Meanwhile in Tuxedo

Another summer day and another outdoors adventure.  It’s safe to say that I spend more time reminiscing and dreaming about hiking now than I did when I lived in California.  I’m sure it has to do with the fact that I’m surrounded in concrete and yearning for that outdoors experience.  Although to be fair, I also spent a lot of time wishing I was spending more time outdoors in college and well, it was college.  I definitely could have done so back then.

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Anyways, thank goodness for active friends who are willing to try something new.  Even if it means taking New Jersey Transit from NYC to Tuxedo, New York to go hiking.  Yeah, I’m not sure how we got that one, but we made it.

Our options for the 4th of July weekend hikes were between Bear Mountain, Breakneck Ridge, and Beacon.  Many of us had raced Bear Mountain for the North Face Endurance Challenge and weren’t exactly too keen to revisit that course, but found a different part of the mountain to explore.

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^^ All set with the very smooth and tasty (yet a bit high on the sugar scale) Noosa and Califia experiment.  I’m much more of a fan of almond milk lattes with the barista blend, but this on the go brew was solid enough.  Some of the other folks picked up bagels near Penn Station at Best Bagel & Coffee but I was saving up for dinner at Parm.  More salivating pictures and reviews on that to come.

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We weren’t entirely sure what type of hike or route we were going to take but thankfully one of the gals had brought a map along with her, so we weren’t too terribly lost.

IMG_8519IMG_8527 13584748_10154295469682813_4783836227838467758_oIMG_8193^^ Huge fan of NUUN, an electrolyte tablet that you can pop in your water to shake up hydration.  It’s pretty popular among runners and folks on-the-go and as you can see, perfect to pop in any bag when traveling or even keep at work!

Those looking for the nitty gritty, the electrolytes packed in these tablets (namely >> sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium) help reduce cramps and improve muscle function and recovery.

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IMG_8520 IMG_8514IMG_8535 IMG_8518 IMG_852813567132_10154201007110330_6071703245614202437_nIMG_8529IMG_8531IMG_852213521918_10154201007200330_1973019190873832069_n IMG_8533IMG_8536^^ We may not have found a true look out point but this side of the mountain provided quite a nice view.  We even had an encounter with a deer! Don’t worry, we didn’t actually touch the deer, but I got some decent action shots.

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We made it back around 3:30 to catch the early afternoon train into NYC.  From there it was off to PARM and oh what a tasty treat that was.  To be continued…

“Whenever the sun is shining, I feel obligated to play outside!”
― Charles M. Schulz

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Summer Days at Coney Island

Because what else do you do when you have a free Friday off of work?  Since no one else I knew had the day off, and I hadn’t gotten around to scheduling any weekend trips, I thought it would be neat to travel outside my home-base borough and into the realm of Coney Island.  Home to the Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, a couple amusement parks and a seaside resort.

Just a hop, skip, and a jump – or more realistically 45 minute subway ride, and you are there.  To be exact, this was my second trip to Coney Island – my first occurring after last year’s Brooklyn Half Marathon.  This time there were plenty of people on the beaches, but far fewer crowds to battle, open lines at Nathan’s Famous, and I had the most important accessory – my camera.

IMG_7652 IMG_7653 ^^ If you are lucky and in town during the 4th of July, you can stop by Nathan’s to watch the annual hot dog eating contest.  Not sure if it’s a blessing or disappointment that I missed that event.

IMG_7656 IMG_7659 ^^ Nathan’s is obviously known for their hot dogs, but it’s also a hot spot for their waffle/crinkle cut fries and come with their own little skewer fork.

IMG_7663 IMG_7667 ^^ One day late for National Hot Dog day but let’s be real, when you are in Coney Island, every day is hot dog day, right?

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After chowing down, I set off to explore the boardwalk.  There even happened to be a little section of the popular  Smorgasburg right here in Coney Island (Brooklyn’s flea food market – food extravaganza where a number of mom + pop or hipster food shops set up booths in a parking lot or park)

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Boardwalk along the westernmost part of the barrier islands of Long Island with plenty for all ages.  There are restaurants, games, rides, and even a couple of bars for those looking for an overpriced adult beverage.  Got to love tourist season.

~ Coney Island History ~ Coney Island Tours ($25 cash) ~ Mermaid Festival ~ Movies at Coney Island (w/ Friday night fireworks during the summer!)
~ Beach ~ Rides ~ Aquarium ~ Minor League Baseball ~
Subways: D, F, N, Q

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^^ Beach + ice cream go hand-in-hand, right?

IMG_7689 IMG_7694I decided to walk all the way down the boardwalk to Brighton Beach and then headed back into the city.  For some reason, the afternoon felt like part of a dream – just looking around me and soaking in all the experiences and cultural differences; differences between coasts, boroughs, and even between 10 or so blocks.

“If Paris is France, Coney Island, between June and September is the world” – George Tilyou

There’s No Place Like Home

Home.  What in the world does that even mean?  Where you grew up? Where you live now? Does it have to be a full-on brick and mortar house with a yard?  Are you a roaming nomad?  For those of you who have graduated from high school and entered into the college or adult world, I’m sure you understand what I’m talking about.  We all reach a point (usually that big 1-8 birthday where you are legally considered an adult) where it’s time to live our own life.  You probably have left the nest and created a world of your own – you call the shots on when to go out, when to go to bed, what to eat, and how often you change your sheets.  Ok, that last one might be a little gross but it’s all about learning to live on your own.

When I went to college, I left a little piece of me back in Southern California.  I thought it was a given that I would move back to LA.  It’s where I grew up, where my family is, etc.  It was home.  I didn’t really give Santa Clara a chance and instead spent too much time worrying about classes and if I was involved enough or ready for the outside world.  I would just dip my toes in the Silicon Valley, never letting myself admit that I could adapt to Northern California ways.  I spent too much time looking back rather than in the moment.  But then something happened.  When I went home for the holidays, it no longer felt normal.  People had moved away, stores had changed and I didn’t know where I was supposed to fit into all of that. For some reason I thought that nothing would change, no one would grow older, and it would all stay the same.

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When senior year started, I decided I needed to change things up.  I wanted another shot at what my dad called “reinventing myself” or really just letting my true personality shine – no holding back and no worries if some people couldn’t relate. I decided to move to New York and there is where things fell into place.  I stopped worrying what people thought about me, I started focusing on the things I like to do – like exploring and working out – and started to make some really good friends.  I let people get to know the real me and stopped presenting a version of who I thought I should be.  It started to feel like home.  Every time I left to visit my family or explore another part of the east coast, I would get excited to see the NYC skyline or the tall skyscrapers from a distance.

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Living in New York has been one of the best decisions I have made.  I love the fast paced life style, the diversity of people, and the wide range of opportunities available.

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^^ It took me almost a year to find out about November Project but I am 100% certain it has contributed to my happiness here.

11221751_948895365133721_90525601569340533_o ^^ Then there are these people.  My np_nyc tribe.  I’m sorry but the np_lax just didn’t feel like home.  I’m sure I would fit right in after a few weeks of workouts and hardcore dedication – that’s after all how I started to make NYC feel like home – but I just missed my friends and the other familiar faces

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^^ So maybe my life is built up by working out and November Project.  That’s not too much a problem though since we are the work hard & play hard types of people.  I think life can be about finding people with common interests and making the most out of those relationships.  If it means you see them once or twice a week or maybe daily, then so be it.  But we shouldn’t force ourselves into situations that constantly make us unhappy or uncomfortable.  Even though I’m only 24, I feel as though I’ve experienced enough of that.  I’m done with feeling insecure and the odd man out.

Then I flew back to Southern California for the 4th of July.  I saw family, I went to the mountains, I went to the beach, and I saw friends who had just moved out to the west side of Los Angeles.

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Sure there was traffic, but there were views like this ^^.  We went running on trails and then had breakfast in a popular coffee spot (Urth Cafe – Spanish latte or Spanish granita – get it and you will not be sorry) by the beach.   Life was somehow easier in a way but more difficult in other ways.  My brain started to become muddled with what to do.

IMG_1025^^  Yes, this happens but then so does this:

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^^ For goodness sake I’m only 24 but I feel like the weight of the future is resting heavily on my shoulders right now.  There are people going to med school and getting engaged and even married with kids!  I know this feeling of confusion is going to be a long one – that’s why there are articles out there like Though Catalog’s “The Hardest Things People Had To Learn in Their 20’s“.  Yes, I admit, a lot of this is #firstworldproblems so I apologize if this seems trivial.  Let’s just say being back in California for an extended period of time was odd and I felt like I was in limbo.  No doubt I would like to move back there some day, but when?  The answer is I don’t know right now.  Maybe it’s a year or maybe it’s longer.

IMG_1022^^ Maybe the real decision should be based upon the wide variety of acai bowls offered?  I may have selected Santa Clara as my college of choice because they offered a “make-your-own-parfait” on the weekends. True story.

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I know that I like being close to my family – being able to golf or go for a hike or go out to dinner.  I know that I like having my own schedule and having a constant list of places to explore here in Manhattan.  I wish that Los Angeles didn’t rely so much on driving and the west side was closer together (wishful thinking).  I wish that New York was cleaner and that it was easier to escape the island and explore the coast (problem – I need a car/place to stay that’s relatively cheap…recent graduate problems).

I write for fun and to connect with people.  I read blogs to feel a commonality and have made some excellent friends through it.  I read blogs like Ali’s to feel validated in showing my quirky personality and that things work out, and I read posts like Sarah’s to know that we are all thriving and struggling at the same time.  We have become friends outside of the blogging world and are usually two peas in a pod.  (or insert dancing emoji) 😉

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^^ View from my run over the Manhattan bridge (accidentally on the biking-designated side) to NP in Brooklyn last Friday.

I’m fully aware that I don’t have to have my 5-10-15 year plan figured out right now.  I know that things change and the next year(s) will be life lessons in themselves.  I could learn to love the city and east coast even more or another winter could do me in.  Who knows?  For now, I’m happy in this crazy place I call home, at least for now.  I know my mom has heard this discussion too many times to count, so sorry mom.  Now that it has been written and published for the world wide web, I will let it drop and just go out there and carpe diem.  Let’s live it up for the moment, sound good?

Does anyone else feel the pull between comfort (often w/ family) and adventure (and growth)?  Does there have to be such a divide?  

Arlington and Traveling in Our Nation’s Capital

What’s great about Potomac, MD is that it’s just a short drive from the main hub of D.C.  Each part of the weekend, we spent some time down there, but would drive back home for dinner and meet up with some other family friends.

~ DAY 2 ~

The second day of our trip started down at Arlington National Cemetery.  My great-grandfather was involved in the armed forces and so visiting such an honorable place often holds a bit more meaning for my family.  We spent some time walking amongst the thousands of graves before taking the bus tour and my heart went out to the family and friends who lost their loved ones.

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IMG_6113IMG_6114A veteran’s group performing a tribute in front of the Tomb of the Unknown. 

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“The energy – the faith – the devotion which we bring to the endeavor will light our country and all who serve it and the glow from that fire can truly light the world” – @ Arlington National Cemetery (JFK Memorial) 

Later in the afternoon, we met up with a retired professor, who specialized in what seemed to be every piece of American history.  The conversation started surrounding the Arlington cemetery, it’s creation and uses, and later expanded into the Civil War, the history of Washington D.C. and more.  I swear, my grandma and I could have sat outside that pub for hours in gorgeous afternoon and listen to him speak.  I especially loved seeing her so engaged in the conversation and throwing all these fabulous facts out about our nation’s history.

IMG_6111Did you know that the Lincoln Memorial was once going to be placed around 16th street because he was the 16th president?  Well, plans changed mostly due to the symbolic meaning of the current location.  Most importantly, it’s at the foot of the Lee Mansion and having Lincoln look over Lee’s property for eternity to come, was almost a dig at the Lee family.  They had lost their property to the Union during the war, but would be forever reminded by the location of the Lincoln Memorial, just across the bridge.

~ DAY 3 ~

On Sunday we took a trip down to the canal and Potomac River, where I ran for the first time in a few weeks (thank you plantar fasciitis) and Nance and Joan went for a stroll.

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I was in love with the dirt path and nature all around me – enough to unplug my iphone and run simply to the sound of the water and the conversations of people passing by.  We showered and brunched at a local Irish spot and then it was off to the airport.  I’m pretty pooped out from flying, or rather unreliable airports.  Even though I was set to depart at 5:20, my plane encountered two delays, which left me in the airport for about 4 hours longer than planned.  Ah well, we can’t win it all.  But, I am truly blessed to have such wonderful and inspirational family to look up to and travel with.

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“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

One Marvelous Adventure to D.C.

This past weekend I took a trip south to stay near our nation’s capitol.  There, I met up with my grandmother and her family friends for some fabulous adventures, excellent site-seeing, and tasty eats.  Even though I knew we were staying in Potomac, I somehow told people I was staying in Alexandria.  Where I came up with Alexandria, I have no idea but seeing as it was a bit far to the capitol, I had to save the November Project for a separate trip.

My mom had actually grown up in the area and so for years I had heard stories about the town and their home.  Finally I was able to piece it all together and loved seeing my grandma’s face light up as she recalled different memories and hilarious stories.

IMG_6331The first and last time that I had visited these family friends was when I was just over 2 years old and had been traveling back from living in England.  Here’s a little then and now picture.  Ok, we all know that throwback pictures are always cuter 🙂

~ DAY 1 ~

IMG_6073 IMG_6075good friends in front of the capitol ^^ below, it looks like they are trying to copy the Louvre, no?

IMG_6079can you spot one of the newest museums in town?  the NEWSEUM!  something I will certainly check out on my next trip to town 🙂

IMG_6080our point of destination – the national gallery of art

IMG_6081 so artsy, I know

IMG_6332 our main goal was to visit the Degas/Cassat exhibit, which was only going to be open until early October!  It highlighted the relationship between the two impressionist artists and the impact they had on one another’s art and the movement.  I much prefer impressionist art to anything else, so I was one happy camper.

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After a couple hours of education, we drove out of the main center and up into Georgetown.  There we spent some time shopping and gawking at the people in line for the iphone 6.

IMG_6091While there are plenty of wonderful shops on the main drive, we did the most damage at Vineyard Vines.  There, I was proud to pick out my first pieces of whale clothing and they may be the only thing I’m looking forward to about winter.  Oh, and I swear, if any man dressed in Vineyard Vines (got to love those patterns) comes up to me, I’m sold. 😉

IMG_6328Joan insisted that I take a picture in front of the famous canal – the same canal that we were walk along on Sunday morning. This reminds me of when I was in Amsterdam and took a picture in front of their canals.

IMG_6094 IMG_6100the school my grandmother attended in the 4th and 5th grade!  Back then it was named the Hardy School and has since changed hands, but the structure remains the same.

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After a day of travel, we were ready to dig in.  Of course, now that I write that sentence, I’m completely ready for a juice detox (and I NEVER say that).  Anyhoo, off to the famous Peking Restaurant for some gourmet Chinese food.  I let our hosts handle the ordering and we ended up with more than enough beef, pork, and noodles to last us for days.

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Their claim to fame is the Peking Duck, which is carved right at your table.  Nancy and I were not really in the mood for some duck, but maybe another time.  With full bellies, we drove back home for some baseball and a good night’s sleep.  Day one complete and ready for more marvelous adventures anon!

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ernest Hemingway

The Art of Italian Ice

If you ask me, frozen treats are delectable at any point in the year.  Maybe that’s my California background speaking as we don’t normally encounter the so-called “winter” weather.  Well, back east they like to keep things seasonal, shutting down the Italian ice stores just as the summer months come to a close.  They open up shortly after spring has sprung and welcome in the hungry kids and salivating adults such as myself on a warm spring evening.

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My first experience with east coast ice happened to be in my California hometown when they opened up a ice and custard store called Rita’s.

My cousin happened to be working the store when it first opened, so of course we had to pop in at every chance, just to see him all dressed up in his official garb.  That and there was this lovely little incentive called the family discount.  Well, don’t mind if I do. 🙂

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The pumpkin was divine (as all pumpkin lovers would like to know) but it’s the black cherry that stole my heart.  Really, the chunks of cherry a midst the freshly made ice, just made it to die for.  One can top their treat with a swirl of custard, making the creation a GELATI but I much prefer my custard and ice separate, especially on an overwhelmingly hot day. (Dairy + extreme heat = not appealing)

IMG_4015 Fun little stop in New Jersey when I was with some family friends for the weekend.  Most shops are seasonal on the east coast but this one happened to be open year round.

IMG_4016Again, black cherry is where it’s at.  This time I didn’t mind a bit of custard on top, but that’s probably because it was about 60F outside, unlike my first experience at the end of August when it was blazing hot.

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Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices
(144 East 24th St. New York, NY 10010)

Lucky for me and my summer d.i.e.t. (“did I eat that”) 😉 there are plenty of ice shops around the city.  Ralph’s is a favorite of mine, simply by the fact that I walk past it every day on the way to the gym.  I have yet to purchase anything more than once but a girl can dream.  And dream I do.