4 Tips To Relieve Stress

Guys, life is stressful. Paying bills is stressful. Being an adult is stressful.

I’m sure I’m not saying anything you didn’t already know, and you’re probably rolling your eyes already – I don’t blame you. But I do want to share with you some ways that I try to deal with stress so that I’m not an uber-grinch to everyone all the time. I partnered with Red & White Spa Midtown in NYC to encourage you to take some time for yourself and de-compress. You know how on airplanes, they say that you have to put your own oxygen mask on before you can help others? That’s because you’re of no use to anyone if you run out of oxygen and collapse on the spot. DUH.

After 26 years on this planet, I know a thing or two about unwanted stress. While I definitely have a slew of privileges that plenty of others don’t, that doesn’t make me immune to feeling like I might crack sometimes. Between balancing friendships, improving romantic relationships, furthering my career and working on ever-present family drama + dynamics, sometimes it feels like I forget to breathe. Have you ever felt like that? I bet you have. And guess what? It’s ok. It’s normal. But it’s also really, really important to know when you need to take a second and take care of yourself. Here are some of my favorite ways.

  • Yoga. Now here me out, because this is important. I’m not talking about the yoga that’s like, a real workout and leaving you sweating (although I’m sure that’s nice too). Tbh, I really don’t enjoy that kind of yoga at all. This is different – it’s more of a mix of stretching and breathing exercises. Things have been BANANAS at work recently, and last week my boss treated us by bringing someone into the office to walk us through a half hour of stretching, breathing, and just connecting with our bodies and being at peace. It was freaking life changing. By the end of 30 minutes, I felt exponentially calmer, less tense, and ready to conquer the rest of my week. There are tons of different ways to do something like this. Classes, of course, but you can also YouTube different videos, download podcasts, or download apps that walk you through brief meditations.

 

  • Getting a massage. As I mentioned, work has been insane for me the last month or so. I’m talking working until 11pm on a Friday kind of insane. When Red & White Spa Midtown reached out to me to ask if I wanted to come in and try some of their services, I nearly cried from excitement. The tension that had been building up in my shoulders was something fierce. I could literally see little bulges of muscles gathered on my shoulders/neck, and it wasn’t cute. I made an appointment for after work, took the subway up to their 56th street location, and laid down for what turned out to be the most relaxing hour I’ve had all year. The spa is really nice, and aside from massages, they offer a ton of different services. I got the 1 hour Swedish massage, which started off with a brief moment of aromatherapy (which btw, excellently timed bc my sinuses were all backed up from the weather and this cleared them right up!), and then for the next 55 minutes, I was blissfully catatonic. My massage therapist got out every last knot in my back and shoulders, and created an atmosphere in which I was truly able to block out any concerns I’d been having about work and just focus on absolutely nothing. My mind was clear, something that hadn’t happened in a long time. As a thank you, they’re also offering 40% off any of their services to all of my readers. All you have to do is mention me when you stop by 🙂

 

  • Bubble bath: Why make it complicated? Sometimes a simple bubble bath is the cure for a stressful day. Make it nice for yourself. Add in a delicious bath bomb, light a few of your favorite candles (note: do NOT place them by your head if you want to avoid potentially lighting your hair on fire), pour a nice cup of hot tea (or wine!), and throw on some soothing music. Not only will the hot water loosen up your muscles, but you’re now placing yourself in a calming environment, which is crucial. I try and do this at least once a week, as a way to maintain some level of sanity. Wanna get really crazy? Throw on a sheet mask while you’re at it.

 

  • Exercise. As Elle Woods would say, “exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands.” If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know there’s two things I LOVE to do. One of them is dancing, and the other is running. I’ve danced pretty much my whole life, and it feels like therapy to me. Going to my Wednesday night hip hop classes is something I truly look forward to every week. Not only is it fun, but I feel accomplished knowing that I’m challenging myself to learn  new choreo in under an hour, and I feel a sense of accomplishment when I hit it at the end. When it comes to running, I may have exaggerated by saying I love it – I don’t LOVE it. I love how it calms me down. When I run, it forces me to regulate my breathing so that I’m not panting 2 minutes in. I’m someone who gets anxiety and when I feel that pressure in my chest that makes it hard to breathe, I throw on my sneakers and hit the pavement. It gives me no other option than to correct my breathing patterns, and in turn, releases endorphins and a sense of calmness. I haven’t always been a runner, and you don’t need to be a “runner” for this to work for you. I HIGHLY recommend trying it out though.

 

Any other tips? Send them my way! xo, AJ

Cheers to Four Years in NYC

I’ve officially been calling NYC home for four years. CAN YOU BELIEVE?! And before any of you snobs get on my case for the fact that I moved out to Jersey City last summer, grab a spoon (hi toasters), because JC is considered the NYC metro area so therefore it still counts kthanksbye.

I could go on for HOURS about what I’ve learned since living here, but here’s what’s important.

  1. I convinced myself the first 2 and a half years that there would never be a mouse in my apartment. I was wrong. Twice. TBH, as long as I don’t see them, I’m fine with pretending they’re not there. I legit announce myself when walking into my apartment and give any potential mice a 10 second head start. We’re learning to live with it.
  2. There’s no such thing as having a lot of money in NYC. Even if you make a lot of money, you end up spending it. It’s a weird, sick cycle. Think you’ll save a lot if you make $100k+ a year? Wrong. You’ll blow it on spending $3k + a month on rent because you just had to have the extra bathroom space.
  3. Speaking of apartments, apartment hunting is an absolute joke. If you see a place that you don’t completely hate and won’t force you to live on ramen 75% of the month, SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE MY FRIEND. You have about 30 seconds to fork over the deposit, first month’s rent, and broker fee before somebody comes along and snatches it right from your hands. It’s the hunger games out here.
  4. Subways have been, still are and always will be the easiest way to get around in the city. Am I guilty of getting an Uber because I’m too lazy to get on the Subway and possibly have to stand in case I don’t get a seat? Yes. Does it take me 20 minutes longer to get to my destination? Also yes. Does it cost me at least $20 every time I’m this lazy? Yes, at a minimum. Take the subway.
  5. Moving is such a bitch. Trust me on this. I’ve moved four times now, and it has 100% sucked each and every time. If you can stay in your apartment, DO IT.
  6. If you absolutely cannot stay in your apartment, suck it up and higher movers. Or at the very least, hire a couple guys off Task Rabbit for a few hours. You’re going to be spending money to move either way and having (semi) professionals there to help you will save you from a dramatic amount of blood, sweat and tears. I tried to move by myself once and I can assure you, it will NEVER happen again.
  7. I’ve lived here for four years, and I simply cannot understand the hysterics surrounding cockroaches. It’s a bug dude, hit it with your shoe and flush it down the toilet. Grow a pair and move on.
  8. Speaking of things that are scary, I feel like my tolerance has quadrupled in terms of what has any effect on me anymore. To this day, the grosses thing I’ve seen is a tie between a homeless man ~pleasuring~ himself in front of me on the subway, and a homeless woman straight up squatting over the subway tracts and pooping  onto them in front of a family of now-scarred german tourists. Literally nothing phases me anymore.
  9. Your corner bodega will be the most convenient place for you to buy groceries, but also the most expensive. Four years here, and I’ve yet to understand how they decide to price things the way they do. Sorry, but I’m can’t justify paying $6.50 for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s at your store one week, and then $7.75 the next. Like what? that much inflation in 7 days? Nahhh, my man. Just go to Duane Reade for the essentials.
  10. Dating in this city is such a joke. Like yeah I know guys suck pretty much everywhere, but they’re at least 15-20% douchier in New York. That does NOT mean I advise against dating – quite the contrary. Building up my dating resume in NYC has made me emotionally tougher, built up my confidence (after having it torn down repeatedly), and helped me sort out what it is that I want in a guy. I can now successfully spot red flags from miles away (LOL still don’t pay attention to them tho…). No joke, I’ve probably been on 20-30 first dates in the last couple of years, and I’m sorta close to mastering them. Pro tip: ALWAYS put a time limit on your first date. There’s nothing worse than being excited to go out with someone, getting there and not vibing, and then realizing you’re forced to spend hours with this person with no end in sight. Put. A. Limit. On. It. You’ll thank me later.
  11. There are literally thousands of cool things to do, no matter what day or time it is. I’ve gone trapezing off of Chelsea Piers, attended a massive Rosé picnic on Governor’s Island, been a part of the World’s Largest Champagne Toast, and I’m running in the NYC marathon this November. My biggest tip? Take advantage of every minute you have.
  12. My friends are my lifeline. I don’t have a massive group of friends in New York, but I do have a small group of truly quality girls that have made this last four years worth every second. They’re a huge part of why I didn’t end up moving to Boston or California. I have best friends that don’t live in the city, and our bond is incredibly strong. But my girls in New York understand my life in a different way, a way that you couldn’t know unless you’ve lived it yourself. It’s impossible to express how grateful I am or how lucky I feel to have landed a group of friends like them. If you should get so lucky, hold on to them for dear life.

 

The Worst Spice Girls Brunch Of All Time

I want to preface this entire post by saying that I don’t look at my blog as a giant Yelp review, but sometimes a review needs to be given. This is one of those times.

I’m writing this at the request of my girlfriends who were subjected to the Spice Girls themed brunch that was hosted at 5th & Mad this Saturday. Ladies, what would your reaction be if you were told that for $35, you could attend a themed Spice Girls brunch with your besties and would get unlimited Prosecco, an entre and dessert? If you’re not saying that you’d be willing to give up a few hours on a Saturday for that, we can’t be friends because you’re a liar and I’m not friends with liars. But I digress.

I was pumped when I came across an article in Time Out NYC about this because tbh, I’ve seen Spice World no less than 63 times and I swear that I missed my calling as a singer in a British girlband. I’d consider myself to be 3 parts Posh, 2 parts Baby and 1 part Sport – thanks for asking! I immediately group texted my girls and two of them got back to me and said they were SO in, because DUH. I also read in the article that we were encouraged to dress up. Thank G-d I didn’t because I would probs have died if I walked into the restaurant on Saturday afternoon and saw what was waiting for us…

A disaster. A disaster is what was waiting for us. 5th and Mad doesn’t open until noon on Saturdays, and our tickets were for the first wave – the brunchers that were to be seated at 12:15. I got there at 12:10 and quickly realized I was the first to arrive of literally anyone who’d be attending this, but whatever. My girlfriends got there and we were seated quickly because like I said, we were the only ones there….

Let me set the scene: There’s a large bar that wraps around the middle of the restaurant, and then booths all along the walls. Every 3rd or 5th stool at the bar had a random balloon tied to it (like the kind you’d see at a regular party, not a fancy kind). There was a DJ booth in the window with a cheap looking pink tablecloth draped over it, and then the booths had equally cheap purple tablecloths on them. There was old Spice Girls footage playing on the TV (with no sound). For reasons I cannot explain, music such as Ciara’s 1,2, Step and a song by Da Goddess were playing over the speakers. The DJ could not for the LIFE of him figure out a consistent volume. It was either seconds from shattering my eardrum, or barely audible. This would change every 45 seconds or – to keep us on our toes, I assume. We were there for 45 minutes before I even heard a single Spice Girls song play. 45 minutes. at a Spice Girls themed brunch. Let that sink in.

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The menus were an atrocity of their own. First of all, they were printed off on computer paper and for the food menu, the only relation that there was to Spice Girls was some poorly cropped clip art. It also had zero connection to the Spice Girls- they didn’t even name the dishes after popular songs, which would have been the CLEAR WAY TO GO. The selection was also confusing af. Not only was the only breakfast related food on the menu Chick & Waffles, but the selection also included Penne a la Vodka. Have you ever seen this on a brunch menu? Because I certainly have not. They did have a small drink menu to go in tandem with the food menu. Inexplicably, the drinks were named after songs and were priced at a ridiculous amount – $16 a piece. BUHBYE.

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So we were there for about 5 minutes before I had figurative steam coming out of my ears. First of all, it was embarrassing that I had dragged my friends here – luckily for me, they thought this whole thing was funny AF and kept saying that I had to write a blog post about it. So consider this my apology gift to them. Second of all, I couldn’t understand why there was basically no decor, no Spice Girls music playing, and why there was a single random drag queen who came out of nowhere dressed like Scary Spice and accosting the 15 or so attendees who had started to filter in. Any time she would talk, they would turn the music off. It was bizarre. As my friend said, “it’s like their B team is here and phoning it all in.” That’s EXACTLY what it was like. Actually, it almost seemed as though they’d never thrown a brunch before let alone a themed brunch… which I quickly learned from looking at their Yelp reviews is pretty much how anyone who’s been duped into attending one of these disasters has felt. Apparently at the Harry Potter themed one in December, they started playing a game of trivia that included questions from Lord of the Rings. Potter fans were PISSED.

The funniest part about all of this was watching people’s reactions when they first walked in. It was a mix of, “are we in the right place?” (can’t blame them, when there’s hardly any indication of Spice Girls anywhere), and, “should I just eat my $35 and go somewhere else?” (yes, yes you should). People were legit LAUGHING when they saw it all, and then they’d turn around and leave. I’m so happy my friends were there to keep me laughing, because I was so irritated. I’m usually really chill & go with the flow, but I was just so insulted my the lack of effort and poor execution of it all. It was even more infuriating to know that this place had dozens of reviews saying how bad the themed brunches were, and that the restaurant clearly has done NOTHING to improve them. We were there for an hour flat and not a minute more. We spent the next hour sitting in a Starbucks around the corner laughing our asses off and comparing reactions to what we’d just experienced.

My Advice for Themed Brunches

  • Check Yelp for reviews of the place before you buy your tickets
  • Make sure that you check to see the menu prices of the food – if their prices are way lower than the cost of your ticket, decide if the experience is worth the cost
  • Make your reservation for later in the day (I’m hoping that the experience got better as the afternoon went on, but I had zero interest in sticking around to find out).

Have you ever attended a themed brunch or party and had a bad experience? Or maybe you attended a great one and have details to share?! Comment or send me a DM – I’d love to hear about it! xo, AJ

10 Things to Do in NYC This Spring

The weather has been teasing us in NYC in a MAJOR way lately. One day it’s 30 degrees, the next it’s 60, and then the day after that it’s back down to 37. What the heck is going on?! Idk about you guys, but I’m ready to break out my florals and peep toes again. With that in mind, I’ve been daydreaming of all the things I’ll be able to do once the weather is warmer again. Check out my list of fun things to do in the city during spring!

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  1. The Bubble Bar: On April 17th, 23rd, 24th and 30th, head to the Rainbow Room at 30 Rock to check out the Champagne Bar pop up that’s sure to be v. instagrammable. Think you’ve had enough overpriced alcohol in this city to last you a lifetime aka you’re wondering why you should go? I’ll tell you why. BECAUSE THERE’S A DESSERT CHAMPAGNE GARDEN. And also a banana soufflé with champagne sorbet. Yeah, I know. You’re welcome.
  2. Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival: Speaking of flowers, I’m sure you’ve heard of DC’s Cherry Blossom Festival, right? Well did you know Brooklyn has its very own version? On April 28th and 29th, head to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden where you’ll have unlimited access from 10am-6pm for just $30. Idk about you, but I’m obsessed with Cherry Blossoms, so you’ll definitely be seeing me there.
  3. Five Boro Craft Beer Fest: On May 19th, head to The Well in Brooklyn for the time of your life! TimeOut says, “This all-you-can-drink tasting includes more than 100 event-exclusive small-batch beers by 50 local and out-of-state breweries plus a performance by a live band. Sip unlimited two-ounce pours and pick the brains of craft brewers, then choose your favorite suds from the home-brew contest and take home a glass.” Tickets are a little bit pricier – $75 per person. But considering it’s all you can drink, I’m sure most attendees will get a good amount of bang for their buck!
  4. Cat Camp: Ok, I feel like I need to state that I am NOT a cat person like, at all. But I need to play to my audience, and I know I have a lot of cat lovers, so here you go. For $20 on May 5th and 6th, you can join fellow kitty lovers and discuss your love for all things feline. There will be meet and greets, talks from Animal Planet experts, even adopt a new furry friend! This promises to be a fun time, as long as you’re not allergic to cats…
  5. Take a Cruise On The River: I’ve done this before, and I highly recommend it. It’s soo much fun to just be with your friends, enjoying the fact that you can be outside for longer than 6 minutes without the face going numb and getting to see the stunning views. Depending on the cruise you choose, there may be food + alcohol provided as well. 100% recommend trying this out!
  6. Head to Coney Island: Ok yeah so Coney Island isn’t like, the nicest place on the planet. In fact, it’s kinda dirty. But if you embrace it, it’s also really fun. BE WARNED: The seagulls there to not give a single f*ck about you, and if you’re afraid of birds like me, you will likely need to face your fears and suck it up because they are savages and will circle above you for hours waiting for you to turn away from your food for a millisecond. When it comes to Coney Island, you may convince yourself that you’re going for the rides, or the games or the hotdogs. But the reason you’re really going there is for the people watching. And that, my friends, will not disappoint you.
  7. Go to a Baseball Game: I absolutely despise watching more than 5 minutes of baseball on TV, but love when I can actually go to a game. I’m not a Yankees fan, or even a Mets fan. If I had to choose, I guess I would be a Dodgers fan because I would go to games with Patrick all the time when I visited him in LA, so I’ve seen them the most. Plus his dad gave me at least 7 pieces of Dodgers apparel, so I’m fully decked out when duty calls. But anyway, being at the ballpark with your friends (especially in the spring when the weather is nice and you’re not sweating your ass is) is a freaking blast. Get a ticket in the cheap seats, buy a beer (that will prob cost more than your ticket), and enjoy sitting there for three hours to watch 15 minutes of actual athletic effort.
  8. BrunchCon: On May 20th at the Brooklyn Expo Center, because there really are angels among us, you can attend BrunchCon – a brunch-themed convention/festival with 30+ participating vendors. Idk about you, but there is literally nothing in this world that can keep me from attending this. See you there!
  9. 9th Avenue International Food Festival: Have I made it abundantly clear yet that I love food? Because I do. A lot. May 19th-20th will have thousands of people taste-testing foods from all around the world on a 15 block stretch across 9th avenue. Next to BrunchCon, I truly can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend than hanging out with my friends, trying new types of food and enjoying the beautiful weather.
  10. Citibike: This isn’t an event or anything that’s time-sensitive, but spring is one of the best times to rent a Citibike and just cruise around. Join hundreds (maybe thousands?) of New Yorkers who are enjoying the sunshine and cruising around Central Park on their rented wheels. Bring a picnic basket with you, and you can make a whole day of it!

 

Which ones do you think you’ll make it to? Any that are missing from the list? Send me a DM, comment here or shoot me a comment on Instagram – can’t wait to see you there!

xo, AJ

4 Places You NEED To Check Out Before Summer Ends

GUYS. August in NYC is no joke. This is my 4th year suffering through it, and if anyone tells you that you get used to it, they’re a big fat liar. I went out to dinner with my girlfriends the other night and it was so unbearably humid that one of the girls literally stood in front of the hand dryer for 10 minutes trying to dry up her sweat. UGH. Fall 2017, WHERE YOU AT?!

Anyways, I’m really excited to tell you guys about my new partnership with Sapahn! This amazing company was founded in rural Thailand by the incredibly sweet Brooke Mullen. She came across artisans with beautiful hand-crafted pieces and saw that due to market challenges, they were earning less than they deserved because of what she referred to as, “minimum bargaining power and a lack of adequate resources.” Brooke instantly wanted to help these people, and she did just that! How? Sapahn knows exactly who is making each piece and how it’s crafted, as well as where the materials are coming from. Their artisans set their own prices for what they create – bargaining is not allowed! They’re paid 50% when they begin making the piece, and the other 50% when the order is delivered. Why? “We recognize the increased vulnerability artisans may face when having to pay for supplies, labor, and life expenses until a month or two later when the full order is completed.”

So basically, when I learned that I’d be able to work with a company that had beautiful and versatile pieces, and that also values and appreciates incredible talent, I was sold! I always want to be really transparent with you guys, so here it is: whether or not you buy a bag from Sapahn, it doesn’t effect me personally. I’m not being paid to write this post (although Brooke did sent me the amazing bag I’ll be writing about) and I won’t get a commission off of anything you buy. So you can rest assured that everything I write here is totally my opinion- I truly believe in this company 🙂 

Now for the fun part! I’ve been so crazy busy this summer that I haven’t had a chance to tell you about some of my favorite spots in the city for you to try out! So here we go- 4 places for you to check out before summer ~officially~ ends. 

  • Exchange Place – Jersey City – Ok so yes, this is technically not in NYC, but it’s literally right across the river and a 5 minute ride on the PATH, which is cleaner than the subway so you’re welcome. Exchange Place in Jersey City is stunning. It has unbeatable views of NYC, and they’re all insta-worthy ;). The boardwalk multiple piers that you can stroll on- if you read my running posts, you’ll know that I’m here all the time. They have food trucks, occasional street performers, and a brand new beer garden just opened up down there as well! My Sapahn bag happens to be perfect for a Saturday afternoon on the pier, because it actually holds a ton. I can fit my wallet, sunglasses, headphones, snacks and even my Fujifilm camera in there (if I force it, lol). Check it out- I promise it’s worth it.

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  • Shopping in SoHo. I mean, yaaaassss, but also, noooo because I’m broke and there’s nothing in SoHo that doesn’t make you poor. Yet another reason why I feel personally victimized by this city. However, my friend Danielle and I decided to take our lunch hour and head over to LF because they were having a massive blowout sale and like, ok fine twist my arm, I guess I’ll go shopping. I walked in and immediately got anxiety because this place makes TJMAXX look as organized as the container store. Like, holy crap. It was so overwhelming that I literally had to take deep breaths. I silently thanked God that my bag was a cross-body bc I honestly think I would’ve lost it and never recovered it in the MOUNTAINS of clothes otherwise. Long story short, I bought a super cute fall sweater for 60% off and was like, #blessed. Oh and then we went to Dominique Ansel’s bakery (famous for the Cronut) and bought frozen s’mores. They were good in theory, but there was too much ‘mallow and not enough ice cream IMO. But let’s be honest, there’s never really enough ice cream, ever.lf1

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  • Dinner with the girls. VERY IMPORTANT. We went to La Palapa in the East Village and it was great all around. My girl Erin was back in town for the weekend after moving to D.C. at the beginning of this summer, and you guys, I didn’t even realize exactly how much I missed her until I had her back and almost cried I was so happy. Some people just get you, ya know? So to celebrate, 10 of us got together and bonded over tacos, guac and margs. For a place that’s cute and has really good food, I was pleasantly surprised with how it was priced – the bill (with tip) came out to just under $300 for the whole group. Not bad at all, especially with alcohol on the tab. It’s also really close to some fun bars, so you don’t need to run around the whole damn city looking for your next spot to go- a major win! 

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  • Tribeca Drive-In at Oculus Plaza. I LOVE this! Outdoor screenings of some serious classics on the first weekend of every month (from June-October). It’s so close to Eataly, it’s the perfect way to kick off a good weekend- great Italian food and a fun movie on a summer night in the city? Just make sure you grab an ice cream cone to top it off 😉 Sticking some snacks, your wallet and a good pair of sunnies into my Sapahn bag is the best way to bring what I need to the movies without worrying about leaving anything behind while I move from spot to spot trying to find the best view! Next Viewings: 9/1 – Breakfast at Tiffany’s. 9/2- Enchanted.

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