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
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!

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.

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.

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.

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.
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.

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:  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.


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


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.


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.


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.



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


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.


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. 🙂


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!

What’s all the fuss with overnight oats?

What do you do when your kitchen is the size of an ice-cube and you only have one pot (which happens to be dirty because you cooked dinner in it the night before).  You start to look into this overnight oats phenomena.

Overnight oats are exactly what they sound like.  At the most basic level, you throw some oats in a bowl with equal parts milk and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight and Voila!  You have breakfast ready the next morning.  How easy is that?!

Overnight Oats

I used 1/2 cup of oats and 1/2 cup of almond milk, (I’ve found the 60 calorie, original to  be my favorite) then topped them with some brown sugar and pecans the next morning.

You have to get past your idea of what oatmeal should be.  This is cold oatmeal, but I don’t think the texture is really any different.  I enjoyed it and it really kept me full throughout the morning and even into the afternoon.  Brian was slightly less thrilled about this new breakfast.  He’s a hot oatmeal kind of guy, but he still ate it.  He also said how full it kept him feeling throughout the day.

When I started looking into more recipes for overnight oats, there are some serious gourmet oats out there.  Pumpkin Spice Overnight OatsVanilla Walnut Overnight Oats, there are endless possibilities!

Do you have a favorite overnight oats recipe?  I’d love to hear about it and give it a try!

Writer’s Block

I used to journal all the time.  I have books and books dating back to high school.  (For the ones doing the math, that’s over ten years ago and you’re right, I don’t look that old🙂 )  And then I stopped.  No idea why.  I guess life just started getting busy.  I got married, I moved in to Brian’s house and then I moved again to New York.  Then, we started the blog and we just weren’t writing as frequently as we wanted to.  Personally and professionally, life was crazy!

Well, ’tis the season for New Year’s Resolutions, right?  One on the top of my list is to write and blog more, so I’m working on a few issues I have with it.

1.) For me, I think it’s really hard to have a stream of thought while typing.  I’m an old fashioned pen and paper girl and I think if I get back to that and then type it up, I’ll write more and I’ll write better.

2.) I always feel like I have to wait to post something that’s really important or really fascinating or really interesting.  But, while I’ve been waiting for the inspiration for a perfect blog post, I’ve been living in New York City for a WHOLE YEAR and I could have written so many things.  I worry too much that what I blog about will be boring.  I think it finally hit me that I’m living in NYC and people want to hear about that, even the small things.

3.) Time.  There’s never enough.  I still don’t want to commit to a daily or even weekly blogging schedule, because I honestly don’t know if I can keep up with it.  But, I’m hoping that by making this a priority this year, you’ll hear a lot more from me (and Brian too!)  Looking forward to a wonderful and exciting 2013!

Year In Review: Best/Worst Of 2012

It’s “year in review” time.  This year really flew by (it seems like I say that almost every year now!).  We had high hopes to blog more frequently but managing 4 businesses in 3 geographical locations proved to be a bit more time-consuming than we had anticipated. We’re scaling it way back in 2013 to bring down the stress level, blog more frequently, and try to really immerse ourselves in NYC life as locals!

This is our annual “best/worst blog post” for 2012.  Again, this just pertains to the current year, not necessarily our all-time picks.  If Tara has differing picks than me, our initials will be noted.

Best Music Album of 2012
“New Acoustic Sessions Volume 3 & 4” by Boyce Avenue: As far as albums go, this was not the year for major breakout records (IMHO).  That said, I discovered Boyce Avenue last year and their 2 new “cover” albums they released this year did not disappoint.  They seem to be getting better and better.  Their creative takes on an acoustic version of a song are definitely solid!

Runner Up: “Cheers, It’s Christmas” by Blake Shelton: This was an unexpected purchase from me.  I’m not a huge country fan but after seeing his Christmas special, I was really diggin’ a few of his songs so I got the album.  I even ended up playing a few tracks for some of the holiday parties I DJ’d this season.

Best Music Single of 2012
“Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen:  I think we’re all pretty much sick of hearing this song by now, but I must say, this song had an extended “shelf life” and was a ladies anthem that I’m sure will be used for “Bouquet Toss” wedding formalities for years to come.

Runner Up: “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye:  Another one of those “played out” tracks.  But dang, this track was contagious.  Everybody loved this song…didn’t matter the age group.  It had unique instrumentation and an undeniably catchy hook.

Honorable Mentions:
“We Are Young” by Fun. feat. Janelle Monae
“Gangnam Style” by PSY
“Ho Hey” by Lumineers

Best Book I Read in 2012
“Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand: This book, written by the author of Seabiscuit, rocked me.  I sent it off to a bunch of my friends to read and each one of them were blown away by it as much as I was.  I love true stories and this one was absolutely phenomenal.  Thanks Mike Walter for recommending this to me.

Runner Up: “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch: Mike Walter mentioned this book in a video seminar that he was leading and I ended up grabbing the book.  Even though it is an older book, I hadn’t yet read it…so glad I did.  Highly recommend.

Honorable Mention:
“The Blessed Life: The Simple Secret of Achieving Guaranteed Financial Results” by Robert Morris: This is a Christian based book dealing with money.  Whether a Christian or not, this book has financial principles you can use.  It was a timely read for me.  Thanks Steve Trayner for the recommendation.
“The Light Between Oceans” by ML Stedman: Another Mike Walter recommendation. This was one of 3 books I read while on vacation in Jamaica. This particular selection was a little slow in the beginning but quickly picked up and kept me turning pages.
Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love To Attend” by Andy Stanley:  Even though I’m no longer in part-time/full-time ministry, this book was awesome and I took a lot from it.  Every church leader (whether on staff or not) should pick up this book.  Thanks Eric Partin for this recommendation.

Best Travel Destination of 2012
“Secrets St. James Montego Bay” (Jamaica) / October 2012
Last year, I happened to go to “Secrets” for a gig and stayed on the Wild Orchid side.  This year, I took Tara on a surprise anniversary trip and we stayed on the St. James side.  Because of the heavy workload we both had this year, it couldn’t have come at a better time for us. I highly recommend this resort – luxurious rooms, quality amenities, adult-only (no screaming kids), infinity pools, tons of entertainment options, food is really good (especially breakfast) and the tropical beverage selections (our favorite one is the Jamaica smile)!  Tara and I love all-inclusive resorts because of the fact that everything is paid for up front (in our case, we booked this about 6 months in advance) so we spent no more than $100 on tipping out while there.  Booking a trip like this a-la-carte would’ve been 2-3X more expensive.  The best part of this trip is we went in October and came back to New York with a nice tan for the winter season!
IMG_3402 IMG_3420
Runner Up:  “Coronado, CA” / October 2012:  California is my hometown state.  Although I was pretty much raised in SoCal, I only went to San Diego a handful of times.  Though this was a work related trip, I was able to bring Tara and we both got to explore some of the sites of Coronado/San Diego area.
Honorable Mention: “Atlantic City, NJ” / July 2012: Our “leisure” trips were minimal this year but Tara and I did manage to fit a quick birthday trip for her 30th to Atlantic City.  We stayed at the Borgata and just took time to disconnect for a few days.  We came into a room with champagne/chocolate covered strawberries, did a Spa day that was fantastic and had a birthday dinner at Bobby Flay’s Steakhouse.

Best Breakfast Restaurant in 2012
“Flea Market Cafe” – New York, NY: This place we found kind’ve by accident.  We had stayed up pretty late the night before and got up at noon on a Saturday and both wanted breakfast.  We walked to the East Village and found this spot that serves brunch until 3PM. Boom!!  Best breakfast find of 2012!
Runner Up: “Alta Coffee Warehouse & Restaurant” – Newport Beach, CA: I thought I had found all the best spots in Orange County.  This one was a find by my former partner, Christen Cowgill.  She nailed it with this spot.  Great food and cool atmosphere.  No cell phones allowed inside.

Honorable Mention:
“Doughnut Plant” – New York, NY: This isn’t really a complete breakfast spot but we enjoyed it.  Cool electronic dance tunes when you walk in, electronic menu boards, and unbelievably good doughnuts.  This was a recommendation from my good friend, Beth MacLane.  Great call Beth!
“La Colombe Torrefaction” – New York, NY
: Again, not necessarily a complete breakfast spot but it’s taken over as my favorite coffee place in the City.  And they serve the best croissants ever!  Get the almond croissant.  You won’t be disappointed!

Best Lunch Restaurant in 2012
BB –“Jerry’s Wood-Fired Dogs” – Tustin, CA: One of our CA DJs and one of my best friends, Gregory Pierce, showed me this spot.  These are high-end hot dogs.  There are a variety of different ways you can have your dog made and tons of toppings to choose from.  I took Tara on Coronado trip and she loved it as well.

TB –Tommy’s” – CA: Do I love chili?  Check.  Do I love burgers?  You betcha.  Put ’em together and you have a Tommy’s Burger.  Brian took me for my first Tommy Burger and it was a delicious in the most bad-for-you way.

tommys burger

Runner Up: “White House” – Atlantic City, NJ: Although I’ve been going to this place for years, I never ate at the one inside the Taj Mahal.   This became a spot we ate at quite frequently during the DJ Convention.  There’s a reason they’ve been in business 65+ years.  I hope their Arctic Avenue spot opens back up soon (closed as of now due to Hurricane Sandy).

Honorable Mention: “Num Pang” – New York, NY:  Cambodian Sandwiches?  After eating there, yes please!!  Only downside is that they’re cash only.  Thanks to Katie Back for recommending this spot!

Best Dinner Restaurant in 2012
“Martini’s Chophouse” – Daytona Beach, FL: My brothers took me here for my birthday dinner.  They had lived in Daytona previously and I must say this was a QUALITY find by them.  There’s great ambiance (especially outside) and amazing food.  If you live in the area, this is a spot you HAVE to try.
Runner Up: “Mesa Grill” – New York, NY:  We went to this location twice this year and both times were exceptional.  Definitely get one of their steaks.  The filet (which is the most expensive thing on the menu at $42) does NOT disappoint.  For apps, get the tuna nachos (you’ll thank us later).

Tuna Nachos!

Tuna Nachos!

Honorable Mention:
“Lombardi’s” – New York, NY:  The first pizzeria not only in New York but the entire US!  I saw it featured on The Amazing Race and had to give it a try.  It did not disappoint at all.  Their “cheese” pizza was phenomenal and they deliver for free!
“Haven Gastropub”– Orange, CA:  Our friends, Erik & Stephanie Stidham, took us here!  Their apps were awesome as were their drinks.  Highly recommend!!

Best TV Show in 2012
BB – “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” – NBC: Best late night show on TV.  Jimmy has really grown into his role as a late night host.  He’s on top of the current trends using Twitter, games, etc.  The only thing I wish was better were their musical guests…a lot of obscure ones. We DVR this nightly.

TB – “Nashville” – ABC: I cannot say enough good things about this show.  Original music, sung by the actors and actresses and a great story line.  Amazing.

Runner Up:  “The Voice” – NBC: This was my #1 show last year.  This year it dropped to #2 but it still is great.  The added twists to Season 3 kept the show fresh and the chemistry between the judges was better than ever and the talent…best of the best!

Honorable Mention: Million Dollar Listing – New York” – Bravo: This show was the little brother to Million Dollar Listing – Los Angeles.  Tara and I loved watching any NY show where we could get ideas of places to try eating, visiting and of course looking at the real estate that we’ll never be able to afford.  That said, we truly feel blessed to live in this City.

Best Movie in 2012
BB – Argo: This was a great movie!  I said I loved it when a book is based on a true story…the same holds true for movies!  I’m calling it now – Ben Affleck will go down as one of our generation’s best directors.  He is the next Ron Howard.

TB – Hunger Games:  I read the books; the movie was amazing.  Even Brian liked it – and I can’t EVER talk him into going to my teenage-drama movies.

Runner Up: Dark Knight Rises:  Really liked this movie!

Honorable Mention:
Hunger Games
The Campaign

Best Blog in 2012
BB – Brian Dodd on Leadership: I found myself checking this blog quite regularly.  If you like lists (like I do), this is the blog to read.  Although targeted to mainly ministry driven folks, there’s a lot of things that can be applied to any industry.

TB – Peanut Butter Fingers:  I found this blog one day on Pinterest and have been reading it ever since!  Julie is a Florida girl (the state, not the University, just to be clear) who blogs daily about her healthy lifestyle through exercise and nutrition, life in Florida with her husband, and her dog, Sadie, who is adorbs!  I love her cheery outlook on life, exercise tips, and blog ideas.  I would love to meet her on her next trip to NYC – so, Julie, here’s your open invite to Union Square! 🙂

Runner Up: Creative Junket: Another ministry driven blog, but like the blog above, a lot of things can be applied to any industry.

Honorable Mention:
Girl Meets Life: This is a blog of a personal friend of mine, Gracie Gordan, who lives in NYC.  I really liked her posts. They were creative and had a personal touch to all of them.  She does a great job of doing NY reviews so if you’re looking for spots, this is a good place to go. It also gave us some ideas on things we plan on doing to enhance our blog.
The Band Wife: This is another blog of a personal friend of mine, Anna Garman.  She’s the wife of Micah Garman, a guitarist for a new band called “The Canes”.  Micah used to play on the music team I led in Destin, FL.  The band is awesome.  They’ve released one EP and a full album is in the works now.  Anna has a great writing style.  She is pursuing a career in professional photography.  One look at the photos and you’ll see she’s got a gift there!

Best Gig of 2012

Brad Heffern/Lauren Espinosa Wedding – Rosemary Beach, FL (9/15/12): This event took the top honors because I really wasn’t expecting it to be a stand-out event prior to arriving.  Boy was I wrong.  The bride and groom were so cool and their crowd danced the entire night!  The vendors I worked with were the crème de la crème as far as the panhandle goes.  From the event planners to the photographer to the caterer, it was a top-notch production all-around.

Co-Runner Up: Curtis Hartman/Lauren Cooper Wedding – San Diego, CA (6/16/12): How many DJs get a chance to work a wedding at The Wild Animal Safari Park?  Not many!  I’ve done 3 weddings for this family over the years.  They have the best group…hands down.  Always ready to dance and have a great time.

Co-Runner Up: Ryan Panza/Jessica Agate Wedding – Spring Lake, NJ (9/29/12): This event was unique for me because it started at 1PM.  Typically that makes for a tough event because most people don’t want to dance that early in the day.  In addition, between each course, there was a 30-45 minute dance set scheduled.  That said, this crowd blew my mind!!  They came ready to party and I was on my “A” game for sure.  This event was through Hurricane Productions.  They gave me an opportunity to work some events in the NJ area this year and I’m very thankful and hope I represented them in a way that produces a ton of referrals for them.

Honorable Mention:
Garrett Long/Darcy Down Wedding – Chicago, IL (7/7/12):  I really liked this event for several reasons.  The space was unique (lighted dance floor, balcony, etc.) and the gear I was able to use (lighting and DJ products) made this event stand out.  Thanks to my good buddy, DJ Wizz Kid, for helping make this event happen from the gear standpoint.  This crowd was another amazing one!  Highlight reel coming soon via Michael K.
0Q9C6722 - Copy-Wedding At The Biggest Loser Ranch – Malibu, CA (8/17/12):  This gig was really fun.  I met this couple in NY where they lived and they were having their event in CA.  What are the chances of that?  DJ’ing at the Biggest Loser Ranch was awesome.  It was pretty tight security-wise so no pix inside but getting escorted up to the ranch with their vehicles made it pretty cool.
-FreelyBe Launch Party – New York, NY (9/21/12)
:  This was the first time I had worked with this local event company.  I was amazed by their immense professionalism, their company’s mantra and the finished product of this particular event.  I got to DJ with Timothy Reese, a good friend of mine that we eventually brought on to the B-Boy team.  We hadn’t worked together at all, which can sometimes lead to a total disaster (chemistry between DJs working on the same event is crucial).  That wasn’t the case for us.  We played off each other really well and once the dancing started, we kept them on the floor all night.

Best Experience of 2012
Tara’s 30th Birthday / July 2012:  This was planned out months in advance with the help of Bob and Leslie Bulgarella.This was a milestone birthday and one for the books.  You can read about it here.
Tara's Party Pix 3
Runner Up:
NYC July 4th:  Tara and I had just returned from a trip to Florida on July 3rd.  We were going to spend the 4th in NY and then leave for an event in Chicago on the 5th.  On a whim, I texted some NY friends of mine and one of them invited us to what ended up being the best house party I’ve ever been to.   The view was ridiculous, the food and hang were off the charts.  I don’t think we’ll ever be able to top that July 4th.
Honorable Mention: The Highline / May 2012: Another Beth MacLane referral.  I’m so glad she showed us this.  It’s a spot we take tourists all the time now.
DJ Expo 2012 / August 2012: We brought a scaled down crew from our company to this year’s Expo.  As always, we learned a ton and I feel like it was a game changer for the folks that came with Tara and I.  In my humble opinion, I believe it is the best ROI a private event entertainment company can make.

Christine, 90s Recording artist Shannon, me, & Tara

Christine, 90s Recording artist Shannon, me, & Tara

Mets Game / September 2012: Although the game ended up raining out, Tara and I had a blast going to the yard with our friends, Cameron and Leslee Addington.
The Living Room / September 2012: This was a live music venue that Tara and I went to at one of our lifegroup outings through Liberty Church.  It was an awesome, intimate spot. Highly recommend going here on a date night or if you’re looking for something to take friends too!

Toughest Experience in 2012
Stability / Year-round: The year to me felt very much like a roller coaster both professionally and personally.  It seemed like we’d get through one hurdle only to have another one (higher than the previous) that we’d have to clear.  The old adage that “God never gives you more than you can handle” was tested in every way possible – from personally and professionally to even our own financial stability.  Our mettle was put through the ringer.  That said, it made the relationship between Tara and I only stronger and our faith in God that much more resilient.  In the end, we know we’re better because of it.

Runner Up: Hurricane Sandy / October 2012: This was my first hurricane experience.  To think we’d have one in NY of all places was hard to imagine.  We luckily were spared from any significant damage to our place but being without power, hot water and cell service for over 7 days was tough during a cold season, especially considering that we work from our home and rely on all those things.  Add that to the Nor’Easter that came literally 2 weeks later and it was a tough stretch.  The wife did an amazing job of pulling through (I had to travel for work during parts of the power outage).  Keep those still affected by this Hurricane in your thoughts and prayers.  Many still do not have power and there are a ton of folks whose homes are gone.

Honorable Mention:  Moving out of our Niceville, FL House / July 2012:  You know how you never think you have that many things until you have to move?  That couldn’t be more true for Tara and I.  Living in NY, we’ve learned how to live lean.  When we moved to NY last December, we had been able to leave a good portion of our stuff in the Niceville house and use it to stay when we traveled back for events.  The house was in a short sale process and eventually sold.  Once sold, we had a week to move everything out.  It was extremely stressful and we barely made it happen.  Whew!  Tara was, once again, the unsung hero.  She, along with her parents and grandparents, worked so hard on the house and did the majority of the move themselves while I was working in NY.

Biggest Accomplishment of 2012
Restructuring our entertainment company: (  We had so many changes this year.  My partner for the past 4 years rotated out of the company to focus on having a family (which I’m pleased to report she delivered a healthy baby boy a few days ago).  We had a bunch of personnel and management changes throughout the year, yet, through it all, we came out of it a stronger company and posted our best year financially to date.  Our CA division is growing, FL still holds the biggest entertainment market share in the local area and NY is primed to have a good 2013. With my wife and I fully vested in the management of the company, we are ready to take things to the next level this year!

Runner Up: Losing weight / Healthy Lifestyle: Tara and I did an accountability “chart” to track ourselves daily and push us both to lose some weight.  We started November 17th of this year and only a little more than a month in, I’m down 10 pounds and Tara is down 7 pounds.  It’s been great to get through the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) without any weight gain and go into 2013 with a fitness and healthy eating routine.

Honorable Mention: Settling into NY: The fairytale story of getting settled into NY, making new friends, and the business taking off didn’t materialize as quickly as we had hoped.  To start the year, I was working with my brother’s business and traveling weekly to Orlando as well as managing our other 3 businesses (2 of them in their first year in FL).  It made it hard to connect with folks, find a good church home and grow our local division in NY.  As we close out the year, I can say that things eventually got into a routine and while the NY division of our business is still in its infancy, we feel much more planted and know this is where we are supposed to be.

In conclusion, 2012 was a year of learning, growing and stretching!  I love doing all three of those things just not at the same time and typically in smaller doses 🙂  Sometimes God has other plans.  I am hopeful for 2013.  I feel like we’re going to be able to really entrench ourselves professionally and personally into where we feel like God is leading us and we’re excited to do so.  Happy New Year every one!!

Raising a family in NYC?

When Tara and I decided to make the move to NY, one of the main reasons we decided to  do so NOW was because we have no kids in the picture and aren’t planning on any for quite a while.  If and when that time comes, we figure we’ll cross that bridge then of deciding where we’d raise a family.  But I can tell you this much, neither of us thought New York would ever be that place.

Two weeks ago, I read this blog post that has me completely re-thinking the location.  Having been raised in the metropolis that is Southern California, there are some similarities from my upbringing to some of the things mentioned in this post.  That said, New York offers things that no other place in the world can and I’m not just talking about trivial stuff like restaurants and entertainment.  Character and resourcefulness are just two of the many things that I believe are underrated in this world.  Having lived there only two months, I  can definitely see how New York can develop and instill those two things in someone unlike anywhere else.

Read this blog post by Kathy Keller here.  It created some great dialogue and discussion between my wife and I. Enjoy!

Baby on the way! Don’t worry, it’s not mine and Brian’s

Last week I got a package in the mail from my sister.  I wasn’t allowed to open it until we were able to FaceTime.  For reference, Megan is always sending me little cards and stationery with my name on it, which I love.  Some of you might not know my love affair with paper products, but I love all things stationery.  So my sister sending me a random package and asking me to FaceTime wasn’t that out of the ordinary.  I honestly thought nothing of it.

Until I saw what was inside

Now, a little backstory.  It’s no surprise that I am not a fan of children.  It’s not so much that I don’t like them, it’s that I don’t know what to do with them.  My sister is only 2 years younger than me, so I never babysat my sister.  Growing up, we lived on Highway 98, so I was never the neighborhood babysitter either.  I literally have no idea what to do with babies.  And then there’s the crying.  The hissyfits.  The toddler kicking my seat in the airplane.  Maybe it’s not the kids I don’t like, it’s the parents… I’ll have to work through that issue later.  However, something about my little sister having her own baby… words cannot explain the complete and extraordinary JOY I have.  I am so excited about having a little one in the family!  I love talking to Megan and hearing all about how she’s feeling, what’s going on with her belly, how her doctor’s appointments go.  I am all of a sudden, all things baby.

She is right at 15 weeks and looks amazing!  Here is a shot of her and my Dad right after my parents heard the big news.

Look at that little peanut belly!

The proud parents-to-be will be finding out the sex soon and I can’t wait to hear whether I will have a little niece or nephew!

Congratulations, Megan and Chad!

A Florida State Victory in New York

As most of you know, I love The Florida State University.  Lo and behold, there is a Seminole Club of NYC and a Seminole bar where they watch all of the games (Brian is so thrilled…).  It’s called Saloon NYC and it’s located on York Avenue on the Upper East Side.  I’ve been on their mailing list since before we knew our moving date.

December 29th, the day of the Champs Sports Bowl game, I finally had a good reason to check it out.  Brian and I arrived about ten minutes til kickoff – cutting it close, because nobody likes to miss kickoff – and the place is packed!  There were three seats in the whole bar left: one that was touching the projector screen, it was so close; and two at a table for four, where a couple was already sitting.  Our choices were limited.  Do I let Brian sit at the one chair by the screen and kneel down next to him the whole time?  Yeah, that sounded like fun… Or, should I nicely ask that couple if they were waiting on two others to complete their table.  After a quick five seconds, I chose door #2.

I politely went up and asked if they were saving the seats for anyone and if they would mind if my husband and I joined them?  “Of course not!  Please, sit down!”  Rob and Heather were their names and they were visiting from Alabama for Rob’s birthday.

Brian was at the bar getting some drinks, so Rob, Heather and I got to talking and whatd’ya know?  I sat next to the only person at the bar from the Florida panhandle!  Rob graduated from Niceville High School (Class of ’89), and he and Heather lived in Navarre for a while.  They now live in Birmingham, AL.  We had such a great time with them!

The atmosphere at this place was amazing.  I immediately walked in and said, “These are my people!”  Everyone was blonde and tan and just looked like Florida.  Well, not everyone…

Not blonde, kinda tan

Our team; however, wasn’t doing so great.  We were behind!  To Notre Dame!

Rob was pissed!

(This is Brian: Like Tara said, the atmosphere was pretty amazing.  Once FSU took the lead though, the place was electric.  Here’s a little clip of Tara and her peeps celebrating after the go ahead score).

[vimeo 34542199]

This video was taken right after Rob and I decided that the only thing that could turn our team around was to get “Tallahassee drunk.”  Enter the Seminole Bombs.

The drinks, were great!  They had Seminole bombs and Garnet and Gold shots.  We did a couple of each, just to check out the quality (This is Brian: – This did not have any effect on the video listed above :))  This is Tara: It had EVERYTHING to do with taking the lead!

The Drink Specials
The food was sub-par.  We had the pretzels with mustard, which were literally pretzels out of a bag and French’s mustard, and the pork nachos.  The pork and cheese on the nachos were both cold.  So, it’s a drinking place.  I’ll still come back.

The Food Menu

There was one Notre Dame guy in the place.

But, we befriended him anyway.

After the victory, we were on top of the world!

Rob and I, that is.

I think Heather and Brian were just happy it was over.

Sorry, Heather!

And, so was the Notre Dame guy.

Can’t wait for next season!  And Heather and Rob, if you ever make it back to the city, let’s go watch another game!

2011 Review: Best/Worst of Twenty-Eleven

I know I said I was hoping to post 1-2 times a week when we rolled out the blog but the holidays and moving got in the way (hate it when that happens).  So…sorry about the “no show” last week on the blog.  The good news is we’ve got a ton of blog post material to write about from the last couple weeks to keep us busy posting and you busy reading.  Since we are coming to a close of 2011, I thought it would be fun to make our picks for best/worst of 2011 (keep in mind these are just for this year..not necessarily the best picks of all time).  So I’ll list mine first, as it relates to me and my interests, and Tara’s picks will follow.  By the way, this is one of the reasons I wanted to start this blog in the first place…to keep a log of things that I can look back on later in life.  Hope you enjoy.

Best Music Album of 2011

BB/TB – “21” by Adele: This was, by far, my favorite album.  I know you might think I’m jumping on the bandwagon here (since she has so many award nominations coming in) but I really liked the music diversity of each track. The different producers I’m sure helped, but her vocal ability made each track sound unique not to mention she penned some great lyrics which made me want to listen to it all the more.  I’ve had this on my iPod since it came out.

Runner Up:

BB/TB – “New Acoustic Sessions Volume 1” by Boyce Avenue.  This album I stumbled across when they played their cover of “Just The Way You Are” by Bruno Mars on the TV show So You Think You Can Dance.  I then proceeded to download all of their cover albums.  The lead singer knows how to stay in his vocal range and they take a good creative approach on each tune musically to make it their own.

Honorable Mention:

BB“Smooth Jazz Summer” by Smooth Jazz All Stars:  Thanks to Mike Wieder for showing me this one.  Great cocktail hour music.  They do a ton of jazzy covers of current tunes and they have older albums with more of the classics.  They’ll make you laugh cause they sound a tad cheesy  but they’re somehow cool at the same time.

BB –“For The Honor” by Elevation Church.  These guys put out great records and this one is no exception.  Great worship album with powerful lyrics.

Best Music Single of 2011

BB – “Give Me Everything” by Pitbull feat. Ne-yo, Afrojack & Nayer: Dance music made a huge comeback this year.  You see it’s influence even with the hip hop being released.  This song is a combination of it all.

TB – “Out Of My Head” by Lupe Fiasco feat. Trey Songz: I just love this song, makes me want to dance, everytime!

Runner Up:

BB – “Levels” by Avicii: Great feel good track.  You can’t help but want to dance and fistpump to this track.

Honorable Mention:

BB –“Rolling In The Deep” by Adele

BB –“Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster The People  

Best Book I Read in 2011

BB – “Rework” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson: Thank you Eric Partin for the recommendation.  This book is awesome for small business owners and entrepreneurs.  It really made me rethink a lot of what we do and how we do it.

TB – “Hunger Games” Trilogy by Suzanne Collins: My friend, Emily Rogers, has been trying to get me to read this series for over a year.  I finally did and finished it in no time.  I couldn’t put it down!  It’s fiction and has a really crazy story – I don’t even think I can try to explain it to you.  The movie comes out in March and you know what they say, the book is always better than the movie.  So, read this now!

Runner Up:

BB – “Decision Points” by George W Bush: I really liked this book.  It felt like I got to see a more personal side of the president.  Whether or not you agree or disagree with his political stance, I think you’ll see a genuine guy who gave it his all and looked out for our country’s best interest.  I have more respect than ever for him after reading this book.

TB –If You Have To Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You” by Kelly Cutrone:  This made Brian’s Honorable Mention category, but I loved it!  It’s a funny book and had some great tips, especially as I got ready to head to NYC.  Brian felt her religious takes were a little too out there and thought it hindered the book, and I agree.  But, if you can get past the far-out religious references, it has some great tips, especially for young women in the business world.

Honorable Mention:

BB/TB –“Storehouse Principle: A Revolutionary Good Idea for Creating Extraordinary Financial Stability” by Al Jandl: Whether you are a Christian or not, this a great book about the power of saving/giving with regard to your finances.  It was a timely read for us.

BB –“Running A Multi Op” by Michael Walter: This book is definitely geared towards my occupation.  I picked up a few things but more than anything, it opened up my eyes to the fact that we are doing a lot of things well.

Best Travel Destination of 2011

BB – “Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay” (Jamaica)

I travelled a TON this year but this category made picking a winner a no brainer.  First time to this country and I stayed in one of the top resorts on the island.  I was there for a gig for 2 days and the client put us up.  I’ll definitely be back for a personal vacation when I start bankrolling 😉 {last minute BB edit: with my beautiful wife of  course…whew!}

TB – “Las Vegas, NV.”: This was a mini-vacation for Brian and I in July.  Definitely not the coolest month to checkout that city, but so much fun!  It was my first time there, but Brian made sure I saw and experienced all of the Las Vegas things you have to do.

Runner Up:

BB – “Chicago, IL: I know this seems pretty boring AND we went in July (when usually it is SCORCHING hot and the humidity is unbearable).  But, we caught it on the perfect weekend (we got there on a Friday morning and stayed through Sunday).  The weather was like SoCal every day (75 degrees and a slight breeze) except Sunday (the day we left).  It’s a great town to hang out in and visit.  We stayed at the Hard Rock, saw a Cubs game, did the tourist thing (thanks Schae Lewis for the tips) and it was a blast.

TB – Another surprise trip to Germantown, TN. to see my sister and brother-in-law.  Brian surprised me for Valentine’s Day with a trip to Memphis to visit my sister, who had just moved in January.  Best present ever!

Honorable Mention:

BB/TB –“Casa Tropicana” in San Clemente, CA: I was there for business in October.  I absolutely love this city.  We stayed at this bed and breakfast (below it is a former nightclub I worked at for 8 years ) which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and it was one of the most relaxing stays I’ve ever had.  One day, we will retire in this city…it has the best sunsets in the U.S., hands down.

BB – “French Lick, Indiana”: Just kidding 🙂  But I really did go here this year for a gig. As a diehard Lakers fan, it was hard not to grafiti the whole town (which as small is it is would’ve taken about 15 minutes) and burn any and all Larry Bird paraphernalia.

Best Breakfast Restaurant in 2011

BB – “Cheeky’s” – Palm Springs, CA: I found a review of this place on Yelp while I was there doing a gig and it lived up to the billing.  It still is not my #1 breakfast spot of all-time (that would be Plums in Costa Mesa, CA) but I really liked this place because it was different and had a ton of amazing choices!

TB – Hash House A Go Go” – Las Vegas, NV:  This is on Brian’s Honorable Mention list, but I thought it was super fantastic!  The portions were beyond big and so delicious!  I had their Chorizo House Hash.  I love chorizo in the morning!

Runner Up:

BB/TB – “Peels” – New York, NY: Great atmosphere, food and vibe!

Honorable Mention:

BB –Hash House A Go Go” – Las Vegas, NV:  Huge portions.  They have a few different locations.  We went to the one off the strip on Sahara.

Best Dinner Restaurant in 2011

BB/TB –Hot Chocolate” – Chicago, IL: We went to this place in July and it’s awesome.  It’s won restaurant of the year in Chicago for a few years running.  Definitely get a hot chocolate for desert!!  The Mexican hot chocolate is TO DIE!

Runner Up:

BB – “Fish Bones “– Lake Mary, FL: Going to Orlando so much this year, I ended up eating at this restaurant for business meetings a lot!  Get the filet.  You won’t be disappointed.

TB –Sushimoto” – Destin, FL:  Best sushi place in Destin, hands down.  With a lot of sushi places, the best rolls can’t be found on the menu.  My non-menu favorites are: Cookie Monster, Fairmont, and Asian Persuasion.  If you can handle the XXX Tuna (I’m looking at you, Lisa Tuttle!), the flavor is amazing, but it is so hot I can only eat 2 pieces, max.  Brian’s favorite rolls are: Urban Queen, Asian Persuasion and This Is How We Roll.  I don’t even know what is in most of these rolls, I just know they’re amazing!

Honorable Mention:

BB –Takara”– Port Orange, FL:  Best sushi place in Port Orange area.  My favorite rolls are: Volcano Roll & The Hollywood Roll.

Best TV Show in 2011

BB – “The Voice” – NBC: Way better than American Idol (IMHO).  Loved the mentoring and the talent/arrangement of tunes were awesome!  It was great getting to see the personal side of Blake Shelton and Cee-Lo Green.  Can’t wait for next season.

TB –“Modern Family”– ABC: How great is Phil Dunphy?!  This was the only non-reality show on Brian’s list – it made his honorable mention.  There is such great writing on this show!!  Some of the jokes literally leave me in tears, they’re so funny.  I love that the writing is so witty.

Runner Up:

BB – “Bethenny Ever After “– Bravo: Bethenny Frankel is hilarious and I loved seeing her New York type attitude/approach to everything.

TB – “The Rachel Zoe Project” – Bravo: This show is Everything.  I just love Rachel and Rodger, and the fashion – obvs.  You can all thank this show for my obsession with wedge boots before I even had a pair.  I DIE. (And if you’ve never watched that show, you probably have no idea what that means.)

Honorable Mention:

BB/TB –“Flipping Out” – Bravo: This show took on another look after the real estate market went in the crapper.  Zoila (the maid) was the best part of this show!!  Loved her.  Jeff Lewis was funny as always.  Can’t wait to watch next season.

Best Movie in 2011

BB – Limitless: This was a great movie!  This was a “make you think” type movie.  I absolutely loved it.  Highly recommend.

TB – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1: Duh.  Hate all you want, I love the Twilight books and movies and this one was amazing!

Runner Up:

BB – Moneyball:  I was expecting a dumb sports movie.  Totally surprised me (in a good way).  Jonah Hill did an awesome job.  Loved the storyline as well.
TB – Bridesmaids: Absolutely hilarious!  Kristen Wiig is the funniest female alive.

Honorable Mention:

-Lincoln Lawyer

Biggest Movie Disappointment: Hangover 2:  It sucked.  ‘Nuf said.

Best Blog in 2011

BB – this is a great blog – tons of great tips for leadership and marketing. I tend to check it daily.

TB – I don’t know if this is really considered a blog, but it was definitely my best online find this year.  If you don’t know about this website; be warned, it is very addictive if you’re a creative, food-loving, fashionista type.

Runner Up:

BB – Joe is a good friend of mine.  I love his writing style…it hooks you in and his stuff makes you think!  I really started reading this more actively this year.

Honorable Mention:

BB –  For some comedic relief, this is a great one (be warned it’s not family appropriate).  The guy doesn’t post as often as he used to but it’s still funny.

TB – I remember reading this on my lunch break, completely alone, crying from laughing so hard.  Like, needed a tissue from the tears running down my face!  So funny!

BB/TB – A Cup of Jo:  NYC blog.   Thanks to Ginny Wosak for sending me this. It’s an awesome one.

Best Gig of 2011

Wade Benz/Natalie Roebuck Wedding – WaterColor, FL (8/6/11):   It was HOT, HUMID & the event was OUTSIDE with NO tent!!!  All of those things I despise (especially considering the heat index was the highest of the year on this day).  But this did NOT faze this group.  The crowd (and the couple of honor) were AMAZING!  So many storylines from this wedding:  from 3 trips to the hospital for the guests to the best man being a professional dancer for Britney Spears, to me playing an after party for this group till 2AM in an adjacent room, etc.  For a snippet video recap, go here:

Runner Up: Gavin Back/Katie Marasco Wedding – Palm Springs, CA (10/22/11): This event was so fun.  To start with, the bride/groom were some of the coolest folks I’ve ever met.  They actually live in NYC so I’m sure we’ll be hanging out a ton shortly.  They loved to dance and so did their crowd.  I was able to reconnect with a ton of past brides/grooms that I had the honor of Dj’ing for (friends of this couple) that were in attendance.  Almost ALL of them now have babies.  Crap, I’m getting old.  The venue was SICK!  The crowd danced their fannies off and we had a good time hanging out with Graeme and Christen Cowgill, and Michael Kuhn.  Video promo coming soon!

Honorable Mention:  Celebration Hall Showcase Event – Santa Rosa Beach, FL (9/13/11):  I liked this event for many reasons but mainly because it was so different from what we typically do.  It was a Havana Nights theme. To see some pix go here:!

Best Experience of 2011

Taking Tara to Chicago in July and surprising her with a visit of her college roommate, Deborah Kaminsky, and their newborn baby:  This was planned out months in advance with the help of Deborah’s husband, Steve.  We surprised both Tara and Deborah.  It was awesome.

Runner Up:

NYC in August:  This was where our NYC dream from almost a year prior was starting to become a reality.  We sat in Central Park praying and dreaming for a few hours.  It was such a great experience.  We’ll never forget those moments as long as we live.

Honorable Mention (SOOO many this year):

Surprising Tara with a trip to see her sister in Memphis in February: This was awesome because I didn’t tell her where we were going…just pack your bags.  We were at the airport and I sat at the NYC gate on purpose.  She was so stoked and took pics and posted on Facebook that we were going there.  Then we went to the Memphis gate.  She was even more stoked (and a little pissed that I let her get to the point of posting where we were going on FB) because her sister had just moved there!

-DJ Expo 2011 / August 2011: Although I’ve gone for years, this was the first time ever taking a bunch of people from our company.  It was a very expensive investment on our part but the return was SO worth it.  Great memories!

Kate, Christen and Tara met Jasonnnn Deruuulo

Tara’s Birthday / July 2011: I couldn’t do a whole lot (gift-wise) as we were trying to save money for our move to NYC.  So instead, we made it about friends.  The week of her birthday, I surprised her with a night out every night that week with a different group of our friends who love her to death.  It was a blast.

-Shoreline’s Crappy Love Song Series / March & April 2011: This was the last series I put together while on staff at Shoreline Church and it was one of my favorites ever.  It tried incorporating every element that I could concieve of and the messages were some of the top ones of the year (IMHO).  Nothing like going out with a bang.

Fantabulous / October 2011: This was the Crossing’s (my Cali church) building dedication event.  I was asked to be a part of it with a host of old timers who I served with from the time I started going to this church back in 1996.  It was a great event and I was honored to have been involved.

Valentine’s Day @ Henderson Park Inn and Anniversary at WaterColor Inn / February & October 2011: Anytime I get to spend time with just my wife, I’m in heaven.  She’s the best looking, most amazing person I’ve ever met in my life and the fact that she decided to marry me still boggles my mind.  Both these trips had to be local for various reasons but we had such a blast.

Toughest Experience in 2011

My middle brother’s car accident / February 2011: This was and still is a hard thing to cope with.  What initially appeared to be a fatal accident for my brother Mark ended up not being one.  My brother burned 90% of the skin off his legs and without the power of prayer, God’s divine intervention, some Good Samaritan individuals who helped drag him out of the wreckage and a few skilled physicians, he would have had his legs amputated and not be walking today.  I’ve been going to visit him almost weekly since September and although his recovery is slow and painful, he’s in such a good place.  I’m proud of him and the way he’s handled this unfortunate ordeal.

Runner Up: Rotating off staff at Shoreline / April 2011:  This was bittersweet for me.  I absolutely loved working at Shoreline church and the staff members were (and still are) some of the best friends I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know.  This church changed my life and I found it at the time where I really needed them more than they needed me.  I was able to help them in the Creative Arts arena and somehow worked my way to having the create a position for me on the staff.  Eventually, I ended being a part of their lead team.  Working at a church is one of the hardest yet most rewarding experiences a person can have.  You are changing lives for eternity.  That is something not to be taken lightly and I tried to keep that in mind as I used every ounce of creativty in me to put together the best services I could each and every weekend.  Rotating off staff was tough but I felt like that was where God was leading Tara and I so we took a leap of faith in doing so.  My last Sunday (Easter 2011) was a surreal experience and I’ll never forget how weird it felt not to go to the staff meeting the following Monday.

Honorable Mention:  House A/C unit in Niceville, FL biting the dust for good / September 2011: This A/C was always a problem from the beginning of our time living here.  We put several hundreds of dollars into keeping it running but eventually it died after suffering for quite a while.  Typically, September is a “cool” season…NOT this year.  We ended up spending another $1200 in portable fans to make the place livable.  A new unit was not even considered since the cheapest we could get one for was about $6500.  Big picture, not a big deal, but it was definitely tough at the time!

Biggest Accomplishments  in 2011

Losing 23 lbs / Healthy Lifestyle: Thanks to Bob Bulgarella and his selfless persona, he helped me, Tara, and others get back to living a healthy lifestyle.  It was a tough 4 month program but I’m so grateful for him and Shoreline Church (who put together the series) for what this did for me.

Runner Up: Moving to NYC 5 months ahead of schedule:  You wouldn’t think this is a big accomplishment but it is most certainly is!  If you haven’t heard, moving is expensive.  Moving to NYC….multiply that to the zenth degree.  We had been saving and planned on moving in May of 2012.  But due to various reasons beyond our control, we had to move that date up to December.  I’m so proud of the way we were able to come up with additional ways to save money (giving up a ton of “wants”) to make this happen.

Honorable Mention:  Creating a financial system for my company that allowed us to run efficiently and with margin: For the last couple years, it was tough trying to figure out how to deal with a business model that dealt with deposit and final payments and how to save/ invest /spend money.  I took 2 weeks in isolation after leaving Shoreline and spent time working out with our accountant a model that I now believe will sustain us for years to come.  This is the first year of working under this model but it has given both Christen and I (as well as our spouses) a little bit of breathing room going into slow season.  We’ll make some minor tweaks in 2012 but we are in a MUCH better place than previous years.

Whew!  Thanks for reading all that.  2011was awesome but I’m looking for to 2012!  Each year, although I get a bit older, I also seem to gain a little more wisdom.  Money can never buy that for you…only time provides it.  Happy New Year every one!!