Running, Eating, Traveling, and More: New Year’s Eve in New York City

One of the top items on my bucket list was watching the ball drop at Time Square, New York City, on New Years Eve, and, thanks to the fiancé, I was able to cross it off! At first he was not thrilled at all: he had done it once and had no desire to be in that freezing crowd again for 15 hours straight and no way to pee. I started researching Time Square restaurants and parties so we would at least have some warmth and a bathroom while we waited, but even the ones at the Olive Garden were completely booked. I then came across a party at the Novotel called Supernova, that had a good view of the ball, so this way we wouldn’t even have to deal the the crowds – the party seemed pretty exclusive. The fiancé was still not excited since the party came with a huge price tag, but his eyes lit when he found out that instead of paying to be part of the party, he could just book a room at the Novotel for the same price and still be able to get the party view of the ball drop. I said it was totally fine with me if he wanted to stay at the hotel, but that it was the end of November and he would never be able to get a room – after all, I had already called more modest hotels in the vicinity and they would always laugh at me when I asked if they had a room for the 2015/16 New Years Eve. Well, the fiancé tried and boom! We had a hotel booked for NYE in NYC; apparently it was the last room available.

We took a train from Philadelphia to NYC the morning of the 31st and arrived at Time Square around noon, just as they were starting to close the streets. People were gathering for the ball drop already, and we had to fight the crowd a little bit in order to get to our hotel. When we got there, our room wasn’t ready yet, so we waited at their balcony, where the NYE party would be and took a bunch of pictures. The view was so good, we couldn’t believe it! Then we got to our hotel room and another surprise: we had a view of Broadway and Time Square! We could watch the ball drop from the comfort of our room if we wanted to. We could even hear the performers sing! How did we get so lucky??? No idea! We had booked the hotel room only one month before and hadn’t even requested a view! Plus, the room had really nice amenities that included champagne and huge chocolate covered strawberries.

We got all dressed up and went to the street to see the festivities, but it wasn’t even 6 o’clock and the crowds were super massive. We had a bracelet from our hotel that allowed us to move around, but decided not to go far since there were lines to get to each street block, and cops were searching everyone. We grabbed some food and went back upstairs to enjoy it with some more champagne we bought. The room was so nice that we considered just watching it all from our window… but we decided to add to the experience by at least going to the hotel balcony. Luckily, it was one of the warmest NYE in NYC, so we were totally fine standing on the balcony while waiting for midnight.

The ball finally started to drop and we started the countdown with the rest of Time Square. 3-2-1… and a midnight kiss! It was an unbelievable moment and so worth it! I am so lucky to have had the best ball drop experience! We didn’t have to deal with a big crowd, we were never cold, there was no need to arrive hours early, we could drink all the champagne we had brought and pee whenever we wanted, and we had a direct view of the ball. The hotel even had a hot dog cart serving food to the guests at midnight. Getting a room at the Novotel and watching the ball drop at the Supernova party balcony is definitely the way to do it!

The next couple of days we enjoyed NYC and the mild weather: I walked and jogged thru Central Park and researched a few wedding venues, just in case 😉 We had a really nice dinner at Gallaghers Steakhouse (with the fiancé ordering very carefully due to his allergies) and enjoyed an amazing Broadway show: “Kinky Boots” with Wayne Brady. The hotel was the perfect location and we walked everywhere – a visit to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree was magical. What an incredible way to end 2015, a year full of crossed-off bucket list items! Here’s to 2016 and more dreams coming true!

Eating, Traveling, and More: Christmas 2015

Busy season as always! We went to a bunch of Christmas celebrations, including my students’ Holiday play in Carson City, our Tahoe Christmas party at Soule Domain (a restaurant that didn’t know cream was dairy…), a holiday ornament day at the museum, and even an ugly sweater party.

Then we threw our annual Christmas celebration at our home in Reno for our friends. I loved my health Grinch snacks: green grapes, bananas, strawberries, and marshmallows!

Lastly, we went to Philadelphia for Christmas with the future in-laws. While Reno was having a really cold and white Christmas, the East Coast was having a warm spell and it felt great! For the first time ever, I went to midnight mass and baked gluten-free Christmas cookies for the fiancé. We also had a great gluten-free/dairy-free dinner at The Melting Pot – they were even equipped with dairy-free chocolate for their fondue! We finished the celebrations in New Jersey with the fiancé’s friends, but only after helping out at the sister-in-law’s new house and getting a haircut from the mother-in-law.


More: Engagement Photos and Party

It took us a whole year, but we finally took engagement photos right before Thanksgiving. We went to Zephyr Cove, a beach at Lake Tahoe, with the dogs and a professional photographer, and got some cute photos of our little family.

Then when we went to Philadelphia for the holidays, the fiancé’s family threw us an East-Coast Engagement Party, complete with Polish food, champagne toast, and lots of cake.

More: Thanksgiving 2015

We had another “Orphan’s Thanksgiving” at our house where we invited friends and strangers to eat with us. As always, the fiancé was in charge of the turkey, while I made dairy-free mashed potatoes (just substitute cream for almond or coconut milk) and dairy-free/gluten-free pies (“Whole Foods” and “Raley’s” have good selections of pre-made crusts). I love formal dinners because I get to use my fancy china, real silverware, cloth napkins, travel coasters, etc. I love potlucks because everybody contributes to something delicious, such as bacon brussel sprouts and mulled wine. And I love our little tradition of playing “Quelf” at the end of the night. Just a couple more months and we get to do it all again!

Traveling and More: Brazil for my Brother’s Wedding

My brother A. and his wife K. got married about a year ago: October 24th, 2015. The fiancé and I took a quick weekend trip to witness the wedding: we flew for about 48 hours (round-trip) in order to be there for about 48 hours – but so worth it! We got to go to the civil ceremony, the wedding, and even a post-wedding barbecue. Congrats A. and K.!

While I had been planning a wedding for almost a year and was nowhere close to even finding a venue, K. and A. organized everything in less than 6 months. The fiancé and I were groomsman and bridesmaid, but in Brazil the bridal party is a little bit different: it includes as many friends and family members as possible (such as aunts and uncles as well) and we get to wear whatever we want! I was also super honored to do a reading for them about love and marriage: 1 Corinthias 13:4-8.

While the wedding was beautiful and the dance floor was booming, the fiancé had a hard time finding something to eat. In true Brazilian fashion, everything had butter and cheese in it. He had just finished his elimination diet (explained on the previous post) and found out he was allergic to both gluten and dairy… Although it was not hard to eat dairy free everywhere else (lots of rice, potatoes, meat, fish…), that was not the case at K. and A.’s wedding, so around midnight we had to leave so the fiancé could eat something across the street. Crisis averted and we were good to go until 4 am. The next day was time to say goodbye to everyone and visit my aunt’s grave for the first time 😦 Thank goodness for memories…

Eating: The Journey to a Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Life

One of my greatest pleasures in life is eating and when I met the fiancé I was surprised that was not on the top of his list. I came to find out he hated eating because he always felt horrible afterwards with serious gut problems. Although he knew this was not normal, he couldn’t pinpoint what was making him sick: all his allergies tests came back normal and the doctors couldn’t get him a diagnosis other than the hypothyroidism he was already taking medicine for.

In early 2015, things were getting worse: he was having internal bleeding that led to emergency room visits, and swollen ankles that kept him on crutches for three months. After months of reading and trying to learn about his body as much as possible, he decided to try a strict elimination diet. His main guides in this were the books “Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause” by Dr. Isabella Wentz and “Why Do I Still have Thyroid Symptons When My Lab Tests Are Normal?” by Dr. Datis Kharrazian.


For 21 days, he eliminated all possible allergens from his diet: wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, corn, soy, fish, and shellfish. He also avoided red meat, nightshades (eggplant, tomato) and goiter foods (cauliflower, brussel sprouts). Then what could he eat??? Rice, quinoa, potatoes, chicken, turkey, and a few vegetables and fruits. Lucky for me, ground turkey and rice was something I knew how to cook, and chicken soup was something he loved to make, so that’s how he survived the first 3 weeks. Although I was being as supportive as I could be at home, I did not do this elimination diet with him and continued eating anything I wanted outside of the house.

Little by little, he added each allergen for a test day and observed the reactions on his body for the next 3 days. The whole process took about 3 months. I was so proud of the fiancé! I couldn’t even stay away from cheese for 3 hours… In the end, it was all worth it: he figured out he had extreme reactions to dairy (not lactose, but whey and casein) and wheat (gluten). So that’s when, about a year ago, we became a gluten-free and dairy-free household! And let me tell you: the fiancé feels amazing!!!


Ground Turkey, Rice, and Veggies

At first I freaked out: how are we ever going to eat out again??? However, this is a great time to have food sensitivities – I mean, who doesn’t have any nowadays? Restaurants are very aware of allergies and try their best to modify their dishes for you. Even Italian restaurants now offer gluten-free pasta. When worried about cross-contamination, there are some pills to help with digestion, such as Gluten-Cutter. When shopping, Whole Foods and Natural Grocers have awesome selections. Even Wal-mart has a gluten-free section! And Reno has an amazing gluten-free bakery called Haven on Earth very close to our house. As for dairy, there are lots of alternatives and we usually buy coconut milk and coconut or cashew milk ice cream now. We even make our own grated “parmesan cheese” with nutritional yeast! A whole new world of food, restaurants, and cooking has opened to us.


Although we should really be eliminating processed food all-together, we are taking this change as one thing at a time, so we are still buying potato chips, corn tortilla chips, and breads and cookies made with gluten-free flour. There are so many delicious brands out there: Schar, Daiya, Jules Gluten Free, and Bob’s Red Mill. We even have gluten-free and dairy-free pizza on a regular basis!

Since I have such a sweet tooth, I am still making cookies, cakes, and muffins. Yes, I am sure having a super clean diet of veggies and lean meat is awesome for your body, but like I said in the beginning of this post, I just LOVE to eat, so this transition to a gluten-free and dairy-free household is already a huge challenge for me, much more than for the fiancé, who is reaping the positive benefits on his body. I take my hat off to him for being able to be so consistent with his new diet, but I just need to hold on to my desserts for a while: I am having too much fun using coconut milk in everything and as soon as I can I will be posting some of the recipes on this website!


Coconut Flour Brownie