Allow me to introduce you to the summer bucket list. Creating an epic summer bucket list began in high school with my original girl gang right after school had ended for the year. We had two months together, without lame classes and teachers, which meant it was crucial to live our best lives each summer. The items on our list ranged from enjoying the best soft-serve ice cream in town to securing the hottest summer fling in town (...which never really happened). These days, my summer bucket list lives on and continues to bring me ice cream fun.
Now that Memorial Day Weekend has passed us, and the sun is shining brighter than Meghan Markle's royal career, it's time to start writing up a summer bucket list. This summer, my Mom and I are going to Spain together and it's going to be on another level of awesomeness for this epic list. Since so much adventure is awaiting me, I really want to bask in the simple pleasures summer always brings. Ice cream on the boardwalk. Sweaty runs and golden tans. Dancing in the moonlight. Flirty skirts. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. Picnics. Beach. Summer lovin'. While getting down to basics, I want to spend less time on my phone and more time with summer.
So my homework for you is to think about what you want to do this summer and what this season may mean for you. Maybe it's time you finally went on that weekend trip to Canada. Maybe you need to hit the dance clubs and enjoy a steamy summer fling. Maybe you need a walk at the beach to just think. Whatever you do, please don't waste this sunshine because we wait all year to live the good life.
It’s been one month since I have become a live-in girlfriend on the Upper West Side. In that time, we have fallen in love with our new couch (if you live in NYC, run to Bob’s Discount Furniture in East Harlem, it’s the spot for fulfilling your Pinterest dreams while also keeping money in the bank for date night), found our design aesthetic and celebrated the new nearby Trader Joe’s by keeping the fridge properly stocked at all times.
Before moving in, I saw my boyfriend 1-3 times a week, and most of those times were crammed post-work hangouts. We have transitioned from seeing each other occasionally, to seeing each other live our lives every day. Before you live with someone, you have no idea how they really live their lives. Do they shower in the morning or at night? Are they chatty after work or do they need some space? Do they keep their shoes on or off when in the apartment? All of these little things you don’t know until you live with someone.
Thus far, I have learned that building a home with someone takes time. If this was just my place, I would have a Beyoncé shrine and a mermaid themed bathroom, but this isn’t just my palace - it’s our kingdom. Before this stage in a relationship, you still think in “me” and “I”. What do I need at the grocery store? What am I doing this weekend? Once you’re living together, you begin to think more in “we” and “our” because like, hello, he’s right there. Now, we buy our groceries together (but mostly cook separate meals) and collaborate on weekend plans. I am still fiercely “me”, but with a built-in partner to take my Instagram photos.
My main takeaway is to really speak up about your needs and wants once you share an address with your S.O. If you need to be in bed by 10 PM during the work week, be honest with your partner and make it happen. Recently, I had “one of dem days” as Monica says and needed the apartment all by myself to just chill. I had to be honest with my man that it’s not personal, but I need some alone time. If you’re living with someone, you got to really live.
Come and knock on our door, we've been waiting for you <3
Some say you don't really know someone until you travel with them. I know that if I were to board a plane for a spa vacay with some certain gal pals, I would need another spa vacay immediately after to recover. We all have different travel styles, you may enjoy a night out with someone but really, really hate a pub crawl with them in a foreign country after they lost their passport for the third time.
When I studied abroad, my friends and I would explore a different city or country almost every weekend. I would wake up each Friday morning ready to board my cheap Ryanair flight with my hideous orange backpack, knowing that wherever I went would be dope because of my friends. I even found my travel soulmate with these people, a companion who has the same interests, budget and map reading capabilities.
My last adventure took me to Washington, D.C. to smell the cherry blossoms and kinda remember U.S. history class. Each year, D.C. hosts the National Cherry Blossom Festival to celebrate the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city. The gift and annual celebration honor the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and the continued close relationship between the two countries. The trees bloom beauty and friendship, it’s quite remarkable.
My travel companion was my hunky boyfriend, Dave. In many ways, Dave is my partner for life, my go-to, my right hand, my dude. But…I have learned that we don’t always travel well together. Our first getaway was this past fall to the hot and steamy Savannah, Georgia. It was the perfect southern romance, complete with a ghost tour, drag show, pralines and absolutely no fights. Not even a little disagreement. We got lucky.
This time around, I played tour guide for Dave’s first trip to D.C. Before our visit, he thought the National Mall was an actual shopping center. And he was excited about it. The real National Mall, rich with history and glory, didn’t impress my man at all. I was annoyed that he wasn't in awe of these landmarks and that he didn't want to walk everywhere, while he was annoyed that I was racing around and not relaxing at the zoo with a brew #zoobrew.
Just because you’re dating/seeing/married/committed/hooking up/whatever with someone, doesn’t mean that person is your ideal travel mate. Each adventure is different, and a couple getaway shouldn’t be your only trip when you’re with someone. In fact, you may need a break from that special someone!
When planning a trip, who you travel with is just as important as what you travel to see. The best part about travelling is that you don’t even need anyone to go with you! I am a big fan of solo travel, so read that blog post too. Although we had a great trip and the blossoms surrounded us in natural, pink, delightful beauty, my mind is already planning a fun holiday to Cuba with my girlfriends. Sometimes you just need a girls island vacay and other times you need an adventure with your S.O.
For the past four years, I have lived in Brooklyn. I am not talking about the cool, hipster Brooklyn. I am talking about the “last stop on the R train, everyone knows everyone, still has an accent, best black and white cookies, actually affordable, fights break out, but everything can be solved at the neighborhood bar” Brooklyn. There’s absolutely nothing cool, hip or trendy about Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. You come here to live, relax and take long subway rides.
In these past four years, I have had 12 roommates including a large, fluffy Chow Chow that went to the bathroom all over my bed. Yes, a large Chow Chow pooped all over my bed. I have also lived in an apartment that had bedbugs, so living in New York City is not what Carrie Bradshaw promised me it would be.
As you may have guessed, living with roomies in small spaces is challenging. All of my roommates have been Craigslist “randoms”, and while some of these matches worked out, some really didn’t. Suddenly, after years of solving roommate issues as a college dormitory Resident Assistant, I was in the center of roommate conflicts. I have lived with people from very different cultures than my own, people who make more and less money than me, people who are neat freaks and people who literally leave half-eaten sandwiches on the kitchen counter. When you live with random roommates and have a lease, you make it work. I have learned that the way people are brought up really influences how they maintain their space, approach conflict and live their lives.
My past four years here been just as wild, unexpected and beautiful as this borough. When I first moved to Brooklyn, I had graduated college a few months prior and had accepted a part-time job in public relations. Most of my time was spent hustling, dreaming and exploring everything from career changes, intimate relationships and New York City. Similar to my roommates, some experiences really worked out and some really didn’t.
As I am leaving a neighborhood I have called home, I am moving to a new place that already feels even more like home. For the first time in my adult life, I am finally going to have a space that I am creating with someone I love. I bless that Halloween night at the club when I met Dave. You know how they say that one day you will meet someone and realize why it never worked with anyone else? After many, many, many duds, that day finally arrived for me. Four years ago, I didn’t even think it was possible for me to be moving to the Upper West Side with a boyfriend, I just wanted to spot a celebrity on the subway.
Thank you Bay Ridge, for serving as my safe New York City haven. I could always count on you to be a breath of fresh air (literally) from Manhattan, offer the cheapest manis, the best beet burgers and to never judge me for wearing the same sweatsuit all weekend. Although I am not going to miss the commute, the roommates, the R train or the lack of anything cool to do, I will always remember my times here as a Brooklyn Babe. #BKinBK #ByeByeBrooklyn
Every few months (or weeks!), I feel a strong desire in my soul to travel. To explore. To get lost. This need developed in college when I was a #blessed study abroad student that enjoyed long weekends to charming European cities, a low drinking age and cute boys that could wear both a scarf and a beret. Since then, my love affair with moving has only deepened and I make sure to embark on an adventure a few times a year.
The first rule of travelling on a budget as a post study abroad student, is to examine where your current pals are living these days. Maybe you have a friend of a friend in France? Cousin in New Orleans? Hook-up in Montana? If you’re super lucky, you have actual friends living in places as cool as them. That’s why I recently embarked on a West Coast adventure to Los Angeles, to visit a close college friend.
As a New Yorker, you hear about LA often. I wouldn’t say the cities are current rivalries, but they both hold down their coasts with loads of pride, style and burgers (will explain later). Before my first LA visit, I assumed everyone there must love to hike, juice and tan… and that assumption may be true because I did hike, juice and tan with LA peeps.
LA is sunny and chill. I was obsessed with the palm trees there and found bliss at Santa Monica. However, LA can also feel like a big highway, is the definition of urban sprawl and In-N-Out Burger is not worth the wait. Yeah, I said it.
The best part of exploring LA was spending time with my friend. Learning how other people live, work, play, cook, chill and date in a different place is what travelling is all about. I saw how my friend gets around in LA without a driver’s license and learned that yes, LA has a public transit system. I learned how he dominates in the city of angels, stars and dreams… and that was the most brilliant part about my LA trip.
Go call up your friend-of-a-friend’s-ex-girlfriend’s-cousin and pay them a visit. You may just see more than tourist sites.
Growing up, I hated making salad and eating salad. The salad I knew as a kid was as lackluster as Justin Timberlake's Superbowl performance, it always consisted of pointless iceberg lettuce, dry carrots and runny tomatoes. Since those tragic salad days, I have learned that a good DIY salad can take you higher to the food Gods, but it took a whole lot of learning to get to the salad Holy Land.
One of my very best friends (actually soulmate tbh), Autumn, is a vegan goddess. I vividly remember meeting Autumn as study abroad students in Brussels, Belgium. It was my second day there and as womanhood would have it, I received the wonderful gift of my period. I had no idea where to find tampons, so we went on an adventure to purchase the only brand I ever use, o.b. (yes, I know it's weird, but idc). The intimate experience of bonding over tampons and periods secured our friendship for life.
This past fall, I visited Autumn in her now city of residence, Portland, OR. As I mentioned, she's a vegan goddess creating vegan wonders in the kitchen, everything from Belgian waffles to flavorful salads. Autumn showed me that DIY salads don't need to be miserable bowls of greens that you try to avoid like the worst hangover of your life. Instead, making your own salad should be flavorful, fun and easy. Once you've incorporated my tips and recipes below, you won't need anyone else to toss your salad!
Build a Base
The foundation of your salad should never, ever be boring! Throw away the gross iceberg lettuce and try kale (my all-time favorite), arugula, Swiss chard or spinach. Perhaps spread the green around and mix a few together?!
Like a good outfit, mix in some fun textures! For example, try shredded sweet potato (instead of chopping), nuts, dried fruits (instead of fresh fruit chopped) or make a veggie hash to mix in. My favorite veggie hash is onion, black beans, chopped potato and shredded sweet potato. Sautee together and there ya go, veggie hash!
Warm it Up
My friend Autumn's theory to a good salad is that the meal needs a warm element. This can mean a literal hot ingredient or a warm flavor. After some experimentation, my salad guru is totally correct. I love adding roasted Brussels sprouts, baked Salmon or sauteed chickpeas to the mix. You can also try roasting cauliflower with turmeric for a warm flavor.
Dress to Impress
Pairing your salad with a dressing you love is crucial. What is Prince Harry without Meghan Markle? Blake without Ryan? Drake without RiRi (so not really a thing, but I will always want them to be a thing)? It took me a while to find The One, but Brianna's Creamy Cilantro Lime dressing has stolen my stomach. Brianna's dressings are a little pricey, but it's so worth it if it's going to help you eat more veggies. Just a little drop goes a long way too!
Some of my favorite salads happened by accident. For example, the veggie hash I mentioned above was the recipe I had for veggie tacos. I decided to make it into a salad with kale and pickled red onion. I used to not like fruit in my salad, but have found that apples and grapes are great additions. I have even added leftover chili to a salad with shredded cheddar cheese for a Southwestish vibe.
Now that you're empowered to toss your own salad, may you never need to rely on a mediocre salad ever again!
Two years ago, I embarked on my first solo trip to Scotland. One year ago, I embarked on my second solo trip to Bermuda.
I had never planned on travelling solo and believed I wasn’t “strong, smart or capable” enough to do so. When studying abroad in college, I would meet independent travelers in hostels all the time and marveled at their confidence and bravery to explore the world solo. I could never do such a thing! What if I got lost? What if someone kidnapped me? Could I really eat at a restaurant all by myself? Who will take my strategically posed photos for Instagram? Who, who, WHO?!
Then, I decided, why not?
My first trip included an adventure to North Wales to visit a dear college friend. Following that wonderful experience, I had mustered the bravery to board a train (which turned into a bus ride) to Scotland. My reasoning for going on my own, was simply, to prove I could do it. I wanted to challenge myself and do everything I wanted, on my own schedule and budget.
After a Scottish trip filled with castles, tartan, wild accents, man buns (like every dude I saw had a man bun and I was about it) and shortbread, I couldn’t wait to hit the road again with my bad self.
My next trip took me to the pink island of Bermuda. This exploration for me came at a time where I seriously lacked self-esteem due to a medical condition. Suddenly, my life had turned into a sad place, where I only went to work and returned home with a broken, sad heart. I saw myself turning into a person that I never wanted to become, a person that was afraid, shut down and bitter. I felt so, so broken. That’s when I knew I needed to get lost on a sunny island.
It’s funny how being in a new place can bring you back home. Bermuda allowed for me shine, to enjoy the fresh air, to laugh and make people laugh, to feel brave and vulnerable. While hiking and swimming, I slowly began to reconnect with myself. I realized that no matter what happens in this wild life, that my heart and spirit will always remain me. I confirmed to myself that my being is kind, adventurous, bold and giving. This feeling was even felt by my Airbnb hosts, as one wrote that I am “one free, free spirit.”
My solo trips have been unforgettable. I cherish my alone time, solitude and inner peace. I have learned that a train ride can take you to unexpected places. Sleeping alone isn’t so scary. Going far away may bring you closer to your own self, family and friends. Follow your instincts, for they will never steer you wrong. Believe that there are so many adventures to be had and great people yet to meet. Think that every place will welcome you with open arms, despite what the world may tell us. Ask someone to take your picture, they will most likely say “yes.”
"My vagina is a shell, a round pink tender shell, opening and closing, closing and opening. My vagina is a flower, an eccentric tulip, the center acute and deep, the scent delicate, the petals gentle but sturdy.
I did not always know this. I learned this in the vagina workshop.”
These words were first written by Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues playwright, performer, feminist, and activist, in 1998. Yet, these words are still drenched in feminism and radicalism, and the people who receive these words are still stunned and uncomfortable.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the controversial play, a production that is just as shocking, alarming and thought-provoking as it was in 1998. It’s a piece of work that discusses the wonders and hardships of women across the world, from achieving an orgasm to surviving rape and sexual assault, the production unpacks all of the feels. The play makes you wonder, “How far have we really come since 1998?”
The Vagina Monologues ends with the play’s newest monologue titled, “Over It Redux*” in which Ensler, lists shocking statistics and calls out the “passivity of good men.” The piece includes a long list of facts that will make your heart cry, including, “I am over 33 million U.S. women being sexually harassed, and 14 million sexually abused, in work-related incidents… over the hundreds of thousands of women in Congo still waiting for the rapes to end and the rapists to be held accountable… over college campuses being places young women survive rather than places they thrive because of rape culture.”
These statistics shock me, knowing that the woman next to me is suffering and my sister a plane ride away is facing obstacles that I can’t even fathom in my warm, safe Brooklyn apartment, it’s beyond heartbreaking and frustrating. Where are we? Why aren’t we rising up? Why aren’t we screaming with anger and fear? How are we allowing this? How are we not fighting this in our everyday life?
A few weeks ago, I was at a lovely brunch with my boyfriend. A table over was filled with middle-aged women discussing the #MeToo movement. I overheard comments such as, “Why didn’t she just walk away?”, “Why didn’t she say no?”, “Well he (Louis C.K.) admitted it, he didn’t deny it.” and “If everyone knew he was trouble, why was she alone with him?” I couldn’t believe that these older women were defending the perpetrators and even applauding Louis C.K.’s honesty, but how they were straight-up shaming, questioning and degrading these brave women – and all during my otherwise delicious brunch. This is not an unusual occurrence, it happens all the time.
That’s why I decided to participate in The Vagina Monologues this year. Because of that bullshit and all of the real terrors and horrors that consume women every damn day. Our New York University show was able to reach a small community of 200+ attendees, a group of people who may have otherwise spent the night watching Netflix and eating Valentine’s Day candies, a group of people who will tell their friends about the play and create conversation. A group of people more likely to Rise Up.
Moving forward, my goal is to create a safe space within me, where those who are suffering, living in fear or just want to chat about orgasms, can come to. My safe space will exist in my heart, eyes, soul and spirit. Come on over, unpack your baggage and welcome home.
If your vagina could talk, what would it say?
The Vagina Monologues is a play written by Eve Ensler that discusses consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences, body image, genital mutilation, direct and indirect encounters with reproduction, sex work, and several other topics through the eyes of women with various ages, races, sexualities, and other differences. In 1998, Ensler launched V-Day, a global non-profit movement that has raised over 100 million for groups working to end violence against women and girls anti-violence through benefits of The Vagina Monologues.
Although the play has been accused of being anti-transgender and not including enough racial diversity, I think the messages still create discussion about tough topics that women are experiencing on a daily basis.
The first time I saw The Vagina Monologues, I was in middle school and went with my parents to see my sister perform. Sitting next to my Dad as young women discussed rape, sexuality, orgasms and of course, vaginas, was incredibly awkward and startling. I couldn't believe the horrific, hilarious, beautiful, shocking and bittersweet tales these women were sharing with me.
My experience as a surprised audience member pushed me to be an active part of the play in college. I have acted in the production four times and directed the play in Belgium. My belief that these stories need to be brought to life and heard by both women and men has never wavered. The play represents everything I aim to be as a young woman: brave, unexpected, aware, compassionate and unapologetic.
I am thrilled to share that I will be a part of NYU's Vagina Monologues production this Valentine's Day. My wish is to create conversation with friends and family about these sensitive topics and to open some minds. The question remains, if your vagina could talk, what would it say?
Who doesn’t love a fresh start? Whether it’s a new relationship, job, apartment or pair of jeans, fresh always feels… fresh. I have finally taken some time to visualize what I hope 2018 will look like, a year that should be as wonderful as Cardi B’s 2017.
Each birthday, I always channel my inner spirit animal that I want to embody for that year. I am currently in my Gloria Steinem year because I am trying to be more active in my feminism beliefs. The year prior was my RiRi year because I wanted to own my sexuality and feel flirty 24/7. My 23rd year was my MJ year and what a MJ year it was. When it comes to new calendar years, I try to create a mantra that I can turn to when I feel tired, frustrated or unmotivated about the year that lies ahead of me. This year, I am working towards Taking Up More Space.
Taking Up More Space means putting myself out there, raising my voice, turning some heads and making myself known. Growing up, girls are told to not take up space, to be small and quiet. Although I am neither small or quiet, I have noticed how adulthood can diminish your passion, energy and space. I have caught myself not taking risks or sharing my opinion because I am scared of being judged. Well, this year I am going to need a Manhattan penthouse for all the space I am planning on taking up.
Here are my goals for 2018. Let’s go get ‘em.
Listen and Listen More
I am pretty sure Vincent van Gogh was a better listener than me, and he only had one ear. My boyfriend calls me out on my poor skills at least once a week. Why am I such a terrible listener? I am so easily distracted by my surroundings and my phone that I struggle concentrating most of the time. Then, if the speaker is discussing a topic I have little interest in (i.e. sports, cats or Whole30) I totally zone out and daydream about Spain. This year, I am going to practice being present and see how listening can develop stronger relationships and create better work.
Social media is so much fun, and I live for the mysteries of Kylie Jenner, but man do I need a break. After a while, it becomes boring and such a time suck. Like, instead of scrolling and looking at photos of strangers, I could be working on my podcast or reading War and Peace.
On The Radio
In college, I loved exploring my passion of radio and television. Since then, I am a busy bee in the PR world, but miss speaking and interacting with people via radio and video. This year, I am determined to go back to that happy place and create a fun podcast where I can discuss topics that real young women are talking about. I want my voice and stories to be heard. Please stay tuned to turn me on and up y’all.
Clean Eating + Sweating
Luckily, I love veggies and breaking a sweat, but I also adore chocolate and carbs. So, so many carbs. This year, I want to stay true to my body and what it needs – fresh air, movement, broccoli, yoga, kale, boxing, peace, sleep – and what it doesn’t need – shame, drugs, diets, comparison, expectations, pressure. Right now, I am all about dance classes and veggie tacos. By the end of the year, I might be about sleeping and milkshakes. As long as I feel energized, powerful and confident, I really don’t mind.
Attitude Is Everything
Why be a Rob Kardashian when you can be a Khloe Kardashian? I pride myself on being bright like a daisy, but it’s not easy. Some people are truly weeds in your garden, and it’s difficult to not let those weeds take over your beautiful garden. This year, I am learning to control my emotions and continuing to let my daisies grow.
Here’s to Taking Up More Space, making shit happen and smiling more. A lot more.