Two Oh Fifteen

I totally missed the months where the reminiscing posts are made, but I still want to take the time to look back on the crazy year of 2015. It was a year I will never ever forget…

January + February

These months were so work-centric. Tons of overtime and I know I’ve shared so much of Etsy based stuff so I’m just rushing past this… if you don’t mind 🙂

water color hand lettering one little word shine 03

March

The month started off with a bang, just mere months after celebrating the BIG 1,000th Etsy sale, I made my 2,000th sale! And after that very stressful 2014 year of working a “getting busier by the month” Etsy shop while maintaining a full time job, I finally decided to put notice in at my job to be able to fully focus solely on my shop. Even though I still worked both for another few strenuous months, there was finally light at the end of the tunnel.

Your New Friend Sam Bubble Mailers

April

Following a weekend trip to Salt Lake City for BBQ, my best friend Amie and I with her little 4 month old, Hudson, in tow, we traveled to go see the missing piece to our set: our bestie Joyce in New York.

New York Amie Joyce Sam 2015

May

In May, Andy and I traveled up the state of California to the coast of Oregon where Rooftop BBQ took calls in every category at the Coos Bay BBQ Competition and won Grand Champion! We then drove from Oregon to Colorado (yes, we are crazy) to compete in Loveland, spending a few days at my aunt’s in the mountains where we got some rest and work done before the competition and the drive home.

Rooftop Barbeque Grand Champion Oregon 2015

Watercolor Envelope Addressing from Sam Allen Creates

June

Toward the end of June, one of my best friends from high school, Brittany (who you’ve seen around here quite a bit!), gave birth to her sweet baby girl. While I don’t get to see them very often and not even close to enough, I was so happy to take her newborn photos and get some extra cuddles in with the lil’ princess. More photos here.

Jeannette Newborn Photography Dana Point 811

July

In July, Etsy was at it’s peak. My full time job had finally and officially ended. I started working on my sign designs that as I know now, would end up being sold in Hobby Lobby (!!!!). One of my best friend’s wedding was coming up in less than 30 days so there was lots of painting, work to do and celebrations to have… and then we left for a road trip to Montana for my family reunion in which we flew back early for the wedding itself! Whoo!

Sam and Lindsey Newport Cruise

Sam Loves Buffalo Selfie

August

My beautiful friend Lindsey’s wedding was sandwiched right between our TWO Montana trips of last year. It was such a beautiful day and the wedding was a blast! I was so honored to get to stand up with her as she married the man of her dreams!

Lindsey Fogleminh Wedding - Melissa McClure

A week later, Andy and I drove right back up north to compete in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. In Wyoming, Andy won his second Grand Championship of the year and I can’t believe I got to be there by his side. I’m so incredibly proud of his talents and love when he gets recognized for his amazingness.

Rooftop Barbeque Worland Wyoming Fair BBQ Competition

September

This was our month to relax and recoup before the BIG trip to come.

Owen at the Beach, September 2015

October

At the start of October, we were already in the midst of our cross country trip that would be taking us to Missouri, Tennessee and finally to Florida before the long journey home.

In Missouri, Andy and Joe competed for Rooftop BBQ at the (Invitational and Open) American Royal World Series of BBQ in Kansas City. They not only got some high trophies, including a first in brisket, but they also were awarded their first ever PERFECT score!

Rooftop BBQ American Royal

From there, we spent a couple weeks crashing at my cousin’s house (more on our time in Missouri here) before heading on to Tennessee where Rooftop competed at the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational in Lynchburg—winning another top ten call for their brisket (it’s really that good, seriously).

Before making the final trip east to Florida, we spent a few days around Nashville including a cave tour! I’m 5 weeks pregnant here… even though we wouldn’t find out for another couple weeks!

Cumberland Caves

November

The start of November 2015 is where we found ourselves in the midst of a brand new adventure. The morning of November 2, hours before we planned to tourist around Walt Disney World… we found ourselves excitedly staring at a positive pregnancy test. After so many years, it seemed like a lost dream. I’ll be posting more about it (soon), so for now I just wanted to share our first official family photo at the Happiest Place on Earth.

P.S. The photographer who took this for us was the first official person to find out about the pregnancy! Ah!

Allen Baby Announcement Walt Disney World

December

The last month of 2015 is a total blur as I spent the majority of the month in the throws of morning sickness… but we did manage to have a quick photo session with my friend Courtney and make an announcement about our little one to come!

Allen Pregnancy Announcement Christmas Joy

So all in all, 2015 was a pretty spectacular year!

xoxo

Greetings From Missouri

Sam Allen Creates Missouri Fall Leaf Lettering

Hi y’all! Just wanted to post a quick update about our trip! We are just about to head out to Tennessee for the second BBQ competition of the trip, but before we do that I had to share about the Missouri leg.

After driving for 3 days, we made it to the American Royal BBQ competition in Kansas City where the team competed in two back to back competitions. They knew it was a tough competition and only hoped to get “a call,” to be placed in the top 15 in any category, where they’d be announced and receive a ribbon.

American Royal 2015

The first day was the Invitational where they placed 2nd in ribs out of 165 top teams in the nation. The next day was the Open where they competed against 615 teams, including all of the 165 teams from the day before. The day before’s awards only made the team more nervous knowing that a top call was totally possible. With no calls in the first 3 categories, and after really bad brisket scores the day before, we thought it was time to go home. When the announcer got to the top 4 in brisket, he let everyone know that everyone in the top 4 had perfect scores, a 180. The very next name he called… Rooftop BBQ! And then just moments later, the top 10 overall were announced and Rooftop placed 8th! Out of 615 teams and without knowing their scores in chicken, ribs, or pork, it was a complete shock!

American Royal Rooftop BBQ Awards

I don’t know what I’m more proud of… they really did so amazing! The perfect score is really neat though as that means they made their personal best as well.


Sam Allen Creates Strouds Kansas City

After a day or so to cooperate, with an amazingly country fried dinner at Stroud’s… we moved on to stay at my cousin’s house in Springfield, Missouri. It’s been quite an interesting challenge to have my office supplies all put away in tubs all the time, but I’m getting used to it. Makes me wanna downsize the office at home now 🙂

Your New Friend Sam Etsy Lettering Shop on the Road

A cart full of office supplies… my craft studio on the go.

These past couple weeks have been wonderful! Staying put and spending time in the wonderful autumn weather. It was the perfect mix of work, relaxation and fun!

But to really sum up this part of the trip, it was all about FOOTBALL! My cousin’s son, who was our adorable ringbearer at our wedding, plays the center for his high school football team… it was so amazing to get to watch him play in two games while we were here. PLUS Andy cooked for the linemen on the team as well during both weeks… 10 racks of ribs one week and they almost polished off a whole brisket the next week. And then this past weekend, Jake spent some time teaching me how to play football! Pointers on how to catch and throw with a fancy spin. And he even snapped the ball to me like he does in the game. I’m going to go pro now thanks to him.

Sidenote: ESPN just posted about an amazing trick play the team did at their game this past Friday that we were lucky enough to attend. View it here, seriously they’re so good. And of course, shout out to my cousin who snapped the ball as the center of the offense line. See video here.

We also got to spend both our birthdays here with some yummy food and and a couple matinee movies.

So here we go, all packed up and ready to head to Tennessee for the Jack Daniels World Championship. Go Rooftop!

Rooftop BBQ Trailer in Missouri

Our Week in Photos: Cooking Through Colorado

Boreas Pass Road 907

On Monday, Andy and I drove the rest of the way home from spending a week and a half in Colorado.

With two back to back competitions in Colorado, Andy and I thought we’d make a vacation out of it and spend the week in between at my aunt and uncle’s in the beautiful town of Dillon, just a short drive from Brekenridge.

I just love the beauty of this state—especially during the start of autumn, and after you see these photos, you’ll totally understand why!


We started the trip winning 5th place at the Grand Junction Pork and Hop’s BBQ competition in Grand Junction.

rooftop bbq pork and hops grand junction competition

This was my first time actually competing with Andy, as his sous chef. I still think I did only 5% of the work though!


We then drove the few hours into the mountains to my aunts where we cuddled babies, played at the local playground (the neighbor’s front yard, haha), celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary, and drove Boreas Pass Road to see the aspen trees turning their leaves into glorious autumn colors.

donovan dillon colorado newborn photography evelyn dillon colorado 1 year photography

Boreas Pass Road 873 Boreas Pass Road 889 Boreas Pass Road 880

We even got to drive down into Denver for a day and visit my favorite bookstore, The Tattered Cover.

tattered cover denver colorado

And then just this past weekend, we competed at the BBQ festival in Telluride. Where we got to camp out in Mountain Village… but spent the afternoon down in the town eating Thai food and mini donuts. You would never know from these photos that a giant storm just blew through (and would come again later that night).

telluride street view teddys mini donuts telluride telluride mountain village gondola

Then Sunday, our team won Reserve Grand Champion—before starting the drive back to California! It was a great ending to a glorious week!

rooftop bbq telluride festival competition

road to telluride colorado sunset

Our Weekend Getaway to Northern California

palace of the fine arts 626

Last week I posted about my time at the Walt Disney Family Museum, which was the whole point of this trip, but while we were going up there with our friends Lauren and Kellen, we made the most of it with stops for dinner with friends, touristing around the city, and getting to attend our friend’s newly launched church!

First stop: Bakersfield! Our friend Kathleen moved there 2 years ago and this was my first visit to her new hometown! It was definitely an overdue visit. Aren’t these 2 too cute!

wheelers bakersfield 396

Plus I got to see the Little Free Library in person that I had posted about a few months ago (thanks to Kathleen’s blog for the tip)!

little free library bakersfield 397

And of course when we had dinner at Eureka Burger, I just had to get the burger with the fried egg. Because it’s the best. Oh and hot sauce, and bacon. There was no question there.

eureka burger bakersfield

Okay and just one more food photo… ice cream at Dewar’s… that’s marshmallow fluff as a topping. Don’t worry, I thought it sounded weird too. But it was amazing!

dewars ice cream bakersfield 404

DSC_1408

I lied, I have another food photo! But seriously, this is the best pizza in America. I’m not the only one who thinks that either… the important people of the world agree with me. Just down the hill from Coit Tower is Tony’s Pizza. So so good. Crazy busy, but piping hot and freshly made. Delicious.

tonys pizza san francisco 413

Then Kellen and Lauren dropped us off at the museum… see last week’s post for more on that.

san francisco walt disney family museum 588

And just like 5 minutes away from the Walt Disney Family Museum, is the Palace of the Fine Arts. Which is by far my favorite place in San Francisco. I posted a little reminiscing post on this city that I love so much a few years ago with a great animation of us girls having way too much fun here.

palace of the fine arts 612 palace of the fine arts 627 palace of the fine arts 597

But this was my first time here with Andy! yay!

palace of the fine arts 608 palace of the fine arts 601

And our last stop in the city was dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf’s Boudin Bakery and Cafe for clam chowder bread bowls. And Andy’s chili bowl, oh that poor anti-seafood boy of mine.

fishermans wharf 645

Since we were going to be going to our friend’s new church in Walnut Creek, as I was looking for hotels in between there and San Francisco… my eyes lit up with joy at seeing Emeryville on the map! The home of Pixar!! I conveniently booked the hotel just around the corner from the studio. You’re welcome friends.

pixar studios emeryville 652

You can’t see much there, it’s very gated and private but I could catch glimpses of the giant Luxo light and ball and also the fun little “mine mine mine” seagull perched on one of the corner buildings. Thanks again Lauren for slamming on the brakes to let me snap photos each time I exclaimed at each of these finds.

pixar studios emeryville 662 pixar studios emeryville 682 pixar studios emeryville 683

After lunch at yummy Ike’s in Walnut Creek, we headed up to the Jelly Belly Factory for some sugary sweets and a tour of the factory.

jelly belly factory 688 jelly belly factory 692

And then it was time for church! After the nonstop action from those past couple days, sitting in church with our friends was just wonderful, spending the evening singing worship songs and praying for their new church. And of course it was so awesome just to see them in their new home!

calvary chapel walnut creek church instagram-calvary-chapel-walnut-creek

And then we drove home. The end!

The Thankful Workaholic

your new friend sam thank you rubber stamp010

I may work by myself all day morning, day, and night long but last night I started thinking about the amazing and supporting “colleagues” I’ve developed.

I work on my Etsy shop orders from dawn until the real job starts, and then usually late into the night, so these people are my rocks, truly…

I have the friend who I can text about each big sale, and even the smallest of sales, and they will share enthusiastically in my excitement and joy!

The husband who makes sure on those really long work days that I ate lunch, and dinner. And drank water.

The friend who I can vent to when I just fell so overwhelmed, yet so thankful at the same time… and totally gets this emotional roller coaster.

The mom who is the biggest cheerleader, and the biggest source of unconditional love and encouragement.

The clients who leave me the sweetest reviews that just bring the biggest smiles to my face! And to my heart. That remind me that my hard work is appreciated.

And all the people in between who have shown their support throughout this past year, even if it’s just to understand that when I can’t go out for fun, or I’m leaving early to get back to work, it’s because I’m building something for our future. Even though I don’t quite know what that is yet. Heck, I’m thankful that they still even invite me…

So today while I feel overwhelmed with a desk piled high with work, I’m taking a moment to be ever so thankful for this work that I love so so much! And for the people who keep encouraging me and lifting me up along the way. I never would have anticipated this and I just keep pinching myself that this is even real.

I truly truly love it. How many people love their jobs as much as I do? That get to spend the moment they wake up until they go to sleep, working and creating something that they are so passionate about? I want to be that person that recognizes this on a daily basis, to be ever so thankful at all times.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:17

The image of the stamp above was created especially for my mama for her personal thank you cards, available for purchase in my Etsy shop starting today!

Missing the Best of Friends and the Littlest of Friends

I just got back last night from a week long trip to upstate New York.

Whenever I tell people I’m going to New York they get really excited and recommend places in Manhattan to visit… but “my” New York isn’t in the city… you see a little piece of my heart moved back to upstate New York almost 6 years ago.

Looking back though, when I met my friend Joyce, almost 10 years ago, I had no idea what kind of monumental friendship, a best of friendship, we were about to embark on. Joyce is someone who matched me in uninhibited enthusiasm for the smallest things in life. Someone who understood me far better than most. And knowing she called New York her home, I pushed her away trying to break the friendship before it could really form. But God had other plans. While Joyce was back home in New York going to college, we grew ever closer by weekly phone calls and when she finally came back to California, our best of friends-ship truly began. But you see, Joyce is easy to get along with and she truly is adored by all who meet her. Her joyful attitude is just that contagious.

Flash forward a few years, a few moves, a few weddings… to the here and now… to where just 3 weeks ago she blessed us all further more by giving birth to little Emily Ann.

I had the pleasure to go up to this farm laden country side, where we spent this past week cuddling with the new babe on the couch and driving around town eating more ice cream I’ve had all year put together!

I had the best intentions to get a lot of creative brainstorming done while I was there, I even bought a brand new sketchbook for the trip and everything! And I had all these dreamy magical newborn photo ideas in my head… but instead it was nice to just *be.* I never once used my sketchbook, some days I didn’t even take a single photo! We just talked, and talked, and talked and just really cherished each moment with little Emily.

All that to say, I’m still a little heartbroken to be home, still a little jet-lagged—oh these darn headaches of mine—and still a little behind in life right now so even though I had big plans to post a ton of photos from my trip this week, I am just going to end this little introduction and follow up with more photos from my trip later on.

But of course, I have to post some sort of photo so let’s end with the last group photo from the trip… me and my bestie with her new little love.

sam joyce emily new york 2014

Northeast Trip: A Day in Philadelphia

philadelphia-vacation-independence-hall-0513_2

If you’ve been following my Northeast Trip posts, you would have caught on to the common “GO GO GO” theme. Our day in Philly was no exception…

For whatever reason, we all thought we could just take “the train” down to the city of Philadelphia. Well that turned out to be much more expensive and not quite as easy as previously thought. After some research, we found the BOLT bus which would pick us up in NYC and take us the whole way to Philadelphia, dropping us off somewhat west of downtown. While the BOLT bus didn’t fully deliver on the free WiFi, it did deliver on an air conditioned and comfortable ride [besides the fact that it was almost 2 hours late picking us up later that night because of a massive accident and weather conditions on the Expressway (aka the freeway to us Californians)].

Anyway, enough about the horrible crazy transportation situation we found ourselves in…

Reading Terminal

After a quick subway ride from the bus stop to the city, we found our way to the Reading Terminal. This alone, is why my husband wants to go back to Philadelphia one day. Of course, hopefully during the Dutch festival again as well!

philadelphia-vacation-reading-terminal_0531_2 philadelphia-vacation-reading-terminal-sign

Reading Terminal is similar to the Chelsea Market we visited in NYC, but its 95% counter service restaurants and a certified farmer’s market. And luckily enough, we managed to go during the 24th Annual Pennsylvania Dutch Festival. I’m not sure that we could ever go back outside of this festival as many of our favorites were part of it, especially Beiler’s Doughnuts where my husband had “the best donut EVER.” The other highlights for us were the sandwiches at Tommy Dinic’s and Hope’s Cookies.

philadelphia-vacation-reading-terminal

Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell

After stuffing ourselves full, we walked down to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Because of our extremely limited time we really didn’t stay anywhere long but just “looked.” And please notice how crazy the weather is… all these photos are shown in chronological order, so note the beautiful blue sky to the massive rain and thunder storm. 🙂

philadelphia-vacation-independence-hall-0504_2 philadelphia-vacation-independence-hall-bell_0496_2

philadelphia-vacation-independence-hall-0499_2philadelphia-vacation-independence-hall-rain_2269 philadelphia-vacation-independence-hall-0511_2 philadelphia-vacation-independence-hall-0513_2

philadelphia-vacation-independence-hall_0514_2

Standing on the steps of the Portrait Gallery, fresh from the rainstorm.

philadelphia-vacation-independence-hall-0520_2

Of course I insisted to stop by the Printing Office to see some old school printmaking… the building used to belong to Benjamin Franklin.

philadelphia-vacation-independence-hall_0522_2 philadelphia-vacation-printing_2270

philadelphia-vacation-independence-hall-family_0525_2

Geno’s vs Pats

And of course, we had to take the bus down to Geno’s and Pat’s to decide for ourselves which of the two offered up the better Philly cheesesteak. We ordered 4 sandwiches, 2 from each restaurant to compare provolone and cheese whiz as well as the sandwich itself.

philadelphia-vacation-philly-cheese-steak-pats_0526_2 philadelphia-vacation-philly-cheese-steak-genos_0530_2 philadelphia-vacation-philly-cheese-steak-genos_0527_2

The winner: Pat’s “wit whiz.”

More Philly Sites and Sights

We had just a few extra minutes (literally fifteen minutes at most) so we ran by the state building as well as the LOVE sign.

philadelphia-vacation-state-hall_0533_2 philadelphia-vacation-love-statue_0537_2 philadelphia-vacation-love-statue_0540_2

And to end all of these Northeast trip posts, my mom did all this touristing with a boot!

philadelphia-vacation-mom_0544_2

Thanks for following along my adventures along the east coast… it finally feels back to normal round here, just in time for more wedding festivities!

Northeast Trip: New York City in 2 1/2 Days, Part 2

new-york-city-vacation-trip-friends-building-grove-bedford_0451_2

After seeing just how big this New York recap had become I just had to break it into 2 parts!!

For Part 1, click here.

Chelsea Market

The next day, we took full advantage of the NY subway system… for only $2.50 each trip, we sure got around the majority of Manhattan! Starting out at Chelsea Market, where the Food Network is based and the place Andy and my mom were most looking forward to, we had fun stopping in all the random shops and eateries. Feasting on macrons, donuts, a faux-Cronut, salami, coffee, and more! It was a really neat place, the architecture alone was fun to explore. It felt like we were part of a piece of industrial style art the whole time.

new-york-city-vacation-trip-chelsea-market_0341_2

I just loved all the custom chalk work in so many of the shops!

new-york-city-vacation-trip-chelsea-market_0344_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-chelsea-market_0348_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-chelsea-market_0356_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-chelsea-market_0360_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-chelsea-market_0367_2

I just adored this 3D map of the market, made in a variety of materials.

new-york-city-vacation-trip-chelsea-market_0377_2

Katz’s Delicatessen

After eating this and that, we then took the subway over to Katz’ Deli in Midtown to have our official lunch. It was some what out of the way, so unless you would truly appreciate pastrami at its finest and for $16 a sandwich, I’d pass. But for us foodies, we just had to go! It was quite the ordeal though, they have a pretty unique system of ordering and you don’t pay until you are walking out the door.

You may recognize this famous deli as the location for scenes in When Harry Met Sally to Enchanted.

new-york-city-vacation-trip-katzs-deli_0386_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-katzs-deli_0387_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-katzs-deli_0388_2

new-york-city-vacation-trip-katzs-deli_0390_2

9/11 Memorial

From there we took the subway further south to the World Trade Center… last time we were there, Ground Zero was just a big hole in the ground, but in the last 8 years they’ve built a memorial, museum, and still under construction new World Trade Center buildings.

When you arrive, you have to check in to the Visitor’s Center to get a [free] admission pass. This sets an appointed time for you to actually get in to the memorial.

The memorial, opened in 2011, is pretty large with two large waterfalls that stand where the original WTC buildings were. The massive size of the waterfalls in the midst of the city are pretty moving espcially as they each drop into a center void… there are also hundreds of trees that really encourage you to stay and reflect.

new-york-city-vacation-trip-911-memorial_0403_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-911-memorial_0401_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-911-memorial_0418_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-911-memorial_0415_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-911-memorial_0407_2

Here, Andy and I are standing in front of the Survivor Tree. The pear tree was built in the 7-s and although it was damaged, it survived the terrorist attacks and after it was nursed back to health it was brought back to the site in 2010.

new-york-city-vacation-trip-911-memorial_0423_2

Washington Square Park and the “Friends” Building

Here is where my Friends was based in New York City fan girl side erupted… we stopped by Washington Square Park—just because its shown sometimes during the show—and then we walked through Greenwich Village—just because that’s where Rachel and Monica’s apartment was based on. And it was seriously worth it. Right, family??

Luckily, we had planned to eat in Greenwich Village so it really wasn’t that far out of the way (until we decided to eat at the same restaurant but at its Times Square location).

new-york-city-vacation-trip-washington-square-park_0438_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-friends-building-grove-bedford-0442_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-friends-building-grove-bedford-sized

Either way, I can now say I have been to the corner of Bedford and Grove.

Dinner at Jekyll and Hyde, Times Square

We ended our night and our trip in NYC at Jekyll and Hyde, a restaurant recommended by a friend. The Greenwich location was totally dead when we went (it was fairly early at 5 pm)—so that’s why we decided to go to Times Square. Plus my parents had theater tickets to Once.

It was quite the theatrical experience though, the restaurant was huge and there was so much to see. Just one example: the bathroom had a hidden door—no really, it was so hidden that the few times we were by it, people just stared at the wall trying to figure out how that was indeed the bathroom entrance. There was constant live entertainment as well and all throughout the multi storied restaurant—from a Frankenstein like show to the “Rainforest Cafe-like” decorations are coming to life moments.

new-york-city-vacation-trip-jekkyl-hyde_0476_2

Whew, that was a long recap. I didn’t leave anything out just for the traveler who comes across this post hoping for some guidance on their own trip! Another tip I would recommend is to get a paper map of the city, I drew all over mine plotting out where to go and that made this visual learner see what to do on which day. Plus, I would get an iPhone. No seriously, I can’t imagine how we would have gotten around without one! We input where we were and where we wanted to go and it gave us all the subways we needed to get to and from. So amazing and so so helpful! Thanks Apple!

A few places I hope to go to next time would be some of the museums and the NY Public Library. Also, to spend a day in Brooklyn!

The end… of this city. Next up, our day trip to Philadelphia!

P.S. Here’s our video of the trip that I shared in the Boston trip, with the NYC portion starting at about 52 seconds.

Northeast Trip: New York City in 2 1/2 Days, Part 1

new-york-city-vacation-trip-top-of-the-rock_0321_2

When I think back to our time in New York City, I instantly feel quite overwhelmed! It was a crazy crazy whirlwind of sightseeing and constant moving.

However, now looking back over the photos, I do get an itch to go back. Not only to do the same things we did, but to try a few new things… or to spend more time in those same places.

I really don’t think I took that many photos while in the city, but that’s more because of that overwhelming feeling of go, go go! I mean I took less than 400… which for me is not very many! But I’ve narrowed them down and wanted to share, along with some tips for you, if you happen to take a spin in the Big Apple sometime soon!

We left Boston semi-early, had lunch in New Hampshire, and then arrived at our hotel in late afternoon. Our hotel wasn’t as close to a subway station as previously thought so each day we were there required a hotel shuttle ride for 20+ minutes then the hour ride on the subway into the city.

Times Square and Rockefeller Center

By the time we made it that first night, we just meandered through Times Square as my parents and sister hadn’t yet been there. We walked through the Square, taking it all in; checked out where the GMA’s are filmed—as my parents were going to the next morning’s taping—circled around Rockefeller Center and then walked back to the restaurant we had planned on eating at, John’s Pizzeria—the same place Andy and I dined at 8 years ago!

new-york-city-vacation-trip-times-square new-york-city-vacation-trip-times-square_0122_2

I kept my eye out for Liz Lemon!

new-york-city-vacation-trip-rockefeller-center_0136_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-rockefeller-center-_0131_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-rockefeller-center-0132_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-radio-city-music-hall_0142_2

While we were on the Top of the Rock later the next day, my hubby found me the best souvenir ever at the NBC store: a giant mug with the Central Perk logo from the show Friends! Photo here.

new-york-city-vacation-trip-nbc-store_0137_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-gmas_0160_2

John’s Pizzeria is a sit down eatery… a great way to truly experience a New York pizza pie! Plus its in a totally renovated church, just a really cool atmosphere.

new-york-city-vacation-trip-johns-pizza_0163_2

Circle Line Tour

The next day, Andy, my sister and I traveled out to meet my parents—after their spot on the GMA’s with the Bachelorette and her new beau—by the waterfront as we were going to head out on a Circle Line tour. We opted for the longer of the tours, just so we could see Yankee Stadium for my New York loving friend! I would not recommend the longer tour though, as scheduled it’s 2 1/2, and because of a delay with a draw bridge, our tour turned into 3 hours! With such limited time, I wish we would have gone on the 90 minute tour instead.

new-york-city-vacation-trip-circle-line-cityscape_0240_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-central-line-manhattan-cityscape_0184_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-central-line-cityscape-williamsburg-bridge_0226_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-circle-line-cityscape_0237_2

However, I would definitely recommend Circle Line in general. As the start to our full days in New York, it really helped seeing New York on the whole, understand where everything is. And with the short amount of time we had, we were at least able to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island closer than we would have just from Battery Park.

new-york-city-vacation-trip-central-line-cityscape-statue-of-liberty_0208_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-central-line-cityscape-statue-of-liberty_0201_2

By the end of the trip, I decided that the Chrysler Building was my favorite of the city… funnily enough, it turns out that a NY poster we have at home—purchased years ago—features the building. Guess it was subliminal that it became my favorite over the years!

new-york-city-vacation-trip-central-line-cityscape-chrysler-building_0233_2

new-york-city-vacation-trip-circle-line-cityscape_0247_2

Shake Shack and Central Park

After our tour, we took the subway up to Shake Shack. And O-M-G is that place AMAZING. By far one of my favorite eateries—ever! No seriously, Andy thinks that may be the best burger he’s ever had! Thankfully it’s coming to Vegas just next year!! We went to the location just off Central Park west, so after getting our food we took it into the park to enjoy the amazingness.

new-york-city-vacation-trip-shake-shack_0259_2

With the delay on the tour, that took a big chunk of our time out from spending time in Central Park. And that is definitely a place I could have spent a whole day in! It’s now become my favorite place in the city… but I barely have any photos of it as we had to hustle to make our 6:00 reservation to go up in 30 Rockefeller. Just to narrow it down, I wanted to at least see the big fountain that Enchanted was filmed in front of, so we headed there and then just kept going.

new-york-city-vacation-trip-central-park_0260_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-central-park_0263_2

new-york-city-vacation-trip-central-park_0277_2

Central Park truly is so much more beautiful than I ever imagined! After the hustle and bustle of the city, it was refreshing to be amidst huge trees, a large lake, and then random centuries old architecture from bridges and archways to fountains and walkways. I really can’t wait to go back just to visit the Park!

new-york-city-vacation-trip-central-park_0272_2

Top of the Rock

We made it just in time for our reservation at Top of the Rock though! Just barely! Again, this is another spot I would totally recommend… it’s much cheaper than the Empire State Building and the view allows you to actually see the infamous Empire State Building! I loved being able to see both that tower and the new World Trade Centers in the same view. Plus being able to see Central Park and just how huge it really is was nice too. There are 3 view levels of viewpoints… the topmost being totally out in the open—no glass. It was pretty crowded but they do limit how many people can come up so that made it nice too. Surprisingly, my dad and I spent a whole hour up there taking in the view and of course taking pictures!

new-york-city-vacation-trip-top-of-the-rock_0282_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-top-of-the-rock_0288_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-top-of-the-rock_0292_2 new-york-city-vacation-trip-top-of-the-rock_0307_2

I love how you can see just how big Central Park is from up there… the first lake to the left is the one in the photos above.

new-york-city-vacation-trip-top-of-the-rock_0310_2

One thing I loved about the east coast was the ever changing sky! Just within the hour we were up there, the sky just kept changing! We purposely made our reservation at dusk (6:00)—the photographer’s golden hour—hoping to get daytime and nighttime in one. I would highly recommend making your reservation for 90 minutes before sunset just to guarantee seeing the city during the best hour of the day.

new-york-city-vacation-trip-top-of-the-rock_0312_2

The building to the right and behind the Empire State Building is 1 World Trade Center, the soon to be tallest building in the Untied States at 1,776 feet. The Empire State Building stands at 1,454 feet, while the Rockefeller building we were on top of is only 872 feet.

new-york-city-vacation-trip-top-of-the-rock_0323_2

Thanks Dad for braving the heights with me!

new-york-city-vacation-trip-top-of-the-rock_0337_2

To recap this recap, know where you are going before you set off to go—and plan to spend more time in Central Park just for the sake of how long it takes to walk through even a small portion of it! That truly was my favorite part and I barely got to take any photos from the rush.

Stay tuned for another full day in New York City, posting tomorrow!

P.S. Here’s our video of the trip that I shared in the Boston trip… NYC starts at 52 seconds.

Northeast Trip: A Day and a Half in Boston, Massachusetts

boston-massachusetts-park-street-church_0844

After we left the house in Maine, we drove 4 hours south to Boston, Massachusetts; checked into our hotel; and then made a quick drive into the city for some sight-seeing and dinner at Abbey Lane.

Boston Commons

Just to the north east side of the Boston Common was a fried dough cart, Daddy’s Fried Dough, that we saw Duff from Charm City Cakes tour. Fried goodies covered in sauce is pretty much my favorite thing ever so we had to stop!

boston-massachusetts-daddys-fried-dough_0838

boston-massachusetts-daddys-fried-dough_0840

But then we walked more through the park… looking back, it reminds me of Central Park quite a bit. Sprawling lawns with old architecture found throughout.

boston-massachusetts-common_0860

boston-massachusetts-common_0849

New favorite photo of me and the mister! 🙂

boston-massachusetts-common_0873

boston-massachusetts-common_0869

Boston City Sights and Sites

We had some more time to kill before our dinner reservation at Abbey Lane so we walked from the Boston Common to the area between the Back Bay and the Theater District… my dad and I became quite obsessed with the sunset rays coming through the pillars of Trinity Church…

boston-massachusetts_0908

boston-massachusetts_0910

boston-massachusetts_0914

boston-massachusetts_0951

Following the Freedom Trail

The next day we drove to the subway station and took the subway into Boston. We took the subway to the station that they sold trolley tickets (City View Trolley Tours) and then we took the trolley around the city all day. For just $20 (we had a coupon from our hotel), it was totally worth getting around the city and gave our aching feet some rest. It also took us out to the U.S.S. Constitution—which was quite out of the way from the main route of the Freedom Trail. And in case you don’t know what the Freedom Trail is (I totally didn’t and had no idea what it was when people kept recommending it!)…

a 2.5-mile, brick-lined route that leads you to 16 historically significant sites — each one an authentic treasure. Explore museums and meetinghouses, churches, and burying grounds. Learn about the brave people who shaped our nation. Discover the rich history of the American Revolution, as it began in Boston, where every step tells a story.

By the way, it totally did not feel like only 2.5 miles… and we took the trolley for the majority!

boston-massachusetts-subway_0957

boston-massachusetts-trolley_100024

boston-massachusetts-freedom-trail_0845

Lunch at The Barking Crab

We took the trolley for about half the route, which drove by quite a few sites like the original state house. We hopped off down by the Boston Tea Party ship and walked across the bridge to eat at The Barking Crab.

boston-massachusetts-barking-crab_0990

This photo in no way shows who likes or dislikes the Barking Crab but more shows who likes seafood versus who doesn’t. I would have been a thumbs up if I hadn’t been behind the camera. 🙂

P.S. You can get crab in mass quantity here, like family style to the extreme. They had one platter that was over $200! By accident we all (the pro-seafoodies) ordered the crab cake sliders so there wasn’t much variety to compare food but the sliders were good… And the clam chowder was my favorite ever!

boston-massachusetts-barking-crab_0992

The U.S.S. Constitution

After lunch we walked up to the next trolley stop which took us up to the U.S.S. Constitution. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect!

boston-massachusetts-uss-constitution_1007

boston-massachusetts-uss-constitution_1019

I have to take these semi-stalker-esque photos of my hubby… and he’ll probably make me delete this after seeing it like in my Maine post… ole’ crabby pants.

boston-massachusetts-uss-constitution_100010

boston-massachusetts-uss-constitution_100012

More of the Boston City Sights and Sites

After one last trolley ride back down into the heart of the city, we walked around the Fanueil Hall (great tourist gift shops and coffee/ice cream/snacks stop), walked through the Holocaust memorial, stopped in a couple of the pubs that were so enriched with history (one of which was where the Revolution was planned in), and then walked up to the North End to see Paul Revere’s house, waited out the afternoon rain storm in CHURCH and then finally got some pastries in Little Italy.

This memorial is pretty neat… we didn’t know about it until the tour guide pointed it out, but it runs parallel to the 1700’s pubs so its in a pretty central location.

It was designed and built right over the subway grates… the glass is etched with numbers—1,000,000 each column—to represent all those lost during the Holocaust. Quotes and stories are then etched on the inside of the glass… and at night, the steam from the subway along with lights, illuminate the pillars giving it a rather eerie but beautiful look.

boston-massachusetts-holocaust-memorial_100070_2

boston-massachusetts-holocaust-memorial_100058_2

If you can’t make it to Pauly’s house, its really not worth the walk out of the way… however, if you’re going to the North End anyway, you know, to gorge yourself on pastries and pasta, then it would be worth it as its just a block or two south from the main street.

boston-massachusetts-paul-revere_100079_2

boston-massachusetts-paul-revere_100082_2

boston-massachusetts-old-north-church_100094_2

This was another spot we knew absolutely nothing about, but after seeing the rather small shop filled to the brim with people…my mom and I had to follow the herd and see what the fuss was about. I just had to order enough to get one of those darling boxes! (Hi, my name is Sam, and I am a tourist)

May I point out that my mom’s box is bigger than mine!! She even got a bag to carry it in… 🙂

boston-massachusetts-north-end-mikes-pastry_100108

What a day that was, getting tired just thinking about it! Now onto New York City!

P.S. Here’s a video of our trip of the cities, from Boston to New York including Philadelphia!