The Empty Spaces

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I string together lists
of things I’m grateful for—
a kind deed and sunshine and support
a moment of stillness or peace or love.
Each is a pinprick of light;
I am a city slowly regaining power
after a blackout.

I stack letters into words
into stories into prayers—
give me strength, help me accept,
show me how to heal and grow.
Each is a voice in a choir;
I am a hymn erupting with melody
after silence.

I breathe into the empty spaces
and I fill them with hope.







Thanksgiving Weekend in Photos

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I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I know I did: it was a lot of work, but spending time with family made it all worth it. Plus, we’ve had leftovers for days—which made dinner much easier on Saturday and Sunday while we put up all our Christmas decorations. Here are some snapshots I’d like to share.

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Vacation Memories

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As recently as last month, my parents hadn’t been on a vacation since their honeymoon. They’re two of the hardest working people I know, and I thought they deserved some time away, so I convinced them that we should take a family trip to see the West Coast—from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon to the Hoover Dam to Las Vegas to Los Angeles. I’ll eventually share details about each part of our trip (including the best deep-dish pizza I’ve ever eaten and our kayak surprise), but for now I just wanted to share a picture from each leg of our trip and say hello to everyone I’ve been missing these past two weeks:

Grand Canyon

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Todd and I at the Grand Canyon, one of the most stunning vistas I’ve ever seen.

Las Vegas

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Disneyland

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With Nick Wild from Zootopia at Disneyland. I loved taking family photos with characters!

Los Angeles

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On the Santa Monica pier, my favorite spot in LA.

7.5-mile Fall Harvest Race

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The day before the 7.5-mile Fall Harvest Race in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, I trimmed down my Spotify running playlist and packed leggings, a t-shirt, a long-sleeve insulated shirt, a head warmer, and two pairs of socks. Todd, my parents, and I drove about an hour upstate to Beacon and walked around the town: art galleries, a hipster coffee shop that wasn’t as good as we remembered, a chocolate shop, and a record store, but also a Key Food, a squat library, and a smoke shop or two. Mountains rose in the distance, but I could never get a picture unmarred by houses or cars or telephone poles. We ate dinner—a patty melt for me, a pork chop for Todd, a chicken-and-avocado sandwich for Dad, and a walnut-crusted chicken salad for Mom that had more meat than lettuce—at a diner a few towns over, then retired to an airport hotel room infested with ladybugs.

At half-past seven the next morning, we picked up our free t-shirts and race bibs at the Storm King Engine Co., a firehouse on what appeared to be Cornwall-on-Hudson’s main street, alongside a cafe, a diner, a flower shop, a post office, and a gazebo. In the same room as packet pickup, colorful gift bags held raffle prizes and organizers offered coffee and bagels to runners. Around 8:20 we made our way to the start line, where we found only a dozen or so others waiting. By 8:30 a small crowd had formed, and we were off! It turned out that only 80 of us participated, a majority of the crowd potentially having signed up for a nearby trail race instead (according to what I overheard one local saying to another, anyway).

The first two miles took us through the town: houses and lawns, cars with Trump bumper stickers. I kept clenching and unclenching my fingers into a fist to try and get some feeling in them. Around Mile 3 we passed back along the main street and headed toward Storm King State Park, a 1,972-acre tract of protected land. During Miles 3 and 4, we got some great views of the Hudson River. Mile 5 took us steadily uphill. We had passed my parents earlier, and at this point Todd slowed to a walk. It was just me for a while, following the white painted arrows on the roads, which were open to traffic, to figure out which way to go in order to stay on course. I passed up a group of women who’d been in my sight at the start of the run but whom I’d since lost track of. My legs burned, especially the backs of my thighs. My breath came heavy, since I’d been running the race at a faster pace than usual. But I didn’t focus on those things; instead, I felt only gratitude—for the pure, crisp air and crunch of leaves and nostril-tingling scent of nature and woodsmoke. At the top of the biggest hill, there was a spectacular view of the Hudson Valley, a swath of red and gold trees. Another few more small climbs, then downhill the last mile to the finish line, where I came in at 1 hour and 13 minutes, with an average pace of approximately 9:50/mile. Though I placed 56th overall (those runners were fast!), I was second in my gender/age group and got a cool embossed cup as a prize.

On the drive home, we stopped to snap a photo at a scenic view:

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A Boo-tiful Halloween

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Wow, I’ve been busy! I’d spent some time planning snacks and activities for a Halloween party held at my friend’s house in Connecticut, and I’m pleased to say that it was a success. We had a sleepover the night before so that we could wake up and get an early start on all of our creations, from chocolate cupcakes to fruit cups meant to look like candy corn.

Clockwise from top left: Elina and me, wearing matching Halloween socks, with Ghost; chocolate-covered Oreo cookies made to look like pumpkins; a salad topped with a sour cream “spider web”; spinach “toxic waste” mac & cheese; and orange, pineapple, whipped cream “candy corn” fruit cups.

At the party we also took pictures with Halloween props and watched Poltergeist, a horror classic that isn’t scary but is fun to poke fun at. We even carved pumpkins! Todd and I went the easy route and just turned out pumpkin into a bat, but some of our friends etched out some really creative designs.

On Sunday, I decided that we still hadn’t had enough Halloween sugar, so I baked a lemon-ricotta cake with cream cheese frosting and a layer of lemon curd, then decorated it with some Halloween sprinkles. I also made mini cupcake versions, but those were topped with a vanilla-malt frosting. Mom and I baked vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting, too, and had fun scarify-ing them with spooky ghosts and gummy worms and any other candy we could find.

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To burn some of those calories, Todd and I did a six-mile run to the Botanical Garden in hopes of seeing some fall foliage. Most of the trees hadn’t begun their transformations yet, but we saw some stunning fall colors near the entrance of the garden. When we got home, we quickly washed Todd’s car before it rained, falling in sheets so thick you couldn’t see through them. It was nice to relax and listen to the storm after the busy weekend we’d had.

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Unfortunately I missed out on seeing the cute costumes of trick-or-treaters because I had to work late yesterday, and it’s likely to be busy and late all week here at O magazine. But it’s okay: I have plenty of sweets and candy to help me power through!

Snapshots of Our Wedding

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I can happily report that my marriage to Todd on Saturday was one of the best days of my life! The entire weekend was a whirlwind of activity—from the rehearsal dinner at our favorite pizza place to Sunday brunch at the hotel where the wedding took place. Today I returned back to work, but on Thursday we leave for our honeymoon to Paris, Budapest, and Barcelona! Continue reading

My Bachelorette Painting Party

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In the time since my last post, we’ve mostly been busy with wedding planning. We finalized the music selections for our ceremony and reception. We organized our seating chart and coordinated with the florist. We ordered our cake topper, created a program for hotel guests, and figured out our favors. We sorted hundreds of pearls based on size and shape: flat-bottom, large, medium, small, very small. But the best part of the past two weeks was the one thing I didn’t plan: my bachelorette party! Continue reading

Valentine’s Day Food & Fun

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I love food, so it’s probably no surprise that my Valentine’s Day weekend revolved around it. The celebration kicked off Friday night, when my mom and I fried up some potatoes and eggs. It’s my favorite no-meat meal during Lent; there’s just something deliciously comforting about it, especially when it’s piled atop a thick, buttered slice of bread. Saturday brought more tasty treats: Valentine’s-themed doughnuts for dessert and a bag filled with gifts and chocolate and candy. (Thanks, mom! Love you!)

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Welcoming the Fall with Apple Picking

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Sometimes you have to dig deep to get the best apples.

Sometimes you have to dig deep to get the best apples.

We kicked off the season last weekend with a quintessential fall activity: apple picking! We went to Barton Orchards, about an hour upstate from my house, and luckily we arrived early enough to beat the crowds that developed later in the day. Though I had worn a sweater in the morning, the weather warmed up enough that I didn’t need it, and it was a beautiful day to enjoy apple cider donuts and spend time with Todd and my parents. Continue reading

Wedding Venue? Check.

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It seems like I’ve been doing a lot of celebrating lately. I got Shake Shack after my first week at my new job as a teacher, and last weekend I went to Denino’s, a delicious pizzeria in Staten Island, to celebrate putting a first payment on a wedding venue. Todd and I had a nice time eating shrimp parmagiana, fried calamari, plain pizza, and meatball onion ricotta pizza with our parents.

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My First Ever (Hopefully My Only) Engagement Party

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Nothing beats celebrating life milestones with family and friends, and that’s what I did this past Saturday. My parents hosted an engagement party for me and Todd in our backyard and decorated with balloons and streamers. My mom and Todd’s mom cooked all of the food; although I forgot to take pictures of it, I can tell you that it all tasted delicious, from the baked ziti and eggplant parmigiana to the glazed corn beef and roasted Brussels sprouts. We finished the celebration with a huge napoleon cake—my favorite! Because it gives me so much joy to think about how many people care about us and how nice it was to spend time with all of those people, I wanted to share some photos from the event with all of you.

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Returning Home Sweet Home

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Wedding Ring

Engagement ring

I love traveling, from flipping through magazines on the plane ride to exploring new places and having incredible adventures. My recent trip to Disney World with my boyfriend checked all of those boxes. We ate at some delicious restaurants, like The Wave; we ventured on Disney’s Wild Africa Trek in Animal Kingdom, which I’ll hopefully get a chance to review in a later blog post; and I saw my first Cirque Du Soleil show ever. Todd and I even found time to exercise by doing yoga in our hotel room, riding surrey bikes around the boardwalk, jogging around our resort, swimming in the pool, and walking pretty much from the moment we woke up to the minute we collapsed in bed every night. Of course, I can’t forget the most exciting part of our trip: our engagement. Todd popped the question on the observatory deck of the California Grill restaurant, right before we watched the fireworks exploding over Magic Kingdom. As you can probably guess from the picture, I said yes. After our stay in Disney World, we visited my grandparents and had a great time cooking Hungarian food like palacsinta and chicken paprikas with them. We also went bowling (they won) and played cards (they won again).

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Exploring New York: Brooklyn Bridge Park

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On one of our first dates, Todd and I met up at City Hall Park in the Financial District and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. On the other side of the river, we stumbled upon Brooklyn Bridge Park, which seemed like a hidden gem amid crumbly brick buildings and a quaint ice cream parlor. On Saturday, we revisited the park as part of Todd’s birthday celebration in the city. Although some things have changed since our first visit, it remains a peaceful getaway where you can view the city from afar.

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Book Review: The Story of a Soul

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We’ve all had moments where we feel so stressed or anxious that we aren’t sure how we’re going to make it through. During one of those times recently, I lay in bed and closed my eyes and imagined my grandmother (who died in 1995) standing before me. Many in my family have associated my grandmother with roses, so I said to her, “Grandma, just let me know everything is going to be okay. Show me a rose.” I eventually drifted off to sleep.

The next day, I decided to go to confession before mass since I hadn’t in some time. As I talked with the priest, he suggested to me that I read The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of the Little Flower, written by St. Therese of Lisieux. When I looked up St. Therese on Google, I realized that she went by a number of names: St. Therese the Little Flower, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, and St. Therese of Roses. According to the Society of the Little Flower:

As she was dying in the convent infirmary, Therese could look out and see the rose bushes blossoming. She loved roses. She had thrown rose petals as a Child before the Blessed Sacrament. … Roses are Therese’s signature. It is her way of whispering to those who need a sign that she has heard, and God is responding.

Whether that’s a coincidence or a sign that my Grandma is up there in Heaven and heard me, I’ll leave up to you to judge. On the priest’s suggestion, I purchased St. Therese’s book, and ultimately was glad that I did.

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