Tennis (Lessons), Anyone?

I’ve been an athlete my whole life. It’s something in which I take pride. Whether manning the goal in peewee soccer games (easily distracted, I wasn’t too great at this position and was known to wander from my post), flunging my way down the strip during fencing, or (my favorite) blocking the spike dreams of shorter, less awesome girls on the volleyball court, sports have always given me a thrill, a team, a purpose. And while most of my athletic endeavors these days tend to be off the assorted courts and in group fitness rooms or the occasional steps of an art museum, I think that the athletic aspect of a person doesn’t ever truly fade away.

So when someone from MyTennisLessons.com reached out to let me know about their site (which allows users to book tennis lessons with all sorts of different instructors based on distance, cost, experience, etc) and offered me a chance to give it a try, the competitive juices started flowing, and I immediately said yes. Sure, my hand-eye coordination at the ping pong table isn’t too great, but I’m long. I’m strong. I’m basically a Maria Sharapova in the waiting… Bring it on!

So what do I do with this thing?

So what do I do with this thing?

The process of booking a lesson was incredibly simple, and the user-interface of the site is basically fool-proof. Put in your zip code and you’ll get instructors from your area, as well as suggested courts close to you. Luckily, I live right down the street from one of the public courts in Philly, so before I knew it, it was time for my (very first ever in my whole life) tennis lesson. I invited my mom along for moral support and we hit the court.

Talk about 15-LOVE HER!

Talk about 15-LOVE HER!

I’ll say this right there: Lesson 1 showed me pretty quickly that, regardless of your past experience with sports, the tennis court isn’t a place to be proud. If you’re anything like me, you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to swing and hit the ball out of the “containment area”. You’ll hit it into the net. You’ll hit it into your mom (THAT WAS ONE TIME!) And sometimes, you’re gonna swing and not hit it at all.

I mean... almost?

I mean… almost?

Tennis uses parts of your body that are different from almost any sport I’d ever participated in before. Oddly enough, the sport it reminded me most of was fencing. The short bursts of energy, the closed stance. The fact that you’re using a tool as an extension of your body.

I like this one because it actually looks like I may have connected with the ball!

I like this one because it actually looks like I may have connected with the ball!

It was initially a little disheartening to not be instantly great at something. That said, I had a pretty fantastic instructor. Nick, my instructor, took a special trip out to Philly (as his normal radius is a little closer to where I grew up around Delaware County, PA) to help this first-timer learn the ropes. It was obvious that he was a total professional, coming armed with rackets, a super sweet set of tennis whites, and enough balls to let me go a little buck wild with the occasional POWER SWING. Patient and experienced, Nick spoke in a way that even someone who had never watched a match would understand. That someone was me.

MOTHER DAUGHTER DOUBLES!

MOTHER DAUGHTER DOUBLES!

The coolest thing about the site, I think, is that you can read reviews from previous lesson-takers. This makes sure that you’re getting the ideal experience, and you can choose not only someone who is convenient to you, but someone who has been vetted by other folks. There seems to be instructors for everything from a beginner to someone who really wants to step up their game.

Little close to the net... but look at that focus!

Little close to the net… but look at that focus!

It was really exciting for me to eventually, over the course of the hour, start to connect with the ball, and play a little tennis with my mom (who’s been playing for years now and basically showed me up the entire time). I can definitely see myself hitting the court again (and, come on, who can resist rocking those little skirts?!)

If I were trying to get into tennis shape, I would absolutely use this service. I also think it would be great for people who are trying to get their kids into a sport but might not know where to start.

Thanks, Nick!!

Thanks, Nick!!

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is… if anyone needs a mixed doubles partner, I might not be your first choice. But if you wanna see a 6’1” gangly gal flail wildly with racket in hand, and periodically put together a solid volley… well, after my first lesson, I’m ready.

I totally look ready. Right?

I totally look ready. Right?

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Halloween Hullabaloo

I have a favorite holiday. It features warm weather, fireworks, grilled meats, cocktails on the beach…. and maybe my ideal color palette consists exclusively of red, white, and blue.

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That said, and unfortunately for us all, Independence Day is just that…. a day. So while I have zero qualms chanting “U-S-A” in mid-February, the rest of the country may not be as prone to shout it back (this could mean they hate America, but that’s neither here nor there). Luckily, come autumn, while I mourn for the end of my favorite season, I can rejoice that another season is on the horizon.

A season that is the Holy Grail for every semi-professional theme partier. A chance to pull out all the stops. Where the cream based makeup flows like water…

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NoLibs Zombie Crawl 2013

Where visits to Joann Fabrics are not only frequent but fruitful.

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Togas totally come in teal

The hair is molded like clay.

Walking into spiderwebs...

Walking into spiderwebs…

And just about any interpretation of a costume is tolerated… dare I say, embraced?

I'm a zebra.  Duh.

I’m a zebra. Duh.

Halloween tends to last anywhere from 1-3 weeks, and this year should entail 3-4 costumes. Potential Halloweek(ish) plans range from Yelp Events to house parties to theme parties to handing out candy to sick children. And this is the kind of time that I train all year for…. Now the real question is, do I shake my tail feather while Making Time? Do I whiskey-a-go-go to Trestle Inn to viva Brazil? You KNOW I’ll be Zombie Crawling through Northern Liberties the night before Halloween… But the next night, should I geek out at Tattooed Mom’s while getting Emojional?

Decisions, decisions

Decisions, decisions

The world is my oyster. Or at least Philly is my clam rocking an oyster costume….

Time to get shucking.

Cage Matches and Wine Bashes

I’m known for making a big deal out of things. My birthday tends to be more of a birth-week/month, I treat theme parties with the type of fanfare usually reserved for Halloween, and I treat Halloween with the type of reverence that is usually reserved for Bacchanalian feasts. But you know what I didn’t really make a fuss about?

The fact that I went to Australia for 9 days. Many of my friends didn’t even know I was going until SURPRISE I was already there. And perhaps I’ll share more about this epic journey later…. but I will say that my last meal on my 15.5 hour flight, while tasty, didn’t get any points for presentation.

photo 1Thanks, Qantas, but let’s leave it to the professionals. In this case, the Kitchen and Bar staff of one of my favorite spots in the city, Alla Spina. About a day after I returned from Oz, incredibly jet-lagged and totally unexpected, I stumbled (almost literally) into one of Alla Spina’s legendary Cage Matches. With limited seating (I think capped around 20) and reservations only, ranging from about $65-75, these epic meals pit cooks from different restaurants in the Vetri family, or different sections of the same resto, or brewers, or really…. anyone that’s been longing for a grudge match against each other. I’ve gathered there tends to be a theme (in this case, sort of an autumnal vibe) and some ingredients. Our meal focused on 4 ingredients: Apple, short rib, pumpkin, and brussels sprouts.

My kinda meal.

There was also a boozy beverage paired with each course, in this order: cocktail, beer, wine, and the “wild card”. This was an edible adventure, and every course was more delicious than the last. Well, until the end, when I felt about stuffed enough to just tip over and roll down the stairs.

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From upper left corner clockwise: Savory goat cheese tart with bacon and brussels, Braised short rib (for some ungodly amount of time) with parsnip hazelnut puree, smoked pumpkin gnudi with beef broth, and pig head terrine with apple cider and duckfat, served with a radish apple salad.

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Housemade pita stuffed with brussels sprout hummus, lamb merguez (OMG!) and yogurt dressing served with a brussels pistachio soup of some sort, pumpkin chocolate chip cookie with pumpkin ice cream and STUPID tasty hot buttered rum, short rib surf and turf tartare (served with an Asian pear bellini), and some absolutely unreal pudding that I sort of remember in a dreamlike sense, without detail, only sensations.

And if you’ve not been to a cage match, do yourself a solid and keep your eyes glued to the Twitter. I would absolutely describe this as a “must try” event for Philly foodies.


Speaking of Philly “musts”, if you’re a wine-o in this fair city, you’ve got a lot of options. As a beer-o (oh, nope, that’s a horrible term I’ll never use to describe myself with again), my experiences are limited, but when I was invited to Pinot Boutique to celebrate their 8th Anniversary, I couldn’t very well say no…. And thank goodness I didn’t! Though it was only about 18 hours before my Australia trip began, I rolled up with my dear friend Susan to sip vino at Pinot!

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Located in Old City, conveniently by the 2nd Street MFL stop, this spot’s got every goodie that a wine-lover could want, from charms to decanters, glasses to kitschy napkins, bottle stoppers to this crazy pouring spinner thing that was like a Russian Roulette of Wine. I don’t know, again, I’m not an expert… But the folks at Pinot are, so I left things in their capable hands.

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I’ll admit, I spent my fair share of time canoodling with the one beer table present (old habits die hard), but hands down the COOLEST aspect of the evening was pairing wine with two Philly favs: Cheesesteaks AND soft pretzels.

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I won’t give away the secrets, but if you wanna check out a taste test like this on your own, they even have classes now and then…

While I can’t say that I’ve gone over to the dark side (would that be like…. a full bodied Malbec?), I have more than a few friends who prefer their fermented beverages to be of the grape variety. And since Pinot Boutique now also SELLS wine…. well, I’ll definitely know where to point them.