Photo of the Week: National Cousins Day!

Today is National Cousins Day! (Cousin’s Day?  I’m not sure.)  I’m celebrating my smart, amazing, beautiful, unstoppable cousins, Ava and Holly!  They both also recently had birthdays, so happy belated birthday, summer babies.  The three of us have maintained a group chat for a couple of years now and I have to say I love Facebook for keeping us together (we don’t all live in the same state). We always have amazing adventures, so it took me absolutely forever to pick just one photo!  Love love love.

 

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NYC Part 4: 9/11 Memorial, A Broadway Show, and More!

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I spent a long weekend in NYC. You can read about Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

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We slept in a bit on Sunday morning, knowing we’d need to be well-rested for another day of trekking around the city. We took the subway from Queens to downtown Manhattan so that we could visit the 9/11 memorial. On the site of the twin towers, there is now a single, functional skyscraper, a memorial museum, and two enormous, sunken waterfall pools. The pools are covered in the names of all of those who lost their lives during the attack in 2001. It wasn’t easy to see those huge memorials completely covered in names. The site is beautiful, but there’s something haunting about it.

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The Grand Central terminal was next on our list, so after a quiet and reflective morning, we headed back up to midtown. Grand Central is one of those very New York things you just have to see when you visit the city. We walked around for awhile, taking in the mural on the ceiling, the huge market downstairs, and of course, taking advantage of free public bathrooms.

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We met my cousin for lunch at a tiny (TINY) little pizza place called Patzeria Perfect Pizza on W 46th. She took the train in from New Haven that morning so we could spend the rest of the day together! The pizza place was so cramped, I’ve been in delivery-only pizza places with no dining room that had more space. But it was warm, cheap, and the pizza was really good. We managed to snag some tight seats on high stools at the table along the wall.

While we ate, we talked about our plans for the day. Holly (my cousin) and I wanted to see a matinee of a Broadway show. David was encouraged to come along, but insisted that he didn’t want to come. Holly and I had hoped to see Come From Away, but it was sold out. We talked about several different shows, but we both love theatre and would really be happy with anything. We settled on Once On This Island.

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After we finished our pizza, we headed back into the cold and over a few blocks to the Circle in the Square theatre, where we got tickets for the 3PM show. Knowing that left us at least an hour to kill, the three of us decided to just walk around. We went to Rockefeller center and watched people ice-skate, passed by the NBC building and Radio City Music Hall, just enjoying being in New York and catching up with Holly. By 2:15 we made our way back to the theatre, knowing the doors would open around 2:30PM.

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Holly and I said goodbye to David (who planned to see the NY Stock Exchange and explore the financial district) and headed into the theatre when the doors opened. Crowds of people swarmed into the warm lobby, showed their tickets, had their bags peeked in, and all headed to the restrooms on the bottom floor, as there’s no intermission. On our way back up, we had our pictures taken at this cheesy but super fun red-carpet style backdrop. We showed our tickets again, found our seats, and waited for the show to begin!

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Read about our experience with the show, fun with the alleged coolest bathrooms in NYC, and more in my next NYC post! (5/20/18 Update: The whole story is live!  See the final post, part 6 now.) Did you enjoy this post? Have you visited New York before? Did you see a show? What is your favorite musical? Tell me about it in the comments below! Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

At-Home Genetic Testing–What Information Should Companies Be Able to Provide?

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When asked about your origins, do you tell others you’re 50% German and 20% Irish and a little bit Polish, Dutch, and French? Have you ever wondered exactly where your family is from? For around $200 you can unlock the secrets of your own genetics. Many online services including 23andMe, Ancestry.com, Orig3n, and others offer kits to test your genes. Simply spit in a tube and send it off with the fee and they’ll send back stats about your roots. Pretty cool, right? But what about the other information they can provide? Your risks for certain cancers, diseases, and other disorders could be given to you in hard numbers. But what do you do with that information?

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When these tests first came out, they handed you an armload of information, but no means to interpret it. The FDA realized that this information was causing people unessescary panic, so they froze the ability to provide information about genetic predisposition to diseases, only allowing companies to provide the public with their family history of origin. This past April (2017) the FDA partially lifted this ban, allowing 23andMe to provide you with your risk for 10 diseases. According to CNN, these diseases are: “Parkinson’s; late-onset Alzheimer’s; celiac disease; a movement disorder called early-onset primary dystonia; a disorder that elevates your risk for lung and liver disease called Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency; a blood clotting disorder Factor XI deficiency; an organ and tissue disorder called Gaucher disease type 1; a red blood cell condition known as G6PD; hereditary hemochromatosis, an iron overload disorder; and hereditary thrombophilia, a blood clot disorder.”

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While it’s amazing that this information is available to you at a low cost, what do you do with it? So you find out you have a 90% of developing Alzheimer’s. There is no cure, no treatment, nothing you can do about it. I would highly recommend talking to a genetic counselor. They can discuss with you what these numbers mean, and what you can do about it. Always keep in mind that your results are not a diagnosis. Even a high risk of a disorder does not guarantee that you will develop it.

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Genetic testing is an amazing scientific advancement. If you can afford it, I would recommend getting your genes tested. You can learn so much about your family history and yourself. Just be aware of the accuracy of the tests and what to do with the information you receive. Happy learning!

Did you like this post?  Have you ever gotten your genes tested?  Tell us about it in the comments below!  Share via Facebook or Twitter, and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Resources:

http://www.fox5atlanta.com/health/fox-medical-team/261335319-story

http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/06/health/23andme-fda-approval-genetic-disease-test-bn/index.html

The Anniversary Party

In April of 2012, my grandparents celebrated 50 years of marriage. My dad and his two brothers got together (despite living in different cities) to plan a (partial) surprise 50th anniversary party for them. A local staple restaurant had recently re-opened, so they chose it for the venue. A date was set, word was spread, out-of-town guests made arrangements to visit, and unbeknownst to me, my now-husband was purchasing an engagement ring.

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After a whirlwind of planning, the day of the party arrived. My boyfriend had met my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and 1st cousins, but had not yet been introduced to my extended family. I was nervous, but excited.

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My dad and uncles had booked a private room at the restaurant, and told my grandparents they were taking them out for their anniversary. My grandparents had no idea that us grandkids would be there, nor that their siblings (some of whom came in from Texas and Georgia) were in attendance. They were thrilled, to say the least. We all had a nice dinner and anniversary cake and took some photos.

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While in line for the salad bar, my now-husband ended up in line behind my dad. (I honestly have no idea where I was at the time or how I missed this exchange.) Not being the most formal or wordy guy, my now-husband said “hey, can I ask you a question?” My dad turned to him and said “yeah, sure.” “Can I marry Allegra?” My dad, also not being the most formal or wordy guy, smiled and said “yeah.”

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Around a month later, while hiking in a local park, he got down on one knee and pulled out a ring. But that’s another story for another day.

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Did you enjoy this post? I wanted to share a personal post to mix it up a bit and help my readers to get to know me better. Do you want to see more posts like this? Let me know in the comments below. And as always, share via Facebook or Twitter and follow me here on WordPress!

6 Tips for Packing Light

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled with my 15-year-old cousin (who lives near me) to New England for a week to see her aunt, my cousin. I’ve traveled a lot, and lately I’ve been getting into backpacker style traveling. On my last trip to Europe I stayed in hostels and didn’t check any luggage. It mostly started because I’m cheap, but it’s become more of a hobby now (and I’m still cheap). I’ll share some tips for packing light so that you can also stop paying to check a bag!

“You don’t have a suitcase?” My younger cousin’s mom asked me when we met in the airport parking garage a couple of hours before our flight.

“Nope” I replied, and gestured towards my backpack. We trekked into the airport, my cousin, her mom, my husband, and I, chatting about school and work and traveling.

Later, inside the airport, when she was paying $25 extra for my cousin’s checked bag her mom turned to me and asked again “You aren’t checking anything?”

I shook my head and my husband chimed in “Once you’ve lost a bag, you’ll never go back” I’ve actually never had an airline lose my luggage, but I’m super cheap. Paying $25 on top of my $300 ticket AND risk them losing my belongings? No thanks.

We arrived in NY and when my older cousin came to pick us up, the first thing she said to me was “that’s it?” upon seeing my backpack. “I’ll tell you how, just keep an eye on my blog” I joked.

Tip #1: Ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” Despite impressing my cousins, my husband still accused me of taking too many toiletries. “Do you need all of this?” He asked as he watched me pack. It’s a good question to ask yourself. If you don’t normally need something, it’s probably best to leave it at home unless you know for a fact you will need it on your trip. I’ll admit, in a normal week I don’t need workout clothes (oops) but my cousin is pretty active, so I knew visiting her meant we’d hit the gym at least once. Just be adaptable and pack for your trip and yourself.

Tip #2: Wear your bulkiest clothes to the airport so you don’t have to pack them. Even if it’s going to be warmer and you end up carrying your coat/jacket, it’s a great way to save space in your luggage. Carrying a coat or jacket doesn’t count as a carry-on or personal item. You can also put stuff in the pockets if you’re really desperate, but I would recommend saving this for the return trip, since you’ll likely have souvenirs of some kind. Just be careful not to put anything “suspicious” looking in your pockets.

To the airport I wore:

A short sleeved top
A pair of leggings
A pair of boots
A warm jacket

Tip #3: Plan to wash and/or re-wear your clothes. I haven’t checked luggage in 3 years. You can pack everything you need in carry-on size luggage no matter how long your trip is. I’ve found that I need a certain amount of stuff, no matter how long I’m going away. You always need pants, shirts, etc, but the trick is to re-wear and/or wash your clothes. If you’ll be away for more than a week you’ll probably need to wash clothes, but if you were at home, wouldn’t you be doing laundry anyway?

Tip #4: Save and use small containers for traveling with small items. I’ve saved mint tins and plastic razor boxes for a while and they’re awesome for organizing bobby pins, jewelry, cotton swabs, and other small accessories.

Tip #5: Utilize packing cubes. Organizing your belongings into packing cubes is a great way to save space. It seems counterintuitive to add items to save space, but cubes (or honestly, any small zip-up cloth bags you have) help you to smoosh items down. Bonus: they also help you to organize into outfits or type of clothing.

Tip #6: What you should pack.

What I packed in a backpack for a one week trip:

2 dresses
2 pairs of jeans
1 pair of leggings
2 cardigan sweaters
2 pairs of PJ pants
2 comfy T’s for sleeping
2 tank tops
3 short sleeve shirts
1 long sleeve shirt
1 pair of tennis shoes
1 set of workout clothes (shirt, shorts, sports bra)
Socks and underwear for a week
A laptop
A magazine
An (empty) water bottle
I also packed travel sized toiletries. You’d be surprised what you can find in under 3 oz bottles. I have everything from deodorant to hairspray to baby powder to body spray.

Places to find small bottles of liquids:

Target
Walmart
5 Below
Bath and Body Works
Big Lots

If you can’t find your favorite shampoo or lotion in small bottles, you can purchase empty airplane sized bottles pretty much anywhere (Target, Walmart, Big Lots, REI, Dick’s, etc.) just check the travel section. You can then fill them at home with your favorite product. But lemme warn you, it’s messy and not the easiest task to accomplish. I would recommend just purchasing products that are already in travel sized bottles, but I’m not your dad.

If you follow this guide, you too can stop paying to check a bag when you travel!

Do you have any packing tips? Share them in the comments below!  For even more travel tips, check out Travel Mistakes I Made So You Don’t Have to, A Backpacker’s Guide to Packing: Winter Edition, How I Moved to India for 2 months with Only a Backpack, and Essential Items Every Traveler Needs Before the Next Big Trip.  Did you like this post? Share via Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter and follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!