November 3, 2013

Happy November!

Sorry I've been MIA on the blog lately.... we've both been pretty busy, working late during the week and doing grown-up chores on the weekends!  You know: buying curtains, returning said curtains, putting summer clothes away for the season {wah!!!}, unpacking our cozy winter sweaters and pajamas, and the like.  As I type this, Shep's at our good old storage unit putting away our Halloween decorations for another year, and retrieving our big suitcases.  That suitcase one is a fun chore though, because... we're going to London later this month!  I've never been and can't wait!  It should be a fun trip... I hope the weather cooperates and it's not too cold or too rainy!

Speaking of rain... here's an instagram photo I took on Friday that I so very creatively entitled "November Rain".  Get it?  I crack myself up!

Well, back to chores I go!  I still have to finish some laundry and iron our autumn tablecloth.  Then, we'll wrap up the weekend watching Homeland and The Good Wife!  {You gotta have something to look forward to after doing chores all weekend, after all!}

I hope everyone enjoyed the extra hour of sleep today... I know I sure did!  In fact, I may have enjoyed an extra two hours, but who's counting?!

Happy November!!!

September 11, 2013

In Remembrance

From the windows of our apartment, we can see the new World Trade Center.  Today marks the 12th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Twelve years ago, I was a college student living just 8 blocks from what would be known as Ground Zero.  I remember the morning of September 11th like it was yesterday... the clear, sunny, blue skies were so pretty that morning.  I had a 9:30 am Psychology class, which meant I had to leave my dorm by 9 am to make it to class on time.  When Flight 11 hit the North Tower, I was probably brushing my teeth or putting my shoes on, preparing for an ordinary school day.  I remember getting into the elevator of my dorm building, totally unaware of what had begun to transpire, when the building manager informed me that a plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center.  I was stunned, but assumed it was simply a terrible freak accident.  Although plane crashes are incredibly uncommon, that was honestly the only possibility that even crossed through my mind.  I was so very oblivious.

I exited my dorm building, and began walking up Fulton Street toward the World Trade Center to the subway, when I saw Flight 175 crash.  Still oblivious to the cause being terrorism, I naively figured the smoke from the first crash caused the pilot of the second plane to crash.  While office papers were flying through the air, I decided to hail a cab instead of taking the subway because I thought it would be quicker.  I forget now exactly how much money I had on me, but it wasn't enough to get to campus, so I walked the rest of the way to class after the cab fare reached my limit.  Needless to say, I was late to my 9:30 am class, but when I arrived the class was carrying on as usual.  I took my seat and opened my books, and that's when the South Tower collapsed.  We heard a loud boom, which from the classroom sounded perhaps like a construction accident or explosion, so a bunch of us ran out to the street to see what happened.  That's when we saw the huge plume of smoke and although it was nearly impossible to comprehend or believe, we all were suddenly aware of what had transpired.

The professor immediately dismissed the class and we left the building.  But where to go?  Going back to my dorm was obviously out of the question.  Luckily, I had a good friend in class that invited me back to her dorm room on Washington Square Park.  By 10:30, the second tower had collapsed and people were seriously panicking.  I wanted to call my mom, to let her know I was okay and for advice on what to do, but the cell phone service was completely useless and the land lines were not much better -- they were so jammed up that although the lines were up and running it was impossible to get through to anyone.  I tried and tried again to reach my mom's office for what seemed like hours.  I finally got through to tell her I was okay, but that public transportation was down so there was no way for me to get out of the city and back home for the time being.  Luckily, my Psych friend's boyfriend had an apartment uptown with room enough for both of us to stay until I could get out of the city and home.

My dorm building was evacuated for a full week, and I was relocated to an alternate dorm room near Union Square.  When the downtown area finally re-opened, I was too afraid to go back for my stuff let alone move back.  I left all my belongings, abandoned, in my dorm room for almost a full month until I received a notice from campus housing that someone else would be moving into my room if I no longer wanted it.  A friend volunteered to go with me to collect my belongings, so I finally sucked it up and went back down.  It was eerie being back down there, and I packed my things up and high-tailed it back uptown as quickly as possible.  I didn't even think twice about trading in the private bedroom I had with my own bathroom in a 2 bedroom unit I shared in a modern luxury high-rise doorman building across from South Street Seaport.  I felt much more comfortable moving to an older dorm building near Union Square; though I had to share a bedroom there with 1 other girl and a bathroom with 3 other girls it was a no brainer.  I just couldn't go back downtown.

Many people experienced and suffered from that horrific attack in far worse ways than I.  Evacuation, displacement and temporary lack of communication pales in comparison to the horror of losing a life or a loved one.  I cannot even imagine how those people collected what remained of their life and tried to move on.  Twelve years later, the sight of the World Trade Center still stirs these memories inside of me.  Occasionally, the sound of a passing siren will jolt me back to the fear I felt on that sunny day in 2001.  The smell of the air as the towers burned, the look of horror and panic on people's faces, the falling debris, the people I saw walking the streets with injuries and covered with debris dust as I walked from Water Street to East 41st Street are visions I will never truly forget.  I honestly have no idea how the real victims' spouses and children or the first responders who witnessed the destruction up close get past those painful memories and keep moving forward.  Yet, they do.  As the World Trade Center has been rebuilt little by little over the past 12 years, they have tried to rebuild their families' lives.  Each one of them is far stronger and braver then I could ever hope to be.


September 11th is a day to remember, serve and honor.  In order to show our undying appreciation for all those brave men, women and children, to pay tribute to the fallen and to help care for their surviving families, Shep and I have made donations to the following organizations, which have been formed in honor and memory of those lost on September 11th, 2001.  We dream of a world without hate or terrorism, but until those dreams come true, we'll do what we can to support organizations who share a similar vision and provide hope to future generations.

9/11 Memorial
May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened be eternal beacons, which reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance and intolerance.

Tuesday's Children
Tuesday’s Children has made a long-term commitment to meet the needs of every individual impacted by the events of September 11, 2001. We provide support at each and every stage of life through innovative, needs-based programs and mental health support. Our international initiative, Project Common Bond unites young people from around the globe to share their common experience of losing a loved one in a terrorist act, to heal together, and to learn important leadership and peace-building skills. Tuesday's Children's strength is building community which has a profound and positive impact on collective healing.

Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund
The purpose of the Fund is to provide education assistance for postsecondary study to financially needy dependents of those people killed or permanently disabled as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and during the rescue activities relating to those attacks.

September 8, 2013

Our Weekend in Watch Hill

As many of you know, we LOOOOOVE us some vacations!!!  We're not a couple that needs an excuse to go away, just some time off from work and a travel destination!  Where did we go most recently, you ask?  Watch Hill, Rhode Island!

I'd never even heard of Watch Hill before I stumbled upon this restored inn's website a few months ago, but as soon as I saw the "Ocean House" I mentally added it to my list of ideal weekend travel destinations.  The more I read about it, the nicer it sounded!  But those Forbes Five Stars and AAA Diamond Awards don't come cheap, so you can imagine my excitement when I realized we could use a bunch of Relais & Chateaux gift certificates I'd been awarded at a corporate offsite a few months ago to pay for our room at the Ocean House!  It's like Nicole + Shep + Ocean House were meant to be.  ;)

The grounds, food, service and beach at the resort were just beautiful!  The town itself is clean and safe and {despite being peppered with multi-million-dollar mansions} feels quite quaint!  Watch Hill is very small, so there weren't many attractions or establishments to check out, but the waterfront area had that quintessential New England feel that made us just want to stroll around peering out at the boats, blue skies and calm water all day long.  The weather could not have been nicer -- it was sunny and warm {without being humid} each and every day, which is quite surprising given my typical travel weather luck...

Our weekend itinerary consisted of : a clam bake on the beach, a comedy show, an ice cream making demonstration, a sunset cruise complete with champagne and cheese, a couples massage, a champagne brunch, lounging on the beach, strolls along the waterfront, more homemade ice cream, walking to the lighthouse, staring at the vast mansions that surrounded us, tackling a Stave puzzle together into the wee hours of the night, and lunch at a restaurant whose motto is "famous, not fancy, since 1916".  Needless to say, we got some serious R&R, which was much-needed after the hectic and stressful summer we've had.

Shockingly, we hit hardly any traffic driving to or from Rhode Island, despite leaving at the exact wrong time both ways.  On the way back, we entered Manhattan's north end at around 4:50 pm on a Monday {hello, rush hour!}, yet still made it down the West Side Highway and home by 5:01 pm!  Those of you familiar with NYC traffic understand that this was quite a feat!

In case I haven't yet convinced you to check out Watch Hill when you get the chance, here are some photos from our trip that should seal the deal:

Have any readers out there ever been to Watch Hill or Rhode Island in general?  I'd love to hear what you thought if so!

September 2, 2013

Recycling Gift Cards

I've mentioned my affinity for recycling before {read more here and here}.  I also love shopping, so have no trouble using up gift cards when I'm lucky enough to receive them.  ;)  Which left me wondering what to do with all of these...

I've been looking for an eco-friendly way to dispose of all the gift cards I've been hoarding gathering over the past year or so {much to my hubby's chagrin}.  A quick Google search led me to this article, and although it offered some good options for re-use or re-purposing, I was really looking for some straight up recycling and was too lazy to mail them into EarthWorks.  So I kept searching and found, a website that directs you to local recycling centers based on the product you wish to recycle.  Luckily, by looking under "Plastic", I found a gift card recycling receptacle existed just a few minutes away at our local Best Buy.

So, while we were out doing some shopping in the neighborhood this weekend, we dropped off the gift cards in the receptacle!  Now we have some more space in our drawer and the plastic cards can be recycled instead of sitting around collecting dust.  Easy peasy!

Happy Recycling!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and I didn't receive any perks from Best Buy for writing this post.  I'm just an avid recycler who loves sharing good tips!

August 18, 2013

New Kitchen Rug

A couple weeks ago I was aimlessly perusing the aisles at Target, when I stumbled upon my new favorite home accessory:

I'm not kidding when I say that this rug actually makes me smile every time I walk into the room.  The beautiful beige and blue floral design that coordinates perfectly with our kitchen has me just smitten!  I've literally squealed with delight numerous times while entering the room since purchasing it.  Shep finds it amusing that an inexpensive ($29.99) rug has me so giddy... I keep telling him he should consider himself lucky since I'm so easily pleased!  ;)

I've recently been regretting painting the walls of our kitchen beige {from the blue that was there when we moved in}, which made it all the more exciting to stumble upon this design!

Watch out kitchen -- I'm bring sexy blue back!  ;)

August 15, 2013

Charity Spotlight: Operation Backpack

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." ~Nelson Mandela

While many of us are making plans to enjoy a few more weeks of summer sunshine, families with children are getting ready to soon go back to school!  I remember my own childhood "back-to-school rituals"... getting my hair cut, shopping for new sneakers ... and of course school supplies!  I distinctly remember one of my favorite middle school backpacks -- it was a dark purple canvas style with paint-like splashes of black, white, blue and pink.  Sounds ugly, but I loved it!

Unfortunately, thousands of homeless children go back to school each year without the basic supplies they need.  Without basic supplies like pens, pencils, paper, highlighters and rulers, it's hard to be a successful student.  Luckily for these children, Volunteers of America's Operation Backpack program provides school supplies and backpacks to children in need across the country.

"Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom." ~ George Washington Carver

For people who come from poor, abusive or neglectful families... an education can literally be their ticket out of a life of destitution and despair.  We all want to believe that if we work hard, good things will happen for us.  A simple notebook can give a poor child a chance to test that theory.

One of the most devastating consequences of homelessness is the impact it has on a child’s education.  Frequent transfers to new schools and the stigma associated with living in a shelter can often result in a child failing or dropping out of school.  Operation Backpack provides grade-specific school supplies to homeless children throughout New York City.  A filled backpack relieves parents of a financial burden and provides a sense of normalcy into the otherwise chaotic lives of these children, helping them look and feel more like their classmates.  Most importantly, a filled backpack allows these children to start the school year feeling prepared and confident, with the knowledge that their education is important.

That's why Shep and I support Operation Backpack, and hope you will, too!

Watch this video to hear Paige's moving story:

Note: We have no affiliation with Volunteers of America or Operation Backpack.  We just wanted to spread the word about a project with a worthwhile cause!  Visit to learn more or donate to the NYC Area's Operation Backpack, or to locate your local chapter!

August 2, 2013

I Scream, You Scream!

... We ALL scream for ice cream!!!  Well, maybe some of us scream a LOT louder than others!  ;)  Those of you who know me personally know I am an ice cream FIEND.  My adoration of the treat borders on addiction.  And I don't want help or an intervention -- I just want more ice cream!!!


Well, I'm in luck because today is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day!  {Yes, that's really a thing.}  I'm sure you'll be shocked to hear that in honor of the occasion, I had myself an ice cream sandwich!  Actually, I was planning to have one {or perhaps two} regardless...  ;)

And because I LOVE not only eating ice cream but also talking about it, I thought I'd recommend 2 of my favorite deliciously low-guilt options:

Check them out in your supermarket, and let me know what you think!  For low fat, I think they're both high in taste!  And they're just the right size for a little late-night snack.

So, did anyone else indulge in an ice cream sandwich today?  If not, I highly recommend you do.  :)

Note:  These opinions are completely my own.  I wasn't paid or otherwise encouraged in any way to promote these brands.... I just wanted to share some of my fave treats with my readers in honor of Ice Cream Sandwich Day!  ;)

July 31, 2013

Black Thumb

Remember the beautiful potted plants I showed you from our balcony?  Given the heat wave we've recently had in NY and title of this post, I think you can see where this post is going...

It's a good thing killing plants isn't illegal -- we'd be serving a double sentence for this!  Actually, we'd be serving many repeating sentences because, though I'm ashamed to admit it, these are not our only casualties.  Far from it.  In fact, I think I've now caused the demise of more plants than I've kept alive.

Out of the three foliage friends featured in this post from May 2012, only the colorful boot plant is still alive {and kicking!}.  The parsley unfortunately didn't survive our escapade through the French countryside, and the flowers in the railing planters did only slightly better last year than they're doing this year... which is not well at all.  Out of 4 railing boxes we currently have planted, 3 look sad if not outright pathetic.

What can I say... I was obviously born with a black thumb!  Shep is usually the plant whisperer of the family but alas it seems my black thumb is even trumping his green one!

Anyone else out there have a black thumb?  Come on, we can't be the only ones with so many sad plants?!

July 20, 2013

Balcony Gardening

Like most everything in life, living in an urban environment has its pros and cons.  We live in a condo building, and although we sometimes dream about the peace and quiet of a standalone house {e.g., when riding the elevator with nosy neighbors or listening to the "dog parade" out in the hallway as owners take their furry best friends for walks}, for the most part condo living suits us really well.  We both work long hours, are not very handy {though Shep definitely wins the award for most improved in this category!}, and would much rather spend what little free time we do have reading in the park or meeting up with friends, rather than having to worry about cleaning gutters, raking leaves and mowing the lawn.

We are very lucky though to have some private outdoor space in the form of balconies.  And although there are definitely space limitations, we try to "pretty things up" by keeping some colorful potted flowers outside during the warmer months.

Nothing too fancy -- just a few pots of blooming flowers from our local Home Depot -- but it's enough for us!  It's funny how a little splash of color can really improve your mood, isn't it?!

What are YOUR favorite flowers??

July 18, 2013

Texas Caviar

This is a recipe I heard about from a friend.  At first I was skeptical of its name, but "Texas Caviar" as it's known is YUM-MY!!!  {Can I get a YEE-HAW?!}  It's a very simply recipe to follow {even for a novice like me!} but be sure to prepare it the night before you need it, because the overnight marinading is key!

Texas Caviar Recipe

1 x 15 oz. can Black Beans
1 x 15 oz. can Black-Eyed Peas
1 x 11 oz. can White Shoepeg Corn
1 x 4 oz. jar Diced Pimentos
1 x 4 oz. can Diced Jalapenos
1 Celery Stalk
1 Medium Red Onion
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Vegetable Oil

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{You can use your favorites, but these are the brands I picked up from my local supermarket.}


(1) Rinse black beans, black eyed peas and shoepeg corn.

(2) Dice celery and onion.  {Not sure what the difference between dicing or chopping is, or need some advice on how to approach that onion?  Check out these handy tips for beginners!}

(3) Place beans, peas, corn, pimentos, jalapenos, celery and onion together in a large bowl and mix.

(4) In a small saucepan, mix together the vinegar, oil and sugar and bring to a boil until the sugar is dissolved.

As the sugar dissolves the liquid will become clearer:

(5) Once sugar is completely dissolved, pour marinade over dry ingredients.

(6) Cover and marinade over night in your refrigerator.

(7) The next day, drain any extra marinade before serving.  Texas Caviar can be served as a dip {it goes great with chip scoops} or eaten as a side salad!  This recipe is perfect for a hot summer BBQ!

Enjoy, y'all*!  ;)

* Disclaimer:  Please note that no cowboys were harmed in the writing of this blog post.  I'm a born-and-bred New Yorker, but a cowgirl at heart.