I Really Like Free Money

My last few posts have focused on things I suck at which include but are not limited to driving, cooking and even taking a bath.  So this post is about something I'm good at.  Making money off credit cards.  I've never considered it an option to spend money that I don't have and have made saving money a priority since I got my first retail job at age sixteen.  I'm not sure where this came from but because of it I've never been in any kind of credit card trouble and I have always had money in savings no matter how little money I've made.  I'm also really good at saving money.

I hate debt but I love using credit cards.  I like to buy what I was going to anyways, pay it off in full each month and earn rewards for it.  One day MJ and I were out having a drink.  I was already in a good mood because it was Friday night but I got an e mail telling me I earned $13 in cash back bonus and I got ridiculously excited.  He rolled his eyes at me but, it's free money!  Of course it's exciting.  It doesn't work if you are not 100% clear on your budget, have the potential to get into trouble with credit cards or are disorganized when it comes to paying bills.  One late payment or one month of interest kind of negates what you are hoping to get out of it but this is what works for me.

1// I focus on one card at a time.  It should be one with no annual fee and no expiration on points so it's easy to keep up with.  The one I use most often has has no annual fee and I get 1% back on all purchases.  I get 2% at restaurants/gas and up to $250 per month/$3,000 annually (then 1% after that).  For a while Discover was my primary card, but I have other cards with good points programs as a back ups if I want to keep the spending separate like for vacation, a particular purchase or if a retailer doesn't accept Discover.

2//  I Spend only what I can afford and pay it off every month.  I use a credit card for gas and day to day expenses and pay it off each month just to get the points.  The key for me is to know exactly what the bottom line figure that I can spend and don't exceed it.  If I know my max and don't exceed it then I know I can pay it off at the end of each month and avoid interest.  To do this, you must also know your budget and you can't be late on a payment either. 

3// I use credit cards for large purchases even if I have the money. Whenever we have had big purchases for the house we put it on a credit card then pay it off even if we have the money just to rack up the points.  It really sucked paying $400 for a kitchen sink but it helped ease the pain to know I'm getting something back for it even if it's only $4.00.  It adds up.

4// I take advantage of partner retailers for increased cash back rates.  Any time I make a purchase online I check first to see if the retailer is listed.  If I log in and make the purchase through their link I can get between 5% and 15% cash back on something I was going to buy anyway.  They have a lot of great places you are probably already shopping at like Groupon and DSW.  That's how I got $13.00 just for buying my contacts at 1-800 Contacts.

5// I Sign up for special additional cash back offers.  Two of my cards offer different promotions throughout the year when they offer 5% in different categories like gas or grocery stores.  If I get an e mail about a promotion I sign up right away.  I earned enough for a $20 credit in just 3 months.  Maybe that doesn't sound like much but it's free money just for going about my business using that card.

6// I don't let the points dictate everything.  I use the card that makes the most sense.  It would make me crazy if I were constantly obsessed with getting more points every single time.  Sometimes it makes more sense for me to use other cards and I'm okay with that.  I left my Discover at home when we went to Europe and just used my MasterCard so I could carry one card and not have to worry about the limited retailers that accept Discover.  If I want to use a coupon at Macy's and it requires me to use my Macy's card I'll use my Macy's card.  If I'm at Target I use my Target card because they offer 5% instant cash back savings on all Red Card purchases.  If I'm buying groceries I use our joint debit card that has no points associated with it because that's the stream of money set up for that.  This is supposed to be easy so I don't want to complicate it by having to remember to transfer money later.

7// I let the points stack up over time and then cash in.  With Discover I can redeem the points as cash on Amazon, as a credit on my card or in gift cards.  They have a huge selection of gift cards to choose from and some of them offer the the gift card at discounted prices so you get more for less then what you pay for it.  They also have big ticket items like airfare and other household products and electronics.  I earned enough for a free airline ticket once.  It was awesome to get that airline ticket but it took so long that now I focus on smaller rewards.  I like that instant gratification of getting things faster even if it's in smaller increments instead of waiting years and years.  I like to save them for vacation.  When we went on our honeymoon to Oahu in 2010 I used my cash back bonus to get a $100 gift card which I used as spending money.  Mj was racking up points on a card of his own at the time and it paid for both of our airline tickets.  I was able to use $36 cash back bonus towards a pair of shoes I bought on Amazon.  I also had $60 in cash back earnings when we went to Maui last year, a $50 card when we went to New York and I have enough points from MasterCard for a $50 gift card.

I've been doing this for a while and I'd feel like I was throwing away extra money not to do it at this point.  Sometimes I feel like I'm getting away with something.  The credit cards are only offering incentives like this because they want me to stick with them, use the card and pay them interest and possibly any other fees they can get.  For about two seconds I felt bad that they pay me without getting anything in return but they should actually be ashamed of themselves for how much money they get out of people.  They have some really sneaky rules that almost got me.

I took advantage of a 0% interest balance transfer offer with Discover and then ended up using the card for a few purchases because I was buying something from partners where I'd get that extra cash back.  I paid off those purchases in full at the end of the month and was shocked to find an interest charge on my statement.  Normally, there is a 30 day interest free grace period on new purchases. Turns out, if you carry a balance as a result of a balance transfer you lose your grace period on any purchases thereafter.  The minute you charge something it begins accumulating interest so it didn't even matter that I'd paid it in full by the due date.  I'm sure it was in the fine print somewhere but that is a ridiculous obscure rule and it's clearly to take advantage of people that might still need to use their card.  I'm in good standing so I got them to waive the interest charge and stopped using it, but how sad is that? 

I don't feel sorry for credit card companies at all and I plan to continue to make money off of them as long as they'll let me.  If you have questions on the specific cards I use let me know.

Woman Driver Mishap

Last week was so excruciatingly awfully slow that I thought it would never end and this week flew by.  It's funny how that happens but I'm not complaining.  I couldn't be happier that it's Friday.

Today I have just one confession.  One that I never even got around to telling MJ and there is a good chance he'll find out by reading this post.  Not because I was worried about his reaction but because I was so mad at myself that I didn't even want to talk about it.  At all.  Like, maybe if I don't mention it then I can pretend it never happened but the only problem is that denial doesn't work.  There is still a cluster of deep nasty black scratches that go all the way to the metal on my right rear bumper because I backed into a sign last Friday morning.

I tend to be a bit of a nutcase in the morning.  I get into my car then get out to run back into the house to make sure I turned off my flat iron.  Then I back out of my garage and stop in the driveway so I can go back to make sure I turned off the closet light.  I also forget things.  Sometimes it's my water bottle other time it's my phone but this time around it was my hard boiled eggs and I got all the way to the exit of our housing complex when I realized it.  I was already running late but I had to go back.  I'm so dramatic about my routine.  My breakfast won't be the same and then my day will be ruined without my eggs. 

The other thing working against me is that I suck at driving.  I hate to be that woman but I kind of think I am.  My speeding ticket days are behind me but I can't parallel park, find it difficult to maneuver into tight spaces and I'm scared to make left turns without traffic lights.  I will sit there forever and ever making sure it's clear and then I get all flustered if someone behind me gets impatient and honks.  Sometimes I don't even like making lane changes.  I also have a terrible sense of direction.  Even GPS is confusing sometimes.  All it takes is one wrong turn and suddenly I don't even know what planet I'm on.  I only know one way to get anywhere and I refuse to drive in other states.  I also get really confused when I back up.  I can't seem to find the connection between which way to turn the wheel and the direction that my car will go.  I'm relatively harmless, but I'm a mess.

When I realized I forgot my precious eggs I backed out of the exit but turned my wheel too soon and didn't see the street sign sitting on the corner until I heard that awful nails on chalkboard sound of it screeching into the side of my poor little Honda.  Thank goodness nothing happened to the sign or else I'd have the HOA on my back.  I braced myself before checking out the damage and it's not terrible but it's ugly to look at and a nice little reminder of my stellar driving skills.  I still haven't decided if I'm going to get it fixed or not.  I love my little Honda to pieces.  She is old but she is the best car I've ever had.  I like to keep her clean and pretty but they'll charge you a thousand bucks to fix a scratch.  I don't know why it has to cost so much.  Then I got to sit in traffic for an hour stewing about my stupid mistake because there was an accident and I was thirty minutes late to work.

But that was last Friday.  Last week sucked, this one-not so much.  I made it out of the house today without forgetting a single thing and got to work 15 minutes early.  We're still hanging onto the 80's around here which I love.  I'm looking forward to meeting friends that I haven't seen in a long time after work so I'm wearing my five minute face AKA I actually put on make up.  And I really like my outfit.

It took me a almost a week but I'm over it.  I still can't drive but I like to think I have other qualities that make up for it.  We've already established that being a great cook is not one of them.

The Not So Sexy Side of Bath Time

I've never been a bath person.  I was so excited that we had a separate shower and bath in our house and then I never took a bath.  We've lived there for four years and I only took a bath for the first time a few months ago and then I never did it again until recently.  Prior to that it had been years since I last took a bath.  Anyone else start to wonder what they've gotten themselves into once the bubbles fade away?   

The reality of a bath is often far different then the way I imagine it and this is why.  Behold, my bath time thought process.....

++I cannot wait for that bath.  I'm going to drink wine, relax and take my time.  This is going to feel so good.  Oh, look at all those fluffy bubbles and the bubble bath smells so good.  I can't wait to get in there.

++It feels even better than it looked.  Let me just close my eyes and experience this for a few seconds.  And drink some wine too.  This warm water feels amazing.  I could stay in here forever.

++This is the perfect time to get some reading done.  I'm going to be real careful so I don't drop my i Pad.  That would suck.  Now isn't this nice?  Wine, warm water, reading.  I feel great.

++Okay, I'm REALLY hot.  But I love it and all these strategically placed bubbles are making me feel kind of sexy. 

++I'm starting to sweat.  Let me put this i Pad down.  It's too hot to focus on reading.  And what happened to all the bubbles that were hiding my belly rolls?  Time to refresh those bubbles.

++Well, the bubbles didn't quite make the comeback I'd hoped.  How long have I been in here?  Only thirty minutes?  I'm so hot, but I can't get out yet.  I'm not even done with my wine.

++My face is glistening with sweat.  Is it me or am I basically just sitting here in my own dirt? That's it, I can't take it anymore.  I'm out of here.

An undisclosed number of days or weeks later....you know what would be perfect right about now?  A bath.  And the cycle repeats.

I haul the tower fan into the bathroom and blast it in my direction while I'm in there so I don't overheat as fast and can stay in a little longer.  It also helps if I don't fill the tub quite so high.  By the end of it I'm sitting in a pool of tepid water and when I can't take the heat anymore I wash up, rinse out under the tap and get out as fast as I can.  I do not emerge from the tub half covered in bubbles and into a silky kimono style robe.  I like to clean the tub before I get out.  Nobody likes a ring around the tub so I might as well get it over with.  Then I have to get downstairs and finish whatever it is I put on hold to take a bath.

So not sexy.

I look forward to taking a bath.  I love the way my body feels afterwards and I like the idea that I took the time to luxuriate in something that is totally and completely about me but I'm not sure what I love more.  The idea of a bath or the bath itself.  Maybe it would be different if I had jets.  Maybe I'm just doing it wrong.  Maybe I shouldn't be trying to boil myself in the tub like a hard boiled egg but the hot water part is one of the main reasons I want to take a bath in the first place.  Most days I don't feel like I have time to sit there for much longer anyway so I guess it works.  I will say that leg shaving is so much easier in a tub but overall, showers are just so much more practical and I'm nothing if not practical.  I'm not sure how often I'll actually end up doing it but I do see myself taking baths in the future more then once every five years.

Are you a bath person or a shower person?

17 Signs That You Are Not A Cook

I'm so over the never ending cycle of what's for dinner.  The obtaining of groceries and the preparing of food week after week.  I wish I could afford a food delivery service.  Not the kind that delivers you the ingredients so you can make it yourself but the kind that delivers actual already cooked grab and go healthy food that isn't loaded with sodium.  What would be really cool is if there was a dinner pill for days you just don't feel like doing the whole what's for dinner debacle; which is basically every day for me.  It would meet all the nutritional qualities of a balanced dinner and trick your belly into feeling like you ate something.  I need to get on that one so I can ditch cooking and get rich while I'm at it.

Sometimes I feel really guilty for not being this Susie homemaker hot dinner on the table for my man every night (or even every other night) kind of wife.   When I cook it's mainly because I love my husband.  Not to say that when I don't cook it means I don't love him.  When I don't cook it just means I don't like cooking and I probably wouldn't bother at all if it were just me.  At some point I'd probably get tired of my non cooking alternatives and have to break down and cook but that would definitely be a last resort.  I haven't totally given up hope.  I'll keep dragging my butt into the kitchen and trying to love cooking but for now and the foreseeable future I don't.  I'm glad my husband does.

You know you aren't a cook when.....

1//You try to make it fun by drinking wine but being in the kitchen is just another chore that you have to get through.

2//You 'accidentally' forget to take out the meat so you can put off cooking for just one more day.  Oh darn.  I guess I'm going to have to pick up dinner on the way home.

3//You cook as little as possible.  Whatever the minimum number of times you can cook dinner in a month and still save your marriage is the number you shoot for.

4//It's been so long since you've been in the kitchen that one day your husband finally asks, when are you gonna cook something?
5//Nothing you ever make tastes as good as when someone else makes it.  EVER.  No matter how hard you try.  So why bother?

6//You are okay with eating things like sandwiches or Quesadilla for dinner every day.  At least you didn't have to cook it.

7//It takes you a really long time to make even the simplest things.  My husband can make almost anything in 30 minutes or less but unless it's a straight to microwave or oven meal everything seems to take me at least an hour.  I managed spaghetti last week in 45 minutes.  Go me. 

8//You consistently use the wrong knife.  You can't cut bread with that one.  Why are you using that small knife to cut vegetables?  Why would you cut cheese with a butter knife? To that I say, it's sharp, it cuts.  What difference does it make?

9//You forget to turn the oven on until it's time to put in whatever it is that you've been prepping for the last 30 minutes.  No wonder it takes you so long to make anything.

10//You put something on the stove and then totally forget about it until after your husband has already finished making whatever it was that you were supposed to be cooking.

11//Sometimes you even forget to turn the oven off.  Oops.

12//You can't just whip something up out of the pantry. It's a process and preparation is required. First you have to mentally prepare for being in the kitchen.  Then you have to go to do research to find the recipe and go to the grocery store.  That's another reason you never want to cook.  It's such an ordeal.

13//If too many ingredients of said recipe are too exotic forget it.  If you have to ask someone at the grocery store where you might find garam masala or mustard powder or what it even is then you move onto the next one until you find one with ingredients that you actually recognize.

14//The less ingredients involved the more likely you are to make it.  If there are more then 10 ingredients there is a good chance you will skip it and move onto the next.

15//Even still, you often skip out on ingredients that seem like too much trouble.  How much of a difference does that lemon rind really make anyways? It'll taste fine.

16//You can't get through cooking a meal without having to ask someone how to do something or googling it.  Do I need oil? How do I know it's done?  I have had to google how to make chicken and how to boil eggs.

17//You are nervous when others eat your cooking.  Will they notice that  you axed two ingredients, half of it stuck to the pan or that you forgot to use seasoning?

I also pin no bake recipes and still don't make them so that's 18.  I'm a kitchen nightmare.

Do any of these apply to you or am I the only blogger on the face of the plant that doesn't love to cook?  Any tips on how to love cooking would also be helpful.

I Finally Got Sick of Eating Something

It's a confessions post!

I kind of want to change my blog name.  I was pretty sure I'd never ever want to after I switched to this one and just over a year later I can't believe it but I'm feeling that itch!  A month ago a different name popped into my head.  I dismissed it because it's such a huge hassle but I haven't stopped thinking about it.  I'd leave the url alone so it wouldn't be a huge nightmare but it will still be a pain in the booty and I'd need a new design.  It would have to be the last name change ever.  Ever.  Still on the fence.
Two years after the London Olympics and Team USA is still #1. Kyla Ross is still amazing.
I unfollowed any possible gymnastics spoilers on social media/blogs so I don't find out what happens before I get to watch Worlds on TV.  World Championship All-Around finals are happening right now, actually they are probably already done since it's in China.  It shouldn't be that hard not to find out since (almost) nobody cares about gymnastics outside of the Olympics but I'm taking all precautions.  It will be televised on NBC tomorrow at 11:00am Pacific.  I think it will be Team Finals and then All-Around on Sunday if anyone is interested.

I want to dress up like a Dallas Cowboy's Cheerleader for Halloween.  It's been a looooong time since we had any kind of outing or event that includes dress up and the older I get the less likely there will be.  I could go downtown and troll the bars in costume but alas, I think I've aged out of that one too.  If I'm being honest, I've also aged out of the costume but I don't care.  The uniforms are so cute!  Every time I watch the DCC Making The Team photo shoot episode where they finally get there stars it makes me want to see what it's like to wear that uniform.  I want tiny white booty shorts and stars too.

I won a $75 Sephora gift card a year ago (incidentally, from a blogger who no longer blogs) and I still haven't used it.   My little sis asked for a Sephora gift card for her birthday and I guess I could have re-gifted but I didn't.  I have two problems.  I'm a hoarder and I'm indecisive. I don't know what to buy but I better do it soon or at least double check on if the thing looses value over time.

I keep an old beach towel in my car for my sweaty post work out drive home from the gym.  I'm pretty gross when I walk out of there and I don't like the idea of sitting my sweaty backside that has probably picked up other people's sweat from the equipment on my seats.  If I had leather I could swipe it clean but I have cloth.  Maybe I'm taking it too far but we all pick our battles in the war against germs and this is one I choose to fight.   

It's heat wave after heat wave and I don't hate it.  It's still about 70 degrees in the morning and pushing a high of 80's around here.  I might be singing a different tune if I didn't have air conditioning at home though.   Also, even though it still feels like Summer I've had three pumpkin spice coffees from 7-11.  It doesn't have the cool factor for Instagram of Starbucks but it's so much better tasting and has been my go to for morning coffee runs for a long time.  Plus, it's cheap!!  The price when you bring your own mug has only gone from .99 cents to $1.25 in 10 years.

I take pride in my ability to eat the same thing day in and day out but I finally got sick of something.  I've been eating chicken twice a day for lunch and dinner since June.  Last week I opened the freezer to thaw it out and I just couldn't do it.  I picked up some pre cooked (low sodium) chicken breast pieces from Fresh & Easy and I've been eating it for lunch this week but for the moment that is my limit.  I don't however foresee getting sick of my breakfast.  Still loving it. 

I kind of feel bummed that our next vacation isn't until July 2015.  I just got back from vacation so I'm fine but July feels so very far away right now.

It feels weird to be doing a confession post and not linking up with another blog since it's the only linking up I've ever done on a regular basis.  I'm linking up with myself!

Central Park West and Brooklyn

Thursday was bike riding in Central Park day.  It was the first of three mornings in a row that we ate at this awesome little hole in the wall type cheapo spot Angela's Sandwich Shop for breakfast where we could get really yummy filling breakfast sandwiches for 3 bucks.

MJ found a Groupon deal while we were there so we got a great deal on a four hour rental from Central Park Sightseeing.  Central Park is so much fun and it's huge.  It has beautiful architecture, lakes and rivers, all kinds of trails to walk through and an awesome designated bike route that loops around the entire park.  
#central park, #newyorkcity
This is where I imagine the rich people live.  I'd love to take a peek inside one of these homes just to see what NYC living looks like.  The parking there is so tight we saw a lot of cars with bumper protectors.  I'd never seen that before.
Illegal riding on the trails!  We only did it a few times.  
FYI: There was no baby in that lady's baby seat.  I looked!!
Apparently a pedestrian got hit and seriously injured by a biker in central park the day before we went riding.  There are lights and pedestrian crossing throughout the loop.  The next day there were signs asking for witnesses to come forward and we even saw a biker getting a ticket.  I guess they are cracking down.

It's weird because for the most part it looks flat but there were times when we were definitely on an incline because my legs were feeling it and I felt like I was on a stationary bike.  After the first loop we still had time so we did the loop again.  MJ is a pro so this route was small potatoes but my legs were really tired.  I thought I might have to stop and walk but I pushed through it and didn't have to.  Each loop is 6 miles so that was 12 miles of biking!  I had to sit and rest for a popsicle break after all that.  Exercise for the day done but not really because there was still plenty of walking to be done.
I'm the one who wanted to go back to Little Italy for dinner because they were having the The Feast of San Gennaro festival.  It was so exciting over there with all the people, vendors and music that I wanted to go back and eat outside at one of the restaurants on the main drag.  The way they pack the tables in and jam everyone in tight so that you have to squeeze your way in to get seated reminded me of Italy. 
Ignore the girls booty in the background
We stopped for a beer while we, or should I say I was deciding where we would eat.  I looked at every menu mainly looking for the best prices.  It turns out none of them were cheap, but I went with one of the lower ones. 
MJ got some deep fried atrocity.  He looked just like the girl in the background while he was eating it.
The next day was boating in Central Park.

Row, row row your boat gently down the stream did not exactly happen for me.  It's harder then it looks and we did not go merrily along our way when I took the oars.  MJ made it look so easy but I just didn't have the coordination to get very far.  It was really funny because I looked around and every single boat had a couple with the male rowing the female.  I tried it for a few minutes and then we switched back and I acted as look out.

Even though I was a week late for Fashion Week I still wanted to see Bryant Park.  It was much smaller then I expected and a little underwhelming without, you know, Fashion Week but beggars can't be choosers.  I can only imagine how it looks with all the tents set up.  It looks like a really fun place to spend an afternoon.

We stopped by the NYC public library since it was around the corner and began our journey to Brooklyn.  The subway was packed so we were standing the whole time.
Those Beautiful Brownstones
Mac and Cheese Muffin
MJ had already found a place for us to eat in Brooklyn.  As we got closer I was kind of concerned because I didn't see a whole lot of restaurants and the streets were mostly deserted but SoCo was perfection.  Really cute decor and a nice indoor but feels like outdoor dining patio.  Their Mac and Cheese is what every mac and cheese aspires to be and it was the best I've ever had.  I ate as much crispy, cheesy goodness as I could.  It was built like a muffin and unfortunately all I could eat was the muffin top before I was stuffed.  No left overs either because it was our last day so I had to leave it there. 

After that it was back to Manhattan.  The streets of Brooklyn came alive while we were at SoCo and there were plenty of people out on our walk back to the subway.  We liked the West End Bar so much that we went back for a few drinks.  We ended up in Hell's Kitchen in search of dessert and I was kind of bummed that we hadn't discovered this area before.  It was so lively and there were so many cool restaurants.  I almost did a grand jete (dancer talk) when I saw Alvin Ailey Theater.  The building was three stories, lit up with giant glass windows and I could see real live New York City dancers rehearsing.  So cool.  We ate dessert in bed and then went to bed.  It was a really good last day in New York. 
Snap shots from New York
There is something so cool about New York City. Even if you don't do or see half the stuff that you see people in New York doing on TV it feels really special just being there. When I think of New York City I think of dreamers and doers. I think of rich people, models, actors investment bankers, ballerinas and really cool and interesting people doing important things. It didn't take much to impress me there.  We saw set trailers parked all along a street in Chelsea and signs pointing the way to the set.  There was a guy walking in front of us who dropped something.  Turns out it was his script.  I saw a really tall pretty she-has-to-be-a-model type girl talking on her cell phone in Central Park about a casting.  I saw two ballet dancers in the Subway. The hyper-extended legs for days, long necks, and ballerina buns gave them away and then when one of them did a mini arabesque I knew for sure.  At the West End Bar we were sitting next to two oh my gosh rich girls.  How do I know this?  I'm really nosy and I overheard that they went to Sarah Lawrence College.  I googled it later just for kicks and tuition is $50k per year + room and board!! Apparently, they went shopping for $4,000 bags with mommy and daddies credit cards all through college.  I said, "MJ those girls are rich."  He said no they aren't.  Their parents are rich," and then I heard them talking about trust funds, so yeah they are rich.  I also saw a lot of preserved women that were probably in their sixties plus but had obviously had one or two plastic surgeries too many.  I think some people take it a little too far and the hands always give them away.  Do they think we can't tell?  I watched in fascination every time I saw someone step out into the street and raise their arm to hail a taxi.  I think I'd be embarrassed if I stood there forever and couldn't get one to stop.  We didn't try.  Too much traffic too expensive.  Even seeing a roach in the subway system was interesting because you know; you hear things about roaches in NYC and I actually saw one with my own eyes and it was gross but somehow so cool because it was NYC.  If it had been a mice I probably wouldn't have handled it so well.  New York City is just a cool place to be.  When I think of New York I also think of harsh cold winters, traffic and a ridiculous cost of living.  I'm 100% certain the lifestyle would not suit me unless I was filthy rich but it's an incredible place to visit.

The way back was a little bumpy.  One of the subway lines we needed to get to the airport was shut down but MJ is so awesome at figuring things out that he found us a new route.  We had to get off in Queens and take another subway but we made good time only to find out that the plane we were supposed to be getting on was so delayed that it would make it impossible to make our next connection.  We managed to barely make it on a different flight.  We didn't get to sit next to each other which sucked, but it was better then having to go all the way to New Jersey to catch a different flight or being stuck at our layover destination without another flight.  Aside from that little snafu United is awesome.  You get your own personal TV in the seat back in front of you with free Direct TV and movies.  Normally, when I get on a long flight it's like entering some kind of black hole of hell and I have no idea when it's ever going to end but they have this cool countdown that tells you and there is plenty of leg room anyway so I didn't feel like a canned sardine.  I watched three movies and the flight flew by.

That concludes my Buffalo/New York City recaps.  It's funny because before I start writing I always feel a little overwhelmed and I can't remember any details from the trip but once I get started it all comes back to me, I remember too much and end up including all of these little random details that are totally not essential to the actual telling of the trip but certainly things that I'll want to look back on and remember later.

Nine days, four posts.  The End.

Back to Buffalo

Live Studio Audience and The High Line

If two bloggers meet up and there are no photos to document said event did it really happen?  I'm going to say yes and that I kicked myself in the butt all the way back to my hotel because I finally met Ameena after years of reading each others blogs and couldn't even get one single picture.  Total blogger fail, but picture or not it was so cool to meet her.  I don't know how to get anywhere on the subway without MJ so per my request she suggested a place within walking distance of our hotel.  We met up at Maison Kayser where I paid $9 for eggs and a piece of toast.  I'm not mad about it because they were most delicious eggs I've ever eaten in my life.  I hate runny wet soggy eggs and these were perfectly light and fluffy.  We chatted non stop the entire time. Thank you Ameena for what is officially my first blate.  It was the only day that rained while we were there but it stopped by the time we left.   

My shoes were seriously hurting my feet.  My converse are normally okay but they were rubbing the sides of my feet to shreds and after that even my Sperry's were hurting.  Ameena tipped me off that I could find Tom's at Whole Foods which I thought was random but I don't shop there so I guess I wouldn't know.  I went on my own before heading back to the hotel and it took me way longer then it should have even with google maps because of my miserable sense of direction.  At one point I knew it was close but still couldn't find it so I was spinning around in a circle staring at the pointy dot to figure out which direction to go.  The line at Whole Foods was insane.  It doesn't even look like a line.  It looks like a crowd of people standing there.  I had no idea what was going on but waiting so long gave me plenty of time to watch what everyone else was doing so that by the time I got to the front I knew what to do.  There were TV monitors to tell you when it is your turn and which register to go to.  Each 'line' was represented by a color and each check out had a number and when your color pops up it's your turn and the number that pops along with it tells you which register to go to.  It was that serious. 
Neither one of us had ever been to a live taping so that was one of the few things we planned ahead for before our trip.  Tickets for these things are free but you just have to find out how each show issues tickets.  I got The View tickets from 1iota and for Late Night with Seth Meyers I had to call a hotline.  They do fill up so you have to do it in advance.  I wanted Colbert Report or Jimmy Fallon but they were booked.  For Seth Meyers we had to be at the NBC store in Rockefeller Center at 3:30pm to exchange our reservations for tickets then come back to a designated area an hour later.  We were lined up according to the time we got our tickets and led in small groups to an elevator that would take us down to the studio.  Absolutely no cameras allowed.  They kick you out if you try.  The guests were Octavia Spencer from The Help, some author guy that I had never heard of and a game show host that I had also never heard of.  It was cool to see what's happening behind the scenes.  They make you clap a lot.  They don't use applause signs anymore.  They were there, but they hire a comedian/crowd wrangler to keep us occupied between breaks.  They signaled us when to clap, clap louder and keep clapping.

 After that we we found a restaurant in Times Square.  Drinks and giant burgers for both of us

Wednesday morning I did not want to get up.  At all.  We were supposed to be at The View at 9:00am and I was this close to just saying forget it and not going but it would be ridiculous to not do something so I could sleep.  I did not come to NYC to sleep.  I forced myself out of bed so we could make the 20 minute walk over there.  They were nice enough to feed us which was helpful because we didn't make time for breakfast.  We were handed a back of Chex Mix and a bottle of Apple juice when we walked in the door.  We only waited outside for a little while and then we had a large room with TV's to wait around in until they finally led us over to the studio in small groups.  Nobody gets to pick their seat.  We were only allowed to take out cameras on commercial breaks and specifically when told us it was okay.  More clapping.  The wrangler guy even made MJ and another guy get up and dance because they didn't look happy enough.  Unlike Seth Meyers which is taped and then shown later that night The View is actually on TV while we are there taping.  The guests were Doogie Houser AKA Neil Patrick Harris and Tim McGraw.  Rosie O'Donnell and Whoopi Goldberg take questions and entertained us during the commercial breaks.  The other hosts are Rosie Perez and someone else that I'd never heard of.  Rosie likes to cuss and she talked about her weight loss surgery.  Mr. McGraw performed a slow song from his new CD that I'd never heard before.  On our way out we were given his CD.  We're not fans so we gave them away to co workers.  We recorded both of the shows to see if we made it on TV but haven't watched them yet.
Times Square
Nope it's not Disneyland.  There are Disney characters just chillin' in Times Square.
Empire State Building
After The View we searched for food on our walk to The High Line. We stopped to eat at some place called Rare Bar & Grill in Chelsea where I ate one of the best Cobb salads I've ever had in my life.
You can still see the old railroad tracks
When we travel I have this misguided belief that I can walk anywhere.  I thought we could walk to the World Trade Center from Manhattan.  MJ shot that one down but Chelsea was sort of reasonable so we walked all the way from ABC Studios at West 66th Street to get to the The High Line which begins in the Meat Packing District.  I saw The High Line on a list of non touristy things to do in New York City.  It's an elevated abandoned freight railroad line that got turned into a park so basically it's a narrow park on a bridge.  On our right we could see New Jersey across the Hudson River.  The walk there was just a tad over 3 miles and The High Line itself is about 1.5 miles so that was A LOT of miles in one day.  We stopped at Chelsea Market where I got some gelato and then we took the Subway back to our hotel.
MJ is really weird and he just doesn't get tired but I was DEAD on my feet after all that so I had to take a nap before our 8:00pm show.  We were torn between Wicked and Kinky Boots but decided on Kinky boots which works out because Wicked comes to town next month and we're going to see it then.  I thought Vegas was bad.  Broadway show tickets are really expensive but it was worth it.  Kinky Boots was really, really good.  I loved the story and it was a really good show.  Afterwards we stopped at a really cool bar called West End Bar & Grill for a few drinks before heading back to the hotel to crash.

Central Park West and Brooklyn

NYC: The 9/11 Memorial Museum

We got to New York pretty late on Sunday night and took a super shuttle to our hotel.  I wasn't surprised that there was traffic that late.  I wouldn't expect anything less from NYC.  We stayed in Midtown Manhattan at West 57th Street by Hilton Club .  It's a few doors down from Carnegie Hall and perfectly situated near Times Square and Central Park.

MJ wanted to go into the Statue of Liberty Crown but apparently it's like the leaning tower of Pisa and you have to book it in advance.  The soonest we could get in was Friday.  We didn't book it that day and then there were no more available spots after that.

Going to the 9/11 memorial museum wasn't something we'd talked about doing or not doing but when Lady Liberty fell through we decided to go.  We took the subway to the World Trade Center and the first thing we saw on our way over is the two square shaped deep fountains side by side where the Twin Towers used to be.  Etched on every surface surrounding it are the names of people who lost their lives on 9/11.  It's still hard to believe that two giant buildings were there and now they are just gone and it's eerie to know that you are standing in a place where there was so much devastation.

If you book your tickets online or in advance you are given a time frame for which you are supposed to enter and after going through it I know why.  There is a lot to take in and they probably don't want traffic flow to clog up.  The building itself is huge and dimly lit.  There are firetrucks from that day on display and various beams of steel and concrete that survived the blast.  At first I didn't think there was going to be much to see because the main building is relatively sparse but once we got started in the exhibition room it felt like there was too much.  You can take pictures in the main area but once you get inside the Exhibition room there are no cameras allowed.  The memorial is set up sort like a timeline that takes you through all the events leading up to 9/11, what happened with each plane that crashed and then the aftermath.  It is comprised of photography, video, audio, wreckage, personal belongings and anything else that tells the story of 9/11.  It covers every perspective including the perpetrators, first responders, victims, survivors, families and anyone else that would have a story to tell about that day.  I didn't realize that there discreetly placed tissue box stands throughout the exhibit  until I needed one.  The audio recordings is what really got to me.  I heard the voice of a woman calling her husband.  Her voice broke as she said she hoped he'd see his face again.  She was on one of the planes so she never got to and even now when I think about that it brings tears to my eyes.  What really struck me is how calm and matter of fact most of the phone callers from the planes were.  I keep thinking I'd be a hysterical nightmare if I was in that situation and part of it has to be that they really didn't know just how dire their situation was.  It's dark, quiet and there is so much information that I lost track of time but I think we were in there for a pretty long time.  It was major sensory overload.  I wanted to see everything but after a while it gets to be too much.  It's still so surreal to think back to everything that went into that day.  Such evil and misery transpired on 9/11 and it's all there.  
Survivors' Stairs: Many people escaped on these stairs from a building adjacent to the towers
I felt a slightly conflicted about the whole thing.  It felt weird to be interested in going to see it.  It was weird listening to voice recordings of people who died, viewing blood stained pumps and ash covered metro tickets.  I hadn't seen footage of what happened in a long time.  There were videos and photos of the planes crashing into the towers, people jumping out of buildings and recordings of the terrorists voices.  It seemed almost wrong to have all of this deeply tragic and personal stuff on display so that people can buy tickets and come look at it.  At the same time I think it does need to be presented that way to most accurately convey the events to those who only watched it on TV and to future generations that will only read about it in history books.  It was a horrific crime and the memorial preserves and captures it in a way that hits home but is also respectful.  That being said, if I had lost someone in 9/11 or had a real life connection to it I don't know how I would feel about going there myself.  I'm just not sure I'd want to revisit those emotions in that way but I think it would be comforting to know that it's there.  People have to live with the loss of their loved ones every day and the memorial is a way to keep that memory alive not just for those who knew them but for the rest of the world.  Mixed feelings aside, I think it was very well done and I am glad we went. 
White Pizza
After that we needed food.  We hadn't eaten all day so we walked over to The Little Italy section in Lower Manhattan and ate Pizza at Lombardi's.   Delicious.  We strolled around town a little bit before taking the subway back to our hotel for the night.  Our feet were already killing us and it was just the first day.

NYC:  Live Studio Audience & The High Line