Wild Week in the City!

Wild Week in the City!

Last summer, Jason, Henry and I were discussing what we wanted to do for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’d all been hankering for a trip to New York, but also to St. Simons or anywhere else, really. We decided that New York it was. We would go for the Macy’s Parade and take a whole week to make it the most amazing trip ever!

So of course, I started planning! We’ve been so many times, I knew what all we would do, but wanted to add some extra fun! I got help from so many friends and together, we made a super fun itinerary that pleased a mom, a dad, and a 10 year old boy.

This is long, so skip ahead or whatever!

Monday, November 24

Our favorite way to go to the city is to leave before the sun comes up and get there before people even leave for work! This was the earliest we’d ever left, though, on a 6am flight out of Atlanta. Yes, that means a 3:30 departure from our house. But? We landed in NYC at 7:50 and were in the hotel by 9. Boom. Full day in the city!

Jason had started a new job November 1, so he wasn’t technically off for the week. He spent Monday and Tuesday, day and night, in Long Island while Henry and I stayed in Manhattan. He would join us on Wednesday morning. So we got to the airport and said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Odd…

Henry and I got to our hotel around 9 and surprisingly, our room was ready! We love to stay at the Hotel Metro, a Midtown hotel about half a block from Macy’s Herald Square, because of their family rooms. For about the same price as a Times Square room, we get two bedrooms — one with a queen bed and one with two doubles. Space for each of us! It’s close to Metro stations and a Starbucks! They have a wonderful bar and restaurant attached and did I mention how convenient it is? Win Win WIN!IMG_0856

It was strangely warm that day, so Henry and I ditched the coats and any extra layers and headed out. First stop — Times Square. We grabbed a hot dog, hit the M&Ms store and Toys R Us and took a bunch of goofy pictures.

We had planned for a while to meet up and hang out with my friend Neil who lives in Queens. He had found a cool exhibit going on at Discovery Times Square that Henry was so excited about. It was an interactive Avengers exhibit that takes you through intelligence files of the Avengers or something. I didn’t fully understand but Henry thought it was the bee’s knees!

Henry and I met up with Neil after the Avengers exhibit at John’s Pizzeria for some lunch. The pizza was excellent, the beer was cold, and the company was fun! Afterwards, all three of us went and walked around the area. We hit Bryant Park and the NYC Public Library (which Henry thought was really cool) (I thought there were way too many steps considering we woke up at 2:30am).

Afterwards, we headed to Grand Central Station to look around and get a snack at Junior’s. There, Neil treated us to cheesecake and real chocolate egg creams. Uh, I thought the egg cream sounded disgusting until I tried it and now I think about them at least once a day because hello deliciousness!IMG_0875

Henry and I headed back to the hotel where he promptly went to sleep — at 5pm — and I didn’t dare wake him. I wasn’t far behind!

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Tuesday, November 25

Tuesday morning, we slept in a little. We met Neil at Macy’s to head up to the UES for breakfast. Because Jason and Henry are such Seinfeld freaks, he thought it would be cool to go to Tom’s Restaurant. Tom’s is the restaurant they used as the facade for Monk’s Cafe on the show. Since Jason couldn’t go, it was just us and Henry thought it was way cool! We had pancakes and eggs and a typical (but delicious) diner breakfast. We plotted out our day and set out for more fun!

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Since we were up on the UES, we went to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. Oh, it was absolutely beautiful! Henry was in awe on the inside of the cathedral and even more so outside when a few peacocks walked by. In the city. Peacocks. Just seemed odd!

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Walking back over towards the main road, we walked through Columbia University. It was beautiful, too. I was freaked out being at a university where people weren’t decked out in orange and blue, saying War Eagle to each other, though. I did feel my IQ points jump up a little just being on campus!

We took a cab down to The Met where Henry enjoyed the Egyptian exhibits and the Knights exhibits. It’s one of the museums I’d never been to, so I was excited to see the Tiffany windows and the Death Becomes Her exhibit.

Lunch was at Alice’s Tea Room, a place I’d wanted to go for a while, but apparently it’s not as awesome in real life as it is online. Lunch was good. The wait was horrible. And Neil and Henry thought it was girly. Oh well…

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We moseyed down to Rockefeller Center where Neil was meeting someone to take pictures later. We did some run-throughs so he would know the best places to take the pictures over near Radio City Music Hall.

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Henry and I headed back to the hotel and had a little bite to eat and crashed! A winter rain/sleet storm was predicted to come in overnight and Jason was already planning to come into the city earlier the next morning than originally planned. Sleep came easy after a long day in the city!

Wednesday, November 26

Wednesday was a very lazy day. It rained buckets, was cold and painfully windy.

Henry and I got up super early and threw on clothes so I could meet Catherine, a mom who lost her daughter to Group B Strep earlier in the year. I take every chance I can to be able to give real life hugs to fellow bereaved moms. Braving the elements was nothing compared to the early days of grief that she was facing. We quickly scooted back to the hotel to warm back up, though!

Jason came straight to the hotel from Long Island and we decided that we would ditch our plans to go to the Statue of Liberty that day. The only thing worse than walking around in the city in wind, rain, and sleet, would be going on a boat to an island in the wind, rain, and sleet!

The three of us took advantage of a day of rest. We napped, had lunch next door at Playwright Bar and Lounge.

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We went the half block over to Macy’s to goof off and then napped some more! Dinner was also close to the hotel at Liberty NYC. I highly recommend this restaurant — it was excellent!

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Back to the hotel we went to hit the bed early and get our plan of attack for the Macy’s Parade the next morning!

Thursday, November 27

Up EARLY for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This has been a goal of mine — to go back and be a spectator — since I participated in the parade in high school. So of course, I jumped out of bed like it was Christmas morning! We bundled up (not enough) and headed out at 6:30am. Yes, the parade starts at 9. No, we’re not insane. We got a sweet spot at the corner of 38th and 6th, right on the fence. Front row, baby!

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We sat. We waited. We met the people next to us who were absolutely amazing. We watched protestors get tackled to the ground and arrested. We complained. We squeeeeeed when we could finally hear the parade coming!

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The parade in person is absolutely nothing like what you see on television. There’s a lot of behind the scenes scheduling that is too long to share in this post, but that makes it not flow well in person. But… if it’s a bucket list item, it’s one of the most amazing things you can do! In fact, put it on your bucket list right now! You’ll be glad you did.

Yes, I cried like I always do. Yes, my boys laughed at me. Yes, it was totally worth it all!

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Of course, Henry got too cold and then overheated (frostbite?) and almost passed out. He was fine, but jeez, kid, can’t we go to a parade without you falling out?

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It was snowy and drizzly and by the time it was over, we were done. D.O.N.E. Done. We hobbled back to the hotel on frozen numb feet and grabbed lunch at the hotel. And then napped.

I had made reservations for Thanksgiving dinner at Rock Center Cafe. We walked up to Rockefeller Center and had a glass of wine (and Shirley Temple) at the bar. Our dinner was amazing. Best filet ever, maybe! It was fun to eat on the skating rink level and see people enjoying skating while we dined.

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But we were exhausted. We detoured through Times Square to see it all lit up before going to the hotel!

Friday, November 28

Breakfast was at Andrew’s Coffee Shop. You may remember this restaurant from our last trip.

Stupidly, we decided to walk to the Intrepid Museum. It didn’t seem like it was going to be THAT far, but it was extremely cold and windy and well, it was dumb. But, in spite of that, this may have been the highlight of the trip for both Jason and Henry. Boy or girl, I HIGHLY recommend this museum as part of your visit.

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The Intrepid Museum is not only an aircraft carrier with many aircraft on board, but it also houses a submarine, a space shuttle and the British Airways Concorde. Tickets aren’t cheap, but I can say with certainty that they were worth every single penny. It was really all worth it just to see Jason’s excitement while he sat in the Concorde’s cockpit jump seat!IMG_1245

After the Intrepid, we took a cab over to 5th and Central Park and walked down 5th Avenue back towards the hotel. A stop at Tiffany (I got a ring), Saks, Louis Martin (Jason got a watch) and the Lego Store and we were done for the day.

We headed back down to the hotel and decided to eat at the Korean restaurant nearby. None of us had ever eaten Korean and it was to DIE for! Like the egg cream, I think about Korean almost daily. Must find a good restaurant near us!

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Saturday, November 29

We had breakfast at Andrew’s again. It’s so close to Hotel Metro and delicious, it was hard not to!

Afterwards, we took the subway down to Chinatown. Jason and Henry had wanted to find chicken feet to eat but luckily, they didn’t. I was already planning to gag and be dramatic the whole time. We did find a little grocery store and went in and bought all kinds of little treats! I found some black bean treats that were divine. I need to find out how to get more!

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We lunched in Little Italy at Caffe Napoli where Henry had meatballs the size of his head!

We walked to Lower Manhattan to the 9/11 Museum and Memorial. This is also a must-see. I had been to the Memorial, but not the museum. Jason and Henry hadn’t been to either. I wrote about the trip and strange events HERE.

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Being me, and well, us, we went back to the hotel after that because Georgia and Georgia Tech were playing and Auburn and Alabama were playing. So we ate hotel appetizers in the room and drank overpriced beer for the evening!

Sunday, November 30

Our last day. Like we like to get to NYC early, we like to milk the last day for all it’s worth. Our flight is out at 4:30pm so we have all morning plus lunch to goof off before having to head to the airport. And with it being the weekend after Thanksgiving, we plan to give ourselves plenty of time in the airport.

We grabbed breakfast at Tick Tock Diner in The New Yorker Hotel. I had nutella french toast and almost had to go to the hospital due to the awesomeness coma I was in!

All Henry wanted to do the whole trip was go to Central Park Zoo. We didn’t tell him where we were going, but took him there for our last morning! It is always so fun to see the zoo. Such a strange site to be standing in the middle of it with huge city buildings all around.

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Afterwards, we went to FAO Schwarz and back to our hotel to get our things.

It’s always hard to say goodbye to our favorite city, but seeing the city shrink behind us as we drove to LaGuardia was super hard this time. I don’t know if it was because we had been there for a full week or just because it was magical. But there’s always next time… which I’m already planning!

#snOMG: Makeshift Preparations and Being Lucky

#snOMG: Makeshift Preparations and Being Lucky

“Expect just a dusting up to about ½” of accumulation.”

That was the word on Monday night. At 8am on Tuesday, in spite of the forecast changing to 1-2″, our school district sent an email stating that, “Based on information we have received from the National Weather Service and our Inclement Weather Team, the OUR County School District will open all schools today.”

At 12:30pm on Tuesday, our school district sent an email stating that school would be closing at 1:30, to come get your kids. Luckily I saw it on Twitter at noon and left work. I left work that is 40 minutes away.

Three hours later, I pulled in my driveway.

I was one of the lucky ones. My son was able to go home with a friend across the street so I could park at home and walk to get him.

My husband, who was supposed to be leaving to go to Canada for work, tried to leave to head to the airport, spun out three times (full 360’s), and after 3 hours, abandoned his car in a subdivision because Uber was able to come pick him up. The airport shut down. No trip.

He walked down our driveway 5 hours after he left the office.

He was one of the lucky ones.

All under one roof, I realized I wasn’t prepared. I had prepared for maybe one night with just me and the kiddo. Jason was supposed to be gone. I had not planned for otherwise. I felt panicky knowing that I hadn’t done all I could to prepare for this mess.

We were prepared for fun, though. As reports of people being in cars for 8-9-10 hours crept in, we were throwing snowballs and dusting off the toboggan.

Fear and mass chaos gripped the Atlanta metro area while we sipped hot chocolate and took cute pictures in the snow.

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Around 7, it was decided that Jason needed to walk about a mile and pick up one of Henry’s friends whose mom, at that point, had been in the car for 7 hours and was sitting still where she had been for 2 hours. Jason bundled up, got his walking stick, grabbed Henry’s hiking boots for the friend, and set off in the dark and cold to retrieve an 8 year old whose mom was stranded.

He was one of the lucky ones.

There were children spending the night in schools. And cars. And floors in shelters. Henry’s friend spent the night and the morning here until his mom could safely navigate the roads to get him. We had pancakes and snow creams, went on the toboggan again and again, made snow angels and made memories. She was grateful and my heart was happy to be able to help her.

Our city wasn’t prepared for the snow, the ice, the traffic disaster, any of the insanity that has occurred. None of us were. I wasn’t prepared with food and stuff for more than just me and the kid, but we have managed.

We made (very cold) lemonade out of the lemons we were handed, because sometimes you just have to do that. At the ended of the day, makeshift preparations can make sweet memories. Because after all, as long as we are all safe, warm, fed, and together, we’re always prepared, very lucky, and full of love.

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I Believe…

I Believe…

Last Sunday morning, I woke up with an itch. An itch that’s been building for over a year now.

When my friend Nic put on Facebook that she was in town, I knew it was the day. I knew SHE would go with me.

Back in the fall, I got Robin Plemmons, one of my favorite people and most fabulous artists, to write a simple word on an index card. I knew that when I finally did it, I wanted HER touch to it.

One practice on my arm…

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art by robin plemmons, in sharpie

And one pass on the index card, and I had my art.

I knew this was the word. For a while, this word had popped up in all kinds of places exactly when I needed to see it. It continuously reminds me of so much.

It reminds me that I believe in ME.

I believe with all my heart that good comes from bad.

I believe that love always wins.

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art by me, in henna

I believe in God, and believe that others don’t have to believe in my God. I will still love them because remember, I believe that love always wins.

I believe that sometimes life is hard, but trudging through the mud and muck will make you a stronger person in the end.

I believe in Auburn, and I love it.

I believe in community and giving back with time and money, even if both are limited.

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from the book ‘believe’

I believe I am blessed. I’m blessed with a beautiful family, a personal guardian angel, and amazing friends.

I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. I also believe that some of the best song lyrics are part of cheesy songs.

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my friend’s son, who believed he could run for a medal at disney

I believe that strangers can have profound impact on you when you least expect it.

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random stranger with believe sign on main street at disney

I believe that the tides will always rise and fall, the skies and seas will have to be angry before they can be calm, and mother nature knows what she’s doing.

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sand writing by me, 2013

I believe that we are all led to places and situations that make us stronger, even if it feels like it may kill us.

I believe our stories matter.

I believe we all have the right to our own opinions, that yours isn’t any better than mine and I won’t love you any less for yours.

my mother's day gift

my mother’s day gift

Last Sunday, my sweet friend rode to Psycho Tattoo with me and held my hand (and took pictures) as I got my favorite word permanently placed on my wrist. It’s there for all to see, but mostly, it’s where I can hold it close to my heart and be reminded when I need to be.

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chet at psycho tattoo in marietta, ga

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art by robin plemmons, permanent ink by chet

This is my permanent, daily reminder that if we believe in something, anything, we can learn to believe in ourselves and others.
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The Big Red Boat OF DOOM!

The Big Red Boat OF DOOM!

All the chatter about Carnival Cruise Line’s doomed cruises lately has reminded me of my family’s cruise history. I give you the story of doomed cruises, Herbert style…

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When I was young and my parents were still in the jewelry business, we bought from a company that gave cruises if you bought a certain amount of product from them over the course of a year.

We cruised the seas on the Premier Cruise Line (aka The Big Red Boat, aka Disney Cruise Line before DCL existed) and it was great fun.

A few years in, after cruising every year to Nassau, they switched it up and we went to The Abacos.

The trip was uneventful until the morning we were supposed to go through a small channel to enter The Abacos or some other nonsense. The weather was bad and we couldn’t get through.

Apparently this had never happened before. OF COURSE IT HADN’T.

We turned around or something and went over to Nassau. Again. (I know, rough life?)

Premier gave everyone 50% off cruises and we took them up on it.

The next year, we hopped the same boat with the same itinerary.

Guess what?

Yup. It had only happened once before and again, we found ourselves on the cruise that couldn’t thread through the teeny tiny channel.

Back to Nassau. More braids and haggling with people over $1.50 trinkets made of paper (or imported from Vietnam).

Oh well. 50% off another cruise for 4 people. We’ll take it.

Third cruise booked. This time with my Aunt, Uncle, and two cousins. It was great fun!

UNTIL WE COULDN’T GET THROUGH AGAIN!

According to the cruise line, this had only happened TWO other times in the history of navigating the miniscule channel that had been dug by hand by Oompaloompas apparently. And guess what? We were on all of them.

Free cruises for all! WHEEEEEE!!

We booked another cruise. Same ship. Same place. Because, well, obviously we’re insane.

When we boarded the ship, the Captain greeted us. We were “the family” that was doomed. I’m sure he wanted to kick us off so they would make it through the pin-head size lane to The Abacos.

But instead, he greeted us with open arms, a fruit and champagne basket in our room, and an invitation to breakfast in the steering room of the ship to watch him thread through the channel.

Even on vacation, we bounced out of bed at some ungodly hour and went down to the ship’s steering room. If it had been me NOW, I would have had my sister hold me while I hung off the front of the ship ala The Titanic, but alas, we just sat there and minded our manners while a (probably drunk) Captain steered us SUCCESSFULLY through the channel.

We were thrilled to finally see The Abacos. It was as gorgeous as reported in all the travel brochures.

The only part of that cruise that truly sucked, was the fact that it was the end of the line for free and discounted cruising for us.

Kickin’ It With The Rockettes

Kickin’ It With The Rockettes

I can officially say I’ve danced with The Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.

Ok, maybe that’s a stretch, but it’s technically true.

A few weeks ago, BlogHer opened up sign-ups for The Rockettes Experience, sponsored by Centrum and Caltrate. I was so lucky I was able to get one of the spots because there were very few it seems (maybe 100?). It was for an hour-long session at Radio City with ACTUAL, REAL LIFE, LONG-LEGGED ROCKETTES!

I’ve already told you this was a dream come true for me.

It met all of my expectations and more.

Bright and early, at 7am on Friday, we all headed across to Radio City Music Hall and stood in line outside the stage door. I hooked up with my friend Kate from The Guavalicious Life. I was so excited to have a partner in crime to hang with (and knew she would take me to the ER if I broke my body).

Of course, we got goofy with the sign inside at the desk when we checked in.

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I can’t tell you how exciting it was to simply walk down the hallowed halls of the back areas of Radio City. This is where all the magic happens. The classes, the training, the choreography for the amazing performances… it all happens right there where we stood.

These mannequins were obviously (I assume) showcasing costumes from years past. Of course, I had to touch them.

Here I should tell you that Kate and I were giggly and giddy the whole time. Maybe it was the time of day, though.

They put us all in a room and then split us up into two groups. Kate and I were in the pink group. From there we headed to the studio rooms for our Experience.

Dumb me didn’t get our beautiful Rockettes’ names. I was too busy noticing their legs that were as long as my whole body, their toned bodies and the way they held themselves as if to say, “I’m a Rockette.”

Both of them were very humble about their position in the group. They were 6 and 8 year veterans, having to try out every year. They don’t take it for granted, and even admitted they get weepy at different points of their performances.

They taught us how to march like they do in the Parade of The Wooden Soldiers. I can imagine them with their pink cheeks and heavily starched pants. That’s one of my all time favorite routines of any group I’ve seen perform. In high school, I choreographed a routine for our dance team that had sections of this routine in it.

The Rockettes have been performing this routine since 1933 in their Christmas Spectacular. The girls shared an interesting tidbit with us. During Q&A time, I asked how do they change so fast between songs. They said they have a whole process back stage that is nearly as elaborate as what we see on stage. Some costume changes are as little as 80 seconds. At the end of the Wooden Soldiers, when they slide down on each other, as they get up, they unzip the person in front of them so their costume change is faster. SO COOL!

Later, we did high kicks. Sadly, I can’t kick very high anymore. In my mind, I can still “kick my hat” like the Rangerettes and way back when, kicking at eye level was no big deal.

It was exhilarating just being in the same room, in the same building where some of the most amazing dancing and performing has gone on, dancing… even if I’m about 30 pounds overweight and so not limber anymore.

For an hour, I felt like if I HAD been an inch and a half taller in my younger years, I truly could have been a Rockette. I could have tried out and maybe made the group. I could do everything they do and I did it well. They didn’t call me Miss Dance America for nothin’, y’all!

The giddiness Kate and I felt, will last a lifetime. It was truly an experience I’ll never forget.

Thank you to Centrum and Caltrate for sponsoring this Rockettes Experience and to BlogHer for affording us this opportunity.

ps: I didn’t cry until I got in the shower.

pps: I totally should have shown up in a Wooden Soldiers costume.

ppps: I didn’t break any bones or rip any muscles.

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