Image from Duolingo 


I am not someone who naturally pics up on learning other languages. In school, I’d have to work my tail off to keep up because other languages don’t come easily to me. Over the years I’ve come to understand my strengths and weakness. I can memorize vocabulary words easily but stringing out sentences in the correct tenses requires more thought on my part. I can understand conversations and translate text in a language I’ve studied, but struggle with speaking and pronouncing words incorrectly.

That is why I love Duolingo. I’ve written about this app before, but I continue to sing it’s praises. This app allows you to practice the language of your choice in 5-10 minute lessons so there’s no excuse to not fit in practice. You work on your vocabulary, comprehension, listening, speaking, and conversation skills. It holds you accountable and encourages you to go back to practice on previous lessons when it thinks you may be rusty.

I have been a bit of a Francophile since childhood and I’m dying to improve my French skills. So one of my first challenges is to continue with the good Duolingo habit I’ve got going.


Wanderlust Wednesday: Aura Photography


So you can do just about anything in NYC. One thing that several of my friends already have done has had their aura photographed. I was curious so I asked another friend if she was interested in going to try it. We went to a store in Manhattan’s Chinatown called Magic Jewelry to try it.

You place your hands on sensors while you get your photograph taken. It’s like getting a Polaroid except splotches of color appear on across your photo. In groups of six, the reader will lay out the photos and go through what they mean. She explained that aura colors relate to chakra colors which I am a bit familiar with.

In my photo, there is mostly blue and purple which has to do with the throat and third eye chakras. She said that since my face is blue I have a job where I have to communicate with lots of different people and that the purple and pink hues around me meant that I was an intuitive person who cares about people. She guesses that I did some sort of work where I was serving or helping people but not in a physical way. Which she explained as “you’re not a doctor or anything medical but you do something to help people with businesses.” That is what I do.

The reader said if a color shows up on the left which is the left side of the photo so the color would appear by your right shoulder it signifies something in the past. If something shows up on the right side of the photo by your left shoulder it is something that will happen in the future. I had a bit of green on the past side of my photo. She said I went through a change about six months ago that I have mixed feelings about. Which assuming I believe in aura photography I would take that to mean the removal of my lap band which is something I’m still processing and in my mind, I haven’t decided if the pros or the cons win on this one.

She also said that the lack of color at the top of the photo means that I’m struggling with what it is I want to do next. She explained, “You have a lot of interests and thoughts. The best thing you could do is write out everything you think you want and prioritize what it is that you really want.” She then asked if I had trouble sleeping and that if when I do fall asleep if I had crazy vivid dreams. Those are both true. She said it’s because I think too much and I need to learn how to just make up my mind and let everything else I don’t need to focus on, go.

I’m not a subscriber to any one particular ideology and I really am only a denier if I perceive something to be hateful or harmful, this wasn’t at all. Honestly, is making a list and spending some time thinking about what kind of future I’d like to build a bad idea? Is that a bad idea for anyone? Okay, I’m game to try it.

If you’re curious about the specifics of what aura photography is this New York Times article gives a great and objective overview.

Wanderlust Wednesday: Favorite Local Shops


Last week I mentioned that I wanted to focus on kindness in some of these upcoming posts. One easy way to show a little kindness is to shop locally. When you purchase from a mom and pop store you’re keeping money in your community and you’re helping support a small business. I live in NYC so, on the restaurant front, this is easy to do. When it comes to shopping though we have the same chain stores that you’d find at most suburban malls. There’s nothing wrong with shopping at these stores, but I love supporting local businesses when I can. Here are a few of my favorites that are worth checking out next time you’re in the Big Apple.

Book Culture: (Morningside Heights & Upper West Side) I have a list of local bookstores I love, but this one is in walking distance of my apartment so I probably frequent it the most. They have readings and in-store events to appeal to every reader. They also have a great selection of gifts and items for the home. They have an online store too.

Dusty Buttons: (East Village) Most of my friends who live or have visited NYC have some story of me dragging them to go consignment shopping. Dusty Buttons is by far my favorite. They carry vintage and vintage style clothing and have items that are flattering for every figure. Their site looks like they’ll be offering online shopping in the future.

Fishs Eddy: (Union Square) This dish store is a great place to find quirky kitchen items that make fantastic hostess gifts. Aside from their own patterns which are fun they also sell vintage dining sets from old restaurants. If you don’t live in NYC they have shopping available on their website.

Habit: (Carol Gardens & Park Slope) I love this Brooklyn boutique. The prices are reasonable and the clothing is great. One of my favorite purchases is a fall dress with a golden rod floral print.

Hungarian Pastry Shop: (Morningside Heights) The hardest thing about visiting this New York staple will be deciding what to order. Everything from the strudel to the cream horns is to die for. It’s a great place to pick up an amazing dessert if you don’t have time to make one for dinner party.

Myzel Chocolates: (Midtown) These are the best chocolates in the city, but I also love the story of the family who started this store over 25 years ago. They still run it to this day and the recipes are ones they brought over from Eastern Europe. It’s a great place to buy candies for the holidays as gifts but it’s also a great place to duck into to get a little treat for yourself. I’m a huge fan of the fruits such as apricot, orange, pear, and even fresh ginger dipped in milk or dark chocolate.

Pink Penguin: (Greenwich Village) I am obsessed with this clothing and accessories boutique. I can’t go to Washington Square without visiting this store. Some of my favorite clothing items are from here including this amazing red opera coat. You can shop online too.

Serengeti Teas and Spices: (Harlem) I love going to this little cafe to enjoy some tea and read. This is also a great place to buy loose tea. They make it easy to put together a gift box if you’re looking to give a unique present. This is another store that also has an online shop.

Whisk: (Chelsea & Williamsburg) If you like Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table you’ll love this store. In addition to cooking and bakeware products, they also sell food and beverage items from local companies. Yes, you can shop online.

Zabar’s: (Upper West Side) This is so much more than a grocery store. They have an amazing kitchenware section too. If you ever need to order pre-made food for a party or send a gift basket this is also an excellent place. They do have online ordering.



Wanderlust Wednesday: Best Pizza in NYC


Sal & Carmine’s 


There are some foods that New York is known for: bagels, hot dogs, and of course pizza. My college years in the Midwest most adventures in pizza were ordering the campus specials from chains like Domino’s and Papa John’s…not that there’s anything wrong with that. But New York opened me up to a world full of pizza that I never knew existed.  Most tourists are familiar with famous haunts like Grimaldi’s and John’s, but here are some other worthy slices to try.  

Best Traditional Slice-Sal and Carmine’s: It’s hard to walk a block in NYC without finding a place to grab a basic slice. Most, to be honest, are mediocre, but Sal and Carmine’s  is the perfect place to walk in for a standard slice or pie and leave completely satisfied. I think the secret to this little hole in the wall is their focus on simplicity.  They don’t crowd their menu with other dishes and sides. They only serve pizza and it is dished up with fresh ingredients and baked to perfection.  

Best Sicilian Slice-Spumoni Gardens: Traveling out to Graveshead, Brooklyn might not be on everyone’s to-do list, but it is worth making a special lunch trek to Spumoni Gardens.  This is the perfect summer jaunt thanks to their ample outdoor seating.  They have a comprehensive Italian menu and you can certainly gorge on pasta and entrees, but the standout dish is the Sicilian slice. Seeing as they’ve been serving up slices since 1939 and have had a loyal following all these decades, they must be doing something right.  

Best Gourmet Toppings-Artichoke: This local chain has locations throughout the Village and Chelsea and even LaGuardia Airport. What sets Artichoke apart from other pizzerias is their premium toppings. Their house specialty is their namesake pizza with artichoke hearts, spinach, cream sauce, and two cheeses.  I’m also a fan of the Crab Pizza with crab sauce, cheese, and surimi stuffing.

Best Pizza at an Upscale Restaurant-Cafe Fiorello: This Upper West Side restaurant is one of my favorite’s in the city. Fiorello’s has an incredible antipasto bar, deadly desserts, the best bartenders in the city, and amazing pizza. Their pies are served ultra thin and crispy. They are perfect for sharing over a bottle of red wine or cocktails. The menu changes every so often but there is always a great selection of both meat and vegetarian pies. You can’t go wrong with the classic Margherita pizza. 

Best Pizza that is Worth the Long Wait-Di Fara’s: I mentioned Grimaldi’s and John’s which both serve up amazing pies and are notorious for their wait times. In my opinion the true worth the wait pizza is at Di Fara‘s in Midwood, Brooklyn. They’ve been a neighborhood fixture for over 50 years and while five dollars for a single slice may seem steep in a city famous for one buck slices, trust me it is worth every penny. They don’t take reservations so brace yourself for a potential wait. In my personal experience I’ve waited up to 45 minutes for a single slice. I do have friends that have endured a two hour queue, but swore it was worth it.  I’ll let you be the judge. 

Wanderlust Wednesday: Travel Apps

Chez Micheal

Call me old fashioned but as a girl who grew up with a love of atlases I still love exploring a new location with nothing but a paper map and my wits, but even I will admit that technology makes traveling easier. There are some great apps that can help you plan your trip or come to your rescue while you’re there. Here are a few of my favorites.


Duolingo: If you are planning on traveling abroad this is a great way to learn a foreign language. I went to Montreal last fall and this was a great way to brush up on my high school French. The lessons are quick so if you only have five or ten minutes a day to practice you won’t feel overwhelmed. The app will also review previous lessons with you as you go to help with retention. (available on iOS and Android)


Guides by Lonely Planet: Lonely Planet is my go to for travel guides on cities and counties. In addition to my love of maps I also still buy physical travel books when I’m prepping for a trip to somewhere I’m visiting for the first time. Lugging a guide around while you’re on the go during your travels isn’t convenient and it certainly isn’t discreet if you’re trying not to fly your tourist flag. This app is the perfect supplement when you’re on the go to look up things to do, places to eat, etc. It also includes tools like a currency converter and phrase books. (available on iOS and Android)


Hopper: There are numerous apps for finding flight deals but I love how simple Hopper is. You can search a by destination and the calendar feature is color-coded to make it easy to see when you can get the best deal. If you’re flexible with your dates you can score some true deals.  (available on iOS and Android)

Do you have any favorite travel apps? Please mention them in the comments.



Wanderlust Wednesday: Unique Food and Wine Pairings


While traveling every week isn’t practical for most Mod Spinsters’ budgets or schedules, gals with the wanderlust bug won’t be held back. Living in an incredible city like New York makes it easy to have international culinary adventures on a nightly basis.

Whether you are a metropolitan who loves to eat out or a homebody who enjoys preparing dinner parties that guests will rave about for days, you can travel the world through food and beverages anytime you want.

I love wine and finding the perfect pairing for whatever dish I’m enjoying. There are some cuisines that we don’t necessarily associate with wine, but wine knows no borders. Here are some suggestions for harder to pair meals if you want to include some vino:

Chinese Food: When it comes to Americanized Chinese take-out we typically think of enjoying it with a light domestic beer or a fitting import like Tsingtao. However, Prosecco is a nice alternative and still provides the carbonation that for whatever reason pairs so well with egg rolls and moo shu. If bubbles aren’t your thing a light plum wine is a great choice and complements the flavor of the sweet and spicy sauces in your dishes.  

Mexican Food: Another cuisine that we typically think of enjoying with beer. However, it pairs perfectly with a light red such as Pinot Noir especially is you’re enjoying beef or pork tacos. If you are having a chicken, seafood or vegetable based dish, try Sauvignon Blanc. 

Sushi: While Saki is technically a type of wine it isn’t for everyone’s pallet. If you prefer more traditional type bubbly try a light white like a Pinot Gris that won’t fight with the complex flavors and spices you’re enjoying.

What unusual wine and food pairings do you enjoy?

Wanderlust Wednesday: Zen in the City

*This is another post from the archives that I’ve revived and updated.

Wave Hill

I love the hustle of living in the city that never sleeps, but even social butterflies with frequent flyer miles need a break from the din now and then. Here are a few of my favorite places for a quick breather in the city:

The Earth Room:  This is one of those only in New York type of places. Among the expensive shops in SoHo there is a loft apartment featuring this art instillation by Walter De Maria. It essentially is a room with a giant box of soil, but I love popping in there when I’m in the hood. Something about the smell of the earth and the quiet of the room makes for a great five minute breather when you need it.  

The Lotus Garden: I live on the Upper West Side and one of the advantages is being nestled between two amazing parks, Central and Riverside. However when I really want some solitude outside I head up to the Lotus Garden. This roof top oasis is community run. It’s open to the public on Sunday afternoons, but for a mere $20 you can purchase a two year subscription to the garden that comes with your own key. The flowers, trees, and goldfish in the pond make for great silent company when you need to tune the world out.  

Paley Park: Midtown East is known for corporate offices and crowds shopping along Fifth and Madison Avenues. It’s not a neighborhood known for peace and quiet. Yet you’ll find just that with this little sliver of a park complete with a waterfall.

Radiance Tea House: It isn’t just the tea that keeps me coming back. This hidden gem of a restaurant and tea house is ironically in the heart of busy Midtown. It is a quiet place to grab a light meal with friends, but it is also the perfect place to take a book and enjoy a pot of tea in silence.

Wave Hill: I recently went to this conservatory in the Bronx for the first time. You’ll really forget that you’re in NYC if you go here. The property isn’t overwhelmingly large, but the trails, gardens, and views over the Hudson will keep you occupied and tranquil all afternoon.