Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why I BodyCombat

I didn't choose BodyCombat. It chose me. Rather - I walked into my favorite Zumba class one July evening 3 years ago and found it cancelled. 

But how about I try this other class instead? The person behind the desk asked. I peeked in and saw a tiny woman shouting and throwing punches in front of a crew of several sweaty ladies. It was intriguing, and a little terrifying.

I took a deep breath and timidly found a space in the back of the room. The next 40 minutes were a blur of energy. I hadn't worked this hard since running suicides for JV soccer! What WAS this? Punching? Kicking? I took lots of breaks, dripped water from every pore, and briefly contemplated if I would make it out alive.  Through the haze of high energy music, the instructor's voice rang out: "You can do this! I believe in you! Keep going!" The last song ended with a triumphant punch in the air. I felt simultaneously drained and invincible. I came back the next week. And the week after that.  I couldn't get enough.

BodyCombat is a mixed martial arts cardio fitness class. It combines choreography inspired by karate, boxing, capoiera, kickboxing, Muy Thai, and tae kwan do, with high energy music to burn calories, sculpt muscles, increase stamina and give you a heck of a work out.


 One Combat class will burn anywhere from 500-700 calories. One class will encompass hundreds of kicks and punches, and a core workout equivalent of 1700 crunches. It's nuts. I'm addicted.

My very first solo class!
Last February I was going through some pretty tough personal stuff. Being laid off from my job coupled with a breakup - Combat was one of my only releases- and worth the expense of the gym membership.

 The last bout of air punches to the end of the workout would come and I'd pep myself up: "You are worth it. You're going to get a job. You're going to come out on top. You can do this. It's going to all work out." Or it would be "Screw that interviewer. Screw unemployment. Screw this heartbreak and frustration."

PUNCH PUNCH PUNCH. 

Slowly, I got stronger. Didn't consider passing out during *quite* so many workouts. I learned the songs. Got to know the instructors. Joked about teaching myself someday. 

The joke turned into reality this winter. I braved 20 hours on the Megabus and 16 hours worth of training in Erie, PA. I was the only non-full-time new instructor. It was terrifying. I passed.

Bella Forza's Motto: Strong is our Sexy.
Since moving to Baltimore I've found a great gym with tons of locations (including one a mile away from home!) and amazing instructors. I started teaching on my own this month.

It never gets easier. But I'm consistently getting stronger. The Les Mills programs (oh yeah, there's also weight lifting, yoga, and a plethora of other awesome workouts!) consistently challenge me to go above and beyond what I thought my body was capable of achieving.

I found this great list of what to expect from class here and just had to share - couldn't have said it better myself!

So. What to expect from a BodyCombat class? 
  1. Fun and excitement
  2. An adrenaline pumped, action-packed class
  3. A 4-5 class learning curve on the basic techniques and skills and choreography patterns
  4. Some confusion in those first few classes - but just know this will pass once your knowledge base builds - like trying anything new in life!
  5. A supportive group of participants who have been exactly where YOU are at some point! And in fact, if it is a NEW RELEASE class, they may actually be nervous about the new moves too. It's ok to laugh through it.
  6. To sweat and pant
  7. To feel empowered and inspired
  8. To get a taste of what it is like to be a fighter (both in mind and spirit)
  9. Some aching sore muscles for the couple of days following the class if this type of movement is new for you - that is a good thing because it means your muscles are toning up
  10. To become addicted to BODYCOMBAT!
No matter where I am, this workout meets me there. It might seem silly to rhapsodize about 55 minutes of air kicks and punches to EDM and souped up pop music, but I’m not ashamed. I’ve made incredible, lasting friendships and am straight up challenged to grow and be better.

Les Mill’s motto is “one tribe” – thousands of people all over the world participate, but, kinda like the Catholic church – we’re all practicing the same thing, together. There’s strength in unity, and beauty in strength.

Teaching scratches the parts of me that have been itchy for a little bit. It’s part performance (better have your lines memorized!), and part social outreach. I love practicing so much – it’s a little infectious. There’s nothing better than inspiring a group of people into action – to share the joy that I have right along with my team mates, fellow teachers, and class members.

I come back to class again and again - to push myself, for the adrenaline and self confidence, and because it's really fun. You'll never hear me say that about running!

If you're wanting to try it out (and you DEFINITELY should!) click here to find a class near you.


here's a little montage of some of the inspiring instructors I get to work with and learn from at Merritt (with a few cameos from yours truly!) Come join the fight!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Nesting

No, sorry, no babies on the way. But five months in and our little apartment is really starting to feel like home. We did some cleaning on Sunday, and the late afternoon sun coming in through the windows makes the place even more warm and homey. We haven't had many visitors yet - want to take a peek around? 

The apartment is fairly spacious - 1200 sq feet, one bedroom, one bath. We are lucky that the space is so wide - most Baltimore homes are very narrow - anywhere from 11-18 feet wide is the standard. 
But located above the shop means a bit more room - both in the stairwell and in the main living space. Thank goodness!


The living area is divided up with everyone's favorite Expedit shelves. The walls were painted before we arrived, and we kept the red theme going throughout the room with curtains, my reading chair, and other accents. Our office space is on the other side of the bookcase - just enough visual separation, since we both work from home. 


It's been fun playing "yours, mine and ours" with our furniture, artwork, and other knickknacks. We've made great use of trunks and shelving to squeeze every ounce of storage out of the space. It's nice to have empty shelves - room to grow. Look, ma! Everything has a home. 


One empty box - the kitties like to curl up and put themselves away. We got the "K"at Hinge over Memorial Day - Eventually the goal is to rewire and light it up! But for now it looks pretty rad just on its own. 


With the windows open there's always a free show of some sort happening in the public square below. Every day there's something new- we've seen a marriage proposal, playground games, crab fests, musicians and buskers, and plenty of folks just walking around, enjoying the neighborhood. Every evening one or more bars live band music floats through the window. 


The wood ceilings are really unique, and the kitchen skylight brings light deep into the space. It's nice to rely so much on daylight during the summer. 


Art on the wall, bourbon on the bar, Sinatra on the record player. 
The white beadboard accents the red wall, giving it a modern, clean feel. 


We brought as much of Cincinnati as we could with us - and memories of all the people we love. Last time I was in town I picked up this Rookwood Tile for Keith - it's the same tile that is at the stadium; a tribute to our hometown team. 


We took the doors off the kitchen cabinets for a more open feel and easier access. It's nice to be able to easily get what I need as I whirl around the kitchen, creating delicious chaos as I go. The backsplash was already installed (thanks previous renters!), and between the two of us we were able to stock a fairly well equipped kitchen. My most favorite thing right now are the glass storage containers - an heirloom from a family friend who owned a glass factory.


The ceiling of the apartment slopes front to back, and the height in the bedroom is easily 17 or 18 feet. I had to crouch way down just to get this picture! I went back to IKEA not once, not twice, but four separate times to get the white wood Hemnes nightstands - they don't keep many in stock. His and hers lamps bring warmth into the room. Though the front gets rowdy with people on the square, it's amazingly quiet in the back. Most nights I sleep like a baby. 



More Ohio love - my friend Emily made the little pillow for me when I graduated college. Moved from red to orange in the bedroom - I found the comforter (it has LEAVES, not flowers, despite what some people think...) on sale at Target. It's a good compromise- colorful, but not overly feminine. 



This little vignette reminds us why we're here in the first place every time we walk out the door. Keith got a bunch of amazing abstract art from an Art Academy student who worked for him a long time ago, and we've incorporated it as much as we can into the apartment. 

Check out the rest of the pictures below. Hope you can come by for a real visit sometime soon!



Created with flickr slideshow.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Seedlings

For the first time in my entire life, I'm cultivating green things. That are more or less thriving. Okay, there was the oregano plant that probably got over-watered and didn't have a hole in the bottom. And the growing space is very limited - a fire escape and part of a roof that are next to air condensers and other machinery coming from greasy restaurants mean the air quality is probably pretty terrible.


Two months ago I bought three geranium plants and stuck them in a window box. Since then our little adventure in horticulture's expanded to include herbs, more flowers, three kinds of tomatoes, a lettuce plant, and a banana pepper plant that's completely taken off.

Today, I harvested the first pepper. The first thing I've ever grown - and not killed from laziness or neglect. Working from home gives a splendid excuse to take a break and climb out the window to check on the plants. Having an awesome partner who often helps with watering is another significant factor in ensuring plant success rates.

The geraniums and marigolds amaze me. They bloom for a few days, then wither in the sun. Run fingers through the heads to shake off and remove the spent flowers (dead-heading - it's actually a term!). Initially they look a little barren, but given some time, water and sunshine, and I wake in the morning to a brand new patch of fiery red blossoms, greeting me in the morning sun. They've grown. They're thriving.

It's a metaphor, probably.


Good things take time. I'm historically short on patience - Keith referred to me the other day as Hurricane Jenny. It's probably one of the reasons I've killed so many plants - results didn't happen right away, and other things took over the importance of water, sunshine, and time.

Building a community is a lot like cultivating a garden, I guess. At this point I'm still tilling the soil. Not sure what's gonna go where.

But the physical manifestation of tiny tomatoes in my hand is a good reminder that's it's starting to all come together. Water, sunlight and time will help us strengthen our new roots.





Monday, April 28, 2014

Elderberry Gin Fizzes and Strawberry-Rhubarb Cheesecake French Toast: or, The Time I Won At Brunch

Cooking is not always a competition... but I do enjoy winning. I blame my mother. There are few things more satisfying to me than presenting a concoction of my own making to a receptive crowd. It's not just about nourishment; it's the delight expressed when they take the first bite. The concentrated looks of eaters enjoying something epically delicious. It's a high I can't get enough of. It's not enough to just make something - the dish must be off the charts delicious. My dear friend Corrie invited Keith and I to an Easter brunch celebration at her cozy little apartment in southern Maryland. Would I mind bringing a dish to share?

 CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! After much Pinterest perusing, I saw a recipe for Strawberry Cheesecake French Toast Casserole my sister posted. I asked her about it, and she said it was good... but needed some tweaking. She and her friends enjoyed it, but she would've changed some things for the next time. I took notes, and compared the recipe to my mom's recipe for Apple French Toast - a breakfast treat we had several times a month when I was growing up. 

The original recipe called for 10 - yeah, TEN - eggs. Katy thought the ratio of egg to fruit was somewhat off. She also didn't like the way the strawberries lost their flavor during baking. I chose to up the fruit ratio and lose some of the eggs. Using only 5 eggs and adding in chia seeds still made a custardy concoction that cooked up without becoming a fruit fritatta.

I picked up some rhubarb and local apples and made a more fleshed out fruit filling - the rhubarb and apples fared much better in the oven. An additional pint of strawberries was chopped and macerated overnight, served as a topping with some fresh whipped cream.  The recipe was definitely a hit.

The key ingredient was the bread. We dropped $7 on a loaf of Brioche from Whole Foods and I don't regret a penny of it. The loaf sliced up into 10 perfect slices and was lightly toasted in the oven to better soak up the custard cream cheese mixture. Regular sandwich bread just won't compare - proceed with caution.

Of course, no brunch is complete without some fun, fruity drinks! I have a minor love affair with egg white meringue drinks- the Clover Club is one of my favorites. This recipe for an Elderflower Gin Fizz was frothy and fun. My friend and fave mixologist Molly recommended Gilbey's Gin as a good budget mixer - but you have to shake the crap out of it!  
The sun was out, the food was delicious, and the eight of us enjoyed each other's company and the arrival of Spring. It was strange to not spend Easter with family, but we had a pretty great time. 



 Strawberry-Rhubarb Cheesecake Brioche Bake (adapted from this recipe)

Here's what you need:
  • 1 loaf French Brioche bread, cut into 10 slices and lightly toasted (250 degree oven for 15 minutes)
  • 12 oz neufchâtel cheese
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk (use the white in a drink!)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 2 stalks of rhubarb, sliced
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

Here's what you do with it:
  • Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking dish. Whip cream cheese in a stand mixer with paddle attachment until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add sugar, egg yolk, and lemon juice. Set aside.
  • Whisk together eggs, chia seeds, milk, half-and-half, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.
  • In a medium sized bowl, mix the chopped fruit, brown sugar, and spices.
  • Spread a dollop of cream cheese mixture onto a slice of bread, then layer fruit on top. Top with another slice to create a sandwich. Do this with the rest of the bread - there should be about a third of the fruit and cream cheese left over when you're finished. (see the picture above)
  • Cut each sandwich into six cubes - first into thirds, then each third in half. Arrange four out of five sandwich cubes into the baking pan- they should fit snugly.
  • Top with remaining fruit and drizzle remaining cream cheese mixture over the top. Place remaining sandwich cubes on top. Finally, pour egg mixture over the top. Press down lightly and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate over night.
  • Remove from refrigerator and let rest while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 25-35 minutes or until the surface is golden and the center is set.
  • I cut up an additional pint of strawberries and macerated them with sugar and lemon juice for a topping. Additional fruit and fresh whipped cream really put this over the top. 


 

Elderflower Gin Fizz

1 oz elderflower liqueur
2 oz gin
1 egg white
1.5 oz lemon juice

Combine ingredients, shake vigorously with ice in a cocktail shaker (or water bottle with a top if you're me) Strain into a glass and top with something bubbly - lemon seltzer, club soda, prosecco - pick your poison! Garnish with a twist of lemon peel. 


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Smitten.




Henry demonstrates being upside-down
The last month and a half flipped my world upside down. It's equal parts refreshing and disconcerting. Baltimore is like looking in a distorted mirror at Cincinnati - a concave one (is that the one where things are bigger?)

There's just.. more. More neighborhoods - and more to each neighborhood. I feel paralyzed with indecision, frantically paging through my Yelp bookmarks, each time we decide to go try someplace new. Cincinnati has a finite number of choices, many of them delicious.

Stepping outside my new apartment lands me in the middle of dozens of options within walking distance - never mind where we can go on a bike, bus, or car. What if we choose wrong, and waste money and calories on crappy food? So far there have been more hits than misses, but it's still overwhelming. Privilege problems? Perhaps.

Everyone I talk to echoes many of the same sentiments about Baltimore that I do about Cincinnati. "There's so much to do here! Every weekend there's so many choices! All the neighborhoods are so great! It's so small town - you run into all sorts of people you know!" Nice to know it's not just Cincy.

Making friends as a grown up is hard. Making friends as a grown up in a new city when you work from home is even harder. It's pushed me to become more outgoing - every time I'm out is an opportunity for someone to smile back - for a conversation to begin, and maybe turn into something more. We've met a few people, who are awesome and genuine and fun.

view from our rooftop. 


Baltimore is refreshing. There's a lot that needs fixed (as in every city), but so far, it seems... they're doing a lot of things right. Maryland as a whole is focusing on important things to help its citizens. The tax rate is high, but the parks are great, there are bike lanes everywhere, neighborhoods are stabilizing, the've passed progressive policies at the state level (healthcare, gay marriage, raised minimum wage, decriminalized marijuana, universal pre-K to name a few). It's a glimpse into Cincy's future- what it's like to have a truly bustling set of core neighborhoods. (hint: the parking SUCKS.)

it's okay to just. be. still. 
It feels wrong to say it... but... it feels good. To be here. to focus on enjoying my little life - planting flowers, making friends, decorating the apartment, living with my guy - instead of tearing myself in two lining the ranks of fighting for tiny victories. The fights back in Cincinnati are important, and are bringing people together - encouraging new people to step up and be heard - giving a sense of purpose and belonging to those in its midst - and it's wonderful to see it continuing on. Without me.

I left my love in good hands. Is it okay that I'm crushing a little on something new?

This season in my life is letting some stillness back in my world. To be okay with a slower pace. To not have all the answers, yet. To renew my sense of wonder, discovery, and even fear. To stretch and grow and see what's inside my overstimulated, Cincinnati-driven little mind. There's a fine line between keeping up with back home and remaining too attached. Like an overprotective mother letting her kid play on the playground by itself, I bite my tongue and work to let go, just a little.

You guys are taking good care of the city. Thanks for that.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

First Impressions: Fells Point in Five Senses



These benches are everywhere.
Hard to believe it's been three weeks on the East Coast. There's still plenty of picture hanging and small project doing to finish up the new apartment - I'll keep you posted as soon as it's picture- ready. The temperatures are warming and things are starting to open up! We're planning new projects like container gardening and indoor herbs... domestic life is taking a front seat to getting out and meeting people (for now...)

What's my new neighborhood of Fells Point like? Well, let me tell you!

Sight: Cobblestones, historic architecture. The bay takes my breath away with the sunlight flashing over the water. All sorts of people - pot bellied pig walkers, kindergarten classes, everyone in between. I have a view out my window by the office desk that affords a view of the plaza below. As the weather warms, dozens of different people flock to the square. Soon there will be markets and festivals, summer sunshine and music. It's kind of amazing.

I flew into BWI from a quick work trip last week, and was suprised at the Baltimore skyline. There isn't really much of one that I can tell - so many of the buildings are smaller (and super old). It was an interesting juxtaposition to Cincy's very distintive skyline.

Boats!  The harbor is gorgeous.
Sound: Seagulls. Seagulls? Seagulls! Its been unsettling to hear the squawk of seabirds as I am a landlubber by nature. Though the apartment is situated on a block chock full of bars and restaurants, the bedroom is in the back and mercifully, amazingly quiet. Its been the best sleep Ive gotten in months. On weekends we can hear the noises of people enjoying themselves down below near the front of the place - very similar to Main Street back home. I moved on St Patricks weekend - like OTR, you could feel the neighborhoods collective hangover the next day. Same sort of celebrating, but I don't know any of the revelers. There are bars with live music just a few steps away. It's been nice to play my guitar and listen to records (though I am sadly missing a fire escape on which to do so.)

Touch: So far the weather has been slow to warm up. I spend most days inside, but have ventured out for fresh air, sunshine, and the occasional workout. The streets on my block are cobblestoned, which make for an interesting walking pattern (and feel bumpy while driving and riding bikes) Traffic calming at its finest. Winter wind, sunshine on my face, cobblestones beneath my feet, and kitty fur at my fingertips. Holding hands with my guy isn't too shabby, either. 




Eat crab cakes with saltines and mustard? 
Smell: Believe it or not, the neighborhood has its own smell. There is a local bakery with its main operation three blocks west of my place. The result is walking down streets that smell like cinnamon raisin toast. Heavenly smells of sweet, sweet carbohydrates assault your nose the moment you step outside - especially in the evening. it never fails to make me hungry.

Taste: Keith and I are overwhelmed with the amount of options available for dining out. Over 80 bars, shops and restaurants are within a four block radius. We are trying to watch waistlines and budgets while still trying new things. There's an Aldi within a five minute drive, and a Safeway and Whole Foods to boot. Mexican markets and a small prepared foods market (looks kinda like Findlay, but MUCH smaller) are two blocks away. There is a little specialty store reminiscent of Park and Vine (minus the amazing proprietor) just down the way where I stocked up on fresh bread and nutritional yeast. We've tried a few restaurants - some hit and miss, but always on the lookout for something new. The nice thing is, it's all new to us! The Baltimore Reddit is bursting with food recommendations. We haven't really gotten out of the neighborhood yet.  Soon, very soon, it will be farmer's market season. And then crab season. Let the games begin!

I'm still working to set up house and get everything where it needs to be. Aside from our neighbors and the nice counter manager at the gym, I haven't made a significant effort to get out and meet people yet. There's still plenty of time for that. Still got to work from the inside out.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Haiku

I wrote most of this while driving through the night on Saturday.


A final farewell
Velvet Hammer East Coast Team
A toast! Not fired!

Everything was packed
And clean, right before Hannah
Arrived. Thank goodness. 

A simple way to 
See who really likes you is
To ask 'help me move?'


I nearly killed my
Cats - attempted sedation. 
Can you drool to death?

Henry and LB 
Stopped crying and cuddled me
The whole trip. Da fuq?

I hope they don't pee
All over the house -revenge  
For leaving Aunt Liz. 


I was overwhelmed
At the number of people
Who came to Neon's. 

A beautiful blur
Of friends, laughter, drinks, tears, hugs. 
My heart overflows.

I did not expect 
To cry as much as I did
This city changed my life. 


We've been driving for
Nearly ten hours. The day
Is breaking as we

Approach our new home. 
I am not afraid of what's 
Ahead in my life. 

What's next in Fell's Point?
Only one way to find out.
A new adventure.