Month: April 2016

Farewell, April!

I'd rather be sleeping mug

{New mug for my home office}

I’m having a hard time comprehending how we are already at the end of April! Wasn’t it just January five minutes ago? Looking back, I’ve crammed a lot into the last two months. With trips to Philadelphia, Rhode Island, and New York City, I feel like I’ve taken full advantage of the nice spring weather.

This weekend it’s back to my kickboxing routine, some time at the barn, and a little rest and relaxation.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Spring mani with OPI

{Spring mani with OPI}

NYU

{Meeting with fellow New York blogger, Kristin}

Barn Day

{Life on the farm}

New workout outfit

{Today’s workout is sponsored by coffee!}

Cupcake pancakes from IHOP

{Delicious cupcake pancakes from IHOP}

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Stealing the Spotlight: Natural Deodorant Part II

Natural Deodorant

The verdict is in on these natural deodorants! And while I won’t be switching to them full-time, one of the products has potential.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am always looking to incorporate natural skincare and beauty products into my regimen. I’ve sampled many natural deodorants, but none have ever been as effective as my anti-perspirant. So when my mom kindly bought these two deodorants for me to try, I was skeptical.

The Crystal Body Deodorant Stick, which is hypoallergenic, fragrance-free and paraben-free is just that — a crystal that you wet and roll on under your arms. I have to say, I didn’t notice much of anything when I first used this product. My underarms felt wet — and not in a good way. I soon determined that this was not a product for me.

But all is not lost when it comes to natural deodorant products. The mineral deodorant body spray met with better results. It also contained no aluminum chlorohydrate and was hypoallergenic and paraben-free. Its lavender and white tea fragrance was soft and refreshing, and gave the feeling you would expect from a light deodorant spray.

Overall, the jury is still out on using these products daily (you’re better than I am if you can make that kind of commitment), in the dead of summer, or during a workout. But if you are looking to go the natural route, and don’t mind a product that needs to be reapplied, then the mineral deodorant body spray is worth a try.

Long Island Restaurant Week: George Martin’s Strip Steak

George Martin's Strip Steak

Can we have a moment of silence, please? Long Island Restaurant Week has come to an end — leftovers are dwindling, the fridge is looking sad, and I’m left scratching my head each night as I try to answer the dreaded question of “what’s for dinner?”

You could say Restaurant Week spoiled me with delicious three-course meals and decadent desserts.

Now that my portions have returned to more realistic limits, I thought I would share another restaurant I visited last week. If you are a long-time reader of this site, you may have heard me mention George Martin The Original before. Ever since I was a child, this restaurant has held a special place in my heart — and provided my belly with a lot of good food. Thankfully, what started with George Martin The Original has morphed into a chain of eating establishments in Nassau and Suffolk County. From burgers to filet mignon, you’ll find it at one of George Martin’s restaurants.

I was thrilled when I found George Martin’s Strip Steak in Great River, New York, overlooking the idyllic Connetquot River. The converted residential house is quaint and charming, sitting on a block with multi-million dollar homes. I’ve been to Strip Steak before for other Restaurant Week meals, and it is a restaurant that lives up to its reputation. If you are on Long Island and looking for a restaurant with a lot of character, you should make reservations here!

Gam Strip Steak - Chili Pop Shrimp

For my appetizer I ordered the chili pop shrimp, which was flash-fried and tossed in a sweet and spicy Thai chili sauce. There were a fair amount of petite shrimp for an appetizer, and the flavor was exactly as described on the menu — the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. I’m no fan of spice, so I appreciated that it was not overwhelming in this dish. My only critique would be that I found the sauce to be slightly on the heavy side, where it overpowered the shrimp. But that was nothing a knife couldn’t help remove!

GM Strip Steak - Flat Iron Steak

My entrée was a 12oz USDA prime flat iron steak with grilled Vidalia onions, merlot demi, garlic roasted mashed potatoes, and broccoli. If there is one thing George Martin knows how to do well, it is cook a steak. You almost could have eaten the tender meat sans knife! The portion was large — and easily became a second meal.

GM Strip Steak -  Chocolate Mousse

Of course, a meal is never complete without dessert (and if you know me, you know I judge a menu on the desserts). Strip Steak offered a chocolate mousse, which I normally don’t get too excited over. But this was no ordinary mousse. It was thick, creamy, and very filling. By the time I got to the last spoonful, I was stuffed (and thankful I was going to my kickboxing class the next day).

Overall, I was very pleased with my two meals at Del Fuego and dinner at George Martin’s Strip Steak. Now I will spend the rest of the month burning them off!

Money Matters: Lessons I Learned from Suze Orman

Financial Literacy Month - Suze Orman

After my recent shopping spree at Target (thankfully, those are rare these days), and since it is financial literacy month, I thought a post about personal finance was in order.

You’ve probably heard that on average, women are paid less than men. But did you know that in 2014, women were paid only 79% of men’s wages? Or that only 42% of women versus 44% of men feel comfortable asking for a raise? Why is it that when it comes to money, women don’t know their worth?

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from Suze Orman. I began watching her show and reading her books in 2009, when I graduated from college. I knew little about money: how to handle it, what to do with it once I got it, and how to make it grow. I incorrectly assumed that I needed to be some kind of mathematical whiz (which if you know me, I am not) or hold a Ph.D. to manage my money.

Fortunately, Ms. Orman set me straight. For the last seven years, I’ve kept her principles in mind when dealing with my money.

Here are some favorite quotes from the money guru herself, which will show that you, too, can manage your money wisely.

“It’s impossible to map out a route to your destination if you don’t know where you’re starting from.”

This was me as a recent college graduate. I felt overwhelmed with all of the money matters I was suddenly responsible for (and supposed to know all about). When I mentioned my fears to a colleague, also a recent graduate, she told me I needed to read a book by Suze Orman. The next day, Suze’s book entitled Women & Money landed on my desk. It was a page-turner — filled with terms I had never heard before.

The Takeaway: Keep learning! It’s okay not to know about money, but don’t use it as an excuse to lose control of your own financial destination. Today there are great resources out there that can help educate you, from LearnVest to Ms. Orman.

“Success is not about how many zeros your bank account has. It’s about making the most of the life you have.”

Do you ever say to yourself, “I would be so happy if I made more money?” Or look at friends and wonder how they are driving a nice BMW, or how they afforded their first house? It’s easy to diminish your own accomplishments because your peers seem better off. But the truth is, success isn’t measured by what’s in your bank account. What matters is how you feel about what you do. Do you love your job at a non-profit because you feel like you are making a difference? Sure, you may make more money in the private sector, but don’t undervalue your happiness and overvalue the dollar signs in your bank account.

“To enjoy a long, comfortable retirement, save more today.”

When you’re in your twenties, you seldom think of saving for a rainy day. But one tip I learned from Suze is that you must derive more pleasure from saving money than spending it. Ever since I landed my first job I always made sure to save a little from each paycheck. Whether you can afford $10, $50, or $100 a month, something is better than nothing. The earlier you start saving, the more time your money has to grow.

I could go on and on about all that I have learned from Suze Orman (I miss her weekly Saturday night show!). But the most important lesson is that women should feel comfortable talking about money, learning how to handle money, and becoming successful in managing their finances.

How did you learn about money?

Spring Shopping

Spring Shopping

You know those days where you open your closet, stare deep within its limits (for five…or ten minutes), only to shake your head in disbelief. You have a closet full of nothing to wear! That’s exactly the sentiment I was left with on Friday, after tearing my wardrobe apart in search of a suitable ensemble for lunch with a friend. And did I mention the temperature was in the 70’s?

With nothing promising on the horizon, I jumped in my car and headed to the nearest Target (because Target always helps a girl out in a jam!).

After less than 15 minutes of shopping, here’s what I’ve added to my closet:

Graphic tank: Nothing gets me in the mood for a Saturday morning kickboxing class like a sassy tank top. Mine actually reads, “Today’s workout is sponsored by coffee.” Appropriate for a 10:00 am weekend fitness class, don’t you think? Target has a great line of graphic tanks, and they are incredibly soft, too.

Marimekko top — Appelsiini Print: You know how much I love Target’s latest Marimekko collaboration, right? You can see more of my picks from the collection, here. I had to splurge on at least one (okay, maybe two) pieces. And this blue shirt (seen in the middle of the top row) was a clear winner! Come summer, I could easily see it pairing with white jeans.

Speaking of white jeans…My first pair of white Mossimo jeans are three years old and starting to show their age. After what felt like an eternity, searching for the perfect pair of white jeans and about to give up, I found a pair of Mossimo skinny jeggings on a random rack, mixed in with a bunch of larger sizes. Leave it to me to find the one unmarked pair of jeans that happened to be my size.

Chambray shirt: I’ve long loved the chambray look, but couldn’t justify buying a chambray shirt during the winter. Of course, with the arrival of spring, the one I want has been hard to find, but I snagged the last one in my size from Mossimo — and I’ve been wearing it ever since. I could live in this shirt. Oh, wait, I practically have!

Marimekko one-piece swimsuit — Lokki Print: Since one item from Marimekko just wouldn’t suffice, I had to buy a swimsuit as well. Can you believe that this is the first one-piece swimsuit I’ve ever purchased? Well, it’s true. Unfortunately, I bought the suit in an extra small, which looked like it would fit, but when I tried it on at home it was tight. Target was out of my size when I went to exchange it, so this purchase is on hold. If you’re interested in purchasing a Marimekko suit, might I suggest sizing up!

No shopping haul would be complete without a stop at Nordstrom Rack, where I snagged my latest obsession — capri workout pants with mesh panels. I’ve been trying to get my hands on this trend for a while, and I like the feel of capris when I work out. The pair I purchased from Zella was ideal — and has already survived their first kickboxing class.

So there you have my buys for the month. With a closet slightly fuller, I think I’m ready to tackle spring!

Any wardrobe confessions you want to make? New purchases to dish about? Or spring staples we all need to know about? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Long Island Restaurant Week: Del Fuego

Happy Friday! What better way to finish off the week than by talking about food? That’s a topic we all love! You may recall my teaser post earlier in the week. But if you missed it, Long Island Restaurant Week is going on n-o-w. If you are a fellow Long Islander, or happen to find yourself stranded here for a few days, check out the list of participating restaurants and try one!

I take full advantage of this event when it is held in the fall and spring. Where else could you get a three-course meal for $27.95 per person?

First up this week was Del Fuego. I was turned on to this place in my last job, and it quickly became a favorite spot for lunch. With three locations, two of which are new, you can visit Del Fuego in St. James, Patchogue, and Babylon.

Whether you opt to try Del Fuego for lunch or dinner, you will leave happy. I’ve taken many friends out for a meal here and they have all left saying the same thing: “Wow!” Their extensive menu can satisfy even the most discerning foodie…but the only problem most people have is deciding which dish to try first.

I’m a creature of habit, so when I saw that my beloved lobster quesadillas were being offered on the Restaurant Week menu, I knew I had to pay Del Fuego a visit. And since I had never been to their location in Patchogue, it counts as visiting a new restaurant. Right?

Del Fuego - Bacon Ranch Quesadilla

Let’s start off with the appetizers. What I love about Restaurant Week is that I get to try new dishes. Del Fuego’s portions were perfectly sized to accommodate the fact that you will be eating a three-course meal. For starters, I ordered the bacon ranch quesadillas, complete with mesquite grilled chicken, applewood bacon, chipotle-ranch dressing, and melted cheddar jack. I wasn’t initially too excited about this dish because it’s something I make at home (sans bacon), but the flavors in each bite blew me away. The bacon enhanced the overall taste of the quesadilla and the chicken was sweet and tender. The four little quesadillas were just the right size to leave you still craving your entrée.

Del Fuego - Lobster Quesadilla

For my entrée, I ordered the lobster quesadilla (what a surprise!), with lobster sautéed in a chipotle-honey butter, grilled corn, scallions, and Mexican cheese. Del Fuego does not skimp on the lobster — my quesadilla was stuffed. The addition of corn and scallions (which I opt to have on the side) completes this dish. Again, I’ve made lobster quesadillas at home, and they certainly don’t taste like they do at Del Fuego. You must try this dish. Maybe they can give me the secret recipe?

Here’s where it gets interesting. I guess I was going through a Del Fuego withdrawal, as I ate there not once, but twice in the same week. Because it’s that good, folks! I ordered the exact same dishes on both occasions — with the exception of dessert.

Del Fuego - Churro

{Dessert #1}

Del Fuego - Warm Chocolate Brownie

{Dessert #2}

On the first visit, I ordered the churros served with Mexican chocolate ice cream. I haven’t had a churro in years, so that was a treat. And for the second visit, I ordered the brownie with salted caramel ice cream. I wasn’t prepared for such a huge brownie — which in some cases could be considered an entire pan — to be placed down in front of me. But that’s just what I got. The brownie was soft and warm, but the salted caramel ice cream was what made the dessert stand out.

Del Fuego - Sangria

Oh, and how could I forget the best part? I know, you’re thinking, but Vanessa, you already dished on the dessert. Del Fuego has some of most delicious sangria I’ve ever tasted (outside of Portugal, of course!). No meal there would be complete without a glass of white sangria. If only they would bottle and sell their sangria, my summer would be complete.

So even though my visit to Del Fuego wasn’t really a new gustatory experience, it’s nice to go out and know that you will be enjoying an amazing meal. And that’s always what Del Fuego is.

Del Fuego does not accept reservations, but I’ve never had a tremendously long wait to be seated. But if you do, it’s worth every second.

Stealing the Spotlight: L’Oréal Brow Stylist Plumper

L'Oreal Stylist Plumper Brow Gel Mascara

It’s been a while since I purchased anything new for my makeup bag. But one item has been calling. I’ve read tons of reviews about brow gels, yet that’s just what was missing from my makeup arsenal. It was time to remedy this oversight.

A well-defined brow is everything to me, so how is it that I had been allowing a mascara to be doing the work of a brow gel for so long? I’m sorry, but I don’t have an explanation for the madness.

So I took a trip to Ulta with one specific mission in mind — to purchase said missing item. Of course, before I could even jump in the car I had to research which brow gel was the best. Benefit’s Gimme Brow received high praise, but its $24 price tag was a little steep. I was between the Maybelline Sculpting Brow Mascara and the L’Oréal Brow Stylist Plumper, and since the latter brand has yet to fail me, I went with L’Oréal.

Next question was whether I should go with the light to medium color or the medium to dark. Again, the latter option was the winner.

L'Oreal Stylist Plumper Brow Gel Mascara

But once at Ulta I was easily distracted by the rows of beauty products. A quick stop down the Neutrogena aisle proved to be my downfall, as I added a new MoistureSmooth Color Stick to my collection (you can read my review about that product here).

After briefly going off course, I grabbed the L’Oréal brow gel and couldn’t help but notice the “buy one get one 50% off” sign. How could I pass that up? Who doesn’t need another mascara? So L’Oréal’s Voluminous Mascara also came home with me. I digress.

L'Oreal Stylist Plumper Brow Gel Mascara

{Before & After}

As soon as I got home I tore open the brow gel and immediately applied it…because going out for Restaurant Week is serious business, I’ll have you know. It was easy to use — just swipe up and across your brows — worked like a charm — and the medium to dark color was just right. The gel dries quickly and a little goes a long way — so apply the product sparingly so your brows don’t feel hard and clumpy. If you are a dark brunette, I would opt for the medium to dark shade, as I did.

For $8.99, this brow gel gets the job done just fine. You can thank me later for saving you some dough!

Have you tried L’Oréal’s Brow Stylist Plumper?

Spring in the City

New York City

It may have taken a tad longer, but spring has finally arrived on the East Coast. I could not be happier to ditch the winter coat and head out with just a light blazer.

Last Friday I went into New York City to meet with a fellow blogger. The weather was perfect — it was a cloudless day with a high in the 70’s. New York City is one of my favorite places to explore when the days warm up. I love seeing all of the colorful flowers blooming and people sitting outside at cafés enjoying the weather.

If you’re looking to spend a day in NYC now that the weather is nicer, here are a few things to do:

Washington Square Park - New York City

Explore Washington Square Park: I love this park, and it is always filled with people reading or having a picnic in the spring. When I stopped there, a musical duo was performing for a large audience. If you follow me on Snapchat (@livinginsteil), perhaps you caught the short snap! It was exciting to sit with the crowd and take in the scenes of the park.

NYU and Columbia University

Be a college student again: During this trip, I managed to visit not one, but two urban universities — New York University and Columbia University. Despite both campuses being in the city, they each have a distinctive feel. My mom is a NYU alumna, so the school holds a special place in my heart. But Columbia has more of a traditional campus feel, which I gravitate towards. On Friday evening, Columbia had a concert at the campus sundial, which made me feel like a college student all over again!

It'Sugar

Visit It’Sugar: With a name like that, you have to know that this sugar addict isn’t going to let it go by un-noticed. It’Sugar has everything your candy-loving heart craves. Chocolate…you bet. Candy…of course! It’s a store you could easily get lost in salivating over their goodies — or at least while you snap lots of pics. Thankfully, I was feeling full after a healthy(er) lunch, so I exercised just enough willpower to avoid making any purchases I would later regret. It’s certainly worth a visit if you will be in NYC!

V&T Pizza - New York City

V&T Pizzeria: If you’re near Columbia University and in search of a good pizza place, look no further than V&T, located at the corner of West 110th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. This upscale pizzeria with a full dining room has lots to offer. From calamari to traditional pizza pies, allow yourself time to peruse the menu…and make sure you leave room for dessert. I ordered a white cheese pizza that was as satisfying as it was delicious. And even though I wasn’t really in the mood for dessert, the peanut butter bomba proved irresistible. But it was nothing a walk to Penn Station couldn’t fix!

The Return of Restaurant Week

Long Island Restaurant Week

My favorite week of the spring has finally arrived! If you live on Long Island (and prefer to stay out of the kitchen, as I do), then Restaurant Week is for you. From April 17 – 24th a number of restaurants in Nassau and Suffolk County and the East End offer up an abbreviated three-course menu for $27.95 per person. I review the restaurants I visit during this event every fall and spring — but this time I am especially excited to try two new restaurants that I’ve never been to before. You can read previous posts about my Restaurant Week excursions here, here, and here.

More to come to the blog soon. Stay tuned!

For a full list of restaurants participating in Long Island Restaurant Week, click here!

Marimekko for Target

Marimekko for Target

What better way to start a new week than with some shopping? If you adore Target as much as I do, you probably have already made a run to your nearest store to scoop up pieces from their latest designer collaboration. That’s right! Marimekko for Target is here.

I wasn’t initially sold on this collection, but after careful inspection, I’ve had a change of heart. What’s not to love about these bold colors and patterns? I can see myself frolicking on the beach in this black-and-white one-piece swimsuit. And how could you pass up this chic cover up to finish off your beach ensemble?

But the designer collection doesn’t stop there. Marimekko has created a fun line of plates, pillows, and chairs — everything you need to get yourself (and your home) ready for summer.

So what are you waiting for? Summer is right around the corner, and this playful collection won’t be around for long.

Which Marimekko pieces are on your summer wish list?