Vacation and Barre + Conchella and Table 7: June Revisited

It’s been a while since I’ve had a few minutes to sit, process, and share anything more than just a single moment in time.  The last month has been filled with celebrations, construction, some serious bouts of hard core work, and the significant kind of family time that can only come from celebrations of life and love.

After celebrating Year 1 of MADabolic Charleston being open, it was time for vacation…and one that had been long since due.  Since I’m historically (and deeply) terrible at committing to vacation, it was incredibly important that this trip had deep roots, and thankfully, this one had the deepest kind of roots I could ask for – Morini Roots.

My dad’s the oldest of 5 kids in his (Italian) family, and his youngest brother Mikey (aka Big Mike) was getting married, so you better believe the M side rolled in strong for the occasion.   Neither the photos or my words will be able to do the setting or experience justice, but I’ll certainly throw out a few feeble attempts to at least tee it up.

fuel sweat grow: Gansevoort Turks and CaicosThis is the Gansevoort in Turks and Caicos, arguably one of the best places you could go if you’re looking for beauty and relaxation with both a pool and beach setting.   It also happens to be the partner resort for the Exhale Spa in Turks, which means all the life forces in my life converged (just missing MADabolic) and set up a vacation scenario that would be next to impossible to argue with.  In addition to their regular spa treatments, they also have twice a day classes at the outdoor studio, offering Exhale’s signature barre, cardio barre, sport, and yoga classes, which we’re so pumped is the same programming and training we’re bringing to b:core methods in Charlottesville. So basically, this was a business trip, or at least that’s what I’m going to try and sell my accountant on.

Envisioning the studio during my pre-vacation daydreams, I never considered an outdoor space, so I was a little caught off guard when we headed to our first class and found this al fresco setting for our morning sweat.

fuel sweat grow: exhale barre studio Turks and caicos

fuel sweat grow: Exhale barre studio Turks and CaicosThat being said, I absolutely loved it.  While I’m not really living in a geographic market that could ever sustain a full blown outdoor studio, the whole setting really played into the island lifestyle, the absolutely euphoric fresh salt air, and quite honestly my need for some real good sweating to detox from all the food and wine.  The instructors we had were awesome (what up Kim and Josie!) and were so welcoming and open to to Dar and I especially, knowing that we’re just weeks away from bringing this same method and class to life in Cville.  The universal language of barre as it’s been so fully and authentically taught to us by the founders and pillars of the method, is on the whole is something that is pretty incomparable these days in fitness, so we feel beyond grateful to be able to deepen these connections away from the home base.

After class our typical routine was to have ‘second breakfast,’ the better half of ‘first breakfast’ which was largely made up of coffee and just the basic ‘barre class survival’ fruits that were absolutely necessary to survive cardio barre.  Second breakfast included more coffee (obviously), fresh fruit, egg scramble or omelets (MTO), a side of bacon, and of course, my iPad so I could keep up with email, the MAD communities, and our b:core buildout.

fuel sweat grow: Turks and Caicos and b:core buildout

The rest of the day was a combination of pooling, beaching, napping, and showering before assembling the family again for the schedule of nightly events (both leading up to and following the actual wedding).  The family update will come at a later date since there’s some more reflection to be had there, but here are a few of my favorite shots from the wedding events, so eat your hearts out instafriends.

fuel sweat grow: Conchella at Da Conch Shack Turks and Caicos

fuel sweat grow: Conchella Turks and Caicos

fuel sweat grow: Conchella Turks and Caicosfuel sweat grow: Conchella Wedding Turks and Caicos

fuel sweat grow: Conchella wedding Turks and Caicos

fuel sweat grow: Conchella Wedding Turks and Caicos

If you’re up for the full scope look at what went down on that island, well, too bad, you’re going to have to settle for my piecemeal accounts and photos, or the slightly more diverse instagram version by streaming #conchella and getting a glimpse into more perspectives.  Or, if you’re really into it, go to about 7:10 in to this clip, and get another first hand account of the wedding week.  Mmm hmm, yeah.

That’s the quick and dirty of vacation barre / wedding-ing, minus the deep thoughts and over-sensitive feelers surrounding all things family at the moment, and the million+ things that are on the docket for the now and upcoming moments of life.

fuel sweat grow: Gansevoort Turks and Caicos

Until next time, good night, and sleep tight.  Turks, I miss you even more terribly now that I’ve forced myself to look at all these pictures again. Sigh.

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.

Academia, Siblings + What Drives Me Forward

I can’t tell you how many times over the past 7 years I’ve wished I were back in college, if for nothing else just to have a little break from the ‘real’ world.  There’s something to be said for existing in the academic bubble, away from the 8-5, and with every opportunity to actually learn before having to execute.  Organizing books, binders, notes, and the structure of each syllabus was like my own personal drug.  The stimulation and fulfillment that comes from being constantly engaged in intellectual conversation, ideation, and exchange  — I lived for that.   That was the love part of my relationship with school, but like any relationship, we had our issues.

On the other side, was the hurry up and wait.  The tedious nature of step by step learning and credit accumulation that felt like a slow march towards paralysis for me.  In my post graduate life I’ve learned the most by surrounding myself with people that are smarter than me, from my own trials, and the baptism by fire way of life that defined my early twenties.   I am impatient at best, and more likely to take something apart to find out how it works than to consult the instructions, or read a book about how someone [I’ve never heard of] has decided it should be done, despite having never done it — you know, whatever the ‘it’ happens to be.

That being said, the reality is that despite my mid-college belief that I was destined for a PhD, I never would have made it.   I am not cut out for it on any level, but my brother was.

In my family, when it comes to rankings of academic prowess and raw natural intellect of siblings, I finish in a very distant second place — out of two.  This is not to say that I’m stupid — that’s not my point.  My brother is far and beyond the most academically oriented, and stupidly smart person I’ve ever known.  His ability to capture ideas, retain information, and systematically memorize anything he’s ever seen, heard, read, or thought makes even the most gifted ‘normal’ people default to a state of perpetual humility.  I know, because I’ve been one of those people.

When we were younger I struggled to appreciate what he taught me and what a privilege it was to live in the wake of his genius.  And yes, I mean the wake.  Every teacher he ever had would rave of his brilliance, the (what I then thought was insufferable) way he could dismiss and intellectually dominate a debate with an adult 40 years his senior, and his exhaustive reading list [including the Russian literature he taught himself to read when he was bored in high school honors english].  I rolled up on a three year delay, fully prepared to be the disappointing non-genius little sister.  I developed my own flare, but I was always jealous of how much smarter he was.

I wasn’t the smart one, but I was the gritty one; the one that learned to work just a little bit harder for everything.  I knew my strengths, and I used every last one of them to grow into my own.  I may not have his same IQ, but you better believe that I learned from his and I absorbed everything that I possibly could from the intellectual crumbs he left behind.  I learned from his strengths, and took notes on how to develop my own weaknesses.  We grew into our own people, and our personality differences merged with our experiences to really define our adult selves.

fuel sweat grow: things you want

I had always hated writing because he was so (and yes, that should be a capital SO) amazing at it, and in comparison I was marginal at best.   I started to write more in college because, well, I had to, and he was the only person I trusted to proof read…and still is if what I’m doing is important enough.

Ryan found his home in academia, which I don’t think surprised many of us…at all.  He thrives in the hyper focused, idea ruminating, slow-and-steady environment that it provides.  I, on the other hand, gravitated towards business, another obvious and predictable path if you know anything about our family  [or if you’ve been paying attention at all].   Despite having never left his niche, my brother was a huge contributor to the path that led me here.  The strengths I developed and the skills I learned through compensating for my relative weaknesses are what drive me every day.  I learned the value of being the underdog, the resiliency it takes to not give up, and just how critical it is for me to be pushed by people that are smarter and more accomplished than I am at each stage in my life.

I still crave development from more accomplished, intellectually superior, humble leaders — and I’ve been lucky enough to have tremendous mentors that fit that description along the way.    The growth that comes from being surrounded by people smarter than me pushes me to reach beyond my limits and to achieve more than I ever initially assume is possible.  I always need the brass ring to reach for, and I owe that to my brother.

fuel sweat grow: work hard stay humble

Last Friday my brother defended his dissertation.  After eight years and two masters degrees he finally, officially, has his PhD.  He’s humble and understated (almost to a fault) and is without a doubt the best of us all — and not just because he’s smarter than us all combined (though it doesn’t hurt).  Congrats Ry, you definitely deserve all the praise in the world.

The Last of the Adventures in Chicagoland

Here we go:  part II of the Chicago chronicles.  Friday was an awesome start to the weekend, and thanks to the beautiful 80 degree weather and some amazing people, Saturday and Sunday were even better.

Since bootcamp (and work) has my body programmed to rise with the sun, Saturday morning kicked off pretty early with some coffee and a little romping around the city before settling on a breakfast spot: Eggsperience.


Honestly, this is one of my favorite breakfast spots, ever. There were a million options, tons of ways to substitute and create your own, and everything that came out looked delicious.

Since eggs are one of the easiest clean eating options for breakfast, that’s what I got – three eggs scrambled with broccoli, mushroom, and turkey sausage.

eggsperience: egg scramble

This breakfast was both the best and the worst idea we had all weekend.  It was great because I was starving and needed food (fuel) to get through the 10:45 Flywheel class – and it was bad for the same reason.

Last October Dar and I took our first ‘scouting’ trip up to Chicago and took two classes at Flywheel with Candy.  We didn’t know her at all, or what we were getting ourselves into, but she is Awesome, with a capital A.  Since our visit we’ve kept in contact with Candy and made sure (with her help) that we made it into her class.  That being said, her class was an hour of complete intensity and probably the highest energy class all around that I’ve ever been in — but half way through eating seemed like it might have been a mistake.

flywheel gold coast

Regardless, we got a killer ride in before 12pm,  just in time to make it to lunch with a good friend, and rounded out the afternoon with a short(ish) shopping tour of the city.  That’s about the point where I lost Dar’s interest and ventured solo around the best Nordstrom Rack I’ve ever been to (after the standard trip into the lululemon on Rush Street of course).  I almost don’t want to share the primal experience that shoe and jeans shopping for me at a place like ‘the rack,’ but I have no problem saying this: it was something to behold.

By some miracle I managed to make it back to the hotel and get ready for another dinner out with the Charlottesville crew (me, Anita, Dar and her best boyfriend Uday…) at Cantina Loredo.

cantina loredo

This was probably my favorite meal of the weekend- amazing drinks, awesome food, and a great atmosphere.  It’s the kind of high end mexican food that provides awesome food choices and modified options for clean eating.

That being said, we started out with some really great guacamole and chips, per the requirements of any good vacation, alongside the obligatory margaritas and mimosas.


Our entrees were equally as good – salads, tacos, and the like.


cantina loredo

After dinner we headed out for a few more drinks at Fado, which I was psyched to see since it was a bar I really loved when I was living in Philly.

chicago: dar val anita

After Fado we made our last and final stop at RPM where we had the classic vacation late-night snacks.

Zucchini chips and a pepperoni pizzetta.  So, so good.

zucchini chips

RPM italian

It was our last night in the city, and an awesome way to cap off the urban portion of the trip.

Sunday I went with Dar out to her cousin Jeff’s house for the last day of the trip, and had an awesome time hanging out in the pool, watching movies, and pretty much just relaxing with the whole fam damily.

cusibians in chicago

It was an awesome trip, and a pretty tough place to leave, but it was time to get back to real life, and all the work that has to happen in these next few weeks to get Fight Gone MAD open in Charlottesville.