Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lunchtime meeting eating.

Continuing my trend of eating during lunchtime meetings, I will share with you the salad I ate almost every day for lunch this week.  Filled with lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes fresh from a friend's garden, red onion, and avocado -- this was YUM.

I usually don't cut up my vegetables so small, but for this salad I tried to make it like a "chopped" salad which turned out so fun because I could get a bit of all the flavors in every bite.  I also don't usually eat fresh avocado in my salad and even just having a little in there made the salad so creamy and delicious.  I didn't use dressing -- just a bit of salt and pepper.

Excuse the awkward photo, I was trying to be sneaky so that my co-workers don't just think I'm annoying for eating during meetings but also because I take pictures of my food that I'm eating during meetings.  Nom, nom, nom...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Things to do and see in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Alright guys, so sorry to keep you on the edge of your seats waiting to hear about my trip to Brazil.  It was a busy week getting back and I had a little business to take care of called "celebrating my 26th birthday"-- woohoo!  [I will write about that later... I've got lots of catching up to do here...]

Anyways, here is my first recap of a few different ones that I want to write about Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  About the amazing beauty I saw and the amazing tastes I ate and the amazing host I had in Brazil.

To start, I'm going to tell you about some of the amazing things to see and do in the city of Rio.  And mind you, this isn't going to be a list of ALL the things to do.  And I can't really say that they are the BEST things to do in Rio, because there is SO much to do there that I wasn't able to do them all and then come back and rank them all for you (but trust me, I would if I could!)  However, I wanted to put together a list of some of my favorite things I did and some of the best "experiences" I had in Brazil.  AND, although I can't rightfully claim them as the "best" -- if I didn't find them totally amazing and cool and recommendation-worthy, well than I wouldn't be writing about them, now would I?

SO, let's talk things to do in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!

1.)  Visit Christ the Redeamer!  It was amazing to me to be able to see in person, as it is such an iconic representation of the city of Rio de Janeiro.  Almost every picture you see of Rio somehow has Christ the Redeamer in the shot.  People associate the statue with the city.  It's like the Duomo in Florence or the Trevi Fountain in Rome.  Things that I had SO many photos of and heard about all the time.  When you're in a foreign city you can be walking around and sometimes, in the thick of it, the streets and the shops don't look too distinctive of the city you're in.  But then all of a sudden you turn a corner, see this iconic figure and remember all over again, "Holy Crap.  I'm in RIO!!"

And oh, the views are great from up there!

P.S.  I think it's funny to sometimes take pictures of tourists posing for pictures when I'm at these "iconic" spots as well.  I have great pictures of tourists in Pisa making the pose of "trying to hold up the leaning tower" -- with the tower nowhere in sight.  I did the same with people posing as Christ the Redeamer :)

2.  Take the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.  Granted, the cable car is really scary (assuming you're a wimp like me) but there is an amazing view at the top and some really fun statues that you can pose for pictures with.


3.  Have brunch at Parque Lage and spend some time exploring the gardens there.  Eating here for brunch came off of a recommendation from a couple of friends, one a "Carioca" (native from Rio de Janeiro), and one from Sao Paolo now living in Rio.  I didn't read about it in my guidebook and my the recommendation from my Brazilian friends came with the advice, "Go early!" & man -- they were not kidding!  This place was swamped with people waiting for tables.  However, you have a gorgeous view and lots to look at as you wait.

After you eat, you can check out the park there, which is like going on a little adventure hunt.  There is a small aquarium, castle, waterfall, and this is where I saw my first Brazilian monkeys!!! Just hanging in the trees.  Doing their thang.  No big deal.

The Botanical Gardens of Rio de Janeiro are a lot more well known than this smaller park.  However, I actually preferred Parque Lage to the Botanical Gardens.  If you have the time, I would 100% recommend doing both.  They just had different feels.  Parque Lage I felt like I was on an exploration adventure. The Gardens were more of a relaxing "garden" walk experience.  Probably why they named it that...

4. Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl... go to Copacabana beach!  Although the song refers to a different place, I love that the beach is Copacabana Beach.  Take a picture of the sidewalks.  Check out the sand castles.  Enjoy the fact that you are at Copacabana Beach!!

4. Spend a day each at Ipanema Beach and Leblon Beach.  Because you're in Rio.  Why not go to the beach a lot?  Ipanema Beach and Leblon Beach are right next to one another, really just divided by a small canal.  I love the beaches in Rio because you can literally get ANYTHING you want.  Vendors walk up and down the beach selling everything that you could possibly want and need for a day at the beach.  Bathing suits, blankets, chairs, umbrellas, sunscreen, hats, snacks, water, beer, fresh mixed drinks, fresh coconut water, fresh fruit popsicles, etc.

And I actually enjoyed these beaches more than Copacabana for an actual "day at the beach."  First, things are a little cheaper at Leblon & Ipanema than at Copacabana.  Also, I am pretty sure that the way that the sun hits the buildings, the beach stay longer here.  There is also more sand & beach in general at these locations.  Lots of volleyball players and exercisers along the pier as well.  There is lots to look at and lots of space to hang out and share the beach with the TONS of other locals and tourists who spend their days at the beach!

5.  Walk along the road by the beach -- closed on Sundays!!  I thought of one of the really cool things about Rio is that every Sunday, one of the main roads closes down for walkers & bikers.  I think it says a lot about the laid back atmosphere of the city.  People enjoy their leisure time and weekends aren't for rushing around in your car and doing errands.  They are for going for long walks, being outdoors, and of course, the beach!

Bonus -- if you walk down the road by Ipanema Beach and then take a turn in by Post 8, away from the beach, you can visit the "Hippie Fair" open only on Sundays.  There is a neat outdoor market only open on Sundays as well.

6.  Okay, as even though you check out the Hippie Fair, you should also go to the evening artisan market by Copacabana Beach.  Unlike the Hippie Fair, everything here is made by local artists and vendors.  You can get incredibly beautiful and unique jewelry, artwork, and unique local crafts.  One of my favorite things was choosing the paintings I wanted as the artist was completing them -- before the paint even dried!  We did some damage at this market but every purchase was well worth it I think.

7.   Visit the Copacabana Fort.  While you're there, eat at Confeitaria Colombo.  This was a beautiful location with a great view of the Copacabana Beach.  I was lucky enough to be here around dusk and I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed sitting and having a beer and a piece of chocolate and enjoying watching the sun go down.  If you recreate exactly what I did and go there at the end of a long day to just relax, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

8.  Do something spontaneous!  While I was in Rio, walking around one evening I realized I was nearby the horse racing track of the city.  I decided to stop in and see if I could at least snap a picture.  Turns out that not only do they race the horses in the evening, I also walked into a Food & Wine exposition that was going on!  Although this wasn't in my plans for the evening, how could I turn up such an experience??  It ended up one of my favorite experiences AND the horse track has incredible views of Christ the Redeamer at night.

With that, I am going to sign off for the night... I hope you enjoyed my first recap of Rio.  So much more to come on this amazing vacation of mine!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I'm back!!!

Holy cow, guys, Rio de Janeiro was amazing!!  The city is so beautiful and with a landscape unlike anything I had ever seen before.  As I predicted, it was so great to see Izabela and spend time with her.  More to come -- but if you want to be an amazing hostess, reach out to her and do exactly what she did for me the whole time I was there.

I've got a number of fun posts I want to write about the trip, but I'm sleepy at the moment and will have to put it off until another day to actually write them.  I'm already a day behind in writing this, as I got back yesterday.

Here are a few pics to hold you over, but so many more to come.  Oh, and the food?  Yeah, it was awesome.  I can't wait to tell you all about it!!

Leblon Beach.

View of Sugarloaf from Christ the Redeamor

Copacobana Beach

Christ the Redeamor & Rio's horse track at dusk

Ipanema Beach at night.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Falo com vocĂȘ em breve!

Blogging friends, today I leave for vacation and I could not be more excited and happier.  I fly out tonight to head to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the next 10 days.  I will be back on August 20th and hopefully with some fantastic photos and stories for you.

Here are just five of the reasons why the next 10 days are going to be amazing:

1.  I will be exploring a new city, in a new country for me, heck, a whole new continent that I've never been to!  I love, love, love exploring new places.

2.  I get to spend my time traveling and exploring Rio with this pretty girl.  We'll start the trip by driving 3 hours to Boston, then getting on a plane to Atlanta, followed by a 10 hour flight to Rio (the longest flight I'll have been on yet.)  Luckily, we seem to never run out of things to talk about ever & I have zero doubt in my mind that we'll have an entertaining experience :)

3.  We'll be visiting the one and only ICT, who I haven't even seen since February!!!!  I really miss having this site across from me every day.  Cannot wait to see and spend time with Izabela!

4.  This beach is in walking distance of Izabela's apartment. 'Nuff said.

5.  This is the current weather forecast.  The rest of the week is pretty much the same.

I mean, really, with those 5 things alone, my vacation will be complete.  I hope that everyone has a great week and I will try to check in but most likely be enjoying myself in Rio de Janeiro!

See you in 10 days :)


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Park Playhouse's production of Hairspray

Every summer I look forward to seeing what shows Park Playhouse will have to offer and going to see a musical theatre production out, under the stars, in Washington Park.  It is one of Albany's hidden gems that I literally discovered by running into it in the park 3 or 4 years ago.  When out for a run, I all of a sudden heard the tunes from "High School Musical" being belted out from around a turn and as I ran in that direction, I stumbled upon the Washington Park lakehouse and a full blown live musical in front of my eyes.

Since then I've gone every year and seen Annie Get Your Gun and The Producers in the park.  For those who don't know, general seating for Park Playhouse productions is completely free and they put on two shows every summer.  You bring your own blankets and lawn chairs, as well as drinks and snacks, for those who are inclined.  This Tuesday I went with some friends to see this year's show -- Hairspray!  And obviously we brought food & drink...

Our spread for the show this year... cheese, chocolate, edamame, berries, pretzels, carrots, graham crackers, and...
A giant bowl of popcorn in a Santa Claus bowl, aka, my contribution.
Aside from being a really fun musical that I was looking forward to seeing live, this year's show had some extra appeal for me.  My former landlord, and friend, was starring in this year's show as the one and only Corny Collins!  As his husband put it, I'd now have the opportunity to hear Brian sing for real -- rather than through the floors of our former building, where Brian and Matt lived in the apartment below mine.  Please excuse the incredibly gross and old photo below, but it was the only one I could find with everyone in it :)

Myself, Matt, Brian, and Jackie -- who you can find at Food, Face, Chomp!
If anybody in the Capital Region is looking for something incredibly fun and entertaining to do in the next week, you must go to Albany's Washington Park and see Hairspray.  The entire cast was INCREDIBLE and the show was a blast.  I was so impressed, but not really surprised, at the incredible energy and talent my friend Brian, and the rest of the cast brought to the stage.  I spent the entire show singing and dancing along in my seat.

Before the show got under way.

I think that the cast nailed the characters perfectly -- which can be difficult when performing a show like Hairspray, which appeared in theaters within the past few years, so audience members may relate to the highly recognizable and notable actors who have played these characters in the past.

Mid show. Terrible Pic. My apologies.  Just go see it for yourself.

Incredibly kudos to this year's cast of Hairspray and everyone at Park Playhouse who works to put these productions together every year.  It consistently is one of my favorite parts of summer in Albany and a unique event that this area has to offer that makes me happy to be able to call Capital Region my home. 

 And SPECIAL props to this year's Corny Collins, for an insanely fun and spot on performance.  I was so happy to be a part of your cheering crowd on Tuesday night and see you shine!!

Brian, his intense stage makeup, and I after the show!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Another Wednesday has come & gone!

Another Wednesday, which means another Weight Watchers weigh in.  I'm happy to say I had a successful weigh in again this week.  I'm a little nervous as I'm heading out on vacation and don't want to mess up the progress I've made "getting back on track."  I still have a ways to go until I am back to where I was at my lowest -- hope to keep moving the needle in the right direction!

A quick photo of lunch today.  Seriously delicious, if you need a non-traditional lunch (or dinner) to mix up your menu.  Yogurt, strawberries, and granola.  And a Diet Root Beer.  Eaten during a meeting, per usual for me.  And just as an FYI, I buy my granola from the bulk food section of the grocery store because I never eat as much as a full box so with the bulk section I can buy just a small amount.  When I get home from the grocery store, I measure out 1/4 cup servings and put them into zip lock baggies.  I keep them in the freezer to keep the granola crunchy in this humid, sticky summer heat.  I bring the strawberries into work in the tupperware so in the mornings I just grab strawberries, a yogurt, and a bag of granola from the freezer.  It is quick and easy and keeps me full.  I keep spoons stockpiled in one of my drawers at work and I am one of the luckiest girls ever because the vending machine on my floor has diet A&W root beer, WHICH I LOVE!  Bon appetite!

[I took a picture of it today because someone in my meeting commented that it was an odd lunch, which made me laugh because it is pretty normal for me.  To each his own!]

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Race Recap: My first sprint triathlon!!

Yesterday I achieved one of my lifelong goals and completed my first sprint triathlon!  I swam, biked, and ran in the Fronhofer's Tool Triathlon in Cambridge, NY.  It was a really fun day and I feel quite proud of myself for this accomplishment and for reaching out and tackling this goal.  I was warned that triathlons are "addicting" and I might find myself hooked after this one.  And although I wouldn't quite go as far as saying I'm "addicted" -- I would like to do another!

I started prepping for the race months ago and building a training workout.  I wasn't as disciplined as I would have liked to be over the past couple months but it was a motivating factor in getting in some tough workouts and practicing exercise transitions.  The week before the race I started to get focused on really eating healthy, fueling foods for my body, drinking lots of water, and making sure to get a lot of sleep.  I wanted to have no excuses come race day!

I'm a lucky girl and my mom was nice enough to come out to NY from Rhode Island to come with me to the race (and see my new apartment!)  Being an avid exerciser, I know it was tough for her to watch me in a race and not be able to compete herself (we've done a number of races together) so I really, really appreciated her cheering me on!

The race was a little unique as the sprint triathlon started at 2:00 p.m.  The Olympic distance of this race started in the early morning, and since they have some [crazy] competitors who compete in both Olympic and Sprint, they hold the Sprint later on.  This meant that when we arrived at Lake Lauderdale in Cambridge, NY at around 12:30 p.m. there was already a bustling crowd and high energy.

I checked in for the race, got marked with my bib number, and was even able to get an incredibly helpful tune up for my bike from the people at Saratoga's Blue Sky bike shop who were on site.  The Blue Sky staff were so kind and so willing to help out -- completely for free for race participants!!  I wanted to be sure to call them out here, because they were so so wonderful!

Once my bike was all set, we set up my stuff at the transition area.  It was really organized, by bib numbers.  I didn't really know what I was doing so I just copied what everybody else was doing, lay out my sneakers, socks, some Powerade, a protein bar in case I needed it, a towel, helmet, sunglasses, etc.

We then found a little place to hang out where I could stretch, rest up for the swim, and flex my muscles for you all :)

At 1:45 we gathered for a pre-race meeting where they explained the rules to us.  Perhaps it is the same at every triathlon, but as they were explaining the many "rules" my pre-race jitters went into full force at this point.  I was already nervous but all of a sudden I felt like there was so much to remember! What if I messed something up?  I was so amped up for the day, I would have been so bummed if I had been disqualified for breaking some weird rule or something!

Don't laugh! I am sharing this picture because I love you.
The race went in two waves, men first and then women.  I had heard stories of getting kicked in the face and random stuff like that during tris and I wanted NO part in that so I decided to go to the front of the pack for the swim.  Why the heck not, right?

The race started well and I felt good in the water.  I tried to just keep my head down, pretend I was in a pool, count my breathing, and just get comfortable in the water.  I had to poke my head up a few times to make sure I was headed in the right direction and to navigate around people but for the most part, I just swam.  I also was thinking to use my arms as much as possible to save my legs a bit for the rest of the race.  Generally when I swim, I have to remind myself to use my legs, so it was a nice change of pace to feel comfortable really just focusing on my pulls.

During the swim I had no idea how I was doing in comparison to everyone else and really just tried to pave my own way and focus on feeling strong in the water.  However, when I started catching up to some of the male swimmers (who had started 4 minutes before the women) it gave me some confidence.

When I finished the .5 mile triangle-shaped lake swim and ran to the shore, I felt good.  I left the water and with my mom cheering for me I headed to the first transition area.  I threw on my shoes, bib number, sunglasses, helmet, grabbed some water, and headed out on my bike.

Now, the bike portion is what I trained for the least.  I anticipated the ride would be about an hour and I didn't really prepare for the race well in terms of gear... I realized once I was on my bike I had no way to gauge how far I'd gone, what time it was, or really anything at all.  It was just me and my bike.

Annnd I pretty much hated almost the whole ride.  The first five miles were incredibly hilly!  One hill was so steep that people were actually off their bikes and walking up.  As well, people just kept passing me and passing me and passing me.  I literally felt like I must be in last place at this point because EVERYONE was passing me.  I did realize I probably had a stronger swim than some of these people who were stronger bikers (most triathletes I know have the hardest part with the swim, whereas that is probably where I feel strongest) but it was still depressing to be pedaling up at a hill in my lowest gear hating my life and having people fly past me!

When I saw a marker for five miles in I thought to myself, "Are you kidding me? That's all we've done so far?!?!"  Ugh.  I was already drained.

And then, it started to rain.  Light at first so it almost felt good, but then harder and harder.  The sky got darker and big pelts of rain that HURT when they hit me started to fall.  Then the thunder and lightning started.

For anybody that knows me, I am terrified of thunder and lightning.  I hate it.  It scares the crap out of me and I'm always convinced that I, or whatever building or car I am in, is going to get hit.  And here I was on a bike, on the side of some road, with corn fields all around me, with nowhere to go and no clue what to do.  So I just kept riding.  Through the pouring rain and thunder and lightning.  I started to imagine the headlines of "Albany Girl Dies During Triathlon When Struck By Lightning" and the irony akin to what Alanis Morissette sings about.  Getting struck by lightning trying to accomplish one of my lifelong goals.  Lovely.

This part of the race truly SUCKED and I just was hoping around every corner to see the turn that brought us back to the transition areas and meant the bike portion of the race was almost over.  This marks the only time in my life where the thought has ever been in my mind of, "I just wish it was time to run right now.  I just really, really want to be running right now!"

Eventually, the bike portion came to an end -- and at that same time, the thunder, lightning and rain let up as well.  The bike to run transition was pretty easy.  I dropped my helmet and bike, grabbed some water, and headed out to run (of course, fixing my hair first as you can see in the picture below.)

Off I go!
My legs felt like lead.  I had practiced this transition and I knew I just needed to get into a groove but I just felt so heavy, my legs did not want to move.  And it didn't help that my shoes were filled with water and squashing around.

I had a few goals going into the race.  One was simple -- to finish.  The other was to finish in under 2 hours.  And one I ended up giving up .75 miles into the run -- which was to finish the run without walking.  During the first uphill section of the run, I had to walk.  I finished the rest of the 5K running mostly, but with a few walks here and there to rest a little.  I was determined to finish strong and ran the last .75 miles repeating the mantra "Just keep going. Just keep going. Just keep going and then it's done," over and over in my head!

It was amazing to see the finish line ahead and know how close I was.  It was comforting and exciting to hear my mom cheering for me at the end.  And it STILL feels so good to know that I accomplished something I've always, always wanted to do, finishing a sprint triathlon!

Smiling at the finish :)
The clock said 2:03 when I crossed the line so I was a little bummed to think I was so close to my goal, but missed it.  However, when I said this to my mom, she reminded me that the clock started 4 minutes before when I actually started because of the men's swim heat.  And sure enough -- my official time was 1:59:43!!!!  Not too bad for not having a CLUE where or what my time was like throughout the entire race :)

Immediately after the race.  All smiles!
I, of course, celebrated the only way I know how -- eating.  And eating enough that the entire race was irrelevant in terms of calories burned.  But oh well, whatever.

Thanks Mom, for the lovely picture :)
This morning, the race results were posted online.  It turns out, I did really, really well in the swim portion of the race.  I finished the swim first in my age group, and 31st overall out of the 173 people who competed.  I swam a faster time than more than half of the top 10 men and top 10 women in the race.  And two minutes faster than the woman who won!  I guess that really was why SO MANY people were passing me during the bike portion :)

I also finished the run in about 34 minutes -- which is faster than my 5K time from about a year ago and still about an 11 minute mile, even after having swam and biked and walking some of the run!

So, all in all.  I feel great about how I did.  And I know I will have to do at least one more so I can tackle that run without having to walk.  My first 5K and my first 10K I ever did I had to walk a portion of them and have since gone back and beaten those goals.  So with more training and experience, I know I can do this too :)

Happy Sunday everyone!

P.S.  Thank you to the many people who "Liked" and commented on this picture on Facebook.  As always, your support and encouragement means so much to me!!