MCLV’s Holiday Survivial Guide

The holiday season can be memorable and fun, but it can also be hectic, stressful and exhausting. It’s easy to let yourself go and enjoy every minute, only to realize when New Years Eve rolls around that you don’t fit into any of your party clothes.

I’m of the mindset that you should enjoy yourself, but try to keep up with your fitness and healthy eating regimes, at least in part. That works better for me than skipping all the festivities and moping while I’m at the gym, or crash dieting in January to get the unwanted weight off .

Below are some of the habits that I’ve learned over the years to help survive the holidays.

Cocktail Parties/Mixers/Work Events:

  • Drink as much water as you can. A glass between each cocktail or glass of wine is ideal, but at the very least start with a large glass and have one before bed.
  • Trays of appetizers and buffets have ruined many of us, the key to coming out unscathed is to focus your munching on the least processed foods and snacks. Fill your plate or napkin with fresh fruit, raw veggies, nuts, seafood, unpasteurized cheeses & unprocessed meats first. Try to stay away from thick dips, creamy sauces, bread and glazed meats.
  • Stick to champagne, red wine or juice-based mixed drinks. Caffeine, syrup-based cocktails and white wine are all higher in sugar and can leave you feeling bloated and more hungover than warranted the following day.


  • Concentrate on filling your plate with as many vegetables & whole grains as possible. Opt for Brussels sprouts, green beans (not green bean casserole!) and salad with brown rice, quinoa or risotto first. After you’ve filled up on high fiber and nutrient-rich foods, then allow yourself to partake of the more caloric sides like mashed potatoes and meats if you’re an omni.
  • If you’re worried about your calories or have a restrictive diet or allergies, offer to bring a dish. I’ve never had a host or hostess take offense to my offer to bring something to add to their spread. Usually, they’re relieved since it takes some of the pressure off of them. Plus, it gives you a great opportunity to wow them with something they’ve never tried before!
  • If you’re not comfortable bringing this up or if you’re a plus one and aren’t afforded the opportunity to speak with you host/hostess in advance, eat before you go. I always carry healthy, portable snacks with me (check out some options here) to eat either before or after a meal if I’m unsure what I’ll be served. Have a Larabar first and a huge plate of salad at dinner and you’ll be fine. And no one will be the wiser!

Exercise tips:

  • Fit a workout in WHENEVER you can. Even if you only have 15 minutes to dedicate, do some HIIT (intervals) or a quick circuit with some walking lunges. Women’s Health even offers you a handful of 15 minute workouts each month, so grab an issue and squeeze in a little training session. You’ll be less stressed & calmer by the end, promise!
  • Walk, walk, walk. Skip your morning taxi to work, leave your car at home when you run errands, walk to the mall, take a family stroll after dinner… Whatever it takes to get some walking in each day. It’s especially great if you can work in some Low-Intensity Fasted Cardio in the AM.
  • Take the stairs! Just say NO to elevators and escalators and walk up the stairs to your apartment or office building each day.

Want some expert advice? Here are 5 things to keep in mind for the holiday season from a certified CrossFit trainer:

1. Maintain regular healthy habits. People will often eschew normal healthy habits during the holidays for all sorts of reasons.  Traveling, social obligations and family stress, amongst other changes to our normal schedule can make it easy to disregard some of the healthier aspects of our lifestyles.  But if your anything like me, it is substantially more difficult to implement new healthy lifestyle practices than it is to maintain existing ones.  So if you regularly abstain from bread, always go for a walk first thing in the morning, or anything of the sort, do your best to stick to those same routines through the holiday season.

2. Do not fast in anticipation of a binge.  In theory this makes sense, if you or your family is planning a huge feast its logical to try to compensate for the boat load of calories you’re going to consume at the end of the day by not eating anything before hand.  But odds are if you walk into Thanksgiving dinner starving you’ll end up doing just as much, if not more, damage than you normally would by over-consuming and making poor food choices.  It’s easier to justify four pieces of cheesecake instead of the one you would normally have if you starved yourself all day. Instead eat the healthy meals you would normally consume before dinner and that elusive holiday self-control might be a little easier to maintain when the main meal is served. 

3. Try to do something active before and after a large binge.  This is a good way to help mitigate the inevitable energy surplus and doesn’t have to be anything extreme or inconvenient.  Something like walking an hour before and after you splurge is a perfect example.  It can be done with a group, wont leave you sweaty, and you don’t have to pass a sobriety test in order to do it safely. 

4. Not all booze is created equal.  Alcohol is a very common nutritional land mine during the holidays and if your family is like mine, the notion of not drinking to excess during the holidays will get you blacklisted faster than being a communist.  But just because you hit the sauce a little more than usual doesn’t mean there aren’t better choices that can be made.  Quick explanation.  When you eat or drink anything your body metabolizes the nutrients and either uses them or stores them in the form of fat.  Alcohol is unique in that our bodies lack a mechanism to convert the alcohol to fat, so when alcohol is present our bodies metabolize and burn alcohol before anything else.  While your body is busy trying to burn off the alcohol, which it cannot store, it is busy storing the other macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates) which it cannot yet use.  This isn’t a great of scenario, especially after you’ve spent the night stuffing your face with mashed potatoes.  So how do you mitigate this during the holidays?  First, if possible try to limit booze intake (as I said, not always an option).  Secondly, try to separate drinking events and eating events.  If you have an early Thanksgiving dinner planned, try putting the drinking off until a few hours later.  Finally, try to pick drinks lower in carbohydrates.  Spirits and dry red wines are better choices than Ales or sugary mixed drinks. 

5. Be realistic.  The holidays should be fun.  It’s the time of year where its acceptable to be gluttonous and drunk at unusual times.  Dont stress over having a drink or two too many or an extra turkey leg.  Life is supposed to be lived, not scrutinized. 


I hope you find some of these tips useful, and definitely share any holiday habits you have that you think others might find helpful.

Bottoms up!

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MCLV’s Gift Giving Guide

The holidays are stressful enough without having to worry about what to get who and last-minute scrambling to come up with creative ideas. So in the spirit of enjoying the holidays rather than worrying about them, I’m here to bring you a brief list of suggestions for your friends, family, co-workers and party hosts.

Fashion-minded: Do you have someone in your life who lives for fashion? Whether its your sister, best friend, mother-in-law or boyfriend who likes to stay up to date on the trends, here are a few ideas for their holiday gift.

  • Magazine subscription –, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Vogue, Vanity Fair… Easy for you & much appreciated by them.
  • A manicure, pedicure or spa treatment – The holiday’s are stressful for everyone so why not treat your loved ones to some much deserved pampering?
  • One of my best friends got me the greatest birthday gift the year before last, something I highly recommend for anyone who loves their clothes and wants them to keep them in perfect condition. A handheld garment steamer!
  • Winter accessories are fun to pick out and the perfect gift for the gals, guys or kids on your list – From girl’s knit gloves and boy’s fleeces to women’s hats and men’s scarves.  
  • Some fashion books that I highly recommend are Nina Garcia’s Little Black Book of Style and The One Hundred, Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Ines de la Fressange, Style A to Zoe by Rachel Zoe & Influence by the Olsens
  • Gift certificates for great stores like Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus & Barney’s – Tip, make sure that the gift certificate can be used online if you’re not sure whether they have access to the store in question in their town.

Fitness-minded: If you have a friend or family member who loves their gym time and is always looking for a new and exciting workout or sport to try out, here are some ideas to please them for the holidays.

Lifefactory 22-Ounce Beverage Bottle


Foodie friend: We all have them in our lives, the people who absolutely live for their food & wine. They always know the best restaurants to go to, always shop at the greatest stores and always serve up the most gorgeous spreads for their guests.

Chez Panisse Vegetables

  • Wine Club – This is a pricey gift, but a great one if you feel like splurging for a wine lover. A couple organic vineyards to look into are EcoVine Organic, The Organic Wine Company & Benzinger.
  • Cooking class – This is something that I’ve always wanted to do but have never gotten around to, so if your friends are anything like me, they’ll be thrilled by a gift that gets them out of their apartment and doing something that interests them.
  • A food basket or “food of the month” club
  • A beer making kit like this one is perfect for someone who likes to get their hands a little dirty for a fun weekend project.
  • Gourmet coffee & a cute mug is a great gift for a coffee lover, especially if they’re an office worker since it’ll brighten their mornings!
  • Cookbooks like Alice Water’s Chez Panisse Vegetables, Sarah Matheny’s Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love or Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet are great choices for friends and family who are looking to eat a little healthier this upcoming year (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?)

Host/Hostess Gifts: I usually keep a handful of host/hostess gifts around during my busy social seasons so that I don’t have to run out at the last-minute when I could be putting the finishing touches on my outfit for the evening instead.

  • Flowers/potted plant – I love white arrangements (baby’s breath excluded – of course) so I prefer bouquets featuring white tulips, lilies, posies & peonies. If I’m taking a taxi or train to get to the party I like to get a potted plant since it’s a bit more durable for the journey.
  • Wine – A bottle of wine or port is a timeless and easy to carry thank you gift. I love to support California vineyards and keep bottles of my favorites on hand for just this sort of occasion, if you’d like some Sonoma suggestions I highly recommend Sojourn, Eric Ross, Valley of the Moon, Benzinger & Audelssa
  • Cheese cutting set – I received this as a gift from my Aunt and absolutely love it, it’s both beautiful and functional.
  • One of my favorite gifts to give is the Vinturi Wine Aerator – It’s always a success, trust me!
  • Diptyque’s scented candles in a sweet little bag are another nice choice, they’re elegant and simple.


Enjoy your shopping trips and be sure to hit LIKE on MCLV’s Facebook page so you can get all of the great sale alerts that I’ll be posting  later this week!

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Gym Goddess – Part III

Welcome to week III of the How to Become a Gym Goddess series (if you need to catch up, here are Week 1 and Week 2).


Note: Check with a doctor before beginning a few fitness routine to avoid injuries.


Day 1:

15 minutes of intervals on the elliptical (30 seconds as fast as you can, 1 minute 30 seconds at a fast but manageable pace, repeat for 15 minutes)

100 walking lunges (each knee touching the ground is 1 – try to keep moving for the whole 100 even if you do have to slow down)

20 burpees as quickly as possible (How To – Do level II or III if possible, there are also other variations on burpees that we’ll try later one)

3 x 20 mountain climbers


Day 2: CORE!!!

1o minutes of cardio, any machine, moderate pace

5 rounds of:

  • 1 minute plank
  • 30 frog crunchies
  • 30 squat jumps (bend knees, touch ground, jump up, clap at top, repeat)
  • 30 leg lifts
  • Row 100 meters as fast as possible

* Rest for under 1 minute between each round

10 minutes of cardio – Warm down


Day 3: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) – Pick a machine and go-go-go

5 minute warm up

  • 30 seconds as fast as possible
  • 1 minute 30 seconds recovery – moderate speed
  • 30 seconds as fast as possible
  • 1 minute 30 seconds recovery – moderate speed

Repeat for 15 minutes of intervals

Switch machines and repeat for an additional 15 minutes

5 minute cool down (i.e. walking on a treadmill etc)

(Same) Weekend Mini Workout:

To be completed at any point Saturday or Sunday (***Bonus points if you get a workout buddy to join you and race!)

Sprint the length of the street, walk back to your starting point, 5 burpees (how to) – Repeat 10x

Starting w/ your feet together, jump as far as you can & repeat for the length of the street. To the end of the street and back to your starting point = 1, complete 5x

Results: This week wasn’t about change, it was about creating a consistent fitness routine and really trying to make time a couple of days a week to go to the gym even when you’re tired and/or busy. Squeezing in just a small workout can improve your mood and productivity, which is especially important as the holiday season is starting to gear up and your schedule will get more and more hectic.

How do you stay motivated for your workouts? Any tips that always work for you? I like to workout first thing in the morning because in addition to giving my metabolism a little burst, it sets a healthy tone for the day and encourages me to stay on track. I also have to have a great playlist to keep my workouts upbeat. My brother got me the Nano for Christmas last year which is great because it has a clip and it holds such a small number of songs that I update it at least once a week. As for long-term goals, I’ve found that it’s all about giving myself something to look forward to. Like, say, a weekend trip to the Lululemon on Union Square.  (Rachel agrees, clearly) Not only do the promise of Lulu’s keep me going, once I have them I’m doubly motivated to hit the gym because I can’t wait to show them off!

As your workouts are progressing and you’re beginning to feel (and see!) results, you should start thinking about your recovery time. We’ve talked about stretching and rest days to help you stay loose and prepare for your next workout, but your choice of foods immediately before and after a workout can also affect your performance (as, obviously, your food throughout the day can affect your fitness goals in general). Shape shares their tips here, Women’s Health shares their top fitness food picks here and fitness guru to the stars David Kirsch shares his post-workout recovery smoothie here. And if this topic interests you and you’re heading to a book store, definitely pick up any of Brendan Brazier’s Thrive books which discuss this in-depth.

Stay tuned for Week IV!

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Goodbye Leavenworth


I’d like to take a moment to lament & say au dieu to my beautiful Russian Hill apartment.


I adored that apartment’s period details, high ceilings and amazing light, as well as the building’s gorgeous facade.
But the time had come for me to say goodbye to the leg burning hills and find a new apartment. Somewhere flat. :)The cats were not quite as excited as me to move to North Beach though… The new building has none of the classic San Francisco characteristics that I’ve always looked for, it’s a squat, modern building with carpets and mirrored closets. So why did I make this move? The building is walking distance to work, is located in a great neighborhood and has a pool, gym and sliding glass doors in the living room that lead out to a courtyard.

But my favorite part? There’s space for all my very important goodies.

A giant walk in closet

With room for purses, shoes and my dresser in additional to all of my clothes

There’s room for the cats to play…
And there’s even enough closet space for my new roommate…
And what did I do to celebrate this move?
Bottomless mimosa brunch with one of my favorite people, of course.
Look out North Beach, here I come!
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Thanksgiving is one of the few days a year that has a set menu, and while each family has their traditions, the basics are fairly common: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie…

What about mixing things up this year? You don’t have to go crazy or change every single memorable moment of Thanksigivings past, but you could add a new dish or two. Even one that’s – GASP – healthy?

Here are some delicious, easy recipes that you might be interested in adding to your traditional holiday table. Maybe you don’t even have to tell your guests that they’re low in the salt, fat, butter & sugar that Thanksgiving is known for. Maybe. That’s between you and your conscience.

Sides (my FAVORITE part of Thanksgiving):

Baked Butternut Squash w/ Cranberries from Eat, Live, Run


Cinnamon Sweet Potato Chickpea Salad from OhSheGlows

Savory Pumpkin Quinoa from The Wannabe Chef

High Protein Garlic Mashed Potatoes from OhSheGlows

Carmelized Brussels Sprouts from Eat, Live, Run

Cornbread Dressing with Tempeh Bacon, Cherries and Portobello Mushrooms from Peas and Thank You


Vegan Lentil Walnut Loaf from OhSheGlows

Sprouted Grain Stuffing with Field Roast Sausage from Peas and Thank You

Mushroom-and-Spinach Lasagna  from Rachel Wilkerson.

Pumpkin Chili from Rachel Wilkerson


Seitan log from Hungry Hungry Hippie


IMG_8475 (520x347)

Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake (5 ingredients) from Blisstree

Pumpkin Pudding & Chocolate Mousse Parfait from Choosing Raw

Vegan Pumpkin Pie Pudding from Choosing Raw

Pumpkin Gingerbread w/ Spiced Buttercream from OhSheGlows

Vegan Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls from Eat, Live, Run

If you’d like to brush up on your cooking basics, head over to The Wannabe Chef for instructions & tutorials, from dicing an onion to dairy-free mashed potatoes to making your own ice cream and bread. Or check out the Huffington Post’s take on a Vegan Thanksgiving here and Vital Juice’s Skinny Thanksgiving Side Dishes here.


Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

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