Extracurricular Activities | Somewhere in Middle America

Yesterday morning, J and I participated in a couple’s yoga workshop at Lotus House of Yoga. The instructor played a mix of romantic tracks while we pulled one another deeper into stretches, (literally) leaned on each other during balancing poses and, at the end, meditated on the melt-in-your-mouth magic of Lindor Truffles.

Her selection of Valentine’s Day-appropriate music got me thinking: What do you think is the most romantic song ever?

Off the top of my head, I’d say it’s pretty hard to top Sade’s “By Your Side.” Whenever I hear it, I melt a little bit on the inside (kind of like a Lindor Truffle). According to my husband, “If you play Sade, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get some.” Do you agree?

PS: The ladies at Lotus House of Yoga are some of the sweetest I’ve met in Omaha. If you’re looking for a yoga studio in middle America, I highly recommend checking it out.

I wouldn’t normally visit a botanical garden in the winter. Truthfully, I wouldn’t normally visit a botanical garden, period. I think they’re kind of boring.

But on Sunday, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha’s botanical center, hosted a Tu B’Shevat event that was free to the community. Normally I wouldn’t attend a Tu B’Shevat event either, but J was asked by our synagogue to sing a couple of songs during the musical portion of the afternoon.

So there we were, celebrating the Jewish New Year for trees while Omaha was buried under at least six inches of fresh snow. I had about two hours to kill while J was rehearsing to wander through the spring flower show, an indoor garden featuring plants and flowers that blossom during the four seasons. Fifteen minutes later, after taking about thirty photos, I was done.

Do you enjoy wandering through botanical gardens or do you find them yawn-worthy like I do?

When we were finally able to leave, we drove to our friends’ house to visit them and their baby for an hour or so. We brought with us the chocolate frosted Funfetti cake we made the night before, when the snow prevented J and I from going out for dinner or dessert. Mmm… There’s something about Funfetti that rights any wrongs of the day, don’t you think?

Bored because there’s nothing to watch on TV on Mondays, J and I decided to have an impromptu game night. We pulled out Rummikub, which we play once or twice a year – usually when we’re spending time with my in-laws. The last time we played was while we were visiting J’s mom in Cleveland over Christmas. I won three out of 4 rounds that night. (We don’t keep score according to the rules. When we play, if you clear your rack first, you win and the round is over.)

Sometimes, if I see that I can make a big move – or win the game! – on my next move, I start giggling uncontrollably. It’s just nervous, excited energy, but I’m sure it’s really obnoxious. It happened in Cleveland and again last night and really annoyed J. He got his revenge, though, by beating me in the two rounds we played, but I was only left with one or two tiles each time.

Before we started we made ourselves sundaes with strawberry ice cream, caramel syrup and homemade whipped cream. So tasty!

Happy 2011!

I believe we all put too much pressure on ourselves to have the best New Year’s Eve ever!, as if the amount of fun we have that one night will predict how much fun/happiness/luck we’ll have for the next 365 days. J and I opted for a low-key evening and actually confirmed our plans just hours before the ball dropped.

We celebrated the start of 2011 with friends (and their cats), eating, drinking and playing games at their house. While the guys were in the kitchen warming up Trader Joe’s appetizers in the oven and concocting cocktails, we girls played Angry Birds and Words for Friends on my friend’s new iPad. Men in the kitchen, women playing video games? Love the role reversal.

J and I hardly moved off the couch on Saturday (everyone’s entitled to a totally lazy day every once in a while), but on Sunday I dressed up to attend a friend’s baby shower at Dixie Quicks. So much fun! And I loved receiving one of Bridgett’s personalized muslin bags as part of the favor.

I’m still brainstorming my 2011 resolutions. Hopefully I’ll have some to share tomorrow. Do you set goals for yourself for the new year?

This summer I discovered “Community” season 1 On Demand, and last night I started catching up on season 2. It’s little gems like this clip that keep me coming back for more.

Do you watch “Community?”

“You must eat a lot of steak and corn.”

That’s what I hear when I tell fellow East Coasters that I’m living in Omaha. I suppose that’s because the brand Omaha Steaks is now a household name, and the University of Nebraska’s football team, the Cornhuskers, has the word “corn” in its name.

Truthfully, my diet hasn’t changed much now that I live in the Midwest. I very rarely ate corn before and I don’t often eat it now, although I have enjoyed fresh corn on the cob at various food festivals and from the local farmer’s markets (see above photo).

I’ve always liked red meat but don’t eat it too frequently either. I’d like to say it’s for health reasons, but the truth is that good cuts of meat can be costly and I don’t know how to prepare them at home.

But when I’m in the mood for steak, there are no shortages of good restaurants in Omaha serving it. My favorite is The Drover. It’s where I take all of my out of town guests, and where J and I will go if we’re craving some read meat. Their Whiskey filet makes my mouth water just thinking about it, and this summer, when my 80-year-old grandmother was in town, she called it one of the best steaks she’s ever eaten.

Which is why I was surprised to read in Travel + Leisure that fashion designer Thakoon Panichgul goes to the French Cafe for steak. J and I enjoyed brunch at the French Cafe a couple of times when he lived downtown prior to my move but we’ve never had a steak dinner there.

I was also surprised to hear that the Travel Channel’s Food Wars was coming to Omaha to check out two Italian steakhouses I have never patronized, Caniglia’s Venice Inn and Piccolo Pete’s. Apparently there has been a decades-old family rivalry between the two; the owners of Caniglia’s and Pete’s are cousins. SPOILER ALERT: Warren Buffet, whose favorite steakhouse is actually Gorat’s, may have gone on air to support Piccolo Pete’s, but Caniglia’s won the food war.

For all the Omahans out there, where’s your favorite place for steak?

And just to clarify… It is my understanding as a transplant that just because restaurants in Omaha serve steak, they aren’t necessarily serving “Omaha steaks.” As I mentioned above, Omaha Steaks is a brand. However, restaurants may be serving beef that was raised locally in Omaha, in other parts of Nebraska or in Iowa. Or not. I usually don’t ask where my meat comes from, although maybe I should start.

PS – Did you watch “Food Wars” last night? Everybody, including the Caniglia brothers, pronounce “Caniglia” like Ca-nig-lee-a, but the super annoying host kept calling them Ca-nee-lee-a. And talking with her mouth full.

(image 1: circa 2007, image 2)

I am in serious denial that tonight is the season finale of “Mad Men.” “The Suitcase” was my favorite episode of season 4, so far. (Will tonight’s season finale take the cake?) Episode 9, “The Beautiful Girls,” was also pretty spectacular. Blankenship down!

What was your favorite episode?

To get me through the next 10 or so months until season 5 debuts, I’ll be re-reading Rolling Stone’s behind-the-scenes article on the series. Here are some photos from the piece.

Oh, and remember when I was interviewed by the Omaha World-Herald about why I love “Mad Men?”

I don’t think I appreciated a cappella music until I went to college and saw a live performance of the Boston University Dear Abbeys. I have a vivid memory of them singing “Break My Stride” by Matthew Wilder… or was it a-ha’s “Take on Me?” Regardless, I was instantly hooked and spent many hours downloading a cappella music on Napster (remember Napster?) from more college groups, including The Brown Derbies, UVA’s Hullabahoos and The Beezlebubs from Tufts.

A couple of years later, my future husband was a member of the Dear Abbeys when they won the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) in New York City. One of the groups they beat was Straight No Chaser from Indiana University. So when I heard this summer that an alumni spin-off of Straight No Chaser would be playing at the Omaha Music Hall in September, I had to buy J tickets for his birthday.

Since J’s birthday was during his deployment, Thursday night’s concert was our belated celebration. You have no idea how tempted J was to make a large sign to hold up that said “We Kicked Your Ass at ICCA!” Among the crowd of middle-aged couples and school-aged children, J tried his best not to judge SNC’s arrangements but couldn’t help but laugh when they sang “Africa” by Toto. In the dark he updated his Facebook status to “hahahahahahahahah they’re doing Africa!!! it sounds exactly like the arrangement the Abbeys locked in the dungeon of “forget this ever happened” so long ago!”

J thought one of their best performances of the night was their rendition of Coldplay’s “Fix You.” I really enjoyed the “I’m Yours”/”Somewhere Over the Rainbow” mash-up they sang early on in the evening (see video). That should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me and my immense love for Jason Mraz. Another highlight of the show for both of us was their Lady Gaga tribute. I actually would’ve been disappointed if they didn’t cover Lady Gaga, so the fact that they mixed together like four of her hits into one song was amazing.

Also, is it just me or does the a cappella version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” make anybody else think of that scene from “ER” when Dr. Mark Greene goes to Hawaii to die? It’s always the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear it, and it depresses me.

I’ve never been interested in jumping on the toning sneaker bandwagon. For the longest time, Sketchers Shape-ups were the only option, and, honestly, they were not what I’d consider stylish footwear. Plus, I had serious doubts that they even worked.

But then I came across the New Balance TrueBalance 1100 in the September issue of Whole Living. Without the rounded wedge sole of the Shape-ups or the bulbous balance ball bottoms of the Reebok EasyTone, the sleek TrueBalance did not look as obvious as their counterparts, despite claiming similar toning results. They almost appeared — dare I say it? — cool. (I’m referring to the black and grey ones, not the pair in the image above.)

Still not convinced that, on their own, a pair of sneakers could magically tone my muscles and burn additional calories, I checked in with my trainer to see if wearing them while lifting weights and doing cardio could enhance the benefits of those activities. (Yes, I have a personal trainer. Trainers in Omaha cost WAY less than trainers in major metropolitan areas). His response, in a nutshell: No. He called all of those types of sneakers gimmicky.

However, if I was looking for added benefits from a sneaker, he recommended I check out the Nike Free Run+. Their design helps strengthen your foot and required your body to work harder for balance stabilization.

What do you think about toning sneakers? Would you wear them?

(image source)

This may beat their treadmill routine.

OK Go has the best videos, don’t you think?