Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Into the Wild (5 Stars)

The other night my friend Jen and I decided to go to the movies and she picked this movie to see. Once again, I got to check out another Indie theater in NYC! I didn't have any background information on this movie so I was looking at it from a blank slate with zero expectations. And I have to say I was blown away. It was an incredibly powerful movie that left Jen and I emailing back and forth about it a day and two days later.

Into the Wild, is the true story of Chris McCandless, who upon graduating from Emory University in Atlanta in the early 1990's decided to give away his life savings of $24,000 and hit the road without contacting anyone and telling them where he was going or what he was doing. He wanted to shed "society" because he felt it was holding him back (think Thoreau!) He took off cross country and spent 2 years wandering the US, mostly out west, working here and there to make some money to scrape by, but mostly getting by on the generosity of strangers giving him rides and meals. He settled every now and again for a couple of months but mostly he wandered and explored, pondering the mysteries of life. His ultimate goal was to make it to the Alaskan Wilderness, the ultimate test, and live off the land for a couple of months. I'm going to stop the synapses there because I don't want to give away the story - although many of you may already know it, as the movie was based on Jon Krakauer's 1996 book.

The cast was in my opinion great: Catherine Keener, William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Vince Vaughan, and others you'll recognize. Emilie Hirsch played Chris and reminded me of a young Leonardo DiCaprio.

It's not an action packed movie that has a fast pace, but a slower, thought-provoking journey. One that I enjoyed going on and left me emotional drained and tired afterwards. I would recommend checking it out - if this sort of thing interests you or even if it doesn't.

Nineteen Minutes, Jodi Piccoult (4 Stars)

Nineteen minutes was our October book group book picked by Shion! Nineteen Minutes takes place in New Hampshire and and tells the story of Peter Houghton, who after being picked on for 12 years shows up to school one day with multiple guns and in nineteen minutes kills and injures more than 15 of his classmates.

Piccoult uses flashbacks, starting 17 years prior to the event and continuing up until the morning off the event, intermingled with the present to get the reader to a full understanding of what happen and what were the causes.

While, Piccoult's writing style does not blow me away in the least, she once again presents the reader with an interesting subject matter and encourages you to look at a situation from every angle.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

This Is Bound to Make You Smile!

Sunday night I saw this commercial that just made me crack up and smile. I've decided to share it because I think it's a commercial that'll make everyone smile!!!

So relax, smile and enjoy lifes little pleasures!

Click here for the funniest one:)

Click here for the next one...

Click here for the last one...

They're about the cutest things ever! What a great ad campaign!!!

Weekend Fun in NYC: Mario Batali restaurant, a Patriots Bar and San Gennaro!

What a fun weekend we had in NYC! Friday night we scored free tickets to the Rangers vs. Devils pre-season game at Madison Square Garden (MSG) just 2 avenues away from our house (thanks Mike!!!) Neither one of us know that much about hockey but we thought it would be cool to check out. Our seats were just 7 rows behind the Rangers "bench" and I have to say watching hockey up close and personal is a pretty good time. Rangers fans are CRAZY - which also made the game that much more fun. Hockey may be a sport we have to pay more attention to this winter:)

Saturday we got our run in in the morning and then for dinner that night we headed over to Casa Mono, Mario Batali's Spanish tapas restaurant in NYC. The restaurant only seats 25 people at a time, so it is a nice, intimate atmosphere while you're dining. We enjoyed 6 tapas and a nice bottle of wine and I have to say everything was delicious. We tried razor clams for the first time and wow - they are so meaty and flavorful I would definitely try them again. It was a restaurant that I would definitely recommend.

On Sunday we headed over to the Hairy Monk, a well known Boston bar in NYC! They were showing both the Pats game and the Red Sox game - boo-yah! It's small but was filled with Boston fans and was definitely a good time. I have a feeling we'll be spending a lot of time there this fall;)

We topped the weekend off with the oldest and largest Italian festival in Littly Italy - San Gennaro! I've always heard my siblings talking about going to this - so I was excited to finally check it out. It's this crazy street fair with tons of games that you would find on the boardwalk, booths selling shirts and all Italian paraphenalia, Italian sausages, zepoles, and more! The festival attracts more than 3 million people a year and it was a lot of fun to walk around and just people watch. We went with our friends Gary and Tiffany and sipped wine, ate Italian sausages with onions and peppers, and enjoyed zepoles to finish it off - yum!!! (I have pics that I'll try to post later!)

I may not have made it to the grocery store and I didn't finish the laundry - but hey I had a great weekend!!!!

Friday, September 21, 2007

My Favorite Things: Pat McGee Band

Back to my favorite things! Thursday Jon and I went to see the Pat McGee Band play at the Bowery Ballroom. We hadn't seen them in over 2 years. This is definitely our favorite band. Jon's friend introduced him to them Freshman year in college and then he introduced me to them Sophmore year and I'm embarrassed to say how many times we've seen them in concert. My dad is under the distinct impression that we must be personal friends with them by now (I hate to burst your bubble dad, but they have no idea who we are and I can say with confidence I know people who see them way more than we do!)

The Bowery Ballroom is a pretty cool venue. The stage area is on the 2nd floor so you can sit on the first floor on plush couches and enjoy a drink or two before you go up to the concert. This was definitely a good thing as we got there at 8PM and they didn't go on stage until 10:30PM! Josh Kelly is co-headlining with them (you may know him as Katherine Heigl's fiance!) and we went up and watched most of his concert and I have to say that it was really fun. Pat McGee was of course awesome - they sounded great and their harmonies were amazing! Unfortunately for them the crowd was lame-o!

We're heading up to Boston this weekend to see them perform again at the Paradise Club on Commonwealth Avenue this Saturday! Woot! Hopefully the crowd will be a little more into the show - they always put on a good show at the Paradise.

If you want to check out some of their music click here and then press play - most of their CDs are on their website for you to listen to, unfortunately for you their latest and greatest is not....:( Hope you enjoy them as much as we do!!!

52 Weeks of Cooking: Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad

I am an avid reader of the website! Within popsugar there are a bunch of different sections and one of the sections is yumsugar and is all about food and recipes. The writer on yumsugar has been doing this 52 weeks of baking and every week she posts about what she baked, how easy it was to make, was it good, etc. I really enjoying reading those posts and was thinking of copying the idea of doing 52 weeks of baking. Then I realized that Jon probably wouldn't eat anything I baked because he doesn't like sweets (I know - gasp!) and I don't really need to be eating baked goods all week every week so that idea went out the window.

Cooking however I want to do more off. When we lived in Boston I cooked all the time. Moving to NYC, I've found it really is true - people eat ALL the time! Given that most nights I'm getting dinner ready for 1 I'm not uber motivated to cook up elaborate meals. However, I miss cooking tremendously! I've been meaning to start cooking more and I thought that blogging about cooking might help me stick to that goal. Thus, I'm going to do 52 weeks of Cooking and blog about the recipes that I cook.

Wednesday night I had my brother and his girlfriend over for dinner and so I decided this would be the inaugural meal of 52 weeks of Cooking. The point of 52 weeks of Cooking is not only that I cook up a new recipe but that I cook up something that isn't necessarily safe and easy I have to try things that are out of the box for me (mind you they may not seem out of the box for you!) So here it goes....

Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad (this recipe is from the Cooking Light Annual 2007 recipes cook book)

Total time: 35 minutes


2/3 cup light sour cream

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

4 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon minced chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce (I didn't use this because I am adverse to HEAT in my food!)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon salt


4 cups shredded romaine lettuce

2 cups chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken breast (about 2 breast halves)

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup diced peeled avocado

1/3 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (8 3/4 - ounce) can no-salt added wholekernel corn, rinsed and drained

1. To prepare dressing, combine first 7 ingredients, stirring well

2. To prepare salad, combine lettuce and remaining 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle dressing over salad, toss gently to coat. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings (serving size 2 1/2 cups)

We had tostitos gold tortilla chips on the side to scoop up the bits and pieces of the salad. And we had tinto de veranos (or as my brother calls them, "the poor man's sangria"): 1/2 glass cheap red wine, 1/2 glass orange soda, stir!

I have to say the salad was very good - I even liked the beans and tomatoes! Jon, my brother and his girlfriend all enjoyed the meal! I'd say the first week of 52 weeks of Cooking went well!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

2 More Book Reviews - 4 Stars Each!

The Birth of Venus, Sarah Dunant

I picked this up because I'm trying to read books that take place in Italy before our big trip there in December! I had heard great things about this book and it was on loan from the Mommy McD library (which is what I call my mother's overflowing book shelves!). The Birth of Venus it the story of the Cecchi family, a well to do family living in Florence in the 15th Century. The father brings a painter to the house to paint the family chapel as a sign of their wealth. The oldest daughter Alexandra, also a painter, approaches the painter hoping he'll help her with her craft. Things start to fall apart in Florence, the power of the Medici family falls, the French are entering Florence and Savoranola is preaching against wealth and opulence.

I know it's not a very good description, but there is power, lust, intrigue, and all that jazz in the book as well. The story is too complicated to explain consicely without giving too much away. This book was very very similar to I, Mona Lisa and if I had realized that I probably would have tried to space them out a little. While, both books were good, this book was written better, in a more natural style. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Reading both books has made me excited for the 3 days that we'll be spending in Florence during our trip.

Truth & Beauty: A Friendship, Ann Patchett

Most of you know Patchett from her highly acclaimed, Bel Canto. This is the 3rd book by Patchett that I have read, and her only work of non-fiction. Truth & Beauty is a memoir to Patchett's best friend Lucy Grealy, a fellow writer. They went to Sarah Lawrence together, but their friendship truly developed when they were at grad school in Iowa. Lucy had cancer when she was younger and it had left her face deformed. During the book, Patchett details the many many surgeries that Lucy would undergo in order to try and "fix" her face, she talks about their writing: the process, what inspired them, where they wrote; their love lives, their jobs, their successes but most importantly is the strong friendship that bound them together through the good, the bad, and the very bad.

This isn't a light-hearted, heart warming story, however it is a beautifully written tale of the power of friendship and how your friends can be your lifelines. Once again, Patchett has wowed me with her writing and I look forward to reading her other 2 books that I haven't gotten around to yet...

Reach the Beach - We Finished in 29 hours and 2 minutes!

Reach the Beach is the running event that I probably get the most crazy reations from people for participating in. When people here the number 203 miles (even though I've said it's a relay and there are 12 of us) they just can't get past that. And yes, for us runners it is a source of pride - because hey 203 miles sounds like a lot even if you're only running 15 of them:)

We arrived at our motel in NH late Thursday night, or maybe EARLY Friday morning (oops!) and got a good quick 7 hours of sleep before our adventure began. Friday morning we headed to Cannon Mountain where this years race was scheduled to begin. There were 12 people on our team (here they are in order that they ran): Boyd, Karyn, Doug, Alex, Peter, Jenn, Matt, Emily, Karen, Jon, Armen & me! We were split into two groups the first 6 runners were Van #1 and the last 6 runners were Van #2. We checked in, went through our safety check and orientation and settled in for a nice cozy breakfast.

At 10:40 AM, our first runner Boyd lined up in at the starting line with the rest of our heat and we were off. For those of us in Van #2 we drove the first six legs and parked at the 1st team transition area where we would wait for the runners of Van #1 to arrive. While a small spot, the bathrooms were plentiful, and there was a beautiful little river with lots of rocks, perfect for having lunch. We also, sat and cheered a lot of the runners that were finishing their legs and handing off to their next van. At soemtime between 3 and 4 PM Jenn arrived to hand off to Matt and Van #2 was underway. We ran until 7:30ish maybe. With Jon, Armen and myself running in the dark. When you run in the dark you have to have a reflective vest on, a head lamp and or a flashlight! My first run was 4 miles so I wasn't feeling too nervous. I was really excited, that is until I realized that I was running the first mile on a trail in the woods! However, I completed my 4 mile leg with no problems.

We finished and drove to our next transition area to await Van #2 who was running their second legs. It was a high school, or some sort of school, where the girl scouts were serving a big pasta dinner (thank you!). We dragged our sleeping bags out onto the lawn and caught about 2 hours of sleep.

At about 12:45 AM, Jenn ran up a huge hill in the pouring rain to finish her leg and hand off to Matt. Thankfully for us, even though it rained on all of us during our 2nd legs, the rain died down as soon as Jenn finished. Our van had that dreadful middle of the night running time! And in acutality it really wasn't that bad. Everyone ran well, and it was over before we knew it. I decided to take the advice of Peter from last year and drink a red bull before my 2nd leg since I had been up for almost 24 hours consecutively except for my little 2 hour nap. Not sure what it was going to do to my stomach I decided to take the risk because I had a 6.9 mile run ahead of me. Let me tell you, Redbull really does give you wings! I haven't felt that good running since the Chicago Marathon. I felt like I was flying and I had the best time running that leg.

So with 2 legs done we drove to our next transition area to await Van #1 who was busy running their last leg. Since it was still raining we all had to stay crammed into our 15 passenger van. At about noon Jenn showed up happy to be done and all but threw the "baton" (really it's one of those slap bracelets from the 80's) at Matt. There was a totally different energy to this leg because everyone out there was running their last leg with their ultimate destination in site - we were "reaching the beach". I got the honors of that last leg, and of reaching the beach. Once again I drank a redbull before my leg, 4.3 miles, I wasn't sure how my legs were going to hold up. It was amazing, running through Hampton Beach, NH right along the water, knowing all your teammates are waiting for you at the finish, it was very cool!

We finished 59th out of 154 teams in our division with a time of 29 hours, 2 minutes and 11 seconds. Our average pace as a team was 8:27. Overall, not too shabby if you ask me! If you want to check out the pictures from this crazy event click here to see Capt'n Karyn's cool website she made for us (thanks Karyn!)

This could be my favorite running event, if any of you out there are big runners, make it a priority at some point in your running career to team up with 11 other runners and "Reach the Beach"! There is nothing like running through the state of New Hampshire in September with the leaves changing color. It's a great way to see and experience the state. And the commaraderie of the runners is so fun. I LOVE THIS RACE!!!! :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

we are almost off and running...

The big Reach the Beach Relay weekend has finally arrived! And I am very excited! Jon and I did Reach the Beach (RTB) for the first time last year and had a blast. This year we're back for more.

Tomorrow we head up to Boston with our friend Emily and Armen to get all supplies, gear and teammates together. Then tomorrow night we drive up to Northwestern New Hampshire. Our start time for our 203 mile journey is 10:40 AM. We're in Van #2 this year so the timing of everything will be a little different for us but overall I'm looking forward to another year. Last year it took us just over 29 hours to complete the course hopefully this year we can keep a steady pace again.

To check out what RTB is all about click here! I'm leg 12 so I'm "reaching the beach" as they say and Jon is leg 10. We're in a van with our friends Emily and Armen and Jon's brother Matt and his fiance Karen.

Click here to see our pics from last year's event! Thus I'll be taking a couple day hiatus from blogging but when I get back I'm sure I'll have stories and pictures galore!

Monday, September 10, 2007

The US Open at Madison Square Park?

My friend Jen recently returned from her oversea adventures. Six weeks in England and Berlin to be precise. If you want to read about her experiences check out her blog - there is a link on the left side of my page! Given that it had been 7 weeks since I last saw her we decided that Saturday would be our day - and our day it turned out to be when she departed 12 hours after she had arrived!

After a breakfast of McDonagh pancakes (a true treat!) We headed to Madison Square Park to watch the US Open and experience another New York City experience. I know, you all thought the Open was taking place at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens right? Well it is - but American Express - using their marketing brillance set up a mini stadium for New Yorkers who didn't score tickets to the semis and finals taking place this weekend.

They set up a big screen television and bleachers at the top of Madison Park. Plenty of room to market and there were concessions (with beer and wine - see the US Open is civilicized even when you're not actually at the open!) We watched the men's semis (the first game) from the American Express bleachers and spent time catching up before we headed out to run errands and pick up ingredients for a nice healthy dinner that we ate on the common balcony on the 2nd floor of our building.

All in all it was a great day or catching up and spending time outside as well as partaking in a New York City activity. Check out the pictures at top to see what the mini US Open looked like!

two 3-star movie reviews

Two movies that I watched this past week were The Closet or La Placard (a French Film) and Barefoot in the Park.

The Closet (La Placard) is the story of a boring accountant who works at a runner plant who finds out accidently that he is going to lose his job. A friend of his suggests that he "come out of the closet" and create a new life for himself and interesting sub-plots are created...The movie stars Daniel Auteuil, Gerard Depardieu, and Thierry Lhermitte.

It is a cute idea and a funny movie at parts - but it is also predictable and silly at times. Overall, it was an enjoyable movie to watch but it was slow at parts and not as funny as I had hoped!

Barefoot in the Park is the story of Corie and Paul Bratter, newlyweds who move into a SMALL apartment in the Village. They have to deal with a broken radiator, a hole in the sky light (mind you it's New York in February) and a building full of crazy neighbors. Well, their newlywed bliss survive this and their complete opposite personalities? The movie starts Robert Redford and Jane Fonda.

Thankfully my friend Jen advised me that in no production (movie or theater) did she love the character of Corie. She is just too over the top for me to believe (maybe that's because I'm too much of a "stuffed shirt" - hehehehe!) She rankled my nerves through the first half of the movie. However, the premise is cute and the characters are certainly interesting. Not one that I would tell a friend they should run out and see but it's a Redford classic nonetheless.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Hiking in Cold Spring, New York

Whew, so I am way behind in blogging. Part of that has to do with the fact that I started a new job this week and don't have quite as much time on my hands!

Last Saturday, my DH Jon (who has decided that I can now refer to him by name on this blog - woot!) and I started our day with a 7 mile run around Central Park. It was a great run for both of us and after some time off from running we're both starting to feel like we're getting back in shape.

After our run we met up with my cousin Terence (T) at Grand Central Station to take the train out to Cold Spring, New York. Cold Sping is a small town (population 2,800) on the Hudson. T was the only one who had been here before so Jon and I were pretty excited to be exploring a new place. The train ride is 80 minutes long and if you get a seat by the window you literally look out on the Hudson River the whole trip - it's beautiful.

We arrived in Cold Spring ready for our hiking adventure, which started right away with a 2 mile walk to the trailhead. T had warned us that the beginning part was pretty much straight up, up and up. So Jon and I felt prepared when we arrived at the trailhead. It was pretty awesome! It was definitely, up, up and up and there were some parts reminiscent of rock climbing for sure. There are great resting points along the "hike" that offer spectacular views of the Hudson. It really was beautiful. Right off the area where we were hiking there was Bannerman Island. It has a pretty neat history - click here to read about it.

The first half of our hike was very successful. We were all feeling really good, the views were great, we were making progress, etc. We found a great place to have lunch over looking the river and then decided to continue on until we got to the red trail. Unfortunately, the red trail eluded us so we decided to head back to the yellow trail that was seen as we were working out way to the red trail. We make our way back our energy starting to deflate a little when we happen upon the yellow trail. This picked everyone up a little - "OK, we're on our way back to the road!"

Then all of a sudden the yellow trail started to go back up and away from our destination - the road. It was at this point that T and Jon decided we should go off the trail. Their arguement was we can hear the cars and see the river we should just head in that direction. So I followed along. We all got really excited as we started to follow this huge water pipe which we figured would lead us to the river. However, it lead us to a huge gorge - straight down. Back we go along the water pipe. Then T chooses a point to turn off and cut straight down through the woods. We follow him, hop over a stone wall and wouldn't you know it we find the red trail! Let me tell you I was relived. My energy was starting to run low (running 7 miles before heading out on a hike - probably not the smartest of ideas!) and my ankles were bleeding quite a bit!
For there it was an easy walk back to the road and then another 2 miles back into to town. All in all we were walking/hiking for 6 hours! We headed to the Train Depot for dinner al fresco and much needed/deserved beers! Click here to read about The Depot's ghost story. As we headed home, with seats on the side of the train overlooking the Hudson while the sun was setting, I thought "what a great way to spend a day!"
Hiking is something that Jon and I want to make sure we do a couple more times this fall - however, next time we'll make sure we have a trail map!!!