Blogs > Citizens' Craze

Trends can bond people of all ages, backgrounds and economic standings, and can change the direction that society is going in. Are you wondering why your kids are doing the things they do or have you noticed that your co-worker has a new, intriguing hobby? Find out if everyone is doing it. If you notice something that you think people should know about, contact me at: or you can message me on Twitter @asanders88 or @citizenscraze.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kitbars: part kitchen, part bar

First of all, and this is off topic, welcome to the new Blogger! I know, it was a shock to me too. It looks like not too much has changed except now you can share all of my posts that you find, witty, wonderful or inspiring in some way with all of your friends on Google +!

Now, onto better and more delicious topics.

I traveled to Washington D.C. for a wedding this past weekend and stumbled upon various eateries that were like nothing I have seen before and nowhere I have eaten. But one stuck out in particular.

Stone's Cove in Herndon, Virginia. It is the first Kitbar I have ever been to. It seems that they are scarce, so my pitch here is that Kitbars should be a trend.

First, let's start off with the employees there. They are all cross-trained in working as chefs, servers and bartenders. And to top it off (literally) they all wear unique, stylish hats. Oh and they are all wonderfully friendly to the customers while not being overly-pushy or hovering too much.

Now for the best part: The kitchen is in the middle of the restaurant as a bar would be. (Oh and the bar is too.) That way, everything stays very organized, you can watch them make your food and see that they are wearing sanitary gloves, etc. The whole time, they are chatting with you and you will never run out of water or wait for dessert because the furthest your server(s) will be is five feet away. 

I went back to eat there twice because I couldn't get enough of it the first time. That's how good it is.

(See above: those are lobster cones. Are you smitten yet?)

While on the topic of food, I have to add that the portions are the perfect size and the menu has such a wide selection that nobody - even those just-grilled-cheese-or-a-hot-dog-for-me-thanks people - won't be disappointed. 

If you are looking for a recommendation, I would vote for the tilapia over a bed of coconut rice accompanied by a mango mojito. The burger is stellar as well. I will emphasize that you cannot miss dessert. I don't care if you are counting calories or are rushing off to go somewhere else. It is more than worth it.

So, in an age where everyone wants everything to be more transparent and people grow impatient even while waiting for a text message to send, I think this restaurant is a perfect balance for the instant gratification, want to know the information behind the information world we live in.

Now for the pitch: the servers told me they were looking to expand and I think they should. So I encourage everyone to find a way to bring this restaurant with reasonable prices and taste-bud tingling food or another, similar Kitbar to New Haven.

Oh and remember that whole more business = more jobs and more visitors = more parking revenue, especially now that parking meters will be extended to 9 p.m. thing. 


Friday, April 20, 2012

Food: Why you may not be eating the right kind

Every day new diets are blared at you through the radio, flashed on television and in bold print in the newspaper. Don't eat too late, don't eat too much, don't eat too little, don't eat bread, don't eat sugar, don't lift weights, lift weights, sleep more, work out more and sleep less. You name it, it has been advertised. 

I, of course, listened to many of the diet advice that was flashed in front of my eyes and put stock in random pieces of advice while waving away diets I thought were pointless. I was under the impression that my current diet, which consisted of what I deemed "healthy" foods, and my exercise regime would keep me healthy and toned. But I felt like maybe I was gaining weight on my "healthy" diet for no apparent reason.

There was a BIG reason, I found out Tuesday when I met with a personal trainer at the Edge Fitness in Milford. Apparently, I wasn't eating very healthily at all.

 So, this blog is not diet advice, it is thoughts from a trainer at the Edge via me about diet and exercise. Perhaps it will quell some misconceptions and encourage better living.

I sat at a small, round table at the Edge, too conscious that the trainer about to sit down would take my weight and BMI, and prepared to talk about everything I consume in a week.

"Well," I said. "I eat fabulously during the week and then I probably ruin it with beer and cheeseburgers on the weekend," I admitted. 

When asked to define fabulously, I recited my food intake: special k for breakfast with non fat milk.

For lunch I eat celery and peanut butter, a yogurt and special k bar.

For dinner, usually chicken and broccoli or pasta ... something like that. 

Oh and did I mention I don't snack, drink soda, eat dessert (well, occasionally) and I work out 4 or 5 days per week?

I was doing it all wrong, the trainer told me. She advised me to look to history for the best diet. By history I mean the stone age. So no processed foods - eat only what cavemen could beat over the head and drag back to their caves or anything found in nature. 

Meat, veggies, fruit, nuts and berries are a OK. But not much else. Note: cavemen didn't eat fast food, as shown in the photo above.

When I told her I do cardio and some 5 lb weight lifting for an hour and a half, she giggled and said that's no good either. I need 8, 10 and 12 pound weights to get anything sculpted and I should be doing just as much, if not more eight lifting than moving on the elliptical.

She asked me to do plank (not the kind on railings or the edges of buildings). That was easy. Now move up and down on each arm while keeping my body parallel to the ground? Impossible. 

I was also doing squats so wrong that I was damaging my knees and leg lifts don't count unless your legs are stick straight. 


After about 45 minutes of correcting my posture, I felt more worked out than an average three hours at the gym by myself. 

"Abs are made in the kitchen, not by doing sit ups," the trainer told me as I stood up wobbly, legs stiff and sore.

Next, she taught me how to stand. "Don't stick out your chest and your butt. A lot of girls do that." She showed me how to line my hips up with my body and voila, my muscles were tighter already. 

I pleaded with my trainer before I left. "If I learn to stand like this and work out like this every day and eat soooo well - just off of the land - can I please have a few beers and even a half of a cheeseburger on the weekend?"

Of course the answer is yes, but not if I want to have the body of superwoman.

So there you have it, straight from a trainer.

-Lift weights and lot and move fast while doing it. 

-Special K and other 'healthy' cereals aren't necessarily healthy because, well, it's cereal and it can't be found in nature.

-Live off of the land.

-Have the willpower to stay away from cheeseburgers

Personally, I probably couldn't live this way for the rest of my life. But I am going to try a lot harder to adjust my diet and completely rid it of processed foods. I will give up cheeseburgers for a month before I have to look amazing for something, like my own wedding. But I'm afraid I can't do more than that. 

Best of luck with the diet and exercise! Bathing suit season is coming up soon but no matter what season it is, I think strong > skinny.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My adventures of Bikram Yoga

When I first imagined Bikram Yoga, I pictured a solemn yogi posing in a warm room. Apparently I am bad at vividly imagining what 90 minutes of 26 different yoga positions in 105 degree heat with 40 percent humidity feels like. 

Well, it feels like your body is screaming at you to drink water and seek air conditioning quickly. But, as I eyed the door during my first Bikram class yesterday at a local Bikram Studio the instructor called me out and told me that even if I couldn't make it (survive) the different poses, I could just lie there because the heat still impacts you. Boy does it. I lied down on my yoga mat and towel for the last 15 or so minutes of the class, drenched in sweat and desperate for water (which, I was drinking but the more water you drink, the more nauseous you get), and my heart was beating as if I was running on a treadmill. 

When the class began, I was feeling warm, but enjoying the stretches and breathing exercises, although I have to admit I grew dizzy about 15 minutes into the class. It had been awhile since I had done regular yoga so the difficult balance poses seemed even more difficult that I remembered them to be. And because of the pressing heat, they all felt like I was balancing at a dead sprint. My heart was throbbing in my chest so I opened my mouth to get some air but the instructor again corrected me and said "Alex, close your mouth and breathe through your nose. It's part of the process and it's better for you." So I did.

I didn't have to lie down until we began doing floor poses, which are significantly easier than balance poses, but just sitting up from a lying down pose made me start to black out and prepare to faint. 

I remember staring at the clock - 10 minutes left of class - and making a mental note never to take Bikram yoga again. I finished up the last few poses in class and hobbled out into the comfortably chilly lobby sore, dehydrated and dizzy.

I still felt horribly nauseous and was beginning to get a bad headache, which the instructor said was normal. I waited an hour for the nausea to subside and was instantly starving. (I read that Bikram allows someone to burn between 500 and 1250 calories depending on the intensity)

Once I showered and ate, I contemplated giving it another shot. After all, isn't every new workout tricky the first time you try it? But I still can't shake that horrible feeling of the heat pressing down on me as I struggled to breathe through my nose and looked around for a place to politely throw up. I have to admit though, my muscles felt toned and my body felt relaxed (albeit beat) the morning after.

So anyone who is daring or has had some recent yoga experience, I would encourage them to try it. A lot of the men and women in the class love it. Some have even done two classes in a row in one day (God bless them and their stamina) but if you are faint of heart (literally) and can't handle temperatures above 100 degrees, you might want to stick with a different workout.


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Monday, February 13, 2012

A fistfull of love: domestic violence and sexual assault are not funny

If you were anywhere near a social media site last night while the Grammys were on, you would have seen mass reactions to Chris Brown ranging from the more sympathetic "how can Rhianna be OK with him being there?" to "I'd do anything to be with Chris Brown - I'd let him beat me."

I paused when I saw that.

Society has obviously become more lax when it comes to what is tolerated in music, television, movies and society. In the 60s, I can only assume that women would do more than just bat an eyelash if a guy - or another girl for that matter - called her a bitch, a whore, or any other derogatory term. Now, women are called bitches and sluts in every other rap song that is produced and by their friends or family members.

It is apparent to me everyday that, casually, an increasing amount of violent an derogatory terms are slipped into the colloquial vernacular. 

So, does putting more language and references to domestic violence out there make people accept it more; therefore, make people more complacent about it and make them not fight back? Or does it just demonstrate that the issue is no longer taboo in society and people are more familiar with it? 

Think about it, friends casually say 'I'm gonna kill you,' to one another if someone loses a friend's ipod or is late to pick a friend up, etc. Obviously, they don't (usually) literally mean "I am going to murder you," but that's now part of casual conversation. 

Will the same thing happen with language surrounding rape or domestic violence soon? 

According to the National Organization for Women's statistics, there are 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. Fewer than 20 percent of battered women sought medical treatment following an injury. 

We know it is prevalent and a lot of people aren't seeking treatment, so why does everyone joke about it?

While browsing the internet for information to support this blog post, I actually found a petition site titled "Tell Twitter: Domestic violence is not a joke" First of all, it is sad that a petition has to be created for that reason.  But it is deplorable that #reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend was trending on Twitter a few months ago. The petition, which has 8,634 signatures was a response to that.

I just can't fathom how people think things like domestic violence or sexual assaults are laughing matters when so many people have to paint coverup on their bodies to cover up black and blues or confront an angry fist after work everyday. 

Recently at UConn, my alma mater, the university's television station, UCTV, aired a "sketch comedy" (In quotes because I do not find it funny)  that depicted a young woman running away from a rapist through the vast college campus. She attempts to call for help on the code blue phone kiosks that are stationed around campus and the emergency system responds to her cries for help by calling her a "cock-gobbler" and "howler monkey bitch" who is "crying rape." In the end, the man chasing her catches up to her and strangles her.

I just have one question: what were they thinking? 

I vividly remember walking home from work or class across campus and being worried that something could happen. I wasn't paranoid or anything but I walked home from work at 1 a.m. sometimes. Sexual assault on college campus is a real concern - just look at the Uniform Crime Reports that the state police have and count the number of sexual assaults. Keep in mind, those are only the ones that are reported. 

But really, why would anything like that ever be considered funny?

Back to domestic violence. aggregated 25 upsetting reactions to Chris Brown at the Grammys, which is basically comprised of girls proclaiming that he can beat them any day and they would put up with it because it is Chris Brown. Yeah, he's a celebrity who has a smooth voice and a lot of money but other than that, he's just a guy who beat up his (now former) girlfriend, Rhianna.

 And speaking of Rhianna, she starred in Eminem's "love the way you lie" video - all about domestic violence - after photos were released of her battered face, allegedly the result of Chris Brown's fist.

I am usually the first one to roll my eyes at being politically correct and taking something seriously that was clearly meant to be a joke. But no matter how deeply I try to laugh this off, I just can't. It is sad that anyone can joke about such an issue, but perhaps the silver lining is that if they can joke about it, maybe that means they haven't experienced it. 

And maybe it is good that the omnipresence of issues like rape and domestic violence in movies, music and popular culture is allowing the taboo surrounding those things to dissolve and encouraging people that it's OK to seek help, but it shouldn't be sending the message that it is just a part of life and women (or men) shouldn't speak out about it. 

I don't care who you are - whether you are poor, rich, sober, drunk, a family member, a friend, a boyfriend or a husband or someone else entirely - If I am physically, emotionally or verbally abused, I will be gone faster than you can open your mouth to issue an apology that I never wanted to hear. I hope everyone can adopt this attitude, seek help for themselves and stop laughing about issues like domestic violence and rape.
Remember, if you are in a bad spot there is help out there: Information and resources for domestic violence/ sexual abuse

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Watching the Super Bowl minus the big screen

With the burgeoning trend of people ditching cable in favor of Netflix, fewer people likely had the opportunity to watch the Super Bowl on their own big screens this year. But that didn't seem to pose a problem because for the first year, NBC streamed the big game live over the internet.

According to the New York Times, NBC reported that more than 2.1 million people (legally) streamed Super Bowl XLVI over the internet. The television network used Omniture and mDialog to collect their statistics.

The Times article reported that "the live stream represented the most-watched single-game sports event ever online."

The online stream, which I watched instead of hitting the power button on the remote control, offered a chat box, multiple camera angles and the ability to pause the game and watch multiple commercials a row.

Unless you have a 72 inch laptop, the game won't be larger than life in your living room, but will the perks of watching the game online trump seeing an almost-life size Tom Brady on screen? 

I think that as years go by (and as television fills up with more mind-numbing reality shows and even more viewers ditch cable in favor of Netlifx) more people will view the big game on the internet.

I can see a trend starting here and a good one at that. If internet viewing is more successful, perhaps NBC will add even more widgets to the online stream. Maybe a eventually there will be a running Storify of everything everyone is saying about the teams in the game - but that might be over the top. (It's the journalist in me.)

For next year's Super Bowl, if NBC is gracious enough to stream the game online again, I recommend that viewing venue. It provides more of an in-depth look at the game, more excitement and increased community interaction (not just with the dude next to you yelling "WHOOOOO!"). The only downfall is the laptop size. Tom Brady will not appear life-size on your screen.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Try not to spice up your life too much, at least with cinnamon

You thought you had to lock your medicine cabinet, but do you also have to keep an eye on your spice rack too? 

A New Haven principal is on leave after witnessing kids partaking in the cinnamon challenge, a trend that  Twitter users and YouTube video posters prove is not necessarily that new. But it seems to be growing. A school in Pennsylvania recently banned open-topped boots to prevent students hiding cinnamon eager to take this challenge, during which one attempts to eat a tablespoon of cinnamon without throwing up or aspirating from doing so.

My question is, um, whatttt?

I can (barely) understand fashion trends that involve rooster feather hair accessories and anything involving this mass-obsession everyone seems to have with Twilight and Justin Bieber. But eating cinnamon? This seems not only disgusting, but also dangerous. It's along the lines of planking. Fun one minute, but you could fall off the edge of a building (or choke in this case) the next. 

The trends that teens are gravitating toward these days  actually worry me. It seems that there is more idiocy in them than trends of the past. I mean, in the 80s kids gravitated toward metal hair/ music. Despite the amount of hairspray used to create those hairstyles (more than is likely healthy for the lungs and/ or atmosphere) at least it wasn't dangerous or along the lines of trying to down a globule of a spice without becoming ill.

Trends say a lot about our society. What does this say to you?

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Homebrew: why I like beer and you should too

 When I first tried beer, I hated it. I thought it was bitter and watery and it filled me up. I tossed back metallic-tasting cans of Bud Light in college, convinced that I would never actually enjoy beer.

It wasn't until about two years ago that I began trying new types of beers. I learned the differences between a Porter, a lager and an IPA and I found that not only do I not dislike beer, but I love it. 

 Magic Hat no. 9 was the first beer that made me actually smile when I cracked the cap off. It was light and had a sweet apricot after taste. From there I learned about a wonderful (but strong) blueberry beer called Wild Blue. That pushed me further into experimenting with new types of beer. 

I wouldn't say that I actually fell in love with the libation until I tried a chocolate stout. Shortly thereafter, I had the benefit of tasting a creme brulee stout. Imagine pureed creme brulee - with a hint of chocolate - washing over your taste buds. I over-use this phrase a lot, but this time I mean it: It is life changing.

Luckily for me, as I developed an interest in tasting new beers, beer began growing more popular and I easily found beer bars that focused on uncommon and interesting brews that suited my taste. 

Prime 16 in downtown New Haven was my first exposure. I try to order a new brew whenever I go there and they don't make it difficult - the menu changes often. Recently a friend told me about a Hamden restaurant called Mikro - a beer bar that only sells food that compliments the drinks. I haven't tried it yet but it's next on my restaurant list. 

I can't take much credit for trying new brews. My boyfriend is interested in beer and he expanded my horizons. I figured I would return the favor, so this Christmas I bought him a beer brewing kit, complete with the equipment, sanitizers and ingredients for a smooth amber ale.

This brings me to another blossoming trend: homebrewing. 

Many of my friends have tried it and are experienced brewers. After purchasing an initial kit (About $150 from a brew website) the activity isn't that expensive. If you are a beer drinker, it is actually cheaper to purchase ingredients and brew your own. The beer kit I recently purchased comes with enough to make 48 beers. Buying four 12-packs will run you at least $60 if you are buying quality beer. So basically, it's worth it and it's fun.

Brewing beer is pretty much a science experiment. You not only have to monitor the temperature but you also need a hydrometer and other equipment that could be found in Bill Nye's lab. The activity reminded me of when I was young and my father and brother would set up elaborate science experiments. Decades after I watched them assemble tubing and boil water, I watched my boyfriend do the same. It was actually a bit nostalgic. 

Anyway, after about two hours of actual brewing and watching the beer transform into a substance that smells like tomato soup and then into something that resembles a brew, there is a long wait. It takes about one week until you can bottle the beer and there is a month's wait until you can actually drink the stuff. 

If you like something enough (beer, in this case) it is really interesting to watch what actually goes into it and how it is really made.

Another plus is that it's like I have my own brewery tour whenever my boyfriend whips up a batch of beer. 

I hope that your beer horizons are expanded as much as mine were. I had always thought that it was a wretched drink that frat boys knocked back in college but I was very much mislead. The next time you meet someone who says "I don't like beer," ask them what their favorite flavor (or dessert) is. I guarantee you there is a beer to suit everyone's pallets.

Have any beer suggestions? Let me know!
Looking for a beer to fit your flavor pallet? Tell me and I'll try to offer suggestions!

*P.S. This blog post is only targeted at those 21 years and older.

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