Friday, July 30, 2010

Karaoke: Plain White T's, "1, 2, 3, 4"

And today's the day I finally meet A.'s family! Hopefully they like me and hopefully they don't see this video of me acting a fool before we meet. I pulled out the souvenir CD from last year's wedding #2 and this song got stuck in my head again. By the way, this is the outfit I'll be wearing at tonight's welcome dinner before tomorrow's wedding festivities. I can't believe I'm saying this, but... I love how girly it makes me feel. Aaack!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Karaoke: Katy Perry, "California Gurls"

I'm off to California today! I've been looking forward to this trip for nearly SIX MONTHS, people. Six months. I'm super excited for our romantic getaway, celebrating his cousin's wedding with him (I'm actually a +1 this time!) and meeting his family, but from now on A. had better invite me somewhere when there's no more than two weeks to go. Anywho, I think the song below was a perfect fit for the occasion. (Hope you enjoy the craziness, Josh.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What's Your Favorite Summer Drink?

I keep having these sudden cravings for Jamba Juice's Five Fruit Frenzy...and then decide to keep my wallet happy by making myself a strawberry and banana milk shake instead. (It doesn't compare.)


Breakfast of Champions

Ever since I started running a few weeks ago, I've been absolutely famished in the mornings. I need potatoes, eggs, plantains or some other hearty meal before I get started on my day. And on top of that, somewhere along the last several months I finally crawled back up to my regular weight! After two years of beating myself up for being too skinny, I'm feeling healthy, happy and ready for a few more pounds. So with that in mind, here are a few breakfast-inspired goodies I've come across recently...

How cute are these daisy-shaped egg fry rings? They make it so tempting to eat half a dozen of these babies and clog up my arteries in the process.

I wish my dad had time for this when I was little: Jim likes to make awesome pancakes for his three-year-old girl in the shape of cartoon characters, animals, games, anything. Kinda makes the regular ones look so unappetizing.

Mmm, I haven't had french toast in a while (pancakes are another story), but this cheery recipe looks like it'd hit the spot. Have you ever had yours with bananas and honey? And if you're not a lazy out-the-box chef like me, here's a recipe for banana pancakes, too.

I'm not a coffee drinker, but this guide is pretty handy for those who can't wake up without their perfect cup of joe. In the meantime, my jittery self will stick to the oj.

But if I did drink coffee, I'd totally want to drown little sugar bunnies in my cup! Or hearts and butterflies and...

Images:,,, and

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Maternity Leave Project

For the new mommies who are bored out their minds/ searching for something to do while the baby's asleep, check out Adele Enersen's hobby: capturing her daughter Mila's daydreams and posting them on her blog. How sweet will it be for little Mila to look through all these photos when she's older? Sure beats the itchy, frilly outfits my mom stuffed me into. (via Laughing Squid)
By the way, posts for the next three days might be short and quick as I try to get errands done, spend time with some friends and start packing for Thursday's trip! Hope your week is off to a great start. I'll be here this evening :)

Images:, and

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy Friday!

Any set plans for the weekend? 'Cause I have ZERO! Well besides keeping cool in 90-degree temperatures and counting down until Thursday's trip to California...

How to make gift bags from newspaper.
Having fruit fly troubles? I am, but thank goodness for these simple solutions!
Butch Bakery: Cupcakes for manly men.
A cute graffiti proposal.
This social experiment on domestic violence gave me chills.
Yup, I totally do this. What? It's hard keeping up with you cool peeps.
Hostility can be pretty damn awesome.
Where's Child Protective Services when you need them?
A BP oil spill- inspired cocktail.
Pretty butterfly garland :)


Please Don't Tell

Imagine walking into a small hot dog shop in the East Village, stepping into a vintage phone booth to your left and then being ushered through a secret door and into a speakeasy as soon as you press the buzzer. Although PDT is far from a city secret anymore, it's still a mysterious delight for those who've never been.

A bit ago, I found myself walking down the few steps from the sidewalk and entering Crif Dogs, a hot dog joint with just a few tables and a line nearly reaching the door. A. only sold it to me as a place that made "gourmet hot dogs," but when I saw him head straight for the phone booth, I perked up. "Is that PDT?!" The dimly-lit lounge is very cozy and if you sit at the bar, you'll be talking with your neighbors in no time - especially if one of them is considering ordering a bacon-infused drink.

The bar, or lab as I called it, is so well-stocked and the bartenders so skilled in their mixology that even if you have no idea what you'd like from their menu, you could explain what tastes you like and they'll whip something up for you. "It's like watching a performance," I said, mesmerized from watching our girl work her magic. Grabbing this liquor, that syrup and garnishing with the flick of her wrist, you could tell she had this down to an art. (By the way, even though the cocktail menu changes frequently, the Framboise Fizz is a great choice for those who like fruity drinks with a kick.)

The wonderful part is that you can order food from next door without leaving your seat. Crif Dogs does things to hot dog I would've never dreamed of, but then again, I'm a simple ketchup girl. They take things much further: deep-fried franks served as a BLT or in Philly-cheese-steak form. I mean who would think to add cream cheese to a hot dog? Momofuku fans can try the David Chang-inspired Chang Dog, a bacon-wrapped hot dog smeared with the chef's Momofuku Ssäm Bar red kimchee purée. My favorite was the Wylie Dog, a frank nestled next to a breaded strip of deep-fried mayo and topped with tomato molasses, onions and shredded romaine lettuce. The fried mayo sounds suspect, but trust me when I say it was so yummy I had to convince A. to trade me his for my Chang Dog.

I do believe you have to call and make reservations for PDT these days, but if you luck out on a random evening like we did, it's sure to be a romantic, not to mention unconventional, treat.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Blah Blah Blah, That's All I Hear You Singin'

I'll be the first to admit that I tend to listen and like some pretty bad music, but the other day I heard such a God awful piece of work that I was left dumbfounded. How did this get on the airwaves?! And who on Earth thought it was good enough to expose to the unsuspecting public? Auburn's "La La La" is so amateurish and craptastic, it actually made me mad. Mad because here I am trying to make ends meet while people like her can record vowel sounds and get national recognition for it.

And if you don't want to listen to this masterpiece, the lyrics displayed will give you a taste of what the entire song is like.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Magic of Legos

Isn't it incredible how Lego is 78 years old and still inspiring the imaginations of children and adults alike? The toy company opened its Rockefeller Center retail store a few weeks ago and when A. and I went over to check it out, we became two kids again marveling over the mini Lego dioramas on display, creating our own little plastic people and playing with pieces from the giant Pick a Brick wall. Will Legos ever go out of style? No, and when I have a kid I'm totally buying a set for me, I mean us to play with.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Nudity on Gunnison Beach

On Sunday, A., his friend and I headed to Gunnison Beach, the largest nude beach on the East Coast and the only legal one in New Jersey. Named after Gunnison Battery, a government fort built to protect the New York Harbor in the 1800s that later became a test site for the US Army and then missile defense installations, the beach served as a skinny-dipping spot for stationed soldiers. Three years after the base was decommissioned in 1972, Gunnison opened as a public clothing-optional beach and because it lies on federal land, NJ's state laws forbidding nude beaches do not apply here. (The same goes for alcohol so drinking on the beach is allowed, too!) Nearly 5,000 people make their way to the half-mile beach on sunny summer weekends to sunbathe without the risk of tan lines.

We boarded the American Princess ferry (the SeaStreak also makes the trip) at South Street Seaport's Pier 11 (near Wall Street) early in the morning and headed out to the Sandy Hook peninsula. Along the breezy 45-minute trip, we enjoyed views of lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn and Verrazano Bridges, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis and Governor's Islands, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Once we reached the Jersey Shore, two school buses awaited us for our transfer to the nearby beaches. I felt like such a deviant when the bus made its first stop at Gunnison and the driver kept emphasizing "CLOTHING-OPTIONAL BEACH" as we filed out. I couldn't get out fast enough.
After feeling like Jesus trekking through the desert (it's a half-mile blazing hot walk from the parking lot to the beach), it took another while to find ourselves a good spot to claim. Eye candy was sparse, people. There were naked and clothed sunbathers in all colors, shapes and sizes (lots and lots of sizes), but the majority were older than us. Still, it was interesting to see people baring all and just strutting around, completely comfortable with nudity. Imagine seeing one naked guy walk over to his nude neighbors to help them hammer in their umbrella. Or another group chat about a recent trip to Ireland. One voluptuous lady was going around recruiting people for volleyball. Naked volleyball. (I passed on seeing all that in action.) It was definitely a chill environment that if anything made me feel much better about the body I have.
All in all we had a great time frying in the sun and cooling off in the Atlantic even though the latter consisted of me clinging onto A.'s neck, screaming in pure terror and then laughing with each incoming wave. As for whether any of us joined the nudists, well, I'll just leave that one to your imagination.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Giveaway: Love Always, Anne Marie

If you have a special occasion on the horizon or are simply looking for beautiful way to dress up your hair, then take a look through Love Always, Anne Marie, a collection of delicate hair accessories that could be just the thing you need to complete your outfit. Co-founder Anne Marie Metzger started out hand-making pieces for brides and prom-bound girls, but soon enough was receiving too many orders to complete on her own. So she took her business plan to some college friends and their idea took off. "We developed a real passion for the concept because it merges fashion and beauty with one of the most important days of a woman's life - her wedding!" Metzger says. "We wanted to give women the opportunity to individualize her look and put her confidence over the edge on that special day."

Pieces are either purchased from vendors around the world or custom-made according to the customer's specifications. The latter could take months to develop depending on the request, Metzger points out, because they take time to get to know the bride and find the right materials for her design. The best thing is that her company's love extends far beyond hair accessories. "Our goal is to spread the love not only through our customer service, but also to those we don't know," she adds. "We participate in social service events like Habitat for Humanity's Women Build events and the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life walks and give donations to the American Heart Association and breast cancer foundations."

This week, one of you will feel the love with an Emma comb in ivory and embellished with feathers, crystal beads and roses. Just leave a comment below and a random winner will be announced on Friday!

CONGRATULATIONS: Blythe is this week's winner!


Friday, July 16, 2010

Happy Friday!

Hooray the weekend's here! I've been a busy little bee the last few days so I'm looking forward to slowing down a bit and hopefully sleeping in tomorrow. A. and I also have plans to go to a beach in Jersey, which will be fun because neither one of us have ever beached there :)

A wonderful reminder about being thankful for what you have.
Who knew The Count could be so vulgar?
An Old Spice voicemail generator?! Niiice!
In this week's WTF news: bite marks are the new hickey.
After checking out these ice cube trays, the regular ones just seem so...regular.
Perfectionism could ruin your sex life and kill you.
The man whose grades your grades could be like.
I love me some Google doodles! Any recent faves?

And I'd just like to say there's just way too many cute and teeny babies on my Google Reader right now. How can I keep my biological clock quiet when there's this, this and this?! They're everywhere! Now if you'll excuse me I have to go revert a couple years, play dress up and film some karaoke vlogs...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Think Before You Believe and Speak

I rarely take to debates and confrontations and try to follow the motto "If you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all," but lately I've been coming across way too much ignorance online to keep turning away. Ignoring such comments felt just as bad as saying them myself. Maybe this person doesn't even realize that they're being offensive, I reasoned, and so something should be said.

The first one happened on Facebook. "If you are going to beg me for money at least have the decency to do it in ENGLISH!!! Me thinks it's time to go Arizona on these mofos!"

Oh hell no.

After I asked her to explain herself, I gave my ten cents on the immigration issue and how I felt about SB 1070, the controversial law in Arizona that is set to go into effect July 29. She claimed that illegal immigrants robbed citizens of jobs without paying taxes and that the majority of Latinos in Arizona supported the new law. So I did some research and hit her back with some facts debunking both statements: many illegal immigrants shell out money for social security benefits they might never collect and 81% of Arizona Latino voters oppose SB 1070. She never did tell me where she got her information from (or anything else for that matter), but the things I quoted could have easily been found through a search. Before I made my statements though, I made sure that what I said was factually correct (blame my experience as a researcher) and went so far as to look for anything that could support the opposing view. All too often, people blurt out inaccuracies and tout them as truths, which only perpetuates ignorant beliefs and further misinforms people too lazy to question what they read and hear. Get into the habit of fact-checking yourself and others.

Another ignorant comment appeared on Twitter. I won't repeat the tweet here as I feel it's unnecessary to spread such derogatory terms, but the racist remark was apparently said in jest and then taken quite seriously by several followers. At first I didn't want to get involved in the cyber-argument that ensued, but half-way through the day I had to interject and let this person know how demeaning her thoughts came across. Her reasoning for sharing? "Because that's what me, my husband and the two black dudes were talking about last night. They didn't think it was so horrible." Perhaps, but once you publish it in a public space, it's shared with people who might think it's very horrible and take it out of context because 140 characters only provides so much back story. The immediacy of Facebook, Twitter and blogs make some feel that their every thought needs to be shared with the world before actually thinking about what that message might convey.

Now that it's so easy to step up onto a soapbox and say whatever we want, it's even more crucial to think before we speak; with freedom of speech comes responsibility, I told her. Yes, we have a right to voice our opinions no matter how insensitive and outrageous they might be (provided that it doesn't pose a risk or a serious threat to safety), but does everything have to be shared? So you think [enter race here] people are [enter stereotype here] and should all [enter rash action here]. How does this contribute to the world's progress?

Perhaps it's much too naïve of me to think that our right to free speech doesn't have to lead to an Internet doused in ignorance; that the information it provides can result in the exact opposite provided you use the right sources. I'm not promoting censorship or a complete loyalty to political-correctness and do believe that we all profit from contributing to this marketplace of ideas. All I'm asking for is a little more thought before you go ahead and start trading.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Google Search Stories

I just came across Google Search Stories on Sugarlens and wanted to share. The YouTube feature lets you create a mini movie via Google searches and then select a soundtrack to tell your story. Here's a short and sweet one I stumbled upon and loved:

It's just another way Google is trying to take over our lives. What would your story say?

The Giant Cupcake Attempt

Since my brother's 19th (yikes!) birthday was yesterday, I thought it would be incredibly sweet of me to go over and bake him a cake. Oh, but not just any cake: a giant cupcake using this awesome gift Joy De Vivre sent to me earlier this year for my own bday. Thing is, it's been six months later and I'd yet to use it! Now was as good a time as any, I thought.

Too bad the devil lurks in my mom's crazy oven and uses hell fire to burn our hard efforts to bits (which it did with our first batch of TMNT cupcakes). When my sister and I saw that within minutes our cake was browning over, we turned the temperature down...and kept turning it on, off, low, higher for about an hour with no success. There was so much batter in the pan that the inside simply refused to bake without burning the outer edges even further. So we salvaged what we could, dressed it in icing and sprinkles and called it a day. Hopefully next time around I'll get an entire cupcake instead of a baked titty.

A's Closing Argument in the Toilet Paper Debate

And apparently 68% of you agree. Blah.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I Could Bake Cupcakes All Day...

I told you I couldn't wait to make some more! On Sunday, Anonymous hosted us for dinner so I made a batch of regular-sized and mini cupcakes and went to town with vanilla icing, food dyes and decorating gel. The "How Do You Feel?" mini smiley faces were probably my favorite to make...and eat.

As for the big yellow ones in the top right-hand corner, I made those as a little surprise for A. who's absolutely fascinated by NYC's fallout shelter signs :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Giveaway: Spare Soles

I'm not exactly heels' biggest fan. Sure they make you look sexy and sophisticated (unless you walk around like a horse), but the price you sometimes have to pay for them is a bit too high for me. If the shoe isn't slipping off, then it's squishing your toes. If it's not scraping your Achilles tendon raw, then it's just wreaking havoc on the balls of your feet. But still we put up with them. Why? Men. Because we like how we look and feel in them - well when we're not cursing them out - and frankly, we like showing off.

If you'd rather not commit to flats, flip flops and sneakers like a certain blogger you all know and love, Spare Soles' portable flats could be your salvation. I know when I'm forced to wear heels because supposedly Chucks aren't proper wedding attire (pssh!), I try to figure out an exit strategy before going into combat. Unfortunately, as tiny as my feet are, I can never manage to store a pair of flip flops into my clutch so they either stay in the car or I up the bag size.

Spare Soles offers a collection of soft ballerina flats and flip flops that fold and roll into its own tiny case or wristlet that you can either pop into your purse or use on its own. They're not the most elegant things you'll see though. The plastic rubber material is light and thin (yet waterproof), the designs are fairly basic and the elastic back only ensures that multiple shoes sizes can fit into a small, medium, large or x-large, but remember what they are for: to make sure your bare feet never touch another nasty dance floor again.

This week one of you will win a pair of medium black flats from the Metro Line. The accompanying wristlet opens up to a larger tote so you can store your troublesome shoes inside and keep it moving. Just leave a comment below and a random winner will be announced on Friday!

CONGRATULATIONS: Stevie is this week's winner!


Friday, July 9, 2010

Happy Friday!

Last night my sis and I made Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cupcakes for her bf's birthday (don't they look fierce?) and now I can't wait to see what else I can do with cake batter, a little icing and some dyes...
Are you happy?
Does anyone else do this? Besides me...
I could look through logos with hidden messages all day.
Isn't stop-motion just wonderful? (I'm feeling the song, too!)
Things We Forget: "Post-it notes left to their fate in public places."
Old Spice is hilarious.
Wait, there's dry-erase board paint?! Hee!
Whoa does this guy love rainbows! "Oh! OMG! What does this meeeaaan? OH!" (And check out this parody.)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Stuff No One Told Me (But I Learned Anyway)

I came across Alex Noriega's cool blog last month, but totally forgot to post about it. For those who've yet to discover this Spanish illustrator's work, here's what the man has to teach you (and seriously, Amen to the second image):

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Children and Our Future

There are people who will argue that kids these days are apathetic, incapable of speaking and dressing properly and neither ready nor interested in solving the problems they'll soon inherit. Well I've been fortunate enough to have attended two events this year where I witnessed the exact opposite: teens do care and they're not waiting until the reigns are handed over to them; they're making things happen right now.

Kidult is the brainchild of music artist/producer/fashion designer Pharrell Williams and Mimi Valdés Ryan, my former editor-in-chief at Latina Magazine. It's mainly a news and entertainment site that covers a diverse range of subjects yet never talks down to its audience. Two weeks ago, I participated as a mentor at the company's first Youth Leadership Conference and only wished the mingling/networking session lasted more than an hour. Not only did we discuss typical pop culture news and reality TV, but how to make smart career choices as well. I was so impressed by the drive they possessed at such an age and the fact that they already know what to do with their lives! (The adults at the table sure didn't.) Even if they change their minds down the line, I do hope they pursue their subsequent interests with such appetites.

Although it's a separate entity from TED, TEDxTeen works much like the popular non-profit organization, which focuses on spreading ideas and sparking conversation through conferences and innovative speakers. This first TEDxTeen conference was held back in March at the Scholastic Auditorium in NYC and, with a focus on turning our dreams into action, spotlighted teens (and some adults) around the world who have begun to do just that. Some, like Mousa Mosawy, have managed to overcome obstacles and disabilities to pursue their goals while others, like Mattie Stepanek, continue to inspire others long after they've passed.

Imagine a day filled with adult speakers pumping motivation into today's youth sitting in the audience and then hearing our young generation calling out to their peers, urging them to take a stand, letting them know that change is within reach. At first you're amazed by what these people have accomplished already. Then you wish you had half a clue as to what you wanted to do when you were their age. And after wondering what on Earth have you been doing with your own life, you walk out of there fired up, wanting to take over the world before your time is up.

Here's one young lady, Sejal Hathi, whose speech and international non-profit organization has stuck with me to this day.

TEDxTeen 2010 - Sejal Hathi from We Are Family Foundation on Vimeo.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Monday Giveaway: Booty Parlor

Unless you're already a confident sex kitten, you've probably wondered how you could incorporate a little more sexiness into your life and how to set time aside in your busy schedule to nurture that side of you. Enter Dana Myers, founder of Booty Parlor, who believes women should ooze self-confidence both in and out of the bedroom and have fun while they're at it. And with a collection of soothing bath and beauty products, sex toys, lingerie and sexy lifestyle advisors, her company's mission is to help women achieve that level. "Everything we do is meant to truly inspire a woman to cultivate her own unique sexiness," Myers says. "It's not about conforming to someone else's vision of 'sexy,' but about discovering your own version of it and infusing that spirit and ownership into your life into a more whole, integrated way."

Now what does every sexy woman know?

1. The importance of "me time." "Sexy solo session are, deliciously and unselfishly, all about you," Myers says. "They're key to discovering more about yourself and amping up the confident mojo that exists inside you."

2. How to work it. "Confidence is the sexiest thing a woman can have and sometimes you just have to fake it 'til you make it! Before you know it, it becomes you and you become it," she points out.

3. No one has what you have. "Comparing yourself to other women diminishes your own unique sexiness," Myers adds. "Instead of comparing and putting yourself down, embrace and identify with other women's mojos and feed off that good energy!"

And for those who think there's no way you could add "Be sexy" to your busy schedule, Myers says that just thinking about it and then tuning in to how that thought makes you feel is an easy way to start. "Look for visual and mental stimulation as you move through the day," she suggests. "It might be the shape of your Fed Ex guy's muscular legs, the size of a fresh zucchini at the market or the sensation of being touched by a stranger in a crowded elevator. You can train yourself to see, think and feel subtle seductive elements in so many places each and every day. The more you do that, the sexier you'll feel."
This week, three of you will win either 1) a Bath Kitten with Purring Massage Mitt and Naughty Bubbles Bath Milk, 2) a Flirty Little Secret Firming Cream with Pheromones or 3) a Good Girl/ Bad Girl Blindfold to boost your own sex lives. Just leave a comment below and the winners will be announced on Friday!

CONGRATULATIONS: 1) Amy Harle, 2) LBDDiaries and 3) April Kennedy are this week's winners!

Images:,, and

Friday, July 2, 2010

Run Away and Save Your Life

This past week has been a bit on the trying side and I don't know about you, but when I feel overwhelmed the first thing I want to do is escape. I want to leave my problems right where they are and hide out in a lush countryside where people raise sheep for a living and gather fresh eggs for breakfast. Or maybe some tropical island where eating mangoes all day is quite a respectable profession. Instead, I'm stuck here with this (*points to temporarily rough life*).

So this morning I went out for a run. I put on my sweatpants and tied on my ratty sneakers. My mind was so bogged down I didn't care about how I looked or who looked at me; this was all about my going anywhere as long as it was away from here. Here meaning this state of mind I'm currently in. IPod or no iPod? No iPod, I thought. I'd rather have my mind to go wherever it wishes than have it attacked by Christina Aguilera. Let the street provide the soundtrack.

Once I reached my starting point along the dry reservoir, I peeked through the wire and checked out my intended destination: the park at the other end of the basin. You can do that, I told myself and off I went. Slowly at first...actually slowly throughout; I didn't want to wear myself out on the first try. "You just need to get to that bus stop" soon became "Now to that tree over there." Although I thought I'd start going over all the issues currently on my plate, only one word kept running through my head: breathebreathebreathebreathe. As each foot hit the pavement, I breathed in deeply, through my nose, through my mouth, to offset the feeling that my lungs would surely collapse any minute now. And just when I was about to give in, I reached Fort Independence Park.

I plopped down on the nearest bench, my heart racing and my lungs screaming for air. I can't say that I felt elated, accomplished or as if I just completed my tiny version of the New York City Marathon. I just...was. So I sat, stretched and stared out onto the reservoir until I decided it was time to go. Run or walk back? Run, I decided. You've already done this before. So I started back home on the tree-lined street. Step, step, breathe, breathe. No fruits grow here, the air is noisy and the grass is patchy and dull, but this is what I have right now.

Today I ran away for a mile. Next time I'll aim farther.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

"July Should Be Our 'Get in Shape Month!'"

When A. said this to me a couple weeks ago the first thing I wanted to know was, "Why??" After rattling off a few benefits that won't be repeated here, he said that it'd be nice to be fit for our California trip at the end of the month. Good point considering I'll be breaking out the bikini again, wearing a hot dress to a wedding and meeting the bf's whole family. Plus I have to admit, I'm just not as physically active as I should be and perhaps an exercise buddy would help.

When I had the complimentary month-long membership to Equinox back in March, I fell in love with the gym...and when April rolled around, I fell right back out. So now I'm trying to figure out ways to get in shape without spending a dime and keep my interest going as the weeks go by. Luckily, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation's BeFitNYC initiative includes Shape Up NYC, which offers free fitness classes including yoga, pilates, aerobics and kickboxing (just make sure to call ahead and see if the program requires advance registration or rec center membership). Recreation centers throughout the city also open their doors at no charge on the first Monday of every month under the BeFitNYC Free First Mondays program.

Intense outdoorsy types can head over to the Alley Pond Park Adventure Course for challenging ropes courses and obstacles that will give both your body and mind a workout. Or you could hang with the Urban Park Rangers for free hikes, walking tours and canoe outings.

And all this doesn't even include the programs some parks regularly host throughout the week! Bryant Park, for example, has free tai chi, yoga and fencing classes before and after work. So basically I have no excuse not to get in shape right now, but to kick things off, A.and I will go for a jog tonight (after we each pick up our tailored outfits). For a taste of how this will go down:

- I don't run. I haven't had to run more than two blocks since high school when gym teachers made us go for a mile in order to pass some sadistic test. I managed those without a problem, but that was 10-14 years ago.

- I can sprint, but only if my train or bus is at the stop. Then I'll spend the rest of the commute heaving and fighting to get my heart back into my chest while trying to look as if I run marathons for a living.

- I could probably speed-walk and reach my destination faster than if I tried to run. Plus, it's been too hot to breathe over here so let's see how I maintain any will to keep this up through July. But hey, if it turns out running just isn't my thing, I could walk on my own or join Walk NYC, which hosts free fitness walks in several park locations with trained instructors.

So tell me, how do you stay fit in the summer?


Want Chocolate?

If you do, Jer's Gourmet Chocolates has offered up a 20% discount that's good through August. Just type in the code hrblog when you checkout online and soon you could be enjoying those chocolate peanut butter balls too. Happy July!