Friday, July 31, 2009

Last Day in New York

Our last morning in New York City...we had to get up and pack our bags in preparation for leaving. Then we walked 12 or so blocks over to the Good Morning America studio in Times Square because our flight didn't leave until 11:00. (Quick breakfast at Jamba Juice.)

I was sad that our little getaway was coming to an end. Ryan and I had a really special time together; it was good for us to be together for 4 straight days. I was worried we'd get to a point of not having anything to talk about; after all, our conversations are usually so haphazard from being interrupted by the kids. However, we chatted and laughed constantly. It's sort of ridiculous that this was only our second vacation (for more than a night anyway) by ourselves. (We went to Dallas/Houston/Galveston the 2nd year we were married. Our other vacations before we had kids were with our families.) Even our honeymoon was pretty local (Tupelo, MS) and had to be cut short because we were starting our teaching jobs. We need to do this more often.

Back at Good Morning America...
Robin Roberts and Diane Sawyer, filming a segment outside
I knew that The Bachelorette, Jillian Harris, and the man she chose, Ed Swiderski, were going to be on the show, but I didn't know if we'd see them or not. As we were standing next to the window, watching what was going on inside the news studio (as people do), their car pulled up and out they came!!!After they went inside and we continued waiting, Eric Bana (who was promoting The Traveler's Wife) also got out of his car and went inside. Then next, it was Leslie Mann (who was there to promote Funny People).
Jillian and Ed, waving at their fans before they started taping their interview
After they finished their segment, Jillian and Ed came back outside to leave for Regis and Kelly. First, they signed autographs and posed for pictures with anyone who asked (no, I didn't ask). They were extremely gracious and sweet, making conversation with everyone.
Earlier in the trip, I made the comment to Ryan about how ridiculous it is to see in real life how the paparazzi scramble to take pictures of these people who just happen to be famous for being on our television screens. I said I felt like it finally clicked with me how dumb it is. As I felt this surge of pure EXCITEMENT seeing the Bachelorette and her fiance (after watching every minute of their show this season...I know that's silly, too; it's my guilty pleasure) and snapping pictures with shaking hands, squealing inwardly (maybe even outwardly) with delight, I said, "Who am I kidding? I haven't changed a bit." Haha.
The lobby of our hotel, Le Parker Meridian...we would definitely stay here again - great Central Park South location, cool rooms, the awesome pool, and everyone was nice and helpful. Plus, they had television screens in the elevators that played vintage cartoons like Droopy and Tom & Jerry or black and white Three Stooges and old silent films. My kids would definitely LOVE that. Might even make them forget to fight over who gets to push the elevator buttons.
Ryan and I were in this really strange state of mind, fading in and out of sleep on the flights home. We felt so groggy and out of it. I guess the week finally caught up with us. It was that weird kind of sleep when you close your eyes and fall asleep within 3o seconds but it seems like you immediately go into deep sleep. I would dream for another 30 seconds, then wake back up and then continue the process.

We made our O'Hare connecting flight much easier this time (There was only about 40 minutes between the flights, and the first time we were running as fast as we could to catch it - Ryan was laughing because he said I was running like Pheobe in the park on Friends...for the record, I don't think I was...and we made it on the last call, without a minute to spare).

It was storming when we arrived in Little Rock, and the plane descended, then went back up again and circled around another 30 minutes. I was freaking out, of course, in all of the turbulence. I wanted out of there, and when we finally landed, I was clapping louder than anyone. Does anyone else get tears in their eyes when people clap for the pilot? I always do.
I was plumb giddy with excitement to see my kids. Dash and Tornado had funny reactions upon seeing us. They ran and said they didn't want to leave Googie's (which I know is true), but I think they also didn't know how to process their feelings about being happy to see us (

Sissy, though, ran to me and hugged and kissed all over me, stroking my face and hair, then squeezing my neck again. So sweet. It's a good thing my kids were waiting for me at home, or else Ryan would have had a hard time getting me to leave NY.

(And they LOVED their doughnuts and toy cars!)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Third Full Day in NYC

We enjoyed another morning sleeping in until 9:30ish, then walked down to Jamba Juice at the corner. Thank goodness for a pretty healthy breakfast at Jamba Juice (steel cut oatmeal with fresh banana slices on top and fresh squeezed orange juice) because our eating kind of went downhill from there. We sort of went the junk food route. (Yeah, I know - this kind of junk food really isn't junk food; great ingredients are used. We just didn't really have anything fresh and were definitely lacking the veggies this day.)

I had really wanted to make it to a raw food restaurant today, and I'm not sure what happened with that. Anyway...we walked to the corner of Lexington and 55th where they were supposed to be filming the television series, The Good Wife. How do I know these things? There are websites, such as that tell you what things are filming in different cities each day. Silly or not, it's just one of my fun things I like to see and do.This advertisement was somewhere else in town; I'm just posting it to tell this story. There didn't seem to be any "action" going on other than setting up lighting, etc., then Julianna Margulies (you know, Carol from ER) walked by us. She had curlers in her hair and was holding a small child. We did another loop around the block, and then Josh Charles (you know, Knox Overstreet from Dead Poet's Society) went by. He was just walking down the sidewalk, and he gave us a big smile. Probably because my eyes were opened so wide from thinking "It's Knox Overstreet!"

Next, we took the subway up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I didn't realize it would be quite so large. We spent a couple of hours looking around, but clearly there was no way to see everything in that amount of time. And there was so much I'd rather wait and look at with the kids one day.
I tried to take pictures of paintings of artists the kids know about, such as Andy Warhol's Mao Zedong (in the far background). And there is this artist, Chuck Close. The paintings that completely look like photographs amaze me. It freaks me out.
We really enjoyed the modern art rooms, filled with paintings by artists such as Picasso,
You know, just a few people like that.
For lunch, we picked up two pieces of pizza at Viva Herbal Pizzeria in the East Village. I'd never had anything like the Picante Pizza on the right. They were both good.
Went back to Lulu's Sweet Apothecary...since we were "in the neighborhood" and all. We shared a banana split made with scoops of peanut butter and jelly, banana cream pie (oh, my gosh!), and toffee-something flavors topped with hot fudge and pineapple sauce, coconut whipped cream, and a cherry on top. I love the details in this place, such as they use my kind of cherries without the red food dye.

I wasn't going to add this embarrassing fact, but we got another twist cone to go. It's important to mention, though, for two stories. One, as I was walking out, the entire ice cream top fell off the cone, and as it was falling through the air, Ryan quickly swooped his hand and caught it, saving the day. But then, as we stood there, laughing, with chocolate rolling down both of our hands, (story #2) we suddenly felt sick with ourselves...what were we doing? A banana split then something else to go...we were embarrassed by our glutony.
Our next little venture was the mile walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. The walking path is up above the highway, and we enjoyed our little jaunt. I was, however, a little sore from walking all day, and my jaunt was a little bit of a limp. When we were standing in the middle, taking a little rest, Ryan whispered that the guy sitting a few feet away from us was Julia Robert's husband (Danny Moder), and he was with their twins. (I sort of looked at Ryan crazy that he picked up on something like that before I did.) I realized they ended up being in the background of a couple of pictures, but of course, I'm not going to post them because that would make me as bad as the paparazzi.
We hadn't had a chance to swim in our rooftop pool so we did that next. You can walk outside the enclosed pool area and go up another level of stairs to the actual rooftop, and it has an amazing view. We never had a chance to go up there after dark because it closes at 10:45, but I would have liked to.That night, we ended up in Brooklyn again and met up with another Ryan, who was a friend of mine from highschool; I hadn't seen him since college. He ate with us at Foodswings, a vegan fast food joint. I forgot to take a picture of our cheese fries, tofu "fish" stix, and philly cheese "steak" sandwich. It was fun to see a familiar face in the city and fun to get a feel of a different area in Brooklyn.

It was pretty late, but we hated to get in too early since it was our last night. I remembered that vegan doughnuts were supposedly delivered on Tuesday nights to a place, Atlas Cafe and Bakery, in the East Village so we took a little side trip. (My complaint about the subway system is there are no subways in a big portion of the east side, which is too bad because that is where a large number of vegetarian places are. It always requires a lot of extra walking. Which is usually fine, but my feet were really hurting at this point.)

Atlas isn't entirely vegetarian, but their dessert case was AMAZING. They get most (all probably) of their desserts from Vegan Treats, a place in Pennsylvania, whose website I've looked at, just for the fun of it, many times before. My purpose was to buy some doughnuts to take home for the kids. (I first called American Airlines from the Cafe to make sure I could carry them on. They said as long as they weren't jelly or cream filled - funny.) It was really hard, though, to pass up all of these BEAUTIFUL we ordered a piece of peanut butter cheesecake to share. My camera battery was dead at this point, but it had chocolate frosting on top with these large balls of peanut butter and good grief, so much other stuff going on you wouldn't believe. We could barely finish it. I told you we did not behave very well, food-wise, today. Oh, well - it was our last restaurant visit on this trip. Sigh

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

NYC Adventures Continue

The next day of our NYC getaway began with grabbing some oatmeal, cereal, and fruit at the Whole Foods underneath Columbus Circle. We walked while we ate before settling on a bench outside of Central Park. It was right before this that I lost my sweater. I realized I had left it in the taxi as soon as I stepped onto the sidewalk. What a total bummer. My cardigans are very vital to me, and this one was new and summery.

The Plaza

For lunch, we went to one of our favorite places from the past, Candle Cafe. Ryan had been dreaming about the cajun seitan sandwich for quite some time. That sandwich is always our go-to daydream, when we're sitting around and life isn't going too well. I'll say, "We could go to New York and get a cajun seitan sandwich..." In fact, I'm pretty sure it's the whole reason he wanted to come to NYC.

We ordered these citrus marinated seitan skewers for an appetizer (SO delicious; they were firm as seitan is, but when you bit into them, they literally burst with juicy flavor.)...

and then we shared the Cajun Seitan and the Tuscan Seitan Parmesan sandwiches. Yum-o.
Followed by a little caramel cheesecake and cherry pie with icecream. Ryan's cherry pie crust was so delicious, and I loved that it had glaze drizzled on top.

After lunch, we walked several blocks toward the Met, until it dawned on me that it might be closed on Mondays. It was. We took a cab back to the Columbus Circle and walked around a little more and saw production trucks with Gossip Girl chairs in the back. We hung around (inside Central Park) about an hour while they set up their cameras and lighting, etc.

The scene included Blake Lively and Leighton Meester (Serena and Blair). It was really fun watching them film the scene, and I may have gotten into an argument with a papparazzo. I couldn't hear anything they were saying, but we were right in the front row of the action.

That afternoon we walked to the Ed Sullivan Theater because we had tickets to see the Late Show with Dave Letterman. I had forgotten I'd even filled out the online form for tickets, because I assumed we didn't have a chance of getting them. Someone called me last week, telling me they had tickets for us so I was super excited. I had to answer a trivia question about the show because they only want actual fans to be in the audience. I was a little like - poo, I forgot to study up extra hard in case they call. Fortunately, I knew the answer, anyway.

We had to wait in long lines and be herded through several corrals in order to get our tickets, then be told when to come back to be seated. We just had about 45 minutes so we walked across the street to Jamba Juice. While we were in there, it started pouring rain, and we thought regrettably about our two umbrellas back in the room. We waited it out in JJ, then when it was down to a slight sprinkle, ran down to a gift shop to purchase another umbrella, as well as a toy police car, NYC limo, and red tour bus for our three kiddies.

More herding and line waiting until we were finally seated. We had great seats, and the show was super fun from start to finish. A comedian came out to entertain and get the crowd warmed up. Paul Shaffer and the CBS orchestra ran out and were introduced before playing a few songs. Dave came out and talked to the audience for a bit before the taping began. Guests included: Ted Alexandro from the Comedy Cellar and Regis Philbin (coincidentally, he was one of the guests when I was at a Jimmy Kimmel Live taping) The musical guest was Dave Matthews Band; they were great!

It's always so entertaining going to these tapings. It's free, first of all, and they really "do it up" to make it a fun experience for the audience. And it's funny to watch Dave "mess up" or make improvisational jokes, like the time they ran out of cue cards for him.

We went to supper at Cafe Blossom.
Appetizers: crostini topped with hummus, basil walnut pesto, and tomato basil bruschetta. Delicious.

Cafe Blossom is definitely one of my new favorites in the city. I think it was the most flavorful food I've ever had in my life. We made ourselves order entrees because we just love sandwiches so much, it's hard not to order them every time. I don't even remember what our first dish was exactly: seitan with greens, and I don't even remember what that bottom layer was - maybe herb potato cake. But it was all sitting in cream sauce; I've never had anything like it. So good.

We also split the fettucini alfredo with mushrooms, tomatoes, soy cutlets, and spinach. Also delicious.

And topping off the evening with cheesecake and a butterfinger shake. We walked all the way home, which hopefully burned off some of the calories from this ridiculously decadent feast. We have been taking long walks all throughout the days. Just in case you were worried we have only been eating.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I Heart New York

My birthday present was...tada...a trip to NYC with my husband. This is my 4th trip to NY, and those who know me well, know it is my favorite place. We left Saturday and are having a fabulous time!

Our flight was fine and uneventful (besides my constant gasps at every little change in movement or sound - I don't like being in the air) and flew by with constant, uninterrupted conversation, a competitive round of the dot game, and the perusing of Sky Mall magazine. Might I recommend (my wish list) the chewy edges brownie pan, inflatable movie screen, portable microwave, nut butter maker, portable exercise bike, head spa massager, digital receipt scanner, and portable laptop table perfect for when I am on my back in bed.

After checking into our hotel at 10:30ish p.m., we headed down to Curly's Vegetarian Diner. I live in a state with NO vegetarian restaurants, and I'm commonly faced with having only iceberg lettuce salad to choose. That's why this trip was so fun and important. We were really hungry and shared the tofu scrambler with spinach, salad, toast...

and curly fries with gravy - which, I think, is Ryan's new favorite food. He may frame this picture he loved them so much...

and a stack of pancakes with fruit plus "bacon" and sham. I LOVE breakfast food.

We enjoyed a leisurely walk back to our hotel, stopping through all the action at Union Square Park.

We are very happy with our hotel and our room on the 27th floor.

view from our floor - Central Park in the background

The next morning, after sleeping in as late as we wanted (about 9:30), we went to babycakes bakery in the lower east side, then walked around the area.

I chose the chocolate brownie cupcake, and Ryan chose lemon. We also shared a berry/cream biscuit. It was all yummy but a little too expensive.

I'm going to be honest; babycakes is not my favorite place. I think the desserts are a little dry. (The berry part of the biscuit was probably the best for me.) However, I have only been there once, and maybe it was just that day. It's really hard for me to give any sort of criticism toward a vegetarian/vegan establishment. I'm so happy they're THERE. I want them to succeed. It's so much better than anything I could order where I live. And I will bring my kids back here one day because it will be fun to let them order anything they want from the case.

We next headed to the Tompkins Square Park area, where we checked out Sustainable NYC, a really fun store, full of organic, local, fair trade, re-purposed/recycled, and biodegradable products and gifts. One of the things I bought was this wallet. I definitely loved this store.

Ryan, walking by farmers' market area at Tompkins Square Park

Lunch at Kate's Joint, where I've eaten several times before...we ordered the TLT (tofu, lettuce, tomato) and Southern Fried Cutlet sandwiches - both very similar but so good. The really fun thing about going to these restaurants with Ryan is ordering two things and always splitting them. It helps with having to narrow down such a difficult decision.

Accidentally wandered upon Washington Square Park, on our way to the "ice cream" shop

The first all vegan ice cream shop I've ever seen - Lula's Sweet Apothecary. It was really cute with a broad choice of ice cream flavors (which we got to sample!) to choose from. Just like Baskin Robbins, complete with tiny little ice cream spoons. :) No, I didn't eat both of those cones, even though that would have been a fair assessment. Ryan got rum raisin, and I got (SOFT-SERVE!!) cake batter/chocolate nut twist. It was REALLY good. Twist cones were always my favorite (dairy) thing, growing up.

I was so excited about being in Lula's, I remember I said, "They even have flurries!" Ryan asked, "What's a flurry?" "'s...(as I start laughing) I don't know! But they have them!"

I just realized I got these pictures out of order, with good reason. I naturally would have assumed we ate the ice cream AFTER lunch...not right before supper, as it actually happened...oops.

After lunch, we went to see God of Carnage, starring James Gandolfini, Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis, and Jeff Daniels (you know, from Dumb and Dumber) on Broadway. I LOVE going to shows, and this one was very entertaining. It was Ryan's first Broadway show, and he really enjoyed it, as well.

We ate supper at Candle 79, an elegant, romantic, organic/vegan spot. We sat upstairs by the window, which was really nice. I must stress how nice it has been to just sit, talk, and take our time eating at a nice restaurant. We had the nachos for an appetizer. It's blurry, yes, but I didn't want to retake it. I wasn't going to even take the pictures in this restaurant, but by the time our food came, there weren't many people around us. Mostly just one young couple (weird how we're not a "young couple" anymore) who appeared to be on a date and smiled when I took the picture because my bright flash went off. Ryan apologetically said, "She really likes vegan food."

I got a seared seitan caesar salad, and Ryan ordered the Spring Harvest paella.

For dessert, Ryan ate the mixed berry crumble with chamomile "ice cream." I had the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss. Clearly, I would pick whatever has chocolate and bliss in the title. When they brought it out, I thought it was the tiniest dessert I'd ever seen (but cute!).

I think it was the BEST dessert I've ever put into my mouth.