Wednesday, December 8, 2010

{Christmas in the City}

New York City. There's something magical about that place, wouldn't you agree? My family is fortunate enough to live a little less than four hours away from the Big Apple, and we love to visit as often as possible. Sadly, it's been a loooong time since Cory and I have been there (I think two years). So a couple of months ago I asked Cory if he'd like to go to the city for a weekend in December - just us, no kids. Of course he agreed!

Last Friday afternoon we said goodbye to the kids - THANKS MOM for taking them for the weekend!!! - dropped the dogs off at my dad's house - THANKS DAD for taking the pups!!! - and headed north. It was a bit strange to have hours of driving time with no kids yapping or fighting or crying in the back, but we managed to survive the silence. ;) We stopped for dinner in Harrisburg and then drove up to New Jersey where we stayed overnight. The only drawback to going to NYC during the holidays is the price of hotels - we could only afford to stay in Manhattan one night for the price of three to four nights during the rest of the year - OUCH!

On Saturday morning we drove the remaining 40 minutes into the city. The sight of the skyline is always breathtaking. It's just amazing that man can construct a city of this magnitude!

We had a great view of Lady Liberty's backside. I have never visited Ellis Island because I'm afraid of getting sick on the ferry, so I have to be content with views like this one.

We quickly approached the Holland Tunnel. This is the time I really start to get excited - almost there!

We easily found the Hilton - a beautiful hotel, by the way - checked in, freshened up and headed outside. This was the first time we had been to NYC during Christmas and we soaked in all the gorgeous, larger-than-life decorations.
These huge nutcrackers were in front of the columns of a huge building - I think it may have been a bank but I'm not certain.

One of the many fountains had a super cool train puffing away in its center. Dixon would have loved this!

Radio City Music Hall had a gorgeous tree and all kinds of lights out front - the tree was very tall and I couldn't get the whole thing in the photo.

Another fountain had gigantic ornaments perched in the water. The color was so vivid and the details were amazing. Even the hooks looked real!

There were lots of "characters" on the streets: Winnie the Pooh, Dora, Cookie Monster, and Spongebob to name a few. When I saw Christmas Minnie I took a couple pictures of her and she asked if I wanted my picture taken with her. I foolishly said yes. Foolishly because after Cory snapped the photo she held out her Minnie stocking and expected payment. Grrr . . . we learned our lesson to not do that again!

Soon we came upon the one thing I wanted to see most - the Rockefellar Christmas Tree. I've watched the tree lighting ceremony for years and always follow the story of where the trees come from. The trees look so incredibly regal on television and I couldn't wait to see this year's tree in person.
Here it is!

Now for my honest truth: Cory and I were a bit disappointed. The tree was big and lovely, but I guess we were expecting . . . more. It looks much bigger on tv. Oh well.
Now for the shopping! You can't go to NYC and not SHOP! There were two places I knew I wanted to go (and neither was a place for me!). We hit American Girl Place first. This store was an absolute ZOO! The line just to get in to the store was almost a city block long. Thankfully, the line moved quickly. Once inside, it was shoulder-to-shoulder packed with people. Cory and I were SO thankful we didn't have kids with us because it would have been a nightmare trying to keep track of them in those crowds while trying to shop. But we definitely want to bring them there soon. They've been begging to go and were actually quite upset when the found out we were going to the cith without them. I'm hoping the AG story is less crowded during the summer!

We made it out of the store with gobs of goodies for both the girls' new dolls that their Me-Me and Pap are getting them for Christmas and for the dolls they already have. Yes, they are spoiled little girls! But how can we resist?
After taking our loot back to the hotel it was almost time for the main event - BROADWAY!!! I was able to get tickets to a show that I have heard SO much about - Promises Promises! I really didn't think I'd be able to get tickets because the show has gotten so much positive press adn I was sure it would be sold out. But I got them!
The show starred Sean Hayes (from Will and Grace fame), Kristen Chenoweth (think Pushing Daisies, Glee, and a number of other awesome shows), and Molly Shannon (Saturday Night Live, baby!) as well as several other well-know actors from film and tv. These folks did NOT disappoint! We were laughing our pants off, crying, and pinching ourselves over the fact that we were really seeing this spectacular performance. Sean Hayes must be an ad-lib pro because he had Kristen Chenoweth in stitches at least four times to the point that she had to collect herself to go on. Hilarious is not a strong enough word to describe those moments! If you ever get a chance to see Promises Promises, GO!!! It ranks up there as one of the top three Broadway shows I've ever seen.
After the show was over we wandered around the city trying to find a good place to eat. I know that sounds weird because NYC is studded with amazing restaurants, but most of the great ones had long waiting lists and the others just didn't appeal to us for one reason or another. We went back to our hotel and asked the concierge for recommendations. She got us a reservation at a French-American restaurant called Cognac.

Our appetizer - a goat cheese, tomato and thyme tart - was fantastic! My meal of beef bourguignon was very tasty as well, but Cory found his steak meal a bit lacking in pizazz. We switched plates halfway through and I thought the steak had great flavor, but the cut wasn't the best. The service was just okay as well. So overall it was a restaurant that was mediocre and we probably wouldn't go back - especially knowing how many top-notch restaurants we have yet to explore!
After dinner we headed back out into the cold air to enjoy the lights at night. Times Square was packed and full of energy. The New Year's Eve countdown ball was up and ready to go in a few weeks. There is so much to take in in the city at night!

Surprisingly, despite the freezing temperatures the Naked Cowboy was in Times Square doing his cowboy thing! I don't know how he can stay out there in his tighty-whities during the winter - brrr!!! I did get yelled at (well, me and dozens of others) by evangelists because by taking photos of the Naked Cowboy and paying attention to him I am "glorifying all that is evil and wicked". I can't really argue with that, but I also know that sometimes it's okay to just have some innocent fun. Rock on with your bad self, Cowboy!

The next morning Cory and I walked to our favorite Trattoria for breakfast - Daniela's. This is the one restaurant that we - "we" meaning us, my mother, my sister, and my grandmother - eat at at least once every single time we visit New York. The food is fantastic and affordable and the staff is the best! I couldn't wait to get my oatmeal. Seriously, I have dreams about this oatmeal. It requires no milk or brown sugar becuase it is so creamy and sweet already. And it's loaded with strawberries and bananas. YUM! Cory had an omelette stuffed with feta cheese, mushrooms and olives and he loved every bite of it. If you go to the city, you MUST visit Daniela's!

We had a few hours before we had to check out of our hotel so we walked the streets and did some more shopping. We had already hit Toys R Us the night before so we wanted to go to some grown-up shops. Did I mention our kids are spoiled?
Cory wanted to check out Sketchers. We almost always come home from the city with new Sketchers, so this was no surprise. We got a pair for Cory, Sasha, Clara and Dixon - everyone but me. Check out Dixon's first pair of Sketchers (the one in front) - they light up when he walks!

Before we left home we asked my mother and sister if they wanted any Crumbs cupcakes. I first heard of Crumbs in a magazine where they were featured as a hot new item. When my mother and sister went to the city they found one of the bakeries and the rest is history. We've been enjoying Crumbs cupcakes ever since! Cory and I came home with a dozen cupcakes in a variety of delicious flavors, some for us and some for Mom and Becky.
We continued to walk around Bryant Park and visited all the little shops set up around the park. One of them was called Bald Man Chocolate. They gave us samples and we were sold! My dad was the beneficiary - hope he's enjoying his chocolates! One of the cool things they had was chocolate syringes. They are real medical syringes filled with melted chocolate that you shoot into your mouth. Oh. My. Word.

It was cool to see the ice skaters at the park skating beside another huge Christmas Tree.

One of the shops had all kinds of vibrant, gorgous clothes, pillows, blankets, jewelry and more, all made in India. I picked up something for Sasha here. Check out the colors!

I asked a nice man to take a picture of Cory and I in front of the Bryant Park tree. I'm not looking so hot - did I mention it was COLD? - but this is the only picture we have of the two of us together from the weekend.

There were lots of other cool little shops around the park, including a puppet shop that was amazing. Cory was ready to plop down some green for mermaid and princess puppets for the girls but he resisted.
We finally headed back to the Hilton to check out. We found one more neat decoration - a huge strand of lights. You just don't see stuff like this in small-town America!

We had a fantastic weekend together. It went by WAY too quickly. We didn't get to do everything we wanted to do, like check out the window displays on Fifth Avenue, but we just didn't have enough time. Hopefully we can do it again next year and take in another great show. Christmas in the city is amazing!

Until next time, New York!

Friday, November 5, 2010

{DSD 2010!}

It's officially DSD 2010! What is that, you ask? Digital Scrapbooking Day! If you are one of my fellow digi scrappers you know all about this "holiday" and are itching to shop the great sales and scrap all weekend. If you are scratching your head and wondering what on earth I'm talking about, keep reading . . . and then explore ScrapMatters to get started on your digi scrap adventure! :)

This year ScrapMatters is having an AWESOME DSD weekend full of sales, special events (speed scraps, chats, and games), and even a mega Design Team Collab kit that you can get for free! Check it out:

Want to see the kit in more detail?

Isn't it gorgeous??? The rich colors and detailed elements (plus check out all those alphas!) are perfect for all your fall layouts and for those everyday moments that are so important to document. You should see the stunning layouts and projects that are being created with this loaded kit already - they are just fantastic! The best part is that you can have this entire kit for FREE with any $20 purchase at ScrapMatters during the DSD celebration!

So to kick off this fun weekend of scrapping I'm participating in the ScrapMatters blog train - you can pick up LOADS of goodies by hopping from blog to blog! You likely arrived here from Becky's BLOG. I'm giving you a pre-shadowed frame cluster using "Many Thanks". I hope you like it and can use it to preserve some memories!

Image is linked to the download.

The next stop on the train is Lori's BLOG and I know she has something great for you!

Make sure to stop by ScrapMatters and stock up on all the high-quality, original designs there while they are on sale! Happy DSD everyone!

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Yes, I'm really blogging! It's been almost two months since I've blogged, and my last few posts haven't even been about my family. The reason for my slacking? Well . . . I've simply been focusing on other things. Lame explanation, I know, but it's the truth.

Anyway, I'm not even going to attempt to recap all the news of the past few months. That would take way too long! So I'm going to start with the here and now and just move forward.

September is always an exciting month for my family - not just because it's the start of school and a new season, but because it's Sasha's birthday month! The countdown begins on the 1st of the month and the excitement builds as the days tick by. So I asked Sasha if she wanted to do anything special for her big day and she immediately said yes. She wanted to get her ears pierced.

Now, I must preface this story with some background. Earlier this summer Sasha decided she wanted to get her ears pierced, so her Nana, Daddy and I took her to Claire's to get it done. We were so excited! I kind of wanted her to be a bit older, but she seemed ready and I gave in. Anyway, she was nervous and I had to keep reassuring her she would be ok. Nana even got a second ear piercing first so Sasha could see it was no big deal. Long story short, we ended up leaving with her ears bare. She totally flipped out and left in tears.

So when Sasha requested getting her ears pierced for her birthday, I was hesitant. She insisted she was ready this time and it was just about all she talked about for the days leading up to our trip back to the mall.

Well . . . once we were in the store and I had filled out all the paperwork Sasha once again let fear consume her. So little Clara (who just turned five) hopped up on the chair and got hers pierced.

Check out her sparkly blue flowers!

We asked her if it hurt and she replied, "Just a little bit." She didn't flinch, cry, or complain one single bit. What a brave girl. I was able to eventualy talk Sasha into sitting on my lap to get hers done. The ears were swabbed with alcohol, the dots were made with a pen, and her hair was clipped back. And that's as far as she got. I think she turned every head in the store with her screams and cries, and she thrashed her way out of my arms onto the floor. The poor girl is simply terrified of anything that might cause the slightest bit of pain.
What was supposed to be Sasha's special birthday treat turned out to be Sasha's special torture and Clara's surprise gift. Go figure.
On her actual birthday - which was Thursday - I took cupcakes to her school during lunch. Clara and Dixon and I stayed with her for her lunch time and I could tell she was in her glory. I soaked it up because I know it won't be long before my presence in her school will be a source of embarrassment. ;)
She decided she wanted to go to Cluggy's and Red Lobster that evening, so that's what we did.
All three kids got sweaty, dirty and exhausted - and they all slept really well that night!
Today we held her birthday party here at our house. Her past two birthday parties have been major events - a farm party for her 5th and a wedding party for her 6th - so this year she had a simple pizza party. She and her friends painted pumpkins and pummeled a pinata, but the rest of the time was spent playing in the backyard, eating pizza, and just having fun.
How I became the mom of a seven-year-old is beyond me. I'm only 25! :)
Happy Birthday, Sasha Rose! I look forward to another year of ups and downs with you - you sure do know how to keep us on our toes!

Friday, August 6, 2010

{Birthday Blog Train!}

What a celebration! This weekend the fabulous digital scrapbooking store, Scrap Matters, turns 3! I fell in love with this store shortly after it debuted, and it continues to be my favorite digi site on the web. The community is so incredibly positive and upbeat and the gallery inpires me every time I visit. Plus, the designers . . . my goodness, do the designers ROCK!

So in honor of three amazing years of bringing the world creativity and inspiration, Scrap Matters is having a birthday bash all weekend long. See my previous post for the details! Today the designers and creative team members are giving away freebies made with Cupcakes & Candles, the huge birthday collab kit that you can get FREE with a $20 purchase during the birthday celebration! You probably came here from Val's blog. If you have missed any part of the train up to this point, you can head to Scrap Matters to get the entire blog train list.

Before I give you my freebie I will share one of my favorite birthday memories. Every girl looks forward to her Sweet 16, right? It's the big year when something magical is supposed to happen to turn a girl into a young woman . . . maybe it's the right to get a driver's license, or date, or just be considered more grown up. Anyway, 16 is supposes to be big and important and is worthy of a huge celebration. Well, my 16th birthday just happened to fall on Easter Sunday. No big party for me! All my friends were obviously with their families for the weekend and I had no one but family to "party" with.

It turns out that I have a pretty amazing family. We used to go to a family cabin in the mountains every Easter and Thanksgiving and spend the day there eating, playing games, going on hikes, and watching for wild turkey and deer. This Easter was no different. We packed the trucks and headed up the bumpy dirt road to the cabin. When we arrived, my aunt and uncle had been there for a few hours already to get the woodstove going and heat the cabin for the rest of us. I walked inside and . . . TA-DA!!! There were streamers and balloons throughout the cabin and a sign that had a Happy 16th Birthday message on it for me! Everyone in the family was in on my surprise and it made me feel so special and important. My birthday turned out great - perhaps even better than had I spent it with friends.

And wouldn't you know it, my next "big" birthday - my 21st - also fell on Easter weekend? That's a whole other story . . .

OK, now for the portion of this post you are all here for! Here is my gift to you today: a frame cluster perfect for any birthday photo OR any celebration photo you may have! Think about New Year's Eve, graduation, and other events where you celebrated with others.

You can grab the cluster HERE. I hope you enjoy it!

Your next stop on the blog train is the fabulous Stefanie's blog. Enjoy picking up the rest of the freebies, and don't forget to celebrate with everyone at Scrap Matters all weekend long!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

{Birthday Sale!}

Make sure you head over to Scrap Matters starting tomorrow - FRIDAY, AUGUST 6th - for amazing sales, fun games, and great prizes! It's going to be a birthday bash not to be missed!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


To all my digi scrapping friends out there, I'm giving away a template on Sarah Bennett's CT blog today. Here is the template:

It really is a 12x12 template - I used a white background that you obviously can't see - whoops!
Anyway, check it out and get the download link HERE I included an example layout using the template there as well. Hope you enjoy it and USE it!!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

{Dutch Wonderland}

Sasha and Clara both had another successful school year, so Cory and I decided to treat them to a special, fun-filled day at Dutch Wonderland. Neither Cory nor I had been there since we were kids, so we were excited to see how much had changed and how well we remembered the park.

The girls were ready to be princesses and entered the castle gates very excited to ride some rides! The first ride they chose was the Space Shuttle. I happily stayed on solid ground with Dixon to take photos. My daredevils scored the front seat!
Next up was the froggy ride.

A few rides later and it was time for the ultimate . . . the ride Cory and I remember best . . . the FUN SLIDE!!!

I lost count of how many times the girls raced back up to the top for another slide downhill. I went down twice, too! FUN!!!
Then it was time for one of my personal favorite rides - the Flume. Sadly, I couldn't participate because Dixon couldn't ride, so I just took more photos.

Cory was in his glory!

Both the girls LOVE roller coasters, and there are two at Dutch Wonderland. They happily rode them both!

While Dutch Wonderland is completely geared towards the younger kids, there really isn't anything for kids Dixon's age to do. He was big enough to ride a couple of the rides, but because he isn't walking yet the ride attendants wouldn't let him. Boo!

One thing he definitely CAN do is eat ice cream! It was a hot day, so this mid-afternoon break was refreshing. Sasha's blue raspberry ice turned her entire mouth Smurf blue by the time she was done. She was a bit mortified when she finally saw her reflection in a mirror!

There is a nice little waterpark that cooled us off even more. It was a bit tough to keep track of the girls as they ran around from slide to slide, but they had so much fun and we managed to snap a couple pics, too.

My boys. I adore this photo! Such joy!

This girl could have stayed in the water area all day. Aside from hitting her head on one of the slides, this was a perfect afternoon spent.

And my boy thought these water spouts were neat-o. He kept sticking his head in them and trying to catch the water. I think he was just so hot that the cool water was heaven for him!

By the time we were done, he was tuckered out. He fell asleep about 30 seconds after I sat him in his stroller. As it turns out, this was a mistake. He has been battling a nasty case of diaper rash ever since due to sleeping with his wet swim diaper on. Poor guy. I feel so bad for him and learned to NEVER leave a wet swimmer on him again!

While Dixon slept, the girls and I took the Skyline across the park and back again. It was a nice way to relax and see parts of the park that we had missed. We even caught part of a diving show!

While up in the air we caught sight of the Princess, Prince, and Dragon behind stage getting ready to perform. Sasha and Clara kept yelling, "Hi Princess!" and they all looked up and waved to us. The girls thought that was amazing!

We had the obligatory carousel ride.

And a few fun pictures to remember the day.

We went back to the Fun Slide, and this time there were different attendants who let Cory take Dixon down the big slide. He LOVED it!

Our final ride for the day was on the train.

Farewell, Dutch Wonderland! What a fun way to spend a summer day!

We actually left the park just before an ENORMOUS storm hit. We were actually driving on the highway and looking at huge black chunks of sky trying to see if there was a funnel somewhere. It was one of the most ominous looking skies we've ever seen! It poured SO hard and we were grateful to find a restaurant to stop at and get out of the rain.
If you get a chance and are in the PA area, head to Dutch Wonderland. It's a great family spot!