Thursday, August 30, 2007

The U.S. Open!

Yesterday at about 4pm my DH calls me and asks if I have an interest in going to the U.S. Open! I of course start getting over excited and question, "Are you kidding?" Thus are evening began....

I have wanted to go to the U.S. Open for awhile. When I was at college my dad used to get tickets through work and him and my sister would go. I follow tennis pretty loosely but always catch the finals of the grand slams so I keep a pulse on it. Growing up, my dad watched tennis like he watches golf today, so we spent a lot of weekends following the ATP as young kids!

DH and I meet up outside his office building and hopped the train to Grand Central where we switched over to the 7 train out to Shea Stadium and the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

It felt a little like Disney World when we arrived. You walk for a couple of minutes along this boardwalk and then enter the Tennis Center which feels like a little village. There is the main stadium, Arthur Ashe Stadium front and center and tons of smaller courts all around. People from all different countries, speaking all different languages, are there to support their favorite players, it's all pretty cool!

We decided to get dinner before we went into the main stadium and I must say that their concessions are above par for a sporting event. I got a ceasar salad over flat bread that was very good and DH had some sort of Mexican dish. We shared a table outside with a Spanish couple because seating was limited and then headed into the main stadium.

First off, our seats were center court, 7 rows back! I couldn't even believe how close we were to the court, it was amazing! We went to our seats and got there in time for them to introduce the players and watch them come out onto the court and warm up. The first match was Serena Williams (8) vs. Maria Elena Camerin (Italy). DH and I commented about how weird it is that in tennis the two players have to help each other warm up - can anyone think of another sport where opponents warm up together in order to get ready to play the each other???

At first it looked like Serena was going to take the match pretty handily. She was up 4-1 in the first set. Then Maria Elena tied it up 5-5, but Serena ended up winning 7-5. The second set she took pretty handily, 6-2. Maria Elena definitely was a fighter and made her work for a lot of her points, especially in the first set. However, she seemed to lack confidence in her serve and made too many service errors to keep her in the game. All in all it was pretty neat to watch. Williams will take on Vera Zvonareva (27, Russia) in Round 3.

In between matches I want to take a moment to comment on what a civilized sport tennis is. You have to be pretty quiet while they are playing. If you get up to go to the bathroom or get a drink they won't let you back in until play has stopped and there is a commercial break. And where else would I get to sit and drink a nice glass of Cabernet while I watch sports! It was divine!!!! Such a relaxing sport to watch yet at the same time very exciting.

After the women's match - it was time for the men. Roger Federer (1, Switzerland) vs. Paul Capdeville (Chile)! I was so excited, I couldn't believe that we were getting to see the man currently ranked #1 in the world play in the U.S. Open (OK, so it's only the 2nd round...but still!)

Federer won pretty easily in the 1st set 6-1. Capdeville however made Federer work more for it in the 2nd and 3rd set, although Federer still won both, 6-4 and 6-4. It was pretty exciting because Federer came up and played the net a lot (which you don't see as much nowadays). Seeing him play you can totally understand why he is the best, he is so quick on his feet and a very smart and powerful player! Federer will take on the young American John Isner in Round 3. I'm looking forward to watching it!

Two things to comment on: 1) Federer served a couple of times in the high 120's mph. I can't even imagine seeing Roddick who currently holds the World Record for fastest serve at 155 m.p.h., serve at his world record speed! 2) I can't even imagine how cool it would be to see Federer vs. Nadal live - that must be amazing!

OK, that's it - my first U.S. Open experience! It was awesome and I hope that we're able to go back some time in the future. What a fun sports week it's been for us!

PS - In all the excitement I forgot to mention the celebs we saw: Gladys Knight, Michael Koors & Ralph Lauren himself!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Constant Princess, by Philippa Gregory (2 1/2 - 3 stars)

After taking 4-5 days off from reading, I told myself I needed to get back out there. I picked up a couple of different books, read a page, but them down, and finally settled on The Constant Princess, by Philippa Gregory.

I have read The Other Boleyn Girl by her and I loved that, and since I love historical fiction and I'm a little obsessed with the Tudors (after reading Margaret George's, The Autobiography of Henry VIII, with notes by his fool Will Sommers), I thought a sojourn back into the Tudor court would do me some good in overcoming my sadness that Harry Potter was over.

The Constant Princess, is the story of Katherine of Aragon (Catalina, Infanta of Spain), Henry VIII's first wife. The book covers the first half of her life: her childhood in Spain, her betrothal to Arthur (Henry's older brother), their marriage, his death, her uncertain future during the 7 years after Arthur's death but before she married Henry VIII and the beginning of her marriage to Henry.

Unfortunately Gregory IMHO (in my humble opinion) butchered this book. Certain phrases were repeated way to often throughout the book, which got very annoying, and she was too descriptive about parts of Katherine's life that were more quiet and not as descriptive about parts of Katherine's life that she could have done a lot more with. Half the book is in italics, which are supposed to be the "thoughts" of Katherine, but it has a weird effect on the book as those italicized passages become longer and longer. She takes 400 pages to get you to Katherine's 3rd pregnancy, and then abruptly skips 13 years, writes one more page and ends the book. It seemed at the finish, as if she had gotten tired of writing about Katherine. I guess I was looking for her to write a little bit at least about the Anne Boleyn/Henry VIII/Katherine of Aragon marriage triangle but that wasn't even really addressed.

This being said, The Other Boleyn Girl was so enjoyable that this one flop isn't enough to make me not read Gregory again, but I didn't feel she did Katherine justice.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wii = Weeeee!

After all my excitement at Coney Island on Saturday, I spent a fun leisurely afternoon visiting with my brother and his girlfriend on Sunday. They had just purchased the new Wii Nintendo system and just like in the good ol' days when we were kids my brother invited me over to play!
I had never played Wii before so I was excited and curious to see how it was going to work. They don't have very many games: tennis, bowling, golf, baseball and boxing are part of a program that comes with Wii when you purchase it. Aside from that they purchased a game called Medal of Honor - it's a WWII military game.

We started with tennis and while it took me a little while to figure out how to work it (my character was a little spastic!) I did later discover the "super serve!" We played every game except for boxing and it was such a great time! It really is a workout - in the middle of our baseball game I was literally sweating (as embarrassing as that is!) And on Monday my right shoulder was sore - hehehehe! I would definitely recommend checking it out if you know someone that owns the system.

After that we had lunch at this really cute restaurant called Say Cheese! on the corner of 45th and 9th. All their dishes are types of grilled cheese - fun! I had a delicious chicken, sauteed onion, avocado spread and cheese on sourdough bread - yum! It was a great place to grab a quick and yummy lunch - I would recommend it to those in the NYC area.

All in all it was just great to spend some quality time with my brother and his girlfriend!!!

Monday, August 27, 2007

catching up on some 4 star reviews

As I said in an earlier post I've been a little delinquent in my posting, hence the crazy influx of posts within the past two days! So here are some movie & book reviews worthy of 4 stars that I've watched/read since mid-August.

Movie Reviews:

The Prestige - The premise is two young magicians, Robert (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred (Christian Bale) are arch rivals. Robert is trying to discover the "secret" to Alfred's big successful trick that is drawing in the crowds. How far will magicians go to discover each other's "secret?" This movie is definitely worth the rental - it is fast paced, intriguing, a great cast and a great plot twist at the end that will make you want to watch the movie all over again. This is a movie I enjoyed the first time around and I look forward to renting again!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - After dating for two years Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) have a procedure done that erases each other from their memories. During the process Joel decides he doesn't want to lose his memories of Clementine and tries to squirrel them away in other parts of his mind to evade the procedure. This movie is a sweet eccentric love story that I found very endearing in a quirky kind of way. It's not a movie I would recommend for everyone but if you're looking for a quirky love story this is the movie for you.

Amistad - This movie tells the story of the 1839 mutiny aboard La Amistad a Spanish ship heading the America. The ship lands around New Haven and the US Court system is forced to determine the fate of the African slaves found aboard the ship. A great cast: Djimon Hounsou, Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman and Matthew McConaughey. This is a moving story and a movie that my DH and I really enjoyed. It is a sobering movie as it is based on true events but a story that all should know nonetheless and one I would recommend.

Part of the movie takes place in the library at Peacefield (John Adams and John Quincy Adams, Quincy residence). My DH and I had taken a tour of their residence in Quincy, MA when we lived there and since I had read books about both John Adams and JQA it was pretty fun to recognize the place and feel somewhat knowledgeable about JQA. For those of you that live in Massachusetts it's a fun way to spend 2 hours in the afternoon. It's only $5 and it's very informative!

Book Review

Since I've already written about my Harry Potter craziness that went on I only have one book to write about.

Amsterdam, by Ian McEwan - This is our September book group book. I had never read McEwan so I was excited to finally pick up one of his books since I always see his books on the New York Times Bestseller lists (he's written Atonement & Saturday, among others).

At the funeral of Molly Lane, the reader is introduced to three of her ex-lovers: Clive Linley, a musical composer; Vernon Halliday, editor of a tabloid newspaper; and Julian Garmony, an important political figure in London. Old friends, Clive and Vernon make a pact that they will not let the other suffer as Molly had suffered prior to passing. Throughout the book they both make decisions and act in ways that will have dire impacts on their lives. This book deals with themes of: ambition, betrayal, trust and selfishness.

I didn't think that the story was all that strong but McEwan's writing style and description flow so beautifully that if you can read it strictly for the writing you might enjoy it. Overall I'd give it 3 1/2 stars as opposed to 4 but I'd be willing to pick up McEwan again. I think it should make for a good book group discussion!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Whale Watching - Pics

When we were in Cape Cod we went on a whale watching trip from Provincetown, MA. I hadn't been on a whale watching trip probably in over a decade so I was really excited to go out on a little boat ride and I was hoping that we would see some whales.

We caught the 12:30 boat and it took us about an hour to get out to where the whales were. Humpback whales are the most common whales out in this area - but we did see on Minke too! Overall we saw 25 different whales - I was so excited! They were feeding and we literally got to see them do everything you would hope to see a whale do. They are such graceful creatures.

Now that I have my sister's old computer (I bought it from her today - woot!) I can download pics from my camera - so I've added 3 to this particular post. The first picture is of the whale feeding, they come up like that as they take in all the fish and then empty all the water out! It was pretty cool to watch.
I've also added pictures to my Staten Island Ferry blog - so if you want to check them out you can click on that entry! And now that I know how to do this - look for more pics in the future to grace this blog.

The AVP on NBC - Beach Volleyball (boo-yahh)

Saturday was a big day for me! Something I've been looking forward to all summer. The AVP Tour coming to Coney Island, Brooklyn baby! Woot! Now for those of you that don't know I played volleyball in high school and then after college I played in club leagues in Boston for a couple of years. When I started training for marathons I stopped playing v-ball because I didn't want to injure myself and not be able to run. I've always peripherally followed the AVP because you can catch the men's and women's finals on TV but this summer I've been watching most finals and for whatever reason I've been following the sport much more closely. When I found out they were coming to Brooklyn I was so excited that maybe, just maybe I'd get to see some games live. My DH agreed to come with me (since we only have 1 TV by default he catches a lot of beach volleyball games too:)

Yesterday, after our 6 mile run we headed out to Coney Island! The ride to Coney Island is incredibly long (an hour on the subway feels a lot longer than an hour in a car!) from where we live but hey, at least the subway goes out that far. We got to the beach a little after 10 picked up our tickets from will call and walked in ready to explore how this tourney would be all set up.

Two weeks ago, my friend Michelle saw the AVP when they played at Manhattan Beach in Cali and she wrote on her blog about how amazed she was as to how close you could get or were to the players. And boy was she right! They have the main stadium set up (see the pictures above), where all the "big" games go on. And then the rest of the games take place on courts that you literally stand around as if you were just watching some people playing a pick up game of vball on the beach (ok, there are sponsor banners separating you from the court so you don't interfere with play and they're not playing pick up vball) but you're uber close.

We walked around for a little bit to get a sense of how everything was set up, what games had taken place the day before, what games were going on at the time, and what games were coming up and then decided to catch Elaine Young/Nicole Branagh vs. Angie Akers/Brooke Hanson. For those of you that aren't familiar with beach vball (which is I'm going to assume most of you) Young/Branagh beat the #1 women's team (Misty May/Kerri Walsh) last weekend in Boston so I really wanted to see them play live. EY (as Elaine Young is usually referred to) is always very emotional when she plays vball and you can tell that as you watch her play on TV but seeing her live was something else. Right as we got to the court she was called on a lift when setting the ball and she went absolutely balistic at the referee. I wasn't watching closely enough yet to really tell whether it was a good call or not, but she was not backing down. And you're that close that it's like watching two people in the mall get into a huge fight - it was uncomfortable to say the least. EY/Branagh went on to win the match and it was definitely fun to see them play.

After catching them we went into the large stadium to see Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers (the #1 men's team in the world beat Matt Fuerbringer/Casey Jennings to advance to the semi-finals. Having some time to kill before the two men's semi-final games began we visited the sponsor booths and got some food. Then we went over and I got to see a legend, a women who I idolized in high school play! I was so excited - especially since I had thought that Holly McPeak had retired. Unfortunately her and her teammate lost but still - woot!

We agreed that we were going to watch one of each of the semi-final games. So we went to Court 1 and caught the first game of John Hyden/Brad Keenan vs. Scott Wong/Aaron Wachtfogel (unfortunately Hyden/Keenan lost and ended up losing the whole match). Then we went into the main stadium to watch Dalhausser/Rogers knock out Mike Lambert/Stein Metzger. Watching that game was so fun though because Lambert/Metzger totally played to the crowd and got really worked up and excited every time they scored a point. Even though Dalhauser/Rogers are the number one team I definitely got the sense during both the semi-final game and the final that the crowd would have liked to see an upset...

At 2:30 it was time for the men's final: Dalhausser/Rogers vs. Wong/Wachtfogel. We were rooting for Wong/Wachtfogel, as it was Wong's first final ever, Wachfogel's parents were sitting literally five people away from us, and hey everyone's likes an upset right? The AVP has this really funny announcer guy who warms up the crowd, plays a lot of fun music and gets us ready to cheer really loudly and make sure everyone watching the AVP on NBC knows how much fun it is to watch the matches live. Vince Carter was there from the Nets as well as the Nets owner doing lots of promoting since they're moving the Nets to Brooklyn (maybe I'll have to add going to a Brooklyn Nets game on my list of things to do in NYC!) And then the game began...and I have to say this really is a fun sport to watch live. They really know how to entertain a crowd and keep the fun and excitement level up! It was such a great match - Scotty Wong had the game of his life - hey played sooo well. As did Wachtfogel...but it just wasn't enough to take down Dalhausser/Rogers. Although they did keep both games really close.

After the men's final was over we stuck around to watch May/Walsh take on Annett Davis/Jenny Johnson Jordan in the quarterfinals (I believe) and it was fun to watch the #1 women's team take on the #4 team. May/Walsh won and then it was time to call it a day. I have to say for $20 a person we got a full day of entertainment. We were out all day on the beach, watching a fun sport and for me really getting to experience something I've wanted to do for a long time - getting to watch the AVP Tour live. We already have agreed that if they come back to Coney Island next year for the tour - we'll be out there for the day to partake in all the fun!!!!

The last time we went out to Coney Island (over Memorial Day Weekend before I began this blog) we rode the Cyclone and got a hot dog at Nathan's (the true Coney Island experiences) so this time we didn't get in the long lines for both, it had just been too long of a day already! But I highly recommend both if you ever find yourself in Coney Island.

Central Park

Hey everyone! I'm feeling a little behind on the blogging and I'm going to try to catch up in the next couple of days because I definitely have been up to some fun stuff (or at least I think I have:)

I've accomplished part of goal # 4 on my New York List - to explore Central Park (CP), more specifically to run in Central Park. Last Sunday (the 19th of August) after returning from Cape Cod my DH and I decided to go for a 5 mile run. We really wanted to make sure we ran 5 miles (as we're trying to up our mileage for the Reach the Beach Relay in a couple of weeks) and since we weren't familiar with Central Park we ran around it. We started on the East Side of Central Park at 60th Street and ran all the way up to 110th and then over to the West Side and down to 72nd Street. It was a great run - some uphill, more downhill, and it was great to get glimpses of the park and not have to stop at lights.

Mid-week we decided it was time to bite the bullet and run in the park and if we got lost, we got lost! We went online read up on all the different routes and mapped out a 3.5 mile route using gmaps (the greatest online tool invented for runners - and I'm sure a ton of other people!) Again we started on the East Side on the corner at 60th and 5th and ran down 60th or maybe it was 59th to the enterance into the park that brings you to the main road. We ran up the West Side of the park to 86th and then took a trail road across and hopped back on the main road back down to the entrance (well, that's what we were supposed to do, but my sense of direction got all messed up and I didn't understand where I was and instead of trusting that my DH new where he was I said I thought we should turn down one road and that led us out to 5th Ave and once again we were running outside the big walls of the park - oops!)

Entering CP was like entering a secret world enclosed behind it's walls - a secret work out world that is! When you're walking on all the paths you don't notice it as much as when you enter as a runner and run on the main road that circles throughout the park. My immediate thought was "So this is where all the NYC runners are!" My second thought was, "OMG these runners are serious - people are running so fast!" We were running agains the crowd, which of course made me think we must have been running towards something difficult - the West Side is pretty uphill as I learned that day but I think regardless of which way you run you're bound to hit some uphills and downhills). It feels as if you're running on a track almost, except there are also cyclists and cross country roller bladers (poles and all!) While there are a ton of experienced runners there are also beginner and intermediate levels runners so once we got further into our run I started to feel more comfortable with the experience. There are a ton of running clubs as well and at more than one time we were passed by packs of 10-30 people running in one direction as part of a pack, which was pretty interesting. Overall the experience was pretty cool if not somewhat overwhelming - there are just so many paths.

On Saturday we decided to adventure out to CP again! I know we're getting crazy:) It's just nice not having to stop every 2 blocks and wait at a light and of course as any other runners can atest to, it's a lot more fun running when everyone around you is running as well! We wanted to run 6 miles, so we ran from our apartment up to the park, did the same 3.5 mile loop from Wednesday night and then ran most of the way home. I felt more comfortable my second time in the park - and I'm excited to get back and explore all the different paths and areas within the park. It's a great place for runners (and so many other active people - walking, rock climbing, football, baseball, frisbee, cross country rollerblading, cycling, you can find almost anything going on in the park!)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Harry Potter Mania - This post is overdue...

OK I'll admit it I'm a HUGE Harry Potter (HP) fan! And I'm proud of it:) I jumped on the bandwagon in 2001 when I was an unemployed college graduate living in Brookline spending my days at the Brookline library looking for jobs. One day I went to the children's section and took out the first HP book. Two days later I had returned it and was taking out the 2nd and 3rd book. I was officially hooked waiting each year for the next one to come out.

Well, with the 7th and final installment debuting at the end of July I wanted to catch up on HP so that I could be prepared to dive right in. So basically what I'm saying is that the past month of my life has been dedicated to re-experiencing Harry Potter!

I re-watched the first movie, since it was the only one I had seen and I had seen it years ago. Then I proceeded to watch HP 2, 3, and 4 (thank you Netflix!) so that I could go see the 5th HP movie with my friend Shion after work one night. After seeing the 5th movie I decided to re-read the 6th HP book so that it would be fresh in my mind. It was just as good the 2nd time around!

Lastly, during our week on Cape Cod I read the 7th and final installment of the Harry Potter books, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was a true journey. I wasn't able to read anything for 4 days (which for me is eternity) because I didn't want to truly leave that world and head back to the real world. In the end I have to say that this series is totally worth reading & renting if you haven't already! I can't wait for the 6th and 7th movies to come out in 2008 and 2010 respectively.

I think it's amazing what this book has done. Throughout the years as the internet becomes more widely used for everything, people every now and again question whether or not reading books will become obsolete. I think the HP series shows that if you write a good, captivating story, especially one that can be read by children and adults alike, books will never become obsolete. This book in it's opening weekend back in July sold more copies that the HP5 movie sold tickets. That's amazing! My question is do we think that J.K. Rowling can do it again? I hope so - because I would certainly love to escape into another world that she's created.

This is kind of a random post...but the HP books and movies have so consumed me for the past month that I only thought it fair to share...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cape Cod

I have returned! Last week I was on Cape Cod (CC) for the week with my DH, MIL, BIL and future SIL! We rented a house in Brewster - a part of CC near and dear to my DH's family as they spent many a summer vacation there.

It was soooo nice to be back in New England surrounded by all those great New Englanders wearing their Boston and Red Sox gear waiting on the long Dunkie lines! There is just a totally different feel to New England then there is to the tri-state area.

When we were leaving to drive up to Boston we literally felt like we were leaving a foreign country and as we drove up the Merritt Parkway it felt like a lush forest it was totally surreal.

We had a really nice week: cheered on the Falmouth Road Race, went to the beach, caught a Cape Cod Baseball League Game, went for a 16 mile bike ride on the Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT), spent a day in Provicetown and went whale watching and played mini-golf. All the things you would expect of a CC vacation!

Next we're looking forward to our big vacation this winter: 10 days in Italy! It will have been a year and a half since DH and I have been on a vacation just the 2 of us and it will have been almost 3 years since we have been to Europe so we are really looking forward to this trip!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Things I Love - Foreign Films

I've been meaning since I started this blog to have a weekly post about things that I love. (kind of like Oprah!) It'll be interesting to see how these particular posts develop over time.

Foreign films are something that I've always loved but up until recently never watched on a regular basis. When I moved to New York this winter one of the things my friend Jen and I did when we got together was go see foreign films and it reminded me of how much I love them! You don't know the actors in most of them and so it's easier to believe that they truly are the character they're playing. For me they evoke more feeling and many times tell a story that an American may not know - since it's told from a non-American perspective. I love listening to the different languages - it's like escaping into a foreign country for 2 hours.

Over the past 6 months I've been exploring the world of foreign films - in some instance I'm seeing a movie for the first time that many people have already seen and in some instance I'm discovering great movies on my own that others have never heard of.

Here are some of my favorites from the past 6 months:

Amelie - A sweet French movie with a main character that you will love!

Butterfly - This movie takes place right before the Spanish Civil War. It is a powerful story about how people can change when times change.

Elling - A Swedish gem - this movie tells the story of two mentally challenged friends who room together in an apartment in Oslo. They have to prove to the state they are capable of living on their own. You'll root for them the whole way!

The Dinner Game - A French comedy that will have you in stitches - I haven't laughed so hard in awhile!

The Lives of Others - The 2007 Foreign Film Oscar Winner - a powerful story about life in East Berlin before & after the fall of the wall.

I have a ton of foreign films in my netflix queue and I plan on making sure that I continue to consistently watch foreign gems. If you don't watch foreign films go outside your box and try one out - you never know you might like it!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Running in New York City - a True Marathon

Running in New York City is truly like running a marathon except that you're the only person running. For those of you who have never run a marathon, imagine lining up with anywhere from 20,000-40,000 people at a start line and once the gun goes off weaving in and out of thousands of runners to claim your little bit of the road for the next 4 1/2 hours. Over the course of those 4 1/2 hours every now and again you have to readjust - you pass people, people pass you, you move left for a bit, you move right for a bit, you stay in the center for a bit to keep a little bit of the road for yourself until you cross that finish line and the marathon is over.

Now imagine running that marathon except instead of 20,000+ runners (and maybe not for 4 1/2 hours) you have thousands of pedestrians, yellow cabs, tourists, and traffic lights!

After a 6 week mandatory rest period due to a stress fracture I'm back out pounding the pavement and I have to say it feels good! I've been increasing my mileage slowly so as not to injure myself again and am back up to 4 mile runs. I really missed having my running time, my time to myself, my time to explore, my time to see what my body can do. However, now that I'm back at it I'm running in a totally foreign environment that I'm still struggling to get to know.

When you're running 4 miles or under it's not worth it to go to Central Park (unless you live right there) or to head over to the West Side Highway (again unless you live right there) because by the time you run there it's time to turn around and you didn't get to enjoy any of the perks about those great running places in NYC. So right now while I'm upping my mileage I'm running in my neighborhood.

The other night my DH and I went out for a 4 mile run, my longest to date during my recovery period. Running most places in NYC is chaotic - you're running on the sidewalk and you're battling pedestrians that are not paying attention to where they're going let alone other people on the sidewalk, you're battling traffic lights (when you're running the blocks the rule of thumb at my pace is that you can usually get 2, maybe 3 under your belt before you hit a red light), you're battling sidewalk closings because of the constant construction going on in the city. And when you see that the sidewalk is just to crowded and you decided to brave the street (while seriously hugging the sidewalk and running towards the traffic!) you're battling buses (you never know when they're going to stop or start up again and move out into traffic), cars and cabs that hate pedestrians (mainly because the pedestrians don't pay attention when crossing the road), you're weaving in and out of people and cars to just keep going and not have to stop too often (isn't a cardinal rule of conserving your energy not to weave?) and you're thinking to yourself this is crazy. This isn't the relaxing me time that I'm craving. At least that's what I was thinking.

But then I hit the turnaround point (having lost my DH at this point - it's funny if you miss a light and the other person makes it through you end up taking completely different routes home as you move with the lights) as I turned again down 5th Avenue I started looking around me. I passed St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, the New York Public Library and as the hill crested and I started going downhill on 5th Avenue (oh yes, NYC is hillier that most would lead you to believe) I looked up and saw that I was running towards the Empire State Building. And it occurred to me this is pretty amazing - I'm running past history, past iconic places that most people in the world dream of seeing!

So while I prefer running the rolling hills of Vermont, running past the Victorian houses on Summit Avenue in St. Paul, MN, running through the vineyards of Napa and down the trail at Lands End in San Fran and believe it or not the hills of Newton, MA! Right now I'm running in NYC and it won't be forever so I'll embrace it and make the most of this experience, and as I increase my mileage I'll explore Central Park and the West Side Highway, and hopefully by the time I leave NYC I'll have loved running here as much as anywhere else. And during my time here I'll keep you up to date on the cool places I do run.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

When It Rains....It Pours!

Wow this morning's commute was an experience! There was major flooding early this morning in NYC and surrounding areas. If there is one thing I have learned in the short 6 months I have lived in the city, it's that whenever there is any significant amount of precipitation, be it rain or snow, the transportation in this city becomes a mess and you can count on delays.

This morning I got a call from my DH, and he informed me that none of the subways were running. That seemed crazy to me so I turned on the news and sure enough no subways were running. He asked me to look up the buses to see if he could find a bus that would take him downtown. In the end he found a cab (a miracle!) and was able to get to work at a relatively decent hour.

I quick got up and got ready knowing that it was going to take me awhile to get to work. I waited for awhile at the bus stop across the street from our building only to learn it only comes every hour. Then I headed over to Broadway hoping to hop on the M6 downtown. I was probably the 60th person online for that bus. After 3 buses passed us with only 5-10 people getting on over the course of 20 minutes I realized that wasn't going to work. So along with many New Yorkers this morning I decided to walk the 4 miles to work.

I decided to look at it as an adventure since I wasn't going to get there any faster any other way. It was pretty amazing - there were hundreds of people walking downtown - hundreds! I must say that everyone was in a pretty pleasant mood given that it was in the high 90's and everyone was walking to work. Everyone was sweating a ridiculous amount - and just trucking down the street. I walked Broadway the whole way with my DH giving me updates on how much farther I had to go because I really didn't have a great concept of where I was at times. People were making friends with those walking around them and people met up with friends and co-workers who were walking in the same direction. It was one of those moments of camaraderie. Personally I thought walking to work (although I was pretty hot) was a very relaxing way to start my day.

It'll be interesting to see if things are up and running 100% by the time we leave.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman (***)

After seeing a preview for the movie Stardust I decided to read the book. Whenever I can, I prefer to read the book before I see the movie, also I was excited to give this particular author a try since I had heard a lot about him.

Stardust takes place in an English town called Wall. One night when accompanying his "crush" Victoria Forrester back to her house, Tristan promises to bring her back a falling star they see in exchange for anything his heart should desire. Victoria believes he'll never do it so she tells him to bring it back. The next day Tristan sets off through the gap in the wall to Faerie, the magical land on the other side of the wall, in search of the fallen star. A magical, fairytale ensues.

I enjoyed the story very much and Tristan is a very well developed character. Aside from Harry Potter it was my first foray into science fiction and I think I would really enjoy reading more stories like this. My only complaint about the book is that it really should be tagged under young adult reading based on the writing level. I am very much looking forward to seeing the movie so look back for my review!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Congratulations Kate!!!!

I wanted to give a big shout out to my sister Kate for completing her first ever half-marathon yesterday morning! She ran the New York City half-marathon in 1:55:04. A great time for a first effort!

My DH and I were up and out the door at 6:30 AM to meet my parents, my sister's bf and friend at 7:00 AM at 57th and 7th. We decided to walk up to the park so that we could see her at the 1.5 mile marker and then walk back down to 57th and 7th to see her at the 7.5 mile marker. I have to say that watching all the runners made me miss racing. I'm still recovering from my stress fracture and slowly but surely building my mileage - I can't wait to get back out there at 100%.

Kate's friend Jackie had made all these great posters for us to hold up while we were cheering for her. While waiting to see her at the 1.5 mile marker I saw a Boston Medical Center (BMC) marathoner from our 2007 team! I was so excited to see someone who had been part of our marathon team - my whole family started screaming like crazy. And since he was in front of my sister we saw him in all 3 places we went to cheer (mile 1.5, mile 7.5 and mile 13). He must have been so confused as to why these random 6 people were screaming so loudly for him!

We saw my sister at mile 1.5 and she looked good as she began her journey. We stayed there for awhile and cheered on all the runners and then moved to our 2nd cheering spot at mile 7.5. We got to see a lot of the elite runners, which was awesome. My DH and I cheered real loudly for a runner wearing a Boston Red Sox hat and he was pretty excited to see us. The two cops in front of us however were not to pleased and jokingly told us to pipe down or they'd have to take us in:) We spotted my sister as she was coming into the water station right before where we were and started screaming like crazy for her - she came over and slapped us all five she looked awesome - like she was feeling good and having a great time.

Our brother and his girlfriend were waiting for her as she ran through Times Square - imagine running through a closed down time square - so cool! I'm definitely going to have to do this race.

Then we hopped the subway to the finish and got to see her finish strong. I love road races, watching all these people out there for different reasons, accomplishing goals and dreams, it's just so great! It was 9AM and we had already had so much excitement for the day - meanwhile most of NYC wasn't even awake yet!

As we were walking to the subway to head back home we passed this film shoot (whether it was for a movie, commercial, etc I'm not sure) but as we're walking around the cameras we look across the street and there is a naked woman standing next to a cab among people dressed in business attire - that's what they were shooting. It was truly one of those only in NYC moments!

The Bourne Ultimatum (5 Stars) - The Ultimate Experience

While this is ultimately going to be a movie review I also want to take a minute to comment on just the whole experience of going to see The Bourne Ultimatum on opening night in New York City.

My DH and I love the Bourne movies so we were really excited when The Bourne Ultimatum came out this weekend. We decided we wanted to see it opening night, which is something we rarely do. Friday morning I went on Fandango to purchase our tickets and by 9:30 AM the 8:30PM show that we wanted to see was already sold out! We decided to see the earlier show at 7PM. I purchased our tickets, printed out my confirmation page and went about the rest of my relaxing half-day Friday.

We met at the Kipps Bay movie theater at 6:15 - a full 45-minutes prior to our movie time thinking this would be plenty of time to ensure we would get seats next to each other. We wait in line to have our tickets taken and when we rounded the corner to go to the theater there was a line of about 150-200 people already there. WHAT!!!!! I couldn't believe it. We weren't the only ones feeling a little nervous about getting seats together. Then an employee at the theater walked by and said to a couple a few people ahead of us - "Don't worry, the theater seats 600 people." WHAT!!!! The theater seats 600 people - that seemed insane to me - I've never even seen a theater that large. The doors open and we move forward. We got great seats middle of the row about halfway up. As we're sitting there waiting for the movie to start I look around at this redonkulously large theater and I comment to my DH, "I think this is larger than the theater we saw Avenue Q in." (I checked later and it's actually 205 seats smaller.) The show was sold out and sure enough by the time the previews started every seat in the place was taken.

How was the movie you say? Fantastic! A fun end to a great trilogy. My DH thinks it was the best one. I'd say they're all equally great (5 stars across the board).
You know it's good when the whole theater claps out loud at the end of a fight scene. It's definitely worth seeing if you enjoyed the first two.

The one thing I'll give New Yorkers is that they definitely now how to move in a large crowd. When I moved here I was very crowd averse but after 6 months here, I've learned to calm down when I find myself jammed in the middle of a large crowd because unlike in a lot of other places everyone moves slowly and calmly and waits their turn until they get to where they're going.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Staten Island Ferry

In the spirit of trying to do and see things that are on my NYC list I joined my friend Emily and her friend Gibby who was in town visiting on Friday for a trip on the Staten Island Ferry. We have half-day Fridays so the three of us went to get lunch at Subway (yum!) and then walked over to the ferry landing. When we got there there were literally hundreds of people waiting for the next ferry. I was finding it hard to believe that we were all going to get on the ferry - little did I know how big the ferry was.

Everyone moved very calmly onto the ferry and we got a great spot outside on the lefthand side of the ferry. As we took off you could see Ellis Island straight out to you left and Governor's Island out ahead. As we kept moving towards SI, we went past the Statue of Liberty. I'm sorry - but no matter how many times you've seen our Lady Liberty it is still awe-inspiring! So like all the other tourists I snapped some great pics of both Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty and then we sat down and ate our lunch. It was nice and cool even outside on the boat - there was a great breeze which was refreshing!

When we got to Staten Island you have to get off and walk around and get back on with everyone else waiting to get on. So we did that and then manuevered our way to the front of the boat so that we could see the tip of Manhattan as we approached. When you're in the middle of Manhattan it's easy to forget it's an island surrounded by water. So approaching it via ferry was pretty neat. The three of us talked about what it must have been like for the immigrants arriving to Ellis Island seeing New York from this vanatage point - I can't even imagine.

All in all it was a very enjoyable hour spent and I would do it again! Growing up I used to hear a lot about the SI Ferry, my parents would tell me about how they would go on dates sometimes on the Ferry for their date because it was free and at night with the city all lit up it was a beautiful ride. Now I understand what they were talking about. I definitely would love to do the Ferry ride at night.

I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis (****)

Since my DH and I are heading to Italy at the end of this year, aside from trying to teach myself Italian I am also trying to read as many books that take place in Italy, specifically Rome, Florence and Venice. I, Mona Lisa had been on my shelf for 6 months and I decided now would be the perfect time to read it.

I, Mona Lisa takes place in Florence during the late 15th Century. Giuliano de' Medici has just been brutally murdered and the effect of his death is felt throughout Florence. 10 years later Florence is under a dark cloud, more specifically the preaching of a monk Savonarola, preaching against the Medici's and their opulence. The reader is introduced to Madonna Lisa, through her eyes we experience Florence as it crumbles under Savonarola's preaching. Madonna Lisa finds herself caught up in a deceitful web of lies, plotting, and revenge. As she tries to find out the truth about herself and the truth about who is trying to overtake Florence the mystery begins....and she must hope that she can figure it all out before it takes her life!

This was a fun & fast read. I really enjoy historical fiction and I love everything about Italy so it was a good fit for me! I'm looking forward to reading other books that take place in this time period because I'd love to learn more about the Medici's. Overall: 4 stars!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Books, Books & More Books!

As one of my co-workers recently pointed out I am a book-a-holic! I am constantly talking about books, finding book recommendations, reading up on authors, finding out what's coming out next, etc. My favorite question when I meet someone new or when I'm catching up with an old friend is: What are you reading?

I am currently reading I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis and for whatever reason (maybe it's all the time I have on my hands) felt compelled to google her and learn more about why she wrote this book and what she's currently working on. In turn on her website I learned that she had a blog - as a fellow blogger I thought that was pretty cool. As a confessed historical fiction junkie I thought this blog might point me in the direction of other historical fiction authors I do not already know about or other websites that will provide me with additional information on historical people and places that I read about, I decided to check it out.

Jackpot! On her blog I discovered another blog (I know this is getting ridiculous!) called Blogging for a Good Book that provides a suggestion a day of good reads! It seems like the website was set up pretty recently (April 2007) because their archives are not extensive. Not only can you read about today's recommendation but each recommendation is then put into a category, so if you want you can check out for instance, what historical fiction books they've recommended, or what chicklit they've recommended, etc. What a great reference for readers! Other great references are, and both of which I have profiles on. And if you are in a book group or looking to start one I recommend, here you'll be able to find discussion questions for a vast amount of books.

OK, now that I've gotten that out of my system I need to go back to Blogging for a Good Book and see what the recommendations are!