Year In Review: Best/Worst Of 2014

Overall, 2014 was a fantastic year! A year never goes by without a few hiccups but as a whole, this was a great one. We had mentioned last year that blogging would be a priority and it was…however, it ended up being a business priority more so than a personal one.   As you will see below, one of the biggest “wins” in 2014 was putting in a concerted effort into the business! It paid off in spades. When you think of how much time is wasted on social media (and I actually did a self-test to prove it), it became clear that I needed to rid myself of as many “time suckers” as possible. Don’t get me wrong, our blog was never a waste of time but if something had to suffer, this was going to be one of the casualties. Hopefully, 2015 gives me a chance to get back in the personal blogging game as New York City is too good NOT to share.

That said, this is our annual “best/worst blog post” for 2014 (mainly best). Per the usual, this just pertains to the current year, not necessarily, our all-time picks. My picks will be noted by my initials and Tara’s picks will be noted by her initials.

2014

Best Music Album in 2014
BB:Ghost Stories by Coldplay: I love it when an artist or band gives each song on an album its own feel. That’s just what happened on Coldplay’s latest album. Although it definitely had a more melancholy, downtempo electronic feel, this album is one of my favorites of theirs. I had it on repeat a ton and used a few of the tracks at gigs often.

TB:1989by Taylor Swift: I love T. Swift. There, I said it. I think everyone secretly jams out to Taylor Swift. If you don’t, I’m pretty sure you’re lying. Her songs are just so damn catchy. You know it. I know it. And this album is fantastic.

Best Music Single of 2014
BB:Rather Beby Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne: This song was definitely not the most popular (it didn’t make my company’s top 10) but I just loved the indie/ 80s/ pop sound of this song. I worked it into almost all of my event sets. It has a sing-a-long quality to it and is at a great tempo.

TB:Don’t Tell ‘Emby Jeremih feat. YG: Maybe it’s that crazy night in Tennessee I had with my sister, but I love this jam. I was trying to think of other songs that I loved in 2014, but kept coming back to this one. It’s fun to sing to – try it. You know you like it, too.

Best Book I Read in 2014
BB: Defending Jacob by William Landay: I read a ton of great books this year but I think this one inched it out for being my favorite. I love court room storylines and plot twists and this had tons of it. Looking for a book that is tough to put down? This would definitely qualify.

TB: Divergent Series by Veronica Roth: I finally finished the Divergent Series this year. What can I say, I love YA fiction… And I’m in need of some new suggestions, so send them my way!!

Best Travel Destination of 2014
Live Aqua Cancun
BB: “Live Aqua – Cancun” / March AND October 2014
It was another year where Tara and I didn’t get a chance to travel much for pleasure. However, I did travel a ton for work. The spot that was #1 for me was Live Aqua in Cancun, Mexico. I actually did a corporate event there in March. I loved it so much that I HAD to bring Tara there for our annual anniversary trip/vacation. The resort is amazing. Great views, amazing amenities (did I mention the daily cabanas and daily 20 minute foot massages) and just a great place to unwind. I could definitely see myself going back again. Highly recommend this for an adult-only getaway!

Live Aqua Cancun
TB: “Live Aqua – Cancun” / October 2014
Completely agree with Brian – this resort was so great. The beach and pools were amazing. The cabanas were definitely my favorite part. A canopy bed on the beach? Are you kidding me? And add to that a 20 minute foot massage. I was in heaven. The resort itself was also so sweet in acknowledging our anniversary with nightly champagne, chocolate and strawberries. And I’m not talking Andre champagne (no offense, Andre lovers), but this was Moet. Nice touch, Live Aqua. Definitely a great getaway for us!

Best Breakfast Restaurant in 2014
BB: The Breakfast Table” –Destin, FL: I know this may sound like a weird pick considering all the places we have available in New York City but this place just resonated with me. It’s a place by locals for locals. With so much time spent in Destin and seeing so many places open and close often there, it was great seeing this one succeed! The owner, Bridgette, is so welcoming to all her guests. The food is pretty good (some of the best coffee around) and they are constantly tweaking the place to make it better every time I come in.

TB: Root & Bone – New York, NY: Our first time to Root & Bone was for brunch and totally blew our mind! We tried practically everything, including cocktails, and our bill was low by NYC standards. Peach Caprese salad, killer bloody Marys, and delicious mini waffles. But that fried chicken, though. Out of this world good.   Brined in sweet tea for 24 hours then spritzed with lemon juice and sprinkled with fresh dill. It just doesn’t get better.
Root & Bone NYC

Best Lunch Restaurant in 2014
BB/TB:Sweetgreen’” – New York, NY: A buddy of Brian’s suggested this place when he found out we lived so close to it. Upon first glance you may think this is another “Chop’t” type places. You would be wrong. This place can make a salad unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It is so filling and made with such fresh ingredients that it puts all the other salad places to shame. This is almost a monthly staple for us on the weekends.

Best Dinner Restaurant in 2014
BB: “Root & Bone” –New York, NY: Weird introduction to this spot – I actually was given this restaurant name by Lori Saczynski, a friend of mine from Florida. Who would’ve thought a Floridian would find my top dinner spot in NYC? The head chef is actually from the Florida panhandle and came to New York via Miami. Tara and I actually went there for brunch first and that in itself was good. But then we came back for dinner 2 times within the first couple weeks and it was hands down my favorite. Not only was it affordable, but the friend chicken was to die for! I had to force myself not to go because my waistline would have seriously expanded.

TB:Beauty & Essex” – New York, NY: B&E wins again this year! I didn’t want to pick a restaurant that I had chosen previously, but I think I went here 3 times this year. In a city with literally thousands of fantastic restaurants, that’s a pretty decent attendance record. I cannot get enough of those grilled cheese and tomato soup dumplings!!

Best TV Show in 2014
BB:The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” – NBC: Late Night With Jimmy Fallon had been my #1 show the last two years. I realize I’m not going to get any of the credit, but obviously NBC saw what I was seeing and made Jimmy the new host of the Tonight Show. So that has now taken over as my #1 show. I think he does such a great job interviewing folks and his comedy bits immediately start trending within hours of the show.

TB: “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” – NBC: I’m going to agree with Brian on this one. We loved Jimmy way back when and I love to see him doing so well with the Tonight Show!

Best Movie in 2014
BB: Beyond The Brick: A Lego Documentary – This was another year where I didn’t get a chance to get out to the movies much. One movie that made a huge impression on me was Beyond The Brick. Two of our really good friends, Ashley and Tony, got Tara and I tickets to the premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Tony was actually one of the producers of the movie. I was so proud of him for being a part of this project and the movie was quite good!

TB:Gone Girl: I read the book and by the end I was so frustrated with the story; great book, really weird, disappointing ending. The movie stayed true to the book; however, the roles were so perfectly cast that I couldn’t get enough of the main characters and didn’t mind the ending so much. Ben Affleck is just smug enough that you hate him, but just boy-next-door enough to love him.   And Rosamund Pike played creepy so beautifully that between the two of them, the ending made more sense – if that makes sense. Great book. Great movie.

Best Blog in 2014
BB: Carey Nieuwhof Blog: While I haven’t worked at a church in a few years, I loved the content of this blog and picked up a ton of leadership nuggets that I was able to apply to my own small business. Carey is based in Canada but has a fantastic writing style. If you are leading in any capacity, this is a great blog to keep in your favorites.

TB: Cup of Jo: This is an oldie, but a goodie. I still come back to this blog after first reading it years ago. So much good info on New York living and just life, in general.

Best Gig in 2014
Josh Segarra/Brace Rice Wedding – Carillon Beach, FL (10/17/14):  What an awesome event this was! Josh and Brace actually live in NYC and just happened to be getting married in the Panhandle. What are the odds? Anyway, we met for drinks to talk through their event and to make sure we were a match and I could instantly tell they had amazing energy. The night of the event, the crowd was dancing during cocktail hour (always a good sign). It just continued throughout the rest of the evening and was a non-stop party!
Carillon Beach Wedding

Runner Up: Joseph Stein/Brittney Bowman Wedding – Fort Walton Beach, FL (10/18/14): What are the chances that my top two events would be one day a part? Well, that’s just what happened. Brittney and I have known each other casually for a few years. She’s always been into music and it helps that she’s a great dancer! Their venue was super intimate but it made the dancing that much better. It didn’t take long before our dance floor was packed and everyone was partying away!   It was such a fun reception and Joseph couldn’t have been a nice guy! Brittney looked stunning as usual and I felt blessed to be a part of their day! Thanks for having me!
Wedding DJ

Best Experience in 2014
BB: New York City Half Marathon – Why I decided to do this, I really don’t know. I always need fitness challenges to keep myself in shape so maybe that’s why I put my name in the half marathon lottery. I got picked and had an “uh oh” moment. The winter was unbearably cold and long which made training outside extremely difficult.   Luckily, our building has a gym so I spent many a day inside training on the treadmill. I never felt totally prepared so when the alarm went off the morning of the event, a brief thought entered my mind that I shouldn’t do it. But I’m too cheap (it was $150 to run it) so I went out and ran it in the bitter cold. I’m so glad I did. This was by far the best course I’ve ever ran. It’s hard to even describe. Running through Times Square was incredible. The crowd support was the best I’ve ever seen at a race. I loved it so much that I decided to run it again in 2015 – this time for charity, so I could be assured a spot.
NYC Half Marathon

TB: New York City – Gosh, I seriously have so many this year! I mean, how do you top Christmas windows in NYC? Oh, with a ticket to an intimate Justin Timberlake concert! Or a helicopter ride around the city! Or cruising the Hudson up to Cold Spring, NY. Or a new Christmas puppy! Any of those could easily be my best experience. I loved Brian celebrating my birthday in a way only he can – complete with a helicopter tour around our city, which was beautiful, a little scary, and altogether surreal. Ending the birthday celebration with a concert for the record books. My 15 year-old (see also: 32 year-old) dream come true. The best Justin Timberlake show I think I’ve ever witnessed. Then my year was capped off with my little morkie, Jake – the sweetest Christmas surprise ever. It’s been a seriously good year!
New York City

Toughest Experience in 2014
BB/TB: Finding our place spiritually: If you know me (Brian) at all, you know how much I love being involved in the local church. My work/travel schedule made it virtually impossible to be involved on a Sunday outside of an online experience. While that certainly helped fill some gaps, it definitely was not a long-term solution. Towards the Fall season, Tara and I hit the re-set button. We are “lifers” when it comes to church life. The signs were becoming clear, however, that a change needed to happen so after conferring with some wise counsel and talking with our pastor, we decided to leave our current church home and look for a place with a spiritual DNA a little more similar to ours where we could be involved in a capacity outside of just a Sunday morning. We still are in the midst of figuring out what God wants for us in that regard so your prayers are definitely welcome.

Biggest Accomplishment of 2014
BB: Business Changes: This was the year where I felt like I hit my stride with my business. I put a ton of effort into growing the mobile DJ Company. A lot of things contributed to this but high up on the list was a DJ Owner’s workshop I attended in Raleigh, NC. It wasn’t cheap but I knew this was a much needed step if I really wanted to take the business to a new level. This led to a ton of changes and upgrades in strategy that I was able to implement immediately. The end result was that we had the best year since the company started. A plethora of reviews, high revenue numbers, amazing new staff and new opportunities came to fruition and as we kick into 2015, phase 2 is about to start! So pumped!

TB: Work Accomplishments: I became a manager of sorts when my company offered to bring on an assistant for me this year.   It was nice to see them acknowledge the work I was handling and saying “let’s make this easier for you”. I found a great gal fresh out of Notre Dame (football season was fun! 🙂 ) and she has been a phenomenal help to me. Also, going through bonus/raise season again this year was a huge win for me. I constantly prayed “make my number their number so I don’t even have to negotiate.” And that’s exactly what happened! Again, being acknowledged for the good work you are doing, whether through hiring extra help, or monetarily, makes such a difference in the appreciation of your position.

In conclusion, 2014 was a year where we delved deeper into becoming NYC Locals. We absolutely love living here and though there is no timetable of how long we intend to stay, we find ourselves continually thanking God for the opportunity to be here and look forward to what happens in 2015!
Brian and Tara 2014

Brian Approved: Way2ride

Way2Ride

One thing you probably have heard about New York City is the fast pace.  This definitely applies to transportation and cabs in particular.  If hailing a cab wasn’t tough enought, add to it the fact that you have to hustle to get inside the cab because the driver wants to get out of the bike lane / shoulder, and then once you reach your destination, you have to quickly fumble for your credit card or cash and exit quickly so the next person can get in.  I’m stressed out just writing about this!

Luckily, there is an app to make your life easier, whether you are a tourist or more importantly, a local.  It’s called way2ride.  Believe it or not, it is a free download.

I don’t take cabs often but when I do, I want it to be easy.  The basic idea behind this app is that you create a FREE account which stores your credit card info.  90% of the NYC cabs are enabled with this app where you can enter the cab code (found on the TV monitor inside the cab) and it’s sync’d to pay for you.  You can add an auto gratuity of a few different percentages options or put your own in (or none at all) and store it in your profile.

The app right now allows you to locate available cabs near you via GPS (perfect for snowstorm conditions like today or rain days in the other months).  Eventually, they will be launching the ability to “hail a cab” much like Uber from the app.

Everybody always has their phone handy and once you input the cab code (which you can do once you get in the cab), you can resume texting, checking social media or anything else.  As soon as the cab gets you to your destination, nothing more is required.  You just exit and it e-mails you a receipt.  I finally download this app and tried it the other night and it worked flawlessly.  I can’t believe I waited so long to get this.  I wonder when this will get rolled out to other cities.  Definitely Brian Approved.

Year In Review: Best/Worst Of 2013

Year in Review 2013

It’s “year in review” time.  Last year at this exact same time we said our goals for 2013 were to scale things back so we could bring down the stress level, blog more frequently, and try to really immerse ourselves in NYC life as locals – we managed to hit two out of three with those goals.  The “blogging more frequently” proved to be a bit of a challenge. Tara and I are both perfectionists so if the blog post isn’t perfect we just don’t post it.  This coming year (2014) the goal will be to double the blogs posting from 2012 and 2013 combined.  Hold us accountable people!

This is our annual “best/worst blog post” for 2013.  Again, this just pertains to the current year, not necessarily, our all- time picks.  So I’ll list mine on this post as it relates to me and my interests and Tara’s picks will be noted by her initials.

Best Music Album of 2013
BB: “Random Access Memories” by Daft Punk: I absolutely loved this entire album.  It definitely had a throwback feel to it.  I just felt like this album brought more of that mid tempo dance feel back to radio and it was sorely needed.  The guest appearances by Pharell, Nile Rodgers, etc. fit great.

TB: “20/20 Experience” by Justin Timberlake: Duh.  I mean, were there any other albums released this year? I think this was the only one.


Best Music Single of 2013
BB: “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke:  I played this song as soon as it hit in April and just knew it would be a hit.  It is still a dance floor filler 8 months later.    That is a sign of a good song!  Every age group loves to dance to it.  Thank God for some great remixes that makes it playable still all these months later.

TB: “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake:  Again, duh.


Best Book Read in 2013
BB & TB: “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas: Tara and I led 4 semesters worth of marriage groups at our church in New York this past year.  By far, this was the best book we’ve ever read. It’s got a different spin on marriage than what you typically hear and it is invaluable no matter what season you are in. I’d definitely recommend this to any engaged couple as well as marriage couple.


Best Travel Destination of 2013

BB: “The Hamptons” / September 2013
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Tara and I didn’t get a chance to travel together much in 2013 due to her day job and my insane gig schedule.  However, I got a chance to DJ in Montauk in September and Tara was able to come towards the end of the gig.  Though I was only there for not even 2 days, it was still pretty amazing.  The drive from the City was awesome that time of year.  All the “Fall” colors were in full effect but you still had some lasting “Summer” weather.  I had the beach chair out and was getting a little “Fall tanning” in before the gig.  We definitely will go back next year and make a weekend out of it.

TB: Southampton: July 2013
 The Hamptons really are all they’re cracked up to be.  See my blog post on that trip <<HERE>>.

Best Breakfast Restaurant in 2013
BB & TB: “Freeman’s” – New York, NY: We stumbled on to this place on my birthday this past year.  I wanted to check out something different and we went to this place and it’s been our top brunch spot all year.  The skillet dish is the “go to” and is only available during weekend brunch.  The artichoke dip is a MUST no matter the time of day!! Décor is off the chain as well.  Best breakfast find of 2013!

Runner Up: “Swami’s Cafe” – Encinitas, CA:  One of my CA clients suggested we meet there for a breakfast meeting.  I didn’t have high hopes but this place blew me away.  In typical CA style, all the seating was outside.  The food was amazing (tons of avocado options) and it just feels like a “locals only” type of place.  Highly recommend!

Honorable Mention: “Dominique Ansel Bakery” – New York, NY: This isn’t really a complete breakfast spot but this place is amazing.  Known for being the place where you can find the original cronuts, that isn’t all they serve.  They have a ton of seasonal dishes and some standard things as well.  Here’s a blog post I wrote about the spot <<CLICK HERE>>.

Best Lunch Restaurant in 2013
BB: “Cafeteria’” – New York, NY: I recently got a chance to check this place out and it IS all it’s cracked up to be.  Lunch time wasn’t packed at all.  Best dishes…Mac N Cheese and the Original Burger.  One of the best burgers I’ve ever had. I’ll do a review on this place soon.

TB: “Dig Inn” – New York, NY:  Since getting my job in Midtown, this is my go-to lunch spot.  They also have additional locations around NYC.  Great, seasonal, home-cooked foods that are at an awesome price.  A grain or salad, protein, and 3 veggie sides for $10!  (My fave: the Spicy Meatballs and Lentil and Edamame Salad)

Runner Up:  “Kori Tribeca“ – New York, NY: I went here for a lunch meeting and have continued to go back time and time again.  The Skillet dishes are the best.  There is never a wait…even at dinner.  It’s a little off the beaten path but so worth it!

Honorable Mention: “Tommy Lasagna” – New York, NY:  This Italian spot has an incredible lunch special. $10 for any pasta dish, salad and a drink.  Hard to beat it!
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Best Dinner Restaurant in 2013
BB: “Juliette Kitchen + Bar” – Newport Beach, CA: Leave it to some of my good CA friends who have excellent taste in food to introduce me to this spot.  Hands down, my favorite spot this year.  I took Tara later in the year and then I went again with some of my Florida visiting friends.  Tapas style and super good!!  Get the pork cheeks.
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TB:  “Beauty & Essex” – New York, NY:  Two words: Free Champagne.  Besides that, this place has great tapas-style food, glamorous décor, fun atmosphere, and did I mention free champagne?  So enjoy the seasonal tapas (if there are grilled cheese and tomato soup dumplings on the menu, please for the love of God, get those and thank me later), and then head downstairs to the ladies restroom (sorry, fellas).  They have a lounge area where you can relax on the sofa and chat with the girls over a glass (or two!) of champagne.
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Best TV Show in 2013
BB: “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” – NBC:  This was my #1 show last year and continues to be.  We DVR it nightly and love his different games and skits he throws in there. He also has such a genuine/authentic spirit when interviewing people.  I love that about him.

TB:  “Scandal” – ABC: We stumbled on to this show and are still a season behind the current one.  We watched the first season in a “marathon week” and are hooked!  Great writing, acting and witty humor.


Best Movie in 2013
Promised Land: We didn’t get a chance to see many movies this year but it ended up not being a big blockbuster year anyway.  I always love movies that have a realistic twist to it and this one was definitely one of them.  Matt Damon was phenomenal in it.  See my review <<HERE>>.

TB: Hunger Games: Catching Fire:  Again, we didn’t see a whole lot of movies, but I still think this would have been up there in the ranking, for me.  I loved the book series and the first film, so this second installment, of course, I loved.


Best Blog in 2013
BB: Miller Mobley Blog: I found myself checking this blog quite regularly.  Miller and his wife, Jana, were in our small group at Liberty Church.  He won’t admit it but he’s one of the more famous photogs in the US!  His story reminds me of myself a bit with the struggle and determination of making it in NYC.  It’s inspiring to me as I’m not quite there yet.  His work is incredible.  Check it out!

TB: Little Green Notebook: It may just be because we just moved, but I’ve been reading this a lot lately.  It has a lot of beautiful design inspiration as well as a ton of DIY décor ideas.

Best Gig of 2013
Sam Quigley/Erin Swain Wedding – Palm Springs, CA (11/16/13):   Out of any year, this was the toughest category to pick winners for.  I DJ’d more events this year (primarily weddings) than ever before and I had a ton of great parties.  Two years ago, I DJ’d an event in Palm Springs for one of this bride/groom’s friends (one of about 7 I’ve done for this group of friends) and that one ended up being in my top 2 as well.  There is just something about this group and Palm Springs.  This event took the top honors because everything just lined up perfectly.  The weather was insanely good, the décor was extraordinary, the crowd was unbelievable and the bride/groom added some unique touches to it.  This group needed no prompting to dance.  It was “on” from the moment I hit the decks and literally no one left the dance floor (or so it seemed) for 6 straight hours!!  Though their official video wedding isn’t done yet, here’s a sneakpeak!

Runner Up: David Walker/Courtney Brennan Wedding – Alys Beach, FL (4/20/13): I usually never get nervous DJ’ing.  It’s like second hat to me.  However, I was extremely nervous at this one.  The bride and groom, who live in NYC and are both pretty hilarious, had seen so many bad wedding DJs that they actually had me doubting myself before I even got to the event.  Two songs into the cocktail hour, their crowd was dancing and I knew this was going to be a good event!  This one also stood out to me because of how chic the bride and groom looked!  The bride was stunning beautiful and did a fashion throwback to the 1920’s.  Such a cool event!  Check out their highlight reel!


Best Experience of 2013
BB: Liberty Church Community Group Season(s):  This past year Tara and I had the privilege of leading a married couple’s small group through our church.  We finally feel like we found our place in the church through this.  With my crazy gig schedule this year, I wasn’t able to serve much on the weekends but this group gave me the creative outlet I’ve been looking for and Tara (a total extrovert) a place to feel like we were not only giving of our time and talents and but actually building strong relationships that we know will continue beyond our time in NYC in addition to growing healthy marriages.
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TB: New Job/Feb 2013:  The end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 was by far our toughest period we’ve ever gone through both business-wise and personally as a married couple.  We had gone down a path that ultimately ended with us being behind on our rent (among other things) and questioning whether we should continue in NYC.  After praying through it, we felt this is exactly where we were supposed to be and ended up adjusting our game plan a bit which entailed Tara looking and getting a full-time job in the City.  God’s hands were all over this and not only did she get one quickly, she’s in a role where she is thriving. God has continually blessed her (and us) through this job.  We couldn’t be more thankful as it has allowed us to be more localized in the City as well as give us some financial breathing room while I continue to build my own company in the City.


Toughest Experience in 2013
BB: Family Issues: Since it’s a public blog, I don’t want to get too detailed here for privacy sake but let’s just say both of our families went through a ton this year.  Fortunately, Tara and I didn’t have any hiccups individually or together in that regard.  We feel blessed that God has us right where he wants us to support our families however we can.  We hope 2014 brings many blessings to them as well!

TB: Interviewing In NYC: I was so lucky to have a relatively quick interview process that did not drag on for weeks and weeks, but interviewing in New York City proved to be
extremely tough.  Explaining why I wanted to work for someone else after owning our own business is hard for people to understand and I had a few interviewers who were not very good at hiding their confusion and annoyance. Some people were just rude, and some I knew would not be a good fit for me, personality-wise.  I definitely walked out of one interview and told my recruiter not to ever send me back to that place or any place that had mean people like that.  I desperately did not want to be miserable in my job.  I was leaving a job I loved and the opportunity to work and travel with my husband.  If I was going to give that up, it better be worth it.  And then there’s the pantyhose and pulled back hair; neither one I’m fond of.  All in all, I ended up exactly where I needed to be and got there relatively quickly, but while I was in thick of interviewing, it was a pretty tough experience.


Biggest Accomplishment of 2013
BB: Moving / December 2013: There is nothing quite like moving in NYC.  Seriously, nothing compares to it.  You earn your stripes with the initial move but with this being our 2nd move in 3 years, we felt like seasoned veterans on how to go about it.  We made a list of the things we wanted and did our due diligence.  We found what we believe to be the perfect spot for us and while we are still retro-fitting things for the new place, we are so grateful that it went as smooth as it did.  No broker fee, no long drawn out approval process, and we’re still relatively close to the same neighborhood we came from with big windows, a view, and a nicer overall building.
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TB: I have two: Disney Half Marathon: Crossing that finish line was one of the greatest feelings!  I’ve never been one to run.  Anywhere.  I hated it.  Even running a mile seemed out of my reach.  But we got a training plan, buckled down and did it.  And after it was over, I did feel insanely proud of myself.
Marathon

Raise/Bonus Season:  End of year bonus and raise season was something completely new to me.  First of all, there was nothing corporate about any of my jobs in Destin, FL.  Also, most of my earning years have been in a down economy.  Raises and bonuses were like Bigfoot.  People sometimes talked about them, but you really kinda questioned their existence.  But this year, I went through a legitimate raise/bonus season where I had to do my research and negotiate my raise and bonus – with the owner of the fund.  This guy manages a quadrillion, sprillion dollars  It was extremely intimidating but I was really proud of myself for asking for what I thought was fair and not taking the first thing that was offered.

Runner Up: NYC Bucket List: We were able to cross off a ton on the list.  From Movies In The Park to Shakespeare In The Park, Manhattanhenge, to The Met, MOMA, Weekends in The Hamptons, the Nutcracker, Radio City Christmas Spectacular, to walking the Brooklyn Bridge, we really got a chance to explore this amazing City!  SNL and Jimmy Fallon are 2 of the biggies we hope to cross off in 2014.  Tara and I have truly embraced and are thankful for these NYC experiences we are able to have.  You never know how long your time is here so we’re trying to take in as many things as we can!

In conclusion, 2013 was a year of becoming localized in NYC!  We feel like this is just the beginning of our time here and we’ve set the ground work for some amazing breakthrough in 2014.  We’re thankful for our friends and family and hope to have you live 2014 with us vicariously through our blog next year.  Happy New Year every one!!

The Cronut

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I’m sure you’ve heard of the Cronut (half croissant / half doughnut) by now. They were first made here in NYC by Chef Dominque Ansel.  The process takes 3 days to make and they only produce 300 a day so by 10AM, they are sold out.  They have a different flavor every month. I had read about the Cronut craze in the middle of April in one of the daily NYC e-mails I get.  I wanted to check it out but I knew even with Tara’s love for breakfast, there was no way I was getting her up at 5:30AM to stand in line with me on a weekend.

So I waited for her birthday to grab us one as a surprise.  Boy was it worth it.  Here’s the lowdown.

Dominique Ansel Bakery is located in Soho.
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The line for Cronuts starts as early as 5:30AM.  That was a little too early for me so I got up and was in line by 6:00AM with 25 people ahead of me.  It turned out to be the perfect timing because by 6:30, the line was 150 people strong and starting to curve around the block.IMG_7446 - Copy

The bakery staff started coming out of the bakery around 7AM and continued every 15 minutes or so to make sure the line was against the park to make room for other pedestrians who were on their way to work and passing by on the sidewalk.
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By 7:30, one staff member came out and served fresh hot samples of one their other pastries to everybody in line.  I can’t remember exactly what the sample was, but it was SO good!  Tasted fresh and was a good preview of what was to come.
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At 8AM, the line started moving inside at a pretty good pace and the head chef, Dominique, greeted everyone at the door!  Talk about customer service!!
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By the time I got in the door, I noticed they had two lines.  One was the cronut line (where you could order other things as well) or there was a separate, much shorter line for ordering anything other than cronuts and you didn’t have to get in the big line that started around the block for that one!

I passed by the display window and saw some other amazing looking pastries…they all looked SOOO good!
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Confession time: I’m a sucker for almost any “fruit” type of food.  I ALSO ended up ordering the Blueberry Blackberry Pavlova.  What is it you ask?  Let me tell you.  It’s described as light-as-air blueberry meringues filled with ripe blackberries and smooth lemon vanilla cream (Gluten Free might I add).

But then, as I turned a corner, I saw Chef Dominique applying a blow torch type utensil to what appeared to be a marshmallow.  Come to find out, it’s one of his newest creations (after the cronut and just a seasonal summer treat), the FROZEN S’MORE!  Are you kidding me?!?!? What is that??!?!  It’s vanilla custard ice cream that’s wrapped with crispy chocolate wafer chips inside a marshmallow that has been blow torched around the sides and then put on top of an apple wood smoked branch!  So yes, that was ALSO ordered!
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By the time I got to the front, the cronuts were pre-boxed and ready for pick-up.  I even liked the quality bags they put your selections in (looked more like a high-end gift bag).  That said, the cronuts aren’t exactly cheap (what isn’t it NYC) at $5/ea so I ended up spending about $30 in breakfast treats along with an OJ and coffee.  Geez!
Side note: Apparently, on the black market (Craigslist), cronuts are going for as much as $40/ea!
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As you might expect, the cronut was DELICIOUS!  Definitely try and eat them right away.  If you wait too long, the freshness goes away. The flavor for the month  of July was blackberry.  It had a blackberry glaze with bits of pulverized berries mixed in and rolled with a mix of course sugar and lime zest.  They inject it with blackberry swirled vanilla cream!!
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I ended up taking the Blueberry Blackberry Pavolova home and saved it in the refrigerator for another day.  It tasted great when we finally devoured it a few days later.

Their lunch items looked phenomenal and the other pastries were so good that I’d definitely head back there again and pass on the cronut line (since I’ve already been there / done that) and try something else.  You can eat inside (though it’s a bit crowded) or they have a garden in the back that is more spacious.

Fast forward to a few weeks later and I had one of our FL DJs in town and he wanted to try the cronut.  I made him wait in line at 5:30AM and I joined him at 7AM to enjoy August’s new flavor…the Coconut Cronut (pictured at the top of this post).  On this visit, I didn’t order the Frozen S’more (my buddy did, however) but I did order and take home a box of 3 of the DKAs (Dominique’s Kouign Amann). It looks like a carmelized croissant shaped like a muffin.  They’re not cheap either at $5.25 each but they are soo good!  It’s got a good balance of the sweetness of the sugar and the creaminess of the butter. If you don’t want to wait in the cronut line, this is another EXCELLENT option!
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So I guess the question begs to be asked…is the cronut really worth the wait?  I think so (at least once)!  The people watching is fun (there are definitely some funny characters), you meet new friends and the experience makes the food that much more worth it!   That said, don’t settle for JUST the cronut.  The other options are just as good!  Highly recommend this spot!

Brian Approved: Downton Abbey

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So I had been hearing about Downton Abbey for a while (especially after this year’s Golden Globes) but never had the time or really the desire to check it out.  How many tv drama series are really worth watching these days?  Well, that all changed for me after viewing the 1st episode of this show. I was actually about to start my travel/event season and wanted to start using the video feature of my Kindle Fire HD.  One of the perks of Amazon Prime is that you can stream movies and certain TV shows for free.  So after streaming the first episode, I proceeded to download the first 2 seasons before I got back from my first trip.  I just got completely caught up and finished season 3.  Even Tara is hooked.  She had a separate flight the same weekend and texted me as soon as she landed that she’s now a Downton fan.

What makes this show so compelling?  For starters (without giving away any of the storylines), the cinematography is incredible.  Based in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey, the shots of England are just amazing.  Add to that multiple storylines, great twists, and phenomenal acting and you’ve got a recipe for a show that is a “can’t miss”.  I’m not a fan of the heavy accents that typical British shows seem to have.  This show has a slight accent with most of the actors/actresses (to be expected) but not enough to turn you off and/or miss funny punch lines.

I’ve been told that Sherlock (also a PBS aired show) is a great series to check out as well.  That’s next on my list.  Get on the Downton train ASAP.  You won’t be disappointed.  For those that have seen all three seasons of Downton, you’ll totally understand this next statement.  My biggest takeaways so far is that you should never have kids and the way Edith feels at Downton is the way I feel at McDonald’s: Judged 😉

Best NEW Party Trick In A Long Time…

So I’m a huge Late Night with Jimmy Fallon fan. One of my bucket list items while living in NYC is to go to a taping.  Thanks to our DVR I can watch it anytime during the day so I don’t necessarily have to stay up late to watch it live. A few weeks ago, he had Paul Rudd on as a guest and Paul showed one of the best party tricks I’ve ever seen.  I’ve watched this clip a ton and it just keeps getting funnier every time I watch it.  I’ve been perfecting the trick and will post a few photos soon.  You can watch him demonstrate it below. It’s a classic.  So hilarious.  It happens about 30 seconds into the interview.

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You’re welcome.

Happy Holidays…

It’s been a little too long of a layoff from blogging.  Hope to get back to it since my crazy Fall event season is over.  In what I’m sure is only one of many things to used with this song, I think this sets the tone of the holidays.  Enjoy!

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This video explains the making of it.  Thank God for LED!
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Brian Approved: The Bitter End

So a few posts ago, I introduced you to my friend Beth.  Well, she happened to be in NYC recently and when Tara and I joined her for dinner, she mentioned that she had gone to a place called The Bitter End to watch some live music a few days prior.

Not familiar with the spot, she quickly gave me the low down.  This club is located in Greenwich Village and is a cultural icon in New York.  Fred Weintraub opened the place in 1961 as a no-alcohol talent showcase where he presented up-and-coming acts like Peter, Paul and Mary (who made their debut there that year), Joan Baez and Woody Allen. Paul Colby became the club’s manager and talent booker and eventually, owner. The club has given some other little known artists their start….folks like Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder and more recently Ingrid Michaelson, Norah Jones and Lady Gaga to name a few.

Last weekend Tara and I went out to dinner with some of our new friends, Cameron and Leslee.  After dinner, we were looking for something to do and I suggested we check this place out.   We arrived pretty early by “clubbing” standards (8PM) and it turned out that we got there just before the first band was to go on.

The cover was only $5 and the night featured 6 bands (they are open 7 days a week and feature that many bands nightly).  Despite the low cover, there is a catch.  Each person must buy at least 2 drinks per band performance (while that may not be a problem for my wife, it is for an alcohol lightweight like myself).  Although there is a sign on each table stating this policy, we found out that it is not heavily enforced.

The décor inside definitely makes it feel like you’re in an old school rock n’ roll club.  That said, the stage lighting and  sound gear are up to all the latest standards.  They’ve even got streaming video on their website (they’ve positioned a studio mic in the center of the room used exclusively for the streaming) so you can preview the talent before you even get there.  No celebs at this particular show that we went to…just bands trying to get their big break.  I was pleasantly surprised by the talent level.  According to the door man, each band performs about 6 or so songs and then the next band gets set-up to play.

If you’re looking for a live music spot, this is a great spot to go.  Here’s a couple quick snipets below of a band we saw (unfortunately, we didn’t catch their name).  They did mostly their own original music (kinda bluesy) but also sprinkled in a few covers as well.

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Brian Approved: The Highline

Meet another good friend of mine from Cali, Beth MacLane.

 She has literally seen me grow up from my post High School days.  In a sense, she’s a part of my extended family.  When my parents moved away from California and I was living in the “Golden” state by myself, Beth and her husband Mike became mentors of sorts for me.  They have a phenomenal marriage and navigate such a great balance in their life between work, faith, and hobbies.

Beth also has amazing style and great taste!  I guess part of it comes from her job as a big wig at Calvin Klein.  Working for them has her in NYC quite often.  So when she told me I needed to check out the “Highline”, I immediately took note and made a point to get out there the first Saturday I had a chance.  It’s not on the typical tourist “to do” list…but it really should be.

So what is it?  It’s a public park built on a historic freight line elevated high above the streets on the west side of the City.  It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues.  It opened in 1999 and initially only went as far as 20th Street.  In 2011, they extended the park run between 20th and  34th street.  Currently, they are working on a new expansion that will take it even further.  You have to know exactly where to get on the highline as there are only certain streets that have elevator and stair access.

It you were to walk it from one end to the other, you’re looking at about a good 30-45 minute power walk.  They’ve done a good job of landscaping it as well as preserving the train heritage.  The views and pictures you are able to get are one of a kind.  There’s pockets of places along the highline where you can eat, chill on the grass, read a book on the old school benches, observe unique architecture, watch movies on a summer night (permanent projectors are set-up for just this!), or just people watch.  Wanna know the hidden gem?  THE SUNSETS!  Spectacular!  If you’re looking for a romantic spot to take your significant other and watch the sun go down, few places rival this.

Here’s some pictures.  I went by myself when Tara was out of town (during the day) and then took her in the evening (you’ll see why below) when she got back.  She loved it as well.  Now, we tell everyone that this is a MUST when you are in the City!

Cool grassy area…great way to escape the heat.

The rest of these photos are from trip #2 with Tara a few weeks later and of course, I wanted to get there at dusk to catch a sunset. 

My beautiful wife!

Not surprising at all that wedding parties take pictures up here.

One of the few sit down eateries along the Highline.


They’re not Cali sunsets, but the NYC ones rank up there…that’s for sure.  I leave you with a few pics of them.

Brian Approved: ESPN Streak For The Cash

I’ve never been much of a gambler…I’m way too cheap for that.  So when my friend Erik asked if I wanted to play this game, I was a little skeptical.  I’m pleased to report that there is ZERO risk involved and a ton to gain.  If you’re a sports enthusiast, this is definitely worth checking out.  Here’s how it works:

You must sign up for an FREE account here.  If you have a smart phone, download the app (again free).  Then daily, ESPN generates a bunch of games and in some cases individual matchups where you pick the winner.  You can pick as many of the matchups as you want to participate in.  The basic idea is to get the longest winning streak.  Now for the best part…the prizes.  They pay out CASH to the winner(s).  How much?  Here’s how the prize money is distributed.

*Monthly Streak Prize:$50,000 – This goes to the person who accumulates the longest winning streak during any one month – it starts over each month.  They are a few tiebreakers in the event that there is a tie.  If your streak is broken anytime in the month, you can immediately start over.

*Monthly Bonus Prize:$50,000 – ESPN sets a monthly streak “threshold” minimum of either 25, 27, or 30.  If the monthy streak winner hits the threshold minimum, they’ll also gain the bonus prize.  If the monthly streak winner doesn’t hit the threshold, that bonus money rolls over to the NEXT month and so on, increasing the bonus pot until somebody hits it.

*Monthly Win Prize:$2,500 – This goes to the person who accumulates the most WINS (regardless of streak) during any one month – it starts over each month.  They are a few tiebreakers in the event that there is a tie.

Think it’s too good to be true?  So did I, but this is really legit.  If you’re playing it, please let me know so we can add each other as “friends”.  Good luck everybody!