One Week in Boston

My blogging has been in a bit of dry spell, but it’s because I’m in the sweltering Simi Valley. Simi Valley, in fact, is in a dry spell of its own as the area is experiencing a severe drought. We’ve been asked to cut water usage to 85% of regular levels.

I’m in California for 5 weeks working at a Jewish summer camp program (for young adults!), and I have 2 weeks left. Before I came here, I had about one week in Boston. One week to “settle” into my new home…but I think I’ll really do the settling once I return to Boston in mid-July. Nonetheless, in an attempt to stay connected to the blog during these crazy California work weeks, here are some highlights from my first week in Boston:

1. American coffee in all its forms
Featuring Starbucks, 1369 Coffeehouse, and Bloc 11 – all in the Cambridge/Somerville area

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Although I’m a huge fan of coffee in Israel (and especially the fact that coffee there is served in reasonable sizes!), the coffeeshop menus in America go way beyond the scope of Israeli coffee menus. In Israel, basically the options were Americano or Cappuccino. I missed the milky-madness and sugar-bomb variety of American coffeeshops. 🙂

2. Fitness!!

Running was a big part of my time in Jerusalem, but I didn’t do any group or organized fitness there – no gyms or yoga classes! So, I was extremely excited to get my yoga groove on when I got to Boston. Within my first 24 hours, I bought a yoga mat and signed up for a trial week at Be.Yoga in Union Square:

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I also had my much-anticipated return to the November Project. For those who aren’t familiar, the November Project is a grassroots fitness community that started in Boston and has spread throughout the country (and beyond!). The group has no cost, and it is centered around fun and relationships that are formed by sweating together. The group meets three times a week – Wednesdays are the classic November Project workout: running all 37 sections of the Harvard Stadium steps.

You start at the last section:

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And 48 sweaty minutes later (if you’re me), you get to the beginning!:

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Holy cow. This workout is amazingly hard, but it’s really no wonder that it’s so popular. By the time you’re running up only the second set of stairs, you think there’s no possible way you can get to the end..but then you do. And it is so empowering! I am already looking forward to being back in Boston in a of couple weeks and returning to the steps to try to break my 48-minute time!

3. New restaurants!

Obviously, I love going out to eat. A big highlight of moving to a new city is re-starting the game to find the place’s fun/unique/delicious foods. In the week I was in Boston, I somehow ended up finding myself at Clover three times:

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Clover started as a vegetarian food truck, but it gained such popularity that it now has several storefront locations around the Boston area. There are a few right in the Cambridge neighborhoods, so it is a convenient and delicious spot for any meal of  the day. AND….EXCITING NEWS!!! Clover recently announced that they will be going certified kosher. Woohoo! This is definitely a big win for Boston kosher restaurants. 🙂

I also went for lunch with a friend at a bakery/cafe near Central Square called Flour. Flour has the typical cafe/bakery assortment of salads, sandwiches, pastries, coffee, and soup. But it also has some interesting extras like stuffed bread and homemade pizza! Everything on the menu looks delicious, and I would definitely be happy to go back there again in the future:

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4. Seeing the sights!

Noah and I love exploring. For the Sunday we had together in Boston before I went to California, we went to the Boston Science Museum:

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I had so much fun! There were a lot of really interesting exhibits – photography of food, the human body, electricity…the list goes on. The highlight of the visit for me though was watching an IMAX movie on humpback whales – it was so cool! It turns out that humpback whales were almost killed off by human hunters, but when a recording of their whale songs was accidentally discovered and released as a recording, they captured the hearts of the public and were ultimately saved by a series of conservation and protection laws. Also, baby humpback whales are 14-feet long when they are born – CRAZY!

All in all, I had a great week in Boston, and I’m excited for the adventures to continue when I’m back there in another couple weeks! See you soon, Boston. 🙂

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Late Morning in LAX

I woke up this morning at 5:00am to catch a flight to Los Angeles. I’m in LA to complete a Certificate in Jewish Education for Adolescents and Emerging Adults through Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. I honestly can’t say enough great things about the program – I have learned SO much, everything has felt extremely applicable, and I find myself thinking constantly about things I have read/studied/done in class. Extra bonus, the program is heavily subsidized through funding from the Jim Joseph Foundation, so it is both a wonderful educational opportunity and doable financially (how unique is that?!).

The program is a hybrid learning program, combining both distance learning and on-site intensives. This third and final intensive is in Los Angeles at the HUC Campus, and we’ll be staying at the Avalon Hotel. Yes, I can’t stop singing Weezer’s ‘Beverly Hills’ song. The hotel looks awesome from the website, and I’m excited to see it in a couple hours. Right now, I’m waiting at a Starbucks near baggage claim at LAX. Another member of my cohort is landing within the next hour, and we’re going to share a cab to the hotel.

I have been spending a lot of time at Starbucks lately thanks to a Starbucks card I received as a gift. I have immediately become a Starbucks card fan (especially since I’m not paying!). Using the card, you earn stars which allow you to get free coffee and tea refills and also earn free beverages. I already got a free drink and still have about $10 left on the card!

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Plus, Oprah likes Starbucks.

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‘nuf said. 

In other news, I flew Spirit airlines for this first time today and IT IS THE ABSOLUTE WORST SECOND WORST TO COMCAST. I know Comcast is not an airline so it’s apples to oranges, but – hey – they’re both fruit!

These are my grievances with Spirit airlines:

  • Not only do they not allow checked bags, but you are also not allowed a carry-on bag!!! To bring a carry-on bag to and from LA, I would have needed to pay $90!!! My outrage forced me to stuff everything into my backpack and have an extremely uncomfortable travel day.
  • If you do not print your boarding pass prior to arriving at the airport you will have to pay $10 just to get your boarding pass!!!
  • There are NO complimentary beverages. If you would like a water, coffee, juice, or soda – guess what?! – you have to pay!!!
  • To express any seat preference, you have to pay!!! If you don’t pay for this, you are randomly placed at check-in (bad for groups and anyone who doesn’t like a middle seat)

Listen up Spirit, I bought a ticket on you because it was the cheapest option on Orbitz, but it was not THAT much cheaper and I will certainly never be seeking a seat on your plane again. My back will thank me.

In other news, I love my bowl from ‘Paint Your Plate‘ and will miss eating breakfast from it while I’m out of town. Thanks, Noah! 🙂

 

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AIPAC in a Few Pictures

I attending the AIPAC Policy Conference in DC last Sunday-Tuesday. AIPAC is a pro-Israel lobby, and this was my first time attending their annual policy conference event. Sunday and Monday were a combination of large plenary sessions and break-out sessions with more specific topics. Tuesday was a lobbying day. Since I was staying with a friend, I took the metro to the conference. From door to door, it took me about 40-45 minutes to get there in the morning. I liked the commute since it gave a chance to read on the train and walk a little on my way to and from the metro stops. The weather was a little chilly but still beautiful:

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One of my biggest concerns heading into the conference was my wardrobe. I dress casually for work, so I don’t have a lot of business attire. In particular, shoes are an issue because I have very finicky feet and shoes with bad support cause me a lot of discomfort. The solution I settled on was to wear my sneakers to the conference and change later:

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I took the Red Line from Friendship Heights to Gallery Place/Chinatown.

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The Subway was full of Tropicana-inspired encouragements:

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When I got off at Chinatown, I found that the area was marked with an impressive entryway…

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…but it seemed to be mostly western restaurants with Chinese lettering:

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I’m excited to say though that it’s my year – along with all those other 1989 babies:

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When I got to the convention center I went through security…

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…and set off to explore. The convention center is HUGE. The lowermost level was converted into ‘AIPAC Village’ with tons of tables, kosher food options, and I variety of displays and showcases.

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I made my quick transformation to a well-dressed lady:

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Unfortunately, during this change of footwear I somehow lost the socks I had been wearing with my sneakers. Luckily, I discovered them later that afternoon hiding under a table in the village:

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Silly. In the afternoon I was desperately in need of a pick-me-up, so I used a break between sessions to track down a Starbucks:

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There were a lot of protestors outside the convention center:

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I won’t go into the controversy here, but if you want to learn more I would suggest visiting AIPAC’s website and using the research capabilities of the interwebs (as Noah would say).

Although you might not expect it, Minnesota had a 100-person delegation at the conference. To recognize the group, there was a Minnesota Delegation dinner on Sunday night. It was delicious!

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Monday morning Joe Biden came to speak, so security was a lot heavier given the addition of the secret service. Look at these lines!:

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Tragically, one of the forbidden items to bring in was whole fruit, so my apple was confiscated. 😦 Looks like I wasn’t the only though:

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Goodbye, fruit – I will miss you! When good ol’ Joe finally appeared he was greeted with a very warm reception:

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As you can see, there were a lot of people – 13,000 attendees!

Unfortunately, my feet had caused me problems during the conference’s first day, so I decided to just wear my running shoes and not worry about what people thought:

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Definitely a good call comfort-wise. Plus, I wasn’t alone – look what I found later in the day:

a woman after my own heart

a woman after my own heart

Overall, I’m glad I went to the conference and enjoyed the plenary sessions. The breakouts were fairly hit or miss depending on the speaker, and if I go again I think I will try to do a little research about what would be the best sessions.

Our Great Capital

I am in Washington DC! I am here for a conference Sunday-Tuesday, but I came early to visit with some of my wonderful friends. Any trip to the airport requires a trip to an airport Starbucks. I got a vanilla spice frappe and a veggie tray.

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The ‘spice’ added a little extra zing to the frappe flavor, but I wasn’t in love with it. Maybe I should have stuck with my usually favorite flavor of CHOCOLATE! I got the veggie tray for a plane snack. Most expensive veggie tray ever. $5 for a few vegetables! They sure make being healthy expensive. 😦 Boarding went smoothly and I arrived in DC just on schedule.

Right away I headed to the metro and waiting for me right there on the red line platform at Gallery Place was my wonderful besty for life:

the happy reunion!

the happy reunion!

We are so excited!! Not long after that, the fun continued at the wonderful apartment of these two great men:

I love my friends! We were all SO EXCITED to be together, so the obvious thing to do was go out for dinner and talk for hours. We went to Jake’s American Grill in the Friendship Heights area.

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Jake’s had a pretty standard American food menu: burgers, sandwiches, fries. Cameron’s sriracha burger was probably the most unique thing on the menu. I ordered the french dip with sweet potato fries:

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The sandwich was okay, and I would assess the restaurant as solidly mediocre. Afterwards, we walked across the street by this very DC-esque bookstore:

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We also needed a stop at CVS to meet the various medical needs of our group:

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I can’t say the metamucil has really kicked in yet….but I will persevere. Here’s my spread of vitamins for the morning:

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I am ready to feel better now!

After our CVS excursion, we went to Comet’s for some ping-pong.

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Comet’s is a pizza restaurant/bar/ping-pong place. This was A LOT of fun. Also, my team won ping-pong. Nbd. 🙂 To finish the night off, I acquired my own plastic DC metro card:

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I’m hardly even a tourist anymore! It is so great to be here with my friends, laughing, catching up, and having an incredible weekend. Stay tuned for more of our adventures!

The Ultimate Question: Starbucks vs. Caribou

Since moving to Minneapolis, Caribou has become my go-to spot for work meetings, afternoon get togethers with friends, and a quick pick-me-up when it’s one of those afternoons…you know the ones I’m talking about…can’t focus, can’t stay still, need a seriously delicious drink as a prerequisite for doing anything productive. The reason for my frequent Caribou visits? This is their stomping grounds. Minneapolis is to Caribou as Seattle is to Starbucks.

I will admit that I was shocked at first to find three Caribous within walking distance of my apartment and not a single Starbucks (just when I though there was one on every corner in every American city!), but time has changed my expectations and, thus, I am brought to the ultimate question: which is better?!

Given my love of tea, it’s my go-to drink at any coffee shop location. For tea, I will have to rule in favor of Starbucks. They have a lot more options (including multiple green varieties) and keep a consistent menu so I know what to expect. Caribou, on the other hand, has a pretty limited menu when it comes to tea, only offers one green tea option, and seems to shift their choices around (anyone else remember when they used to have Mutan White?). In fact, there’s really only one tea on the current Caribou menu that I would order:

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Citron Green tea at Caribou

Still, there are occasions – believe it or not – that I don’t want tea. Typically this happens on a warm day when I’m craving some cool and delicious refreshment. For this type of yen, Caribou definitely takes the cake. Their coolers are absolutely DELICIOUS. Even better, they have lite options that have less sugar and fat than the regular drinks (they standard options can pack in nearly 400 calories and 40 grams of sugar!).

Caramel Cooler at Caribou

Caramel Cooler at Caribou

In spite of these considerations, I think it goes without saying that what really matters for any coffee shop visit is simply a nice pal to visit it with:

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