Have you ever tried to make your own pizza at home? If you’re a pizzaholic like me, you may have. Maybe you picked up the premade dough from your local grocery store or pizzeria? I’ve tried that too. I never actually loved the way it came out though…until I made my own dough. This was the game changer and turns out it was a lot easier than I thought it’d be! The little hole in the wall that is Pizza a Casa on Essex street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan will change your pizza making skills from bleh, to oh yeah!!! Not only do they teach you the tricks of the pizza-making trade, they also stock you with some of the best ingredients that NYC has to offer. Just think: melt in your mouth fresh mozzarella (replace the “o” with “oo”, pronounce the “r” as a “d”, and leave off the “a”-mootzadel), aged white truffle oil for the array of dessert pie choices, and TO.DIE.FOR house-made sausage. Delicious doesn’t begin to describe this sweet, spicy, herb-infused, encased meat…WOW!
In this 4-hour class of about 8-10 students, you’re guided by a 20 year pizza making veteran who starts out by teaching you how to make your own dough. As you wait for your own dough to rise, you get to sample some of his homemade pies – four different varieties. This allows you to sample some of the ingredients you might want to add onto your own pies. There’s also an extensive Italian wine list and great local beer selection to sip on while you’re in the pizza-making process. And who doesn’t love wine or beer with their pizza?!?
So after about 40 minutes or so of sampling, sipping, and waiting for the dough to rise, it’s now time to shape your dough. I decided to make a traditional round pie, a heart shaped-pie and two unfortunate, but nonetheless delicious, misshapen pies. You can choose the kind of pie you want to make from a menu of pizza possibilities, or you can make your very own creation. Options include Margherita, the NYC Classic, a Pear and Blue Cheese pizza and many more. Don’t forget about the sausage. Did I mention that already?
This isn’t your average pizza-making class, but well worth the time and money. You also get to take home the pizza-making manual complete with oven etiquette, recipes, and all of the tips you’ll need to make your very own pizza. After taking the class two months ago, my boyfriend and I finally made our own pizza a casa with great success! If you can’t make it to the class, check out DIYpizzapie.com to download Pizza a Casa’s pizza-making app. Also, visit their store to find all the tools you’ll need to prepare your very own pizza a casa! What are your tips and tricks to making the best pizza a casa? Comment on this post to let us know!
My solo runs are always a mixed bag of surprises. One day I’ll hit the road with little to no energy, or just feeling blah, and next thing you know I’ll have 10 miles in the bag. I have also experienced those days where I’ll have all the energy in the world, but then I’ll hit the wall and have to pack it in after 3 miles.
Is it my body, or is it a whole lot of mind games? I have found that consistency has a lot to do with me running alongside somebody. A run with a partner, or with my small group always yields great results with seemingly little effort. I’m always able to finish what I set out to do without much thought. Why isn’t this the case when I run alone?
According to an article in Runner’s World titled, “Perks of Running Solo or Social,” one of the biggest gifts that a running partner, or group can provide is accountability. So knowing that you have set a time to meet with your partner or group will motivate you to get out there, even if it means getting out of bed at 5am.
The same article states that accountability leads to peer pressure. In the article, Cindra Kamphoff, Ph.D., a sports psychology consultant at Your Runner’s Edge says, ”When you run with others, you tend to give more effort. You get caught up in the pace, and you might not recognize how fast you’re going.”
I have also found that running with a partner allows for a solid source of support, encouragement and inspiration. Sometimes all three elements arrive while chatting during, or after our run. Our talks can range in topics from running, relationships, spirituality and yes, even food. Interestingly, at times those runs can be done in complete silence because nothing needs to be said. Both are okay in my eyes.
In the end, I feel that running in a small group or with a partner can lead to some beautiful friendships. Maybe this is the key to the consistency that I’m unable to find in my solo runs. In the end there’s nothing like spending quality time with the stinky, sweaty people who you love!
Do you feel a difference between running by yourself versus running with others? Any preference for one over the other? We would love to hear your comments below!
This piece launches our weekly Motivational Monday theme. Each Monday we will be posting motivational pieces to get your week started on the right foot. Topics will vary from running, travel, spiritual topics and yes, maybe food! Food does inspire, no?!
“I’m a runner,” I said. “What?” Ashley responded. “I finally consider myself a runner,” I said with a smile.
I’ve enjoyed running for all of my life. Way back in elementary school I would look forward to doing the mile run as part of The Presidential Fitness Test. The best time meant that your name would be added to a plaque on a wall of the gym. My name was, and could possibly still be there for all I know. Throughout middle school and high school, I would challenge myself, always striving to improve on my fastest mile.
Later on, my running became a hobby, a way to get out there and get some exercise. It also became a way to expend built up energy, in addition to clearing my mind. But all along, when people would ask about my running, I would respond with a simple, “I run.” Yes, I run often. Yes, I have dedicated running gear. Yes, I belong to a running group. Yet I had never really considered myself a runner.
So what changed? Years ago, on New Year’s Eve, I happened to stumble upon the Midnight Run held in Central Park. The run is held yearly by the NYRR. (New York Road Runners) I looked in awe as thousands of runners danced to live music to keep warm until the start of the race. They were all laughing, dancing and having a great time. It was right there that I told myself that I would take part in this race sometime soon.
Each subsequent New Years eve turned out to be filled with fun parties, or some sort of get-together. Yet I always had the thought of taking part in the midnight run. So this year, I decided to skip a party and crazily head out to the city at 8pm on New Year’s eve. I looked like a crazy person, decked out in running gear while the other Metro North riders from Connecticut were all decked out in fancy party regalia.
Leaving Grand Central Terminal turned out to be a fun experience. People would stop me and ask me if I was taking part in the race. I even had some New York City cops stop me on the sidewalk to wish me luck. The atmosphere became more fun as I noticed many more runners beginning to gather near the park.
In Central Park, I met two Polish brothers who had come all the way from Chicago to take part in the race. I also met two cute Brazilian women who hung out with me until midnight. The race turned out to be a challenging four miles due to the hilly terrain. The race was fun, featured many wild characters dressed in costumes and was attended by thousands of people who cheered us runners on from the sidewalk. Somehow at the end I managed to post a respectable time.
On the train ride home, I reflected on my crazy night which started out in Connecticut, continued in Manhattan, and saw me in bed by 4am after a four mile run in the middle of winter. The fact that I went out of my way to attend such a race, experience the fun, and take on the course with complete strangers finally convinced me to call myself a runner. Yes, I’ve always been a runner. I just needed to convince myself that I was worthy of the label.
So I want you, the reader to reflect on your hobby, your pastime, or your activities and see if you label yourself a train collector, a cook, or a runner, like myself. You might label yourself as someone who collects trains, someone who cooks, or just someone who runs. But in reality, if you’re passionate about the things you do, and they bring joy and satisfaction to you, you are definitely worthy of the label.
Ever experience something like this? A sudden realization that you are defined by all the different aspects of your life, personality and actions? Leave a comment below!
It’s just over a week into the new year and it’s still a great time to reflect on all of the blessings you’ve had in the past year and to think about the plans and intentions you want to manifest for the upcoming year. January is an exciting month, not only because it’s my birthday, but because it sets the stage for how I will live out the year. So in keeping with the spirit of wanting to inspire the readers who stop by this blog, I looked back on the past year and picked out one of the major changes I made that carried me through one of my best years yet!
In 2016 I focused a lot on acceptance and self-love. To me they go hand in hand. Accepting and honoring where you are in life is a practice of self-love. I know we all have a lot of expectations about where we want our life to go and where we want to be personally and professionally. Yet, timing doesn’t always work out how we’d like it to. I read somewhere about the idea of an expectation hangover. In other words, when your expectations and reality don’t line up, you get really down on yourself and can’t embrace the present circumstances. When in the grand scheme of things, it may be that you have more to learn before you can move on.
A real, authentic life starts with acceptance of where you are. You may not be where you thought you’d be at this age or stage of your life. Accept it and embrace the here and now. Too often we judge ourselves against our own expectations or compare ourselves to others instead of accepting and appreciating our own journey. There will always be someone who is smarter, more successful, blah blah blah. Stop comparing! Instead, honor the accomplishments you’ve made in your lifetime. Don’t get down on yourself just because you’re not where someone else is, or where you expected to be right now. Get rid of the expectation and simply accept where you are. Accept your body the way it looks today. Look in the mirror and tell yourself out loud, “I love you!” You can show kindness and generosity to everyone around you, but don’t forget the person in the mirror looking back at you.
Practice kindness toward yourself with small gestures. Treat yourself to a yoga class. Forgive yourself for something you shouldn’t have said or for that second piece of cake you ate. Share some of your own accomplishments with others around you and take credit for how bad ass you are! People will start to notice, and it will be contagious, making you and those around you a lot happier.
Be number one with yourself
Treating oneself with love and kindness can be a challenging task, especially in this competitive world we live in today. Self-love wasn’t always my strong suit, and it took me a long time to get here. Thankfully, a wise woman once told me “You gotta be number one with yourself.” This was some of the best advice that I’ve received and it serves as a constant mantra when I doubt myself, take on too much, or put someone else’s feelings before my own. This year taught me that if you don’t love yourself, you simply won’t have the capacity to love others.
How do you practice self-love? How are you accepting your current situation and making the best of your present life? I encourage you to write this down somewhere and read it often. And if you’re really brave, I’d love for you to share it in the comments below!
Looking for lunch options at work can become a drag that repeats itself day in, and day out. If only I had a dollar for every time that one of my co-workers asked me, “what are you doing for lunch today?” I will be forever scarred by that one question.
But one day late last week was different. On that fateful day I decided to take a short walk with my co-worker, Mark, to the local butcher shop, Fleishers Craft Butchery to see what they had to offer. Fleishers has locations in Kingston, Brooklyn and Manhattan, New York, as well as two locations in Connecticut. I had heard good things about their fresh beef, poultry, pork and lamb but really had no idea what they had for lunch. Upon entering the Greenwich, CT shop, my eye caught sight of their kitchen menu and focused directly on the line that read, “Cuban Sandwich.” My mind was made up.
Fleishers states on their homepage that it prides itself on partnering with small local farmers that raise their animals right. The animals are free to roam, eat fresh grass and vegetables and are never treated with antibiotics or growth hormones. Is this really noticeable in a sandwich, you might ask? Well, if judging by taste I would have to say that they are doing things right!
Many people may say that the Cuban is just a glorified ham and cheese sandwich. Yeah, no. Not this one at least. It was served on a French baguette that was crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside. The right amount of Swiss cheese was equalled by tasty mustard, slices of pickle and what tasted like sweet ham. A surprising component of my sandwich were tiny arugula leaves. I had never seen them in a Cuban sandwich, but they actually added their own element of taste that never felt odd. Finally, the star of the show, the Cuban roast pork. Moist, flavorful, melt in your mouth goodness. That is all.
I decided to pair my sandwich with one of my favorite white wines. I have been on a riesling kick for the past few months, specifically the French 2013 Alsace Grand Cru Kirchberg De Barr from Willm. Alsatian rieslings like this one tend to have a dry character with plenty of mineral notes. These elements are rounded out by great acidity that comes from lemon, green apple and nectarine flavors that are present throughout the lean, but long finish. The sandwich and wine pairing was extraordinary.
Will I do the Cuban sandwich from Fleishers in the future? Absolutely! I also feel like I need to visit the shop more often since they often hold cooking, butchery, and sausage making courses that I hope will make me a better cook in the future!
Do you have a favorite butcher shop? A special place where you pick up your favorite Cuban sandwich? Let us know in the comment section below!
Yesterday I had some time to kill between getting new tires on my car and a yoga class. So on my way to yoga I decided to stop in to my local Barnes and Noble for a
cup of coffee
As you walk in the new store, it feels like you’re entering the MoMA. The design is really great (but I’ll let you see for yourself). You take the escalator one floor down, and as you enter, the bar is directly to your right. There’s seating for about 10 people at the bar and there are about 20 tables for dining, half of which are in the bar area and the other half in a quiet, more intimate space in the back. Menu items include appetizers, like fresh guacamole with chips and salsa, mini meatballs, and burrata crostini. Entree salads included a chicken caesar, kale, and a chopped veggie salad. There are also a few sandwich and entree options, such as grilled cheese with tomato soup, a brisket burger, chicken, pasta, and salmon. I ordered a glass of the Bouchard Père & Fils Pouilly-Fuissé to start for $10 USD. It was a slightly dry, yet crisp white wine which was perfect for early evening sipping. My friend and I split the guacamole which was freshly made with with big chunks of avocado, a little sea salt, and olive oil served with warm tortilla chips and a chipotle salsa. It is a generous serving that is perfect for sharing. I also ordered the grilled cheese and tomato soup- perfect to warm the soul in these chilling temperatures. The grilled cheese was a perfect combination of cheddar and havarti served on thick white bread with just the right amount of butter. The tomato soup was creamy and flavorful. John, the bartender, was very attentive, described all of the food options we were thinking about ordering, and even let us taste a few of the wines before we ordered. There’s a selection of local craft beers as well. I was surprised at how yummy the food was and will definitely be going back for more! Check out the menu here.
There are lots of freshly baked goods such as, you guessed it: croissants(!), scones, cookies, monkey bread and sticky buns. The coffee menu is pretty standard with lattes, cappuccinos, cortados and macchiatos. Next time I go I will be indulging in the sweet side of the Barnes and Noble Kitchen.
The space and layout of the store is great. I found it very organized, not at all crowded or messy, and all of the different genres are clearly labeled and easy to find. There’s a great, big children’s section where you can bring the kiddies on a Saturday afternoon. The vinyl section is extensive. Love that vinyl has made such a big comeback! Located next to the vinyl section is one of my favorite sections, the New York books (although somehow a book about Connecticut managed to sneak in) Wishful thinking I guess. The young adult section is one of the best I’ve seen in a B&N because it isn’t overwhelming and it’s very visually organized. As a teen I always got overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books available and would want them all! You can peruse this section more leisurely and make the right decision about the book you really want! Finally, my soft spot: the paper section. As you line up to check out, there’s a great selection of Rifle Paper Company and Kate Spade journals and stationery as well as beautiful Papyrus greeting cards. This could be a bit of problem, as I like to linger in this section, but very convenient if you’re buying a gift and you need to grab a card on the way out. Speaking of cards, maybe you should send a special card to a special friend this week! Cards are so special. As I approach the register, I get excited because I get to use my teacher discount! Yay! The cashier was a very friendly older man, a retired teacher himself. He was talking to me about how all the teachers came in with their christmas gift cards and spent all of the money on their classroom libraries. Not surprised! But teachers, do yourself a favor, spend that gift card at the bar instead this year and treat yo’self to a good book and a glass of wine. You’ve earned it!
I hope you get to visit the Barnes and Noble Kitchen very soon as a little getaway from the hustle and bustle. Keep your eye out for more locations coming soon! In the meantime, go check out the Eastchester/Scarsdale location. You won’t be disappointed!
Planning a trip to sunny Aruba? Well you’ve come to the right place! It’s true what the locals say, “Aruba is one happy island”. From eating fresh seafood, to enjoying the simplicity of an island oasis, I have some really great recommendations for the trip that you will want to take this year! I knew I wanted to go away somewhere warm during the holidays, and last year I promised myself I’d be in Aruba before the new year. Lucky enough, it happened! Here is a roundup of where to stay, where to eat, and how to simply relax on your island getaway.
The plane ride from New York City to Oranjestad is about 4 hours. I recommend getting an early morning flight via JetBlue out of JFK so that you have the whole day to lounge on the beach and relax before your night out on the town! There are three main tourist areas in Aruba. The closest town to the airport is Oranjestad which is more of a commercial downtown area. It is very family friendly with high-end shopping and a great resort called The Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino. The next area is Eagle Beach which is more serene and quiet, with an adults-only vibe (my personal favorite).
Finally, there’s Palm Beach where all of the high rise hotels are located. The beaches here are a bit more crowded, but you have a lot of bars along the beach and places to do water sports such a parasailing, jet-skiing, and snorkeling. The beaches are public and you can rent lounge chairs for about $5 USD a pop. A bit more inland from here is the town of Noord where I wouldn’t have gone to since it’s away from the beach, but one of my favorite yogi’s, Rachel Brathen, recently opened up her new studio, Island Yoga, and I just had to pay her a visit! Getting around from one area to the next is about a $9 USD cab ride. It’s well worth it and a responsible way to get around after all of those Mango Margaritas!
My boyfriend and I started our vacation in Eagle Beach where we stayed at The Manchebo Beach Resort and Spa (he is really great at planning these things!) The resort has such a friendly and accommodating staff, great ambience, three great restaurants on the premises, and most importantly the bar is a stone’s throw away from the oceanfront. As you arrive you’re greeted with a homemade mojito (very nice touch), you catch a glance of the picturesque palm trees, the mint green water dances in the distance, you hear the waves crash, you feel the perfect Aruban breeze kiss your skin, you plop yourself down on a lounge chair, drink in hand, and ask yourself, “is this paradise?!” After a few cocktails, you jump in water that’s just the right temperature, and then you answer yourself, “yes it is”.
After two days of exploring Eagle and Palm Beaches we headed over to The Renaissance Ocean Suites in Oranjestad. We wanted to get a feel for all of the different areas, but we stayed here mostly because the resort has its own private island where you can hang with flamingos! This was the highlight of the trip for me. They are such beautiful creatures and look a lot like yogi’s doing tree pose. There’s a boat that leaves the resort every 15 minutes from 7 a.m to 7 p.m. and takes you directly to the island in 10 minutes.
The first night we ate barefoot with our toes buried in the sand at Passions on the Beach. They had the most incredible ceviche I’ve ever tasted and a really great wine list. Passions provided a romantic ambience that included tiki torches and a steel drum band playing in the background. Another great place that was recommended to us was Madame Janette: seafood with a french flair. This place is really popular with Americans who frequent the island, so make reservations in advance. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu; just eat to your heart’s desire!
Lastly, Iguana Joe’s was a no frills Aruban staple with lots of Caribbean food options. We enjoyed their jerk chicken skewers, mini Jamaican beef patties, Shrimp Josephine, an award-winning dish, which was served in a coconut cream sauce (to.die.for.) and “the best ribs in the caribbean”! This place was really fun, with a laid back ambience. Don’t forget to order a potion from the “Proceed with Caution” drink menu. These really yummy cocktails are served in half carafe glasses. You will only need one! We got the iguana mama and the lethal lizard. Variety is the spice of life! Don’t you agree? Lastly, grab a bottle of their medium hot sauce as a souvenir for your friends!
I hope this post inspires you to take that island trip you so deserve! If you have any other Aruban go-to’s that I’ve left out, please leave a comment below. I’m already dreaming about my next trip! Where are you headed this year?
2017 is the year of no limits! In the past I’ve held myself back for fear of failure or just intimidation of commitment. This past year has given me the confidence and strength to know that if I put my mind to something I really want, I can accomplish it. So the end of 2016 was very telling for me as I made some of the most important decisions and goals for 2017 within the past 4 months. One is the desire to start this blog. I’ve always loved reading blogs because I feel like a lot of the ones I read are very authentic and give the authors an opportunity to be their true selves to their online community, with or without the judgement that comes with publicly sharing your life. So with all of the judgment, criticism and commitment that comes with writing this blog, I’m ready for it because I am finally at a stage in my life where I am listening to myself and trusting my intuition. I am letting go of a lot of the fear and trying to truly embrace my own skin and my decisions and letting God guide the journey. I hope to document that here for you and create a space where you can come to when you need inspiration or support!
Which brings me to my next big endeavor of 2017 which is… starting my 200 hour yoga teacher training. I have been practicing yoga pretty consistently for over 5 years now and I have always felt my best on my mat. It has not only helped me to feel good about my body, but even better, it clears my mind and opens it up to all the possibilities in life! The decision was not mine alone, it really did come to me by the grace of this universe and trying to open my heart to what was my next move. I was always being asked “when are you going to get your certification?” and told “you should start teaching yoga” and that is all very flattering, but yoga school is not something you do because someone says you should. This decision and commitment has to come from within and because of my passion and desire for more mindfulness in my life. So one of my passions is teaching, and another is helping others feel good about themselves while building each other up. Yoga school seems to be the next step since it was what built me up to become more mind and body centered. It gave me the confidence to push the limits beyond what I think I can do and what I can actually do. Side note: This decision finally came to me while at a leadership training at the Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute during one of the last weekends in December of 2016. This training was truly life changing, but more about that in another post.
So taking on the launch of this blog and an intensive yoga teacher training while still working 2 jobs may seem crazy, but it seems right and manageable for me right now as I try to manifest this “no limits” attitude and approach to this one and only life I have. So with that, I challenge you to take on something new, scary, intimidating or simply different. Many times we need that push to grow and to find our true purpose, but if we keep putting off our dreams and goals for another day, that day may never come. And most importantly, do it with a gentle and humble heart. Nothing good will come out of your journey if you don’t welcome the struggle, the hardship and mistakes that come with taking on something new.
Thank you for visiting the blog and reading the very first post right here. I am excited to share this journey with you.Please comment below if you have any intentions or goals you’d like to share. If we share them with others, they become more real and we tend to hold ourselves more accountable. Xoxo Ashley
plural noun: departures
the action of leaving, typically to start a journey.
The past year and a half has been one of many blessings on so many fronts. This latest journey began in the summer of 2015, when by the grace of God I reconnected with a dear friend whom I had not seen for a long time. One day in early summer, Patricia called me out of the blue to hang out at the beach with her, and her sister who was visiting from Brazil. There I came to learn about the struggles that were turning her world upside down. Over the course of the next few months we became a team in a fight to get her back on her feet. We also became determined to reconnect with God, the One who had initially drawn us together as friends when we first met many years prior.
In the previous years I had lost contact with God, my church, my spirituality as well as many of the people and activities that I loved. I had allowed the drudgery of everyday life and the outside world to sweep me up without much regard for others, and myself. Patricia arrived just at the right time with an attitude that filled me with hope, excitement and a sense of purpose.
It was through an online search for a new church that I arrived at AC in early 2016. There I learned about the life group for runners that was just about to begin. I joined without hesitation, and with little knowledge of how much of a blessing this group would become in my life. Running has been a passion of mine since I was a little kid. Initially an activity to keep in shape, it became a haven where I could consolidate my thoughts, clear my mind and expend built up energy. Through this love of running I have met this special group of people whom I now care so much about. Because of these individuals I have a newfound passion for fellowship, spiritual life and above all, God. I have also located the old me, the one who loves to run, play guitar, hike, travel, try awesome foods, and butcher the French language. (I thought I was a huge Francophile till I met Ashley!) In addition, I also found the old me that likes to share life, and be there for those I love.
When my awesome running partner-in-crime, Ashley approached me to join in the launch of this blog, I didn’t know exactly where to begin. What is there to talk about? The truth is that the departure from a past life in the summer of 2015 has allowed me to learn so much about life and about myself. It’s easy to dwell in the past and recount life experiences because of all that one learns through struggle. Yet as I write, I also feel a sense of excitement for what’s in store not only for me, but also for the great people of this life group that I now call family. It’s this excitement and passion for life that I hope to share through this platform in the days to come.
Are you starting a new journey this year? Care to share some comments with us? Add your thoughts below!