Author: Vanessa Steil

My Favorite Yoga Poses

Yoga Poses

My back has been bothering me for a couple of weeks now, which has meant no kickboxing for me. I never like missing my Saturday morning cardio workout because when I do finally return (four weeks later), I feel out of shape.

Determined to keep up some kind of exercise routine while not further aggravating my back, I turned to yoga. I have been going to yoga fairly regularly as of late, and with my back injury I have noticed an improvement in pain and mobility as a result of the stretching.

Here are the poses that have helped to ease my sore back:

1. Cat and Cow: This simple routine of rounding and arching your back while you are on all four’s is so easy to do. I instantly feel my lower back relaxing and a lot of tension leaving my shoulder and neck. To get the full benefit, remember to round your back on the inhale and arch your back on the exhale.

2. Child’s Pose: This is one of my favorite yoga poses, and I have found it to be a good stretch first thing in the morning or before bed. When the yoga class gets a bit too intense for me, this is the pose I retreat to—and my back thanks me for it!

3. Corpse: As the name implies, there isn’t much to this one. Just lie on your back with your palms facing the sky and let your body relax. You can also bring your knees to your chest and slowly rock from side-to-side for a gentle back massage. I like doing this one to conclude a yoga class.

4. Standing Half Forward Bend: Can’t quite get your hands on the floor? Don’t worry. This pose can be modified so you bring your hands to the front of your shins while stretching your torso. It is a great spine and lower back stretch.

5. Cobra Pose: The cobra pose is a gentle lower back stretch. Lying face down, use your arms to gently lift your upper body off the yoga mat. With your hips on the mat, come up only as far as you can without pain. I did this pose a couple of times in a sequence the other night and felt my shoulders, neck, and back loosen up.

As with any exercise routine, you should consult a physician before beginning. But if your doc gives you the green light, these are some easy poses to get you started and loosened up.

Brunching Like a Boss

Toast, Huntington, New York

If there is one thing that I truly love it’s brunch. Since I despise mornings, brunch is the perfect way for me to indulge in my favorite meal (that would be breakfast), but at a much more civilized time (like, around noon). So when I find myself sleeping in on the weekends, a good brunch is pretty much the only thing that will get me out of bed—and starting my day.

This past weekend was no exception. When a friend suggested going to breakfast on Saturday morning, I excitedly researched new nooks that I had yet to try. A quick Google search of ‘best brunch spots on Long Island’ revealed a plethora of options, but one menu stood out in particular. A few lines into perusing the menu at Toast and Co. in Huntington Village, New York and I was sold. Something about the sound of chocolate stuffed cannoli cream waffles made looking at other menus seem superfluous. I immediately emailed my friend with my executive decision and set the time.

The café-like establishment with limited parking and people waiting at the door made me think of New York City hotspots. I was starving, so I feared a long wait. But to my surprise, we were seated immediately. Having salivated over those chocolate stuffed waffles since the night before, I knew what I wanted to order. Still, the menu was worth reading, and it featured the standard brunch fare—eggs benedict, French toast, waffles. You name it, it is probably on their brunch menu!

Despite the packed house, the service was prompt. After we ordered, we sipped our coffee and chatted until our food arrived. The inside of the café was small and fairly loud, but the copious amounts of coffee and prompt service made up for it.

Chocolate Cannoli Stuffed Waffles, Toast

I could hardly believe my eyes when my food arrived. It was a good thing that I was hungry and ready to indulge. I’m usually not a huge fan of chocolate waffles (which might seem strange for a chocoholic), but the rich waffles combined with the creamy cannoli filling almost melted in your mouth. When it was time for a break from sugar, I started working on the strawberries and whipped cream that came with my meal.

Overall, I would visit Toast again. The service was amazing given how crowded it was on a Saturday morning, and they have an impressive brunch and lunch menu. If you are looking for the best of the brunch on Long Island, this place is not to be missed!

The Friday Five

Goodbye, winter. Hello, spring (even if it does feel like winter is still lingering in the shadows). After suffering with back pain for the last week, I sure am glad to have two days off and no plans. Here’s to spending the next 48 hours away from my computer, somewhat off social media, and most likely on the couch with a heating pad, binge-watching shows from the week. It sounds like an ideal weekend, if you ask me.

La Boulange

{Decisions…decisions}

Long Island Spring

{Hello, spring!}

Spring Starbucks Cups

{My latest obsession: the spring cups from Starbucks}

Fireplace

{A cozy dinner by the fire}

Chocolate Mousse Cake

{The most #instaworthy cake there ever was}

Spring Style: Who What Wear

Spring Style: Who What Wear

Move over Mossimo. These days I am loving a new line at Target. Who What Wear stole my heart when I first spotted the bold yellow floral sweater on a recent shopping trip (print seen above in the skirt version). So many people inquired where I got the top when I wore it to work recently that I knew I needed more of this line in my life.

After I purchased the sweater, I regretted not buying the floral bomber jacket—which I ended up going back for (and am glad that I did). I scooped it up in a small and the fit was just right with a light long sleeve layered underneath. Trust me—you will want this little jacket in your spring arsenal. I styled it with jeans and a pair of low heels and it instantly elevated my casual Friday ensemble.

Next up—The white long sleeve blouse with bow collar that is styled under the floral bomber. Can we say “winner”? I had to search three Targets for the blouse in my size (yes, you could say I was determined), but in the end it was worth it. Although you can’t see it pictured above, the blouse has black piping that runs down the sleeves. And the bow collar makes this a fun piece for work or play.

Lastly, the ribbed cold shoulder sweater was just too cute to pass up. I went with the black version and am looking forward to wearing it when the weather warms up.

And for my tall girlfriends out there—I wish I could pull off the pleated skirt, but it would look like a dress on me. Still, I had to include it because it is classic and chic.

I highly doubt that my obsession with the Who What Wear line will end any time soon. This collection makes getting dressed for work so simple. I love that you can mix and match all the pieces, and the pops of color are the perfect way to welcome spring.

Have you perused the Who What Wear line yet?

Monday Mantra: The Art of Tidying Up

Weekend Plans

Although I never read Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” my experience this past weekend was an eye-opener. You never realize how much stuff you have until you go through your home room-by-room and begin to declutter. That’s exactly what I started to do over the weekend, and boy, was it a chore. As if my back didn’t already hurt after a long work week, spending an entire Sunday “tidying up” surely did it no favors.

But I learned an important lesson in the process—I have a lot of (unnecessary) stuff. As I went through clothing I haven’t worn in years, old textbooks from college, and assorted possessions that I had long forgotten about, I thought of Kondo’s book—and how I need to read it so I can simplify my belongings.

While I don’t consider myself a pack-rat by any means, certain articles of clothing have hung around for longer than they should have because they reminded me of a certain time in my life. As I began to go through a dresser filled with things I haven’t worn in years, it made me realize that I could probably learn a thing or two from Kondo’s book.

I am happy to report that after a full day of straightening out, I have made progress in the organizational department. But now I’m left wondering where my weekend went?

*Photo via @letterfolk

Three Shows You Should Be Watching

Relaxing

Need to unwind after a long day at the office?

If you haven’t been watching any of these must-see television shows, now is the time to start. I’ve seriously curtailed my TV viewing habits over the years, so only programs deemed worthy are making this list. While I have been a loyal fan of some shows for years, others are new to my line-up this season…and so far, I can’t get enough.

Scandal: I started watching this one from the very beginning (and we are now in Season 6). As a long-time follower of Grey’s Anatomy, I have been a huge Shonda Rhimes fan for years (the producer of both shows, in case you don’t know). Add in that the show is set in Washington, DC—my home during college—and I was hooked. Each week I tune in to watch Olivia Pope’s character (Kerry Washington) be the ultimate #Girlboss, as she seamlessly navigates the scandalous world of DC politics—all while looking impeccable.

Imposters: This new scripted Bravo feature quickly grabbed my attention and hasn’t let go since. Although it requires a fair degree of artistic license on the viewer’s part, there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you glued to your couch…and coming back week after week. The central theme revolves around a con artist named Maddie who marries her “marks” and steals all of their money. Unfortunately for Maddie, we are starting to see the tables turn as her last three marks have found one another and are determined to track her down based on the limited things they learned about her from their brief marriages. The plot is getting more sophisticated, so if you haven’t watched, now is a good time to catch up.

Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce: This is another Bravo scripted show, and while it has been on the air for a few seasons, it has recently piqued my interest with the addition of new characters. Abby McCarthy is a writer living in Los Angeles who is trying to balance various activities—navigating life as a divorced woman, single parenting, dating after divorce, and managing an unstable career. Abbie and her group of girlfriends give life to the term “girl squad.” This is a great show to curl up on the couch with a glass of wine and binge-watch!

*Image via PicLab Studio

Snow Day

Well, the snow day on Long Island turned out to be a bust for the most part. Our predicted 12-24 inches of snow that had been forecasted, was more like three inches of snow with another inch or two of sleet. But that doesn’t mean it was a great day by any means. The morning brought high winds while the evening offered some light snow showers before the storm continued up the coast. All in all, it was a good day to stay in and cozy up!

Snow Storm Prep

{Preparations for winter storm Stella}

Who What Wear at Target

{Browsing (and buying) the Who What Wear collection at Target—before the storm}

Yoga

{Some mat time}

View from My Office Window

{The snowy view from my office window}

The Calm After the Storm

{The calm after the storm}

Monday Mantra: Take a Digital Detox

Social Media

As someone who spends a lot of time on social media, I’ve started to recognize how important it is to come up for air every once in a while. It’s easy to get into a routine, as I have, of waking up, scrolling through Instagram, browsing your Twitter feed, and perusing Facebook…all before you have even gotten out of bed. What’s worse, is that I have found myself scrolling through Instagram every chance I get—whether that’s in the check-out line at the grocery store or into the wee hours of the night (when I should be sleeping). So what’s a girl to do when you love your social media feeds, but really need to take a timeout? Insert the digital detox.

I’ve read plenty of posts on doing a digital detox, reaping benefits from it, and limiting your social media usage at critical times of the day, like before bed. Since we are bracing for a major snow storm on the East Coast this Tuesday (foiling my plans of having my scan done in New York City this week), I figured this past weekend was a nice time to take a hiatus from social media.

In the past, the idea of being “offline” for a whole weekend would scare me. Just thinking about all the posts and pictures I would miss makes me scream #FOMO. But after blogging for more than three years, I have learned that it’s okay to take a step back. Sometimes you need time for yourself or a little breathing space to feel inspired to post again. And that’s okay.

While I did post on Instagram once during my digital detox, I spent much less time scrolling through content. Rather than feeling like I was missing out all weekend, I felt free. I wasn’t tethered to my iPhone or trying to find the perfect picture to post, but I was able to enjoy my weekend and capture each moment with my own eyes…instead of my iPhone.

Now that my weekend digital detox is over, I am looking forward to jumping back on all of my beloved platforms (especially Instagram!) with a renewed appreciation…and perhaps some self-imposed time limits.

Tell me, have you ever done a digital detox?

*Image via PicLab Studio

Low-Iodine Living

Low-Iodine Living

I will never complain about having to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner again!

That is what I’ve learned from being on the super restrictive low-iodine diet for the last five days. Oh, I’ve also learned that iodine is present in just about everything. Cereal? Yup! Dairy? You bet. All of the things that I would normally consume in the span of a day contain some degree of salt, and therefore iodine (you can read more about the low-iodine diet, here).

When the doctor’s office told me I would be going for an I-131 whole body scan, they only mentioned avoiding shellfish. Easy enough, or so I thought. Upon further investigation of the low-iodine diet, I found that there are a number of no-no’s aside from shellfish.

If you are reading this post and wondering what the heck all of this means, let me explain. Back in November, my antithyroglobulin numbers began to rise. My surgeon suggested that we wait until February and retest. So we did another round of blood work and another neck ultrasound. My antithyroglobulin went from 233 in November to 302 in February (it had been at 40 in early 2016). After a panel of physicians met and discussed my case and treatment options, they decided that I should have a radioactive scan of my whole body done to see if there is remaining thyroid tissue that is causing the numbers to increase…or something more serious.

Which brings me to the low-iodine diet. To get a proper reading from this scan, the body needs to be deprived (or starved) of iodine, so that when the radioactive iodine pills are administered, the thyroid cells will absorb the iodine (because they are starving), and glow on the scan.

Fortunately for me, I can continue taking my daily thyroid hormone replacement (Synthroid), thanks to the invention of Thyrogen, a synthetic drug that gets injected two days in a row prior to the scan.

Unfortunately for me, my surgeon is located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Each day next week I must go into the City (a four-hour round-trip commute) to have blood drawn and the Thyrogen and radioactive iodine pills administered prior to the scan. Then I must undergo the scan itself.

Let’s hope that this anticipated Nor’Easter (predicted on the East Coast for next Tuesday and Wednesday) decides to go elsewhere, that I can last another week on this dreadful low-iodine diet, and that Friday, March 17th comes quickly.

My Favorite Bags for Spring

My Favorite Bags for Spring

Ah, spring!

While the weather may not be quite there yet, I am counting down the days until the season of extra light and warmer weather arrives. So in honor of spring, I’m hooking you up with some of my favorite handbag styles in very spring-like shades.

What are some of your favorite styles for spring?