NYC

happy (early) birthday, matt!

Birthdays are a pretty big deal for me. Not so much my own lately, but everyone else’s. I love any excuse to celebrate something special on a random weekday, and birthdays always seem to be the best way to make that happen. Plus, they give me the chance to love on someone I care about a little extra and to take some time out of the normal routine to recognize (even in a small way) how important they are in my life.

Matt’s birthday is coming up on Monday, and I’m so excited about his birthday that I thought I’d get an extra jump on things and embarrass him just a tiny bit on the blog today. Plus, Monday is giveaway day (!!!!!), and he shouldn’t have to share the spotlight with the awesome October prize that I hope you’ll all enter to win : )

We’re not doing anything too crazy to celebrate — just a really special meal tomorrow and then whatever else he wants to do. Our big night taking a cooking class at a beautiful hotel in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge on the last evening of our big California trip was the major trick I had up my sleeve for this birthday, but we can still celebrate with some dedicated time together now that we’re back in Brooklyn.

Matt’s one of those cool cats who’s somehow managed to stay totally off the social media grid (though he does read this blog — hi, Matt!), so I don’t get to give him as many twenty-first century-style shoutouts as he deserves. (Also, we have a joke between the two of us in which Matt has been running a secret blog of his own for the past few years. HAH! Cracks me up every time.) Anyway, here goes:

Happy (almost!) birthday to my husband, my truest friend, and the one that’s become my partner in every adventure and mishap and victory. You teach me something new every day about how to take things in stride and look at things from a fresh perspective. You’re smart, driven, dependable, compassionate, patient beyond all reason, and you somehow manage to laugh at most of my jokes (which I know isn’t always easy). You’ve made our tiny little Brooklyn apartment feel like home and you’ve become an incredibly thoughtful and sensitive husband in this first year and a half. Thank you for supporting me in all the curveballs I’ve thrown you and for letting me clog up our DVR with all of my bad TV. Can’t wait to celebrate you this weekend and always! 

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If you have some birthday wishes of your own for this awesome guy, feel free to add them in the comments below!

And don’t forget to hurry back on Monday for the October giveaway : ) You KNOW it’s going to be good.

Happy weekend, friends! For some weekend reading, check out my guest post over on FoodWaterShoes, where I share some of my favorite Brooklyn spots.

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ten month recap.

Happy Monday, fabulous friends! Matt and I spent the weekend here in Brooklyn for the first time this summer, and I’ve gotta say, it was pretty magical. We slept in (which, for me, means I stayed in bed until a little after 9… luxurious!), went to brunch with friends at Rucola (this is one of our favorite spots, and if you’re in Brooklyn, you should definitely check it out — and get the smoked salmon), drank watermelon margaritas at Bar Bruno, watched movies, napped, read books and the newspaper, baked these Brownie Krinkle cookies, went to the gym, and explored a Bastille Day festival hosted by a French restaurant on our block. It was a weekend of yummy food and of summery drinks and of catching up with our NYC community and of cozying up in our little home and of spending low-key quality time together. I loved every minute of it, and I’ll admit that I had some serious Sunday scaries last night (while Matt watched the Game of Thrones season premiere and I sat in bed and wrote, which becomes our Sunday evening routine as soon as GOT is back on — sorry, I just can’t get into it).

I’m a few days behind on my monthly recap post (you can check out the last one here), but I’m happy to report today that I’m now ten months (and a few days) into the freelance journey. It was this time last year that I begin to do some serious soul searching about what the next right step for me would be. While I love celebrating each milestone of my “new life,” it’s difficult for me to look back on how I was feeling and what I was walking through twelve months ago.

Matt and I were newly married, and while I’d struggled to decide whether or not I was built for corporate life before our wedding, I’d fiercely hoped that, once all the chaos of planning our big day had died down, I’d feel comfortable and confident at the office again. I wanted things to go back to normal for me, emotionally. I wanted to wake up every morning and know that I was going to the right place and doing the very best I could for both myself and my co-workers. I always felt very blessed to work for my company — I still feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to start my career there — and I was enormously conflicted about the fact that I couldn’t make it work when I had so clearly landed my dream job.

And so, coming back from our honeymoon last July, I started riding an emotional roller coaster, knowing that I still wanted to be part of the something greater that my company represented, knowing that I wanted to figure out why I suddenly felt so confused so I could fix it and stick around, but also knowing — in my gut, which is where I feel things most intensely — that I needed to make some changes. It took many more weeks and many more tearful conversations for me to figure out what to do next, but July is when my wheels started turning, and I can’t help but think of that now.

Working from home and being out on my own was not then and still is not now a simple solution. As all of you know better than anyone, this journey continues to be an emotional roller coaster, and there have been plenty of moments when I’ve wondered if those scary thoughts I started thinking last July brought me to where I’m truly supposed to be.

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All of that said, though, I feel really happy writing this today, because today is a really good day. This last month has led me to some of my favorite projects to date, and since I’ve freed up a little extra time here and there in honor of the summertime to allow me to invest more in working on my book lately, I’m feeling more creative than ever. I’m obsessed with writing. I think about it constantly.

Guys, it feels really good. At least right now, it feels like I made the right decision — and that, even better, the decision kind of found me.

I love when I can share a recap like this one, because it’s satisfying to have an emotional high point so perfectly match up with a chronological milestone in this ongoing transition. I also know that these moments of reflection don’t always feel this great, so I want to celebrate the ones that do.

These next two months are bound to be a little extra emotional, since they not only mark the anniversary of starting my life as a writer, but also the anniversary of the period when I started questioning myself, wondering what I was supposed to do, and ultimately, making some really difficult decisions. I can’t believe so much time has passed, but I’m humbled by the way it’s played out, and so grateful for the chance to revel in the little victories. Thanks to each and every one of you for being along for the ride. You rule, each and every one of you.

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teeny tiny space entertaining.

There’s a lot out there about “small space hacks,” for everything from storage to decorating to entertaining. Let me tell you though — when you’ve been living in less than 700 square feet for over two years with a 6’2″ man and all of your combined stuff, this idea of “small space” starts to feel a little like an understatement. We are so blessed to live in such an amazing apartment, but it is definitely cozy, and as happy as I am to have been able to stay here into a third year (who wants to deal with a move???), there are days when it feels like the walls are closing in on us a bit, because no amount of obsessive cleaning and organizing (guilty!) can stop your life from growing over time — which is what it’s supposed to do!

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Even with the limitations of our teeny tiny space (yup, I’m not even calling it “small” in this case), I absolutely love opening up our home to friends and family. We’ve actually hosted people here at the apartment four of the last five days! Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up to help make teeny tiny space entertaining easier and more fun:

  • Get through your backlog of dirty dishes before your guests arrive. Whether you have a dishwasher or are the dishwasher, make sure you’re starting with a clean slate of plates, cups, and cutlery before your friends and family walk in the door. If your teeny space is like mine, your sink is practically IN your living room, so the more you can do to avoid an overflow situation at the end of the evening, the better off you’ll be. Plus, you’ll free up dishes to use, so you won’t have to wash as you go!

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  • Food-wise, don’t try to do it all. Even in an average-sized kitchen, serving your guests appetizers, a main dish, sides, and a dessert is a hefty undertaking — so don’t expect to do it and make it look simple in your smaller kitchen. I like to focus my hosting plan to make prep and clean-up easier, and to avoid running out of room in the apartment! Earlier this week, we invited friends over for fresh berries, homemade whipped cream, and champagne. Last night, I simply put out meats, cheese, veggies, and a tray of frozen Trader Joe’s appetizers (guys, these are lifesavers — and even if you pride yourself on your cooking, there’s no shame!). One of my favorite things is to invite people over for a simple bagel breakfast. Don’t do too much!
  • Keep it casual. When you’re moving furniture around to accommodate extra bodies and squeezing past each other to find a seat, you get over the formalities of entertaining pretty quickly. Early on, this kind of embarrassed me, but I’ve now embraced it! I find that it makes my guests feel comfortable in my home really fast, and I love that my friends feel free to grab their own glass from the cabinet or to kick their shoes off at the door without asking me first.
  • Consider a solo clean-up. always appreciate it when my guests offer to help pick things up after we’ve spent time together, but given the size of my kitchen, I’ve realized that it’s often easier to gracefully turn down the extra set of hands and just handle it myself. When my apartment gets too cramped with people trying to tidy up (as nice as that can be!), it tends to get me a little overwhelmed and stressed out. (I’m also a control freak, so admittedly, this may just be a weird personal preference!)

Do you have any tips for entertaining, regardless of the size of your space? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

…and don’t forget to enter this months’ giveaway! The prize is a Charcoal Cleansing Bar from Beautycounter, a product I’ve been loving over the past few weeks. Even with so many guests in and out of the apartment recently, I’ve been totally makeup free! All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Tuesday 5/30, so get those entries in ASAP!

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seventh month recap.

Happy Monday, friends! Whether you celebrate Passover or Easter, I hope you got to enjoy some quality time with loved ones over the last week. Matt and I were traveling to see family for the weekend, but just like that, it’s back to the grind today! Saturday marked seven months since I left my job in corporate America, and since I was busy watching my sister’s college team kick butt on the lacrosse field, I’m sharing my monthly recap today instead (you can check out the last recap here).

Check out some of this month’s developments below. The spring weather (and blooms!) has really given me a new outlook on work, life, and everything in between. I’m loving it!

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  • I’ve been switching up my routine. Initially, I was more or less sticking to my old 9-to-5 schedule: get up and out of the apartment early, get to the gym, then switch into office mode for the rest of the day. In the last few weeks, I’ve sort of naturally changed things around, and I’m really liking the way it’s flowed. I’m still up and moving by 6:30 or 7 at the latest (I’ve always been an early riser, plus Matt is out the door by 6:30, so I’m usually awake, anyway!), but instead of getting right into my workout, I’ve been doing an intense hour-ish of work — and usually in bed. I know, I know… I was pretty high and mighty early on about “never working from bed,” but I find that if I can get the bulk of my administrative work and emails out of the way first thing, it gets my day started on a really productive foot, and if bringing my laptop under the blankets with me from 6:30 to 8 makes that easier, then why not? Lately, I’ve been getting to the gym for a workout (usually a run, since the Brooklyn Half is just a few weeks away!) sometime between 11 and 1, which is a nice way to break up the day.
  • I’m feeling healthy again. After the holiday season, I found myself in a bit of a rut with my exercise and nutrition. I was struggling to control my sweet tooth, having trouble finding ways to eat healthy during the day, and generally feeling icky about myself — and the lack of Vitamin D certainly didn’t help things. Over the last week or two, I’m finally starting to feel back on my game, and I think that changing up my schedule has had a lot to do with it. As much as I love to stick to one consistent ritual, I’m realizing that making small adjustments can totally change my outlook and state of mind.
  • I’ve started taking advantage of outdoor workspaces. I can definitely admit that this is a luxury of working from home, but I’m happy to say that in the first week of spring weather, I indulged in it — enthusiastically. Who knew that so many of the city’s outdoor spaces have WiFi? Over the years, I’ve struggled a lot to figure out if NYC is the right place for me, and I’ve been finding that when I have more opportunities to explore it in the fresh air, I feel a lot more at peace with being a New Yorker. Pretty soon it will probably be too hot to bring my laptop outside, so in the meantime, I’ll enjoy this fun little season of afternoons working on rooftops and in Bryant Park!
  • I’m having to say “no” to things. It’s hard to believe that seven months ago, I was practically begging for any gig I could get my hands on. I still have a long way to go in building out my writing career, but there have definitely been periods lately when I’ve had to force myself to politely turn down new projects, or press pause on hustling for new opportunities. It’s a delicate balance between stalling the growth of my business and letting things get too out of control, and figuring out that balance seems to be an ongoing process!
  • Money is finally feeling less stressful. My natural state is to be frugal, so I don’t think I’ll ever be totally comfortable financially, but seven months in, it feels like my income is now reliable (knock on wood, right?). In the beginning, I often thought to myself, “There’s no way I’ll be able to earn money like this again next month,” and I’m finally starting to believe that my work is paying off in the form of consistent paychecks. It’s important not to get complacent, but it does feel good to be able to take a deep breath and relax about money… and to treat myself to a new pair of shoes every once in a while : )

On to month eight! Thanks, as always, for being the best cheerleaders out there!

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two years in brooklyn.

Two years ago this week, we moved into our cozy little Brooklyn home. I’d fallen in love with the apartment’s exposed brick and coveted outdoor space — not to mention its convenient location directly above a Vietnamese restaurant that served (so we’d heard) the best bubble tea in the borough. We had a long list of things we wanted to do to the apartment, and we’ve had varying success in accomplishing them. I have the gallery wall I always wanted in our front hallway and an (almost) full wall of bookshelves (that is now nearly at capacity) in the office, and we somehow managed to squeeze Matt’s much-desired oversized sectional into the main room. I don’t know that we’ll ever quite get around to achieving our lofty goals to “landscape” the back porch, but I’m sure we’ll put up another good effort this summer — for the first few weekends, at least.

More important than all of that, though, is the fact that this apartment has been an amazing home for the past two years. We got engaged smack in the middle of it. I planned our wedding from that oversized couch and spread my many DIY projects throughout (literally) every room. Matt carried me over the threshold after we got married. I started a whole new life from this home office. Even though it can sometimes feel like we’re bursting at the seams in this place, it really is our home, and when I think of anyone else living here, I can’t help but feel sad. After switching dorm rooms on an annual basis in college and living in a few different apartments when I first came to New York City, two years in one place feels like a really long time, and I’m so grateful that we’ve been able to put down these kinds of roots in a place we love so much.

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In honor of our two year “Brooklyn anniversary,” I’m also sharing a list of some of my favorite spots here in the neighborhood, in case you ever visit (and when you do, you better let me know!). This Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens/Brooklyn Heights/Downtown Brooklyn area is really pretty magical, and I could go on for way longer with all of my recommendations.

  • Ample Hills CreameryThe best ice cream I’ve had in New York, plus they have an amazing roof deck at the location on Nevins Street (yes, a roof deck at an ice cream shop!) with some great skyscraper views. This is one of our favorite outings for a summer evening. Go for a scoop of Snap Mallow Pop!
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park: This one’s sort of obvious, but it still deserves a mention! Sometimes, I feel like our whole social life in New York revolves around eating and drinking, so it’s nice to have a place like Brooklyn Bridge Park to explore when you just want to get outside and move around. They have picnic tables and BBQ pits down there, too… maybe we’ll finally get around to using those this summer!
  • Lavender LakeWhen I think of spring and Brooklyn, I think of this place. It’s sort of a hole-in-the-wall tucked into a street off the beaten path, but it’s always crowded because anyone who discovers it becomes obsessed (like me). They have a huge outdoor space, and I love to spend afternoons parked at one of their tables with a glass of rosé and some yummy plates to share with friends.
  • Lemongrass Grill: Nothing fancy, but it’s a definite go-to in our house, and if you like Thai food, it should be on your radar! They have super fast take-out, a great lunch special, good food, and a dangerous BOGO happy hour.
  • Bar TabacThis little French bistro is quite literally on our corner, but we don’t get there as much as we should. They have live music there a few nights a week, which is always fun to hear when we’re out and about! Bar Tabac also holds a special place in my heart since it’s where I treated myself to wine and French fries when I left my corporate job to start freelancing.
  • LoboGreat margaritas, fresh Mexican food, and a great back patio (are you noticing a theme here? we love the back patios!).

Ugh, Brooklyn, honestly, you rule. Happy two years, my sweet little borough.

Also, please take a second to shop this link before the end of the week! Twenty-five percent of all proceeds will benefit Alex’s Lemonade Stand and their efforts to cure and treat childhood cancers, plus you’ll get to take home some super cute accessories or grab an early gift for mom. I really appreciate that my own mama is teaming up with me to make this happen for a cause so important to me. Check it out! xo 

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a love letter to nyc.

This weekend, I played host to my sister Katie and her best friend, who were visiting Brooklyn for the day to celebrate Katie’s 18th (WHAT! when did that happen?) birthday. My family hasn’t had a chance to explore my neighborhood very much yet, so I love any opportunity I get to show them some of my favorite places. Matt and I took the girls to check out the amazing views at Brooklyn Bridge Park (plus Jane’s Carousel), we had (a very un-memorable) lunch (sorry, Katie) near the water, and then we hopped over to check out the indoor Brooklyn Flea Market, which is currently set-up in a super cool old building with a ceiling so beautiful that I couldn’t stop staring. We finished up the day with (in my opinion, anyway) the most delicious hot chocolate EVER from One Girl Cookies and a few hours of holiday-themed cooking shows in our apartment.

I had such a fun day with these two amazing girls, who are both in the middle of all of the senior-year-of-high-school craziness that is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. Experiencing Brooklyn with them reminded me of all of my own visits to New York City when I was a teenager, and the way I was so dead-set on building a life here for myself one day. Sometimes, it’s still hard for me to believe that it actually happened. In other ways, my life is entirely different than what I expected, but I did manage to get (and stay) here, and that feels like a big accomplishment.

New York City gets a bad rap, and believe me — I get it. Most people who are visiting this town only get as far as Times Square and the theater district, and I have pretty negative feelings toward those areas myself. Add that to the widespread stereotype that New Yorkers are nasty (i.e. the woman who kicked me out of Panera a few months ago), and I don’t really blame other people for steering clear. What you learn when you live here yourself, though, is that everyone ends up with their own version of New York apart from the crowds and tourist attractions — and I have to say, I think my version is pretty great.

New York City — You’re not always easy to love, but maybe that’s what makes me love you a little harder. This is the only place where I know a life that’s all my own, and that life is one filled with incredible people, constant learning experiences, and delicious food. I’ve fallen in love so many times here — not just with Matt, but with the friends I’ve met who continue to make this place so special. I don’t know how long I’ll be a New Yorker — there are days when I wish I could just get out, and other days when I can’t imagine living anywhere else — but I promise to stop saying mean things about you. You’re pretty amazing. — AHK

With the end of the year coming, I’m obviously feeling a little extra reflective : ) So, to cap off my little tribute to NYC, scroll down for a few of my favorite pictures from my New York experience these past four-plus years. I had so much fun looking through old photos to pick these out, so thanks for bearing with me!

first-christmas
My first holiday season after moving to the city. Matt would take the bus in from PA to visit me.
roommates
I lived about as far east as you can get on this island (and about as far away from anything convenient) with these two.
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Thank goodness for NYC for reuniting me with my journalism camp bestie. Seriously — thank goodness.
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Nights were (and still are) the most fun with my two middle school loves.
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Getting ready to run my first Brooklyn Half Marathon!
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I have so many amazing memories of exploring this city with my mom. Here we are with my favorite cupcakes at Molly’s in the West Village.
cat-neighbor
At my old apartment, we had a cat neighbor who would sit in the space between the wall and the open door and watch us come in and out. I thought it was the cutest thing ever.
fake-housewives
Sometimes, my fellow suburban transplant and I like to pretend we are housewives shopping for home goods back in PA.
engagement-night
The night we got engaged, right here in Brooklyn!
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The night we signed the lease to our new apartment.
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Our first night in Brooklyn! What you see on the counter is pretty much everything we had ready to move in at this point.
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Hosting my precious high school family for boozy brunch. Who says you can’t fit lots of people in a tiny NYC apartment?
wedding-dress
Trying on my wedding dress for the first time! Even as a little girl, I always imagined I’d buy my dress in New York.
me-and-mads
Another holiday season with one of my oldest and most special friends.
natural-habitat
At home, in my element.
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The first (and possibly last) time I successfully convinced Matt to run the Brooklyn Half with me.
me-and-katie-wedding
This is NOT a cute photo of me, but my bestie was such a beautiful bride, and here we are together on her wedding day, in this weird little place we both call home. (Photo credit: Lauren Gibson Photography)
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A few of my beloved NYC girls squeezed into one photo. Always grateful to this city for my friendships, most of all. (Photo credit: Bri Cibene Photography)

 

 

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nyc workspaces.

Honestly, I would love to use this post to rant about the TWO hours I just spent (that’s right, TWO HOURS) circling my little Brooklyn neighborhood to find a parking spot for that car we were so excited to buy (whose brilliant idea was that? oh right, I think it was mine…).  I’m grateful to have a car in the city, but keeping it safe (and keeping parking tickets to a minimum) can be a nightmare.  Now that my schedule is more flexible, I’ve taken on the responsibility of moving the car based on the timing of street cleaning.  So far, I’ve had two VERY bad experiences doing this, and I’m hoping to get the hang of it soon.  After two hours of effort today, the best I could do was a metered spot a few blocks away, which means that I’ll still have to venture out in a little while to give it another shot.  If any of my fellow city dwellers/car owners have tips about how to keep your sanity in check AND your car parked, I would totally welcome them.

BUT, I will resist the urge to spend more time on that because I wanted to write a little today about some of the experiences I had this week working in spaces outside my home office.  I’ve talked about this a little bit in the past, but since I logged more time out in the world over the past few days, I thought I’d share it, especially as it relates to being in New York City.

This city tends to get a bad reputation.  I think that people who haven’t spent a lot of time here assume that New York is filled with nasty, impatient people who don’t have the patience for nice conversations, and that as a result, the whole island feels cold and unwelcoming.  Like anywhere else, we certainly have our share of difficult personalities, and perhaps the difficult New Yorker is a BIT more challenging to deal with than a difficult person in another place.  At the opposite end of the spectrum, NYC is also home to some of the warmest people I have ever met.  I think most of us have an implicit understanding that we’ve all opted to live in this completely overwhelming, sometimes challenging, and often wonderful place, which gives us the “we’re all in this together” mentality (cue the High School Musical— it is Friday, after all!).  Even if they’re not the warmest right off the bat, New Yorkers do look out for each other, and when you find your community here, you totally forget about all of those mean stereotypes from movies and TV.

I had two marathon writing sessions this week outside of my usual work space, and they totally reflected the extremes of NYC personality.

  1. On Tuesday, I spent the afternoon writing at a Panera Bread in midtown.  In high school, Panera was a cool place to hang out, and I’ve always liked their food, but I’m not a regular customer.  I know plenty of people who LOVE bringing their work there, so I figured I would give it a try since I had a long list of pitches and posts to get through and I was in the area, anyway.  I set myself up with a chai latte and a corner table and minded my own business.  Later on, I looked up to see a store employee staring me down.  With zero attempt at being nice, she explained that they like to enforce a 45-minute limit, and since she’d “noticed I’d been here for about four hours,” I needed to leave to make room for dinner customers.  I looked around at the DOZENS of empty tables around me and said in my nicest Pennsylvania-girl voice, “Do I have to leave even if there are spots open?”  She glared at me and nodded, and watched as I packed up my bag to leave the restaurant, as if daring me to stay.  So, to the woman who kicked me out of Panera, I would just like to say: Maybe you thought you were just doing your job, but it wasn’t necessary, and your attitude is the reason the rest of us New Yorkers get a bad name.  
  2. I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but my friend and former roommate and I have this fun new routine where we meet up to work together, since she can also work remotely in her job.  Yesterday, we went back to 61 Local, which happens to be around the corner from my apartment.  Matt and I have always been big fans of going there for dinner and drinks, but I may be an even bigger fan of using it as a workspace!  The owners have set it up to encourage people to work there for hours at time.  It has a really laidback and friendly vibe, and although it can sometimes be so busy that you can’t find an empty seat to work in, there are also no limits to how long you can stay (ahem, Panera lady, ahem).  They also happen to serve delicious peach tea, which is a nice perk!  Even though I’m mostly happy to be alone in my quiet home office, it’s good to get out every once in a while and be surrounded by the buzz of other people working, and I think 61 Local is going to become my go-to place.  Plus, if you’re in the area, you should definitely stop in for a peach tea (or Bloody Mary if it’s brunch-time!).

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As my assignments pile up, I’m definitely finding it helpful to switch up my surroundings and work in different places.  Any thoughts you have on spots that inspire you or make you feel extra productive would be much appreciated!

 

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