Five Things I'm Loving Now--May 2019

Jeez, I just about missed May altogether, didn’t I? My month started out pretty rough, with an upper respiratory infection that kept me away from work for the better part of a week. I have to admit, I wasn’t loving too much for the first 10-12 days of May. But, I’m firmly back on track now and decided that this month would be mostly about love of things local to the Happy Valley area, a couple of which are new or new to me, and a few that, should you try them, might bring a little extra enjoyment to your summer in Centre County.

First up, the array of choices we have in Farmer’s Markets! We personally subscribe to a farm share, but we are so grateful to be able to take advantage of the many additional products that are available to us by visiting the local Farmer’s Markets. Most if not all of our local markets are producer-only markets, so you are dealing with the actual people who planted, grew, harvested or made the products you buy. I hope I haven’t missed any in this listing, but here’s what you have to choose from in the local area: Tuesdays - Downtown State College (Locust Lane) 11:30-5:30 and Boalsburg (Miltary Museum grounds) 2:00-6:00; Thursdays - Pine Grove Mills (St. Paul Lutheran Church) 3:00-7:00; Fridays - Downtown State College (Locust Lane) 11:30-5:30; and Saturdays - Bellefonte (Gamble Mill Parking Lot) 8:00-noon; Millheim (American Legion Pavilion) 10:00-1:00, North Atherton (Home Depot parking lot) 10:00-2:00. You may go to the market just looking for produce, but I’m betting you’ll come away with a lot more—maybe having had a friendly conversation or two, a sense of community, and the good feeling of supporting the hard work of a local farm family.

Next a little love for a store I’d heard about but never visited until recently. Helen Foxx and Co. is a sweet little boutique on Allegheny Street in Bellefonte. Owner Joyce Mills will tell you—and I believe she sincerely means it—that her goal is to make every woman feel beautiful. I loved her warmth and sincerity, her recommendations for things to try on, and her honest feedback about what looked great, and what was on the “hmmm, maybe not” list. With hand-selected fashions that are stylish but not over the top trendy and the best customer service I’ve experienced in a long time, I highly recommend that my lady friends (or your loved one who may be shopping for you), pay a visit to Helen Foxx and Co. I came away from my first visit with a special occasion outfit, and on a return trip, a couple of really fun pieces that will add a much-needed lift to my summer work wardrobe. They also have a nice selection of gently used clothing, including shoes and accessories, and they cater to a good range of sizes and tastes—so check them out!

Third, I have to talk about the Barn at Lemont that’s not too far from where I live. This barn has been through several iterations of retail—all of which we have tried to support to the best of our needs/abilities, but we are hoping that the current situation sticks around for awhile. Upstairs, you’ll find Maine Bay & Berry Co. purveyors of fresh fish, seafood, and gourmet specialty products, as well as the Countryside Butcher, operated by Victor and Gina Woskob, with delicious, locally-raised beef. Maine Bay & Berry also offers its delicious soups on the premises pretty much throughout their open hours, and they’ve recently started serving prepared items (crab cake, lobster roll, salmon filet burger) during limited hours. What an enjoyable Saturday afternoon we had last weekend, noshing on their great food while sipping an IPA from the downstairs tenant, Voodoo Brewery, overlooking Slab Cabin Run and the bike path. We’re happy to have these fine folks in our neighborhood!

Bringing me to numbers four and five — you know, if I’m going to have nice new clothes and eat delicious food and enjoy tasty beverages, I’ve got to keep moving. It’s all about balance, right? So, there are two things I want to mention this month that I love for my active life.

The Lotta Breeze Capri is crazy-functional in almost any season, for any reason! If you shop Skirtsports, use code SSA489Joy as the coupon code at checkout for a 15 percent discount on regularly-priced merchandise!

The Lotta Breeze Capri is crazy-functional in almost any season, for any reason! If you shop Skirtsports, use code SSA489Joy as the coupon code at checkout for a 15 percent discount on regularly-priced merchandise!

Number 4 on my list this month is the Lotta Breeze Capri from Skirtsports. With the probable exception of this week, May has been one of those months where the mornings have been cool, and being a morning runner/exerciser, this affects me. While I love so many of Skirtsports’ products, I’m going to say that the Lotta Breeze Capri (LBC) is a true favorite—especially the newest patterns. The reason I’ll distinguish between the newest patterns and the “older” models is that the current season has two additional features that I think have taken this product to a whole ‘notha level. 1) a continuous drawcord to prevent any slippage; and 2) “baller” pockets on the legs, giving you an opening at both the top and bottom of the let pocket area. On dog walks, I can tuck treats or poo bags into the bottom opening, keeping the top openings free for my phone, ID and/or car keys. These skirts have a meshy capri, topped with a cute skirt that’s just the right length. It keeps my butt covered and has just the right amount of sway to feel feminine. I love the LBC for both the gym and for runs on those cool mornings (which we may have seen the last of for awhile).

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Finally, on those morning runs, I have finally—after how many years—solved my headphone problem. Well, I guess technology advanced, and I took advantage of it. My biggest complaints about headphones worn for exercise—inside OR outside—have always been the inability to keep them in place once I start sweating (because I sweat a lot), and that they block out other sounds to the point that I didn’t always feel safe running outside, out of fear I wouldn’t hear traffic, other runners on the sidewalk, or even the pleasure of hearing the birds singing. Trekz Air from Aftershokz has solved both of these problems, with their wireless “bone conduction” headphone. My ear is clear, so I can still hear what’s going on around me, but I can hear my Aaptiv trainer or my music too! No slipping due to sweat, great sound, a 6-hour battery, and if I have to, I can even take a call. I squirmed just a little at the $149 price tag, but they do have a 2-year warranty, and honestly I feel like I’ve already gotten my money out of them because I wear them almost every single day, either for exercise, or listening to podcasts or audio books.

I hope you’ve had a great May and I will be back sometime in June with five more things that are making my Happy Valley Healthy life just a little bit sweeter. Bye!

Five Things I'm Loving Now--April 2019

Hello, April! It’s about time that we are starting to see some days that are regularly above 50 degrees, isn’t it? My yard is still mostly brown, the buds haven’t broken yet, but it’s clear that spring is here, and with spring comes the thing that’s number 1 on my list this month.

  1. More daylight. Along with most everyone I know, the “spring forward” last month was kind of a P.I.T.A., and it took a couple of weeks for me to get used to the the time change—just like it does when we go the other way in the fall. But, I feel like I’ve gained so much by having that extra daylight at the end of the day. It means I can get home from work, get my clothes changed and get the dogs out for a walk and get back home with plenty of daylight to spare.

  2. Rowing. Yes. I know I have some fellow Orange Theory fans who love the days when the rowing segments are super-short. I, on the other hand, go to my other fitness facility on other days just to get on the rowing machine. Awhile back—two years or so ago—I was going (intermittently) to Anytime Fitness, and I’d get on the rowing machine once in awhile. At the time, the most I could do was spend a minute or two on it without getting completely breathless. I’m still not setting any records, but thanks to Orange Theory and my other workouts, I’ve become markedly stronger and have a lot more endurance. When I go to the gym on my own, my first workout segment is often a 2000 meter row. It feels awesome to be chiseling off a few seconds of my time nearly every time I row.

  3. Hover Capri from Skirt Sports. I just tried this product for the first time last month, and I have to say that for the type of workouts that I do—multiple things in one setting—it’s fantastic. In my opinion, there are two big things going for this skirt/capri: First, the capri fabric is super light, so when transitioning from rowing to strength exercises to running or biking, I never feel constricted. Secondly, the skirt is made in more of a “wrap” style with an opening that allows for great freedom of movement. I’m probably not describing it very well, so here’s a picture of it (as seen on the Skirt Sports website). My Skirt Sports ambassadorship affords me amazing discounts and the ability to pass some of the love on, so if you visit the website and decide to make a purchase, use the code SSA489Joy to take fifteen percent off a regularly-priced item.

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4. I don’t think I’ve had a list yet where something food-related didn’t make the cut, and this month is no exception. Thumbs up to a new (to us) purveyor of fresh seafood, Maine Bay and Berry Co. They have been in business for a couple of years, but their new location just down the street from us prompted us to check it out. Their fresh seafood comes in on Fridays at 1:30 p.m., and we’ve been in the past two Saturday mornings. On our first trip, we bought large fresh sea scallops; this weekend we got two whole branzini and grilled them. Both were outstanding, and we’ve pretty much concluded that we’ll be eating fish or seafood every weekend for the remainder of the spring and summer.

5. Last on my list for this month is a thing that’s not a “thing” at all, but I’m loving the lucky streak I’ve had at the charity bingo event put on by Centre County PAWS. This organization is one that’s pretty easy for me to give my money to because of the great work they do in our community, but it was fun in both November and this past Friday night to win some cash. In the long run, between buying tickets, chances, extra games, food and booze, I probably actually lost money, but it’s a fun evening out with friends for a good cause, so I call it a win. And let’s face it, it’s fun to yell “BINGO"!

Here’s hoping that the rest of your April is full of sunny days, delicious eats, and good luck!

Learning from Consistency

I remember thinking to myself sometime in the fall of 2018, in anticipation of our trip to Italy over the end-of-year holidays, that I would try to string together a regular habit of workouts for 6 days a week, so that I would be in good shape for the amount of walking I expected to do on our trip. Well—week one I started off with a bang, went four days and then felt like I needed a rest. One day of rest can’t hurt, right? But one turned into two, and then it was the weekend and there were other things to do, so I set my sights on the next week. You know what happened, right? Yeah. I exercised about twice a week for the majority of the fall and early winter.

So, the trip to Italy came and went, and fortunately my baseline fitness level was more than adequate to get me through the average of 10 walking miles a day. But when we got back, I had a talk with myself and made several conclusions based on my physical condition:

  • First, while I love going to Orange Theory to work out, I feel incapable at this time of maintaining more than a twice a week schedule there because of the intensity I put into it.

  • Secondly, I need to keep changing things up so that I don’t get bored.

  • Finally, I need to not hurt myself. I’ve been down that road. It sucks.

The solution I chose to meet my needs was this:

  • I joined the fitness center at my place of employment.

  • I am maintaining my 9 times per month membership at my local Orange Theory Fitness studio.

  • I purchased a subscription to the Aaptiv app at the recommendation of a friend.

I’m proud to say that for the past 13 weeks, I have used Aaptiv at least twice a week every week. I’ve missed a couple of Orange Theory workouts due to travel or illness. I’ve stayed healthy. And yet I felt like I needed another push.

Wilbur says “if you’re on my level, then we play by MY rules!”

Wilbur says “if you’re on my level, then we play by MY rules!”

Out of the blue on March 1, one of my Skirt Ambassador sisters (brand champions for Skirt Sports clothing), posted a challenge called Moving in March. The challenge: To move every day in the month of March—intentional movement above and beyond one’s normal daytime activity. Something inside me clicked. I could do this. I WILL do this. And the way I chose to affirm that commitment was on my Instagram and Facebook page, by documenting my workouts every day during the month of March. The standard I held myself to was for at least 30 minutes of dedicated physical activity every day.

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The right gear is part of the secret!

Toasty Vest, Toasty Cheeks Skirt, Toasty Tights, and Tough Chick Top.

What happened and what did I learn?

  • I’m stronger than I thought I was.

  • I’m sleeping better.

  • By far, the biggest hurdle is just getting out of bed in the morning. Don’t lay there. Get up.

  • My energy level is better throughout my workday.

  • My mood is better.

  • My posture has improved.

  • My clothes are fitting better.

  • My performance in both running and rowing is slowly but surely getting stronger.

  • I feel more confident.

When April 1 rolled around, I’ll admit that not feeling an obligation to post my workout every day was something of a relief, but the stretch of activity was just what I needed to experience the benefits of consistency. So what happens next? Well, so far I’ve just kept moving! Then last night, I got an unexpected bonus for that month’s worth of activity accountability. The names of all the Skirt Ambassadors who posted every day about their workouts throughout the month of March were put into a drawing for a $75 gift certificate from Skirt Sports, and I was the lucky winner! Cha-Ching!! Now I’ll not only keep moving, but I’ll be moving with more style! Honestly, the most fun part about posting my workouts was that I feel so good wearing Skirt Sports clothes that I didn’t mind posting goofy pictures of myself! If you’ve read this far and never checked Skirt Sports out, do it now: http://bit.ly/2ONB646 and use my discount code SSA489Joy to save 15 percent on a regularly-priced item. Then, just get moving—as much as you can, as often as you can. I promise, consistency makes a difference!

Five Things I'm Loving Now -- March 2019

We’re approaching daylight savings time this weekend, so one can only hope that along with more daylight, we’ll also start to see warmer temperatures and the earth coming back to life with signs of spring.

This month is my fifth list of “5 things”. Putting these lists together gives me a chance to think about the things that I’m grateful for, for what they bring to my life in the way of efficiency, ease, inspiration, or better health.

I’ll start this month with a gadget that I bought in 2017: The Ovente Immersion Hand Blender. I wanted a stick blender but didn’t have a bundle of money to spend on one, and this one works really well for me. The measuring cup and the stainless blade make it easy to whip up a salad dressing, or to get a good thorough blend on a simple (no fruit or ice) protein shake. It’s also perfect for those times when a soup recipe calls for taking a cup or so of soup out of the pot, blending it, and returning it to thicken the soup. I have a good, powerful blender but I pull this little number out of the drawer pretty often because it’s easy to clean, and it’s more than adequate for light blending jobs.

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Number 2 this month is not a “thing” at all—it’s a service, or maybe better called a system, that we embrace wholeheartedly—and that is Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. If you’re unfamiliar with that concept, a CSA allows you as a consumer to subscribe to the harvest of a particular farm. We’re fortunate in the Happy Valley region to have numerous CSA providers, but since this is my platform, you know I’m going to give a plug to our CSA, Healthy Harvest Farm. We’ve been members with them for several years now, for both the traditional summer/fall share, and the more limited winter/spring share. We love the method of distribution, which is set up like a private little farmer’s market, not a mystery box of vegetables. This allows us to choose what we want from the items that are available. We get an email every week letting us know what will be available, which helps me plan our meals and eliminate unnecessary buying at the grocery store. If you’re in the State College/Bellefonte area and considering a CSA, check them out. At this point I think there are a few spaces left in the upcoming summer share, but they will sell out, so don’t wait too long.

Numbers 3, 4 and 5 are all related and have to do with health and self-care. First let’s talk about sleep. I go through some intermittent bouts of insomnia or sometimes have trouble falling asleep at night, so I was eager to try the recently-added “sleep sounds” that are part of the Headspace meditation app that I use. I like them! Soft, dreamy sounds that are nondescript enough that my mind doesn’t get caught up in them. You can set them to run for 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes. I’ve set them for 45 but I’ve yet to have a night where I’m still awake when it ends. Yay for better rest and whatever it takes to get there!

Number 4: #MovingInMarch. This also is not a “thing”, it’s more of a movement. A movement movement, if you will. A commitment to doing something physical every day for the entire month of March, a challenge started by one of my #SkirtAmbassador sisters. I’m dedicated to moving for at least 30 minutes every day in activities that are beyond the normal course of my day. Why am I doing this? Well, I realized that I’ve been a little too generous with myself on taking “rest days”. I know better than to go too crazy and hurt myself, but I know that I feel better when I am more consistent with my workouts. They say that it takes 28 days to form a habit, so I’m hoping that this full month of consistency will continue to pay off into the spring and summer months. I’m only 8 days into it, but so far I am feeling great! To hold myself accountable, I’m posting my daily activities on my Instagram account @happyvalleyhealthy. Of course if I’m in the posts, you can bet you’ll be seeing some Skirt Sports in the picture!

Bringing me to number 5: If my (ahem) 50-something year old body has learned anything, it’s the importance of muscle and soft tissue release as part of my physical routine. The foam roller can be a good friend, but some of my best friends are BALLS. Yoga Tune-Up Balls, that is. These balls are made especially for muscle and fascia work and have a soft top layer (for lots of grip) and a dense core. I have 3 sizes of balls (and let’s face it, it’s fun to talk about balls). My small balls are great for foot work—ah, to roll those tired feet at the end of the day; the medium-sized ones are my favorite for shoulders and IT bands; and these alpha balls are amazing when used against the wall to roll along the chest, or on the floor, to dig into the lower back and butt.

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That’s my list for this month! I guess if I have to sum it all up, my advice for March is to eat well, keep moving, and grab life by the balls!

Five Things I'm Loving Now -- February 2019

Well, after a January that seemed like it was 700 days long, here we are, halfway through February. I can only hope that spring truly is just around the corner, because by this time of year, winter is definitely wearing out its welcome with me. But—as always, there are so many things in life to be thankful for, both big and small. I enjoy doing these lists every month because it makes me think about things that make my life better in one way or another.

  1. Being A Skirt Sports Ambassador

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I casually got to know Skirt Sports in 2011 when I started running. What appealed to me most at the time was that having a skirt to cover my bum while I was running minimized my self-consciousness and allowed me to concentrate on—and enjoy—the run. Then somewhere along the line I started buying some other brands of clothing, and before I knew it, I had a drawer full of stuff that was mostly cheap, ill-fitting, and uninspiring. I decided last summer that it was time to purge and start again, prompted by a discount code that was offered to me by a “Skirt Ambassador”. The few pieces I ordered as part of my “do-over” got me so excited that I decided to apply to be a Skirt Ambassador myself. I was accepted, and I’m very happy to say that I was just recently invited back to the program for 2019!

Skirt Sports is more than just an athletic/leisure-wear company. It’s a community of women who support and inspire each other in our pursuit of happiness through the transformative power of moving for better health and fitness. This woman-owned company is committed to making products that fit real women’s bodies. Products range from XS to XXL (sizes zero to 22), and the company doesn’t work with professional models – all the marketing is based around friends, ambassadors and customers – of all shapes, sizes, ages, ethnic backgrounds, athletic abilities, and more. In addition to the clothes—which I love, love love—what I admire most about Skirt Sports is that the company and the “Sisterhood of Skirt Ambassadors” accepts everyone with open arms who is on a quest for a happy, healthy life. When you shop Skirt Sports, my discount code, SSA489Joy, can save you 15%.

2. Having Super-Short Hair!

I honestly don’t think I can ever go back to having hair longer than this. I know it’s not for everyone, but my life is so much easier with this haircut. A little product and I am good to go. Never did I appreciate it more than for two weeks of travel. Bonus: Norm loves it. While my hairstyle has to satisfy me first, it doesn’t hurt my ears to hear the person I love most in the world say that it looks great.

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Wowza!

Love my super-short “do”!(Thanks to Stacey at Viva Bella Salon.)

3. Snow Days

Ok, so I may be over Winter, but I have to admit that waking up to find a text message saying that employees need not report to work made me feel just about as giddy as a little kid on Christmas. And yes, I could have worked from home, but I chose not to. Instead, I cleaned the house, did some reading, purged a drawer, and snuggled with my dogs. Thanks for the gift of a day off, Mother Nature!

4. Scanpan Cookware

Until earlier this year, we were using cookware that I had purchased at Sam’s Club in 1993. The pieces that were used regularly had turned to absolute crap, and there was no choice but to replace them. We had been gifted one Scanpan previously and put this Danish-made brand at the top of our wish list. Thankfully, Norm found a great sale on this 10-piece set online and we decided we would make the investment. It’s worth every penny! It’s oven proof to 550 degrees Fahrenheit, and no oil is needed! I have made beautiful pancakes and perfect eggs without a drop of oil, and they just wipe clean. I think anyone who loves to cook would love these pans.

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5. Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow, by Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky (Rodale).

A great cookbook is an awesome way to use new cookware, and this book does not disappoint. I’m making an effort to make at least one thing out of it every month. Already I have several favorites in this book, including the homemade granola, the Thai-inspired quinoa salad, and the Turkey Trot meatballs. There’s also a whole section on Power Bowls, giving you lots of ideas for one-dish meals loaded with whole grains, veggies, protein, and sauces.

That’s my top five list for this month. Hope there’s something here that inspires or resonates with you!