Independence Day Weekend 2016

For Independence Day weekend, Kev and I rented a car and headed upstate. On Friday night we stayed in New Paltz. We got there in the late afternoon and after a quick catnap we got some ice cream (at Dairy Queen, my fav) before going to the movies. Then we called it a night to get some rest for a full Saturday. On Saturday morning after having breakfast in our little Airbnb, we hit the road to go hiking. I had originally wanted to stay at the Mohonk Mountain House but it was pretty expensive so that’s why we ended up going with a place on Airbnb that was half the price, but I still really wanted to check it out. We drove to Mohonk Mountain House in the hopes of seeing the place and maybe getting a little tour but they are strict on outside visitors and we could only see the ground if we bought a day pass. Since we had other hiking plans, we passed, but I would definitely like to stay there sometime. We went hiking at Minnewaska State Park. The trail we choose was 7 miles long. It was abeautiful day and a great day to go hiking. It felt good to be out in nature and spend some one-on-one time with Kevin.

After our hike we hit the road and continued North to Hudson. We stayed at another Airbnb spot but this one was a lot different than the one in New Paltz. It was literally in the middle of a cemetery and the decor was Asian inspired. The place is owned by an artist, so the room was very eclectic but I liked staying in a cool and different space. The owner also has three pet cockatoos which I got to hang out with for a bit. They were very sweet, beautiful birds. The rest of Saturday evening was chill. We walked into town and had a few drinks at Mexican Radio before calling it a night.

On Sunday morning after going back into town to have breakfast, we drove the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. Kev and I visited the Catskill Animal Sanctuary almost a full year ago, so I figured it would be nice to see the animals again while we were in the area. The sanctuary seems to be doing very well. It was another beautiful day and it was nice to see so many families there for tours. There were many new animals since the last time I visited, so it felt like a different tour. I got to feed some sheep and turkeys, rub a pig’s belly, and even hold a Muscovy duck. It was awesome.

Afterwards Kev and I went to the movies to see The Shallows. Then we tried finding another local hiking spot but the GPS and service was very spotty where we were and we couldn’t find the spot so we gave up driving around. We headed back into town where we enjoyed a vegan pizza at a local spot. Then we read and relaxed for the rest of the evening before waking up early on Monday morning to beat the 4th of July traffic. We made great time and were able to enjoy the day back in the city.

Overall, it was a nice trip and I enjoyed getting out of the city for a few days. One of my favorite parts of the trip was staying at a place in the middle of the cemetery. I surprisingly wasn’t freaked out. Kevin on the other hand was not pleased with me when I made him walk through the middle of the cemetery in the dark after getting drinks on Saturday night. tehe 🙂

St. Thomas Trip over Memorial Day Weekend

This past Memorial Day, Kevin and I took two extra days off for an extended getaway to St. Thomas. We were mainly looking for a good place to go scuba diving so we chose St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands because it wasn’t a long flight from NYC, airfare and hotels were reasonable, and they have manyscuba diving sites. I have been to St. Thomas before as one of the stops on a cruise, but I’ve never stayed overnight on the island and I never dove there.We stayed at the Secret Harbour Beach resort and it was really nice. We chose Secret Harbour because we were able to get a pretty good deal and it was conveniently close–as in literally right next door–to the company we were going to go scuba diving with, Aqua Action.

We flew to St. Thomas on Friday morning and arrived in the afternoon. After a nice lunch we relaxed a bit before taking the ferry to St. Johns which everyone told us we needed to check out. We got there in time for a beautiful sunset while we had dinner and drinks. The ferry is only about 15 minutes from St. Thomas to St. John so it wasn’t a big deal to just go for the evening.

We had a full Saturday planned with four dives total; two in the morning and two in the afternoon. The coolest things I saw on the dive that day were large lobsters and crabs. Saturday was actually the perfect day to spend a good portion of the day in a wetsuit under water because it was overcast and we wouldn’t have been laying on the beach anyway. Enough though Kev and I split a veggie burger for lunch before our afternoon dives, we were famished by the time we were done with the day. We got a taxi to Red Hook and found a restaurant, XO Bistro, with the most amazing spinach artichoke dip I’ve ever had. It was in a fresh bread bowl and was delicious. After dinner we stopped at another bar, Fish Tails, for drinks.Cruzan is a local rum producer for the U.S. Virgin Islands that every bar there carries and they have every flavor imaginable, so I had fun trying some of the different flavors.

On Sunday we slept in, had breakfast, laid on the beach and swam in the bay for a bit before our afternoon dives. We dove two awesome ships that were sunk after WWII. It was my first time being able to swim through the actual wreck and it was a really cool experience. There was a lot of activity around the wrecks. We saw a large sting ray by seaweed grass in between the wrecks and there were a lot of fish and colorful coral living on the wreck itself. That evening we went into Red Hook again for dinner. We went to Island Time Pub for pizza. The pizza was very good but what was even better was the ginormous frozen blueberry margarita I got that was served in its original bottle called the Borracho.👍

On Monday morning we had our last two dives. While the dive sites we went to did not have as much beautiful coral, we saw a few small sharks and a 70-80 year old male Hawksbill turtle which is apparently rare to see. I was so stocked to see the turtle and it was very close to us. Below are the dive sites we went to. We did eight total dives:

Here are some of my favorite videos I took on my GoPro:

Since we were done diving by Monday afternoon, we headed to Charlotte Amaliefor lunch and to do a little shopping afterward. We had lunch at an greatMexican spot, Greengos. Although I didn’t buy anything other an Alex & Ani St. Thomas charm bracelet, I had a lot of fun trying on jewelry from Tiffany’s, David Yurman, and Rolex. I also had a drink at Bones which coincidentally is the one place that stands out in my mind from my last trip to the island about five years ago. Me, my mom, and my dad sat there and enjoyed a beverage. They have several different slushie flavors and you get to pour as much or as little rum in it as you want. Of course I also had to getsome rum cake whichI enjoyed as my dessert that evening. I am now obsessed with rum cake because it was the most delicious, moist rum cake I’ve ever had.

Our flight back to NYC was on Tuesday afternoon so we opted out of a sit down breakfast in order to enjoy a little more time on the beach. I really liked staying at Secret Harbour because even though the beach is public, since it is a little more excluded, it felt like a private beach. I had a blast having the whole bay to myself to just swim around.

I really enjoyed ourtrip to St. Thomas and I’m glad we got to go diving eight times. I was also very pleased with how good the food was. Not only did every place we went to have vegetarian options but the food was also delicious. By the end of our trip, I definitely had my fill of daiquiris and was ready to detox from all of the sugary drinks. I will definitely go back to the Virgin Islands again. Cheers!

Bachelorette Party in Nashville

The first weekend of June I went to Nashville for my cousin Dayna’s bachelorette party. I was looking forward to going because it was for one of the cousins I am closest to and it was in Nashville which I had never been to before. I flew there after work on Friday and met my other cousin Randi at the airport before sharing a cab to the house we had rented for the weekend. There were eleven of us total and we found a really nice 3-story place on Airbnb that we all fit in. As soon as we got to the house we were greeted with jello shots and a mixed drink. Once me and Randi changed we grabbed a few Ubers and headed to dinner. By the time we found a place to seat our large party we were all famished and it was pretty late. It was also unfortunately raining. We tried getting a second wind but it was a little hard, so after checking out one bar with a live band, a few of us headed home a little early…but not before grabbing some delicious freshly made pecan praline and gophers  from Savannah’s on our way back.

On Saturday morning everyone took their time getting ready. By the afternoon we all headed into town. We stopped for lunch and cocktails at a bar before walking around a bit. We wanted to listen to some live music at The Listening Room which was recommended by one of my co-workers but we missed the afternoon show. Luckily we found another good bar, Acme with live music and delicious frozen cocktails. Later in the afternoon we got on a party barge where we cruised down Broadway and all over downtown Nashville for two hours which was a ton of fun.

After the party barge we went back to the apartment where we ordered in pizza and Dayna opened her gifts. Since we had been running around and drinking since the afternoon and everyone had early flights the next morning we called it a night and stayed in the rest of the evening. Even though I didn’t get to see or do as much as I had hoped in Nashville, we still had a blast and I’m glad I got to be there for my cousin’s special weekend and meet some more of her friends before her wedding. Cheers!

Hike in Minnewaska and Pick Your Own Farm

One Saturday a few weeks ago in June, Kevin, some friends, and I drove about two hours upstate to go on a hike. We went to Minnewaska State Park and went on a hike for a few miles. Even though it wasdrizzling and overcast all day it was actually the perfect day to hike because there weren’t too many people on the trails.

It was my first time at Minnewaska, but I definitely plan on going again. The start of the trail we took went around a little lake and there were pretty pink flower bushes pretty much surrounding the lake. It was really pretty. Even though it was rainy, it was pretty warm, and the lake water was surprisingly warm enough that people were swimming laps in it. The first part of our hike was flat and easy, but then we decided to take a more challenging path and that’s when things got interesting. Since it had been raining, the rocks were kind of slippery, but luckily Kevin and I had our new hiking boots on. He only fell once 😉

After the hike, we drove to Kelder’s Farm to pick some fresh fruit and vegetables…from the actual ground. It was my first time at a you-pick farm either ever in my life or for longer than I can remember, but hopefully it won’t be my last because I had so much fun. Who knew picking your own fruits and vegetables could be that much fun. Everything somehow tasted better too, maybe because it wasn’t grown in pesticides or because we put in the work to pick everything ourselves. Kev made fresh pesto and we had pesto pasta filled with vegetables we picked, we got Tzatziki to dip raw veggies in, and for dessert we cut up the strawberries and added a little whip cream. The whole experience is encouraging me to eat more fruits and vegetables more regularly.
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Bachelorette Party in Nashville

The first weekend of June I went to Nashville for my cousin Dayna’s bachelorette party. I was looking forward to going because it was for one of the cousins I am closest to and it was in Nashville which I had never been to before. I flew there after work on Friday and met my other cousin Randi at the airport before sharing a cab to the house we had rented for the weekend. There were eleven of us total and we found a really nice 3-story place on Airbnb that we all fit in. As soon as we got to the house we were greeted with jello shots and a mixed drink. Once me and Randi changed we grabbed a few Ubers and headed to dinner. By the time we found a place to seat our large party we were all famished and it was pretty late. It was also unfortunately raining. We tried getting a second wind but it was a little hard, so after checking out one bar with a live band, a few of us headed home a little early…but not before grabbing some delicious freshly made pecan praline and gophers from Savannah’s on our way back.

On Saturday morning everyone took their time getting ready. By the afternoon we all headed into town. We stopped for lunch and cocktails at a bar before walking around a bit. We wanted to listen to some live music at The Listening Room which was recommended by one of my co-workers but we missed the afternoon show. Luckily we found another good bar, Acme with live music and delicious frozen cocktails. Later in the afternoon we got on a party barge where we cruised down Broadway and all over downtown Nashville for two hours which was a ton of fun.

After the party barge we went back to the apartment where we ordered in pizza and Dayna opened her gifts. Since we had been running around and drinking since the afternoon and everyone had early flights the next morning we called it a night and stayed in the rest of the evening. Even though I didn’t get to see or do as much as I had hoped in Nashville, we still had a blast andI’m glad I got to be there for my cousin’s special weekend and meet some more of her friends before her wedding. Cheers!

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Bronx Zoo Run for the Wild Fun Run

On the last Saturday in April, Kevin and I participated in the Run for the Wild fun run in the Bronx Zoo for the Wildlife Conservation Society. It was an easy 5k but what was most appealing about the run for me was that not only did donations go towards a good cause–saving animals–but the race was actually held in the zoo.I was able to raise $200 for the run, and it was an enjoyable day.

The event was sold out so there was a good turnout and there were a lot of families with their children. Even the adults had a lot of fun. It was cute seeinga lot of the adult participants dressed up in different animal costumes from bubble bees, to a shark, to a tiger. If I do the run next year I definitely want to dress up.

It was so much fun to run through the zoo and to see many different animals while running. Kevin and I even stopped at one point to take a selfie with some giraffes in the background. There were also random peacocks walking around throughout the race which was neat. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a peacock that close in person. They are really beautiful. I’m glad I heard about Run for the Wild and was able to participate this year.

New Years in Berlin

Last year Kev and I spent New Years skiing in Park City and the year before that we spent it in London, so this past New Years Kevin and I decided to go somewhere we both had never been before, Berlin. I wanted to go to Berlin not only because I’ve never been but also because I’ve heard good things and after seeing Cabaret on Broadway which I loved, it also had me more interested in the city.

We took the red eye to Berlin leaving NYC on Tuesday evening and arriving on Wednesday morning. We stayed at The Dude in Kreuzberg which was a really nice, boutique hotel we booked on Jetsetter. After sleeping in, we walked to Mitte and had dinner near the Berlin TV Tower which is a tower with a sphere that enables visitors to see a 360 view of the city. Throughout our trip the TV Tower was often used as a point of reference to help us navigate. After dinner nearby Kevin and I walked around for a bit and picked up some gloves at the nearby Berlin Mall because it was pretty cold and I of course forgot gloves.

On Thursday, New Year’s Eve, we went to the me Collectors Room and KW Institute for Contemporary Art. Both galleries were cool and interesting. me Collectors Room had a Cindy Sherman exhibit. At first I was a little appalled by her work with dolls seemingly lifelike in inappropriately sexual positions and other grotesque figures, but then Kevin and I watched a 20 minute video on her work, and I began to appreciate her work. It was after I learned Sherman’s reason to create the art and the statement she was making that I realized how talented she is. How I originally viewed and felt about the pictures was the reaction she wanted from viewers.

After the museum we had a great lunch at Vietnamese restaurant, District Mot, before heading back to the hotel for a nap. After resting and lounging around for a bit we headedto the Brandenburger Tor around 10:30pm to get ready to see the fireworks. We had some spiced mulled win at a spot with a great view of the Brandenburg Gate but we started to get hungry so we decided to walk around to see if we could find a large pretzel or something. That was probably our mistake because once we were out of that area, we came across more and more gated areas and things got crazier and crazier. Germans seem to be prettyorderly but on New Year’s Eve things were crazy and people were lighting off fireworks left and right. It was a little scary seeing children lighting fireworks in the middle of the street along with other amateurs blasting off M-80s (M-80s require a license in the U.S.) and road flares.

I have grown up watching fireworks on Independence Day and other events so I was surprised how frightened I felt.I was on edge, expecting to be hit by a firework at any moment. I realize that it is because at any firework display I’ve seen there has always been a show in which there is a focal point the fireworks are lit from. In this case, there were fireworks and loud booms coming from every direction. Kevin was also uncomfortable with the situation so we both practically ran the half hour back to the hotel. We got back to The Dude minutes before the New Year.

A lot of things were closed on New Year’s Day so after having breakfast in the hotel, we took a long nap. The time difference was really hard on us the entire trip, so we were a little thankful for a day of rest during whichwe didn’t feel guilty staying in our hotel for the majority of the day. When we finally did wake up we hopped on the last bus tour of the evening to try to see as much of the city as possible.

At our last stop we jumped off the bus in order to grab some dinner and see some of the preserved Berlin wall pieces. We also spent some time in the Checkpoint Charlie museum which was pretty neat. I wanted to check out one of the large Christmas markets after but since it was New Year’s Day it was unfortunately closed.

On Saturday, our last day in Berlin before flying back to NYC on Sunday, we had a jam-packed day. First we went to the bakeryZeit Brotwhere I had the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had in my life. And believe me, I’ve had a lot of pastries in my day. There is a glass window atZeit fج_r Brot that enables you to see the pastries being made from scratch. It was cool to watch and just confirmed how fresh they are.

After our breakfast we did the street art workshop and tour through Alternative Berlin Tours. The tour and workshop was my favorite thing we did in Berlin and it lasted half the day. We had an awesome guide that took us around the city for about two or so hours explaining the history and etiquette of graffiti (yes, etiquette of graffiti seems counterintuitive but it’s really a thing), and showed us some really cool street art pieces. We learned about crews and how difficult some of the tags are.

After the walking tour we proceeded to the workshop portion. I do not consider myself a very artistic person, but I had a blast creating my own art at the workshop. First we got to choose a photocopy of an image, then we used an x-acto knife to cut out the outline of the image to use as a stencil. From there we took our new stencils to spray paint. The instructors showed us a few tricks and then left us to our own devices. Kevin did a Banksy piece of the guy throwing the bushel of roses and I did a bunny in a cage to make a ethical statement.

After the graffiti tour, Kevin and I were luckily able to get dinnerat the popular Katz Orange. They were fully booked but since we got there about 15 minutes before they opened for dinner they let us sit at the bar for dinner. The food was delicious. After dinner we had a night cap at the speakesay Becketts Komf which is acclaimed as one of the best cocktail bars in Berlin by The Guardian and Time Out Berlin. We had reservations for when they first opened at 8pm and we were the only ones there for the first hour which seemed odd to us. I guess Berliners are night owls. The cocktails were good though and Kevin and I had a nice time.

Berlin is a really cool, eclectic city. I had a great time exploring and I definitely recommend checking it out.

P.S. Thank you Natalie and Karim for all of your Berlin recommendations. As you can see, we took many of them!

Vail Ski Trip April 2016

I was able to squeeze inmy first ski trip of the year and of the whole ski season the first weekend in April. Kevin was there for a company offsite all week, so we were able to tack a few additional days onto his trip. I was only there for less than 48 hours but it was totally worth it; I had a great time.

It felt like it had been a while since my last ski trip so I was really looking forward to going skiing. I flew to Denver after work on Friday so I didn’t get to Vail Manor until really late. We skied all day on Saturday and woke up early to ski for a few hours on Sunday morning before heading to the airport to fly back to NYC. On Saturday the snow conditions were ideal. I lucked out that it had just snowed there on Thursday. Things got a little slushy towards the end of the day on Saturday and it froze over night, so Sunday’s conditions weren’t as good, but it was still a lot of fun. I even got to get a little mogul practice in.

Colorado is a beautiful state and I understand why people love living there. I felt happy and more easy-going during my short trip. On Sunday Kevin and I were out on the first lifts of the morning, and it was a cool experience having the mountain to ourselves for a bit. It was a cool experience feeling like we were the only ones on the mountain and one of thefirst to traverse down that morning. As you can see from the picture above, it was breathtaking. I already can’t waituntil my next ski trip.
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2015 Books Read

It has been a long while since I’ve written any book reviews, but I have still been reading a lot and I get asked for new book recommendations every so often, so below are some of the books I’ve read over the past year or so.

  1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt –It was so good and I like Tartt’s style of writing so much that I looked up other books she wrote.
  2. The Secret History by Donna Tartt — I liked this novel by Tartt as well.
  3. Purity by Jonathan Franzen — I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything that Franzen has written. He’s my favorite author.
  4. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult –My Aunt Sue lent me this book because it has elephants in it and it was actually a pretty good book. The author did her research and spent some time with elephants to incorporate them in her novel. Although it is fiction, some of the elephant stories referenced were based on true stories.
  5. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. People are comparingher to Gillian Flynn. I liked this book and read through it quickly.
  6. Where the Blind Horse Sings by Kathy Stevens–I bought two of her books when I visited her animal sanctuary, the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, this past summer. Her sanctuary is a wonderful place giving love and a second chance to many different kinds of animals, and I liked this book which tells the story of how Stevens started the sanctuary and some of the animals’ history.
  7. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace- I tried but just could not finish it. I got maybe 1/4 of the way through this humongous 1,000 page novel. I have begun referring to my mom as “the moms” now though, so thanks Wallace. I also recently watched End of the Tour with Jason Segel who played DFW in the film…at least I watched the entire movie.
  8. May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes — I want to shake the protagonist Harry because he’s such a stup, but it’s still a decent book.
  9. You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik –Teacher/student affair. It was a decent novel.
  10. You Too Could Have a Body Like Mine – Super weird but kind of interesting storytelling.
  11. Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling–I read this for a book club I’m in but I thought Kaling sounded whiny and I didn’t enjoy the book.
  12. Find a Way by Diana Nyad — I bought her book after hearing her speak at a NY event. She’s inspiring and her life story is interesting.
  13. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins –I enjoyed this book and I heard it’s going to be made into a movie, so read it fast.
  14. Blame by Michelle Huneven –This was another book lent to me by my Aunt. It was a little depressing and slow-going, but I still enjoyed it. I just lent it to my mom to read now.

Happy Reading!

2015 Year in Review

2015 was a great year. I took two of the most amazing trips of my life in the same year. Below is a recap of the highlights in my life in 2015.

Winter (Jan-Feb)

  • Gel nail virgin no more! In 2015 I got my first gel manicure and I treated myself to some fancy nails occasionally throughout the year
  • Trip to Australia – I had one of the most amazing trips of my life during a week-long trip to Australia. We went on a rain forest tour in Cairns, stayed on a live-aboard boat scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef for four days, and checked out Sydney
  • I saw some cool art and went to some good shows. I found an artist whose work made out of tulle I love, Ifran Onurmen, I went to a Maroon 5 concert, and I saw The Elephant Man starring Bradley Cooper on Broadway

Spring (March, April, May)

  • Kevin and I spent our four-year anniversary skiing in Vail, Colorado
  • We celebrated Kevin’s 33rd birthday in style with a nice dinner with friends
  • We had afternoon tea to celebrate Easter at The Lowell in NYC
  • I celebrated my 27th Birthday and Kevin and I took a trip to Puerto Rico where we went scuba diving and kayaking in the bioluminescent bay
  • We celebrated Kevin’s friend’s wedding in Mexico

Summer (June, July, Aug)

  • Hiking in Minnewaska State Park in New York and picking fruits and vegetables
  • Broadway shows and some visitors (Becca & Rob and my mom)
  • Independence Day in Michigan and surprising my mom with kittens. Kittens! We got two little nuggets from the same breeder we got Pants and Boots and they are the cutest. This was a special trip. I mean, how often do you get a chance to surprise your parents with two fluffer nutter babies?!
  • Runcation in the Poconos. Kevin took things to the next level on his journey in becoming an actual runner. So proud of him

Fall (September, Oct, Nov)

  • Wedding in Napa Valley, California for Jeanne and Christopher
  • We visited Iceland where we relaxed in the Blue Lagoon, went scuba diving in the Silfra fissure (our first time diving in dry suits), and went lava caving
  • Kev and I ran our first 5-mile race at the Poland Springs five-miler race in Central Park
  • Kev and I visited Vermont for the first time. We took a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory and we went hiking to see the Fall foliage
  • We spent Thanksgiving in San Francisco with Kev’s family

Winter (Dec. ’15)

  • I flew to Vegas, my first Vegas trip as an adult, to see Britney Spears in concert. The spa at the Encore was also amazing
  • Christmas was spent in Michigan with my family. We rented a large party bus for the family to drive to my Aunt’s. It was also my Grandma’s 80th birthday and my first time meeting baby Frodo Baggins
  • Kev and I brought in the New Year in Berlin. It was our first time visiting Berlin.

I had an amazing 2015 and I’m glad I had Kevin, friends and family to enjoy it with. I’m also very fortunate to have taken three big trips to different countries: Australia, Iceland, Germany. If I had to pick, my top two favorite trips out of the dozen or so places Kev and I traveled this year, I would pick Australia and Iceland. They were very different trips, but both countries are beautiful and I had a blast going on the tours and exploring the country.

Cheers to 2016! I hope to have another happy and adventurous year.