Alyssa takes on New York in 36 hours!

Hello hello! I’ve just returned from a beautiful wedding in Northern California that I’ll tell you about soon, but first, I have to share photos from my whirlwind trip to New York. I was on business in Philadelphia and decided when my trip ended that I had to go to New York. I’d never been, and NY is just an easy 1.25 hour train ride from Philadelphia. Matt and I packed up our stuff on a Monday morning, and arrived to New York at noon. When I first got out of the train and was greeted by sky-high buildings, honking yellow taxis, and people in business suits swarming around the train station, I instantly knew I would love this city. It felt like a more urban version of Los Angeles, with the frantic pace and bustling energy I see so often around me in my city of Angels. Matt and I checked into our tiny, overpriced hotel and headed off to Shake Shack to have lunch with our dear friend Sarah, a Los Angeles transplant. After an awesome burger, we went off to the Met, where I geeked out over the Egyptology room. Did you know the artwork behind me is from approximately 15 BC? Incredible!

The Met

After the Met, we walked through Central Park. This park was so incredibly calming; and I learned that Central Park is basically just reserved land to keep some of New York’s natural elements intact. It was so green and lush and at points really did feel just like you were walking in a forest. We stopped near this fountain to hear a cello player and violinist fill the air with famous classical pieces, and I just wanted to soak up all of the beauty around me.

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Then, we headed over to Times Square to check it out and also get some dinner. Times Square was one of those things that was cool to see, but a brief walk through was more than enough for me. I’m not a huge fan of tons of light and noise and people, and at night time after a crazy jetlagged weekend, all I wanted to do was eat some pizza and head to bed. We hit up a tiny little corner shop, I don’t even remember the name, and got our first New York pizza. We really lucked out, because it was AMAZING. We started with a slice of white pizza and veggie supreme, and then decided to really go for it and share a piece of pepperoni. This deep-dish, sauce on top, Chicago girl was impressed.

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Then, it was off to bed, and the next morning, we had brunch with another awesome friend, Nick. After brunch, we went to Greenwich Village for a food walking tour! A coworker of mine recommended Foods of NY tours, and I’m so glad I took her recommendation. For just over $50, we got to walk and talk with our awesome tour guide Bari on the beautiful streets of Greenwich Village, learning about history, and tasting nine different foods of New York, including pizza, herbed olive oils and truffle butter, arancini, meatballs, cookies, eggplant rollatini, fresh foccacia, cheese, and cannoli. Arancini are stuffed rice balls which are coated with breadcrumbs and fried. They were traditionally known as a peasant food because most people had rice, and it was a new way to eat rice, and we all know that variety is the spice of life.

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My favorite tasting of the tour was this miniature cannoli. Holy smokes was it delicious! The crackly “shell” was the perfect complement to the light and fluffy cream inside, with just a hint of lemon zest and studded with chocolate chips. I could go for one of these right now..

Cannoli

We also stopped by a beautiful little restaurant called Palma that was pretty much a real-life display of everything I love in design. Palma had fresh flowers and rustic wood everywhere, book cases loaded with old books, sparkling glass trinkets, and fragrant herbs tucked into tarnished old pewter. The room shown below was actually the family’s original home and is 200 years old. The restaurant is directly in front of this building, and one day, they had to open Palma up  for a dignitary as they were out of space in the main dining room. (My memory on this is fuzzy, so apologies if I’m making anything up.) Basically, word got out that people could eat in the family’s kitchen, and it became so popular they eventually had to move out, build a house upstairs, and let their original home become an extension of the kitchen. Howard Stern is a big fan. Can you see how wonderful it would be to be with your friends and a great bottle of red in this cozy little carriage house? I definitely need to make reservations to eat here when I go back to New York.

Restaurant

For this foodie, the tour was an awesome way to get to know one of New York’s neighborhoods and get some walk-training in at the same time! I’ll definitely be trying out some of their other tours when I head back to New York, which I hope I can do in the near future. 36 hours in NYC was enough to let me know that I need to take a proper vacation there one day, probably at least a week, to really get a feel for the city. There’s SO MUCH more I wanted to see and do; like a broadway show, checking out the High Line, walking the Brooklyn Bridge, seeing Lady Liberty, visiting Ground Zero, going to the Natural History Museum, etc. I can’t wait to experience the Big Apple when I have more time on my side. For now, I’m so glad I got the chance to experience another amazing city. Have you been to NYC? What did you think?

A relaxing weekend in SLO

Good morning, Chinners! I hope you had an awesome weekend. I sure did! This weekend, Matt and I drove up the coast of California about three hours to get to San Luis Obispo. We had been to San Luis Obispo once before for a weekend away, and had an amazing time. Since then we kept saying we needed to go back, but hadn’t made any commitments. I surprised Matt with a quick one-night get away to our favorite tacky hotel, the Madonna Inn. The Madonna Inn was created by a construction foreman, Alex Madonna, who got sick of having to stay in lackluster hotels off the side of the highway when he traveled. He began to build his own hotel to make up for it – putting imagination and quirky, whimsical touches into each room. Last night, we stayed in the Currier and Ives room, named after the first people who made famous art and photographs into low-cost prints for the mass public.  Here are some photos of our room! Note the details, like the elaborate gold printed wallpaper or the angel light fixtures. The toilet seat was even heated! Now THAT is classy!

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After we checked in, we relaxed by the pool for a bit, soaking up sunshine. Then we headed to Trader Joes to fill up our cooler with snacks for the drive in movie! The Sunset Drive in Theater is a cheap $7 for two movies, and you listen to the movie on your radio, no clunky metal speakers required. I splurged and had a delicious peach Lambic to drink and some movie popcorn. We also had bread with salami, olive tapenade and cheese. I really didn’t overdo it, but apparently, eating squeaky clean for two weeks and then having a little night of indulgence can rip apart one’s stomach. I learned that the hard way this morning, but I had a grand old time in the process…

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I couldn’t resist taking this shot of the vintage coke cup, but it’s a little lost on me since I’m no longer drinking soda. I had my lambic and water and that’s it… but I was just fine! The two movies playing were After Earth and the Fast and the Furious 6. I made it through After Earth with only minimal disruptions (aka me blurting out “That doesn’t make sense! This is stupid!”), but within the first ten minutes of Fast and Furious, I had flipped to my side with my car pillow and started snoozing. Matt made it through both movies and then we were back to our hotel for a night of slumber.

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We woke up this morning and had a yummy breakfast at the Copper Cafe, where I ordered a veggie omelette with egg beaters and fruit on the side. I also drank looooots of water to make up for my little boozy indiscretion the night before. The Madonna Inn is known for their famous pink cakes with white chocolate ribbons on top, called the Barbie Cake. See ‘em? Looks sooo pretty. Then, we were headed down the coast to get back to home.

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It was an awesome, low-key weekend, and it was nice to get away from the ever-growing pile of laundry and stack of invoices I need to send out on my desk. I’m a big fan of quick little getaways – it’s great to refresh the mind and body with a change of scenery. What’s the last little road trip you’ve done? Do you like one-night get aways or would you rather save up for one longer vacation? In our case, it’s more budget friendly and we don’t need to take time off work, so little weekend trips are great for us. I hope you have an amazing day today!

 

Starting Over: A Clean Slate

Today, I struggled with a feeling that often surfaces — I saw a friend who’s lost an amazing amount of weight, and I instantly thought, “Why haven’t I done that?” I’m THRILLED for my friend, but it reminded me once again that I absolutely cannot compare myself to other people – as everybody is walking a completely different path in completely different shoes. However, recognizing other people’s success is always a good reminder of, “How I can try harder?” Here are the things I need to do to try harder: be kinder to myself, stop beating myself up in my head about my weight, drink more water, stop avoiding the scale, and curb the overeating.

With that, I’ve made a decision to start over. Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m restarting My Fitness Pal, at my current weight. I’ve been yo-yoing the past couple months, and who knows what from – muscle building, eating junk food, water retention, hormones, stress…. who knows! I’d been avoiding updating the weigh-in graph on the app, and for what? Because the number would bother me? Who cares – life goes on. I will start over. I’m starting fresh, with a clean slate, and it doesn’t matter how much weight I lost six months ago, or what weight I’m at today – what counts is that as of today, a new page has been turned. I need to track EVERYTHING on MyFitnessPal. Your support has been huge – I totally love seeing all of you stopping by the blog, writing comments to me, “liking” my updates. It really means a lot, and helps motivate me to keep trying. It’s also been awesome having April join in on the blog, because it reminds me that I’m never, ever alone, and someone with the very same blood and DNA as me shares the exact same struggles!

In addition, I’m going to start adding weekly weigh-ins again. We all know the scale and I have a mostly hateful relationship. However, I recognize that I need it to keep me in check. My first weigh in update will be posted on Friday, and I’m going to try reaaaaally hard to keep it up, because I need some more transparency about that number. I can’t disregard the amazing progress I’ve made so far, in particular, I’m thrilled at my transformation from out-of-shape to somewhat-fit. I look forward to getting stronger, better and faster, and am loving the new support system I have with my workout buddies Susannah, Merrie and Sally.

When you’re trying to change bad habits, do you ever find yourself just wanting to start over? It doesn’t need to be cold turkey, but it needs to be a marked point for me, where I say, “Ok, I’m starting over. I’m going to forget the past and just live in the present and focus on making a better future.”

Now – help me with my first starting over challenge. Next Thursday, I’m going to Mexico for a five day vacation. How do I log my food when I won’t have internet access? Should I go old-school and use a pen and paper, or try and trust myself without logging? Should I enjoy my vacay and eat what I want, but in moderation?

Random Monday Ramblings and Alyssa’s Crispy Critter Poll

Greetings, friends! How are you today? My weekend was busy, nice, relaxing and fun all at the same time. Matt’s parents just came back from a month-long cruise to Polynesia (I KNOW! Color me jealous) and this weekend they came to our place fresh off their cruise ship. We got to see pictures of Tahiti and had a yummy lunch and dinner trading vacation stories. It got me even more excited for my upcoming trek to Thailand! Woot woot! I don’t have a “topic” for tonight’s post, so here’s a bunch of randomness:

Same jacket, one month!

1) I did an excellent job with cardio this week, clocking in four hour-long cardio sessions. This is the good stuff, because I’ve felt relaxed, calm and healthy all week. I guess exercise does give ya that feel-good feelin’, huh? Another thing I noticed is that even though the scale might be slow to show it, I feel like my hips are starting to poke out more – always a sure sign I’m toning and losing weight (the fat melts, the curves appear!)

If I fits, I sits.

2) I love working from home. Since this is the month of gratitude, I’ll say I love having a job that allows me to work from home and have office-mates like this fur-ball, who has decided an overflowing letter tray is a great place to nap.

California Chicken Salad

3) Look at this gorgeous salad. This is from the California Chicken Cafe and can easily be two meals. A scoop of feta cheese, half an avocado and boneless skinless chicken breast chunks let me get my omegas, proteins and healthy fats in. And it’s so tasty! I get it with the fat-free Italian dressing for extra calorie-cutting. Deeeelicccious!

4) I am starting to plan out our itinerary of things to do in Thailand. One of these things, I have decided, will be eating a bug. Which bug I should eat? I will film this for your viewing pleasure. Consider it my Christmas gift to you – a disgusting video from your favorite blogger. I have no idea why I feel like I HAVE to eat a bug, but for some reason I feel like it’s part of an exotic Asian adventure. Choose which bug you’d like to see me choke down!

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Talk to you tomorrow!

Introducing… Thailand 20 Tuesday

Hello dear readers! Yesterday, as I flitted to and fro doing things here and there I realized – I’m going to Thailand in 10 weeks!!! WOW.
My second thought was, “Holy shit! I need to lose weight!”.
So – time to kick it up a notch. It’s time to go into BEAST MODE. This is a fairly aggressive goal for my sluggish, slow metabolising body… but I’m shooting for 20 pounds by December 21st. That gives me 10 weeks, and if I can sustain a big but still healthy loss of 2 pounds per week, I can reach 20 pounds. I’m going to…

1) Exercise 5 days out of 7.
2) Drink at least five 8 OZ Glasses of water per day.
3) Cut out all sugar and junk.
4) Focus on whole grains, lean proteins, and yummy veggies.
5) Take care of myself.

So – every Tuesday, I’m reporting back to you all with my progress. Help keep me accountable. It’s time for Thailand 20 Tuesday. Because when I ride an elephant, I don’t want the elephant to think “There’s an elephant riding me.”

Don’t mind the horrible photoshop work. The art genes went to my brother, not me. And yes, that is me in a bathing suit. Shock! Horror! Bravery!

Lake Tahoe Chillin’

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This weekend, Matt and I drove North to celebrate…my new job! I’ve accepted a great senior level social media role at a really visionary and innovative medical healthcare company. I’m so excited for the way my career path is shaping out- I absolutely love social media, writing and blogging, and it’s a huge thrill for me to able to do it full-time and get paid for it! While I’m sad to leave my buddies behind at MGA, it’s time for me to spread my wings and learn more about how social media can work for any type of company – and this one in particular that’s been saving lives for over 50 years…including my great grandfather’s. More on that later- I’m so excited!
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We met my mom, dad, brother and his sweet girlfriend Allison in South Lake Tahoe for a fun weekend of beach-going, hanging out and laughter. The first night in town we saw the super raunchy but hilarious Ted, and I even managed to say no to popcorn.

The next day we woke up, got some sandwiches and searched for a free beach in Lake Tahoe. Let me tell you- Lake Tahoe was where it’s at this weekend, because we tried three beaches before we were able to find a parking spot. We ended up at the gorgeous King’s Beach, where Matt and I braved the chilly water to wade in the waves.

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We played some slots, and at one point I was up $20, which of course I lost…but that’s how it works!

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After our beach going, Matt and I visited the Bridge Tender restaurant, a childhood favorite of his. I ordered an avocado burger and peeled off the bun and cheese, he got amazing chicken tenders. I indulged in waffle fries, but we saved some to feed the wild trout at the near by “Fanny Bridge”.

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Then we visited the gorgeous Emerald Bay at dusk, where the sun was just starting to sink behind the mountains. This weekend was a perfect little getaway from our beloved but busy city of angels- there’s nothing like towering trees and majestic mountains to make you reflect on what life is all about. I indulged in some junky food, but I did it in moderation and am ready to start the week fresh with lots of veggies and lean proteins.

Have you ever been to Lake Tahoe? What’s the last little getaway you went on?

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