Alyssa J Freitas

November 15, 2017

Chicago (Rainy) Weekend Guide

Following the ultimate NYC weekend guide Austen and I created, I was inspired to create another weekend post, this time for Chicago. I visited for the first time on a weekend attached to a work trip this month and got to explore the windy city.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Visiting Chicago for the weekend? Here is your guide to making the most of the windy city when it rains!
Our first stop after dropping our bags off at the hotel was breakfast at Nutella Cafe, the perfect place to have crepes and waffles with a chocolatey filling.

After that we made our way over to Millennium Park to see the bean because it was our one day where it didn't rain.



My absolute favorite part of the trip came after that. We took an architecture river cruise with Chicago Line Cruises (check out Groupon for discounts) and loved it! The views were fantastic and our guide was knowledgable and entertaining. Joe and I recently read The Devil in the White City, which is about architecture in Chicago, and I would recommend the book regardless of if you have plans to visit (p.s. let's be friends on Goodreads!). Our hotel, the Swissotel, was pointed out on the tour, which made us feel pretty cool.




We also went to the Chicago Tribune Building that has stones from all over the world incorporated on its exterior. From the Taj Mahal to Washington Landing in New Jersey, there were so many to enjoy.

The next morning we began with another sweet breakfast, this time at Chicago Waffles. A cinnamon apple order was right up my alley. (I forgot to take a picture until I had already eaten half of it because I was so excited).

We took a walk over to the Adler Planetarium in the greatest downpour I have ever experienced. It turned into a hilarious run that ended up with us soaked walking into the planetarium. At the planetarium we listened to a lecture on theories of other beings in the universe, saw a show about a potential ninth planet in our solar system, and got to explore the extensive museum with interactive exhibits.


Next, we had lunch at Lou Malnati's, a Chicago classic for deep dish pizza. I loved it, but Joe wasn't completely sold and will be sticking with his New York pizza, thank you very much haha.

After that we met up with some Chicago friends at Andy's Jazz Club. It was so nice to enjoy the music and excellent food together.

The day after that, we started out at Chicago Bagel Authority where you can get every breakfast sandwich combination under the sun!

From there, we walked to Lincoln Park to check out the Peoples Gas Education Pavilion. I spotted it on Instagram before our trip, but clearly the weather was not making it easy for me to recreate some of the cool photos I saw.

We also checked out the free conservatory in Lincoln Park. Thank goodness I planned indoor activities in anticipation that we might not be able to wander outside much.

Continuing our indoor activities, we went over to Wicker Park to see the Flat Iron Arts Building where artists have studios you can wander around for free. Since it was the weekend, most were closed up because the artists weren't working, but we still got to see pieces hung in the halls.

After that, we poked around some vintage stores and also went into Myopic Books, a huge used book store. Then it was time for an ice cream break (essential for any vacation) at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. Joe went for chocolate based flavors and I went for vanilla. Both were delicious and the staff was so sweet (sweet, haha, get it)! 

We headed back in to the heart of the city to visit the free cultural center. There are a variety of exhibits, most were centered around architecture, and it was another good place to have fun while avoiding the rain.



We parted ways the next day when Joe headed back to New York and I began my week of training. It was a great, quick trip and I hope this helps you plan your own Chicago weekend. If you want to check out how I plan trips, take a look at this post. And you can see all of my travel posts here.

Have you visited Chicago? What cities do you think are great for a weekend trip?


-AJF
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November 8, 2017

Yoga For Everyone

In late August I posted about chronic illness and some super inspiring influencers who are creating a community for those impacted. Soon after that, Alex from Cerebral Palsy Guidance reached out to me and we talked about how important it is to have a community not only centered around common challenges, but also to seek out groups of people who share the same love of activities.

As you may remember, I wrote about how I began incorporating yoga into my workout routine and how much being able to hop on YouTube to look for resources changed the game for me. Alex told me how adaptive yoga can provide awesome benefits for those with Cerebral Palsy and I am so excited to share his message here. Read on for more info on adaptive yoga and to see some of my favorite yoga resources.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Today I am partnering with Cerebral Palsy Guide to share resources for classic and adapted yoga so everyone can experience the benefits of this practice

Adaptive Yoga for Cerebral Palsy 

The ancient practice of yoga has been embraced by western cultures because of its benefits for mental and physical health. It is a spiritual, mental, and physical practice, but it is not just fit and healthy people who can enjoy and benefit from yoga. Children and adults living with disabilities, such as cerebral palsy can get a lot out of adaptive yoga. And yoga instructors can add to their rosters by learning how to adapt poses for those who can benefit so much from it.

How Cerebral Palsy Affects the Body 

Cerebral Palsy is a common disability caused by brain damage at an early age, often in the womb or during childbirth. Individuals can have any combination of a number of symptoms or complications, ranging from mild to severe, but all have some degree of disability related to muscles and movement. Cerebral palsy can cause tight, over-toned muscles, poor range of motion in joints, under-toned muscles, spastic movements, tremors, limited mobility, inability to walk, and muscle and joint pain. Treatments and therapies help improve mobility and lessen pain, but cerebral palsy is not curable. 

How Yoga Can Help 

Yoga is great for flexibility, strength, and even moderate cardiovascular exercise. It also helps improve mindfulness, reduces stress, and lowers blood pressure. For someone living with the mobility issues caused by cerebral palsy, yoga can have more specific benefits: developing strength in specific muscles, stretching the spine and relieving pain, improving mobility in specific joints and in general, and relieving stress.

Adapting Yoga for Special Needs 

For someone with a physical disability, doing yoga as it is intended is not necessarily possible. It is, however, possible to adapt yoga. The poses used in yoga can are adaptable to a wide range of special needs and physical limitations, from using foam bricks and bands, to adapting poses to a sitting position so that even those who cannot stand can benefit from practicing yoga.


Resources for Adaptive Yoga 

Adapting yoga for someone with special needs is not something that should be undertaken by just anyone with an interest. There is a potential to cause a person more harm by doing movements and poses incorrectly. If you are living with cerebral palsy, or have a child with the condition and you want to try adapted yoga, look for an instructor with specific training in working with people with physical disabilities. Medical centers and hospitals often have such yoga programs, and this is a great place to start. Here are some other great resources for individuals with cerebral palsy and instructors interested in adaptive yoga:
  • American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine. The AACPDM offers a range of resources for people with cerebral palsy, including resources and adapted poses for teaching and practicing yoga
  • National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability. NCHPAD is a national organization that offers a range of resources for people with disabilities who want to be more active. It also has an extensive set of videos on adaptive yoga, specifically designed to be used for children with cerebral palsy. 
  • Disabled Sports USA. Disabled sports USA offers resources on a variety of sports and activities that are adapted for people with disabilities, including cerebral palsy and yoga
  • Integral Yoga Institute. Several organizations that offer courses and training for yoga instructors include specializations, such as adapted and chair yoga. These courses give instructors the option to diversify what they offer to students and the people they can reach. 
Yoga is a powerful way for anyone to gain flexibility and strength while reducing anxiety, stress, and pain. Those with physical disabilities don’t have to be left out of the benefits. With adaptive yoga, nearly everyone can get involved in this ancient spiritual and physical activity.

In addition to the resources shared here, I also wanted to point out some of my favorite yoga videos.
These will give you a great workout or recenter you or just make you feel super stretched out. You’ll notice all of these videos are from the same channel, Boho Beautiful. I love her videos because they are always challenging and active. I don’t like to sit and “just be” too much haha

For when you want to sweat. A lot. 


For when you want to be stretched out quickly.


For when you want to challenge your balance.


What sort of yoga resources do you use? Have you ever done any adaptive exercising? What do you do to relieve stress and recenter?

-AJF
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November 1, 2017

IBM Summit Program: Weeks 17-19

Check out weeks 1&2, 3&4, 5&67&89&1011&1213&14, and 15&16 here!

Welcome back after 3 whole weeks! There has been a lot of travel (I'm writing this from the Palisades, NY) the past couple of weeks and some great training lessons to share, so let's jump right into it.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! The training is getting intense at IBM. Here's what the past 3 weeks have held
During week 17 I was in Dallas for software tools, financial, and communication training. The first day was focused on the tools I will be using as a seller with software in my portfolio. From looking up what solutions clients have installed, to generating quotes for new orders, we went through the process and practiced case examples. Little did I know I would spend the entire next week dedicated to generating quote orders, so this training could not have come at a better time.

The second day we learned how to leverage financial information in our sales calls. IBM uses a third party report that gives us insight into where a company needs to improve and how implementing certain solutions will impact them financially. This would be the focus of a presentation that we had to give at the end of the week.

The next two days my team focused on studying Regions Bank and evaluating where IBM could help the most. We studied their publicly available information, as well as leveraged the third party report to generate a hypothetical solution to contribute to their key goals. We had to get up and present individually on-the-fly two times and were filmed and critiqued. I loved it and felt like I was back in my theater days where improv was the norm!

My team and I also had to create a presentation to pitch our ideas for Regions Bank to a panel of non-IBM business professionals. We only had an afternoon and evening to put the entire presentation together and rehearse before we headed to the Tower Club the next morning. When we walked in I felt like I was on The Apprentice. With wood paneling, chandeliers, and boardrooms around every corner, I expected to hear "You're fired" at any moment.

Our team presented third out of four, so we had a good amount of time to psych ourselves out beforehand. When the seven of us began, it was hard to tell how the judges were feeling. We asked them questions and engaged them, which they did in turn. We helped one another other out as questions about the solution, impact on their business processes, and financials were thrown our way, and when we were done, I wasn't totally sure what to think. I was happy with our performance and the other teams impressed me as well.

When it came time to announce the winners and our team was called, I was extremely happy (mostly because the prize was a book and that is the best possible prize ever)! Our coach and Summit manager, Angelo, was also glad to continue his winning streak :)

Back in New York the next week (it was a miracle that I got home without any delays), as I alluded to earlier, my main project was generating quotes for a conversion of service with my landing team. As IBM acquires companies to add more capabilities to our portfolio, we have to convert existing customers to IBM's system. This requires new quote order forms being generated and there is an in-depth process, with lots of seeking approval and justifying pricing and discounts.

Aside from this project (which is nearly done. I wasn't kidding when I said it's in-depth!), I also got to connect with a former Summit who is now a technical leader in blockchain and got to meet my second line manager, the VP of Watson Financial Services, in person. I love that there is always someone new and interesting to meet, and how wonderful every IBMer has been with sharing their time and knowledge.

This week I've been in the Palisades, NY for another round of Top Gun training (you'll remember Top Gun training from this post), this time focused on Services and Solutions. We've been learning about the consulting services of IBM, as well as the technical services we provide to support our solutions. We've had a variety of speakers that have imparted business and technical knowledge, as well as life and career advice.

Two standout presenters were Adam Mastrelli and Issac Chung who shared their life experiences and framed them so we could all bring their lessons of perspective and working hard into our own lives. We also heard from the General Manager of North America, Stephen Leonard. He had great stories that illustrated how important it is to have a challenger mentality and to lead with a unified effort of IBM when serving our clients.

At the very end of the session, Top Gun awards were given to the top 10% of the class based on our quizzes and final test. My landing teammate Logan and I both received a Top Gun award and it was an awesome way to end our training.

-AJF
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October 25, 2017

Ultimate NYC Weekend Guide

I am super excited to share this post today! My friend and fellow blogger Austen (check out our collabs about careers here and here, as well as how we first met and one of our recent fun at a fashion show) and I have created a NYC weekend guide and divided it into two parts: day and night. I'm sharing the nighttime activities and Austen's blog has all of the day time attractions, so make sure to head over there too.

Photos are a mix of Austen's and my own :)

Click to read now or pin to save for later! This NYC weekend guide will give you all of the must see spots, from sightseeing, to food, to hotels, we've got you covered

Dinner


Tacombi
When you’re craving tacos or Modelo Especial, this cute and casual Mexican restaurant is for you. With a repurposed van as the kitchen space at this Elizabeth street locale, you’ll feel like you’re getting an authentic street food experience.

Forcella La Pizza de Napoli 
If you are craving Neapolitan-style pizza, look no further than a delicious pie from Forcella. This pizza is worth the trip to Brooklyn (and ok, they have a LES location too) and I’m now convinced I can never live outside of the delivery radius of it.

Le Monde 
Few things are worth trekking all the way uptown for, but the Croque Monsieur's at Le Monde certainly are. A great place to go with a small group of friends or with a special someone, everything from the entrees to the desserts will put a smile on your face.

Las Catrinas 
This restaurant on Broadway in Astoria is a delicious Mexican spot with the friendliest staff. When the weather is nice you can sit outside and enjoy a great corner vantage point of this popular street. 

Pilot
Although the menu is limited, this restaurant on a boat (!!!) in Brooklyn is charming and romantic. For seafood, cocktails, and a view of the Financial District skyline, Pilot is the place to go.

Puglia
In the heart of Little Italy, Puglia is a cozy spot for quality Italian food. On some nights you can enjoy live music when you dine, and the crowd is always festive.

Dessert


Cookie DO 
This place is hyped on social media and the line is known to go around the block, but I can attest that the dough is delicious. Definitely only get one scoop, even if you’re sharing, because it is so rich. 

Soft Swerve 
This little Allen street spot will definitely surpass your expectations. With soft serve options like matcha, black sesame and ube, a buffet of toppings to choose from and even flavored cones, this place is a must-visit.

Tayaki
The thought of fish and ice cream together may gross you out, but wait until you see Taiyaki. This locale takes the Japanese pastry filled with red bean paste or custard and leaves the top open to fill with ice cream. Taiyaki has pre-set combinations of toppings and flavors so if you can’t make up your mind, you can’t go wrong with one of them.

Concerts and Venues


Baby’s All Right 
One of Brooklyn's smaller but much-beloved venues, Baby’s All Right is often named the favorite spot of indie musical groups to perform. With its lightbulb backdrop and its close-knit atmosphere, show’s at Baby’s are a guaranteed good time. Also in a total plot twist, they have dope brunch.

Music Hall of Williamsburg 
If you’re looking for some good jams in the heart of Williamsburg, this is the place to be. Hop off the L train at bedford, have dinner nearby, and get there 30 minutes late to fit in.

The Brooklyn Steel
This performance space is in a converted steel fabrication shop in East Williamsburg. Concerts here are intimate and I recommend getting to any performance early so you can go right to the front. The photo above is at a Father John Misty concert, and I didn’t even have to zoom.

Mercury Lounge 
Apologies for the lack of a photo, but I was too distracted and enthralled with Andrew Belle haha (check out his music here, or our Twitter exchange that made me feel famous). The Mercury Lounge is a perfectly small concert venue, complete with a disco ball if the occasion calls for it. The same group (The Bowery) runs the Mercury Lounge, the Brooklyn Steel, and Music Hall of Williamsburg, so there is always a good act lined up.

Going Out (Bars and Dancing)


La Caverna 
Feel like your night out needs an upgrade? Check out the Lower East Side’s La Caverna, which as you may guess from the name is a bar that appears to be inside a cave. Descend the staircase around 9PM for some quieter cocktails, and after midnight the party really gets going as a dance floor forms. 

Niagara
If you like ‘80s music, dance floors, and fratty beers, this is the place for you! The key is not to go to Niagara too early, but once the clock strikes 11PM you’ll be good to go. Also Austen met her boyfriend here, so she recommends it.

Bossa Nova 
If you want to dance in a small, smoky room Bossa Nova is the spot for you. Tucked into Bushwick, this little spot is easy to glaze over at first look. Once inside prepare to dance to electronic beats. Beware of the well drinks, they’re stronger than you’d think.
note: this is Austen, not me haha

Rocka Rolla 
If you like margaritas the size of your head (see photo) and jukeboxes, this is the spot for you. This Williamsburg spot is a rock ‘n’ roll lovers dream with millennial quirks like a drink called The Coffee Thing, (essentially a frappucino spiked with whiskey) neon signs and an outdoor patio.

E’s Bar 
The nighttime version of The Uncommons, this bar is all about the games. They have shelves filled with everything from Life to Cards Against Humanity. Get there before 11PM to make sure you and your crew score a table for a night of fun and (wait for it) games!

Break Bar and Billiards 
This fun second floor bar in Astoria has billiard tables, ping pong, pinball, and board games for you to play! Be prepared for a wait for ping pong if you go on later on a weekend night (but don’t worry, you can always enjoy a rousing game of Candyland while you wait).

The Garrett East 
A true East Village gem, this bar can get crowded but is never so crowded its unbearable. If you’re lucky to get a spot by the couches at the back, this is a great place to chill for a few hours with a beverage in your hand. Walk through a velvet curtain and past a neon pink sign that reads “no bad days” to enter and enjoy!

The Bonnie 
This gastropub in Astoria is truly a hidden gem to Manhattaners. It’s a great place to spend a late afternoon or evening to just sit out on the back porch and have some beer with friends. They often have events and live music, and the atmosphere just screams “outer borough dream come true.”

Hotels


6 Columbus 
Located right next to Columbus Circle, this hotel is in the perfect location to spend time in Central Park and explore uptown. While the rooms are small, the modern and dark decor will more than makeup for it.

The Evelyn 
Best. Bed. Ever. The Evelyn is right near Madison Square Park and was comfortable and convenient. The staff is responsive and friendly, and I loved the bathroom tiles that had the music and lyrics from famous songs about New York.

1 Hotels Central Park/Brooklyn Bridge 
This hotel has two locations so you can pick your vibe: a posh Midtown experience, or a Brooklyn hideaway. 1 Hotels is sustainable and has gorgeous interiors that would make any Pinterest lover happy.

Hotel Tonight App 
If you’re willing to be spontaneous and not too picky about location, I highly recommend using the app Hotel Tonight to book a room. They have the best hotels at reasonable prices (that’s how I found 6 Columbus and The Evelyn), and now allow you to book up to 100 days in advance. You can use the code AFREITAS23 to get $25 off your first stay!

Head over to Austen's blog for our recommendations for day time activities!

-AJF

October 18, 2017

How To Guard Your Time Like A Minimalist

Weekdays: 5:40. Wake up. Shower. Makeup. Hair. 6:10. Pack lunch. Eat breakfast. Get dressed. 6:40. Walk to the bus stop. 7:30. Arrive in the city. Walk to work. 8:00. Sit down at desk and start the day. 1:00. Maybe take a lunch break, maybe eat at desk. 5:30. Walk to the bus while calling mother. 6:00. Sit in traffic. 7:00. Eat dinner. 8:00 FaceTime friends and boyfriend. 9:00. Collapse into bed and read. Repeat.

Saturday: 7:30. Wakeup. Browse social media. Eat. Shower. 9:30. Go out with boyfriend for the day in the city.

Sunday: 2:00. Get on the train. 2:30. Get picked up. Go to the market. 3:30. Get home. Freshen up. 5:00. Meet up with a friend for dinner. 8:00. Arrive home. 9:00. Collapse into bed and read.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Do you find yourself running around without a second of rest? It may be time to reassess how you spend your time and take a look at your schedule through the eyes of a minimalist
I have a strong feeling that many of you will look at this schedule and think to yourself, "Yep, looks about right." We're no strangers to packing our days with appointments and work and hanging out with those we love. But so often we are missing essential time to ourselves. The precious hours to browse our favorite blogs or take a walk or just exist with the absence of an impending "next thing to get to."

Very quickly we get to the point where we don't have a single second to reset and relax, leading to exhaustion and lowering our ability to be effective in our work and present in our lives. Especially if you're in the same boat as me with a good amount of travel (my schedule above didn't reflect those weeks where I'm flying, too!), it is impossible to maintain this pace without there being consequences on your performance.

This doesn't have to be an inevitable cycle. Instead, by evaluating how you spend your time and what actually contributes to your life you can guard your time and insert necessary whitespace. While I am extremely good with being a minimalist with my possessions and online life, it's a lot harder to admit that I can't go, go, go 24/7 and actually need some time to rest. Here's how I have started to come to make adjustments.

Assess your schedule

There's no denying that I live by my calendar, but being a slave to your schedule isn't beneficial. In fact, it's downright damaging. Start by taking a look at what you do on a daily basis and determine what is contributing to your personal growth and happiness. Figure out if the rest can be eliminated (I know that picking up dry cleaning isn't making you a better person, but there is some stuff that is necessary, even for a minimalist) and make adjustments accordingly.

Get creative

I've already written an extensive post on making the most of your commute, and can't stress enough how important it is to make the necessary parts of your day work for you. You can also get creative by rearranging and merging your calendar. For example, I normally wait until I get home after work to call friends, but have recently started to walk to a park and FaceTime them during a lunch break. Yes, I've actually started to take my lunch break (sometimes...) because the fact of the matter is that working relentlessly without taking a break damages my productivity and effectiveness and isn't worth it.

Book time that is just for you

I decided that every weekend I needed at least one morning or afternoon to myself. No meeting up with friends. No running errands. No expectations. During this time I do whatever I feel like, which is most often writing in my journal or reading or blogging or going in circles on the internet. This is my time where I can reset my mind and do whatever my heart desires and it's glorious! Maybe you need a whole day or just an hour, but we all need some solo time and if you have to schedule it, so be it.

While some weekends I can't find the time, or end up making plans despite my best intentions, I try to come home a little earlier or say no to an after work activity during the week. It's hard to stick to 100% of the time, but when I do carve out that alone time I am happier and more well rested. I have a feeling you will be too. 

Embracing a minimalist mindset for your schedule (does this actually improve my life? why am I spending my time on this?) takes some getting used to, but helps you to be a happier and more effective professional, friend, daughter, girlfriend, person. 

How do you make time for yourself? What helps you to stay sane and recharge?

-AJF
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