The Big Apple: Part III

This is the last one, folks, I promise. But if you need to catch up on Part I or Part II of my epic NYC weekend, be sure to check those lengthy posts out, hehe.

So! After the excitement of Harry Potter, How to Succeed, and meeting Mr. Daniel Radcliffe himself, our final day in the Big City was destined to be a little more low-key. We woke up Sunday and only had one thing on the schedule (other than trying not to miss our bus back to DC, that is!):

Meeting up with these lovely ladies for brunch!


My beautiful friends Steph & Diana – high school buddies from my Taiwan days!


We met at The Mason Jar, a cute little place with unfortunately slow service but a great brunch menu! Enter my first attempts to make up for the kazillion calories I had consumed throughout the weekend:


I got an apple salad that had tons of greens, blue cheese (yummm), craisins, and walnuts. Yummm. Brunch also came with a mimosa. Triple yummm! It was awesome getting to catch up with Diana & Steph, even if only for a little while. I forced them to take some pictures with me outside after we finished eating:


We couldn’t miss out on this classic pose, after all!



And with a few sad goodbyes, and the promise that I would be returning soon (I hope!) Steve and I hightailed it to catch our bus back home. ‘Til next time, New York!

And that, as they say, is that! It’s been a busy week since getting back, too, and it’s only Tuesday! Last night I met up with my lovely friend Lizzie for dinner at Rustico in Ballston and worked in a teensy bit of exercise while I was at it. Huzzah!


I laced up my new New (hehe) Balance sneaks that I was given at the Fitbloggin’ Conference and leashed up the pups to walk ’em over to my parents’ house (0.6 miles).


I ditched the dogs at Grandma & Grandpa’s at that point, and continued to huff on over to the Metro to head one stop over to meet Lizzie at the Ballston Metro station.


The path from my parents’ house to the Metro is a hilly little jaunt! Probably about a mile, maybe a little less — it definitely got my heart rate up, so that’s good! I really liked the shoes at first – cushy but supportive. Unfortunately, my incredibly undefined heels kept rubbing up against the back lip of the shoe, and I have some fairly painful blisters on ’em now. Sad! Dinner was great though, so I guess that made up for it.


In case you didn’t get to see last night’s Daily Eats post, I got a small beet salad to start with (INCREDIBLE!) and the appetizer of mussels in tomato sauce for my entree.



The mussels also came with two gargantuan breadsticks… which I didn’t totally avoid. Heehee. But, considering the amazing selection of pizzas and pastas that the Rustico menu boasted, I thought my salad + seafood choices were pretty good! And between the walk there and the walk back (picked up the dogs on my way back and hustled on home!) I worked over 3 miles into my day. That’s something, right?

Now that travel and trips and stuff have died down somewhat temporarily, I’m making it a priority to work some kind of exercise and activity back into my routine. Since the Fitbloggin’ 5K my exercise habits have been pretty much nonexistant, I hate to admit. So this is my new goal: do at least 20 minutes of activity every day. Even if this means just getting the dogs out for a quick walk. If it’s 10:30 PM and I realize that I haven’t done anything but sit down and stand up all day, I get off my laurels and DO IT. I figure that if I can work just 20 minutes of something into my day, then maybe I can bump that up to 30 minutes soon. And then maybe to 45! And then I can start ramping up the activity level, impact, etc. Baby steps, baby steps, as always. I’m really reverting back to square one here, in order for me to attempt to establish a real routine. And hey, at least I got my 20 minutes in today!

What’s your exercise routine? How did you establish one? Do you stick to hard & fast times to exercise, and types of activity? Or just do what you feel when the mood strikes? I want to know! I know I’ve said it many, many times before, but I really want to try again. This is still the thing I struggle with most when it comes to embracing a healthy lifestyle, so I need your help! πŸ™‚

The Big Apple: Part II

Brace yourselves, guys. This post is gonna be a doozy. But I can promise you that if you can stick through the endless barrage of photos that’s about to hit you–pow!–right in the kisser, it’ll be worth it! (I can actually promise celebrities in this post! Eeeeeiiiiiiii!!!!!) Okay. Let’s get to it.

Saturday morning started off bright and early with breakfast at the hotel. The amazing thing that I learned about staying at a Residence Inn is the complimentary breakfast that they serve! I was expecting some cardboard-y danishes and lukewarm coffee, but was instead pleasantly surprised with quite the impressive spread!


A blueberry muffinette, eggs, home fries, a wee bit of sausage, and… oatmeeeal!


I topped mine with brown sugar, raisins, and walnuts. Nom! Also, eggs with salsa & sour cream may be the best combination EVER.


Yummy. We had to fuel up, after all, since we had a busy, Harry Pottereffic day planned! First up, getting in line at the TKTS booth to score discount Broadway tickets. Specifically, to How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying starring the one and only Daniel Radcliffe!


(Sidenote: he is not nearly that tall in real life, hahahaha.) The TKTS booth opens at 10 AM for matinee tickets, so we were (read: I was) hasty to get in line and wait it out.


The line looked way worst than it was — I think we only waited for 20 or 30 minutes before we were outta there, tickets in hand! Then it was time to get my TOURIST on, hehehe.


A little jaunt around Times Square, then onto the Harry Potter Exhibit at the Discovery Museum!


Needless to say, I was just a little jazzed about it.


Unfortunately, they are super strict about taking pictures inside the exhibit, so I didn’t get any photos of the rad movie props and set pieces (I was TOTALLY geeking out!) I didn’t even try to sneak any phone pics because I didn’t want to disrespect the fact that Steve’s friend who works at the exhibit got us in for freeeee! But I did force him to take a shot of me where it was allowed:


Riding high on Harry Potter mania, we stopped to get a quick bite to eat at a totally random place around the corner from the theatre. Couldn’t risk being late for the show, after all!


I got a chicken philly. Another mark on the ever-increasing list of horrible food choices from the weekend, hehe. I think you know what happened next:



No, seriously though, the show was SO good. Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette were both very impressive, but Daniel especially surprised me. He can really sing! And the choreography was so athletic! I was in awe pretty much the whole time, loving every hilarious minute of it! The young actress playing the role of Rosemary was very good too, but Steve and I both agreed that the star was the actor playing Bud Frump, the “villain” of the show. He was fantastic! All in all, a great time. I LOVE MUSICAL THEATRE!

As the cast came out for their bows, Steve and I rushed out (clapping, of course!) to head around to the receiving entrance of the theatre as we were instructed by his friend.


And we waited…


And we waited. Until a security guy came out to inform us that Daniel and John don’t come out after matinee performances. Fail. He told us we could try to come back after the evening performance if we wanted, but I didn’t really think that would end up happening. So, downtrodden, we went to Shake Shack to drown our sorrows in custardy goodness.


I got a “concrete”, which is essentially a much classier McFlurry. Mine had vanilla custard, strawberry preserves, and pieces of donut! Whaaaat? πŸ™‚


I’m sure you’re all still wondering, however, how my playbill ended up going from this:


To this:


Hmm? Well, this story is far from over. After our consolation shakes, Steve and I ambled back to the hotel — though not before making a little stop…



Then we headed out to dinner at Kashkaval, a restaurant I found on Yelp that is a combination of mediterranean tapas and… wine & cheese. Weird? Maybe. But it totally worked!


We split a sampler plate of various tapas, including baba ganoush, tzatziki, ajvar (roasted red pepper spread), baked elephant beans (these were the biggest beans I’d ever seen in my LIFE!) and dolmas. Served with warm pita bread! Yummm.

We also got a pot of cheddar fondue to share, with some french bread and an assortment of meats to dip in it. Like I said, a weird combo but absolutely delicioso!


Much though it pains me to promote a chain over a local restaurant, I do have to say that The Melting Pot might have the art of concocting a smooth, creamy fondue down just a smidge better. It was still an absolutely delightful dinner! After we finished eating, we decided to walk back to the hotel to aid digestion and whatnot. It was almost 10:00 at this point, so Steve kept asking if I wanted to go back to the theatre to try to see Daniel Radcliffe after the evening performance (what a good boyfriend, right?) My stomach was acting up a little after all that cheese though, so I said it was fine, let’s just go back to the hotel. As we were walking back, however, we saw this guy:


Yep. Chris Rock. NBD. He is starring in a play on Broadway, and just happened to be exiting as we were walking past! So we stopped to snap a few pictures of him and see him hop into his car. After that, I found myself buzzing with celebrity excitement, and asked Steve if we could go back to the theatre after all, hehe. And here’s where the story starts to border on the ridiculous:

The receiving area for the evening performance was split into two sections: one for people who didn’t go to the show, and one for people who did. We got there before the evening performance got out, so we went over to the side for people who had paid to see the show to set up shop. While the other side was already 5 or 6 people deep from the front gate, there were only two other girls on our side, so we settled in at the front. That is, until Daniel Radcliffe’s douchebag bodyguard came up and abruptly told us to go to the other side if we didn’t go to the evening performance. Of course, my thinking is that 1) we did pay to go to a show that day and 2) they had told us we could return after the evening performance anyway. But, being the good little rule-follower I am, we headed over to the other side.

For about 10 seconds. And then I decided that I did not come all the way to New York, already having waited for an hour between the post-matinee wait and the current situation, just to be stuck idly in the back groping for a few distant phone pics of my fictional boyfriend. No sir! I hopped back over to the other side and started to plead with said d-bag bodyguard, explaining that we had been at the matinee and were told we could return in the evening. Eventually he stopped protesting and just started ignoring me, so I figured that was as good as a yes!

… Until the second security guy came out. His name was Neil. And while he actually seemed quite nice, he got on our case FAST. The same lines were repeated, asking us if we had been at that evening’s performance and telling us to show him our tickets. Except this time, the questions were being directed at Steve who, quick thinker that he is, said something akin to “She has them.” Then as I flipped open my playbill, he smoothly added, “Oh no, did they fall out of your booklet?” Hehe.

Too bad Neil wasn’t buying it. He told us to get our behinds over to the other side post haste anyway.

And that’s when I started to cry.


Don’t judge! It was just the situation, y’know? The waiting, and the disappointment, and the being scolded by Russian bodyguards, etc. I didn’t really burst into tears exactly, just the very early stages. You know, wet lashes, tight lips, eyes brimming with the stark reality of dashed hopes… It’s usually a curse, really, my incredible oversensitivity and the fact that I cry at the drop of a hat. But in this case, for the first time EVER, it ended up working to my advantage. With a roll of his eyes and a loud, frustrated “Awwww, man. Don’t cry! FINE!”, Neil let us stay. Much to the chagrin of girls on the other side, who loudly cried out “WHAAAAT?!”

I still felt bad, but I really do feel it was ridiculous that even though we paid just as much to see the matinee show earlier, they were trying to get all segregated up on me. And my guilt only lasted a few minutes anyway, as it was about to begin… πŸ™‚


First a few other cast members came out, and I collected their John Hancocks and congratulated them on a job well done, and then John Larroquette joined the fray. He was SO cool! He stopped to take pictures with people who asked, made conversation with us (I said I was from DC and he conversed with me about it! Whoo!) Steve was most excited to see him, but let’s be honest. We all know what the main event was for me.


Hello, lover.


Daniel Radcliffe signed pretty much everything that was thrust in front of him, though he didn’t have time to take pictures with anyone (when asked, he declined very politely. His bodyguard, however, just dove further and further into profanity as they went down the line, haha.) And as he was signing my playbill (he signs his full name!), I said “You were really fantastic. Clearly made for the stage!” or something equally cheesy, he looked up at me and thanked me. Yes, my friends. WE MADE EYE CONTACT! That basically means we’re BFF now. NBD.

Needless to say, I was very glad that we decided to go back and wait it out. Totally, 100% worth it. Be jealous. Be totally jealous. πŸ˜‰

And with that, I’ll leave the final nuggets of NYC for tomorrow’s post. This has literally been the longest post I think I’ve ever written. Sorry! Hope it was at least slightly worth it though!

So who’s got Harry Potter love? I dooooooo!

PS: Daily Eats from yesterday are posted here.

The Big Apple: Part I

Really, I should be titling these posts “The Weekend That Gretchen Didn’t Eat Any Vegetables” or just “The Weekend that Gretchen Ate Her Weight in French Fries”, but I decided to go with something a little simpler. That’s right, folks! I’m back from New York City and had an amaaaazing weekend with Steve exploring the city, quenching my nerdtastic love for Harry Potter & Broadway all at once.


Oh my gosh, where to start, where to start… so much happened in this one little weekend. Phew! So I guess I start at the beginning, eh? Steve and I took Friday off of work to hit the road (we took the Bolt Bus – $17 each way!) We checked into our hotel (the Residence Inn Times Square) and immediately set off to explore the city a little before meeting up with some of Steve’s friends later on like we had planned.

We walked and walked, down past Union Square and into St. Mark’s Place. We had our eyes set on a couple of the restaurant recommendations that you amazing people gave me! First up: S’mac:


This tiny little hole-in-the-wall is dedicated completely and solely to mac ‘n’ cheese. Awesome, right? I opted for the Napoletana, which had fresh mozzerella, roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic, and fresh basil. Sound familiar?


It. Was. Amazing. Steve opted for the Cheeseburger mac, which was also delicious but I think mine was the star. They have sizes that range from “Nosh” to “Partay!” (love the names) and I’m so glad we went with the Nosh. It may be the smallest size offered, but it is more than enough cheesy goodness.


After sating our appetite a bit with that, we had to move onto the second place on our list, which was conveniently located right around the corner. Pomme Frites!


Like S’mac is a tribute to the great art of mac ‘n’ cheese, Pomme Frites does the same for the classic french fry. Belgian fries, to be exact!


They have a list of about a gajillion different dipping sauces for your fries, and various sizes you can get. Steve and I split an order of the smallest size and opted to try the sweet mango chutney mayo (my fave by far!), the roasted garlic mayo (Steve’s pick – good, but VERY mayo-y), and the horseradish mayo (super strong on the horseradish.)


There was some regular ol’ ketchup in there somewhere too, and I was a very happy bear.


And so began what would end up being an entire weekend of absolutely atrocious eating habits. And I don’t feel the least bit guilty! Well, I guess I feel a little bit guilty. But it was still totally worth it. πŸ™‚

After getting our noms on, we met up with Steve’s friend Greg and his girlfriend Ellen to head over to Brooklyn for the opening reception of an art show at a sweet little studio, Cotton Candy Machine. Steve is friends with artist Brian Ewing, so it was really cool to meet him, as well as the other artists there!


I walked away with the following t-shirt:

Cotton Candy Machine T-shirt

And felt so cultured and hip! So of course, in order to balance that out, we had to go see a superhero movie afterward, hahaha.


For the record, X-Men: First Class was awesome. It was so well done. I think I may have liked it better than the first and the second X-Men movies, actually… and I obviously thought it was far, far, faaaar better than the third, haha. It was so good. The thing that wasn’t so good? Actually having to see the calorie counts of movie theatre food:


Nuts, right? Didn’t stop me from getting a hot dog anyway though… oops. I really think it’s great that they post this info though. Especially given this little nugget of informational gold in particular:


An additional 760 calories for extra cheese!? On top of an already ludicrous 1390 calories, just for nachos? The nacho servings at movie theatres aren’t even that big! Yeesh.

And after the movie got out at like 1:30 in the morning (staying out later than I have in a loooong time — in true New York fashion, haha!) we hit the hay, knowing that we’d have to have our energy for the following day. I had Broadway tickets to score, and Harry Potter exhibits to geek out over, after all! But you guys’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the next chapter in this epic weekend’s story.

Also, to answer the question that is probably forming in your mind right now, I have made the executive decision not to weigh in this week. Or at least, not to weigh in today. I might do a little spot-check later in the week, but I just really want to try to ride the high from my awesome weekend as long as possible, and I know it will only be bad news bears. So! Judge me if you want, but it’s happening. Or rather, not happening. Heh.

Okay, okay. So you will have to tune in tomorrow for the full update on our second day of New York adventures. But! I will give you the following sneak peek of exactly what said day entailed (in case you didn’t already see my Tweets and Facebook updates about it! Hehe!)


Yeaaaaaah roooooooyyyy! See you tomorrow for all the deets! πŸ˜‰

Empire State of Mind

Hey guys! Happy Thursday! Thanks for all your sweet comments and concern regarding Daxter’s emergency trip to the vet hospital. I am happy to report that he seems to have recovered 100%!



With the crisis averted with my little one, now I can finally get excited for my New York trip that is happening… tomorrow! Yayyy! This trip has been planned for a while and I’m really excited to take in all that the Big Apple has to offer, hehe. The last time I was in New York was last summer when I went on a very quick, very awesome whirlwind trip (we were there for less than 24 hours) with some of my old coworkers.


CS Team NYC Trip! 

It was a great trip, but this time I’m looking forward to being able to spend a little more time exploring the city with Steve and meeting up with some old friends:


Taiwan 3zbs! 

How’s that for a blast from the past? That picture is from junior year of high school – in Taiwan! Oh, the good old days. I’m also looking forward to hopefully getting to see the following cutie patootie in action:


How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying 

But… I’m trying to appropriately temper my hopes. We’re hoping to get some same-day tix from the TKTS booth in Times Square, but I know it’s still a relatively new show so there’s no guarantee. Getting advance tickets would have been $$$ though, and certainly out of this girl’s broke budget! So hopefully fate is on our side with this one.

I know I’ve written about what I’m dying to do in NYC before, but just to recap for you, the following definitely WILL be happening:


Harry Potter Discovery Exhibit 

The Harry Potter Exhibit at the Discovery Museum! Eeeeeee! I do love me some Harry. I mean… hello?


Harry Potter Nerds Unite! 


And we’ll also be taking in an art show for an artist that Steve is really into but I forget exactly who (Brian Vaughn?) and meeting up with a couple of his old friends who live in the city as well. It’ll be a pretty busy weekend, I know! But if any of you big city dwellers are going to be around, let me know and maybe we can try to meet up!

Since this is only my 3rd visit to NYC I’ll need your expert recommendations, since I’m sure most of you are far more cultured than me, haha.Β What are your New York must-sees? Restaurant recommendations? Lay ’em on me! As an avid Food Network watcher and Top Chef fan, naturally all the restaurants I want to try are in the upper echelon of expensiveness and exclusivity, haha (Craft, anyone?) So I think it’s probably a pretty safe bet that ain’t happening.

Posting will likely be sporadic at best while I’m gone, but fret not! I’ll be back with an awesome recap in no time.