These (Stray) Boots Are Made For Walking – Philadelphia

As anyone from New Jersey can tell you, the state is divided into three distinct parts.

source: nj.com

source: nj.com

Growing up, I was a Central Jersey girl. My city was New York, my town was filled with BMWs and Lexuses, and if someone held the door for you after they went through, you were having a good day. I kid, I kid. Sorta.

College brought me to South Jersey and I’ve lived here for the better part of twenty years. My city is now Philly (although I do still adore New York, for the record). So when Jenn and Cam told me that they’d like to visit Old City in Philadelphia, I naturally knew all the places to go and what to do. Right?

Nope (with a pop of the P).

I realized just how lacking I was in the historical department of Philadelphia. I mean, I sort of knew where the Liberty Bell was because I’ve run past in during numerous races. I kind of knew how to get there. I think?

Bound and determined, I visited Groupon, knowing that they’d have my back. I get approximately 10 emails a week and I always, without fail, see Philly tours.

We are not strangers to tours - this was the Boston chocolate tour!

We are not strangers to tours – this was the Boston chocolate tour!

When choosing our tour, I considered the audience. Which is us. Which is to say we are loud and like to do our own thing. Having a tour guide and a group wouldn’t be fair to the tour guide or the group.

Because we are loud.

Very loud. And inappropriate. And curse a lot when not near children.

An up the nose (and crotch) shot with a statue on the tour. See, inappropriate.

An up the nose (and crotch) shot with a statue on the tour. See? Inappropriate.

Stray Boots to the rescue! For an very affordable $8 (thanks Groupon) we purchased a tour of Old City. Stray Boots has 4 Philly tours, as well as tours in cities all the country. The app starts you at point A and brings you on a walking tour around the area of your choice. Ours was about 2 miles and we landed right back at point A.

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Certain clues (particularly the first one) were a bit tricky for us but they give you a hint, if you ask for it. It’s a scavenger hunt through the destination of your choosing with extra information after each answer so you can learn more history about the location and the people of Philadelphia.

One clue was a no-go because the building we were supposed to go into was under construction. However we were able to figure out the clue from a sign on the street and a little Google sleuthing. There’s an option to let the app makers know if something like that has happened.

And, of course, there are a couple of questions where you get to interact with people working in gift shops and stores. A tip from us? Don’t just ask them the answer to the scavenger hunt question. They are a fount of knowledge and more than happy to share!

Also awesome? Since you’re doing the tour on your own time, you can stop if you want to buy things or have lunch. We walked right past the Continental and doubled back for lunch!

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We saw at least five properties that we dreamed about owning. We wandered back alleys that reminded me of Spain and listened in on a few of the walking tours that were near us.

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We behaved ridiculously and made people laugh.

Soft kitty, warm kitty.

Soft kitty, warm kitty.

Now of course, I’m not going to tell you all the clues, in case you plan on visiting Old City. But I will say this, we all agreed that this was the best $8 we spent!

Sorry we cut your head off, Ben.

Sorry we cut your head off, Ben.

It was the perfect way to spend a day taking in the sights, while still resting before our half marathon the next day. Good times and good friends. Nothing better!

Have you ever done a Stray Boots tour or something like it? What is your can’t miss spot in your town? Have you ever been a tourist in your own city?

Recipe Box: Watermelon sangria

Earlier this month my mama-in-law introduced me to a light, tasty adult summer drink – watermelon sangria!

sangria

We made this adult beverage at a family party and it was quite the hit. We’re a family of foodies, so know high standards were met, folks!

So since it’s my sister’s birthday today – and she loves all sorts of sangria – I thought I’d share this gift with everyone! And Happy Birthday Sissy!

Without further adieu, here’s what you’ll need to create my new favorite drink of champions:

– 12-14 cups of cubed watermelon, divided

–  1 (750ML) bottle of dry white wine

– 1 cup vodka

– 1/2 cup triple sec

– 1/2 cup simple syrup (sugar and water mixture)

– 1 medium lime, chopped and quartered

– 2 oranges, cut into thin sliced

– 1 cup (or so) of fresh blueberries

Got everything together? Great. Now start with the watermelon. I’d seriously chopped up 3 within the 24 hour span before making this so I was verging on expert, I like to think.

1. Place 9 cups of watermelon cubes in a blender; blend on high until very smooth. It’s incredibly wise not to do it all at once, but in parts, say 3 cups at a time. Otherwise your blender might get overwhelmed and quit.

2. Strain juice through a mesh strainer into a large pitcher. We used a huge thermos instead of a pitcher. We also used a spoon to help push the blended watermelon through the strainer.

3. Pour the wine, vodka, triple sec and simple syrup into the pitcher. Stir to combine. We used generous amounts of the alcohol.

4. Mix the remaining 3 cups of watermelon cubes (I made them really small), the lime and orange sections and blueberries into the sangria. Stir.

5. Chill for 4 hours before serving. I skipped this last step and just added ice. You could go crazy and do both.

Drink and enjoy! You will soon become the hit of the party.

What’s your go-to summer drink? Do you ever add fruit to your adult beverage?

Seniors Rule!

This time of year, there seem to be graduation related events every weekend. Driving around town, I see all the cars decorated in blue and white proclaiming that “Seniors Rule.” Clearly, the Class of 2K14 is the best ever! Hail the graduates!

We’ve all been there. And we’ve got the pics to prove it! So, Throwback Thursday style, may we present to you the Scoot A Doot Class of 2014!

Bec and her hair were quite a pair!

Name: Rebecca

Nickname: Becci, Speckles

Year of Graduation: 1992. Hair was big,  Bill Clinton ran for President and won, MTV changed the face of television with the introduction of The Real World,  90210 was on every Thursday night and my prom song was the epic “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men.

School Mascot: Pirate. Arrrgh.

Activities: Yearbook, newspaper, Peer Leaders

Sports: Ahahaha. You’re funny. No.

Favorite movie: Wayne’s World. This came out February of my senior year and I lost count of how many times I saw it in the theatre. And Pretty Woman. And Dirty  Dancing. And, as always, The Breakfast Club.

Theme song: Baby Got Back (Oh my God, Becky, look at her butt.)

Favorite subject/class: English, Government, Psychology

Favorite high school memory: Any time spent with my friends. Whether we were taking the train into Boston, making late night runs to Taco Bell, hanging out in my friends’ den watching Breakfast Club or seeing how far we could get the car to coast from my house, I loved my friends  so much.

Senior Superlative: Best Mom? I totally mommed everyone, so probably that. Or Tallest.

Dream job: Writer, Interior Designer, Speech Therapist, ASL Teacher, Hairdresser. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’m still not.

Quote:  I had to look mine up, I honestly couldn’t remember. I was going to use the oft used Helen Keller quote about letting things go, but a good friend of mine wanted to use it, so I went with this.  “Only as high as I reach can I grow, Only as far as I seek can I go, Only as deep as I look can I see, Only as much as I dream can I be.”

Post high schools plans: Undecided. (Literally, I left high school with no idea what I wanted to do, or where I wanted to go, knowing only that I wanted to go somewhere and do something. And I did.

 

camseniorYoung Cam has serious curls!

Name: Camille

Nickname: Cam, Camoozle, Mo, Mojo potato, Camel, Cammyzoo (and those are the nice ones.)

Year of Graduation: 1998 – Grunge is God!

School Mascot: The Steeler Man (So lame, I know)

Activities: Drama Club – I participated in every theater production my school had from 1994-1998.  I was also Historian.  My senior year, I had 3 out of 6 classes in the drama room.

Sports: Um, drama club?

Favorite movie: Playing by Heart.  And Good Will Hunting.  And Romeo and Juliet…And like 50 others.  I was really, really into movies.  Also, I was a HUGE SNL fan.

Theme song: Creep by Radiohead

Favorite subject/class: Literature and Set Design

Favorite high school memory: Ditching class to play hide and seek at Target. Also, we would toilet paper houses a lot.  This one time we papered this guy’s house.  Then came back the next night, took the paper out of his outside trash can, and toilet papered his house again. At the time, it was the most hilarious thing I’d ever experienced.

Senior Superlative: Most Dramatic

Dream job: Writer, archaeologist, marine biologist, theater actress, psychologist…I changed my mind daily

Quote: “Try not, do or do not.  There is no try.” – Master Yoda

Post high school plans: Riverside Community College, here I come!  But first, the best summer ever.

Jess isn't really camera shy. We just come from an era before all pictures were digital.

Jess isn’t really camera shy. We just come from an era before all pictures were digital.

 

Name: Jessica

Nickname: Kiki

Year of Graduation: 2001. Boy bands were hot, fashion was questionable, and I drove a yellow Mustang.

School Mascot:Thunder (how is this even a mascot? It’s a sound)

Activities: Hanging with the BFFs, flirting with boys. This took up most of my time.

Sports: HAHAHA.

Favorite movie: Ocean’s Eleven

Theme song: Anything by *NSYNC

Favorite subject/class: English was my jam

Favorite high school memory: really anything involving my best friends. I can’t pick just one! Mainly because those memories are too incriminating.

Senior Superlative: I was voted Best Eyes, but if I’d had my druthers, I’d have been Best Booty.

Dream job: I’m pretty sure it was to be a writer. That’s always been my dream job.

Quote: I don’t think we did these. Mine would’ve been “after the show it’s the after party/and after that it’s the hotel lobby.”

Post high school plans: community college, mainly because I was so scared of germs that I didn’t want to live in a dorm room with someone and contract bacterial meningitis (this is a true story). But it all worked out because I decided to go to fashion school instead!

 

meri seniorMid-90s Meri

Name: Meridith

Nickname: Mer or Meri

Year of Graduation: 1995 (O.J. Simpson case, Forrest Gump won best picture, All Sheryl Crow wanted to do was have some fun.)

School Mascot: Braves

Activities: choir (sang The Star Spangled Banner in four-part harmony at graduation), band (flag squad captain), flute, theater (The King and I… I was a wife in the harem. Yep.)

Sports: um, no.

Favorite movie: Empire Records, open ’til midnight

Theme song: I don’t think I had one… but I just watched this best songs of 1995 video!

Favorite subject/class: Favorite subject was English and favorite class was Peer Counseling

Favorite high school memory: Dancing in car headlights with friends, playing on the playground instead of going to prom, eating lunch in the hallway between the theater and music rooms with people who made my high school experience so much more fun (and not having to go to the cafeteria).

Senior Superlative: Mostly likely to grow by leaps and bounds once she gets to college

Dream job: Broadway performer

Quote: I swear to the Lawd, this was mine. “People of the earth listen to the warning. The prophet he said for soon the cold of night will fall summoned by your own hand.” – Queen

Vic Senior

Vic, looking classy and classic

 

Name: Victoria

Nickname: Toria by my family (this I love) and Vicki by my friends (this I hate.) Seriously, if you call me Vicki, expect retaliation. I loathe this name, but am usually too polite to tell people.

Year of Graduation: I graduated in 1995, when my hometown band Live was dominating the national airwaves and flannel shirts were all the rage. Heck, front-man Ed Kowalczyk even picked out one of my fave flannels at our local mall.

School Mascot: Blue Streaks. Yep, I’m talking about a blue lightning bolt. And our rival school had a mascot that was a Tornado.

Activities: I played the tuba and was in marching band, concert band, orchestra and loved to sing. And (surprise!) I was on the school newspaper staff, literary mag staff and was a photographer for the school yearbook.

Sports: I was a competitive swimmer through high, middle and elementary school (and on two winter teams in high school). I also ran cross-country my senior year.

Favorite subject/class: English, photography, ceramics and sewing. I took four – count them FOUR- English classes my senior year (including two AP-level classes). I loved to read and write and even voluntarily wrote a term paper on school uniforms for a creative writing class my final semester.

Favorite high school memory: There was no feeling like walking across the stage to receive my diploma at graduation. That’s a milestone that remains sharp in my mind. I also fondly remember gathering with friends before school each morning in a random stairwell, literary parties with my favorite high school English teacher and classmates, and running (barefoot and dripping wet) into the snow with some swimming friends after a practice one winter.

Senior Superlative: Klutziest. I kid you not, I trip over air.

Dream job: I didn’t have a dream job but knew I wanted to write, in one form or another.

Quote: “Never cut what can be untied.”

Post High School Plans: Graduate from college, (preferably the biggest college I could find – I wanted to get lost in the crowd.) Also – become a writer, have a family.

We hope you enjoyed this walk down our memory lanes. And we would very much like to encourage your to share your senior pictures with us. Especially if you have really epic hair! 

Random running moments…is that Ryan Gosling?

Most runners have a collection of random running stories to share.

Me? I must have random happenstance juju, as I have too many to count.

I’ve seen snakes, dodged a family of deer and been caught in a horrendous downpour in what was eerily similar to the woods in Oz. I ran into a flower shop delivery van (ouch) and was nearly clipped by a distracted contractor who then flipped me off. (grrr)

And I’m pretty sure I witnessed more than one drug deal while running along a nearby river trail.

I ran alongside Amish men and women, still wearing their plain clothes. I ran laps around Sydney Harbour, including the famed Opera House and bridge. I ran around the Hollywood Reservoir and along the carriage trails of Acadia National Park drinking in the incredible vistas.

Part of what I love about running is that it gives you a whole new view of the world.

Often, as you watch the world unfold, you encounter the unexpected.

So I thought I’d share my top random running moments with you, a la Golden Girls style.

– January, 2012, Rochester N.Y. in a heavy snowfall. I’m running with several of my regular running partners on an 8-mile loop that felt like the death of me as we trudged through piles of snow. On the backside of the loop, our group ran on the shoulder of a main road. The sidewalk was buried and we wanted to make sure we stayed upright.

Cue the snowplow.

It was headed straight for us. And to the driver’s defense, we were in the road and it was quite snowy. But that plow, it wasn’t slowing down or veering to the side. So we dove head first into the snow bank. The plow went by, the driver smiled and waved. We got up, brushed ourselves off and finished that run!

snowplow runAfter the snowplow “incident” with pals Audra and Gary

– August 2012, Central Park in NYC and it’s nearly 90 by 7 am. I snoozed my alarm one too many times and started my 12-miler later than planned. It was hot and horribly humid and I was in town to visit with Meri and take in a show.

I stopped at every water fountain I spotted and was seriously considering climbing the fence to the reservoir to dunk my head. The run wasn’t going well, the hills at the north end of the park made my legs feel like lead and  all runners on the road passed me as though I were standing still.

About 5 miles in, I saw him.

I was running at the south end of Central Park, staring toward the hi-rises in Columbus Circle, thinking about how bad the movie Cloverfield really was.

Ryan Gosling ran past me in a pastel T-shirt and dark shorts. Our eyes locked for a second and on we went.

Wait a minute? I thought. What’s Ryan Lochte doing in New York? He should be in London prepping for his next big race at the summer games.

I shook my head and looked back over my shoulder. That wasn’t Ryan Lochte. That was Ryan Gosling.

I laughed. Still running, I looked down and thought what a sweaty mess I was. I laughed again, rather loudly.

And then I missed a turn, sending me back toward New York’s East Side instead of north. I laughed again and shook my fist. Gosling, you distracted me! Yep, people stared.

The run itself was awful. I was slow, overheated and thirsty. But the eye candy, that was real.

vicscopesSearching for Ryan Gosling in Central Park (not really, just posing!)

What’s the most unusual thing, or ransom person, you’ve seen while running? Tell us about it in the comments! And we’d love to see photos via twitter!

And most importantly, should I have turned around to chase Gosling down?

Chatting with Aga and ESPNW

Last week, I had a coveted weekday off. And what did I do? Lunch with a friend, shopped for groceries, and oh, I chatted with tennis pro Aga Radwanska.

Say what?

Yep, you read that correctly. Last month I won the opportunity to chat with Aga, through ESPNW’s 98 Days to Shine contest. Let me just say, I love so much about this contest. It combines my love of photography and with my love of sports.

But more than anything, this summer I’ve enjoyed watching how it gave women athletes a forum to showcase their strength, beauty, courage and determination, and to support one another.

My photo submission back in July depicted a hero, and I featured an image with Joan Benoit Samuelson, a pioneer in women’s distance running. (See below)

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My prize was a spiffy ESPNW shirt, and a google hangout with Aga.

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We’d been trying to coordinate for about a month, but everything came together late Thursday and with help from technology-savvy friend, my Google hangout chat with Aga moved forward Friday morning.

For those who don’t know much about Aga Radwanska, she’s a 24-year-old tennis phenom from Poland, who has taken the tennis world by storm. She’s currently among the female players in the world and was runner up to Serena Williams in in her first grand slam championship match at Wimbledon last year.

This week, Aga is playing at the US Open in New York. We chatted face to face – well, via computer screen anyway! I was armed with a listing questions, but knowing she was facing one of her biggest matches of the year, I asked her how she prepared for the big week.

Don’t be surprised: she relaxed! Aga and her younger sister Urzula, also a tennis pro, spent time in New Haven, CT. Aga said Connecticut was “nice and calm” and allowed her to take time off the court in the days leading up to her next Grand Slam match, in the hustle and bustle of New York.

“My biggest goal is always The Grand Slam,” she said. “Of course wherever you go you want I win.”

She’s quite proud of her accomplishments but knows hard work nets results.

“On one hand, it’s hard to get to the top, but it’s harder to stay there,” Aga said.

She trains hard. Aga said she spends about five ours each day training – two hours of tennis in the morning followed by 90 or so minutes of fitness training, then another 90 minutes of tennis each afternoon.

“It’s still fun, but sometimes it is hard,” Aga said. “You’re tired, exhausted, but you know you have to do it. Sometimes you just have to push yourself.”

We chatted about my sports history – swimming, rowing and running – and how they molded me int who I am today. We also chatted about her background, her love of exercising with her sister and how she prepares for the “big match.”

Spoiler: She tries not to think about an upcoming match, but instead listens to music before playing.

I also asked Aga about her image in the 2013 edition of ESPN’s The Body Issue. I you haven’t seen it, click here. To me, its such an incredible photographic feat each year and features images of elite athletes in the buff. Always tastefully done, the issue leaves me mesmerized by the athletes’ bodies, and inspired to improve my photographic skills and to head to the gym.

When asked to participate in the 2013 issue, Aga said she she needed to consider it for several days before accepting. She said she enjoyed the experience – and would do it again if asked. And, Aga said, she appreciated how supportive her family was of her decision.

Leading up to a match, Aga said she tries to put then task at hand out of her mind. Instead, she said, she plugs in and listens to music.

And as I write this, Aga’s US Open journey is well underway! Aga already won her first two rounds of play as she strives to win the US Open title next week. Her third round is today! Good luck Aga!!

Her advice to all aspiring athletes? Work hard. Set goals and work steadily toward those goals.

What questions would you ask Aga? Have you participated in ESPNW’s 98 Days to Shine contest? It’s not too late as it ends this weekend!

The Color Run vs. Color Vibe

It’s time for the results of our good-natured color throwdown!

Remember back in the spring when we told you I would run several color-themed 5k races in western New York this summer? Ah yes, we’re going back a few months.

The Color Run and Color Vibe both graciously offered me entries to run each event. Although the color was theirs, all opinions are my own.

I enjoyed both events, but let me say its rather tricky to compare two colorful 5k races that I ran in different cities and in different weather conditions.

You may recall that when I ran the Color Vibe back in April, the sky opened up on the runners. It hailed, it snowed and it was darn windy. As a result, few stuck around for the after party. (Was there one? I don’t actually know.)

after4yes, that’s snow (Color Vibe)

Last weekend, I headed to Buffalo, NY with my friend and colleague Tina for The Color Run and Tina’s first-ever 5k.

I blogged specifically about Saturday’s race on my work blog. (Click HERE to read)

tina blueThe blue color zone along Lake Erie (The Color Run)

So let’s try a comparison breakdown of the two races:

Participants:

Both events touted thousands of runners (8,000 or so for the Color Vibe and 10,000 for The Color Run, according to race organizers.) Both figures seemed a bit inflated, but I’d certainly agree that thousands of people took part in each event. Let’s just say both races were crowded, but it was never overwhelming. Race organizers knew how to move the crowd.

At the Color Vibe, the first group of runners didn’t begin until about 10-15 minutes after the appointed race start time, which on a normal day wasn’t a big deal. But the temps had dropped to the 30s and the skies were dark, Plus there was confusion about the start time, so we actually waited about 45 minutes for the race to begin.

colorfunLindsay, Deb and Charlotte running through campus (Color Vibe)

In comparison, The Color Run started at its appointed start time, though it took Tina and me an extra 20 or so minutes to reach the start area after the the first runners set off. (We actually watched the first folks finish!)

waldoA sea of white shirts. Can you spot me? (The Color Run)

Round 1 goes to The Color Run

Color Zones: At both races, we ran through four color zones.

Color Vibe participants were doused with color packets right out of the gate. I loved that idea – get runners with a burst of color right from the start! Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready for it, so I basically missed the first of four color zones. (My fault, not theirs.)

pinkThink pink! (The Color Run)

The Color Run seemed to have more volunteers throwing powered color on participants, so it was hard for anyone to get past a zone without a hint of color.

That said, in any color race, ASK the throwers to hit you with color if you want to be covered. They will oblige.

If you want minimal color, try to zip past and dodge the throwers. Stay in the middle, where other runners act as a color buffer.

Round 2 is a draw

The course: Obviously this will vary greatly from race to race. My suggestion for all future color event participants is to pay attention to the 3.1-mile course you will be running.

The Color Vibe was entirely housed on the campus of a local community college. It’s a smart move because its self-contained and doesn’t require race organizers to close roads and divert traffic. That said, the route includes a large amount of parking lots… which also means less event parking.

The Color Run’s route was a refreshing surprise to me. You guessed it, I didn’t check out the course before the event because I knew I’d be walking much of it. The 5k course started in Buffalo’s Canalside Park, next to the First Niagara Center and followed some downtown roads and lakeside roads, into a marina along Lake Erie and back.

colorrun2Along Lake Erie (The Color Run)

Because of its location, The Color Run route seemed far more picturesque.

Round 3 winner: The Color Run

Race swag: Entry to the two races are pretty much the same. $45 for the Color Vibe and $50 for The Color Run.

With the Color Vibe entry, I received a race shirt (which I wore for the run), one color packet, sunglasses and Boston bracelets, a thoughtful gesture by race organizers as we ran several days after the Boston Marathon bombings.

The Color Run entry included a race shirt (again, I wore it), a race headband, a color packet and some stickers.

Both events sold a number of other products. The Color Run organizers repeatedly threw swag such as race socks and bags into the crowd.

Round 4 winner: Color Vibe

After party: Both events hosted pre-race and post-race parties, which included music, dancing and a celebratory atmosphere.

Because of the wintry weather at the Color Vibe, most participants ran for their cars and shelter after finishing the course. Few people stuck around to sing and dance in the snow and hail. (Gee? Why?) and most volunteers apparently abandoned their post-race posts. I heard there was a photo booth, but never found it. I spotted bottles of water in a pile, though no one was handing them out.

I never saw a big-post race color throw take place by the stage. Instead, participants doused each other with packets of color at or near the finish line. We still had fun, but couldn’t help but wonder if I’d missed something.

after2Our own color throw (Color Vibe)

The Color Run’s after-party was a huge event. The weather was perfect, thousands of people danced to the music and we watched three separate color tosses take place in the 30 minutes after we finished our race.

20130820-143026.jpgA color throw at the Buffalo after-party (The Color Run)

Volunteers passed out Kind bars and offered a water bottle for thirsty runners.

Round 5 winner: The Color Run

colorizedI’m an oompaloompa (The Color Run)

Both events were a blast, though different. All of my running partners were a joy! And I love how color events are untimed races, geared toward beginners. The events aren’t about winning, but the joy of running.

But overall, the top winner was THE COLOR RUN. Congrats to the Happiest 5K on the Planet!

What Color event is your top choice? What stood out to you to make that event better than its competitors? Tell us in the comments!