Find Your Soul

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As a former Sociology major and someone who tends to over-analyze things, I’ve always been interested in trends, social expectations, and why people do the things they do. Living in New York City you see some pretty weird things that are subject to question (i.e. public defecation or waiting in line at Shake Shack for 2 hours). One such “New York” thing is SoulCycle (though it’s not just in NYC anymore). Why is SoulCycle so popular? Why are people willing to pay so much for it? Why did it take off exponentially? So I took to Facebook to enlist people to answer a brief survey in search of these answers.

What I found is probably not surprising on the surface. The number 1 reason people said they go to SoulCycle is that it’s a good workout (I can attest to that) and the number 1 reason people said they don’t go to SoulCycle is that it’s too expensive (I can definitely attest to that). What was interesting though were the contradictions in people’s depictions of the brand. Many people said they love SoulCycle because of the feeling of community, yet they also described it as elitist. Lots of people said it’s trendy, but then said it’s #basic – wouldn’t that make it not trendy anymore? Others called it spiritual or “zen”, but then called out the loud music and sweaty room – not your typical idea of zen. And finally, many people associated SoulCycle with celebs or rich New Yorkers, but yet (to my knowledge) none of the survey takers were celebrities or of Gossip Girl wealth and they still pay the hefty fee for the class. I did have a fair share of celeb sightings back in the day, but on the outside, most people were seemingly normal like me, barely making enough money to pay for a 250-square foot studio let alone fund their daily SoulCycle habit.

So what’s up with all the contradictions? My guess is that SoulCycle is at this tension point where it’s no longer for the elite or just a trend, it’s part of today’s zeitgeist. It’s helped to form this new “health as wealth” culture. As much as SoulCyle seems like it’s for the rich and famous, more and more “regular” people are buying into it – despite the steep price – along with other boutique cycling chains or Barry’s Bootcamp and crossfit. Now, saying you do crossfit or carrying a SoulCycle bag is as much of a statement as carrying a Birkin Bag. These fitness crazes have become more than a trend, they are brands; they are a symbol of status. By carrying that SoulCycle bag you’re making a statement to the world that says, “I workout. I take care of myself. I’m healthy.”

But what does “healthy” even mean anymore. Pretty much every workout, recipe, beauty product has been tied to the word “healthy” or promises to make us “healthier” that the word is rendered meaningless. What we’re really talking about when we say we want to be healthy is that we’re aspiring to be better than we are now. To be thinner, faster, cleaner, more environmentally conscious. Not that those are bad things, but healthy is no longer just about a good BMI or cholesterol, it’s about an entire aspirational lifestyle. And that’s why we’re shelling out $35 a class for SoulCycle even though we can’t afford it or think it’s for the elite: because we too want to be better, thinner, faster, cleaner.

Social media – Pinterest and Instagram in particular – are also part of this “health as wealth” culture. How many pictures of green juices and avocado toast do you see in your feed every day? But how many people actually post a picture of the bag of Doritos or Coke they ate later because let’s be honest, no one gets full from a green juice. These channels are all about sharing your best moments, creating an aspirational brand of yourself on your best days, not your worst, or even mediocre moments.

I think us Milliennials are especially susceptible to this aspirational culture. We were raised being told you can be anything you want to be, you can be the best at anything if you just try hard enough. We’ve also grown up with social media and constantly hear about the seemingly overnight success stories of start-ups and bloggers. Millennials are constantly seeking this better, more successful life/career/clothes/body/etc., but if we’re constantly striving and seeking, how do we know when we’re there?

This aspirational culture that the whole boutique health and fitness movement is part of definitely has its benefits. By constantly pushing ourselves to better ourselves, we in turn better the world and people around us. More and more great ideas and businesses are starting up everywhere. And I don’t think there’s a negative side to people exercising more, regardless if they paid $35 for it or not.

But I think what we need to be aware of – or at least I do – is are we running ourselves into the ground trying to be perfect and be the best at everything? We think being fit and having the perfectly decorated living room will make us happy, but in an aspirational culture like ours, once you have those things, there will always be something new to want. In a generation and culture that’s so ingrained in social media and success, we need to learn to take a step back, live in the moment, cut out the noise, do what works for YOU, be honest with yourself. After all, isn’t that what SoulCycle so famously preaches? Find Your Soul.

image via healthybex.com

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Here we go again…

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Are you noticing a pattern here? I’ll get really into the blog for a while and then go radio silent for months. Well, I’m not making any promises, but I’m hoping this time it will stick. You see, I’ve been doing some soul-searching over the past few months…

I started a new job back in April, which has been a great change for me. I’m a creature of habit and routines, so the structure and steady paycheck of a corporate job is definitely what I needed. As with any big change, it takes some time to get into a groove and that’s where the blog fell to the wayside. But because I can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes, the itch to get back into a creative outlet has been nagging at me for a few months now.

I debated for a while whether or not to start the blog again. I didn’t want to start it up for a month only for it to fizzle out again. But over the summer, I discovered some really great books and podcasts (and several glasses of wine shared with Kevin) that led me to do some needed self-reflection. I realized that in the past, I looked at my blog as a way to get out of an unhappy situation (usually a job) that I was in. I would put so much pressure on myself to make the blog successful and get new business, thinking that would make me happier. But by trying to be like these uber-successful celeb status bloggers, I was just feeling worse about myself. Nothing I had was ever good enough, and even when I reached a certain level or acquired whatever item I was lusting over, there was always something else to be had. And so I just got burnt out. Keeping up with Joneses is a tiring game.

This isn’t to say I’ve completely figured out life and don’t care about what people think of me anymore – my vulnerability to the comparison game always has and probably always will be one of my greatest flaws – but I have started to develop an awareness of when that icky Jones-y feeling kicks in, and it’s usually after reading those perfect fashion blogs or Instagram and feeling like I just have to have those Valentino shoes.

So I decided if I was going to start blogging again, I would want it to be a place that would still inspire people, but not in a way that would make people feel bad about themselves. I hope that my recipes, workouts, and entertaining tips will inspire you in a way that is attainable, not aspirational. I want to share content and ideas that will help elevate the everyday with what’s already in your home, so that you can savor and enjoy what you already have.

This has always been a personal struggle for me – accepting myself, savoring and enjoying what I already have – so we’ll see how this goes. Won’t you come along for the ride?

Barley with Brussels Sprouts & Edamame

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After a weekend of indulgences, I could feel my body craving some real, whole foods. The cookbook Clean Slate from the editors of Martha Stewart Living has become our clean eating go-to when we feel like we need to hit the reset button in the kitchen. All of the recipes we’ve tried have been delicious, easy to execute, and because it’s clean eating, the number of ingredients is always minimal. I even enjoyed the recipes we made during our cleanse earlier this year, I just got sick of eating carrot & dill soup 3 days in a row. We made this Barley with Brussels Sprouts & Edamame  for dinner last night and I’ll be eating it for lunch today. It’s light but still filling, which is perfect for today’s 90-degree temps. It’s also easy enough that I was able make the entire dish while chatting on the phone with a friend! Now that’s a double whammy.

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Barley with Brussels Sprouts & Edamame adapted from Clean Slate

Serves 4

Ingredients:

16 oz quick-cooking barley (I used this one from Trader Joe’s)

12 oz frozen shelled edamame

2 tbsp coconut oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled & minced

1 lb Brussels sprouts, stems removed and roughly chopped

12 oz baby spinach

crushed red pepper flakes

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the barley and cook about 15 minutes until tender. Add the edamame to the pot in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until just fragrant, about a minute. Add the Brussels sprouts and saute until just caramelized and tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the remaining tbsp oil to the pan and add in the spinach. Toss until wilted. Add in the barley and stir until combined. Season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes.

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A Weekend For The Ages

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Sorry to leave you hanging there for a while! After being away last weekend and a busy work week last week, I felt like I could barely get caught up on errands and chores, let alone write a blog post. But now after a fantastic weekend at home, the house finally cleaned, the fridge stocked with healthy meals for the week, I’m feeling on top of things again. But this wasn’t just any old boring weekend, my birthday was yesterday, and if you know Kevin at all, he always manages to go above and beyond with any occasion.

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It started on Friday with takeout sushi, a bottle of my favorite rose, and 50 Shades of Grey (which was thoroughly disappointing and cringe-worthy). We kicked off Saturday with an early morning yoga class at Gratitude Yoga in Princeton, or more like yoga kicked our butts – I am still sore, but cannot wait to go back. We then strapped my new bike onto the car and headed over to Rose Bank Winery and Crossing Vineyards in Newtown, PA for wine tastings. I highly recommend a visit to both if you’re ever in the area! After a picnic of cheese, olives, charcuterie, and baguette by the Delaware River, we biked up to New Hope, PA for some refreshing ice cream from Nina’s Ice Cream. The bike path was so beautiful and surprisingly quiet – we’ll definitely be spending lots more Saturdays there with my new wheels. For dinner, we ate in town at Acacia. Everything was fantastic, from the food and service, to the ambiance. And the best part is, it’s BYOB, so we brought one of the bottles from our wine tasting earlier that day.

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We spent Sunday (my actual birthday) with Kevin’s mom eating sweets upon sweets: baked french toast, my first Rita’s water ice, and birthday cake. After getting a little too much sun, we finally got around to that much needed cleaning and meal prep, then relaxed in our Adirondack chairs with yet another glass of rose and Kevin’s specialty, Chicken Parmesan. I still feel full from all of the food and love from friends & family this weekend. All in all, it was a perfect weekend and I’m ready to see what 27 has in store!

May Day

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I’ve been feeling like a bit of a slacker for being so quiet on the blog this week. My office changed to our summer hours schedule this week, so I’m still adjusting to the earlier train schedule, which means I’m out cold before 9PM these days (though I usually am regardless of what time I wake up). The plus side is I’m done by 1PM on Fridays! So this afternoon we’ll be driving up to Rhode Island. On Sunday my mom, sister, Kevin’s mom, and I are going to a mother-daughter tea at Glen Manor (our wedding venue), but besides that we have no plans, and I’m looking forward to hitting up our favorite local coffee shops and sipping rose on my parents’ deck. I’m also pumped that it’s May – my second favorite month after October (yes I rank all 12 months). Here are a few things I’m looking forward to this merry May…

My birthday! I’m not big into celebrating my birthday, but Kevin always plans the most perfect day, so I’m excited to see what he has up his sleeve next weekend.

Rose all day. Don’t really need an explanation for this one, but I’m especially looking forward to imbibing outdoors in our new-ish Adirondack chairs that we’ve sat in twice so far.

Leon Bridges show in Philly. Kevin introduced me to Leon Bridges in an epic photo slideshow he made for Valentine’s Day this year (cue: sobbing). We love this one song of his so much so that we’ve already decided to make it our wedding song.

Running outside. This winter was absolutely brutal for running outdoors. So much snow, ice, and numbing temperatures – we really fell off the bandwagon. It’s always a challenge to get back into running outside coming from the treadmill, but I’m more than ready for it.

Cold brew coffee. I just had my first iced coffee from Starbucks this morning, but I’m hoping we can perfect our own cold brew at home.

5 Year Boston College Reunion. I think I’ve only been back to BC twice since graduation. I’m looking forward to catching up with my Boston-based pals who I haven’t seen in ages. The campus is also absolutely gorgeous this time of year.

What are you excited for this May? Have a great one!

15 Minute Flatbreads

DSC_0565 We had such an amazing time at Keven and Theresa’s wedding this weekend! The weather was perfect, the venue was beautiful, the bride and groom looked stunning, and we did. not. stop. dancing. I was definitely feeling it on Sunday, but it was totally worth it. After a weekend of boozing, irregular meals, and snacking while traveling, I was ready to get back into a more balanced eating routine this week. DSC_0566 It’s been a little while since I shared a recipe here on the blog, mainly because we’ve been away the past couple weekends, so I haven’t been able to build up a back-log of nice pictures. But I actually made these flatbreads for dinner last night, and thanks to the fact that it’s still light out at 7PM and that they only took 15 minutes (really!) to make, I had more than enough time to whip these up and snap some nice pictures for your viewing pleasure. The great thing about these flatbreads is that you can really top them with whatever you want and make extras to heat up for lunch the next day.  So until the next weekend of boozing and dancing, let’s eat!DSC_056915 Minute Flatbreads

makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

6 whole wheat flatbreads

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

12 slices prosciutto

4 roma tomatoes, sliced

12 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced

1 bunch basil leaves, julienned

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2. Add balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then simmer until it reduces to a syrupy consistency, about 8 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, toast the flatbreads over the gas burner until just charred around the edges. If you don’t have a gas stove, put them on the baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes.

4. Top each flatbread with prosciutto, tomato, and mozzarella. Drizzle with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cook in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

5. Drizzle the flatbreads with balsamic glaze and sprinkle with basil!DSC_0588 DSC_0592

Let Me Escort You Into The Weekend

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So my shopping didn’t go as planned last night. The dress that I ordered was a little too big, so we went to a LOFT store hoping I could exchange it for a smaller size, but no luck. I did get some cute nude embellished sandals similar to those in yesterday’s post, but I ended up going with a dress, accessories, and clutch that I already had. I guess that’s what happens when you leave things like this to the last minute!

I’m usually not a last minute kinda person. Case in point: our wedding. We just hit the year-and-a-half mark in early April, so we still have lots of time to plan. We’ve knocked out almost all of the big ticket items already – venue, caterer, band, photographer, florist – so I’m really looking forward to having plenty of time to focus on the details. My latest obsession has been looking for unique escort card table ideas. We want to do something that fits within our theme, but also hasn’t been done before. Like I said, we still have more than enough time to figure little things like this out, but that just means I have ample time to pour over  Pinterest and magazines for inspirations. Here are a few ideas that I’m loving this Friday. Have a fab weekend!

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