Getting fancy with my food

I… am not a great cook. I’m not a great baker either, but I’m ok, and I make a few decent desserts. Cookies, cakes, cobblers, I got it; however, I’ve never tried anything with a crust. You see, I can’t bring myself to buy frozen pie or pastry crusts, but I had it in my head that crust is very, very difficult to make.

I was wrong.

On a whim, I decided to make a galette a few weeks ago. “What the heck is a galette?” you ask. Well, it’s basically a free form tart that consists of a folded crust and some kind of filling, typically fruit. There was no occasion and no expectations, so I figured I’d give it a go.

Wouldn’t you know, it was EASY! I even rolled my dough with a pint glass (does anyone in New York City own a rolling pin?) and managed to succeed. I used this recipe that I picked out on Pinterest (obVIously).

Suffice it to say, if I can do it, so can you. Take yourself on a little kitchen adventure and try this simple, yet fancy-feeling, pastry next time you’re feeling your inner Martha!

Storm Chasing on the Eastern Seaboard

“When you stop doing things for fun you might as well be dead.” -Ernest Hemingway

Well said, right?

I’ve been having quite a bit of fun lately: throwing caution (and my savings) to the wind in pursuit of a little adventure. Last month, I maxed out my vacation earnings at work and so, time had to be taken off and trips had to be planned!

My friend, Mikaela (check out her awesome blog, The Daily Saint), and I have been talking about getting our scuba certifications for MONTHS now, but we’d been struggling to find the right time and place to make it happen.

My cousin, Marissa, and her family (hi Cody, Kaine and Kaleaya!) recently moved to Key West.

Another very busy friend, Maggie, texted me late one night last month and asked if I wanted to do a girl’s trip in August.

Well folks, the stars aligned and I had the most marvelous adventure!

After a handful of gin and sodas at 11pm on a Wednesday night, I booked a flight and hotel to Key West. By Thursday afternoon, I’d researched the best PADI certified dive shops on the island and had a scuba certification course booked. Helloooo vacation!

I was on cloud 9, when I got word of this sucker.



I checked obsessively, panicked once or twice, and made the executive decision that this storm wasn’t going to sabotage my trip (as if I had that kind of authority over the weather). I got lucky, and Hermine missed the Florida Keys on her way into the gulf, and on the way out. She created some chop on the water that kept us in the harbor, sprinkled us with a few rain showers, and made my flight home bumpier than I’d like, but otherwise steered clear.

I got to spend time with my beautiful cousin and her amazing kiddos, learn a new skill with my official scuba buddy, and laze around Key West with a dear friend who I don’t see near enough. It was glorious.

Huge thanks to Marissa, Mikaela, Maggie, Scuba Instructor Extraordinaire the Colonel (check out his photography on instagram @keywestphotog), the fabulous humans at Southpoint Divers (use them if you’re diving in Key West!), the weird and wonderful NYA Hotel, and my generous parents for bankrolling most of my scuba cert as a 30th birthday present (you guys are the best). You all made hurricane season in Key West amazing!

As it turns out, tropical storm Hermine decided she hadn’t had enough of me, and she followed me into Labor Day weekend on the Chesapeake. Luckily, she skirted me again and I got to spend a lovely weekend on the Bay (again, with just a little rain and choppy waters).

Between the stars aligning and the narrow escape from a tropical storm not once, but TWICE, I’m feeling insanely fortunate. I should probably do some sort of dance of gratitude to the gods of weather and vacation. (Is that a thing?)

In any case, I had a BLAST and am reminded how important it is to take time off from our busy lives to relax, explore, try new things, and just have some fun!

How were your summer travels? Have you ever had a vacation derailed (or nearly) by bad weather?

Rockstar Series 2016: A Woman of Substance

I am beyond excited to be reintroducing the Rockstar Series with the amazing Cindy Lou! She’s a badass professional lady, a wonderful friend, and frankly, something of a force of nature. She’s been cracking me up and inspiring me since 2010 and I’m so thrilled to get to introduce her to all of you!
When I asked her, “who are you?” for this blog post, she replied (among other things you’ll see below), “a woman of substance.” How freaking awesome is that? I imagine most of us strive to be women (or men) of substance, but it’s rarely the first thing that comes to mind. I was impressed that it was so central to Cindy Lou’s self-identity and that she could immediately articulate it  with beautiful simplicity. Since she’s clearly saying it better than I can, I’ll pass the reigns along. Meet Cindy Lou!

Cindy LouWho are you?
Hi! I’m Cindy-Lou. Who am I? I’m an intense, hilarious Afro-Caribbean woman of substance. Some may say I’m a workaholic but when I emerge from that telephone booth you get to see the X-Men/Avengers-loving bestie who’s always up for an adventure (and yes, I’m the friend in the group who’s always talking smack).

What’s important to you?
God and family (yes, I consider some friends family). I have been through many health challenges in my life and those two groups have always been my constant. My spiritual life and desire to be and do better has kept me from many “Madea” moments. Yes, I would love to have my own family and the perfect job ,and maybe one or two kids, but at this time in my life it is important to me to be the best human being that I can be, to love the people that I am blessed to have in my life, and to not waste time focusing on the materialistic or superficial.

I’m into complete well-being: mind, body and soul. Sometimes we allow stress to creep in and this leads to mental and physical imbalance. I truly believe that there is always a way to relieve stress and re-center ourselves so we can be at our peak.

What does a day in the life look like?
Ugh! I get up at 4:30 am and wonder, “Why, why, why?!” did I find a job that forces me to make a five hour daily commute IN NEW YORK! I try to get out of bed by the second alarm, but definitely before the fourth. I do some yoga stretches, and take some time to talk to my maker. While making breakfast I listen to ABC7 (I never leave home without checking the forecast for the day). Then I make and pack my lunch and snacks so I can have control over the things I eat during the day. I usually take either unsweetened applesauce, nuts, select fruit, popcorn or sometimes goldfish crackers. I prefer tiny meals throughout the day rather than a few large portions that  will only leave me lethargic.

After taking two trains and two buses I arrive at work in Long Island. I’m a theater program coordinator responsible for creating activities and workshops to accompany the performances we present or produce. This involves a lot of research, communicating with performers or agents, and the rare privilege of sneaking into rehearsals to get a better grasp of the performance. Recently, I have been going into schools to prepare students for their theatre visit.

I don’t get home until close to 8:00pm. I’ll have dinner, relax for a bit then push myself to do some aerobics before grabbing a shower and hitting the bed, excited to do it again tomorrow. Throughout the day I make time to speak to my sister in Trinidad and Tobago, and to my mom and other siblings on a weekly basis.

I must be honest and confess that I don’t always feel the urge to do any form of exercise by the end of my day, but I am committed to the goals I set for myself and work hard to achieve them.

You wrote a book a few years ago. What inspired you to write it? What do you want people to know about it?
Two years ago I wrote Finding Me: The Journey Continues and last year I started a face book page, Sistah With A Purpose. The book and page were created for the same purpose: to encourage others, especially women, on this journey called life. My sister will tell you I’m a magnet for chatty strangers. People will just start talking to me and sharing their ‘situations,’ so I always share words of encouragement.

I actually wrote the book while commuting to and from work, so I suppose something great came out that long commute. In this book I share my journey as a means of encouragement and to let everyone know. “Hey, we’ve all been through stuff, but we should never give up or stop pushing forward.” S.W.A.P (Sistah With A Purpose) serves to do the same in my own personal sassy way.

3) What do you do when you’re feeling stressed? What brings you peace?
When I’m feeling stressed I reach out to God first, in an effort to understand the lesson to be learned from those stressful situations. Then I reach out to one or two of the wonderful women of my inner circle. It’s always best to have someone with whom you can share your deepest secrets and inner most fears, someone to whom you are accountable. Everyone should have that one person who is both their cheerleader and drill sergeant at the same time.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Finally to alleviate stress and refresh my inner peace, I seek out nature. I get myself to a body of water or park as fast as I can. This is one of the reasons I still live next to Prospect Park (Brooklyn) despite working in Long Island. There is something to being in nature. For me it puts things in perspective. My problems seem smaller when I think of this great big world and all the other things that are happening, especially in recent local and world events. I may take a walk around the park, just sit near the pond, or hop on a bus to Brooklyn Bridge Park. Water has zen qualities that just calm my soul. Who knows, I may have been a fish in another life!

Cindy Lou Two4) It’s hard to be a busy professional lady in NYC. How do you make it work, stay healthy and still have a social life?
It is indeed a circus trying to juggle your work and social life in NYC. My job and commute take up a lot of my time, but I have the most wonderful friends who remind me I need to socialize every now and again. I go to brunch, the movies, dinner, and social events/ concerts with my gal pals. There is no significant other at this time (believe me I have tried) but I am focusing on self awareness and growth at this point in my life.

As previously mentioned, I believe in holistic health: mind body and soul. I have struggled with my weight for most of my life, but I never let it consume me. It’s about loving the person you see in the mirror and enhancing what you’re working with (read my book). Confession is good for the soul too, so it’s time to admit: I have always loved aerobics. Billy Blanks’ workout videos to be specific. These videos allow me to work out without having to leave my apartment. I have dabbled with Zumba, but I always push myself more with Billy (and yes, we’re on a first name basis). When I’m not sweating in my apartment I hit the park for a couple laps. I have pushed myself to jog on occasion, but I love power walking.

I used to be a gym rat but after serious medical complications last year that left me hospitalized for over a week, I was forced to give up my membership on the long path to recovery. My doctors blamed gastroparesis for my visit and told me I would never be able to have a salad or raw foods again, including fruits and vegetables. I was forced to stick to a very restrictive diet, but daily I introduced new things into my diet and have now identified certain fruits and vegetables that don’t create problems for me. I continue to watch what I eat and take nothing for granted.

What’s one thing we haven’t covered that you want people to know?
With all the things that I juggle, I still find time to volunteer at my church. I’ve promised myself to have a listening ear to all who feel the desire to share, even strangers. I also strive to make a positive difference in the lives of all the young people with whom I come in contact. It feels good to do good. I know it sounds corny but it’s true. Try it and see!

Continue reading “Rockstar Series 2016: A Woman of Substance”

This time last year

Last summer my world went topsy turvy. I went through a breakup.

We all go through them, and as far as I can tell, they always suck. Even under the most copacetic of circumstances, breakups are hard. To get us all in the same headspace, I want you to go on a little journey with me. You in?

Think about the last time you had your heart broken – by a friend, lover, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, sibling, parent, whatever. Have that memory at the top of your mind? Does it ache a little bit just to think about it?

I’m sorry, that was kind of a cruel exercise. Here’s a cute picture of some kissing meerkats courtesy of the San Diego Zoo’s instagram (seriously, follow @sandiegozoo – too cute).

Meerkats by San Diego Zoo

In all seriousness though,  I think heartbreak is universal. I’ve had my share (as we all have), and it never gets easier. Each time a relationship is lost, it hurts all over again…even when you know it’s for the best. My first serious breakup wasn’t with a boyfriend, but rather with a best friend. I was devastated. I lost weight, partied harder than I should have, and actually ended up breaking someone else’s heart. (At the time, having two boyfriends seemed like a good way to protect myself from future heartbreak. Spoiler – it did NOT work. Lesson learned.)

Thankfully, I’ve grown up a little bit since then, and I think I’ve gotten much better at breakups. They’re not easier – actually, I think they get harder as you get older and life becomes more complex – but I’ve picked up some healthier coping strategies. One year after successfully surviving a breakup, I present the following tactics.

  1. Let yourself be sad. I think this is the hardest one of all. There’s a lot of pressure to be happy and be ok, but sometimes you’re not. This is going to suck. There’s just no way around it. I called in sick to work one day last fall just to cry it out with my Netflix account – months after my actual breakup. Emotions aren’t linear and there’s no right amount of time to mourn a relationship. Cancel plans if you need to. Take a break from being the life of the party. Cut yourself some slack and let yourself wallow…for awhile.
  2. Get help/access your support system. Feel all the sad, but if you’re feeling like you can’t go on, can’t pull yourself out of the funk, or are engaging in any kind of self harm (including risky behavior and negative self talk) – get some support! Whether it’s a friend, family member, or mental health professional, reach out – you’re not alone. In fact, even if you do know you’re going to be ok, reach out anyway. Lean on the other relationships in your life – everyone’s been there on some level. You might be surprised at how happy other people are to just be there for you.
  3. Set parameters for your relationship with your ex. Figure out how much contact you do or don’t want with this person. Draw the lines where you need them and respect the lines that the other person needs. It may feel weird, and it certainly won’t be easy, but defining those “lines” for yourself will make it much easier for both of you. Sure they will evolve over time, but check in and be clear about that evolution. Getting drunk and going home with an ex is not an “evolution,” it’s a recipe for disaster. Set parameters around social media too. Checking his facebook profile every hour isn’t going to help you move on with your life.
  4. Set non-relationship goals. Many of us get caught up in the narrative that we’re supposed to find the One, get married, and live happily ever after. When that doesn’t happen, it can feel like we’ve failed. News flash: You didn’t fail, and that narrative is kind of bullshit (and viciously propagated by our carefully curated social media lives). My antidote to failure (even though this is NOT failure), is a new goal. Please, for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT make your goal about your love life. Pick a goal that requires only you. Maybe it’s a great time to learn Spanish, play the guitar, run a 5K, or knock it out of the park at work. If you’re super ambitious like me, your new goal will be to keep a house plant alive for a full year. Not even kidding. IMG_3455
  5. Make decisions about your life. While breakups are really shitty, they are a natural pivot point. It’s a good time to reflect and change the things in your life that aren’t bringing you joy. Don’t feel like you have to do it overnight, but be open to making big changes. I moved in with roommates post-breakup (truly awesome ones too!), but months later I was still uncomfortable in my new world. Over Thanksgiving, my parents suggested I get my own place. It hadn’t occurred to me before, but it was like a light bulb went off! I had put my life on hold because I felt so unmoored by the breakup. I was drifting along. Getting my own apartment – while a scary financial decision – felt like the stake in the ground of my life as an independent person. “This is my life, I belong here.” Don’t put off big decisions waiting for someone else to come along. Move abroad, adopt a dog, get your very own Costco membership- just stop waiting to decide until you get into a new relationship. The waiting will make you nuts, and you’ll have to consider what someone else wants. Embrace the freedom.

So that’s what I’ve got folks. That’s how I navigated the dark waters of my own breakup. It was tough, but I can honestly tell you that today I am in love with everything about my life. Yes, I am absolutely terrified of getting my heart broken again (that shit HURTS), but I’m more open than I’ve ever been. Every single time, the love, growth, strength and experience I’ve gained from opening my heart has been worth the pain of breaking it. I hope you’ve all felt the same.

Enough about me. What about you? Want to share your best advice on recovering from a broken heart? Want to share your breakup story? Hit me with some of that untapped wisdom!


Women I Admire

I am SO excited to let ya’ll know that I’m bringing back the Rockstar Series! Founded in 2013 (and shamelessly neglected in 2014), the Rockstar Series featured interviews and stories from amazing women who live well while busy. It’s the best thing that ever happened to this little blog and I am SO excited to be bringing it back.

This time around, I’m broadening the scope a bit to include more elements of what it means to live well. We’ll hear about professional accomplishments, volunteer work, parenting, travel, overcoming adversity – you name it.

Look forward to stories from incredible women with different lifestyles across the country!

In the meantime, you can check out the original posts: one, two, three, four, five, six and seven. If you or someone you know is a Rockstar, let me know – I’m always up to meet brilliant humans.