Lady Gaga artRAVE in Houston

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I had a ticket to one of the hottest pop shows of the summer, Lady Gaga’s artRAVE tour. My friend won tickets to see the show in Houston. Yes, won. She has the best luck! I was excited when she invited me to join her. A concert?! For free?! Sure!!!

I am not one of Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters. That was clear to me as I listened to her proselytize about all things Gaga and about “authenticity” we all share. I’m not against the message of believing in yourself or artistic expression. I got a little tired that by extension that meant believing in Lady Gaga as some sort of leader or spiritual guide.

With that said, I did enjoy the show with its music, six costume changes (including one on stage), stage sets, dancers, and lights (so many lights). This was a big production by an artist in the height of her career, but Lady Gaga still seems to appreciate her fans. She pulled quite a few on stage, including a Michael Jackson lookalike (didn’t get the memo on costumes?), a five-year-old girl (sweet but….it felt a little like a Sweet Home Alabama “You brought a baby. To a bar.” moment), and costumed look-a-likes. She read a note thrown on stage, and she put on clothes tossed her way (while hiking up her leotard to make it a thong).

Overall, it was a fun show. It was entertainment…not enlightenment.

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Book Suggestion: Enrique’s Journey

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I received a copy of Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother* by Sonia Nazario when I worked for the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M. It was part of a “Common Ground Reading” series in 2010. Each incoming student to the college is given a copy of a book, and there are events/discussions related to the book during the year.

This book is a compassionate and informative look at the journey of one boy to make it to the United States to find his mother, who had left him in Honduras years before. Enrique’s journey is like hundreds of others who have made the journey. It is heartbreaking to consider the desperation that leads parents to leave their children to go in search of more opportunities. It is gut-wrenching to consider what the children (and others) go through to try to make it into the United States and the reasons they would even attempt such a journey.

I picked up this book off my shelves to reread it this summer. It’s extremely relevant right now, given the increased number of illegal children immigrants crossing the border and being detained right now.

R.I.P.P.E.D. Review

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I received a complimentary copy of R.I.P.P.E.D. for review purposes. I received no additional compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own. Additionally, my links to Amazon Associates are marked with a (*). 

“Not Extreme, Not Insane, Just R.I.P.P.E.D.” That ‘s the promise on the cover of R.I.P.P.E.D.*, a workout DVD that also claims to be “The One Stop Body Shock.”

R.I.P.P.E.D. is a clever acronym for a workout system designed by Terry and Tina Shorter. They are also the instructors of the DVD. The workout is broken down into a warm-up, five sections, and a cool down. Each section represents the fitness components of the acronym R.I.P.P.E.D. Each section is 5-10 minutes long.

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All right. So what does R.I.P.P.E.D. stand for?

R – Resistance

I – Intervals

P – Power

P – Polymetrics

E – Endurance

D – Diet

The total workout is 48 minutes. There is an option to do the workout with or without tutorials. In the tutorials, one of the instructors explains each move and proper form before each section. The workout is an hour and five minutes with the tutorial. Once you know the moves, you’ll probably want to skip the tutorial.

The workout itself is a nice mix of cardio and toning. There is no complicated choreography. There are familiar moves like lunges and squats. (Terry informs the viewer that there are, in fact, 128 total squats in the workout! I’ll take his word. I didn’t count.) There are jumps and kickboxing moves. The workout is at an intermediate level, but there are modifiers doing both beginner and more advanced moves. I also liked that upper body moves were done on their own during the resistance portion of the workout. I like compound moves, but I sometimes feel that I can’t go as heavy with weights when I’m moving around while working the upper body. It was nice to focus on the arms by themselves. This was a challenging workout, but it was doable.

There is also a bonus five-minute abs section.

The DVD doesn’t have an instructional on the “D,” Diet & Nutrition. There is a screen from the menu that suggests that you find a sensible nutrition program. It also directs you to visit the R.I.P.P.E.D. website for more information. The website has a fairly extensive “Diet and Nutrition” tab that offers nutritional info and a sample day menu.

What I didn’t love about the workout–the instructors (sometimes) and the soundtrack.

Both Terry and Tina are pretty cheesy and almost overly positive as instructors. It’s almost like they’re trying too hard. But, they are tolerable. And sometimes even encouraging like when they tell you not to quit because “you’ve come so far!”

But, oh…the music. There are lyrics such as: “R-I-P-P-E-D! I love it ’cause it’s so intense.” T.E.R.R.I.B.L.E. Terry sometimes starts to sing along. I learned from Terry’s biography that he has an education and experience in music. And guess what…Terry produced, wrote, and performed the original tracks on the DVD. Really wished he hadn’t.

But, if you can get past those two things, this is a solid intermediate workout. No, it’s not insane (or hmmm…Insanity). There is potential for progression (by adding heavier weights or more intensity).

Ellen Barrett Live: Sleek Sculpt Express Review

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I received a complimentary copy of Sleek Sculpt Express for review purposes. I received no additional compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own. Additionally, my links to Amazon Associates are marked with a (*).2014-07-02_22-19-41

I heart workouts with Ellen Barrett. Her workouts are challenging yet not exhausting.

Ellen Barrett Live Sleek Sculpt Express* (2013) is a 30-minute workout. Ellen’s workouts are usually around 45 minutes, so it’s nice to have some “express” options from her. (Another one is Super Fast Body Blast!*) Ellen is joined by two background talent, Antonia and Michelle. The “live” in the series title refers to the fact that they did the complete workout.

The workout is done entirely standing up on a yoga mat, and it requires light hand weights in the three-pound range. It might be tempting to reach for heavier weights, but this might become too challenging as the workout continues. Michelle demonstrates the entire workout without weights. Shoes are optional. Ellen points out that this can help work the foot muscles.There is no dedicated warm-up. There is a brief cool down done while holding the weights.

The workout is primarily a toning workout. The choreography flows from one move to the next. You complete the routine on one side of the body and the second set switches sides. The moves are inspired by Pilates, dance, and yoga. Upper and lower body moves are integrated together, and the core is engaged. Working large muscle groups also gives the workout a cardio element. As Ellen says:

It’s the arms. It’s the chest. It’s the legs. It’s the core. Everything is always connected to everything.

Ellen likes to talk about your body’s energy, finding inspiration, and the like. During this workout, you’ll hear her say things like:

Take a moment. Just feel your spirit. Feel your energy. That’s what it’s all about.

I’m okay with her talk. It’s her way of being inspiring, and she doesn’t come off as preachy. I also like her message that beauty and fitness is more than the way you look. Ellen says that true fitness is being highly functional and having a big comfort zone. This enables you to do things that you need to do like race to your airport gate or after a child.

This could be a challenging workout for all levels. The challenge shows in Antonia’s face. She often looks like she is having a tough time, but she is able to do the workout. While the credits roll, they show the three stars chatting. You can’t hear them, but you can see Antonia joking about struggling at times with the weights while Michelle is less challenged without weights.

This DVD runs around $15, so it’s not as cheap as some other fitness DVDs available. But, I think this one has the potential of becoming a favorite in an at-home workout collection.

I hope to see more from Ellen soon!

Weight Watchers Ultimate Belly Review

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I received a complimentary copy of Ultimate Belly for review purposes. I received no additional compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own. Additionally, my links to Amazon Associates are marked with a (*).

Weight Watchers Ultimate Belly Series* (2013) includes three core workouts led by fitness instructor Jennifer Cohen.  Within WeIGHTeach segment, there are three different levels you can follow–beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Cohen demonstrates the intermediate level of the moves. She is joined by two women who do the beginner and advanced options.  Cohen encourages you to challenge yourself at the intermediate or advanced levels, but she also says you can always modify and still get a good workout. A mat is suggested for this workout, and a pair of hand weights are optional for those doing the intermediate or advanced workouts.

The first segment is “10-Minute Ab Toner.” This is done on the floor. There are crunches and variations on c-curves. The most difficult move of this segment is the side planks with dips. A brief warm-up and cool down begin and end the segment.

The “20-Minute Ab Express” is another workout done on the floor. This workout includes Pilates-inspired moves, including the 100 and single leg stretch. There are also crunches and c-curves. This segment also begins with a brief warm-up and ends with a short cool down.

The final segment is “30-Minute Standing Ab Toner.” This workout starts off as a standing ab workout with moves like side bends. But, then it moves to the floor for familiar moves like c-curves and crunches. Why did they call this a standing ab routine?!

So, this workout fell a little flat for me. The pace of the workouts was sooooo slow. This DVD is also in the awkward position of advertising for all fitness levels but not being able to truly deliver on that. Even with the modifications, this DVD could be difficult for true beginners but not challenging enough for intermediate or advanced fitness levels. You may enjoy this workout if you enjoy a slower pace workout that you can easily modify, and you are at an advanced beginner fitness level.

Knee High by the Fourth of July

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I may have undone seven years of trying to convince my husband that Nebraska is not all about corn with just a few words. My SIL is tending a garden with some of her friends, and one of the things they are growing is corn. I let the old adage about growing corn slip…

Knee high by the Fourth of July

I grew up hearing it from my dad, who likely heard it from the farmers in his family. It was just something that was said when we were driving by fields of growing corn (outside Omaha) and observing their condition.

Apparently, that’s not a common saying around here. They hadn’t heard it before. David immediately began joking that I had always claimed that Omaha was not about corn, and here I was spouting quotes about growing corn. Of course, it didn’t matter to him that the saying is about the only thing I know about growing corn. Sigh.

Regardless, I’m loving that gardening seems to be a hobby for so many friends & family. I’m loving the “bounty” shots on Facebook, and I was more than happy to take some garden grown tomatoes off my family’s hands. We planted our own small garden, but we were a bit late on starting it. We’ll see if we have any luck (trying beets, carrots, tomatoes, cantaloupe, and green beans). I also have a few herbs, which have done very well.

We are not growing corn.