Sunday, July 31, 2016

Girls Camp 2016- Girl on Fire

From July 26-29 I got to go to Young Women's girls camp as a leader! When I was younger, I loved girls camp and always wanted to go back, so I was so happy when I got the chance! The theme for camp was Girl On Fire (not intentionally sounding like the Hunger Games). The main thing we wanted the girls to get from camp is that "they can do hard things". This year we went to Gorham Scout Ranch, where there was a rock climbing wall, a zipline, archery, a shooting range, and swimming. Along with the fun things we did were the fun embarrassing things that make girls camp especially unique, like the "squirrel dance" that you had to perform in front of the whole camp if you lost something.

The first day (July 26), getting to camp was a fun start. We picked out our tents, explored the area and had opening ceremonies. The camp had a cafeteria so every meal was a feast! This first day we were able to take it easy. We had no idea how much work the rest of the week would be. 

The second day (July 27) we focused on the rock wall. This was hard for a lot of girls and brought them a lot of tears when they often couldn't make it all the way up, but in the end every girl in our ward had tried their hardest. They were all awesome and I was proud of them for doing such a hard thing. The rest of the day was camp certification (to show they could swim, etc) along with crafts. That night we could see the Milky Way so clearly that we had to wake all the girls to see it. Such a beautiful place!

The third day (July 28) was the group activities. This was all about the girls working together and relying on each other to do hard things. It was a bonding experience for all the girls. It also helped get them out of their comfort zones. The older girls including me were able to do the zip line. I was terrified but faced my fears and was so happy I did!

That evening we performed the skit that our girls had been working on for weeks, followed by a beautiful testimony meeting. 

The morning (July 29) that we went home was sad, but even though they would miss their new friends the girls were anxious to sleep in their own beds and take showers. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

New York 2016

One thing I love about Jacob's job is the conferences we get to attend. Jacob got a paper approved to a conference in New York and we were so excited! This would be our first trip without the kids, and though my heart broke to not have them with us, I was glad that Jacob and I had this time to ourselves and that our kiddos had time with their grandparents.

We arrived late Friday evening, and even though it was almost midnight the airport was packed and the line to get a cab was super long. After waiting quite a while we made it to our hotel, the New York Hilton Midtown. 

 Long line to get a taxi

This really is the city that never sleeps! Saturday morning we slept in a bit and then we went out to explore. Jacob had pored over blogs, trip advisor, and yelp for this trip, so we had lists of good places to eat and things to see. We had an early lunch at a food truck called The Halal guys right outside our hotel. Their food was delicious, inexpensive, and filling! 

There were always people lined up beside the truck. With our food in hand, we ventured off to Times Square which was only six blocks away. There we visited the M&M store and the Disney store, and Jacob took a picture with "Batman". 

M&M store in Times Square

Jacob and Batman!

There were so many people!

We walked past Penn Station then found and walked along the High Line. This is a garden built from a retired train line that overlooks the city. It is so green and peaceful and the view from it is beautiful. It was a fun morning!

Say cheese!

The afternoon was spent at Chelsea Market which is really close to the High Line. This place has lots of restaurants to choose from but no where to sit. We decided on Los Tacos No. 1 where we had tacos along with soda. The whole market was packed but we still found a table to stand and eat at. 

The food here was so good!

Jacob then surprised me and took me to the Jane Street Hotel. I have always been fascinated by the Titanic and this hotel housed most of the crew for a year after the ship sank. They had a beautiful fountain inside as a memorial. 

We walked down to the Magnolia Bakery where we had their famous Banana Pudding. It was very good! We purchased some organic milk from a street vendor (Ole' Mother Hubbert creamline milk, which uses high temperature short time pasteurization to produce a milk that tastes more natural) and ate our food in Abingdon Square Park. Then it was on to another bakery because you can never have too much dessert! We bought some beautiful and expensive truffles at Aux Merveilleux de Fred. We next headed toward Washington Square Park, where we enjoyed a second lunch in West Village at Joe's Pizza on Carmine Street. This restaurant was featured in the Tobey McGuire Spider Man movie, and their pizza slices were huge and so good!

We walked through Washington Square Park and up to Union Square Park. Both parks were full of people and it was fun to roam around. 

This park was so beautiful!

Jacob really wanted to see the Strand Bookstore, so we headed there from Union Square Park. It is one of the oldest book stores in New York and has over 18 miles of shelving. Jacob especially liked the 3rd floor, which had a lot of older books, many signed by the author. Their foreign language section in the basement, on the other hand, was somewhat disappointing. We dropped by Max Brenner afterwards (a famous and expensive chocolate shop) and picked up several candy bars and had what Jacob considers to be the best chocolate milkshake ever. Sweet, liquified chocolate that left you feeling good afterwards rather than over-sugared. We walked to Madison Square Park as we sipped our shake and looked at the famous Flatiron Building. It was very cool. New York is filled with such beautiful architecture! Our feet were sore as we completed our circuit back to the hotel to relax before our evening adventures.

I was really excited to see Central Park. Our hotel was only a few blocks away, so we headed there on foot. Jacob made it even more special by arranging a carriage ride. We saw several spots that were filmed in movies and a lot of the park without having to walk. Our feet were thankful.

Central Park was my favorite!

 We then took a cab to the Guggenheim. That night had free admission but the line was so long that we didn't make it inside. We looked at artwork being vended outside the museum and then walked to a small restaurant called Heidi's House. Like many bar / restaurants in Manhattan, it had very little seating and we had to call ahead to get a spot, but the food was really good. Jacob had some delicious mac and cheese and we shared a chocolate souffle. After dinner we took a cab back to the hotel, exhausted but happy.

Sunday morning we wanted to see as much as possible. Jacob's conference started on Monday so we had to fit a lot in these two days. We started our day at the Empire State Building. It was amazing! We paid extra to go to the 102nd floor, which was worth it. We nearly had the place to ourselves. 

The view was magnificent!

After looking at their gift shop, we had lunch at Sarge's Deli. They have huge sandwiches that are very yummy. I had potato salad with mine, which was sweeter than I would have liked. We took pictures at the Chrysler building after lunch, and then stopped by the Grand Central Station. 

 That place is huge and the inside is quite beautiful. We didn't spend a lot of time there because we had to rush to make our first Broadway show, which was Aladdin. This was with the original cast and they were excellent! Definitely one of our favorites!

Such a fun musical!

Afterwards we took the subway to the lower east side, where we walked by Katz's Delicatessen and peeked inside. This is where they filmed the classic "orgasm scene" in When Harry Met Sally. The place was packed. It was fun to see. We crossed the street to have some yummy gelato and a milkshake at Il laboratorio del gelato, then made a candy run at Economy Candy two blocks down the road. 
This place had candy from floor to ceiling. Every type of candy you can imagine, and stuff you wouldn't think existed anymore. Our time was running short as we headed through Chinatown to the Mahayana temple which has a beautiful Buddha statue inside. We then took the subway to near the Dominique Ansel Bakery. Jacob split up with me to stand in line for the popular Black Tap burgers and shakes, while I found the bakery. I bought us some cookie cups with sweet milk and frozen s'mores. While waiting in line for Black Tap, we saw Keegan-Michael Key arrive for dinner. Black Tap is known for their amazing milk shakes.


 They are huge and filled with candy, almost too pretty to eat. Of course we each had to have one. Although gorgeous, the shakes themselves were pretty average. The burgers we had were pretty great, though. We also ordered a few different specialty sodas there to try out. Yum!

I spent Monday morning exploring Times Square while Jacob was at his conference. Jacob got out early so we could take the subway to Coney Island. For a late lunch we went to On the Run pizza, and then Jacob had a hot dog along with chili cheese fries at the original Nathan's hot dogs. We got unlimited ride passes and spent the rest of the day at Luna Park where we rode the water log ride quite a few times. 

This place was so much fun!

Going on the ride by himself because I'm chicken
Log ride

Sunset on Coney Island

We also walked along the board walk and enjoyed the beautiful beach and lights before heading back to eat at John's of Bleecker St. This place had amazing pizza, as well as tasty cream soda. We shared a pitcher and a whole pie, and Jacob bought himself a souvenir shirt. We then caught a late night Staten Island Ferry which took us past the Statue of Liberty, before returning to our hotel, exhausted but happy.

Statue Of Liberty

The view from the ferry

Tuesday morning I ventured out to the Natural History museum in Central Park while Jacob was at his conference. Still not too good at taking the subways by myself, I somehow didn't manage to get too lost. Walking through Central Park was beautiful and so relaxing. The Natural History museum was humongous and it would take several days to enjoy all of it.

I saw a decent amount before meeting up with Jacob for lunch at Elim deli cafe on the Upper East side. I had a sub and Jacob had a wrap, and they were both fresh and delicious. I spent the rest of the day in Times Square and at the hotel.

That evening we visited the 9/11 museum. It was very humbling. The central exhibit, which didn't allow photos, featured minute-by-minute recaps and footage of the events of that day. The waterfall monument they made from the original tower footprints was breathtaking. We visited the One World Trade Center and watched the sun set and all the lights come on in the city. 

911 memorial

One World observatory


What a sight! Dinner was at a very fancy steakhouse in the financial district called Delmonico's. We got there close to closing but they still seated us. I have to say I felt underdressed at this beautiful place. It is the oldest steakhouse still operating in New York, established in 1837. Jacob tried dry-aged steak for the first time here. Afterwards we visited Wall Street and Jacob rode the NYSE bull. We saw the federal hall memorial and also walked past the trump building and tiffany & co, before heading back to our hotel.

On Wednesday we had lunch at shake shack, and then I watched Wicked by myself while Jacob returned to his conference meetings. Wicked is my favorite musical and it was amazing to see it on Broadway! 

My favorite musical

 We had dinner at an old italian restaurant called Lanza's. The food was good and the staff was very friendly. It is sad to know they closed last December. We spent the rest of the night close to our hotel at the Rockefeller Plaza and the Top of the Rock, another building with amazing views of the city. Surprisingly, it was most busy at the bottom of 3 sightseeing levels, and it doesn't seem like a lot of people went to the very top floor, which had the greatest views. There was reception there so we facetimed Jacob's parents, and took a lot of nice photos. On the way back to the hotel we found and enjoyed a Jamba Juice.

View from Top of the Rock

Thursday morning I took a tour of the New York Public Library by myself while Jacob was at the conference. What an amazing and beautiful place! In place of lunch, he joined me at the Museum of Natural History where we rushed to see many of their main attractions, like all the fossil halls, the hall of human origins (which has a Lucy model), the hall of Pacific peoples (which has the giant Rapa Nui Moai cast), and the hall of ocean life (with the giant blue whale replica). We puchased gyros from the Halal guys again so Jacob could take his food into his seminars with him.

Easter Island Head

That evening we walked a large loop. First we went to 2 Bros Pizza, which was disgusting. We had delicious ice cream cones at Ample Hills Creamery, and we rushed to make it on time to The Phantom of the Opera which we had won lottery tickets to that morning. The musical was good, although our seats were at the side of the stage which wasn't ideal. 

 After the play, we walked to Grom Gelato where I had a chocolate gelato and Jacob had a milkshake. We enjoyed our dessert seated outside. Both were small but delicious.

Friday morning Jacob surprised me! A large package of Mah ze dahr ganache, chocolate choux, marshmallows, brioche donuts, and cheesecake was delivered to our hotel. 

After we enjoyed our sweets we headed to Times Square and bought discounted "rush" tickets to see Finding Neverland. For lunch, we ate at Sparks Steakhouse. The food was amazing and the staff was professional! It was our favorite steakhouse of the trip, by far. We spent the late afternoon (when Jacob's conference had ended) visiting the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was one of my favorites.

 Jacob loved all of the Egyptian art and artifacts at the Metropolitan. 

We took a bus back and dropped our souvenirs off at the hotel, then went to see our musical. Finding Neverland was my favorite Broadway play of the trip. The music was beautiful! The story and cast were all so fantastic. The theater was small but beautiful! 

After the play we enjoyed at late dinner at the Times Square Diner, where I had a yummy grilled chicken avocado sandwich with fries, and Jacob had three cheese mac and cheese, a strawberry milkshake, and nutella banana french toast.

Saturday was our last day in New York. The morning was spent packing, and then in the early afternoon we explored The Museum of Modern Art. This was Jacob's favorite museum next to the Met! 

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gough

We saw our last Broadway musical, The Lion King, and then took a taxi to JFK. 

Jacob made sure I made it through security before leaving for his hotel by Penn Station, where he would leave the next day for Pittsburgh. We had such a blast on this whirlwind of a trip! NYC is definitely one of my favorite of places I have visited in the states and I hope to visit again!