Accidental Naps

bra

I fell asleep after work today.

For 3 hours.

Instead of going to a party.

I think that’s a sign I’ve been having too much fun (according to my father) (who told me over the phone this week that I need to relax).

I was supposed to be at a “going away” party for one of my friends from college.  I quote “going away” because I’m using the term lightly.  Said friend is going on a 2 month vacation to Brazil as part of his bar trip.

(For those who are not familiar.  After individuals finish law school and take the dreaded bar, they are somehow due a 9 week trip to an exotic locale.  Yes this makes sense.)

So I don’t know if tears were going to be shed at this soiree.

But I am inspired to have a “goodbye party” every time I plan a vacation!

Ok it wasn’t going to be the most emotional night, but I’m pretty sure some A-w-e-s-o-m-e was going to happen.

Sometimes it’s just in the air.

Summer atmosphere and meeting friends of friends of friends mixed in with cucumber coolers usually leads to bonding, spontaneity and unexpected wonderful things.

Clearly that’s not happening tonight but there is a point to this entry (I swear!).  This is my all-things-awesome reminder to take some time for a nap, a bubble bath, a dance around the room in your underwear (Kelly Clarkson is a great aid to this), an Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition marathon (I am hooked on this inspiring shit!), a private cooking party (i.e. making yourself a feast) or a long distance run where you don’t time yourself or plan the route beforehand (just MAP-MY-RUN it later).

I was a bit surprised when I woke up at 10PM with my work clothes still on but I am now indulging in this rest and relaxation.

I know it’s a departure from my typical rhythm… but sometimes that’s cool too.

A 3-hour nap is sometimes just what the doctor ordered and exactly the “me” time that I needed.

I highly recommend it.

Feels Awesome.

Finding Family Abroad

plaka beach naxos greece

One of the best parts of traveling abroad, for me, has always been tied to the connections you make.

The notion that somewhere across the ocean are people totally different than you and yet absolutely the same perplexes, fascinates and makes me giddy.

The second part of this week, we found ourselves on the Greek Isle Naxos, about a 2 hour ferry ride (cruise) from Ios.

Naxos is a small island known for local wines and a family atmosphere.  We figured that after the insanity of Mykonos, Santorini and Ios, we could use a few relaxing days.

By the time Tuesday came around and it was time to say goodbye to Ios though, we weren’t ready and even considered an extended stay.

After a quick mental pro and con list (over morning cocktails), we decided to press ahead as planned.

Today we’re pretty thrilled we did.

On Naxos we found an authenticity missing from the other more touristy islands.

Naxos isn’t the top beach party destination or the most well-known romantic spot on the Aegean so it draws a smaller crowd.

The old town has old passageways and stone streets with charming character.  The beaches are incredibly beautiful and the hotels, beach bars and restaurants are all family-run.  Food is fresh and goats roam the exterior of our hotel.  Travelers come from all around the world and have a habit of coming back year after year. The greetings between locals and visitors are akin to a family reunion.

Unfortunately for us, this time of year is still considered low season and beaches were largely empty.

It was time to adapt to this new atmosphere and plus…

We wanted in on the family fun.

Within an hour we had located the oldest beach bar and restaurant on Plaka beach and decided to grab a drink.

About 6 hours later we were still there, with local liquor shots, sangria and vodka drinks, laughing with the owners – two brothers -, their extended families and their friends (visitors to the island with whom they now spend every Christmas in England).

We talked and told stories as if we’d known each other for years.

It’s incredible to know that strangers with completely different lives, languages and backgrounds can come together uninhibited and laugh their asses off for an entire afternoon.

Also – the Ukrainian girl inside was thrilled for confirmation: vodka can bring anyone together.

Awesome.

Easy going on the Aegean Sea

ios greeece

Ios, Greece

Never does the term “go with the flow” apply more than when traveling abroad.

I’ve found that even the best planner can’t schedule around the inevitable surprises, oopsies and unforeseen adventures that the travel Gods have in store.

And for those of us whose daily lives revolve around outlook calendars, this can be daunting.

In order to ease into the reality shift, my travel friends and I have decided to just not.

plan that is.

Two of my best girls and I flew to Athens last week, booked our hotels and planned to unplug and see where a Greek Isles immersion would take us.

We’ve used wiki-travel for on-the-go recommendations, asked random locals for suggestions and followed the advice of friends’ texts from home.

Our easygoing attitude has led to some adventures:

– Accidentally seeing the entire island of Mykonos and doing some off-roading. On two ATVs that we rented on a whim after a 5 minute tutorial (the shop owner insisted on teaching us). We were busy laughing and enjoying bumping down the labyrinth of the two-way “highway,” big enough for one car, when we realized we were a bit off course. The promised 40 minute trip to the beach turned into 2 hours and 40 minutes. Woops.

mykonos greece travel

Sunset, Mykonos, Greece

– Unplanned hike through Santorini’s wine country. We made enough of a scene boarding the bus that asking for proper directions wasn’t in the cards. We got off on the last stop, asked a local for directions and promptly set out on what ended up being an hour walk up the scenic mountainous terrain. (The return trip was equally exciting when the same bus driver found us walking and picked us up between stops. Thanks friend!)

santorini greece

Wine Country, Santorini, Greece

– Seasickness. We rented a catamaran with captain to do a private sail with six other new friends. We imagined a sail akin to a calm lake. Calm lake it was not. The Aegean Sea was so choppy that day, commercial ferries that shuttle hundreds of people between the islands were hiding out in calm coves. Our captains, on the other hand, thought riding the waves was a form of extreme sailing fun.

santorini greece travel

Oia, Santorini Sunset

Our adventures on this trip have led to some great experiences thus far.

We saw the famous Oia sunset from the best seat in the house with tips from new friends and some dumb luck. We bonded with the sailing captains and spent the evening experiencing Santorini nightlife the local way. We took a tip and headed to town one night when our planned beach party fell through and met a fun group of guys we danced with all night. We tried the oldest family-owned restaurant in Mykonos where mama prepared fresh moussaka for us on request.

 

One thing has been emphasized:

Since life is largely unplanned (even with the outlook calendar), sometimes you have to hop on an ATV and see where the road takes you.

Looking forward to tomorrow.

Awesome.

Preparing to Relax… the Au-Naturel Way

I’m going to Greece this week.

It’s a much anticipated trip.  Not only because I’m heading to a foreign nation I’ve never been to (love this), but because…. I need a vacation.

I’m sure some (most?) can relate.

I need to stop and smell the Greek wine, detach the laptop from my body, and stop checking my cell phone (see previous post).

I think island hopping in Greece with friends might just do the trick.

In order to prepare for my very own Greek odyssey, I’ve spent the past few weeks crossing things off my prepare-for-Greece-list.

Obviously priority one is healthy-er eating in preparation for B.I.P. (bikini immersion program).

I know what you’re thinking…. detox during first weeks of gorgeous summer weather… impossible.

It’s a challenge I’ve taken on.

I still attended every BBQ, roof-top party and tater-tot-loving day-drinking event.  I’ve also managed to tone it down (pun intended) and flush the body out in preparation for serious vacationing.

How did I do it?

Simple.

By substituting meals where I wasn’t involved in potato skins eating contests with all natural and clean home-cooking.  And when I say all natural, I don’t mean it in the way that grocery-store companies mean it when they write “all natural chicken” on the front of the packaging.  (Because honestly – what in the world is non-natural chicken?  Do I even want to know?)

When I say all natural, I mean non-processed.   These are meals that have no chemicals, substitutes or fake sugars.

I’ve chosen to use this post to show a couple of things I’ve been eating over the past few weeks.  It’s left me feeling cleansed.

1)     Simple salad with home-made lemon vinaigrette dressing

salad

I took this idea from Andie’s blog.  I stumbled upon this mecca of healthy food ideas many months ago and continue to check back in often.  One of the posts a couple weeks ago caught my eye.  It was simple, easy to make and left me craving more leaves and veggies.

Who could ask for more?

The recipe can be found here.  I tweaked it since I forgot to buy avocado and instead used shaved raw brussel sprouts and miniature heirloom tomatoes.

For me, the most important part of the salad is the dressing.  Often times I find that once I’ve added my favorite veggies to a salad, I inevitably want to drown them in ranch dressing.  Andie’s recipe for lemon vinaigrette is delicious and satisfies the craving.

2)     Home-made red pepper hummus

hummus

One of my friends loves to make hummus and recently tried adding in her own mixture of veggies.  I decided to add this to the list.  As a pairing with the salad, I made my own hummus from scratch.  It took about 10 minutes total and tasted delicious.

In order to make this, I purchased a small food processor for about $11.00 on Amazon (truth) and bought/compiled/fetched the following ingredients:

  • 1 can of chick peas (16 oz)
  • 1 can of tahini paste (1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 2 lemons (for freshly squeezed lemon juice) (3-5 tablespoons)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (2 tablespoons)
  • Sea salt/pepper (to taste)
  • 1 organic red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup liquid from chick pea can

Combine all ingredients leaving the chickpea liquid from can for the end.

The result was delicious and once again… had completely clean and healthy ingredients.

I paired this with some baked chicken and the salad above.

3)     Juice

The last thing I want to share is the juicing portion.  My friends hear me talk about juicing all the time (sorry guys).  Last year a friend gave me a juicer for my birthday and I’ve been juicing my heart out ever since.  It takes about 5 minutes to make a delicious veggie and/or fruit juice and about 5 more minutes to rinse the parts clean.

A juice can supplement breakfast or a day-time snack.  My favorite juices for the morning:

  • Kale, carrot, green apple, lemon
  • Kale, cilantro, strawberry, apple, lime

I’ve enjoyed putting in extra effort to eat clean over the past couple of weeks.  It’s been uplifting.  I find that half the battle in the detox is the mental game anyway.

Eating well makes you feel Awesome.

Beets, Lemons and a Little Mahi

cooking

Today’s Awesome was simple.

I cooked for myself.

I’m not sure what it is about having my own apartment (it’s my first!) but it’s making me want to get out all the pots and pans and make a big mess.

The history of my food preparation prowess is a slim novel at best.  I never thought I’d like it.  I used to detest the idea and figured that any future male would just deal with this (modern) woman.

Over the past couple of years I’ve taken a new liking to it and these days I find that it comforts, provides some zen after crazy days and allows me to keep track of the ingredients I’m putting in my body (some of the time).  I also find it’s a great way to spend with oneself.

SO.

After an intense workout, I took myself to Wholefoods to experience one of the greatest parts of the cooking process: the grocery store.

In my opinion, the grocery store is like a toy store for adults.  You no longer have to kick and scream in the aisles.  Just take the Frosted Flakes (pay) and go home.  Going in makes me giddy.

Plus.

Free samples.

Heaven!

After much deliberation and in-store iphone googling, I decided on a fish and salad.

I picked out healthy ingredients that would also facilitate a post-thanksgiving cleanse (see my family’s ability to eat) and walked home anticipating the next two hours of chopping, boiling, sautéing and grating.

I purchased the following main ingredients:

  • Radish bunch
  • Beets
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumber
  • Eggs
  • Garlic
  • ½ pound piece of Mahi Mahi
  • Also two jugs of pomegranate juice, sparkling water (my favorite) and babybel cheese (couldn’t help myself)

vegetables wholefoods grocery store shopping

After unloading, I went to work taking care of the steps that would take the longest.  I’ve found that cooking is really a lesson in time management.  For example, boiling beets takes 45min-1hour whereas sautéing Mahi takes about 20 minutes.  And no one wants cold Mahi.

Therefore, the beets were up first.  I trimmed back the leaf stalks per instruction, and placed them in boiling water.  Then set out to chop up the vegetables and dice garlic.  I chopped the radish and cucumber and boiled and sliced the eggs.

At the 10 minute mark (on beet timer) I threw the Mahi in the pan as instructed with garlic, lemon and white wine (I drank some too).  I peeled and sliced the boiling beets, made sure the Mahi was taken care of on both sides and arranged everything on plate (presentation is key!).

mahi mahi

The entire exercise took about1.5 hours and was extremely calming.

I felt a personal sense of accomplishment.  AND, it looked good enough to eat.

I think mom would have been proud.

Awesome.

Hurricanes, New Friends and Cross Country Migrations

T-0 came and went.

On the fateful day that I prepared to say goodbye to New York City and head West, hurricane Sandy arrived and forced upon my life tuna fish sandwiches, PB&J, cheez-its and beer pong by candle light.

My roommate (moving also!) and I found ourselves in an empty apartment on the 27th floor with no power, one mattress, one flashlight, 3 small candles and entirely too much alcohol for two people leaving the state (evidence of a good 5 years).

There was one thing left to do.

Explore the building (dorm?), meet new friends (fellow gen-y-ers) and try to conserve precious iphone battery for instagram (call dad).

beer pong

5 games of pong, 2 parties, 3 new friends from our Alma-mater (what are the chances?!) and 2 days later we were ready to hit the road to finally move to Chicago (there were about 7 collective goodbye parties between the 2 of us after all…).

It was time to go.

I slept in my jeans.  She didn’t sleep.  We were ready to spring to action like firefighters.  Having moved all of our stuff into the dimly lit hallway the night before (generator = key), we were up at 5am prepared to use the one manually operated elevator to move a mountain of clothes, kitchen utensils and chick-books into a rented minivan before building management found out our escape plan (turns out moving apartments is not advisable or permitted in the dark)

moving

2 hours later, with the help of 4 doormen, we were able to fill ever crevice of that van.  And we were off…

The drive was about 15 hours long and took us through 5 states.  The drive would have taken 13 hours had we not made a pit stop for food every hour on the hour, including a completely out of the way scenic tour of a town called Milton, Pennsylvania (think town from Hocus Pocus) where we had an incredible breakfast omelet in the cutest café and acted like tourists.

omelet

The rest of the trip went smoothly.  The highlights:

  • Hours of singing on part of friend…
  • Trying to make friend’s cat “go” in the car (this activity could have gone on for hours)
  • Watching little trick-or-treaters in small town
  • Playing the “how do you feel about this state” game (not advisable)
  • Playing the “would you rather” game
  • Using the EZ Pass lane and then getting out of car to read the 482-digit serial number to attendant (great pastime)

15 hours later… we arrived in Chicago.

It was worth it.  For this.

chicago skyline view

(View from my new apartment!!)

Awesome.

Giant Statues and Pink Wallpaper

Day 47 commenced my official countdown to my move from New York City!

I know I’ve mentioned it in previous posts but here it is officially:

I’m leaving the big (crazy, yet fun) apple to head to the windy (more balanced and clean) city.

Friends, followers and random passerby’s, as of around 8pm on October 29, I will officially be a resident of the state of Illinois.

During these last 14 days, I am aiming to soak up the Awesome (what else) in my NYC life (no real complaints here).

I’m going to take this opportunity to count backwards…..

On day -14 I found myself in a living room.  6 flights of stairs up from the ground.  In the middle of one of NYC’s busiest intersections.  Sitting on a (very comfortable and purple) couch. Staring up at the room’s centerpiece:  the famous 70-foot statue built in 1892 of Christopher Columbus.

discovering columbus

I wouldn’t have believed it myself had I not accompanied a friend to the exhibit (one of our last outings!), complained and moaned the entire 6 flights of stairs and spent more time than was allowed in the “living room.”

“Discovering Columbus” is an exhibit created by Tatsu Nishi that allows visitors to experience the famous Columbus statue as if it were in their living room.  The room’s expansive space, covered in pink wallpaper, adorned with modern furniture and over-sized windows, is a surreal and a one-of-a-kind experience for several reasons.

1)       Seeing a 70-foot statue brought to life in touching distance is not an everyday sighting.  Sitting on the couch, I studied the details of the work.  Everything from his dress to his face are etched in a type of accurate precision I would never have suspected

2)      The sheer idea of something so large and grand that one would never see up close to be in a home setting is bewildering (not something you pick up while “antiquing”).  Not surprisingly, my jaw dropped when we turned the corner on the top floor.

3)      The exact views we saw can’t be replicated.  Out the fake living room windows was a sea of lights coming from cars speeding down Central Park West.  The top of buildings on the other side of the island were peeking over trees and Central Park was spread out before us.

central park west

On a personal note, Columbus Circle is one of my favorite parts of this city.  It’s the place where I ate my mac and cheese and sushi rolls during lunch as an intern.  It’s the place where I’ve gone to clear my head.  It’s the fountains my brother and I played in just a few weeks ago (errrr I mean watched the children play).

I loved experiencing this part of the city in a completely different way.

Awesome!

Miniature Cameras, Bugging Devices and False Bottoms

On Day 40, one of my friends suggested we head to the theater district and skip Broadway in favor of a Spy Exhibit.

SPY: THE EXHIBIT, was an interesting way to start the evening.

I’m not sure what I expected but everything you might imagine such an exhibit to have, was included in this extravaganza:

  • Dead mice used to stash secret documents during the cold war?  Check.
  • Aircraft designed to fly 3 times the speed of sound and pick up foreign secrets?  Check.
  • Fake bricks known as “dead drops” with secret containers for money/messages?  Check.
  • Laser room where one embarrasses oneself by fiercely dodging strobes of light while random passerby’s watch outside on screen?  Check. (Uncharacteristically, I skipped this activity… but LOVED watching).
  • Remote controlled catfish AND dragonfly developed to “explore the use of underwater and aerial vehicles?”… CHECK.
  • Voice recording station where one records oneself and changes voice intonations (and broadcasts comments about said friend)?  Check.

One of the coolest parts of the exhibit was the history lesson we received.

I’m no history buff! But even I shut up and paid attention once we entered “The Vault” with relics from WWII, the Cold War and the Russian Revolution.  All of these hit close to home and I was mesmerized by two displays in particular:

  • A limited edition copy of Dr. Zhivago captured by the CIA and originally banned by Soviet Union Officials (author was given the Nobel Prize but was forced to decline it by the Soviet Government)
  •  A letter written in May of 1945 by Richard Helms – a commanding officer in USA’s Office of Strategic Services – on Adolf Hitler’s stationary to his young son (age 3), explaining the significance of the victory.

Chilling.

Awesome.

Holidays: A “Family” Affair

rosh hashanah shana tovah new year jewish

On day 39, lil bro and I found ourselves in Brooklyn for rounds of toasts with our New York family in honor of Rosh Hashanah.

Today my brother and I toasted to the New Year with our family friends from back home (Michigan) who now also live in the boroughs of NYC.

Our history stems back to our pre-teen days.

Our moms introduced us when we were about 7 and 12.  They would have girl time while my brother and I were “baby-sat.”

These stories are legendary (including one hairbrush incident that involved the loss of some of my hair…).

Fast forward 20 years.  Marriage and kids for her and running wild in NYC for us and you have yourself the second generation of our family unit.  We celebrate birthdays, important anniversaries, milestones and promotions.  Our version might be different than the original but we still get together in much the same way our parents did 20 years ago.

Tonight was no different.

We told inappropriate stories.  Discussed bedroom incidents.  Teased each other mercilessly.  Attempted to remember the endings to old Russian children’s stories (wine was involved).  Feasted for 8.

Add a plethora of apples with honey for a sweet New Year (to increase our odds) and you have one great night.

Mom would have been proud.

Awesome.

Turning It Around

reflection on a plane

On Day 37, everything that could have gone wrong… went wrong.

In preparing for this week’s work trip, I planned to wake up circa 4am (a miracle for anyone who knows me) and drive to the airport to take an early flight, putting me at a client meeting bright and early.

Easy!

Not quite.  The 2 hour drive turned into 4.  I missed the only non-stop flight of the day.  I couldn’t understand my friend, the GPS (which turn lady?!?!).  I almost missed the 2nd flight.  I just about peed my pants flying through a storm (apparently this is of NO concern to the pilots).

By the time we landed in random pit stop (ie layover point), I was ready to call it a day and head back to NYC.

I decided to regroup.  I sat myself down, ate a couple bags of JetBlue (Blue) potato chips (I’m a fan) and had a double vodka (naturally).

Things turned up from there:

  • Through methods of friendly waves and overstepping boundaries, I befriended the pilots of my next flight.  They assured me that we would not intentionally fly directly into hurricane Isaac’s path (phew).
  • I met the crew of the plane and prepped them for my on-board bloody-mary intake.  (I even scored a free one!)
  • I read my book of the moment: “White Girl Problems” – Babe Walker.  (Don’t judge, just read)
  • I enjoyed team bonding by the water (the upside of traveling for work)
  • I ended the evening with a bath (my hotel go-to)

About turning it around:

Not easy.  But when achieved: Awesome.