Leslie Sansone, Walk to the Hits: Party Songs Review


This is a review; I checked out this workout DVD from my local library! Amazon Affiliate links are marked with a (*).

Leslie Sansone has made her career out of creating at-home walking workouts, but it feels like she’s having trouble keeping workouts fresh and unique.

Judging by the cover, Walk to the Hits: Party Songs* (2013) should be a workout I enjoy.

This is a review; I checked out this workout DVD from my local library! Amazon Affiliate links are marked with a walk(*).

Leslie Sansone has made her career out of creating at-home walking workouts, but it feels like she’s having trouble keeping workouts fresh and unique.

Judging by the cover, Walk to the Hits: Party Songs* should be a workout I enjoy.

The cover describes the workout:

Hit music to pump up the pace & amp up results!

Herein is my first problem with the workout. The music. Yes, the music includes hit sons like “Can’t Touch This,” “Dancing on the Ceiling,” and “We Got the Beat.” The hit songs, however, are not done by the original artists. This takes away a lot of the appeal of this workout. At one point during the workout, Leslie says, “We should have invited Lionel Ritchie!” Yes. You should have because these hits are missing the mark. Leslie does admit at another point, “It’s not really Lionel. That’s all right.” No…no it’s not. If you are going to market a workout that is focused on the soundtrack being hit party songs, I would think you’d find some hit party songs with original artists not sad covers.

In addition to the disappointment over the soundtrack, it seems like Leslie is sometimes fighting to give her cues over the volume of the music. The transitions between songs is not always smooth.

The workout itself is 45 minutes, which in Leslie’s Walk at Home system translates to three miles. The intensity level is probably best for advanced beginners. There are some higher impact moves (like bounces), but the moves can be modified.

The workout also features “HIIT” training. Sort of. HIIT, of course, stands for High Intensity Interval Training. And HIIT is so trendy right now, so I can understand why Leslie would want to include it. True HIIT workouts have waaaaaaaaaaaaay more intensity and effort than what is done in this workout. This workout doesn’t really challenge to the maximum effort. It is probably better described as an interval workout or “boosted” walking done in some of her other videos. The intervals include 30 seconds of high intensity followed by 2 minutes of very low-intensity recovery.

If you’re familiar with Leslie’s Walk at Home workouts, the moves in this workout should be familiar. Leslie doesn’t offer anything substantially new.

What I do like about Leslie Sansone is her personality and instruction style. Like all her other videos, Leslie is enthusiastic and friendly in Walk to the Hits: Party Songs. Leslie focuses on health rather than strict appearance. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say anything like, “Imagine yourself in your skinny jeans.” So many instructors attempt to motivate in that way. Not Leslie. She’s more focused on the positive health benefits of walking, and she wants you to have fun doing it.

Another things I consistently like about Leslie’s workouts is her background walkers. She always finds some great people to walk along with her, whether it’s other walking instructors, people who have used her system/studio, or professionals. In this workout, the background walkers appear to be having fun, and they each show off a different walking style.

The soundtrack just lost me in this one, and the workout itself did not get me interested.

The Giver Movie


I saw a preview screening of The Giver, which opens on August 15.

The movie was enjoyable, even though it was a frenzy of images and plot points. Ultimately, the film adaptation is just a shadow, an echo of the 1992 book by Lois Lowry.

See The Giver, but feel free to wait for the DVD to be released.

Ellen Barrett Live: Fusion Floor Workout Review


Lucky me! I received a complimentary copy of Fusion Floor Fitness for review purposes. Additionally, links to my Amazon Associate suggestions will be marked with a (*).

Fusion Floor Fitness* (2013) is a 45-minute sculpting workout done entirely on the floor. A mat is suggested, but no other ellenequipment is necessary. Ellen Barrett is the instructor, and she is her typical, wonderful self. She offers good cues and modifications.

Ellen says her goal for the workout was to not be hyper but rather like water. The moves in the workout flow. The moves are inspired by Pilates, yoga, and dance. There are three series of exercises performed on both sides and a soothing stretch to end the workout. The workout is truly total body. I was surprised at how much the upper body was worked! It’s not as challenging as Sleek Sculpt Express, but it can be challenging even for individuals with higher levels of fitness because the muscles are worked at unique angles.

I especially like that Ellen talks about doing moves that counter our typical lifestyles (sitting, hunched at a computer.) During a kneeling backbend, Ellen says:

This is un-hunching.

One downside is that there are moves that could cause wrist and knee discomfort, but overall this is a low-impact workout.

Towards the end of the workout, Ellen says:

I feel energized, not fatigued.

I agree!

This is yet another great Ellen Barrett workout!

Pottery Friday at Bayou Bend


My first trip to Bayou Bend, an extension location of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, was for “Pottery Fridays.” The two-hour program included a simulated archaeology dig, hands-on activities with clay, a scavenger hunt at Ima Hogg’s former house, and other pottery-themed activities.

Trip and I really didn’t have enough time to do everything offered in two hours. There were shuttles running between the Visitor Center (where most of the activities were taking place) and the house. We decided to visit the house first. We received a pottery-themed scavenger hunt of items to look for throughout the house. The house is a show-off collection of antique furniture, art, and home accessories. There were docents and guards who readily engaged the kids (although not everyone seemed to have gotten the message that today was focused on pottery).

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After going through the house, Trip and I spent awhile walking in the immense garden space before taking the shuttle back to the Visitor Center. Truthfully, I could have spent a lot more time at the house and gardens! But, it was so hot and we had other activities awaiting us!

bb garden

After taking time at the gardens, we just didn’t have time to do all the other activities! Trip did an activity which focused on drawing a landscape into clay, and he dug around a bit in the simulated archaeology dig. All the staff and volunteers were friendly, and the hands-on activities are always a hit with Trip.

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There’s one more Pottery Friday on Friday, August 15.. According to the website, the event is considered “sold out.” However, if you’re really interested I’d be in contact with the folks over at Bayou Bend. I got the impression that the staff thought turnout has been low to these events (and it certainly was not crowded when we went!!!).

Thanks to Bayou Bend for a lovely day of fun and learning!

Dolphin Tale 2 Review


Trip and I went to see a Houston screening of Dolphin Tale 2 (2014). I didn’t have high expectations for the movie. I thought the original Dolphin Tale (2011)  was a sweet movie, but sequels of “family films” are often so terrible. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. There are spoilers in this post.



Dolphin Tale 2 is a continuation of the story of Winter, a bottlenose dolphin who was rescued off the coast of Florida. Winter sustained severe injuries from a fishing trap and lost her tail. The first film focused on her rehabilitation and designing for a prosthetic tail. The second tale follows Winter and her human friends at the Clearwater Marine Hospital as they deal with the loss of Winter’s dolphin companion Panama. Winter’s health declines, and the hospital is in danger of losing Winter because of USDA regulations requiring female dolphins in captivity to have a companion female. Two dolphins aren’t guaranteed to get along, so there’s no guarantee that the hospital’s other rescue dolphin (an adorable little girl named Hope) will be a good fit.

There’s a lot of positives about the movie’s messages. One, there is an overarching theme about the connections between human and animals. The movie also shares a good message of rescue, rehabilitation, and release when possible for wild animals. There are a lot of reminders that the captive dolphins are still wild animals. There’s also a lot of talk about dolphin behavior, which may spur some curiosity to learn more. (At one point, an onscreen character yells, “I love that fish!” Trip whispered to me, “Dolphins aren’t fish!”) The big question that was raised for Trip was how did the humans swim underwater without goggles?! (We’ve been swimming a lot this summer, and Trip isn’t quite comfortable with that!)

The movie also deals with the two child characters growing up and maturing. They’re learning along the way about responsibility, leadership, taking chances, and making informed decisions. There is a hint of a crush between the teenagers Sawyer and Hazel, but that’s all it really is…a hint.

There are a few moments that can be tough for viewers–a deceased dolphin at the bottom of a pool, Sawyer getting smacked when Winter panics. And certainly, some of the themes of the movie can be difficult–injured animals, coming to terms with releasing a healthy animal back into the wild (a bittersweet moment).

The movie is “inspired by true events.” The dolphins Winter and Hope play themselves. You can visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to learn more about their mission and programs, and they also have live webcams of Winter & Hope. (I suppose that was a HUGE spoiler….) Also meet some of their other residents like Cupid, Ricky & Lucy, and Thelma and Louise. The movie has taken some creative license, particularly with the human characters.

The movie is enjoyable and appropriate for the whole family. It’s a heartwarming story (some might say finspirational). There is a tension throughout the movie about the fate of Winter, even though I think we all know there’s a happy ending. And there’s plenty of laughs along the way. The cast is great and includes: Harry Connick, Jr., Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, and Kris Kristofferson. The kids are played by Cozi Zuehlsdorff and Nathan Gamble. Bethany Hamilton (Soul Surfer) also stars.

Dolphin Tale 2 opens September 12.


What I’m Loving Wednesday — August 5


1. Guardians of the Galaxy!!!!!!!!!!!!

We got to see the show on opening day, and we all loved it. The movie is a ton of fun, and it all links into the Marvel movie universe.

2. Nature Discovery Center

We went for a nature story time at the Nature Discovery Center in Houston. There is a converted house, which serves as a sort of visitor’s center. There are rooms for meeting, and this is where the story time was held. There are also “discovery rooms” upstairs. The rooms have puppets, puzzles, and other hands-on activities; there are also animals like a turtle and a snake. The focus of our story time was butterflies. We heard several books about butterflies, took a nature walk to try to find some butterflies, caterpillars, and other bugs, and did a craft. The grounds around the house include gardens, wild plants, some short trails, and a playground. The kids were encouraged to really look around and to touch some of the plants.

ndc craft

Craft time


Discovering nature…


Looking for bugs in the fountain

3. Killeen’s BBQ & Croissant Bread Pudding

Okay, so our visit to Killeen’s BBQ in Pearland was been a couple of weeks ago, but we’re still talking about it. Because it was that good! The meats and the sides were good, but the desserts were INCREDIBLE! Constant craving for the bread pudding. It was divine! Sure, sure…we waited over an hour in line to even order. But, even that was a pleasant experience. They brought (free) beer to people waiting in line, and there was ample water available as well. We loved this place, especially the bread pudding. OMG, the bread pudding!!!

Five meat plate

Five meat plate

4. Miller Outdoor Theater & Children’s Hilltop Festival

All right…so this was a week and a half ago…I took trip to see a production of the Express Children’s Theater during the Children’s Hilltop Festival at the Miller Outdoor Theater is the Museum District. Parking was insane (no surprise). Once we were parked and situated, we had a really good time.

For this production, there was covered seating. There were a lot of people in attendance, but there were still plenty of open seats. We went to the Friday show of “Little Red.” There were a lot of laughs, especially at a giant chicken.


Houston Museum of Natural Science & The Magna Carta Exhibit


The Houston Museum of Natural Science is one of my family’s favorite spots in Houston. One major reason is the Morian Hall of Paleontology. Trip calls the HMNS the “Dinosaur Museum” because of this excellent paleontology exhibit. The museum also has interesting temporary exhibits. One of the current temporary exhibits is “Magna Carta.” According to the HMNS website’s description of the exhibit:

An original edition of the “Magna Carta,” and the only known example of the King’s Writ — a letter from King John to the Sheriff of Gloucester announcing the signing of the Magna Carta — is visiting Houston from its home in Hereford Cathedral. The Magna Carta is considered to be Great Britain’s most valuable export to the world and is a model upon which the United States Constitution was based. The Magna Carta continues to serve as the definitive document modeling basic civil liberties, and is the source of many of the most fundamental concepts of law. In more than 100 decisions, the United States Supreme Court has traced dependence on the Magna Carta for an understanding of due process, trial by jury, the importance of a speedy and unbiased trial, and protection against excessive bail or fines or cruel and unusual punishment. This historic document can be viewed for a limited time Feb. 14, 2014 to Aug. 17, 2014.

This exhibit is worth a visit for individuals interested in history, law, and politics. Personally, I don’t think it would be too engaging for young children. But, school-age children will appreciate the hands-on activities, including a “career selector” (which leads to options like peasant, nun, and midwife) and a heraldry design activity. And there is armor, which I believe is always a crowd pleaser. I would have been a nun Seeing the 1217 copy of the Magna Carta was interesting, and the context of the document was presented. There was information about kings and popes, life in 13th century England, and legal/cultural/religious background. It’s hard to believe the actual document is here in Houston. But only for a couple more weeks!