Monday, June 13, 2011

Carnegie Hall

We've been to New York City before, usually in an attempt to see everything (crazy taxi drivers, Kazakhstanian pedicab operators, human fire hydrants), but this time we went with a very specific purpose, and then tried to do everything.

As many of you know by now, Thing 1 has been preparing for months to perform at Carnegie Hall with her violin group. Her group instructor was trained at the School for Strings at Carnegie Hall and once every 5 years instructors are invited to bring their students to perform. We've been trying to help her understand how huge an opportunity this is and like the mature 11-year-old she is, she gets it.

One of the parents in the violin group kindly and wisely chartered a bus to take us into the city so we avoided having to do the three-hour drive ourselves. You can't put a price on skipping traffic, Jersey drivers, tolls, and parking. Plus, the bus drove us right to the front door of Carnegie Hall.

Not quite her name in lights, but that's the poster for Thing 1's concert.

We got to NYC with enough time to squeeze in a little sightseeing, so we planned to walk the two short blocks to Central Park and walk around for a bit before we had to see lunch. We figured we'd walk in, sit for a while, and say we'd been there. Well, on our walk we were approached by one of those pedicab drivers with the three-ring binder full of Central Park sights.

"Hey, I'll take you for a ride all around the park. Better than horse carriage."

"No, thanks. We're fine."

"But look. I'll show you 'Friends' fountain. And Bow Bridge--they filmed 'You've Got Mail' here. And Strawberry Fields. John Lennon. I'll show you everything."

The conversation went along like this for a few minutes and we eventually decided that since we had an hour, and he could take us "everywhere" in an hour, and he was willing to take all four of us for a discount, that we would do the tour. We are SO glad that we did. It was awesome. It was very cool to be in Central Park for the first time looking at so many familiar sights. Apparently Lady Gaga did Good Morning America's morning concert that day and we missed the hordes of people camping overnight to see her. There wasn't any crying from the four of us.

The Happy Family near the Angel Fountain at Bethesda Terrace

Same fountain. Happy couple . . .

. . . and loving siblings.

The Boathouse Restaurant was right around the "corner" from the fountain.

Our driver tells us this building was made famous in "Ghostbusters"

The Cherry Hill Fountain--"Friends" filmed its opening sequence here

Another very cool sight was Strawberry Fields. After John Lennon was shot outside of his apartment building, crowds would gather to mourn and pay tribute to him. The city originally thought this would only last a short time, but when the crowds never seemed to dissipate, they tried to put a stop to it. Yoko Ono donated a large sum of money (I hear around $2 million) to create a living memorial to her husband. Crowds are still always there. Strawberry Fields is in the shape of a teardrop because she said she's cries every day for John. John and Yoko's apartment is just outside the park, looking down over the memorial.

The plaque at the entrance of Strawberry Fields

Thing 1 and Thing 2 at the Imagine memorial

Our Khazakstanian pedicab driver and three-fourths of our group

John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived in the upper apartment

A crowd gathering outside of the apartment building

There we are, scrunched in our cab, with Lennon's apartment in the background.

After our bike tour, which was awesome by the way (did I mention that already?), we walked past Carnegie Hall on our way to lunch. We looked up restaurants in the area before we left home (go figure, we researched online) and found a promising pizza shop just down the street. It is called Angelo's and it's worth the stop in.

That's Carnegie across the street--scaffolding is the NYC's official flower

A white pizza with Italian sausage at Angelo's--loads of ricotta and fresh basil complete the perfection

The Goodens met up with us at Angelo's in time to share a more "traditional" slice of pizza with Thing 2 and to snap this picture. After lunch Stacy helped Thing 1change into her dress for the concert. Marinara and a white dress do not mix in any situation. One of the greatest accomplishments of the day was Stacy and Thing 1 actually entering the bathroom and changing her clothes since it was constructed for a bulimic size-0 model on an empty stomach at best. Congratulations, Stacy on proving why you are the mommy.

The artist with her little brother

Posing across the street from Carnegie

Yes, that poster is for her--she's so beautiful!

Getting these pictures was not easy. Picture 800+ musicians with parents, grandparents, and whoever else came along, bustling along under the aforementioned scaffolding, all jockeying for the same photo op. Not for the faint of heart.

Thing 1 and two of her friends from our homeschool group, who also happen to be in the same violin group

Our handsome boy and beautiful girl

Inflated dresses on subway grates--how Marilyn Monroe!

Another poster outside Carnegie. We passed a lot of posters as we followed the winding line around the block.

All smiles in line

Thing 2, chillin' before the concert

The first half of the concert was the cello students. There were over 160 students and it was amazing to watch. There were, of course, other announcements and performances but we were all anxious to hear the violin students. Each family was technically only allotted 2 tickets, so in order to get Thing 2 in as well I had to purchase a ticket from one of the other families in Thing 1's violin group. Stacy sat with Thing 2 and I sat down the aisle, one row up from them. We were in the balcony so it was tough to get close-up shots of Thing 1 playing, but it was still amazing to see all the violinists on stage.

In a traditional Suzuki concert the most advanced students begin. As the program progresses, students enter at the most advanced song they know. In all there were over 750 violinists performing that day, so not every student was on stage the entire time, but Thing 1 spent almost 20 minutes on stage so we had a great chance to see her in action. Seeing so many children on stage playing together in unison was an awesome sight. Incredible.

Stacy did a great job getting pictures of the event. I circled Thing 1 so you can see where she was standing. Even at a distance she looks very poised and graceful.

I didn't circle her here, but this picture gives you an idea of what a stage full of Suzuki violinists looks like.

I did manage to get video of a lot of the concert. Our video camera apparently has a pretty good zoom because you can see Thing 1 very well. Since we still live in the analog age with our video camera I only uploaded one of the songs she performed. It's "Two Grenadiers" and is the most advanced song she played in the concert. (For some reason it skips at around the 1:09 mark. Sorry!)

I know I keep saying it, but what a great experience for Thing 1. I was in complete awe the entire time and I'm so proud of how well she is doing with her musical talent. We're all proud of her.

After the concert we went back to Central Park and took a few pictures of Thing 1 in her dress. Here's my favorite of her.

What's NYC without a hot dog from a street vendor? We saw this guy while we were waiting in line at Carnegie.

Stacy opted for sushi across the street from Carnegie. It was given a C for cleanliness from the NYC health board. After she took this picture the owner moved the sign to a less conspicuous location. Did her photojournalism skills prompt the change? Maybe not. Who knows? It turns out cleanliness has nothing to do with taste, at least in this case.

On the bus ride home a bunch of the kids all played DS games together and had a blast. They may have gotten a bit loud at one point, but I remember band bus trips growing up and all the play is half the fun. It was so cool to see all these kids having such a good time together.

One final picture on the bus ride home

All in all it was a fantastic day. Even the heat and humidity couldn't change how much fun it was to see our daughter play in such a historic venue. Thing 2 has been a great support and a great sport, attending many violin lessons and group violin lessons with Thing 1, and always lending a listening ear to her "practice recitals" at home. As you can see from the pictures, he fits in with the group no matter what is going on.

We're already looking forward to her next chance to play in Carnegie in 5 years. Keep up the good work, Thing 1. We love you!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Party at our house!

So, I mentioned in my previous post that we had several guests come visit in February. And being that we love to host and do nice things for our friends and just generally because we're awesome that way, we rearranged one of our rooms into a library/guest room. It is AWESOME. Like a quiet living room upstairs.

Library Guest Room

Two of my closest girl friends growing up (Cathy and Kellie) came for another week of fun. And it really, really was. It always is. Cathy is like my own Mike "Gandalf" Ganderson.

Cathy, Stacy, Kellie

We did a girls' weekend when they came before. This time, they brought kids (well, Cathy did -- 2 of her own plus a friend we dubbed "random kid").

Thing 1, Kiley, Sophia, Thing 2, Random Kid -
workers at the Hershey Factory

Thing 2, Sophia, Thing 1, Random Kid, Kiley -
they got to make their own chocolate bars!

And since there were already 9 of us, when one of my high school friends, E.J., called the morning of the day everyone was arriving and said he wanted to visit, we told him to come on down and make it an even 10. Five kids. Five adults. Though with at least two of the guests, the term "adult" is more than questionable.

The "adults" playing Laser Tag

The crew came from 3 different states and there were 10 of us in the house and every single guest room was in use (plus some!). It was a PARTY. Roller skating, ice cream, unlimited laser tag, video games, Glee, Chocolate world, music, and good food were all involved. Much sleeping was not.

Evidence of the "not sleeping."

I'm especially glad that my friends here got to meet my crazy MA/RI/NJ friends and vice versa. We did fun stuff together -- roller skating, Friendly's, Laser Tag, pie night at our house, dinners, watched some Glee . . .

Kristie, Ellie, E.J., me, Cathy, Kellie
at the roller skating rink

As per tradition,
a visit to Friendly's is always in order,

especially after 4 hours of unlimited Laser Tag!

They let the kids get $1.99 kids' meals.
Awesome since there were 12 kids in our group!!
(14 if you count Cathy and E.J.)

So, our agenda was something like this:


Cathy and Kellie and crew arrive by noon.

Lunch: Taco Soup and homemade cornbread

Hang out and play video games and talk

Almost all my pictures of Sophia
have her making that lovely face

Dinner: All-you-can-eat pizza/salad/dessert at Infinito's
Cathy, Kellie, and I went to see
The King's Speech at our awesome little theater in town.
Cathy, Kellie, and I ate appetizers until we were ready to bust at Houlihan's Happy Hour.

E.J. arrives.

Stay up late talking and laughing.

Note Sophia's face


Leisurely morning/breakfast at our house
Lunch at Devon Seafood (YUM!)

The food there is fresh, delicious, AND beautiful

Hershey's Factory Works (See picture above)
Hershey's Create Your Own Chocolate Bar Experience
(You can see the picture above to see the kids with their candy bars)

Donning their aprons . . .

. . . and their hair nets

Me and E.J.
(Notice Random Kid --
okay, fine, he has a name
-- Trey
in the background)

Kellie, me, E.J., Cathy
Dang blurriness.
Nice lady took picture -
Mark had to work.

Hershey's 3D movie (REALLY fun!)
Hershey's Chocolate World

Apparently, we wore out the children
right in the middle of Chocolate World

Half-price paninis at local coffee shop
Younger kids enjoyed book club
Older kids enjoyed playing games at coffee shop

The 3 Ks - Kirsten, Kiley, Kate

Big group to our house for fun, Glee, and lots of pies!

Seriously, this picture was taken at 11:54 at night
and we're all up eating pies

Stay up late talking and laughing.


Leisurely morning/breakfast at our house
Lunch at Subway (where E.J. crawled on the floor looking for something that was not lost)
Roller skating with our homeschool group (BIG crowd - lots of fun)

Thing 2 - first time roller skating

Thing 1 - first time roller skating

Thing 1, Kiley, Random Kid

Awww, BFFs.

Playing relay games

Because I can dress them up,
but can't take them anywhere . . .
that's E.J. and Cathy post-collision

E.J. was still laughing.
Cathy's about to yell, "SHUT UP!" and hit him.

(Actually, I don't remember details,
but it's fun to play Mystery Science Theater
with the captions)

Me and sweet Ellie

Your eyes are closed.

Argh. They're closed again!

Try this.


Back to our house for an amazing lasagna and garlic bread dinner
4 hours of unlimited Laser Tag with friends


The kids vs. The adults
(See above for picture of adult team)

Friendly's for ice cream and more food - (See above for picture again)
(Seriously, it's insane how much food dominates get togethers)
Stay up late talking and laughing.


Leisurely morning/breakfast at our house
Everyone went to Tae Kwon Do to watch class

My martial artists

Guests left from there (Sniff. Sniff.)

Most of the gang -
E.J. had left
and Mark's taking the picture

The kids

Me, Cathy, Kellie

I can hardly wait until they come again!!