- Chantez et vous trouverez votre chanson -

Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.
     -George Bernard Shaw

It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves- in finding themselves.
      -Andre Gide

Monday, September 5, 2011

Nails Are Having a Moment

In the beauty world, nails have totally been stealing the scene lately.

OPI Shatter polish.
Katy Perry and her ever-evolving nail designs (seen above).
Sally Hansen patterned nail polish strips.
The Bad Girls Club and their special finger of different polish...

I don't think I've noticed people's nails this much since high school when everyone got tips, airbrush designs and exaggerated French manicures for school dances. I think back to those days and cringe at the tackiness. The difference today? Short nails are in and the designs don't take themselves too seriously - it's all about having fun with your nails.

The recent development (for me) is that I've decided to join the fun. See, I've been a nail biter since I was 3 years old. There are definitely worse things to be addicted to, but still...my nails are gross. It's a disgusting habit and I've never painted my nails bright colors for fear of drawing more attention to the issue. I've tried unsuccessfully to quit biting my nails about 15 times in my life, and it's never worked. Who knows if it'll last this time around, but I'm going on four weeks strong! It's helping that I'm not going with muted, plain colors - I want to play like everyone else is!

Week 1 - Princesses Rule! OPI (shimmery pink) with purple and green glitter on top
Week 2 - Princesses Rule! OPI with Crown Me Already OPI (silver glitter) on top
Week 3 - Essie Splash of Grenadine (bright berry)
Week 4 - Significant Other Color OPI (a lavender-mint oil slick)

After four weeks of no biting, my nails look healthy and are the perfect length - still short, but cute and respectable-looking. I've been using a great nail hardener base coat from my nail salon that I love, too - my manicures last a full week with zero chipping.

I can't wait to try out all these silly nail trends - now that football season is back (YES), you can bet I'm going to rock a gold glitter polish with black Shatter for Steeler Sundays. At age 26, I'm finally embracing girlhood full-on. Better late than never!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer Fashions That Leave Me Stumped

All it takes is a stinky, humid heatwave to remind me that NYC living isn't really pleasant in winter OR in summer.

Seriously, it was 102 degrees out when I left work on Friday. You know that feeling when you stand in front of a furnace for a blast of heat on a cold day? Yea, it's like that outside, except completely unwelcome. It feels like my calves are going to burn off every time I walk in the path of a bus' exhaust.

In honor of this beautiful weather, I wanted to take a moment and express my confusion with certain summer fashions I continue to see year after year:

- Gladiator Sandals - This is not Roman times and there is no need for that many straps on your shoe.
- Rompers - Rompers were originally made for toddlers. I'm still not sure how it became acceptable for grown women to wear them. Plus, they make going to the bathroom nearly impossible.
- Visors - Isn't the point of a hat to shade your eyes and protect your scalp? Who's the genius that decided a hat with the top cut off was a good idea?
- Flip flop/Boot Hybrids - Gee, I really love boots, but I want to show off my pedicure, too. Voila! ...FYI, slouchy sacks on your feet with toe cut-outs look strange and are the opposite of flattering.
- Mandals - It does not matter if they are expensive, real leather or "dressy," mandals are not a good look. A better idea: cover up your pale hairy feet with sneakers or boat shoes, or wear regular flip flops.
Stay tuned later this year for round 2 of my opinionated fashion thoughts, winter edition.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Bonnaroo Experience

I let random strangers paint my body in the extreme Tennessee heat. Oh Bonnaroo. We did it in style. And it was so. much. fun.

One of the most well-known music festivals in the US today, Bonnaroo is a 4 day musical extravaganza in Manchester, Tennessee. Everyone camps out, lives in (all states of) freedom and harmony, and listens to music ranging from classic rock to indie bands to rap to dubstep. It was glorious big ol' hippie fest, and the closest I'll ever get to experiencing Woodstock.

There's so many ways you can do a music festival - rent a RV, drive down and bring your own tent, rent a tent or RV on-site, fly down and avoid the whole long drive, etc. As three (poor) girls, we decided that borrowing my friend's parents minivan for the drive down and renting a tent through Bonnaroo was our best option. We did NOT trust ourselves to correctly pitch a tent after a 16 hour drive, nor did we own a tent to pitch. Though a bit more money upfront, renting through Tent City was awesome. I can't recommend it enough! The tents were huge and they had cots inside, so we didn't have to sleep on the ground. And the major bonus - we were super close to Centeroo, where all the action happened. If you bring your own gear, you have no idea where you will get to set up camp - you could be 2 miles away from all the stages. When there are upwards of 80,000 people attending, it's nice to have prime real estate.

Now, if you're not an expert camper, there are just some things you won't know 'til you go. Things I've learned for next time:

- You need an awning to set-up in front of your tent. Shade is your friend!
- Coleman makes these super cool freestanding shower stalls for camping. That's a bit extreme, but we would've given anything for one of those saline drip-looking bags that you fill with water that become a "shower." Even just a hose to hook up to the various faucets set up in the camping areas would have been lovely. We paid for showers twice, and washed in a trough/slop sink another day with the masses...next time, I'd love an upgrade.
- Sunscreen for your head. I was pretty good about applying sunblock, I really was. Nevertheless, my scalp is still peeling off in sheets. Um, gross.
- Even if you bring a lot of food, you're bound to want to eat and drink inside Centeroo. It may be a lawless utopia, but you still cannot bring any outside drinks or large amounts of food inside, so pocket money is recommended. Plus, at a hippie fest, imagine all the delicious treats!

Oh yea, and I heard fantastic music all weekend. One thing I loved about Bonnaroo (compared to what I've heard about other festivals -cough- Coachella), is that it's not scene-y or pretentious at all. In fact, it's the complete opposite. Everyone is dirty and sweaty and wearing as little clothing as possible (due to the heat). It's all about the music and having a good time.

My love for music began in the 5th grade, when my classmates and I decided we were into alternative, listened to 104.7 The Revolution religiously and spent recess talking about Pearl Jam, Alanis Morissette, Nirvana and No Doubt. I've loved listening and getting into new music ever since, but I'd never consider myself someone really into the scene or an expert on new bands.

Bonnaroo reconfirmed that. There were so many bands I was unfamiliar with! I saw around 18 shows during the 4 day fest, but there were so many more I wish I could've seen. I came home and instantly downloaded new music from other artists I wasn't able to see. Some of my favorite shows from the week:

- Girl Talk. Hands down, the most fun set ever. Pittsburgh pride all the way! He played from 2:30am - ? on Saturday night. It was a sweaty pit of crazy dancing people, confetti and balloons, and it was incredible. My face was stuck in someone's armpit for part of it. I didn't care.
- Mumford & Sons. What can I say? Their music warms my heart and I can't help but smile when I hear their songs. They are SO good live. They played some songs from their upcoming album, and from what I heard, I am positive it will not disappoint.
- Arcade Fire. They were awesome. They had such great energy, and they played all their big hits from The Suburbs, and a few of my faves - Keep the Car Running and Wake Up. Plus the show opened up with parachuters in the sky. So cool!
- Eminem. I was surprised I liked his set so much. The whole "Recovery" theme from his CD carried into the show, and had you rooting for him. Everyone was so into it. And whether I liked it or not, I knew almost all the words to his songs!
- Florence & The Machine. She sounded just as hauntingly beautiful live as she does on their album. We had to leave their set early, but I would LOVE to see her again.
- Wiz Khalifa. Again, Pittsburgh pride! He was great. So much fun. I can't wait to see where he goes from here.
- The Black Keys. So good live. We missed part of their show (erg), but they were excellent and I'd see them again anytime.
- J.Cole. St. John's alumni, woo woo! Another fun set, another young rapper that I'm excited to see evolve and grow in the scene.
- Robyn. I wanted to see Cold War Kids...my group wanted to see her, so I went with the flow. She was really good! As nice as it is to chill and sit on the lawn and listen to music, it's more exciting to dance the afternoon away to energetic tunes.
- Scissor Sisters. Apparently I like the gay disco scene. Who knew? They were a blast, and led right into Girl Talk's set, making up the most fun Saturday night imaginable.
- The Strokes. Love. Not only was their music great, but we got the pleasure of seeing two ugly (completely) naked girls jamming out in front of us. Anyone know why the sound was a little low, though? I felt the same way at the Which Stage during Buffalo Springfield.

Other super goodies - Freelance Whales, Chiddy Bang, Best Coast, The Knux, Smith Westerns...

Oh, and about that body paint...there were three of them. A guy in a dish towel loincloth, a girl in a sunhat armed with paints, and a guy with Braveheart face paint, a black denim kilt and a shirt that read 'Free Hugs' in duct tape. We offered them beer and a PB&J for their mushrooms, and they offered to paint us. I had no idea it would entail having my entire exposed skin (other than shorts and a bikini top) coated in paint. They called us warriors. It was hilarious...until we had to scrub our skin raw with a scour brush the next day. Oh well. We looked amazing.

What a week.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How a Beauty Publicist plans to survive Bonnaroo...

I'm going! I'm leaving momentarily! Yep, a beauty publicist is going camping at a big hippie music fest for the next 5 days or so. And I can't wait.

Wanna know what I packed to allow me to look hippie chic and not dirty patchouli grunge? Check it:

Dry Shampoo
The savior of lazy girls everywhere, my favorite brand is Klorane, and I always buy it from Sephora.

Baby Wipes
If the showers are just too gross, at least I will have a ton of Natracare organic baby wipes with me.

Mattifying Powder
DermaQuest's On-the-Go Finishing Powder is awesome. It comes in a convenient travel brush, goes on clear and has SPF 30. No burns for me hopefully!

Sun hats and headbands
Bad hair day? I'll just cover it up...and look cute doing it.

Eye Mask
Our tent is white. Meaning I'll wake up as soon as the sun rises. Um, no thanks. Silly eye mask it is. I may even stick it in the cooler so it's nice and cold going on each night. ( I got that tip from Gary Chardonnay!)

Okay, I'm off! Full review will come afterwards. Eeee!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Booze Cakes

This past Christmas, my younger brother got me a recipe book called Booze Cakes from Urban Outfitters. Booze and sweet treats together... you know how to cut to the core of me Baxter.

I hadn't had a chance to bake anything out of it, though - I live alone and having a cake lying around for me to aimlessly munch on is a recipe for disaster. But when the little bro decided to visit a few weeks ago, it was time. The book had all kinds of tasty, liquor-filled concoctions, but I chose the Long Island Iced Tea Cakes. He's still in college, so I figured it was apropos (and maybe I could reminisce about bad decisions made after Long Island Iced Teas, too?).

Now, we all know baking is not my strong suit. So how'd it come out? Delicious - I didn't screw it up! The way the book laid out all the recipes was so simple. In addition to the usual labels at the top of each cake (how long to bake, how easy - difficult, etc.), there was a Booze Meter - a smiley face ranging from a slight smirk to a full on cheeseball grin to show the amount of booze used. The Long Island Iced Tea cakes had a nice big grin, obviously! The recipe was fairly simple. I just bought a bunch of liquor nips, lemon juice and Coke...the rest of the ingredients I already had at home. The finished product tasted like a lemony pound cake with a nice little kick. Here's the recipe:

CAKE ingredients:
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp baing soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp gin
- 1 tbsp light rum
- 1 tbsp tequila
- 1 tbsp vodka
- 1 tbsp triple sec
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp cola, chilled
- 1 cyp sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 stick unsalted butter

SOAKING SAUCE ingredients:
- 1 tbsp gin
- 1 tbsp light rum
- 1 tbsp tequila
- 1 tbsp vodka
- 1 tbsp triple sec
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp cold cola

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and flour a 9x13 inch cake pan.
2. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl - set aside. In a measuring cup, combine vanilla, gin, rum, tequila, vodka, triple sec, lemon juice, cola, 1 tsp of the sugar, and milk.
3. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks 5 minutes, or until thick and pale. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and beat until yolks form a thick ribbon. Gradually beat in the butter and remaining sugar.
4. Beat in flour and milk mixtures in alternating additions. Pour batter into pan. Bake 20-30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.
5. While cake cools, combine all soaking sauce ingredients in the cleaned and dried cake pan. Cut cake into bite-sized pieces; return hem to the pan to soak up the sauce, about 30 minutes to one hour. To serve, arrange on a platter with cocktail picks.

Yum! It was really good and got approval from my brother and all my coworkers. Since it doesn't have any icing and isn't too sweet, it goes perfectly with coffee or tea. You could even have a piece for breakfast (it's 5 o'clock somewhere?).

I felt so accomplished baking a cake - maybe I'll become one of those people that makes cakes for everyone's birthdays and big occasions (...probably not). There's a few others that I definitely want to try out. The Honey Spice Beer Cake, Pink Champagne Cake, Mocha Rum Brownie Bites, and Margarita Cheesecake all sound promising. If you're looking to bake a cake with a boozy twist, give this book a shot.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Finding Paradise in Miami

New York City is an awesome city to live in, and I'm so lucky that I've been able to go to school and work here over the past 7 years....but sometimes you have to get out.

By mid-March, the stressful and frenetic pace of life here combined with the 'spring that just wouldn't come' was making me grumpy. Good thing I have friends in warm places willing to let me visit! Though I was born in Florida and still have a ton of family there (in the Tampa/St. Pete area), I had never been to Miami. It was time.

For just being a quick weekend jaunt, it was action-packed. I got in around Happy Hour on a Friday night and we immediately went to a bar in the Brickell area - all the cool kids go there apparently. Right after we parked in the garage I got my first true taste of Miami - a guy wearing red suede Ferragamo sandals and white linen pants got on the elevator with his girlfriend wearing leopard pants. Ha! After hopping around to a few bars, we finished the night eating Cuban pizza, which has a softer dough and is filled with bananas and carmelized onions. I think I like NY pies better, but it definitely had a unique and interesting flavor!

Saturday morning we drove out to Homestead in the "country" of Miami and went to a Amish farm to pick strawberries. Who knew I'd be put to work on my vacation? The farm stand also had delicious milkshakes (raspberry-chocolate, mmm), amazing breads and jams. My favorite purchase? Hot pepper guava jelly - makes a perfect rub for beef, pork chops or chicken!

Then we were off to Schnebly Redland's Winery (pictured above), easily the most unique winery I've ever been to. No grapes here - instead they create wines from tropical fruits native to the region....avocado, mango, passion fruit, star fruit, lychee...the list goes on. I bought the Lychee Wine, which was sweet with a hint of carbonation and reminded me of a Riesling, and the Avocado Wine, a smooth white wine with a buttery, creamy aftertaste.

After hitting up a rooftop pool party and relaxing at home for the evening, we decided to go out on the town. Did you know that there is no set time for bars to close in Miami?! What a wonderous thing! I thought we went out late in NYC, but we left the house at 1am that Saturday and still had plenty of time out and about. I'm not really the South Beach-long line-huge cover charge-grimy bouncer kind of girl, but we did stop on Lincoln Rd. at Segafreda for drinks before hitting up Bardot, the bar everyone was talking about all weekend. Bardot did not disappoint! We got there around 2:30am and danced til 6am, easy. The music was so much fun, and switched in and out from awesome song to awesome song. We finally called it quits when we noticed people starting to mop the floors and clean up.

Did the night end then? NOPE. Time for after-hours breakfast! Instead of your standard diner, we went to a Spanish 24 hour restaurant (when in Miami...). Yep, the menu was in Spanish. I left it to my friend to order, and we stuffed our faces with Columbian hot dogs. So delicious! I woke up with heartburn, but it was worth it.

My final day in Miami was spent on a pontoon boat off the Biscayne Bay looking at views like the one at the top of this post. Gorgeous! It's weekends like this that make me wonder if I could picture myself living in another city. I can. Not sure if it will be Miami (although I'd visit there again anytime), but I don't think I'll be a New York City girl forever. There's just too many other parts of the country that I want to get to know! I'm not willing to settle down until I find my perfect-fit city. It's out there somewhere!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tretorn - Social Media done right

It started with a Facebook request. Will you please 'like' this picture of me with the Tretorn bear? I want to win a ski weekend!

It ended with a new customer. I'm now in love with my Tretorn Skerry Reslig Vinter rain boots. So much so that I wear them even when it's not raining.

There are so many ways to reach customers in today's world. Straight up sales, advertising, public relations, and now the newest tactic to join the party, social media. Working in a boutique PR agency, many start-ups and small businesses come to us curious about creating an online presence and building relationships with customers through email newsletter programs, blogging, Facebook, Twitter...the list goes on. I don't claim to be a bonafide expert on the subject - my clients have smaller budgets, so I'm typically researching ideas for wall posts, gaining followers and deciding which blogs to partner with for giveaways, not creating new i-pad applications or anything crazy. But I do find the topic really interesting. Social media is constantly evolving, and sometimes it works incredibly well, and other times it doesn't do much to bolster a company's image. There doesn't seem to be a direct formula for it.

As a publicist, I'm not supposed to fall for social media tactics (Unless it's my client! In that case, I push them on every single person I know...), but I fell right into Tretorn's lap, and their Swedish goodness worked its way right into my heart.

I had never heard of the company before my friend sent me a Gchat message directing me to 'like' Tretorn on Facebook, find her picture on their page posing with the bear mascot, and 'like' the image. Apparently, whoever got the most people to 'like' the page and their picture with the bear would win a ski weekend in VT/CO/somewhere equally mountainous and cool. I did as I was told (as long as she guaranteed that I was invited on said weekend). Suddenly I was getting updates from Tretorn, a Swedish line of outdoorsy gear in my daily Facebook newsfeed. I could've just 'unliked' them and stopped receiving updates after the contest ended (my friend did not win sadly), but I enjoyed the updates. Turned out they had some pretty cute rain boots and gear, and Natalie Portman was photographed wearing them, and the company drove a Wellie Wagon truck around San Francisco and sold boots on the street. Kind of awesome!

The rainbow colored collection of rain boots made rainy days seem bright and fun and the images of the Wellie Wagon all over SF gave me my daily hit of wanderlust. Soon I saw an announcement for a site wide SALE. Those 4 little letters really call out to me. It was on. I clicked through to the site and found an adorable pair of tall olive green rain boots that were lightly lined and perfect for the cold rainy days of late winter/early spring. They were just $35 on sale! Done and done. Who needs Hunter boots anyway?

My Skerry Reslig Vinter boots arrived about a month and a half ago, and I've already worn them at least a dozen times. Even if it's just cloudy and gray out, I find it acceptable to wear them. And there you have it - Tretorn gained a new fan and customer, all through a Facebook contest.

Social media hard at work.

Just like riding a bike...

In an effort to instill some zen minimalist principles into my life, I recently sold my car. My first car - the only car I've ever owned. Ahhh the Silver Fox. My parents bought me the lightly used Chevrolet Cavalier Coupe for my 17th birthday - they paid the down payment, but I was expected to make payments, and it was a proud moment when I paid it off my senior year of college.

Over the past year, the car became more stressful than helpful, though. Drowning in insurance payments, parking tickets, and maintenance work as the car aged, it was time to get rid of the old girl. She went to a good home of a new college girl in Staten Island - I felt like Andy donating his toys in Toy Story 3!

Sans car, it's been back to the drawing board. I'm lucky to live in NYC, a city where it's easy to rely on mass transit. Granted, it may take twice as long to get somewhere by subway as it would driving...but there's always traffic and parking issues anyway. My use for the car had more to do with weekend drives to the beach and visits home to Pittsburgh...I'll live.

My minimalist move of selling the car made me want to buy something else, though - a bicycle! The number of bikes on the road grows exponentially in New York as the temperature rises. As spring approached, cyclists were everywhere and I so badly wanted to be one. One small problem - I'm semi-petrified of riding a bike in the city. I've seen delivery boys get "doored" and flatlined on the road and I've known friends that flipped over their handlebars on potholes.

How's a girl like me supposed to survive? The last time I seriously rode my bike was on the Moraine State Park trails and through my surburban neighborhood in middle school. It's silly, but as the years have gone by, I've gotten more and more nervous to ride again, especially in my new urban surroundings. But, I'm willing to learn and I WILL learn this year. I checked out a bike shop near my apartment, googled my options...and ended up buying a $40 no-name beater mountain bike. It's metallic pink and the seat is a bit ripped up. Just my style (ha). It absolutely doesn't fit in my apartment, but I'm making it work.

Despite its faults, this bike is going to train me to ride again...it's my starter bike. I'm going to outfit it with a sturdy quick release basket up front for my stud muffin puppy dog Marlon and start by taking quick trips to Astoria Park and back. I hope to eventually work up the courage to bike through Manhattan or perhaps out to the beach, saving myself from an annoying LIRR commute. And if I end up really liking it, I'll save up for a nice commuter bike next year.

For anyone else out there interested - but apprehensive - of getting a bike and learning to ride in the city, I just found a really cool organization, Bike New York. They have *FREE* classes to help people adjust to bike commuting, learn to ride (for kids and adults), and understand traffic laws and your rights as a cyclist. Plus they host fun riding programs and events. I'm so amped for warm weather and excited to not feel pathetic hopping on a bike anymore!

I'll keep you posted on my progress!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Great Winter Yoga Experiment

I'm so excited that spring seems to be on its way! I have to admit - winter makes me miserable. I try so hard to "embrace each season" and all that crap, but unless I could spend the winter months curled up by a fire drinking hot chocolate and sled riding and snowboarding, I'd rather hibernate through the months of December through February.

The point is, I need activities to get me through those months. Specifically exercising activities, because the less I exercise, the less I want to exercise and the worse I feel about myself. So what's a girl to do? I hit up Groupon, Living Social and every other deal site I knew and decided to join yoga studios.

I've toyed with yoga on and off through college - I had a Crunch Yoga workout VHS and a Rodney Lee DVD that I would use when I couldn't get to the gym, and I always liked the stretching and flexibility aspects of yoga, but until last summer, I had never taken an actual class. Once I tried classes at a studio in Astoria near my apartment, I discovered how much I liked it. I got a workout and I left feeling at peace with my life and the world. Not too shabby. Only thing is, it's SO expensive!

With my deal-scouting savviness, I was able to find two unlimited monthly deals at different yoga studios in the city, each for just $40. Awesome! I decided to use them consecutively during mid-January through mid-March, to keep me out of depression and in shape through the winter pudge season. Through my two months of yoga sessions, I became familiar with Ashtanga, Hot Vinyasa, Iyengar, Vinyasa, and Bikram. I feel so much more knowledgeable about the subject! There's a lot of info to sort through online about different studios and yoga styles, but here are my impressions of everything:

This was the first studio I ever practiced at, and I really love it there. Located on 35th Ave. across from the movie theater and next to Panera Bread, once you step inside, the suburbia-central vibe of of the block disappears. The dark wood floors, warm pastel walls and chai-smelling candles give off a total zen vibe.
PROS - My favorite teachers there are Danielle for Tuesday evening Beginner's Vinyasa and Marco for any of his Hot Yoga classes (Bikram-style). Danielle really helps you visualize the way your body needs to be aligned, and the Vinyasa sequences are slow enough that you're able to "hit" every move. Marco is great at motivating you and telling stories to get you through the grueling 26 postures of Bikram in the 105 degree room without wanting to walk out. They also offer Pilates, massage and acupuncture - nice bonuses.
CONS - Classes here are $18 a pop, which is pretty steep. They offer Pre-Natal yoga classes and longer Restorative classes which is nice for those looking for that, but the only classes with frequent time slots are Vinyasa and Hot Yoga, and it'd be nice to have a little more variety.

I used my first unlimited yoga deal at this studio, and I'm so glad I found it! If I could afford it, I'd make this my permanent yoga studio. Located on the 2nd floor of an office building near Bryant Park, it also has a totally zen and welcoming ambience. There's a reading room, free WiFi, lots of couches and tea and water if you'd like to come early or stay late after class.
PROS - This is a legit studio where many yoga instructors come to get certified, and all the teachers regularly study in India to keep up their practice. They offer so many styles, too! I was especially curious about Iyengar and Ashtanga, and was able to take multiple classes of both. The weekly schedule is packed with classes, so whether I wanted to go before work, after work or on the weekends, I could fit in a class - most weeks I went at least 3-4 times.
  • Iyengar - I really enjoy this style. It focuses on really opening up the body with deep, long stretches, and after being forced to stay in poses longer than usual, I leave the class feeling tall (haha), aligned and strong. Leslie's Community Iyengar classes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings are my favorite - they wake me up and help me feel energized at the start of my day. Plus, it's donation-based which is perfect for poor yogis like myself!
  • Hot Vinyasa - When I signed up for my first Hot Yoga class at Yoga Sutra, I assumed it would be Bikram, but the hot classes here are all Flow style, meaning you're constantly flowing and moving from position to position through the whole class. I actually liked it a lot - since you're in constant motion and don't hold positions for very long, it's easier to forget how hot you are and how long the class is. Cliff's classes were great, but really packed at certain times.
  • Ashtanga - Knowing that this style is Madonna's hardcore workout of choice intimidated me, but I still really wanted to try it. Similar to Bikram, Ashtanga is the same set of poses every class, but instead of a hot room, the poses produce an inner heat as you work hard to complete them. Once you get really accustomed, you can take self-led Mysore classes, but Yoga Sutra also offers led classes with an instructor. The series is really long in its entirety, so I opted to take Led Half-Primary Series classes to get the hang of things. Both teachers I had, Lorrie and Erica were very kind and made it less scary. I actually wasn't that bad! I couldn't do the full headstand and a few of the complicated poses at the end, but not everyone in the class could either. Being a flexible girl, I loved some of the heavy duty twists involved, but a few poses felt just plain awkward. Definitely worth exploring more.
CONS - This studio is also extremely expensive. The cheapest membership is $150 per month and the single class rate is $21. Also, popular classes or anything held during "rush hour" after work fills up, so you need to sign up ahead of time online to make sure you can get into the class.

I was most apprehensive of going to this studio, and with good reason. I'm not a huge fan of Bikram yoga, and the reviews online were not the best. The owner has a supposed drill sergeant demeanor, all the instructors wear headsets and they hock SmartWater in the middle of the class, taking advantage of thirsty, tired yogis. There were a few red flags, but so what? It was a damn good deal, and I figured maybe I needed that hardcore Bikram workout to really get me in shape. Plus, located in the heart of Union Square, I could walk there after work and my train station was right by the entrance.
PROS - I get a really great workout here; the sweat and toxins just pour out during those 90 minutes. And, as I keep going back, it gets less and less miserable each time! I know which poses annoy me, and I suck it up and do them. I know which pose signals to me that the worst is over, and I can easily get through the rest of the class. The front desk gives you a mini towel and two large bath towels with your membership, which is a nice touch, and I just make sure to bring my water bottle with me each time so I don't get stuck paying for a wasteful SmartWater bottle each time.
CONS - The reviews were basically true. The instructors do all use headset microphones, and they do it because the classes are so packed that you wouldn't be able to hear them from across the room otherwise. The microphone and general atmosphere doesn't feel nearly as peaceful as the other studios, and it has that lovely Bikram sweet sweat smell (kind of like an indoor pool?), but it gets the job done. They do sell SmartWater in between the standing postures and floor series, which irks me every time, but hey, I'm not buying. The locker room area is also a nightmare when one class empties out and the next is getting ready, so I'd recommend going extra early to scope out a spot. The other major con? This place costs $30 for a single class, and $180 per month for an unlimited membership - plus a rental mat is $5 extra (most other studios charge around $2). Those prices are cray cray!

As my unlimited yoga experiment is coming to an end, I realize I'm going to need to find a way to continue - I've really enjoyed going these past few months! With my dance background, it feels like a form of exercise that I can really excel at, and the peace of mind that comes with it is extremely helpful in a hectic city like New York. I hope I've been able to shed some light on the yoga scene here for anyone yoga-curious or looking for a new activity to get them moving!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Six Words Can Speak Volumes

Phew. Valentine's Day is over. As any girl not in a relationship can tell you, Valentine's Day quit being fun after elementary school candy and card parties ended.

Now I'm not a compete cynic, I love showing other people that I care about them - I bought the three ladies in my office heart-shaped donuts from Dunkin on Monday! However, somewhere along the line, sharing your feelings with loved ones in honor of St. Valentine became a showy sport. Watching all your coworkers get flowers, hearing about battles over restaurant reservations and stepping onto a train full of guys carrying dozens of red balloons and bouquets of roses is just not that much fun for the rest of us. Am I being cranky or does that all seem a tad cheesy? I for one, would not know what to do with a bunch of balloons, and roses don't really thrill me (I do love the yellow ones, though)...

Rant over, but in honor of love - both present and lost - and the not-always-so-fun holiday that just passed, I wanted to share this. The New York Times recently posted an article about SMITH Magazine, a literary magazine that compiles narratives from readers, one of the most popular being their Six-Word Memoir project, the recent subject being love and heartbreak. It's Twitter-meets-poetry! These pared down love letters are beautiful and simple. Some are funny, some are sad, some are just plain heartwarming. Check out a few of my favorites:

Happy endings...
  • Wounded heart healed by good man.
  • Dog approves; maybe this guy's good?
  • Clueless Newlyweds Kids Laughs Still Thriving
  • Ups, downs and repeat. That's love.
  • Just married. Still figuring it out.
Not so much...
  • Love hurts. Choose vodka or valium.
  • He wasn't worth the panic attacks.
  • Loved her madly - then went mad.
  • I loved, he tolerated, then left.
  • Background check first; give heart second.
What would your six word memoir on love (or loss) be? Here's mine:

College love ended. I became me.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Censoring our Love Lives

I caught this video on the Glamour magazine blog, Smitten the other day and I LOVE it. It's hilarious, sad and oh so true.

Why do we do this to ourselves? And when did we learn to do this? I want to say at some point in my life, before I was cynical and before dating was a group activity where everyone weighed in with their personal rules and guidelines, I spoke the first draft of my mind to boys.

Ahh, sweet sweet naivety.

God forbid we look foolish, or put ourselves out there when we're unsure of what the response will be. Don't get me wrong - nobody should bring out the crazy too early in a relationship, but there's something to be said about acting honest and being yourself. In the video, they erase every twinge of emotion from their conversation. In an effort to look cool, they make sure that neither one knows that they like one another at all.

At my first real job post-college, my boss was blunt and no nonsense. Her first comments on an email I drafted for an editor? Way too long and WAY too many exclamation points.

I learned to bland-ify my emails and make them more business-like, which was important for sure, but I always felt like they read as a tad rude. Emails and the written word can be so easily misconstrued. I'm a friendly person and I want editors and clients to see that through my correspondence.

Now at my second agency and with more freedom and trust from my boss, I write emails the way I want to. Are there exclamation points used? Yep. Even -gasp- emoticons from time to time. But, I learned my lesson from my first boss, and I keep my exclamation points and smiley faces to a minimum. I don't ever want to come across as cheesy, which is apparently my weakness.

The lesson here? Send your second draft.

I try not to obsess over what I say to the opposite sex, or anyone for that matter through email, gchat, facebook... BUT, I do try to keep my crazy in check, and read it over once to make sure I get my point across without going overboard.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I'm a Stainiac!

The weather in NY has been brutal since Christmas, so I'm stuck in that winter mindset that feels as if there is NO END IN SIGHT. I'm always cold, my skin is pale, my lips are chapped, my hands are dry...blech.

However, what's the one nice beauty benefit to cold weather?? Rosy cheeks and just-bitten lips!

And on that note, I've found my new favorite cheek and lip stain to enhance what Mother Nature gave ya - Stainiac in Beauty Queen (a deep raspberry pink) by TheBalm Cosmetics. It's a water-based gel, so it glides on really smooth, blends well and doesn't "set" til you're ready (aka no leftover streaks!). I love the lip gloss applicator wand - it makes it so quick and easy to use.

I especially love how it looks on my cheeks - the color is subtle, but it stays put, too. I dabbed it on my cheeks at 8:30am this morning, and my cheeks still have rosy definition now, past 10pm. Amazing!

It works a couple ways on lips, too - I've been dabbing on a quick hint of Stainiac in the morning before work to boost life back into my chapped, weather-worn lips. Topped with a thick coat of Vaseline and Chapstick, it still guards against the blistery weather. The effect is probably only noticeable to me, but it gives that extra little something to my lips and keeps me from feeling too washed out.

When I layer the Stainiac on more, it takes on an near-lipstick look that's great for nights out. I hate feeling like I have gunk on my lips, so I'm not a huge fan of lipsticks and colored glosses, but a stain like this layered under lip balm and/or a clear gloss looks really nice. And on the plus side, you don't have to reapply...this sucker stays on for the long haul. Here's a little pic of me out with friends wearing it on my lips and cheeks. Love it!

I've tried 2 other cheek and lip stains in the past - Tarte Flush and Benefit Posietint, and so far I like this one better than both others. Posietint is a really pretty pale pink and leaves a great sheen on summer skin, but if it's not rubbed in quick enough, I notice faint blotches on my cheeks. And Tarte blends really well and has a cute color, but I feel it fades fairly quickly.

I'm so glad I discovered TheBalm! I spotted it recently at Sephora and the kitschy cute packaging and flirty product names (similar to Benefit) called my name. Ironically enough, both brands are based out of San Francisco, but TheBalm has one major point of difference - they love pugs just as much as I do!! The company site lists bios for three pug mascots in the office - Wheezie, Buddy and Guinevere...all almost as adorable as my Marlon. Not only that, they have a product called TheBalm to the Rescue, a vegan lip treatment (great for this time of year!) whose proceeds go a pug rescue organization in the Bay Area. That's next on my shopping list for sure.

So if the cold winter weather has got you down, perk up your mood and your lips and cheeks with a fun new stain!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Year reviews and resolutions

The New Year is here and I have to say, I have high hopes for 2011.

I do make resolutions, but I really attempt for doable things - last year my goal was to run a 5k (and I did it...4 times!). This year, my physical goals are to run a 10k and get my finances back in shape. My loftier (read: mental) goals that I hope to tackle this year are finding the clarity within all my daydreams and putting some direction in my life. And further than that, having the courage to take action and make the changes I'm seeking. I have some things in mind, but I won't go into detail here just yet...

This year seems like a promising year for me to make significant changes. Back in San Francisco when I visited the psychic, she told me that in the coming year, my life would come together and I would be happy. I also recently figured out my numerology chart for 2011, and out of the 9 year cycles our lives go through, this is my year 1 - my banner year! Here's the sum-up of what a personal year one denotes:

Personal Year 1...A New Beginning In Your Life
The current year is the beginning of a new nine year cycle for you. It holds the promise of being an exciting new adventure, with life taking on new challenges that pave the way for the next cycle of nine years in your life. This is a time to clarify your goals and it is a time to act on them. Hard work may be necessary to get a new venture moving. Your physical strength will be up during this year, perhaps higher than it has been for some time, as you have some special needs for this extra energy. If you are unable or unwilling to answer the call to change and make the move in your life the appears necessary now, your prospects may be delayed until the next cycle begins in nine years. Because of this, you feel like an adventure, a major change in your life, something new. New goals should be clearly set and worked toward, as this is really a new beginning of a nine year cycle and it is best not to dwell on the past at this time. This will be fairly easy for you to do because most of the problems and disappointments of the past will tend to disappear, leaving the way open for these new challenges. This is a great time; use it to its full advantage.

Please don't take me for a gimicky weirdo that reads too much into the zodiac, but sometimes, I really do feel like there's something to it. Not that I rule my life by horoscopes...it's just another way to understand your personality and where you stand in the world; another perspective to look at and measure your life and experiences against. And you know what, the psychic, the numerology chart, and even my fortune cookies on New Year's Day this year (a pleasant surprise is in store for me, and my existence has a positive contribution to mankind!) excited me. They give me hope and mirror what I've been feeling inside for the past several months - that I am figuring it out and that the sky is clearing up ahead for me.

Aside from resolutions, packed bars with expensive cover charges and crowded gyms, the New Year for me mostly signifies a passage of time. My birthday does the same. Each year on these memorable days, I find myself reminiscing about previous years and how much I've grown (or not...) in the past year. Sometimes it causes a few tears, but normally it's nice to take some time to reflect on the previous year and the highs and lows, and where am I am now compared to where I was before. I found a really helpful tool for this in the December issue of Whole Living magazine - check it out below (the print is a little small - my apologies).

I just did my "Year-End Review" last night, and I really liked the thinking and free-flowing writing it allowed me to do. Even though I enjoy writing and do it often for work and for this blog, I'm a perfectionist and typically re-read and fix things many times before sending or publishing. It was nice to not think about grammar or proper sentences and just let my mind and pen wander for once. Now I just have to figure out a place to store it so I don't lose it before the next New Year! I definitely think this is something I want to put into practice for each year.

Happy New Year, and may all your resolutions, hopes and dreams for the coming year come true!