Easy Soups for Fall


I recently ran a Crockpots + Squats health and fitness challenge, and it had me experimenting a little more in the kitchen! I posted a few photos which had a lot of people asking for recipes, so I decided to put this together to share. I took these recipes from my cookbook called The Italian Slowcooker by Michele Sciolone, but I added a few of my own twists to them as well to make them my own.

First up:

Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 6

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 large butternut squash, about 1.5 pounds, peeled, seeded, and cut (Mom tip: buy this pre-cut! More expensive, but WORTH saving the time!)

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks

3 fresh sage leaves or 1 tsp dried

4 cups chicken broth

Salt and fresh ground pepper

olive oil for drizzling

*I also added a can of coconut milk and lots of cinnamon!)*

In medium skillet, cook the oinion in the oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, but not browned, about 10 minutes. If the onion starts to color, add a tablespoon or two of water and lower the heat slightly. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Scrape the mixture into the slow cooker. Add the squash, potatoes, sage, and broth. I also added cinnamon here. If necessary, add water so that the vegetables are covered with liquid (I did not add water, FYI. I just added coconut milk or more broth until it was covered with liquid).

Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or until vegetables are soft when pierced with a fork. Let cool slightly, then puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I actually added cinnamon on top of mine, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Voila!






The next soup I made last week was:

Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Soup

Serves 8

2 heads cauliflower, about 1.25 pounds each, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1/4 cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves

3 cups chicken broth

4 cups water

*I replaced some of the water with canned coconut milk instead)*

1/2 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (I used Romano because that’s my jam)

In a large slow cooker, combine the cauliflower, potatoes, oil, garlic, broth, water, coconut milk, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours, or until the vegetables are very soft.

Let the soup cool slightly, then pour into a blender and puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with a sprinkle of cheese. Boom!






And there you have it!!!!

Two delicious soups for fall!!!

The entire family ate all of this right up. Mom tip: If it’s difficult to feed younger children a pureed soup like this, you can also give them the chunks of veggies before you puree! My little guy devoured them!

Enjoy, and please share below any of your favorite easy soup recipes for fall!

Reminder: TOMORROW I will be announcing the WINNER for the Country Heat Giveaway!!! For your last chance to enter, please visit popcorn and pandas on Facebook before the end of the day!

Make it a great day everyone!!

Country HEAT Giveaway + More!


Happy MONDAY!!!! I used to get a “case of the Mondays” every now and then, but not so much anymore…and especially not today. Today I am announcing the BIGGEST popcorn and pandas giveaway of the year!

Most of you know by now that I became an online health + fitness coach almost 2 years ago (Jan will be my 2 year anniversary), and trust me when I say being able to get results doing 30 minute workouts AT home while having two children has been a complete game changer. After having my 1st son, it was near impossible for me to get back into shape and to feel like my old self again. I took a different approach the 2nd time around as a coach, and it’s been life changing, for realz.

In an effort to pay it forward and show someone else that it is indeed possible to feel like yourself again and get into a routine with only 30 minutes a day, I’m giving away a COUNTRY HEAT Package on my Facebook page this week! Here’s what you’ll get:

-Country Heat DVD Workout Program

-Nutrition Guide

-Portion Control Container System (this is KEY!)

-A 7 Day Supply of Shakeology in all 7 Flavors

-A Shakeology Cup

-A Spot in My Monthly Challenge Support Group for the Month of November (the support is MAJOR!)

HUGE!!!! Not only does this program guarantee you an amazing cardio dance workout, but it’s FUN! You’re so busy movin’ and shakin’ that you don’t realize how hard you are working until you are done and in full sweat. Not a dancer? No worries. The best part about this is that you’re in your living room! LOL. So you don’t have to stress about looking silly dancing in front of others😉

“Okay, enough already. What do I have do to WIN this program, Gina?”

Alright, here you go. Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Go to my Popcorn and Pandas Facebook page and click LIKE.
  2. Comment on the Country Heat Giveaway post which will be pinned to the top.
  3. In the comment TAG 3 friends to let them know about this giveaway, and let me know WHY you want to win this program! (do you need something fun to mix things up, do you love to dance, are you stuck in a rut, do you want to work off the baby weight, etc.?)

That’s it!!! Simple as that.

Winner will be announced on my Facebook page this FRIDAY.

For more details on Country Heat, check out this link here.

In other news…our new KICKBOXING program, Core de Force will launch on Halloween! Today (and for the next 3 days) we are opening up a FREE sneak peek of the program if you want to check it out! Sign up here if you want to try it out. I have personally tried it out, and it’s awesome!! I will be the first one buying that complete program on Monday!!!

Okay, hope this little post and giveaway has officially cured your Monday blues today. Can’t wait to draw a winner on Friday for this amazing Country Heat giveaway!!

Make it a great day!



Feeling Like Fall






Top: J. Crew Factory – sold out but other colors here / Hat: J. Crew Factory / Denim: AG Jeans / Booties: Target / Lip: MAC Rebel

Friday night post whoooo! Maybe some of you are as lame as me and able to read this tonight…maybe not😉 Either way, hopefully you get a chance to check it out at some point over the weekend haha.

I took these photos last weekend when it was truly starting to feel like fall and then we had a week of 80 degree weather!!!! LOL! Go figure! I scored this J. Crew top and hat over at the Factory outlet on summer vacation, and was excited to finally bust them out.

You may have gotten a glimpse of my crazy week over on Facebook, but things are looking up and trying to focus on the positive. Last weekend we had good friends in town and took them up to Bear Mountain for an awesome fall hike. We made it to the top, and I was incredibly impressed that my 3 year old did 95% of the hike himself! I carried the baby on my back which was an extra workout, and we had a great time catching up while enjoying the great outdoors. Tomorrow we are on the road to Maryland to reunite and celebrate a dear friend who has a baby on the way.

In other news, I have the BIGGEST popcorn and pandas giveaway of the YEAR coming up which I will announce here on MONDAY!!!! So make sure you come on back to see what it’s all about!🙂

Happy Weekend!



P.S. I need a haircut. Any good ideas? Throw them my way!😉

Dare to Dream


When you look at this photo here, you see a smiling, happy, fun-loving, positive, fitness crazy group of friends.

But what you don’t see in this photo:

-One of these women suffered from eating disorder in her past
-One rarely sees her husband because he is in the military
-One never had a group of close girlfriends growing up
-One always felt like a social outcast
-One recently struggled through divorce
-One is struggling financially to get her family back on their feet
-One was drowning in the day to day of motherhood
-One was overweight and lost over 80 pounds to get healthy
-One struggles with a chronic illness
-One has a stressful full time job

People often comment or tell me that what I am doing is amazing, but they don’t have that kind of motivation, or they don’t have the dedication that I do. I think sometimes they believe I am this fitness machine and that this is just easy for me. But I am human. All of these women here are human. We have our struggles. We have our past. We have the daily grind of life that can sometimes be difficult.

But the difference here is that this group of women have made a DECISION. They have decided that THEY are in CHARGE of their own lives. That their circumstances will not define them. That they are WORTH it. That they will work toward a life they have always wanted, and won’t let anything stand in their way.

This is the type of job where you determine your own destiny. Especially in a country right now where women are still underpaid compared to men…this company has given everyone an equal opportunity to succeed. There is no cap to your potential…as long as you are willing to put in the work. If you believe in other people…in helping other people…that is the key. The ladies here are not in this business for a quick rise to the top or some get rich quick scheme. That’s just not real life. But they are here to help people, to grow and enrich themselves, to learn, to FACE their daily struggles, to conquer them, and to go after what they truly deserve.

I am hosting a “What is Coaching?” Happy Hour online THIS Thursday night at 8:30pm ET to give you an inside scoop on what it REALLY means to be a coach and how you can start to face those fears and go after those dreams in your life. Everyone has the potential to be the best person you can be. It’s all about making that decision. So if nothing else other than pure curiosity, I would love to see you there on Thursday for this info-only event! No pressure to join in this opportunity…only the information to see if just maybe this is the thing you’ve been waiting for.  

COMMENT, drop me an email, or fill out this application below, and I can’t wait to chat more on Thurs!!!


Make it a great day everyone!



A Grand Occasion


I’ve been feeling behind on my posts here lately, and it’s unintentional, but sometimes, as you know, life just gets in the way. In the next few weeks here, I’m hoping to play some catch up and share the rest of the beautiful moments, adventures, outfits, and fun times that have happened over the last few months.

You may remember my post back from early summer at the Belvedere wedding with my sparkling dress and write up of the amazing nuptials. The night was so gorgeous, I just had to go back and share some of my favorites from the event. Not only did the couple look stunning, but they seriously know how to have a good time, and the dance floor was ROCKIN’ to a Springsteen cover band all night long. Pretty sure the staff was trying to flick on the lights to give us the boot for at least a half hour before our “concert” officially ended.

Hope you enjoy these pics and hope Melissa + Patrick have been enjoying these last few months as newlyweds!!!

Happy Monday and hope you are all off to a great start to the week!



End of Summer







Romper: Target (similar here) – Also love this long-sleeved one for early fall / Sandals: Call it Spring / Sunglasses: Brickyard Buffalo / Pendant: antique heirloom / Watch: Michael Kors / Bracelets: Tory Burch, Stella & Sparkle, Guilty Jean

Ahhhh, yesterday was the first day of fall, and while I do love all things pumpkin, I am sad to see the summer come to an official end. We had a great summer complete with lots of traveling and adventures, and this romper sure got a lot of play from the lake in the Poconos, to the playgrounds of Brooklyn, to the streets of Nashville in Tennessee, to the Jersey Shore in Cape May, down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Our first full summer as a family of four was a success! Can’t believe it’s over. We will remember it fondly, but part of me is excited to break out the boots and crush some pumpkin spice lattes.😉

Happy Fall + Happy Weekend!



{40} Lately…


Lately I’ve been…

reading  I’ve read a lot since my last Lately… post! Some of my favorites include Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins (finally read it!), Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero and No Excuses! by Brian Tracy.

writing  A workout calendar and agenda for my Lipstick + Lunges Challenge that starts TOMORROW! So excited. There’s still time to join, so feel free to comment below if you want to be included.

listening  You may think this song is terrible, but I don’t care. I love it anyway. 

thinking About how excited I am for my littlest guy who just started learning how to walk!!! If you haven’t seen the video yet, you can check it out here on my Instagram page.

smelling  The amazing food from the coffee spot I am currently sitting at writing this post. That’s right…I’m at a coffee shop…ALONE! #amazing

watching  Not much these days, but still Orange is the New Black when I’m folding laundry or need a break.

wearing  Jeans and a tank top or tee. My fav go-to uniform these days. My Mama Bird tee above can be found here along with some others you might enjoy.

exercising Been beasting out lately with Hammer + Chisel, which is mostly weights. Whew! Not so used to the constant weight lifting and the longer workout times (I’m used to getting it done in 30 minutes over here!), but after 2 weeks down I am feeling pretty strong!!! I think I’m even ready to bump up the weights a bit.

feeling  Uneasy about the recent explosion that went down yesterday in Chelsea (NYC).

wanting  Time to slow down. My boys are getting too big too quick.

needing  To decide what I am going to pack for my upcoming coach’s trip to Sundance, Utah!!! My coach is setting up a professional photo shoot for each Diamond member of our team! And of course, out of the whole trip, we are in a tizzy about what to WEAR! LOL! Typical…

loving  The hilarious and imaginative stories my 3 year old has been coming up with lately. Everything from traveling to different states by train, to being eaten by bears! He cracks me up and I love hearing what he will come up with next!

wishing  That I brought headphones to this coffee shop. But honestly. I’m not complaining. Because remember? I’m at a coffee shop…ALONE.

hoping  That I can find the Califia Farms Pumpkin Spice Latte at my local Target. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE be there! I must try it.

craving  The Farmer’s Biscuit with egg, kale, and cheese at this coffee shop I’m sitting in…oh wait…craving satisfied. I’ll work that off tomorrow.😉

clicking  Over on the fall trends at my favorite go-to mama/baby/kid deal shop, Brickyard Buffalo. Obsessed with the “Sharing is Caring” tee!



What have you been up to lately?



Lipstick + Lunges



It’s FREE Challenge time, and for the first time ever, I will be collaborating with Suzie Engler for LIPSTICK & LUNGES! In this 5 Day Challenge, we will focus on how you can look and feel beautiful on the inside AND out.🙂

I will be providing a progressive lunge challenge in which we will increase the number of reps each day, and I will also be sharing multiple different versions of the lunge that you can try. In 5 days, those hamstrings, quads, and glutes will be on FIRE, but you will be feeling oh so strong + sexy.

Suzie will be sharing her favorite techniques + tips + tricks for applying not only lipstick, but eye shadows, liner, and wait for it…BROWS. Boom! I know I am personally excited for that one. Her tips will be beautiful, yet simple enough that even the busy mama will have time to apply.🙂

Together we will be sharing the cohesion of how health + beauty combined are so important…not only for aging, but for your confidence too! Our hope is that you will leave our group having gained some amazing beauty/makeup tips, some lean muscle, and that feeling of confidence to rock out whatever you dream of.

We start MONDAY SEPTEMBER 19th! Please comment below if you’d like to join or message me for more details! You can also feel free to email me at gina.notes26@gmail.com.

Can’t wait! It’s gonna be so much fun!

Happy Wednesday all!



A Special Invitation

A year and a half ago, I decided to try out this “coaching thing” because I didn’t want to start a brand new job in the advertising industry spending long hours away from my little guy. I knew I would enjoy working for myself, and being able to work on my own schedule from anywhere was extremely appealing. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I figured as a former athlete and with my passion to help others that maybe it would be something I could do.
I quickly realized that this job would require hard work, but at the same time my potential was limitless…a feeling I had never TRULY felt before.
I became pregnant with baby #2, continued my own healthy journey and helped others to start theirs…and then I really knew this was no longer a “let’s see what happens” kind of job. This was a job that I felt was important…one that I needed and wanted to make work for my family. A job that I still enjoy waking up to do each day. I still have a long way to go on my journey, but I know that train is headed in the right direction.
I never realized how many people I would be able to help.
I never realized that I could actually get paid to do something like this.
I never realized how many AMAZING people I would meet.
And I definitely never realized I would be heading to Sundance, Utah this fall on a free trip provided to the top leaders of our team from our incredible coach.
This coaching job has not only allowed me to help others change their lives…with physical transformations, increased energy, happiness boosts, increased confidence, financial transformations, and more…
But it has given me an incredible confidence I never thought possible…and I have been able to surround myself with other hard working, bad ass women on a similar journey toward self-improvement. My team is amazing. I have realized that literally ANYONE can do this. You don’t have to be a social media rock star or a sales person (Lord, please don’t be a sales person). You don’t have to have completed your journey yet or “be where you want to be with your fitness.” My team is still learning and growing on our own journeys every day.
To see this invitation in my inbox last week, I am still in shock at how much has changed in the last year and a half. Back then I was a mom of an 18 month old with one on the way, out of a job, + a semi-directionless mediocre blogger who discovered my coach on the interwebs. Now, we are good friends, and she is hosting this phenomenal retreat for our team where I will reunite with other amazing ladies I have met on this journey and we will learn how to grow ourselves, grow our businesses, learn how to better help others, and have a little fun while doing it.
Seriously, PINCH ME! Thank you Marion for this incredible opportunity! I am counting down the days!!!!
Happy Friday everyone!

3 Week Yoga Retreat

September (2)
I was an athlete growing up, but yoga is something I discovered in my 20’s after college. Being that person who was always into cardio heavy sports like soccer and basketball, yoga was quite a switch. The quiet, calm music…having to hold balance and stay still in a position for an extended period of time. It was definitely different. But the moment I tried it for the first time, I knew I loved it. There was just something about it that made me feel AMAZING after it was all over. It was a different feeling than I had experienced from exercise before. I normally felt exhausted, tired, banged up, bruised, sore, and more after a soccer or basketball game. But after yoga I felt rejuvenated. I felt a clear mind. I felt a release of stress, tension, and anxiety. I knew that yoga would not be going anywhere in my life.
While living in New York, I have had the pleasure of attending amazing yoga classes from my favorite teacher Brian Williams! If you haven’t taken a punk rock yoga class before, or a class on top of a roof in this amazing city, this guy will rock your world. Seriously. I am still dreaming of taking his week long yoga retreat vacation to some beautiful, tropical location. One of these days, I will make it happen.
But for now…since becoming a mom, it’s nearly impossible for me to make a yoga class (or any other classes for that matter). When my older son was about 18 months, I finally decided to get back into shape by taking my workouts to the living room. I quickly found out I was pregnant with baby #2 and I was going to need something more low impact than P90X. I WISHED Beachbody had a yoga program at that time, but they didn’t. The closest thing they had was PiYo, and I absolutely loooooooooved it. This combo of pilates/yoga/cardio/sculpt/strength + Chalene Johnson will always have a special place in my heart. However, it was not truly yoga.
I am THRILLED that as of yesterday, Beachbody has launched a new *** 3 WEEK YOGA RETREAT *** that you can do inside your own living room!!!! This is the program I have been waiting for!!!! Now I don’t have to feel left out because I can’t make the classes, but I can do them from home. 21 different yoga workouts for 21 days. On demand, so you can not only do them at home, but wherever you need to go. Pretty amazing.
The super yogis will love this, but it’s even better for those just beginning or those needing a low impact workout.
I’m currently doing Hammer + Chisel as you may have seen from my posts yesterday, but I seriously cannot wait to rock out this yoga program as soon as I am finished! I already know that I will love it.❤
Hope you all had an awesome Labor Day Weekend! I cannot believe they are already serving pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks. I am sad for the summer to end, but I do love the fall. School also starts this week for my oldest guy which is crazy! He will be in a 3’s program this year, and it will also be my first experience as a mom packing lunches! Is it weird that I oddly excited about that? I am also a bit excited to get started in our new routine. Yesterday, I was feeling all “Bring Back the Summer,” but today I think I’m embracing the new season.