My First Meetup : Aerial Skills Class

Back when I was super whining about dating (ya know not just my normal level of whining about it) many people suggested I join Meetup.com. I was hesitant to try anything because most of the groups didn’t seem like my cup of tea. I have explained MANY times in person and on this site, I am nervous around new people and with new activities. Going out alone was terrifying to me, but I am getting better at it as I keep forcing myself to try.

Several months ago I found a group called Mix Fit and they travel around the area checking out new fitness classes. This sounded like EXACTLY the type of group I would like to join! I signed up for a few classes (meetups) which were months out! I actually missed one a few weeks back because I wasn’t feeling well. Tuesday night rolled around and I was on my way to the Czech Cultural Center of Cleveland to try my hand (feet?) at Aerial Skills!

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We began by warming up on the springboard floorboard or something to that effect. Whatever the gymnasts use during their floor routine. I had NO IDEA it was so bouncy, takes a little magic out of their performances for me though. We did jumping jacks and stretches and other general warm up related materials. Then we went over and “got familiar” with the ropes. We touched the fabric, tugged on it to feel how it would stretch, generally got to know our equipment.

Out first task was to reach up about forehead height, tug on the fabric and lift our knees to our chest. Then we were told to hold this pose for 5 seconds. Nearly everyone did great with this, I could barely lift myself off the ground. I have no upper body strength or control.  We did three sets of this per student (two per ropes).

The next task was to wrap our left foot in the fabric and lift with our right and stand on the fabric. Then we could pull up and redo the movement, this is how you “climb” the fabric. This was a little easier for me, because it relied a lot on lower body and that is an area I actually have some muscles. Of course my arms failed me and I never scaled up very high. My partner did much better with this task!

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After learning how to climb (we did each side three times). We were taught how to twist and turn and make the fabric into a swing! I FINALLY was able to do something that kinda resembled the right idea. Mind you I should have my hips more lose, the fabric more centered and my leg tucked under more, but I did not realize how much flexibility I’ve lost not going to Pilates. You can see my partner was able to master this position much better.

 

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The next few techniques were very similar, with different foot wrappings and then making positions in the front of back. Because I couldn’t get the position right, I wasn’t able to do any of the other skills. At this point in the night it was about an hour into the class and I was super sweaty and super feeling down on myself. I told the instructor I thought I was too fat for the fabric. She said if I was uncomfortable that is perfectly OK to admit and common, but I was certainly not too fat. I sat down and almost cried I was feeling so sorry for myself. The class and life moved on though, and soon we were on the final technique. Unfortunately I didn’t grab any shots of this…but it was this really interesting body wrap where you’re handing in air in the fabric. I managed to make it work for like 2 seconds before I unraveled and fell down. I was laughing the whole time though.

Once all “lessons” were completed one of the instructors volunteered to give us a “demo” of more advanced styles. It was totally beautiful and mesmerizing.

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I’m really glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and gave this class and Meet Up a try. I would certainly try it again in the future, but I think I will try to lose weight and do more weight training first. All day long I’ve been struggling with my arms because I strained my triceps so much. Time FOR SURE to get myself back in the gym!

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This entry was posted in fitness.

Friday Food : New Menu at Olive Garden

On Tuesday evening I was treated to quite the unusual surprise. Earlier in the day I received an email from Samantha, inviting me to an exclusive taste testing for Olive Garden‘s new menu items. Of course I had delayed birthday dinner plans for the same evening in question, but all was right with the world when I was told guests were welcome. So after work I went home and cleaned up a bit before my friend took me to my “belated birthday dinner” where we both ate for free!

Hanging out

I’ll be honest, my reaction to the invite was along the lines of “Wow! Olive Garden has new menu items? When’s the last time they updated?” Talking with various coworkers and friends we all agreed, most of us like OG, in fact none of us would turn down a meal at OG. Still, it’s the restaurant you went to with your family when you were growing up, it isn’t the restaurant you think about going to now. After my experience on Tuesday, I believe it SHOULD and WILL be the restaurant you think about going to now, and next week, and future dates too!

Our event took place from 700-900 PM at a location just outside of Cleveland, OH. Several bloggers and other media representatives attended and apparently the same event took place the night before as well. The first change we all noticed was the updated logo. I found this image online showing the side by side comparison.

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The old logo was very “cartoony” for lack of a better word. It was fun and comforting, it was the look of the 90′s which is when it was revealed. When I see this logo I think of white pasta covered in heavy white or red sauce at a reasonable price. Right? Well, with the movement toward more “natural” and “healthy” choices, I don’t think the thick lettering and bursting wine grapes help. The new logo on the other hand, is clean and simple, like the ingredients people are now seeking in their menu items.  I think of olive oil and veggies when I see the new logo. I feel healthier looking at it. Another change people may not notice? The wording. Olive Garden went from an “Italian Restaurant” AKA where food is served, to an “Italian Kitchen” where food is prepared. Doesn’t that just sound fresher.

According to the press release:

“Our new menu is designed to appeal to the evolving palettes and preferences of our casual dining guests, while providing more options to customize your meal experience at both lunch and dinner.”

Sounds like a great idea, right? So let me share what I was able to sample and what I thought about it all. I do apologize for poor images, it was my cell phone and of course indoor evening eating lighting isn’t the best. Guess I’m a “bad blogger”. Head over to Twitter or Instagram with the tag #OGTastes to find pictures WAY better than mine.

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Appetizers or “small plates”:

These items are designed to go before a meal, or to be shared with a group. Another suggestion (and one I liked) is for those headed to OG for a lunch can order the small plate to have something to go along with their soup and salad. Since we all know OG is known for their soup and salad!

Small Plates

Starting at the top. The Artichoke Fritta sounded appealing with the 5 cheese marinara sauce, but the actual fried artichoke was terrible. Everyone at the table agreed it was too “juicy” and the artichoke flavor was much too strong. I actually like artichoke, which is why I was surprised at how bad this dish was. Certainly not something you could easily eat with another dish. The Crispy Ricotta Bites were amazing. One of the best dishes all night. Great texture, very flavorful, but not over powering. I thought they were a tad on the “cheesy” tasting side, and I liked that a lot! I would 100% grab these with a soup and salad meal. The Smashed Chicken Meatball Sandwich was another winner. Half our table loved it the other half hated it, so it seems this is a rather polarizing dish. I love how it comes served in 4 pieces, making it easy to share. I also love how they serve it with a pesto spread which is NUT FREE. We all tried it with the marinara, but you can also get it was the spicy diavlo sauce. Lastly the Polenta Shrimp alla Greca. I did not try this as I hate seafood, but everyone at my table said it was truly yummy. I also learned you could order it with chicken or another meat on the menu, or simply get it plain.

Lighter Italian Fare:

Menu items under 575-calories. This was appealing on paper, but I actually looked up the Weight Watcher’s points for one of the dishes and it was 13. There’s a few other things I’d spend 13 points on, especially for “lunch”, then again the portion sizes are HUGE and you could easily save or split a dish.

Lighter Fare

The two items we tried for this section were the Garlic Rosemary Chicken and the Chicken Abruzzi. I LOVED both, the Abruzzi is the shocking 13 points though. When I saw the Garlic Rosemary Chicken I tweeted out a pic with the caption “Be still my heart. This @OriginalOliveGarden Garlic Rosemary Chicken is under 575 cals!” This little declaration of love actually won me a gift card at the event. The garlic chicken was very moist and tender, easy to cut with just my fork. The potatoes were very creamy and I felt they were quite indulgent for being on the “lighter fare” menu. Certainly a dish for lunch or dinner, preferably for me a light dinner. Perfect for splurging on more salad or even a drink or dessert. The abruzzi was great and very much full of various flavors, but it was totally different and very much improved with the grilled lemon squeezed on top. This dish IMHO would really only work for lunch. I do not think it is nearly filling enough for a standard dinner order. As luck would have it, I ended up with about 1/2 the dish as a leftover and I ate it as lunch today. I can vouche it stays good for several days as a leftover, reheats well, and was just enough for me to enjoy at lunch without feeling bloated the rest of the afternoon.

Specialty Entrees:

Main dishes for lunch or dinner. New “culinary-forward” foods to the chicken and seafood sections of the menu, enhanced by preparation on a new Piastra flat-top grill for a more evenly cooked, tender and juicy taste. <– According to their release. I actually found these items to be very well prepared and not at all “boring” or “bland” I don’t like seafood AT ALL, but anything with seafood has a counterpart or can be prepared the way you like it.

Specialty Entree

The Lasagna Fresca served had seafood on it, so again I sat out of the taste fun. Everyone else at my table thought it was good though. I later learned there’s another version on the menu with a red sauce and more of a “Mexican” vibe to it, if I recall properly.  The Pappardelle Pescatore was a HUGE hit with everyone except me…I looked at it and went “OH MY GOD SOOOO MUCH OCEAN” to which another girl said “Can there be too much ocean?”. Haha My Mom and sister would LOVE it! Finally, we have the Bucatini with Diavlo Sauce and Sausage Meatballs. I wasn’t excepting “spaghetti and meatballs” to be impressive. The Diavola sauce is spicy without killing your mouth, the bucatini is actually a cool thick but hallow noodle. Very awesome take on a traditional dish. I jokingly asked if I could have leftovers since this was one of the last dishes served and people were full. To my surprise they brought it back in a box for me! SCORE. Super happy about this leftover. Another dish I would for sure order in the future. All of these I think are more of the “dinner” side of ordering though…a little on the heavier side, in portion if not content.

Salad Toppers:

We only tried the one salad topper and I was very impressed with how the kale, roasted tomatoes and mozzarella enhanced an already amazing salad. I did ask the price and I was told $2.99, which I think is very reasonable.

Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad Topper

Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad Topper

Dessert:

Does dessert really need explained?

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberries

Strawberry Panna Cotta

My only issue is with my allergies, I wish there was a wider fruit possibility or less focus on cakes or pastry based dishes. Sadly, I had to pass on the treats, but this was probably the thing everyone loved the most of the whole evening. I will say I give MAJOR props to the staff because not only did they listen to me, they actually remembered and cared. I felt like they were working WITH me to help me pick an item out, not just trying to move on to the next customer. GREAT costumer service and the type of service that’ll make me come back and feel at ease.

At the end of the meal we were all given “I heart pasta” shirts and reminded to share our thoughts with friends, family, and of course social media.

OG all family shirt

If you’d like to touch base with Olive Garden on social media hit them up at the following

Facebook: OliveGarden

Twitter: @olivegarden

Instagram: @officialolivegarden

Tell them what you’re most looking forward to trying. Let them know what they should introduce next.

Thanks again OG for the awesome night out!

I heart pasta

This entry was posted in fitness.

Happy Birthday to ME

I am turning 30 today! I believe I am the only one of my friends this year or in years past who is EXCITED to be turning 30! I LOVE it. Mostly because I have been telling people I’m “in my 30′s” for a few years now, so now I’m not such a big fat liar. Of course I will be 30 the rest of my life, but we’ll cross that bridge in another 10 years. I don’t have anything too magical planned. Most of my friends have created adorable off-spring and it makes getting together a little trickier than I would like, but they make it up to me by posting great pictures on Facebook.

This weekend I will be going to Kennywood and then my crew and I will be spending the day in Pittsburgh. Next week at some point one of my VERY best friends is home for a few weeks so he will be meeting up with me for something spiffy. Anyway….enjoy these images of birthday happiness!

 

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This entry was posted in fitness.