Monday, November 23, 2009

Tonight I Joined the Zumba World

I've been hearing about Zumba classes from friends for months already, but my gym doesn't offer them, so I figured I would never have a chance to see what it is all about. Well, I am home for the Thanksgiving holiday, and a new fitness studio has opened up in my town. To promote their classes, they are offering a three free classes trial where you can try any three classes before you decide to join. One of my friends is considering becoming a member, and she invited me along to try out a zumba class. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity, since I have been curious about it for quite some time.
I went to the class, and was a little nervous. I'm generally a little slow to catch on to new dance steps and have been known to be a little clumsy in aerobics classes. I blame it on being left handed, I always tend to want to go the opposite direction of everyone else. The music started pumping, and I knew I would like it, even if I did look totally off rhythm while enjoying it. It reminded me of spinning class, with the hip hop and techno tunes to keep you amped up through what is bound to be a tiring experience. The instructor was definitely a former back up dancer. She was totally jacked, and she was wearing baggy orange pants with a tight tiny tank top. The outfit really gave her away, and the fact that for a middle aged woman, she could really gyrate those hips. Also, she did not stop bouncing up and down for the entire hour class. This made her dance moves slightly difficult to follow, since the mambo is a little difficult to pick up in one class anyways, add a bounce step and I'm totally lost. At least it gave me something to blame my missteps on.
The song would change every 5 minutes or so, and ranged from Mambo #5, to Get Low by Lil' John (we really did get low), to My Hips don't Lie by Shakira. The moves went from the grapevine to salsa to merengue steps, to tango moves, to the plain old booty drop and shoulder shimmy. I do not recommend going with anyone who you are not comfortable literally shaking what your mama gave you in front of. We did the Beyonce shake your booty while popping our your chest move--this was one I was actually OK at, and I learned that twirling your hips is really all about the core rather than just the butt. It also brought in some traditional aerobics moves in between dance segments like the lunge-bounce-clap, and squats. It felt more like fun than working out, though I really broke a sweat, and we'll see how sore my legs are tomorrow.
Bottom line is that you get over the embarrassment of dancing in a brightly lighted room with mirrors everywhere within the first few minutes, and everyone is more into figuring out their moves than watching yours. While some of the moves feel like rubbing your tummy while patting your head, I am confident that if you went weekly it would become much easier. At the very least you will definitely learn some new dance moves, or improve the ones you've got! Hey, it's way more fun than running on a treadmill and staring at a wall for 40 minutes.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Another reason to be Thankful this Thanksgiving

It may actually help you sleep! Researchers in Manchester, England surveyed 401 adults, and those who had the highest levels of gratitude slept longer and better than less grateful participants. Gratitude in all areas of your life helps to decrease the number of negative thoughts which can delay sleep while drifting off. Count your blessings, and soon, sleeping even more soundly might be among them. (Good Housekeeping, November 2009)

A new way to get your way

Good Housekeeping reported this month that requests made into someone's right ear are more likely to receive an affirmative answer like, "Of Course! I'd love to give you a back massage!" or "Why yes! I will do the dishes!" An Italian study had one female student ask nearly 200 people for a cigarette in a noisy club. The people she asked into their right ear were twice as likely to say yes. This could be because of the way the brain receives and processes emotions. The left side, which receives stronger information from the right ear is focused on positive feelings, while the right side of the brain tends toward negative feelings and avoidance.

I wonder if this works the same for left handed and right handed people.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


This year I decided to take the lead on planning my family's thanksgiving dinner. I'm tired of the old stand by's that we make every year, so I took it upon myself to search out a new menu. So far this is what I've come up with:
-Turkey (of course)
-Cranberry Sauce
-Hazelnut Chard Ravioli (the vegetarian main course) topped with squash croutons, recipe found here:
-New Age Green Beans, a recipe I came across in family circle cookbook that involves a brie cheese cream sauce, walnuts, and cremini mushrooms
-Creamed Spinach-I've never tried making it, but I always love it
-Sweet Potato Souffle
-Chipotle Mashed Potatoes
-AND of course, Aunt Helen's Pumpkin Pumpkin Pie

I plan on making all of these, except the pumpkin pie, which is really not the same unless my mom makes it. I'm not sure if its a good idea to try all new recipes on Thanksgiving, but it will be exciting at the very least.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Guidelines Push back Screenings for Breast and Cervical Cancer

I have been following this debate for a while now. It all started with an article in one of my magazines by this woman who was advocating that women should receive less mammograms unless they are in a high risk group because of the chance of false positive and unnecessary stress and worry. That was the only good reason she gave for decreasing the number of mammograms a woman receives and pushing back the age for required screenings. I personally would rather have a false positive one or twice, and catch a potential cancer early than not screen and then suddenly be hit with advanced breast cancer. There have been advances in breast cancer treatment in recent years resulting in higher success rates in fighting the cancer, but the fact remains that it is a largely incurable disease. Additionally, the high success rate is due largely to catching the cancer earlier due to heightened awareness and better screening processes.

Now they are pushing back the age at which women should get their first PAP screening to 21. I really can't believe this. Sure, young women may present irregular results that will go away with time, but this test usually comes as a bundle with other tests for STD's and general female reproductive health. If we are recommending that young women stop getting PAP tests until a certain age, this raises a whole set of problems. First, doctors caveat that sexually active young women should still receive these tests, probably to screen for precancerous cells from contracting HPV. How is a young woman, say, in high school supposed to broach this topic to her parents that she wants to go to the gynecologist to maintain her reproductive health when it is no longer "recommended" without blatantly saying "Hey mom and dad, I'm now sexually active and want to be safe about it." Second, if women aren't going for their recommended yearly PAP test, chances are they won't visit the gynecologist every year for other vital tests for ovarian health since the yearly exam usually bundles all of these tests together. Also, I would be willing to bet that now that these new recommendations are in place, insurance will stop covering these necessary procedures for women, or will only cover them in an even more restrictive manner than before.

No one loves getting their breasts smooshed by some stranger or stripping down and putting their feet up in the stirrups. They are uncomfortable procedures that we all suffer through as women to protect our health. They save lives, and prevent the spread of STDs. Many of the diseases that both mammograms, PAP tests, and other reproductive health testing detect symptoms that can go unnoticed in many women without these screenings if she is not particularly in tune with her body. Maybe breast cancer and cervical cancer can still be sufficiently detected with these new standards. But what about the side effects of these changes? Women visit the gynecologist less frequently, missing out a forum to comfortably discuss her sexual health, and most likely also decreasing the rate of STD testing. In all likelihood, insurance carriers will decrease the number of tests, both mammograms and PAP screenings, they will cover for women, without distinguishing between women who are high risk, sexually active at a younger age, or have a family history of these cancers. I would really like to see them try to scale back the number of years between when men go for their prostate PSA test, and see if the recommendations are pushed through so easily.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mint Candy Apple or Tiffany Blue?

So, I have anxiously awaited for the Ricky's near me to start selling Essie's winter colors, since I have been wanting the pale green Mint Candy Apple since I saw it in a magazine. Yet, as I was painting it on my nails this evening, a strange thing occurred. It started to look like Tiffany Blue once I put it on my fingers. I think that this is why it seems so appealing to so many women reviewers. One woman said it made her happy to look at her nails. Maybe because it brings forth visions of diamonds and gemstones running through her head.

Max Brenner, a man I have finally discovered!

I have lived in NYC for a little over 5 years now, and I have just discovered a man and his chocolate that I have been missing out on the entire time I've lived here. That man is Max Brenner, and I am obsessed with this bald man's chocolate. I mean, really, it is SO good. It all started with a weird coincidence. My roommate was going to meet a family friend for dinner at his restaurant, and happening into his booth in the Union Square Christmas shops.
I went into the booth because I was like hmm....that's weird, that's where my roommate is at dinner right now, and my friend who I was with nearly lost it when she realized that I had never heard of Max Brenner. They handed me a sample of caramelized pecans, in praline cream and rolled in cocoa powder and I was sold. It is one of the most delicious things I've tasted, and I think I am going to get tins of them for everyone for Christmas this year. Then I saw that they had a little snack booth, serving chocolate syringes, chocolate pizza, and hot chocolate.
The chocolate syringe is hot melty milk chocolate ganache that you squirt directly into your mouth. The hot chocolate is the thick european style that begs something sweet to dip into it and needs another beverage to wash it down. But I decided to try the chocolate pizza. It is a slightly sweetened dough, with thick milk and white chocolate melted all over the top of it. Though i do recommend sharing it with a friend, it is absolutely fantastic. It will satisfy your chocolate craving for a week, at least. I am definitely going to the restaurant as soon as I get a chance.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oprah talks Porn

Today, in what might possibly be the only time ever that Oprah's show came with the warning that the content may not be appropriate for children, Oprah invited Lisa Ling, Jenna Jameson, and an expert on erotica on to have a frank discussion about porn: it's wonders, and it's pitfalls. Though after watching the entire show, I am not entirely sure exactly what the point of it all was, I did learn a few things. And Oprah navigated the subject with her usual class and grace, managing to discuss porn and sex toys without ever using such dirty words as penis, orgasm, or vibrator. She did say G-spot once or twice, which was pretty hilarious.

Things I learned today:

1. Apparently numbers are up on female porn viewers and buyers. This means that the leading men in porn will be getting better looking since more and more people watching are actually checking out the guy.

2. Jenna Jameson is actually quite a savvy businesswoman. She has a profitable business, a book that spent many weeks as a NY Times Bestseller, and is married with two sons. She is very emotional about the day that she will have to tell her sons about her past in the porn industry.

3. Most adult film enterprises require all actors and actresses to present STD and AIDs test results prior to filming, which is a step towards protecting those employed in this industry. One woman interviewed, however, notes that these results are not fail safe, and that the fear of getting AIDs hovers over her constantly while working because it is not allowed to wear condoms in pornography, because audiences find it undesirable.

This last knowledge made me quite sad for the woman being interviewed, who claimed it was the only way for her to make money to pay her bills. Jenna Jameson talked about the pitfall many women do not feel strong or confident enough to refuse to be filmed in sexual acts they do not feel comfortable with. Since many women in this profession may be doing it as a last resort, they could easily be exploited by directors and coerced with threats of losing the job and the income. Yet she also reported that porn can be quite a lucrative employment for women, since they make more than men in the same industry. Women typically make between $2,000 and $5,000 per performance, which if working a typical work week would lead to incomes exceeding $200,000 annually. I am not sure whether it is an improvement or pitfall that porn is becoming "safer" for those involved in it, which might make more women seek this type of career which while safer is not anywhere near being completely without risk of health complications.
Then there are the social ramifications to consider. Jenna Jameson has retired from porn, and told Oprah how many of her movies were made with her husband at the time. Now, she is married with two boys. She dreads the day that she has to tell them about her past, for she understands that once a porn star, always a porn star-people will continue to judge her by her past. She claims that she does not care what other people think of her, but only how her boys will judge her and how it might impact children willing to be friends with them once they are old enough.
Although, as Oprah pointed out, with porn becoming more mainstream and more women becoming interested, perhaps it will become less taboo and by the time Jenna's boys are old enough, no one will care that their mommy had sex on tape for a living. If Oprah is talking about it, it must be becoming more mainstream.
Check out the video footage from the show and full story here:

Brangelina Makes Jewelry!

Yesterday, Women's Wear Daily (WWD-the parent magazine to W), announced that Brad and Angelina are back in the news, and this time it's not for anything related to them having or adopting more children! No, they have entered another sphere besides being social activists, models of parenting, and glamourous movie stars, they can now add jewelry designers to their resumes. The hot couple debuted a jewelry collection with Asprey, a British Luxury goods line. The collection is named "The Protector," and is entirely centered around images of the snake, and animal that Jolie believes is a talisman which protects her family.

All proceeds from the collection will Jolie's charity Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, which works to raise awareness and funds for the educational needs of children who are victimized by war, conflict, and natural disasters.

Angelina received a snake ring as a gift while pregnant with Shiloh, and believes the symbol has the power to protect her children and family. Thus, the collection features many serpent themed baby gifts including a spoon, egg cup, tooth box, and picture frame. It also includes rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces for adults. All prices and pieces have not yet been released, but will gems will definitely include diamonds, black diamonds, and emeralds.

It is interesting that Brangelina chose the snake for the collection, and animal that Christians have always been told represents betrayal, deceit, and even vengefulness. At the very least, many see them as dangerous creatures simply because many snakes carry poisonous venom in their fangs. However, in other symbolic cultures, snakes can represent varied positive meanings from rebirth, fertility, balance, protection, and transformation.

The collection is part of Asprey's bid to increase sales over the next five years, and to devote more focus to their jewelry collections as opposed to their other luxury goods. By pulling in these two media giants, I'm sure at the very least, Asprey will be successful in drawing more attention to, and global knowledge of their brand.

Color Pop that will Make Your Jaw Drop

Neons are back, and they haven't fading with summer’s warm breezes and beach season. They have returned with several other 80’s trends to cater to the generation who grew up loving their stretch pants and neon pink nail polish who are now coming of age to be shopping’s target demographic. The single ladies with a disposable income, no mortgage payment, no family to care for, we are generation X and Y, born in the eighties and early nineties who embrace the return of blindingly bright hues that took fall color palates by storm.

Designers embrace bright colors, but only the right brights. The favored colors are neon orange, green, pink, and the occasional bright yellow. Winter hats went wild in colors so bright they could help secure your rescue in a snowstorm. Flats went from neutral to neon. Jewelry was jazzed up with accents of pink and green to complement fall blacks and grays.

The key to working the colors to your advantage is to wear all one neon shade together. Do not mix and match green, yellow, and orange all together. Use neon’s sparingly with other solids to juice up an outfit, and only wear one neon at a time. Or wear all one solid neon color. So go ahead and channel your inner eighties rock star. Update your fall and winter browns blacks and nays with a complimentary bright piece that will bring your go-to winter frock from plain to POW.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Shop smart, Stay Stylish.

In this economy, everyone is looking for ways to scale back their budgets without totally ruining their quality of life. This mentality has stretched across every economic sector, and fashion has not remained unscathed. Terms like frugalista, and recessionista have emerged to replace the overspending trendy fashionista, which describe women who, while saving money, and cutting costs still want to remain fashionable. Throughout the past year, magazines and popular culture have admonished women to cut back on shopping. There was even a trend in NYC during which women making extravagant purchases concealed their bounty in brown paper bags to hide the designer names and blatant signal that they have just spent money *GASP* on themselves and their own beauty. This fall, however, the tide is changing with the season, and the predominant mood no longer condemns shopping, but recommends shopping in moderation. As long as we make intelligent, well-considered purchases, no one criticizes one of the most basic pleasures of feeling a little pretty, a little feminine, or a little womanly.

Nina Garcia, of Elle and Marie Claire magazine recommends three easy steps to make sure we aren’t lured in by the impulse buys of 50% off sales and trends that may seem alluring in the dressing room, but all out of place once put in your closet. The first is to take an inventory of the items we already own. Too many of us lose sight of all of the wonderful gems hidden in our seasonal storage units, our overly jam-packed closet, or our disorganized drawers. Garcia suggests playing dress up in our own closets, with our own makeup to try out new outfit combinations, and refresh our memories about exactly what we have. Some suggest taking this inventory to the next level, and making a digitized photo look book of our favorite blouse, skirt and heel combos to save to our laptops for the next time we are having an outfit crisis. Simply flip through the looks we’ve already put together and snapped photos of, and suddenly picking out an outfit doesn’t seem so daunting.

Next on the to-do list is to make a need list. These aren’t the guilty pleasure items, like liquid leather leggings that will match so perfectly with our ruffley purple tuxedo dress, but the classic items that we lack, but oh-so-desperately need. These include a black pencil skirt, a navy suit, a classic trench, a go-anywhere LBD, and a solid pair of pumps and boots. The list could go on. If you could picture yourself wearing it to work, dinner, and a date or in ten years, it’s a need, not a want. This list will help you stay focused once you are out in the shopping world, bombarded by all of its trends and temptations. Make a copy of this list to keep in your wallet. A quick reference to it will bring you back to your goals and budget restrictions while out and about.

Finally, go shopping and enjoy yourself. Don’t be afraid to spend a little money on the essentials. It can seem like a devastating budget blow to put several hundred dollars down on one item, but we are putting this money into quality purchases, not quantity. The items that you need should last you many years to come. If you break down how many times you wear those classic Frye riding boots by the actual cost, you will find out that it comes down to mere pennies per wear, as opposed to the $80 spent on a discounted forest green purse covered in zippers and chains that will languish in your closet and be out of style next year. Shop smart, stay stylish.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Another reason why I really need to read "On the Road"

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!”

-Jack Kerouac

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Why is it that the only decent jelly and jam I can get in my grocery store are imported from Switzerland? Let me clarify. By decent, I am referring to real jelly, made with real ingredients, of which I will only accept fruit, pectin/gelatin, and sugar. High fructose corn syrup, despite the American Corn Grower’s Associations aggressive ad campaign, still remains a chemical in my eyes because it is a highly processed form of sugar that has been linked to obesity and higher risk of diabetes as a result. While there is not conclusive evidence that high fructose corn syrup is solely responsible for this, it came widely into use in the 1970's, around the time that Americans began to get fatter as a population. It also has been shown, on many occasions to contain trace amounts of mercury, which can become dangerous and toxic when it builds up in the body. Yes, it is cheaper than sugar, and extends the shelf life of a product, with its preservative, but cheaper is not always better.

I discovered Hero jellies when I was living abroad in Madrid. It's a funny thing. In Europe, high fructose corn syrup is not used to sweeten. They use actual sugar. Even in Coca Cola products, sodas are sweetened with sugar. In Europe, there isn't the huge problem with obesity that we have here. Coincidence? Read this and see what you think for yourself:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ralph Lauren Romance

I do not wear the perfume, nor do I wear the scent, though it does remind me of one childhood friend who loved it. Yet, since I was old enough to buy magazines, the ads have inspired me and I have torn them out and decorated my room with them. I still tack an occasional one to my wall now and again.

Passion or Practicality

During the course of the last two years, many of my friends have changed their life courses in ways drastically different from the Jesuit, liberal arts college prepared them to live their lives.
One is working in make up, contemplating cosmetology school. This makes total and complete sense to me. She was always the one to notice my new nail polish or complement the effect I had created with my eye shadow.
Another is enrolled in the French Culinary Institute. Again, she is the friend who drops off cookies, apple bread, and mini cupcakes at my apartment.
I have several friends who changed career course to become teachers, and many who began that path right out of high school. In the past year, I have four friends who have decided to pursue medicine or nursing.
Many of these paths make sense. Like a final puzzle piece put into place, it just seems right. The career matches their interests, and I am happy the universe has revealed the right way to put their passion to use in the long run.
I mean, that is what we are all trying to do anyways, find a job doing something we enjoy so working isn't work, but fulfillment. At least that's what they've been telling us all through college. The one thing that bothers me is that I wonder if these careers are more of a means to obtain a steady job in these tough economic times the security of a defined profession without having to search out your own niche in the world. I do not presume to say that any of my friends are doing it for these reasons, or even if they are that it is wrong. But, it makes me wonder if more people are entering these positions to create a stable future for themselves rather than for love of the trade.
I have had discussions about how college doesn't really prepare you for a job/life anymore. Simply having the degree does not guarantee success anymore. You need to specialize, to choose the right major, intern intern intern to get experience, and then know the right person to get in the door. Liberal arts education does little to emphasize the highly practical knowledge of which degree will give you access to which jobs, how to invest in the stock market, or the value of keeping in touch with past employers for references. The focus is on finding your passion and hoping the rest will pan out.
Unfortunately, for most, in this recession, that has not been happening. My mother has been trying to convince me to go all the way, to turn my Sociology Master's into a PhD for the cushy lifestyle and the amazing schedule. I admit, I am tempted by summers off, long holiday breaks. I do love Sociology, but not enough to have to write papers on it, and teach it everyday for the rest of my life. It is a strong interest of mine, but not my only passion, and well, I'm just not ready to throw in the towel on those yet, even for what would be an incredibly practical decision.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Leggings: Accessory or Necessity

Leggings stepped onto the fall/winter 2009 scene in a big way during this season’s fashion week in NYC signaling by their presence on the runway that leggings are a trend that’s here to stay and one that’s gained the very discriminating approval of designers to be worn under their haute couture. But buyer beware: follow runway leads, and remember that leggings are not pants. Keep your bottom covered, and balance your spandexy lower half with complementary flowing tops and bubble skirts.

In previous years, leggings were a commercial trend, to be purchased at Gap, and Express in a variety of shades and styles from ankle length to stirrup foot. They were a vestige of the 80’s trend and a convenient way to stretch summer dresses into fall without freezing legs. Leggings were mass-produced in solid colors, with a rare pattern popping up that was most often condemned as too busy for everyday wear. Leggings were hidden under boots and dresses, like tights, serving as a color pop or a functional garment to keep your knees warm.

This year, however, leggings became an accessory, an “it” item all their own. They are no longer a mere piece to complete an outfit, but the fashion statement that makes an outfit. Diane von Furstenberg lends her signature patterns to stretchy pants that stun. Members Only edges up an outfit with studded leather. Louis Vuitton creates marvelous swirling paisley that give the illusion of flower stems popping out of the bubbled matching patterned tops. I must say that while some magazines labeled Leighton Meister's look a don't, I am ABSOLUTELY in love with these matching Louis Vuitton sets!! On runways throughout Brant Park, leggings did not merely cover legs, but defined a look. The question was not merely what color, but what am I trying to say with these leggings? With so many designer messages to choose from, a girl could go on for days.

I take pride in the fact that I can survive on what I have in my purse for multiple days at a time.

This is my purse. It's not a huge purse. It's just your standard leather hobo from Liz Claiborne. It is just expertly packed, though I must say that if I was on "Let's Make a Deal" and they offered me money per pound, they would be paying out some serious cash. I just consider it one less weight machine I have to use next time I go to the gym.

It's a skill I perfected one summer while staying with my sister on Long Island. I would trek into the city for the day, and somehow the day would expand to two, three, maybe even including a voyage up the metro north to visit my grandmother. I relished the spontaneity of not having to return to home base.

Now, it requires some planning, and granted, is much easier in the summer because summer dressers are simpler to fold and roll into a small parcel than say, a down parka. And, you need to be prepared for a change in the weather with appropriate footwear. Can you wear the shoes you have on anywhere that you might end up? Will they give you blisters? I have found that flip flops without the proper tread can become very slippery in the rain.

Today I have in my bag:
-The September issue of Vogue (see previous post to understand why I am still reading September)
-Dave Egger's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
-My trusty refillable water bottle (I seldom leave home without it)
-A winter hat in case it gets cold
-My iPod
-Phone and Charger
-Clean underwear and socks (VERY key!)
-A crocheting project I'm working on and a ball of yarn
-Toothbrush (Also an item you don't want to be caught without)
-Makeup and deodorant
-Lip gloss AND chapstick
-My digital camera
-A pack of Orbit peppermint gum
-A mini notebook and pen to record random inspiration
-A veggie wrap (honey mustard, American cheese, red leaf lettuce, bell pepper, and bean sprouts--delicious combo and healthy!)
-1 Golden delicious apple
-1 Nature valley fruit and nut granola bar
-A white tank top and gray long sleeved tee embellished with lace
-AND a pack of travel tissues

I thought about bringing my computer, but I decided that was overkill. This, in addition to what I am wearing now: jeans, clogs, sunglasses, a hair rubber band, and fleece jacket can easily take me anywhere for the foreseeable future. I had a short trip planned, I don't pack my purse like this everyday, but it is a skill that I love to have so I can travel anywhere with just my purse!

Magazines I have current subscriptions to:

-W Magazine
-Spin (a nice bonus of attending Bonnaroo this past summer, it's free!!)
-Women's Health
-Good Housekeeping
-Marie Claire (a magazine I hadn't previously read, that turns out has AMAZING articles)
-Money (although I have probably read only one issue in total for the number of articles that hold my interest)
-Town & Country
-Harper's Bazaar

Yes, that is 11, which in an average month means I need to read a magazine approximately every 2.5 to 3 days to keep up before the next batch starts to arrive. This is especially challenging in the fall, and at Christmastime when new fashions debut, and every gift vendor is pushing its ads.

Magazines I previously had a subscription to, but had to let lapse because I am overwhelmed:
-Oprah Magazine (I miss it, but it was too article heavy to handle )
-Domino (I mostly looked at the pictures anyway)
-Cosmopolitan (It was mostly the same smut every month anyways)
-Women's Day (Slightly too old for me, though I liked their craft ideas and recipes!)

So, I admit, I'm somewhat of a magzine addict, and have been since I can remember. YM and Seventeen were my first two magazine subscriptions. I'm attracted to their glossy pages, their gossip, their monthly reports on what's hot, and the knowledge I pick up from the wide variety of articles.

There are several more magazines I would like to read every month if I only had the time! (Elle, Real Simple, Martha Stewart, Time, The New Yorker) But, with my book club reading and Atlas Shrugged already sitting abandoned half read I cannot take on any more right now.

I maintain these subscriptions with some as gifts, some my dad has subscribed me to (see if you can guess which ones!), and with the justification that if I would buy them anyways and pay nearly $5 an issue instead of the only $1 per issue with a subscription I am really just saving money. Magazines give you crazy deals if you subscribe, so I consider it a budget cut, and enriching my mind in one fell swoop.

Now if I can only kick my habit of buying People and Star at the grocery store. It's for the crossword puzzles in the back, I swear.

"Trees grow better after a fire. It lets the light in."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Starbuck's Winter Lattes are back!

It has grown to be something I mark the seasons by. Since every place else has brought out their Christmas decorations and holiday music, Starbucks has jumped on the bandwagon and brought out the winter, or as I like to refer to them, Christmas latte flavors.

I have already had my first eggnog (skinny) latte, and I am still in love with the flavor. While I was there, they happened to be giving out samples of the peppermint mocha latte, complete with whipped cream and chocolate shavings on top. Generally, I am not a fan of chocolate and mint together in one, but it is just the right amount of chocolatey goodness mixed with a hint of mint. I might have to start alternating these two beverages.

I, like any sane person, have tried to make my own coffee to save money during tough financial times, but nothing homemade can match the steamed syrupy deliciousness of Starbuck's winter lattes!

Just another reason to pay attention in grammar class

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ah the Navy Suit

Tomorrow I will trek to Long Island to visit it's famous outlets, and expansive shopping malls all in search of the elusive navy suit. This is the piece of business wear deemed most conservative, and most versatile by many sources. It is most appropriate for an interview, the courthouse, office meetings. It can be taken apart, the jacket paired with trousers or jeans, the skirt paired with less formal button down tops. It is the standard for formal business wear.

And yet, it is extremely difficult to find, particularly for women. When googling navy suits, millions of pages appear for men, dwarfing the number available for women. It is a fine line we walk. To find a suit that is not too dowdy, yet not trendy. To find one that fits well, but is not too curve hugging. To find a suit that looks like a quality item, but does not cost nearly $500 like the one pictured to the left by Terani Couture.

As if it is not enough to try to avoid any fashion misstep, to find the style (double breasted or single?) that flatters your bust line and to choose between skirt and pant, the fit is even more of a challenge.

I have been combing the department stores of Manhattan to find this ultimate piece of business wear without spending half my month's rent. I have searched Filene's, Macy's, Bloomingdales, TJ Maxx, all the big names for women on a fairly reasonable budget. I have had modest success. The jackets of Kasper and Calvin Klein fit me very well, in a size much smaller than I had initially expected. Even the skirts are easier to fit. Yet, when I finally found a navy suit that matched my standards of style and price guidelines, it happened to be three piece. The jacket and the skirt (slightly ruffled at the bottom) fit perfectly! I was ready to rejoice. But alas, the pants were about three inches too short.

I discussed this problem with woman I know who wears suits all the time. She complained that she cannot buy suit sets nearly ever because she is one size in the jacket, and one in the pant. This is a problem we have all encountered before--swim suit season anyone? So I ask, designers, are we taking women of all sizes into account when making suits? Can we perhaps mix and match jackets and pants? Do men have the same problems?

I will be searching for this answer and more in the vast shopping expanses of Long Island, stopping into Anne Taylor Loft, Banana Republic, Anne Klein, Jones NY, and more in my quest for the perfect navy suit. Wish me luck! I know I'll need it!

Organic Farming: The Next Green Retreat into Nature

Willingly working on an organic farm (WWOOFing) has become somewhat of a trend as of late. Simply put, it means exchanging your labor on a farm without monetary compensation for room and board during your stay. The farm gets a free hand, and you get a vacation, escape from urbanity, or learning experience. I know a couple people who have jetted off to Costa Rica to work for free on a farm, and the November issue of Vogue tracks one fashion writer's foray into the Vermont wilderness with a trip to Luna Bleu farm. The reasons for these treks vary. Some want to take in a new and tropical surrounding with room and board provided for them, as my acquaintance in Costa Rica did.

Others seek a vacation that is out of the ordinary, gets them out of the city, and leaves a positive impact on the world rather than just a carbon footprint. The length of stay, number of hours of work, accommodations, and world region varies to your choice. There is a worldwide network of farms available to choose from at The tasks at each farm varies, as does the living situation. All that is promised is a clean, dry living experience, organic food fresh from the farm's produce, and a lesson about how the rural regions of the world exist.

These images are from Luna Bleu farm, and show cultivation of potatoes in progress. The Vogue staffer who travelled there helped to harvest chard and potatoes, to weed leeks, and collect heirloom potatoes. She learned some secrets to successful farming, like feeding laying chickens crushed oyster shells to make their eggs more study thanks to the calcium infusion. She learned the rewards of a hard day's manual labor, and the invaluable lesson of where the food we receive everyday in farmer's markets across NYC, and in grocery stores around the world come from.

I grew up in a rural area of Upstate New York, and as a country girl with two parents who either lived or worked on a farm as children, I take the understanding of how to cultivate my own food for granted. I knew the difference between a chicken and a rooster, and could identify a pepper, tomato, bean, or potato plant by sight in our large garden. I picked black caps and raspberries from their stems in my own back yard. If put to it, I could probably run a little farm that would generate enough produce to support me and my roommate at the very least given the appropriate seeds and cultivation space. Yet I feel this is a fading knowledge lost on many people my age, especially those born into urban areas. This fact was made all too clear to me when in my freshman year English class, the professor actually had to stop class to discuss the difference between a sheep and a goat. An understanding of where our food comes from besides an aisle in Morton Williams or Hannaford is simply something that is lost on many people.

I am happy to see a trend that is starting to reconnect people my age with such a basic, wonderful piece of knowledge. You have not truly lived until you have tasted a tomato off a freshly grown plant, still warm in the late August sun. There is simply nothing in the grocery store that compares in flavor. I hope that WWOOFing continues to pick up speed, and am definitely considering it for my next vacation.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Are you pouring on the pounds?

If you ride the subway, chances are that you have seen this ad campaign, which I find extremely disturbing. I agree with it's message. I think that the majority of people who enjoy soda, juice, sweetened iced tea, and gatorade on a daily basis don't realize how many calories they are consuming with each beverage. Studies have shown that the body does not know how to process the large amount of liquid calories that the average American takes in every day, and this drinking of empty calories is probably responsible for a substantial portion of the obesity we see in our society today. Additionally, these calories do not keep us full, leading us to seek even more caloric intake through food resulting in daily over consumption. Even I, who consider myself a fairly health conscious person, did not really realize the impact liquid calories can have on your weight until recently. I love my sodas, slurpees, and sugary anything. Yet I understand the need to consume these in moderation. I agree with NYC's recommendation to drink milk, water, or seltzer to replace these other beverages.

That being said. The ad grosses me out on a daily basis when I have to look at a cup full of fat every time I board a train. I think it would be better placed in a rural area when people walk less, and obesity is more rampant. As it is, in NYC the calories of and food deemed "fast food" are mandated to be posted, taking the joy out of getting a doughnut or a rainbow cookie to go with your coffee. Do we really need to see the real life globule of fat on our hips and thighs that a soda could be? Or is this ad campaign just making a place and population that is already weight and appearance conscious even more so?

Guerrilla Gardening

It's a phenomenon that has been going on across the world for quite some time now, though I don't really understand the violence implied by its name. Though technically illegal, because not officially sanctioned by the government owning the public land, guerilla gardening does not seek to inflict harm, but only to add a little beauty to the world.

Hobby gardeners go out at night to avoid sanction or detection by the authorities, and turn wasted earth into green gathering spaces, little pockets of foliage in otherwise neglected city and suburban areas with their own hard work and money. These devotees to the environment turn roadsides, vacant lots, and wasteland into gardens.

It has become so common recently Vogue even featured a blurb on it this month, making it officially a green "trend," though the publication does not condone vandalism or illegal activity. Guerilla gardening has been happening in NYC since the 70's when tenements on the LES began to be peppered with gardens, and has also popped up in run down neighborhoods of London's Bonnington Square.

It is grouped in the same category as graffiti by the law. Individuals with no legal right to change the surface of the land imprint it with their artistic message. Though plants are less permanent than spray paint, law enforcement agencies see it as similar legal territory, even labeling the behavior terrorist in some instances.

I applaud these people who are willing to risk their own well being to make the world a more beautiful place, and who understand what a difference a little greenery can make to an urban landscape.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NYC, I love you

This is the best movie I have seen in quite some time. Partially because of the love affair I have been having with NYC lately, partially because it is just such a great movie.

It is a series of vignettes about everything: pickpockets and hookers, the suicidal and the in love, composers and professors, painters and corner store employees, high school proms and nosy local pharmacists. It is a tribute to the ability of pure random chance mixed with millions of outstanding individuals to create magic events, personal connections, and the little moments that make living everyday here a life.

Some of the stories intertwine. Some remain blissfully isolated in their plot line. Each excerpt is directed separately and has a separate cast, yet they come together as a striking narrative about life in a city so diverse and wonderful as NYC.

It boasts an all star cast, featuring young heart throbs Hayden Christensen, Bradley Cooper, Orlando Bloom, and Shia LaBeouf. They are complemented by an equally dazzling cast of lovely lady counterparts such as Christina Ricci, Natalie Portman, Rachel Bilson, Drea de Matteo and Blake Lively. Andy Garcia, Robin Wright Penn, Ethan Hawke, and Chris Cooper lend their seasoned acting chops to round out the beautiful but young talent with some serious skill and experience.

I contemplated my life, my relationships, the magnificence of random encounters, and the despair of missed opportunities. I left the theatre refreshed and ready to run out and buy the movie on DVD just to watch it again. Not many movies make you want to do that!

This has to be true

Whenever I have an Interview

I reach for my pearls. I'm really not sure why. Is it some vestige of the idea that pearls are for the nice, the proper, and those fit to wield power in society who are also therefore, worthy of a job?

Probably not. Is it because of how incredibly classy they make me feel? Maybe a little.

Or is it because of their unstoppable luster and beauty that makes me recall their source: the Majorcan Islands of Spain, and the wonderful women who gifted them to me as a reward for finishing my Master's coursework?

A little bit of both. I own several pearl jewelry items, and all are made of Majorcan pearls. I am partial to them because of my time spent in Spain. My fondness for the time I spent studying abroad there makes them seem superior to all other pearls. It makes me recall what a challenge it was to get by for six months in a country whose language I did not grow up speaking, and how I made it through. It makes me think of the strong, proud, selfless mother and sister who gave them to me, and the great accomplishment I received them for. They're like a little pat on my back that gets me ready for a challenging day.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Al Roker Pranks ME at the Wax Museum

I recently visited Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum with my sister, cousin, and grandmother. I live in NYC, but my guilty pleasure is doing touristy stuff like this whenever I get the chance, and I really wanted to see what it was all about.

When you walk into the first room, it's unsettling. All of the wax figures in the exact size and likeness of famous people are posed around the room, obviously not moving, just staring. It makes you feel as if you are being watched by many eyes, and that they could jump to life at any moment. In the first few rooms, we were a little nervous around the characters, puzzling about who some of them were, but maintaining our distance, and evaluating which ones looked more lifelike than others. I mean, what else are you supposed to talk about in a wax museum?

We had toured the first three floors of the wax museum, posing with historical figures, movie stars, and singers for fun. Then we enter some of the last rooms. By this point, we are totally comfortable with the unnerving similarity these wax people have to actual humans. I stand puzzling at how lifelike Al Roker is, examining his figure. You'll see in the clip, he really does look like he's made of wax. Then I notice he looks like he is sweating, and marvel aloud about how they managed to make Al Roker's wax person look sweaty. Then, SURPRISE! He's a real person, and it was caught on hidden camera-lol-always how I wanted to make my television debut.

Many of my friends and relatives called and texted me today to tell me that I was on the TODAY show, and I knew the clip had finally aired. I'm the one talking about how sweaty he looks. It was hilarious at the time, and still a funny story to tell, we all laughed all day about what a good scare he gave us.

AND I learned a fun fact. Madame Tussaud's wax figures are made out of a special wax blend so that when they become warm they do not melt, but release beads of sweat, very similar to human perspiration. Go figure, even if he was wax, Al Roker still could have been sweating.

In Case you Haven't heard


Which means that we all will be able to afford these masterpieces for the feet. Jimmy Choo is one of the designer labels that every girl I know hopes she will one day be able to afford. Now, thanks to the recession and H&M's never ending quest to move up the fashion ranks from budget priced cute clothes into higher fashion (read more expensive) classy items, WE CAN!

Nothing in the line is over $300 dollars, and it will be available in all stores November 14th (only 11 short days away!!). There are men's and women's clothing, shoes, bags, and accessories.

Images that have leaked to the internet include over the knee leather boots, the heels pictured here (image courtesy of H&M), a suede dress, some zebra print items, and at least one jumpsuit. I've heard it's all pretty 80's, and that makes me pretty excited. Although there is one fringed dress that I think is crossing the line.

Although I still prefer Christian Louboutin shoes, maybe he'll be next to pair with H&M!

Long Walk, short purpose

Today I decided to walk home from Port Authority to my apartment on the Upper East Side. It was nice out, I had free time, and fairly comfortable walking shoes, and not a lot else I felt like doing. On the way I noticed several really beautiful little moments in the city while I moseyed along and everyone else rushed by me on their lunch breaks and cigarette breaks.

I looked stopped and looked up (noticing one of the water towers i just blogged about) and on the black background of a building a black and yellow butterfly sat there flexing its wings and looking very relaxed and beautiful amidst the rush of the city. Turns out, it was s black swallowtail butterfly.

Previous to that I walked through Bryant Park. They were in the process of setting up the ice rink and Christmas shops. I noticed that each little booth starts out with just a plain unfinished wood board floor. I passed several couples sitting and working on their cubbies that would be their livelihood and selling homes for the next month or so until Christmas. One was painting the boards a high gloss purple. Another girl was on all fours, painstakingly laying down self adhesive pieces of what looked like imitation wood parquet tiles. Another was just varnishing the floors with what smelled like polyurethane.

I found it quite striking how much time these people were spending on just the floors of their booths, although after thinking about it, the little details make it all more appealing. They didn't even have the lighting or wares set up yet. It was fun to see the mini-construction projects being laid out all next to each other, and interesting to see the attention to detail that the artistic eye can hold. I know that I will be paying much more attention to the floors, ceilings, and setups in the holiday shops after seeing this little behind the scenes peek at how much work goes into setting up such a tiny little booth.

Water Towers in NYC

I don't know if you've ever taken a minute to look up and notice the water towers all over NYC. Well, if you haven't, now you will see them wherever you go. I started noticing them about 2 years ago when I was looking for apartments in Manhattan for the very first time. I peppered my real estate broker with questions about them, since I had never seen them before. He didn't know anything about them, and seemed rather perplexed about why I was so curious.

Now, whenever I spot one, it's like a game of where's waldo. I instantly start to notice the others dotted around the skyline atop buildings. Apparently it all started in the 1800's when NYC started requiring that water towers be built atop all buildings over 6 stories to prevent the need for high pressure systems at low elevations that result in burst pipes and messy situations for the fire department to deal with. The reason that you don't see them on top of every building is that many buildings created facades or glorified little boxes around the tower to help the tower blend with the rest of the building.

In 2006, Tribeca still required water towers atop all buildings. There are only 2 companies that make water towers in NYC, both evolved from family owned barrel making businesses starting when the need for water towers arose with the height of the city. An interesting fact that I found on wikipedia is that no sealant is used in these towers, but a barrel making technique of wood strapped together by cables. When the tower is first filled, the water drips out around the edges of the wood planks, but once the wood becomes totally saturated it expands, closing off the gaps and sealing the tower. The top portion of the water is used for drinking water for the building and the rest is held in reserve for fires. Once the water level drops below a certain line, a pump kicks into a public water line and fills the tower back up.

I don't know why I find this so fascinating, but I do. I am quite sad that my building only has 5 floors so I can't pop onto the roof and get a look at a tower, up close and personal.


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