I’m Baaaaccckkkk!

Hello blog world, it’s been a while! I know, I think I win the award for least consistent blogger of all time (though I guess two years of total non-usage is fairly consistent?). I used to use this blog as a space to write down all of the thoughts, experiences, and adventures I had during my post-college life. I was just out of college when I first started this blog: I was excited, I was scared, I was learning what it was like to live in the “real world.” Though I’m not sure how “real” the post-college world was in which I was living: I lived on a farm with six awesome friends, then I lived in Tel Aviv exploring all that Israel had to offer, and then moved to New York City when a position at a non-profit organization opened up. While my college years were some of the best years of my life, the post-college years (all four of them, can you believe it!) haven’t been too shabby either ;) I’ve had amazing experiences that have certainly altered my world view and life path.

My last post was just after I ran the Disney Princess half marathon with Katie Rose back in 2012. While it was an amazing experience, I am certainly no runner and (SPOILER ALERT) I haven’t totally kept up with the whole running thing…(I realized that I’m a far better TV-watching marathoner than a running marathoner…and that’s okay! ;)). I did run a triathlon back in August, but we’ll get to that later! 

So what have the last two years brought? A lot of change–and good change at that!

Change makes us uncomfortable, change makes us grow, and ultimately change brings us closer to where we need to be. And right now, I am exactly where I need to be :)

So what has happened in a nutshell? 

  • I got laid-off from my non-profit job in May 2012. Womp Womp. The entire service-learning department was cut and four other people were laid-off as well. At the time, I was completely shocked and upset, but ultimately this was the kick-in-the-butt that I needed to get started on my career goals. 
  • I started the NYC Teaching Residency Program during the summer of 2012. Funny enough, I actually applied for this program the day before I got laid-off (perhaps I have a future in psychic readings?). The NYC Teaching Residency Program is a very similar model to most alternative teacher preparation programs. NYCTR is a program run through the NYC Dept. of Education. The program includes one “residency” year in a classroom under the mentorship of an experienced teacher. At the same time, the NYC Dept. of Ed. subsidizes a Masters degree in Education for all residents. After the year of residency, all participants have a 4-year commitment, teaching in underserved high-need city schools. 
  • My residency year was CRAZY. It was a whirlwind of learning new teaching strategies, management techniques, and wrapping my head around what it is to be an inner-city teacher. I grew up in Newtown, Conn–about as far from an inner-city school environment as it gets. I was placed at M.S. 22 in the South Bronx and my mentor teacher, Ms. P, was a godsend. Truly, I can’t think of a better guide during my first year. I was placed with another resident (Steve) within her classroom, and it was truly an awesome learning experience. Under her guidance, I gained skills that have certainly helped during my first year as a teacher. 
  • Two pretty incredible things happened within a week of each other this past August. August 4th, I was hired for my first lead teacher position. I was hired at West Bronx Academy for the Future as a 7th grade teacher. The second incredible thing? August 13th, I met Mike, a handsome and hilarious guy from MA. He’s a second-year medical student at a medical school just north of NYC and he’s pretty much the greatest. August was a wonderful month and he is the primary reason for that :) 
  • In September, I ran a triathlon with Katie Rose and then started my first day of lead-teaching the very next day (AHH!). The day before the race, I panicked thinking about how much crazier my first day of school would be, but alas everything turned out alright! In fact, it was a lot of fun and took my mind off of things! 
  • September-December were, hands-down, the hardest four months of my life. I was lead-teaching for the first time in my life (with a curriculum that was confusing as all hell), in a school with limited support and very difficult students. I took every day in stride, but it was definitely hard to get my bearings. I was also taking two graduate classes at St. John’s and two online courses as well. My work load was crazy and despite devoting all of my time to work, I still barely finished 75% of my work each week. I got 5 hours of sleep a night and looked like hell each day. Luckily, Mike was understanding of the fact that I looked like an 80-year-old haggard old lady. He also has a ton of work to do so we had a lot of library dates :)
  • March 2014, I said so long to NYC. As many people know, I have the most intense love-hate relationship with NYC that there ever was or will be. Though I wasn’t so crazy about NYC at the beginning, I grew to love the city and everything that it had to offer. I loved going out to eat with friends, wandering through Central Park, and (drunkenly) bar-hopping in Brooklyn. What did I not love? The rent prices. The limited access to nature. The lack of friendliness (some may disagree, but I find that New England is a much friendlier place). I moved out of my UES apartment (with my awesome roomie Evin.) While I was sad to leave the city and my friends, I haven’t gone too far! I moved just north to Westchester county. I’ll be living in Mike’s apartment in Valhalla for the next few weeks until we move into our new apartment together in Mamaroneck. Mamaroneck is right on the train line, a 20-minute commute to my school, and it’s near the beach! I am beyond pumped. Moving to an awesome new apartment with the guy I love? Doesn’t get much better than that. 

So that’s where I am right now! I’m hoping to get back into blogging about my travels, adventures, eats, and experiences. In the meantime, here are a few pictures of the last three or so years of fabulousness:

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Lots of great things to come :)

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Kicking Princess Ass

We did it! 

Disney Princess half marathon finishers!!

Katie Rose and I ran 13.1 miles to complete our first half marathon together! It was an amazing nonstop weekend that culminated in an accomplishment that I am beyond proud of. But let’s start from the very beginning…

The weekend began on Friday when I took off from JFK for Orlando. After arriving in Orlando, Disney’s magical express (yes, it’s actually named that and yes, it was pretty magical) took me to the Port Orleans Riverside Hotel. Katie Rose, her fiance Drew, and I spent all night chatting and trying on our costumes for the big day.

Taking photos of Katie and I prancing around in Minnie Mouse ears was for sure the highlight of Drew’s weekend.

The next day we woke up bright and early and moseyed around the Animal Kingdom.

We then took a quick break and went to the race expo to pick up our race packets. The race expo was at the ESPN Wide World of Sports (which I didn’t even know existed) and the whole thing was gigantic!

It took us about 15 minutes to pick up our packets (race numbers, tshirts, etc) and then we spent a few minutes wandering around the expo. I had never been to a race expo before, and this was one hell of a balagan. Various vendors were handing out free samples, there were lectures on different race related topics, and I saw a fair amount of “absolutely necessary” running gear.

A bit intimidating! We wandered through the expo for a while, bought some sport beans for fueling along the race, and took a few photos with glass slippers (necessary).

After wandering around for a while we headed back out to the Magic Kingdom for the rest of the day.

The large man at the front of this photo is my favorite.

We wound up heading home around 8:00 because we knew we had an early wake-up call the next day. Despite the fact that we were in bed by 10:00PM I spent the majority of my night tossing and turning with nerves for the day to come. I probably got about 2 hours of sleep total before my alarm clock went off at 3:15AM (ahhhhh) and we were headed out the door.

Katie and I nervously munched on some trail mix on the bus ride to Epcot and eventually found ourselves in a sea of princesses (and some princes!) headed for the start line.

We dropped off our bags, stuffed the sports beans into our bras (we’re classy like that), and made our way towards corral F.

The race officially started at 5:45AM, but our corral left off at 6:15–we had to make it to the corrals by 5:00, which meant that we had a lot of time to kill before the start. We stretched a little, took way too many pictures, chatted with other people in princess gear, and danced around in an attempt to stay warm!

Finally at 5:45, the crowd started moving–the corrals were started one by one and with each corral start they had another set of fireworks!

Katie and I began running with a loose plan of keeping our pace slower at first, stopping to take pictures whenever necessary (definitely happened many many times), running together for all 13.1 miles, and just generally going with the flow. This was our first half marathon and we wanted to be able to enjoy the experience!

The first few miles of the race were on access roads leading up to the Magic Kingdom. Oh man, were those first few miles crowded. Katie and I were constantly weaving through the crowds–we spent the first few miles running on the grass next to the main road in an attempt to bypass walkers and general “bottlenecking.” Of course, this wasn’t so bad–it gave us the opportunity to relax and get into a groove rather than taking all that “start-of-race” adrenaline and trying to run at an unsustainable pace.

There were multiple character stops along those first few miles, a marching band playing, and a drumming circle. I didn’t use my ipod at all because there were so many things going on around me I just didn’t have to!

To be honest, the first four or five miles are kind of a blur. I remember almost nothing with all of the excitement going on around me! I was pumped up and we both felt really good.

I had my phone strapped around my arm so we had Drew text us with his location–this made finding him during the race really really easy. We met up with him around mile 4–gave him a quick high five and then sped off into the Magic Kingdom!

This was absolutely one of the best parts of the race. I think we were probably only in the Magic Kingdom for about a mile, but that mile left me on a high for the following 3 or 4!

Everyone knows that I’m not really the “Disney-est” of people, but running through the castle definitely made me feel like an excited little kid! There was squealing involved for sure.

For the next few miles we ran past the Grand Floridian and a Disney golf course (we saw Drew again at mile 8!). I started to feel a little sluggish around mile 9 so we popped a few of those sport beans, which had been nicely warmed in our sports bras (they were in a plastic container, not gross!). Miles 9-12 were mostly on access roads, which was kind of boring considering that’s when I felt like I needed the most distractions. We also had to go up a few different ramps and those hills at the end of the race were definitely not appreciated! We did take a few walk breaks through the water stations from miles 10-12, but we also picked up our pace on the runs so there was definitely a good balance going on.

I’m not going to lie, the last mile was pretty torturous. We picked up our pace as best we could and powered through that last stretch–there was a gospel choir at the end singing us to the finish, which gave us the last bit of motivation we needed! As we ran the last .10 miles of the race Katie and I grabbed hands and cheered as we crossed the finish.

It took a few seconds for the excitement of the finish to wear off–a race volunteer handed me my medal, people started shoving Powerade in my face. Then all of the sudden I found myself in tears. I’m not really sure what got into me–everything was just totally overwhelming. This was absolutely the most challenging thing that I have ever done physically and the fact that I had finally completed what seemed like such a lofty goal was just unreal. I followed a long training plan and worked my way up to this both mentally and physically–I had finally done it! This is the first time I’ve cried happy tears and I think it was a very appropriate moment :)

Now we can call ourselves half marathoners :)

A big thanks to Drew for cheering us on!

We spent the rest of the day wandering around Hollywood studios, munching on some eats, and doing a little post-race boozing.

Mmmm..perfect.

For now it’s back to the daily grind, but I’ll definitely be signing up for more races in the future. In fact, Casey and I just signed up for the Run for the Wild 5k! We’ll be skipping our way through the Bronx Zoo on April 28th. I’ll be in costume for this one as well (I plan on only signing up for races that can be run in costume)–hope to see you there!

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Nostalgia

February 8, 2012 marked a year’s anniversary of the beginning of my journey to Israel. A year ago on that day I was boarding a plane for a country that would quickly become my home and met a group of people who would soon become my second family. I can safely say that my time in Israel was some of the best of my life–I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. I am a more confident individual, a better friend, and a more independent person because of my time abroad–these are things that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Needless to say on Feb 8th, I was feeling pretty nostalgic and needed some Israel lovin’ to get me through. Evin Lawson to the rescue! Evin and I met in Israel, became quick friends, and created some serious balagan together. So when Evin decided to move to NYC from North Carolina a couple of months ago I pretty much had a heart attack. When I get excited about things I make a sound that is somewhere in between a dying cat and Mel Gibson screaming in Braveheart. Have I mentioned how attractive I am? It’s safe to say that when I found out Evin was moving to the city the squealing was unstoppable. Anyways, Evin and I decided to celebrate our Israel anniversary by going to a cute coffee shop in the East Village called the B Cup Cafe.

This cafe was located right near Stuytown–where Evin might get an apartment–and they had free WIFI. I was sold! The place was adorable, with murals all over the outside and a cute set-up on the inside. It was pretty big, but the chalkboard walls gave it a homey feel.

We didn’t know this beforehand, but there were a number of Israeli dishes on the menu. Clearly this was meant to be!

Evin and I both ordered the shakshuka, which was delicious, but little more tomato-soup like than I’m used to. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it!

The shakshuka came with some gargantuan baguettes, which wasn’t too bad either. Bread and shakshuka with Evin–I’m not so sure there was a better way to celebrate our Israel anniversary :)

We sat in B Cup Cafe (does this name make anyone else think of boobs? No? No one?) for a few hours and listened to a mix of OAR, Feist, the Beatles, and Florence & the Machine. A pretty good way to spend an afternoon.

Plus, I had a stare down with this little nugget of adorableness for a solid 20 minutes.

Ohhh puppies, how I love thee.

So even though I’m not celebrating this anniversary in Israel, being able to enjoy some shakshuka in the city with Evin definitely more than makes up for it. Perhaps next year I’ll be enjoying shakshuka on Rehov Allenby by the Mediterranean once again? We’ll see! For now, I’m pretty happy here, but the possibilities are endless. The end of one exciting year only means the beginning of another big adventure :)

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Running Through the City

Running used to suck. Running used to reeeeaaaaallly suck.

I didn’t start running until high school and that was only because I was forced to in order to play field hockey. I absolutely loved playing field hockey and some of my best memories are on the field–however, the regular old running part was just plain terrible. If I knew we had a conditioning practice that day I would spend every minute bemoaning my existence and complaining to just about every person I saw (what a joy I was!). I only ran because the end result was playing field hockey–so it’s only natural that once high school ended my running career ended with it. Sure, I still went to the gym, but spinning and ellipticalling (it’s a word, shhh) was the extent of my exercising. I ran from time to time, but it definitely wasn’t something I loved or did often.

College came and went and I spent 8 months post-university living on a farm with a few of my friends (which is a story unto itself!). We lived in a beautiful area with miles of cornfields, cowherds, hiking trails, and streams. I felt bad going to the gym knowing that I was missing out on all the natural beauty around me. So, after years of parting ways, I decided to rekindle my relationship with running.

At first, all I could think about was how much this still sucked. I would run for 2 minutes and have to stop to catch my breath. It didn’t matter how beautiful my surroundings were, I was totally defeated and absolutely hated everything about what was happening. For about a month this ridiculousness continued–I would run and hate it, run and hate it, run and hate it. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I got to workout outside and my workouts were shorter than the gym sessions. Gradually, however, I started to notice improvements. Hills that I once had to stop on, I now powered up without stopping. Instead of running for 2 minutes I could now run for 20, 30, and even 40 minutes without stopping. I fell in love with my improvements and slowly, but surely running became not a chore, but rather something I actually looked forward to. I completed my first triathlon that summer and I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of an accomplishment!

After life on the farm, I continued running in Israel (its not so bad with the Mediterranean as your backdrop) and I picked it back up again in New York City. My friend Katie Rose and I decided to sign up for our first half marathon and now the girl who hated running is going to cross the finish line of a 13.1 mile race in less than a week. Of course, we did pick the Disney Princess Half Marathon, which I think is the perfect non-serious first race (not to mention, I get to go to Disneyworld–Minnie Mouse here I come!).

My training runs in New York City have been pretty great–8, 10, and 12 mile runs are definitely not easy, but running along the Hudson River isn’t so bad! Especially when the view looks like this:

Oh hey there Freedom Tower.

Just Lady Liberty hanging out.

Ah New Jersey, truly lovely this time of year.

In just 11 days I’ll cross the finish line of my first half-marathon with my best friend–something I never even thought was possible. We’ll also be wearing tiaras and tutus, which is totally normal–and we’ll most likely be creating mayhem in the parks afterwards. See you in a few days Mickey!!

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Stuffing my Face on Sunday Mornings

All of the best Sundays are lazy, filled with food, and involve grown men wearing skin-tight spandex whilst tackling each other. That’s why I was very excited when my parents decided to take Casey and I out to brunch on Superbowl Sunday. All my favorite things combined into one day? I was one happy Alana.

We trekked from the West Village to the Lower East Side to go to Essex Restaurant (120 Essex St at Rivington). Essex is a “warehouse” type restaurant, serving up dinner seven days a week–however, their brunch menu is where they really shine. Saturdays and Sundays Essex has a $22.95 price fixe menu which includes 3 mimosas, screwdivers, or bloody marys. What’s the perfect way to get rid of a Sunday morning hangover? Why, more drinking of course!

We sat upstairs in a loft that overlooks the rest of the restaurant and were immediately served some garlic rolls.

Mmm..such a good start to the meal.

Casey and my mom got the French Toast with Bananas Foster Sauce. It was absolutely delicious.

This picture totally does not do the deliciousness justice. The sauce tasted just like bananas foster and the french toast was cinnamonny and sweet. Just the way french toast should be.

I got the Mexican Vegan Matzo Brei.

Matzo brei is essentially scrambled eggs with matzo cooked in (It’s a Jewish tradition to make it on Passover when you can’t eat leavened bread). This was a Mexican VEGAN Matzo Brei, however, so tofu was scrambled as opposed to the eggs and it came with soy cheese. This was terrific with the salsa and guacamole mixed in. I love all food Mexican, so this was a perfect breakfast combo–can’t wait to make it at home!

My dad got the LES Matzo Brei with homemade apple sauce and chicken apple sausage.

The consensus? A little bland. My dad wound up putting some maple syrup on it and it was much much better.

You might be wondering where all those drinks went as well? Well they went unphotographed but it’s definitely safe to say we got our money’s worth ;)

Would I recommend Essex again? Absolutely. If you’re looking for a great lazy Sunday place to get brunch, you’ve just found it. Now, if only I could eat there everyday…

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Chocolate Paradise

Every Friday there’s always the great “what to do, what to do” debate. I’m going to be honest, Friday really sets the tone for the rest of weekend. Go out and have a few too many cocktails and you’re basically knocked out for the rest of the weekend. Have a quiet night in and you might end up bored and cursing your existence at 2 in the morning (plus those drunk happy texts from your friends won’t make you feel any better!).

This past Friday Casey, her roommate Eric, and I were having this very debate. After a few minutes of back and forth Eric sent me this little nugget: “Let’s just go to Max Brenner and eat tons of chocolate.” Um, yes please.

As it turns out, Eric may actually be the smartest person alive.

Max Brenner is a delicious chocolate extravaganza located right next to Union Square (841 Broadway in between 13th and 14th street). While I was in Tel Aviv I heard tell of this Max Brenner place (it’s located near the corner of Rothshield and Allenby), but I never had the opportunity to go. When I tell people who have been to Tel Aviv that I’ve never been to Max Brenner they look at me like I have two heads. Of course, I had to remedy this situation so off to Max Brenner we went!

The very second I walked through the front door I knew that this was a place I would enjoy. There were cases full of chocolate truffles, giant round vats twirling gallons of chocolate delight, and an entire wall displaying lollipops. Amazing. The only negative part of this entire experience? We had to wait 30 minutes for a table–and we had a reservation! I can only imagine how long the people without reservations had to wait.

Eventually we got a seat and all chose our meals. They actually do serve real food at Max Brenner despite the fact that I’m making it sound like all they have is chocolate. The menu is your typical modern American fare–sandwiches, burgers, pizza, etc. I ordered the “Yummy Baja Style Fish Tacos,” which came with a spicy chipotle sauce, rice, and beans.

(Sorry for the dark picture quality in this post–I’m still trying to work out this iphone nonsense.)

Generally if fish tacos are on the menu, that’s for certain what I’m getting. I’ve definitely had my fair share of tacos and these were legitimately out of this world. The mango slaw with the corn tortillas definitely made the taco. The beans were “chili-like” and a little out-of-place on the plate, but besides that the meal was delish.

Casey got the Veggie Burger.

It was pretty good, but she didn’t think it was homemade (never a good sign) so I’m not sure if she would order it again.

Eric got the Chicken Club Sandwich

He tore this apart so it couldn’t have been too bad! Also, those waffle fries had cocoa powder on them…ohhhh yes they did.

The real spectacle came post-dinner when the dessert arrived. We were all pretty full, but you don’t go to a chocolate restaurant without getting chocolate. Duh.

Eric got the melting middle chocolate cake that came with extra chocolate syrup and a baby-sized milkshake. Watching Eric, who is over 6 feet tall and probably 200 pounds sip on this tiny baby milkshake was the highlight of my night.

Casey and I split the Warm Trio Chocolate and Toffee Caramel Fondue. It came with strawberries, bananas, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and marshmallows (which came with a mini-grill for roasting!) for dipping.

Holy delicious, batman. This was actually amazing. Casey and I both decided that we only really needed the strawberries, banana, and marshmallows, but this was truly a decadent experience. Oh, Max Brenner, I love you.

We finished off the night by going to the movies to see Contraband. The verdict? Marky Mark is amazing as always (even without his Funky Bunch) and the movie in general wasn’t so bad either. It was action-packed and pretty great–definitely recommend seeing it theatres. Action and thriller movies are always better on the big screen!

For now, I’m off to bed to dream of chocolate–I’m already plotting my return to Max Brenner for chocolate fest part 2!

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Slack-a-lackin’

So the blog’s gone to the wayside. Isn’t this always what happens when life changes around a whole lot? Habits, discipline, and routine go right out the window when something new is thrown into the mix. Well, after a few months of adjusting to this change I can safely say I’m back and plan on blogging more regularly (I know, get your party pants on people).

So you might wonder what exactly I’ve been doing over the past four months…

What’s that? You weren’t wondering? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway.

So, a number of very exciting things have taken place since the fam and I got back from vacation. Actually, one very exciting thing which was the catalyst that set my new adventure in motion…I got a job! Not just any job either, a job working for a non-profit organization called PJA & JFSJ (new name in the works, get excited people). PJA & JFSJ funds various social justice endeavors such as housing advocacy, home care workers campaigns, and small businesses in low income communities. Um, is that right up my alley or what?

I work in the service learning department, which basically means that I help in organizing volunteering service trips for college students/teens to places like New Orleans, Los Angeles, Tucson, New York, etc…It’s a great position and as you can imagine there was a whole lot of dancing involved when I found out :)

Okay, those all may or may not be from Israel (it’s a pretty happy place, a lot of dancing happens). But you get the idea.

So anyways, one of the best parts of this position? It’s located in…(drum roll please)…NYC!

I knew that when I came home from Israel I needed a new big adventure to move on towards. When you come from an experience that freeing, spontaneous, and incredible it would be a real let-down to go back to general life and routine. Well, life in NYC is certainly not routine. I feel like I haven’t slept in months (in the most amazing way possible). Here’s a brief synopsis of my time in the city so far:

I hang out a lot with this little lady. We create a shit ton of havoc and it may or may not be amazing.

Casey moved to the city around the same time that I did and I’m not sure what I would do without her.

I had my 23rd birthday with a whole bunch of crazy wonderful friends.

This is our family portrait. Aren’t we cute?

I went with Casey, her brother, and my brother to the 9/11 memorial.

It was really simple and incredible. If you come into the city I definitely recommend getting tickets and heading downtown (the tickets are free).

I celebrated santacon by dressing like an idiot and prancing through the streets of midtown Manhattan.

This may or may not have been the greatest mass street party I’ve ever been to (possibly better than Purim in Tel Aviv, but that’s only because everyone was in the same ridiculous costume). Why can’t everyday be Santacon?

I went bridesmaid dress shopping with these pretty ladies.

So excited to watch my best friend get married in September :)

Of course, I don’t spend all my time in NYC. Sometimes I go home to CT for a little visit.

Yes, my mother is reading us a children’s book. And yes, I am wearing a ridiculous hat. No, I see no problem with either of these things.

Quite a bit more has happened, but it’s hard to rehash four months of insanity. I’ll just have to start from here! Hopefully you’ll hear a lot more from me in the coming months, but for now I’m off to bed (yes it is 10pm. yes I am an old working women.) Night!

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