Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday Travels: Atlantic City

Saturday was the awaited day - our first trip ever to Atlantic City - I was not expecting much but I was super excited just to go somewhere new! The plan was to drive down to AC, check out the casino, check out AC, then have dinner and go to the LIVE (as in the band) concert at The House of Blues at The Showboat Resort & Casino.

Unfortunately for us the weather was less then cooperative! It was misty, cold and certainly not a day to stroll the boardwalk and check out AC. I was so happy that I ran in NYC before driving down as opposed to doing my run on the boardwalk as I had originally planned. On top of it all Jon had a conference call that began at 4PM right as we arrived there and went pretty much until our friends Gary & Tiffany arrived. Matt (my brother-in-law) and I checked in to the hotel, got everything squared away with our room and then decided to hit the casino (neither of us big gamblers!) He played some online poker, I played some slots, he played some slots, he won $50, I lost $10. We had not realized that in the casinos you can still smoke (I'm sorry if you are a smoker and you're reading this) which makes being in the casino not a very enjoyable activity. We got sodas, watched some of the basketball game, got a lay of the land (ie: found the concert venue) and then Jon was off the phone!

We all decided to walk down the street to a bar that guest services recommended to us to watch more NCAA March Madness action. We only walked 3 blocks and it was pretty miserable. We had one beer left and went back to the hotel and got in line for the House of Blues restaurant for dinner. Our dinner there started off great - a round of Miller Lites, fun apps for the table, dinner is served, plenty of time until the concert....and then....I found a lady bug in my ceasar salad! A lady bug (maybe I'll have good luck in the near future!) The manager walked by asked us how we were doing, Jon mentioned the lady bug and good things started to roll...50% off our dinner, a free round of Miller Lites and a free round of shots later we were off to watch LIVE up stairs in the concert venue. (I guess in away you could say I did win big in AC, just not in the typical gambling fashion.)

The place was just a huge open floorplan. We got as close as we could to the stage and the opening act began. They were awful, really awful! So we chatted and kept ourselves entertained. Then it was time for the real performace - LIVE! We were all so excited as were our "new friends" standing around us. They were awesome. Jon and I saw them last March (me for the 1st time) in Sayerville, NJ at the Starland Ballroom and they were amazing. I've been listening to a lot more of their music getting ready for this concert and once again they did not disappoint. They played a lot of songs I was unfamiliar with but they still sounded amazing!!!

Our 5AM wake up call, to get Matt to Newark Airport for his flight to London, came soon after our heads hit the pillow, but we got him there by 7AM and were back in NYC and in bed by 10AM after breakfast with my parents in NJ (we tried Bagelicious' competition, Fair Lawn's Hot Bagels...definitely not as good as Bagelicious!)

All in all it was definitely an interesting Saturday and I enjoyed exploring somewhere new, but I'll be honest, I'm in no big rush to get back to AC. Maybe if we had had a nicer day....

Post in Comments:

Have you been to AC? Did you like it? Did you win big?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday Bookworms: Lucia, Lucia

I picked this book up based on a recommendation from my friend Amy. She read this book a couple of years ago and I was recently perusing her reads looking for something good when I stumbled upon Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani.

Lucia, Lucia is of course the story of Lucia Sartori, a young woman 25 years of age, who lives in Greenwich Village during the 1950's. Her Dad is from Italy and owns the local Italian Groceria, her mother stays at home, and her 4 older brothers work with her father. She works at B. Altman's creating custom dresses, wedding gowns, suits, etc for the wealthy women of New York City. She is fiercely independent and struggles to find a balance between meeting her families expectations of getting married to an Italian-American man from the neighborhood, keeping house, and raising a family with her dreams for herself of being a career woman.

We follow Lucia as she meets the man she thinks will enable her to "have it all". Then as always life gets complicated!

This was an enjoyable and entertaining read. Of course as someone who lives in New York City reading about life in New York City during the early 1950's up to present is always interesting! The cast of characters in this novel or loveable and you'll feel like you're in the Sartori's kitchen at Christmas eating Tartuffi!

It is a quick, light and easy read although I did feel that the ending was a bit rushed. It's the perfect book inbetween some heavy reading that has your brain working overtime as it will certainly not tax your brain to read this book.

Overall, I'd give it 3-3.5 stars.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Favorite Things Friday - Bagels

This Friday I'm going to share my love of bagels with you all! Ever since I was a really young girl I've always loved bagels. I would only eat plain bagels until the age of 19 when I was working at Cool Beans (the coffee shop on campus at Holy Cross) and I needed to eat breakfast. They had all sorts of bagels but no plain that is the day I became an adventurous bagel eater. Now I like poppy bagels, marbe bagels, cinnamon raisan bagels, wheat bagels, and my two favorites are the Everything Bagel and the Onion Bagel!

When I lived in Boston I was a Brueggers girl. There bagels were small (and probably healthier for us for that) but they were by far the best in Boston (IMHO). My favorite bagels from my hometown of Ridgewood, New Jersey come from Bagelicious Bagels on Broad Street in town. They are hands down the best bagels I've ever eaten in my life! If you ever roll through Ridgewood check them out.

Moving to NYC the bagel mecca of the US I was psyched to find the perfect bagel. The two that stand out the most to me are: Smilers (across the street from my office) they have a damn good bagel for a deli and Pick-a-bagel a true New York Classic I'm told! The one that I have yet to try is Esse bagel - maybe I'll give it a go this weekend.

Regardless, bagels are the perfect comfort food breakfast, unfortunately you can't eat to many of them a week because they're not great for the waistline. They're a special treat!

Post in Comments:

Do you have a favorite bagel?

Do you have a favorite bagel place?

If you live in NYC, what's your favorite bagel place in the city?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Entertainment Thursday: I Love You, Man

Thursday night I went out to Astoria to have dinner and catch a movie with my good friend Jen. She made a delicious dinner of stuffed shells (a variation that I had never had...but may have to try in the near future!) and we shared some wine and then headed over to the movie theater to watch I Love You, Man.

The premise is that Paul Rudd's character, who just proposed to the girl of his dream, his girlfriend, realizes that he doesn't have any close guy friends. When he realizes that his future wife is concerned that she's going to have 7+ bridesmaids and he won't have any groomsmen he sets out on a series of "man dates" to find a Best Man.

Enter Jason Segel, as Sydney Fife, a fun loving guys guy that Paul Rudd's character, Peter Flaven, hits it off with. As they bond over their love of the band RUSH, and start spending all of their time together, Peter's fiance, Zoe doesn't appreciate their new formed friendship.

I'll be honest, I don't watch How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM), and I know I should start, but the few times I've seen it Jason Segel seems really young to me (in real life he's a year younger than myself). In this movie however he seemed much older and it took me about half the movie to reconcile that in my head. There were plenty of laugh out loud moments, and plenty of awkward Peter Klaven moments where you just were cringing in your seat embarrased for him! It was definitely a feel good movie, that goes exactly where you think it's going to go and then brings it back to finish exactly how you want it to finish.

I would say that it's a definite rental - 3 stars!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Recipe Wednesdays: Orecchiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs

Last week I made another Giada creation: Orecchiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs. Once again, it was delish!

If you would like the recipe you can click HERE. It was fairly simple, more prep time than cooking time. It was more flavorful then I thought it was going to be. The chicken meatballs were divine and I was nervous seeing as I had never used ground chicken as a base before in place of ground turkey or beef.

This meal heated up great as leftovers, I ended having it for lunch most days last week. I just added a little bit of chicken broth each morning and some salt, pepper and cheese and it was delicious once heated in the microwave for about 2 minutes.

This is definitely a recipe I would recommend!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tuesday Travels: Top 5 Domestic Dream Vacations

Last week I blogged about my Top 5 International Dream Vacations so this week I'm going to write about my Top 5 Domestic Dream Vacations (again in no particular order). I love to travel and it doesn't matter if it is abroad or in my own country, exploring new places, meeting new people, discovering new running routes, that's my main objective!

First up is Texas, I know it may seem pretty random but I have had a desire to visit Texas for a VERY LONG TIME and I have yet to get there. I don't know what it is that entices me but I have got to get to Texas sooner rather than later. Whether it's exploring great music in Austin, running where Kristin Armstrong runs in the hills of Austin, visiting the Alamo (even though I've been told by all that it is over rated), seeing the river walk in San Antonio, going to a high school football game, going to the rodeo, vacationing along the Gulf of Mexico or eating delicious barbque, I just want to experience Texas in all of it's glory.

Ah, Yellowstone National Park. I love doing outdoorsy things: hiking, white water rafting, kayaking, swimming, and just being in awe of Mother Nature. Where better to experience that then Yellowstone National Park, the grand daddy of all National Parks. My parents recently took a trip there and my cousin visits Yellowstone frequently. I just want to see the Buffalo blocking the middle of the road, visit Ole Faithful with all the other tourists, and walk the trails. I'm thoroughly looking forward to the day that we get to go here...although I will say I'm not much for camping...I'll do it, but it's probably the outdoorsy activity I like the least!

Wow, I'm really sharing myself with you guys. Mount Rushmore is one of my OBSESSIONS. It's bizarre and pretty random, I know, but I am obsessed with Mount Rushmore and my need to visit it. It is a running joke in our household. Maybe it's because of the President's, or maybe because it is just so random and cool - faces of our Presidents carved into a rock in North (or is it South) Dakota. I mean look at it - you know you want to see it too!

I don't know how I'm going to get to Mount Rushmore, as I do not believe there is much to see out where it is except Mount Rushmore. I may have to combine it with my trip to Yellowstone even though I'm not sure they're near each other....hmmm...this one is going to take some pondering. But when I get there, ahh, I'll feel I've truly accomplished one of my life goals.

Hawaii!!!! Who doesn't want to go here??? Not only do I want to visit the beautiful beaches, go snorkeling and enjoy the blue blue water, but I also really want to visit Pearl Harbor (a time period in history that facinates me to no end), take the Road to Hana, walk near a volcano, visit the pineapple farms and eat fresh pineapple, among numerous other things.

It might have been the episode of Saved by the Bell or Full House that introduced me to Hawaii (you know which episodes I'm talking about!) Either way it's beautiful, it's not part of the continental US, and it's a MUST visit!

Last but not least, The Grand Canyon. I already have my trip to The Grand Canyon planned out although it requires the attendance of our unborn children. We're going to spend a week rafting down the Colorado River and then spend some more time hiking and exploring all the nooks and crannies and swimming holes that The Grand Canyon holds.

You have to be 12 to raft on the Colorado River and you have to book the trip 3 years in advance. Seeing as we do not have children yet, and I'm not pregnant, I guess this trip won't be happening for awhile. Although I've already started saving for it because it's going to cost a pretty penny. It'll be worth it though when I'm standing at the rim with Jon and our 4 kids looking across the Canyon saying to myself, "We finally made it here!"

Post in Comments:

What are your Top 5 Domestic Dream Vacations?

Have you visited any of mine?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday Bookworms: A President & A Shopaholic?

For those of you who know me or have been following my blog from the beginning you know that one of the reading challenges I have outlined for myself is to read a book about every President in order. I've been working on this for about 4-5 years now and I usually try to read 2 President books a year.

I just finished a book about John Tyler, the 10th President. I chose a book from the American Presidents Series. These books are good for Presidents that you want to read about but you perhaps do not want to read 600+ pages about. John Tyler was one of those Presidents.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this book. John Tyler was the first Vice President to replace a President who had passed away in office. That in and of itself is interesting. He was a lot of other firsts as well: The first President to lose their spouse in office (his wife passed away in his first year or second year of Presidency); he was the first President to be married in office (to his 2nd wife); he had 15 children total, the most of any President (8 by his first wife and 7 by his second wife); he was the first President to lose his parties support and be ousted from his party during his Presidency (the Whigs were so upset by his numerous vetoes they told him he could no longer be part of the Whig party!); he was the first incumbent President to not run for re-election; and he was the first President to betray his country (after he was out of office when the South voted to secede from the Union, John Tyler voted with the South).

Many say that he was not a great President, unfortunately for him he was up against a lot. Many people didn't feel that he should be President, they called him "The Accidental President". Henry Clay, especially felt very strongly about this. At one point during his term it is said that Clay orchestrated that Tyler's entire cabinet (minus Daniel Webster) resigned in the same day!

While maybe not the most important President, I still found it interesting to read about his life, his Presidency and his family. I'm finding that sometimes it's the Presidents that I do not know much about that are proving to be the most interesting reads!

From President John Tyler to shopaholic Becky Bloomwood, my reading tastes are certainly varied! Shopaholic & Sister is the 4th book in this hilariously fun series. I'm sad that there is only one more to go.... I've thoroughly enjoyed this entire series and it seems to me that each book gets more outrageous and funnier as I get further into the series. I think also having seen the movie that just came out and having a picture of Hugh Dancy & Isla Fisher in my head, had me laughing harder as I imagined them acting some of this stuff out...oh, how I hope they make sequels to that movie!

In this 4th installment of the Shopaholic series, Becky Bloomwood and Luke Brandon are finishing up their around the world honeymoon. After 10 months they decide that it is time to come home to see family and friends and begin working again. However, upon arrival, Becky's parents seem to be keeping a secret, her best friend Suze has a "new" best friend, and Becky worries about how much she actually ended up purchasing and shipping to Luke's flat in London. As she discovers that her parents secret is that she has a half-sister, Becky thinks this is grand, she'll show Suze. She envisions that her and her half-sister Jessica will be best friends forever, that is until she meets Jessica. Jessica is everything that Becky is not, frugal, spend thrift, hates shopping and excesses, and is passionate about the environment and rocks. As Becky tries to form a bond with her new sister, handle stressed out Luke who's trying to close a new deal, and adjust to being back in good ol' England, hilarity ensues.

Once again Kinsella managed to capture my heart. I may not be as crazy and over the top as Becky but how can you not root for her again and again as she gets herself into all sort of funny situations. I thoroughly enjoyed this book (I actually had to put it down a couple of times becuase I was laughing so hard my eyes were shut!) If you haven't read the Shopaholic series I absolutely suggest them as fun, outrageous, light, laugh-out-loud reads - you will not be disappointed! Just make sure to start from the beginning!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Favorite Things Friday - Netflix

Ahhh...Favorite Things Friday! It's fun coming up with what my favorite things are that I want to write about. Today it is NETFLIX. I became a netflix user in the summer of 2006. We were training for the Chicago Marathon and watching movies every Friday night because on Saturday we had to be up at 6:30AM to get our long runs in. We realized that it was cheaper for us to register for Netflix then it was for us to go to Blockbuster every Friday and pick out a movie plus there were no late fees if I forgot to return the movie on time. In addition, this was the summer when Jon was living in New York City and I was living in Boston so I had many evenings free. With Netflix I was able to rent television shows that I had missed when they were on or just watch chick flicks that I knew Jon wasn't going to want to watch with me on Friday.

There are many reasons I love Netflix, here are a few of them:

1 - I love mailing things, I know it's weird, but I do. Mailing my Netflix movies when I'm done is so satisfying.
2 - I love lists (in case you didn't know that already) so I love that I have a queue that I can add movies to at anytime. I have a problem manging my queue though which is why we currently have over 120 movies in it! It's a little overwhelming at times.
3 - Netflix has totally broadened our movie watching. Before when Jon and I would go to Blockbuster or Hollywood Video we would just browse the new releases. With Netflix we watch television shows, miniseries, old classic movies, new releases, documentaries and foreign films. We've watched movies and shows that we might never have explored if we had kept going to the video store evey now and again.
4 - We love how when all else fails and your plans fall through you always have a Netflix movie or show waiting for you. We rent two at a time, unlimited for the month, so there is always a red envelope with something waiting for us to watch!
5 - You can have friends on Netflix! You can see what they're watching, what they liked and what they didn't like, and this opens up your movie watching world as well.
6 - Netflix recommends movies for you. One of my favorite foreign films that I've seen, The Dinner Game, was a random French movie that Netflix recommended for me. I've recommended this movie to many people who have also loved it. Thanks Netflix!
7 - You can rate your movies. It's so easy to remember what you liked and didn't like, just type in the movie and look it up. Netflix keeps track of everything you've ever rated. I'm rating obsessed - as soon as we finish a movie (whether it's at home or at the movie theater) I'm logged on to Netflix to update our queue and rate the movie.

Those are some of the many reasons that Netflix is one of my favorite things. Tonight we're watching the last episode on The Wire, Season 2: Disc 3 then we get to return it for Disc 4!

Post in Comments:

Do you have Netflix?

If so, what do you most love about Netflix?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Entertainment Thursday: Phantom of the Opera - The Play vs. The Movie

On Friday Jon and I saw The Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theater. It was a treat to ourselves. Back in December orchestera seats were on sale for $60 per ticket which is essentially buy one get one free in the orchestra. We had each seen Phantom once before. I was definitely in middle school when I saw Phantom and Jon saw Phantom for the first time in 2003. We both love love love the music from this show and decided that at buy one get one free it was time to see it again!

All I have to say is Phantom and Les Mis, in my opinion, are just in totally different stratospheres compared to other Broadway shows and it's not just the music, it's the entire theatrical production that puts them on such a different level. When the Phantom takes Christine to his lair and their in the boat and you just feel like they're really floating on water with the fog and the lighting it's just amazing (possibly my favorite scene besides the opening or masquerade)!

I cried at the end because I just think that The Phantom of the Opera is such a tragic character. His one desire is to be loved but he doesn't understand what love is....I don't want to say more in the event that anyone reading this blog post hasn't seen the show or movie!

On our 15 block walk home Jon and I were singing songs from the show, talking about our favorite scenes, disecting which performances we liked the best and which the least, and just in a general state of europhia from seeing a live show on Broadway.

As we were walking we started comparing the show to the movie that was released in 2004 starring Gerard Butler as Phantom and Emmy Rossum as Christine. We saw the movie in the theater and then later purchased it and have watched it quite a few times. We LOVE it - it allows us to see the story & music unfold again and again without having to pay the hefty theater ticket price. However, over the past 5 years as I've spoken to people about it there seems to be a strong dislike for the movie among those that love the show in the theater. Jon and I agree that of course while it's better in the theater, we feel that the movie is a good representation of the show and the music and sticks very closely to the story which we like.

Regardless, of which you prefer, The Phantom of the Opera, in my opinion, is a must see theater experience. My favorite songs from the show were Music of the Night, All I Ask of You, Point of No Return and of course The Phantom of the Opera. I think after writing this blogpost I might have to put the CD on:)

Post in Comments:

What is your favorite song from The Phantom of the Opera?

Do you prefer the theatrical production or the movie? And why?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Recipe Wednesdays: Comfort Food

This Sunday I was making my meals for the week and I made one of my favorite dishes that is totaly comfort food for me - Skillet!!! Skillet was something that we ate all the time growing up. I don't know if my mom just made it up or if she got the recipe from someone but I have very fond memories of skillet night (my brother and sister might feel differently!)

Here is the recipe:
1 lb. ground turkey
1 onion
1 box of frozen peas
1 box of beef rice a roni

Chop up the onions and cook them with the ground turkey. Drain the fat from the ground turkey. Add the margarine/butter and the rice to the pan and brown the rice. Add the water, seasoning packet, ground turkey, peas & onions to the rice and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

On a cold day I find a piping hot dish straight out of the pan extra yummy! The great thing about this meal is that it heats up in the microwave well so it's great to have for lunch for the week.

The drink in the background is my new concoction - 1/2 seltzer water and 1/2 grape juice - yum!

Post in Comments:

What is your favorite comfort food?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday Travels: Top 5 International Dream Vacation

Ok, in getting ready for this post today and thinking about what NYC activity I was going to highlight I realized that Jon and I haven't had an NYC experience in a couple of weeks. So I had to come up with a different topic for Tuesday Travels! Easy, peasy! I'm going to share with you my current Top 5 International Dream Vacations, in no particular order.

The Scandanavian nations - These 3 countries have always held some intrigue for me because you never hear people talk about them they way they talk about other European countries. Last year, I was watching Passport to Europe with Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel (I love that show!) and she went to Norway or maybe it was Sweden. Either way it was beautiful! And it made me realize that Sweden, Finland and Norway are places that I would definitely love to visit. The above picture is from the city of Bergen, Norway - isn't it charming?

New Zealand - My sister and her fiance first turned me onto to New Zealand. I did some research and realized this country would definitely be in my top 5. There are only 4 million people living there making it one of the less crowded countries in the world. It's less crowded than a lot of cities in the world - take Manhattan for instance. What can you do there? Everything - hiking, kayaking, swimming, gambling, wine tours, hot air balloon rides, it's the perfect place to go and rejuvenate (or so says their tourism website). I'll get there some day....

Macchu Pichu - Hiking Macchu Pichu is a dream of mine. Well, really just getting to South America would be pretty darn cool! The landscape, the history, everything about Macchu Pichu is enticing. Hopefully one day I'll be able to make the trek. And maybe while I'm down there I'll hit up Patagonia as well, another beautiful destination in South America...it didn't make my Top 5 but it was close.

Greece Glorious Greece! - I've wanted to go here forever. Jon and I debated Greece for our honeymoon but we decided on Fiji instead. I'm hoping that we'll soon take an Anniversary trip here! Aside from the history and the Parthenon, there are the islands with their white buildings and blue tops. I can't wait to take a boat out and go island hopping, spend nights wandering the streets of Santorini taking in the perfect sunset, eating breakfast on a patio overlooking the vast blue sea...I have a feeling that if I ever get there it's going to be hard to convince me to come back.

Lastly, Costa Rica because it's a great combination of beaches, and rainforests, laying around and doing nothing, and experiencing class 5 rapids among other adventures. Hey and it's closest to where I live and probably the most affordable and realistic trip for me to take in the next 5 years or so!

Post in Comments:

Have you been to any of these countries?

What would your Top 5 International Dream Vacations be?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday Bookworms: Cholera, Homelessness & Love, Oh My

Back in September I signed up for The New Classics Reading Challenge, which I was supposed to finish by the end of January. While, I did not finish in time I have decided that I would still like to finish. To that end, Love in the Time of Cholera was the 5th book of of 6 that I needed to read in order to complete the challenge.

I was excited to pick this book up because I had had it on my shelf for over a year, it had been much hyped, and I read 100 Years of Solitude also by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which I loved.

Love in the Time of Cholera is the love story of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza who as young struck teenagers & twenty-somethings profess their undying love to each other through daily letters. However, after some time Fermina Daza marries a young, wealthy and successful doctor, thus breaking Florentino Ariza heart. Instead of moving on, Florentino decides that while he may have various relationships with other women he will never marry another who is not Fermina Daza. Through out the years he continues to follow the path of her life, he runs into her at many public functions, and he becomes a very successful businessman for the River Company. When Fermina Daza's husband dies, after 50+ years, Florentino sees his opportunity. Even though they are 70+ years old he pursues her friendship so as to ultimately win her hand in marriage.

The premise of this book seemed like it would be an interesting story but it wasn't. The character development was dry and while the reader learned everything there was ever to know about Florentino & Fermina, you just weren't pressed to care enough about either of them, to really root for them in the end. The writing was long winded and very drawn out making this read the opposite of a page turner. Overall, I would say this was just an OK read and I certainly would never recommend it to anyone.

Last year, I attended the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. One of the guest speakers at this event was Colum McCann. When he was speaking he was so eloquent that I was just drawn to what he was saying (or maybe it was that fabulous Irish accent!) Either way he was hands down my favorite speaker of the night.

It was my pick for our March book group book and I chose This Side of Brightness by Colum McCann. I wanted something different, I wanted a book that took place in NYC, and I just really felt that it was time I picked up one of McCann's books.

This Side of Brightness weaves between two stories, that of Nathan Walker, a sandhog in the early 1900's, who works to build the tunnels, with that of Treefrog, a homeless man in his mid-30's who lives in the tunnels that Nathan Walker built 80+ years ago. As you follow both Walker and Treefrog's stories to the point where they join you look at life from different perspectives: those of the sandhogs, those of the homeless men and women who currently populate NYC, those of the immigrant families in the tenements, those of the families in Harlem and you look at what "family means", what it means "to belong to a community", and how the actions of one person or one misstep can tear a family apart as quickly as one can bring a family together.

I really enjoyed this book, it was gritty and even thought it was an easy read it was one that made me think about the issues and topics that were addressed. Our book group discussion was thoughtful and I appreciated hearing other peoples takes on this book. It's not an uplifting story but it's one that I'm glad I read.

Post in Comments:

Have you read Love in the Time of Cholera? If so, would you recommend it? What did you like and dislike about the book?

Have you read This Side of Brightness? If so, how did you interpret the title of the book?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Favorite Things Friday - Holy Cross

OK so anyone reading this blog who personally knows me knows that I went to Holy Cross, Class of 2001 baby!!!! And also knows that I LOVE EVERYTHING HOLY CROSS!

When I was applying for colleges I didn't want to apply to HC. I mean Worcester, MA, I had never heard of it and after living in NJ for 8 years my main goal was to get back down South to warmth and sunshine. My dad however, really really wanted me to apply to HC. So when I sent in my 6 college applications Holy Cross was one of the schools that got one.

To everyone's surprise (including mine) I got in. This changed things because I knew there was no way I was going to get away with not going to HC since it was the best school academically that I got into. So August of 1997 off I went to Worcester, Massachusetts to live in Hanselman 407.

Early on in my experience I decided that college was going to be what I was going to make of it. I made the decision right then and there that I was going to make it awesome and I was going to make it the college experience I had always dreamed of! I studied Spanish (although in hindsight I probably should have been a history major), I lived in Sevilla, Spain my junior year, I lived in Leon, Spain the summer after my Freshman year, I was an RA (resident assistant), I was a tour guide, a member of the purple key society, a volunteer at reunion weekend, I went on the spiritual exercises retreat (where I couldn't talk for 7 straight days and yes, I did it, I didn't talk for 7 straight day - I know it's hard to believe!), I did a spring break trip to Appalachia my senior year, etc.... These are just a few of the amazing memories and experiences that I have from HC.

Holy Cross was a huge part of what made me who I am, it's where I discovered myself and who I wanted to be, it's where I blossomed. I'm so grateful for all the things that HC gave to me, here are just a few:

- My husband Jon and I met first day of Class, Elementary Spanish of all things!
- My girlfriends: Amers, Megs, Kirsten and Al - go Hanselman 4! We get together every year for a HC Ladies Weekend and they are some of my favorite memories.
- My guyfriends: Jon (now my husband!), Gary, Forni, Dowling & Will. We get togehter often in NYC and it's great to have the group all together just like in the days of Wheeler One although perhaps a little more civilized!
- Dean Joe, a true friend and mentor. I was lucky enough to meet him my Sophmore year and share 4 years with him. I learned so much from him and there are not many days that go by that I don't think about Dean Joe and how he would handle certain situations, or what his answer might be to the 1,000 questions running through my head about life, religion, relationships, family, politics, and so on and so forth. I miss him!
- The close knit HC community! We all have our good friends but the great thing about Holy Cross is that we're ALL "good friends". Whenever you meet some one from HC there is an instant bond that you share of good times, memories and just the experience of living on the hill regardless of when you graduated and if you knew each other. We're a social bunch of fun loving, smart, successful, drinking fools and I wouldn't have it anyother way.
- Holy Cross was where Jon & I got engaged and got married so outside of being our college it will always have a very special place in our hearts.

I hope one day that one of our children thinks HC is the place for them, but more than that, I hope that regardless of where they go, they find happiness, great friends, support, guidance, and the space to become themselves, just like I did.

Post in Comments:

If you're a fellow HC Grad, what were some of your favorite memories, or things you're most grateful about HC?

If you're not an HC Grad, where did you go to college? Share what your college community was like.

PS - HC vs. American today at 4:45PM, winner take Patriot League Title and a spot in the March Madness Tourney! Go 'Saders, we'll be rooting for you!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Entertainment Thursday: Buzzsugar

Okay so since yesterday I wrote about Food Blogs it got me thinking on what I wanted to write about today which is Entertainment Blogs. My go to entertainment blog is BUZZSUGAR! I have been following this blog for years. I read all the movie reviews, television show reviews and I find myself saying to Jon sometimes as the lights are dimming and we're crossing our fingers that we've picked a good movie, "Well, buzzsugar, said this movie was great!"

Buzzsugar and I have similar tastes. I've rarely been steered wrong by Buzzsugar (although it has happened once or twice where we've disagreed). Now I do not consider myself a crazy entertainment guru (although when it comes to popculture that you'll find on people.com I usually know the answer...) but I do enjoy watching movies & television and I do make sure that I watch a full range of genres to broaden my horizons. I appreciate shows & movies more for the story then the cinematography or the directing, I just don't feel "I get" all of that.

It got me to thinking though with all those varied entertainment tastes out there:

Where do you get your entertainment information from?

What are your go to entertainment websites?

Are there any entertainment blogs you hate and stay away from?

I'm curious to know, please post your answer in the comments.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Recipe Wednesdays: Food Blogs

I didn't cook anything mind blowing this week so instead of focusing on a recipe I wanted to write about Food Blogs. I like reading food blogs for a number of reasons: 1) You get great recipe ideas, 2) they provide suggestions for products that are healthy and delicious (as someone who is constantly striving to become a little less picky and introduce new foods into my world this is great for me!), 3) I find that it motivates me to eat healthier throughout the day when I read a couple of people's blogs who always eat healthy (within moderation!), and 4) I just like reading blogs and reading what people have to say.

There are two particular food blogs that I follow on a relatively regular basis. The first is, Carrots'n'Cake, written by Tina in MA. I was introduced to this site by a friend of mine. I'm currently participating in The Yoga Challenge on this blog. It's been interesting thus far, although I confess that I have not been able to do (or rather have not made room for) Yoga every day since March 1st. But I have done it more than half the days this month. It was nice to have something to motivate me to add it to my routine. I enjoy the peace, the balance, the time to center, and I can certainly use the stretching! (I have horrible flexibility). My breathing has gotten better and I can see slight improvements in my yoga. The most difficult thing for me is to calm my mind. I naturally am thinking about a gazillion different things at once so it is a challenge for me to be in that quiet place in that quiet moment for a full 20 minutes.

The second blog that I follow is Kath Eats Real Food. I actually found this blog through Carrots'n'Cake. They both have a very healthy outlook on food and balance and that is something that I'm working towards achieving. Reading about how they always fit in activity, fruits, veggies, protein, fiber, and all that good stuff helps me to realize that I can do it to with just little adjustments here in and there. They also both are obsessed with OATS! Now I've eaten oatmeal packets before but I've never made my own oats. After months of reading about it next week might be my week...I wonder if I'll enjoy them.

The other things that I've realized from these blogs is that I need to go to bed earlier each night. When we lived up in Boston I would be in bed at 10-10:30PM and awake at 6-6:30AM without fail every day of the week (weekends included). When we moved to NYC that all changed. People in NYC are nightowls and they always sleep in and arrive later in the day never earlier. The best time to go outside for a run in this city is from 7:00-8:00AM - there is no one around, not even cars, it's awesome! I miss being an early bird and I hate waking up and feeling like I've already missed part of the day. I think maybe next week I'm going to aim to get to bed 30 minutes earlier each day and try to get up 30 minutes ealier each day. I'll keep doing this till I work my way back to a sleep pattern that I'm happy with. I know this is a random thought and has nothing to with food really...but it's something I noticed while reading both food blogs so I thought I would throw it in there!

Post in Comments:
Do you like reading food blogs?

If so, which food blogs do you follow?

What do you like about food blogs?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday Travels: The Empire State Building

Well, it's about time that we crossed this NYC experience off our list - The Empire State Building! We had both been there before moving to New York City but seeing as we live so close to this massive and beautiful building we felt that it would be sad to be it's neighbor for 3 years and never visit it.

The other weekend we saw that there was no line outside and decided "today is the day!" No line outside does not mean no line inside. It probably took us a good hour to get to the top between waiting online for tickets, waiting on line for one elevator, waiting on line for another elevator, etc.

The views however are amazing! I definitely appreciated the visit more as a New Yorker then ever as a visitor to the city because I finally knew what I was looking at. I knew all the buildings, the rivers, what direction I was facing, etc. It really is breathtaking to see the park, the Chrysler Building (see picture above), and the southern tip of NYC (also see pic above). We spent a good 30-40 minutes up at the top pointing out different sites, talking about what it must have been like to build the Empire State Building and just enjoying the view.

I would definitely recommend this to visitors and native New Yorkers alike. Next tall building to visit...Top of the Rock so we can enjoy the view of the Empire State Building!

Post in Comments:

Have you ever been to the top of the Empire State Building?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Monday Bookworms: Outlander

I was hoping to finish one of the 3 books I'm currently reading in time for today's post but alas I didn't. So I'm going to post a review on the book I finished prior to starting the 3 books I'm currently working on finishing - Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon.

This book was recommended to me by one of my high school girlfriends and college girlfriends. With a recommendation coming from two different directions I felt it was time to pick this book up. As a lover of all things historical fiction I was excited to see that it alternated between taking places in Scotland 1946 and Scotland 1743.

The premise is that Claire Randall is reunited with her husband after WWII and they decide to take a second honeymoon to Scotland. While there Claire finds this cirlce of stones (picture Stonehenge) and while leaning against one of them is catapulted through time to Scotland 1743. As she struggles to adapt to her new circumstances and works to get back to her husband Frank in the 1940's Claire encounters a band of Scotsmen who take her in and provide her with protection. One of them is Jamie Fraser. As she gets more and more entwined in her life in Scotland 1743 she struggles with her love for two men....

As you can tell from my description this book ended up being more of a romance novel than pure historical fiction. However, I still LOVED it. The character development of Claire and Jamie had me turning the pages to see what would happen. 850 pages later I was not disappointed and proceeded to begin on the second book in the series right away.

It had been a long time since I was so wrapped up in a book that I didn't want to put it down! I realized how much I had missed that. If you enjoy a some romance, great character development, peppered with a small amount of historical fiction you will certainly enjoy Outlander. If nothing else, you'll escape to Scotland 1743....

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Entertainment Thursday: Television that Evil Contraption

Recently Jon asked me how many shows I watched on television and I was forced to admit not only to him but also to myself how bad my TV addiction really is...and I'm an active person with an active social life...but when I'm home it is so easy to get sucked into the tube. So here it goes, a straight out confession to everyone:

The Amazing Race

The City

The Biggest Loser
The New 90210
The Real Housewives of Orange County (wow Tuesdays are a really embarrasing night for me!)

Top Chef

The Office

The Ghost Whiperer
Friday Night Lights

13 shows!!! That's insanity and that doesn't count movie watching and sports (baseball, football, basketball, olympics, etc, etc). Granted some shows I watch while I'm at the gym, and every show I DVR so I can skip the commercials (cutting down my TV watching time a little) but who am I kidding, I need to grab control over this craziness!

Now some of these shows are finished for the season (ie: Top Chef and Real Housewives of Orange County, Privileged). For the rest of the shows I'm going to finish out the season and then I'm going to have to make some tough decisions. I want to cut my TV watching down to no more than 1 hour a day (unless I'm watching sports or a movie because those are obviously more than an hour but if I watch sports or a movie then I cannot be watching shows on top of it).

So if I had to pick 5 shows that I would not give up they would be:

The Ghost Whisperer
Friday Night Lights
The Amazing Race
Chuck or Heroes are going to have to battle it out for that last slot!

A year ago if you had asked me I would have put The Office in my Top 5 easily but lately I feel that The Office is really going down hill. It's just not nearly as funny as it used to be and they're trying to hard.

Post in Comments:
What shows could you not give up???

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Recipe Wednesday - Giada's Turkey & Artichoke Stuffed Shells

I'll admit it - I love Giada recipes. They have never failed me! Recently I received her new Everyday Pasta cookbook (now I have all 4) and I wanted to try a new recipe from it. My mother made these stuffed shells when I was growing up with ground turkey and eggplant that we all LOVE so I thought I'd try a new variation on stuffed shells. I made them on Sunday for the purpose of having them for lunch each day this week. They are delicious and they heat up well in the microwave. I would definitely recommend these for anyone who loves bakes pasta.

Click HERE for the recipe! The only change I made was that I did not use the arrabiatta sauce because I do not do spice and I used jar sauce as opposed to home made. It was still delicious.

Post for Comments:

If you were to make stuffed shells what would you use as a stuffing?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tuesday Travels: The Guggenheim Museum

Tuesday is Tuesday Travels so it's all about traveling. My Tuesday posts will cover New York activities, local travel, big trips, past trips, reviews of travel blogs and sites, and travel ideas. Basically anything related to travel!

As you know, if you've been following my blog, Jon and I are taking advantage of everything that New York City has to offer. We are currently on a quest to get to the major and some of the not so major museums. We only have a few left - once we've completed the quest I will post a ranking of NYC museums.

Most recently we spent a chilly day visiting the Guggenheim, one of the few large museums or famous museums left on our list. I had not visited the Gugegnheim since high school some 12-13 years ago and was excited to return because I remember the experience being a positive one.

The first thing you notice about The Guggenheim is the building itself. It's unique and beautiful and it's Frank Lloyd Wright people how could you not love it. We checked our coats, got our tickets & audioguides and proceeded to begin. I had remembered recently during Jury Duty hearing that The Guggenheim was meant for you to walk down from the top, which made sense to me. However, the museum staff had set up the visiting exhibit so that you traveled from bottom to top. This did not make sense to me. So Jon and I decided to go against the grain and visit the exhibit backwards.

The way The Guggenheim is set up there is art all along the center walkway as you make your way spriraling downwards but there are also wings off certain parts of the ramp where you can explore other exhibits. My problem with The Guggenheim is that they have this beautiful permanent exhibit tucked away on the 2nd level in alcoves off the main ramp - filled with Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Picasso etc and it's such a small part of the art in the museum. Therefore when you visit The Guggenheim the experience is really all about what special exhibits are currently visiting the museum. This is the case at many of the museums that we have visited in NYC. In some instances we have been very pleased with the special exhibits in other instances, such as our visit to The Guggenheim, we have been very disappointed.

The main exhibit, The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia 1860-1989, held very few pieces that interested us or inspired conversation between us. This was unfortunate because my hopes were so high for this museum. Obviously art is objective and this is just two people's opinion, so take it for what it's worth. I still think it's worth visiting, just make sure that the special exhibit is something you're very interested in exploring because it takes up most of the museum.
Post for Comments:
What is your favorite museum in New York City and why?
If you do not live in New York City or have never been to the museums in New York City then what's your favorite museum in general?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Monday Bookworms: Top 10 (err...11)

Yesterday I wrote about changes to the blog this week I'm going to test out my new structure and see how it goes. Well Monday is Monday Bookworms so it's all about books...ahhh...how I love books! I'm going to use these posts to post reviews, recommend book websites or blogs, or just talk at random about the greatness of reading!

I decided to start out with the much dreaded question that big readers get: "What's your Top 10 books of all time?" How to begin to answer that, especially off the top of your head. Yet as a reader, I love hearing people's answers. One, because it gives you a sense of what kind of reader they are and two, you may get great recommendations out of it, assuming you do not share similar tastes.

Recently a friend of mine asked me for my Top 10 and after combing my goodreads.com list I came up with the following 10 (err...11) and they are listed in no particular order:

1 – Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
2 – The Autobiography of Henry the VIII, Margaret George
3 – Here Be Dragons, Falls the Shadow & The Reckoning, Sharon Kay Penman
4 – The Alienist, Caleb Carr
5 – In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
6 – The Eight, Katherine Neville
7 – The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
8 – Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
9 – A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson
10 – Trinity, Leon Uris
11 – The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova

I feel this list encompasses all my reading passions: historical fiction, a good mystery, great classic literature and the occasional laugh.

Post in the Comments:
You knew this was coming...What's your Top 10 or 5 or just Top 1 (if you can narrow it down that much)?
Have you read any of the books on my Top 10 (err...11) and if so would they end up in your Top 10?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Changing the Blog Format...

Many of you (hahaha - I humor myself to think there are many readers!) may have noticed that I changed the look of the blog. It just felt time for something different. I've been contemplating what direction my blog should move in. It started out as a way to talk about living in NYC and all my NYC experiences and involved to a catch all. I have found that without structure I find it difficult to come up with what to write about and I feel that my blog was kind of all over the place in subject matter.

I have been pondering how to change the format so that I have something to post about everyday thus engaging readers who are checking me out for the first time or those that know and love me and just read because they want to hear my perspective on things or what I've been up to. So here are my thoughts...

I came up with five categories one for each day. They encompass all the things that I love, love to talk about and share so here they are: Monday Bookworms, Tuesday Travels, Recipe Wednesdays, Entertainment Thursdays, Favorite Fridays and Casual Weekends. Each day I'll talk about the corresponding topic. That way I can blog about all of the things that I love (which was essentially what I was doing) in a more structured easy to follow way.

Thoughts on this anyone, anyone???