A Weekend With Family in NY

This past weekend I got to travel – by myself – to New York! My brother was in town from Berlin and somewhat last minute I decided to get on a plane to see him and my parents.

It was such a good decision – I hadn’t been home since Christmas and it was great to see my family and also get in some quality time.

The weekend started with a quick stop in the City to see  Jane. We were able to grab a quick lunch and catch up before I caught the train up to Albany with my brother.

Friday started off with a run around my old neighborhood. I saw cows and even caught my brother who was out for a bike ride!

That afternoon, we went to the Hyde, a nearby museum and old house. It was a GORGEOUS fall day in the area, but chilly.

And the museum was really cool – they had a Picasso exhibit going on, but you also get to see the interior of the house, which is preserved since the family lived there in the early 1900s.

Friday night, we went out to dinner in Saratoga Springs. I had an AMAZING grilled octopus dish.

Saturday, we decided to escape town and go for a hike in the Catskills. My brother, mom and I got in the car and after a kinda long car ride, got to the bottom of the trail at the mountain. After hiking up, we saw some amazing views.

The trees were all yellow and orange.

Then, we climbed up even further — you can see the house down below right where I took the picture above.

That night, we had tickets to the Albany Symphony Orchestra! It was a great performance at the beautiful Palace Theater downtown.

Unfortunately, that was the end of an amazing weekend. I hadn’t spent time with just my parents and brother in several (8? 10?) years, and it was just what I needed.

Questions for you:

  • When was the last time you traveled by plane?
  • Do you live near your parents? Siblings?

Thankful Thursday: For Family

My brother graduated this week from college. My brother, whom I remember being born (we’re 7 years apart) is graduating from college. How does that make me feel?

It makes me feel so grateful, lucky and so thankful to have such an incredible family. So for this Thankful Thursday (perhaps my first one?) I want to thank my family. Warning – a short sappy post follows.

Greg and me at his high school graduation

Greg and me at his high school graduation

So thank you to my brother — I’m so proud of him – for all he’s achieved in college and beyond … and so excited for him – to start this next chapter of his life, because we all know that life out of college is not easy, but the challenges it presents us really makes us who we are. Despite being nearly a decade younger than I am, there are so many ways in which I look up to him and am inspired by all that he does.

7 years apart - Greg at my college graduation

7 years apart – Greg at my college graduation

And of course my parents – for always supporting me and my brother, despite how difficult our decisions have been for them. It is thanks to them that my brother and I are who we are today. I could write a post all about how thankful I am for them – and I know I’ve done it somewhat before – so this post will end with that.

This year - my brother's graduation

This year – my brother’s graduation. We all look the same, right?

Hope you’re all having as much of a great week as I am and are feeling thankful today as well.

Some questions for you:

  • What are you thankful for?
  • Any graduations coming up or just happen? Congrats!
  • What day of the week was your graduation on? Mine was on a Monday – Greg’s was on a Tuesday and Wednesday!
  • Where is your alma mater? Do you stay involved? Boston College – Go Eagles! Not as much as I’d like to -B and I are both part of the local alumni association but we haven’t done much with the group in some time.

 

Friday Five: How Is It November Already?

Friday !! Friday !! YAY !! Can you sense my excitement? It seems like it’s been forever since I updated you on my life – and instead of spending a long time doing that I’m going to just show you FIVE things. And then go off and enjoy my Friday. Sound good?

Okay. Here’s what’s happening. Sorry in advance for the complete randomness.

1. I’m still LOVING the fall colors in Cleveland. Seriously – it’s NOVEMBER already and even though it was 65 degrees earlier this week, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Anyway, just look at these trees. Oh, and my cute nephew too:

fall colors

oliver and the tree

2. B, Mary and me did a 5k last weekend and I got a PR! My goal was to finish in under 25 minutes – and sadly I didn’t make it 😦 My finish time was 25:23 and I finished first in my age group! Yes, it was a small race – but I got my first 1st Place medal!

PR and first place

3. My new favorite dinner slash food combo? Sushi and champagne / prosecco. Yum. WHY have I never had this combo before? Thanks to my fave Cleveland sushi place Sushi 86 for fulfilling my addiction.

Rainbow roll and Danny's BLT from Sushi 86. And prosecco

Rainbow roll and Danny’s BLT from Sushi 86. And prosecco

4. Do you know A Great Big World? Do you watch The Voice? They are two of my current favorite things – and they CAME TOGETHER this week. One of my favorite A Great Big World songs is Say Something. And Xtina performed it on The Voice earlier this week. If you don’t know A Great Big World, you must check them out. My brother introduced me to them / Ian Axel a few years ago (I found the email – January 2010) and they have been my jam for a while now. Enjoy!

5. Speaking of my brother – he is in town visiting me from NY! I’m SO excited to have him spending the weekend with me. What should we do? What should I show him in Cleveland? It’s been WAY too long since I’ve seen him.

Siblings :)

Siblings 🙂

Questions for you:

  • Clevelanders – what should I show / do with my brother while he’s in town visiting?
  • Anyone have any races this weekend? Recent PRs?
  • How often do you see your siblings?
  • Do you like it when your favorite bands from a few years ago hit the mainstream spotlight?

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

Friday night I had planned on staying with my brother in his dorm room. I did it last year, and post-dinner we had just hung out, chatted and gone to bed, which is kinda what I thought we were going to do this year. I was wrong! This year, Greg wanted to take me out with his friends. I’m clearly not in college anymore. His friends were meeting at 11 p.m. to go out … yes, 11, which is later than I typically go out now. We went to a bar only a few blocks away from campus, a bar that gave out free shots of anything (including tequila) if you friended them on Facebook. And then it started pouring out, and none of us had umbrellas. You can tell from those last two sentences how my night was. It was a good time – I enjoyed meeting my brothers’ friends, partying like a college student for one night and getting stuck in the rain.

this is what happens when Greg and I hangout... a photoshoot

this is what happens when Greg and I hang out

Saturday morning we woke up pretty early (sleeping on a dorm room floor isn’t easy, even if you have a blow up mattress), and Greg suggested we go for a quick, short run while he waited for his laundry. Another impromptu, unplanned run in New York? Score! After the run, we enjoyed breakfast and then it was time to say goodbye as my parents and B were on their way to pick me up to visit my grandma while my brother studied for finals.

Grandma, dad and me

Grandma, dad and me

My grandma lives in an assisted living home with a lot of other elderly people. It was SO nice to see her – it’d been a few months – but it’s always hard seeing her living there, as opposed to the apartment I saw her in when I was growing up. I hope that when I’m old and if I’m living in an assisted living home I take advantage of all the activities they have. Posted in the elevator I saw the schedule for the weekend included crafts, live music, a morning walk, and even some fresh-baked apple pie BEFORE dinner.

After visiting my grandma we headed back up to Albany and went out to a really delicious dinner at a Turkish restaurant. My parents went to Turkey last year to visit my brother who had an internship there over the summer (see how cool he is?) and I’m convinced that since then they enjoy Turkish food more. Anyway, I gobbled it all  up before taking any photos because I was so hungry after smelling the warm apple pie cooking all afternoon. I fell asleep on the couch at home (see, this time home means in Albany!) after a tiring but relaxing day.

Mother's Day Brunch

Mother’s Day Brunch

Sunday I woke up and my parents were getting ready to go for their usual hour and a half walk around the neighborhood. I decided to join them, but go on a run first and meet them halfway. For some reason (perhaps fueled by the amazing Turkish food?), I ran faster than I normally do – my MapMyRun app clocked me at running 4.75 miles in under 42 minutes! After my faster-than-usual run, I found my parents and enjoyed a leisurely walk home with them.

sunday run splits

Check out my splits for the run! I’m not typically this fast unless it’s a race.

After our walk/run, we went out to Mother’s Day brunch in downtown Albany. We had reservations at Justin’s on Lark Street, which had a great breakfast and live piano music. I enjoyed a latte, some cornbread and a great brunch of eggs over easy, french toast, bacon, potatoes and toast. I was starving (again!) and finished it all. Post-brunch, the weather looked nice, so we headed over to Washington Park where Tulip Fest was going on. The Tulip Festival happens every spring in Albany and features live music, food vendors, family-friendly activities during the day and other activities at night, and even the crowning of a Tulip Queen. We only had time to walk around for a little before it was time to head back home, pack and head to the airport.

mom dad me tulips

As always, it was sad to leave my parents and head back to Cleveland. But it was such a beautiful weekend and I had such a good time, which made leaving easier. I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day weekend as well!

And since there are no food photos in this post, I’ll leave you with what B and I enjoyed for dinner after we got off the plane late Sunday evening for dinner – Vietnamese.

I <3 Vietnamese Food

I ❤ Vietnamese Food

Some questions:

  • Do you live in the same city as your parents/siblings? If not, do you visit them often? My family is all in New York, but I try to get out there a few times a year. I also love hosting them in Cleveland! 
  • What time is too late to go out at night? No time – but I think getting ready to go out at 11 p.m. is too late for me now. I guess I’m getting old!
  • Do your parents work out or have a work out routine that they stick to? Yes! They have for as long as I remembered. We would go to the YMCA as a family when I was young or go on long walks. Which is probably why I have always felt the need to stay active and get in a run or some other activity every day.
  • Do you enjoy brunch food? What’s your favorite? I typically enjoy the more savory brunch foods like eggs – I don’t really like pancakes, waffles, french toast, etc.

Birthday Cake Batter Cookies

My brother’s birthday is in about a week and he’s turning 21! I can’t believe my baby brother is finally turning the big 2-1. So, to help him celebrate from afar (sorry Greg, I won’t be in NY with you for another month or so), I made some birthday cake cookies in his honor!

I’ve made “cake batter cookies” before – but the recipes I’ve found tended to be mostly just cake batter and came out thin and tasting a little too much like raw cake batter for my liking. This recipe is definitely a keeper- it’s a mashup between a regular chocolate chip cookie recipe and cake batter cookie recipe. The result is a delicious, chewy, perfect cookie.

Have a birthday cake coming up? Or just want an excuse to make delicious cookies that taste like cake batter? Here you go!

birthday cake batter cookies

Birthday Cake Batter Cookies

Recipe modified from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 ¼ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ c boxed yellow cake mix (I had leftovers from the birthday cake truffles)  
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 ½ sticks butter (3/4 c), room temperature – I used 1 stick of low fat butter and ½ stick regular unsalted
  • ¾ c granulated sugar
  • ½ c light brown sugar
  • 1 egg (I used ¼ c Egg Beaters)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ c chocolate chips
  • ½ c white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 c rainbow sprinkles (I had Christmas sprinkles that I used, plus added some stand alone blue sugar crystals) 

Here’s what you do:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cake mix and baking soda. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl of a stand mixer (like your KitchenAid), cream together butter and sugars on medium speed. Combine until well mixed.
  3. Add in egg and vanilla until creamed.
  4. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients, approximately ½ c at a time. Mix until evenly combined, careful not to overmix.
  5. Using a spatula, fold in chocolate and white chocolate chips and sprinkles.
  6. Refrigerate dough overnight, if possible. If you’re short on time, cover dough and place in a freezer for about 30-45 minutes.   
  7. After dough is chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  8. Drop rounded tablespoons of the dough onto a baking sheet, prepared with Pam.
  9.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until edges are slightly brown but centers are still soft.
  10. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. My batter made approximately 36 cookies. 

birthday cake batter cookies

birthday cake cookies 3

My International Staycation (inspired by my brother)

looking down on machu picchu

I’d be lying if  said my passport didn’t contain quite a few stamps. I’ve visited Costa Rica, Peru, Spain, Italy and France. I studied abroad in college and lived for more than four months in Ecuador with an Ecuadorian family that spoke no English. i swam with the sea lions on the Galapagos Islands. I’ve hiked the Inca trail to reach Machu Picchu. I just returned from a week long honeymoon on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. So it really should come as no surprise to me that my brother would follow in my footsteps. Still, I couldn’t help but shriek in jealousy when I received an email from my brother outlining his summer travel plans, as nonchalantly as if he were describing what he needed from the grocery store. The email is below – I’ve shortened it and bolded the important parts for you:

Hello, hello!

As some of you may already know, I will be traveling abroad this summer. I leave today from Boston to spend a few days in Paris with a friend from Dartmouth. I am in Paris until Tuesday, in which I fly to Venice. There, I will be studying Italian, art history, and the likes at Ca’ Foscari University through a Columbia-affiliated program. The program ends in mid-July.

Around July 20, then, I begin my WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) adventures! I head down to the town of Policoro on the southern coast of Italy, where I will be working on an apricot farm through August 6. I am then traveling to the small town of Grosseto in Tuscany, where I will be working on a vineyard and olive grove until August 20 or so.

The final leg of my trip will take me to India, where my friend Olivia and I will be visiting our other friend, Mia, who lives in New Delhi. We will be exploring the city to its fullest (as well as nearby destinations like Agra). At last, I leave on August 28 for an epic and exciting plane ride home to New York …

… I hope you all have a wonderful summer.

Take care,

Greg

How will I be spending my summer? In my current home – Cleveland. I emailed my boss, telling that I’d be joining my brother for the net few months and hope he didn’t mind — but he just laughed it off. So I guess I will not be traveling to the Italian countrysite, helping farmers make olive oil or preparing grapes for wine. I won’t be jetsetting to Paris, tasting crepes, chocolate and cheese. And I can guarantee I won’t riding an elephant or having my own sort of Slumdog Millionaire / Bollywood adventure in New Dehli.

What will I be doing? In honor of my brother, I’ll  be spending the summer being as international as I can, right from Cleveland. Here’s what I’m thinking for my international staycation:

In honor of his trip to France:

  • Sipping champagne and indulging in some serious chocolate
  • Trying the crepes at Crepes De Luxe at the West Side Market
His various escapes throughout Italy:
  • Checking out the international art exhibits (and Italian masterpieces) at the Cleveland Museum of Art
  • Buying more gelato
  • Sipping Italian wine on my patio
  • Buying fresh olive oil, and using it in my cooking
  • Making my own pasta with my new KitchenAid pasta attachment
  • Going to the Feast of the Assumption in Little Italy
His finished trip to India

How else can I celebrate all the international-ness that Cleveland has to offer? Do you have any traveling family members who you enjoy?

A Recent Pic of My Brother and Me