Final February Roundup

My oh my it’s been one crazy week and what do you know, it’s already March tomorrow!!  Really, how did the time fly?  Between work, a work dinner, attending my favorite gym/strength classes, and settling into bed with some favorite television shows, I’m quite pleased we have reached Friday.  I also think that I’ve had over my limit (or any limit) of salmon.  I’ve already had 4 or 5 servings this week alone.  Maybe I’ll turn into a fish in my next life.

Without further adieu, my favorites to wrap up February

IMG_2993Three cheers for east coast Dunkin Donut’s and its iced coffee!

Downton Abbey.  Enough Said.  So sad that we have to wait an entire year for the next season.  It’s just so regal and juicy and fabulous.

0471888344c190e6947a4e5e8b30fa7aTruth…I started on Pinterest searching for the perfect Season 4 picture (fail) and ended up spending 10 minutes just browsing through oodles of Downton Abbey model shots and bloopers and quotes.  I was about ready to book a flight back to London and soak up the culture. Maybe I’ll just settle and go for tea this weekend.

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I’m ever so excited for Sunday night’s Academy Awards.  The Oscars are my favorite, probably because they were my mom’s favorite.  I would love to host an Oscar party one day but since most of my friends are MIA this weekend, it looks like I’m flying solo.  In that case, I plan to treat myself to a fun filled evening with a special treat 🙂

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Apparently this has been the worst winter in ages.  I haven’t had many issues but then again I work inside all day.  It’s a hoot to hear people ask how I’m doing – waiting for me to break down and complain and say that life is awful here in the city.  No, sorry folks, not much of that coming from this direction but good try.  Then again, I’m sure all of the east coast wouldn’t mind a few more warm days so we could start running outside again.  IMG_3019

Speaking of running, my body (legs more importantly) have not been pleased with me and have been acting up. Last weekend they hurt as much as if I’d already run a half marathon!  The worst part is working out is my therapy and it makes me sad that I cannot work out in all my classes as much.  But, I know that to keep my body healthy in the long term, I need to cut back, even though I have a half on the horizon.  A massage and bath is certainly in order for this weekend. 

913de35b309cbdb9ae289f3b3c8fd73e I seriously lucked out with my company, coworkers, and bosses.  I’ve had my fair share of internships and never have I experienced such a close knit and caring group of people.  Sure the workload is tough at times, but I don’t think I’d be happy if it weren’t.  Let’s just say I work better when I have a lot on my plate, even if it makes life a bit more stressful.  
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 There are things I’m still learning, whether it’s from my coworkers or on my own or even mistakes.  Anyways, Thursday was a handful and when I couldn’t make it to a coworker Pinkberry outing, my bosses brought me back this gem.  Definitely the pick-me-up I needed 🙂

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Anything fun planned for the weekend?

“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”
– Virginia Satir

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The Unplugged Life

If you were to turn your phone off for an entire day, how would you feel?  A weekend?  What about a week? I’m guessing you’d feel pretty lost or fearful that you missed out on something.  Here’s another thought – what if you went on a vacation with absolutely NO technology?  No means of checking Facebook, Instagram, your emails (from home, blogs, or work), etc. If you have, you are pretty darn amazing.  How did it feel?  I can’t say I’m the golden child over here because I certainly keep it on my person all.the.time.  I don’t know if it’s a feeling of comfort, knowing I’m a phone call away from something, a distraction, or just the fear of missing out.

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I do try to unplug when we are in the mountains mostly because there is minimal reception, I’m far enough away from anyone that I can’t really make spur of the moment plans, and I’m so absorbed in the greenery (or white-space if it’s winter…yes, California does get snow and it’s some of the best!) that I don’t need to check in on what I’m missing out on or stay up to date with everyone’s adventures.

If you haven’t done this, try it out.  Pick a place that maybe doesn’t get the best reception or just leave your phone off while you hike.  No, I’m not saying you need to pull an “Into the Wild” sort of deal and disappear, but think about it – how many people do you see with a iPhone or smartphone in hand on a daily basis.  I think it’s become the new security blanket for adults.

I was at a friend’s party in the city on Saturday and towards the end of the night, one of the girl’s iphones broke.  Not in the way that it fell on the floor and shattered.  No, apparently that had already happened before.  Instead it was on top of a speaker and the speaker fell on it (I have a feeling she was dancing a little close to the speaker but she would never claim to have done it) and practically bent her phone into what looked like a technological lounge chair.  I’m pretty sure I would be quite upset to lose something so dear to my heart, at least in the sense it’s my outlet home, my main method of communication, and another method to express myself.  But in the end it’s a material good and can be replaced.  Well, I was on the other side of the room and just surprised at how this girl reacted.  She demanded to use her sister’s phone for the night and at some point in time, was in a conversation with her boyfriend and practically screaming how she was so mad she wanted to die.

I never really considered how addicted we have become to our cell phones, or really any piece of technology for that matter.  The moments I spend walking to and from the subway, riding the subway, and even throughout the city, I see people buried in their phone.

So what about staying in the moment?  One of my best friends and I discuss this every so often and she sent me a link the other day called “Becoming Minimalist – Unplug Please“.  I am by no means putting technology down.  I am far-beyond impressed by how it has evolved during the past several decades.  But there is a point where we need to set it aside and come back to the moment.  Some of the best points of the article include:

  • 84% of cell phone users claim they could not go a single day without their device. (source)
  • 67% of cell phone owners check their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating. (source)
  • 88% of U.S. consumers use mobile devices as a second screen even while watching television. (source) guilty here
  • Almost half of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls. (source) guilty here too…mostly as a safety tool
  • I’m sure you’ve all seen this YouTube video “I Forgot My Phone“, which follows the life of a woman and how absorbed her friends and even family have become with their smartphone, even more so than talking to each other.

I can already predict the new wave of clients who will have to ask for pain killers or physical therapy later in life because they spent too much of their prime straining their necks to see their phone.  I already feel like I’ve reached this sad stage based on the fact that my back kills me from sitting a majority of the day and my hand kills me from typing.  Who knows, maybe I’m getting carpal tunnel at the lovely age of 22. Ok, maybe a little dramatic and I know I need to stop reading into WebMd.com so much, but it happens.

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I’m working with some of the articles benefits of unplugging along with some tips: 

1. Remove unhealthy feelings of jealousy, envy, and loneliness – (source) Did you know that most people actually feel worse after checking Facebook or some other form of social media?  Between feeling unhappy with their body to their relationships to their lives in general, it can be a black hole.  Of course it’s a good way to keep in touch with some people, but then what happened to phone conversations?  By unplugging, you can reset and refocus your life and become grateful for what you do have.

2. FOMO – Oh you know the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a HUGE trend now and had a huge impact on my happiness or sometimes lack thereof in college. Unplugging again resets our wants and expectations for ourselves, our days, and our lives.  We don’t have to do EVERYTHING just because someone else is doing it.

3. Searching for Solitude – Another reason I feel so attached to my phone is because living in such a big city, away from most of my friends and family can be lonely. Sometimes when I think about striking up a conversation with a friend, I notice they already have their phone out – checking twitter, instagram, facebook.  I wonder if I say something completely outrageous, I would get their attention.  I admit I have issues with “down-time” and yet solitude allows us to reflect on our lives and pinpoint what or who is really important.

4. “Life, at its best, is happening right in front of you.” The world is changing. End of story.  But as I’m sure you’ve heard before, the best moments occur right in front of you.

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I’m still learning the process of “unplugging” so why don’t you test it out with me?  I plan to stop relying on my phone as a distraction while eating, walking, definitely while driving. I want to avoid whipping out my phone to check the time, my messages, or play games.  Let’s try to look around us, go for a walk or strike up a conversation, even if it’s with someone completely random (I personally think those are the best).  Again, I’m not claiming to be the best example, I’m just asking that we start to consider such things a little more before we end up at 90, wondering what happened to the world and it’s beauty. 

“If I had my life to live over again, I would ask that not a thing be changed, but that my eyes be opened wider.” – Jules Renard

Friday Favorites

WOOHOO we’ve reached Friday and even though it was just a four-day week, reaching the end of the week still feels mighty fine.  My work load picked up quite a bit this week and while I didn’t have a lot of room to breathe (or respond to social media…not that I would do that) 😉 I loved every minute of it.  I know we went through some haphazard thoughts yesterday but let’s go through a few more and my favorites from the week.  Some come from my Instagram project, 100 Happy Days, so if you are a follower, sorry for the repetition.

So, I’m debating about re-creating my blog.  Not the content or the name, but more the style of the blog.  Maybe self-hosting (if I care to go through the extensive process…) maybe just a new design, or maybe nothing at all.

JIMMY FALLON – Oh my goodness I watched the first episode and I was laughing so darn hard.  I know everyone has their favorite comedians and maybe yours isn’t Jimmy, but this guy’s humor and standup cracks me up.  I’m hoping to call in and pick up tickets to a show in the future.  Fingers crossed!

IMG_2978Enter free fitness class at work and leave with a free manicure gift certificate.  Not a bad lunch hour by any standards 😉  Also, no matter how much I exercise, I will ALWAYS get winded going up the stairs out of the subway.  Especially when I have half of New York charging up behind me.

IMG_2986 Having a boss that entices supplies us with sugar for that 3:30 or 4:30 or anytime feeling 🙂 Some days you just need that dark chocolate and how about that discounted Valentine’s day candy?  Or the fact that Easter candy is already hitting the shelves. Oh boy.

IMG_2988My new running headband (yes, wonderful photo, I know…I try), which I won from Sweet Miles.  I’m always looking for something to hold my bangs away from my face and this adorable design is just an added bonus!  I guess I can put it to use this weekend when I’m working on my half marathon training in the heat wave.  That’s right folks, New York is getting 50F forecasts.  That deserves another WOOHOO!

And last but not least…

BOOKING TICKETS TO BLEND RETREAT! Can you tell I’m excited?  Ah, so many wonderful things to come in the year ahead.  Also I think there are still spots available so if you are interested in checking out Park City for a weekend of fun and some pretty nifty bloggers and non-bloggers, check it out!  You don’t have to have a blog to attend, so what are you waiting for?

“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.”
– Henry James

Where to Begin on Thursday Ramblings?

Soon enough I’ll start having full sentences as my title.  I’m getting a little lazy or lacking creativity.  Oh well, onto some random thoughts of the week.

I really should start to document my life via camera more often.  This is after watching all the Ameritrade ads that Olympians’ growing up and while I may have totally missed the boat on the olympics, maybe someone will want to view my wacky life some day.  Maybe I’ll make a movie about my life. 😉 Stay tuned for a Sundance Film Festival invitation.

I’m still riding the high of my Samoa experiment.  I may have snacked on a one during Tuesday’s dinner prep and followed dinner up with another one.  Since I’m down to my last one (yes, I shared with people Mother), it’s time to consider my next recipe experiment or exploration. There’s Wisco custard at 5oz and the various hot chocolates around Manhattan (City Bakery for one) but what are some of the top dessert trends for 2014?  Berries.com had stumbled upon my fall cronut experiment, a dessert that swept the city in late 2013, and came up with their own predictions for this year.  Most people are going for the experiential dessert rather than the classic dessert

Some of my favorites include:

  • Ice cream sandwiches –  I’m an ice cream gal through and through and adore the mix-and-match potential that is offered by CoolHause (LA classic) or Diddy Reese (another LA favorite in Westwood).  I might even make my own sandwiches when the weather gets warmer and people are more willing to help me taste-test.  I guess people think 30F is too cold for ice cream?
  • Drinkable desserts – Boozy desserts such as the adult milkshakes made their mark last year, but there should also be a great deal of hot chocolates hitting the market.  This will be perfect for my “Top 5” hot cocoa lists 🙂
  • Puddings – I’m interested to see how chefs can re-invent this childhood classic and entice us to enough to pay triple the price (Maybe the Root Beer Pudding, topped with crushed root beer candies and smoked cashews, at Alder in New York City will be worth while)
  • Tea-flavored Treats – We are all familiar with green tea from mochi to ice cream to Starbucks’ frappacuino but keep an eye out for even more tea-flavored items.

What do you think should be the next big sweet trend?

The Bachelorette is quite the trashy show and I am addicted to every minute of it.  Part of me is sick of all the girls crying all the time and thinking they are all in love with a man their barely know.  Drama + catty girls + one guy dating 25 women (simultaneously) yeah count me out.  But it makes me feel better knowing that each one of them wants to find that one guy to have fun with at the end of the day; something everyone wants, just not in such a wacky environment.  Although I would not want to be in their shoes so props for holding it out for that long.  Also, it’s fun to catch up with my girl friends about it.  Even though we are over 2,000 miles apart, it’s like we are watching together.

Ok, I have to justify (at least for myself) that I balance this out by watching Ted Talks, the Olympics, and do the crossword daily.  Just saying 🙂

I’m quite skilled at giving myself heartburn.  Not sure that’s a skill I should note, announce, or include in my resume but think it has to do with the fact I eat after walking home from the gym, which is usually 8:45 or later.  From there I bee-line it to the stove and start cooking some sort of grilled veggie. omelette, or grilled cheese concoction, which then gets inhaled at rapid speed.  Also, the fact that I split my attention between three forms of technology as well as my food, probably doesn’t help.  Let’s see, Tuesday topped it all with Instagram on my phone, the Bachelorette on my compute (while simultaneously booking a flight on Expedia), and Olympic’s snowboard cross on the TV.

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Each day I think I should give up coffee and then I wake up and crave the rich and bold flavor.  It’s not as much the caffeine, although that could be my brain trying to convince me otherwise.  However, according to my active.com email yesterday, it’s ranked one of the top superfoods and is one of the best sources of antioxidants worldwide – helps prevent diabetes, certain cancers, strengthens DNA, great for skin, and lowers early risk of death.  Guess that means I’m off to find a cup of Dunkin or iced coffee at Bouchon Bakery.

5e60d420cf387535f657d53698db3e66I believe this is how I look as I traverse through Manhattan.

So excited for this weekend because the weather is supposed to hit high 40s!! Who would have thought that I, a California native, would be so excited for the 40’s?  For the record, I don’t mind the cold but the snow is not making my half-marathon training any easier.

“Striving for perfection is the greatest stopper there is.… It’s your excuse to yourself for not doing anything. Instead, strive for excellence, doing your best.”
– Sir Laurence Olivier

Re-creating a Classic: The Samoa

I’ve finally gotten my act together and taken a full day of pictures of my food so I can participate in the weekly Peas & Crayons festivities.  No, I’m not asking for a gold star or round of applause, but I now understand how it can be a struggle when you are constantly on the go.  However, the real gem comes later on in this post when I re-create one of people’s favorite Girl Scout cookies, the Samoa.

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While my daily schedule is pretty routine – wake up around 7, make myself look presentable, head to the subway around 7:30/7:40, enter work between 8:15/8:30, lunch around 12:30, gym at 6:15, etc. – my eats are not at all routine.  This comes from last Thursday, yet another day of stormy weather for the east coast.

IMG_2854_Fotor_CollageSubway snack – Coco Cafe – a new favorite that somehow hydrates and dehydrates you at the same time

Breakfast – Banana bread, orange, coffee, and yogurt

Lunch – Since it was a stormy day, our bosses treated us to Lenny’s (apparently a popular sandwich spot out here?) I went for the tuna/lettuce/roasted pepper/grain bread and saved the other half for Friday

IMG_2867Oh you know, just a casual view of Central Park

Snack #1 – few pieces of chocolate from my boss’s office because I was having what my mom calls a “low” moment and wanted to avoid all the client emails I had just received.  Wasn’t the best candy, but live and learn.

Another positive to the afternoon was the fact that we were able to leave the office a bit early so we could navigate our way home before the next wave of snow hit.  I debated going to the gym but decided a baking project and dinner/Olympics viewing with my friend, Laura, and was more of the mental-happiness I needed.

IMG_2854_Fotor_CollageSnack #2 – Almond butter + celery

Dinner – Thai take out

Dessert – What I’m sure most people are interested in…GIRL SCOUT COOKIES!

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Oh memories of being a Girl Scout.  The meetings in our elementary school cafeteria, singing songs, attending summer camps, and competing to sell cookies so we could get worthless prizes.  I actually managed to make it all the way from kindergarten through senior year of high school and I even earned my Gold Award.  But I’m sure most people associate Girl Scouts with the delectable boxes of sugary goodness that come around each winter.

There are the classics such as Tagalogs, Thin Mints, and Samoas.  Growing up I was not a fan of Samoas and it must have been the coconut that threw me off, grainy and foreign looking.  Also how can you begin to compete with Tagalongs and the ultimate pairing of peanut butter + chocolate?  But, when I finally tested one out, there was no turning back.  

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Many of you might know this cookie as a “caramel deLites” as Girl Scouts feel the need to re-brand their products based on geography, new marketing strategies, or just because they can. Who knows but they truly are delightful combinations of coconut, caramel, chocolate, and shortbread.

I’m surprised that I haven’t been prey to Girl Scouts selling the goods at the local grocery stores, but indeed they have been missing in action.  So, when I found this recipe online one day, I knew I had to make it a reality.  Maybe it’s just me, but there are so many recipes I want to try, yet I rarely ever make it happen.  All excuses aside, I’m trying to be more experimental in the kitchen this year.

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Almost Like Samoas

Cookies
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar (*I used coconut sugar)
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Coconut Caramel Topping
3 cups shredded sweetened coconut
18 oz caramels
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt

Chocolate Dip
2- 2 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 Tbsp coconut oil

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Cookie Instructions

1. Cream together the butter and sugar. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients; flour, baking powder and salt.
2. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Make sure to mix completely in between each addition.
3. Add the milk and vanilla extra, blending until the dough begins to come together.
4. Separate the dough into 2 parts and press it together to make 2 round disks. Wrap each with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6. Roll each disk out onto a lightly floured surface until about 1/8 inch thick.
7. Use two sized cookie cutters to cut up the dough.  *I used the top of a jar lid and a water bottle cap.

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8. Re-roll and repeat process until the dough is finished.
9. Place on a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake ~10 minutes until cookies are lightly browned.
10. Allow cookies to cool completely.

Coconut Caramel Topping

1. COCONUT – Take 2 cups of coconut and spread evenly across a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place in the oven ~10 minutes (shifting after 5 minutes so it doesn’t burn)
3. Remove and place into a bowl with remaining cup of coconut.
4. CARAMEL – Melt the caramels, milk, and salt (*double boiler recommended yet I don’t own one so I just had to make sure it didn’t burn or stick to the pot)
5. Once fully melted, remove from the heat and pour about 2/3 of the caramel into the coconut bowl.

Putting the Cookie Together

1. Take a cooled cookie and spread caramel over the top and sides.
2. Press some of the caramel mixture onto the cookie and return to the parchment paper.  Allow to cool completely.

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3. Melt the chocolate chips + coconut oil.
4. Dip the bottoms of the cookies in chocolate and place on waxed/parchment paper.
5. Drizzle chocolate in a artful (spastic 😉 ) manner over the tops of the cookies.
6. Allow to cool completely.  *Recommend placing in the fridge/freezer for 15 minutes or even over night.

*Adapted from Like Mother Like Daughter

IMG_4530Were you a Girl Scout?  Do you have a favorite Girl Scout cookie?

What’s in a Weekend?

How does one normally spend time during the weekend?  Recovering from the week? Binge-watching House of Cards (or any television), exercising, brunching, exploring?  That seems to be the question.  While weekends are grand, a day off is wonderful,  making memories with new friends is the most marvelous feeling of all.

IMG_2904Friday was of course Valentine’s Day – chocolate lover’s day or singles awareness day or whatever mixed up naming convention you use to enjoy or abhor February 14th.  It’s not a day that really matters to me and it honestly turned out to be just another Friday.

Except that I made extremely delicious Girl Scout cookies that were devoured by my colleagues (nothing like a little compliment to get your weekend started) and we danced our hearts out until 3am at a 90’s theme bar.  Yes, I may still be struggling on the lack of sleep aspect, but screaming until your voice is gone and dancing like you don’t care to the Backstreet Boys, good ‘ol Brittany Spears, and N’SYNC is totally worth it.

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Somehow I seem to gravitate towards those who happen to be blonde and are from Southern California.  Also semi-black&white makes everything look better, don’t you agree?

I thought it was hilarious that my “post-bar” meal consisted of a Samoa cookie, celery, almond butter, and glass of milk.  Not your average 3am snack, but it worked.  It was also funny because on Saturday, my roommates asked if I had a nice relaxing Valentine’s.  They thought I had been chilling in my room all night and were completely surprised that I was I was out later than they were (that says something).  See folks, although I may be living the granny lifestyle during the week (complete with tea+crossword), this girl does know how to have a good time in the city.

Thank goodness I loaded up on water throughout the night because Saturday morning I subjected myself to intense back-to-back classes at my gym.  Total Body Conditioning plus the ultimate spin class resulted in a very tired Kaitlin.  The spin class was an extra treat because it was lead by favorite instructor and he played music videos on the back wall.  This enabled us to focus on the strange ways artists portray their music instead of the pain we were feeling.

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I decided to treat myself to brunch at Le Pain and watch the snow start to fall.  While the environment was enjoyable – quaint and perfect for a Saturday afternoon – I was underwhelmed by the food.  My meal – a tiny Belgian waffle and soft-boiled eggs – ended up being overpriced and nothing close to what I was craving, but an experience in itself.

The rest of the day I spent picking up groceries at Trader Joe’s, wandering through the glorious and endless aisles of Bed, Bath & Beyond (consumerism for the win), and watching a mix of Olympics and House of Cards with my roommates.

IMG_2958Note the use of my Trader Joe’s groceries

Sunday’s adventures topped it all.  After braving the cold for a 45 minute run (gallop through the snow), I took a shower, organized the pile of recipes I had accumulated, iced my legs, and watched parts of the Olympics.  From there, Laura I traveled north to the upper west side for brunch with some of friends (or friends of friends).  They all graudated from Pomona and found themselves on the east coast, although 3 of the 10 actually lived in the city (so much for expanding the friend group).

IMG_2959Best way to brunch = diner coffee and splitting two meals.  Therefore you get the best of sweet + savory. 

The next four or so hours proved to be quite intellectually intriguing.  I really didn’t have anything to contribute to the conversation (we were talking about immunity and neuroscience, and the biology and gene-aspects) but was intrigued by how the discussion was evolving.  I adore talking to strangers (or new friends), I loved how everyone was so passionate about something, and I was impressed by the fact that not a single individual pulled out his or her phone during the afternoon.  So different from other social scenarios I’ve been in.

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Throughout the afternoon, we adventured up and around parts of Columbia University and then back down and around Central Park to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Whenever I think of the MET, I think back to The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and how the two children manage to run away and stay inside the museum.

I admit, I was not the most respectable human being and did not pay full price to enter the museum.  However, I justify this by the fact it’s on a donation-based entry and I also plan to return for an entire day of exploration and then of course donate a proper amount.

IMG_3869Obviously not taken this weekend but you get the idea 

The New York Public Library.  Oh if I were only able to snap a picture of where I am sitting, I’m sure you would have an “Oh my goodness” moment as well.  The outside of the building is breath taking; a pure work of art but when you step inside, that’s where the true magic occurs.  It’s the “silent reading room” that is a beauty.  There are books lining the rims of the room, long wooden tables with simple, gold-styled lamps, and every seat filled with someone reading, writing, or typing away.  Note, I think I saw a total of ten PC’s in that room.  #applemonopoly

Sad part (for us patrons) is that they kick people out around 4:45pm every day.  Alas, I managed to hangout at Laura’s apartment, which actually resembles a house – complete with kitchen table and television.

I have yet to decide how I will spend today but I think it entails a cup of coffee and oodles of food preparation or baking.  My roommate left some of her prosecco in the fridge, so that might amount to Champagne truffles, and I picked up some salad items for work lunches.  For more marvelous fun, head over to Healthy Diva Eats and come back Wednesday for tips and instructions on this beauty.

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“Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”
– William Butler Yeats