Thursday, November 29, 2007

Band of Brothers - Absolutely 5 Stars!

The other night Jon and I finished watching Band of Brothers, an HBO mini series. Jon had already watched it back in January when he first moved to NYC and really wanted me to watch it. I was hesitant for all typical female reasons - "goryness"! War movies can be tough and I wasn't sure I was up to the challenge. Jon, knowing how much I love history and character pieces, in the end convinced me I should watch it with him. The mini series is made up of 10 one-hour episodes, more or less, with a one-hour documentary piece at the end.
I have to say that not only am I SO incredibly glad that I watched this mini-series, but I also strongly recommend it to everyone!
Band of Brothers is the story of Easy Company, the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, U.S. 101st Airborne Division. It follows this group of men from the beginning of their training for the war and follows them until the end. Showcasing the hardship that they went through, the lives lost, the courage of the men that lived, and all the things they saw and experienced in between. It's based on the real Easy Company and the documentary at the end has interviews with the real men of Easy Company (those still alive) talking about different battles, different jumps, different experiences show cased in the mini-series.
I believe this is an incredibly imporant piece of work that all should watch. Especially, being someone a couple of generations removed from those that fought in WWII, it provides you an insight into what they went through and what they survived. Incredibly moving, these are characters (although really "real" men) that you will be rooting for and willing to live through the war.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

2 Movie Reviews: American Pastime and Shut Up & Sin

American Pastime (2 stars)

I picked this movie off our netflix que next in the spirit of baseball season ending. I thought it would be fun to watch a movie that centered around baseball. We had seen a preview for this movie before Letter to Iwo Jima and intrigued had added it to our queue.

The premise of the movie, is that World War II has started and Pearl Harbor has just been attacked. Japanese families on the west coast are forced to leave their houses, their business, their lives with just a suitcase of their belongings. Americans forced the Japanese into internment camps in the Southwest. This movie follows a specific family with two boys, one who is making the most of the situation and the other, who is bitter at having to give up his baseball scholarship.

The men in the camp decide to start a baseball league and the movie culminates with the town, who treat the people in the internment camp very poorly, playing the team from the camp.

While I thought that the premise could be good, as not many movies have been made (at least to the best of my knowledge) about this particular time in American History, unfortunately it didn't live up to my hopes. It was poorly done, the cinematography was not very good, and the story and the acting was incredibly cheezy. Overall we rated this two stars, and we definitely wouldn't recommend it.

Shut Up & Sing (4 stars)

Shut Up & Sing had been recommended to me by my friend Jessica in Boston, when it first came out. It is a documentary that follows the Dixie Chix after they made the comment about President Bush at one of their concerts in England. It goes back and forth between events that unfolded directly right after the comment was made to the recording studio in 2006, 3 years later, when they're writing and singing about that time.

We both enjoyed this documentary immenseley. I thought it was well done, incredibly interesting and I loved seeing the process of making music and just hearing a lot of their music because they are really good and I like their music. I'm really glad we saw this - it made me want to listen to their music more.

2 Book Reviews: Water for Elephants and Death at La Fenice

Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen (2 1/1 - 3 stars)

Jacob Jankowski is 93 years old and living in a nursing home. When the circus comes to town it brings back memories of his younger years, memories of a time he never has talked about, until now. When Jacob was 22 both his parents were killed in a car accident, leaving him with nothing. Completely lost and unsure of what the future holds he hops a train to get away and ends up on a circus train. He's a vet, so they take a liking to him and hire him as the circus vet.

There he meets a cast of characters: Kinko, the dwarf, and his roommate, August, the animal trainer and schizophrenic, Marlena, who is married to August and is so beautiful that Jacob is immediately in love, and Rosie the elephant and star performer.

The book follows this circus and these characters as they cross the country and deal with the ups and downs of the depression era times. I thought that the author took the reader seemlessly from 93 year old Jacob's real time situation to Jacob's memories. And while there were many endearing characters, I felt that the author skimmed the surface with this book. The storyline that she decided to tell I found weak and predictable and when I got to the end I just wasn't satisfied. There were so many interesting components and side stories to this book that I wish she had chosen to elaborate on as opposed to the ones that she did.

All in all I would say that the book was just OK and definitely overhyped.

Death at La Fenice, Donna Leon (4 stars)

In Donna Leon's first Commissario Brunetti series, Death at La Fenice, the famous conductor Helmut Wellauer is found dead in his dressing room. The cause: cyanide poisoning. Commissario Brunetti is called to action and before long the list of growing suspects is daunting. Realizing that he needs to learn more about the man before he can learn who had killed him and why, Brunetti sets out to learn as much about Wellauer's past as he can...thus, unlocking the key to the mystery.

I read this book, because as you know by now I'm trying to read books that take place in Italy, just to keep me in that place as our trip looms nearer and nearer each day! This was my 3rd Commissario Brunetti book and I have to say that this one was the most enjoyable. I felt that Leon actually developed a well thought out mystery that had me guessing until the end. While not as fast paced and thrilling as other mysteries there is something likable about Commissario Brunetti. I'll probably read more of this series in the future.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

St. Louis - We Went We Saw We Conquered!

Well, I'm back and I survived despite many warnings of the need to be safe in the most dangerous city in the country (who knew, St. Louis, really?)
I arrived on Friday night after a one hour delay, just before 11PM. I waited in the airport for Awesome Al to arrive from Newark, 2 hours delayed, and then Kirsten and Meghan (the host) picked us up from the airport where we quickly all proceeded to bed to get ready for some Saturday fun.

Saturday morning, despite a late night, I got up at 7PM and went for about a 6 mile run in Forest Park. For those of you that don't know (and I was one of them until this weekend) Forest Park is St. Louis' Central Park. It is larger than Central Park but had the same architect. So I figured I would check it out. I stuck to the edges, afraid to get lost, I had to get back in time to go pick up Okie Amy afterall. I will say that Forest Park is more laid back then Central Park, running wise, but not quite as lush. I thoroughly enjoyed my run, it's one of my favorite ways to familiarize myself with a place.

After picking up Okie Amy from the airport and having breakfast, we headed to our first desitnation, The Gateway Arch! We took the Metro there, then walked along the Mississippi River to the steps leading up the park where the Arch is. I have to say it is really something in person, graceful, simple, elegant - I loved it!

View from the Metro Stop (it's the only picture where I fit the whole Arch in one frame!)

We bought our tickets for the "Ride to the Top" and spent the next two hours exploring the museum exhibit they have there on the expansion Westward in the United States after the Louisiana Purchase, the gift store and this old west food store that had a game of Checkers waiting to be played (Meghan and I decided to take on the challenge!)

Now for the "Ride to the Top", they don't really warn you about what it is going to be like so we were under the impression it would be a disney world like tram. Boy were we wrong. Each "tram" car holds 5 people - perfect, as we were 5. The tram however can be better described as a pod or capsule (think the Jetsons!) We all climb in, unsure of the 4 minute ride to the top. It starts off great and we're all laughing at how ridiculous we must look, and then it starts swaying back and forth. Let me tell you - it was pretty terrifying! 4 minutes later we were at the top and smiling for pics under the "You're at 630 feet sign!

Here we are at 630 Feet (from left to right: Amy, Beth, Meghan, Alison (in front) and Kirsten).

We enjoyed the view for awhile then braced ourselves for the 3 minute ride back down in our "capsule". Much less frightening.

When then headed to the Budweiser Factory for the one hour tour followed by "Free Beer!" The tour was pretty interesting, we got to see the Clydesdales, where they make the beer, where the bottle, label and package the beer etc. Then at the end you go back and you get two free glasses of beer. I had...what else...but Budlight! Yum!

Here we all are at the Budweiser Factory (from left to right: Kirsten, Beth, Alison, Meghan and Amy).

After the Budweiser factory we headed out to dinner, a piano bar and of course dancing. It was a fun night in St. Louis with my girls!!!!

Sunday, Kirsten left us (boo!) to head back home to Philadelphia. So after a nice breakfast, where we got to meet Meghan's friend Sarah, we headed out to Forest Park to do a walking tour that Amy had discovered online. At the visitor center they give you iPod shuffles with the walking tour on it and a map so you can follow along. We toured the Grand Basin, which was beatiful and the tour was very informative. It ended at the Boathouse so we dutifully went out on paddleboats for about and hour then sat by the water and enjoyed a drink. It was a beautiful day in St. Louis and I'm so glad that we were able to spend it outdoors enjoying the Park. It was the perfect way to spend the day.

Sunday night was nice and lowkey, we ordered in take out and enjoyed the Amazing Race (we may have converted Amy over to fan status of the show!) and just chatted. Then Monday was a travel day in which we all headed home.

I'm glad we make time to get together each year, even if it is only for a weekend - it's important to do. And I'm so looking forward to whatever adventure awaits us in 2008!

Friday, November 9, 2007

St. Louis Here We Come...!!!

I leave tonight for St. Louis, Missouri!!! I state I've never been to (so I can check it off in my quest to visit all 50 states!)

Two years ago my college girlsfriends and I decided we should go away for a "girls weekend" once a year. So, two years ago we went to New Orleans for 4 days and had a blast, last year we went back to Holy Cross for our 5 year reunion, and this year we're going to St. Louis!!!

I'm so excited to see everyone, visit a new place and just get away for a little bit. So expect some fun posts to follow about my trip and our adventures because it's never a dull moment when we all get together!

Happy Weekend!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The US Men's Marathon Olympic Trials

The 3 of us waiting for the runners to come by one last time!

Jon and Kate sprinting to the west side of the park with everyone!

This is my last marathon related post from our crazy week of 3 marathons (cheering, not running!) Last Saturday New York City hosted the US Men's Marathon Olympic Trials in Central Park.

Now, I have been talking about going to see these pretty much since we moved here. Rain nor wind, nor chilly temperatures were going to stop me.

Saturday morning, Jon and I got up nice and early (6:50AM) and ran the 2.3 miles up to 72nd Street and Central Park West where we were meeting my sister (equally excited as I was, stop, picture it - poor Jon). We're jibberjabbering away for like 5 minutes before Jon gives me my first "You're getting over excited and it hasn't even started yet" looks. I try to calm down, but I can't - I mean 1) I love love love the Olympics! 2) I love running, racing and marathons. and 3) I'm actually there to watch an Olympic trials race, in the marathon no less.

We head up to the spot around West 81st Street inside the park. We hear the runners are coming so we quickly get to whatever spot is available and we end up meeting this man who is there to cheer on his son. His son qualified in a 10K and this race was going to be his first marathon ever (how crazy is that?) We chat with him for a bit, the runners come by in a huge pack so you couldn't really see anything, except for Wardian who went out fast in the first loop. Afterwards we headed up to where we wanted to be stationed and ended up running into my cousin's ex-girlfriend. I swear for as big as NYC is you can still have small world occurences take place.

The runners come by on lap 2 and they're more separated into groups. We wait to cheer on all of them and then along with 75% of the crowd start sprinting to the east side of the park to catch the runners as they loop around. We get there in time, find a spot, see the runners again, turn around and sprint back to the west side of the park to see them as they loop around again. We continued this till the end.

It was so fun, everyone was dressed in their running gear and as the race was coming down to the wire you would have thought all of us running back and forth were in a race the way people were running, it was crazy (fun in a good way). The best part though was definitely the end. We're on the west side of the park waiting for them to get going on the 2nd to last loop and Brian Sell was creeping up (and let me tell you he made up A LOT of ground) on the lead pack big time. So everyone was like is he going to be able to do it. We see them run by sprint to the east side of the park and wait.

All of a sudden Ryan Hall comes running by so fast and we're all waiting for the rest of the lead pack. No one - 20 seconds, 30 seconds, 45 seconds...then Ritz comes by. Everyone was going crazy, screaming like crazy, couldn't believe the way the lead pack was spreading out. Now people are seriously sprinting back to the west side! We get there - Ryan Hall comes back again - 45 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute and 10 seconds and Ritz comes by again, then Dan Browne and then Sell right on his tail going up the hill. No Meb, no people were crazy. The sprint to the east side of the park was out of a movie. We get there wait a little bit Ryan Hall come by - 1 minute 10 seconds, 1 minute 20 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds...finally Ritz comes by and then...Sell, he did it, managed to get himself into 3rd place position! People are going crazy.

We knew we didn't have time to get to the finish. We also knew that the 3 leaders were going to win because they just had that much of a lead and not that far to go. So we decided to stay and cheer on the other runners who had fallen off pace. By the way - that guy from the beginning - his son, finished 9th, 13 seconds behind Meb, in his first marathon ever!!!!! That is crazy - but definitely be looking for Josh Rohatinsky in 4 years, he's got some serious promise. (Could I say crazy one more time!!!)

All in all it was the best way ever to start a day and I just hope that one day I get to see the real thing, the Olympics in person. It's on my list....

Friday, November 2, 2007

Meeting Catherine Ndereba - WOW!

Thus continues my marathon crazy week! The foundation that I work for had 32 runners running in this year's ING New York City Marathon Sunday, November 4th. On Thursday evening our foundation and our runners were invited to Gracie Mansion for a cocktail reception and the chance to get our picture taken with Mayor Bloomberg.
We arrived right on time at 5:30PM and I have to say the house is gorgeous. You forget what regular houses look like when you're surrounded by towering concrete buildings all day! It's this beautiful old house right on the Hudson River. Right after we arrive this woman offers to take us on a tour of the first floor, explaining the history of the house, the rooms, the significance of the furniture present and the art. I love touring houses so this was right up my alley. And as we head off the front porch and in to the parlor she points out on the mantle a cannon ball that was actually shot from a British War Ship in the Revolutionary War of 1776 at this house. (Are you kidding me? How cool is that!!!!)
After the tour I had the opportunity to meet a lot of our runners, to meet our contact at the New York Road Runners, to meet one of the guys running in the US Men's Marathon Olympic Trials on Saturday and then to meet Catherine Ndereba! Not only has she won 4 Boston Marathons but she also won this year's World Championships. I talked with her about her running leading up to the marathon, and how she was feeling, if she was going to watch the US Men run on Saturday and little stuff like that. She was incredibly friendly and very nice and I was glad that I had the gumption to cross the room and introduce myself and not let an opportunity like that pass me by.
She finished 5th on Sunday in the New York City Marathon, while certainly not her best run, Wami and Radcliffe had a commanding lead when we saw them at Mile 11 and I knew then that they were going to be pretty hard to catch.
All of our runners that we saw at Mile 11 looked good and like they were having fun. It definitely made me miss running, or rather since I do run 3-4 times a week, racing! Not that I'm fast but I just love the thrill of competing! I have an inkling that another marathon may be in the not so distant future for me...if not in 2008, then definitely in 2009!


Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of seeing Pygmalion, starring Claire Danes, on Broadway!!! We had a theater benefit for work and all the staff got to see the show too. One of the things I was most excited about being in New York for was to see Broadway shows so needless to say I was excited to see Pygmalion and even cooler that it was starring Claire Danes.

Now, I'm not usually a big fan of dramas, I much prefer the big fanfare of the musical on Broadway, so that combined with the mixed reviews made me a little less enthusiastic about this outing. However, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised!!!

My seat was in the mezzanine, but I have to say, at The American Airlines Theater, which houses the Roundabout, there really isn't a bad seat in the house as it's such a small theater (only 700+ seats). The very first scene I didn't understand anything they were saying, because of the Cockney accent. People were laughing at jokes and I was sitting there thinking, "boy, it's going to be a long night if I can't understand this whole play." However, after the first scene the accents died down and it was actually a really entertaining show with just the right amount of humor. Claire Danes was great, but was totally overshadowed by the performance of Jefferson Mayes, he was fantastic!!!!

Now, I'm going to definitely have to see My Fair Lady (I know - gasp - I haven't ever seen it as a play or a movie!)

Ahhhh...I love going to the theater. Only a little over a month before I get to go again, to see Jennifer Garner and Kevin Kline in Cyrano de Bergerac! I can't wait....

Congratulations to Matt & Karen!!!

Sunday, October 28th began what would be for Jon and I the first marathon of three that we were cheering for in a week! We went down to Washington, DC on Saturday, October 27th in order to cheer for Matt & Karen on Sunday as they ran in the Washington, DC Marine Corp Marathon, their second this year.

We got up early on Sunday in order to be out at Mile 1 in time for the 8AM start. Our plan was to see them at Mile 1, Mile 12, Mile 14, Mile 19 and possibly the finish. The Marine Corps Marathon is a great marathon for a spectator - it loops so many times that it's easy to see runners in multiple locations.

We ended up seeing them at Mile 1 and Mile 4 and then seeing Matt at Mile 12, 14 and 19. Getting to the finish proved just too difficult.

So a big CONGRATULATIONS to Matt and Karen on finishing the DC Marathon with fantastic times!

My Still Newish Job

Aside from the Red Sox post season the other reason that I was MIA on my blog is because of my newish job! I started at The Bachmann Strauss Dystonia & Parkinson Foundation back in September and it has been non-stop since I started. In the two months that I've been there we've had 6 events!!!! Which has been great because it's kept me busy and I'm just kind of learning by fire.

In the past two weeks though the hours were long because we had a two-day scientific conference. Now normally, I wouldn't blog about work, but the conference really struck me and I wanted to just say a few words about it.

The conference brought together scientists from all over the world to discuss the research they have been doing on mostly dystonia. Dystonia is a neuro-muscular disease that affects an estimated 500,000 Americans each year. 1/3 of all dystonia patients are children. Dystonia is a disease that is difficult to diagnosis and often times goes years before being diagnosed properly. At the conference I met a couple whose son was just diagnosed after 4 years. To sit in the room and listen to all these scientists talking about their research and what it means for treatments for dystonia was pretty inspiring. I may not have understood everything that was being said (because I am not a scientist) but I did understand the passion and the enthusiasm that was buzzing around the room and to be on that side of the door and see people actually trying to do something about solving a disease was pretty amazing.

It makes going to work have that much more of a purpose. I'm planning events to raise money to give grants to scientists such as the ones that I met who are actively working year round to try and find treatments and ultimately hopefully a cure for a disease.

On top of that, after the two-day conference we had a reunion of dystonia patients who had been treated by DBS (deep brain stimulation surgery). Meeting the people, adults and children, who were suffering and are still suffering from this disease and see the improvement in them from when they were originally diagnosed because of the treatments now available was truly amazing! I could go on and on about these people and the adversities they've overcome...but that would make this blog way too long!

All I know is that between those three events - if that doesn't motivate me to get up and go to work then I don't know what possibly could! I'm so lucky to have found a good fit for me in NYC!

Congratulations to the 2007 World Series Champs - the Boston Red Sox!!!!

One of the reasons that I didn't post much over the past couple of weeks was because I was wrapped up in baseball post-season madness! It was very exhausting but so worth every second!

Even though we're in NYC, we wear our Red Sox hats, visors, shirts, sweatshirts with pride and it was nice to have them win our first year here!

What can you say about this team - other than it truly was a team effort - everyone pitched in and helped bring that title back to Boston and that was my favorite part of the whole thing.

So we're not moving Wally all off-season in the hope that the position he was in when they won while continue the streak when they come back in April!!!! Now all concentration is on the Patriots....

52 Weeks of Cooking: Easy Bacon, Onion and Cheese Stuffed Burgers

Ah...the infamous lunch I mentioned in my previous post. I wanted to make stuffed burgers for my family gathering because I had never made them before and I thought it would be a fun thing to make.

I wanted to pick a relatively simple recipe (for a stuffed burger that is) and I found this particular recipe on If you would like to review the actual recipe click here!

I got everything ready so that when they arrived all I had to do was the assembly. The burgers didn't stay totally stuffed, some of the stuffing came out the side while Jon was cooking them.

I served them with just a light salad because I had a feeling that they might be a little heavy. And I was right. Everyone "said" they really liked them, and I liked the flavoring and the taste, but I just thought it was too much food. I only ate half my burger and was glad I didn't try to finish it off.

I would definitely try a stuffed burger again, and I would even try this stuffed burger again. Next time I would either make the burgers smaller and put less filling in, so that the burger isn't too large or I wouldn't serve it on a roll, but rather over a bed of lettuce, with onion, tomato and pickles.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

52 Weeks of Cooking; Awesome Baked Sea Scallops

Again, I bet you thought I had abandoned you! No, even though I was perhaps too busy to write, I did stick to my 52 weeks of cooking:) Saturday, October 20th Jon and I woke up early enough to go to the Farmer's Market at Union Square, one of our favorite New York things to do. It's just such a great way to start your day (and this coming from a girl who hates crowds, ah, how I've grown).

My parents, brother and my brother's girlfriend were coming over for lunch the following day and I wanted to make something with very fresh ingredients. While we were there we picked up some scallops for our Saturday night dinner and I made this dish - Awesome Baked Sea Scallops.

You can find this recipe on or by clicking here! The cool thing about is that when you find a recipe you can adjust the ingredients for as many people as you want by just putting in how many people you are cooking for.

This recipe was good - a little heavy, more filling than I generally like my fish to be - but in all fairness to the recipe I forgot to adjust it for just 2 people in all aspects but the scallops! Oops - that's what happens when you rush around. It looks really beautiful and is really quite flavorful. I definitely plan on giving this recipe another go around and will make sure that I adjust the recipe appropriately next time!