Experience | Blossom at Columbus + My Fair Lady

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Monday, October 29, 2018

"The woman who does not require validation from anyone is the most feared individual on the planet."- Mohadesa Najumi

One of my most favorite things I look forward to all year is when my mom and I go on the Sisterhood's bus trip to New York. We leave the synagogue around 8:30am, get up to New York around 10:45, and then walk around the city and get lunch. At 2pm, we see a Broadway show matinee. Afterwards, we board the bus and make our way back home. 

This trip was particularly wonderful, as both the restaurant at which we dined and the show we saw were both outstanding. Check out what we ate and watched below!

Blossom on Columbus | Per my usual way of researching restaurants, I discovered Blossom on Columbus on Yelp. Both the menu and location from the theater was appealing and therefore we made the decision to check it out. I must say, we were both blown away!

We arrived a little after noon and the narrow, yet deep, restaurant was close to empty. We were able to get a cozy booth and receive immediate attention from our waiter. After perusing the menu for several minutes, my mom and I chose the kale salad, quinoa burger, and you-pick-four small tastes of roasted brussels sprouts, broccolini, mesclun salad, and truffle mashed potatoes. I also ordered a green tea and our waters were refilled consistently. As a gluten-free vegan, I really appreciated the all gluten-free items on the menu are clearly denoted, of which, there are many.

Our meals arrived very quickly, which was appreciated since we were both really hungry. The kale salad was substantial and topped with almonds, shittake bacon, and dressed with avocado-lime dressing. As a kale lover, I really enjoyed this salad. I will say, however, that the shiitake "bacon" really just tasted like burnt, crispy mushrooms. Luckily, I love the taste of slightly burnt food!

My mom's quinoa burger was quite a show stopper. It was large and very substantial, and came with sweet potato fries. We also asked it to be made on a gluten-free bun so I could also have some. The burger was super filling and slightly spicy. My mom ate the burger, but left a majority of the bun since it was so much food. We both enjoyed the sweet potato fries, although they were a bit on the soggy side.

The you-pick-five small tastes was a complete hit for both of us. Our favorite was by far the brussels sprouts, which were perfectly roasted and crispy. I also really liked the broccolini, which had a bit of kick to it with red pepper flakes, and the mesclun salad, which had a nice pear dressing. My mom really liked the mashed potatoes. 

We both left the restaurant feeling very satisfied but not overly full and gross. We walked back to the theater plotting our next trip to the restaurant and how we'll order two sides of the brussels sprouts.


My Fair Lady | My Fair Lady was performed at the Lincoln Center Theater. By far, it was the fanciest and largest Broadway Theater I ever attended. It was clean and provided ample space for the large audience. I had never seen My Fair Lady before and was not sure how much I'd enjoy it. But, I thought it was terrific!

The first thing I realized when the show started was that Lauren Ambrose played Eliza Doolittle. I noticed her red hair and recognized her voice immediately. Not only is she a wonderful actor but she has an absolutely incredible voice. She definitely took the show to the next level.

My Fair Lady is a longer show; the first act alone is almost two hours! The show ended around 5:15. However, I was not bored or falling asleep at all. The music was spectacular; I had no idea so many well known songs are from My Fair Lady! The ending was a bit vague and different from the movie's ending. However, my mom and I appreciated the feminist undertone.

We both loved My Fair Lady and highly recommend it! Lauren Ambrose is so wonderful and worth the trip alone.


Travel | Las Vegas, Nevada

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Monday, October 1, 2018

"It's not the appearance, it's the essence. It's not the money, it's the education. It's not the clothes, it's the class."- Coco Chanel

At the end of July, I visited Las Vegas for the second time. Even though I do not drink, smoke, go clubbing, gamble, etc., I really love Las Vegas.

First of all, I'm a summer baby and am most comfortable in warm weather. The combination of the heat and no humidity in Las Vegas is very perfect for me.

Secondly, I love bright, colorful lights and architecture, and find Las Vegas really beautiful at night.

Third, the food.

Check out below for what I did, ate, and where I stayed.


Las Vegas Strip | The bright lights and ornate architecture make Las Vegas quite magical at night. The warm, non-humid weather is perfect for walking the strip at night. There are so many visually appealing buildings, fountains, escalators, and other pieces of architecture to see at every turn. My work colleague understands and appeases my love of the bright lights and walked to and from dinner with me both nights.


Cafe Belle Madeleine | When I'm traveling for work, the last thing I want to do is go on a scavenger hunt for breakfast every morning. Since I always travel with Larabars, I keep it really easy and simple by only needing fruit, coffee, and, of course, water, to supplement my morning meal. Luckily Paris Hotel (where we stayed) had a cute little bakery on the ground floor called Cafe Belle Madeleine. I really loved their fruit cup which, in addition to the standard watermelon and cantaloupe, also contained blackberries and blueberries. I found it very satisfying. However, on both mornings, I was unable to get a large coffee because they had run out of the large cups and instead had to get a medium. On the first morning, in my half asleep haze when I was told, "We're only serving medium sized coffee," I responded with, "I don't know what that means." 


Sushi Samba | I have been looking forward to going back to Sushi Samba ever since my colleague and I went last year. The sushi at this place is incredible. I love the low lighting and ambiance. Even the bathroom is super dark, which is a little disconcerting, but it works.

For my appetizer, I ordered the steamed edamame, which is a staple for me anytime I go to a Japanese restaurant. It's difficult to mess up edamame and, truth be told, tastes the same no matter where it is ordered. The green tea, however, is definitely noteworthy. It is frothy, super green, and delicious. For my main course, I ordered an avocado roll and two Amazonia rolls which contain collard greens, portobello mushroom, takuwan, cucumber, and avocado. I told our waiter that I was gluten-free and confirmed that the Amazonia is topped with a wasabi-onion soy sauce, which contains gluten, but can be made without the sauce. 

When I was presented with my rolls, it was obvious that the soy sauce was drizzled on top. I called the waiter over and asked him about it, but he assured me that they were gluten-free. In my normal skeptical fashion, I didn't trust him, and started eating the avocado rolls. Sure enough, about a minute later, he came back to our table and took away my Amazonia rolls saying there had been a mistake. I waited for about 15+ minutes for my new, gluten-free rolls to be served. My colleague was very irritated and said I should complain. Once my new rolls arrived, I ate them quickly because I was so hungry and could not savor them as much as I had the previous year. However, they were very delicious and I still considered them to be the best sushi I ever had... until the following night.


Andrea's at The Encore | Andrea's at Encore stole the show. My colleague and I had made reservations based solely on the fact that all restaurants at the Wynn and Encore have a special vegan menu. We had no idea that it would be so fancy!

I ordered the edamame with truffle salt. Honestly, I could not taste the truffle salt, and my colleague, who considers herself a great lover of truffle salt, could not taste it either. It was still delicious. Once my main course of two vegetable rolls and one avocado + asparagus roll arrived, I was in vegan sushi heaven. Not only was the presentation gorgeous, but the sushi was absolutely delicious. The vegetables were super fresh, I almost felt like I was eating a fresh salad in sushi form. After I finished my rolls, I ordered another vegetable roll as my "dessert" while my colleague had actual dessert.

Not only was the food incredible, but the service was the most on point that I have ever experienced. We received such attentive service, from our water being refilled, to an individual solely in charge of leading diners to the restroom. Along with the overall simplistic elegance, beauty, and cleanliness of the restaurant, this was the highlight of our trip and the best dining experience of my life.



Paris Hotel | My colleague is a Francophile and booked our stay at the Paris Hotel. We had stayed at another casino the year before and found it dated, not super clean, and overwhelmingly smelling of smoke. This year, we decided that it was important to stay at a hotel that was superior to the previous year's experience. The Paris Hotel did not disappoint. The ground floor is decorated as a Paris cafe and is lovely to walk though. All of the rooms are beautifully decorated and super clean. We both loved the French ambiance and overall decor. My colleague and I also spent some time in the hotel's shops, and she may or may not have spent $115 on a sweatshirt and $50 on an outfit for her infant daughter. YOLO. Paris is definitely our go-to hotel for next year.


Experience | Skagway, Alaska: White Pass + Yukon Route Railroad

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Monday, August 27, 2018

"I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center."- Kurt Vonnegut

White Pass + Yukon Route Railroad | My most favorite excursion of the Alaska trip was hands down the White Pass + Yukon Route Railroad Train. This ride is 41 miles round trip, leaving from Skagway, Alaska, entering into the summit of the White Pass in British Columbia, and then returning back to Skagway. For the majority of the ride, you are elevated nearly 3,000 feet and traveling along the edges of Alaskan mountains. 

The train is a connection of 10-12 smaller cars, each complete with its own (very clean!) bathroom and wood burning heater. We originally chose a car with several small, very loud children. Luckily, the conductor allowed us to move to the first car, even though the ride had begun and we were explicitly told on several occasions that once the train started, moving from car to car was prohibited. Of course, it helped that my dad had introduced himself to the conductor before the ride began and they became very friendly; the conductor was very fond of "Chalie from Philadelphia." We always poke fun of my dad for insisting on getting on a first name basis with literally everyone, no matter where we are, and in this case, it definitely worked to our advantage. After making our way to the very quiet first car, we were able to relax and cozy up in the warmth of the wood-burning heater, which gave off the most lovely woodsy, or as I say, "up the mountains" scent.

Once the trip began, we were quickly traveling among the Alaskan mountainside, complete with large, luscious trees and long, winding rivers below. Riders had the opportunity to stand outside of the cars in a small space with a guard rail to take pictures and be one with the surroundings. Even though it was very scary due to the height at which we were traveling and how unprotected I truly was from tumbling to my death, I am so glad I challenged myself to experience everything this train ride had to offer. I went outside on numerous occasions to take photos and get the views that individuals that stayed within the confines of the train car would not be able to experience. It was truly a YOLO moment.

The trip takes about 3.5 hours roundtrip. However, we were super lucky and traveled an additional 12 miles, which equated to a total of about 4 hours. Apparently, the train engineer picks one ride a day to take the extended trip and we were the fortuitous recipients. During the entire trip, we had a wonderful guide that spoke across the loudspeaker. He was funny, insightful, and very knowledgable about the history of the Yukon Route. We learned so much from him and were happy to say a quick hello as he walked around at the end of the ride to meet the riders.

This train ride really put into perspective the truly illustrious and awe-inspiring Alaska terrain. Among the trees and mountains, all of life's anxieties and worries fade away. How can anything in our tiny, insignificant lives matter when you are with Earth's most beautiful creations? In the current book I am reading, the author talks about how events that inspire awe within us have the ability to dissolve our mental anguish. If only everyone was able to travel to the Alaskan mountainside, maybe anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications would become superfluous. This experience also reinforced my vision for the future in which Dayv and I live in a little home among the trees and nature where we can live quiet, intentional lives. In this future, I also return to Alaska on several occasions.


Experience | Juneau, Alaska: Glacier Gardens + Mendenhall Glacier

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Monday, August 20, 2018

"Listen to your heart. It knows all things, because it came from the soul of the world, and it will one day return there."- Paulo Coelho

Glacier Gardens | Glacier Gardens was another magnificent and life changing excursion that I will never forget. A man named Steve bought this 50 acre plot of land after it had been devastated due to a landslide. As a landscape architect, he was able to envision its potential, even though it was filled with overturned trees. His solution was to create "flower towers" with these trees, which utilized the roots as the vase/garden to plant flowers. 

When you first arrive at Glacier Gardens, you are greeted with several flower tower floral arrangements along with beautiful, exotic gardens filled with flowers and greenery that are not grown in northeast Pennsylvania. Since Glacier Gardens is located in the Tongass National Forest, much of the land is still untouched. The tour gathered into large Jeep-like vehicles without a roof or doors and made the way up to the apex of the area. From there, we were able to look down at the town of Juneau, which was extremely scenic and beautiful. The air was crisp and clean and the temperature was cool and airy.

The Tongass National Forest is filled with trees, bushes, skunk cabbage, flowers, creeks, and little animal friends. Its expansive lifeforce really puts into perspective the beauty of the Earth and how much respect it deserves. If there were no humans, the world would be covered in these luscious woodlands. This trip was a wonderful reminder and educator on the importance of protecting our National Forests, as well as triggered a desire within me to make it a point to visit many more in the future.


Mendenhall Glacier |  Mendenhall Glacier is a retreating glacier located in Tongass National Forest. Due to climate change, it is possible that this beautiful glacier will one day no longer exist. 

Our time at Mendenhall Glacier was only about an hour, as we arrived in the evening when the visitor center was about to close. We watched a 15 minute tour video before making our way down to the glacier. Due to the limited time, we were unable to spend much time exploring. We took the 15 minute walk down to the "photo opp" area of the glacier. There was a longer walking trail, called the Nugget Falls trail, that was supposed to be breathtaking, but unfortunately the bus driver warned us that he would leave even if not all tourists were accounted for when our allotted time was up. 

I was a bit underwhelmed by our trip to Mendenhall glacier, but it was due to the fact that we had limited time and also that it was beginning to get very chilly. I'd like to return to the glacier during the day and be able to explore more, including the Nugget Trail. Mendenhall Glacier is extremely beautiful and I know that I was unable to give it the appreciation it deserves.


Experience | Tracy Arm Fjord

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Monday, August 13, 2018

"It is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world."- Mary Oliver

Tracy Arm Fjord | I had never heard of a fjord until researching our Alaskan vacation. A fjord is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created by a glacier. We awoke on our third morning to find ourselves cruising through Tracy Arm Fjord, one of the most magnificent and breath-taking fjords of Alaska. Since it was late June, the bodies of land were scattered with beautiful and luscious greenery and trees. The rock appeared smooth and aged, as though the snow and ice had polished it over thousands of years. There were patches of snow and ice on the cliffs, as well as in the water. One of the most surprising aspects of Tracy Arm is that the temperature is rather mild, rather than super cold, which causes the fog to rise and settle among the mountains.

I was the first in my family to wake up on the morning of Tracy Arm. I went up to the deck at about 6 am while it was still cold and ate breakfast alone. It was difficult to find a table since many others were taking in the beauty and astonishing views. However, I eventually settled at a table with another lone breakfaster. The exquisiteness and natural refinement of the cliffs in which we were cruising though were magnificent and heart-stirring. My brain could not even begin to comprehend the magnitude and beauty of Tracy Arm, but I did my very best to take in and appreciate it as much as possible. 

In the few hours that we were in the presence of nature's true beauty and wonder, life felt both so much bigger than we can ever know but also so much simpler. Who are we and our problems compared to these cliffs and glaciers and sea green water and trees? We're not special, we are spectators of this elegant, illustrious sight. Although I am not a religious person, I would categorize my time in Tracy Arm as a religious experience and life-changing. It was one of two times during our Alaskan vacation where I felt a shift in my life and consciousness, as if I was one with nature and the Earth. In that moment, Alaska became my first true love and I wanted to escape into the mountains forever.

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