The Big Apple: Day 1

The Big Apple: Day 1

Mom and I went to New York on a long weekend trip. It was a belated birthday trip (and really, should count as birthday and Christmas for like 3 years!). We took a direct flight out of XNA (about 1.5 hours north of us).  Everyone said this regional airport was quiet and wouldn’t take long to get checked in.

THEY WERE WRONG.

We stayed the night in northwest Arkansas so we didn’t have to get up super early. We got to the airport 1.5 hours before our flight…and it took 1.3 hours to get through the line!

We made it to our plane about 10-15 minutes before departure. But at least we made it.

So we missed breakfast. When we got to New York, we plopped our luggage at the hotel and immediately went to get pizza (the food will be it’s own separate post).

After pizza, we took a subway to Brooklyn and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Not gonna lie, finding the pedestrian walkway was a bit of a challenge and out of the way, but we found it and got AMAZING weather and gorgeous views of the city.  (Side note: 75% of people were walking from Manhattan to Brooklyn. WRONG. Walking Brooklyn to Manhattan gave you views of New York as you walked. Much better).

I downloaded a walking tour from Atlantis Audio Tours for like $2- and it was SO worth it.  It told us to look for this sign, which was hilarious.  No locks on the bridge.  But yes to lox (what they called smoked salmon on a bagel).

The weather was amazing.  In the low 80s, sunny and breezy.

After walking the 1.5 miles across the bridge, we wanted to stop for a minute, so we got some ice cream at City Hall Park and enjoyed the day.

We got on a double decker bus to ride back to midtown (side note: the sign said $29, but that was STARTING at $29…it was like $59 each! But we had already decided to do it).  We got off the bus in Times Square and walked back to our hotel, where we met my friend Jonathan for a bit to visit. He lives in NYC and it was SO good to hug his neck.

We had a quick change and headed out for the evening.  (Side note: the women working the front desk at our hotel were THE NICEST.  They always complimented our outfits and offered to take our picture. It was the Club Quarters in Times Square.  Very clean and comfortable- would recommend).

We had to stop in Times Square for a pic!

We had dinner at the legendary Sardi’s- known for their caricatures of famous stars.  There are over 1500 throughout the whole restaurant! (food will be included in the food post next week).

After dinner, we went to see Hello Dolly starring Broadway legend Bernadette Peters.  She is 70 years old now, but she sang and danced like a 30 year old.

Mom illegally snapped this pic during the bows. Bernadette and Victor Garber played off each other SO well.  They even broke character laughing at each other twice- which was quite charming.

After the show, we walked to get Schmackary’s cookies and crashed for the night. A great first day- and a lot packed into really a half day in the city.


2017 Goals

2017 Goals

It’s that time of year again! To look back and look forward! It’s time to set some goals for the upcoming year.

I have to say, looking back on my 2016 goals, I didn’t “accomplish” much. I was busy growing a tiny human and that threw everything for a loop.  Here’s what I was aiming for in 2016:

-Make 3 Quilts
I started one in January and never finished it. I was too tired at the beginning of pregnancy and then felt too pregnant to lean over the sewing machine.
-Organize a Longest Day fundraiser
I actually had a terrible experience with the Alzheimer’s Association (they haven’t been any help to our family) and decided NOT to fundraise for them.
-Lose weight.
Well I’m ending the year at my pre-baby weight where I started the year…so not a terrible thing!
-Make prayer a priority
I did SO much better on this! We prayed more when we felt anxious and turned to God more than ever before.
-Learn to hula hoop
Nope. I didn’t think I could do that while pregnant. Maybe next year?

 

So what am I looking to for 2017? Here we go:

Workout
I’m not setting a weight loss goal. Instead, I want to make working out a priority now that I’m not teaching Zumba. While I would love to lose weight, more importantly, I just want to be healthier and have energy. More morning workouts, more walks, more being intentional and moving more.

-Freak out less
I have a tendency to get worked up over smaller things. I’m working on letting them roll off my back/taking deep breaths/seeing the bigger picture.

-Make friends a priority
I can already tell that friendship with a new baby is going to be tough. I need to make time for lunch dates, be intentional about reaching out, and still invite people to our home. It doesn’t have to be fancy, planned or perfect. It’s about friendship and hospitality.

-Save money
I’m a spender. I like to shop. I like having all the things we “need” (read: want). However, I know our lives aren’t improved by stuff.  My goal this year is to save money. I have some goals for amounts and purposes. But overall, to spend less and save more.

-Be on my phone less
I can be tied to my phone. I’m not alone, right?  I want to spend less time looking at a screen and more time in the moment.  That may mean deleting some apps that suck a lot of my time. We shall see how I manage with just “be on it less”.  I may have to force myself by deleting the draw. Either way, I don’t want Remi to think the phone is more important than her.

 

So those are my goals for the next year?  What are you trying to accomplish in 2017?

 

 

 

 


My Top New York Tips

My Top New York Tips

I can’t tell you how many times people reach out to me and ask me for tips, recommendations, and suggestions for NYC.  Since I have been 9 times, I do have a few favorite things to share. I thought I would compile things here so I have a link to send friends when they ask me for suggestions.

Here’s the lowdown though: We don’t (and I’m not sure anyone can) do NYC on a tight budget. Things are just pricey there. So not everything I suggest will be cheap, but it will be worth it!

Top Tips for NYC: Food, Sightseeing and More

Getting Around

New York is easy to get around- it just depends on what you’re comfortable with/how much time you have. You can walk….but please note that in most areas North/South blocks are .1 miles each, and East/West blocks are more like .25-.3 miles each…so just know that when you’re setting out.

The subways are easy to use. You buy a Metro card and put money on it and use it. Don’t be afraid of the subway. All my friends that live in the city use it daily. You might see something crazy (man without pants on!) or sit by someone smelly…but you’ll be fine.

Or you catch a cab or an Uber. If you’re having trouble hailing a cab in a certain spot, walk a block or so and try there.  Some areas are busier than others.  Make sure you’re trying to hail a cab in a spot where the cab can actually safely stop. Cabs have lights at the top. If the center number is lit, it’s available. If the center number is out, it’s occupied.

To get around, I HIGHLY recommend the CityMapper app. You can put in locations (it knows restaurant names and visitor locations) and it will give you walking time/distance, cab time and average fare, or how to navigate the subway. It also gives you the estimate for an Uber and will connect with your app to call you a car. It’s like Google Maps on steroids and makes getting around SUPER easy. Download it before your trip, but know that it’s GPS based and may not work fully until you arrive.

Where to Stay

Let’s start with my recommendations for hotel: The Hampton Inn Times Square North. It’s located on 8th and 51st.  Most of “Times Square” (what you picture when you think of Times Square) is just 5-6 N/S blocks away. 8th Ave is just to the west of the action, so it’s easier to walk up and down it. You’re a 5-10 minute walk from most of the Broadway Theaters. There’s a great subway stop on the corner, and a pizza place across the street with the BEST garlic knots I’ve ever head (Gotham Pizza). You also get free breakfast here.

A lot of the Times Square area cheaper hotels are old (read: small, noisy, perhaps smelly). I can’t really recommend any that we’ve stayed at.

I’ve also stayed at the Double Tree Suites Times Square for work, but MAN was it expensive. So I wouldn’t recommend that for fun trips.

This last trip we stayed at the Club Quarters on 45th. It was more of a business-style hotel, but was clean and comfortable and located in a great spot.

Broadway Shows

If you know me, you know we LOVE to see shows. Because of that, we don’t do the last-minute discount ticket thing. We would rather have our seats secure than guess what shows will be available that day. We buy tickets directly from the theaters. My source for info on showtimes, running times, and other important info is Broadway.com.

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I highly suggest checking this schedule from Playbill (know it’s usually up to date, but double check) to see what shows are playing when so you don’t miss anything you are dying to see.  Many shows are dark on Sundays or Mondays, so be aware of that.

You can check for discounts on Broadway World here. You can also try your luck on lotteries and rush tickets. Lotteries are either online or in person, and are literally throwing your hat in the ring for discounted tickets. Only a few random people will win. Rush tickets are waiting in line and getting tickets last minute. Be prepared to spend all night or several hours in line if you try this. More info on that here.

You can also try for day-of tickets at the TKTS booth. Again, you may have to wait a while in line, and tickets vary based on day and can sell out fast. You might get in line at 9 a.m. for Wicked, not get to the window until 10, and they are sold out. There are a few TKTS booths around NYC.

Food

Here’s the deal: we don’t go to NYC to eat. Not exactly. We ALWAYS eat at Shake Shack (more on that in a minute). And now I always get Schmackary’s cookies. Trust me. Wait in line and don’t miss them. SO good.

Here are some other places we like (we are not end-all-be-all NYC foodies.)

Nizza– GREAT Italian. Tiny place. Make a reservation. Great gluten free menu.

Junior’s– Split a meal and have cheesecake. Also their Times Square location has a bakery take-away if you just want to grab a slice. Peak times (right before and after shows) are busy, but the wait is usually pretty quick.

Shake Shack– Many locations. I found the one down by the 9/11 Memorial to be the least busy so far, but it’s totally worth the wait. Like I don’t know what they put in their burgers, but they are magical. Don’t miss!

Urbanspace Vanderbilt– a neat food hall with lots of options near Grand Central. Avoid during lunch on week days (overrun with corporate workers).

Carmine’s– Don’t go unless there are 3+ in your party. Great Italian food, but it’s family-sized, family style portions for the table. Seriously, we ordered lasagna and got a WHOLE LASAGNA.  We’re talking 1 entree for 2-4 people.

Bar Americain– Bobby Flay’s American food. GREAT shrimp and grits. I might recommend making a reservation. We went at lunch.

Serendipity– Tiny place. Neat food. Big portions. Again, split a meal and get one of their GREAT frozen hot chocolates. You may have to wait at peak times.

Best pizza is at Little Italy on 45th.

Sightseeing

We’ve done a lot in 8 trips.  Here are some of the sightseeing highlights and links to important things to help you plan.

Central Park. Go but don’t get lost if you don’t have time. There are tons of movie sights you can wander and see, but it’s HUGE and easy to get turned around.

Double Decker Bus Tour. I just did this on our last trip and really loved it. It was a fast way to see a lot of the sights. You can get on and off at stops. Tour guides give you history and stories. This is the Empire State Building from the bus. Dress for the weather. The top deck is open. We did the Gray Line, but there are others. You can grab a bus in Times Square. It seems shady, but it’s ok to buy from the people on the street with the brochures and placards. Bargain with them on your rate.

Live TV show tapings. We’ve done Jimmy Fallon’s monologue rehearsal and The View. Get tickets from 1iota.com  Don’t be scared of the waitlist. These take time- you have to arrive early and go through security and such…but it’s way fun. 1iota has Live with Kelly, GMA, The Chew, The View, Late Night – all free!

The HighlineMy favorite park in NYC. It’s in a neat area (Chelsea) and it’s an old elevated railway. You can see from above street level. Scenery is beautiful, there are performers, food carts, and it’s just a neat place.

Get up high. Empire State and Top of the Rock. I’ll be honest. I prefer Top of the Rock. It’s got little to no lines and you can see more (like you can SEE the Empire State Building from here!). I’ve heard it’s awesome at sunset but have yet to go.

Empire State Building- you can buy tickets ahead of time (including express pass upgrades to skip the lines- at peak times in summer it might be worth it).  We went first thing in the morning and while foggy, had no lines.

This is us at the top of Top of the Rock. You can get an unscheduled ticket or choose your date and time. 

Little Italy and China Town Food Tour. This was hands down one of the best things we’ve done in 8 trips.  We went with Ahoy Food Tours and Tastings. It was a small group, a great tour guide, local history, and 8 yummy food stops we NEVER would have ventured to alone. They even accommodated mom’s gluten free diet.

Behind the Emerald CurtainIf you love Wicked, don’t miss this. It’s a behind the scenes look at the show. You don’t get to go backstage (it’s a huge liability) but gives you a look at costumes, how things are done, and you get to meet some of the cast.

Disney Broadway Tour This took you through the theater district and then into a theater (where Aladdin was currently playing), on the stage and then we got to play with some of the costumes. Highly recommend if you love theater.

9/11 Memorial and Museum. While this isn’t “fun,” it’s important to remember.  The memorial is free and you can walk up at any time. However, the museum has an entry fee and often sells out. Buy tickets ahead of time (they are timed as well).

Radio City Music Hall TourAnother behind the scenes look at an NYC gem. We saw way more of the theater than I would if I just came to a concert here- and the tour guide had SUCH a ton of info and we had a great time.

Grand Central Terminal TourThis was a tour with a docent trained through the Municipal Art Society of NYC.  We actually had a younger woman and another group had a retired man. They gave us audio pieces and the tour guide wore a mic, so you could hear them without having to stand right by them. We learned ALL about Grand Central, saw it top to bottom and had a great time.

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Statue of Liberty. We’ve been on the island, but never up in the statue. You can visit the grounds (what we did), the pedestal, or go up in the crown.  You can learn about your visit at the parks website, but then you buy ferry and tour tickets from Statue CruisesIMG_3583

Other things we’ve enjoyed:

Shopping on 5th Avenue. LOTS of shops.

Flagship Macy’s. 34th and Herald Square.

Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Lots of fun exhibitions and beautiful art.

American Museum of Natural History.  This is the museum you see in movies with the dinosaurs.

Coney Island. Quite a trek from midtown (took almost an hour subway ride). But we had an original Nathan’s hot dog, walked the boardwalk and rode the Cyclone.

Washington Square Park. Another neat outdoor space. As seen in several movies and TV shows. Lots of street performers.

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge.  Take a subway to Brooklyn and walk back toward Manhattan. You get amazing views the whole time!

Things I would still like to do:

Tenement Museum

See an off-Broadway show (probably The Fantasticks)

The Guggenheim

Visit Roosevelt Island

Go up in the Statue of Liberty

 

 

So those are my tips. I’d love to hear your favorite NYC things if you’ve been before. If you’ve never been- what are you waiting for?! Make some plans! It’s a great place to visit.

 


New York Day 3: Two Show Day

New York Day 3: Two Show Day

We had a busy Sunday- two shows with not a ton of time in between. We spent the morning at Rockefeller Plaza doing some shopping. We stopped to watch some early morning ice skaters. Just such an iconic New York thing to do.

We met our friend Jonny for brunch after shopping and then we headed down to see Finding Neverland. Mom was pretty excited about this show- and it was BEAUTIFUL. Very visually stunning show. Sadly, Kelsey Grammar wasn’t in it that day (we thought he was probably at the Oscars).

After the show, we grabbed a bite to eat at Junior’s. We split a corned beef sandwhich and this AMAZING strawberry cheesecake.

We headed over to the Lion King after our “snack” for the last show of the trip!

I had seen Lion King when it toured to Tulsa…and mom was supposed to go that day. But years ago, dad had cut his arm open and needed stitches, so mom didn’t make it up for the show. So she kept wanting to see it…and we finally did. It’s amazing. Such a fun, moving show with an incredibly talented cast.
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We were ready for dinner after the show and ended up at Guy Fieri’s place. To be honest, the food was fine but the service was awful (and the bathrooms were nasty…which is always a bad sign)…so I wouldn’t go back.  The wings were delish, but not worth it again.

The next morning we were up early for our flight out. We flew out of JFK, which was surprisingly easy considering it’s the international airport. Until next time, NYC (which is sooner rather than later! I’m headed back next month for a work trip! woop!)