Tuesday, October 20, 2009

do what you want, be what you are

Oh bloggy blog, how I've missed you. I have neglected you for far too long, and it's time for some love and nurturing in the form of a brand new post. So much, yet nothing at all has happened in these past two months, so I won't go back and rehash insignificant details of life. Instead, I will tell you about my current obsession: Daryl Hall & John Oates' Do What You Want, Be What You Are box set. Four CDs, 74 songs, and a 59-page booklet with all the stories behind the songs. Pure happiness. I've only listened to and read about the first disc, but I've already heard songs I never knew existed, and learned about the sometimes-strange inspirations behind some of my favorites. For a long-time fan like me, this box set is amazing, and I've really fallen in love all over again. And for a casual fan, or someone who only knows their greatest hits, it will open up a whole new world of H&O to you.

No matter what mood I'm in, there is a Hall & Oates song I can relate to. They have written songs for so many different life experiences, about so many themes, and even 20 years later, these songs still resonate with so many people. They are still extremely relevant.

And so my love affair with Daryl and John continue. I can't wait to listen to all 74 songs in the set, and learn so much more about my favorite group of all time. Many may make fun of my so-called obsession, but I really think if more people went out and bought this brand-new box set, they too would be under the Hall & Oates spell. For a steal at only $35, you can order Do What You Want, Be What You Are here. I promise you won't be disappointed, but be warned: You just might become obsessed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

there's beauty in the breakdown

I finally did it. I broke down and entered my credit card number into the iTunes Store. And I made my very first purchase. It was Imogen Heap's Ellipse, and it cost me $12.99 for the brand-new, deluxe-edition, 26-song album. Since buying the tracks, and instantly receiving them, importing them into my library and uploading them onto my iPod, I have been listening on repeat. Her music is so interesting, as is her voice - not like anything else out there right now. The entire album is both uplifting and haunting, if that's possible. Plus, my deluxe version includes all the regular songs sans lyrics - 13 completely instrumental tracks. Love.

So now that I've bought my first iTunes album, I'm afraid I won't be able to stop. As I browsed the store, I found artists and songs I wanted; I needed. And since iTunes uses "1-Click," it's just so darn easy to buy buy buy. And then I'll be broke broke broke.

It's a good thing I have restraint, because I could have easily bought 5-6 albums within 5-6 minutes last night. But I didn't. And I decided to set a limit: I will only allow myself to purchase one album per week at the most. Spending almost $50 a month on music is still a lot, but it's music - new music. And I love music. Music helps narrate my life, and I'm definitely due for some new narration.

Friday, August 14, 2009

world cookie domination

My Nanny absolutely loves red velvet cake. Personally, I've never understood the appeal - cake with red food coloring and cream cheese frosting (that I don't particularly like, anyway). What's the big deal? But since I love my Nanny, and want to bake something she'd really love, I decided to take the plunge into red velvet. Of course, since cookies are my forte, I had to take the beloved red velvet cake, and turn them into cookies somehow.

I found a few red velvet cookie recipes online, but only two that were from scratch - one from Paula Deen and one from Rachael Ray Magazine. I sort of combined these two ideas, made some lower-fat substitutes and came up with my own version of these recipes. My take on this classic doesn't have any icing or frosting, but you could definitely frost these with some homemade cream cheese frosting, if that's what you're into. Personally, I think they are just delicious on their own. Here's my cookie-loving take on red velvet cake:

Red Velvet Walnut Cookies

*makes 18-20 large cookies

1 1/3 cups flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-4 handfuls chopped walnuts (or pecans)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons 1% milk
2 teaspoons apple cidar vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon red food coloring

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and chopped nuts
3. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time. Then beat in milk, vinegar, vanilla and food coloring. Once combined, add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix until throroughly combined.
4. Drop batter onto greased cookie sheets by tablespoonfuls - batter will spread, so leave space between cookies.
5. Bake 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of cookies comes out clean. Cookies should be light and cake-like.
6. Cool on wire rack and enjoy!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

sick sickly

I went on vacation and came back with the flu. Is it swine flu? Could be, but I have no idea, nor do I care to know. All I know is I have been sick for a good 12 days. It all started with a sore throat while I was in Puerto Rico two Tuesdays ago. Then the sore throat was replaced by clogged ears and a very stuffy nose. Luckily, I didn't really feel too sick while on my vacation - just had the symptoms without feeling run-down or overly "sick." I came home last Saturday after sleeping about two hours Friday night due to awful sinus pain. I really did have an amazing time in Puerto Rico with Vic, but at that point, I was ready to be home. I think the plane ride back got me re-sick, if that's possible, and after starting and finishing medication and still only feeling worse each day rather than better, I realized this was not good. I woke up Thursday morning with a body-aching, chill-inducing 101 fever and decided the doctor, not work, was where I was headed.

I haven't really beed sick in a while (knock on wood), but this has certainly been a doozy. After being stuck in the house, and mainly stuck in my bed, for three full days, I had to get out for a bit today. Luckily, I woke up this morning without a fever, which was a great sign. After showering and actually doing my hair, makeup and getting dressed, I was nauseous and exhausted. Not a good sign. But I rested a bit, and went out for just an hour or so. It was good to get out. I needed to get out. And tomorrow, I will attempt to get back to work. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 29, 2009

flashing back

As I was driving into work this morning, I had a very intense, very realistic flashback. I was so entranced in this vision, this reenactment of a past time, that before I knew it I was just an exit away from where I usually get off the highway. I guess while driving isn't exactly the best time to have such a lifelike flashback, but lately, my dreams and reality are getting completely mixed up. I find myself unsure of whether something actually happened, or if it was just a dream.

Today's flashback was of getting off the airplane at JFK at the end my Birthright trip to Israel. Actually, it was first being on the plane. Feeling so exhausted, mentally and physically, that I felt almost drugged. Everyone around me was dozing in and out of sleep, and I found myself not being able to keep my eyes open for very long at all. I found time to write down some thoughts and share those with Rachel and Jeanine, but we all didn't speak that much throughout the long plane ride. So many days running on three-hour-of-sleep nights was finally catching up to us. So many days of learning, of exploring, of overcoming fears. So many days of melting in the desert heat. So many days of epiphanies; of life-changing moments. Finally weighing down on us.

Then my flashback jumped to walking through the airport after getting our luggage; our luggage that had taken this journey with us, thrown around, squished into buses and carrying just some of our memories. I saw everyone's parents and relatives waiting for us to meet them. Most of them knew we were changed from this trip; others were completely unaware. My mother ducked under the flimsy barrier to hug me as tight as could be. She couldn't wait to grab hold of me, knowing I was safe, knowing I had a million stories to tell. Not knowing I would be unable to fully explain what this journey was for quite a long time, if ever.

I think we were all in shock. We went our separate ways, not knowing how to end this trip, not knowing how to say goodbye. We had experienced so much together in such a short period of time, and now it was all over. I hugged my friends, old and new, and walked away. I was exhausted. I was overwhelmed. I didn't know when I'd see these people again - if I'd see these people again. I didn't know if it would ever be the same. And I certainly didn't know if I'd ever be the same.

Now, it's over a year later, and I'm still unsure. I'm flashing back to those memories quite often - not wanting to forget them, but not exactly sure what to do with them either.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

reflections, part 3

An excerpt from my Birthright journal: Day 9 - Saturday, June 21, 2008

"Today was yet another incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Ali G., Jill and I walked to the Goldenberg family's apartment to spend Shabbat lunch with them. David Goldenberg was a Rabbi, but for English-speaking beginners in Judaism. They were an older couple with a family friend. They fed us a five-course meal that was really great. We talked and asked and answered and really learned a lot. Also, it was a ton more walking (and sweating). We got back to the hotel after three and a half hours of lunch, and got to swim a little, then get ready for the evening.

We went to Ben Gurion Street which was SO much fun, just hanging out, shopping, drinking on a street filled with people and excitement. Then we headed to a bar/club that was pretty small, but was literally the most fun I've had in a long, long time. Everyone just danced and was dripping in sweat, and it didn't matter. Matt and I tore up the dance floor and just really had the time of our lives. Everyone was just dancing with everyone, and I can't imagine a more perfect night out. Of course, getting everyone to leave was tough, especially since most of the soldiers had come out to meet us, so no one wanted to say goodbye. The bus left without several of our group members, including Rachel and Jeanine. Bev stayed behind to round the rest of the gang up, and head back to the hotel via cab. I was locked out of our hotel room for a little bit of time, but soon the girls made it back, just to leave to go downstairs with a bunch of others. They came back after raiding the hotel kitchen, and I can't even describe the scene of the two of them, olives quiche, bread and eggs in hand, bursting into the room. They are too funny and fun, and we had a fabulous night that I wouldn't mind having every weekend."

This day last year was jam-packed, as evidenced by this excerpt from my journal. I remember that lunch with the Goldenbergs like it was yesterday. It took us a long time to walk to their apartment, and we got lost more than once. We asked someone in the community if they knew where the street was, and they actually knew the Goldenbergs themselves. How nice to belong to a community where people know you by name even several blocks away. Another distinct memory of this lunch was that David Goldenberg called us by our Hebrew names, which was really just a little detail, but meant a whole lot.

The evening portion of June 21 was just as memorable as the day, but for very different reasons. The daytime was all about learning and culture and community and Judaism. The evening was pure fun and enjoyment. The energy on Ben Gurion Street was incredible - so many young Israelis and Americans, just having fun and being together. It was great that we were able to meet up with our new Israeli friends, who had to leave our trip a few days earlier. Really, the bar was very claustrophobic for me, and at first I wasn't sure how much I was going to enjoy it, but once I just let go, and took a deep breath, I ended up having the time of my life. In that moment, I had no worries; I had no cares. I forgot about the extreme lack of sleep; I forgot about my fears. And there was nothing better than just dancing the night away with 30 of my friends, singing and sweating and laughing and living truly in the moment. If I could live that night over again, I would, and I'd do it exactly the same.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

reflections, part 2

On June 16, 2008 I had one of the most adventurous days of my entire life. I was in Israel, having already experienced more than I had ever imagined in just three days of Birthright. We began the day visiting a Kibbutz on the Israel/Lebanon border, where we listened to a passionate speaker talk politics. The Hezbollah community on the other side of the fence had houses without windows. We were told they were built this way so they could be easily shot out of. There was no activity in the community - very few cars drove through; no people were seen.

We then went on a water hike - I've never hiked in my life, nevermind through a river, over rocks and around trees. It was a challenge - one of the first of the trip, but certainly not the last. The rest of the day was spent jeeping through the dusty desert and kayaking, which was not so much kayaking as it was floating and swimming down a river. I definitely spent more time in the water than in the raft, but we had a total blast - the boys jumped from raft to raft pushing the girls out, we collided with a group of young Israeli girls who tried to push us as far away as possible, Matt & Adam smoked cigarettes with older Israeli men in an adjacent raft, they swung from a tree landing with a splash in the shallow water. This "kayaking" was by far one of the most fun activities of the entire trip, where we all really bonded with one another - a truly important part of this trip for most of us.

It took us hours to get down the river, and once we made it to the end we were soaked, exhausted and happy. We did our best to get cleaned up, dressed and ready to go out in a very cramped camp-style bathroom/changing area. We had dinner in Tiberias, where we rejoiced to see french fries and pizza, along with the typical cucumber/tomato salad and hummus. After we devoured everything in sight, we went to a nearby outdoor bar right on the water in Tiberias, where we drank wine and danced the night away.

We headed back to our resort-like hotel in Hispin, where we all got into pajamas and sat outside, sharing stories, further cementing our strong group bond. It was nice to be able to laugh together, as well as be serious, having some very deep conversations about Judaism; about life. Matt and I went up to the roof of one of the hotel buildings, where the word "peaceful" could not even begin to describe the atmosphere. Everything was so still, so simple, so perfect. I remember feeling incredible in a truly indescribable way. And I felt an odd comfort in knowing these feelings were shared by and with someone who I felt I had known my entire life, yet was a stranger just days earlier.

In my journal that night I wrote, "I feel happy and proud and fulfilled." It was only the fourth day of my trip, yet I had already learned so much about myself, about my new friends, about community, about connection. And there was so much more to come.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

hangin' tough

So, my mom and I re-lived our teeny bopper days at the New Kids on the Block concert last night at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, and let me tell you, we had an amazing time. We stood up the entire time, screaming, singing and dancing to their hits from the 90s, and songs from their newest cd, The Block. We had great seats, dead center in the third row of the first tier behind the orchestra. These seats were great for the entire show, but especially for when the guys sang their song "Single" from little platforms in the middle of the audience. Joey McIntyre stood on this center platform literally one seat away from me. I felt like I was 14 years old again. We all screamed and sang, and I even held his hand for a few seconds. We definitely had a moment. Be jealous.

Overall, they sounded fabulous, danced great and put on such a fun, energetic show. When the audience is singing and dancing to your new songs just as much, if not more, than your hits from the past, that's when you know you've made a real come back. And that's just what they've done.

Check out the video that I took below of the famous "Hangin' Tough." The sound quality isn't great, but the energy of the guys, as well as the audience, was amazing, even after being on stage for almost two hours. NKTOB forever!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

reflections, part 1

One year ago today I was anxiously arriving at JFK, clueless as to what the next 11 days would bring. One year ago today I was checking in, getting my boarding pass and passing through security, unaware of how this trip would affect me. One year ago today I was meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones, not knowing that the bonds I would form with these people would be life long. One year ago today I was experiencing every emotion possible all at once; a feeling that would stick with me throughout the weeks ahead. One year ago today I was not the same person I am right now.

One year ago today I was on El Al flight number LY022 with the Mayanot 41 Taglit-Birthright group my way to Israel for the very first time, and I was about to embark on a journey that would change my life forever.

Monday, June 1, 2009

my first time (at citi field)

This weekend I went to my very first game at Citi Field, home of my New York Mets. I know what you're thinking. "She calls herself a fan? And she hasn't been to Citi until May 30th?" And yes, I admit it was very late in the season to be going to my first game, but that's just the way it goes sometimes. The problem isn't a lack of desire to go on my part, but rather a lack of someone else to go with. But this weekend, I had a taker - my dad!

All I can say about Citi Field is "amazing." I had a smile plastered on my face as we walked around field level, seeing everything from brick oven pizza vendors to the famous Shake Shack. I loved the open feel of the space - we were inside the stadium, but there was a breeze and sunlight pouring in. The view from even the seats furthest from the field were amazing, and I could imagine the view from just about anywhere in the stadium being great. Our seats were in section 130 - field level just before the left field reserved seats. We only couldn't see one little corner of left field, and had to turn our heads to see the diamond, but overall they were great seats. As 1:30 p.m. rolled in, so did the shade, which gave us some relief from the hot sun baking us since 12:30 p.m. when we sat down. It was a tough day for Mets baseball - no Wright, no Reyes, no Sheffield. And let's face it - we got creamed. But overall, it was a great first-time-at-the-new-ballpark experience, and I can't wait to go back.

I do have a few questions/complaints that I've seen/heard around the Mets blog community before: What is with "Sweet Caroline" and why no "Meet the Mets?" Singing "Sweet Caroline" I can deal with, but "Meet the Mets" is a Mets game staple and I felt lost without it. Is this any every game kind of thing? Or are they just playing it certain games? What's the deal?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

can't contain the excitement

My personal blogging has taken a serious backseat to: a) personal tweeting, b) blogging for work and c) tweeting for work. I am just in social networking technology overdrive. And I have to admit, I like it. It's exciting getting e-mails that random companies and organizations are "following" me or my office. It's fun seeing who is "re-tweeting" or replying to my tweets. I'm really enjoying learning all the ins and outs of these new sites and tools. Honestly, it's one of the most exciting things going on in my life right now...sadly.

Actually, that's a lie. I finally booked my trip to Puerto Rico to see Vic, which is incredibly exciting, and scary all at the same time. My first reaction is definite excitement, and then I remember I have to fly there and back alone - something I've never done before. Scary. I'm really glad I'm doing it though. I need it. I need to go see Vic, since I haven't seen her since late February. I need to have a nice, relaxing, fun vacation. I need to escape my life for a little while. And I need to take the trip alone for the experience, and to know I can do it.

The trip isn't for a few months, but we're already planning for it. My reflectively white skin might actually melt off, but I'll just have to deal with that and bring lots of SPF 70. I'm going for 8 full days (and 2 half days - getting there Thursday evening; leaving the next Saturday afternoon). Vic will be at work for some of those days, but I'll be a good wifey and have a hot meal waiting for her when she gets home. I plan on doing a fair amount of cooking and baking while there - we'll see if that actually happens. The days Vic is home will be spent on the beach, with her roomates and friends, going out in San Juan, shopping, etc. It's going to be a lot of fun, I'm sure, and I really can't wait. It can't come soon enough.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

tweet tweet

Well, I've done it. I've joined the twitter bandwagon. I have to admit I was hesitant at first. I didn't understand it. I didn't see what all the fuss was about. I didn't want to be a part of it. But I caved a few days ago, and decided to join the masses in the twitter revolution. I have to admit it; I am hooked.

Being someone who watches a lot of TV and has an odd obsession with knowing about other people's lives, twitter is right up my alley. I am currently "following" John Mayer, Miley Cyrus, Oprah, The Mets and others. Whether it's actually them who are "tweeting," or an assistant, or some fake person posing as them, I don't know. But it's fun to know what these people are doing on a day-to-day basis. It humanizes them, and I like that. It's also sort of creepy reading about the daily activities of these people who don't know you at all. It's slightly like spying, but I guess they know what they are broadcasting to the twitter community, so it's not such a violation.

Of course, I'm also following people I actually know, and even have a few followers myself. If you want to hear about my thrilling life, follow me at http://twitter.com/acurleegirl.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

take me out to the ball game...

Baseball season is underway! If you didn't know, this makes me very, very happy. Baseball is summer. It's a roast beef sandwich and carvel ice cream in a mini helmet. It's the Mets. And this year it's a whole new ballgame (pun intended.) We have a brand new stadium. And definitely a brand new attitude. This is our season. (Yes, I am taking ownership of the Mets as my team.)

We've started off strong, even with a minor setback this afternoon. And Monday is opening day at Citi Field. I'm really excited, and even though I won't be there, I'll be watching...and most likely yelling at the TV.

I didn't get season tickets, mainly because I don't really have anyone to go to games with on a steady basis, and also because the packages were mighty expensive. But I really want to go to a bunch of games this season, and test out lots of different seats in the new stadium. At Shea, I knew where I liked to sit in a reasonable price range. I was comfortable there. I knew where to park, where to go. I belonged. Citi Field is unfamiliar territory. I don't know where I prefer to sit. I don't know what food to get. I don't know the best place to park. I definitely need to explore. In fact, I can't wait to explore.

So, who wants to go to some games with me this summer?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

round up

So my birthday came and went. Life has become one blur of events to another. My birthday was indeed a wonderful celebration, bringing together friends from home and work (and missing friends from college). I had a night filled with intense laughter, due in part to my bubbly, crazy, wonderful friend Makenna, who constantly brings joy and fun to any situation simply with her presence. The next night was an absolutely delicious dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Mim's, with my family. And of course, the birthday weekend ended my favorite way - with ice cream cake. Yum.

Since then, work has been incredibly busy, which I am actually quite thankful for. With the economy in such ruins right now, and with businesses and jobs suffering, I am glad to be busy at work. I am glad we're holding up pretty well. And I am glad to feel fairly safe and secure.

Last night I headed into the city with my friend from work, Kim, and her husband, Steve. We met Makenna and a bunch of her friends at Butter, a very trendy restaurant in the Village, for Makenna's birthday. We had a lot of fun, as always, and ate for hours. Tomorrow is Makenna's actual birthday, so I baked her lemon poppy seed cookies, since she absolutely loves lemon poppy seed cake. They came out really well, so I hope she likes them! I really love baking. This upcoming Fall, I'm considering taking a 10-week baking and pastry arts course at the Culinary Academy of Long Island. It's a continuing education course held on 10 Saturdays for six hours each. Even though I already know a lot about baking, I think it would be really great to learn all the fundamentals and get a chance to really learn how to bake all types of desserts from cookies to cakes to breads. It's a lot of hours spent baking and costs a considerable amount of money, so we'll see how I feel about it after the summer.

This upcoming week includes a really big event for me at work, so it's going to be a bit hectic, but exciting. It's one of my favorite annual events, as well as one of the most stressful, so I'll be both happy and sad when it's over. Wish me luck!

Friday, March 13, 2009

they say it's your birthday (preview edition)

It's my birthday tomorrow! And I'm home on Long Island to celebrate it for the first time in four years, which I'm definitely excited about. While all my friends can't be here to spend it with me (some still at Lehigh, some busy living/working in the city or NJ, some moving to Puerto Rico...), I'm still very happy to celebrate with a few close friends and family. The weekend is going to mainly involve eating and drinking...and definitely being merry. More to come later...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

forced break life wrap-up

Life is a bit crazy. Mainly work life, actually. For those of you who don't know, I am an event planner at a school, and we are just jam-packed with events right now. At least one event a week for the next month, and three this week alone. Today, amidst an event, I am forcing myself a break to write a short, little blog post to clear my head.

Other than work, I haven't been doing all that much as of late. We had a crazy snow storm Sunday night into Monday, and I was lucky enough to have a snow day! I was very happy going back to sleep after my 6:15 a.m. alert that work was canceled, drinking hot tea and doing things around the house. I also helped my mom shovel a bit, which was absolutely exhausting and left us both sore for days. And I managed to get myself outside for a little fun with my golden retriever, who had a blast rolling around in 10+ inches of fluffy, white snow.

This Saturday I'm meeting Vic in the city for brunch, and possibly a broadway show. We haven't seen each other in a while, and with her moving to Puerto Rico in two weeks, it might be a while before we can see each other again. (Although I'm hoping to be able to take a trip or two to visit her down there at some point. Yay warm, sunny vacation!) And Sunday I have to work. Boo.

And that is all. Time to get back to work.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ready and waiting

I'm ready for the spring. I'm done with the cold. Done with the wind. Most certainly done with the snow. Really, I've had enough. I'm sick of my toes being numb. Sick of my sweaters and sick of layers. It's time to clear out the wool and bust out the sundresses; pack away the boots and slide on some flip flops. I want to go outside without a big, bulky coat on. I want to go to the beach! I want to be free...I need it. I need a change of pace - that's what I need. And a change in seasons just might do the trick. I feel very stuck in my current state. I'm sad; depressed even. Not moving forward; not wanting to go back.

What's a girl to do?

Monday, February 16, 2009

three-day weekend

I've been having such a nice, relaxing three-day weekend. Sometimes that's just what the doctor ordered - relaxation. Not that I don't do a fair share of relaxing on a normal basis, but I like to get a lot done on the weekends. I like to make plans. I like to take trips. And those kinds of weekends are great, too, but sometimes a few days of doing nothing does a body (and mind) good.

I saw the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic with my mom, which was just so cute, even if it seemed to be loosely based on the first two books in the series by Sophie Kinsella. Putting comparisons with the books aside, the movie was funny and cute and quite enjoyable. We also watched Nights in Rodanthe, which was definitely more similar to the book. Movie adaptations of books never really match up, do they? But still I think it's possible to enjoy, if you can sort of forget about all the little differences. I knew Nights in Rodanthe would be sad (the movie couldn't have been that different than the book), but I guess I sort of forgot just how sad it was. Such a tragic romantic story, but such a good one.

The remainder of the weekend was spent counting calories, doing a little shopping, cooking, sleeping, jdating and lounging around the house. And that's about it. Sounds like a pretty successful weekend of relaxation to me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

a weekend in albany

Last weekend was pretty close to perfect. I finally went up to Albany to visit Brian at school. Being that this marks his fifth year up there (he's getting his Masters and PhD and a million degrees that take a million years), and I've never visited before, I felt I had been a bad friend for not visiting sooner. I think this weekend made up for so many years without a trip there though.

I have to first mention how much I love taking Amtrak. I might have talked about this before - it seems to be a topic I bring up a lot - but to me, it is forced relaxation, and it's something I need every now and then. This train ride was beautiful, cruising along the Hudson River with snow covering the ground and sprinkled on the trees. I read, I listened to music and simply loved the two and a half hours completely to myself.

I took a few days off of work, so I was able to go up on Friday morning, and not leave until Monday afternoon. Brian and I mainly ate and cooked, and ate what we cooked. We watched movies, played with his two black kittens (appropriately named Judas and Jesus, seen in the photo to the right) and I got to meet some of his Albany friends, as I like to call them. Until now, I really imagined that life stopped for Brian when he left Long Island to go up to Albany. He talked about friends, and going to class, and writing papers, and going out, but in my mind, he did nothing. I can't really explain why I had this vision, but I did. And now that idea has been busted since I've met his roommate and friends (who I loved, by the way), walked around the University of Albany's campus and spent time doing regular everyday things in his town. Brian actually has a life outside of me and Long Island - who knew? On Sunday we made tons of food, and went over to his friends' apartment to watch the Superbowl, which was a lot of fun, even though none of us really cared about either team. Overall, it was a fun, relaxing and perfect weekend, minus the fact that my toes were numb pretty much the entire four days.

Monday I headed back home on my beloved Amtrak. The ride home was even more serene than the way up. I read, I reflected, I relaxed. I really love spending time with Brian, and this weekend made me remember why he's one of my favorite people. I think I'll be visiting Albany again soon, but maybe I'll wait until the summer so it's slightly warmer, and I won't risk losing my toes to frostbite.

Monday, January 26, 2009

hallmark hall of fame

Last night I watched yet another great Hallmark Hall of Fame movie on CBS. Really, I don't think I've ever seen a Hallmark movie I didn't love. They are such great, touching stories that really make you think about life and relationships.

This one was call "Loving Leah," and it was about a Hassidic Jewish girl whose Rabbi husband dies suddenly at a young age. They had no children together, so by a widely-unpracticed Jewish law, Leah was supposed to marry her husband's brother (as long as he was single). To get around this law, they had to perform a ceremony where Jake (who was not a practicing Jew) basically had to denounce his brother's existence. Jake just could not bring himself to do this, so he and Leah decided they would get married, and live as platonic roommates in D.C. Leah had never been away from the safety of her Brooklyn community, but was eager to take the SATs and go to college, starting a new life for herself. While living together (in separate bedrooms, of course), Leah and Jake surprise themselves by actually falling in love, even though Jake had a girlfriend of over a year. They came from very different lifestyles, and they, along with their families, had to give and take to fit into each other's worlds. Leah stopped wearing a wig to cover her hair. Jake started going to shul. Leah's mother began to accept that even though it wasn't with a very religious man, her daughter had found real love. And everyone lived happily ever after.

The movie was heart-warming and taught a lot about Jewish traditions and beliefs. It reminded us of the importance of family, and how things happen for a reason, even if it's hard to understand that reason right away. Leah and the Rabbi's marriage was set up by a family friend, and while they took care of each other and had a good life, true love just wasn't there. Leah always felt like something was missing from their marriage. When he died, she thought that marriage just wasn't for her, but through an almost forced, fake marriage with Jake, she found the love that was always missing.

The story definitely touched me, and reminded me how much I love Jewish traditions. As I've said in the past, I don't believe all that Judaism teaches, but I do love so many of the rituals and traditions, and the feeling of belonging in a community. While not being preachy or educational, the movie explained many of these traditions, and definitely cast Judaism in a positive light. It also showed that it doesn't matter if you are orthodox or reform, what kind of temple you attend or if you attend at all, if you keep Kosher or mix your meat and dairy, but what matters is how accepting you are of others and your ability to see beyond classifications and just love the one you love.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

2009 starts off with a bang

What an interesting year it has been thus far...and it's only been 2 weeks! I started off 2009 with a lovely stomach virus. Woke up in my hotel room after a great New Year's Eve seeing Hall & Oates with my parents and best friend at Mohegan Sun, and I didn't quite feel right. We hadn't been drinking the night before, and I actually barely ate a thing (our much-anticipated BBQ dinner wasn't quite what we expected), so I didn't really know what was going on, but it wasn't good. I was incredibly naseous and could barely move without feeling like I was going to lose whatever food I had in me. It was a very long three-hour drive home, to say the least - for me, and for those in the car with me. And it wasn't much better when I got home. I was sick for the rest of the night, throwing up just about every hour, and feeling just awful. Even the next day, although the vomiting had ended, I still felt terrible. And on Saturday, I forced myself to get out of the house for a while. By nighttime, I felt almost entirely better, but boy was it a doozy.

Tuesday rolls around, and I wake up for work with a terrible migraine. I'm talking terrible. I get migraines a few times a month, but with the right medicine, they haven't been really bad in years. But when you get them while you're asleep, there is no stopping them. Monsters I tell you. So that wiped me out for all of Tuesday, and still on Wednesday I didn't feel so great. This week, knock on wood, so far so good.

Maybe I'm just getting all my sicknesses out of the way in January, and I'll be perfectly healthy the rest of the year. Yeah. That must be it.

It really hasn't been all bad in 2009; I have had some fun in between the illness. Last weekend I went out with a guy I've been talking to on Jdate for months, and we had a really nice time. After, I met up with Brian to go to some bar by NYU where we were supposed to meet a whole bunch of my friends from my Birthright trip. Unfortunately, the weather was just awful, and instead of the 15 people who said they'd be there, only three were able to make it. But it was really great to see them, everyone brought friends and it ended up being a fun night. Hopefully more people will be able to come when I plan another reunion for the summer.

This weekend is a Morristown weekend. It's going to be a high of 15 degrees on Friday, so once I get there, I'm pretty sure we're locking ourselves inside Vic's apartment for the night. And Saturday we're having dinner in the city, drinks at our friend's apartment and then out for his birthday with a whole bunch of his friends. It should be a lot of fun, and we're looking forward to it despite the frosty, frigid weather. We'll be sure to bundle up and hope to make it home alive.