Lens on June 2019

How is it already July??? Happy second half of 2019, y’all! I’m ready for a relaxing trip upstate for this July 4 weekend.

For those who were patiently waiting to see how my 5k went – well, that was rained out now I’m 0 for 3!!! Reader, I’ve signed up to run three 5ks and all three of them have been rained out. Is it climate change or is it me?

Did you know June was my birthday month? Well, I did, and I celebrated as much as I possibly could! I even partook in three different celebratory cakes with my name and/or initials on it! That’s right, and two of them were gluten and dairy free (but you’d never know). I do appreciate my friends and family so much for celebrating with me. My husband amazingly got me a new cell phone for my birthday, so hopefully you’ll see some improvement in my photos!

In addition, I had signed up for a number of birthday freebies which I redeemed (think: free coffees, pastries, goodies from Sephora…) and just… feasted! Tis the way of June. Anyway I do recommend looking into what’s being offered near you, it’s a fun scavenger hunt even if you can just … I don’t know … PAY money to get something you want?

As far as things that I’ve actually paid for… here’s what I’ve been getting into this past month (hint, it’s mostly food).


Standbys and bucket-list-worthy nibbles.

The Filling Station (Nyack) – stopped here to grab a pre-dinner dinner before heading to a wedding reception where there was (surprise!) more food. It was tasty and I’d definitely go back if I were in town. Felt very local and both motorcycle and family friendly?

Shake Shack (Flatiron) – while there are multiple burger locations in the city, my favorite is Madison Square Parks’ restaurant where you can sit outside under the string lights and enjoy your greasy meal. Pro-tip – go hungry, early on a weeknight to beat the lines, and get the ‘shroom burger, fries and shake. And you can also bring your (leashed) dog.

Mamajuana Cafe (Inwood) – one of the trendy brucnh places along Dyckman, just north of Fort Tryon Park. Sunday’s buffet brunch was $30 pp including drinks for 1.5 hours. If you eat meat it is worth the money, however my husband said the experience was like being at a resort and I agree. Read: friendly service but nothing in the way of outstanding food. I’d like to go back outside of brunch hours to try it again.

A yellow cocktail in a blue rimmed glass with a mint leaf and lemon with chili powder on top at El Kallejon.
Pretty drink at El Kallejon!

El Kallejon (East Harlem) – smitten by the photos of an outdoor patio, we popped by here with taco dreams a while back, only to be told that there was no eating on the patio. What a letdown!! It was also super loud so we left. This time, my husband and I tried again on my birthday and to our surprise it was a low-key quiet night. Still no patio, but we snagged a corner table and had fancy tacos and a cocktail for a reasonable price. The decor is super cute too. Definitely worth a visit if you are in East Harlem and I’d agree with their claim that they are a ‘hidden gem’ of the neighborhood.

Death & Co (East Village) – apparently, as I found out after I left, one of the most famous bars in NYC. I ordered a non-alcoholic drink – pineapple flavored and it was pretty $pectacular. Our waitress was very knowledgeable about the menu’s drink selection so I do recommend it if you are looking for a specialty bar situation. As a person who barely drinks, it was mostly a dark, moody room, I think I would prefer it more in the fall when it’s spoOoky time.

A plate filled with: rice and beans, fried egg, sweet plantain, salad, and various meats.
Bandeja Paisa at La Masa.

La Masa (Bronx) – This goes on the top eats of the city – I first visited this Colombian joint when I was in the area for work on a frigid and a warm meal with coffee was the ticket. Brunch there this month did not disappoint – get a few empanadas to try! This place is friendly to people with any dietary needs which gives it 5 stars in my book.

Two cups of frozen yogurt filled with chocolate and fruit on a table at the Plaza Food Hall.
Sweet, sweet froyo.

Frannie’s YoArt (Central Park South) – 16 Handles STEP ASIDE, you ain’t got nothing on this place. You’ll pay top dollar for it being in the Plaza Food Hall, but it’s a frozen yogurt lover’s dream with so many toppings to choose from and a selection of frozen dairy bases.


Shakespeare in the Park – I was fortunate to get tickets to the last night showing of Much Ado About Nothing, starring Danielle Brooks as Beatrice. What a treat, if you haven’t gone before you can sign up for the lottery to get tickets! Or wait on a long line, your choice.

A walkway in the medieval garden at the Cloisters with decorative columns lining the building.
The beautiful medieval garden at the Cloisters.

The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park – this outpost of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is definitely one of the best kept secrets in NYC. My husband and I popped up there early on a Sunday morning and were the only ones drinking a coffee in the cafe courtyard. It was so delightful we went back up the following Saturday and it was PACKED! Not sure if it was because of the day of the week, or because school was out, or because it was so danged HOT! Bonus points if you actually wander the beautiful park.

Long Island Wineries – I visited two wineries for a friends’ bachelorette, it was a very well-planned but long day out to the eastern part of Long Island. We lucked out with perfect weather and it was a relaxing fun way to see the island and drink a lot, if that’s your thing. We went to Laurel Lake, where we had a formal tasting, and Pugliese Vineyards which had more of a party vibe and the issued tickets you can redeem for tastings at the bar, where you could talk to other visitors and also play lawn games.

A giraffe looks over a fence. There is another giraffe in the background.

Bronx Zoo – were we the only couple without kids that day? Perhaps, but we still had fun seeing the giraffes and sea lions. We got the regular admission and wandered through the exhibits. Our one disappointment was that the tigers must have been asleep, but the giraffes indoors made up for it!


Episodes of the Earful Tower in advance of my trip to France! I also watched The Dark Crystal on Netflix, and all I can say is, seriously, what was going on in the 80s? Super masterful puppetry but, why?

Also loved listening to my favorite podcasters interview Ramit Sethi in advance of his book’s 10th Anniversary update – I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Check out the podcatsts by Mad Fientist and/or Tim Ferris – Ferris and Sethi are longtime friends and they get real honest in their podcast, but I am a big fan of the Mad Fientist and his podcasts are not frequent so… if you have time check them both out.

Who else is ready for Queer Eye season 4 though???


I am NOT satisfied with my selections this month!

Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport – this was the one book that I enjoyed this month. Definitely a good book to read if you liked How to Break Up With Your Phone but really like science. Also check out his podcast interview with the Minimalists!

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, Michelle McNamara – No, just no!!! This was a book club selection which we all regretted. It started off strong and terrifying, to the point where I couldn’t sleep and was reading up on serial killers on Wikipedia at 3am (pro-tip: do not do this). The author was obsessed with finding the Golden State Killer and really threw herself into the nitty gritty of the case, mostly leading to dead ends. She tragically dies while writing it and her family and friends piece together what she’s written. I can’t really say they got CLOSE to finding him but what’s wild is within a year or so of the book being published, they actually arrest the GSK using DNA. The writing was not great and the editing was even worse, do not recommend.

The cover of the book "An Orchestra of Minorities" against a bed of flowers and green leaves.

An Orchestra of Minorities, Chigozie Obioma – I loved The Fisherman and was looking forward to Obioma’s second novel, but this fell flat. It was way too long and it took me multiple attempts to get through it. )I have the hardest time putting down a book once I’ve started, even if I’m not enjoying it. Especially when I am excited to read more by a certain author!!!) The narration style was a bit hard to follow; the main character’s guardian spirit, or Chi, is explaining the story to a council, if I’ve gotten it straight. Chinonso is a poultry farmer who falls in love with a rich woman. In order to win her horrible family’s acceptance he decides to enroll in school, only to find out he’s been duped. His ignorance, or naivete, or just blind faith, leads him through hell. So many times he was screwed over. I wouldn’t wish his experience on anyone, but I do feel like he was a bit one-sided and dull as a character and couldn’t connect with him. The end wasn’t even satisfying and I can’t say anyone got their just desserts. Would love to discuss with anyone who’s read to get their take. Am I missing something in terms of a form of storytelling or classic form?

Girls Burn Brighter, Shobha Rao – another mostly depressing read, but this time I was the one that suggested it for bookclub, Sorry y’all, we really needed something uplifting after the last one and, big nope. However, the writing style was engaging and the story flew by; I finished this one in two days, my mind reeling. Two poor girls are separated and both meet with violence, brutality and abuse, while keeping their friendship alive. It’s a story that’s been told before. I kept waiting for something good to happen and they keep finding more horrors. It’s not an easy read and not for the faint of heart.

Low Buy Update

I’m 6 months into this “Low Buy” and this month has been a complete disaster! It was my birthday month so I was in “treat yoself” mode and just went completely off the rails buying things I didn’t need, but boy did I want them!

However, I was proud of my progress with using up products! I finished a full size lotion, two small sunblocks, a tube of toothpaste, an eyeliner, a lip balm, and a sample body scrub.

A photo of empty products that I used up in June: a full size lotion, two small sunblocks, a tube of toothpaste, an eyeliner, a lip balm, and a sample body scrub.
My June empties.

My new skincare routine is still going strong, I don’t see myself making any adjustments to this, which is really great for me.

And now, here’s what I bought in June:

  • Bath & Body Works – Oh my semiannual sale!!! What a fun time of year and OMG is it a long sale. Weeks long, it is! I’ve gone into their stores a bunch of times just to see what’s there, as the inventory changes, and I usually was not disappointed (read: I bought something). In the name of accountability, I just want to share that I am addicted. I made 6 separate purchases (definitely stopping in the stores more than 6 times) Overall, I picked up six body lotions, four shower gels, three candles, two ‘fine fragrance mists’ and two hand soaps. I spent ~$70 on all this which is just over $4 per item and I’m OK with that.
Candles, lotions, fragrance mists and soaps from Bath and Body Works.
Collective haul!
Red clearance bins marked 50% off at Bath and Body Works.
Give me all dems!
  • More on the Bath & Body Works sale… I’d been stalking the #bathandbodyworks hashtag on Instagram as well as their website so I had a decent idea of what would be available and made a little wishlist, which I found… and more. The only problem is I was already ‘stocked up’ until at least the end of this year if not next summer … and now I have all these new plastic bottles. Who’s ready for the winter sale??? MEEE!!
  • Sephora – I love Sephora’s birthday gift as it gives me a chance to try new products… of course I snagged the Drunk Elephant skincare mini set and made a purchase online to take advantage of their online samples. I bought their “Eye Candy” kit which has a few mini mascaras and eyeliners (you know I go through those pretty fast). They also had individual Sephora Play boxes available for a one-off purchase without subscribing, so I chose two of those boxes. My sample items were a mascara, mask sampler, and a sunscreen sample.

  • Target – to make room for June, or maybe to whet our appetites for their little boxes, Target was offering their Beauty Boxes for $5 instead of $7. It’s a glorified box of samples, which means, I MUST HAVE IT! I got three different boxes and I’m pretty stocked now for my upcoming trip and beyond.
A box filled with 'natural' beauty products: facial wash/scrub, a small bar of soap, a hair mask packet, hand lotion, a mini toothpaste, and leave in conditioner.
My favorite box, the Au Naturel Beauty. Can’t wait to try these items!

Well, here’s to a successful, fun, and adventure filled second half of the year! In terms of the low buy, I anticipate I will purchase some souvenirs while abroad but otherwise I hope I can start using up my hoard of products during the next six months to finish up my project strong.

What’s up for you in July?

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