Shaking Things Up w/Carolina Barre & Core: Thanksgiving Edition

I’m not going to lie – I don’t love winter.  I love the idea of it; pumpkin things, snow days with hot chocolate, beautiful blankets of white snow that lasts for a day before magically disappearing, and all of the holiday things that HomeGoods has to offer.  I love the storybook moments of winter, and none of the dark, cold, everyday parts hat come from shorter days and wind chill.

This past week was a cold one in my part of the world, and I can’t say I was too thankful for that life reality, but I’m Thankful nonetheless.  I’m still in complete denial that it’s not summer anymore (deep denial apparently), so the 30 degree weather that we met in Charlotte for Thanksgiving week was a bit traumatic.  Naturally, I took to wine, blankets, and barre to recover…along with a pretty significant amount of cooking.  I was in good company for all of those things, so it managed to balance out the wind chill and a happy wine-giving was had by all.

On Thanksgiving Day the Mayor of MADville (Dar) and I made a pilgrimage (get it?) out of the full house and over to Carolina Barre & Core to shake things up with our good friend Amity.  Amity was one of my first ever Barre teachers, and is (and probably will forever be) my favorite teacher of all time.

fuel sweat grow: carolina barre and core

About two years ago I got a phone call from Amity telling me she was thinking about leaving her previous studio to open one, with programming powered by Exhale Spa, and the Barre technique that started it all.  And when I say it all, I mean it.  This method is the first derivative of the Lotte Berk method that spawned the frenzy of barre techniques and studios.

I was already a huge fan of Amity’s, but I’m also obsessed with the diversity of this method, the flexibility and depth of programming, and the warm spirit that it brings to the community of her studio.  In addition to just having standard Barre Fusion classes, they also have Advanced Barre, Cardio / Barre [LOVE], Cardio Sport, and Yoga Fusion classes, just to name a few.  The other huge plus, in my opinion, is that they don’t promote ‘tucking,’ which is a big criticism of more main streamed techniques for the negative impacts the repetitive motion and pelvic contraction can have on women’s bodies.

I love the classes at CBC, but it’s truly the community and the friendly vibe inside the studio that makes it feel like a home away from home for me, and when I’m in Charlotte for work, that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

fuel sweat grow: Carolina Barre and Core

I can’t say that I was totally feeling up for any sort of sweating (first thing) when I woke up on Thursday, but about 3 minutes in to the class I remembered why Amity is everything, and why I was never able to walk, breathe…or really move, after I took one of her classes.  All of those thing proved true again, and on Friday morning when I returned, very stiffly, for day 2, I met my complete match in 30/30 (Cardio/Barre).  That class is my own personal love.  It starts with 30 minutes of body weight, and light weight, cardio isometrics, utilizing full body movements to elevate the heart rate and simultaneously strengthen with slight weights through more functionally designed movements.  It’s not about just isolating one single group at a time, and it’s everything about feeling the burn, and apparently sweating like an animal if you’re me.  The second half of the class is Barre, but only my favorite parts (thighs, glutes, abs, and stretch), and then almost as fast as it started you find yourself laying peacefully on your mat lingering just a little longer before you have to go home.  And then there’s the bonus: there are two stall bars in the studio for you to stretch out and re-align your body/spine, which is pretty critical.

fuel sweat grow: carolina barre stall bar Needless to say, after two consecutive days at Carolina Barre & Core, followed up by Saturday morning back at MADabolic in Charlottesville, my body welcomed a much needed rest day today to get organized for another week of everything at once as we steadily build into the thick of the holiday season. Tomorrow is December 1st, beginning the last month of 2014 and I’ll be damned if this year doesn’t end on a positive note, so who’s in?

Welcoming November with Positivity + Cautious Optimism

November is here and I’m itching for some change.  Daylight savings ended this weekend and I wasted most of the extra hour thinking about time, and all of the things I daydream (usually when I’m fighting waking up in the morning) that I would do if I just had one extra hour to myself.  Usually those thoughts center around either getting up earlier to workout, or just sleeping later — something of a paradox really.

Even though the idea of actually gaining an hour has already burned off, I want to be more intentional about how I start my days off — not just through actual action, but also intention and approach.


There’s something to choosing an intention for the day — a subtle focus and general goal for how to mentally approach the waking hours.  Life is way too fluid to be controlled, but there’s something pretty powerful about selecting the lens through which you view it and how it really does begin to shine through the other garbage that starts to pile on.  And maybe, just maybe, over time the garbage will decrease — either in reality, or perception.  At least that’s the goal.

One of the best parts of the day is when I get to check my personal email and the daily Truth Bomb’s from Danielle LaPorte — it’s such a guilty (or not so guilty, really) pleasure of mine….but I need to put the effort in to have my own.  My friends at Merch Colony are currently doing a daily gratitude challenge in preparation for Thanksgiving, so as I launch this new positive/daily intention, I’m going to err on the side of gratitude this month.  December can be focused on a little more positivity since I know I’ll need it once the temps dip below what is reasonable…in my opinion.

This morning, admittedly, I took about a 45 minute delay on being exceptionally positive as I got up to head to MADabolic Cville for the 6am class.  I’m not a super early person these days, so it’s always begrudgingly that I make the early morning classes.  The up-side is that once I’m in it, I love it.  After years of waking up way early for rowing I have a deep love/hate for pre-dawn movement, but my body is definitely conditioned to rise to the occasion, and by 7am I already feel accomplished, strong, and completely focused on the day ahead.

As I was making my (3rd) coffee of the morning (in the newly renovated kitchen that I will undoubtedly be sharing more about, and in, soon), I sunk deeper into an already positive mindset, with gratitude that I’m able to start of Monday so happily, so productively, and with such an amazing group of people.  Followed up by this view of the back yard and the water line of the Rivanna beyond the trees — and thus Monday began with gratitude and a warm mug of coffee in my hands.  Not too shabby.

fuel sweat grow: view from the kitchen window

On another positive note, I made my first full meal in the new kitchen this weekend, and it felt so great to have my favorite space back.

fuel sweat grow: fall squash and salad

fuel sweat grow: grilled pesto chicken

I’m really into late summer/fall style salads right now, and aside from the general add of some avocado, pesto chicken seemed like a solid path to cautiously embrace November.

So, I welcome you, November with positivity, a fully functioning kitchen, and the cautious optimism of someone with an extra hour to burn and anxious anticipation of the cold months I avoid all year.

A Declaration of Seasonal Change: 4 Priorities for a Productive End to Winter

Every year, around this time, there comes a day when I just hit my threshold for winter.  It’s not necessarily on the coldest or snowiest day, but just a day when my tolerance for anything other than the regrowth of spring and light jacket weather becomes insufferable.

Wednesday was that day for me.  It was cold, work was frustrating, and I was experiencing a constant level of nagging anxiety that I couldn’t shake off with rational thought or even wine.

We’re just over a month into the new year ( which always somehow resets life across the board ) in the thick of  the building phase for the next three seasons.  New projects, goals, and restructuring for both business and personal lives are in full force – detailed out in to-do lists, budgets, and expectations that will undoubtedly be deemed obsolete by the time we begin executing the plans.

We’re all trapped inside, sheltered from the cold as prisoners of the grind;  planning, evaluating, and creating our own hurry-up-and-wait anxiety for every imaginable demand we can think of.  Then, miraculously, when the weather finally breaks and we’re rolling in  consecutive 70+ degree days, life somehow manages to begin.  We graduate from the planning phase into the post-planning hyper productive phase of actually accomplishing things.  We can finally feel the gratification of achievement, and use it to gain the momentum to feed us the energy to take on the rest of the year.  It’s a beautiful cycle really — but only after winter is over.

So, since I have absolutely not control over the weather (namely the recent patterns of almost warm weather followed by two consecutive days of snow) I’m taking control over the next few months of my own life, and to the extent that I can — everything else.

Accomplishments -Georgia O'Keefe

1.  Goals Accomplishments  I’ve been a little down on the idea of setting ‘goals’ lately because they can too easily turn into a list of forced to-do’s in the future, so instead, I am focusing on ‘near term accomplishments.’  Habits to create right now, priorities, and daily/weekly goals that are both attainable and fulfilling.

2. Time Blocking.  In my former life I could multi-task with the best of them.  In fact, I performed best when under multiple deadlines and an overwhelming sense of urgency.  Now, not so much.  I have things happening in way too many directions right now and the challenge isn’t necessarily in getting them done, but rather, being able to be present in the moment I am doing them, focusing wholly on the sole task at hand to complete it fully and be done without having to come back to it multiple times.  I love this kind of structure and can’t wait to actually have time free to do whatever I want without worrying about the growing to-do list waiting for me at all times.

3. Yoga. I’ve been neglecting my self (not myself, really my self) and my body lately, so I’m making space in my life for this.  It’s a priority.  Between MADabolic, Flywheel, and all my runs and endurance workouts, I hardly struggle to find a good sweat, but I have been completely failing to give love back to my body.  I need to spend time focusing on mobility and flexibility in both my life and body, and for me, yoga is the answer.

4.  Creative Therapy.  I love crafts.  More than that, I love creating.  Whether it’s painting, sketching, designing, re-organizing my house, or even building a strategic plan for one of the businesses, the act of creating is so cathartic.  Sometime in the last couple of years I either lost the time or the space for the full creative process, so now, I’m focused on getting it back.  This is the ‘piece’ of my new life-commitments that I’m the most excited about, and that I think will ultimately provide the most value to all the other areas in my life.

So those are my top 4 right now, from a list that is actually much longer, and will undoubtedly continue to grow.  I’m excited to share everything that goes into these goals, and the accomplishments that come out.  There’s  something really rejuvenating about taking the time to spell it out and really committing to the power of it all (plus it magically fit into the 1 hour I had blocked while watching Father of the Bride on TBS.  Double win).

Cooking It Forward: Sunday Meal Creation

It appears that winter might finally be on the way out, but not before it gifted me with a sweet viral strain of mono that has me sidelined for a bit.   I’ve been under the weather for a while, so I’m glad to at least know what is dragging my body down, and I’m staying up on my chiro appointment to keep my immune system functioning.

That being said, my appetite has been either fully blown or completely absent, sometimes for days.  So, when I have the energy and desire to cook, I cook.  For hours.

Last Sunday I was feeling particularly inspired because my full-room closet was being constructed (oh yes, there will be a post full of pictures to follow), so I went to the market first thing to grab the weeks necessary ingredients.  Once I had the groceries, it was game on.

The first creations I set out to make were some (clean) egg streusel ‘muffins’ that our friend Becky had sent over to me.  I’m not sure how exactly they came about, but Dar had been talking about them for a week straight, and since multi-step recipes are not exactly her thing, I obviously inherited the task of experimenting.  So, here are the directions from the recipe, along with some of my own commentary since I’m not a strict recipe follower, by any stretch of the imagination.


  • 3 large green apples, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (approximately 2 cups) – peeled if you like
  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
  • 9 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil (to make it dairy-free), melted
  • 3 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees 

2. Peel & Chop 3 granny smith apples into 1/2″ pieces

green apples

2.  Simmer diced apple pieces in a saucepan with 3 tbsp (warm) water, and 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon.  Now, if I were to do this again, I’d be chopping those little guys up a bit smaller, because it took forever for them to cook down.  Also, I added about 6 additional tablespoons of warm water because it kept boiling off.  Other than that, it all worked out pretty well.

apple sauce

Simmer the apples down (stirring occasionally) until they apples are soft and the consistency of chunky apple sauce.  It also says to let it cool before combining with the dry mix part (that’s next!), which I was far too impatient to do, so I can tell you from experience, even if it’s still warm, you’re good to go with mixing it all together.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, butter, coconut milk, coconut flour, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Add the cooled apples, reserving 1/4 cup for a garnish.

This part was pretty simple, but I’ll just say, if you’re going to substitute out the butter for coconut oil (that’s what I did) just make sure you melt it first to keep things simple, and again, moderately cooled apple mix-in is kosher, so just get after it.

Here’s how they looked coming out of the oven:

apple streusel muffins

When they came out of the oven I let them cool for a bit, and then they went directly to my face.  And they were good.

I packed [most of] them away and popped them in the fridge so they’d be easy grab and go breakfast items during the week, and got started on project #2: dinner(s) for the week.

When I lived in Philly I didn’t have an outdoor grill, so I got pretty used to broiling vegetables in the oven.  Now that I have an awesome outdoor grill accessible I’m trying to be better about grilling more than just meat, so I made good on that promise to myself with some cauliflower and brussel sprouts drizzled with olive oil, everyday seasoning from Trader Joe’s and fresh ground sea salt.  Last minute I jammed an additional row of zucchini in there to give it some more green.

grilled veggies

Along side the veggies, there was of course a steak from Wolf Creek Organic Farm here in Charlottesville.


We had a few cuts including a skirt steak that we hadn’t had before that were tossed onto the grill, and in the spirit of ‘cooking it forward’ for the week, I thawed some ground beef for another round of the spaghetti squash bolognese we also made the week before.

wolf creek ground beef

That being said, here’s how everything turned out:

The spaghetti squash bolognese was exactly right.  I had finally found a couple of larger squash at Whole Foods (so I didn’t have to roast 5 of the baby ones again), and the ground beef and turkey bacon really made the sauce more flavorful and soaked right into the squash strands.

spaghetti squash bolognese

The veggies and meat were awesome, and lasted for several meals during the week thanks to the over abundance of food this ‘meal’ yielded.

grilled veggies

wolf creek farms steak

When all was said and done, this was dinner:

dinner plate

The 28 day challenge was still in full swing during this meal creation, and was around the time that we stopped realizing that there were no carbs or additives in our food.  Of course that is not to say we forgot about coffee creamer and wine, but for the most part, we adapted to the food part and continued to be filled up by meals.

Dar and I will both, independently, be writing our own recaps of the 28 to life challenge in the coming days.  Our experiences differed somewhat based on our difference in food preferences and overall experience, which mostly differed only due to my decreasing appetite over the last few weeks thanks to this awesome illness.  Either way, it was a worthwhile challenge, and will definitely be modified and incorporated into our everyday eating habits.

We’ve obviously got lots of updates coming your way in the next few days from the past week, and have a number of exciting updates to share in the next few days so stay tuned for the skinny on all of that.  Until then, enjoy the beautiful SPRING weather!