The Sing-Off (TV Thursdays)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Back in high school, a former student came with his A Cappella group from Yale to perform.  That was my first introduction to the quintessential college A Capella experience.  Since then, I have always loved the genre.  Once I got to college, my friends and I made sure to attend every Chorduroys (all-male) and Cadence (all-female) concerts.  I don't know what it was about the performances; and as someone who isn't, and never really was into music I got a chill during a really great A Capella song.  Plus, the groups always made it fun by adding lots of humor into their songs.

When a few years ago the first season of The Sing-Off aired, since it aired over the holidays when all other of "my shows" are on hiatus, I tuned in and really enjoyed all the performances.  Three weeks ago the fourth season started and I am a huge fan of this season.  First of all, they replaced Nicole Scherzinger (a Pussycat Doll) with Jewel - a big upgrade, secondly they added more teams and lastly they changed the format a bit to include a "sing-off" for the two bottom teams to determine which one gets eliminated.  The earlier seasons featured a lot of existing college groups which is great, but the groups always had some weak spots.  A few people who couldn't really sing or dance or something.  This season has more or already established groups or groups of professional singers (ie Theme park show-performers) who come together to make a much more polished team.

I'm usually not one for reality television, but this show avoids focusing and creating drama for no reason.  It seems like all the teams genuinely get along and the judges are the ones who actually get to decide who stays and who leaves avoiding the need for alliances or enemies or stupidity.  Also, the judges, especially Ben Folds, really know what they are talking about.  As an added bonus the outfits the performers wear are AMAZING!

Throughout the season, my favorite group by far has been Home Free. As I write this I'm watching to see who will win.  Spoiler alert below:

The Sing-Off crew
And the winner is.... Home Free!!  They were Shariously great the entire season and are the only team that never went to a sing-off duel for a chance to be eliminated.  I knew they would win.  Good Job!

NY Fridays (Food Tour)

Friday, December 20, 2013

I am so lucky to have great friends and family who were so excited for my marriage and made the celebration of my then upcoming wedding so special.  Since our wedding was in October, I knew it would be tough to get everyone together for pre-wedding festivities (Bridal Shower, Bachelorette Party etc.) which would take place in the summer, due to vacations and the abundance of summer activities. Since a few of my close friends are unavailable for the weekend of my bachelorette party, they planned an amazing day out in Manhattan to make up for it!

The day started in Soho with a "Downtown Chocolate, Dessert and Wine Tour" with City Food Tours.  It was a really nice walk with some knowledgeable, friendly and funny tour guides. Between the stops the guides were full of neighborhood history. There was also another Bachelorette Party group on the tour with us.  The below is a summary of the spots we hit up on the tour:
Food tour spots (Photo Credit: A. Katz)
  • Kee's Chocolate - where we got a chocolate truffle
  • Xocolatti - where we sampled some unusual chocolates with chili 
  • Le Palaid des Thes - at this tea shop, we heard about the history of tea, had plenty of samples in the store and came out with some tea samples to take home
  • Papabubble - this Australian candy shop makes all their own unique candies right in the shop - of course, again lots of samples
  • Oro Bakery - at this French bakery we got one of the best brownies I ever had.
  • Di Palo Fine Foods - At this stop the guides picked up some delicious cheese from this Italian cheese and meet shop for us to eat with wine at our final stop.
  • Puro Wine - a Chilean wine store where we enjoyed plenty cheese, bread and wine
After the wine tour we all went to get manicures for some spa relaxation at Spa Belles.  I guess the other girls were feeling blue, the color that is, but my nails are in hot pink in the picture on the left.

With nails and the weather  dried up, we took a stroll over to the Lower East side and had a delicious dinner at Stanton Social (a favorite of our group for special occasions).

It was a Shariously great day and I can't thank all the lovely ladies who organized it enough!

A conversation at the holiday crafts fair

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Last weekend there was a Holiday Crafts Fair in town and this  is a conversation I had:

Guy selling Hoboken historical crafts (pointing to my sparkly blue nails): That's nice nail polish you have.
Me: Thanks. It's for Hanukkah. 
Guy: That's an interesting name. Why is it called that?
Me: Huh?
Guy: You said the name of the nail color is "It's Veronica"
Me: Oh. No. They are blue. For Hanukkah.

aruba blue - blues By Essie

Shariously sorry I don't have a picture of my blue nails, just the color (above). They are now changed up for holiday season in Essie's Bordeaux with Beyond Cozy accent nail (below).

bordeaux - reds By Essiebeyond cozy - metallics By Essie

Butternut Squash Apple Soup (Recipe Monday)

Monday, December 2, 2013

One of my favorite fall dishes is butternut squash soup.  The first time I ever had this soup was when my friend had a cooking demonstration bridal shower.  Her recipe was butternut squash soup and was mostly similar to this recipe which is a combination of hers, one from Woman's Day and some of my own modifications. I've eliminated the heavy cream for a lower fat recipe and also increased the ratio of cider to broth to make the soup both sweeter and thicker. This is a great appetizer for Thanksgiving.

3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 gala apples, peeled, cored, chopped
3 lbs (8 cups) butternut squash, peeled and cubed
24 oz (3 c.) broth (chicken or vegetable)
12 oz (1 1/2 c.) apple cider
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Making Butternut Squash Apple Soup
  1. Melt butter in 5-quart pot over medium heat.  Stir in onions and apples. Saute about 5 minutes.
  2. Add butternut squash cubes, broth, cider, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.
  3. Using an immersion blender puree the soup.  If you don't have an immersion blender you can use a blender in batches. 
A Shariously comforting fall soup!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  This year I'm thankful for all my wonderful friends and family.

On the menu today at our place is:
- Butternut Squash Apple soup (recipe coming soon)
- Garlic Mashed Potoates
- Stuffing
- Turkey
- Biscuits

Enjoy all the yummy eating!

Weekend in Chicago (Travel Tuesday)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Back in June, Adam's cousin got married in Chicago.  Adam booked a trip to head out a few days before the weekend so he could work in his company's Chicago office.  Since my Birthday landed on the Thursday before the wedding, I decided to head out early too. The long weekend turned out pretty good and karma was definitely in my favor.

Adam was already in Chicago and I flew out with Adam's brother who was visiting some friends and ditched me at the airport to head to Evanston.  I arrived at night and the line for a cab was long and cabs were arriving slowly.  The dispatchers where trying to arrange share cabs and announced  "downtown."  The woman in front of me jumped out of the line to see if she could skip the line, but someone ahead of us got there first.  Now that I knew she was headed downtown, I asked her where she was headed exactly.  She told me her hotel, I looked it up real quick and asked if she wanted to share with me since we were staying right across the river, and figured paying half-fare would be nice.  We had a very nice chat on the ride, and found out she was in town for business from Toronto.  When we got to my hotel she told me that she could expense the cab ride and to have a Happy Birthday the ride was on her!

The Lurie Garden
For the first two nights we stayed at the Sheraton near the Miracle Mile. I booked on Hotwire, and my first Hotwire experience turned out great (mental note for a post for another time).

The next morning was my Birthday!  First Adam and I went out for a delicious breakfast at Wildberry and then we walked all around Millennium Park.  Although we had been there a few times before we discovered
the Lurie Garden which was really beautiful and which we had never been to.

In the afternoon, Adam got me a gift card for a massage at the Red Door Spa.  I got to the spa, changed into my robe and locked my stuff in a locker and enjoyed some lemon water before my masseuse called me in.  I came out of the session very relaxed, went to enter my code for the locker and it didn't open, tried again made a positive beeping noise, but still didn't open.  I thought maybe I forgot my code and put in another option, that time it gave me an angry noise indicating that it was the incorrect code.  I went to the front desk for help, they brought over the "master key" and tried to unlock it - again it sounded like it worked, but the lock was stuck.

The only way in was to break in (you will all be happy to know it is pretty difficult and impossible to do without getting noticed).  So, for the next 30 minutes they broke out the hammer and the Spackle-er and tried to pry the door open.  All the while, my phone stuck in the locker ringing and dinging with Birthday calls and texts. I, in the meantime, was trying to inspect the other lockers and their lock mechanisms to try to help them figure out just how to break in. Although I remained very calm the whole time (luckily I had nowhere else to be), the spa felt so bad that they gave me this really nice cinnamon scented warming neck pillow and some lotions, sprays and a candle. (At the end of the day, I say, free stuff equals more good karma).

Birthday dessert at RPM
For a Birthday dinner, I made a reservation at RPM. Now although the restaurant came highly recommended, I am always skeptical of  celebrity-owned establishments (this one by Bill Rancic, Giuliana Rancic's husband).  But, this place was amazing!  They had a really unique menu that was familiar enough to try but still had an element of trying something new and different.  If you are ever in Chicago I highly recommend this place! The menu is set up so that everyone shares which is nice since it's the type of place where you just want to taste everything on the menu.  They were also very nice and supplied me with a birthday dessert which was a sorbet and ice cream in mini ice cream cones (see the picture).

As, I mentioned, Adam and I had been to Chicago a few times before, so we had done the Architectural
Chicago view from lake
boat tour on the river, but thought a night time boat ride might be nice.  So we opted to take a sunset cruise off of the Navy Pier as our night-time activity.  It was a bit windy out there, but also provided some great views of the city and Navy Pier.  As we were walking around, some high-schoolers came over to us to say they had some Ferris Wheel passes left over but they had to leave, so lucky us we got to use them!  Not only did we get to ride for free, but since they were just closing for the night, they let us stay on for some extra rotations so they could even out the weight of passengers. (See more good Karma!)

Most of the remainder of the trip was spent with Adam's family and wedding related activities, but it was a Shariously nice get-away. And here's one of my favorite pictures from the trip.
Ferris Wheel

Favorite fall picture

Friday, November 22, 2013

Roger's and Hammerstein Cinderella (Entertainment Thursday)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Back in June, a friend and I went to go see Cinderella on Broadway.  I thought it was excellent.

In case you didn't know, Cinderella is a fairy tale that originated hundreds, potentially thousands of years ago (according to wikipedia).  The most famous version of the tale, and what some might think is the only version, is Disney's (1950).  But, in fact there have been many plays, books and films of the fairy tale, including a musical written by Rogers and Hammerstein that aired on TV and stared Julie Andrews in 1957. This version is also commonly known as the version that stared Brandy, Whitney Houston, Bernadette Peters, Whoopi Goldberg and Jason Alexander.

So back to the show, the story is the same, down on her luck gal living with evil step-mom and in this version not-quite-as-evil step sisters, has a fairy godmother who transforms her into a "princess" and attends a royal ball to meet her prince.  And of course there's the part about the shoe.  Like most of my favorite shows, there is a a lot of comedy in the show too.  There's the crazy woman who turns into fairy godmother, the hilarious step-sisters and the "animals" that turn into the stage-coach drivers who can't shake their squirrel & fox ways.  The costumes are phenomenal (the show won a Tony for them); Ella (as they call her), transforms on stage from her rags into an amazing ball-gown right in front of everyone's eyes.

The show did not disappoint, especially since we purchased discount tickets. This is a Shariously great show to check out if you are a fan of fairy tales or a fun-filled production (or under the age of 18 or pretend to be).

Welcome back to me!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hello Internet!

After six months with only a handful of posts I'm ready to come back with lots of posts for your enjoyment!  I am now a married woman, but don't worry not much has changed.

There are so many thing to catch up on. Of course, I'll have tons of wedding and wedding related posts on both of our weddings. (Both weddings? Yes! so much to catch up on).  And, I'll also get back to writing lots more Recipe Mondays, Travel Tuesdays, Want-it Wednesdays, Entertainment Thursdays, NY Fridays and much more.

So let's get started - and if there are any topics you want to hear more about, Shariously, let me know.  You can leave me comments or send me an email.  Please also share this blog with your friends and family, I would love to up my readership.

I leave you with a wedding photo:

Taken by our Photographer Angie of Milestone Images


Friday, September 13, 2013

Just a little something while I try to get back on track with my post writing:

In honor of the new logo, my favorite blogger Geek In Heels recently posted a link to transform any text into the the new logo style.  The site is if you want to try. Here's what mine would look like:

I think that a) I like what I have better, and b) Yahoo put no effort into revamping their design.
Shariously! What do you think?

Summer Summary

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hi there readers!

I'm so sorry to leave you hanging all summer.  I can't believe it's been nearly 2 months since my last post.  I'm sure you can relate, that summers get quite busy, this one has been especially busy planning my wedding and attending some others. But, I didn't want you to think I was gone forever, so here's a list of some of the fun that's been going on which you can be sure to hear about really soon:
  • Birthday weekend and wedding in Chicago
  • Dog sitting
  • Girls Day out
  • Bridal Shower
  • Bachelorette Party
  • Summer TV I've discovered
  • Jet Blue Contest!
On the note of that last item, I will tell you all more details soon, but in the meantime, there is one day left for me and AG to win a JetBlue wedding at JFK and honeymoon to Hawaii!!  Please vote here:

And I swear this is not a spam link, if you don't trust it, go to JetBlue Airways on Facebook, like them, and look for the orange "Something Blue" icon near the top to vote for Couple #1.
Thank you!

Can't wait to share all my stories, and more.  Thanks for shariously staying tuned.

Nickelodeon Gameshows (Flashback Friday)

Friday, June 14, 2013

While watching the ABC show What Would You Do I was brought back to the same named shows on Nickelodeon which aired in the 90's and was hosted by none other than Marc Summers.

I looked it up on YouTube and it brought back memories and made me realize how different game shows are these days.  I wonder if we will look back in 20 years with the same nostalgia for Howie Mandel hosted Deal or No Deal as we do for Double Dare.  Without any further delay, I bring you an episode of Nickelodeon's What Would You Do.

Any Shariously good memories of old Nickelodeon game shows to share?  Was anyone on one!?

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (Entertainment Thursday)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I'm sitting here watching the Tony's tonight and realized I never blogged about the last two Broadway shows that I saw, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and Roger & Hammerstein's Cinderella. This post is about the former and stayed tuned for next week's "Entertainment Thursday" for the latter.

The play is about three siblings (the first three names of the play title). Vanya (David Hyde Pierce) and Sonia (Kristine Nielsen) still live in the Bucks County, PA house in which they grew up. They never quite left their comfort zone unlike their movie star sister Masha (Sigourny Weaver, although I saw her understudy Linda Marie Larson who was also fabulous) who rarely comes to visit. The play takes place over the course of a few days when Masha comes to visit with her boytoy Spike (Billy Magnussen). Other characters include Cassandra (Shalita Grant), the hilarious psychic housekeeper and the starstruck teenage neighbor Nina (Genevieve Angelson) who ends up being enamored by Vanya.

Over the course of play all the character's quirks, dysfunctions and personalities are hilariously portrayed in the play which is more like a 2-hr comedy show. There is so much quick dialogue and so much to pick up the script is really impressive. At one point Vanya goes on an impressive 5 minute hysterically delivered ranting diatribe that I was out of breath just listening to. The siblings miraculously grow up over the course of the few days and we (the viewer) feels more comfortable that they will live happily ever after than when the play started.

Overall the play is an intelligent and hilarious comedy which I highly recommend. All the actors were top notch. As a side, note, I recently watched the not very good movie That's What She Said in which Kristine Nielsen has a small role, as a prison inmate, to which she brings the same great comedic talent.

Has anyone else seen this show? Any other comedy plays that you Shariously recommend?

P.S - as I finished writing this post, it just won the Tony for Best Play! Congrats!

DIY Invitation Liners (DIY Tuesday)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lately, during the wedding planning process, I've been learning about invitations and all things related.  Suddenly, I'm spending hours researching details that I've never paid attention to
for more than 30 seconds; such as "the liner."  Upon learning how much it would cost to add a beautiful custom liner that matched our invitations, I hopped onto Etsy to see what it might take to DIY.  One popular item was the "map liner."  Me being in a crafty mood I decided to give it a try.

Map Liner Envelopes

I had a bunch of sample envelopes and old maps (the paper kind, not the ones that talk to you).
Here's how I created this:

  1. Trim the envelope so that you can determine the size of the liner.
  2. Trace the liner size onto cardboard and cut out the template.
  3. Use the template all over the map to make liners.  I thought I would "save" space and use the entire map by alternating upside-down ones, but this resulting in upside-down liners, so I forgot about that.
  4. Using a glue stick, insert the liner into the envelope! Voila!

Envelope Map Liner 

Some Tips:
I used the pre-existing folds in the map to line up with where the envelope fold was so that there weren't extra creases.  Turned out, that even when creases were not lined up, if you glue properly you can't even see them.

Also, I love crafting - if you have any Shariously fun, easy and practical crafting ideas let me know!

DIY Chalkboard Wine Glasses (DIY Tuesday)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I've been in a very crafty mood lately, so I've decided to change the rarely used "Deal Day Tuesday" to "DIY Tuesday."

We've all been in the situation, you're sitting around with friends when you glance at the coffee table full of glasses or cups and say "which one was mine?"

I, like probably many of you, saw and repinned the picture on pinterest of wine glasses with chalkboard paint to be used to identify your glass.  My senior year of college, I had bought a can of chalkboard spray paint, thinking my roommates and I could do something cool in our house with it.  We never used it.  The can followed me back home and into 3 apartments, still never used.  I finally had something to use it for!


My first test run was just with this one glass. I started using a glass from a set of  my Mom had gotten me at T.J Maxx.  When we moved into our apartment the previous tenant left behind 2 sets! of wine glasses, so if I screwed up, we had plenty more to use.  I took a zip lock bag, sealed it up just a little above the bottom of the stem and sprayed away.  I did two or 3 coats out on the terrace, and waited for it to dry.  It came out perfect!  A few weeks later, I decided to complete a couple more.  The only issue I had was I tried to use 1 ziplock bag for all the glasses, but when I removed the bag to put on a new glass, sometimes there was wet paint that would get on places I didn't want.  I also tried to get more creative by making the area of the paint look like a label, but that didn't work out too well, and it got a little messy.

Now I have a great set of 8 chalkboard wine glasses for when we have friends over!

When I went back to look at the original pins for this idea, I saw that the common method was to dip the glass in chalkboard paint.  I saw there were some problems with this, so I highly recommend the spray paint method.

Has anyone else tried this Shariously great idea?

Minestrone Soup (Recipe Monday)

Monday, May 20, 2013

This recipe comes out a little late, but the chilly rainy weekend reminded me to post it.
Who doesn't love a nice warm bowl of soup in the winter.  In this household, it's the lunch of choice on cold rainy weekends - easy to heat up, healthy, filling and satisfying.

I recently tried my hand at making minestrone and it came out great!

I started with the intention of using this recipe from Woman's Day Nov. 2012, but it very quickly changed into something different and more to my liking. What I wasn't so crazy about this recipe was:
  • Only water, no broth - how could it possibly have enough flavor?
  • What do I do with the rest of can of tomato paste?  Might as well use it.
  • Celery/cabbage/spinach - actually I forgot to buy these ingredients since I forgot about the recipe until I was in the soup aisle

Here's my modified recipe:
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large red onion
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 Cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 oz tomato paste (the whole can)
  • 14.5 oz can sliced carrots (unless you want to slice them yourself)
  • 14 oz can zuchhini in tomato sauce
  • 1 large potato, cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1 cup ditalini pasta, uncooked
  • 16 oz broth (any kind)
  • 15.5 oz can kidney beans
  • 6 cups water
  • Miscellaneous seasonings
  1. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil with salt and pepper until tender.  Then add tomato paste and stir for 2 more minutes.
  2. Cook pasta according to directions.
  3. Add carrots, potato, beans, broth and water; bring to boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Add cooked ditalini, zuchhini and some spices (I added oregano  paprika, and a seasoning blend) and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes without cover to thicken.
We like the soup to be mostly stuff, and less broth which is what this recipe yields   If you like something more brothy, you might want to cut back on some of the "stuff".  What's your Shariously favorite soup?

Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 22, 2013

I think every day should be Earth Day, but, I will use this opportunity to remind you to do your part in helping to slow down climate change.  Maybe today is the day to make a resolution to beef up your earth saving habits.  

Some of the things I try to do on a regular basis:

  • Use reusable bags, not just at the grocery but at all stores.  Decline a bag when I can place an item into my tote.  I even have a reusable bag that rolls up into a small ball that I always carry around in case I need an extra bag.
  • Don't drink from bottled water.  And I'm trying to expand to other plastic bottles
  • Reduce the amount of energy used by always turning off lights, electronics and appliances and using power strips to reduce phantom power.
  • I recently started growing my own herbs to use in my cooking (I'll be sure to post about this soon).
  • Recycle as much as I can
One thing I would really like to be better at is to be a better consumer.  I'm going to try to not buy so much stuff.  Not that I already buy so much, but I figure if I buy just a little less, and focus on products that are more sustainable such as cleaning products with less toxins and items that will last longer and need to be replaced less frequently thereby reducing our waste (which may be more expensive, but if I buy less in general it will even out).  

Do you have any Earth Day resolutions?  Shariously let me know of any of your Earth Day suggestions!

Bye Bye Google Reader

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

If it weren't for google reader, I probably wouldn't be blogging to you today.  And now it's going away.

I know this news has been out for some time, but for the first few weeks after it was announced I was in denial.  Then I was determined to find a replacement.  I read a bunch of articles that were written within the first few days about where to turn and tried Feedly, The Old Reader and Bloglovin.  Feedly is pretty good.  The Old Reader took like a week to import from Google and then I wasn't impressed.  And Bloglovin needs a lot of work to catch up.  I'll stick with Feedly for now, it's growing on me.

Back in the summer of 2009 (I think) I saw the usual options at the top of my gmail page: search, images, calendar, documents; then over on the right I saw "Reader."  It probably had been there for a while, but I never noticed it.  I noted it and kind of forgot about it since I didn't really have any blogs that I followed.  My routine pretty much included checking NYTimes and Gothamist on a daily basis.

Every now and then I would get forwarded posts from failblog and When Parents Text, so a couple of months later I opened up reader again and decide to add those to my Reader.  It was so easy to use I decided to add gothamist, some friends' blogs and search some of the "recommended" items.  From there I learned about some of my favorite blogs and the list kept growing.  Then when NYTimes switched to a subscription mode I found out I could add NYTimes and all my favorite columns (and not have to pay).  Reader makes it so easy to scroll through and read so much so quickly!

As I started to follow personal bloggers, I learned about more and more of them/you and starting thinking about blogging, but never really acted on it.  Then, my blogging hobby started the same way my Reader obsession started; I clicked on the "more" button atop gmail and discovered blogger and created a blog!

What feed readers do you Shariously suggest I use?

PS - failblog and WPT like sites have migrated off my reader.

LED Shoelaces

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

$10 for 2 Pairs of Light-Up LED Shoelaces ($20 Value)

A deal for these Light-Up LED shoelaces showed up in my inbox today ($10 for 2 pair if you're interested). I was intrigued.  Not because light-up shoelaces are super practical, but it got me wondering what else could technology like this be used for?  Or are we really headed into the future where are clothes look like the movies predicted (you know with all the lights and wires).

  • Are these any different from L.A Lights (or whatever they are called now)?  Kids running around with shoes that light up
  • Are the laces flexible or stiff like those glow necklaces you have to "break" to work.

What do you guys think?  Anything more practical that these could be used for?

European Vacation (Part Quatre)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

You can catch up by reading Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Day 7

Park & Basilica

This day was all about reminiscing. First we took the Metro to Simonis, which was the stop I had lived at.  We met up with MDB and walked over to the house she grew up in and I had lived for a semester (her parents just recently sold it and moved to France).  Next up was a walk through the park to Basilica Koekelberg- Sacre Couer, one of the 10 largest churches in the world! I once had a view of this from my bedroom window.
Basilica up close

Once inside the basilica we were able to go up to the top which gives an amazing view of the city. Unfortunately the weather was not really cooperating while we were there, but we still got some cool views and a ride in the elevator with a glass top.

View from the top.  
In this picture see if you can see some silvery balls floating in the distance along the horizon (that would be our next stop).

After the basilica we had lunch at my favorite "Snack" shop (Snack Simonis) in all of Brussels. The frites and sandwiches were still as amazing as I had remembered and didn't measure up to any of the other places we tried on this trip.  


Our next stop of the day was Atomium.  Just like the Eiffel Tower, Space Needle and the Unisphere in NY, this structure remains from the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels.  The Atomium is an iron crystal enlarged 165 billion times.  Each of the spheres holds a different exhibit (the top one is the panorama view), some are permanent exhibits and others are temporary.  The "bonds" hold stairs, escalators or elevators including the one shown in the picture below which was fun to ride down. 

Cool escalator
After hanging out at Atomium, we headed back to downtown to visit the Musee Magritte Museum.  Rene Magritte has always been one of my favorite artists and I had been to the Magritte House which was his House in Brussels, but this new Museum has a much more extensive collection of his works. Overall I prefer the house tour to the full musuem, but enjoyed the museum (which is attached to the Beaux-Arts Museum). 

Since we only had one day left, we spent the rest of the evening doing some souvenir and chocolate shopping before having some more beer and great food.

Day 8

 For our last day :( we went over to the VUB (Free University of Brussels) where I went to school for the semester and I showed AG around campus, well what I remember about it.  After we went to Colruyt, a supermarket which is kind of like a cross between a Costco and Trader Joes, and stocked up on as much Belgian goodies that our suitcases could hold.  Later that day we got our first and only glimpse of blue sky before going to the chocolate museum.  The chocolate museum was interesting, but the best part was the copious amounts of chocolate samples.  

Brussels Ruins
For our final night, it was Museum Night Fever in Brussels where all the museums were open from 7pm to 1am and had all sorts of fun things going on with DJs and drinks.  We started out at the Jewish Museum, the Belgian Jewish community is very small and we learned a little about it, but since all the exhibits were only in French and Dutch it was a little hard to understand.  I got about 75% of it from my HS french knowledge, but AG was totally lost.  Next up we went to the Royal Library which is similar to the New York Public Library.  They had a fun activity where you could make pop up books or pins from old books.  Our last stop before the museums closed was the Belvue museum of Belgium.  The coolest part of this museum was that is is built on top of an archaeological site which you can explore.  The weirdest part of this museum was that for the event they had Aliens on exhibit??
Are they Belgians or Aliens?
That night/morning we had to say goodbye to MDB and pack up for our flight back to NY. I could go on all day about the trip so let me know if you want to learn more.

It was Shariously an amazing trip - time to start planning the next vacation!

European Vacation (Part Drie)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Welcome back for more vacation recaps.  Drie is Dutch for Three.  Don't forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our European Highlights.

Day 5

Gravensteen Castle
We had a reservation in Bruges for the night of Day 5, and had planned to spend the day there when MDB suggested we go to Ghent as well on our way.  Since she has a special fondness of Ghent, I suggested she come with us to show us around then she could go back to Brussels when we moved on to Brugge.  For most of the day we visited the castle, Gravensteen!  It's a castle that has been around since the middle ages.  In addition to touring the castle's rooms, there is a torture exhibit - see AG with the Guillotine below.

View from the top

More from the top

After the castle we walked around more, had another amazing lunch and stopped in to some shops. At the end of the afternoon MDB parted ways back to Brussels and we caught the train to Bruges.  
Canal in Bruges
 Once in Bruges we walked a mile from the train to our hotel through the beautiful streets.  Bruges is an amazing city, and as one of the most intact medieval cities brings you back hundreds of years in the past.  We stayed at the wonderful Hotel Navarra which was beautiful and had a cool pool in the basement.  We had yet another great dinner at a Greek restaurant called The Olive Tree and walked around the quiet city at night.  Since it is often a day trip for tourists, it was very peaceful at night.
Hotel Pool

The Belfry
Bruges at Night
Bruges at Night

Day 6

Same spot as above during the day
This day was all about Bruges!  First up was a canal tour (you can see some of the canals in the pictures).  Then, we went all the way up to the top of the Belfry. The tall circular tower you see in most pictures here.  It is 366 steps to the top on a narrow staircase, and the only way down is the same way you go up! Our final attraction of the day was the Frites Museum.  For those of you who don't know, the "French Fry" was actually invented in Belgium and Belgians love their Frites!  You can see from the picture below, AG and I actually became Frites.  The museum was touristy, but fun and gave a pretty interesting history of potatoes and of course Frites at the end.

View from Belfry

Too many Frites
After a beautiful day in Bruges we headed back to Brussels and checked into our hotel near the Grand Place and did a little shopping. Back at MDB's apartment, she cooked us and her roommate an amazing meal of Spaghetti Bolognese; one of my favorite meals from when I lived with her and her family.

Only 1 more post of recaps to go - so Shariously stay tuned...

Happy Blogaversary!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Happy 1-Year Blogging to me!

(Actually this post is a week late)
It has been a great first year and I look forward to the next.

Stats from my first year:

  • Total number of views: 3555
  • Number of unique visitors: 400*
  • Total number of posts: 61
  • Average number of posts per week: 1.17
  • Total number of comments: 13
  • Number of states where blog was viewed: 30
  • Number of searches that resulted in someone clicking my blog: 192
  • Number of searches that don't include "shariously": 92
*Although not accounting for a visitor using multiple devices

Goals for second year:

  • Gain more regular readership
  • Average 2 posts per week
  • Have more reader comments and interaction

How can you help?

You my devoted (hopefully) readers can help me attain these goals. Please leave your responses in the comments or email me.  You can post anonymously if you prefer. 
  • What do you want to read more about? 
  • Which posts are your favorite?
  • Are there any topics you would like me to write about?

I thank you, Shariously, for all the support and help over the past year!
Kisses for all the support!

European Vacation (Part 2)

Monday, March 18, 2013

You can read Part 1 here. And now for European Vacation highlights Part 2

Day 3

Our day started off at Pancakes! Amsterdam.  I didn't know they were so into pancakes in Amsterdam, but they are all over the place.  They are a cross between a French crepe and an American pancake.   After brunch we headed over to the Anne Frank Huis (House).  This is a really great museum.  You walk from room to room in the famous house and annex and really get a new perspective on how Anne and her family lived during the Holocaust.  One thing that's weird, is that even though I've now been to this museum twice, when I envision the attic, I still picture it as the way my imagination first envisioned it when I heard the story as a kid.
Apple pancake
 We walked around a little more and briefly visited the nearby cheese and tulip museums.

Cheese museum
Next up, we walked across the city to the Heineken Brewery, for the Heineken Experience. This was definitely a highlight of the trip.  The "experience" started out a little boring with the history and a bunch of displays about Heineken.  But then it got much better and interactive (you could eat raw barley yuck), with the ability to learn about the beer making process and a simulator ride where we were stuck inside the beer.  There were also tons of fun photos to take (like the ones below) an area where you could watch 50 years of Heineken commercials and the best part, 2 beers at the end.
Next Beer Label?

"Tasting Beers" Not included in the 2 free

 Day 4

After checking out of our hotel and having breakfast we headed to the train station to catch the Thalys to Brussels.  Just 2 hours later we arrived.  Our first stop was my "host sister's" apartment. (FYI - my host sister is one of the daughters, who still lived at home, of the host family that I lived with when I lived in Brussels).  Once in Brussels we had to get some frites, durum and beer right away.  We went to a local snack shop (a place where they sell frites and other kebab and pita foods) and I ordered 2 of my favorite lunchtime sandwiches (one for AG) - a durum poulet avec andaouse, salade et frites (a chicken wrap with andalouse sauce, salad and frites).  They put the frites right in the wrap, I don't know why this hasn't caught on over here. 

Next up was a visit to the Grand Place, Manneken Pis and a beer.  I took advantage of drinking kriek (cherry) bier right from the tap (nothing like the select brands they sell imported to the US).  My host-sister (MDB) took us on a long walk around all the sites and we ended up at another cafe for some more Belgian beer before ending the evening with dinner at a local restaurant and catching up back at MDB's apartment.
The Grande Place

Manneken Pis

If you have any questions about the trip or want some advice for your own Netherlands/Belgium trip - leave me a comment or send me an email.  Shariously, would love to help!