Monday, March 31, 2014

Puerto Rico in March

We made it home from our first weekend trip with JetBlue benefits!  If you follow me on Insta you have a flavor for the tiresome journey... If I've done my math right, I spent 27 hours in transportation/airport time and 18 waking hours in PR. Scott and T did get on an earlier flight (by a true miracle) so they were only ~18 hours in transit.  

But, we learned a lot and I feel like I have a handle on things now.  At the end of the day (well, weekend really), we went to Puerto Rico!  And I have a complete packing list for what we need for an overnight w an almost-2-yr-old.  And we have new memories.   And I got a little sun :)  And Tatum didn't!  Good job to us with the sunscreen!  So logistically, the trip probably was not worth it.  But emotionally, probably yes.
We left for the airport at 2:40am.  Pretty early for a walk across town to the station.

When making plans, we decided to each take a backpack and then my purse with plane toys/food.  But while packing we were able to cut it down to just one backpack and one purse making travel easy peasy.  Her bed is inside the backpack.  She got 10 diapers. And we all just got 1 extra shirt.  

 After taking 3 hours to get our rental car sorted out (our U-Save booking never showed up, we scrambled and ended up with Thrifty which was a good experience!) we were on the road.  The rainy road.  It was about now after an early morning, 4 hour flight and 3 hour rental that we wondered if this whole thing was a good idea...
 And then we got out of the car, took this photo, and suddenly it all became worth it.  That little girl has really stolen my heart the last few weeks especially!  She is SUCH a fun age and such a fun girl.
 We ate some delicious tipico food- fried fish, shrimp and lobster empanadas basically.  And while eating we mentioned to a local guy that we didn't have hotel reservations.  He spent his family lunch calling around to find us the best cheap place and see if they had openings for a Saturday night.  He was so sweet to us and his mom adored T and even let us try her fish dish.  This was only our first of several positive experiences with Puerto Ricans.  At every turn, they went out of their way to help us and make things nice. Reallllly good impression of Puerto Ricans!!

Our lunch spot had good food, but the perfect ambiance and views!!

And then in our efforts to find our hotel, we stumbled upon the missionaries who got in and told us about the work and led us to the Fajardo Inn.  They were so sweet and T was a little confused.  
After a little confusion about the sale price of the hotel room, we got the price and took it, brought our backpack up and put our suits on to hit the beach!  Neither Scott nor I had ever been anywhere in the caribbean, so we were thrilled to finally make it!  I finished sewing my first swim suit ever just in time to bring for Tatum on this trip!  The Seven Seas beach was pretty crowded, so we walked a ways and found a pretty secluded spot.

One of her very best trick was headstands in the sand.  ??? She can't quite correlate doing head/face stands with getting sand in her eyes.  Poor thing!

T's fave part of the hotel was for sure the phone. Loved it.  And the pool was a hit too- she even wore (and liked) her new water wings!!

I stepped on T's tinkerbell fairy and cut a pretty good gash out of the bottom of my foot.  Not cool for a day in the sand.
We cleaned up and after waiting a while on a long wait for roasted pork, we decided to move on and try Los Kioskos.  It's about 50 fried food stalls & definitely a cultural experience.  And it actually did taste better than I anticipated.  We had fried lobster stick, and a fried beef/mashed potato ball.  All 3 of us did get sick.  Which wasn't ideal since we were only there for such a short time.
When morning came, we drove up El Yunque National Forest, sooo beautiful!  It is such a dense intense rainforest not too far off the main road!  It was too early to pay to park, so we skipped the hike, but we did drive to the top and get the feel for the place.  
Luquillo beach is gorgeous.  We wish we had more time to layout here.  It wasn't even 8am when this photo was taken!  I hope we get back here sometime soon!
We stopped at a little hole in the wall for Desayuno (Breakfast).  Delish!
Puerto Rico was so interesting because it was a total mix between third world country and modern america.  Literally half a mile apart are a neighborhood with shattered glass, barred windows and litter in a local barrio, and then a shopping center with Wal-Mart, Sizzler, and Petco.  Oh, and Burlington Coat Factory... tons of big name chain places so close to the rough parts.  I've never seen anything like it.  Also, their Spanish is not a Spanish I've ever heard.  New words for things, a different way of speaking.  For example, "Stop" is not "Alto" in Puerto Rican Spanish, apparently. 
Normally, we try to steer clear of the capital city.  We really didn't even make it a priority for this trip.  But we had an extra hour and decided to see the fort before returning the car.  And boy are we glad we did!  We could definitely spend an entire weekend just in the Old City alone, exploring, flying kites in the field, trying new food, and relaxing on the beach.  This fort was so neat, and it was the highlight of T's entire life.  She ran around for an hour straight, playing hide and go seek and climbing stairs all by herself.  She really had the BEST time.  

First try with a jumping pic!

The people around us said iguanas don't bite, but he looked pretty irritated to me.  I love this photo of my two orange loves!

Puerto Rico was never really high on my "To Travel" list.  But now that I've been there I realize it should have been!  I get pretty sad to think that I may have missed out on this all together.  
Trying to figure out a flight to get on.  We missed the 1pm flight, so listed for 6pm, missed that, and then we got 1 seat on the 9pm flight.  Of course Scott took it to get to work Monday morning, and he took T so she wouldn't have to sleep with me in the airport.  Some gate agents were so nice to tell us about the employee lounge, so at least I had a private space with a comfy chair!  We went to the beach at Isla Verde between the 1 and 6pm flights, so we were all salty and sandy for the whole travel ordeal.  Kind of a nightmare.  So glad I threw in baby powder at the last second to help with the sand!!
 And after the long journey, I rewarded myself with a Jamba for the subway ride home.  

 Overall, we did too much in too short a time.  It wasn't a relaxing weekend.  We should have cut half from our list.  Oh well, now we know.  Until next time, Puerto Rico!  If we ever recover from the traumatic flights, that is!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Unbelievable Part 3

You already know I shop at Trader Joes.  Its about 20-25 minutes away but so worth it.  The only tricky part is getting my baby and my groceries up the stairs at my stop, luckily 72nd street (where TJ's is, has an elevator!)
On my last trip, I got off the subway at my station.  I reached the bottom of the staircase and started looking around, deciding who to ask to help me lift the stroller.  All of a sudden this guy is in my face saying "I just can't believe how SELFISH you are!"  I was thinking "What on earth are you talking about? Is he crazy?  Is he even talking to me?  What could I possibly be doing that is selfish?!?"
I think he saw my confused look and went on, "I just can't believe you would shop at a store down the line, when there's plenty of grocery stores right off your stop!  No, you go do all your fancy shopping and then rely on the kindness of a stranger to help you get home.  Just SELFISH.  (insert lots of mumbling...)"  I was pretty much in shock and had no comment back to him.  In retrospect I can think of a few things to say, but he caught me so off guard that I just stood there.  And then I got to thinking, "Is he right?  Is this selfish?"  I've decided that asking a favor of a stranger is not selfish, but rather something humans do.  People are going up the stairs anyway, and honestly, I carry 90% of the weight in the back of the stroller.  And, I only do it once every 2 weeks or so.  Anybody with me?  Am I selfish?

I was in line at Old Navy today when the man behind me said urgently, "I really need a favor, will you do it for me???"  and so I replied "What do you need?" (Truly asking what he wanted before I agreed to help...)  Anyway, he hands me his ~15 items of athletic clothes as he runs off, shouting behind him, "I need to go put money in the meter or I'll get a parking ticket!  Hold my place in line and my stuff!"  Ummmm... that was weird. So there I stood, with a few items myself, and a stroller with a crying baby and a yoga mat. I wasn't really in a great position to be handling strangers' shopping dilemmas.  I found a nearby bag and put his items inside and then rested it on the ground, moving it forward with me in line.  When he got back, he was alarmed to see me holding only my own items, frantically looking for his things.  I pointed to his bag of merchandise on the ground and he looked at me like I'd thrown his remote control in the mud.  So awed that I needed my hands to find a pack of fruit snacks and zip up my kid's coat... Unbelievable.  

Yesterday on the subway, the man sitting opposite me pulled out not one, not two, but THREE pill boxes, each full.  He emptied all the Tuesday pills from each case into his cupped hand and pounded them all at once! It was SO unbelievable!  They looked like large pills on their own, but to take 3 pillboxes worth together? Amazing!

Also unbelievable:  How delicious this lobster roll was in Bridgeport, CT last weekend.  It is high on the list of best things I've ever eaten.  Tender, fresh lobster simmered in butter, stuffed full into a quality, toasted roll.  Nothing fancy and not much technique, just GOOD ingredients and GOOD flavor.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Favorite Things

First of all, I just want to say that I've saved this post as a draft for several weeks, waiting to come up with really quality products -truly my favorite things- to share.  And this is it folks:

*All photos for this post came from Google Images
Maybelline Gold Nail Polish- found here
I got this about 1.5 years ago for my birthday from a good friend.  My first use I put it on me and Tatum, and immediately fell in love!  I used it all through Costa Rica, through the summer, fall, the holidays- it is such a great color and sheen!  I only paint my toenails, so I don't know how much it chips or peels on fingernails, but it works GREAT on toenails!  Once winter hit I thought I better try a new/darker color, and just change things up a bit.  So I wore a neutral for about two weeks and felt pangs of loss every time I looked at my toes! (Dramatic, I know.) As of yesterday I'm back to gold and feeling great!

Cuisinart Hand Blender  - found here

Morning smoothies make life worth living.  There are a lot of other things that make life worth living too, but mango, strawberries, juice and yogurt mixed up in the morning is high on the list!  I never ever dreamed a little hand blender would be up to the challenge, but it is!!  My sister Noelle encouraged me to do this and I've never looked back.  I just put my frozen mango and berries in that little cup, defrost for about 60, add my juice and yogurt, blend on high for about 30 seconds and Im suddenly in heaven!  And, it is incredibly easy to clean.  And then blending cup is microwave safe. Its a one cup wonder.  Defrost, blend, eat all out of the same cup.  I used to feel bad about buying (what I thought of as expensive) frozen berries and juice, they are luxuries! But then I looked at the price of cereal and realized that a smoothie a day is actually a cost effective breakfast when you live in NYC.

Stroller Hooks.  Found here for $17

I use these ALL THE TIME.  Every day, multiple times each day.  If I were to price out how much it cost for each use, I'd probably come up with negative number! ;)  Some people love the giant carabiner (The "mommy hook" I think) but I love having 2 smaller, one on each side.  And you wouldn't believe the kind of weight these things carry.  My stroller IS my car here, and these hooks have been through a lot and performed perfectly.  I like having 2 so I can distribute the weight across my stroller for big loads or just strap my purse into both for extra security or ease of access.  These things are great.  The end.

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patricks Day 2014

We almost wimped out of the St. Patrick's Day parade since the temperature is still well below freezing (we are dying here!!) but in an effort to embrace NYC life, I got our gear together and hauled that baby down the subway steps.  And I'm glad I did!

The were several school groups who came from Ireland to perform in the parade!  Baton twirlers and the brass band!  There were in fact several red heads in those groups, and all very positive looking despite the cold.  I said "Happy St. Patricks Day" to a spirited parent chaperone... he looked right back at me and said "Thank you.  Tap o' De Mahrnin to ye!"  I'd say I have good luck for a year.  For sure.
I arrived to the parade route (up 5th avenue) after the start time, and still got a front row viewing spot!  Waaaay better than the Thanksgiving Day parade!  No floats, but there were still lots of cool things- ROTC guys doing pushups, school bands, professional bands, kilt-wearers, women's groups in kelly green shawls and boas, Miss New York, a giant apple (?)  A group of at least 1000+ NYPD officers, Irish-American groups waving giant flags... it was a lot of fun!  After watching for an hour, I put Tatum back in her stroller but she begged me for "MORE!! More MORE!!" so I put her on my shoulders and stayed a while longer.  I was freezing.

On our walk back to the 1 train, we approached an intersection right as an NYPD officer grabbed a WASTED teenager, picked him up and literally threw him to the ground.  With all his force.  I have never seen anything like it.  It was kind of incredible.  Tatum looked up at me and just said "Wow."  Wow was right.  The kid must have been 3-4 feet off the ground before he hit the pavement.  Trouble I tell ya.

I just finished prepping the corned beef (I cross my fingers every time hoping it will work out, even though I've made it several times now) and now I'm off to set up a little leprechaun hunt for the bug when she gets up from her nap.  Scott and I both have Irish blood, and with 2 red heads in the family already, I have a feeling we'll collect more and more good St. Paddy's Day memories!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cutest Camel

Just reminiscing about these sunny days I took for granted in the fall.  
After all the positive things I said about NYC in the last post, it sure is a loooong, terribly cold and miserable winter.  Really.  This winter is bad news.  Remind me to book a tropical vacay next year during the month of February to keep my sanity.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Reflections on New York after 6 months as a Local

I would say that I consider it a privilege to live in NYC. 
When we first found out we were moving here I was less than thrilled.  
And I do still understand that reaction- it is a whole new life here.   But that said, I have come to love it here and embrace the craziness and awesomeness that is New York City.
This city is the hub of life!  It seems that whatever your passion is -theater, sewing, finance, technology, rap, fashion- whatever you love, this is the central place for it!  

Just last week we were walking down near 59th and Broadway and I looked up and just thought, "How did I end up here?  Is this for real?"  I was telling Scott that I imagine that thrill will never wear off.  Scott on the other hand feels like New York is his home.  I think he just really loves it. We agree (for now) that we won't be "lifers" here, but we are sure enjoying it while we have the chance!  

The thing I probably love most about living here is being surrounded by people who are go-getters.  People who are chasing their dreams.  Living here isn't easy.  It's not for the faint of heart.  People that make it to NYC have my respect.  They are people striving for that dream role on broadway, workers who want to take their careers to the next step, people who want more out of life!  Generally speaking, the people I associate with and even the people I merely walk past on the street, they are people who aren't simply content with the way things are.  They are trying to build a bigger, brighter life.  It is pretty inspiring!

I would consider the New York life far more similar to living abroad than being in the States.  Of course, everything depends on what neighborhood you live in, your proximity to the locations you care about, and the quality of food you like to eat.  We love living by the river.  It has made all the difference helping me feel like I don't live in a concrete jungle, even though I do.  We are in a primarily dominican neighborhood, I do feel like a minority in terms of race in my neighborhood.  Just 1 block away is Broadway, the hustle and bustle.  Living close to a subway stop is a TOTAL must.  I feel like I can be in midtown or downtown with T fairly quickly- it doesn't ever stop me from going out.  

I think everyone should live in New York sometime in their lives.  I have learned so much about the world we live in, been exposed to such a variety of people and things, and just had my eyes opened to greater possibilities.  We have made lots of good friends through church and through my neighborhood mommy group.  We feel so lucky to have friends we can invite over on short notice, and even friends who understand my competitive nature and still come over for game nights :)  It is kind of crazy to think about all the people we wouldn't know if we had chosen another school/location.