Friday, November 30, 2012

Favorite NY Memories #4: Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live was something we wanted to do the entire time we lived in New York, but were just not quite sure how to make it happen without either being really, really lucky or really, really crazy.

You see, SNL distributes tickets to the general public every year through a ticket lottery. You email during the month of August to get your name put into the mix, and then they'll email you if you are selected. We actually know someone who managed to get tickets this way, which is shocking, because I was convinced this was all just a clever ruse to make the public think there was a chance to ever see this show without being BFFs with Lorne Michaels or something. We emailed every year, to no avail.

The other way to get tickets is to try for standby tickets on the day of the show. Every Saturday morning at 7:00, they hand out standby tickets to both the dress rehearsal and live taping on a first come, first served basis. Now, these tickets do not guarantee you a spot at the show. Rather, they give you a chance to see the show. If the studio is not already filled with VIPs and regular ticket-holders, they'll let the standby people in to fill any empty seats. So, every Saturday, there are lots more standby tickets distributed than there are actual available seats at showtime. And for big name guests, such as a Justin Timberlake or Alec Baldwin host, or Justin Bieber or Lady GaGa musical guest, people will camp out for these standby tickets for days. A week, even. Days on end of sleeping on the streets of New York just for a chance to maybe see SNL. Now, Eric and I have been known to do crazy things to see New York events, but that just did not sound worth it at all to me. Sleeping on the street for days with no guarantees of actualy seeing a show? Nah. No thanks. So, we figured SNL was just not meant to be for us.

Until one Friday afternoon in January of this year, that is. The host for that Saturday's show was Charles Barkley, with musical guest Kelly Clarkson. Both good enough, but not big pulls. Eric got the crazy idea that we should give the standby line a shot. The weather was unusually warm (only got down into the 40s that night), I was pregnant but not super uncomfortable yet, and he figured we could head out to the line around 3:00 in the morning and get tickets. Pregnancy apparently ate my brain because I agreed.

Waiting in the SNL standby ticket line!

So, head out there we did, and spent several hours sitting on the street waiting for our chance. We ultimately secured tickets to the dress rehearsal, and much to our surprise and delight, we were able to get into the show that evening! Our seats were awful (worst in the house, actually), but the whole thing was still incredibly cool to see. Because it was the dress rehearsal, we were even able to see an extra 30 minutes worth of material that didn't make it into the show. It was so neat to watch the whole process, from the warm-up to the cue cards to the set changes to a fit of hysterical laughter for the actors during one sketch. We had a fantastic time and it was definitely one of the coolest things we were able to do during our time here.

Our standby tickets

Terrible seats.

Thumbs up for an awesome night!

Of course, we made it into the audience of quite a few other shows during our time here, too: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show With David Letterman, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, SportsNation. All were very cool experiences, but nothing topped SNL.

Top row: Us on TV during The Late Show, and outside the theater after the show
Middle row: Outside NBC Studios after Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; outside the studio after The Daily Show; and Eric with Michelle Beadle after SportsNation taping
Bottom row: At The Colbert Report, which tapes just a few doors down from our old apartment building!

Saturday Night Live is just such a New York institution, and to go through the process of waiting out for tickets, doing the standby line that night, having that moment of excitement when you get off the elevator and they tell you that you've made it into the show, getting goosebumps when you walk into the studio, seeing the cast running around and making the show happen before your very eyes - it's all just very, very cool. After the show Eric and I were on such a high and we were so, so glad that we made it happen. It ended up easily being one of our most favorite New York nights, and that is how it secured the number four spot on this countdown.

To read the whole Saturday Night Live recap, click here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dear Ellie - Eight Months

My dear Ellie,

You are eight months old today. It just sounds so old to me, and I can hardly believe it has been eight months already. There are still so many moments when I look at you and can hardly believe that you're really here, that I really have such a perfect daughter. I'm every bit as in awe of you today as I was on this day eight months ago.

This month was a busy one for us. It started off with Hurricane Sandy, which left us without power for six days. You were a trooper through the whole thing and were no worse for the wear. As things got back to normal after the storm, we officially celebrated your first Halloween (which was postponed because of Sandy), and you won yet another award in the Ragamuffin Parade Costume Contest. This month you also played in the snow for the first time, met the Vice President, celebrated your first Thanksgiving, and met both your Great Grandma and Santa Claus (same weekend, but separate occasions!). That is one action-packed month for a baby, and you handled it all in stride. I think you like all the excitement!

As of my last letter, you had just learned to sit yourself up and were working on pulling yourself up, too. Now, you pull yourself up easily on us or any relatively stable furniture you can get your hands on. I remember the first time you pulled yourself up on one of our recliners, where Achilles was napping peacefully. I'm pretty sure his entire life flashed before his eyes when he saw your head unexpectedly pop up over the edge of the chair! That poor dog. You love to pull yourself up and then bounce up and down, laughing as you do so. You also have started holding on to your support with just one hand, or sometimes taking a few steps while you hold on. Feel free to slow all that down, baby girl.

Although, no matter how much I may ask you to please slow down, like it or not, you are officially mobile! You're not crawling in the traditional sense, but instead do this little scoot where you keep one knee on the ground but bend your other leg up so your foot is on the ground and you use that to propel yourself around. It's sort of a one-legged scooty crawl, I guess. Whatever you want to call it, it gets you from Point A to Point B quite nicely. You can really book it across your foam play mat to get to whatever has caught your eye across the room. Of course, you also like to book it off the foam play mat, seemingly hell-bent on your own destruction given that every last inch of our apartment is currently in shambles thanks to our upcoming move next week. I spend a lot of time trying to keep you confined to the safety of the baby-friendly mat, but when you get it into your head that you want to be elsewhere, there is little I can do to change your mind! You are a girl who knows what she wants, that's for sure.

Your naps have much improved since my last letter. You still often refuse one nap each day, but when that happens you usually have taken two other good ones. You generally go to sleep easily on your own, which is very nice. As for nighttime sleeping, that has definitely regressed. You wake up two or three times every night now. It is no longer the sitting up that wakes you, as far as I can tell. I fear that nursing you back to sleep during that phase has just created a bad habit, and now you expect to be nursed back to sleep whenever you wake up during the night. Or, maybe you're just burning too many calories with all your new motor skills during the day and need to eat at night again. Who knows? Your longest stretch of sleep is usually from bedtime until sometime between 11:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m., then you're up every two or three hours until morning. As much as I may grumble when I hear you requesting a midnight snack in the middle of the night, you fall back asleep quickly and easily after just a few minutes of nursing. Usually we are both back asleep in our respective beds within 15 minutes, so I can't complain too much. For now we have no real plans to try to change this system, other than just waiting it out and seeing what happens. In the meantime I will try to keep my grumbling to a minimum and instead remember to cherish our quiet, peaceful moments together as you nurse during the night.

You are also exceptionally talkative these days. I think once you got the hang of all your new motor stuff you were able to return to focusing on your voice. Your shrieks are back, and it seems like you babble constantly. It pains me to say it, but your sound of choice these days is "dadadadada." I try to say "mama" to you, and you just look at me and smile before resuming your "dada"s. You are most definitely a daddy's girl.

Some of your favorite things this month include: Achilles, jumping and bouncing, looking at/chewing on books, my iPhone and the TV remote (still!), your snacks (Puffs, Mum Mum crackers and fruit in your mesh feeder), watching videos of yourself, rolling over and crawling around on your changing table and hugs from Mommy as we look in the mirror. Dislikes include: not being fed immediately upon waking, all the fuss it takes to get you bundled and strapped into your stroller in this cold weather, and having me put lotion on your poor, dry little nose.

Despite all the developments and changes we have seen in you this month, when I think about this month and what stands out the most to me, it's just that you are so happy. You are interested in everything and so many things make you smile. And it's not just any smile, either. This month your signature look has become a big, huge, open-mouthed smile of pure delight. It makes my heart jump for joy every time I see it, and especially so when it is the result of me walking into the room. You have also started making silly, scrunchy smiley faces sometimes, and I can't help but laugh when you do. And speaking of laughing, not only are you handing out smiles left and right, but the laughter is also flowing freely. Two of my favorite moments with you this month involved you laughing: once when I picked Achilles up and brought him towards your face so he could kiss you, resulting in a fit of giggles out of you, and when I put the silly new fur hat I bought for you on your head then let you look in the mirror. You saw yourself in that hat and laughed out loud and it was almost too much for my heart to handle. I just cannot get enough of this happy, joyful, inquisitive, delightful little girl.

I'm very excited about this happiness and hope it continues through this upcoming month, as I am very excited to experience your first Christmas with you. As much as I love Christmas every year, I'm finding myself far more enthusiastic and excited about Christmas this year, and I think I have you to thank for that. I just can't wait to show you everything and have you be a part of our traditions, to watch you as you experience it all for the first time and to see what you think of it. It is so magical and I'm so excited for you to see it all for yourself.

The last thing I wanted to mention is that as this month winds down, we are preparing to move from NYC to Florida. This is going to be a big change for us, and it is hard for your Daddy and me to say goodbye to New York. I know you will not remember your time here, but I hope you will know that we tried to give you every New York experience we possibly could while you were here with us, and that we have every intention of bringing you back someday and doing it all again. We have all been so lucky to have lived here and called this place our home. And now, we're getting ready to embark on a new adventure, all three of us. I can't wait to see what Florida has in store for our family.

My Ellie, I love you so much more than I can ever say. I am the luckiest mama in the world to have you as my daughter. I think back to the days before you were born, and how I longed to have a baby, to have a child that was part of your daddy and part of me, to be somebody's mother. I had these visions of what that might be like but really, you can't know what it's like until you live it. And you, Ellie, are so much better than I ever could have imagined. So, so much better.

I love you, Sunshine. Happy Eight Months.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear Ellie,

The word that best describes you this month is happy. It's as if you have finally started to make up your mind about the things you have spent months studying. And the answer is that you love a lot of it. As of a week or two ago, you have been adorably open-mouth smiling and giggling all the time, including when one or both of your parents enters a room, the dog passes by or you spot yourself in a mirror. Ellie, the world would be a better place if more adults enjoyed anything half as much as you have been enjoying these things. Fortunately for your mommy and me, this joy is contagious and I find myself again overwhelmed with gratitude for you and your mommy and the family we are becoming.

In other newsworthy month eight news, albeit less world-view changing, you are continuing to work very hard on your physical development. You have been pulling yourself up to a standing position most of the month and are becoming much more efficient. You now seem to be working out how to climb over the things you pull up on, but luckily for your mommy and me, you have not gotten that far. You began the month by somehow willing yourself across the room, but have gradually worked this rough action into a pseudo-crawl. I don't want my description to conflict with the one your mommy is going to try, so I will just note that unless you start walking very soon, you will forever be labeled a "scooter." The motion seems to work for you, so I have no problem with it, and am proud that you don't feel held back by convention. You should just keep up the good work.

In addition to the moving, you are making noises and babbling all the time. I'm not going to say you have said your first purposeful word, but you have definitely taken a liking to the "da da" sound, which is just fine with me.

As you enter month nine, there are very real changes coming to your environment. Adding this to your continued development, the imminent abundance of family and your first Christmas, you are going to be a very busy baby. I hope you are ready to be stimulated! At least you shouldn't be totally unprepared because we have been taking you to see everything we can during our last weeks in New York City. Though you won't remember any of it, you will have more stories and pictures than you know what to do with (baby or otherwise).

In closing, I should note that I am on the verge of turning 30, an age that will seem ancient the first few times you read this letter but much less so when you get there yourself. At the risk of sounding sickeningly positive (spending too much time with a smiley baby can have that effect), I could not be happier about the decade passed or more excited about the one to come. Ellie, I hope all your years are as rich in love and wonderful experience as my first thirty have been. Judging by all the smiles, you are off to a good start.

All my love,

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Favorite NY Memories #5: Easter Bonnet Parade

This is the one item on the list that ultimately resulted in a tie. I knew I wanted to include the NYC Easter Bonnet Parade, but try as I might, I could not choose between two of the three years we attended the parade: 2009 vs. 2010. Both were very awesome in different ways, so we're calling it a tie.

In 2009, Eric and I set out to have a perfectly normal Easter. We colored eggs, went to church, planned a nice dinner. On our way home from church, however, we decided to walk through Central Park to check out the blossoming trees, with the ultimate goal of getting over to the east side to stop by Rockefeller Center. Eric told me they had put in all sorts of lovely spring flowers on the Promenade, and we wanted to take some pictures.

However, when we exited the park onto Fifth Avenue, we realized we had led ourselves right to a great New York City Easter Sunday tradition: the Easter Bonnet Parade. The parade originated in the 1800s, when New York's most fashionable would parade along Fifth Avenue after church to show off their Easter finery. These days, however, the Easter Bonnet Parade is essentially Halloween but with more pastels. The bonnets on display range from dainty, simple and sweet to comically large, elaborate and eccentric. There is not an actual "parade" as you may think of with marching bands and floats and organization, but rather, everyone just wanders along the Avenue, gawking at each other and taking pictures.

A selection of the outrageous get-ups from the 2009 Easter Bonnet Parade

Eric and I did not actually participate in the parade in 2009, of course, because we did not even know it was a thing until we just happened upon it thanks to a little Easter stroll. It made our day, though. It was our first Easter in the city, and I was just amazed that even Easter was New York-y in New York. All I could do was shake my head and think, "man, this city is so cool."

In 2010, we knew we wanted to check out the parade once again, but this time we wanted to participate. I donned a flowery headband, but the main attraction was Achilles, who we decided should tag along in his Easter headwear. As it turned out, he was a smashing success. We very slowly made our way up and down Fifth Avenue, stopping every few steps so someone could take a picture of Achilles. The paparazzi was relentless!

Achilles and me at the 2010 Easter Bonnet Parade

VIDEO: Achilles was a hit!

Of course, all the bonnets were quite fascinating to look at, too.

A selection from the 2010 Parade

So, both the 2009 and 2010 parades were incredibly fun. In 2009, it was just so unexpected and we were so excited to have found this great event that we knew nothing about. In 2010, we enjoyed that event as participants, and it was great fun to parade up and down the avenue as people fussed and fawned over Achilles. So how does one choose between the two? Well, we don't. It's a tie.

One thing is for sure though: we loved the Easter Bonnet Parade tradition.

Happy Bonnet-wearers

But please, let's not talk about how disappointing it is that we won't have a chance to dress Ellie in a bonnet and parade with her this Easter. Let's just not mention it, lest the disappointment lead me to abandon all plans to move and stay here forever and ever.

To read more about the Easter Bonnet Parades, click here for 2009 or here for 2010. Although it didn't make the list, we also went in 2011, too!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Favorite NY Memories #6: Fashions Night Out 2010

Fashions Night Out was one of those great New York events that we just happened to stumble upon without any real planning. The very first Fashions Night out was held in September 2009, in which all the glamorous stores around the city open their doors and offer sales, celebrity appearances, food, drink, live music and various other promotions. Somehow, we didn't hear anything about this until the next year's event, in September 2010. Even then, I only heard about it after we had already purchased $10 preview tickets to a Broadway play for the same evening. What I was hearing about FNO sounded fun though, so we decided we would just leave early for our show and catch some of the action on Fifth Avenue before heading to the theater.

Well, we never made it to the theater. For the first (and probably only) time in my life, I voluntarily let Broadway tickets go to waste in favor of another event. We were just having too much fun to leave and go to a show. That night, we dined on caviar and champagne and then goofed off in a photo booth with Bar Refaeli at the Armani store. We browsed through Prada while sipping champagne as a DJ played music and Dakota Fanning hung out downstairs. We walked the yellow carpet at Tiffany's, posed for photos and hit up the free candy buffet. We caught what we could of a free Idina Menzel performance at Michael Kors, and then watched her and her handsome husband graciously fight through the crowds to make their exit. We admired strange window displays, many featuring live models (including one featuring cast members from the Real World/Road Rules Challenge). And of course, we posed on the red carpet at Rockefeller Center.

Fashions Night Out 2010
Top: Sipping champagne in Armani; posing with Bar Refaeli
Bottom: Free candy at Tiffany's; photobooth fun; Eric posing with Aubrey Hepburns at Tiffany's
Right: On the red carpet at Rockefeller Center

Since that first year, we have attended Fashions Night Out twice more. In 2011, my sister was in town. We did more wandering, celebrity searching, and drinking of free champagne, but it was much more crowded than the previous year so we were less successful.

Fashions Night Out 2011
Left: Posing in Fendi; Right: Free sparkling grape juice in Gap; on the red carpet at Rockefeller Center

In 2012, we took Ellie to be a part of the action. She looked quite the part of the baby fashionista in her polka dot dress, but given her early bedtime we did not stay out too late.

Fashions Night Out 2012
Top: Ellie and me on the red carpet at Rockefeller Center; posing for the paparazzi
Bottom: On the red carpet at Macy's; Ellie with her dad in Rockefeller Center

Although we certainly had fun at Fashions Night Out all three years we attended, none could quite match the awesomeness of the first one. Maybe it was that it was still new so not very crowded, maybe it was that we got lucky and got to do and see almost everything we wanted, maybe we drank more champagne than other years. Whatever the cause, that first Fashions Night Out has stuck out in our minds as one of our most amazing and unbelievably fun New York nights. I mean, you know it's good if I feel very little regret over giving up our Broadway tickets for something else! We just had such an unexpectedly fantastic good time, so much so that we have been unable to replicate it since. It was a perfect evening, and that is why Fashions Night Out 2010 is the one that has earned a spot on this countdown.

To read more about our Fashions Night Out fun, choose a year: 2010, 2011 or 2012.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Favorite NY Memories #7: Our First NYC Independence Day

Our first Fourth of July in New York (2009) was just so very, very New York-y. It was hot, and exhausting, crowded and busy, but it was fantastic.

I had watched the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on television before, but can't say that I ever imagined myself attending such an event. However, when I realized that this contest was held at Coney Island (a part of NYC we had yet to visit), we knew we had to try to make the trek to Brooklyn to see it for ourselves. We arrived early and waited in the midst of the thick crowds in the brutal sun for two hours, because we are dedicated people. (I can't say I would have been sad if I had remembered sunblock, but, alas.)

Eric in front of the board counting down to hot dog time!

As we waited, we were treated to all sorts of freak show-esque entertainment, and that was before people started stuffing their faces with hot dogs at record speed. My favorite part of the whole thing was probably the introductions of the contestants, as they outlined each feat of eating in which the competitor held the record. Some of them were just crazy, and inspired much "who would do that?!" and "that's really a thing?!" commentary on our part.

On a historical note, the 2009 Contest was the last in which the famous champion Takeru Kobayashi competed. He lost to the American, Joey Chestnut, who ate a record number of hot dogs (68 in 10 minutes!) - a record that still stands. It was disgusting to watch, and quite over the top, but it really is something to be there to witness history, you know?

Top row: Takeru Kobayashi working the crowds during his introduction; the line of contestants gobbling up hot dogs
Bottom row: Joey Chestnut proudly celebrating his victory; us in front of the stage after the crowds cleared out

VIDEO: 2009 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest

After the Hot Dog Eating Contest we spent some time exploring Coney Island, then got some hot dogs of our own.

The Cyclone roller coaster; our hot dog feast; and Shoot the Freak

After our lunch we went home to rest up, and later that evening went back out to catch the Macy's NYC Fireworks on the Hudson River for the first time. We were so exhausted after our day in the sun at Coney Island, but we figured, hey. We live two blocks from the Hudson, where they will be putting on one of the premiere fireworks displays in the country. We should probably just go to that.

And so, we did. It was insanely crowded but we had a great spot to witness a beautiful display. 

Crowds gathering for the fireworks; us waiting for the show to begin; and fireworks!

I couldn't help but get choked up as I stood there, watching this fabulous fireworks show, after such an incredible day in New York City. I was just filled with gratitude for where life had brought me and could not believe how lucky I was to be living in such an incredible place.

So, this incredibly New York-y Fourth of July takes its place on my countdown as yet another day in our four years here that left me overwhelmed and in awe of this city and how blessed I have been to call this place my home. It may seem strange that a place boasting freak shows and people stuffing their faces with hot dogs in the most disgusting manner would bring about this kind of response, but the heart wants what it wants, right?

To read the full account of our first New York Fourth of July, click here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Favorite NY Memories #8: "Rent" on Broadway

Oh, Broadway, how I love thee. When I started making this list, I knew Broadway had to make an appearance. But, how could I choose which particular show or moment? I have now seen 25 Broadway shows (and four off-Broadway). All were fantastic in their own ways and I loved every second of theater I have enjoyed in this city.

But then, it hit me, and it was so obvious. And so the number eight spot on my countdown goes to Rent, which we saw in its last week on Broadway, just two days after we arrived in New York City. That was the quintessential Broadway experience in my book.

Rent at the Nederlander Theater, September 2008

Before we came to New York, we caught wind that Rent would be closing, but that it had just extended its end date to be just a week after our scheduled arrival. In fact, thanks to the extension, we were able to buy tickets in the front row of the center balcony the day they went on sale. We ended up with a great view.

I remember we had arrived just two days earlier, were right in the midst of unpacking (and running up to Lincoln Center daily to use their free WiFi to connect with the world while we waited for our cable/internet to be set up), but we dropped everything and got dolled up for a night out - our first in the city. We walked to the show, which I thought was amazing. The show itself was fantastic, of course. Rent is one of my favorites, so I was not surprised. After the show we hung around the theater and ended up meeting three of the actors (those who played Mimi, Roger and Angel).

Outside the theater after the show

Happy to be new New Yorkers!

Then, we walked back home through Times Square, and it was just this "holy cow, I live in New York" kind of moment. I had wanted to live in this city for so long, and then all of a sudden, there I was, standing in the middle of Times Square on my way home to my New York City apartment after just having seen a fabulous Broadway show. I was so overcome with excitement for this new life I was entering into.

From our walk home through Times Square

Since that night, Eric and I have enjoyed so many fantastic shows, and I have been repeatedly hit with that "I'm so lucky" feeling I had the night we saw Rent, but never with quite so much intensity and excitement for what was to come. It was so surreal and so exhilarating. And that is how Rent takes its place on this list.

Click here to read all about our evening out for "Rent," or here for all Broadway-related posts.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Favorite NY Memories #9: Hugging Tim Tebow

Not only is hugging Tim Tebow one of my favorite New York memories, it's one of my favorite life in general memories. I actually added "Hug Tim Tebow" to my bucket list, thinking there would be no way I would ever be able to complete such a goal. But I did.

My love for Tim Tebow has been well-documented, and I even hung out in front of the Best Buy Theater (or rather, the Nokia Theater at the time) on the night of the Heisman Trophy presentation two years in a row (2008 and 2009) to catch a glimpse of him (the second year, he even got to see me walk into a parked car, because I am super smooth). But, these sightings left no time for hand shaking or autographs, much less hugs. But then, in May 2011, Tim Tebow was named the new spokesperson for Jockey and was scheduled to attend a Jockey event at Macy's in Herald Square. Among other things, this event offered people the opportunity to take a picture with Tim. As soon as I saw that on the little promotional flyer, I had that event marked on my calendar as Hug Tim Tebow Day. This was my chance!

Eric and I arrived at Macy's two hours early and were able to secure numbers that would get us a photo with Tim. With our prized photo tickets in hand, we were able to watch the Jockey fashion show taking place in Herald Square before it was photo and hug time. But before we knew it, the moment was upon us.

This little card might as well say, "YOU ARE GOING TO MEET TIM TEBOW!!!"

There he is!

Eric went first, shook Tim's hand and got his photo.

Hottest picture ever? Yes, I believe it is.

And then it was my turn. I walked right up to him, introduced myself and asked for a hug. AND THEN WE HUGGED. And it was glorious. The man is an excellent hugger.

We then posed for our picture, I mumbled some completely ineloquent things, and then it was all over. But, boy oh boy, my day was MADE.

Me with TIM TEBOW.

It should not surprise you that Tim was completely gracious, friendly and welcoming. And hot. And awesome.

Although my Tim Tebow Hug was my most favorite celebrity encounter in New York, Eric and I really debated this item number on my countdown because there were so many other wonderful celebrity events, too. Some were chance encounters, like running into Tracy Morgan at our grocery store (regularly!), or meeting Joe Biden just last weekend.

Ellie and Joe Biden

Some were red carpet events, for movie premieres or awards ceremonies (the Tony Awards were a favorite celebrity-watching event of ours).

Top row: Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Matt Damon
Bottom row: Al Pacino, Paul Rudd, Sarah Jessica Parker

Others were planned events, like book signings or official public appearances.

Top row: Tom Hanks, Nick Offerman, Joe Montana
Bottom row: Darren Criss, Rainn Wilson

Other times, we caught people filming movies or television shows.

Top row: Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin filming 30 Rock; Lea Michele and Kevin McHale filming Glee
Bottom row: Willie Garson filming Sex and the City 2; Matthew McConoughey filming The Wolf of Wall Street

But the one event that really tried to give Tim Tebow a run for his money on this countdown was the Dexter Season 5 Finale party. I went to the party for the Season 4 Finale in 2009, but Eric was out of town so he missed out on the free food, drinks, and meeting Desmond Harrington ("Quinn"). So, the next year, we made sure we were both going. The Season 5 Finale party was held at the Sheraton Hotel in Times Square, and Eric and I went early to secure a spot at the event. It was well worth the wait, as we ultimately ended up being among the 100 or so enjoying free (strong) drinks and food, meeting cast members and watching the season finale with them. It was awesome.

Enjoying some Dexter-themed cocktails at the party

Me with Jennifer Carpenter ("Debra Morgan") and David Zayas ("Sgt. Batista"), and Eric with Lauren Velez ("LaGuerta")

Yet, despite all these super fun celebrity encounters, Tim Tebow still wins out overall, taking the ninth spot on our countdown. As if there was ever any doubt, am I right?

To read more about the events in this post, click here for Tim Tebow, here for the Dexter finale party, here for our NYC Celebrity Sightings List and here for a complete selection of red carpet events.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Favorite NY Memories #10: "Top Gun" on the Intrepid

And so begins our New York Memories Countdown!

In June 2009, we had one of those perfect New York nights. We were nearing the end of an unseasonably cool and exceptionally rainy June, coming off our first New York winter. We were ready for summer and all it would bring - warm temperatures, sunshine, and fun events. By chance, we stumbled upon a lovely weather evening for our very first Movie Night on the Intrepid.

The Intrepid was docked not too far from our old apartment, and our favorite NYC barbecue place (Daisy May's) happened to be on the way. Our friend Jeff was in town for the weekend, so we picked up some 'cue and found a spot on the deck of the ship, right in front of the inflatable screen where they would be showing Top Gun. 

These movies on the Intrepid were such a fun summer activity. There was always a nice cool breeze on the deck. The views were spectacular with the sun setting over New Jersey to your right and the New York City skyline lighting up to your left. The movies were always well-chosen (Top Gun was the regular season opener, and others included Apollo 13, and Ghostbusters). The crowd would get into the movie as only a crowd at an outdoor movie can. And if you add in our favorite pulled pork for dinner plus the very unique backdrop of an old aircraft carrier, it was an experience unlike any other.

Crowds gathering for Top Gun

Sun setting over the deck of the aircraft carrier

On the deck of the Intrepid with the midtown skyline behind us

 We attended Intrepid Movie Night several times over our four years here, but nothing quite matched the "this is awesome" feeling of the first time. I just felt so in love with this city.

Really, though, summer entertainment in New York cannot be beat. Other incredible things that come to mind in that arena are a showing of The Wizard of Oz in Central Park, movies in Bryant Park, and, most of all, Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. All were free, although Shakespeare required hard-to-come-by tickets. If you were lucky enough to score some, though, you were in for a delightful summer evening of Shakespeare and whatever wine and snacks you brought with you. Eric and I both loved those plays so very much.

Inside the Delacorte Theater

Red wine, raspberry dark chocolate, and Shakespeare. Divine.

There's just nothing like a beautiful summer night in the city with more outstanding entertainment at your disposal than you could ever take advantage of. It's pure summer perfection.

Click here to read the full recount of our first movie night on the deck of the Intrepid!

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Happy Thanksgiving, all, from my family to yours!

We have so much to be thankful for this year, including:

- The incredible blessing of our sweet baby Elizabeth Alice, born healthy and beautiful in March, turning Eric and me from a couple into a family.

- That my labor and delivery went as it did, when there was the potential for things to go much worse. In the end everyone was just fine.

- My relationship with Eric, which has only grown deeper and stronger as we settle into our role as parents.

- The continued health and happiness of our family, especially Toni and our grandparents - all people Ellie is so lucky to have in her life.

- That our sweet nephew was born early, into a dangerous and frightening situation, but both he and his mother are doing so well.

- That Hurricane Sandy spared us any real damage or loss.

- That we have had the opportunity to live in and enjoy New York for over four fantastic years.

- That we have family and friends we can rely on to help us out when we really need it.

- The way things have been coming together for us as we figure out our next steps.

- The opportunities and new experiences that await us as we step into the next chapter of our lives.

We are so wonderfully blessed, and today as we celebrate this holiday with dear friends, we will be sure to take some time to take stock of where life has brought us and what lies ahead. We are so thankful.

Enjoy your holiday, my friends! Give thanks!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Counting Down

Well, my friends, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We are looking forward to the holiday, and will be spending it with good friends.

However, Thanksgiving has come a little too quickly for us this year. We know that once Thanksgiving is over, the final countdown of our last days in New York must begin. The twelve days between Thanksgiving and our NYC departure date are going to be incredibly busy ones, filled with both the tedious tasks of packing, cleaning and tying up loose ends before our move as well as the fun times of taking Ellie around town to see as much of a New York Christmas as we can possibly cram into twelve days. (It will be The Twelve Days of Our New York Christmas, if you will.)

All this will keep us very busy, so I will not be sharing any of that with you until we have arrived in Florida. In the meantime, however, I want to say goodbye to my beloved New York by spending the remaining days (with just a couple of exceptions for special occasions) reminiscing and counting down our top ten most favorite New York memories. These are the moments that, above all others, made our time here so incredibly fantastic. I have a list all queued up, and hope you won't mind taking a walk down memory lane with me as we say our goodbyes.

Before we get into my Official Favorite New York Memories Countdown, there are a couple of things that didn't quite make the cut, largely because they aren't discrete events and so did not fit my plan for this Top Ten. But, they are parts of the city that I just love so I simply can't leave them out. (Hey, do you have any idea how hard it is to narrow down four years' worth of out-of-this-world experiences to just ten favorites, anyway? It's HARD.)

And so, my New York Favorite Memories: Honorable Mentions are as follows:

Honorable Mention #1: Bryant Park

I have said countless times that Bryant Park is my favorite park in the city, but I think it actually be my favorite place overall. In the spring, it's a beautiful place to have lunch (which was Ellie's first NYC outing, actually!). In the summer, they have so many fun events (many that we took advantage of): movies on the lawn, free knitting lessons, Broadway in Bryant Park concerts weekly. In the winter, the lawn is transformed into a skating rink and the perimeter of the park is lined with great holiday shops. The Southwest Air porch is a fun little place to grab a drink, a snack and a Snuggie while you cuddle up by the fire pit. And, in addition to all these regular things, we have enjoyed other special events there, too, including the Madden NFL 12 Pigskin Pro-Am, their beautiful 9/11 tribute, and the sheep on the lawn.

Fun times in Bryant Park
Top row: Ellie's first lunch in Bryant Park; Snuggies and boozy hot beverages on the Southwest Porch with my friend Amanda; Broadway in Bryant Park with my friend Megan; Bryant Park's 9/11 Tribute; Citi Pond skating rink; the holiday shops
Bottom row: Crowds gathered for Movies on the Lawn; Madden NFL 12 Pigskin Pro-Am; Ellie checking out the sheep on the lawn; and people (including me!) gathered to learn how to knit

Honorable Mention #2: Lincoln Center

Lincoln Center is another one of my most favorite places in New York City, probably second only to Bryant Park. First of all, it's just beautiful.

Lincoln Center at night

Avery Fisher Hall

And then, of course, there are the events. We saw so many incredible events at Lincoln Center. Aside from events you can see in many cities (such as The Nutcracker, Idina Menzel in concert, etc.), there were so many events that we could not have seen anywhere else. From J.K. Rowling's only U.S. appearance to promote a novel, to John Williams conducting the New York Philharmonic, to the NY Philharmonic playing the music of West Side Story along with the film, to the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 premiere - almost every event just left me with that very overwhelmed is-this-really-my-life?! feeling.

Clockwise from top left: Me enjoying the fountain at Lincoln Center; feeling inspired after seeing The Nutcracker; Daniel Radcliffe at the Harry Potter premiere; and meeting J.K. Rowling

My Lincoln Center love runs very, very deep, and I will miss it so.

Eric and me after a wonderful show at Lincoln Center

Honorable Mention #3: The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge was one of my most favorite activities to take our visitors to do, because on a nice day it is just such a pleasant outing. However, Eric and I first walked across (well, halfway across) the Bridge on a very cold, snowy, windy December day. The positive side was that the bridge was virtually empty (a rare sight, indeed), but I have no idea why we thought that was a good idea.

We're having fun here, sure, but this was still a pretty stupid idea.

Since then, we have perfected the Brooklyn Bridge outing: we take the subway just into Brooklyn, then walk down to Brooklyn Bridge Park to enjoy the view. In the past, if we were feeling hungry, we would generally stop at the Ice Cream Factory to grab a cone while we wait in line for Grimaldi's pizza (at the very least, we always get ice cream, even if we're in the middle of a 42-mile bike ride!). Then, we walk back to Manhattan across the bridge. The views are beautiful and it's just a wonderful afternoon. Actually, the views are so great that I even used one of our pictures of the view from the Brooklyn Bridge for the header of this here blog!

Top row: Eric and me below the Brooklyn Bridge; the view of the Empire State Building from the bridge
Bottom row: The Ice Cream Factory sitting below the bridge; on the bridge with Molly and Heather; taking a break/ice cream stop during the Five Boro Bike Tour; Ellie's first time on the bridge

Honorable Mention #4: Christmas in New York

Christmas in New York is just magical. Everything is so beautifully decorated, you can't help but get into the holiday spirit. (Although I will admit that the increased number of tourists does its very best to suck the joy right back out of you - last year I worked right by Radio City Music Hall and tended to feel very Grinch-y during my evening commute thanks to crowds so thick I could barely get to my train.)

Bah-humbug to the crowds aside, Christmas in New York is such an experience. Although many signs of the season show up before Thanksgiving, the festivities officially begin with the arrival of Santa at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (we plan to take Ellie to Macy's to meet him this weekend!). Of course, the Rockefeller Center tree is spectacular. The store windows are sights to behold. The huge ornaments and light bulbs on Sixth Avenue are lots of fun. The Rockettes show should not be missed. There are ice skating rinks, holiday markets, twinkling lights and decked-out trees around every corner. There's nothing like it.

Christmas in New York
Top row: The Rockefeller Center tree; ornaments on Sixth Avenue; Radio City Christmas Spectacular; light bulbs on Sixth Avenue; Macy's decked out for the holiday
Bottom row: Window display from a past year at Bergdorf Goodman; the Wall Street Bull sporting a festive wreath; Cartier wrapped up in lights on Fifth Avenue; holiday market at Columbus Circle; the Empire State Building lit for the holidays

Our original favorite Christmas in NYC sight was the Stock Exchange. Our first year here, they replaced the flag that usually stretches across the columns on the front of the building with a flag made out of Christmas lights. To our disappointment, that light flag has not been back since our first Christmas. Our other favorite thing was the dancing snowflakes on the facade of Saks, which has now been replaced by some sort of laser bubble and snowflake show. Because they keep doing away with our favorites, I hesitate to even say what my current favorite thing is, but here goes: the musical stars in the Time Warner Center. They are huge, suspended from the ceiling, and their lights dance to the music that plays throughout the building. It's beautiful and I could watch them for hours.

Our Christmas favorites
Top row: Us in front of the snowflakes at Saks; Stars in the Time Warner Center
Bottom row: The old Stock Exchange lights; more of the stars at Saks

I know we will manage, but I have a hard time picturing getting so into the Christmas spirit in any other city. In New York, it's simply infectious.

Honorable Mention #5: The Skyline View

Oh, the skyline view. Every time I get a good look at it, it takes my breath away. I don't know how I am going to live my life without this view at my disposal. It just...I can't even describe how it makes me feel to look at those gorgeous lights.

The view has been a big thing for us since we moved here. As you may recall, our original NYC home was on a low floor and looked out on a courtyard enclosed by other buildings. However, a few months later when the economy sent rental prices downwards, another unit opened up in our building which included a near wall-to-wall view of the midtown skyline. As much as I hated to pack up and move again after just getting settled, I knew we could not pass up the view that the new apartment offered. When we moved in, we left our blinds open almost constantly so we could admire it at all times. From the comfort of our living room, we were able to watch the Empire State Building don many different colors for many occasions and causes. We were able to see the Tribute in Light downtown on September 11th. We were even able to watch the New Year's Eve ball drop from our bedroom. That view is permanently burned in my mind and I will never forget it.

All of the above pictures were taken from our old NYC apartment!
Top row: General favorite shots of the view
Bottom row: The Empire State Building lit for Thanksgiving; a full moon over the city; the Empire State Building lit for Christmas in the background, with our tree in the foreground; view at dusk; fireworks going off above the ball (between the buildings) at midnight on New Year's Eve; Achilles soaking in as much of the view as he could before we moved out

Then, we moved to Hoboken. It broke my heart to leave that view behind, but even though we couldn't see the skyline from our new living room, the view was spectacular just a few steps outside our building.

The view from Hoboken
Left side: The view from Pier C; Holiday Empire State Building; rainbow over Manhattan; Ellie enjoying the view of downtown on a snowy afternoon
Right side: Empire State Building lit purple for Prematurity Awareness last weekend

And of course, the view from Top of the Rock can't be beat. There is a reason Top of the Rock has become one of my favorite places to take our visitors. It's just stunning. The trick is to go just before sunset, so you can take in the view in both daylight and at sunset, and then watch the city light up as the sky turns dark. Time your visit for a night when the Empire State Building is lit in festive colors, and there's just nothing like it.

View from Top of the Rock
Top: The view on Election Night this year
Bottom: Ellie's first time at Top of the Rock; Eric and me enjoying a Gator-colored Empire State Building in 2009

Now, with these five Honorable Mentions officially honored here, we can move forward into the holiday (our last in the city, WAAAAH) and then on to saying our good-byes. Stay tuned for my Official Favorite New York Memories Countdown, starting Friday!