I’ll preface my upcoming blog posts with this – I apologize for the delay in new content. I can summarize the lag in one word - Coronavirus.
Although I have been extremely active and productive during the cleared calendars COVID-19 created, my motivation to write has been non-existent. Days at work have been long and consume most of my brain power. When I get home, all I want to do is forget the day, so I’ve channeled my anxieties into many, many different physical labor projects around our acreage to tucker myself out completely. I’ll write about my experience during this time after I do some reminiscing and sharing of other stuff that has gone on over the past few months outside of the pandemic.
One thing is for certain – I already miss the ability to travel and am worried we won’t be able to travel safely again for a while…
Because we’re pretty much stuck around our home and family cabin right now (I recognize the privilege in being able to say this) I’ve been daydreaming about trips Joel and I have taken recently along with ones I hope we take as soon as it is OK to do so.
I jumped right on sharing resources we used on our trip to New York City over Christmas. But I never did get around to writing about the trip itself!
Since the moment Joel and I connected, our love for New York City has been one thing (of many) we have in common. I remember sitting across from him the first time we formally got together and lighting up when this topic came into the conversation. We had both been when we were younger and yearned to go back. Ever since then, we’ve dreamed about going to New York City during Christmas to experience the magic. 2019 was the year it came true.
You may be wondering how it was to be gone over the holidays. Intending no offense to our families – we really enjoyed it. Here’s why. Instead of cramming so many commitments into one to two days, the holidays felt much more intentional. We opened up our home and invited our family members over to have one-on-one time with us before we left. For those we couldn’t fit in before the holidays, we spent time with after we got back. This allowed for more sincere connections. It took a lot of the “overwhelmed” feelings out of the season which felt better to both of us. Although we were both dreading telling our families our plans, they all took the news extremely well and were very supportive of us taking the trip.
It took us a bit to fully believe this trip was happening! We had been talking about it for years and planning it for months. Everything was reserved and paid for – the only thing out of our control was December weather in Iowa, but thankfully it cooperated fully. It was an unusually warm and not snowy December.
Our adventure began the moment we got off the plane. In an effort to use as much public transportation as possible to save money, we took a bus to the subway to another bus to get to our Airbnb. With all of our luggage in tow. Nothing screams, “I’m not from around here,” more than that. Luckily, everyone we interacted with was super nice and, while we were eyeballed, we were never hassled. I believe if you can survive this process – you can literally survive ANYTHING.
We absolutely loved our little New Jersey Airbnb located just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. The view was STUNNING. Especially at night. We’re not super picky when it comes to where we stay as long as it is a convenient place for us to land at the end of the day and the price is right. The interior was nothing fancy, but its location was in a safe, quiet area with easy access to the New Jersey Transit bus line (just a few steps from our door) that we took into the city every day. Our host was very nice and a really good communicator.
We tried to map out our days loosely so that we saw what we wanted to see for sure, but with flexibility so that if we needed to rest we could rest. Which when you are walking 20,000 steps per day on average, was needed! I’ve outlined some of the trip highlights below and at the very end a photo slideshow is provided for your viewing pleasure.
December 21 – After we settled in at the AirBnb and walked around the neighborhood a little bit, even with all of the traveling/commuting we had already done, we couldn’t help going into the city! We chose to walk around the Times Square/Rockefeller Center area. We covered A LOT of ground. We saw Times Square and its street performers. The Rockefeller Center tree and skating rink. The NBC studio that hosts SNL. Radio City Music Hall. A charming little Christmas market in Bryant Park. The New York City Library. And the New York Times building. It felt like every corner we turned held a landmark we were shocked to be seeing in real life!
December 22 – We visited the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). It was delightful. So many famous works of art. I discovered that Picasso and Matisse are two of my favorite artists, which was unexpected. There’s nothing better than being moved by art. It’s one of my favorite feelings. We ended the day with a yummy Italian dinner (BEST I’ve ever had) in the city. On our way through the bus depot to head “home,” I bought and enjoyed my first authentic macaroons!
December 23 – Venturing to the southern tip of the island on the subway, we attempted to go to the Statue of Liberty but the wait was several hours long. We decided to return early the next day. Instead, we ended up going to the 911 Memorial site. It was as moving as we imagined. Very hard to believe the events that occurred. Seeing the names of all who lost their lives made it all real. The memorial is absolutely stunning. The perfect way to honor all those connected to the event. One special thing I learned is that on each person’s birthday, a white rose is placed by their name.
It was about lunchtime when we finished and we were so hungry we didn’t want to waste time wandering around, so we went to Burger King. Why is this significant? It was a two-story Burger King that served you like you were at a sit down restaurant. For some reason this really amused us and I thought it was worth noting! Who knew that was even a thing?
We then made our way to the Upper East Side area and took in all of the beautiful architecture. On a whim, we decided to go to The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). This was one place that was a must for me solely because of their Costume Institute. We visited that area of the museum first, and although you only get to see limited pieces from the Institute, it was breathtaking. Alexander McQueen is one of my all-time favorite designers and I got to see one of his pieces, along with Chanel, and so many other talented designers. I did cry in this exhibit and I’m not ashamed of it!
The Met is truly unbelievable. It is endless. There is so much to see and do and learn. We did our best to take in everything, but if you took your time, you could probably spend two or more days walking around. They have a little bit of everything. We were there when they had a really neat knight exhibit up. One of the most shocking moments is when we entered a room and were eye to eye with the painting Washington Crossing the Delaware! Wow.
This experience was hands down one of our favorite parts. There is just so much history and variety housed in The Met. Everyone can find something that interests and excites them.
It was dark by the time we left so we cut through Central Park (not as scary as depicted in Home Alone), passing the Museum of Natural History and the site where John Lennon was murdered, on the way to our subway. Not surprisingly, this day clocked in at 20,613 steps!
December 24 – This was Statue of Liberty day! Not a shabby way to spend Christmas Eve. (If you ever want to visit the statue, please see my tips about going to NYC so you don’t get swindled.) We visited both Liberty and Ellis Island on our tour. I recommend going to both.
Coming upon the islands riding the packed ferry, shoulder to shoulder with other visitors, you couldn’t help but put yourselves in the shoes of immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island in a very similar way (without the privileges we have, of course). Lady Liberty and the museum just behind her was our first stop. And although seeing her and being so close was moving, visiting Ellis Island was emotional.
If you’ve seen the movie Shutter Island, you will vaguely be able to picture Ellis Island. That’s what it reminded me of. A lot of dilapidated, inaccessible buildings with a museum inside a partially restored main building where all immigrants started their journey back in the day. I felt like the spirits of the immigrants who passed through the building were palpable. It was eerie, but very grounding at the same time. I felt grateful for their strength, determination, and visions for the future.
The educational exhibits were wonderful and we learned so much. The element of our time on the island that added an entirely different layer of meaningfulness is that upon doing research in the museum’s records area, I discovered my great, great grandfather (Dimitr Toneff) and other family members arrived at Ellis Island! So as I walked through each area, I pictured them along the way. I was seeing what they saw. That’s pretty powerful.
This was another big walking day because after we left the Statue of Liberty, we visited Greenwich Village. Definitely my favorite nook in Manhattan. It’s where the artists live, and you get that vibe immediately. Joel had a list of Bob Dylan landmarks to see, so we checked those off the list, ended in Washington Square Park, and called it a day.
December 25 – Christmas Day! Ice skating in Rockefeller Center day! It was surreal waiting in line to ice skate. It was a really beautiful, still day. Warm enough where we were just wearing sweaters and vests. The energy in Rockefeller Center was electric. So much excitement! You are able to purchase a 90 minute skating session. Luckily, we got there just in time so we only had to wait as the session before mine finished.
I’ll tell you this, honestly. It was pure magic and I absolutely loved it. But…I was also terrified and instantly in pain. The moment I launched onto the ice, my body tensed up and I was just focused on not falling. Which is typical I suppose. There are a lot of people watching people skate. I didn’t want to be the one everyone laughed at or God forbid was videotaped as an ice skating fail! I made it around between 3-5 times before quitting. Under 10 minutes total of a 90 minute session. Two successes – I did not fall and I did not grip the wall. I quit while I was ahead.
We spent the rest of the day without a plan. The big department store window displays were nearby so we took a look at those. We hopped on the subway and went to Grand Central Station. Then we went to Central Park. It’s very beautiful and there is a lot of entertainment going on! Talented street performers dancing, singing, playing instruments, making huge bubbles. It was a nice way to experience the area.
Landing in Bryant Park, one of our favorite hubs to stop by, we enjoyed hot chocolate while watching everyone hustle and bustle around us. It was a memorable way to end a very special Christmas Day.
December 26 – This was our last full day in NYC. We took it pretty easy. Joel brought up the idea of going to the Tenement Museum located in the Lower East Side. I bought our tickets online as the bus took us to Manhattan and it was a done deal.
The museum was the perfect addition to the experience we had at the Statue of Liberty. It was focused on immigrants and their lifestyles during peak immigration times. It was so interesting! When you go to this museum, it’s not your typical museum. You choose a “track” to go on. We were able to get tickets for the “Business Owner” track which featured Manhattan immigrant entrepreneurs. The tour included the recreation of an old pub, the living quarters behind the pub, an outline of life living in the tenement building, and information about a family who owned a lingerie business. They had a neat interactive historical activity at the end. You grabbed an item that correlated with different immigrant entrepreneurs (book, stein glass, hat, etc.), put it on your table, and magically a story about them played! Super futuristic.
The Lower East Side has kind of a bad reputation, but we didn’t have any problems. We had authentic New York bagels and schmear at a bakery across the street from the museum and walked around a little bit. Saw the site of what used to be CBGBs, which was cool, and a lot of graffiti.
We did a final wander around Manhattan using the subway (which we were so sad we wouldn’t get to ride anymore) and then headed back to get ready for our flight in the morning. We are strange creatures so we spent our last night at a packed laundromat doing our laundry. We dislike traveling with luggage full of dirty clothes. The night was capped off with a dinner order through Uber Eats!
If you have any questions about traveling to New York/New Jersey, I’d be happy to help! I did a lot of research before going and we learned a lot of good practical tips while we were there.
As promised, here’s a slideshow of our trip. Thanks for reading if you made it this far and enjoy!
Dreams do come true. This summer Joel and I had the privilege and pleasure of seeing THE ROLLING STONES live at Soldier Field in Chicago. Something I never thought would happen, but am so glad it did!
What did I think, you ask? It was one of the best moments of my life that I was completely present for and absorbed every detail of. It was surreal. I was overcome with emotion, crying through the first couple of songs.
We showed up pretty early because we had general admission field tickets and wanted to get a good spot. And boy, did we! We were told not to run, so we power walked to the field after getting through security. I knew right where I wanted us to be, so claimed our spot and didn’t move for the rest of the evening. We ended up front and center, just a few rows of seats in front of us. If the stage runway was just a little longer, Mick could have run right up to me!
It was COLD for June and we were there in short sleeved shirts…so the warmth of the crowd was appreciated! You had to be OK getting cozy with those around you because we were elbow to elbow the whole time. There were some nice people around us and it was so fun to be in a stadium PACKED with people who loved the Stones as much as us. Amazing what an impact the band has on so many people.
The set list was perfect, all hits. Each song was better than the last. Mick was running and dancing around better than I probably could! One of our favorite parts was when the whole band came to the end of the stage runway and played some songs. We could see them better and it felt so intimate. It was hard to catch my breath knowing I was just rows away from some of my musical idols.
We’ve never been to a big concert with that many people and getting out was quite challenging. It was almost the middle of the night and we walked BLOCKS to split away from the (mostly drunk) crowd to get an Uber. So just a heads up – don’t be in a rush and take deep breaths to tolerate the people around you when leaving something like that!
Although the Stones were the highlight and purpose for our trip, we took advantage of the weekend away and stayed for a few extra days so we could explore new parts of the city (including the suburbs). Our Airbnb was on the south side of the city in a quiet neighborhood with street parking so we were able to drive our car to most places we wanted to go, which saved on Uber costs.
The Airbnb was inexpensive, and I knew it wasn’t anything fancy when I booked it, but I was kind of upset when we arrived because it was very run down. But by the end of the weekend, Joel and I had fallen in love with it and miss it from time to time. It was our little hideaway. Friendly reminder – don’t judge a book by its cover. You have the ability to write your own story. We found the humor in the situation and charm of the place and turned our mindset around!
We really went all over the place while we were out exploring! Drove out to the suburbs, walked downtown in Millennium Park and by the lake, drove back out to the suburbs, ventured into the neighborhood we were staying in. Some favorite parts included eating pancakes every day (our favorite place was the Original Pancake House), seeing the movie Booksmart (carries extremely good messages for women – I loved it), and visiting John Belushi’s childhood home, the Home Alone house, and Barack Obama’s Chicago residence.
Here are just a few photos of our adventures:
No plans, just wandering, was our goal. If we were antsy, we went out. If we were tired, we relaxed. Simple as that! We had a great time away in one of our favorite cities. As we’ve pushed ourselves outside our regular routine when we go there, we’ve really come to love it again.
Tell me what your bucket list music concert is! We’ve checked off Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, and soon Bob Dylan. With SO MANY other great concerts in between.
Joel and I recently celebrated our NINTH wedding anniversary! We’ve been together almost thirteen years total. I have repeated this fact to myself over and over again the past few days. It seems surreal. Especially since I never thought I’d get married in the first place! But goodness, am I glad I did.
We always take time around our anniversary to stop and reflect. Escaping for a few days to explore, our favorite thing to do together.
This year was one of the best anniversary trips we’ve taken! We traveled around Iowa and Wisconsin over five days, our primary home base being my family’s cabin in Lansing, Iowa.
Before I dive into what we did, I want to tell you how the morning of our vacation started before we left because I think it’s important that some real life gets thrown into this shiny, happy post! We got water in our basement. A LOT of water. The dogs lost their minds at the vet, Madison had to get muzzled. I had a nail in my tire that needed to be fixed before we left. The dogs lost their minds again at home and pushed a glass platter down the stairs, breaking it. Something come up at work that they needed to contact me about. All before noon. After some big breaths and an undying will to continue on as planned, we made it out of the house!
We started out in Madison, Wisconsin. We both love Madison. Great city. College town. Pretty hip. Lots to do. We didn’t have much time to wander around this time because we were in town to see Jeff Tweedy from Wilco perform at an art museum. I had been to a Wilco show before and Joel is constantly listening to them so I had a good idea of what we were getting into. But wow. What a show. I was in tears several times. Jeff is a king lyricist. And for as serious as his lyrics are, he’s actually a pretty funny guy. Time flew and neither of us wanted it to end!
We had to venture home after staying the night in Madison because Twins had a show in Des Moines. So on our way back we hit up Chris Farley’s childhood home in Madison and then the Field of Dreams in Dyersville! I had never been to either, so it was pretty neat.
The following day we traveled to La Crosse, Wisconsin – our favorite Wisconsin city hands down. We hit up our regular haunts, napped in the park (beyond relaxing), and then ended the day taking a walk with “Mark Twain” as he told us about the Mississippi River. This one man, outdoor play was wonderful. I never realized that Mark Twain was a humorist. For a humorist, he was quite an insightful man. Some of the lines spoken were extremely moving and very relevant in our current political state.
We finished the trek where three different rivers intersect at the end of the La Crosse river walk. Mark Twain said this is a sign of a sacred space according to Native Americans. We were in a hidden garden. The sun was setting over the water. Ducks were peacefully swimming nearby. I was with Joel. Mark Twain was standing in front of us. A sacred space indeed.
On our last day before packing up to go home, we went south into Wisconsin. We checked out some spots just outside of and in Prairie du Chien. We stopped by an apple orchard/pumpkin patch, walking away without any fresh fruit, but with a bag of fresh bakery items instead! Then we ventured into an area that we hadn’t been before, off the beaten path. I’ll let the pictures do the talking but essentially we found a large equipment graveyard. I may have broken a couple of rules and committed a minor crime while we were there, but I made it out without being arrested!
We were also excited to find an antique shop we hadn’t seen before. If you are in that area and like reasonably priced antiques, check out Checkers Antiques! Nice people, amazing selection, open for 50 years – so they know what’s up.
Overall, it was a very relaxing trip. In between adventures we made sure to reaffirm our commitment to one another, celebrate victories, learn from challenges (like the five in a row we experienced before leaving!), and look into the future.
I’m lucky for this man and all he brings to my life. We seem to feel happier each year we are together, which I am immensely grateful for. Being by his side is my favorite part of living. We’ve built a simple yet incredible life together that only keeps getting better. Here’s to staying aligned and in love for many more years, J! Glad you’re on my team.
If you like art, especially abstract and psychedelic art, I highly encourage you to visit the "Works By Wayne Coyne: Featuring The King's Mouth" art exhibit at the Waterloo Center for the Arts. It. Blew. My. F***ing. Mind.
I have been looking forward to this exhibit ever since I heard it was coming. I didn't know anything about Wayne Coyne (lead singer of the Flaming Lips) but I liked the vibrant work I knew he was bringing. He was in Waterloo to open the exhibit the day before Joel and I visited, and after going through, I really regret not attending the opening night!
The plus side of going the following day is that we could take our time, which we did. We wandered in around 8 p.m. on a Friday night. There was another event going on, and although the art gallery was technically closed, they let us go in. It was just the two of us among some of the most thought provoking work I've seen in a long time.
I'm not going to tell you what I saw, because I want you to see it with your own eyes. What I will say is that it was an experience unlike any other I've ever had in an art gallery. It is interactive, it is out of this world, and it is where my mind and heart go when they wander. It was the dose of color I needed in my life at that moment, and I'm still thinking about it.
One tip I will give is that you should look at the paintings that tell the story of The King's Mouth before you enter The King's Mouth installation. Then you'll know the story behind what you'll see. It is out of this world. You will crave more when it's over.
I snapped a few photos during our time there, but again, I do hope you'll go experience it on your own. It is truly fantastic and I'm very thankful to the Waterloo Center for the Arts for pushing the boundaries on this exhibit! The exhibit is open until April 23. Here's an article on it from the Des Moines Register if you're interested!