Lately, Soul Food Potluck, and Giveaway Winner


Lately: Start-Ups

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind around here lately. Besides the normal madness, I decided to participate in Charlotte Start-Up Weekend this past weekend. I pitched an idea for a site that is similar to but more for pre-adoption – so rescue groups to track/organize their animals, facilitate fundraising, and to leverage social media to spread the word of their organization, fundraising efforts and animals. My idea wasn’t selected to move forward for the weekend, but I did receive a good response from some people at the event, as well as, from friends (online and IRL). So, I’m strongly considering making it a reality anyways. I’m stubborn like that. Now, I just have to learn a new programming language (I’m leaning towards Ruby) to make it happen since I have no money for a developer. lol Unless anyone out there would like to help me? *hint, hint*

As for the rest of the weekend, even though my idea didn’t make it far, I was super excited to join my friend Katie’s team to help work on Plate Share. From the Facebook page (which you should totally Like): “Plate share is a social food photo-sharing smart phone application that empowers each and every one of us to make charitable giving second nature by rounding your restaurant bill to the nearest dollar and donating the change to feed the hungry.” I think the idea is outstanding, and though we didn’t win the event, we are planning to continue meeting to bring Plate Share to life! Stay tuned for more details.

The event was so amazing…it’s hard to put into words. And it’s almost midnight, so I won’t try. I’ll just say that I can’t wait to see what comes out of the weekend – for me, for Katie, for our team, for everyone who participated, and for everyone who tuned in. Let’s make big things happen!


Soul Food Potluck

As for the title of this post, I had a Soul Food Potluck with some of my Zumba friends. This was definitely a theme we’ll have to repeat, because it was so delicious.


I was so hungry, I forgot to take up-close photos of each dish, but there were some goodies in the collection.


We had spiral sliced ham.


Sarah brought unique and oh-so-delicious corn soufflé.


Lindsey brought gooey, yummy mac and cheese.


Erica brought her almost-famous green beans (they’re made with bacon!) – so tasty, they really should be famous.


Here’s my full plate complete with Dana’s spicy black eyed peas, Ashley’s Whole-30-friendly-almost-crusted-chicken, and Moody’s creamy mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy. Oh, and a biscuit.


And for dessert – a simple mixed berry cobbler.

It was a delicious and fun evening! We enjoyed great eats all night, watched some hilarious comedies, and even learned how to play black jack.


Giveaway Winner

Now, onto the Savory Spice Shop Southend giveaway winner. I used a random number generator to pick a winning comment, and the winner is…

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Congrats to Krystle! Krystle – you can go ahead and pick up your spice gift set at the Savory Spice Shop (Southend location).

Remember – you can still get a free bag of sample spices (while supplies last) at the shop when you tell them The Chic Life sent you.

Savory Spice Shop Southend {Giveaway}


Great news for my local readers! I’m giving away a gift set of four of my favorite spices from/courtesy of Savory Spice Shop Southend!


It’s funny, I get emails fairly frequently from people/businesses wanting to do giveaways here on TCL, but I’m pretty picky. And Savory Spice Shop didn’t even ask me to do this giveaway…I asked them! I was originally just hoping they’d let me give away a bottle of the Homestead seasoning since I keep talking about that one. But, Amy (the owner) helped me come up with the idea of featuring some of my personal faves in a gift set. Woohoo!

I thought this would be something that the Eat in Month challenge participants may be interested in since I keep blogging about some of these spices and how they make great quick-fix meals. I’ve also had the idea in the past to do more giveaways for challenge participants. Maybe I can work out something for Eat in Month 2014?

Anywho, I’ve just fallen in love with the spices at the Savory Spice Shop since they help me keep delicious and healthy eats in my busy life. I’m a believer in the power of the spice!


So, if you live in Charlotte, and you’re interested in getting some free spice goodies, read on.


I recently swung by the spice shop to pick up some granulated onion for a recipe (coming soon).


And, while I was there, I heard that this Mt. Elbert All-Purpose Seasoning is their current hot seller. I had to get a bottle to try. Side note: I’ve actually tried it since taking these photos, and it is great!


And on that same trip, I dropped off this – a gift set of some of my favorite spices. I had picked it up earlier and taken it home to shoot some photos to share. This was my drop off trip to return it to the shop for safekeeping for the giveaway winner.


Wanna see what’s inside?


Not only do you get four of my favorite spices, you get some cinnamon sticks, bay leaves (they upgraded to the California bay leaves since that’s the type I purchased at the shop and use at home), nutmeg, a chili pepper, and a whole star anise.


And for the spices, one lucky winner will receive:

  • True Ceylon Cinnamon, Ground – “real” cinnamon (future post on this to come one day)
  • Team Sweet Mama’s Kansas City Rub (so good rubbed on chicken or steak – blogged about here)
  • Pink Himalayan Sea Salt, Fine (similar to the one I used for these homemade pink-salted caramels)
  • Homestead Seasoning (my current signature and most useful fave – great on everything – from meats to vegetables – blogged about here)



How to enter (I like options, so here are a few ways you can play):


  • Entries must be posted by Saturday, 1/26/13 11:59pm ET to count
  • Winner must be able to pick up the gift set from the Savory Spice Shop {Southend}, Charlotte, NC location (off South Boulevard)
  • Winner will be randomly selected
  • For each entry to be counted separately, please post one comment per entry method
  • Winner will be notified via email, so a valid email address is required

Everyone’s a winner: I also have a special treat for you. If you go by the Savory Spice Shop in Southend (Charlotte, NC) and tell them The Chic Life sent you, you’ll get a free sample bag (while supplies last) of spice goodness!

Thank you Savory Spice Shop Southend for this tasty giveaway! Good luck!

Eat in Month on the News {WCNC}


You may have already seen on twitter, but The Chic Life has recently been featured on local news station WCNC for Eat in Month! When I found out they wanted to feature me, I first got really excited and wanted to tell everyone. Then, I got extremely nervous that I was going to do a terrible job, so I didn’t tell anyone…not even my friends or family. The less people who saw it, the better, right? I guess that’s flawed logic since it was obviously public and people would probably see it eventually, but…that’s how it went down.

I’m definitely much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. Maybe if I practice making more YouTube videos, I’ll get better? But so far, I feel awkward on camera, plus I don’t like the way my voice sounds. Silly, right? There is a reason I keep procrastinating finishing that Zumba shoe review video.


When I found out that the interview was definitely happening, I sought professional help from my friend Dion, who actually helped make this whole thing happen. She was a total doll and gave me tips on what to wear, as well as, a pep talk. Plus, she gave me all the photos I’m using in this blog post!


On the day of the interview, I was greeted at the station by Dion who took me back and introduced me to Sonja. Sonja was so friendly and personable, I instantly felt a little more at ease just talking to her. And she even read my blog before hand! Too cool! I had so much fun talking to her.

The newsroom was so cool to see in person, and I was honored that they put my Eat in Month logo on the monitors in the background.


I was ridiculously nervous during the interview, and I felt like I kept tripping over my words. Side note: I’ve started looking at people on TV (from the news to cooking shows) in a whole new light. Not that I thought it was easy before, but some of these guys look so darn natural. How do they do it!?

I also had no clue where to look as far as the cameras go. Sonja told me I could just look at her, but I felt weird just staring at her. lol :P I should have taken a photo of the camera – it was behind a box or something, so I couldn’t quite tell where exactly to look. I felt like I’d be like that Mad TV/In Living Color sketch where the newsperson keeps looking at the wrong camera. I can’t find the video of that skit, but I did find this other one, which is one of my all time favorite In Living Color clips.

Anywho, I was in awe watching Sonja rock out her portion of the intro and the interview. You can tell she knows what’s she’s doing!


Major thanks to Dion for all her help, to Sonja for being so warm and helping me feel comfortable for the interview, to Caleb for getting that web video up so quickly, and to Robin and WCNC for featuring me at all. Thank you all!

(photos courtesy of Dion Lim at WCNC – you can follow her on twitter here or Facebook here)

Video | News | Weather | Sports

Fri Jan 04 14:02:50 PST 2013

Charlotte blogger starts ’Eat in Month’ health challenge

Click the video player to watch the full report. If using the WCNC mobile app, slide to the ’Video’ section. view full article

And here’s the final interview!

Reader question: Have you been on TV, and if yes, for what?

Dinners Lately {1/13-1/18}


It’s funny how my blog post schedule works out most weeks. One minute, I’m thinking I can do three posts in one night. The next, I’ve been going non-stop since waking up and can’t force a midnight blogging session. Mostly, I had the latter this past week, which means lots of great things are happening, plus some will lead to fresh blog content ahead. I have some projects in the works, and plenty of fun recipes coming up soon: challah breakfast bread pudding, mom’s Filipino pork adobo, hot chocolate oatmeal, and other goodness.

In the meantime, I have some photos of some Eat in Month dinners from this past week:



After spending the weekend with my family, I hurried back to prepare for a choreo session with my dance fitness company. And after that ended, I hurried back to my house to spend the last couple hours of the day clearing out my kitchen, dining room, and living room for some special guests (details coming soon). Since I knew I’d be frantically cleaning (throwing things into the guest room) most of the night, I needed something fast and easy for dinner. I turned to my mom’s pork chops with rice, plus steamed vegetables (orange cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli) and soy dipping sauce. I’ll have to share this recipe with you guys, too. We ate it all the time growing up, and I love it.



Hubby cooked dinner on Monday night – grilled Earthfare cheeseburgers, tater tots, and steamed vegetables (cabbage and broccoli).



On Tuesday, I ended up eating some lunchtime pizza the office ordered in to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday, another co-workers departure, and another co-workers return. I decided to partake in the celebrations and eat my sandwich as a snack later. Unfortunately, I ate the sandwich way-too-later, and I was still full by the time hubby wanted dinner. I ended up just sautéing some shrimp and spinach for something quick and light.



Hubby also cooked dinner on Wednesday while I was at Zumba. We had salads with balsamic vinegar with a mix of greens from the grocery store and from my family’s garden.


We also had spaghetti with whole wheat pasta.


And the highlight of the meal for me was this Heist Brewery 17-grain bread. Has anyone else in Charlotte tried this stuff yet? Heist Brewery is a new vendor at Atherton Mills. They make breads using the mash resulting from the beer brewing process. This bread is seriously good. I made a sandwich with it for a lunch, and I haven’t liked a sandwich that much in a long time. And the only thing I changed was the bread! The loaf was pretty pricey at $8, but for the flavor, it was worth the splurge as an occasional treat. We drizzled ours with a little olive oil and toasted it under the broiler. Next time, I’m hitting up the Saturday market to try their famous biscuits!



Another thing I’m loving from Atherton Mills are the hot garlic pickles from Pickleville. I can’t stop eating these things. I mean that. But, considering pickles are pretty healthy in general and these are even probiotic pickles, I feel pretty good about my snack choice. (Psst – Charlotte friends, there’s a coupon on the pickle man’s web site if you want to get your own!)

I’ve been snacking on these with lunch all week. Yum!


I was just driving home from Zumba Thursday night, thinking about how it’s been surprisingly easy to do Eat in Month this year, when I got the call from hubby – our power was out. We’d already planned to make pizza, which I was really looking forward to, so we decided to try to wait it out. We made it to 9:30pm before calling off the wait. I considered eating a snack bar or a spoon of almond butter from the pantry, but I decided that I shouldn’t let EIM keep me from eating a real meal. I felt like power being out was pretty much out of my control, so we opted to get Chinese take-out. I know, it felt a little like a cheat, but it was that or almond butter. My pantry may be stocked, but we don’t have a lot of room temperature eats…especially since we’d pretty much finished the Heist Brewery bread by this time. Besides, I’ve kept up with Eat in Month when I didn’t have a working stove or kitchen sink (remember this post?)…but no microwave, no stove, no access to the fridge or freezer was just too much this time around.



And on Friday, we finally made the pizza we’d plan to make the previous night. Better late than never, right? If you’re going to make homemade pizza and you don’t feel like making the ingredients yourself (and you live in Charlotte), I have two words for you – Pasta & Provisions. The “&” doesn’t count as a word, right? It’s like a symbol, eh? ;) I’ve tried many different at-home pizza options, and Pasta & Provisions has the tastiest winning ingredients. We like to stop by to get a ball of pizza dough, pizza sauce, and fresh-grated mozzarella (it melts SO well!). Then, I just use my pizza stone and some corn meal and we have a delicious dinner.

Reader question: Have you had any interesting eats lately?

Farewell Pewter Rose


Every time someone visited Charlotte and wanted a brunch recommendation, I always suggested they go to Pewter Rose…and that they get the bananas foster french toast. It was my recommendation for visitors, out-of-town guests, and locals. Sadly, it looks like I’m going to have to find a new brunch recommendation because Pewter Rose is closing after Sunday night. As in tonight-Sunday-night. I couldn’t believe it when I read the article about Pewter Rose closing on, which was only published on Friday. I knew what I had to do.

I immediately decided to use my Eat in Month cheat pass to enjoy one last, delicious brunch at Pewter Rose.



My friend Sarah and I headed over to Pewter Rose after Saturday morning Zumba. We were greeted by Susie, the owner, who was working as the hostess and greeter. I told her how much I’d enjoyed my visits to Pewter Rose over the years and that I’d miss them. Pewter Rose was one of the first fancy restaurants I went to after graduating college when I could finally afford more than Ramen. It was a place I visited with hubby when we were dating. We even had our first Valentine’s date at Pewter Rose.


Though I’ve been to Pewter Rose many times before, the thought of everything going away soon inspired me to try to capture photos of little details throughout the restaurant – things I never noticed before.


Many people brought flowers, which were displayed near the front door. The entry way was packed with patrons, and there was a steady stream of people coming through the door. I was happy to see so much support for the beloved restaurant.



Loved this pair of Asian-inspired lamps.


And the colorful, star lanterns were always fun to see.




I loved the atmosphere inside – open, airy, cheerful. At night, it was romantic.







We ordered mimosas to drink.


And we were especially looking forward to a visit from the famous butterscotch scone basket.


I definitely ordered more of these to go. That’s right! I’m freezing some for later.


Sarah and I shared a couple dishes – the bananas foster french toast (my personal favorite)…


…the mashed potato omelet…


…and bacon.




…and yum!

Everything was as delicious as always. The french toast was tall, fluffy, and filled with a lightly-sweet, banana cream. As always, I didn’t even need the maple syrup. It was good enough straight up. The mashed potato omelet was wonderful, too. I loved the play on potato ingredients in the dish – bacon, cheese, chives, and sour cream. Sarah and I savored each bite, knowing it was the last time we’d be able to enjoy it. It was definitely the best possible use of my cheat pass just to enjoy the experience.

I even managed to have some leftovers to share with hubby.


On the way out, I noticed this large piece of art on the wall. We had to take a closer look. It looked almost like carved wood that had also been painted. I’m still not sure what it was made of, but it was quite intricate and had many levels of texture.


The up-close photo yielded a different view that I didn’t even see with my eyes. It was pretty cool to see the difference between my viewfinder and what was right in front of my face. The camera seemed to make the art come to life.


And before leaving, Susie was nice enough to take a moment for a quick photo.

If you’re reading this on the date of publication, you can still get one more brunch or dinner until tonight. If you’re reading this after, there will be a farewell party on February 20th, 2013. Check out the Pewter Rose Facebook page for details.

To Susie and the fabulous Pewter Rose staff, thank you for the delicious eats and the many wonderful memories. Best of luck to all of you!

Overcoming 5 Common Workout Obstacles


Raise your hand if you made a New Year’s Resolution and/or goal related to getting your fitness back on track. It’s so much easier said than done, right? I know what you’re thinking. But, Diana, you don’t get it because you’re all crazy about Zumba and you’re a Zumba instructor…so, yea, you don’t understand. Trust me, it hasn’t always been this way.

I struggled hard during and post-college to get into shape. Between eating poorly (hello, fast food!) and rarely working out, I wasn’t in my healthiest state. I won’t go into the full story, but it took me about 4 years after graduating (almost 8 years after stopping training as an ice skater) to find something that worked. I tried common workouts like walking, running, and using cardio machines at the gym. They all felt too much like work, and I was very unmotivated to continue. I went on a brief yoga stint (loved it!) until I hurt my wrist. And then, in 2007, I finally found Zumba. What clicked for me was that Zumba reminded me a bit of skating. I love how I don’t really feel like I’m working out when I do Zumba. Instead of focusing on the workout, I focused on the choreography and other (more fun) distractions. After taking classes for about 3 years, I became an instructor in 2010, and I’ve been having a blast ever since.

I don’t consider myself a fitness/exercise expert, which is why I rarely blog about fitness. But, I was browsing through my latest Real Simple when I stumbled upon an article called The Workout Whisperer by Dimity McDowell. In the article McDowell gives solutions to common exercise obstacles. I found myself reading each headline and then thinking about the advice I would give. Then, I’d read what McDowell wrote. I thought it was interesting that I thought of some different ideas from what she wrote, so I thought I’d share those thoughts with you. I won’t give away her article, so be sure to check out the February 2013 Real Simple to read it – she has some great tips! I just thought I’d offer some of the tips I thought of while reading McDowell’s article. And, I’d love to hear from you guys, so please feel free to chime in with tips of your own in a comment.


Obstacle #1: I don’t have time

This is an excuse I am most guilty of using…in life, not just in fitness. At least, it was until I read a cool article (can’t remember where) that set me straight by saying that we all get the same 24 hours in the day. You have the time, you’re just using it on different things. Now, you guys know I have a crazy schedule. I pretty much always have. And there was a time when exercise wasn’t part of it. Now, it is. It wasn’t easy, but eventually, I squeezed it in. And now that I’m an instructor, it’s become an important component of my life.

If you think you don’t have time, I’d suggest doing a couple things (individually, or a combination):

  1. Make small changes. I used to use some common tricks you’ve probably already of like parking far away (when it’s safe), taking the stairs, etc. Take a short break (in the afternoon or use part of your lunch break) to go for a short (15 minute) walk. Walk the dog. Every little bit helps.
  2. Change your schedule, but start small. The biggest mistake I see people make is that they go all in and try to go from working out 0 days a week to working out 7 days a week. I guess that works for some people, and if it works for you, go for it! I recommend a more gradual approach. Try scheduling something for 1 day per week. When that’s going well, add another in. Find a schedule that works for you.

Bottom line – if something is important to you, and I think exercise should be, you need to make time for it. Start small and see where you go from there. By starting smaller, you’ll be setting yourself up for success. And when you feel successful, you feel encouraged to continue and to grow.

Obstacle #2: I’m excruciatingly bored

The answer is obvious. Do Zumba. Everyone loves it. No, I’m kidding. Many people do enjoy Zumba, but it isn’t for everyone. The key is to find something that motivates you and something you enjoy.

Here are some categories I’ve noticed:

  1. Love to do things solo? Taking up running or walking may be better for you. Consider signing up for a race (maybe a 1-miler or 5k) so you have a goal to work towards. Maybe download a yoga podcast.
  2. Do you feel motivated by a group? Try a group fitness class. The energy can be so fun and encouraging.
  3. Do you need need someone constantly pushing you and keeping you on track? Maybe hire a personal trainer?
  4. Do you love competition? Why not join an adult league of something? Try tennis, basketball, soccer, or one of the many other teams out there. There are many recreational leagues, so you don’t have to be a prior high school star. In fact, I’d always wanted to play tennis, so when I was on assignment for work, I found a local tennis club and started doing group lessons and playing recreational games after work. It was great for de-stressing and kept me social and not cooped up in my hotel room.
  5. Do you like to be distracted by learning or doing something rather than thinking about your workout? Because of my skating background, this one fits me the most. This is also why I love Zumba so much. Part of the reason I don’t feel like I’m working out is because I’m thinking of other things – how to do a particular move, how the choreo goes, etc. If this is you, try Zumba, Masala Bhangra, or another dance fitness class.
  6. Would you love something that would also help you de-stress? Try yoga. I always felt like I had a great workout after yoga, but I also felt more at peace and like I really de-stressed after a long day of work.

Bottom line – I used to incorrectly think that a workout had to be a struggle. It doesn’t. I look forward to my workout (almost) every time I go. Like 99% of the time. I believe there’s a great workout for everyone out there. You just have to find it. And you may have to try a few different things before you figure out what works for you. Who knows, maybe you’ll have fun in the process?

Obstacle #3: My workout buddy dropped out

I love the idea of workout buddies. But, it’s good to not be 100% dependent on them. Life happens – that doesn’t mean your workout doesn’t have to. Here are some ideas:

  1. Make your workout part of schedule. When you get into a routine, it’s easier to keep it up, regardless of whether or not your friend will be there.
  2. Find another workout buddy or two. If there are other people around (and it’s not just the two of you on a lone running trail), get to know some of the other people doing your workout. I’ve met many of my current friends through Zumba. Who knows, maybe you’ll make new friends, too? If nothing else, you’ll have others who can help motivate you to workout.
  3. Join a group. There are many running, cycling, etc. groups out there. If you think the group is expecting you, you’ll be more likely to go.
  4. Tell the instructor when you’re planning to come to class. I love to hear when someone says they’re excited to come to my class in a couple days. And if you tell the instructor you’re coming, you’ll be less likely to back out.
  5. Enlist your SO. Ask your significant other to help you stay on track. My husband was very encouraging when I wasn’t into the full swing of working out. He’d remind me of what a good time I have and help give me that extra push I needed.

Bottom line – you’re a big boy/girl. Workout buddies are fabulous, but try to not be 100% dependent on them. Find others who can help keep you accountable, if you really need the extra motivation.

Obstacle #4: It’s too cold/hot/rainy/snowy

I have one hashtag for you – #firstworldproblems. Okay, just giving you a hard time. But, seriously, i get it. I’ll admit, every once in awhile, it will be a rainy and gross day outside, and I think to myself…oh no…I have to teach today. But, you know what? I fight the weather and teach my class, and I have a flippin blast. I get to see my friends and regulars, meet new people, and dance my a$$ off. I remind myself of this every time I doubt whether I should go to Zumba and I go anyways, I always have a blast. I saw a funny graphic the other day that said something like, “I really regret doing that workout said no one ever.” Oh wait, I found it here. I made my own version of the graphic to share with you guys:


Bottom line – remind yourself how good you feel after your workout, and that despite the weather, you’ll feel that positive energy again if you go. I’ve done that before, and it’s worked well (even before I was an instructor). Also, see the tips in obstacle #3 to hold yourself accountable. And if you don’t feel fabulous after you workout, please see obstacle #2.

Obstacle #5: I’m not seeing results

This is the obstacle I’m least comfortable discussing, mostly because I don’t have any education or training on the human body, etc. I will say that most of the people in my classes have seen gradual progress. And it can take time to see progress in certain areas more so than others. I know I got really focused on losing weight in my stomach area, and that was an area that went last for me.

Bottom line – change take time. Be patient, and you will see results. Side note – I would especially love to hear from any personal trainers, etc. on ways people can measure success or when to expect results.


Charlotte friends – are you purging your closet but you’re too busy to take the clothes to the consignment shop? Check out my Green Jeans giveaway by clicking here – this could be the solution you’re looking for!


Oh, and here’s a preview of something coming your way next week. Stayed tuned for details! Remember, you can get free The Chic Life updates delivered to you via email or RSS feed by clicking here.


Reader question: What are some workout obstacles you’ve overcome? How did you do it? And feel free to chime in with your comments, advice, and tips on the obstacles discussed in this post.

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