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More Reasons to Get Up and Move

I have a history of Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family. They say it skips a generation, but that doesn’t really comfort me because that means there is a good chance my mom will get it.

So I pay particular attention to new studies, drugs or anything having to do with cognitive decline.

New studies appearing in this month’s Archives of Internal Medicine show that any regular physical activity may be key to maintaining a sharp mind.

One of the studies took a look at women who had a history of heart disease or stroke, or at least three risk factors of those conditions. Exercise may be particularly important for these women because these conditions have been linked to the memory and language problems known as cognitive decline, which often precedes Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

The most active women, who were getting the equivalent of 30 minutes or more of brisk walking every day, experienced much slower cognitive decline than those who got little or no exercise.

So just another reason to keep exercising.


Smoothies, My Favorite Summer Meal

Smoothies are by far one of my favorite items to eat in the summer. I can have one for breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack all depending on the size really.  I don’t own a blender yet (ehem registry gift idea), which makes Jamba Juice my smoothies place of choice.

Unfortunately, since moving to Clarendon I have been smoothieless. That is until last week when @LAQ1013 alerted me to South Block Co. opening and its giving away of free smoothies.

Last Friday it was 115 degrees in DC, so a free smoothie at 3:00 p.m. sounded like a pretty solid plan. I braved the heat for my block and a half walk (it was bad, there was a breeze, but it was a warm breeze and wasn’t so much bringing relief as it was smacking you in the face). I got the Mango Mania smoothie. It was a little icey, but I think that’s because they made them in bulk and by the time I stepped back outside, I just really enjoyed the coolness.

Mango Mania from South Block Co.

South Block doesn’t add any sugar, which makes me like them even more.

They also have these amazing sounding burritos that can be made with a black bean veggie burger. I will absolutely be going back to taste those for sure. (I mean they gave me a $2 off coupon, so why not?)



Yoga Teachings that Apply to Work

I started taking yoga regularly about four years ago. Not only did I actually start sleeping better, but I started applying some of what I learned to my working life.

Every day is different and is its own day—One of the things that the yoga instructors like to say is that no two days on the mat are the same. Very true. One day I can get into a full pigeon, the next (especially after a long run) I can hardly get into it. It’s taught me to be less self-critical, more patient and to pay attention to what’s working.

Improvement comes incrementally, then suddenly—For me the crow is one of the most difficult poses. The first time I propped myself up I couldn’t believe it. Now I can hold myself up for three full breaths.  Sometimes progress is hard to observe even if it’s being made. If you give up too soon, you forgo the opportunity for sudden breakthroughs.

Breathing can focus you—We always start class with deep breaths and finish with deep breaths. It helps you focus and it’s great. When things get very stressful for me, I take a second to breathe in and breathe out.  It helps.

Any other yogis out there apply their yoga practice to work?


The Dishes Kept Coming

I was never a Mike Isabella fan—not on his season (Voltaggio all the way) and certainly not on All-Stars (umm Richard Blais, I love you).

However, when we moved to DC and I read that Isabella was opening up his restaurant, Graffiato, in just a few weeks (Bryan Voltaggio backed it…) I knew I had to try it. So Amanda and Jordan let us hoard in on their reservation and we went.

The restaurant itself is a really great layout and I am a HUGE fan of open-kitchens, bonus to the fact that Isabella was ACTUALLY working in it. The main level of Graffiato maintains original features of its 1940s-era building with concrete floors, exposed ceilings and the brick wall on one side of the restaurant.

We waited a half hour to be seated, even though we had a reservation.  We didn’t get too antsy just discussed, which dishes we were dying to try. When we finally got upstairs to the second floor we noticed it had a slightly more traditional dining room feel. Isabella and his father-in-law built the bamboo-and-oak tables themselves over the course of two weekends.

We wanted that bread basket to start. That much we knew, but then our waiter came over and as Amanda said “he had a soul patch that made me trust him.”

He explained the small plates, sharing style menu noting that “Chef Mike” recommended four plates per person, per course. Hmm that seemed like a lot. Then he said we should try the Chef’s Tasting Menu for $55/person. You get all the courses, with multiple dishes. I politely explained that being a pescatarian that probably wasn’t the best idea, but then he said the magic words “Chef Mike will accommodate you.” Say what????

We were in. And oh my, we did not know what we were in for. A full breakdown with photos is below, but let me just say that I left that restaurant a Mike Isabella fan. Not all of the dishes were amazingly flavorful, but I have to hand it to them I was completely satisfied and would most certainly without a doubt bring anyone who visits us there.

Bread Basket:

  • Polenta bread, focaccia & raisin bread served with olive oil jam & fresh ricotta with lemon

For the Vegetate Course:

  • Blistered Sweet Peppers (pretty delicious and flavorful for a peppers and beans dish)
  • Onions Three Ways (there was roasted garlic in this, so obviously it won me over)
  • Fresh Fennel (I love fennel, and he shredded it and added fresh fruit, k thanks)
  • Wood Roasted Mushrooms (eh, wasn’t the best)










For the Salad Course:

  • Dehydrated Apple and Arugula with Apple Vinaigrette (the tiny little apples were so yummy, I thought it would be slimy but then you bite into it and it was crunchy)
  • Roasted Baby Carrots (with LARDO, who does that??)


    For the Wood Oven Course:

    • Octopus with Artichoke and Chickpeas
    • Chicken Thighs with Pepperoni Sauce (the very same Gail Simmons swooned over in the finale, direct quote from Jordan “ooooo it is exactly as I dreamed it”)


    For the Pizza Course: Not one, but TWO pizzas

    • Jersey Shore – topped with fried calamari, tomato, provolone and cherry pepper aioli (I couldn’t get enough, the pepper aioli was amazing)
    • Countryman – topped with black truffles, fontina, duck eggs (anything with truffles I will eat and this was no different, wow)


















        Don’t forget the Ham and Cheese:

        • Cracked Pepper Piedmont, Gorgonzola Dolce, Cabra La Mancha served with a TO DIE FOR garlic and caramel dip
        • Fresh Mozzarella with balsamic (seriously it was amazing)
        • PorcSalt Holiday Ham, Benton’s Smocked Country Ham, Olli Speck (I hear this was good)









          For the Pasta Course:

          • Roasted Potato Gnocchi with Braised Pork Shank and Burrata (Amanda requested this, we just kept waiting and waiting for it to come…Josh wished he had more of his own)
          • Sweet Corn Agnolotti with Chanterelles and Pine Nuts (It melted in my mouth, so delicious)
          • Risotto (Thought I couldn’t eat it, then I found out it was made with Pecorino stock….the balsamic was a nice touch…but wasn’t the greatest)



          And then there was dessert:

          • Basil Lemon Sorbet (so refreshing)
          • Fried dough covered in dehydrated strawberry powder (gooey on the inside, crunchy on the outside)
          • Chocolate tart with olive oil, sea salt gelato (not, a chocolate person, but the crust was yummy)
          • Nutella cookies (made by Isabella’s wife, seriously delicious)

          Restaurants and Obesity: Yep

          Experts have identified a link between eating out at restaurants and obesity. According to the USDA, 1/3 of American calories come from restaurants.


          “For the average consumer, eating one meal away from home each week translates to roughly two extra pounds a year,” said Lisa Mancino, a food economist for the USDA.

          More than half of adults eat out three or more times a week, and 12 percent eat out more than seven times a week. I certainly fall into that category. Typically my week looks like this: really good during the week, three meals at home and then Friday comes and BAM eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes we make breakfast at home, but usually we are all about the brunch.

          How many more calories a diner consumes out depends on the meal. Eating lunch out has the largest effect, adding 158 calories to daily caloric intake, compared to lunch prepared at home. Dinner out increases intake by 144 calories, and breakfast out adds 74 calories, according to the USDA.

          J made a comment the other day that when we eat out, we go all out. See exhibit A below from a recent Friday night dinner at Boulevard Woodgrill in Clarendon.

          Spinach Crab Dip as an App
          Sweet Tea Vodka drink for me
          Ribs and fries for him
          Ahi Tuna Asian Salad for me

          I may not have finished the whole salad (took it home and had it for lunch the next day), but that didn’t keep us from stopping by our new favorite Friday night sweet spot.

          My god those sinwiches are good

          So yeah, eating out most likely does have some link to obesity and consuming more calories. I am really gonna have to watch that indulgence. It is just hard after a long week of work to want to cook on the weekends.

          What do you do on the weekends for food?


          Motivation Lacking

          Spinning was one of my favorite exercise classes. It didn’t matter how many classes I went to, I always worked up a good sweat. Even on days when I couldn’t get myself going I could make the workout what I wanted it to be, while still feeding off everyone’s energy.

          Since I moved though, I just can’t get myself to a spin class. I used to go at least twice a week and now every time my alarm goes off I find something better to do.

          I can’t figure out why. I joined Gold’s Gym and they have several different types of spin classes and still nothing. I don’t know if maybe the times are off from my usual schedule or if since I work from home now and I can sleep later and STILL workout makes me not want to get to a class at 6:00 AM.  Thing is evening classes aren’t any better.

          Could I have possibly burned myself out? And how is that I haven’t ever burned myself out of running?

          I may just have to set a serious goal of getting to at least one spin class a week and finding one that fits into my new schedule.  (Chase, can you start teaching a later class?)


          Start Early, Says IOM: I Disagree Somewhat

          A new report issued by the Institute of Medicine on early childhood obesity prevention policies. Yes, I agree we should start early. Yes, I agree that by adulthood the habits that you have created are much harder to break.

          The report notes that almost 10 percent of infants and toddlers carry excess weight for their length. They recommend childcare agencies increase physical activity, providing daily opportunities for infants to move freely under adult supervision to explore their indoor and outdoor environments.

          I am sorry but infants need to move around more? The poor things can hardly roll over themselves.

          What I think really needs to happen is more education for the parents more on proper nutrition. I was a chubby baby, I had rolls. My mom frequently apologizes for not knowing any better. Once I started walking, the weight came off. That is pretty much how the world of being an infant works.

          The report also recommends that infants and toddlers get more sleep. The report brief didn’t say what evidence demonstrated that sleep had declined for children, but I just don’t understand how this can be right. What infants don’t sleep almost every hour? I hated taking naps, but I took them during kindergarten.

          IOM does recommend that dietary guidelines are established from birth to age two among other nutritional items.

          I just don’t think there is a true understanding of what needs to be done. I certainly don’t think IOM’s report provides the right type of recommendations.

          The full recommendations can be read here.


          Workout Review: Fitness Magazine Beach Body Now in June

          I am an avid health and fitness magazine reader. I love tearing out recipes and reading the articles about the best sports bras for each activity.

          I’ve never had the time or the will power to follow any of the workout routines. Then I picked up the June issue of Fitness Magazine. The routine sounded simple enough, weight training with some cardio routines, plus Motion Traxx (I LOVE their podcasts) had the cardio routines set to music.

          So I decided to go ahead and try it.

          Sculpt and Tone: The routine is easy enough. You need 5-8 lb weights and if you are on a hard surface I recommend a mat. It takes me about 45 minutes to get through the entire set and it is a good one. I work up a good sweat about half way through and my arms start to ache a bit on the second round. There is one, the Sumo Squeeze, which I just can’t seem to figure out. I don’t know what I am doing wrong there.

          Now, they say you can do the cardio routines either following the weight training or separately.

          Cardio Option 1: Cardio-Sculpt Combo: Anyone who can do this back-to-back is a star in my eyes. It is an interval routine with sprints, squats and pushups. I tried doing this a day AFTER I did the sculpt routine and my arms were begging for me to stop. Two minutes of pushups? Come on!

          Cardio Option 2: I Like to Move It, Move It: Solid sprint interval. I was able to do this post-strength training. I was huffing and puffing and bright red. It felt really good.

          Cardio Option 3: This was a killer. I liked that you can do it on the treadmill or on the bike, which helps me with my cross training efforts (I am not so good at that).

          Overall, this is a great routine easy to do at home or at the gym. Highly recommend it. You can find the full routine here and the podcasts here.


          Gracefully Accepting Feedback

          We’re all a little sensitive when it comes to receiving feedback, especially when it is not all positive. Some experience feedback as pure criticism, and don’t want to hear it. Others see it as emotionally crushing. Still others only want to hear praise.

          For me, the problem isn’t that I don’t think I should get feedback or that everything I do is perfect, it is the way I receive it. My facial expressions and the tone of my voice can in some ways rub people the wrong way.

          So as I continue to try to work on it, I started realizing that just because I tell someone how I like to receive feedback a certain way, that doesn’t mean the person giving the feedback doesn’t like to engage in a certain way too.

          Where one person may want me to listen without comment and wait for them to be finished before asking questions another may want me to have a conversation throughout. Ask the questions there and then. Of course, this depends on what I am getting feedback on too.

          Tips for getting or even receiving feedback? Leave em below.