Travel Finds: M2 Boutique

There are some cities that just get under your skin. While I certainly love NYC, I also absolutely adore Chicago. My best friend from college relocated to the city nearly a decade ago and I’ve been a frequent visitor ever since. I love the distinct neighborhoods, the laid back vibe and the boutique shopping. Lucky for me, my girl Alyssa is a fabulous personal stylist and knows every great store in the city.  

Today Alyssa introduced me to a new favorite – M2 Boutique in Lakeview. I’m in the Windy City for a work conference and was looking for a funky necklace to jazz up my oh-so-professional – but sort of boring – black wrap dress. This morning I stole a necklace from Lyssa’s collection, this evening she took me to find one (or, erm, three) of my own.  

M2 is my kind of store.  It’s bright, playful and has an excellent selection of fun, on-trend accessories. Best of all everything is reasonably priced. I walked out of there with three funky necklaces for under $90. Take that JCrew. (I’m sorry JC – you know I love you – but really, $90 for a costume-jewelry necklace?  At the outlet? No thanks.) Thanks to Alyssa’s stylings and M2’s selection my work wardrobe just got a little funkier. Gotta love that.

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Image Credit – M2 Boutique (Facebook)

 

 

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Explore NYC: Governors Island

Amongst all its towering buildings and bustling sidewalks NYC is also home to a huge array of parks and public green spaces.  Being from the Midwest where just about everyone has their own private outdoor space I didn’t spend a ton of time in parks when I was growing up.  Sure we had the occasional picnic and my Mom and I took a lot of long walks in the woods, but I rarely spent a full afternoon in a park.  Living in the concrete jungle sure has changed that – one of my favorite things to do on a summer afternoon in NYC is to round up some friends, pack some snacks and head to a park for several solid hours of relaxing.

This weekend Andrew and I finally checked another box off our Summer Bucket List – our first-ever visit to Governors Island.  Located less than a 10 minute ferry ride from either lower Manhattan or Brooklyn the island is a little slice of heaven.  During the colonial days Governors Island was reserved exclusively for the use of New York’s Royal Governors, more recently it served as a Coast Guard Base before being turned into a dedicated park space.  The island currently hosts bike trails, picnic spaces, art installations and multiple historical forts – a little something for everything.

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Image Credit:  Governors Island Blog

On Sunday, Andrew, our friend Bryan and I headed to the island to attend a Jazz Age Lawn Festival.  The event featured music from the roaring 20s and a lawn full of New Yorkers dolled up in spiffy 20s gear.  We settled ourself on a not-very-1920s lined picnic blanket for several hours and enjoyed the show.  I’m not sure what was more entertaining, the music or the people-watching, but add a beautiful day, a yummy homemade lunch that we carted along and a few heated card games and we ended up with an incredible afternoon.  The Festival will be returning in August and I highly recommend attending.  Even if you can’t make it that weekend the island is definitely worth an afternoon.

Explore NYC: City Walks

Apparently in some areas of the country summer has forgotten to arrive – I’m looking at you Minnesota! Not so here in NYC. We’ve had some incredible weather and absolutely lovely weekends. Once the weather warms up I am like a kid who just got out of school, I want to be outside as much as possible. I love to pack the summer weekends with fun excursions – beach trips, picnics, festivals and tons of extremely long walks.

One of the things I love most about NYC is how incredibly walkable it is. Despite being home to more than 1.5 million people, Manhattan is only 13 miles long and  about 2 1/2 miles wide at its longest point.  Even Brooklyn, our home and favorite borough, is much smaller than you would expect. I know from experience that you can make it from the Brooklyn Bridge to Coney Island on foot in just a few hours.

A few years ago my Mom, one of my best friends and I decided to participate in a 3 Day, 60 mile walk for breast cancer. 60 miles in a long weekend is quite the feat and it requires a fair amount of training. Because neither of my teammates lived in NYC, I needed people to walk with. I stumbled across a group of people training for 3 Day events and began to walk with them on the weekends. Despite having lived in NYC for 6 years I felt like the city opened up to me. I figured out that nothing was really that far apart. If I was willing to strap on some tennis shoes and stay hydrated I could explore a ton on foot. One of my favorite training walks started at Penn Station and continued down the West side of Manhattan, across the Brooklyn Bridge and all the way to Nathan’s Hot Dog Stand on Coney Island. It was a whopping 21 miles and over the course of the day I got to see all sorts of New York neighborhoods I didn’t even know existed.

I’m no longer training for the 3 Day, but that summer changed me. I love to get out and explore NYC on foot. This last weekend Andy and I met up with our old 3 Day crew for a “short” training walk. This time we only walked from Penn Station across the Brooklyn Bridge, ending with pizza in Brooklyn Heights – a total of about 10 miles.

Along the way we explored the Highline, Manhattan’s elevated park located in Chelsea:

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Caught a glimpse of Lady Liberty (she’s little but she’s there!):

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And struggled through the crowds of tourists on Brooklyn Bridge – no matter how many times I walk across this bridge I never cease to be amazed.

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If you’re visiting NYC for a few days, just moved to the City or even if you’ve lived here for years I encourage you to take a half day and see how far you can walk – if you get tired out you can always grab a cab or jump on the subway, it’s like magic! Don’t forget comfortable walking shoes (As I’ve said before, I can’t recommend my Newtons highly enough!) sunscreen and a bottle of water. With those safety measures covered you should be all set for an amazing adventure.

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Healthy Eats – Southwestern Pinto Bean Burgers

I’m not a vegetarian and neither is my husband but I try to incorporate a decent amount of vegetarian evenings into our weekly routine. Doing so ensures that we aren’t eating too much red meat, gives us a ton of variety in our diet, and is generally super easy on our wallets. These Southwestern Pinto Burgers from Cooking Light are one of our favorite meat-free recipes. They are delicious and fairly simple to prepare – perfect for a weeknight dinner. I generally make the full recipe which yields 4 patties – we have two for dinner and both Andy and I eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. The burgers are fantastic on a bun, over some greens, or wrapped up in a tortilla.

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Original Image From Cooking Light

Southwestern Pinto Bean Burgers

Burgers:

  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeño pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained
  • 1 (8 3/4-ounce) can no salt-added whole-kernel corn, drained or 1 cup of frozen corn (that for a few minutes)

Top Burgers with either Chipotle Mayo or Green Chile Mayo – Chipotle is a little spicier but the green chile is also delicious.

Chipotle Mayo

  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon canned minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce

Green Chile Mayo

  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 T canned chopped green chiles

To prepare burgers, combine the first 10 ingredients in a large bowl. Add pinto beans and corn; partially mash with a fork or potato masher. Divide bean mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each portion into a 3 1/2-inch patty, and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

To prepare  mayonnaise, combine mayonnaise and peppers in a small bowl (or directly in the gladware that you intend to store it in); set aside.

Heat 1T canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties to pan, and cook 4 minutes on each side or until thoroughly heated. Place patties on bottom halves of buns; top each patty with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 1 lettuce leaf, and top half of bun.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving (based on Chipotle Mayo and Hamburger Buns)

  • WW Points – 10 PP with Hamburger Buns, 8 PP with Sandwich Thin
  • Calories: 411
  • Calories from fat: 23%
  • Fat: 10.7g
  • Saturated fat: 1.9g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 3.2g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 3.2g
  • Protein: 15.2g
  • Carbohydrate: 63.1g
  • Fiber: 9.1g
  • Cholesterol: 57mg
  • Iron: 3.9mg
  • Sodium: 837mg
  • Calcium: 153mg

Well-Heeled Wednesday – Sunny Days, Sunny Shoes

It is finally summer in NYC!  In celebration I am wearing ridiculous bright sandals.  What’s better on a sunny day than sunny shoes?  I’m currently coveting these DV by Dolce Vita sandals on sale at My Habit.  In addition to being adorable, DV’s shoes are reasonably priced and comfy!

DV Sandals

Bright sandals are great paired with a neutral outfit.  If you want to kick up the fun-factor even further, try pairing them with a colorful dress.  I love to wear my bright yellow sandals with a bright blue maxi.  Summer perfection!

Getting Moving

For as long as I can remember I have struggled with my weight.  Not so much with losing weight.  I am really good at losing weight.  The problem is I am even more proficient at gaining weight.  The truth is that if calories were not an issue I would routinely choose to eat completely terrible food all the time.  I’m not talking Burger King or McDonalds, but I am talking homemade burgers, tons of desserts, ice cream and bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches every day of the week.  Couple my natural lust for all things fatty and delicious with a scary habit of comfort eating when life gets a little stressful and I wind up gaining and losing the same thirty pounds over and over and over again.

I’ve recently re-entered “weight-loss mode.”  What that means in my household is a re-commitment to cooking healthy homemade meals and an increase in exercise.  I am lucky enough to have a star Weight Watchers leader for a sister so I also use the WW program as a guide for my daily food intake.  My sister recently reintroduced me to WW’s latest weight-loss tool – the ActiveLink fitness and activity monitor and I am in love.

ActiveLink

This little gadget is amazing.  Technically speaking it is a 3-Way Accelerometer, which means it tracks the body’s motion forwards and backwards, up and down and side to side.  Effectively what it does is measure and track your movements throughout the day.  After a short assessment period it allows you to set a goal to gradually increase your activity level over several weeks.  With a simple glance at the monitor you can get a rough estimate of your movement during the day.  By  plugging it into your computer (it’s actually a USB drive, crazy!) you can see a detailed hour-by-hour or minute-by-minute breakdown of how much you are moving – below are examples from my day yesterday.

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Let me tell you – this  baby is the most inspiring fitness tool I have discovered in ages.  It might be that I am completely Type A and love a good goal, but I am 150%, totally, completely obsessed.  I love to watch my progress throughout the day and I find it incredibly satisfying to meet and exceed my goals for each day and week.  (My sister the WW Star has been warning me that my goals may be a little low if I keep exceeding them.  She may have a point, but I’m so happy with the satisfaction that I’m not willing to up them quite yet.)  I find myself doing crazy things to up my activity level – running the stairs in my apartment building, standing while working, even doing jumping jacks in the living room.  The most interesting thing that I’ve discovered is that a workout alone is not enough to meet my goals.  I have a generally sedentary job and if I don’t make a concerted effort to move during the day even a killer workout won’t put me over the top.

If you’re thinking about getting more active I would highly recommend the Active Link.  If you aren’t a WW member there are also several other options although I can’t personally vouch for them.  I’ve heard great things about the FitBit and Up by Jawbone.  Have you worn a fitness monitor?  What are your favorite tricks for getting more active?

Further Thoughts on Long Distance Friendship

Earlier this week Triddles published an incredible piece on maintaining long distance friendships. Unlike, Triddles, I do not live across an ocean from the majority of my friends and family. However, I do live across the country, and even that can be incredibly challenging. I personally have benefited from several of the strategies Triddles uses to maintain her long distrance friendships. I love a good Skype date and I agree that gChat is an invaluable tool for keeping up on your long distance friends’ every day minutia.

Having spent the last 9 years in a different time-zone than most of my closest friends and family I have a few additional long distance friendship survival tips.

  • Pretend Like You’re Local Friends: The year after I graduated from college my best-girlfriend Lou and I were inseparable. If we weren’t hanging out, we were on the phone. We would call each other for the silliest reasons. Think, “Lou! I just saw a cute boy!! I should have asked him out!” “Cole! I found a new sweater, it’s awesome AND cheap!” For some reason, when I moved to NYC, we stopped having those types of conversations. We would wait to talk for days or even weeks and then feel overwhelmed because we had so much to tell each other and we needed to block out a whole chunk of time. About a year into living in separate cities we decided to pretend we were local friends again, we started our silly conversations back up. Several years later we’re still at it and we’re closer than ever. Sometimes we still have long chats, but often we will call just to touch base for a few minutes. I have since implemented this trick with several other long distance friends and the result is always positive. It means we talk more often and feel less pressure to make catching up a big to-do.
  • FaceTime: Like Triddles, I love Skype. I think it is an incredibly useful tool for keeping in contact with far-away loved ones. I also love FaceTime. If you and your friends are iPhone users FaceTime is an incredible option for keeping in touch. I feel so much closer to someone when I can see their face, their emotional reactions to our conversations, and even their surroundings. What I love about FaceTime is it’s portable. My Mom and I will often chat for just a few minutes to show each other our jewelry, our pets, or the new shirt we bought. It makes me feel ALMOST like we live in the same state.
  • Don’t Be Lame: Triddles covered this in her post, but I think it bears repeating. It is incredibly easy to be a lame, lazy friend when you live far away.  Maintaining long distance friendships requires time and effort. So if you’re friend wants to chat? Try to chat. If your friend comes to town for one night and they want to meet across town, in the middle of a snowstorm and you would rather sit on your couch? Get off your butt and get out the door. Within reason, make every effort to say yes to your friends. It will make you a better friend and you will be surprised by what you will get in return.
  • Invite, Invite, Invite: I spend a fair amount of time and money making sure that I see my far away friends and family as often as possible. I make several trips to the midwest each year. That being said, I also think it is incredible to share my current world with my friends and family. I have the benefit of living in a cool city that people love to visit, but I also make an effort to invite my friends and family to make the trip. Often they don’t accept on the first offer. The trick is to not let that deter you and to not take it personally. Everybody is balancing their own finances and schedule. If someone says no the first time or fails to follow up, I invite them again. Some people never come, but lots of people do. Having visitors is the best. I get to have fun playing hostess and get to introduce people to the life I have created for myself in New York. They get a great vacation. It’s a win-win.

Well-Heeled Wednesday: Sparkly Toes

In years past, it seemed like heels had all the fun. Living in NYC where walking is often my primary mode of transportation, I was very excited when pretty flats started to make a comeback. I love how a sassy pair can spice up any outfit, even something as simple as jeans and a t-shirt. I adore these sparkly flats from J.Crew. Often I find J.Crew’s shoes a little hard to break in, but these are comfortable on day 1. Combine glitter and comfort and you have pretty much created my perfect shoe.

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For more Well-Heeled Wednesday fun check out our friend at Cashmere & Wit!

Happy April Fools!

This is one of my favorite days of the year. In fact, I love April Fools Day SO much that my friends have decided that if I ever rule my own country April Fools Day will be the official national holiday. I am naturally naughty, or ornery as my Grandpa used to say, and I can’t resist a day all about tricking people, all in good fun of course!

I have to say, I’ve played some pretty good tricks over the years, but one of my favorites was leaving my husband a message that he needed to immediately call a Michael Lion about our car insurance. The number that I gave him was actually the number for the Bronx zoo. Run of the mill tricks don’t generally work with him, so I was happy that I was able to pull off a sneakier stunt. That same year I was able to trick my incredibly suspicious good friend with a similar prank. I had her secretary call her and tell her there was a problem with her apartment and that she needed to immediately call Mr. Fox. As soon as the Central Park Zoo picked up she hung up and called me laughing hysterically. I still smile thinking about her reaction.

What about you? Do you like April Fools Day? Are you easily fooled? What are your favorite tricks?