Sunday, December 31, 2017

Holidays In The City - Macy's Thanksgiving Parade 2017

Back to the city on Thanksgiving Day, parade day! Yesterday I recapped Day 1 and Day 2 in NYC. Today is all about Day 3. Our intentions were to see what the weather was like on T-Day and decide if we would do the parade. I was worried about the crowds and the cold, so I was ok with either choice, watching on TV or standing along the street. My daughter wouldn't hear it, "We are in NYC for Thanksgiving, so we must go to the parade." I mean when you put it that way.

We woke up early on Thursday morning with the best intentions to get to the ferry by 6am. Everything I read said, if you don't have your parade spot by 6:30am, then you might as well go home. Three teenagers later, we finally arrived at the ferry at 7:30am and were on the parade route by 8am. It wasn't nearly as crowded as we imagined. We were close enough to the front that we didn't miss anything. And yes, it was cold. And it was fun. And I wouldn't do it again! I like the parade from my warm home in my pjs! There is no other way:)

My assumption is, if you want front row seats, then you will need to be there by 6:30am. However, we were 3 people deep and we didn't miss anything (remember: we got there at 8am). Bring your blankets and (possibly) thermos. Wear all the layers and then add one more for good measure. We were icicles by the time we left the parade wearing double layers and cold weather gear.

If you research and research, you will find the same advice, don't leave your seats after you get them. I would echo that a hundred times. The closer you get to parade time, the more people fill in the spaces and you won't have a place anymore. Bathrooms are limited in general, so be warned. Starbucks and CVS are your best bets for bathrooms.

The parade was everything you would imagine. The balloons were so fun to watch overhead. The people walking the parade route exuded holiday joy. They waved, smiled, and wished everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. The celebrities on floats were hit or miss along our part of the parade route. Some were on their phones, some talking to their people around the float, some lip sang when they didn't have to, and others worked the crowd. Jimmy Fallon was one of those people working the crowd. I did fan girl when I saw him. He was the best. 

After the parade, we went to the Soldiers', Sailors', Marines', Coast Guard, and Airmens' Club for Thanksgiving dinner. We celebrated with other military families visiting the city for the holidays. We exchanged all our best tips for NYC touring. One of my favorite topics is travel talk! After our Thanksgiving lunch, the boys headed to the hotel to warm up and the girls spent the final day in the city.

We headed back to Rockefeller Center and explored the NBC studio stores, Rockefeller Center area(again), and New York City Library.

I wasn't giving up anymore time in the city than necessary on our last day.

Every trip across the river we went right past the Statue of Liberty. New York is everything I thought it would be minus the rude people and high crime. What I mean is, I expected the people to be rude and to feel uneasy walking around. We had only good experiences! People were nice, the city was clean, everybody minding their own business, and people out and about at all hours. I loved it!

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Holidays In The City

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Happy New Year. I wish this season of joy and kindness could last another month. Our family may not have made a Christmas bucket list or advent countdown, but we have enjoyed December all the same. There is just something about the holidays that make people re-prioritize the right things. I hope you have seen the lights, drank the hot chocolate, baked the goodies, donated the stuff, and snuggled the ones you love all month. Of course, you can continue to do that after December 25th :)

Today I am sharing our trip to NYC! Going to New York City during the holidays was a dream come true. I don't even know other words to say about it. It surpassed all my expectations and I want to go back as soon as possible. Some times I find myself justifying a weekend trip  to get out of town. Sadly, I don't live in a world where I take weekend trips to New York City :( So I have to suffice with planning an in-the-future trip :) and hoping that means in 2018 future!


We made the trip by car A.) because that is how we travel and B.) it made more sense for car travel versus air travel. By the time, we drive to Raleigh (2.5 hours), get there a couple hours early (2+ hours), fly 2.5 hours, do the whole unload/luggage pickup (1hour), AND THEN travel to our hotel (apx.1 hour) plus the expense, car travel looked like the better choice. How can that be? I was happy to drive up north to be able to travel through new states. I'm soaking up all the East Coast things!   

We arrived Monday evening at Navy Lodge Staten Island. For all my military people, this is the way to go! Yes, I would have loved the convenience of staying in Manhattan. However, for the price, Navy Lodge Staten Island is the way to go. If you are staying in prime tourism season (aka holidays), then staying outside the city is going to save you big time. The lodge is nice, well kept, and sizable for families. We were technically on a Coast Guard base which has some amazing lookout points of the river, the bridges, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and all the other places that converge in this area. It was AMAZING. We never went back to the lookout (pictured above) in the daytime but that would definitely be on my list next trip. 

Tuesday morning was our first day in the city. We drove our car to the Staten Island Ferry terminal and parked in a lot nearby. The lot had a shuttle bus which we used when the weather got colder; otherwise, we walked the quarter mile every time. The Staten Island Ferry is free and hundreds of people use it every day. It is heated, there are plenty of seats, lots of security, and food/drinks are allowed on board. There are also bathrooms. I was really hesitant about the Staten Island Ferry because I didn't know much about it. Rest assured, Staten Island Ferry is the way to go. Did I mention it is free? When you arrive on the Manhattan side, there are a few subway stations right out the front doors of Whitehall Ferry terminal. So easy for someone who has never been to New York City.

We had tickets to the 9/11 Memorial museum mid morning. We took our time walking up through the financial district seeing the sights. I liked this area of the city because it wasn't crowded and busy. We missed a lot of big things down here like the New York Stock exchange and Federal Hall. We did see the Charging Bull, Wall Street, and St. Paul's Chapel of Trinity Church which was pretty cool in real life. We also saw One Freedom Tower and the 9/11 

The rest of our first day was spent walking around the city. We went to Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and the USO New York. Rumor is USO New York City often receives show tickets to give to military patrons. This probably rings true when it isn't the busiest week of the year :) We were totally ok with that. The options for tickets were a little grown up for us so we passed. I was happy to roam the city instead.  

Day 2 was our busy day! We were up early and back late that night. I'm not sure what a NYC bucket list would look like for you but bagels and pizza were on ours. All the research I found said eat the bagels!! You don't have to tell me twice. We went for the best...literally, Best Bagels & Coffee. Of all the flavors we tried, a plain bagel with fresh made strawberry cream cheese was the best. Doesn't that sounds delicious?

After searching for incredible bagels, we headed towards Central Park. We had plans to see Central Park, Museum of Natural History, and a peek of the parade prep. I could have watched them prepare all day. It's like a science to lay those balloons out, inflate them, and keep them contained.

We took a break to tour the Natural History museum. We didn't spend too much time there. I think the SemperFiFam is starting to get burned out on museums. I guess a lifetime of museums gets old?? Opps, who knew? I wouldn't feel right about skipping it all together. It's the Night At The Museum museum! P.S. I love Ben Stiller. 

After the museum, we went to Central Park. Some of the streets had been closed at this point to prepare for the parade so we struggled a bit. The boys got separated from the girls and we used GPS to find our way back together. You can imagine the challenge with the less than accurate GPS system.

Central Park is gorgeous. We only saw a small area of the south side. Central Park would be on my list when we go back again.

We (think) we found the Elf bridge where the snowball fight takes place. So we had to take a picture. We love the Elf movie!

The boys went to find the ice skating rink in CP and we hung out on the rocks. Wednesday night we made a quick tour of Rockefeller Center and Fifth Avenue. We toured the windows and watched the light show outside Saks Fifth Avenue. We also took a quick visit to St. Patrick's Cathedral.


In Rockefeller Center, the tree wasn't quite ready. We watched the ice skaters and warmed up in the Lego Store.

Every store in NYC seems to be on board with decorating for the holidays. The Lego Store is always a must visit with the kids no matter their age. We ended our day with some pho and other Vietnamese cuisine which was so good!

I'm going to stop here and come back with a Part 2 of our Holiday in the City :)

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Meeting Halfway- A Family Trip

On my way to sharing everything--that is worth sharing-- today is all about our fun in Louisville, Kentucky meeting up with some of my family. We recently met up with my mom, stepmom, sister/brother-in-law, and nieces. They drove from Iowa and we came from North Carolina for a long weekend. We let my mom pick the location in honor of her birthday.

For anyone living apart from family, visiting together is the biggest challenge. The military has kept us away from family for my husband's whole career. We have been on the West Coast, the East Coast, and Japan which doesn't make visiting Midwest family easy. When the kids were young, we always made a point to travel to Iowa for holidays or during summer vacation. The positive was we saw family. The negative is we don't get to vacation in new places. 

Meeting up with family for a quick weekend to some place we've never been was win-win! I can't say Kentucky has been on my bucket list but I'm always up for some place new. My dad lived in northern Kentucky for many years so we spent summers there. However, exploring the city as an adult is much different :) and more touristy.

Louisville has some of the nicest people. The people we encountered in stores, restaurants, on the tours with us, and our house hostess were just top of the line, so happy and friendly! I could definitely see myself living there, if it weren't so cold :) and landlocked.

We visited Churchill Downs, the race track where the Kentucky Derby takes place. There is an interactive museum that was great for non-horse lovers too. I am speaking from experience. I am not a horse person. Fun fact: I am actually scared of horses. Complete irrational fear that is a little strange as an adult.I really though the museum was done well.

The next day we spent some time exploring the Louisville Slugger museum and factory. There was a lot of fun interactive stuff to do there too. This was the day of the crazy snowfall in the southern states. There was a 30% chance of snow for one hour in Louisville and instead it snowed all day long. We loved it! 

Later in the afternoon, the adults took a tour of Evan Williams, a bourbon distillery downtown. Let me just say, not one of us in the group is a whiskey drinker. We just felt whiskey tasting was a given when visiting Kentucky! We ended up giving the worst (strongest) one to the guy next to us. I think he had a great time :) Are any of you whiskey fans? I do not understand how people stomach it. I wish I could be sophisticated and tough enough to sip whiskey without making feeling an urge to be sick.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Our Furry Friend

Our Charlie boy left this earthly life a few short weeks ago.
He came to our family through a failed first attempt at fostering.
In 2011, we had returned to Camp Pendleton (California) from NAF Atsugi Japan. Our on base housing area was not initially pet friendly but as soon as they made the policy change, our SemperFiFam  made the decision to foster. Charlie was just a puppy found abandoned at a campground in the pouring rain. When he locked eyes with Kyli, he never turned back. He was instantly drawn to her and always wanted to be with her. He was too adorable to give back. I'm pretty sure it took us all of two days to adopt him.
That is the story of Charlie :)  

 Compiling these photos, which have graced blog posts over the past six years, was bittersweet. Charlie has been a huge part of our family and this blog. He is one of the best decisions we made for our military kids. He gave them a sense of consistency and companionship throughout our military moves. Wherever this SemperFiFam went, so did Charlie. 

Pets are a funny breed. They can aggravate you to no end and still capture your heart. Maybe a little like we feel about our kids every now and again :) We cannot deny that Charlie was cute as a button, a lot high maintenance, and a tad bit sassy.

Charlie was a big fan of naps and sunshine. If he could have a nap in the sunshine, then his day was made. If he could have a the sunshine...while cuddling with you...#bestdayever.

Charlie was a California dog through and through. I'm not sure he ever really forgave us for transplanting him to the East Coast. His days of warm weather and fenced yards were out of reach. He had to deal with fleas, cold winter weather, and rain. Oh God forbid the rain! That boy would hold it all day long when it rained. My heart breaks a little just thinking of his face when I forced him to pee in the rain.

California was the one thing we saw eye to eye on :)
He looks happy :)and strangely comfortable.

Charlie was the guinea pig. Always being brought into things he wished to escape.(He never did like Halloween. Hot Dog was his default costume. I think he always secretly wanted to be the princess.)

You get the point.
He was very loved and beyond loyal to his girl.
The things she could get him to do!

I'm not a dog mom (by any stretch) but Charlie was part of 
our family.
He went everywhere with us; sometimes, against my wishes.
He was a trooper. When I think of what a tiny dog he was to keep up with our adventures. I have to give him credit.

 It's hard to lose a pet. The kids struggle with his absence. Charlie was their first and only pet so he holds a special place. 

 His passing was sudden and traumatic. We weren't expecting to say goodbye so soon. It's a sad situation whenever it happens. My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a pet because I never realized what that felt like. 

Charlie loved his kids and his kids loved him. 
He is missed. He will be missed.

Rest in Peace Charlie 

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