Hi friends! Many years ago, when Birchbox, and then Ipsy, and then a slew of other beauty sample boxes came out, I was eager to sign up. For a mere $10, I could get about 5 products delivered right to my door, that felt like a monthly “present” (that I paid for). Who doesn’t love presents? I started with Birchbox–at the time, their products were a bit too high end and not really matched for my needs. After a few months, I made the switch to Ipsy, which offered a great mix of higher end brands(Benefit, Stila, etc.) with drugstore brands that were more affordable. The products were closer matched to things i’d actually purchase, but after receiving one too many glitter eye liners, I threw in the towel and spent that $10 on products I actually wanted. Now, a few years later, with a little more change in my pocket, I decided to give Birchbox another shot. I updated my preferences, and soon enough, a box was on it’s way to me. A bit has changed since the last time around, and they now give you the option of a surprise box, or a curated box (where you can see the products ahead of time) every month. A couple of the products in the curated box caught my eye, so I went with that.
So what was in the box?
So what did I like? Let me start by saying that I am not paid in any way for my feedback of these products, and as a New York City lady with limited space, something has got to be really great for me to keep it.
I’ll start with the good–
Ok, let’s go into the not as great.
And last, the neutral.
But there’s one more! What about Clarins Hydra-Essentiel Silky Cream - Normal to Dry Skin? Well, unfortunately it contains my allergen, Propylene Glycol. And while I’m committed to trying new things, I’m also committed to not knowingly flaring up my skin. It gets great reviews, and one of my friends will be the lucky recipient of this Birchbox sample.
Is anyone out there doing Birchbox? What did you get in your April box? Share in the comments below. And if there’s a product you want me to try, let me know! Stay tuned for the next box.
You know that hazy, soft feeling that fills your body after a day at the beach? Your skin is flushed from being baked all day in the summer rays, your eyes slightly squinted, a tummy full of crunchy snacks and cold beer, sand still stuck to the soles of your feet. You could fall asleep right in the sand, despite the sounds of children playing, music blasting, and people yelling. There’s an inherent calm that fills the body after a day at the beach. But the sky is quickly turning from hot white to black, signaling a need to return to the artificially cooled indoors.
You return to your summer beach rental; it’s nothing fancy, really, just four walls and an old ceramic roof. Turning on the a/c, you feel the instant cool jet stream hit your face, breathing in the cold. As you look at the trail of sand you’ve brought in, a rumble of thunder hits in the background–a storm is coming. After a warm shower, you touch your skin–it’s still radiating sunshine, even though the rain outside has started falling. Barely able to keep your eyes open, you turn off the lights, crawl under the heavy-weighted bed quilt, and watch the storm dancing outside the window. Rain taps against the roof, palm trees sway outside, and the gentle pitter patter of the heaven’s cracking in the sky are filling your senses. The cold air from the a/c caresses your blushing skin–it’s all a haze. You slowly drift into a lucid state, and then finally, fully give into a deep, heavy sleep.
How’ya feeling? Nice and relaxed? Maybe a little sleepy? Well let me let you in on a little secret, folks–that story is my made-up, Mary-needs-help-sleeping story. It’s one of a few that I’ve dreamt up in my mind to help me fall asleep. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had problems sleeping. It’s possible I’ve never slept completely through the night (can that be true?). Ever since I was a small child, I’ve woken up at least one time in the night for one reason or another. I’m also one of those (crazy) morning people who has an internal alarm of 7:15 am, and no matter how late I’ve gone to sleep (or what I’ve done the night before), I can never naturally snooze my internal alarm for too long. I’ve never even hit the snooze button on my non-natural alarm clock–not sure if that’s something to be proud of or not. I’m also a vivid dreamer. I can’t remember all of my dreams, but I’m always fully engulfed in them throughout the night. So if you combine difficulty falling asleep, with active dreaming, and a constant early riser, what do you get? A sometimes sleep deprived Mary.
The truth is, since I’ve been dealing with this for so long, it rarely bothers me anymore. I tend to go to bed earlier to add in some pad time, and if I know it’s going to be a late night, I try to add in time the next night to go to bed a tiny bit earlier. Once in a blue moon the sleep gods will allow me to fall back to sleep for an hour or two on the weekends. And while I do actually enjoy sleeping, I genuinely think I require less of it than some other people. Or maybe that’s just what I tell myself. The insomnia really came to fruition during my first Whole 30 (and again on my second Whole 30), and I started taking Melatonin to help. The dose was very mild, and seemed to help others who were experiencing insomnia during W30 (there’s a whole forum about it!) But as much as I love an easy fix, I try not to take it on the regular. But let’s go back to where I started here–telling myself a story.
Telling myself made up stories is my go-to when insomnia is occupying my head space. For me, stories balancing hot and cold, discomfort and comfort have always been the most effective. The beach story (and it’s many variations) may be my favorite. But sometimes, no matter how much yoga I’ve done, or how much I try to de-stress before bed, my brain is a little too cluttered for story time to work it’s magic. This is where I’d turn to melatonin–until recently!
I’ve tried sleep machine sounds in the past, but they never exactly worked. I sleep with a fan in my face (white noise+temperature trick), so that sound didn’t help me much. And the sounds of the ocean or rainforest never quite did it for me. Now maybe had I paid for an app, or bought a proper sound machine it would’ve worked differently, but I’ve paid for less than a handful of apps in my lifetime, and I live in NYC, so having a machine take-up valuable counter space with such a limited use seems like a stretch. But then a game changer entered the field–the perfect sleep-inducing YouTube channel, Relax Sleep ASMR. Having complained to a friend about not sleeping enough times to annoy him, he suggested I check out the ASMR YouTube channel, specifically their video of a thunderstorm in the city at night. Being incredibly dubious but curious, I opened YouTube on my tv in my bedroom, loaded the channel, lowered the volume a bit, and waited for blissful sounds of rain to enter the room. As the video started playing, and the screen went slightly black, I felt the cool fan on my face, and heard the sounds of rain pitter pattering against glass, while cracks of thunder echoed in the background. And then the darnedest thing happened–I fell asleep.
Sleep habits have always fascinated me. Why can some people fall asleep anywhere and anytime, while others have a difficult time even under the most ideal situations? Why do some of us dream vivid dreams, and some feel they never dream at all? Do these patterns ever change? If you’re battling sleep problems, know that I commiserate with you. If you’re one of those people who can fall asleep on their couch (or on planes!), I’m jealous. But for me, I have my stories, my tricks, and now my YouTube videos, and hopefully these things slowly lead to better sleep.
It was one of those great, hot summer days in the city. You know the kind–waking up to sunshine streaming in from the window, the pavement outside already hot. You throw on your easiest summer dress, toss your hair up, and run out the door. The humidity is almost intoxicatingly strong. You grab an iced coffee and duck into stores with cold a/c when the outdoors become unbearable. Lounging with friends and snacking in the park takes up an entire afternoon, before deciding it’s time for relief. You find a mellow bar around the corner, and pile into one of the tables available outside. The ice cold margarita tempers your body. As the night goes on, you’ve lost track of time–what started as “just one dance” is now “I can no longer feel my feet.” Exhausted from the day, you head home. After a cold shower and a glass of ice water, you drag your tired body into bed. The hum of the a/c radiates in the background, and the sounds of the city creep through the closed window. Sirens, shouting, celebrations, honking–but none of it matters to your tired mind. You gently bat your eyelids closed, and give in to the end of that summer night.
Spring weather is slowly creeping in, and i’m climbing the walls in anticipation of a warmer weather weekend. But since it’s not the weekend, here are some of my favorite things I’ve come across on the web this week. Share with me in the comments below what you’ve stumbled up that speaks to you!
Why do so many men immediately put on gym shorts after sex? The Racked team investigates.
Glossier is shipping everything FOR FREE today!
One of my favorite Bustle writers explains why fashion and beauty still matter, even when there are so many crazy things happening in the world right now.
Amazon is giving everyone a discount today!
Appeals Court rules that assault weapons are not protected under the second amendment.
Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain would’ve turned 50 this week. Read his daughter’s touching note to him here.
I really want to try Hot Yoga, but this hilarious account of one woman’s experience has me questioning my judgement.
Up here in NYC, we’re enjoying a lovely, warm, 62 degree WINTER day (hi global warming). Despite today’s balmy conditions, the northeast is expecting to get slammed with snow early tomorrow morning. While the thought of a snow day filled with hot chocolate and bagels (can those be paleo?) is nice, the thoughts of upcoming spring things are even nicer. From clothes to beauty to destinations, here are some of the things that I’m most excited about for warmer weather.
What are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below!
If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that for the past month or so I’ve been trying to practice yoga. As a self-proclaimed balance-challenged individual, and as someone who has a really, really hard time “finding her inner calm,” yoga was never exactly my cup of tea. I looked at yogis the same way I looked (ok, still look) at runners: good for them, not for me. But as I started practicing at home (another shout-out to Yogi Adrienne) I was feeling more confident in my yoga abilities, my mind was calmer, and the thought of taking my skills into a public class seemed less scary. Enter Aerial Yoga.
It all started when a coworker (and friend) was in-town last week. She mentioned how stiff she was feeling after her long flight to NYC from LA, and threw out the idea of taking an aerial yoga class to stretch out a bit. My ears perked up. “Aerial yoga?” I said “that could be interesting…” Still off the booze and eager for a non-bar related activity, I quickly told her I’d join, and we invited another coworker/friend along for the ride (the same friend who got me into Yoga with Adrienne!) $25 and a walk across the street from our office to Om Factory, and we were ready for our Aerial Yoga class.
For those of you who have been wondering “WTF is she talking about, what is aerial yoga?” in short, aerial yoga is where a large, silk hammock hangs from the ceiling of a yoga studio (our class had about 15 hammocks), that are suspended so the bottoms are a few inches from the ground. A yoga mat rests underneath, and props such as a blanket and yoga blocks were nearby. The practice boasts increased flexibility and relaxation, and offers a fun twist on classic yoga. Depending on the class, various yoga poses are performed, including inversions, where part or all of your body may be suspended in the air. Talk about a head rush! Our particular class was a “restorative” 75 minute session, where no pose was too extreme, but was held for 3 to 5 minutes.
I really wish I had been able to take photos of myself and friends while we were suspended in positions that made me think I was at my gynecologist's office. We started off slow, but quickly switched to what seemed to be never-ending hip openers, where our thighs were spread-eagle in the air, while our hips were (somewhat uncomfortably) being held up by the silk hammock digging/resting on my skin while my head and shoulders plunged into the earth below me. As I deeply questioned whether or not my hammock could hold me, or if I’d be the first one ever to break through the silk (it’s weighted up to 2000 lbs–clearly we are all fine), it was a bit tricky to “find my focus.” There were stretches with the silk that allowed for further movement than normal, but I have a hard time relaxing with such slow movements (other aerial yoga classes offer a faster-paced yoga style). The last move involved “cocooning” ourselves; where our entire body is enveloped in the silk hammock, your body is outstretched, and you gently sway side to side. As my body gently rocked, I was slowly able to tune out the sounds of midtown, embrace the weird, and start to relax. And then the class was over.
Overall, I’d say aerial yoga was a positive experience, if for no other reason than I got to see my friends in ridiculous positions (did I mention I couldn’t stop laughing?). My inner thighs have NEVER felt so stretched out, and I did enjoy the vibe of it all (fancy yoga classes are niceeeee). I think I’d certainly try it again, but opt for a more classic-yoga style class, instead of something slower paced. Have any of you out there tried aerial yoga? What was your experience like?
Let me know what I should try next in the comments below!
I made it! As of yesterday, I’ve successfully completed my second Whole 30 and 31 Days of Yoga Revolution. Not to be all “wow, I’m so proud of myself, look at how great I am” blah blah crap, but honestly, it feels pretty good to know that I was able to successfully do both.
Despite my hesitations going into yoga (refer to this previous post), I think I’m sort of into it now. Not to say that I’ll be going on yoga retreats or constantly referring to my third eye, but I genuinely feel more relaxed and stress-free, and even in just 30 short days, I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my flexibility and stability. But past the physical effects, I also gained something I hadn’t really thought about before–30-40 minutes of peaceful “me” time every. single. day. It’s so easy in life, at least for me, to get caught up in everything else going on in the day–projects at work, supporting friends, taking care of pets, entertaining dates–the list goes on. But it’s important to remember that you’ve got to be the number 1 in your life, and self-care is incredibly important. Maybe that means treating myself to a manicure, taking a fancy workout class, or finally getting a blow out, but for the past 31 days, it meant showing up for myself to do a little yoga. It was a time I set aside just for me everyday, and while some days had to get skipped (and made up for later!) I did my best to show up. I mean, I practiced in my bedroom, so really, no excuses.
It’s funny how much Whole 30s can vary from one to another. I remember during my first one trying all sorts of weird recipes (such as a cashew “alfredo” sauce-some things really need dairy), and constantly looking at what day it was in the 30. I always had a count-down to the end, even though I was feeling good. For this Whole 30, I stuck to recipes that felt a bit more comfortable and classic, such as Pizza Spaghetti Pie and Paleo Meatballs (I guess I was feeling Italian this month?) and relied more heavily on having easy to eat fruit and veggies around (and of course, prosciutto) to fill in the gaps when I didn’t have a full meal planned. For most of this Whole 30, I had no idea which day I was on. I had more energy and focus than last time (thanks yoga!), but my bits of insomnia that I battled last time crept back in, too (anyone else have this on W30?) But I had my hard moments–days 20-25 were filled with a massive sugar craving, and losing my desire to eat anymore meat. And I’m not going to lie, all I wanted the day of the inauguration was a large vat of wine and a rich chocolate cake. But as any Whole 30er will tell you, not having these things won’t kill you. I didn’t die because I couldn’t have a drink on an awkward date, and not being able to bake for a month didn’t cause me wild distress either. I think they call that discipline, kids.
So what’s the takeaway? Am I just going to go eat all the bagels I can find and drink until Trump isn’t president anymore? Duh, no. Physically and mentally I feel better than I have in a while. And I wasn’t going to say it, but screw it, it’s my blog–I lost 14 lbs since January 3rd, and DAMN does that feel good! W30 emphasizes the importance of not weighing yourself during the 30 days, and while I was feeling better, I didn’t really think I lost any weight. Not that a number should be the only factor in determining success, but it does put a very superficial reward on what you feel internally. So far I haven’t eaten anything non-Whole 30, but I am going out tonight, and brunching tomorrow. I don’t want to fall too far off the wagon, but I’m ok with occasional splurges with friends or for special occasions, and I’m going to stick with paleo-ish at home (paleo baking is happening in the near future). I’ve also started another 30 day yoga series (30 is apparently the ideal timeframe for me), and I’m looking forward to continuing my practice. We all know that change takes time, but I feel really good about the changes I’ve been able to make for myself since the start of the year, and I encourage you to reward yourself for the changes you make for yourself, too. In a time of a lot of uncertainty, remember you’ve only got yourself to owe up to, so do it for you! Tell me what you’ve done for yourself lately! Take a class? Learn something new? In the next blog I’ll tell you how my first aerial yoga class went...stay tuned!
To be honest, I don’t always know what to write about. I pride myself on being a creative thinker, someone who can “think outside the box,” but sometimes, no matter how hard I try, nothing comes out of the noggin.
Boo boo beee booo.
^my brain trying to think of something creative to say.
For a lot of Americans, this week has been a strange nightmare. While I write this right now, thousands are protesting Trump’s executive order issuing a “muslim ban,” and last night many gathered at area airports protesting the ban as well, before a federal judge granted an emergency stay for those who were already being held at airports, or currently in transit. This is on top of other orders that came out this week ranging from re-opening discussions on dangerous pipelines, to telling the EPA to stop all grants and contracts. National organizations like the National Parks Department and NASA have even taken to creating rogue Twitter accounts after gag orders were put in place to limit their messages(though who runs the accounts is a mystery, and not necessarily by someone from the organization). Lady Liberty is letting out a heavy sigh right now.
I think a lot of us are feeling heavy. Feeling like we don’t know what’s going to happen next, and focusing on passing one obstacle at a time. Our brains so focused on dealing with the absurd (because that’s what it is) that we can’t explore the ideas we have in the creative realm.
I was at a Leonard Cohen tribute concert earlier this week, which was a welcome mental break. Throughout the concert, they’d play excerpts of interviews with L. Cohen, and the selections used were particularly relevant to what we are facing today. Cohen once said “We're always experiencing joy or sadness. But there are lots of people who've closed down. And there are times in one's life when one has to close down just to regroup.” Right now, many are experiencing a lot of sadness, and a lot of uncertainty of what’s next. If you’re feeling this way, I encourage you to follow Cohen’s words–take a moment to regroup. Do not view that quiet moment as weakness, but instead as a brief chance to focus your mind and body, so you can be as strong as you can possibly be. There are many among you who will help you get back up.
Yesterday, me and my closest 400,000 friends* took to the streets of New York City to join the millions of others in towns and cities around the United States and around the world to peacefully protest the new White House administration, and promote that women’s rights are human rights. Folks from all walks of life, not just women, took to the streets to make our voices heard, and the images taken from above the march sites are powerful. There’s an image going around the internet right now of an older woman holding a sign that says “I can’t believe I still have to protest this fucking shit.” I’m not sure if it was taken yesterday, or at one of the many other rallies where women still have to demand rights over their own bodies, but that message will not get out of my mind. We are still demanding, still fighting, for rights that shouldn’t have to be won.
I don’t want the government to tell me what I can do with my female reproductive organs, and I especially don’t want them to control decisions that are really just between me and my healthcare provider. That’s why I marched. I saw a sign that said “Planned Parenthood saved me from cervical cancer.” I saw other signs with smart saying, creative drawings of uteruses, and even vagina costumes (oh, and Chuck Schumer made an appearance!) The point is, people were there for a variety of reasons, their own reasons, whether they had female reproductive organs or not. But women’s rights are just the start.
In many ways, the real march, the march towards equality, towards freedom, to equal access to all that America has to offer, has just begun. The millions of marchers who came out on Saturday across the country–across the world–were just the start. Equal rights for women, gay, trans, hispanic, muslim, blacks...the list goes on of the fundamental equality issues that this administration is going to challenge. Not to mention access to health care, immigration, jobs–topics that are going to be deeply challenged as well. We need to keep our voices loud, our opinions heard, and keep pushing towards the freedoms that we so rightfully deserve. I urge you to call your local representatives, volunteer at your local shelter, show your support with organizations that are likely taking some of the harshest tolls, and most of all, remind yourself that change starts with YOU. You are not alone in this, we are not alone in this, and our voices will be heard.
““There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” Jane Austen
*Ok, fine, I’m not popular enough to have 400,000 friends, but we did all get along real nice.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you're aware of the doomsday inauguration happening this Friday of the 45th president, Donald Trump. You are (hopefully) also aware that the Women's March on Washington is happening the next day. In case you aren't familiar with the March, the mission is to “send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights.” Thousands and thousands are expected in Washington D.C. for the March, and the interest spawned other cities to create their own. Since I'm based in (currently unseasonably warm) NYC I'll be joining our local March here.
Ok, ok done with the set-up, let's get back to the point–the Pussyhat Project. The Pussyhat Project “aims to provide the people of the Women's March on Washington D.C. a means to make a unique collective visual statement which will help activists be better heard” and as a way to let those who can't make it to D.C. represent themselves. The “Pussyhat” is a fairly simple pink knit (or crochet, or sewn) hat, that when pulled on, has two cat ears (picture below). My friend Kari, who is an avid and excellent knitter, created a subgroup in NYC of local knitters (novice and expert) that gathered together to knit hats to give to marchers. With her promise to teach me to knit (I've knitted two scarves prior-both were not quite great), I eagerly joined the other women (and men!) for a day of knitting.
As we sat around a coffee shop in midtown, sipping tea and knitting away, it was clear to see it wasn't just about the hat. We were a group of people coming together in a peaceful manner to have thoughtful discussions, laugh at our lack of expert knitting skills, and form new friendships. In what can only be described as a cloudy, unsure time, it was an almost zen experience, and I hope that feeling is felt at the marches this Saturday.
Tomorrow night I'll be passing my hat off to a friend who is headed to D.C. to march, and it's giving me the feeling that I'm part of something bigger. Maybe I only made one hat, maybe I can't go to D.C, but I'm sure as hell not just going to sit back and watch.
During my prep for my first Whole 30, one tip that kept coming across in my research was the importance of meal prep. Never let your next meal be a complete mystery; without something ready in your pantry or fridge, you’re more likely to reach for something non-compliant (compliant was a word I never used pre-W30, and now I can’t seem to get it out of my vocabulary). I already packed my lunch for work everyday, and cooked most dinners at home, but I still knew that Whole 30 prep was going to be a bit more intensive. For me, it’s easiest to plan out breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the week, and always have fresh veggies, fruit, and compliant snacks on hand. Most days, I’ll eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch for 7 days straight (if it’s tasty the repetitiveness doesn’t bother me, but I know that isn’t the case for everyone), and I’ll plan something for 4-5 dinners, and then have a couple “filler” options for nights when I want to switch it up. I’ll then spend a Sunday morning or afternoon cooking everything up for the week, and packing it up so it’s easy to grab and go.
My current week looks like this:
Breakfast-A yummy spinach, egg, and salt pork frittata. It’s easy to make the weekend before, cut up into six slices, and grab one to eat when I get to work. There are so many great Whole 30 frittata recipes out there, so really explore!
Lunch-Pizza Spaghetti Pie This AMAZING recipe from Juli Bauer could not be any simpler to make, and tastes almost exactly a carb-loaded “classic” spaghetti pie. If you haven’t tried spaghetti squash, go try it now! And you probably have the rest of the ingredients in your pantry. Her buffalo chicken casserole is also super tasty.
Dinner-Chicken Tikka Masala
Every week, I have one wild card recipe; something I’ve never tried, and wasn’t recommended by a friend. This week it was Tikka Masala. While the flavor is good, if I made it again, I’d blend everything (minus the chicken) prior to cooking; even with a cup of coconut milk, mine is still runny, and I don’t find stewed tomatoes particularly appetizing. I serve it with a roast potato and brussel sprouts.
Dinner Alternate: As you can tell, I try to focus on inexpensive meats and readily accessible items (minus the Garam Masala that I literally walked a mile in the snow to get). But sometimes my body is just craving red meat! Instead of picking up an expensive steak, I’ll buy ground beef or burger patties to have a couple nights as a nice change from chicken. Serve with some ground mustard, sweet potatoes and a nice salad, and it’s a great alternative.
I also always have apples and whatever fruit is in season/on sale on hand, as well as some dried mango (not regularly), cashews, compliant fruit bars (I stash some at my desk for when I forget my breakfast), and last but certainly not least, prosciutto. Prosciutto is a perfect little snack for quick protein, and it’s fairly easy to find a compliant version (just make sure the ingredients are pork and salt). Beverages are important too! I find always having mint tea on hand as a lovely after-dinner alternative to dessert really helps. Flavored seltzer is also good, just make sure it is free of sweeteners.
Who out there is doing a January Whole 30? What are some of your favorite things to have on hand?