Women, Strong & United

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Created by O, The Oprah Magazine senior designer Tova Diamond.

Our entire office wore red today in honor of International Women’s Day and the women’s rights movement. Though we’ve made great strides in equality, there’s still a ways to go, both around the world and here at home in the United States.

Whatever your political views or cultural background, we should stand together as women, strong and united. There is so much to celebrate about each other: our tenacity, our individuality, our accomplishments, our collective voice.

In that spirit, I’d like to share some wisdom imparted by women (the last quote is my favorite!):

  • “Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.” -Amelia Earhart
  • “I am an example of what is possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by people around them. I was surrounded by extraordinary women in my life who taught me about quiet strength and dignity.” -Michelle Obama
  • “I do not demand equal pay for any women save those who do equal work in value. Scorn to be coddled by your employers; make them understand that you are in their service as workers, not as women.” -Susan B. Anthony
  • “I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.” -Mary Shelley
  • “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” -Madeleine Albright
  • “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” -Maya Angelou
  • “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” -Audre Lorde
  • “I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story—I will.” -Amy Schumer
  • “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” -Sheryl Sandberg
  • “Do not live someone else’s life and someone else’s idea of what womanhood is. Womanhood is you. Womanhood is everything that’s inside of you.” -Viola Davis

Restaurant Review: Zora’s Cafe

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Not only did my coworker’s get me gifts for my 29th birthday, including a giant box of Godiva chocolates and a book that’s all about coffee, they also took me out to lunch. We settled on Zora’s Cafe, an unassuming soul food spot on Ninth Avenue between 47th and 48th streets. The restaurant aims to “develop healthier soul food dishes without compromising great taste” by using cage-free eggs and organic vegetables, among other strategies. The simplicity of the menu in the window—four appetizers, seven entrees, only three lunch specials—belied the savory complexity of our meals. Once inside, we noted that the space felt cozy and welcoming, with exposed brick and the smells of the kitchen wafting out into the dining space. What’s more, the mother-daughter duo that started Zora’s were the ones who served us and cooked our food! Now that’s what I call true Southern hospitality, and it was much appreciated.

Our meal began with complimentary cornbread: soft in the center but deliciously crispy on the edges. A hint of citrus added a pleasant zing to it, and I probably could have eaten the entire basket on my own if I hadn’t wanted to save room for my main meal. Adrienne ordered an iced tea, which she enjoyed, while Lisa and I stuck to water. Our server, Zora herself, was extremely welcoming and attentive, checking back to make sure that everything was to our liking and whether we needed anything more. She had no problem answering our questions, even when we asked the same ones twice!

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Then it was time for entrees. Everything on the menu sounded good: fried green tomatoes, battered wings, chicken and waffles, slow-simmered braised beef oxtails. Ultimately we all chose the catfish sandwich; Adrienne and Lisa got theirs fried and accompanied by white bread, whereas I went with pan-seared and whole wheat. The lunch option was only $10, and it came with a side of fries, though Zora explained we could substitute any other side we liked instead. Lisa went with a simple salad, Adrienne chose the spice-dusted potato salad (in the photo on the left, below), and I picked the collard greens (in the photo on the right, below). The sandwiches also came with a hot sauce and a white condiment that was a homemade version of tartar sauce.

Adrienne and Lisa both agreed that their cornmeal-crusted catfish had a ton of flavor, despite being a little salty. Adrienne’s potato salad was rich and creamy. My fish was cooked perfectly, nice and flaky and melt-in-your-mouth tender. The sear gave it a slight char that paired really well with the collard greens. Although the dessert options, including a peach cobbler, sounded so tempting, we all felt too full to give them a try. That’s just one of the many reasons I’m already planning to go back! I’d definitely recommend Zora’s Cafe to anyone looking for a solid lunch or dinner option in the area.

 

My 29th Birthday… Sort Of

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It was my sort-of birthday this weekend: Technically I was born on February 29, the extra day in a leap year, but since there isn’t one this year, I guess I can celebrate whenever I want! Everyone was so good to me. Todd’s parents bought me the rainbow cookie cake I’m posing with in the slideshow above, and my parents got me some cute cupcake balloons and took the family out to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. And everyone gave me wonderful cards and gifts! I’m so thankful to have such awesome people in my life.

I know I haven’t updated this blog in a few weeks; it’s been tough to juggle work, household chores, errands, and hangouts. And when I do have some time, I’m not too sure what to write about. But now that I’m (almost, sort of) 29, I’ll try to be more responsible and do better haha. I also hope to really make progress on my New Year’s resolutions between now and my next birthday, as well as train for the 2018 New York City marathon. But I also hope to find more time for the people who make my life as meaningful as it is: all of my family and friends, and my fellow bloggers and online amigos who push me to do better, be better, and live better.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what your favorite blog posts have been, and what you’d like to see more of going forward so that I can brainstorm some ideas. And, as always, thank you so much for your continued readership and support!!! xo

Restaurant Review: Annabel

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During my lunch break I often walk around the Columbus Circle and Hell’s Kitchen areas of New York City, and more than once I’ve found myself staring into the windows of Annabel, an artisanal pizza spot on Ninth Avenue. Its interior is rustic-chic, with exposed wooden beams on the ceiling and hanging industrial-style lightbulbs. The tables are sleek and square, and the soft glow of the candles on each renders the room cozy and inviting as evening falls—perfect for a romantic dinner or a girls’ night of gossip. The latter is what I was there for, with my friend and former coworker Anna.

We spent some time looking over the menu, which includes a range of appetizers, salads, pizzas, and full-size entrees like bacon mac and cheese with pork ribs and crispy rice or whole wheat tagliatelle with calamari, clams, scallops, and lobster in lemon-cilantro butter. With so many options, we weren’t sure how to choose, so we started by crossing off what we didn’t want. The buttermilk fried chicken, braised short ribs, and truffled risotto all sounded tasty, but we decided they’d be too much food alongside a pizza. We settled on the spanish octopus with broccoli rabe and a yellow chili emulsion; it seemed relatively healthy and we thought it would make a nice light start to our meal.

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Spanish octopus with broccoli rabe and yellow chili emulsion.

Anna and I both enjoyed this dish, though we thought it could have been a little larger for $12. Instead of three pieces of octopus (we had to cut the last one in half to share), four tentacles would have been more ideal. Otherwise, it was cooked perfectly, not rubbery or mushy in the slightest, with a nice char on the outside. The broccoli rabe had just enough bitterness to leave a pleasant aftertaste but not so much that it made our tastebuds pucker. And the sweet spice of the yellow chili sauce complemented but didn’t overpower the delicate taste of the octopus.

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Pizza with arugula, ricotta, duck prosciutto, and blueberry jam.

For our pizza course, we wanted something unique, and quickly decided against the simple tomato-basil or four-cheese pies. Torn between two options, we went with the more outlandish-sounding one: ricotta, duck prosciutto, blueberry chutney, and arugula. What did we think of this strange mishmash of flavors and textures? Anna said it best: “The combination of duck, blueberry jam, ricotta, and arugula was not supposed to taste good; those ingredients just sound so random and odd. But I was very surprised at how delicious it was!” And it was delicious. The arugula lent the crisp yet still soft crust a tanginess that was perfectly offset by the sweetness of the jam and the creaminess of the ricotta.

The duck prosciutto was the finishing touch: a hint of savory saltiness. Only, I wish there had been at least one slice of duck for each wedge of pizza; we ended up having to break them in half in order to get the taste of the prosciutto on every piece. But overall it was worth it. For $18, we got a six-slice pie that our server described as smaller than your average takeout pizza but larger than a personal pie. It left us pretty full and satisfied…but of course we still found room for dessert.

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Pistachio creme brûlée.

Right away we decided on the pistachio creme brûlée. In all honesty, I can’t say it was a five-star dessert: the brittle caramel on top seemed a little more burnt than strictly necessary (though personally I like burnt things so I didn’t really mind). But aside from that minor flaw, the green-tinged custard delivered a bright flavor and rich creaminess that felt simultaneously fresh yet decadent in our mouths.

All in all, Annabel excelled in all aspects: delicious food, appealing aesthetic, and prompt and friendly service. Both Anna and I plan to return—there are still so many menu items we want to try!—and would definitely recommend adding this to your restaurant circuit.

2017: Books I’ve Read So Far

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With Thanksgiving and Christmas, the end of 2016 felt barren in the way of books; I didn’t have enough time to read and didn’t get my usual giant stack of paperbacks as a gift this year. Since 2017 rolled in, I’ve been trying to read instead of sleep on my morning commute, and so far I’ve made my way through five books, all of which I liked for one reason or another. Here they are, ranked in order of personal enjoyment:

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The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
It all begins when journalist Lo is sent on assignment on a cruise ship and meets a woman in cabin 10, only hours before Lo witnesses what she believes is that woman’s murder. But when all traces of the woman disappear, she is left unsure what to believe at all. This page-turner has a well-developed plot, a characters who leave readers questioning the truth at every moment, and a solution that you won’t ever see coming.

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Faithful by Alice Hoffman
I immediately liked the protagonist of this novel: Shelby is a damaged girl who sends her best friend into a coma and needs to figure out how to live with the guilt. The reader follows her from the accident to her future, when she’s managed to build some kind of a life for herself, and somehow never gets bored hearing about the everyday details, like the dogs she owns or the men she loves.

9781250087935_p0_v2_s192x300The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz
What a bizarre novel! Though I didn’t think it was as well done as Emma Donoghue’s Room or Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, it had the vibe of both, and I still found it interesting and original. The story revolves around a young girl, raised to believe she and her sisters are living in heaven’s garden—but the reality is just the opposite. Each chapter reveals another piece of this terrifying puzzle.


9780062279026_p0_v1_s192x300A Million Worlds with You
by Claudia Gray
The third book in a trilogy about traveling to alternate realities to save the word, this YA fantasy novel didn’t impress me as much as its predecessors: key characters lacked presence, conflicts and struggles didn’t seem to go deep enough, and it all wrapped up a little too easily. That said, I did find the story intriguing and the pace quick, and am glad I read it if only to learn how it all ends.

 

9780316176507_p0_v2_s192x300A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
This book was nothing like Atkinson’s masterful Life After Life, despite being marketed as a companion piece to that one. It was a plodding tale that slogged through different years in the life of a World War II soldier, first as a boy, then as an older man, then as a fighter, then as a boy again, without chronology or order. The writing was too wordy and the characters banal, each generation more miserable than the last.

Following My Animal Instincts

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I might have mentioned that Todd and I signed up for the NYRR’s 9 + 1 program this year. If we run nine races set up by NYRR and volunteer for at least one, we’ll have guaranteed entry into the 2018 New York City marathon. The first of our nine races isn’t until March, but since our midnight run on New Year’s Eve, I’ve been trying to keep up my mileage, which I’ll have to slowly increase throughout the year. And I’ve been finding my inspiration in animals.

Aside from naming each run in my travel log, I’ve been assigning each an animal emoji to sum up how I felt during the run. On longer runs it keeps me distracted; I spend time thinking of which animal might best represent those seven or ten miles. On shorter sprints, it encourages me to pick up the pace: if I want to assign a cheetah to the run, I’d better earn it.

Our midnight run got a chick with its arms spread wide, signifying my willingness to embrace a new year and new running experiences. A two-mile run, my first-ever in the snow, received a penguin because I was so bundled I could barely do more than waddle. To the five more miles I did on the treadmill when I got back inside, I gave a poodle; those five miles felt like I was being pampered compared to the bitter cold and icy snow. My most recent run, Wednesday morning before work, was a camel because I did the entire thing on a 5 or greater incline and felt like I was trudging through sand dunes with belongings piled on my back.

I’m looking forward to our first race of 2017 in March, and already wondering which animal emoji I’ll assign to it.

 

Join Our TD 5 Boro Bike Tour Team!

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Todd and I signed up again this year for the TD 5 Boro Bike Tour, which takes you on a 40-mile ride through each of New York City’s five boroughs. Our experience last year had its ups and down, but it left us feeling accomplished. So we decided to give it another shot.

We’ve titled our team #BronxLatteLovers, and I’ll be using that hashtag on Twitter and Facebook to keep tabs on our progress leading up to the big day, the first Sunday in May. And if you or anyone you know is going to participate in this year’s bike tour, feel free to join our team as well! You don’t have to be from the Bronx, but you do have to love coffee! (Then again, who doesn’t?)

Here’s to a successful training season to everyone who signed up, and an early prayer that the day will be rain-free!