July Foodie Penpals Reveal

It’s official. This month’s foodie penpals package was THE best. Really, the best. I loved (and by now have nearly finished off) every item. About half of that was due to the fact that I received and tore into the package after coming home from work famished one evening and have little to no willpower under those conditions. But the other half was due to Kyleigh’s (who is a reader from Seattle) awesome treat choices. I have such a sweet tooth and am always looking for healthy alternatives to swedish fish (YUM), and all my foodie penpals gifts fit that bill exactly. Here’s a shot of the goodies right before I mauled sampled them.

Included here were:

  • A Whole Foods reusable lunch bag + a reusable produce bag. Love the green mindedness of this add-in.
  • Apricot Kind Bar- I’m a huge Kind Bar fan, and the apricot one is actually my favorite flavor. Seriously, how did she know? Needless to say, this went straight into my mouth purse for a pre-workout snack.
  • Sun dried tomatoes- Perfect addition to my salads (yes, I’m the nerd who brings her own tupperwared salads to work every day) and also to my Shiritaki tofu noodle dinners.
  • Raw chocolate protein bar- I’m really excited to try this bar, but have been pleasure delaying. (Does anyone else do that?) Kyleigh said on her note that it’s her favorite bar, so I’m pretty darn sure I’m going to like it.
  • Freeze dried banana slices- These I did not pleasure delay with and tore right into. If you have a TJ’s nearby I definitely recommend picking them up. Truthfully, I never have before because they’re on a super high shelf and I’m so short that I never noticed them. Look up, fellow short peeps. There’s great stuff on the top shelves!

  • Oatmeal to go: Made in Oregon, which is close enough to Washington to count. I love the packaging, and with no added sugars it was a great healthy oops-I-forgot-to-make-my-overnight-oats-last-night breakfast.

  • Mango butter: I see this all the time at Trader Joe’s, but have never let myself indulge my sweet tooth enough to buy it- mostly out of fear that I’ll get addicted. Turns out the fear was justified. Really awesome with some nut butter on rice cakes.
  • And finally, dried pluot plums: Kyleigh picked these gems up from her farmer’s market. I think these were my favorite treat of the lot because 1) they tasted AMAZING, and 2) there’s an elephant on the packaging. Did I ever mention elephants are my favorite animal? Because they are.

Do you want to send and receive joy-inducing mail as well? If you’re interested in participating for July, just CLICK HERE by August 4th to join in the Foodie Penpals fun.

Zumba with Z Club NY

There’s only 1 month left of Summer of Fitness workouts, the outdoor fitness series sponsored by LOLË and FITiST which spotlights different NYC fitness studios and instructors each week. (Summer, pleeasse sllooooooow dooownnn!) The best way I can describe this past week’s workout, a Zumba class led by Z Club NY, was this: it was a trip. Z Club’s motto is “have some healthy fun” – and I can attest that they live up to their words.

Truth be told, this was my first time taking a Zumba class, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. Zumba is a high intensity calorie torching workout which incorporates elements of hip-hop, samba, salsa, merengie, mambo, martial arts, Bollywood, and belly dancing… with some lunges and squats thrown in for good measure. Totally frightening no big deal. Edmee Cherdieu D’Alexis led our class, with the help of 2 other Z Club instructors as well as a couple of very special guests: her kids. (Cute, right?)

Edmee Cherdieu D’Alexis of Z Club NY
(Photo courtesy of Lole)

The Z Club folks were fierce. I actually had a tough time keeping up with the choreography, and felt like I wasn’t the only one in that boat. The choreography was repetitive enough that I could catch on about midway through each song, but varied enough that I’m sure I butchered nearly every move. (I then appreciated being outdoors in Hudson River Park for a new reason: It was a small favor to not be in a mirrored studio where I’d have to watch myself fumble and bumble around so much.)

However, regardless of being 2 steps behind at all times, I had a blast. There was a huge smile plastered across my face (and everyone else’s faces) for the entire hour. I now understand why Zumba has such a cult following- it was so. much. fun. I originally declared that there would be absolutely zero photo evidence of my first foray into Zumba, but I changed my mind. I’m in the bottom right corner of the photo below, hot pink sneakers, rocking out. Oh yeah.

Happy/fumbling Zumba-ing crowd
(Photo courtesy of Lole)

Would I do a Zumba workout again? Absolutely. Would I do another Fitist/Lole workout in the park? Yes, ma’am. Next Tuesday, in fact. If you haven’t already jumped on the Summer of Fitness bandwagon, you should. Come join in the fun!

I know I’m totally late to the Zumba game, but maybe I’m not the only one. Have you ever taken a Zumba class?

Santorini = Love (Greece part 2)

The end of my Euro travelogue has finally come, and I suppose I should return to our regularly scheduled health and fitness type posts, since this is ostensibly a healthy living blog. (Oh yea, right.) But first: a glimpse into our too-short time on the so-perfect-it-looks-fake island of Santorini.

It’s interesting that we chose to visit 3 geographically close places that are entirely different from one another. Istanbul was a crazy grid-less city full of interesting sites, sounds, and smells. (Apparently I’m a sensory person.) Mykonos was a relaxing, fun, beach-tastic town. And Santorini? Well, Santorini is just drop dead gorgeous. I’d actually categorize it as an ideal honeymoon spot- just so picturesque that being there is reminiscent of a hazy wedding fairytale feeling. Do you disagree?

I’d categorize the way we spent our time in Santorini into 2 buckets:

Bucket 1: eating seafood and/or feta cheese and/or drinking wine
Bucket 2: gawking at beautiful scenery

Sooo really that equates to one super bucket: slothing about. And I’m more than ok with that. In the earlier parts of our trip we were super active, walking miles upon miles and even hitting the gym daily. We had filled our being-active-while-on-vacation quota and felt totally justified being slothful in Santorini. It was magical.

Bucket 1 evidence: Each day began with breakfast served on our hotel room balcony overlooking the caldera. Egg-white and feta omelettes, fruit, coffee, and bubbly. With a view to die for.

Oh hey caldera

More Bucket 1 evidence: One of our favorite meals out in Greece was at Nectar & Ambrosio, where (so the menu said) Giada from the Food Network had some sort of endorsement/love affair with a warm feta/fig/phyllo/honey/sesame seed appetizer. Obviously we had to get it. Conclusion: WOW. 1 credibility point awarded to Giada. We also got mounds of incredibly fresh octopus and shrimp, because that’s how we roll.

Warm feta with figs, honey, and sesame seeds. The picture is way too lame to do it justice.

octopus & lentils. YUM.

Bucket 2 evidence: Santorini is known for having one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. I kind of didn’t buy that at first. Logically, we’re talking about the same sun- no matter which point on the globe you’re on. But now I’m a believer. It’s really breathtaking.

In the hour or so preceding sunset each evening, tourists flock to the tip of the island, Oia, and stake claim of a space to sit and watch the show. People perch on building rooftops or ledges of some sort, settling in with a bottle of wine (so it’s really Bucket 1 and Bucket 2 combined) to watch the sunset en masse. By the time the sun is ready to descend, every waterfront space in Oia is spoken for. (It’s probably much more crowded in August- I’m so happy we went in the beginning of July!) The entire island just chills out and watches this:

Have you ever attended the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks show over the Hudson River in Manhattan? I’ve been a number of times and it’s a super cool experience overall. Well sunset in Santorini kind of gave me that same feeling, though a very toned down version of it. What essentially happens is that everyone in NYC flocks to the edges of the city to get an unobstructed view of the fireworks. It’s crazy crowded, and then when the show is over it’s a mass exodus back inland. You can get trampled if you’re not careful.

Being crafty New Yorkers who have this bit of insider knowledge, Hubs and I decided to sneakily abandon our waterfront perches 3 minutes before the sun disappeared, and effectively 1) beat every single other tourist to prime restaurant seating, and 2) got to calmly watch the mass exodus madness with a glass of wine in hand. (Again, bucket merge.) MOOHAHAHAHAH! We were so proud of our devious New Yorker selves.

silly tourists

Anyway.

So I loved Santorini. Loved it so much that I smooched its inanimate sea creatures.

Santorini seahorse love

As I mentioned once or 800 times, Santorini was an amazing place to visit. I also loved Mykonos. I also loved Istanbul. The trip was a big ole bag of love. That’s what a vacation should be, I think. There were so many more fabulous photos that I wanted to share, but mercifully saved you from drowning in our self-portrait montage. (I treat you so well.)  I hope you’ve enjoyed re-living the trip with me. And now, back to our regularly scheduled healthy living posts…after one last favorite photo. :)

Mykonos! (Greece part 1)

While we had an amazing time soaking in all the culture during our Istanbul adventure, we were equally thrilled to make like starships (who were meant to fly) and head to the beach (each) in Greece! The second part of our Eurotrip brought us to Mykonos, where literally every single building is white with blue shutters. Seriously, can you get any cuter? It’s like everyone on the island banded together and pinky swore on matching facades forever and ever.

White buildings. Blue shutters. Pink flowers. I heart Mykonos.

White windmills at Sunset

We knew 2 facts about Mykonos prior to traveling there: 1) It’s beautiful, and 2) Its beaches are some of the best in Greece. (There may have been more knowledge imparted prior to the trip, but those were the only 2 I really cared about.) We were also told that each of the beaches has a slightly different “personality,” meaning that they encourage varying degrees of partying and nudity. Alright.

We decided to rent a fly ride for our 2 days on the island so that we could go beach hopping and sample as many different “personalities” as possible. I do not take the term “fly ride” lightly. This PowerWheels truck bad boy was all ours:

Fly ride :)

So we zoomed off onto Mykonos roads and soon arrived at our first beach, Platis Gialos. It was one of the more tame scenes- just a gorgeous beaches, clear blue ocean, and only light nudity. (I made sure to crop any offending images out of the photos. You’re welcome.) I have no idea how many hours we spent here, since watches are so not welcome on vacation as far as I’m concerned, but they were spent gloriously reading, swimming, and (of course) taking self portraits.

Mykonos smooches

A little later into the the day we puttered zoomed over to Super Paradise Beach, which we were told was THE party beach, and was a must see. Okay, they had a dj spinning Rihanna and Avicii Levels. And yes, there were a couple of nakie Euros dancing around. But other than that, it was just kind of another beautiful beach. Basically. Anyhow, this is how I spent a couple of hours on Super Paradise Beach:

Super relaxing

Crazy, right? As sunset approached the beach party did start to get a little more wild. The unz-unz factor increased, and the dj began to punctuate each song with a loud “MYKONOOOOOOOOOOOOS” battle cry. Yes, my friends, a beach battle cry. Only in Greece…

We loitered around the party for a little while, partly because it was so entertaining to watch, but mostly because we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave this:

Paradise/Mykonos

Other adventures in Mykonos brought us to Ornos Beach, which I actually think was the most beautiful of all the beaches we visited, and (of course) the only one we forgot to take pictures of. #TerribleBloggerFail. To make it up to you, however, I present real Greek yogurt!!

happy, indeed

I wish we had more time in Myknonos… it was heart-wrenching to tear ourselves off of the beach and get on a ferry for a 3 hour boat ride. I pouted and stamped my feet. E looked at me, amused, and reminded me that after those 3 hours were up, we’d be in Santorini. (YAY!) Also, we picked up Greek baklava from a bakery down by the port for an en-ferry-ride snack. Brilliant move. I can always be appeased with the promise of treats.

Chariot/Ferry to Santorini

The final installment of our Eurotrip recap, Santorini, will follow shortly. Also- thanks for indulging me in this trip recap. I’m having so much fun re-living our trip through these blog post, though it’s making me itch to go back to the beach! Hopefully you’re lucky enough to be reading this from a beach chair somewhere- preferably one that didn’t cost 15 Euros to sit in, though. (Greece is expensive, but YOLO…)

Do you have any plans to spend time on a beach this summer? What’s your favorite beach activity? Mine, strangely, is walking the beach to collect sea glass. (I have a minor obsession with finding as many different colors as possible. Does anyone else do this??)

Turkish Delight

Hubs and I just returned from a truly incredible vacation visiting Istanbul, Mykonos, and Santorini (3 cities that were high on our “really want to travel to” bucket list). I don’t have enough hyperbolic adjectives in my vocabulary to describe how completely and totally amazing this trip was. But I’ll do what I can. :) Right now my body is in NYC, my circadian rhythm is stuck somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, and my mind is still lounging on the beach. Given that, this post may come out a little wonky. (You’ve been warned.) Here are a few recapped snippets of our trip- a couple of favorite experiences and favorite photos… starting with Turkey:

About 24 hours before our flight to Istanbul was scheduled to take off, I got a crazy text message from Swiss Air, matter-of-factly stating that our flight has been cancelled. Yes, a TEXT MESSAGE! SERIOUSLY, WHO DOES THAT???? After an hour of going positively apeshit with their customer service reps, I was placed on a similarly timed partner airline (Lufthansa) flight and resumed breathing. Two lessons learned here: 1) Swiss Air is never to be trusted again. 2) The life-saving powers of the Mockingjay are apparently limitless.

Istanbul is a wild mash-up of old and new- ancient mosques and humongous bazaars alongside new luxury hotels and swank cocktail bars. I loved it. Our first day’s meanderings brought us to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, where we were accosted by vendors thrusting samples of nuts and Turkish Delight at us (okay, if you insist!) Very overwhelming for a jetlagged lady, but very, very cool. We may or may not have purchased enough baklava and Turkish Delight to keep us on a sugar high all week. (It’s ok if it’s on vacation, right?)

Wall to wall Turkish Delight

Umm, seriously?

Our first Turkish dinner was actually one of our favorite meals of the whole trip. We went to this adorable place, Meze, and (appropriately) stuffed our faces with a slew of different types of cold meze plates. The 3 pictured below (peppers, mushrooms, stuffed eggplant) were the first to arrive- and then (oops) we promptly forgot that the camera existed and just chowed down as the other dishes were served. One that I wished we had snapped a photo of was the red pepper/tahini/honey/walnut salad that was out of this world.

Then this dessert happened. Banana, cream, almonds, walnuts, honey, and chile. GLORIOUS. We were so tired from travel that all we could do was look at each other and giggle at how good it was.

Cool thing about Istanbul #348: It spans both Europe and Asia. We took what is essentially the Staten Island Ferry for a ride across the Bosporus, and 20 minutes later arrived on a different continent. It made me feel like that scene from Robin Hood Men in Tights. (“I’m on the east bank. I’m on the west bank.”) Kind of.

Istanbul is also home to some ancient and gorgeous mosques. We visited a number of them (being sure to dress appropriately and cover our legs and shoulders), and were mesmerized by the intricate tile work covering the walls and ceilings.

Interior of the New Mosque (Yeni Cami)

Interior of the Blue Mosque (built 1609-1616)

There were countless other favorite experiences, such as: drinking Turkish beer on a rooftop bar overlooking the Bosphorus…

Realizing that Starbucks locations worldwide are consistently good for one critical purpose: going to the bathroom…

Visiting Topkapi Palace…

…and dozens of others (like haggling for silk rugs in the Grand Bazaar, watching the Euro Cup finals with a bar full of screaming Europeans, and becoming addicted to Turkish coffee and Turkish Delight, to name a few). The beginning of our Eurotrip was supercalifrajalisticexpialidociously great (making good on my hyperbole promise), and leaving Istanbul was bittersweet. While there was SO much more to see and do in the city (really, 3 days lets you just skim the surface), Greece was awaiting our arrival. Who could be sad about that?

Get excited for the Greece recap to follow. :)

What was your favorite vacation? What places are on your “really want to go there” bucket list?