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

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!!

We’re going to the Hamptons. Welcome to the Hamptons

I think Brian already mentioned it, but we lead a small group at our church for married couples.  This season brought us our first engaged couple, the lovely Ashley Kersh and her beau, Tony Romano.  Side note: Ashley is an Ahhh-maz-ing fine jewelry designer!  Do yourself a favor and go here: www.ashleykersh.com.  Any guys in the reading audience?  This is what your sweetheart wants… literally, anything from this website.  You can’t go wrong.  You’re welcome.

As I was saying, Ashley and Tony are in our small group and a couple of weekends ago, very graciously opened their Hamptons home to us and another couple of friends of ours, Cameron and Leslee, for a weekend getaway.  I couldn’t believe it!  It was something Brian and I have had on our bucket list of things to do!  I felt like I had finally arrived.  We were going to THE Hamptons!  One little hiccup… Brian was going to be out of town.  But, do you think I let that slow me down?  Nope, I gladly accepted the offer as the official fifth wheel.  I have no shame.

Friday arrived and we were to catch the 4:07pm train from Penn Station to Southampton.  Oh wait, another hiccup… I have a job.  But, the Lord knew I needed to go to the Hamptons and I conveniently had a doctor’s appointment scheduled that afternoon that I had already asked off of work for.  (I really did have an appointment, everything came back normal, negative, not pregnant, etc., etc.  Thank you for asking)  So, I arrived at Penn Station, bought the tickets, and met Cameron and Leslee there.

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I also picked up a beer.  With a straw, as you do.

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As I’m waiting for Cam and Les, I notice tons of people gathering around the departures board.  As soon as they show our track number, I realize why.  It’s a mad dash to get a coveted seat on the train.  You don’t want to be standing for 2 hours!  Or, maybe you do, no judgment.  We may have been on the next to last train car, but we got seats and we got them across the aisle from each other.  It was a major win!  And so began our 2 hour trek to Southampton.

Friday night we stayed at the house, took a dip in the hot tub (Yep, I said hot tub), and discussed plans for the next day.

I was totally amped for this little getaway!  I desperately missed the beach and needed a little sunshine.  I was so pale, I don’t even think my home state of Florida would claim me, at this point.  As luck would have it, we woke up to a pretty dreary Saturday.  A little rain, a lot of fog, and just overcast in general.  But we didn’t let that slow us down.  A little coffee was in order.  Leslee and I woke up before everyone else, so we hopped on a bike and headed down to Main Street for our caffeine fix.  We ended up at The Golden Pear.

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A cute little eatery, specializing in breakfast.  Jackpot!  It was definitely the place to see, and be seen.  This place was packed!  Patrons, for the most part, were either decked out in workout gear, so you knew they had already been to their AM yoga sesh, or dressed in full Hamptons gear.  White capris, cardigan tied around the neck, and they had their full-size poodle with them.  And then, there was me and Leslee, who did not work out that morning, nor did we bring our cardis to wrap around our shoulders.  The breakfast was delish, though, and the coffee did not disappoint.  Ashley and Tony rode up and joined us, and eventually, Cameron made his way down as well.  Since the weather wasn’t going to allow a beach day, we strolled around town and took a look at all of the shops and sidewalk sales going on.  Loved this entryway to Ralph Lauren.

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Then, we took it easy by the pool at the house, just in case it rained.  And it did.  Before dinner, we decided to bike down and take a walk on the beach.  The houses along the beach are incredible.

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And the beach was beautiful, despite the weather.  I felt like a pirate ship was going to emerge from the fog at any moment.

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After our walk on the beach, we came back to the house and the girls and I started experimenting with our cocktail making skills.  We created a fabulous concoction and named it the 28 Old Town, in honor of it’s birthplace.  Fresh muddled watermelon, basil, vodka, splash of soda, twist of lime.  Delicious.  Then, we played the most hilarious game: Cards Against Humanity.  At one point, I was crying from laughing so hard and I could not recover.  I can’t tell you the reason why it was so funny, because it is highly offensive and inappropriate.  If you’ve played this game, you understand.

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The next day was GORGEOUS!  Hallelujah!  Finally, our beach day was going to happen!  We thought about going to Montauk for church.  Our church does a pop-up service in Montauk through the summer – if you’re in the area, you should check it out!  More info here.  Like I said, we thought about going, but in the Hamptons, getting around isn’t cheap if you don’t have a car, and Montauk isn’t exactly within biking distance.  So, we opted out of church and went to the beach instead.  Because Saturday was so overcast, we felt like God would understand. 🙂

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After a beautiful day on the beach, we made the trip back to Manhattan around 5pm, just in time to gear up for the coming work week.  Now, I totally understand why NYers do this – summer in the Hamptons.  It was so nice to get away from the City.  You don’t even realize how fast you’re going until you take a step back.  The train was a bit quieter on the way back – everyone sleeping off the weekend.  I had such a wonderful time and could not thank Ashley and Tony enough for inviting us.  I see you, Southampton!  Next year, the Buonassissi’s are coming for you!

New York City Public Library

One of my friends, Beth MacLane, who has given us a ton of local NYC ideas in the past – whether it’s been places to eat, things to do or places to go – has always been on point.  So when she said she always tries to stop in at the New York City Public Library whenever she’s in town, I knew we probably needed to check it out.  She said it’s so peaceful and something you can’t experience anywhere else.

The initial doubts were there for me…I mean, the library?  Really?  A “must go to” spot?  I had been to the Costa Mesa, CA branch and trust me; you wouldn’t want to experience that one. I’m kinda kidding.  Anyway, we had a Saturday free (rare for both Tara and I) so we decided to take full advantage of it and make our way to midtown and check out the main branch.

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A few fun facts:
*It opened in 1895
*It’s the 2nd largest library in the US (3rd in the world) behind only the Library of Congress
*It houses 53 million items (45 million research items and 8 million branch items)
*While this is the main branch, there are 87 branches in all
*It’s independently managed as a non-profit corporation with both private and public financing

This place is massive – 3 levels to be exact.  When I walked in, the first thing I noticed was the ceiling and architecture.  It’s pretty incredible.  It reminds me of my trip to Europe and just feeling like you’re back in time with some of the structures.  The first level has mainly exhibit items about the library history.
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The 2nd level has a few reading rooms and a few exhibit literature items like this first edition Reader’s Digest.  The reading rooms are decorated with amazing paintings.

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The 3rd level houses all the books and more reading rooms.  I was surprised that they had all the tables updated with power supplies as well as laptops for check-out (as long as used in the library).  Technically, you weren’t supposed to take pictures in these rooms but you know…I went stealth / ninja mode and took some images…all in the name of blogging.
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We wanted to get a library card but you had to have certain documentation showing that you lived there.  Tara had that documentation on her so she got a card. I, of course, did not and will have to wait to get mine the next time we go back. Tara actually got the card, in part, because she wanted to check-out a book that she’d had her eye on but didn’t want to pay $12 to buy it on Amazon.  Come to find out, this is 1 of 4 NON-LENDING branches where you can check it out but you have to read it in the library.

Later, we found out that if you have a kindle, you can get it electronically and check it out that way for 30 days.  To give you an idea of how many people use this library, all electronic copies of the book she wanted were checked out and she was in the “600 range” of people on the waiting list.

All in all, it’s a great visit!  I can see why Beth goes there often.  Oh and once again, it’s free!

Manhattanhenge

New York City has some pretty magical things that happen on any given day. But there are two times a year when The City really shows off!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Manhattanhenge.

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It occurs when the setting sun aligns perfectly with the Manhattan street grid, creating the most spectacular glow of light across the buildings, illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street.

For the best views, it’s recommended to go as far east as possible on 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th Streets. These streets have the clearest view across the avenues to New Jersey. This year, it happened on May 28th and July 13th.

So, on May 28th, close to sunset, Brian and I trucked east on 14th Street to position ourselves for the best possible view. We get to 2nd Avenue and there’s some trees really shading and blocking the view.

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At the last minute, we decide to take a gamble and try 23rd Street. Now, we’re running. It only happens twice a year and we are going to be out of town for the second one! We are hoofing it! Me, with my huge camera in one hand, phone and keys in the other, dodging everything from taxis to tourists; it’s really a sight to see.

We make it to 23rd and the view is SO MUCH better! I’m so glad we made the move. I’m also stoked to see we are not the only crazy people holding up traffic to take pictures in the middle of the street!

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Pretty amazing.

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Next year, I would love to go further uptown. The light bouncing off the high rises would really be beautiful.

Important to note: If the weather doesn’t cooperate (i.e. overcast or rainy), you won’t be able to see anything but clouds.  Such was the case for July 13th.  Our friends were in town staying at our place  while we were both gone.  Brian and I told them they HAD to make it down there and see it.  It had been overcast all day and this is the picture they sent us.  So sad.
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HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival

Tara and I lead what our church calls a “community group” (other churches call it a connect group, small group, life group, etc.).  Our particular group is for married couples. As we were going into the Summer season, we changed the format from the Spring semester to a more social and less study feel, taking advantage of all the things NY has to offer in the Summer.

We designated one night for going to the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, which is absolutely free!
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It runs from the middle of June through the middle of August and they show some classic films.  Each week it’s a different film and you can see all the options on their website.  We picked “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” because it’s a classic and frankly seemed easier to follow then most of the others.

Here’s how it works.  The green lawn is closed to the public all day until 5PM.  Unlike Shakespeare in the Park, there are NO tickets needed.  Instead, you line up on the gravel surrounding the lawn at 4PM.  Then at 5, they open the lawn and it’s a free for all to make your claim to the best view of the big screen.  People bring blankets and chairs to mark their territory.

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Once again, because of my flexible work schedule, I was designated as our group representative to grab our seats.  Surprisingly enough, with my one blanket, I got us perfect seats.  All that half marathon training paid off in the mad dash.  So cool having the cityscape as your backdrop behind the screen.

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Tara HBO Film Festival spot

The only problem is that you then have to WAIT until 8:30PMish for the sun to go down and the film to begin.  People bring books, mess around on their phones, eat dinner, etc. until the film starts.  In our case, Tara met me there after she got off work and we watched flying cameras and played a few rounds of thumb war (which I dominated..duh).

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Our group mates made their way to finding us before the film started and everything worked out perfectly.  Here are a couple tips:

#1: Try to secure a space as close to the middle of the lawn as possible.  For one, all the speakers are located in the middle so if you’re on the sides, you catch the echo and it’s hard to hear clearly.  Also, if anybody leaves, you’re less likely to have people walk over you being in the middle.  If you’re on the edges, you’re subjected to it all movie long (much like having an aisle seat on a plane).

#2: Bring 2 blankets if securing for a large group.  Looking back, I wish I would’ve brought a second one.  They don’t allow “sheets” so don’t bring those.

#3: Bring an umbrella!  Summer showers in NY are subject to happen at any time and there is no covering on the lawn.  In fact, a slight drizzle DID come down for about 2-3 minutes before the movie started. The nice thing is it cleared out a few folks who did not bring umbrellas, which allowed us to spread out a bit.

#4: You can bring your own food and drink but they do inspect bags again, so don’t bring professional cameras.  There are a couple food places outside of the park that are good and relatively cheap.

#5: Use the restrooms before the film.  It is pitch black once the films start and trying to make your way to a restroom at that point is tough.

They showed a preview and an old school Bugs Bunny cartoon before the film started.

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I forgot how good the original Willy Wonka is.  Gene Wilder is the man!  So glad we picked that one.
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We caught this on the perfect night.  The humidity was extremely low, because of the rain, the temperature actually dropped a bit and we actually had a slight breeze.  All in all, this was a total win!  Highly recommend this in your NYC summer plans!

Shakespeare In The Park

Since it’s been forever and a day since we last blogged, it’s time to take my friend, Lisa, up on her blog challenge and give it a shot of a full week of blogging to get some 2013 posting momentum started (better late than never).  So why so long between posts?  It’s a sad excuse but we’ve been extremely busy.  I’ve been gigging a lot recently (most of which has been out of town) and Tara has been working a ton holding things steady in NY while I’ve been on the road.

For this week of posting, I thought we’d highlight some NYC bucket list items we’ve checked off our list over the summer.  We’ve tried to make a point of doing a lot of local things this year and surprisingly enough, we’ve made a ton happen.  Living in this City sure does have its advantages and the summer gives you so many things to do.

Shakespeare in the Park was something my wife read about in an e-mail from the skint last year. So when we recently watched a DVR’d episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Jessie Tyler Ferguson was a guest and he was plugging his involvement with Shakespeare in the Park and Tara remembered reading about it.

So what exactly is it? Throughout the summer, the public theatre sponsors free showings of various Shakespeare pieces with a few Holywood headliners lending their talents to them.  This has been happening for the last 60 years.  The first play (of 6) this summer was The Comedy of Errors and it starred Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Hamish Linklater. We talked our friends, Cameron and Leslee, into going with us.

This is how it works with tickets.  Every show day, they release tickets at noon at the ticket booth in Central Park.  They only allow 2 tickets per person and seating preferences is a crapshoot…first come, first serve.  With my more flexible work schedule, I got there at 11AM and held a spot for us then Cameron came down and met me at noon and we scored 4 tickets.  The line moved quickly and wasn’t too bad at all.
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You return at 8PM when the amphitheater opens and you can bring your own food/drink or buy it there.  With Leslee, we knew she would have plenty of snacks so we took care of bringing the coffee mugs 😉

The amphitheater was very intimate and there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house.  The set design was incredible, the lighting/production was top notch, the central park backdrop was surreal and the weather was phenomenal.
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I think our only regret was not having read up on the play ahead of time…talking in old English and in this particular play, some of the actors playing multiple roles, made it tough to follow initially.  Don’t even try to bring professional cameras in there as they don’t allow any photos to be taken and they were stopping people at the door.  Of course, being the sneaky photographer I am, I took a few stealth photos.

Added bonus was that one of our friends from Liberty Church, Adrienne Weidert, was dancing in the show.  Dancing in a Shakespeare play?  Yes!  They used it in such a creative way.
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If you get a chance to come to the City in the summer and you appreciate Shakespeare (or just enjoy live theatre in general), put this on your to do list. It is such a great experience.  And the price (free) makes it all the more worth it!
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