July 02, 2010

NYC 6 - Laundry / NBC Tour

Slept in a bit today. We're doing laundry today at the coin laundry about 50yds from Mark's apt. In the meantime, I took the kids to Starbucks for our morning ritual. Two vanilla beans and a Strawberries and cream later (payment for carrying my backpack around over the previous days), we set off through Flushing's busiest district looking for something "different"

We found a Chinese candy store that had barrels of unusual candies. Some looked like sushi, some had sesame seeds on it, still others were hidden behind non-discript wrappers. I filled up a couple bags with a handful of each and proceeded to checkout. To my amazement, my bill was only $2. Wow, this same stuff in Disney would cost me $40 or so. In fact, every time I buy something at these Chinese food stores I'm just shocked at how cheap things are.

After laundry, we pack it up and take the show to the Marquee in Times Sqaure....our new home for the next few days. Nana & Papa Joe will meet us there as this is their first trip to NYC.

Once settled, we head for 30 Rock. The walk is fun because Nana & Joe are like kids in a candy store....every little thing just lights them up and they stop to take pictures. We decide to do the NBC tour w/ top of the rock. Now NYC is a big town, but I ran into some friends from Orlando while waiting in line for our tour to start. In fact, they were on our same tour (queue the Twilight Zone music).

Touring a place your familiar with on TV is exciting. My dad used to study his daily shows to recreate a mental model of the sets in relation to other places. As an avid viewer of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallen", I totally get this concept. Every time Jimmy has a guest, I try to figure out how big the stage is, what angle is the desk from the audience, where does Higgins stand, How big is the backstage? From time to time you get shots were they walk through the studio to the street or race a guest around the backstage areas....so I felt like I had a pretty good mental map of the studio.

After touring Dr. Ozz's set, we finally went to Fallen's set......It's sooo little. Totally awesome though. We also got to go backstage since they aren't filming this week (holiday weekend) and I got to see almost it all: The greenroom, backstage area, kiosk desk, Jimmy's elevator, the stage door ect. Woot.

The SNL set was also cool. The last time I took the tour we shuffled past quickly and looked at the set from behind a pane of glass. This time, we got to go in and sit in the stadium seats while they explained the show mechanics.....woot again.

The top of the Rock was great. There was a local weather crew on top doing the local weather report (we were in the background during their segment). From the Rock, we also saw a huge plume of smoke with 20 story flames coming up from someplace in Brooklyn. Found out later it was a 3 alarm blaze in a furniture/cabinet warehouse.

We ate under the rock at the mall. It's funny how many of us started out at the expensive cafe, but quickly abandon it for good ol' Subway ($5 footlongs ftw). Also noticed a homeless guy stealing food from both locations as the staff tried to catch him.

It's time to get a MetroCard for Joe/Bev. Again, this is their first subway ride, so there was lots of pomp and photos. I even gave them a quick lesson on how to hold their cards as they go through the turnstiles so they don't bottleneck the system.

Subway took us to Herald Square. We spent an hour or so in Macys, then walked up Broadway back to our rooms in Times Square.

Looking forward to tomorrow.......


July 01, 2010

NYC 5 - Times Square / West Side Story

Saints be praised.....the temperature has dropped about 20 degrees and it's soooo nice out. We put a fan in Mark's window and had a great night's sleep.

My foursquare rights have finally been restored and I'm starting to get some badge action. I still on the lookout for great restaurants, fashion stores, bakeries, pizza places, etc....

We started in Times Square and jumped in the TKTS line. We were looking at Billy Elliot / West Side Story / Memphis / Lend Me a Tenor. The winner with 6 seats available next each other......West Side Story.

(this was what I wrote on a piece of confetti that will be dropped during the New Years celebration)

With tickets in hand we had 45 mins to eat lunch so we ducked into the Times Square Sabarro for some pizza. Now this Sabarro looks like a little hole in the wall with 5 or 6 tables. There's barley enough room to stand in line to order a pizza, yet there are 4 guys yelling at the line to move move move: "Thank you next order", "Salads & Sides over here", "Step around to line 1", etc.....

Now where to sit? CJ and I head down the stairs to see what the seating situation was below. AMAZING! There was a huge seating area down there will plenty of space/seats. Just goes to show again how NYC surprises me with it's use of space.

West Side Story was a little different than the movie (which we watched only 2 weeks ago). The songs were a little out of order which was a little weird. Even stranger was an added scene where a 11/12 yr boy comes out and sings with Tony/Maria as if he's their future child (at least I "think" thats what he was supposed to be). The show also was bilingual which means that some of dialogue was entirely in Spanish. On this point I have mixed feelings: On one hand, I like the artsy aspect and know the story so it wasn't a big deal to have no idea what they were saying. On the other hand....there were no subtitles and it really would have been annoying had I NOT known the story. My opinion: it should have been in English.

Ate dinner at the OliveGarden in Times Square. The food was amazing (capellini pomodoro) and S picked a wine to mark the occasion. Finally, CJ's non-stop lobby for Olive Garden has finally been put to rest.

After dinner we toured around Times Square a bit. We got some free kisses at Hershey after M turned a crank that made the chocolate bucket overflow onto the floor....woot. Talked to some mounted cops on the street and took their pics for our photo scavenger hunt. The kids are getting so many experiences that most don't get to ever do. On the other hand, they also get to watch the street vendor sell Obama Condoms and some sort of "performance art" where some mostly naked dudes danced around a topless lady to paint her clothes on. Comes with the territory I guess.



June 30, 2010

NYC 4 - Coney Island

NYC 4 - Coney Island

After another hot night, we roused the troops and headed out to Starbucks. There's a guy who spends all day there and he recognizes/talks to us each day. Today's destination is Coney Island....Hot Dog eatings Mecca.

The train ride out there was fun. My iPad was enough to keep the kids and I occupied for the long commute. As we picked up passengers, we could tell that this was a "beach bound" train: SunHats, coolers, Towels, etc. Looks like this is where New Yorkers go for a beach day.

Although I was impressed with the train station, R was disgusted by the bathroom facilities. Outside the station, there is was....the one....the only....Nathan's Original Hot Dogs. This is where Joey Chestnut will compete to defend his title of 68 dogs only a few days from now. We bellied up to the bar and ordered, what else....Hot Dogs.

They were good. So good, I almost ordered another...... only 66 off the lead for a championship run.

The rest of Coney Island was a step back in time. The boardwalk was alive and well and a welcome change from the hotels that line our beaches in FL. There was plenty to see and do. Carnival rides, concessions, Shoot the Freak with a paintball gun.....this place had it all. We decided to ride the "Wonder Wheel" which is a ferris wheel, but half the gondolas are on a track that swings as it travels around the inside of the wheel as it goes around...very unique.

We also took a ride on the Cyclone....the grand-daddy of all coasters. The beach itself was nice and wide with excellent sand. We even found a model doing a photo-shoot on the boardwalk in some sort of black goth outfit (always fun to watch a production crew at work).

The ride back to Manhattan was quick and easy. We ended up in Herald Square just to look around. My foursquare account had been locked up for most of the day and I was getting frustrated that I wouldn't get my NY-specific badges. We took a quick tour through the Manhattan Mall and then a Starbucks break (drinks where only $2 since this was our 2nd Starbucks of the day). Decided to head over the Central Park to walk around a bit.

The temp is starting to cool, so our walk through the south side of Central Park was pleasant. There was an ensemble performing at the Columbus Circle entrance which sorta set the mood. CJ and M like the rocks....they a like some sort of mountain goat children. We walked all the way to the north side of the Mall before we decided to double back down to the Apple Store. Even with extremely sore feet, this group is fun to be with and remains positive.

Dinner tonight is at Marks': Grilled Cheese Sandwiches....yum

Overall a very eventful day. I got lots of badges, lots of sun, and lots of pictures :-)


June 29, 2010

NYC 3 - Day at the Museum

The forecast for today calls for HOT and Rainy. The indoor plan is to do the Museum of Natural History. After a morning Starbucks run, we hit the 7 Train to Times Square and switch to the local uptown to 81st street. Since the Museum has a subway entrance, we didn't even have to walk out in the heat at all.

We start off with the Planetarium show. Mark and I saw a show a few years back about the creation of Earth. Today's show was all about Stars (and our Sun)....another A+ presentation.

We didn't just walk the museum.....we read the exhibits and learned about all sorts of things: Meteorites, Minerals, Prehistoric beast, mammals, cultures, etc. M & CJ are great: No complaining, No getting lost....just little sponges that are as interested in the exhibits as the adults are (awesome).

Food at the museum was a bit pricey. The banana that costs .05 at Marks corner store sells for $1.20 in the food court. My bottled coke was almost $4....ouch. Oh well, at least it's food.

As the museum closed, we decided to find food. We need up at Chevy's Tex Mex. I think we've broken 4square as all of our checkins tell us to "Slow down and relax" (even though it's been 12+hours since our last checkin that counted). Um, how else are we supposed to get the NYC specific badges if we can't check into anything.

After diner, we strolled over to Times Square. This place is always electric and today was no different. We saw Ali Contie filming some sort of low production music video, we took pictures with a black gentleman in a "joker" costume, we called Mom/Dad and waved to them on the webcams, M & I played a piano in the middle of the square for tips, hahaha

CJ is really lobbying hard to eat at Olive Garden (an ongoing joke). We will probably end up here when we stay at the Marquee in a few night, but for today, it's just a scouting visit.

Not sure where we'll end up tomorrow, but I'm having a blast traveling with Kauffam. R is a great organizer, S finds cool things, M has a great attitude, CJ is hilarious, and Mark brings the NY perspective. I think we're ready for Amazing Race Family Edition!!!!


June 28, 2010

NYC 2 - Corona Park/ NYsci

Last night was HOT HOT HOT. Mark's air conditioner says it's 60 degrees, but it's way hotter. To add insult to injury, NYC is having a heat wave. Bottom line....it feels like those AC-less summers in Indiana.

Chef Markus woke up bright and early to prepare "World Famous Blueberry Pancakes". I must admit, they're much better than I expected. In fact, they would have been perfect "Pete's" pancakes had they not had blueberries in them.

After a quick stop for a morning Starbucks, we headed over to Corona Park. It's Soccer season (football to the rest of the world) and every field is full of athletes who think they're playing in the world cup. Even the hollowed out water fountain was used as a make-shift soccer field. After walking up to the world's fair globe and the "Spaceships" from Men In Black, we headed over to Arthur Ash Stadium.

We found a cop to take a picture with so we can all cross that off our lists now. Officer Rooney also let us know that we were walking toward a part of the park with a rally for thousands of "recovering" drug addicts. Ummmm, we changed course for the Science Musuem instead.

As we approached the museum, we saw people hopping out of their cars and running to the door....apparently trying to get in by 11am. We quickly found out why: Admission was free before 11 on Sundays in June. With only seconds left we made the cut....Yahoooo.

The science museum was great. Tons to do, touch, explore.

As evening fell, we walked through the spanish neighborhoods to the local train stop. With vigilant eyes, we scurried passed improvised food carts, people "hanging" out, and a guy with blood dripping from his scalp & nose. EMT & police arrived but the guy wasn't talking.... our best guess is that he was drunk and fell on the subway steps.

Diner was at Fo Fun Chinese Restaurant. Hightlights included my egg drop soup that fed all 6 of us, local shady characters that would pass by the front window, and a projects across the street where little kids were dangling their feet our the window in a effort to cool off.

Tomorrow is going to be another scorcher with a big chance of rain. Perhaps another museum.



June 26, 2010

NYC Trip - Day 1

It's finally here...the big NYC trip of 2010. Although I was up around 3am (couldn't sleep due to prior afternoon nap), we were up and at 'em and off to the airport in good spirits. Rhonda has decreed that today is "Red,White,&Blue Day" so that means patriotic garb all around. Actually, people thought we were cheering for the US to win their World Cup soccer match that was to take place this afternoon.

OMG, R passed a Starbucks stop at the airport to eat lunch instead. Even so, we were nearly the last to board the plane (It's a wonder R didn't have a heart attack). The plane was nice with lots of TV channels/music to tune into provided you brought your own headphones. What a coincidence, the Kauffman's were prepared for this. We not only enjoyed the flight in our own TV worlds, but we were even able to play a few rounds of multiplayer iPad Airport with the aid of our bluetooth connections.

As we approached NYC, the city sights came into view. Statue...Check, downtown Manhattan....Check, Western Beef....Check, Citi Field.....Check. Mark didn't make it to the airport so we picked up a van to take us to Mark's.

Upon arrival, we were pleasantly surprised to find that Mark had organized his belongings in anticipation of our visit. We immediately went to the new BestBuy/BJ's Wholesale (woot). Picked up some foods, air mattress, TV antenna, fan, etc... so we should be all set for the week.

For evening meal, Mark lead us to Joe's Bestburger. It's kinda like 5guys burgers, but they have something WAY better...Chocolate Soda. Not just that (oh no no no), but also Strawberry Soda!!! Even the Snozberries tasted like Snozberries (yum). After dinner, we took a trip to visit the Queens Library. Overall a very impressive building with a focus on a multi-language collection. We picked up books and movies of all different languages to see how much we could "figure out". What we quickly discovered is that we are pretty lost without English print.

The evening was capped by a visit to the Chinese Grocery store. Crates of dried fish were just "out" with people flipping through the stacks. There appeared to be a section of rotten food (complete with a fly disposal system) for people that want to buy that sorta thing. In the meat section, I found some "silky chicken" that looked like regular chicken, but it was DARK BLUE. What the heck could have possibly happened to that chicken to make it's skin appear like it had mold growing all over it.

OK, we broke down and bought some durian frozen pops. When Mark found out that I was going to try it, he started throwing out caution warnings. Basically, I'm expecting a life changing experience when I sample the durian pops (based solely on it's infamy).

We're back at Mark's now. His WoW raid was called so we're watching "How to train your dragon" on his big screen TV.

I'm glad I brought my iPad/keyboard as it seems to work well for blogging. Now I'm going to try to post this entry with a new iPad app that I downloaded.

Peace out for now...

Big Penguin

January 02, 2010

New Years Resolutions

- Get more Exercise
- Play less Warcraft (I'm using my playtime as a reward for exercise)
- Drink more water (break my caffeine)
- Read more books
- Smile more
- Organize my photos (this could take years)
- Write more "thank yous" (let people know I appreciate them)
- Fold my laundry before it gets too wrinkly

....what's on your resolution list?

August 04, 2008

Here we go again....

Dear voter,
Would you support a law that makes school districts spend at least 65% of their budgets in the classroom?...... Then vote YES for it when you see it on the ballot this fall.

Would you support a law that takes money away from public schools so the state can put kids that fail the FCAT exam into private schools?........Then vote YES for the SAME LAW!!!

.....FL judge ruled today that this resolution is going to be on the Fall ballot. The problem is that voters usually vote with good intentions, but they fail to read the entire resolution on the ballot. Of course you're going to vote for $$ for classrooms, but the fact is that almost all districts already spend more that 65% of their budgets in classrooms......so that shouldn't even be an issue. The crime is that only a handful of people will know that this is really about school vouchers.

This ranks up there with:
- Property Tax Amendment
- High Speed Rail
- Class Size Reduction

Grrrrrrrrr :-(

June 27, 2008

In Loving Memory of ______

I'm not sure I like driving behind cars with decals in the back window that pay homage to the dead. I'm talking about "In Loving Memory" decals.... those little stickers that stare you in the face at red lights and make you do a quick year calculation to figure out how old the person lived to. Am I supposed to remember the deceased? Am I supposed to feel sorry for them? If not, why put it in my face. It makes more sense to me that these messages should be on the INSIDE of the car so that family members can look at them everyday. What do you think?

June 23, 2008

Fame and Fortune....

OK, it's not exactly the paparazzi, but I was surprised to discover that I've been photographed from high above. This picture from Microsoft Birdseye shows my school at dismissal time... and there I am at my gate duty (looks like yellow shirt day).