Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from the W. Family! We hope you all have a fun, safe, candy-filled, costume-wearing, trick-or-treaty Halloween this year.

Official W. Family "Happy Halloween" Photo, 2009

No, your eyes do not deceive you. Achilles has a mustache. He's a cop, and all cops have mustaches. If you have ever visited D.C. during Police Week, you know I speak the truth. Achilles is all about authenticity in his costumes - he's been growing this bad boy for weeks.

Don't be fooled. He really does love it.

Happy Halloween and Go Gators!

Friday, October 30, 2009

American Skin Association Annual Gala

Do you ever have moments in your life where you just stop for a second and think to yourself, "wow, is this really where I am right now? Is this really what is going on in my life?" I do. Before last night, my most recent "wow, really?" moment was on our dinner cruise on the Danube during our trip to Budapest this summer. I sat there, taking in the incredible scenery and eating amazing food while that harpist played in the background, and all I could think was "I can't believe I'm really here." Last night I had another one of those moments. I was sitting there in a formal gown, dining on filet mignon while an orchestra played in the background at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. And that handsome man in a tuxedo next to me? That's that cute boy I saw at the pool over 11 years ago, the one that I was too shy to invite to my birthday party. How did I get here? Is this really my life? It was pretty surreal.

But let's back up!

About a month ago, Eric emailed me a copy of this:

A client of Eric's firm was to be honored at this Gala, so the firm decided to get a table at this event. Several partners were going, plus Eric and another associate. Since receiving this invitation I have spent the last month agonizing over what to wear, how to do my hair, and all that fun girly stuff. What can I say? I love getting dressed up!

Last night Eric left work around 5:15 and came home to meet me. He changed into his tux and I finished getting ready, then we grabbed a cab over to 59th Street and 5th Avenue. We decided to take advantage of our dressiness for some pictures, so we first wandered into Central Park for a quick picture by the Pond.

It's dark, but just trust me - we're in front of the Pond. You can see building lights behind us too!

We then wandered back towards the Plaza and Pulitzer Fountain for a couple more pictures. I was so glad it was a fairly warm evening, so I could get away with bare arms or just a light wrap. My hair was also relieved it wasn't raining or windy.

In front of Pulitzer Fountain

I just had to throw this one in here because I think Eric looks so, so handsome.

In front of the Plaza

After our photo shoot, we waited outside the Plaza for a few more minutes for the rest of our party to arrive. When everyone was accounted for, we made our way in to the hotel and up to the third floor for cocktail hour.

In the lobby of the Plaza

We sipped our drinks, sampled the passed hors d'oeuvres and mingled, plus Eric and I sneaked into the ballroom while they were still setting up to snap a couple pictures. It was just as elegant and ornate as you might expect! Plus, the centerpieces were gorgeous: white roses and white hydrangea, accented with gold leaves. The china had a lovely gold pattern around the rim, and there was silverware as far as they eye could see. It made me think of that scene in "Pretty Woman" where Julia Roberts is trying to learn what silverware to use for each course, because there is just so much!

The Grand Ballroom

VIDEO: The Grand Ballrom

Tables all set up

Soon a couple of men began walking around playing a series of notes on xylophones to signal that it was time to move into the ballroom for dinner. How fancy! We found our table and started the first course: roasted beet salad with goat cheese, cauliflower purée, mezza greens and apple cider vinaigrette, accompanied by a glass of chardonnay. Yum! (You can see the beet salad on the plates in the above picture - you know I was dying to take pictures of all the food, but I felt inappropriate!)

As we ate our first course, they began the speeches and handing out various awards. A couple of quick notable stories from this segment of the evening: one of the award recipients was a woman with seven great-grandchildren! Isn't that cool? Another recipient was apparently from Philadelphia, and as you likely know, the Phillies are currently playing the Yankees in the World Series. When this gentleman mentioned Philadelphia, people booed! The speeches were also punctuated with score updates of the ongoing baseball game. Oh, you crazy New Yorkers.

Okay. I also have to take a moment to call out my husband for a second. Eric, I love you, but I have to do this. Do you know what that boy leaned over and said to me during this event? He said, "Be sure to watch your chins!" ::Pause for gasps of horror:: Now. I come from a family that is blessed in the chinular area. I don't know what it is, but we are prone to some chins at various times. I'll go ahead and make fun of myself and demonstrate what I mean with this oh-so-flattering shot from our wedding:

Stretch your neck out, woman!

Seriously, what is happening under my face? It's just a fact of life, I guess. I know several of my family members can sympathize. I'm going to go ahead and pull my cousin Molly down with me here, but only because she has truly mastered the art of posing to eliminate the chins, and she can even look elegant while doing so. Check her out:

YES, Molly. Nicely done. Neck is elongated, chin is extended outward, hand is in place to conceal anything left over, and she even fancied it up with a rose. This is how you do it.

Not only is she making sure chins have no place in her picture, she looks stunning while doing so. Bravo, Molly. You are an inspiration to us all! On a related note, has anyone seen that infomercial for the Neckline Slimmer? Awesome.

My apologies for going off on this tangent. I realize I interrupted my classy Plaza post to talk chins, but I blame Eric. He brought it up! You can't see me, but I'm still glaring in his general direction.

Anyway. Back to the Plaza. After the first round of speeches and awards, the main course was served: herb-roasted filet mignon, served with caramelized leek and potato cake, wild mushrooms and wilted greens, and paired with cabernet sauvignon. YUM. Recently, Eric was explaining to his family the general rule of thumb that the better the restaurant, the rarer you should order your steak. At the Plaza, they don't even give you a choice of how you want it - it came out on the rare side of medium-rare. For me, it was perfect. The whole dinner was so good, I even ate the mushrooms. And I hate mushrooms. But apparently, I do like Plaza mushrooms.

Next up was dessert, which was a caramel orange tart and oven-roasted fruit with orange cream. It tasted like orange sorbet! Plus, they brought out trays of assorted truffles and served coffee and tea. While we ate dessert, the second round of speeches and awards took place. This was when the firm's client was honored.

Now I have to de-class this post again to share with you my horror of what I did during this portion of the evening: I burped! Some of you who know me well know that I don't burp. Really, almost never. My sister can belch with the best of them, but I burp maybe three times a year. Maybe. It's so infrequent that when it happens, it really startles me. But I burped at the Plaza! It was a dainty, polite burp of course, but still - I burped at the Plaza. I guess we need moments like those to remind ourselves that we haven't quite made it to the top just yet!

I promise to finish this post with the grace and decorum that a Gala at the Plaza calls for. My apologies.

After dessert and the rest of the awards, the orchestra picked up and people danced. Most of our party left at that point, but Eric and I stuck around till the end. We didn't dance, but we sipped wine and talked and just enjoyed being there. How often does one get to spend an evening in such a beautiful location? We saw no reason to leave until we had to!

In the ballroom towards the end of the night

When it was finally time to go, we decided to walk home and enjoy the evening. What a night! I still can't believe that we had an opportunity to do something so cool. I loved every minute of it, and I'm so glad that this is where our lives have brought us.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Are You Ready for Halloween?

We are! Well, just about. We just need to pick up a couple more things for Eric's costume, but Achilles and I are all set to go on the costume front. Last night we also carved our pumpkin...but you'll have to stay tuned for pictures of all of these things!

As we look forward to this Halloween, I thought I would post a couple pictures of Halloweens past. Included in those Eric baby pictures I loved so much was this gem of Eric and Ronnie one Halloween:

Awww, look at the cute little Sesame Street costumes! Ronnie is Big Bird and Eric is Oscar the Grouch. Personally, I kind of thought that Eric should recreate this picture and be Oscar the Grouch once again. I mean, can't you just picture him in this?:

But, it's not going to happen. Maybe we'll just keep it in mind for next year.

Also, as I was going through baby pictures of Heather for her Bon Voyage post, I found what is probably my favorite picture of us from a childhood Halloween:

I think I make a very scary ghost, especially accompanied by my trusty sidekick, Sharri, in her witch costume. Also, can we address Heather's cuteness? Does she not look like she might just roll away? Cutest pumpkin ever!

So, we're getting very excited for Halloween this year. We have good costumes and lots of fun plans. But...before we can get dressed up for Halloween, we will be getting dressed up in our black-tie finery for dinner, drinks and dancing at the Plaza tonight! So stay tuned for pictures of that as well - this is quite the fun week for us!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Adventures in Peoria

This past weekend, I went to Peoria, Illinois to visit my cousin Molly and help her shop for her wedding dress. I had a wonderful time! However, things got off to a rocky start...

Molly called me on Thursday night, the night before I was supposed to leave, to tell me she was sick with a virus. It wasn't the flu or anything, but it was contagious. Her doctor thought she would be better by Saturday, but she really probably shouldn't have visitors on Friday. I decided to take my chances and go anyway.

On Friday, I left my apartment around 9:00 a.m. to get to LaGuardia for my 11:00 flight. As I was waiting to board, they announced that the flight was delayed for an hour and a half due to bad weather in Chicago. Since I had a connecting flight to catch in Chicago, I talked to the agents and got myself on an earlier flight to Chicago that was leaving right then. I made it on that plane, which then was delayed on the runway for an hour. So, so much for that. I still made it to Chicago in time to catch my connection to Bloomington...especially since that flight was delayed an hour and a half due to mechanical issues. Sigh. But, I finally made it to Bloomington around 5:30 p.m. Molly's fiance Arturo picked me up and drove me to Molly's house in Peoria.

By the time I got there, Molly was feeling quite a bit better. We just hung out that night, chatting and watching "Say Yes to the Dress" on TLC (so fitting for the weekend!). I also gave Molly a couple of things I brought for her. The first was a "thank you for having me" gift, and the other was....Heather-on-a-Stick! I know Heather would have loved to be with us for this weekend of wedding fun, but since she chose to fly to Italy instead (sheesh), I was forced to come up with an alternative Heather to bring along. Here is Molly greeting Heather-on-a-stick:

Heather-on-a-Stick is ready to help Molly find her perfect wedding gown!

Sure, Heather-on-a-Stick (HOAS) might seem a little crazy, but we had a great time with her. And really, I think she had a good time too! (Note: Real-Life-Heather had no idea that HOAS even exists. At time of posting, I'm still waiting to hear her reaction to these pictures!)

Anyway. Saturday was when the real weekend fun got started! Molly was feeling MUCH better, which was great news. We picked up my Aunt Debbie (AKA Molly's mom) at the airport that morning, then went back to Molly's apartment for breakfast. We had fruit, mimosas, and crescent rolls with chocolate chips rolled into them (which is something you MUST try, it's delicious!).

Our breakfast

HOAS enjoys her mimosa. Also, in the background, Molly doesn't feel sick anymore! Yay!

After breakfast, the wedding dress shopping began! Our first stop of the weekend was David's Bridal. Molly tried on quite a few dresses, and we thought we liked one. I also tried on a couple bridesmaids dresses. We had a great time, and I realized that Molly is just going to be a stunning bride, no matter what she wears. I even teared up at one point as I was picturing it. Awww! I'm such a sap.

Aunt Debbie, HOAS and Molly before our appointment at David's Bridal

Me, HOAS and Molly after shopping

After the dress fun, we stopped at Michael's (LOVE Michael's!) then went to lunch at Sushi Popo. After lunch, Molly took us to Grand View Drive to check out - you'll never guess - a grand view! Ha. Really, it was a gorgeous area right along the Illinois River. The trees in Illinois, by the way, were spectacular. I think they were changing more vibrantly than trees in New York have been, or maybe it's just that there's more of them all over the place there, as opposed to here, where you have to go seek them out in Central Park. Whatever the reason, it was really beautiful.

Gorgeous scenery at Grand View Drive

Lovely tree and the moon!

HOAS enjoys the view

The girls!

That night we made a run to Target (LOVE Target!), then spent the rest of the night hanging out at Molly's apartment, munching on chips and salsa, drinking wine, and looking at pictures of the day's dresses and other wedding-related things. Good times if you like weddings, which I do!

HOAS checks out the sites of Peoria while Molly drives

HOAS gets a little rowdy on the conveyor belt at Target

Sunday brought more dress shopping action. This time we went to Bobbie's Bridal and Molly tried on lots more dresses. I have to say...I think we found it! Molly looked sensational. I can't reveal anything about the dress, but I can say that when she wears it, Molly's face looks like this:

Now THAT is the face of a happy bride! I also tried on a couple bridesmaid's dresses, and HOAS watched and gave her approval.

HOAS enjoys the dress shopping fun from the comfort of my purse

After the dress shopping, we stopped back at Molly's apartment for a quick lunch, then went to Tanner's Orchard for some fall fun. We checked out the goats (I even fed one!), sampled some apple cider, and wandered through the little shop. It was such a nice time!

Aunt Debbie, Molly and HOAS at Tanner's Orchard


HOAS and I having fun with the photo ops


VIDEO: Goat noises!

Mmm, delicious apple cider

Awww, sweetie pie pumpkins!

After the orchard we went back to Molly's, where we ate chili she had made for dinner. It was so good! Who knew I liked chili? Not me, that's for sure. It was delicious. And of course, we spent more time looking at pictures and bridal magazines and other wedding things. I'm so excited for this wedding, even though it's still over a year away!

Molly and her chili

Monday morning we got an early start. Aunt Debbie dropped Molly off at work then drove me to Bloomington to catch my flight back to New York. This time, I had a layover in Atlanta (seriously, how does that make sense?), and everything went very smoothly. My flight even arrived in New York a little early. I had a great weekend, but it was nice to be back with my boys. Although, spiteful little Achilles ate my favorite pair of walking shoes on Friday. Bad dog! He's lucky he's cute.

Molly, thanks for having me this weekend, and thanks for making it possible for me to be there! I had a great time and I'm so excited for you!

Note: If you would like to see more photos of Heather-on-a-Stick's Adventures in Peoria, check out our Shutterfly Picture Site!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Most Fabulous Fall Day of All Fall Days...

...was today, I'm pretty sure.

What a fantastic day today. It was the kind of fall day that almost makes it worth living in what will soon be an unpleasantly cold climate. The temperature was perfect: a gorgeous 73 degrees, just right for a t-shirt and jeans. The sun was shining. There was a gentle breeze (not at all the intense bone-chilling winter wind we'll be experiencing soon). The leaves are changing and the colors are vibrant. Basically, the most perfect day you could ask for.

Of course I had to get out to enjoy this weather. Like I've said before, I've been trying to get Achilles outside too, before it gets too cold for either of us to be outside any longer than necessary. I decided to take him to Central Park, since he has been loving it so much lately. I really think it's the grass he loves so much, since he doesn't see much of that on a daily basis. Did you know that even our dog park is concrete, not grass? It's crazy.

I was also able to talk Eric into taking a long lunch and meeting us at the park for a picnic. How nice! We found a great spot on a rock just northwest (I think? I lose all sense of direction in the park) of Wollman Rink. Wollman Rink, by the way, is now a rink again - no longer a carnival - and ready for ice skaters!

Not many skaters at Wollman Rink today!

Eric picked up some Subway and I brought the blanket, and we had a nice little lunch. Achilles sniffed around while we dined, then we spent some time just relaxing and taking it all in.

The scenery off to our left

Achilles and his good friend Eric

Achilles and me

The view in front of us

Eventually, somehow, Achilles ended up in a tree. I have no idea how that happened...cough, cough. I'll bet you didn't know chihuahuas were tree-dwellers, did you? At first he was surprisingly okay with it:

Look! It's Achilles in a tree!

But then he started to get a little nervous.

He apparently was not convinced that my firm grip on his harness was keeping him safe.

Don't worry, he made it safely out of the tree.

Happy as can be!

Unfortunately, Eric has one of those job things that he had to go back to after a while, so he headed back to work while Achilles and I hung around to enjoy some more park time.

Enjoying the scenery

That rock we were sitting on was seriously the most comfortable rock ever. It was smooth and cool, and in a perfect spot for the sun to filter down through the trees. Plus, it was complete with music from all angles. I had a flutist a ways back behind me, a saxophone player under the bridge a ways in front of me, and some rockin' disco from the skating rink nearby.

I laid down for a bit, and stared up at this:

Beautiful blue sky through pretty yellow leaves

Even Achilles laid down with me for a while. We just couldn't get enough. (Well, that is, until he would see a squirrel and totally spaz out, giving me a heart attack in the process. Other than that though, it was very relaxing.)

Achilles laying by our rock

On our way out of the park, we continued to enjoy the scenery. I just can't even describe how nice it was.

Pretty colors

Kids playing amongst the fall

As we exited the park, I especially liked the look of this guy, with the birds on his head and the fall colors showing off to the right:

It looks so warm and lovely in this picture!

It made me remember the last time we took his picture, which was back in January when he looked like this:

Just look at this picture for a minute and try to tell me you don't feel cold.

Needless to say, I prefer his look today to the one from January.

On the way home, Achilles and I passed filming for an upcoming movie starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. No celebs were actually sighted, unfortunately, but it looked like they were going to be filming a chase scene because there were fancy cars rigged up with cameras everywhere. Eric also passed a movie being filmed in Central Park on his way back to work, but this movie was starring a big shaggy dog. Ah, just another day in the Big Apple!

In other news, tomorrow I am leaving for Illinois for the weekend to help my cousin Molly shop for her wedding dress. I'm really looking forward to it! In other travel news, my sister is leaving tomorrow for Italy, where she will meet up with her cruise ship. So, we're both traveling tomorrow, although her destination is admittedly more exotic than Peoria, Illinois (no offense, Molly!). Safe travels, Heather!

Have a nice weekend, everyone!