Zumba let people shake it like they did as teenagers
She’s a ballet dancer, a musical theater director and singer, but Nicole Howton has never seen anything transform lives the way Zumba Fitness has in 2012.
Zumba Fitness — the hour-long dance workout created by Beto Perez — was named the fastest growing corporation in the world in 2012. There are 10 million people worldwide who take Zumba weekly, Howton said. In Lodi, she teaches 12 classes a week for all levels, averaging about 40 Lodians a class.
“The reason Zumba is such a global phenomenon is because it lets us dance like we did when we were teenagers,” Howton said. “They let go of their hips the way we did in our bedrooms when nobody was watching.”
In a Zumba Fitness class, participants move constantly to high-energy music, from Latin dance songs to hip-hop, and move to dance moves as they follow the instructor’s lead. Howton offers several classes for all levels and goals: Seniors, weight resistance, toning and solid dancing. But the goal with any class is the same: To dance and have fun.
“The hour is done before you even realize it,” she said. “You feel as though you’re in a dance club with a bunch of people and just having a huge dance party.”
Howton saw 2012 bring many changes to her class members, too. Most regular members have lost 10, 20, 40 pounds or more. The class’s highest weight loss achieved was Melinda Wilson’s 160 pound loss. It took her 10 months to lose the first 120 pounds, and she has lost 40 in the last six months.
Howton has watched Wilson morph into a new person; she struggled at the beginning, but now forces Howton to work extra hard to keep her going.
“Now she dances in the front row,” Howton said. “She is thin and beautiful, and boy, can she dance!”
Skinny jean fever
In 2012, three words defined women’s style in Lodi.
All together now: The. Skinny. Jean.
We saw those slim-to-the-ankle pants worn by Marilyn Monroe in the ’50s, Audrey Hepburn in the ’60s, on the Ramones and Sex Pistols in the 1970s — and today, on nearly every woman who has some slice of “cool” in her fashionista side.
Judy Peterson, owner of Pret, the Downtown Lodi store for women’s fashions, says the year has been about the basics. Basically, that is a great pair of skinny jeans. After that, you find the accessories to put it all together.
But this year, women started adding boots to the mix.
“It’s all about the new skinny jeans (tucked) inside the boots,” Peterson said.
Travel without worries with river cruises, escorted tours
2012 was not the year of the wayward traveler. It was the year we were a little codependent, a little in the mood for the easy way, a little less in the mood to stray from the beaten path.
In 2012, travelers wanted to see exotic places, but they didn’t want to plan adventures all on their own. They didn’t want to struggle with not knowing a language, nor did they want to haul their luggage onto train after train.
And so escorted tours and river cruises that lost their popularity many years back made a resurgence, said travel agent Bill Mault with Lodi’s L&L Travel.
Escorted tours work different ways with different companies. But typically, a group of about 40 people vacation in places like the British Isles or Northern Ireland, or they do a tour similar to the Grand Tour of Europe that covers Paris to Vienna and Budapest, among other cities. Escorted tours cover most major cities as a group and some or most meals and transportation.
It’s guided sightseeing.
“Escorted tours haven’t been as popular in recent years ... but people have realized all of a sudden, that it’s more economical to do one of these prepackaged tours,” Mault says.
Escorted tours are usually between seven and 12 days long, and average about $2,500. At about $250 a day for a couple, it’s more affordable than what many would spend on a hotel room.
River cruises — often in Europe — offer similar benefits. There is the ease of unpacking your luggage once and sleeping in the same bed every night aboard the ship. You get the perk of seeing different cities, and most food is included.
The obvious downfall, though, is the lack of exploring. But what does that matter when you have someone to speak Chinese for you or keep you safe while on safari in Africa?
Streamline biz with an iPhone
The iPhone is good for a lot of things. Socializing on Instagram. Playing Words With Friends. Getting un-lost with the GPS.
Taking restaurant orders.
It’s true — the iPhone is now starting to reinvent the way your order for a burrito with a side of guacamole is being sent from your mouth to the chef in the kitchen. No longer do waitresses scribble down your order and walk it back to the kitchen. Now, it’s all electronic, sent over WiFi, via iPhone app.
At least, that’s how it’s being done at Alebrijes Mexican Bistro in Lodi, where 2012 took owner Ruben Larrazolo into the world of smart phone apps that help him run a smoother operation.
“I’m always looking for an app to make my life easier,” Larrazolo said.
He does scheduling with an app. He does all of his ordering for the restaurant with an app. He even does payroll with an app.
And now, he’s found another app — one that his customers benefit from, too. When customers download the app, they will automatically be checked in to Alebrijes when they visit, if their phone’s Wi-Fi capabilities are turned on. They get offers for freebies and discounts, and get to use the electronic punch card.
Goodbye, big reds; Hello, rosés and blends
Quick — what was your favorite beverage of 2012?
If you live in Lodi, which you probably do, there is only one correct answer: Wine.
You love those reds and those crisp, refreshing whites.
But in 2012, you branched out. You mixed it up this year, and according to Lodi wine critic Randy Caparoso, you blended white wines, those that use some of the more fragrant grape varieties now being grown in Lodi.
You also enjoyed rosés, those dry pink wines, that local wineries started rolling out in this year.
And for those who know their wine — and for those who are just beginning to learn — it’s an exciting time.
“It’s something new. It’s not the way most people are accustomed (to buying wine),” Caparoso said of the way people enjoying wine, particularly the blends.
In the United States, people have typically bought wine according to a particular brand or by the name of the grape. But now, blended wines allow grapes from different parts of the world to be combined into one bottle.
This trend also caters to a younger generation of winemakers who prefer lighter and tarter wines.
“They don’t like the big, fat, oaky Chardonnays that their grandparents have been enjoying all along,” Caparoso said.
The wine drinkers of 2012 demanded different tasting wines, with higher acidity and less alcohol. They wanted drinks with pomegranate and lemon flavors.
In the same way the blends have become popular, Caparoso says rosés are a new hot thing.
“More and more wineries are recognizing that they have to have a rosé,” he said.
And, Caparoso says Lodi doesn’t disappoint. Winemakers have stepped it up.
“As a wine critic who tastes wine from everywhere, I have to say these dry rosés are as good as any, if not better, including the great dry rosés from France,” he said.