LA Fitness takes over 24 Hour Fitness in AZ, and AU REVOIR Body Combat.

Last Tuesday, I wrote about my recent psychedelic Body Combat experience at a gym in France.

MEANWHILE, back at home, our own Body Combat classes have been placed on life support, because our gym is no longer our gym. Toward the end of November, our gym got yanked out from under us in the most unceremonious way possible. As in, one day our gym was there, and the next day, it “went out for cigarettes” and we never saw it again. But we know where it went. It went to either Oklahoma or Nebraska.

In the words of French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, Il est parti chercher des cigarettes. En fait, il est parti. (“He went to get cigarettes. In fact, he left.”)

The president of 24 Hour Fitness (our gym) traded his 11 Arizona locations for THREE LA Fitness locations between Oklahoma and Nebraska. 24 Hour Fitness no longer has gyms in AZ, and we’re now members of LA Fitness.

“It’s almost like the president of 24 Hour Fitness lost his 11 Arizona locations to LA Fitness in a game of poker,” Callaghan said. I have to agree.

I doctored up this map from 24 Hour Fitness’ website to create a visual of the development:

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-24HourFitness

 

In offering an explanation, 24 Hour Fitness’ president said that “Phoenix was not a market where 24 Hour ever ‘gained the kind of cluster that we ought to see’.”

24 Hour Fitness never “gained a cluster” in Phoenix?

About 4.5 million people live in Phoenix Metro. Oklahoma City Metro has 1.3 million people – roughly a third of our area. We had 11 locations in Phoenix. What kind of “cluster” was he hoping to gain? How does a trade of 11 Arizona locations for three locations in the Midwest make sense?

“Our assessment of (Phoenix) was that it was not a core market for us,” continued 24 Hour Fitness’ president. “At that time, we discussed the possibility of selling that market to a number of players. Ultimately, the only transaction that made sense to us was with LA Fitness… we believe the Midwest offers interesting possibilities for us to make those cities core markets for 24 Hour Fitness.”

Callaghan was outraged. “I call bullshit,” he said. “It was a crazy night at the casino. He lost.”

Rumors about the impending trade filtered through to us less than a week beforehand. If it wasn’t for Facebook’s gossip mill, we would’ve been blind-sided. We got our “Welcome to LA Fitness” email BEFORE we got this email from 24 Hour Fitness, after the trade was finalized:

“After much deliberation, we have made the difficult decision to exit the Arizona market, effective November 20, 2015, but we are pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement for your membership agreement and your personal training agreement (if applicable) to be assumed by LA Fitness,” read the email. “Thank you for the privilege of being able to serve you. We truly regret any inconvenience that this situation may cause, and we wish you success in your fitness efforts.”

So yes, our gym dumped us and ran off to the Midwest with some floozy, and it waited until after it crossed state lines to send its Dear John letter/”OH BY THE WAY we left Arizona and now you belong to LA Fitness” email. Probably just “business as usual” in the cutthroat world of chain corporations, except it was a big deal to us when 24 Hour Fitness left, because ultimately, Les Mills’ Body Combat and Les Mills Everything Else are leaving, too.

LA Fitness isn’t contracted with Les Mills International, so it’s not supposed to offer Body Combat or any of the other Les Mills group fitness classes. LA Fitness has been allowing our instructors to continue teaching the classes in the wake of the take-over – a temporary arrangement.

I spoke with an LA Fitness corporate rep and was told that the Les Mills classes at the Arizona gyms-formerly-known-as-24 Hour Fitness WILL be replaced by LA Fitness’ own group fitness classes. He assured me that “the classes will basically be the same, but under different names” (i.e. “Bodyworks plus abs”). But we know from some members’ experiences that the classes are actually not the same. Les Mills classes are unique and cannot be replicated. We’ve made phone calls, we’ve sent emails, we’ve started a petition… but there’s pretty much no chance that LA Fitness corporate will contract with Les Mills International merely to provide us with the same classes we had when our gym was 24 Hour Fitness.

So now we’re waiting for LA Fitness to shut down our classes completely. This could happen at any time, since Les Mills has basically been squatting on LA Fitness’ premises.

Still, anything could happen! It never hurts to think positively, right? I like to hope for the best while planning for the worst (could I squeeze any more clichés into this post?), so we’ll see what happens. It seems obvious that Body Combat at our gym is running on fumes, though. There… signing out with a cliché AND a pun. BANG.

Here, enjoy Serge Gainsbourg’s song “Nicotine,” charmingly performed by Jane Birkin:

 

 

Il est parti chercher des cigarettes. En fait, il est parti. “He went to get cigarettes. In fact, he left.”

Body Combat Release 65 – Informal Review!

The latest Les Mills Body Combat choreography launched at our gym on Saturday. (For those who don’t know, a Body Combat workout is a group fitness class consisting of an hour of cardio with choreographed martial/fighting arts moves done to high-octane music. We get a new choreography release every… six weeks, I think…?)

ETA: New releases happen every 12 weeks. Thank you, Izzy!

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-BodyCombat

 

So Les Mills released Body Combat #65, and I thought it would be fun to give it an informal review, because why not? I routinely blather about movies, T.V. series, food, cosmetics, pulp fiction, etc., so targeting Body Combat for my blathering seems like the next natural thing to do. I go to this class three times per week, after all. It’s kind of a big part of my life.

I went to class on Saturday with the idea that I might blog about the release, so I activated the voice recorder on my phone and left it on the floor, off to the side. I wanted to be prepared, and I knew there was no way I was going to remember everything we did after just one class if I didn’t document it somehow.

Enough of the pre-blather blather… without further ado, here’s what I thought of Body Combat #65!

(Disclaimer: These are my first impressions, and that includes the music. I may feel differently about all of it after a few more classes in this release.)

 

Les Mills Body Combat #65

Overall impression: Some unexpected combinations and variations in pacing necessitate attention to your mental game. The methodical, slower sequences feel awkward against the fast-paced, high-energy music, and at other times, when given the option to speed up without limitation, you’re again working with the timing. All of this incongruity heightens the challenges expected when learning a new release, and the choreography encourages precision in striking, for those concerned with their technique. This release features some advanced attacks (i.e. flying knee strikes and consecutive jump kicks), power moves (i.e. jump squats and explosive push-ups in the middle of the workout), and High-Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.) (i.e. sprint options). The workout is plyometrics- and conditioning-intense.

After Saturday’s class, I went online and found the music track-list (which also gives me a guide for the workout tracks):

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-LesMillsBCrelease65TrackList

 

Here are my “nutshell” first impressions of the actual tracks.

1a). Upper-body warm-up: (Decent song for an opener – “We Came to Bang”)

First impression: Kind of a mind-bender.

Warming up with your basic jabs, crosses, uppercuts and hooks

 

1b). Lower-body warm-up: (Also a pretty good song – “Levels”)

First impression: Robot-like moves? Different!

Throwing roundhouse kicks, side kicks, front kicks, and teeps (Muay Thai push kicks)

(Do my quads usually burn this much during the warm-up?)

 

2). Combat 1: (Decent music – “Ah Yeah So What”)

First impression: They should re-name this track “A million kicks.”

Combination of strikes and kicks, including consecutive jump kicks and lowered front kicks for a major quad burn

 

3). Power training 1: (DISLIKE the music – “Lifting Me Higher”)

First impression: They chose this song because it’s so terrible, we’re being forced to exercise our minds to overcome it.

Endless upper-body strikes; running (including high knees)

It’s only track three and I don’t think I can throw any more hooks…

 

4).Combat 2: (Good song – “Enemies”)

First impression: We need a mat for this? Push-ups, like in the last release!

Combination of kicks and knee strikes, then on the floor for push-ups (including explosive push-ups)

 

5). Power training 2: (Good song – “No Problem”)

First impression: Love this Drum & Bass track!

Running, striking combinations, more running, jump squats in ascending sets

Nooo don’t take away the pause in between jump squats! My legs are done. I’m out.

 

6). Combat 3: (Okay song, but not my favorite – “The Day is my Enemy”)

First impression: This is the capoeira track wanting to be capoeira, but not quite committing to it.

Typical combination of lunges and kicks; atypical pivoting, robot-like pseudo-capoeira move; knee strikes

 

7). Muay Thai: (Decent song – “Party Monster”)

First impression: Muay Thai!

Punching combinations, ascending and descending elbow strikes, knee strikes variations, 4 levels of running man

Flying knee strikes!

 

8). Power training 3: (DISLIKE the first of the two songs – “Heart Bleeds Re-Con & Demand”)

First impression:  They’re trying to kill me with this music. The music is the real test here.

Running, striking combinations, scissors, striking combinations, jacks, running, striking on crack

 

9). Conditioning: (Okay song – “Black and Blue”)

First impression: The kind of ab track that works your neck as well as your abs.

No push-ups, since we did them in track 4… a series of “C” crunches and modified bicycle crunches (“cross-crawls”)

 

10). Cool-down (Whatever. I’m done.)

 

 

In summary, I like release 65. We had another class last night, and after a few more, the parts that feel strange won’t feel strange anymore. That’s what new releases are for!

BodyCombatversary!

It’s the last weekend of March. You know what we did last year on the last weekend of March? We went to our first Body Combat class! This is momentous, guys. On March 29, 2014, I finally got off my ass and ended the longest period of inactivity in my adult life. Planners and agendas are useful like that… you can look back and note such things. I love celebrating -versaries of all kinds. There has to be one for everything! Happy BodyCombatversary to Callaghan and me!

The idea of getting established in a workout routine was hard, but it hurt my brain more than my out-of-shape muscles. I’d been sedentary for so long, and out of training for even longer. We’d actually signed up at our gym a few months earlier, but I hardly went because zero motivation. Callaghan had way more determination than I to get to the gym. When I did manage to drag myself there to half-heartedly walk on the treadmill for 20-30 minutes, all I felt was this weird mixture of boredom and accomplishment and more boredom. Like, YAY, I went to the gym, go me! OH NO… I just spent 20 minutes of my life on a piece of cardio equipment. I could have been doing laundry. The struggle was real, folks, as they say. It’s HARD to get back into habitual exercise once you’ve fallen out of it for any length of time!

Then I decided to check out the group fitness class offerings, and everything changed.

According to my 2014 agenda:

–Tuesday, March 18, 2014: I went to a Body Pump class, just to try it. I didn’t hate it, but I never went back. I think I’m too lazy to do Body Pump. The very idea of making numerous trips to the equipment corner and hauling things over to the floor and then having to quickly change the configuration of the weights in between sets and then hauling all the stuff back to the corner at the end makes me feel annoyed (and bored)! Conclusion: I’m not badass enough to do Body Pump.

(Side-note 1: You know who’s really badass? THE PEOPLE WHO DO BODY PUMP IMMEDIATELY AFTER BODY COMBAT. I marvel at all you guys who do the classes back-to-back! When I’m done with Combat, I’m done. I got nothing left.)

(Side-note 2: I really should start some kind of strength-training routine, though. Shadow-boxing with dumbbells in my garage for five minutes once a week ain’t cutting it.)

–Wednesday, March 26, 2014: I tried a boot camp class. It was super hard. I loved it. Conclusion: Yes!

–Saturday, March 29, 2014: I tried Body Combat. The word “combat” on the schedule caught my eye, and my interest perked up immediately. I hadn’t thrown a punch in almost seven years. Okay, I thought. Let’s try this! So I went, and that was it. I was hooked. Body Combat is simple: I go in and follow the instructor’s commands until we’re done, and that’s it. No fuss, no muss, no equipment! You’re in and out and home before you know it, dripping sweat and feeling accomplished.

Overall conclusion: I made a standing date with the gym for Monday evenings and Saturday mornings (Body Combat), and Wednesday evenings (Boot Camp).

There was no reluctance from that point on; I surprised myself with my 180 turn-around. I’d been against the idea of group fitness classes before I even saw the schedule, because even though I really wanted to work out, in my advanced state of workout apathy and gym-self-motivating-brain-cells-atrophy, the notion of committing myself to a workout “schedule” seemed about as appealing as escaping from jail by digging a tunnel with a teaspoon. Sunken deep in my routine of sitting on my ass, I was perversely comfortable in my little prison cell of inactivity.

Of course, doing Body Combat brought back the old obsession with actual training (the sweet science addiction never really goes away once it bites you), and this led to the equipment in our garage. We went out there to play a little late last night. Callaghan took pictures.

Excuse the demon eyes. It was late and we had to use the flash in the dimly-lit garage... plus, these pics were taken with my phone, as usual. I still haven't replaced my camera since my last one died.

Excuse the demon eyes. It was late and we had to use the flash in the dimly-lit garage… plus, these pics were taken with my phone, as usual. I still haven’t replaced my camera since my last one died.

Elbows on the WaveMaster

Elbows on the WaveMaster

Jumping rope

Jumping rope

Elbows on the ground

Elbows on the ground

 WaveMaster, bare fists

WaveMaster, bare fists

Now, we do three Body Combat classes per week and no Boot Camp, because the Wednesday night Boot Camp went away and was replaced by the third Body Combat.  I’m not complaining about the extra Body Combat, though I do miss the Boot Camp! In a perfect world, I’d be able to get away from work one morning a week just long enough to do Suzy’s Core, Cardio & More class (Wednesdays), or Geeny’s H.I.I.T. class (Thursdays). If I’m ever off work on either of those days, that’s where I go! Huge shout-out to those ladies, and to our phenomenal regular Combat instructors and friends Izzy, Rebecca and Amelia, and also to our sometimes-instructors Jessica and Diane!

That’s the best part… in the last year, I’ve gained much more than a higher level of fitness with increased energy, strength and balance. I’ve gained new friendships with other class participants and the instructors, themselves.  I’ve also gained something concrete to look forward to, three times a week (looking forward to stuff is so important if you have clinical depression, by the way). Each time we leave the gym, I can’t wait for the next time, and that is awesome.

Happy Friday, Everyone! =)

Calf Encounters of the Third Kind.

Wednesday night after Body Combat class, I met Callaghan out on the floor, as per usual. [Side note: have I mentioned that I’m doing Body Combat class three times a week now, since our gym changed its group fitness schedule and replaced Wednesday night Boot Camp with another Body Combat? I love the extra Body Combat, of course, and the instructor is excellent, but “Find another way to get someone to kick my ass with a varied workout combining strength-training, compound exercises, plyometrics and cardio on a weekly basis during a day/time slot that works with my existing schedule” has since been a lingering, problematic item on my “To Do” list. I had relied completely on that weekly Boot Camp class for strength training, and one thing I’d especially appreciated was that the class was different every time. No two Boot Camp classes were the same, so your body never knew what was coming, and therefore, it couldn’t plateau. Plus, that instructor was excellent, as well.]

[Additional side note: Word did not recognize the word “plyometrics” when I keyed it in just now. This, I believe, points to a deplorable deficit in our system somewhere. I mean, what does it say about us as a society when Word doesn’t recognize “plyometrics,” other than the obvious conclusion that the people who develop that software must not work out?]

[Another additional side note: due to a recurring rib injury I was nursing at the time, I wasn’t even able to attend the last two Boot Camp classes, so I didn’t know it was going away until it was gone. I was still attending Body Combat because there I could power through the pain to the best of my ability and simply avoid the weight-bearing (push-ups) part at the end, but there was no point in attempting Boot Camp class at all with that injury.]

Anyway, so I met up with Callaghan – he lifts weights while I’m in class on Wednesday evenings – and as we walked out through the parking lot, he suddenly remembered he had something to tell me.

“Oh I talked to John tonight!” he blurted.

“John? John who?” I was thinking, John? Jean? Who is he talking about?

“JOHN, the Beautiful Calves Man,” he answered, leaving a silent “duh!” hanging at the end.

“Oh.”

“He told me that he’s a massage therapist,” he informed me.

“So are you going to get a massage from him?”

“Oh yes,” he said. “Actually, I’m going to ask him if I can massage his calves.”

We laughed at his joke. But I had to follow up.

“To see if they’re real?”

“I’m sure they’re real,” he replied. “Why would he put so much work into his body and then get fake calves?”

I went online last night in search of a video about calf implants, figuring I should educate myself. This was the first one I found:

 

 

So clearly, there’s a niche of jokes about calf implants out there. In a weird way, though, the video gives me additional impetus to find time for another gym session each week. I’ll have to give this challenge some serious consideration.

Meanwhile, Happy Friday!

Sometimes, when one door closes, another one opens – with a hard right hand.

Body Combat class was cancelled at the gym last Saturday because of the holiday. Reluctant to miss a workout, I thought, what better time to find a heavy-bag somewhere? It had been so long!

I jumped online and honed in on a Saturday cardio kickboxing class at a boxing gym near our apartment. Going as a walk-in, I could avoid missing a workout and get in a heavy-bag bonus while I was at it. Their web site said to bring your own hand-wraps, so I knew I’d be punching something.

The rental fee for an hour with the heavy-bag walk-in cost for the class was only ten bucks. I was excited. It’d been about six years since I’d touched a heavy-bag, and just as long since I’d taken part in any kind of martial/fighting arts training (Capoeira and Kali were the last. Boxing, Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do and T’ai Chi – many people don’t realize it, but T’ai Chi is actually a deadly form of martial arts – seemed ages ago). The last time I’d climbed into the ring to spar was maybe 2008. My six years away from combat sports felt more like six cat years… that would be 40 human years, which is about how long it felt!

The class was fun, and I did get to work the heavy-bag. I had my old hand-wraps that I’d dug out of storage the previous week, and I borrowed some gloves from the gym. During the hour-long workout, we did cardio kickboxing drills (including punching with weights, which I’d never done before, so that was interesting, and throwing kicks), push-ups, bag-work, partner-work and abs.  It felt great. I felt great.

Until two days later, when I found myself gobbling four extra-strength Advil as we ran out the door to Monday evening Body Combat. Everything hurt. The boxing gym workout had settled into my muscles, and I literally felt it from my neck down. Trapezius muscles? RIGHT, those exist! And to quote Doc Holliday in Tombstone, “Oh. Johnny Anterior Delts, I apologize; I forgot you were there.” Pecs. LATS! Triceps. Abs. QUADS… I felt the intense soreness in my upper legs just walking.

It didn’t help that I’d forgotten to eat something beforehand, either. In addition to the post-workout soreness, my energy stores felt depleted in class that night. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love feeling that kind of pain again, and I still had a great workout!

When we started Body Combat on Saturday, March 29, Callaghan was looking for general fitness benefits, and I was looking to re-gain my skills and get back into shape after being ridiculously sedentary for over three years (NEVER AGAIN). Three and a half months later, I’m feeling immensely better, but I still have a long way to go. There’s the two Body Combat classes and a boot camp class each week, and sometimes I go an extra day to walk on the treadmill. I feel like I should be doing more.

On Wednesday, it happened again… we had tickets to see Def Leppard and Kiss, which meant ditching boot camp class. We made it up last night by doing a Body Attack class at a different gym location. I’d never heard of Body Attack (like Body Combat, it’s a Les Mills International class). It was a pretty good workout!

Here’s a picture of Callaghan and me at the concert on Wednesday night:

 

None of our pictures of us came out at the concert, but here's this, for what it's worth...

None of our pictures of us came out at the concert, but here’s this, for what it’s worth…

 

Happy Friday, All!

What I’m Digging Right Now – June Favorites

June outdid all previous months with its disappearing act. Where did it go? On Friday morning, I said to Callaghan, “Oh, wait… TUESDAY is July 1st? Didn’t I just do my May Favorites post, like, very recently?”

Several exciting things came to pass in June, but the point of my Monthly Favorites posts is to highlight the little, tangible things that helped to elevate the month. I’m starting with entertainment this time because I have a bit of raving to do with this first thing…

 

1). Edge of Tomorrow (film)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-EdgeofTomorrow

 

Let the appearance of this film in my June Favorites post stand as evidence that I don’t hate Tom Cruise just because he hijacked Reacher. (Hijacked Reacher, get it? Haha!) I’m always up for an insane, high-octane sci-fi thriller, and if Cruise is in it, that’s fine with me. We went to see Edge of Tomorrow Saturday evening. The last time I enjoyed a sci-fi action flick that much was Pacific Rim, and I enjoyed this one even more. Edge of Tomorrow is marvelous storytelling and explosive escapism to the nth degree. The Christopher McQuarrie/Tom Cruise team nailed it with this one!

May I just say that movies like this make me wonder why Reacher? Cruise doesn’t need to be Reacher! Let someone who is Reacher be Reacher, and Cruise can keep doing roles like this one in Edge of Tomorrow, because honestly, I can’t think of anyone who could have done it better. He brought his charisma and unique brand of flair to the role, yet we never once found ourselves thinking this is just Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise. In Edge of Tomorrow, Cruise doesn’t simply own his character. He locks it up and throws away the key. That’s a rare thing in an action flick, in my opinion.

I loved Emily Blunt in her role, too, make no mistake… and the story, writing, direction, editing, cinematography and CGI, all amazing. Yes, I would see it again, and maybe even again after that. I enjoyed it that much. The poster slogan reads, “Live… Die… Repeat.” It should be “Watch… Rave… Repeat.”

 

2). Modern Family (T.V. series)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-ModernFamily

 

We fired up season one of this comedy series because of Sofia Vergara, who captured our attention in May in the film Chef. Hilarious! It brings the LOLs in an off-beat Arrested Development kind of way, and it hooked us instantly. We’re in the middle of season four now. Once we’re caught up, we can get our lives back catch up on some movies.

Moving on to skin care and cosmetics….

 

3). Physician’s Formula Mineral Wear Talc-Free Mineral Oh So Radiant! Powder in Translucent.

 

Physician's Formula does it again! Radiant powder is radiant.

Physician’s Formula does it again! Radiant powder is radiant.

 

What a name for a simple face powder, but radiant, indeed! I wanted to add more of a glow to my skin, and this brightening powder by Physician’s Formula delivers. This is my new setting powder and highlighter in one, and I think it’s going to be a long-time favorite.

 

Kind of a weird picture, but see the slight glow on my cheekbone? That's this powder by Physician's Formula.

Kind of a weird picture, but see the slight glow on my cheekbone? That’s this powder by Physician’s Formula.

 

I’ll say it again: I love that Physician’s Formula products are cruelty-free (not tested on animals). Not all the products I use are, but at least I’m conscious of the matter, right?

 

4). Maybelline Eye Studio Color Tattoo 24HR Cream Gel Shadow Eye Makeup in Tough as Taupe 35.

 

Tough as Taupe Color Tattoo by Maybelline over Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion.

Tough as Taupe Color Tattoo by Maybelline over Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion.

 

Another unwieldy name, and this product apparently suffers an identity crisis, as well. Is it a cream? Is it a gel? Could they not make up their minds, so they dubbed it both a cream and a gel? Whatever. This richly pigmented, creamy eye shadow formula wears beautifully, and the “Tough as Taupe” shade is gorgeous.

I mean, in the pot, the color sort of reminds me of wet cement, but it applies as a perfect, soft taupe with just the faintest tinge of a lilac undertone… it’s a lovely, muted, silky gray-beige-lilac, like a smooth old stone. Depending on how much you build up the color, it’s an all-purpose neutral on the medium-dark end of the neutral shade spectrum, a shade that would be flattering on anyone. I apply it with my fingertip over a base of Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion (cruelty-free!), and it lasts all day… and by “all day,” I mean from 7:00am-11pm.

 

5). Alba Botanica Hawaiian 3-in-1 Clean Towelettes (Deep Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme).

 

Another time-saver! Refreshing towelettes that clean well and smell great.

Another time-saver! Refreshing towelettes that clean well and smell great.

 

(Alba Botanica = cruelty-free!)

This has become my go-to Saturday morning cleanser, because on Saturday mornings, we basically sleep in as late as possible, roll out of bed, fuel up with coffee, inhale some breakfast and run out the door just in time for our 10:00am Body Combat class at the gym. I shower afterward. So, instead of doing my usual morning cleansing and skincare routine, I sweep one of these cleansing towelettes over my face, put on sunscreen and apply a little concealer, Revlon Nearly Naked powder (I don’t bother with the glowy face powder when I’m planning to be drenched in sweat an hour later) and my usual lip-color… just enough to make me feel dressed.

Callaghan loves using these cleansing towelettes, too. They’re refreshing, they leave you feeling super clean, and they smell great. Pineapples. Who doesn’t want to smell like pineapples at the gym on a Saturday morning?

This brings us to the food things on this list!

 

6). Nature’s Path Organic Optimum Power Blueberry Cinnamon Flax cereal.

 

My favorite power cereals have always been by Nature's Path.

My favorite power cereals have always been by Nature’s Path.

 

I guess the theme for this Favorites post is “Little Things with Long Convoluted Names.”

Anyway, this is my new favorite cereal. I like to sprinkle on a little cinnamon to boost the healthy cinnamon factor, and I add fresh blueberries and almond milk. It’s crunchy and satisfying, and it keeps me full all morning!

 

7). Pears.

 

Organic pears from Argentina are everywhere right now, and they're so incredibly good.

Organic pears from Argentina are everywhere right now, and they’re so incredibly good.

 

PEARS! Simple. Just pears. But… organic pears. Organic pears from Argentina. Okay, now I’m making pears complicated when they don’t have to be, but they are organic, and they are from Argentina, and these organic pears from Argentina are abundant in all the stores now, and they’re amazingly juicy, sweet and flavorful. They’ve been a staple in our refrigerator for a month. So let’s complicate things even more and make that chilled organic pears from Argentina. Anyway, delicious, is what they are… in a word!

 

8). Justin’s Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

 

Yes, there are three packs here. I ate one right after I took this picture. Then the next day, I ate another, and the next day...

Yes, there are three packs here. I ate one right after I took this picture. Then the next day, I ate another, and the next day…

 

THESE THINGS. These things are fantabulous, and I ate way too many of them in June. I ate so many, in fact, that I had to stage my own intervention, asking Callaghan to not let me go near them in the store for at least a few weeks. I’m currently in rehab for addiction to Justin’s Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. “But they’re healthy!” is only relevant to a point. Overindulgence is overindulgence.

Rounding out the list, here are two random things that made me smile extra in June…

 

9). Cork phone case.

 

 

Cork phone case by GAIAM. The design is called "Marrakesh."

Cork phone case by GAIAM. The design is called “Marrakesh.”

 

This unusual phone case caught my eye as I wandered the aisles of Office Max one day. I’d been looking for a more protective phone case (the one I’d been using was hard plastic, and I have a tendency to drop my phone), so when this one lured me in with its lovely mandala-like design, I was ready with my justification.

And I did, in fact, drop my phone after I got this case, and the cork did, in fact, insulate the phone on landing! Cork phone cases… recommend.

 

10). Hummingbird feeder.

I got a hummingbird feeder for Callaghan when he told me that hummingbirds don’t exist in France. You could have knocked me over with a feather when he told me that. (Har, har… couldn’t resist. Sorry.) We brought the feeder home and he mixed the sugar water, filled the bottle and hung it up on an existing nail near the edge of our balcony awning, and presto! We now have a small contingent of hummingbirds who perch and circulate near the feeder, and the pleasurable occasion to sit by the living room window to watch them, especially in the early mornings. We often see the littlest hummingbird hanging out on “his” branch outside our balcony. We call him “Nectar,” and he is beyond adorable, I’m telling you.

 

Nectar, our favorite little hummingbird! Callaghan took this photo from our living-room.

Nectar, our favorite little hummingbird! Callaghan took this photo from our living-room.

 

That’s it for June, Friends! July lies before us, and I’m excited because it’s going to be a month of solid back-in-the-day metal madness… we’re going to see Def Leppard, Kiss, Faster Pussycat (shout-out to Tara!), Alice Cooper and Motley Crue. Some friends from France are coming through town for a few days, too; all of that’s going to happen within a two-week period. Fun times ahead!

Oh, side note (literally): I added these “Monthly Favorites” posts to my sidebar as a category, so if you’d like to go back and see them all in one place, there you go. =)

Well aren’t I just the Fashionista’s Fashionista.

Two things that always attract me when I’m browsing through retail clothing racks:

1). Anything gray.

2). Anything featuring the Eiffel Tower.

(Which is actually an appropriate combination, considering that I’ve never seen Paris when it wasn’t cold, gray and raining… even in June.)

But I mean, I love the color gray, as you likely already know if you’ve been reading here for a while. Gray is to me what sparkly things are to my inner four-year-old, and the Eiffel Tower is my all-time favorite monument… so when the Eiffel Tower lights up and gets on with her sparklicious self late at night, my inner four-year-old and I float away on an invisible carpet woven of delight-bordering-on-euphoria. Many a time I’ve waited, shivering, on a chair at an outdoor café under the black Paris night sky, warming my icy hands on a cup of hot chocolate while staring at the Eiffel Tower. When she finally starts sparkling, it feels like she’s sparkling just for me, because I’d been staring at her so hard. (Speaking of hot chocolate, if you ever visit the Louvre, I recommend that you go upstairs to the Café Richelieu and treat yourself to a cup on the lovely terrace overlooking the pyramid. The hot chocolate at the Café Richelieu is decadence redefined.)

“Yeah, and I know why,” Callaghan said when we were talking about my Eiffel Tower obsession love. This was last week.

“Why?” I wanted to know what he thought he knew about me.

“It’s obvious! The Eiffel Tower is a phallic symbol.” He looked pleased with himself as he said it.

But his words gave me pause.

“Um… the Eiffel Tower is a girl,” I said. La Tour Eiffel.” Was I really pointing this out to my French husband?

I’d never seen the Eiffel Tower as phallic, or otherwise male in any respect. She’s a she. She’s elegant and strong and magnificent, and if I come across an article of clothing depicting her, I’ll usually at least contemplate buying it if it’s in the realm of possibility.

So when Chantal was visiting from France (she left on Saturday) for a couple of weeks and we went browsing through Ross one day, it wasn’t surprising that I walked out with another Eiffel Tower shirt, thus prompting the Eiffel Tower conversation with Callaghan, who was ever so surprised when I got home and showed him my purchase. I reasoned that I didn’t yet have a sleeveless Eiffel Tower t-shirt, so it made sense to get this one. Plus, it was all of $6.99 (who doesn’t love Ross), and the graphic is in shades of gray. Triple win!

On Wednesday evening, I came home from work, threw the Eiffel Tower shirt on over a sports bra and shorts and headed out to Boot Camp class at the gym. Because the Eiffel Tower – who is a girl – kicks ass.

Here’s the Eiffel Tower waiting for class to start:

 

At Boot Camp class with the Eiffel Tower.

At Boot Camp class with the Eiffel Tower.

 

Later, I snapped some pics wearing the shirt with a couple of different attitudes, because this particular Eiffel Tower asks for it. Also, it’s been months since my last silly “picture of me in a t-shirt” post (inside joke), so why not go ahead and derp my way through a couple with the Eiffel Tower?

 

The Eiffel Tower, "And your point is?" style.

The Eiffel Tower, “And your point is?” style.

 

The Eiffel Tower, '80's Billy Idol style.

The Eiffel Tower, ’80’s Billy Idol style.

 

Happy Friday, all! =)

What I’m Digging Right Now – January Favorites

Happy Chinese New Year! Gong Hey Fat Choy! It’s the Year of the Horse, and we’re off to a galloping start.

It’s also the last day of January, and I’m wrapping it up with a list of things that brightened my world during the month. Anytime is a good time to celebrate “the little things,” though, I figure.

So let’s start with food, because I stumbled on a great light late-afternoon nosh this month, and I’m eager to share it.

1). A cup of Trader Joe’s Pomegranate White Tea with a LÄRABAR über Roasted Nut Roll (sweet and salty fruit & nut bar).

 

My current favorite late afternoon energy-boosting combo.

My current favorite late afternoon energy-boosting combo.

 

This antioxidant and protein-packed duo bridges the afternoon to the evening really well with just enough caffeine to get you through, but not enough to interfere with your sleep later… and it’s tasty, healthy and substantial. You get a little bit of tart, sweet and salty all at once. Liveliness all around!

2). Learning to drive a manual transmission – Tara’s corvette!

 

I never would have thought you'd find me behind the wheel of a Corvette!

I never would have thought you’d find me behind the wheel of a Corvette!

 

I’m 45 now – I’m entitled to that long-awaited mid-life crisis, and we all know that where there’s a mid-life crisis, there’s got to be a Corvette. (Hey, I know my stereotypes.) My friend Tara indulged me one night a few weeks ago with her car and her patience, and it was exciting! Thanks again, Tara!

3). Returning to the gym.

I didn’t take a picture of our new gym, so here’s a logo from the web, instead:

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsJAN2014-24hourfitnessWe knew when we landed back in AZ that we’d join a gym and start working out. After some lengthy research and consideration, we finally decided everything and made it happen.

Our new memberships came with a complimentary session with a personal trainer. I met with mine the first Friday morning after we signed up. My trainer was nice, although there was some kind of disconnect between us.

“So what are we doing this morning?” He got right into it.

“I’m horribly out of shape,” I told him. “I haven’t worked out regularly in like three years.”

“What do you mean you’re ‘out of shape’?”

“Well, after three years of mostly just sitting around, I’ve become one of those “skinny-fat” people, you know?” I explained. “I’m not overweight, but I’m out of shape, and my body fat composition is probably a mess.”

We’d joined a gym in France, but we went all of like three times, so it didn’t count. I’ve literally been 95% sedentary for three years.

Fitness and martial arts training used to be a serious business with me, as those of you who used to read my LiveJournal may remember. I’d been a dedicated gym rat and student of various martial arts, I went to yoga regularly, and at one point I’d studied to get my personal trainer certification. I never followed through on that, but I read the whole darn book in preparation for it. I also studied nutrition, and I continue to keep up with the ongoing scientific research in the areas of fitness, nutrition and health.

I would have thought that my trainer would measure my body-fat percentage to get an assessment, but he did not. Instead, he decided to kick my ass as if I was in better-than-average shape.

Consequently, the next day, I could hardly walk.

“What part of ‘I haven’t worked out in three years’ was unclear?” I complained to Callaghan later. But still, it was fun. And the gym is super nice. I especially love doing laps in the pool, stretching in the sauna afterward, and then sitting in the Jacuzzi.

4). Starbucks travel drink container

 

Blinded by the shiny things. What can I say.

Blinded by the shiny things. What can I say.

 

This was one of those frivolous impulse purchases, but it was a delayed reaction impulse, which sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not. I saw a bucket of these cups glinting in the sun at the Starbucks that day we broke down on our way to Palm Springs. It ended up being one of those situations where something catches your eye, you note to yourself that it’s interesting, and you ignore it and move along… then, later, when you’re sitting at home 159 miles away, it pops back into your head with the realization that you would really love to have it, and you kick yourself for not having gotten it. You can’t stop thinking about it. You’re mesmerized by the memory of its lid’s shiny coppery facets. It’s sitting in a bucket in Blythe, California, 2.5 hours away, and you’re not going to drive 2.5 hours just to go get it. Thus, your quest begins… every time you pass a Starbucks, you ask your husband to please wait just a second so I can run in to see if that one carries those cups! until finally one of them has them… at which point you discover that it’s stupidly expensive, but by then it’s become The Holy Grail, so you HAVE to get it.

Now I feel slightly guilty about it, but a). the guilt is not as bad as the mournful feeling I had when I thought I’d missed my chance to get it (first world problem alert!), and b). not really, because I’ve been drinking water non-stop since I got it, I love it so much! And that’s a good, healthy thing. No buyer’s remorse here. Nope. None.

Plus, I discovered that it’s sweat-proof, which is a great feature. I keep it filled with ice, and the surface of my desk stays dry. WIN.

5). Townes Van Zandt and the documentary about him, Be Here To Love Me: A Film about Townes Van Zandt

 

One of the best music documentaries I've ever seen. I recommend it.

One of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen. I recommend it.

 

In my November favorites post, I talked about my passion for Steve Earle, my favorite country music artist. Townes is Steve Earle’s collection of Townes Van Zandt covers, and it’s a favorite CD of mine because I’m a huge Townes Van Zandt fan. He’s regarded as a “songwriter’s songwriter,” covered by many other musicians, and I find the story of his life to be as fascinating as the brilliant and haunting lyrics he wrote. I mean, as a poet, songs like “Rake” and “Marie” simply floor me.

I love Steve Earle’s Townes Van Zandt covers more than anyone else’s. Here’s his version of “Marie”:

 

 

If there was ever to be an anthem for the homeless, that song would be it.

6). The requisite beauty product item on this list has to be the Simple Sensitive Skin Experts foaming facial cleanser.

 

My current favorite nighttime facial cleanser is by Simple

My current favorite nighttime facial cleanser is by Simple

 

My Mom loves this cleanser. She gave me a bottle of it when I visited them in December, and it’s grown on me since then, as I’ve used it routinely. It’s almost-but-not-quite overkill for my skin (I have normal skin, and foaming cleansers are usually best for oily skin), but I’m used to it now, and it’s true that my face feels especially clean after I wash with it. I use it at night after I remove my makeup.

7). The girl who hula-hoops on the grass across from our place.

 

Wednesday morning hula-hoopin'!

Wednesday morning hula-hoopin’!

 

I’ve mentioned her before. She continues appearing on the lawn to practice her hooping, so finally I had to take a picture; I feel like it’s a terribly stalker-ish thing to do, but I made sure to avoid getting her face so as to respect her privacy. I wish that her inspirational energy could come through to you in the picture, though. She’s diligent, and she’s a delight to watch.

8). French blue and white toile plate – Luneville “The Cottage”

 

Blue and white toile  Luneville "The Cottage" plate from Callaghan's family in France. The candle is the “Melt” Lemon Verbena and Sage pillar candle (Nest Fragrances)

Blue and white toile Luneville “The Cottage” plate from Callaghan’s family in France. The candle is the “Melt” Lemon Verbena and Sage pillar candle (Nest Fragrances)

 

What is it with me and small collectable plates these days? It’s a new thing. Also in my November favorites post, I’d talked about the handmade Greek one (Bonis Ceramics) I’d found in the corner of a used bookstore, and since then Callaghan discovered this plate, a family piece from France, in one of his many boxes. Somehow, it immediately found its way to the corner of my desk, where it’s resided ever since. All month long, the sight of it has made me smile.

9). My boys. Ronnie James and Nounours have taken to cuddling so close, they almost look like conjoined twins.

 

Look, Mom! Parallel arms!

Look, Mom! Parallel arms!

 

Joined at the hip, those two!

10). Finally, venturing into Callaghan’s office/studio more and more gives me a gateway to the realm of the strange and unexpected as he’s started creating more, and you know me. I love it. Yesterday, I caught this in my peripheral vision as I left the room:

 

Is that a...?

Is that a…?

 

…so I stepped back to take a closer look.

 

...why yes, that would be the gruesome remains of a teddy bear hovering above a death-like mask. Moving right along.

…why yes, that would be the gruesome remains of a teddy bear hovering above a death-like mask. Moving right along.

 

Now let’s see what February brings!