Places I love: New York City

I have been in love with New York City for as long as I can remember. Blame it on Fame.  As a kid in the 80s, who didn’t wish they could go to school at the New York City High School for the Performing Arts?!

Consequently, all my favorite things are New York-centric: Annie Hall is my favorite movie, The Great Gatsby is my favorite book and Paul Simon is one of my music holy trinity (along with Prince and Peter Gabriel.) There’s also a romance to the city that never gets old for me.

I made my first trip to NYC when I was 17 and a senior in high school.  I thought then—and I still think today—that I would want to live there. And it could still happen.

Time Square during my first NYC trip

But for now, I just visit. And lucky for me, my sister lives in Brooklyn, which makes it convenient and much cheaper when you have a place to stay for free. I try to visit at least twice a year—more frequently if I’m lucky—so I have a list of favorite things to do in the city.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I visited with my friend, Tracy who was making her first trip. Tracy is an architect, so I was able to look at the city from a different perspective. And I could be a tour guide, which I love, of course!

Turns out—Jess is visiting NYC in a few weeks—and she requested a list of recommendations for her upcoming trip. Jess has been to NYC but not in a few years.

So this is for Jess—and anyone else that is thinking of visiting NYC. So charge up your phone, bring an extra battery (Google Maps and Snapchat will burn through your charge like whoa) and let’s explore NYC!

In old school David Letterman-style: My Top 10 Things to Do in NYC:

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Our first jobs–or how we made our first paychecks

In my Ipsy bag this month, I got a red NYX lipstick in the color, Lifeguard. Seeing that lipstick totally set me on a nostalgic turn thinking of my first job, being a lifeguard at the Phillips Community Pool. I immediately wanted to listen to a 90s playlist and reminisce about my days up in the chair. And it started me thinking about how much that first job informed who I am today.

The lipstick that started the conversation–Lifeguard by NYX. Photo courtesy of

It also dawned on me that I wasn’t sure I knew what Pamela or Jess’ first jobs were–I did!–but I was curious how they felt their first jobs had influenced them.

So this is the story of our first paychecks: where we got them, what we did and how those experiences imprinted who we would become.

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Turn your headlamp on

I didn’t even realize I was going to be hiking in the Himalayas, which I acknowledge seems completely stupid. I knew I was going hiking for twenty plus days—and mountains would be involved—but I never put it all together. Between my poor planning for the trip, my lack of geography skills and my denial the trek was happening, I was shockingly ignorant about what I had agreed to do.

But there I was, in the Himalayan Mountains, doing the Annapurna Circuit. And once I was there, I couldn’t really go back. Not that I wanted to, but it meant I had to completely surrender to the circumstances. I was not in control. I was not prepared. I was not ready. But I was not turning around.

Early in the trek, I became aware that everyone was focused on one day, the day we would cross the Thorung La Pass. What that meant, I didn’t really know. But my fellow hikers knew. We had conversations about altitude sickness, mostly surrounding a particular headache, one that developed in the back of your head and could mean the signs of something dangerous developing. I never had a headache. Not one day. But I couldn’t breathe right. It started early in the trek, around Chame, 8,200 feet. I should’ve recognized it for what it was, altitude sickness, but I saw it as a sign that I was completely out of my depth and paying a price for it. I was being punished. Mostly for my ignorance, but also for a lifetime of bad choices. Continue reading

Places I Love: Shopko

Discount department stores have always had my heart. I know this is a terrible thing to admit. I’ve seen the movie. But as a kid, my downtown had a grocery store, a couple clothing stores, a hardware store and a Ben Franklin. Ben Franklin was my jam but I wanted more. When we needed stuff we couldn’t get in town—or my parents decided we should go for a drive—we’d travel to the nearest city and go to Kmart. In 45 minutes—I had access to everything. It no longer mattered I lived in a town without a Hardee’s (let alone a McDonald’s!) I could now get all the same things city kids could get like Bonnie Bell Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers, Noxema, a new cassette single and hoop earrings. All in one place. I loved everything about it—even the weird blue glimmer thrown off by the wall of fish—so it’s not surprising the first trip I took after getting my driver’s license was to Kmart.

But if you think my life as a kid couldn’t get any better than choosing a season of clothes and putting it on layaway—it could—and it did. Sometimes we drove a little farther—dedicated a Saturday to a nearly two hour driving odyssey—and went to Kmart, Shopko AND Prange Way. Prange Way was my favorite. It was a classier Kmart—but more important—it meant we were in a city. A place with stoplights and possibilities.

Sadly—Prange Way died a quick death years ago—and I haven’t lived near a Kmart in years. (however–I’m happy to report–the Kmart of my youth is still going strong.) Still, the allure of discount department stores lives in me. And I know I’m not alone.

People lose their minds about Target. And I get it. But I can’t exit a Target without blowing $50. And I fear for my sanity when I realize I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT REMEMBER any of the items I put in my bag by the time I get home. It’s like some weird voodoo mind trick the store puts on me that makes me think I need hand soap and Q-tips—even though I could seriously go without buying these items for the rest of my life due to Target trips past. So yes—Target is great. Some of my favorite clothing has come from Target. But it can be a pricey proposition.

And then there’s Walmart. Walmart is Walmart. People love to hate it. (again—yes—I saw the movie.) But I’ve never been a fan and it’s not really an ethical thing for me.  It’s all about lighting. Walmarts are dark places—in a number of ways—and it doesn’t shine like Target does. It has the feeling of a discount department store that if I look around long enough, I’ll find cool stuff I never knew existed and never knew I needed. But Walmart makes me wanna get in—and get out fast—and not take time exploring.

Which leaves Shopko. With no Kmarts or Prange Ways around, Shopko is the remaining store of my childhood. And I fear it is sadly underrated and underappreciated. I’m an optimist by nature and I love the promise of discovery, but I also don’t feel like I’m being tricked to overspend. If I’m Goldilocks, Shopko is the chair that’s just right.

And so I always choose Shopko first. Here are just a few reasons why I love Shopko today:

Payless Shoe Store: I love Payless shoes—and they are in Shopko—so I don’t have to make a separate trip to visit one.


They are always running sales and the quality is not so bad. Since I’m a vegetarian, I don’t mind a pleather alternative. And they always have shoes in my size.


I bought these shoes last week at Shopko: one for $10, the other for $15.

Parking: Parking at Shopko is an in-and-out situation. No driving around looking for a spot. There are plenty of options and they are all close to the door. (and also probably why they always have my shoe size…)

Makeup and fashion selection: You can get your standard drugstore makeup, but you can also get Elf and other brands that aren’t at all discount department stores, or at Ulta.


They carry really nice brushes like Real Techniques and Ecotools –which happen to be my favorite brush lines.


And you can get the savior of any fashion emergency: Hollywood Fashion Secrets.


Clearance/sale items: Every aisle has something on clearance or on sale. It’s well-marked and easy to spot.


Unlike other stores (I’m looking at you Kohl’s) Shopko doesn’t jack up the price just to discount it.

I’m especially partial to the BOGO50s (buy one-get one 50% off, for the amateurs) on drugstore makeup.


And Shopko is a go-to stop on my hunt for perfect Oscar party prizes.


As Seen on TV section: I never actually buy these things. But I’m fascinated by them. It’s like a museum display showing all the concerns of the modern citizenry through a collection of merchandise.


Wallets that will save your credit cards from getting scanned by strangers passing you on the street. Magic bedding because it’s our bad pillows and not bad decisions causing sleepless nights. And sweatpants that look like jeans, so you don’t have deal with zippers.


And it’s all on clearance!

Honorable mention to Shopko Optical: I cannot remember a time my eye doctor wasn’t from Shopko. I have been seeing the same optometrist for years and years. And I love her.

I hope Shopko doesn’t come to the same fate as my beloved Prange Way. I’d like to be strolling the aisles—wasting time—but not money in Shopkos for years to come.

Do you love Shopko? Make your presence know! Leave a comment with what makes Shopko your store of choice.