Month: May 2014

Lusting After Paradise

20140529-205114-75074781.jpg

I have been a Choc-o-holic for as long as I can remember, but for me the most irresistible combination is chocolate and peanut butter – think Reese’s! So when my new favorite ice cream shop created a flavor called Peanut Butter Paradise, I knew it was something I would be craving for a long time to come.

Herrell’s Ice Cream in Huntington, New York is my one-stop shop after a long day of sun at the beach. There is something about the beach and ice cream that just works for me. Maybe it’s all the time I spent at the beach as a child, followed by the Mr. Softee truck conveniently located in the parking lot. Herrell’s is in a league of its own when it comes to this tasty summer staple. They have some of the most decadent ice cream flavors (more than 200, to be exact!) I’ve ever had the privilege of trying – they even make my beloved cannoli ice cream – but the Peanut Butter Paradise is just perfection. They use rich, creamy vanilla ice cream and add in fresh peanut butter cup pieces to complete the treat. For some reason, a chilled peanut butter cup just tastes even better in my opinion. The vanilla and chocolate cups perfectly complement the sweetness of the peanut butter and satisfy my chocolate cravings for the day. And if you still need more chocolate in your ice cream to feel complete, you cannot beat the toppings that this place offers.

So if you happen to find yourself in Huntington and need a pick-me-up after a long day, I highly suggest stopping in at Herrell’s and trying one of their custom creations. Did I mention that all of their ice cream is made in the store?

Happy Weekend!

Summer Beach Essentials

20140526-220504-79504670.jpg

What better way to welcome in the official start of summer than a day at the beach! After careful planning, and much anticipation, my three-day weekend concluded with some rest and relaxation at the beach. The weather was perfect – near 80 degrees and sunny with a nice breeze to keep me comfortable for a day of fun in the sun.

I practically grew up going to the beaches in Long Beach, NY as a child, and my love for the sand and water has remained well into adulthood. I remember waiting for the weekends to arrive after a long week of school and being disappointed if the weather were not perfect. My mother and I would spend the morning packing for the day and lug beach chairs, umbrellas, and coolers across the boardwalk until we claimed our ‘spot’ on the sand.

Now that I am older, and usually don’t have too many free days to devote to laying at the beach, my essentials include:

A good beach bag: Although I am not a huge Vera Bradley fan, my friend gave me a bag as a gift last year and it has become my go-to summer tote.

Sunglasses: I never leave home without sunglasses, but my Coach ones have become my loyal sidekick! These shades were well worth the money, and they have been to many states and countries in the eight years since I purchased them.

American University beach towel: As a gift prior to transferring, AU sent me a towel over the summer and it has been to many beaches since I received it.

A good book: Right now I am reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point.

A good magazine: I love Women’s Health magazine, and usually keep a copy in my car to peruse at my leisure.

Beach cover-up: I purchased a teal summer dress from H&M last season and love it because it works at the beach, and also when running around doing errands on a hot summer day.

C Wonder flats: I was in heaven when I first found the C Wonder store in Southampton a few years back. My gold flats are the perfect summer sandals as they look great with a tan and go with everything.

Sunblock: I have been using Neutrogena’s Ultimate Sport Sunblock spray SPF 100+ for years. It’s waterproof, easy to apply, and lightweight on your skin.

Lots of water: This goes without saying, but it’s really important to stay hydrated when you’re in the sun all day!

Hope everyone had a nice Memorial Day!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Ladies of Leisure

20140522-203357-74037953.jpg

This week I was able to catch-up with my college roommate, Stephanie, during her visit to the States from Ghana. Despite our countless weekly emails, it has been about four years since we last saw each other, and so much has changed in both of our lives since our college days. She is back in her native Ghana, while I returned home to Long Island after college, and both of us have changed jobs over the years while trying to find our respective career paths.

Our day started off with a visit to Americana Manhasset (the “Miracle Mile”) in Manhasset, NY. I must admit this is one of my favorite places on Long Island! This luxury shopping center has every store you could want to browse in from Louis Vuitton to J. Crew.

After some retail therapy, we grabbed lunch at Cipollini. I had never eaten there, but while scoping out the menu, we saw a small pizza that the waitstaff brought out for another customer. We didn’t need to look any further. We ordered and shared the Margherita pizza, which was perfect – thin crust, sweet tomatoes, and rich cheese.

20140522-203614-74174440.jpg

The time passed so quickly, but we had a beautiful day of chatting and shopping!

Congratulations Stephanie and Kwesi on your engagement!

Passing the Barre

20140518-201929.jpg

Lately, I have been hearing much about the Pure Barre workout. Since my spring yoga classes have ended, and fearing that I have indulged in one-too-many chocolate croissants in the past week, I thought it was time to give this a try.

I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. I assumed a ballet barre was involved but was prepared for little else. Before the class, I visited the Pure Barre website and read about what to wear for the class: workout attire is preferred and sticky socks are recommended. I think after my many yoga classes and shopping trips to Athleta to purchase said workout attire, I had the first part of the required items covered. Sticky socks, however — I’m not sure I have ever found a need for those and therefore wouldn’t even know where to look for them.

Upon arriving at the studio, while filling out the standard waiver, I decided to ask whether I really needed the sticky socks. Since this was my first class, I was advised that regular socks would be fine, but if I continued with weekly classes I would probably want to buy a pair. For those like me who don’t have the proper socks in your closet, not to fear: you can purchase them at the Pure Barre studio for $12-15.

Now that I knew my attire would suffice, I grabbed a pair of weights, a small ball, and an elastic band for stretching before the class began. The studio was equipped with a long ballet bar facing a mirror. So far, it seemed like what I envisioned.

We began by doing simple exercises meant to get your heart rate up – squats and kicks, and then added weights to the exercises. I began to see that this was not just a ballet class! Next up we were at the ballet barre, parallel to the mirror. The exercises were getting progressively more difficult and I could feel my muscles begin to quiver a bit. We had to hold many poses and repeat movements. Lastly, we did mat work and a series of ab exercises. After 55 minutes, the class was over and I felt like every muscle in my body was invigorated.

Overall, I am glad I gave the Pure Barre craze a try, although I think I will stick to my yoga. Great workout? Sure! Relaxing? Um, I guess that depends on your definition. By the way, were you wondering why we needed sticky socks? You are working out on carpeting, so the socks prevent slipping at the bar. I can see using them, but I thought regular socks were fine. At least I’m glad I “passed the barre.”

Happy Monday!

Confessions of a “Recent” College Graduate

20140515-211401.jpg

Last week was the five-year anniversary of my graduation from college. A lot has happened in five years – I moved back to Long Island, traveled to Japan, Poland, Finland and Portugal, got my first real job working in higher education, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, found yoga, moved on to a position at a large university, lost a good friend, and began to learn the importance of finding inner peace and living in the moment.

This time of year always makes me reflect on where I was five years ago and what my future might look like. I think about all the things I wish I knew when I was still in school and about to graduate, and things that nobody could have told me because I needed to learn those lessons on my own.

I took a year off after high school and worked. At the time, I was unsure which direction I wanted to go. I planned to be a veterinarian since I was a child and was an avid equestrian, spending most of my time at the stable with my horse. After my “gap year,” I attended Dowling College, a small private liberal arts school near home. I enjoyed commuting, as it allowed me to go to school during the day, work and continue riding. My first semester was spent taking business courses, since I thought this would be the most versatile degree. After a handful of marketing and management courses, I knew in my heart that this was not the degree track for me. During my second semester I took a class entitled “Modern Political Thought,” my first political science class. I was hooked! I spent the next year and a half as a political science major, taking as many classes as I could.

After two years at Dowling, I transferred to The American University in Washington, D.C. It was an adjustment at first – living in a city, making new friends, and being at a larger school, but I was ready for a change and wouldn’t trade a day of it. My roommate my first semester is still a good friend today and has been a constant presence in my life, despite living in Ghana.

At American, I continued with my major in Political Science and added a concentration in Justice, Law, and Society. Intending to go to law school, I never gave much thought to what I would do with the degree if I did not pursue my graduate education.

I graduated on May 9, 2009 with my degree in hand (Former Congressman Barney Frank was the commencement speaker), but I was ready to take a break from school. I had skipped my high school graduation years earlier, but found it necessary to attend this milestone. I remember walking across the stage to accept my degree, and it was like crossing the finish line at a marathon – four years of hard work, countless papers written, hours of studying and prepping for exams were all over. Now the hard work truly begins – although I did not know how true that statement was then.

Once I moved out of my D.C. apartment and was back on Long Island, the excitement from graduation wore off. The next challenge was finding not just a job, but a career. I had decided to take at least one year off before pursuing law school, but one year quickly became two, then three.

My first real job was in fundraising at a local law school, where I got a firsthand look at the life of a law student. The more time I was out of school and working, the more I began thinking of what I wanted my work-life balance to be. I was okay with another three years of grueling school work, and in some ways the idea of law school still intrigues me, but the reality is that being a lawyer is not the kind of lifestyle I could see myself having long term.

Four years after graduating from college, and three years after embarking on a career in higher education, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I took a respite from making any further major life decisions regarding my own pursuit of a graduate degree. For six months, I researched everything I possibly could about surgery and treatment options, saw countless doctors, and prepared myself emotionally and physically for life as a cancer survivor. It was the first time in my life that I was not panicked about future decisions and did not dwell on past mistakes. I simply wanted my health back.

After recovering from surgery with a renewed outlook, I accepted a position at a university. It felt like the first step towards regaining control of my life. I have now been in my ‘new’ job for nine months.

What have I learned since graduating?
Well, to put it simply, a lot. These last five years have taught me that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and my life will not be either. I try not to worry so much anymore about what will happen next year, or the year after that, because I don’t have a crystal ball and can’t predict the future. I live each day thinking about the good I can do that day, not what I forgot to do yesterday or have yet to tackle. The most important thing I have learned about life is that without your health, you have nothing.

What advice would I give a college student?
-Major in what you love, but have a back-up plan
-Find a mentor – I am so grateful to the professors I met along the way who helped me find my path
-Don’t bury yourself in student loans – you have to pay them back, and as Suze Orman warns, they are not dischargeable in bankruptcy
-As hard as you think you have worked in college, get ready for even more hard work
-Your degree does not guarantee you a living, you have to create that yourself

What advice did my former roommate, friend, and fellow American University graduate, Stephanie offer?
– Be prepared to learn anything; ninety percent of the time, your job/career will have nothing to do with what you studied.
– Spend time learning to be a confident person. Not loud, but confident or seemingly so. It goes a long way.

Most importantly, enjoy your college years. You are not there just to earn a degree, but to learn a few life lessons along the way!

Congratulations to all the 2014 graduates, and best of luck in your future endeavors!

Crushing on Coral

20140511-203934.jpg

This season I am into bold colors. Although my weekday wear often assumes more muted tones, I have made a conscious effort this spring to buy practical yet colorful statement pieces.

One of my favorite boutiques in Huntington, New York, Vine & Roses, was a natural first stop for my latest obsession. I have purchased plenty of pieces from them in the past, and what I love most is how unique their selection is. I always know that whatever I end up buying is one-of-a-kind, and I’m not likely to wear it somewhere and run into someone with the same outfit.

This trip was no exception. The first dress I spotted was exactly what my heart desired – a light coral, cocktail length dress, with beautiful embroidery that is perfect for a summer party, yet sophisticated enough to double as office attire.

20140511-220028.jpg

20140511-204710.jpg

{Vine & Roses dress, Michael Kors shoes, Loft earrings, Stila stay all day liquid lipstick (Carina) & OPI Hot & Spicy nail polish}

Waiting for the Weekend

20140508-202359.jpg

As another weekend approaches, I thought I would share some highlights from last weekend…

First off, it is perfectly acceptable to still be reminiscing about the excitement of last weekend. Not only did we enjoy beautiful spring weather both days on Long Island, but Restaurant Week ended Sunday, and thus concluded my week of fabulous dining!

On Saturday, I was able to make it to one of my favorite spots – West Neck Beach in Huntington, NY for a day of beach photography, and even though I took over one hundred photos, I never managed to capture the shot I was trying for.

20140508-202649.jpg

20140508-202720.jpg

A stop at a local boutique in Huntington Village made up for the fact that my photographic eye was a bit shaky that day. In fact my inner fashionista was still working perfectly, and I picked-up what just might be the purchase of the season! More to come on that next week…

After a quick stroll through the Village, a stop at Heckscher Park was in order to see the tulips ahead of the annual Tulip Festival.

20140508-202850.jpg

20140508-202940.jpg

20140508-203001.jpg

On Sunday, I stopped at the Maritime Festival in Port Jefferson, NY, visited a farmer’s market, and had brunch at Sweet ‘n’ Savory – and yes, the cannoli crêpe was as irresistible as ever (for more on one of the best crêpe places on Long Island, see my post from April 25th).

20140508-203110.jpg

And what weekend would be complete without a stop at Ulta to purchase a new Stila lipstick in a color I have been dying try?

Happy Friday!

Wrapping Up Restaurant Week

20140506-203424.jpg

Since Restaurant Week has ended, I thought I would give a recap, and some details on my fourth and final meal. On Sunday night, I ate at the View in Oakdale, New York. As the name implies, the views of the Great South Bay were quite impressive. The drive to the restaurant was also enjoyable, as you make your way along a peaceful road that runs by the water, and admire the nice houses until you reach your destination.

The restaurant was crowded with people taking advantage of the beautiful spring sunset, and the final night of Restaurant Week. This place had a fantastic seafood menu, and since it was my first time at this restaurant, I was eager to try the food. Inside, the setting and table by the large picture window overlooking the bay were splendid. In terms of location, this restaurant could not be beat.

20140506-203546.jpg

The service was prompt, and the Restaurant Week menu had no shortage of delicious items to choose from. I decided to have the Caesar salad for my appetizer and the pan roasted diver sea scallops as an entrée. I love scallops, and when prepared well, it’s a real treat!

For me, the portions were just right. They were still ample, but allowed me to eat my appetizer, entrée and dessert. The four scallops were perfectly cooked, and went well the Montauk lobster-white truffle risotto. The pièce-de-résistance was the dessert – a peanut butter valrhona chocolate bomb. As the name might suggest, the warm cake was oozing with chocolate and was the perfect way to end the meal and thus, Restaurant Week.

20140506-204056.jpg

20140506-204144.jpg

Overall, I ate at four restaurants in the course of a week, three of which I had never been to before. I enjoyed each meal for different reasons – some won me over with their ambiance and charm, while others for the prompt service I received. I have some new restaurants that will be joining my list of tried-and-true favorites, and I am so thankful that Restaurant Week continues to be a fun and exciting way to get out and explore all the wonderful places Long Island has to offer. For now though, it’s back to the gym and to my home-cooked meals for dinner!

Long Island Restaurant Week – Part Three

20140504-174257.jpg

Next up on my list of places to try was the Old Fields Restaurant in Greenlawn, New York. On Friday, I decided to have another look at the participating restaurants and this place caught my eye. Another restaurant was actually reserved for that evening, but after noticing that this place was offering their regular menu as part of Restaurant Week, it looked too good to pass up.

Since the restaurant did not take reservations for small parties, I was prepared for quite a wait on a Friday evening. It was crowded, and lots of people were waiting both inside and out. I added my name to the waiting list and was told it would be about 45 minutes until a table opened up. I decided to head to the bar and celebrate the end of another long week by indulging in a Ruby Red martini. It hit the spot! Shortly after receiving my drink, I was met by a pleasant voice telling me my table was ready. The dining area was very charming, featuring an exposed brick wall, small wooden tables, and a fireplace.

20140504-175126.jpg

20140504-180251.jpg

After being seated, I was promptly greeted by a bubbly waitress who went over the menu. Again, I needed a minute or two to review all of my tasty options. At first glance, the Fish & Chips caught my eye, but after a closer inspection, the 12-ounce Kobe burger was the clear winner.

Before my order arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a small cup of potato leeks soup from the tasting menu, courtesy of the restaurant. It was excellent – very creamy, and not too salty. Next, my appetizer of popcorn chicken was in front of me. This, too, was perfectly cooked and seasoned. It was addictive. I could not stop eating it to leave room for my entrée.

20140504-175908.jpg

20140504-180654.jpg

Much like the appetizer, the Kobe burger was quite sizable and included an order of fries. I always order my burgers medium rare, with a heavy emphasis on the rare part. I think I took two bites of the burger before I felt full, but it was so good that I could not resist indulging a little more. Fearing that I would not have room for dessert, I decided to call it quits on the burger after eating more than half of it.

20140504-180809.jpg

After the appetizer and entrée, I can happily say this restaurant did not disappoint. I had very high expectations for dessert, and those too were far surpassed. After careful review of the dessert menu, I opted for the brownie sundae. A personal favorite of mine since childhood, when I see it on the menu anywhere it is a no-brainer. I was hoping that the dessert would take a while so I could try and work-up an appetite, but like the rest of the meal, it came out right on time. Even though I was no longer hungry, the warm brownie was irresistible and I somehow managed to polish it off.

20140504-181213.jpg

I have to say this restaurant quickly won my heart. On top of having a wonderful meal, departing with two warm chocolate chip cookies, again, courtesy of the restaurant, is sure to leave a lasting impression. I thought the service was top-notch, and the food and presentation was perfection. I loved the ambiance the restaurant afforded when I walked in. It had a historic charm, and reminded me of one of the taverns I used to frequent often in D.C. I will surely be back to the Old Fields Restaurant either for lunch with friends or for another dinner, and I know it will make it onto my list for the next Restaurant Week.

Congratulations Dr. Green on your new job!

Long Island Restaurant Week – Part Two

20140501-212023.jpg

As Restaurant Week continues, next up on my list of places to eat was Horace & Sylvia’s Publick House in Babylon, New York. In the interest of full disclosure, I have eaten at this restaurant once before and had a great experience. What prompted me to return was the amazing menu they offered as part of Restaurant week.

The restaurant is located in the quaint Village of Babylon, nestled between shops and cafés. Inside, charming private booths line the wall, along with ample seating in the bar area and tables in the back to accommodate larger parties. After nabbing one of the booths, I remembered that this restaurant offered some of the best warm, flakey rolls I have ever had and served them with a light, sweet butter that was like none-other.

20140501-212150.jpg

This was one of the rare occasions where reading the menu online would not suffice. The restaurant offered a plethora of options, ranging from scallops to Surf and Turf, and strip steak to filet mignon. Deciding on an appetizer was relatively simple, but selecting an entrée was no easy feat. After careful consideration, I decided to have the calamari as an appetizer and went with the 10 ounce sirloin with stuffed shrimp as an entrée.

The restaurant was very efficient, and my food was brought with alacrity, which was a nice treat after a long day of work. The calamari was excellent – perfectly cooked with just the right amount of seasoning and offered with the optional marinara sauce (since I am not a fan of anything spicy, I always ask for sauces to be on the side). Next to arrive was the sirloin, prepared medium rare with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli. This too was well cooked, and had a lot of flavor. It went well with the stuffed shrimp and mashed potatoes.

20140501-212406.jpg

20140501-212540.jpg

20140501-212606.jpg

Anyone who knows me, knows that the dessert is my favorite part of the meal, and this dessert definitely did not disappoint. A chocolate flour-less cake was the perfect way to end a great meal. The cake was moist and not overly sweet (although I don’t think I have ever come across anything that was too sweet for me), but still had that rich, decadent taste.

20140501-212726.jpg

Overall I was impressed not just with the food, but the quality service and ambiance of the restaurant. I can honestly say it was a relaxing and enjoyable dinner out, and I would welcome the opportunity to return for another meal!