Thursday, September 26, 2013

New York City vacation - 2014

I think I've about recovered from my vacation to be able to post about the whirlwind weekend! You know how it is...a few days out of town and it takes a few weeks to recover, what with catching up on housework, laundry, grocery shopping and kid stuff! Here's the (long) story of our trip!

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Our day started before dawn, on my 40th birthday, yay! We had a 6:30am flight so we got to the airport in plenty of time. It had been five years since I'd flown and even longer for my husband, so passing through security/the body scanner/liquids in quart bags and all that was interesting. Glad I'd brushed up on all that beforehand by looking at Delta's website, because hubby was clueless to any of these rules.

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The flight was six hours east. I had the middle seat, blah. But everyone had their windows down so they could sleep anyhow. One of the coolest features on the plane was this trip ticker. It showed the plane over a simulated map so we knew where/what we were flying over as well as details about the outside temperature, the speed and the estimated time of arrival. Old hat to most people, but cool beans to us "country mice" who never go anywhere!

I had detailed instructions on an email from my boss about getting to our hotel from the airport and thus, our adventure began.

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From the air train we transferred to the subway.

A group of kids got on and started playing music and dancing around the poles, that was fun. And it was the least crowded subway we'd see for the rest of the weekend. Getting a seat was nice, that didn't happen very often!

From Grand Central we walked about 8 blocks to the hotel. Isn't this place gorgeous? And it was always busy like this when we went through. They must film all those movie and TV scenes here at 2am or something!

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That's my husband's elbow in the corner of the shot above. Poor guy, I'd only packed us a carry-on bag because the rolling luggage was too large and we didn't want to have to check luggage. Unfortunately this thing was heavy and he ended up having to carry it to and from the airport and the hotel. He's okay, he's young and strong!

We were starving by this point, having gotten up at 3:45am, shared a bottle of water and a Belvita in the airport and then scarfed down peanuts and Biscoff cookies on the plane. A slice of NYC thin crust was just the ticket. It wasn't the best pizza but by this point we would have eaten cardboard we were so hungry!

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We were staying at the W Hotel, an "intimate" space in mid-town. "Intimate" is code word for tiny. See the bed? You pretty much have to crawl over it to get to the window. But hey, what do we need a big room for? It's the two of us and we weren't here to hang out in the room, we were ready to hit the town.

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We headed out to explore the neighborhood. And we had a 7pm dinner reservation at Lavo! It was part of my winner's package, a $250 gift certificate. The restaurant was about a 20 minute walk and along the way we stopped to look inside shop windows and admire the buildings. First thing I noticed about the streets is that nobody waits for the crosswalk light to change, everyone just looks at the direction of the traffic and jaywalks. After a few blocks we got the hang of it too, easy with so many one-way streets. The traffic was never terrible that I noticed. Yes, there were a lot of taxis and yes, a LOT of honking! But we never saw any traffic jams or congestion where we went the entire trip. Still would rather walk and take public transportation though. All the cabs zipping around were wild, I would have been very nervous to drive!

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The restaurant was lovely with a bar in front and dining in back. Our servers were wonderful too, very attentive. We thought our guy looked like he could have been Leonardo DiCaprio's brother! They brought us a nice little loaf of garlic bread with marinara on the house and we each ordered a drink. We had a gorgeous plate of meat and cheese for an appetizer (they curled the delicate meats like roses!) and then each ordered a filet with asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes to share. Hello, that was a LOT of food!! Of course we couldn't finish it and Danny took our main and side dishes to-go. Total bill: $196!! Well, when 15 little asparagus are $11 a dish, you know that the dinner bill is going to be high. We tipped nicely and went for a walk.

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Our pretty appetizer

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We stopped inside FAO Schwarz, what a cool toy store. Oh how I love my Nerds! But one the size of a cereal box, wow, never saw that before! I certainly could have made a dent in it though...

The following morning we were up early to take the subway to the 9/11 Memorial. Talk about high security, it was like flying again, but we could understand of course. The water features are beautiful and there are kiosks where survivors can look up their lost family members and see a photo and directions on how to find their name on the memorial. We were sorry to have missed the museum but it doesn't open until next year.

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Unfortunately the memorial has no bathrooms and the closest public restrooms were many blocks away, at Battery Park. That's where we headed, to catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty and were fortunate enough to see an Indian wedding celebration (and a horse!).

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We walked a bit into Wall Street and being a Saturday, it was quiet. We took the subway to Times Square. I think I'd be more impressed at night with everything lit up. We worked our way back to the hotel, through Rockefeller Center, past Radio City Music Hall and stopping occasionally to window shop.

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If you know my husband you know he's not shy. One of my favorite parts of the trip is that my husband wanted to have his picture taken with every police officer he saw. And not one of them every rolled their eyes at him or gave him a hard time. They just wanted to know where we were from and if we were having a good time. Walking by Saint Patrick's Cathedral we saw a group of construction workers near their trailer. Danny asked if he could have a picture with them and explained that he also worked construction, mostly military jobs in California, which they thought was cool. These guys were so funny and showed us inside the church where some major reconstruction is being done.

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"Jerry! Get off the phone Jerry! Someone wants to take a pitcha!" (see Jerry there, trying to hide his phone!)

I never felt uncomfortable or nervous walking in the city, even at night. We were always surrounded by lots of people and we could always find someone to assist us. When we were looking for a place to eat dinner the following night, a nice man and his friend directed us to a great Irish pub with fantastic burgers and shoestring potatoes. When we were wandering around after the High Line, a young man and his wife showed us where Chelsea Market was. When we couldn't find the subway entrance to get to Times Square, a lady (finally someone with a classic NY accent!) directed us.

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But the best help was our concierge in the W Hotel. I can't recall his name but nearly every time we went in or our of the hotel, he was standing in the lobby with a warm hello or good evening. The first night Danny cut his ear shaving and this man quickly fetched antiseptic and a bandage. He was great with assisting us each day to point us in the right direction. And after a lengthy nap (all that walking tired us out!), he told us it was not too late to see a bit of Central Park.

It was about 20 minutes to get there and we were able to walk in the park for about a half-hour before the sun started to dip. My mother-in-law had given us specific instructions NOT to be in park after dark, so we obliged with her wishes and walked back out. I would have enjoyed exploring there a bit more, it looked so beautiful, having the greenery and trees set against the backdrop of skyscrapers.

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After burgers and beer for dinner (and great conversation with the adorable couple from Connecticut that sat next to us) we had ice cream from Walgreens in bed and went to sleep, feet throbbing! Boy, we sure did walk a lot that day.

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The next morning was our spa pampering at Bliss. Danny got a massage and I had a facial, so lovely. For lunch we headed back to Lavo. The accommodating manager had told us we could use the balance of our certificate and he even comped us each a drink! We headed back out for walking, visiting the High Line, eating handcrafted coconut milk popsicles, and walking through Chelsea. Loved all the stoops, we had to stop for a picture!

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Please ignore the dorky ensemble of dressy top, sweater (now around my neck because I was warm), jeans and sneakers. I was going for comfort at this point!

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In all, it was a fantastic trip and a totally new experience for us. I liked the busyness, that never bothered me. I liked to see how much New Yorkers loved their city and were always interested in helping you get where you needed to go so you could enjoy their city! We were told that we were experiencing the best weather week of the entire year! Back home it was over 100 degrees so we were happy to have comfortable sight-seeing weather, especially when walking so much!

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Some of the subway stops had really intricate tile murals

Public transportation (despite being filthy!) was really well-operated and surprisingly easy to navigate (except on Sunday getting back to the airport, when some of the trains were not operating!). The girls in NYC wear some terribly impractical shoes. Either flat sandals or sky-high stilletos! It was Fashion Week so we did see lots of 6' tall models in little skirts and wild shoes!
Such a fun trip and a lovely vacation with my husband, thank you again Armitron!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Big 4-0 in NYC

You might recall a few months ago when I won this trip to NYC from Armitron watches.

Well, the time has come!!

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We leave tomorrow morning, bright and early, on what happens to be my 40th birthday.

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I know some other women dread this milestone, but I honestly have no worries about turning 40. Yeah, I have to color my hair every six weeks. I don't get carded anymore. Whatever. Okay, so things are a bit squishier in the middle than I'd like. That's life. I don't mind getting older, as long as getting "wiser" comes along with it.

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Fifth grade, guessing I was around 10

In any case, my birthday will be spent flying to New York City with my husband, walking the city streets and enjoying a lovely dinner at Lavo. Over the weekend we will be touring the 9/11 Memorial site, walking through Central Park and getting pampered at Bliss Spa.

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Senior high school picture, age 16

I'm excited, of course. A chance to celebrate a milestone with new adventures! Happy Birthday to me!!

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Summer 2013, age 39

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

BTS 2013

I was so glad my kids didn't start school until after Labor Day this year. We had that extra week or so in August when most of the rest of the kids in the country had already started back up and we were able to do an overnight vacation and take it easy.

Labor Day was spent lazily, trying to keep cool. Well, actually we started off the day with a bang. After breakfast we took off for an ambitious walk to a nearby lake (about a 3/4 mile walk). Fortunately we packed plenty of water bottles because it was already really HOT at 9:30am. Unfortunately about halfway through the walk, I realized I'd not brought a diaper bag. Dan and the older two headed to the first lake to fish for a bit and I took the baby to the playground on lake 3. About an hour in, he announced to me, "poop" and we just couldn't make it to the restroom in time. The diaper was a lost cause and I pitched it in the trash, cleaned him up and let him ride back home without one (thank goodness he didn't go anymore). The walk back took about twice as long because it was nearly noon and hovering in the 90s by that time. We were worn out and wilted by the time we got home.

Danny spent the afternoon trying to repair the lawn mower and chatting with the neighbor about getting new fences, Baby D napped and the kids vegged out with the Wii. I have a boatload of Etsy orders to work on (yay!) so that's what I was tackling. Nothing like sitting in a toasty garage on a hot day, ironing!

After dinner we drove over to my mother-in-law's house for a refreshing evening swim and didn't get home until nearly eight. The kids have been used to this past week of staying up just a little bit later and sleeping in just a little longer. This morning had a few more eye-rubs than usual but they were just fine and ready to go on time.

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First day of school!

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The Girl attending a new school this year. She did attend another school in our district for six weeks of summer school so we'd already done the bus-thing and she was okay. She seemed to be equal parts excitement and nervousness. I felt badly that we'd never been able to even tour the school and at least show her where the bathrooms were!

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The Boy was blasé. He was a little edgy, in particular because according to the online list, some of his friends didn't make it into his new class.

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This one had to get in on the action. He was excited and had no idea why!

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After school we took them out for a back-to-school dinner at Souplantation to discuss the day and all was good. The Girl said the teacher gave everyone a tour of the school (so I had nothing to worry about). She even remembered the names of some of the kids in class. The Boy was glad because the friends that he didn't think he were in his class actually were, hurray! We all had salad and muffins and chocolate lava cake to celebrate.

It was a good first day back. And now on to the second day!

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After seeing his brother and sister get their picture taken, he jumped out of the truck and said, "Picky! Picky!" and stood up next to the fence for his photo op! Won't be too long, I know, till he's ready for his first day too.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Last week of Vacation-Knotts Berry Farm

Last week I took some time off to stay at home with the kids and to work a bit from home instead of going into the office. I loved being able to wake before them, work a bit before they got up, work through their breakfast, take a break for errands or to play and then work for a few more hours during the baby's nap. I loved it!

Fortunately my time at home coincided with a rare few days off during the week for my husband. He has been working in another county, a 3-4 hour round-trip drive every day. He wakes at 3:30am and returns around 7pm after a ten-hour work day, six days a week. Between phases, they offered him a few days off.

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Needless to say, a few days off were much needed! But instead of sitting around our 89 degree house, we drove north a bit and decided to take the kids to an amusement park. We spent the night before in Anaheim. The Girl had never been to Knott's Berry Farm, The Boy and I hadn't been since he was around 3 and my husband hadn't been since he was a child. We found great online ticket prices and were able to get in for the day under $150 total.

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Camp Snoopy

The park wasn't very crowded and occasionally we found spots that were near empty.

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In the Camp Snoopy area for the little ones we were usually able to walk right on the rides. For the more intense rides, waits were never longer than 20 minutes.

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He squealed all the way through this one!

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Think he might have liked this one?

We started with a few mild rides in Camp Snoopy and then while the baby slept, the big kids and dad darted from roller coaster to thrill ride around the park.

This is my absolute favorite photo of the day, The Boy looking like he's about to DIE! He was really having a blast, I think he just enjoys screaming his head off!

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The X-Cellerator is pure insanity. I've been on this coaster about 15 years ago and let's just say nicely, my lunch left me immediately afterwards!

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She loved it! And no, the ride didn't blow her hair bows off...Dad removed them before the ride just in case!

We took a break mid-day to walk over to Mrs. Knott's Chicken Restaurant and stuffed ourselves with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, buttered corn, boysenberry pie and all the warm biscuits and boysenberry jam we could eat!

The park has all these old statues of ladies on many of the benches throughout the park. My parents have a picture of me at about 4 years old (wearing green plaid bell-bottoms!), sitting on the lap of one of these lady statues. It's a fun little photo op, which my husband enjoyed taking advantage of.

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It was nice to get away together. Now...back to reality; School starts tomorrow!

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