Game Set Match ~ The U.S. Open

Ah, the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, an annual summer affair for Queens New York City.  While I only played tennis recreationally as a kid (note, tennis camp, rallying with the family, and occasional matches on vacation), I didn’t know much more about the sport.  Sure, everyone knows Wimbeldon, but who knew that there were hard courts, grass courts, and even dirt courts?  Starting around 1987, the U.S. Open has been set as the fourth and last tennis match to accumulate in the Grand Slam.  Players set out to obtain this glorious title, first with the Australian Open, French Open, and then Wimbledon.

IMG_7759This glorious event is held out in one of the five New York boroughs – Queens – and right off the 7 train.  If you are lucky enough to own a car and don’t have to navigate the packed, sweaty public transport, I recommend that you do in fact drive to the event.  Sure, there’s parking to think about but since this is usually held around the last week of August and first week of September, the heat and humidity is well in full-swing.  From my perspective A/C car is looking mighty fine.

IMG_7758Like I said, the entire tournament is hosted out in Queens in Flushing Meadows, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Big Apple island thanks to the 7 train. The entire event lasts a couple of weeks, but prices are generally better earlier on in the tournament.  Also keep you eyes out for Groupon or other discount sites that help make the event affordable and family friendly.

IMG_7765IMG_7775IMG_7773This particular arena is packed with eating and shopping options galore.  The good ‘ol Ralph Lauren has you covered in terms of wardrobe, something particularly important with the level of humidity out there.  We were just arriving to the venue at 7pm but I’m sure if I had been there all day, I would have needed a new pair of clothes or at least a fresh shirt.

IMG_7769IMG_7770^^ Collecting t-shirts and hats has become a family hobby and makes for the perfect souvenir.  Long gone are the days where I stocked up on keychains or frivolous stuffed animals, (Not bashing on the toys, I’ve just learned that my tiny New York apartment can only handle so much love) and so onto baseball caps I go!  It’s a fun way for me to connect with my dad because the man can be quite particular about clothes and styles.  However, I know that a baseball cap (and this style in particular) is a winner!

Actually funny story about purchasing swag.  We were walking back to the 7 train after the event had ended and one friend commented “I just don’t understand why someone would spend $26-30 on a shirt or hat”.  Well, you just met one. Me.

IMG_7774As mentioned, we decided to attend the night session, which started around 7pm.  We also decided to select tickets for the opening session which meant we saw the opening ceremonies (not nearly as much of a production as the Olympics but still decent) as well as Serena and Nadal!

IMG_7778IMG_7776^^ First up, FOOD.  I was impressed by the selection of options in the food court – from shredded pork nachos to salads, salmon sandwiches to cold-pressed juice by Juice Press.  The more time you have to wander the better but we were cutting it close to show time.

The main events are housed in the 22,547-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium – named after the African American tennis player who won the men’s final of the first US Open in 1968.   Next up is the the Louis Armstrong Stadium, and Grandstand.

IMG_7779IMG_7783^^ Opening words from Mr. Mayor (hm, do you think he will ever show up to our November Project workout RIGHT OUTSIDE HIS HOUSE??) and Ms. Billie Jean King.

IMG_7786^^ Somewhat odd serenade/opening by Josh Groban and then it was time for some tennis!

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Short and easy win for Serena when her opponent Diatchenko was forced to retire due to a running injury.  It would have been nice to see her play a bit longer but we still had a couple hours left in the night to watch the men’s first round.

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IMG_7810 IMG_7811IMG_7814 IMG_7815There have been a number of awesome matches thus far, including Monday’s Murray vs. Isner match, which lasted 4 hours and 18 minutes!! I can’t even imagine playing that long or actually sitting that long! Not sure which is tougher 😉

Then, there was last night’s match with Venus vs. Serena.  Tonight we move onto more quarterfinals with Federer and Gasquet at 8pm EST.   For those sans cable, you can watch right along with ESPN3 or download the TuneIn App for your smartphone and listen as you work or maybe go to bed!  All notes and recommendations are my own finds, no endorsements…unfortunately.

IMG_2121“Champions keep playing until they get it right” – Billie Jean King

NYC ~ A Trip with my California Girls

I have to say, I find it quite funny that a majority of my friends located here in New York, either went to school in California or are originally from California.  But more on that later.  This post highlights the adventures from last week with two of my pals whom I have known since elementary school!

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Lindsay (on the left) actually has lived with me for some time, but it was a treat to see Laura (on the right) who happened to be working from her company’s NYC office this week!  The likelihood of us all located in the same place is much higher when that place is New York versus our Southern California hometown.  Strange, right?

PARTY ONE ~ MLK DAY

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Since we all had Monday off, we were able to spend more time together and explore a couple of new places around the city.  I woke up and walked twenty or so blocks to Laura’s hotel, where I waited in a local Starbucks and read the paper.  You know, I have always told myself that I would sit in a cafe and read the paper on a weekly basis but obviously I spend too much time running around that it never happens.

Once we were all ready to go, we headed north along 5th Avenue, popping into various stores and just browsing the windows of others.

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral
5th Avenue, New York, NY 10022

The cathedral (like many other places in New York) looks so much better without all the scaffolding surrounding it.  I still have yet to attend one of its services or even duck my head inside to see what it’s like.  Even though Lindsay and I have found a good church that we enjoy, it would be neat to attend a service at the cathedral.  After all, you seem to get a deeper experience when you attend a service in such a renown and decorated building.  I sure felt that way when I was abroad and attended mass in the Cathedrale Notre-Dame in Paris.

IMG_8118A trip along 5th Avenue is not complete without a trip to Tiffany’s.  It’s quite a treat to walk into the flagship store and browse all the gorgeous jewelry and beautiful blue boxes but no treats for me on this trip.  I’m saving up to visit my sister abroad and have been doing an excellent job so far.

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Walking through Central Park and the zoo (fun fact: I wanted to be an animal trainer when I was little.  A dolphin trainer in particular.  I would braid hair and train dolphins at a resort in Hawaii.  I’m sure my parents are much happier that I grew out of that phase)

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A trip to Lily Pulitzer

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Jumped on the 7 train to ride under the East River into Long Island City

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Tuk Tuk
49-06 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, NY 11101

There we went to Tuk Tuk, which my manager had highly recommended for lunch.  I’m usually not the biggest fan of Thai, but I think it has to do with the fact that I order the most random combinations of food, not meant to be paired together. Like the time I ordered a vegan hot dog at Pink’s Hot Dogs in LA because I was trying to be healthy.  Yeah, no.  You just don’t do that.  But anyways, I’ve started asking waiters and waitresses about their favorites and what they suggest I order.  I’ve had infinity more success this way.

Not only was the food supposed to be super tasty, but they have a great lunch special, which meant we paid only around $7-9 for our meal.  Brilliant!

IMG_6539Thai iced tea + Pad Gra-Prow
(Stir-fried with a chili basil sauce with basil, onion and bell pepper)

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The recently developed area has an amazing stretch of parks, open space, and place for dogs to frolic and play.  We met up with my manager and her dog Brodie and had a blast watching the pups chase one another.

The rest of the night was spent at our apartment watching the Bachelor.  Oh Farmer Chris.

PART TWO ~ FRIDAY NIGHT

We really didn’t have a chance to hang out the rest of the week but were able to have one last night of fun on Friday.  What’s better on a Friday night than grabbing dinner and dessert with your friends? Forget clubbing, just give me chocolate. 😉 But really.

That morning, I woke up to attend the November Project workout at Morningside park.  Despite the long run and trek with my backpack, it was worth it.  Always is.  Ten hours later and it was time to meet up with Lindsay and Laura for dinner at Kipseys, a relaxed and somewhat contemporary American restaurant on 2nd avenue.

438 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10010
~ General ~ Menu ~ Delivery ~

I started off with a fruity glass of sangria, spilt a very delicious (don’t let the terrible iPhone picture convince you otherwise) appetizer of brussels sprouts and pancetta, and pondered over the options for dinner.

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Again, the iPhone has failed me to capture the tastiness of the event, but believe me when I say the trio combo of sides was absolutely fabulous and a clutch price point.  For $12, I was able to get mac & cheese, spinach, and sweet potato fries.  Lindsay had also ordered mac & cheese for $8 and I’m pretty sure it came out to be the same size.

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Originally we had planned to test out a speakeasy – Please Don’t Tell – but decided otherwise when we realized that we hadn’t made a reservation and miscalculated the location (it’s near Tompkin’s Square Park NOT Union Square).  So, we made a reservation at Max Brenner’s Chocolate Shop for dessert and spent the next 45 minutes wandering Nordstrom Rack.

Did you know that we New Yorkers do not have an actual Nordstrom’s?  Preposterous, I know.  Sure there is Bloomingdales and Saks and Macy’s and all that jazz.  Maybe it’s another sign that west coast = best coast.

Max Brenner’s
841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
~ Home ~ Locations ~ Chocolate Bar ~ Menu ~

IMG_8164While they serve actual meals as well, I would recommend this spot for dessert.  It’s seriously like walking into a world of pure imagination (yes…Willy Wonka for the win).

IMG_8168Both Laura and Lindsay had visited Max Brenner, either here in New York or out in Australia, so I deferred to them on what to order.  The hot chocolate is a must, so we ordered one for the table.We also ended up ordering three different desserts so that we could sample a little bit of everything.  Thank goodness my friends love to share because it’s oodles more fun to order a few dishes and get a taste of everything rather than be stuck with one option.

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~ Churros ~ The Works 1/2 Dessert Pizza ~ Strawberry/Chocolate Crepe ~

This ultimately put me in a sugar/food/chocolate coma and left me with the following thoughts:

Oh my goodness, this is like out of Willy Wonka.  Hm, what to order.  I’m a bit overwhelmed.  So much to order. This is so exciting!  (Food arrives)  We dive in like a pack of wolves.  Just kidding (maybe).  I’m sure any guy would swoon. 😉

(Still working on the food)  Thank goodness we didn’t go here for dinner.  Hm, we are all slowing down.  Do I still like chocolate?  Must finish.  Clean plate club.  Oh boy, this is going to hurt tomorrow.  Shoot, this hurts now.  Ok, almost there.  Wow, never eating chocolate or sweets or sugar again.  I’ll start a juice cleanse, yes good idea.  (Meanwhile get a text from our other friends in the city asking to meet up for hot chocolate the next day)  Ok maybe no juice cleanse just yet.  Oh boy, this feels like a hangover.  So worth it.

We stuck around for a bit, said our goodbyes, and then called it quits for the night.

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Marathon Monday

A very happy Monday and happy November to you!  With Halloween on Friday, the Starbucks red cups arrival on Saturday, and the New York Marathon on Sunday, it was quite a weekend.  I honestly don’t know how people work full time and manage to throw parties and still have a packed social calendar because it can really be exhausting!  I would have been just fine lounging around with a good movie on Friday but wait, that’s what I tend to do all week 😉  So, every once in awhile I try to live a little and act my age.

IMG_6890~ Just a Spoonful of Sugar ~
Last minute costumes rarely come together for me, although our attempt to recreate Mary Poppins with a couple of penguins was quite the success if I do say so.

IMG_6891Just a little Halloween spread before heading out to the streets of the east village.  Doesn’t it look like a Snoopy Thanksgiving spread with the pretzels and popcorn adorning our small little table?

SATURDAY

One of the laziest days on record and it was amazing.  After waking up for pilates and body pump, I walked home in the rain and met Lindsay for the first Starbucks Christmas cup of the season.  Well, the first location we went to actually was running low, so Lindsay made another trip down the street to satisfy her craving. 🙂  The weather was perfectly gloomy, which meant we had no qualms about staying in and watching Captain America, football, and the latest Hunger Games movie.

SUNDAY – RACE DAY

Lindsay and I were up and out the door by 6am to make our way to the water stop.  We had volunteered with the November Project group at Mile 14 out in Queens.  Since this was my second year in the city, it the second time I was able to watch the marathon.  As a matter of fact, it was the second marathon ever that I had watched.

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Usually I find it difficult to do anything but run in a race.  Simply watching makes me wish I were running (even with current injuries) and volunteering seems fun but not as much of an accomplishment.  Then I realized that a race is not complete without these spectators and volunteers and if I value their involvement when I am running, why not give back?

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Poland Springs Oompa Loompas ready for water duty!

Here I am complete with long sleeve + fleece + sweatshirt + puffy vest, ready for one chilly day.  Lindsay is slowly adjusting to the east coast weather and is in for a real treat this winter 🙂

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There were supposed to be over 50,000 runners, which meant lining up almost 100,000 cups of water.  The elite runners would be handed water and fuel by their coaches or their own helpers, so we could just cheer them on as they passed by.

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The first wave of the race was the wheelchair crew, although due to the strong winds, they started around mile 3.  We had a November Project member in one of these packs and we were all so impressed by their muscle and speed.

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^^ All the tiny, ripped, and speedy female leaders flying by

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We saw the elite group around 10 or so and the rest of the runners pacing in around 11am.  Then, from about 11am until 2:30 there was a constant flow of traffic, which meant we were standing from 7am-3pm, handing cups out and screaming encouragements.  I did not think I had that type of energy and was left completely exhausted at the end of our shift.

IMG_6936There’s something about watching one of the most famous marathons that makes me inspired to run one.  Sure, call me crazy but I’m in love with this athletic lifestyle.   Because of our position in the race, we saw people when they were just over halfway finished.  There were some tough moments, some tight legs, but the smiles on some and determined look on others, really gave me the running bug.  Now I just have to get this lovely foot healed and I can get the ball rolling.

Have you ever run a marathon?  How was your weekend?