A Tourist’s Guide to Christmas in NYC

There are a lot of places on my travel wish list. Greece, Instanbul, Rio De Janeiro, the Great Wall, Texas (one of the 12 states I haven’t visited), London at Christmastime, Spain, etc etc. Some of the places on my travel wish list are conveniently located in America, like NYC at Christmastime, which happens to be only 4 hours away from where I live. So this past Saturday, Rahul and I loaded up my car (if you count packing banana bread, nutri-grain bars, water, and an apple as “loading up”) and drove up to NYC for the day.

We hit the major Christmas spots: Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, Macy’s, Central Park (Home Alone bridge), and more. We oohed and ahhed at the pretty Christmas lights, window shopped at Saks Fifth Avenue, and bought some delicious treats at Chelsea Market. We also mastered the subway, only getting turned around once. All-in-all, it was a fantastic day, full of Christmas cheer and enormous crowds.

I’m minimally familiar with NYC, in the sense that I know what direction the major tourist attractions are. I can tell you how to find Central Park and am really good at pointing at the big buildings in the sky (and how to differentiate between the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building). That being said, I figured there are other people like us (aka non New Yorkers) who are venturing to NYC for a Christmas day-trip and might appreciate a little advice from another tourist POV.

A Tourist’s Guide to NYC 

1. If you only have time to see the Rockefeller tree once, then do it at night. It’s so much prettier because the lights hide how droopy the tree is (and it was kind of disappointing during the day). Plus, the lights make everything look magical. Be prepared to overhear fun things like “YOU like the crowd, I don’t like the crowd” and a child responding “I hope I get lost!” after a mom said “Stay close, you don’t want to get lost.” Put your fight face on to maneuver through the crowd.

In case you need more convincing to go at night…

2. Don’t wait in the line to ice skate at Rockefeller Center. Not only is the ice skating rink tiny tiny, you’ll be standing in a line in the cold. Rahul and I chose to watch the skaters from above instead. Plus, we got our ice skating fix in at the Sculpture Garden Ice Rink a few weeks ago. Plus plus, there are tons of other rinks in the city (we saw at least 5, and we definitely only visited about 5-10 % of the city).


3. Take cash. I know this seems so obvious (and I can hear my parents’ voices in my head admonishing me for never having cash on me), but some of the subway stops accept cash only. Plus, toll roads.

4. Speaking of toll roads, if you are driving, be prepared to pay. Also, don’t pull a Katherine of 2012 and get so overwhelmed by the honking drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike that you speed right through the “EZPass only” lane. They will find you and send you a notice with the money you owe. If you enter the “no toll roads” option on Google maps, pay attention to the map, or you might end up stuck in immobile traffic for an hour (that didn’t happen to us or anything…).

5. Paying attention to the map is a good rule in general. Have a general idea of what leads where, and don’t go down roads that lead away from the island if you are trying to stay on it. It’s like the rule my family and I created when we visited DC when I was in high school: DON’T GO IN THE TUNNELS. They lead you somewhere completely different than where you were trying to go.

6. Except for the Rockefeller tree, hit the major attractions early: the Empire State Building, Macy’s, FAO Schwartz. Save “easy” attractions, like Central Park, for empty spaces during the day, as Central Park is huge and, unless you are wanting to use the ice skating rink, there are no lines.


Central Park ice skating rink.

With the Home Alone bridge (except you can't really see the bridge).

With the Home Alone bridge (except you can’t really see the bridge).

7. Speaking of lines, DON’T wait in line at Grand Central Terminal to use the bathroom. This is where Rahul and I had lunch (Shake Shack!) and there was a ridiculous line for the ladies bathroom. Go over a few blocks and use the bathroom at the NY Public Library, which has a much smaller line and allows you to reenact scenes from The Day After Tomorrow.

8. Speaking of the NY Public Library, it’s beautiful inside! Plus, it backs up against Bryant Park, which features a Christmas market, skating rink, and a Christmas tree. This tree was much less disappointing during the day (the ornaments help).


9. The decorations at Macy’s and Saks were beautiful, but save your shopping for elsewhere. You can buy a Kate Spade purse anywhere. Personally, I liked Chelsea Market. There were tons of small shops inside, including an Etsy pop-up shop, where local Etsy sellers were selling their stuff in person, an Anthropologie, and a flea market with several individual boutiques, including Pamela Barsky. I’m set on my Christmas shopping, so I didn’t buy anything, but we did have lobster straight from a fish market (new experience for both of us) and delicious mini doughnuts that I probably overpaid for….



10. Speaking of the “money” factor, I’m a big supporter of using your money for food and drink over shopping. I know many of you probably have a vision in your mind of shopping on 5th avenue being fabulous, but if you’ve never been to NYC before, let me break it to you: each store on 5th Ave. is overwhelmingly packed with tourists, even the fancy ones. Most people are walking around and taking pictures (especially in places like Macy’s), and you don’t get much space to breathe. If you must buy something, buy something representative of the place, not a shirt that you could probably buy at home. Instead, spend your money on food! There are tons and tons of restaurants and food trucks and other food places (like the Doughnuttery in Chelsea Market that I probably overpaid for) that are delicious and will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

That’s it! Many of these are probably no-brainers but if you’re like me and google “what to see in NYC at Christmas,” you might also appreciate a list of tips from a NYC outsider. Saturday was, of course, busy because it’s Saturday, but we aren’t able to go during the week. Plus, it was amusing (at first) to see all the Santas dressed up for Santacon (which I didn’t know was a thing until we saw a bunch of them at Grand Central), then annoying after a while. Once you’ve heard one drunk idiot yelling about how drunk they are, you’ve heard them all. Plus, it was nerve-wracking watching some of them try to catch taxis.


Grand Central was our first Santacon sighting. At first, I thought it was some charity thing (which I think it technically does raise money), but then I heard “selfie!!!”

Stay safe, kids, and remember this:



A (Long Overdue) Thanksgiving Recap

Thanksgiving break is one of those tricky holidays that gives the allusion of SO MUCH FREE TIME, but then it goes by in a blur. It felt like we had just landed in Nashville when we were going back through security to fly back to MD. Where did the time go?

I had grand plans to grade papers and get a head start on the grading and general teacher things that’s about to smack me in the face over the next few weeks. With final grade deadlines fast approaching, I’m tickled with anticipation of some free time, but also have to constantly remind myself to finish the grading.

However, not grading papers, not checking my school emails (hey, it’s called a break for a reason!), and not worrying about my classes for a few days was a nice break. Of course, I felt kind of bad when I met with students bright & early Monday morning to discuss their last assignment for the class, as many of them said “My break was good, but I had the paper to write.” Then I also accidentally kept saying “only two more weeks!” only to be reminded that it’s 2 more weeks of classes and teaching, but 3 more weeks of classes & exams for them. OH WELL. LIFE IS HARD, KIDS.

But back to Thanksgiving festivities! On Thanksgiving day, I saw many family members, Rahul and I shared our engagement story and photos, and we participated in the 5th installment of the Kipp History Family Play.

On Friday, Rahul and I looked at WEDDING VENUES, added to the wedding notebook of ideas we’ve started (we’re using the Sugar Paper planner & notebook from Target, as it has space to write notes in a monthly calendar but also regular notes), and had some focused wedding discussion.

The result? WE HAVE A DATE AND A VENUE! Now we are just counting down the calendar to November of next year. We’re getting married in our hometown, and I am fully immersing myself in researching all things wedding. You can follow my Wedding Ideas Pinterest board to see what strikes my fancy.

On Saturday, Rahul’s parents hosted an engagement party for us. The party was a fun celebration of us, our families, and our impending intertwining as one. There was great conversation, delicious food, many, many engagement gifts (ranging from a lehenga to multiple wedding magazines to clothes and jewelry) and just fun and laughter all around. I was welcomed into Rahul’s family (see pictures below), made some fun slow-motion videos with Rahul and my sister, Molly, and talked wedding, my most recent favorite topic.

India, Here I Come!

The countdown is on. I leave for India in 15 days. Actually, the countdown has been on for quite a while, I just haven’t gotten around to sitting down and writing this post. I meant to do it a month … Continue reading

Imagine Christmas Wishes Shooting Out of Your Eyes

My little Christmas tree.

My little Christmas tree.

The holiday season has been here since Thanksgiving (for some even since Halloween), yet I’ve felt that Christmas spirit a little less than recent years. It’s not because of anything outrageous. It’s just 1) hard to get into the Christmas spirit when your entire family lives elsewhere and 2) when you live in D.C. Even though D.C. provides a plethora of holiday-related activities, it’s also a city of dislocated residents, as many DCers are not originally from this area.
I’m aware that I don’t technically count as a DCer, but I’m close enough.

I’ve been looking for something to get me in that Christmas spirit. I have my little Christmas tree, my Christmas music, and the guys put a full size tree in the living room. I have had Tracy Jordan’s “It’s a Jordan Christmas” stuck in my head many times since December 1. Yesterday I made Christmas cookies. But I finally found my holiday spirit in the most wonderful of ways: Zoolights at the D.C. zoo.

The National Zoo keeps its doors open late and lights the place up with thousands of lights. Growing up, my family drove around looking at the Christmas lights in the area listening to our favorite Christmas songs, so this was a perfect holiday treat. Plus, a few of the exhibits stay open late too, except all the animals seemed to show us their rear-end side. Do you think they know we’re looking at them?

Regardless, the Zoolights were beautiful and a fun time spent with friends. I hope you’re all finding your own ways as well to get in that Christmas spirit. Only 8 more days, y’all!

Falling icicles, the trees looked like they were crying!

Falling icicles, the trees looked like they were crying!

A little train!

A little train!

I like the panda on the left.

I like the panda on the left.



The Elephant House

The Elephant House! Except we saw no real elephants. 

Little monkey holding his tail. Not as cute as the snuggling mama-baby gorillas we saw later, but unfortunately could not get a good picture of them!

Little monkey holding his tail. Not as cute as the snuggling mama-baby gorillas we saw later, but unfortunately could not get a good picture of them!

Pretty pretty

Pretty pretty

Merry Go Round!

Merry Go Round!

She was a very thoughtful alpaca.

She was a very thoughtful alpaca.

A dancing octopus!

A dancing octopus!

What I Did (and didn’t do) This Summer

Before this summer started, I set a lot of lofty goals for myself. I was going to write more. I was going to read a new book every other week. I was going to essentially be a bad ass.

But now, with the men in my house moving in this weekend and school starting next Wednesday, I’m taking inventory: and I didn’t do so hot.

Let’s count up what I got done:


Three stories, working on a 4th & 5th, and also penned out the surrounding information for these pieces in case they do end up connected as a larger piece (fingers crossed).


Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
(I needed some light reading after school ended….)
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
(working on) The Bird Artist by Howard Norman
(working on) A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

So, writing goals, not too shabby. Reading goals…I don’t want to talk about it.

Now, I also did a lot of things that technically don’t count as reading and writing but were, at times, a lot more enjoyable.


“Dexter”, six seasons
“True Blood”, four seasons
“Parenthood”, season 3
“New Girl”season 1
“Don’t Trust the B— in Apt. 23”, season 1
(rest of) “30 Rock”, season 6

Okay, so I watched a lot of TV this summer. But it’s the summer, right? You’re supposed to relax….

Truth is, I have a hard time finding the happy medium between relaxation and productivity. For me, it’s hard to fit both into a day. Granted, if I have one of those perfect days—where I wake up in a work mode and can comfortably call it a day by noon—then I have plenty of time in the afternoon for everything else.

But, of course, that rarely happens. Most of the time I try to fit 7,000 things into one day, only about three of them actually important, and I end up getting about ten of them done. And those days where I wake up and find it vitally important to watch four episodes of “Parks and Recreation” before I wake up…well, you can figure out the rest. 

Buuuuut I also bought a bike and went bike riding a lot and got a new phone and traveled a bit and saw family and got super frustrated when my 9 hour drive home from MA turned into 12 hours and sped through a New Jersey turnpike without paying (oops) and cooked for myself a lot and watched a lot of movies and hung out with old friends and made new friends and, most importantly, GOT TO SEE RAHUL.

Training for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Becoming Segway masters.

Hope the transition from summer to fall goes smoothly for all y’all that get to enjoy nice, long summer breaks.

A Week in Provincetown, MA

I haven’t updated in a hot second because I’ve been here:

Sunrise; Provincetown, MA

I recently spent a week in Provincetown, MA for a writing conference and it was definitely the re-energizer I needed for my writing. I feel more excited about what I’m working on than I have been in a while, and that’s due to the wonderful, creative atmosphere the Fine Arts Work Center created. Hopefully I can continue on with this writing spirit, as I am majorly behind on my big reading plans for the summer. I won’t tell you how many books I’ve read because it’s embarrassing. Oh well, at least I’ve gotten almost two seasons of “True Blood” watched in the meantime. That’s more important, right? I mean, vampires won’t be popular forever.

The conference was great, and Provincetown is also a nice hamlet of a town to spend some time exploring and writing. Other than getting lost in the Massachusetts marshland and almost getting attacked by land crabs, I had an amazing week. To give you an idea, I’ll share some photos from my trip because a) I haven’t drank enough coffee yet to be more creative b) I’m obsessed with the slideshow function and c) the pictures are beautiful.


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Detour to Chattanooga

First off, let me state that the city is not pronounced Chattanooga, but ChattaNOOOOOOOga. You must always pronounce it this way.

We stayed in Chattanooga when my dad, cousin Jenny, and Uncle Tommy went to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
That’s right, folks. I’ve seen those colorful rings before in real life.
Anyway, I believe that’s when my new way of pronouncing the city began.

That being said, my mom and I took a few days last week and visited this beautiful city. East Tennessee is a LOT prettier than West Tennessee, in my mind, and provided for a fun, short getaway.

We spent most of our time visiting the attractions on Lookout Mountain. Rock City, known for its decorated barns sprinkled across the southern states; Ruby Falls, a beautiful underground waterfall; the Incline Railway, a very steep 10-minute journey up and down the side of the mountain.

Below, find some of my favorite pictures from the quick vacay.

I would write more, but I’m tired. So enjoy.

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10 Reasons Why My Family is Better than Yours

This past weekend, we had our fifth annual-but-not-really-annual reunion in Tennessee. What I mean by that is that my Dad’s side of the family decided about six or seven years ago that we should start having reunions every other year, and then around three years ago the decision was made to make them annual. The reunions usually involve around 25 of us gathering in the same place for the weekend—traveling in from seven different states—for a weekend full of food and fun.

This year, I was especially excited for the reunion because some of my cousins who haven’t come in several years were able to make it. During this three-day reunion, full of lots of food, catching-up conversations, pool time, story time, and a family history play, I came to the realization that my family is way cooler than yours.

Don’t take it personally. I just know my family really well, more than other families—not counting TV show families—and I’m convinced that the one I have is pretty great. I’m sure that after you read my list, you’ll come up with a few reasons too for why your own family is equally great.

10 Reasons Why My Family is Better than Yours:

Steve, the playwright, as “Father Time,” and the audience.

I just enjoyed Uncle Matt’s spelling of tickets….

1. My dad’s cousin Steve researches, writes, and directs a play about our family history. I don’t really know how he got the idea, I just know he traveled to where our family is originally from in Germany (Prussia) and learned a lot about our family history. The plays thus serve the amazing purpose of teaching the rest of us about our roots and how our family evolved over time. I think at first some people were wary about the concept, but now, four plays later, we all just have a good time, especially once props became a major part of the play. Plus, the lines often include a hint of sarcasm, room for improvisation, and read—in a rather hilarious way—like “service lines” in a movie. You know, those lines that manage to include some important fact of the character, like “Mary, you’re the youngest exec in your company, of course you’re feeling tired all the time.” Where these lines can be distracting in a movie, they become hilarious in our family history play. Each year, the play covers another section of history. Unfortunately, unless we feel like playing ourselves at the next play, I think this may have been the last one, as we are mostly caught up to the next generation.

Kid’s table picture time…oh, and indeed we are eating…. : )

2. We still have a kids table for dinner, even though the youngest kid right now is 14.

The adults table, even though Becca technically should have been with us….

3. In addition, my Dad never fails to take pictures of all the tables eating dinner, and it never fails to happen right when everyone has just gotten their plates.

4. My grandmother’s eggplant parmesan. Oh my goodness. Better than anything in the whole entire world.
My mom’s homemade strawberry cake is also pretty freakin delicious.

5. The fact that most of our family members actually want to come to the reunion and stick around during all the activities, even when it means  singing in rounds for “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” one of the songs for the Family Musical. Oh yeah—Steve made it a musical this year. Apparently he was inspired by our Christmas “My Heart Will Go On” tradition.

6. We can all rely on each other. Whether it’s making sure everyone is fed at a party to walking an elderly family member to their seat to providing a place to stay anywhere from one week to one year, we got you.

Cousins. The name tags were for our parts in the play.

7. There’s a lot of us with a lot of different heritages. The reason my roommate asked me on my first day of college “What are you” is probably because of my grandmother’s lovely Italian genes. She’s the youngest of my seven, my grandfather the third of four. So cousins everywhere.

8. Newcomers are always welcome—and often given a part in our plays.

Cousins at the Zoo.

9. Someone will either 1) always support you, no matter what, or 2) tell you what you need to hear, even if it’s hard to take. This ranges from advice on bad relationships to support for any crazy pipe dreams you have to just emotional support while baking cookies.

10. We have fun! Even if it’s often loud and overwhelming and sometimes you need to stand in the bathroom for five minutes of alone time. Overall, a heel-kickin’ good time.


Happy Father’s Day to the Greatest Dad in the World!

Happy Father’s Day, all you dads out there.

To go along with my post about my mom on Mother’s Day, I’d like to talk about why I also have a pretty excellent father.

College graduation, 2009. My graduation happened to fall on his birthday!

This is also the first Father’s Day in my recollection that I wasn’t in Tennessee to share the day with my Dad.

So, in his honor, I’d like to share a few of the things that make my Dad so great:

Dad and I while hiking in Amicalola Falls, Georgia.

1. He has backed me 100% for anything I’ve ever wanted to take on in my life. The only times he ever told me to get my nose out of a book or journal were on car rides somewhere beautiful—like Maine or the coast of California—to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. Other than that, he is supportive no matter what.

The only reason I somewhat follow college sports….

2. He provides the best practical life advice, from balancing a checkbook to changing a tire (which I’ve forgotten, sorry) to paying bills on time. These are all things I could have learned on my own time, but getting a little extra help from my Dad made these lessons all the more important.

3. He’s the best motivational speaker I know. For instance, when I started picking up running as a serious activity, he told me that, “If you can push yourself when running long distances, you can push yourself to do anything.” When I feel like giving up on a long run, or on other things that require a lot of energy and dedication, this is exactly the kind of motivation I need to keep me going.

Dad with his 2008 birthday present: Dolly!

4. He makes me proud of my accomplishments and makes sure I’m aware he’s proud.

5. On the other hand, he turns any less stellar accomplishment into a learning moment. For instance, when I drove my car in high school to go get ice cream at Dairy Queen with some friends, even though my parents told me not to drive (I had just gotten my license), I backed into the

Dad’s favorite sign, the running man exit sign. We saw a LOT of these in Italy.

pole advertising the Shoney’s next door. This left a large basketball sized hole in the bumper of my car, of course, and even though my parents were upset, my Dad was able to turn this into a learning moment about not upholding your word.

Our “My Heart Will Go On” performance, Christmas 2010.

6. He has a great, positive energy and has the ability to turn even the smallest things into something funny. For instance, when we were in Italy, he found the running man exit signs hilarious to the point that he made us take tons of pictures of him with them.
Plus, he’s one of the four that sings “My Heart Will Go On” every Christmas, a family Christmas tradition.

7. He has the ability to keep a mostly calm, level-headed demeanor in situations that are not calm, which I really admire.

8. In addition, I also admire his amazing work-life balance. He has been working for the same company since graduating college, and never missed a school play, choir event, or church-league basketball game, even when he was traveling lots for work.

Goofing around in Philly with the lifesize Monopoly pieces.

9. He (and my mom) always made time for at least one family vacation a year, whether it be a camping trip, tour of the Southwest, or trip to Disney World (my mom’s least favorite thing in the world).

10. He listens and responds accordingly, even if it’s telling me something I don’t want to hear at the time but know is true.

Also, I’ve heard from several people that he looks like Jeffrey Tambor. I don’t know, I don’t really see it. But I do love “Arrested Development.”

Family vacation, Summer 2010. We hit five major cities in two weeks!

I love you, Dad! Thanks for everything!

Missing India, Part Two

So as I said in Missing India, I have been pining for India lately. These posts are more concentrated on pictures than words, as India is a country hard to describe in words. Even when a close description is achieved, it never reaches the desired magnitude.  Even with pictures, only a minimal snapshot of this beautiful place is allotted, but hopefully you will continue to understand through these pictures why I fell in love with this place.

Missing India, Part Two: Ladakh
(Leh, Nubra Valley, Pangong Lake)

Ladakh is a fascinating place. As contested territory, this area of India is also claimed by Pakistan as well. When you look at the Ladakh region on a map, you will often see the area marked by dotted lines instead of solid. Plus, the area takes on a lot of similarities to its surrounding Tibetan, Nepalese, and Chinese landscape. Flying in from Delhi to Leh provides two totally different perspectives and surroundings. In Leh, you’ll find many more tourists, peaceful landscapes, a large Tibetan population, and a quiet lifestyle. Ladakh provides a good break from the busyness of most parts of India, as you are submerged into the Buddhist religion, majestic mountain scenes, and fresh, fresh air.

And it should go without saying, but all these pictures are the property of me or Rahul. Please let them remain here and nowhere else. : ) 

Young monks; Thikse Monastery.

Enjoying the view; Pangong Lake. 

Approach of the camels; Nubra Valley. 

Please remove shoes; Hemis Monastery. 

Large devotion; near Diskit Monastery. 

Young monks spinning prayer wheels; Thikse Monastery. 

Sun reaches down; Nubra Valley. 

Patch of green; near Leh.

Peaceful morning; Nubra Valley. 

Close up; Thikse Monastery. 

Sun shining down on us; Disket Monastery. 

On the move; Thikse Monastery.

Sun rise; Pangong Lake. 

All smiles; Hemis Monastery. 

Built out of the mountainside; Hemis Monastery. 

Prayer flags; Thikse Monastery. 

All hearts for Leh-Ladakh; Shanti Stupa. 

Shades of blue; Pangong Lake.

Running from explosion; Khardung La Pass. (This construction held us up for about an hour. These are some of the guys in our group running away from the falling mountain pieces.) 

All the colors of the wind; a monastery in Nubra Valley.

Please don’t litter; Khardung La Pass.

To end with food/drink: MINT TEA! So delicious. The first thing you are offered upon arriving to help you acclimate to the altitude change.