More: Oscar Party 2016

Another year and another Oscar Party. It’s always cozy to spend our cold winter nights watching movies and super exciting to dress up for a fancy evening with our friends. My friend I.’s husband won best dressed male, while B. won best dressed female, and my friend B. got the most correct answers in the movie ballot. Already thinking of my dress for next year!



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!

Running, Eating, and Traveling: Summer 2015

Yes, I know. Summer 2016 is just around the corner, but I’m still talking about Summer 2015! It was a great one, so that’s why I have been behind on my posts… it seems I was always busy running, eating, traveling, and eating again.

I actually had a list of restaurants to try, but didn’t make through all of them. Here are a few though:

Great Full Gardens – again. Always healthy salads available. Love their rewards program too.

Laughing Planet – again. Another healthy favorite.

Hummus Fresh – with B. and a surprise visit from my friend K. They have salads, wraps, and juices.

Suite 103 – great food (tofu green curry, lamb shank, Mediterranean shrimp), lots of hiccups with service, but food was amazing.

Z Bar – My favorite 1944 Mai Tai (rum and orgeat syrup).

Centro – again. They were out of some items… Awesome waffle bananas foster.

Reno Provisions – meatloaf and polenta again. Can’t go wrong. (Unfortunately, they closed in the fall…)

Jus – juice bar. Great on a hot summer day after a run.

The Depot – okay food, okay service, nothing to rave about. The building, however, is pretty cool.

Villa Donato – great Italian food, but service was horrible.

Sushi Pier 1 – buy 10 get 1 free. Love all you can eat!

Moo Dang – good Thai place in Midtown, but there are better ones.

Café Deluxe – amazing café with lots of healthy options.

Asiago’s – new pizza place in Tahoe. Awesome Greek salad with mint dressing.

Latin Soul – this Lakeside Inn restaurant in Tahoe has an all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse night!

With all the food, I had to keep active, but sometimes it was too hot to run, so, instead, I went to the beach in Lake Tahoe, on hikes on Mount Rose and Tunnel Creek, to the river with the dogs, and even swimming at the public pool. Plus, got to try acro yoga again with the fiancé.

Although after I came back from Ireland and Texas, there wasn’t much traveling for a while, we did have a lot of fun in Tahoe and Reno. Fourth of July was spent barbecuing with friends and watching the fireworks in my neighborhood. I went to an Elton John concert in Tahoe, and did many outings with my Little Sister such as to the Rib Cook-Off, Art Museum, Circus shows, etc.

Other summer adventures included making candles, going to a Paint and Sip night that inspired me to paint even more, celebrating birthdays with friends, the annual Shakespeare Festival in Sand Harbor, and a rope’s course in Tahoe with work!

Running, Eating, and Traveling: Belfast, Ireland

The last stop of my summer vacation was Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. However, summer doesn’t really mean nice weather in island of Ireland. Most days it was cold and rainy, but I went on a jog anyway. I went by the City Hall, the many sculptures and building near River Lagan, and the beautiful Botanical Gardens.

A very cosmopolitan city, Belfast has great nightlife, with an Opera House, and many pubs with live music, like the famous Crown Bar. By the end of my trip, I had found my favorite drink: Jameson with Ginger ale. However, still looking for good Irish food…

Belfast was also part of the Troubles, so we took a “black cab tour” to see the neighborhoods affected and the many political murals. There was also a peace wall where people still write messages of hope.

Lastly, I went to the Titanic Museum, since Belfast was where the infamous ship was built. It is a state-of- the-art museum with interactive exhibits and lots of information about the shipyard and the sinking. Highly recommended!

Traveling: Galway, County Mayo, County Sligo, and County Donegal, Ireland

My last few days in the Republic of Ireland were filled with trips to the northern area and more days of rain. Galway was a vibrant city. Eyre’s Square, Shop Street, River, Spanish Arch: lots of young people everywhere. I really enjoyed some live music at the Murty Rabbits, where I also had a disappointing stew – everybody warned me Ireland’s food was not the greatest…

In County Mayo  we visited Cong, where John Wayne filmed “The Quiet Man”, Cong Abbey, and Ashford Castle, a 5-five hotel/medieval castle. On our away out we also went to the Country Life museum, which had many artifacts from life in Ireland.

We only stopped at County Donegal for a day, but it was one of my favorites not only because of its spectacular views but also because it is the home of the fiancé’s ancestors. We went to Grianan of Aileach, a circular structure from the 7th century CE atop a hill from where you can see 3 different counties. It was very windy, but we warmed up by having some food and Guinness at Leo’s Tavern, the bar of Irish singer Enya and her family. We also stopped by Glenveagh Castle, built in 1870. It’s inside a national park and it has beautiful gardens. We toured the castle, a retreat for the rich and famous like Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe, but couldn’t take any pictures of the inside.

View of threel counties from Donegal

View of three counties from Donegal

County Sligo was very dreamy – I had a coffee while watching the waves and the rain at Strandhill Beach. I definitely see where W.B. Yates got inspiration from. We visited the Irish poet’s grave that says “Cast a cold eye on life, on death. Horseman, pass by!” And life goes on… now to Northern Ireland!

Traveling: Killarney, Ireland

After being in small villages for the past few days, I enjoyed my time in Killarney, in County Kerry. Although it still only had 14,000 people, it had some neat attractions: St. Mary’s church (19th century), Killarney National Park (25,000 acres), and a lively nightlife (it has the most hotel beds in Ireland after Dublin).

Ross Castle

Ross Castle

The town has a beautiful national park with lakes and the only wild red deer herd left in Ireland. One day I walked the many trails and the other I jogged for 6 miles. So happy I was able to keep running while on vacation. All thanks to the long summer days (although it felt more like winter since it was always so cold). Killarney National Park also has castle in the middle of it: Ross castle, from the 15th century. The tower house is impressive, but unfortunately you can only go into the rooms with guided tours.

Killarney National Park was the first national park of Ireland and has many more attractions, some of them only accessible by boat. There is also Muckross House (again… guided tour, so I didn’t have time to go in) and Torc Waterfall, which is a pretty landmark in the national park’s many trails.

Downtown feels very international with all the flags on main street, but the pubs are very Irish – live music was everywhere and people were partying and having fun. “The Grand” was the pub of choice for our group every night.

Running, Eating, and Traveling: Dublin, Ireland

And my big summer trip was… Ireland! It was a last minute trip as I had first planned on going to Mexico to save money, but then I couldn’t find a travel partner and drinking at an all-inclusive resort by yourself is not that appealing, so on 4th of July I changed my plans and bought a flight to Ireland for pretty much the next day. I just figured that since I will have an Irish last name next year then I should get to know my future kids’ roots. Although the last minute flight was pretty expensive, I found a bus tour and hostels for the whole 2 weeks I was there and the trip ended up being very affordable.

My first stop was at the capital Dublin. I arrived at the airport and took a bus that dropped me off downtown near this big silver spire called The Monument of Light. I knew my hostel was somewhere in the vicinity and I did have a map, but I am just horrible with directions, so all I did was walk around towards one direction and, just by luck, I found my hostel a couple of blocks away. I hadn’t stayed in a dorm for over 10 years, but as soon as I got to my room, my roommates were super nice. They were all a little older and staying in Dublin for a couple of weeks to learn English. Since I was off to explore the city right away, I didn’t see them again… until that night when everyone was snoring…

As I mentioned, a map on my hands is not much help, so I just walked and walked in Dublin until I got somewhere. Luckily, there are street signs everywhere, so first I found the Liffey river and all its bridges. The most famous one was Ha’penny Bridge. Then walking past O’Connell Street there was the compelling Famine Memorial and a replica of a famine ship that took Irish immigrants to the US. My goal now was to get to Trinity College since that’s where the Book of Kells is and that was the only thing in my must-see list of Dublin. Trying to find my way there, I walked a lot and passed St. Andrew Catholic Church, but I finally made it.

Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university founded in 1592, is right downtown, but has a nice open campus. Its Old Library has over 5 million books and you can visit part of it any day if you are prepared to stand in line. It’s definitely worth it since the main room is beautiful with books from top to bottom and moving stairs. The most important document in the library is the Book of Kells. An illuminated manuscript written in Latin, it has the first four Gospels of the New Testament. Since it’s believed to have been made in Ireland in 800 A.D., it is a national treasure and very important to Christians. It comprises of almost 400 folios, but only 2 of them are displayed at a time to visitors. The pages were beautiful: the calligraphy work and the drawings were very well preserved for such an old book.

My walking tour of Dublin continued and I passed Grafton St. and its many shops and street artists, and the parks Merrion Square and St. Stephen’s Green. I tried stopping at a 5 star restaurant to have lunch, but the hostess looked at me and said “Sorry, we’re closed for lunch today”… As I walked away, I saw some people seated. Maybe it was just because I was all sweaty and in yoga pants instead of being dressed up for a 5 star place? Luckily, Merrion Square was having some festivities and I had a burger from one of the food stalls.  I then walked to the free National Gallery of Ireland to take a quick peak at the impressionist artwork they have there.

My next stop was Dublin castle and its medieval surroundings dating from 1169. Really cool to have a medieval castle in the middle of the city, but inside there are 18th century decorations since it has been the seat of the parliament for many years. The Chester Beatty Library is on its grounds, but I had to leave it for the next time I’m in Dublin as I had more medieval buildings to visit. Christ Church Cathedral was founded in 1030 and it’s absolutely impressive. The crypt is also very interesting with all the historical artifacts, such as a Magna Carta, the burial place of invader Strongbow and a mummified cat and rat. The last church I visited was St. Patrick’s Cathedral from 1191, which was also very beautiful. It still has the well used by St. Patrick to baptize his followers.

On my way back to the hostel, I found, by chance of course, the Temple Bar area. Lots and lots of pubs and live music, but since I’m not a beer fan, I just strolled the streets and watched the street performers. All was very lively! Although I had gotten back to the hostel at almost 10 p.m., I decided to add a run to my itinerary since it was summer and the sun was still out! I jogged for a few miles all the way to Phoenix Park on the other side of town. The sun was setting but the huge city park was still had some people walking their dogs. When I looked at my pedometer, it said I had walked for 14 hours, over 40,000 steps, and 16 miles! Well, I think I covered Dublin very well by foot on my first day there!

The next morning I met my tour mates and we took a bus tour of the city. It only lasted a few minutes and that’s when I realized Dublin is really small and that the only reason I walked so much the day before was because I kept getting lost! As a group we went to Guinness Storehouse, which besides a factory for the famous beer, it is also a high-tech museum. We watched them make beer, all the way from choosing the ingredients to bottling, shipping, and advertising. We had smell and taste samples and spent hours learning. Who knew a beer museum could be so entertaining! The last floor is where Gravity Bar is and had a 360 degree view of Dublin – that’s where I sipped on my one and only pint of Guinness for my Irish trip. I knew my trip was off to a good start!

My last night in Dublin was devoted to eating. Not that Ireland is known for gourmet food, but I felt I had to try a Guinness stew and an Irish coffee, so I chose one of the many pubs with live Irish music to enjoy some dinner. The stew was okay and the coffee wasn’t very good since I don’t really like coffee, but I devoured the soda bread! The music, however, was top-notch.



Running, Eating, and Traveling: Bay Area, CA

The fiance and I went to the Bay Area in June to see some friends. First we stopped by to see my friend J. who lives in El Cerrito. We had lunch at Bistro 1491 where I had a salad with duck comfit. Then we went for a walk by the Richmond waterfront where the Rosie the Riveter Museum is located. Very interesting part of history: we learned about Richmond’s role in WWII. J. and A. have a beautiful garden with artichokes, pumpkins, carrots, kale, etc. We grilled burgers and some items from the garden and had a wonderful time with them. We finished the night watching Game of Thrones for the first time to see what the fuss is all about. I will have to watch a few more episodes to see if I really like it or not.

Then we were to off to San Francisco for a couple of days, but the first stop was at Emeryville’s Public Market – one of the fiance’s favorite places to eat because of all the different world foods. To keep my running going, we went to Golden Gate Park, but upon seeing Ocean Beach, I decided to run on Land’s End trail because of the amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The fiance just chilled by the beach while I did my 6 miles. The best part of the trip was the food, of course. With my friends J. and J., we went to a French restaurant called Chez Maman. It was quite the feast: roasted garlic, cheese,  fries, escargot, ratatouille, mussels, and lots of wine. The next day we stopped by  Zachary’s Pizza to pick up a couple of Chicago style pies. I don’t think 6 miles was enough exercise for all that food!

Running: Spring 2015

After Antarctica, I actually took a few weeks off and didn’t exercise at all. But with all the eating going on, I had to get back into it and it has been pretty enjoyable. I started with 2-3 miles at a time and now I’m up to 6-7 miles at a time, running 4-5 days a week. That’s an average of 25 miles each week and I’m so proud of myself! Of course having summer’s off as a teacher helps a lot: I’m able to walk the dogs every day, go on my runs in the evening when the weather is cooler and I even got back to yoga classes and my yoga course, which included a Sanskrit workshop with Shanti Shanti.

Besides running on the trails by my house, I have been going to the Truckee river downtown and when it’s too hot in Reno I drive to Tahoe to enjoy a cooler run and the beach. One day I even took the dogs on a 6 mile walk/run by the beach, but the next day Parker couldn’t even walk. I have been taking them on 3 miles max now. Hopefully I’ll do more hikes with them, like the one to Mt. Rose waterfall. The weather has been a little too hot for my taste, but I’m not complaining about the sun and the beautiful clouds. Better hot than rainy (well, better for me at least, not for the drought in CA/NV…)

Running in Antarctica

We made it to Antarctica and back safe and sound and I can’t wait to write all about the trip, but first I want to share about the marathon, which was a very challenging but extraordinary experience. The day before, King George Island, where the marathon was going to be held, was hit with rain and snow. The island is home to scientists that live on research bases from all over the world and we were supposed to run on their dirt road, from the start line to the Uruguay base, and then to the China base. However, the race organizers decided to change the course because the path to the Uruguay base had turned very dangerous with all the mud and snow. Now the course consisted of 6 laps from the start line to the China base and back. While some people complained, I actually liked it as I prefer to run laps: the familiarity with the whole terrain after only one lap would work well for my anxiety. And so, the next morning, our adventure started!

Getting our race bibs

Getting our race bibs

About 100 runners had to be brought to shore by zodiacs: each zodiac is a small boat that holds 8-10 people, so it took a while for everybody to get to shore. We ended up being on the last boat that left the cruise ship, not because we were late, but because someone had to be last and we figured we preferred to arrive closer to the starting time than to be first on the island and have to sit around for an hour. However, being last off the cruise ship didn’t work out so well because as soon as we set foot on shore, the organizers started the race: I didn’t even have my running shoes on yet! I scrambled to take all of my zodiac gear (waterproof suits and rubber boots), secure everything into my backpack and lace my shoes, but by the time I was done, the race was well under way. Because they go by gun time, not chip time, my official race time wouldn’t be an accurate representation of my running. Still, I wasn’t too upset: I was not there to finish the marathon at a certain time; all I wanted was to finish it!

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The day before, I had watched a movie about the Chicago marathon and one of the participants, who came last, said he didn’t mind taking his time: he had paid so much to be in that race, that he was getting his money’s worth by enjoying it for as long as possible. That was my attitude on race day. I was running a marathon in Antarctica and I wanted to experience it my way. I knew I had 7 hours to do it, so the fiancé and I decided to walk the first lap together. Since everybody was way ahead of us, we were able to walk, stop, take pictures, and absorb the view together. The research stations looked like small warehouses and some scientists were out and about that day. Around us we could also see lakes, the ocean, mountains, birds, and the occasional penguin. It was a beautiful time we spent together, but after the first lap, the race organizers were really worried about my time: if I continued to walk at that pace, I wouldn’t be able to complete the course in less than 7 hours.

The fiance and I at the starting line

The fiance and I at the starting line

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To prove to the race organizers that I could do it, I had to pick up my pace and the next lap I hit some 11-minute miles, which, considering the course, that was pretty good. The path to the China base was extremely muddy as well. Even though at first I tried to go around the potholes, it was pretty much impossible to keep my shoes clean and after a while, I gave up and stepped right in the middle of all the mess. Although the mud was a deterrent, it wasn’t as bad as the hills: not very steep ones, but there were lots of them. After the third lap I knew I couldn’t run the whole course and finish it, so to save my legs from exhaustion, I decided to walk the up hills and run downhill. It worked out great and I was having fun listening to my music, dancing, and enjoying the scenery. The weather had been in the 30’s with a light breeze and the three layers (next-to-skin base layer, fleece, waterproof outwear) I was wearing had proven to be the perfect amount. I was also very happy with my decision to bring my hydration pack. While most runners had to leave water bottles at the start line and the China base to replenish their bodies, I was able to hydrate anytime I wanted. Although I hadn’t had breakfast, my GU gels were working great. We couldn’t have them in the original wrappers on shore, so the night before I had squeezed all the gel into a flask and I was able to sip on that anytime I needed, thanks to my hydration pack that carried all of my essentials.

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I completed the half-marathon mark (13.1 miles) in 2h50, so I was confident I could finish the marathon under the cut off time, but then the wind started to pick up. Snow started to fall and I had to pull up my face mask to protect myself. The race organizers said they might have to close the course soon due to the weather: if the boat captain said we had to leave, we had to leave. During lap 4 I was worried I wouldn’t be able to finish the marathon: the really fast runners were already going back to the cruise ship, after finishing the course in about 3h30, but I was still really far behind – maybe I shouldn’t have walked that first lap… At least one of us had completed something: the fiance finished the half-marathon and was on his way back to the warm boat.

The fiance finished the Half-Marathon! Congrats!

The fiance finished the Half-Marathon! Congrats!

During the fifth lap I was trying so hard to get faster and finish before they closed the course, that I started to feel miserable, but then the wind died and the organizers told us we still had the full 7 hours to complete the marathon: I relaxed almost too much and just walked the last 2 miles, absorbing the magnitude of my day.  I ended up completing 26.2 miles in Antarctica in 6h15min, which is about 14-minute/miles. I hadn’t been the fastest runner (or the slowest! About 20 people finished after me!), but at least I had done it. Not only I had accomplished my lifetime goal of going to all 7 continents by age 30, but I had also finished a marathon in a muddy, hilly, cold, and windy terrain.

Antarctica Marathon? Check :)

Antarctica Marathon? Check 🙂

After receiving my finisher’s medal, I sat down with a big smile on my face and the cold finally hit me. The whole race I had been pretty comfortable as the heat built from running kept me warm, but once I stopped exercising, the cold sweat on my skin became unbearable. Thankfully, he expedition crew was awesome and I didn’t have to think about anything. They found my backpack, changed my shoes for me and zipped me up. Back on the cruise ship, the fiancé and I celebrated our accomplishments after a deserving long hot shower. He had finished the half-marathon in less than 4 hours, with tendonitis and all! So proud of us!