Friday, August 28, 2009

Thoughts and Prayers

I just wanted to post a quick update, because I know I promised you a wedding recap later this week and I have yet to deliver. Unfortunately, we have just had other things on our minds this week.

We found out on Tuesday that Toni (Eric's mom) has colon cancer, and she had surgery to remove it yesterday. From what I hear, the surgery went well, but we will have more details as to treatment, prognosis, etc. hopefully next week.

For those of you who don't know her, my mother-in-law is seriously one of the most awesome women I have ever met, and I hate to know that she is sick in any way. I also hate to see the rest of the family hurting, scared, or upset. They're all such good people. So, this has been a tough week.

Eric is on his way to Florida now for the weekend, and will return on Tuesday morning. I'm glad he will get to be with his family for a few days at least, and I know he is too. I wish I could join him, but I am certainly sending them my love from New York. I'm praying for them, too - for healing, strength, courage and peace.

I'll be back with that promised recap soon, but in the meantime, please keep Toni and the rest of the family in your prayers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kelley & Susan in the Big Apple

As I mentioned in my last post, after our anniversary celebration was over we had to buckle right down and get the apartment all cleaned up right away...because Kelley and Susan were coming to visit the next morning!

They arrived at JFK around 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Eric went in to work late so he and I could ride the subway out there together to meet them. We helped them get subway cards and then all rode together back home, although Eric got off a couple of subway stops before us to go back to work. I took Kelley and Susan back to our apartment and gave them the grand tour, then we had a quick lunch before heading out for Day #1 of sightseeing.

I decided to start their visit with our usual Downtown Tour. I also invited my friend Amanda to join us - she is a travel nurse who is just starting a three-month assignment here in NYC. She and I used to work together at Calico Jack's, a bar in Gainesville. I knew she was excited to do some sightseeing so I figured since I was leading a tour anyway, why not have her tag along? So, Kelley, Susan and I all headed down to Battery Park and Amanda met up with us there.

Our Downtown Tour always starts in Battery Park for a view of the Statue of Liberty, then we make our way up past the Wall Street Bull (stopping for pictures with either the front end or back end of it - or, as in this case, both), on to the New York Stock Exchange and Wall Street, past (or into) Trinity Church, then up to Ground Zero.

"The Sphere" - it originally stood at the World Trade Center as a symbol of world peace, but as damaged in the terrorist attacks.
Now it stands in Battery Park in front of an eternal flame as a temporary memorial to the September 11th victims.

Kelley and Susan with the Wall Street Bull - unfortunately, I only have the picture of them with the front end of it.

An optional add-on to the Downtown Tour is a walk up through Chinatown and Little Italy. We usually only do this if 1) the weather is nice and/or 2) we don't actually go over to the Statue of Liberty - if we do the Statue of Liberty, then adding on Chinatown/Little Italy makes for a LOT of extra walking on top of a long day. But, with Kelley and Susan we skipped going to the Statue, so we added on these extra sights. We were treated to the lovely sounds of Chinatown ("Handbag, handbag? You want handbag, Miss? Handbag? Gucci? Prada? Handbag, handbag?") and the smells of Little Italy. In Chinatown, the handbag salespeople are pushy. In Little Italy, the restaurant people are pushy!

Speaking of restaurants, while we were in Little Italy we made a stop (at Amanda's request) this time at Lombardi's Pizza, America's first pizzeria. I have heard some people say Lombardi's has the best pizza in New York, while others argue Grimaldi's Pizza (that place we always go to over the Brooklyn Bridge) is best. So, we stopped to try some! And it was delicious indeed. (Although I decided I'm officially a Grimaldi's girl!)

Kelley and Susan at Lombardi's

With Amanda and our Lombardi's pizza

After our pizza, we hopped back on the subway and went up to Union Square, where we took a quick walk around and a stop at Crumbs so Kelley could try a Grasshopper cupcake. Can you believe they were out of Grasshoppers? What a shame! We all had a snack anyway, then we headed home.

We relaxed around the apartment for a while, waiting for Eric to get home from work. That night we had planned to go do more walking around, but we were all exhausted. So, we just stayed in and cooked burgers and sweet potato fries. Amanda came back over for dinner then we all played some Rock Band. Good times!

Eric, Kelley, Susan and Amanda playing Rock Band

On Thursday, it was time for the East Side/Central Park Tour. We started with a walk down to Times Square, where Kelley and Susan generously treated me to lunch at Ruby Tuesday. Thanks, ladies!

Kelley and Susan being amazed at all there is to see in Times Square

After lunch we headed over to Sixth Avenue, past Radio City Music Hall and over to Rockefeller Center. We stopped in St. Patrick's Cathedral, then walked up Fifth Avenue to FAO Schwartz where we spent some time in the candy section and Kelley and Susan got to play the Big Piano.

Susan and Kelley on the Big Piano

From there we walked up into Central Park, stopping a couple times to sit and enjoy the pretty scenery. I hit all our usual Central Park sights (even though our tour only covers about the bottom quarter of the park, there's still lots to see!): the Bridge, Wollman Rink, the Literary Walk, the Bandshell, Bethesda Fountain, Strawberry Fields and the Imagine Mosaic. One of the places we stopped to sit was along the Literary Walk, which was so nice and peaceful. While we were walking along there, though, it started raining a bit while the sun was still shining at full force! That was weird and very Florida-esque. Other than that, the weather was just HOT the whole time.

Kelley and Susan in Central Park

After Central Park we were all pretty exhausted so we went back to the apartment to rest up until Eric got home from work. Once he arrived, we went out for an evening stroll through Times Square, which included stopping at the Hershey's Store, the M&M Store, and the Toys 'R Us. We also stopped by Junior's to pick up a cheesecake to go - you can't come to NYC and not try the cheesecake! After that, we went for dinner at El Centro, one of our favorite local Mexican restaurants. Mmmm.

Eric sporting a Reese's hat from the Hershey's store

Fun in the M&M store

Susan and Kelley in Times Square at night

Brother and sister! Eric and Kelley in Times Square

Now me and Eric - it was quite the photoshoot!

The four of us at El Centro after dinner

When we got home, we enjoyed our cheesecake then called it a night. Long day!

Friday, Kelley and Susan were taking the train to New Jersey. Eric's cousin Kimberly got married on Saturday in New Jersey, and Kelley and Susan went over early to attend the rehearsal dinner. So, Friday morning we just relaxed around the apartment before I got them on their way to Penn Station to catch the NJ Transit. Meanwhile, that night, Eric and I went to another Movie Night on the Intrepid with Amanda, this time to see "Apollo 13." The weather was pretty rainy, which delayed the start time of the movie, but it gave us plenty of time to eat some Daisy May's BBQ and enjoy an absolutely gorgeous sunset before the movie started. It was great fun!

Sunset at the Intrepid

Gorgeous sky

With Amanda, ready for the movie to start

All ready for the movie! Unfortunately, due to rain making the deck slippery, they couldn't show the movie on the ship deck as planned. So, they showed it on the pier alongside the ship. Close enough, I guess.

Saturday was Kimberly's wedding, but since this post is already a bit on the long side, I'll post about that separately later this week.

Sunday Eric, Kelley, Susan and I took the train back to NYC from New Jersey. When we got in to Penn Station, we stopped to show Kelley and Susan the Empire State Building and Macy's, and we picked up some Nathan's Hot Dogs for lunch.

Kelley and Susan and the Empire State Building

Eric is a great photographer!

After lunch Eric took Kelley and Susan back to the apartment to drop off their bags, while I continued on to Camp Canine to rescue Achilles from his evening away from home. Meanwhile, Eric took the girls on their last day of NYC sightseeing.

First things first, they started out back in Times Square for a photo-op with a very handsy Naked Cowboy!

Whoa, Naked Cowboy!

Maybe I should make this a regular stop on the tour?

They also walked over to Eric's office so Kelley could see where her brother works. They made a quick stop at another Crumbs in search of a Grasshopper cupcake (but they were out again! How is that possible?!), and stopped a Bryant Park. Then they went downtown and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, where they had ice cream and Grimaldi's Pizza (Kelley and Susan agreed with me that Grimaldi's is better than Lombardi's), then walked back again before coming back to the apartment.

On the Brooklyn Bridge

Still on the Brooklyn Bridge

At the front of the Grimaldi's line

Mmm, Grimaldi's pizza!

Later that evening we all (including Achilles) walked out to Hudson River Park right by our apartment to catch the tail end of the sunset, then ordered yet another pizza to snack on (in addition to cheesecake and leftover anniversary cake). We watched a couple Friends episodes, then it was time for bed!

Kelley, me, Susan and Achilles at Hudson River Park

The next morning we basically woke up, got ready and then it was time to take Kelley and Susan to Port Authority to catch their bus back to the airport. It was the end of a fun weekend!

Thanks for visiting, ladies! Hope you enjoyed your stay as much as we enjoyed having you. We'll have to do it again sometime!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Celebrating Our Second Anniversary

My apologies for being a bit delayed in posting about our second anniversary celebration - Kelley and Susan have been visiting us since Wednesday morning, and we've been having a great time. They are now in New Jersey with the rest of the W. Clan, and we will be joining them there tomorrow morning for Eric's cousin Kimberly's wedding. Then Kelley and Susan will return to the city with us on Sunday for more sightseeing before they head back to Florida on Monday. So, things have been busy!

But, our anniversary celebration was so nice. I told Eric not to worry about planning a thing and I put together a little surprise evening for him. He did start the day with donuts and a card and gift for me (he got me this adorable apron I've had my eye on, since the traditional second anniversary gift is cotton). I had left a card for him and notes all around the house the night before, so he found those when he woke up, too. Then he was off to work and I spent the day busily preparing both for dinner that night and for Kelley and Susan's arrival.

My big surprise for Eric was essentially a recreation of our wedding reception, or as much as I could manage. I decorated our table with votive candles and rose petals, just like our wedding centerpieces. I served champagne in our toasting flutes. I made a cake (yellow cake with chocolate frosting - Eric's favorite - and a "2" birthday candle in it) that we served with our serving set. I Googled how to fold napkins nicely, then placed roses in the napkins like we had done at our reception as well. I even dressed the part - I wore a white sundress, put my hair in an updo with the brooch I wore on the wedding day, and wore my wedding earrings and shoes.

And of course, I cooked. I cooked A LOT. I made much of our wedding meal, including the hors d'oeuvres. I made mushrooms stuffed with crab for Eric, and spanakopita for me (the spanakopita I got pre-made from the grocery store - I was set to make them from scratch, but then saw them in the freezer section and figured, why reinvent the wheel?). For dinner I made chicken stuffed with spinach, prosciutto and provolone, roasted red potatoes, and steamed vegetables. Then of course, cake for dessert. I also had the makings of salads but we had so much food, we just decided to skip them. Everything turned out so well! I was so impressed with my cooking skills.

Cooking away in my new apron - so domestic!

The table all set up, waiting for Eric to arrive

Closer view of the spanakopita and stuffed mushrooms

The dinner: stuffed chicken, steamed veggies, and roasted red potatoes

When Eric arrived home from work, he was very surprised at all that I had done! Although he had jokingly guessed that I might be cooking wedding food the night before, he hadn't expected all that I did. I was so pleased that he liked it. Eric popped the champagne and said a beautiful prayer, then we started in on our stuffed mushrooms and spanakopita. Then it was time for dinner, which was delicious, if I do say so myself!

The happily married couple

Pouring the champagne

Even Achilles wanted in on the fun!

Aw, he's nice.

After dinner we watched the DVD slideshow I made of our wedding pictures (and polished off the champagne), then cut into our cake. I thought Eric was being sweet and offering to feed it to me like we did at the wedding (when we opted for NO CAKE SMASHING), but this time he smashed me. Cake all over my face. Ah well, better now then at the wedding! That sneaky trickster Eric.

See? Cake everywhere.

And that was our anniversary celebration! It wasn't exactly a Caribbean feast on the shores of Grand Cayman like we did last year, but it was really nice. I was so glad I was able to pull off all my plans, and even more pleased that Eric enjoyed it. He is usually the one doing nice romantic things for me, so I really wanted to do this right.

Once again, happy anniversary, Eric! I love being married to you. You're the best!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Together, We Are Home

"Where are you from?"

Such a simple question, but one that I always have trouble answering. My answer tends to change depending on my mood. Sometimes I'll reply "Cleveland," or sometimes "Florida," or sometimes "I just recently moved to NY from DC." Where am I from? Where is home for me?

For a long time, I've had a hard time identifying with any place as "home." I was born in Columbus, Ohio, but only lived there for a few months before we moved back to Cleveland, where both my parents were born and raised and much of my extended family still lived. Cleveland was my childhood home, and I lived there until I was 12 years old. Then, my parents moved our family to St. Petersburg, Florida. I did not want to move, so for a long time I refused to identify with St. Petersburg as "home." By the time I finally settled in, it was time to uproot myself again and move to Gainesville for college. I did love Gainesville, but always knew it was only temporary.

After college, Eric and I moved to Washington, D.C. It was there that Eric proposed to me. And THAT is when I realized where my home is. As I was planning our wedding and searching for the perfect song for us to dance our first dance as husband and wife to, I found a song that often brings me to tears because it so perfectly answers my question of where I belong. The lyrics perfectly describe how I feel when I am with Eric - like I'm home. As trite as the saying is, "home is where the heart is" and my heart is with Eric. It doesn't matter where we grew up, where we live now, or where we may go next - as long as we are together, we are home.

Today Eric and I are celebrating our second wedding anniversary. We have had such an incredible two years, filled with love, laughter, changes and excitement. We have done so many things and made so many great memories. I created the following slideshow to reflect back on our two years together as husband and wife, and of course, it is set to our first dance song, "Feels Like Home" by Chantal Kreviazuk. I just can't get enough of those beautiful lyrics.

VIDEO: Looking back on our first two years of marriage

It's hard to believe that it has already been two years since I married the man of my dreams. He is a far better husband than I ever would have imagined (and I had pretty high expectations!), and he is my very best friend. He is an incredible man and I love him dearly. I look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries with him.

Eric Ryan, thank you so much for making a home with me. Thank you for showing me where I belong, and where I will be until the end of my days: with you. I am so blessed to have you as my husband and I love you so very much. Happy Anniversary!

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Half-Marathoning Husband

Yesterday was the New York City Half Marathon, and Eric DID IT! He ran that bad boy on probably one of, if not THE, hottest days we have had all year. He rocked it. I'm so proud!

I agreed to go along to watch what I could before I realized that the thing started at the crack of dawn, but by that point I was committed and there was no backing out. (I'm kidding - of course I wanted to see Eric run!) We got up at 4:45 a.m. after only about three hours of sleep, and left the house by 5:15 a.m. We headed up to Central Park at about 97th Street on the East Side, where they had all the corrals set up for the runners to line up in. I guess when you signed up they assigned you a number based on how fast you said you run, then they corral you in that order so all the fastest runners are in the front. We got to the park around 6:00, hung out for a bit then found Eric's corral.

Getting ready!

Before the race

I left him in his corral around 6:15 and headed to the start line to wait for this thing to get underway. I got a great spot just past the start line and was entertained by the fastest runners warming up in front of me while I waited for the race to start. I even was able to get pictures of both the man and the woman who ended up winning the race: Tadese Tola (with a time of 1:01:06) and Paula Radcliffe (with a time of 1:09:45 - yes, these times mean they ran 13.1 miles in just over an hour. Wow).

Tola, the male winner, on the left

Paula Radcliffe, the female winner

Before I knew it, it was time to get things started! They introduced all the super-fast people, then sang the National Anthem. Then they fired the starting gun and off everyone went! Eric ran right by me as he crossed the starting line and he spotted me, so he gave a nice smile. Yay!

You can see the runners all lined up in the distance, waiting for the signal to GO!

There he goes! He's on his way!

So, as I mentioned, the Half Marathon stretches for 13.1 miles. The course of this one was really pretty cool. The runners did a full loop around Central Park, then continued out of the Park down Seventh Avenue to Times Square. At 42nd Street they turned west to West Side Highway, along the Hudson River. They then ran south down the West Side Highway to Battery Park (which is where you pick up the ferry to the Statue of Liberty). What a great overview of the city!

That path also allowed me to walk or hop on the subway to catch up with Eric along the way, so I was able to see him several more times after the race got started. After seeing him cross the starting line, I hurried west across the Park (on foot) to see him again as he looped around the Park, at about the 3-mile mark. Once again he spotted me and gave me a great smile. He made it look so easy!

Doesn't he look great?

Line of runners in Central Park

After Eric passed me there, I exited the Park and hopped on the subway down to Times Square. There was a lot going on down there - for example, they had stages set up with singers leading a great big sing-a-long! There were lots of people lining the streets to watch and the runners really seemed to be even getting into it. I even saw some runners motioning along to the "YMCA" as they ran! Once again, Eric spotted me in the crowd and even ran over to give me a kiss! Then he was off once again. Go, Eric!

There he is, amongst all the Times Square fun!

He's coming right for me! Now he's just showing off.

There he goes!

The sing-a-long stage, leading the music as the runners go by

After seeing Eric in Times Square, I hopped back on the subway and headed downtown to Rector Street, where the finish line actually was. This was where it got REALLY crowded. It took me a while to get over to where I could see the runners well, but I was eventually able to muscle myself a good spot near the front so I had a good view. Just a few minutes later, I saw him coming! He was almost done! This time he didn't see me, but I cheered for him just the same. GOOD JOB, ERIC!

This is the last leg of the race! Look at that stride. He's got this.

Eric (on the left) about the cross the finish line

Eric finished the race in 2:14:50, which I think is excellent. That means he averaged 10:17 per mile. He was actually under 10 minutes/mile through the 15k mark, but then it started to get really hot, so he (wisely) slowed it down a bit. I'm so proud of him! After he crossed the finish line, I made my way back through the crowds to try to find him. He was walking along a long path with the other runners, where they had set up sprinklers for them to walk through and were handing out cold towels, bottles of water, and snacks like pretzels and apples. And of course, most importantly, they were handing out the MEDALS!

Eric in the crowd of runners, taking his medal

The medal!

After getting all his goodies, we were finally reunited. We walked a little further down to Battery Park, where we stopped so Eric could stretch and I could take a few pictures. They also had a nice little festival set up down there, but it was so hot and we were tired so we didn't stick around.

The Half-Marathoner himself (with the Statue of Liberty behind him to the left)

The runner with his proud wife

Congratulations on this accomplishment, Eric! You did a great job, and it was wonderful for me to see you reach your goal. You're the best!