December 23, 2012

taking a pit stop in pittsburgh.

     On our road trip to Michigan, Jason and I stopped in Pittsburgh. It's always fun traveling on the road, especially this trip as we've been cooped up in New York with Jason finishing his Finals and me finishing my student teaching. Jason did so good in his first semester at NYU— receiving mostly A's!  
Going up the funicular
    After 6 hours on the road, we arrived in Pittsburgh. We took a funicular up the Duquesne Lift to see the city from Mount Washington. Just a little bit of history— Mount Washington was named after George Washington who was sent by the British in the French and Indian War to survey the land at this specific viewpoint. Washington determined that the land, which would later become Pittsburgh, was valuable and would become the centerpiece of the French and Indian War. 
Mount Washington viewpoint
     Pittsburgh is also known as the city of bridges as its 446 bridges beat out Venice for the city with the most bridges in the world. The weather had been fairly rainy and overcast, but the skyline gradually lit up and became a gorgeous view. It was nice to stretch our legs after our long road trip. We walked along Grandview Avenue where there were fancy restaurants and houses overlooking the city below. It was fun walking along the streets decorated with Christmas lights and Steelers flags.
Point of View
     After one last look of the amazing view, we headed down the funicular and eventually found our hotel on Neville Island. Pittsburgh was definitely a fun stop and in less than 5 hours of driving later, we finally arrived at my home in White Lake, Michigan.
A gorgeous view of Pittsburgh
     My house was made up in Christmas decorations with 3 Christmas trees including a special one in our room. Mom decorated our tree with ornaments from mine and Jason’s childhoods. You could tell she put a lot of time into our visit home. We are so excited to spend the holidays with our family!
Our personal Christmas tree

December 20, 2012

22 hugs goodbye.

Bronxville Elementary
     December 13th was my very last day of student teaching and what a bittersweet day it was with having to say goodbye. Of course, I’m excited to be officially done with school, but I will miss those kids tremendously.
I'm going to miss my kids
     As the day began, some of my students handed me gift bags and flowers. I received hug after hug, group squeeze after group squeeze. At one point in the day, the students all gathered around me while they said their goodbyes with gifts and their sweet words. They started out by saying “We’ll miss you” and “Don’t go!” and then trickled into things such as, “You make the world a brighter place.” This is when I started to get teary-eyed.
Friendship Bracelets
     I received cute homemade gifts from some of my girls, along with Starbucks cards, lotion, and flowers. I also received a fabulous gift from Ms. Williams, my cooperating teacher, she gave me a bag with my name embroidered on it, filled with a few picture books, teaching strategies books, and pens. I about died. For my final gift, my kids put together a scrapbook of letters they each wrote me— I saved these for reading when I got home so I wouldn’t bust out crying.
My big yellow bag
     We then had a nice goodbye Breakfast with muffins and juice. All of my girls wanted me to sit by them. We played the game of Guess Who, where someone covers your eyes and you have to guess who it is. I loved this simple game because after a while, the majority of the students were joining in and covering my eyes.
     When school was over, I was bombarded with another round of hugs. I had never felt so loved in my entire life. I now understand, more than ever, why teaching is the most rewarding job. I love each of those kids and I will never forget a single one of them. I will cherish my book of letters forever and read them over and over again, no matter how much it makes me cry. I plan on visiting the kids at school when I can; I simply cannot stay away from them for too long.
All my gifts
     The next day, Jason and I decided to celebrate by going into the city to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree and see all the Christmas windows by the department stores. It was a busy day of walking and lots of people, but we had a lot of fun.
     We started at Macy’s, which is apparently the world’s largest department store and managed to make our way up the 10 floors. Jason loved riding on the wooden escalators and we both had fun writing letters to Santa.
Legos and American Girls
     We continued to the Rockefeller Plaza and had fun watching people skate. Jason went into the Lego store and revisited his childhood. His favorite toys as a kid were Legos and for one Christmas his Dad even made him a Lego table. They had a mini Lego replica of the Rockefeller Center that was pretty impresive. I also had a chance to relieve my childhood going to an American Girls Store.
Rockefeller Plaza
     It was fun walking on 5th Ave and getting in the Christmas spirit with all the beautiful window displays from the department store's. Below are some of our favorite window displays from Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdale's and Jason and I are very excited to leave for Michigan this weekend to spend Christmas with my parents!
Jason's favorite display from Bergdorf Goodman
My favorite display: another Bergdorf Goodman
Cirque du Soleil window from Bloomingdale's

November 27, 2012

walking off the turkey in nyc.

Van Gogh's A Wheatfield with Cypresses
     For this Thanksgiving, our friend Chase came down from Dartmouth to stay with us for the weekend. Jason drove to Boston to pick him up from the South Station Bus Terminal and they didn’t come home until late at night because of holiday traffic. We both haven’t seen Chase since our wedding, so it was fun hearing Jason and Chase catch up and it was nice to finally host someone inside our home.

     Thursday we drove to Morristown, New Jersey to have Thanksgiving dinner with Jason’s cousin Seth and his wife Lindsay. Seth and Lindsay moved around the same time we did to the east coast so it was fun to swap stories of Hurricane Sandy and the differences of living here opposed to the West. It was also a lot of fun meeting Cohen for the first time and playing with Addy who has some hilarious things to say. All and all, it was perfect spending Thanksgiving with family and we hope to see the Gonzales Family more often.
Numero uno on Jason's Christmas list
     Saturday Chase, Jason, and I went into the city. We planned to do some shopping on 5th avenue (being Black Friday) but it was so incredibly crowded in the stores. We did end up going into Barney’s and looking at clothes that we could never afford. Jason had fun trying on a Russian hat made from silver fox fur that was thousands of dollars.  
Pink Christmas tree in the Plaza Hotel
     We ate awesome Mexican food at Burrito Box. We have struggled to find a good Mexican restaurant in New York (since Costa Vida doesn’t exist on the east coast) but Burrito Box definitely did the job with free chips and salsa.
Burrito Box
A walk through Central Park
     We had a nice stroll through Central Park. The park was less busy and a perfect transition to our destination of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art or just simply the MET. Apparently there is a recommended admission of $25 per person, but you can pay whatever you want to be admitted. Jason paid only $10 dollars for the both of us! Jason and I have been to a couple of art museums: Detroit Institute of Arts Museum (DIA) and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA),  but this art museum definitely had the most well known paintings as well as an extensive exhibit of Andy Warhol’s work. Jason and I don’t necessarily like modern art, but it’s an amusing break from a constant flow of serious paintings and sculptures.
So many amazing paintings
Hall of Greek and Roman art
     Some of the amazing art we enjoyed: Van Gogh’s Self Portrait with Straw Hat, Irises, and Wheat Field with Cypresses; Monet’s Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies and The Houses of Parliament; George Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte; and Picasso’s The Blind Man’s Meal. It was also fun looking at the Roman and Grecian art sculptures including one familiarly face of a Lord Voldemort? Well, at least I thought it was him from the broken off nose.
     After the Museum, we again walked down 5th Avenue in search of a Barnes and Noble to regroup and go book shopping. Chase bought us Scrabble as a Christmas gift and for having him in our home. We than went on a journey to east village to see an artsy movie at City Cinemas Village East Cinema.
Snowflake on 5th Ave
     It was a fun day of navigating our way through Manhattan that involved lots of trains, subways, walking, and asking of directions. By the time we got back to Grand Central it was already 11 o’clock. And our dinner was an entrĂ©e of bacon and cheese potato skins from the restaurant Fridays.
No holiday complete without a game of Scrabble
     Saturday morning we said goodbye to Chase. And spent the rest of the weekend recovering from a busy few days. Now my attention turns to finishing school and officially graduating from BYUI as Jason’s turns to writing his research papers and getting a leg up on studying for Finals. We both have so much to be thankful for this year starting with an amazingly smooth transition from living in the small town of Rexburg, ID to living on the verge of the biggest city in the world.
Goodbye Chase

November 21, 2012

a day for history.

In front of the Liberty Bell
      Jase and I were ready for another slightly bigger adventure than we’ve been having lately, so we decided to go to Philadelphia. I have never been to Philly, so naturally, I was excited to go somewhere new and especially to learn about our nation’s history.

      After only a two hour drive, we made our way to my number one thing to do on our trip: the Liberty Bell. My expectations for tourist attractions tend to be higher than they should be and they always turn out differently than I originally visualize. Just like when I was in London and saw that Big Ben wasn’t just a clock tower, but was attached to the Palace of Westminster; the Liberty Bell was inside a building (not outside, like I expected) and it was roped off so I couldn’t even touch it! Jason still touched it and who knows if that was allowed. I still loved the bell and was really happy I was able to see it and learn so much about it. Did you know that the Liberty Bell weighs 2080 pounds? Its crack is .5 inches wide and 24.5 inches long? And did you know that because of the size of the crack, if rung, it wouldn’t make a sound?
I would honestly never guess that the Liberty Bell weighs 2080 pounds
He's just a kid
      Next, we walked by Independence Hall and took some pictures in front of the building where both the Declaration of Independence was adopted and the Constitution was debated, drafted, and signed. It is definitely surreal to stand in a square you knew the founding fathers had walked. Close by, we went to Christ Church Burial Ground to see Benjamin Franklin’s grave. It felt a little silly having to pay two dollars a person to go inside the cemetery, but we decided it was worth it. We visited Franklin’s grave and laid a penny on the stone: “A penny saved is a penny earned.” We proceeded to walk around the cemetery and find the 4 other Declaration of Independence signers. The cemetery itself was very beautiful with different kinds of headstones that had been eroded away by time.
Independence Hall
At Benjamin Franklin's grave site
      We started to get hungry, so Jason led us to a place he had been to before called Reading Terminal Market. He told me that you can get any type of food there that you want and that none of the places there were your typical fast food places. The minute I stepped inside, I wanted to step back out. I wish we at least chosen another door to walk through so I could avoid all the fishy smells. Apparently there was a marathon the next day in the city, so our eating place was packed from wall to wall. I can get pretty high anxiety when I’m in such a crowded place so I was not happy. We roamed around for a while until we came to the first place that looked appetizing to me: a French Creperie. Eventually we found an Italian booth, which made us both happy: pizza for Jason and pasta for Danielle. I can’t even tell you how long we waited for a table to open for us to sit down and eat. I felt bad glaring at people while they ate to be sure to grab their table as soon as they started to move. The food tasted absolutely delicious! Jason kept saying how Reading Terminal is one of the only places he knew where it was practical to eat an Italian meal with a French dessert. We will definitely be back, but hopefully when it is less crowded.
The food was great!
      We took a long walk to JFK Plaza to work off our food. We walked through Philadelphia’s City Hall topped off with a 37 foot statue of William Penn. Just before reaching JFK Plaza to snap a picture with the iconic LOVE sign, we found a building whose ground was covered in giant, classic game piece statues including: Monopoly, Sorry, Checkers, Dominos, BINGO and Chess. Of course, we took pictures with our favorites.
Yes, I am on a BINGO chip
Giant game pieces
   To continue our walk, we strolled down Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (which is modeled after the Champs-Elysees) passed Swann Memorial Fountain, and ended at the Philadelphia Museum of Art that is featured in the famous Rocky movie training montage. These are the same steps that Sylvester Stallone runs to the top of and pumps his fists in the air. I’ll tell you right now, we did not run up those stairs like Rocky. We simply walked up and enjoyed the view of Philadelphia. We also took pictures next to the Rocky statue because Jason insisted.
Swann Memorial Fountain
Ask me if I've ever seen this movie. . .
      After our long trek back to Independence Square, we took one final trip to Elfreth’s Alley, the nation’s oldest residential street. I absolutely loved this narrow, cobblestone street lined with tiny colonial homes. I especially took a liking to the ones with red doors with letter slots. It’s hard to imagine people still live there. We had fun trying to imagine how much the two homes that were for sale would cost.
Elfreth's Alley
       After a long, history-filled day, Jase and I were ready to head home. I really look forward to going back someday and learning more about the history of our country. I feel it is much easier to retain history when you can see it in person, than what the pages of a book try to teach you.

November 5, 2012

how hurricane sandy stole halloween.

Suzie Bishop & Sam Shakusky
Here's a recap of what Jason and I have been up to for the Halloween season— from picking out pumpkins to Hurricane Sandy and making our Halloween costumes from the movie Moonrise Kingdom— we've been busy, but having fun.

October 29, 2012

pumpkin art project.

The whole gang
     In celebration of fall, we took a trip to Yorktown Heights to a cider mill. We went with our friends Kim and Ryan and another couple, Mark and Kaitlyn. It was such a beautiful day – the sun was shining, the leaves were changing colors, and the bees were buzzing. Actually, the bees were taking a swim in our apple cider.
Ripe and ready to have fun
Our bee friend takin a sip dip
     One of my favorite things to do in the fall is to get cider and doughnuts. And if you try to give them to me any other time during the year, it’s simply not the same. We, of course, had to buy some apple cider to take home with us.
Cider and donuts
     After roaming around a little, we walked to the pumpkin patch. The pumpkins were a little picked over and those that were left were mostly squished, rotting, completely broken, or all of the above. We ended up just getting two smaller pumpkins to use to decorate our house.
Choosing pumpkins
The girls
The smaller pumpkins won 
     We had a lot of fun hanging out with Ryan and Kim again and getting to know Mark and Kaitlyn. Now, Jason and I are looking forward to decorating our pumpkins. . .

      Jason and I tried something different this year with our pumpkins inspired by Pinterest. Using a lighter, we melted a pack of crayons all over our pumpkins. After taking off the crayon wrappers and breaking each crayon in half, Jason and I used two different methods. While Jason laid his crayons on top and melted the ends so the colors would crawl down the sides of the pumpkin, I held the melting crayons over the pumpkin and let the colors drip. Two hours and three lighters later, we finished and were very happy with the results. We both enjoyed straying from the traditional carving of the jack-o-lantern, even if it looks like a child did it.
He takes his work very seriously