Pausing in Maine: Vegan Lasagna + Higher Vantage Points

Life has been stuck on fast forward lately.  Time is moving fast — too fast — and while all the balls still seem to be in the air, I needed to hit a hard pause, away from all the noise.  So, in the spirit of my new theme, ‘reconnection,’ I took off to Augusta, Maine…on this tiny plane.

fuel sweat grow: tiny plane to Augusta, ME

Destination #1: Belgrade Lakes.  My dad’s youngest sibling, my Aunt Patty, as lived here for 20+ years with her family, enjoying what feels substantially like the opposite of my life — and it’s wonderful.

Food and cooking has always been a central bonding force for this side of the family, and without fail, our first catch-up conversations happened in the kitchen a short 5 minutes after my arrival.

The project: vegan lasagna (pretty far out of my carnivorous wheelhouse, but surprisingly awesome).

The How to:

1. Sauce.  The sauce that goes into this dish is a lighter sauce (non-cheese laden) and, in this case, homemade.  [Ingredients: sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, fresh red pepper, 1c packed basil, garlic and lemon juice (+ a little water for consistency), all blended together.]

fuel sweat grow: vegan lasagna

2. Zucchini Ribbons: With a peeler, ribbon out zucchini, and spread it across the sauce, slightly overlapping.

fuel sweat grow: vegan lasagna

3.  Vegan Ricotta: Cashews, salt, pepper, and garlic.  Soak the cashews overnight, drain, and give it a whirl in the food processor with the garlic salt and pepper.

fuel sweat grow: vegan ricotta

4. Keep on layering until you’ve got a sweet stack of goodness packed together. Top with a little fresh basil, and then take a DEEP breath in through your nose.  That might just be all you need.

fuel sweat grow: vegan lasagna

Thirty minutes after I arrived in this quiet space we had a full meal packed and ready in the fridge (p.s. the lasagna is no bake — just a raw dish of vegness) and I was in bed before 10pm, which is usually a pipe dream for me.  Sleep was perfect with windows open, and what felt like fall air breezing in.  No alarms, no noise, nothing being demanded or expected from me in the morning, and it was wonderful.

I came down to this sweet note (Aunt Patty is known for her love notes, and even the most logistical ones are chock-full-o-love).  So, as you can imagine, I set forth making myself some coffee and spent the morning taking my time with a few things on my mind, going through the personal to-do lists that I never seem to get to, and ignoring any sense of urgency in the matter.

fuel sweat grow: sweet Maine mornings The rest of the day was spent talking, hiking, eating, cooking, and eating some more. The timeline was flexible, the moments were fluid, and nothing was set in stone.

fuel sweat grow: belgrade lakes, Maine

This was the view on one of our hike/walks, and could not have been more perfect.  Sometimes it’s hard to tune out or even just organize all the noise in our heads (at least it is for me).  I can’t tell you exactly why, but for whatever reason, there’s a clarity that comes from a little higher altitude and a broader view of the landscape.  Thoughts are more clear, perspective is reflective of the higher vantage point, and conversations are more productive.  I’m a believer in the big picture, the root and the purpose of people, moments, and lessons, and what possibilities exist in each experience and choice we are presented with in life — but I’ll be the first to say how damn hard it can be to maintain that mindset when faced with the small moments, minds, and crossroads in life.

This was only day 1, but somehow it felt like it could have been a week, and I’m so grateful for the pause, and such a beautiful place to go and recharge.  Dinner and some more amazing recipes to follow up, but for now, I’m disconnecting.

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A Year of MADness: gratitude, awards, community + <3

It would be impossible to put into words just how amazing the experience of opening MADabolic Cville, and mostly growing [with] this community, has been.  We opened with new programming and a logo, and that’s about it.  Over the last year we have built a (small, but mighty) machine that runs partially on our developed structure and mostly on the energy, humor, and incredible support of the clients (now friends) that walked through the doors and brought this concept to life.

The foundation, for me, definitely comes from my business partners.  If there’s one thing that I’ve learned it’s the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people; the educated challengers, the perpetual learners, and the people who push you to be unhappy with the status quo.  They’re the people that share not only your vision and goals, but also the drive, passion, and business acumen that actually makes those goals attainable — and they would be doing it even if you weren’t there.  The truth is, you really are only as strong as your weakest link, and that’s always the biggest risk to any effort, large or small, entrepreneurial or corporate.

I’m so grateful for the strengths of my business partners.  The different perspectives, experiences, and business maturity that I get to learn from and collaborate with every day are unparalleled.  There’s a contagious enthusiasm as we run our businesses and plan for whatever it is we decide to do next — because I know that it will be the enemy of our discontent, and the byproduct of our learned successes and failures.  I’m a complete believer in strengths based architecture and professional development in establishing high performance teams — all of which takes some level of intention and accuracy when constructing, but I’ll be the first to admit that I got really freaking lucky when I stumbled upon these amazing individuals.  This is not normal, and I know it.

But, really, this isn't normal.
No, but, seriously, this isn’t normal.

 That’s what fills me up every day, it drives me, and fuels higher performance levels from me in my ‘real’ job, these businesses, and my own training (well, that, and all of the amazing people that bring our concepts to life).  The fitness piece of what we do is just the hook.   It’s a passion for all of us, sure, and it’s what gets people in the doors, but at the end of the day this is a business, just like any other, and a passion for the product doesn’t make the machine function.  Without the insatiable energy and enthusiasm that our communities fill our spaces with every day, I don’t know if the rest of it would seem as worth it.  While it’s critical to build the right management team, part of surrounding yourself with the right people includes developing strong client relationships, and reciprocating on the value that is provided from both.   The shared experience and the dual benefit — that’s the power of community — and it’s not a one way street.

fuel sweat grow: MAD cville
Last Saturday’s 8:30am class / post lululemon product bomb

That’s what we’ve found to be the beautiful reality in Charlottesville over the last year (and let’s be real, Charleston, you’re right on our heels already).  Once again I feel like we already won life with our community alone, and I so appreciate it.  Each small business venture brings a new perspective (this is my 9th and counting) and I couldn’t be happier with what has been built here.  Charlottesville is my heart, it’s my own personal ‘Best of,’ and it’s every sweet niche pulls on my heartstrings.

fuel sweat grow: MAD cville

fuel sweat grow: MAD cville

fuel sweat grow: MAD Cville

fuel sweat grow: MAD cville

This week Cville Weekly announced the winners of it’s ‘Best of’ awards, an award that simultaneously means nothing and everything in this small town, and we were lucky enough to win Best Niche Gym.  The winners just so happened to be announced and featured the same week we are celebrating one year of business, which just made the celebration all the more meaningful.

fuel sweat grow: MAD Cville Best of

So, to make a long story longer, thank you Charlottesville and all of our MAD clients for giving us all the love you have, and a big thank you  to my business partners for not only buying into the idea of bringing an unknown concept to such a crazy small town, but also for hanging in through chaos, sharing your experiences, and allowing me to leverage all of your strengths to navigate what has certainly been a year of unknowns.

Sweet Home Cville: Friends + MADness

When the surroundings of your hometown look like this, and come with amazing food and constantly flowing (and delicious) local wine, there’s really not a lot to complain about.

fuel sweat grow: pippin Hill

I’ve been in a little bit of a home-sweet-cville fog for the last two weeks, not to mention an absolute crazy circuit of life trying to get ready for all of the big things that have been happening in MADville.  Tack on home construction, and the pieces of my own life that need attention and balance now and again, and you better believe I had a pretty full August.

Last weekend (yes, 9 days ago) we extended our Saturday morning MADness and went off-site to Pippin Hill Vineyards, just outside of Charlottesville proper for a relaxing, community rich, and beautiful afternoon in the blue ridge.

fuel sweat grow: pippin hill

Not much else could beat that view, and there’s nothing that can beat a sweet Saturday with friends.  There’s an endless list of things that I just adore about our MAD community in Charlottesville (including the fact that they are such active community builders, which certainly makes our jobs easier), but what really stands out is just how blended the group is in terms of age, experience, interest, involvements and friend groups.  Despite having such a broad spectrum among all of those areas, when everyone comes together it is always a seamless and awesome time.  That’s a really challenging thing to create, and replicate, and I’m always in awe of our community and the amazing people that find their way into my life.

Case in point: the night before our wine-ventures I had the great fortune to align schedules with one of my favorite humans, and pseudo out-of-towners, for a happy hour walk downtown.  Also a UVa alum and business owner, Erin’s life mimics the same crazy travel mine does, between Charlotte and Charlottesville, our work/home cities.  It’s always a special day when our schedules overlap in the same place and we can do a real life check in.

She’s one of the sweetest humans ever, but she’s also an amazing jewelry designer,  and creates beautiful jewelry that is slowly pushing out anything else I ever owned, acting as constant staples in my life.  She brought me these sweet treats when we met up for our walk, and you better believe they perfectly made their debut on Saturday at Pippin, merging two things I love together into a little weekend bundle of love.  [Check out her website here.]

fuel sweat grow: Erin McDermott

The weekend was then completed with a post-wine trip to Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie (conveniently across the street from Pippin’s driveway) and Sunday afternoon kickball with our MADabolKick team.

fuel sweat grow: MADabolic Kickball

All in all, my return to Cville was exceptional, and everything that you could hope during August in this sweet town; and despite the constant grind of work and business ownership, there were even more beautiful days and MAD events that followed.  Definitely stay tuned for those updates, with special emphasis paid to our 1st Birthday Party for MADabolic Cville, the end of the kickball season, and a very exciting ‘official’ announcement and celebration coming up this week.  It’s all happening – and it’s all awesome.

 

Between the Verses: July in a Lyrical Nutshell

July was a very long month; with work, travel, grand opening parties, and all things life, it required a conscious push to march hard toward each thing that was ‘next’ on the docket.  It was a definite challenge to constantly fire on all cylinders, but it was worth it, and thankfully interrupted by a handful of very memorable and unreasonably perfect summer nights.

While summer nights in Charlottesville all typically equate to the good life, there was one Saturday in particular that stood out from the rest.  It had been a pretty full day of MADness (see this post for a more macro level recap) and life-things, so by the time 5pm rolled around, I was ready for a low-key summer cville night and I knew exactly where I wanted to go: the Sarah Bareilles concert at the n’Telos Wireless Pavillion downtown.

fuel sweat grow: sarah bareilles charlottesville

It might not necessarily sound like a relaxing night — going to a concert — but one of the most beautiful things about Charlottesville is just how accessible and intimate the entire downtown scene is, concert venues included.  You would think that being such a small town with smaller venues might not attract the same caliber of artists, but it’s just the opposite.  We are spoiled.

By 5:15 I had convinced Elly and Dar to come with me; at 5:30 I had all of our tickets in hand.  By 6pm I had picked them up in the party bus (enjoy the slightly exaggerated mental image) and we were en-route to Bella’s for a little pre-show wine and dinner. It was the perfect prelude to a ladies night out, and I didn’t think it could get much better – but it did.

fuel sweat grow: sarah bareilles charlottesville

The weather was perfect.  No humidity, low heat, rain AND insect free; a seemingly impossible combination.  Add on a box seat upgrade from MAD auto girl herself, Jamie Schwartz, and you’ve got the best of everything right there.  Also, she played this song, which might have completed my life.

fuel sweat grow: sarah bareilles cville

Fast forward two and a half weeks; skipping over week 1 of work back in Charlotte, all of the adventures in Charleston for the Grand Opening party, CLT work week 2, and say hello to this past Monday which brought the 2nd Installment of Sarah Bareilles into my summer, this time with 3rd row seats at the Uptown Amphitheater at the Music Factory.

fuel sweat grow: sarah bareilles

Sometimes you just need it; lyrical connection, live music, an escape from the day to day, and a night out with friends.  The Charlotte show brought another night of seemingly impossible summer weather: no humidity, low 80’s, and just a general calm in the air that lends itself directly to a state of relaxed euphoria.  Tack on 5 people I love, and you’re really gaining momentum.

fuel sweat grow: sarah Bareilles

I’m not sure what it is about this particular artist; if it’s the nostalgic connection some of her songs have to my happiest and most painful memories, or if just the perfect storm of conditions and known songs was enough to peel back every layer of stress and concern that have formed around me, but I seriously considered quitting my life to follow this tour and see if I can find all the answers somewhere between the verses.

Since I had this same feeling at the Delta Rae show in Charlotte just a couple of months back (good thing it was their last tour date), I’m going to chock it up to being a love and connection for music – live music specifically – and am committing to doing a better job of making time for these blissful life escapes.  We all need a break from time to time; a recharge, and reconnection, to reflect and process the chaos that came before and will undoubtedly come after.

So, that being said….who’s got any good suggestions for must-see shows?