Thursday, October 25, 2012

meditate on this…

I have a confession to make… I’m a yogi who has never meditated. Even to me, a certified yoga teacher, meditation has always seemed a bit intimidating. How exactly do you do it? I’ve read about moving meditation, and I’d like to think that my runs along the Hudson River fall into that category. And they can! But what about good old-fashioned crossed-legged lotus-pose meditation?  My acupuncturist told me about meditation classes here in NYC, and I've been meaning to attend one. It’s on my “to do” list. (How American – and ridiculous – is that?!) In the meantime, I’ve been keeping my eyes and ears open for tips, and I came across this newsletter from goop today. Gwyneth Paltrow recently picked up Andy Puddicombe’s book, Get Some Headspace, and she was “inspired by his ability to demystify mindfulness.” If Puddicombe can demystify mediation, I’m all ears. I’m going to get my hands on Get Some Headspace ASAP. Until then, perusing Puddicombe’s site is already proving to be helpful. Paltrow interviewed Puddicombe for goop and this part in particular resonated with me:
Q – What do I do if thoughts start to appear and my mind wanders?

A – In the busy and modern world we live in, our default setting has become frenetic thought. If we could stop thinking at will, we wouldn’t need to learn to meditate. Just be gentle with yourself. Bring your attention back to your breath each time, and with a little practice the sense of calm will begin to increase.
So basically, as with most things in life, we need to take baby steps with meditation. And not be so hard on ourselves. I probably won’t be truly meditating the first time I try it, or even the 20th. But eventually, I’ll get there. And I’m sure the process of “getting there” is what it’s really all about anyway, this meditation stuff.


P.S. Speaking of baby steps, how awesome is What About Bob? My dad and I are both obsessed with Bill Murray. I met Murray once on the street in Chicago, and we totally hugged it out.

Restaurant Review: Hampton Chutney

This restaurant is really like no other. Its Soho outpost is adorned with pictures from India, and the place has a hippie/homey feel. It even seems yogic. A small handwritten sign next to the light switch asks employees to please turn off the lights in an effort to save energy and be mindful. Talk about good energy :) 

The food is beyond good. The dosas (“large, crispy, sourdough crepes”) filled with seasonal fresh ingredients like butternut squash and roasted tomatoes are DELICIOUS. My favorite dosa is the #5 Avocado (with Fresh Tomato, Arugula & Jack Cheese). The dosas come with different flavors of chutney (hence the restaurant’s name) including cilantro and mango. I – ever the plain Jane eater – stick to no chutney. Other must-try menu options include the #22 Grilled Cheese with Tomato on Sourdough (with Avocado). My coworker and friend Brian – a more adventurous eater – loves the #2 Calamata Olives dosa (with Tomato, Roasted Onion, Arugula & Goat Cheese), the #9 Curry Chutney Chicken dosa
(with Spinach & Balsamic Roasted Onion), the Thali special Indian Vegetable of the Day (which comes with Basmati Rice, Dal Soup, Grilled Naan Bread, Chutney & Yogurt) and the cardamom coffee. Speaking of beverages, the lassis are wonderful. They’re super smooth smoothies. I love the mango flavor but I have to abstain because non-dried mangos make my tongue itch.

I could go on and on about the food… Instead I’ll tell you to just try it! In addition to Soho there are Hampton Chutney locations on the Upper West Side and also in Amagansett. (Which has me thinking, if Amagansett has Jack’s AND Hampton Chutney, Justin and I just might need to win the lottery and buy a beach house there…)


P.S. Read the story of founders Gary & Isabel MacGurn here.

P.P.S. To save a few bucks, order off the kids menu. The options are just as delish and you won’t go hungry – the kids’ portions aren’t kiddie-sized at all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sending Sweets – A Gift Guide for All Occasions

I’m ashamed to admit it but I once got upset at Justin for bringing me after-work birthday flowers from our corner bodega instead of sending me a “happy b-day” bouquet at work. It’s just more special to receive a little somethin somethin via delivery or through snail mail. So whenever I have a good excuse, I send something sweet. Literally. I love flowers but lately I’ve been into sending edible treats –

For Anyone (Except Diabetics): Whoopie Pies
You can’t go wrong with giving the gift of whoopie pies from One Girl Cookies. It’s now become a tradition for Justin’s b-day; I get them delivered to his office. Even his secretary knows whoopie pies are coming come October. And fall is the best time to send them because pumpkin is in season.

For Bridesmaids: Custom-Made Cookies
I stole this idea from my friend Nooshin. Instead of just asking my sisters and friends to be in our bridal party, I sent my maids and matrons cookies in the shapes of dresses. Everyone thought they were super cute, and delicious. I used The Flour Pot, which happens to be on Oprah’s O List.

For Future In-Laws: Eataly Gift Basket
This is more savory than sweet, but the effect is the same… Bon appétit! After Justin’s parents kindly took me on their family trip to Turks & Caicos a couple of years ago, I sent them a thank-you gift basket from Eataly. And now I’m part of the fam :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

slim pickins

For the past few fall seasons I’ve really wanted to go apple picking but was unable to make it happen. This year Justin graciously planned an outing for us. He’s allergic to raw apples but he does like apple cider donuts, so we were both pretty psyched. We chose Outhouse Orchards in North Salem, New York because it seemed relatively close to the city. We rented a car and hit the road, only to sit in traffic for an hour on the West Side Highway. Note to NYC readers:  Avoid driving out of the city on a Sunday when there are multiple charity walks and street fairs in effect… When we did finally make our way out of Manhattan it was worth it. The foliage along the drive was really beautiful, and just being outdoors in the apple orchard was refreshing.

Outhouse Orchards, however, was unimpressive. In fact its name is quite fitting :) We paid $25 for an empty mesh bag, presumably to be filled to the brim with ripe apples. And we borrowed two apple-picking poles, which to me resembled torture devices. In fact walking within a ten-foot vicinity of Justin felt unsafe. I feared I’d be decapitated! When we reached the apple trees it was literally slim pickings. Most of the trees were bare. Some had a few rotten apples still hanging. And some had apples up so high you’d have to climb in order to reach them – which Justin did. He swung at the branches and made it rain with apples, which all dented upon impact. There was “apple sauce” all over the place. Anyway we did manage to pick an apple. Success! The saving grace was that Outhouse Orchards encourages their pickers to “top off” their empty mesh bags with pre-picked apples. So we didn’t come home empty-handed save for that one apple gem. Apple cider donuts were sold nearby at Harvest Moon Farm & Orchard. We chose plain and cinnamon sugar. Both were scrumptious.

[Pumpkins for Sale @ Outhouse Orchards]

[Justin with the Apple Picking Poles AKA Torture Devices]

["Topping Off" Our Sack of Apples]
[Cinnamon Sugar Donuts from Harvest Moon]


P.S. I’ve read that September is more a more fruitful time to go apple picking…

Thursday, October 18, 2012


It has taken me YEARS to figure out how to “do my hair” in a way that I actually find attractive and socially acceptable. In high school I would wash my hair in the AM and let it air-dry curly. Then I would put it up in a ponytail or bun, sometimes with a glittery headband. In college I ditched the headband and the au natural look. Instead I took a flatiron to my hair, night after night. Sleek straight hair was my “going out” look. And so the hair follicle damage began… 

After college I continued to abuse my locks. I got green highlights. (They were intended to be blonde.) I dyed my hair black. Then I went back to brunette. All the while I over-washed and under-treated my hair.

Then with age came not only a few white hairs but also wisdom. I realized that for my thin, damaged hair a flatiron is THE DEVIL. Instead I now use this thing, straight from the 80’s. It gets the job done, and it doesn’t singe my hair like a Panini maker. I’ve also found the best of the best, Chris Lospalluto, to care for my hair – and my spirit. Chris happens to be hysterically funny, but more important for this post, Chris is a genius stylist and he’s not only resurrected my long (thanks to him) hair, he’s taught me some tricks of the trade, like using dry shampoo as a volumizer. (Who knew?!) I like Klorane or Pssssst! Here are some more hair tips –
  • Don’t shampoo every day (unless your hair gets really greasy).
  • Don’t start coloring your hair unless you’re ready to spend a pretty penny on high-quality colorists.
  • Do invest in seeing an expert stylist, even just one time to get some great advice or to fix a butchered haircut.
  • Don’t get the “best” blow dryer or the fanciest flatiron – use the tools you’re able to use well. (For example, I’m not coordinated enough to use both a brush and a blow dryer at the same time, so I use a cheap two-in-one…)
  • Stick to a hairstyle that flatters your face. I.e. Bangs are on-trend and I LOVE them, but they wouldn’t look great on me.
  • Have a chic bandana or a hat on hand. (Be able to mask a bad hair day!) And ‘tis the season to don a cap. I just got a cute one from Artizia.

P.S. My brothers used to refer to my hair as “curly fries.” How adorable is that?! Now my hair looks more like shoestring potatoes when it air dries…

[shoestring fries]

[shoestring hair]

P.P.S. Thank you JENMEN for the introduction to our beloved Chris. 

Happy Pills

I’m constantly researching ways to self-improve and just feel good. My diverse team of gurus and go-to health authorities includes my physicians, my amazing acupuncturist, my eyebrow specialist and more. (Ladies: Haven’t you noticed that wax experts and beauty professionals in general provide more than just beautification services? Maybe I just attract it, but I’ve always gotten great advice, health food recommendations and more from these “healers.”) Anyway, I gather tons of self-care information from an array of people I know firsthand as well as from some trusted writers (i.e. my favorite Life Coach Martha Beck). Of course you should always check with your personal health care provider before ingesting anything you’re unsure of, but here are my drugs of choice lately –

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
I just upped my dosage of fish oil. Omega-3 Fatty Acids are known to help with mood and brain function. My virtual doctor, Andrew Weil, explains:
Many studies link specific nutrient deficiencies to suboptimal brain function and mental/emotional health. The most important by far is lack of omega-3 fatty acids. These special fats are critically important for both physical and mental health.
Weil recommends taking “2 to 4 grams a day of a product that provides both EPA and DHA (more of the former)… Buy only brands of fish oil that are ‘molecularly distilled’ or otherwise free of toxic contaminants.” I take Nature’s Way Super Fisol 70% EPA/DHA, with food. 

I stick to decaf coffee, and I find that taking a B-Complex gives me an extra oomph of energy in the AM. According to Whole Living, B vitamins aid memory, ease stress and much more. I buy these and keep them in the fridge.

Calcium & Magnesium
Calcium and Magnesium are both good for bone health and magnesium specifically has calming effects. Sometimes I make a calcium-magnesium “cocktail” at night. It’s best ingested in powder form. goop recommends this concoction and I like it.

In Good Health,

P.S. Don’t keep your meds in the medicine cabinet. I keep mine in the kitchen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Engagement Gifts

One of the perks of being engaged is that some family members and friends bestow generous gifts. Of course anything off a couple’s handpicked registry is a safe bet, but I’ve come up with a couple of creative gifts that I personally plan to give when my loved ones become betrothed. So allow me to introduce the a muse bouche guide to engagement gifts

Ring Holder
My dear friend Fallon and her fiancé Evan got us (me J) a ring holder. Justin tries to forbid me from removing my ring EVER, as I do have a tendency to (temporarily) misplace things, but lately I’ve been taking off the bling before bedtime. At least I have a safe and really aesthetically pleasing place to put it.

Personalized Stationery
My mama-in-law to be suggested that we purchase personalized stationery, and I’m so glad we did! I wouldn’t have thought to buy anything custom-made before the wedding, but having our “Amy and Justin” note cards is a treat. I think any couple would appreciate the gift of paper goods with their names engraved or printed.

Bridal Magazine Subscription
(Another gift really for the bride-to-be… But hey, “A happy wife is a happy life!”) As an admitted magazine addict, I’ve been devouring every bridal mag I can get my hands on. But I'm sure “normal” magazine consumers enjoy bridal mags when they’re recently engaged as well. And what a perfect yearlong span to be receiving a bridal magazine subscription! My favorites are Brides and Martha Stewart Weddings


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Book Club

The one and only book club I ever joined turned out to be a debacle. Close to no one read the book, and close to no one showed up for the scheduled club dinner. Estrogen-fueled fighting ensued. The friendships have since been mended, but the book has been left untouched: The Marriage Plot. In my defense, I did attempt to read the book. It just wasn’t amazing. And with the little time we crazy Americans allow in a day for reading and relaxing and general non work related activities, spending time on an “eh” book is just not worth it.

In the past few months I’ve been reading some page turners, and I’d be happy to share my recommendations. In recent days I’ve seen a few friends post on Facebook that they’re looking for reading suggestions. And now is the season for snuggling up on the couch with a good book…

I abandoned The Marriage Plot and instead picked up Middlesex, the novel that elevated Jeffrey Eugenides to Oprah’s Book Club status. For years I was uninterested in Middlesex’s subject matter (with a hermaphrodite main character) and so I didn’t bother picking up the book, but its intricate storylines that take the reader back in history and around the globe are incredibly entertaining. And Eugenides provides the most poignant, relatable details; anyone can relate to his unique characters. 

Barbara Kingsolver is a mastermind. The Poisonwood Bible takes place in the Belgian Congo in 1959, and its story is told from five different perspectives. The book is riveting. I read it while studying abroad in Barcelona. I had no TV, so reading was my main source of entertainment. (In addition to clubbing at Buda Bar, Shoko, etc… J)

Back when I was working at Elle Decor my coworkers and friends Melissa and Micah recommended Little Bee to me, and I will forever be indebted to them for sharing this literary masterpiece. It centers on the intertwining lives of a British woman and a young Nigerian refugee girl. I know it sounds cliché, but this book is truly heartbreaking and hysterically funny at the same time. Little Bee is a must-read. 

For all the haters out there: Lower your expectations. The Fifty Shades of Grey series is not being billed as an astounding work of literary genius. It is, however, being promoted as an enjoyable page turner – which it is! I loved it.

Happy Reading!

P.S. Did you hear about Lena Dunham's book deal? I can’t wait to read what she has to say.

P.P.S. My “Book Worm” Pinterest board.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood

As I’ve mentioned before, my Grandma Elly never cooked. Instead, like any resourceful New Yorker, she used her oven for shoe storage. She and my Grandpa Riis went out to eat at the most fabulous restaurants, including Elio’s. They dined at Elio’s at least bi-weekly and always shared the same tri-colore salad and two entrees: chicken parmesan and penne primavera. My Grandpa still goes to Elio’s on a regular basis, but now he takes me as his date.
[Elly & Riis]
There’s something to be said for having a fabulous local restaurant where everyone knows your name. Justin and I have found that in Rosemary’s Enoteca & Trattoria. Rosemary’s is right around the corner from our humble abode and it has the trifecta of important qualities: awesome ambiance, delicious food and great service. What’s more? It’s a lot more affordable than Elio’s : )

Rosemary’s opened in June and has been jam-packed ever since. Justin and I had stopped in when the restaurant first opened its doors, eager to see what had come of the once run-down Halloween store space. The uber-warm host and hostess introduced themselves and took our names. They haven’t forgotten us since. The staff at Rosemary’s is lovely despite having to manage hoards of people coming through their doors. Of course that’s a good “problem” to have. With a no reservations policy and delicious Italian food that isn’t over-priced, it’s no wonder the place is so popular. The bar, serving bottles of wine at $40/pop and glasses of vino for $10/each, is always bustling. The overall setting is high energy but also very pleasant; the décor is rustic country, with planters strewn about the place and small twinkly lights hanging from the ceiling. Also from up above: many of the menu’s vegetables straight from the rooftop garden. My favorite menu items are the eggplant caponata, the prosciutto di parma and soppressata, roasted brussel sprouts, Rosemary’s or caprese focacce and the market fish. Justin swears by the orechiette. Warning to anyone really sensitive to spicy flavors like me, all of the pastas have a little kick; I suggest asking the waiter to hold the pepper flakes. And in general, my best advice regarding Rosemary’s is to show up about an hour before you plan on eating, and either go back to your apartment if it’s nearby, or drink and nosh at the restaurant’s lively bar or at a spot nearby like Kingswood.

[Rosemary’s Bar Area - Photo Credit: Brian Park]

[Rosemary’s Rooftop Garden]

Bon Appétit!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dark nails with an engagement ring… Do or don’t?

When I first got engaged I couldn’t wait to get a neutral-color manicure. The day after the proposal I said to my coworker Ally “My nails will always be plain and perfect from now on!” She (engaged a few months prior) knew better. After my initial post-engagement mani, the whole nude-looking polish appeal lost its luster. My nails have been chipped, bare, bright coral and even deep purple since… And now that’s autumn’s here, all bets are off. Bling or no bling, I’m wearing dark polish. It’s just me.


P.S. Check out these Essie colors for Fall/Winter. I love Power Clutch. 

On a related note, I met Essie Weingarten while I was working at Allure magazine. Essie was lovely and all about Baked by Melissa cupcakes. (The Allure mag sales reps made a big deal about getting lots of mini cupcakes for the Essie meeting.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

a moment of silence

Why is silence always associated with negative events? “Let’s take a moment of silence to commemorate [insert devastating event].” I think silence is golden, and should be cherished. When I consider silence, rather than conjure up an image of fidgety fans at a ballpark before the National Anthem, I think of melting into a delicious savasana at the end of a yoga class.

Recently I’ve been finding myself banishing Justin to the bedroom and/or forcing him to wear headphones to watch television, especially when I’m blogging, but even when I’m just relaxing and/or reading. 

To be surrounded by noise, all day, is just too much sensory overload. I need some quiet time. Dr. Andrew Weil agrees:
Sound has a direct and powerful influence on the nervous system and on our emotions… Most people are unaware of the effects of sound on the body and mind, even in the midst of the noise population so characteristic of cities and workplaces… The most obvious correlations are with anxiety and insomnia. If you suffer from either, I urge you to pay attention to the sounds in your environment and find out how they might be affecting you. Two simple experiments are to turn off television and radios if you are not actively listening to them, and to notice how different kinds of music make you feel.  Spontaneous Happiness
Especially before bedtime it’s advisable to avoid noise and even technology in general. I try to avoid using electronics at least within a half hour of going to bed. And I think in general it’s good to have a “wind down” ritual prior to bedtime. Sleep is so important, and so many of us (either purposefully or begrudgingly) neglect it . And for those of us occasional (or perpetual) insomniacs, every effort to get some shuteye is worth it!


P.S. Remember when staying up late was so cool? I used to wail when my mom tried to send me to bed before my older brothers. Now, while I’m still a night owl, I try not to stay up too, too late. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Paper Trail

I absolutely love paper goods. I can spend hours in a stationery store, perusing the aisles of handmade thank you cards, unique notebooks, etc. Of course as technology takes over, these quaint stores are becoming scarcer, and the handwritten card is becoming less and less common. But no less important! I agree with the old-school etiquette rules that require handwritten thank you cards for kind gestures and gifts. But quite ironically, I have terrible handwriting. Fortunately my better half has better, legible penmanship. So we’re OK in that department. Here are some recent paper finds worth checking out if you too adore stationery and the like, or even if you’re just in need of an obligatory b-day card for a relative…

This adorable boutique is right in my West Village neighborhood, but of course it has an online counterpart. I especially love the store’s greeting cards (many of which are quite witty and/or sarcastic). And the Letterpress also carries some poignant anniversary and other lovey-dovey cards.

[Greenwich Letterpress Interior]

I saw cute ads in bridal mags for this online stationer and decided to give it a shot for our new personalized stationery. I’m so happy I did! Our custom-made note cards came out beautifully. I was able to design the cards online by picking from an assortment of fonts and styles. And the paper quality is excellent.

[Our Personalized Stationery]

This Japan-based store has an NYC outpost right near my office in SoHo. Just like its products, the store has a clean, crisp feel. This is the place to go if you need to de-clutter and can’t handle the chaos of The Container Store. (Isn’t going to The Container Store when you’re in need of de-cluttering like going to the liquor store when you’re feeling hung-over?) Anyway, Muji has the chicest little notebooks in natural colors, as well as sleek looking binders, picture albums and more.

Cupcakes and Cashmere recently featured an adorable card from this Los Angeles stationer. I’ve been clicking through Sugar Paper’s Web site and Pinterest pages and I’m obsessed. I really like their style.


P.S. hello! Lucky has been recommended to me for save the dates or wedding invitations. The site looks like a great option for more paper goodies!

P.P.S. Check out my new Pinterest board dedicated to all things paper.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

(cheesy) chicken soup for the soul

I shamelessly watch certain cheesy chick flicks over and over again. And they’re not necessarily good movies. I’m embarrassed to admit that my rotation has included 27 Dresses, Catch and Release, The Holiday and now… Friends with Kids. I’m obsessed. I watched it for the first time with my BFF Rachel at her beach house. Maybe it was the fabulous and comfy setting, or maybe it was the movie, but I felt uplifted. And now every time I watch it, I just feel good. For some reason, Friends with Kids is like Xanax, or chicken soup. When Justin was away for the weekend and I couldn’t sleep despite dead-bolting the door and checking on "The Manhattan Protector" I watched Friends with Kids On Demand. When I flew to LA and wanted a happy distraction from my awesome newfound fear of flying, I watched Friends with Kids via iTunes. And just in case I get the winter blues, I’ve secured a Netflix DVD of Friends with Kids. (Probably never to be returned… Until of course, I find a new flavor of comforting chick flick.)


P.S. What do you do to combat the blues? I liked this recent post on Cup of Jo.

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