Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Whirlwind Trip to New York City

It has been almost exactly two years since I was last in NYC. The whole reason for making the trip was to visit some of my best friends who live there. We would have loved to stay one full week or more, but it was too expensive! Of course, it wasn't easy trying to see everyone in three short days, but we managed to see a good percentage.

After landing at LGA late Wednesday morning, we hung out for about an hour in the LGA SkyClub killing time until we could check into our hotel. We took public transportation (M60 bus then N/Q subway) to 39th Ave in Long Island City and walked to the Ramada from there. I had tried to bid for hotels in Manhattan on Priceline, but couldn't find anything under $150 per night. We paid $99 per night with our AAA discount to sleep across the river.
We had already bought three tickets on Stubhub to the Mets game that evening. Originally my friend Corey was supposed to go with us, but he wasn't feeling well. Luckily my flight attendant friend Gretchen was available and willing to join us. After drinking beer and eating a late lunch at The Ginger Man (one of NYC's best beer bars), we met Gretchen at Grand Central Station and took the 7 train out to Citifield. The game was initially delayed for about 30 minutes due to heavy rain, but it finally cleared off enough to play. We had fun watching the game and catching up with Gretchen and didn't get back to the hotel until midnight (the game went into extra innings; we left at the top of the 12th).
More rain was in the forecast for Thursday so we opted to see a different kind of "MET" - the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Suggested admission is $20 per person but Greg & I chose to pay only $10 total. We had been to the MET before when we first started dating in 2009, so this time we just focused on the things that most interested us:  European Paintings (c1230-1800), Egyptian Art, Medieval Art (c300-1500), and 19th- and Early 20th- Century European Paintings and Sculpture. In the process of roaming around the museum we also saw the Musical Instruments collection which was pretty interesting. Sadly, the Robert Lehman Collection, American Wing paintings, and Roof Garden were all closed for various reasons. About halfway through our four hour visit we ate lunch in the cafeteria. Two bread bowls of minestrone soup and one bottle of water cost us $18!
After our museum excursion, we returned to the hotel to clean up and change clothes for dinner. I had organized a get-together with some of my best friends from Nokia (where I was working when I left NY in 2009). There were eight of us total (four couples) and we had a great time catching up and eating a delicious meal at Rouge et Blanc in SoHo. Greg & I also received our first official wedding present (excluding the cash that both of our parents have given us towards wedding costs) - a generous gift card to Bed, Bath & Beyond! Thanks, gals!!!

We slept in a bit on Friday as we were out past midnight once again. Luckily, while still overcast, the rain held off and we were able to walk the entire length of the High Line. The final section just opened in early June! We started at the northernmost point (entrance at 30th Street), walked to 23rd Street, ate lunch & drank beer at one of my old haunts (The Half King), then finished the section from 23rd Street to Gansevoort. We wrapped up the afternoon by walking through the Meatpacking District and West Village to Blind Tiger Ale House (another one of the best beer bars in NYC).
After a quick drink, it was time to meet Greg's cousin Andrew and his wife Sarah at their apartment on Battery Park Place. We chatted for awhile at their apartment with their 2 1/2-year-old son Dylan, then took the subway/walked to Trattoria Cinque in TriBeCa. We had another delicious meal (pork cheek, lard & mozzarella pizza, anyone?!?!) and a great time catching up.

Our final stop of the night was my friend Corey's apartment in the East Village. As we crossed from west to east on M21 bus on 8th Street, we encountered big crowds in Greenwich & West Village getting fired up for the Pride Parade on Sunday. I took Greg to the parade in 2009 and we were disappointed to miss it this time around! We hung out with Corey until after 1am and then returned to the hotel. When we woke up the next morning, we found out that gay marriage was legalized in NY state. A cause for celebration!!!
We checked out of our hotel at 11am on Saturday and walked to a diner below the 39th Ave train station. We both ate huge omelets for brunch, then retraced our steps to the airport (subway/bus). We checked in for our flight and hung out in the SkyClub for a couple of hours, partaking of the free wifi (to review our July calendar & plans), free snacks and free drinks!
We actually landed in Nashville a full 45 minutes early so had to wait awhile for Greg's parents to pick us up from the airport. The wait was worth it, however, as they took us to dinner at Darfon's!

All in all it was a great trip albeit jam-packed with visiting our friends. I hope we can get back up there before another two years go by!

The link to all of my NYC photos is embedded in this post's title.

Here is a list of the beverages we enjoyed during our trip:
Delta SkyClub LGA: Brooklyn Lager
The Ginger Man: Ginger Man Ale (house beer brewed by Captain Lawrence brewery) x2; Smuttynose Abbey Dubbel & Blue Point Hoptical Illusion; tasted Blue Point Rastafa Rye
Citifield: Sam Adams Summer Ale x2
Rouge et Blanc: French white wine
Local: sauvignon blanc
The Half King: Greenport Harbor Ale & Dogfish 60 minute IPA
Blind Tiger Ale House: tasted Southern Tier Mokah Imperial Stout & Victory Hop Wallop; drank Victory Baltic Thunder & Victory Hop Devil
Trattoria Cinque: Blue Point Ale (not sure which variety as the server didn't know)
beers we bought at the corner market near Corey's apartment: Peak Organic Nut Brown Ale x2; Goose Island IPA & Honker's Ale
Delta SkyClub LGA: Brooklyn Lager & Skyy Vodka Martinis x2

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Bachelorette Party

There were no Chippendales, tequila shots, or karaoke. I didn't even receive any sexy lingerie. Instead, my best friend Amy Johnston & I flew out to Denver, Colorado for a weekend of beer drinking.
beers before our tour at Great Divide Brewery
Amy affectionately dubbed our trip "Girls Deployment" because her husband Eric is currently serving the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. When he was deployed a couple of years ago, we also vacationed together in New Mexico. We usually try to time the trips about midway through his first six months as it helps break up the time before he comes home for R&R.
our floor at The Curtis Hotel was called "Chick Flick"
Amy & I had both been to Denver before but never together. We didn't have much of a plan other than to explore the downtown area on foot, drink beer, and try to meet up with Eric's best friend Steve. We were generally pretty lucky with the weather, although it did rain off & on during our first full day.
the REI flagship store at Confluence Park
The trip was easy and relatively inexpensive. Round-trip tickets from Nashville to Denver were only $275 nonstop on Frontier Airlines. Amy spent even less on her ticket because she used rewards card points towards the purchase. We successfully low-balled a Priceline bid for a hotel room in central downtown and only paid $71 per night at The Curtis (Doubletree) including all taxes and fees. We took public transportation from the airport when we arrived Thursday night (a lengthy combination of a bus plus light rail) and a Super Shuttle shared ride van to the airport on Sunday. Family members provided similar (free) service in Nashville. Our only other expenses were food & drink which totaled $212 for the two of us. Yes, we drank a lot of beer!!!
spotted this t-shirt in a souvenir shop
We did a few free things like touring the State Capitol, Denver Public Library, 16th Street Mall, brewery tours at Great Divide and Wynkoop, walked the Cherry Creek pedestrian path to the REI flagship store, etc. We were also lucky that Denver PrideFest was happening that weekend in Civic Center Park so we spent some time enjoying that event on Sunday.
Amy poses with Pride
All in all it was a great weekend even without any drunken debauchery!

The link to all of my photos is embedded in this post's title. Just click on the title and the Picasa Web Album will open.

Here's a list of the tasty beverages we consumed while in Denver.
The Corner Office: Secretary Martini (AS) & Ruby Red Martini (AJ)
Pints Pub: tasted Dark Star Ale; drank John Bull Brown Ale (AS) & Bitchcraft Blonde Ale (AJ)
Great Divide Brewery: Claymore Scotch Ale (AS) & Colette Farmhouse Ale (AJ)
Breckenridge Brewery: tasted Ballpark Brown & Thunder Stout (nitro); drank Vanilla Porter (AS & AJ)
Argyll Gastropub: Boulevard Bock (AS & AJ)
Wynkoop Brewery: tasted Obamanator; drank Railyard Ale (AS & AJ), Schwarzbier (SZ), Cowtown Milk Stout (AS)
Falling Rock Tap House: Bull & Bush Big Ben Brown Ale (AS), Odell 5 Barrel (AJ), Boulevard 2 Joker (SZ); Sierra Nevada Ovila Abbey Dubbel (AS), Big Ben Brown (AJ), Rogue John John Hazelnut (SZ)
Amato's Ale House: Tommy Knocker Butt Head Bock (AS), Left Hand Sawtooth Ale (AJ), Breckenridge Brewery 72 Imperial (SZ)
Paramount Cafe: Tommy Knocker Maple Nut Brown Ale (AS), O'Dell Cutthroat Porter on nitro (AJ)
Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant: house margarita (AS & AJ)
The Corner Office: Ruby Red Martini (AS) & Ft Collins 90 Schilling Red Ale (AJ); Skyy Vodka Martini (AS) & 90 Schilling (AJ)
beautiful beers at Amato's Ale House

Monday, June 13, 2011

RTW takes on a whole new meaning

For the past five years, my life's focus has been to pare down, work hard and save money so I could travel around the world (RTW). After Greg & I started dating in February, 2009, in addition to building our relationship, the emphasis was on getting us both prepared for the actual trip. Now that we're home after traveling for 9+ months (but really almost two years if you include our "living experiments" in Seattle, Honolulu & Portland), I guess we needed something new to occupy our time and energy. Enter the new meaning of RTW:  "Ready To Wed!!!"
my stepmom Debbie shot this picture of us at Harlinsdale Farm in Franklin, TN
As I described in my last post, Greg & I are now engaged. I have to say it's a good thing that neither of us are employed at the moment because planning & preparing for a wedding is a FULL TIME JOB!!! Luckily I have lots of experience organizing & planning events from my previous career as an Executive Assistant. But I am already thankful for the willingness of family & friends to help out, and especially for offering to host some of the "celebrations."

When Greg & I initially discussed getting married, the emphasis was on simplicity and strictly what we wanted. We seriously considered a quick trip to Las Vegas (Greg loves the concept of the drive-thru wedding chapel!). But we realized even a brief, three night stay would cost us upwards of $1500. That was also before our families weighed in and expressed their desire to be part of the ceremony, no matter where and how brief it might be.
A Little White Chapel Tunnel of Love in Las Vegas, NV
We had always liked the idea of just throwing a big celebration party as opposed to a fancy, formal wedding. But another stumbling block was the short notice we were giving people. After announcing our engagement in the week following Memorial Day, we also said that we wanted to be married, have the party, etc. by the end of July. We prefer sooner than later because we want to make plans to travel and do volunteer work (not in TN) as soon as possible, before we move to the West Coast and get jobs.

After over a week of what I'll call negotiating with the majority of people involved, we ultimately decided to have multiple, smaller, celebration parties in various locations versus one huge party that many people would not be able to attend due to pre-existing conflicts. So now, from late June to early August, there is at least one party every week, and sometimes two! This means in some cases (Indiana, New York City) we are the ones traveling instead of asking our friends & family to come to us. The concept of the smaller parties also allows us to spend more 1-on-1 time with the attendees instead of being overwhelmed by more than 200 people at once!

The actual wedding ceremony is going to be a small, private event on July 29th in Nashville, TN. Our grandparents, parents, siblings and two best friends will be in attendance. My best friend Amy helped me pick out my dress yesterday and, much to my amazement, it is way more traditional than I ever expected I would want. But it is perfect, and I can't wait to surprise everyone on the 29th!
nice dress, wrong color
Greg & I also ordered our wedding rings this past weekend, so we continue to check things off our "to do" list. However, as soon as one thing gets crossed off, I think of something else to add!!!

I do get to take a break from the wedding planning this weekend as Amy & I are off to Denver for a few nights. Amy refers to it as "Girls Deployment" (her wonderful husband, Eric, is currently serving the U.S. Army in Afghanistan). I'm looking forward to cooler temps, great beer, and just chilling out for a few days!

Friday, June 3, 2011

I'm Engaged!

Greg officially proposed to me on Memorial Day, 30MAY2011. No, we were not riding camels or elephants, skydiving, or in a particularly exotic or romantic location; we were just sitting outside (alone) on my mom's porch in Orlinda, TN, talking about the future. Pretty much when I was least expecting it, Greg took both of my hands, got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him. Once I got over the actual shock (that he was being serious), I said yes, of course!!!
We had actually talked about marriage before our RTW trip and considered incorporating it into our travels. I even researched the "legality" of getting married in most of the countries that were on our itinerary. Some places required waiting periods, notarized affidavits of eligibility to marry, or other country-specific legal documents that would be difficult to obtain on the road. With our minimal advance planning, tight budget and timelines, it wasn't really feasible to "tie the knot" during the trip.
After spending most of our time apart during our first couple of weeks at home, Greg & I were really missing each other. We both felt that sooner than later we needed to make some decisions regarding our future. With no obligations nor ties to any specific location, we have so many options to choose from!
One of the things we would like to do before we "settle down" in Portland, OR next year is volunteer in one or several of the National Parks in the western United States. We are willing to give weeks or even months of our time to environmental protection & preservation. Unfortunately, most of the longer-term summer positions, especially ones that provide basic housing & food, are already filled. So we have also looked into paid positions (mostly entry level and at minimum wage) that offer on site housing & food for a minimal cost. We are also considering further extended travel to a number of places including Central & South America.
I'm sure you are now wondering when & where we're going to get married. Honestly, we are still deciding.. We are not going to have a "traditional" ceremony so Las Vegas might be the perfect (and fun) solution. Then we'll most likely have receptions/parties in Nashville, TN and Greentown, IN (for Greg's extended family). We'd like to make all of this happen before August! As for a honeymoon, we'll incorporate that into our travel plans for the remainder of 2011.

I love you, Greg, and I am proud to be your fiance and future wife!