than I'd normally have) but would be too much for a snack.

The smoothie was very tasty although not at all chocolate flavored. I tasted mixed berries and a hint of peanut butter. I was thinking if I wanted to make this lower cal, I might try it with the yogurt and berries only with water or ice. Something to consider.

He then made himself the Peanut Butter & Banana smoothie. This was exactly as advertised and tasted very much as one would expect. It was very tasty and 305 calories.

After breakfast we left for a fun-filled day. We first headed out to Northampton where we visited my favorite tea store, Tea Trekker. They had recently relocated about half a mile down the street, and I wanted to check out there new location. I was also keen to get some green tea.

Seth had gotten me an awesome new tea kettle from Adagio, varieTEA, as an early anniversary gift and had wanted to get me some tea to match. At the store, I picked out some Sencha green tea that had just arrived that week from Japan. I also got interested in some oolong from Taiwan called Jin Xuan "Milk Oolong". It is apparently very hard to come by in the United Stated but has a very interesting sweet oolong flavor and is especially good if made in the traditionally Asian-style. I'm looking forward to trying it.

Seth surprised me by also picking up a sampler of pu-erh tea and the owner's book Green Tea. The book includes a great variety of recipes for making different kinds of hot and iced green tea as well as green tea smoothies and cocktails. While I am not much of a cook, I am totally comfortable playing around with beverages, especially if they are tea. This is the kind of "cook" book I can get behind. I can't wait to try some things out! Seth may have to be called in for back-up for anything involving the blender.

After our successful trip to Tea Trekker, we headed for lunch at one of our favorite places, Viva Fresh Pasta. I had a lovely sweet potato ravioli with maple walnut sauce while Seth had tortellini and chicken in a gorgonzola sauce.

After lunch, we hopped in the car to head back to Amherst to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, location of our wedding reception. The museum had some great exhibits: Eric Carle's book "Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," said the Sloth, the art of Maisy and Friends, and (my favorite this time around) the art of Ezra Jack Keats (who most famously wrote The Snowy Day).

After a tour of the museum with some reminiscing, we headed into downtown Amherst to the Amherst Cinema to see Moonrise Kingdom, the new Wes Anderson film. The movie was quirky; a fun off-beat romantic comedy. Perfect for our anniversary. 

Following the movie, we headed the the restaurant next-door to the cinema, Arise. Arise replaced our favorite special-occasions restaurant in town, Tabellas. Arise is a farm to table pizza pub. 

We started our meal by sharing some chickpea fries and a cocktail. We then decided to create our own pizza. We call it The Cotton in honor of our cotton anniversary this year. The Cotton is a white pizza on wheat crust with chevre, roasted garlic, shiitake mushrooms, potato chips, and arugula. 

We finished our meal with a s'mores ice cream (with marshmallow cookies) and then headed home. Whew! We were beat what a busy and fun day celebrating our 2nd wedding anniversary. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Amherst Farm Winery

Today, Seth and I went on a little adventure. This adventure took us approximately 0.5 miles away from our cozy Echo Hill condo to Amherst Farm Winery.

It's odd to think that we hadn't been to a place that is so close to our house, but hear me out. To pass the winery, one has to leave our house and head towards Pelhem, which we basically never do unless we're heading out East on a trip. On those instances we were so focused on our travels, we sort of missed the winery.

We pulled into the parking lot to a very strange sight: a giant foot. Not sure why. I can only extrapolate that the foot is meant to elude to the stepping on grapes to make wine.

From the parking lot you could also see the vineyard. (Poor picture, I know, but you get the idea.)

The winery is located in a very neat 19th century barn. The barn used to exist as a dairy barn in the nearby Quabbin and was relocated and fixed up for the winery's usage.

When we first walked in, we got an excellent view of where they bottle and process the wine. None of this was happening today, but we got to see the bottling machine and the corking machine. All the labels are put on by hand! The Amherst Farm Winery has an excellent video on their home page, here, showing the process.

We arrived at the winery and were very nicely welcomed by Deb, who was serving bar on this very quiet Monday. She invited us to try a tasting. For $5 you got to try five wines in a glass to keep plus a bonus of their Winemakers Chocolate/Raspberry Diva. How could we say no?

The winery had a really interesting list of wines, many of which were mixed with fruit flavors. Seth and I decided to each have five different ones (from each other) so we could sample ten in all.

I started with the Weathervane White, as I tend to prefer drier wines. Seth is in his own words not much of a wine drinker. On the rare occasions that he has any alcohol at all, he prefers something sweet, so the fruit blends appealed to him. He started with the Apple.

I found the Weathervane to be delicious! It was my favorite I sampled -- very dry, kind of like a Pinot Grigio. The Apple was way to sweet for me, but Seth loved it, and I imagine my mother, who has similar taste in wines, would too.

Next, I tried the Sangria, which Deb said was their most popular wine. Seth tried the Blueberry. I liked, but did not love, the Sangria -- a bit to sweet. The Blueberry was really interesting. Both Seth and I liked it a lot. It had a nice mix of flavors.

Third, I tried the Barn Board Red and Seth had the Strawberry. The Barn Board Red was super interesting. It was very spicy and tasted a lot of pepper. I found it to be truly unique. I think I would love to sit down in front of my pellet stove with a glass in the winter. Seth very much enjoyed the Strawberry wine. It was very heavily Strawberry scented, but the taste wasn't overpowering. A great summer wine.

Fourth, I tried the White Hen and Seth had the Peach. The White Hen was kind of like a dry Riesling, which I found very pleasing. The Peach was again fruity, summery, and nicely scented. I found both of these to be good but not as standout as some of the others.

For the final set for our tasting, Seth tried the Raspberry, and I tried the Pear. Both of these were a big hit. In fact, I would say the Raspberry was my favorite of the fruit wines. Seth thought the Pear wine was very smooth. The pear flavor really shown through.

After our selections we were given a bonus try of the Chocolate/Raspberry Diva. What a fun wine! It wasn't a port or super sweet. It was just a perfect little treat. The taste was not cloying or overwhelming -- just a nice blend of chocolate and fruit flavors. Deb even said that people drizzled it over ice cream, which I could imagine being amazing!

After our tasting, we toured the winery building. The main room we were in with the bar also housed the wine, off that there was a large room with a fire place and a couch. I imagine it must be quite cozy in the winter. 

Of the back of the main area, there was a lovely patio. Deb said that people often come on the weekend and bring their own crackers and cheese or a picnic meal and order a bottle of wine to enjoy on the patio. This seemed a great idea, which Seth and I will have to try soon.

The owner is also currently in the process of finishing work on the upstairs of the building to make that a space for performances and hanging-out in the evenings.

We had a wonderful trip to the winery and took home our favorite two bottles of wine: Weathervane White for me and Strawberry for Seth.

We definitely want to take both my mom and Seth's father here. This seems a great place to take people visiting the area. A wonderful find in our own backyard!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fitness Excitement

It's been an exciting few days for me and my fitness interests.

First, I have been continuing my running. I think I have mentioned this before, but running is not my favorite overall exercise. I much prefer to do a variety of training -- I considering myself a continuous cross trainer. However, I have enjoyed running as an activity to share with Seth, who has been running the 5K distance three to four times a week.

I'm planning to keep up with my running through most of the summer. Come late August or early September, I plan to transition back to doing a round of the Insanity workout followed by Asylum. Word is that Beachbody will be coming out with a new volume 2 for Asylum this holiday season, and I want to be ready.

Having successfully hit the 10K mark with my running, I had been considering training for a half marathon, 13.1 miles. I even put Hal Higdon's half marathon training program on my iPhone. I am not sure that I'll actually do this though for a couple of reasons.

The first is that, as I've mentioned, running is just one activity I enjoy and not my favorite. I don't want to have to devote overly much time to running and not get to enjoy my other cross training which I prefer.

The second is that a half marathon is far. I don't feel like I have the interest to commit myself so fully to such an endeavor. I have done very hard exercise, such as Insanity, and know that I have the drive to exercise hard when interested and passionate. But without being passionate to want to hit a goal, I don't see that it makes sense for me to try to train for such a long distance. I think I would be happier keeping up my 3.5 - 6 mile runs and sticking with that.

Today, something happened to motivate me to keep up with my planned 3.5 - 6 mile run schedule. Seth signed up for his first road race!

Seth and I (along with Seth's friend, Patrick) are going to be taking part in the 34th Annual Bridge of Flowers Road Race in Shelbourne Falls. The race offers both a 3K and 10K course. Seth will be doing the former; me the latter. In Seth's words, "He's going to kick that race's ass!" He's very excited.

I am excited to try my first formal 10K after finally reaching that distance. The race is mostly shaded. It's fairly flat for the 3K. For the 10K, the first 2 miles are flat, followed by a half mile hill. It's all downhill after that. Sounds pretty fine, especially after the 2 mile (give or take) hill at Lake Wyola. I plan to do some light hill training and then be ready to go!

The race benefits charity, and Seth and I both got to choose a charity of choice. I'm running to benefit the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community, a non-profit which supports people in mental health recovery. As they website states, RLC, "creates conditions that support recovery at both the individual and community level through trauma-sensitive peer supports and the development of a regional network. We believe that human relationships are at the center of what heals people who have experienced extreme emotional states, trauma, mental health diagnoses and a variety of other challenges in life."

I definitely feel very close to the mission of this charity. My parents both work in the field of mental health at Connecticut Valley Hospital. I was fortunate to get to volunteer at the hospital and meet many individuals dealing with mental health issues. Like everyone, I know many friends and loved ones who work hard to manage their mental health. I think that programs like this in the community are a wonderful way to support people working through and dealing with mental illness.

If this charity strikes a chord with you, I encourage you to get involved by making a gift on my run website here. I definitely plan to train hard and have a good run at the 10K on August 11th.

I also had the chance to do another exciting fitness activity this week. While browsing the internet one day, I came across a new type of training, TRX Suspension Training. I was instantly interested!
TRX uses straps and the weight of your body to do resistance training. This type of workout was created for Navy Seals (and since I am practically a Navy Seal, I felt it was a good fit for me! Jk.).

While talking about TRX before aerobics class one day, my aerobics instructor, Rosalie, mentioned that the college owns a set. She said that she would be happy to show me a quick demo to see if I like them. Since TRX is very expensive to purchase, around $200, I wanted to check it out more than buy it.

On Wednesnday after work, I met Rosalie at Smith's track (called the ITT for indoor track and tennis) and got a fifteen minute demo for TRX. It was hard and fun seeming -- I wanted more.

I did a quick Google search and found that a local fitness center in Hadley, Energia, offered an outdoor TRX class Saturday morning at 9:45 a.m. for 45 minutes. This was the perfect intro I was looking for. I signed up straight away.

I have to say that Energia was totally awesome, and I loved the class. The people at Energia were nice and welcoming (both the staff and class regulars). I was prepared to pay the reasonable $15 drop in charge for the class, however, the instructor, Justin, said since it was my first time there and my first class I could just check it out for free.

Let me tell you TRX is hard. The workout left me super sweaty and my muscles were shaking in the best way. I had loads of fun. Justin said I should definitely come back. He said he does a slightly more advanced and faster paced class on Thursdays and that he thought that might interest me. I definitely want to go back and check it out again either this Thursday or next. So fun! I also felt like I used my core a great deal to stablize while using the straps to workout. Because you are using the straps while doing your resistance training, you really have to stabalize as you move to you stay in place. TRX is truly an interesting and unique workout.

The upper body work, which allows you to be upright and use your body as resistance was hard, but the most difficult moves, I felt, were those with your lower body. We did hamstring curls while in bridge, and I don't think my legs have every worked so hard. And I always said my legs are stronger than my arms. Maybe not...

In the final piece of news, I turn to the nutrion area of fitness. As I think I've mentioned, I have been drinking Shakeology for the past six months or so. Shakeology is a nutrion drink packed with vitamins. I have really enjoyed having it with 8 oz of skim milk for breakfast. It makes me feel healthy knowing I have gotten all those vitamins and minerals. Plus, I think it's great for my digestion, it helps me manage my appitite, and makes my skin and nails look very healthy.

Unforutnately, it's also over $100 for a thirty day supply. Seth and I have started saving money for new windows for our condo. We received a letter in the mail in May informing us that everyone in Echo Hill Condos will have to get new windows within three years (for structural reasons). Our windows are old, probably original to the house, and I have been wanting them, but wasn't planning on getting them quite yet because of the pellet stove.

With this news, we're accelerating our savings to get the new windows (and slider if we can afford it because it lets in a lot of cold in the winter). With this savings going on, I didn't really want to spend so much on a nutrion drink each month.

I did research and have decided to try GNC's Women's Ultra Mega Active shake. It looks to have a lot of similar nutrients to Shakeology at half the price. I plan to go buy some today since I just finished my last chocolate Shakeology. I'll let you know what I think after having it for a few days. Seth is going to try the GNC Mega Man Maximum Nutrion shake (or maybe the Mega Man Sport one) as a new alternative to the SlimFast he's been having for breakfast. I'll report out on how he likes it too.

Lots of finess excitment. I'll be sure to keep you posted on how things progress with all these fun exercise and wellness activities.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Weekend in Cambridge and Justus and Kelly's Wedding

This weekend, Seth and I had a special adventure. We traveled out east to Cambridge (Massachusetts) for Justus and Kelly's wedding! Seth and Justus were good friends and roommates in college and Seth was in the wedding party.

We drove out Saturday afternoon to Seth's friend, Patrick's apartment. Though I have seen Patrick in Cambridge before, I had never been to his apartment, which was quite nice. It was lovely of him to let us stay for two nights.

After we arrived in Cambridge and got situated, Seth headed out to the rehearsal and following dinner. Patrick, ever so kindly, agreed to take me on a tour of his local area and for some supper.

I have to admit, I am not a city person in general. I do like the opportunities of cities, but couldn't ever imagine living in one. Just as people who live in the cities often cannot imagine living in the suburbs. That being said, being able to walk everywhere is very, very cool. It combines efficiency and exercise, probably my two favorite things.

We were able to walk to a restaurant located in Technology Square called Area Four. There I had a super delicious and innovative pizza with spring onion sauce, mozzarella, arugula, asparagus, and peas.

After dinner, we went on a walking tour of MIT, a campus I always find fascinating with its eclectic architecture and aura of genius. We passed the famous Media Lab where e-ink and Guitar Hero were created. We also saw the Stata Building, designed by world-famous architect Frank O. Gehry.

I also, for the first time, got to walk along the Charles River. It was fun viewing these landmarks.

Sunday, Seth and I had plans for a walk into Boston. Our planned location was Niketown on Newbury Street in Boston. I wanted to check out the new Nike+ Training shoes, which track the intensity of cross training. Seth wanted to check out the Nike+ Fuelband, which tracks your activity throughout the day to motivate you to do more.

The walk to Boston and Newbury Street from where we were in Cambridge was around 2.5 miles. We started by walking through MIT. We saw an entertaining sculpture.

We then crossed the Harvard Bridge over the Charles River. The day was sunny and warm but there was a nice breeze.

There is an extra entertaining thing about the Harvard Bridge. As part of a prank, in 1958 a group of fraternity members measured the bridge using a pledge with the last name of Smoot. The smoot is now a non-standard unit of measure -- 5' 7" or the height of Mr. Smoot.

We arrived at Newbury Street around 11:30, before Niketown was scheduled to open. I was a bit thirsty from the sun and also, unfortunately, sunburned due to my lack of preparation. I had neglected to bring sunscreen. 

We stopped in a cute looking place called L'Aroma Cafe where we got a yummy pina colada smoothie. L'Aroma looked to have its own tea blends, almost exclusively black tea.

We window shopped and then saw a Lush store. Lush, as many of you know, if one of my favorite stores. It sells fresh handmade cosmetics, mostly for bath and shower. We stopped in and I picked up a fresh face mask, some soap, and a bucket of shower scrub. Excellent!

We then continued back to Niketown, now open. I have to say the store was giant with a selection of goods I have not seen anywhere else, but it was also hard to navigate. In a neat note, the store was very much Boston Marathon themed -- both Seth and I liked how the store was designed around its location. 

After walking around, a sales associate helped us to try on the shoes we were looking for, the Nike Lunar Hyperworkout+. These are the shoes with the sensors for Nike+ Training. They are quite fancy looking.

I usually wear a size 6.5, but in Nikes, I find I need to size up half a size to a seven. I tried on the Nike Lunars in both a 6.5 and 7 and realized right away that shoes were not right for me. The 6.5 fit properly length wise but was way to tight in the toe box -- it felt narrow throughout. I also found the soles of the shoes to be very rigid. I think that this is probably fine for lots of people, but I like my shoes as flexible and minimalist as possible when I train. I find that this helps my feet roll properly through jumps, which I think is easier on the feet and legs.

I was sad that the Nikes didn't work as that means I cannot try the fancy new Nike+ Training technology. Fortunately, we had much more luck with the Nike Fuelband. Seth and I had done a lot of research about the Nike Fuelband, as it's not a cheap purchase. 

Seth has been doing an amazing job getting more healthy and fit while losing weight. He has completed his 5K program and went from not running at all to being able to run over 3 miles and feel great. I am so proud of him. 

Because of his great success losing weight with increased exercise, the Fuelband seemed an ideal purchase. The band uses a set of three accelorameters to track activity (converted into proprietary Nike Fuel points), steps, and calories burned. It's a great way to see how much activity your're getting and set goals to increase overall activity. The band is designed to be used as a tool to motivate you, kind of like FitBit. As a bonus it's also a watch and kind of cool looking.

Purchasing done, we were ready for some lunch. We walked along Newbury Street until we came to a restaurant called, Piattini. It had reasonable prices and a nice outdoor eating area. Seth and I got some tasty paninis, eggplant parm for Seth and mushrooms with red peppers and onions for me.

After our slightly later lunch, we headed back to Cambridge and arrived at around 3:00, just in time to get ready for the wedding. It soon became evident that I had an unpleasant sunburn in the shape of the v-neck t-shirt I wore for our walk. This proved not very flattering with my strapless J. Crew dress. Fortunately, I had the lace shawl that my co-worker, Julia, knit for our wedding. Perfect cover up!

Seth and I walked another mile and hopped on the T, headed for the wedding ceremony location, the Museum of Modern Renaissance in Sommerville.

It was truly a unique location. We hung around for a while waiting for the ceremony to get started. The gentlemen seemed to be having a fun time. Here's Seth, Justus, and David.

The ceremony was wonderfully unique and personal. Afterwards, I hung out waiting for the wedding party, since basically everyone I knew (Seth, David, et cetera) was in the wedding. David's wife, H, took pictures inside the museum. I'm looking forward to seeing them when they get posted online. 

We then headed over to Saloon, located in nearby Davis Square. It was such a super cool place! It's a bar attached to a improv theater. It was dark inside and I was unable to take pictures, but here are a couple from the Saloon website to give you the idea. 

 The place had the most amazing food. We snacked on melon and caprese salad before a buffet dinner featuring eggplant parm, stuffed sole, and a meat station with beef and an entire pig. There were cupcakes for dessert -- mind was cookie dough.

 We enjoyed dinner and hung around for a fun time dancing before heading back to Cambridge to collapse in exhaustion.

Now we're back in Amherst and resting up from our fun weekend. Whew, what  great trip!