Author: Vanessa Steil

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day Weekend! Are any of you sniffling and coughing at this time of year, even though it’s past cold season? I spent most of the week struggling to fend off brutal allergies, but by week’s end, it was clear that I had lost the battle. In the interest of getting over this now cold with some degree of alacrity, I stocked up on all of the essentials: Emergen-C and Trader Joe’s turmeric and ginger tea.

Here’s hoping that I don’t have to scrap my plans of attending the Dan’s Paper Taste of Summer — Rosé Soirée event on Sunday and that I am well enough to enjoy my time in the Hamptons by then.

I’ll be taking a long weekend around here, so I’ll back with a new post on Wednesday. I hope you all have a happy and safe Memorial Day!

If you can dream it, you can do it

{Wise words}

Acai Smoothie Bowl

{My first smoothie bowl, courtesy of a kind co-worker}

Credo Beauty

{Found my new favorite foundation at Credo Beauty. Blog post coming soon!}

Shake Shack

{Couldn’t resist at stop at Shake Shack}

NYC Humor

{A little New York City humor}

The Solstreet Pop-Up Market

Solstreet Co Pop Up 1

On Saturday, I attended the Solstreet pop-up market at Pourt Café in New York City. The café and workspace on the Lower East Side was the perfect venue for local artisans to showcase their unique creations. From handmade greeting cards to natural soap made in Sleepy Hollow, New York, there was plenty to see…and buy.

My fellow Long Island blogger and friend, Kate of Taffeta & Tulips joined me, and together we had a great time shopping and catching up.

Solstreet Co Pop Up 9

Kate and I enjoyed a coffee at Pourt before heading into the pop-up market, which was conveniently located in the back of the café. We chatted with each of the vendors as we made our way through the cozy space. It was a wonderful way to be introduced to new-to-us vendors, and I am looking forward to seeing more events like this one from Solstreet in the future.

Here are some of the vendors we saw:

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Solstreet Co Pop Up 3

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Solstreet Co Pop Up 5

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Solstreet Co Pop Up 7

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Ready for the Weekend

Some weeks are just harder than others. This was a hard one. From starting the week off with learning that I would need further treatment with radioactive iodine to breaking the heel on my favorite pair of Vince Camuto shoes right when I got to the office (and was already running 30 minutes late, mind you), the only thing that made this week tolerable was that it felt like summer outside. That small consolation kept me going as I struggled to hold it all together through the work day and found solace each afternoon in resuming my daily walks around the neighborhood.

While each day seemed to bring a new challenge, I reminded myself that this too shall pass. I hope you all had a good week, enjoyed the summer-like weather, and are as excited as I am to kick off the weekend!

Here’s a round up from my week:

Anthropologie

{My new mantra for 2017}

Flowers2

{Beautiful flowers at my local Starbucks}

Donuts

{Donuts make everything better}

Spring

{Even the birds are loving this warm weather}

Spring Sunset

{My first sunset capture of the season}

Life Lately

Flowers

We all need a break from time-to-time. While taking a day off from our day job may not always be feasible, enjoying a respite from our side-hustle should be. After the weekend, I felt like I needed a break. I had a great post planned to start the week, but when I got home Sunday evening to write it, nothing flowed. A couple of years ago, I would have forced myself to sit and write something…anything…just not to miss one of my scheduled posting days. But, honestly, who wants to read something that doesn’t come from the heart, and has no soul? I value your time and this space too much to publish just for the sake of putting something out there. So, I hope you will excuse Monday’s absence and understand my need for a respite.

If you have been following along on Instagram Stories this week, you may have seen me talking about my recent appointment with my endocrinologist. I appreciate all of the well wishes and prayers that you sent my way on social media, so I feel that it is only appropriate that I share the outcome of the appointment here.

After almost six months of blood work, neck ultrasounds, and treks into New York City for follow-ups, my antithyroglobulin levels remain elevated. Weeks earlier, I had hopes that despite a modest 50 point decrease from my February numbers, we could stay the course and keep up our watchful waiting approach. But after my appointment with my endocrinologist on Monday, a new course of action has been prescribed. Next week, I will have a consultation with a radiation oncologist at a hospital closer to my home, and will likely have an I-131 whole body scan performed, followed by a dose of radioactive iodine. Since my surgery in 2013, I had been resistant to undergoing radioactive iodine treatment, but given the length of time that my numbers have been elevated, and on the recommendation of my endocrinologist, I have decided to pursue this option.

I never imagined that I would be making this decision. For the last four years, my numbers had been steadily trending downward—which is a good sign after surgery. I can still recall the sheer shock that overcame me when I opened the results of my blood work from November 2016 and saw that my antithyroglobulin level was more than double what it should have been. That was the beginning of this setback and I am finally ready to write the ending and close the chapter.

The last six months of waiting, wishing, and wondering have taken a toll on me—even if I have tried to suffer privately. These months have reminded me that despite my best efforts to push unsettling news aside, sometimes you need to tackle things head-on—especially when they pertain to your health.

As always, I appreciate all of your support. It means so much!

Gurney’s Montauk Retreat with Fern Olivia: A Recap

Gurney's Resort & Spa - Fern Olivia 6

If you follow me on Instagram, you have likely seen lots of photos popping up from my time at Gurney’s Resort & Spa last weekend for Fern Olivia’s wellness retreat. While the projected forecast left a lot to be desired, it turned out to be a nice weekend after all—with only intermittent showers and overcast skies.

My day began with a just under two hour drive out to Montauk, which may not sound ideal, but once you make it out to the Hamptons the serene surroundings make driving a pleasure. Each time I head out East I always relish the slower pace of life that you begin to encounter. The East End of Long Island has a noticeably different feel from the rest of the Island—and is a completely different animal when compared to New York City. Regardless, I embrace the leisurely drivers, the windmills that I pass along the way, and the sense of excitement that overcomes me when I begin to see water on the horizon.

Hampton Coffee Company

Mornings out East for me always begin with a stop at the Hampton Coffee Company in Southampton, irrespective of my final destination. There, I ordered an iced coffee and chocolate croissant for the road before continuing on for the remaining 45 minute drive out to Montauk.

The last time I was at Gurney’s was for a friend’s Sweet Sixteen party, so you could say it has been a while. I had heard that the resort had undergone some recent renovations, so I was excited to see what the establishment looked like today. As I drove down the hilly Old Montauk Highway after breaking away from the long, straight stretch of Sunrise Highway, I instantly felt like I had departed from mainland Long Island. The rolling landscape gave way to spectactular views—which are absent on my daily commute.

When I arrived at Gurney’s, I was greeted by a valet who parked my car…and waited patiently as I tried to stuff fifty outfit changes and four pairs of shoes (none of which I wore) into a single weekender bag. Once in the lobby at Gurney’s I stood for a moment, silently taking in the breathtaking panoramic views.

Gurney's Resort and Spa - Fern Olivia 1

Erica, who works with Fern, came to take me to the morning’s first activity—yoga in a studio overlooking the ocean. There, I met the other participants who would be joining us for the day. As I took a seat on my mat I felt an immense sense of gratitude. I was grateful that Fern had included me in this retreat; for the beautiful space that I would be practing in that morning; and to be surrounded by a room full of wellness warriors.

Gurney's Resort and Spa - Fern Olivia 2

Gurney's Resort and Spa - Fern Olivia 3

The yoga class was restorative in every way, and before I knew it, the hour and a half class was over. Next it was time for brunch. Despite having had a bite to eat on my way there in the morning, I had worked up an appetite after yoga. Gurney’s put out quite a buffet spread—eggs, bacon, pastries—you name it, they had. And if they didn’t, you could order it.

After our delicious brunch and getting acquainted with everyone, I knew that the beach was going to be my next stop. I had been eyeing the soft sand since I arrived and was just waiting for the weather to improve before venturing out.

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Beach, Montauk, NY

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The moody skies briefly gave way to some sun. I wasn’t sure which direction to head first and felt as though I could just walk along the shore for miles. Concerned that I would miss out on the next activity—spa time—I stayed fairly close to the resort. In between taking copious amounts of beach photos, dipping my toes into the somewhat frigid water, and finding some driftwood to sit on and take a rest, I couldn’t think of anywhere else I would have rather been that day.

Fern and I made plans to hit the sauna at 1 pm. I hurried back to the room and changed before walking over to the spa area for a sweat session. Gurney’s spa was a happening place that day, with women waiting for their treatments, but it didn’t feel crowded. The atmosphere was relaxing and inviting—the perfect setting for pampering.

The dry heat of the sauna felt good after being out on the windy beach. After the sauna, we spent 20 minutes in the steam room, before freshening up and heading to our next event of the day.

Despite bringing enough outfits to live in Montauk through the summer, I forgot to pack my makeup bag so I could touch up as needed throughout the day. I was fully expecting my new Armani Silk Foundation to be running down my face after the sauna and steam room, but to my surprise it actually held up well.

Our last official item on the day’s itinerary was a natural beauty workshop. We sat out near the beach club on a deck overlooking the water. Fern started off the discussion by asking what beauty meant to each of us. While I can’t remember my answer verbatim, the definition of beauty has changed for me. As a 30-year-old cancer survivor, beauty to me is no longer about wearing a ton of makeup—something I had embraced throughout most of my twenties. Today, I am proud to show the imperfections in my skin, skip makeup entirely when running errands, and wear lighter foundations with fewer ingredients. Beauty to me is being happy with the person I see in the mirror because I know that true beauty is within and radiates out. I am happy and healthy, and that makes me feel beautiful every day.

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Fern then discussed her line of essential oils, which I have incorporated into my own beauty routine since first meeting her last year. Her Ajai Alchemy line is made with therapeutic grade ingredients and each blend is blessed with the Ajai Alai sound current. I have been using Grace Alchemy, an essential oil with Egyptian rose geranium, patchouli, and Australian sandalwood for a year now, and I feel like it is my signature scent. In January, during another of Fern’s events, I purchased a bottle of her Solar Sun Protect. During the cooler months, I wear it on my cheeks over my highlighter for that dewy glow. But during the summer, I plan on applying it under my makeup to give my skin a little extra protection from the sun.

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As the evening began to wind down, the weather turned cool and rainy. But the night couldn’t end without celebrating our beautiful Fern’s birthday. In honor of her special day, I brought her some of my favorite fudge from Chocology (thanks, Chocology!). They make their fudge with Belgium chocolate and goat’s milk, so I knew Fern would enjoy the sweet treat. We returned to the room for celebratory drinks and reminisced about how we all felt like we were back in college hanging out in each other’s dorm rooms.

When the weekend concluded, I felt like a kid leaving summer camp. Monday’s post about community over competition was inspired by the women I met and the friends I made at the retreat. Their positive energy and ambition surely rubbed off on me, and after doing yoga with Fern, I left with a renewed outlook on my health, this space on the internet, and on my future as a creative entrepreneur. I left the retreat knowing that I was moving ahead in the right direction, feeling inspired to continue with my yoga practice, and loving the life I was building.

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Gurney's Resort and Spa - Fern Olivia 11

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If you are looking for a resort out East, I highly recommend a stay at Gurney’s. The resort is like a peaceful oasis, and you can’t beat the balcony views and direct access to the beach. Gurney’s has every amenity you could ever wish for—a spa, an indoor and outdoor pool, and delicious meals—all with great views of the ocean. Leaving was no easy feat. I wish I could have stayed out there forever!

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A special thank you to Fern Olivia for having me out at the retreat and for sharing her birthday with us. And lots of love to Erica, Megan, Sari, and Suzie for making this incredible day even more special!

Give Your Heart to Women’s Health

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Part of being a thyroid cancer survivor is using my voice to help others. I enjoy working with cancer survivors to lend an ear, offer hope, or just help them share their survival story. I also try to promote cancer-related causes. So, when a friend who works for the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program asked for assistance in getting the word out on a campaign they are running from May 8th – June 16th, I knew this site was the right forum.

The Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program provides valuable services to all of New York State. From educating women on health or health care matters to helping them secure services for cancer screenings, they work hard to support women’s health. But they can’t do it alone. Like many non-profit organizations, the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program is grant-funded. So you can imagine the hardship they faced when they learned that one of their grants had been reduced.

I have battled cancer myself, and my 89-year-old grandmother has fought breast cancer twice. I know how imperative early detection can be. That’s why funding organizations that provide these vital services to women are so important to me.

It would mean so much if you could spread the word or give in any way that you can. Even the smallest amount can help the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program!

*Image courtesy of the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program

Monday Mantra: Community Over Competition

Montauk Retreat at Gurney's

I had the best weekend ever! Fern Olivia’s retreat at Gurney’s Resort & Spa was everything I had hoped it would be…and more. I’ll be sharing a full recap on the blog later in the week, but today I wanted to talk about the notion of community over competition.

The inspiration for today’s post came when I was tagging the photo above on Instagram. After spending the weekend surrounded by so many impressive women—who each in their own way embody the definition of girlboss—I knew the hashtag community over competition was most appropriate. Each time I attend one of Fern’s events, I walk away with a renewed perspective and new friends.

From yoga instructors, reiki masters, history teachers, to entrepreneurs, bloggers, and wellness influencers, each of the women photographed above is leaving her own mark on her respective industry. They have each found a way to turn their passion into a paycheck, and are more than happy to share their knowledge and connections with a newcomer.

As a blogger, I am always learning something new and I know that there is always something new to learn. That is one of the things that I find so interesting about blogging—and keeps me from getting complacent. But I also love the sense of community that is fostered through blogging. I have met many incredible women over the last three and a half years. Some have inculcated new knowledge; others have inspired me on my own journey (even if only virtually, and without even knowing it), but all have encouraged me to pursue my passion—especially when the road looks bleak. The community I have cultivated has supported me, made themselves available to me, and are my cheerleaders. For all of those things, I am grateful.

In the age of social media, it’s easy to get consumed with numbers, or to feel that you are only as good as a number. Number of followers, number of readers, number of retweets—you get the point. I have never been a numbers person…that probably explains why I wasn’t good at math. But to me, blogging is not a numbers game. Okay, fine. I used to obsesses a little over my stats when I first started out, but mainly that was to see if anyone was actually reading my posts. I began this site as a creative outlet and resource for people with whom I could share my own experiences. Therefore, I want it to be organic and relatable. And I want to be someone who is approachable and willing to help other bloggers when they are standing where I was three and half years ago. To the women I met at the retreat, I was a blogger who was there to share a day of wellness with them. They weren’t concerned with my numbers, but rather the energy that I contributed to the day and how I shared the space with them. It’s not the number of photos I posted on Instagram, but rather the discussions we had throughout the day that I hope they will remember.

So when I am fortunate enough to attend one of Fern’s events, it reaffirms my belief that in doing what we love, we are all building our own communities. And in building your own community, you never know how you can help someone else build theirs.

What does community mean to you?

The May Agenda

Flower

On Long Island the flowers are blooming, the weather is getting warmer, and the sound of the ice cream truck coming down the block has become a nightly occurrence. I know that we are on the way to summer now, and I can hardly contain my excitement.

This month may not have started off the best—with an external Internet cable wire getting accidentally snipped (let’s just blame it on yard work, shall we?). Just one night sans Internet begs the question, how did we ever survive before it? Then again, when you are trying to run a blog, having a functional Internet connection is an important cost of doing business. But all is well that ends well, and Optimum got me up and running in no time.

So now that my Internet woes are behind me (and I hope not to have to publish another blog post from my iPhone), here’s what I have on the agenda this month:

Try: By now, you probably have read enough posts on this site about Stila’s Stay All Day line. It’s true—I love it—except when the weather starts to warm up and I feel caked under a layer of foundation. This is no reflection on the makeup, mind you, but rather a personal preference during the summer months to apply something a little lighter. Perhaps you’re of the same mindset? If so, then head to your nearest Sephora and check out Giorgio Armani’s Luminous Silk Foundation. I know…I know. You’ve probably read a lot of reviews raving about this product. And with good reason. As the name implies, the foundation is smooth as silk—and as light and weightless as they come. While the price point may not be budget friendly ($64 for 1 ounce), a little goes a long way. I’ve only been using it for about a week now, but I am very impressed with the coverage given how light the foundation is. And while we are on the subject of new beauty products, I’ve also added a NARS bronzing powder and MAC highlighting powder to my collection. I spy a beauty post in the making!

Do: I never would have thought to do a tour like this, nor did I even know one existed, but when I saw an upcoming New York City Underground Tour happening this month on Facebook, I was intrigued. Despite living in New York for most of my life, New York City and I are just starting to feel like old friends. And while I still walk almost everywhere I can (because the subway is just so confusing), this tour sounded like a great way to take in some New York City history—while perhaps gaining a better understanding of the subway system. The extensive two and a half hour tour begins at the Chambers Street Station and covers the old City Hall Station, Astor Place, and Grand Central Station.

Eat: I mentioned my new found love of RXBARs when preparing for my trip to Washington, D.C. If you love sweets as much as I do, you may have your suspicions about eating something that is healthy and actually tastes good. When I tried the RXBARs for the first time I was wary. There was something about the dates and egg whites in it that didn’t sit well with me. Then I tried the chocolate sea salt flavor…and, wow. It was delicious! While I would’t say it was like eating a candy bar, it was satisfying and sweet. This little treat is sugar addict approved!

Go: The wait is almost over for Fern Olivia’s retreat at Gurney’s Resort & Spa in Montauk, New York. If there were ever a week that I needed to head out East (Gurney’s is one of my favorite places and has the most incredible views) and get my relaxation on, it would be after this one. Well, you can still partake if you are in the Long Island area this weekend (May 5th – 7th; day rates are available, if you would like to attend for one day). While I can’t control the weather—and really hope predictions for rain on Friday and Saturday are wrong—this event will be memorable, complete with a well-come yoga session, followed by brunch, an aromatherapy and natural beauty workshop, and so much more. Click here to see the full schedule of events on tap for the weekend retreat, and be sure to follow me on Instagram Stories and Snapchat (@livinginsteil) for a behind-the-scenes look at the day.

See: If you just read the paragraph above, you know that I will be by the water this weekend. It has been a few months since I’ve stuck my toes in the sand, watched the waves crash against the shore, and took in the beachy sights. So, Mother Nature, if you are listening, could you just ease up on the rain this weekend? This working girl needs her beach time—even if it is only the beginning of May.

What’s on your agenda this month?

Spring Stripes

H&M Striped Dress

The one item that I overlooked when packing for Washington, D.C. was a simple t-shirt dress for the warm (read: hot) weather that was forecast. I thought I could rough it, but my white jeans, tank top, and Sperry’s were no match for a humid D.C. day.

H&M Striped Dress 3

So, what’s a girl to do when on the go and in need of an outfit? Buy it in Georgetown, of course.

While mentally scanning my wardrobe and going from store-to-store, I realized that I am light in the stripe department. Sure, I may have one or two pieces for spring and summer, but nothing that resembled an effortless t-shirt dress.

H&M Striped Dress 4

With those criteria in mind—and not wanting to break the bank—I knew I was in the right place when I walked through the door at H&M. Soon I spotted a rack full of casual t-shirt dresses—for $12.95, no less! With a price tag like that, it was a no-brainer.

H&M Striped Dress 2

As I strolled out of the store, I couldn’t wait to ditch the pants and throw the dress on—which is just what I did the next time I ventured out on another hot D.C. day.

48 Hours in Washington, D.C.

Washington Monument

{The Washington Monument…at midnight}

While venturing to Washington, D.C. last week for work, I learned some lessons. First, anyone who spends considerable time traveling these days deserves a medal. I experienced a four-hour delay getting down to D.C., which resulted in an airline change (mind you, the flight is only one hour from New York City gate-to-gate). On the return leg, I endured a two-hour delay (where we sat parked on the runway awaiting further instructions from the destination airport regarding our departure). After these tribulations, I have no burning desire to head anywhere—unless Amtrak takes me there. But on a positive note, the trip made me realize how much I miss living in D.C. and all that the city has to offer.

Georgetown Waterfront

{The view from Georgetown Waterfront Park}

Now that I am home, I thought I would share some of the highlights from my trip. While I was able to make it to American University for a walk down memory lane, Georgetown for some shopping, and Dolcezza for two scoops of their delicious gelato, I was unable to stop in at Crumbs & Whiskers (perhaps I’ll have to book another trip to D.C….with Amtrak!).

The weather during my 48-hour stay was ideal. It felt almost summer-like, which was a welcome relief from the rainy conditions I experienced when I departed New York. Thanks to the warm weather, everything was in full bloom in D.C., which made for great photo ops.

Washington DC 1

Georgetown 2

Washington DC 4

Despite the travel snags, my time in the District was much needed, and I feel like I came home to New York with a renewed perspective.

Here’s a quick recap:

Hotel Room Views

{The view from my hotel room}

Daniel Webster

{Statue of Daniel Webster—Dupont Circle}

American University 2

{Welcome to The American University!}

American University 1

{My old study buddy at AU—right outside my dorm}

American University 3

{McKinley Building—one of my favorites at AU}

Washington DC 3

{Even the doors get in on the political action in D.C. LOL!}

Dean & Deluca

{Capitol Cookie at Dean & DeLuca}

Dolcezza - Georgetown

{Dolcezza—home of the best gelato in Georgetown}

Lunch - Georgetown

{Final meal in D.C. at &pizza}