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.

We’ll Always Have Brooklyn

Wednesday March 26, 2015

Kelli and I went to Milford, Connecticut for a sales conference to give a presentation on what my group does. It turns out for a little more than $20 you can get a train to New York so that is what Kelli and I did Thursday 3/26 afternoon after the conference. We caught a ride to the train station, bought our tickets and lugged our bags onto the train to Grand Central Station in NYC. I had never seen it before except in movies and flash mob videos. It was so expansive, light, and bright with so many people. We bought a week subway pass and headed to the AirBnB in Brooklyn.

When we arrived at our stop for the AirBnB, I called Mark up to ask for directions. We walked about 6 blocks to the place we were staying which was the middle part of a row house and in great condition. The neighborhood was up and coming. There were many row houses under construction. We met Mark who was incredibly nice and helpful and settled in.

Mark recommended this family owned Sicilian place called Saraghina where we decided to eat dinner. They had a bakery around the corner as well with some Italian goods. Kelli ate the ravioli with butternut squash and I had a pizza both of which we shared. You could tell the pasta was homemade and FRESH. It almost melted in my mouth. The pizza was true Italian style pizza, thin, not too filling, and very tasty! We shared Tiramisu for dessert which was excellent. Everyone in the restaurant spoke Italian. We paid (cash only) and checked Yelp for a local bar, one of which we found nearby called Casablanca. It had a retro sign behind the stone bar, stone tables, they were playing Motown, and there was vinyl in the corner with a record player. I think it’s safe to say it was a hipster bar and a pretty cool one at that. Kelli had one of the best chocolate stouts she has ever had. After a drink we called it a night and headed home.

Thursday March 27, 2015

Kelli and I got up early to head into the city dressed nicely with our nice shoes in a backpack. Today was the day we were going to meet Doug and Jenny to eat lunch at at 2PM. For breakfast we stopped by a coffee shop called . I had a chocolate filled croissant and Kelli had a latte with a flower shape that the guy made in her froth. After that brief stop for breakfast, we headed to the Tribeca/Soho district on the edge of the financial district via subway of course.

We walked by a little deli where Kelli got a huge cookie that we split. Then we went by Starbucks so Kelli could get her coffee fix (chai latte) and their bathroom was “broken” unfortunately. After that we headed for Saluggi’s, a pizza place, since our lunch was at 2:00 PM. We split a white pizza that was every bit as good as the last and Kelli had red wine at 11:00 AM. She loved it! We kept accruing leftovers and keeping them in Kelli’s backpack. We rode the subway to Central Park and found our way to the Alice in Wonderland statue. What a cool tribute! Kelli had mud on the back of her legs partially because of the shoes she was wearing and partially because she walks so fast. 🙂 We found a restroom so she could wash off the mud and I could change shoes. We walked the rest of the way to the Trump Towers to eat at Jean Georges where Kelli had the sea bass and crab risotto. I had the yellowfin tuna ribbons, and black sea bass and a $20 Manhattan. It was pretty good, but pretty much the place someone goes for the “experience”. The food was tasty, but not exactly my thing. We all had cut marshmallow for dessert. Doug and Jenny were great. Also I think I can check off “calling a woman a slut loudly in a really fancy restaurant” off my “things to do before I die” list. Kelli and I took the subway back home to rest for a bit before heading back to the city.

We put on more casual clothes and headed to Times Square. I had seen it in the day time, but never at night and WOW, it was so bright that it was like day! We found our way to Topaz Thai which was packed. We split a veggie dish and Kelli got sticky rice and soup. Afterward we headed to the dive bar, Don Pedros, where would play later. We got to the place and it had two skeeball machines that were not functioning (I don’t think) and several bands were playing. It was a cash bar and Doug showed up a bit later having drunk his lunch (his usual gin and tonics). The bands were great and Doug caught an Uber home. Because I’m stubborn, Kelli and I walked to the train station and one of our cards wouldn’t work so Kelli was on the inside where the train would be coming and I was on the outside with a non-functioning card. This man who didn’t have a card to get in told Kelli to open the emergency door, which she did, and we both got in and go to the other side just in time for the LAST train back to our place. We exited the train and walked through the neighborhood Mark told us to steer clear of around 2 AM. We ate all of the leftovers in Kelli’s backpack with few exceptions and went to sleep.

Friday March 28, 2015

Today we slept in somewhat. Kelli didn’t sleep well and nobody had a hangover! We went back to Rabbit Moon and Kelli had a plain doughnut and I had a chocolate one which was amazing! It was thick unlike many other doughnuts. We arrived at the Chelsea market and Kelli was beside herself. She wanted to see, taste, and experience everything! I did too, though not as much. We found a place and ate some sushi, lobster bisque, crab hush puppies, and waters. We had to stand to eat as there was limited room in this fresh seafood market. Then we went to an Italian store and we bought stuff for the workgroup, my mom, Elek, Charlie, Lizzy, and Kelli’s mom. I had to rest a bit so Kelli went off to see some artwork and eventually we went back to a bakery and Kelli bought some carrot cake which we both tried and she put the leftovers in her bag. Kelli also bought my and her a set of I <3 Brooklyn magnets (which is on my fridge currently) as well as a full loaf of bread! That woman loves her bread! We walked and walked and eventually made our way to Eatily which was an indoor collection of restaurants, shops, etc. with wine, cheese, ice cream, bread, etc. It was PACKED so we didn't stay long. Kelli took Peter's picture in front of McDonalds for Living PSP, our VP's birthday gift. Next we went to China town and Little Italy because I had never been to Little Italy. We walked the length, then we traveled back home and decided to eat at the Sicilian place again, Saraghina. Kelli had red wine and we split a bread and cheese plate. Kelli had the spaghetti and I had the lasagna both of which were fantastic. We took 3 cannolis with us (3 because the Italian guy thought Kelli was cute). Once we were back at home I called a car service to pick us up for the airport the next morning. Sunday March 29, 2015

We woke up by our alarms and I cooked an egg for breakfast left by the last tenants. Kelli fixed coffee and we packed and prepared to leave. The car to LGA cost about $20 something and change. We ate lunch in the airport which was not nearly as good as the rest of the city as expected. Oh, also I opted out of the machine that detects bomb residue and chose to get felt up by the TSA agent who kindly didn’t cup my balls this time. We connected through Detroit back to reality.

Jamaica Me Crazy!

So a friend of mine, Doug, was mentioning how he wanted to maintain his medallion status on Delta Airlines and one of the closest places he could travel to do so was Jamaica. I mentioned that I would definitely go with him if he was serious. Well turns out he completely missed the deadline, but we did decide to go anyway with another friend of ours, Ben.

Through random internet research we decided to book a new hostel called the Reggae Hostelin Ocho Rios (the original is in Kingston). It was very nice and we booked 2 private rooms, but they also have shared rooms. It’s literally on a parking lot that leads directly to the beach that has two cruise ship docks off in the distance. If you’d like to see Doug’s walk through on YouTube then head over here.

After we booked the hostel, we bought plane tickets for $508 a piece from Memphis March 19 – 25, 2014. Ben lives in Texas so we all arranged to arrive Wed. March 19th in Montego Bay within about 45 minutes of each other. We hired a van to take us the 1.5 hour trek to Ocho Rios. The driver was great and pretty much gave us a brief history lesson. Remember they drive on the left there. I’m so glad we didn’t rent a car.

The first night we got there, we settled in and then went wandering for some food. We asked a girl in the market where her favorite place to eat was and it was a Chinese place. While we didn’t find the same place she mentioned we did find A Chinese place and ate there. It was alright. Afterward we bought some Appleton’s (Jamaican rum that the van driver told us about), coke, and beer and celebrated.

The next day we met a nice British girl (who looks German, but ISN’T!) named Stephanie. She was traveling around by herself for months and she said it was nice to team up with us so she wasn’t harassed as much as she had been. She was a great companion for the next few days! We went to the beach and met a man named Charlie who basically can arrange any type of tourist type activity so we signed up to ride in a boat to the Dunn’s River Falls. The ocean water was so blue and clear you could see 20-30 feet to the bottom. The falls were wonderful and it was nice to be on the water in a boat again.

There’s another beach on the other side of the city from where we stayed called Mahogany Beach. Despite the signs, it’s actually a public beach. It appears they just want to keep out the locals. A fresh water spring creates a moat around the beach until it finally flows into the ocean. It’s a very pretty place with some condos very near that you can rent out. There was Andy’s Bar & Grill that overlooks Mahogany Beach and the ocean. It was beautiful and the food was great too! Doug grabbed a video of Jahwayne.

One thing you must understand about native Jamaicans is that they will try to sell, refer, guide, anything to earn a dollar. Once they know you’re not interested or don’t have the money then they will mostly leave you alone, though I had one guy follow me into a restaurant trying to get me to go somewhere else. All in all the culture is very unique and it was a laid back experience where we got to meet so many travelers from all parts of the world. That’s one of the benefits of staying in a hostel.

The FOOD! The food was wonderful! One night we ate at Whalers Seafood Restaurant & Sports Bar which was phenomenal, but very difficult to find. It was located in a fisherman’s co-op that wasn’t well lit. I had the fish escovitch, which was just spicy enough and very flavorful. One thing I’ve noticed is the restaurants for the locals have cheaper food than the tourist places (obviously). I also had oxtail (wonderful!) and curry goat which was surprisingly better than I thought it would be. Meat patties are very popular. They’re basically like a better hot pocket with various fillings and were very inexpensive.

Lastly Ben had a much earlier flight than Doug or me so we all checked out really early and went back to Montego Bay. Doug and I were trying to get an earlier flight (impossible… thanks Delta!) when a “cab” driver and I use this term VERY loosely came up to us and offered to take us to Doctor’s Cave Beach. We accepted and went swimming in the crystal clear water for the last time before our flight.

Every time I travel I’m very glad I did and am extremely grateful for the opportunity. Until next time!

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!

Pesto, Fresh Tomatoes, and Asparagus Flatbread

Today I found a recipe which was Pizza with Pesto, Fresh Tomatoes, and Mozzarella and I was thinking about how to incorporate asparagus, which we already had and flatbread, which is easier to handle than dough. BOOM! I found this recipe on epicurious.com. It was close, but not perfect. Moving on… this is how we did it:

Yield
4 servings

Ingredients
* 2 ripe tomatoes
* 8 oz. Mozeralla Cheese
* 5 oz. Basil Pesto
* 1 Ara-z Lavash (This can be purchased in the freezer section of Jerusalem Market) map it
* 1 Bunch of Asparagus
* Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparation:
1. Put the pizza stone on the floor of the oven.
2. Roast the asparagus for about 5 minutes at 400 degrees F.
3. Add a thin layer of pesto on the flatbread.
4. Cur the asparagus into 1 inch pieces.
5. Add the asparagus on top of the flatbread.
6. Sprinkle the mozerella cheese over the flatbread.
7. Thinly slice the tomato and place it on the flatbread.
8. Season with salt and pepper.
9. Put in the oven on the pizza stone for about 5 minutes until cheese starts to brown.
10. Cool on a cooling rack and enjoy!