Oklahoma + Dallas: A Recap

Hello, friends! I apologize for my nearly-two week hiatus. It was due to some unforeseen work and dental issues, but I am back with a recap of my amazing trip to Oklahoma and Dallas.

Though we were away for only six days, as per usual, my goal was to squeeze as much as humanly possible into them while still being able to take in and enjoy all that I was doing.

One of my best friends from college, Amber, and her hubby Billy moved to Enid, Oklahoma on Air Force orders last January, and basically my plan is to visit them wherever they go, regardless of whether or not it is in the middle of nowhere. Enid…is definitely in the middle of nowhere.

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That said, it was one of the most incredible places I’ve ever visited. There may only be a handful of restaurants and shops, lots of flat land and cows, and nothing to do on a Sunday, but I’ll tell ya – I saw some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen, met some of the most interesting and kind people, and truly got to relax. Essentially, we lived the way people in Enid live: we ate at several of their ten or so restaurants, met all of my friends’ friends, made burgers on the patio on Sunday (the only thing to do when everything is closed, but so much fun), visited my friends’ church, rode ATVs on a farm, and met the community of amazing people that they’ve found while living in this town that is so different from the one they came from.

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That community is truly what made the place for me. Coming from NYC, Enid is a different world. The pace is slower, the streets are ghostly compared to the city that never sleeps, and yet people are so kind and very happy. We met a couple who welcomes all the Air Force kids into their home and church community when they’re far from their own families, and their farm serves as the meeting spot on weekends and lazy afternoons. To me, it really felt like there was never a shortage of things to do because there were always people to do things with.

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We also discovered that, while somewhat deserted, Enid has some pretty cool gems. Several boutiques which sell really nice pieces, quirky furniture stores, a huge, trendy coffee shop that can definitely take the tiny ones of NYC, and a local dive bar that, besides an $8 open bar and all the characters you could hope for, also has games, a DJ, and multiple floors of fun and Americana.

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Due to Enid’s somewhat complicated place on the map, we flew into Dallas and drove the 4 hours to Enid, with stops in Oklahoma City in both directions, and two days in Dallas.

Oklahoma City is a whole different animal. If you saw my Instagram, you know that I was impressed with the coffee and food culture there, and highly recommend checking out Bricktown if you find yourself in the city. OKC has definitely embraced the need for interesting spots to keep the young population of Oklahoma entertained, and they did it well. Bricktown is a neighborhood that runs along a canal, with restaurants, a brewery, and shops lining the sides. We had a great meal there at the Bricktown Brewery, with service so nice I just didn’t know what to do with myself. I’m sure this area is hopping on the weekends and evenings.

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Next up was Dallas, which welcomed us with open arms and a traffic jam to rival that of any huge city. I can’t say I wasn’t warned, but man was it terrible. Luckily, we still got to explore the Uptown neighborhood that evening and have dinner in one of the many restaurants, with a visit to a great cocktail bar called Parliament, before calling it a night. The next day, we visited a bunch of neighborhoods and the huge farmers market, which was unfortunately completely closed down due to renovations. Major bummer. We ended our mini tour in Highland Park, a fancy part of Dallas that is made up of mansions and all the high end clothing stores you can think of, with some awesome restaurants scattered about. We had a delicious lunch at Mi Cocina before heading back to the airport.

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It was a wonderful six days, and I’m excited to see where Amber and Billy go next so we could come crash in their spare bedroom again. :)

In case you’re curious about our super fun/somewhat terrifying ATV ride, here’s a video. Check out that dust!

Let’s Catch Up

Hello, hello! It’s been several weeks since we’ve chatted about life in general, so grab a cup of something good to drink and let’s catch up.

Work

I recently wrote a post sharing some of my most effective work from home methods, but my situation changed literally overnight last week and I am working from an office. I still have the same job, but I am now commuting every day and who woulda thunk it: more structure does not equal more time in the day – quite the contrary, in fact! Look out for a post about structuring your workday, just as soon as I figure it out.

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Travel

I live to travel and explore and will do anything to get myself to somewhere new almost weekly, no matter what it takes. This weekend, I’m going to visit my friend Amber and her hubby in Oklahoma! We’ll also be spending a couple of days in Dallas, and I need tips! If you have any suggestions for restaurants to check out or neighborhoods to see in the Dallas or Oklahoma City area (we’ll have a only a of couple hours in the latter), I would love to hear them!

Life

The post-holiday weeks have shown no signs of slowing down, and I prefer it that way. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am not a fan of the three months after the holidays because they’re cold, not nearly as festive, and seem to drag on forever before we finally get that beautiful first day of sunshine. I’ve been adding in new workouts, continuing my boxing classes, seeing friends for holiday get-togethers that never happened before or during the actual holidays, making the most of winter, and preparing for our planned move to New Hampshire.

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Food

This first few weeks of 2015 have been all about getting back to clean eating. After all the delicious indulgences of the holidays, I’ve cut out added sugar and anything processed or full of ingredients, and replaced it with lots of roasted vegetables, fish and lean meat, and fruits. Dessert is a couple of squares of dark chocolate. On the weekends, I allow myself to indulge and have a couple glasses of wine and anything else I want, in moderation. I prefer to eat this way in general, but the fun of the holidays just gets in the way and there ain’t no way I’m denying myself delicious things.

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Blogging

With my recent job change, I’ve been working out ways to stay organized and on top of blogging and all that it entails. I spend mornings before work catching up on my favorite blogs while I drink my coffee, and it’s become a really nice ritual. Coming soon, I have some recipes, a post about the thinking behind our decision to leave NYC, and a couple of workout/restaurant reviews, so stay tuned!

And that’s about all for me as far as updates go! Tell me what you’ve been up to, and if you have any Dallas/Oklahoma City suggestions, I’m all ears!

Beat the Winter Blues

Happy Friday, friends! I know it’s much tougher to think “tgif!” during the colder months, with no warm and cozy holidays up ahead, flu season upon us, and winter blues around every corner.  But instead of only dreaming about summer happy hours, basking in the sunshine, and happy people everywhere you go, I like to think winter can be filled with the same things that make us happy during the other 3 seasons. Here’s how I’m beating the winter blues this year.

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After some thinking, I realized there are three main things that keep me down during the winter: short days, nothing festive on the calendar, and the general grayness of my surroundings. This year, I decided to replace those problems with things that make me happy.

1. Wake up an hour earlier. I’ve been a big fan of this idea for a while now, but waking up earlier during the winter not only allows me to slowly get myself together, relax with my coffee, and get into the groove a few hours before the day even begins, but it also makes the day seem longer. Sure, it may still be dark outside when you wake up, but there’s something about the warm glow of a lamp and the blue of the early morning fading away outside the window that gives me the warm and fuzzies. Before you know it, your days begin to feel longer and the decreased daylight hours become much less noticeable.

2. Drink a cup of lemon water first thing in the morning, and stay hydrated during the day. The relationship between dehydration and a foul mood is very real. To avoid a headache and the irritation that comes with it, drink a lot of fluids during the day. Looking forward to a warm cup of lemon water in the morning and then a steaming cup of tea at night before bed can become a pretty nice ritual.

3. Fill weekends with activity. The freezing cold outside inevitably makes my couch far more desirable than frolicking in the great outdoors, especially when I don’t have to leave, but I rarely choose to stay put. To make every weekend festive, I fill each one, no matter how cold, with day trips, getaways when possible, friends, and so on. Winter is going to be cold no matter what, but it is possible to pull the warmth out and use the low temps to our advantage. In the summer, I can’t sit by a cozy fireplace in a cabin, make delicious soups, do various snow-related activities, and feel the warm relief of coming inside and cozying up with a blanket at the end of a busy day.

4. Plan a menu. Over the course of the week, I save various recipes or ideas on Pinterest and then my boyfriend and I take turns cooking up exciting dinners that are also clean. Though I started doing it to keep my meals healthy and save some money in the process, it’s turned into something I really like. The cooking kills two birds with one stone – it gives us something fun to do during the weekday evenings and increases the chances that a cold will stay away.

5. Read. Lots of people, including myself, have resolved to make more time for reading this year. Winter offers the perfect setting for settling in with a great story – comfy socks, blankets, hot drinks, and virtual TV fireplace in tow. Freezing temperatures and early sunsets make this a great time to kick off that resolution and get carried away with some good books.

6. Make sure your surroundings are comfortable. This is a big one for me anytime of the year, but, especially in the winter, I like to keep my apartment clean, aired out, a tiny bit chilly (but not cold), and add anything that helps me create a pleasing environment. I like candles, throw pillows, blankets, and the aforementioned TV fireplace. The right atmosphere allows me to enjoy being at home, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much when I decide to stay in.

After a super long winter last year, I went into this one determined to make sure I’d avoid the winter blues. I really hope the seasons will be cooperative, but in case they aren’t, I’ve got my schedule filled and ready to make the most of these colder months.

Happy Friday, and have an awesome (wintry) weekend!

Any tips of your own to avoid the winter blues? Please share!

A Weekend in Stars Hollow

When I find something I love, I need to know everything about it until there’s nothing left to know. One of my current loves/obsessions happens to be Gilmore Girls. I’m addicted to the fast-talking, witty Lorelai and Rory, am endlessly entertained by the quirky Kirk, grumpy Luke, lovable Sookie, obnoxious Taylor, and eccentric Miss Patty, and more than anything, I’m hooked on their cozy, perfect, mostly autumnal small town existence.

So this weekend, while visiting a friend in Connecticut, I decided to tack on a self-tour of the real Stars Hollow.

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The first town we arrived in was Wallingford, CT, which shares only one characteristic with the adorable, perfect fictional town of Stars Hollow: the zip code 06492. While it has one cute street, and it conveniently began to snow while we were there, there were very few details I could pull out that seemed like they could have inspired the best TV show town ever created.

Next up was the now infamous Washington Depot, CT, which is cited as THE inspiration for Stars Hollow. It’s tiny, cute, has no cell phone service, one coffee shop, and, in my opinion, holds almost no resemblance to anything we see in Gilmore Girls. Of course I googled and Instagram hashtag searched everything about it beforehand so I knew it would be pretty minimal, but once I was actually standing there, I just could not imagine what it was about it that gave Amy Sherman-Palladino the idea for Stars Hollow. It’s a very nice place, but to me it looked like any other bucolic, snowy New England town.

Then, we hit the jackpot. We were hoping to get lunch in Washington Depot but since we could only find the one coffee shop and had no cell service, we decided to head into the next town of New Milford, CT. As we drove in, we could see a gazebo, a cozy Main Street, the town hall, which reminded me of what is the church/synagogue/general event space on the show, and a feel of a small but active New England town, a la Stars Hollow. Various articles cite different towns as the potential inspiration, and all mention Washington Depot, but it was only after I saw New Milford that I began searching to find if it had any connection to the show runner’s creative inner workings. Sure enough, it did. In my opinion, it looks like it was the main inspiration, but all I know is that I would love to talk to Amy and ask her what exactly stood out to her. As her fellow New Englandophile, I’m desperate to know how exactly she created Stars Hollow, because I’m looking to build the real thing. :p

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This was my first adventure of 2015, and while I wasn’t able to fulfill my desire to find something that exactly resembles Stars Hollow, I did find an amazing German restaurant in New Milford called The AlpenHaus. Should you choose to retrace my steps and find Stars Hollow for yourself, I recommend lunch or dinner here!

Year In Review

Hello, friends! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas week.

There is just one day left in 2014, but before I ring in 2015, I’m going to get a little bit sentimental and take a quick trip down memory lane.

2014 was a year of learning. I learned more about the blogging world and the space I’d like to occupy in it, and I learned more about what I want and need both in life and career. Most importantly, as goals have changed or haven’t come to fruition, I’ve been learning to embrace the idea that “you’re exactly where you need to be to get to where you’re going.”

And with that, here are your favorite posts of 2014:

  1. 5 Tips For Working From Home
    Turns out a lot of us tend to get stir-crazy! Working from home can be such a treat, but it comes with it’s own set of challenges. When it comes to staying motivated, productive, and happy in a work-from-home position, I’m always looking for ways to not go crazy, and these are the tips that have worked best for me when I needed a boost.
  2. Victoria’s Secret Angel Sports Bra and The Clarisonic Mia 2
    I love discovering great products that will make my life easier, and two of my favorites are excellent workout gear and effective skincare. I rarely buy anything without doing lots of research, so I’m glad to see that reviews are useful to you!
  1. chips-3Super Healthy Chips
    I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but can eat salty and spicy snacks by the pound, so I needed a solution. I try to keep processed and bad-for-you foods out of the house and am always seeking healthier alternatives for the things that are hard to say no to. These Ezekiel chips are the answer.
  2. Doonya: The Bollywood Fitness Party
    The only thing I love more than a challenging, awesome workout, is when that workout is also a lot of fun. I hate watching the clock but often can’t help myself. This Bollywood inspired workout was so much fun that I forgot to look at the time – despite the ridiculous amount of squats!

  1. Oat Pancakes with Mixed Berries
    A good, healthy option for the first breakfast of 2015!

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And here are a couple of my favorite posts:

  1. Apple Maple Holiday Cocktail
  2. The Life Of An Aspiring Lawyer
  3. 10 Travel Tips
  4. Checking Out: The Amalfi Coast
  5. Easy, Delicious Chicken Ball Soup
  6. Checking Out: Paris
  7. Delicious Summer Wines
  8. Do What You Love…Or Not

Happy New Year, everyone! See ya in 2015!

Apple Maple Holiday Cocktail

Good morning, friends! You’re probably just starting your day with a steaming cup of something warm and energizing as you begin your Friday morning, but today I’ve got you covered with an evening drink that will help you sail into the weekend and give you some ideas for a simple, yet delicious cocktail to serve at various holiday gatherings. This Apple Maple Holiday cocktail tastes festive, looks beautiful, and warms from the inside out. TGIF!

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You’ll Need:

  • 1.5 oz Laird’s Applejack
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz apple cider
  • .5 oz pure maple syrup (or a little less if you prefer less sweetness)

Directions:

Fill a cocktail shaker with a couple of ice cubes and add all ingredients; shake well.
Using a thick piece of lemon rind, rub the inside of a martini glass to release the oils of the lemon.
Leave the rind in and strain drink into glass.

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CHEERS! Have a beautiful weekend!

Coffee Break

Happy hump day! This week is a craze of finishing up Christmas shopping, wrapping gifts, seeing friends before the holidays, and balancing it all with work and other responsibilities. It’s a busy season!

So, I invite you to join me for a little coffee break and a couple of good reads from around the interwebs.

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  1. This is apparently the best health tool we’re NOT using. It’s actually one of my favorites and even though my gym does offer it in several different forms, I don’t use it often enough.
  2. The holidays are synonymous with sugar-loaded treats. Luckily, this one will fulfill cravings AND keep the fat and sugar to a minimum. Definitely making these this week!
  3. Visiting NYC this holiday season? Here are 10 awesome things you can do. I’m excited to try #4!
  4. Do you spend way too much time deciding which movie to watch on Netflix only to realize you’re out of time to watch it? Time to stop procrastinating because these movies are on their way out in January. Guess now would be a good time to catch You’ve Got Mail.
  5. I’m pretty terrible at planning posts way ahead of time. Hopefully, this handy organizer will help!
  6. There are 15 days left until 2015. Here are 30 things to let go of before the new year begins.

Have a wonderful day, and I’ll see you on Friday with a delicious holiday cocktail recipe!

Do You Have Imposter Syndrome?

A couple of weeks ago I was catching up with a friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time, and the conversation turned to a topic that I find myself most frequently discussing these days: career goals. I like talking to others about how they navigate the job world because it serves as inspiration for my own decisions as I figure out exactly where I want to take my career. It’s also likely that I am subconsciously measuring myself up to other people my age. This sounds kind of unhealthy, but it isn’t about competition. It’s about a little something called Imposter syndrome, an unfortunate condition that many of us have experienced at one time or another.

Imposter syndrome, most simply put, is “a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to see their own accomplishments, dismissing them as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”

impostersyndromeFor as long as I can remember and all the way to today, I am always convinced that I am an expert at nothing and in times when I’ve been granted an opportunity, I was sure that the person entrusting me with it didn’t realize just how little of an expert I am, or I concluded that it must have been given to me because there were no other options. I’ve convinced myself time and time again that any idea I have can’t possibly be a good one, and I’ve passed up jobs and various other opportunities because I couldn’t bear the thought of someone realizing that I am, indeed, a fraud.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, when I was researching actual famous imposters at a former job, that I came across an article about Imposter syndrome. That made me think back to all the times I’d been convinced of my inability to accomplish something in an above average way, and I realized that I, and so many others, suffer from this phenomenon.

In college, a professor in a design class told me that I need to allow myself to think outside the box. That really got me thinking because it was true – I was afraid to walk into class with a design that was too out there, too weird, or too anything that wasn’t just plain average. I settled for a lower grade on multiple projects and was sure that I just wasn’t a designer by nature and that “thinking outside the box” was impossible. I never did reach what my professor felt was my true potential in that class, but I walked away with a B and his statement, which I often think back to.

Many of us have an innate need to be everything to everyone, all the time. We hate to think that someone might not like us or find us ordinary, so we try to suit everyone. But that’s just not possible. Inevitably, there are times when we feel we can’t do something because we actually don’t have that much experience with it, and that’s okay. But, what about the times when we are as good as someone thinks we are?

To be honest, I’m still learning to just accept compliments when I receive them, work on the things I want to improve at, and not over-analyze everything. I often feel like a fraud, and despite knowing that it has held me back from being the best I can be (or at least trying), I continue to think this way. Upon closer observation, Imposter syndrome actually helps us confirm that which we are afraid of: incompetence. This negative thinking does actually get me down and I end up performing worse, thus confirming my fears, which in my head registers as a confirmation that I was right all along and that I was never capable to begin with. It’s a vicious cycle.

When I told my friend about all this, she was surprised and told me that she sees me as a pretty accomplished person with a clear path, and that she feels like she has no idea where’s she’s headed and how to get there because of how mediocre her experience is. Naturally, this is not my perception of her at all, because I see her as a successful, capable person who seems to make all the right decisions and find the best growth opportunities in her field.

So what are we going to do about this?

Slowly but surely, I have been working on getting rid of this ridiculous notion that I’m not actually a professional in my field, and sitting down to think about what my goals are and how I’m going to achieve them. When I have a clearer idea of what I want to accomplish, I can plan out the steps that are necessary to get there, rather than focus on time-wasters that will only delay me and fill my mind with the negative thinking that never gets us anywhere.

Accept that you’re pretty darn good at certain things, can learn the ones you want to be good at, and that being good at everything is not only impossible, but not necessary.

I’d love to hear your opinions and experiences with this, so please do share in the comments. :)

Source: (8 Practical Steps To Getting Over Your Imposter Syndrome)

Red Berry Smoothie

It is officially winter outside. The days of scarves, sweaters, foliage, and pumpkin spice lattes are all but a memory, and the red cups full of (sugar-laden) peppermint syrups are in. With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s tough to say no to the sweet treats that tempt us at every turn, let alone put work into finding better alternatives that taste good.

The good news is that smoothies are always in, and the red berry smoothie I have for you today will fulfill your cravings, won’t have you crashing by midday, and is a breeze to whip up.

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I love smoothies so much because there’s a ton you can do with them, and at any given time there are at least two ingredients in everyone’s fridge that could be turned into a smoothie. My personal favorites are the ones that taste creamy and delicious and don’t require more than five minutes of my time.

Recently, I’ve added a new ingredient into my smoothie making repertoire: cherries.

Cherries, besides adding a delicious twist and helping to balance out the tartness of the Greek yogurt in this particular recipe, also have numerous health benefits. They have tons of antioxidants, which are super useful at a time when everyone around us is sneezing, will soothe your sore muscles after an especially difficult workout, will help keep your blood pressure stabilized, and might even help you sleep more soundly at night.

As far as I see it, there really are no excuses.

You Need:

  • 3/4 cup of fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup frozen cherries
  • 1/4 cup raspberries
  • 1/4 cup strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar-free vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tbsp honey, or more to taste

Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy, like a milkshake.

Also, as a side note, does anyone ever follow recipes when making smoothies? I don’t think I ever have, other than for testing purposes. It just tastes better when you throw it all in!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Healthy NYC -> Candle 79

Way back when, I started a little series called “Healthy NYC,” where I planned to chronicle the healthy eats available in New York. It’s been a while, but today I’m back with a review of Candle 79, the favorite restaurant of many people, vegan and otherwise.

It is true, Candle 79 is all vegan. It’s practically down the street from me and after living in the neighborhood for two years, I only just ventured in there last night. And I’m so glad I did!

The menu is incredibly inventive, creative, and original, and while I don’t completely agree with the opinion that “you can’t even tell it’s vegan” expressed by many, I will say that even though I did – it really didn’t matter. The dishes are well seasoned and interesting, and the selection is so big that we got a little excited with the ordering and left with a doggie bag.

We tried their famous polenta fries, which were large and delicious, their soup special – which was a heavenly tomato, lentil, guacamole concoction, the angel nachos, the grilled kale salad, and a chipotle seitan dish (another special). All the wines they serve are either sustainable or biodynamic, and we paired our meal with a glass of Malbec and Syrah. They also offer original cocktails, which looked amazing, as well as tons of juices and smoothies. Unfortunately, we didn’t save room for dessert.

Here’s a sample of the menu:

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While the place isn’t cheap and does require a reservation, I highly recommend it if you visit NYC and want not just a great meal, but also an experience. We sort of felt like we were doing a tasting menu with all that we ordered, and it was completely worth it, especially since we’re set for lunch today!

The deets:

154 East 79th Street, at Lexington Ave.
New York, NY 10021

http://www.candle79.com/

What are some of your favorite healthy restaurants where you live? I love to eat and travel!