Suddenly I’m Homesick

Every morning in the Englehauer household, the Today Show is playing, giving me the weather, a little bit of news and a lot of gossip.

And when I am home in time for the evening news, Brian Williams is the one who gives it to me. Brilliams in my favorite Robin Hood board member (sorry to everyone else – I can’t lie). I even have a truly remarkable photo of the big man himself from our 2012 benefit hung up at my desk. Other people have pictures of babies and significant others. For me, it is b.wills.

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And anyone who knows me, knows that although I may live in NYC, in my heart I will always be part of the 603. The ‘shire. The granite state. Those who say “live free or die” and truly mean it. That’s right: New Hampshire.

So, when NBC News and by boy speak about the greatness that is NH, my heart melts.

 

“Anyone who has spent time in New Hampshire has an emotional tie to the state … but what I appreciated when I was governor was the people, and I believe they are what made a difference in getting the peace treaty negotiations done. … It’s been the people: their independence, self-reliance and imagination. It’s all possible in New Hampshire.”
— Jeanne Shaheen

New England Style

Over the holiday weekend Matt and I took a trip up to Boston. Despite the heat we had such an incredible visit. I think it was the first time that we had taken trip that wasn’t for a wedding or a “real” vacation. We just went to a different city, saw lots of great friends, spent time with our families and just relaxed. It was lovely.

A few highlights from the trip:

  • Walking through Harvard Yard for the first time in years. Literally, I think the last time I was there was in 2010 for our friend’s wedding!
  • Going to the Red Sox game. Thankfully our seats were shaded for most of the game or else I would have melted.
  • Spending the 4th with some of Matt’s high school friends & watching the fireworks from a roof top in Southie
  • Visiting our friends in Hingham and dipping our toes in the ocean
  • Buying our first car!
  • Eating burgers and hot dogs on the back deck with Matt’s parents
  • Hanging out with my college roommate, her husband and their new baby boy – they even trusted Matt enough to hold him
  • Spending the day with my parents in Boston – of course they made it educational by taking us to the MFA!
  • Getting ice cream from my favorite place (Cafe Podima) on Sunday before our bus home

Family

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Me

I need to extend to HUGE thank you to one of our friends who made the trip possible. He was kind enough to let us stay in his beautiful downtown Boston condo. Unfortunately he was out-of-town, so we didn’t’ get to spent time with him, but having a place to go home to made the trip that much better.

It was great to be back in the land that embraces madras print, pinstripe and Lilly Pulitzer all topped off with a Red Sox hat.

Urban Jungle

New York City is often referred to as an Urban Jungle; however, this weekend we had the opportunity to visit the real Urban Jungle, the Bronx Zoo!

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For Christmas this past year, Matt and I gave his younger sister a trip to NYC. At the time it was probably a let down. I mean, I would definitely rather get some new clothes than I lame book filled with IOUs. But hopefully, after a weekend jammed packed with fun (Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, Burgers at Shake Shack, the zoo, etc) the wait seemed worth it.

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The Bronx Zoo was definitely the highlight of the weekend for me. Seeing all of the animals up close was truly magical. Of course seeing the giraffes was my favorite, but I think that seeing the gorillas was a very close second.

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I am sure there are people out there who will argue that zoos are inhuman and what not. I’m not knowledgable enough to fight that fight. So I will leave that to PETA.

Family Vacation

This past weekend, my family took our first family vacation in more than six years. The last trip we took together was to Alaska and was definitely a high point in my life. This time, we took a trip to Park City, Utah for some skiing and family fun. To make things even more exciting, this was our first family vacation with Matt. While going from a group of 4, to a group of 5 proved slightly difficult, especially with all of the “quad” chairlifts, overall his addition proved to be a positive one.

Besides the incredible scenery, the beauty of Utah is that you there are so many incredible places to ski, all within an hour drive from Salt Lake. We skied at four different mountains: Park City, Snowbird, Snow Basin and Deer Valley. While Park City is close to our family’s heart (Abby worked there for a season back when she was 24 years old), I think Snow Basin is my favorite.

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Snow Basin
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Snowbird
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Snowbird

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Park CIty
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Snowbird

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Snowbird

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Deer Valley
Deer Valley

Back in 2004, when Abby was working at Park City, we flew out to see her over Christmas. Here are some of our pictures from that trip.  It is crazy to see essentially the same pictures 9 years later.

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Then – 2004
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Now – 2013
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Then – 2004

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Now -2013

Hmm, suddenly I feel old. And I realized that I need a new ski coat.

Thanks for the great trip family! I wouldn’t want to go anywhere with anyone else.

 

 

Fish Out of Water

This weekend, Matt and I decided to take a day trip out of the city. Living in New York can be particularly challenging in the winter. Unless you are a committed skier, you find yourself never leaving the city. And even though New York is a big city, let’s be serious, never leaving a 23 square mile island, filled with 1.6 million people, can make you a little stir crazy.

We tried to plan a weekend getaway to somewhere like the Catskills, the Berkshires or Lake Placid but our timing wasn’t great – with the combination of President’s Day Weekend and MA/NY school vacations, everything was booked. So instead, we rented a car for the day and drove out to NJ.

We drove out to High Point State Park for a little cross-country skiing. Although the north-east received a big storm only a week ago, a lot of the snow had melted so the coverage on the trails wasn’t great. However, it was well worth it – just to get out of the city. Oh yeah, and to see Matt on cross-country skis for the first time. That was fun too!

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I Like Turtles

So let’s just ignore the fact that I haven’t been blogging lately. I know, I promised to do a better job leading up to the holidays. Clearly I lied. But don’t worry, I’m just as disappointed as you are. Let’s agree to move on and never talk about it again – even if it happens again.

While I would love to update you on my holiday travels, I don’t want to make my sister jealous of the incredible time that I had on our sailing trip around the British Virgin Islands.

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Sunset

Plus if I mention anything about Miami and the National Championship Football Game, I think my husband and all of his Notre Dame loving friends might have to go back on suicide watch.

 

Tailgate

Giraffe

(Yes, there was a giraffe at our tailgate. Yes, I did freak out.)

So let’s skip all of that.

Tonight, I’ve spent the last two hours watching a documentary about Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on Animal Planet (now you understand why I haven’t been able to blog as regularly as possible. Very important shows like this…) The whole show is pretty incredible and definitely making me want to plan a vacation there. However, one particular segment stood out.

green-sea-turtle-24M2255-43(image from oceanwideimages.com)

Raine Island s a vegetated sandy island that is located on the outer edges of the Great Barrier Reef, approximately 390 miles north Queensland, Australia. Raine Island is the site of the world’s largest remaining population of Green Turtles. On any given day more than 5,000 turtles visit the sandy oasis; however, at the height of their breeding, more than 26,000 turtles arrive on the island at the same time to laid 100 eggs each.

Turtles(image from seaturle.org)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(image from Queensland Government Department of Environment and Heritage Protection)

So you do the math, even if some of the eggs are duds, the end result is still more than 2.5 million baby turtles. And you guessed it, all hatching and making their way to the sea at the same time!

I’m going to skip over all of the predator stuff – believe me, you don’t want to hear about it. But while watching all of this, I’ve come to a few conclusion:

1. I need to see a live turtle hatch at some point in my life
2. Herons are a lot meaner than one would think
3. Animals are much smarter than we give them credit for
4. I like turtles

 

Holiday Mystery Trip

When Abby and I were younger, our parents used to take us on mystery trips. Sometimes things were trips that we earned (I sort of remember earning one for reading a certain number of pages over the summer one year) and sometimes they were completely random and spontaneous. Sometimes they were big trips, like to Boston to see The Secret Garden, The Nutcracker or The Red Sox; while other times they were small, like a trip to McDonald’s for Happy Meals or to King Cone for ice cream and the Merrimack playground. Needless to say, the trips were always a lot of fun so it is no surprise Matt and I have taken this Brethauer family tradition and incorporated it into the Englehauer family.

So what’s better than a mystery trip? A mystery trip that has a holiday theme – that’s what! So I was really excited when I found something fun and a little different for Matt and I do to this holiday season.

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On Saturday night Matt and I took the Metro North into the Bronx to go to the Botanical Gardens  – a place neither of us had visited for the Holiday Train Show. The trip started off pretty great – Metro North leaves from Grand Central Station, which is seriously a beautiful NYC landmark, and one that Matt and I don’t visit too often. When we take the train to Boston or the Long Island Railroad to the Hamptons, we leave from Penn Station (a not so beautiful landmark). Walking through the giant concourse, I will immediately transported to Harry Potter’s King Cross Train Station and Matt to Taggart Terminal from Atlas Shrugged (and yes, that statement pretty much sums us up).

It was a quick train ride and we were transported into a much darker and quite neighborhood. The grounds at the Botanical Gardens are beautiful and walking over to the train show, I was happy. That’s when things started to go wrong.

I had been to a train show before with my dad. It was in our hometown in the cafeteria of the middle school. There were probably 50 – 75 train collectors who brought their train sets and created incredible landscapes for their trains to run through. The level of detail was amazing, speaking with the owners was actually really interesting and after we left, my dad went home and got out his old train set and set it up. So when I found out about the Holiday Train Show at the Botanical Gardens I knew it would be just as good — and assumed it would probably be even better since, this is New York after all. Well – I was wrong.

There were probably 6, not more than 7 trains at this show. And while there were some pretty incredible things there, sadly they weren’t the trains.

The main feature of the show were the replica buildings, all New York City historical landmarks, that were made from plant parts.

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Don’t get me wrong, they were impressive, but when you go expecting trains, it is hard to really get excited.

Thankfully, Matt was a good sport about everything and we ended up having an ok time. Mat said it best “even though it wasn’t the best mystery date ever, it was definitely better than no mystery date!”

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Downhill

Yes – I’m still recapping our trip to Colorado. Seriously, it feels like we were there for a year with everything we did!

Our friends were arriving in Denver on Friday and meeting us in Snowmass that afternoon. So that gave Matt and I the morning to pack up, check in to our new condo, do some laundry and hit up the grocery store. Plenty of time to find in one more activity, right?

Since we had such much fun mountain biking the first time, we decided to do that again. Plus we’d heard that Snowmass had just opened some awesome trails so it seemed like a perfect idea.

At the rental shop, Matt and I were surprised to see so many people renting shin guards, wrist guards, padded shirts and helmets with face masks. In Telluride, we just rented bikes and helmets and were fine. Yes – I did fall a couple of times but I am not sure a face mask was necessary, I never went more than 5 mph! So when they asked us if we wanted the “safety package” we laughed and opted out.

When Matt and I took the bikes for a quick test spin around the sidewalk, we both immediately asked for our bike seats to be raised. The guys who worked at the rental store told us that they were actually at the right height, “since you aren’t sitting when you are riding, it doesn’t matter that much.”

Umm, what? No sitting? What are you talking about.

We took their word for it and headed to the gondola. As we rode up the mountain, I started to realize that Matt and I were the only people who didn’t have safety gear on. Everyone else was decked out in hardcore gear, while I was wearing spandex bike shorts and a lululemon bike shirt. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Was this just the different between Telluride and Aspen?

I decided to google “different types of mountain biking.” The results showed me that there are multiple types of mountain biking:  cross country (XC), trail riding, all mountain, downhill, freeride, slopestyle, dirt jumping and trials. What we had done in Telluride was cross country. Commonly defined by the terrain on which it is performed, XC courses and trails consist of a mix of rough forest paths and singletrack, smooth fireroads, and even paved paths connecting other trails. Cross-country bicycles are some of the lightest mountain bikes, typically between 15 and 35 lb. They usually feature suspension forks in front and sometimes have suspension in the rear.

What we were about to was downhill. Downhill biking is a time trial mountain biking event held on a course with a net decrease in elevation. As the name of this discipline implies, downhill races are held on steep, downhill terrain, resulting in high speed descents and, most commonly, with extended air time off jumps and other obstacles. Modern downhill bikes weigh between 30 and 42 pounds, and usually feature full-suspension and frame geometries that lean back farther  than other mountain bikes.

Suddenly, I was in a whole new world.

We began to make our way down “Easy Rider” a begin track. It took me a little to get used to the bike and after about 2 minutes of squatting over my bike (remember – you are really supposed to sit down) my thighs were burning. But even though it was physically challenging, and I was going ridiculously slow, I liked it. This was definitely something I could get into. and let’s face it, that face mask helmet makes me look bad ass.

 

After a few runs I was feeling pretty good about myself. So at the end of the day, we decided to take on an expert level course, Valhalla, the newest and Snowmass’ signature downhill trail.

And yes, you better believe it that Matt and I looked this intense going down it!

 

So look out, I’m planning to make my downhill debut at the X Games! Let’s just hope the sport is ready for me.

Maroon Bells

On our second day in Telluride, we decided to visit Maroon Lake, to take in the sights of Maroon Bells, two peaks in the Elk Mountains about 12 miles from Aspen. The view of the Maroon Bells to the southwest from the Maroon Creek valley is one of the most famous scenes in Colorado, and is reputed to be the “most-photographed spot in Colorado” and one of Colorado’s premier scenic overlooks. Naturally, we needed to go and see this view for ourselves.

We rented bikes and took a bus to the lake. During the ride up, we passed multiple bikers who were making the 8 mile climb to the lake. Suddenly we felt pretty pathetic riding up in the bus. To be honest, I blame the guy at the bike shop. Clearly he should have looked at us, realized that Matt was an Ironman, and suggest that we ride up. Unfortunately, he looked at us, thought “tourists” and gave us a pair of hybrid bikes and told us to ride the 8 miles downhill. Honestly – there’s nothing worse than being pegged as a tourist. You miss out on all of the “insider-fun.”

Once we arrived, we piled out of the bus (feeling very touristy) and headed over to the lake to snap a few pictures (again, feeling touristy).

Next we ventured down the crater lake trail, a 1.8 mile trail that brings you to another small lake/pond. More incredible sights means more incredible pictures.

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One of my favorite things in Colorado was all of the aspen trees. At first I thought they were birch trees (the state tree of New Hampshire!) but then I quickly realized that these trees were different.

The ride down the mountain was fun – we pretty much went the entire 8 miles without pedaling once. Weeeeeee!

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The Meatball Shack

For the second half of our trip, Matt and I ventured over to Aspen. The drive over was beautiful and Matt booked us in an awesome hotel, The Limelight. After checking in and showering off our failure from the 14er, we took to the town.

Aspen has a very different feel than Telluride. Gone were the small coffee shops and in were the high-end designer stores and trendy restaurants. While in Telluride, we fit in with our jeans and fleeces, in Aspen, we stood out. And not for the right reason.

After a quick drink at Jimmy’s (I highly recommend the margarita), we settled on The Meatball Shack for dinner.

 

This relatively new restaurants combines different meats and sauces into unique and delicious meatballs. We went with the classic beef with marinara sauce and the chicken with buffalo sauce. While both were delicious, I have a special place in my tummy for buffalo.

I wasn’t planning on ordering desert until I saw the menu.

Design your own cookie? Yes, please! Matt and I went with the original cookie dough with health bar  and salted caramel topping.

Oh yeah, and with a scoop of homemade ice cream on top. It was heavenly. And gone in about 2 seconds.

How didn’t I think of this idea? Maybe I can create the NYC version.