travel, hike, eat. repeat.

my adventures are often on a budget… and always clumsy.

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

fall feast + onion, garlic, cheese stuffed Italian bread

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My roommate, Matt, and I hosted a housewarming party recently. We dubbed it a “fall feast” and prepared an overachieving menu, that included spiked hot apple cider, pumpkin bellinis, stuffed cheesy bread (we’ll get back to that later – wow, omg, can I have a loaf, a whole loaf right now?), not-your-bigoted chick-fil-a nuggets, eggplant and orzo bake, cupcakes, bacon and tomato dip and maybe that’s about it, but I probably forgot something.

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Here are a few thoughts and notes to my future self on hosting a party:

  1. Overachieving menus mean girl, don’t ever do that again. I spent 100 hours in the kitchen the day of the party, plus cleaning, plus hanging shelves and spray painting and –
  2. You know, probably decorate before the day of the party!
  3. Asking your boyfriend to hang shelves through a solid brick wall the day of the party is probably a mean thing to do. It will probably stress you and your boyfriend out, and you’ll probably get all snippy with him when he walks in while you’re frantically blow-drying your hair 15 minutes before the party start time and tells you, “Babe, this is going to take a while longer.” You should probably open up one of those bottles of bubbly in the fridge.
  4. People will cancel. The day of the party. Hours before the party. It’s how things work. You should probably open up one of those bottles of bubbly in the fridge.
  5. Pumpkin bellinis are the ultimate bridge-divider, the olive branch, the party starter, the party stopper (when they end), the bomb diggity. You should probably open another bottle of bubbly and let the party do its thing.
  6. Buy Cards Against Humanity. STAT. Or Apples to Apples. Or Catchphrase. Else the whole shebang devolve into training your dog. You should probably clean up the bubbly and drink some water.

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The party was a success. We had over 20 people RSVP and about 12-14 show! The deck did not cave in (legitimate fear)! And the house stayed warm – a party miracle! It was a fun night with fun friends, and Theo got lots of love and training towards the end of the night. I’m telling you – that’s what happens when you have a puppy and no games planned. You’ve been warned!

Hosting a party really is about the friends and fun, not a perfect house or perfect menu or meal. And fun it was, even if the nuggets needed just a little something.

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Martin made beignets. BEIGNETS!

The stand-out success of the party was a stuffed italian cheesy bread recipe I found on pinterest and promptly made… 4 times in one week. And twice again for Thanksgiving. It’s that good. I now exceed the maximum weight on elevators.

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the world’s best stuffed italian cheesy bread, adapted from this recipe.

1 loaf Italian bread (the bigger the better!)
3/4 bag of shredded cheese of your choice (I used Mexican 4-cheese blend)
1/2 large onion, or 1 small onion (diced)
3-4 cloves garlic (minced – I use a cheese grater to do this, and remember the golden rule of cooking: there is never too much garlic!)
1/8-1/4 cup olive oil (I don’t measure, I use what looks right – depending on size of loaf)
1 stick unsalted butter (melted)Parsley (fresh – chop a handful; crushed – 1 tablespoon, or to your taste)
1/4 cup dijon (optional. I don’t use this.)

steps

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix melted butter with diced onion, grated/minced garlic, olive oil, parsley and dijon (if you choose to use it).
3. Cut your italian bread with a serrated knife into “X” pieces. Cut into it like you’re cutting slices, but be careful not to cut through the bread entirely. Once it’s ‘sliced’ in one direction, slice again in another direction, creating thick square pieces. 4. Using a spoon (don’t use a brush, it doesn’t work as well), fill all the cracks of the bread, individually, with the butter/garlic/onion mixture. Use any leftovers to cover the top of the bread. Make sure the mixture gets deep down into the cracks.
5. Fill the cracks of the bread with the cheese. You should use 1/2-3/4 of the bag of cheese. Feel free to use even more if you wish.
6. Wrap bread in aluminum foil and bake tightly wrapped for 20 minutes. Take off the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 15.
7. Pull apart the bread pieces and enjoy!

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sunsets in 12 countries

I love sunset. It’s my favorite time of day. I know it’s a general statement. Who doesn’t like sunsets, after all? But I have a special attachment to them. Every sunset sinks me into a place. It bonds me to where I am and inextricably ties me to it and makes that place my home – a place that I belong, if only for the fleeting time it takes for the sun to make its final daily descent.

The sun will always rise and always set (unless the Mayans got something right about Dec. 21…). A sunset uses the land you’re standing on as its canvas. It looks different everywhere, but it happens just the same no matter where you are.

Over the past six years, I’ve lived in multiple cities and lived in or visited 12 countries, and I’ve experienced this natural light show in every place. DC is the first time I’ve stuck in one city for longer than eight months since high school, and I’ve now been here for two and a half years. I can hardly believe it. I’ve come to know this city and call it my own – I even root for the Nationals and proudly cheer, “HAIL!” for the Redskins. But I didn’t truly feel at home here until my first sunset.

The first I remember distinctly, the one that took hold of me and claimed me, was last year during cherry blossom season. I went for a run around the tidal basin after work, and I stopped short, nearly tripping myself, catching my breath, so I could take in the sun reflecting off the tidal basin waters, cherry blossoms glistening in the fading light. The Jefferson Memorial stood out, dignified. As I took it all in, a sense of peace come over me – I was home.

I’ve had that same moment in South Africa – inside of Kruger National Park. A giraffe wandered by the side of the truck, but I was held captive in the sun’s rays, shimmering gold and hopeful between the twisted trees that came straight out of The Lion King.

I discovered my place and my footing in the soft sands of the Indian Ocean when the sun dipped below the sea, illuminating it, making it warm, inviting me in.

Mozambique is home to me, even if I may never get there again. On the unspoiled lands, with a hammock and a hut in which to rest my head, I made friends that will be with me through this lifetime, as we walked from day turning into night.

In the San Bernardino Mountains, just as high as you can go, sits my home from another time. It’ll steal your breath and heart away, like it stole mine every single time the sun took you with it on its journey over the peaks.

And here in Bloomingdale, in my new neighborhood and corner of DC, I stole a moment on a walk with Theo, to admire the artwork in the sky.

To me, home is more than a comfortable bed, apartment and solid kitchen table. Home is the place I am and the adventure that awaits.

itty bitty RGIII (my first NFL game)

In comparison to the Redskins defensive line… and a good majority of the offensive line, RGIII (also known as Robert Griffin III – by his mother) is itty bitty! He looks so small out there. I mean, comparatively. He’s, what? 6’2″ and 220 pounds – not small by anything other than caveman standards, but certainly lean! He plays huge. It’s incredible to see him in action. The team galvanizes around him. He’s patient. He has men coming at him from three sides, and he calmly steps back, takes a second, finds his man, and throws – when he’s well and ready. He is fearless.

Zan, his dad, and his brother Ben have sat in the same seats in the Redskins stadium for years (5th row! End zone!). A couple of years back, when Zan’s parents retired and moved out to Rehoboth, his dad sadly gave up his seat. Since then, Ben and Zan have carried on the tradition. They get to the stadium close to when it opens on game days (EARLY!) and tailgate until it’s time to fight the crowds to get to their seats. It’s pretty cool, right? I’m a sap and it makes me all fluttery and happy that they carry this on – brothers and all being all brotherly.

Two weekends ago, Ben went up to Philadelphia for the weekend, leaving his seat open, and Zan invited me to take it. I hadn’t been to a football game since college in Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska. Ohhh, the sweet memories of lifting a shoe for kickoff, yelling into the chorus of the sea of red surrounding me, and pizza during halftime! I love football, and there’s nothing like experiencing it spitting distance from the field!

I’ve become a Redskins fan this season. You know those girls in high school and college who took on the musical taste of every man they dated? (“What do you mean when did I start liking heavy metal? I’ve always loved heavy metal!”) I’m totally that girl with Redskins football now. My man is a native Washingtonian, and I’m 100% positive I’d be dumped on the side of the road if I did anything less than sport the colors and yell, “HAIL!” 😉 I kid! Sorta! In my kindasorta defense, I’ve wanted to get into pro-ball since graduating from college, and dating Zan has been my gateway. Plus, I still root for the Dirty Birds (Falcons), including when they played the Redskins (that was an identity crisis waiting to happen!).

I wasn’t quite as fun as Ben, I’m sure (read: I stuck to mimosas and hot cider and skipped the beer!), but I held my own – working the grill and cheering in the stadium. Their tradition is to cook up something representative of the other team. We played the Philadelphia Eagles, so naturally, there were cheesesteaks. We also made pork belly egg sandwiches (SMOKE THE BIRDS). Luck was on my side during the game, and two huge plays happened in our end zone – in the Redskins favor. We froze our digits and piggies off and guiltily left with about 8 minutes left in the fourth.

If Ben ever wants to run away again for a weekend, I’ll happily take his spot!

I’m not sure I could do that jump if I tried!

the referees went in two by two

#10 RGIII, winding up!

touchdown!

for the field goal!

 

travelosophy and an excuse to post a few old photos

two blog posts in a day? this is nuts! i am nuts!

WELL. I’ve now read two things today that have me all wanderlusty and rearing to book a plane ticket to another land by another name. First, Bobbi from Today, I’m Bobbi posted on the Ups and Downs of Travel and NAILED IT. If you’ve ever lived abroad or traveled for an extended period of time, you’re going to give yourself whip lash from nodding in agreement so much. This is on point, I’m telling you. Next, my favorite pretend BFF (Zan: “Just best friends? I thought you were seeing him.” He’s so funny!), Seth Kugel, otherwise known as the New York Time’s Frugal Traveler, did an interview with Nomadic Matt, and it is wonderful. It’s so good I read it twice. Okay, okay, three times.

When asked what “frugal” means to him, he answered with my travel philosophy. Okay, his travel philosophy. But it’s mine, too.

Frugal to me means, at the very least, avoiding spending on unnecessary comforts – nice hotels, fancy restaurants, organized excursions. It probably includes giving up some niceties you enjoy at home – a comfy mattress, organic produce, a car.

But at its very essence is the belief that spending less almost inevitably leads to experiencing more, and that the best travel experiences are built on avoiding just about everything the travel industry wants you to do.

Do you have a travelosophy? Do you prefer cruises and resorts or charting the uncharted?

Read Frugal Traveler’s full interview here.

Miyajima Island in Japan. we took a train to a ferry and ate street food to see the view.

we could’ve flown from our city in Japan, but it was cheaper to take an overnight ferry to Seoul, a flight to Beijing and a 3 hour bus ride.

rain, rain, come again

It only took me 2.5 years in DC to get a pair of rain boots! Okay, that’s not efficient timing, but at least I have a pair now? When I was in Boston a while back, I saw a pair of Chooka wellies I loved. But at $80, it wasn’t even kind of sort of an option. As luck would have it, a couple of days after I got back, Zan’s brother – knowing I needed waterproof covers for my piggies – sent me a link for a Rue La La sale on just that. And wouldn’t ya know it, they had Chookas! These aren’t the exact pair I found in Boston, but they’re close, and I think maybejustmaybe even cuter. I’ve been holding onto them for over a month, willing the skies to let loose so I have an excuse to wear them. Of course, when Hurricane Sandy struck, they were stuck over at Zan’s place. Then when we had another, smaller, rain storm, I was at his place, and the boots were at mine. AT LAST, this morning I woke to a drizzly, gray morning and practically leaped out of bed. The damp ground and sprinkles probably don’t warrant these suckers, but I won’t tell if you won’t.

Whether it’s wearing my new boots for the first time or the sugar from the half gallon of fresh squeezed orange juice I can never resist from Whole Foods, I’m upbeat and super duper wide awake today. If you are what you wear, I’m ready for whatever comes my way.

Chooka Chooka boo boo! Here are their rain boots.

ps – It must be noted, the Fierce 5 Olympic gymnastics team performed with Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough on last night’s Dancing With the Stars All Stars finale. Uh. You have to see this! A few thoughts:

(1) her name rising above her, oh dear. #shepulledaNastia

(2) “After retiring from my sport, I didn’t know confidence or pride or anything. You gave me everything back. I finally feel like me again.” GUH TEAR.

(3) that standing on his shoulders into a roll out? WOW. #teamshawn

Happy Tuesday!

thanksgiving in georgia

It’s hard to capture a Thanksgiving with my family in words, or in pictures, really. It’s deep South at its best – blessings before meals, fried turkey is The Word, and the only thing more important than food is hospitality. The whole neighborhood’s invited! I’m blessed and thankful, and my trip was complicated but great. Zan survived it all and got the all-important stamp of approval (I think my cousin wants to steal him for herself! Back off, he’s mine!). There’s no better way to tell you about our Thanksgiving in Newnan, Georgia than with this story my cousin John told us over Thanksgiving dinner…

John’s a leader in the youth group at my childhood church. I’m not religious anymore, but I grew up Southern Baptist, and those beliefs run deep in my family. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, John was standing in the back of the middle school youth group room, hearing the sermon by the youth pastor out of one ear, while keeping the other ear and both eyes peeled for misbehavior or problems he needed to address with the students. A shy 12-year old girl approached him.

“Mr. John,” she said, quietly. “Mr. John? There’s a boy with his hands down his pants.”

My cousin did a double take. He couldn’t have heard right. “Where?” he asked the girl, and she pointed to a row three from the front. John pointed out another seat for the girl and made his way to the edge of the row in question, thinking, “She has to be mistaken.”

A boy approached him on his walk over. “Mr. John, um, there’s a guy, um, well, you know?” he stammered and pointed to the same row.

John stood to the right of the row and tried to spot the situation without craning his neck or making a scene. “These kids have to be playing a prank!”

His jaw dropped.

Sure enough, an 11-year old sixth grader sat in the middle of the third row from the pulpit, his hand down his pants, uhm, well, wanking his willie.

John picked his jaw up off the floor and got the kid’s attention, motioning him to walk towards the back of the room with him. My cousin spoke with him softly, and awkwardly, about how there is a “time” and “place” for most things. And this – church – was probably neither the time nor place for that, um, activity.

After the kids filed out of youth group that night and John talked with the boy’s mom, only the leaders remained. John and the youth pastor called the church’s head pastor. He answered on the second ring, heard the story out, and paused as the two younger leaders waited anxiously to hear if they handled the situation correctly.

The head pastor cleared his throat. “Well,” he started. “I guess you had some hard topics tonight.” 

My cousin chimed in, “Maybe next week’s sermon should be on the resurrection.”

I love my family.

some more frozen images from our trip.

my little nugget is a better car traveler than Zan & I put together. He slept the whole way, both ways!

country colors.

my favorite family tradition is staying up until the wee hours of the morning on Thanksgiving Eve, baking and laughing. Zan fit right in!

turducken, cheesy bread, and a my-eyes-are-bigger-than-my-stomach plate o’grub

this pup was born to be a country dog.

gross, theo! ew, stop! the fam.

xs and os, thankful

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From the pale (pail) to the bright, I’m thankful for the man who lights up my life.

We’re – Zan, Matt, Theo and I – driving to Georgia today for Thanksgiving. Matt and I met in high school, and his family is still in GA. We’ll be dropping him off near Athens and trekking the remaining 90 minutes or so to my hometown. Newnan. It’s the first time I’m introducing Zan, or any man, to my family. I’m nervous and excited. We come from seemingly different worlds and as unnerving as it is to show him mine, it’s also liberating. My brother asked if I feel like Sweet Home Alabama. I’m still giggling at him knowing the reference and making it – but ya know, I kinda do!

Also, have you traveled with a hyperactive dog in a car for 12 hours?

I’m going to need all the luck wishing and tip giving y’all have got.

I love you, Z. xo

#30dayofthanks

diy: fun with chalkboard and spray paint

Well. Making a chalkboard wall is as basic as it gets in arts and crafts, huh? It may be a single step above covering a pine cone with peanut butter and making your own bird feeder. Wait, those things make bird feeders, right?

See? I’m not crafty. I’m the anti-crafter. Crocheting? I’d rather stab myself with the needle pin things you use! Decorating? Interior design? Making things pretty? I think you’re speaking Mandarin and I cock my head to the side like my dog when he’s baffled. Can I hire you to come decorate my apartment? …for free? 🙂

When Matt and I decided to host a housewarming party, everything changed. Once we committed – that is, sent out an evite with an overachieving menu and sold our apartment as a place people might want to be for an evening, we had to do something with it. But what?

A chalkboard wall to the rescue!

Except we like to make things really complicated. And we thought a little too much about it. And we pretended we are crafty people. So we decided, “A chalkboard wall is just too ordinary. How about a chalkboard strip?!” And the idea was born. In addition, a friend gifted me a small bottle of chalkboard paint for my birthday, so, you know, we had zero excuses (thanks Paul!).

We got a little carried away when we went to Home Depot to pick up more paint. I thought it’d be genius to hang three shelves, all at different levels, above the chalkboard strip. And then – lightbulb! – another thought! I wanted to take small clay flower pots and put them on the shelf closest to a window, in which to grow my own herbs – oregeno, basil, jalapeno, etc. I remembered a Pinterest idea to use chalkboard paint on those, as well, and label the herbs. Done. (You give a non-decorator a paintbrush, and they think they can paint the Sistene…!)

Then we ran into our first, of many, problems: the shelves were expensive. We needed three, plus the stuff to hang them. Zan suggested buying a long piece of cheap wood, instead, and having the dudes at the Depot cut it for us into three equal parts. CHEAP! We picked up the cheapest supports in the shelf aisle and a bottle of white spray paint for the wood shelves. Before running screaming out of Home Depot because that place is terrifying, we grabbed three pots ($.75).

All in all, our projects only took 3 weeks. HA! I wish I were kidding! This is THE easiest DIY, and it still took us ages. I put one coat of spray paint on one side of the shelves and a coat of chalkboard on the pots, and left them outside and forgot about them. For two weeks. There was a rain storm and all. Let’s pretend I did it on purpose – I can now report back to you that these are rain-resistant!

When we finally got it all said and done, it was an easy project. The hardest part was hanging the shelves. Fortunately I have a man with a tool set and a big, fat drill. But even with that, we needed special screws and thingamajiggs because our wall is apparently straight up brick. With some manpower and sweat, though (hottt), he got those shelves in the wall.

The piece of this DIY of which I’m most proud? I found a silver-plated basket at a thrift store for $2. I instantly imagined chalk in it, hanging near the board. I threw a chain from an old media ID badge on it (seriously!), and Zan hung it from one of the shelves.

If you’re looking for a gateway DIY project, try this one. If I can do it, I promise – you can, too!

Some pics of the process, with supplies & steps to follow…

Ingredients (errr, supplies?)
wood for shelves (Home Depot will cut it for you for free)
chalkboard paint
tape/ruler/pencil – I hear getting the paint in a straight line is important
pots – clay ones, cheap ones, get it.
pot bottoms – pantsless pots will be messy
chalk
spray paint to paint the wood
chalkboard paint
paintbrush
nails and hammer and whatnot to hang stuff
support for the shelves

directions
paint things
bang in the shelves
congratulate yourself, you Crafty McCrafterson!

new york city: 3 days, $200, even more pizza

Ellie lives in the Brooklyn neighborhood Bed-Stuy. It’s residential – packed to the brim with brownstones and middle school kids. The brief four-block walk to her closest subway station is a live-action soap opera: a 13-year old couple tearfully fighting on one corner, three boys perfecting their rapping skills on another, and a cute brother-brother duo walking their dog and intently discussing the merits of the newest James Bond movie. If I lived in Bed-Stuy, I’d save a lot of money getting rid of cable and walking for entertainment (the poor man’s Gossip Girl?).

I woke slowly Saturday morning at nearly 10:00. I can’t remember the last time I slept that late – I guess that’s what happens when Theo isn’t around to wake me at 6:45am, sharp! I stretched on Ellie & Andy’s queen-sized air mattress and turned over to answer my ringing cell. Noelle suggested we meet for bagels at Bergen Bagels off Flatbush and Atlantic in Brooklyn. Bagels? Did someone say bagels? That got me out of bed.

Noelle is my closest girlfriend from my brief stint in Los Angeles after college. We interned together at Ms. magazine. We became quick friends back then, surviving working two jobs each with undue amounts of laughter, weekend hikes and movies at the $1 theater. I miss her, and catching up was as easy as it gets.

Some say Bergen Bagels are the best in Brooklyn, and though I have nothing to which to compare them, I agree. The line snaked through the small shop, even close to 11:30am. We ate toasted everything bagels, and I bought a dozen to go with a few sides containers of cream cheese – for the grand, inexpensive total of $17.50. Noelle introduced me to the famed New York black and white cookie. I’m a big fan.

I followed breakfast carbs with lunch carbs. After Noelle and I parted ways on the subway, Ellie and I ran to Brooklyn Heights. (I promise, there were a few hours in between!). We met up with Dan – New York Times social media producer and former DCite and TBD reporter (I roll with the bigwigs!) – for lunch at Grimaldi’s – one of New York’s most famous, and oldest, pizza joints. (Anyone keeping track? If so, yep, I ate pizza every single day!)

If you’re ever looking for Grimaldi’s – it’s the white building front under the Brooklyn Bridge with no real sign except a lopsided, small one precariously hanging near a barred window, and the line is down the block. It moves surprisingly quickly for a place that only accepts cash and doesn’t do slices.

We ordered a large with extra cheese, pepperoni and sausage, and we each got a soda. We devoured it in minutes. It came to $33 with tip for the 3 of us, making it my most expensive meal thus far. We stuck around to watch the first quarter of the Nebraska (Ellie & me) versus Penn State (Dan) game and snuck out during a commercial to find a sports bar to finish the rest of it.

We stumbled into a bar whose name I can’t remember. Dan called it one of the reasons he loves New York: “You can’t just finda bar like this in DC.” He may be right. I ordered a cider and a Nebraska victory, and both were served cold. 🙂

Determined to still get some touristy sights into my short visit, Ellie and I decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan. On our way, we stopped into Jacques Torres Chocolate. It smells like heaven in there, and the chocolate is divine. We ordered one piece each – I got a champagne truffle, a small hot chocolate to share (they only had enough left for one cup), and they offered us a chocolate chip cookie on the house since they were closing soon ($7). Saddled with goodies for the walk, we climbed the stairs to the Bridge.

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge was a true highlight of my trip. At night, the Manhattan skyline is illuminated in front of you. You can spot the Statue of Liberty to your left, and the extension wires line up in the most beautiful fashion. “It’s so old, I just want to hug it!” Ellie said about the Bridge… and then she did.

We came across a column on the Bridge to which multiple locks were attached. Names were inscribed on them. It has become a new tradition for couples to “seal” their love on the Bridge. Maybe it’s gimmicky, but it’s sweet, too.

Across the Bridge, we made the short trek to Ground Zero. Right now the area is under construction, and all you can see is the new World Trade Center being built, a large crane, and a lot of fencing. I didn’t need to see more. What got me and made me stand still for several moments is the church across from Ground Zero. The quietness there by the church is haunting – less peaceful than it is hurting and filled with stories too complicated and painful to share. It meant a lot to me to be there and experience that area. New York is a resilient city, but that area, Ground Zero and the church that took in the wounded on that day, will forever be filled with ghosts of a time we will never forget.

After the solemnity of being at Ground Zero, Ellie and I were about ready to call it a night. But we had one more stop to make. When I planned my New York trip, I mentioned wanting to find Brooklyn’s best tacos. Los Hermanos was fantastic, but was there better? We took the subway back into Brooklyn and walked, trusting our iPhone maps to guide us, until we found the truly hole-in-the-wall Mexican grocery, Chinantla. In the back of the market is a restaurant, complete with table-side service and Latin music.

We ordered three tacos each and a plate of regular (no meat) nachos to share. That was way. too. much. food. They’re not playing with portion sizes! It’s great food and the server only speaks a few words of English, giving me a chance to practice my recently learned, rough, basic Spanish.

Which taco is better? Chinantla had excellent steak tacos, but the others (and we tried them all, nearly) were lacking. Los Hermanos wins the taco war, but Chinantla delivers, and has a larger menu – serving everything from mole to enchiladas to chicken fingers, for the kids.

A block away from the Hispanic neighborhood in which we found Chinantla, we passed a Hebrew school bus to our left, and a group of Hasidic Jewish men headed to Synagogue on our right. A local bar boasted $2 PBR and $5 glasses of wine, all night. Garbage bags lined the streets of brownstones, interspersed with restaurants and coffee shops.

This is New York.

I left New York at 10:30 the next morning. Including breakfast & a water for the road, my grand total for the weekend came to $187.50.

the secret lives of gymnastics enthusiasts: the kellogg’s tour

as excited as the gymnasts meeting POTUS. Yep. #perspective

If you saw my twitter or facebook feeds at all yesterday evening, you know that I spent my night at the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions. I’d decided to write this great, ironic post about it all – how Matt (my roommate) and I were so cool at this show with an average audience age of 11 (irony, irony, more irony). But about 10 minutes into the show, this came out of my phone:

I geeked out. I really geeked out. And all irony went flying out the window, never to be seen again!

For whatever reason, gymnastics isn’t a socially acceptable sport to really love and appreciate and know, unless you yourself were a competitive gymnast or are under the age of about 12. My best guess is that it’s because most female gymnasts are young themselves – 18 is considered getting up there – and often retire before they’ve finished high school, that adults feel strange watching the sport. Is that it? The truth is, though, that male gymnasts typically don’t peak until college-aged or after, and there are an increasing number of adult women gymnasts.

One of my favorite gymnasts of all time is Ariella Kaeslin, a Swiss gymnast who hit her stride in 2007, sweeping the Swiss nationals and competing well internationally – at age 20. She competed for several more years before retiring in 2011. She once said, “I’m taller, I’m bigger than the normal gymnast. I’m proud to be a good gymnast as a woman.” Then there’s Oksana Chusovitina, The Great. This woman is a powerhouse, a world class vaulter and placed 5th in the vault finals at the 2012 Olympic Games at age 36. I have no greater respect for a female athlete than for Chusovitina.

I love this sport. I think it’s beautiful and powerful, at once. It’s a testament to what the human body is capable of.

Now that I’ve written a love song to gymnastics… let’s get back to the show.

I took a NUMBER of pictures. And I mean, I warned you – I geeked out. All I can say for myself is this: while it was great seeing the “Fierce 5,” as they’re called, live, I got really excited seeing the veterans perform: Alicia Sacramone and Chellsie Memmel. I almost wrote another diatribe on them and why they’re great, but I’m stopping myself! 😉

Matt got us the tickets for my birthday back in September, and ridiculous, ironic, FIERCE and all – it was a fun night. I laughed until I cried – AT LEAST twice, and we got to see some great gymnastics, including almost all of Jonathan Horton’s Olympic high bar routine. So thanks to Matt for a most memorable birthday gift. Let’s do it again in 2016, yeah?

THE END. Gymnastics fan girl out.

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