Favorite Things

Light Therapy for the Winter Blues

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Light Therapy for the Winter BluesThe holidays are such an interesting time of the year. It’s the most wonderful time of the year – or so we are told – but is it? I find that for many people, myself included it’s a tough time of year. High expectations, over indulgence, missing family – it can all add up to being depressed. Not to mention the winter blues start to hit.

A few years ago my doctor suggested I buy a light therapy lamp. Each year about this time, I start to feel the effects of winter starting creeping up and I have to start using the lamp again. It’s hard to believe, but 30-45 minutes each day really does make a difference. Here’s a little bit of info from the Mayo Clinic about choosing light therapy box: Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

When using it, you have to keep an open mind when trying out light therapy. I have it on desk at the office and people stop me often and ask about it. Some are skeptical and aren’t shy in sharing their thoughts. But the thing is – I really do feel better after using it. Even if it’s all in my head (science proves otherwise)- who cares…

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Get out of your comfort zone.

Discover The Spice: Sumac

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Sumac - SpiceI’ve been meaning to share a find I recently made: the spice Sumac.  My friend Mastaneh had us over for dinner a few months back and we had seriously, the most delicious grilled chicken kabobs. They were flavored with Sumac. I had never heard of it — but apparently it’s a commonly used spice in the Middle East.

From my research, The sumac bush, native to the Middle East, produces deep red berries, which are dried and ground into coarse powder. The spice was long used in Europe to add tartness to many dishes until the Romans introduced lemons to the area. While it’s less common, the berries may also be sold whole. Ground sumac is a versatile spice with a tangy lemony flavor, although more balanced and less tart than lemon juice. A small sprinkle also adds a beautiful pop of color to any dish.

It also has antioxidant health benefits and is an anti-inflammatory. I was able to find it at Whole Foods, but like almost anything – it can be found online via Amazon too!

I sauteed chicken thighs, onions and garlic and add Sumac to the chicken as they are cooking. It’s so so good even my kids like it. And the leftovers even keep their flavor which is a bonus. Here are some ideas for using Sumac when you are cooking!

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Look for Inspiration and Be Curious

The Tarts Take Manhattan

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I have been so busy that I haven’t had a ton of time to update, which is good and bad. I often find posting in here a cathartic experience and one that forces me to stop for a few moments during the week and think – about what has caught my attention during the week, what is spinning around in my head – and document it for lack of a better word. So, it’s been well over a week with no entry – and I feel the guilt creeping up.

NY Tartan Week 2016

Rumor has it that I do have some Scottish genes from my fraternal grandmother, but in all honesty, no one would ever mistake me for being Scottish. That didn’t stop me and 10 of my Outlander friends from traveling to the Big Apple to celebrate the yearly New York Tartan Week yearly event, including marching in the parade down 6th Ave.  We had been planning this girls trip (dubbed Tartcon 2016) for more than six months as a way to get together beyond online. We had no idea that the leading actor Sam Heughan would be the Grand Marshall of the parade and cause thousands of other Outlander fans to drop everything and head to NYC too.

Here’s a photo gallery of Sam, leading the parade in all his handsome, dreamy glory – kilt and all.

AOL Build Event: OutlanderSeeing the Outlander Stars

As part of Tartcon, we were able to see the OL cast at the Apple store in SoHo (although I was too short to really see anything).  The following day, Scotty was able to pull a few strings and get two front row seats reserved for me and my friend Mandy to watch Outlander Cast: AOL Build Interview.  I was able to fan-girl for a few short minutes and then it was over. Mr Heughan did make eye contact briefly (I quickly got flustered and looked away) and shook my hand (which was soft but a bit on the cool side). Then – it was over. I never saw Mr Heughan in person again. Sigh…

New York Tartan Day Parade

On Sunday, we were able to march in the parade as part of the Outlanders United group. Normally this would be fun, but it was cold and rainy. Most of the marchers were not prepared for the weather, including me. I did have a hat and jacket on but boy, my hands were frozen by the end. Not to mention, something had upset my stomach big time so I was struggling to finish the parade, so I could run off to find the nearest restroom (TMI).

Tartan Day Parade 2016

There is something really endearing about the parade tradition. People gathering together, for a common cause/theme. It’s a very old fashioned tradition and even though it was rainy and cold, the energy surrounding the event was palpable. There were doggies wearing special tartan sweaters, bag pipes, traditional Scottish gear, lots of kilts and of course WHISKEY!

After the parade, was the after party at Papillion Bistro. I wasn’t feeling 100% and I looked like a drowned rat – so I wasn’t in the most festive, partying mood. Despite that, I made the best of it and spent the next few hours with some lovely, amazing friends and some serious Scottish lovers drinking lots and lots of water. (Well – I was drinking the water anyway).

After the party, we walked over to the Director’s Guild to watch a special screening of Episode 1 of the Second season of Outlander. Well, that was the plan anyway. One of my friends, Kathy and I were so cold and over it all, we decided to pre-order pizza (Johns Pizza) and leave the screening early to pick it up and enjoy some carbs, water and down time in our hotel room.  Think about the constant activity and noise I was being barraged with the past few days – I needed some down time. Living in the suburbs is not good training for being in a big city. You tend to forgot how loud and always on the go it is. It’s not a bad thing, just not something I am used to.

There were a ton of other activities and moments I shared with my amazing group of friends this weekend. Imagine 11 of us (some just meeting in person for the first time), all hanging out for 4 days together. There was fun, good food, Whiskey, great memories and a lot of support. There were also a lot of strong personalities in one group, but we all got along amazingly well.  This was the sort of trip we needed -getting away from our lives for a few days. Our wonderful lives that are full of husbands, kids, jobs, real life responsibility and enjoyed each other’s company with love, laughter and support. Each of the women on the trip has a story and personal experiences. After this weekend, I think we all found something magical and powerful in one another and combined.  And after it was all said and done, we ended up adding two new Tarts to the group as well.

 

Happy Birthday to Me!

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IMG_2981Last week was my birthday. It was an awesome day that started off with a good 530A workout. I try to always exercise on the big day as a way to thank my body for hanging in there. Of course, I took a nap when I got home because waking up before 5a is just not OK. I woke up to a wonderful homemade breakfast. HB made me a feast fit for the health conscious queen that I am, including gluten free toast with an owl design made out of fruit. It was awesome and yummy.

In the evening, my friend Mandy invited me to go into DC and check out a panel discussing Behind the Scenes of the Walking Dead. And yes, Andrew Lincoln - The Walking DeadAndrew Lincoln was there!  It was really awesome to hear more about how the show is made —Greg Nicotero, executive producer, director, and special effects makeup supervisor talked about the process to create the zombies. It was clear listening to him how much he was born to do what he does. It fascinates me to listen to people who from an early age found something they are passionate about and get to do that thing every day as a career.

The next evening, Scotty and I enjoyed a steak dinner at DC Prime. It was so amazingly delicious and we came home to cut into my yearly Carvel Birthday cake with the kiddos.

 

Happy Birthday

It was a lovely weekend that ended with a super bowl party over at a friends house with friends that have been in my life for over 20 years.  Coincidentally, this past weekend I came across this article: ‘I have lived over half of my life’ : Writer Miranda Sawyer on the quiet desperation of a midlife crisis.  I had never thought about my age in this way, but thanks to this writer, I have spent more time than I care to admit thinking about it.  It’s scary in some ways – to think that half of my life has been lived but on the other hand, I have had a ton of great experiences and lessons and it has led me to the life I lead now – which is pretty damn good. (see birthday weekend as an example.) She makes some good observations that I can certainly relate to although not necessarily because I agree or it’s been my own personal experience.

It also speaks to something that has been on my mind – quite a few of my friends are splitting up. They are separating, divorcing, up and moving across the country – doing some reflecting on where they are in their lives and deciding it’s not where they want to be anymore. For some, it was a long time coming and best for everyone involved. For others, it hit them like a sucker punch. They were not ready for the life shock that hit them – and are now trying to recover. There is something about hitting middle age. We are not the same people that we were in our twenties (at least I hope we are not), and the things that some people chose during their younger years are not the right things for who they are now.  There is no right/wrong about it – even though I know it happens, it still causes a bit of a pit in my stomach.

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Hansel and Zoolander Talk Politics (and Fashion) on SNL

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Follow Your Bliss

 

New Year: Time for a Healthy Reset

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12434686_10153377842913741_300310168_nWe decided to adopt a puppy. We have been thinking about it for a while – and the kids are at an age where they can help at least a little with him. So, without further ado – Meet StormTrooper aka Trooper. He’s a 5 month old White German Shepherd and full of energy. He calms down nicely though and seems to be scared of everything around him which is a bit of a bummer. I am hoping it’s the new surroundings and he needs time to warm up.  Almost everyone that has seen him, has shared that German Shepherds were their favorite dog growing up, and they make good family dogs. I’m going to enroll him in training in January which should help. He’s super smart and already sits and fetches – and we are training him to sit and wait at feeding time.  We figured with the kids out of school for a few weeks, it would be a good time to get used to him being a part of the family. It will be interesting to see how he’s going to be next week when we all go back to our regularly scheduled routine and he will be alone for a block of time during the day.

Trooper - 5 months

Post Holiday Reset

Let’s talk about the holidays shall we? I have been out of control eating. I consciously know that I shouldn’t be shoving 80 bazillion cookies in my body, but it doesn’t seem to matter. The past few days I have been getting back on track though – becoming more mindful of what I am choosing and my plan is to start eating according to the Whole 30 approach in January.

The Whole30 program is a good option for those looking for a way to do a healthy reset or discover what food sensitivities you may have. For those interested in learning more about it, here are some great Whole30-related resources, compliments of Melissa Joulwan, author of the Well Fed book series, including 4 weeks of food plans, no recipe required meal ideas, motivational tips, and more.

One of the great things about doing the 30 day program is you can break your sugar habit if you follow the program religiously. It’s not easy, but craving sugar is one of the biggest issues for most people. Once you break that, which makes the first 10 or so days of this program the most challenging, you will begin to feel completely amazing. Your skin, your hair will look healthier. You will sleep better, wake up feeling better. Food will taste better. The list of benefits goes on and on.

Mobility

In the coming year, I am going to spend more time working on my flexibility and mobility. I can feel the tightness in my shoulders and neck and have been having issues with my lower back. Nothing serious but I am smart enough to know it’s only takes an off balance move or a quick jerk and I could be feeling more than tightness. I started rolling out my shoulders and back with a Lacrosse ball after my boxing sessions. I have been introducing some friends to the painful joy of myofascial release after my sessions to. It’s amazing to me how many people don’t realize how important and effective it can be. I know many people use a foam roller, but I have found that using a Lacrosse Ball gives you a deeper roll out which is what my tired, tight muscles need.

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Comic Con New York 2015: 10 Lessons Learned

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XFiles Panel - Comic Con New York 2015Comic Con New York 2015 was my first foray into the fandom and cosplay world. It was unlike anything I have experienced before, so after talking with a few of the ladies who attended Comic Con New York with me, I compiled a list of lessons learned…to help others who may be on the fence about what to expect…

Research, research, research

Days if not weeks before, start researching to prepare to get the most of your Comic Con experience. You are going to want to look into the following:

  • 1. Panels and main stage events you may want to attend
  • 2. Special Comic Con exclusive items that you may want to purchase.
    For example, Funko Pop offered Comic Con exclusive figures that were sold to only those who waited in line for a wrist band and were sold out as soon as they were available.
  • 3. Comic Con related events and meet ups that happen off site and in the evening
    We attended a Comic Con meet-up on Friday and a related party on Saturday and both offered free drinks!

Comic Con New York 2015Expect Huge Crowds and Plan Accordingly

I was taken aback by the enormity of the crowds. 150K people all taking up space within Jacob Javits, which is huge to begin with.  Many people are in costumes and you will get super up close and personal with cosplayers from all facets of the community.

Get There Before It Opens 

If you want to get a wristband for a panel, or one for the Funko exclusives, you will have to prepare to get up early and wait in a long, long line. And for the record, that still does not guarantee you will get one for the event you want!  Also, getting there early means you don’t have to wade through the mad rush of people trying to get in at the same time. Although, it does move quickly, the line is still enormous and crazy. We got there around 915A on Saturday and didn’t wait to get in the doors to get in the X-Files queue. However, on Sunday, we headed out after 10A, and apparently everyone else had the same plans.

Taking a Pee

From a woman’s perspective, if you see a restroom with no line, GO! The lines for the restrooms were forever present and slow….

Wear Comfortable Shoes

Wear comfy shoes that match your costume if at all possible. You will be walking and on your feet for most of the day. Trust me on this one — the last thing you want to deal with are aching feet.

Plan for Downtime

The crowds, the costumes, the enormous show floor with products and displays, the screaming kids, the constant barrage of people stopping to admire costumes, snapping pics and selfies. It’s sensory overload. You don’t have to spend all of your hours at the Jacob Javits Center. There are a bunch of other Con related events being held around the city and of course, touristy things are everywhere! You won’t be able to see it all even after being there for days -so don’t even try. Do your research and create a flexible plan that allows for it.

Be Nice to Booth and other Comic Con Related Workers 

You should always be nice in general but sometimes, you will click with someone at a booth or in security and it can work in your favor. My friend struck up a conversation with a guy at the Walking Dead booth, and he gave her a special wrist band to actually meet the Walking Dead author!

Bring Certain Things With You

Bring a backpack or bag that you don’t mind carrying around with you to hold stuff you buy and freebies, a refillable water bottle, and snacks.

Don’t wait until the last day to buy a Comic Con t-shirt

They have some really cool NY Comic Con t-shirts but most were sold out when I finally got around to buy one on Sunday.

Comic Con NY 2015Have Fun

It’s a crazy, crowded place! Make sure you go with fun people who can go with the flow. It’s quite an experience and not one you will forget anytime soon.

 

Happy New Year 2015: Let’s Get Uncomfortable

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Funny-advance-happy-new-year-quote-2015It’s been a good thing for me to step back and really just breathe the past two weeks. I had some family in town, got to enjoy some unencumbered downtime, got my fitness on and just allowed myself to “BE’. There are some big changes in store for me this month that I will share in the next week or so –and I think they are all really good things!!

I have often mentioned how you need to step outside of your comfort zone to really make change happen. With the new year starting, I have started seeing a lot of talk about CHANGE. Change does not just happen though. You have to act, choose, and think differently. And that is where the danger zone is. It’s foreign and uncomfortable to do that. We are so many times driven by fear. What will happen if I do this or that? We fall into what Tony Blauer calls a “fear loop”. And it can paralyze us into inaction. When you feel the fear start to creep and start to take over, that’s when you need to step up and combat it. That takes practice and focus just like any other skill you want to hone. And that of course is also uncomfortable –so don’t fall into the loop of fear and stay in an unhappy, unhealthy situation. Let’s make 2015 OUR YEAR!

Happy New Year 2015

Bad Posture is More Than Just An Eyesore

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It’s always peaceful and calm when the kids don’t have to rush and head off to school. Unfortunately, I have to head into work today which is a bummer because I could use at least one more day to my weekend. As expected, now that I am working full time, my house is starting to return to its disorganized, crazy state and I am starting to feel as if there is never enough time to get things done.

Steph Hoaglund- Live Fit and Sore!I’ve been sharing a lot of information on my new Facebook page Live Fit and Sore to complement the blog. I find so many links and articles that relate to living a healthier lifestyle and being well – but don’t necessarily want to add to posts daily. So if you are inclined, make sure you like my new community page. One of the things I have been sharing are reasons to exercise.  Today’s Reason to Exercise: Improves your Posture 

“Bad posture influences your risk of experiencing lower back pain, your energy levels, as well as your focus and concentration. If you’re constantly in a slouched position all day long and not using good posture, this is going to mean that there’s far less oxygen coming into the body and low levels of oxygen are one of the contributing factors to fatigue development.”

Here are some links to help you learn more along with some exercises you can incorporate to help improve your posture:

Be Inspired

I came across this quote this weekend that I think we all need to take to heart: “Putting things in perspectives – It’s clear that the really happy man is the one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.”

Choose Your Hard

Workout

  • Boxing: Friday
  • Boxing: Saturday
  • Boxing: Sunday

 

A Few of My Favorite Things

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I am often asked to share information about some of my favorite products I use regularly, so here’s an ongoing list if you are curious…

Favorite ThingsSupplements

Beauty Products

Grocery

Tools of the Trade

 

 

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