Monday, July 25, 2011


Forgive me readers, I have sinned. It has been 12 days since my last blog. I have had some blog-related thoughts, but I have not acted on them. Sigh.

In my previous life as a blog reader, I would definitely get annoyed when bloggers would disappear without warning for days or weeks on end. What happened to them? Where did they go? How could they forget about the blog? How hard is it to just check in?

Well, harder than it looks. I'll be honest, the past few weeks have been such a blur that I really didn't think much about blogging. The to-do list was so long, posting just never got very close to the top. Sucky, I know. I know I don't have thousands of readers hanging on my every word, but I do love the fact that people take time to visit -- whether you just stop by or you're a regular commenter, your visits mean so much! Plus, I really enjoy the whole process of blogging. Really helps sort through my thoughts, and I like having my little electronic diary to look back on.

So the good news is that I've been busy with super great things. Workouts have been happening pretty regularly -- in the morning, even! This is blowing my mind because I am so not the morning exerciser. I've also been driving. Today was fun with parking: parallel parking (boo!), navigating parking lots, etc. Not the most fun, but better than the BQE. And I've been working on a bit of a top secret surprise. I hate to be a blog tease, but more to come soon.

The bad news is that my busy schedule is likely to keep up over the next few weeks, so my free time is not going to open up any time soon. But I've been adjusting and trying to make myself as efficient as possible, and I'll just have to find ways to squeeze in some blog posts. If only the rest of the world would adopt that 36-hour day that I've been pushing then I could get it all done!

And with that, I am off to sleep. I'm going to be dreaming of this little fuzzball:

Audrey in her sick bed -- I tried to take good care of her all weekend!
Audrey the Dog was not feeling well this weekend, and last night we didn't get much sleep (no one wants to be alone when they're sick). This morning things actually got worse, so I took her to the emergency vet and they wanted to keep her overnight! I was shocked, I thought we'd just get some medicine and get back to our Sunday. I felt awful leaving her. Woofy hospitals are just as depressing as human ones, and I hate that I couldn't make her understand that I wasn't abandoning her and I would be back. I'm sure she's totally fine (probably snoozing in her little doggy hospital bed), but just in case I'm going to the window to sing a quick rendition of "Somewhere Out There". The pet hospital is just a few blocks away, so we are definitely are sleeping underneath the same bright star...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A night at The Plaza

No, I didn't get to spend the night in the Eloise Suite. But I did get to spend a few hours at one of New York's most famous hotels. Some friends were in town for the weekend (bringing their almost 7 year old on her FIRST TRIP TO NYC!), and I was looking for someplace fun and a little bit special to meet them for dinner. When you live in a city like New York, there is a lot of pressure to deliver good dining experiences to out-of-towners. New York has some of the best food in the world, and it often comes at a you want them to be impressed!

After consulting my foodie friends and racking my brain a bit, I came up with what I thought was a good idea: Todd English's Food Hall at The Plaza Hotel!

Food halls are pretty trendy in New York right now -- this isn't a new concept (think Harrods in London, Takashimaya in Japan), but now top foodies are tripping over each other to develop the quintessential NYC food hall experience. Mario Batali has Eataly, Jeffrey Chodorow has FoodParc, but the trend really started with Todd English's contribution, which is located in the basement of the newly renovated Plaza Hotel.

I thought this would be perfect for my friends. First, the food was supposed to be fantastic. That really had to be first priority. Second, my "niece" (I'm Aunt Ali, at least in name!) is a foodie who loves some Top Chef. Todd isn't exactly Tom Colicchio, but he's definitely a player in the celeb chef world and I think he's even been a TC guest judge. Third, The Plaza Hotel is an NYC institution and is a great little stop on a first visit, especially for little girls who have grown up reading Eloise. Eloise is ALL OVER the new and improved(?) Plaza -- she's on a flag waving on the front of the building, she's in a portrait in the lobby, and her likeness is available on all kinds of books and jewelry and clothes and toys in her very own gift shop. 

And I'm happy to say our visit was a total success! The Food Hall is huge but not overwhelming, popular but not too crowded (a nice contrast from Eataly, which is absolutely mobbed all the time). There are 8 different food stations, serving a variety of choices including sushi, pizza, carved meats, salads, and dumplings. You're seated on stools around one of the various stations, but the menu is inclusive and everyone can order from any station. There aren't a lot of places where your dining companions can be enjoying good sushi and great flatbread pizza at the same time! And while you're waiting for your food, you get to watch your stations chef in action -- the slicing and dicing, the pots bubbling over on the stove. Dinner and a show!

Image source
The seating initially posed a small bit of a challenge for our group of 4. We were seated in a row, and our conversation was a bit of a game of telephone, trying to pass messages down the line. Eventually 4 seats on the corner opened up and we were able to move so we could face each other as we chatted. I wanted to hear all about their big day in the city! There were multiple Naked Cowboys involved. 

So, the food. A-MAZ-ING! Everyone was really happy with their meal, but I think mine might have been best. My friend went with sushi and a seaweed salad (which we dared her to order because it sounded weird, and she ended up LOVING), her husband got gyros, and her daughter got beef sliders and fries (super cute presentation on that one). I went with the 1/2 organic rotisserie chicken, which came with bread and pickled vegetables (umm...?), and I added a side order of haricots verts. And here is what I got. First, the chicken:

Thanks, Interwebz -- I totally devoured mine before I snapped a photo
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What a feast! I couldn't eat all of the meat, though I really wanted to because it was perfectly tender and juicy. This is the kind of flavor that you just can't get when you make it at home.

And the haricots verts were like dessert -- SO tasty! Green beans topped with walnuts, cheese, and a bit of pepper for some spice. Oh my god, I wanted to lick the bowl! I usually eat my green beans steamed, but this was quite a nice treat. I need to try to recreate this at home.

We were all too full for dessert, but they had quite a nice looking little bakery. I spotted some French macarons, so I'll definitely try to save room next time. And I do plan on going back -- there are so many more things I need to try on the menu! Prime rib, gourmet pizzas, big salads -- yum, yum, and yum. I'll definitely suggest this for out of town guests, but this would be a great spot for a date or a girls' night. We can't let tourists have all of the Plaza fun!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dreaming vs doing

Where did the week go? I love a long holiday weekend, but it is hard not to feel a little bit behind for the rest of the week. I've had some blog-related thoughts this week, but the actual writing just didn't happen. Bad blogger.

This week had me thinking about dreaming and doing, I've figured out I'm very good at one of these things...can you guess which one? Yeah, I'm a dreamer (but I'm not the only one...) Hence my constant posts about goals and plans and life lists. I really like the planning process. I like plotting, envisioning myself in new ways and new places; I like color-coded spreadsheets and pretty lists and doodle-covered maps. I love letting it all swirl around in my head and seeing what develops.

Sweet. But not really'll see later when I get to the part about
having 4 alarm clocks.
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But when it comes to actually following the plans, doing the work, taking the actions, sometimes I stumble. What is they say about mice and men? Add peacocks to that list. I often find myself astray. But I don't give up!

This week I decided my workout needed a little chart, so I made myself a pretty Excel sheet:

Gridlines, wherefore art thou?

I've since filled in specific daily/weekly goals and I made it my computer's wallpaper so I have to look at it all the time. I think the success/failure color-coding is my favorite part. I want to see a lot of pink!

So I started things off in my usual way. Day 1 -- success! It was the 4th of July, so I wanted to squeeze in a quick few miles. Then Day 2 -- fail. Could not get out of bed. Many snooze buttons were hit. Day 3 -- same. And while I was annoyed at myself, I really hated having to color in the blue box each day. My failure was staring me in the face, mocking me. Grrrr.

I wanted things to go differently yesterday morning, so I went to bed a little earlier, set my 4 alarm clocks (sorry neighbors!), and tried to psych myself up mentally.

Mine are scattered all over my apartment, and still I manage to oversleep. Really, it's pretty impressive.

The alarms went off, and I shut them off. I buried my head in my pillow. So tired. More sleep, more sleep! I dozed a little, and woke up again 20 minutes later. Not too late to squeeze in a workout, but getting close. I don't want to do it. My eyelids are so heavy, how am I going to lift my feet? But then...

I promised myself I would do it -- get up! I'll get a pink box! I'll feel fine once I start...just get out of bed!

This went on for a few minutes. I checked my email on my phone. I made lists in my head. The angel and devil on my shoulder really went at it. But much to my surprise: the angel won!

I got up and got out and logged a couple of sweaty miles. And it was fine. I'm definitely not a morning person, so I felt like it took a little while to get into a grove, but I got there. I didn't let my foggy head bother me. I also did my best to ignore stinky garbage truck that insisted on following me (that was a little tougher). And I made a pretty pink mark in the box.

Do you use any special tricks to keep yourself accountable? Do your plans ever go astray...and how do you get back on track?

Oh, and some exciting news to share: my first guest blog post is up today! The lovely Andrea over at Run, Eat, Date, Sleep allowed me a little space to write about one of my favorite subjects, Give Kids the World. This won't be totally new info if you've read my previous posts, but you should definitely pop over and see what's going on. It's a must-read blog if you like running, Disney, Criminal Minds, or awesome people ;)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Eat Pee Love

One year ago today, a little furball named Skittles (don't worry, she won't keep this name for too long) showed up at my front door. She looked small and scared, and frankly a little embarrassed by both her bad haircut and her silly name. She walked in, took one look around, and peed on the floor.

She came to me thanks to a wonderful organization called the Mayor's Alliance for New York City's Animals. This organization is a coalition of animal rescue groups and shelters that works to place animals in loving homes and end the killing of healthy cats and dogs. A lot their work involves placing animals in foster homes while their owners are unable to care for them -- maybe the pet owner has gotten sick, been forced to move to an apartment that isn't pet-friendly, or become temporarily homeless. MAFA helps find great temporary homes and covers a lot of the costs of caring for a pet during the foster period, and often the animals are happily reunited with their owners

Skittles (better known to you as Audrey the Dog) was a different situation. She had been purchased from a breeder by a family in New Jersey, and after two years they decided to give her away. I don't know all of the details -- I don't think she was abused, but I don't think they cared for her very well. There was a divorce and children involved, and apparently she was being used by the parents as a way to try to manipulate the kids. Eventually they decided to surrender her, and MAFA stepped in. And I have to say, MAFA really goes above and beyond -- they picked her up in New Jersey, brought her to their vet for spaying, microchipping, vaccine updating, and a check-up and teeth cleaning. Then they delivered her to my house and then paid for some follow up vet visits. For all of this, I paid an adoption fee of only $100. Truly, a great organization! I've decided to make a donation to MAFA every year on Audrey's adoptiversary so they can continue doing their great work.

While our first few days together weren't exactly smooth sailing (they said she was housebroken -- she was not), I did quickly get a sense that we were meant to be together. I have been wanting to adopt a dog for more than 10 years -- wishing, hoping, and praying big time. Truly, I was a little obsessed. I wanted a rescue, and I hoped for a little dachshund (or at least a little doxie mix). When my dog-loving boss heard this, she offered to reach out to her contacts at MAFA on my behalf. Lo and behold, they were rescuing a dachshund that week. Fate.

The past year with Audrey the Dog (she ditched the Skittles after about a month -- new life, new name) has brought me more joy than I could imagine.

Skittles are candy, not pets. A few friends loved the name, but
I thought she needed a fresh start.
Image credit

She makes me laugh every single day, she makes me me see things differently, and she gives unconditional love. And even though I quite like living alone, she is great company in my life. She is so happy to see me when I get home (and the feeling is mutual), and I'm shocked at how absolutely empty my little house feels when she's not here. 

And I've learned a lot, so I thought I might share a few lessons about being a doggy mama. Warning, gratuitous Audrey photos ahead!

I can put someone else's needs in front of my own.
It's not that I haven't done it before, but being a pet owner does require quite a bit of selflessness. When Audrey arrived, I had to work to figure out her schedule. I needed to learn when she wanted to eat, when she needed to go out, and how much she needed to sleep. Of course, she stayed pretty silent on the whole matter so I had to figure out a lot by trial and error. I needed to leave work at a certain time so I could get her home, I needed to take care of her dinner before mine, and I needed to get her out on her walks...even if I was tired, even if it was too hot or too cold. Audrey doesn't like to go out in the rain, so often I hold the umbrella over her while I get soaked. I do it because that's what she needs, and it's my job to take care of her.

I need a whole post to showcase the many faces of my little drama queen,
but here is preview.
Sometimes being very patient is important.
In a lot of ways, Audrey is a real New York dog -- a little bit neurotic, and not always easy to please. I mentioned the housebreaking thing. Actually, Audrey wouldn't even pee outside when she first got here. We'd walk forever and then as soon as we got home, she'd smile and pee on her bed.  (OK, she doesn't smile with her is more in her eyes, but I know she's doing it). I cleaned up a lot of messes, but eventually we figured it out. She has also developed a few behavioral issues (please do me a favor and don't ever ring my doorbell), and I am seeing that while she can eventually learn to act the right way, it won't happen overnight. I need to be consistent with her training, and I need to be patient.

Love can be a little bit disgusting.
I know that being a dog mama isn't at all like having a child, but there are a few useful comparisons. I always wondered if I was cut out for the icky side of child-rearing, and after just a few weeks with Audrey I got my answer. Audrey likes to eat things that she shouldn't, often with messy results. I came home to find Audrey had gotten sick many, many, many times. I'll spare you the details, but the phrase, "oh, shit!" was never more applicable. Audrey was fine, but there was a lot of clean up to do. It was totally disgusting, but I did it without hesitation. Same goes for that night she had projectile diarrhea. It isn't always easy to care for the people we love, but it is nice to know that I can do it when I am called.

This bed is just the right size...for me.
I can't control everything.
And finally, life with Audrey is a good reminder that no one is perfect, and sometimes people (or little furballs) will do things that I don't want...and I need to be able to roll with the punches. Audrey has a protective streak, and she gets a little angry when she sees other dogs. She demonstrates this anger by screaming, snapping, lunging, and otherwise menacing other pups in the neighborhood. And while I truly wish she would not do this, wishing it isn't enough. I have a similar wish that she wouldn't follow me into the bathroom. I probably should do something about that, but right now I'm picking my battles.

So Audrey, thanks for a year's worth of good morning hugs and goodnight kisses. Thanks for being such a good playmate and such a good listener. Thanks for licking away my tears, and thanks for entertaining me by running around with a pita chip bag on your head (this happens almost weekly).

I look forward to many, many happy years with my teeny little pal!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Halfway check-in

I never really thought of June 30 as milestone, but a number of my favorite bloggers' recent posts looking back on the first half of the year have got me thinking that this might be a good time for a check-in myself.

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2011, Part I

When I started this blog, I mentioned 3 big goals for the year:

1. I want to run a marathon
2. I want to write a blog
3. I want to stop procrastinating so much

I have been blogging for almost three months -- woo-hoo! And 3 months in, I have to say I really love it. It is harder than it looks and a LOT more time-consuming, but ultimately so much fun. I have learned a lot about myself and this great blogging community, I have been perpetually inspired, and hopefully I have shared a few things that made others smile, or laugh, or think. I knew that I would be making some life changes this year, and I wanted a blog as a place to collect my thoughts along the way. But a funny thing happened...writing my blog and reading many others have actually inspired a lot of the changes that are happening. Chicken? Egg? I don't know, but I'm loving it!

I definitely haven't fixed my procrastination problem, but I'm not giving up yet. My marathon training is really half marathon training at this point (baby steps!) and it is going slowly. I began the year WANTING to become a runner and train for a race, and I guess my progress report mid-way through 2011 is that I KNOW I can do it. It's not a question of if, it's just a matter of when. That's a nice feeling.

2011, Part II

There are GOOD things coming later this year, I know it. I don't have a lot of details yet, but there are at least 8-12 Lovely Life List items in my sights right now -- by the end of the year, I am going to have a lot of crossing off to do. And that is CRAZY to me. A dozen dreams coming true... I can hardly wait!

And what is even more amazing is that I'll make all of it happen myself. I had goals, I made plans, I dealt with obstacles, and still I kept going. Henry Miller said, "We create our fate every day we live". I'm ready for the fate that I'm creating for myself.

I'll have news about bigger plans soon, but for now I'm excited about tackling this item:

Learn how to use all of the features of my DSLR and be a photography rock star

This week I'm starting my Photo 101 class courtesy of Nicole's Classes, and I can't wait! When it comes to photography, I think I have a pretty good eye and I know I have a decent camera, I just need to know how to make both work a little better for me. 

I've never taken any kind of online class before, so I'm kind of intrigued by the whole process. And I am so excited to have better photos -- of my vacations and adventures, of Audrey the Dog, and of course of all things blog-related. 

I'm looking forward to a great weekend, and a great rest of 2011! How are you feeling about the year so far? Have you achieved the goals you set out for yourself, and are you excited about the next six months? You guys inspire me all the time, I'd love to hear what you've got planned!