Weekends In My Second Home – New York (Part One)

I love New York. For those that don’t know, I was born in New York City and lived there until my parents moved up to Albany where I grew up before living in Boston, and eventually where I am now – Cleveland.

I always talk about “going home” when I go to back to New York. But when people ask me where “home” is, I say Cleveland. It sometimes seems like I don’t know where home is – but I’m fine with that. Having multiple homes makes it easy to feel at home at a few different places. And this weekend I had booked tickets to spend Mother’s Day with my mom at home – in New York City and Albany. Unlike my last impromptu trip home a few weeks ago, this time B was joining me!

Thursday night, B and I left Cleveland and flew into NYC. Right from the airport, we took a taxi to meet up with B’s friend Jared (who says he reads this blog … Hi Jared!) who was out with his coworkers and girlfriend, celebrating his last day of work. Jared has been working as a high-powered NYC lawyer pretty much since he finished law school, and his coworkers threw him a goodbye bash at a whiskey bar in Hell’s Kitchen, On The Rocks. The lawyers had been there for quite some time and were having a good time when we arrived, suitcases in hands. We stayed, had some drinks, and joined in the celebration before calling it a night and heading back uptown to Jared’s place.

On to Friday. B and I spent Friday sightseeing  It was great! Jared lives on Central Park West and I was able to start the day with a 3.7ish mile run (per my MapMyRun App as seen below) through Central Park, which was beautiful, as you can see. I knew that as soon as I laced up my sneakers and went outside that it was going to be a good day – days starting with runs are always better.

central park mapmyrun

Post-run, B and I walked downtown to Rockefeller Center to meet my best friend Jane for lunch. Jane is pretty awesome (obviously, she was my maid of honor) and after getting a degree in city planning/urban development, she moved to NYC to find a job – she’s now living in Brooklyn and temping downtown. We enjoyed some delicious sandwiches, walked around a bit, and then B and I left Jane to do some more exploring.

brian and me rockefeller

one of my bffs - jane!

one of my bffs who lives WAY too far away – jane!

From Rockefeller Center, we walked to one of my favorite places in NY, Eataly. We didn’t buy anything this time (too full from lunch), but I loved seeing all the people enjoying the gelato and smelling all the delicious food.

From there, we headed to One World Trade Center. I had been by there after 9/11 but before the memorial was being built so it was my first time seeing what had become of the area. We didn’t check out the memorial though – I don’t think I’m ready for that.

one world trade center

From there, we walked to South Street Seaport to get a view of the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a beautiful day and we sat for a little bit (my feet were tired!) and I bought a bag of candy to help enjoy the view (candy makes everything, even existing gorgeous views, better).

Pretty sure he doesn't like posing for photos but humors me :)

Pretty sure he doesn’t like posing for photos but humors me

Then, we headed to the Financial District so B could check out Wall Street. B had never been to Wall Street and enjoyed checking out where the original wall used to be (isn’t it crazy to think that NYC used to end all the way down there?!) and the Stock Exchange Building.

Look, it's a map of Ohio!

Look, it’s a map of Ohio!

After that, we hit up Chinatown. I was tempted to buy a bag of strange dried stuff (ginger, scallops, plums, unnamed fish) from a shop we stopped in, but we were on our way to dinner and I had just bought a bag of candy. It was such a gorgeous day and walking around was exactly what we wanted to do.

Chinatown

By then, it was time to meet my brother in the West Village. We headed back up the island and getting to the area a little early, sat down for afternoon drinks at Bobo. My brother joined us, bringing with him flowers! He had brought me tulips. How sweet, huh? Anyway, I had a lovely ginger mojito and my brother had a lemon-rosemary gin beverage. It’s still weird having my brother order drinks in bars – he just turned 21 and I’m not used to it.

siblings!

siblings!

After drinks, we headed to dinner, and B headed back uptown to meet up with Jared again. Greg and I had a great meal at a BYOB French restaurant, Tartine, in the West Village where we ate outside. We shared two salads – one warm kale with butternut squash, the other fennel and asparagus with avocado and ricotta salata – and then the special entree – an almond encrusted halibut with a creamy polenta and asparagus. And of course, since it was BYOB, we enjoyed a bottle of a French wine that B and I had picked up along the way.

As we were leaving dinner, I had one of my first celebrity sightings – we saw Hugh Jackman! It was awesome. We actually were about to head to the train and ended up following Hugh for a few blocks. I was literally one foot behind him and could’ve touched him at one point. It was surreal! I wish I had taken a picture … but you would’ve just seen the back of a guy in a white polo shirt and a blonde woman and a small pug dog, so you’ll just have to trust me. And instead, enjoy this photo that I did NOT take:

I did not take this photo. 😦

To Be Continued …

And in the meantime, some thoughts to ponder:

  • Do you enjoy impromptu runs? Or do you prefer to plan a route ahead of time?
  • Have you ever had a celebrity sighting? What did you do? 
  • Where do you call home? Do you have two homes?
  • Have you tried any of the dried scallops or other fishes from Chinatown?

Another Wonderful Weekend in the CLE

We had another wonderfully sunny, warm and beautiful weekend in Cleveland! Since I was out of town last weekend, I was excited for a few days of sleeping, a long run or two, and overall a relaxing weekend.

Friday night, B and I got a few invites to watch the Indian’s game or go out with friends, but we already had plans – a First Communion celebration. B’s cousin was receiving her First Communion and we were invited to the Mass and a dinner celebration after. It was great to see B’s family and we enjoyed some great food – including some homemade smoked salmon. I wish I had taken a photo – it was SO good! We got home somewhat late and since we had planned on a day full of errands and partying, for Saturday, we decided to stay in and watch up on our DVR and bake. I had my own mini Nutella bakefest – and made some awesome Peanut Butter, Nutella, Chocolate Pretzel Bars, along with some Nutella Heath Bar Rice Krispie Treats (recipe coming soon), while sipping wine. Definitely not a bad way to spend a Friday night in my opinion 🙂

a sneak peek at my baking - nutella rice krispie treats!

a sneak peek at my baking – Nutella rice krispie treats!

Saturday morning, we woke up early to cross a few items on our to-do list – mine included running, going to the West Side Market, laundry, finishing baking and going to Kentucky Derby Party. And somehow, I got it all done!  I got in 7 miles – the first 3 by myself, and the last 4 with B. Running with B is so much better than running alone!

running by the lake this week

running by the lake this week

After our run, B and I headed to the West Side Market for some groceries and samples. I LOVE the popcorn stand there and cannot make a trip there without trying my favorite flavor, Dichotomy (a mix between caramel and cheddar) and one new one, this time the spicy jalapeno popcorn. While we  were there, I checked my phone and saw that Market Garden Brewery was offering a Kentucky Derby special – buy a mint julep and get a special official Kentucky Derby glass!

market derby

So of course we had to make a stop and try out their juleps. For the free glasses of course. And a soft pretzel.

Mint julep at Market Garden Brewery

Mint julep on the patio at Market Garden Brewery

After stopping by the Market and enjoying some afternoon drinks, I finished my baking and did some laundry, and we got ready for the Kentucky Derby Party. Each year, B’s brother and sister-in-law host a Derby Party. There is plenty of food, lots of drinks, and even a little gambling. As always, it was a fun event – and this year, I even won! I somehow guessed the 1st place winner, and even put money on #3 to come in 3rd place.

B's niece in my hat

B’s niece in my hat

ladies with hats

ladies with hats

winning ticket!

winning ticket!

After having a few mint juleps and  Black-eyed Susans (the official drink of the Preakness), I had planned on sleeping in on Sunday.  But when B got ready to go to his Sunday morning softball games, I decided to join him and even go for a run while the team was playing. The first few miles were tough – my feet were a little tired after a week of running, but after I got warmed up, it was great. The area where B plays softball is a mixture of suburbs and parks, so it’s definitely not boring. I turned on some tunes and even turned on my MapMyRun app  for motivation. And don’t worry, I took Monday off from running so my legs got some time to relax.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty relaxing – starting a new book, catching up on emails, preparing some meals for the week, and more catching up on the DVR. Slightly boring? Maybe. A pretty perfect day? In my mind, yes.

Some questions to ponder:

  • Do you make to-do lists on your weekends? 
  • Do you enjoy the occasional low-key (“boring”) weekend? Yes! Sometimes a perfect weekend for me is spending time just baking and running.
  • How did you celebrate the Kentucky Derby? Did you win any money?
  • What’s on your DVR? We have Mad Men, Happy Endings, The Mindy Project, Glee, The Voice and New Girl.
  • What’s the last thing you baked?

Awesomeness – Peanut Butter, Nutella, Chocolate Pretzel Bars

A week ago, a coworker mentioned she had some extra Nutella laying around – she had bought some a while ago but didn’t seem to be using it. I immediately jumped at the chance to take it off her hands – and of course try a few recipes I’d been eyeing.

When I found myself with a completely unopened jar on my hands, I wasn’t sure what to make. B doesn’t really like Nutella – but if it were a recipe that had just a subtle hint of Nutella , among other flavors, that may do. I saw a recipe for a peanut butter pretzel bar – and it looked amazing. Seeing that, I thought – what could make that better? Nutella! And these bars were born.

Peanut butter, nutella, chocolate pretzel bars

I have two warnings for you if you try to make them:

1. They are addicting. They are SO good and taste amazing.

2. The pretzel crust and peanut butter didn’t hold too well together, so they didn’t look too nice. but since they tasted amazing, I didn’t really care. That’s why I’ve added the following note:

NOTE: I need to make this recipe again, with the proposed suggestions:

  • IF I decide to continue with a pretzel crust, I would recommend making sure the pretzels are finely ground to help them stay. The crust didn’t stay as well as I wanted
  • I think next time I would prefer to have the bottom layer be peanut butter, middle layers be chocolate and then Nutella and then sprinkle pretzels or heath bar on top

Peanut Butter, Nutella, Chocolate Pretzel Bars

Here’s what you need:

  • 3 cups crushed butter flavored pretzels
  • 1 cup melted butter plus 1 1/2 c butter, softened
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 1 box graham crackers, crumbled in a food processor
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/4 cup Nutella, divided into 1/4 cup and 1 cup

Here’w what you do:

  1. Crush the butter pretzels in the blender. Grind well, but not into a powder – it’s good with some texture. Mix the pretzels with 1 c. melted butter and 6 tbsp sugar. Set aside about 1/2 c. of the crushed pretzel mixture and spread the rest into a 9×13 well-greased pan. Bake for 12-15 min in 400 degree oven.
  2. While the pretzel crust is baking, mix together the rest of the butter, graham cracker crumbs, confectioners sugar, vanilla and peanut butter until blended and smooth. Pour the mixture over the pretzel crust when cool. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or until firm.
  3. In the microwave, melt the chocolate chips and 1/4 cup of Nutella, stirring until smooth. Be careful not to let the chips burn.
  4. Spread the chocolate Nutella mixture over the peanut butter layer, and refrigerate for another hour, until firm.
  5. Spread the additional 1 cup of Nutella over the chocolate layer, and refrigerate again. When the bars are firm, cut into squares.
  6. Enjoy!! I stored mine in the fridge to keep the pretzel crust crunchy.

nutella peanut butter chocolate bars

A Running Milestone – and the PERFECT Running Headband!

I’ve been on the quest for the perfect running headband for quite some time. Those who follow me on social media know – I’m often asking for recommendations from my Twitter and Facebook connections. The answers are typically the same. Lululemon (tried one, it slipped off my head if I did anything more than the elliptical).Nike (didn’t stay). Even Target! (they most of the time stayed but ripped my hair at one point … whoops!) The closest I found to perfect were Bic Bands (stayed for a while but then stretched out and thus started slipping off my head), but even those didn’t meet the needs of my extremely smooth, thin, straight hair.

So I thought I was doomed to wearing a hat, using too many clips, or just continuing to wipe my hair out of my face as I ran. I was wrong. I discovered Owl Be Sweatin’ headbands on Etsy. The headbands seemed to be similar to Bic Bands, but with an adjustable strap – which would hopefully solve my issues. Plus, the shop is run by two local women from Cincinnati who describe themselves: “We are a sister-in-law team who have been athletes and runners our entire lives and really love our product: we also make everything by hand and it is such a quality product!”

owl be sweatin

I tried it out on a short run as soon as it arrived – 3 miles – in mild weather. Windy but in the 40s, I wasn’t sweating much – and the headband held up! AND it was cute! I loved the thin pink chevron that I had chosen.

I then tried it on a longer run when it was warm this weekend – 7ish miles in 60 degree weather. The headband didn’t slip at all!

whyilovemyowl be sweatin headband

So I’m excited to share, I found the PERFECT running headband. 

It's cute, too!!!

It’s cute, too!!!

And it was wearing that headband, that I hit a milestone marker with running this year:  I’ve run 500 of my 1000 mile goal! AND I ran the most miles last month out of any other month this year – 139 miles for the month of April (full update coming soon).

ALSO Owl Be Sweatin’ was nice enough to offer a discount to their headbands for you! Simply enter the code “Melissa” on Facebook or Etsy (in the “notes to seller for etsy) and you’ll get  15% off your order! This code expires June 15. 

Take a look at all the cute patterns they have on their Etsy page  and how affordable (plus the 15% discount!) they are. I’ve got my eye on the pink or black glitter ones next (Because really, we all need a little more bling while we run!).

owlbesweatinshop

Disclosure: I was offered the Owl Be Sweatin’ headband to to try out for free. I don’t get reiumbursed or anything if you buy from their shop. All views are my own. I really do love these headbands and can’t wait to buy another!