Queen’s got comfort

September 7, 2011

Today’s a shout-out to the Astoria Blog Carnival!!! This edition is all about food in our hood. Here’s my contribution:

My boyfriend used to have to work on Sundays so we only got to indulge in one of our cities’ greatest past times, brunch, once in a blue moon. Now that he can sit a spell and relax on Sundays we’ve taken to trying out the new breakfast options in the hood. Like desert, Brunch should be a meal of overindulgence and possible debauchery. Astoria’s newest restaurant, Queens Comfort has you covered.

Our beloved neighborhood, Astoria is happening now. Our status has been raised at least two notches in the last year. It seems like everyday there’s a new boutique, new restaurant, or bar opening it’s doors. The demand for space to house these hip new establishments is spilling over Steinway Blvd, where you can find Queens Comfort. Just above the Blvd on trendy 30th Ave sits this one roomed culinary find.

We arrived just before noon and there was already a line to sit. The space is inviting filled with communal tables, the decor rustic and unpretentious- like the food. Toe tapping classic tunes spill onto the street and I’m instantly aware of how many cool people have chosen Astoria for their home. The wait was quick, the service friendly, and we could bring our own champagne (which we happily did, and ordered OJ to mix mimosas at our table). The menu, which changes weekly, is inscribed on a giant chalkboard at the end of the room. We each ordered something different and our table instantly fell silent while we devoured what was on our plates. The R Kelly breakfast sandwich which consists of egg, ham AND bacon, seasonal ramps, garlic mayo on a brioche, seemed to be the table favorite. My boyfriend, Greg loved his ZMan- a brisket sandwich complete with onion rings and a Coca-Cola BBQ sauce. Come early because favorites go quickly. I wanted to try one of the Robicellis famous cupcakes but they had a big line through them on the menu board indicating that the early bird gets the cupcake.

I’ve already mentally committed myself to another meal here. With all day brunch on Sunday you just can’t lose. I’ve heard great things about dinner as well, but brunch is such a magical meal only showing up on weekends it’ll be hard for me to choose. If you make this borough your home you owe it to your taste buds to stop by. Here’s to a month worth of Sundays with fried food and do it yourself mimosas!


Living in NYC we are not accustomed to too many natural disasters. With the exception of the occasional blizzard or thunderstorm, we are most familiar with crowds, traffic, vermin, and trash (lots of it). So, when this week we are assaulted with not one, but two natural disasters, we were obviously at a loss on how to cope.

Things started off with a bang (literally) on Thursday with a rare earthquake. I’m a Californian, so I didn’t blink an eye at the small jolt that rocked Manhattan. Then, soon after, came reports that a hurricane pummeling islands off our coast was projected to blow our way. “We don’t have these problems in our big city”, we found ourselves mumbling under our breath. Now, there’s rumor that hurricanes can hit our area, but in reality it is a rarity. The last full blown papa hurricane (not downgraded to a tropical storm) was in 1938. The storm killed 10 people and caused millions of dollars in damages. Keep in mind that in the 19th century there weren’t any satellite pictures or overzealous T.V. news reporters to warn the unsuspecting population. So, as our storm threat grew, so did our modern day media frenzy. The press was having a field day. Fears fanned, I watched my friends hunker down- hoarding bottled water, canned food, and in typical NY fashion, booze. As the evacuation warnings turned into evacuation orders they found themselves glued to the news. The mayor was on T.V., and speaking Spanish for that matter. This was serious. Muy grave.

In the spirit of defiance, some New Yorkers took the laissez-faire approach to emergency preparedness. Scoffing off the predictions, sure that the local dive bar, nail salon, and diner would stay open during Armageddon. They carried on life as usual, almost until the end. Only did it truly sink in when they discovered the subway had been shut down and the corner store shelves were bare. They appeared impervious to the anxiety, but deep down were crossing their fingers and toes that they’d be all right.

My one and only experience with a hurricane was one summer trip to Mexico. A category 5 hurricane had it out for me and a few of my friends on our vacay to Playa del Carmen. When the broadcast that a hurricane was advancing, the calm cool, we’ve-been-here-before Mexicans found pleasure in scaring us gringos with hurricane horror. As I chuckled them off, inside my panic was growing, much like the hurricane itself. My first instinct was to get out. I mean, it’s one thing to experience an act of God and live to tell about it, but another thing to meet it while on foreign soil (especially someplace you can’t even drink the water!). Unwelcome thoughts turned me into the neurotic one of our bunch- traveling to the internet cafe twice a day to track it’s progress, calling home every chance I could get, and contemplating changing my flight to come home early. My housemates were more blase about the whole thing, and thought my reaction was ludicrous. I eventually swallowed it down and tried to deny the inevitable, but fate, as it’s prone to do, caught up with us. When it was certain that the hurricane was rolling in we began to bicker and plan a panicky escape.

I made it home, just by the hair on my chinny chin chin, but vowed to do things differently if there was ever a next time. Hurricanes like so many things in life, are beyond the reach of our control. It’s futile to obsess about the unknown, when the next day can bring a sunny sky, destruction, devastation, or flooding rain. On the b-side, feigning ignorance may lead to momentary bliss, but it could also leave you wishing you’d purchased that raft at the supermarket when you had the chance. Living means being sentient to the moment that surrounds you. It is possible to have your eyes wide open without being hypnotized by fear. If balance is key, how else can I be both prepared and yet detached, form obstacles and outcomes in my daily life?

“If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.” The Dalai Lama

I’m famous (almost)…

August 11, 2011

Got a mention in my friend Emma’s blog, Glitter and Gold today. Check it out:

Random Things That Are Making Me Smile
thanks to my friend Lindsay, over at Pilates in the City I am now addicted to these.  They are awesome for the summer when your feet get all grimy from being in flipflops all day, every day!  I use mine almost every night and my feet and heels have never felt so soft, and the smell is awesome.

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It had been sometime since I’d practiced yoga (I got side tracked by opening my own studio), but one of the first stops I had to make was Strala Yoga owned by Tara Stiles.

While Tara is the personal yoga teacher to Jane Fonda and Deepak Chopra, she is just like you and me, and it shows at her gorgeous loft-like NoHo studio- Strala Yoga. You won’t find om-ing or a woo-woo vibe here. The classes at Strala are straight forward and unpretentious. Tara pads around in her baggy sweat pants, no make-up, leading the class in her carefree manner, making jokes, and reminding you that it’s just yoga- so breathe. The classes are simply identified by Strong, Relax, and Stralax (a combo of the two). I’ve practiced there several times now, mostly because it’s affordable (only $10 a class), but also because Tara and Heidi (who is uber-cheery and much more giggly than Tara- but will seriously kick your butt with a smile) are quickly becoming my favorite teachers. I don’t do yoga because it’ll make my butt smaller, or because I want to be closer to god, but because I always leave feeling better than when I walked in, and Strala always leaves me with a smile.

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Kris Carr and Gabby Bernstein

Looking for adventure, my girl Jen Seracuse and I signed up for a seminar via VItal Juice, guided by wellness gurus, Gabrielle Bernstein and Kris Carr. The ticket price was right and we figured that at minimum we would create some good karma just by attending. So, last Wednesday we shimmied over to the Center in the West Village with open minds- but still with question marks hovering above our heads. We had quickly signed up and paid our $15, but had no idea what was in store. Does attending a health seminar make you healthier just by proximity?

We arrived to the event early to an already half filled multi-purpose room. The audience consisted mostly women our age, in our industry, with similar trendy attire, well coiffed hairdos, and manicured hands. There we were- in front of our mirror that was the crowd. We checked in and nestled in our seats. Glancing around we noticed the speakers, like mini-celebrities greeting admirers, snapping photos, and signing book copies. There were handouts left at our chairs, with information on the evenings topics, and when the event began to get underway, the filled to capacity room buzzed. Wellness warriors around me busted out their notebooks and pens, prepared to hang on every word.

The first speaker, Gabriel Bernstein, or Gabby as she invited us to call her, is coined as a next generation guru, motivational speaker, life coach, and author. Although in her past life she was a cut throat PR maven, she’s slowed her roll and now focuses her influence in more esoteric matters. Mentored by Marianne Williamson and steeped in teachings from A Course in Miracles, Gabby is the hip modern-day sage. I align myself right in the center of her intentions and substance. She’s bolstered my belief in the power of prayer, positive thinking, and meditation. She has reminded me that “I am entitled to miracles”. Clothed in a leather mini, twirling her long lustrous locks while delivering her message to her screaming ‘Spirit Junkie’ fans, she is able to bring spirituality to my generation.

Next up was Kris Carr, and the reason I paid to sit in an uncomfortable chair for two hours. I was introduced to Kris through Marie Forleo, another motivation orator that I think is hilarious and worthwhile. Marie had Kris on one of her vlogs one day, talking about her new book about health and wellness, Crazy Sexy Diet. Turns out Kris is more than just another diet educationist. Diagnosed with inoperable, incurable cancer at the ripe age of 31, the former struggling actress took matters into her own hands. She started with an inspirational documentary of her journey and then published two books many use as manuals for holistic healing and well-being. I have Crazy Sexy Diet right on my nightstand and am honestly into what this girl is saying. I was anxious to see what she was like in living color, and Kris didn’t disappoint. Her theatrical background made for a natural humorist, after all not many can make bodily waste and green juice sexy, but she does it. With a streak of pink hair flowing down her back, I witnessed Kris incite hope and spark where little was before.

I often find myself stradling a line between abhorring coffee while shunning flesh, and eating donut burgers while nursing a rum and diet coke. I suspect I’m not alone. Most of us waffle between this saint and sinner behavior, and have definite judgements about which side we ‘should’ stand on. Maybe we’re just where we need to be- right smack dab in the middle.

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Method or madness?

March 23, 2011

I am a professional Pilates instructor which means I operate in world where exercise fads change as quickly as the clothes we take on and off our backs. Back in the day there was Jazzercise. Then came Tae-bo (I admit to being sucked into that one grunting and punching in a carpeted room that reeked like prespiration). Followed by the likes of 8 Minute Abs, Buns of Steel, and of course Suzanne Somers’ Thighmaster. Today we bow at the altar of Soul-Cycle, Physique 57, or Tracy Anderson. We fuel the fad like a flame by stoking it with our demand to have the perfect body- and right now! So when this ‘new’ thing (Pi-LOTTS?) enters the scene we roll our eyes back in our head with doubt. What can Pilates do for me that all the other fads could not?

Suzanne Somers and her Thigh Master

Although many uninformed self-proclaimed fitness buffs merge it with all the other flash in the pan exercise regimes, Pilates is not a fad. It is actually older than most of the originators of these so called “methods”. Pilates began in 1914, with Joseph Pilates who was born with various ailments such as Rickets and Asthma, but had a penchant for anatomy and health. He developed his system of body balancing called “Contrology” while in a WWI internment camp. When he immigrated to the states in 1926 he opened the first Pilates studio here in NYC. Joe’s philosophy was to stretch, strengthen, and balance the body. This creates a healthy body in and out with a supple spine, increased circulation and breathing capacity, as well as mental stamina and alertness. Pilates leaves it’s impression on all areas of the practitioners life.

Today, before my session with Bob Leikens, we got to talking about this fad foolishness (It was peaked by my interest in what he thought of Power Pilates’ new ‘Beyond Barre’ classes). “I just don’t understand why these kids are so crazy over this?”, he muttered in his thick accent. “If you want to do ballet, take a ballet class! People these days have the attention span of a fly. They get bored, so they try to create, create, create these watered down classes. If they’re bored it’s because they’re not focusing, distracted and just want the results without doing all the work.” I can certainly see his point. While I like to dabble in trendy calisthenics, I never stray long and always seem to make my way back to deeper techniques like Pilates or yoga. Does that mean that a true method has ancestry with deep roots that can lead you places you never thought you’d go?

What is a method anyway? According to Wikipedia a method can be defined as- ‘a systematic and orderly procedure or process for attaining some objective.’ Though there is much written about the man himself, there is hardly anything in writing about the challenges he must have faced constructing his method and what he was confronted with in it’s inception. What we do know is that he poured himself into anatomy and physiology books, watched the movement of animals for hours, and practiced various disciplines himself including yoga, boxing, and gymnastics. His commitment to well-being went farther then a 6-pack and a tight bum- it was complete healthiness. Trial and error lead way to a lifetime of practitioners and lives transformed.

So, as Seth Godin posted in his blog the other day, quoting Sarah Jones, “the market has become a swarm of fleas” or “Un essaim de puces” in french. ‘Short attention spans, flitting from place to place, a hit and run culture.’ When you practice a true method it’s results are cumulative not waning. The depth for progress is limitless with the road leading you there full of obstacles and surprises.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the makings of a method. Let’s start a dialogue, please leave your comments below.

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Braving Boroughs

February 17, 2011

All the time I get, ‘You’re a Pilates instructor, you must be in great shape!’. While it’s true I do practice what I preach, it’s not always as often as I’d like and it’s NEVER when I’m instructing others. A teacher can’t teach if she’s doing- I need my eyes on their bodies so I can actually teach them something instead of just spewing out Pilates choreography.

So, in an effort to stay aligned with my 3 Words for 2011, I intend to try new fitness classes, visit parts of the world I rarely venture to (like Brooklyn) in search of new athletic adventures, and basically get out of my comfort zone and out of myself. I have a partner in crime to help hold me accountable, fellow Pilates instructor and bestie, Jenn Seracuse, that will join me in my journey and blog as well. In an effort not to break the bank in our little experiment we’re trying to limit it to budget friendly options. Check out our first trip to Equinox’s low-cost option in NoHo below. Make sure to ‘like’ it if you like it and forward it on to other free-thinking, penny pinching, fitness nuts like us!

As a former employee of Equinox, I was surprised when they announced they were offering an inexpensive version of this upscale empire, Blink Fitness On second thought, it was really genius. With the economy the way it is right now, members who used to pay $170 or more a month for the Equinox experience can stay with the family without having to resort to NYSC. Jenn and I both printed our free month pass and decided to give it a go and see what you get for $20 a month.

First of all, if you’re a gym class whore, this place is not for you. Blink has plenty of brand new cardio equipment, free weights, and weight machines, but not much else. They don’t offer the flashy Equinox classes like Intesanti or Nia. In fact, they don’t offer classes of any kind and don’t even have a group fitness room at all. This is a get in and get out kinda place. Do your business and move along, which was kind of refreshing.

The best thing about Blink is everything is immaculately clean. Just like their expensive big brother, things are constantly being wiped down and sanitized. The equipment is brand spanking new, and everything works perfectly including the giant flat screens hovering about your elliptical machine (but this could just be because they’re are still in their infant stage). Each piece of cardio apparatus has an awesome iphone dock, so you can charge and listen to your tunes without risking crashing it down to the floor beneath you. They do have proper locker rooms and showers- but NO towels. No lovely complimentary towel service like I was used to, and to my chagrin- not even a towel could be found the locker room (not even the paper sort, they have hand blowers), which left me dabbing myself dry with my sweat soaked Lululemons (at least they’re moisture wicking). There’s also no lovely Kheils products in lining the walls to moisturize and groom yourself. You’re on your own at Blink.

Bottom line: Blink is great for the price IF you live nearby, don’t care about taking classes at your gym, and don’t need to hire a professional butt kicker to get yourself to sweat. I suggest getting down there soon if you’re interested, try it out for free and take advantage of the grand opening pricing before it’s a thing of the past. Just make sure to bring provisions- your towel, a water bottle, and toiletries- and you’ll do just fine.

Blink Fitness, NoHo
4th St. @ Broadway

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