Wednesday, September 30, 2015

#MarriedMaitlands - ELEVEN months!

Fall is here!  And we celebrated by vacationing all over California.  Our month was jam packed with fun before we left for our west coast adventure, but we survived it all and had a great (early) anniversary trip together.  If you just can't wait to see some of the awesome photos from our adventure, check out my instagram (@alhadventures or #maitlandsgowest)!

Date Nights

-Sweet Fleakend at LIC Food & Flea

-LIC Brewery Tour
(Read all about it here.)

-Saturday Night Live: The Exhibition


Whorl Inside A Loop
(Review here.)
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 6 out of 5 stars
(Phenomenal doesn't even scratch the surface on this one!)

Amazing Grace!
(Review here.)
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The Great White Hype
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


-Spent a weekend in Albany for an Old Hollywood themed wedding.

-Began our One Year Anniversary Trip to California.
We visited the zoo in San Diego, watched the Chargers pull out a victory, hiked to the Hollywood Sign, caught the 49ers for some MNF, spent time in Monterey, drove the beautiful Hwy 1 on a mission to catch Bixby Bridge by sunset, walked the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco, and toured Alcatraz.

Notable Events

-Chris started his new job!!!  We celebrated his first day at Water's Edge!

-Hosted Mom and Dad over Labor Day Weekend.
We explored Long Island City, watched baseball and ate ice cream, visited the 9/11 museum, and saw The Lion King on broadway!

Andrea :)

Monday, September 28, 2015

#collaboreads: Back to School

I've had a bit of a stockpile of to-read books on my kindle for some time.  When I saw the category for this month's #collaboreads I was sure I could find something on there to fit the bill.  Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty did the trick.  The overarching story throughout the book revolves around the turn of events that took place at the parent's trivia night at Pirriwee Public.  Side stories involving domestic violence, being new in town, the struggles of blended family life, and a rare case of bullying in the new kindergarten class keep this book moving at lightening speed.

What part of the book could you NOT get enough of?

The stories of each main character - Jane, Celeste, and Madeline - kept me turning the pages quickly.  Each lady was dealing with a different demon, and I became SO involved in trying to figure out how things were going to end for them.  The knowledge that someone dies at trivia night kept me curious as well.  I was constantly envisioning it being one person and then quickly shifting to being certain it was someone else.  Definitely a page turner!

How did you relate to/care for the characters?
What's your thought on the plot line and twists and turns?

As I mentioned, each character has an interesting story.  There are several twists and turns with some being a tad more interesting than others depending on which characters you enjoyed most.  I was fascinated by Celeste as domestic violence is something that I really struggle to understand.  The author does a fabulous job of truly bringing you into Celeste's world.  I also enjoyed Jane's twists and turns (one of which I did predict - regarding Tom!).  Her story was also compelling.  I had the most difficultly identifying with Madeline.  She seemed extremely self-absorbed making it hard for me to feel her pain in most circumstances.

What other books are like this one? If none, did it remind you of a particular TV or movie with it's themes and characters? Does it serendipitous-ly line-up with things going on in your life or the news right now? 

This was my first Liane Moriarty book.  I enjoyed the style where she began with a portion of the end and then backtracked to explain how things arrived at that point.  It was written in third person (which I also enjoyed) but the chapters alternated between the characters' stories giving you glimpses into each life in small doses.  The content wasn't anything like The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, but the back and forth nature of the storytelling matched closely.  The book does hit on topics like domestic violence and bullying which have recently been hot topics in the news.

You know you judged this book by the cover. What did you think of it? 
How did it relate to the contents of the novel? And the font and layout of the pages? 

I read this one on my kindle, but I did flip through it in a book store and noticed how different it looked.  The main difference was the manner in which direct quotes from witnesses to the trivia night disaster were set apart.  It looked really nice in the hard copy version.  Those quotes provided many a laugh while reading the book.  They were a wonderful addition to the story.  The cover seems pretty accurate since things did pretty much end with a bang.  And the lollipop is perfect for the kindergarten mom persona. 

How many out of five do you give this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend?  

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  It was enjoyable, but pesky Madeline really found a way to get under my skin.  If she had been a bit less jealous and stubborn, I would have given it 5 stars without a doubt!

Andrea :)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mini of the Month: September

Literally translated, Dulce de Leche means sweet [made] of milk.  Think along the lines of evaporated milk turned into candy form.  I wasn't sure what to expect of this unique creation for the mini this month.

It was Dulce de Leche all around.  The white vanilla cake boasted Dulce de Leche icing, stuffing, and topping.  Definitely making for a super sweet treat!!  After tasting, I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either.  I am certainly into sweet, but I think this mini could have used a bit more balance with the sweetness.  Especially since it wasn't a familiar sweetness.  It wasn't all bad though.

Have you ever tried a Dulce de Leche treat?

Andrea :)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saturday States: South Carolina & North Carolina

South Carolina

State Nickname: The Palmetto State

Year of Family Trip: 2003

Cities Visited: Columbia, Myrtle Beach

Can't Miss Tourist Attraction: Myrtle Beach

Our family joined up with the Burns family again for a Myrtle Beach adventure in South Carolina.  We enjoyed the camaraderie in Gulf Shores a few years earlier and things didn't change much for the Myrtle Beach trip.  Although, we did include Jennifer (Jordan's wife-to-be eventually) and our Aunt Mary Ruth (my mom's sister).  We had a great trip including a massive manta ray spotting, a dolphin watch boat ride, and some tasty food at Bubba's.  Also, lots of card playing using M&M's as betting pieces and an accidental slip-n-slide made out of pickle juice!  Great memories all around!

North Carolina

State Nickname: The Tar Heel State

Year of Family Trip: 1993

City Visited: One in the Smoky Mountains

Can't Miss Tourist Attraction: Smoky Mountains

North Carolina, as you can see, got marked off our list of states early in the process.  McKinley was around three years old.  It's a wonder Jordan and I didn't coax him into blazing a new trail at some point.  We were pretty skilled at convincing him to do things that may (or may not) have been the best idea in the world.  Honestly though, I don't remember too much about the Smoky Mountain adventure, but the views appear to be stunning.  However, I do remember those bold and bright rainbow striped shorts...LOVED those back in the day!

Have you ever visited the beautiful Carolinas?

Andrea :)

Friday, September 25, 2015

LIC Brewery Tour

About a month ago, Chris and I had a rare free weekend so we decided visit the LIC Flea & Food Market for some lunch and a stroll around the neighborhood.  And, as fate would have it, along the way we discovered that an LIC Brewery Tour just happened to be finishing up that weekend so we joined in the fun.

There are four breweries in Long Island City (LIC) - Big Alice Brewing, Rockaway Brewing Company, Transmitter Brewing, and LIC Beer Project.  Each had its own unique style.

We started at Rockaway Brewing Company by default because it is on the same street at the Flea Market.  It is small with a real dive atmosphere, but quite nice.  They also give you a snack size bag of chips with your drinks.  Enjoyable place.

Next, we walked for what seemed like DAYS in the crazy summer heat over to Transmitter Brewing.  I wish I could say that it was worth the walk, but it was a total let down.  It wasn't even really a place.  It was a stand.  And quite odd.  They just provided samples so we were quickly on our way!

Big Alice Brewing was our next stop.  It was certainly the most lively of all four venues.  Lots of people were packed in the semi-small space.  To be fair, they had a lot more room in the back past the bar, but people were just congregating in the front.  We liked this place.  And they even had a beer called Straight Cash, Homey.  You KNOW Chris had to try that one!

Finally, we ventured over to LIC Beer Project - the most spacious of them all.  There weren't too many people at this spot, but it definitely occupied a younger crowd.  They offered cornhole off to the side of the bar toward the back which seemed to be a hit.  I loved the wooden table tops and the creative logo.  Nice place for a small group to just relax and enjoy each others company.

Have you ever completed a neighborhood brewery tour?

Andrea :)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Whorl Inside A Loop

In recent years, there has been a tremendous amount of attention given to the world of prison.  Orange is the New Black was a huge Netflix hit.  I haven't tuned in yet because I was waiting to read the book, but I've almost finished it now so I'll be sure to see what all the fuss is about soon.  There are also books that chronicle prison reform and its effectiveness.  Chris and I even toured infamous Alcatraz on our recent trip to California.  People seem to have a distinct interest in prison for some reason.

Whorl Inside A Loop is by far the most powerful experience I've had viewing or reading anything associated with the prison system.  The play shares the stories of six inmates on murder row at a maximum security prison.  They enroll in a theater course offered by a well-regarded actress serving a volunteer sentence of her own.  The inmates share intimate details of their former lives when tasked with presenting personal narratives to the small group.  The stories are heart-wrenching, funny, and real.  It was a moving hour and a half without a doubt.

In addition to pouring their heart and soul into their inmate character, the six actors on-stage also played a number of other roles - constantly shifting scenes, ages, genders, and race.  We witnessed some phenomenal acting for sure!!  And loved every single moment of it.  The story alone is phenomenal, but the acting notched this show over the top! 

Andrea :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Off the Beaten Path

Maintaining perfect attendance from kindergarten through high school graduation.

Off the Beaten Path.

Experiencing the uniqueness of all 120 counties in my home state of Kentucky.

Off the Beaten Path.

Becoming the first of my siblings to give the Valedictorian Address at MCHS.  My brothers would follow in subsequent years.

Off the Beaten Path.

Going to college away from home when everyone typically stayed local.

Off the Beaten Path.

Making more memories with my football buddies than my sorority sisters at Georgetown.

Off the Beaten Path.

Squeezing three perfect strangers to a room in a London flat one summer.

Off the Beaten Path.

Moving to NYC with only a suitcase, a small bag, and a backpack with a place to stay for approximately one week.

Off the Beaten Path.

Working for the National Football League...on the football a female.

Off the Beaten Path.

Traveling to all 50 States with my parents and brothers.

Off the Beaten Path.

Living on the brink of Times Square.  For six years.

Off the Beaten Path. 

Marrying the love of my life regardless of his race.

Off the Beaten Path.

Creating a home in Queens.  Even if it is trendy Long Island City.

Off the Beaten Path.

Andrea :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

2015 Goals - 9 Month Check-Up

1 - Read through the Bible!

My hope was to have this one completed by now, but I got stuck.  In the same spot where I've been stuck before...unfortunately.  I plan to press on though.  I still want to finish this by the end of the year, but for now I am just taking it day by day.

2 - Focus on my health and nutrition.  

I am still on track here.  We are rarely eating out these days which has helped significantly on the nutrition part.  Trying some fun, new meals every so often as well!  And this little thing called marathon training has been keeping me accountable with my runs.  I'm signed up for a half-marathon in mid-October so that should give me an pretty good idea of where I'll stand with the marathon a couple of weeks later.  It has been anything but easy for me this time around, but I am hanging in there!

 3 - Enjoy life as newlyweds.

We just returned from our first anniversary trip...where we had a blast exploring SO many parts of California!!  Those recaps are coming soon, but it's safe to say we are still loving the newlywed life!!  I can't believe we will have officially been married for over ONE year by this time next month!  Unreal!  If you are interested in checking out more of our newlywed adventures, look no further - Month One, Month Two, Month Three, Month Four, Month Five, Month Six, Month Seven, Month Eight, Month Nine, and Month Ten.

4 - Do more things for me.

Focusing on me has been a priority for the past few months.  Fortunately, I have rekindled my love for reading and as a result, I have stretched myself as a writer.  I have lots of irons in the fire right now, but am continuing to find ways to improve upon me.  Improv classes and finishing my scrapbooks are still high on my list, but haven't been realized yet!  Here's to hoping fall/winter will keep me in the city/at the apartment more than the summer months have managed to do.

5 - Redesign this blog. 

I finally have some thoughts here.  I am continuing to explore, but I'm leaning toward making this one a bit of a Christmas present to myself.  I'll keep the wheels turning for now.

6 - Find my passion.    

I *think* I have found my (new) passion.  To be honest, it's always been there...tucked away deep down, but I managed to become quite proficient at stifling it.  I am moving in a direction toward it now.  When I get a little closer, I'll share more with you!

How are your 2015 goals coming along?

Andrea :)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saturday States: Georgia & Florida


State Nickname: The Peach State

Years of Family Trip: A Drive Through State

Cities Visited: Atlanta

Can't Miss Tourist Attractions: Recommendations Accepted!

We visited Georgia for a beach trip before McKinley was born, but since he joined the family we have mostly just passed through it on the way to other destinations down south.  Unfortunately, that means I don't have a lot to share about this state.  However, if you want to check out my experience with Jordan at a Falcons game a few years ago, click here!


State Nickname: The Sunshine State

Years of Family Trip: 1996, 1998

Cities Visited: St. Augustine, Orlando

Can't Miss Tourist Attractions:
Alligator Farm, Disney World, the beach

Stopping in St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, turned out to be a real hit!  We loved checking out the alligator farm there.  Fascinating creatures!  And I was even brave enough to let them hold a baby alligator up to my neck!!

Sea World is an amazing place to visit as well.  The animal shows there are incredible.  Watching Shamu and the other killer whales perform was certainly a highlight of the trip!  And speaking of particularly trip to Florida happened to occur the week of my birthday.  As a gift, my parents paid for behind the scenes tickets that would allow me to pet a real live penguin!!!  Day...make that Week....make that Life made!!  Such an amazing experience.  And they don't feel at all like I imagined - much more rubbery!

"You see that castle over there?"

And, of course, no trip to Florida is complete without a whirl through Disney World, right?  Mom and Dad took Jordan and me when we were quite young...and before McKinley was even a twinkle in their eye.  Needless to say, two young ones at the happiest place on Earth doesn't make for two very happy parents at the end of those long days.  As we were leaving the park for the final time on our last day there, Mom pulled Jordan and me to the side and cautioned us to take a good look at that castle because the next time we'd see it was went we brought our own kids there.  And then little McKinley came along so she ate those words when we returned as a family of five a few years later.  Lesson learned!

Have you been to Georgia or Florida?

Andrea :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Amazing Grace!

Amazing Grace!  How sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Have you ever wondered where our old church hymns originated?  How they came to be written?  What life circumstances provoked such powerful lyrics?

The story of John Newton, a British bad boy destined to take over his family slave business before one final disobedient act pushes his father to give the ultimate punishment, answers all those questions and more.  He wrote Amazing Grace after his life made a 360 degree turn for the better and his eyes were truly opened to the heinous ways of slavery and slave trade.

The broadway production was, for lack of a better word, amazing!  All of the actors sang with incredible voices.  The set and costumes were elaborate and true to the time period of the 1700's.  The only thing that would have made it feel more real is if all the actors spoke with British accents.   Overall, it was both educational and enjoyable!  I hope lots of people go check out the intriguing man behind the powerful song. 

Andrea :)

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Lion King


When it comes to broadway shows, The Lion King is the ultimate experience.  I saw the show about a year after moving to New York City way back in 2008.  My parents have been to the city nearly every year to visit for a few days and somehow they had never been to see this quintessential show.

This year, I surprised them with tickets for their respective birthdays.  Since Mom's is in April, I sent them crafted tickets in her birthday card.  They were SO excited and we settled on a date in early September (Dad's birthday month) for the show.

I bought us tickets about five rows from the stage in the orchestra.  AMAZING!!  The other time I had watched it with a friend in the balcony so this was really a treat for me as well!  We loved the show, especially the opening scene where the animals all gather on stage by walking up the aisles.  Fascinating to see everything up close!

The way the animals are created using a collection of humans for larger ones like the elephants and graceful ballet artists for others is phenomenal.  The score and voices are excellent as well.  And, honestly, the bits of humor in the story line can't be beat.  The Lion King is such a fun and lovely show.  It is the absolute best (in terms of production) that I have ever seen.

It was an honor to be able to treat my parents to this fabulous show!  They are always there for me...and have allowed me to experience SO much over the years.  I was happy to be able to celebrate our birthdays in this unique way.  And, of course, it wouldn't be a true birthday celebration without (cheese)cake at Junior's afterward!

Andrea :)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Saturday States: Mississippi & Alabama


State Nickname: The Magnolia State

Years of Family Trip: 1995 and 2004

Cities Visited: Jackson, Natchez, Vicksburg

Can't Miss Tourist Attractions:
Mississippi River and the Coca-Cola Museum

You certainly can't miss the Mississippi River when visiting this crooked letter, crooked letter, humpback, humpback state.  McKinley even managed to find a Civil War cannon on a bluff overlooking it!  We also visited the capitol building in Jackson and the Coca-Cola Museum in Vicksburg where they had just celebrated 100 years!


State Nickname: The Yellowhammer State 

Year of Family Trip: 1999

City Visited: Gulf Shores

Can't Miss Tourist Attraction: Orange Beach

Over and Out

We took a joint trip to Gulf Shores with the Burns family in the summer of 1999.  We had a blast carpooling from Kentucky to shores of Alabama with our walkie talkie nonsense and occassional games!  We spent time on the beach, stayed up late playing cards, and Amanda even gave me a new hair style one night!  Mini-golf was a highlight of the trip as well.  Renting a condo to share with family was the perfect way to enjoy Alabama's Gulf Shores!

Have you been to Mississippi or Alabama?

Andrea :)

Friday, September 11, 2015

An Unthinkable Tragedy

An unthinkable tragedy struck our nation 14 years ago today.  I remember exactly where I saw the twin towers tumble into ash.  The sight was so unfathomable that I actually thought it was a movie.  It couldn't be real.  It couldn't be happening in America.  It just couldn't.

But it was.  And nearly 3,000 people lost their lives.  Some were travelers heading out on their next adventure, some were professionals taking part in a one-day conference, some were servicemen who risk their lives regularly to save those in need.  No matter who they were, they should still be here with us today.  Instead, an act of violence so vile that no words can do it justice took them.

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial Museum over the holiday weekend forced me to relive this horrendous day all over again.  And it made me realize each day is precious.  Every moment in time fits together with the next.  Some lives were spared by acts as simple as a morning eye exam while other required bold and brave action in the face of death to rescue others.  Life is a fragile thing.  We must use each day wisely.

If you ever have a chance to visit the 9/11 memorial fountains, I encourage you to spend a few hours in the museum as well.  It is a phenomenal tribute to the lives lost.  One room is entirely dedicated to them.  There are interactive elements that allow you to learn about each person as a way to honor their memory.  I could have spent hours scrolling through the names there.

The historical rooms recounting the tragedy and aftermath are incredible.  Parts of these rooms are difficult to digest providing a true emotional reflection on that day.   The detail is impeccable...perhaps even overwhelming.  I suggest allowing several hours to really see it all.

I've never been to a museum that was more meaningful.  Maybe it's because I remember these events actually occurring rather than just reading about them in a history book.  Maybe it's because of the scope of the tragedy and the way it has forever changed our lives.  Maybe it's because I live in New York City now.  Whatever the reason, I highly suggest checking it out for yourself.

Andrea :)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Perfect End to Summer: Baseball & Ice Cream

Sadly, summer is coming to an end.  Everyone is headed back to school, and fall is just around the corner now.  I couldn't think of a better way to close this fun-filled few months than a trip to the ball park!  My parents have been to the city to visit numerous times, but had never ventured up to the Bronx to check out the Yankees.

We caught a great game over Labor Day weekend.  The Tampa Bay Rays were in town.  The game went back and forth with the home team finally pulling out the victory.  We saw at least three home runs that I can recall so there wasn't much of a lull in action at this game!

We enjoyed seats in a shady part of the ballpark, but that didn't mean it wasn't hot.  The weather had been fairly mild, but really peaked over the holiday weekend!  Guess that was summer's way of saying she wasn't quite ready to turn in for the year!

And when it's hot and humid out, there's only one treat that truly satisfies - ICE CREAM!!  We really got our money's worth at a unique ice cream shop in Chinatown!

We loved being able to watch our ice cream come to life before our very eyes at 10 Below.  We all selected a different flavor...and I managed to get photos of each being made despite the tight conditions in the small shop! #bloggerwin

Complete process of making Strawberry Shawty...YUM!

I tried three of the flavors we ordered and each was delicious!!  I don't think it is possible to go wrong with the ice cream combos at 10 Below!  We enjoyed Monkey Business, Cookie Monster, Strawberry Shawty, and Key Lime Pie (pictured going clockwise below).

The shop is hidden in the depths of Chinatown and not very close to the subway, but you better believe Chris and I will be back before too long!

How did you spend Labor Day weekend?

Andrea :)