Hippie in the City: 5 Ways to Stay Active While Visiting NYC

In a definitive ranking of things I’m most passionate about, the order goes:

  1. New York City
  2. Everything Else

Although my first time actually experiencing the city didn’t happen until a couple years ago, I’ve spent my whole life daydreaming about living there (all you native New Yorkers are probably rolling your eyes right now!).

And, full disclosure: I will live there someday. Once I’ve successfully convinced Amy Poehler that we’re second-cousins-once-removed. Meanwhile though, I’ll settle for weekend visits — against my bank account’s better judgement. But, hey…no regrets!

In fact, I just got back from spending Labor Day in New York, and as per usual, New York did not disappoint. I could write an entire novel about my trip, but rather than a gratuitous “I heart NY” recap, let’s give this post a wellness twist. ‘Cause I’m always on the lookout for healthy tidbits, after all.

So, if you’re planning a Big Apple getaway this fall, include my Top 5 Picks for Figure-Friendly Fun in your travel itinerary:

1. Rent a Citi Bike

Citi Bikes 1

my cycling-obsessed main squeeze!

Citi Bikes 2

Citi Bike central

This cycle-sharing transit system allows you to cruise the Manhattan streets from a two-wheeler vantage point. Simply stop by any docking station (located in various neighborhoods around town), select your payment plan (24-hour or 7-day) from the touchscreen kiosk, pedal away on a Concrete Jungle adventure, then return the bike to another station along your route.  Exercise + Sightseeing = Win-Win Situation.

2. Check out Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market 1

this way to pure happiness

Chelsea Market 2

so many choices!

Chelsea Market 3

Japanese lentil & rice bowl from Takumi Taco

This enclosed food court, flea market and art gallery extravaganza might just be the Meatpacking District’s trendiest attraction. Located inside a brick industrial building, the urban architecture, artsy vibe and tantalizing smells make Chelsea Market a can’t-miss on your NYC agenda. Over 35 restaurant vendors are featured, running the gamut from kale smoothies to imported cheese. I recommend Takumi Taco (a.k.a. Japanese-Mexican-fusion-amazingness).

3. Walk the High Line

The High Line 1

amazing views of the Lower West Side

The High Line 2

historic freight railway

The High Line 3

Hudson River from the High Line

The High Line 4

Empire State Building from the High Line

The High Line 5

selfie with graffiti!

This above-ground walkway meandering through Manhattan’s West Side is actually a refurbished freight line. Ogle at panoramic spectacles including Lady Liberty, the Hudson River, the Empire State Building and other iconic landmarks. Traipse along old railroad tracks, bursting with seasonal foliage and colorful blooms. Even participate in wellness activities such as Meditation or Tai Chi. Because life’s better over street level!

4. Explore the Parks

Central Park

the happy couple in Central Park…

Bryant Park

…in Bryant Park

Washington Square Park

…and in Washington Square Park

These next stopping points on your Big Apple checklist offer a unique juxtaposition of nature surrounded by skyline. From iconic Central to shore-lined Battery, the thriving New York park system provides ample space for hiking, cycling, recharging with fresh air and even relaxing in the shade. Whether you’re uptown or downtown, this sprawling metropolis is also a tree-hugger’s playground.

5. Visit a Green Market 

Green Market 1

all the veggies!

Green Market 2


This urban farmer’s market initiative takes place during the entire week, throughout various city-wide districts. My personal preference is visiting the Union Square location on Saturdays. Sample organic herbal teas, stock up on locally-sourced produce and peruse artisan “foodie” finds. It’s a health-conscious flavor tour that both your waistline and taste buds will appreciate.  ‘Nuff said.

Know any other wellness-centric activities worth adding to the list? (Looking at you, New Yorker peeps…) Sound off in the comments section below! 

5 Reasons You NEED to Know About Undiscovered Kitchen!

Say what, now??? Never heard of it?

Well, fear not…I’ll fix that! And here’s why you should even care:

1. It’s an entirely digital farmer’s market. If you get your jollies from discovering locally-grown, natural and scratch-made deliciousness from your hometown farmer’s market, what could be better than stocking up on those same goodies without even leaving the house? Answer: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Undiscovered Kitchen allows you to shop an impressive variety of artisan and handcrafted  — not to mention fabulous — foods, sourced nationwide, from the convenience of your computer.

2. The founder is off-the-chain awesome. Her name is Evona Niewiadomsk, — which screams “hippie-badassery” — and she’s uber passionate about food, fitness, travel and embracing life as the ultimate adventure it’s meant to be! Like, this girl just took off on a one-way flight to Spain in pursuit of entrepreneurial ambitions and exotic experiences. Inspired (or maybe a teeny bit jealous)? Uhhh…YEAH! Evona launched UD Kitchen in 2014 with one core mission, which the company continues to uphold: “Support and empower small batch makers across the country and to help passionate artisans grow their businesses! Every purchase made on Undiscovered Kitchen DIRECTLY supports our small batch makers so you can EAT good, FEEL good and DO good!”  Read her full story here.

3. No dietary preference is excluded. Are you freakin’ frackin’ fed-up with struggling to find foods that fit your lifestyle needs and DON’T taste like cardboard?! Well, guess what — UD Kitchen has effectively ended your struggle. Forever. Whether you’re looking for vegan, gluten-free, raw, dairy-free or organic products, UD Kitchen brings all these options together at one easy-to-navigate online destination. Consider it your one-stop-shop “healthy foodie paradise!”

4. Your sweet tooth just met its match. For anyone, who daydreams about the confectionery perfection of a freshly-baked dessert, UD Kitchen understands. They. Get. You. And, they’ve also got you covered! So, satisfy those sugar cravings with sweet and chocolate-y temptations, made GUILT-FREE from wholesome ingredients. You can even score treats that accommodate dietary restrictions — but sure won’t skimp on flavor!

5. Basically, healthy never tasted so fab. ‘Nuff said.

Are you salivating yet? Don’t lie. You totally are. But, hey, no shame…Me too! When I first uncovered Undiscovered Kitchen (see what I did there?), the connection was instantaneous.

In fact, their digital farmer’s market platform seemed so superbly up my alley, that I’ve since become a UD Kitchen Ambassador.

After all, what’s not to love about a company committed to “discovering new and unique products, shopping by lifestyle for foods that fit special health and diet needs like vegan, gluten free and raw, and finding fitness fuels and power snacks for athletes and active lifestyles!”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Undiscovered Kitchen banner

Clear Complexions Happen With Chamomile (Like…Who Knew, Right?!)

…Okay, maybe you did. But sure didn’t!

Not to sound like a vain little Prima Donna, but I always prided myself on having smooth, blemish-free skin. Throughout my teenage years, when just about every other high schooler was preoccupied with popping pimples or slathering on Proactiv, I rarely even bothered with concealer. Yup, for some ever-so-fortuitous reason, puberty was kind to this face.

However, the onset of adulthood wasn’t so generous.

Basically, from the first moment I stepped onto a college campus, my hormones went haywire. Suddenly, I became that girl – avoiding mirrors, trying every fad product on the market, and cringing at any mention of the word “zit” (just in case those devious little dermis cells were listening in). Suffice it to say, my undergraduate studies were interrupted by constant dermatologist visits.

So, kids…that’s what happens when you inwardly gloat about so-called “perfect skin.” Beauty karma is one ugly bitch!

Over the years, I’ve applied every topical ointment that I could get my hands on, invested in every “zit zapping” gadget that a celebrity brand ambassador talked me into, and even popped (no, not really…just swallowed once a day) prescription pills that my doctor swore by. But, while they provided a temporary fix, nothing seemed to work as a long-term solution.

From all outward appearances, adult acne had won this war.

That is, until a brownish rectangular miracle came along.

Enter: chamomile cleanser. A.K.A. my skin’s new BFF: all-natural, non-GMO, three-ingredient, chemical-free  amazingness. (And it’s also made with LOVE, so there’s that…)

chamomile soap 1I discovered this little beauty last weekend, while wandering around the – yup, you guessed it! – farmer’s market. Within 5 minutes of chatting with the extremely knowledgeable and fantastically bohemian product developers, I was sold. Thus, yours truly became the proud owner of a scentsy, sudsy bar of chamomile soap. For only $7! Compare that price with the $15-$20 you’ll typically drop at a drug store.

Plus, we’re talking 100% organic here – another perk you won’t find just anywhere.

chamomile soap 2Alrighty, then. So, later that evening, I took this purchase on a test-run.

And it definitely was NOT an impulse buy.

Almost immediately, I noticed a transformation in how my skin both looked and felt. I’m not even exaggerating. This face, which has caused so much frustration and self-consciousness over these past few years, finally met its match. An invigorating tingle spread throughout my pores, resulting in baby-soft smoothness. Seriously, after 1 application!

chamomile soap 3Not my most attractive look by a long-shot (in my own defense though, I’d only been awake for 10 minutes), but this is moi after Day 5 of religious chamomile soap usage. And here are some remarkable changes I’ve experienced since switching over to this skin-care sensation:

  1. EXFOLIATION of dryness/flakiness
  2. REDUCTION of post-acne scarring
  3. And, most importantly, HEALING of blemishes.

Like, my complexion is clear now!


Free and clear.

But don’t just take my word for it…snag some chamomile cleanser for yourself.

Do it. Order a soap bar from the Florida-based aromatherapy business, Essence of the Heart. According to this company’s masterminds, here’s what you can expect: “Each product is handmade with Love as the first intention to enhance, benefit, and honor all life. The products created by Essence of the Heart play a role in facilitating a complete balance within the body, mind and spirit.”

So, yeah. You should probably go check out their Etsy shop.

Suggestions for Staying Active on a Shoestring Budget

I’m in my early twenties and have only been able to claim “college grad” status for 10 months. I earn an unsteady – albeit enjoyable – living as a freelance writer. I spend most week nights watching Netflix, since that’s about all I can afford.

So, you connect the dots: this girl’s expendable income is questionable, at best.

However, these twenty-something financial woes (basic white girl problem, anyone?!) haven’t stopped me from discovering fun – and ideally, FREE – weekend pastimes. And nothing recharges my batteries quite like some physical exertion.

Fortunately, near my stomping grounds, there are several inexpensive and off-the-beaten-path activities, just waiting for a broke girl to take advantage of.

Exhibit A: hit up a local farmer’s market.

Exhibit B: explore a seaside nature preserve.

I’ll start with Exhibit A. First, here are some photos from my stroll among South Florida’s gloriously organic, locally-sourced, and seasonal produce (a.k.a. an au naturel lover’s dream!):

farmers market 1

eat organic!!!

farmers market 2

downtown Bradenton, FL locally grown fruit/veggie stands

farmers market 3

downtown Bradenton, FL fair trade product stands

farmers market 4

organic plants, holistic remedies, and homegrown spices/herbs

farmers market 5

my sister sipping homemade guava and sugar cane lemonade

Call me a “foodie” geek, but I just love the pulse of a downtown farmer’s market – even on a small-scale like this one I visited.

The air surrounding these produce stalls feels fresher somehow…more invigorating. The fruits taste juicier, and the vegetables crisper. There is an easy-breezy vibe and tight-knit sense of community.

It’s the textbook definition of autumn.

Which brings me to Exhibit B. I only live 10 minutes away from the Gulf of Mexico (rough life, huh?), and there’s a 487-acre nature preserve near the Anna Maria Island beaches.

This breathtaking coastal and wetland habitat is probably the area’s best kept secret, but I’m among the lucky few, who have stumbled upon its pristine beauty.

So, enjoy these snapshots from my Sunday afternoon spent hiking along winding waterfront trails, lined with postcard-perfect palm trees and marsh grass lazily lolling in the breeze. (Can’t help the alliterations…I am a writer, after all! Sorry not sorry.)

Robinson Preserve 1

Gulf of Mexico inlet

Robinson Preserve 2

natural wetland habitat

Robinson Preserve 3

trail to the 360-degree view observation tower

Robinson Preserve 4

view of the bay from the observation deck (St. Petersburg Skyline Bridge in the background)

Robinson Preserve 5

view of the wetlands from the observation deck

Robinson Preserve 6

another view of the wetlands

Robinson Preserve 7

that’s me on the tower’s top level

Robinson Preserve 8

Gulf of Mexico with the Skyline Bridge in the background

Robinson Preserve 9

view of the Gulf of Mexico from behind a mangrove

Robinson Preserve 10

coquina path through natural foliage

Robinson Preserve 11

inlet with overhanging mangroves

Robinson Preserve 12

Gulf of Mexico beach with sailboats in the background

This regionally protected environmental gem features several recreational – and yes, absolutely free – opportunities, from hiking/biking trails to canoe/kayak launches. The diverse scenery reminded me of an African savannah or a deserted tropical island.

For awhile, I even forgot this was still my hometown.

Whether you’re a Southwest Florida resident or occasional vacationer, if you ever find yourself tooling around these parts, I highly recommend a Robinson Preserve pit-stop.

And, next time you’re looking for cost-efficient weekend fun, check into local farmer’s markets or nature preserves in your own backyard. Both are fantastic ways to get moving without breaking the bank!

Stock Up on Whole Foods While Still Staying on Budget

Whole Food (noun): any form of sustenance that is naturally grown or cured, has not been processed or refined, and contains no artificial ingredients.

In other words…what you should be eating.

“Gahhhh! But it’s too expensive,” you say. Ain’t nobody got time (or, let’s face it, money) for that. WRONG! Just because most of us can’t afford to actually shop at Whole Foods (uppercase “W”) doesn’t mean we ought to exclude ourselves from the whole foods (lowercase “w”) lifestyle. With a little resourcefulness, resolve, and sheer common sense, anybody can easily integrate an organic diet into their daily regimen.

That’s right, “au naturel” is no longer just a status symbol for the rich and famous. It’s for you and me. And our bodies will be ever so grateful. But…like…how do you follow a whole foods meal plan that leaves both your palate and wallet satisfied?

Glad you asked!

  • Fruits & Vegetables:
  1. Shop for produce at local farmers’ markets, which are typically cheaper than buying from a grocery store and almost always organically-grown.
  2. Try to only buy produce in-season, which retain nutrients longer and cost less than fruits or veggies that have been imported from other climates.
  3. Plant a backyard fruit, veggie, and herb garden, which will drastically cut down on spending and ensure that your produce is at the peak of freshness.
  • Meats & Proteins:
  1. Buy frozen poultry and fish, which saves a few dollars and has a longer shelf life than refrigerated meat (just make sure there are no added preservatives).
  2. Purchase meat in bulk directly from a farming source, which eliminates middleman mark-ups and often guarantees grass-fed or free-range quality.
  3. Look for alternatives to satisfy your protein needs, like eggs, yogurt, beans, or nuts, which are budget-friendly and often more wholesome than meat.
  • Grains & Carbohydrates:
  1. Make whole grain goods from scratch, which removes preservatives and cuts costs in half (homemade tortillas, granola, oatmeal, or bread saves at least $3 apiece).
  2. Shop at ethnic markets for large sacks of quinoa, brown rice, or other grains which is more economical than buying smaller often overpriced packages from the grocery store.