Author: Heather

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

Off to the O.C.!*

Ocean City

*Ocean City, that is. I’m en route to my summer shareВ Mal and Peter’s and looking forward to a long weekend at the beach! The weather forecast isВ finallyВ warm and sunny, so I’m hoping to spend all three days lounging on the sand and listening to the surf. I’m feeling a bit beach-deprived (especially since the weather in NYC has been so gloomy, lately), so I’m really looking forward to this!

How are you spending the holiday weekend?

A Running Weekend in Saint Michaels, Maryland

Last weekend, the fam and I met Mal and Peter in Saint Michaels, Maryland, to participate in the town’s first annual running festival,В featuring a half-marathon, 10K and 5K. We had a great time! Not only did we have perfect weather, but our races went well, too.

The 10K–my race–was first. The course wound through Saint Michael’s cute downtown, opened onto a road flanked by fields, then looped back through residential side streets and a small park. My favorite part was running through a little covered bridge close to the finish line.В Coming from the city, I thought the scenery was gorgeous. (Mal and Peter–now accustomed to seeing farmland everyday–later said they found the course a little monotonous.)

It had been six years since I ran a road race. Before, I never thought about strategy–I just went off and hoped to sustain an even pace. I always felt like I was going to die toward the end, though. This time, I aimed for a negative split. I ran my first mile at a steady jog. As a competitive person, I’ll admit that it was tough to see tons of people blow by me. But I just reminded myself that I’d be passing them later–and that turned out to be true. I stepped up my pace in the second mile and really increased my speed in the final miles. I was especially glad I took it slow in the beginning because the course, while “flat and fast,” was also hot–there was almost no shade and the temperature was in the 70s by the end of the race.

I felt great when I finished–so good, in fact, that I wondered whether I should have pushed myself more.

My time was 57:28, which equals about 9:16 a mile. That’s well behind my best 10K time of 53:31, but I was still happy with my results–not bad, considering I only restarted running 2 months ago! And now that I have a new base time, my goal is to keep running to chip away at it and try to beat my personal record.

Mal and Peter’s race–the half-marathon–started around the time I finished. So we hung around the finish line to watch the runners come in. I’m always wowed at how fast other people are. The top finisher clocked in at 1 hour, 12 minutes–not much longer than it took me to run less than half the distance.

Mal and Peter came in a little after the 2 hour mark. (They ran together the whole time–so cute!)

We rented a cottage for the weekend, which turned out to be way better than staying at a hotel. I felt more relaxed staying in an actual house and being able to make our own dinner and breakfast before the race. Plus, the aptly named River House, which I found via VRBO, was charming and in a gorgeous location. It had an expansive green yard complete with Adirondack chairs…

…sunny sitting areas…

…airy bedrooms…

…amazing views…

…and, best of all, a long wooden dock perfect for sunbathing and sipping drinks–which I promptly did the minute we got back.

The town of Saint Michaels is equally as charming. Boutiques, restaurants, mom and pop shops, a winery and brewery line the quaint main street. We had a great post-race meal atВ Ava’s,В a local pizzeria and wine bar. Their pies were fantastic–light and crispy with fresh toppings. (I hate to admit it, but they topped the pies I’d eaten a few days earlier atВ Forcella, a newish downtown NYC pizza place.) The previous day, we also had tasty sandwiches at the Big PickleВ and great cookies and doughnuts from Sweetie Bakery.

For our celebratory post-race dinner, we headed to the Crab Claw. To get there, we walked through part of the harbor, passing stately waterfront B&Bs along the way.

The Crab Claw is right over the water and has the perfect ambience for a summer meal. The tables are close to the edge of the pier and there are no ropes or guardrails. We joked about falling in–and then a little kid did, while we were eating! His mother and another patron fished him out. According to our waitress, it happens all the time–and the staffers usually have to jump in and rescue them!

Our waitress told us that due to the weather, the blue crabs they had that weekend weren’t the best. So we opted for snow crab. I was initially disappointed–until the snow crabs came out. They were fantastic and cooked perfectly–a great way to close a super-fun weekend.

Have you taken any running trips/vacations? I’d love to hear where–I’m already looking forward to planning another!

So Thrilled

salar de uyuni

I am beyond happy. I just found out that my two favorite people are officially moving back to New York in a few weeks!

I definitely enjoyed/reaped the benefits of Mal and Peter’s time in Maryland: having beach weekends at my “summer share,” grilling, eating lots of blue crabs. And as much as I’ll miss that, I’m elated that they’ll only be a short Metro-North ride away, as opposed to a torturous six-hour Greyhound trip.

Now that summer officially starts this weekend (summer Fridays = the beginning of the season, in my book), I’m planning to make as many weekend trips to their place as I can, before it’s time to help them pack and haul everything up north. And as for next year? I suppose we’ll have to find an actual summer share closer to NYC.

Yesterday I also found out that one of my best friends is moving to London in September. And while I’m sad about that, I’m also looking forward to meeting up with her in different European cities for weekend jaunts and vacations. New opportunities to travel are always the biggest silver linings to loved ones leaving town!

(Photo: Mal and me at the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia)

Strange and Beautiful Beaches

It’s grey and rainy in NYC today. And after a great weekend of running and basking in fabulous weather (more about that later this week!), I’m dreaming of sunny days at the beach.

So it’s quite appropriate (and a bit of a tease!) that a slideshow I wrote for TravelandLeisure.com came out today. It’s a round-up of the world’s strangest and most beautiful beaches. I had a great time writing the piece and a hard time choosing which beaches to include–I’m always amazed at how many natural wonders exist. Check out some of the gorgeous photos below and read the full story here.

Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas

Thunder Cove, Prince Edward Island

Zlatni Rat Beach, Brac Island, Croatia

Punalu’u Beach, Hawaii

What’s the strangest and most beautiful beach you’ve ever visited? I’d have to say mine is Punalu’u Beach (photo above) on Hawaii’s Big Island. The sand really is jet black and I saw several giant sea turtles!

(All photos via TravelandLeisure.com)

Off to Run!

St. Michaels Photos

I’m heading to Maryland this weekend, but I’m not going to my sister’s place, as usual. Instead, we’re meeting in Saint Michaels, a historic town on the Chesapeake. We rented a lake house, but won’t be chillaxin’ the whole time. Mal and Peter are running a half-marathonВ (so excited to cheer them on!). And I’m running a 10K.

I went through a 5-year running phase during my early to mid-20s. I ran a half-marathon, two 10Ks and a few shorter road races. But a couple years ago, I decided to restart ballet and couldn’t balance both activities. So I gave up running and didn’t miss it at all. Until recently. Mal and Peter’s half-marathon training motivated me to jog twice a week on non-ballet days. And I’ve been enjoying it way more than I remembered.

Some of the best runs I’ve had were during my recent weekend trips. I loved running along Chicago’s Lake Trail

В …and by the canal houses in my sister’s Maryland neighborhood…

Ocean Pines, Maryland

…and when I was in Boston, I was so happy to complete one of my all-time favorite runs: the loop from Harvard to MIT–especially the run over the Mass Ave. bridge. (That was the one nostalgic thing I managed to do that weekend–and good, too, to work off the calories I consumed!)

I’d originally planned to run a 5K this weekend. But I felt so good during those long runs that I signed up for the 10K.

The other day, I found my time for the last 10K I ran in–back in 2005. I finished in 53:31. I have no idea how I’ll do tomorrow, but I don’t think I’m going to be as fast. Overall, I feel like I’m in better shape now, but I’ve only been running for two months. The bulk of my exercise is ballet, which really is my first love. So I’m going to be proud of whatever time I get–though of course I’m hoping to come close to that old number!

Got any last-minute running advice for me? I’d love to hear your tips!

(Top photo via TripAdvisor)

Restaurant Recipe Recreation: Stella’s Orecchiette with Cured Tomatoes and Sausage

When I was in Boston a few weekends ago, I ate a lot of great food. But one meal that particularly stuck in my mind was Stella’sВ orecchiette with chile flake, sausage and cured tomato. I was surprised at richness and the depth of flavor in such a seemingly simple dish. It was hearty with a fresh, robust tomato sauce. I was still thinking about it this weekend, so I recreated a version of it on Sunday.

I hadn’t cured tomatoes before, so I used this recipeВ as a guide.В I washed, scored, boiled, peeled and cut 2 pounds of grape and cherry tomatoes. (The recipe called for Romas and I would definitely use them next time. I just happened to have these little guys on hand and used them anyway because I’m a pro at making things more difficult for myself, even though it took much longer to peel all of them.)

Next, I seasoned the tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, placed them on a baking sheet and sprinkled sliced garlic on top. They went into the oven at 200 degrees F for 45 minutes.

Later in the evening, I prepared a box of orrecchiette. While the pasta cooked, I browned spicy chicken sausage. (I opted for that over pork to make the dish a little healthier.) When the meat was almost cooked, I added the cured tomatoes.

Once the pasta was al dente, I mixed the orecchiette with the tomatoes, sausages and a generous handful of chopped basil. В I was so happy with how the dish came out. It was a little less rich than Stella’s (due to swapping pork for chicken) but just as tasty–and so pretty, too!

Orecchiette with Cured Tomatoes and Chicken Sausage (inspired by Stella‘s Orecchiette with Chile Flake, Sausage and Cured Tomatoes; cured tomatoes adapted from Cork’s Oil-Cured Tomatoes)

Ingredients:

2 lbs tomatoes (I used a mix of grape and cherry tomatoes, though it’s probably best to use Romas)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for cooking the sausage

Salt and pepper to taste

6 cloves garlic, sliced

1 lb orecchiette

1 lb spicy chicken sausage, casing removed

a handful of fresh basil, chopped

Directions:

1. Wash and score tomatoes on the side opposite stem. Place in boiling water for 20 seconds. Scoop out and immediately dunk in an ice bath. Remove skin and seeds. Cut into halves or quarters.

2. Toss tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread onto a baking sheet and sprinkle garlic on top. Bake at 200 degrees F for 45 minutes. Once cool, let tomatoes marinate in a container for at least two hours.

3. Cook orecchiette according to package directions. Once done, drain, reserving one cup pasta water.

4. In the meantime, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and break up into pieces. Once nearly cooked through, add cured tomatoes, pasta and pasta water, if needed. Toss in basil before serving.