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!
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.
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
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.
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!!
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.
Casey and my mom got the French Toast with Bananas Foster Sauce. It was absolutely delicious.
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.
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…
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.
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.
Eric got the Chicken Club Sandwich
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!
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!
Things get a little overwhelming!!
Okay, so you might notice that I took a little break (little being the understatement of the year). I knew that I wanted to continue the blog again after Israel, but I was lacking motivation. Coming back from Israel was a huge reverse culture shock and a lot has happened in the last few weeks–while I was dealing with all of that blogging kind of took a backseat. So I’ll give you all of the updates and we’ll just pretend that I didn’t skip out on the last month, okay? Okay. Glad we agree.
So, I got home from Israel and it was a pretty abrupt change. My life was so exciting in Israel, everything I did was new and thrilling! Each day was an adventure in speaking another language, navigating the city, and meeting new people. My life in the states, while still fun, was remarkably more relaxed and “everyday.” I had fun doing typical New England activities like swimming in Taunton Lake, going to diners (missed this so much!), and hiking. After spending so much time in desert-like conditions, being in Connecticut just seemed so green! There are trees everywhere, there is so much grass, and lakes too! It was really relaxing and peaceful–very different than 110 degree weather and sand. However, at the same time I was resigned to the fact that no one spoke Hebrew anymore, not everything was a new and exciting experience, and that my life had gone back to pre-adventure mode. I loved visiting my family and friends–I seriously missed everyone so much–but it was weird being back in an environment that wasn’t the craziness of the last 6 months.
However, it only took a week or two before that strange homesick/reverse cultural experience went away. I felt comfortable being in the U.S. once again–there were still those pangs of wanting to be in Israel–but I was ready to move on.
And move on I have! But I’ll talk more about that a little later…;)
First, however, another little post Israel adventure to mention. Before I decided to come home in mid-July, my parents had booked a trip to visit me in Israel in August. Luckily, they were able to change their plans and re-route to London and Paris. I was super excited (and super lucky) to join them on this adventure! Adam and Ava (my brother’s girlfriend) also came with and we took off on August 9th for a trip abroad!
Our first stop was London where we stayed in a great apartment near Westminster. We spent our days eating fish and chips, touring the city (with our handsome guide Giles), and going to a showing of Blood Brothers in the London theatre district. The music of Blood Brothers impacted Adam and Ava so strongly that they couldn’t stop singing for the whole rest of the trip (like Marilyyynnnnnnn Monnnroooeeeeee).
We went in the London Eye.
We saw Buckingham Palace.
After 3 days of touring the capital of Great Britain, we took to the English Channel (or underneath it at least) to travel onwards to Paris! We took the Chunnel (which was a whole lot shorter than I thought it would be!) and moved into a cute apartment in the Marais. Fun fact: Our apartment was on Rue du Saintonge, the same street where the Starzinsky’s lived in the book Sarah’s Key. Craaazy.
In London we were a bit rushed and ran around trying to fit everything in, but in Paris relaxation was the name of the game. Each day we would pick one or two things to go see and spend hours lazily walking around the city.
The paparazzi were out in full-force as we experienced the beauty and charm that is Paris.
Couples coming to Paris write both of their names on the lock, chain it to the fence, and then throw the key into the Seine. Isn’t that adorable?
We waltzed down the Champs Elysee.
We spent a day walking through Monmartre and saw (got assaulted at) the Sacre Coure.
Can you guess which one?
On one of our last days in Paris we were on the hunt to find the Shakespeare and Company bookshop…and we eventually found it!
Paris is beautiful and I’m so happy I got to explore the city with my beautiful family (and the beautiful Ava!).
Okay, so I have some exciting new information to share about the next step in my life, however I am exhausted and I think I’m going to have to go to sleep. Tomorrow’s post will share more, but for now I’m off to bed. (And yes, I do realize it’s 9:30. I’ve turned into an old woman. So sue me).