Friday, December 14, 2012

Holiday Decor

I think one of the hardest things about moving is finding how all your old stuff fits into a new place. That being said, I have some really nice areas in my new home for some good holiday cheer.

My christmas tree directly in front of a large window on the 1st floor, so it can be enjoyed from the inside and outside.

A couple shelves right by the entrance are perfect for seasonal decorating.

There's a bit more christmas decorations scattered around the house, but those are definitely my most fun areas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Top Ten Recap

It's that wonderful time of year with turkey, then peppermint, and shortly after that champagne. Since 2013 is rapidly approaching (given the world doesn't end on the 21st), I figured I'd reviewed my New Year's resolutions from January to see how I did this year. I know it's not quite the end of 2012, but it is December and the busy holiday season so if I haven't accomplished it yet, I'm probably not going to in the next few days.
  1. Irish/Euro Trip 2012 - Done and done. I had an amazing week with my family traveling around southern Ireland followed by another awesome week with just my brother and sister in Paris, Berlin, and Prague. We even had an added bonus of getting to visit the Burke/Sandeman household.
  2. Niezgoda Family Reunion - Another check off the list. Sadly, we were down 2 members of the group that initially thought they could make it, but I even managed to catch up with one of them a couple weeks later in NYC.
  3. No Smoking - Okay, not an entire win. However, I did manage to only have about 1 pack (maybe 20 cigarettes) throughout the whole year which is a huge step in the right direction. Maybe I will renew this one for next year.
  4. New Job - Huge win. I now have an awesome job working in the pediatrics department at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. It definitely continues to challenge me medically and came with an outstanding benefits package compared to my previous employment.  As an added bonus, I also really like everyone I work with now.
  5. Wakeboarding - This is also definitely an accomplishment. It is also tons of fun. The only down side is I now don't know what I like to do more at the lake, wakeboard or waterski.
  6. Baseball - Tradition continued.  The RedSox had a terrible season this year, however I did manage to get to a Yankees/Sox game and the Sox even won! 
  7. Boston Reunion - Jane and Chris threw a beautiful wedding event. I was especially impressed that our people came from all over the country (and world) to celebrate. The 2-day hangover I had was a nice momento of the magnitude of fun we had.
  8. More NYC Fun - Mission accomplished. I had a wonderful birthday weekend that included a 7-course tasting menu at a restaurant, plus I made it to restaurant week in both the winter and the summer.
  9. Donate Blood - Epic fail. However, this was not due to my lack of effort. I tried to donate blood 3 times, but twice my count wasn't high enough to donate and once they cancelled my appointment. I did join the bone marrow registry though, so I think I'll take that as an even trade.
  10. Blog - This post will be number 20 for the year. It's not quite the twice a month (24) that I was aiming for, but it is pretty close. Who knows, maybe I'll even add another to that number before the year is over.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Karmic Thanksgiving

The last few years as the holiday season approaches, I try to spread the love. What I mean is, I try to take a moment to appreciate what I have and then find a way to share that happiness. I am truly blessed to have wonderfully supportive family and friends as well as a career I enjoy and good health that will hopefully allow me to continue enjoying life for a long time. If you really want more details about what an awesome life I have, you can check out last year's Be Thankful Challenge blogposts. That month of reflection was definitely a way to help me appreciate what I had during the holidays. I also adopted an angel last year through the Salvation Army. I had so much fun shopping for a little girl knowing (hoping) that her Christmas would be special with presents under her tree.

This year, in the last month my family (and family of friends) has experienced a trying time with illness. It's very frustrating to try to make sense of young, beautiful (and sometimes annoying) people suddenly falling ill with leukemia. Medicine, sick children in particular, is something that I deal with everyday, but when you're not the doctor it's a very different perspective. There's no time to process this diagnosis or label that has been given before the fight must begin. It's confusing. Most of all, there's a lot of questions (usually starting with why) that don't have answers. Being the support group is difficult as well, trying to find the right words to say. One of the first conclusive thoughts I could come to though was that if a bone marrow transplant was needed, I would offer to be matched. It was a pretty easy decision as my life would be forever different without this person. However my medical knowledge told me that without being directly related, the odds that I would be match were low. 

For a while now, I have taken a more karmic than religious approach to life. I try to base my actions and decision on the philosophy - put good into the world and you'll get good back. So I've decided the most I can do is apply this philosophy to this trying time.  This year to share my happiness around the holidays, I've joined the bone marrow registry. I realized that everyone needing a life-saving bone marrow transplant is somebody's person. Maybe if I help somebody else's person then if/when the time comes, somebody will do the same for my person. Truthfully, I'm totally scared by the idea of donating bone marrow (I don't really know why - it just seems daunting), but sometimes hope has to outweigh fear. So I sent out for my matching kit yesterday.

(PS - Please know that my immediately family is well and that for now "my person" is focused on processing and fighting this diagnosis, and is not quite ready to share it yet.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Not New Jersey

So I am officially settled in to my new Maryland digs. While I'm awaiting the start of my new job, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect back. To promote some excitement about exploring Baltimore, here are some things I'm hoping are behind me in Jersey:

  • NJ Drivers - I'm really hoping the commotion of blowing horns and sliding across 4 lanes of traffic are a thing of my past. It would be good for lowering my blood pressure.
  • Flooding - 3 years, 3 floods, 1 boat evacuation, and 10 days without power... enough said. I have been continuously reassured that floods like don't happen here.
  • Air Quality Alerts - With NYC so close, any day the temperature was over 90 degrees we got air quality alerts. Basically it meant, beware you are about to walk out into a cloud of smog. Lovely.
  • Fist Pumping - Raising the roof is fine, but pumping a fist up and down in the air is not a dance move.
  • Allergens - My allergens have been out of control in Jersey which has resulted in me being medicated about 9 months of the year.  Sadly, that may increase here in Baltimore where the weather appears to be even warmer.

Friday, July 27, 2012

I'm Not Homeless!

The Baltimore rental market is ridiculous. My wonderful hosts during my housing search, Ben and Anna, can vouch for this. I would say most nice rentals in a good area (whether through a realtor, Craigslists, etc) are on the market somewhere between 12 and 36 hours. It is seriously stressful. I did a lot of research in the week prior to going to Baltimore and set up appointments to see properties. However, my appointments for anything that was clean, spacious, and reasonably priced were cancelled before I even got there. Thankfully though, there were also new properties popping up almost every day.

In the end, I did find an amazing home rental that I truly think was meant just for me. It popped up on Craigslist just before I arrived in Baltimore and the owner was looking for the right renter as opposed to simply wanting to fill it. It is a 2 floor row house (with a basement) in a quieter area. It about 3/4 mile to the bustling night life area, but also has a little restaurant on the corner where the neighbors hang out. The woman I am renting from is a realtor herself who is very attentive to her property and the neighbors are almost all young professionals like myself. It is everything I was looking for (2 bedroom, storage space, good closet size, washer/dryer) and was the right price for me too. Plus, I lucked out and am getting a tons of awesome extras that I didn't need as well (granite counters, exposed brick, hardwood, a free cleaning lady). Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here you go...

The kitchen:

The living room area:

My bedroom:

The bathroom:

The extra (bed)room:

The most important thing is there is plenty of room for visitors, so start planning your trip!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pre Apartment Hunting

I am possibly insane. Over the last 2 weeks, I have spent about 6 to 8 hours a day looking for places to live in Baltimore. Thankfully, I had some good guidance from a couple different people about what areas I should be looking into. Unfortunately, not a lot of rentals are being listed through realtors currently. That means mostly I've been looking on Craigslist and other similar sites and contacting each owner/landlord individually. It's been incredibly frustrating in a number of different ways that I won't burden you with. Suffice it to say, I am very excited that it is finally time to go look at what I've found. No matter what, at least I don't have to scour the internet for hours looking anymore. Later today I'll be heading down to Arlington VA to spend a night with Ben and Anna and then off to start the search in Baltimore the next morning.  I have appointments to see 11 apartments on tuesday and another 6 on wednesday. I think I have some really good prospects (and also some long shots). Hopefully later this week I'll be posting about my excitement over a new place (and maybe some pictures too)!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Johns Hopkins!

TO START - I'm so excited! This has been a pretty long process for me, so I've been containing all this excitement inside for some time until everything was official.

THE PROCESS - I first applied to this job before I went to Europe in April (literally, the night before). I didn't hear anything from them for probably about a month. Then, since I was so far away I spent about 2-3 weeks doing a number of phone interviews. This was a nice consideration for me basically to make sure it would be worth my while to travel to Baltimore for an interview. At the end of May, they decided I was one of their top candidates and I went down to Baltimore for the day to interview with a number of physicians and physician assistants in the department and also meet with human resources.  About 2 weeks later I got the call that I was their top choice for the position (as a reference point, this happened June 8th). However, with a large hospital this means they start my background and reference checks. I've had background checks before and I was pretty confident in all my references, so it wasn't really nerve wracking, just more of being in a state of limbo. Finally after another month of waiting, I got the final decision and official offer this morning.

THE JOB - This job is pretty freakin' awesome. Officially I will work for the Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital pediatric department. John Hopkins has about 4 different hospitals in the Baltimore area now and this one is a smaller hospital about 3 to 4 miles east of the main hospital, but is still right in Baltimore. As a PA for the pediatric department there, I will work in inpatient pediatrics as well as the pediatric emergency room. There are even times where I may work in the newborn nursery. It's pretty unique to find a position that offers such a variety of settings to work in. Plus, as an added bonus the hospital is currently working on building a brand new, state-of-the-art pediatric ward!

So as of September 1st (as long as everything goes as planned) I will be a Maryland state resident. The next step (and probably next update) will be finding a new home.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


We arrived at Prague's main train station late wednesday night and pretty flawlessly managed to walk the 15 minute journey to our hotel. We checked in to our wonderfully large room and also learned that the lobby bar had a half-price drink special (every night 7-11p) that naturally we partook in. We also used that time to plan out our next 2 days there.

Thursday was the first day of the whole vacation that it was really raining, forecasted for all day, and they weren't lying when we looked out our bedroom window that morning. Still we continued with our day as planned, starting with a walking tour through Prague. Apparently, the rain scared everyone else away because the 3 of us ended up with a private guided tour.  Ultimately, our guide ended up taking us quite a few more places than planned because we were such a small group and moved much faster. We started at Wenceslas Square in front of the National Museum, the site of many protests against both Fascist and Communist. We then moved toward Old Town Square passing the opera house where Mozart performed multiple times and also learning about the different architecture styles and old building identifiers along the way. In the Old Town Square, we visited the Tyn Church (the merchants' church) and the Astronomical Clock, staying to watch the hourly show. After that we briefly went through the Jewish Quarter, passing the place where Franz Kafka was born, where we saw the Old-New Synogogue (the oldest functioning synagogue in Europe) and the Jewish cemetery where about 100,000 people are buried. We also stopped by the city and national libraries. We then started over the Charles Bridges, first stopping to see the statue of Charles IV (who planned and started the construction) and then saw the many statues lining the bridge crossing to Kampa Island. There we saw the Lennon Wall and finally ended our tour at St. Nicolas Church. After a delicious traditional lunch and a surprising turn to sunshine outside, we continued on our own up to explore Prague Castle arriving just in time to see the changing of the guard. Inside we explored the grounds, the most impressive part being the Cathedral of St. Vit. To end the afternoon we took the scenic Tram 22 ride back to our hotel.  Dinner that evening was a folklore music program. All of the food was delicious (and again very traditional) and we also discovered a wonderful toasting liquor Bleshrovka. The best part was definitely the constant music and dancing. They introduced us to many of their older musical instruments and one singer had a particular fancy for Steve, which entertained the rest of us all night.

The next day, we started out casually by wandering around the Easter Market in Old Town Square.  We picked up many fun souvenirs and also a very good lunch. That afternoon, we had a World War II tour. It was very interesting learning about the war from a different countries perspective, especially as the Russians were the ones who liberated the Czeck Republic from Hilter, right into Communism under Stalin. We saw more of the Jewish Quarter, important as Prague was the only city where everything Jewish was not destroyed by Hilter but preserved as a "record of an extinct race". The coolest part of this tour though was getting to go to the underground hideout of the rebels right under the Astronomical Clock and Town Hall. After the tour, we wandered up to the Metronome and then found a beer garden with a beautiful view of the city. Finally, dinner that night was at U Medvidku (The Little Bears) and was expressive again. It is the smallest brewery in Prague so to end the night we headed to the bar to try some of their beer, Oldgotts (delicious).

Saturday morning was a quick wake up and trip to the airport to (unfortunately) head back to the States.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


We took a night train from Paris to Berlin. To say that it was tight quarters would be an understatement. However, it was still a really fun way to travel and we enjoyed it. Donald met us at the train platform thankfully, because the Berlin station was huge. We briefly stopped at his and Rachel's apartment to drop off our stuff and pick up Rachel. Donald then gave us the most wonderful 4 hour walking tour of Berlin. I couldn't possibly remember everything we saw and learned, but the highlights included: both new and old government buildings, the palace plaza and last remaining part, the memorial to the victims of war, the memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and the bunker where Hilter was married and committed suicide. The Berlin Wall was by far the most interesting thing to learn about. It was much thinner than I had thought. We saw the most preserved section with both the East and West Walls intact and the security tower and fortifications in the middle. We also saw the longest standing section that is now the East Side Gallery and beautifully painted. In the middle of all that, we stopped for chicken doners for lunch because even though they're Turkish, they were actually created in Berlin. Then it was home for a quick nap and out to a delicious restuarant for half chickens and potato salad. And of course, we had beer. All day, since there are no open container laws in the city. I was in heaven with all the German Hefe Weissens. We continued our night by visiting 3 of their local (and very different) bars.

Wednesday morning, we slept in to recover from the prior night of fun. Slowly we got ready, but really enjoyed a relaxing day. We had another delicious meal of sandwiches and pasta salads for lunch. Finally, back to the train station to head to Prague...


Saturday night at almost 10:30pm, we landed in Paris. Trying to leave the airport was interesting. After staring at the train/metro ticket dispenser and one failed attempt to buy the correct metro ticket, we gave up and got a taxi. With getting our luggage and our transportation adventures, it was about midnight when we made it into our hotel room. The real entertainment of Paris though was Karin's pinky nail infection. The first night using nail clippers and an earring back, we (I) poked it got everything out. The goal of the next day which was Easter Sunday was to find an open pharmacy. Contrary to our wishes and pleading, no antibiotics were available without a prescription. However, a very nice French pharmacist gave her an antiseptic solution to soak it and an antibiotic ointment to apply. (update: her finger is now doing MUCH better 4 days later).

The next day was Sunday - Happy Easter! First thing we did was find some delicious pastries for breakfast. We then continued from our hotel in L'Opera to the city centre to the Louvre, only about a 20 minute walk. Even on Easter Sunday it was packed. We got in the massive line and admired the architecture while we waited. Truly, the whole city has beautiful renaissance architecture. Although it was supposed to be an hour wait, within about 30 minutes we were entering the building. We started with the history of the Louvre exhibit from when it was a castle in the time of Charles V to the monstrous modern day museum it is today. After that we spent about 3 or 4 hours wandering the museum. We managed to see a lot including the Greek and Roman Antiquities as well as French, German, Flemish, and Dutch paintings. Of course we saw the Mona Lisa, but the Rembrandt room was my favorite. Following that, we strolled passed the Musee d'Orsay though the Larin Quarter seein some of the cafe hangouts of famous writers. Then, onto Notre Dame with a brief stop at Saint Chapelle. We arrived at Notre Dame only a few minutes late for one of the Easter masses. We listened to most of the mass as it took about 30 minutes to tour the cathedral and absorb how grand it is. Finally, back to the Latin Quarter for a delicious dinner and bottle (or 2) of wine to finish the night.

Monday morning the mission was to find crepes for breakfast. It was successful (and delicious), however we ended up walking much closer to the city centre than planned. It didn't matter though, as the next plan was just to grab bikes and see what we could see. We passed the intelligance test of getting rental bike tickets and began on our trek. Starting right outside the Louvre, we rode along the Jardin de Tuileries to the Avenue de Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. Continuing, we rode passed the Eiffel Tower to the Hotel des Invalides. It was a perfect midday bike ride. Once at the Hotel des Invalides, we got absorbed in the Napoleon history exhibit at the Musee de L'Armee and ended up spending the rest of our afternoon there. We even got to see Napoleon's tomb. Finally, we had to head back, grab something to eat, and get to the train station to move our trip on to Berlin (and Rachel and Donald!)...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Second Half of Ireland

Wednesday morning we woke up and drove to Cork where Karin's been studying. It was another 2 hour drive, however, early on we had found ways to entertain ourselves on our drive. Mainly, someone picks a new language for the GPS to talk to us in and we all have to guess. We managed to be yelled at by Garmin in languages from a number of countries including China (both Mandarin and Cantanese), Turkey, Poland, Romania, and Luxemberg. Once in Cork we visited Karin's college (University College Cork) and her apartment and also the English market in town. The market was full of fresh fruits and veggies, butchers, and even some homemade chocolate shops. After that we went to the Jameson Distillery where we got to learn all about what makes their whiskey unique and of course sample it. Dad even got to be an official whiskey taste tester (he has the certificate). Finally, we ended the day by meeting some of Karin's friends out for a nice dinner.

Thursday, we took the short drive over to start our tour of the Ring of Kerry. Mostly we drove it, stopping off at a few (beautiful) view points of Irish countryside and even some beaches. Karin (who had been here before) picked 2 of her favorite places for us to check out a little longer. The first was the highest point on Valentia Island. We (of course) had another beautiful clear day where you could see for miles, so I don't know what everyone's talking about all this rain and fog in Ireland. From there, we viewed the Kerry Mountains and the Skillig Islands (one of the most severe environments where Monks set up a Monestary). We even played with some sheep on the mountainside on the way down. The second place Karin took us to was an old stone fort ruin. That evening we went into Killarney, walked the village a bit and settled in for the night.

Good Friday, we started by taking a morning hike in Killarney National Park. It was beautiful of course, the highlight being a stop by a waterfall. After, we drove into Dingle. I briefly checked out the town and found a gorgeous marble ring. Most important though, we met up with our guide to go sea kayaking. We spent 3 hours on the ocean and it was a very different and cool way to view the landscape. We also got to kayak into a cave and see Fungi, Dingle Pennisula's famous dolphin.

Saturday, we woke up leisurely and spent the morning strolling around the town of Adare. Then we headed toward the airport with a stop at Durty Nelly's for lunch. It is right next to the huge Bunratty Castle and dates back to 1620 (older than our country!)

Finally, we reached the Shannon Airport to continue our journey in Paris...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Beginning Days in Ireland

Other than our laughable first adventures in driving, our first day in Dublin was a bit of a blur. I was very tired from sleeping only a little on the plane and from being 5 hours ahead of East Coast time. We had a nice little excursion down one of the main pedestrian streets to dinner. After that, we were all so exhausted we went home to bed... At 8pm. The next day was much more productive starting with the hop-on/hop-off city bus tour. We had a very lively tour guide that gave us the traditional history of the stops along with many funny anecdotes and jokes. From there we hopped off at the Guinness factory to tour and drink our lunch. A wonderful ending surprise was the top floor 360 degree window lounge. Awesome views of the city. We still had a little time before dinner, so we stopped in the Dublinia museum. There we learned about the Viking and Medievil history of Dublin. At dinnertime we headed to the Brazen Head Pub, the oldest pub in Dublin, and had some good food and of course beer. We ended that night (and our stay in Dublin) by meeting up with Karin and going on a musical pub crawl. Not as rowdy as you would think, but very fun. We went to 3 different pubs throughout the city and along the way learned about and listened to some traditional Irish instruments and music.

The next day we woke up early and left the city for Kilkenny. Once there, we briefly visited the town and design market (picked up some cute souvenirs) and went to the castle. After lunch, we went on to ou final destination for the day, Cashel. Quickly we checked into our B&B then went to explore the Rock of Cashel. It's a beautiful cathedral on the hill that's actively being restored and it was very interesting to learn about and watch the process of how they restore the old paintings.

Today we woke early again to head across to western Ireland and the Cliffs of Moher. Miraculously, we had a beautiful sunny day where you could see for miles. In true Irish weather tradition though, we were briefly rained and then hailed on all while the sun was still shining. Now Karin and I just finished a nice pub lunch after dropping the others off to golf. We'll be picking them up in a few hours to continue back into Ennis for the evening.

On to more adventures tomorrow....

Saturday, March 31, 2012

First Irish Adventure

We rented a car. This makes sense as for the next week we will be exploring Southern Ireland and the only real way to do this is by driving. However, this means we had to drive on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road. Weird. We also had to figure our way out of the airport, which is hard to do driving in America let alone in a foreign country. It was also slightly odd to be able to turn left on red, but have to cross multiple lanes of traffic to turn right. However, hands down the funniest part of our first journey was trying to use our blinkers. You don't realize how innate clicking your blinker on to turn is until it's on the other side of the wheel. Then when you reach to put on your blinker, you turn on your windshield wipers instead. Every time. Hilarious.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reality Check

My European vacation is rapidly approaching. I've known that it was coming, but as I was packing Sunday night it suddenly became very real. It was right after I had printed out the booking confirmations I needed (flights, hotels, etc) that it just hit me. Next week I'll be in Europe! I won't be working (yay!), I'll be exploring Ireland. It was almost a little surreal.

The theme of this week has been tying up the loose ends before I leave, so in the spirit of preparing for traveling I'm blogging from my phone. I'm hoping that a few times while on my travels I'll be able to find some wifi and share my adventures. Hopefully you'll be entertained, but I will also serve to help me remember all the awesome things I did.

Happy Travels! With a little luck, my next blog will be from Ireland!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

One Month

I have developed a new mantra recently to get me through my days that I have decided to share with you. When work is becoming especially mundane or intolerable I just repeat to myself, "In one month I'll be in Europe." Sadly I'm not sure that this technique will be particularly useful for you, but it really helps me through my day. I'm also not sure what I'm going to do after the 14th of this month, as April 15th I'll be back in the USA. I imagine I'll develop a new strategy as I can't believe that my European vacation becoming closer to a reality is a bad thing for my sanity.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

11 Questions

Just like Cheryl, I also saw these cute, easy, and conversational questions on Anna's Blog and decided to steal them for myself:

1. If you could live anywhere in the world for just a year - where would you live?
Argentina. I have always wanted to live in South America, not forever but for a year or so. Argentina seems like nice central location to explore the unique forests and the majestic Andes mountains. It would definitely improve my Spanish (another goal) and hopefully it would involve working in some kind of medical clinic, maybe vaccinating children.

2. What were you like in high school?
I was a cheerleader and a dancer. But I also broke the rules, mostly without getting caught. I was always up for a good time. I usually had a boyfriend but never let them tell me what to do, hence most only lasted a few months. I was pretty much more reckless version of my current self.

3. How old were you when you had your first kiss?
I was 13. He lived a couple of houses down the block. We hung out all summer.

4. What is you go-to coffee order?
Winter - Starbucks grande skinny cinnamon dulce latte.
Summer - Dunkin Donuts medium iced toasted almond coffee with skim milk.

5. How many states have you lived in?
4 (not that I like to admit to all of them) - New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and yes - West Virginia.

6. When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
About 10 minutes ago when I got off the phone with my Dad.

7. What is your favorite color?
Pink, but teal is my favorite color to wear.

8. Favorite cartoon character?
Old school - the coyote, as is roadrunner and coyote. I think in a weird (and often treacherous) way, he lead me to believe anything was possible even if it didn't work out the first time.

9.What were you doing a year ago today?
Probably about the same thing, sundays have always been my veg on the couch days.

10. What did you want to be when you grow up?
I wanted to be a doctor. Although that's not exactly what I ended up doing; I was definitely meant to be in the medical field and I think being a Physician Assistant is even better for me. However, there were some brief moments where I also wanted to be in the mob; it seemed so glamorous.

11. Today is going to be a great day because...
I got to relax all day on my couch (with a brief trip to the grocery store) and from my couch I got to talk to my sister in Ireland and will be watching the Academy Awards.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Most Amazing Birthday DInner

Yesterday was my birthday and my lovely family came to NYC to share it with me again this year. It was awesome. We did something new and totally different - we did a tasting menu. Somehow when searching for a new restaurant to try this weekend, we stumbled upon Perilla in Greenwich Village. It offered the option of a tasting menu chosen that night by the chef. We love dining out, so this seemed like a perfect new adventure to try. My mother, father, and best friend Andrea came in from Pennsylvania and my brother and Angelique joined us as well. Shortly after making a reservation for my birthday dinner, I was playing around on their website and discovered that the restaurant was open by Top Chef season 1 winner Harold, making it even more exciting! It was quite the experience, both because it was so much food and it was a couple hour endeavor. Hands down though this was the best dinner I've ever had in my life. I ate every morsel.

  • First Course - A raw fish course of spanish mackerel served with cucumber garnish and a cucumber sorbet. The cucumber sorbet was particularly delicious and intriguing as it tasted sweet like a sorbet but also exactly like a cucumber.
  • Second Course - A cooked fish course of bronzino with crispy skin served over potatoes.
  • Third Course - Another cooked fish course of sturgeon over chick peas. This was served with a cocoa, coffee "dirt" and blood orange shavings. The chick peas were the most tender and delicious I've ever tasted.
  • Fourth Course - A pasta course of gnocchi with shiitake mushrooms served in a butter truffle sauce. I almost licked the plate.
  • Fifth Course - A meat course that was a duck duo. A spicy duck meatball with parmesan shavings, which he is famous for and did not disappoint. The second way was a seared duck breast and also delicious.
  • Sixth Course - A palate cleanser course of vanilla custard with grape berry sorbet.
  • Seventh Course - Finally the dessert course was a double chocolate soufflĂ© served with a coffee caramel sauce, and of course a little vanilla ice cream with a candle on it!

Fabulous doesn't even begin to describe the food we had. The most amazing thing was that if you ate all the components of each course together it was even better than they were individually. Hopefully, I was able to mildly do this meal justice because it is just not possible to capture how wonderful the whole meal truly was.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Prague... Finally!

Since most (all) of you who read this have known me since college; you also know how much I have wanted to go to Prague. In fact, there was a very treacherous drinking day at the BU Pub senior year where Val and I almost booked a quick jaunt over to Europe for a visit. If you remember correctly, after slightly sobering up we reconsidered the travel time and instead went to Miami. But finally now, the day has come!

For a quick catch up as to how all this started, my sister is currently living (and occasionally studying) in Ireland. Naturally, the fam wanted to visit. After coordinating 5 different schedules, we settled on traveling during the first 2 weeks of April. The first week, will be a Brady Bunch style vacation through Southern Ireland. For the second week though, the kids are breaking away and doing a little Euro traveling on our own. Truthfully, I'm really excited about both parts.

The Prague visit really went from a concept to a reality about 3 weeks ago when plane tickets were booked. The kids had planned on making Prague the last city we visited, so naturally that would be where we flew home from. Once that plane ticket was booked, I at least had to make it there for a little bit. But today the hotel was booked! We have what sounds like a wonderful 4-star hotel for 3 nights within walking distance of Old Town Prague with only a few booking frustrations. Most impressively, we found a hotel room for 3 people. After much research, I've learned that most European hotel rooms contain only 1 double bed or 2 twins. Very different than America, where bigger is better. Finding a reasonable triple room, makes the satisfaction that much better. But nothing can beat my excitement that I'm going to Prague AND I'm getting there before I'm 30 years old, which was definitely a goal of mine.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sitcom Life

I don't know if you watch Modern Family, but I do and it's hilarious. I was watching this week's episode (yes, 5 days late) and I have to give a shout out to Val Rickman for obviously giving the writers tips on how a good big sister acts. At the very beginning of the episode, the little brother Luke is trying to work on a school project. In this project, the goal is to create a container to drop an egg one story without it breaking. Luke brilliantly realizes that the answer must be right in from of him... the container is him. Hayley, being the good big sister, helps Luke over the second story railing and is placing the egg in his mouth when their mother catches them. The scene took me back to stories of little Josh Rickman being guided under the kitchen table and told to stand up. What a good big sis and future comedy writer Val was. You should probably just drop out of law school and start making millions writing a new prime time comedy. The notes from the scribes we hired in college should be useful.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Candy Man...or Dog

My dog likes candy. Particularly, he likes the shiny wrappers... or so he would have you think. Last night he took this love to a new level. I turned my back (actually went to brush my teeth) for 2 minutes and he decided to further investigate what was inside these shiny wrappers. I had 2 Hershey's kisses on a high end table. The table was definitely taller than Duke could reach. However, it is next to a chair and couch that he apparently used as climbing devices to reach these kisses he wanted.

All of that had happened without my knowledge, so after brushing my teeth I called him into the bedroom for the night. I reached down to pet him and noticed a morsel of something in his hair by his snout... oh wait, a CHOCOLATE morsel!

A million things ran though my mind, the loudest being "Isn't chocolate toxic to dogs?" So I go to investigate further and find the shiny remnants of both Hershey's kisses on the carpet. Crap. Now I google it. I discover that it is much more complicated than just all chocolate is bad for dogs. It varies depending if it is white chocolate or milk chocolate or baker's chocolate. Technically, it breaks down into the milligrams of theobromine and caffeine ingested whether it's okay or poisonous or lethal. Ultimately with Duke eating milk chocolate, he would need to eat about 15 ounces to have any symptoms. That's a couple of candy bars, so I was pretty sure he was in the clear. Just to be safe, I rolled the carpet up in case of any "accidents". Thankfully, other than some whining at 4am (probably due to a stomachache), we made it through the night just fine. We will also be keeping all candy on top of the fridge again; he definitely can't get it there.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Top Ten List

I've never really done New Year's Resolutions. However, I do have a number of goals I wish to accomplish (some already planned and some unplanned) throughout the year of 2012. After reading through some other's resolutions, I'm not really sure how my plans are any different. So I thought it might be fun to document my hopes for the year that way I can reflect back on my accomplishments (hopefully) at the end of the year.

  1. Irish/Euro Trip 2012 - Planned on, but not yet booked. With my sister studying abroad in Ireland (and already there), I want to get to see her and travel with her while she's there. Even more exciting is the thought that I might actually make it to Prague this year! I have been saying that I want to go there since college, and I'm very excited to finally visit plus add Paris, Berlin, and a week in Ireland to that.
  2. Niezgoda Family Reunion - Hopefully, this is already prearranged for right after the 4th of July. I can't wait to see my grandpa, uncle, aunt, and cousins (with their kids!). The only piece missing currently is confirmation that I have the time off.
  3. No Smoking - I don't really smoke anymore and haven't for a few years. However, I have a few bad (but loved) influences that still convince me to join them outside. Goal for 2012: 0 cigarettes.
  4. New Job - I love my career and I have learned a tremendous amount at my first job over the last 2 years, however I feel I have started to outgrow it. I want 2 things in a new job. First I want a job that continues to challenge me medically, and second I want a job that offers me better benefits (like paid time off, health insurance, retirement planning, etc)
  5. Wakeboarding - Santa Claus brought a wakeboard this Christmas! The goal for the lake this summer is therefore to be able to get up on it!
  6. Baseball - I want to continue the yearly tradition of getting to a Sox game. I managed to do it every year that I was in college in Boston, but lost a few years after that in grad school. Last year though, I made it to 2 Yankees/Sox games. Although sadly, it doesn't usually include Fenway Park anymore, I still want to watch the RedSox play.
  7. Boston Reunion - This is also a yearly goal, but an important one to state. I don't ever want a year to pass without having at least one gathering of my college comrades. Thankfully, Jane and Chris have planned a fabulous St. Patty's Day wedding to aid with this goal.
  8. More NYC Fun - There were a couple of superfun NYC weekends I did last year (like a wonderful birthday weekend and the Veuve Cliquot Polo Classic) that I would like to repeat. There are also a couple of weekends I missed (like restaurant week and a family dinner night) that I want to add this year.
  9. Donate Blood - I've sporadically donated blood in the past, including once in 2011. I would like to make this a more regular occurrence as it only takes about 30 minutes to do. Let's aim for 3 times in 2012.
  10. Blog - I think it did ok at blogging in 2011, especially because it was pretty much the first year I did it. I am particularly proud of completing the 30-day #BeThankfulChallenge in November. This year I'm going to try to increase my blogging to at least twice per month.