Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Around the South in 60 days--deer on campus, midnight running, sleepovers, farmer's paradise, movie tours, and living with purpose

Yep, it's been well over a month since I have blogged last as I look at the calendar. And 57 days until Christmas. This year...no words.            AHHHHH! I feel like Simba...
 
So I'm guessing things have been as busy for you as for me, and blogging, as much as I love it, has taken a backseat to other things going on. I want to get caught up. Over the past two months, I've covered North Georgia, South Georgia, Chattanooga, Birmingham, and Mississippi, and a few other random adventures with friends and family. Fun adventures--wouldn't have it any other way!

So, random trips are the best, right? Mom and I decided to embark on a truly cultural experience one weekend with 3 plays in 3 days. Starting with the Whole Backstage's "Barefoot in the Park." Wickedly funny--I think I laughed more during the play than the classic movie!
Then after doing a 5K at Snead State one Saturday morning, we took off to Rome...Georgia!









I really love that city--a lot of character and always things to do! Berry College was a highlight, being as the campus has been repeatedly voted one of the prettiest college campuses in the US, for a good reason.



Look at the buildings...and deer 'roam freely in Rome' on campus.


We saw "The Miracle Worker" on Saturday night at Shorter College and split a late night dinner at Honeymoon Bakery--gelato, s'more brownie, salted caramel macaroon. When in Rome...

On Sunday, after church at Cornerstone, we did some shopping and saw the matinee at Berry College theatre department's production of "The Fantastiks." It really was a fantastic play--it had everything element you can imagine. Mystery, Romance, Comedy, Drama, etc. Loved it!







The next weekend, I did a midnight run--yes, 11:59 PM start, through the streets of Boaz.
My buddy Danny and I are super pumped!







We all ended up placing in our age categories! Whoo!

The next morning, I went to see my sister in Birmingham for a sleepover! We had a lot of fun shopping, eating, and hiking. We went to Red Mountain Park and somehow, after running 3.1 miles at midnight, I managed to hike 5.3 miles.

The view was spectacular and that narrow bridge was scary, but we did it!
We watched "Frozen" and went to church the next day. Lauren is my favorite sister! :)
 
 
My friends and I decided to take a random trip to Chattanooga back in early October.
We don't get to see each other near enough and how awesome it was that it worked out that our schedules were clear for us to make it work. We had the best time going out on the town, walking around downtown, going antique hunting, playing rook, and of course..you can't have a sleepover without facial masks!
GOOD TIMES! Love these girls!

With my job, I was asked to work and attend the largest Agriculture expo in the U.S.--held in Moultrie, GA, it's called the Sunbelt Ag Expo. Large doesn't even begin to cover it! With over 1200 vendors alone, you can only imagine how many attendees were there in the three days, even being held on a Tuesday through Thursday!
Mom went with me and we promoted Marshall County and specifically Boaz's Farm & Poultry Expo, held in April. We were surprised to see random people from Marshall County come by the booth that we knew!
 Hey, it's an alpaca!

 Got milk? Look at modern day technology! 

 The daily traffic jam of hundreds of cars going in for the day!

We were able to meet up with family that live near Valdosta, which is the city where we stayed.  We ate at Cheddar's. I love Cheddar's. BRING ONE TO MARSHALL COUNTY!

Moultrie is small, and all the hotels book fast, so Valdosta is about a 30 minute drive from Moultrie.










My friend Sheena got married in mid October! She was a beautiful bride and it was a lovely wedding!

And finally, another road trip this week to Greenwood, MS for the Alabama Mississippi Rural Tourism Conference. I traveled with a friend in the industry, Helen, who works for the City of Columbiana. We had a good trip and enjoyed getting to see the history of the city.

We took a "Help" tour, which the movie was filmed in Greenwood, not Jackson, MS, since Greenwood looks more like the 1960's south than present day Jackson. We saw Skeeter's house, Hilly's house, sampled some chocolate pie--without the main ingredient, ha, got to hear the actual food stylist in the movie, Lea Ann Fleming, tell about her experience working with the movie production crew and actors, and many other highlights in the movie.

We stayed at The Alluvian Hotel downtown Greenwood. It was so plush and fancy, all the details you would expect in a big city hotel!!! My luggage matched the decor in the room--had to take a picture!


 We had church, y'all! It was Monday afternoon and we enter the Little Zion Church from the movie and gospel singing fills the tiny church! We worshipped, clapped, and were in awe at the awesome sight and sound of this choir!!!


 Here's my roomie for the week and friend, Helen, on left, from Columbiana, and sweet Carol from Sylacagua in the middle.

 After dinner on Tuesday, I couldn't resist taking an elevator selfie as we were piled in like sardines! Love the AL/MS tourism family!
 
 This past weekend was the Pink Pumpkin Run--over 1,000 people running through Guntersville in all kinds of pink costumes and spirit!

LIVING OUT THE PLANS: It's been a wild and crazy fall so far, but lots of good things going on! We are in revival this week at my church. Sunday we heard from pastor and author Don Piper, who wrote "90 Minutes in Heaven." Have you read it? It's incredibly powerful about his story of his death, account of his brief experience in heaven, and purpose here on earth. There is also a movie in the works about it. It really gets you to thinking about how brief our time is here and how things can change in an instant. There's a 100% chance of death here on Earth. Are you ready? Are you looking forward to Heaven? I know I am! The worship, the joy, and never ending peace and love...count me in! However, since we are all still living and breathing here, there is a purpose for each of us--to tell the world about Christ and carry out God's call for our lives. As Steve Taylor said last night during revival, "No one is better at being you than you...don't try to be someone else. Know who you are in Christ and be it!" If there is still breath in us, we have purpose.
All the adventures, memories, family, friends, our jobs, hobbies, are all good and wonderful things to enjoy here on earth, but we must remember that they are but a breath. Live life to the fullest and keep focused on eternity.
I know I need to be more outspoken about my faith and I also know I need to be growing more in my personal relationship with God. I don't want to be satisfied with just getting Heaven stamped on my passport. I want to know my Savior, who died the most cruel death for me so that I would have freedom in this life and a forever in eternity. May we keep our eyes on the SON!
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2
 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Memories Made Flying Solo in NYC Part 3/3

Ugh...please don't hate on me for drawing this blog series out. If you've blogged before, you know it could easily be a full time job, so I'll ask forgiveness for a 3 1/2 day trip being drawn out for three weeks! Not intentional...just life! And so the last final day is packed with adventure...let's go!


I awoke early in a strange bed to the sound of my alarm at 6:30 am...and to what do my ears hear but birds? Birds chirping outside indeed!  I quickly glance around to see that I'm still in the city. And yes, in fact, it is not the sounds of sirens, car honks, loud music, or road construction--all somewhat typical of the streets of New York. But not on the UWS, my friends. Not on what has to be one of the quietest streets. The sunlight was beginning to stream through the window and I rushed to put on my Sunday sundress, Tevas, grab my cross body, a spot of makeup, a brush of the hair, the leftover cronut from yesterday, a swig of complimentary OJ from the fridge, and boom, out the door by 7:00! I had places to see and things to do.
Did I mention how great this foyer was? I could just imagine it looking the very same way back in the early 1900's, seeing how it was built in 1890!
This was the outside of the apartment--so beautiful and exactly what I pictured.

First order of business: Meg Ryan's apartment in the movie "You've Got Mail." You're probably thinking I'm obsessed with the movie, but no, I promise I'm not. It's a great movie, and I just happen to be all around the spots where it was filmed. So here's her lovely apartment, on the next street up from the apartment I rented.
Another quiet street. The gold doors and the stoop are gorgeous, right?  
Just a few apartments down, look at this beauty:
 It's the red door. Gets me every time!
Ok, on to stop 2: Riverside Park, literally across the street! This is a huge park, stretching 4 miles, and sits alongside the Hudson River.
The entrance on 89th Street boasts this great site I stumbled on:
 A little closer look:

It is the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Monument, commemorating those who served in the Civil War. It was dedicated in 1902 with President Theodore Roosevelt officiating.
 


Riverside is such a peaceful park with gorgeous views. To bring up "You've Got Mail" again, it is one of the most important scenes right here in the park's garden: the end of the movie where Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) learns that it is indeed Joe Fox (Tom Hanks), her claimed archenemy, that has been her email companion all these months.


Stop #3: The Pomander Walk--an English village in Manhattan. I had read about this in other blogs and spotted the tudor style instantly on 95th Street!
But then discovered that the elite residents of these 27 cooperative apartments have major privacy! It was gated and gawkers like me are not encouraged! Can you imagine living in apartments and a micro-neighborhood like this?

 Moving on...time is 7:50! I caught Train 2 to Brooklyn at the 96th Street Station. I love all the unique subway stations.
 Stop #4: About 40 minutes later, hello Brooklyn! I walked a block over to Smith Street and joined the fellow church attendees inside The Brooklyn Tabernacle! I've always wanted to attend a service here.


 Inside the magnificent foyer..I could stare at the ceiling for hours. So pretty! I found a seat and listened to the choir warm up. It got more crowded as it got closer to the 9:00 service start time and the group sitting beside me was from Virginia.


 The two-hour service was jam packed with praise and worship, most songs I recognized and some we sing back at my home church, Mount Vernon! How cool to worship with such a diverse and lively crowd from all different walks of life! It was an incredibly spirit-filled and friendly church. We had fellowship time, a time of recognizing guests in attendance, and even holding hands and hugging those around you at the end. I was revived and and rejoicing, ready for the day!
The service ended at 11:00 and I set out on foot, with my tummy beginning to growl, in search of one of my main attractions to see in Brooklyn as Stop #5: Smorgasburg. This food flea market with 100 food vendors is pretty much heaven for a foodie like myself. It is held each Sunday at the Brooklyn Pier Park 5 and is so very hipster.
I did come hungry and finally arrived, no joke, an hour later. My phone GPS and I were fighting and I came to see a lot of Brooklyn...look at this cool apartment castle:
 
And lookie here: A Sunflower Grows in Brooklyn!
But ok, we all like pictures of food, too, right?
 
 
I won't let you down. Ok, I had to have plan of action before I entered such an overwhelming state of sights, smells, and tastes, so I did my research. I knew my must try items if at possible. It was crowded, so I did a quick walk through and settled on this as my brunch/appetizer: Hibiscus doughnut from Dough.
And already at 88 degrees, working up a sweat, I needed refreshment: Enter the Kelvin Arnold Palmer Ginger Slushy! Hints of tea, lemonade, and ginger with the perfect amount of iciness. Perfection.


I took my doughnut in the other hand and entered yet another long line for the highly anticipated and sought after RAMEN NOODLE BURGER! I people watched, dog watched (I saw a puggle and a poodle--see picture), gulped down the slushy and devoured the messy and delicious hibiscus flavored doughnut while I waited. #MultiFoodTasking
I had been training for this very day for all trip!

 The line for the Ramen Burger.
And finally...jackpot!


 So basically you unwrap the artsy packaging and are greeted with two cooked (but not limp) ramen noodle rounds serving as the bun and a hamburger patty with a special balsamic vinegar sauce, lettuce, and American cheese. It gets a lot of hype because it's thinking outside the bun and hasn't been done before. Time will only tell if some chain restaurants will get on this Ramen band wagon.
My verdict: glad I tried it but wouldn't have to order another one.
The view where I ate my Ramen Burger. Not too shabby.


 Do I dare suggest to you that while I was walking back to the Brooklyn station I spotted a Shake Shack, which I will arguably say has better burgers than the Ramen, but you gotta try both!


 So onward I went--time 1:30: Stop #6: Chelsea Market/The Highline
I made a quick purchase of Fat Witch Bakery for the unforgettable taste of their brownies--to bring back to the family of course! After the quick run through and water break, I headed a few blocks to an area of Manhattan that has intrigued me for a year now: The Highline. It's a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the West Side.

 Iconic views of the Empire State Building


 
The pathway on The Highline

 Another great view. These apartments stretched on for blocks! It's like the never ending apartments. For some reason it reminded me of where Paul and Jamie lived on "Mad About You."

 And yet another view: Eduardo Kobra's kaleidoscope masterpiece of the "VJ Day in Times Square."


 It's a busy park--lots of activities going on!

 On the way back to the apartment, I stopped off early near 72nd street and found Levain Bakery, another foodie paradise. I've seen bloggers go on and on about these cookies and wanted to see what the hype was about. It was the smallest bakery I've ever been in. There was a line, but nothing compared to the Cronut or the Ramen Burger. It moved fast and I happily chose my chocolate peanut butter cookie. It was warm and after dodging a rain shower on the way into the subway station, I couldn't help but open the bag for a quick bite..yes, in the subway station while waiting for the train. Again, inappropriate maybe, but I think it's more of a crime to let a fresh warm cookie get cold.
I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance. -Nora Ephron
 
I decided I needed milk, so I hurried back to the apartment in the rain and devoured the rest of it in minutes with a glass of Soy Milk, provided by the gracious Airbnb host!
 It came a loud storm outside as I was packing up my bags. I didn't want to chance trying to hail a cab in the rain with luggage in tow, so I took my mom's advice. I called Tony. Tony is a driver we had back in May. He took us from the Harbor Cruise Pier to Max Brenner for our chocolate fix. He is from Korea and has two daughters and a wife. They live in Long Island and he has a chow. You get to know someone really well riding in a car on the streets of Manhattan. He gave us his card when he dropped us off that night and told us to be sure and call him next time we were in the area and needed a driver. Mom had given me his card before I left for such a time as this! I called and arranged for him to pick me up from the apartment and take me to the airport.


 It was time to say goodbye to NYC for this year! What a great birthday trip it had been! My flight left at 8:00 pm and I was back in Birmingham by 9:30 pm central time!
 

The yummies brought back home--macaroons from Sugar and Plumm, brownies from Fat Witch, the essential black and white cookie, and flavored marshmallows.


All in all, it was an unforgettable trip. Would I go back by myself? I don't know...this was the perfect time in my life to try such a trip and I am so glad I did. It took a lot of getting out of my comfort zone but I was always amazed at who and what the Lord put in my path each day and what He continues to show my about myself that I learned taking this trip.
 
If you are looking to plan a trip to a big city anytime soon, I wanted to offer up some advice.
Essentials for traveling to NYC or any city by yourself:
1) Have a plan (or at least do some research). I had done another Google personalized map to plan out where I would be each day and the must see attractions, shops, and restaurants nearby.
2) Since everything we do--traveling or not, seems to be on our smart phones which have zero battery life (or at least mine does), I knew I couldn't risk being out ALL DAY and running out of battery, so I ordered a Mophie to keep my phone charged all day. It is basically a phone case that with a flip of a switch gives your depleted battery another life cycle. It worked brilliant!
3) Shop around for the best places to stay, depending on what you want in accommodations. I liked the atmosphere of being in a social hotel in a central location for a few nights, and then using AirBnB for the apartment to get a feel for how a typical New Yorker lives, and it was a safe neighborhood.
4) Don't be afraid to go eat, shop, explore, etc. alone! It's liberating to be able to go and do exactly as you please, when you please. Yes, I missed the company of my family and friends, but at the same time, I knew this was my chance to take a risk and be by myself for a few days, which is good to do sometimes. In NYC, you really blend in with the rest of the 8 million people who are all doing their own thing, too, so I wasn't bothered by that at all.
5) Lastly, I was curious to see how many miles/steps I would take each day, walking around the city, so I bought a Fit Bit to wear around my wrist. Have you seen these or wear one yourself? So helpful to allow you to set your daily fitness goals and you keep up with your progress on your smart phone. My feet let me know this each night, but for the entire 4 days, I logged 82,745 steps and 35.6 miles, with most of it being on the last day, Sunday.
New York walking isn’t exercise: it’s a continually showing make-your-own movie. -Roy Blount Jr 
 
 My normal goal is 10,000 steps and 5 miles a day. Fit Bit also measures your sleeping pattern, tracks calories burned and calories eaten, as well as active minutes. I just saw where Tory Burch has come out with a Fit Bit cover that is so stylish! It's a great way to make sure you're getting your daily fitness/diet goals met and is around $100. 


SO if you've made it through the entire journey, thank you so much for reading! Please share your traveling adventures with me! I love to hear about what others get out of traveling. It is such a neat experience life in different cities, cultures, and countries. It's a good part of life's plan that we can glean so much out of about ourselves and the world.

"Cut off as I am, it is inevitable that I should sometimes feel like a shadow walking in a shadowy world. When this happens I ask to be taken to New York City. Always I return home weary but I have the comforting certainty that mankind is real flesh and I myself am not a dream." -Helen Keller