Summer Runcation in the Poconos

A few weeks ago I went on a runcation in the Poconos with Ketanga Fitness. For those who have never heard of a “runcation” it is a vacation where you go running; a mix of relaxing and running–for funsies. I originally wanted to go away for a yoga retreat but I didn’t want to spend a ton of money and I didn’t want to take more than one day off of work. I wasn’t able to find any yoga retreats during the timeframe I was looking for and Kevin mentioned something to his trainer about it. His trainer then suggested we look at Ketanga Fitness. They put on a bunch of different retreats like boxing and running in a variety of locations.

We chose a closer runcation within driving distance from the city that was three days long. I took a Friday off work and Kevin and I drove the 1 hour 45 minutes to the Mountaintop Lodge in the Poconos by Lake Naomi. The drive there was sunny and pleasant in our rented convertible. After checking in and meeting everyone we got to relax for a bit before our first evening workout. We met in the backyard of the Inn and did strength training drills and short sprints. After our first workout we had a little champagne toast on the porch then got ready for dinner. We had dinner at a restaurant within walking distance of the Inn, Jubilee, which actually had some good food. I thought it was cool that everyone had a drink and didn’t take things too seriously. I’ve always assumed that a running retreat and drinking wouldn’t mix, but we were all able to relax and unwind with one or two drinks without wrecking ourselves for the run the next morning.

On Saturday morning we woke up fairly early for a morning run. After warming up with some exercises we did some speed and endurance work on a trail loop in the woods. It ended up being about three miles. After breakfast we were free to do what we wanted. Some of the others went to lay out at the pool but Kevin and I decided to go for a little drive and then we ended up going to a quaint nearby town to see a movie. After grabbing a bite (love me some some subs and junk food at Wawa’s) we got ready for our second workout of the evening. We found a large flat grassy area where we did more strength training drills and short sprints. That evening we all went out for a hibachi dinner which was a lot of fun.

On Sunday morning we had our final run and my favorite of the weekend. We did a longer six mile trail run. It was fun and I felt really good. It had been a while since I’ve run three consecutive days in a row. Normally I’ll mix it up a do yoga, boxing, or spinning in addition to running once a week, but it felt really good to be out in nature running.

Before we all went our separate ways we had one final meal together as a group. The other people on the runcation with me and Kev were pretty cool and we had a good time getting to know a little about each other. The trip was also a perfect way to get Kevin to ease into running, and running has now become another activity we can do together. Most people may think that running and vacation together is a paradox, but not only was there a good amount of free time to chill, the runs were also pleasant being out in the wilderness away from the city. Also, the runs on this trip weren’t especially long or difficult. We definitely challenged ourselves but the distances were short enough and the people on the trip were at various levels so that no one was left in the dust. Overall we had a great time and I would definitely sign up for another runcation.

Winter Broadway Shows

I saw three shows recently this past winter that were all extremely good. They kept me captivated the entire performance and left me smiling afterward which I definitely think qualifies them as being good shows.

First I saw Something Rotten! I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but a friend saw it and said it was good and I wanted a lighter comedy. Something Rotten! is a story of Nick and Nigel Bottom, two brothers who are desperate to write a hit play but are stuck in the shadow of that Renaissance rockstar (William Shakespeare). When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theatre involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the worlds very first MUSICAL!

A few weeks later I saw Noises Off on Broadway. I had not yet heard of the show, but Kevin got two free tickets from a friend so we figured why not. Noises Off ended up being hilarious. It was even better than Something Rotten! in my opinion which was nominated for some Tony Awards. Seeing a show for free is awesome, but it is even better when the show is unexpectedly great. I was laughing the entire time. Megan Hilty, the blonde in Smash, is in the show which I also didn’t know.Noises Off follows an ambitious director named Lloyd Davis and his troupe of mediocre actors as they blunder from a bad dress rehearsal to a spectacularly disastrous performance. The cast and crew are putting together a silly sex comedy titled, Nothing On a single-set farce in which lovers frolic, doors slam, clothes are tossed away and embarrassing hi-jinks ensue. It was cool seeing all of the drama taking place off stage which was just as comical as the script for their on-stage characters.

Last but certainly not least, I saw the critically acclaimed Hamilton the musical on Broadway. I actually bought tickets for Kevin for Christmas this year. I was going back and forth about getting them because tickets were sold out and they were really expensive on StubHub, but I heard Hamilton is as big as The Book of Mormon, so I ended up sucking it up and getting them. I’m really glad I did because Kevin and I both really enjoyed it. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer, lyricist, and star of Hamilton is amazing. It was so refreshing to see him on stage watching him do something original that everyone seems to be getting so much joy from. I read more about his story in The New Yorker.

I think David Cote’s review of Hamilton in Time Out New York sums it up well, I love Hamilton. I love it like I love New York, or Broadway when it gets it right. And this is so right… A sublime conjunction of radio-ready hip-hop (as well as R&B, Britpop and trad showstoppers), under-dramatized American history and Miranda unique personal focus as a first-generation Puerto Rican and inexhaustible wordsmith, Hamilton hits multilevel culture buttons, hard… The work and drama and novelistic density remain astonishing.

Hamilton is up for a Grammy award for Best Musical Theater Album which I hope it wins. It is one of the few show albums I’ve actually looked up after because I liked the music so much. I currently have it saved on my Spotify list.

I lucked out with three back-to-back shows that I really enjoyed, and I’m very happy I was able to see them.

End of Winter Fun 2016

It has been several weeks since my last post and a lot has happened in my life. Here’s the short and sweet:

  1. New job – I got a new job the end of January at ABC which was really exciting. It was a good move for my career and so far I really like it.
  2. Yellow Claw – I went on a spontaneous trip to see Yellow Claw in concert in Philly at the Fillmore Philadelphia music venue. I felt a little old because most of the people there weren’t even old enough to drink and they looked like they were all on drugs but it was still fun
  3. Blacktap – I love dessert and I needed to see what all the fuss was about at The Blacktap. Their giant milkshakes toppling with full size cookies was good but looked a little better than it tasted in my opinion. I consider myself a dessert connoisseur and I’ve had better.
  4. Wedding – We celebrated Kev’s friend and former co-worker’s wedding in New Jersey
  5. Blackbird – I saw Blackbird on Broadway starring Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels –it was intense and good
  6. Wicked – I finally saw Wicked on Broadway with my friend Kelly–I can’t believe I haven’t seen it sooner; it was magical (pun intended)
  7. Irfan Onurmen – I’ve been a fan of Irfan Onurmen’s work for about a year, so I went to his opening reception at C24 Gallery and he did not disappoint. I have my eyes on another piece of his artwork now
  8. NYC Visitors & The Whitney Museum – My cousin Jade stayed with me over her spring break–my only family member to come to NYC to see me other than my parents and brother. We had fun walking the highline and checking out The Whitney. My favorite exhibit was the Open Plan.“”Open Plan, an experimental five-part exhibition using the Museum‰غھs dramatic fifth-floor as a single open gallery, unobstructed by interior walls. The largest column-free museum exhibition space in New York, the Neil Bluhm Family Galleries measure 18,200 square feet and feature windows with striking views east into the city and west to the Hudson River, making for an expansive and inspiring canvas.””When we went, Andrea Fraser had the space. She kept the floor entirely open and had only had audio playing which was recorded at a correctional facility. The exhibit showed the juxtaposition of a huge open space with freedom to roam about and the sound of small spaces, doors and locks within prison closures.
  9. Engagement – Kev and I celebrated our 5-year anniversary. He took me to dinner at Blossom in Chelsea, the restuarant he took me on our first date five years ago. That evening at home he proposed.
  10. Easter – I flew home for less than 48 hours for Easter. It was important for me to see my extended family members in person to announce my big news before telling the rest of the world about the engagement. I had a good time at home and even more fun playing with baby Kasper and Frodo who are the two cutest kitties ever (other than Pants and Boots of course!)

Book Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language.””

I just finished a wonderful novel by French author, Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog. It was an intellectual, bordering philosophical read that often had me questioning my own ways of life. Barbery’s words stimulate the mind. She is able to take a single, often overlooked concept, and lift a transparent veil in order for the reader to perceive it in a different way. There was one short chapter in particular that I read over again just because the concept was so simplistically brilliant. It was about the beauty of sliding doors and how it is much more thoughtful of space than traditional swinging doors that destroy the unity of a space.
“”When movement has been banished from a nature that seeks its continuity, when it becomes renegade and remarkable by virtue of its very discontinuity, it attains the level of aesthetic creation. Because art is life, playing to other rhythms.””

I don’t want to give anything away, but the over-arching message of the novel is to try to be a less self-consumed, perceptive human being in order to really get to know others. It’s also a novel about how looks can be deceiving. The two main characters are a fifty four year old woman, Renee, and a twelve year old girl, Paloma, who are extremely intelligent but try to hide it from others. Although there are parts in the novel that are rather melancholy, like the fact that the twelve year old wants to commit suicide because she can’t stand her elitist family and has no one she can really be herself around, there are other uplifting moments that inspire hope. It’s hard to imagine having many profound thoughts racing through your head everyday and not being able to share your feelings and insights. But the beauty of this novel is that just when Paloma thinks there is no other way she can go on living her life, an unexpected door opens and she realizes that she, in fact, is not alone in the world. Sometimes it takes a really long time to find out what/who you need, but once it’s found it all becomes worth the wait and you feel more appreciative of what you have.

I don’t recommend this book to anyone who wants a fluffy, light novel. It does require a bit of thinking, not only because the rich use of vocabulary but also because there are a lot of French references to places/history/etc. that I did not know. The brief summary on the back cover of the novel does not do it justice. It was when I was almost half way in The Elegance of the Hedgehog that it finally clicked and I began really connecting with the novel and its characters. This is a novel that I would definitely consider re-reading in the future. If anything, this book reminded me not to underestimate someone simply based on their profession, age, or looks, and to take in my surroundings each and every day. As the title suggests, a “”hedgehog”” may look rough on the outside but may be a beautiful creature underneath all of the spikes.

My novel rating: 4.5/5 stars

Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort, Puerto Rico

Last Sunday I came back from an amazing trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico. My boyfriend and I left late Wednesday night and had a full four days of fun in the sun until flying back Sunday night. We stayed at the Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort. It was AMAZING. The resort is very nice. It had everything we needed, so we didn’t even have to leave the resort. We had rented a car in Puerto Rico, but once we got to the resort, we realized that we didn’t really need it because we didn’t even want to leave. The inside of the luxury hotel is clean and spacious. It has a casino, several restaurants (in-door and outdoor), a tennis court, golf course, two pools (a quiet poolfor adults anda larger poolfor families), two hot tubs, a tiki bar, and even a slide going into the larger pool.

Because I really wanted to relax and de-stress, Kevin and I lounged at the adult pool because it was quiter and we had a nearly empty pool to ourselves. We spent the majority of our days laying in the sun and jumping in the pool to cool off. Luckily, the weather was perfect while we were there. Deciding to eat was the extent of our daily exertion.

Every day there were a few planned hotel activities such as iguana feeding, pool volleyball, a morning walk, a late night movie, etc. but Kevin and I set out sights on the water aerobics class. Yes, I took a half hour water aerobics class, don’t judge. It was actually a lot of fun bouncing around in the

pool and I was giggling the whole time. Oh, and I did go down the water slide once which was quite fun.

My only negative remarks are that Puerto Rico is not really vegetarian friendly. I ate enough cheese nachos to last me for the

next three months. Additionally, although the pool was nice and clean, the beach was not. The sand was not the soft white kind I like best, and it was pretty littered, especially as we walked away from our resort. I had originally wanted to spend a day on Culebra Island which was recommended to me as one of the nicest beaches in the world, but since I felt so content and lazy at the Wyndham, we didn’t end up going (We would have had to drive to the ferry and then take it to the island which was apparently too much effort for us at the time.). Also, because we were so relaxed, we did not think to plan ahead, so the one night we decided to venture outside of the resort to go kayaking on the Bioluminescent Bay

of Vieques Island, we went to the concierges desk only to find that we had to make reservation further in advance and there were already booked far out.

Even though we didn’t get to do any activities outsdie the resort, the concierges were very helpful. I consuted them several times for directions and to inquire about activities like boating, snorkeling,hikinh in therainforest, etc. and they were always friendly.

Our vacation was so enjoyable that Kevin and I agreed that Puerto Rico may have to become “”our spot”” to vacation at yearly. We were so impressed with the Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort that we would definitely do a repeat stay. It offered everything we wanted in our vacation (minus immediate snorkeling access). Did I mention that the drinks were the best?! They had a great menu full of summer cocktails and daquiris. Drinking a “”Coco Loco”” rum daquiri out of a coconut became my late afternoon treat every day.

I definitely felt relaxed on our vacation, and I had so much fun that I can’t wait to go back already! If you want a relaxing vacation spot that isn’t crawling with partying college kids and can satisfy all of your needs without needing to leave the resort, I recommend staying at the Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort in the beautiful Puerto Rico.

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Fall Festivities in New York

I lovelovelove Fall. It is by far my favorite season. As a girl who was brought up in the Midwest, some of my fondest memories are of the changing colors of the leaves on the trees, crunching through dead leaves on Halloween, hot chocolate, pumpkin spice lattes, pie, etc. Therefore, since I couldn’t make it home to go with my family to our favorite cider mill, Kevin and I decided to rent a car for the day and drive upstate to a local New York cider mill.We ended up going to Salinger’s Orchard in Brewster, NY. It was a little over an hour drive, but it was an easy, rather peaceful drive without too much traffic. Salinger’s had everything we wanted: apples, caramel and candied apples, cider, doughnuts, pickles, hot sauce, olives, apple pie. It was a beautiful, sunny day, so we were able to enjoy fresh sugar doughnuts and hot apple cider on a picnic bench outside.

To end theweekend off right, I did a little shopping and went to Barnes & Nobles to pick up a new book. I love books. Seriously, bookstores make me really happy. I had a good time just browsing and reading stories’ plots on the back covers. I ended up buying Dark Places by Gillian Flynn–the same Gillian Flynn who wrote the widely popular book, Gone Girl. This author is amazing. I’m a big fan of her writing style, her inner morbidness that she can bring out through her characters, and the way the plot twists and turns throughout the novel.

To go along with my Fall kick, I also tried a pumpkin pie doughnut from Dunkin Donuts. I’m a little over the whole Pumpkin Spice Latte craze at Starbucks, but the pumpkin pie doughnut from Dunkin Donuts is seriously underrated. I also made a trip to Dylan’s Candy. I initially went just to get some gummies, but thenI was so excited by all the cute Halloween themed candies that I ended up getting Kevin and I small adult Halloween presents–little jars with our names on it filled with our favorite gummies. It’s also perfect because now Kevin can’t get away with eating all the candy since we have separate jars 😉

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The Lion King on Broadway

I finally saw The Lion King on Broadway last week. The little girl in me was soooo excited. The only other musical my eight year old self is dying to see is Cats the musical, but I might have to wait a few more years before that comes back. Anyway, I grew up with The Lion King being one of my favorite Disney movies. Everyone knows the songs, and everyone knows and loves the main characters: Simba, Mufasa, Scar,Nala, Timon, and Pumbaa.

The Lion King musical is really a show for all ages. There surprisingly wasn’t a lot of crying at the show I went to which either means that the evening show was a little too late for the young ones or that the show is so good that even the fidgety kids were absorbed. I thought it was really cool that the characters run up and down the audience steps. I was in awe of the costumes each cast member wears. Regardless if they are a plant representing that which would be found in the Savannah or jungle, or if they are one of the main animal characters, each costume is hand made and has intricate designs. Here is an awesome short clip to see a closer peek at the costumes:
The Lion King musical is a fun, high energy production, and I definitely recommend everyone, regardless of age, to see it.

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Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Sexy, entertaining, guilty pleasure are all words that come to mind when trying to describe Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I heard about the series from a co-worker who described the trilogy as written porn. I'm not really into cheesy love novels, so I originally dismissed the idea of reading it until I heard that not one, but several of my co-workers were reading it and were all hooked. I think I realized what I was getting myself into when I went to buy the novel from Amazon and found that I could only get it for my e-reader.

For the first half of Fifty Shades of Grey I wasn't convinced I liked it. Although the main character, Ana, is close to my age, I found her to be mousy and annoying. It wasn't until her and Christian started sexing things up that I started getting into it. It's an easy read that you can get through quickly (though, chances are you'll want to savor each chapter), but I respect the author's somewhat expansive vocabulary, making me have to look up a few words.

I think only an hour had gone by after I finished the first novel that I couldn't hold out any longer and downloaded the second, Fifty Shades Darker. It was then that I became thankful I could only get electronic copies of the books, preventing others from knowing what I was reading. Reading Fifty Shades of Grey in public made me feel a little giggly guilty. The books get pretty descriptive and sexy, so I would glance nervously around while reading in public and try to shield my e-reader protectively to prevent anyone from seeing any inappropriate passages.

I suppose inappropriate is not the correct word. Although Christian and Ana's sex life is not quite the norm with the “”red room of pain”” containing all sexual toys, their love and the ultimate act is what many people's relationships are like (or at least what they wish it was like) behind closed doors. E L James' trilogy is sorisque and is causing such a buzz because she brings fetishes and “”kinky fuckery,”” as it's called in the book, to the spotlight in written words. I applaud James actually for takingthe risk and turning very private, intimate sexual boundaries into a guilty reading pleasure on every woman's 'must read' list.

It seems like everyone is talking about Fifty Shades of Grey. Glamour says “”it‰غھs not just a page-turner, it‰غھs setting fires to some marital beds and women everywhere are saying it's helped revitalize their relationships.”” Wowzers. Well, okay, I do admit that there were a few times I'd grin up shyly at my boyfriend while reading the Fifty Shades of Grey books next to him. I even welcomed him to read a few pages to get some ideas. What's more though is James' ability to keep the story moving. She gets the reader's attention in book one and–what's hard to do but somehow she does it–she's able to make Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed equally as entertaining. I did not get bored with the story because there was constantly another piece of drama unfolding and continuing character development. What's interesting with the character development of Christian is that even though he is overly possessive, protective, domineering, and a control freak, James is able to turn his actions and sad childhood to make the way he behaves into a hot coping mechanism that–dare I say it–is almost appealing.At the same time, the non-stop drama and the odds of a twenty-something billionaire falling in love with an un-established, arguablyunremarkable college graduate are very very very slim and unrealistic. It's fun to get wrapped up in Christian and Ana's fantasy life, but unfortunately, their fun, possessive romance cannot be (entirely) mirrored.

I really enjoyed the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I became so hooked that I tried reading during any spare moment, however brief, even if I only had time to read two pages. I greedily took in Fifty Shades of Grey just as Ana did…okay, inappropriate. Anyway, ladies, I definitely recommend reading at least the first book. I was thoroughly entertained, and hey, you never know, these books might just spice up your sex life like it has for so many others who've read them 😉
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Book Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy

I heard great things about Suzanne Collins'The Hunger

Games and I had noticed all three of the books on the best sellers list for a while, so I asked for the trilogy this past Christmas from my parents. When I finally got them, I flew through them because they are addicting and pull you into the story. You quickly start picking and rooting for your favorite characters. While I did thoroughly enjoy the books, they do remind me a lot of the Twilight series. First of all, they're the same reading level (like second grade)–they're quick, easy reads. Secondly, Twilight is a love story with action and drama entwined, and in The Hunger Games, the emphasis is more on action with anintertwinedlove story. In Twilight Bella must choose between Edward and Jacob, and in The Hunger Games, Katniss must choose between Peeta and Gale. There is even a hybrid wolf thing that appears in The Hunger Games, similar to the wolves in Twilight.

So while I appreciate that The Hunger Games isn't super mushy because there is enough action to keep me entertained, I still feel equally annoyed with Katniss as I did with Bella. They both have similar

personalities–they're kind of like loners, they are overall liked by people, but they are reserved and keep their distance, and you wouldn't consider them leaders although people tend to follow them.

Therefore, while I do really like The Hunger Games trilogy, I don't think I like it quite as much as others because it reminds me so much of Twilight. Additionally, I wasn't a big fan of the last book, Mockingjay. I thought certain parts were drawn out too long and then Collins wrapped up the series suddenly. I am curious to see how the movie is though. It's coming to theaters in a few weeks (March 23 to be exact), so I'm looking forward to seeing if the film even compares to the book. At least with the Twilight movies, I could hardly sit through them because I thought they were so bad in comparison with the books. The trailer for The Hunger Games does make me excited though, so we'll see. Either way, I do recommend The Hunger Games trilogy for all ages and both sexes. I think The Hunger Games success is partly due to appealing to both males and females. The majority of Twilight fans are female, but since The Hunger Games is centered around fighting to the death, the series can be “”cool”” for guys too. Read and shall the odds me ever in your favour.

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Visit to DC: Part II-Smithsonian and Newseum

The Natural History Museum got really crowded in the late afternoon, so we

then walked to the Air and Space Museum. I actually remember the museum from my 7th grade Government class trip, but Kevin wanted to check it out, so I saw it again. He especially liked the AirCraft: Jet as Art exhibit.

“”This collection of 33 photographic archival-pigment prints by photographer, graphic designer, and architect Jeffery Milstein reveal the power and elegance of aircraft in flight and transform aviation technology into fine art.””

On Sunday after brunch, Kevin and I went to the Newseum, and I'm SO happy we went. Normally, I never do this, but since we knew we had limited time before we had to get back on the road to Manhattan, we joined an hour long guided tour. It was actually a very wise decision because our guide was not only able to guide us throughout the Newseum to check out all of the different exhibits available that we might not have gotten to had we wandered about ourselves, the guide was also very knowledgeable about each exhibit within Newseum. Being in media myself, I found the Newseum especially interesting.

My favorite exhibit at Newseum is the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery. The photographs are so moving and evoke so many different emotions, and it's amazing that a single still image can tell a story. There is also a film called””A Glimpse of Life: The Pulitzer Photographs”” that plays in the exhibit that is equally enjoyable. The film shows some of the Pulitzer Prize winning photographs with commentary from the photographers about those important moments. One of my favorite quotes in the film from John White: “”You look at Pulitzer Prize pictures and they're

not front page stories, they're stories about…people.””

We had such a blast in DC, and I'm looking forward to going back again. I definitely recommend checking out the Smithsonian and Newseum to anyone visiting DC.

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