Part One: “All is Full of Love…”

…to quote one of my favorite Bjork songs ever. This weekend was definitely a special one for me, emotionally and physically. Completely banged up and tired as I am while writing this entry, all I can do is smile. Yes, I might look crazy and creepy for smiling in an empty apartment. All alone. In the dark. While all is quiet. But, hey. No one’s around to judge me, and even if there were, would I care? Of course not.
Moving on.
Yesterday, I participated in the 2015 Citi Field Spartan Race with a new team comprised of friends, old and new. Although a member of New York Health and Racquet Club for several years, this was the first time I was in an event representing them, more specifically one of their best group fitness instructors, Cedric Dujon, as one of his Fit Warriors. Some of you may remember that I participated in my first Spartan Race last year–that was with a team of over 70 people. The Fit Warriors was a team of 14 feisty and fun-loving individuals who made this event even better than I could have imagined.

PhotoGrid_1431316969604_wmNot once was there an “every man for himself” mentality; it just felt natural that we should help each other through ever obstacle and finish as a team, rather than to be competitive against one another and leave teammates behind. The comradely spirit that flowed between us gave everyone hope, strength and confidence that we could all get across the finish line, no matter how daunting the obstacles were. In all my years, this was the first time I understood what it felt like to be on a real team. Even more impressive was the fact that Cedric was the last team member to cross the finish line — our team leader made sure no one was left behind, that we were all accounted for and in good condition and spirit. Not only is this man a physical specimen, he has a heart of gold. Even now as I type, my heart swells with respect and appreciation for Cedric’s good nature and ethic. The people he attracts are all genuinely good people: caring, generous, helpful and kind. If this isn’t a testament to his good soul, I don’t know what is.
My membership at New York Health and Racquet will end soon and I’ll be at another gym through corporate subsidy, however I will support Cedric Dujon, Cedric Dujon Fitness, and will remain one of his Fit Warriors, ready for action whenever duty calls. CYMERA_20150509_172646Stay tuned for part two of my “Love Fest” Weekend…!
The Vickylicious

My Special Date

Who knew a doctor’s appointment would turn into taking myself on one of the best dates ever? You really never know where the day might take you. Let me explain.

Knowing that I’d be near SoHo, I thought I’d walk around a bit and explore what’s going on in the neighborhood before hopping on the train back home to prepare for tonight’s plans; the weather was improving by the minute, getting warmer with every block, sunnier around each corner. I found myself walking to the Lower East Side, one of my favorite parts of the city, a section that harkens back to the NYC I remember [fondly]. No matter what street you choose, there’s something new/different/interesting to see/eat/buy. Knowing better than to shop and add to my overstuffed closet and dresser, I decided to treat myself to a facial and a massage–ones that cost a lot less than they do in my neck of the woods (maybe not as luxurious, but certainly just as effective and lovely). Refreshed, renewed, relaxed, and with baby soft, bright, clean and clear skin, I left almost two hours later a new woman with a bit more pep in her step. I didn’t realize how much I and my body needed that; between work, everyday life and working out, my body and mind have been taking a major pounding. It’s sad to say, but I’m so accustomed to living this way that today’s spontaneous treat gave me a necessary wake-up call to power down, breathe and show myself some love and affection.

All that love made me quite hungry though, which is never an unsolvable problem on the LES! There are so many restaurants, cafes, food stands, etc., and so many cuisines from which to choose. My feet guided me to a giant bowl of pho, Vietnamese soup for the soul, an inner hug if you will. Sitting at a beat-up little wooden table in a corner, I was so happy eating and smelling my steaming bowl that I couldn’t stop smiling. I started looking around at everyone because I heard soft sound coming from nearby, but realized it was me. Humming! Humming while eating! Now you know I’m happy and the food is good if I’m humming to myself. Whoa.

Belly full and pleased that my meal was guilt-free (healthy), and wallet happy because dinner was super affordable, I decided to continue my journey because I had absolutely no desire to go home. Strolling into parts unknown [by me], I walked farther than I’ve ever been into that area of the city, to the point where nothing was familiar, neither the street names nor the landscape. Headphones on, bumping New York hip-hop, I walked the streets, felt and saw history, from the old tenements to buildings taken over by yuppies and hipsters. I walked through areas that went from Chinese to Dominican and black to Jewish, then back to Chinese to Dominican and black and Puerto Rican to hipster to rich hipster-turned-yuppie; from row houses to co-ops to projects to modern architecture, then back to projects upon projects upon projects; turning a corner and I was back to apartment buildings, new mixed with old. It was ugly, beautiful, chaotic and orderly, diverse and separate all at the same time. I loved it and didn’t want to stop this field trip, but knew I had to because the sun was setting and it was time to get back to the land of the familiar. I will be back, mind you. I always go back.

Walking directly to a train station would seem like the practical thing to do, so of course that’s not what happened. I walked from the LES through Alphabet City then into the East Village. Heading west, I came upon one of my favorite ice cream shops and treated myself to dessert. Continuing my walk with extra virgin olive oil ice cream nestled inside the perfect waffle cone, I made my way back to Sixth Avenue to finally take a train home. (I did however, make a quick detour to a health food store first.)

(<—- A makeup-free, spa-faced me getting ready to gobble up the last bit of my delicious ice cream cone)

Home at last, I kicked off my shoes and acknowledged to myself that I would not be going out, as originally planned. My inner monologue and I are best friends and have exemplary communication. So what did I do instead, you ask? I went to the kitchen and whipped up my first vanilla chia seed pudding.

(If you would like the recipe and/or would like to know the health benefits of chia seeds and this dessert, please let me know. I’ll be happy to share it all with you!)

And you thought my detour to the health food store was for what, exactly…? HA! No, just kidding. I didn’t plan on making the pudding tonight, it was just on my list of things to do in the near future and I just happened to remember that there was a health food store near my train station. So it was planned, but not planned. And while it sets in the fridge (anywhere from four hours to overnight), I’ll be doing one of the things I do best: watch back-to-back episodes of something on Netflix.

Today was a day I’ll remember for years to come. I felt truly happy and at peace with my life, where it’s taken me, and ultimately with myself. Too many people place their happiness into other people’s hands, not realizing that one’s happiness is one’s own responsibility. Also, people don’t have to be happy only around others, or by being in all sorts of relationships. As RuPaul always says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?!” So, readers, worry about loving yourself and treating yourself well, instead of loving the idea of other people loving you and finding happiness then and only then. Go on a date with yourself and see how it makes you feel. You might even learn a thing or two.

…Till the Wheels Fall Off!

Today was my Cycle for Survival ride at Equinox, a fundraising event for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, whose mission is to treat and find cures for rare cancers. This was my third ride of however many it takes until a cure is found. Although our group, “A Team 56,” didn’t reach our goal of US$15,000.00, we did raise US$12,900.00 which is still a large amount.
2015-03-07 23.43.40For four hours straight, we rode, shouted, and danced our hearts out for all of those fighting, for the survivors, and for those who have lost their battles with this terrible disease. Some of you have read my previous posts about this event and know how important it is to me, so I won’t be repetitive–trust and know you will be seeing similar posts exactly one year from now. However I cannot shake the feeling I’ve had all day from hearing the experiences of those who are fighting, of those that have won, and of those that have loved ones they are sending to MSKCC currently; the mother and father that personally thanked all of us for our fundraising efforts because they have a 7 year-old daughter with a brain tumor being treated at Memorial now. The woman whose mother had a better quality of life due to the clinical trial our donations paid for last year. For Lisa Adams who passed away last night, losing her battle at the hospital the day of the first ride.
Knowing that every dollar my team and I raise, along with all of the other riders nationwide, goes directly to research and trials, compels to do everything I can for the millions of people worldwide affected by cancer in all its forms. I will urge each and everyone of you as I do every year, to join the battle with me, either by starting your own team wherever you are, by donating your time, by donating your money. Just as one of the doctors said today, “Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it definitely takes a village to find a cure for cancer.” We all live in the same village.

150307_094940This is why I rode. This was, and is, my battle cry until a cure is found.

Kung Hay Fat Choi!

Today was the first day of Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year). 2015 is the year of Sheep. Why February 19th? This day is a new moon day, and is the first day of the first Chinese lunar month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar system.

A Super Brief History: The Year 2015 is the 4712th Chinese year. The Chinese believe that the first king of China was the Yellow King (although he wasn’t the first emperor). The Yellow King became king in 2697 B.C., therefore China will enter the 4712th year on February 19, 2015. I won’t get into the elements and the Stem-Branch System and how we arrive at the sheep being a green wooden sheep–too technical, so I’ll let you Google it, if you’re so inclined.

Since we’re the only ones in New York from the family, Mom and I took the day off from work and donned our new clothes and shoes before heading out to feast on traditional lucky dishes and some contemporary Chinese cuisine as well–we went to the Upper West Side’s Red Farm; the dishes are below. We were stuffed after eating eight dishes (a lucky number), some of which were Chinese dumplings (treasure because of the meat inside), long noodles (symbolizing long life), and oranges (a sign of completeness).
PhotoGrid_1424402952167We had a great time spending the day together, walking the New York City streets and stamping out the bad with our new shoes, wearing red for good luck and to chase away any evil spirits–even our lipstick was red today (my finger nails too)! And the best part (besides quality time with mom, natch)? LUCKY MONEY! Gotta love those little red envelopes.

I wish you all prosperity, happiness and blessings!

Saturday Brunch at The Cecil

After a long, rough week, mom and I ventured to northern Manhattan today on a whim. It was an absolutely beautiful day that we knew couldn’t be wasted, so we walked all the way up north along Central Park to hang out in Harlem and ended up hungry enough to wander into The Cecil for brunch.

The Cecil, created by New York businessman Richard Parsons and noted restaurateur and chef Alexander Smalls, is New York City’s first Afro-Asian-American brasserie.

Inspired by the travels, exploration and study of the African Diaspora of Chef Smalls, The Cecil will offer a global adventure in tastes and flavors as diverse and dynamic as the community in which the restaurant resides.  Its goal is to connect communities through food, comfort and hospitality.

The Mavericks had a delicious meal there a couple of months ago during NYC Restaurant week and we were blown away by the experience. I’d been trying to figure out a way to get back there to show someone else to their eclectic menu, and I knew my mom would be game. (I will add here that she’s a tougher critic than I am.) Their brunch menu seemed just as exciting as their dinner fare, so my mouth was already watering as the hostess guided us to our seats.

The Cecil

First up was to try their brunch cocktail, the Kimchi Bloody Mary. Instead of the usual tomato juice, they used pureed Korean kimchi and its juice to mix with vodka–it was kind of like drinking a Korean gazpacho on ice. Although it took some getting used to, I quite enjoyed it; even though my mom said it was too different for her and that she wasn’t crazy about it, I noticed that she kept reaching for my glass, so her review on this item is neither here nor there…

Next came our Mac n Cheese appetizer; we were curious to try their version, as it had aged white cheddar and Gruyere cheeses, caramelized shallots and rosemary. It was perfectly gooey and just rich enough. The rosemary made it feel a bit lighter and the sweetness of the shallots complimented the sharpness of the cheeses. Well played! Even though we were getting full already, we dug into our entrees, splitting them amongst each other. We ordered Duck Confit & Yam Waffles with Papaya Sauce and Roti Pizza (oxtail, aged cheddar cheese and 2 fried eggs over top). The duck was basic, but good; the yam in their batter made the waffles super moist and lent them a delicate sweetness that balanced the savory duck quarter. However, the dish could have used more papaya sauce because there simply wasn’t enough to accompany each bite. No one enjoys dry waffles–YES, they were moist, but what’s a waffle without syrup (in this case, papaya sauce)?! I rest my case. The Roti Pizza was good, but aged cheddar didn’t seem the right choice of cheese in this instance. The oxtail was delicious–a thick black bean oxtail stew spread across the roti in place of a tomato base. The sunny side up eggs were like smiley faces on the roti, adding the right amount of moisture to the dish, and giving me a smiley face in return. We finished every bite, leaving our plates completely empty and our bellies filled to capacity. We had to walk back home to make room for coffee and dessert!

Although The Cecil’s menu isn’t for everyone–I believe one must have a somewhat adventurous palette to appreciate some of their concoctions– I believe there is something on both of their menus for all to try. I love a good burger as much as the next guy, but I do need a culinary pick-me-up once in a while and The Cecil provides exactly that. Even though we enjoyed their brunch, I think dinner is their stronger suit and will travel back uptown with her on any given evening to repeat my previous nighttime excursion. She needs to understand why they won awards and why they’ve received so much well-deserved laud, not from me but real critics and reviewers.

Besides, how can I not revisit a place that basically describes my genetic makeup?! I’m just saying. That can’t be a coincidence… I might just have to tell them to rename the restaurant “The Vickylicious.” After they make their brunch as noteworthy as their dinner, that is.

I Am a Spartan

By no means am I wuss, a princess, or a diva; I have no problems getting my hands dirty and sweating. However, I’m not a tomboy and I’m not into the outdoors. I’ve never camped, hiked or whatever it is people think is fun to do in the woods—I dropped out of the Girl Scouts after one week and I avoid sitting outside for brunch in the summer when it’s too hot. I abhor humidity and can’t sleep if I know there’s a mosquito flying around in my apartment.

All that being said, I also like pushing my body to its limits, getting stronger and working out in any way that will get me my desired results; I want to be a physical beast (while still looking feminine). I want to know that if I have to run for my life, that if I have to scale walls or do whatever it takes to stay alive in a dire situation, my chances of survival are as high as possible. So when a fellow worker-outer started mentioning the Reebok Spartan Race I initially balked, but as everyone else signed up and grew increasingly excited, my boyfriend and I seriously began to consider it as well. And being the impulsive person that I am, I signed us both up two days before the event…then inwardly cringed. Not only did I feel physically unprepared and incapable, I didn’t even know how I could be mentally prepared for something as daunting as 4.5 miles of rocky hills and 15 grueling obstacles interspersed along the trail. Let’s just say I felt numb for those two days leading up to the race.

What exactly is the Spartan Race, you ask? Here’s the website’s description:  “Simply, Spartan Race is the world’s leading obstacle race series. It’s an event of pure primitive craziness that you’ll never forget! Spartan Race has:
· Races all over the globe
· Different distances for different levels and styles or racing.
· A unique culture and community of athletes striving together to overcome any and everything.”


Our team ran the Spartan Sprint. After my initial shock of pressing “JOIN” wore off, I immediately started my own recon to find out everything I could about the course and how to prepare. The race is different every year, however I needed to see what kind of obstacles were probable so as not to go into this completely blind. The videos of races past, accounts from those who’ve participated in years prior, and pictures of men and women scratched up, tired and battered, had me at a total loss. Yet even all of that couldn’t prepare me for the actual experience of hurdles like scaling walls, rope climbs, barbed wire crawls over rocks, log, boulder and sandbag carries, monkey bars and nets, rock climbing, and jumping over fire. Hell, we had to scale a wall just to get to the starting line! I was ready to turn around and go back home as soon as I saw that craziness. Conversely, my mind completely changed when I saw one of the morbidly obese, out of shape contestants from NBC’s television show, The Biggest Loser, heave herself up and over that first wall: NO EXCUSES, BEAST MODE, FINISH THIS. There was no going back and I knew I had to test myself, body and mind. No more mental blocks were allowed to reside in my brain. If the man with one arm that was smiling a few feet away from me could do it, if the TV contestant could do it, then I could do it, too. I used to be that woman.


Thank the gods on Mount Olympus that I stuck with it! While it felt like hell on earth at certain points (the barbed wire crawl was a big one), it was insanely awesome at the same time! Reebok has some smart people in their company; they design and engineer these races flawlessly. The courses truly show you what you’re made of in every aspect of human nature: fear, competitiveness, determination, strategy and ambition; physical and mental prowess, strength, capability and overall confidence. I regret nothing about joining this race. Self-doubt, fear of failure, and thoughts of defeat are now out of the proverbial window.

Right now as I type this post, the feeling of accomplishment is almost overwhelming. From being morbidly obese at 230 lbs with no muscle strength; from not being about to run one city block without losing my breath; from having joint pain because I couldn’t carry my own weight; I made it to the Tri-State Spartan Race in Tuxedo, NY on Saturday, June 7th, 2014. Every ache, scratch and bruise makes me smile and my eyes well with tears unshed. I went into this experience thinking this would be a bucket list item, but I already know this has now become an annual test for me—I’m hooked. Even my workouts will be geared toward preparation for future races. I am determined, I am focused, I am a finisher. I am a Spartan.


PS: Yes, I sure did give myself a fresh manicure when I got home. You bet I did!

MM Goes to Mancora

Can we safely say that Groupon and Maverick Monday are BFFs? I’m beginning to think so because we scored another great online deal that treated us to Peruvian fare in the East Village (EVill) — $20.00 for $40.00 worth of food and drinks. Couple that with getting there in time for happy hour made the world a better place, even if only for a few hours and only for the two of us. So, eastbound and down we went to Mancora, known to be a neighborhood institution for quality food at decent prices.


Named after Máncora, a town and beach resort in the Piura Region, in northwestern Peru,
“Mancora Restaurant and Bar takes you on a journey straight to the heart of the Inca Empire. Take the trip aboard plates of our fresh, authentic cuisine served up in a warm, friendly atmosphere. The comforts of a home-cooked meal meet adventurous flavors in every dish…Drawing on traditional staples from Peru and Spain, Mancora Chef Enrique Peraldo puts a contemporary spin on the classics. For the past 12 years at Mancora, Chef Peraldo has been dedicated to cooking his personal recipes for adventurous New Yorkers. Each dish is pleasing to the eyes as it is the taste buds, presented as tasteful culinary offerings to woo the American palate. Experience each one, from the richly flavored Pescado a lo Macho, a baked fillet of red snapper topped with seafood sautéed in a creamy sauce, to the popular Pollo a la Brasa, rotisserie chicken that arrives golden and crispy on the outside, but juicy and tender on the inside…”
With a description like that, I struck steak from my mind and went straight for the snapper. However before I go into the review, here’s what the two of us ordered:

Pulpito a la Parilla – grilled baby octopus with panca sauce
Pescado a lo Macho – Baked fillet of red snapper topped with seafood sautéed with creamy sauce, served with rice

Ceviche de Pescado – Sliced red snapper or shrimp marinated in fresh lime sauce with cilantro and red onion
Parillada de Mariscos – Mixed grilled seafood with panca sauce, served with rice or salad


The rundown: My octopus appetizer was grilled perfectly; it was neither rubbery nor did it taste burnt. It was simply grilled without any seasoning except a pinch of salt, which adequately brought out the flavor of the ocean; the accompanying panca dipping sauce was good, but didn’t have enough punch to it (panca is a pepper). Marissa’s ceviche was light and fresh, but my taste buds told me there was something missing flavor-wise (the same feeling I got with the panca sauce). Not in love, however not disliking the offerings so far, I was still excited for our entrées. Again, everything was cooked spot-on and presented like beautiful seafood cornucopias, shiny shells and all. I would have loved my dish if it weren’t for the panca sauce again; this was one time I think salt and a little more seasoning could’ve done the trick (and mind you, I’m not a fan of salt). Also, my snapper fillet was too small and its flavor and texture was no match for the robustness of the shellfish. Marissa’s seafood mixed grill was saucier than expected, but tasty, well-seasoned and timed to perfection. We both finished everything on our plates.

Although Mancora didn’t exactly hit any high notes, the fare was decent. If given another Groupon deal, I’d go back and try the steak and get the grilled baby octopus again—that was the meal’s highlight for me. Now would I think to return on my own? Probably not, given that there are myriad restaurants to try in this food mecca, so many that we decided to venture someplace else for dessert! On our usual after-dinner constitutional, we went to the EVill’s location of Odd Fellows Ice Cream Co., where you can satisfy your cravings of savory and sweet at the SAME DAMN TIME! Thanks to the owner/creator’s pregnant wife’s cravings of “fried chicken, grilled cheese sandwiches … and salty-flavored ice cream,” Odd Fellows was born as well as their baby! Even though they were sold out of a few flavors by nightfall (I wanted to try their PB&J with Toast and Cornbread flavors), the glutton in me couldn’t order just one scoop, so I had one of Thai Iced Tea and another of Miso Cherry—AMAZING! I also sampled Chorizo Salted Caramel (don’t know how to feel about it, both good and weird) and Burnt Marshmallow (yum). Marissa had Thai Iced Tea as well. This place is perfection, especially if even Marissa, who doesn’t like dessert, loved it just as much as I did.


Thumbs to the side for dinner. Thumbs sky high for dessert!