Friday, July 31, 2015

Things I'm Loving Friday XLIV

Happy Friday! My last Friday of F-R-E-E-D-O-M! How am I celebrating? Working out, reading, baking, and dinner with a few friends before I go MIA for the next couple of weeks. This upcoming week consists of two-a-days, and after that I have to juggle practice with inservice (and supposedly setting up a classroom!!!), and that's something I don't even want to think about. But if I can make it through these next three weeks, I can do anything, right? Right. But I've got a nice long weekend ahead of me, so let's focus on enjoying that before even thinking about anything else.

Cards Against Humanity
Remember how I said the movie Trainwreck is fairly inappropriate at parts? But how it's so funny that it's kind of okay? The same can be said for the game Cards Against Humanity. It's a more grown-up version of Apples to Apples, if you will. Which is a more grown-up game of Mad Libs, in my opinion. In fact, the tagline for Cards Against Humanity is "A party game for horrible people." So you have to be sure to play this game with the right people. But it is guaranteed to bring more than a few laughs (and probably a few cringe worthy moments) to the table. The rowdier the responses, the better. I'm convinced that it's the perfect party game, and it's sure to bring any group of friends closer together.

Blush and Brush Blow Dry Bar
I was blessed (cursed?) with the gift of naturally curly hair. Which means it's pretty easy to fix in the morning, as I simply stick it in the shower for a few seconds, quickly towel it dry(ish), and run a nickel-size of product through my hair. And then I'm out the door. I'm just not willing to spend a lot of time fixing my hair, unless it's for a special occasion. And even then it's not going to look the same as it does in my head. So for Hayley's wedding, I treated myself to a blowout. Because in the middle of July, no matter what I did to my hair, it was not going to hold. I figured it was worth the additional cost to ensure that the pictures Hayley would have for the rest of her life were not ruined by wild summer hair. I made a 45-minute appointment at Blush and Brush near Memorial City Mall, and I cannot recommend it enough. She understood my request for loose curls that "would hold up while taking pictures in the middle of the afternoon." Every other time I've gotten my hair done, I've had to spend time frantically loosening the curls, and this time I walked out of the salon not wanting even one hair to move. And I wasn't disappointed. At least until I hit the dance floor. But I would have been more disappointed had it not been messed up after that.

Nathan QuickDraw Plus Handheld Water Bottle
In case you missed it, I'm training for a marathon. And in case you haven't stepped outside in a while, temperatures are regularly in the high 90's, and we've even hit 100 degrees a time or two. But it takes a lot of time to build up to running 26 consecutive miles, so even though it's as hot as you-know-what, the USA Fit Houston group is up and running. We do start before the 7 o'clock hour, but it's still hot, hot, hot. And that means staying hydrated is extra important. And while the marathon course will be loaded with water stops, the neighborhoods near Memorial Park are not. Which means during the duration of my training, I'll be loaded down with either a hydration belt, which is not my first choice, or I'll be running with this handheld water bottle, found at my local REI. It holds 22 oz. of water, fits easily and securely on my hand, has a side pocket for keys, an ID, or even some sport beans, and most importantly, it is going to keep me hydrated on these hot summer runs. It's definitely not a burden, and it's a must-have for any distance runner who enjoys running in the summertime.

Sweet Cherries
Cherries have never been my first choice fruit. In fact, I didn't even know I liked cherries until sometime last year. I'm not sure why I thought I didn't like them, as my go-to flavor has always been cherry, but I've realized the error of my ways. And even though I now know that I like cherries, I rarely purchase them on my own accord. They tend to be on the expensive side of the fruit spectrum, and they can often be very hit or miss. But I was perusing Fresh Market the other day and they happened to have a sample display filled with Sweet Cherries. I'm not one to pass up free fruit, so I gave one of the cherries a taste. It was both refreshing and delicious, so I bought a whole bag. They were on sale! And cherries are chock-full of healthy benefits - they fight post-workout soreness, lower the risk of heart disease, and can even help you get a good night's sleep - among other things. A tasty summer treat!

And that's all I've got for you guys today. A bit on the random side, but random is what this week has been. And on that note, I'm off to squeeze in a couple more errands and possibly a quick swim while the sun is still out. Have a great one! And can you guys believe this is the last day of July? Where has this year gone? I'm kind of at a loss, but it's full-speed ahead. Oh, and happy birthday, Harry!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Pinkberry Happy Hour

Hello, hello, fitnessandfroyo followers! How are things going on y’all’s end? I’m savoring every last moment of my last week of “freedom,” but earlier today I did something not-so-smart. I decided to tackle my 40-minute recovery run, as prescribed by Houston Fit, at 1:30 in the afternoon. In Houston, Texas. On what felt like a 100+ degree day. Let’s just put it this way. I lasted precisely 29 minutes before giving in and calling it a day. But let me explain my thought process to you guys before you go thinking I’m fully crazy. My thought process was that it’s a recovery run, which means I won’t be running at my fastest pace, so therefore the heat won’t even be noticeable. Ha, yeah. I tried to find as much shade as possible while I was running, but I eventually had to call it quits and walk myself the rest of the way home. Which might have been just as worse, but I figured it was better that I keep moving, instead of stopping to rest and letting the heat just attack me. It was kind of a rough afternoon, but I then hit the pool and swam a few laps in lieu of the recovery run that I didn’t quite finish, and I felt so much better. And I learned that just because I have afternoons off, doesn’t mean I should cross a run off of my to-do list at that time. It’s certainly worth getting up early to squeeze in a run before it gets too unbearably hot, rather than feel like passing out in the heat of the day.

Which is why the next part of my day came at the perfect time. But let me back up a little bit. Elle and Ashley, who work together at ETBFit, reached out to me about the possibility of covering Pinkberry’s Summer Happy Hour on my blog. And while I immediately jumped at the opportunity – free frozen yogurt? Yes, please. – a few weeks of working volleyball camps, coupled with a few out-of-town trips, left me unable to make it over to Pinkberry until today. The last week of Summer Happy Hour. Which is a huge bummer because happy hour is one heck of a deal. You get half off any medium or large Pinkberry between the hours of 5 and 7pm. Which means a medium Pinkberry with toppings is a mere $3.22. Just try and beat that.

Pinkberry is easily my favorite frozen yogurt establishment, though I know some people dock some points for the pure fact that it’s not self-serve. That doesn’t bother me, in fact, it’s probably for the best that someone else is in control of how much frozen yogurt I consume. Anyway, Pinkberry has the most limited flavor selection of all of Houston’s frozen yogurt establishments, but in my opinion, they’re the best. It’s clearly quality over quantity here at Pinkberry. And, the flavors rotate. They’re seasonal, if you will. Think Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. Of course, they have their staples, such as: original – the perfect combination of sweet and tart, and chocolate hazelnut – one of my personal favorites, but the rest of the flavors rotate. Many of them are tart and fruity, but there will always be a sweet flavor or two.

Apparently they cater weddings. Just saying. (Source)
But this post is about two of their summer flavors: Blueberry and Strawberry Margarita. Which I’m sure taste just fine by themselves, but together, they are nothing short of a dream. And you guys know that I have high frozen yogurt standards. Strawberry Margarita is an alcohol-free fruity, citrus flavor made with real strawberries and lime juice. I personally didn’t do this, but you can choose to add Pinkberry’s triple berry sugar salt topping for a fun margarita-like experience. I didn’t taste the lime, but it also wasn’t straight strawberry. There was a little something extra to it, which certainly made it reminiscent of a strawberry margarita. Blueberry is a fresh and fruity flavor made with real blueberries, and they taste just like summer should. Tart and fruity with the perfect hint of sweet. I could actually see hints of real blueberries, which makes it an instant summer favorite. Strawberry margarita was more tangy and tart, while the blueberry flavor had a hint of sweet to it, which is what pairs the two flavors together so well.

Top with fruit – strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries were my fruit of choice – or something a little more indulgent – chocolate chips would be my first pick – for the most refreshing summer treat. I know I can speak for all of Texas when I say this, but the idea of eating anything that requires heating is almost unfathomable; therefore, the colder, the better.

So do yourself a favor – get out of the sun, decide to treat yourself, and head on over to a participating Pinkberry this week to take advantage of their unbeatable happy hour. I’ll take half off frozen yogurt over half off alcoholic drinks any day of the week. And while you’re there, take advantage of these limited-time flavors, cooling off with a refreshing cup of blueberry, strawberry margarita, or a combination of the two. That last one is especially recommended.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Happy Sunday! Whew, what a whirlwind of a weekend! It's been very go-go-go, but every single part of it has been so wonderful, so I'm pretty ready for the semi-relaxed week that I have ahead of me. Though, I do plan on filling this week with fun, family, friends, and food, so it will be busy, but in the best way. But before we get going with this week, let's keep things regular with another survey.

Current book(s): I recently finished Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness, and I am just getting ready to start Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed, lent to me by one of the Bellaire volleyball dads just the other day. As a teacher in the public school system, this book seems both interesting and applicable, so I will be sure to share with you guys my thoughts on the book once I finish.

Current music: My most recent song obsession is Cole Swindell’s Let Me See Ya Girl. I heard it on the radio as I was driving to the airport last week, and I can't get enough of it! I'm always a fan of country music, but country music in the summertime is even better.

Current guilty pleasure: Dark chocolate. Can that always be my answer? I just can't ever seem to get enough.

Current nail color: They were once fully pink, but now they’re chipping. And I absolutely hate when that happens, so I’m either going to have to take the nail polish completely off, or touch them up. I just think it looks so tacky when my nails are chipped, but that's my own personal problem. 

Current drink: Water. Water. Water. Temperatures are getting close to the 100s here in Houston, and water is an absolute necessity. I can’t seem to get enough of it,

Current food: I'm really missing all of the fun food in New York City. Not that Houston is lacking in that department. At all. But recently I have been obsessed with the Mediterranean Salad with grilled chicken from Becks Prime, as you guys read about on Friday. I also went there on Friday ... again. But I do need to get back in the cooking groove, so if you have any fun recipes, please send them my way!

Current favorite show: I am so boring when it comes to answering this question, because I’m never watching a new show. It’s not that I don’t have time, because if I really wanted to watch something, I would, it’s that I’d rather read or blog or bake if I get a moment of free time. So, I’m going to go with Friday Night Lights. I’ve been watching episodes here and there when they’re on television, and it reminds me of how good that show is.

Current wish list: I'm not going to lie. I am so looking forward to next Saturday, when my shopping ban is O V E R. While I am not going to go crazy, as that would defeat the purpose of the past two months, I am looking forward to just walking into Anthropologie and buying a couple of back-to-school outfits. Sometimes the right outfit is all a girl needs to walk into a room with confidence. And confidence is surely needed when walking into a room of 30+ freshmen.

Current bane of my existence: To be completely honest, nothing comes to mind. I could say the heat, but it's Texas, and it's summertime. So it sort of comes with the territory. But I'll take it as a good sign that nothing immediately came to mind when answering this question.

Current celebrity crush: Though I tend to take Hollywood with a grain of salt, I am borderline obsessed with Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively. Talk about the most attractive couple of all time. I'm also a pretty big fan of Hugh Jackman. 

Current blessing: Having a job that I absolutely love. My life is about to get CRAZY, and this blog is about to take a big hit because of it, but I'm #blessed to truly love what I do. I'm about to go back to volleyball and back to school, but I wouldn't change one single thing about it.

Current slang: On fleek. I honestly can’t get over that one, even if it has run its course. Though I really don't think it has. But I'll soon find out come the first couple days of school.

Current outfit: Nike shorts and a t-shirt. Classic Kelli.

Current excitement: This was supposed to be posted earlier today, but my computer acted up on me, resulting in a late late late blog post. Anyway - later this afternoon I’m getting together with Sarah and Natalie to do a little bit of Houston exploration – we’re going to take pictures at various Houston sites, eat dinner at the original Ninfa’s on Navigation (I’m embarrassed that I’ve never been), and I am finally, finally going to cross watching the sunset from the James Turrell Skyspace off of my bucket list. About time, right?

Current mood: Joyful, exhausted, refreshed, excited. My summer has been incredible - full of rest and reading and travel and friends and exercise and volleyball and while I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to it, I also feel ready to take on this year. I like having a schedule and I like being busy, and I'm certainly about to get my fair share of both. 

Current link: Typical me - I have about 14 different tabs open on my computer. From inspiring articles to a recipe to a workout to a BuzzFeed article, I've got it all covered. 

Again, I apologize for the delay in this blog post. Kind of ironic given the title of the post. But I hope you enjoyed a most fabulous weekend, and are gearing up for a great week ahead. Until tomorrow!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Lower Body Exhaustion

Happy Friday once again! I’m just popping in to share a quick portion of a workout with you guys that absolutely destroyed my legs. I can in no way take credit for this one, rather, all the credit goes to Felipe. I took one of his classes today – after probably a two-and-a-half week hiatus – and I was a sweaty little mess by the end of it. You think you’re in relatively good shape, and then you take one of his classes. And you have to sit down on a bench at the end of class because you just need a moment. But you’re always glad you did it. Anyway, this five-minute portion of what I like to call lower body exhaustion came at the very end of class, and it would be something quick to do if you were short on time, but wanted to feel fatigue. Because fatigue is what I felt.

The only thing you’ll need to complete this workout is a weighted bar, and the weight you carry is one hundred percent up to you. I had a 25-lb bar on my shoulders, and while I probably could have gone heavier had I not just completed 45 minutes of Felipe’s class, I found it to be a good weight. But like I said, the weight is completely up to you. You will go through this first cycle two times before moving onto the second cycle, which will also be completed two times. It’s only five minutes, and it’s only ten reps, but I guarantee it will leave you with jello legs and heavy breathing.

First Cycle:
  • 10 regular squats
  • 10 sumo squats
  • 10 deadlifts
  • 10 squat to upright row
  • 10 bent over underhand row
  • 10 squat to overhead press

Second Cycle:
  • 10 jumping squats
  • 10 jumping lunges
  • 10 burpees (everybody’s favorite, right?)

Except I added a jump at the end of each burpee (Source)
I was cursing Felipe’s name, especially that second time through, but I also felt strong and accomplished – once I caught my breath, of course. The perfect blend of cardio and strength training, and it's over in five minutes. Just remember that when you want to quit. Enjoy the rest of your FriYAY!

Things I'm Loving Friday XLIII

Before I get into the regular Things I'm Loving, let me just take a moment and say that one year ago today I moved home to Houston. I cried the entire drive home from Austin, already missing what I was leaving behind, and incredibly anxious about what lay ahead. I was not in a good mindset as I started this new chapter of my life, but today I am reminded of His faithfulness, because tonight is the unofficial start of year two with day one of our freshman volleyball camp, and I could not be more excited about where I am and what I am doing. My attitude has taken a 180, and I'm feeling ready for both this hectic but exciting volleyball season and this sure-to-be-wild school year. Bring it on, baby!

This movie is wildly inappropriate at parts, but it is wildly hilarious. Amy Schumer's breakout film can only be described as a raunchy romantic comedy, that she herself wrote. From a young age, Amy has been taught that "monogamy isn't realistic," and her character could easily be described as being loose. When her job puts her in the line of a sports surgeon, the two surprisingly hit it off. Amy doesn't quite know how to handle this good boy, but she really comes into herself and learns to love herself by the end of the movie. Hilarious, yet touching at parts. Schumer did a standout job on this one. And Lebron James absolutely killed his part. A star on and off the court.

The perfect summer treat, and I cannot seem to get enough of it. If I'm not careful, I can find myself eating the entire bucket without even realizing it. Though I guess I can't feel too bad about it, because it's hydrating - it's 92% water - it can soothe sore muscles, and it has a surprisingly high vitamin C content. It's also most refreshing on a hot summer's day. And actually, August 3rd is National Watermelon Day. So eat up, buttercups!

35 Realistic Ways to Squeeze Healthier Habits into Super Busy Schedules
I ran across this extremely relevant article while perusing Pinterest. And I absolutely love it. Because let's be real - we're all busy. Just putting dates into my planner exhausts me, and I don't even want to think about juggling volleyball practice and inservice meetings. But there are so many ways to squeeze healthy habits into a go-go-go day. Realistic ways. And this article talks about 35 of them. I'm all about food prep - it saves me so much time during the week, crock pots are a lifesaver, I'm a huge fan of sneaking veggies into anything and everything (smoothies and eggs, especially), I bring my own lunch each and every day, HIIT workouts are my go-to during volleyball season, I drink water like it's nobody's business, I swear by to-do lists, and just when it seems like you can't take it anymore, a vacation is just what you need. Yes, we're all busy, but that's no reason to sacrifice your health and well-being.

Healthy and easy on-the-go snack
Becks Prime Mediterranean Salad
Unfortunately, this one is only relevant to my Houston and Dallas readers. I'm not ashamed to say that I ate here twice within the course of 24 hours. Their Mediterranean Salad + grilled chicken is just that good. The spring mix/romaine fix is topped with Kalamata olives, capers, cucumbers, red onion, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes, tossed with Becks Prime balsamic vinaigrette, and I opted to add the grilled chicken. It's healthy, it's refreshing, and it's one that will surely be making a more regular appearance in my diet, as there's one close to my house, and one close to Bellaire. Two places I seem to be on the reg.

Texas Children's Fight Song
In the midst of all the bad happening in this world, these kids at Texas Children's Hospital put on a show that will warm your heart. They perform Rachel Platten's "Fight Song," which is already an inspiring song on so many levels. And when you pair it with these brave, strong children who put up such a fight each and every day of the week, it's hard not to be inspired. And it's hard not to have a smile on your face throughout the entire performance. These kids are fighting hard, and they will continue to fight hard, and they manage to bring a little bit of fun to a situation that is the furthest thing from fun.

And that's all I've got for you. My next 32 hours are going to be busy-busy-busy, as I run from Bellaire, to literally running through and around Memorial Park, back to Bellaire for a weekend full of volleyball. But after that, you can find me on the couch watching Harry Potter Weekend. Yeah! Have a great one!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

New York City: My Experience

Hello, hello! I know it's been a while since I've had a real-time blog post around here, but seeing as I've been exploring a new-to-me city, I hope you guys can find it in your hearts to forgive me. And I'm trying something new as I recap my trip to the Big Apple. Instead of taking you day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute - because I feel confident that would bore you all to tears - I'm going to talk about some of the things I noticed, some of my thoughts, some of my tips and tricks, and anything else that comes to mind, using my experiences to do that.

Above all else, you will need a good pair of walking shoes. I mean seriously. I'm not a member of the FitBit fam, but I would have loved to know how many steps I took over the course of the five days I was in the city. In fact, the walkability level was one of my favorite parts of being in the city. If it was feasible to walk, I walked. Even if it wasn't so feasible to walk, I walked. Mainly because ...

... the subway system was confusing! And normally, I'm good at that kind of stuff. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I had the Barcelona system down. And I figured out London and Paris and Washington D.C. relatively quickly when I was there. But I found myself on the wrong subway a couple of times. In fact, I found myself in Brooklyn twice in one day without even meaning to. But in my defense, my usual route apparently gets rerouted on the weekend evenings, and I guess I didn't register it after the ten times the conductor announced it, but whatever. Luckily, I found my way back home safe and sound. Anyway, back to the walking and the shoes. You will walk a lot. It's how you'll find some of the most hidden gems. And you don't want an uncomfortable pair of shoes to ruin that for you. My trusty little Chacos treated me so well, and my feet didn't hurt a bit. Well, maybe a little bit here and there. But nothing debilitating. And I also want to note that I am a huge fan of public transportation. I spent not even $30 on Subway fares, which is a small fraction of the amount I would have spent had I done the Uber or taxi thing.

You know how it's so unbearably hot in Houston these days? Yeah, it might be worse in New York City. Not because the temperatures are higher, but, well, I'm not entirely sure why, to tell you the truth. There's not much of a breeze, parts of the city don't smell fantastic, but then again, I did far more walking in New York than I will ever do in Houston. What I'm trying to say is, if you are going to visit New York City, especially in the summer, bring a reusable water bottle of some kind with you, unless you want to risk dehydration. I was so overheated on Sunday (and so unbelievably sweaty) that I had to stop into some random building to ask if I could sit in there and cool off for a second - sidenote: New Yorkers aren't that mean. This guy was more than willing to let me cool off, even offering me water. - and when I finally made my way to my destination - the High Line - I stopped halfway through my walk to lie down in the grass and take a nap. I was exhausted, and it wasn't even noon! And I had a bit of a headache, which I definitely attributed to not drinking enough water. Thankfully, an hour-long nap in the shade cured that right up. What I'm trying to say is - HYDRATE!

Next to my nap spot
Speaking of Houston, New Yorkers pronounce it wrong! I'm totally kidding, of course, but New York City just has a completely different feel than the city that I live in and love. New York is fast-paced, it's all hustle and bustle, and people are very much worried about themselves and only themselves. No one is paying you any attention, which is a real shame because if there's one city that would give people a lot to watch if they would just look up every once in a while, it's that one. I feel as though I screamed "visitor" when I smiled at people on the street, because I rarely got a smile in return. There were no hard feelings; it's just not something that happens there. New York and Texas are so very different, on so many levels, but they're two great places nonetheless.

And something that makes New York City far different from Houston is the obesity level. I know why you don't see many overweight people in New York City. At least, you don't see many overweight locals in New York City. One reason for that is all the walking, yes, but it's also because there are so many incredible fitness opportunities just waiting to be taken advantage of. I myself took a SoulCycle class - which absolutely kicked my booty - as well as two Physique 57 classes. They're out of this world expensive if you were to take them on a regular basis, but they often offer first class specials, and even new client specials, so I took full advantage. Physique 57 is very similar to Pure Barre, in that it combines cardio, strength training, and stretching, and it very much works your entire body to the point of exhaustion. And because I don't do workouts like this as often as I probably should, I was very much feeling the burn. It wasn't easy, but I loved it. The instructors were knowledgeable, energetic, and always willing to correct - in a positive way. And great news for those of us who don't live in the select few cities home to the workout, there are workout DVDs that bring the workout to your home. And it might be one I actually check out. Added incentive: Celebs like Kelly Ripa, Erin Andrews, and Zooey Deschanel swear by it. And we all know that they're rockin' their bods. 

As for SoulCycle, I felt like a total n00b. The front row attendees' legs were moving so fast that I couldn't even dream of keeping up. I was a little put off by how close the bikes were to one another, but luckily my 8:00am Monday morning class wasn't completely booked. Those two things aside, I still left a sweaty mess, and I certainly feel as though I got in a great workout. Would I pay $34 per class on a regular basis? Probably not. But the people who love it, love it hard. And I understand why. The music is fun, the instructors are high-energy, you really do get a total-body workout, and so many celebs are full-on addicts. Katie Holmes, Lady Gaga, and again, Kelly Ripa are a few who pay this high price tag. But it very clearly pays off.

As for what I did. Oh, of course I hit almost all of the main tourist attractions. Upon my arrival on Friday morning, I immediately hit Central Park. Which was unlike anything I have ever seen in my life. Talk about a magical, magical place. First of all, it's huge. It would take hours to cover the entire park, but I did my very best to see as much of it as I could. From the Conservatory Water where you can rent a motor boat, 

the South Pond containing the ducks that nagged at Holden Caulfield, 

endless sculptures like this one featuring Alice in Wonderland,

the Carousel that Holden Caulfield (can you tell that I like Catcher in the Rye?) rode around and around and around,

and so much more. The greenery left me in awe, and I even ordered food from a Halal street vendor and sat in the Central Park grass and ate it. Dogs were everywhere, and I felt like I was anywhere but the hustlin' bustlin' city. Peace amidst chaos. And one of my very favorite attractions.

After Central Park I hit the MET. That's the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for those of you who aren't in the know. Not that I'm a museum junkie. Because I'm far from it. But this museum was something else. Too big to do all in one day, I had to pick and choose. I didn't know much going into it, so I just sort of wandered through. I started out in the Greek and Roman wing, where I ran into my good friend Homer - English teacher dreams - 

and my not-so-good friend Voldy. I promise I took the rest of the museum seriously.

I then wandered into the Robert Lehman wing, because Van Gogh's 'Irises and Roses' was said to be there. And they were breathtaking. Pictures weren't allowed, but trust me when I say that this is my kind of art. I really enjoyed much of this wing, Claude Monet and Augusta Renoir's work, in particular, and I spent a fair amount of time just wandering, admiring art that I don't usually give much thought to on a regular basis.

The American wing and the Egyptian wing both took up quite a bit of my time, as did the Arms and Armor wing. I hit the European paintings a little bit, but it had been a couple of hours by this point and I was fading fast. I wandered up to the MET rooftop, which was packed to the brim, but offered one of the most spectacular views, before calling it a day.

I found myself in Times Square, where I promptly crossed a New Year's Eve in Times Square off of my bucket list. It was a normal Friday night, and this place was crawling with people. This place was tightly packed, dirty, loud, and full of chaos. I just have no other word for it. I sort of nixed the Broadway show at that point, knowing that I didn't want to be alone in Times Square late at night. You just never know with that place. Strangely enough, I found myself walking through Times Square more times than I care to admit. To be fair, it is very convenient, and full of anything you might need.

Grand Central Station is next on the list. Even if you have no reason to take a train anywhere, I absolutely suggest making Grand Central Station a part of your itinerary. I don't know much about architecture, but I know enough to know that this place has absolutely stunning architecture. I actually took a train from Manhattan to New Rochelle to visit my Granny's plot at Beechwoods Cemetery, but if you don't have a destination in mind, at least visit the Whispering Gallery. I didn't have a companion this time around, but it's one of New York City's most hidden gems.

And as sad as I am that we have something like this, the 9/11 Museum and Memorial is an absolute must-do. I mentioned earlier that I am not much of a museum person, but I spent a couple of hours - and I easily could have spent all day - reading and learning and seeing and watching the events of that September day. I was brought to tears multiple times, and everything was done so well. It was very clear to me how much time and energy and effort went into putting this museum together, and that so many different people played such a big role in making it what it is. It is factual and emotional and respectful and dignified and educational and all things positive for something so truly devastating. The water features where the towers used to stand. It truly took my breath away. A most beautiful and moving tribute to those who lost their lives that day. I know I may have been only nine years old the day of the attack, but I will never ever forget the way the coverage made me feel. To experience it all over again was tough, or lack of a better word, but it was a very real and personal experience. One of the highlights of my trip, if that makes any sense.

And it's tourist central up there, but the Top of the Rock is a must-do. My pictures don't even do the view justice. I felt like I was quite literally on top of the world, and it hit me why it's so easy for people to fall in love with this city.

And to round out my tourist-filled trip, I couldn't let a visit to New York pass me by without an up close and personal glimpse of Lady Liberty. I ended up paying for a boat tour that took me under the Brooklyn Bridge and about 15 feet from the Statue herself. She really is an incredible sight to see, and stands for something that I think we sometimes take for granted - freedom, friendship, and democracy. 

The food. Oh the food. I could go on and on and on about the food. My biggest complaint about New York City is that I would stumble upon a new restaurant upon walking through the city, knowing that there wasn't nearly enough meals in the day to get to all of them. The food I did eat was marvelous, and I can honestly say that the food that I ate was the highlight of my trip. New York City is very much a foodie's dream, and though I didn't even come close to hitting all of the spots on my list, I already have a list started for my next visit. But here's the quick and dirty on the restaurants that I just adored -
  • Sweetgreen - Create your own salad. Much like Salata. This meal lasted me for two.
  • Chobani - Sweet and savory yogurt creations.
  • The Egg Shop - An entire menu devoted to eggs. Very Instagram-worthy. I'm definitely going to try and mimic some of the recipes.
  • Bread and Butter - Reminded me of Whole Foods. I loved it so much I went back twice.
  • Bareburger - Very similar to Hopdoddy, but there were far more hearty, beef-free options.
Quinoa burger
  • The Meatball Shop - Those chicken meatballs, though.
  • Pause Cafe - Small in size, but chock full of healthy options. The acai bowl was so refreshing on a hot summer morning.
  • il laboratorio del gelato - One scoop of the dark chocolate sorbet combined with one scoop of the coconut. To die for. Even though I finished it in a panic when I got notification that my flight had been canceled.
  • Cafeteria - Rose Sangria and sweet potato fries. The only two things a girl really needs.
And when all else fails, there's likely a Pret a Manger located on the very next street corner. And you're sure to find something that is both healthy and delicious. My kind of fast food.

In other New York noticings - you can not only spot the tourists by the way they're wearing their backpacks, but by who was carrying a selfie stick. You haven't seen selfie sticks until you've been to New York City. They are everywhere, but to be fair, everything is a photo-op. And speaking of photo-ops, New York City offers some of the best. What I found myself getting frustrated with was the fact that there were so many beautiful photos to be taken, but there were so many people in the way! I found this to be most true while walking the Brooklyn Bridge. A stunning piece of architecture and engineering, it has been dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World. Though I think the Astrodome will have something to say about that. But there were just so many people that I had a hard time capturing the absolute perfect picture.

Off the beaten path, I kayaked the Hudson River, ran to Brooklyn via the Williamsburg Bridge, explored independent bookstores, lost myself within the streets and avenues, and felt really grateful for the opportunity to visit one incredible city. Grateful for legs to carry me from place to place, grateful for an iPhone to direct me from place to place, and grateful for a cousin who let me crash at his hip apartment for the week.

New York City, you were good to me. You were a dream, you were magical, and you absolutely stole my heart. Five days wasn't nearly enough, but I know I'll be back. I've been bitten by the bug, and though I could never call the Big Apple home, it builds in you a feeling of excitement that just can't be matched. Rent prices are sky high, you will wind up paying an arm and a leg for your meals, and the city really doesn't ever sleep, but I fell in love with the place that two of my cousins and a few of my good friends get to call home. I was exhausted at the end of each day, but I felt more relaxed and peaceful than I have in a while. My last hoorah, and one well-spent!