Thursday, August 28, 2014

Love List

1. Gazpacho is one of my favorite Summer meals. I'm dreaming of working my way through this list of variations on the classic recipe. (New York Times)

2. This article provides an interesting take on giving away your written work for free. (Forbes)

3. I've battled with shyness my entire life. The older I get, the better it gets but there are still situations where I'm not quite comfortable and my voice rises an octave. This article gives some good tips for overcoming shyness. (CNN)

4. Hyperlapse is Instagram's new free app for making time lapse videos. I just downloaded it today and can't wait to play with it. Find out more here. Sorry Android users. It's not available on your platform and may not be any time soon.

5. My Habit is Amazon's new shopping platform. Boutique and designer brands at 60% off are now at the click of a mouse. but oh so fun and convenient. (MyHabit)

6. The Love Your Lines project is making stretch marks into art. The stigma that comes with stretch marks has always been an issue. That's why there are so many creams promising to make them vanish. I love this campaign for its message to embrace the beauty in yourself lines and all. (Buzzfeed)

7. If you want a cake without the calories, the Watermelon Cake is for you. I'm not talking about a cake dyed red with food coloring and covered with green icing to look like a watermelon. I'm talking about an actual watermelon "frosted" with greek yogurt or whipped cream. It's a lovely light dessert for any summer party. There are several videos and recipes on the web. Here are the two (1/2) I've used. (YouTube, Paleo Cupboard)

8. This slideshow of vacation destinations isn't just great for its beauty. It gives tips on how to take dream trips on a budget. Gotta love that! (Refinery 29)

9. Kitchen Konfidence's Watermelon Ginger Spritzer is a thing of least for my taste buds. The peppery bite of the ginger syrup used in the recipe cuts the sweetness of the watermelon while still letting it shine. I plan to use it in other cocktails in the near future but for now, this spritzer is just fine. Cheers! (Kitchen Konfidence)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I generally use any excuse to get off of the beaten path but this past weekend, Ash and I played tourist in our own city and had a ball. There were a few awkward moments when waiters or other tourists insisted on taking our photo (and we posed for what we knew would be bad photos because they seemed so enthusiastic). Otherwise, like I said, it was super fun.

During our adventure, I got an idea to share some favorite NYC places in a new mini-series (because you know I love a series). I’ll be posting about this topic for the next couple of months so if you have a suggested place to add or a question about travel to NYC, e-mail me or leave a comment.

An Open Oasis for the Arts: Public art and New York's Governors Island from Forecast Public Art on Vimeo.

Today, it’s all about Governors Island. I posted about a trip there a couple of years ago but there have been so many improvements, I decided it was worth an update.

Getting there: There are two dedicated ferries that will get you to Governors Island. One leaves from the Battery Maritime Terminal in downtown Manhattan every day.  The other leaves from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 on weekends and holidays.   The ferries are FREE before noon for adults and $2 after noon. Children under 12 are free. You can get to both ferries by using the subway. You can see the schedules and subways to take here.

You can also take the East River Ferry but it is more expensive and only goes to Governors Island on weekends. More information here

Tip: Try to get in line for the ferry early so you can get a spot outside on the top deck. That way you can soak in the view (and snap a few quick pics) while heading across the river to the island.

Getting around:  You can walk or bike around the island. It is quite a bit of ground to cover so many people prefer bikes. Bring your own (no surcharge on the dedicated ferries) or rent one from Blazing Saddles on the island. Cruisers (for adults and kids) are free until noon for the first hour. Going with the family? You can rent 4 and 6 seat Surreys and tandem bikes as well. Get the rates and more information here

Tip: You will need a credit card to rent a bike. They’re only charged if there is damage to the bike.  

Food:  There is a food court on the island. Whether you want a full meal or a sweet treat, you have an option. There are also several Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten Free options. You can also skip the food court offerings and bring a picnic of your own. You can find a full list of food vendors here.

Cocktails/Beers/Wine:  Little Eva’s in the Liggett Terrace Food Court has a charming little beer garden (complete with white picket fence) filled with table and chair groupings, picnic tables, couches and Adirondack chairs. In addition to food, they serve wine, beer, sangria and spiked frozen drinks. You can also grab a beer or a top shelf cocktail at Governors Beach Club (if its not closed for a private party).

Tip: If you want a “festive” drink, be prepared to stay a while. You can’t leave Little Eva’s with alcohol. You also can’t bring your own alcohol.

Water/Juice/Soda: There are beverage vending machines at several places on the island. There is also a water filling station. Most vendors sell an assortment of beverages. From custom soda (Brooklyn Soda Works) to your run of the mill can of Coke, you will be able to stay hydrated.

Cash: While some vendors take credit and debit cards, you’d do yourself a favor to bring cash with you. The ATMs on the island charge a $5 fee!

Lounging:  There are 30 acres of beautiful park space on the island. Hammock Grove is prime real estate on a nice day so try to get over there early if you plan on snoozing/lounging/reading for a large chunk of the day. If you don’t get a hammock, you can always spread out a blanket anywhere on the vast grounds and chill out/picnic. Liggett Terrace offers lots of food options, beautiful seating areas and gardens. You can also head to the “beach” but it’s more a food and play scene.  

Art Installations and Exhibits: When I was on the island, there was a photography exhibit in one of the houses. There are also all kinds of art installations on the lawns around the island. You can get up close and personal with the art (or your kids can). For special exhibitions, you can check the calendar/foreign language calendar.

Home Tours: Many of the homes on the island are abandoned but a restoration project appears to be underway.  We were able to walk through a couple of homes while we were there. There isn't much inside but you can details on the history and even a few photographs of places on the island when it was actively used. The open houses are marked with large blue VISITORS WELCOME flags.  Some of the houses have been converted into shops where you can buy assorted artisan crafted goods.

Playtime: With the park remodel, there are natural turf ball fields perfect for softball. There is also a kiddie park with a huge jungle gym. Not enough? There’s free miniature golf as well.

Tip: The miniature golf course is pretty small. Don’t come expecting the theme courses you’d typically think of. That said, it’s still a fun activity—especially if you have kids.

Tip: If you want to play organized softball or Little League baseball on Governors Island, you will need a permit (more info here).

Furry Friends: Unfortunately, pets (outside of service animals) are not allowed on the island. 

All in, Governors Island is a great place for a date (unless your significant other hates nature) or for time with family. I've marked it as budget friendly largely because you can bring your own food. Prices for food and drinks are consistent with NYC prices (which aren't exactly wallet friendly) To give you an idea, Ash and I spent around $45 at Little Eva's for 2 cups of peach sangria ($9 each) and food (taco for Ash, sandwich for me). Then we split a $5 gourmet ice cream sandwich. In short, it's a budget friendly as you make it. Governors Island is a nice oasis that feels remote from the City though it is only a stone’s throw away. Pick a sunny day, go early and stay all day.

You can find more information on the Governors Island website. If you have specific questions about my visit, let me know! 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Quotable

Every year on my birthday, I try to reflect on where I am in life and where I want to be. I believe there should always be something to strive for--a bigger goal than propels me forward. Luckily, there has never been a time when I was content to sit on my laurels. Actually, I should phrase that differently, lest you get the wrong idea. There certainly have been years when I was stagnant, but I wasn't happy about it. I was complacent because I wasn't sure how to get "unstuck" without change I wasn't mentally or financially prepared for.

This year, I have a huge list of things I want to get accomplished and I think I've developed the right amount of gumption to take a few leaps without knowing exactly what's on the other side. Here's to stepping out on faith during this next year of my life. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Love List

1. I love making my own salad dressings. I can control the flavor and I know exactly what is in the finished product. This article on how to dress any salad gave me some new ideas. (Bon Appetit).

2. We all know soda is bad for our bodies by now. Still, sometimes I really want one. This handy chart helps me remember to reach for an alternative. (Women's Health)

3. I'm not a camping kind of girl but this made me want to go. (Bustle)

4. Extreme eating isn't as hard as you might think. Check this out before visiting your favorite food spots or mom and pops with similar offerings. (Refinery 29)

5. Lokai bracelets contain elements from the lowest and highest places on earth. The white bead carries water from Mt. Everest and the black bead carries mud from the dead sea. It is to remind you that "throughout life's circular journey, your path is your own." LOVE THAT!! (Lokai)

6. Roland Mouret's new collection for Banana Republic is the perfect mix of practical and subtle sexy. Check it out here. (Harper's Bazaar)

7. Mo'ne Davis is a baseball phenom shaking up Little League Baseball with her 70 mph fastball. She's the perfect face of the "#LikeAGirl" campaign I wrote about a while back. I love this story. (Reuters)

8. We can do so many things from our smartphones these days. Let's add one more. Not only can you make a reservation, now, thanks to Open Table,  you can pay for your check right from your phone (select cities). (Open Table)

9. Even living in one of the world's shopping centers, I find myself salivating over boutique items from locations all over the world. Shoptique brings those boutiques to my fingertips and in just a few clicks, I'm excitedly waiting for a cute necklace from Paris, a sexy date night dress from Chicago and a great handbag from San Francisco. Dangerous but oh so fun! (Shoptique) 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

30 Days of DIY

Cross-stitching may remind you of grandmothers or Summer camp craft time. It brings up the same memories for me so when I was gathering ideas for my 30 Days of DIY series, I was surprised to come across some pretty cool cross-stitch ideas. That surprise turned into a project.

When choosing what to stitch, I wanted to go simple. If I remember correctly, my Summer camp stitching was through a wide beginner’s template and made using yarn. I figured doing a stitched portrait was out of the question (at least for now). Ultimately, I settled on a word that Ash and I say all the time to express agreement: “Word.”  (as in “word up” or “word, son” as my resident Brooklyn native/husband would say.)

I used a white aida cross stitch cloth, a 10 inch embroidery hoop (I could have gone much smaller but I used what I had left over from another craft project), cotton embroidery floss and a large embroidery needle. (Note: I’d likely use a smaller needle in the future. The stitching cloth was so fine that the large needle left bigger entry holes than I prefer.)  I also got a laser cut raw frame. I went to Michael's for everything but if you want to order online, here is a source. 

To make the pattern, I used It is very easy to use. Once I had the pattern, I marked the center of my piece and began to follow the pattern. It took me a couple of days and while I was frustrated at the beginning, I started to find the process relaxing towards completion. To finish the project, I cut the stitching cloth to fit the frame I wanted to use, painted the frame and attached the stitching to it with craft glue. Couldn't be easier. Here’s how it came out. 

If you're interested in cross-stitch or just want to buy your own, here are some helpful links. 

Vendor 22
Red Bear Design
Tutorial by Sewing Adventure

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Weekly Weigh In

Since the blog relaunched, I’ve been doing a lot of blog post organizing. In doing so, I realized that Robyn and I have been doing the Weekly Weigh In for almost a year. In that time, progress has been made and pounds have been dropped. Carbs have been loaded and wine has been sipped. We continue to work towards our goals and have set new ones along the way. Right now, I’m at a bit of a crossroads. I think weighing in each week is helping to keep me accountable but to what end? I feel like I’ve made the shift from couch potato to gym rat. I eat balanced meals most of the time and while I am at a plateau, I am in a good place compared to the start of the year.

So, I am changing up the Weekly Weigh In. The series will still be a feature on Nicole’s Curated Life but it will appear once a month rather than once a week.  Robyn will continue to be part of it. We will provide some of our favorite recipes and workouts and may even add some video content. It may be Summer but updating the blog has me focused on Spring cleaning and improvements.  Stay tuned…

For today, I will leave you with a couple of waist (and tastebud) friendly recipes to try this week. Bon appétit!

Beet and Quinoa Salad with Maple-Balsamic Reduction c/o Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
3 large beets (about 16-20 ounces)
1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed very well
2 2/3 cup vegetable broth (or water plus veg. bouillon)
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 cup chickpeas (or one 15-ounce can, rinsed and drained)
4 – 6 clementines, satsumas, or other small seedless oranges (about 1/12 cups orange sections)
1/2 cup green onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup slivered almonds (Optional, but good.)
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar 
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Remainder of recipe here.

Mediterranean Rice Noodles c/o The Clean Program
1 package rice noodles (King Soba is recommended)
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ pound fresh green beans, ends snipped off
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup pitted olives
8 to 10 fresh basil leaves, torn
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1-2 teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Remainder of recipe here.

Zucchini Lasagna c/o Skinnytaste
1 lb 93% lean beef
3 cloves garlic
1/2 onion
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
3 medium zucchini, sliced 1/8" thick
15 oz part-skim ricotta
16 oz part-skin mozzarella cheese, shredded (Sargento)
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
1 large egg

Remainder of recipe here

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Quotable

I think it is important to learn every day. I know it sounds clichĂ©  but it is how I govern my life. I will note (at least for my life), very few of the lessons that matter are found in textbooks. One lesson I learned after being diagnosed with lupus was that in the grand scheme of things, life is painfully short. Every day is a gift, yet most days are spent on the mundane tasks that pay the bills. We don't all work in fields we are passionate about. It's a fact of life. That said, it is important to reach beyond what provides a paycheck and into the things that make life rich and memorable. If there were only one day left in your life, you'd act a certain way. You'd tell the people you love how you feel about may even have a few choice words for those you don't, but that's your business. You'd do things that brought you joy and you'd be fully present for them. You would not scroll through Instagram or Facebook. Heck, you might not even pick up your phone. You'd want to gobble up as much of the world as you could in your last unapologetic binge on happiness. Chances are, today is not your last day. But, why not live it that way anyway?  Happy Monday!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On Fulfillment...

Life is filled with small talk. You meet and greet people everyday and chat about the weather, traffic or other surface topics. It’s rare that you meet a stranger and get into a deep discussion about life. Leave it to me to fall into one of those rare moments at a barbecue.

There I was, enjoying the bit of sunshine peeking through the clouds, sipping a beer when I was introduced to a friend’s cousin. We exchanged pleasantries and he joined a group of us chatting around a picnic table. Inevitably, the “what do you do?” question came up. Everyone said what they did and most of us said it begrudgingly. There was a sense that each person wished they were doing something someone else at the table wanted to stop doing. Ok, that might be less than clear. Here’s the breakdown.

Person A: What do you do for a living?
Person B: I’m a lawyer. What about you?
Person A: Psychologist.
Person B: Cool.
Person A: Not so much. I’d rather be going to court. It seems exciting!
Person B: Are you kidding? You get paid to listen and help people solve their problems. It must be so interesting!
Person A: I’m burned out and bored.
Person B: Well, I’m pushing paper and completely unfulfilled.

Those types of conversations spread around the table and as we tried to one up each other over our bored misery, we ultimately came to the conclusion that we all felt unfulfilled in some way. Of course, the psychologist started asking people what they were doing to change their situations. That’s when the excuses started. Health insurance! Money! Cost of living! Golden Handcuffs! Comfort with the known! Risk aversion! Each rang out in a chorus of familiar excuses and my voice was certainly ringing out with everyone else’s. Then some of us started hedging by listing other ways we find fulfillment. For me, it’s through volunteer work, relationships, and faith/spiritual practice.

This intrigued the leader of our little makeshift group therapy session. He started to talk about his childhood and how hard his father worked to afford them meaningful childhood experiences. He said he is sure his dad wasn’t fulfilled by his job but the moments he created with the money he earned and the schedule he was able to craft fulfilled him.  He’d decided to stop looking for fulfillment in his job years ago and said he is a lot happier for it.

The notion of following your passion and looking for fulfillment in your job has gained momentum in the last few years. If you’re not fulfilled, it can leave you feeling deflated. The truth is following your passion doesn’t mean you have to earn a buck from it. It’s nice to be able to. Actually, I imagine it’s pretty awesome. But, you can also work a steady job and still make time to explore your passions. Find fulfillment any way you can but don’t depend on your 9 to 5 to complete you. Just make sure not to let it steal everything you’ve got. Walk away at the end of the day grateful for being employed and dive head first into something that gives you immense joy.

How do you find fulfillment in your daily life? Are you working in your passion or do you seek it elsewhere?  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My second DIY project is a really simple one. I am notorious for resting hot pots on kitchen towels, placemats or whatever else I can find to keep from blistering or burning my (desperately in need of renovation) countertops. While looking for DIY projects, I saw a couple of cute trivets and thought enough is enough. It’s time to grow up…and the crispy edge of a kitchen towel I burned last week served as further confirmation.

First, I got my materials together.

Next, I painted the feet and the main panel in the primary color (light blue). Then, I used the eraser on a new pencil to paint dots all over the main panel.

I used tacky glue to attach the feet to the trivet and sealed everything with a heat resistant clear coat. Voila, my hot pot problem is solved. 

I used tacky glue to attach the feet to the trivet and sealed everything with a heat resistant clear coat. Voila, my hot pot problem is solved. 

Weekly Weigh In

Hi! Robyn's on vacation this week but will be back to share soon enough. Let's get into my story for this week. I saw an article the other day about the 5 reasons to skip a workout. They include:

You had a bad night’s sleep.

You have a case of the sniffles.

You are stressed (excessive stress not the stress that you can kick with a good workout).

You’re invited to a friend’s birthday dinner (or other special activities).

You are injured.  

During this year’s “get healthy” journey, I’ve certainly skipped workouts for many of these reasons. Today, however, I don’t have a legitimate excuse and I don’t want to go to the gym. Maybe I had a bad night’s sleep but that excuse isn’t legitimate for the girl who regularly goes to sleep after 2:00 a.m.

So here I stand excuse-less with no motivation to go to the gym.  I’ve been feeling this way for the last couple of weeks. It doesn’t mean I have given in to it. In fact, I’ve been fighting against it with a variety of workouts but, despite my determination to jump back in with both feet running, I dread every workout.  It comes at a bad time because I’ve hit another plateau and have attended a slew of barebeques (seriously, I went to 3 last weekend). NOTHING I ate (or drank) was waistline friendly.  

So, what’s a girl to do? I guess the only answer is to keep going. That’s the point of this whole journey, right?

What do you do when you’ve lost your joy for the gym?

Today’s meal is Summer Cold Noodle Salad by KendraVaculin of Food 52. This week’s workout will be up in tomorrow’s “Work.Out.” post. You can check out last week's here

Summer Cold Noodle Salad
Makes 3 servings

For the salad:
½ pound (usually half a package) noodles
¼ cup thinly sliced red pepper
¼ cup shredded or thinly sliced carrots
¼ cup shredded cabbage (or chopped spinach, or some other green)
Sesame seeds

For dressing:
2 teaspoons peanut butter
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for tossing the noodles
1 tablespoon sesame oil (see note)
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar (see note)
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon minced ginger
Salt, to taste

A note regarding noodle choice: Any long, thin pasta will do in this recipe, but if you want to go the rice noodle route (for taste and/or gluten reasons), vermicelli and other, wider rice noodles (like those pictured here) hold up much better than brown rice noodles when cooked and then chilled. Regular spaghetti, in my opinion, is also a heroic move.

Cook noodles in salted water according to package instructions. Drain, toss warm noodles in a dash of olive oil to keep them from sticking, and store them in the fridge to cool. The noodles can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for a few days, for a throw-together salad that's ready in minutes.
Assemble the dressing and mix-ins while the pasta is chilling: Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl, and add salt to taste. When the noodles are cold, toss together with red pepper, carrots, cabbage, and as much dressing as you like. Top with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Note: You might not have sesame oil and rice vinegar just hanging around, but you really should. One bottle will last you a long time, and I have found that being able to recreate Asian flavor profiles in my own kitchen means that I will do that all the time. Stir fries, salad dressings -- whatever.

Monday, August 4, 2014

I mentioned there would be new series starting this month. In may and June, I did 30 Days of Food. This month, I am doing 30 Days of DIY. Let me start by saying I love DIY projects. Despite that, I think I may be biting off more than I can chew with committing to 30 projects in 30 day. I do have a full time job and a fairly packed volunteer calendar. But, I’m excited. I have a ton of projects filling my virtual vision boards under the “To Do/Try This” moniker and I figured there’s no time like the present. I’m jumping in head first. Feel free to send me suggestions.

The first project is a fused glass bowl I made in the OBX. We took a class where we learned to design glassware with a mixture of glass frit and whole glass tiles. I learned to score and break glass, The process was much easier than I thought it would be. I left wanting to invest in a tiny kiln so I could make more stuff at home. For now, I will have to be satisfied with my tiny glass bowl.

I started by drawing a template onto a circular glass panel with a sharpie (the marker burns off in the kiln). Next, I layered glue (Elmer’s school glue worked for this project…easy enough, right?) onto the template (small sections at a time) and put the glass frit in colors of my choice into the design.

When I’d finished using the frit, I opted to cut a few tiles in complimentary colors. Then, I laid them out mosaic style onto the glass pane. After making my final adjustments, the glass was fired in the kiln. The next day, voila!  Cute candy bowl for my desk. The bowl can also be used to hold small accessories (stud earrings, etc). If you find yourself in the OBX, be sure to check out the glass fusion class at Studio12.*  I definitely plan on working with glass again in the future. 

* Check out the story of the Studio 12 owners here. Great story!!