New York! New York!

 

So this past Christmas, Elek’s main present from me was a trip to New York. I already ran it by him, but to add to the fun of Christmas morning, I put #1 of 10 clues of a scavenger hunt in his stocking. He really enjoyed the activity as it took him from the freezer to his basketball to bike helmet to the back of the bathroom mirror. Well we just got back from our trip and we certainly made it worthwhile! I made a Google map with most everything we were going to do or try to do which you should be able to view here.  Elek really had no sense of New York other than movie stars and TV Shows. I think he really got a better understanding of the Big Apple in general. 

 

Tuesday

We flew in Tues. June 5th very early. We took the 6 AM direct flight from Memphis. Immediately we went to my friend Jenny’s to drop off our luggage. Our first order of business was to stroll through Central Park. We did for a bit on the north end and then ended up eating lunch at Sal & Carmine’s Pizza apparently established over 60 years ago. Their cash register reflected this fact. Next, we stopped by the Seinfeld diner where they always met to get coffee. Elek was very excited to have his picture made outside of it. We made a brief stop back at Jenny’s apartment and we knew it was time to get real so after a short rest Elek and I headed into midtown Manhattan.

One of Elek’s requests was to go to M&M World where he got his name printed on a cup full of M&Ms as we waited! I had no idea that was even an option. Our next stop was Madame Tussaud’s wax museum which was as creepy as it was fascinating! Some of the figures looked very life like while others not so much. This stop was so worth it! We scooted through Times Square during the day on our way to the Grand Central Terminal. I don’t recall if I have ever been there but I remember Grand Central Terminal from some flash mob videos I’ve seen. Another couple of things we stumbled across were Nintendo NY and the LEGO store both of which Elek had a good time seeing. In the LEGO store there was a large dragon whose body was part way out of the ceiling and wall which must have taken a team a huge amount of time to assemble! Lastly in this area we had to wander by Rockefeller Center with NBC Studios and Radio City Music Hall. 

I did some research with the help of Jenny for places to eat and the one we settled on Tues. evening was Kottu House, which is a Sri Lankan place that was just delicious! We got the classic chicken and deviled beef. Both were very flavorful, however, the beef was Elek’s favorite. The mild was spicy enough for us! For dessert we walked around the corner to an ice cream sandwich bar called Melt. They were so rich! On the way back to the apartment Elek saw a game of soccer and asked if he could play with multiple adults whose first language was not English and he had a blast! I’m so proud of him for asking to play! Needless to say Tues. was one heck of a full day!

 

Wednesday
We started off with breakfast at Absolute Bagels which was fresh, light and delicious! Then we headed on to midtown Manhattan to knock a few more things off our list including the Empire State Building up to the 86th floor. The view was amazing! Elek really got a kick out of it. I especially remember as a kid reading about it and how tall it was. It was a treat to go all the way up there and read about how quickly they built it! Next, we dropped by Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on the way to Green Acre Park which is a little pocket park that had a waterfall in it. It was really amazing that such a place could exist within New York City! From here we headed to eat lunch at Antico Noe, an authentic panini place and got the 2 and 24. Lastly for this part of the day we took the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The view was great and it was nice not to have to walk for a while. We headed back to Jenny’s to have our daily rest. 

We ended Wed. with dinner and a show at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. We ordered a burger with all the fixings, Manhattan with gran marnier (for me not Elek!), waffles, and a chocolate shake. The singing here was awesome! Like me at his age, Elek did not want to be the center of attention and was glad we weren’t celebrating his birthday at the time! After dinner we explored Times Square at night which I’ll always remember being amazed at how bright the screens are when it’s dark outside! It looks like daytime! 

 

Thursday
That brings us to our last full day, Thursday. We started our day at the Hungarian Pastry Shop. We ordered 2 pain au chocolate and a flaky apple thing all of which was very rich and sweet. We headed back to Manhattan where we heard a mariachi band on the subway to Wall Street, a quintessential New York experience. We walked to and saw the 911 memorial which was just incredible and moving. So many people’s names were carved into it. On the way to lunch we walked by and saw St. Peter’s Church as well as City Hall. We ended up at Prince Street Pizza where we ordered  Neapolitan and cheese pizza. Honestly and people may hate me for saying this, but Aldo’s was better than all of the pizza I had in New York! 

After this we went back to the apartment for our daily nap. I looked up and read a lot of reviews of a ramen noodle bar called Ippudo, which apparently always has a line! We decided to go early and check it out. Amazingly we got in without a wait at 5:45 and ordered the Philly special (steak buns) and Akumadu Modern, a ramen bowl both of which were really tasty. We saved room for dessert at Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar where we ordered a S’more Concoction and a chocolate martini. The chocolate here was insane as it was in everything! We definitely have to take a break from sweets after this experience. 

 

Friday
It’s our last day in New York and our flight is later in the evening so we decided to head to Central Park. We ended up walking about half the length of it and stumbled across the Natural History museum which was very interesting. We saw the ocean exhibit as well as the exhibit for early evolution which was fascinating! I could spend a whole day in that museum. For lunch was made the hike to Zabar’s deli where Elek oddly got a California roll and I got a ham and cheese sandwich. It was pretty tasty and it was clear this was a go to spot for all ages. 

 

I have to say we REALLY REALLY lucked out with not having to wait in line the entire trip! The only exception was Ellen’s Stardust Diner but that line wasn’t bad. At this point in the trip we went back to the apartment to rest up and get ready to head to the airport. I mapped everything out using the app City Mapper. We walked to the metro and got on a train and off 2 stops later. We walked to a bus stop and waited about 15-20 minutes for a bus headed to the airport and it was PACKED. We squeezed onto the bus and proceeded to stand, cramped for about an hour and a half to get to the airport! I’m so glad we left with so much time to spare as we needed it! We left the apartment at 3 PM for a 7:49 PM flight and we got to the airport a little past 5. It was one of the most miserable rides I’ve ever been on. While it was a wonderful trip I’m very glad to be back home now. I truly hope it gave Elek some perspective for what New York is like. He said he never would live there and I would have to agree as I like my underdog city of Memphis, TN just fine!

Beaufort, SC 2017 – Elek to Camp Kanuga

This year Elek and I are planning minimal vacations due to the amount we spent last year and also the number of expenses I have for my house, getting a newer car, etc. Therefore this year we came down to visit my dad again in Beaufort, SC days before Elek’s first overnight camp at Camp Kanuga. He’s excited, and probably a little bit nervous, though he knows a couple of people that will be at camp. I’ve packed the car to the gills because of all the stuff required for camp. We drove down to Beaufort in one day Fri. June 2nd, which is a pretty long drive, 10 hours total.

We have seen more wildlife than usual down here. We saw a bunch of dolphins (some pretty close!), many large sea turtles which were breath taking, horseshoe crabs, regular crabs, sting rays, and a toad fish. Elek and my dad caught a good sized redfish Sat. June 3rd which my dad cleaned and we ate for lunch. It was very fresh and tasty! We ate dinner at a small seafood place called Sea Eagle Market, which was pretty good.

For some unknown reason I have started running down here, which I hate. I even ran in the rain Wed. morning. It’s been nice getting more exercise.

Sunday we took a long boat ride to a beach and played on the beach for a couple hours. For dinner, we went to Papaya, which has very decent Thai food and sushi. My dad got the Pad Thai which was on point and Elek and I split 4 sushi rolls: (Maki Combo for 1) Salmon roll, California roll, and spicy tuna roll plus the Spider roll which was delicious!

Tues. we took an early boat ride around a golf course that is close to here and Elek and my dad fished a little. Elek caught a small trout which we threw back. Next, we went to the YMCA so my dad could go to his exercise class and Elek and I swam for about an hour. It was fun and Elek and I bonded while racing in the pool. We originally planned to go to a baseball game in Charleston this night, but rain prevented that so we stayed in, ate a flounder Elek and my dad caught the day before, and watched Spaceballs which my dad and Kay had not seen before.

Wed. is the day before we drive to Camp Kanuga! After running in the rain, it held off long enough for us to eat some great pizza at The Upper Crust and walk around downtown Beaufort to pick out a present for Elek’s mom’s birthday. This was critical since he would have zero time at camp to do so. We thought about going to see a movie, but decided against it and played basketball for a while. Today we’re taking it very easy in preparation for the drive tomorrow. I, personally, am dreading driving about 9.5 hours in one day (then 3 hours the following day), but hopefully I’ll be able to stay and catch up with Wayne in Nashville. Wed. night we went to The Foolish Frog for dinner. Elek ordered the crawfish, I ordered a Greek salad and oysters bienville. My dad got a half rack of ribs and all of it was delicious. So nice to have so much seafood.

My dad gave me Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas which I read throughout the trip. It was obviously a pretty crazy book! I have seen the movie but never read the book. It also reminded me of the nod in the movie Rango, which Elek and I recently watched.

Thurs. we took our time getting ready for the 4.5 hour trek to Camp Kanuga. We said our goodbyes and left around 10:45 AM. The drive was really pretty on the North Carolina side with all of the mountains as I’m not used to driving in that type of terrain. We arrived at camp excited, but also nervous at about 3:15 where we waited in line about 20 minutes. We unloaded and I walked Elek to his cabin. John and Henry (two kids from Memphis that Elek knows) were already settled in. Elek got to choose his bunk. Saying goodbye was bittersweet and filled with emotion. Elek’s eyes teared up and so did mine. I love that kid. I truly hope he has a blast. We’ve gotten two pictures thus far from the camp which makes me feel a little better.

I left teary eyed in the rain at 4, which seemed so appropriate at the time. I drove 5 hours to Nashville where I stayed with Wayne, my high school friend, at his house. We stayed up to watch the disappointing total destruction of the Nashville Predators in game 5 of the Stanley Cup. (6-0) In the morning we went to Monell’s which was absolutely delicious and absolutely too much food. I said my goodbyes there and headed the 3 hours to Memphis. I was so relieved to be home! Now I have to deal with all the repairs with my house (roof, chimney, dormers), redoing the kitchen floor, and trying to find a 2016 Prius Two.

Disney World and Universal Studios

I finally got to take Elek to Disney World and Universal Studios. It turns out we picked a great time to go, after holiday crowds and after the cheer leading competition in the winter. We went to Disney World from Jan. 1 – Jan. 4. The crowds were there, but not enormous and the weather was pretty cooperative. On average it was in the mid 60’s each day. It sprinkled a couple of days, but we had rain jackets. I think I was over-prepared. I had a small first aid kit, disposable ponchos, two pairs of tennis shoes each, blister bandages, some stuff to reduce friction, among other things. I barely used these things at all.

We stayed in the All-Star Movies resort in the Mighty Ducks building. It was nice enough since we weren’t there that often. Buses went back and forth to each of the Disney kingdoms about every 20 minutes which made it convenient. We typically would go in the morning, come back after lunch to rest up and then head back out around 5 for dinner and the evening. I highly recommend staying “on campus”, though I would probably opt for the Art of Animation resort next time.

We purchased both a meal plan and the photo package. If your child doesn’t care about the characters (mine doesn’t) then don’t get the photo package. Also while the meal plan saves you some money, it reduces the number of options you can get in each place. If I did it again I probably wouldn’t have gotten the meal plan. We didn’t have either of these at Universal Studios.

Disney’s Magic Kingdom

We got to the Magic Kingdom around 3:30 PM Jan. 1 since Delta changed our flight to get in at 2 something instead of 10:00 AM. Spend most of your time in the Magic Kingdom. The highlights there were Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, Thunder Mountain, and the people mover in Tomorrowland. We also went on the Jungle Cruise which was full of puns, the Liberty Square Riverboat, Stitch’s Great Escape, the Haunted Mansion (which I remember), Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor, Swiss Family Treehouse, Tomorrowland Speedway, and Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. Elek’s favorite there was the Barnstormer, which is a smaller roller coaster. Every night there is a massive fireworks display and we witnessed several parades with all kinds of characters. Once you learn how to use the fast passes they’re a really good idea and a huge time saver. We ate at Tony’s (Lady and the Tramp), which was pretty good.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

We came here Jan. 3rd and saw the Indiana Jones stunt show, Muppet*Vision 3D, went on the Great Movie Ride, and went on Star Tours a couple of times which was my favorite there. That night we ate at the Sci-Fi Diner which was really cool and I highly recommend it!

Disney’s Epcot

Elek and I went on Mission Space first. We did the low intensity which was nothing so we thought we would try the high intensity. Well Elek almost lost his breakfast as it was really intense! The other rides we rode were Journey Into Imagination With Figment, Spaceship Earth, and Test Track. Unfortunately Soarin’ was closed for refurbishment. Elek absolutely loved the Disney Phineas and Ferb: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure where it was like a mystery/scavenger hunt around the different countries in Epcot. The firework show here was amazing! We ate at Teppan Edo in Japan and it was really good. I got the sake flight which only reaffirmed the fact that I like dry sake.

We then took an Uber to our other resort which was called Cabana Bay. It was retro and very cool! They had a large (heated) pool, water slide, and hot tub.

Universal Islands of Adventure
Elek really enjoyed the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade, the Flight of the Hippogriff, and the Jurassic Park Discovery Center. We of course had to buy a “magic” wand and perform the spells at shop windows throughout Hogsmeade. I think this was Elek’s favorite part. Keep in mind in order to ride the train you will have to get park-to-park with your tickets. Elek played one of those basketball fair games and made two out of three shots so he won a Jurrasic Park basketball! We ate outside of the park at Yard House for dinner which has a massive selection of beers on tap and food. I got the short rib tacos and they were amazing.

Universal Studios
This was our last day and the Harry Potter world was incredible! There were many more spells to perform. The dragon above Gringotts breathes fire every so often. We rode on the E.T. Adventure and Elek rode the Woody Woodpecker roller coaster about 20 times. We both tried some butterbeer ice cream which was really good. I think by this time we were both pretty tired and ready to come home. I was disappointed that the back to the future ride wasn’t still there, but I did manage to get a picture of the car.

Meet me in St. Louis

So I’ve had the travel bug lately which is why I went to Austin, TX. I decided to go to New Orleans Nov. 9 – 11, however, that didn’t work out because of a Saints game. There was NOWHERE to stay. So instead, we (Elek, my mom, and I) went to St. Louis, which turned out to be great! First of all, I managed to book a 4.5 star hotel using Priceline for $65 a night. We left Sat. morning Nov. 9th and since check-in was at 4 PM, we went straight to the St. Louis zoo.

Apparently the St. Louis zoo is one of a few free zoos in the US. Parking was $10, but worth it since it was packed due to the extraordinarily nice weather that weekend. The zoo was pretty cool. It had two trains running around the whole thing while we were there, though we didn’t ride one. We saw the camels, lions, giraffes, reptiles, zebras, and wild pigs among other things. After we were done with the zoo, we checked into the hotel and took a load off for a bit. After getting a few recommendations, we settled on eating at Pi, an awesome pizza place, that night. They had π in their windows, which I got a kick out of. Their deep dish was pretty good, but I don’t think it was what I thought deep dish would be like. I think I’m more of a fan of regular pizza.

The next morning we woke up and drove to the St. Louis Arch. It had a unique free museum under the arch which laid everything out in sort of a timeline fashion. They had an actual tipi as well as animatronic characters who were unfortunately out of service at the time. Elek and I braved the 5 seat pod to the top of the arch and the view was amazing and crystal clear! One of my favorite pictures is of the ground with the shadow of the arch. We could even feel the arch sway a bit at the top. Creepy..

After that we were off to the St. Louis City Museum. It was a little expensive, but a really creative place with lots of places to climb and slide. We also went to the roof where there was a school bus HANGING OFF THE EDGE! It was a lot of fun and one of my pictures is a panoramic of the city from the top of the museum. Around 1 PM we grabbed a bite to eat from a pub and then headed to check out the Soulard Neighborhood. It is a cool, smaller version of Cooper Young kind of with a weekly if not almost daily farmer’s market. Nothing was really going on at the time, but I believe it would be a really cool place to live.

Later that evening we headed to the restaurant Tortillaria and had their fish tacos. They were so very tasty that I would go back if I went back to St. Louis! The owner (I’m assuming) and his wife who is from Memphis seemed very interesting. We left the next morning to get back to Memphis in time to rest up for work and school Tuesday.

As a side note, my friend Zach was in St. Louis at a board game conference.

Enjoy the pics below!

Trip to Austin

My son, Elek, and I flew to Austin last week to see my Aunt, Uncle, cousins and a couple of friends. Below is what happened so I can remember details! Hopefully I’ll post pictures soon.

We arrived in Austin the afternoon of Wed. Oct. 9th. We drove to Barton Springs and rode the train that goes around that area. Elek played on the playground. Afterward we met Chris Jolley at the original Maudie’s tex mex. Chris came over to Elizabeth’s house for a bit afterward and we talked.

Thursday we went to the Austin Zoo and animal sanctuary in the
morning. We rode the train there as well. It was an interesting zoo
where most of the animals were recovering from something or rescues.
That night we saw the bats swarm under the bridge. For dinner we ate
Texas barbecue. It was very good, but obviously different than Memphis
barbecue. Chris and I went out and drove through “dirty 6th” street
(kind of like Beale street) where all the college aged kids go to get
drunk. We stopped on a very cool block called Rainey Street which was
full of bars made from converted houses. There was also a trailer park
of food trucks. Stephen and Ethyl got in late.

Friday morning Elek was going to help walk the dogs when Jamie bit him
on the face so we spent the morning at the doctor’s. Elizabeth bought
Elek a birthday present from a bookstore called Book People. We saw
the huge Whole Foods store in all its glory. That night we had a
family dinner with steak, potatoes, and salad. It was awesome! We hung
out in the hot tub a little after dinner.

Saturday Elek and I played 10 holes of disc golf at Mary Moore disc
golf. Afterward we went to South Congress street and ate pizza at Home
Slice. It was pretty cool because they let Elek have some dough to
play with while we waited at the bar. That area was very CROWDED. It
was similar to Cooper Young, but more crowded as there were lines
everywhere pretty much. We also got to see where Annabeth works. We
went with her to the Bullock Texas State History Museum and looked
around. We watched a 3D shark movie while we were there as well.

blueberry fields forever

Last Saturday, we drove down to Nesbit, MS to Nesbit Blueberry Plantation. Diana and I had been wanting to do this for a while and it’s a good thing we did last weekend. Nesbit Blueberry Plantation is only going to stay open for the season another couple of weeks. None of us have ever picked fruit like that before. They had us tie buckets around our waists so we could pick using both hands. They also encourage you to eat the blueberries right off the bush. Elek had a wonderful time doing just that. They only cost about $11 per bucket full. The blueberries were just delicious!