Sunday, June 28, 2015

Three Week Australia Visit

When you travel to Australia to visit I may or may not be inclined to create an extremely detailed itinerary for your visit...

Partly because I want you to know what we are going to be doing each day, so that you can give me a heads up if I have missed anything or if you don't want to spend time doing something in particular.  It is also helpful for packing purposes.

Mostly because I have pretty strong OCD tendencies.
... Just so you know ...

Anyway, I thought that I would post the itinerary that I came up with for Blake's parents' visit. 

They were in Australia for three weeks, and after that, Mrs. Kathy and I flew with Samantha and Easton back to Texas. 
(The kids and I will be in the States until the end of July visiting family and friends.)
Mr. Rick was encouraged and then decided to spend a couple of extra weeks in Australia so that he and Blake could explore a little more without having to make the compromises that you have to make when you have two four-year-olds in tow.

Without further ado...
So maybe my not-so-secret agenda behind showing this to you is to make you think, 
"Hmm... Wow! How fun! I think that I want to go to Australia!" 
You then call/message/email me, and I am like, "Yes! Come, please!" 
And then you come visit us in Australia so I don't have to miss you that much!

Sneaky, huh? ... I await your contact.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

New York City

If you've been keeping up, you know that I traveled from Melbourne last week to New York City to surprise my sweet mother-in-law for her 60th birthday. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you can check out my previous post by clicking here.

We had a crazy great time. It was one of those crazy great times that you can only have with a group of girls that are anxious to explore a new place and drink a bottle or two of really good wine at each meal.
Breakfast may or may not have been included in this generalization.

Our first full day was on Sunday, May 3th, and we started the day with a walk towards Macy's - The World's Largest Store. We walked most of the way along Broadway, admiring the buzz and vibrancy which is everything that you might imagine that it would be, only more.

We stood outside of Macy's for a few moments before making the turn towards the Empire State Building. (That's right... We didn't even make it inside of Macy's - The World's Largest Store, people. We had bigger buildings to see.) The lines at the Empire State Building were short so early on a Sunday morning, and we were on the elevator going up before we knew it.

 We purchased the cheesy tourist photo because it is fabulous! 
(I mean who wouldn't pay $30 for this jewel?)
The views were, of course, awesome.
Can you see the teeny, tiny, Statue of Liberty?

After the Empire State Building and then lunch (fried mozzarella!), we went to go see Les Miserables, and it was so wonderful, so perfect that I sang the songs for the next week. I couldn't get them out of my head! 
It was definitely my favorite show out of the three that we saw!

We finished the day with dinner at Nocello Italian Restaurant (penne pasta with pink sauce!) and then walked the few short blocks to take a late night carriage ride through Central Park. 

 Our group split into two groups that took two carriages. 
I'm not going to mention that the two carriages spent a part of the time "racing". 
I also won't mention that the other carriage was significantly rowdier than our carriage...

On Monday, May 4th, our second full day in the Big Apple, we hailed a couple of cabs and spent the morning at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. The museum was perfect in every sense. There wasn't a single detail that was overlooked, and I am in complete awe of every aspect from the presentation of information, the respectful way the people who lost their lives that day were remembered and honored, and the peaceful air that settled where such a horrible event had occurred almost 14 years ago.

My favorite part of the museum was an art piece that took up the wall that connects the north side and the south side of the museum.The artist painted individual squares the color that he remembers the sky being on the morning of September 11th, 2001. Every square turned into a different shade of blue with each attempt. Every square represents one person who perished that day at the Twin Towers and during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. There are 2,983 squares for the 2,983 people. In the middle of the squares was a quote. "No day shall erase you from the memory of time."  It was a beautiful piece. I love all that is symbolized. 
You can see and read more about that particular piece here.

I was blown away by how much I learned, how much I didn't know, and how horrible that day really was.
I think that maybe you can never truly understand the horror of such an event until you experience it or something like it yourself. Being in the museum, in the location where everything happened, however, puts you in a new position to try to wrap your head around that day. 
9/11 was a tragedy beyond comprehension. 

After the museum, lunch, and the Disney Store where I purchased the promised "surprises" for Samantha and Easton, the group changed clothes and headed to see "Mamma Mia". It was fun, light-hearted, and had a bunch of guys running around in little Speedos. It was a win-win-win! 

"Mamma Mia" !

After the play we stopped at a little place to eat near our hotels and shared a few appetizers (cheese, fruit, and crackers!) while we laughed and talked through a few glasses of wine and martinis.

On our final full day in the city, Tuesday, May 5th, it was Mrs. Kathy's 60th birthday, so we woke up extra early and arrived outside Rockefeller Center with hopes of being on The Today Show. Everyone wore their bright green "60 is the New 30" shirts (except for me since I was a last minute surprise, and all), and we held up our signs until we finally caught the eye of the camera crew.  As you might have seen... We made it on air!

I was on national television! Woo hoo!

Here's a picture of us on my friend, Shannon's, television!

We were pretty excited when notifications from Facebook and text messages started coming in from friends and family who had seen us on television. We were also pumped to see all The Today Show anchors* and even Wrangler, the dog. 
*Except for Savannah, who was ironically in Australia.

We wandered away once the show started to focus on a singer that we didn't know anything about. 

   Here we all are! 
(Everyone in their green shirts and me with my crazy clever sign...)

After leaving the plaza, we had a great breakfast (American bacon!) and then we headed to 5th Avenue for a little shopping.

Would you believe that the only thing I bought was for the newest, littlest, unborn member of our family?... 
(Erica and Jonathan's baby. Not mine. Just wanted to clear up any confusion there.)

After shopping, we stopped by Mrs. Kathy's favorite little pub in the city (club sandwich!), sang "Happy Birthday", curbed Mrs. Kathy's needed for the french onion soup, ate some huge cupcakes, all before heading back to our hotels to shower and change before our final night. 
To cap off Mrs. Kathy's birthday we went to see "The Phantom of the Opera" and had dinner at Carmine's. 

 "The Phantom of the Opera"!

I have to admit that the final dinner of our trip was probably my favorite. The atmosphere was fun and loud, which was really appropriate for our group. 

All of the other restaurants that we had gone to were really nice, but we were always the loudest.
Who am I kidding?
We were still the loudest at Carmine's, just maybe not the ONLY loud group.

We had spaghetti (with extra sauce per Mrs. Kathy) and too many drinks to count ... 
We took a cab back to the hotel. No worries.
... And we were ultimately kicked out long after the restaurant had closed their front doors. However, we didn't leave before toasting to Mrs. Kathy, singing another round of "Happy Birthday", and toasting to Mary when midnight (and thus her birthday, the day after Mrs. Kathy's birthday) arrived.

The final morning, as we all packed up our bags to go home, we reflected on how fabulous our time together truly had been. 

My father-in-law, Mr. Rick, did a wonderful job on proposing the idea for this trip so long ago and making the arrangements for it to come together. (And for watching Lincoln, Bailey and Whiskey even though the cat was mad at you for having to share your attention.) And, Blake, thank you for watching the kids while I flew from one side of the world to the other and back again. 

We had a blast! 

*Extra Note: Oh, Lord. There were so many things said and done that were hilariously embarrassing for all those in our party, including myself. We adopted the Las Vegas mantra "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas", but, of course, with the location changed to New York. 

I am true to my word so I won't embarrass anyone on the blog, but if you see me and ask, I will happily tell you a story or two. I might share with you the one where we were all walking along 7th Avenue and Mrs. Kathy couldn't get a response from her iPhone ("Siri. Siri. Why isn't Siri working?!") Or maybe I could tell you about Heather and the horrible red straws in her cocktails... (She can drink like a big girl, y'all.) Or maybe I could share Mary's favorite parts of "Mamma Mia". (Hint: They were hidden beneath red spandex.) 

I could go on and on... But I won't. 
For now. Dun dun duhhhhh...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

New York City Surprise

I have never been to New York City...
Wait. Scratch that.
I had never been to New York City until last week.

It was fast-paced. It was dirty. It was crowded.

It was fabulous. It was hilarious. It was a blast.

Blake's mom, Mrs. Kathy, was celebrating her 60th birthday in New York City. Originally, it was planned that Mrs. Kathy, Blake's sister, Heather, and myself would take the celebratory trip. When Blake, the kids, and I moved to Australia, however, it put a damper on our plans, and I had to reluctantly* bow out.

*By "reluctantly" I mean that I cried ugly, disappointed tears when I discovered that there was no way that I would be able to make the trip.

The trip to NYC morphed over the past few months as more people jumped on the birthday bandwagon. Soon the crowd included Blake's aunt (Mrs. Kathy's sister-in-law), Judy, Blake's cousin (Mrs. Kathy's niece), Jeania, and Blake's "aunt" (Mrs. Kathy's good friend), Mary. The three would fly in from their respective cities to join Heather and Mrs. Kathy for the five day, four night adventure in The Big Apple. 

All the while, I sat in my apartment on the other side of the world hoping to live vicariously through the group via social media updates. 

Blake seized the moment to be the best son/husband/brother/father to ever exist by encouraging me to throw caution to the wind and purchase the last minute flight to New York City exactly one week before the trip would take place. 

I think he could see my increasing need for adult interaction that did not include him.
My last blog post (seen here) was a pretty good hint...

After booking the plane ticket and a room in a hotel as close as possible to where everyone else was going to be ... 
The hotel where Mrs. Kathy and the crew were staying was booked.
... I almost died with excitement and anticipation. 

Blake's dad, Mr. Rick, can confirm this with my early (early!) morning phone calls and my constant need for reassuring emails that Mrs. Kathy did not have any idea of this surprise turn of events.

A few days before the trip we decided to let Heather in on the secret as the group began making more detailed plans for the upcoming trip, and as I boarded the plane the day before Blake, Heather, Mr. Rick, and I were the only ones aware of my 20+ hours of flight to NYC. 

Not including my sister-in-law, sister, best friend, and grandmother...
I can't keep a secret.
You've all been warned.

I had a pretty relaxing flight from Melbourne to LA. However, when I reached the terminal I tensed immediately when I saw that my 8:55AM flight from LA to JFK was already delayed to leave at 10:35AM. I wasn't confident at all that I was going to make the dinner reservations at the restaurant where I was going to meet up with the group. Talk about disappointment. 

I took advantage of the delayed flight by taking a shower and grabbing a latte before sitting down to check in on the stocks and national news. 

Just kidding... I totally checked Facebook.

Just as I sat down with my coffee, an announcement came across asking everyone on my flight to report to the gate to board. We ended up leaving 40 minutes before expected... I just might make it as planned!

When the plane landed in New York I ran outside, hailed a cab, and jumped into the yellow car, offering its driver a $20 tip if he could get me to my hotel by 7:30PM. (Dinner reservations were at 8PM.) 
The driver pulled up outside of my hotel with two minutes to spare, and I happily handed over the bill and rushed inside to check in. I had just enough time to brush my teeth, throw on fresh clothes (Thank goodness that I had a chance to shower in LA!), and walk the three short blocks to the restaurant. 
When I arrived at Frankie and Johnnie's Steakhouse, I checked in with the hostess, telling her that I was there early to meet a group. I explained that they didn't know that I was coming and that I had just flown in from Australia. She sent me upstairs to the bar to remain unseen until everyone arrived. Once she had seated them, she would let me know that they were there. 

When I sat down at the bar upstairs my heart was pounding, my anxiety from rushing for the past few hours was not allowing me to settle in. How was I to solve that...?
The bartender was interested in my story and within the ten minutes of waiting for the others, everyone in the bar knew where I had come from, why I was there, and who I was waiting for. When the hostess appeared to announce that my group had arrived and was getting settled, I (along with the half dozen bar patrons) leaned around the corner before I walked out, a bit nervously, and released an enthusiastic "Happy Birthday!" at my mother-in-law. 

She peered at me dis-trustingly for a single moment before shouting with surprise.
Take a peek at the video below of Mrs. Kathy's reaction to my sudden appearance.

Posted by Heather Guild on Saturday, May 2, 2015

It was such a fun surprise, and I was so, so happy to be able to be a part of Mrs. Kathy's 60th birthday celebration!

I'll post more about the trip itself later.

Now that I've gotten myself all worked up with the excitement and anxiety of reliving that moment, you know what that means!?