Saturday, May 30, 2009 AMERican Idol!

Sorry, I had to channel my inner Ryan Seacrest for the title of this post.

Many of you may be aware that I am a big American Idol fan. I've watched the show since Season 1, when I cried as Kelly Clarkson sang "A Moment Like This" after being crowned the First American Idol. I swooned over Clay Aiken's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in Season 2. I remember watching Fantasia's "Summertime" in my Gainesville apartment in Season 3. In Season 4, I picked Carrie Underwood to win from the moment I saw her first audition (yay me!). In Season 5, I was a Chris Daughtry fan and was shocked when he was eliminated early. Same story with Melinda DooLittle in Season 6. I liked both Davids in Season 7, but thought David Archuleta should have won. And now, in Season 8, I was an Adam Lambert fan from the beginning. As the season wore on, I began to love Kris Allen as well - to the point that I was happy for him when he won, even though he beat my Adam.

As you can tell, I love American Idol. So you can imagine that when I learned that living in this great city would give me an opportunity to see both of this year's finalists performing live, I was psyched.

This week I was able to see Adam Lambert perform twice, and Kris Allen once (well, he did two songs, so maybe that counts as twice). The first performance I saw was Adam Lambert on the CBS Early Show. I got up at 6:20 a.m. on Tuesday morning to be at the plaza in front of CBS studios by 7:15 a.m. Adam finally started coming out to rehearse shortly after 9:00 a.m., but didn't give his official interview and performance until after 10:00. In the meantime, I stood around in the chilly weather with lots of middle-aged women from New Jersey who were proudly sporting their dark smudged eyeliner, black fingernails, and Adam t-shirts. One of those women could have told me anything I wanted to know about Adam. She spouted off his birthday like it was nothing. Another woman had pulled her kid out of school to see this performance, not because the kid was an Adam fan, but rather because she needed to leave the house at 3:30 a.m. to get there on time and she didn't know what to do with her child at that hour. So he got to miss school and stand around in NYC while his mom screamed over a 27-year-old guy wearing eyeliner. The poor kid seemed less than thrilled, I will say. But maybe he was just tired?

Anyway, the performance was great! I was so close to Adam and his performance of "Mad World" was flawless. I even was on TV, in the crowd!

Me, with Adam behind me!

Adam doing an interview with Maggie Rodriguez

Hi, Adam!

Hey, look! There I am on TV! (Yes, I took a picture of my TV. I'm a dork like that.)

VIDEO: Adam Lambert singing "Mad World" on the CBS Early Show

I was very excited about Tuesday's Adam Encounter, but I knew that on Thursday BOTH finalists - Kris Allen and Adam - would be performing on the Today Show. Eric walks past the Today Show every day on his way to work anyway, so we decided to get up and head out there early together to see if we could catch those performances. Once again, we were out there at 7:15 a.m., which was actually perfect timing. We were far too late to get up close in front of the stage, but right as we were arriving they opened up the barricades and let people in behind the stage. We were able to get a great spot so that we could see everything, albeit from the back. The Today Show was more fun to wait around for than the CBS Early Show, too, because they actually broadcast the show on screens out onto the plaza. So, at least there's entertainment while you wait.

The guys finally started performing around 8:45 or 9:00. Adam did one song ("Mad World" again) and Kris did two ("Heartless" and "No Boundaries"). They were also oh-so-cute because while each of them performed, the other stood off to the side and we could see them enjoying the other's performance. While Kris performed, Adam smiled and danced along. While Adam sang, Kris strummed his guitar and sang along. Awww, they love each other! That was neat to see, and we would not have been able to see it if we had been in front of the stage. And, we were on TV again, during their interview!

People in front of the Today Show windows, waving at the cameras

Yay! Kris and Adam!

Kris and Adam getting ready to do an interview. This picture is funny because you can see Al Roker on the left in the gray suit, taking a picture of them with his cell phone! Funny!

Al Roker then posted this picture on his Twitter! See the person (or rather, tiny speck) in the white shirt all the way on the right? That's Eric!
I'm to the right, out of the picture, taking a picture of Al Roker taking this picture. Did that just blow your mind?

Kris strumming his guitar on the sideline

There we are on TV! We're blurry, but we're there!

VIDEO: Kris Allen singing "Heartless" on the Today Show

I obviously only posted the video I took of Kris's "Heartless" above, but I did take videos of the other two Today Show performances. I just didn't want to overload you with videos in this post. If you want to see Kris's performance of "No Boundaries" (and Adam dancing along), click here. If you want to see Adam's performance of "Mad World" for the Today Show (and Kris singing along, which is really adorable), click here.

So, this was all very fun. I guess this marks the end of my Idol fun for the year, though, until Season 9 next year. I always get a little sad when Idol is over, especially this year when I really liked the top five or so contestants. I almost didn't want anybody to win, I just wanted them to keep coming on my TV and singing to me each week. But I guess this year it was for the best, because my favorites then were free to come to New York and sing to me in person! Hooray!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fun With Heather & Rick

Time for Part 2 of our Memorial Day Weekend series! This one will cover our actual Memorial Day. When we left off in my last post, it was Sunday night. We had spent all day on Sunday preparing for my sister Heather's visit.

Our Sunday evening got started with another amazing view out of our living room window. Look at that sky! It's purple! Have you ever seen a purple sky like that? Also, the Empire State Building is lit up red, white and blue.

The view on Sunday night

Heather and her boyfriend Rick arrived in New York City around 10:00 p.m. on Sunday. Rick's parents own an apartment on the East Side, so they stayed there. When they got into town, Eric and I headed to their side of the island to meet them for a movie. We saw "Angels and Demons," which I enjoyed very much. However, I think maybe we have been seeing too many comedies lately, because I was very tense through the whole movie - more so than I should have been, I think. I'll have to work on that.

After the movie we went back to Rick's apartment, drank some wine, and chatted for a while. Eric and I finally made it back home and to bed at 4:00 a.m.! Can you believe it? We're never up that late anymore. It was like we were in college all over again.

Unfortunately, our bedtime might have been college-like, but our wake-up time was still grown-up-like. We were awake by 9:15. Yawn. We just hung out and waited for Heather and Rick to call. They ended up coming over to our apartment around 1:30 p.m.

Festive Memorial Day photo! No, Heather and I did not plan to dress alike.

We all left together from our apartment to head to the subway. Now this part is going to be like deja vu all over again - we did our whole Brooklyn Bridge day that we did with my dad last week! Eric and I didn't mind, of course, because it was a beautiful day, so who cares how you're spending it outside, so long as you are outside, you know? So, this time across the Brooklyn Bridge was very special - it was the first time we ever did it in sunshine. Wow. Plus, of course, it was nice to do it all with Heather and Rick.

We did the whole Grimaldi's pizza thing first. This time we were not so lucky with the line. We waited in line for about an hour. But it was oh, so worth it.

Waiting in line with Heather and Rick

Funny poster

Making the pizzas!

Dig in, Heather!

Two delicious large pies and a carafe of wine later, we were ready to tackle the bridge. We took some pictures on the boardwalk underneath it first, and then made our way across. Of course, because it was such a nice day it was very crowded, but still very nice.

Heather and me on the boardwalk

On the bridge

Heather and Rick on the bridge, with the Statue of Liberty in the background

Heather, Rick and me walking across the bridge. See how crowded it was?

Once we made it back to the Manhattan side of the bridge, we hopped right back on the subway to head home because we had tickets to see "Avenue Q" at 8:00. We stopped for ice cream on our way, then relaxed a little bit before getting ready for the show.

"Avenue Q" was great! Eric and I have been wanting to see it since we moved here, because we heard it is just hilarious. And it was. In case you are not familiar with it, it's sort of a Sesame-Street-for-grownups type show. They use muppets, but the subject matter is not exactly child-friendly. Our jaws dropped multiple times at some of the things they said and did! One of the most notable songs was "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist," if that gives you an idea. I also really liked the "I Wish I Could Go Back to College" song. It was oh, so true.

With Eric after the show

Heather and Rick

After the show we went for a late dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Arriba, Arriba. The food was delicious and the margaritas weren't bad either! Then we stopped back at our apartment so Heather and Rick could get their stuff they had left there, and then we parted ways. Heather was flying back to Florida Tuesday afternoon, and Rick was headed back to Connecticut.

We had so much fun with Heather and Rick! Hopefully we can do it again soon. And, as expected, our Memorial Day this year was very different than last year, but it was still very fun. It was a good day!

Next up on my posting agenda: my encounter with an American Idol!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More Fleet Week Fun

What a fun few days we have had! I'm going to break it all up into a few separate posts, so consider this the first installment in our Memorial Day Weekend Series. This here post is about the weekend days leading up to Memorial Day itself.

The weather on Saturday was fantastic. Sunny, warm, just what we've been longing for for months. Eric and I went to Pier 86 (where the Intrepid - which I toured with my dad - is docked) to check out the Fleet Week festivities. We had heard the cast of "Wicked" was going to be performing at 1:30, so we made sure to get out there in time for that. We walked around a bit first, exploring the different booths and activities they had set up. Then we watched the "Wicked" performance, which was okay. We had hoped they might do a few different songs, but it was just one song by one cast member. It was nice, though.

"Elphaba" performing "The Wizard and I"

After the performance we walked a little further south to an adorable little public area at Pier 84. They have a great water fountain that kids were playing in, a nice dog park (although it doesn't have much shade), and places to eat. It was such a beautiful day, we were just enjoying being outside!

Kids playing in the fountain at Pier 84, with the Intrepid in the background

From there we walked to our favorite New York BBQ restaurant, Daisy May's. We had some delicious pulled pork, corn, mashed sweet potatoes and cornbread. Yum. Man, I love BBQ.

We went back home then and gathered up the pooch. We took him with us to the Central Park bandshell for the highlight of the day: a U.S. Marine Corps Band concert. We brought a blanket and parked ourselves right in front for the concert. It was so enjoyable! Achilles was a little on-edge, but he settled down for the most part. The exception was the applause after each piece - whenever everyone started clapping and cheering, Achilles would jump right back up and start barking! I like to think he was trying to express his appreciation for the music as well. I'm sure that's it.

USMC Band in the bandhsell

Standing to play the National Anthem

Achilles and me enjoying the music

Eric and Achilles

VIDEO: A snippet of "Fanfare for the Common Man," which started the show. Love it.

VIDEO: Just so my dad doesn't get a big head because of all the brass featured in the last video, here's a piccolo solo. Ah, much better.
(My dad [a brass player] and me [a woodwind] have a long-standing disagreement over which is the superior brand of instrument. I don't know why he's so confused about it. Clearly woodwinds, and flutes/piccolos in particular, are way better than brass. Especially french horns.)

I really enjoyed the concert. It made me think of summer evenings when I was a kid in Ohio - my family would go to outdoor concerts at Blossom Music Center. We would bring a picnic dinner and camp out on a blanket and enjoy the orchestra concerts. That was always so nice.

After the concert was over, while most of the band was packing up, a smaller group of them (a couple trombones, saxes, trumpets and drums) marched around the plaza New Orleans-style. It was wonderful! Very laid back, fun music. They were all just having a good time and the crowd ate it up. We all gathered around and enjoyed the show, including a bride and groom who were pulled to the center of the circle for a photo-op, and a crazy man in a dress with a bird on his head dancing through (and surprisingly enough, it was not the first time we have seen this man in the city! We saw him on Easter - the guy with the dog with dyed fur! The dyed fur dog was back for the concert, too).

The small group

The bride and groom!

Crazy man in a crazy dress with a crazy dog and a crazy (real) bird on his head. Okay.

VIDEO: Dueling trombones, dance-off style!

Sunday was a more relaxed day. We went to church and stayed for a new member orientation class, because next week we will become members of our church! That's very exciting. Then we ran some errands and did some cleaning to prepare for Heather and Rick's visit yesterday. I even made good use of my new bundt pan once again and made a banana rum cake! And can you believe that I haven't even sampled it yet? Geez. That's how busy we've been!

Don't get complacent, rum cake. I'm coming for you.

And that will do it for this portion of the weekend recap. Next up: Heather and Rick, and our Memorial Day! Stay tuned!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

"The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example."
~Benjamin Disraeli

The Marine Corps War Memorial in D.C.

Happy Memorial Day to all! I hope that in between your cookouts and parades today, you take a moment to remember the meaning of this day and the American heroes who have fought to defend the country that we love. Last year on this day I posted a tribute to my grandfather, Papa, who was a Marine in World War II. Today I'll be paying tribute to our American soldiers in general, and Papa in particular.

With Heather and the WWII Memorial in D.C. last May. My grandfather fought on Okinawa.

Today I'm also remembering our last Memorial Day, in D.C. last year. I have to confess that Eric and I have really been missing D.C. lately. Maybe it's because now that the weather is warming up, we miss walking around the town and seeing the sights of D.C. We did really love it there. That's not to say we don't love it here, of course, but we do think of D.C. often.

Last year we had a wonderful Memorial Day. My Aunt Debbie was in town, and we took part in as much of the D.C. celebration as we could. The highlight was the memorial service in Arlington National Cemetery. We were able to get excellent seats, just a few feet away from President and First Lady Bush, among other notable political types. The service was beautiful and moving, as Arlington Cemetery always is. Just walking around all those headstones adorned with flags is inspiring.

The amphitheater at Arlington Cemetery, where the ceremony was held

Graves with flags at Arlington

I also went to the Memorial Day Concert on the Capital Lawn, which was wonderful. We went to the one in 2006, also. It's just so amazing to sit in such an awesome place and listen to story after story of heroes and patriotism.

Photo taken in 2006 from the Capital Lawn

This year our Memorial Day will be very different, but I'm sure it will be very enjoyable too. We already have been enjoying the Fleet Week festivities this weekend (more about that later!), and Heather is in town, so today promises to be lots of fun! I hope you enjoy your day as well. God Bless the U.S.A.!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fleet Week

Fleet Week in NYC is underway! In case you are not familiar with this yearly occasion, Fleet Week always takes place around Memorial Day, to honor the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. During that time, Navy and Coast Guard ships, as well as ships from all over the world, dock in New York and the sailors descend on our fair city. There are lots of events to enjoy during Fleet Week, including ship tours, competitions, ceremonies and concerts. Plus, if you are a girl who likes a man in uniform (and let's be honest, what girl doesn't?), there is lots of eye candy for your viewing pleasure. So, you know, it's fun.

This is not my first experience with Fleet Week. Two years ago, Eric was a summer associate at his firm, so he spent the summer in NYC. I came up from D.C. to visit as often as I could, and one of my visits was during Fleet Week/Memorial Day weekend. We took advantage of all the Fleet Week happenings, plus some of our own sight-seeing, and that weekend was probably one of my favorites of all the times I visited.

Fleet Week 2007: Me holding an M16 during Marine Day in Times Square. I think I look awfully tough.

Also from Fleet Week 2007: Me aboard the USS Wasp, which we were able to tour for free

Can you believe it has already been two full years since Eric spent his summer here? I can't. That summer was one of my most favorite summers ever, which is odd because Eric and I were in different cities. But I loved visiting him - we always had such a wonderful time. And the summer ended with our wedding, so you know, that bumps it up there in my book. Wow. Two years already.

Anyway, back to the present day! Fleet Week was kicked off on Wednesday with the Parade of Ships on the Hudson River. Eric was at work, but Achilles and I went to our nearby Hudson River Park to check it out. We were there way too early, but the weather was gorgeous so we didn't mind sitting and waiting. That park is really nice, so it was great to just be outside in the sunshine, near the water.

People watching the ships at Hudson River Park

Looking back at the park from the water

We ended up waiting for about an hour for things to get going, and then finally the ships started sailing on by. There was also a military flyover, and a couple other cool planes going overhead to keep us entertained. Although frankly, Achilles was much more interested in the honking geese roaming around the park than the ships or planes.


A ship!

Trying to zoom in to get a shot of the helicopter on the back of the ship. Also, if you look closely, you can see the little men in their white uniforms lining the deck.

More planes

Another ship, and one of Achilles' geese friends in the foreground

Enjoying the sunshine

Weather-permitting, we're hoping to participate in some of the other Fleet Week events this weekend, including a USMC Band concert in Central Park tomorrow. Should be fun! Of course, the rain is predicted to return, but we'll just hope that doesn't happen.

Do you all have fun plans for the long weekend and Memorial Day? In addition to the Fleet Week happenings, I'm looking forward to Memorial Day because my sister Heather and her boyfriend Rick will be visiting! They're getting into town Sunday evening and will stay through Tuesday morning. Not sure what all we'll do while they're here, but I'm looking forward to seeing them.

Enjoy the long weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Our Home Sweet Home

So apparently, I'm pretty bad at posting apartment pictures in a timely manner. After moving into our first NY apartment, it took me over two months to finally post pictures of it. Then we moved into our current apartment...just shy of three months ago (can you believe it has been that long already?). It has been over a month since we painted and I promised to show you around our new place within a week. See? I'm bad at this. Not sure what the problem is.

Anyway, I'm ready now! And I know you all have been on the very edges of your seats waiting for this, so let's not put it off any longer. Join me on a tour of our wonderful apartment!

Oh, hello! This is what you see when you first walk in. You're standing in our entryway, face-to-face with our living room. To your immediate left is the kitchen. To the left of that chair you see in this picture is our dining room. To the right, we have a long hallway (with closets along the entire length of it, YAY) leading to the bathroom and the bedroom.

This is that entryway I just told you you're standing in. See? That's our front door on the left. The pictures are very special to me. They are pictures of my grandparents on their wedding day, and Eric and me on our wedding day, in the same pose - kissing in front of the church. The bench is a new addition, and a great place for storing shoes and leashing the dog. He hops right up there.

This is what you see if you look to the left from the entryway. You can see into our kitchen and dining room. And, obviously, our bookshelf, which is home to both our Gators shrine (middle shelf) and Eric's baseball stadium souvenir soda cup collection (top). Did you know he personally has been to ten different baseball stadiums so far?

The kitchen. Pretty standard. The picture on the wall has the "Love Never Fails" verse from 1 Corinthians that we had read at our wedding. (It's even written in the same font as it was on our wedding programs! It's a detail-oriented girl's dream come true.) I'm also considering painting the kitchen a deep red. I love the idea of a red kitchen. I'm just not sure if it's worth figuring out how to maneuver around all the appliances, both to paint it now and repaint it when we move out. We'll see.

Our favorite part of the kitchen, and a major pull for the apartment in general - the pass-thru kitchen window! We loved having one of these in our last D.C. apartment, and missed it quite a bit when we moved to our first NY apartment and didn't have one anymore. It just really opens the place up. It is especially nice because it faces the living room window, so while doing the dinner dishes, you can look out at the skyline. The only downside is that it cost us some cabinet space, but it is definitely worth it.

The dining room. Like the color of the wall? It looks much more grey in photographs than it does in person - it's really much greener than it appears here.

I also want to take a second to talk about the picture on the dining room wall. There's a glare on it in the picture above, so here's a better view:

I wanted to show off this picture because...I MADE IT! It's a counted cross stitch, and I have been working on it for some time. I was inspired by my mom, who has done cross stitches for as long as I can remember (and even before then!). She made one for me, my sister, and all of our cousins when we were born, and she made this beautiful one for Eric and me as a wedding gift:

Isn't it lovely? So, my mom inspired me to give it a shot. I started with a small one as practice, then tackled this one and I love how it turned out. It looks great in our dining room, and even compliments our dishes, which are a beige color with white blossoms. Again, there's that detail-oriented appeal!

Anyway, back to the house.

Here's the living room, as seen from the dining room. You almost can't even tell, but the living room wall is painted a very pale blue.

Another angle of the living room (taken from the entryway). Also featured in this picture is my bouquet of lilacs on the coffee table. Mmmm, lilacs.

I'm still considering a rug for the living room. Any thoughts or suggestions?

This is that long hallway with the big closet I mentioned. This is what you see if you look to the right from the entryway. That's the bathroom at the end of the hall, and the bedroom next to it, off to the left.

The bathroom. Not much has changed from our last one. This one is bigger than the last one, but that doesn't mean extra storage space, unfortunately. Just more floor space.

This is what you see as you walk into the bedroom. We put the desk in here so I could study for grad school in peace, although that didn't quite pan out like we hoped, did it? Anyway, the desk looks out at the view, which is nice. Achilles also has his little nook in there. Also, you can't see it, but the entire wall to the left is closets. Once again, YAY for big closets.

View of the bedroom from the corner where the TV is in the above picture. We couldn't fit both of our recliners in the living room (at least not in any way that wasn't super awkward), so the second chair is in the bedroom now.

A final view of the bedroom, taken from the far left corner. The pictures above the bed are winter pictures of D.C. that we took. Also, special thanks to Achilles for modeling the bed once again.

I'm sorry. I tried to avoid posting a view picture, because I know I've posted a million since we moved in. But if you look back at our previous view, you have to understand how much happier I am with this to look at, and why I can't resist inundating you with pictures of it. Here is our old view:

Blech. Hideous. Ugly apartment building and a little bit of New Jersey if you look hard. Not pretty. Now for the new view:

This photo was taken at dusk last night. Aahhhh. So much better!

And that's our apartment! In case you don't feel like you've seen enough, I made a little video tour for you as well. I thought maybe it would give you a better feel for the layout in case I didn't describe it very well. I didn't narrate the video because I hate the sound of my voice on tape, but you can probably figure out which room is which. And of course, Achilles makes a cameo or two.

Of course, even with all these photos and the video, the best way to fully appreciate the W. home is by visiting yourself. Our summer is booking up fast, but fall is wide open and all are welcome!