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!!

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