Happier than Buddha

4 Dec

At a leadership workshop I attended recently, we did an exercise in which I had to introduce myself to a group of people with my name and with something that is true about who I am.

Here’s what I said: Hi, my name is Rachel and I am really happy.

When I got home from the workshop, I started writing this post about happiness. That was three weeks ago. For whatever reason, every time I thought about hitting the “Publish Online” button, I could never follow through –I felt too guilty about what I was saying.

Today I woke up and realized that I should not feel guilty about my happiness. It is something that I’ve worked really hard to find and that I work really hard to keep. Mainly, though, happiness is not something to hide because it is really important to share with others.

As Elizabeth Gilbert writes in Eat Pray Love, “You must grab onto the ankles of happiness and not let go until it drags you face-first out of the dirt–this is not selfishness, but obligation. You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life no matter how slight.”

So, while everything in my world is not perfect and I am not smiling (out loud :D) all day long, I make no apologies or qualifications before saying that…

I am really happy.

Because of that, I work harder than when I was “fine” or unhappy–because I enjoy my work. I am now free to do things, not because I want to be better, but because I love it. Because I am passionate about it, and it gives me joy. Because it’s a miracle that I even can do it and that I have people around me who support me.

I am content with myself, because I recognize that “striving for perfection” is based on someone else’s idea of what “perfect” is … and that’s ridiculous. Perfect is who you are, not who someone else says you should be.

Thus, I want you to share with you this: I believe you’re already good enough, you already have more than enough, and you’re already perfect. You already have everything you need to be happy, right here and right now. Now is the time to rejoice in the way things are.

Now, stop reading this blog, and go be happy! You deserve to be happier than Buddha, too 😀

Smile out loud,


I Will Run a Marathon

10 Nov

Well, I told you that I had marathon fever, didn’t I? 😀

Then again, who wouldn’t have marathon fever after seeing the incredible energy, from the runners and the crowds, at the NYC Marathon on Sunday?

I watched from 90th Street and Fifth Avenue. Then, I crossed Central Park to watch near the finish line, without having a ticket– no easy feat, let me tell you!

{Of course, I forgot my camera, so the photos above are from my phone. Excuse the poor quality.}

However, once I nudged my way to the front row, it was so much fun 😀 I could hear the finish line announcers over the speakers and they were hilarious.

At one point, they reported that Edison Pena, a Chilean miner, was coming, but eventually I had to leave. Did you know that he trained in the tunnels of the mine? His story is fantastic, if you want to check it out.

I was keeping an eye out for Al Roker and Meredith Vieira, but no luck. Out of 45,000 runners, I have to say that a few did stand out:

*Minnie Mouse (this was a male runner, mind you)
*the devil (still not sure how his red face paint stayed flawless for 26.2 miles)
*the statue of liberty (that had to be unbelievably uncomfortable to run a marathon in)
*at least 10 women in pink tutus (ballerinas turned runners?)

After I got too cold to stay outside any longer, I headed to the lululemon post-marathon party to warm up. I love lulu… 😀

Congrats to all who ran! You are amazing. Can’t wait to see you again next year!!

Smile out loud,


Marathon Fever

7 Nov

Today is the NYC Marathon. For the last month, I have seen billboards, posters, and cut-outs of runners–strong, fierce, AMAZING runners.

(Photo: Lolo Jones. Because she is awesome :D)

Coincidently–ok, probably not coincidently–I started running again. It’s been a while (ok, a long while…) since I was last running on a regular basis. So, it was no surprise that I was really slow at first… but now I’m getting faster and going farther. I’m on my fourth successful week of keeping up with it. Yesterday was a 12 mile run on the Hudson River. 12?! YUP 😀 Woot woot!

On most days, I run along the Hudson River. I love the view, the breeze, and the smell of the water. Whether it reminds me of my hometown beach or the ocean in the summer, I’m not sure. In any case, running along the river feels like I’ve left Manhattan and gone on a quick vacation. Granted, there’s a little more sweat than I’d expect on a vacation… 😀

(Photo: Hilary Swank. Being Fabulous.)

Anyway, back to the marathon! Once I get some work done, I plan to go see the 45,000 runners on the course in Central Park.

I’ll remember to bring my camera and catch a celeb (or who knows, maybe the Subway guy?) on film for you 😀 Or, if we’re lucky, maybe one of these running titans, a.k.a. inspirational bloggers, will pass by me:

Leslie @ And Her Little Dog Too

Tracey @ Go Tracy Go

Rachel @ Rachelgeylin.com

Baker @ Beyonddefeat.com

Sara @ Eat, Drink, and Be Merry NYC

Caitlin @ Caitlin Lives Well

Lizzy @ Food to Run For

Ashley @ A Healthy, Happier Bear

If you have an extra minute right now, feel free to leave a comment of congrats for these bloggers after they cross the finish line! I bet they would love your support 😀

Smile out loud,


Figs from Heaven

16 Oct

Where on earth have I been the last few weeks?! Too far from my blog loves, that is for sure 😀

I am back now! With Round 1 of midterm exams complete and a month until Round 2 begins, I have the time to find some balance between school, work, life, and, oh ya, the pursuit of happiness and healthiness 😀

I have a lot to share with you since I’ve been away–well, away at the library, but same difference…

First, you need to meet my friend, Sam. She’s the calm, cool, and collected soul on the left (I’m the one on the right who can’t stop laughing, per usual):

Sometimes, I prefer to call her Goddess of Goat Cheese & Figs. Here’s why:

She arrived at my apartment with a carton of fresh figs and goat cheese, having been inspired by the warm fig and goat cheese salad that we had at Pisticci back in September. 400 degrees later, these guys popped out of the oven….

These figs tasted so good that they seemed to melt in my mouth. If you are craving a slice of heaven, then you owe it to yourself to make them for yourself. I told you Sam is a goddess 😀

Next up, please meet Mr. Mango, as he has been affectionately named.

Pretty cute, right? 😀 I found him in my fruit bowl after the Goddess of Goat Cheese & Figs left. What a delightful surprise, I must say…

Well, that is all for now. I have a lot of posts planned for this coming week, so I’ll be back soon with strawberry spinach salad, runs on the Hudson River, and homemade LARABARS. Can’t wait to catch up on all your blogs and lives!

Smile out loud,


Restaurant Round-Up

23 Sep

I am struggling to find the desire/time/inspiration to cook in my kitchen. Lately, I’ve had a lot of salads on the go, more dinners of tomato soup than I care to share, and a few too many vanilla-strawberry-banana smoothies… but that is a post for another time 😀

Because the school year isn’t really into full swing yet, my friends and I have had more time on our hands than we usually get to have together. Combine that with the fact that our dining halls are… err, not the best… and it makes perfect sense why the following restaurants received our patronage over the last few weeks.


Restaurant #1: Alice’s Tea Cup. Blueberry cornmeal scone and pumpkin scone (straight from heaven!). The menu says you must order at least two scones per person… so this meal became dinner that night as well as breakfast the next morning. Hey, I wasn’t complaining 😀

Woops, I almost forgot about the tea (and the adorable tea kettles)!

Restaurant #2: Massawa. This was my first experience with Ethiopian food and I ordered the Ful (fava beans simmered with berbere, tomatoes, peppers, yogurt, and toasted bread). Sounds like it might be tastey, right? Wrong. On a side note, the salmon tebsi was DELISH 😀

Restaurant #3: Spice. Yes, this restaurant has multiple locations around Manhattan, but let me just say, there is a reason for that 😀 I went appetizer-crazy and skipped an entree in favor of  lemongrass tom yum with shrimp and salmon tartar. Definitely worth repeating 😀

Restaurant #4: Veselka. Ukranian soul food was another “first” for me recently. It was pretty darn good, even considering that I had no idea what to expect. If you happen to be in the East Village sometime, you should stop by this restaurant. I ordered the roasted beet and goat cheese salad with toasted walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Whenever I see pumpkin seeds on a menu, I order that item without fail. I have to get my zinc somehow 😀

Restaurant #5: Terrace in the Sky. Ok, so actually this was a work event and I had to be talking, not eating, but nevertheless, I still have 3 things to say about this restaurant:

i. It’s way too fancy-schmancy for a normal dinner.

ii. Its location on the roof of a tall building offers the most beautiful views of the city at night.

iii. There was a harpist playing during dinner. Like I said, fancy-schmancy….

Restaurant #6: Deluxe. Brunch is my favorite meal of the day, so I can be a tough critic when it comes to french toast 😀 Fortunately, Deluxe’s raspberry and blueberry stuffed french toast passed my taste test. Unfortunately, I am now craving that french toast…

Yesterday, I finished the last take-out box in my fridge. This means I need to start remembering (ok, learning) how to cook my own food… You know what that means: many kitchen adventures are on the way 😀

Smile out loud,


Failure of a Yogini

12 Sep

This past week, I’ve spent a lot in time in classes– math classes, latin classes, and music classes, but no yoga classes! I’m trying to fit more yoga into my schedule, but school comes first. Sometimes I dream of transferring to yoga school 😀 Doesn’t that sound amazing…

Luckily, I got things done today and had enough time to do candlelit yoga downtown tonight. Thank goodness! Lately, I’ve spent more time on the treadmill (boring) than on the yoga mat (interesting). I really need to fix that…

After candlelit yoga, friends and I grabbed dinner at Caracas Arepa Bar, a Venezuelan restaurant in the East Village. One of my friends, Sam, who has eaten at far more ethnic (if you will?) restaurants than I have, holds this restaurant among her top 3 favorite restaurants in Manhattan. After tonight’s dinner, I think I have to agree with her. I got an avocado and plaintain arepa, which is a cornmeal flatbread, and it was amazing.

Note to self: Get the cocada, a coconut-cinnamon-milkshake, when you next eat at Caracas. You will not be disappointed 😀

Huh… I just realized that I intended to write more about yoga in this post, but, well, sometimes it’s simply all about the food 😀 Tomorrow, I will share a couple of my other favorite meals from this weekend. Hope you had a delicious weekend, too.

Smile out loud,


Figs, Mangoes, and Mussels

6 Sep

Last night, I went to Pisticci, an Italian restaurant in Manhattan (125th St. and La Salle St.).

This is not your average Italian restaurant. Pisticci’s makes its own pasta and mozzarella daily. Yes, that is as good as it sounds 😀

We started off the meal with…

Fig, Mango, and Warm Goat Cheese Salad

Can you see one of the figs on the right, sliced open with goat cheese in its middle? You know I am a killer for fresh figs

After the salad, I had steamed mussels in tomato basil sauce. It tasted so amazing that I forgot to stop and take a picture by the time it was gone 😀 It looked something like this…

Tiramisu arrived on our table after dinner, but I was far too full to enjoy it! The entire experience was mouth-watering 😀 If you have a chance to go to Pisticci soon, you will love it. If you don’t, make a mango/fig salad and mussels for yourself sometime. It is a meal you will not soon forget!

Smile out loud,


Back in Business

5 Sep

Smile Out Loud is officially back in business 😀 While the bad news is that I took a ridiculously long time to get settled on campus and finish RA training, the good news is that I’m done with dining hall food and back to cooking for myself. All I can say about that is: THANK GOODNESS!

Naturally, I celebrated the end of dining hall boredom by bookin’ it to Whole Foods at Columbus Circle (59th street and Broadway) to buy real food 😀

Columbus Circle is actually kind of beautiful, even for a shopping center 😀 Whole Foods is in the middle of the building, right down the escalator…

Food shopping is a lot less stressful if you don’t go when the store is closing–who knew? I felt like I had all the time in the world, for the first time in a long time! I am so excited to tell you about my 3 steals of the day…

1. Hunza Mulberries: Awesome for snacking and for salad toppings, and of course, as a secret ingredient in vegan overnight oats (one of my all-time favorite breakfast options :D).

Have you a fan of mulberries? If not, you have got to try them! They have loads of antioxidants, 4 grams of protein per serving, and are on sale at Whole Foods in NYC right now 😀

2. Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds by Kathie’s Kitchen: These guys are DELISH. You would never guess by their taste that 1/4 of a cup gives you the following minerals: 46.1% of the daily value for magnesium, 28.7% of the DV for iron, 52.0% of the DV for manganese, 24.0% of the DV for copper, 16.9% of the DV for protein, and 17.1% of the DV for zinc. Oh, did I mention they were half-price yesterday?! $2.99 for a 6 ounce package… SCORE 😀

3. Acorn Squash and Mango Soup: It’s no secret that I’m clinically obsessed with every Imagine soup I’ve ever tried, so this next sentence may be slightly biased, but there’s no stopping me… Acorn squash and mango is THE BEST SOUP ON THE SHELVES. Don’t believe me? You must not have tasted it yet 😀 Don’t worry, it’s really good for you, too!

So, now I’m a happy camper with fresh food and gorgeous weather outside. If only classes didn’t start in 2 days… I can’t believe that today is my last day of summer! Hope you’re enjoying the last bit of the long weekend 😀

Smile out loud,


Read, Baby, Read

31 Aug

1. First off, Marissa’s response to the question, “What does health mean to you?” for the healthy living blog community is fabulous.

2. My guesses for the 29 healthiest foods on the planet were WRONG (not even bananas, blueberries, or acai berries?!). Here’s to shifting my perspective 😀

3. Leonardo Da Vinci’s tips are worth reading. If anyone is qualified to offer advice on how to get things done, Leo most certainly is 😀

4. Speaking of getting things done… read this manifesto and you will never procrastinate again!

5. 20 Ways to Detox Your Home is important! Let’s just say my apartment could use a few improvements in the detox arena… since when are wrinkle-free shirts toxic?!

And now, for the food…

Vegan Spinach Dip

Adapted from Vegan College Cookbook

5 oz. frozen chopped spinach
15 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup vegan mayonnaise
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
Pepper, sea salt, cashews, or red pepper flakes (!) to taste

  • Blend all until smooth. Easy enough, right 😀

I loved this spread as a veggie dip. Hope you do, too!

Smile out loud,


Catch-Up Day

26 Aug

Tonight I would like to share a few SOL updates with you 😀

1.  I have made an executive decision: The last 7 days of 31 Days of Yoga are hereby postponed until next week, when I have more control over my time. I’m currently in RA (resident assistant) training for 12+ hours a day, everyday… let’s just say that even unpacking my moving boxes has been put on hold in honor of my love for sleep!

2. An SOL reader and friend, Pamela, recently took a hot yoga class (I’m jealous :D). Afterward, she was able to do Yoga Super Granny Pose:

Is she incredible or what?!

3. I decided today that I want to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculure) this year. Luckily, a few CSA’s come to the university in the fall, but, unluckily, I didn’t realize that I needed to sign up a season in advance. I’m hoping that someone opted out over the summer and I can take their place… After all, how great would it be to have a bounty of fresh, local, organic vegetables every week? Amazing, if you ask me 😀

I hope you all are having a healthy and happy week so far! I can’t wait to catch up on your blogs and comments this weekend 😀

Smile out loud,