Summer Synopsis

As we begin to say good-bye to August and welcome fall, I wanted to re-cap some of my favorite things about the summer of 2014. Although this was one of the more milder summers I have seen on Long Island, there were still plenty of days to hit the beach and pool.

For me, these past few months were about new beginnings. I felt like I missed out last summer – having undergone thyroid surgery in June and recovering thereafter, I really wanted to make the most of this summer and take advantage of all the things I couldn’t do a mere 12 months ago.

Some of the highlights included:

Celebrating my one-year thyroid-versary

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Visiting Port Jefferson (quite a few times)

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Attending a Long Island Ducks game with Claudia

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Watching Fourth of July fireworks at said game and getting absolutely soaked

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Going stand-up paddle boarding

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Having a ShackBurger from the Shake Shack mid-week

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Tasting burgers at the Battle of the Burger (and having my favorite restaurant win!)

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Developing a slight obsession with Talenti Gelato

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Adding to my wardrobe courtesy of The Loft, H&M, Nordstrom Rack, and Vine & Roses

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Taking a day trip to Sag Harbor

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Hope you all had some fun summer adventures of your own!

Let The Countdown Begin….

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{The Hampton Classic 2013}

I am happy to report that The Hampton Classic Horse Show is now less than one week away (August 24 – 31, 2014). The event blends my two favorite things – horses and a day out East.

The Classic is not solely for equine enthusiasts. There is plenty of shopping, dining and browsing if the four-legged competitors do not pique your interest. Growing up, I would go out to the Classic when I had friends competing, but since graduating from college and moving back to Long Island, I have made planning a day at the show an end-of-summer tradition.

This year I am even more excited about the show, since my thyroid incision has healed and I can ditch the scarf and not worry about the sun. I have already begun scoping out which events I want to see (the jumper and Grand Prix rings are always a crowd pleaser), taking note of how many days I plan to make the hour-plus drive out to the show grounds in Bridgehampton, and of course, leaving time for a quick jaunt to the wonderful Southampton – a great place to shop if you ask me, and a short drive from the horse show.

Stay tuned as I finalize my plans for The Hampton Classic Horse Show 2014!

Strolling Through Sag Harbor

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As another summer Friday came and went, I decided to make the most of the day by heading out to Sag Harbor on Long Island’s East End. I haven’t been to Sag Harbor since I was a child, but the quaint and idyllic town looks just as I had remembered it.

My plan for the day was simple – to just enjoy exploring the landscape. I love going out that way because even though I haven’t actually left Long Island, I feel worlds away. The small towns out there have such charm and character and the locals are friendly and more than happy to tell you what to do while you’re there. This visit was no exception.

Thankfully, the traffic going out was not too bad. If you are planning on visiting the Hamptons, or anywhere else on the East End this time of year, be warned that the traffic can be backed up for miles depending on the day and time of your visit. The road leading into Sag Harbor is quite beautiful, overlooking water on both sides. I was able to stop at the beach along the way and admire the clouds and blue sky before continuing on to the main part of town. It was a cool and windy day that felt more like late September.

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The first stop upon arrival was at the Port of Sag Harbor information center where a knowledgable woman, and 20-year resident, pointed out all of the things to do and see in the town. She was enthusiastic and I enjoyed talking to her and learning more about the town and her life there. Her best advice for tourists was to just “get lost” and explore the many side streets off the beaten path. Lastly, she offered a few suggestions of where to go for lunch. I noticed some restaurants along the main drag in town, but they were pricey and seemed ordinary. One place she suggested in particular sounded good to me – The Dockside Bar and Grill on Bay Street. As the name implies, the restaurant is right across the street from the docks and offers indoor and outdoor seating. She raved about the seafood, which was just what I was in the mood for.

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The stroll over to The Dockside was very pleasant. A scenic street leads the way to the restaurant and is overlooked by a marina. As someone who has seen my fair share of yachts, even I was impressed with what was docked in this marina! The restaurant was bustling and people were waiting outside when I put my name on the list to be seated. They said it would be about 20 minutes for a table inside to open up. The 20 became 40 minutes, but I used the time to answer some work emails and watch the boats. Once inside, I noticed the restaurant had the beach vibe you would expect of a coastal place – a lot of white, blue and marine decor. It was open and airy with a nice view of the water.

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The menu made for some tough decisions. Calamari? Clams? Seafood Paella? Too many choices. I ordered a pink sangria, hoping that it would help me narrow down my options. The cool sangria coupled with a cucumber garnish was refreshing after a morning of walking in town. A final perusing of the menu resulted in a new find – breaded scallops with French fries. I had never had breaded scallops, but thought it sounded interesting.

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After a short wait my lunch arrived, looking every bit as delicious as I had anticipated. The five scallops were large and tender and the bread crumbs added just the right amount of seasoning and texture. Overall, the dish was uniquely prepared and I would order it again. The restaurant was incredibly charming and worth the wait to be seated. I felt relaxed after lunch and ready for more exploring.

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The best part of Sag Harbor is the laid back feeling the town offers. While wandering I found a few houses I wouldn’t mind living in, and some historic properties undergoing renovations. On the walk back to the car there was an old church under construction. I couldn’t help but stare at its majestic beauty. So much so that the foreman actually came over to show me some old wood where bees made a hive and honey. He explained that he and his crew were working on a two-year project to turn the old church into a residence. I can’t wait to see the house when it is completed, as he said it will have three levels!

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My day in Sag Harbor was just what I needed to escape and feel rested. If you are looking for a short day trip I would highly suggest this town. It’s a quick jaunt to the Hamptons if you are interested in shopping or if you are heading to Montauk. Aside from the traffic, parking can be a little dicey, but there are plenty of side-streets if you are willing to be slightly farther from Main Street. I am thankful for the helpful advice offered by the woman at the information center. Sag Harbor has a lot to offer visitors, and plenty of history for those inclined to take tours.

Waiting for the Weekend

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This week was an eventful one. On Wednesday Long Island received 13 inches of rain in some places, leaving many residents with water in their basements and finding their normal commute to work replaced by a 3-hour one. After Thursday’s cool temperatures this week felt more like fall than mid-August. Either way, the weekend is creeping up and I’m sure we’re all ready to let loose and relax. If you find yourself with time on your hands, I read a great article that really resonated with me and I thought I would share it.

How to Grow Old with Yourself from The Everygirl is a must-read for every 20- and 30 – something-year-old woman. I appreciated the advice offered of accepting your failures, learning to forgive yourself and others, and doing what makes you happy. The notion of having a “road map” after college hit home for me. I always thought I had my life figured out: When I was in high school I was set on the idea of becoming a veterinarian. I loved animals and grew up with horses and cats. It wasn’t until I acknowledged that years of math and science classes were not for me that I shifted my focus. After two years of college and a major in political science, I began researching law schools. For my remaining college years, I studied for the LSATs and took as many pre-law classes as I could. Then came graduation and I felt completely lost. I wasn’t sure where I was going to live, what kind of job I wanted, or even how to start answering these questions. I felt scattered and the only thing I knew for certain was that time off from school was best for me.

Five years out, the future is still a bit hazy, but for the first time I can begin to see the picture a little clearer. I no longer obsess over trying to connect the dots on the map. I concentrate more on learning something new everyday, finding my passions in life and being content with the life I have. So I didn’t go back and pursue my masters like I had thought I would. So I’m not adjuncting political science classes at a community college. I’m okay with all of that. The longer I am out of school, the easier it has become to see that I don’t need to have all the answers in the first few years of life in the real world. A lot of what I have learned about life and careers has been obtained through trial and error. Upon graduation I took a position in fundraising and quickly realized that this was not the field for me. Even though this was not the career I was looking for, I learned invaluable lessons about raising money, networking and making connections. Learning from my mistakes has had beneficial consequences as well. After beginning a new job that I thought was a better opportunity, it proved not to be. I had left a stable job to take a risk and found myself unhappy and with nothing to fall back on. This experience taught me the importance of saving money for a rainy day and having a back-up plan. I always looked at my twenties as the time to make mistakes, learn from them, try new and different things and establish myself.

If I could offer advice to my younger self, I would say forget about the road map and just live your life. I think the best moments in life are the ones that aren’t planned, but just come naturally.

Happy Friday!

What’s in My Bag

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My make-up bag is a vital part of my existence. It is one of the first things I reach for in the morning and is a large part of my daily routine. So what’s in my bag of tricks, you might ask?

I’ve never been an exclusive brand buyer. I’ve used a slew of products from different companies at one time or another — from high-end to drugstore brands — but all that changed this past February when I was introduced to Stila. As I mentioned in my first make-up post, I have rather temperamental skin (if you missed the post, catch it here). Over the years, I would use one product and get great results, only to be searching for something else a few short months later because it began to irritate my skin.

My beloved bag now includes exclusively Stila products, which agree with my skin, afford a natural look with good coverage, and last all day. I love their liquid foundation and loose powder as much as their shadows, liners and lipsticks. My most recent purchase was their Mile High Lashes mascara. It should come as no surprise – I am now a huge fan! Although $25 for mascara is more than I would typically spend (mascara was the only part of my make-up regimen that was not from Stila’s line), the enticing sale in which the mascara came with a free smudge stick in Stingray (black) was too good to pass up.

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The other day my package from Stila arrived at the front door, wrapped in pink tissue paper. I was so excited to try my new mascara. The one thing that makes this product stand out is the brush. Of all the mascaras I have used, this is one of the more nicely made, sturdier brushes. While combing, the brush maximizes volume and prevents clumping. Each lash receives a generous coating of mascara without feeling heavy and weighed down. And if you haven’t tried using smudge sticks to line your eyes, let me just say they are great. I have been using eyeliner since high school and have tried everything from liquid liners to pencils to eye shadow with a thin brush. The smudge stick is the perfect blend of all three, and it is easy to apply.

Overall, I am very happy with the new additions I have added to my Stila family. And just in case you were wondering – no, this is not a sponsored post, but Stila, if you are reading, keep up the good work and make more products for me (and my skin!) to love!

Looks from The Loft

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This is about the time in the summer when I start to note fall trends. Before the summer officially comes to a close I will browse a few of my favorite stores and add to my already brimming closet. I don’t need much, but infusing some new colors and patterns can make an old wardrobe seem fresh and new again.

Even though I really shouldn’t purchase any more dresses (my last job was working in fundraising for a law school where I attended lots of events that required professional attire – needless to say, I have amassed quite the collection), I just can’t help myself when I find great dresses that can transfer from season to season. Case in point: over the weekend I found myself stopping in at The Loft. I told myself it was only to check out the sale section, but I have no self-restraint. Within minutes I was surveying the petite section, arms full of clothing that I deemed worthy to make it to the dressing room stage. My eyes were immediately drawn to a new color and style for me – a golden mustard floral piped shirtdress. I loved the unique color, light texture and collared look. Did I mention it has long sleeves? It is perfect for a cool fall day at the office and could easily be paired with tights. A few more purchases like this and I will be ready for fall, and maybe not so sad to say good-bye to summer!

And of course, the whole reason for my trip in the first place, and the final stop on my browsing tour – the sale section. On the first rack, I spotted an adorable romper. I’ve been kind of late to adopt this trend, but after this purchase I think I am hooked. This coral-striped spaghetti-strap romper is perfect for the final days of summer. It’s so comfortable and can be dressed up with a pair of wedges or worn with flats for a more casual look (I might even wear it out to The Hampton Classic!). The best part – it was 50% off the original price. If they had it in other colors, I would have come home with more than one.

Waiting for the Weekend

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It isn’t often that I treat myself to a self-imposed three-day weekend. But since I feel like I got gypped in July, by working during the nice weather, I am taking full advantage of the forecast for the next few days. Soon the fall will roll around and days at the beach, by the pool and in the sun will slip away. Even though it feels like August just began (which it did last Friday), next week is already the middle of the month, and although I’m excited that the Hampton Classic Horse Show is now a mere 17 days away, it also means we all need to hurry up and get in one last hoorah (vacation or staycation, anyone?). I know my August is turning out to be much busier than I had planned and trying to squeeze in some time away has proven difficult.

In an effort to delay summer’s departure, and feel like I soaked up its full effects, perhaps I could devote the remaining weekends solely to resting, rejuvenating and relaxing. But even that regimen might not provide the respite I seek. Before I know it, Sunday evening would arrive and I’d be gearing up for another hectic workweek.

There might be a solution to this quandary. I read a great post this past week on Camille Styles’ blog about looking forward to Mondays. It was just what I needed to help me shift my perspective. I have always dreaded the day, which begins with the “tyranny of the inbox.” My strategy has been to insert some fun activity, like yoga, mid-week to make the remaining days more palatable until the weekend arrives.

But how about this approach: Rather than simply trying to cram everything into two days, why not incorporate weekend activities into the week? Granted, I won’t be at the beach on a workday, but adding something enjoyable, like lunch with a friend, to my stale Monday routine may be the perfect solution to dull the reality that I only have four precious summer weekends left. Since I don’t want the summer to go any faster, I am making a conscious effort to improve the way I start my week.

Happy Friday!

Six Things I’ve Learned in Six Months of Blogging

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I started my blog in mid-February 2014 and it has now been about six months since its inception. If you’ve glanced at my ‘About’ page, you may have read that I started the blog after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer and recovering from surgery. Mainly I saw it as a creative outlet and a way for me to find my voice. I have learned a lot in the six short months since I’ve begun the process – some things about blogging and social media in general and other things about myself. I am grateful for all of the people who have visited my blog, commented on my posts, and offered me encouraging advice along the way. Since this is my first blog and foray into the social media landscape, I am glad to have found a community that is so gracious and willing to help out a newbie.

1. Blogging is a Community: And a strong one at that! I have enjoyed following other bloggers and commenting on their posts. Some blogs have become like a morning ritual and my day just can’t start until I’ve seen what they’re doing. I am indebted to a couple of bloggers who took the time to answer my unsolicited emails asking for guidance {a special thanks to Jessi Afshin of The Darling Detail (http://www.thedarlingdetail.com) and Justine Lorelle LoMonaco of Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One (http://stopmeifyouveheardthisone.com)}. For anyone thinking of starting a blog, or just needing to ask a few questions, bloggers out there will help you, so don’t be afraid to reach out. Overall, it has been really nice to read people’s comments and connect with people I otherwise would never have known…even if it is only through their blogs.

2. Social Media is Critical: Okay, this should come as no surprise to most, but I must admit that I was a late-bloomer when it came to social media. I have had a Facebook page for less than a week now. I never really saw a need for social media in my daily life until starting my blog. I am surprised by how much I have enjoyed Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest so far. I look at it as an extension of the blogging community.

3. You Don’t Always Need to Have Something to Post About: When I began the blogging process I was afraid I would run out of things to write about. There have been days where I have struggled to put pen to paper — or fingers to keypad– but sometimes those are the days where I just want to be honest with my readers and write what I am thinking/learning/trying to accomplish in my life.

4. Read Everything You Can About Blogging, Social Media and Branding: If you are new to blogging, like me, just setting up your blog can seem daunting (thankfully, WordPress makes it virtually painless and offers plenty of support). Then came all the social media platforms and I was overwhelmed. I decided to tackle one at a time. I began with an Instagram account, then Twitter and Pinterest and finally Facebook. I have found invaluable links on Twitter regarding establishing your brand, making your content stand out, and building an Instagram following.

5. Find Your Voice: In the beginning it was challenging to be personal in such an impersonal way – over the internet. Not knowing my audience was like throwing paint on the wall and hoping it would stick. It wasn’t until I began writing about my thyroid cancer diagnosis, which was difficult but cathartic, that the process became easier for me. My suggestion is just to start writing and to write for yourself – as if nobody is reading your posts. Over time, it becomes easier to develop your own tone and to know what works for your blog and what doesn’t.

6. Tag Your Posts: I started tagging my posts early on, but attaching a few key words can help improve you viewership by allowing search engines to categorize your content better. I try to use words that convey the message of my post, establishments if they are mentioned repeatedly, or categories such as lifestyle, beauty, health, fitness, and wellness.

These are just a few things I have learned along the way. Most importantly, I think it is vital to enjoy the creative space you have and the process of developing content.

What advice would you give a new blogger? How did you get started with your blog?

Battle of the Burger

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I have been so excited for Long Island’s Second Annual Battle of the Burger. First, I love burgers and second, I love getting to try burgers from ten different restaurants all in one place. What’s better than that? The event is hosted by Long Island Pulse Magazine and originally began with 80 restaurants being nominated. Online voting opened on May 1st and ended June 15th with the top ten finalists being featured at the Shorefront Park in Patchogue on August 3rd for live voting and a chance to be the Burger Champion.

I made a conscious decision to limit my food intake during the day and arrive at the event ready to try as many burgers as possible. First up on my list was GM Burger Bar. My parents and I used to frequent The Original George Martin restaurant in Rockville Centre when we lived in Oceanside. As a child, I enjoyed special occasions and get-togethers at George Martin’s. To this day, that restaurant is still associated with many happy memories for me, and of course, good food. I occasionally make the trek into Nassau County to spend my birthday at George Martin’s, and it is always a real treat. I flipped over George Martin’s latest restaurant, GM Burger Bar. Although I have never been to its brick and mortar location, its representation at this year’s Battle of the Burger left me with a strong desire to try out their full menu. The burger itself was delicious, although it had a spicy kick to it.

Here are the seven restaurants I tried at this year’s Battle of the Burger:

1. GM Burger Bar: Excellent burger with a kick.

2. Park Lounge: This was a good burger. It had chopped bacon in the meat.

3. Gator Blue: Served on thick bread instead of a bun.

4. Perabell Food Bar: A bit too rare for my taste.

5. Faradays of Smithtown: Burger had pulled pork and tortillas on it.

6. Brownstone Brewing Company: Had pulled pork on the burger.

7. Duffy’s Ale House: Good burger and fresh buns. Served with French fries.

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I wish I could have sampled burgers from the last three restaurants, but I was too full (sorry Rudi’s Bar and Grill, Shennanigans Cafe and O’Reilly’s Restaurant and Pub). Aside from the ample samples, Keurig Brewing Company was there with coffee, tea and raspberry flavored K-cups to try. After a few burgers, the raspberry K-cups were very refreshing.

Overall, GM Burger Bar got my vote – and apparently many others – because they earned the title of Long Island’s Best Burger for 2014. Congratulations on a job well done!

If you are thinking of attending the Battle of the Burger next year, here are a few things to keep in mind:

- Wear comfortable shoes: It’s an outside venue and you are standing a lot.

- Be prepared to wait in line: This isn’t as bad as it sounds. Although some of the restaurants have long lines (the average wait was about ten minutes), it served as a good way to break up the eating and whet your palette for more.

- Dress casually: I found it somewhat challenging to hold a drink and burger and avoid people bumping into me all while standing and trying to eat.

- Portions: Each restaurant gives you about a quarter of a burger.

Thanks to Long Island Pulse Magazine for hosting the event, and all the restaurants who participated. Everyone worked very hard to ensure the event was a success, especially the chefs and servers preparing the food and keeping the patrons enjoying good burgers!

Remembering a Friend

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Today would have been my friend Gaelle Spence’s birthday. I know she would have wanted to spend the day celebrating in the company of friends and caring for her beloved horse, Flirt.

Seven months ago, Gaelle passed away suddenly. I received the news on Christmas Eve after returning home from a holiday dinner. Reading the words was excruciating — the pain prevented me from comprehending the meaning. My eyes flooded with tears and my heart sank – all I could do was sob for the rest of the evening and the coming days. Gaelle was the first friend I had lost and I came to understand the rush of emotions that occur in a time of grief.

I met Gaelle at the barn ten years earlier. She was an avid equestrian who enjoyed immersing herself in the sport and acquiring as much knowledge as possible…about everything. She was incredibly intelligent (dare I say brilliant – she was a member of MENSA), gregarious and compassionate. She was also a kind soul who loved animals and a reliable friend. I was lucky to have her be a constant presence in my life, and I was looking forward to many more years together with her.

We became close during my gap year after high school. I was unsure of where I was headed with my education, and Gaelle became a trusted confidante for all of my thoughts, fears, and doubts. She encouraged me to pursue an education regardless of my indecisiveness and assured me that I would eventually find my stride. She was right – after two years at Dowling College, earning mostly A’s, my confidence grew and for the first time I enjoyed school and was excited about my courses. When I was accepted as a transfer student to American University in Washington, D.C. Gaelle was cheering me on.

On May 9, 2009 I walked across the stage on Graduation Day to receive my diploma and I thought of Gaelle. I knew she was proud of me, but I was even prouder of myself. She taught me throughout the years always to believe in myself, never to stop learning and most importantly, never to let fear stand in my way.

I miss our long (and sometimes spontaneous) dinners at our favorite restaurant. We would spend hours at Umberto’s in Huntington talking about everything and anything. The night always ended with Gaelle ordering a cannoli for me for dessert! I miss calling her in the middle of the day to check in, and I certainly miss stopping at the barn with her and watching her fuss over her horse.

I am thankful to have had Gaelle as a friend. Whenever I met her, I always learned something new, or left on a mission to acquire a new skill (like taking an HTML class). Gaelle frequently encouraged me to nurture my creative side, and I talked to her about my interest in starting a blog after recovering from thyroid surgery. Even though she never got to read any of my posts, I hope she would be proud that I have found my voice.

If I have learned one thing in these past seven months it is this: Never put off telling someone how you feel about them. I regret never expressing to Gaelle how much she changed the direction of my life, how grateful I was for our friendship and how much I appreciated that she supported my endeavors.

Gaelle was a happy, positive person with a wonderful sense of humor, and I know that on her birthday she would want her friends to remember the good times they had with her. So today, I am thinking about all of our adventures and conversations with a heavy heart and a smile.