Thursday, December 31, 2009

Farewell, 2009

Wow. Already. It seems like just yesterday I was reflecting on 2008, gearing up for an icy cold evening in Times Square to welcome in 2009. It's so hard to believe a year has passed so quickly.

I thought I would look back on our year in 2009 in the same way I looked back at 2008: go back through pictures, put together a slideshow, reflect on where we've been and the things we've done, and how our lives have changed. To be honest, I did not expect to have much to dwell on. Before I started looking through our pictures from the past year, I thought, "sure, we did some fun things this year, but it certainly wasn't as big of a year as 2008." And it is true that in terms of big life changes, we have had a slower year. In 2008, Eric graduated law school. We moved to New York. I was preparing for grad school (booo!). This year has not brought nearly the changes that 2008 gave us. But, as I looked back, what a year 2009 has been! We have been to some incredible places, celebrated some wonderful things, and spent time with friends and family that we love so much.

Some of the highlights that I hope to always remember when I think back to 2009 include:
  • Ringing in the New Year in Times Square
  • Seeing the Florida Gators win the National Championship in person
  • Eric being sworn in to the New York Bar
  • Moving to a new apartment with an amazing view
  • Kristina and Frankie's wedding in Florida
  • Entertaining all of our many, many visitors
  • Eric going to the U.S. Open
  • The Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island on the Fourth of July
  • Our trip to Hungary and Scotland
  • Jacob and Zita's wedding in Hungary
  • Eric playing the Old Course
  • Jacob and Zita's reception in Illinois
  • Eric running the NY Half Marathon
  • Celebrating our second wedding anniversary
  • Kim and Matt's wedding in New Jersey
  • Helping Molly shop for her wedding dress
  • The Gala at the Plaza
  • Halloween in the Village, and our Dexter costumes
  • Our time spent in Florida with family
  • The Macy's Thanksgiving Parade...again
  • Beautiful, beautiful New York City, both at Christmas and all year round.
That's really quite a list, and those are just the major things! We did so many more fun things between each of those big events: the Snuggie Pub Crawl. Various sporting events. The Easter Parade. Outdoor movies. Lots of Grimaldi's Pizza. Events at Rockefeller Center. Stalking celebrities. The list goes on and on, and it really makes me stop and realize how blessed we are to have these opportunities in life. We are very lucky people to have these memories to look back on now.

A look back at 2009, set to the lovely sounds of Straight No Chaser

As for my hopes for the New Year, I am praying for a number of things to come in 2010. I'm praying for health and happiness for our friends and family, and in particular, for continued healing for Toni and peace for the family. I'm praying for gratitude for what we have and for each other. I'm praying for guidance as we continue on God's path for us. I'm giving thanks for my husband, my family, my home, and my health.

I am so thankful for the incredible year we have had, and am looking forward to seeing what 2010 will bring for our family.

I wish you all nothing but the best in the new year. Thank you so much for spending another year reading my words and following our life here. May 2010 bring you all the happiness in the world.

Signing off for 2009,

Friday, December 25, 2009

Good Tidings of Great Joy

"Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."
- Luke 2:10-12

We wish you and yours all the best for a wonderful Christmas this year. We are so thankful for each of you, and even more so for the Gift of this season.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Achilles

Photo by Etsy seller gemmabear

Come on, you didn't think we would really let Achilles get through a holiday without getting dressed in festive attire, did you?

And this Christmas, Achilles has been treated to not one, but TWO awesome Christmas outfits, courtesy of Target. Have I mentioned that I love Target?

So, here is a glimpse into how Achilles is spending his Christmas holiday this year...

On Christmas Eve, he will be dressed in his Christmas finest in anticipation of Santa's arrival. In case you haven't noticed, this year we're all about the facial hair.

Oh my. Let's take another look at that beard, shall we?

Love it.

So that's Christmas Eve...but how will little Achilles be spending his Christmas morning? Why, I imagine he'll jump out of bed and run out to check his stocking, still in his pajamas, just like any other kid.

Isn't he just as cute as can be?

Boy, is this dog ever going to be happy when we finally have kids that we can dress up in ridiculous holiday outfits and LEAVE HIM ALONE. But for now, he gets to be our little dress-up target. At least he is treated to doggie bagels when all is said and done.

So, Merry Christmas from Achilles!

As for the rest of us - Eric doesn't have to work today, so he and I are happily spending the day together. Tonight we'll be going to church at 10:30 p.m. We had hoped to attend Midnight Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, but apparently you have to get tickets for that around Labor Day! We did not do that, so no Midnight Mass for us. Tomorrow we'll be eating lasagna for dinner (a tradition in Eric's family) and enjoying the holiday together until I leave for my flight to Cleveland in the evening. I'll be in Cleveland until December 30th, so you may just have to wait till the new year to hear how all our Christmas festivities turn out! I know you're on the edge of your seats, but please, try to contain yourselves.

I hope you all enjoy your Christmas Eve tonight!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

While We're Talking Decorations...

I meant to include this in my post about our Christmas decorations, but it slipped my mind. However, this is just too cute not to share.

This year, even Eric's office got a little Christmas the spirit of one Mr. Charlie Brown:

Eric's office windowsill set up for the holiday season

How cute is that?!

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!

Deck the Halls

Yesterday I showed you some of my favorite Christmas decorations around the city, but what about our own home? Of course, we are decked out. I showed you around our holiday home last year, and I probably won't do this every year because our decorations don't change much, but we are in a different place this year so things look a little different. I still love our new apartment and love the way the decorations fit in here.

So, let's take a look at the Christmas W. Home!

The wreath on our front door. Okay, this looks exactly the same as last year, except with a different apartment number in the center. But I removed the apartment number to protect the innocent anyway, so you can't even tell that. But trust me, it's there.

When we first put up our wreath I thought we might be the only spirited apartment on our floor, but in time a couple others did hang little Christmasy stuff from their doorbells. Ours is still the biggest, though. We win! Because that's what the holidays are all about, right?

This is what you see when you walk in the front door - the main living area. But we'll come back to this. I want to cover the other little stuff first before we get to the Main Event.

This is looking back towards the door from the living room. You can see our Happy Holidays snowman banner hanging on the back of the front door, our Santa in the corner by the bench, Christmas cards hanging down the wall, and mistletoe over the entrance to the kitchen. Oh, and Achilles. He has a knack for getting all up in my house pictures.

Our kitchen decor. The Santa towels on the stove are new (a Target purchase during one of our trips home - LOVE TARGET), and we have the Santa and Mrs. Claus salt and pepper shakers on the counter. A word of advice: remove the salt and pepper from the shakers before packing them away for the year (or at least put tape over the holes at the top), lest the salt/pepper spills out of the shakers all over their storage box and then all over your floor when you unpack them the following Christmas. This is good advice, people.

Okay. We were just standing in the kitchen facing the stove. If you turn around, you can look through our pass-thru window to see this, another Main Event teaser:

But first, let's talk about that pass-thru window, shall we?

This is the left side of our pass-thru window. Love the pig's festive hat.

This is the other side, which is home to one of my beloved nativity scenes. I love this one, with the tiny, cute little baby Jesus under the light.

Our dining room - the table cloth has Christmas trees embroidered at the corners, which I love. I made the Advent wreath years ago. You can also see the nativity in the pass-thru window in this picture.

Another good general shot. So festive! Oh, and surprise, surprise - there's Achilles in my picture again.

In the corner of our windowsill, I have a little angel my dad gave me, an angel candle snuffer, and yummy-smelling Christmas Cookie candle. Mmmm. I love the angels - they make me think of my Nana.

In the center of the windowsill we have the Willow Tree Nativity. I mentioned last year that my mom is adding to this every year until we get the complete set. This year, we became overrun with animals: we added a shepherd, a few new sheep, a camel, ox and goat. The set is really almost complete - just the creche left to go, and some stars! It's so beautiful.

This is the view of the living room from the dining room. You can see our tree, the bowl of ornaments on the coffee table (there's also a little snowman underneath the table), and, our newest Christmas decor edition: the stocking hanger!

Last year we just taped our stockings to the AC/heating unit, so I think this is much more attractive. It almost looks like a little fireplace! And, it came with six hooks, so we can continue to use it as our family grows. (NO, MOM, I'M NOT PREGNANT. Gotta have the usual disclaimer there.)

And finally, the moment you have all been waiting for....

Our Christmas tree! Eric did such a great job with the lights this year. I love our tree, and I think it looks even more festive with the city lights shining behind it. In this picture you can also see the Willow Tree nativity on the windowsill, plus some decor on our lamp shelves to the right. The top shelf has a holiday picture of our little family, and the middle shelf has yet another lovely nativity, this one from my dad. Also, it looks like Santa came to our place early this year!

That's our holiday home! I really love having all these decorations filling our apartment. I'm really missing my family this Christmas, I have to admit - I miss being with my dad and I hate that I won't see my sister at all. I'll see my mom in Cleveland, which is good, but I miss everyone else. I even miss seeing my old dog Lucy. So, it helps to have some holiday cheer filling our home. I know Eric and I are making our own holiday traditions now, and we're going to try to get back to Florida in January to see everyone again then. And of course, we're always with them in spirit.

In the meantime, I hope you all are ready for the holidays! I hope all your gifts are purchased and wrapped, the grocery shopping is done, the cookies have been made, and you are ready to relax and enjoy the true spirit of the season. And stay tuned for yet another festive post here tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas in the City

I just cannot even describe how awesome Christmas in New York City is. If you can't get into the Christmas spirit here, there is no hope for you. Your heart is two sizes too small and that's just all there is to it. Sure, it's insanely crowded, but the festivity makes it worth it. There have been many different moments this holiday season where I thought to myself, "I don't know if I will ever be able to live in any other average city during the holidays after living here at Christmas." Nothing can compare, I think.

I have already shared some of my favorite parts of New York at Christmas with you this year, and you saw much of it last year as well, but today I just want to do sort of a Christmas catch-all post to pick up the things I've missed this year. Perhaps this will help spread holiday cheer to any of you who may still be feeling Grinchy.

Last night, I met up with Eric after he got off work and we walked up Fifth Avenue to check out the store decorations:

Big ol' bow on Cartier

Light Belts on Fendi

Aaaah, lovely

Louis Vuitton, and on the left you can see the giant snowflake they hang over Fifth Avenue

We spent a good while admiring the window displays at Bergdorf Goodman. All of the displays along Fifth Avenue were inspired by Alice in Wonderland. They were elaborate and stunning - these pictures won't even do them justice, and it's hard to see the detail that made them so beautiful.

This window display was entitled "Afternoon Amusements and Sovereign Gambits."
It is an aerial view of a royal tea party. It really was exquisite, although the detail is lost in this picture.

This one was The Walrus and the Carpenter.
How funny is the walrus? Ha! I like him.

This window was entitled "Improbable Lodgings and Feline Mischief."
Can you see the white rabbit on the bottom right, and the Cheshire cat in the upper left?

This window was entitled "Potions Imbibed and Perspectives Rearranged."
There were tons of staircases everywhere, inspired by the work of artist M.C. Escher.
There is a little girl in each room that is meant to be Alice.

After freezing on Fifth for a while, we took the subway down to Wall Street to see the Stock Exchange all lit up for Christmas. This was probably our favorite light display last year - the flag that usually drapes the columns of the Stock Exchange was replaced by a flag made of lights, and it was so beautiful.

But, they didn't put up the flag this year! Instead, they just lit the building red and hung a few wreaths (one of which had all its lights burned out!) - boo! The tree was still beautiful, and I did enjoy seeing the Christmas Bull again. Plus, this year I noticed something I hadn't seen last year: in the cemetery at Trinity Church, they put up a Christmas tree and put wreaths on all the headstones. With everything still blanketed in snow, it was very serene and beautiful.

The Stock Exchange Christmas Tree

The Wall Street Bull sporting his Christmas finery

Trinity Cemetery

So that was our night of Christmas sight-seeing last night, but now let's take a look at a few other pictures we've collected from around the city this season, shall we?

Another one of my favorite areas to check out Christmas decor is on Sixth Avenue. They put out giant ornaments, giant Christmas lights, giant toy trains, etc., etc.:

Giant ornaments in a fountain on Sixth Ave.

Toy train

Christmas lights

Something new that we saw this year was a living nativity just off of Times Square. These poor people sat out in the cold for a few hours that night, with carolers singing behind them. While we were there, the carolers were singing "Auld Lang Syne" in front of a camera, and they said, "Happy New Year, Dick and Ryan!" so I'm thinking they might be making an appearance on the Rockin' New Year's Eve show this year! So keep an eye out.

The Nativity - and oh, who is that making an appearance in the bottom right? That's no sheep, that's Achilles! And he looks rather dashing in his pea coat, I think.

The last thing I will share with you today is yet another lovely light show. You all probably know by now what a sucker I am for some dancing lights set to music, yes? This one is in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. They hang these beautiful lit stars from the ceiling, and starting around 5:00 every night, they do a light show set to music. There are a variety of different songs (unlike the Saks snowflakes, which only dance to "Carol of the Bells") and I could stand there for hours and watch them.

Stars in the Time Warner Center

Aren't they pretty?

VIDEO: Time Warner Center Stars Light Show

Beautiful! Do you understand now why I say it is impossible to live in this city at this time of year and not be hit with the Christmas spirit? It's just everywhere!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Wonderfully Wintery Weekend

Season's Greetings!

This weekend was just filled to the brim with winter fun. Things didn't play out quite as we expected - our plans to spend the weekend roaming the city and taking in all the Christmasy goodness that we have yet to experience this year were thwarted by the giant snowstorm that hit much of the Atlantic Coast. But, it was still a lovely winter weekend!

My fun started on Friday while Eric was still at work. Amanda and I met up to do some Christmas shopping at the holiday market at Bryant Park, which is one of my favorite areas of the city generally, and especially at Christmas. We spent quite a while wandering through the shops and enjoying the pretty park, Christmas tree, and ice skaters.

The fountain at Bryant Park - love the icicles! You can also see the Christmas tree in the distance to the right.

The skating rink and Christmas Tree at Bryant Park

The most fun part of our afternoon was the time we spent on the Southwest Air porch. They set up this porch in Bryant Park this summer, complete with food service, a bar serving summery cocktails (how good does a vodka watermelonade sound?), and porch swings. I wondered what they would do with the porch in the winter, and on Friday Amanda and I not only found out the answer to that question, but we also enjoyed the winterized porch quite a bit! They put out heaters around the various seats, the summer cocktails were replaced with hot drink specials, they put a fire pit in the center of the porch, and - here's the best part - THEY HAD SNUGGIES. Okay, actually, they weren't Snuggie brand, so they were technically just slankets (that's blankets with sleeves, obviously), but still. SLANKETS.

The Southwest Porch

All of that was just too good to pass up. Amanda and I found a great swing towards the back (the seats around the fire pit were taken), bundled up in our slankets, and ordered a bunch of awesomeness to eat and drink. We started with some hot apple cider spiked with amaretto, and to eat we ordered s'mores. Yes, S'MORES. They brought out a little cup with some sort of blue glowy stuff in it, and all the s'mores fixin's, and you could roast your marshmallows right there at your table. And EAT S'MORES. This was seriously the most fun thing ever. Only in New York, my friends, only in New York.

Amanda and me bundled up in our slankets, enjoying our cider, on our porch swing

Roasting marshmallows

Before we left the porch, we stopped to warm our hands at the fire pit

After our slankets, s'mores, and cider, we finished up our shopping in Bryant Park then met up with some friends of Amanda's who were in town from Texas. I took them all over to Grand Central station so Amanda and I could do some more shopping at that holiday market, and I could show them all the laser light show in the main terminal of Grand Central. Personally, I felt last year's light show was a little better, but I did like that this year the show ended with a light-up "mistletoe" swirling around the ceiling. Get it? That way, everybody was under the mistletoe! Awww. While we were there, we also spent some time watching some carolers. You just gotta love the holidays, right?

Mistletoe on the roof of Grand Central

Carolers at Grand Central

After Grand Central we made our way home, stopping for soup along the way. What a great day!

Saturday we had all sorts of great potential plans: tour of Yankee Stadium, Grimaldi's pizza and a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, checking out the Christmas decorations on Wall Street. We ended up skipping all of that in anticipation of the huge snowstorm that was due to hit around 2:00 p.m. Sure enough, by 1:40, the snow had started and basically continued on all night. It got heavier as the night went on, too. We had a great time staying in, nice and warm, and watching the snow fall outside our window. It was so heavy you could hardly see any of the buildings from our window!

The view looking east out of our living room window Saturday night

For reference, this is the view looking east out of our window on a normal evening! This was taken Sunday. See how many buildings we lost in the snow?

We also spent some time watching the cars driving by on the street below. At one point, our street turned in to an obstacle course of sorts - there was a stalled USPS semi truck AND a stalled bus, both in the middle of the street, within a block of each other. This created quite the traffic jam when five (yes, five!) snow plows tried to make their way down the street.

Mail truck stalled out in the street

Here come the snow plows! (looking down from our living room window)

We considered going out in the crazy snow to walk around and see if we could get any cool Times Square or Rockefeller Center snow pictures, but decided against it because it was getting late. Through the magic of Twitter, I was able to see other people's pictures to know what we missed, including a giant snowball fight in Times Square! Bummer, wish we had braved the elements to see these things.

Snowball fight in Times Square! Photo taken from Twitter user ColumbiaJames

Rockefeller Center and the Tree in the snowstorm, taken from Twitter user redwingx

Sunday morning we got up and ordered in breakfast from a local diner (yet another fabulous perk of living in NYC), then bundled up and went to Central Park to check out the snowy scenery. I hear we ended up getting about 11 inches of snow, which is probably the most we've seen in one snowfall since moving here. I heard VA/DC got much more - possibly up to 22 inches! Knowing how that city literally shuts down at the mere THOUGHT of snow, I can only imagine what an impact that must have had on our old hometown.

We had a wonderful time walking around and enjoying the snow. Central Park was just bustling with people, quite possibly one of the busiest times I've ever seen it. Everywhere you looked, there were snowball fights, snowmen, and kids on sleds. Everything was just lovely. We did not make a snowman of our own, but we did throw some snowballs and Eric made a snow angel. One of these days, we need to invest in a sled so I can take him sledding. Can you believe he's never been? I can't even imagine it.

Below are some of my favorite pictures from our snowy Sunday. If you want to see more, be sure to check out our photo site.

Yay! Snow! (This picture is very Lebron James with his chalk, no?)

The Bridge

Loved this little snowman someone built on the Bridge, with the Plaza in the background

On the Literary Walk

Look out!

Inscription on the Naumburg Bandshell (oooh, fancy, black and white!)

Eric sitting on the stage of the bandshell

Posing with the shrub swans at Tavern on the Green

Snow angel!

Trying to cross this snowbank, I sunk in up to my thigh! I'm not kneeling here - the snow is really that high on my left leg.

VIDEO: A quick look around Central Park (near the Bridge)

And that was our winter weekend! We spent the rest of our time inside staying as warm as possible. For those of you out there who got some of this snow too, I hope you have been doing the same!