Hurry Up, Inner Peace!

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My version of meditating: Coffee, books, and ‘zines.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: Coincidentally, a few hours after I published the below post, a friend sent me a piece written on xoJane called “It Happened To Me: There Are No Black People In My Yoga Classes and I’m Suddenly Feeling Uncomfortable With It.” (I’m not going to dignify this with a link, but if you missed it, Google.) The writer had trouble focusing because there was a heavyset black woman in her class. Apparently, it was the black woman’s first time at yoga, and she spent most of the time staring at the writer with “hostility.” The writer felt the black woman was “judging and resenting her,” and the experience made the writer hyper-aware of her “skinny white girl body.”

By the time I finished reading, I had a knot in my stomach. As I touched on in my post below, exercising with a group of strangers—especially when it’s your first time—takes courage. But it never once occurred to me that my race, or anyone else’s, was a factor for my classmates. What disgusts me even more than the writer’s privileged, condescending essay is that xoJane even allowed this post to go up—clearly, a cry for page hits.

Newsflash to the writer: I’m black, I’m not skinny, and I have been to yoga, multiple times. But you can save your pity, because I am not a fan of the practice, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m black. However, if we ever find ourselves in the same class together, I apologize in advance for making you uncomfortable.

(Original post follows)

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Confession: I hate yoga.

This might not sound like a huge revelation, but in New York, there are two types of fitness freaks: Runners, and yogis. And I am neither, especially not a yogi. Yes, I have given it a try a few times, but I’m convinced it’s just not for me.

Don’t believe me? Ok, fine. Here’s a peek at what a typical yoga session is like in The World According to Arianna:

15 Minutes: Instructor is twisting my limbs into something resembling a basic pose. Ouch! Hey, lady: My leg doesn’t bend like that.

30 minutes: She’s returned, and now she’s spinning me backward. Apparently, I was the only person facing the wrong way.

45 minutes: Praying to the yoga Gods that the girl behind me doesn’t notice I just passed gas. Darn that downward facing dog.

60 minutes: Where am I? What’s happening? There are people rolling up mats…oh, right. We were supposed to be meditating, and I fell asleep. Oops.

I’ve had yoga enthusiasts tell me I just need to keep going back to learn the moves, I haven’t found the right guru, and I should focus on quieting my mind. Alas, it’s impossible, for I am the girl who’s too impatient for inner peace. I’d rather find it by losing myself in a good book, or getting my heart pumping through cardio or kickboxing. (And no, not running. It’s tedious, hurts my shins, and reminds me of being one of the slowest kids in PE. When my co-workers recently invited me to join them for the Brooklyn half marathon, my answer was a quick and polite HELL NO.)

Whatever the case, I’ve officially decided: A yogi I am not, even if that makes me the only one in New York City. Perhaps when I’m a bit older, calmer, and more peaceful, I’ll try again. Until then, I’ll be burning brain cells and calories while watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians on the elliptical.

Secret Single Behavior

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Another view: From my apartment, where I live by my lonesome.

After years of the roommate life, I’ve been living solo in a 1 bedroom for about eight months now. All of the benefits I used to dream about have come true, the best part being that I get to indulge in my Secret Single Behavior, as Carrie Bradshaw called it. For Carrie, it was eating stacks of saltines with grape jelly while reading fashion magazines; for me, it’s also magazines, except with a bowl of Lucky Charms. And sometimes, a Love & Hip-Hop marathon in sweatpants. (Hey, writers need to let their brains rot, too!)

But for all of the pros, there are some cons that no one really talks about. For all you ladies and gents looking to break out on your own, I feel it’s my duty as a New Yorker to help you prepare for the challenges of living by yourself. (By the way, the hashtag for this post will be #firstworldproblems)

Some examples:

  • You’ll gain an irrational fear of intruders. Suddenly, you start envisioning every Psycho scenario possible. Despite a doorman, I often wake up in the middle of the night panicked that I forgot to lock every lock, so I go running to the door. The up side? This sometimes happens naked because…well, remember: I live alone.
  • There will be unexpected visitors. They pop up all the time. At my place, it was recently someone I never expected to see on the Upper East Side: Pablo the Cockroach. When we first met during a midnight bathroom run, I screamed. Repeatedly. Then I told myself You are a grown woman. You got dis. Next thing I knew, I was under the covers with the bedroom door locked and a towel stuffed in the crack so Pablo couldn’t get in. It took three days and a few dozen ounces of bug spray before I finally got rid of him.
  • No one’s there to comfort you in sickness. It’s just you, the tissues, and the couch. Thank the heavens for social media, otherwise, the world would never know just how sick you really are.
  • You’re on your own in the morning. That adorable dress you just bought? Doesn’t seem like such a good idea when you can’t zip up the back. When flexibility has failed, I’ve been known to wear a cardigan to cover up zippers until I get to work and ask a kindly co-worker for help.
  • …you’re literally, physically, alone. I love Ming, my turtle, but let’s face it: She can’t talk, nor can she save me in desperate times of need. Here’s hoping that if something tragic happens, Siri will be nearby.

So yes, there are a few downsides. That being said, they are all sacrifices I’m willing to make in exchange for not being judged while I sing Ellie Goulding loudly in the shower, practice Beyonce moves in the mirror, and cook breakfast naked at 1 PM on a Sunday. And when my Secret Single Behavior gets a little, well, lonely? That’s when great girlfriends, fun food, and delicious drinks come in handy—at least, until I’m ready for some more Lucky Charms.

The Schedule Change

I just came back from a 10-day, 3-city European vacation with my girlfriends (did I just type that?!) It was ambitious of us to try to pack three cities into 10 days, and throughout the trip, I felt the crush of the question I often ask myself in day-to-day life: How will I get everything done that I want to?

By the end of the trip, I’d found the answer. But let me start from the beginning. Back in September, my friend Channing and I were wistfully whining about how we wished we had the money to spend New Year’s Eve in Paris. Finally, we got serious and asked ourselves Why can’t we? A few weeks and some extreme budgeting later, we booked a trip with two other girlfriends to London, Paris, and Barcelona.

Anticipation still reminds me of waiting for Santa as a kid: The night before feels like years, but opening presents is over in a flash. ‘Twas the same with our travels: Before I could blink, we’d ticked everything off our wish list and seen Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the London Bridge, and Westminster Abbey. We ended the trip’s first leg on a swing ride in Hyde Park’s magical winter wonderland. It was all a gift I’d torn open too fast and now, looking back, I wish I could re-wrap it all, just to open it again slowly, with extra care.

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London: Hey, Big Ben!

After a quick train ride, we were in Paris, where we scrambled each day to find café crèmes and crispy croissants before hustling everywhere from the Louvre to Céline. On New Year’s Eve, we counted backwards on a bridge near the sparkling Eiffel Tower. At midnight, I felt a pang of longing for 2013—it’d flown past in a rush of planning and plotting. So the next morning, I decided to finally slow down from all the itineraries and to-do lists. A solo walk with a copy of Julian Green’s Paris led me to this gem: “Until you have wasted time in a city, you cannot pretend to know it well.” It was like Green was shouting to me from those pages: Slow down, girl. Wasting time is just as important as filling it.

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Paris: Giving our best Parisienne

So at our last stop in Barcelona, I took his advice. It was time to turn off my inner New Yorker and take a lesson from the leisurely-paced Europeans. So in between praying in Antoni Gaudi’s breathtaking Sagrada Familia and perusing the Picasso Museum, we indulged in long, relaxed meals full of sangria, tapas, and laughter. Our final Friday night of partying rolled late into the following morning, and I barely even noticed. Finally, we left Barcelona on Sunday at 10 AM to come back to the states—but, despite a nine-hour flight, somehow landed in New York at 1 PM. Time playing its tricks on me.

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Barcelona: La Sagrada Familia’s stained glass windows

After being home in New York for a few days, I’m back to my original question: How will I find the time to do everything I want to do? The answer: I just will. Yes, between working late, the gym, and adult responsibilities, there isn’t much time left over. But somehow, during a 10-day trip to three cities, we made it everywhere we wanted to go. So whether it’s working my ass off or lounging in my PJs, with a lot of hustle and a little less sleep, I can make a lot happen in 24 hours. I will find the time to make it to all of my life’s destinations—just like I did during my travels. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some time to go waste.

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A Letter to 2013

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Dear 2013,

You were a year I will never forget. Unexpected, really; you were supposed to be just another space somewhere between starting the rest of my life and living it.

Instead, I drank margaritas in Cabo. Wrote my ass off on the 36th floor. Found strength in the arms of my girlfriends. Swam with dolphins in Jamaica. Built resilience in the gym. Cried on 59th street. Laughed on 78th. Ran with my nephew in the pumpkin patch. Moved–alone–to the Upper East Side. Danced with Beyonce and Jay-z (!) at Christie’s. Held hands at the zoo in DC. Cracked up with my co-workers in the cubicle. Surprised my mom at the airport. Celebrated the Ravens in Baltimore. Peeled stickers off my butt in the Hamptons. Watched fireworks on the roof. Swam with my dad in Mexico. Hugged Minnie at Disneyland. Had my heart broken in Central Park. Sang “Empire State of Mind” in Yankee Stadium.  Got a tattoo in Brooklyn. Welcomed my sister to New York. Discovered peace in the bathtub. Partied with those same girlfriends…all over. And felt God in every single place.

And that’s only the beginning of the list. Now, I realize: I never should’ve thought you would be regular, or boring. Because each one of those moments were sparks–no matter how dim or how bright–that lit up my life. So thank you, 2013. Because of you, I can’t wait to shine in 2014.

xo Arianna

Film Buff in the Making

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In my post-college life (which has been just as long as my college life, now that I think about it…when did that happen?!) I’ve become a bit of a movie junkie. It was a natural progression; I’m a writer and a reader, so I love a good story. And growing up, a regular family activity was browsing through Blockbuster with my dad for an hour to find a good movie to watch on a Saturday night.

So now that I’m a grown-up, I’ve decided to make it a point to eat up all the films I’ve always meant to watch. And it’s been like my own private education in culture, comedy, and history. For instance (like every girl) I loved Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but I got to fall in love with her all over again when I discovered Roman Holiday a few years ago. I discovered the brilliance of Woody Allen when I binge-watched his films during Hurricane Sandy, fell in love with the solo date when I took myself to the Paris Theater a la Carrie Bradshaw, and devoured indie cult favorites like An Education, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Once.

The next item on my movie bucket list was to catch an outdoor movie in the city. So I trekked across town to the west side for River Flicks, the weekly outdoor movie screening that goes down every Wednesday during the summer. I caught Rian Johnson’s sci-fi time traveler Looper starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt, which began just as the sun was setting over the Hudson. It was lovely lying on the grass in the summer air with my girlfriends, engrossed in a fast-paced, mind-bending film. In the future, however, we’ll probably bring foldable chairs…nobody tells you the lying on the ground for two hours part can get a little uncomfortable.

Now that I’ve checked off one more item, I want to see what the Film Forum has to offer, hit up a screening in Central Park (West Side Story during summer in the city? I’m so there) and catch some French cinema at the Alliance Française. What’s on your movie bucket list?

It’s a Party, It’s a Party, It’s a Party!

Ever since I moved into a one bedroom, I’ve been looking for any and all opportunities to have get-togethers. I’m a hostess at heart: I love planning, decorating, and getting the people that make me happiest together in one place for a good time. (I even joked with my friends that I might have an Arbor Day gathering. But really, why not?) So when July 4th came around, I knew it was time to host a par-tay to celebrate our great nation…in other words, have an excuse to eat, drink, and be merry.

As soon as I told one of my good friends and fellow magazine editors about the gathering, she passed along the party-in-a-box she’d been sent at her job, a creation by the new company Revelry House. The kit is full of every adorable thing an eager 20-something party-thrower might need to have a great July 4th bash, and I was ecstatic when I found out the business was co-founded by Lo Bosworth, the beloved sidekick from Laguna Beach and The Hills. (I was actually just lamenting about missing those shows with my friends. Admit it: Real or not, they were addicting).

In my box: Blue-and-white paper straws, sparkly American-themed cupcake toppers, star confetti, an American flag scarf, cardboard dining trays, bamboo cutlery, and more. The boxes are a bit pricey, at $189, but they eliminate the need to spend hours shopping, budgeting, and planning. And what I love most about the idea is that the box gives you all the tools you need to throw a great shindig, but you can also make them uniquely your own. For instance, in addition to the flag, bicycle, and rocket shaped toppers, I threw some blue and red sprinkles onto the white icing of my cupcakes; the confetti went on the table and inside the red balloons (and although it got everywhere, it was totally worth it); the flag scarf became my tablecloth, and the blue and white straws went swimmingly with the red signature cocktail I’d already planned.

Some photo evidence that I actually pulled this off:

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And guess what? The July 4th party-in-a-box also included sparklers, which I tried out on my balcony at the end of the night w/ my besties. Nice work, Lo—I’ll definitely be checking out the Birthday and Bachelorette Boxes, whenever one of my friends decides to tie the knot next.

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Sweet Tooth

Allow me to introduce you to the Cronut, NYC’s latest craze.

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In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Cronut is the latest pastry from Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho. A donut with a croissant texture and light drizzle of icing, this dessert has had New Yorkers losing their minds. Because of the kitchen’s small size and the amount of time it takes to make the Cronut, Chef Ansel can only produce 300 each day, which means les cronuts sell out before 9:30 AM. So now, there are scalpers selling these things for upward of $100. And there was a man on Craigslist searching for um, services, in exchange for a Cronut. Yes, it’s that real.

At my day job, we were lucky enough to obtain three (yes, only three!) of the in-demand treats. Each month, Ansel and his team create a new flavor, and this month’s was blackberry. I was skeptical; in my experience so far, rarely has a Manhattan craze lived up to the hype. But when I tell you that as soon as I bit into this thing, I saw fireworks, heard angels sing, and felt like I was being nestled inside a fluffy cloud, I mean it. It’s the perfect ratio of croissant to donut, soft to chewy, icing to filling. I was in awe, and after my two small, sticky bites (unfortunately, I had to share) I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a whole one. But seeing as that would mean waking up at 4:45 AM to get in line, I may have to wait until things die down a bit. But rumor has it upcoming flavors will be passion fruit and coconut. Heaven!

It wasn’t long after I finally tried a Cronut that I learned there’s a new croissant-donut hybrid in town: The Squat (yes, as in what you should do after eating these bad boys). It’s a glazed, square donut with a croissant texture and—wait for it—bacon sprinkled on top. According to Gothamist, it might be even better than the cronut. What is wrong with America? First the Cronut, then Dunkin’ Donuts’ donut breakfast sammich, and now this? Are we just set on giving our population heart problems? (Don’t get me wrong, I will be trying all of this. Shame, shame on me.)

ImageAnother croissant-pastry hybrid I recently taste-tested (doesn’t my day job sound horribly labor-intensive?) is City Bakery’s croissant pretzel, which we nicknamed the “cretzel.” It’s the perfect, soft combination of a croissant with a pretzel’s saltiness (and not too much of a pretzel-y texture, which I feared). And reader, prepare yourself, as this is only the beginning of my NYC pastry taste-testing. Before I left for Paris last summer, I read Amy Thomas’s Paris, My Sweet where, throughout her story of moving to Paris from New York for a year, Thomas shared the best sweet shops in both Paris and New York. I still have a ton of bakeries from that book that I need to visit (Maison Kaysar and Lady M Confections on the Upper East Side are up next), so it’s time to pick up the pace. And don’t worry: In between, I will share all the sugary goodness on the blog—while simultaneously doing a ton of squats.