Parents in the City

My parents came to visit me last weekend. It was their first time back to NYC since moving me in three years ago! Even then we were so busy running around looking at apartments that we didn’t get to be tourists. This time around, especially since I know my way around now, I took my parents around the city. Here’s a brief overview of what we did:

Friday
After my parents got into the city and dropped off their luggage at my apartment, we had lunch at Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Then me and Kevin gave my parents some office tours. First we walked to the newMoPub NY office, then we took a cab to the CBS Broadcast Center where one of my friends/colleagues took us on a studio tour. Since we were close, we walked to Columbus Circle and entered Central Park from there. I took my parents on a nice walkthrough Sheep’s meadow and to the Alice & Wonderland statue and then we had a drink at the boat house.

After a little rest, we went downtown and had pizza at “”NYC’s best pizza parlor,””Lombardi’s. It was pretty good, but I can’t say it was the best I’ve ever had. From there we walked through Little Italy. My dad wanted to do a taste test of who has the best cannoli, and he seriously had five until he couldn’t eat anymore.
Saturday
After getting coffee at my fav local spot near my apartment, Irving Farm Coffee, we walked through Union Square. It was Summer Streets on Saturday (Summer Streets is when Park Ave is closed from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park for a seven mile stretch of open road without any cars) so we walked all the way from Union Square to Grand Central Station. From there we hopped on a train there to Yankee Stadium for the Yankees v. Tigers game. We sat in the legend seats which were the best seats I’ve ever sat in in my life. We got to eat an all you can eat buffet style lunch except with very good quality food. My parents had a giant plate full of crab and shrimp. There were also fresh crepes and cupcakes, ice cream, and sushi. It was anawesome experience.It was extra sweet that the Tigers won.

After a little siesta after the game, I took my parents to The High Line at dusk.The High Line is a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan‰غھs West Side.I have walked the High Line several times, but never at night, so it was still fun. From there we walked to The Meatball Shop. My dad saw TMS featured on the Food Network, so he wanted to check it out. I think he liked it even more than I do. After dinner we decided to walk toTimes Square. My parents loved it but I was extremely annoyed with all of the tourists walking at a snails pace, so we didn’t stay long.

Sunday
On Sunday we had brunch at The Smith. I’ve been there a few times but it was still delicious and I finally took pics in the photo booth downstairs.We didn’t have definite plans, so after eating we took the train to Soho to do a little shopping. We went into a few stores and then headed back to our apartment. We stopped at Todd English’s Olives in the W Hotel for a drink and appetizer on our way back. By Sunday I had pretty much worn my parents out, so Sunday was pretty chill. We ended the night at Rosa Mexicano’s for dinner.I introduced my mom to theirpomegranate margaritas which she loved.
Overall, we had a jam-packed weekend. Everyone was exhausted by the end of it, but we did a lot and had a good time. While I had wanted to show my rents as much of NYC as I could cram into a short weekend, it was nice just to spend some time with them since I only get back to MI about twice a year now. And finally, just as importantly, I wanted my parents to finally meet Pants and Boots, my two little “”kids”” who they’ve heard so much about. My parents absolutely adored them which made me happy 🙂Here’s to the next time my parents visit NYC!

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London Trip: Part I

Last week I took a long weekend and flew to London for four days. I had the most incredible time. It was my first time to the UK. My boyfriend and I stayed at The Metropolitan, a fabulous contemporary hotel by Hyde Park. Here’s the short and sweet of what we did during our trip:
My flight from JFK left Thursday evening, so I didn’t arrive in London until Friday morning. All I could do was sleep for the first few hours I was there, but once I awoke afresh, Kevin and I went to

Cadocan Hotel for afternoon tea. For us Americans not familiar to British customs, afternoon tea is not just tea, it is tea served with scones, a variety of pastries, and tea sandwiches (like cucumber sandwiches without crust). It was my first afternoon tea in the UK and it was everything I could have hoped for and more.

“”The Cadogan is the epitome of genteel English luxury. With its prestigious Knightsbridge address, The Cadogan luxury boutique hotel is perfectly located in London amongst famed designer boutiques…Boasting handsome oak wood panelling, original artworks, stained glass windows and comfortable tweed armchairs, the Drawing Room is a peaceful place to relax and enjoy a traditional Cadogan Afternoon Tea in London“” (Cadogan).

After we digested we went again later to a vegetarian restaurant nearby, Tibits. It was a serve yourself buffet style vegetarian restaurant. Unfortunately, nothing was particularly good, but it was still nice to get out of the hotel and see some of the city.

On Saturday after a quick cup of tea, Kevin took me to see Les Miserables. It was SO good. I had seen the 1988 movie version of Les Miserables starring Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean, but it was a different experience seeing the play on stage…it was even better in my opinion. Les Miserables isn’t playing in NYC right now either, which made the choice of seeing it in London even more memorable. Additionally, I was glad I got to hear Alexia Khadime, who plays Eponine, sing. She has an amazing voice (comparable to Rachel Potter who plays Wednesday in Addams Family).

After seeing Les Miserables, Kevin and I stumbled upon a candy shop that I couldn’t refuse checking out. It was an old school candy shop in which the counter girl retrieved each individual jar of the candy you want and scoops pieces into a bag. It’s the little things 🙂

Then we had dinner at Benares, a Michelin starred Indian restaurant. We both had the set vegetarian menu. I am not a foodie, and I do not do much fine dining, but I was blown away by the different tastes. I even had the best cocktail of my life there. Everything was delicious, and the experience as a whole was fun because of the presentation and because I wasn’t exactly sure what was going to be served next.

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My First Time Trying Bikram Yoga

I have never been that interested in yoga. Trying to turn off your brain and enter a zen-like state while stretching isn’t quite up my alley. Not only am I much too fidgety, I‰غھm also usually always fretting over my memorized “”to do”” list. I had heard of Bikram Yoga, ‰غدaka hot yoga‰غ‌ when I was living in Ann Arbor, but it wasn’t until I moved to NYC when I learned more about it. For those who don‰غھt know, Bikram yoga is a practice of yoga with 26 postures; the catch‰غسyou do the postures in a 105 studio.

New Yorkers seem to love their Bikram. I‰غھve grown up playing sports, so cardio has always been my thing, and I didn’t think yoga would benefit me in any way. But after my gym membership expired mid-July and I didn’t feel like shelling out a few hundred dollars to renew it yet, I started looking into other options. I was originally trying to find a cheaper gym close to work or my apartment when I came across a Bikram yoga deal at BikramYogaNYC on Bloomspot.

I was really nervous going into my first class. I went alone and I wasn‰غھt entirely sure what to expect. I’ve only done yoga a handful of times let alone yoga in extreme heat. The only advice I was given by a co-worker who had done Bikram before was to drink a lot of water beforehand. I ended up doing fairly well my first session even though I was extremely tired afterward, and low and behold, I became kind of hooked. The deal I purchased was for a month membership, so over the course of a month I averaged about three sessions a week which isn’t too bad considering it’s pretty time consuming at 90 minutes per class.

Some days were good and others were bad during Bikram. One instructor told the class during a session that even though he has been practicing Bikram for several years, it‰غھs often the days he goes into class overly confident that he feels poorly and the days he arrives not feeling it that he leaves feeling good, and I found the same to be true with me. One thing that is vital in Bikram is making sure you drink even more water than you normally would before going to class. For those who have never done Bikram, you cannot take a sip of water for the first 25 minutes. The first week or two, I couldn‰غھt wait to guzzle water at the 25 minute mark, but as I became more familiar with the routine I learned to pace myself and I could go longer without drinking as much.

Overall, I‰غھm glad I tried out Bikram. Classes are normally pretty expensive (about $25 for a single walk-in visit at BikramYogaNYC), but the deal I bought on Bloomspot was for an entire unlimited month

for $50. It was definitely a steal of a deal. Every instructor I had at the Flatiron BikramYogaNYC location was very nice and encouraging too which provided an unintimidating, welcoming atmosphere. The only downside to Bikram is that it can be time consuming as I mentioned before, especially if you go regularly which is highly encouraged by the instructors. Since you sweat profusely throughout the entire class, I often left dehydrated and tired. I didn‰غھt have energy to do much after finishing a Bikram class. The perks are that there are supposed health benefits, you work on your balance and flexibility, and you test your mind.

All in all, I am very glad I tried Bikram Yoga, and I foresee myself continuing to practice. I’m just looking out for another great deal! For anyone curious to try it, I suggest you do. It is definitely a work out, but if you push yourself and stick through the entire class you will leave feeling proud of yourself and feeling good about your body. It can also be a good weight loss method because after working your butt off for 90 minutes, you want to keep the rhythm going and replenish your body with healthy, nutritious foods.

Namaste.

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2012 Family Christmas Cruise

This Christmas my family and I went on a week long cruise to the Caribbean. I was looking forward to relaxing and getting some vitamin D after a few suntan-less months in NYC. Christmas tends to be a lot of work in my family with putting up decorations, fighting the crowds of people shopping for presents, and shopping for all of the ingredients for the dishes to be prepared for the special day. My family knows it's a lot of work for two short days (we celebrate on Christmas Eve and Christmas), so my parents were the ones to suggest we just go on a cruise, and I certainly did not argue against it.

My family and I have been on a lot of cruises in our day, so instead of lounging around the whole time, we decided be a little more active and book excursions at each of ports. In Key West we went on a jet skiing tour around the island, in Grand Cayman we went to stingray city to see and feed the sting rays and then we wentsnorkeling, and in Jamaica we climbed Dunn's River Falls.

Kevin and I flew to Ft.Lauderdale on the Saturday before Christmas. Even though the cruise ship didn't depart until Sunday, we wanted to play it safe. We stayed at the Westin, had dinner at The W hotel, and went to the movies to see This Is 40 (which is hilarious and I highly

recommend seeing by the way). We got to sleep in on Sunday, get a workout in, and have a sit-down breakfast all before taxiing to the port.

As soon as we got on port of the Carnival Freedom, the party had begun. We were greeted with champagne and my parents and brother already had a table on deck with fruity drinks. Sunday was a short sailing day because on Monday we spent the day in the Key West. I have jet skied in Cabo before and I didn't like it that much because the water was so choppy, but I had a blast on our jet sky tour in the Key West. The air was warm and the water was smooth. I didn't exactly like that we had to stick together as a group and ride behind each other in a single file line, but luckily it didn't prevent us from being able to go fairly fast (we got up to 49 MPH on the jet ski) and I enjoyed hearing facts about the island from the tour guide.

On Tuesday we spent a day at sea before reaching the Cayman Island on Wednesday. GrandCaymanwas my favorite port. It is a beautiful island. For our tour, we took a boat to Sting Ray City to swim with and feed the sting rays. It was my first time getting up close and personal with a sting ray and it was a lot of fun. Normally I would be too scared to get close to a sting ray, but with the guide there handling them, they seemed like gentle, almost harmless, creatures. After hanging out with the sting rays, we drove out for about two minutes to some coral reef to snorkeling. Snorkeling is my favorite thing to do in the ocean, and the reef that the tour guide took us to snorkel happened to be wonderful. I am always in awe when I see all of the bright colored fish in different sizes. The ocean ecosystem is pretty spectacular.

Thursday was our last port in Jamaica, and we hiked up the Dunn's River waterfall. We had a good time, but of all the tours, the unanimous consensus was that this was our least favorite of all the tours. Not only was the fall crawling with people, the people were also very pushy about us buying things. It was so bad that people didn't even want to leave the boat to go wander around or check out the shops. We had lunch at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville after the tour which was nice, but we were anxious to get back to the boat and get away from the island after. I do not think I will be going back anytime soon, which is a shame, because they could use all tourists they can get.

Friday was our final day to relax and catch some sun before getting back to the Ft. Lauderdale port. I caught some rays, went down the water slide on the ship a few times, and consumed a fair share of frozen drinks 🙂 I felt relaxed and was finally able to stop thinking about work, but towards the end of the trip I

felt ready to get back to reality (and home to my kitten, Pants!!). Overall, this was a great Christmas, and I'm happy I got to spend it on a cruise ship in the ocean with my family. I hope everyone had a happy holiday!

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Visit to DC: Part I-Valentine and Friends

I had wanted to go to Washington DC for a while. I hadn't visitedsince Close-Up Government in 7th grade and I love taking weekend trips, so Kevin decided to make a special Valentine's Day weekend out of it. It was also great because I was able to see some friends from school who I hadn't seen for almost two years. Kevin booked a hotel room at Donovan House. Although the room wasn't as nice as it looked in the pictures, the location was pretty convenient to get everywhere we wanted to go. We rented a car in Manhattan anddrove down after work on Friday, and it took a little overfour hours. Though we were extremely exhausted by the time we got to the hotel, we tried to make the ride down as enjoyable as possible by eating munchies, stopping for dinner, and alternating driving.

Saturday morning we walked to breakfast at Commissary and on the way, down a random alley, we came across some amazing street art. Stumbling across things like this is what makes traveling so exciting and enjoyable.

After spending the afternoon at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (details on the museum to come in the next post), Kevin and I got ready to meet up with my Michigan friends for dinner and drinks. We Pizza Paradiso in Georgetown. Since Georgetown is very college-centric, we walked to a classier establishment–Degrees in the Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown. Even though drinks were pricier than they would have been if we had gone to a college bar, it was actually the perfect spot to relax on the plush couches, have a few cocktails and catch up.

After a generous offer by my friend Elena, our group of six met up again for brunch at her place on Sunday. She's a great cook, and we were spoiled with a delicious, wide variety of food including fruit salad, curried potatoes, eggs, pancakes, french toast and doughnuts. Needless to say, we were stuffed.

My weekend in DC being able to explore, catch up with friends, and spend time with my boyfriend

was the best Valentine's Day I could ask for. And while my visit did not entice me to want to move there, I'm definitely looking forward to visiting DC again in the near future.

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Film Review: The Fighter

Last night I saw The Fighter with Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. I really didn’t have any intentions of seeing it, but I agreed to go along simply to spend more time with a friend who was only visiting for a few days. The Fighter definitely exceeded any small expectations I had for the film. Those are actually my favorite movie experiences–when you go in not having any expectations and not even really knowing what the movie is about just to be thoroughly entertained and end up really enjoying the film. Let’s just say I’m very happy I agreed to see it. Since it’s a film about boxing and I know nothing about boxing, I figured it wouldn’t interest me much, but there was so much more going on than simply boxing. It’s the story of not one but two men–brothers–who are boxers and the relationship not only between them but also their large family.

The film sent me through a roller coaster of emotions. Dickey Ecklund, played by Bale, goes through a drug addiction, and although it’s a serious matter and he messes up a lot he still has big heart and big personality, and he keeps the audience chuckling. He is quite a character to say the least. Micky Ward, played by Wahlberg, is the younger, less outspoken brother. Together they make a fantastic team which is evident by the end of the film despite all of their problems. In addition, even though their family is dysfunctional they all stick together no matter what, and they remain loyal.

The Fighter is a motivating film that shows that you should always have faith in your abilities and never give up. If life throws you an obstacle that you cannot climb over pave yourself a new path. That is what Dickey finally does when he realizes his days of professional boxing are over. He instead focuses his efforts on training Micky so that Micky can win the title he never did.

Audiences love a good story of an underdog’s struggle to make it to the top, and this film executes it wonderfully. I also love the fact that it’s based on a true story. During the credits at the end of the film, a short clip of the real half-brothers is shown. Bale mimicked the real Dickey so well I was really astonished. Not only was his acting amazing but he also lost a ton of weight to play the role. He looked skeletal and his eyes looked shrunken. He was believable

as a drug user.

Another reason why I think The Fighter is an excellent film is because the setting took place in the 90’s and everything from the clothes and big hair to the cars were accurate of the 90’s style. Finally, I liked that the two brothers were from a small town, yet no matter how successful they became, they remained loyal to their town. They seem like average working class men in construction–they don’t wear nice clothes, drive nice vehicles, have an especially nice house or go anywhere particularly extravagant, but they are champions inside. They truly are the town heroes.

If you liked Million Dollar Baby with Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood I’m sure you’ll enjoy The Fighter as well. I whole heartedly recommend it.”
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