Sunday, August 12, 2018

OrangeTheory Fitness (OTF) and Fitness Favorites

Happy Sunday, friends! I hope you all had a great weekend. If you’re like me, you’re probably soaking up those last few hours before the work week begins again. We are in full Back-to-School mode in this house. Even though Ryan and I both work all summer now, the pace seems to change (ahem, speed up) when August arrives.

Time to be honest...I’ve been completely sporadic about my workouts all summer. Trust me, I have all kinds of excuses (and I promise they are legit) but I’m working on getting back into my routine of going to OrangeTheory about 3-4 times a week. I don’t think I have mentioned OrangeTheory Fitness (OTF) on the blog yet, but I have been going for about a year and a half now and I love it. You guys all know that I’ve been a Zumba instructor since 2011 and I still love Dance Fitness. However, a couple of years ago I just really wanted to add something different to my fitness routine. I knew I needed to add in some weights and some cardio that was different from Zumba. Two years ago, I started seeing Orange Bicycles around town and wondered what they were- turns out they were for OTF! I stopped into their temporary location to find out some information and signed up for a membership that same day.

I really liked their concept of cardio mixed with strength training. Going to OTF is a lot like going to a personal trainer because they tell you what to do and how to push yourself during class, plus they will help to make sure you use proper form throughout class. I work out so much harder on the treadmill there than I ever did on my own at the gym. OTF isn’t a traditional gym— you don’t go and just work out on your own. You sign up for classes ahead of time and workout in a group setting. I definitely work harder in a group than on my own, too. One thing you might be wondering is why it’s called OrangeTheory. Well, during class, you wear a heart rate monitor. Everyone’s name is up on a TV screen so you can see what heart rate zone you are in all throughout class. The goal is to get most of your minutes in the Green Zone (a.k.a. Base Pace) but to try and get 12 minutes in the Orange (or Red) Zone. I’m one of those weird people who never ever gets 12 points (minutes) in Orange or Red— and many times I get 0— but today I got 4! That’s major, for me. I think I just have an unusually low heart rate. I don’t worry too much about that— I just go by how I feel.

I tell everyone who asks that even though I have been exercising pretty regularly for years and have even been a fitness instructor for 7 years— I never worked out before like I do at OTF. I’ve learned I can do things that are a lot harder than I ever thought! Like burpees. Although, I swear I will never EVER love burpees. I love the way that every workout is different— you never know what you might do each day. My favorite kinds of workouts are switch workouts where you rotate to different stations or kinds of equipment every few minutes. It makes the classes go by really quickly.

Speaking of fitness, I wanted to share a great fitness apparel find with you. My favorite workout leggings were Under Armour for a long time. However, they were $40 a pop (sometimes more!) and then a few years ago, UA changed the way they were made and they just weren’t as thick as they used to be. Luckily, Amazon to the rescue! I found these great leggings.

I’ve bought 4-5 pairs now and I love them. I especially love that they are high waisted so I don’t find myself pulling them up all the time. And did I mention the awesome price? Most colors are around $19.99 and have free returns, so if you don’t love them, you can always return them.

I also have come to love Beachbody’s Energize for a pre-workout boost.

I used to try and eat some kind of protein bar before class, but I found many of them taste like cardboard. This mix actually tastes good— just like lemonade. I mix it with about 10 oz. of water and drink it about 30-45 minutes before my workout. Since I usually work out at 5:45 p.m., sometimes I need a little something to energize myself before walking in the door at OTF or for a Zumba workout. (FYI— I am not a Beachbody Coach and do not sell this product— this is purely my own opinion based on my own experience.)

And finally, I am never without PanAway!

This is one of my favorite oils. I think everyone has their own trusted brands, but I began using Young Living oils several years ago and I love them. Sometimes if I have missed a week of workouts or if we have a particularly tough workout and I’m pretty sore, this little bottle to the rescue! PanAway has Wintergreen, Helichrysum, Clove, and Peppermint— all great for supporting your fitness routine. Sometimes I add a drop to my lotion or to some coconut oil and I’ll put it on my muscles and joints before OR after exercise. It’s also great mixed into Epsom Salts for tub soak. Trust me on this! You can purchase PanAway through Young Living OR it is also part of the Premium Starter Kit, which contains 10 other oils, a diffuser, and lots of samples of other great products. Plus, you also get a one-year membership and you get discounts on all products. Click here for more information on the Young Living Starter Kit!

What are some of your favorite workout products?

By the way, I forgot to mention that I am right in the middle of a Whole30! I’ve been reading a great book and will share some details soon! It’s got some great meal ideas. More info to come!

Monday, August 6, 2018


So, last week I did something a little crazy. Well, crazy for me anyway. I tried to get Hamilton tickets.

I imagine if you’re reading this, you probably fall into one of three categories of people and reacted in one of the following ways to what I just said.

1: Ahhh! Hamilton! I’m obsessed with it, too! I know all the songs, and I’ve been dying to see it!

2: Hmmm… another person talking about Hamilton tickets. What is it about this show? Maybe I should see it to see what all the fuss is about.

3: Ugh…another person talking about Hamilton. Just stop already. Who cares?

If you’re number 3, I’m sorry, but we can’t be friends anymore. Just kidding. Maybe.

I first heard of Hamilton a couple of years ago when it started really making headlines on Broadway and then especially when it won like a billion Tony Awards in 2016. In fact, I was in New York right after the Tony Awards in 2016 when Hamilton tickets were going for thousands of dollars a piece and no one could get them. Since I knew I wouldn’t be seeing it anytime soon, I bought the soundtrack of the Original Broadway Cast Recording to see what the fuss was about. I was immediately hooked. I must have listened to it 15-20 times in a row. I loved listening to the story of Alexander Hamilton play out in such a unique way. I mean, Hip Hop + History? Sign me up. Even Sadie got obsessed with the music. She started picking up on the voices of the different characters and downloaded it on her own iPad so she could listen to it. (Disclaimer: I did make some of the Explicit songs off-limits.) Listening to the music inspired me to read Ron Chernow’s book and it inspired Sadie to read a Biography and write an essay about Hamilton.

I’ve attempted to get tickets in New York but wasn’t able to find any under $600 on the weeks I’ve happened to be there. So when I heard Hamilton was coming to Charlotte, I knew I had to try and get tickets. Which brings me to the crazy thing I did last week.

When the official ticket sales information was released about 5 days ahead of the sales, I started researching the best strategy. I knew from reading about ticket sales in other cities that there would probably be online sales and in-person sales. After thinking it through, I decided to take the in-person route, even though it would mean getting up at a ridiculous hour and standing in line (possibly in the rain). After all, I could always use my phone to try and get tickets online as a backup plan.

I was too excited to sleep, so I probably didn’t fall asleep until 12:30 a.m. and I woke up at 3:00 completely wired. There was no way I was gling back to sleep, so around 4:00, I threw on my rain boots and raincoat and headed to Charlotte. When I arrived around 4:30 a.m., there were probably about 50-75 people in line already.

I was excited because I knew I was early enough to definitely get a wristband. According to the directions that were sent out about in-person sales, wristbands would be given out from 5:30 am to 7:00 am— or until they ran out.

The line quickly grew!

At 7:30, they would begin calling random groups of people who would have an opportunity to buy tickets. This meant that the person who arrived at 3 am had a chance that was equal to the person who arrived at 6:55 am. I would estimate that around 1000-1100 people got wristbands. If your number was called, you’d have an opportunity to buy up to 4 tickets to see Hamilton.

I hoped that 568 would be a lucky number… but just in case, I made sure I was in the virtual waiting room before 8 am so I could get a random spot in the queue to buy tickets online.

I have to say, the coolest thing about this experience was seeing the mix of people there to buy tickets. There were people of all ages and races. It’s so awesome to think that a Broadway show has such a broad reach. It gives me hope for humanity.

At 7:30, they began calling numbers. Everyone gathered around to hear who would be the lucky group to go first.

It wasn’t my number.

Neither was the next group…

or the next…

or the next…

or the next.

After only 5-6 groups (of 60 people each) were called, they made the sad announcement that they would not be selling any more tickets at the box office. It felt like I got punched in the stomach. Never did I think they would sell less than 2,000 tickets in person, of the 40,000 available tickets.

Oh, and online? I was number 54,429 in the queue.

That was a sad drive home… especially calling Sadie to tell her that I wasn’t able to get us tickets. She took it much better than I did. She said, “That’s okay, we’ll see it someday.” And she’s right. We will see it someday. I’ll still troll the website regularly (just in case) and also enter the daily lottery. And we’ll try again for the Greenville tickets in a couple of months, because that’s fairly close to us. (And next time I’ll just use every device we have and hope one of them gets a lower number in the queue. Because 54,000th in line? That’s just depressing.)

So I’m sure you’re wondering, what’s the point of all of this? Why write this long blog post about something that I didn’t evem get? I guess the point is, sometimes things are just out of your control. Sometimes you have to be a good sport because you have to show your kid how to be a good sport— although in this case it was the other way around. For whatever reason, it wasn’t our lucky day, and it’ll be ok.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who got tickets, YAY! I’m sure you’re going to see something amazing and I can’t wait to hear all about it. I’d recommend listening to the music ahead of time because it’s so smart and creative, there’s no way you could take it all in during the show. (Plus, I always love being able to sing along during a musical!)

And if you get sick on the night of your show… or you unexpectedly have to go away for business and you can’t use your know who to call.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Saturday Adventure: Tubing the Catawba River (Fort Mill to Rock Hill)

Hope you guys all had a great weekend! We definitely did… it was busy but really fun. I wanted to write a blog post about our adventure on Saturday… Tubing the Catawba River! If you’re local (or within driving distance of the Rock Hill/Fort Mill area), you’re going to want to check this out while the weather is still hot! Which, let’s be honest, will be until October.

So, a little background… I’ve gone tubing several times before. I’ve been in the mountains near Greenville and also close to Boone, NC. However, I had never been tubing on the Catawba, even though it is right here, practically in our back yard! (Actually, when we lived in our old house, it really was just about in our back yard!) Over the past few years, I had seen pictures on social media of friends tubing on the Catawba and I just had to try it! The Catawba is much wider and deeper than other rivers where I have tubed before.

I had many questions, and I had a lot of help from friends in preparing for our trip, so I thought I would share some tips that were passed along to me, in case any of you want to try it! (And you definitely should… it’s so much fun!)

So, we debated about buying our own tubes or going through a rental company. When I started looking online, it turned out that you can buy the exact same tubes the rental companies will rent you… but they cost about $13 (Academy actually has them on sale right now for $9.99!) to buy vs. $20 to rent. All of the rental companies I looked into also included a life jacket with the tube as well. We found that you can buy life jackets at Wal-Mart for about $10 and up. (I’ll be honest and tell you that we were just about the only people with life jackets on the river— but I still think it’s better to have them than not. I think if you take a dip in the river, you absolutely should have one.) So for only $3 more than a rental company, you can own the equipment you need and go tubing any time! Here are the tubes we got:

We got this 2-person tube from Amazon.

This tube is awesome for a couple or two friends. We figured it would be great for day-dates! There is a round built in cooler, although we used it more for storage. We actually put towels in there and they stayed dry the whole time! There is also a place between the seats to store a small cooler. Each seat has a cup holder and handles. It’s super comfortable and you stay cool because you’re sitting in the water.

We got a single tube from Academy which was made by the same company— it was really easy to connect the tubes together because this brand of float comes with these nifty little connectors that lock together.

We also picked up a paddle at Academy.

I was advised by several people that a paddle would come in really handy in case we were having to steer around any rocks or in case we came to a standstill in some of the slower-moving spots. This paddle was great because you could adjust it to the length you needed.

The next thing I had lots of questions about was river levels. I’ll be honest… I had the hardest time figuring this part out. In the end, I found two websites that were really helpful.

This one will tell you when they are releasing water from the dam. Typically, you want to go when they are releasing water because it helps cover the rocks and you won’t get stuck in the middle of the river. If the water levels are really low, you will move very slowly down the river. (On this website, look at the Wylie Release schedule. Lake Wylie dam flows into the Catawba.)

And this website will tell you the approximate current river level— plus it explains the different ranges. The ideal river levels for tubing and kayaking are between 3000-3600 cubic feet per second.

Finally, it is always good to take a look at a map of the river. Here is one that will tell you a little about what you’re passing on your journey.

Click here to download a printable version of the map.

We decided to put in at the dam in Fort Mill. In case you’re like me and have no clue where the dam is… here is the address:
2541 New Gray Rock Rd, Fort Mill, SC 29708

We planned to start at the dam and get out at Riverwalk. We figured with the Pump House at the end, that would be a good “marker” for us to know where to get out. That’s about a 3.5 mile “cruise.” Based on what everyone told us, we were expecting it to be between 2-4 hours, and it was about 3 hours for us. It would be slower if they aren’t releasing water from the dam, though.

We dropped a car off at the Riverwalk, then went to the dam to get in the water. (Important tip… store your towels in your ENDING car. You’ll want your tubes, air pump, paddle, life jackets, waterproof bags/boxes (for phones/cameras), sunscreen, coolers, etc. in your car that you park at the starting point. (Make sure you have the keys to both cars with you in the tubes! We put ours in plastic bags in one of our coolers.) We carried a cooler of drinks with ice and another cooler with sandwiches and snacks with a cold pack. Take your sunscreen with you so that you can reapply as needed. I tried out my Young Living sunscreen and it worked GREAT! I loved the fact that a natural sunscreen worked just as well as commercial sprays! There is no better test than sitting in the hot sun on a river for 3 hours.

So now for the adventure! It was crazy busy at the dam on Saturday— LOTS of tubers! Parking at the dam is limited. There is a parking lot that can probably park 20+ cars, but after that, you can park on the sides of the road. Get there early to get a good parking spot, or you’ll be parking down the road. (TIP: if you go around 3:00 pm and see tons of cars parked far away along the road, take a chance and pull all the way down to the parking lot. Chances are, someone has left a parking spot close to the ramp.)

When we got in the river, we used the paddle (and Ryan gave us a couple of good pushes) to get us going.

Then we just relaxed and enjoyed the ride!

We would recommend wearing water shoes or Chacos (or something similar) because if you have to hop out for a second, the rocks are slippery.)

It was really cool going under the bridges. If you take this route, you’ll pass under two bridges and then you’ll get out at the ramp just past the Pump House.

If you haven’t been to the Pump House, you can grab casual eats/drinks after your tubing trip on the top floor without a reservation. There are also several other spots to grab a bite or a drink at Riverwalk.

We loved our tubing day so much, I’m sure we will go again really soon! We want to try the Riverwalk to River Park route next. That’s a little shorter. I hope this post helps you plan your tubing adventure!

WHAT TO BRING (I’m sure I’ve left something off— but if I think of other items, I’ll edit this post and add them.)

For the Starting Point Car

  • Tubes (obviously)
  • rope for tying tubes together
  • life jackets (especially for the kids)
  • pump to inflate the tubes
  • paddle
  • coolers with drinks/snacks/ice
  • sunscreen
  • water shoes/chacos
  • keys to both cars
  • sunglasses/hats
  • phone and/or camera in a waterproof bag or box (you can find these ar Academy or Dicks… or Amazon of course!)
  • speaker to play music (optional)
  • wallet/debit card (so you’ll have your license at the ending point— or you could lock this in your ending point car)

For the Ending Point Car

  • Towels
  • change of clothes if you plan to grab a bite at the Pump House afterwards
  • wallet (optional- see note above)

Finally, HAVE FUN! If you try tubing on the Catawba, drop me a comment and let me know how it goes! I hope you love it as much as we did!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Bacon and Balsamic Brussel Sprouts

Can I make a confession? I never tried Brussel Sprouts until I was about 35 years old. I guess I always heard them mentioned with a negative connotation and never wanted to try them.  However, it turns out I was wrong. I’ve drizzled them with oil and roasted them with garlic and salt and pepper. I’ve shredded them and sauteed them in bacon drippings. Both of those methods are pretty amazing, but I think I’ve found my favorite method. One of our favorite local restaurants, Flipside Cafe, has the most amazing Brussel Sprouts. I can’t go there and not order them. They’re all crispy and salty and they have this amazing balsamic glaze. Ryan and I went to eat there a few weeks ago and I mentioned them to him. He gave me a look like, “Seriously?” when I mentioned I wanted to get them as an appetizer. But once he tried them, he was converted.

Since we can’t very well eat at Flipside every single night (although I would be okay with that)… I decided to try and recreate them the best I could. I used bagged bacon bits and a pre-made balsamic glaze to make this super simple. You could certainly make your own bacon bits and your own balsamic glaze by simmering/reducing balsamic vinegar, but this is a good shortcut.

Yield: 2 large servings

Bacon and Balsamic Brussel Sprouts

prep time: 10 MINScook time: 20 MINStotal time: 30 mins

This Brussel Sprout recipe is anything but boring!


  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp. Balsamic Glaze-- homemade by reducing balsamic vinegar or storebought such as Giusto (found near the vinegars)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Garlic Powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. bacon pieces/bits (You can cook your own and crumble them, but I use the bagged pieces to save time.)
  • 1 lb. Brussel Sprouts (about 20 heads)


  1. Rinse Brussel Sprouts with water and pat dry with paper towel.  Trip the ends of the stems and remove any wilted or spotted leaves.  Cut the heads into halves or quarters.  
  2. Drizzle with olive oil and toss.  (Don't worry if leaves loosen.  Some of them will fall apart a little.  Thats ok.)
  3. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  I added about 1/4 tsp Garlic powder, about 1/4 tsp. salt, and just added some freshly ground pepper.  
  4. Spread sprouts out on a baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees until crispy.  (I baked about 15 minutes, gave them a toss, and then popped them back in for 5-10 more minutes.)  I like them extra crispy, so you decide how brown you want them.
  5. Remove the sprouts and mix in the bacon pieces white the sprouts are still hot.
  6. Add glaze and mix.  I use about 2 Tbsp. of glaze and mix well.  If you would like more, go for it!
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Hope you enjoy!


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Meet Piper {Photo Overload}

We had a very exciting weekend here at the Confessions house. We welcomed a new family member! Meet Piper!

You may know that our pup Baylee passed away back in August. We missed her dearly and for a little while, we just weren’t ready for a new puppy. But Sadie has asked, begged, and written letters to us, pleading for a puppy. We didn’t tell her for a while, but Ryan and I were already preparing. My college roommate, Melissa, breeds Miniature Schnauzers and for years, I have seen pictures and videos of her sweet puppies. I also love knowing the breeder and knowing it’s not a puppy mill, that the puppies are raised in her home with her family. On December 26, a new litter was born and a few days later, I heard from Melissa, asking us which puppy we would like. Man, that’s a hard decision! However, we knew it didn’t matter the color or type of puppy; we knew it would be love at first sight.

Which it was.

Over the past 8 weeks, we’ve been getting sweet photo and video updates, and every day we grew more and more excited to bring her home.

On Valentine’s Day, we decided to tell Sadie. We took her to a restaurant and gave her the news. She was overcome with emotion, she was so happy!

On Friday, we drove to Lancaster, SC to get our little pup. Of course, we loved her right away. She was a little reserved at first, a little hesitant… but once we got her home, her personality began to emerge. Over the weekend, we had a chance to get to know her and see how sweet and loving she is, and how playful and energetic she is! It’s amazing how quickly a puppy just climbs inside your heart and melts it!

Little Piper got an A+ at the vet this morning- just what we expected!

So… this is our first time having a puppy in about 17 years, so we are pretty much newbies. I mean, I’ve had puppies growing up and we did this with Baylee…but we are learning again. I found two books that I have been reading simultaneously and both are great: Lucky Dog Lessons by Brandon McMillan and Training the Best Dog Ever by Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz.

Maybe I’ll share a little of what we’ve learned once we are a little farther in the training process. Right now, we are working on going potty outside, which is going well so far, and sitting on command. The latter is harder because it means she has to be still. We are also working on adjusting to the crate…it’s not her favorite thing…yet.

If you’ve got great puppy tips and tricks, be sure to send them my way! We’ll keep you posted!

By the way, as I type this… here is Piper.

She is sleeping and barking in her sleep! What a funny pup!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Recipe: Chicken and Veggie Brown Rice Casserole for Instant Pot

This year, I got myself a Christmas Present. An Instant Pot. I've been hearing about them for a while now and the people who have them absolutely love them. To be honest, I was skeptical. Could an Instant Pot really be THAT great?

Turns out, it is. I've actually started calling it my Magic Pot. So far, I really have not had any major fails, and it is saving me a lot of time on both the cooking and the clean-up. It's actually helped us to cut down on ordering out because I can go work out and still get dinner ready in a reasonable amount of time. Mostly I have tried other people's recipes, but once I got comfortable I started trying to create some of my own, like this one.

This recipe came about because I was trying to find a good chicken, veggie, and brown rice casserole, and everything I found had white rice. The first time I made this, I loved how it came out! I couldn't believe it worked! I thought maybe it was a fluke, so I have now made it 3 more times and also had a friend make it with a different brand of pressure cooker. It turned out great for her, too!

The true test... will the rest of the family eat it? My kiddo loves it!

I love that she is getting a protein, a healthier carb, and three veggies (onion, carrots, and broccoli)! The rice in this casserole really has a great texture-- it's very creamy, almost like a risotto.

I've posted the recipe below, but I wanted to give a few notes.

First, I'm sure you could adapt this to use white rice. You'd probably need to really adjust the cook time since white rice cooks a lot faster. However, I use mostly brown, so I haven't tried white rice.
Second, I'm sure you could add the broccoli to the Instant Pot before starting the cooking. However, I think after 25 minutes, it would become mush. So I use this handy pot from Pampered Chef to steam mine in about 4 minutes in the microwave. I use frozen baby broccoli florets. I steam them the last 3 minutes of the cooking and after I release the steam, I add the broccoli. (Side note... that little steamer pot is a STAPLE in this house. I bought it on a whim and it is something I use at least 3-4 times a week.)

Hope you guys enjoy the recipe! Man, it's been a long since I posted a recipe, and I'm trying a new plug-in to add the recipe card here. Let me know what you think!

Yield: 6 Servings

Chicken and Veggie Brown Rice Casserole for Instant Pot

prep time: 10 MINScook time: 25 MINStotal time: 35 mins
This super-easy casserole combines brown rice, veggies, chicken breasts, and cheddar cheese to create a meal that is both filling and healthy!


  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of chopped carrots
  • 2 2/3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 2 large chicken breasts (fresh or frozen)
  • a few splashes of Worcestershire Sauce
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, steamed
  • handful (about 2/3 cup) of shredded cheddar cheese 


  1. Select the saute button on your Instant Pot.  When the pot is hot, add the oil and butter. Wait about 30 seconds for oil/butter to heat up.
  2. Add diced onion to pot and cook for about 2 minutes.  
  3. Add garlic and carrots and cook until garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add chicken broth and stir to release any brown bits on the bottom of the pot. 
  5. Add the rice and stir.  
  6. Add the chicken breasts.
  7. Add salt, pepper, and Worcestershire Sauce.
  8. Press "Cancel" to end the saute feature.  Manually select the High Pressure button and set the timer for 25 minutes. Make sure to set the vent to "Sealing."
  9. While the casserole is cooking, steam the rice in the microwave.
  10. Once the time is up, Quick-Release the steam and then open the pot.  Stir to combine all the ingredients.  The chicken should fall apart easily, but you can use forks to shred.  
  11. Add steamed broccoli and shredded cheese.  Stir once more to combine.
  12. Enjoy!
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