Monday, November 30, 2009

Our Thanksgiving

The usual "Empire State Building on a Holiday" photo: red, orange and yellow for Thanksgiving!

What a great long weekend we had! We really made the most of our holiday in New York, despite wishing we were in Florida. We had a fabulous Thanksgiving and a wonderful time together throughout the rest of the weekend. I hope you all had a lovely holiday as well.

So, I mentioned earlier that we were going to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade once again, something that I thought would never, ever happen. We went last year - largely because my dad was marching in the parade with the Second Time Arounders Marching Band, and also because we've been subscribing to the theory of "Do Every Crazy New Yorky Thing Once Right Away Before The Novelty Wears Off, Then NEVER AGAIN" (for more examples of this, see also: New Year's Eve in Times Square, Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest, etc.). While it was fun to see my dad march, and it was fun to have attended the Macy's Parade, the experience itself was a little tiresome. We got there over two hours early, and still only managed to get as close as 6-10 people back from the street. We stood out there and froze for four hours. As much as we were glad to have done it, by the end, we were ready for Santa to make his appearance so we could get the heck home to some warm apple cider and turkey smells. It was exhausting. This year, if we were in NY, we planned to sip hot chocolate and watch that bad boy on TV like the rest of the country.

But, plans can change, my friends. A couple of weeks ago, Eric got himself into a conversation with one of his coworkers, Randall, about the Thanksgiving Parade. Apparently Randall's wife used to run the sales department for ESPN Zone, which is located right in Times Square. And every year on Thanksgiving, ESPN Zone hosts an event for children and families of firefighters and law enforcement. They block off the sidewalk in front of the restaurant for parade-viewing SANS INSANE CROWDS (that's the key here), plus the guests are free to go in and out of the restaurant as they wish to sit, use the restrooms, play games, and help themselves to the free breakfast buffet. Eric mentioned how different that sounded from our experience with the parade last year, and the next day Randall emailed Eric to ask if we would be interested in joining them for this ESPN Zone event this year, to give us a better experience than we had last year! Our response? ABSOLUTELY!

So, this year, instead of standing in the cold starting at 7:00 a.m., we left our apartment just before 9:00. We did have to fight through some crowds to get to our destination, but as we neared the ESPN Zone and showed our passes, cops just moved barricades for us and let us through. I could get used to that VIP treatment! The spot for viewing the parade was perfect - we were just past where the parade turned on to 42nd Street, on its way to Bryant Park. We had the lights of Times Square as our backdrop, and the trees of Bryant Park off in the distance the other way. And the best part? WE HAD OPEN SIDEWALK SPACE. Wow.

Our passes to the ESPN Zone event

In front of ESPN Zone with my pass

Eric demonstrating how much sidewalk space there was!

For contrast - these were the crowds across the street, and this is essentially what we stood in last year. No, thanks. I'll take my VIP spot over this any day.

Despite having the comforts of the ESPN Zone at our disposal, Eric and I stood outside for the whole parade anyway. We didn't want to miss anything! Plus, the weather was fabulous - low to mid 50s, and even a hint of sun now and then. I didn't even have to button my coat! It was much warmer than last year, when we were bundled up in our warmest coats, hats, gloves and scarves and still froze.

The parade itself was great fun, although I was surprised that they repeat the floats and I felt the celebrity lineup was much weaker than last year. There were some new balloons that I liked, especially Sailor Mickey. We had a great time watching everything come around the corner and right for us! Time for some parade shots:

The beginning of the parade

The turkey is looking right at the camera!

Big Bird and Elmo (for Kelley!)

Firemen float and balloon

Pirate ship float and balloon

Big guitar, with Jimmy Fallon on it

View of balloons and floats passing us and heading for Bryant Park

Care Bear float - here's the angry one and Carly Simon.

View of balloons coming through Times Square (also, a Ninja Turtle in the foreground)

Before too long, things started to turn a little Christmas-y...

Check me out, I'm drinking hot chocolate while we watch the parade! What luxury!

Eric and a candy cane

Elves - the end is near!

...and then THIS GUY showed up! He even had a brand new sleigh, for the first time in over 40 years. And now, the Christmas season can officially begin!

Santa in his new ride

Ho, ho, ho!

At the end of the parade

I know I kind of posted a billion pictures here already, but we do have lots more from the parade. If you want to see more, be sure to check out our Photo Site.

After the parade, we went in to ESPN Zone to finally enjoy some of the breakfast buffet. They had quite a spread - eggs, potatoes, sausage, pastries, fruit, cereal, bagels, french toast sticks, coffee, juice, and deliciously rich hot chocolate. Mmmm.

Part of the buffet

On our way home, we walked through Times Square and enjoyed the sights. I especially enjoyed seeing workers putting street lights and signs back up, after they had been taken down for the parade. Crazy!

Street lights and signs in a truck and on the road. That's not where they go!

Street lights are bigger than I thought, when you see them up close.

When we got home, we stuck the turkey in the oven and then had our "appetizers" while Eric put the lights on our Christmas tree. We had some wine/Mountain Dew (can you guess who had which?), shrimp, cheese, crackers, and pepperoni. Mmm.

Our afternoon snack. Also, look at the beautiful fall flowers Eric picked out for us!

As the day wore on we kept cooking. I made the mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, while Eric handled the turkey and stuffing. We make a good Thanksgiving dinner team!

Peeling the potatoes (Also, TARA: look what's behind me on the fridge!)

Eric and the turkey

Before long, it was time to eat! It was delicious, I must say. And once again, I made an utterly obscene amount of mashed potatoes, so we have leftovers to enjoy for a while. That's okay by me - mashed potatoes are my favorite food.

The spread
(Excuse the mixing bowls and pots. Eric would not agree to using serving bowls since it was "just us." At least I got the gravy boat in there!)

W. Family Thanksgiving Photo

We had been expecting my friend Amanda to join us in the evening for dessert, but unfortunately she got stuck at work late (she's an ICU nurse) then just went straight home. So, Eric and I had dessert on our own (pumpkin pie for me and ice cream cake for Eric), and we trimmed our Christmas tree.

Putting the bows on while Achilles supervises

Trimming the tree

And that was our Thanksgiving! We really had a wonderful time. Now, time to prepare for Christmas!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oh, To Be In Florida...

I have mentioned in previous posts that we really wish we could have gone home to Florida for this holiday. We don't usually go home for Thanksgiving, though. In fact, I haven't been home for Thanksgiving in five years. But this year we decided to switch things up and I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, after spending all those days in Florida earlier this month, Eric really couldn't take more time off work and we couldn't afford to make the trip. What a bummer.

The big reason that made us want to change our usual plans and make the trip to Florida for this weekend was Gramz's birthday - she turned 80 years old yesterday! I apologize, I meant to have a post to her up yesterday, but didn't get it together in time, so here I am now to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GRAMZ. We love you so much and wish we could have been there to celebrate with you. You're the best! Hope you had a fabulous birthday.

I had to make an old wedding picture a little more festive in honor of the occasion. See? I'm even bringing Gramz a gift.

In addition to Thanksgiving dinner and Gramz's birthday, we had other great plans for our weekend at home. For example, we were also trying to organize some W. family participation in the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.

We also were planning to join our friend Jeff and head to Gainesville for the Florida v. Florida State game today. Eric and I haven't been to a UF/FSU game in Gainesville since the last time the Gators lost to the Seminoles - which was many, many (five) years ago.

Eric and me at College Gameday for the FL v. FSU game in 2004 (I'm sporting a blanket made by Toni!)

In addition to being a great rivalry game, today is also Tim Tebow's last game in the Swamp. Eric and I so wanted to be there to cheer during College Gameday, sport our eye black in Tebow's honor, watch the Gator Walk and immerse ourselves in the loudness of the Swamp for the game. Or, at the very least, watch the game from my old place of employment, Calico Jack's. But, now we will go to our local Gator alumni bar, Gin Mill, and watch the game from a distance. I can't believe it's Tebow's last game - he will certainly be missed. I'll spare you some emotional dramatics of my own, and instead leave you with a few pictures of my dear Timmy Tebow.

I ♥ Tim Tebow.

Although we wish we were in Florida, we had a great Thanksgiving (more on that soon) and will enjoy today's game nonetheless. Hope you all are having a wonderful weekend! HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRAMZ, and GO GATORS!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you all are ready to give thanks and stuff yourselves with delicious food. Eric and I are at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this morning - I know, I know, that was something we said we would never do again. But never say never, my friends. I'll fill you in on what led us to this event later! After the parade we will come home and cook and trim our Christmas tree, then tonight Amanda will join us for a late dinner and/or dessert.

We can't help but feel a little sad that we are not in Florida as planned this year. We were really looking forward to that. But, plans change and you just have to make the most of it, you know? But, we're definitely thinking of our family today and sending our love to them.

I thought I would celebrate Thanksgiving in a totally creative way and list some of the things I'm thankful for this year. Hopefully you will be inspired to do the same - it's so nice to have a day just to sit back and think of the blessings in your life. I hope they are many for you!

What I'm Thankful For...

I am thankful for my husband, and I'm thankful for our marriage. Eric is such a fantastic husband, and I'm so looking forward to the rest of our future together.

I am thankful for our families. They're the best, and I love them very much.

I am thankful for Toni's improvements. I'm so glad she's still with us and I'm glad she is making progress towards recovery. I know it is a slow process, but I am so thankful for the hope she is giving us, and I am thankful to have her as my mother-in-law.

I am thankful for our friends and family that we can lean on in difficult times. The support and concern we have gotten in the past month has been very humbling. We're lucky to have so many people who care about us.

I am thankful for the new family traditions Eric and I are starting to build together. Even though we wish we could be at home with the rest of our family, it is still nice just to celebrate together.

I am thankful for Eric's job and the opportunity we have to live in such a cool place.

I am thankful for our apartment. What a view!

I am thankful for my sister's new job and the incredible places she is able to see.

I am thankful for Achilles, who makes me smile on a daily basis.

I am thankful for the new experiences we have had this year, both in our travels and at home.

I am thankful for all that we will experience in the year to come.

These are just a few of the things I am thankful for this year. To list all the blessings in my life would take days and days, and it's nice to have a day to remind us not to take those things for granted. I am so thankful for all that I have.

I hope your day is filled with love, thankfulness, and lots of good food! Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

City Lights

When you live in this town, sometimes you just have to do touristy stuff even when you're not leading your tourist visitors around with you. Sunday was one of those days for us, although we did bring my friend Amanda along, if you want to count her as a tourist.

Sunday afternoon we decided to go to the Top of the Rock. I've been up there a couple times before, once a year ago with my dad when he was in town to march in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade (fun!), and once with my mom during her first visit. I love the Top of the Rock, especially compared to the top of the Empire State Building - the view is better and the whole experience is so much nicer. So, future tourists take note: SKIP the Empire State Building and do the Top of the Rock instead. You can thank me later for that little tip.

Eric and I have been wanting to go back up to the Top of the Rock on an evening when the Empire State Building would be lit up nicely, and I've been dying to see those views at night. We lucked out this past weekend because the weather was beautifully clear, unseasonably warm (at least compared to last year), and the Empire State Building was lit up orange and blue! It was orange and blue for the 125th Anniversary of the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club, but in our minds it was really for the Gators. Yeah! Go Gators!

We met up with Amanda around 4:00 p.m. and walked over to Rockefeller Center together. Our plan was to get there early enough to get some daylight photos, then stay through sunset and until it got dark so we could see the view in all kinds of light. We ended up getting there just in time to see the sun dip down below the horizon out past New Jersey.

Sunset from Top of the Rock

Even though we didn't really make it before sunset as planned, we still had enough light after the sun went down to get a few shots of the view before it got dark. The colors of the sky just made it even more beautiful.

Looking north over Central Park

Looking south

Our apartment is in this picture! (It's the short, squat red brick building just to the right of the ugly white building on the left)

Enjoying the view

As the city lights began to turn on, the view just got prettier and prettier.

Gorgeous. Hard to make out in this size, but the Statue of Liberty is to the right and when this picture is bigger, you can even make out her lit torch.

Pretty city

With Amanda

Love this picture!

Orange and blue never looked so beautiful

You know we had to do this - chomping the orange and blue Empire State Building!

We stayed up there and just enjoyed the view as the colors of the sky started to fade and everything got darker. We were even treated to a lovely crescent moon over the city to add to the whole view.

Moon over the city

Looking north over Central Park again

Just gorgeous.

After Top of the Rock, we wandered through Rockefeller Plaza. The makings of Christmas are underway: the tree is going up (it will be lit next Wednesday), the toy soldiers are up around the Plaza, the angels are being put up along the Promenade, and the snowflakes are up and lit (but not yet dancing) on Saks. They also have the star for the tree out on display for you to admire. So, admire we did.

Soldier at the Plaza

Eric snapped this pic of the snowflakes on Saks on his Blackberry!

The Swarovski crystal star tree topper (you can also see the tree covered in scaffolding behind it to the right - they're putting the lights on it!)

I am the tree, with my star topper. Obviously.

We then stopped off for cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery (I still stand by my analysis that Magnolia is inferior to Crumbs, but this is a matter of opinion). We sat across the street from Radio City and enjoyed our cupcakes.

With Amanda and Radio City Music Hall behind us

On our way home, we passed through the northern end of Times Square, where once again we were treated to the sight of the moon over the city. Sometimes, in this place, it's easy to forget to look up at the sky when there is so much else going on at ground level. It's nice to glance up and see a pretty moon from time to time.

Times Square - see the moon up there at the top?

And that was our fun evening of enjoying the lights of the city! I love New York.