Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Hot Summer: Hot Workouts - A guide to Summer Outdoor Activities."

"Hot Summer: Hot Workouts - A guide to Summer Outdoor Activities."

I would be remiss not to admit that this native Bostonian had a bit of trouble transitioning into the summer heat of Florida after moving here in 2007, but for the past four years, I've been trying to get outside as much as I did up North, even in the sweltering dog days of a summer in Tampa. So what are the best outdoor activities in the equatorial region during the hottest months of the year? Check out my attempts (and failures) at getting to know (and running away from) the local ecosystem!

1. Biking (Ft. Myers Beach) Or carriage pedaling...I recommend the carriage because of it's shade and easy camaraderie with your companions. There are lots of local trails for road biking and mountain biking as well: Tom and I had a fabulous off-road adventure in the backwoods of Flatwoods Park (New Tampa) during a thunderstorm, where we saw a dozen armadillos which come out in the rain to dodge the heat.

 2. Walking (during non-noon hours). While training for he Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, Rachel and I walked through every kind of heat on our 12-hour days here in Tampa all summer long last year. Surprisingly: as long as we stayed hydrated (water and G2) and ate enough snacks, it wasn't intolerable. The best hours were pre-sunrise (6AM-9AM). The worst hours (which had us fleeing mass quantities of uber-poisonous Water Moccasins) was surprisingly at sunset (5-7PM) when the snakes come out to warm themselves on the warm bike track. 

3. Go horseback Riding. Recently I was debating the athletic-nature of horseback riding with Rachel and she won when she countered with, "are your legs muscles sore after riding?" Touché! Surprisingly, you can burn 170 calories per hour at a walking-gait on a horse! That's a fun way to burn calories! 

 4. Rock Climbing. (Or wall climbing: that's me up there on the right racing Melissa!) Rock climbing takes an amazing amount of muscle strength (apparently I'm doing it wrong using mostly my arms- and leaning out when you're supposed to stay up close up agains the wall). But a great workout! 

5. Ropes Courses. Since my summers at Camp Finberg, I've always loved the high (and low) ropes courses. (See photo of me hanging upside down on the zipline at Circle F Dude Ranch below). I'm sure there are some good calories spent here doing these types of activities...and probably even more if you have anxiety and a fear of heights! So perhaps I should find something a little more "intensive" since hanging upside-down at fast speeds seems to de-stress me more than challenge me. 

6. Theme Parks! Theme parks combine thrills with all-day walking and sweating! All of these combine for a exciting way to beat the heat! (Especially with water rides: see Nicole, Rachel, Laura and I on Splash Mountain at left!)

7. Golfing. (Even the driving range can make your arms stiff for days!) Great for muscle tone, burning off steam and torso-rotations! You can add walking mileage in you golf a 9 or 18-hole course. 

8. Kayaking is a great way to see the alligators manatees in Florida. There are some great rental companies (such as in Homasassa Springs)  where you can get close to the manatees and Monkey Island. 

9. Beach Sports! Swimming, walking, jogging/running, stretching, yoga, catch, skim-boarding, fun-yaking, frisbee, football, boot camp, sand castle building, snorkeling, diving and more! 

10. Scuba Diving! You can't beat the water clarity/visibility of the Florida Keys! Finding buoyancy, swimming, carrying heavy weight, and breathing techniques make for an ideal play/fun athletic sport! 

What do you do to beat the summer dog days? Post a comment below! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Spotlight: The Renaissance Project


A Tampa based non-profit that hosts Russian foreign exchange students.

A non-profit near and dear to my heart is the Tampa based Renaissance Project, led by Eric Wilson (President) which brings three lovable, capable and underprivileged students from St. Petersburg, Russia, to our school family: Academy at the Lakes in Land O'Lakes, Florida.

Max, Daniil and Gleb with Lake Myrtle behind them on the Academy campus, Spring 2011.

Max, Gleb, and Daniil come each year to America to study, and to learn and teach others about their culture and experiences. Courageously brave enough to venture out and live in a different country at such a young age away from their families, these boys never shy from each opportunity available to them: advantages they would never have received at their government schools back home. Each fall, the boys say goodbye to their families for the ten-month school year, and through a generous sponsor, fly to America to live with Wilson, their caretaker and guardian for the school year.

I have had the privilege to teach both Daniil and Max during their middle school years, and stand amazed at the level of commitment and dedication that they bring to their studies, sports and activities. (Check out Gleb's story, Daniil's glogster or watch Max's video below.) These students are humble, grateful and truly deserving of every chance and opportunity America, and you, can help give them as they forge their way to college and beyond. 

Recently, the Renaissance Project was offered living space to grow the cause, at a local farmhouse, which Wilson has spent the summer renovating with help from multiple colleagues. Needing a full patching, priming and painting, after not having been lived in for years: the four bedrooms, living room and breezeway are now almost finished. Having had some free time since it's summer, I have been volunteering to help Wilson get the house in shape to be lived in. It was fun to be involved with the renovations, but a bit overwhelming starting almost from scratch with this 4-bedroom house, (although Wilson never once despaired of the intimidating "To Do" list) so I enlisted help from my husband Tom, and friends Sarah, Rachel and Rob get the house in prime condition for the boys' return in the fall. (Being the teacher of Max and Daniil, I can appreciate just how many hours both boys put into studying and doing homework for my class in particular, so I tried to give them back some of the effort they put in!) Day after day, one room at a time the house came together. The house is still in need of some finish work, and a kitchen overhaul, and appliances. If you can help, please see below. The gracious owner Dr. Lou, who has donated the space and forty acres of farmland for the meantime, fully supports Eric's renovations and re-roofed the house and bought supplies and new carpets to be installed in all rooms, is optimistic and supportive to the Renaissance Project and the opportunities Eric is providing to the four boys now (this fall brings Max's little brother to America as well!) to shine and be successful in this world. 

Please join me and consider donating to the Renaissance Project.  Your donation helps to cover the living expenses of the boys while in America and is also tax deductible. 

To contact the Renaissance Project, like this organization on Facebook, or to find out about other opportunities to help this worthy cause: please click here. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Movie Survey: July 2011! must be summer. Finally I have a chance to see ALL of the movies playing in theaters! Reviews as follows:

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: PT. 2 My husband insisted that we see it at midnight- especially after a decade of his having appreciated the films. Having seen all the movies, and read all of the books however (and the seventh one most of all) I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in the lack of the Dumbledore plot-line. The effects won me over in the end, (as well as Neville's valiant Last Stand) and the epilogue as well (even though I spent most of my time staring at the aged make up.) See it in theaters and buy it on DVD. 

2. Horrible Bosses: The funniest movie of the summer. Go see it this weekend. Spacey, Aniston and Farrell all created the perfect villains and the comedy of the three male leads (especially Jason Bateman) is so tummy-crunchingly painfully amusing you might need to take a friend along. Watch for Jamie Foxx: scene stealer! (Rated R) See it in theaters.

3. Monte Carlo: I was hoping Monte Carlo would have a little substance (a far stretch-I know) but in the end it was a carbon-copy of every teenage "Princess" story, normal girl, princess for a day (or a week), gets the cute guy in the end because she is "deeper" than other girls. It grew tedious by the halfway point. Skip it (unless you are babysitting your young niece).

4. Midnight in Paris: Surprisingly charming! ...Maybe not 'charming' for it's couple-goes-sour plot-line, but for the imagery of the 1920's Paris Owen finds himself magically in, and then later the 1900's. Meeting famous painters and writers (most notably Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso) Owen copes with his own novel getting advice from history's Greats. Rent it for a date night.

5. T3: Dark Side of the Moon. The Transformers are back! Surprisingly the best of the series, T3 starts off with our lead Sam Witwicky going on job interviews as even his secret "American Hero" status can't get him a job in this Recession. Poignant to the times, and heartfelt by most of the audience, Sam has to put himself in the line of fire to be heard by the government again, and to have a place fighting by the sides of Bumblebee, Jazz, and Optimus Prime, and more transformers again against the greatest invasion of our time. Michael Bay's effects in this film beat out any other contender in history for Best Special Effects of all time, sorry Jurassic Park, Independence Day and L.O.T. R. Advice: See it in theaters and buy it on DVD.

6. Bad Teacher. I wanted to like this movie...and it was funny, but also grossly irritating and superficial, playing off of the classic stereotypes of a 'bad teacher' and Diaz's Halsey only gets rewarded for slacking off, cheating, and committing fraud. The only redeeming quality of the movie was the much under-viewed Jason Segel (the comedic foil to Justin Timberlake's awkward and uncomfortable character). Jason stole every scene he was in. Advice: Netflix it as a view instantly when there's absolutely nothing else to see. 

7. X-Men: First Class: This movie was perfectly cast with James McAvoy as a young Xavier & Michael Fassbender as a young Erik-Magneto. (With the exception of the awkward blond, and Academy Award Winning Jennifer Lawrence, who made absolutely no sense as and bore no resemblance to Rebecca Romijn's older version of Mystique.) With the interesting Cuban Missile Crisis as the background of the plot events, viewers get wrapped up in the beginnings of the X-Men and of Xavier's school. We are treated to seeing new (and old) mutants and to a movie that was exceptional. Advice: Catch it in theaters before it leaves! 

8. Green Lantern. Ryan Reynolds is mostly known as a comedic actor, so it wasn't without some hesitance that I saw him as the Green Lantern in DC's latest revamp. Clearly DC is trying to catch the Marvel train with their reboots (a new Spiderman comes out later next year) but Marvel has hit fast forward with Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, X-Men First Class, Wolverine Origins, The Wolverine (2012), Captain America, The Avengers and it seems DC dropped the ball this time. The movie is enjoyable, especially with the sassy-smart jet fighter pilot and J.R. CEO Blake Lively plays, and it definitely worth renting. Advice: Rent it. 

9. Captain America! I've been itching to see this flick for a while now (although I do feel like this is another extremely long trailer for The Avengers) but basically here's the run down: (1) I felt proud to be an American for an hour and a half watching us in our best hour defeat the monsters of the Holocaust-era 1940's. (2) I appreciated the glamour, costumes and basic etiquette skills now lacking in a constantly mindless download of social media. How often do I see cell phones at tables in restaurants? Look around. It's frightening. (3) I was really glad "a good guy" deep down was able to reach the level of hero that Captain America reached. I'm tired of all of these barbaric arrogant action heroes. (That was a lie: I loved Robert Downey Jr, Shayne West, Jason Momoa, and Chris Hemsworth.) So let me try to rephrase that: it's nice to see a scrawny kid from Brooklyn become such a nice guy hero. Advice: See it in theaters with the kids and the grandparents.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bucket List Update: January 2015.

Aimee's Bucket List:
-Hike all 48 four thousand footers in New Hampshire with Mom. (8 left!)
-Hike the Appalachian Trail.
-Hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
-See Antartica.
-See the Aurora Borealis.
-Boire un cafe, sans lait, en Paris près du Tour Eiffel.
-Visit Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, France, England and UK territories, Germany (Bavarian Christmas Shops), Russia, Czech Rep. (Prague), Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Svalbard's seed vault, India, Japan, China, South Korea, Mexico, Grand Cayman, Grenada, Puerto Rico, Canada, Fiji, New Zealand, Tahiti, Iceland, Morocco, and more...
-Pray in a Buddhist temple in the Himalayas.
-Walk on the Great Wall of China.
-See the Terracotta Warriors.
- Earn $20M to send my dad to outer space and back (hey, he wants to go.)
-Buy Nate a '70 Chevy Nova.
-Buy Tom a used F1 race car
-Get Beth to hike Mt. Washington.
-See Christy get married in Ireland.
-Go on a cruise.
-See one of my students become a teacher.
-To be able to take care of my parents for the rest of their lives.
-Drive with Rachel from Seattle to Alaska 
after this summer's epic trip to Seattle.
-Go back to Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Montreal. 
-Drive Across America. (East-West)
-Ride the mules down to Phantom Ranch and see the Grand Canyon.
-White water raft part of the Colorado River.
-Publish a novel.
-Build a treehouse.
-Host foreign exchange students.
-Build a log cabin in the middle of the NH/ME woods.
-Win a shopping spree at L.L.Bean.
-Get a 'Vita Brevis: Vade Mecum' tattoo
-See a Manning vs. Brady game.
-Own a '65-'66 Mustang
-Have kids.
-Adopt/foster a kid.
-See a Red Sox Spring Training Game: 3/20/2011!
-Be a bridesmaid.
-Sing on a television show.
-Go on Survivor.
-Survive the  apocalypse with all of my gear and friends.
-Plant an organic vegetable garden.
-Install solar panels on my house.
-Stay for a week at the Mt. Washington Hotel to ski :)
-Compete in a Sprint Triathlon.
-Get cats.
-Scuba dive in the Caribbean.
-Go to Harry Potter World.
-See a Red Sox game at Fenway.
-See the Sox win a World Series.
-See the Colts win a Superbowl.
-Get married.
Travel Internationally.
Raise over $4,600.00 for cancer research.
Walk all 60 miles of the Susan G Komen 3-Day for the Cure. 
Walk the 3-Day with my Mom and friends for a second time.

Images Across America

Take a 9-minute road trip across America! Video from Florida to the great state of Washington. See iconic images of our 8,000 mile journey.