Avoiding the Holiday 10

Sarah Di Grazia offers ten ways to stay healthy during the holidays and shares a must-try salad recipe.

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The holidays are in full swing, which means food and parties are everywhere. While this is a period of fun and quality time with loved ones, it can also be quite stressful running from one event to another or even just one store to another! Additionally, you may find yourself without enough hours in the day for self-care, exercise, or even just sleep. All of this can lead to unwanted weight gain (an additional obstacle to your New Year’s resolution to get in shape). Here are ten ways to avoid gaining the dreaded “holiday 10.”
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Book Report | To Kill a Mockingbird

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (Lee)

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Fall has officially arrived… even in California where the temperature has dropped 10 degrees (laugh all you want, East Coasters… I took my cashmere out of storage). The change in the air brings with it nostalgia for good ole fashioned school days. My cure? Reading a literary classic—one that calls for concentration and a good classroom discussion. I chose To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Enjoyment was my only objective, but I came out of it with a renewed desire to learn. The issues that Lee tackles are historical, but many of the insights into race and society continue to affect our world today… and the lessons in growing up and becoming oneself are unchanging.
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How Big Is Your Brave

How Sara Bareilles helped me become fierce and fearless 

Written October 2013

Last month my friend and I saw Sara Bareilles at the Greek. I have been a huge fan since I saw Sara play at a college music festival in 2009. We all know her #1 hit “Love Song,” but this woman is so much more than that catchy albeit empowering pop song. She is at home on stage in more ways than one. Firstly, her voice is completely powerful, and live it’s a religious experience… until she drops her first F-bomb then a dozen subsequent ones. That leads me to my second point: she connects to her audience. Someone yells out “I love you, Sara,” and she’ll call it out right back. The stage is her couch, and the venue is her living room; everyone feels at home as she tells you about the experiences that informed the song she is about to play.

Before she played “Manhattan” on that September night, she discussed her decision to leave Los Angeles—her home of fourteen years—to make the cross-country move to New York City: a need for change, a bittersweet good-bye, and the knowledge that this chapter of her life was coming to an end. She hints at a break-up, perhaps because she was back at the scene of the crime. The lyrics were chillingly beautiful. Written from the perspective of her ex, the one who’s left behind, you get a sense of the pain felt from both parties.

At the show at the Greek, she dropped the veil of detachment that she sometimes puts up while discussing her journey in making the new album. Perhaps it had to do with coming back to L.A. after moving. Perhaps it had to do with playing the iconic stage. Regardless, she showed raw emotion that struck a chord with me.

It was during this song that my eyes started to well up with tears. It was during this song when I had a moment of clarity accepting that all the tension I had felt in the months prior was for naught. After a stressful day, I’ll drive home from work to my quiet apartment trying to breathe deeply and think about anything else. It finally occurred to me that what was missing from my day was the ease of surrounding family and a feeling of home.
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An Unexpected Honor

My experience aboard a D.C.-bound Honor Flight

PHOTO: Britannica.

PHOTO: Britannica.

Understatement of the year: I am not a morning person. So giving me a 6:00am call-time is simply laughable. I stayed up late Wednesday night to change my 7:00am flight—with layover—to an 8:20am direct flight. The pros outweighed the cons. Truly the only con was that I would have to settle for a middle seat. I decided Mercury retrograde was on my side… Little did I know the universe had more in store for me.

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San Francisco by Avant-Barre

San Francisco-born Nini Gueco tells us why she never tires of her City by the Bay

PHOTO: Quoc Ngo.

Over 30 years in San Francisco, and Avant-Barre‘s founder Char “Nini” Gueco has a palpable love for this fair city. Born in the City and raised in the Peninsula, Nini stayed in the Bay Area to attend Santa Clara University where she graduated with a degree in Accounting. Travel opportunities happened domestically through work (her first career move was as an accountant with a big 4 firm) and internationally through dance (she was a premier soloist with Likha Pilipino Folk Ensemble), but she always made her way back home to the Bay. I had the privilege of meeting Nini 27 years ago when I was born her second sister, and she’s one reason I cannot wait to make the move back this summer. After hearing what she had to say about San Francisco, I found a few more reasons to add to my list (one of them is Avant-Barre’s brand new SoMa studio that opens today).

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Favorite Stays | ACE Hotel Downtown Los Angeles

My experience at the ACE DTLA and tips on planning a “staycation”

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PHOTO: Catherine Abalos.

I love everything about staying in hotels… fresh sheets, fresh towels, a mountain of fluffy pillows, the option to order food straight to your room, the free Bible. A couple years ago I made my first trip to Palm Springs and was introduced to the ACE Hotel. I was an immediate convert to the laidback, urban cool vibe of the compound and have considered visiting new cities in order to stay at the ACE. The ACE is purposely a little undone and can feel like glamping. I was fortunate to take refuge in my sister and brother-in-law’s room at the ACE when all of us were stranded in Manhattan after Sandy hit. When I heard that they were opening up in Downtown L.A., I vowed to book a night for some personal R&R. A staycation is a mini vacation from your life, without the inconvenience of leaving your town. A solo version should be purposeful and a way for you to invest in yourself.

A solo staycation has been on my to-do list for a long time. To have an immaculate suite to myself for one night (or more) to relax on thousand-count sheets is more luxurious to me than a day at the spa. However, when I mentioned my weekend plans to people, four times out of five their first response was to ask whom I was going with. For some, the idea of staying in a hotel by yourself for pleasure is comparable to eating alone at a restaurant or going to a movie theater alone. It sounds scary, you would feel judged, you may judge people who are doing it. When you find the courage to face your fear of being alone in any situation, you have the potential to liberate yourself from the constrictions of popular opinion and discover something new about yourself. One night away from my living space filled with material possessions and the figurative weight of the current ups and downs in my life gave me refreshing perspective.
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Wedding Dress De-Coded

A breakdown of suggested wedding attire and picks $100 & under 

Black tie. Semi formal. With the shift in the role of fashion in our everyday life and dress code vastly left up to interpretation, it can be confusing when your wedding invitation is stamped with the event’s two-word guideline. Thanks to The Knot, we’ve decoded what each one means… and found options under $100 for all your weddings this season.

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FRIEND-ly Ways to Change Your Mood

Classic FRIENDS moments to help you find your mojo.

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11 years ago, one of the best television shows aired it’s final episode. To this day, FRIENDS makes me laugh, makes me cry, and teaches me unexpected lessons about life… rightfully so since I was watching these 20-somethings as a middle schooler. Here are some of those unexpected lessons.

Even the most confident girl may need a little extra encouragement from time to time… after a fight with a friend, after a tough day at work, on a quiet Tuesday night, or when your love life’s D.O.A. Ritual is a way for us to feel control over some small part of the universe’s ways. We use it to celebrate tradition, but we also use it in our daily lives when we get ready for work or wind down for bed. I’ve found small things I can do with purpose that have the same effect of calm and contentment that longer rituals can have. Take it from our favorite friends; you can do any one of these acts or a combination to quickly feel superbly sexy again.

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On Burning Out

The story of my wake-up call one year ago and tips on avoiding burn-out

A friend and I were talking about people’s different thresholds of “busy.” She has a full-time office job and teaches fitness classes 3 to 4 days a week. A colleague of mine has a full-time job, teaches an extracurricular class once a week, oh, and has a husband and four kids to care for. I attest my own desire to fill my days to my early training in elementary school. My mom had my sisters and me in after-school activities galore—from ballet to swimming, speed reading (an excuse for me to spend more time at the library) to student council. Once I left school for the real world, I felt the need to continue being “involved”… I became my high school alumni association’s class representative, joined my sorority’s alumni chapter and took on a leadership role, then found other ways to use my marketing knowledge by joining my sister’s company’s team part time and decided to get back into writing by launching The Single Diaries with a friend.

The only sure thing is that we have 24 hours in a day and, when you have an inflexible office job, you have to wake up at a certain time every morning. For someone like me who can stay up all night, it is a challenge to stay committed to a bedtime when I can find other things I want to do but didn’t have time to earlier in the day (write or edit a post, read a book, watch Melrose Place). There were evenings when after work I thought I could do it all: run off to an early barre class, stop by a book club meeting, then finish editing a post scheduled to go up the next day. Other days I had to make sacrifices. Instead of organizing a boozy brunch (one of my favorite pastimes), I committed to a Saturday work session at a local cafe.

Taking on an extra project is great in the years after college when making money needs to be your priority to pay for student loans and to get your feet off the ground. In those years, most of us need to work a traditional full-time job to learn the value of a paycheck and to garner experience to build our resume. A side hustle is a way for you to find your passion and develop the skills you need to make your dreams a reality. But what happens when your full-time job and your side hustle leave you with little to no free time?

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7 Do’s and Don’ts of Conversing with Strangers

The art of conversation with The Real Housewives of New York

PHOTO: Bravo TV.

PHOTO: Bravo TV.

I consider myself a fairly good conversationalist, but in the last couple months I’ve met girls who are extremely chat savvy. What struck me was their ability to be natural and to put a complete stranger at ease… it’s that charisma that also makes someone a great interviewee (or interviewer)—both on camera and off. Superb conversationalists don’t try too hard to leave you with a certain impression. They open up enough that you want to find out more. They speak to you in the same voice they use with their close friends. They charm you. I am fascinated by the magnetism, so I turned to The Real Housewives of New York for tips on the art of conversation when meeting someone new.

(And don’t forget to set your DVR for the upcoming season which begins tomorrow, Tuesday, April 7, and promises to be the best one yet!)

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