Saturday, July 13, 2013


I know that I already talked about the bagel in a previous post, but I have to give a shout-out to Forest Hills Bagels.

After I told Brian about my bagel there, we had to go have one together. BUT, we assumed that all NYC bagels would be delicious. We were wrong.

One morning this week we stopped at a place that is mostly on his way to work and were dreadfully disappointed. Poor Brian. He hasn't had a little piece of heaven from Forest Hills Bagels yet.

The High Line

First on my list of things to see in NYC was The High Line.

I had read an article on it (in National Geographic?) a couple of years ago and had been thinking about it ever since. I think I was intrigued by renewing a space by working with it instead of the usual clearing out and starting over.

I loved it. I think it's an awesome idea. I kind of wish that the pedestrian bridges in down-town Tucson would have had a larger vision like this. It makes for such a nice pedestrian experience. Of course, I recognize that maintaining landscape is a much more costly endeavour in the desert...

Brian liked The High Line a lot. I knew that he would be positive, but he was surprised with what a great feel the place had.

And now I find that there is a group that is trying to do the same thing in Queens. Too bad they're not farther along. This would be within walking distance of me.

After the park, we had lunch at a fantastic place in the West Village. It's called 'SNice, and their "vegan panini with smoked tofu, basil, pesto & sun-dried tomatoes" have inspired countless sandwich creations from Brian.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

And what do I do? Alternately: What the real housewife of Queens does all day.

Jen asked, so here goes. I'll write down what I did yesterday. It's not very exciting. But that fits right in with the name of this blog, right?

8am: Returned from run. Ate, stretched, showered, ate some more.

9am: 'Played' on the computer. This means catching up with people on FB, balance both checkbooks (switching banks when everything is on autopay sucks), worked on ultra training schedule for this fall, looked up how to get to Atlantic City from here, read about snow-shoeing ultras and relays and read the New York Times (I highly recommend the 12 weeks for 99 cents deal they have this summer).

10:45: Took Sadie for a walk around the neighborhood. It was cooler than it has been, so I was trying to give both of us some more time outside.

11:00: Rode my bike to...

      1. The community gym. I wanted to look around and see if it was worth joining. I'm still a little worried about how I'm going to train for an ultra this winter with the amount of rain this place gets. This gym has an indoor track, so I thought maybe I could make that work some days. The track was maybe an eighth of a mile at the most - could you imagine doing 30 miles on that? Although it was crowded, there were some open treadmills. But I've never ran farther than 6 miles on a treadmill. I never found weight machines, and the free weight room was overrun with way too much sweat and testosterone. I got discouraged and left. I'm not sure what I was expecting... a miracle? I'll save signing up for this for the day I actually get desperate.

       2. The Home Depot. Our toilet seat has been really annoying me. We have a round toilet, but some genius put an oval toilet seat on it. This was my big surprise for Brian today. I also got a few other doodads that we've been needing to get our bikes hung over the stairwell. I have one bag that attaches to my bike. It is just big enough to fit a toilet seat in it. I didn't count on this, as I had lots more places to go.

        3. Carmel Grocery. This little place in Forest Hills is a real find. I had found it because Brian couldn't find any place that sold fresh-ground coffee when we first got here. This place has that (and Brian says that the coffee is pretty darn good), but the big thing is their spreads. They make a hummus that is probably one of the best that I've ever had, but even better than that, they make various eggplant dips that are AMAZING. Did you hear that Kurt? YES, I SAID AMAZING. And I mean it. So I got 3 different kinds of coffee for Brian, 2 more eggplant spreads to try and a piece of baklava for lunch dessert. BTW- Their baklava is really good too, just overshadowed by the amazing eggplant spreads.

       4. Walgreens. To pick up my prescription. Which of course, took way longer than it should. It seems they had a problem filling the prescription without insurance paying for it. I told them I don't have insurance, I want to pay cash. So after 10 minutes of typing, I was able to do that. What the heck are they typing in there?

       5. Forest Hills Bagels. OMG. I haven't had a NY bagel yet. Wonderful. I had an everything bagel with veggie tofu cream cheese on it. I should have had it just plain to savor the bagel a little more. It's soft on the inside, but has a tiny little crust almost like a croissant on the outside. It was really good.

       6. Key Foods. This is a 'regular' grocery store. I was out of tortillas, and this store has them much cheaper than our usual grocery store. A word about tortillas here in NY - they're AWFUL. At least, if you buy anything called a tortilla. They have the most horrible ingredient list, and they're mushy and tasteless. However, if you instead look at things that look like tortillas, but are labeled wraps, they are more reasonable. Of course they're not as tasty as tortillas back home, but they're an acceptable substitute. Anyway, I got a few bags because they seem to last a really long time (probably not a good sign, huh?).

2pm: So after this, my bag is overflowing and it weighs about 35 pounds, so I figure I should go home. My bike is highly unstable in this configuration, because the bag attaches on only one side of the bike. So I ride back across the parkway as cautiously as possible. It's also heating up, so I figure I need to get home so that I can lift my bike back up the stairs to our place without suffering heat stroke.

2:30: Crash on the couch to cool off and watch a documentary that I don't think Brian will want to watch.

4pm: Walk to the library to return one book (Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks) and pick up another (Walter Cronkite's letters to his wife during WWII). This took a really long time because I took Sadie, and then when I got there, realized there was no safe place to tie her up. I was trying to figure out whether I had to walk all the way back home or not, when I realized that the kid that was so interested in Sadie could be recruited to hold her for a couple of minutes. This worked out well, and I should have bought him a Slurpee, but I didn't. Next time.

4:45: Put the toilet seat on. I don't want to talk about how long this took. But I did it!

5:45: Read my book.

6:30pm: Brian is home. Eat gazpacho. Taste new eggplant spreads. (Awesome!) Eat watermelon. Watch Prohibition, part 2. Fall asleep on the couch because I'm exhausted from overheating again today.

There's a little glimpse into my totally glamorous life. Today so far is less interesting with mostly research on some software that I've been putting off for a while. This housewife of Queens is a coder :)

Friday, July 05, 2013

So Where Am I?

We've moved to NYC. More specifically, we live in Queens. The post office thinks we live in Flushing. The locals say that we live in Kew Garden Hills. I've never lived in such a geographically complex place. Did you know that New York City is made up of five counties? They are coextensive* of the five boroughs that make up the city, although the county and borough don't always share the same name.

We've been here three weeks now (!), so I think that we have our 'normal' routine established. I'm going to steal liberally from photos on the internet, because I lack the smart phone to take them on the go myself. And, if we want to be frank, I really couldn't take a better picture of most of these places...

In the morning, we wake up (Brian first and then me an hour later), and we go for our run. This is Sadie's favorite part of the day. Her second favorite part is sleeping, which SHE DOES THE ENTIRE REST OF THE DAY. I didn't know this before being unemployed, but it's true. She opens her eyes for a brief period of time in the evening to get fed supper, but it's lights out the rest of the time. No wonder she has so much energy for the run. It's the only freaking thing she does!

But I digress.

We go running in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which is literally across one stoplight, and then it's park paths the whole way. I can't tell you how extremely rare this is in NYC, and of course, a major reason for our particular choice of where to live. Here's a map of a recent run so that you can see what I mean:

This run takes me past some places that maybe you'll recognize, but others that are new to me.

The Unisphere (in two Men In Black movies): This is Brian's favorite landmark. You can expect multiple pictures featuring him with this landmark in upcoming posts.

The Terrace On The Park: Unfortunately, you have to have a big to-do in order to go in here. I'm hoping to meet someone that is getting married here soon so that I can go.

USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center: Home of the US Open - which Brian has tickets to this Aug/Sep. AND, he can play on it anytime, it just takes $30/hr and a reservation. This is very exciting to a tennis player.

The Queens Zoo: I went from running around a park with one zoo (Tucson) to another. Pretty funny. I can't believe that Brian hasn't insisted we visit this place already, as the aviary is a geodesic dome, and he has an obsession with geodesic domes. It's a pretty small zoo, but still. I think it must have elephants, because I'm familiar with that smell from Tucson.

Queens Museum of Art: This is closed for construction until this fall, so I can't tell you much about it. Stay tuned.

New York Hall of Science: Turns out that NYC has only one science museum. Go figure. Brian's trying to figure out how he gets to make exhibits here.

On this run, I just stopped short of crossing the bridge to Citi Field: This is where the Mets play. It replaced Shea Stadium in 2008.

* I just learned this word today, and am super excited by it.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

But first... Peru

I wouldn't think that anything could overshadow a trip to Machu Picchu in Peru, but that was before I thought I would quit my job and move across the country.

But, we did in fact make a trip to Peru recently. The reasoning was 3-fold. First, Machu Picchu has been on Brian's pick of places to travel since 2000. I remember hearing about it from him, and thinking "Huh, I guess he'll have to find someone that wants to go hike up the side of a mountain in a politically unstable country with him." Turns out it was me, just 13 years later. Second, our great friend Carolyn brought up the idea late last summer as her response to us announcing that we would be leaving Tucson. It turns out it has been on her bucket list for a very long time, her kids were old enough that she could leave them for a little while with family and, well, we were leaving. It was our last hurrah together. Third, I thought it would be a great way to celebrate the completion of Brian's long arduous journey through graduate school. So last fall, we scheduled the trip for mid-May to fit be squeezed between Brian's graduation and Carolyn's middle child end-of-school-year performance. If I had thought about it for more than a few minutes last fall, I would have realized how busy we would be with selling the house, moving, and Brian's unplanned two weeks in Israel for a chemistry conference. The scheduling was a bit tight, and things were a bit hectic surrounding the trip, but we had a blast anyway.

Brian and I flew out mother's day afternoon. In true Brian and Shelley style, we had already packed our camera and it was on its way to NYC. But we never remember to actually use the camera on vacation anyway, so it doesn't really matter. As soon as Bryce and Carolyn made it to Peru, we had more than enough cameras between the four of us. 

We first flew to Cuzco, which is a beautiful city in the mountains near Machu Picchu. Its elevation is 11,152 ft, so we spent the recommended couple of nights there to acclimate. 

A note about the elevation: I was terrified of altitude sickness. I was sure that even before we left Cuzco, I was going to be so sick that I wouldn't be able to walk, much less climb over the couple of passes over 13,000 ft that we had planned. Luckily, it turned out that I had ZERO problems with the elevation (after the sleepiness and lethargy of the first day in Cuzco had passed). 

It may have been the large volumes of coca tea that I consumed. You really should go read that link, because yes, it's THAT coca tea. The leaves of the tea are the same source for cocaine. The wikipedia page says that it is a stimulant that can be compared with drinking coffee or regular tea. I think that must be true, as I felt zero effect from drinking it. But, all the locals swear by it to prevent altitude sickness, and I am willing to say that it may have played a part in my feeling fine the entire time. 

So let's get to the pictures, shall we? First, the elevation profile of our hike: 

I really can't remember how to tell the difference between an alpaca and a llama. And please don't tell me again, I don't really care. Anyway, here's one of those shaggy creatures (and I don't mean Carolyn; I mean the thing NEXT to Carolyn).

The city of Cuzco from our hotel:

Just a little practice hike the day before the real thing:

Here are our porters (Batman and Robin) drinking chicha on the way to the start of the hike. Brian *really* liked chicha, which is really dangerous because he acts like a goof ball after half of a beer. Our guide told us that this stuff keeps fermenting in your stomach for hours - so you get drunker long after you've stopped drinking it. It was yummy - especially the strawberry flavored one.

It's not a good sign when your guide looks at a map the first thing on the first day of your hike: 

Let the hiking commence (And don't even think that this looks like a lot of water. You just wait.):

Within an hour, we've encountered our first ruins (Yes Carolyn, I had to steal this off of your Facebook because you have still refused to upload your pictures to Dropbox):

Now it's getting wet. But we're near the end of our first day of walking and we've all made it to the first peak at about 13,650 ft. In this photo, you can see our porters, Batman and Robin, wearing the blue and red capes that gave them their name.

Around lunch time on the second day, we stop only for a snack before we tackle our highest climb to Puma Pass (14,698 ft): 

Things got a little hairy on that climb, and I thought we might lose Carolyn. But we took it slow and made it to the top to celebrate. By the way, I am absolutely frozen in this picture. I was worried about overheating with the steep climb and the unbreathing rain poncho, so had taken off my fleece underneath. However, we took our time and neither Brian nor I would leave Carolyn, so all three of us were frozen to the core. 

Nothing that a good hot lunch couldn't cure (these are our appetizers):

And we even let Carolyn use spoons! (Can we all say "brain is low on oxygen"?)

Here's after lunch, and before the slogging began. I remember being here, and I was so happy. I wasn't sick from the altitude, my legs felt great, I had warmed up with lots of hot soup in my belly. Ah, bliss. But we will just not talk about the second half of the second day. At all. Don't ask.

I said that we're not talking about it.

Bryce, I said that we are not talking about it. Sheesh.

Okay, I do have to say a few words about what I have taken to calling the "24 hours from hell". And it's a compliment to Brian. Of course. This guy carried all of our stuff the entire trip in jeans and tennis shoes that were not waterproof. He doesn't get kudos for not having the right gear, but for not complaining a single time.  Even though I complained almost non-stop. You see, he was incredibly busy leading up to this trip what with finishing his dissertation, presenting at a conference in Israel and selling our house, so he made do with what he had on hand. I had been sporting a shoulder injury for the last year, so I didn't even carry a day pack, he simply did it for me. 

Also, he stayed with me the entire time. I'm sure that I was unpleasant at times and probably going much slower than he wanted to go when trying to balance on top of stones to avoid falling into hip-deep mud (and falling into hip-deep mud, but we're not complaining here), but he stuck with me. And he stuck with Carolyn when she needed the extra help. His quiet and modest endurance in trying events like this wins me all over again, every single time.

Anyway, let's skip to the afternoon of the third day. Because that's when this hike turned into what I thought Peru and the area around Machu Picchu looked like. The sun came out, the ponchos were put away. Brian and I took our sweet time enjoying the sights, smells and sounds of the beautiful jungle.

Our reward for speeding it off the mountain in the ridiculous weather? Hot springs. And they were way nicer than anyone could imagine at this point in the trip. 

Here's an unexpected bonus for our trip: zip-lining! I'm sure that Brian was spectacularly excited when our guide announced the possibility. It turned out that Brian, Carolyn AND Bryce have a fear of heights, so I have NO idea why we ended up doing this. But it was fun, everyone's adrenaline got pumping and I attest, everyone did all five zip-lines to get to the bottom. Look at Brian; I think he even enjoyed it a little:

And yes, I zip-lined upside down!

Nothing like a high-risk activity in a third-world country that you payed way too little for to get your blood pumping! Anyway, after that, on to Machu Picchu!

Well, we have to walk there first:

And act silly:

And have a fight on top of a train:

And remember where we were going:

And take a self portrait (which our guide never figured out - he always insisted on taking one of us when he saw us doing this):

And take the worst photo ever:

No, really. Go back and look at each of our faces in that photo. Hee hee. Kills me, every time I look at it.
But then we'll make up for it, almost:

And this picture is here because Carolyn loves it. She calls it "Why you drinking my water". In hindsight, I wonder if I was just beginning to notice how ridiculously pale and thin Brian is looking. 

Yep, you guessed it. Brian is getting sick. Sicker than a dog. I believe now that Bryce got food poisoning the night before we got to Machu Picchu, but that Brian actually got some virus. It took him a month and a half to recover. Although out of order, this is a pic of Brian looking his best on the day of Machu Picchu:

Poor guy. He has wanted to see MP so bad for so many years and he doesn't really remember most of it. 

Here's the first few minutes at MP when we still had Brian with us so we could get a group photo. But soon after the photo, while our guide was droning on about how great the Incas were, Brian sat down and no one was moving him. We left him at one spot while the three of us continued touring. After most of our tour was over, I went back with our guide to pick him up. Poor guy doesn't remember a thing about most of the day. 

MP was amazing. It was beautiful, and some of the engineering feats that they pulled off were stunning. Most of them had to do with water-flow, but also the joints in their masonry look almost air tight. I don't think in this case that words or photos can convey the magnificence of it. 

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

A New Chapter In Life

Once again, I've let this blog languish. BUT - All that is about to change!!! (Maybe?)

My biggest news of 2013: I've followed my love to NYC. Yes, this desert girl has moved to the big apple. I'm a city girl now. Well, I'm working on it. 

Last fall, Brian started looking around for post-doctoral positions. He expected to graduate in May of this year (and he did - yay Brian!), and needed to secure the next step in his ultimate goal of becoming a professor at a university. He found Dr. Michael Mirkin at CUNY Queens College and was extremely interested in some technique that Dr. Mirkin has developed. It was a departure from what his group at UofA focuses on, and that's a large part of why it was interesting to Brian. Anyway, to make a long story short... he accepted a position, we flew out here in January to find a place to live and here I am. In NYC. Wow!

At this time, I don't expect that I will spend the rest of my life here, but we have an amazing opportunity to spend a couple of years here while Brian gets to learn new and interesting things. I hope to use this blog to record some of the once-in-a-lifetime things that I see and do. Everything is so different here, it will be interesting to look back in two years and see how my point of view has changed.

Oh, and one more thing... I know that when I lived in Tucson, I would read news articles about all kinds of neat things to see and do in NYC. So I need your help my friends and family. When you read of such things, pass it on. Post it to my FB wall or put it in a comment here. Send me a message or I'll get you my email address if you don't already have it. But I need your help. There are about 4 billion things to do in Manhattan, and I actually don't have time to do all of them. So please let me know about the thing that you would do if you had the chance to live here. Then maybe you can visit me and we'll do it again, together. 

Wish me luck!