The Library Life

  - Sara,  Electronic Services Librarian

Workout DVD: Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp

Workout DVD: Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp

I can’t resist -- here’s another review of a workout DVD. This one could be the first in a new series: “videos that sort-of make me think I’m going to die, yet I love them.”


Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp (52 min) – This workout is definitely results-driven rather than entertaining. When I went to InfoSoup to get the link to this DVD, I noticed the summary says “Your ultimate goal is to complete the entire workout without taking any breaks.” Yeah. That’s me. I feel pretty safe saying that you will not be able to do this video without resorting to wimpy versions of some of the exercises, or even stopping completely as you mutter abuse at your tv screen while trying to work up the will to continue. It’s HORRIBLE. Yet, I love being able to so easily mark my progression. Nearly a year ago I first tried it and didn’t often try again. This time, my goal was to not turn off the video and lay on the floor, exhausted, before it was actually done. By the third day I was doing much better, but that just means my breaks weren’t quite as embarrassingly long. If you can get to the fifth day, you will be amazed at your progress. I am still, however, doing a lot of modifications: she jumps up out of most of her squat variations while I just stand up; also, during the park section I typically collapse onto my yoga mat once we get to these painful ‘small circle’ leg lift moves, telling myself I’ll start again as soon as the circles are over.


In this workout you are basically doing jumping jacks, sumo squats, and high-knees for the majority of the time. On the left side of the screen the instructor and her class are running the Brooklyn Bridge while on the right she is demonstrating what you should be doing while they run. You are actually getting a more difficult workout because of the much higher intensity and impact you are going through than just jogging produces.  This is split up by various strength moves each time you arrive at a support tower on the bridge: pushups, lunges, band work, etc. (you can probably use free weights if you don’t have bands, though just go without for the leg work).  When you get to the other end of the bridge, you stop at a park to do some quick upper leg and abdominal work. Then you run – or jumping-jack – back to the other end of the bridge, stopping again at each support for more torture. For me, it feels like heaven when I finally alternate out of jumping jacks or sumo squats into the high-knees; I could do those forever in comparison to the rest.


You need to be aware of your body position and alignment with this DVD – particularly your pelvis and spine. If you try to imitate her exactly, some of her movements could result in injury (like how she moves her spine during her jumping side squats. Understanding how to move and position your body in safe, strong ways is very important. I learned this two summers ago when I took a Pilates Reformer class at the YMCA; one of my best friends teaches it and I learned much in those six weeks that have been of tremendous benefit to me since).


If you have another workout video that you think is really hard, do this one for a week instead and THEN do your other one the next week – it just might feel easy for the first time! I think, though, that once the day comes that I can actually do the whole thing -- full reps and without breaks -- the extreme repetition will start to be boring rather than challenging and it may have to sit back on the shelf for a while. (preview)

Where Do I Vote?

Where Do I Vote? Check 'My Vote Wisconsin'

It's one of the most popular questions this time of year at the Library: Where do I vote?  The My Vote Wisconsin website ( by Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board allows you to search for your voting location by name or address and see your sample ballot, search provisional ballot status, and provides details specific to numerous voter circumstances. The GAB site also provides Voter Information Guides on a wide vareity of topics and even includes downloadable voter registration forms


From the main, My Vote Wisconsin homepage, choose your category (most will choose “Regular Voter”).  Next, in the left column, select to search either by your name (“Voter Search”) or your address. If you search by address, make sure you only enter the numeric portion of your address in the ‘House Number’ area  (you can include directional prefixes such as N100 or W8745, etc., as necessary). After clicking the Search button, you may get an error message (seen in red, below) giving you three different options as to what may be the issue. In this case “Street pre or post direction may be missing” applies; it means I need to indicate in the Street Name area whether the address is ‘E College’ or ‘W College;’ simply adding that and searching again will give good results.

 Error message from searching My Vote WI

The image below is an example of what you will see when you successfully find your address.  At the very bottom, where it says “Sample Ballot,” on the actual website you would be able to scroll down the page further to view the list of offices and candidates that will appear on your ballot.

Details from I Vote WI 

If you live in the City of Appleton (not everyone with an Appleton mailing address actually lives in Appleton), you can also use the My Neighborhood database to find election and a lot of other information, including Leaf Collection dates. You will search by address in a similar fashion. Click on each image, below, to enlarge and see details for searching My Neighborhood.

Searching Appleton's My Neighborhood


Search result in My Neighborhood


Details in My Neighborhood

Chai Tea Concentrate

Finished chai tea concentrate
The ingredients
Adding water to the spices
Bringing the spices, tea, and water to a simmer
Straining: now I also add 4-ply cheesecloth
Sweetener options
Warm milk and concentrate
Finished product... a little heavy on the concentrate in this photo

Perhaps this is stretching it, but I am rationalizing a Library connection with this post because, at the beginning of this year, the Teen Librarian Assistant gave me a recipe for homemade chai tea concentrate that she had come across in the paper.


I love chai but almost never go to coffee shops. This recipe is for a concentrate you can keep in your refrigerator for at least a week, warm up, and then mix with either warm milk or hot water.  The nice thing about this recipe is the ability to customize it to your personal tastes. The very infrequent times I go to a coffee shop I ask them to do one-less pump with their own chai concentrate because it is inevitably way too sweet. This concentrate can be as spicy and un-sweet as I want, which makes it – though not necessarily good for anyone else – perfect for me!


The pictures are from the very first time I made the concentrate; I did not have enough Agave nectar, so I added maple sugar and boiled cider.  I also didn’t have any Earl Grey Tea, so I mixed some black teas together: Crème Brulee, Constant Comment, and English Breakfast Tea. When I finally tasted it with warm milk, I realized that 2 tablespoons of molasses was way too much for me, though it did help give it a nice bite – something I realized when I reduced the molasses too much on my second batch. After four different variations, I have finally come up with a recipe that works best for me.


Another thing I learned that doesn’t show up in the pictures is to line my fine-strainer with 4-ply cheesecloth to ensure it is very well strained and to avoid getting ‘sludge’ in the concentrate. You can see some floaters in my mug in the last photo! (Click on a picture to enlarge it.)


When serving: for best results, shake the concentrate well; heat your proportions of the concentrate and the milk together, slowly, in a pan on your stovetop, stirring frequently. When I am in a hurry, I microwave the concentrate until it's quite hot and then just pour cold milk into it.


Take a look at the recipe attached at the end of this post; it includes the original recipe and my own recipe. I don't like sweet very much at all and prefer spicy, so you may need to add quite a bit of sweetener as you develop it to your own liking. I wish I would have remembered to time the whole process, because people have asked since I first posted this. I would guess 35 minutes, tops, from getting out all the ingredients to adding the final sweetener(s) and serving.

Ellen Barrett Workout DVDs

Skinny Sculpt
Fat Burning Fusion
Power Fusion
Grace + Gusto

For nearly a year in 2011, a coworker and I went through almost all of Ellen Barrett’s workout DVDs, reporting daily on what we thought and, as we used them repeatedly, whether and where our muscles were sore or if difficult moves were becoming easy.  Increasingly amusing was discussing whether, in the aftermath, we found it difficult to perform mundane tasks such as walking up stairs or picking up paper that we dropped on the floor. Yes, for nearly a year some of our other coworkers had to endure our conversations in the early morning before work began; they were particularly amused when we demonstrated to one another the Pilates poses that caused shaking limbs or -- more on my friend’s part (ha!) -- coordination difficulties.

Both of us agreed that we loved Ellen Barrett’s workouts. She is very enjoyable – not overly perky or cheesy -- and very likeable. Her workouts are specifically geared toward women and, being Pilates-based, aim to build long, lean muscle, and increased flexibility and core strength. Here are four of my personal favorites from Ellen Barrett.  (You can watch preview clips of each video on the Collage Video website. Look for the ‘play clip’ button after clicking on any of the ‘view clip’ links, below.)

Skinny Sculpt  –  Ignore the goofy side-ponytail on the cover – she doesn’t even wear it in the video, so I have no idea why she went that route for the DVD cover. That ‘80s abomination aside, this is a great arm workout that doesn’t bulk you up and, with repeated use, gives you great definition. (view clip)

Fat Burning Fusion –  Good for a slow day where you want to get in a lot of good stretching rather than an intense workout. My co-worker didn’t like it as much because it caused issues with her lower back to resurface. (view clip)

Power Fusion  –  Provides a nice level of cardio within the structure of an easy-to-perform workout. (view clip)

Grace + Gusto –  Very good for a day you really, really don’t want to work out. I found it to be, by far, the easiest of all her videos. ‘Grace + Gusto’ does feature more balance work than Barrett’s others. Since there are always days I don’t feel like working out, it was a keeper for me.  (view clip)

Dance-inspired Workout DVDs

Bellydance: Cardio ShimmyI am at the tail-end of my first week of the two-week vacation I saved up for this year. Today I decided to do some of the 9 workout videos that I checked out on my last day of work before vacation. The first was "Bellydance Fitness for Weight Loss: Cardio Shimmy." A couple years ago I went with my friend Anne to her bellydance class at the YMCA and was astonished at what a good workout it was. This video offered the same. The instruction was given in voice-over (for those who do or don't like that) and the people doing the workout were not at all annoying. I enjoyed it and actually got up my heart rate and a bit of sweat.

Bellydance: Hip Drop Hip HopI followed with "Bellydance Fitness for Weight Loss: Hip Drop Hip Hop" and found it not at all difficult, but still very fun. However, my disclaimer should be that I have always had extraordinarily strong legs, so I'm not always sure if something would qualify as difficult for others when it focuses on the legs. Still, it was very fun. If you have absolutely no experience in dance, it might be difficult, but I would gather, even so, that would still only be a marginal factor.


Because I still wasn't fatigued, I put in the next DVD from my stack: "Dance and Be Fit: Lower Body Burn" which turned out to be extremely easy. However, this one, even more, might prove difficult to those with no dance background. Dance and Be Fit: Lower Body BurnOh, and the warmup was TERRIBLE. Having already done 2 DVDs prior to this one, I was ok; but it seemed to be the kind of warmup that would cause pulled muscles or strains if you started cold. I never like warmups that consist of stretching; obviously, the point of a warmup is to warm up the body which you do best moving from light activity to increased levels that only then allows you to safely stretch and proceed to the workout. As I said, the first workout, after the warmup, was extremely easy; I didn't break a sweat and barely, if at all, raised my heartbeat. The second workout was more difficult, but in comparison to the first that isn't saying much. Still, it was enjoyable and I wasn't annoyed with the instructor (though I had been in the warmup). One thing I appreciated was that it went quite fast; though that could be problematic at the start, if I do a video over and over I have found that I really appreciate the fast pace once the routine is familiar.


Dance and Be Fit: Brazilian BodyFinally, since the prior DVD was so easy, I put in one more: "Dance and Be Fit: Brazilian Body" and it was SO fun. Obviously the theme of these DVDs is dance, and I have done a very large amount of dance workout videos in the past. However, I have never done one that included Maculelê, Samba reggae, or Capoeira. These workouts also went quite fast, and would be difficult not only for those with no dance background but also likely so for someone new to working out. I really loved it. I will be interested to see, over the next week as I do it again each day, whether I might get too used to it. I find that it really helps to do a wide variety of workout DVDs to combat boredom with them; getting them from the Library is perfect. Quite a few I have liked so much that I have purchased my own copy, and this final DVD is one that I am seriously considering purchasing -- I'll have to wait and see how I feel about it after doing it more over the next week.

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