Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Train, The City, & The Lake

OK, so back to my summer checklist:

1. Fake Tanning
2. Total Body Fitness Crunch
3. Plan a well-deserved vacation
4. Swimsuit shopping

With Step #1 out of the way (thank you, Dove) and Step #2 being a work in progress, I am now officially entering into step #3. Although it's only the beginning of May and the summer is very young, I have already planned two trips to spend some much needed quality time with family and friends and vacation number three is shortly around the bend.

My first trip begins today...sort of. I am officially taking my last trip down to NC to finish out my graduate school classes and I couldn't be more excited. I have been working on my MBA degree for just under two years and since moving to Virginia, I've made the commute to NC approximately 48 times. This will be number 49 and 50. Whew! Talk about your gas prices and car mileage. So in honor of my final roadtrip, I am also packing for a fabulous three day trip to New York City with my favorite person in the world...JJ.

Our plan is to stretch out one of his work trips to make an exciting getaway experience for my third trip to the big apple and his first. So we're booking our tickets now to take a scenic train ride from Washington DC to New York City this coming Monday. We're of course staying, (where else?) Times Square in the heart of it all (yeah, yeah...tourists) to soak up all that NYC has to offer. A visit to Central Park? Possibly a Broadway Show? A trip to Madison Square Garden? We have three blissful days of doing anything we want in the big city...and the best part is, there won't be a cow in sight!

My second trip piggy backs right on top of the New York vaca as I will hop on a plane and head for Atlanta, GA. Waiting for me there? The most entertaining, spirited, and fan-tabulous people you will ever college best friends. We haven't seen each other since my wedding in August and each year we have had the tradition of meeting up at one of the girl's lakehouses in GA to soak up some sun, gossip about our lives, and relive the days of festering, jestering, and rotting together through our college years. I can't wait! We mix a few margs, play a few cards, and just leave it all behind us on the rooftop dock. Rain or shine we make it work and we ring in the Cinco de Mayo party in our own special way....even though it'll be more of a Ocho de Mayo this year. Watch out! Things always get a little crazy...

There's always a few it JAWS?

Wakeboarding, skiiing, and tubing...(no tubing for me, thanks)

And a little bit of late night know it's going to happen...

So that brings me to trip number three. After a long year of work, JJ is in desperate need of a great vacation to somewhere where teenagers don't exist and restaurants don't have buffet lines. We're hoping to book a great August vacation where we can have some fun, sun, and lots of laughs to celebrate our one year anniversary.

Anyone have any good suggestions?!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Test Your BS Radar

Often we hear that the majority of our communication efforts are actually heard through our body language and muscular actions. Non-verbal words can speak volumes when interacting with people and what you say with your face may be heard much louder than what you say with your words. I'd like to think I'm a pretty good judge of facial expressions, but then again, we all probably think we are, right? So I was excited to take a fun little quiz today to see if my BS radar was really as sharp as I thought.

After finally finishing my long-time nightstand read of A Whole New Mind, (see one of my previous posts for more info) I decided to look into some of the exercises in the back of the book to test your right brain skills. One of the websites highlighted in the author's research is from the BBC's Science and Nature webpage. The BBC is one of the world's largest broadcasting companies based out of the UK and has a fun twenty question test you can take for free to see how easily you can detect a fake smile from a genuine smile.

I took the test and got a 19 out of 20 score! To take the test on your own, click here and see how sensitive your BS radar is to catch the next faker around the corner!

And be spotters may just pick off your fake smile a mile away.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Wednesday Night Tift

The lights were low. The room was packed. As the tiny double doors to "The Club" slid open I tip-toed across the back of the room to find an open seat on an old wooden pew in the shadows of the church building. Of course, I had to wear my cowboy boots...with the loudest possible heel on hardwood floors. Trying ever so hard to avoid the creaks when I sat I had my eyes fixed on two people, both standing with their guitars under the stage lights reflecting off the chandeliers made of blank CD's.

We had arrived just in time to catch the second song of the opening act. After driving 45 minutes, fifteen dollars and a hand stamp got us into the MRC building (Music Resource Center) in Charlottesville, VA and we were immediately thrown into the swells of the local fans chasing the musical talents of Tift Merritt and friends.

I had never heard of Tift, nor had I ever thought much about her genre of music - which I suppose can be described as a combination of country/jazz/blues/blue grass tunes. I didn't really know what to expect when my friends Tricia and Jaime asked me to tag along to a concert. Hey, for a fifteen dollar ticket price, my expectations were low but I thought why not...something new to do on a Wednesday night. And so we piled in the car and headed for a Jam Session featuring two new artists I never knew existed.

I definitely trusted Tricia's judgement in music and especially in this area as she always knows where the best food, fun, and shopping secrets can be found. And I certainly gained more respect for her taste when I found out on the ride into town that her once college fling was Dierks of my top 15 favorite country artists. I mean, how cool is that?! So when she put on Tift's music for the remainder of the drive, I got excited about this low dollar concert we were going to find in a tiny nook in a town I know very little about.

Tift's opening number was a woman named Shannon Worrell who categorizes herself as folk/pop/country. Did you even know that existed? Regardless, I LOVED both women and just like the rest of the artsy crowd I found myself bobbing my head to the melodies and soft guitar music with a goofy grin on my face. Several times I caught myself thinking my friend Ashley would have been perfect to have along on this adventure...totally her thing! And as any good groupies would do, as soon as Shannon was done playing we walked ourselves to a local pub for a beer during the intermission. It was such a neat night, because I had never done something like this before, and I actually enjoyed every second of it.

When Tift came on stage, she seemed shy and quiet and was full of smiles and Thank You's for the clapping, whistling fans. She was cute and laid back and just looked like a girl with a guitar who happened to play the piano and harmonica along with her soft, sometimes raspy voice. She was grateful, full of stories from her home in North Carolina, and she worked the crowd walking through the aisles with her guitar, unplugged, belting out her most appropriate tune for the evening - Virginia.

But most of all there was something so inspiring about walking into a room where I had no expectations, surrounded by people who were clearly passionate about these artists. They were chill, happy, and just glad to be in an old, dusty venue with no bells or whistles or flashing lights. It was so unlike any other concert I had ever been to and even when Shannon's mic broke and Tift's keyboard needed some impromptu tape the crowd loved it. Every second of it. And they were so appreciative of not who the person was but for their talent and skill.

So many of the major shows I've been to have always been about the celebrity and how popular they are on the radio or tv. These singers were raw, unedited, and real people. Now, I'm sure they're quite popular to those who follow their music as both have several hundered thousand hits on their MySpace pages, but to me, they were just like any other Average Jane. And they performed like they were.

So here's a challenge. Look up your local dive joints and see what bands are playing. Take a chance and stumble into the bar, church, or warehouse and support the rising stars. It'll probably be worth the fifteen dollars and you'll likely enjoy being in a setting that's uncertain to you and your expectations. And challenge number 2 - download some of Tift and Shannon's music for a new playlist on your iPod. Their slow tunes and soft voices are perfect for the after work subway ride home or for easy listening on Sundays as you drive along with the windows down.

And like any good country singers, there are plenty of songs about life, love and heartache...the only thing I probably should have expected.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

We Plan and God Laughs

I have many beliefs.

I believe people are innately good, but tarnished by life experiences and bad influence.
I belive a puppy's head in your lap can cure any and all bad moods.
And I believe we are all here to fulfill a purpose in this life.

But I also believe that each and every one of us are living a life that has already been planned for us. I believe our daily actions are merely us executing the life we were meant to lead even when we think we actually make decisions that might alter the plan. More simply, I believe in God and that He has already written the course for our lives.

I think one of the most complicated problems we all face is battling the journey to "find our purpose in life." Especially in these days, we all seem to want to find careers that make a difference; that help people other than ourselves and bring meaning to our communities and our own lives. That's why books such as The Purpose Driven Life or The Secret have been so popular to readers worldwide. They aim to help us find our purpose, our plan, or I suppose, our destiny.

My thoughts on this have been revived by the recent stresses in my life about job searching and deciding where it is exactly I should be. Both JJ and I have been used to success all our lives. We were always well liked among our peers, always made the team, and consistently made good grades in school (well, I'll speak for myself). Failure has, fortunately, not coming easy to us and we've enjoyed great benefits throughout our 20 some years from our successes. We're not used to hearing NO or falling in the middle of the pack. We've always known what it feels like to be on the top, and I credit that enjoyment to God's plan.

But as we get older we're sure to face bigger and scarier challenges than simply making the high school team or bringing home the report card full of A's. And we're currently facing one we can't quite conquer with a smile and a little elbow grease. We're job searching. We're soul searching. And we're trying to figure out exactly what it is we should be doing with our lives and careers. It's been difficult to find clarity in finding the right plan for both of us, so we've been consumed lately with making the best decisions for our professional and personal lives.

The more I stress about it and worry about both myself and him, however, the more I hear a voice in my head telling me that what will be has already been decided.

I don't think it's my privilege to choose my course. I firmly believe it's already been chosen for me. Each of our life plans have been chosen for us, by God, who knew exactly what purpose we would serve before we were born. So when I don't get that job I'm sure I can get, or my 'purpose' seems meaningless in my current role, I'm comforted by my beliefs each day that I am living the life I was meant to lead; because God put me here, in this exact moment, for a reason.

So plan we will, because that's what we do. We obsess over the "What's Next" thoughts and the ever overwhelming terror of making life changes. Half of life's lessons, I believe, are taught through the processes of deciding. Where to move? What job to take? Whom to befriend? What school to attend? We call it fate or destiny most often that things work out as they do, but when the time comes to make a decision and you get that "gut-feeling" that your choice is the right one, I believe that's God's nudge guiding us in the right direction. At the end of the day, be confident that your decisions have actually already been decided for you and that the process and agony of deciding can actually be softened by a simple moment of reflection and quiet prayer for patience.

So, the next time your perfect plan falls through the tiniest of cracks...just pause for a moment and listen to God laughing. His plan is sure to unfold soon enough if you're patient enough to wait for it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Power of Solitude

While we're on the subject of fitness this month, I think it's important to discuss an exercise option that works our mental health as well as our physical stamina. It's an area of fitness that is often over-looked in our race to drop a size and look long & lean. Keeping our emotions in check and reflecting on our thoughts is important to routinely do in order to keep balance in our lives and give ourselves a chance to just...feel.

Yesterday I had a lot on my mind. Lots of questions swirling and twirling with the nerves of new possibilities on the horizon. So I took a step back and did the one thing I hate (almost as much) as stressful tension. I went running.

We have the incredible luxury of living on about 100 acres of beautiful land filled with rolling hills, mountain views, golf course fairways, and wooded land. Rivers and creeks wind through the woods and an 8 mile running trail surrounds our home. Often I go for walks on the trail to enjoy the scenery, but there are a few times where the only thing I want to do is jog deep into the woods, find tiny foot paths, and hide myself in the trees by the water. It's perfectly quiet. It's still. And there's not a trace of another person for what feels like miles. There's not one particular spot I go to...I just sort of...go. And when it feels like the right time; I stop.

On this day, I found a new part of the trail I'd never been to and I saw what looked like a deer path leading to the creek. I followed it for just a short way and found a fallen tree with a perfect perch. And I sat.

There is something very fulfilling and rare about just sitting alone in complete solitude without the sounds of voices, cars, televisions, iPod music, and commotion. If you allow yourself, you hear and see things you've never noticed before; and it's beautiful. The ripples of water, the sun dancing on leaves, buzzing flies, and branches swaying. And that's all I did for as long as it felt right to sit.

I watched.
I listened.
I soaked in the quiet.
And I loved it.

I let my mind go wherever it wanted and I didn't force a single thought. I tried very hard not to move and I let the afternoon lead me. And eventually, it felt right to leave. It may have been that the hawks were starting to circle above me or that I had reached the mental clarity I was seeking, but I picked up a rock, skipped it down the creek just like Grandpa taught me, and I rejoined the trail to finish my run. I have no idea how long I sat or what I really even thought about but it felt great - as though balance had been restored.

I know everyone isn't as lucky as us to have the kind of nature at their fingertips that we have here, but everyone can find solitude somewhere, you just have to find it. I dare you to find a place that's so quiet you can hear everything. I dare you to let your thoughts run wild without any agenda or plan. And I encourage you to do it often. You may be very surprised how fit you feel when you're done...and I guarantee you won't get a cramp.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Perfect Wedding Gift

If your summer social calendar is anything like mine was two years ago, you're slated to attend more weddings in a two month span this summer than the number of weekends that are actually available. Both attending weddings and participating in the bridal party line-ups bring tight time constraints and the unwelcoming sound of !cha-ching! as the costs of dresses, airfare, hotels, and gifts keep racking up....and that's just for one wedding! But of course, the unflattering price-tags associated with going to your best friend's wedding or even your good friend's nuptial are never too high and we likely attend regardless of the cost. Who really wants to miss such a precious moment in the lives of people you care about? And so we suck it up and blow our vaca savings on the people we love.

Amidst these financial choices to attend the wedding lies the decision of what the perfect wedding gift might be for the happy couple. So often we want to give them something that they will cherish, love, and remember us by long after the wedding is over. To many of us, our gift feels like an extension of our love. It's a symbol of the relationship we share with the bride and/or groom, and is often something special they wouldn't normally get for themselves otherwise. But after spending hundreds just to get to the ceremony...who has hundreds left to spend on this memorable gift? But, I'm also not trying to be the one to wrap up the toilet brush, know what I mean?

Enter the perfect wedding gift. It's personal, creative, and inexpensive to give and will surely be the one your blushing bride and strapping groom will remember forever.

A personalized wedding plate.

Now, I'm not talking about a silver tray that's engraved (although those are lovely options). I'm talking about a hand-painted creation by your's truly. I realized the memorable feeling and heart felt sentiment that one of these creations carries when I recevied my own hand-painted wedding plate from a good friend for my wedding. It was a simple design - just my wedding colors and a cake with a message describing her wedding wishes for us with the date of our big day on the front. It came with a wall-hanging rack and now hangs in my kitchen above the stove in a place where I see it everyday and am reminded each morning about my special wedding day. It brings a smile to my face, and everytime someone asks where I got it...I know exactly who to give the credit friend, Anne.

And so, as one of my very best friends is about to walk the aisle this July I took it upon myself to paint her my own creation of a wedding plate for her 4th of July wedding. I even came up with my own saying to make it that much more special for the soon-to-be Love family...

"The Day Our Love Became the Love's, July 4, 2009"

Her bridal shower was this past weekend and I thought it was the perfect chance to give her the plate. And boy, was it a hit. She was so excited to have it and it was passed around the room with several girls saying, "Oh, I want one!" Now, I'm no professional artist but that's almost where the appeal comes's an shows mistakes...and it's the thought and time that went into it that means the most to the bride. You can't buy it in the store and you can't find another one just like it. It's all their own...forever.

My other two married friends loved my plate so much they asked me to make one for them, too. Of course, I am happy to do it and what's better now, is that they can give me input on exactly what they might want so I can make an even more personal plate for them this time around.

So if you have a friend, sibling, cousin, or just someone you care about who's getting married this year, consider taking some time to paint them your own creation. Find a ceramic or pottery studio in your area that allows walk-ins, block off about 2.5 hours in your day, and think of a creative design. It takes about a week for them to glaze and fire your plate and it's usually ready in about a plan ahead. A typical dinner plate size will run between $15-$20 and includes the paint, glaze, firing, and plate itself. The studio workers are also usually so welcoming and helpful and the possibilities are endless.

Now, go out and be the original friend who gives the best gift ever! It's sure to be a party favorite and will leave a lasting impact for years!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Those Lifelong BFFs

As many others did, I traveled home for the Easter holiday for a number of reasons - a best friend's bridal shower, first time at home since Christmas, Easter Sunday at church with the family, and a need for a change of scenery. And one thing I again discovered during my 5 days at home was that, while some things may change, some things always remain the same...and that's almost always a very good thing.

I have been very lucky to have a spent about 10 years growing up in the same place, same town, same house, for most of my teenage years through college and the most amazing part of that privilege has been the group of girls I've run with over the years. There are 5 of us to be exact. Five girls who are oh, so different but oh, so the same in so many ways - and seven years after our high school graduation, little has changed in all of us outside of haircuts, jobs, and husbands. So, it is always such a treat to make the roadtrip home to jump back into our 15 year old memories and pick-up right where we left off before we all packed our bags for college.

Now, to be clear, at high school graduation, everyone thought for sure we would all end up at the same college or at least in the same city since we clearly couldn't handle life without each other. We were attached at the hip and where one was, the other four were close by. But the intrigue of our story is that not only did we choose 5 different colleges, we chose 5 different paths that continue to lead us right back to where we best friends. Now, six years later, three of us are married, one is on her way down the aisle, one has traveled the world and lived overseas, one is three short years from becoming a Doctor, another has an MBA, and one is a homeowner.

But despite all our accomplishments and work to become our own individuals, we still come running back to each other's homes for movie nights, sleepovers, and pool parties just like when we were kids. There is something so comforting to know that while the details may change, the big picture has remained untouched and those BFF lifelong friends we always said we'd have has actually become a reality thus far. I am completely aware that this luxury isn't something that everyone gets to speak about or hold close to them, which is why I felt this topic was so important to write about. And while I have an entirely separate group of college friends that this also applies to, there will forever be something special about watching your childhood friendships unfold and grow years down the front of your very eyes.

We even have a time capsule waiting for us to open in a few years (although none of us can remember when we're "supposed" to open it). Although it's probably filled with crap with stuff we thought was really cool at the time, we always remember it's waiting for us to pull the lid off and again relive another memory of growing up together. Memories that will probably make us laugh, roll our eyes, and most obviously make us say, "Remember when we did that!" As ridiculous as it may sound, I can't wait to open that plastic box and curl up with some wine (not juice this time) with my four best friends to remember it all over again.

This is my high school Nook. My best friends from Tennessee who have been with me through it all for the last 12 years. I love each one of them and I'm so grateful to have them in my life.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go get ready for my sleepover tonight.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Easter White Out - Yay or Nay?

Two very important events in my life happened on Monday night and I'm finally getting to sit and tell you about them. Number one - The Hills has returned to Monday night television. It is with great sorrow that I watched, however, knowing that LC has decided not to return after the close of this season. Do people really think the show can live on without her? I think not. So to all my fellow Hills followers, watch closely and drink in every second of the cat fights, fashion, and "Oh, no, he didn't!" moments because I fear they will be our last. (Big sigh).

Event number two came as a result of the Monday night season opening episode and it led me to fall in love with a new nail polish color. White. Thank you Heidi, for wearing it to Lauren's surprise party. Now, I know many others have sported it before Heidi did on Monday, but her outfit and perfectly manicured hands led me to decide that this Easter weekend will be my debut of white nail polish. Since I don't buy into the whole "no white after Labor Day or until after Easter" bit I went ahead and bought some polish today and will sport it tomorrow for the first time.
(Picture taken from People Style Watch, Clark Samuels/Startraks).
This is very exciting for me to be jumping on a trendy bandwagon so soon. If you know anything about me, as I think most of my Nook readers do, I am usually a good 3-6 months behind all fashion trends. I just don't always see the appeal right away, but usually end up loving them. For example, (a) I despised UGGs and thought they were the dumbest things to buy when my roomie in college first introduced me to their fluffy warmth. Now, nearly 4 years later, I have three pair - and my collection will continue to grow. (b) Stilettos. Hated them, and didn't know how to walk in them until I was a sophomore in college. Again, thanks to S&S, I now wear roughly 4 inchers every chance possible. (c) Gold jewelry. I have been a silver lover my whole life and have white gold wedding rings. But for play jewelry, I will now pull a Carrie Bradshaw and wear the ghetto gold chains and bracelets to jazz up an old shirt.

Now, when the whole black nail polish thing came out, again, I was a good 6 months behind, but now love it for the winter months and rocked it much of this past year. So for spring and a new year, I will introduce white polish into my wardrobe ASAP. My biggest fear with my purchase, however, was that I didn't want it to look like I slapped white-out on my fingers because clearly a $4 DIY manicure is in order for me over the $30 pro. So I tested out a few brands before I made my final purchase. Here is my review in case anyone else is considering white-out nails for summer 2009!

Standing in the store aisles I tested three products. My first choice was for the high end $7 bottle of Nicole by OPI's Shop Around the Clock. I usually love OPI colors so I figured that would be my choice, but for a trend I'm not sure I will wear for the rest of the year I wasn't convinced to pay the price tag. Overall though, it was great and looked very shiny and, well, "polished," (sorry, that was for you Gil).

My second product was Revlon's White on White Nail Enamel. While less expensive and a better buy for the change purse, I wasn't impressed with the streaky quality of the color. It left too many brush lines once it was on my nail, and it looked more like I actually did use my white-out pen to put it on. Forgetting that one, I moved on to my third and final choice. I ended up with Sally Hansen's Diamond Strength polish in Timeless White. For just under $4 it gives a brilliant white color with minimal streaks and only requires too quick coats.

So far I've only finished one hand for the night, but I already love it! It even makes my freshly cleaned diamond ring POP with sparkles. Now, if I can just get a tan to go with my Timeless White nails I'll be all set...that is until I shun the next trendy color for 3-6 months.

Monday, April 6, 2009

DIY Home Fitness

The rain has been falling here in Virginia for what seems like weeks and the forecast for the coming week is also consistent. Despite a few sunshine filled days that make me think I might get a trace of a tan, the downpours insue. My, my...April Showers indeed.

And with all this rain comes the gloom and doom of bad moods, cabin fever, lack of motivation, and the desire to finish the carton of ice cream in the fridge to weather the storms outside. It also means no outdoor activities, no walks with the dog, no desire to run errands, and the thought of staying dry sounds more appealing than puddle jumping. But exercise gives us endorphins...and endorphins make us happy, at least they do according to Elle Woods in Legally Blonde the movie. So I'm on an endorphin hunt today and my task is to use nothing but my home to build some energy, burn some calories, and ignore the rain outside my window.

It was really pretty easy to create - just get inventive with what you have and you'll have a total body workout in your home. So pull those blinds, throw on a tank top and turn your home into your gym! Below is my DIY April Showers Workout for today:

*To start, turn on your favorite tunes to get in the mood to move! I chose a random shuffle on my iPod through a Bose speaker system.

Warm-Up - 4 minutes
Running in place - 30 sec
High knees - 30 sec
Jumping Jacks - 30 sec
Air Jump Rope - 30 sec
*Repeat twice
Stretch on completion

Butts and Thighs
Step-Ups - find a piece of furnite that will support you to stand on it that is about 2 feet tall. (I used my dining table bench seat). To begin, step up on the surface with your right leg and bring your left leg to a ninety degree angle in front of your body. Step down with both feet on the ground and alternate legs. Repeat for 10 reps on each leg.

Walking Lunges - find a space that's long enough to allow you to walk at least 5 lunges at a time. Alternate legs as you walk to make a ninety degree bend in your lead step and let your opposite knee barely touch the ground before rising. Repeat for 10 reps per leg.

Stairs - find a set of stairs that will allow you to climb about 20 stairs at a time. At a pace you can handle, climb the stairs 3 times to keep your heart rate high.
*Repeat all three exercises 3 times.

Wall Push-Ups - think of a standing push-up position. Stand one arms length away from a wall with hands spread about shoulder's length apart. Feet should be spread shoulder's distance. On a 1-2-3 count pace bend your arms to mimic a push-up against the wall (aka: the wall is now the floor). Do 25 reps - and remember, the slower the push-up pace the better the workout.

Side Plank Yoga Pose - As pictured below, position your body into a one arm side plank hold and keep the hold for 15 seconds. Switch arms and repeat for 15 seconds. Rotate for two-three sets per arm. A strong core and tight abs are critical to the success of this pose.

Photo taken from CookingLight website, taken by Jeff Von Hoene, Gin Miller.

Bicep Curls - Using household products weighing in at about 3-5 pounds, perform bicep curls at 15 reps per arm, repeating three times per arm.
*Suggested items to use: wine bottles, 2-liters, 12 inch pillar candles, tea kettle filled with water, a heavy book or 3-5 pound hand weights.
Repeat all arm exercises three times.

Mixing up your three favorite crunch style sit-ups, do 25 reps of each style repeated three times. The key here is to mix it up and work various stomach muscles...not just the common crunch. Try suitcase sit-ups, bicycle knees, side-to-side crunches touching the floor, and even flip over and do some superman flies.

And just like that...your home has become your gym and the endorphins are flowing!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

SQUEEZE. All day. Everyday.

So, here is a fabulous hint. You don't need to throw yourself on the ground and kill your spine to get a flatter tummy. You don't even need to put on your work-out gear to shape your abs. All you need is a friendly reminder throughout the day to do the simple squeeze.

When it comes down to it, a crunch or sit-up is really just the repetitive contraction of the stomach muscles to create tension and work the muscle group. A much easier variation of the sit-up is to just remember to crunch your muscles several times a day for a set-period of time - no matter where you are. Walking. Sitting. Lying down. Whatever your position may be, just remind yourself to sit and squeeze your stomach muscle over and over until you feel the burn. For the best result, take a deep breath with a loose stomach, then squeeze on the exhale breath and hold it until you breath in again.

So you're at work all day. Write a post-it note on your computer screen that says SQUEEZE, and each time you see the note, clench your stomach muscles repeatedly until you feel the burn. POOF! You just did about 25-50 crunches while multi-tasking at work. Remember to hold each squeeze for a few seconds to really work the action. As long as you don't show an ugly grunt on your face, no one will even know! (Remember to sit-up straight!)

Other great SQUEEZE opportunities:
1. While you walk the dog. Tell yourself to squeeze every other step. You'll have 100 crunches in no time.
2. While you brush your teeth. You do this twice a day (hopefully) for about two minutes. Why not squeeze while you stand there and get another 100 in for the day? Added bonus...stand on one leg while you do it and work that quad with a slightly bent knee.
3. Cooking dinner. Burn off those calories before you eat the meal and work up an appetite!

There are lots of times throughout the day when you can mix in a few crunches...all you have to do is SQUEEZE!

*Thanks for the reminder, Mel!