Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A Decade of Married Life

Today is our 10 year wedding anniversary.  Wow!  This is a milestone worth celebrating and we did that New York style a couple months ago.  Time is funny; that trip feels like so long ago but 10 years of marriage is a blur.  Today is a regular day with our whole family participating in our church's VBS program and I'll probably do some laundry and household stuff.  Tonight though we will enjoy a date night out.

I have taken some time to look through our wedding photos and because digital photography was just coming out, most of our pictures are just on hard copy.  I thought for record keeping though, I would scan some in and share them to remember the day and our youthful love.

My Dad walking me down the isle - I was so nervous and excited
Matthew's reaction to seeing me
Love is also funny; I felt I knew and loved this guy enough to commit my life to him, but boy have we grown and changed and fallen in to a more mature and deep love.  It's crazy that you can know a person so well, even all their flaws and shortcomings and still think they are the best person in the whole world; "to be known and still be loved is one of the supreme goals of marriage" R.C. Sproul.  I truly couldn't imagine doing life with anyone else and I am blessed beyond measure to have such a devoted, wise and wonderful man to call my children's father and my husband.  We are thick in the kid stage of life right now; finding time to connect is not always easy and sometimes we are just doing our own thing, coming and going, but still our goals are for a common cause; to raise our family to glorify God and seek His will in all we do.  I feel like I was so naive 10 years ago; I didn't really know what I was getting myself into, I just knew I wanted to be with this guy and never loose him.  But the best part is that God knew exactly what we were in for and saw fit to bring us together.
We were blessed to have 5 grandparents attend our wedding - this is both our parents and Oma Bekkering who has since passed on
We had 2 sweet nieces for flower-girls, Jenna 2 1/2 and Kelsy 1 1/2
My wonderful Mom made my dress and it was perfect
I love our vows and have them framed in our bedroom; today is a good day to reflect on them...

We look so young!
I, Stephanie,
take you, Matthew,
to be my wedded husband;
and I do
promise and covenant
before God,
with His gracious help and
according to His ordinance,
to be your
loving and faithful wife;
for better, for worse,
in plenty and in want,
in joy and in sorrow,
in sickness and in health,
to love, cherish and obey,
as long as God
gives us life on this earth;
I thank God
for making you for me and
for what he has done
in our lives.

I think every milestone in life brings one to a place of reflection and most can say there have been ups and downs along the way.  This is true for us as well and I praise the Lord for His faithfulness to us, for being our foundation and strength in all things. 

I love the story of how we met.  We were both in our second year of University but at separate schools.  Matt was playing basketball for the University of Lethbridge and I was pursuing a Communications degree at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC.  We had a mutual friend that I was living in dorms with that Matt talked to and said, you'll have to hook me up with one of your friends when I come out to play TWU.  Well, she picked me and showed us pictures of each other and told me he was tall.  My interest was piqued and we started chatting on MSN messenger.  A few emails and phone calls later and we were smitten.  We didn't meet in person until that Christmas (2002) and when we did it was so natural.  We did the long distance thing for the remainder of the year until I decided to transfer back to Alberta, initially to a Broadcasting program at SAIT in Calgary, but my heart was in Lethbridge, so for the Spring 2004 semester I enrolled at UofL.  Still, across town was too far to travel at the end of the day, so in January (after booking a hall to make sure a summer wedding was possible), Matthew proposed in his parent's basement with flower petals and candles.  Our wedding day, 6 months later, was a whirlwind but beautiful and special nonetheless.  We both continued our studies and I graduated with a BA in Social Sciences in Fall 2005 and after having 2 babies, Matthew graduated with a BA and BEd in 2008.  He obtained a job teaching Gr 6 at the school he went to his whole life and God has provided for us while I stay home with the kiddos.

What more can I say?  10 years is hard to sum up, but we have 4 kids, a full schedule, a committed love and faith in God to see us through.

With a Barrel and a Heap of Wedded Bliss,


Saturday, 3 May 2014

10 Year Anniversary Trip to New York City

For our upcoming 10 year anniversary, we wanted to take a "second honeymoon".  Not being pregnant or nursing for the first time in many years provided the freedom, and parents willing to take our 4 rambunctious darling children for a week provided the opportunity.  We went to Cuba for our honeymoon, which was a neat experience.  But after having spent a couple days in Chicago surrounding a family wedding in Indiana a couple years ago, I thought that a big city with lots to see and do appealed to me more than a beach (I usually escape the heat, but there is something to be said for relaxing while on vacation).  I chose New York as a top place I wanted to see and booked flights in January using Airmiles.  This was good for saving money, but our flight schedule was a little wonky (flying to Vancouver on the way home before Calgary).  We decided to fly in to LaGuardia as the times worked better.  Some have said because it's a smaller airport than JFK that it is more prone to delays, but as we had nice weather, there were no delays at all.  The airport is in Queens (North East of Manhattan).  We took our first (and only) taxi straight to our apartment as we wanted to get settled before figuring out the city and the subway system.  It was neat to drive over the Triborough Bridge and through the Bronx and see the city from North to South until we arrived at our apartment in Mid Town.  The taxi cost $47 including tip.
This map of Manhattan may help to identify areas I am describing if you are following that closely ~ the red dot is our apartment
Outside of our apartment 441 W 56 St ~ Fire escape looking out to a courtyard at the back of the building ~ walking down 56 St to our apartment under the scaffolding that is everywhere in the city ~ walking up the first of 2 flights of stairs in a quiet building
Our home away from home for the week ~ a great central location to regroup in the middle of the day, relax at night and enjoy breakfast and coffee in the morning
Now as for accommodations, I had chosen to do a rental by owner through Airbnb.  I spent quite a bit of time researching the thousands of listings in Manhattan and decided on one that was a central location, reasonable price and looked nice from the pictures.  The only thing is that it was a new listing and hadn't been reviewed, so there was a bit of unknown.  I wasn't fully convinced that it was going to work out until we arrived and opened the door with the keys that had been mailed to us.  It was perfect, a 2 flight walk up on a quiet street with a comfortable queen sized bed, wifi, cable TV, a coffee maker and a fire escape!  I have a thing for fire escapes as an iconic New York apartment thing.  (Side note - I may use the word iconic a lot).  I figured we saved over $500 this way versus the price of a hotel, which was at best $50 more a night, plus 14% hotel tax, not to mention not having to tip the service people.  It felt like we had our own New York living experience for a week.   

I was excited that there were signs of spring in New York as we had snow on and off all April in Alberta.  We traveled during Easter break, which fell at the end of April this year and were just in time for tulips and blossoms which are my favourites.  The weather was a comfortable 12-18 degrees Celsius all week, some days being more cloudy and windy and only one late afternoon rainfall.  

Anyway, we first went in search of the nearest grocery store, which happened to be a Whole Foods in Columbus Circle. 
Looking out from the Time Warner Center to Columbus Circle ~ Our grocery finds at Whole Foods including "Uncle Matt's" OJ ~ 2 different angles of Columbus Circle.
Columbus Circle was only 2 blocks East and 4 blocks North (the distance between the East and West Avenues being longer than the North to South Streets).  It was a main thorough fare with the South West entrance to Central Park and also our closest Subway station.  Inside the Time Warner Center was high end shopping and a Whole Foods in the basement.  It was 6:00 on Sunday evening and the busiest grocery store I've ever been in.  I can't imagine that being my regular shopping experience.  We managed to find some basic breakfast items and snack foods along with some take out dinner.  On the way back we stopped at the CVS pharmacy for some "treat" cereal, coffee, beer and water (we weren't sure if the tap water was good so we erred on the safe side and bought a jug daily).  We ended the day by relaxing in the apartment and planning the next day.

For our first day, we decided to explore Central Manhattan on foot and see how far we could get.  We had tickets for Letterman that afternoon so we set out first to Broadway, which leads south to Times Square.  It was neat to see, but a bit disappointing for me as it was full of construction (as were a lot of things in the city).  We poked through a few stores and Matt found some $30 Converse his size. 
Matt putting on his new shoes ~ Inside St. Thomas Church on 5th Avenue (more construction).
We also came across an old church in the middle of the city called St. Thomas Church, a very ornate Catholic church which was full of stained glass and religious imagery.  It too was under construction but open to the public.  There were a lot of things I hoped to see but didn't have a set plan, we would just run in to things, take a picture and move on.  Things were very close together and within reasonable walking distance, although I can't over emphasize the importance of good walking shoes. 

We walked East from Times Square until we found Fifth Avenue.  Of course there were a lot of nice stores and we did walk through Saks 5th Avenue and Tiffany's. I bought a lip gloss at Saks, nothing at Tiffany's (someday).  Those stores in particular were iconic New York for me, a lot of other stores have come to Canada so have lost a bit of the appeal of exclusivity.  As far as shopping went, there weren't great sales or unique finds, so I didn't bring home an extra suitcase.  And that's ok too because this trip was more about the sites and experience than the pursuit of a great deal. 
Saks Fifth Avenue  ~ Tiffany & Co (this one was on Wall Street but we did walk through the one on Fifth Avenue)
We then walked in one store on Fifth Avenue and out the other end was Rockefeller Center, which was on our list.  We grabbed lunch in a nice cafeteria called Cucina & Co. and took it outside to the plaza to sit. If you don't know 30 Rock is the home of NBC studios and the Top of the Rock is a tourist hot spot to see the city (recommended over the Empire State building as you can see the Empire State from it and it's cheaper).  It is supposed to be great to see it at sunset to get the day and night perspective.  We went to go up later in the week at 7:00 but found out that they assign viewing times and the next time was 10:10, so we would have to come back.  That and the $60 ride up was a bit of a turn off, so we didn't do it and it's ok because we had seen the city from a number of vantage points already.  However, if there was a chance that I could be one of these people that got photo-bombed by Jimmy Fallon and Cameron Diaz, I would have paid the $60. 
Matt standing in front of 30 Rock ~ Rockefeller Center ~ Eating lunch in Rockefeller Plaza, decorated for Easter ~ Me in front of the Rockefeller Plaza ice rink
We had arranged for tickets to see a taping of the Late Show with David Letterman before we came and were told to come at 2:00 to the Ed Sullivan Theater, and to block off until 5:30 for the taping.  Of course my first choice was to see the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, but tickets were unavailable even 6 weeks before.  But it was still a chance to see Letterman before he retires and get the experience of a TV show taping.  So we got there on time and there was already a line up around the block, which made us start to question if we would get in.  The line went fast and we were given "pre-seat" tickets because Matt is tall.  We had to come back at 3:05 to be given a speech about laughing and clapping and then were seated in the back corner for "leg room".  It was kind of a shaft, I understand so people's view wasn't blocked, but we could still see the stage pretty well.  Before long the announcer, Alan Kalter came out to talk to us more about what to do during the show.  Then the band came out and played for a while.  Then David came out and spoke to the audience for a few minutes; he was funny and good on his feet.  He even used one of the audience questions in his bit throughout the show, which was neat.  The guests were Courtney Cox, Jimmy Walker, and Christina Perri.  It was entertaining and we laughed even when we didn't think it was funny because that is why we were there.  It was also neat to watch the show later that night on TV and compare the real from the aired (pretty much exact with a bit of material cut for time). 
Outside the Ed Sullivan Theater near Times Square on Broadway ~ our ticket to the Letterman show
That evening I had made reservations for after the show at a restaurant close by which I had got a Groupon for.  I bought 4 Groupons for this trip to save some money and narrow down our restaurant selection.  I didn't want to over buy and be stuck trying to fit them all in the week, but enough that we could have a couple of nicer dinners for 50% savings.  The first one was called Stecchino and it was a small Italian joint that came with 2 drinks each, an appetizer to share and an entree each.  We both enjoyed a nice meal and our bill came to $110.  I had paid $35 for the Groupon and all we paid that night was $20 for the tax and tip.

Me enjoying one of the pretty planters outside a building
~ when we posted this picture on Facebook,
Ella was kissing the phone (melt my heart).
So far in our New York experience a few things have jumped out at me.  First of all, we couldn't help but notice the garbage collection system.  They put their garbage (or what may have been recycling, but in garbage bags) in piles on the sidewalks.  It is quite unsightly and seems like a big city would have a better system, although I suppose they don't have back alleys and the space it takes.  There is also a lot more litter on the streets than we are used to, in that respect the city seemed dirtier than other big cities I have been to.  Every so often when walking down the street you would get a whiff of an unpleasant smell wafting up from the sewer.  And I have already mentioned the construction.  When walking I would say to Matt, lets try to pick a street that isn't lined with scaffolding so we have something to look at.  However, I loved that there were flowers planted in little beds allover the sidewalks and street boulevards.  I felt safe in the city, day and night as every store, parking garage and building entrance has  a security guard.  The city is well set up for tourists, very service oriented and easy to get around. 
a unique way of parking cars ~ A taste of home, the only Tim Horton's we saw and we weren't home sick enough to go in
On Tuesday we decided to start as far South as the Subway would take us.  We bought a week Metrocard for $31 each (each ride is $2.75 otherwise and we definitely got our money's worth as we only used the Subway and walked for the rest of the week).  We got off at the Staten Island Ferry at 10:15 and the next boat came at 10:30.  This was our plan to see the harbor for free as the Ferry goes past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty and is 25 minutes one way.  The paid Harbor Tours let you off at each Island but we weren't really interested in that.  It was cloudy that day but still could see the Downtown Manhattan skyline and New Jersey, which is a stones throw away from Manhattan.  Once we arrived in Staten Island (which is one of the 5 burrows of NYC but there was nothing we wanted to do there), we grabbed a coffee and got on the 11:30 Ferry back.  While waiting at the Ferry terminal it was so busy we definitely felt like one in a sea of people, insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but knowing that we were loved and missed back home. 
Downtown Manhattan skyline with the new One World Trade Center ~ Lady Liberty ~ Matt on the Ferry deck ~ Ellis Island in the middle ~ Brooklyn Bridge with Manhattan Bridge in the back
 After docking we walked a little North to Wall Street where we first came across a beautiful cemetery with blooming magnolia trees.  We then found out that it was Trinity Church, the first church in New York.
view of Trinity Church from Wall Street ~ Inside the church with beautiful Easter arrangements ~ the Cemetery with trees in bloom amongst the concrete jungle
 We then found (more like picked from the numerous) a food truck for lunch and had a quick and cheap lunch for only $10.  These Sabrett trucks were everywhere, but we were told later in the week that Grays Papaya were the best hot dogs, although we never came across one.
One of the hundreds of food carts in the city, I had my first NY hotdog which was pretty average and Matt had a yummy chicken souvlaki and rice
Wall Street at lunch time was busy, but like everywhere in NYC, it was hard to tell who was a local and who was a tourist.  We heard a lot of European accents over the week.  Other people seemed like they were trying to get to and from their jobs/homes. I usually figured if they were alone that they lived there, just doing their thing and the sites were part of their everyday.
New York Stock Exchange building with the flags, barricades so we couldn't peak in ~ Statue of George Washington
We then meandered North, always looking up and seeing neat buildings but not knowing what they all were.  I took a lot of building pictures and flower pictures but tried to limit this blog to the exceptional ones.  We were interested to see the site of the World Trade Center, but there wasn't much to see as it was covered by temporary construction walls.  There was a line to get tickets to take a tour and see the memorial fountain but we chose not to wait.
Top left: Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts ~ Empire State Building ~ One World Trade Center ~ City Hall
A very ornate and beautiful municipal building ~ men playing chess in the park I thought was iconic New York
Near City Hall Park there was a food truck that Matt had heard about called Wafels & Dinges so we shared one covered in strawberries, chocolate and whipped cream ~ yeah, it was pretty great.  A lot of our trip revolves around food, partly because you have to eat and partly because I love to eat and we found some pretty unique and yummy things to fill our tummies.
Wafels & Dinges famous food truck - mmmm

We had to head back via Subway at this point to give ourselves enough time for our evening plans.  I grabbed a quick rest and then we had dinner reservations for 5 because we were going to the theater at 7.  I made reservations at a restaurant that I had a Groupon for.  This was supposed to be the "nicest" of our meals.  We had to walk through the light rain in our dress clothes to get there.  It was called Re Sette.  It was a very narrow restaurant as many are, so our seating arrangement wasn't ideal.  We listened to a dysfunctional family birthday dinner in which 2 grown daughters were bickering like kids; it was mildly entertaining but sad too.  Our meals were good but unfortunately I read the Groupon wrong and we ordered drinks instead of the wine that was supposed to come with it, so we had to pay more.  Not to mention a poor waiter, it wasn't our best experience.  Not everything is sunshine and roses on holiday. But we moved on to the nearby Imperial Theater without too much time to spare.  Our seats were in the Orchestra section and they were cozy with little leg room, but we could see and hear perfectly.  Les Miserables was our first Broadway show and it was a great choice.  Sure there were others that interested us and I had been torn, but we pre-booked these tickets as it is a new production and in high demand.  I had been looking into sales through TheaterMania, as some shows had 20% off.  Les Mis had no sale tickets however, so it was a splurge.  It was so well done and a powerful experience, although I have nothing to compare it to, I laughed and cried and Matt loved it too.
Dressed up for our Broadway date ~ Les Miz at the Imperial Theater
On Wednesday we had no pre booked plans so the day was wide open.  This was one of my favourite days, although it was cool and windy, we covered a lot of ground, just pounding the pavement and seeing so much.  Our trip was a good balance of scheduled and spontaneous.  I had things listed I wanted to see and do, but only a few things set in stone and by the end we had seen and done all the things on my list and more.  

We took the Subway South to what we thought was China Town.  We got off on a street that seemed to have some Chinese influence, but was kinda scuzzy.  We looked at our map and figured that the cool China Town was a little more south but we were really close to Little Italy so we decided to skip China Town.  It seems every area has a cool shopping street.  We walked past so many big name stores and a lot of neat boutiques too.  In walking around this area we ran into Lombardi's Pizza, which was on my list.  It is the first pizza place in North America.  It was 11:15 and it opened at 11:30 so we waited a few minutes.  We were just going to grab a slice to take out but they didn't do that.  Their Take-Out was at the back so we got to see the old Coal Oven which is Grandfathered in (they can't be built new but if they are existing originals they can still be used).  We ordered a small pepperoni and they suggested we eat in as it gets soggy in the box.  The manager was really informative and told us that the original restaurant was above a subway and the coal oven fell into the subway.  This location is an old bakery around the corner.  The great grandson is still part owner.  It was a big small pizza and so delicious, with fresh toppings and very authentic. Another place that was recommended to have great pizza is called Joe's Pizza, but we never made it there either.
Lombardi's Pizza ~ the first pizza place in North America with an original Coal Oven ~ delicious!
We asked where was a good place in Little Italy to get a cannoli and they recommended Ferrara's Bakery just around the corner, which is the first espresso place in North America.  It was a very classy, beautiful restaurant with a stunning display of pastries.  I had a cannoli, because I had never had one and it was wonderful, and Matt had a lemon meringue tart. 
Entrance to Little Italy ~ Ferrara's Bakery ~ Pastry display case ~ Our treat, Cannoli and Lemon Meringue tart with espresso and cappuccino
We walked from Little Italy a bit West to Soho and found a nice shopping street in which we window shopped for a while.  We found a scholastic store which was fun, like a giant Book Fair.  Then we took the subway a bit North to Greenwich Village.

This was enjoyable as we used the guide book that we brought (highly recommend Frommer's Guide book) and followed a neighborhood walking tour of Greenwich Village.  It was very relaxed here and not too busy with such beautiful, historical buildings.
Greco Roman style Row houses, now used as NYU administration offices ~ reminds me of the Cosby show

A pretty street with an old theatre and other landmarks that were on the guide

Does this building look familiar?  It is the facade they used for the TV show "Friends".  I didn't catch on right away,  I thought the man who pointed it out said something about it being a "French" building.  When Matt clarified, I was excited to find this iconic site. 
From Greenwhich Village we kept hoofing it until we got to another recommended place called The High Line, which is in the Meat Packing district along the West coast of Manhattan.  It is an old rail line that has been converted into a walkway and park space.  It was just in bloom and was very pretty and a neat perspective to see the city.
The High Line
From there we walked down to Chelsea Market which is an old Nabisco factory turned into a posh flee market and food/restaurant market.  Ok, at this point I was sooo tired and my feet hurt, but the day was still young.  We decided to head back up the Subway and got off at Madison Square Garden, which was neat but nothing much to see from the concourse.  We went to the famous Macy's which is 11 stories and America's largest department store.  It was a bit overwhelming, so first we had to eat.  We found a place to get a burger in the cellar of the store.  From there we split up and I went to all the levels, looked but did not buy a thing.  Eventually all department stores started to blur including Bloomingdales, which I found had a nice washroom, but all the same brand name stuff for not so great prices.  Oh well, still neat to be there.

Thursday we decided to redeem another Groupon, but this one was not for food, it was for bike rentals in Central Park.  I knew I was excited to do this and the experience met my expectations.  It was a lovely day.  The bike rental shop was right near the central entrance to the park.  We had the bikes for 2 hours and they said the bike path would only take an hour, so we could get off and walk around some of the paths and take pictures.  It was a great way to see the park, which is so iconic and lovely in bloom.  Also to see the surrounding city as it goes as far North as Harlem, which we didn't go to except to bike through.  Except for one incline that had me huffing and puffing, it was a relaxing ride. It was also a good way to identify the spot that we had to come back to later in the afternoon for our prearranged photo shoot.  
Biking through Central Park ~ left: me posing in the Shakespeare Gardens ~ right: Matt biking past the Museum Mile
top left: Jackie O Reservoir with Beatles' Dakota building in the background ~ top middle: the Pond in Central Park ~ top right: classic horse drawn carriage ($50 for the first 20 minutes) ~ bottom: Bethesda Fountain
Tavern on the Green was just being re-opened and there was a press conference in which we heard a Senator say that New York welcomes 60 million tourist a year ~ add that to the 3 million people that live in Manhattan and you could double the population at any given time.
After our bike ride we grabbed some lunch from a row of food trucks that we saw lined up on Broadway.  They change regularly so the one Matt had seen early in the week wasn't there, but he had yummy Korean beef and I had Polish kielbasa and pierogis. 
left: a classic firehall ~ middle: Love Art ~ right: Food truck on Broadway
After going back to the apartment for a bit of a rest, we got ready for our photoshoot.  I had read about Flytographer in a magazine as a young Canadian entrepreneurial company.  The concept appealed to me as I love photos as memories and I knew that we wouldn't get good pictures together while there with no one but strangers to take them.  This was also something I would do anyway for our 10 year anniversary, so it's everything in one package.  We met Kimberly in Central Park at the Bow Bridge.  She gave us some direction and she was easy to get comfortable with, even in a park full of people.  It was hard to imagine what the pictures would look like behind us but we trusted her eye.  We ended up having fun in the park and getting awesome pictures as a result.  Not only do I look at them and feel the love we share, but I see the sites in the background that are reminders of our trip.
photography by Kimberly ~ the entire album can be viewed here
We went back to the apartment to change and back on the town for more sight seeing.  We first went to Grand Central Station which I knew would be cool, but it was amazing.  It is so grand and beautiful in the central part with nice hallways going to the subway branching off.  There are nice shops and restaurants in the hallways too - by far the nicest as far as train stations go.  The art on the ceiling is constellations, but it was hard to get a good picture to capture how grand it was.  We just stood there for a while taking it in as people bustled around us.
Grand Central Station
We then went to find the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue, which I have always thought special from the movie Serendipity.  It is a romantic chick flick, and one I have watched a number of times with some of my top New York dream spots from there.  It was very elegant and we toured around the lobby for a bit, even the bathroom was fancy.
Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue
We used our last Groupon to get a burger and a beer at the Long Room.  It was a busy after-work joint and we were really hungry, but we had great service and good food.  This was the point that we were going to go to the Top of the Rock but moved on to our final destination for dessert at Serendipity 3 (another movie association).  We had to wait for a bit as it is very popular; the first boutique coffee shop.  It is tacky inside with famous Tiffany lampshades and other gaudy decor.  They are famous for their frozen hot chocolate, which was big, but as they had a per person minimum, Matt also ordered a hot fudge sundae.  Both were good but I liked the sundae better.  Apparently when our kids saw the picture we posted on Facebook, they got really excited.
Dessert at Serendipity 3
Another full day, it's been a whirlwind, hard to even remember what we did in a day without looking at pictures.

Friday was looking to be a more relaxing day.  We headed out to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the morning.  It was a recommended $25 per person admission, but up to us what to give.  We hummed and hawed for a minute and then Matt handed the lady $40.  The people behind us paid $20 for the two of them, so then we spent a few minutes feeling like cheap Dutchmen and thinking we paid too much.  Oh well, in the end we felt it was worth it.
top left: inside the Met gallery ~ fresh blossoms in the lobby ~ outside the Metropolitan Museum ~ There are many museums in New York, many on Museum Mile ~ middle: Arms and Armour

We started in the European Art section.  You could spend hours if not days in this place.  It was all very interesting, but we both really liked the Dutch painters the best, Rembrandt and van Gogh among others.  I didn't really care for a lot of the Renaissance portraits and religious paintings, but the scenic ones were beautiful.  I was impressed with how real some paintings looked and how light and fresh the colours looked in paintings that are hundreds of years old.  I am no art buff, but it was special to see some of these paintings in real life.  We went through the Arms and Armour wing and the American wing before we were hungry and things started to look blurry.  We spent 2 and a half hours in there. 
This collage won't do this art justice but these are some of my favourites including a Rembrandt self portrait, Vosmaer, van Gogh, Seurat, Picasso, and Tiffany
After grabbing a hotdog and pretzel as a "snack" to tide us over, we decided to head out in pursuit of Katz's Deli.  I had intended to do this on Saturday before we left, but I am so glad we didn't as not only would we have been pushing it for time, it would have a line up around the block on a weekend.  We got off the subway in Soho and walked a few blocks East until we found it.  It is a popular place and it was packed.  We were given a ticket and got sent to the meat cutting line to order.  It was like herding cattle.  A lady behind us was a regular and said she goes once a month and had been coming since she was 15 when the prices were $5 a sandwich.  Now for $18 we split a Reuben.  It was plenty big with lots of pickles.  Our meat cutter gave us a sample of both corned beef and pastrami and we both preferred the bit drier corned beef, but both were great.  I can honestly say this is the best sandwich I have ever had and my mouth waters just thinking about it.  A must if you go to NYC.
We then moved on to find the Flatiron building, which I had wanted to see but it was not close to anything else we had done so far. We had the time and so we went a bit North of Union Square.  I had kept seeing buildings this week that I thought were it, but Matt kept saying no, they were too small and in the wrong part of town, even if they were the right shape.  When I saw it for real, I understood the impact of it.  It is where Broadway and 5th Ave intersect and it was an architectural first.  It was a neat part of town and we walked around the shops for a bit, finding a Fishes Eddy which was a cool dishes store.  I enjoyed that more than most clothes stores so far. 
The Flatiron building and entrance to the subway where Broadway and 5th Ave intersect
Friday evening we had tickets to see our first NBA game in Brooklyn.  It was playoffs and the Brooklyn Nets were hosting the Toronto Raptors in Game 3 of the first round.  We got there early to walk around the stadium and watch warm ups.  It was cool see the court and players in real life and our seats weren't too bad, we could see the details.  We had some food there and slowly other people started coming, but the stands were never packed.  As we were cheering for Toronto we didn't get a warm reception from the Brooklyn fans surrounding us and although I enjoyed the game and it was close, I felt on edge and eager to leave Brooklyn. 
In Brooklyn for our first NBA game ~ Brooklyn Nets vs Toronto Raptors in playoffs
 On Saturday morning we had done everything on my list, but one thing had been on my mind and so we took the Subway to the Brooklyn Bridge so that we could walk across it.  It only took 20 minutes and it provided a nice vantage point to see the city.  The skyline is broken in to 2 distinct scenes - Downtown with the World Trade Center and Midtown with the Empire State building. 
Brooklyn Bridge ~ top left: Downtown skyline ~ bottom right: Midtown skyline ~ bottom left: we graffiti-ed the bridge (also made our mark in a Cuban bar in 2004)
We then headed back on the subway without much time to spare before having to leave for the airport.  However, we did have time to grab lunch at one place we almost forgot about, which was 2 blocks from our apartment.  The famous Original Soup Man (from the Seinfeld episode about the Soup Nazi).  We have often referred to Matt's Dad in this way as he makes a particular soup most Sundays.  So we bought him a mug. I had the lobster bisque and it was delicious soup and the perfect last meal in NYC. 
The Original Soup Man ~ Dad with his souvenir mug
We took the subway to the airport as Matt had a pretty good handle on things by now using an app on his phone.  We had to take a bus once we were in Queens, but it took us straight to the airport and we were on time with no problems flying out.  From leaving the apartment to arriving in Okotoks, we had 15 hours of travel time.  I don't mind traveling though, as I read 2 Globe and Mails cover to cover which is more news than I have read in years and watched 2 movies, the travel time is sort of down time.  Except going through security, which is a pain especially when you have to do it twice in a one way trip. 
my attempt at an artsy picture with the moving subway blurred ~ a rare empty Subway car
 I really enjoyed our vacation as a time to getaway from the routine and just be together experiencing something different.  Although it was a whirlwind and we packed our week full, looking back I have some great memories and stories to share.  I am often asked, would I do it again?  The answer is yes and no; yes if I hadn't done it I would do it over the same way; no in that there is so much else in this world I want to see.  If life brings me back there I would go (and eat at Katz's).  I do have a bit of a travel bug now and would love to take my kids places as they get older, but for now I have this experience in my back pocket and will cherish it.  It was just the right amount of time to get away, but I did miss my kiddies and my dear Mom and sister can go back to work to have a break.  We did everything I hoped and planned to do and more.  We had leisurely mornings with breakfast in and relatively early nights as we didn't stay out late, but might have watched TV too late.  We spent about $100 per day on food as a couple.  Overall it wasn't as cheap as an all-inclusive trip, but we saved in someways and know we could have spent a lot more.  I've said it before but Spring was the ideal time to go as in the summer it is way too hot to walk around and winter would be too cold to be outside as much as we were.  I would recommend this trip and hope you found this review thorough if not interesting.

With a Bushel and a Peck of New York Memories,