Mohegan Sun BBQ Fest

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to get to attend the Sun BBQ Fest at Mohegan Sun.  Mohegan Sun is the second largest casino in the United States and is a mere 2 hours away in Connecticut.  So when I was invited, along with a guest, to come down, stay at Mohegan Sun, and check out the BBQ Fest (I LOVE BBQ), I jumped at the chance, and invited my mom along.

I got to Mohegan Sun way earlier than my mom since she was stuck in a ton of traffic, so I took a moment to check into the room and get myself settled before heading out.

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A big, comfortable, bright room with everything we needed!  The bathroom was beautiful too, with plenty of room for us both to get ready, plus it was literally spotless.

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Then I headed outside for the BBQ Fest (after weaving my way through the casino…it’s huge!).  I checked in with the media table, picked up my goody bag (packed with shirts, sunscreen, lip balm and other goodies) and food/drink tickets and headed in!

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I stopped and chatted with all of the BBQ stands, trying to figure out who to sample.  They all had tons of trophies, banners and other memorabilia boasting their wins, and each one insisted they had the best ribs!  I ended up choosing Big Boned BBQ since the line was long, and I figured that was a good sign!

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Turns out everyone waiting in line knew what they were doing!  I got a “small” plate which included ribs, cornbread (first time in over a month, I love cornbread), baked beans and cole slaw.

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Seriously, finger licking good.  I inhaled all of this food, I couldn’t get enough!  Every bite was as good as the last one.  I loaded my plate up with a few different sauces for dipping too!

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While I sat and ate, I listened to the Joy Dempsey band playing a variety of country covers.  OK, I admit it, country music isn’t too bad!  Once I finished eating, I wove visited some of the vendors, got myself a drink and people watched for quite some time.  Then my mom finally arrived, so I wove my walk back through the casino to get her!

Then it was right back to the BBQ Fest!  Unfortunately, we managed to miss all of the events due to timing, but we did have fun people watching and doing a little bit of shopping outside.  We had a cute little bottle of champagne, that came with a little pourer. 

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By this time we were both freezing and had a dinner reservation at Bar Americain (which was out of this world).  By the time we were done with dinner, the BBQ Fest was done for the night, so we enjoyed all of the fun things Mohegan Sun has to offer and made plans to head back the next morning for a pizza grilling demo, a hamburger demo and more country music fun.

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Unfortunately Mother Nature had some other plans, and the BBQ Fest was delayed while they moved everything inside.  Due to personal commitments, we couldn’t stay for the next day and sadly had to leave.  I would have loved to learn about grilling pizza, checked out the rib eating competition and stayed for the fireworks, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Thank you so much to Mohegan Sun for such a lovely weekend!  We had so much fun talking BBQ with all of the vendors, ate until we felt we might burst, made a little money, drank a little more than we should have, and had a blissful, comfy night sleep.  Couldn’t have asked for a better mommy/daughter night out!

COOL WHIP Everyday Treats


Thank you COOL WHIP for sponsoring this post. Join us on Facebook for inspiration and recipes for everyday treats. What you add makes it. #coolwhipmoms

I have a sweet tooth.  Is anyone surprised?  I’ve never been shy about my love for all things sugar.  As I’ve been doing this Paleo challenge, I’ve found that my sweet tooth can easily be satisfied with just a little fruit.  Maybe you can outwit your sweet tooth, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on all desserts forever.  Though fruit is good for now,  sometimes I do miss that extra little bit, just something else to add on top of my berries.  I’ve always, always been a fan of COOL WHIP Whipped Topping.  I remember always having it in the house when I was younger, and dipping my spoon into that plastic tub when I didn’t think anyone was looking.  I have no shame.

One of my favorite ways to eat COOL WHIP is a little bit appalling honestly.  I’m a big fan of the ice cream sundae, sans ice cream.  Yes, you read that right.  I like an ice cream sundae without the ice cream.  I find that using COOL WHIP as the base instead of ice cream, then pouring on the toppings, is the perfect way to satisfy that craving for ice cream, that doesn’t leave me feeling miserable afterwards like ice cream often does!  It makes a weeknight just a little more special, without making me feeling like I am completely and totally blowing my healthy eating.  COOL WHIP reminds me of being a little girl, always having it at home, and always having that spoon handy!

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Sometimes I keep it simple-a little bit of COOL WHIP, some fruit and a drizzle of chocolate.  However, sometimes I like to have a whole lot of fun, and pretend I’m a kid again.  I’m talking chocolate chips, caramel sauce, sprinkles, the whole bit.  To get that ice cream feeling just as it should be, I have even been known to freeze the whole tub of COOL WHIP and eat it at that consistency.  It isn’t as creamy as it is coming out of the refrigerator, but there’s something just right about it.

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I wish I could have gotten it together to make my mom’s cranberry mousse to share in this post too, but I just never did.  A whole tub of COOL WHIP, cranberries, and who knows what else.  It’s tart, creamy, delicious and the perfect topping for turkey!  This is a family favorite that I hope to continue through the generations!

What about you?  How do you enjoy COOL WHIP?  Straight from the container, whipped into a fabulous pie, or the ever classy “ice cream” sundae?

Sponsored posts are purely editorial content that we are pleased to have presented by a participating sponsor. Advertisers do not produce the content. I was compensated for this post as a member of Clever Girls Collective, but the content is all my own.

Summer Grilling Giveaway

Summer’s almost here, and with the new eating habits Solomon and I have adopted, we plan to spend a lot of time grilling.

I want you to grill too!  That’s why, because of the courtesy of Mohegan Sun, I have 2 very special giveaways for you!

To help spread the word about the Sun BBQ Fest the first weekend of June (will I see any of you there?  I can’t wait), they have offered to give away a grill, and a signed copy of Bobby Flay’s Throwdown.  Here are the goods:

grill The Weber Smokey Joe tailgating grill.

A signed copy of Bobby Flay’s Throwdown: More than 100 Recipes from Food Netword’s Ultimate Cooking Challenge

I’m not going to make you jump through hoops to win these prizes, I’m keeping it nice and simple, and 2 of you will walk away with an awesome goody, courtesy of Mohegan Sun.

Here are 2 ways to enter.

  1. Tell me your favorite thing to grill.  Simple right?  By the way, mine is sweet potatoes on the grill.  They are amazing.  Just leave a comment below!
  2. Share this contest with someone.  Either post on your blog, Tweet about it (don’t forget to mention @MoheganSun), tell a friend, Facebook about it, anything!  I disappeared and reappeared for quite some time, and I know a lot of readers disappeared too (I can’t blame them).  So spread the word!!!  For an entry, leave a comment letting me know how you spread the word, and a link if applicable.

1 Month Paleo

At Crossfit, a lot, a lot of people follow the Paleo diet plan.  Here’s a concise little explanation:

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It’s a little bit different from the traditional American diet, isn’t it?

At first I thought the idea was pretty repugnant.  I was a vegetarian for so long, and even though I began to eat meat when I was pregnant, I didn’t eat very much of it.  I had even given some thought in the last few months to becoming vegetarian again, but never quite got there.  Maybe I just wasn’t ready to give up my meat again, who knows?

When our box ran a 2 month Paleo challenge right after Solomon and I started Crossfit, we decided to sit it out, and discuss trying a Paleo challenge next time a challenge came up.  Soon after the 2 month challenge ended, it was announced that there would be a challenge for the month of May, and Solomon and I decided to forget about the possibility of vegetarianism and go for it.

We started experimenting with Paleo about 2 weeks before the challenge.  We wanted to ease our way into it, instead of just quitting our eating habits cold turkey (not that our eating habits were that terrible).  Now it’s been about 2 weeks of the challenge, and a month of Paleo eating and I think we are both surprised, and really pleased with the results.

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I’ve actually stopped taking acidophilus everyday, since I’m not waking up with stomach pains anymore.  I don’t know if I was eating too much bread or sugar and it was having an impact on my system, but that has all stopped!  It’s nice to focus on real foods, and experiment with so many new flavors.  I’m surprised I’m able to eat as much meat as I do (mostly 1 time a day, sometimes twice) and it doesn’t bother me to do so. 

I feel good, my clothes are all too big (even though the number on the scale hasn’t changed much), and I’m sleeping really soundly at night.  I just feel good all around.  I have a good, steady amount of energy, I haven’t had a sugar or carb crash in a month and I never feel bloated.  I feel strong and healthy and enjoying the challenge of trying something new, cooking with new ingredients and finding ways to enjoy old favorites.  I’m definitely taking some indulgences here and there, mostly in the form of wine, because I don’t believe in deprivation.  I’m doing my best to keep meals and snacks as Paleo or Primal as possible, and I’m really surprised with how easy it has been.  My only complaint is that my skin isn’t as clear as I hoped it would be.  From what I read, this would help to clear up some of the cystic blemishes I deal with (many say this is caused by eating dairy), but I haven’t noticed much of a difference.

I know there is a lot of debate surrounding this diet.  I’m not going to get into the science because I don’t want to preach, and Google is there for a reason.  I find it interesting and logical, though I don’t know that I can be fully Paleo forever going forward.  I think once the challenge is done, Solomon and I will definitely continue to eat in a more Paleo friendly fashion, but will occasionally enjoy a good piece of bread or cheese, or a dessert for a special occasion.  Overall, eating Paleo hasn’t been difficult at all.  My cravings disappeared almost immediately (I think being able to eat fruit helps), and I don’t find it challenging to eat Paleo at a restaurant or an event like a wedding.  Sure there are temptations, but that’s life right?

I know this doesn’t share a lot about what Paleo is, but that’s not why I wrote it!  When we were considering this diet, I wanted to get input from people on how eating Paleo made them feel, not what it means to eat Paleo.  If nothing else, I hope I can help someone realize that it is easy, very doable and the results are worth it. 

We are really learning to appreciate fresh, whole, real food a whole lot more than ever before.  I’m excited for our garden this summer, and to keep trying and experimenting. 

As a closing thought, I think this is really cute, even though we keep Kosher, so I’m not exactly cooking bacon all the time🙂

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By the way, Solomon and I pretty much eat like the picture “How I think I eat.”  I swear!!

AJGS 101

Hi Live, Love, Eat, Play followers. My name is Robin, a good friend of Morgan’s, and I am here to share an important message with all of you: 1 in 4 Jews is a carrier of one of 19 preventable Jewish genetic diseases.

· Not Jewish? This post is still for you—I am sure you know someone who is Jewish (a friend? Neighbor? Co-worker?).

· In an interfaith relationship? Again, this post is for you—many of the 19 diseases I’ll discuss below are more prevalent in the Jewish community but are not unique to the Jews (even Tay Sachs which many think is strictly Jewish, is actually found frequently in the Irish community).

· Don’t practice Judaism/identify as Jewish? Doesn’t matter—it only takes one Jewish grandparent for you to have “Jewish genes” and thus potentially be a carrier for one of these 19 PREVENTABLE Jewish genetic diseases.

· Been screened in the past? We are finding new diseases all the time. If you have one healthy child already but are thinking about expanding your family, you were likely not tested for all 19 diseases and, as such, should update screenings between each pregnancy.

· No family history of disease? This information is still for you. All Jewish genetic diseases are recessive, so you and your partner must be a match in order to be at risk of passing it on. A carrier does not show symptoms of the disease, but is rather a healthy person and if two people are carriers of the same disease they have a 25% chance of passing it on to their children.

So, what’s the story? What are these diseases? How are they preventable?

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I work for the Atlanta Jewish Gene Screen so, for starters, you can check out our website. But, I’ll try to give you Jewish genetic diseases (JGDs) 101. The Atlanta Jewish Gene Screen is currently the only organization of its kind. We aim to raise awareness that there are 19 preventable JGDs because, when we first started the organization 2 years ago the average person (including the average healthcare professional and the average rabbi) admitted to only knowing an average of 3 diseases. Two years ago Randy and Caroline Gold, an active Jewish couple in Atlanta, founded the Atlanta Jewish Gene Screen when their daughter, Eden, was diagnosed with ML4. The average ML4 patient will never learn to walk or talk, will be blind by the age of 10, and will likely not live past young adulthood. Randy and Caroline knew to get tested (something that I stress because not every Jew does know this and thus doesn’t actively request it from their doctors). Randy was tested by his Jewish doctor for only 2 diseases. Caroline was only tested for 8 by her Jewish doctor. Randy and Caroline didn’t know what they didn’t know. Their doctors didn’t know what they didn’t know. Turns out they carry 3 diseases between them, but are only a match on one—ML4. They have one healthy child, 6 year old Natanel, and little Eden, 4 years old, who has Mucolipidosis type IV. Today they have a healthy third child, Shai who they had through in vitro (see below when I discuss ways of preventing these diseases).

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So, as Randy would say, Eden is here to save lives, her story will save lives. Randy and Caroline set out to inform everyone about the number of diseases on the Jewish panel (at the time they started the organization 2 years ago, there were only 18 diseases, by the way). Which is why I am writing here. I know Beantown Mama is based in Boston. But, I also know Morgan has some Atlanta followers. I also believe this information is important for everyone. We do hope to go national in the near future and there are ways you can get tested even if you are not located in Atlanta. It all goes back to the power of word of mouth—no matter where you are, you could know someone in Atlanta and you could inform them. We hope to inform every doctor and have them test for all 19. We hope to inform every rabbi and hope that the rabbis will counsel their congregations, particularly the young couples who are married/getting married and therefore at risk of passing these diseases on as they start families. We hope to inform the population at large—we know that not every pregnancy is planned and thus by the time you get to the doctor it could be too late. We also know that not every Jew is affiliated with a synagogue or gets married by a rabbi. So, we head to local festivals, happy hours, etc and hope to education everyone, particularly those in their 20s and 30s who are at risk of passing these diseases on. These diseases are preventable, but only if you get screened in advance and can take action accordingly. So, in addition to the educational component of our organization, we also host a number of community wide screenings a year and inform people how to get screened for the full panel of diseases by their doctors or though us if they can’t make it to a community screening date. We have also battled with insurance companies and we’re happy to announce that right now, the cost of screening is only $25 if you have insurance (it was thousands of dollars when we started 2 years ago). A simple blood test is all it takes to learn if you’re a carrier—spread the word and get tested! Knowledge = options.

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What are your options? The most common and exciting way to prevent JGDs is through in-vitro fertilization. Through a process called PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis) an embryo made from the mother’s egg and the father’s sperm (note that if you are gay and considering egg or sperm donation to have a child, this information is important for you to know as well) can be tested when it is just 8 cells. Because, as I mentioned above, each pregnancy has a 25% chance of having the disease, an embryo can be tested and one of the 75% /healthy embryos can then be implanted in the woman. 100% your child, 100% JGD free this is how Randy and Caroline conceived Shai). Other options include egg or sperm donation, surrogacy, adoption, or trying to conceive naturally and terminating a pregnancy if needed. You can marry who you want, you can have healthy children no matter what. You just need to get tested to be sure.

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I think that covers the basics of JGDs 101. For a list of JGDs please visit this page on our website. Here’s a quick summary:

1. 1 in 4 Jews is a carrier of one of 19 PREVENTABLE Jewish genetic diseases

2. It only takes one Jewish grandparent for you to potentially be a carrier

3. A carrier is a healthy person

4. Not every doctor knows about all 19 or knows how many JGDs the lab they work with tests for so request all 19 when you go to get tested

5. A simple blood test is all it takes

6. This information is important for Jews, non-Jews, gay and lesbian couples, those in serious relationships and those who are single, those who have a healthy child(ren) but are considering expanding their family—everyone should know this information!

7. Knowledge = options

I hope you found this post interesting and informative. Please keep in mind that knowing you are a carrier for a JGD is GOOD news because it means you can prevent having a diseased child. Spread the word. Get tested, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions. Robin Harpak: rzharpak@gmail.com. Thanks, Morgan for allowing us to reach a few new people via your blog. Thanks to all of Morgan’s followers for helping us spread the word!

Curly Girly

My hair has always been a source of annoyance for me.  When I was younger I didn’t care so much.  Then I hit puberty and the little peach fuzz at my hairline began to grow, and I had this little fringe of hair for awhile.  It eventually grew out, but boy was it awkward!  I went through perms, straightening my hair, bangs, you name it.  Then for quite some time I tried to embrace my curls and let it be more natural.  I used loads of products and a diffuser.  I was never too happy with my hair though, it was never quite right.

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In November 2007, I donated my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths.

After that I became a big devotee to the flatiron.  I loved it.  I wore my hair straight 99% of the time, and played around with it.  I tried different layers, bangs and had fun.  There was always something I didn’t quite love-a lack of volume.  But I just dealt with it!

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After Aaron came along, I realized I didn’t feel like spending so much time on my hair.  Yes, I do get to shower every day but there is so much else I need to do.  Those extra 10-15 minutes blow drying and straightening could be used so much more wisely.  So I decided to stock up on some new hair products, and go back to my natural curls.  Though I never loved them, it just seemed easier.

I started thinking there had to be a better way.  I began talking to people with curly hair, even if it was different than mine, and doing lots of research.  I want to love my hair as it is, not by constantly changing it.  So I dug around, and learned all about the Curly Girl Method.

Here are the basics:

  • Step away from the blow dryer, brushes and flat iron.
  • Stop using shampoo or conditioner with sulfates.  Sulfates are drying and quite damaging to curly hair.
  • Stop using hair products that have silicones, as these can weigh down the hair.
  • Start co-washing.  This is when you wash your scalp with a light conditioner, really massaging it in to clean away product and dirt.  Then distribute a heavier conditioner through the hair for extra moisture.
  • Use a wide toothed comb to get out any knots you can’t release with fingers.
  • Do a final rinse of the hair with cold water.
  • Use a microfiber towel or t-shirt to dry hair.
  • Scrunch in a lot of silicone free product and either allow hair to air dry or use a diffuser if you must dry it. 
  • Hands off!  Once the curls have dried, then you can scrunch again to break about the “gel cast.”
  • Keep those curls moisturized.

Apparently my new BFF:

This is all super strange to me.  I’ve always used a shampoo and towel.  I didn’t know to do any differently.  I’ve also been a fan of mousse.  I almost never used gel, since I’ve been so afraid of crunchy curls.  I also never used a lot of product.  Now, it seems like the more gel the better, which is just so weird!!  I’ve learned that mousse can cause frizz, so it seems like everything I was using was just wrong, wrong, wrong!

It’s been 2 days and I have nothing to report yet.  I also haven’t gotten any decent pictures but I will in a day or so so I can have some “before” shots.  Hmmm, I should also get a trim at some point!  I’m excited to hopefully begin to love my hair.  I did notice yesterday that it was much curlier by the end of the day than it normally is.  It’s usually fallen flat and frizzy, and is in a ponytail.  This time it was curly and down all day!  I didn’t love it, but I liked it!  I noticed my curls had more shape and definition than before, so that’s definitely a start.

WISH ME LUCK!!!

Anyone try the Curly Girl Method?  What worked for you and what didn’t?  What are some of your favorite curly hair products?

Walk

I have a whole new respect for farmers, especially those of the dairy variety.

If part of my job requirement was to carry 2 jugs of milk several times a day, I’d be working damn hard!  Cause that’s just what I did last night.

Let me back myself up. 

After stretching, warm up and practicing the skills for the WOD, we had 10 minutes to do 15 clean and jerks at 85% of our 1 rep max.

I’m still trying to figure out my 1 rep max for now, so worked my way up to 75#.  I did 2 clean and jerks, and by the third knew not to push myself too far.  I ended up using 65, which isn’t terrible.  The last time I did clean and jerks was almost a month ago.  I used 65 as my max (we had to do 3 at that weight) and was done.  So being able to do 15 (well, 13) in about 8 minutes thrilled me!

Then it was time for our WOD, Walk.

We did this one outside, which was really nice.  Last night was a beautiful night, and it felt so great to be in the fresh air again!

2 Rounds for time:

  • 100m Farmers Walk 1.5/1
  • 40 Kettlebell Deadlift
  • 100m Farmers Walk
  • 30 Kettlebell High Pull
  • 100m Farmers Walk
  • 20 Kettlebell Front Squat
  • 100m Farmers Walk
  • 10 Kettlebell Burpee Deadlift

What a BEAST!

I used 3/4 pood (26 el bees).  For the deadlift, we actually had a kettlebell in each hand!  For the first round of squats, I cleaned them and squatted with both kettlebells.  For the second round, I realized they were pushing really hard on my bracelets (which I always wear to workout).  Next time we have that move, I’ll definitely take them off!

I loved this workout because I felt it everywhere, and I felt good!  19:04.  Definitely a time I’m proud of!