7 Ways to Warm Up Your Glutes

They are the largest muscles in our bodies — the glutes do so much for us, whether we realize it or not. Yet, due to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles and other aging-related degeneration that takes place in our bodies, we tend not to use our glutes as much as we should. Sitting all day at a computer, for example, can diminish our ability to activate the glutes when needed. And, all the squats and deadlifts in the world won’t be effective for building the booty, if we are not activating our glute muscles. Below are 7 warm-ups to help you ensure you are working those glute muscles to the max during your next leg day.

  1. Foam roll your hip flexors. The front of your hips around the area where they hinge can get really stiff from sitting all day. If you work at a desk job, you are more prone to the shortening of this muscle group. To help combat that, foam roll them for at least one minute per side before performing any leg exercises where you want to achieve glute activation.
  2. Leg swings. Swing your legs front to back and side to side. Do at least 10 swings per side and start with a shorter range of motion working your way up gently.
  3. Donkey kicks. Get on all fours and kick your leg back and up. Keep your back/spine in neutral and feel it in your glutes. You can add a booty band or ankle weights to increase the resistance.
  4. Booty band clam shells. Lay on your side and put the band around your legs just above the knees. Keeping your ankles together, separate your knees from one another. Do 20 reps per side for two sets.
  5. Booty band side step. Place the band around your legs just above your knees and lunge into an almost seated position, keeping your head up, spine/back in neutral. Walk from side to side, feeling the side of your glutes. Do 20 steps per side.
  6. Bird dog. Get down on all fours and lift your arm and opposite leg, keeping both straight. This works your glutes but also helps you work on bracing your core, which is critical for leg exercises, such as squats and deadlifts.
  7. Facing the wall squats. This helps perfect your squat form but also loosens the hip flexors and gets you ready to squat lower than parallel, which is what you ideally want when working the glutes. Face the wall, close enough that your knees brush the wall when you squat. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10, trying to lower your backside as close the ground as possible.

All of these warmups will help you prepare for the best booty building session. You don’t need to do them all. I typically foam roll and then choose two other warm-ups, depending on what I feel needs some activation. Then, during the workout, think about your glute muscles activating and imagine they are doing all the work. This helps focus your effort appropriately to prevent other muscle groups from taking over. The minute you feel like other muscles are working harder than your glutes, lower the weight and use your mind/muscle connection to reset, using your glute muscles to move the weights.

After your workout, remember to stretch/cool down. You don’t need a ton, but a little stretching or foam rolling will help calm the muscles and prevent stiffness and injury later.

Free! Five-Day Upper/Lower Split Workout

This week I finished the 24-week BUILD program with Stephanie Sanzo on the SWEAT app. For the past few years, I’ve relied on workout apps mostly because I didn’t have the time or the expertise to create my own programs. Apps can be a great way to get into a workout routine and learn how to build muscle. For me, they were very useful in terms of making gains. I started with the online Train with Lyzabeth program, followed by her TWL app. I also have used the POWER and BUILD programs on the SWEAT app, which has other programs, as well, depending on your goals.

One thing to note is that workout apps have programs that are general for most people; they are not custom workouts. If you truly want to make gains and improve your own strength, it’s best to work with a personal trainer who can assess your particular weaknesses and work with you to find appropriate exercises for you personally. I worked with Shawna Moran at Athletic Apex for a few weeks who wrote me a program to meet my personal goals, while strengthening weak muscles.

Fast forward to now and I’m a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach creating my own programs! As I build my client base, I’m also adding to my index of workout programs. Starting next week, I’m transitioning from the SWEAT app to a program I created for myself. It’s a five-day upper/lower body split. Feel free to save it and try it for yourself!

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You’ll note that I don’t have much cardio at all. This is because I’m a hard gainer trying to maximize my gains. If you want to add in more cardio, you can. I recommend HIIT workouts as opposed to steady state to maximize calorie burn. And, if you are trying to build your glutes, try the stair climber or bicycle.

I plan to workout Monday through Friday and also plan to add yoga or a class on the weekends sometimes. This program is meant to be done for 12 weeks. For the first four weeks, follow the reps as programmed but as you progress, try to lift heavier and if you have to, lower your reps until you can lift that new weight for the same number of original reps. This is called progressive overload and it’s the only way to truly make gains over time. If you try this program, please let me know what you think!

Is It Time to Give Your Workout a Rest?

Many people who train regularly find that during certain times of the year, it gets rough. Sometimes, it’s the change of seasons that causes our bodies to feel lethargic. Everything hurts. Sleeping is the only thing we want to do, and our gym workouts start to feel like chores. So, what do you do? Is it time for a week off from the training? Or, is it better to stick with it and do less?

Signs of Overtraining

First of all, let’s review the signs that you’re overtraining:

Fatigue or insomnia; waking up unrefreshed

Depression

Irritability

Loss of motivation

Sore, stiff muscles

Lack of mental concentration

If you’re simply sore from a workout, that’s not overtraining. The soreness, called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) should subside within a few days, just in time for your next workout with those same muscles. But, if you start to feel like just existing hurts, that is a sign you need to take a break. You shouldn’t feel tired all the time nor should you have difficulty waking up and feeling ready to take on your day, your work and your relationships. When this happens, it’s time to pause, reset and recharge.

Deloading as a Way to Prevent Burnout

People who lift weights regularly, using the principle of progressive overload, lifting heavier each time they work a muscle group, can benefit greatly from a deload. Deloads are a way to give your body a break from training while keeping you in the habit of going to the gym on the regular. They allow you to reduce the stress on your body in one of two ways – by reducing the intensity (load lifted) or reducing the volume (set or reps performed). If you regularly push your body to its limits, working out at least 12 weeks at a time, four to six times per week, you would benefit from a deload.

If you plan a deload correctly, you can prevent injuries, plateaus and burnout without compromising your gains. Contrary to what some think, you won’t lose muscle by going lighter for a week. In fact, you can stop lifting weights for up to six weeks before you start losing muscle and strength, particularly if you are keeping your calories and protein up.

Take a Rest Week 

The amount of rest and recovery you need depends on how hard you work on a regular basis. If you stress your body more, you need more rest. That being said, a lighter fitness regimen may not require a deload at all. In fact, most people don’t train hard enough to need it. If you’re not tracking your lifts, adding more intensity, and you’re not managing your diet to support fitness goals, you probably don’t need to deload. If you’re simply staying healthy and going to the gym to keep yourself active, you probably can safely take a week off to rest before jumping back into your routine.

One thing to guard against is getting out of the habit of going to the gym. If you’re like me, routine is everything. So, if you worry that not going will break your healthy habit, by all means go to the gym, but do something super light, such as pilates, yoga or walking on the treadmill. Another thing I do to keep with my habit is wait until I have a family vacation to take my rest week, which typically takes place twice a year at least. This is a built in way to take a break without ruining any habits since your routine is all different anyway when you’re on vacation!

Prevention is the Best Medicine 

There is way to avoid the need to deload or rest altogether. If you are methodical about it, you can make sure you take care of your body while improving your body composition and performance over time.

Get enough sleep – make sure you get at least eight hours of sleep a night and if you are having difficulty falling or staying asleep, figure out why and fix it. It may be as simple as taking a supplement, such as magnesium or melatonin.

Eat enough food – figure out how much you need to eat to meet your health and fitness goals. One way to do this is to know your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) to make sure you are eating enough to sustain not only your metabolism but also your workouts. Consume the right amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats to fuel your body. A nutrition coach can help set you on the right path and keep you on track.

Manage your stress – make sure you deal with your stress. Work and family can add a ton of extra stress to our lives, making our workouts feel that much harder. Find ways to relax, whether it be self-imposed “Self-care Sundays,” yoga, or any other activity that relaxes you. Don’t let your stress become all-consuming and stay ahead of it to manage it effectively.

Follow quality routines – find a workout routine that works for your goals without overdoing it. Know your body and your abilities. A personal trainer can help you figure out what’s best for you and can design a routine that will gradually add more intensity at the right pace for you.

If you listen to your body and follow expert advice, you can meet your health and fitness goals without burning out. But, if you do find yourself in overtraining mode, deloads and rest can help.

5 Tips to Stick to Fitness Goals When You’re Stressed, Busy and Tired

It happens to all busy working parents. You have a great workout routine and you’re firing on all cylinders, getting the gym on the regular and making gains. You’re meal prepping like it’s your part-time job and sticking to your established diet plan. You even make time to ensure you’re getting enough sleep. And then it happens. Work gets crazy. The kids go back to school with even more activities than they had last year. Maybe you even get sick. What inevitably follows is the train wreck that was your health and fitness progress. And while sometimes, you just have to let it go for a few days, it’s best not to let those few days turn into a few weeks or a few months!

It is possible to stay on track or get back on track quickly. It just takes focus and a positive mindset, as well as attention to what needs to be done. If you are committed to it, you will do it! Here are a few tips from my own experiences and that of others that might work for you, too.

  1. Try not to miss more than a week at the gym. If you have a regular exercise program, you know that it’s hard to get into a groove – a groove that is easy to fall out of, if you’re not careful. In my experience, a week is about the maximum I can skip before it starts to become a new routine. In fact, I usually take a week off for summer vacation with my family and find that I’m ready to go back after that full week away. But, if I take even a day longer, my motivation declines significantly. If I’m sick, typically I’m not down and out more than a few days and I take an extra day or two after that just to be certain before heading back. Don’t get me wrong. If your body and mind is telling you that you need a break, by all means take one. But have a re-entry plan in place so you don’t lose your workout mojo.
  2. Choose healthy foods even when you can’t meal prep. Meal prepping is probably the hardest part of sticking to a diet plan. It takes a ton of time and is usually the first thing to go when time is tight. I mean, it takes foresight, planning, money, time to prep and you need to have time to eat all the food even on the busiest days at work. I’m the first to admit I don’t always successfully plan. Or I’m famous for bringing my lunch and then not wanting it when noon comes around! It’s OK! But, try to make sure your replacement meals are as healthy as they can be. Avoid the fast food trap where you’re going out for fast food every day at lunch or ordering pizza for dinner. Try to hit the healthier establishments instead! And tell yourself next week will be better!
  3. Keep healthy snacks on hand that you love to eat. This will help you keep your calories up when you don’t feel like eating, as well as maintain your goals if you feel like eating all the junk. Items, such as protein bars, nuts, fruit bars and meal replacement shakes are perfect to keep on hand at the office. At home, always make sure there are more healthy snacks in the house than junk food. I try to have a 70/30 split in our home although sometimes it varies. We always have fruit, nuts, protein bars and cheese sticks. The kids will eat all those things and they’re healthy for us, too!
  4. Don’t stop documenting. Whatever system you have in place to keep track of your health and fitness goals, don’t stop writing them down and recording progress. Even if you fall off, mark that down. It will help you later when you’re goal setting. If you know where you tend to lapse and or the triggers that attack your goals, you can create mitigation plans for the future. It also helps keep you honest. If you have to write down that you didn’t drink enough water on a certain day, it holds you accountable to try harder the next day. Bullet journals or planners are my choice because the act of writing something down seems to make a stronger impression than a digital diary. Plus, I love crossing things off! And color helps me, too.
  5. Stick to your plan. If you can still get the gym and squeeze in even a shorter workout, do it. It’s better to show up and continue that habit than it is to just skip it altogether. You will feel better about yourself that you made that attempt even though you wanted to skip it! Same goes for meal prep. If you truly do have the time to do it, do it. Turn on the tunes, get your kids to help – anything to stick to that goal. If you still feel like you really just can’t, then do at least one thing. Sometimes all I can do is plan dinners for the week and grocery shop. Other weeks I can get through all the prep, hard boiling eggs, cutting up fruit, whatever it is that we’re planning. But, I try to do something. You never know. That one thing might turn into your normal meal prep session before you know it!

These are just some ways that I try to stick to a routine. It’s so easy to quit a routine cold turkey but it’s a bit harder, if you’re still trying to do something. The reward and accountability you’ll feel will motivate you to get right back on top of things. Also, don’t underestimate the power of friends and family to help you keep your eyes on the prize. Use that network and support as much as you can. It might just be the kick in the pants you need to get back on the health and fitness journey!

Hard Gainers Need Support, Too

Too often we read the headlines about how to lose weight quickly or the latest diet that will trim inches from your waist. But, what about those who are actually trying to gain weight and/or muscle? We do exist and we may not always be in the minority. A quick scan of Instagram profiles will show you countless women who are motivated to put on muscle and make gains rather than try to lose weight. In fact, I would posit that it’s much harder for a small-framed woman to put on pounds than it is for the average woman to lose pounds.

It’s long been a taboo subject to talk of trying to gain weight. Personally, as a petite, 5′ woman who just recently hit 102 pounds after years of barely making it out of the low 90s, I’ve heard so many say, “I wish I had your problem!” “You are so lucky!” and “Do you ever eat?” Trouble is, I haven’t felt lucky. It took literally years for me to figure out the formula for how to build mass on my small frame. It’s a challenge!

I’m here to support the hard gainers — the ones who want to feel curvy rather than slim. And it’s not just self esteem that could be at stake for hard gainers. Sometimes women need to gain weight to help alleviate fertility issues or simply fit into their clothing better. A healthy body mass index is essential to all and some of us naturally track below that average of 18.5.

It’s just as important to support those who want to gain as it is to support those who want to lose. And, while I don’t think we’ll see a reality show for hard gainers on Netflix anytime soon, I do applaud those influencers who are chronicling their gains on social media, normalizing it in a big way.

And, now that I have figured out the formula for gaining muscle and mass, I’m please to offer my secret to others. Soon, I will be offering nutrition coaching services both to hard gainers and those trying to lose weight. It all starts with a baseline and careful tracking, paying attention to energy in/energy out. Yes, nutrition is vitally important and it’s not all about eating a ton of carbs or going on a high-fat diet either. It’s about a balance that’s right for you and it includes movement. Resistance training and cardio are necessary to complement the meal plan. Adequate sleep and limited alcoholic intake are also key. It’s a strategic plan for your body that will help it either lose or gain the weight, while maintaining or building muscle.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not about the latest diet. It’s back to basics. It’s developing good habits that you can stick with long after the masses have moved on from the fad diet. And, it’s a head game – a lesson in persistence, motivation and commitment. Often, that’s the biggest challenge of all and that’s where a certified nutrition coach can help.

I want to help others discover the secret to success as I have. I’m thrilled to be able to pay it forward and can’t wait to get started. The New Year is a great time to reset. I am happy to play a role in a bunch of 2020 resolutions!

Wine for Changing Focus

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’m a goal-setter and a planner. My New Year’s resolutions for this year are actually coming to fruition and this past weekend, one of my largest goals — to become a certified personal trainer.

I passed the National Academy of Science Medicine’s Certified Personal Training exam Aug. 24, officially launching me into a new side hustle — fitness. For the past three years, I’ve been working out regularly and learning all I can about fitness and nutrition to meet my personal goals. I’ve come to realize that all this learning could also help others. While I historically didn’t have the bandwidth to study with NASM, a few months ago, I serendipitously found myself with the time after learning I wouldn’t be on the adjunct teaching schedule this fall at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. With time freeing up and a need for me to find another source of income to replace the teaching, I realized there was no good reason not to pursue the NASM-CPT.

From the end of May through this past weekend, I studied during every free minute I had — during cheer practice, on the couch at night, lunch hour at work and more. A lot of the material was a challenge for me since I never was great at science! All the hard work paid off in a pass on the exam. Now that I have the CPT designation, I am working on the certification as a nutrition coach, also through NASM. It was important to me to not only have personal training but also nutrition, because in my view, you can’t have one without the other. Plus, the coaching will help extend my CPT for a few more years before renewal.

Now that I am achieving these goals, you might wonder, what’s next? Well, for now, I’m going to build my reputation online as an expert, particularly in “hard gainers” and women over 40, both of whom struggle to put on muscle. I also plan to address the issue of lack of time for fitness and nutrition, the number one reason cited for why people are unable to stick to an exercise and meal planning regimen.

In fact, this blog will likely take on a different feel in the weeks and months to come. This focus on health has me drinking less for one thing, but also this gives me a venue to share my expertise on the subject of training and nutrition. As such, I’m brainstorming a new name for my blog that encompasses what I’ll be writing more about in the future. I hope you’ll continue to join me on this journey, which will include the topic of wine every once in a while! Cheers!

Wine for Indoor Rock Climbing

I did a thing over the weekend. A crazy thing. I tried indoor rock climbing! And, not just the beginner level rock climbing — I tried bouldering! For months now a fitness friend of mine has been trying to convince me to join her for climbing and I’ve been busy. In fact I was happy to be busy because truth be told I was terrified to even try this. I no longer have the calloused hands of my childhood when I just about lived on the monkey bars on all the playgrounds. I worried I wouldn’t have the grip strength. What’s more, I wasn’t sure I would be strong enough to climb. Lifting weights in the gym is one thing but actually being able to do something functional with your body could be an entirely different story!

Well, I’m here to tell the tale. I tried it. I conquered it! It completely surprised me. For one thing, the crowd was a completely different crowd than I’m used to. As I waited for my friend to arrive I was taking it all in wondering if I really was going to be able to do this thing. People had their own climbing gear and seemed really outdoorsy to me. I’m not a huge fan of the outdoors, by the way. I hate camping. Hiking is OK, though! Anyway, I observed carefully for about 10 minutes or so.

When she arrived, she quickly got us ready to go, explaining the various levels of bouldering and giving us a way to tackle the first wall. We, of course, started with 0, the lowest level, and we made quick work of the first route up. The walls go about 15 feet in height and the highest level I saw was a 9. I was able to do up through level 2 with ease and I think I tried a level 3 but I don’t think I made it to the top. One of the things that surprised me about climbing was the mental aspect of it. The idea that you have to kind of map it out before you climb on, as well as stick to it all the way to the top and then about halfway down is a mental exercise in itself.

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I grabbed this shot of my “souvenir” just after washing my hands of the chalk I used for climbing!

My grip strength got the best of me about 90 minutes in and we stopped for the day, but not before trying a campus ladder (too fun – I felt like I was on American Ninja Warrior!) and making sure to stretch as much as possible. I wasn’t too sore until about 36 hours after climbing. Then, the forearms, lats and shoulders were on fire! But, two days later, I’m just fine! Will I go again? I’m not sure it will be a regular thing but I definitely recommend it for those who are in shape and would like to test the limits of their minds and bodies.

One of the routes in particular was hard for me. I had trouble even jumping on the first “rung” and couldn’t see how I could grab on and start the climb. After nearly 7 or 8 tries and observations of others, I finally got it. But as I reached the top, I really got into my head too much. It was high! And I had to stay very close the wall and in balance. Terrifying but exhilarating all at the same time! That was the most fun for me. Conquering something I didn’t think I could do and pushing through the scariness. It was empowering and I found myself wanting to brag to everyone!

The gym itself, Central Rock, was clean and well-organized. The staff was welcoming and friendly. I even received a follow-up email a few days later with options for participating again! There are several locations across the United States and members have access to all the gyms, which is a nice bonus for those who like to road trip or who find themselves in different cities for whatever reason.

The wine I chose to celebrate my indoor bouldering success? Well, it was nearly 95 degrees the day I went so we had subs for dinner (no cooking in that heat) along with a crisp Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc. A refreshing way to unwind after a tough rock climbing adventure!

Here’s one of my earlier attempts at a level one wall. You basically map it out in your head and then follow the same color all the way to the top!

Wine for Mid-Year Reset

It’s approximately six months into the year and while we are inundated with talk of New Year’s Resolutions around the first of the year, one rarely hears about the six-month checkpoint! As I reset myself for the second half of 2019, I want to share with you some of the reasons why I love the “second New Year.”

  1. Summertime and the livin’ is easy. It’s far easier to get back into a routine when some of the busyness of life is out of the way. For example, I no longer need to make school lunches for my three kids so I can spend more time on my own lunch and snacks, allowing me to reset my meal planning and nutrition plan and refocus on my health goals.
  2. Summertime = wider access to healthy foods. Between farmers’ markets and our own gardens, plus most of our country in its prime growing season, we can access a whole lot more healthy foods than other times of the year. What’s more, the grills are out again, allowing us to cook up all that high quality protein. Our herbs are growing strong, too, adding that much more flavor and nutrition to our food.
  3. Gym time uniform changes. Now that it’s hot outside, we wear less, which allows us to see the fruits of our hard labor in the gym. And, I don’t know about you, but I work harder when I see my reflection and can actually look at my muscles I’ve built!
  4. It’s daylight longer. This means our days are inherently longer. For me, it allows me to read more, which is accomplishing my goal of reading the Bible cover to cover, as well as my total books read goal for 2019. Plus, I have more time to work on my cross stitch projects.
  5. Work is a slower pace, at least for me, since the students and faculty are gone. This means, I can catch up and be more productive but it also means bringing less work home. This frees my evenings and weekends up to work on my goal of becoming a certified personal trainer.

So, how am I doing on my goals? Here’s a quick progress check:

  1. Become a certified personal trainer. I’m working on this one; my exam is July 30!
  2. Finish Jon’s Christmas stocking. Still chugging away. I have plenty of time but thought I would be done by now. Refocusing my energy on this one.
  3. Read 30 books. I’ve read 23, 24 if you count my personal training textbook. So, I’ll definitely reach this goal!
  4. Read the Bible. Read through 12 books so far through a Lenten Bible Study at my parish. Honing in on the rest of it with a guided journal aid to help me along the way.
  5. Post 24 blog posts. I’ve published 16 so I’m ahead of goal on this one.
  6. De-stress with a bath and/or massage twice a month. Not doing so great. Maybe did this two months out of the six so far. Have to do better!
  7. Gain five pounds. I reached 101 pounds last week, blasting past my 100-pound goal. Boom!

I highly encourage you to take a few minutes, sit on your sunny deck with a nice glass of wine and review your own personal goals. See how far you’ve come since setting your New Year’s Resolution and reset yourself for the back half of the year. I would choose an almost icy cold white or rose for this activity, mostly because it’s my jam in the summer months. Chablis or a light pinot noir rose would be gorgeous for sipping, dreaming and goal-setting. Cheers!

Wine for a Toronto Trip

Last week, my husband and I spent a couple of days in Toronto, Ontario, Canada — a quick getaway that took more planning than anything else! It all started last Christmas with a gift he gave me — four class passes to the Hourglass Studio in downtown Toronto. Faithful readers will recognize this gym as it is the flagship of Lyzabeth Lopez, the online trainer with whom I’ve worked for the past nearly three years. Lopez got me into training. She was the first to guide me to a formula that is working for me, a hard-gainer who has long struggled to maintain and put on weight.

It was a thoughtful gift but we waited until last week for me to use the passes since Lopez recently had a baby boy and was not working for a few months. Although, she is back she’s not teaching classes every day so I wasn’t able to workout with her but I still had the opportunity to meet her and her family! She was, of course, genuine and kind. I don’t know what people expect someone with more than two million followers on Instagram to be like but we are all human. She was warm and friendly and we joked about back fat and crazy babies like old girlfriends.

The two classes I took with Elizabeth were Upper Body Madness and Booty Builder, a metabolic conditioning and muscle workout respectively. While I was a bit out of shape for the cardio in the metcon, it was still super fun and a departure from my normal lifting routine. Booty Builder was a bit more my jam! Both had elements I am used to from the traditional Train with Lyzabeth online program, as well as her most recently developed TWL App. I can see how those two products derive from her in-person gym classes. It was also really fun to workout in a group setting again, something I don’t usually do at home.

I got the workouts out of the way early in the trip so we could enjoy Toronto for the remainder. We logged over a dozen miles walking around the city’s neighborhoods, trying the food, wine, beer and visiting the markets and shops, including Curiosa, where one can purchase all things Harry Potter! One night we went the tourist route and visited the CN Tower for a sunset dinner; the views were incredible! Our final of the three nights featured a wine bar crawl through the Little Italy and Portugal neighborhoods, which was super fun. It’s not every day we try different, expensive wines!

Here are the trip details:

Who? My husband and I

What? Our somewhat annual getaway trip without the kids

When? June 26 – 29, 2019

Where? Toronto, Ontario, Canada (We stayed in an AirBnB a few blocks from the CN Tower. Billed as the “apartment in the sky,” it was a corner apartment on the 45th floor of the building.)

Why? To meet Lyzabeth Lopez, do a few workouts and see the sights of the city

How? We drove the three-and-a-half-hour trip passing into Canada at Lewiston, New York.

There were too many wines to list here and because I was relaxing too much I did a terrible job keeping track of them. We visited Pellar Estate’s tasting room at the St. Lawrence Market, where we tried their wines for the second time, purchasing our favorite Icewine, Vidal Blanc. The one we enjoyed at the Sotto Voce Wine Bar was a lovely 2014 Montepulciano Tombacco. We also had a few interesting Portugese white wines at the Salt Wine Bar, and a couple more European wines at Sapori.

Getting away for a few days was a wonderful way to reset, but it was not nearly long enough! I’m looking forward to a longer time away from work and responsibilities hopefully in a few weeks, this time with the kids in tow. Special thanks go to Papa for taking care of them while we were away, driving them to field hockey, cheer and honor band rehearsals. While they had a great time vacationing with him, they deserve a family trip, too! Cheers!

Wine for Christmas Father’s Day

This past weekend was Father’s Day, a day to celebrate the dads in our lives. For us here in Syracuse, New York, the spring has been rainy and cool and not at all like our normal June hot weather. Sunday, for example was around 60 degrees and steady, soaking rain. So, instead of our usual clambake on the deck, I decided to make meatballs and sauce!

It smelled heavenly by around 10:30 a.m. when my husband returned home from Mass. In fact, as he opened his gift – lovingly wrapped in red plaid paper – my daughter said, “It smells like Christmas in here!” I had to agree. It felt cozy and warm in the kitchen and the smell of garlic and tomatoes was reminiscent of a Christmas Day rather than a Father’s Day.

This year, I found a couple of unique gift items for my husband. One was from an Etsy merchant who creates framed art from sound waves. You choose the song and the color for the wave and he does the rest. Very cool. We picked Riders on the Storm by the Doors since it’s a favorite of Christopher and his dad’s. I also purchased two pairs of socks from Rock ‘Em Socks, which will put a photo of your choice on a pair of socks. We chose one pair with Daisy the dog and one with Grace the cat. My husband wore one of each to church!

As for wine, I braved the wet day to head to Harbor View Wine and Liquors. I headed for their cellar in search of a Barolo, which I found, but ended up grabbing a Super Tuscan off the rack, too, and that’s the one we chose for dinner. The 2015 Crognolo from Toscana is a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot grapes. Yummy! We decanted it for about 45 minutes before enjoying it with dinner. Perfect choice for pasta. Dessert was a chocolate cake.

Toward the end of dinner, we decided to play Song Quiz with Alexa. What a fun party game that is! Although, you have to be careful not to speak too loudly during or in between Alexa’s songs or she’ll get you! We all took turns winning.

It may not have been the best weather and we may have preferred to be outside in the sunshine, but for what it was, Father’s Day was a quiet, delicious affair.