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

Newest Buonassissi Family Member | Jake the Morkie

Jake The Morkie: Our New Boy

I’ve been able to pull off a few epic surprises for Tara but this Christmas present tested my surprise gift-giving mettle like never before.  Although we hinted around the conversation of the “next step” in our marriage relationship, we hadn’t officially made any decisions in that regard.  However, over the last few months, I’ve seen Tara gravitate towards having a dog (albeit a small one; remember we live in a place with less than 500 square feet).  With me on the road a ton over the last few months, the thought of having a dog had been amplified.  Being a dog-purchasing novice (I’ve actually never purchased one before; my brother had one for a couple of years when I was 16 and I moved out at 18), I had no idea on the process or pricing.  That said, I knew this was the year we were due to bring a dog (a morkie) into our family.

I  researched a few different breeds and then went dog shopping. I found a dog store called citipups, a NYC chain that specializes in small City dogs. After a few visits, I found one I really liked. Call it naiveté or what you will, but I assumed a small dog would be about $100-300. I asked the guy at the counter how much and he said, “17 plus another 35 bucks for registration, etc.”. I thought to myself, “This is amazing! I’m going to get out of here for under $100.” He then asked me if I wanted to leave a deposit. Deposit on $52? Are you kidding? I told him I was ready to pay it all. When the register rang up $1,735.00, I about had a heart attack. What kind of cruel joke was this guy playing?? This was way beyond my budget.

I checked with my NYC buddy, Derek, who was also in the market for a pup. I was hoping he was in the same situation as me as far as pricing goes (NYC isn’t cheap folks). Luckily, he was and he had done his own research and found an online dog store called affordablepup.com that also specializes is small dogs. You can see pictures and read up on a dog and they charge about 1/3 of what citipups was selling them for and that included the shipping! I found an 8 week old Morkie that they called Jacob. Because I waited so late to order and hadn’t officially owned a dog prior, they wanted to make sure I was “compatible” with the dog so they set-up a “Skype” date with the dog and myself. What the? I’ve never done this before so I went back to Google and searched for etiquette and questions to ask on a “puppy date” but that turned up with a whole lot of nothing. I did what I could do – I took a shower, shaved, and dressed up before I got on the video call. It was the weirdest thing I had experienced in my dating life. I logged on and it was just the puppy and me. He’s in a big room by himself and I tried talking with it. It didn’t respond much. After about 2-3 minutes of awkwardness, the person from the store finally showed his face on the screen and said he felt we were a match and all was good. Whew!  I passed.

The dog was coming 4 days before Christmas and I had to figure out how to hide this thing. I called a few boarding places and they wouldn’t take him because he was too young and didn’t have his rabies shot (they don’t get that until the 4th or 5th month). I found an amazing dog hotel in Chelsea. I went in and the dogs get their own 12X12 room, full-size bed, TV with doggy movies, plush sheets and pillows, and even room service, etc. all for $85 a night! Classic NYC!  This dog would be living larger than I was. Alas, they too would not take him due to his age. I scoured the internet and came across rover.com, a private dog sitting service. It is similar to airbnb.com, where you can see reviews and the sitters can review you as well. I put in a few requests and one came back from Claudia saying she would totally help me out. She ended up being amazing.

So I went and picked him up on Monday from Delta Cargo in Terminal A at LaGuardia airport. What a crazy situation that was. Again, I’m cheap so I took city transportation but it doesn’t drop you of at Terminal A. That would have been nice information to know. I literally circled through the entire airport back out to the subway stop and I had to go through it all again, get off at Terminal B and take a shuttle to Terminal A. Upon arrival there, they tell me Cargo is actually about a mile from Terminal A. Come on LaGuardia – get your act together! Some nice lady gave me a ride there as she was in route to the same place. I picked him up and he was shaking. I didn’t know if it was because I was delayed an hour in getting him, if he was hungry (they tell you to feed him every 15 minutes for the first 2 hours), if he was cold or if he was just stressed because of the day’s activities. Because I was out in the boonies, I had to have Uber come pick me up and take me to the sitter’s place. I tried feeding the dog on the way with a syringe they provide by just sticking it in his crate and he didn’t take to it. Then I see puke in the crate. Dang it! Am I killing this dog already? At this point, I’m totally freaking out and can’t wait to get him to the sitter’s house.

Like I said, Claudia was amazing.  She showed me how to use the syringe to force feed him. He was shaking because he was nervous and stressed out. I had to leave him with her but I knew he was in good hands. Claudia sent me pictures and updates every couple of hours. This totally put my mind at ease. By Christmas Eve, he was eating hard food! She kept him until Christmas Day and I picked him up at 7AM. This was a huge win because I have no idea how I would’ve kept him a surprise otherwise.

To surprise Tara the day of, I bought a doggie FSU jersey which ended up being the last present I gave her with no explanation. The dog was just outside our door. Her reaction to the shirt was priceless. Then I had her close her eyes as I brought in Jake. It was love at first sight. We’re so pumped to have him and I can’t wait to see how this all plays out. I made a little video of the surprise journey. Enjoy and Merry Christmas everyone!

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!!

Brayden’s 1st Birthday!

My favorite baby turned one last weekend.  Cue the tears.  I was so excited I got to travel to Tennessee to celebrate with him!

For Christmas, Chad and Megan gave me a round-trip plane ticket to visit them in Tennessee.  It just happened that we could not get schedules to line up in the months after Christmas: I just got a new job, they were moving into a new house, so we decided to hold onto it until Brayden’s birthday.  I hadn’t seen the little dude since October, so I was long overdue!  Of course, I would have loved to see them sooner, but I’m so glad I got to be there to celebrate such a huge milestone!

I took a 6:00am flight out of New York, as in the flight leaves at 6:00am, as in 3:30am wake up call… but I wanted to get there as early as possible to really enjoy the day and get all the time I could with them.  As I boarded the flight with a bachelorette party that was continuing on to Vegas, I was really questioning my decision.  But soon, the novelty of the Vegas flight wore off and everyone snoozed.  Thank goodness!  Choosing the 6:00am flight got me into Memphis at 7:49am which was awesome!  Once you realize that you have the whole day, that 3:30am wake up call seems totally worth it!  Walking out of the terminal and seeing Brayden smile and reach for me didn’t hurt either!  I was so worried that he wouldn’t remember me, that he would be afraid of this person who he hasn’t seen for almost a year, but that first smile and him wanting me to hold him was the best feeling!

Here’s me, post-flight and B, pre-nap.  It’s not pretty, but hey, what do you want from me?  I mentioned I “got ready” at 3:30am.

T and B

Then, we played for a little bit.  Kid’s got toys for days!!

B Playing

My grandparents were also in town for the party, so we went to the new house, hung out for a minute, and then began the birthday preparations.  Megan did such a great job planning the details of his party, we just had some last minute things to grab and get ready before my parents arrived the next day.

Saturday was the par-tay and it was a huge success!  The kids had fun, the adults had fun, and Brayden loved his smash cake.  Here’s the party, in pictures:

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Not sure about that sugary-sweet cake.  Had to check with Mom.

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I think he liked it!

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Naked baby in the anywhere chair his Aunt T and Uncle B gave him.  Loved celebrating this birthday boy!

Thirty One.

Tara’s birthday is one of my favorite times of the year.  It’s an opportunity where I get to celebrate her entirely.  Because birthdays are a big deal for her as well, it always extends for the entire week.  It also stretches me to be unique and creative with each one that I get to be a part of.  To read about last year’s birthday, click <<<here>>>.

Her actual birthday this year fell on a Tuesday (July 30th) which was good and bad. With it being in the middle of the work week, we had to wait till Friday to really do something BIG with friends. It did, however, give us an opportunity to do some small little things throughout the week.

This year I feel like we’ve hit a new stride personally as true NYC locals.  Last year, our first in NY, we hadn’t really developed any close friendships in the City so we ended up planning a big birthday bash with her FL friends and family.  Thanks in large part to the small group we started at our church, our “network” of close friends has grown quite considerably since the beginning of 2013.  This is how the birthday week unfolded.

Monday
It just so happened that it was the closing night of our small group season.  We had almost everybody at the group that night (which has grown from 12 to 20 people).

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Last year for Tara’s 30th, I had a cake made by the fabulous KaraBoo Bakery and we
included on the cake 30 things that defined Tara.
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Karaboo always hits it out of the park.  I was bummed that I couldn’t fly in a cake
from them.  In an interesting twist of fate, I ended up meeting a cake maker, Amy Noelle of Sugar Flower Cake Shop, on the Friday prior to Tara’s birthday week at a networking meeting in the City.  She is extremely talented, creative, uses local ingredients and does not use fondant on anything.  She was showing pictures of her work on her iPad and after I left the meeting, I e-mailed her to see if she could take on making my wife’s cake.  She accepted and we came up with a local NYC cake idea.  As I said earlier in this post, I feel like this year we’ve really settled into our NYC life.  We don’t feel we’re tourists anymore and we’ve embraced this City as our own.  So here’s the cake we had made to represent our “local” status in the Union Square area and I surprised Tara by bringing it out on that night to share with our group…our NYC friends.
usq cake
As for the cake ingredients/flavor, here’s the breakdown.  We decided on a Champagne Cake with chocolate buttercream filling and NYC Honey Icing.  Champagne cakes are all the rage this year plus that’s one of her favorite drinks!  The honey is sold in the Union Square farmer’s market (Andrew’s Honey).  Andrew has hives all around Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn and keeps the harvests separately.  The variety they are using right now is the Chelsea honey.  The chocolate was Valrhona dark chocolate.  Since chocolate doesn’t grow in the state of New York, she had to look outside and use one of the best quality French chocolates (which was great because Tara has a personal affinity for all things French!).  The champagne is a pink champagne which fit in with the purple and green color scheme.

Her gift that night was a mophie phone case/charger…a real game changer as a NY’er.  More on that in a future blog post.
mophie

Tuesday
This was the actual birthday.  I got up at 5:30AM to wait in line at Dominique Ansel’s Bakery, the inventor of the Cronut (more on this in a future blog post as well).  I was able to score 2 cronuts when the bakery opened at 8AM and deliver them to the wife at work as my “surprise” gift that day.  The cronut had a blackberry glaze with bits of pulverized berries mixed in and it was rolled with a mix of coarse sugar and lime zest. It was filled with blackberry-swirled vanilla cream. Every month they change flavors.  It tastes every bit as good as it sounds!!
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I had some flowers delivered at work a few hours later.
Flowers

We went and ate at Pierre Loti, a wine and cheese bar in Union Square – one of Tara’s favorite things to do.  It was great to spend some time with her out on a date – just the two of us.  We tried a few different plates and shared a bottle of wine.
pierre

Wednesday
We had dinner scheduled with some friends of ours from a few weeks ago, so before we went, I gave her a card with 2 plane tickets to the Dominican Republic.  We have not taken a vacation at all this year.  So this will be a great break for us in the Fall (even if it is just for a weekend) before my travel/gig season gets crazy and hopefully we can come back with some good looking tans for the winter!
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Thursday
Finally a night at the house just to chill and catch up on some DVR shows.  But to make the night a little special, I had ordered some ZD wine (T’s favorite) to be shipped in from Napa and it came in that day so we enjoyed a bottle with dinner.
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Friday
I had a DJ gig on Saturday so this was our night to live it up!  We went out with our good friends, Cameron and Leslee, to Beauty and Essex on the lower East Side.  I will do a separate blog post on that location later on but let me just say, this place blew our mind!  From the outside, you wouldn’t have any idea what the vibe is like.  You actually walk THROUGH a pawn shop (the front door) and it opens up to this massive 3 story space.  It’s very trendy.

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beauty inside
brian & tara
cam & les
They are known for their FREE “champagne bar” that is INSIDE the ladies restroom and you better believe that Tara and Leslee took FULL advantage of that.  Did I mention that it was FREE?
*NOTE: The men’s restroom, was not at all furnished with that type of amenity.
champagne

The food at B&E is very tapas style.  We hung out there, shared some amazing food, drank some quality wine and had great conversation.

Afterwards, we went out to a hole-in-the-wall bar called Nurse Bettie for a night cap and then finished eating tacos out of a taco truck called Tacos Morelos (Cameron and Leslee’s first DATE night spot in the NYC -TRUE story and yes, this is one of the many reasons why we love them)!
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Great way to cap off 31 in the City!
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Everybody: Meet Brayden

He’s my favorite baby.  He’s my nephew and he’s perfect.

He was born Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 3:35pm.  7 lbs. 15 oz. 19 in. long.

My sister allowed me to be “in the room” as my nephew was born.  Probably, because I had an awesome camera and I have fooled her into believing that I can take good pictures, sometimes.  But I insist that it’s because she loves me so much and couldn’t bear me leaving her side during such an emotional time.

Oh, that was her husband.  Right.  So, it WAS the camera.

Anywho, whatever the reason, I was there.  It was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever been a part of and I can’t thank Megan and Chad enough for letting me share in that experience.

I spent the next two weeks helping in any way I could.  I did laundry.  I cooked.  I bounced and danced and sang the baby to sleep.  I changed my first diaper (yes, first.)  I actually held him and got him to STOP crying – major breakthrough!  If you know me at all, you know that babies don’t like me, I don’t like them.  It’s cool.  It’s something I’ve come to accept.  But this baby liked me!  I wasn’t scared of him.  He wasn’t scared of me!  Twilight zone stuff.

While I was there, we took so many pictures!!  So, let me properly introduce you to my nephew, Brayden Cameron Gilliland.

Chad, patiently waiting.

The Labor and Delivery Nurses with their gifts Megan made for them.

Mom and Dad arriving just in time

Making his grand entrance!

In Love.

I’ll leave you with a sneak peek of the photo “session” that we took in the days after he was born.  The photo at the top of the post is probably my favorite picture of all time – I love everything about it.  There’s something about the strength and intent in his eyes that make me so excited to see what kind of man he will become.  He will move mountains.  Here it is again:

Isn’t my sister beautiful?!

Look at that little ear!!

There are so many more adorable pics, but Megan hasn’t picked her birth announcements yet… so I want there to be some surprise!:)

Megan, Chad and my sweet little Brayden, I love you.

Tara’s 30th…surprise 3 of 3

Towards the end of the last post, I alluded to the rough week that Tara was having.  Let me elaborate a little more on it.  About 2 weeks before Tara was supposed to be in Florida, we received word that our Florida place was in the midst of escrow and we needed to be out by August 1st.  We had 90% of our stuff STILL in that Florida house.

When we got that call, we hadn’t bought Tara’s plane ticket yet.  We booked her to come out a little earlier in the week so she could pack up the house.  My “surprise” plane ticket had already been purchased and I had a full week of work/meetings in NY that would’ve been tough to rearrange so we recruited her parents and grandparents just in case we needed the help.  At the time, we both thought packing up the house wouldn’t be a big deal.  That is, until Tara got there and saw how much stuff we had.

She worked her fingers to the bone packing it up (as did her family).  I am not exaggerating at all when I tell you there were a bunch of 12-15 hour days.  After the party Friday, I had to jump in and help as well until our flight Sunday night. Believe it or not, we somehow managed to get it all done before we flew out.

We got back to our place in NYC around 1AM Monday morning, the day of Tara’s birthday.  We obviously slept in that day (well deserved…did I mention that we also had a wedding to work on Saturday night?).  When we got up, I informed her that she had to be done with her work by 2PM.  We were going away for a couple of days.

Surprise #3 was actually the first thing I booked.  At the end of this post, I’ll explain the secrets to booking all these gifts because it may appear that I’m a mini mogul to be able to make all of this happen and that most certainly is NOT the case.  The Florida surprises came to fruition months after this one was already finalized.  We hadn’t been on any sort of vacation or mini-break since last July and this couldn’t have come at any better of a time (especially now, considering the hellish move we — or should I say mainly SHE — just endured).  We rented a car and started driving. I didn’t tell her where we were headed.  She figured it out when she saw the sign.

Atlantic City, NJ is about a 2 hour drive from NYC and since we were headed there again a few weeks later for the DJ Expo, this gave me an opportunity to try the commute once via car before heading there again when I would be under a time crunch.  If you’ve never been, Atlantic City is like the little step brother to Las Vegas.  Currently, they’ve launched a new branding initiative called “DO AC” to market the place as a way to get out of the City for a break.  A “break” is exactly what we needed.

I booked us at the Borgata, a posh casino hotel that is one of the nicer ones in the area, even though it is almost 9 years old.

They recently finished a $50 million remodel to the rooms.  Inside the room, gray dominates the color palette with pink touches. Each one has a 46-inch, LED, high-definition TV, a shower big enough for two and ours had an incredible view.


I had called in earlier that morning to make sure that birthday champagne and chocolate covered strawberries were awaiting our arrival in the room upon check-in. Way to come through Borgata.


When I booked the hotel package originally, it included dinner at Bobby Flay’s steakhouse.  The ambience and food were amazing as you might imagine.

We slept in again the next day and then went down to the hotel’s Spa where I had a stone massage scheduled for both of us right before lunch.  It was pretty incredible.

After the massage, we hung out at the Spa for a while longer.  They had a jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, showers, and snack food.  R&R was in high gear.

That evening, I decided to give her the rest of her “New York” gifts.  Nothing too crazy as far as those go. Just 2 small things.

#1: Over the last few months, we have begun watching (and now truly look forward to) Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. His sketches are hilarious and he’s really grown into his role as a late night host.  I called and got us 2 tickets to go see a taping in late August.

#2: Then I gave her 4 New York Mets tickets (NY Yankees tickets were outrageously priced) to go see a game with some of our new friends in the City, Cameron and Leslee, sometime in mid-September which should be a blast.   I love the fact that there is no social outing that Tara isn’t willing to try.  Even baseball.

Wednesday we checked out around noon and headed home.  It was a short trip but boy was it perfect timing.

Earlier in the post, I mentioned I’d reveal some secrets to my gift giving.  This may knock me down a few notches for showing you my tricks but I think authenticity is important.  If you see the way we live, we’re on a tight budget.  That means creativity is essential in finding gifts.  On the surface, it may appear that I spent about $3-4K on this birthday but the truth is, it was under $1500 with the shoes taken up $800 of it.  Even that is a little misleading as the shoes were bought with tip money so really the birthday cost was $700.  The $700 is STILL a bit deceiving as only $300 of it was out of our normal budget.

The shoes: Unfortunately, no tricks or hook-up for that one. I knew I was going to have to pay hard, cold cash for them.  But like I said above, it came out of tip money that we don’t count in our normal budget. So that really was a cost of $0 as far as I look at it.

The restaurant/surprise night: My plane ticket was bought with mileage points so no cost there.  The restaurant initially told me I’d have to pay $1200 for a private room.  I, of course, took my chances showing up the “day of” and putting in a reservation for 30 in peak tourist season.  The trick is making the reservation just early enough so you don’t hit the dinner rush.  By making it at 6:30PM, we avoided the normal dinner peak hours (between 7-8PM) so the cost was free and there was no wait to be seated.  No plating fee for the cake and a small $20 total overall corkage fee for unlimited wine bottles were huge!  I had to call in a favor for the wine…getting it through a distributor.  The cost was almost half of what it would normally be.  The fact that the food prices were so affordable really made it work for all the people who came so no one really had to come out-of-pocket too much for the food.  We have a “going out to dinner” budget and I purposefully skimped throughout the 2 weeks prior to make this one work.  So while we did spend money to eat, it was already budgeted for.  My “outside the norm” costs for the night were the wine and cake.

Atlantic City Getaway: Casino type towns make their money on the weekends.  To get business during the week is gravy for them.  The great thing about my line of work is while my weekends are typically busy and hard to take off, my weekdays are way more flexible.  I subscribe to a few travel sites that send me “daily deals” and to be honest I can’t remember which one was used to book this trip.  But they had a “romance” package for 2 days at $300.  It included the dinner at the restaurant ($100 dinner tab), the massages, and the 2 night stay (which came with the champagne and chocolate covered strawberries).  Normally, that would be in the $800-1000 range.  But because it was the weekday, they have crazy low deals!  Places like Vegas and Biloxi have similar specials.  We also have a “vacation” budget so this fit no problem.  Again, no out of the ordinary budget costs except the rental car.  Thanks to being a USAA member, we saved 25% off that as well.

New York Gifts: Jimmy Fallon show tickets are free…score there!  The NY Mets suck  (and have since 1987) so their tickets are ridiculously cheap…about the same as a movie ticket.  For both of us, it’s about the experience of those 2 things.  I could care less about where I sit in the stands…I mean it’s not like we’re talking about Dodgers or Lakers tickets 🙂

So there you have it.  Her birthday was a success and I’ve got some time before I need to figure out #31.

Tara’s 30th…surprise 2 of 3

Yesterday I blogged about gift #1 for Tara’s 30th.  While that was the first of three gifts given, it was not the first one I had planned.  Herein lies surprise gift #2.  First, the backstory.

Tara has been a trooper with our move to NYC.  It is the first time that she has really lived away from home.  Granted she lived in Tallahassee during her college years; that was still only a little over 2 hours away (a quick commute home if needed).  If you’ve spent any time with her, you’ll pick up on the fact right away that she is a social butterfly.  She loves being around people and people love being around her.

Since she works with me in my business and we work from home primarily, the opportunities to meet new people in our new City are vey limited.  Plus, for the first couple months we lived here, I was traveling non-stop so she was really by herself 90% of the time.  She probably wouldn’t admit it, but I could see it had defintely taken its toll on her.  The thought of spending her birthday (and one of such significance) away from her closest friends was slowly looking like reality.

Luckily, she had a work trip to Destin, FL (our previous hometown) planned the weekend before her birthday.  That was when I decided to throw her a surprise party.  The details weren’t totally worked out but the initial idea was that I would fly in to surprise her at a dinner with some of her Destin friends and we’d get a birthday cake designed in the style of the new shoes.  Then at some point, I’d pull out the real ones.  The last part of that plan got nixed when I had to give her the shoes early.  So I had to go to plan B.  Here’s some of the details of this surprise party.

Because it was her 30th birthday, I wanted to stay with a “30” theme throughout.  In Florida, there’s a beautiful stretch of highway along the gulf called “30-A”.  So I thought we could have it at a restaurant on that road.  We made reservations at 723 Whiskey Bravo.  It has a cool rooftop, very affordable food and a private room.

Another themed idea was to invite only 30 of her closest family and friends.  I called some of her college roomates to see if they could make it, one of her best friends from Jacksonville and of course her family.

We secretly sent out E-invites and then her sister designed a cool 3D paper reminder invite that went out as well.

The cake was the toughest part.  I had no clue what to do with the design since the shoe thing would be anti-climatic at this point.  So I put together the brains of Bob and Leslie (2 of my business partners) and the fantastic pattisier, Kara Enache, from Karaboo Bakery and we came up with something in no time.  We decided to go with “30 Things about Tara”.  While I was able to come up with the majority of the 30, I had to call in some recruits like her mom, sister and one of her best friends to help me compile the list.  Honestly, it was such a fun process.  We ended up having so many things that we had to start eliminating things to get to 30.  We left it with Kara to figure out how to incorporate everything.  Since you can’t see all 30 things on the picture of the cake, I’m listing the 30 below.

  1. Church/God/Faith
  2. Family
  3. Friends
  4. Sunbathing
  5. Wine
  6. Beer (Miller Lite) {God only knows why that brand – Eww!}
  7. FSU Seminoles
  8. Ballet
  9. Cheerleading
  10. NYC
  11. CA
  12. FL
  13. Sushi Sho (CA Sushi Place)
  14. Bert’s Chili (Waffle House)
  15. Airplane
  16. Kean Coffee (CA Coffee Place)
  17. Shoes
  18. Chi Omega (sorority)
  19. Stationery
  20. Dresses
  21. Crab Island/Boating/Backdown / Billy Bowlegs {Boat she goes on every year}
  22. Bruiser (her dog)
  23. Chanel (her smell)
  24. Ruby (her birthstone)
  25. Justin Timberlake / N’Sync {the OG celebrity crush}
  26. Beans
  27. Stuart Weitzman
  28. 10/2/10  (Wedding Date) {Duh}
  29. SOTER (licence plate of her first used car) {was a running joke/nickname of car}
  30. 9:24AM (time she was born)

The result was this.

Her favorite color is purple so although my camera doesn’t do it justice, that is the color of it.  She loves red velvet so that was flavor inside the cake. Kara killed it!  Amazing job.  The restaurant charged ZERO for a plating fee.  So we were able to bring it in, keep it in one of their refrigerators and and have it served after dinner.

One other small thing I added at the last minute was ordering a few bottles of her favorite wine for the party.  She loves ZD wine so I had that shipped in.  The corkage fee at this particular restaurant was very minimal and was the perfect last minute touch.

I got there the day of the party.  I remained in hiding most of the day, then arrived at the restaurant a little bit prior to the event happening.  She was finishing a wedding rehearsal and we had her assistant coordinator take her to the restaurant.   At the restaurant at that time was just our work folks (we had her believing that the work folks wanted to have a drink with her).  As is usually the case in July in the panhandle, it was muggy and humid.  She loves Martinis so I had one waiting at the door in my hand for her.

She was happily surprised and we went upstairs on the deck to hang for a little bit while the other peeps we had invited filed in downstairs to the private room.  There were a few close calls of the surprise being thrawted.  Tara ran into her grandparents on her way into the restaurant but her grandmother spun a great story as to why they were out there.  Then a few of our friends came upstairs and again another story was made up. Whew!

I took her downstairs once I got the word that everybody was in the room and the surprise came to life!

This was definitely something Tara needed considering the week she had been having (more on that in the next blog posting).  I’m so thankful that so many of her family and friends drove out to be a part of this.  Major thanks go out to Bob and Leslie for helping me make it all come together.

There still was one last BIG surprise for her birthday.  #3 will come out on the blog tomorrow!

Tara’s 30th…surprise 1 of 3

Tara and I have been married almost 2 years but we’ve been together more than 3 years.  We had been dating exclusively for about 4 months before we first celebrated one of her birthdays together.  If you know Tara at all, you know that her birthday is a BIG deal.  I caught on to this fact rather quickly.  You either have to go big or go home.  So the 1st year, I surprised her with breakfast before work, balloons, gifts, an airhorn, etc.  Here’s a little recap.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxwyQnZIpKQ]
Since then, I’ve matured (slightly).  I still like to surprise her but the gifts have slowly gotten better.  Last year, as we were saving for our NY move, instead of extravagant gifts, I treated her to a birthday week of going out to dinner with some of her favorite people. Each night we went out with a different group of friends.  It was the perfect thing to do before our move later that year.

This year, I had no clue what to do.  It was the big 30…not only was she entering a new decade but it was going to be her 30th on July 30th which meant it was her once in a lifetime GOLDEN birthday.  I had to step up my game for this one.  So I kept my ears open to any clues or hints that she might throw out.  At the beginning of this year, we somehow got in a conversation of her birthday and I asked her if she had anything she wanted to do or cross off her bucket list before she hit her 30s.  She mentioned that when she was in college, she had hoped to have a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes by the time she turned 30 but that that would never be a reality.  BOOM!  There it was. I tucked that idea away for the next several months.

I started saving any and all tip money from my DJ gigs throughout the beginning of the year and put it aside.  It’s a good thing I did because I was not familiar with the cost of these shoes.  I went to the boutique store in NYC one weekend while she was away and the sticker shock hit me square between the eyes.  I was guessing $200 or so for a pair….WRONG!  That was about 1/4 of the cost (that price tag blew my Air Jordans from back in the day out of the water).  So I continued saving and on my last gig before I needed to buy them, I got a very generous tip from one of our clients that got me to the magic number.

The NYC store was out of the particular style of shoe I wanted to get so I went to their boutique in California while I was there for an event.  With the help of Tara’s sister, Megan, and one of my business partners, Leslie, I got the right shoe.

The only catch was that they had a 30 day return policy.  I was headed to Florida from Cali and we were still more than 30 days out from her birthday so I was going to have to give them to her early to make sure everything fit just right.

Leslie made a killer gift box.

When we were leaving our Florida office at the conclusion of a work day, I gave them to her.  In my nervousness of wanting to get it on video, I didn’t realize I had a ton of gum in my mouth (that for some reason I was chomping on while filming) and I forgot to rotate my iPhone to get it full screen so you’ll note the black bars on either side of the video. Nonetheless, here’s the reveal of the surprise caught on camera.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBwkPIBZZfM]

I was so stoked to be able to give that to her.  For most, that would have been enough of a gift for her birthday but I still had another surprise or 2 up my sleeve.  Surprise #2 of the birthday is coming tomorrow on the blog.

The best 4th Of July ever…NYC style

The wife is away for a week on business (usually it’s the other way around) which means I’ve got some time to catch up on some much needed blogging.  I’m not at all insinuating that she keeps me from writing blogs…in fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  It’s more that we have been through such a crazy season over the last couple months with the few different businesses we’re running and traveling for those businesses that we’ve desperately needed time to just unplug from the computer, hang out with each other in the evenings, settle in to this new city that we’re loving more and more, and start forging friendships with some new folks.

Speaking of new folks, meet one of our new friends – Timothy Reese.


He’s got the coolest glasses on the planet and a personality to match.  Not to mention he’s a video editor, bassist and recently started DJ’ing.  He also happens to go to Liberty Church.  With that much in common, he and I instantly became friends.  Tim has lived in New York a long time and is pretty well connected with different groups of people and events going on in the City.

Because of some crazy stuff going on at work, Tara and I had to stay in Florida a whole week longer at the end of June than we had anticipated.  The way things worked out, we ended up having to go back to NY on July 3rd just to catch our original flight to Chicago on July 5th.  That meant we were spending July 4th in NYC!!  This being my first year doing so and us not having ANY view from our balcony, I texted as many people as I could to see if we could figure out a place to watch fireworks.

Tim wrote me back and his text was this:
“Have a spot for July 4th, we’ll be at a studio on 26th.  We’ll have a front row to the fireworks.”

This sounded cool but was so cryptic.  Would this be a studio apartment?  One as small as ours?  Was there gonna be a ton of people packed in like sardines?  None of this info was mentioned but we thought even if it sucked, it would be a chance to hang out with new friends and it was definitely a way better option than chillin’ by ourselves at our pad with no view of the City.

Tara, I and one of our new friends, Leslee, ventured out to the party but stopped about halfway there for a “pre-fireworks” drink at the White Horse Tavern.  It was ridiculously hot on our walk so this pit stop was perfect.  We hung out there till about 6PM and then started walking again to the party.

On our way, I got a text from Tim with a photo of the invite to the party.  The text read:
“Show them this to get past the police line at 10th Ave.”

As we got closer and closer to the “studio”, the security was tighter and the police barricades became more frequent.  In fact, at one point, I ended up having to text a picture of the invite to everyone in my party because everyone had to have it or they weren’t going to let us through. I started thinking this probably isn’t gonna be your typical house party.

We met up with Tim, got to the building, took an elevator to the 14th floor, and realized we were in no standard home studio.  We had entered one of the most incredible PHOTOGRAPHY studios I’d ever seen in my life.  It literally was 4 studios spaces that were joined together (I later found out that they’d shot a ton of music videos here for Rihanna Jay-Z, etc).  The panoramic view was breathtaking.

This was the view from one of the windows. You can see a few of the barges from this very spot.

There were probably about 300 people in attendance when all was said and done but all those people would have barely made a dent in ONE of the four studio spaces….that’s how large the space was that I’m talking about.  It was potluck style (we brought wine, of course) and there was food for days.  Tons of grilling out, snack foods and drinks along with great tunes playing throughout the house.  Because we were up so high, we actually had an awesome breeze and got to watch the Macy’s Fireworks display (yeah, I’m talking about the televised one – slightly a big deal) on the balcony of this “Studio”.

It was the best July 4th party I’d EVER been to.  I wanted to do my Wayne’s World, “I’m not worthy” dance (I came to find out later that all the other folks down below on the street level had to pay for tickets and arrive by 12PM to be there ALL DAY in the brutal humidity with less than desireable bathroom options to watch the fireworks at 9PM….and here we are in the life of luxury).

Of course, I had to ask Tim, “What do these people who hosted the party do for New Year’s?”  He chuckled and then said that they do a repeat of July 4th (with more of a formal dinner type feel) on NYE at the same venue.  If I don’t have a gig, I will definitely be here for it!  The only thing I kept thinking was, if this was year 1 of celebrating Independence Day in NY, how am I EVER gonna top this?

Here’s a little video footage.  I have NO idea what Leslee and Tara were talking about.  Hair maybe???
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nh6dPNFdzA0]

We were on a rooftop on TOP of a rooftop. That's when you know you've arrived :) We were on a rooftop ON TOP of a rooftop.  That’s when you know you’ve arrived 🙂

One of our new friends, Leslee, and Tara.

All 4 barges were sync’d up to the same display. Pretty awesome being able to see all of them at once.