favorite things

Why The Perfect Carry-On Is So Important

I’m not going to bury the lead on this one - I’ve found a new carry-on suitcase that I absolutely love, and before you roll your eyes and think, “Not another love letter to Away luggage…” stop right there! This is all about CHESTER. A simpler, cheaper, lighter, carry-on suitcase. If you read the whole thing, you’ll be rewarded with a discount code (hint: it’s PBISMYBF).

CHESTER Luggage Review

Is it just me, or does the incline on the jet bridge after a cross-country or international flight feel less like a ramp and more like a mountain?  I’m not simply getting from my plane to the terminal, I’m trekking to the summit of Machu Picchu.  And my labored, waddling walk (while dramatic to be certain) has become a staple of each flight I take. 

After sitting for so many hours, even the slight uphill walk feels like a hike – your legs are unsteady, weak, and seem to be the only thing that managed to fall asleep during the flight.

As you trudge up and up and up in the search of a bathroom larger than a coat closet the last thing you want is to be dragging along a two-wheeled carry-on suitcase with wheels wobblier than your legs.

In those moments your suitcase can feel like a bag of bricks you’re being forced to roll around with you. You’re questioning every item you put in your bag and wondering if you really needed that third pair of shoes for your two-day trip. “Can I just give this damn thing back to the flight attendant and send it home?” you think in your moment of travel-induced theatrics.

And that’s sad! Your suitcase is your companion that comes with you on important business meetings. It carries that report you busted your ass on and the power heels you’re going to wear during your presentation.

Your suitcase accompanies you on all of your exciting vacations – weekend trips to bucket-list cities. It’s holding all the penis decorations for your friends Bachelorette weekend in Nashville and you’ve got beads galore for Mardis Gras in New Orleans.

Your suitcase is there for your when you’re determined to pack for a week-long Euro trip in a carry-on sized suitcase. You sure as hell aren’t paying over-sized baggage fees for your Supersized, American luggage.

Your suitcase is there for friend reunions – packed with all their favorite East Coast delicacies (still figuring out the best way to pack donuts, but I’ll keep you posted).

Your suitcase is there for terrible moments too, wheeling along by your side as you travel home for funerals or surgeries. Packed with your lucky stuffed animal from childhood for comfort and pictures of memories you’ll never forget.

No matter the occasion, you need it. You need it to hold all your valuable possessions, gifts, souvenirs, ‘gram worthy outfits and that ridiculously expensive face cream.

So why not have a suitcase that you LOVE? That makes you smile when you pack it. That makes you feel stylish and put together and competent while you navigate the stressful maze of TSA lines, boarding zones and public transportation.

You might be thinking, “this girl is being really dramatic about the importance of a suitcase.” But I really think the Marie Kondo mentality naturally extends to something like a suitcase.

And that’s because recently, I’ve experienced the joy a suitcase can spark. And I’m telling you, it’s glorious. The best comparison I can make is to the feeling you get when you look down at your freshly manicured nails and feel like you can take on anything. I know you all know what I’m talking about.

The same thing happens when I walk through the airport or Penn Station with my new CHESTER light blue hard-shell carry-on suitcase. I am calm, I am cool, I am collected (I am hoping I packed deodorant because I sweat a LOT when I travel for some reason). I am the picture of put-together (I am wearing mismatched socks with holes when I walk through security).

$60 discount luggage from no-name brands at Marshall’s are a thing of the past thanks to so many startup direct-to-consumer luggage companies. Yes, you’ll spend more money – but you’re likely to care about something more if you view it as an investment. So many of these new brands standby seriously impressive 5-year, 10-year and even lifetime warranties.

I used to think, “Another broken zipper, guess I’ll just buy another cheap suitcase this weekend.” Or, “Damn – wheel is shot again. Guess I’ll just get another.” That adds up. 

A certain company (that rhymes with vacay) seems to be the unparalleled star of the millennial suitcase game – but I didn’t want to blindly jump onto the Instagram-driven, influencer-fueled, blogger-backed bandwagon.

So I started researching. I asked Google a lot of things like:

“Why is Away suitcase so popular?”
Is Away luggage really that great?
“What’s the best carry-on suitcase?”

I will admit that Away has a lot of solid reviews from people saying, “I was a skeptic, but it really is great!” And that’s awesome.

But I realized there were a lot of other options out there that sounded great too! Some of them were far out of my price range (Rimowa and Tumi) and some were the classics (TravelPro, Samsonite) that just seemed too mainstream and dull for this millennial on the hunt for her new travel best friend.  I understand that sounds absurd, but I’m hoping at least some people out there that are reading are nodding their heads in agreement.

I found CHESTER in my searches and noticed that the price point, the aesthetic, the materials, their social media presence - all made seemed like something I could get behind.

I contacted CHESTER about testing out their carry-on suitcase (called the Minima Carry-On Spinner Suitcase”) so I could write about it and they agreed to send me one in baby blue.

It arrived in the mail and I was beyond excited. He (I named him Chester, because I’m original and unique) came in a fancy little bag to keep him from getting scratched during his journey and the color of the suitcase alone was enough for me to hug him.

But as I’ve traveled with my new Chester Travels bag, I’ve come to love it for many more reasons (though I still think the color is SO PRETTY and happens to match perfectly with my packing cubes).

1.       Hard-Shell Convert

This is my first hard-shell suitcase and I was very hesitant to make the switch. I was a big fan of soft suitcases that gave me the option to shove things in last minute, sit on it, and force it to close.

But I love that CHESTERS’ hard-shell suitcase is a clam shell design which gives me two separate compartments to pack in. I’ve found this incredibly helpful to separate dirty clothes from clean clothes, shoes from clothes, etc.

One thing to note is that the ribbing of the suitcase means that the bottom of the compartments isn’t entirely flat – it’s grooved. I try to layer the bottom with shoes in the grooves and then put my packing cubes on top of them.

What I don’t love is that sometimes its hard to zip the cover on each compartment – but that’s just because I’m trying to fit too much. I’m a little scared I’ll end up stretching it and breaking the zipper, but so far, it’s handled my stubbornness.

I also like that these two flaps on either side have small zippered compartments for smaller things you don’t want floating around in your bag. They can only accommodate fairly flat items, but I’ve used it for things like chargers, my workout gliders, a jewelry bag, etc.

Photo from CHESTER website.

Photo from CHESTER website.

The best part of a hard-shell suitcase is actually what I initially feared – it doesn’t allow me to over stuff it. It makes me more organized when I’m packing. And it stops my suitcase from looking like it’s going to explode which in turn makes me feel more put together.

That being said, the CHESTER is made of 100% polycarbonate - it’s indestructible but also can expand for those last minute items you just need to get into your bag. And it’s waterproof which means no picking up your luggage off the belt to find it’s soaking wet!

I just wish that there could be a small front compartment on hard shell suitcases for throwing in a passport or boarding pass that you need quick access to when you’re juggling a bunch of things.

2.       Smooth Ride

Since I’ve started traveling a lot for work and pleasure, I’ve always had a suitcase with four wheels (and honestly, it’s 2019 – everyone should!) but I’ve NEVER had a suitcase that rolls as smoothly and effortlessly as Chester Travels.

When I brought it into the office the other day, I stopped at everyone’s desks and asked them to take it for a spin.

I danced around my office like I was performing a choreographed ballroom dance with my suitcase. Don’t judge me.

When I walk with my CHESTER want to sing “Gliding” from Ragtime and if anyone reading this gets that reference, please be my friend. Also, now seems like a good time to mention that the handle itself is comfortable to hold and easy to telescope up and down. My coworker pointed out how sturdy it feels when you’re rolling your suitcase alongside you - whereas his feels loose and wobbles back and forth.

I’ve now rolled this suitcase through NYC streets, through Penn Station (I promise you this is the most horrendous place on earth to navigate with a suitcase at rush hour), through many airports and many hotel hallways (I would like to start a petition for all hotels to stop carpeting their hallways) and it’s amazed me every time.

Also, Chester fit perfectly when I brought him to workout at F45!

CHESTER Carry On Review

3.       Light! 

This suitcase is ridiculously light. It weighs 7 measly pounds. I can use a finger to pick it up. I know that because yes, I tried. Again, don’t judge me.

Lighter is not always better, but it is when it comes to road bikes and suitcases. Lifting this bad boy up into the overhead bin has been a dream. Walking it up and down subway stairs – I’ll never need to ask for help again.

4.       Colorful

While I’m biased and love the baby blue color of my suitcase, CHESTER offers seven different colors. It’s just a fun way to feel like your suitcase is a little more personalized. If you choose black, I’m just going to assume you’re from Manhattan.

So far, the suitcase hasn’t gotten discolored or scratched despite trips on the subway, Amtrak, Long Island Railroad, and multiple flights. It seems to be very durable.

I’m curious if the material of this suitcase would allow me to put stickers on the front of it. While it’s so clean looking right now, I have a huge collection of brewery stickers that I never know where to put.

5.       TSA-Lock

CHESTER suitcases don’t have a built-in charger which was no big deal to me. I think they just sound like an ordeal considering not all airlines are on the same page in terms of whether or not they’re allowed. Plus, almost every airport on the planet now has chargers available. And many planes have USB ports in each seat. 

But I digress – what CHESTER does have is a lock. To be honest – I haven’t used it yet. When I’m traveling on an airline, my suitcase is always with me. It doesn’t seem necessary to have it locked. That being said – on an Amtrak train or a ferry boat where luggage is stored in a main luggage area, I think I’ll love having this option to lock my bag.

And the biggest plus of a lock that I can think of is HOSTELS. Yay for easily locking your bag when you leave your hostel room for the day.

Have you ever landed early in a foreign country and it’s been way too early to check into your hostel? So they lead you to this totally sketchy room full of people’s suitcases with no lock on the door or security around and tell you, “Feel free to leave your things here while you walk around until we can give you a room!” Yeah, I’ve never felt super confident walking away from my suitcase in those scenarios.  But I WILL now that there’s a lock right on my bag!

IN CONCLUSION

Next up, I need a mid-size and large checked bag and if I find something I love, I will let the internet know! In the meantime, I’ll keep my fingers crossed that CHESTER expands their line of luggage.

CHESTER offers a 30 day trial - during that time you can return it no questions asked if you decide it’s not for you. After that, it’s covered by a 10 year limited warranty for any broken parts.

A suitcase is always going to be slightly laborious to clean and press into an overhead bin or roll up that damn jet bridge. It’s never going to be big enough to fit every piece of clothing you try to shove into it.

But it can be something you feel happy to have along with you on your journey. Proud to roll smoothly beside you.

And now the promised discount code! If you’re on the market for a new carry-on and want to buy a CHESTER, use the code PBISMYBF when you check-out for 10% off! And then spend the $20 you saved on something great like a honey cinnamon latte (just had one for the first time in Idaho and I’m HOOKED).

CHESTER Luggage Review

CHESTER provided me with a carry-on suitcase free of charge in exchange for my honest review of the product. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Just so everyone who reads here knows how I typically handle these types of reviews – had I hated the suitcase, I would have let the company know that I thought it was best not to write about them on my blog. I’m not looking to give anyone negative PR (unless they deserve it) but I DO want to share things I love and am excited about and I’m really really excited about my new suitcase 😊

YOUR TURN!

Are you a fan of soft or hard suitcases?

What color is your carry-on?

Do you have any recommendations for checked luggage?

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Feeling Stuck? Focus on the Little Things

I’ve been in a funk.

I don’t know why, exactly, but lately I’ve just felt stagnant. Stuck.

It’s confusing for someone who is always filling their schedule and running around non-stop to feel stuck. I’m constantly traveling and my weekends at home in NYC are limited - so I’m far from stuck in that sense of the word.

But when I think about my life in the past 5 years - that’s when the feeling of “what do I have to show for it?” sets in.

When you’re in your late twenties, you’re finally comfortable with the fact that your social circle has shrunk significantly. You know who is going to stick around, who is going to remain a part of your life. And you’re confident that even if big chunks of time have passed, you’ll end up making time for each other. But this also means conversations over drinks where you’re recapping big gaps of your life using generalities.

These conversations are what I’ve been beating myself up over.

So, since writing is cheaper than therapy (and I can do it in the comfort of my own room) - here is what I would tell those friends and family members that I’m catching up with if I had more than a few minutes to get them up to speed!

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The Question:

“Where are you living these days?”

The Short (“I Feel Stuck”) Answer:

“I’m in the same apartment I’ve lived in for the past 4 years. I’m kind of over living with roommates for the past decade, but, I definitely can’t afford to live on my own yet. Manhattan, am I right?”

The Long Answer:

I live in the same apartment I’ve lived in for the past 4 years and I’ve slowly but surely been making it feel more like home.

I bought this blue velvet couch last year that’s the most comfortable thing in the world that I absolutely love. I’ve taken a lot of A+ naps on it. And I splurged on a wool blanket in Estonia that perfectly matches my color scheme and makes me happy every time I see it.

Being so close to Central Park is something I never want to give up. I swim, bike and run there every day in the spring and summer.

Nothing beats having a washer/dryer in my unit after a long work trip. And the rent I pay means I can afford to travel and do things I like without having to budget too intensely.

Oh and my best friend moved 4 blocks away from me and we can see each other whenever we want!”

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The Question:

“How is work?”

The Short Answer:

Still here. Still working on the same event schedule. Still a coordinator.

The Long Answer:

Even though I haven’t been promoted yet, I’ve learned a ton and have been given a lot more responsibility. I was the lead on a nationally televised event and I’ve gotten to travel to Sweden and Finland for events.

My coworkers are some of my best friends and there’s something to be said for walking around the office and no longer feeling like you’re the freshman in high school.

I never wake up dreading going into the office. (Seriously, isn’t that amazing?)

Next year we’re moving office spaces which is sure to make things feel a little different - for better or for worse.

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The Question:

“How is your love life?”

The Short Answer:

“Nonexistent (that’s the really short answer). I don’t have a ton of time for dating since I travel for work so frequently, so I’ve pretty much been single for the past 3 years. Do you have any eligible bachelor friends?”

The Long Answer:

OK, the long answer to this is pretty much the same as the short answer except that I can complain for even longer about dating apps and dating in NYC.

I am ready to be in a relationship again, I think. There are days and nights that I’m lonely and mostly I just miss the feeling of caring about someone else and doing things for someone else. The flip side of that is getting to be selfish which obviously has its perks too - my schedule and my time are mine and mine alone. My money is mine. My french fries are mine. The blanket and pillows are all mine. I knew I’d find the silver lining in all of this…

I also appreciate that my parents aren’t freaking out over the fact that I’m 28 and talk about adopting a cat more than I talk about going on dates (actually, they frequently freak out that I might adopt a cat, but they’re OK with the super-singleness). I know a lot of people whose parents pressure them to either find a boyfriend, get engaged, have kids, etc. etc. and my parents are constantly reminding me that there is no timeline and that I am young (but hi thirty - I can see you, please take a step back).

At the end of the day it’s on me that I’m not focusing my time/energy on dating. I can’t really just blame my job (but that won’t stop me from blaming my job…)

I can’t help but feel like I’m someone who needs to meet that special someone in real life. Dating apps just don’t do it for me.

Do you have any eligible bachelor friends?”

(That’s obviously the only natural way to end that conversation with a friend).

Dating doughnuts, nothing new here.

Dating doughnuts, nothing new here.

Question:

So are you still running like 30 miles a day? Have any marathons coming up?

(People love to exaggerate when they ask runners this question).

Short Answer:

After a ton of shin issues and more than one stress fracture, I don’t know if another marathon is in my future and the longest I’ve run in the last 3 years is 13 miles (and that was only once as part of a triathlon…) So I wish the answer was yes, I still run a ton, but sadly I don’t run as much as I would like to.

Long Answer:

I got over an unhealthy relationship with running and stopped defining myself by how many miles I ran. I still love running, and I still wish I could train for another marathon. It makes me sad a lot of the time that my body doesn’t seem to have the same passion for running long distances.

But I’m proud as hell that I can now say I’m a triathlete.

I may not be head over heels in love with biking (it’s hard) or swimming (more like next to impossible) but the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a race makes it worth it. Triathlons reinforce one of my favorite mantras:

You can do hard things.

I had never swam a real stroke in my entire life and I finished a half Ironman distance triathlon last fall. Sometimes I even find myself enjoying a swim at an outdoor pool.

I worked the first and only retail job of my life at age 25 to save up the money to buy myself a road bike that I then taught myself to ride and…OK, I still need to teach myself to properly maintain it…

I’ve learned to love so many forms of exercise other than running and most importantly I’m much more likely listen to my body when it needs a break or a change than I ever was before.

Did I mention my push-up form is better and I can do 3 unassisted pull-ups not to brag but it makes me really happy!

*At this point I launch into my obsession with F45 but you can read all about that here.

Like I said, triathlons are hard.

Like I said, triathlons are hard.

Question:

Any new hobbies? How’s the blog?

The Short Answer:

Not really - I still like going to see shows, still like working out. I’ve been really bad about writing and updating my blog.

The Long Answer:

I’ve stopped and started so many new “hobbies” and “passions” and there are so many things that interest me that it’s sometimes overwhelming.

I tend to get really excited about something, but within a few months I’ve moved on or never started in the first place. It’s something I don’t love about myself.

But the things that I’m really passionate about always seem to stick around.

Reading - I’ve been part of a book club for 3 years!

Travel - I was bit by the travel bug HARD. Between April 2017 and April 2019 I visited 14 different countries. You read that right. 14 countries in 2 years. I had a lot of catching up to do.

Writing - Though my blog isn’t always a focus, it’s always here, and I’ve loved having it.

Fitness - Obviously I always make time for endorphins.

Theater / Live Music - Found my soul sister in music in Annelise and have so many wonderful friends who love theater as much as I do!

There are still a ton of things I would like to try to do more of - more hiking, more trail running, more photography, more plant-parenting (I just bought two plants and I should name them Mari and Kondo because they’re sparking all kinds of joy).

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Question:

How did we get so old?

The Short Answer:

I have no clue, but most of the time I still feel like a teenager trying to figure everything out.

The Long Answer:

A lot of the time, I don’t feel like I have this whole adult thing down - I am constantly comparing myself to friends and coworkers and relatives who all seem more mature and put together and successful than me.

A few examples:

  • I’ve been walking around with a suitcase whose front storage pocket doesn’t zip closed. Every time I go to the airport, at least three people stop me to tell me, “Ma’am, your suitcase is open!”

  • When my washing machine buzzer goes off to alert me that the wash cycle is done, it sometimes takes me up to 2 hours to put the clothes in the dryer.

  • Until recently, I was using a cheese grater to store my earrings.

  • The liner of my shower curtain is almost always a little bit moldy.

  • I don’t have a good quality vacuum.

  • I accidentally explode things in the microwave all the time.

  • Cereal still seems ridiculously overpriced.

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But on the other hand, I must be a real adult because:

  • I recycle even though it requires a lot of effort to sort cans, bottles, etc.

  • I finally started using moisturizer and eye cream every day.

  • I actually update my razors on a frequent basis now.

  • I've taken wine tours and know what tannins are.

  • I check the weather (most mornings) before leaving my apartment.

  • At night, I pack my lunch for the next day and on Sunday’s I grocery shop and meal prep.

  • I sometimes think that I’d like to learn how to knit.

  • So. many. people. getting married and having babies.

Adulthood isn’t so bad when you realize there are plates that let you walk around with your pizza and wine in one hand.

Adulthood isn’t so bad when you realize there are plates that let you walk around with your pizza and wine in one hand.

This was incredibly therapeutic and I hope it helped at least one person who may be feeling similar things in regards to their progress through life.

Life is in the details, so I’m glad I took some time to remind myself of the little things that don’t necessarily come up in passing conversation.

Please share your own short answer/long answer in the comments if you’re so inclined :)

























Waving Goodbye to 2018! A Recap

Another year is about to be in the rear view and as I get older, the years blur together more and more. Did I go to Barcelona in 2018 or was it really already 2 years ago in 2017? When did I go to that George Ezra concert again? Was 2018 really a 10K-less race year?

I decided to look back and remember some of 2018’s highlights - it’s always crazy to see how much I managed to jam into 12 months.

(PS - you can scroll through the pictures!)

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TRAVEL

International

Never in a million years could I have dreamed I would visit 10 countries in 2018. I am incredibly lucky, grateful and appreciative of these experiences and I hope that 2019 can bring even half as much international travel.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Berlin, Germany
Krakow, Poland
Prague, Czech Republic
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Vienna, Austria
Budapest, Hungary
Stokcholm, Sweden
Helsinki, Finland
Riga, Latvia
Tallinn, Estonia

Domestic

It’s insane to think I was in fewer states than I was countries this year!

Boston, Massachusetts
Tampa Bay, Florida
Annapolis, Maryland
Clinton, New York
South Bend, Indiana
Buffalo, New York
Inlet, New York
Montauk, New York
Las Vegas, Nevada
Dallas, Texas

CONCERTS

Every time I got to a concert, I remember how much I love live music and vow that I will start seeing more live music. Finally, this year I feel like I got my fill of incredible music at venues large and small in NYC. The goal for 2019 is at least 12 concerts!

Wakey!Wakey! (Michael Grubbs) Obsessed with the intimacy of Rockwood Stage 3
Joshua Radin City Winery is a fun venue
George Ezra He is the best at talking in between each song and explaining its back story which made me love his music even more
Macklemore On my birthday. In Sweden. Outside. At an amusement park.
Ziggy Alberts I think this was my favorite.
Noah Kahan / Dean Lewis
Passenger
Sofar Sounds Concert A cool concept - you sign up for tickets not knowing where the concert will be held or who is performing - and if they suck, at least it’s BYOB!
Josh Groban / Idina Menzel with my GRANDPARENTS which was amazing
Monobody My cousins band! I hadn’t seen him in years and it was so nice to get see him.
Mumford and Sons / Maggie Rogers After waiting approximately 6 years to see Mumford live IT HAPPENED. And we danced like we had been waiting 6 years.

Please listen to Ziggy Alberts! His music is my Christmas present to you.

THEATER

Another major NYC perk - live theater!

Escape to Margaritaville with my absolutely crazy family
Mean Girls with my favorite girls from work
Sweeney Todd
Drunk Shakespeare
Be More Chill
Dear Evan Hansen with a Canadian
Torch Song
My Name is Gideon with my 6 most trusting friends who followed me blindly
Carousel

I was disappointed by Dear Evan Hansen, but absolutely blown away by Torch Song. Be More Chill is going to be a hit when it opens on Broadway in February… and sharing My Name is Gideon with my friends after seeing him in 2016 meant I could finally discuss all the quirkiness with other people!

I’ve already got plans to see Come From Away and To Kill a Mockingbird in 2019.

WORKOUTS

I tried so many new workout classes in 2018! And fell in love with one, in particular!

Orangetheory Fitness I was meh on this when I took two classes in Tampa, which surprised me. And of any class I’ve ever taken - they have 100% harassed me the most to join. I still get calls and texts despite explaining that I do not live in Florida!

Yoga Vida It’s not often that I love a yoga studio, but Yoga Vida was an exception. Check out their new student discount - $25 for two free weeks and 1 mat/towel rental! After that, I started going to their donation based community classes.

Fithouse A unique concept - a monthly fee for unlimited classes at Fithouse studios (NoHo & Tribeca, currently) including HIIT, yoga, barre, etc. It’s like a mix between a gym membership and Classpass. I gave it a try when they offered opening deals - but the location just wasn’t convenient for me.

CorePower Yoga I did a two week unlimited trial with Core Power and by the end of the week I was really feeling the yogi life! For me, Core Power is a great way for athletes and the un-zen to get into yoga - it stills feels like a workout and I’ve encountered really great instructors. I even took a few Yoga Sculpt classes that I didn’t hate! They have locations EVERYWHERE.

Everybody Fights I haven’t met a boxing classes that hasn’t left me sore for days and totally exhausted! This one, backed by George Foreman, started in Boston and now has outposts in NYC, Lexington, Chicago and soon Philadelphia.

The Cliffs at LIC Rock climbing is so much fun! But I still feel like a total poser.

Y7 Another yoga studio that I can totally get behind! I love the set up of the class - three flows, three times through - once slow, once faster and once on your own to loud hip-hop music! Hot, dark, no mirrors.

Pure Barre It hurts. Everywhere. Not my favorite kind of class, but I see it’s attraction if you’re looking for low-impact! I was just glad I got my mom to come with me!

Spiderbands I’m so sad that this has already left. I took three classes here and thought it was really unique and could also see if being super effective! Not to mention it was fun! It was a shame our first instructor was slightly robotic, but otherwise I definitely would have taken more classes here eventually.

King’s Thai Boxing Bertha got me and Abby to check out her boxing gym and WOW what a workout. Not only was this my first experience holding a pad for another boxer, but we ended class with approximately 100 push-ups and burpees and I almost drowned in my own sweat.

F45 Training Last but not least - F45 Training. I need to write an entire post about F45 one of these days, but essentially I am completely, totally, obsessed and chances are if you’ve talked to me in the past 6 months, I’ve chewed your ear off about F45 and why you should go. Love it love it love it. And cannot wait until my unlimited month of classes in February!

Deck A Day This year I’ve also loved, as usual, the Deck A Day Challenge - a deck of cards workout every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. 23 days down! This is my 5TH YEAR completing this challenge which is just nuts to me. And year two tradition of me and Abby going for a park loop followed by deck of cards in my living room!

RACES

My race calendar was remarkably empty this year - but there was really only one big goal - 70.3 Wilmington. And then, it didn’t happen. But what DID happen was an impromptu half-iron distance in one of my favorite places - Montauk!

NYC Tri (July 1, 2018) a cool 94 degrees on race day - the best part of this day was the most incredible cheer squad in the whole universe
03:11:40

MightyMan Montauk (September 30, 2018) a casual 806 feet of elevation gain ON THE RUN
6:40:20

Mt. Sinai Turkey Trot (November 24, 2018) gobble gobble
22:49.44

Currently, I’m registered for the NYC Tri again next year along with the Wilmington 70.3 - although if I will train for it remains to be seen. I was also accepted in this year’s Cherry Blossom 10 Miler so here I come, DC!

BOOKS

I read a decent amount this year, but not as much as I would have liked to. This year, I need to up my game. Always accepting recommendations! Here were some of my favorites:

Beneath a Scarlet Sky
Bear Town & Us Against You
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
The Nest
Turtles All the Way Down
The Light Between Oceans
The Sound of Gravel
Flat Broke with Two Goats: A Memoir of Appalachia
The Sun Is Also a Star
The Fiddler in the Subway
The Leavers

Next up on my list is Crazy Rich Asians and potentially the Game of Thrones series?

DONUTS

My doughnut obsession continued wherever I traveled. Some standouts were:

Blackbird Donuts - Boston, MA
Kane’s Doughnuts - Boston, MA
Carlson’s Donuts & Thai Kitchen - Annapolis, MD
*Honorable mention to the maple glazed sweet potato donuts made by Annelise for our Secret Santa!
*Also honorable mention to the time Abby and I ate 3 doughnuts from 3 separate doughnut shops in quick succession following brunch.

I also ate donuts in various countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Latvia) and I must say - none compared to home!

BREWERIES

I also got to drink some great beer in 2018. Aside from the multiple new-to-me beers I sampled and breweries I visited in various countries, I was able to check out the below in my neck of the woods:

The Bronx Brewery Random Saturday decision to run there after our manicure (followed by BYOB sushi)
Montauk Brewing Company Post Half Ironman Race!
Riverhead Cider House with Mom and Dad after a 60 miler on the streets of Long Island!
Fifth Hammer Brewing Company Post Rock-Climbing!
Grimm Artisanal Ales Pre-Passenger Concert!

2019 Must Visits: Mikkeller at Citi Field and Other Half Brewing Company

OVERALL GREAT DAYS

Beyond the above-mentioned 2018 moments, here were a few other things I loved:

Islanders Games

With friends

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and with family

My Best Friend Moved to Manhattan

And I tried throwing her a surprise Welcome to NYC Party - the real surprise was that she had known about it since the day I sent out the invite.

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Lobster Rumble

All you can eat lobster. All you can drink beer. DJ. Best friends. Dancing lobsters. How could this not be one of the best memories from 2018?

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HIGH SCHOOL REUNION

Nothing like realizing you graduated high school 10 years ago to make you feel old! This was a fun night, but not an amazing night. I’m glad I went so that I couldn’t regret missing it - but honestly, could have taken it or left it. Basically paid $100 to talk to 5 people, drink a lot of champagne, and listen to a DJ that no one ever danced too. But - a definite milestone!

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INTERIOR DESIGN

I spent a lot of money on a new couch, a carpet and a TaskRabbit to make my living room feel much homier and I’m glad I did! I’m obsessed with my blue velvet couch - every summer Friday I fell asleep on it for a solid 1-2 hours. I now have the coffee table and end table that was in my parents house growing up in my living room and it makes me feel so at home. I had canvases made and hung of my photos from all over the world and finally installed the TV (which has been great for watching GAME OF THRONES!) When I was in Latvia I got a 100% lamb’s wool blanket that matches my color scheme which felt like a very adult purchase and I recently found the perfect accent pillow at Home Goods.

Sign me up for Trading Spaces!

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FOURTH OF JULY

Somehow always makes the “Best Days of 20___” list! This year we started the day with a November Project workout (and epic star jump photo) before going to brunch on the Upper East Side and heading to Croton for a day at Abby’s house! Pool, spike ball, beverages, barbecues, aqueducts, fireworks, dancing - it was perfect in every way.

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THE GRILLED VEGETABLE PLATTER

I know my dad will read this, and my hope is that after reading it, he realizes that he cannot follow through on his threat to never make the grilled vegetable platter again because it was my favorite meal of 2018 ;)

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WOLMAN FAMILY VACATION

I originally wasn’t going to make it this year, but was able to go for a quick 3 day weekend and it was the perfect break from the big city! My mom rented a paddle board this year, I went for runs, got some color, ate, drank and laughed with my favorite people.

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BACK TO MOM’S ROOTS

I had so much fun exploring my mom’s old neighborhood this summer - we saw the apartment building she grew up in, her school, her playground (“It seemed so much bigger back then!”) and got a beer in the bar her brother’s used to frequent.

The next day I got to take her for a walk at the reservoir in my neck of the woods!

VISITORS

After one million of my friends abandoned me and moved out of NYC - it was so nice to have so many of them back for visits. But saying goodbye all over again is the worst worst worst. ALL OF YOU COME BACK NOW.

COLOR FACTORY

This was not really an art exhibit, more of an experiential marketing ploy for companies - but we had a ton of fun!

CELEBRATING MY BEST FRIEND

Who wrote a BOOK! She’s a published author and we managed to surprise her with a party and I EVEN GOT HER AUTOGRAPH and then we also followed the party up with an ice cream bouquet with a dozen scoops of ice cream while walking through the streets with balloons causing a scene. Buy Ranch: An Ode to America's Beloved Sauce in 60 Mouth-watering Recipes! It’s the prettiest book I’ve ever held.

SUNSET ON THE LAST WEEKEND IN MONTAUK OF THE SEASON

The week after my half ironman race, I went back to Montauk with my parents and their friends and it was the best best best. It was the last real weekend in Montauk where things are open, the pours were heavy, the company was great - the sun wasn’t out much but it appeared on Sunday night for a beautiful sunset and everyone clapped and if you know me you know that I can’t stand airplane clappers but sunset clappers ARE MY PEOPLE.

FIN!

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6 Countries in 17 Days: Berlin

Berlin City Guide

The flight to Berlin was nice and short, and they even gave us a little chocolate Easter egg. When I landed, it was a pleasant surprise to see that each gate had there own baggage claim right at the end of the jet bridge. I only had to wait about 5 minutes until I had my suitcase and followed the signs to public transportation. 

Even though I was tired, I was determined to get to the hostel using the buses instead of taking the easy way out and hailing a cab. 

It was actually super simple - transfer and all. The weather was cold and rainy which was unpleasant, but even the bus stops have countdown clocks for how long until each bus will arrive. 

A theme of the trip was - "NYC public transportation is really archaic and horrible and I feel bad for any tourist trying to navigate the city." I would never recommend that a tourist get on a NYC public bus - I have enough trouble myself since there's absolutely no way of knowing what stop is next, they skip half of them, and you could be stuck waiting 20 minutes in between buses. 

By around 8:30 I made it to Wombat's Hostel and was greeted in the lobby by Allison!

TIP: I really enjoyed our stay at Wombat's Hostel. Though the rooms weren't huge, the double room had it's own private shower. All of the common spaces were super chill and seemed to encourage socialization. There was self-service laundry, a bar with happy hour every night, a cafe attached, and a rooftop with a beautiful view of the TV tower! Free WiFi, luggage storage, towels included, and a decent area with plenty of bars and restaurants around!

Finally united in Europe, Allison and I set out to find our first dinner and beer. 

We ended up at Weihenstephaner Berlin at the Neue Promenade mainly because I recognized it as a German beer and all the other restaurants in the area seemed pretty deserted (to be fair, it was Easter Sunday at 9 PM). 

I ordered the Ofenfrischer Schweinsbraten - "Fresh from the oven pork roast with crackling - from the shoulder – in original Weihenstephaner dark beer sauce, sauerkraut and potato dumplings."

Weihenstephaner Berlin

Not a very light meal - but very, very delicious. 

We walked back to Wombat's and made our way up to the "WomBAR" since we had received two free drink vouchers at check-in. The bar was packed with people and we found a spot to sit with our red wine. 

I wish we could say we were social and joined the groups playing beer pong (since I am an International Beer Pong Champion and all) but we just sat by ourselves in a corner chatting up a storm and catching up on life. We quickly changed the game plan from "just one drink" to "might as well get another - it will help us fall asleep." 

The wine was a good call - we both fell asleep before our heads hit the pillows on that first night. 

I was up early on Monday morning and excited to attend a class at BECYCLE - an English speaking fitness studio a quick half mile walk from our hostel. 

BECYCLE Berlin

I had pre-registered and used their new student deal, so I had two classes for the price of one! Monday's class was HIIT and as soon as I walked into the studio I felt at ease. It was GORGEOUS and everyone was incredibly sweet and welcoming (and spoke fabulous English). 

There's an adorable cafe attached, the lockers have USB chargers in them, and everything is ridiculously clean. 

Our instructor was upbeat, friendly, communicative, and the workout itself was great. We did a tabata-style workout and to end the class, we partnered up to complete a ridiculous number of burpees, push-ups, lunges and sit-ups. My partner and I crushed it, if I do say so myself! 

After class, Allison and I got ready at the hostel and set out for our first full day of sightseeing in Berlin. 

We leisurely strolled to the Reichstag (I must confess we stopped for coffee from Dunkin Donuts along the way) where we had a 12:45 PM tour booked (it's free, but you have to apply online!) 

Reichstag Tour Berlin

Headphones were provided which could tell where you were in the building and pointed out interesting information about the structure as well as lots of facts about the skyline and buildings that you could see outside of the glass domed building. 

Reichstag Tour Berlin

The Reichstag building that stands now was built in 1999 after being destroyed in WWII. The concept behind the design is transparency of the new German republic. From inside the glass dome, you can look down on the German Bundestag (Parliament) when they are in session. 

Reichstag Tour Berlin

As we continued our sightseeing we strolled a little bit through the Tiergarten and stopped for a picture at the Brandenburg Gate.

Pretzels in Berlin
Brandenburg Gate Berlin

Next was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe - which you should definitely walk into the middle of to get the full effect. 

It doesn't look like much when you first arrive, but once you make your way into the labyrinth of tall concrete towers, you realize that the ground undulates and the 90 degree grid of the columns gets pretty trippy.  

Memorial to the Murdered Jews

The line was long to get into the museum underneath the memorial. but it's free if you've got the time! 

Next up was the site of Hitler's Bunker. It was only recently that they put any type of plaque up signifying this spot - but now there is some information and pictures and there were quite a few people there when we arrived. 

I never realized how huge the bunker was! It was like an underground palace! 

Another stop on my DIY walking tour (it was more of an unintelligible route weaving back and forth across the city due in part to the fact that Allison and I could only pronounce the first three letters of any given "strasse") was to Bebelplatz. 

Bebelplatz is a square in Berlin where the Nazi book burning took place in May of 1933. Now, the square has an understated memorial that would be easy to miss if you weren't looking for it! There's a glass plate built into the ground, and when you look through it, you see down into a room with empty, white bookshelves, which would have held 20,000 (the number burnt by the Nazis). 

When we arrived, a tour group was also walking up to the memorial and we were all saddened to see that the glass was so dusty and dirty that we couldn't see down to the bookshelves. We pooled together our resources of water and tissues and the tour guide cleaned off a portion of the plate, joking that he was pretty sure he wasn't defacing a historic monument. I'm glad we got to look down - I thought it was a perfect commemoration. 

Later, I read that the plaque in Bebelplatz reads, "Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen." This is a line from Heinrich Heine's play "Almansor" which translates to, "That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people." So fitting, and so chilling. 

Berlinerdom

As we made our way back across Museum Island and across from the stunning Berlinerdom, we noticed a group of people setting up balloons and rose petals and stopped to watch an incredibly "extra" proposal. Extra, but still made us AW and clap along with the rest of the crowd that had gathered. 

That morning, we had passed a long strip of restaurants with outdoor seating right along the water at James-Simon-Park and made our way back there to find lunch. We chose Olla - Grill & Orient Lounge where I feasted on a delicious platter of falafel and grilled vegetables with tahini and tzatziki.

Berlin Falafel

The service was typical of most European cities - disinterested at best and what would normally have been a 45 minute lunch in the states was a leisurely hour and a half ordeal but we couldn't complain much considering the fact that we were sitting outside in the sunshine in Berlin. 

Berlin Waterfront Park

Allison headed back to the hostel to do some work and I continued my somewhat aimless wanderings in the direction of Hackesche Höfe - a giant courtyard complex of absolutely stunning building facades. On a typical day, this would have been packed with tourists visiting the various restaurants, shops, cafes, galleries, and offices housed inside Hackesche Höfe - but since it was Easter Monday (apparently a holiday in many European countries - and...North Carolina?) almost everything was closed. 

Hackesche Hofe Berlin

This was good for my wallet, and my camera - though I wouldn't have minded checking out some of the shops! One store that was open was "Ampelmann" and I'm so glad that it was. It put a name to the funny little men on the crosswalk signals that Allison and I had immediately noticed! Prior to the fall of the Berlin wall and the reunification of Germany, West German streetlights used a generic human figure while those in Eastern Germany featured the  Ampelmännchen - a male figure wearing a hat. 

The  Ampelmännchen is one of the few East German features to survive the end of Communism and has since been adopted across the city. 

After weaving my way through Hackesche Höfe I headed towards Haus Schwarzenberg - a really interesting area to walk around. Referred to as a "street art gallery" - Haus Schwarzenberg is a ~bohemian~ hold-out in the heavily gentrified area. Upon further research, I learned that Haus Schwarzenberg is run by a nonprofit organisation.

Haus Schwarzenberg

It's definitely worth a visit - and I highly recommend stopping at the free exhibit about Otto Weidt and his efforts to save Jews from persecution during the Holocaust. Weidt ran a factory which employed the blind and deaf- they made brooms and brushes. When Nazis started deporting Jews, Weidt used his factory as a hiding space. The museum now exists in what used to be the factory! It was myself and two other people when I stopped by! 

Haus Schwarzenberg

On my walk back to the hostel, I noticed my first brass cobblestone in the ground. These Stolperstein ("stumbling stone") are placed outside residences of Holocaust victims. Each plaque lists the names and life spans of individuals killed by the Nazis. The project was started by German artist Gunter Demnig in 1992 and since then, Stolperstein have been placed in 22 different countries worldwide. 

Stolperstein Berlin

It's interesting to note that Munich has not allowed Stolperstein to be placed in the city. 

After a quick refresh at the hostel Allison and I headed out for the oldest beer garden in Berlin - Berliner Prater Garten. Thankfully, it was open, but the fact that it was Easter Monday meant that we had the typically lively beer garden almost entirely to ourselves. 

Despite the chilly temperatures, we decided to sit outside and enjoy our big mugs of Hefeweissbier. I can't imagine how awesome it would be to sit outside in this beer garden in the spring or summer with hundreds of people! 

Prater Beer Garden Berlin

A very strange thing happened while we sat on the patio - a girl walking by with headphones on suddenly started yelling like she was performing a monologue and then promptly collapsed onto the ground. 

To Allison and I it was pretty obvious that she had done it on purpose, but then a group of people walked by and saw her on the ground and panicked thinking something was wrong. We looked like uncaring asshole Americans. As they gathered around her to see if she was OK, she started freaking out and eventually stood up and screamed at them. They, rightfully, got really weirded out and just kind of walked away. 

It was the oddest thing. 

Brushing that off - we walked back in the direction of our hostel but made a stop at one of my favorite finds of the trip. Weinerei - a pay what you wish wine bar! 

Allison had the genius idea upon entering to ask the bartender if she spoke English before we just started speaking at her in English and the woman was SO RECEPTIVE! She couldn't stop saying how nice it was that we asked instead of assuming (a tip we would take with us the rest of the trip). From that moment on we were in- which was great considering this was definitely a place that seemed to be filled with locals. 

For 2 euro we each got a wine glass and then we were free to sample the wines of the night. They just ask that you pour a little taste to make sure you like something before pouring yourself a full glass. We sat and enjoyed three glasses each in this lovely space (there's also food you can help yourself to) while wishing that we had a deck of cards.I was so excited that they had a Portuguese red wine! 

When you're ready to leave, they ask that you pay what you think the night was worth (there are recommended prices on the bar as well). 

I don't know that this concept could ever work in NYC - but it was such a unique Berlin experience!

On our way our, we asked the bartender how to say, "Do you speak English?" in German and spent the entire walk back working on our dismal pronunciation of "Sprichst du Englisch?"

The last stop of the day was at the late night Middle Eastern spot (Luxa) around the corner from the hostel where I utterly confused the employees by asking for cauliflower, eggplant and beets. They couldn't understand why I didn't want a pita - so eventually I just got a pita with meat, cauliflower, eggplant, beets and hummus. It was BALLER - pretty sure they fried the pita or something because it tasted like crack. 

I think they were entertained by us, and the feeling was mutual as they tried to get Allison to reach for her food THROUGH the glass counter. 

Doner Kebab Berlin

We enjoyed our food in the Wombat's Hostel kitchen before another night of immediately falling asleep. 

The next morning I was up and at it again early for my second class at BECYCLE - this time, a 45 minute spin class. 

As I was getting ready for class, my partner from the day before sat down next to me and said hello which made me feel like a ~local~ and was a super cool moment of the trip. This is why working out everywhere I go is always on my to-do list. You meet the best people! 

Class was great- the music was fun, varied, and the instructor was upbeat. The bikes were SO SMOOTH and they even had gears that altered the resistance when you turned them left and right. 

After class I showered and got ready at the studio before heading back to the hostel where we paid the affordable price of 4.50 euro for an amazing breakfast spread! They even had a panini press. 

We packed our things and navigated the U-bahn to bring our luggage to the next hostel, where our tour group would officially begin that night. 

TIP: U-Bahn = urban rail and S-Bahn = suburban rail. The U-Bahn is the subway and the S-Bahn goes outside of the city) 

At Cityhostel Berlin, they were able to give us our rooms even though it wasn't the official check-in time which was a pleasant surprise. 

Our next destination by way of the S-Bahn (which was incredibly easy to navigate) was the East Side Gallery. 

TIP: When you purchase metro/subway tickets in many European cities, you'll need to "validate" your ticket - this is a machine that stamps the date and time on your ticket and while you don't need to present your ticket to board the subway - officers may board at any time and ask to see your validated ticket! If you haven't validated your ticket, don't have a ticket, or are using an old ticket - you'll be fine! 
Digression: The woman from California who was working at our hostel in Cesky Krumlov told a story of getting caught on a bus without a validated ticket and getting out of the fine by listing as many NHL hockey teams as she could! 

The East Side Gallery was an Instagrammer's dream. Sure, there was the historical significance of seeing a remaining portion of the Berlin wall in what is now the world's largest open air art gallery - but the real delight was in taking pictures with the murals. 

East Side Gallery Berlin

And we shamelessly made our way down the wall stopping for photo shoot after photo shoot. 

East Side Gallery Berlin

When we made it to the end, we decided we might as well start walking back in the direction of our hostel since it was such a nice day outside. We may have accidentally walked through a construction site - which became glaringly obvious as a bulldozer crashed to the ground just as we passed. 

For the past few days we had passed a lot of places that looked like part playground, part tree house, part homeless shelter. We had begun to affectionately refer to them as "shanty towns" and on our walk we happened to pass one that lured us in to take a look around. Turns out, it had a bar, a bakery, a hair salon, and a beautiful view of the water! 

Holzmarkt Berlin

There was no question as to whether or not we were staying here for a drink - it was simply way too cool of a spot to leave. I was especially happy to find that they had a local beer that was hoppier than anything else I had managed to find. And they served Somersby! My European obsession which I basically forced Allison to order. 

Holzmarkt Berlin

Sitting in the shanty town, drinking our drinks on the water, the sun shining down, wondering where the hell we were - was one of the highlights of Berlin for me.

When we finished, we wandered around for a bit and decided this place would definitely have been a little creepy at night but during the day it was just plain awesome. We discovered a slide, a trampoline, and tons of other oddities on the property. 

Holzmarkt Berlin

Post-vacation I looked up where we were - and it turns out that it was part of Holzmarkt which The Guardian describes as and "alternative cultural complex, "on the banks of the Spree river in Berlin." This "urban oasis" is a MUST SEE while you're in Berlin!  

The entire area is just really out there and as we continued walking back to the hostel we even passed a door under a highway overpass that clearly led to some kind of secret club because there was music bumpin' through the door. 

Foreshadowing: we would end up exploring a similar shanty town in the evening hours later that day and it didn't disappoint! 

After a long walk, we made it back to our hostel and freshened up in anticipation of meeting our tour group - the people we would be spending the next 11 days with. Would there be 14 of us? Would we be the only 2? All girls? All younger than us? We had been talking about it for the past 3 days and were excited to finally find out. 

We got to the lobby and weren't exactly sure where our "orientation" was taking place but made our way to some comfy looking couches where we quickly spotted another guy who looked like he was searching for a group. 

"Are you here for the Gecko's meeting?" we asked and sure enough - it was Josh. Our first Aussie tour-mate. We chatted for a little bit about our few days in Berlin and what we had discovered and then another guy appeared and we asked if he was in the group - turns out this was David - our tour leader. 

He let us know that we were just waiting for one more person - and that we would be a small group of just 4 people. Soon enough, Heidi joined us and our group of two Americans, two Aussies and a Scottish tour leader was complete. 

We went over a bunch of information, told some fun facts about each other, and pretty effectively broke the ice with talk of doughnut obsessions, dreadlocks, and food allergies. I very quickly could tell that we would get along as a group when we unanimously decided that dinner would be a trip to a street side currywurst window. 

Allison and I grabbed a beer from the hostel lobby to take on the road with us (just because we were exhilarated by the fact that we could drink beer on public transportation) and we all headed to the celebrated Curry 36 (right next to the cult-favorite Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap whose line looked like Halal Guys in NYC!) 

David talked us through what we should order, and Allison and I decided on splitting both the classic Curry Wurst (two sausages with curry ketchup and french fries) and Curry buletten (think of a burger/meatball combo) also served with delicious curry ketchup and more fries. 

This was my favorite street food of the entire trip (and we ate a lot). I am fairly certain that I ate more than anyone else. 

I'm still not sure what about this made it so delicious - all I can say is that you cannot leave Berlin without eating currywurst! I will also say that I was not as opposed to mayo on my french fries as I had anticipated. 

Please observe the below picture for my feelings re: currywurst. 

Curry36 Berlin

After stuffing ourselves silly at Curry 36, we chatted about a bar crawl we had seen advertised in our hostel and decided we would all go and check it out. David said he would bring us there to make sure we made it OK since it was about a 20-30 minute journey by subway to the starting point. 

When we arrived at the first bar, it was completely dead. The bartender told us to hang out and that the guy in charge would show up soon. So - we thanked David for accompanying us and waved goodbye through the window yelling, "Bye Dad!" It was a nickname that would stick for the remainder of the trip. 

It was an awkward wait for the bar crawl to get started but slowly, people started showing up and though the bartender acted as if this was the first time something like this was ever happening in the establishment (it supposedly happens 6 days a week...) eventually we settled into a table in the back with a fun group of people from all over the world.  

The most memorable parts of this conversation had to have been learning that the translation of "Cheers" in Indian is "Take it in the mouth" and the group's chant of "Prost" devolving to yelling "Prostate!" 

Eventually the bar crawl got under way and we left the first bar with giant beer bottles in hand as we walked to the next stop. We milled around in a park finishing our "roadies" and talking as a group (and realizing that the bar was about to close and our bar crawl leader was in the midst of trying to talk them into staying open a little longer). 

TIP: In Berlin, people leave bottles and cans on the ground around garbage cans so that people can collect them and make money on returning them. So if you're drinking in a park, it's totally acceptable to leave the bottle on the ground next to a garbage can instead of actually throwing it out. 

The next bar started with a shot a palinka which we would again encounter in Budapest. It's a Hungarian liquor fermented from fruit and it was strong as hell. 

The group mingled outside the bar until we realized there was a back room that was Breaking Bad themed so everyone went in to check it out. 

Next, we headed towards another shanty town for a more "club" like atmosphere - only to find out that the club was closed (our bar crawl leader was striking out left and right, and was also getting increasingly intoxicated as he drank his hidden bottle of jägermeister). 

Luckily, the shanty town had other options, and he talked the group's way into Cassiopeia which we ended up absolutely loving! Once we got through the bouncers, we were expecting to walk into a building, but instead walked into a tree house/courtyard. Beyond that lay the bar, a dance floor, and an upstairs with people playing video games and foosball. It was bizarre in the best way and we spent a decent amount of time dancing there. 

Cassiopeia

It's worth noting that this "shanty town" was actually the RAW complex - home to many bars, restaurants and clubs in the trendy,  artsy, up and coming, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg neighborhood. 

The last stop of the night was the famous nightclub Matrix that I had heard so much about, but unfortunately we were very disappointed. The worst part was that it felt like a heater was blowing on us on the dance floor! And the fact that the bar crawl leader had reached peek creepiness and would not stop dancing with us. 

At that point, we decided to call it a night and got an Uber home. 

We woke up feeling pretty decent the next morning and made it down to the hostel lobby for the included breakfast buffet. Then, we made the executive decision to be lazy and get an Uber to our destination for the day - Teufelsberg. On the ride to Teufelsberg we marveled at the size of Tiergarten - we seemed to be driving next to it forever (although, I have since confirmed that it's smaller than Central Park). 

I had seen tons of pictures on Instagram of Teufelsberg - an abandoned United States spy station about 8 miles outside of the city center that has been turned into a graffiti artists playground. 

Situated on the top of "Devil's Mountain" we were grateful that our Uber could drive us straight to the top. We paid for our tickets and started wandering around - in awe of how unique and strange the place was. 

Teufelsberg Berlin

Of course, we had many photo shoots, and a lot of laughs at the "sassy cat" graffiti and random things we discovered. One of the coolest parts was a big dome shaped room that created the craziest echos - it really messed with your head! 

Teufelsberg Berlin

There's really no way to describe this place - except to go explore and experience it yourself! 

Teufelsberg Berlin

It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the walk down the mountain and took the U-Bahn back to the hostel.  

That afternoon we would be leaving Berlin and starting our journey to Krakow so we wanted to get in a decent meal. We walked to Chipps, a vegetarian restaurant where I ate some of the best soup EVER. 

Chipps Berlin

We picked up some provisions for our overnight train ride (peanut butter, corn cakes, avocado, baby carrots - the usual suspects) and met the group at the hostel, sad to bid Berlin adieu but ready to see where this adventure would take us next! 

Berlin Loves You

If you have more time in Berlin - here are a few other places I would have liked to check out! 

FOOD

FECHTNER Delikatessen

HERMANN'S

Cafe Anna Blume

SIGHTS

Gedenkstatte Berliner Mauer

Berlin Wall Memorial which accurately shows what the wall looked like - including the grounds behind it. 

Mauer Park is a destination in itself - and on Sunday's, Berliner's flock to the park for the popular park karaoke sessions! 

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Let's Catch Up! 10 Things I'm Loving

Once upon a time I wrote mainly about running and workout classes and restaurant reviews. Lately, all I've done is write about my travels - running isn't a thing I've done much for the past year+  

It's a touchy subject. 

But how about something new? How about a "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things" post? Also known as "Loving Lately," or "Fave Finds." Call it what you will - I'm just going to ramble about a bunch of things I've been feelin' these days and catching you back up with my real-life here in NYC (as opposed to work-life and travel-life!) 

Bloggers Favorite Things

1. Books

I've read some DAMN GOOD books lately.

The Fiddler In The Subway by Gene Weingarten

One of my neighbors put a bunch of old books they were getting rid of in our lobby and I randomly scooped this one up. It was one of the best things I've ever read.

The book is a collection of feature stories written by Washington Post journalist Gene Weingarten. The subjects are all over the map - but each story is brilliantly written, insightful, creative, clever, moving. I cannot explain how incredible Gene Weingarten's writing is. 

As a journalism undergrad, I'm disappointed I was never made to read this book because I honestly think that it would be convinced me to continue down the path towards becoming a writer. 

Please pick up this book! It's great because you can just read one story at a time - not too much comittment! 

There’s one last truth that I don’t tell them, because it’s needlessly disturbing and would serve no pragmatic purpose. I’ll say it now, just once, and be done with it. A real writer is someone for whom writing is a terrible ordeal.  That is because he knows, deep down, with an awful clarity, that there are limitless ways to fill a page with words, and that he will never, ever, do it perfectly. On some level, that knowledge haunts him all the time. He will always be juggling words in his head, trying to get them closer to a tantalizing, unreachable ideal. 

It’s a torment you can’t escape. It will reach even into the comfort of a drunken sleep, and it will shake you awake, and send you, heart pumping, to an an empty piece of paper. 

If you have that, you can be a good writing. Congratulations, I guess. 
— The Fiddler In The Subway, Gene Weingarten

Beartown 

Beartown: A Novel
By Fredrik Backman

When I was younger, you couldn't find me without a book. I brought books out to family dinners - sat in a booth at a noisy restaurant and just kept on reading. 

Nowadays, there's not as much time for uninterrupted, full-on face-in-a-book reading. But with Beartown - I found that 12 year old ability of mine to shut out the world and travel into the story. 

I read for an entire flight and an entire Sunday afternoon because I just couldn't put the book down. 

From the author of A Man Named Ove - Beartown is incredibly timely and is also about hockey and Sweden - two things that you could say are somewhat pertinent to my life. Backman's ability to describe human nature and to create characters that really come to life are what made this book so compelling. 

If you've read it - comment who your favorite character was! I want to discuss! 

One of the plainest truths about both towns and individuals is that they usually don’t turn into what we tell them to be, but what they are told they are.
— Fredrik Backman, Beartown

The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir 

If you don't utilize your public library's ability to lend eBooks - what are you doing?! So easy and also, free! That's how I came to find The Sound of Gravel. 

This is the story of Ruth Wariner as told by herself - about growing up poor in a polygamist family. It's a fascinating look into a culture that I knew very little about before reading the book. 

Mom couldn’t teach me that because she didn’t know herself. She couldn’t show me how to be happy, only how to barely survive.
— Ruth Wariner, The Sound of Gravel

2. Romantic Comedies

I don't watch movies, as a general rule of thumb - unless I'm on a long flight. 

But for some reason a few weeks ago, I found myself watching a different romantic comedy on Netflix every night of the week. Huh? You're all going to laugh - because I'm only about 15 years late to the party on one of them and the other two are garbage. 

Bridget Jones' Diary 

Sleeping With Other People 

Drinking Buddies 

So tell me, what's your favorite romantic comedy? 

3. Yoga 

That's right - it's happened everyone. I can officially say the words, "I like yoga!" 

WOW. It took me years and years but I've finally learned to appreciate a good, sweaty, yoga class. I've even learned how to view it as a damn good workout, not just a stretch. (Read this post from April of last year where I wondered if I was starting to like yoga!)

It's mid-March and I've been to 16+ yoga classes already this year, which is probably more than the combined number of classes I had taken in my life prior to January 1, 2018. 

CorePower Yoga

Like so many runners out there - CorePower was my gateway drug. I had taken Core Power classes in Denver and Raleigh - but it was my class in Boston with Kayla that was a game changer. The instructor was phenomenal and I took my Free Week back with me to NYC and went NUTS. I took 5 classes in 7 days!

I also tried the Yoga Sculpt class without realizing it's basically heated barre - and I liked that too! 

Y7 Studio

Y7 has an intro package that gets you 3 classes for $45 which I did when my CorePower free week was up. 

I wasn't expecting to like Y7 as much as I did - hip hop isn't exactly "me" but I loved the classes that I took. My favorite part is how the class is set up - you know what to expect and there's no opportunity for laying on the mat wondering, "are there 10 minutes left or 50? How much more do we have?" (Because let's face it, I still have that moment about halfway through each yoga class). 

At Y7, you go through 3 separate flows. For each, you go through once slow, once "one breath, one movement" and then the third time the turn the music up and let you go on your own. I loved this because it kept me super focused the entire time so that I could remember the flow - keeping myself mentally focused on yoga is a challenge and I found that this really helped me. 

Yoga Vida

Yoga Vida NYC

There are multiple Yoga Vida locations, but I took all of my free week classes at the NoHo location (no showers, which is a bummer considering this is the studio that offers heated flow!) 

All the instructors here were amazing, the space is HUGE and you can't beat a free week! Plus, they have a bunch of community classes each week that are donation based. Holla! 

Om Factory

Favorite class? The one taught by my friend Bertha! Getting to see her do her thing was so cool! But even better was the fact that she is an AWESOME instructor. 

When Abby and I requested a class with lots of hamstring stretching and an arm balance - Bertha delivered exactly that. The whole class I didn't even realize we were working towards side crow and then WA-BAM all of a sudden it all made sense. 

I'm not sure what the shift was, but I'm very glad that I've come to value more low-impact exercises like yoga and barre (and I'm trying out a Pilates class this weekend!) I've been very unkind to my body in terms of how I've exercised for the past 4 years, and I'm really digging some days without burpees and jump squats and wall balls. 

4. Live Music 

Hearing someone with an incredible voice belt out a good song is probably one of my all time favorite things. I get chills. Every time. And wish that I had been blessed with some vocal chords that can SANG. Alas, I cannot. But I have been doing lots of listening. 

Piano Bars 

My family and I recently went to Don't Tell Mama in Hell's Kitchen and though we waited over an hour to be seated, and they tried skipping over our name on the list - it ended up being such a fun night. Singing along is highly encouraged. They sing a great mix of classic, show tunes, popular songs, oldies - and the singing bar and wait staff are out of this world good - they're all definitely Broadway actors and actresses. 

My other favorite piano bar in NYC is Brandy's on the Upper East Side - both of these are really small venues with two drink minimums but every time I've gone it's been more than worth the pricey drinks. These aren't your average piano bar wannabes - they're extremely talented performers. 

If you go to Brandy's - order a Tequila Cosmo!

Rockwood Music Hall - Stage 3

I had been to Rockwood Music Hall a number of times for various concerts but none of them at Stage 3 (around the corner on Orchard Street). It was such an intimate venue - everyone gets a seat which I hadn't been expecting.

We were there to see Wakey!Wakey! aka Michael Grubbs of One Tree Hill fame. He performed an hour-long show with his piano and damn is his voice powerful. 

For a $15 ticket and a $10 glass of wine (everyone has to buy a drink - but you can get a soda or coffee) it was the perfect Friday night and I was still in bed by 10:30! 

Broadway Musicals

Always my favorite form of live music - I am of the belief that there is nothing like a Broadway musical. We recently went as a family to see the new Jimmy Buffet jukebox musical "Escape to Margaritaville."

While the production was far from artistically groundbreaking, damn was it FUN. Maybe we had a little too much fun. It seems that my "FINS TO THE LEFT, FINS TO THE RIGHT" dance moves may have interfered with some lighting. And apparently the somewhat stuffy audience wasn't on board with yelling "Salt! Salt! Salt!" during the title song. But c'est la vie - not everyone can be a Parrothead. 

My family and I thoroughly enjoyed the show - despite the incredibly forced references to song lyrics and predictable plot line. It certainly helped that our margarita cups were always filled (thanks, Dad!)

The best part was my dad finally realizing just how much he must have listened to Jimmy Buffet when we were kids - my sister and I seemed to know more words than anyone else! 

City Winery

Next up for live music is a concert this week at City Winery! We'll be seeing Joshua Radin and while I haven't been to a show at this venue yet, I have a feeling I'm going to like it. Bar stool + acoustic music + wine seems like the recipe for a wonderful Thursday night. 

5. Rock Climbing

I've loved rock climbing for as long as I can remember - I was a total monkey as a kid. Climbing trees, climbing the rope faster than anyone else in gym class. 

I finally got myself belay certified and asked for a 10-climb pass for Christmas - so if anyone wants to go rock climbing at The Cliffs in LIC let me know!! 

The Cliffs LIC

It's such an adrenaline rush and I love the fact that by the end of a day at the climbing gym - my arms are actually shaking they're so exhausted. I still get a little nervous while belaying - the fact that I'm actually in control of someone's life is slightly terrifying - but practice makes perfect? 

6. Argan Oil & Chakra  Oil 

My moisturizing game has never been stronger thanks to these two products. 

Rituals Shanti Chakra Body Oil

My coworker bought us each a bottle of this in the Copenhagen airport after we used the tester and fell in love. 

The smell is dreamy, and putting this on after the shower makes me feel like I'm treating myself to a spa day. I'm almost out, and I can't find it online, and I'm having a slight meltdown. 

Organix Renewing Moroccan Argan Oil

Want your hair to feel super hydrated and luscious? Use this stuff. 

I take terrible care of my hair. I get it cut about once a year. I straighten it, blow dry it, curl it - and half the time I'm showering at New York Sports Club whose shampoo I swear doesn't actually do anything.  

But ever since my mom got me a little tube of hair oil in my stocking stuffer - I've been using it non stop and I can see a huge difference in the look and feel of my hair. 

7. Doughnuts 

There was awhile there where I seemed to be on a doughnut hiatus. Thank God that ended. 

East Main & Main - Port Jefferson, New York

East Main & Main Donuts

Long Island is finally get involved in the doughnut game!

Dilla's Delights - Detroit, Michigan 

Dilla's Delights Detroit

Banana pudding cake donut, HOLLER! 

(*Adorable donut earrings from my coworker!)

Blackbird Doughnuts - Boston, Massachusetts 

blackbird.jpg

Citrus old fashioned! GET IT!!!

Kane's Donuts - Boston, Massachusetts

Kane's Donuts

This was Kayla's introduction to doughnut tasting and I was so happy that she got totally into it with me. We started with one - but that was just a lie we were telling ourselves. 

Dough - Tampa, Florida

Dough Doughnuts Tampa Bay Florida

More than anything, what I appreciated about Dough was that they gave me the opportunity to have a ridiculous doughnut photo shoot with my friends portrait mode. And the fact that their creme brulee dooughnut was ridic. 

Stuffed - New York, New York 

Stuffed Doughnut Ice Cream NYC

Ice cream + doughnut ice cream sandwiches. Yeah, I went there.

(And in the same day, after brunch, we ate a Dun-Well doughnut AND two scoops at Davey's Ice Cream. Still unsure how I have avoided diabetes thus far). 

Carlson's Donuts & Thai Kitchen

Annapolis, Maryland 

Carlson's Donuts & Thai Kitchen

Talk about strange combos - Carlson's was a MUST VISIT while I was in Annapolis. I mean, when I hear that there is a run down shop that serves doughnuts from 5 AM - 11 AM and then becomes a Thai restaurant for dinner - you couldn't keep me away. 

The best part? These doughnuts were ridiculously good. 

8. Podcasts

I didn't really expect to like podcasts, but now I listen to them almost daily during my commute. They're great on the stationary bike. And sometimes I even just lay in bed and listen to one! I sound like I'm a podcast junkie but in reality, there are really only two that I listen to at the moment, so please send your recommendations my way!

*Also very interested in any podcast that has had JK Rowling as a guest. 

Ali on the Run Show

I think Ali was made to have a podcast. She's a phenomenal host who is clearly passionate about her guests, the subjects and the project in general. 

What I love about the Ali on the Run Show is that there's a structure to it, but depending on the guest each show is obviously very unique! I absolutely love the "Sprint to the Finish" portion of the show when Ali asks each guests fun questions like "Where was your first kiss?" and "What would your last meal on earth be?" These questions really help humanize the incredible (running-related) guests that she has on the show. 

Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard

Unlike the Ali on the Run Show - Dax Shepard's new podcast has almost no structure whatsoever yet somehow I keep finding myself listening to to 2+ hour episodes where he interviews fellow celebrities and digs into some serious topics like anxiety, depression, addiction and has really candid talks about being a celebrity and what that's like for your psyche. 

By far my favorite episode was the first one when Dax had his wife, the wonderful Kristin Bell, on as a guest. I immediately started stalking them on Instagram and it's safe to say that I would like them to adopt me into their family. 

I also love the end of each episode when their family friend/podcast fact-checker Monica Padman comes on to call-out all of Dax's erroneous statements from the show. 

9. New Workouts 

Like I said - running is still a thing that my body doesn't seem to be interested in. Actually, it seems very disinterested in it. And finally, I'm listening and I'm saying "That's cool - let's do some other stuff!" 

Normally I would write a full review for each of these classes but in an effort to make up for the past, oh, I don't know, year that I neglected to do class reviews, I'm going to keep it brief. 

Orangetheory Fitness

Orangetheory Fitness Review

I checked out two OTF classes while I was in Tampa Bay and I gotta say - I didn't like them as much as I was expecting to. 

The first time, we didn't even get heart rate monitors, which was a complete bummer (I'm a numbers girl when it comes to a workout!) and the second time, I was just very frustrated at how hard it was to get my heart rate into the "Red Zone." 

I like the concept - and I like switching stations to do both cardio and strength - but it just wasn't the "OH MY GOD AMAZING" workout that I was hoping for. 

To be fair, I may actually have been asleep for the second class as evidenced by this photo. 

Everybody Fights

Everybody Fights Boxing Review

This boxing studio, owned by George Foreman's son, started in Boston and recently opened up in NYC. 

Whenever I take a boxing class, I leave feeling like I got my ass kicked and Everybody Fights was no exception! It's a really big space that offers a bunch of different kinds of classes and I definitely wouldn't be opposed to returning! 

Curious about boxing? You can check out my reviews of some other NYC boxing studios using the links below!

Shadowbox

Rumble

Work Train Fight

Overthrow

Kings Thai Boxing

Kings Thai Boxing Review NYC

My friend Bertha is a badass babe who regularly goes to Kings Thai Boxing. 

I said I would go as long as she was there to help me - and I'm so glad I did! It was definitely out of my comfort zone - I felt pretty lost most of the time - but the instructor was SO helpful and friendly and by the end of class I was a) drenched in sweat b) sore as hell and c) feeling like a total badass. 

Abby came to class too - so we got to work as partners which helped a TON. I felt less guilty every time I made a mistake holding the pads (which was very very frequently - sorry, Ab!) To be honest, remembering the sequences was harder as the person holding the pads than as the one doing the punching and kicking (at least for me). 

Can we just talk about the ~casual~ way this class ended? A ladder of DEATH, that's how. 

1 Left Kick
1 Right Kick
1 Pushups
2 Left Kicks
2 Right Kicks
2 Pushups 

Up to 10. Back down to 5. 

I have never come closer to throwing up (or collapsing during a push-up). 

Saturday's at noon Kings Thais has a Beginners Class if you feel like feelin' fierce! 

Spiderbands

Spiderbands Class Review

When I started getting targeted ads for this new fitness studio on my Instagram feed I was instantly intrigued. 

It looked so unique and mainly it just looked plain fun! Also, it seemed to be somewhat low-impact which I could use some more of! So I signed up for their intro deal (2 classes for $20!

When Bertha, Abby and I went to this class - there was only one other person there. Normally, I would think, "GREAT it's like a private class!" But instead, our instructor was super robotic and unenthusiastic the entire time. Even though we were clearly new students, and clearly the studio isn't batting people away. 

Despite that - I really did like Spiderbands just because it was so different than any other class. There's a TON you can do with these giant resistance bands which is evident when you realize they offer 6 different classes ranging from bosu ball to kickboxing to HIIT. 

We took the "Signature Spiderbands" class but I will definitely be using my second class to try something new!

Come prepared to take an epic Boomerang after class, and plan on staying a bit after to enjoy their BEAUTIFUL showers/locker rooms. 

Fithouse

I have a feeling Fit House is about to be all the rage in the NYC fitness world - especially now that ClassPass has become too expensive for a lot of people. 

The concept is pretty simple - a $99/month membership to attend classes at Fithouse studios across the city (right now, there is only one, but they plan to expand quickly to at least 3 more neighborhoods). 

While the membership doesn't gain you access to a typical gym space, it does grant you access to a bunch of different types of classes. This includes HIIT, Yoga, Strength and Barre. 

I found a discount code for a FREE two week trial when they first opened, but unfortunately, the Bowery location was pretty inconvenient for me and I only got to attend two classes. 

Pros
+Big studio with lots of equipment for different types of exercises
+Automatic lockers (no need to bring your own lock) 
+Close to subway station 

Cons
-No showers at the Bowery location (they are hoping that some of the other studios will have showers, but TBD) 
-No spin or boxing classes (personally, two of my favorite kinds of classes!) 
-The one bathroom stall is INSIDE the studio - so if you arrive before class and need to use the restroom but there's a class going on inside the studio - you can't. It's a weird set up. 

I took two of the higher intensity classes - Strength Station and Slam.  Bother were 45 minutes long. They were good - but not great. Hard, but not killer.  

The best part of Fit House was the instructor Mark - he was great!

I think as more studios open, as they hire more staff, as they add more classes, Fithouse definitely has the potential to be an affordable option for people who like to take a lot of classes as opposed to belonging to a gym. 

They're currently running a $19 deal for a 2 week trial! (Just be sure you cancel if you don't want to sign up or they'll automatically start charging you at the end of the two weeks!)

Sweat Yoga

It was sweaty, it was yoga. It was a yoga class I took before I liked yoga - so not much to say about it! 

Barry's Bootcamp

Who woulda thunk that my first Barry's Bootcamp class would actually be in SWEDEN? 

That's right. While I was in Stockholm for work, I went to a Barry's class! I ended up finding a class on the schedule that was taught in English and thank God for that. I don't know why I had been thinking it would be no problem taking the class in Swedish - I definitely would have regretted it as we did some pretty complicated moves with the stepper and resistance bands for the strength portion of the class!

Chris Mosiers' Deck A Day Challenge

This isn't new - but it's a workout that I have been LOVING and doing very frequently. Each year, Chris runs a Facebook group that challenges you to do a deck of cards workout every day from Thanksgiving to New Years' Eve. I've done it the past 3 years and at the end of it, I'm always in SUCH GOOD SHAPE. 

It's a strength workout, a cardio workout, an ab workout, and uses a lot of the exercises that I normally let fall to the wayside that are actually super important (glute bridges, donkey kicks, etc.)  

Deck A Day Workout

He keeps the group running throughout the year - so if I'm ever feeling uninspired at the gym I'll check the page! We were lucky enough to have Chris in NYC a few weeks ago and got to do the deck of the day live and in person in Central Park which was awesome :)

You can also follow along on his Instagram account.

 

10. Billie

Instagram sponsored ads are my best friend and my worst enemy. They can show me an ad enough times and I'll 100% start to think that I need it. Like that damn Quip toothbrush they keep pushing on me. 

But Billie is one that I barely even hesitated before purchasing. Essentially, it's a month subscription for new razor blades. The concept behind it is basically my internal monologue of: 

WHY IS IT SO DAMN EXPENSIVE TO BUY REPLACEMENT RAZOR BLADES AS A WOMAN? 

WHY DO I ALWAYS END UP JUST BUYING A NEW RAZOR BECAUSE IT'S HALF THE PRICE AS A PACK OF BLADES? 

SHOULD I JUST GET THESE SHITTY DISPOSABLE ONES?

I thought that maybe my whole life I was missing something - but nope, apparently the founders of Billie were on the same page. 

Razor blade prices + laziness + my travel schedule ensure that I am almost always using razor blades that are far too old and dull to effectively shave my legs. In fact, they're probably downright dangerous. 

The ratio of the amount of time I spend at a gym in shorts and how often my legs are well-shaven is not socially acceptable.

So I ordered a Billie razor in a cute coral color. It came in the mail with a super ~minimalist~ magnetic holder that takes up zero space in the shower. It came with two razor blades that are smooth and wonderful. Every 3 months I'll get 4 NEW BLADES FOR $9.80. In the mail. 

I don't know why this is so exciting to me but it is. I wrote an email to all my female coworkers the day I found out about it and group texted like 20 girlfriends. 

WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE. 

They also have a super cool message about the "Pink Tax" which they define as - 

PINK TAX: the extra amount women are charged for certain products (*ahem* razors) or services. For no reason. Unless being female is a reason.

Word. 

So, help a sista out - if you use the link below to order your Billie razor I'll get some coupons or somethin' 

11. Gap

Bonus #11!

Not much to say on this except I have been LOVING everything from the Gap and it's getting to be a problem. 

I online shop with my Gap Cash because, "It would be a waste not to use it," and then I tell myself, "There's a Gap right near the office, just order it and it if it doesn't fit you can return it." Except can you guess how much I have ordered and decided to return? That's right, none of it. 

Gap Model

On any given day, you can find me wearing multiple items from the Gap. Most recently, I have purchased not only clothing from them but undergarments and workout clothes as well - so that my entire wardrobe is beginning to resemble the store. 

Oops. 

THAT WAS FUN! 

I feel like we're all caught up, and now I can start pushing out some new, relevant, timely posts! Thanks for stickin' around. 

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LISBOA - DEFINITELY COOL (DAY FOUR)

I have to admit, our day 4 trip to Sintra was a bit of a disappointment. Not because the Pena Palace wasn't beautiful - but because this is a highly touristy area, with a lot of waiting in line, a lot of confusion, a lot of jam packed streets, a lot of disorganization and a lot of tourist traps. 

Lisbon Travel Guide

1. Pena Palace

After a helpful employee at the train station showed us how to purchase the right tickets, we boarded the first train to Sintra in an attempt to beat the crowds. 

Lisbon Train Station

The train was uneventful, and soon we arrived at our destination. 

The signage wasn't the best I've ever experienced, but eventually we found our way to the shuttle/bus stop and pieced together how the tickets worked.  We waited in line for a good long while until a bus pulled up and we were able to board. 

We rode the shuttle up and up and up - probably the scariest bus ride to date - until we reached the base of Pena Palace. 

There, swarms of tourists in haphazard lines stood outside broken ticket machines and closed gates - milling around with no one seeming to have any idea of what was going on. I got increasingly more frustrated as the minutes dragged on and on and still, no direction was given. My mom and I decided to divide and conquer - jumping onto two lines that we weren't even sure were where we needed to be. 

Eventually - the ticket windows opened, the gates rolled back, and we made it inside. I immediately needed to find a bathroom and some sustenance and luckily both were located at a little shop right inside the gates. We sat down in the sun and ate some horrible microwave-oven sandwich that kind of tasted like a piece of Elio's pizza (but nowhere near as good). 

After that, we started making the climb up to Pena Palace. As it came into view, I got really excited about the bright colors and bizarre architecture - it looked totally out of place! 

Pena Palace Sintra

At this point in the day, my mom and I decided we were content to not wait on any more lines, and instead of touring the inside of the castle, opted for walking around, taking pictures, and enjoying the sights on the exterior of the castle. The tickets we had bought at the start allowed us to walk all over the castle, and we didn't feel like we missed out on anything by not going inside. 

The castle was extremely unique in it's design and I did really enjoy photographing it. Not to mention seeing the incredible views from it's turrets. 

Pena Palace Lisbon

2. Lunch & Shopping In Sintra 

The shuttle ride back down into the main part of town was another long and winding ordeal. A couple of times we thought we might have gotten on the wrong bus since it was taking so damn long! 

But eventually we found ourselves outside of the Sintra National Palace. We stuck our heads into some shops, but most of them seemed to be glorified souvenir stores. 

We were pretty grouchy and didn't feel like exploring all too much for our lunch - so we plopped down at Restaurant Cafe Paris where we had an overpriced lunch (but it was a pretty place with outdoor seating). I ordered a salad and a crepe - neither of which impressed. 

Sintra Portugal

After lunch we continued our walk down to the train station and all along the way there were local artists and vendors selling crafts and jewelry along the sidewalk. We also found some nicer shops closer to town, and I loved stopping to take pictures of the buildings covered in beautiful flowers! 

Sintra Portugal

By the time we made it back down, I was warming up to Sintra, but also more than ready to get on the train back to our Airbnb. 

3. Sunset Shopping 

Lisboa Sunset

When we got back to Lisbon, we walked around and did some final shopping - I bought a pair of pants I absolutely love from United Colors of Benetton. We chased the sunset a little ways until we realized we probably weren't to get a great view and wandered back to our little neighborhood. 

4. Portuguese Wine at The Little Wine Bar

Portugal Sunset

We wandered around for awhile hoping to find a place to sit out on the sidewalk and have a drink - but most places were packed or only offering tables to those that were ordering food. Portugal made a wine drinker out of me - so we stopped in a little wine bar (quite literally called The Little Wine Bar) for a final glass. This place was adorable and the wine was fabulous - highly recommend if you're staying in the area! 

5. Last Supper at Restaurant Duque 

I am happy to report that we ended the trip with perhaps one of the best parts - dinner at Restaurant Duque. 

All week we had passed this tiny restaurant on the corner of our street and I had gazed longingly at the sweet potatoes in the window (true story). 

Restaurant Duque Lisbon

On our last night, I convinced my mom that we had enough cash left (it was cash only) to go for dinner and a glass of wine at this local spot.

Who would have thought that the cash-only place across the street would turn out to be our absolute favorite meal of the trip? AND that we would be seated next to a lovely couple who we talked with throughout the meal? 

Restaurant Duque Lisbon

It was the perfect end to the trip and I urge you to go eat here! 

We ordered the Oven Roasted Octopus (with sauteed sweet potato!!!) and the Sea Rice (basically a seafood paella with fish, clams, mussels and prawns). 

Restaurant Duque Lisbon

6. Goodbye, Portugal! 

The next morning we woke up, packed, and said goodbye to our Airbnb home away from home (not before stopping for a coffee and pastry from a corner cafe). 

Lisbon Airbnb

I had used MyTaxi to schedule a cab pick-up at the AirBnb and it worked out perfectly. Our taxi driver was there right on time and was such a lovely person. We chatted the entire way to the airport - about tourism, rent, the European outlook on lunch breaks, Airbnb, and why the Portugeuse don't get angry at traffic. I was sad when we pulled up to the terminal to end our first real in-depth conversation with a local. 

I was also, obviously, sad that the trip had come to an end. 

Saying goodbye to my mom after such an amazing bonding experience was difficult - but I couldn't be more thankful for the opportunity. 

I now know that my mom and I make GREAT travel partners and I can't wait to plan another trip for the two of us to share again soon. 

To anyone considering a trip to Portugal - book it! The area has so much to see and do - it offers a European feel, cobblestone streets, museums and churches galore - as well as having plenty of cool, hip places like the LX Market, Time Out Market and Pink Street. Not to mention the beaches, National Parks, and day trips that are at your fingertips. 

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LISBOA - DEFINITELY COOL (DAY 2)

My mom and I are both somewhat early risers, so we were up and ready to go explore Belem on Day 2 in Portugal. 

Lisbon Travel Guide

First, I tried finding some caffeine - but everywhere that I stopped informed me that they didn't offer coffee to go. I'm all about the European belief in taking a minute to stop and enjoy your coffee - but I really just wanted something to sip on during our trip!

I was proud of the fact that we took the bus instead of relying on a taxi. 

1. Bananacafe

Bananacafe Belem Portugal

Stop number one in Belem when we disembarked our bus was for the coffee I had failed to get earlier that morning (I'm being dramatic - it was a 20 minute bus ride). 

This cafe is an adorable converted tram painted bright yellow with outdoor seating right where the bus stops. I was shocked that it wasn't overrun with people - though we did arrive fairly early. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my coffee here! I believe they have multiple locations, light food options and supposedly stellar sangria as well. 

2. Jerónimos Monastery

We walked around this impressive building and to be honest, I hadn't done much research about which areas to visit, tour, buy a ticket to, etc. We joined a line and paid to enter one of the areas and spent some time walking around, reading about some statues, and taking in the intricate details. I believe where we ended up was the South Portal of the monastery. 

I wish I was one of those history buffs who gets really into looking at impressive old churches, but I have to admit I'm really not. I do appreciate their history and beauty, though. And show me some stained glass and I'm thrilled.  

3. Berardo Collection Museum

We ended up here purely because we were in search of a public restroom. Turns out, entry to this modern and contemporary art museum was free on Saturday's! 

The entire Centro Cultural de Belém was a beautiful place to walk around. The grounds were architecturally unique with lots of pretty landscaping and places to sit out on green grass. I'm glad we happened to stroll through! 

I was shocked at how much I enjoyed the Berardo Collection! Similarly, I loved the Dikeau Collection in Denver - which has me coming to the realization that maybe I'm into contemporary art? 

Berardo Collection Museum

4. Padrão dos Descobrimentos

This is a large monument next to the Tagus River that celebrates that Age of Discovery in Portugal. You know the guys - you read all about them in 8th grade history class. Vasco da Gama, Bartolomeu Dias, Ferdinand Magellan...yep, all Portuguese!  

From atop the  Centro Cultural de Belém we had a pretty good view of the monument - and didn't feel that it required a separate stop, though it's definitely an impressive structure. You can pay for a ticket to go into the structure, but I have read that the view isn't anything incredible. 

5. Torre de Belém 

We walked from the museum over to the Torre de Belem (passing this amazing piece of art along the way!)

Street Art Lisbon

From a distance, it looked just like a raccoon. The closer you got to the wall, the more you realized it was just a bunch of random odds and ends! So cool. 

The Belem Tower is one of the main reasons that people visiting Lisbon make the journey to Belem. Though I had read that it wasn't necessarily worth the wait and ticket price to go up inside, we did walk along the water until we reached the tower. The tower once stood on an island in the middle of the river. The Tagus River has since been redirected and the tower now sits right on the shore. 

We snapped some pictures in the touristy area and I thoroughly enjoyed the adorable "Wine With A View" cart parked in the lot. We passed some similar carts with delicious looking IPAs. 

Belem Tower

6. Pasteis de Belém

You KNOW I wasn't about to pass up sampling Portugal's most famous pastry! Though it wasn't a donut, I was still excited to compare some of the cities most popular pasteis de nata. These crispy, custard-y sweets are to Portugal what croissants are to France. And according to many, the pasteis of Pasteis de Belem are the best you can get. 

This shop has been around since 1837 - and the website claims that the recipe hasn't been altered since the time it was created at the monastery next door.  

While the line outside snakes down the sidewalk, I had read that there is a ton of seating inside (along with restrooms - which we were always on the hunt for!) 

We walked inside and were astonished to see how much it opened up inside (and that despite the huge number of tables, it was still packed!) We took a seat and ordered coffee and a pastry for each of us. Service was a little stressful in the chaotic restaurant, but it was well worth it when we were presented with two beautiful pasteis de Belem - along with our own containers of powdered sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling!  

I decided to take my first bite topping-free for a true taste test. On the count of three my mom and I both took a  bite of our still-hot delicacies and stared wide eyed at each other as the initial crispy crunch of the crust gave way to creamy, sweet, rich custard.  

My one complaint about pasteis de Belem is that they are NOT BIG ENOUGH (am I American or what)? We truly savored each and every delicious bite of our pastries and were both hesitant to finish off that last precious bite. 

7. Walk from Belem to LX Factory 

This was around a 30-35 minute walk, but it was worth it for all the pictures I got to take of beautiful tiled buildings. 

Lisbon Tiles

8. LX Factory

Located in the Alcantara neighborhood, LXFactory was once the site of a massive fabric company in the 1860's. Now, it's a hip, trendy area filled with quirky shops, delicious restaurants, and fun bars. 

Some of the stores were strange - they seemed to have 10 items that were super expensive and we wondered a) who shopped there and b) how they stayed in business. But there were also some nice stores with good souvenirs (and a pair of shoes I fell in love with but didn't quite fit). 

There's also tons of cool street art to check out at the LXFactory. 

LX Factory Lisbon

9. Lunch at Rio Maravilha

After walking up and down the streets multiple times, we finally settled on a restaurant for our lunch - Rio Maravilha. It was such a cool setting - the interior was filled with unique furniture, a beautiful bar, a rooftop with lawn chairs, and the space where we ate which was an enclosed, bright patio with windows all the way around looking out over the Tejo River. The space was extremely colorful which I loved. You could tell this would be a trendy place for a night out. 

My mom and I ordered some wine and a bunch of small plates to share. I've spent about 20 minutes trying to recall what exactly we ordered - all I have is this picture of what I'm thinking is some sort of pork dish. And I know we ordered the crispy rice with tomato chutney which were fried rice balls and pretty tasty! 

Rio Maravilha Lisbon

After lunch, we wandered around shopping for awhile and searching for a local IPA. We kind of struck out, but eventually found a bar that served an Oitava Colina beer Urraca Vendaval -from "8th Hill" brewery (8A). It wasn't my favorite, but it was nice to sit outside and drink it in the sunshine. 

10. Ginginha do Carmo 

After some relaxing (and a little nap on my part) back at our apartment, we started our walk to dinner. But first, we had to stop for a shot of "ginginja" - a Portuguese tradition.

Ginginja (ginginha or ginja) is a cherry liquor that's only found in Portugal. There are tons of small windows that you can walk up to for a cheap shot of this super sweet substance - it's not super high in alcohol content, and it's also not usually taken as a shot by locals. Sometimes, the shot glass comes with a soaked sour cherry in the bottom. 

At Ginginha do Carmo, which was right near our apartment, there's also the option to drink your ginginha out of a chocolate shot glass! 

My mom and I sipped ours on the sidewalk - I wasn't a huge fan since it reminded me a lot of port wine. But glad we could check it off the Lisbon bucket list (ginginha is very prominent in Lisbon, but not as popular in places like Porto). 

lisbon25.jpg

11. Dinner at BASTARDO

This was our big night out - eating at the New York Times reviewed Bastardo in the Internacional Design Hotel. 

Though they had lost our reservation when we arrived, we sat down at the bar while we waited and ordered a cocktail. The tequila drink that I had high hopes for was a total flop. Despite the elaborate presentation (pineapple, pepper, bacon) it didn't taste like there was any alcohol in it at all and it took about 20 minutes for us to be served! 

Bastardo Lisbon

Eventually, we sat at the table where we waited about another 20-30 minutes for anyone to acknowledge our existence. 

Despite the very poor service, we were entertained by the pop-art inspired atmosphere, the placements that proclaimed "On This Magic Placemat Calories Don't Count. You're Welcome. Enjoy." and the bread baskets made out of Legos. 

The menu sections are titled "Ready" "Set" and "Go" which I also cracked a smile at. 

I can't say I remember anything in particular that we ate at Bastardo - the food honestly wasn't that memorable, the service wasn't great, and it was a bit of a disappointment all around. The concept and design was interesting - but also a little over the top. 

My mom's comment as we washed our hands in the bathroom sink filled with rocks was one of my favorite quotes of the night, "What do they think they are, Tao or something?" 

12. Night out on Pink Street

Pink Street is actually part of  Rua Nova do Carvalho - and it is, as the kids say, LIT. 

During the day it's a pretty pink street but at night it transforms into party city. Think Broadway in Nashville or 6th Street in Austin - plus the unique night club atmosphere of European cities like Barcelona. 

My mom was adamant that I wasn't dragging her into a night club for dancing - but I did get her to go join me at a wine bar with live music (I think we were subconsciously drawn into this bar because the guitarist was singing all American songs!)

The bar we had wandered in to was Pink Wine Point and it was lively (though every bar on the block seemed to be) and I fell in love with the bartender (the bartender was not aware that I existed, other than to pour me more wine). 

Note: Negronis, Aperol Spritz and gin drinks are huge in Lisbon! It seemed to be all anyone ordered all night. Another drink that was everywhere? SOMERSBY! The cider I had fallen in love with in Copenhagen

Post-vacation I looked up Pink Wine Point and it turns out it's very popular, with great reviews, on Yelp and TripAdvisor! Go us! 

We walked back to our apartment where we fell into bed and sang a wonderful rendition of La Vie Boheme  (complete with choreographed foot motions). 

Day 3 coming up next!

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8 Things I Learned From a Social Media Detox

I've had two great successes so far this summer - going a full month without drinking and completing my first Olympic Triathlon

But there was also a notable "failure" when I attempted to go 30 days without social media and lasted about 16. Hands down, giving up social media was harder than giving up alcohol. I'm somewhat disappointed in myself for not sticking it out until day 30 but at the same time, I took away a ton of lessons from the first 2+ weeks and feel refreshed and not-as-addicted. 

Here were a few main takeaways from the failed social experiment - just over two weeks of no Instagram, Facebook, dating apps and Snapchat!

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1.       I didn’t miss out on invitations to things.

Sure, I probably missed some Facebook event invites that I would have marked myself as “interested” in, only to ignore as the date approached. Whenever I do this, I have a slight pang of guilt that I’m not attending – not necessarily FOMO but the feeling that I should be out doing something.

But invitations to things with friends – invitations to things that I really wanted to be a part of – nope, I didn’t miss any of those invites. Because my friends are my friends because they like me and enjoy my company…so it would make sense that they would send a text about something I might be interested in. They know me pretty well, after all. Exhibit A - this amazing summer Friday lunch at Jajaja!

JaJaJa NYC

2.       People assumed that plans fell through because there was no social media evidence that they happened.

It was comical how many people thought that I ended up not going to the Boardy Barn over July 4 weekend because I didn’t Snapchat or Instagram the experience. In fact, I did a lot over 16 days despite the fact that it wasn’t documented on social media! It was very freeing to not be constantly composing the perfect picture.

Boardy Barn Long Island

3.       Friends still thought about me while I was off-the-grid.

I still got texts of memes or pictures that friends saw online that reminded them of me. It wasn’t like I became insignificant without social media.

4.       I still take a lot of pictures.

While it was nice to not try to get a picture-perfect shot or video of every moment,  I still found myself taking pictures of almost everything. I’m just a picture person I guess. That being said, it was eye-opening to realize that whether we like to admit it or not, when we post on social media, we are essentially bragging – “look how great this moment of my day was! Aren’t you jealous? Don’t you wish you were here?!” We all do it – but it was nice to just take a picture because the sunset was pretty with no other pretenses. 

Long Island Sunset

5.       Email is underrated!

For someone who likes writing – email is a perfect mix between a letter and a text. Because let’s face it, texts are pretty surface-level. I found myself writing more emails while I was off of social media – but emails that actually had some substance to them.

Plus, everyone’s on their computer during the work day anyway – so it was a nice way to break up the day to get an email from a friend instead of scrolling through my Instagram feed for the 100th time in 2 hours.

6.       I felt more content than I remember feeling in a long time.

During the two weeks I didn’t have social media – I had this overwhelming sense of contentment. Not constantly comparing my weekend to someone else’s really allowed me to just appreciate how I was choosing to spend my time. And to appreciate the people I was with, the places I was going, the workouts I was enjoying, etc.

I wish there was a way to be on Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and maintain this level of contentedness but I really think that it takes a huge, unconscious toll on us to constantly be peering into other people’s lives and unknowingly holding ours up against it.

Fourth of July weekend I didn’t rent a beach house, I didn’t go to a lake house with 20 of my closest friends. The following weekend I didn’t go exploring waterfalls on a tropical island. I went for a long run in my neighborhood, sat at the yacht club with my parents drinking gin and tonics, wandered around Williamsburg and swam in the Hudson with my best friends – and I realized how much I love those low-key weekends with no major plans. The weekends that I allow to unfold instead of scheduling every minute of. They’re a nice change of pace – even if everyone else on my Instagram is chronicling their world travels.

We all know that social media serves as someone’s highlight reel – but I’d rather my life be a great movie than a crappy one with a good trailer.

Fourth of July NYC Rooftop

7.       I had so much more time!

It’s scary how many minutes and hours I day we spend scrolling. Or at least I know I do. In 16 days, I read 5 BOOKS. 5!

It was so nice to use my brain more. And I finally checked out a creative writing workshop I’ve been wanting to go to! It was a great way to spend a night and I’m really glad I went.

It’s no shock that these are the two weeks I also successfully grocery shopped and meal prepped and felt so happy in my routine and rhythm (this also had to do with the fact that I was also home for two weeks straight – a rare occurrence).

Gotham Writer's Write-In

8.       It’s so easy to fall back into it.

Once I redownloaded Instagram and Facebook (I’m still Snapchat free, for now) – I was disappointed in how quickly I fell back into old habits of scrolling endlessly and frequently.

So why did I go back? It’s addictive, man! I missed the pretty pictures, the posts that inspire new travel plans, the memes that nail a situation spot on and make me burst out laughing. I was trying to plan my trips to Banff, Copenhagen and Stockholm and wanted to look at pictures that others have posted in these places. I wanted restaurant recommendations and food porn! I got sucked back in – 100%.

Despite the fact that I failed to make it 30 days – I’m glad for the 16 days I did survive, because they were a pretty nice break and a chance to get off the grid and realize just how pervasive social media is in my life.

Every day I found myself fighting back the urge to open up one of my apps – my thumb just seemed to float to where the icon used to be on its own accord.

I’m trying to cut back. I think a huge step for me would to not allow myself to wake up and immediately go on my phone and to force myself to read or journal right before falling asleep. But those are the two times I find myself trapped in the constant scrolling the most!

Maybe that’s my next challenge.

NYC Tri Race Recap

For the past week, whenever anyone asks me how my first New York City Triathlon went, I'm sure they've walked away from me secretly hating my guts. 

I hear myself gushing over the race and talking about 3 hours of physical activity as if it were a trip to an amusement park - and I've thought, "Wow, I'm annoying." 

But yet I can't help. Last Sunday was absolutely amazing in a way that only fellow race addicts will be able to comprehend. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

Packet Pick-Up & Expo

Friday, I took advantage of my office's "Summer Friday" hours to stroll over to the Hilton Hotel where packet pick-up and the NYC Tri Expo were taking place. I happened to arrive a perfect 10 minutes prior to the 3 PM briefing that is required for all participants. 

The briefing lasting about 30 minutes and had a lot of good information - all of the logistics of triathlons tend to overwhelm me so the more times I'm told what to do and what to expect, the better. Not to mention, this was my first Olympic Distance triathlon and only my second triathlon EVER. 

After the briefing you received a stamp on your hand to prove you had sat through it, which enabled you to pick up your packet full of bib numbers (one for your shirt, one for your bike, one for your helmet, etc.), your timing chip (worn around your ankle), your t-shirt and swag bag.  

New York City Triathlon Expo

Then, I headed into the expo to see what freebies I could snag. Since the expo had started at 2 PM and it was only 3:30 on a Friday, it was still pretty calm which was nice. I grabbed all the chip clips, hand sanitizer, keychains, chapsticks, coupons, etc. only to get home and think, "I literally do not need any of this..." 

I had ordered a bunch of stuff online  that didn't arrived in time - so I was on the hunt for tri shorts to wear during the race (oops). Mine have slowly disintegrated from wearing them in chlorine when I go to the pool - and the padding in my biking shorts was way too much to swim and run in. 

After trying on a few pairs at the TYR booth, I found a brand I'd never heard of - Voler - and fell in love with their basic pair of $30 tri shorts which were black and teal to match my bike, helmet, cycling shoes...etc. etc. 

I also bought a new Adidas sports bra for $12 - suhweet! 

Bike Check-In

The NYC Tri basically takes place in my backyard, which made the somewhat daunting three-day process of Expo, Bike Check-In, Race, Bike Pick-Up a lot more manageable. 

On Saturday, after a productive morning at the library and Trader Joe's, I set out on my bike with a giant backpack full of all my race essentials. 

15 minutes into the ride - I realized I had forgotten to put my number on my bike - which would prevent me from checking it into the transition area. 

Back to my apartment I went - dripping in sweat and cursing myself as I precariously balanced on my bike.

Finally, I made it to transition and found Callie and our friend Molly, racked my bike (my number said, "If triathlons were easy, it'd be called football") and started laying out all my things. 

NYC Tri Bike Check-In

It's kind of crazy to think that I walked away from transition having left behind a $1300 bike, $200+ wetsuit, $75 cycling shoes, $100+ GPS watch, and various other items. That night my parents would ask me, "What will you do with your cell phone during the swim?" And I had to laugh, thinking that my cell phone was the least of my worries. 

Callie, Molly and I took the 30 minutes to go on one of the transition area tours which I cannot recommend enough if you ever find yourself doing the NYC Tri or any tri that offers such a "tour." I left feeling much more at ease having a mental picture of where I would walk to the swim, where I would be exiting the swim, where I would re-enter transition, where I would leave with my bike, etc. etc. It also really helped to see "the hill" everyone talks about that comes fairly quickly in the bike ride. 

NYC Tri Transition

The Night Before

After bike check-in I spent the evening meal prepping for the week, getting a pep talk from my parents (which ended with, "I really don't know why you do this Lauren...") and eventually eating an early dinner of chicken, vegetarian chili and spinach. I double checked that everything was ready to go for the early morning alarm (including my pre-made rice cake + PB and banana) before taking a melatonin. I fell asleep shockingly easily around 8:30 PM. 

NYC Tri Race Prep

Morning Of! Pre-Race Readying

My alarm went off at 3:40 AM and I felt shockingly fine. I put on my tri shorts, tank, running sneakers, Road ID and pinned on my bib. Fun fact, I had gotten my period the day before, so I popped two Ibuprofen for cramps, brushed my teeth, grabbed my water bottle and breakfast and within 15 minutes was ordering an Uber pool to the bike transition. 

I assumed an Uber pool would probably end up being a) just me or b) myself and a fellow triathlete on their way to transition but NYC truly is the city that never sleeps and I was surprised to find myself explaining to a couple why I was dressed to go workout at 4:00 AM. 

Transition was daaaark when I arrived around 4:15 and I remained pretty calm - a nice departure from my crazed/stressed self prior to last year's sprint triathlon on Long Island where I had a panic attack first about my bike pump not working and then about forgetting my ear plugs in my dad's truck. 

NYC Tri Transition Area

I easily found someone nearby to help me re-inflate my tires, sipped my canned cold brew coffee, ate my rice cake with PB and banana, and re-jiggered my things in a way that made sense. 

I put on my flip flops, put my goggles around my neck, slung my wetsuit over my shoulder, and made sure that my ear plugs, swim cap and socks were in the bag I'd be walking to the swim start with.  

Callie's bike was only a few down from me, I saw Abby right away, Molly, Emily, Alex - tons of November Project people made me feel calm. I also just kept telling myself that we still weren't starting for a long time. 

NYC  Tri Race Recap

After some pictures (duh) we left as transition closed at 5:15 on the dot and started the walk to the swim start. Making our way up to 99th street with Abby and Callie by my side made it just feel like a regular morning and kept me calm. We watched the Hudson River flowing on by, "The river is moving! There is a current! Hooray!" 

When we approached where we would be exiting the water, I laid out a pair of socks that would save my feet from the gravely quarter-mile run back to transition. A ton of people had left out sneakers, but that seemed like a big hassle to put on. 

At the swim start, I body glided up, put my flip flops in my bag, took out my ear plugs and swim cap, and gave it to the truck that would transport it to the finish line. 

We continued along to Port-o-Potty Village and finally, donned our sexy wet-suits, shimmying our way into them like an extra-tight pair of skinny jeans. 

As we approached the water I put two spare ear plugs in the sleeves of my wetsuit, where I was pretty sure they wouldn't budge considered how tight it was - I knew that if I lost the ear plugs in my ears mid-swim I'd probably freak (I ALWAYS swim with them, get terrible swimmer's ear, and hate the feeling of water in my ears - especially because I fly so much, it makes me paranoid!) 

Callie braided my hair (best part of race day are the race braids!) and when we entered the line with our swim start/age group we completed the Tinder-profile-worthy look with our swim caps. 

Soon, a giant pink pig poster came marching by and attached to it were Abby's adorable parents who snapped some WINNING photos of the three of us. 

We, as usual, goofed off, joked around, and kept things as far-from-serious as possible. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

When swim waves started going off, I was relieved to see lots of people side stroking, back stroking, treading water and STILL moving at a fast clip towards the finish. The river was movin' all right and I knew that even if it took me 40 minutes of backstroke, I'd make it out of the Hudson and to my bike. 

The three of us decided to take the 20 second time penalty by sitting on the barge and dangling our legs into the water instead of jumping in and can I just say HOW GREAT it was that I got to start this race sitting next to my two best friends and triathlon inspirations (Hi, 70.3). 

The Swim 

You know people who downplay their abilities constantly because they want to hear people tell them how great they are? I SWEAR I wasn't trying to be that person by panicking about the swim portion of the NYC Tri. 

I was legitimately petrified of swimming .9 miles and still do not think that I'm entirely capable of doing it in other circumstances. Those circumstances = a quickly moving river, pulling you downstream whether you wanted to or not. 

The promising news was that I managed to do some actual face-in-the-water swimming this time around. That being said, it was HIGHLY supplemented with the backstroke for more than half of the time. Progress? 

The wave start meant that for most of the time, the route wasn't too crowded. The sea wall had signs marking each 100 meters and volunteers on both sides made sure that you were staying within the safe swimming area. By the final 150 meters, the course got crowded and hectic as everyone converged on the barge where we would exit the water. I just hung back and slowly made my way to the exit area where I grabbed onto someone's arm and they pulled me up and out. 

Volunteers immediately started telling everyone to wipe their faces off - to remove the notorious "Hudson River Mustache" from their faces before they approached the photographer. Gross? Yes. Real? Definitely - I felt plenty of gravelly-grossness as I tried to get myself camera ready (LOL I mean, how camera ready can you be as you run/try to remove a wetsuit/take off goggles and swim cap? Answer: Not very.) 

My swim ended up being 20:04 for a pace of 01:21/100 M (for reference, the fastest splits I've ever had in a pool are well over 2:00 per 100M). 

NYC Tri

Transition One

I was pleasantly surprised when I reached back to unzip my wetsuit that it pretty easily complied. Using a tip from Abby, I held my ear plugs, swim cap and goggles in my hand while I pulled the sleeves down - ensnaring the miscellaneous swim accouterments in the inside out sleeve. SCORE. 

I overshot my socks by a few steps and swiveled around to grab them and slip them on - definitely a great call to go socks instead of sneakers. I was moving at a quick pace back to transition - passing plenty of people but also trying to take a minute to breathe and mentally prepare for the bike. 

NYC Tri Swim

Imagine the smile on my face when I got back to my bike and saw Callie ready to go out and start her ride! 

I scarfed down two dates (YUM they're my new favorite fuel), took off my timing chip, fully took off my wet-suit, put the timing chip back on, slid into my socks and cycling shoes, clipped on my Spibelt with my phone, put on my Garmin, buckled my helmet, thought to myself, "that's it right?!" and picked up my bike, jogging alongside it to the exit. 

My watch said 6:30 which absolutely shocked me - I'd swam .9 miles, run .25 and gotten ready for the bike in 30 minutes - something I had never thought remotely possible. Now, it was in my head that 3 hours was a possibility and the chase for 3:00:00 was on. 

Transition One took me 08:27. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

Bike

I mounted my bike and off I went! "The hill" wasn't as stressful as anticipated - I got there at a lucky time I guess and it wasn't very crowded. I stood up to make my way up it quickly and easily. Once we made a few sharp(ish) turns (nothing that made my stomach enter my throat) it was nothing but open highway! 

NYC Tri Race Recap

It was amazing to have a whole highway shut down for us to ride on. Over the course of 25 miles, I had verrrrry few instances of overcrowding or close calls with fellow riders - everyone seemed very courteous and under control - riding to the right and passing on the left. 

I felt good and was riding hard, until I passed the first 5 mile marker and realized, "I should probbbbbably dial it back a bit." 

So I dialed it back and settled in, telling myself that I was going to be on here for awhile and didn't really know what was to come in terms of hills. But I felt great and my legs felt strong - I really had no way of knowing how fast I was going since I don't have a bike computer, but I was confident that I was having a good ride. 

Each hill that greeted me was manageable and each downhill made me a little anxious about how I would feel on the back-half of the route. There was one major hill on the way up to the Bronx that had my legs screaming but it was over fairly quickly.

I passed and was passed by the same people back and forth for most of the ride which let me know that I was staying pretty consistent. For awhile, I was chasing down a woman who 70 and it reminded me that I want to be a bad ass triathlete when I'm well into my 40s and 50s! 

The bike went really well - the final 5 miles had me trying to calculate how fast I'd need to run to finish in under 3 hours and it seemed to be slipping away. 

The final turn around was the hairiest turns but once that was over it was smooth sailing back to transition, where we slowed down to a frustrating crawl/single file line. That being said, it was nice that everyone just accepted that it was going to take a minute to get back as people slowed down and dismounted and no one was an asshole barreling through the narrow path. 

I ended up finishing the bike in 1:29:03 for an average speed of 16.75 MPH. This was nuts to me because that's the exact speed I normally do my Central Park loops at! I guess I'm pretty consistent! 

This was probably my favorite long bike ride ever and I'm so glad I enjoyed it.  

NYC Tri Bike

Transition Two 

I ran my bike back to the rack and proceeded to take off my timing chip and socks - before realizing 

that I absolutely had not needed to do that - oops haha. I ate two dates, put a caffeinated gel in my Spibelt, laced up my sneakers, contemplated a hat and decided against it, drank some water and made a quick dash to the port-o-potty. 

After that, it was out on the run - which I had originally thought would be my favorite part of the race. In reality, it was hands down the hardest part of the race. 

Transition Two: 04:00

The Run

The run course starts with a massive hill up to Riverside Dr. and I decided immediately that it wasn't worth getting super out of breath and mentally frustrated by attempting to run up it - I walked up and I think it was a good call. 

For the first mile I just told myself to relax, let my legs get used to running, and get myself to Central Park. It's nice that you don't enter the park until a mile into the run, because I just told myself once I hit the park I could really start to hit my stride. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

Like I said, this was hard. Running after biking 25 miles is a very strange sensation where your legs are heavy, yet also numb? You feel like you're moving so slowly because you've been moving at 16+ MPH for the past hour and a half. Even though I felt like I was running through quicksand and not moving - my first mile split was an 8:12. 

It was a pleasant surprise, but I also had been aiming to start slow and go for negative splits, which wasn't going to happen with that start. 

Once in the park, the hills came and I focused on quick, short steps to get myself up and over them. But that West Side of the park still killed me. I was letting my head go to a bad place where I was saying, "WHY IS THIS SO HARD this is supposed to be my favorite part!" The only thing that kept me going was that everyone I passed seemed to think I was "LOOKIN' STRONG" and had "GREAT FORM." This was news to me but I took their word for it. 

Once I saw the November Project cheer squad - things changed. The energy put a huge smile on my face and from that point on I had a much much better attitude. I bee-lined for Kaitlin who was taking pictures and gave her a big high five and zoomed away in much better spirits. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

The trudge up Harlem Hill began and my watch kept giving me mile splits that I was happy with - 8:26 for mile2 and 8:19 for mile 3. 

Somewhere between mile 2 and 3 I took my gel which also helped - I only use the caffeine Cliff shots and they work like a charm. 

I passed the water station my friend Michelle was volunteering at and gave her a huge hug which re-energized me to finish the hills. 

For the entire race, my strategy was to stop at each water station and actually drink water - I hadn't even finished a full water bottle on the bike ride and new I would be in trouble if I didn't drink during the run. I'm never a walk through the water stations person but it worked amazingly for this race and I'm really glad I did it! 

When I got over to the east side I saw Callie in the distance which put an extra pep in my step so I could catch up to her. We chatted for a few minutes and I continued on with splits that were making me very happy and quite frankly very surprised. Mile 4 was a 7:55. 

I decided to try to take mile 5 more conservatively so I could finish the final mile strong. Mile 5 was an 8:23 and then I kicked it into high gear for mile 6. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

At that point, my legs were fully in running mode and my stride was more relaxed and natural and I could tell that I was cruising along. It felt great to pass so many people in that final mile and as I approached the finish line I was pushhhhing myself to the point where I started getting chills and thinking, "Uh, this is probably not good since it's 85 degrees out."

In the final few feet I was stuck behind 2 or 3 people and desperately trying to pass. Eventually I snuck around them and sprinted across the finish line. Nothing has ever felt so amazing as the freezing cold wet towel they placed around my neck. I would have taken that over the medal. 

My final mile was a 7:32. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

According to the official results, my run was 49:07 for a pace of 07:55 (my watch had me at an 08:07) and 16th in my age group for the run! It was definitely the hardest part, but I guess it's obvious which of the three things I'm best at! 

Final time was 02:50:39 and I was so happy to break 3 hours!

Post-Race

It's hard for me to remember a time I was on such an endorphin-high. Probably after both my marathons my 10K PR. But it's just the absolute best feeling in the world and I rode that high alllllll day. 

So many people ask me why I wanted to do this triathlon if I was scared and nervous and thought that it was going to be hard and my answer is I wanted to do this triathlon BECAUSE I was scared and nervous and BECAUSE it was hard. 

There is no better feeling than proving to yourself that you can do something you've never done before. To do something despite the fact that you're nervous - to prove that you can fight through the nerves and the fear and go for it anyway. 

My biggest pet peeve is when people say they "can't" do something when they've never even tried and REFUSE to try. Complacency is so boring. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

After the race we took lots of pictures, I called my parents, we walked around the finishers festival (free YASSO BARS!) and eventually Callie and I made our way to the shuttle that took us back to transition to pick up our bikes. 

After packing everything up, we took the subway uptown and walked our bikes across the park to my apartment where I took the most amazing shower of my life, used my bone stimulator machine, and we got ready for food. 

We met Michelle and Abby at BARE BURGER which was everything I wanted and more. A burger in a collard green wrap + crispy Brussels sprouts and sweet potato fries. Not to mention 23842 glasses of water. 

Next stop was Treadwell Park to meet up with people from November Project and enjoy a refreshing alcoholic beverage (I finally tried the Wolffer Cider white wine!) courtesy of my mom and dad. 

NYC Tri Race Recap

We only lasted one drink before decided we needed our beds. 

I spent the rest of the night reading, watching TV, and eating summer rolls and a pint of Halo Top. 

It was the most accomplished I've felt in a really long time. And now, of course, I'm wondering what the next challenge will be! Thinking about that 70.3.......

THANKS 

Shout out to Kaitlin, Patti, Brian and Mr. & Mrs. Reisner for all of the wonderful pictures of the day!! I'm obsessed and you can find me most days just scrolling through my phone looking at all of them and reminiscing :) 

I really can't even figure out what to say about how much Callie and Abby helped me get to the start line and across the finish line so I'll just say that every run, every swim, every bike ride, every brunch, every beer, every laugh, every cry - it's 294380X better with you two by my side! Next stop, Banff!

NYC Tri Race Recap

 

 

 

Social Media 30-Day Detox

detoxcover.png

My morning's usually start with laying in bed and scrolling through various social media channels. 

Instagram, Facebook, Strava.

Getting caught up and concerned with other people's lives at 7:00 a.m., wondering who worked out this morning? Who had a great dinner last night? Who is traveling the world or on a beautiful beach somewhere? Did anyone message me on the dating apps I recently re-downloaded? 

My nights usually end in a similar way - mindlessly swiping left and right in search of someone to send me cheesy pick-up lines and unsubstantial conversation.  Getting dizzy from the Boomerangs on people's Instagram stories and filtering and re-filtering photos of myself from the weekend, trying to figure out which one is worthy of a #tbt. The bright light from my screen keeps me up way past a necessary hour. 

It sounds ridiculous when you read about just how wrapped up in social media people become. You scoff at the idea that your self worth has somehow become intertwined with your followers and likes. It looks ridiculous when people stand on chairs to get the perfect boozy brunch snapshot.

But I'm willing to bet that you've been that girl walking and Snapchatting as she walks down the street  And I'm sure you've been that girl feeling bad on a Friday night, sitting in her apartment as her Facebook feed is flooded with friends having fun. The FOMO sets in, even though hours ago at your desk, you swore you WANTED a night of Netflix and Seamless by yourself. 

And don't even get me started on dating apps. Why do I spend HOURS swiping when I truly have NO intention of meeting up with anyone for drinks? 

28 days without drinking had me feeling empowered and looking for a new challenge - and so on July 1, with little fanfare, I deleted it all. 

Facebook. 

Facebook Messenger. 

Instagram. 

Snapchat. 

Bumble. 

Hinge. 

Buh-bye. 

The plan is not seeing these apps until August 1 and I'm really interested to see how it goes! 

Stay tuned. 

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Month of Me: What I Did While I Wasn't Drinking

Going alcohol free for 28 days was a way for me to refocus on me, myself, and the things I'd been "meaning to do" for too long. 

The past month has been filled with worthwhile experiences, belly laughs, some great workouts, some relaxing days and lots of learning moments. 

Month Alcohol Free Challenge

A Trip to Buffalo 

After spending time in Buffalo last year for a work trip, I was excited to return this spring. 

The Healthy Scratch

All 8 days, my breakfasts and lunches came from The Healthy Scratch. I was overjoyed to have them nearby for healthy, nutritious food. I ate my smoothie with a spoon and added some granola on top and I found that it was super satisfying - usually when I drink my breakfast from a straw, I still feel like I need to eat something. 

Healthy Food Buffalo

The Buffalo food scene impresses me whenever I go, and we had some more delicious meals. 

The Mahony

Most notable was the discovery of The Mahony, located inside an old creamery building which creates a trendy vibe. The menu is diverse and unique - one night we went there was even live music. 

Chef's

We also ate at Chef's - which, though not my cup of tea, is a very historic restaurant in Buffalo that has been around since 1923! Their menu is like a mini history book - with stories about how they moved the oven from the bakery that used to make their bread to their new location and hired the head baker. And the story of how their famous dish, "spaghetti parmigiana" was created. Picture a pile of spaghetti engulfed in a glob of cheese. 

Sear

My favorite meal was probably the massive tuna steak I got at Sear. The black coconut sticky rice it came with, paired with pineapple puree, was summer-seafood heaven for my taste buds. (Though it would have been better enjoyed on an island somewhere). 

Sear Steakhouse Buffalo

Another reason I love Buffalo is because of the Canalside walk along the water which I enjoyed on Memorial Day. 

Canalside Buffalo

Billy Joel Concert Turned Cooking with Callie 

When Billy Joel cancelled his concert due to an infection, Callie and I took to the kitchen to improvise a recipe based off of Hummasapien's Curried Cauliflower Chickpea Buddha Bowl. The fact that my food processor wouldn't turn on made for a less than ideal sauce-making scenario but Callie diced those almond so finely that we still managed to make it work. 

Anyone else out there arugula-obsessed? Raise your hand if arugula is your go-to-green (and leave me so recipe ideas in the comments!)

Hummusapien Recipe

Baseball Game 

I will admit that I am far from a fan of America's Favorite Pastime. I usually go to one or two games a year and when I get there I'm just kind of like, "OK, now what?" Usually, the answer to that question is "BEER!" but a baseball game dead sober - that was something new to me. 

I went to a Yankees/Red Sox game with my friend Kayla and her dad and boyfriend and they are DIE HARD Sox fans. I even donned a Red Sox t-shirt since Kayla humored me at an Islanders game earlier this year. 

Admittedly, the baseball part of the experience was still meh for me - but Kayla's enthusiasm, her nicknames for all of the players, her method of sneaking in a tequila nip in her umbrella, the seventh inning stretch, the YMCA, the wave and THE SUNSET kept me smiling the entire night. 

Red Sox Yankees Game

Sushi Making Class 

I have been saying, "I really want to learn how to make sushi" for a LONG TIME. At least 2 years. I live in a city that has hundreds of cooking classes on the DAILY. No more excuses. 

Lana is one of my sushi-loving friends and when I finally found the class I wanted to take I knew she would be down. 

Cooking classes ain't cheap - easily $80+! But I found a deal on Groupon for CocuSocial and it was super affordable at $36 per person! 

Sushi Making Class NYC

The class was held in a lobby/snack bar area of a hotel in midtown Manhattan and was a very manageable size with no more than 16 or so of us. Most people were in pairs. It was super laid back, but I actually learned a good amount more than I thought I would! 

I also never expected to leave absolutely stuffed! We learned how to roll a salmon roll, a crab inside-out roll (with the rice on the outside) and a hand roll! Three different types of rolls which we devoured - that's a LOT of sticky rice. 

We were shocked at how sticky the rice was - it is NOT easy to work with and while you're supposed to keep your hands wet to make the rice easier to handle, you have to try not to get any of the water on the nori (the sheet of seaweed). 

I really liked the hand roll because it was like a sushi burrito - but when I poured the soy sauce into the roll, it just came flooding out the bottom. OOPS. 

Sushi Making Class NYC

After class, our instructor gave us some more information, like how to shop for sushi-grade fish, what makes it sushi-grade, and how to make the sticky rice! 

I highly recommend checking out CocuSocial and I definitely plan on taking more of their classes! (Dumplings, pasta, pie - they offer a lot of different ones!) 

Wedding & College Roommate Reunion 

You know those friends that you can go forever without seeing, and then you're together and it's like absolutely no time at all has passed? I'm lucky to have a lot of friends like that. As you get older, your friends are spread out across the map, everyone has their own obligations and plans, and you go longer and longer without seeing each other. But despite that, my college roommates and I had an amazing time at Kelsey's wedding. 

Dancing, reminiscing, eating, photo-boothing, Hamilton rapping and bug-drowning - it was a great weekend together. 

Month of No Alcohol Challenge

Broadway 

The musical theatre nerd in me isn't as prominent as it once was, but every time I sit at watch a show, I remember how much I love a good show tune. 

My friends and I went to see Waitress and while it wasn't one of my favorites, it was worth the $60 to hear "She Used to Be Mine" belted live. We just missed Sara Bareilles by a day (hence the discounted tickets), but Betsy Wolfe crushed her first performance as Jenna. 

There were a few songs that I could definitely tell were written by Bareilles and overall, the show was pretty damn funny. 

Waitress on Broadway

Catching Up With Friends 

Before most long work trips I try to fit in some time with friends to catch up before I hit the road. The week before the last work trip of the season, I grabbed sweetgreen with Kayla and got a manicure/pedicure with Jess. 

Could we have gone for drinks? Absolutely (it probably would have ended with me dragging them to Brandy's Piano Bar and ordering Tequila Cosmos...) But it was much more productive for my schedule to do two things I needed to do anyway: eat dinner and get my nails done, while at the same time chatting away. 

Trip to Las Vegas

I am not the biggest fan of Las Vegas. Admittedly, I've only ever been on work trips which tend to put a damper on the Sin-City Lifestyle but I also just think that's it's like being stuck in Times Square for a week - not something I would ever wish on someone. 

I tried to make the most of this trip though - ate a few good meals, gambled a whole $22 on Willy Wonka and Wizard of Oz slot machines (and won $35 on an Orange Is The New Black machine before my flight out!) and enjoying a Lush bath bomb in the luxurious tub in my Encore hotel room (they are absolutely gorgeous!) 

I used Postmates for my lunches all week in Vegas and pretty quickly my coworkers put me in charge of the healthy--but-delicious meal finding. It was so much easier than I had anticipated! I had great meals and highly suggest checking out the following places if you're trying to eat well in Vegas: 

SkinnyFATS

I ate the dish with the zucchini noodles and it was yum!

Protein House

Greens and Proteins 

I was so obsessed with my turkey burger in a cabbage wrap with JICAMA fries at lunch, that I ordered the Harvest Kale Stocked Salad for dinner! We also ordered the Greek Pizza on pita to share in the office and it was amazing. 

Las Vegas Healthy Eating

Fun fact - I never made it out of the Wynn/Encore hotel for a meal during the trip. But the fact that the Wynn and Encore's restaurant menus feature so many vegan and healthy options was fine by me! Each menu has a few items that list the calories and try to remain on the lighter side. 

My favorite thing I ate was definitely the buffalo cauliflower at Le Jardin. It was absolutely mind blowing - so crispy. And the vegan ranch/blue cheese sauce? WOW. Brynn and I could have had 4 more orders and skipped the entrees. 

I also really liked the kale salad at The Country Club  and was pumped to try the Impossible Burger meat in crispy rice lettuce cups at Andrea's (probably my favorite restaurant at the Wynn/Encore - order the broccoli!!!) 

Stay tuned, there's more to come including the final week of no alcohol!

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5 Things I Learned From Giving Up Alcohol for a Month

My month of me seems to have translated into a month without blogging along with the no running and no drinking thing - oops! 

But now that I'm on the other side of 28 days, I wanted to check in with a recap of the top 5 lessons I learned while going 28 days without drinking. To quickly answer a few of the burning questions: 

  • Did you cheat at all? Nope, not even one rogue sip. 
  • Did you lose weight? No, in fact I probably gained some since I've been working out a lot less and was traveling for work for 2 weeks and eating out constantly. Losing weight was never one of the reasons I wanted to do this in the first place.
  • Was it hard? The biggest surprise of all was that, nope, it really wasn't difficult AT ALL. I can count on one hand the number of times I even came close to cheating.

Here are the top 5 things I took away from 28 days without drinking. 

5 Things I Learned from Giving Up Alcohol for a Month

1. Removing "Happy Hour" from your list of potential plans with friends challenges you to find other activities that you might normally miss out on. 

Alcohol Free Month

I'll be writing an entire post about all the things I've been up to - including a computer coding class, Broadway musical and sushi making class! 

I live in New York City, I travel constantly for work - there's a great big world out there and yes I love my favorite bars as much as the next twenty-something but there's so much more I want to learn and experience other than every citrus-y IPA (but I do want to try them all, eventually...)

When I texted my friends some of the things I wanted to check out - they were quick to say HELL YEAH and even thanked me for planning some out of the ordinary weeknight activities. 

2. No one cares. Seriously. 

Alcohol Free Month

If you surround yourself with somewhat decent people - they aren't going to sit there and try to force you to drink if you decide to pass. Sure they might joke or ask if you're sure, or purposely order your favorite drink off the menu - but they aren't going to sit there and be upset that you aren't drinking. Ain't nobody got time for that.

The only issue I had was convincing the people I was with that they SHOULD drink. I didn't want to put a damper on anyone's night just because I was choosing to sip on Pellegrino (I drank SO much sparkling water this month!) 

3. It didn't make me a homebody. 

I was still social, still enjoyed dinners out with people during my work trips, and still stayed long after the table was cleared watching games and talking - again, drinking lots and lots of water. 

4. I give alcohol too much credit. 

Month of Me!

I had been under the false assumption that alcohol made me more fun, more social, more silly, etc. But I am still all of those things around the people I'm comfortable with - alcohol or no alcohol. At my college roommate's wedding, I was still one of the first ones from our group to get up and out on the dance floor and I was still one of the last to fall asleep because my friend and I were too busy rapping Hamilton to say goodnight. 

5. There's no " easy" month to cut alcohol out of your life. 

Month of Me

I said this in my last post - but, seriously. If it's something you've wanted to do - just do it. There's always going to be a happy hour or a party or a dinner that you're going to want to order a drink at. But I swear, it's not that hard to just be like, "NAH, I'm trying this thing and I really want to stick to it." 

If you want to do it, there's no day like today!

Final Thoughts:

What made it doable for me was the fact that I knew I was serious about it, I let the entire internet know about it (accountability at its best) and most importantly - the reasons behind it were genuine and important to me. 

I didn't go a month without drinking to lose weight, which is what most people assumed. I did it to make room for things that are more important to me and to prove to myself that I could. SURPRISE! I'm a pretty great, well-rounded individual with lots of interests and passions and the fact that I love margaritas and IPAs is really not what make me, me. 

I was honestly shocked at how easy it was, and while I did have an amazing boozy brunch to break the 28 days, I now also have a huge list of non-drinking-activities I plan to do this summer and I'm so excited! Rock-climbing, kayaking, maybe some trapeze? Continuing with computer coding classes, maybe an Excel class? And who wants to come make dumplings with me!? Walking photography tour of a neighborhood? Queens food exploring? Long bike rides! 

K and summer Friday happy hours - there will definitely be some of those, too. 

Changing Your Perspective for a Positive Mindset

And just like that, it's been 13 days without alcohol. Honestly, the first 2 weeks have flown by and there have only been a fewwww times I've been tempted to cheat. But I'm feeling very determined and know that I'll make it to the finish line

Today I wanted to talk (write) a little bit about perspective. It's crazy how big of an impact a small shift in perspective can make in your happiness. I'm groaning at how preachy that sounded - but stick with me.

Changing Your Perspective

Wednesday was a long day. I was out the door by 5:00 a.m., on a flight to Pittsburgh by 7:00 a.m., at a coffee shop working by 9:00 a.m., in a meeting by noon, back at the airport by 3:30 p.m. and not back through my apartment doors until 8:00 p.m. 

But as my plane descended into New York City, I looked out my window and below me, the entire city was sprawled out. A city inhabited by 1.6 million people - including little old me. It might take me an hour and multiple subway transfers and plenty of frustration to get from the Upper East Side to Chelsea on a Sunday - but from 30,000 feet up, the island of Manhattan looked so much simpler. 

Changing Your Perspective

I could see the Freedom Tower and Central Park all at once. I spotted the Empire State Building and the reservoir, and I thought to myself, "WOW Central Park is beautiful and kind of massive, I can't believe I run around that whole thing on the regs!" (Yes, I even use embarrassing abbreviations in my head, obvs). 

Then, as I sometimes do, I started to get a little teary-eyed thinking about the fact that I live in THE New York City. THE Central Park is my backyard. I could look down and point out where Harlem Hill is and Cat Hill and my favorite trees that arch over the reservoir loop. And I could point at MY apartment - or at least the general vicinity of my apartment. 

changing Your perspective

Something about being that high up, and looking down at my entire life/world from such a distance had me feeling really emotional. 

When I landed, and waited in the taxi line, and waited in traffic, and finally got back to my apartment (because NYC isn't EVER actually simple when you're in it...) I dropped my bags and bolted to the park for a walk around the reservoir at sunset. From looking at Central Park from 30,000 feet up one hour to being smack dab in the middle of it the next hour - I had a really ridiculous feeling of contentment. 

How to Have a Positive Perspective

But the thing to remember about changing your perspective, is that it doesn't always mean going up 30,000 feet and literally changing your perspective. It's often a conscious and active decision that you need to make to view things in a different way.  

It's like an Instagram filter, for your life. 

Every day you have the choice to choose between Clarendon (a personal fave), Hudson, Valencia or Nashville (but let's be honest, no one chooses Nashville unless they're IN Nashville and trying to be clever). And every day you have the choice to filter your life to focus on the positives or the negatives. The "LIFE IS GOOD" filter or the "EVERYTHING SUCKS" filter.

Shall we go over some examples from my week? 

  • I could have chosen to focus on the fact that I lost my passport and need to pay $200 to replace it in time for my trip to Canada. 

    I'm not suggesting that I choose to view this as a positive thing - it's not. But instead, I focused my attention on the fact that I luckily found a copy of my passport that will make filling out the application for a new one easier. Instead of harping on the pain in the butt that it's going to be to get it replaced, I gave myself a little pep talk that sounded like this: "Lauren, you're going to get it replaced because you have to. So why are you going to freak out? It's going to get done."
     
  • I could have chosen to focus on the fact that the Billy Joel concert I was supposed to go to was cancelled last minute.

    Instead, I invited Callie over and we cooked a delicious dinner and caught up and then I laid in bed and lip-synced to my favorite Billy Joel songs and sent the videos to my friends so that they weren't sad we missed out on the concert. Because my rendition of Piano Man is essentially the same thing as Billy's. 

    Instead, I appreciated the fact that I got to bed earlier that night ahead of my 4:45 a.m. alarm for my flight. 
     
  • I could have chosen to focus on the fact that my Cuisinart wouldn't start and Callie and I couldn't blend the almonds into the sauce we were making.

    Instead, Callie acted as a human food-processor and chopped the almonds really finely and we improvised and shrugged our shoulders and laughed and guess what? Our dinner still tasted delicious (we cooked these Curried Cauliflower and Chickpea Buddha Bowls from Hummusapien!)  
Staying Positive
  • I could have chosen to focus on the fact that my entire day was taken up by my work trip on Wednesday - leaving me super tired and not giving me the chance to exercise. 

    Instead, I used that spectacular landing as inspiration to get into the park for a 2+ mile walk on a gorgeous night!
     
  • Wednesday was Global Running Day and at the moment, I can't run. I could have easily spent the day upset about my injury, bitter at all of the running posts flooding my social media channels, and angry at my legs. 

    Instead, I liked every running picture that I saw, went for a walk in the park, and thought about how running and the NYC running community has changed my life. Showing up to a Jack Rabbit group run 5 years ago is the #1 reason this place feels like home. 
Changing Your Perspective

So basically what I'm saying is that choosing to view your day from a positive perspective is just like choosing your Instagram filter. Make the right choice.

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Month Of Me! 28 Days Alcohol Free.

It's been a minute since I've posted,, and in that time, "THE MONTH OF ME" has begun. 

THE MONTH OF ME 

28 Days Boys & Booze Free 

And did I mention I can't run, either? 

Let's back up - I'll explain the reasoning behind a dating & drinking detox! 

Why I'm Not Running

May 17 I went to see a new doctor about my shin splints/IT band/everything hurts when I run problems that escalated by the end of my 3 Ragnar Relay legs. That started my 4 weeks of strict no running, jumping, boxing, boot-camping, cross-fitting, etc. as I was diagnosed with grade 3 stress reactions in both legs. Just short of becoming full on stress fractures - eek. 

The hope is that insurance will cover a bone stimulator, which sounds slightly terrifying, but has been shown to strengthen bones in people who are susceptible to stress reactions and stress fractures. Apparently I am one of those people. 

My 2013 stress fracture led to a TOTAL obsession with eating healthy and not gaining weight while I couldn't work out. It also meant commuting 2 hours each way into Manhattan with crutches. No bueno.  

My 2013 stress fracture led to a TOTAL obsession with eating healthy and not gaining weight while I couldn't work out. It also meant commuting 2 hours each way into Manhattan with crutches. No bueno.  

I walked into the appointment and straight up said, "Don't tell me to go to PT. I already know what exercises I need to do to strengthen my glutes, hips and core." And my doctor didn't flinch - he seems to be trying to take preventative measures instead of just telling me to rest, recover, and re-injure myself as soon as I start running again- which I greatly appreciate. 

In the meantime, I'm allowed to bike and swim, thankfully. And I've been focusing on doing lots of arms and abs at the gym. 

And I finally brought my bike in for a tune-up so I'm ready to go on that front - brand new turquoise handlebar tape is FIRE. 

I'm using these 4 weeks to remind myself that yes I am a runner, but running isn't what defines me. 2 years ago, 4 weeks off of running would have resulted in crying and anger and quite frankly, a not-so-cute temper tantrum (coupled with an extreme obsession on counting calories). 

Now, after on and off injuries and being unable to train for a year +, the four weeks "off" sound kind of nice. No frustrating runs that end in pain. No feeling "slow." I miss training and racing SO much. But it's been forever since I've truly been in a good running groove and if 4 weeks completely off gives me the chance to come back stronger and possibly train for another marathon - it is SO so worth it. 

I would like to run 26.2 miles again, please! 

I would like to run 26.2 miles again, please! 

The fact that I can still swim and bike and get jacked arms is GREAT and making it much easier, but I'm also trying to put fitness and exercising on the back burner for these 28 days and focus on all of my other interests and passions and hobbies that I sometimes neglect.

Why I'm Not Drinking 

There have been many times I've proclaimed, "I'm going a month without drinking!" and then realized, "Oh but it's so and so's birthday party,I need to drink at that," or, "Shit I need to try the IPA on this menu" or I quit because let's face it, some social situations are just better with  a beer in your hand.

But since February, I have been going out every weekend. And drinking during the week. And doing boozy brunches. And oh, yeah, living it UP in Barcelona. It's not that I regret any of it - I've been having a LOT of fun these past few months. But I think my body needs a little break - hangovers aren't nearly as fun when you have real life responsibilities and can't just lay in bed all day with your only trip outside being a 5 minute walk to the cafeteria for a bacon egg and cheese. 

Plus, it's always a good reminder that alcohol is NOT a pre-requisite for a good time! I didn't drink until my JUNIOR YEAR OF COLLEGE, PEOPLE. And I had plenty of fun. 

So, my break from drinking is a challenge to find alternate activities to happy hour and bar hopping and boozy brunch (all things I love) and to also realize that I can still do all of those things with my friends and have a great time even if I'm the sober one. 

No more excuses. There will never be a convenient or "easy" time to go a month without drinking. I'll be going to a wedding with my college roommates this weekend and is it going to be a bit of a bummer to not be imbibing at the open bar? Probably. Am I still going to laugh and dance and take ridiculous pictures and roar like a Bobcat? You betchya. 

Why I'm Not Dating 

This is certainly a loaded topic, and not one that I usually talk about on my food & fitness blog, but - I'm a single 27 year old living in NYC in the age of dating apps and ghosting and it is NOT EASY. And guys and relationships and confusion re: men recently seems to consume way more of my mental energy than I'd care to admit. 

And it's not really OK with me.

Because my brain power could be used for a lot better things. And my emotional energy could be used for my friends and family who deserve it. And my free time could be spent doing things I want to do.

So boys, bye!

Why 28 Days? 

This challenge won't last a full 30 days because Kayla is moving home to Boston and we have one last boozy brunch at La Pulperia to conquer on June 25. Featuring a specialty cocktail made by the bartender in her honor. So we're pretending this "month of me" is taking place in February and going with 28 days. 

The Plan

So a month of ME! No drinking, no running, no dates - what's a gal to do? Fill that calendar up with lots of things, that's what! Not all of these things will happen within the 28 days, but they are all a product of the Month of Me mentality!

Billy Joel Concert: When you're listening to Billy Joel sing and you're with your best friends, you don't need alcohol to belt out Piano Man or prove to everyone in your section that you know every word to We Didn't Start the Fire. 
*This was CANCELLED and I am so sad :( 

Yankee/Red Sox Game: I've never seen this decades old rivalry in person and even though I'm not a huge baseball fan, I'm going with the HUGEST baseball fan and I know her excitement will rub off on me. 

Sushi Making Class: I've been meaning to do this FOREVER and I'm so excited to finally make it happen. Plus, I hate sake, so - no temptation there! 

Wedding: 6 college roommates reunited for the first time since graduation!

Cooking With Kay: We've made some pretty fancy things together - handmade ravioli and pesto, seared sea scallops and zoodles, fresh squeezed watermelon cocktails - excited for a night in the kitchen with my friend! 

me8.jpg

Waitress on Broadway:  I miss being a musical theater nerd who knows all the latest buzz on Broadway but it's TONY SEASON so I gotta get my fix. 

Mani/Pedi: I've found that a mani/pedi with friends is a great way to catch up when you don't want to do the typical dinner/drinks. Plus, you can't be using your phone so you're sure to have each other's undivided attention! 

Intro to HTML & CSS: This is something that's been on my To Do list forEVER. I think it's a great skill to have and I'm weirdly excited about sitting in class for 3 hours. I miss being a student and learning! 

NYC Tri: I'm signed up for my first Olympic Distance Triathlon! I'm really scared! But also really excited! And doing it with my two favorites! It's technically outside of my 28 days, but those 28 days will definitely include a lot of biking and swimming to prepare. 

Rock Climbing: I'm going to check out either Chelsea Piers' climbing wall of Steep Rock Bouldering for my first rock-climbing adventure since 2009!  

Rock climbing on a CRUISE SHIP. 

Rock climbing on a CRUISE SHIP. 

Slam Poetry - I absolutely love slam poetry, ever since I saw The Asia Project perform at the NACA Conference and at my college. Maybe one day I'll have the nerve to get up and perform my own poem, but until then I'm excited to check out Nuyorican Poets Cafe slam poetry night. 

Write-In: I signed up for my first Write In with Gotham Writer's! Because a Friday night spent writing and receiving feedback sounds both terrifying and awesome! 

I'm excited, and I'm a little nervous that as these things come up, I'm going to wish my calendar wasn't QUITE so jam packed. But these are all things I really want to do, and are very "me." 

So, 9 days down, 19 to go! 

 

A Week $pent in NYC

I got the idea for “A Week Spent” post from my friend Kaitlin right around the time that Earnest shared their 2017 Money Saving Challenge with me.

It got me thinking about my finances, spending, and ways that I can be better about saving money. And it was pretty eye-opening to track what I spent over the course of a week.

NYC Finances

Monday

Gym: I did a fun workout with my friends at the gym I pay a monthly membership for. We rotated through 10 rounds – 1 person held a plank variation and the other rowed while the third person worked through a kettlebell exercise and cardio exercise. Then we rotated!

Breakfast: My morning coffee and banana from Starbucks costs me $3.67. The banana goes in my yogurt – which is breakfast every day.

Lunch: I bring lunch every day. This week was a salad with tuna, avocado, cucumbers and sunflower seeds with some balsamic vinegar for dressing.

After Work: I headed to New Jersey for the night, which was a $32.50 round trip ticket. When I was at Penn Station, I bought myself two magazines from $12.98. Who knew magazines were so expensive? I got The Atlantic and Runner’s World and it made the two hour train ride go by much faster, so I guess it was worth it.

Monday Total: $49.15

Tuesday

After I got home from New Jersey, I spent the day hibernating in my apartment and spent no money for the day - thanks blizzard!

Tuesday Total: $0

Wednesday

Breakfast: Another Starbucks coffee and banana for $3.67.

Amazon Order: I finally ordered a bike rack along with my next book for book club. And a new set of towels for when I start having Airbnb guests in my room! All of this came to $93.37.  

Swerve Speaker Series: Wednesday night, Erin and I went to one of my favorite things – the Swerve Speaker Series! (Read about the first one I attended here). For $43 you get a spin class, Q&A with a special guest and a smoothie which doubled as Part 1 of my dinner. The speaker this time around was the Knicks’ head of player development. Intellectually stimulating conversation + sweating + smoothie = money well spent in my opinion! Also, Erin killed her first Swerve class!

Wednesday Total: $140.04

Thursday

Breakfast: More Starbucks and banana, still $3.67.

Snacks from GNC: I can’t be trusted walking into GNC! I went with my coworker who needed to pick something up and I left having spent $5.78 on two bags of Enlightened broad beans – one bag of cinnamon and one of garlic & onion. They’re the best.

Thank You: I had to send a thank you card to someone – stamp + Starbucks Gift card = $15.50

Hardware Store: On my lunch break I went to the Hardware store to make a copy of my keys and to buy some supplies for making my new picture frame! Total came to $11.42.

Money Saving Challenge

Tapout Fitness Class: Free pass!

Snack: .75 Apple

Thursday Total: $37.12

Friday

Run: 6 Mile Run to work – free!

Breakfast: I ran out of yogurt and needed to buy one at Starbucks when I got my morning coffee. A Siggi’s Yogurt + Raspberry Chia Bites + my coffee came to $7.29.

Paper Source Cards: I cannot be trusted in this store! Walked in for a card, walked out with a card and a pair of mini finger puppet hands. $9.63

Dinner: I picked up the new Barbacoa Market Plate from Just Salad for $10.88 so I didn’t have to cook before going out for St. Patrick’s Day. It’s SO GOOD I’ve had it two weeks in a row.

St. Patty’s Beverages: I went out with friends that I hadn’t seen in forever which was so nice! Spent $24.04 on cocktails at my favorite bar! (You can read my full review of La Pulperia here).

St. Patrick's Day La Pulperia UES

Friday Total: $51.84

Saturday:

Gym: Worked out at my gym!

Grocery Shopping Part 1: I spent $44.63 on ingredients for Thai Chicken Meatballs, Sweet Potato Banana Bites, and an egg white frittata for the weeks meal prep.

Clothing Donating: I had about 100 lbs of clothes and shoes I wanted to donate to Goodwill but there was no way I could have carried it all. I took an Uber to do my good deed ($9.24) and then of course ended up spending money while I was there ($10.87).

Day Drinks with Friends: $25 and priceless time with some of my favorite people!

La Pulperia Happy Hour

Beauty and the Beast Tickets: We went to see Beauty and Beast and I loved every second of it! Best $11 I’ve spent in a while.

Saturday Total: $100.74

Sunday

New York Hot Yoga Class: Kayla has been asking me to go to her hot yoga studio for approximately 2 years now. And Sunday morning, I finally went! 75 minutes in 105 degrees was HARD but I DID enjoy it, even though it cost me $31!

Brunch: After yoga, Kayla and I got things to make brunch before hanging out and watching McFarland USA. It was a really cute movie! And really delicious breakfast ($20).

Money Saving Challenge

Grocery Shopping Part 2: I somehow ended up at Whole Foods with Kayla buying $26.67 worth of things I didn’t need like Jolly Llama Pops, more Enlightened Beans, and frozen veggies.  

Massage Scheduled for Monday: I’ve had an AWFUL knot in my back for a month now. It started while I was away in Pittsburgh and was so bad that I couldn’t move my neck in certain positions. It’s never fully gone away, and it’s been causing a lot of discomfort when I work out. Not to mention I can feel it every time I breathe in deeply.  I had a gift certificate for $64 to a spa, so I sucked it up and booked myself a $155 deep tissues sports massage for Monday night after work. With the gift card, it will end up costing me about $100.

Rumble Fitness Class for Tuesday: Sunday evening I also bought myself the intro package to Rumble boxing- $35.53 for my first two classes. I’ve been so excited to try this place out- its group fitness boxing. Instead of a boxing class where you are only able to be on the bag for a portion of the time, Rumble is like a spin studio - everyone’s got a bag or a floor station of their own.  

Sunday Total: $213.20

Weekly Total: $592.09

Just a note about transportation – I typically pay for weekly ($31) or monthly ($116.50) unlimited MetroCards depending on my work travel schedule.

Overall, this was a great lesson in stepping back and assessing where my money is actually going. When speaking with the representative at Earnest about the 2017 Money Saving Challenge, she asked me to describe some of my financial goals for the year.  (For those of you that don't know (I didn't before this post!) Earnest is an resource for people interested in getting a personal loan or refinancing their student loans). 

While I didn’t have anything specific, I did realize that I needed a better understanding of my current financial situation to make goal setting possible. My 5 year plan is to figure out where I want to be permanently and to own my own home – so saving however I can is definitely important!

I don’t have a budget written out, but I loved that Earnest’s 2017 Money Saving Challenge Graphic laid out monthly tasks that help you get a better handle on your finances – along with little 30 day challenges to save some extra money.

2017 Money Saving Challenge

After tracking my spending for a week, it shocked me how everything adds up! I spent way more than I expected I would. Granted, this was the first full week I was home in over 3 months, but I definitely can’t spend that much on a regular basis.

Knowledge is power – and now that I know how much I spent in an average week, I can make steps to save and be smarter with my finances. Here's the personalized graphic Earnest provided me with - full of little things that can make a big difference. 

*Earnest provided me with this Money Saving Challenge graphic in exchange for a post on Peanut Butter Is My Boyfriend. 

Stressed Out Runner Venting Session

Stressed Out Runner

I've never had trouble sleeping, I've never been physically affected by stress, and I've never experienced much anxiety. 

Those three facts are pretty shocking considering the fact that I'm a Type-A perfectionist who doesn't know how to sit still and relax for any real length of time. 

Unfortunately, it seems that my "GO GO GO" attitude towards life is finally starting to catch up to me. Stress, anxiety and trouble sleeping have all reared their ugly heads in the past month or so and I'm not going to sugarcoat it - I'm struggling over here. 

My instinct is to ignore it, keep loading my calendar with activities, and not sit still long enough to deal with what's really bothering me (because I'm sure there's something!) But I know that I can't keep doing that and expect things to improve. 

I've purchased a big bottle of melatonin and it's helped me fall asleep at night, but I'm still waking up frequently throughout the night. I got a massage last week for all of the muscle aches and pains and giant knots in my back and shoulders - but I still feel an annoying pain in my back every time I breathe in. I'm trying to remind myself to breathe deeply throughout the day - but still find myself either not breathing or not breathing fully. Sound crazy right? Forgetting to breathe?  

I've been going NON STOP since December - traveling for work 52 days in just over 3 months. 13 flights. 13!!

I spent all that time SO looking forward to being back in the city with my friends, in my own apartment, with my bike and my kitchen and my routine. 

But then I got home (for a whopping 16 days in a row) and was suddenly reminded that "real life" isn't a cake walk either. Commuting on the subway, millions of options of what workouts I want to do instead of "Hotel Gym" on repeat, laundry, food shopping, cooking, chores, errands, jury duty, and trying to make the time to see all the people I've missed for the past 3 months. Suddenly I was feeling overwhelmed by the very thing I had been looking forward to - being home and surrounded by plans and things I wanted to do. 

Please tell me I'm not the only one who is in a constant battle between wanting to do all the things, and wanting to not do a damn thing?? 

In a previous post, I touched on the fact that I haven't been running much. Tuesday night I went out for a run which was, quite frankly, the worst run I can EVER remember. Ever.

My shins were the tightest and most painful that they've ever been. I finished the run and immediately broke down. 

There comes a point in your life when ugly-crying on the sidewalk of a New York City street doesn't make you feel self-conscious at all. And apparently, I've reached that point. 

I was crying because, "IT'S NOT FAIR. I JUST WANT TO RUN." It sounds so childish and ridiculous and DUMB but it has been over a year since I was running 30+ miles a week and training for a marathon and I miss it more and more every day. 

For the past year I've taken it easy on the running, tried to focus on other types of fitness, tried to gain leg and core strength, and told myself that the New York City Marathon in 2018 was all I wanted to do. I didn't need a calendar jam-packed with races and half marathons - as long as I could train for and cross one more marathon finish line I would be happy. 

But yesterday's run was a painful - literally - reminder that my body is so far away from being able to train for a marathon. 

That got me thinking - what is it that I miss so much about running?

It's not that I don't like the spin classes, the weight training, the boxing classes, etc. that I have been filling my schedule with. Because they're fun and I enjoy them! But there's just something about running that I can't put my finger on that is straight up therapy for me. Nothing else I've found clears my head the way a good run can. 

For me, nothing beats long conversations with running friends. For me, nothing beats lacing up on a Saturday morning and enjoying an hour in Central Park before the rest of the world wakes up. For me, nothing beats the moment when everything clicks and you feel like you're flying. For me, nothing beats the tired, but strong feeling in your legs when you reach the top of a hill. For me, nothing beats crossing a finish line after months of training and comittment. 

Everyone loves to talk about how bad running is for your body, but those people don't understand how incredible the sport and the community is for a runner's mind and soul. 

I have no doubt that my stress and anxiety are closely linked to my inability to run as much as I'd like to. 

I'm frustrated with doctors who prescribe me physical therapy instead of trying to figure out what's wrong and I'm frustrated with physical therapists who give me exercises that I do on my own at the gym already. 

I'm frustrated with "Have you tried new sneakers?" "Have you tried foam rolling?" "Have you tried a massage?" "Have you tried yoga?" "Have you tried compression?" Yes, yes yes and yes. 

The one thing that keeps getting mentioned that I haven't yet tried is acupuncture, and although I'm 100% terrified of needles and pass out every year when I get my flu shot, I think I'm at the point where it might be worth a shot. 

In the meantime, I've been going to yoga more frequently, and I've been pleasantly surprised to find myself really enjoying some of the studios I've tried. Look for a post on that coming soon - because I'm the anti-yogi and on a random Monday night recently I found myself thinking, "I need some hot yoga." What? 

I guess this post really didn't go anywhere, but writing always helps me process my thoughts so thanks for reading along on my little self-therapy session. I like to think I'm not the only sidelined, stressed-out runner who might need a bit of a pity party. 

If anyone has any advice, thoughts, ideas, I'm all ears. 

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The Fitness Update & 12 Favorite Moments

Perhaps you've noticed that I haven't been writing about running a whole lot. Or, at all, lately. 

That's because I haven't been doing a whole lot of running. When I do run, this is usually the conversation in my head: 

"You shouldn't run, your shins hurt." 
"You can you run, you don't have any injury at the moment." 
"You shouldn't run, don't push it, you want to run another marathon in the fall." 
"You need to go for a run for the sake of your mental sanity." 

At which point, I go for a run. 

Running for me isn't all about the physical act of running - it's a mental happy place and a huge aspect of my social life. Sure I can always wake up and go to the gym on Saturday morning - but I miss nothing more than consistent Saturday morning long runs with friends around the park followed by brunch.  

At the moment, I'm not training for anything - it seems that I'm on a constant loop of "terrible run," "painful run," "slow AF run," "randomly amazing run" with no insight about how to make the amazing runs more common. 

I'm currently registered to run the NYC Marathon in November, but recent work developments make it likely that I'll need to defer. I'm toying with the idea of a Hartford or Suffolk County Marathon earlier in the fall, but not making any decisions for now. 

All I've got on my race calendar is the Ragnar Relay this May - which I'm pumped about! I'm also pretty nervous, because I feel like I'm severely underestimating how difficult it's going to be. I need to really start upping my mileage if I want to run 22 miles over the course of 48 hours on little to no sleep. (We are looking for more people to join our team - please comment below if you're interested!) 

I'm also considering whether or not I want to attempt an Olympic tri this summer - of course, I'm petrified about the prospect of swimming a mile in open water. I've been going to the pool every once in awhile and I swear I somehow manage to get slower every time! 

I've been in a bit of an exercise funk - with no goals to motivate me. I'm on the lookout for my next big challenge, but it just hasn't presented itself yet. 

Since this update thus far has sounded very down in the dumps, here are some of my favorite fitness moments over this winter season that I never shared on the blog. 

1. Turkey Trot 

Favorite Fitness Moments

In 2015 I ran a turkey trot on Long Island all by my lonesome. I hated every second of it, and swore I would return for revenge. 

Considering I was certainly not in any racing shape, I gave up my plans for revenge and instead, finally convinced family members to join in the fun! Running a race with my little cousins, with turkey hats, was amazing! It wasn't fast, it didn't feel great, but I spent Thanksgiving morning doing one of my favorite things with some of my favorite people and for that I was #Thankful. 

2. Deck A Day Challenge 

Best Fitness Moments

This is the third year that I've done the Deck a Day Challenge - completing a Deck of Cards workout every day from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve. I look forward to it every year, and though this year I had quite a butt-kicking at the start, by the end I felt strong and in much better shape. The best was doing some of these with Abby at NYSC! (Along with our personal spin class featuring Aida and Hamilton). 

3. Run & Swim & Brunch 

Dig Inn Upper East Side

One morning, Abby and I went for a run followed by a mile swim. I never would have done both of these things back to back without her, but we managed to make it fun - and followed it up with a delicious meal at the new Upper East Side Dig Inn featuring an ALMOND CLOUD. 

4. The Run Where I Cried 

Central Park Running

I've only had one of these in recent memory, and it was a December morning where I reached the top of Harlem Hill and felt like I had reached the top of Mount Everest. My legs felt strong and I had zero pain other than fatigue. I thought this was a turning point, and though it didn't end up to be the start of a wonderful running streak, it did leave my happy all weekend. It was a 9 mile run at an 8:25 pace but I felt like I had just run a Boston Qualifying marathon. 

It was during the Ted Corbitt 15K which my friend Erin was running. I joined her for awhile, ran with my friend Kayla for awhile, and waved to many friends out in the park. It's my favorite way to spend a morning.

5. Bluepoint Brewery 10 Miler 

Bluepoint Brewery 10 Miler

This is always one of my most favorite days of the year - and this time, we made a weekend out of it! 6 of us rented an Airbnb for the weekend and after a broken train, made it to Patchogue where we had dinner at That Meetball Place and woke up for the best race of the year. 

Abby and I stuck together step for step throughout the race, and everyone stayed step for step with me on the dance floor afterwards. Many beers later, and a visit from MY SISTER, we made it back to the Airbnb and woke up in the morning for a quick run and bagel breakfast before heading back to the city. 

I hope this tradition continues because its the best. I ended up running around an 8:30 pace. 

Bluepoint Brewery Race After Party

6. Busch Stadium Workout 

While I was away for work in St. Louis, I had the chance to workout in one of the clubhouse gyms at Busch Stadium. I cranked up the tunes and enjoyed myself wayyy too much. Does everyone else get excited by an empty gym? 

7. Abby's First Bike Ride! 

Road Bike Central Park

Callie and I got to join Abby for her first bike ride on her new road bike and it was wonderful. I took my first clipped-in ride by myself and fell right into a puddle of mud while people in the park looked at me with confusion. I am happy to report that Abby did much, much better than me! 

8. Batting Practice at Dodger Stadium 

Dodger Stadium Batting Practice

This isn't just a favorite fitness moment, this was one of the cooler things I've EVER done. My coworkers and I had the chance to play ball at Dodger Stadium on a gorgeous January evening in LA and it's something that I will never forget. And yes, I hit the ball!

9. More CP Loops 

Central Park Run Club

If you haven't realized, it doesn't take much to make me happy - another Saturday morning spent in Central Park with friends - chatting, running, sun shining - longer than I had run in a long time (10 miles)! 

10. Partner Workouts

City of Bridges Pittsburgh Run

Having someone to workout with while I'm on the road is HUGE in keeping me motivated to get to the gym. In Pittsburgh, my friend Sabrina and I made a bunch of kick ass workouts to do together in the gym - she even got me to go to a hot yoga class that I ended up loving and I got her to for a run with me! The workout we created using the rower was KILLER but pretty awesome if I do say so myself. 

11. BRICK 

I landed in NY after a loooong time away for work and after a 2 hour nap ($2 tequila shots are dangerous), made my way to my happy place - Central Park. It was a ridiculously warm day for February and I did 3 loops on my bike...we had been separated for so long! I got home from my bike ride and wished I was still outside, so I decided to go for a 3 mile run too. Why not? 

My best friends Abby and Callie are amazing and training for a Half Ironman, and their Strava feeds inspired me to go big or go home. I loooved it. 

12. NP_NYC 3 Year Anniversary 

November Project NYC

In March, November Project turned 3 years old and the amazing co-leaders, John and Paul, handed over the reins. I was really glad that I got myself up for the 5:30 a.m. workout and got to see the changing of the guard. November Project has made NYC feel like home to me - it's the reason I can walk around the Upper East Side and run into people I know, it's the reason I've seen so many beautiful sunsets over the East River. It's the reason running marathons and ultramarathons and IRONMANs doesn't seem impossible. It's the reason I have so many amazing best friends (and the reason I keep finding roommates for my apartment!) 

 

The Perfect Gym Bag for Working Women Exists!

Months ago, I wrote a blog post about the best gym bags to take working women from their apartments, to the office, to the gym, to happy hour and beyond. It seemed like the perfect bag might not exist, but one thing was certain – this wasn’t a problem I was facing alone.

Each month, my post about gym bags is consistently my most viewed page on Peanut Butter Is My Boyfriend.

I thought it was time to talk about the bag that I ended up purchasing 6 months ago – to shout from the rooftops that the Lo & Sons OG bag is near perfection, and has been my every-day bag every day since I bought it.

To recap, the Lo & Sons OG Overnight Bag met many of my requirements. There’s a shoe compartment, a laptop sleeve, it’s perfect for travel since it slides onto suitcase handles, and it has the look of a professional bag instead of a gym bag.

Perfect Gym Bag

The OG Overnight Bag is full of compartments to keep things organized. There really is a spot for everything. By far my favorite part is the zippered section for my shoes. They slide in easily and stay completely separated from my clothes. Plus, if there’s ever a day I don’t have a pair of shoes in my bag, the pouch rolls up inside the bag to create even more space.

There’s a padded laptop holder for the days I head to a coffee shop to blog, pen compartments, zippers galore, and even a built in key chain.

Did I mention the little feet on the bottom so I can place it on the floor of the subway or train and it doesn't get dirty? 

Here’s what I fit in it on a daily basis.

Apartment to Gym to Work

Most mornings I wake up and go to the gym. To give myself some extra time to sleep, after my work out, I shower and get ready at the gym instead of going back to my apartment before heading to work.

On those days, I fit everything I need to get ready for the day in my OG bag.

Lo and Sons Perfect Gym Bag
  • Outfit – Bottoms, top and shoes for the day!
  • Makeup – The red pouch contains all my makeup that I use daily.
  • Toiletries – The little black zippered pouch has things like floss, toothpaste, band aids, tweezers, etc.
  • Brush
  • Deodorant
  • Food – A Tupperware, snacks, gum, etc.
  • Water bottle
  • Headphones
  • Resistance Bands
  • Lock
  • Wallet
  • Planner

Apartment to Work to Gym

Lo & Sons OMG Bag Review

On the days I head to the gym after work I have even more space in my bag since I don’t need my makeup and toiletries. I just throw my sneakers in the shoe compartment, add some makeup remover pads and head out the door.

Apartment to Airport 

When I travel for work, the OG bag is the PERFECT carry on. The back of the bag unzips and allows me to slide the bag over the handle of my suitcase so I don’t even need to carry it on my shoulder. And it fits perfectly under my seat.

The padded laptop sleeve and other section perfectly hold notebooks, folders, and other work things that can't get crinkled. 

I also love that the OG keeps it shape even when it’s empty.

Bottom Line

When I originally wrote my blog post about finding the perfect gym bag, I shied away from the OG because of the price tag. But now that I’m the proud owner of one, I cannot say enough how worth it it was!

Plus, if you have some patience and check their website frequently, Lo & Sons does have quite a few sales. You can sometimes find the OG bag for up to 40% off!

The ONE thing the OG doesn’t have that some gym-goers may miss is a dedicated water bottle sleeve. But I never have trouble standing mine up inside – the bag is plenty tall!

So there you have it – what I think really might be the perfect gym bag for the working woman! And no, Lo & Sons didn’t pay me to say nice things about them! It’s really just a product that I think deserves the praise! And I think YOU deserve a bag that fits all the shiiiiit we ladies carry around on a daily basis! 

 

Photos from Lo & Sons

12 Gifts That Don't Suck: 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

I don't know about you, but I absolutely LOVE giving gifts. There's no better feeling than figuring out the perfect present to bring a smile to the face of a friend or family member that you love. 

Gift giving isn't always easy - and if you're doing it right, it takes some time and effort. The saying, "It's the thought that counts" really is true, people. 

So many gift guides that I peruse during the holiday season seem so uninspiring. A $50 Kate Spade keychain tassel? A marble rolling pin? So impersonal and over the top. 

In my opinion, the perfect gift strikes the perfect balance between practicality, usefulness, indulgence and uniqueness. 

Here are some of my favorite finds that might make the perfect present for someone in your life this holiday season (along with savings galore and even a giveaway!)

Unique Holiday Gift Guide Blogger

1.) Homesick Candles 

$35

Do you have a friend who grew up in a different state or moved away from home? These candles offer unique scents based on different states. I think these are simply adorable.

2.) The Curated Carrot 

$11-$50

If you have a friend who can get behind ~essential oils~ then this is a unique gift that keeps on giving. Fill these gorgeous pieces of jewelry with essential oils and reap the benefits whenever you're wearing it!

The Curated Carrot offers a variety of oil diffusing necklaces, bracelets, earrings and keychains. 

And from now until December 16, when you spend $20+ at Curated Carrot and use the code PBBF10, you can receive 10% off your order!

3.) Chart Metalworks 

$85-$200+

Is there a specific place close to your friend or family members heart? Are they really into all things nautical? Chart Metalworks makes beautiful jewelry using nautical charts and maps. 

Not only are there pre-made pieces on the website, but you can work directly with an artist from Chart Metalworks to create a piece of jewelry with any location you can imagine! 

Aside from bracelets, necklaces and earrings, Chart Metalworks creates belt buckles, wine stoppers, money clips, key chains, bottle openers, cuff links and more so you can create a gift for anyone.

4.) Lo & Sons 

$275-$294

A year ago, I wrote a post about my search for the perfect gym bag. A bag that could go from my apartment, to the office, to the gym, to happy hour, to a coffee shop, to the airport. I ended up buying the Lo & Son's OG Overnight bag and it CHANGED MY LIFE. If you have a friend who often looks like a bag lady, or just a friend who always has a jam-packed schedule, this bag could change her life too. 

5.) Book Of The Month Club

$45-$150

I'm not a huge fan of monthly subscription programs - I've been skipping deliveries on Blue Apron every week for a year, essentially. But one that I can get behind is a subscription that gifts you with one new, hardcover book each month of the year. 

I have a friend who absolutely adores this monthly service which allows users to pick between a variety of book offerings each month. 

Since starting Book of the Month Club, my friend has loved almost all of the books and many of them have become quite popular!

There are many different plans, including a 1-month plan, 3-month plan and year plan. 

6.) Witty Tea Towels 

$5-$30

Giving the gift of a dish rag might seem a little odd, but not if they're cute and clever enough to bring a smile to someone's face as they slave away in the kitchen or do their dishes! Whether they're a celebrity chef or microwave master, everyone needs a dish towel. Plus, it's an interior design piece as well. 

Here are a few of my favorites - I really like food puns, if you couldn't tell! 

The Decal Shoppe Inc. - Now through Friday, you can save 10% on your purchase from The Decal Shoppe Inc. with the code PBismyBF10
A2D Creations
Sudds and Stuff
Kings Custom Design
Moonlight Makers - You can get 20% off your purchase at Moonlight Makers when you use the code PEANUTBUTTERBOYF at checkout!
The Neighbogoods - From now through December 20, get 15% off your order from The Neighborgoods using the code PBISMYBF

And are you ready for some MORE exciting news? Jill from Kings Custom Design will be giving away towel sets to TWO lucky winners! See the end of this post for more details and your chance to win! 

7.) Stamped Utensils

$16-$25

Alright, this might sound even odder than dish towels, but I am in love with these personalized utensils from Etsy! Have an ice cream loving friend? One who eats oatmeal every morning? One who smears butter on everyyything? They need a stamped utensil dedicated to their favorite dish. 

If none of these clever little utensils remind you of your special person, then you can also custom design your own.

These are great because they're something that most people wouldn't spend the money on for themselves, even though they might really want one (OK, I'm talking about myself here, clearly!) 

8.) Erin Condren Lifeplanner

$55+

The other day, my group of friends and I had an extensive group text conversation about our favorite planners. If you've got some type A friends and family members who are constantly busy and still like to write things down instead of depending on their iPhone calendar, consider giving them one of the best-rated planners on the market - the Erin Condren Lifeplanner.

I'm so excited that there is going to be one sitting under my Christmas tree this year (thanks Mom & Dad!) 

The best part is how customizable it is. I know I like a vertical layout - and it's so easy to make that choice while creating your own Lifeplanner. There are tons of fun accessories you can add on as well. 

And if you use this referral code, you'll get $10 off your first order! (And full disclosure, I'll get some credits on the Erin Condren site as well!) 

9.) Misheard Lyric Glasses

$14.50 

When my friend brought these glasses to my attention, I couldn't stop laughing! These are more of a funny gift, but everyone uses glasses, right? 

My personal favorite is: 

This is the dawning of the age of asparagus

10.) Letterfolk Letter Boards 

$50-$250

I think these vintage letter boards are the coolest idea for interior design. They would look great in a kitchen, living room, foyer, bedroom, or even at someone's desk! 

These boards can be used for quotes, menus, lyrics, to do lists, blogger photograph props, parties and a million other things.

I love following Lettefolk on Instagram, too. Their pictures are so visually appealing with great quotes. 

 

11.) Eat Healthy Designs Punny Shirts 

$5-$50

Like I said - I love nothing more than a good food pun, and my friends seem to share my sense of humor. I can think of a handful of friends who would love nothing more than to enjoy Sunday brunch in a shirt reading, "Everyday I'm Brusselin'." 

Eat Healthy Designs has tons of cute, clever, culinary, chic cotton tees and tanks. And as the creator of Peanut Butter Is My Boyfriend, I think it's about time I treat myself to the "Peanut Butter Is My Spirit Animal" shirt, yes? 

I also really love their food pun pencils! 

Save 15% when you use the code PB15 :)

12.) Punderdome: A Card Game 

$20

I'm smitten with this idea for a board/card game - you get two completely unrelated cards and need to come up with some sort of pun relating the two! 

Games like Cards Against Humanity, 5 Second Rule and Balderdash are my favorites - they're funny and creative and often leave me crying tears of laughter.

Buy this for your friend who entertains regularly and have them break it out at the next girls night! 

To be eligible to win a set of tea towels from Kings Custom Design, please subscribe to my email list below! You should also sign up because 2017 is the year of the PB IS MY BF Newsletter - or at least it's a 2017 resolution ;) 

Then, leave a comment telling me your most genius gift idea this holiday season and I'll pick two lucky winners!