Wednesday, July 30

Healthy is the New Skinny

The beat drops and I pound my legs forward, hovering over the seat, making perfect circles in sync with the song.  My heart is thumping aggressively against my heaving chest, but I take a deep breath and muster up my last ounce of strength to power forward to the finish line.  I am cognitive of the other bikers, the sweat dripping in my eyes, the instructor's encouraging words, and the rhythmic motion of my hips, swaying slightly back and forth as I trudge on.  And in this moment, I feel thankful.

Like most women, I have a love/hate relationship with my body.  Erring much more regularly towards hate.  Just today, I cleaned out a jar of peanut butter.. then sat in self loathing while I polished off garlic dip.  Okay, I get it.. I'm crazy.  I don't eat bread, haven't had a chip or french fry in over a year, wouldn't dream of letting fast food or soda touch my lips... and the list goes on.  But I've got vices.  A sweet tooth for one.  And a real problem with severely overeating foods I deem 'healthy'.  Nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables... oils and 'good fats', dark chocolate, coffee, wine... you name it.  I even have tricked myself into thinking froyo is nutritious, and thus frequent the neighborhood DIY yogurt joint on the regular. Let's not even get started on the fact that I am a self proclaimed foodie who feels it is a necessity to order the most highly recommended menu items... regardless of subsequent flub consequences.

So I polish off a bag of grapes at 11:00 pm and indulge in pork belly here and there? (don't judge.. pork belly is trending).  Healthy choice or not, I feel it stick to my hips. And for that, I don't love my body most days.  In fact, I would say 95% of the time I pinch my love handles and suck in my gut staring longingly in the mirror, dreaming of a former nearly-anorexic, food deprived, but in control, self. (check back at pageant photos.. oh the glory days).

But tonight, as I expend myself in spin class, I felt this true appreciation for my body.  I wasn't born athletic, but I have trained my body into thinking so.  In high school I was horrified by gym class, unable to touch my calves, let alone my toes, and regrettably the first out in every round of kickball. Yet here I am, leading my yoga class in the most difficult moves, running the extra mile and pushing out another rep.  At 26, I am stronger and healthier than I maybe have ever been.  And for that, I am grateful.

I still want to be skinny, but now a thigh gap isn't enough for instant bliss.  I need to be healthy.  I have completely nixed genetically modified foods to the best of my abilities, and I'm slowly switching to eating primarily organic.  Gluten, refined sugar and dairy are the enemy, but processed and fried foods?  They are the devil.   I am more conscious of BPAs, hidden chemicals and fake sugars.  I've switched lotion out for organic coconut oil, and wash my hair with apple cider to reduce product build up.  I am no longer purchasing products with unnatural fragrances or dyes ...or worse, microbeads.  And while I am overwhelmed with my new lifestyle choices, I am refreshed by the pride and awe I feel for my body, regardless of it's shape or size.

So, perhaps my post category "get skinny" needs a rewrite.  As I ease into my late twenties, perhaps skinny isn't the ultimate goal.  Just maybe, the intention is "get healthy".

Tuesday, June 17

New Orleans: The Eat-cation

This past week I earned a very coveted foodie badge:  
Eating (and drinking) my way through New Orleans! 

I know you are jealous.. and you should be.  My long weekend of indulging in beignets and po'boys was one for the books.  But since I'm trying to build my karma tank, I have decided to share my eating itinerary with you.... so you too can have the best eat-cation of your life.

Places you MUST visit, and what you MUST order:

  Perfect.  There is no other word to describe it.  The atmosphere, the live music, the food, the service, the location. I could never imagine visiting New Orleans without making a trip to Commander's Palace.  I would go so far to say that I would make a special trip to Louisiana JUST to visit Commander's Palace.  You'll be greeted with Southern hospitality and whisked through the kitchen - yes, you walk right through the kitchen! - and past the dining rooms oozing with French charm.  On the patio, you hear the soft gurgle of a fountain and smell the blooming flowers.  A trio of sharply dressed musicians move from table to table, taking requests and serenading away.  I went for brunch, but can't imagine that lunch or dinner would disappoint.  The brunch menu is price fix and constantly changing.  I dined with three other guests, so I had the opportunity to try a majority of the menu.  And the highlights were as follows: White Peach Bellini, Turtle Soup (a must), Chicoy Coffee Lacquered Quail and Southern Style Pecan Pie.  Mm.

This place is dark, grungy and crowded.. with a line that wraps around the building during the lunch rush.  But that's part of the appeal.  You don't visit Mother's for the frills, you visit for the best traditional creole food in the city.  Known for their famed Honey Baked Ham, I suggest ordering it in the po' boy "Ferdis", which is ham, roast beef, debris and gravy.  Get a side of Red Beans or Jambalaya while you are moving down the assembly line... and of course one of their delightful Bloody Marys.

An upscale seafood restaurant in the heart of the French Quarter, I'd make the argument that there is nothing sub par on their menu. For appetizers, I suggest: Lobster Dumplings, the Crispy Pork Belly with grilled watermelon and vietnamese glaze (I know, mouth watering right?), and any of the crudos, but perhaps leaning towards the Sea Scallop Crudo with truffle cream and caviar.  The appetizers are amazing, but really.. SAVE ROOM for your entree!  Someone in your party has to get the Scalibut.  It is literally scallops baked into the top of a halibut with the most heavenly lobster risotto.   The pineapple glazed Wood Grilled Grouper is lighter, but has an exotic and delightful flavor.  It's served with sweet potato hash and crispy plantains.  The decor didn't impress me, as it was simple and modern ...but the centralized location is unbeatable.

I absolutely adore the cozy atmosphere - like you are dining in a friends house, but your friend just happens to be serving you dressed in a tux. You are really lucky that you stumbled upon my post... because the menu is nearly illegible.  With dim lighting and scrawled cursive, it's easy to just panic and point.  But don't.  I didn't have a chance to try the Fried Oysters, but I would still like to suggest them... based on the reviews from others.  What I can recommend with confidence is the Drum Fish with muddy waters and grilled shrimp and the Crawfish Etouffee.  But really, this place for me, was all about the dessert. A Lemon Ice Box Cake that refreshed the palate and a sinfully delicious Salted Caramel Custard. The neighborhood restaurant is located 20 or so minutes outside of the French Quarter, but in a pretty upscale area sprinkled with fun bars and lounges.

A trip to New Orleans would be incomplete without visiting at least one establishment of the famed chef Emeril Lagasse.  With a mirrored and steel elevator in the middle of a brick warehouse, the restaurant exudes a fun and trendy vibe.  It is creole food, but with an inventive twist. The drinks menu is on point, with creative and unique libations.  For appetizers, the Stuffed Chicken Wings (yes, I typed that right!) and Barbecue Shrimp are top notch. For your entree, the Garlic Crusted Drum is arguably one of the most delicious fish dishes I have ever had the pleasure of eating.

Sweets !
Beignets - Supposedly the only place to eat a beignet is at Cafe Du Monde... and I imagine that's true considering the outrageous line that always wraps around the building.  However, I enjoyed a fresh and scrumptious beignet at Windsor Court Hotel and was extremely satisfied.  Plus I got to enjoy it with coffee in a serene window side table with the New York times and a fork and knife.  If I had waited the hour to get inside Du Monde, I would have been covered in powdered sugar noshing it down on the sidewalk.  Nonetheless, I regret not trying the acclaimed best.

Kings Cake - a mardi gras tradition!  You'll get a piece of the colorful iced danish if you visit the Mardi Gras museum and take the tour.

Drinks !
-Hit Pat Obrien's to order a famous Hurricane while watching the live dueling pianos.

-Hand Grenades at Tropical Isle

-Order a Mint Julep flight at Oak Alley Plantation 

Monday, June 16

20 Signs you are Closer to THIRTY than to TWENTY

20 Signs You are Closer to THIRTY than TWENTY:

1. You have a nearly obsessive nostalgia for everything ‘nineties’. 

2. You average 6 weddings a year.

3. After partying sounds fun… but your pillow sounds SO much better.  Actually your pillow sounds so much better than the regular party too.  I mean, getting ready is just such a process, and you’ve got a lot of Netflix to catch up on.

4. You’ve taken a bubble bath in the past 6 months.

5. You’re smiling just thinking about a bath with a glass of wine, candles, a good book and chocolate.  Oh, the chocolate.  Didn’t you used to hate dark chocolate?  What happened?

6. You’re becoming more Republican.  Still liberal thinking, but the government is really much too involved in cutting your paychecks in half.

7. Your hangovers, holy f-ing hell.

8. And day drinking, another holy hell.  If you day drink you are in bed by 8:00 PM.  Long gone are the days where you would day drink and then go out that same night.  You cannot even fathom.

9. And why is all that dark chocolate sticking to your ribs all of a sudden?  It seems that late night pizza has much more dire consequences on your flub ratio than it used to.  And going for a jog doesn’t quite whittle your love handles away anymore.  But yet, you are become a bit more lenient with your diet, aren’t you?  It’s okay, you are not alone.  

10. You rather spend your money on anti aging creams than... well actually, than on anything else.  They are a necessity.  Sometimes you stand in the mirror, mere inches away and pull your skin tight.  Then you sigh, take a sip (gulp) of wine, and run the bubble bath.

11. Your mother is your best friend.  Never would have seen that one coming.  Scarier though, is that you are starting to kind of... well… act just like your mother. The same exact person that you thought was your polar opposite. Yikes.  Need another gulp of wine for that one.

12. Your little cousins think you are SO old.  Like ancient.

13. You have upgraded from 2 Buck Chuck wine.  Not by much, but it's an improvement. You also don't think buying fresh flowers are necessarily a waste of money anymore.  Or organic produce. Or a trip to the day spa. 

14. You don’t feel comfortable going into Forever 21.  Because, well, it feels like it’s been forever since you were 21.

15. You’ve started to skip trends.  Like the crop top, or printed leggings, or chrome nails.

16. You coo at strangers’ babies.  A lot.

17. If anyone talks to you before you’ve had a cup of coffee… shame on them.

18. Gardening sounds nice. So doesn’t flea markets, and wine tasting, and brunch with the girls.

19. You have a wedding pinterest board.  And you know exactly what ring you want.  Regardless of whether or not you have a boyfriend.

20. You feel secure.  Secure in your career, in your relationships, in life.  Sure, you are extremely anxious and stressed, but you feel proud of your past accomplishments and excited for your future achievements.  You are more rational and less emotional.  Nicer to your parents, kinder to your body. You appreciate everything more – your upbringing, your current situation, the arts, a good meal, great conversation.  And maybe you complain about all the weddings, but who are we kidding... you are honored to be invited and you still tear up nearly every ceremony.  Plus, each wedding helps you fine tune your own wedding dream.  And while the idea of thirty seems daunting, shortens your breath and makes a pit in your stomach, you know that you will survive.  Hell, maybe you’ll even enjoy it a little.  More time for bubble baths and a good read doesn’t sound half that bad after all. 

STAGECOACH: What to expect

Coming off an epic weekend at Coachella, I had sworn myself to couch potatoism for at least the next month in hopes of partial mental and physical recuperation. 

A mere 2 weeks later and I felt ready to emerge, agreeing to attend an engagement party in Newport.  It would be a mellow adult night of wine and fake laughter that I was genuinely looking forward to.  As I carefully applied lipstick in the bathroom mirror, I overheard two distinct words that stopped me in my glossing: “Stagecoach” & “tickets.”

I arose from my closet with such a clatter (too early for Christmas references? Bummer.) and stormed into the bedroom to confront my boyfriend, Matt.  I caught enough of the conversation to know I was included and seconds later I had traded my skirt for cut offs and my heels for boots.  Yee-Haw!

And so a weekend equal to Coachella only in epic-ness and location began.  And this is what I learned:

11.  Fashion.  It’s not Coachella so don’t stress.  Bring a cowboy hat and boots and you’ll fit in.  That’s that.  It’s hot in the day, but can be frigid and windy at night.  And for Chesney’s sake (get it, Kenny Chesney = God), please wear your boots in before the weekend.  I felt like I was at prom with how many girls were carrying their shoes at the end of the night.

22. Don’t pay for VIP parking.  It costs $100 and you park next to the regular parking. Save the money.  With $100 you can get… like… 5 beers inside.  Plus there are pedi cabs in the parking lots that will take you from your car to the festival for 10 bucks or so.  And another thing.  Do not drink and drive, there are cops and checkpoints everywhere.  If you can’t find a sober driver, Uber and taxis are sparingly available. 

33. Really. Everything inside the venue is silly expensive.  Eight dollars for a budlight, that I can handle.  Eight dollars for one slice of pizza… now I don’t know.. you’re kind of pushing it, who just eats one slice?  Eight dollars for a medium coffee? You’ve lost me.  If you’re going to drink... do the majority of your beer chugging before you go in.

44. I know what you’re thinking.  No dude, I’ll just leave alcohol in my car or RV and go out to grab some during the concert.  No.  You wont.  The festival is no re-entry.  But… no.  No reentering during the day that you go into the festival.  Your wristband will not work.

55. Which leads me to number 5. Where to pre party and after party.  If you’re not staying in the RV park, you must shamelessly flirt with someone to give you an RV wristband.  The RV parking is half the fun of the concert.  Retired frat boys take off their shirts and revert to the good ‘ol college days while they play flip cup, sway the American flag, and compete for most female conquests.

66. Can’t rough it in an RV? I get it. They get trashed… and basically unfit for anyone to eat, sleep and …gasp shower… in after one night of debauchery.  If I were you, I would rent a house in Palm Springs, Indio or Palm Dessert with friends.  Waking up in a bed and making pancakes and Bloody Marys to enjoy by the pool before torturing your liver for another day of festivities sounds pretty damn nice doesn’t it?  The alternative is waking up in a lawn chair outside of your RV, covered in dirt and unable to shower because someone threw up in the bathroom.  All there is for breakfast is warm bud lights and cereal bars.

77. Or perhaps… you are one of the female conquests and you wake up in someone else’s RV.… Imagine that lonely ‘walk of shame’ back to your trailer.  Yikes.  People, I get it.  Country music exudes romance, but shaking a trailer while drunken shirtless guys chant “’merica” outside… mmm, a little less romantic.  If I were you, and I met the love of my life at Stagecoach, I would perhaps pursue the relationship at a later point in time.   Like on your detox next week when you can actually hold an intelligent conversation.

88. Which is a nice transition to my next lesson: Don’t be overly ambitious.  I’ve moved off of talking about sex, get your mind out of the trailer. Do not be overly ambitious in terms of the festival.  You do not need to ‘get your money’s worth’ by waiting at the gates for the festival to open and staying late screaming ‘encore’ all three nights.   Prioritize.  And remember the NO REENTRY lesson?   

   8. Lets talk money.  This is not a cheap weekend.  Lets approximate.  $400 for tickets, $200 for lodging, $200 for food and alcohol.  $100 for gas.  $10 for a cowboy hat. And that’s if you’re being frugal. Extremely frugal.

1. 10. You’re going to have one of the top 5 weekends of your life.  Or at least I did.  Coachella is fun, but Stagecoach is alive.  At Coachella you stay with your friends.  It’s just as sceney and trendy as a night in Hollywood.  You might dig the line up, but there aren’t necessarily lyrics to scream to.  The teenagers and young twenties festival goers will have black empty eyes from the drugs.  And well, it won’t really be about the concert.  It will be about the after party, or worse, the instagram photo.  BUT AT STAGECOACH… the vibe is wholesome and infectious.  Here is a crowd of normal people in their twenties who hold 9-5 jobs and save for this weekend.  And they do it right. At Stagecoach, the boundaries between groups dissipate as you scream lyrics to your favorite Hunter Hayes song with your new friends.  And these aren’t just festival friends.  You can forge lifelong bonds with these people, staying in touch until you see them again the following year.  The common denominator not just being a love of country music, but being a real country fan.   

Friday, May 30

New Orleans, Where to Stay

Where to stay:
In my opinion there is only one hotel option in New Orleans, and that is the Windsor Court The beautiful French elegance oozes from the walls, but not in a theatrical way.  The hotel is classy and comfortable with high tea and harpists at 3pm sharp followed by live jazz for evening drinks.  The suites are enormous and feel akin to a spacious one bedroom apartment in Paris.  An enormous opulent vanity, a separate sitting room and an expansive view of the city make this hotel one of my favorites ever, not just for New Orleans.  
        The food was impeccable, the brunch offering the only healthy options I found throughout the city, and the service on point.  I felt transcended to a French countryside chateau as I enjoyed a complimentary glass of champagne with the tart cherries, mixed nuts and truffled popcorn.      Regrettably, I did not review the restaurant for lunch or dinner, but I was pleased with the Boudin balls and chefs garden butter lettuce from the Polo Club Lounge.  I was pleasantly surprised to find fresh fruit parfaits on the brunch menu, but I shamelessly ordered beignets as well.  And I was not disappointed.  I also let my sweet tooth get the best of me with the fresh baked pralines left for turn down service one night.
  Directly across from the hotel you will find yourself at New Orleans only casino, Harrahs.  You are also a beignets throw from the Mississippi River, Riverwalk outlets and new WWII museum.   The hotel is just far enough that you don’t smell the stench of Bourbon Street but close enough that you can walk to the action in minutes.  
   If I had to make a complaint, it would be about the pool, which receives little sun.  And if I just absolutely had to offer an alternative hotel to stay in, I would suggest: The Ritz. Although their pool is indoors, which in my opinion is incomprehensible in a city as sweltering as New Orleans. 
   And one last thing, inquire about the promotions.  We stayed 3 nights to get the fourth free. Amuse-toi bien! 


A long weekend in New Orleans

The air is thick and sticky, making it difficult to breath deeply.  The smell of vomit and sewerage is so pungent that you gag with each step.  Drunken tourists slur and stumble past you, their heavily beaded necklaces clanking together.  Some pudgy guy haggles you to enter the strip club he’s promoting by offering 2 for 1 drinks.  The music from the bars are all competing for your attention, aggravating your already pounding head. You have blisters from your flip flops and you have completely sweated through your shirt.  The sugar rush from your frozen drink has gone to your head and you are dizzy with intoxication. But you are on Bourbon Street.  And you are blissfully happy.

New Orleans is a beast.  It’s loud and boisterous, drunken and crass.  The streets are filthy and sinful and the food will put you at risk for a heart attack.  But the city is alive and vibrant.  The music, the culture, the history… it’s unparalleled by any other place I have visited in my life.   I encourage everyone to put Nah ‘Leans at the top of their travel bucketlist.  And immediately.  New Orleans will be a culture shock, but if you survive, you’ll emerge all the better.

I've got quite a lot to say about this city.  Here is my quick list itinerary of the perfect long weekend.  Below please click on the links for full reviews of hotels, restaurants and activities.

DAY 1:
Check into Windsor Court Hotel
Lunch at Mother's
Walk to Bourbon Street, get a frozen daquiri and/or hand grenade and soak in the action, stroll through surrounding streets
Go to Mardi Gras World
Dinner at G.W. Fins
Hurricanes at Pat OBriens dueling piano room

DAY 2:
Ride the street car to Commanders Palace for Brunch
See uptown, walk through the cemeteries, check out Audubon Park/Zoo
Dinner at Clancy's
Drinks at Le Fete

DAY 3:
Beignets to go from Cafe du Monde
Rent a car
Bayou Fan Boat tour to see some Gators!
Dinner at Nolas
Drinks in French Quarter

DAY 4:
Breakfast at Windsor Court
Drive north to see Laurla Plantation, Oak Alley, Houmas House
Late Lunch at Oak Alley Plantation
Back to airport for late flight home.