Author: Heather

I love travel, ballet, cats and my hometown of NYC.

Christoph Niemann’s “Summer Sky” New Yorker Cover

Christoph Niemann is amazing.

I’ve long been a huge fan (remember I LEGO N.Y.?!) and for years have followed his quirky, creative work in the NYT, the New Yorker and via his Twitter account.

Not surprisingly, I’m loving his animated illo, “Summer Sky,” for this week’s New Yorker cover. It’s so whimsical and bright and just makes me smile.

Summer Sky, by Christoph Niemann

…now if only it felt more like summer in NYC!

(Image via the New Yorker)

Race Recap: Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay

Last month, Evan and I went north to run the Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay. The race was in Biddeford, a small town about halfway between Kennebunkport and Portland.

We had a great four days in the area with Mal, Peter and my mom, who came up to cheer us on. (Photos and recommendations in another post!) The beaches were quiet and pretty, and the small towns had some good food. But the highlight of the weekend was, of course, the race.

Like most half-marathon relays, the 13.1 mile course was split up into two legs: a first leg of 7.25 miles, and a second of 5.85 miles. Evan opted to do the longer half.

Going into it, I wasn’t sure how my time would be. Evan and I didn’t train as much as we could have. As usual, I based my training around my ballet schedule, adding one day at the gym and one outdoor run, each week. Evan did about two days at the gym and one outdoor run, a week. Not bad, but not a ton of mileage. Based on our training runs, I figured Evan would go around 12 minutes per mile, and I’d go around 9:15, putting our total finish time at about 2 hours, 15 minutes.

The race started on Saturday morning, at the University of New England. At 7 a.m., Mal, Peter and my mom dropped us off, and they headed to the relay exchange point, a couple miles away, near the coast.

The weather was perfect for running: overcast and cool, in the 50s—but it was freezing waiting around for an hour!

Finally, at a few minutes to 8, they called runners to the starting line.

Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay | nycexpeditionist.com

Evan was in the fourth and final wave; I waited alongside him, on the other side of the corral. We snapped pictured and got excited as the other waves took off, every three minutes.

When they released Evan’s wave, I cheered him on and watched as he ran out of sight. Then I boarded a cheese bus that was transporting us second leg relay runners to the exchange place.

Once we arrived, I met up with my family. I was so glad they were there!

Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay | nycexpeditionist.com

Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay | nycexpeditionist.com

Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay | nycexpeditionist.com

I sat in Mal’s car toВ beat the chill—this is one problem I’ve noticed with relay races. The second runner ends up waiting around outside for hours, making it hard to stay warm.

The lead runners started coming in amazingly soon. The second one who arrived was actually a relay runner who tagged his teammate. A few other runners zoomed in, including relayers. Those runners were hardcore! They tagged each other the way they do in the Olympics and other big races, with the second runner starting to run as the first is coming in, so they’re in motion together.

…that was something I had never thought of doing! 😉

Within a half hour, more runners were coming through. After it had been more than an hour since the start, I decided it was time to head into the relay corral to wait for Evan.

I watched other relay runners come in and tag their teammates. Seeing the exchanges was one of my favorite parts of the race. Teams were made up of all sorts of relationships: couples, friends, siblings, parents and their adult kids. Everyone was so excited as they came in and hugged or tagged their partner.

I started to get a little nervous when I realized I was one of the last relayers left. But then, my mom and Mal shouted that they saw Evan in the distance. I was so proud and excited that I couldn’t help but jump up and down and wave. When he reached me, he was all smiles. I gave him a big hug, but he shook me off, saying, “Go! Go!”

The first few miles were my favorite. The road went through a residential area, so I ran by pretty shore houses. The ocean gleamed beyond.

Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay | nycexpeditionist.com

Some runners were taking photos along the way (!!) but I’m not coordinated enough to snap pictures while running. Plus, my competitive nature wanted me to clock in with my best possible time.

Because I was on fresh legs, I steadily passed other runners. (And felt kind of bad about it, since they were running the full 13.1 miles!) In a way, it became like a game that helped me get through the run—target someone to gradually pass, then target someone else once I had.

The Maine Coast Half Marathon is a race that’s mostly run on roads that are still open to traffic. (As was the Saint Michaels race we ran in Maryland three years ago.) Initially, I was worried about this—running a race is trying enough, and I didn’t want to think about getting hit by a car while doing so. But the race organizers and Biddeford law enforcement did a great job. They directed traffic around the runners, and held it up, when necessary. And for most of the race, there were very few cars on the road.

Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay | nycexpeditionist.com

I felt great for most of my run—strong and upbeat as I ran along the coastal road, then made my way back inland, among houses and trees.

Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay | nycexpeditionist.com

As usual, I started getting antsy towards the end. The last half-mile or so is always the toughest for me, when I just want the race to be over.

The course ended in a clever way. The final stretch went back into the University of New England campus, then through a small underpass that led right to the spectators near the finish line.

It was there where I saw Mal, Peter, Evan and my mom cheering me on. Clearly, I was thrilled to see them!

Maine Coast Half Marathon Bosom Buddy Relay | nycexpeditionist.com

The finish line was right beyond. OurВ final time was 2:07:08—much faster than I had expected! Evan ended up running about 10:20 a mile, and I ran an average pace of 8:53.

Shipyard Brewing Co. sponsored the race, so there was free beer at the end, as well as pizza from the Portland Pie Co.В But we didn’t stick around the festivities for too long. I was looking forward to celebrating my finish with a few crustaceous meals elsewhere!

Whimsical Summer Plates

Speaking of summer—have you seen these new plates from Anthropologie?

I couldn’t help but smile when I saw them, because they depict my favorite season and all the related activities that make me so happy.

Like crab boils

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…and music and dance that remind me of my Latin America trips

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…and spending time on the water.

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Now if only I had beach house where I could use them at a summer dinner party…

F34964338_069_b15

(Images via Anthropologie)

Hello, Summer!

Sunny Isles, Fla. | nycexpeditionist.com

Oh, yes. It’s here, again—my favorite weekend when the best time of year officially begins.

Hello, summer!

I haven’t been posting as much as I’d like to, in the past several months. Life has been a bit crazy in all areas: work, ballet, personal. Though I haven’t shared details here, it’s actually been a very trying time with lots of ups and downs.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t usher in my favorite season—because I’ve so been looking forward to every bitВ of it: long, hot days; weekends at the beach; quick shore getaways; bbqs; summer Fridays (!!!); a likely vacation at the end of August. Plus, some very exciting ballet and family stuff going on.

Will keep you posted on all that. But in the meantime, here’s to sunny days!

(Photo of Sunny Isles, Fla. via Mallory Eng Burger)

NYC Cooking Afternoon: League of Kitchens Workshop

And in other Evan-Heather adventures: For Christmas, just like his birthday, I wanted to give Evan something that the two of us could share.

Instead of going on another trip, I opted for a local experience.

Evan loves food. In fact, I think he’s more passionate about eating and trying different types of cuisine than he is about anything else.

So I thought that a League of Kitchens cooking class would be perfect for us.

The idea is that home cooks make some of the best food—especially dishes that are handed down through generations and made with love for family and friends. The League of Kitchens partners with NYC immigrant cooks who teach small groups of students their signature recipes in their homes. They offer several types of cuisine: Trinidadian, Argentinian, Indian, Korean, and more.

Evan chose a vegetarian Bengali class for the two of us.

And that’s how we found ourselves deep in Bay Ridge, a few weeks ago, in the cozy home of a woman named Afsari.

The workshop started with a snack of tea and samosas, while Afsari told Evan, three other students and me a little about herself. She’s from Bangladesh and has one son. In addition to teaching with the League of Kitchens, she’s also a cooking instructor at the nonprofit Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York. She caters events, as well. Afsari’s signature dish, which she described to us with pride, is rice pudding, which takes two hours to make.The plan was to make that rice pudding, as well as some other items. The menu for the day was quite ambitious:

  • Palak Paneer (spiced spinach with homemade farmer’s cheese)
  • Gobi Masala (cauliflower and potato in a spiced tomato and coconut sauce)
  • Begun Pora (roasted eggplant with mustard oil)
  • Plain Chapati (flat bread)
  • Firni (rice pudding)

I could see why the workshop was 5.5 hours long!

Afsari started us on various tasks: slicing vegetables, shelling pistachios, cutting herbs.

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

She’d demonstrate how to do something…

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

…like frying eggplant in a cast iron skillet, stirring rice pudding, or rolling and heating bread…

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

…and then we’d jump in.

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

Hours later, once all the dishes were complete, we sat down to enjoy everything we’d created.

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

For me, theВ food was like cleaner, healthier versions of the food found at most local Indian places.

The palak paneer and, of course, the rice pudding were my favorites. And everything tasted even better the day after, once the flavors had some time to meld in.

League of Kitchens Workshop | NYCExpeditionist.com

The class was understandably a bit pricey, so it’s not something I could see myself doing frequently. But for a special occasion or couple’s activity, it was definitely a fun and tasty way to spend the afternoon.

A Birthday Weekend in the Hudson Valley

A few weekends ago, Evan and I escaped NYC to celebrate his birthday.

He asked that I plan the whole trip and make it a surprise—which made it both easier and harder for me!

I decided that since we weren’t taking time off from work, I wanted to keep travel time to under two hours. And I know that Evan loves being in the country, so I focused on places with a farm-like vibe.

I spent weeks down the trip research rabbit hole as I decided for, then against numerous places: a farm b&b that my parents recommendedbut seemed too much like other trips Evan and I had taken. A North Fork b&b on a vineyard—that ended up being booked the weekend we wanted to go away. A Woodstock b&b that I reserved, then cancelled when we changed our trip weekend. A number of awesomelooking places that I loved, but seemed more my style than his.

After weeks of searching, I finally stumbled upon an Airbnb listing that immediately said: “Evan!!!”

It was for a small, Ulster County cottage on what was once a farm. It looked bright and airy with plank wood floors and doors. And it was less than two hours from the city.

I booked it right away.

Evan and I drove up on a Friday after work. The cottage’s owner, Reinhold, met us upon our arrival.

Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYC Expeditionist

It turns out that he and his wife Lisette, an architect, fashioned the cottage out of a chicken coop.

Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYCExpeditionist.com

Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYCExpeditionist.com

The couple splits their time between there and NYC.

I could certainly see why—we loved being there.

Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYCExpeditionist.com

The setting was so quiet and peaceful.

We loved the two barns that sit on the property.

Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYCExpeditionist.com

Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYCExpeditionist.com

Evan made friends with Batman, Lisette and Reinhold’s cat.

It turns out that he also splits his time between the city and country!

Batman, Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYCExpeditionist.com

Farmstead Cottage, Stone Ridge | NYCExpeditionist.com

The location couldn’t have been better. The cottage is in Stone Ridge, a small town that’s near other cute, small towns, like Kingston, New Paltz, Accord, High Falls and Rosendale.

In each town, we met other NYC expats, or people who share their time between there and the city.

I have to say: I now want to be one of them!

Some highlights:

Evan and I had dinner at Boitson’s on Friday night. A Williamsburg expat runs the hopping restaurant/bar, and it’s one of the few places that served dinner after 10. We were happy with this as our first meal of the trip—we especially liked the cocktails, deviled eggs and bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese.

The next morning, we drove to the Village Tea Room, in New Paltz. Like many restaurants in the area, they source most ingredients locally.

Village Tea Room, New Paltz | NYCExpeditionist.com

We enjoyed their corn pudding and the madeleines we took on the road.

On the way back, we passed through Stone Ridge, and a big barn with a yard full of antiques caught our eye. We stopped to browse. It turned out to be Field and Barn, an antiques expo, that had even more gorgeous, rustic finds inside.

Field and Barn, High Falls | NYCExpeditionist.com

We also went into Fred, a boutique with beautiful new and vintage furnishings. While Evan and I didn’t realize it, we were shopping alongside Daniel Craig and Rachael Weisz, who made a purchase.

In an effort to train for our upcoming road race, Evan and I attempted to run in Minnewaska State Park. Let’s just say, it did not go well. Ice and snow covered so much of the trails that we really couldn’t run.

The lake was pretty, though!

Minnewaska State Park | NYCExpeditionist.com

Minnewaska State Park | NYCExpeditionist.com

Afterwards, we had awesome lunch of bratwurst, sauerbraten and beer at Gunk Haus

…and later on, a fabulous dinner at A Tavola, an Italian restaurant in New Paltz. That was our favorite meal of the trip. Our upstairs table was quiet and romantic and we loved everything we ordered: pappardelle bolognese, and an outstanding fish special in a tomato lobster sauce. (At one point, Evan turned to me and said it was the best fish he’d ever eaten. I wholeheartedly agreed!)

The next day, we went to the spa at Mohonk Mountain House. We’d both had so much going on, lately, that I thought we could use some pampering.

The hotel, itself, is insane—we drove nearly two miles down its “driveway” before reaching it. The building is ultra-dramatic—it doesn’t seem like such an old world, castle-looking place would exist there.

The spa, however, was perfectly low-key and tranquil. Evan and I got a much-needed couples massage—that was among the best I’ve had—and relaxed in the whirlpool before heading back to the city.