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Beachy Days

Yup, there’s been some radio silence around here the last week but I have a good excuse: I was on vacation.  Because, you know, I’ve been working too hard…on my summer vacation (Don’t hate!). My mom and I try to go away for a few days every summer and our destination for this year was Cape Cod. I’m never one to turn down some quality time on the beach in one of my most-loved places ever!

We stayed at a little cabin in Wellfleet, MA.  Our accommodations could be described as ‘rustic’ without the inferred charm (a step up from camping but nowhere near a hotel).  We did lots of biking, lots of reading, lots of drinking red wine and eating brie cheese on the beaching, it was heavenly.


We saw seals poke their heads above the waves and whales spouting out in the distance during our days at the beach.  A family friend invited us to their beach bonfire one night, where we sang terrible renditions of Greatful Dead songs and at banana boats.  Amazing.

Even though the weather didn’t always cooperate (it poured one day- we went to see Crazy, Stupid Love and my crush on Ryan Gosling was immediately revived back to it’s Notebook  days!). the beach was still calming even on cloudy days. The Cape really is one of my most favorite vacation spots (we went often when I was young).  I’d love to go back every year.

Until next year, Mom!

How do I know I have my “running legs” back? Because this morning I went for a 15-mile run (my long run for the week) and for the first time since I returned home from vacation and started training for realsies, I did not genuinely contemplate chucking myself over the railing and into the Hudson River as a means to end what felt like real and true torture.

Oh, the dramatics of the long-distance runner.

Anyways, seriously, today’s run was the first one I’ve had where I did not feel, to put it bluntly, like complete cr*p.  Instead, I actually felt pretty good! It helps that the weather was perfect (mid-70′s and low humidity) and I think my insane few weeks of training are paying off.

I’m definitely going to cut back a little bit though, now that I feel caught up in my training.  Obviously I’ll still be running absurd distances but the last four weeks, I’ve really been pushing myself to train a bit more and bit harder than I would have otherwise.

Just for fun, here’s my weekly workout log:

Thursday, 8/4- 5.5 Mile Run

Friday, 8/5- 45:00 Medium-Resistance Elliptical

Saturday, 8/6- 14 Mile Run

Sunday, 8/7- One-Hour Total Body Conditioning Class

Monday, 8/8- 45:00 Medium-Resistance Elliptical

Tuesday, 8/9- 7 Mile Run

Wednesday, 8/10- 40:00 Low Resistance Elliptical

Thursday, 8/11- 15 Mile Run

I had to switch my long run from Saturday to Thursday this week because I’m going out of town and I’m not about to let marathon training get in my way of having a good time!  I did my run today so that I could enjoy myself both Friday and Saturday night this weekend (can I get a ‘wut wut’ for white wine?) and not have to worry about being hydrated and well-nourished andrested for a long run.  Win!

Also, here’s what I typically wear for a long run, in case you’re curious:

I’ve been doing a much better job of applying sunscreen before I go out (Mom, aren’t you happy?) and lately I’ve been adding an old Reebok hat that’s made of a water-wicking fabric (it’s not your typical baseball cap) to keep the sun off my face.  I make sure my shirt is technical (aka not cotton) and I love my Sugoi compression shorts (read-booty shorts!).  Although I’m obviously less than thrilled to show off my massive, muscly legs in this manner, when it comes to preventing chafing, these shorts are clutch (chafing is the worst.  THE.  WORST.)

Speaking of chafing, if things do start to rub together in an unpleasant manner, throw some Body Glide on the parts that hurt, I swear by the stuff!

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And finally, even though I wore a pair of technical socks, it wasn’t enough to prevent the dreaded blisters. Lucky you guys, I’m going to show a photo of my bloody sock so I can feel uber-hardcore (don’t look if you’re squeamish.) Yikes!

I also wear an iPod and use my Garmin Forerunner 305 (it’s the bomb-diggety!) but I’m going to talk about those guys in another post.

So that’s all for now, folks, I’m just gonna keep on keepin’ on with this whole marathon training stuff, I’m finally starting to feel excited by it all and not actually scared outta my mind!

 

 

An Italian Wedding

I recently attended a friend’s wedding on the coast of Italy (the town was called Rodi Garganico) and really wanted to share the photos as it was stunningly gorgeous and just so much fun! My friend married an Italian (they met in New York City on a co-ed soccer team…Cue the collective ‘Awww’ here) and believe me when I tell you, Italians know how to party in the best way.

*A lot of these photos are courtesy of our friend Arvind, who is kindly letting me use them here. You can tell when they’re his using this simple equation: Good photos = Arvind’s, Bad photos = mine.

Bling and coral bridesmaid’s dresses (JCrew’s Arabelle)

A close-up of the bride’s gorgeous dress and sash, along with her double-strand of pearls.   Dreamy.

Ah, yours truly along my yummy hubby.  My dress was Diane von Furstenburg but I got it at a consignment store for $40.  Score! I love the print and the color combination.  Plus, you can’t see it in any of the photos but it had a very low (sexy) back.

Since there were both American and Italian guests, there was one basket of programs in English and another with programs in Italian.  In case you couldn’t figure it out, you’re looking at the American ones :)


The ceremony took place in the hotel’s courtyard and garden area.  The weather was perfect and with the afternoon sun slanting down and the strains of a string quartet in the background, my friend made her trip down the aisle, arm-in-arm with her proud papa.

She later said she had to look down for almost the entire walk to keep from sobbing.

She carried a bouquet of white peonies surrounded by wisps of greenery and had a white rose pinned in her hair.  I thought her whole look was classic and gorgeous.

 One of their readings (in both Italian and English) was from The Velveteen Rabbit, the chapter titled “What Is Real?” Here’s my favorite line:

“…It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

      -Margery Williams

The ceremony was short, simple and sweet. And then they were married!

After the ceremony, the couple took the time to take photos with almost all the guests in various combinations.  No running off for a moment to themselves here. I guess this is an Italian tradition but I could tell after about 45 minutes, my friend had had enough.

She did, however,  happily smile for a photo with all our college friends though.

After all the family and guest photos were taken, they moved to the hotel’s pool area to take a few portraits, just the bride and groom.  They are a seriously attractive couple.

And then, it was time to eat.  And eat.  And dance. And then eat some more.  All in all, including the cake and coffee served at the end of the night, there were seven (you read that right, seven) courses.

Apparently, Italian weddings typically have up to 10 or 11 courses but our friends felt that was a bit excessive, so they scaled it down to 7.  And of course, since we were in Italy, everything was amazing!

First, appetizers were served, including cheese and crackers, puff pastries filled with cheese and various versions of fried cheese.  I think Italians like their cheese :)

The antipasti course included this tower of prosciutto e meloni, along with seafood salad, mussels and more cheese.

 There was lots of hugging and kissing on both cheeks (which I always seemed to mess up.  Never could figure out which side to approach first!) Here’s the bride with her father-in-law, who was as warm, charming and gracious as anyone I’ve ever met.

Gummi candy in the shapes of various sea creatures decorated with these lovely little  tags served as escort cards.  My friend’s mom told me how they brought over 5 lbs of candy from the US  in their luggage and then assembled everything here.  I think between the four of them, they had something like 10 suitcases, can you imagine? Oy.

I loved how the bride and groom sat with their parents during the reception, I thought that was so sweet.  Here’s their table, all set up.

After eating our way through the appetizer and antipasto courses outside on the pool and patio are, we made our way into the reception room and took a break from eating to dance! The couple’s first dance was to Phil Collins’ “A Groovy Kind of Love” which was such an adorable choice and perfect for them.

After a few more dances, including a traditional tarantella (to which all the Americans gamely hopped along and flailed our arms around, much to the Italians’ amusement), it was time for…more food! *Surprise, surprise

Out came huge platters of cavatelli with lobster (pictured above), followed by a duet of filled pastas (lasagnas, both red and white. YUM.)

Then came some of the freshest, crispiest calamari I’ve ever had, plus whole langostas (shrimp) with the heads still on!

In case you’re keeping count, that’s course number five.

You better believe after those courses, we needed to digest and dance.  Given that the bottles of wine at our table kept being magically refilled every time we emptied one, it was safe to say that we were all feeling good and ready to get our groove on.

I’m not sure if we’re doing the tarantella or the YMCA here.  Take your best guess, they looked pretty similar :) There were also several Conga lines that took place.  I have no idea why but Italians seem to love Conga lines!

The bride and groom were also lifted into the air several times.  Kinda like the Horah at Jewish weddings, only minus the chair (which would’ve scared me even more!)

At one point, the groom’s friends dragged a chair out onto the center of the dance floor and had the groom sit down, tied his hands behind him with a napkin and placed a spoon balancing a lit candle in his mouth. My friend had to stand about 5 feet away and try to extinguish the flame using water from a bottle.

We all thought it was hilarious (and I have no idea of the reasoning or tradition behind this, try Google if you’re really that curious) but the bride told me later she was actually kind of pissed that this happened (apparently, she had been warned it might) because she didn’t want to get him all wet.  Luckily, the flame went out after a few quick splashes so it all ended up fine.

After more dancing, it was time for (you guessed it), more food.  Veal and potatoes, cooked beautifully and seasoned perfectly.  Delicious!

And finally, dessert.  The dessert buffet was massive, stretching from one end of the room to the other.  It included Jordan Almonds (traditional Italian wedding gift and happen to be one of my most favorite things ever), chocolate-dipped oranges and pears (OMG these were SO good!), many variations of puff pastry filled with cream, cannolis, fruit torts, fresh fruit, chocolate torts and so on.

If you know me, you know I love dessert so, clearly, I was in heaven.

And then, finally, after more dancing and general merriment (including some very sweet toasts in both Italian and English), the cake was cut around 2:15 am.  I don’t usually care too much about the cake at weddings but I thought this one was quite pretty (and tasty).




Woof, I’m tired just writing this whole thing out. Things didn’t wind down until almost 3:00 am, which definitely goes down in my book as the longest wedding ever attended (ours ended around 1:00 am, which I thought was pretty late) as well as the most food ever served.  It was epic, it was glorious and we were thrilled to be a part of the celebrations of a couple we know and love.

This was my first destination wedding and I am (obviously) quite keen to go to another.  It was a wonderful mix of culture, food and genuine joy while creating life-long memories.  Thanks for including us, Sarah and Michele, in your absolutely fabulous wedding!

Have you ever been to a wedding in another country? Was it different from weddings in the United States?

In New York City, celebrity sightings are not uncommon. although they certainly don’t happen as often as I’d like them to! Or maybe I’m not hanging out at the cool famous-people places, I don’t know.  Now, I will be the first to admit that I am definitely more celebrity-obsessed than the average American so I usually have my eyes peeled and am on the hunt for a good ol’ fashioned star spotting.

So, just for the heck of it I thought it would be fun to look back at a few of the better ones I’ve had during my three-year tenure here in the Big Apple. My top five include:

1. John Stewart having lunch at the New York Times Cafeteria.

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This is a cooler place than it sounds, I promise, and my friend spotted him as we were walking by, so bonus points for her eagle eyes and mad celebrity radar.  I think everyone knows this already but he’s pretty short.

2. Bruce Willis on the Upper West Side.

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Bizarrely enough, I’ve seen the Brucester three different times, all within about the span of a year (I think he had an apartment in the neighborhood while he was filming a movie.) The first time, he looked relatively normal, walking hand-in-hand with his then newlywed wife (sidenote: are they still together? Must look that up).  The second time, he looked only slightly douchey, rocking a fedora and riding a vintage Schwinn down on Riverside Park.  The third time, he looked extremely douchey, wearing a Russian fur hat and fur coat, walking down the street.  Blech.

3. OJ Simpson, buying running shoes.

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OJ did not look like this when I saw him…

Alright, to be fair, this one was not in New York City but (true story), I once sold him a pair of sneakers at the specialty running store I worked at in Miami a few years ago.  I think the entire store stood completely still, barely daring to breathe during the 10 minutes he was inside.

4. Michael Jordan, riding an elevator.

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Fine, this one was not in NYC either, but it’s still kinda cool.  We rode up in an elevator with Mr Jordan at The Cove at Atlantis in the Bahamas while on vacation.  Unfortunately, he lived up to his reputation for being a jerk.  My Father-In-Law is a huuuuuge MJ fan and after a few minutes of shocked silence once we realized with whom we were sharing an elevator, he excitedly told Mike about his massive Jordan collection, only to be met with impassive silence and a gesture for the bodyguard to step in between us.  Talk about obnoxious, eh?

5. Jane Krakowski (Jenna from 30 Rock), walking her A. DOR. A. BUL. 2-week-old baby in SoHo.

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I don’t think this is the exact day I saw her but it’s a pretty similar shot

I didn’t even realize it was her because I was so intent on stalking her miniature bambino (What, you don’t do that too?)  I sidled up to the stroller, gasped in delight over how tiny he was and then conveyed my adoration before looking up at whom I was speaking to.  She is gorgeous and tiny in real life and was extremely gracious.  Points for you, Jenna!

Those are probably my top five favorite encounters. Other slightly less exciting and definitely more random celebrity sightings include:  Fat Joe (Twice! How random is that? Does anyone even know who Fat Joe is anymore?), Kevin from The Office, Tim Gunn, Shannon Elizabeth (of American Pie infamy) and Liev Schrieber (Naomi Watts’ husband, who, not to brag or anything, but I think a dead ringer for my husband!)

My number one dream celebrity spotting would be Jennifer Aniston, hands down.  Maybe someday it will happen.  That’s half the fun of New York City, you just never know who you’ll bump into…

Whose your best celebrity sighting? Tell me so I can be impressed, I’m a sucker for a good celeb story!

Edited to add: I swear to God, not 10 minutes after I posted this, I took my dog for a walk and ran smack in Robin Roberts, host of Good Morning America,  exiting her building into a limo! She is tall and stunning in person, wowzas!

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How crazy/funny is that?! Hmmm, maybe my next post should be about what I’d do if I won the lottery,  don’t ya think?

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Once I got back from all my traveling (more recaps coming soon) and took a few days to recover, I looked at the calendar to count down the weeks until the Chicago Marathon.  As of July 23, there were 11 weeks until D-Day.  Oh crap! I was so far behind in marathon training, I was practically starting from scratch.

I unfortunately  did not run very much while in Europe.  I naively brought lots of work-out gear, genuinely believing I would manage to run the majority of days but the combination of wine, site-seeing and having too much fun basically killed that plan from the get-go.

According to my original training plan, I should’ve been running around 14 miles for my long run the Saturday after I came back.  Yeah,  ain’t no way, no how that was happening.

So I’ve been a bit frantically training, trying to catch up to where I should be.  After taking a few days of working out on the elliptical for 45-minute stretches to get my general cardiovascular abilities back, I started training for real on Monday, July 25.  Just for fun, here’s what my work-out schedule looked like:

Monday, July 25- 6 Mile Run

Tuesday, July 26- 45:00 Elliptical at medium resistance, 15:00 Strength Training

Wednesday, July 27- 8 Mile Run

Thursday, July 28- 55:00 Elliptical at medium to hard resistance

Friday, July 29- 12 Mile Run (Long Run for the week)

Saturday, July 30- 30:00 Elliptical (Recovery, very low resistance)

Sunday, July 31- 30:00 Elliptical at medium resistance, 15:00 Strength Training

That is an intense week of training, with far more running than I normally do but given my limited time to catch up, there just wasn’t any other option.  Luckily, I’m on summer vacation so I had plenty of time to do all this.  I’m going to shoot for 14 miles this coming Friday (8/5) and 16 miles the following Friday (8/12), which will finally put me back on schedule.

Bumping up my long runs by two miles rather than my usual one mile is a little bit intimidating but honestly, it’s only an extra 8-10 minutes (depending on how spent I am) so it shouldn’t be too terrible (HA. I say that now, we’ll see how I feel after it’s done!)

I’ve also been taking between one and three 1:00-walk breaks during my longer runs at evenly-spaced intervals (approximately every half hour or so.)  No shame, I think they’ve been helping, at least with my mental state.  I’ll probably continue these until I feel like my running stamina has truly returned.

With only 9.5 weeks until the Chicago Marathon, it is seriously go-time.  No more excuses, no more dragging, no more minimal whining, time to git ‘er done!

*I’m kicking off my travel recaps, hopefully you enjoy hearing about our trip! Here we go, first stop- Italy!

We arrived in Rome at about 8:00 am,  after a relatively painless  direct flight from Newark. Sure we were sweat and pretty tired but the thrill of being in a different country got our adrenaline going and we were ready to take on the day.  Off we headed to the little beach town of Rodi Garganico for a college friend’s wedding (she’s American, he’s Italian, could their life be any more like a romantic comedy?)

Since Pete is kind of a weenie (kidding! Sorta) and refuses to learn to drive a stick shift, it was up to me to maneuver our miniature  Panda Fiat through Rome traffic, winding mountain roads and seriously insane drivers.  I’m not kidding when I say that while Italians may have mastered the art of pasta and gelato making, they have a long, long way to go with their driving skills.

For example, if the person in front of you is driving too slow, it is perfectly acceptable to tailgait the sh*t out of them, leaving mere inches between the two vehicles while furiously honking one’s horn. There were many, many times where I contemplated slamming my brakes just to teach these Italians a lesson in courteous driving but Pete talked me out of it.

It was an adventure and while we were going on maybe three hours of sleep out of the last 36, we managed to make it to our hotel with only minimal pissing at one another as well as getting very, very lost. We made a pit stop at a rest area on the highway that sold, among other curious objects-

The largest jar of Nutella I have ever seen

Giant Chupa Chups lollipops

Retractable fishing rods (of which I have no photos)

How do I know the rest stop sold retractable fishing rods? Because my fishing-obsessed husband bought one. For 13 Euros.  Awesome.  We also ate some very acceptable pizza, proving that it really is impossible to have a bad meal in Italy (we certainly did not.)

Finally, about 7 hours after we began, the hotel appeared in front of us and we checked in, eager to jump in the pool and wash the smell of 12+ hours of travel off us.

We stayed at Hotel Parco degli Aranci, which is where the wedding took place.

Alas, literally as I jumped in the pool, ‘BOOM’ went thunder and ‘Yikes’ went I and jumped out as quickly as I had jumped in.  Oh well, we consoled ourselves with several bottles of prosecco as everyone gathered in the lobby for the wedding rehearsal.

The pool, post-thunder storm

The storm made for an incredible sunset

College friends (including a few soccer teammates)

*Photo courtesy of Arvind, Master Photographer Extraordinaire

After prosecco and an impromptu photo shoot thanks to the divine light,  it was off to the rehearsal dinner!

Oh, the rehearsal dinner.

Truthfully, it’s going to be difficult to convey just how incredible this event was, especially because my photos are not the greatest (luckily, I managed to borrow a few from those with better cameras and photog skillz than I. Namely, our friend Arvind who did an amazing job capturing the weekend and is even more amazingly allowing me to use there here. Thanks, yo!)

Picture every stereotype you’ve ever seen in every fluffy, chick-flick, rom-com about Italy (think Diane Lane in ‘Under The Tuscan Sun‘) and then multiply it by a thousand, only it wasn’t cheesy and stereotypical, it was real. No pretension, just love, happiness and an abundance of incredible food.

*Photo from Arvind

Dessert!

Photo from Arvind

It was held at the groom’s family’s beach house, and included multiple courses, copious amounts of wine, a DJ, the tarantella, a conga line and the groom’s 80-year-old Nonno (grandfather) charming the pants off of all the American guests.

This guy was the life of the part, I’m telling you!

The house had a huge patio with tables and chairs, with plenty more set up outside on the beach as well as on the house’s spacious balcony.  You know how sometimes when you’re traveling, you’ll stumble onto a local party scene and rather enviously wish to be a part of it, instead of being an outsider looking in? It was so awesome to actually be a part of this Italian celebration. True to form, the Italians loved to eat, to drink, to dance and to laugh and the rehearsal dinner is still one of my all-time favorite memories from the entire trip.

Photo from Arvind

Such dancing and merriment!

Photo from Arvind

The night ended with a conga line (Italians love their conga lines, this was the second of the night and there were several at the wedding the next night as well- no clue why) down to the beach, where my friend Kristin snapped this shot of the engaged couple.


Can’t you just feel the love?

Things didn’t wind down until well after 1:00 am, at which point Pete and I had been awake for almost two days straight and so we drunkenly piled back into the shuttle bus to head back to the hotel.  It was time for some sleep, and based on this party, we knew we had to majorly rest up for the wedding the next night!

The Finality of Loss

I wish that death was a celebration of a life well-lived, instead of the mournful process that it is.  Somehow, I wish I could feel joy and gratitude when someone passes, rather than the infinite sadness and loss that is typical. My Great Aunt Shirley passed away on Monday, after a two-year battle with stomach cancer.  She was 86 and lived a long, often-hard life.

At 86 years old and as sick as she was, her passing was definitely in the natural order of things and it’s certainly not a tragedy by any means.  But she was my last biological link to my maternal grandmother (who died long before I was born) and while my grandfather re-married and his second wife of over 25 years is most certainly my beloved Grandma,  Aunt Shirley  took on the role of a second grandmother and so this isn’t just the loss of some obscure relative. This hurts.

I’m starting to understand the appeal of religions that tote the belief in an afterlife or reincarnation or some variation thereof.  It’s a comforting thought, certainly, only I’m having trouble really, truly buying into it all. I was raised Jewish by way of Buddism, Sufism and Quakerism and therefore, don’t really believe in much of anything other than science and nature.  But a part of me wants to believe, so so badly.  I find myself wishing that yes, Aunt Shirley is finally reunited with her beloved sister and all those in our family who have already passed on but deep down, I struggle with putting true faith into that idea.

So, instead, I wish that death was a celebration of life.  I wish our culture revered death instead of reviled it.  Perhaps,  instead of being immobilized by the painful finality of loss, we could somehow manage to find beauty and glory in the final journey of our lives.

Until I find a way to do that, I’ll just be sitting here, contemplating the life and times of my dear, crazy Great Aunt Shirley.

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