fifteen year flashback

Jul 18th 2014 11:46:19 am

disneylandindian

I never imagined myself becoming a Disney theme park fan, but somehow they have become a consistent tradition…

The first time I ever went to a Disney park was in 1999. Travis’ parents gifted us a trip to Los Angeles for our spring break during our senior year of high school. We stayed with his aunt and uncle and had a great time sight seeing in the city, including one day at Disneyland. We took analog (film!) photos of ourselves goofing off all around the park. For unknown reasons, the photo of me with a Native American statue on Main Street USA become iconic — probably because it was one of the only photos I scanned into digital format — and we’ve been recreating it ever since!

Our trip to LA last week marked 15 years since our original visit, so of course, we couldn’t resist going to Disneyland! And of course, we couldn’t resist recreating the photo! Who knows how long we’ll keep this going…

1999 DL | 2009 DL | 2010 DW | 2012 DL | 2013 DW | 2014 DL

2 Comments » Categories: Just for Fun, Photos, Travel

a wedding in Los Angeles

Jul 16th 2014 10:26:22 am

LA_wedding

A week ago, Travis and I were in Los Angeles for our friends, Matt & Emily’s, wedding. It was a fabulous event and fun trip!

The wedding was basically perfect. It was held at a very cool event space in downtown LA. Our friend Larry was the officiant and the ceremony was short and sweet. The reception was lots of fun, with dancing, and good food, and a photo booth. We had a great time, and even more importantly, I think Emily & Matt had a wonderful night. It was so nice to share their big day with them.

LA_weddingus

In addition to the wedding, the weekend happened to be OUR 11th wedding anniversary. Travis and I celebrated by going to dinner at Baco Mercat, a trendy, new, hipster restaurant in downtown LA. The “baco” sandwiches were awesome. We also managed to sample the LA version of the cronut, “Churro Crullants,” at Semi Sweet Bakery near our hotel. And of course, we had a meal at In and Out Burger!

LA_run

We earned our In and Out burgers by going for a very hot, very hilly run in Griffith Park. I had a great time exploring the trails with Larry and Alexis, but our run was sort of a half-hike/half-run. It was tough terrain!!

LA_house

Since we haven’t been in LA for a while, Travis wanted to take the opportunity to stop by the house he lived in when he was born. We took a few good photos and he FaceTimed with his dad. Then, we spent the rest of the Fourth of July with Travis’ Aunt Carol, Uncle John, and Uncle Glenn. We had a great time eating good food and visiting. In the evening we attended Matt & Emily’s rehearsal dinner.

LA_beach

The day of the wedding, we managed to fit in a trip to Santa Monica Beach and a walk down the Venice Beach boardwalk. We probably over-did it for the day and got too much sun, but it was fun to swim in the ocean a bit and see the famous tourist attractions.

LA_disneyland

In a last minute decision, Travis and I made the somewhat silly decision to spend the final day of our trip at DisneyLand. It wasn’t part of our original plan, but we just couldn’t resist the temptation. It’s been 15 years since our very first Disney visit together during our high school senior year spring break! Wow. We rode all of our favorite rides (like the teacups seen below), ate churros, recreated our traditional photos, and splurged on dinner at the Blue Bayou Restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Yes, we are huge dorks, but Disneyland is always a fun time. And, who knows when we will be in LA next!!

LA_teacups

Check out all of the photos from our trip in my Flickr Album.

1 Comment » Categories: Friends, Travel, weddings

currently // june 2014

Jun 24th 2014 09:27:08 am

curently_june14

using… Dior Nail Glow. This is the best nail polish in the world. It is basically clear, but it has some magical property that makes the pinks of your nails become pinker and the whites become whiter. It also has a super-hard finish and lasts forever. Plus, you can just layer on another coat if it does start to chip. I seriously think this polish makes my nails look way better than any manicure and it is a lot easier and cheaper!

eating…. Tons of organic, local fruits & veggies. Travis and I joined the Local Roots CSA through his office, which means we get a random assortment of fruits and veggies each week, and meat and bread every other week. We’ve tried a lot of new things, like sorrel, quelites, tat soi, bok choy, and garlic scapes, plus the usual stuff like strawberries, apples, carrots, and beets. We’ve really enjoyed cooking a lot of healthy, tasty meals at home.

wishing for… this metal shelving unit from Room & Board. I need to drastically purge and organize my office, and this set of shelves will fit into a small space.

watching… Star Trek: Voyager. I’ve been working my way through the series whenever I have down time. (Usually, when Travis isn’t around. He doesn’t seem to love it as much as I do.) I watched it when it originally aired, but not religiously and not the final few seasons. At first it was too cheesy and I thought I wouldn’t finish it, but the series gets better and better. I am in Season 6 right now and will be sad when it is over! I love Tuvok. He reminds me of Travis.

working on… Swap-bot! Travis and I have been doing a LOT of work on the ‘bot to catch up from when we were away in Europe. Travis has been upgrading the backend infrastructure of the site and I just announced our new Ambassador program. I am excited about it and thrilled that we have so many excellent and enthusiastic members!

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What are you up to this summer?

3 Comments » Categories: Currently, Food, Home, Make-up & Beauty, Swap-bot, Television

brooklyn half 2014

May 22nd 2014 10:09:42 am

brooklynhalf1 I ran my fourth annual Brooklyn Half Marathon on Saturday. Travis and I ran our first Brooklyn Half in 2011, and we’ve just kept it up since. It is always fun running around Prospect Park and then down Ocean Parkway to Coney Island, but the race seems to come at an odd time of year running-wise. I am never quite in shape and it is always just a slow, fun run for me.

This year wasn’t any different. Since I hadn’t run much at all on our Europe trip during April, I wasn’t sure if I could survive 13.1 miles. Thankfully, I actually felt great during the race. I took it very easy, but my time actually ended up being almost identical to the New Orleans Half I ran in February. I guess that isn’t necessarily a good thing, because that was a tough, sluggish race for me, but I am just glad I didn’t lose too much fitness. I ate potatoes as my fuel and drank a lot of water. I think that they really helped me feel my best.

Running hasn’t been my main focus for a while, but I am glad that I can still participate at a recreational level. South Central Brooklyn Runners is continuing to grow. It is a fun, enthusiastic group. Last week we were filmed for a segment of the NYRR Brooklyn Half coverage. I think we had as many as 50 club members running the Brooklyn Half, and we have more than 400 people in our Facebook group. Wow!

Usually we top off the Brooklyn Half with a Coney Island ride — we’ve rode the Screaming Eagle, the Cyclone, and the Wonder Wheel in the past — but this year we simply met our friends inside the Cyclones baseball stadium and hung out on the field for a while. It was a good day. …One that exhausted me for the rest of the weekend!

brooklynhalfscbkr

2 Comments » Categories: Brooklyn, running

Paris

May 21st 2014 06:41:49 pm

eiffel tower

Paris! I loved the City of Light more than I even expected to, and I was expecting to really love it! I guess I was most impressed with the beautiful architecture of the city and its fashionable residents. It was also easy to get around via the subway system and I felt like everyone was friendly and welcoming.

happy in Paris

Since Paris was our final stop, we splurged on a slightly nicer hotel in the Rue Cler district near the Eiffel Tower. I was so thrilled that we could see the Eiffel Tower from our room!

eiffel tower

We were hungry when we got in and could not resist trying the Bedford Ave Brooklyn Diner right on our hotel’s street. It was funny to be eating in a Brooklyn-themed restaurant, but the burgers were actually great. From there we headed straight to the Eiffel Tower to walk around its gardens. (And take too many photos.)

Louvre

We started our first full day in Paris at the Louvre. I have always dreamed of going to the Louvre. But I was also nervous. After being a little overwhelmed and disappointed by the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, I was afraid the Louvre might make me feel the same way. Plus, everyone talks about the Louvre being way too big and hard to navigate. But I shouldn’t have worried. I LOVED the Louvre. I was so happy to be there.

happy at the Louvre

We spent about four hours wandering around the museum, from the Mona Lisa, to the French painters, to the Egyptian and Near East collections, to the Medieval moat. I wish I could have seen the Winged Victory, but it was out for conservation.

photographing in the Louvre

Thankfully, I didn’t really feel overwhelmed. The museum was crowded, but there was a lot more room for everyone to spread out, so I didn’t feel boxed in or overwhelmed. The entire complex was lovely and clean and easy to navigate. And ALL the BEST art! Did I mention I loved the Louvre?!

Angelina

After the Louvre, we headed to Angelina for hot chocolate. We’d heard the line for the famous cafe would be long, but we actually got to walk right in and be seated. We had a delicious lunch, plus the hot chocolate and their signature dessert. Yum!

arc de triomphe

Next we walked down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées (with a stop at Fauchon for macarons) to the Arc de Triomphe.

view from the Arc de Triomphe

We climbed to the top and took in the panoramic views of the city. So amazing! (I took a few iPhone panorama shots like the one seen above.) After getting our fill of the city views, we went to a delicious and lovely dinner at Les Cocottes near our hotel… and then zzzzzZZZZZZ.

Versailles

Our second day in Paris turned out to be May Day, a major French holiday, which meant most sites were closed. It was also raining. Ick. But we tried to make the best of it. We took the train out to Versailles.

Versailles Gardens

The palace was closed but we were able to walk around the grounds and gardens, which were huge! We couldn’t help but compare Versailles to Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. Both were gigantic, gilded, and beautiful.

Versailles gate

Before we left for our Europe trip, I booked one of our most touristy and most anticipated activities: Dinner at the Eiffel Tower! We felt a little dorky, the dinner was pricey, and the food wasn’t incredible, but we had a lot of fun. There was a diverse mix of diners at the restaurant (tourists from all over the world!) and the staff was very nice and accommodating.

night eiffel tower

After our relaxed two-hour dinner, we got to go out and explore the Tower. The restaurant was on the first level, but we were able to take the stairs up to the second level. It was after 11 pm and it sort of felt like we had the Tower to ourselves! We took a bunch of photos and then managed to buy two of the last elevator tickets to the very top. It was scary at the top of the Tower — so high! — but it was also magical. It was raining, but I didn’t mind. It was romantic to be up in the Tower at night with Travis. We even caught the final sparkling Eiffel Tower light show on our way back down the Tower. I loved it! So sparkly! Such a perfect night.

top of the eiffel tower

On our very final day in Paris, the very final full day of our European trip, we did a lot of strolling around the city. After a stop at the too-crowded Museum d’Orsay, we headed to lunch at the famous cafe, Les Deux Magots. It was charming sitting out on the covered patio watching the fashionable Parisians walk by. For dessert, Travis took me to Pierre Herme for absolutely delicious macarons and chocolates. Such a fancy, perfect shop!

Notre Dame

We continued on to Notre Dame. It was crowded as well, so we opted out of going inside. We wandered around outside the cathedral, avoided pick-pockets, took photos, and continued on to Île Saint-Louis for ice cream at Berthillon. I had the roasted pineapple and basil flavor. Very unique and good!

selfies with Notre Dame

We finally made our way back to the d’Orsay where the lines were a little shorter. We got inside just in time to do a sprint, one-hour viewing of the huge Impressionist museum. The converted train station building was impressive. We saw many Monets!

Museum d'Orsay

A little dinner near our hotel, and that was it for our grand European adventure! So much sight-seeing exhausted me. Travis and I had a lovely, romantic, fun, relaxing, exhilerating month traveling together and it was sad that our trip was over, but I was also tired and ready to get home to Crusher. Au revoir, Paris! I’d love to return and see more of the city someday!

au revoir

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We are STILL working on compiling our photo highlight album, but I did manage to put together a complete set of all of our Selfies of Europe. Check us out at all the major sights!

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Read Travis’ posts about Paris HERE, HERE, and HERE.

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2 Comments » Categories: Travel

Switzerland

May 11th 2014 02:39:44 pm

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Prior to our trip, we had grand plans of traveling to the Berner Oberland in Switzerland and getting to the top of the Jungfrau… but we hadn’t totally looked into April weather in the high Alps. The temperature is still in the teens and they are still getting snow. We didn’t pack for those types of conditions, so we changed our plans to make a lower key (and lower altitude) stop in Lausanne, Switzerland.

We didn’t have much on our Swiss itinerary, just view the alps, eat fondue, and change out our Euros for a few Swiss Francs. Success on all fronts!!

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The weather was overcast and rainy, so I didn’t take many photos, but Lausanne was lovely, fancy, and sophisticated. Very quaint and clean, with an adorable subway system. The population of Lausanne is only 132,000 and it is one of the smallest cities in the world that has an underground subway system. They speak French in Lausanne, but German, Italian, and English are also common. We had a bit of trouble code-switching to French, even with our very limited set of conversational phrases. Travis is much better at languages than I am.

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Our hotel, Agora Swiss Night, was cool and modern. It had all kinds of fun Swiss details, like the cuckoo clocks seen above, plus fun rooms and pretty good interent.

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Because the weather was icky, we didn’t do too much in Lausanne. We only had one full day there and we spent it relaxing and eating. We went to a California-themed restaurant for lunch called the Luncheonette Cafe. We thought it was funny to be at an American restaurant, but more than that, we were craving vegetables. Eating in train stations makes you miss healthy food! We downed a giant salad and burrito quickly! It was exactly what we needed.

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For dinner we sought out the best, traditional fondue in the city. Travis found Pinte Besson, a 200+ year-old tavern with some of the best-rated fondue in town. We shared a cheese fondue and a sausage dish. It was HEAVY, but absolutely delicious.

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And other than mailing a few postcards, that was about it for our trip to Switzerland. Most of our Alps mountain views were seen from the train to and from Lausanne. I’d love to go back some day and actually hike in the higher Alps!

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Read Travis’ post about Switzerland HERE.

No Comments » Categories: Travel

I love Lago di Como

May 6th 2014 06:06:42 pm

Lago di Como

We booked our three-night stay in Varenna on Lake Como as a planned vacation from our vacation… and it worked out exactly as planned. We had a wonderful, relaxing time!

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We had originally planned to go to Cinque Terre instead of Lake Como, but it turned out to be an Italian holiday weekend and all of the hotels there were already booked. Usually, Lake Como wouldn’t have great weather this time of year (which means hotels were available) but we lucked out and had two perfect days of sun and amazing views.

Varenna, Italy

Varenna was definitely one of my favorite stops of the whole trip. It was quiet, with no tourist crowds, which had gotten very exhausting in the bigger cities. We stayed at a wonderful, small hotel in a room with our own terrace with stunning views of the lake and mountains. Plus, we had my favorite meals of the trip there at Restaurant La Vista.

La Vista octopus salad

14107056093_eed9cff719_bIf you are ever in Lake Como, you must go to La Vista! The food was amazing (the octopus salad was my favorite) and the staff were so very nice and welcoming. It was fancy, but totally comfortable. It is also located basically IN the water of Lake Como and has spectacular views. We ate inside on our first night and then went back on our third night in Varenna and sat on their terrace. It was so beautiful and fun! They bring out blankets for you when it gets cold after the sun goes down so that you can stay and take your time enjoying dessert. So cute! Travis and I joke that La Vista is now my most favorite restaurant in the world… but it isn’t really a joke. I think it is the truth! We had such wonderful, romantic, three-hour dinners there — it was perfect.

Lake Como sunset

Hitting up so many amazing, but crowded tourist sites all over Italy was tiring, and we knew we wanted to relax in Varenna, but we couldn’t pass up hiking in the Alps and checking out the local castle, Castello di Vezio. It was a very small castle compared to many we visited, but you could tell that it was cared for well. There was a falconry at the castle and they let the birds out for us to see. I fell in love with a cute, white owl. There was also a reptile exhibit, a sculpture garden, and strange chalk ghosts that are made each year and then slowly deteriorate. Odd, but definitely a really unique and special place. We had fun exploring the grounds.

Castello di Vezio

We continued hiking to find a nearby waterfall. It was very impressive. So loud and fast! The water was very cold since it was coming down from the Alps. It acted as a type of air conditioner and cooled the surrounding area. I drank some of the water out of a spout that was set up — it was refreshing! Then, we hiked back to town and bought lunch at the local farmer’s market. For dinner we had simple pizza and gelato. Then we turned in early and enjoyed our hotel room balcony.

Varenna, Lake Como

On our second full day we took the water ferry to Bellagio across the lake. It is a bigger town. It was more crowded, with more shops and restaurants. I liked Varenna better, so after some gelato and a rest at a water side cafe, we headed back “home.” We decided spur of the moment to go back to La Vista for dinner… and I am so glad we did! Such a great night!

ferry to Bellagio

Our entire stay in Varenna was relaxing and magical. I had been cranky while we were traveling there, but the beautiful views turned my mood around as soon as we got off the train. I had a wonderful time. I doubt it will actually happen, but we are already talking about returning someday…

Castello di Vezio

Funny Side Note: We relied heavily on Rick Steves’ guidebooks and therefore ended up surrounded by other tourists who did the same. We joked that whenever we heard someone speaking English, they were talking about Rick Steves… well, in Varenna we actually ran into one of his tour groups!! He wasn’t leading it, but it was definitely his program. We overheard a few couples talking about it at dinner… they had all been on multiple Rick Steves tours! Biggest revelation: Rick Steves’ son doesn’t wear a money belt!! The tour participants really though that was wild. haha!

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We are still working on uploading and organizing our insane amount of photos. I plan to curate a much more manageable “highlight reel,” but for now you can view them all in my Europe 2014 Flickr Album. Travis and I took more than 2,000 photos EACH. Gah!

Read Travis’ posts about Varenna HERE and HERE.

2 Comments » Categories: Feeling Happy, love, Travel

Florence

May 1st 2014 12:43:42 pm

florence_pontevechio

Florence is a beautiful and elegant city. It might be the opposite of Naples. The population feels older, fancier, and more sophisticated. There are designer shops all over the city center, not to mention the amazing museums and churches!

florence_uffizi

It had been a life long dream of mine to visit the Uffizi Gallery and to climb the dome of the Florence Duomo.

forence_duomo

On our first afternoon in Florence, we went straight to the Duomo. It is so beautiful, with its pastel colors and intricate decoration. The giant octagonal dome was higher and wider than any that had ever been built in the 15th century and it is still a marvel.

florence_duomo2

I couldn’t wait to climb to the top of the dome! (We bought the expensive, but worthwhile, Firenze Cards and were able to skip the very long general ticket line.) The climb was long, with more than 400 steps in very narrow, slanting stairways, but it was thrilling!

florence_inthedome

The view exceeded my expectations! It was amazing. The red tile roofs of Florence spread out all around us and we could see the green hills and even the Alps in the distance. Once again, we were blessed with perfect weather and a very clear day. I was so happy on top of the dome!

florence_domeview

On day two in Florence, our Firenze Cards once again saved us from the major line at the Uffizi Gallery, but it couldn’t save us from the crowds within the museum! Prior to visiting I thought the Uffizi might be my most favorite museum in the world, but instead I felt frustrated and overwhelmed inside. It was extremely crowded, hot, and it was difficult to find/see all of the masterpieces. Also, no photos inside the Uffizi. Boo!

Despite the crowds, it WAS lovely to see so many Renaissance paintings. I especially loved the Raphaels, like this Madonna of the Goldfinch. But I didn’t spend as much time in the Uffizi as I expected.

florence_david

We also went to the Academia to check out Michelangelo’s David. It is huge! Seventeen feet tall! You weren’t allowed to take photos, but I snuck a quick one. There were big crowds at the Academia as well, but the Firenze Card allowed us to get in quickly. The David is so large it is easy to appreciate it even while surrounded by hundreds of other viewers.

pontevechio

It was fun to just stroll around Florence. I loved crossing over the Ponte Vecchio bridge over the Arno River. We grabbed sandwiches three times from I Due Fratellini, a little sandwich and wine stand near the Duomo. They were so quick and tasty. We also loved our dinner at Trattoria 4 Leoni and gelato from Gelateria Vivaldi. So good!

florence_selfie

Overall, Florence was lovely, but I think I was overwhelmed by the tourist crowds and I don’t know if I totally absorbed it all or explored it to its fullest extent in only two days. Oh well, I will just have to return!

Read Travis’ posts about Florence HERE and HERE.

No Comments » Categories: Travel

Eiffel Tower – wow!

Apr 30th 2014 03:21:03 am

eiffeltower

We made it to Paris! Our final travel destination.

I’m still working on my blog posts about Florence, Lake Como, and Switzerland, but I just couldn’t wait to share these quick photos of the Eiffel Tower as seen from our hotel room.

It is so exciting to be here! (Even if we are a little exhausted from all the travel.)

1 Comment » Categories: Feeling Happy, Travel

Naples

Apr 28th 2014 02:49:35 pm

naples1

Wow. What to say about Naples?? I’ve always wanted to experience New York City in the 1970s and I think Naples may have given me a taste of that world… crowds, chaos, graffiti, and an exciting, authentic atmosphere.

naples_grafitti

Rick Steves warned us: “Naples is Italy in the extreme. If you like Italy as far south as Rome, go further south. It just gets better. If Italy is getting a little overwhelming by the time you get down to Rome, think twice about going further. Italy intensifies as you plunge deeper.”

naples_train

But we wanted to go in search of truly original pizza and some ocean coast line… so on Monday we took a day trip to Naples!

naples_pizza

Crowds, vendors, and Vespas meet you as you exit the Naples train station. We pushed through it all and went straight to our well-researched pizza stop: L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele! There was already a line/group outside waiting to be seated. We grabbed a number and join the group. The wait wasn’t terrible and we got seated next to two local Naples guys. We chatted as much as our broken Italian and English allowed. They were really nice. They had visited NYC and LOVED it. Said it was “so beautiful.” They want to go to Miami next.

naples_pizza2

Supposedly, pizza was invented in Naples, and the thin crust, tomato, mozzarella, basil creations we got at da Michele were indeed perfect. The sauce was the best part. Maybe the crust was the best part… I’m not sure. It was simply delicious and one person can pretty easily finish a whole pie. Yum!

naples_sculpture

We did NOT go visit Pompeii, as it would have taken up most of the day. I’d heard that most of the best treasures from Pompeii were in the National Archeological Museum in Naples anyway, so I was excited to check it out.

naples_mosaic

I guess I have been spoiled by so many excellent museums, the Archeological Museum felt a little deserted and sort of sparse. It was a bit run down and mostly had hall after hall of similar Roman statues, with little interpretation. The Pompeii mosaics, artifacts, and “secret” room were definitely the highlights.

naples_galleria

My favorite Naples site was the 100-year-old Galleria Umberto I shopping center. It was beautiful and utterly bizarre. The shops within the open air structure were almost entirely abandoned and there were knockoff handbag vendors camped out all over the mosaic plaza. It felt post-apocalyptic and totally fascinating.

naples_galleria1

On our way to find the coast, we stopped in one of the most touristy Naples spots, Gran Caffé Gambrinus, for one of their signature Neapolitan pastries called sfogliatella — a crispy pastry filled with sweet ricotta cheese. It was similar to the museum in that I think it had seen some better days, but it was still bustling and it was a good place to take a little break.

naples_dessert

There weren’t any true beaches within walking distance of central Naples, so we settled for taking some photos with Mount Vesuvius in the background. We wandered around, took in the cramped neighborhood scenes, and eventually made our way back to the train station.

naples_vesuvius

Naples was definitely an exciting and enlightening experience and I am so glad we went… but I probably wouldn’t recommend it for a lengthy vacation visit.

Read Travis’ post on Naples HERE.

1 Comment » Categories: Travel

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Hello.

I'm Rachel. I run websites and run marathons. I live in Brooklyn and write about art, crafts, design, food, fitness, fashion, my daily life, and New York City.

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