Experience | Disneyland Park

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Monday, April 2, 2018

"Even miracles take a little time."- Fairy Godmother, Cinderella

On my last day in Anaheim, I had the opportunity to spend some time in Disneyland Park. Disneyland Park is the original park, before Disney World existed. It first opened on July 17, 1955, which is over 60 years ago! My mom has faint memories of visiting Disneyland when she was only four, so it was fun to visit with her stories engrained in her mind. 

I honestly wasn't expecting too much from Disneyland, with the thought that it is both small and antiquated. However, I had so much fun and wished our adventure lasted longer than 4.5 hours.

Disneyland Park | When we first entered Disneyland Park, we walked through Main Street, USA, which is essentially what you'd expect. The long entranceway and streets are lined with old fashioned shops and eateries. This themed land takes you back to the 1950's, or how I imagine town centers to look during that time period. It is very quaint and leads into New Orleans Square. New Orleans Square has the most gorgeous Southern architecture. There are several cafes with outdoor seating.

Not knowing where to go next, we decided to hop on the Disneyland Railroad. I was very tired from working all weekend and this ride allowed me the respite I needed to regroup and rest. The Disneyland Railroad stops at a few locations, allowing visitors to hop on and off. We circled the entire park, seeing the Grand Canyon and Primeval World- Land of the Dinosaurs. It was really fun! We were dropped back off at New Orleans Square and decided to start exploring rides.

Our first real ride was the Haunted Mansion. We waited about 20 minutes in a fast paced line and fairly quickly made it into the building. After gathering a large group into a small room and giving a brief background story, we were seated in a small "gloomy doom buggy" and taken on a tour of the Haunted Mansion. The visuals were actually incredibly impressive for a ride created 50+ years ago.

Next, we made our way through Critter Country and happened upon The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride. For some reason, I could not tear myself away from the adorable facade of the indoor ride and decided I needed to experience it. Luckily, this ride's wait was only about 20 minutes, as well. Once in the ride, you are seated in an oversized beehive and glide through some of the most popular scenes from Winnie the Pooh accompanied by classic Pooh songs. I was happy that my favorite Winnie the Pooh story, "A Blustery Day" was included. The imagery is bright and colorful, and brings you to life.

After the burst of energy Winnie provided, we walked through Fantasyland. I was so excited to see the Sleeping Beauty Castle, as Sleeping Beauty is my most favorite Disney Princess. (Fun fact, I cut my own bangs when I was four in a closet to look like her.) The castle is much smaller than I imagined, but still very beautiful. Along side of the castle is the Snow White fountain, which my mom remembered from when she was little, so it was a nice little discovery.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland was an experience that I could not convince myself to walk away from. The gigantic red rock mountain rollercoaster looked so fun that the 45 minute line didn't seem excessive. I am so glad that we waited because I had such a blast. The rollercoaster had high drops and quick turns and I exclaimed "Weeeeeeeeeee" pretty much the entire time. I think this ride was my favorite.

Wanting to experience one more ride, we settled on Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage in Tomorrowland. Finding Nemo is one of my most favorite Disney movies and it was the only ride in Tomorrowland that didn't have an hour+ wait time. You are packed into a small submarine with a large group of people in very small seats. The submarine is partially submerged and you are taken through the lake/pond. Each seat has a window from which you view the miscellaneous adventures and characters from Finding Nemo. This ride was my least favorite. It lasts way too long (it felt like 15 minutes), especially in such a small space with so many people. However, I got my greatest belly laugh in this ride when the announcer came over the loudspeaker and said that there was to be no smoking (including vaping!) during the ride.

After the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, we had to make our way back to Downtown Disney to grab a quick dinner before heading to the airport. Luckily, Disneyland has a Monorail! I first discovered my love of the Monorail while in Seattle, so I was extremely excited when I saw Disneyland had a Monorail, as well. It makes two stops: Disneyland's Tomorrowland and Downtown Disney. We did have to wait about 10-15 minutes to get on the Monorail, which was a bit of a bummer since we were in a hurry. Additionally, when we did get on the Monorail, they didn't fully utilize all of the seats available and many people were left waiting for the next ride. However, once we were on, the ride took us from Tomorrowland to Downtown Disney in about two minutes. Although it was a beautiful day and would have been nice to walk, I love its convenience. In my opinion, every city should have a Monorail.

Overall, I really loved Disneyland Park. I wish we had a full day to explore, rather than 4.5 hours. However, I think you could definitely explore the entire park if you utilized an entire day, which is good, considering the high price of $117-$135 (dependent on peak) per ticket, per day.


Travel | Anaheim, CA

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Monday, March 26, 2018

"It's up to you how far you'll go. If you don't try, you'll never know."- Merlin, Sword in the Stone

Earlier this month, I traveled to Anaheim, CA for 3.5 days. I had been to Anaheim once before, but wanted to explore a bit more than my last stay. When traveling for work, it can be difficult to find the time to venture out of the hotel and have meaningful experiences, other than work itself. Below is my recount of the food I ate and place I stayed, as well as a fun little place to walk around.


Thuyen Vien | I found this vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant on Yelp. Since I'm a huge fan of Asian cuisine, I was super excited to give this place a try. It also got really wonderful reviews, so I was expecting a really great experience.

The day we planned on dining at Thuyen Vien, we called and asked for reservations. They were super laid back and forgot to even ask for our name, which led us to believe getting a table would be extremely easy. However, when we entered the restaurant, we were totally caught off guard. It is a very small restaurant packed with tables and chairs. However, since it is so small, there aren't very many tables. The restaurant seats probably 20 people total. Additionally, all the tables were occupied, despite making reservations. Once we let them know we had made reservations, though, they were able to clear a table of two out quickly.

Dinner was very good. I got the Mango Salad as an appetizer and the Thai Vegetable Curry as my meal. My dinner companion got the Garden Green Salad as an appetizer and Pho as a main course. When placing our orders, I informed the server that I was gluten-free, so she left and got another employee (perhaps the boss?) to take our orders. Although I specified that I wanted the eggplant version of the curry, I received the pumpkin version. But, I was so hungry that I didn't care. Our food was prepared and served quickly and we both enjoyed our dishes.

The restaurant continued to get packed and there were no tables available. When my dining companion finished her meal, the server gave us our check and we paid. However, they could not split our check (which is what we had planned since I was traveling for work) and you cannot use a credit card for orders less that $25. After we paid, I was still wrapping up my meal as well as waiting for an Uber to arrive and did not want to wait outside in the rain. The servers kept pacing back and forth in front of our table, hoping we would leave so that they could clear it for another party of two. Eventually we left when the Uber was a couple minutes away.

The food at Thuyen Vien is flavorful and delicious, portion sizes are generous, and price is extremely reasonable. But, I don't think I'd ever choose to eat here again. I felt very uncomfortable and rushed during the entire experience. This restaurant is not a relaxing environment, especially after a long day of working. I also don't like the stipulations for paying (not being able to split a check, minimum on credit card payments).


Tortilla Jos | I went to Tortilla Jos last time I was in Anaheim and was extremely excited to return. I love this restaurant. Although it is not vegan or gluten-free, there are tons of options on the menu and most things can be made vegan and/or gluten-free. They make their own gluten-free corn tortillas in house (which are so good!) and are gluten-free.

We ate at this restaurant three times in four days which goes to show how I feel about the food and experience. The restaurant is clean and open, the staff is nice, the food is delicious, and the environment is relaxing. On warmer nights, it is nice to dine out on their patio or balcony, which have heaters above the tables.

All three times, I ordered the Portobello Mushroom Fajitias, which comes with a sizzling plate of vegetables, a plate of cilantro rice, black beans, and tomato salsa, and three fresh, warm corn tortillas. The food is consistently delicious every time. My dining companion ordered different menu items each night and enjoyed her meal every time.

The food is a little more on the expensive side ($20 for my meal and $18 for a salad), but the quality and quantity is worth it. Since it is located in Downtown Disney, it does get a bit crowded at meal times and you may have to wait for a table, but our wait was never longer than 15-20 minutes. They actually ask for your phone number and text you when your table is ready, which is nice, so you are able to walk around.


Downtown Disney | Without tickets to Disneyland, you are able to enter Downtown Disney. To enter, you must first go through a very thorough security line where they go through your bags, pockets, wallets, etc. and walk through a metal detector. You definitely feel safe in Downtown Disney, which is good, considering the crowd. 

Downtown Disney is basically a long shopping mall that leads to Disneyland. Its length is probably about a mile. Along the way, there are many stores, including the Lego store, Sephora, and a very large Disney store. There are also a very of restaurants such as two Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Tortilla Jos, and a New Orleans-style restaurant. Kiosks are set up all around selling Disney and/or California keepsakes, as well as snacks like popcorn and corndogs.

Disney music plays over loudspeakers, but not in an obnoxious way. It's decorated very adorably, as you would suspect for Downtown Disney.

I really love Downtown Disney and we walked around every evening for a bit. It's fun, lively, nostalgic, and smells sweetly fragrant.


Disneyland Hotel | I've stayed at Disneyland Hotel and really love it. The staff is super friendly, the rooms are decorated adorably, and it is very clean. The hotel has three towers for visitors to stay. I've been in both the Adventure Tour and Frontier Tour. The rooms remain consistent in appearance and cleanliness.

The hotel has a 24 hour gym, which is small but equipped with a variety of dumbbells, benches, stability balls, medicine balls, cardio machines, and a full wall mirror.

There is no continental breakfast available, but a few options for breakfast if you want to eat at the hotel. Every morning, I walked to their coffee house, which is next to the gym, and ordered a fruit plate. Although it is expensive (about $8), the plate has about three pieces each of pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, and watermelon, and a small bunch of red grapes. I supplemented this fruit plate with a venti coffee and large banana from Starbucks in Downtown Disney.

There is no complimentary water for the room. However, there are a few gift shops and the coffee house, which sells bottles of water for about $4 each.

Although the Disneyland Hotel does not provide breakfast, water, etc., it is a really nice hotel in which you feel very comfortable and well taken care of as a guest. I really enjoy the atmosphere, cleanliness, and friendliness of staff.


Travel | Los Angeles, CA: Eats + Stay

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Monday, February 5, 2018

"This chapter of my life is called happiness."

2018 is here and I am ready to fully manifest my dreams into reality. For the majority of my adult life, one of my goals has been to travel as much as possible. I love going to new places, seeing new things, trying new food, and having new experiences. Luckily, my opportunities for travel have been increasing over the last few years and I anticipate quite a bit of frequent travel in 2018. 

In January, I visited LA for a whirlwind 30 hour trip. I love LA so much, even if it's for a super short trip. Below is my recount of the food I enjoyed and place I stayed. 


Eko Eats | When my flight arrived at LAX, it was about 4:30 PST, or 7:30 EST. Considering the fact that my normal dinner time is 5:15 EST, my first thought was that I needed to get food into my belly as soon as possible. Luckily, I had a game plan based on my amazing experience last year with Eko Eats via Uber Eats. When I was about five to ten minutes away from the hotel, I ordered Eko Eats via Uber Eats while still in a taxi. Once I arrived, I checked in, went up to my room, and waited for about 10 minutes before receiving a call from the delivery guy that he was waiting in the lobby with my food. Talk about service! 

Just as last year, I ordered the vegan bibimbap, which is a Korean rice bowl with tons of veggies including kale, zucchini, bean sprouts, shitake mushrooms, lotus roots, burdock, seasoned crispy seaweed, sesame seeds, and a side of kochujang (Korean pepper paste). I also opted for a side of their vegan potato salad, which has apple slivers and is very flavorful. Both dishes were delicious.

Although Eko Eats is not exclusively vegan, they have a ton of vegan and gluten-free items, which are clearly indicated on the menu. Not only is their food delicious, but it is definitely on the healthy side. I always appreciate when brown rice available (which was the base of my bibimbap bowl), especially since many Asian restaurants only offer white rice. Additionally, their delivery is simply superb. In a city that is plagued by tons of traffic, it is nice to have a restaurant with fast delivery you can depend on when you are super hungry.


Azla | I was a bit taken aback when I arrived at Azla. I had expected it to be a restaurant but it is actually located in a stand alone building with a food court. I was hesitant at first to stay, but decided to leave my comfort zone even more and give this place a shot. I am so glad that I did.

Azla is 100% vegan and gluten-free (and healthy!) Ethiopian food. Ethiopian food is a something I have always wanted to try, but have never gotten the opportunity. Although there are Ethiopian restaurants in Philly, the majority are located in West Philly, which is not an area I frequent.

Once I got to the counter, I alerted the server that I was new to Ethiopian food and wanted to try as many options as possible. She suggested I get six half servings, for the price of three servings. I chose a variety of dishes/stews: misir (red lentils and spicy berbere), kik (curry split peas), yatakilt (curry potatoes, carrots, and cabbage), gomen (kale, collards, and garlic), spicy sweet potato (sweet potato and berbere), and kale salad (with pickled onion, curry chickpeas, and dates). My plate also came with a side of injera bread. This entire plate was only $9.95, which is definitely inexpensive for healthy vegan food in LA and perfect if you are on a budget.

I cannot emphasize how much I enjoyed this meal. Three of the dishes were especially spicy, but spicy in a way that didn't overpower the other flavors. I appreciated the juxtaposition of the various flavors and textures, and savored every bite. I also loved the injera, which is a spongy bread that you are supposed to use to scoop up the various stews, rather than use traditional utensils. However, I still used utensils since I was at an expo all day, touching products and shaking people's hands.

After eating at Azla, I was definitely bitten with the Ethiopian food bug and will definitely be on the lookout for more Ethiopian restaurants to experience.


Luxe City Center Hotel | This hotel is located across from the Staples Center and Downtown LA City Center. It's a wonderful location if you want to be in the thick of the action or have tickets to an event that is located in this center. The hotel is clean with friendly staff. Upon check in, you are given a 16oz water bottle. There is also a small store in the lobby that sells water, snacks, etc. as well. A new to me experience was that you can only access the elevator with your room key. I appreciate this extra level of safety.

Although my room was small, the bathroom was comfortable with a beautifully tiled glass shower. I typically love taking baths when traveling (I know, I'm weird), but I did not miss my bath experience at all. This shower was so luxurious, I could have stood in it forever. I also appreciated that the shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and soap offered was from a cruelty-free company.

In the morning, free coffee was offered in the lobby and there was also a glass water container infused with fruit available all day. The hotel kindly held my bag during the day since I only stayed one night and was going to be at an expo the following day. When I arrived back at the hotel, my bag was promptly returned to me. I was also extremely thirsty and definitely took advantage of the fruit-infused water.

There are two issues I had regarding the Luxe Hotel and my otherwise lovely experience. First, the valet parking is $45 per night. If you do not have a car, this expense will not be an issue. However, I had a friend visit me the night I arrived and was surprised by the high price. Second, in the middle of the night, the maintenance workers were making a ton of noise in the hallway. It sounded like high-powered suction, which kept waking me up over the course of a couple hours.


Experience | Philadelphia, PA: Vedge + The Dear Hunter at Union Transfer

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Monday, December 18, 2017

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."- Friedrich Nietzsche

Dayv and I had a super magical Thursday evening when our favorite band, The Dear Hunter, was playing downtown. We decided to be super fancy and go out to dinner beforehand. 

Vedge | If you are vegan, you most likely have heard of Vedge. Vedge is a small plate, vegan restaurant that centers its dishes on the beauty of vegetables. The owners, Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, have been well-known in the Philadelphia vegan community for years, first gaining recognition with their original restaurant, Horizons. However, Vedge has garnered international attention since it first opened a few years ago. Dayv and I have dined at Vedge a handful of times, always on occasions that we want to make a little more special and fancy.

The concept of Vedge is that there are three menus: The Vedge Bar (appetizers), The Dirt List (vegetable side dishes), and The Grill (closest to a main course). Typically, each person orders an item from each section. Since the servings are pretty small, you can always order more, but three dishes is a pretty safe bet. Before our dishes were served, we received complimentary little glasses of butternut squash soup. It tasted so delicious, I could have easily slurped down an entire pitcher. 

Since Dayv and I have been to Vedge on several occasions, we both have our favorite dishes. Dayv ordered the rutabaga fondue, which comes with a loaf of soft pretzel bread, and the wood roasted carrot. If there was anytime I wish I could eat gluten, it would be to experience this fondue. Dayv loves it so much, and devoured the entire soft pretzel loaf. Our waiter offered him another half a loaf to finish the fondue. If there was one item on the menu where you get a large portion, this dish is it. The carrot dish is essentially a halved, gigantic carrot on a hummus/mustard/carrot hash with pumpernickel bread. Dayv always exclaims that he's never tasted a more perfectly prepared carrot. He was so full after his fondue that he could not finish his carrot dish and left behind some pumpernickel bread and hash.

I wanted to mix my order up a bit and ordered two out of three things that were new to me. My first dish was the stuffed avocado, which sat on a large rice noodle and was surrounded by a delicious sauce. Since I find the portions small and difficult to satisfy my appetite, I loved this dish. The half avocado was creamy and filling. The flavor was light and subtle allowing the sauce to really shine. My second dish was the nebrodini mushrooms, which our server suggested since its texture imitates pasta. The mushrooms were thinly sliced and covered in a tomato basil sauce. Once again, the sauce was my favorite part. Although I enjoyed this dish, I wouldn't order it again. My final dish was the seared maitake mushroom. I have had this dish on several occasions and it never fails. I love that the flavors imitate seafood. Primarily, the fritter mimics the taste and texture of a crab cake, which I used to absolutely love in my pre-vegan days. The sauce is also incredible. I ate this dish, as with my other dishes, as slowly as possible, to savor every flavor.

Vedge has amazing service and your dishes are quick to arrive after placing your order. I have enjoyed nearly every menu item. However, I find The Dirt List to be the most hit or miss. What I find so hilarious about Vedge is that my super picky, vegetarian husband, who typically hates vegan food, loves this restaurant. I enjoy Vedge, too, but struggle a little with feeling satisfied from the small plates. It is also very expensive, so I only feel comfortable visiting once or twice a year. However, it is definitely a restaurant everyone needs to experience for themselves.


The Dear Hunter at Union Transfer | Dayv and I were super excited that our favorite band, The Dear Hunter, was going to be in Philly again this year. Dayv got tickets as soon as they became available and I was particularly excited since they were the headlining band. Neither of us had been to the Union Transfer, so we weren't sure what to expect.

The Union Transfer is a standing room with a balcony. It also has an entryway with a merch table and bar. The bathrooms are on the other side of the standing room, and are large and very clean. The acoustics are very wonderful.

The Dear Hunter had two opening bands, Vava and The Family Crest. I had never heard of either, and am typically not interested in opening bands, but these two acts totally blew it away. Vava reminded me of Fiona Apple. She sang with so much soul and played her guitar effortlessly. The Family Crest is quite the experience, with tons of band members playing a variety of instruments. Along with the typical guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard, there was a violin, cello, and flute. Their stage presence was incredible and I danced to every song.

The Dear Hunter is my favorite band for so many reasons. They are true musicians with incredible lyrics, abd they always put on an amazing show. Dayv and I were lucky enough to spend a week with them at their Music Masters Camp over the summer, and they are also the friendliest, caring, helpful people ever. I loved every second of their performance and was especially excited when they played two of my favorite songs, Waves and Red Hands

On a side note, I meditate to this song every morning when I get to work. It helps center and clear my mind, and keep things in perspective.


Experience | New York, New York: Bombay Sandwich Co. + War Paint

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Monday, December 11, 2017

"There are no ugly women, only lazy ones."- Helena Rubinstein

Twice a year, the sisterhood at my mom's synagogue hosts a women's bus trip to New York. The trip includes a Broadway show matinee, which is chosen far in advance to take advantage of group rates. The bus leaves promptly at 8:30 am and we arrive in New York around 11/11:30, in time to grab an early lunch before the show. 

Bombay Sandwich Co. | Bombay Sandwich Co. is a little "cafe" located about 10 minutes from Broadway theaters. It's a great place to grab a quick lunch and go, and is specifically wonderful for individuals following a plant based diet. Their menu is largely vegan with many items that are also gluten free. I really loved the simple, Eastern inspired, minimal decor.

I ordered the chana masala bowl, which was a bowl of brown rice, chana masala, some cucumber tomato salad, and a few small servings of accompaniments. My mom ordered the mozzarella tomato sandwich, lentil soup, and lemonade. Overall, we were very happy with the quality of the meals, and everything tasted very good. 

There were several issues I had with Bombay Sandwich Co. First, there is no bathroom. After ordering, I was directed to try the Starbucks (one on both ends of the block). The first one didn't have a bathroom and the second one you had to first order something before getting the number key to the bathroom door. Then, I went into the Macy's across the street where I had to go to the bottom floor and walk about a 1/4 of a mile back into the store before getting to the bathroom. I was gone 20+ minutes. Second, the serving size was really small. When I asked how big the bowl servings were, the cashier showed me an empty bowl, which would be a decently large amount of food if it was actually filled. However, I don't think that is a very good gauge of a serving size when the bowl is barely filled. Third, the menu is a bit deceiving, because it says that every platter comes with a salad and several condiments. But, they are just tiny little servings on top of the bowl. One of the little servings was apple garlic pickles, which were incredible. I actually went up to the counter and asked for more and was given a tiny plastic condiment container with an additional small amount. I ended up eating my mom's lentil soup because I was still really hungry.

I would go back because the food is so good, but would have to order a soup, salad, and bowl to actually get full. I would also visit a restroom first.


War Paint | War Paint is a musical based off the career rivalry of cosmetic moguls and pioneers Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein. I have always been familiar with the Elzabeth Arden brand, but had never heard of Helena Rubinstein before. Arden was played by Christine Ebersole (anyone else a My Girl 2 fan?) and Rubinstein was played by Patti LuPone. 

The story itself is easy to follow and very interesting. I really appreciated that within the PlayBill there was a page dedicated to the true story of this rivalry. I was more familiar with Arden before the show started, but was more interested in Rubenstein's storyline. As a Polish-Jewish immigrant, I really admired her climb to the top of the cosmetic industry, resilience, and sass. At one point in the show, she was told that she could not rent space in a building because she was Jewish, so her solution was purchasing the entire building. I loved that.

Although War Paint is a musical, I don't think it adds to the show's storyline. There are no stand out numbers or memorable songs. However, I am very interested in the story and want to watch the documentary film, The Powder and the Glory, from which this musical was based.

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