Wine for Workout Friends

As I have mentioned, I belong to a private Facebook group of women who are all on the same workout journey. Train with Lyzabeth’s program comes with exclusive access to this group. At first, I didn’t think I’d participate in it at all. Boy, was I wrong! I think the primary reason I’m still active on Facebook today is my involvement and interaction with this terrific group of women.

First of all, they come from all. over. the. world. Seriously! And, they all have different jobs, backgrounds and lives! Some are going to school, while working and raising families. Some are entrepreneurs, such as one of the group’s superstars, Alicia Mayi, who owns Ali of all Trades.

She recently created a bunch of tanks and tee shirts for the girls in the TWL group to wear at the gym. We’re all from the same tribe even though we’re from all over the world! I purchased a few tanks, as well as a fun t-shirt for my husband. Alicia added a fun surprise to my shipment, as well; a decal of a wine glass that says Wine for All Times!

This is a great example of her thoughtfulness and is illustrative of all the girls in the TWL community. They are supportive, understanding, caring individuals. I’m so glad to have virtually connected with them and look forward to perhaps meeting them someday soon!

When we do, we definitely have to have sparkling wine. I mean, what’s a girl party without bubbly! We could toast our commitment to our own health and whatever else our hearts desire. Some of my favorite sparkling wines are Italian Proseccos and I love a good Cava from Spain, as well.

In fact, writing this reminds me that I want to try some more sparkling wines in the future. I recently read a blog post about Austrian sparkling wine. Hmmm. Maybe my next review? Cheers!

cartesian wine bottle with a glass of red wine in it

Wine for A Wrinkle in Time (Review)

Blogger’s note: If you have not seen the movie, you may wish to skip this post. 

Opening weekend, I took my daughters to see A Wrinkle in Time, along with my dad. We had been waiting forever to see this movie. A few days before it came out, the reviews started to roll out… and they were not good. I almost elected not to go; they were that bad. But, in the end, we used a gift card to justify our trip; after all, we weren’t paying full price!

Now, I read and adored the book when I was a little girl. My daughters also have read the book, most recently, Lucia. So, we knew the story and we were looking forward to seeing it come alive on the big screen. But, alas, the streak continues – books are nearly always better than movies in my world.

First of all, there was a continuity problem, as well as a pacing issue. I just felt that things happened too quickly in the movie. It went from one thing to the other to the other so rapidly, that things were left undeveloped and, for me, it was hard to get my head out of one situation and on to the next. This is an issue regardless of whether you are familiar with the book. As for continuity, of course things were eliminated from the screenplay, as is normally the case with a movie adaptation. However, the writers left certain lines in that just didn’t make sense. In an early scene, for example, Charles Wallace is accused of heating way too much milk on the stove to which he responds, “You never know who might be visiting.” But, then, the visitor doesn’t materialize until later! (In the book, there IS an additional visitor in that scene.) So, that’s just one of many missteps.

Also, a key portion of the climax is completely eliminated from the movie, which to me just ruined the entire thing. That scene needs to happen in order to resolve the story and they left it out. Even my 8-year-old wondered why we were not able to see that part. What’s more, the ending, which wasn’t exactly the way it went in the book was secular, and the movie omitted the Christian references. That was the part of the story that spoke to me the most and to have it eliminated was disappointing.

Characters were missing, which may prove to be challenging in the future, should they decide to make the sequel into a movie, as well.

What did they do right? They released in on daylight saving time weekend, making a unique marketing message to get people to the theaters. They also, played out the “girl power” theme, with a strong message to young girls everywhere to embrace who they are and don’t be afraid, etc. There was also commentary on bullying, which was a good anti-message. I also loved the science themes; the main character was good at science and loved it, which is a great message for young girls to hear. The scenery and costumes/makeup were beautiful. My 11-year-old daughter exclaimed as we left the theater, “There was a lot of glitter in that movie!”

Would I recommend this movie? Maybe. If you have young, impressionable girls in your life, it’s a great message. If you haven’t read the book, you may enjoy it for what it is. If you have read the book, I urge caution and perhaps an open mind to avoid disappointment.

As far as wine, while we didn’t see the movie at Movie Tavern where I could have ordered a glass, I did think about wine and time. Wine gets better with age, as you know. And, perhaps the same could be said for movies. Some movies, as my husband pointed out, were complete duds when first released but later became smash hits. Even “It’s A Wonderful Life,” got a lukewarm reception way back when but now is considered one of the best.

Often, wine improves with each sip, as well, which was the case with the one we drank this past week. First Leaf Wine’s Cartesian Cabernet Sauvignon from the Central Coast of California at first was almost bitter to me and I wasn’t sure about the overall taste. But, as I sipped it, it got better. Time was on its side, you might say. Maybe time will be on A Wrinkle in Time’s side, as well. Time will tell.

person at top of mountain looking at sunset

7 Tips for Health and Fitness Success

Now that you’ve read about my workout and nutrition/supplement plans, I thought I’d list out some things that have helped me meet my goals and stay on this health and fitness journey without falling off the wagon! In no particular order:

  1. Purchase the right workout gear, including activewear. I now legitimately need another closet for my workout clothing; I have that much. But, looking good at the gym helps me feel good. It helps me work harder, too. When I have a rocking sport bra or a cute pair of shorts, looking in the mirror as I’m lifting is that much more enjoyable! When you look good, you feel good. Word. My favorite places to shop: Forever21, Old Navy, Amazon, Target, Victoria’s Secret
  2. Follow the leaders. Or at least follow the influencers. These are the fitness stars you see on social media. Some are not what they appear to be but you will be able to figure out who the real ones are and they will inspire the heck out of you. Seeing someone else post videos of their workouts, food and lives is motivating. It’s even more impactful if you find someone similar to you whether it be a similar body type, lifestyle, age or all of the above. I look for petite girls like me, mostly. This way I can be motivated to look just like them! Some of my favorites (Instagram): @kelseywells, @kayla_itsines, @missads1981, @brookemorafit and @lyzabethlopez
  3. Participate in conversations. The workout I do comes with a private Facebook group, a community of ladies from around the world who are on the same journey. It’s so helpful to post questions and offer answers and insights. I’m getting to know women just like me and I’m learning a ton. It’s like having your own personal trainers and counselors online. Plus, Lyzabeth Lopez herself is active in our group and helps us along the way. If your workout program doesn’t have something like this, find discussion boards and groups on social media. They’re everywhere. Even following fitness trainers will help you be exposed to comments and information you can use and learn from.
  4. Read, read, read. I subscribe to several magazines on health and fitness where I learn the latest trends and get more information on workouts, nutrition and more. I use the Texture app so I pay $10 a month for unlimited magazine issues. My favorites are Muscle and Fitness Hers, Self, Health, Oxygen, Redbook, Glamour and Prevention.
  5. Embed it into your daily life. It’s so much easier to stick to something when it’s routine. At first, it will seem like a ton of work to get to the gym, track your macros and all that jazz. But, if you integrate it into your daily schedule, it will start to become second nature. I do a lot of prep the night before to get out the door to the gym at the early hour that I do. I put the supplement powders in blender bottles, lay out my gym clothing and keep my gym bag next to my sneakers and coat for a quick, quiet exit each morning. I also review workouts daily (night before) and weekly, entering them into my bullet journal. They are right next to my to do list for work and home. This way, it’s part of what I’m doing and not something extra.
  6. Track progress and celebrate. Make sure you keep a record of your workouts, how much you lifted and what you did. It will help you to see progress and/or where you aren’t making progress, too, and keep you on task. Plus, don’t forget to log your meals for that same reason. Just like you never really know how much money you’re spending until you write it down, you never really know how far you’ve come with weights, etc. unless you keep track. Some people like FitBit trackers, too. I always say, if you didn’t track it, it didn’t happen! Plus, it allows you to celebrate when you see that you lift more weight or run more miles. I also check my measurements every three months, too. I don’t concentrate on weight as much as inches. It’s so cool to see how you can change your shape!
  7. If you need a buddy, find a buddy. I am a sole workout girl. I like to be alone with my tunes. It’s the only time I have to myself. But, some people are social fitness animals and for them, I recommend a buddy. Whether you both do the same workout or just agree to meet at the gym, it will motivate you and keep you honest to have a partner. If you’re having trouble finding one, try or post on social media. There are lots of us out there!

What have you been challenged with on your fitness journey? Or, what tips would you add? Comment below!

cross and wine glass with red wine

A Wine for Va”Lent”ine’s Day

Faithful followers may recall in the past I’ve given up wine for Lent. Sometimes, that’s gone well; other times? Well, let’s just say I was a bit grouchier for those 40 to 45 days!

As a “wine blogger,” I struggled with the idea of giving it up again this year. In a way, wine is work for me, when you consider this blog. That being said, I have to say that the nights where I don’t have a glass of wine before bed, I sleep SO much better. I know it impacts my sleep and it might be interesting to further test that theory!

What’s more, Lent is about sacrifice and this is a BIG sacrifice for me and would be a hardship that would force me to truly “suffer.” The icing on the cake that prompted me to go ahead and commit to giving up wine was my husband. He decided to give up wine for Lent. I’ve never had a partner in crime before on my Lenten sacrificial journey. I think it would be a nice way for us to reconnect and support each other in our faith.

This year, Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent and the first day of “fasting,” fell on Valentine’s Day, which posed an interesting problem! We decided together that we would open the sparkling wine that came in my First Leaf shipment as a celebration of the holiday and would begin our sacrifice the next day.

So far, so good without the wine but it’s only been a night! Weekend might be tough! Good thing the husband bought some yummy herbal tea to take its place.

As they say, you definitely can have “too much of a good thing.” So, maybe it’s good to want sometimes and to take breaks from the things we enjoy. That way, we enjoy them that much more when we can get back to them again.

As for this blog, no worries! For the next 40 days or so, I’ll still post but it won’t be about the wine I’m drinking currently. There is plenty to share, including wine book reviews, restaurant reviews (including one overdue review from our trip to Laci’s Tapas Bar for our anniversary) and thoughts on wines I’d love to try and regions I’d love to visit…someday. Meantime, cheers (as I hold up my cup of tea)!

lucia praying

Wine for First Penance

My middle child experienced a rite of Catholic passage this past weekend when she made her first penance. Catholics believe in confession of our sins as a way to be forgiven and live anew. We all make mistakes and this allows us to atone for those errors in judgment and become closer to God in the process.

Typically a child has a first reconciliation experience a few months before their First Holy Communion, which for Lucia will take place in May. Lucia did a great job. Many children are scared to death to confess to a priest for the very first time. And while she really had wanted to see her own priest, she was fortunate enough to meet with another local, young priest, who was generous and kind with her.

She said her prayers and afterward lit a candle to symbolize the “light turning back on” and her beginning anew. She grabbed her certificate and we left. I asked her if she felt better since often I feel better after going to confession. She said not really. But, it was her first time!

It’s exhilarating to watch your child do something impactful for the very first time and it reminds me of things that I really should be doing to model behaviors and actions. In fact, last month, I took Lucia with me to confession so she could see that grownups do it, too! Children really do keep you honest!

In my last post I mentioned the two wines we enjoyed over the weekend, both from Icellars Estate, Niagara-On-The-Lake, Canada. Really, anything goes for a big day like Lucia had. We went all out with a big, juicy red and some yummy pasta, making us both happy after a long day!



Wine for a Hurt Paw

Pets are a lot like children. They need constant care and feeding, playtime, discipline and all your love. They also are not immune to accidents. Saturday afternoon around 4 p.m. we had our first experience with the emergency vet clinic. I let Daisy out as usual and when she came back in her paw was bleeding all over the place. I immediately laid her down and called for help. Everyone came running. We couldn’t determine what was wrong and even though we wrapped it tightly, it didn’t stop. To make matters more challenging, we couldn’t find the special pencil thingie that stops bleeding.

We called our regular vet and a voice mail advised us to go to a clinic across town. We weren’t too sure about it for a variety of reasons not the least of which was the distance. Plus, we sort of remembered there might be one in Camillus or Baldwinsville. Luckily, we were right. I grabbed my things and put her in the car, headed for the Veterinary Clinic and Emergency Care Center about 12 minutes from our home.

Daisy was a good girl throughout the ordeal. She was a little hyper when we arrived but the clinic staff were quick to respond and they took her back immediately while I checked in. I didn’t have but a minute to text the family to tell them we had arrived when Daisy came out as good as new. Turns out she had torn her dew claw completely off. We have NO idea how or where she did that. A bandage for about 24 hours and now she’s as good as new.

If you live in the northern suburbs of Syracuse and every require emergency vet care, I highly recommend the VECCC. They were friendly, efficient and caring. I was in and out in less than 10 minutes. All told, the entire experience from when Daisy came in to when we arrived back home safe and sound was only about 40 minutes.

Needless to say after the adrenaline rush of the whole thing, I was ready for a glass of wine. Good thing we had our choice of the Icellars Estates reds that my husband brought back from Canada. I enjoyed the Syrah with our creamy tortellini and tomato soup, and the Arinna with our Instant Pot pizza pasta (which is so good, it’s like crack!) the following evening.

That means there’s only one bottle left of our special Canadian stash, besides a couple of ice wines in the fridge, which last forever. We’d better make that one count! Cheers!


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“No” Wine for a Week

This past week, and the week before it, have been crazy busy in our household. Jon has had back to back opera performances, which means lots of rehearsals nearly every evening. I’m not used to doing the evening routine alone every single night! It’s not necessarily hard but because it’s not the norm, it’s left me completely exhausted. I literally have been getting up at 5 a.m. and haven’t relaxed until 8:30 or 8:45 p.m. every single day.

I don’t tell you this as a sob story because it’s totally fine. I share this because it’s meant I have not had a single glass of wine this entire week! Usually, on normal evenings, I sit down around 8 p.m. with Jon and we open a bottle of something. Without Jon, I hesitate to open a bottle that I know I’ll only drink one glass from. Plus, I’ve been so tired, the last thing I want is a glass. I really just want bed! LOL.

But, not having wine this week reminds me that although I truly enjoy trying all different kinds and thinking about them in the context of my daily life and times, I don’t “need” to drink wine. In fact, I’ve slept a whole lot better and more soundly! Of course, I’ll never know if it’s because I haven’t had that night-cap or if it’s my intensely long days of working out, work (which has been insane due to a crisis project), teaching, kids’ activities (swimming two nights and piano the third night) and general household chores.

Tonight, I’m headed to Jon’s opera performance at Syracuse University’s Setnor School of Music. They are doing a modernized, English translation of Gianni Schicchi. Maybe we’ll have a glass of wine after the performance. I’ll get right on that! Cheers!

journaling, drinking water and eating steel cut oats

Wine for Perseverance

colaneri estate winery

Wine for a Road Trip to Canada

Faithful readers know that a couple of years ago, my husband and I made a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake in Canada to spend a few days and nights in wine country. We had a wonderful time and fell in love with one winery that had just opened literally days before we visited, Icellars Estate Winery.

Although we did purchase bottles from them, we drank them almost immediately and then missed them; you can’t purchase their wine here in the United States so we’ve been out of luck, following them on social media and wishing we could try the new vintages. The owner even commented back to me once that perhaps I could do a barrel tasting sometime!

At any rate, my husband decided that for Christmas he would surprise me and he made the trip in one day to Niagara-on-the-Lake to get some wine for me from my favorite winery there. The border patrol thought he was crazy, driving all that way for a few bottles of wine but he made it across and on to the winery.

After a minor snafu with the credit card not working (he had to drive to the nearest “petrol” station for an ATM), he procured a few bottles of my favorites. Plus, he did a barrel tasting! He even carefully brought a pipet back to me in a sealed jar. It probably wasn’t exactly the same but even so, how cool is that?

We’ve already enjoyed one bottle but there are a couple left in the wine fridge that we’ll open sooner rather than later. He also stopped at a nearby winery, Colaneri Estate, and picked up a few of their wines, which we also enjoy. They use the Appassimento style, where the grapes are dried in the sun a bit before the wine is made. It’s popular in Italy and brings out interesting, full flavors in the wine.

How far have you gone to get a favorite wine? I’d love to hear your story; share in the comments below! Cheers!

rigatoni with meat sauce in the instant pot

Wine for an Instant Pot

Happy new year! I have been so focused on goal setting and other projects that this blog has taken a back seat for a couple of weeks. But, I’m all set to get back into the swing of posting. One new development I’ve been wanting to share with you is the addition of an Instant Pot to the Howell kitchen.

I received one from my husband this past Christmas and it’s been interesting! The first couple of recipes we tried were pretty good – macaroni and cheese, chicken soup and hard boiled eggs. My husband made a yummy goulash for New Year’s Eve and I’ve since been doing weekly meal prep, including steel cut oats for breakfast each day, as well as lots of other dinner recipes.

For the most part, it’s delicious, fresh food prepared quickly but if I’m being honest, it’s not that much faster than stove top or oven, depending on the recipe. One of the recipes I tried was Portugese Tomato Rice and Shrimp and that bombed. It burned the bottom of the pot and caused it not to pressure cook as it was intended to. That gave me pause and I was nervous the next couple of times I used it, but I’m still using it a few times a week.

I am using a combination of recipes I find on Pinterest, along with three cookbooks I received for Christmas, as well. Tonight, we had rigatoni with meat sauce and I also made banana bread steel cut oats for breakfast for the week.

I’ve cooked with wine in the instant pot but as far as wine that goes with it, really anything goes! We’ve enjoyed so many yummy dishes from steamed fish and veggies that went well with a Chardonnay to pasta dishes with Cabernet Sauvignon.

If you’ve been contemplating an Instant Pot and you are interested in preparing fresh, delicious food for your family in an efficient way, I definitely recommend it. It’s a great addition to our kitchen. In fact, I haven’t even stored it yet! Even the crock pot goes from the basement to our kitchen counter on a somewhat weekly basis. The Instant Pot still hasn’t made it’s way down; it’s being used that much!

If you’ve tried it or if you do try it, please comment below and let me know what you think. Better yet, share your favorite recipe! Cheers!