Monday, July 30, 2007
House of Mirth, Edith Wharton (****)
House of Mirth, introduces the reader to Lily Bart, a fiercely independent spirited young woman, living in New York City in the late 1800's. Both her parents have passed away leaving her with little income. She resides with her Aunt and lives way beyond her means. As a child she was part of high society and even though truthfully she cannot afford this life anymore she is opposed to dinginess and cannot think of living any other way. Thus she faces the task of marrying one of the non-desirable eligible bachelors in her social circle or not marrying, not being able to keep up her lifestyle and having to join a lower social circle. Wharton takes the reader on a ride that follows all of Lily's ups and mostly downs.
This book was truly refreshing. This was my first time reading Wharton and I loved her writing style and her character/place description. If you love classics I would recommend the House of Mirth as one not to miss!
Two fun facts about Edith Wharton that I learned:
- Edith Wharton was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Age of Innocence.
- The phrase "keeping up with the Jones'" was coined about Edith Wharton's family. Her maiden name is Edith Jones and it was her family that originally prompted the saying.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Who was that song Baby Girl by - Sugarland! There CD Twice the Speed of Life was the first Country CD that I ever purchased (but certainly not the last). Just recently they released their sophomore album, Enjoy the Ride, and I have to say I think it's better than their first album.
How excited was I, when at the beginning of the summer, my sister emailed me and said that Sugarland was playing on Good Morning America (GMA), Friday, July 27th! Very excited!!! I asked my sister if she would go with me since I don't know anyone in the NYC area who likes country music and she said she would. So last night she crashed at our place. We got up at 6AM this morning because on the GMA website it says to be there by 6AM to get a good spot in line. My sister assured me this wasn't necessary so we aimed to get there by 7AM knowing that they perform between 8-9.
We got there at 7:15AM and got a place pretty close to the stage. My sister was laughing that I thought we were going to be all the way at the back of the park. Hey, I've never been to one of these morning concerts how was I supposed to know! And then you wait...and wait some more...and really you wait until 8:40-8:45AM before they play. You watch the sound check, you cheer for a couple of live audience shots of the park (which after the 2nd time and the novelty wearing off feels like work - didn't we come here to see a concert?) and you are entertained by a warm up comedian, who was actually pretty funny. Then at 8:45 Sugarland came on and...
It was AWESOME! Well worth the wait! They performed 3 songs: Something More from their debut album, and Settlin' and Everyday America from their sophomore album. Everyday America is my favorite Sugarland song and possibly one of my overall favorite songs right now. The lyrics from Everyday America provided the title for this blog:
Oooh, whoa, everybody's dreaming big
Oooh, whoa, but everybody's just getting by
That's how it goes in everyday America
A little town and a great big light
Jennifer Nettles voice is unreal, and live is no exception. As a duo they have great chemistry together and you can tell that they must be good friends. I can't wait to see them in concert where they perform all their songs!
So now I can check seeing a free concert in NYC off my list of things to do and see while we're in NYC. (*That list will be posted soon!) What an fun & energizing way to start your day!
Thursday, July 26, 2007
This past Sunday we watched Catch & Release, which I had been waiting to watch specifically with my sister because we are both HUGE Jennifer Garner fans!!!! Having watched all 5 seasons of Alias - how could you not be a Jennifer Garner fan? I'm getting off topic...Catch & Release begins with the death of Gray's (Jennifer Garner) fiance. As Gray is struggling to get over his sudden death and rebuilding her life, secrets emerge about him that tarnish his perfect image. Gray finds comfort in her fiance's 3 close friends and finds herself falling in love at a time she never expected she could.
My sister and I really enjoyed this movie. It is definitely a chick flick. However, it's not one of those movies I would run out and tell people they should see (unless you're a big Jennifer Garner fan).
As for where Kate is going to law school??? She'll be in NYC!!!! Woot!
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
So here is my list of things I/we want to do and see in NYC. Please feel free in the comments to suggest ideas! I'm sure I'll be adding to this list as time goes on.
1) Go to the top of the Empire State Building
2) Visit Museums (Guggenheim, Moma, Tenement Museum, Skyscraper Museum, etc) We've already gone to the MET and the Museum of Natural History so that's a start!
3) See Broadway Shows (Again we've already started working on this having seen Avenue Q and The Drowsy Chaperone).
4) Explore Central Park (run in CP, rent a row boat in CP, take a walking tour of CP, go ice skating in CP, etc)
5) Visit the Botanical Gardens
6) See the Radio City Music Christmas Show!
7) Watch the balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade get blown up!
8) Hike in the Adirondacks
9) Give my DH the true Jersey Shore experience
10) Take the Circle Line tour
11) Bike around the Island of Manhattan
12) Try to see the David Letterman Show
13) Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
14) Take the Staten Island Ferry
15) Explore all the different neighborhoods of NYC (Brooklyn, Battery Park, UWS, UES, LES, Little Italy, Soho, the Village, Midtown, Hell's Kitchen, etc)
16) Become more involved in Red Sox nation in NYC
17) Take one of those Red Bus Tours through NYC
18) Go to Medieval Times
19) Go to the Bronx Zoo
20) Visit the Cloisters (that's for you Mom!)
21) Go to a Little Italy festival
22) Spend some time exploring and appreciating Grand Central Station
23) Visit the Intrepid
24) Carnegie Hall & Deli
25) Top of the Rock Observation Deck
26) Dare I say, New York City for New Year's Eve....we'll see!
27) Eat at Peter Luger's
Feel free to make any suggestions in the comments on things that are a must see or do that we're missing!
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
The property is absolutely stunning. On the tour you start at the outside of the house where you learn a little about the 4 generations that lived there. John D. Rockefeller, Senior was the one who built the property after returning from Ohio where he had founded the Standard Oil Company. Next was John D. Rockefeller Junior and then his son Nelson lived there with his family. They were the last family to reside in the house before it was turned over to the National Trust. You also learn about the original building of the house in 1909 and then the rebuilding of the house in 1913.
Inside the house you see the men and women's parlors, the formal dining room, the music room, the china room, the kitchen, the formal living room, and the basement where Nelson Rockefeller's personal art collection (including Picassos) is housed! Outside you visit the gardens and the veranda, which has the most stunning view of the Hudson River. When you're on the back veranda you can understand where the house gets it's name from. Kykuit means "lookout" in Dutch.
Then after you finish touring the house they bring you down to the Coach Barn where you can see all the different horse-drawn carriages the family owned, where their stables were, as well as the old automobiles that the family owned. The Coach Barn is impressive in it's own right!
It's funny because when you read books that take place in New York City at the turn of the century you read about wealthy people having "country houses" in nearby towns such as Tarrytown, NY (a mere 35 minutes away by train - granted it probably took them longer back then!) When I was living in NJ growing up I used to think it was hysterical that people had "country houses" so close to where they actually resided permanently. However, now with the perspective of someone who lives in Manhattan, I can completely understand. I kept turning to Emily during our tour, especially when we were wandering in the gardens and out on the veranda, saying how refreshing it was to be out in Tarrytown for a day and that I felt as if I was spending the day in the country! It's amazing how your perspective on things can change once you actually experience living in Manhattan.
It was an incredibly peaceful day "out in the country" for me! I would definitely recommend this tour for people who are visiting NYC and have the time. Tarrytown in its own right is an absolutely adorable little town, with cute shops and restaurants. With Kykuit being only one of the many houses & properties worth touring in the area. Click here to learn more about the Hudson Valley region. I know that I plan on spending a couple of more days exploring the "country" during my time in NYC.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Then in the afternoon we went to the John Golden Theatre to see the Matinee performance of Avenue Q. I had purchased discounted tickets at the TKTS booth down by South Street Seaport on Friday afternoon. We had great seats, row K in the Orchestra - I couldn't believe it!
As for the show, it was awesome! We all loved it. The puppets were great (especially the Bad Idea Bears!), the songs were hilarious and original, and the performers were fantastic. It was hard to believe that for many of them Avenue Q was their Broadway debut because they really all were phenomenal. For those of you who don't know, Avenue Q, is the story of Princeton, a recent college grad who has moved to New York and the only place he can afford to live is on Avenue Q. There he meets his friends: Brian, Christmas Eve, Trekkie Monster, Rod, Nicky, and Kate. Throughout the play they struggle with finding jobs, dates, and their "purpose" in life.
I think it's safe to say we all would highly recommend this play to those who haven't seen it! (*This play is not appropriate for children.)
After relaxing back at home for a little bit we headed out to try a new restaurant in our neighborhood, Dos Caminos. I was pretty excited about trying this restaurant because we had heard so much about it from people. I tried the blueberry pomegranate frozen margarita, which was delish. While my MIL had a traditional margarita on the rocks and my DH had a Mexican beer. We quickly ordered chips with guacamole (which they make at your table - a very NYC thing to do!) as an appetizer. The guacamole was incredibly fresh and yummy! Then for dinner my MIL had the enchiladas, my DH had the Pork special, and I had the Shrimp quesadillas which were so good! Overall everyone enjoyed their meal!
On a side note, I thought the best part about our meal experience was the service. From start to finish the service was impeccable. As the customers at restaurants become more and more casual I feel that a lot of restaurants are becoming more and more casual in their service and that was not the case at Dos Caminos. And to top it off the decor and atmosphere were pretty cool. This is a restaurant my DH and I agreed we would go back to.
All in all - a fun day in NYC!
Can I just say - WOW! I need to own this movie! Jennifer Hudson was phenomenal as Effie - now I finally see what all the hype was about. I thought the cast was stellar, the story was great, and the songs - ah, the songs - they were amazing! I was clapping to the beat in my chair, and singing the soundtrack all weekend. I almost didn't want to mail it back to Netflix because I just wanted to watch it again and again. If you like musicals then you'll love this movie (chances are you already love this movie since I'm a little behind in my review!)
Overall: Two Thumbs Up! Rent it if you haven't seen it yet!
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
One of my Life Goals is to read a book about each President. I first got this idea about 3 years ago. I had just finished reading Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History by Kati Marton (which was a great book) and I was in Washington, DC on a ladies weekend touring Woodrow Wilson's house where he lived after he was President. All of a sudden I realized there were a lot of President's whose lives I didn't know a lot or really anything about. I turned to my mom and said "I think I'm going to read a book about every President." Since then I have stuck to my goal and try to read 2 book a year. I have 36 Presidents to go. At this rate I'll finish in about 20 years!
I've read about the first 7 Presidents to date and I must say that it's been a very rewarding experience. Granted the first 7 Presidents are pretty famous Presidents that everyone learns about in school, but with each one I've learned something new - a little tidbit to keep tucked in the back of my head. Here are a list of the books that I choose for each President:
George Washington: A Life, by Willard Sterne Randall
John Adams, by David McCullough
Thomas Jefferson: A Life, by Willard Sterne Randall
James Madison: The American Presidents Series, by Gary Willis
James Monroe: The American Presidents Series, by Gary Hart
John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life, by Paul C. Nagel
Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times, by H.W. Brands
Next up is Martin Van Buren. I'll keep you posted on my quest to read a book about each President. Together we'll see if I accomplish this goal and if I finish it in the 20 year time line.
On this blog I'll write about other Life Goals I have but I'd also love to hear from you. In the comment section feel free to share some of your Life Goals. Maybe your goals will inspire new goals for me or others who are reading this blog.
If you are in the right mood for a sweet romantic comedy then you'll enjoy this movie! It was cute. One of those feel good chick flicks perfect for a rainy dreary day.
Monday, July 16, 2007
I have to say that the Farmer's Market at Union Square is the only place you will find a large group of New Yorkers out and about before noon on the weekends! Most streets are absolutely desolate at the hour of 8AM. We got down there around 8:30 after the market was all set up and decided to walk the length of the market before we made any decisions about purchases since it was our first time wandering through the market.
After a lap around we decided on fresh scallops for dinner (which we seared and were out of this world!) We also bought some salad and a yellow and green zucchini to go with our delicious fish. Then we made our way over to the Pretzel Stand that sells Martins Handmade Pretzels (they're pennsylvania dutch). For anyone that decides to explore the Union Square Farmer's Market these pretzels are a must - they are sooo delicious! We also picked up a bottle of wine to go with our dinner from a relatively local vendor - Anthony Road. We asked the man running the stand which of his wines would go best with scallops and he recommended the 2006 Chardonnay with no oak. After polishing of the bottle of wine with dinner I must say that we definitely agreed. It was delicious - very light and perfect for a fish meal. We're looking forward to going back and purchasing more wine from him.
The Farmer's Market was our first NYC type of food (organic, fresh and healthy). For our second type of food in NYC, we met up with a friend for lunch at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. This is anything but organic, fresh and healthy! But it sure is delicious and a NYC summer tradition. No matter what time of day you get there you wait on a line that is at least 30 minutes. Then you put your order in snag a table and wait about another 10 minutes for your order to be ready. But let me tell you it is all worth it when you bite into that Shake Shack Burger with it's "special" sauce! Mmmmm...good! I've gone twice this summer so far and the first time I had their rich delicious chocolate shake with my meal and let me tell you that's what will put you over the edge. This time we shared a lemonade and fries so we could enjoy our burger and not feel disgusting afterwards (although for first timers the shake is part of the experience!) The Shake Shack as I said is a NYC summer tradition so if you're ever exploring NYC in the summer set aside some time for a burger in the park.
ATPM is the story of 2 Washington Post reporters who get put on the job of investigating and writing up the story around the Watergate robberies, which led to uncovering the Watergate scandal that got President Nixon impeached.
Redford and Hoffman have a great chemistry as Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein respectively. We enjoyed this movie and felt that it portrayed what it must have been like for those involved in the Watergate scandal. The investigative reporting was interesting, as well as the tactics they used to get people to talk about the information they needed.
Our thoughts: A great informative piece with good acting. Would definitely recommend for people interested in politics.
(A quick shout out to my friend Emily for getting me into Robert Redford. Not that I didn't know who he was or hadn't seen some of his movies before I met her, but she's a big fan and because of her I've watched more of his films recently. I have to say she's right - he's an amazing actor!)
Ratatouille, is a story about Remi the rat. He lives with his rat family in the country. While the rest of the rats eat garbage they find, Remi's palate is more refined. He loves finer foods and is always trying to sneak into human houses and look at recipes or watch cooking shows. After a rat disaster he ends up in Paris at the very famous restaurant Gasteau's. He makes friends with a new chef at Gasteau's who can't cook a lick. They decide to team up. Remi will be the mastermind behind all of the recipes, and Linguini will be the chef, the face for all the good food they turn out.
Typical animated themes appear: loyalty, the importance of family, believe in yourself, and follow your dreams.
The movie was cute and had funny moments, however we felt it was a bit too long.
Our thoughts: Worth seeing (especially if you are a Pixar fan), but rent it rather than see it in the theater.
Friday, July 13, 2007
So today I used my half day wisely. My friend Jen is leaving on Tuesday for a 6 week adventure to England and Berlin and so we decided to spend the afternoon together combining the two things we do best: Beth introducing Jen to the very touristy places and activities in NYC and Jen introducing Beth to the off the beaten path activities.
We met at City Hall Park, which I have never truly explored. I must go back and spend an afternoon reading on a bench overlooking the amazing fountain. We then headed out to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, which we had both done before. I like walking over the Brooklyn Bridge (aside from all the pedestrians who do not follow the basic pedestrian rules of - everyone together now - walking to your right!) because it is such a famous icon of New York architecture.
After we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge we headed down near the water so that Jen could try Grimaldi's pizza for the first time ever. World class famous Brooklyn NYC pizza. We waited with everyone else outside for about 20-25 minutes to be seated. Grimaldi's is a tiny, red checkered table cloth, tables crammed together type of place. Don't expect friendly smiles and pleasantries but rather prompt efficient service. We ordered a small sausage and onion pizza with Peroni beers which we thoroughly enjoyed while we caught up on life and chatted about Jen's big plans for her upcoming trip.
After Grimaldi's we headed to the Prospect Park Zoo, which is part of the City Zoos along with the Bronx Zoo & Central Park Zoo. We went there to see Jen's friend perform with an interpretive dance troupe performing through out the zoo this week. Unfortunately we missed their performance in the sea lion area but got to see them perform briefly in other parts of the zoo. All the children at the zoo were totally into the interpretive dance performance and were imitating the dancers. It was too cute. Then we walked through the zoo (relatively quickly since we got there 45 minutes before closing). Although it is a relatively small zoo it has some unique animals and some exhibits similar to those at the Bronx Zoo. We got to see Sea Lions, Turtles, Porcupines, Kangaroos, Red Pandas (which were just the cutest), Peacocks, River Otters and Prairie Dogs. In the Prairie Dog exhibit you can go underground and come up in a plastic enclosed case where you're on the same level as the Prairie Dog - fun for children and adults alike! While we wished we had more time to visit the Baboons we enjoyed the time we had there and agreed it was a place we'd visit again.
Jen is that friend that I always have great adventures with in NYC. She gets me to places I never thought I'd go and invites me to experience the city in a way I probably never would without her. I'll miss you buddy over the next 6 weeks - but I will try to have Jen-inspired adventures while you're gone that I can tell you about. I envy your ability to pick up and explore Europe for 6 weeks. I wish you the best trip ever and I can't wait to hear all about your adventure.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
It was a pretty cool way to begin the morning! NASDAQ is located at 43rd and Broadway and when we arrived they had us step into their "photo booth" one by one. Then they gave us each our photo, which was a picture of us superimposed on top of the NASDAQ tower. Everyone posed the same way, standing straight with their arms at their side - in the picture the effect you get from that pose is one of a giant amazon woman as tall as a skyscraper in NYC. We all had a good laugh on that one - watch out NYC - here we come!
Those of you that know me well, know how much I love "small world" occurences! When I was living in Boston I used to run into Holy Cross grads all the time (yeah CRUSADERS!) My boss one day asked me why I continued to act surprise every time I ran into a fellow HC grad? It's because I love how "small" the world is!
On that note, this morning I had one of those "small world" occurences! I walked into NASDAQ and who is standing right outside the photo booth manning a name tag station but a friend from Boston, Julia (who happens to also be a fellow HC grad!) Turns out she was in town on business. It was really great to see her and chat for a little bit this morning.
OK - back to the "ring my bell" experience. After the photo booth we headed into the NASDAQ studio and hung out for awhile until it was time to ring the bell. They show a little NASDAQ video, said a few words of introduction about Girls Inc., our President and CEO said a few words of thanks and then we all paraded onto the stage for the live event. They played some stock market music and we all started cheering and clapping and then Joyce pushed the button, signed her name and we all waved to everyone out on Times Square.
It was a pretty neat experience and if you ever have the opportunity to participate in the ringing of the NASDAQ bell - DO IT!
Why am I starting a blog?
1 - The main reason is because I think blogging is a great way for my friends and family (especially those not living near me) to keep abreast of my oh so interesting life.
2 - I have been told that my writing skills aren't that strong so I figured this would be a great way to practice.
So what will you "my loyal readers" be enjoying on my blog? Good question. A smorgasord of things: book reviews (I'm an extensive reader!), movie reviews (I admit that I am netflix obsessed), and my travel dreams, among other topics!
Today I'm starting out with an article I recently read on cnn.com about Kent Couch, who just last weekend flew 193 miles in his lawn chair! I've been telling everyone I can about this article because it made me laugh so hard for many reasons. One of which being that I could never imagine my husband taking off from our front lawn in a lawn chair with a gazillion helium balloons tied to it and me just waving as if this were a normal mode of commuting. The second reason being a quote in the article about the very first man that flew in his lawn chair back in 1982 (Larry Walters) - "Walters had surprised an airline pilot, who radioed the control tower that he had just passed a guy in a lawn chair. " Click here to read the whole article!
It is a great example of someone who dreamed big and came close to achieving his goal (his goal was to get to Idaho). Remember anything is possible!