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.


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…

More: Fall 2015

Fall 2015 was a crazy time – lots of changes at my job meant extra-long hours with a new Music Club I am advising, and even the fiancé had to help with my Computer class! I also finally finished my Yoga Teacher Training Certification in October and although I learned I like taking yoga classes more than teaching them, I can say the training helped me more spiritually than I ever thought possible. Another chore I had to tend to this past fall was wedding planning. Yes, chore because I hate shopping! So many decisions to make! I finally picked a dress, but by the end of the year I still didn’t feel good about the venue… The fiancé was also busy practicing with his new improv group “The Utility Players”, but was a trooper helping me out with everything.

As they say: work hard, play hard. In the fall I did another Sip and Paint night, went to the Reno Philharmonic, watched the musical Mary Poppins, did more art projects with my Little Sister, was Katniss from the “Hunger Games” for Halloween, and threw a birthday party for Slick and Parker. They are 11 years old now! The fiancé and I also celebrated our second anniversary with a stay in Genoa, Nevada. David Walley’s resort and restaurant is a favorite of ours.

Traveling, Eating, and More: Santa Cruz, CA

On Labor Day Weekend we attended a lovely wedding in the Santa Cruz area. My friend J. married A. at the Quail Hollow Ranch in Felton, CA, and thank goodness the fiancé and I scored an Airbnb rental very close to the venue – we were seated with J.’s uncle who had brought tequila to share with the table.

The next day we went to Santa Cruz and walked around the boardwalk. It was a perfect summer day to be kids again! I really enjoyed our seaside ride while the fiancé loved the arcade. On our way back to Reno, the fiancé had his last gluten and dairy meal before his elimination diet: a bison burger at “Burger Me”.

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!

Traveling: Houston, Texas

This past summer I also spent time with my friend S. and my goddaughter E. in Houston, Texas. So much fun to hang out with a (well-behaved) toddler! Lots of eating (great gourmet places!), swimming (it’s hot in July!), and museum fun (so much fun, it’s worth to be a member!). And since toddlers can also be exhausting, we also had a spa day 🙂

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: Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-A-Rede, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland also has some beautiful scenery, so much so that HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is filmed there. We saw Dunlunce Castle, apparently known in the show as the House of Greyjoy, and Dark Hedges, a beautiful avenue of trees known in the show as King’s Road.

Perhaps my favorite part of Northern Ireland was the World Heritage Site Giant’s Causeway. Legend says the giant Fionn McCool built a bridge to Scotland that then got destroyed by another giant who was afraid of him. Now the basalt rocks are perfectly geometric, forming columns that disappear into the ocean. Spectacular to think of how perfect nature can be!

Built by salmon fishermen and now a tourist spot, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge was much less scary than it looks, even though it was 98 feet high. It was not as wobbly as I thought it would be and attendants kept things moving, so you can cross the bridge in the blink of an eye. When you get to the other side, the view from the island is still lovely, even though it’s overcrowded with tourists!

Carrick-a-Rede Bridge

Carrick-a-Rede Bridge

Traveling: Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, also known as Londonderry, is the second largest city in Northern Ireland. There is so much history there that when our guide was talking, my head was spinning. Derry walls were built in the 17th century and they are still intact. You can walk around the walled city through a promenade and explore the outer city from the many gates.

Unfortunately, Derry is mostly known now for being the place where the Troubles started in the 60’s. The conflict between Catholics/Nationalists and Protestants/Unionists lasted three decades and saw a lot of violence. In 1972, one of the most notorious events of the Troubles also happened in Derry: on “Bloody Sunday” 26 civil rights protesters were shot by British soldiers.

Now Derry is a much more peaceful place, but the horror of the guerrilla war can still be seeing on the political murals of the Bogside. There are also some monuments dedicated to peace, such as the Peace bridge and the peace monument “Hands across the divide”.