The Weekend Getaway: Newport, RI & Portland, ME

Every now and then, I feel as if life decides to throw me a little surprise party for no reason at all. And that's exactly how I felt this past weekend.

See, it's been a while since I've done a *weekend getaway* and this latest one couldn't have come at a better time. After seven straight weeks of grinding out school and work in the hectic grid that is NYC, I was ready for a mini-escape that felt special but also didn't totally drain my bank account. 

After all, I started these mini, 3-5 day adventures a few years ago in response to the busy, tight-walleted nature of being in ones' twenties. Back in college, I had the luxury of studying abroad in Thailand and Vietnam, spending a summer in China and indulging in the quintessential European tour after graduating. I had lucked out with a mix of scholarships and just plain ol' cheap destinations or deals. Of course, I also had all the time in the world to globe trot. 

Once I graduated, though, it became a bit more difficult to find the time and money to get away. So, instead of planning costly, grand adventures, I decided to make more of an effort to see the good ol' U.S of A. In the past three years since, I've visited New Orleans during Mardi Gras, Niagara Falls in the summer,  Vegas, Montauk, The Catskills, Saratoga Springs, Cambridge & Boston, San Francisco and San Diego. Now, I can add Newport, Rhode Island and Portland, Maine to that list, too!

We spent a total of $338 on lodging and $400 on food over the course of 3 days/nights. Keep in mind, though, we're huge foodies, so you could easily halve this cost. Furthermore, the food budget spanned ELEVEN different restaurants (listed at the bottom) and ALL of our cocktails. So, IMHO, we still made out like bandits!

First stop: Newport, RI

One of our friends, Mike, lives in Newport, Rhode Island, so we decided to break up the drive north with an overnight at his place, and boy, was that the right choice! I never knew how downright beautiful Newport was.

Upon arriving, we hit up Castle Hill Inn, a gorgeous property on the cape. While we could have spent around $500 a night to stay at the Inn, we instead simply indulged in our first bowl of clam chowder and enjoyed a cocktail on the front lawn. It served as a nice dollop of luxury without the terrifying price tag.

We then meandered about the stunning cliff walk before meeting up with Mike. We had a delicious tapas-style dinner at Midtown and got to bed. The next morning, we hit up corner café for a hearty breakfast before getting on the road.

Next stops: Portland, ME with trips to Freeport and Cape Elizabeth

This should go without saying, but the drive up was half the fun. I just don’t think fall foliage ever gets old. Each time the season turns and the leaves begin to change, I wonder how anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world other than the Northeast. 

We arrived at our Airbnb and were thrilled with the space. If you’re a music or lit junkie or simply like going off the beaten path, I strongly encourage staying at Mac’s. We had full run of this 3rd floor studio in a walk-up brownstone. Instead of paying the exorbitant prices to stay at a chain in downtown Portland in a cramped hotel room (a 2-night stay can run you around $650 at the least in peak season, depending on where you stay), we spent a grand total of $338, taxes and fees included, to basically have our own “suite” at Mac’s.  We felt we had a more authentic experience AND we had a little leftover cash to hit up the Freeport Outlets one afternoon. 

We then spent the following 48 hours eating. The over/under on clam chowder and lobster rolls was three. We exceeded the former, downing four chowders total and had exactly three lobster rolls. On Saturday night, we first enjoyed a tapas-style dinner at Local 188 and then literally had a SECOND dinner at Old Port Tavern where we each ate a full lobster dinner. The best part about nonstop eating in Portland? 1. It’s actually affordable (twin lobster dinner was $26!) and 2. It’s actually fairly healthy! Lobster is like 150 calories a pound or something silly, and, when in Maine, you barely even need the butter that you generally dunk it in because it’s so freakin’ fresh.  Win-win. 

Restaurant list

Castle Hill Inn – Newport, RI – claim chowder, cocktails on the lawn

Midtown Oyster Bar – Newport, RI – tapas & beers - pork belly cracklings and old bay steamed shrimp)

Corner Café – Newport, RI – breakfast! Awesome rosemary-crusted potatoes

Central Provisions – Portland, ME – farm egg bread and butter, roasted bone marrow, cocktails (we LOVED this place so much we went twice!)

LFK – Portland, ME – cocktails (ask for Jasper!) and awesome ambiance to start your night

Yosaku – Portland, ME – anything, but especially the miso soup, lobster and king crab rolls and sake

Isabella’s Sticky buns – Freeport, ME – obviously the sticky buns, but the breakfast sammies are just what you need before a little shopping!

Linda Beans  - Freeport, Me – lobster roll with tarragon

The Lobster Shack at Two Lights – Cape Elizabeth, ME – lobster roll and fried clams

Local 188 – Portland, ME - Tapas & craft cocktails that will rock your world  especially the foie gras and deviled eggs

Old Port Tavern – Portland, ME – Twin lobster dinner ($26!)

How to balance a busy life

I'm currently on my fifth week of working full time while also going to grad school full time. I also generally volunteer monthly, exercise daily, and enjoy having a social life on weekends. I may sound like an obnoxious overachiever and maybe it's because I am (screw you, whatever), but personally, I've just always felt eager to experience as much as possible.

Nevertheless, it gets exhausting. This past month has been a huge adjustment, even for me, but I think I'm finally beginning to learn how to balance it all without angrily texting my boyfriend every time something goes wrong (sorryloveyouthanks!). Anyway, here are my five tips to staying sane while busy.

Wake up earlier

And if you're not a morning person, all the better. I have never enjoyed being spoken to within the first hour of waking. I need coffee, breakfast, and most importantly, some me time, before any interaction. When I'm really under a time crunch, these routines hold even more importance. So, while I could take the train to work and sleep in until 30 minutes before I need to be at my desk, I instead choose to wake up around 75-90 minutes ahead of time (clothes and bag laid out the night prior) and walk the two miles to work. By the time I arrive, I feel energized rather than frantic, which is better for both me and anyone who needs to engage with me on a regular basis.

Prioritize correctly

Do you sit down at your desk and immediately start checking email? It's a hard habit to break and seems like the intuitive way to get your day started, but it can also immediately set you in a reactive mindset. Instead, keep a running to-do list with items listed in order of importance (I use the computer-generated sticky notes so I never lose them!). Upon sitting down, check your list, your calendar, and organize your day. 

Take strategic breaks

Speaking of being reactive, it can be difficult to remain cool and collected when you're under a lot of pressure and have tons going on. And let's be real, unless you work in an ER or a place of equal importance, there's no reason to get super worked up over deadlines and workload. When the emails are piling in, phone is ringing off the hook and you're ready to snap, just take a 10-15 minute break to walk around the block, grab a snack or call your mom and say hi - you'll be better off for it!

Be healthy

You don't need to spend a fortune on probiotic quinoa kale mash or whatever, but do try to make smart food choices - it's literally the fuel we run on. You also don't have to dedicate hours and hours to spin class - in fact, physically exhausting yourself is not a good thing. I learned this last week after I threw my neck out CHANGING MY SHIRT a few days after taking a really hardcore bootcamp class. Looking back, such a high-intensity workout was extremely counterproductive and definitely triggered an injury. I needed to be rejuvenated, not beat the fuck up and out of commission for a week.Lesson learned.

Make time for friends

I'm a yes person. Sometimes my boyfriend will ask me outrageous questions (hey we have two hours to kill - want to go kayaking in the Hudson and train to Flushing Chinatown for lunch?) just to get a kick out of me saying "sure!" sans any hesitation. This trait has scored me some really fun times in life, but it gets exhausting and works against me sometimes. I'm learning (slowly) to choose plans thoughtfully without feeling guilty and plan ahead to make sure I get quality time with friends I love to see.

End your day on a positive note. On all days, but especially busy ones, it's important to turn off the lights and ease into bed, rather than crash into it. For even just TEN minutes before going to sleep, turn all electronics off, light a candle, and read a little something, listen to something inspiring, or nom on some chocolate. Whatever it is, enjoy it!


3 key notes about finding your passion (or widely-applicable life lessons from my father)

If one year ago you told me that today I would be a) getting ready to begin my Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at The New School, b) a member of Norwood Club and c) working in Thought Leadership at PwC, I would be over the motherf-cking moon.  Today, all three of those things are true. 

Needless to say, passion, happiness and gratitude have been front-of-mind lately. If I'm really being honest, though, they always have been. Ultimately, it's what the Tangent Pursuit is all about: finding pockets of free time to explore and enjoy your world in a positive way, thereby inching that much closer to an ideal existence. 

Growing up, my dad spoke frequently and candidly about life and the pursuit of passion. As an immigrant who genuinely came from nothing, he was always keenly aware of the opportunities that surrounded him and he made a constant point of it to my brother and I. So, in an attempt to dish out the knowledge I've acquired on finding and pursuing one's passion(s) while remaining happy and grateful along the way, it only felt right to pay some sort of homage to my pops at the same time. Dad, this one's for you. 

3 key notes about finding your passion (or widely-applicable life lessons from my father.)

1. To learn what you DO like, you have to first understand what you DON'T like
At various points in my life when I was frustrated with something I was experiencing, my father would remind me that in order to get closer to the things that make you happy, you have to distance yourself from the things that don't - but first you have to be able to discern between the two! 

As a self-admitted "jack of all trades/master of none,"  I have spent a large portion of my life siphoning through one short-lived hobby to the next - of course taking away pros and cons from each experience, but nevertheless finding myself, at times, frustrated by my easy enamorability (not a word, I know. Whatever). I started a farmer's market, ran a marathon, taught English abroad, etc. The list truly goes on. I mean, does anyone remember when I opened an Etsy shop for handmade feather headdresses? ...hopefully not. But really, I was obsessed. I became totally immersed with this idea of feather headdresses and spent a solid amount of time and a little bit of money pursuing it, only to learn that it felt like I had confined myself to my own personal sweatshop and it wasn't really my thing. But that's okay! From that experience, I was able to take away a set of conditions I knew I didn't like about being a small business owner while also becoming semi-fluent in SEO and website building which would later prove handy. Plus, now I can say I made someone's alternative wedding veil (true story!). 

The point, a la Ze Frank's Brain Crack, is that I gave each idea a legitimate shot and saw it to full fruition prior to abandoning it. Then, when I realized it wasn't for me, I was able to move on without all the internal shoulda/coulda/woulda that comes along with emotionally giving up something you've never actually tried.

To know what you DO like, you have to figure out what you DON'T like. Sometimes, that means trying out a whole bunch of random shit.

2. Know your options 
No joke, these three words are actually inscribed on the back of my dad's business card (he's an independent financial advisor). I like piggybacking this piece of advice on top of the first tip above. Because once you start getting a feel for what you do like or what your passion might be, the focus turns to knowing what your options are in regards to pursuing it. 

To put this in context, I'll give you another personal example. Around 4 years ago, I started writing. I always loved literature and oscillated in and out of stages where I kept a journal or jotted down random snippets of creative thought, but I had never exercised my passion for it regularly. When I finally started working writing into my weekly routine and churning out somewhat readable content, I began submitting essay upon essay to the ever-admirable site, Thought Catalog. Eventually, I ended up getting published. For my 22 year-old self, that silly little nod was the best thing that had ever happened to me, period. It gave me a huge confidence boost. It made me realize that just because I majored in business in college didn't mean I was confined to that world. Ultimately, it led to me becoming more involved in a creative lifestyle. Over the next  three years, I would have articles accepted by Elite Daily and poetry published by the Artist Catalogue. Eventually, I would build my own blog (thanks to some help from that Etsy experience!) and even start a small, successful artist collective. One small pat on the back became impetus for all this imaginative energy. 

However, after 4 years, I finally wondered how I could merge my passion for writing with my every day life. My first thought was an obvious one: change careers and go into journalism. I looked into graduate programs for journalism, searched jobs, etc. It just didn't feel quite right. Was that truly what I wanted? After a lot more research and plenty of time spent thinking about how to satiate this creative urge, I took a gander at Creative Writing MFA programs. Now this, I thought to myself, looks like a way in which I can spend my time. See, it took a significant amount of time and trial and error before I was able to understand what all my options were and then move forth intelligently.   

Same goes for Norwood Club. Over a year ago, my dad (again, go faja!) brought up Soho house to me and suggested I apply. That one suggestion opened my eyes to an entire subculture of compelling social clubs throughout New York. After doing plenty of homework and speaking to a few clubs, I found myself cozily at home at Norwood - and mostly thanks to that small artist collective + writing! 

3. Regardless of what's happening, you gotta live your life 
At the end of the day, my dad has always reminded me that regardless of what's going on, "you gotta live your life." There will, no doubt, be difficult obstacles to work through during this journey.  "Finding your passion" does not happen overnight; working it into your life in a meaningful manner takes even longer. When you experience setbacks or hurdles, it's certainly important to persevere. However, sometimes you have to step aside before you can step forward. Basically, don't forget to take in life's small pleasures and remain grateful. Take a moment to enjoy the sunset, share a glass of wine or laugh at a comedy club. Don't neglect exercise, vacation or any of the essential delights, solely in the name of your passion. And think about this: the last time I went on vacation, I got tapped on the shoulder by a PwCer out of the clear blue sky. It's when I was at my most relaxed that I was introduced to the job I now have. 


Have your steak and eat it, too.

Call me old school, but I genuinely believe that it is every young, hardworking New Yorker's divine right to occasionally enjoy a fine-dining steakhouse experience. If nothing else, this city is one intricate culinary expedition. When it comes to steakhouses, there are the tried-and-true antique gems entwined with booming new-comers and, well - simply put, it would be a crying shame to not go out for a fancy dinner every now and then. 

For a family visit, The Palm is an undeniable staple. For romance, there's Quality Meats. Pre-theatre, there's Commerce. Post-work, there's Capital Grille. But rarely is there a place that fits naturally and spectacularly into all four categories. Until now, of course.

Last night I had the pristine pleasure of dining at Charlie Palmer Steak on 54th between 5th and Madison. Located steps from Central Park South, 5 minutes from Grand Central, and a stone's throw from the theatre district, CP Steak seems to have found the perfect home. Better yet, it's found the perfect rhythm. Situated on a side street as opposed to an Avenue (amen, to anyone who gets how much of a difference that makes), the restaurant boasts outdoor seating and 3 unique, flowing spaces inside. It feels undeniably special while still feeling... welcoming. It's hard to explain, but it's a mix of the warm decor and subtle ambience, the ease in which the staff glides about, and the modern twist on the music that makes the experience so versatile while still so full of character.

Besides the space, of course, there's the food. CP Steak delivered above and beyond expectations. First off, ingredients are bar none. We had the pleasure of speaking with Chef Ryan Lory just after he finished a conversation with their fish purveyor. He explained the diligence that goes into the selection process and clued us in to their weekly locavore tasting menus, offered on Fridays and Saturdays. I mean, you can truly, actually, honestly taste the freshness and quality of each ingredient. Then there's the execution. The light sauce beneath the tuna tartare is perfect. The quail egg atop the thick-cut bacon is to die for. The truffles? Shaved just right.  And just thinking about the char on the porterhouse is making my mouth water right now. 

I could go on, but I think I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking from here. Plus, I've still got some of that 40 oz porterhouse to work on ;-).

Digital dating in NYC: The good, the bad, and the oh-so-interesting

About two years ago, my friend started dating a guy who she met through Tinder. She was all a-glow about this fella, going so far as to pronounce how much even I would like him. I tend to have very stringent expectations when it comes to my friends' boyfriends, and... well, rightfully so, especially in New York. I mean, it's (probably) a fact that for every well-rounded, winsome gentleman, there's somewhere around 100+ sociopaths to match in this city. As it turned out, this particular beau happened to have a suspicious 7+ Facebook accounts and maybe another girlfriend as well. 'Twas a fail.

That said, though, I also happen to know more than one couple who met through Tinder and are now engaged or happily married.

Quite honestly, this *new* world of digital dating seems to be spectacularly similar to the old world of simply meeting in a bar. After all, as many point out, both methodologies are (at least initially) based primarily on aesthetics and instinct, with a small sprinkling of personality and shared interests. Furthermore, with many dating apps or internet sites, you unquestionably gain more insight into an individual's background than you would have had you stumbled into them at 1am at a pub. Does it replace the value of being set up by friends or meeting organically? Probably not. But let's not discount it all together.

Today on Tangent Pursuit, I bring you (anonymously) the queen of digital dating. Her insight into which apps are worth it versus not, recommendations on how to get started and, mostly, her wild and unique stories should be entertaining enough to get your day started off well.

How did you get into "digital" dating?

I initially started using apps in early 2013 right when Tinder was starting to become popular. I was getting tired of the dating scene in NY and had heard a lot about Tinder so figured I would give it a try. I met up with a handful of guys until I met one who I really got along with and we started dating. I restarted Tinder (and added the other new apps) once this relationship ended. I figured if it worked for me once, why not try again?

Which apps/sites have you used?

Primarily have been app-focused, mainly because I don't want to write a lot/answer a lot of questions and the conversations flow easier in a text-based format than sending long messages back and forth. The apps I use are tinder, hinge, happn, and recently added the league.

Which is the worst/why?

They really all have their pros and cons. Tinder back in the day was great, but now is too diluted with too much variety. Everyone is on tinder... so it's harder to find quality. I like the idea of Happn (like you have to "cross paths" with someone), but it's a little overwhelming the way the display options and they don't notify you when you have a new message.

Which is the best/why?

I would say the best one is Hinge, especially if you are just breaking into the app dating scene. It is not overwhelming (you only get a certain number of matches a day) and you have to have some connection via Facebook (i.e. a friend of a friend of a friend). Therefore, the selection ends up being much better. Plus, it requires you to input your height, which I appreciate because I am a tall girl. A lot of my friends exclusively use Hinge and have had some good experiences.

Can you tell me about the most memorable date?

This is a hard one, as I have had many memorable, or should I say interesting, dates... Basically I should write one of those sex diaries they post on NYMag haha.

I met up with this guy once who sent me very strange, inappropriate page-long texts. He would tell me what he wants to do to me and all these very crazy things. He would even give me options for our date and then would make rules about what I was/wasn't allowed to do. I can't really explain this that well without showing you some of these absurd texts. But they were novels. I initially blew him off a few times - not even that bad, I told him I had plans, but could maybe meet up later and then when it got to be 1am I didn't feel like it. He got pissed at me and I felt bad so I finally agreed to meet him, even with the crazy texts, although I kept telling him how I wasn't going to sleep with him etc due to the nature of these texts. Anyway, we meet for drinks.... scratch that, I drink and he has iced tea because he is 13 years sober. So inevitably I get drunk to make up for it and we go to dinner... after dinner he starts making out of with me on the street, which I sometimes find awkward. He is a real estate broker or something so he offers to show me an empty apartment nearby.... I agree because I don't want to just be standing on the street in the rain anymore. We go to this empty apartment and start making out. I realize I could be here a while and I'm kind of drunk from earlier so long story short we end up having sex. Anyway, we met up again another night after this. I text him later joking about whether we're going to get together again and he sent me an insane text message about how I'm self centered because I didn't ask him about how his day was going or some ridiculous thing. I am doing a bad job at explaining this, but it's hard to explain fully via email. I don't speak to him or hear from him after this.

Another time I had a coffee date with this guy... we were supposed to get dinner that night, but he had to cancel to head out of town so we got coffee instead. Well, I got coffee, he got hot chocolate. I thought we hit it off pretty well, even from our texts after etc. But then he kept being evasive and was dodging hanging out with me, and there were other red signs, particularly that he was a legit Mormon. He never came out and said it, but he would only get hot chocolate, he had like a bunch of siblings and his mom was one of 10, and he went to BYU, a fact he covered up by saying he went to Notre Dame, but when I found him on LinkedIn it said BYU. He blew me off a few times, but would still like text me constantly. Eventually, I found out he has a wife and a kid, which is why he was being sketchy....

I met up with this guy one night for drinks. He was super sweet and we had a good time bar hopping. I found out he didn't even live in NY (was just here for work) and has a 10 year old daughter who he has primary custody of. He was nice though and we were having fun so I drunkenly decided to go back to his hotel room with him.... I texted him a month or so later asking how he was doing and he told me that on his way to the airport, he fell on ice and broke his whole leg and hasn't been able to walk since...

Additionally, when I was in Italy before starting work here, I went on two tinder dates! One was pretty normal... we met up for drinks, he walked me home, made out in front of the duomo. He tried to come home with me, but I didn't think that was a good idea since I was staying in an airbnb by myself in a foreign country. The second one was a little more unconventional. I had matched with this guy in Milan when I first got there, but since had been traveling to other cities. However, we continued to talk while I was in Italy. I had to go back through Milan to go home and was supposed to take the train to the airport, which is far away. He offered to pick me up and drive me to the airport. So I get in this car of basically a total stranger who barely spoke English. He drives me to the airport.... I thought he was just going to drop me off, but he parks and walks me in. He waits for me to check my bag and then we have lunch together at this airport restaurant where we have to spend most of the meal translating what the other is saying. He pays for everything and then walks me to the security line and gives me a hug goodbye.

Overall feelings on the experience so far?

I think it's a great vehicle to put yourself out there and meet people. I consider every date a different experience/story so even if they go bad, at least I've tried. These apps allow you to come across people you might not otherwise and it takes all the BS out of the run around at a bar or wherever people meet. It definitely is a good way to get laid, but there are also a variety of guys looking for a variety of things. My last boyfriend I actually met through Tinder in 2013 so it can happen! My friend met her current boyfriend on Hinge. If you're not good at putting yourself out there at a bar or are more interested in hanging with friends when you go out than trolling for men, these are definitely good options.

What kind of tips would you recommend to people just starting to online date?

I'd recommend that they rip the band aid off and just start meeting people. The only way you'll know if you actually mesh with someone is if you meet them in person. And meeting up with strangers gets easier! The more you do it, the more comfortable you are each time. Don't be discouraged by a bad date (or dates in my case) - they happen to everyone, even my skinny hot friends! Also, keep your options open and don't get invested in only one guy until it's legit. Myself and many friends have been ghosted too many times to count. But if you have other things/guys going on, it doesn't hurt as bad and you won't be as bothered by it.


The Weekend Getaway: The Catskills

If ever there's a time to enjoy New York City, RIGHT NOW IS NOT IT. It's already common knowledge to avoid the city in the summertime, but with consecutive 95+ degree days, the point cannot be made clear enough. Yesterday, I went from zero to full-upper-lip-sweat-bubbles in 30 seconds on the subway. And it wasn't even an overly hot cart! Obviously - and as my mother likes to remind me - I'm a "sweatball" and something like this could very well happen to me mid-winter. But even if you aren't a naturally-gifted sweatball like myself, it's still fucking hot out. 

ANYWAY, I luckily had the chance to visit the Catskills last weekend and breathe in some cool, fresh mountain air. The weekend in its entirety was a pleasant repose from city life and I would recommend the trip to anyone. So, if you're going to do the Catskills, here are some things you should consider...

1. Go for a wedding!

While I know this can be a tough aspect to plan, it certainly enhances the experience and if you have any influence on an upcoming wedding, I'd nudge for it. I'm just sorry you couldn't be there for last weekend's wedding, because it's prob/def the best one the Catskills has seen to date. Mimi and Rae got married in an old church/now house and then we partied in an old school/now house - it's hard to explain, so just view the pictures and stop assessing my poor sentence structure.

2. Drink the water

Seriously. Drink the tap water. Or the water from the streams while you hike. It's that fresh. Also, you should "drink the water" a la "drink the cool aid." Buy into it. Soak up the small town life, saunter around the downtown area, and kick back. Act like you're on mountain time. 

3. Go hiking

After a hearty breakfast of country-fresh eggs and corned beef hash, Matt and I asked a local for a recommendation on where to hike. What we got back was a pure gift. Through a series of instructions, we were directed down a few miles to the ranger park, back over a few lakes and through no less than three parking lots to find a sign for the Mountain House. We edged along the side of the mountain on an unnamed trail (thanks to the local tip!) and got into some serious rock-climbing. Matt almost catapulted himself off the side of the mountain, but besides that, the hike was perfect and the views? The views were nearly to die for, as Matty illustrated.

4. EAT!

Come on, I wouldn't have left this out. You should know me better than that.

and just as a bonus for making it to the end of the post, here's a really nice picture of everyone that I ruined

3 Affordable Ways to Rejuvenate in NYC

Okay, I know it's been a while. I don't have any excuse other than I've been extremely busy ramping up with my new job, traveling for work/pleasure, and getting up to speed with the social calendar of summer. In the midst of all of this, I have (shockingly) found myself physically tired, emotionally stressed and battling a month-long summer cold. However, I'm happy to say that I'm FINALLY feeling back to normal and looking forward to this glorious holiday weekend that is almost upon us. And since I'm getting back into the swing of things, it felt right to post about it! Here are my top 3 suggestions for how to rejuvenate on the cheap in NYC:

1. Get a Chinese Massage $20-$45

Also known as a Qi Gong parlor or hey-that's-a-sketchy-looking-place, these massage joints literally hit all the right spots. You probably pass by them regularly, thinking to yourself, "no way would I dare walk down this strange, dark alleyway." Next time, you should dare and you just may be rewarded with a glorious massage by an authentic Chinese Qi Gong masseuse that actually knows what they're doing. And have no fear, they cover the cleanliness basics by changing the cotton sheets and paper face thingies in between each session. Sure, the walls are more like soft dividers and there's no steam room to lounge in afterward, but at $37 for a 45 minute massage, you still can't beat the bang for your buck.  I mean, that's like a brunch bill. Come on.

2. Treat yo'self at Juice Generation $4-$10

As mentioned, I had been battling an epic summer cold for about a month, during which time I ingested somewhere around half of aisle 5 at the pharmacy. While medication certainly has its place, I'm also a big proponent of natural remedies. Enter: Juice Generation. For $5.45, you can get a 12-ounce fresh-pressed Cold Warrior, which includes: green tea, fresh orange, ginger root, echinacea, zinc and Vitamin C. It's a pleasant indulgence AND extremely good for you. Even if you're not sick, a trip to Juice Generation for a drink and some of their delicious meals will leave you feeling like you just experienced a mini health retreat. And all for $15-$20. Next girls night adventure? I think so. 

3. Get. Out. Side. FREE 99

I've said it before: never have I interacted with nature on such a daily basis as I do living in New York City. It sounds strange to most people, but it makes plenty of sense when you think about it. First off, I live a stone's throw away from Riverside Park and three blocks from Central Park. Because of the layout of the city, I walk nearly everywhere, including the 2+ miles to work. If you live uptown, this is a no-brainer. However, even if you're downtown, I bet you're not too far from The Highline, Madison Park, Washington Square or an accessible rooftop - so make use of it! You don't necessarily need to kayak in the Hudson or take a day trip to the botanical gardens (though, kudos if you can swing it!), you just need to get outside for a little bit each and every day. We've all heard the factoids about the positive benefits of even just 15 minutes of Vitamin D and they're all true. Even if you're super crunched for time, take 10 minutes to stroll outside in the sun on your next lunch break while counting your blessings or calling a loved one and then try telling me you didn't have a good day.

Getaway: Pacific Beach, California

My friend Erica and I met in first grade and have been #bf4ls ever since. In fact, we were so close growing up, there was even an online thread posted about us once in middle school that claimed we were lesbians. (We ain’t mad ‘bout it.) We went on to graduate college together after she finally transferred to UMD her sophomore year.  Then, that pesky “real world” attacked and I ended up in Virginia > New York and she in Arizona > San Diego. It’s been a little tough and very odd not living side by side these past four years. But once she moved to Pacific Beach last year and I finally felt settled in New York, I knew it was time for a visit.  So, I finally got out there! Below are a few of my favorite things about the trip:

1.      Seeing my BFF, DUH.

There’s only so many people that you can crack up laughing with after only minutes of being together. For me, Erica is one of those people. There’s also only so many people that wont second-guess spending Sunday afternoon of MDW with you at the CVS minute clinic when you come down with a killer sinus headache (#FTL!). Thanks, bae.

2.      Breakfast at The Fig Tree

Situated around the corner from Erica and Drew’s apartment is the most adorable and delicious breakfast place of all time. It looks like a big tree house and the food is phenomenal. (the rosemary potatoes and fresh-squeezed OJ were especially d-lish.)

3.      Riding bikes through La Jolla

After a hearty breakfast, we rode bikes through the streets of La Jolla and played pretend House Hunters. Even with all the mansions and over-the-top residences, though, it was these cute little surf huts that stole my heart.

4.      Lounging at Wind and Sea

Known for being a famous surf break and a hotspot for photo-shoots, Wind and Sea is also a pretty divine location to simply lay out and kick back. Which we managed perfectly, just like the professionals we are.

5.      Acai / Pitaya Bowls

Acai / Pitaya bowls are all the craze these days and they’re seemingly sold on every corner in San Diego. The bowls are made of frozen acai berry or dragon fruit mixed with a small amount of liquid (coconut water, almond milk, soy, etc.) into a sherbet-like texture. They’re then topped with healthy pickings like berries, granola, peanut butter and coconut. #omnomnom is right.

6.      Strolling the Pacific Beach boardwalk at Crystal Pier 

Lined with old-school cottages that have a 2-year waiting list, there’s plenty of history at Crystal Pier. As for the rest of the boardwalk, people-watching alone can be a full day’s activity. We strolled the boardwalk one day and then met my cousins (!) for lunch at World Famous, yet another great foodie find.

7.      Oscar’s Fish Tacos 

Also around the corner from Erica and Drew’s place is Oscar’s. About the size of a small food truck, this North Pacific Beach taco haven crushes it with fresh seafood and ridiculously low prices.

8.      An outdoor BBQ

On Sunday night, I managed to come halfway-back to life after a healthy dose of Sudafed. We barbecued and played corn hole in the front yard.

9.      Experiencing Club Pilates 

I love exercising, so while I wasn’t feeling up to a crazy workout thanks to my sinuses, I wanted to get a little something in during my trip. Enter: Club Pilates. I tried out my first class on the reformer machines for a meager ten bucks. It was actually a ton of fun to maneuver the reformer and definitely the perfect workout to settle on.

10.  Massages & kickin’ back 

I’m a massage fiend and a total diva when it comes to pampering myself. Unfortunately, I’m not made of money. So, it’s always a beautiful thing when I can score a solid massage at a low price. At Health & Wellness Arts Healing Center, I was able to do just that. Located in Pacific Beach amongst a strand of restaurants and shopping, the Healing Center offers a $50 massage for a full hour. It’s clean, relaxing, and best of all, the massage was absolutely top-notch. On my last day, I enjoyed a massage and then kicked back with Erica to crack up over Broad City and Best in Show.

Can’t think of a better way to spend, or end, a vacation!

NYC Coffee: Who reigns supreme?

At some point circa 16 years old, I discovered coconut coffee and started drinking it regularly. Having lived across the highway and then some from the nearest Dunkin Donuts, I would drive there early on Monday Mornings to buy one of those extra massive 36-oz cups and a few 8 oz cups to match. Then, I'd keep the larger container in my parents fridge and heat up a cup each morning for the next 3-4 days, satisfying my teenage sweet tooth. After a few weeks of this, however, even my  immature taste buds knew something was wrong. Apparently, old coffee isn't as tasty as a freshly brewed cup. Who'd a thunk it? 

That was my first early lesson on a good cup o' joe: freshly brewed is best. And of course, freshly ground is even better. And good, filtered water is an absolute must.

Over the course of time, I went through various coffee phases. During college, thanks to a hefty monthly food allowance (hey, Dad!) I enjoyed the daily consumption of skinny vanilla lattes from Starbucks. Post college and no longer free-wheeling it off my parents' funds, I formed a McDonald's coffee addiction (and a hash brown one, too, but that's for a different day). Surprisingly, Mccy D's has a solid cup of coffee and it's always $1, regardless the size. But when I really want a good caffeine fix, I go to Rook in my hometown. Without going too deep into the rabbit hole regarding my undying love and obsession with Rook coffee, let me just put it simply: it's the best cup of coffee you will ever taste. They treat coffee beans like any other crop and buy seasonally. They pack the beans in single-serving airtight containers to preserve freshness. And then they make you a freshly ground, freshly brewed (in, of course, good filtered water) delicious cup of coffee. No lattes, no cappuccinos, no frills. Just good coffee from around the world.

So, NOW, with the understanding that there is, very unfortunately, no Rook in NYC (yet!), allow me to suggest my personal favorite coffee joints in the big apple.

For a single-drip AND the best espresso: JOE COFFEE

Quite honestly, if I was giving an award for best experience, it would also go to Joe's. Each shop I have visited is inviting, clean and friendly. 

For a solid cup and a bite: BIRCH 

Always bustling, always reliable. 

For that french-press craving: GREGORY'S 

I'm a french-press fiend. When brewed correctly, it's richer and stronger and I can buzz 12 hours off of it.

For something fancy.. MAGNOLIA BAKERY

Magnolia Bakery does lattes like nobody's business. For a hint of luxury, go late morning on a Saturday, order the chai latte, add a famous cupcake to your order, and then sit back and enjoy breakfast overlooking one of the many cute streets Magnolia happens to be situated on (Ahem, Columbus and W 69th!)

For the best iced coffee... MOLLYS MILK TRUCK


Available in whole foods and (eventually) most bodegas, this is hands down the best iced coffee you'll ever taste. It has almond milk, agave and some spice to it, but the shot of espresso (RedEye version) really takes it over the top. Plus, Molly's is the ONLY coffee I can consume when hungover - it's that good. 

**when in doubt or when looking for an affordable and reliable option, I always go with street cart coffee. Not only is the cart on 51&7th serving up delicious coffee, but there's nothing quite like putting money directly into the hands of the guy pouring you a cup o joe!