Camping

Christina and I had a girls camping trip this weekend.20150802_111807We had started to camp near the river but there were a lot of people there so we drove to Hidden Valley Lake instead.

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Hidden Valley Lake.  It is beautiful.20150801_165121I had to take a pic because of the backpack.  She had her iron skillet in that thing!  Hahaha!

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Home sweet home for the night.20150802_090847

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My fire pit prep.  Not bad if I do say so myself.

I have no clue why, but I didn’t get any pictures of the supper I made for us.  Well, here’s what we had anyway:  Chili Cheese Fries (everyone laughed that we had an appetizer!), Hamburger Steak Hobo Meal with onions, green pepper and carrots, new potatoes, corn on the cob.  For dessert we did s’mores, because what is camping without s’mores?  Anyway, it was all good and we were so full afterward.

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Our fire.  The Husband was teasing us saying he wasn’t sure we’d be able to handle a fire.  Haha

We did have someone admire our fire…weird.  Haha

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Christina bought these packets called Funky Flames that colored the flames of our campfire.  It was blue and green at times.  I couldn’t get a great picture though.  In this one you can see it a little bit.

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This is me in my new sleeping bag!  LOL  It was a little chilly…

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For breakfast Christina fixed bacon, eggs and fried biscuits.  It was delicious!
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I had never had fried biscuits before and I can tell you this won’t be the last ones I have either!

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Our traditional selfie.  I look a fright!  haha

We always have such a great time together.  It was non stop, ridiculous laughter and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it!  She’s my Soul Sister.

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July 4th Weekend in Pigeon Forge

We took a long weekend for Independence Day and spent it in Pigeon Forge.  We didn’t have anything big planned really, we just wanted to spend some quality time together and relax.  We stayed Thursday through Sunday and it was wonderful.  A very much needed break for us all.

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I was packing and walking back and forth making sure I hadn’t forgotten anything and I found Rylan passed out.  Such. A. Little. Man.PhotoGrid_1435797964709

I had Zumba Wednesday night burned 440 calories.  When I got back home I still had a bunch of energy so I did another workout and burned 318 calories.  I’m doing my best to stick to this.  It’s hard but it makes me feel so much better!20150702_095802

Rylan slept with us Wednesday night.  Jason had to run into the office for a bit and I was up cleaning and loading the car so he was able to sleep in.  Milo (our Manx cat) loves to cuddle and took advantage of Rylan sleeping in.  He cuddled with him for hours.  He’s the sweetest cat!  Rylan just loves him!  And check out that bed hair!20150702_165358

We made a pit stop by Hobby Town and both boys got new toys.  Rylan loaded up on Hot Wheels and Jason got a new Quadcopter.PhotoGrid_1435958974208

When we got to our hotel room it was time to lounge around!  Let me tell ya, this kid knows how to lounge!  20150703_191002

Friday morning we headed out to Tanger Outlet.  I found some great deals at the Under Armor Outlet.  3 pairs of capri pants & 4 pairs of socks 40% off.  2 Tanks $12.95 each and a hair ties $4.19 for a pack of 6.  None of us were really in a shopping mood so after that we decided to go for lunch.  They now have a Panda Express in Pigeon Forge so we ate there.

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After lunch we weren’t sure what to get into so we just drove.  We finally decided on the Titanic exhibit they have.  I’m glad we did.  It was great!  Jason and I both thought it would be kind of cheesy but we weren’t sure.  It turned out great though.  We went to a Titanic exhibit in Vegas a few years ago (located in the MGM Grand) and we both thought this one was better.

They had a man there that had actually seen the Titanic wreckage in a submarine.  His name is Lowell Lytle and he has lived a very interesting life.  I loved listening to him.

He is a gifted storyteller and he has a great testimony too!

20150703_153045I made sure to work out while I was gone both on Friday and Saturday.  The gym didn’t have a recumbent bike so I had to settle for an elliptical.  They aren’t my favorite but the beat the “dreadmill” any day.  I also brought my own free weights and my Zumba soundtrack.

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As soon as you get these two together it as if Wrestlemania descends upon you!  haha  I love it! 20150704_124621

 

We ate at the Hard Rock Cafe and it was delicious as usual.  I had to get this picture of Rylan…it was too cute!  No, we don’t let hm put his feet on the table but I caught this pic and it was just too good.PhotoGrid_1436068389998

Saturday night we watched the fireworks.  We didn’t have to leave the hotel parking lot so that was nice.  Rylan was completely enamored by them!20150704_213805

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Sunday we came back home.  In the midst of packing I look over and see this little guy hanging out watching cartoons in Daddy’s suitcase!

We had a great time but as always it never lasts long enough.  I love spending time with my precious family.signature

Weekend Recap: VIR (Virginia International Raceway) and Clarksville, VA

This weekend we traveled to VIR (Virginia International Raceway) to watch the MotoAmerica Races.

It’s about a 3 and a half hour drive from our house.  It is a beautiful drive with lots of farms and limited cell phone service…or as I like to call it “mobile stress”.

On our way we stopped at Lover’s Leap just before dark and I took a few pictures.  They really don’t do it justice.

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Lover’s Leap at dusk.

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This kid was so ready for bed…

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Until he saw me taking pictures!

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Then I started getting some good funny faces from him!

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Quick family selfie while we all were snacking before the race.

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He’s such a ham!

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He loved running around.  VIR is definitely a great, family friendly track.

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Clarksville, VA – Old buildings downtown.

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You can see the lake (Kerr Reservoir “Buggs Island”) from downtown.  Jason comes down here a few times a year to fish but I had never been.

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I can’t wait to go back to shop.  I found some really good deals in an antique shop and I plan on going back when I can take our covered tailer to bring everything home.  I know if I find deals like I did this weekend I’ll need it!

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Really enjoyed watching Roger Hayden get 3rd in the first race and 2nd in the last race.

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He didn’t even make it off the VIR grounds before he was out!loversleapday

Lover’s Leap during the day.  I took this on our way home.  The view is spectacular.

We didn’t get home until probably around 11pm and I had somethings to do to get ready for this week.  I was able to get in bed around 12:30am so I feel okay today, probably better than I should.

It was a great trip and I can’t wait to do it again.

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10 Tips for Traveling by Yourself

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  1. Research where you are going.  You can usually find out the neighborhoods to avoid and which ones you don’t want to miss.  There is so much information out there.  Google and Tripadvisor are both good places to start your research.
  2. The Google Maps app is invaluable.  It helps to make you look like less of a tourist.  If you start pulling out a map every time you turn a corner or go a few blocks anyone watching could see that you don’t know where you are but if you are just looking at your phone for all they know you could have just gotten a text or were checking the weather.
  3. If you have a condition that requires medication make sure to have a couple of copies of your medication list along with your doctors information and other emergency contact information.  Put one in your wallet/purse and another in your luggage at your hotel.
  4. Leave a copy of your documentation (itinerary, reservations, tickets, confirmation numbers, passport, driver’s license, etc.) at home with someone you trust.
  5. Make sure to have a hard copy of phone numbers.  What if your phone goes dead and you have to buy a new one?  What if you lose it?  Anything can happen and it is nice to have those numbers handy.
  6. Have a plan for each day but don’t get upset if you can’t do it all.  Also, make sure to have some alternatives in case something doesn’t pan out.  Weather can change, tours can be canceled, there could be unscheduled construction in a building you might want to see.  You never know what will happen so it is nice to have a back up plan just in case.
  7. Skype or Face Time with loved ones.  This helps keep any homesickness at bay.
  8. Take an umbrella and (at least) a light jacket with you.  Weather can be unpredictable…why be miserable?
  9. Keep everything organized in a folder.  I use a 5 Star pocket and prong folder that is water resistant and very sturdy.  I put everything (reservation confirmations, booking numbers, tickets, etc.) in sheet protectors with extra sheet protectors in the back.  I keep it organized by putting everything in order as I come to it on my vacation.  I keep extra sheet protectors in the back to keep up with receipts, brochures, used tickets and small mementoes.
  10. Always be aware of your surroundings.  This is pretty much common sense but on occasion anyone can get distracted and not focus on what is going on around them.

 

I hope these tips help you if you’re traveling by yourself or even with someone!

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What’s in my carry on bag?

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As I’ve said before I try my best to only carry on when I fly.  This is what I put in my carry on/personal item which was a tote bag when I went to NYC.  These are pretty much my essentials for any flight.  I carried my luggage on as well but this post/video doesn’t cover what I packed in it.

I always make a list of everything I need to take with me.  I break it down into these categories: Toiletries, Comfort & Convenience, Documentation/Money(ID’s, Confirmation, Tickets, Reservation Info, Credit Cards I will take, etc.), Electronics & Entertainment, Makeup, Accessories, Clothes and finally Shoes.

For my carry on/personal item the only categories I look at are: Toiletries, Comfort & Convenience, Documentation/Money and Electronics & Entertainment.

Here’s my list:

Toiletries

  • 3-1-1 Bag
  • Wet Ones Wipes

 

Comfort & Convenience

  • Sunglasses
  • Lip Balm
  • Tissues
  • Glasses & Case
  • Contact Case (I can actually fit this in my glasses case)
  • Gum
  • Emergency Bag (First Aid Kit, Zyrtec, Ibuprofen, Benadryl, Toothpicks, Tums)

 

Documentation/Money

  • Travel Folder
  • Wallet
  • Passport

 

Electronics & Entertainment

  • Phone (Samsung Galaxy Note 4)
  • Laptop (I took my Samsung Chomebook, 11 inch)
  • Tablet (Nexus 7 with books, movies & television series loaded on it)
  • 2 Chargers, 1 for my Chromebook and 1 for my phone and it also charges my tablet
  • Ear Buds
  • Small Notebook
  • Journal
  • Pens
  • NYC Travel Book

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Tips for Packing a 3-1-1 Bag

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I almost always carry on everything when I fly.  I don’t like waiting at the carousel for my luggage, I don’t like my luggage out of sight, the fees can be ridiculous and I really hate having my luggage delayed for a few days.  Okay, well I guess delayed is better than completely lost but I still hate it.  Anyway, not matter what your reason is to not check a bag, if you carry on, chances are you have to have a 3-1-1 bag.

My 3-1-1 Bag Contents:

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Lotion
  • Toothpaste
  • Contact Solution
  • Deodorant
  • Face Soap
  • Toner
  • Moisturizer
  • Face Primer
  • Foundation

Use contact lens cases for foundation, primer, moisturizer, face wash, etc.  This has saved a bunch of space for me.  After you’re finished with the product you can wash out the case and then store it somewhere else in your luggage.  I’ve found that I don’t use nearly as much product per day as I thought I did.  Even if you have to use both sides of one case for a particular product that case takes up a lot less room than a traditional travel sized bottle.

If it comes in a wipe then consider using it.  Wipes do not have to go in your 3-1-1 bag.  For example, in the past I would normally bring hand sanitizer.  It isn’t something I use at home a lot but it can be really handy when you are away from home.  Now to save space I pick up a couple of packs of Wet Ones Antibacterial wipes.  They’re more versatile than just the sanitizer because not only can you wipe your hands but you can clean surfaces with them.  I also bring makeup removing wipes instead of eye makeup remover.  I usually buy these in a large pack but when I travel I use zip top snack sized bags and put what I need in there.  I’ve also seen where insect repellent wipes are made and they’re actually good.  They also make sunblock wipes but I have heard that they don’t work very well.

Look for travel or sample/trial sizes of things.  Most products have a travel size of each and a lot of the makeup counters have samples of things that are great for travel.  When I bought my Clinique 3 Step System I received travel size bottle of each.  Also, when I bought my Naked Eye Shadow Pallet it came with sample sizes of their eye primer.

If you can, invest in a TSA approved bag.  Usually they have better shape to them than a zip top bag so it is easier to fit and arrange things in them.  If you do use a zip top bag make sure it is good quality and I personally opt for the freezer type.  They are much more sturdy.

Remember that if you forget something chances are you will be able to pick it up wherever you are going.

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The North Face Women’s Recon Backpack

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After my trip to NYC I felt like I needed a good travel backpack.  I had taken a tote as my personal item on the plane and I had worn a crossbody through the city but I wasn’t really ecstatic about either choice.  With the tote I had my hands free but it pulled my body to one side and that was uncomfortable.  The crossbody was fine for a little while but then it began digging into my shoulder and my neck, especially when I added anything to it.  It rode up and rubbed and it was very uncomfortable by the last day.  It just won’t work for any more trips.

I have a good sized hiking pack by Osprey but it isn’t carryon friendly, not to mention who wants to take a hiking pack to the city?  You would really stand out and not in a good way.

I did some research and I found The North Face Women’s Recon Backpack.  It looked like it had good organization but wasn’t overly huge and I love the orange color.  I love that it has a place for my laptop and tablet as well as a place for water bottles.  I think this will work out well no matter where I want to travel.

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NYC Part 4 – April 6th – Coming Home

I woke up around 4;30AM.  I got ready and packed the remaining things and waited for my driver to call.  At 5:30AM he called to let me know he was downstairs.

When I arrived at the airport I went through security and found a McDonalds so I could get some oatmeal and a smoothie.  I had to walk a ways to my gate but it was easy to find.  I have to say, I was surprised at how nice the employees and TSA agents were at JFK.  That certainly doesn’t happen at a lot of airports.  (Well, except the small regional airport closest to my home.  They are awesome!  I’ve always had a good experience there!  Even when I’m “randomly selected” for further inspection…haha)

My first flight was very crowded but for the most part very smooth.  I had an aisle seat so no pictures of the clouds or city.

When I got to Atlanta I had to find my gate because it wasn’t on my ticket.  It was pretty close to the gate I came in on so no big deal.  I had a layover of a couple of hours.  I mostly just read.  This flight was, for the most part, full but it didn’t seem to be as crowded as the last.  I watched episodes of Blue Bloods all the way home.  (I think Tom Selleck was my first crush ever, btw.  Gotta love that stache.)   I didn’t even know we were that close until we touched down.

I was so happy to see this face!  (And I was happy to see Jason too!!!)

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I think it was hard for him to believe I was really back!  LOL  He would smile and then he would just sit and stare at me!

We had dinner at Mellow Mushroom and he stayed just as close to me as he could.  He was constantly touching me and wanting me to color with him.  “Memmy” he would say.  So sweet!

I had a great time but there is not better feeling than coming home!

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NYC Part 3 – April 5th

Sunday  I woke up and ate a granola bar and drank some water for breakfast.

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I was feeling so ready to see as much as I could!

I caught a cab to The American Museum of Natural History.

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This place is so big!  I could only do the first two floors.  My legs were still tired from the day before and after two floors of this and the amount of walking I still wanted to do I knew I had better stop there.

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There’s something creepy behind me, isn’t there?

 

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OMG…these bears though!

I would go through and post a bunch of other pictures of the museum but they just don’t do the exhibits justice.  Just go visit.  Seriously.  It will be better than any pictures anyone has ever taken there.  The dioramas are so good!  All of the exhibits are top notch.  If you’re a museum freak like me it is worth your time.  The next time I go to NYC I’ll probably go back just so I can see the two levels I had to miss.

After the museum I was starving but I didn’t want to eat too much.  I used the Central Park West exit (the same one I came in) and there were food trucks everywhere.  I picked one and grabbed a hot dog and a doctor pepper.  It was delicious!

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I ate on the go venturing just a little way into Central Park then back onto the sidewalk along Central Park West.

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I couldn’t resist a Central Park Selfie!

I saw some beautiful buildings and had fun people watching.

I also saw Trump International.

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This was the best picture I could get of it….c’est la vie…

There were horses and carriages everywhere doing Central Park carriage rides.

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I headed west in search of 5th Avenue.

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I found the Apple Store.

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And FAO Schwarz.

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I loved this camel at FAO!!!  I wish now I had gotten him for Rylan.

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Does anyone remember this giant keyboard from the movie “Big”?  I so wanted to play it but my legs were tired…and there was a line…aaaannnndddd it looked like only kids were doing it, so you know.

I ended up buying Rylan a Lego Race Car but failed to get a picture of it.  (Where’s my brain at y’all?)

I checked out Tiffany’s, Coach, Michael Kors, etc.  I didn’t find anything I wanted to buy but kept looking.  I guess I wasn’t really in a shopping mood.  I did make it to Madison Avenue and Park Avenue.  I looked around and then I decided to find Texas de Brazil (I had reservations for 4pm) and there was a candy store next door (Dylan’s Candy Bar).  Of course I had to go in and see what I could find.  I ended up with some chocolate covered espresso beans and several bags of loose candy.  I made it to my reservation on time.  I didn’t get any pictures of the food or the restaurant though.  I was so tired by this point I was ready to eat, relax and rest my mind.  I had smoked salmon, small salad with their delicious ranch dressing, filet, garlic mashed potatoes and fried bananas.  It was so good!  I sat and ate and people watched.

After leaving there I thought I might walk back over to 5th Avenue but I was just too tired.  I got probably halfway there and hailed a cab to go back to the hotel.

When I got there I started getting ready for my early flight.  I laid out everything I needed for in the morning.  I packed everything else that wasn’t needed and had it all organized and ready to go.  I double checked that I had my alarm set and I took a shower.  Then I piled up in the king sized bed, Skyped with Jason and Rylan for a while and then read until the premier of Mad Men.

Speaking of Mad Men…

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These were on the cabs everywhere.  I had to take a pic and send it to the Husband.

Oh, and a picture of Madison Avenue of course!

20150405_144334Jason and I texted while Mad Men was on (talking about the show) and then I was pretty much asleep right after it went off.

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NYC Part 2 – April 4th – My Birthday!

I woke up mostly refreshed and definitely ready to start my day!20150404_075714

I had breakfast via room service Saturday morning.  Orange juice, hot chocolate, Special K, banana and mini blueberry muffins.

20150404_090644How beautiful is this?

One World Trade Center “Freedom Tower” is one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen.  I hope to go to the observation deck next year.  It wasn’t open yet this time.

I visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum first thing Saturday morning.  I knew going to NYC that this would take priority over anything else I may want to see or do.  This place was everything that I had hoped it would be.  I know I’m like many Americans (especially my generation) this was one of the most impactful things that has ever happened in my lifetime.  It changed the way I looked at the world, at life, at other people.  This memorial was exactly what it should have been.  I loved every part of it.  I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much in public.  People were so respectful.  It was quiet, somber but at the same time hopeful.

20150404_091115South Tower Reflecting Pool

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Some of the names that are along the edge of the pool.

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When you first enter this is the picture that you see.  It was taken from Brooklyn just before the attack.  Look at what a beautiful day it was.  It is sad to think about how many lives were destroyed just shortly after this picture was taken.  In this moment though, they were alive and well.

20150404_093158 As you walk down the first hallway, there are quotes projected on the columns and walls and there are recordings of people telling their stories of death, survival, being left behind.  It is so touching.

20150404_093853 They had projected missing posters on empty walls and columns.  They changed over and over.

20150404_094105The Survivor Staircase

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Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on the September Morning

Spencer Finch (American, b. 1962)
Watercolor on paper

It is composed of 2,983 individual watercolors representing the artist’s recollection of the sky on September 11, 2001.

To read more about Spencer Finch and Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on the September Morning  you can click HERE and HERE.

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Located on the same wall as the Spencer Finch piece is this plaque.  When I read this I had to read again just to make sure that what I read the first time was correct.  How heartbreaking.

There were two sections that didn’t permit photography (and I definitely understand why).

One was the room that was entitled In Memoriam.  It had all the pictures of every victim along the outside walls with certain personal effects along the inner wall.  In the center was a dimly lit room that had had a revolving name projected on wall, someone spoke the name, pictures were shown and if there was someone willing to speak about the person that was played too.  Some were sad stories of people learning of the loss, some were funny stories and others just talked about the type of person they were and how they would be missed.  I must have sat in here listening to the stories for 30 to 45 minutes.  I just couldn’t seem to get up and walk away.  It felt as though you really were getting to know them.

The other section was about the attacks (1993 and 2001).  This is such a sad

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People still leave flowers stuck into names along the reflecting pools.  Even with all the years that have passed the pain is still fresh here.  Hope and empathy are too.

I walked a little ways away from the Memorial/Museum and came upon the WTC Tribute Center.  This place has all kinds of first hand accounts of that day.  It has personal effects of people and personal stories.  I was able to hear a first hand account of survival from a woman named Maria.  Maria worked for the Port Authority which manages the WTC.  Her office was located there and she survived.  I won’t get into her story because it isn’t mine, it is hers, but I will tell you that her story was very powerful and I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to hear it.

20150404_134545After leaving the WTC Tribute Center I was on a mission for some food.  I had really worked up an appetite from all the walking (and crying like a baby).  I spotted a Burger King on the corner but I didn’t make it that far.  I smelled pizza and made a beeline for it.  I walked into Pronto Pizza and the smell was divine!  Their showcase with all their different pizzas made my mouth water and my brain go into overdrive with the choices available.  I went for good ol’ pepperoni though.  I was so hungry I didn’t feel like I had time to narrow down from all the choices.  I grabbed a coke too and headed back to my hotel room to put my feet up, rest and eat that wonderful pizza!  I ate every last fatty, greasy, delicious and bad for me bite!  It was so worth it!

After I rested I got a cab to the J.P. Morgan Library & Museum in Midtown.

20150404_151120A Certain Slant of Light

Spencer Finch (American, b. 1962)

To read more about Spencer Finch and A Certain Slant of Light click HERE.  20150404_151448J.P. Morgan’s portrait over the fireplace in the study.

20150404_151453Mr. Morgan’s desk in his study.

20150404_151506Stained glass in the study.

20150404_151929I could have spent forever in here!

20150404_152548The Gutenberg Bible at The Morgan.

20150404_152554I thought the details of the Gutenberg Bible were very interesting so I made sure to take a picture.

20150404_194813I got back to the hotel and ordered room service for supper.  I was just so exhausted from the day there was no way I could go out to eat.  I ordered their California Turkey BLT and a side salad.  It was so good!

I was able to Skype with Jason and Rylan before bed so that helped keep me from missing them to bad.  Rylan kept giving me kisses through the phone/camera.  It was so sweet!

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