The February Agenda

The February Agenda

Does anyone else feel like January was a trial month for all those New Year’s goals and resolutions? If you didn’t quite hit your mark last month, let’s make February the one that counts. I’ve managed to avoid crawling back to my overly-caffeinated ways (oh, how I miss thee, White Chocolate Mocha) and for the most part, I’ve kept up with my fitness goals. I even tried something new — glowga!

Try: I have been consumed with finding the Brilliant Brunette Visibly Brighter products from John Frieda’s new line. And wouldn’t you know, just as I publish a post lamenting how long it has taken to find all three products in one Target store, the very next day the Visibly Brighter shampoo and conditioner arrive at my doorstep. How’s that for timing! Look for another post with before and after pictures to hit the blog soon.

See: Last month I got my wish and saw snow…a little too much snow. And it looks like more is on the way. But this indecisive weather, where one days it’s warm and then the next it’s in the 30’s, has gotten old. Is it too much to ask to have normal February temps?

Go: Since Valentine’s Day is not too far off, I think a visit to Chocology Unlimited in Port Jefferson, New York is in order. You can read my post about their mouth-watering fudge here. It’s the perfect spot for chocoholics to get their fix on (you know where to find me from here on out), and to find something sweet for your sweetie. If you aren’t local, visit their site and order online — you can thank me later!

Do: More glowga! With any luck, Lululemon will host another class soon. In the meantime, I am on the hunt for a studio that offers glow-in-the-dark yoga. It was so much fun that it really didn’t feel like a workout — although my body got worked out.

What’s on your agenda this month?

Stealing the Spotlight: John Frieda Brilliant Brunette Visibly Brighter

John Frieda Brilliant Brunette Visibly Brighter

I’ve been wanting to swap my dark brown locks out for those lighter chestnut ones I had back when I was a kid for some time. And with John Frieda’s Brilliant Brunette Visibly Brighter Shampoo, Conditioner, and In-Shower Lightening Treatment here’s hoping I can.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have yet to try any of the products from this new line, but I have been using John Frieda’s Brilliant Brunette Liquid Shine Illuminating Shampoo and Conditioner for years with great results. I first learned of the Visibly Brighter line from a post on Gold Coast Girl and knew it was something I needed to try.

I ran to Target (the only place that carries the line, as far as I could tell) to swoop the trio up, but almost immediately ran into a snag — they were sold out. For the last week I’ve been stopping at every Target I could find (sometimes multiple times), but had no luck getting my hands on these products. I even invoked the help of out-of-state friends and family, hoping that somewhere a Target would be fully stocked with the line (thanks, Mom, for coming through).

Finally, I broke down and decided to order the products online. Still no luck. The shampoo and conditioner will be arriving at separate times, and the in-shower treatment is back-ordered and will be available sometime between the end of February and mid-March.

Then, just the other day, I found one box of the in-shower treatment on the shelf at my local Target. But the shampoo and conditioner were nowhere to be found.

With any luck there is a direct link between the products’ being sold-out and their ability to lighten hair one full shade as advertised.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post with before and after photos. And if you’re interested in purchasing products from this line (and can find them), Target is offering a $5 gift card when you buy all three.

Glow with the Flow

Glow with the Flow Hosted By Lululemon Huntington

Imagine walking into a dark room. Light is coming from people as they move around. You see flashes of bright colors — lines, dots, a feather. This isn’t the trailer for a new Sci-Fi movie. This is glowga.

On Sunday night, I attended a complimentary glow-in-the-dark yoga class hosted by Lululemon in Huntington Station — and now I may never be able to do yoga in a regular studio again. It was that much fun.

Glow with the Flow Hosted By Lululemon Huntington

What is glowga, you ask? As the name implies, there is some glowing involved, and of course, yoga. Lululemon did an incredible job of converting their retail space in the Walt Whitman Mall into a swanky studio. Black lights and glow sticks filled the room, alongside yogini’s ready to get their glow on. If the idea of practicing yoga in the dark didn’t illuminate you, Lululemon had people there to make sure you got your flow on in style. Yes, glow-in-the-dark body paint was involved.

Glow with the Flow Hosted By Lululemon Huntington

Glow with the Flow Hosted By Lululemon Huntington

Somehow a dark room full of painted strangers, all there to enjoy the Om, felt luminous, bright, and inviting. After everyone had been painted (which was amazing to watch as the creations and fun designs came to light — literally), we were ready to begin our practice.

Glow with the Flow Hosted By Lululemon Huntington

Jen, the store manager, taught the class and provided a great playlist for us as we began to become one with our breath. This 45-minute restorative yoga practice was just what my mind and body needed after being sore from my kickboxing class the day before. The darker setting comprised of black lights and body paint created a mood that is hard to replicate in more traditional yoga classes. I instantly found it easier to relax in the environment and focus on my body and poses.

Glow with the Flow Hosted By Lululemon Huntington

When the class came to an end, it was time for a bit of private shopping at this after-hours event. If you are not familiar with Lululemon’s athletic wear, you can browse it here. Warning: browsing may result in an addiction to athletic clothes, which will require you to purchase every piece that Lululemon makes. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Glow with the Flow Hosted By Lululemon Huntington

Jen was kind enough to give all of us an early Valentine’s Day present — a complimentary piece from Lululemon. Yes, that’s right. Not only did I get my glow on, and was actually glowing with body paint, but I came home with a new piece of athletic wear. I can’t wait to sport it in my kickboxing class and next yoga practice — but it will also be debuting on the blog soon, so stay tuned.

I have a special fondness for Lululemon. After I underwent my thyroidectomy in 2013, I attended the Summer Solstice yoga class, which was hosted by the Huntington store — and was immediately hooked on yoga. It was the first yoga class I had taken in many years, so I credit Lululemon with helping me to appreciate the practice. I know it did wonders for my neck mobility after surgery, too.

Glow with the Flow Hosted By Lululemon Huntington

If you have a Lululemon in your area, be sure to check their site for exciting community events. My local store offers free yoga classes every Sunday, which is a great way to get your practice in and meet new people.

A big thank you to Jen and the entire Lululemon Huntington team! This was an incredible event and you all worked so hard to make it perfect.

Visit their Facebook page for more photos from the evening!

Sunset Snaps

If you couldn’t tell from the amount of sunset shots on my Instagram, I may have an addiction. The best part about the Winter months are the rich and bold colors of the evening sky. And while the weather seems to be staying warmer than usual, I’ve decided to capture all of the amazing sunsets I can before Spring arrives. I hope you enjoy these shots as much as I do!

Here are a few of my favorites:

Long Island Sunset

Long Island Sunset

Long Island Sunset

Monday Mantra: Worry Less, Live More

Sunset

It seems like there is always something to worry about in life, right? Just thinking about the days, weeks, and months ahead can stress us out. Will I get stuck in traffic tomorrow and be late to a meeting with my boss? What if I don’t get a good performance review in six months and am passed up for that promotion? Will I be healthy next year? These are all questions that we can’t possibly have the answer to right now. But they can consume our waking hours — if we let them.

I’ve long struggled to keep my anxiety at bay. It is tough. Anxiety tends to make you worry about things that are out of your control. I’ve worked hard in recent years to make sure that I controlled my anxiety and that it didn’t control me. But there are those moments when I find my mind wandering to all kinds of crazy scenarios.

Back when I had a 9-to-5 job I would welcome the “Sunday scaries” as each weekend commenced. Once the sun went down on Sunday, my mind would race and my chest would start to feel tight. All of the anxiety — the “what-if” scenarios — things that may or may not happen in the upcoming week would flood my mind. Rather than learn to live like that, I thought how could I change my mindset?

Here are a few ways I’ve learned to worry less and live more:

Embrace the “it is what it is” mantra: This line used to irritate me years back. What the heck does it mean? It tells me nothing. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to understand and appreciate it more. Whatever you are feeling in whichever situation you should find yourself in — acknowledge that it is temporary. Then take a step back and examine how to fix, remedy, or negate the situation based on what the best possible outcome would be. Coming to terms with the fact that the situation is or has occurred — and you cannot change that — can help you begin to approach a solution.

Practice mindfulness (and yoga): I can vouch for the restorative benefits of yoga. When I find my mind wandering before bed (because that always happens), I lie in corpse pose and focus on my breathing — nothing else. At that moment, breathing is the most important (and only) thing on my mind. As you focus on your breath and your chest rising and falling, your body and mind begin to quiet. I practiced yoga with a teacher who offered the most soothing meditation at the end of class. Her voice alone could put me in an almost trance-like sleep. I took so many classes with her that I memorized the meditation she used to do with us. Now, when I have difficulty falling asleep, I replay that meditation in my head until I feel calm and relaxed.

Talk to friends and family: Talking about what’s on your mind is a great way to get something off your chest, feel better, and get an outside opinion about a situation. I’ve been fortunate to have a few older and wiser advice gurus in my life. They’re the ones I go to when I need a sounding board, someone who knows more than I do, or just someone to listen to me and hear my fears.

Utilize the power of exercise to your advantage: When you’re really stressed out about something you will feel better after a workout. Exercising releases endorphins that can have a positive effect on your mood and outlook. So the next time you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed, hit the gym, go for a run, or take a fitness class. Kickboxing does wonders for me!

Although worrying is a part of life, worrying less is something that we all should strive for. The next time you feel like your worrying ways are getting the better of you, ask yourself the following:

– Can you do anything about it?
– Will worrying change it?

If the answer to these questions is ‘no,’ then focus more on yourself and what you can do in the present moment to prevent yourself from worrying.

How do you calm your mind? I’d love to hear your tips!

Nibbling on Nuts (and Other Healthy Snacks)

Healthy Snacks

In the past, I’ve posted a lot about my love of all things sweet. To keep with this year’s goal of focusing more on my health, I realized that I needed to make significant changes in my diet.

I have given up those decadent White Chocolate Mochas from Starbucks (it’s been 23 days since my last sip. But who’s counting?!), swore off those sugary Reese’s (for now), and imposed a moratorium on baking.

But what’s a girl to do when she needs something sweet? When Nuts.com asked me about healthy snacks, I knew this would be the perfect project to keep me working towards my goal and to let all of you in on satisfying treats that won’t leave you guilt-ridden after you eat them.

Nuts.com is a family-owned business that brings nuts, dried fruits, and healthy snacks right to your door. You can’t ask for anything better when you are trying to be health-conscious and pressed for time. One quick look at their website will leave your mouth watering — from chocolate-covered pretzels and custom trail mixes to Goji berries and mulberries. Nuts.com won’t make you nuts when it comes to snacking. Check out their healthy snacks page for more of their offerings.

When I’m in need of a snack, here’s what I reach for:

Trader Joe’s Rolled Oats and Peanut Butter Fiberful Granola Bar: When I crave a candy bar, but know I shouldn’t, I eat one (or two) of these instead. I swear, these bars taste way more sinful than they are. Rich and chewy, they contain 9 grams of fiber and only 6 grams of sugar, so go ahead and indulge your sweet tooth.

High Valley Orchard Spiced Pumpkin Brittle: Pumpkin season may be over, but that won’t stop me from snacking on my favorite flavor — in January. Thankfully, High Valley Orchard had me in mind with this spiced pumpkin brittle. These sweet and crunchy pieces are the perfect pick-me-up when I need an afternoon sugar rush.

Power Crunch Protein Energy Bar: At first bite, you may think this is a Kit Kat bar. These French vanilla wafers have 14 grams of protein and 5 grams of sugar — but you would never know that based on its taste. These bars come in multiple flavors, including chocolate and peanut butter, and each one tastes better than the last.

KIND Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Pecan Bar: With 7 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein, these crunchy bars provide just the right amount of sweetness. They contain 5 grams of sugar and are all natural and non GMO, gluten free, and have no trans fats. KIND bars come in plenty of flavors and are great to keep in your desk at work, car, and in all of your bags.

Zing Nutrition Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar: If you like more traditional nutrition bars, then this one is for you. It contains 13 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, plus it’s gluten free. Just half of this bar will keep you full all day!

Walnuts: Don’t forget about those nuts! I love to throw walnuts in my oatmeal for breakfast or bring them along with me to snack on throughout the day.

Still need more healthy snack ideas? Nuts.com created a handy chart to reference the next time you’re facing a snacking dilemma. And don’t forget to check out some of the healthy snacks at Nuts.com.

Healthy Snack Hacks - Nuts.com

What are some of your favorite healthy snacks?

How to Make Your Instagram Images Stand Out

Landscape Photography

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I love photography — especially landscape photography. I took photography classes in high school (fun side note, my teacher’s sister-in-law was actually a famous photographer!), where I learned the basics of photography, such as how to do the following: make contact sheets, dodge and burn for contrast, and develop my own film and photos. Of course, this was all in the days before the iPhone (and selfies!). So it’s no surprise that Instagram has become my favorite social media platform. As much as I like to snap and post photos, I also enjoy following professional photographers, including a few with National Geographic and plenty of food and commercial photographers. I intend to create a separate post soon with some of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow.

But the more familiar I’ve gotten with Instagram, the more I have learned about what makes a good Instagram photo — and my photos themselves have improved. When I first created an account, I wasn’t even using hashtags (#gasp). I remember asking my former college roommate how you come up with good hashtags — and feeling confused and overwhelmed each time I posted.

More than a year later, I’m still learning about the platform as I go along, but here are some tips:

Use filters: When I first joined Instagram, I was completely against the use of filters. I still have a love-hate relationship with them, but I can appreciate their value with certain images.

Change up your filters: I’ve heard people say that you should be consistent with your filter use. I’m not one of them. While I understand it’s a good way to make your Instagram account seem cohesive, I tend to alternate my filters depending on what I’m trying to highlight in the image. Some of my favorite filters are Ludwig, Amaro, X-Pro II, and Lo-Fi.

Instagram Tips - Manual Settings

{Manual Mode: Before and After}

Play with manual settings: Don’t see a filter that works for you? Try adjusting the contrast, brightness, saturation, warmth, and highlights manually. This is a great option if you want to have more control over the appearance of the final image. I’ve been adjusting these settings lately, and while it may take more time before you can hit post, the finished product will be well worth it!

No Filter

{#NoFilterNeeded}

#NoFilter, #NoProblem: You’re probably thinking “didn’t she just tell me to use filters?” You’re right. I did. But sometimes the natural beauty of an image can be overshadowed with filters and manipulation. And when that happens, I choose to tag my image #nofilter or #nofilterneeded to let the photo speak for itself. The shot above is one of my favorites. It was taken during a photo shoot on the beach last March (in 46-degree weather). I love how the colors all seem to blend together and resemble more of a painting than a photograph. When it came time to post it to Instagram, I couldn’t justify using a filter. So I didn’t.

What do you think makes a successful Insta-snap? I’d love to hear some of your Instagram tips!

Ear Candy

Ear Candy

If there is one trend I’ve been loving (and need to adopt ASAP), it’s the ear jacket. I’m partial to dainty studs, but a jacket or cuff can dress up any ear, and instantly creates an edgy vibe. I have yet to find an ear jacket from BaubleBar that I can resist (many options are sitting in my online shopping cart awaiting the final verdict). If bling is your thing, the Phoenix Wing Ear Cuff in gray is a glamorous option. But for those who are melting over marble, the Organic Fringe Ear Jacket and the Oz Ear Jacket may be just what you need. I’ve been swooning over the Ivy Ear Cuff Set and will have to hit purchase soon!

How do you feel about ear cuffs and jackets?

After the Storm

I promise. I will stop posting photos from our recent snowstorm — soon. In the meantime, please bear with me. Now that all of the hard work is done (aka digging out), the roads cleared, and I’ve escaped my house for a few hours, I thought it would be nice to admire the beauty of the great outdoors after the storm. With any luck, rising temperatures later in the week will melt much of the snow — and these photos will be a distant memory.

Winter Storm Jonas

{How a blogger survives a snowstorm}

Winter Storm Jonas

{Getting snowed in is better with Starbucks hot cocoa}

Winter Storm Jonas

{Snow Covered}

Winter Storm Jonas

{How much snow did we get?}

Winter Storm Jonas

{My first outing after the storm}

Winter Storm Jonas

Winter Storm Jonas

Whether you refer to the storm over the weekend as Storm Jonas, Blizzard Jonas, or if you thought everyone was talking about a Jonas brother for the last few days, it was a doozy. I was prepared for the estimated 4-8 inches Long Island was set to receive (or 6-12 inches, depending on the station you listen to). But not the 20-something we got in reality. I find staying in during a snowstorm similar to going for blood work — minus getting pricked with a needle. Did you ever notice how you are able to go hours without food, except when a doctor tells you to fast? Well, for me, that’s how I am in a snowstorm. I never mind staying in and relaxing for a day — except when it is imposed on me and I can’t get out of the house at all due to a foot of snow blocking my exit. Then cabin fever begins to set in after a few short hours.

My preparations began on Friday — a little later than I had planned. I went to Trader Joe’s around 11 am, expecting to find empty shelves. What I found instead was a civilized store — shoppers patiently waiting at the check-out lines and shelves that were fully stocked. Actually, the only thing they were out of was chocolate scones (#whyyyyyy). With a wagon full of goodies, I mean plenty of food to get me through the storm, I deemed this outing a success. The last stop was a fill-up at the gas station, and then I was ready to hunker down and wait for the snow.

As Friday evening approached, I felt like a little kid on Christmas Eve awaiting Santa. I paced by the windows hoping to see the first flake. By the time I went to bed there was still nothing.

Around 4 am on Saturday I was awoken by the relentless wind that sounded like a freight train hitting the house.

Winter Storm Jonas

The morning light was not quite out yet and the backyard had a coating of snow that I could barely make out in the darkness. I’m usually not awake this early in the morning, but it was enjoyable to watch as the snow got heavier with each passing moment. By 8 am the storm seemed to be in full force. It was steadier, and brought along blizzard-like conditions. I watched the landscape change dramatically in the four hours since I awoke. There was an eeriness to this storm, and it brought back memories of Hurricane Sandy with its ruthless winds.

The snow and wind continued all morning. I made a break for it around 2 pm, when my cabin fever started to kick in. I opened the side door and was forced to slither through a small opening thanks to the snow drift that was leaning against my exit. A brief survey of the yard resulted in finding myself in knee-deep snow. The cold and biting wind made staying out for more than a few minutes feel like torture. I quickly retreated into the house and back into my pajamas…where I would stay until the next day.

By 4 pm on Saturday I was praying to the Snow Gods to make it stop. I was over the storm and not even a Kardashian marathon on E! could make the conditions palatable. I watched as the snow fell through the evening and wondered if it would ever stop.

In the morning I was woken by a different sound than the day before — that of people and snowblowers. The sun greeted me as I was roused from bed. It was a welcome sight.

Winter Storm Jonas

Winter Storm Jonas

After breakfast I ventured outside. The side door was now in a frozen state, requiring force to pry open. The snow drifts were large, and it was difficult to see just how deep the snow was. I made it out and was immediately swallowed up by the soft powder. Waist-deep, I stood up and tried to make my way like a gazelle. The backyard was blanketed under thick snow. Not even the birds and squirrels were out.

Winter Storm Jonas

Despite having all of the creature comforts at home and a fully stocked kitchen — complete with Starbucks hot chocolate packets and treats from Dunkin Donuts, I have never been happier to have a plowed driveway and warmer temperatures on the horizon.

But enough about me, how did you fare in the storm? Any fun blizzard stories to share? I’d love to hear them!