Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Krik Krak, Edwidge Danticat - New Classics Challenge

I am on a roll (thanks to Jury Duty!) Right after I finished Practical Magic I decided why not just read another book for the New Classics Challenge. So I picked up Krik Krak by Edwidge Danticat. This book was recommended to me by my friend Shion last year when we went to the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Edwidge Danticat was one of the authors that spoke at the event (eloquently I might add). So this book pick was an easy decision for me!

Krik Krak is a compilation of 9 short stories that all take place or involve characters from Haiti. Each story is short yet powerful. The writing is beautiful and the flow of the book even though they are short stories is enjoyable. The stories speak of massacares, escapes, governments run by dictatorships, but yet at the same time they speak of love, pride, family, and strength of person.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was sooo different from Practical Magic, it just had more substance and was more beautifully written, that it is hard for me to believe they were both on the New Classics List. Krik Krak I would consider a fine piece of literature and would recommend to those who have enjoyed books such as Things Fall Apart. I will certainly read Ms. Danticat again!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman - New Classics Challenge

So this fall has been a little weird for me in that I haven't been reading as much as I usually do (have no fear I'm getting back into it). One, I no longer have a commute which was where I used to do the bulk of my reading so this has seriously cut down my reading time! Second, due to the economy my husband hasn't been nearly as busy at work and is actually home at a reasonable hour. Since this is such a treat for me, it's hard for me to justify reading in another room when I could be spending time with him. Granted now his work has picked up again so my reading time is increasing - couple that with a 4 day stint in jury duty and I'm a reading machine right now - hehehehe!

So in doing some more reading I have started to catch up on the New Classics Challenge. I didn't stick with the original 6 books that I picked though because I began one of the books and just couldn't get into it (Possession, A.S. Byatt). Maybe I'll pick it up again someday. And one other book I found out was the 3rd book in a series where I have not read the 1st & 2nd book. I didn't want to start in the middle. (Lonesome Dove, Larry McCurty).

Practical Magic therefore was not one of my original picks, but I picked it up because it was on the New Classics Challenge List and I needed 2 new books to fill those vacant slot. I had read Hoffman before (Here on Earth) and enjoyed her so I was looking forward to reading Practical Magic.

Practical Magic is the story of Sally and Gillian Owens, whose parents died when they were young. They were sent to Salem, Mass to live with their two aunts (considered witches) and grew up constantly being ridiculed. They were outcasts in their schools and most people were afraid of them because they considered them to be witches as well.

As they grew older and wanted different things from life they both ended up leaving Salem, Mass - one sister became a drifter, married numerous times unsuccessfully and the other sister was widowed and raising her two daughters in the suburbs of Long Island.

One day when Gillian shows up on Sally's doorstep in Long Island with her boyfriend, dead in the car, the sister's have to make a split second decision. One that will affect their relationship with each other, with her daughters, with their aunts and with themselves.

The underlying themes in this book are acceptance of others and of yourself and the power of love. Did I enjoy this book - absolutely! It is a fun, quick read, a guilty pleasure to be enjoyed on rainy day (or a jury room!) Would I consider this book a good choice for a New Classic - not a chance! When I think of classic literature I immediately think of Ernest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Truman Capote, Edith Wharton, and so on....a New Classic although contemporary needs to compare at least somewhat in my opinion with the old classics and those are some mighty big shoes to fill. This novel doesn't even come close to a classic. It's more of a fun beach read....sorry Entertainment Weekly I don't agree with this choice.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Museum of the City of New York

So Jon and I have been pretty good about getting out and about and doing things in New York to take advantage of all the city has to offer before we move to Hoboken in February!!! (I'll make sure to post a list and a quick breakdown of the things we've done that I haven't blogged about!) That's right we're moving to Jersey - it's official! We were going to buy a place but with everything going on in the economy we both agreed to rent for another year and let things settle down. I'm so excited to move to Hoboken because it's much smaller and more manageable than NYC, it is 1 mile by 1 mile, but yet it still has an urban feel. Also, my sis and her fiance live there, my cousin lives there, and one of our HC friends and his wife live there!!! I think it will be a good transition from URBAN life to SUBURBAN life - it's the perfect inbetween. While we'll still take advantage of being close to the city I don't want that to let me get complacent in enjoying some sightseeing now.

Sunday was OUR day so we decided to check out The Museum of the City of New York, which is on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street. My mother LOVES this museum and she has been talking about it since we moved here (specifically the doll house exhibit) so I figured it was time to check it out. We are also currently watching New York: A Documentary by Ric Burns so we felt that while we're learning about NYC why not extend it some more.

I have to say that there were things I LOVED about this museum and things that just didn't make sense to me. I was expecting to go to this museum and learn a lot about the history of New York, that was not exactly the case. You learn about certain periods in NYC depending really on what the current exhibits they are hosting.

First for the permanent exhibits: The dollhouses!!! On the 3rd floor they have a whole toy section filled with toys that have been donated by NYC families that they played with as children. They run the gammet to being from the 1800's to being more present (as in things I can remember playing with - Monopoly, Lincoln Logs, etc). It is cool to see some handmade toys, to see some of the first dolls created, to see things that children played with back in the day (I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff). But the coolest section of all was all the elaborate doll houses. What girl as a child did not want a really amazing doll house to play with and these are the creme de la creme. Some of them were so exquisite and detail oriented I don't know that I could have played with them, but I LOVED looking at them. I am almost tempted to say that the museum is worth it just for this.

The other exhibit I really enjoyed was this small room of diaramas that depicted rooms from different time periods in NYC (I'm such a sucker for this kind of stuff too!) It's a small exhibit but enjoyable.

The other permanent exhibit is about trade in NYC and is all about ships, ports and different trades during different times in NYC history. There are a lot of model ships modeled after ships that might have been during the time and diagrams showing where the ports and piers were.

There was also a 22 minute video about the history of NYC, which was done by the same writer as the documentary we're currently watching. It is a great overview of the city and it's history and we watched this before we toured the museum and it was a great starting point.

The exhibits that were visiting I liked: Paris & New York, New York's role in Elections, and Catholicism in New York. These were all on the first floor. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that it all depends on when you go and what exhibits they have when you're there as to how enjoyable you'll find the museum. I definitely wouldn't put it in my top 5 but I do think it is a museum worth visiting if you're at all interested in things related to NYC.

After the museum we walked to 2nd Avenue between 86th and 85th to visit one of our fave German bars in NYC - Heidelberg New York. We had German beers and Jon enjoyed a salami stick. Then we moseyed on to JG Melon's on 3rd and 74th to partake in the best burgers in NYC!!! Boy are they good. It's a small crowded place with a lot of character and great food. We each got a burger with fries and a beer and enjoyed our early dinner.

Then it was time to head watch the Patriots (who lost - boo!) and call it a night.

It was a great day in NYC!

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Handmaids Tale, Margaret Atwood

Quickly catching up - I am! The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood is actually my September book for both the New Classics Challenge and the Unread Authors Challenge. (As an aside I've read my August book for the Unread Authors but I haven't posted my review because I'm waiting for my mom to finish her August book!)

Margaret Atwood has been sitting on my shelf for ages - both The Handmaids Tale and Blind Assassins. This was the perfect excuse for me to pick one of them up. After finishing The Handmaids Tale I'm sad it took me so long because it was sooo good!

The Handmaids Tale is a story about the future (a very scary future for women!) It follows the story of Offred (named so because she is the Handmaid of Fred - hence Of-fred). Women who are fertile are handmaids and are placed in homes of high ranking individuals in order to help the human population increase (hard to imagine a future where we're concerned about our population...but...) The rules are very strict as far as who you can speak to, what you can speak about, where you can go, what you can do, etc.

The story is told with Offred as the narrator. She reminices about her life prior to this "take over and change" and talks about her husband and daughter, wondering what has happened to them. She remembers life before this "regime" and what the differences are and what has changed. So you get a good perspective on how the transition occurred.

I have to say it has been awhile since I have read a book this "unputdownable". Every waking moment I had was spent reading this book (yes, that means I was reading & walking at the same time!) It was so interesting and also really scary. I mean not that I think that would happen to our society, but...neither did the narrator when she talks about her life before.

My only complaint was that the ending was a little abrupt and "unfinished" in that you don't really know what happens. Although, I guess it does really fit with the novel and what might have "really" happened. Overall, I would say this is a book NOT TO BE MISSED!!!!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Beloved, Toni Morrison - New Classics Challenge

I'm a little behind already in my New Classics Challenge and I've barely even begun. I was supposed to read Beloved, by Toni Morrison in August. Well, I started it in August but I didn't finish it until mid-September.

I picked this book because of all of Toni Morrison's books, I feel that Beloved is the book she is best known for. And it was 3rd overall on the New Classics Challenge list and I had read the first two books on the list so why not the 3rd! This was my 3rd Toni Morrison book.

Beloved is the story of Sethe and her daughter (or her ghost daughter). Sethe's story is one of family, slavery, relationships, pasts and hauntings. We find Sethe, her daughter Denver and her mother-in-law Baby Suggs in Cincinnati. They've escaped slavery and have made a life for themselves in this town (a somewhat solitary life but a life nonetheless). As Sethe and the other characters in the book tell the story of Sethe's life (and essentially all their lives) during slavery, her escape from slavery and what happened right after she escaped - the whole journey elvoves; the tragedy of what happened with her 1st daughter, why her family has been tormented for so many years, and the power of community.

I usually find Toni Morrison very difficult to read. Her style is very circular, you get bits and pieces of information that all come together at the end when the two ends of the circle connect, but during the read sometimes it's hard to see those connections. I've seen her speak, and she even talks circular, it's pretty amazing! However, this book was a little different. It still had it's circular aspects in that it all pieced together in the end (it came full circle if you'll allow me.) It wasn't as confusing though as I was reading it and I found myself, enjoying the story. It is not an uplifting read, it is one of those books that over and over will have you question, "If I was in her shoes what would I have done."

Overall, I thought that Beloved was a very powerful read and of all the Toni Morrison books I've read this is the first one that I would recommend. I'm glad that the New Classics challenge, challenged me to finally pick this up off my shelf and read it. I can certainly see why it could be considered a new classic!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

NYRR Continental 1 Mile Race

Hello Hello! Here I am blogging about another great New York Road Runners Running Event.

I went onto to peruse one of my favorite blogs to read (Mile Markers, by Kristin Armstrong - she just has this ability to write things just as you imagine them but maybe can't find the words to describe! I love her blog!)

While I'm on there I see this big highlight for the NYRR Continental 1 Mile Road Race Sunday, September 21st. The race takes place in Manhattan and runs down Fifth Avenue from 80th Street to 60th Street.
I of course immediately forward the information on to my sister and ask her if her and Josh want to meet up with me to watch this race that will last less than 5 minutes (and in the men's case, less than 4 minutes - amazing!) They of course are on board!

We met up at 61st Street and no joke were able to get a good spot only 1 block from the finish. It was great because the announcer announced everyone that was participating in the race before the race began. There were only about 10 runners in both the women's and the men's mile race. Then he gave the play by play as they were heading towards the finish and then we got to see the finish. It was soooo cool!

Both races were incredibly close. Shannon Rowbury, an American who participated in the 1 mile in Beijin representing the USA, was neck and neck with Lisa Dobriskey of Great Britian. Unfortunately, Dobriskey edged her out in the finish. It was exciting to watch. Then the woman did a "victory lap" right past us (see picture above - Rowbury is carrying the American Flag.) Other American women running were: Erin Donohue (she also ran the 1 mile in Beijing) and Sara Hall.

We waited about 30 minutes for the men's race to start - jam packed with Olympians! Bernard Lagat, Nick Symmonds (of 800 Meter Oregonian Olympic Trials Fame), and Chris Solinksy just to name a few. Bernard Lagat and New Zealand's Nick Willis were neck and neck heading to the finish and somehow Willis out ran Lagat by one-one hundreth of a second - dang! Bernard was so gracious though - he ran down Fifth Avenue hugging the fans afterwards - it was so amazing to see. In the picture above see if you can spy Kate trying to slap five with Bernard "Bernie" Lagat!

Then as we were getting ready to part and watch some Sunday Football (boo-yah!) Who is right in front of us by Nick Symmonds - eek! Kate and mine's favorite race of the Olympic Trials was the 800 Meter (if you haven't seen it - you really should - click here). We got to meet him, congratulate him on his race, compliment him on the Olympic Trials 800M and he was gracious enough to take a picture with us (see above!)

All in all a pretty cool running day in NYC!!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Another Reading Challenge

I have barely started my very first reading challenge when I found another that intrigued me - so I'm signing up. I am however limiting myself to these two for starters!!!!

I also invited my mother to join me in this challenge as something we could do together. We both love to read and we are always swapping books and book reviews so I thought this would be perfect.

The Challenge is the Unread Authors Challenge. The idea is that you pick 6 authors that you have never read before but always wanted to read and you choose one book by each of them to read between August 2008-February 2009. If you'd prefer you can choose 2 authors and read 3 books by each thus getting to know the author a little better. My mom and I choose the first path. Below is what we will be reading. I will be posting our reviews together and then linking them to the site!

Looks like I have a lot of reading to do and a lot of reviews to write!

Readerbean's Books
August - Still Life with Woodpecker, Tom Robbins
September - The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
October - Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
November - From Beruit to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedman
December - Rabbit, Run, John Updike
January - Creation: A Novel, Gore Vidal

Mom's Books
August - London, Edward Rutherford
September - Loving Frank, Nancy Horan
October - Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
November - Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortneson & David Oliver Relin
December - The Blessing Stone, Barbara Wood
January - Empress Orchid, Anchee Min

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Perfect Saturday in NYC!

As I was reviewing all my blog posts from the past year in celebration of not only my one year anniversary of blogging but also my 100th post, I found my list of things I wanted to do in NYC. I was reviewing it and realized that while I have done a lot of things off the list there is still a lot left to do. I'll have to re-publish the list and fill you in.

In the meantime I'll tell you about our perfect Saturday in NYC during which we crossed two things off our list.

I've been trying to get back into running slowly but surely so as to not aggrevate my leg - so far so good. I got another 3 mile run in on Saturday morning.

Then Jon and I headed to the Carnegie Deli! We split one of their GIANT sandwiches - we had roastbeef, onion & lettuce on toasted seedless rye. We each only ate about half of what you see me "eating" in the picture above. Below is Jon outside the famouse deli.

After our delicious lunch we headed up to the Bronx to spend the afternoon at The Cloisters. The Cloisters is a great museum full of medieval art (my fave) and great outdoors spaces with amazing views of the Hudson. You almost forget you're still in New York City. Thanks to Deutsche Bank we got in for free, rented our audio guides and enjoyed an engaging afternoon full of learning.

After spending about 2 hours in The Cloisters we walked through Fort Tryon Park and enjoyed more wonderful views of the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge. It was a relaxing afternoon in NYC.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Happy Anniversary to Me!!!

So today, Saturday, July 12, 2008 is my one year anniversary of blogging on Getting By, Dreaming Big! So I wanted to say a big thank you out there to those of you that are still reading - I'm enjoying blogging and I'm looking forward to the upcoming year.

In honor of my one year of blogging I thought I'd recap a subject from my first first post about the man trying to get from Oregan to Idaho in his lawn chair with balloons. To see my first post click here.

Well it looks like Mr. Couch and myself are on the same timeline. This July he gave his trip to Idaho a third try and he made it!!!! Click here to read the article.

Congratulations to him on accomplishing one of his dreams. It's a great reminder to keep dreaming big!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Reading Challenges - Ever Done One?

I'm a big reader - I love to read, I love to talk about books, I love to review books, I love to recommend my favorites - I love to read! One thing I've yet to do when it comes to books is participate in a reading challenge. Joanna over on Lost in a Good Story has set up The New Classics Challenge and I have decided to give it a whirl. This is how it works.

1) Copy Entertainment Weekly's list of new classics and bold the titles that you have already read. (see below!)

2) Choose at least 6 other books from the list , read and review them between 1 August 2008 and 31 January 2009. (to see my choices keep reading!)

3) Review each book that you read and post links to your review on her blogsite.

4) In January 2009, cast your vote for which one of the 100 books on the list is your favorite (and write a post on why). The winning book will be sent to a lucky winner chosen by the scientific method favored here in the blogosphere, i.e. names in a hat.

The New Classics
1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

I have read 27 of the 100 books, which I feel good about as that is more than 1/4 of the list! It was difficult to narrow down which 6 books I'm going to read, but I did. I have chosen:

1 - Beloved, Toni Morrison
2 - The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
3 - Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurty
4 - Possession, A.S. Byatt
5 - The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe
6 - Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat

I feel good about the books that I've chosen and I'm excited to begin reading come August 1st and sharing my reviews and my thoughts on participating in a reading challenge!

Regional Theater

Sunday afternoon I joined my mother, grandmother and my aunt for lunch in Millburn, NJ home of The Papermill Playhouse. The three of them have a subscription and have been getting together for lunch followed by a show for years. Now that I'm in the area I've been inducted into the group - although I do not have a season subscription as of yet. This year they discovered that since they are season subscribers they each get two $20 tickets to any of the 6 shows.

A couple of months ago I joined them for such a day and we saw Kiss Me Kate. This Sunday we saw Little Shop of Horrors, one of my personal faves! I mean who doesn't love this play about a man-eating plant (OK, well my mom didn't love it!) The show was great and the theater was filled with kids. I'm so glad that I was able to accompany the ladies in my family for a fun Sunday afternoon outing.

Next year's season is shaping up to be a good one and personally I am hoping that I'll be able to see Oklahoma and 1776 (one of my absolute faves!!!)

Broadway is fantastic and I have found that there is something about living near or in NYC that makes you go see shows. I've seen more shows in the past 17 months then I ever saw in the 6 years I lived in Boston. It's reminded me how much I enjoy live theater. There is nothing like sitting in the audience, the curtain goes up, and the cast begins to belt out the first song - without fail it always gives me the chills!

While Broadway is fantastic it is also incredibly expensive with orchestra seats now going for $110 a show. Not something most families can afford to do! So if you want to see a show but don't necessarily want to shell out that much money remember that this country is full of terrific regional theaters! The PaperMill Playhouse is just one, but when I lived up in Boston, I saw Tommy at The Stoneham Theatre and it was great! We also went and saw Evita at The Providence Performing Arts Center and it was fantastic and the theatre is beautiful.

This summer I'll be visiting two regional theatres a little off the beaten path for most people when I go see Urinetown at Lyric Theatre in Oklahoma City. I am finally going to see a show at the theatre my college roomie is the Marketing Director at and I couldn't be more excited. The next day we're planning on going to see Les Miserable (which I've already seen, um...6 times, twice in London, once in Boston and three time in NYC) at a regional theatre in Kansas.

There are still affordable ways to see great plays so don't forget to check out your regional theatres, you'll be pleasantly surprised!!!

Monday, July 7, 2008

It's Almost the Olympics!!!!

OK - I'll admit it I am OBSESSED with the Olympics. I can't watch enough of them and I cannot wait until 8.8.08!!!! I do not know how many of you out there are following the Olympic Trials as closely as I am but there have been some amazing races already and we're not even in Beijing yet.

Here are some of my favorites:

1) The 800m Men's Final (Track & Field) - Click Here! One of the best finishes I have ever seen.

2) Dara Torres in the 100M free and the 50M (Swimming) - Click Here for the 50M free finals and fast forward to about 3:30. Hello - did you know she's 41 and going for her 5th Olympics. Her first was in 1984, 1984 - it's heartwarming to watch.

3) Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte in the 400 IM in the first night of the swimming Olympic Trials - click here!

These are just to name a few.

My favorite sports to watch in the Olympics are: swimming, track & field, marathon, beach volleyball, indoor volleyball, diving and gymnastics. What are your favorite sports to watch? Post your answer in the comment section below!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Family to the Rescue!

So as you all now my husband is incredibly hardworking. The hours he puts in are literally astounding sometimes and truthfully I don't know how he still stands some days! I'm very good about entertaining myself during these many nights that he's working away and I have to say that one of the best things about being back in the NYC area is that my family is here to keep me company!

This past weekend I had a three day weekend (woo-hoo!) and I was looking at 3 days on my own (quarter end is coming up people...)! So in an effort to try and see as much family as possible (not really...but that's what went down) I got up off my butt and got out there. Here's a breakdown of the weekend.

Friday morning I went out to Brooklyn and met up with my cousin's wife and their little daughter Lucia who is only 8 weeks old (so precious!) We had breakfast out went to the park and then just hung out in their amazing apartment. Friday afternoon I had a few precious hours to myself to just putz around. Then in the evening I met up with my aunt & uncle and my little cousin Chris who is 8 years old. We had dinner at John's Pizzeria, which was delish, then my aunt & uncle went off to see a broadway show and Chris & I ventured out into NYC. It was fun to hang out with a kid and get to do kid stuff. We went to Toy R Us in Times Square and rode the ferris wheel (he was none to pleased that we ended up in the Barbie car...oh well!) then it was on to ESPN Zone for some serious gaming. After about 2 hours there we went back to my apartment to watch baseball until his parents came to get him. I rarely get one-on-one time with Chris so this was such a treat!

Saturday my sister & her fiance and I went down to the Jersey Shore - yeah baby!!! The AVP Beach Volleyball tour was rolling through and I was so excited to see some action. If you remember Jon & I went last year out to Coney Island to watch and we had such a great time that I convinced my sis & Josh that they should check it out with me this year. We had such a great day at the beach. It was so nice to be outside all day, by the water, and just watching sports. The only bummer though was that that Top 3 women's and men's teams were at some Olympic Qualifier or something so we didn't get to see them play - but it was cool because I got to see some other players I might not have focused on as much but who are still wicked good.

After a day of volleyball & sun we went to my aunt & uncle's house down at the shore for dinner. It was so great to see them at a non-holiday outing! They cooked up an amazing meal and we sat around and chatted until pretty late and then it was time to drive back to the city.

Sunday the whole fam went out to Westchester for a little engagement party for my sister & Josh!

All in all it was crazy how much family I saw in three days but at the same time it was so great and I am very thankful that I'm surrounded by such wonderful peeps!!!

Golf Tournament...done...check

So part of the reason I haven't been as busy on the blog is because my new job actually requires me to do work...I know, I know...can you believe it? Last Monday, we had our biggest fundraising event of the year - our Annual Golf Invitational. It raises over $1.8 million for the Foundation that I work for. We get about 300 golfers and 300 dinner guests - all in all it's a great day and a great event.

I have to say though as the only Special Events person on a staff of 4 people total I forgot how exhausting it can be when you don't have people to help you do all the stuff that needs to get done! I haven't been so physically & mentally exhausted in a long while. It really affected how I spent my days...I haven't been reading as much (*gasp*)...I haven't been exercising as much...I haven't been doing a lot of things as much, except watching TV because that's all my little brain could handle.

The event was on the 16th and it was a huge success. The weather held off until dinner and while it did get a little crazy during dinner (picture NYC's wealthiest under a tent, with the lights going out, the ground flooding and the tent shaking...yeah, I was a little concerned) we moved everything indoors and it all went off well!

So now I'm trying to reclaim my life back...get back to my crazy reading schedule....get back out pounding the pavement...get back out blogging in cyberspace....just get back out there! I mean it's summer for goodness sake!

And I need to figure out a way to not let it affect me so much moving forward, because we have 6 events coming up this fall...and to be honest I didn't like losing myself over the past couple of months (especially to work)! Once I come up with a plan...I'll share it with all you hardworking peeps out there:)

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Hey Everyone -miss me? That's if I haven't lost all my readers and by "readers" I mean you Dad:) hehehehe!

So I haven't been bloggin' in awhile - that doesn't mean I haven't been busy doing lots of fun & exciting things (because I have) - more that I wasn't in a writing mood. Writing is not my natural being at all...but I realized I do miss it so I need to get back at it. So if you're still out there...happy reading!

What have I been up to you ask? Why lots of fun stuff. My favorite band Pat McGee Band did a 10-week residency here in NYC at the Canal Rooms. They played every Monday and then switched to Tuesdays for 10 weeks. I went to 7 shows! And no it does not get old - they were some of the best PMB shows I have seen. The best part about it was that it was like watching them in my living room (OK my living room isn't that big - but my point is that it was a small intimate space). The other best part is that I introduced some of my new New York friends to PMB and they loved it, I also brought some of my HC friends back to their shows and they renewed their love of PMB. I have to say there is nothing better than seeing live performances whether it be music, theater, dance, whatever, if it's LIVE it rules! It was the most relaxing way to spend a weeknight (regardless of how tired I was the next day.)

I've also caught some other LIVE performances such as: the band LIVE at the Starland Ballroom in New Jersey (that was a special gift for my DH!), a performace of "A Chorus Line", a performace of "Kiss Me Kate" and a performance of "Prisoner of the Crown" (at the Irish Rep Theater). I've also seen some LIVE sports such as: our beloved Red Sox beating the Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Jon and mine's 4 year anniversary!

We've done some fun things around NYC - but I'll save that for another post. Unfortunately I also found myself watching a little too much TV (netflix while seriously one of my favorite things - is so addicting!) so I'm trying to break myself of that bad habit and get back to writing, reading, cooking and doing all the things I love.

Speaking of which - I recently joined a Beach Volleyball league - so every Tuesday night we're over playing on Long Island City with the most ridiculous view of the Manhattan Skyline. I'll take a picture next time and post it - it's unreal. I'm much more of an indoor girl when it comes to vball but playing beach is fun!

On top of it all - work is really busy - which is great - but takes away from my usual blogging time :)

Alright so that's that - I'm back - with more Beth adventures from NYC! Watch for my next post coming soon....:)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

My Birthday - Exploring More of NYC!

Ah...another year older! Actually 29, even though it's close to the dreaded 30, does not really bother me all that much. OK, well maybe I hadn't written it out anywhere and now I'm suddenly feeling a little stressed about it...just kidding.

Jon asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and in the spirit of exploring more of NYC I came up with the perfect Beth activity - a tour of the New York Public Library. The New York Public Libaray gives tours twice daily at 11AM and 2PM. So we had a leisurely morning, went to the gym, made a nice brunch, read for a little bit, and then we were off. The tour lasts about an hour and is very informative about the history of the sight, the building, and what is stored in the library.

Now, I have to say that when I first moved to NYC I was so excited to go to the New York Public Libaray (NYPL) because I loved visiting the Boston Public Library and I used to go there to read some nights when Jon was working late. A week or two after we moved here we went to the NYPL and inquired about getting library cards. The women informed us that the library had no books in circulation and that it was strictly a research library. She directed us across the street to a shabby building to get our library cards and begin checking out books. At the time, I was extrememly disappointed, why build this beautiful library if no one can check books out of it!

During the tour I learned that it is one of the four most important research libraries in the Western Hemisphere. So I guess I'll get over it not having any books in circulation. The building is beautiful and HUGE! We got to see many rooms and learn about all the rare books and special collections that they have there, it was pretty impressive.

After our tour we went to see the Special Exhibit celebrating the 50th Anniversary of one of my favorite books - On The Road by Jack Kerouac. They had his journals, photographs of him with all the people in the book, the infamous scroll, among other things. I'm definitely going to go back and visit it again before it leaves in March. I think it might be time to re-read the book.

After the library we headed over to ESPN Zone to meet up with my brother and his fiance. We spent over an hour exhausting ourselves playing all the fun video games - rafting from dinosaurs and whirlpools, boxing, playing basketball, and pretending to be jockeys in a horse race! It was so much fun and I have to admit I was pretty tired when we were done.

For dinner Jon and I went to Pete's Tavern in Grammercy Park for burgers. It is the longest continuously running bar and restaurant in New York City. During prohibition it's cover was a flower shop, but once inside you could enjoy a nice Ale. It was a fun place to have dinner and a New York Institution, I'm glad we went.

Then it was back to the house for more games with friends. All in all a great blend of family, friends, exploration, and history!

Friday, February 8, 2008

MOMA - Free Fridays

So in my quest to continue to take advantage of all that New York has to offer, I stumbled upon Free Fridays at the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art!) From 4-8PM you walk up to the admission counter tell them how many tickets you need and they hand them to you. Obviously there are A LOT of people in the museum taking advantage of being able to get in for free, but if you can get over the crowd, it is well worth it.

We decided to start on the 5th floor and spend our entire 1 1/2 hours that we had allotted for our visit on that floor. Since we didn't pay to get in and we can come back any Friday we want, we didn't feel the need to try and see the whole museum in one visit. It made the experience much more manageable and made the museum seem smaller and more welcoming for a visit.

I had not been to the MOMA since I was in highschool and I forgot what wonderful art adorns its walls. We got to see Van Gogh, Miro, Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne, Kandinsky, and countless others. Here are some of my favorite pictures that we saw:

The Starry Night - Vincent van Gogh
The Storm - Edvard Munch
Street Light - Giacomo Balla
Violin and Grapes - Pablo Picasso

I cannot wait to go back and explore another floor! What a great way to start out any weekend.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Higher - 4 Stars

Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City, Neal Bascomb (4 Stars)

The 1920's was all about reaching new heights in America - the roaring 20's emphasized a fast-paced lifestyle where there were no limits. It was this "anything goes" attitude that led to the construction of skyscrapers in New York City that were just as much a symbol of the times as they were practical business investments. In this book that chronicles the race to be the tallest between 3 New York landmarks - the Chrysler Building, 40 Wall Street, and The Empire State Building - egos collide, markets tumble, and relationships are broken. The author weaves a very readable tale that focuses on both the financial and architectural icons who led to the construction of these buildings. If bricks and mortar also interest you, then this will do the trick as well. Throughout the book you are taken to the construction sites and learn what its like to catch a burning hot rivet a quarter mile up in the air, all while balancing on a single beam and bracing against high winds and frigid temperatures. Overall, a very good book that manages to tell the "story" of these now prominent buildings.

I picked up this book a year ago when we first moved to NYC but couldn't really get into it. Our friend Gary recommended and loaned it to Jon, who read it and loved it. I found it in my nightstand a couple of weeks ago and decided to give it another go, if for nothing else then to be able to return it to it's rightful owner and get one more thing out of our apartment. This time around not only did I get into it - I loved it! I find myself looking at the buildings in a different light and appreciating them so much more, not just in the present but what they represented when they were built.

Next up, a stop at the Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park. I'll make sure to blog on it when we go!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Modern Art - Love it or Leave it?

Ok, so despite my friend Christina's warning about The New Museum in NYC, when my cousin called and asked if I wanted to go with him and a friend one night I said yes. And I have to say that I should have listened to Christina!

I went with an open mind, because even though I don't always appreciate and/or understand Modern Art, it is always good to go outside your comfort zone and have new experiences. The museum itself is a beautiful modern open space. The exhibits take up really 3 floors and when you walk out onto a floor you can basically see each piece and then it's just a matter of how you want to explore the floor.

There were 1 or 2 pieces that I felt showed effort and substance, that spoke to me but other than that I can't really say that I understood much of what I was looking at. Why is this considered art? was a question that ran through my head as I stood staring at many of the pieces.

There was one women's collages who I really liked, Martha Rosler. I just thought it was an interesting perspective on the war. It made me think...

The New Museum has rotating exhibits, however I don't think I'llbe in any rush to head back!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Happy Anniversary NYC!

Well, it is official we have been New York residents for one year! I just wanted to say a Happy Anniversary to New York City!!!

We've re-signed our lease for another year of NYC fun and I plan to take full advantage of all the city has to offer. Hope you are all looking forward to the NYC adventures of 2008.

New Year's Resolutions

OK, so I'm a month late with this post literally to the day! But even though I was so bogged down with posts about Italy that I got a little behind I still want to touch on this subject.

Do you make New Year's Resolutions? I do! For the past however many years they usually focus on something health related, I'm going to eat better, I'm going to excercise more, etc, etc. Now, not that that isn't important but I've decided that this year's New Year's Resolutions weren't going to be all about that.

Health (as well as all my resolutions) is something I should be working on regardless of the New Year! So here are mine, feel free to share yours, as I love to hear about people's goals in life:

1 - Find religion and spirituality again. As well as, go to church more frequently. Religion, church and that community were all a huge part of my life growing up yet right now they are inconsistent at best. I'd like that to I'm going to work on it.

2 - Reconnect with people! I feel like email is a great way to touch base, it's quick and easy and especially with my generation a lot of times it's the easiest way to communicate. However, I miss talking on the phone. One day when I was home sick in early January I talked on the phone with three different people that day for over an hour each! Now, I don't often have time for that, but my goal this year is to be better about picking up the phone. I'll let you know how that goes.

3 - The "year of the classics". As you all know by now I love love love to read! I'm constantly amazed though at how many of the "classics" I have yet to pick up. So this year, I'm going to focus on the classics. I'm going to read other things as well, but I want to read more classic literature than I normally would in a year...for instance, War & Peace anyone...?

Those are my three big ones! Since it's a month later I will let you know how some are going. After shopping around Jon and I have found a church that we like, we've been two weekends in a row and last week attended a young persons gathering after mass. We met about 20 other 20-30 something's and that was refreshing to feel a sense of community. So I think we're going to keep going back. Now I just need to focus on the spirituality of it all.

As for the classics, I did read one in the month of January and I have two lined up for February so I'm doing well with that.

Hopefully I'll be able to keep this up for not just the year but as part of my life going forward, isn't that the point of resolutions?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Martin Van Buren - President # 8

Ahhh...Martin Van Buren! President #8. I decided it'd be good to get the first President of the year over with early so that I don't get stuck with two books to read later in the year. For Martin Van Buren I choose once again a book from the American President's Series.

Martin Van Buren, Ted Widmer

I bought the book used off of for like $3.00 - yay! It was only 200 pages, so I felt pretty confident about reading it. It was filled with lots of interesting tidbits:

- MVB was the first President to hail from New York
- MVB was the first President of non-English descent (he was Dutch!)
- MVB began what is now the Democratic Party
- MVB was the first man to run for President as an Independent (this was after he was already President).
- MVB was the fifth longest living President

As for the book...This book briefly covered his life; early years, his rise to political fame, his Presidency and his retirement. Widmer, does a great job in just 200 pages of giving the reader a sense of who Martin Van Buren was. He also does a great job of making you realize why Martin Van Buren should be remembered and pointing out all the great things he accomplished in the name of democracy, without overselling him and making the reader believe he should go down in history as one of the most important Presidents. This book is a good read for the regular reader, one who does not normally read non-fiction or biographies. I did not find it too dense and it flowed nicely.

I have to say my expectations where low for MVB, but I found him to be pretty darn fascinating. Next up William Henry Harrison, or as many of your may remember, Tippecanoe and Tyler too!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Frick Collection

Ten days in Italy trying to soak in as much culture and as many sights as we possibly could, definitely left us realizing that we hadn't done nearly as much as we wanted to in our first year in NYC! So this weekend we decided to venture out and see a new NYC sight.

We choose The Frick Collection. It is located at East 70th Street and 5th. It is the collection of Henry Clay Frick, when he passed in 1919 he stated in his will that after the death of his wife, the home was to be turned into a museum. We had heard many good things about this museum, which is why is was our pick.

We got their in the early afternoon and agreed that we would not spend more than 2 hours there. Having toured many museums together now, we have come to the realization that 2 hours is our limit in a museum, after the 2 hour mark, it's just not fun anymore.

Our tickets came with audioguides, which we were both very happy about. We went downstairs to see the special exhibit on Gabriel de Saint-Aubin (1724-1780), which we both enjoyed. Then we went back upstairs to begin looking at the permanent collection. The museum really is a house (or a mansion really)! There are a couple of rooms that feel more like you're in a gallery but most of the time you are walking through Frick's study or dining room or living room.

The art collection really blew me away. I didn't have high expectations that I was going to know many of the artisits, I don't know why. But lo and behold there were plenty of artisits that I knew, El Greco, Renoir, Vermeer, Valezquez, Lippi, Rembrandt, Whistler, etc. The audioguides were great, the perfect amount of information on each piece and you could listen to only what you wanted to.

We wandered through the mansion, sometimes together, sometimes on our own, just taking in the beauty of the collection that Mr. Frick had put together. The best part though is that the house has an indoor courtyard, which in NYC is a little bit of heaven. It's beautiful and so peaceful so we spent some time just sitting in there and talking.

There were so many beautiful pieces that it is difficult to choose my favorites but some of my favorites were:

St. John the Evangelist - the way this particular picture was lit up in the museum made it really stand out.

St. Francis in the Desert

Virgin Child with Saints and Donor

OK that's just to name a few - but if you go to the website you can see a lot of the collection. It was a wonderful afternoon spent and I'm looking forward to our many more NYC adventures!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Book Reviews - Big Update

Ahhh....books, I love books! I have to say that at the end of 2007 having lost my commute (my prime reading time) and being all caught up in the holidays and getting ready for our vacation my reading kind of fell to the wayside, which was sad! However, in 2008 I've already got some books under my belt. Here are the reviews.

First Man in Rome, Colleen McCullough (3 Stars)

I picked up this book because having found many books written about Florence during the Renaissance I was excited to have found a book so favorably reviewed about Rome, especially Rome during Roman times.

The First Man in Rome, covers many subject matters & characters, but if I had to paraphrase it I would say it was about Rome during the time that "the new man" entered the scene. Gaius Marius, a new man, has money, power and desire to hold a consulship in Rome, however he is missing the family name and history that one needs in order to climb the Roman Senate ladder. Gaius Julias Ceasar as well as Lucius Cornelius ("Sulla") on the other hand have the all important name but no money. Over the course of the book the reader follows all of these characters as they work towards that top spot, whether for themselves or their family. McCullough thoroughly covers military campaigns in both Africa and Gaul as well as covers the workings of the Senate.

While I definitely felt I learned a lot from this book, I would say that it was not an enjoyable read. More so a book that I plodded through to get to the end. (It felt as long as it was in other words...) There wasn't enough everyday life in the book to lighten the load of the politics and military campaigns which dominated the storyline. I would agree that it's not a book for everyone, I'm glad I read it but I won't be picking up the other books in the series to see what happens...

The Magician's Guild, Trudi Canavan (4 Stars)

I picked this book up because I was missing on Harry Potter, there I said it! I had never really ventured into the world of Science Fiction prior to HP. My sister's boyfriend recommended this series to me.

In the first book in the trilogy of the Magician's Guild, the reader meets Sonea, a girl from the dwells (poor neighborhood) who one day realizes she has magical powers that she never knew about. The Guild is concerned because a magician who's powers are self-discovered as opposed to cultivated tend to be especially strong Magicians. Sonea, afraid of the Guild, makes a "contract" with the Thieves asking them to hide her. The chase begins, and continues for half of the book. Faced with the decision to join the Guild or try to survive on her own, Sonea struggles with whether or not the Magician's of the Guild are trustworthy.

The book was not a difficult book to read, easily could be read by any child who read HP. I will say that in the beginning I wasn't overly impressed but as the story developed I was sucked in more and more. I will definitely be picking up the next two books in the trilogy and hope they will be just as fun. This in no way compares to the magic of HP but I'm glad I'm continuing to explore the Science Fiction world of literature because I think it holds a lot of potential books for me to enjoy!

The Road, Cormac McCarthy (5 Stars)

Many of you already know the story, a man and his son are heading south, in a post apocalyptic United States. The Road is their story of survival, human nature, and love.

I had heard mixed reviews about this book so I tried to go in without any expectations and I think that helped me appreciate it to the fullest. It is a book that will stay with you for days and that will have you question, "What would I do in this situation?" more than once. As many a reviewer has said before me, it is "hauntingly beautiful" and I truly think that is the best way to describe it.

It is a worthwhile read.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald (5 Stars)

I've decided that 2008 is "the year of the classics." So to start it off, I picked up this book after about 12 years and I have to say I loved it just as much the second time around. Fitzgerald's descriptive ability is effortless and filled with beautiful imagery that stays with you forever. Everything just jumps off the pages and makes you feel as if you are in the book itself, partying at Gatsby's mansion or lounging with Daisy Buchanan. It is a beautiful book, a MUST read, and definitely a true classic!

Movie Reviews - Big Update believe it or not I've actually seen quite a few movies over the past couple of weeks. I was psyched because they played good movies that I wanted to see on the plane and that never happens. So here they are...

Stardust - 4 stars

On the way to Italy I looked up from reading and realized this movie was playing. If you remember I read this book a couple of months ago in preparation for the movie coming out and then I never ended up seeing the movie! I was so excited, so instead of sleeping I stayed up and watched.

Stardust takes place in the city of Wall, England. Tristan Thorn is in love with Victoria, a girl from town. One night while they're talking he professes his love for her and she laughs him away. He says he would do anything for her, even catch that falling star (cue falling star) and she accepts his challenge. Victoria gives Tristan one week to bring back the star otherwise she's going to marry someone else in town.

Tristan sets off towards the wall that no person in town is supposed to cross over and enters the fantasy kingdom of Stormhold where he searches for the falling star and has many adventures along the way!

I have to say that I really enjoyed the movie, it was fun, it made me laugh at parts and I got lost in the magical land. I thought it was actually better than the book, more action packed. It was certainly an enjoyable movie for a long flight!

Jane Austen Book Club - 4.5 stars

This was the first of 3 movies they played on the flight back, just to give you a sense of how long that plane ride really was!!! I was excited to see this movie, even though I hadn't yet read the book, because it looked like a fun movie. Jon of course was like, "Is this a chick flick?" I said yes and he shrugged his shoulders saying, "Well, what else am I going to do?" So we settled in for the movie.

The Jane Austen Book Club is about a "circle of friends" and two newbies who are drawn together because of life experiences and decide to start a book club that will discuss only Jane Austen books. As they read a book each month the movie also delves into things going on in their personal life...divorces, injuries, falling in love, falling out of love, affairs, loss of loved ones, etc.

The movie is definitely very "romanticized" but sometimes that's what movies should be, and in this case it completely won me over, I laughed out loud at parts, I cried, and I loved that it revolved around books!

It is definitely a guilty pleasure movie that I will enjoy probably many more times in my life:)

The Nanny Diaries - 3 stars

So we didn't watch the 2nd movie because it was some violent, shoot 'em up, Italian flick and I just couldn't watch 3 movies in a row! Then The Nanny Diaries came on and I once again decided to put my book down and escape into a movie world.

In the Nanny Diaries, Annie graduates from college and doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. She feels pressure to go into the financial industry but doesn't think that's where she wants to be. Because she's not ready to make any "real" decisions she decides to nanny for a summer and then make decisions regarding her life. Unbeknownst to her Nannying isn't as easy as it seems. She gets entangled in the families problems and finds it difficult to just leave them when she knows that she the end she learns from them and they learn from her.

I didn't enjoy this movie as much as I had enjoyed the other two. I don't know why, maybe because I'm not a huge Scarlett Johansen fan. It was still fun and enjoyable but just not as fun and enjoyable as the other two movies.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets - 3 stars

Our first Friday back, I was still really sick and getting over whatever it was that hit me so bad upon our arrival back in the states. So we decided to take it easy and go to an early movie. We had seen the first National Treasure movie and enjoyed it (4 stars) so we decided, since it had topped the box-office for 3 weeks we might as well go check out the 2nd one.

In National Treasure: Book of Secrets, The Gates Family, at a public speaking affair is accused by someone that their relative who they claim to be a hero during the Civil War, really was a conspirator in the assasination of President Lincoln. Thus the search begins to unravel the clues provided and find the truth to this accusation.

The same cast of characters are back for fun the 2nd time around and the formula works once again. It was cheezy fun, and I must say I can understand why it did so well in the box-office. I'm sure we can count on two hands how many movies have come out in the past year that aren't animated but yet are family friendly (no cursing, no sex, no real violence!) Not many.

Cyrano de Bergerac - 3 stars

I had had this Netflix movie at home for a month or so, having rented it prior to seeing the play Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway. I had rented it in the hope that I would watch it before I went to see the play and then I would know what the story line was. However, I just never got around to it in December.

The story of Cyrano de Bergerac is that he falls in love with his cousin, who is in love with a man in his regiment. The man in his regiment, Christian, is very handsome but not very bright, so they team up (Christian's looks with Cyrano's wit) and woo the beautiful Roxanne. As expected complications arise....

I had rented the 1950 version with Jose Ferrer and I have to say that I enjoyed it. I gave it 3 stars because I thought it was a little over acted and after having just seen the play, I wasn't completely engrossed in it. Jose Ferrer was great as Cyrano and it reminded me again that I want to read the book!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Rome - Our Last Day

Jon sitting on The Spanish Steps.
Jon running on the way to the Circus Maximus.
Jon posing for a pic mid-run around the Circus Maximus with the Palatine Hill in the background!
Our feet on the Appian Way!!!

We woke up early and got on a train heading back to Rome! We weren't sure how this last day was going to work out - we had 11:00AM reservations at the Borghese Gallery and weren't getting into Rome until 10AM.
As it turned out our plan to check our bags at Termini was thwarted when we got to the bag check and saw the long long line. So the Borghese Gallery is going to have to wait until we return to Rome (and we WILL return!)
So we went to our hostel and decided to check-in and then start our day. Well we got to our hostel, the same one we stayed in the first time we were in Rome and found out that a water pipe had burst so he couldn't have us stay there that night. We were so disappointed because it was definitely our favorite hostel. He was nice enough to have arranged for us to stay at a neighboring hostel in the same neighborhood. So he brought us over there got us all checked in and then we were ready to head out.
We ended up going back to visit the Spanish Steps because Jon wanted to see them during the day. We got lunch on the way and ate on the steps. Then we went to the Piazza de Popoli because I had wanted to check it out after having read about it in Angels & Demons:) It was raining at this point so we decided to head back to the hostel. We finished some postcards and bought stamps and got them in the mail. The weather had gotten a little better so we decided to go for a run.
We got all ready to go and headed out towards the Circus Maximus below the Palatine Hill. It was a nice little run there and then we ran a lap around the Circus Maximus (which was pretty cool) and then we decided to run to the Appian Way to check it out. We weren't exactly sure where we were going but we knew the general direction. So we headed do the Via Appia Nuova. Maybe halfway down that road towards our destination it started to DOWNPOUR! We headed down to a Metro stop to wait it out and checked out a map while we were down there, which was a good thing given that we had to make a turn coming up and we would have never known that. We waited about 5 more minutes and headed out again with a better sense of where we were going and ran in the rain to the Via Appia Antica, the very first road ever! It was pretty cool, we ran in one direction for a little bit just checking it out, snapped photos, ran in the other direction trying to figure out where the catacombs were. After realizing that everything was closed, it started to get pretty cold and dark and it was still raining so we decided to head back to the bus stop we had seen. We ended up having to sprint over the cobblestones of the Appian Way to catch it in time so we weren't left there out in the cold. It'll certainly be a run that we won't forget. It was about 7 miles in length total - not a bad run for our last day of vacation - after having walked all the miles we did!
We got back to the hostel, showered and got ready to go out. We went back to the Pantheon area and found a sweet little restaurant down an alleyway and enjoyed a nice dinner. Then we headed of course to our favorite wine bar near the Pantheon. When we got there we were the only people there except for the owner who was hosting a couple. It was sweet! We got a seat indoors and ordered a glass of wine. It was the perfect end to the perfect trip. We spent some time there enjoying wine and then the owner, Giovanni, came over and poured us a glass of wine on the house - he remembered us from the other two nights we had been there! I loved it.
After that we hit up our fave gelato/cappachino place and got one last order, then we walked to the Trevi Fountain for one last look and threw our quarters in wishing for a return trip, then we headed back to the hostel.
I have to say I was very sad to leave Italy. I have a dream that I will live there for a year at some point in my life, just traveling all around for the year. After our trip Jon has agreed that he'd love to live in Italy at some point in our life as well! It may not happen until we're 60 but for right now that's our goal! Hopefully we'll get back there before we "move" there though - because it truly is my favorite country that I've been to so far!
So that's it our trip in a "nutshell" or 10 long descriptive posts! I'm going to do a blog on the Italian food and some pics from our trip so stay tuned....

Friday, January 4, 2008

Florence Day 3 - The Lesser Known Museums

Donatello's Mary Magdelene (probably one of our most favorite statues).
Me enjoying some yummy Gelato!

Jon and I were kind of wishing when we woke up that we had spent two days in Florence and used this day to have an extra day in Rome, which we just loved sooo much! Not that Florence isn't a beautiful city, but it's definitely small, and it's really all about the museums. We went to see about changing our ticket but unfortunately it would have cost a lot of money to change it so we set up our day seeing a lot of lessser seen museums and places since we had the time. And truth be told, it was probably one of our favorite days in Florence!

We started out by visiting the Bargello Museum, according to Rick Steve's a very underrated museum. It is housed in this old police station that then became a prison prior to becoming a museum. It's focus is sculpture and there are some beautiful piece including Donatello's David. We spent almost 2 hours here wandering the halls and exploring the art, it was a very nice museum, not overwhelming at all.

After the Bargello we walked over to the Medici Chapels, which was one of the things I was most excited about seeing after reading so much about the Medici's before going to Italy. I have to say it was one of the most disappointing things we visited there. It's just not worth the price of the ticket at all in my opinion. But nonetheless we made we sure we saw the whole thing. Then we wandered the market and picked up some olive oil to bring home.

After lunch we went to the Museo del' Duomo right behind the Duomo. This was by far our favorite museum in Florence! It was such a gem, small and easy to navigate, and easy to see in 2 hours. It houses Michelangelo's last Pieta as well as Donatello's Mary Magdelene (see pic above), which was definitely one of the most powerful sculptures we saw while in Italy.
After the museum we went to Santa Croce church and saw where many of Italy's famous are buried, such as Michelangelo. It's a large church with many paintings, altars, and tombs. It also holds a piece of St. Francis of Assisi's frock. If you go into the book store you can see the pictures of the big flood in Florence that show how high the water came up around the church. It's pretty unbelievable that so much survived that flood.
After the church we went to this paper store where Napoleon used to have his note cards made! We also saw the spot where Savanrola had the big book burning in Florence. After having read so much about it it was neat to see. We saw one more church, Santa Maria Novella and then called it a day.
All in all we saw a lot of great art in Florence, which is what it is known for. If you've never been to Italy and Florence I wouldn't miss the visit - but having now been there twice I can safely say that I feel no desire to return again. Hopefully next time I'm in that region I'll be renting a house in Tuscany for a week and exploring Chianti, Siena, etc!!!!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Florence Day 2 - The Big Hitting Museums

Our second day in Florence was all about the Major Art that many people go to Florence to see. We were no exception! We woke up early for our 9:00 AM appointment to see The David! The Accademia where The David is housed isn't much, there are a couple of other pieces of art that are worth seeing, but really you pay what you pay to see David and I'm sure there are many people who don't even look at anything else in the museum.

We wanted to take our time though so we thoroughly explored the museum as well as spending ample time with the man of the hour! I'm sorry but he really is just beautiful. It looks as if he could just walk off the stand he's on that's how real he looks. It is an unbelievable piece of art, one that anyone can appreciate, regardless of their knowledge of art. After an hour or so at The Accademia we wandered over to the San Marco Museum. This is an old monastery in Florence that has frescoes in each monks cell from Fra Angelico an important artist in Florence. It was an interesting musuem, very different from most you would normally visit, seeing the cells that the monks lived in as well as the frescoes was neat.

After that it was on to lunch and then getting to the Uffizi in time for our 2:00 PM reservations. Again we had decided to spend no more than 2-2 1/2 hours in this museum, so that we could appreciate it as opposed to being museumed out. The Uffizi is bigger than you think it's going to be, but once again has a very logical layout that is easy to follow. Here we got to see Boticelli's Birth of Venus among other famous paintings.

By the time we left we were done for the day - so we had a nice quiet dinner at this really cute restaurant! Then we went back to our hostel for another night of 500 Rummi and wine! Florence was all about activity during the day and relaxing at night!

No pictures from this day becasue they don't allow you to take pics in any of the museums we visited today. That was something we definitely noticed in Florence as opposed to Rome, you really can't take pictures in most of the museums.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Florence Day 1 - "Hiking"

Jon and I at the top of the Duomo looking out over Florence.

Jon and I at the Boboli Gardens overlooking Tuscany!

Views of the Duomo from Fort Belvedere.

Well, we got up REALLY early to get on a 6:30AM train to head to Florence. We got to Florence around 9ish, checked into our hostel and then headed out to explore.

Florence is this quaint medieval town. First stop, The Duomo! It's free to enter the Duomo so we walked around outside first taking it in. It's white and green which is a very different look from any of the other churches we saw in Italy (outside of Florence that is - it's a very popular look in Florence!) The inside isn't really all that much to look at, what you're really there for is to climb to the top of the Duomo. So we waited in line and then started climbing those steps. When you get to the cupola you can look at the Dome, which is painted. Prior to heading to Italy I had read Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King which describes in detail how historians think Brunelleschi made the Dome, to this day it is still a mystery how it stays up! So it was pretty neat to see it in real life. Then we finished climbing to the top and had beautiful views of Tuscany.

After that we headed over to the Boboli Gardens, our plan was to eat our sandwiches in the garden, but we couldn't find the entrance at first so we ended up just eating them on the street - oh well! We eventually found the Gardens and spent the afternoon exploring the Boboli and Barberini Gardens at Fort Belvedere. We decided to take advantage of being outside most of the day since the forecast was calling for rain for the next two days we were there.

The reason I titled this post hiking was because between the stairs to the top of the Duomo and the hills we climbed in and around the Gardens, we were talking about how we spent the day "urban hiking" our legs were so tired!

On our way back to the hostel to get ready for dinner we spent some time on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge looking out at the Arno and just taking in all the shops.

Then we had a nice dinner and bought a bottle of wine and headed back to the hostel for a chill night of wine and 500 rummi!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Venice Day 2 - Relaxing

Ah...Happy New Year!!!! We took this day to sleep in and just catch up on some rest so that we didn't get burnt out from our trip. Not much was open today so we really just wandered through the city, down all the little streets, over all the bridges, exploring all the neighborhoods.

We got sandwiches and ate them by the Grand Canal. Then we took a 45-minute Vaparetto Ride down the Grand Canal to see all the old Palaces that line the Canal. It was a really nice way to spend an hour - out in the sun, exploring the water of Venice.

We walked St. Mark's Square, through the Jewish Ghetto, over by the University and the Accademia, just everywhere. It was such a fun and relaxing day. We had dinner in Santa Margerita Square near the University and then headed over to San Vidal Church to see a Vivaldi concert performed by Interpreti Veneziani. I had read about these concerts and really wanted to attend one. Since there wasn't much open I figured this would be a good "event" for our day. We were so lucky, we got to see the Four Seasons by Vivaldi performed. The setting was beautiful, they dimmed all the lights and lit candles all around the church. There were a couple of hundred people sitting in the church. They had two intermissions and then like 10 encores - it was crazy! But they were really really good and it was a very special night! Listening to Vivaldi will always remind me of our New Year's Day in Venice. If you click on the link you can listen to them performing - so good.