An Apple a Day


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I have made it my goal to be featured on Foodgawker.  It’s a silly goal, I know, but one that I would like to achieve nevertheless.  Plus, it allows me to practice with my camera before I depart for Moscow in 3 days!  And eat delicious treats.

For today’s attempt, I created Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies, adapted from the Slow Roasted Italian’s recipe.  I followed the recipe almost exactly; the only modification I made was the addition of raisins!

If you haven’t had your “apple a day” make these now.  They are seriously delicious!

Inadvertently Autumn Apple Butter


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I inadvertently chose the perfect day to try my hand at making Apple Butter.  With scattered thunderstorms in the area and no pressing errands to run, I was more than content to spend the day inside.


Apple Butter takes 15 hours to cook in the Crock-Pot.  So, last night, I prepared all the ingredients according to Eating Bird Food’s Healthy Homemade Apple Butter recipe and turned on the slow-cooker.  When I woke up this morning, I was greeted with blustery winds, intermittent rainfall, and the cozy aromas of apples and spices; the classic combination of autumn.

Винегрет (Vinaigrette)


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This time next week I will be in Moscow!  I cannot believe it!  I’m so excited to immerse myself in the language, the history, the culture, and of course, the food.

I’m not a picky eater.  Generally, if I am forced to (or dared to) eat something, I will.  However, I do prefer to eat mostly vegetables.  My family seems to think that Russians do not eat any vegetables because it is too “bastardly cold” for anything to grow there.  To prove them wrong, I made one of my favorite Russian dishes, Russian Vinaigrette, as an appetizer for both our dinner and my semester abroad.  It was a big hit!

Click photo for source.

– Russian Vinaigrette (Винегрет) –

1/2 lbs. beets
1/2 cup (approx.) baby carrots
3 small potatoes
1/2 cup sauerkraut, remove excess liquid
1 cup peas
1/2 cup diced baby dill pickles
1/4 cup diced onion
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
black pepper to taste
In separate pots, boil beets, potatoes, and carrots.  Once vegetables are tender, remove from liquid, peel and dice.  
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the vegetables to absorb colors and flavors.  Serve and enjoy!
-Recipe courtesy of my Russian Language Professor.

Come This April


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Come this April, I will embark on a road race I never thought I would ever be able to run: The Boston Marathon.

People look at me now, with an age-group marathon win and a Boston Qualifying time, and don’t believe me when I tell them that my running journey began with walk breaks every quarter mile on a 1-mile loop at a local park.  But, it’s true.  When my mom and I decided to train for our first marathon, the 2007 Philadelphia Marathon, we couldn’t even run a mile non-stop.  When we finally built some endurance, we celebrated a 10-minute mile.  And on those long stretches of road through Philadelphia, we chanted our mantra: we run to complete, not compete.  Running was a way to stay in shape, an outlet for stress, and a bonding experience.  It was by no means a competition.

We ran more races that way, completing another Philadelphia Marathon and two Philadelphia Distance Runs.  Then, I went off to college.

Attending a university in the Bay Area, I was blessed with year-round running weather.  So, I ran.  Nearly everyday.  With time, I became faster and could run farther.  The spring of my freshman year, I surprised myself with a half-marathon age-group win.  Inspired by such unexpected success, I knew I wanted to run another marathon.  So, I signed up for the Nike Women’s Marathon.  I told everyone I just wanted the famed Tiffany’s necklace, but really, I wanted to break four hours, a goal I hadn’t accomplished in previous marathons.

That summer, I woke up early to run before work every morning.  I dedicated my weekends to long runs and even ran on vacation.  I was obsessed.  But, I could see the payoff.  I was faster and stronger than I had ever been.  Running the Nike Women’s Marathon in under four hours seemed probable!  And a Boston Marathon Qualifying time was not out of the question.  I didn’t want to get my hopes up though; I had experienced the “wall” and knew all too well the grueling difficulty of those last six miles.   I decided to give the Nike Women’s Marathon my best shot.  As the saying goes, “que sera, sera.”

The Nike Women’s Marathon began before sunrise on October 16.  I found my stride, waved to the spectators, and loved every minute of those first 20 miles.  Then, I hit the wall.  I passed one woman around the lake.  “Keep going!” she cheered, “are you going for a specific time?”  All I could mutter in reply was “fast.”  Somehow, and I truly don’t know how, I kept running.  When I crossed the finish line, I looked at my watch.  3:23:37.  Did I read that right?  Had I really just qualified for the 2013 Boston Marathon?!  I couldn’t believe it.  Now, I just needed to get in.

On September 12, at 10:01 AM, I submitted my registration to run in the 2013 Boston Marathon.  Yesterday, I received confirmation that this upcoming April, I will run the streets of Boston in the 117th running of the Boston Marathon.

My mom and I celebrated my registration with a run through our usual neighborhood loop.  As we shuffled along, I was reminded of training for our first marathon.  I remembered how much fun we had plodding along on our favorite running route.  I’ve decided that I’m not going for any specific time goal in Boston this April; I’m still feeling burt out from overtraining.  I will certainly put in the miles this winter, but I’m running the Boston Marathon like my mom and I ran our first marathon: to complete, not compete.  I can’t wait to enjoy the experience!

Investing in Anthropologie


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Every morning before I run, I need to have a cup of coffee.

When I’m at school, I down my caffeine jolt in front of the computer, checking up on daily headlines and blog posts. When I’m at home, my morning cup o’ joe is delightfully accompanied by a conversation with my mom, who is usually awake at least a half hour before I am to help my brother
get out the door for high school.

My mom and I chat about all sorts of topics from family matters to dream-worthy vacation destinations.  This morning, after fumbling with our Keurig coffee machine and plopping down at the counter with a mug of coffee, my mom brought up the word “investment.”  She is reading a book called Words that Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear, which has made her more aware of the implications behind certain words and rhetoric.

“I know you think that you spent a lot of money at Anthropologie yesterday, but you should look at it as investing in your wardrobe,” she said.

I just looked at her.  I had certainly spent over $400 of my summer earnings on new clothes.  Granted, I had wanted those clothes and I will definitely wear them, but I didn’t invest in them – at least, not in the traditional sense of the word.

She continued to explain that the word “spend”suggests wastefulness, while “invest” implies that I will get a return on my money.  The return, however, doesn’t need to be economic.

So, anytime I feel a rush of happiness from wearing one of my new sweaters or jazzing it up with a new skirt, I am attaining the returns on my investment.  When I am proud of my appearance, I know that my investment has paid off.

The same concept of spending versus investing can be applied to other aspects of life as well.  I don’t spend money on organic produce; I invest in nutrition.  I don’t spend time exercising; I invest in my health.  What each person chooses to invest in is a personal choice, but overall, I don’t think there is a more worthwhile investment than an investment in yourself.

Biking the Bypass


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Work is nearly complete on a new road near my house.  The Route 202 Parkway will connect Montgomery and Bucks counties.  Though controversial and somewhat devastating for the backyards that were once peacefully roadless, I think the bypass will benefit both communities by making local sites more accessible.

The road is not open for cars yet; however, that has not stopped locals from making use of the 8-mile expanse of asphalt as an enlarged shared-use path.  A few days ago, my grandmother’s neighbor told us that he biked the entire bypass from Knapp Road into Doylestown.  Hmmmm …

My family loves bike riding.  It’s something we can all do together.  So this past Saturday, despite the foreboding weather forecast, we loaded our bikes onto our bike rack and headed out to try the new road on two wheels instead of four.  Blatantly ignoring all the “No Trespassing” signs, we biked the entire route in 1 hour 40 minutes.  My Garmin watch recorded the distance as 16.36 miles.

Getting out and doing a bike ride with my family was so much fun!  I hope you all take some time this weekend to enjoy the final days of summer with people that make you smile :] Happy Weekend!

Acadia Always: Day 3


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Having completed the Park Loop Road the previous day, we decided to bike the Carriage Roads on our final day in Bar Harbor.  As I said previously, the carriage roads were my favorite parts of Acadia National Park.  If you consider visiting, either bring or rent bikes in order to utilize the Carriage Roads, one of the aspects that truly makes Acadia incomparable.  Though it began to rain (early September is rainy season on the east coast), the views from the Carriage Roads were some of the best in the entire park.  In my opinion, the views even surpassed those from the summits of Champlain and Cadillac Mountains.  The ride to enjoy these views is changeling; we biked many switchbacks in the pouring rain to reach them, but they are so worth it and the downhills were really fun!  Unfortunately, I did not take many pictures since I did not want to ruin my camera in the rain.

Soaking wet, we returned to Bar Harbor to dry off and rest before our dinner reservations at Cafe This Way, one of the restaurants I was most looking forward to trying.  Since we had some time to kill, we went to visit the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.  The lighthouse was crowded, but I was glad I had the opportunity to see it.  For whatever reason, I love lighthouses.

 By this time the rain had subsided at the early evening sky had almost cleared, offering dynamic views of the harbor and skyline.

We celebrated the end of an amazing and jam-packed vacation at Cafe This Way, my absolute favorite restaurant of the entire trip.  Unassuming and trendy, the atmosphere was great and the food was excellent.  I would highly recommend my dish, the Brazilian Flavors Shrimp, Scallops, and Mussels.  We did not share dishes, but both my mom and dad cleared their plates and raved about their respective Moroccan Flavors Stuffed Butternut Squash and Southwest Shepherd’s Pie.  We topped off the evening and our vacation with a Blueberry Pie.

We all agreed that we could have spent at least another two days in Bar Harbor and Acadia.  We would have liked to bike the carriage roads in the sunshine and hiked a few more of the trails as well as taken a whale watching cruise and done a few more of the maritime activities.  Bar Harbor offers so many things to do; I would highly recommend it to everyone!

– A Summary of My Recommendations –

Hotel: Bar Harbor Grand Hotel

  • great queen beds and nicely sized rooms
  • perfect in-town location; everything is within walking distance
  • complimentary continental breakfast and wifi

Lunch: Side Street Cafe and Cherrystone’s

Dinner: Cafe This Way and Havana

Hiking and Walking:

  • .25 mile loop at summit of Cadillac Mountain
  • Precipice Trail up Champlain Mountain and one of the alternate trails down
  • Bar Island Sandbar Crossing
  • Coastal Walk

Biking: Carriage Roads – a must do!

Drive the Park Loop Road

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

*All opinions expressed on this blog are my own.

Acadia Always: Day 2


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On our second day, we woke up to a bright, crisp morning and headed into the park to continue the Park Loop Road and hike the Precipice Trail.  Though short, only a little over one mile in length, the Precipice Trail climbs over 1,000 feet on the east face of the Champlain Mountain.  Signs warn visitors that the Precipice Trail is not a hiking trail, rather it is a non-technical climb and that those with a fear of hights should consider taking one of the other routes to the summit.  The most challenging hike in Acadia? – We’re so there!

I would recommend the Precipice Trail to anyone in decent shape.  The views were stunning and for someone who doesn’t rock climb, the experience was unforgettable.

Though there are more “free” climb areas on the trail, where I would have to use the rocks to hoist myself up, the park rangers installed iron-rung ladders to assist us climbers on the more difficult portions.

The summit offered 360 degree views of the surrounding area as well as alternative routes to climbing down.  Climbing the Precipice Trail up the mountain was one thing, but none of us were looking forward to the descent on the sheer rock face.  So, we took one of the alternate routes back to the Park Loop Trail, hopped on one of the park’s free shuttles to the Precipice Trail parking lot, and headed back to Bar Harbor for lunch.  In town, we enjoyed yet another delicious lobster roll at a centrally located restaurant, Cherrystone’s, and explored the local craft fair in the main plaza.

Determined to finish the Park Loop Road, we drove back into the park and followed the loop around to all the sites at the park.

We saw the Sand Beach …

and Otter Point, among other sites, such as the Thunder Hole.

But, our excursions for the day did not end there.  After completing the Park Loop Road, we were just in time for low tide.  At low tide in Bar Harbor, the water recedes to reveal a sand bar that visitors can use to cross onto Bar Island.  From this alternative vantage point, we could see the island and homes that would otherwise be obscured from the mainland visitor.

Walking across a passages that is usually underwater also offers a glimpse into Bar Harbor’s underwater habitat.  All the rocks were covered in seaweed and snails.

After our second “hike” of the day, we were too weary and hungry from our day to put much effort into finding a place for dinner and we ended up dining at Poor Boy’s Gourmet, which was across the street from our hotel.  I would not recommend this restaurant.  Both the food and service were bad, portions were huge, and none of the components of the dishes worked together.  You selected an entree and were offered the same choices of sides: roasted vegetables, a baked potato, or pasta.  In all, I was disappointed and felt as though I had wasted an opportunity to eat well in Bar Harbor.

More to come soon!

Acadia Always: Day 1


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“This place had better be worth it,” grumbled my Dad.

After 15 long hours in the car, we had started to question our decision to spend Labor Day weekend vacationing in Bar Harbor, Maine.  In the time it had taken us to get this far north, we could have flown to Hawaii.  Who wouldn’t prefer the pristine Pacific islands to the rugged North-East?  However, our weekend of adventure in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park certainly made up for the grueling, long car ride.

The town of Bar Harbor is quaint, slightly touristy, but the paragon of New England ideal.  Surrounded by Acadia National Park, the town offers an pleasant respite from Acadia’s miles of biking and hiking trails.

Our first morning in Bar Harbor, my mom and I woke up early to go for a leisurely three mile run around town.  We ran through Maine street and onto a pathway that follows the rocky shoreline and affords views of the humbly grand homes and inns that line the coast.  We returned to our hotel, the Bar Harbor Grand Hotel, and joined my brother and Dad for a complimentary continental breakfast before driving into Acadia.

We planned on driving the 27-mile park loop that day.  The 27-mile Park Loop Road begins at the visitors center and connects many of the parks trails, forests, and sites.

 No sooner did we complete the  first stop on our tour of the park, Cadillac Mountain, did it begin to rain.  So, we drove the three miles back into Bar Harbor for lunch at one of the top-rated lunch spots in town, Side Street Cafe.

My dad and I highly recommend the lobster roll.

Since the rain wasn’t letting up anytime soon and my brother needed to complete some summer assignments, my parents and I wandered through the town of Bar Harbor after lunch.  We popped into shops and galleries and sampled some local blueberry jam.

Finally, the sun peeked through the clouds and we decided to return to Acadia and bike one of their famous carriage roads.  Between 1913 and 1940, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. financed and directed the construction of Carriage Roads on the island.  The 45 miles of broken-stone roads prohibit motor vehicles and are open for bikers, hikers, and horse-drawn carriages to explore many of the sites in the park.  The carriage roads were one of my favorite parts of Acadia National Park.  So many National Parks only offer hiking trails; biking the carriage roads offered a unique and fun way to enjoy the park.

That evening, we biked for an hour, beginning at Bubble Pond and meandering around the Jordan Pond House.

Following our bike ride, we returned to Bar Harbor for dinner at a well-rated, cuban-inspired restaurant, Havana.  Our meals were excellent, though the service was certainly lacking.  I would highly recommend my dad’s dish, the seafood paella, and my brother’s dessert, the flan.  While my scallop dish was delicious and I particularly relished the brussels sprouts and smoky tomato salsa, I was not fond of the quinoa tabbouleh that accompanied the scallops; the flavors did not complement each other in my opinion.

Exhausted from our day, we returned to our hotel and collapsed into our lush, queen-sized beds.

Stay tuned!