Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cultured Weekend (with a side of Mac & Cheese)

Eric and I had a really nice time this past weekend. We did some fun things that we've been meaning to cross off our "New York To-Do" list, and a had a really great time doing so.

On Thursday night Eric and I were discussing Van Gogh's "Starry Night" painting (because we regularly sit around discussing fine art, because we're clearly cultured and sophisticated, DUH). Eric was wondering where "Starry Night" is housed, so he looked it up. Answer: the Museum of Modern Art in NYC! I then looked up MoMA and discovered that they have free admission hours on Friday from 4pm til 8pm. Man, we're such a good team!

So, we made plans to meet up around 6pm on Friday to go the museum together. I got there first so I waited in line for our free tickets (there's really a line for EVERYTHING in NYC), and Eric met me there as soon as he could get out of work.

We had a wonderful time wandering through the museum. We saw some great works, including "Starry Night," Andy Warhol's "Campbell's Soup Cans," Dali's "The Persistence of Memory," and a Monet Water Lilies exhibit that I really enjoyed. We also saw a performance artist who was just sitting at a wooden table, and you were invited to become part of the art by sitting across the table from her for as long as you liked. We didn't do that, but we did watch for a bit.

Welcome to the Museum of Modern Art

"The Persistence of Memory" by Salvador Dali

"The Starry Night" by Vincent van Gogh

Eric and "Starry Night"

We loved this one, entitled "Flag" by Jasper Johns. Underneath the paint you could see scraps of newspaper, including comics! It was very interesting.

"Campbell's Soup Cans" by Andy Warhol

In front of the soup cans

"The Artist is Present," performance art by Marina Abramovic

Me admiring Monet's "Water Lilies"

Another "Water Lilies" painting

We saw lots of other great pieces (and of course, some that begged the question, "is this really considered art?"), so if you want to see more pictures, I'll put all the ones we took on the photo share site for you to check out at your leisure.

The art museum was a great way to spend a Friday afternoon, and it was especially nice to see it for free! One of these days we will take advantage of the Guggenheim's "pay as you wish" hours, too.

Saturday we didn't have any real plans, so we decided to go down to Union Square for some shopping and lunch. I always love going down to Union Square, if for no other reason, to see the musicians in the subway station. Union Square has the best street musicians. This time we saw an electric violinist playing pop songs, including Britney Spears (when we arrived) and Michael Jackson (as we left).

Violinist in the subway station (also, the advertisement behind him is for "Visit St. Pete/Clearwater!" Okay!)

VIDEO: Violinist playing some Britney Spears in the subway station

We had lunch at a place we've been meaning to try called S'Mac. This place is interesting because they only serve macaroni and cheese. It's fancy macaroni and cheese of course, and there are different variations and options, but it's just macaroni and cheese on the menu. To a girl who loves her some mac and cheese (that's me), this sounded delightful. And it was delightful indeed! Eric ordered the Cheeseburger (Cheddar and American cheeses combined with seasoned ground beef), and I got the Napoletana (fresh Mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic, and fresh basil). They were served in hot skillets and were delicious! We ordered the "Major Munch" size (which I assume is medium - the sizes are "Nosh," "Major Munch," "Mongo," and "Partay," so do with that what you will) and had plenty left over to take home.


My Napoletana

Eric and his Cheeseburger

I don't have any pictures from our day on Sunday, but we had a nice time then, too. We went to Palm Sunday service at church in the morning, which was lovely. They started the service with the congregation outside the church, where they handed out palms. After a reading and prayer we all processed in to the church together. They then read through the whole Passion according to Luke and we sang "Were You There," which I always love. It was a beautiful service.

After church we walked north to the New York Historical Society. They have been hosting a "Lincoln and New York" exhibition that we wanted to see, and Sunday was the last day for it. So, we stopped by after church. The exhibit was very nice and very educational - it followed the relationship between Lincoln and New York City, from the launch of his 1860 Presidential campaign with a speech at Cooper Union, to his funeral procession in 1865. I've always had an interest in Lincoln so I enjoyed this.

After Lincoln we spent a little more time in a couple other exhibits, including one about abolitionist John Brown, 18th Century New York portraits, and paintings by artists of the Hudson River School. It was a nice, quiet, museum afternoon.

We spent the rest of the weekend relaxing at home, watching movies (we finally saw "Precious" and "The Blind Side"), and Eric had to work a little from home (poor thing!).

Speaking of Eric's work...we got some news yesterday. Eric will be going to India on business next week! No, that's not a typo. I don't mean Indiana. I mean INDIA. He will be gone for about a week (possibly longer). He'll of course be working most of the time, but he's hoping to take a day to visit the Taj Mahal and do some sightseeing. I'll miss him, of course, but I'm excited for him to have the opportunity to see a new place! Has anyone reading this been to India? If so, any travel/sightseeing suggestions for him?

Until then, we have more fun things planned, so stay tuned!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Quarter of a Century of Sister Fun

Today, my little sister turns 25 years old.


Did you know that seeing my sister for the first time is my earliest memory? It seems impossible because I was so young (and maybe that memory has been strengthened by photos over time), but I think that shows that from the very beginning, from her very first days, I knew how important she would be in my life.

It also was the day that I got Sharri, so that probably helped. Sharri was my Cabbage Patch Doll. She was also a very big part of my life.

I remember being at my grandparents' house, my Nana and Gramps. In retrospect, it makes sense that I was probably staying there while my mom was in the hospital. My Nana gave me a Cabbage Patch Doll named Sharri, which also makes sense because that's just how Nana was. She always gave me gifts on Heather's birthday and vice versa, so we wouldn't feel left out when our sister was getting so much attention. Sharri ended up being my most favorite toy (and she still lives with me here in NYC).

I remember going to the hospital and seeing my mom. I remember lifting Sharri's dress and showing my mom her little outie belly button.

I remember my dad there. I think he was wearing some sort of hospital gown or something, the kind you put over your clothes so you don't bring in germs. I could be wrong about that, but that's the feeling I have.

I remember looking through that little window at my sister and seeing her for the first time. She had dark hair and little feet.

I remember my "I'm the Big Sister" t-shirt. I think it was yellow.

It's not a clear memory, that's for sure. It was 25 years ago, after all! But I can still remember it. I remember my new sister. I remember my parents. I remember a really awesome day.

Looking through the window at my new sister (you can see the top of Sharri's head at the bottom of the picture, too)

Hello, sister.

And that's my very first memory, now 25 years old. I feel very blessed to have such an awesome girl for my sister, and I wish her a very happy birthday!


Friday, March 26, 2010

Elephants on Parade

On Monday, I chased a bunch of elephants down 34th Street in the rain in the middle of the night.

And...there's a sentence I never imagined I would say.

Maybe it will make more sense if I mention that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus came to town this week?

Every year, when the circus comes to town, they march their elephants into Manhattan by way of the Queens/Midtown Tunnel, then down 34th Street to Madison Square Garden in the middle of the night. Eric and I heard about this last year, but it was already too late - we missed it. So this year, we were a little more on top of it. We learned those crazy pachyderms would be marching through Manhattan on March 22, so we made plans to be in attendance.

The night was actually lousy and if we weren't all about "doing everything we want to do in NYC NOW because you never know when we'll be leaving," we might have skipped it. Eric's knee was still sore from the half marathon and it was raining. Ugh, more rain. But, we don't want to pass up any opportunities to do New Yorky things, because we don't plan on being here forever and you just can't let these things pass you by. Because if you always put it off "till next year," before you know it you have lived in D.C. for three years and then moved away without ever having been to the Air and Space Museum. For example.

So we went. We left the house around 11:20p.m. or so and took a cab out to 37th Street and Third Avenue. We walked over to the opening of the Midtown Tunnel and waited, in the rain. And waited. And waited. Those elephants took their good ol' time, I'll tell you what. The estimates we had heard said they would emerge on the Manhattan side of the tunnel around midnight, but it was at least 12:30 by the time they actually showed up.

But at last, we saw them! They marched their way out of that tunnel and then stopped to pose for pictures for their adoring fans. Unfortunately, we were barricaded off a good distance away from them, and they let other people (apparently Elephant VIPs) up closer so our view wasn't stellar. Well, we could see alright, but the pictures aren't super. But it was still a sight to see!

Elephants coming out of the Midtown Tunnel

Posing for pictures

This clearly is not one of OUR pictures, it was taken by one of the VIPs. I stole it from WCBS 880. But, I thought you should see a better shot of those elephants!

After their photo-op, the elephants continued on their journey and we decided to go down to 34th Street to catch another sight of them and maybe get some better pictures. But those elephants were really moving, so they beat us there. I decided to run to try to get a picture, but poor injured Eric couldn't run with me. So, armed with both the video and regular cameras, I took off down the street. I chased those elephants for several blocks, in the rain, trying desperately to get a decent photo with our camera and a little more video footage. I did what I could, including trying to snap pictures of the tiny ponies that were marching along behind the elephants and the clowns pushing pedicabs along the street. What a show! Apparently if it hadn't been raining there would have been stilt-walkers, too.

Elephants walking down 34th Street

I just loved that they were holding on to each others' tails. So cute!

Bye, elephants!

And tiny horses, too!

Once I was satisfied that our dying camera battery had done all it could do, I walked back to meet up with Eric. And finally re-opened my umbrella. The rain had really picked up again! We then hopped in a cab and called it a night. Another New York experience crossed off the list!

We're a little damp, but we had a good time!

I think if we ever do this again, we won't bother with waiting at the Midtown Tunnel, since we couldn't really benefit from the posed photo-op anyway. Instead, we'll just find a great spot on 34th Street and camp out there. But, now we know! We did have a great time, and I also got some video of those crazy elephants. Check it out:

VIDEO: Elephants marching through Manhattan (set to "Pink Elephants on Parade" from "Dumbo," of course)

You just gotta love New York!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Hour and 58 Minutes

You've heard me go on and on about my "list." Well, Eric has a list of his own, and this past weekend he crossed something off.

The first item in Eric's "Just For Fun" list category was to run a sub-two-hour half marathon. This weekend, Eric ran the New York City Half Marathon in one hour and 58 minutes!

But, let's start from the beginning.

On Sunday morning, Eric and I woke up while it was still dark outside (awful) and left the house just after 6:00 a.m. We took the subway up to Central Park and 96th Street, then walked across the park to the starting line. We found Eric's corral and he got to stretching. The sun actually decided to come up, too, which was nice.

Get good and stretched, Eric!

Sunrise through the buildings

I hung out with Eric for a few minutes, then left him to get set while I went down to the starting line to find a spot to watch. Just like last time, I was able to see them introduce the super-fast people and I watched them all warming up. Then it was time for the National Anthem, then the firing of the gun...ready, set, GO!

Runners lined up at the staring line

VIDEO: The starting gun

And, he's off! Go Eric!

The course for this Half Marathon (which is 13.1 miles, if you recall) was very similar to the one Eric ran in August. The race started around 96th Street on the east side of Central Park, then ran the whole loop (and a half!) around Central Park for a total of eight miles in the park. The runners then exited the park and ran south on Seventh Avenue, through Times Square and down to 42nd Street, where they turned west and headed out to the West Side Highway for the last three miles of the race. The finish line was on the West Side Highway at Chambers Street. I think that route is just so cool - how fun to run through so many scenic parts of the city!

Also like last time, Eric and I had worked out a plan so that I could dash around the city and see him at various points of the race. Unfortunately, this time it did not go as smoothly as last time, although it wasn't bad.

After seeing Eric at the starting line, I made my way back across Central Park to the west side to see him at about the three- or four-mile mark. Last time I had plenty of time to do this, so this time I made the stroll fairly leisurely. I stopped for a couple pictures at the north end of the Reservoir, which was looking beautiful in the early morning light.

View of the city looking south over the Reservoir

Looking southeast along the running trail

A dog enjoying the morning scenery

Unfortunately, by the time I made it over to the west side of the park, the road I needed to cross was already jam-packed with runners! Last time I did not have that problem, so I'm not sure what happened this time - maybe I was too slow in my walking, or maybe it was because Eric's starting point was further back this time, or something. Either way, this is what I had to cross to get to the other side:

Yeah, I'm definitely going to get run over if I try to do this.

I waited for a while, hoping for an opening, but no luck. Finally one of the race workers suggested I walk south a bit to where there was a bridge that went underneath the road the runners were on. I didn't know how far south it was, but I started walking, keeping an eye on the time. I knew it was almost about the time Eric would be reaching that point and I didn't want to miss him. But, I knew I had to get over to the other side, because that was where Eric would be looking for me.

I did finally see the bridge in the distance. Knowing that Eric would be getting to that spot at any moment, I sprinted down under the bridge and back up to the road. Not thirty seconds later, I saw Eric coming towards me! Phew, that was close!

See him on the right, giving a fist pump? He's looking good!

Only Eric would stop to compliment my coat as he ran. That's what's happening here.

As soon as Eric passed I exited the park to catch the subway down to Times Square. They were doing track work on the "C" line, which is what I would usually take. But, it wasn't running, so I took another train, which ended up taking me to a different spot than I expected. It worked out fine though - I got off at Seventh Avenue and 53rd Street, and just walked down towards 42nd Street.

Just like last time, they had singalongs and music and even cheerleaders set up in Times Square, so it was an entertaining wait for Eric there. I stood right by the cheerleaders and before long, I saw Eric coming! Once again he stopped to kiss me as he ran by. What a show-off!

Cheerleaders in Times Square

Here he comes!

Hi, Eric! Still looking strong!

After Eric passed me in Times Square, it was time for me to head down to Chambers Street to the finish line. Unfortunately, that took longer than I expected, and the end of the race is always such a crowded mess of people. So, I didn't get there in time to see Eric cross the finish line. I suspect I literally just missed him, based on his official finish time. I wish I had seen it - he said he was so happy as he crossed and realized that he had reached his goal and ran that race in ONE HOUR AND 58 MINUTES! I am so proud of him.

The finish line. Eric is not in this picture because I missed him. Boo.

Since I missed him at the finish line, I eventually made my way to our designated "Where We Go To Meet If I Don't See You Finish" spot. It was so great to see Eric with his new medal on and know he reached his goal. Go Eric!

Stretching again

That's a lovely gold medal you've got there!

Eric's newest medal

After the race, we had planned to do a little exploring downtown. Eric always says how pretty that area is, but whenever we go down there, we always just hit Battery Park and Wall Street. So, we did a little more wandering around to check things out. We started with the Irish Hunger Memorial, which I just learned existed last week and wanted to check out. It was really lovely . It was landscaped to look like the rolling green fields of Ireland, and contains stones from each of Ireland's 32 counties.

View of the Irish Hunger Memorial from the east side

The hills are on this elevated platform, which looks pretty cool.

When you first enter the memorial, you walk through a hallway with lines of text, including quotes about the Irish Potato Famine in particular, as well as current world hunger generally. There is also an audio accompaniment speaking on the subject. It's very sobering.

Quotes in the entrance hallway

VIDEO: The entrance to the Irish Hunger Memorial

The entrance hallway emerges into the ruins of a cottage brought over from County Mayo in Ireland, which is where my Irish ancestors were from. Having recently read a history of our family's journey to the U.S. researched and written by my dad, it felt very cool to be standing in a cottage from the land of my ancestors.

A member of the McNamara family standing in the old County Mayo cottage

The cottage ruins

After walking through the cottage, you can follow a little path through the green hills up to the top, which offers lovely views of the Hudson River. It was very pretty - just a little bit of the Irish countryside in the heart of New York City.

Stone on the hill

At the top of the Memorial, with the Hudson behind us

After fully exploring the memorial, we continued on down along the water for a bit. We wandered through the post-race festival at the North Cove Marina, then continued south along the water a little more before wandering east in search of a subway station. As we did that we passed Trinity Church, which we have passed a million times, but this time we noticed the grave of Alexander Hamilton! You just never know what you'll randomly discover in this city.

View of the Statue of Liberty from North Cove Marina

The Half-Marathoner and his proud wife at the marina

Trinity Church

The grave of Alexander Hamilton

We took the subway to Grand Central Station, then stopped by Eric's office because he had to pick up some work to get done from home that afternoon (he's been really, really busy at work lately). Then we walked back across town to home, where we ordered a pizza and relaxed. Eric's knee was pretty sore so he spent most of the afternoon icing and elevating and working. Poor thing. But, he met his goal! Yay, Eric!

On another "random NYC" note, that afternoon I took Achilles outside on a "business trip" and as soon as I walked out of my front door, I looked to my immediate right and saw Tracy Morgan walking by! If I had walked out seconds later, I would have walked right into him. Tracy Morgan was just seconds shy of tripping over little Achilles. Ha! I said hello to him and he gave me a nod and continued on his way, all by himself, just wandering down my street. Only in New York.

It was a wonderful day and I'm so proud of my husband. Way to go, Eric! Love you!