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Recent blog posts
- Countdown to 30: Find Something New to Love About Yourself
- Countdown to 30: Fall in Love with Water
- Countdown to 30: Wake Up & Smell the Roses
- Countdown to 30: Pick Your Outfit the Night Before
- Countdown to 30: Confessions of a Soul Cycle Virgin
- Will You Be My Valentine?
- Countdown to 30: Washing My Face at Night
- Countdown to 30: Know & Dress for the Weather
- Countdown to 30: Know Your Team & Get Involved
- Countdown to 30: Educate Your Inner Foodie
Two months to go! Yesterday marked the official two month mark until my 30th birthday and I'm as excited as ever to continue this journey with you! Today's story kind of happened to me in a serendipitous fashion, but am I glad it did, because I think it's a lesson we should all learn and pass along.
I recently read that only 4% of women in the world consider themselves beautiful. This is not acceptable, ladies. But I understand how we got here -- throughout our teens and twenties, this image is constantly put under a microscope. The awkwardness of adolescence, pressures of high school, new found freedom (& unlimited food plans) in college, and transition into real life paired with changing metabolisms. There isn't a day that goes by when we aren't critical of our bodies. We think about it when we get dressed, when we do our make-up and hair, look in the mirror, and look at other women. As I wrote earlier, I've had a challenging relationship with weight and diet for the last 29 years, so I've spent (way too much) time over analyzing this myself. But the older I get and more emphasis I put on health over vanity, some of these surface concerns go away. I've become slightly more confident in my own skin, which every 30 year old should be. Our bodies are not perfect, will never be perfect, and that's ok. All we can do is strive to be the best versions of ourselves and fully understand what we can control. One thing we can control is changing our internal conversation from what we dislike about ourselves to what we love.
I guarantee if you sat down and wrote a list of pros and cons about yourself, the con list would be longer than the pro. I also guarantee that if you had your best friend write this same list about you, there would be features on the pro list that you never even considered. In fact, this is what Dove went on to prove during last year's "Real Beauty Sketches" experiment, when they had FBI sketch artists draw portraits of the same women, first based on her own description, and second based on a description from someone else. And yes, every time the drawing based on the other person's perspective was more beautiful (& more accurate). If you haven't seen the video yet, click here to watch. It's really powerful.
Photo courtesy of Dove
Last week, I had a body image revelation. I was booking a spa appointment at Bliss and looking through the menu of services, when I stumbled across the "Fab-u-Lips" treatment and actually paused for a minute. What I thought to myself was, "I should pamper my lips, because they're really beautiful". There was a little voice in my head that forced me to focus on this, which is rare in a world where we constantly strive for beauty based on images in beauty magazines that we'll never achieve. I had an honest moment with myself that wasn't about fixing a problem area or preventing wrinkles, rather celebrating the features I have and loving them. The reason this struck me was because I thought I had already figured out what my good features were. By 29, don't I know it all? The good, the bad, the ugly? The answer is, I don't -- none of us do. We have the rest of our lives to obsess over new wrinkles and changing bodies, but today is our chance to stop and appreciate the good (at any age). I promise you there's something there you didn't notice before and I guarantee it's beautiful.
Challenge: Ignore everything I said about about body pros & cons. This is all about the pros. I want you to think about your best features - the ones you already know about & acknowledge. Typically, these are one of the big ticket items (butt, boobs, waist, legs, skin, hair). And usually, we only like one or two of them (at best). Let's focus on those -- feeling pretty good, right? Well, these alone are not your best features - not even close! Think about the traits that you don't consider problem areas, but don't celebrate either. Maybe you have flawless eyebrows, gorgeous eyes, a long neck, or pretty feet that need featuring. These are examples of traits that we often take for granted if we don't consider them a problem. I say appreciate and feature them for the world to see!
Secondly, you should tell your best friend(s) something you love about them and admire. Pay the positivity forward.
Lastly, spoil this newly found feature! You've been ignoring it, so you have some making up to do. It's time to play it up and invest in promoting this new stand-out feature! I did! I ended up getting the Fab-u-Lips treatment and ordered their new product, the Bliss Pout-o-Matic! Yesterday, I also went to Bite Beauty's Lip Lab for custom lip colors (more to come on that later -- trust me, you'll want to hear all about it). And I feel fantastic.
My Instagram post following my pout pampering! It's ok to brag (a little) - you earned it.
If you had asked me a year ago how much water I drink on a daily basis, the answer would have been pretty sad. Water? Ugh. Who drinks water? Diet Coke, on the other hand, that I could get on board with.
As mentioned earlier, last year I did two Whole30 programs back-to-back. This required me to drop all sugar (artificial & real) for 60 days. What was I supposed to drink? This meant no Diet Coke, no Fresca, no Crystal Light, nothing. What I thought would be impossible turned into one of my greatest health accomplishments of my life. Not only did I drop Diet Coke and all its fake sugary friends for 60 days, I dropped them for almost a year (and counting). If you feel "addicted" to Diet Coke or something similar, you're not alone. Grabbing a bottle of diet soda was always my go-to for lunch, a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, and dinner. I felt like it was a safe splurge, given it had no calories. I also had bad headaches a few times a week and was constantly dehydrated & bloated. Logic would have associated these two things, but logic easily goes out the window when you're stuck in a bad habit. The more thirsty I was, the more likely to get something that would dehydrate me even more.
If you've ever thought about dropping diet soda from your routine, the process is incredibly simple. Don't drink it for 60 days. You will never be able to enjoy it again after that. After my back-to-back Whole30's, the second indulgence (after chocolate, obviously) was Diet Coke. I was having dreams of doing the backstroke in an Olympic sized pool of fountain soda. I couldn't wait -- there would be no more beautiful sound than opening up that bottle. Problem was, I took that first sip and almost spit it out everywhere. My taste buds had been purified and were not interested. It tasted so fake, so bitter, and I couldn't get past that first sip. I've tried a few times since and I had the exact same reaction. There's nothing enjoyable about it anymore and I'm over it. I don't crave it, I don't treat myself to it every once in a while, and I don't feel like I'm cheating myself. I simply don't enjoy it and don't want it. It's that simple, and all it took was 60 days. I'm officially over it (forever). And guess what? My skin looks better, my headaches have essentially vanished, and I feel like a million bucks. A hundred different magazine articles may have told me this would happen, but experiencing it really changed my life.
People are shocked when they see how easily I transformed my drink routine and always ask me how I did it. Now that you now "the how", let's talk about some helpful tips to drinking water (lots of it) on a daily basis:
- Wake up with it: As you know by now, I need all the help in the morning I can get. I once read that drinking water first thing in the morning will give you a rush of energy, increase your concentration, and jump start your metabolism. Google it, it's all true. Drinking 2 cups of water on an empty stomach can increase your metabolism by 25 - 30%! Immediately after I brush my teeth, I drink a 16 oz bottle of water before getting in the shower. Make it part of your process. When I get out of the shower, I fill the bottle up and drink one more before I leave the house. Drink it as you get ready and by the time you've even left the house, you'll be half way through your requirement for the day. Don't wait until you feel dehydrated to start your consumption for the day (especially not after a few lattes). And if you drink coffee, go at least one for one with cups of coffee and water.
- Make it sparkly: When I first started forcing myself to drink water, I thought seltzer was really gross tasting. When I turned a corner on the topic, I fell in love with it. The carbonation provides "the burn" that I was craving, but without any of the nasty additives. I love sparkling water so much that we bought a Soda Stream to make it on demand. Best purchase ever! Yum!
- Drink tea: I now have a great appreciation for tea, but it didn't develop overnight. I find the whole tea scene to be intimidating, especially beyond buying tea bags at the grocery store. I went to David's Tea and was very honest about my lack of tea knowledge or experience. The staff was fantastic and walked me through the varieties of tea and all of their benefits. Buying tea can be as exciting & glamorous as it is healthy! Who knew, right? I love Rooibos teas, which originate from a South African plant and are delicious both hot or iced. I don't find them to be as bitter as some more traditional teas and you can explore with different flavor combinations.
- Log it: I find tracking my water consumption to be just as important as tracking my food and exercise. When I first started using MyFitnessPal, I ignored the water tracker. I knew I was supposed to drink water, but did I really need to go as far as entering it? Yes. For me, if I don't get in at least 8 glasses, I know I have a delightful headache on the horizon. Being conscious of how much water I'm consuming makes me accountable and keeps me honest. I drink on average about 12 glasses a day. I know, I'm such an overachiever!
- Always have it accessible: I cannot go five steps at home or work without there being a place to get water. I've eliminated any and all excuses (not to mention, I crave it!). With every Fresh Direct order, I order two packages of Poland Spring 16 oz bottles and always have them open near the front door (easy to grab when going to the gym or out for the day). I also have a full water container in the refrigerator at all times -- try this style from The Container Store. And while New York City does have world renowned tap water (it's shockingly true), I also have a Brita filter on the faucet. At work, I am lucky to have a large water dispenser near my desk. If you don't have such access, I recommend ordering water to the office and creating your own stash. This is what I do with cans of seltzer!
- Infuse it: Before I fell in love with water, one of the only times I was intrigued by it was at the spa. It looked so pretty in the large glass dispenser with cucumbers, lemons, or strawberries floating around in it and was delicious. I realize it can seem like a real chore to cut up a lemon every time you want water, so think about getting a larger container for your refrigerator, and changing out your fruit & herbs every two days (remember to keep it fresh!). I love having the infused water on demand - just like the spa! And it really creates a delightful flavor!
- Get good accessories: There's nothing more depressing than drinking water out of a plastic or foam cup (not to mention wasteful). Get an awesome water cup that you can use, reuse, and bring to meetings with you. Santa brought me this really pretty stainless steel rose gold cup for Christmas and I love having it with me. I consider it part of my outfit -- gotta be cute! It's just another fashion statement. Not to mention, you will feel inspired to always fill it up.
- Know your water style: When I first started drinking a lot of water, I needed to bribe myself to do it. The only way I would drink it was over ice with a pretty straw, because it felt like I was drinking a fountain soda. So I always made sure that the freezer had ice cubes and there was a container of those pretty, pastel striped straws in the kitchen. Now, I'll drink water in any form, but I still appreciate dressing it up a little bit. Whatever personal psychology you need to accommodate, go for it! Customize the water experience to fit your style!
One week of drinking lots of water and I promise you'll get compliments on your skin. You'll have "the glow" and if you're lucky like I was, some of those pesky ailments you've been suffering with will vanish. Falling in love with water is a huge step in craving a healthier, cleaner lifestyle. Cheers! xo
So far, the primary focus of the series has been on conquering bad habits & developing solutions to do so. On this beautiful Sunday, I'd like to switch gears and share one of my many secrets to happiness & the appreciation of life.
I remember the day I moved to New York. It was June 2006 and since graduating college a few weeks prior, I had come down with a nasty case of mono. It was really ironic -- the girl who had spent four years not only burning the candle on both ends, but all throughout the middle got clobbered in the few weeks between college and real life (meant for beach days, cocktails, and relaxation). I remember being so sick that a cheeseburger Happy Meal was too much food. Literally, it was too much food. After a few weeks, I finally started to turn a corner just in time for my big move. Mono is not really conducive to moving into a five floor walk-up on the Upper East Side, but my parents took on the brunt of the effort and before I even realized it, I was a real New Yorker. I lived with two dear friends from college and they had gotten a head start, which helped me transition. And they both had a great appreciation for city living, which I was really grateful for. I specifically remember one Monday night early on when they recommended going to sit outside and eat fajitas up First Avenue. It was one of those moments that now would feel so unextraordinary, but at the time it was so exciting. I was now an adult in the greatest city in the world and yes, I could go eat dinner outside with friends on a Monday night. That summer was when my wanderlust for New York life & living started to blossom. There was something so seductive in being able to independently explore the city, experience it, and define my own path. And while dynamics changed, roommates moved in & out, and lives moved on -- there was something very special about that summer (and first year), which really laid the foundation for it all. Three new New Yorkers seeing the city clearly for the first time and making it their own.
Havi, Alisa and I in our first year in New York.
These memories are so vivid for me because from the very beginning, I swore that I would never stop appreciating New York like I did that very first year. And if I did stop, it was probably time to move on. Living here is like getting caught in a maelstrom and if you don't ground yourself in it, you'll get carried away. For me, the beauty is everywhere and you need to constantly pay attention to the happenings around you to appreciate it. This is one of the reasons that I naturally fell into a love for photography.
I have never lived in New York without a smart phone. Yes, I am a proud member of the smart phone generation. One great thing about that, is that I have never been without a camera living here. I credit that for my perspective to stop & capture beautiful moments everyday. I have an online photo album called "Commutography" with a description that says it all ... "Capturing exquisite beauty in the everyday". I'm a better person (& better New Yorker) because since that first summer, I've never stopped forcing myself to stop, take a deep breath, and look around. Whether it's taking a walk down to the waterfront in Tribeca just to watch the movement of the water, rushing out of the office to catch a sunset, or sitting for a few moments on a bench in the middle of a busy street, it's part of my everyday life. Even in the nastiest, slushiest New York winter, I've had beautiful, snow covered trees take my breath away. And yes, I still go to see the tree in Rockefeller Center (strategically of course) and other "tourist" things because I think you should be a tourist in your own city. One of the things that makes me happiest is listening to amazing music and walking around. It's simple but it's so peaceful to view your surroundings (consciously) on your own terms. Wherever you live, don't limit your experiences. Don't wait for beautiful moments to happen during special occasions, because they're happening around you all the time.
Challenge: For the next five days, I challenge you to capture a beautiful picture during your average, daily routine. If you don't use Instagram, it really is the perfect place to keep track and post these images. And all you need is your camera phone to get started. Last year, I bought a Canon Rebel and love using it, but don't carry it with me everyday. You don't need elaborate tools to capture beauty. I still proudly refer to myself as an "amazing mobile photographer".
Join us on Instagram @giftlovecharm and tag us in your photos with the hashtag #countdownto30. Let's share with each other!
Below are some of my favorite images. I love going back and looking at them to relive moments, meals, and experiences. Life is far too fast paced and hectic to not stop and smell the roses at least once a day. I just recommend that you wake up every morning intending to do so. I promise you'll be a better person for it. xo
Most days, my morning routine goes a little something like this:
- Alarm clock goes off (Ha! Yeah right)
- Procrastinate by reading / browsing any or some of the following on my iPhone:
- Email (both work & personal)
- Critically important online news applications (New York Post, Weather Channel, People, US Weekly, Radar, TMZ, Perez Hilton)
- Social media applications - because maybe something important happened in the last 6 hrs while everyone has been asleep (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest)
- Experience first oh sh*t moment of the day when I realize I have approximately 35 minutes to get out the door
- Complete full bathroom routine (including shower)
- Throw wet hair into an elaborate towel headdress
- Run around like a lunatic, which includes any of the following:
- Ripping through a giant bag of laundry (freshly cleaned & folded, but not organized)
- Throwing together some random & uninspiring work outfit
- Searching for a pair of matching socks (or just two socks)
- Rushing to throw gym clothes into a bag
- Flipping my head over for the magic 90 second blow-dry (winters only to avoid haircicles)
- Having second oh sh*t moment of the day when I realize I'm late
- Dropping keys and tripping over myself as I rush to shut off lights, lock door, leave apartment
Pretty glamorous, isn't it? I would say that on average, I've spent nearly every weekday morning like this for the past 20+ years. It also happens to be one of the things that annoys me most about myself. I have my life together in so many ways, but I can't manage to get ready for work like a mature adult. I'm like an overgrown teenager and it's baffling (especially to me) but has been the norm since before I can remember. I have never been and never will be a morning person. I can justify that extra 30 or 45 minutes of sleep better than anyone you have ever met (in the moment, it may as well be life or death). Yet in reality, all it does is start my day feeling stressed, behind, and out of control. There is the rare morning now & again when I wake up early and take the time to do my hair & makeup, assemble a cute outfit, prepare an espresso or tea, and take a deep breath. Those are the days when I feel pretty, confident, accomplished, and mature, all before 9:00AM. No matter what happens later in the day, I know that I did everything in my control to start the day out right. I love those mornings, yet I consistently rob myself of them. It's time to turn the dial and set an inspiring, self respecting tone for the day. So in the spirit of creating and taking advantage of these moments every day, I vow to change this before I turn 30. I commit to stop sabotaging my own mornings and start enjoying them. I owe it to myself and I deserve it.
I realize this won't happen over night, so we'll take one step at a time. One of the ways that I plan on transforming my day is by picking out and preparing my outfits the night before. My parents have been telling me to do this since elementary school and I never quite got on board. I do however, see and appreciate the beauty of doing this for a number of reasons. First, it will save significant time & stress in the morning. Second, it will give me an opportunity to peruse my wardrobe and put together outfits that I feel really great about. I will take the excitement of styling myself for occasions like Sunday Brunch and date night and transfer it to the work week. Last year, I bought a wardrobe rack a la Kourtney Kardashian to display my clothes while enjoying looking at them. What a perfect tool to layout my looks for the week. Over the years, I lost the excitement of dressing up for work. On the occasion that I do, I absolutely feel a difference and people take notice. I may have been able to get away with the disheveled, couldn't care less look in my twenties, but it's not so cute now. That's not how I feel about my career, so I shouldn't let my clothing choices say that for me. Not to mention, I enjoy pretty clothes & accessories far too much to only enjoy them two days a week.
Challenge: On Sunday afternoon, I will "style" five different looks for the work week and layout every element (top, bottom, undergarments, accessories, and shoes). Like a celebrity doing a photo shoot, everything I need should be right there waiting for me. In addition to eliminating unnecessary stress, I am thrilled to be creative with my clothes and feel cute & corporate all week long!
I actually got a head start tonight and prepared my Friday outfit! As tomorrow is Valentine's Day and I will be transitioning from day to night, I picked out a super cute ensemble that I'm excited to wear! I feel calmer already and of course, it was the easiest thing in the world. This journey is all about little changes leading to big results. See below for photo evidence!
Let me start by saying that I purposely waited 48 hours to write this blog. I wanted to provide an honest opinion and had I written it immediately following my first class, I would have been high on the experience of it all. Had I written it yesterday, I would have been too distracted by the pain running throughout every inch of my body to be objective.
In the months running up to my 30th birthday, I've re-prioritized fitness and health to the top of my list. I've already told you the story of how I arrived at a wonderful gym, which is step #1. Step #2 is going to the gym consistently and making it part of my everyday routine. So far, so good. Step #3 is pushing myself to try new & different fitness genres to broaden my perspective and go outside my comfort zone. In this pursuit of fitness, I knew that going to Soul Cycle was a must. It's important to know that people in New York consider Soul Cycle a religion. And the obsession isn't isolated to the fitness elite either, I know people of all shapes & sizes that swear by Soul Cycle and have begged me to join them, claiming it would change my life. So while I was absolutely terrified, I knew it was something I needed to try.
Hopefully you know me well enough at this point to know that if I can doing something, I think literally anyone in the world can do it too. So this is for all those people out there that have been curious about Soul Cycle, but didn't know how to start. I was also very lucky to have good friends (Amber, Jonny) who gave me some insider tips to help make the experience less intimidating. I don't want you to get intimidated if you go to your first ride solo, so below are the key things I think are important to know:
- Registration: Signing up for a Soul Cycle class is a very simple process. Head over to http://www.soul-cycle.com and set up an account. It's important to know that the registration window for the week opens promptly at 12:00 noon on Mondays. Be sure to have your account set-up before this or you risk the chance of getting closed out of your desired class. You can preview the schedule and mark the classes you want to register for by hitting the Bookmark icon in the top right corner. This will make the sign-up process even easier for you. Just be sure to have credits for classes on your account, otherwise it will not let you register. Then, you select your bike and you're ready to go! Recap: Set up account. Purchase class(es). Refresh your browser at exactly 12:00PM on Monday. Reserve your spot. Pick your bike (for my first class, I picked a bike location far in the back near a fan).
- New Member Rate: Did you know your first class only costs $20? Call your club of choice and purchase a new member pass over the phone. They'll load it directly onto your account. Oh, and your shoe rental fee is also waived for your first time!
- What to Wear: In my experience, most people wore capri-length workout pants (form fitting to avoid any interference with the bike) and a tank top with moisture wicking functionality. I wanted to stack all the chips in my favor, so I ordered super serious padded pants. Did they help me? I'd like to think so. You will sweat - a LOT, so being comfortable should be your top priority. For those with long hair, be sure to have it up and wear a headband or clip so the pieces in the front don't fall in your face as you ride.
- Pre-Workout Snack: One of the many (very helpful) tips on the Soul Cycle site is to eat something 30 minutes prior to the class. You really need all the healthy energy you can muster, so be sure to follow this rule.
- Water, Water, Water: I drink a lot of water normally, so this wasn't an issue for me. If you aren't in the habit of staying hydrated throughout the day, be sure to up the ante before your class. You do not want to get dehydrated half-way through. I'm not always the best at having a water bottle readily available during classes, but here it is a must. They have Smart Water available for purchase, or bring your own with you. Of course, my water bottle fell on the floor during class. Thank God for Amber, who unlocked her shoes to rescue it. Bottom line, don't attempt the class without H2O. I experienced some foot cramping and read that this may have been due to lack of electrolytes, so I will have Gatorade beforehand next time.
- Shoes: Let me explain the shoe situation. You will wear legit cycling shoes that physically clip into the bikes. As I mentioned, these will be complimentary for your first class and a $3 rental fee beyond that. From a sizing perspective, I wear either an 8 1/2 or 9 women's shoe. I got the size 9 and felt very comfortable. As you change into your shoes, keep in mind that they are slippery and a bit awkward to walk on flat ground with, so take your time walking around the studio. And when it comes to the "snapping in" part, push down like you're getting into a pair of heels.
- Locker Room: There are lockers available to store your belongings (no need to bring a lock, as they have codes). There are also shower facilities and plenty of fabulous amenities to go from workout to date night, if you have plans afterwards!
- Give Yourself Enough Time: Be sure to give yourself enough time so you don't feel rushed for your first class. I got there 20 minutes early and had enough time to fill out my New Rider Waiver and get dressed. Upon entering, you'll have to sign-in and get your shoes.
- Tell Everyone It's Your First Ride: Sometimes, when I feel really intimidated -- I'll tell everyone. May as well put it out there, right? In the spirit of being fully transparent, I told everyone that I was a newbie in the hopes that no one would judge me. Everyone, from the staff to other riders, was insanely nice to me. Who knew a group of super fit people would be so welcoming? It's a pack mentality and they support the "one team one dream" mantra.
- Ask Questions: When it's time to enter the studio, do not be afraid to ask for help. Grace at the West Village location was my hero! She not only changed the settings on the bike to fit me, but explained how it worked, checked the safety settings, and kept me motivated (which was very important in the last minutes leading up to class...this is the "I want to run away and vomit" window). I won't get into the settings of the bike, I'll let the pros do that. Just know that there are padded bicycle seats in the front and you must get one. They'll make your butt a bit more comfortable (take all the comfort you can get). There are also towels placed on every bike.
- Did You Know They Work Yours Arms Too?: One of the things that surprised me was that there was some weight work in the middle of the class. This was by far my favorite part (because I got to rest a little). Make sure you check the weights (located near the back of the seat) to ensure you have a weight you're comfortable with.
- The Ambiance: Even though you'll be in a room of 50+ people, it'll feel like a very intimate setting. The lights are dimmed and there are candles to make for a very warm atmosphere. The best part is that you don't need to worry about the spotlight being on you the entire class. Take some comfort in that. Oh, and the rumors are true -- the music is AMAZING.
- The Experience: Every time someone tells me I should go to Soul Cycle, they always say that it's hard, but it's really great and everyone can do it. I'm going to tell you the truth. It is HARD. I may not be the fittest person in the world, but I am not un-athletic. Throughout my (not so) triumphant fitness career, I've mastered Zumba, Kick Boxing, and Bootcamp classes. Ok, maybe mastery is a bit strong, but I felt confident enough to go, do the movements accurately, keep up, and finish successfully. All that considered, I would say that Soul Cycle is one of the most challenging work outs I've ever done.
- The Bad: I will chalk nearly all of "the bad" up to the initial discomfort of cycling. I've never done this before, so I need to find my groove. I should have stretched beforehand, because I've been doing a lot of cardio over the past few weeks and my legs felt tight from the very start. For a lot of the riding, you are standing and I felt my legs and feet cramping up. Secondly, the seat does take some getting used to, and it didn't help that I accidentally lost my gel cover half way through. Oops. I'm not sure that I'll ever get 100% comfortable, but I'm going to practice on the bikes at the gym to get more used to it. And yes, the cardio was intense. Very intense. But that should not prevent you from trying it, because even I survived all 45 minutes.
- The Good: The energy in the room is truly second to none. I felt like everyone around me was in this together and truly wanted to be there. I may have felt like I was being tortured, but that was not the vibe of the class. Our instructor Roger was amazing. He was motivating, inspiring, and didn't make anyone feel uncomfortable. The instructors are there to help, not to call you out and embarrass you, so don't be worried about them for a minute (I know I was). For your first class, just try to learn the movements without changing the bike resistance. I kept it at 0 the entire time (and I'm not embarrassed about that), as it made me feel more comfortable and yet, still very challenged. You're not going to be Tour de France worthy your first time, so take it slow. Trust me, I sucked. They probably could have filmed me for a video about how NOT to be at cycling class, but I'm ok with that. By the end, I was singing Journey at the top of my lungs with the rest of them. I've been in classes before where one bad experience ruins it, and this was not the case. I left feeling tired, out-of-shape, and sore, but motivated to conquer it.
- The Aftermath: As I hinted to earlier, I felt the burn for a solid 24 hours after the class. There was the leg burn, the butt burn, and the arm burn. Some of it was that "getting back to the gym" pain, which can feel pretty motivating, and some of it was that "I can't even sit down my butt hurts" pain. I spent all Sunday relaxing, not moving very much, and watching TV (in my souvenir Soul Cycle hoodie of course). The good news is, that I woke up today feeling amazing. It will not take you out of commission for a week. Just be sure to stretch a lot in the 48 hours following your class.
- The Verdict: You know how people say, "It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be"? I will not be saying that about Soul Cycle. I built it up in my head and I was right. From a workout perspective, it is challenging, but it is not impossible. Like I said, I am trying to get in shape, so it probably won't be as bad for you. The one thing that I want to make sure gets across is that the staff, the equipment, and classmates should not intimidate you. There's a reason people are obsessed with Soul Cycle and it's because everything from the branding to the front desk to the free Orbit gum when you leave is spectacular. I'm determined to keep doing research to help me get more comfortable and go again, feeling more confident. The other question I keep getting asked is "Is it worth the price"? This isn't something I can answer for you, but I will say that there are plenty of places where I can find that $35+ a week and reinvest it here. I spend money on unhealthy things all the time (Seamless Web, Starbucks, Chipotle, bar tabs, fro-yo), and would be pretty hypocritical to say that the cost of Soul Cycle isn't worth it. If the cost is preventing you from trying it, I challenge you to identify an unhealthy splurge and reinvest those dollars in yourself. Remember - the first class is only $20! Lastly, thank you to my good friend Amber for going with me and teaching me all these important tips & tricks. Mostly, thank you for telling me I did ok when I probably embarrassed you. And thank you to Roger, Grace, and the entire staff at West Village Soul Cycle for making my first experience as good as it could be. I'll be back (and I'll be better)! xo
My after shot!
- That item they've been coveting for the past few weeks
- A simple token that will remind them every day that you love them
- A small gift of luxury you know they'll enjoy (blow-out from DryBar, or proper gentleman's shave)
- Something special (& personalized) that they'll cherish
- An item that supports a new interest or pursuit of a goal (yoga mat, fancy workout gear)
- Wendy Red Skirt from Space 46 - $72
- Leather Love Paperweight from Mark and Graham - $20
- Black Sequin Heart Pillow from Land of Nod - $39
- Cashmere Ballet Slippers from Mark and Graham - $79
- Musical Mop-Tops Pillow from Dot & Bo - $29.99
- Leather Pocket Frame from Mark and Graham - $49
- Intersection of Love Print from Uncommon Goods - $125
- Brooklyn Twill Cap from J. Crew - $49.50
- Striped Handkerchiefs from Mark and Graham - $29
- Heart Stitched Baseball from Hallmark - $9.95
- Arrow Sterling Silver Tie Clip from J. Crew - $65
- Cupid Heart Print Boxers from Gap - $12.95
- Emily + Meritt Silhouette from Pottery Barn - $49
- Pad Printed Bowls from West Elm - $8
- Tassel Jewelry Roll from BaubleBar - $25
- Red Medium Soft Cover Notebook from Poppin - $9
- Vintage Lock from Red Envelope - $49
Let's talk bad habits. The first I'd like to conquer is washing my face at night (every night). Watch the above (make-up free) video to hear my story and join me on this 30 day journey to a healthier, glowing face. ps. We'll get to moisturizing and skin protection a little later. Enjoy! xo
This was what my commute looked like yesterday morning. It may look all white and pretty but if you've ever lived in a New York winter, you'll know it's a ruse. It's slushy, wet, and a big giant mess. And you know what I had on my feet? My new $100 Nike sneakers. Before I get ahead of myself, let's start from the beginning.
After 7.5 years in New York, I finally feel like I have the dressing for winter thing down. Growing up in New England prepared me for this, but it took me a few years to feel like I had conquered it here. We walk everywhere, so it's important to be comfortable, warm, and able to move around freely. In my early twenties, I went for the fashion forward coats. The light weight pea coats or inexpensive down coats that barely passed my waist. It wasn't until Christmas 2012 when I asked for a long, down coat for an upcoming winter trip to Ireland.
- Grown up coat that's warm and functional - check
- Faux fur luxuriously warm coat for fancy occasions - check
I've also matured enough to always have gloves (two of them), and understand that wearing a hat is sensible. Burberry ear muffs are cute on a brisk day, but this the era of the polar vortex we're talking about here. I'm happy to sacrifice the minor damage to my hair style to be snug and cozy. I only wish I could go back and tell my 23-year old self that hats don't make you look like a total doofus (and if they do, who cares). You think all those cold, hatless winters froze my forehead enough to prevent botox for a while? One can only hope. Oh and scarves....never had an issue there. The more scarves, the better.
- Warm winter accessories - check
Umbrellas -- I'm convinced that no New Yorker ever masters the rain in this city. As we speak, I have 14 different $5 umbrellas near my front door (black, clear, leopard, duck handle). And I guarantee that the next time it rains, there will be 15.
- Acceptance of umbrella phobia - check
That means there is only one thing left -- winter boots. And let me tell you, I LOATHE winter boots. They are one of the only things in the world I cannot fathom buying. And it isn't the money, it's the fact that the market for winter boots is terrifying. I would rather buy a car than a pair of winter boots.
In my early to mid-twenties, I started this saga with a pair of $125 rain boots. I wore them once to work and they sat under my desk for four years. Then one day, it was raining and I literally had no other option. This is when I realized I hate rain boots. First, they were toile and I looked like Martha Washington splish splashing my way through the Upper East Side. You should know that I went through a major colonial preppy phase and was really into toile (bed skirt and all). Second, they were heavy, like mafia swimming with the fishes heavy. Third, they didn't exactly fit my less than svelte calves and rubbed the back of my legs so badly that I had "burns" for weeks. I threw them in the dumpster outside my apartment that very night and haven't looked back since.
Then there are Uggs. Everyone has owned a pair of Ugg-like boots in their lifetime. They are warm and feel like slippers, which is probably why Ugg slippers are the best thing ever. I relied on my Uggs to get me through most snow storms....that is, until two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, there was a giant snow storm that transformed Manhattan into a giant snow cone. I wish I was exaggerating when I tell you that I almost fell walking home from the subway 112 times. I don't know how I made it this far wearing standard Uggs in blizzards, as they are essentially big, furry ice skates, but this was the moment I said....Jenny, you're almost 30 years old. Get it together.
For the last two weeks, I have been in pursuit of the perfect winter boot. I've shopped, I've researched, and I've even interviewed people. Then it snowed again...and I wore my standard Uggs and almost fell another 50+ times. This is when I decided my brand new, half white gym sneakers would be safer to walk in. Then yesterday, guess what happened? More snow! I stayed with my trusty Nikes (now covered in brown mud stains) and got to work, declaring that once and for all, today I would solve this problem. There were no excuses left. I took a mid-day train ride to Bloomingdales and was on a serious mission. Naturally, half of Manhattan from Christmas forward had also been on a serious mission and there were maybe two pairs left in a size 9. I ended up buying a pair of Sorel boots (rumor had it they are this season's "sexy snow boot") and felt pretty good about myself. I felt mature & accomplished for about three minutes before I almost fell flat on my face in the subway station. Ok, so these boots were slippery, but I was determined to break them in. I walked to the gym last night, jumping in puddles, stomping around like Godzilla. Sure, they were pretty heavy, had a flimsy wool insert that came out every time I took them off, and continuously rubbed my ankle, but I can sacrifice some things. I had done it....I had finally found winter boots. Fast forward to this morning, when I woke up with an ankle so swollen and painful that trying the boots on again sent a shiver up my leg. Damnit.
Here I am -- looking like the Queen of the World in my new boots. Ignorance was such bliss.
Over the last 12 hours, with the impending doom of two more storms this week, I let this boot conquest take over my life. I was obsessed. I told everyone who would listen that I needed new boots. I didn't even care what they looked like. They just needed to be waterproof, warm, comfortable, be mid-calf height, have solid traction, and not require a full yoga / cardio routine to put on or take off. I know what you're thinking -- why don't you order a pair online? Two reasons why this isn't practical - 1. It is impossible to predict the size & fit of any boots (winter, rain, hooker style) and the only thing that would make this saga worse would be having to return box after box to the post office. 2. I need these boots...TODAY. And don't get me started on "User Reviews". I've never seen an item more polarizing (no pun intended) than winter boots. People love them, people hate them, they're too big, they're too small -- there is zero consensus. It reminds me of picking a Caribbean resort using Trip Advisor reviews. It's a giant black whole of disappointment, but no matter how hard you try, you cannot look away.
At this point, I had research every brand: LL Bean, Land's End, North Face, Sorel, Sperry, Crocs, Campers, Ugg, Hunter, and every other brand Zappos has to offer. Even though they told me that boots were sold out everywhere, I mapped out a strategic Soho shopping plan. I would find them if it killed me.
And then I found them -- Ugg Adirondack II. They are equipped with waterproof leather, sheepskin, and suede. They are legit and will keep me warm while safely getting me from place to place. Having been an Ugg customer for a long time, I know they are solid quality and am happy to invest in this upgraded, heavy duty style. I am obsessed with them and never, ever plan on buying another pair of boots again. Moral of this story -- by 30, everyone should have a functional pair of winter boots and know how to look at their weather app every day upon waking up to inform their wardrobe. At this point, being ill-prepared for the weather just looks silly. Except rain, you can ignore that -- there's a reason they sell umbrellas on every corner. xo
I love the New England Patriots. I've loved them since before I even knew what football was and through years and years of losing seasons before a certain Mr. Brady turned fate around. Even as a New Yorker, I rock that pride whenever appropriate, even through two Super Bowl losses to the Giants and a few lost wagers resulting in me wearing Jets gear to work. Whether it's good, bad, or ugly, I am loyal. The above photo, for example was taken during a Super Bowl event at work last week. Tommy would have been proud.
With the Super Bowl being hosted by New York and New Jersey this year, I have been surrounded by football fans for the past week. Even though my beloved Pats aren't playing in the big game, I still felt part of the celebration and met many enthusiastic people along the way. Most importantly, I appreciated being a part of something bigger which brings people from all different backgrounds, cities, and lifestyles together in support of a common event. When I started this Countdown to 30 journey, I told you that some things I have figured out by now and want to share, this being one of them. By 30, people who display no interest or loyalty in popular culture confuse me. This confusion isn't simply limited to lackluster sports enthusiasts, it also applies to those who appear disinterested in movies, music, television, or anything that society encourages them to get on board with. Perhaps it's a rebellious attitude, but I think these are all opportunities to celebrate the American experience, join the conversation, and evolve into a well rounded person. I strongly believe in knowing just enough about a variety of topics in the spirit of maximizing your experiences and expanding your horizons. Besides, you'll be a hit at any dinner party.
As an example, let's apply these rules to the Super Bowl:
- Be Respectful: You don't like football? So what - people around you might (and probably do). Over the years, I've learned to curb my opinions in an effort to not hurt people's feelings. In my early 20's, I thought I looked like a smart & passionate person by having strong perspectives and sharing them out loud. This works when you really love something, but if you go around preaching about how you cannot stand something and don't understand how anyone could enjoy it, you are ignorant. Maturity is appreciating the enthusiasm people have, even if you don't understand or share in it. Watching people be genuinely interested in something is a beautiful thing -- instead of bringing them down, ask about it instead.
- Pick a Team: I've stayed true to my roots as a New England native. But let's be clear -- this doesn't mean that I know every player & their career statistics, watch every game, or paint my face every Sunday. That being said, I am a loyal fan through and through. I love going to games when I can, and root for them no matter what! By 30, you should at least have a preferred team based on where you grew up, where you live, or what colors you like. Whatever you choose -- stick with it and don't change teams to match every new boyfriend or Super Bowl champion. And don't let anyone judge the type of fan you are -- at least you're engaged and in the game on your own terms.
- Participate (at least every once in a while): Whether it's just to watch the commercials, the half-time show, or eat chicken wings, find a reason to tune in. Even if you have zero interest in the game of football itself, take this huge event to learn some new facts, witness some history-making moments, and talk to your co-workers about it on Monday. You never know how this can help you connect with someone new. These are rare circumstances where much of the country comes together in a shared experience, and I think it's important to acknowledge and enjoy it. Pageantry like the Super Bowl is a part of America's culture and I don't think you'll regret participating, if only for a few minutes one night a year.
So here's to having light hearted debates tomorrow over your favorite commercials and Bruno Mars, collectively deciding to be on an office-wide diet, and feeling bad for the Broncos fans who spent money on this game. Remember, the start of baseball is just a few days away and will provide another opportunity to be part of the experience, even if only for a little bit.
About eight months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting the Browns. A little background on the Browns -- they are good friends with one of my best friends from childhood (Trish) and her husband Scott, all who reside in Louisville, Kentucky. I first came to know about them when Trish told me that both couples would be visiting New York over Memorial Day. Ecstatic to see them, I assumed the responsibility of finding the perfect Friday night dinner spot. Thinking I'd impress them with one of my regulars, I soon learned that the Browns (avid lovers of NYC) already had a list of restaurants that they wanted to visit, all researched & ranked in order of preference. And of course, I hadn't heard of half of them. I did, however use my savvy New York methods of persuasion to secure us a table at Perla (which impressed them), but I was quickly insecure of my restaurant vocabulary. As someone who likes to be "in the know", people often ask me for recommendations. This interaction with the Browns proved that you can't let your own references get stale and should be very active in knowing what's going on around you. As a long-term resident of this city, I think it's important to be a solid resource. So thank you Jenn & Scott for reminding me how important it is to be an expert in your own town.
Enter one of my best friends, Jonny. Trust me, there will be more on him later. Jonny used to be a resident of the West Village, so whenever we make dinner plans, he always asks me what's new and exciting. In the spirit of making sure I know what's new & hip, I took this as a cue to channel my inner socialite and do some research. Reading through Eater NY (for a total of just 10 minutes), I learned about three brand new restaurants for us to explore, even before the Yelpers and mass of reviewers got to them. This week's winner would be The Clam.
Having officially opened just a week ago, The Clam is run by Mike Price, Chef and Co-Owner of Market Table. Let me start by saying that we met Mike tonight, and not only was he authentically gracious and extremely proud, he knows how to curate one hell of a menu. Let's start from the beginning:
Atmosphere: Located on Hudson and Leroy, The Clam occupies a quaint corner space, perfectly dressed in exposed brick and sophisticated floral arrangements. There is zero pretension from anyone on the staff and they welcomed us with warm attitudes and genuine enthusiasm. I had subway troubles, which gave Jonny an opportunity to cozy up to the corner of the bar. The bartender was very knowledgeable & charming and started Jonny with a delicious red wine. I soon caught up.
Starters: Our waiter had such a great spirit and made sure we were informed about the menu and his favorite items. We started with Beausoleil oysters, which were deliciously paired with a chili-lime mignonette. In harmony with the oysters, we also ordered the Scallop Crudo, which was topped off with red blush pear, hazelnuts, chives, and lime. The flavors blended perfectly, rounding out with a strong note of hazelnut.
Main Course: I ordered the Blackened Swordfish and Jonny ordered the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes. We both loved our entrees so much, that we were literally licking the plates. I didn't even have a chance to try the crab cakes (which he loved), but can tell you that the swordfish was cooked to perfection. It was accompanied by lacinato kale with anchovy, giving it a hint of salt. As a side, I ordered the market carrots with spiced labne and pumpkin seeds. Never, ever have vegetables tasted so good. I finished feeling healthy, satisfied, and interested in new flavors.
Dessert: The food was so good every step of the way that dessert was no-brainer. We didn't even hesitate to take the menus, because we were excited to try something else off of them! I was greatly intrigued by the Coconut Lime Bread Pudding (I promise, I exercised a lot today), and Jonny with the Ginger Bread Ice Cream Sandwich (let's assume he exercised a lot too). The bread pudding was complete with minted pineapple and rum anglaise. The tastes were electrifying, yet subtle. None of the flavors overpowered the dessert. I felt the same about the ice cream sandwich, it was very balanced and had hints of gingerbread without being too aggressive. Both were the perfect items to complete our meal.
I want to thank the staff at The Clam for an outstanding meal and for creating such a warm atmosphere. We were very glad to get in so early, so we can come back soon and suggest it to all our friends. I wish them nothing but success. Next time you're in the area, you must stop by -- it really is a perfect date night spot. And thanks to my hot date Jonny for a wonderful and hilarious evening!