Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday Mantra: Eleanor Roosevelt and Fear

Venture & Roam: Do one thing every day that scares you. - Eleanor Roosevelt Quote, quotes about overcoming fear

This week I have had to face one of my biggest fears: pricking my finger with a lancet.

For some, this may seem like such a trivial action. But for me, it is something that has caused me to break down into uncontrollable sobs at the doctor's office. 

I'm not sure when I developed this fear... Maybe it was a bad experience at the paediatrician when I was a child, or watching my diabetic grandmother prick her finger regularly. But all that I know is that my fear is real and tangible.

But this week, I've had to come face to face with this fear. After a diagnosis with gestational diabetes and my doctor instructing me to test my blood sugar 4 times a day, my immediate reaction was denial. I flat out told my doctor that I refused to prick my finger once, let alone 4 times a day.

When I finally considered that testing my blood sugar regularly was in the best interest of my baby, I started to gain courage. After all, the health of my child is more important than any fear I could ever have in life. 

I went out and bought a OneTouch Ultra meter and the OneTouch Ultra lancets. On first morning I tested my blood sugar, I woke my husband up to help me. We set up the lancet and meter, and it took me about 20 minutes of crying and freaking out before I calmed myself down enough for my husband to prick my finger. It hurt, but I had survived.

That first day was rough. I had to test my blood a total of 3 more times that day, and by the end of the day my fingers felt so sore. I was fortunate that my husband was able to do prick my finger for the first and last samples of the day, and even more lucky that I work at a school where the school nurse could test my blood sugar for the second and third times. 

But I wasn't finished building my courage. The next morning was the weekend, and I didn't want to wake up my husband early to test my finger. I wanted to know that I was capable of testing my blood sugar by myself. I felt scared, and my stomach clenched. I took a few deep breaths, and released the lancet into my finger. It hurt a lot, but I felt so proud that I had done it all by myself. 

I'm slowly learning how to make it less painful when I test my blood sugar. And I'm happy to report that my blood sugar levels are well below the maximum levels (aka I'm eating super healthy, and I don't have too much sugar in my blood!).

After 5 days of testing my blood, I'm realizing that I can overcome even the worst of my fears, especially when I'm doing it to keep my little baby safe and healthy. I'm still not a fan of testing my blood sugars, but I'm braver than I was before. 

Sometimes the worst part about fear is the unknown, or the anticipation of something, and not the actual thing itself. I was more afraid of the moments leading up to the actual lancet plunge and the pain of the needle entering my skin. But the pain is so fleeting, and it happens so quickly. 

I think Eleanor Roosevelt said it best when she spoke about overcoming fears. We ought to do one thing each day that scares us. Once we become familiar with our fears, the fears start to fade. I just happen to face my fear four times a day. 

Have you had to overcome any fears recently? What is your biggest fear, and why?

Life is short, share in the adventure!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

My Whole30: Week Two

I've made it through my second week of the Whole30 program, and it wasn't an easy week. 

Last Saturday, I took the standard 3-hour glucose tolerance test that almost every pregnant woman takes towards the end of her second trimester. While I have a history of diabetes in the family (and I have a serious sweet tooth), I figured that I wouldn't be one of the 10% of women that are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Well, I was wrong. 

My doctor informed me that, despite the fact that my readings were normal for the fasting and 2-hour mark blood samples, my 1-hour blood sample post the sugary syrupy drink was 3.3 points higher than it should have been. I have no idea what that means, but she said she considered this a sign of gestational diabetes, or at the very least that I was developing it. 

She gave me a choice: either prick my finger 4 times a day and watch what I eat, or take Glucophage and really restrict my diet. I'm super afraid of needles, so I opted for the second choice. 

Her diet was basically a low-fat version of the Whole30, but it restricted the amount of fruit that I could consume in a day to two servings... a big bummer for me since I was living off of fruit for the first week of Whole30. Restricting the amount of fruit that I consumed was by far the hardest part of my second week.

I also decided that I needed to test my blood sugar in addition to taking the medication, because I want to make sure that I'm healthy for my baby. I found that eating a small sweet potato, something that I lived on for the first week of Whole30, spiked my blood sugar well above the level it should have been after 1 hour of eating my meal. So no baked sweet potatoes for me. 

So you must be thinking.... If I'm not eating breads, grains, dairy, peanuts, soy, and the other inflammatory foods restricted on the Whole30 diet, and I couldn't eat unlimited fruits and sweet potatoes... what in the world did I eat for a week? 



a scrambled egg, homemade Larabar, and a cup of homemade bone broth


an apple, pear, or kiwi with almonds, or a cup of baby carrots


mixed lettuce with half a chicken breast, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or leftovers from dinner


steamed or roasted vegetables, baked chicken or salmon, steamed kale, and homemade guacamole. 

I definitely had a hard adjustment taking out most of my favorite fruits (since fruit can be high in natural sugar...). And eliminating my favorite go-to starch (sweet potato) was definitely hard.

I'm going to see if adding more fruit will spike my blood sugars, but so far my levels have been way below the max level. But until then, I'll have to learn to curb my sweet tooth and eat more vegetables. 

Are you participating in the Whole30? Or have you completed the Whole30 program? Did you have gestational diabetes during your pregnancy? Share your comments below.

And don't forget: Life is short, share in the adventure!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Few Days in New York

Venture & Roam: Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island
Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island

It has been two weeks since we left New York City, and I'm not sure why I've been putting off this post. Could it be that I'm still having guilt over my love affair with Boston? Or maybe that writing this post means facing the fact that I'm truly back to the daily grind? Am I subconsciously missing vacation? Or could it be that I knew this post would be long, and I could't fathom writing a long post after vacation? I can't say for sure, but I'll take a guess that its probably just due to pure laziness.

After an amazing trip to Boston, we flew to New York City and headed to our hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Mela, conveniently located right in the middle of Times Square. The room was small, especially for a king-sized bed (I'm pretty sure Husband felt shocked at the "price versus square-footage" conundrum that plagues NYC), but it was cozy and relatively quiet for the area.

On the first day, Husband had to do some prep for an important conference he was leading, so I decided to do a little shopping. I figured that it was the perfect opportunity to buy stone beads at some of my favorite jewelry supply shops without having to drag my husband along. I ventured down 6th Avenue between 40th and 36th Streets, making my way to all of the best shops, and after a few hours of sifting through rows upon rows of shiny colorful beads, I returned home with a bag of nice goodies.

After dropping off my haul from the bead shops at our hotel room, husband and I met up with a dear sorority sister of mine, Sarah. We had lunch near Rockefeller Plaza at a place called Bill's Bar & Burgers, where we ate delicious burgers and tacos.  It was so nice catching up with my friend, hearing about her life in New York City, and sharing our excitement over Husband and I starting a family. Sarah works in the Digital Marketing division of Simon & Schuster, and brought us amazing board books for the baby. They were such kind gifts, especially given how much I love to read, and I was so thankful that she gave them to us.

We left lunch craving something sweet, so we headed to Magnolia Bakery for a cupcake and some banana pudding. With our goodies to go, we said our goodbyes to Sarah and headed back to the hotel for a quick rest and to have a nibble of our sweet treats. After satisfying our sweet tooth cravings, we went shopping at Buy Buy Baby to shop for strollers. We spent a lot of time deliberating the different models, hemmed and hawed over which stroller was best for us, and we finally settled on the Bugaboo Chameleon3.

In a rush, we hurried back to our hotel to freshen up before heading to the Eugene O'Neill Theater to see The Book of Mormon. My husband is not a fan of musicals, and the idea of going to see one while we were in New York was not at the top of his list of things to do. But within the first song, we were both doubled over with laughter, tears welling up in our eyes from pure humour. Husband finally had his first taste of Broadway, and I'm pretty sure it left him willing to try it again.

After the theater, we dashed to make our reservation at a little Italian bistro called Basso56. We each had a pasta dish, the Fettuccine Con Funghi Porcini e Spinaci for me and the Rigatoni alla Bolognese for Husband. Lulled by full bellies, the coziness and warmth of the restaurant, we could have sat there for hours. But a late-night flight delay and even later (2am) arrival the day before had finally taken hold of us, so we lazily shuffled out of the restaurant and headed back to our hotel for some much needed rest.

The next morning, my husband had his important conference. I left early to grab us some breakfast (yummy oatmeal and coffee from Pret a Manger). I curled up and read my book while Husband led his meeting, and then we headed out the door to do some more exploring. We walked uptown towards Central Park. On our way, we stopped at the Nintendo store, something my husband was very interested in seeing. It was fun to play the demo games, look at all of the old gaming devices, and shop for a nice Zelda shirt for Husband. We even bought a small pink Yoshi doll for the baby.

Venture & Roam: Nintendo store in Rockefeller Plaza
Nintendo Store

We continued uptown and made our way to Central Park. It was absolutely gorgeous and picturesque: fresh Spring air, warm sunshine, and blooming petals from the tops of trees all the way down to the spring flowers on the ground. We enjoyed a wonderful stroll through the park, breathing in the fresh air and and taking in the feeling of being back in green nature (something we don't get a lot in Dubai).  As we made our way through the park, we worked up quite an appetite. Before we stopped at the American Museum of Natural History, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Cafe Frida, a little Mexican restaurant with a lot of flavor. We shared soft corn tacos with barbacoa, guacamole, and platanos fritos. The meal was absolutely delicious, and our hunger was satisfied.

Venture & Roam: Central Park in Spring, spring blooms, blooming trees
Central Park in Spring

Venture & Roam: Central Park Scenery, trees in bloom, nature
Central Park Scenery

Our next stop was the American Museum of Natural History. We visited the Hayden Planetarium first, which was in a word: incredible. The show, called "Dark Universe" and narrated by renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, was visually spectacular. We felt as if we had been transported directly into Space, flying among the stars, and moving through time to discover everything that is currently known about the origins of the Universe.

Venture & Roam: Greeted by Residents at the Entrance of the American Museum of Natural History, fossils, dinosaurs, apatosaurus
Greeted by Residents at the Entrance of the American Museum of Natural History 

After the show, we roamed around the museum. At the top of our list for must-sees: dinosaurs, more dinosaurs, and gems. We met with our lovely friends, the Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops, and we explored the world of rocks and minerals. It was such a great afternoon at the museum, and we really felt like kids again.

Venture & Roam: Tyrannosaurus Rex Skull, fossil, fossils, predator
Tyrannosaurus Rex Skull

Venture & Roam: fossils, dinosaur armour
Dinosaur armour 

Venture & Roam: Triceratops at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, NYC, fossils, dinosaur
Triceratops Relaxing

Venture & Roam: The Star of India Sapphire, with star shapes
The Star of India

By late afternoon, we were feeling pretty beat from walking around and exploring the city. We headed back to our hotel to take a nice nap (always a vacation-worthy thing to do). We awoke from our naps feeling rested (though my feet still felt quite sore... one of those things they don't tell you about being pregnant), and started to get ready for dinner.

We walked through the crowds in Times Square, and made our way towards another little Italian restaurant, Becco. There, we met two good friends of mine from college, Lindsey and Nico. Over unlimited pasta, we caught up on each other's lives, laughed about funny times in college, and had many discussions about wedding planning (as Nico & Lindsey are getting married!). We had a lot of fun, and it was so nice to catch up with them. We said our goodbyes to my friends, and strolled home enjoying the crisp air along the way.

The next morning, our last day in New York City and the final day of our trip, began early in the morning. We left the hotel and took the subway towards Battery Park. We grabbed a quick coffee (skinny hot chocolate for me) before buying our tickets to visit the Statue of Liberty. It was a cold, gray and windy day, but we were determined to see Lady Liberty. We boarded the ferry and watched Manhattan drift into the fog as the boat made its way towards Liberty Island. As we left the boat, the we waited in a line that seemed to last forever, but we finally made it to the observation deck of the statue. It was fun to stand at the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, but we decided that it was better to get a view of her from the ground given that it was raining and overcast.

From the ground, we have a wonderful view of Lady Liberty in all her glory. Her turquoise green hue stood in stark contrast with the gray skies. She stood strong and determined against the wind, and the sight of her sparked a patriotic fever in my bones. Strong woman, strong country. Proud.

Venture & Roam: Lady Liberty, Statue of Liberty, Pedestal, a view from the ground
Lady Liberty

Venture & Roam: Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, patriotic, Lady Liberty,
Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island

We left Liberty Island and decided to skip Ellis Island. Instead, Husband and I opted to take the ferry back to Manhattan and walked to the 9/11 Memorial Site to pay our respects to the victims. It was sobering to stand at the place of such tragedy, and to read the names of those who perished during the attack. The most memorable name for me was a woman and "her unborn child". I was shocked and saddened, and felt instantly connected to this woman while my unborn child kicked in my belly.

Husband and I left the memorial and headed the Chelsea Market for some lunch. We perused the different shops and restaurants before settling on Friedman's Lunch, a quaint little diner that serves amazing Club Sandwiches. Though the market is noisy and bustling, it has a unique charm that even the hardest critic would find difficult to resist. After lunch we hopped on the subway and went to the Momofuku Milk Bar near Union Square to try the truffles and Crack Pie (both out of this world delicious).

We roamed around the square, popping into Barnes & Noble. There, Husband found two books by his favorite author that he hadn't been able to locate in Dubai. We bought them immediately and he was giddy with anticipation for starting his new books. By now, my feet and back ached from so many days of walking in a row (thanks pregnancy), so we headed back to the hotel to pack our belongings and relax before leaving for the airport that evening.

It was so wonderful to be back in New York City, if only for a few days. It was an action packed adventure, and I loved having the chance to show Husband around the city that I have loved my entire life. Now if only I could get my mind off of Boston!

Remember: Life is short, share in the adventure!

What are your favorite spots in New York? Share them below! 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My Whole 30: The First Week

I almost survived my first week of the Whole30 program with no incident. Days 1 to 6 were relatively easy for me, and it encouraged me to cook a homemade meal every evening (something I'm sure Husband was very pleased about). I ate tons of scrambled eggs and homemade Larabars for breakfast every day. My dinners were made of lean meats, salmon, and lots of veggies: simple but delicious. I ate leftovers for lunch, and supplemented it with fresh fruits and vegetables. 

I only had one or two cravings for sweets (I nearly drooled all over the floor during a visit to the mall when a lady passed by eating a double scoop of mint chocolate chip on a cone), and I had a few cravings for pasta. In all honesty, I felt lighter and less stressed, but I felt a bit more fatigued. 

All in all, it was a pretty successful week...

Until I had to take a standard glucose test for my pregnancy on Saturday morning. This test involved drinking a bottle of sugar syrup that tasted strangely like flat Fanta Orange, and having my blood drawn on three separate occasions over the course of three hours. The sugary drink totally brought back my "Sugar Dragon" cravings, and totally ruined the hard work that I had done throughout the whole week. I felt pretty terrible after the test, my belly ached (could also be from the fear of having my blood drawn three times!), and I didn't make the best dietary choices for the rest of the day.

Womp, womp. 

So I'm "restarting" my 30 days, with no sugary syrupy drinks in my future to derail me from making healthy eating choices! I think this will also be a great opportunity to document what I've been eating all week on my blog. 

Here's to another smooth-ish week of healthy eating! ;) 

Life is short, share in the adventure!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Monday Mantra: Ann Wigmore on Food as Medicine and Poison

Just some food for thought...
Feel free to leave comments below!

Life is short, share in the adventure. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

My Whole30: A 30 Day Journey to Better Eating

I had a rude awakening at my doctor's appointment yesterday. Giddy from anticipation to see my little one on the monitor, I happily stepped onto the scale during my check-up. Much to my surprise, especially since I still fit into my clothes (baby bump excluded), the scale indicated that I had gained some weight. Too much weight. At the very least, I had gained too much weight for what is to be considered healthy weight gain in the span of a month during a normal pregnancy. Needless to say, my doctor uttered Number 5 of The Top 14 Things You Should Never to Say to a Pregnant Woman

My doctor kindly suggested that I reconsider my diet. My First thought: violation of Number 2 on my list! My second thought: oh no, gestational diabetes, gestational obesity, instant fear at the thought of pushing out a 10 pound baby!

So under my doctor's direction, I'm going to try to change my eating habits. With her consent, I will be taking part in the Whole30 challenge. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Whole30 program, its a 30-day commitment to eating healthier while eliminating foods that cause inflammation and dietary distress. It is described as a nutritional reset, and it is designed to help you discover which, if any, foods have a negative or inflammatory affect on your body. It is not intended to be a weight-loss program (perfect for a pregnant mama), but I certainly hope that it will help me to maintain a healthy weight, and healthy weight gain, during my pregnancy. 

Venture & Roam: Whole30 by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig, eating healthy,
Whole30 by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig

My doctor suggested that temporarily eliminating some foods from my diet may improve some problems that I've been experiencing, such as poor digestion and heartburn (some of the things they never tell you about being pregnant), as well as maintain a healthy weight during my pregnancy. 

So here is my pledge and promise: I will try my hardest for my baby and myself to eat healthier over the next 30 days. It won't be easy. I'm a sucker for sweets and carbs. But the health of my baby and my body is worth more than any dessert or bread basket. 

Venture & Roam: I'm committing to 30 days of healthy eating, Whole30

Have you tried the Whole30 program? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

New Designs: Bead Shopping in New York City

We arrived back home in Dubai late last night, and I've spent the last 24 hours trying to recover from jet lag and the exhaustion of a busy two weeks traveling, and coming to terms with the daunting task of unpacking my suitcase. But as I began to unpack my suitcase this morning, I came across the bag of beads that I purchased at some of the bead shops in New York City. I always love shopping in NYC, and shopping for beads is no exception.

Here is a glimpse of some of the beads that I purchased in NYC. I can't wait to see what I make from this little pile of treasure!  

Venture & Roam: Beads in the Garment District of New York City, NYC, bead shopping, buddha beads
Beads in the Garment District of New York City

Tip: Wind your way up and down 6th Ave. between 32nd and 37th, and you'll find some awesome bead shops!

Check back tomorrow for a post on our three day trip to NYC. 

As always, thanks for stopping by! Life is short, share in the adventure!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Roam Around the World: A Love Affair With Boston

Venture & Roam: Hello Boston, neon Boston sign, blue neon

Dear New York,

I've been seeing Boston for the last three days. It has been a magical experience, and I'm not sure that I can continue to remain faithful to you. With all of the rich American history, quintessential brownstones lining the streets, cobblestone paths, and the charm of small-town USA in a city, I'm pretty sure my heart is now divided between the two of you. I can no longer claim that you are my favorite city in the U.S. 

It's really not you, it's me. You're great! You have your own amazing qualities that make you special, and I'm looking forward to seeing you over the next few days. But I can't seem to get Boston out of my head. I hope you understand. 

Don't get me wrong, I'll always be a New Yorker at heart. But there is room in my heart for Boston. Maybe a lot of room. So please don't take this the wrong way, but I'm having a love affair with Boston, and I have no intention of giving that up. 


Yours Truly.

In all seriousness and sincerity, Boston has captured my heart. I can't believe that it has taken me this long to visit such an iconic city, and my life has been forever changed. Not only have I received a dose of patriotic spirit by exploring historical sites that I loved learning about during my American History classes, I've also rediscovered the charm of the New England area. Despite the bitter cold of a sudden snow storm, there is something more warm and welcoming about Boston than there is in New York City. 

We began our trip on Saturday with a walk around the Boston Commons. It was rainy, but that didn't matter. We met up with my oldest college friend Hillary, her husband Scott, and their baby Anya. It was so nice to catch up with them and finally meet little Anya. And my, oh my, what a happy little baby girl! 

After walking around the city, we all found our way to a little Italian restaurant called Fiore in the North End of Boston. As we ate our delicious gnocchi, pasta, and antipasti, we laughed and joked about the finer things in pregnancy and parenthood: leg cramps, nausea, poopy diapers and constant spit-ups. It was comforting to talk about pregnancy and birthing fears with one of my best friends, and I think it calmed my nerves (and husband's too) about bringing a little baby into this world. 

We finished dinner and walked to the iconic Mike's Pastry for some cannolis before heading back to the hotel to relax and have some quality snuggle time with Anya. We laughed about all of the fun times we had at Syracuse University. It was so nice to spend time with Hillary and her family, and I hope that it won't be too long until the next time I see her. 

The next morning we woke up to a snow storm that lasted until mid-morning. We took the Hop on Hop Off Trolley around the city, and we enjoyed the sights of Boston from the comfort of the heated trolley. I was in awe of the old historic buildings nestled in the shadows of the modern city offices.

Venture & Roam: Quincy Market near Faneuil Hall in Boston
Quincy Market near Faneuil Hall

Venture & Roam: Lobster Merry-Go-Round Seats near the Quincy Market
Lobster Merry-Go-Round Seats near the Quincy Market

Venture & Roam: Lobster Roll with Sweet Potato Fries at Joe's American Bar & Grill
Lobster Roll with Sweet Potato Fries

We hopped off near the Quincy Market and met one of my oldest friends, Kayla, for a little lunch at an American eatery called Joe's American Bar & Grill. I finally had one of New England's most famous eats, the Lobster Roll. After lunch, we walked to the Boston Tea Party Ships Museum, and had a blast participating in a mini reenactment of the Boston Tea Party. With lots of huzzah's and a few fie's, I volunteered my husband and myself to speak two lines during the "town hall meeting". I'm not sure that husband was thrilled at the idea of acting in front of a crowd of strangers, but he was a good sport about it and really put on a show. 

After the show, we stood on the starboard of the tall ship docked in the bay, Kayla and I tossed the replica (canvas-covered cube of styrofoam) tea box into the water. I felt exhilarated at the idea that I had recreated a simple act of non-violence which had ignited the American Revolutionary War. No taxation without representation, huzzah! ;) 

My husband and I parted ways with Kayla in order to finish the last few stops of the Hop on Hop off tour, and we hiked our way up to the top of the Battle of Bunker Hill Monument. We were too late to walk up to the top of the monument, but we had a great view of the city from the hill. We made our way back to the hotel afterwards to relax before heading out to dinner at Koreana with Kayla and our friend Stephanie. I hadn't seen Steph in ages, so it was nice to catch up on life. We said our goodbyes, and then husband and I headed home for some much needed sleep. 

On Monday, we woke up to another snow storm. It's been over a year since we've seen snow, so I can't actually complain about all of the snow flurries and icy wind. Having grown up in Cleveland, this weather makes me feel at home. We began our morning by following the Freedom Trail, a route paved in the ground which takes tourists on a self-guided tour of some of Boston's, and arguably America's, most historic sites. Husband and I popped into the Old Granary graveyard, whose famous residents include Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and John Hancock to name a few. 

Next, we toured the Old South Meeting House, the site of the town hall protest that sparked the fateful Boston Tea Party. It was a much larger town hall than I had expected, and it was clear to see how a crowd could become easily agitated in a open setting like that. 

Venture & Roam: Old South Meeting House in Boston, Boston Tea Party
Old South Meeting House

Venture & Roam: Inside the Old South Meeting House, symbol of Freedom of Speech
Inside the Old South Meeting House, symbol of Freedom of Speech

Afterwards, we made our way towards the site of the Boston Massacre, and I stood there silently taking in the old cobblestone circle compassed by a brass ring which marks the site where 5 colonial men died by the hands of trigger-happy British soldiers. 

Venture & Roam: Site of the Boston Massacre
Site of the Boston Massacre

We continued our tour of the Freedom Trail all the way to the North End to visit the Paul Revere House, the home of the midnight rider. I was pleasantly surprised by how warm it was inside the old wooden house, and I found it fascinating to see the restored and renovated living quarters of one of America’s most famous Revolutionaries. From the fireplaces to the restored wooden beams of the house, each square foot of the Paul Revere House inspired a vivid imagination of the colonial lifestyle. It may not have been glamorous, but it was probably a good life in its simplicity. 

Venture & Roam: The Paul Revere House
The Paul Revere House

Venture & Roam: A Stained Glass Window from The Paul Revere House, purple glass, blue glass,
A Stained Glass Window from The Paul Revere House

We made our way to Beacon Hill, lined with iconic shops sporting hand-painted signs (no neon lights allowed here) and gas-lit street lamps. We walked along the street, lazily peering into the windows of boutiques. Husband and I continued our journey through the Public Garden in Boston Commons and boarded the T, taking the Green line to Boston University, husband’s alma mater. We ate a delicious and incredibly inexpensive meal at Super 88 Market near BU’s campus, and then headed back to the hotel to rest before packing our bags for the airport. 

Venture & Roam: Make Way for Ducklings Statue covered in snow and wearing spring hats in the Boston Public Garden
Make Way for Ducklings Statue covered in snow and wearing spring hats in the Boston Public Garden

Our trip to Boston may have been short, but it left me feeling like I had experienced so much in such little time. I feel more deeply connected to my roots as an American, and my patriotic pride is overflowing. I fell in love with the beauty of this city, and I now dream of the living in the brownstones that line the streets of Boston. I love the laid-back nature of Bostonians, and the way that the historic nature and patriotism of this historic city is reflected in the community. Each person I interacted with, whether it was the Hop on Hop Off tour guide or the girl at Peet’s Coffee Shop, was friendly and helpful. Boston is definitely a city that I plan on visiting time and time again. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this adventure, and keep an eye out for the next stop: New York City!

Life is short, share in the adventure!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Hardest Part Is Saying Goodbye: A Week in Cleveland

Saying goodbye doesn’t necessarily get easier over time. It just becomes a necessary evil in the life of an expat. For me, saying goodbye to my family becomes more difficult each time I leave. On the one hand, I’m excited to get back to the life that I’ve created for myself, a life that is full of adventure and new experiences. But on the other hand, I leave behind a huge part of my life that can’t be replaced, a life of comfort and security, and one that helped to define me as a person.

When they say that it takes a village to raise a child, I think they were talking about my family. I had my loving mother and father, who worked hard to provide for me and give me a happy childhood; but, I was also fortunate to have an extended family that cared for me as if I was their own child. Surrounded by amazing grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, I was fiercely loved and protected. Saying goodbye to my family is like saying goodbye to a piece of myself: I carry them in my heart no matter where I go, but it is not quite the same thing as having them right next to me.

My mother always told me to go out and see the world. And so that is what I did. Living abroad has taught me so much about the world, about my own life, and in some ways it has fundamentally changed who I am as a person. When you move abroad, especially if you move to a country that does not speak your native language, you begin to discover just how strong you are as an individual. You learn that your way of living is not the only way of living, and you come to understand that your perspective on life is only a singular drop in an ocean of viewpoints. 

But part of the joy of visiting my family in Cleveland is enjoying my hometown as a visitor rather than a resident. I enjoy sightseeing and exploring my city with new eyes (albeit this trip had a lot of shopping for our new baby). 

Here are some of the highlights (besides spending tons of time with family and friends) from our visit to Cleveland!

After Easter, we spent Monday shopping for baby before heading to visit my step-father's 98 year-old dad in an assisted living center in Chagrin Falls. Though our visit was short, it was nice to see Pops, whose eyes lit up when we saw my baby bump. After our visit, we all had delicious burgers at Flipside before having a sweet ice cream treat at Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream. If you get the chance to have Jeni's ice cream, do it. 

Venture & Roam: Massive Onion Rings at Flipside Chagrin Falls Ohio
Onion Rings at Flipside in Chagrin Falls

Venture & Roam: The Popcorn Shop in Chagrin Falls Ohio, Small Town USA, popcorn and candy
The Popcorn Shop in Chagrin Falls

Venture & Roam: The waterfalls in Chagrin Falls Ohio
The Falls in Chagrin

Venture & Roam: Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream in Chagrin Falls
Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream in Chagrin Falls

Venture & Roam: Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream: Salted Caramel and Milkiest Chocolate
Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream: Salted Caramel and Milkiest Chocolate

Venture & Roam: Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Krema Nuts

On Tuesday, my mom and I went through old boxes of mine in her basement in order to declutter and prepare some of my things for shipment to Dubai. We laughed, cried, and reminisced about my childhood. I went to lunch with my mom and grandma, and did a little maternity clothes shopping, while my husband spent the day with his friend. In the evening we went to the Greenhouse Tavern with a couple of friends for some foodie eats before heading to the Cleveland Cavaliers' game against the Houston Rockets. We all met up with my Aunt Anne and Uncle Julian during the Cavs game, and had a blast at the Quicken Loans Arena (even though the Cavs lost).  

Venture & Roam: Uncle Julian, Auntie Anne, Me, and Husband at the Cav's game
Uncle Julian, Auntie Anne, Me, and Husband at the Cav's game

Venture & Roam: The Cleveland Cavaliers, Cavs Game, Quicken Loans Arena
A view from the top at the Cavs' game

Venture & Roam: Selfie at the Cavs game
Selfie at the game 
Venture & Roam: Terminal Tower lit up in Crimson and Gold for the Cavs
Terminal Tower lit up in Crimson and Gold for the Cavs

Wednesday we had a sushi lunch with my dad and my cousin Kevin at Pacific East at Eton. It was so nice to spend time with my dad and my cousin, and I wished the afternoon would never end. That evening, we celebrated my Cousin Kennedy's 21st birthday at my Aunt and Uncle's house. I can't believe she's already 21! We had a wonderful time catching up with so many of our family friends, and we ate a delicious Archie's cake (my favorite cake!!!). 

Venture & Roam: Archie's Hough Bakery Cake from Cleveland Ohio
Archie's Hough Bakery Cake from Cleveland Ohio... Yum!

The day after, I took my English Language Arts content area exam to qualify for teacher's certification (official results pending... preliminary results indicating I passed!), and then we had lunch at Peppermint Thai with my brother Jack and a couple of my friends. We went to Buy Buy Baby in the afternoon with my mom and grandma, and went crazy shopping for baby things. 

That evening, we met with my dad, my cousin Kevin, and his wife Melissa, for some delicious customized hot dogs at Happy Dog in Lakewood. This dive bar, which serves crazy concoctions on top of all-beef hot dogs, has great live entertainment in the evening. But I fell victim to pregnant-lady fatigue, so we left after only two songs. It was hard to say goodbye, especially to my dad, since this was the last time I would see him while I was in Cleveland. 

Friday morning was spent finishing the purge in the basement and visiting the DMV office to renew my driver's license. We had a quiet afternoon packing our things and then said one last goodbye to my family over takeout pizza at my mom's house. We had a great time laughing and joking around, but our last dinner is something that I never truly look forward to while visiting Cleveland because it means the end of our trip and saying "goodbye" to my family. We said our farewells to the family, giving more hugs than humanly possible. 

Venture & Roam: Four generations of women: Mom, Grandma, Me, and Baby
Four generations of women: Mom, Grandma, Me, and Baby

Our Saturday morning was bittersweet. We left early in the morning, gave our last goodbyes to my mom, step-dad, and brother (and the puppy dogs!), before hitting the road at 6:45am to head to the airport. I shed a few tears on the way, but looked forward to visiting  Boston. Its a strange feeling, being both sad and excited at the same time. But as we flew over Cleveland, I smiled at the thought that I have so much to look forward to in the next few months. 

Life is short, share in the adventure.