November 17, 2014 § 1 Comment
Just. Keep. Walking.
You know, Dory was right: When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming. Well, for Annie and I, it’s more like Just keep walking (and in keeping with our preferred method of marketing lingo: #imawalkdis)
With our two-year walkaversary (yup, we said it, roll with it) on the horizon and the holidays rapidly approaching, we thought it was time to share our not-so-secret way to decompress, de-stress, and, literally, get a breath of fresh air, all while working in arts marketing at a non-profit (yes, friends, it is possible). Here’s the interview Annie and I conducted…with ourselves.
Natalie J: So, remind me: how did this get started again?
Annie G: Early January 2013, just before the delight that is budget and renewal season.
NJ: Right, right. I believe you said something like: I need your help getting out of the office once a day, every day. To which I naturally responded, Absolutely! And then immediately asked: In any weather? I’m pretty sure you happily (yet secretly reluctantly?) agreed. There was some whining early on and I recall occasionally enticing you with chocolate in one hand and your coat in the other, but you’ve handled the cold weather quite well (says the one from Wisconsin)!
AG: Yes, you enthusiastically agreed to help make sure I did not continue to go into a “budget coma” during the bleak winter doldrums (when I have to work on two budgets simultaneously). It was so easy to say, I’ll just finish this one thing, and then I’ll get up to walk around…and then suddenly it was 5:00, it was dark, and I would have literally not gotten up all day except to go to the bathroom. Not a way to work! I really appreciate the days that you literally stand in my doorway with my coat and wait for me to get up. You also put up with my wimpy New Jersey girl whining about cold temperatures, wind, and otherwise crappy weather. One thing about committing to walking with a gal from Wisconsin is that there are literally no excuses. I think we have only skipped a couple of times during snowstorms or sideways rainstorms. And even then, we still ran up and down the lobby stairs a few times…
NJ: “Ran” can be defined pretty loosely there, I think. It’s more like stair climbing with a purpose…just sayin.
AG: Well…at least our heart rate went up.
NJ: True. Gotta work those glutes! People have often asked us where we go walking…care to divulge?
AG: Ohhh, if I told you, I’d have to kill you and then I wouldn’t have a walking buddy anymore.
NJ: …good point. #mumstheword
AG: Ok, so on our daily walks around an undisclosed location, we chat…
NJ: About a lot of things.
AG: But—mimicking an actual interviewer for a second—you’re around each other all day, don’t you get sick of each other?
NJ: I can’t tell you that in front of you. I kid, I kid…[beat]…are you still the interviewer or are you back to Annie now?
AG: [This was Annie’s exact reaction] …[beat]…what’s said on the walking path stays on the walking path.
NJ: Word. Ok, #butseriously. Most topics range from TV shows, social media, and sports to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness…
AG: It’s normal that we want to talk about work stuff some of the time, but what is really fun about our walks for me is that we can chat about many different things; you are a great listener when I have kid questions, running the gamut from teenager drama to basketball tips/advice for my son (it’s really helpful that you used to play and I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT IT!).
NJ: I love talking basketball with you (and discovering the parallels between sports and arts marketing)! That reminds me—I’ve gotta teach him the fine art of the pick and roll. You mentioned a little about this at the beginning, but let’s take it a step (haha, #walkingpun) further: why do you walk? (we’ll get to me in a minute, standby)
AG: I realized long ago that I am “gym-phobic” —really, who wants to use equipment that other people you don’t know have sweat all over? I much prefer to exercise with my kids, riding bikes or being outside doing something active (now I shoot basketballs!) Walking totally satisfies that! I also love it because it’s rejuvenating and makes me get up from my desk. Guess what? The work will still be there when I get back. I also have to do it because…well, I’m old. You don’t. You’re not old.
NJ: Aww, thanks. It keeps me moving, that’s what I like about it. I’m a pretty active person and just can’t handle sitting all day; I get antsy and a little stir crazy. Just after I graduated college and got a full-time internship at a regional theater in Rhode Island, sitting at a desk all day was quite an adjustment. I’d usually walk from the intern house to the theater every day, but that was only about 2 miles roundtrip; definitely not enough walking for this girl. In fact, I rallied some of my fellow interns that year and we took lunchtime walks too! Wow, I guess I’ve actually been doing this for quite some time now.
AG: See, you’re like the angel of walking! Thanks for getting me off my butt and for sneaking into the Dean’s Garden with me! (Oh, and the budget thanks you too. I was smothering it; we needed space.)
NJ: When I first moved to Princeton, I would go out and walk around town during lunch, mainly to get to know the town a little better. Walking solo can have its own therapeutic, calming benefits, but—even coming from my independent, only-child-self—it gets lonely pretty quickly. It’s really nice to have a walking buddy. There’s a pleasant sense of accountability there, ya know?
AG: Agreed. It’s always nice having someone to dodge the university golf carts with—and it’s good to know you can call 911 for me if I ever get run over by one.
NJ: Random fun fact: I actually typed most of this while walking (and miraculously didn’t trip over anything). Our walks tend to be a “digital disconnect” time too, now that I think about it. Kind of unintentionally I suppose, but it’s nice not to take a break from staring at a screen too.
AG: So, is this it? What’s next?
NJ: Calisthenics in the lobby…[beat]…you think I’m kidding…
November 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
That’s right, we used a hashtag for our Disney trip (thanks for the inspiration, Meghan). Five fun-filled days of excellent food, drinks, and, of course, the kind of magic one can only get on a Walt Disney World vacation. Quick back story: I haven’t been down to WDW in two and a half years; The Boy hasn’t been in 10 years. So, needless to say, a lot has changed and we had plenty of new, fantasmic things to discover. Yup, that’s a top 5 list you smell…let’s get to it!
1. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
Since we were there over Halloween, this was a must-do. The party went from 7p – 12a at Magic Kingdom and was $72 each on top of park admission. The party was a new experience for us both and boy was it worth it! We donned our incredible costumes (hehe #Disneypun) and spent five solid hours running around MK, mostly going on rides and wandering around the park taking in the Halloween atmosphere which we knew would all disappear (magic!) by the next morning. I gotta say, hearing This is Halloween and Thriller blasted throughout the park was pretty awesome and seeing so many people dressed up for the holiday was quite the sight to see!
Especially our Hundred Acre Wood friends:
Here’s one of my better Nikon shots. Love that camera!
2. Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
As soon as we knew this was going on during our trip, our goal was immediately set: to eat and drink around the world. Like the Halloween party, the Food and Wine Festival was a first for us. How long does it take to eat and drink around the world, you ask? Three days. Ok, ok, we split a majority of the food and drinks to save not only our wallets, but also ourselves (Walking around Epcot schnockered in 55 degree weather? No thanks). Epcot is my favorite park as it is and this annual event made it even more lively and fun! Themed kiosks were placed between all 11 countries around World Showcase and, of all 23 countries in the festival, Ireland was our clear favorite. From the Kerry Gold cheese sampler to the chilled Irish coffee with Bunratty Potcheen, we visited this stand multiple times. Germany came in a close second with amazing beer, a refreshing Riesling sampler, and the popular roast bratwurst on a pretzel bun (yes, it was all as good as it sounds).
3. Experiencing the “Firsts”
Even in the two and a half years since I’d last visited WDW, so much has changed (i.e. magic bands). Not only was it great fun to experience a few new things for myself, but I had such a wonderful time experiencing things that were completely new to The Boy too, as well as sharing some of my favorite Disney memories, fun facts, and former cast member insights with him. In addition to the Halloween party, Food and Wine Festival, and magic bands (see below), the other new experiences were all attractions: from battling against each other in Toy Story Mania and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, to commandeering runaway trains on Everest and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (both in the front row!), Soarin over California, and visiting our animatronic friends in the Hundred Acre Wood in the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. There’s really nothing else like being with someone experiencing some Disney magic and thrills for the first time. Experiencing The Boy’s love of thrill rides was also certainly a highlight. Seven “super stretch” limo rides on Rockin’ Rollercoaster? You betcha.
4. The Contemporary
Ah, The Contemporary: 1970s modernity at it’s finest. I kid, I kid. Being on the monorail as it breezes through this resort is just so cool. I tend to have a few Disney tricks up my sleeve most of the time (what can I say, it’s just what I do) and two of them just kind of magically went the way I wanted them to. I wanted to take The Boy to California Grill, the amazing restaurant atop the resort. For the last 2 months, I tried to get a dinner reservation, but was unsuccessful. Back up plan: grab a seat at the bar about an hour before Wishes and then watch the fireworks from there. Done and done (also enjoyed a wicked Woodford old fashioned).
For my own amusement, I was also hopeful to snag a reservation at a character breakfast (Waste precious park time waiting in long lines for characters? Not this former “friend”) …again, I was not successful. Here’ s where the My Disney Experience app came in: I told The Boy my plan, he kept a watchful eye on reservations, and BOOM—we snagged a reservation for Monday morning…that we made less than 24 hours earlier. #forthewin While we noshed on breakfast, we rubbed elbows with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and, our favorite dog: Pluto.
5. Magic Bands
Where to start with these? Magic bands are incredible (just like us, hehe). Disney’s use of technology continues to amaze me. This magical little band is: your room key, park admission, fastpass, photopass, easy-access credit card, and fashionable Disney-branded accessory (all the cool kids have them). The bands can also be synced with the My Disney Experience app which was instrumental in letting us change fastpasses on the fly and scoring the Chef Mickey’s reservation the day before. They do everything! If you haven’t been down to Disney with them yet, just you wait; even entering the parks is its own special form of Disneyness. The magic bands added a whole new level of—dare I say magic?—to our already magical vacation. It was a whirlwind trip, but it was so special and we had such a blast! And are already talking about when our return will be…
October 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
It occurred to me Sunday afternoon, as I was rummaging around in the refrigerator (and noticed that we have four—yes four—cold Wisconsin pumpkin beers), that The Boy and I have not done a pumpkin beer tasting at all this season, and Halloween is only a few days away. Oh. The. Humanity.
So what better time to do a Wisconsin pumpkin beer tasting than during half time of the Sunday night Green Bay Packer game? On tap last night: Lakefront Brewery Imperial Pumpkin, New Glarus Pumpkin Pie Lust, Horny Goat HornyCopia, Stevens Point Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale.
Three ales and one Weiss. We kept the same metrics from last year: color, nose, taste, finish, bottle design, and yes, “pumpkiness.” Ready? TO THE PUMPKIN PATCH (aka…our apartment in Princeton, NJ).
First, we have Stevens Point Brewery Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale. This recent find was shipped it out to us in a special package, along with some New Glarus (I love that the beer stays local, but it makes it really hard for us displaced Wisconsinites to enjoy some of our favorite brewskies). This ale is 7.5% abv and brewed with “real pumpkin and savory pumpkin pie spices.” Both of us agreed this one was a pleasant surprise. Not as much of a pumpkin flavor as we would have liked, but there’s a strong initial spice (not a bad thing) and the finish has a nice subtle pumpkin pie flavor. We’ve already got our eye on the Espresso Stout when we’re in Wisconsin over the holidays.
Alright. Horny Goat. Quick storytime: last December when the temperature was -10 with a double-digit windchill, The Boy and I ventured out to the Horny Goat brew pub just to check it out. We got some loaded tots (ahhhmazing!) and brownie porters (#nomnom). So naturally, when we were at Joe Canals in Lawrenceville, NJ a few weeks ago and saw HornyCopia (Horny Goat is a rarity around here), we were pretty excited. Then…we journeyed into the pumpkin patch yesterday night and were vastly disappointed. It almost tasted a bit skunked at first (?!). As the beer warmed up, it had a slightly better flavor, but this 6.3% abv “pumpkin pie in a bottle” (to quote their website) unfortunately did not live up to our expectations. It won’t stop us from visiting the brewery again, but alas, it came in last on our list.
New Glarus has a delightfully spotty (#cowpun) reputation; it’s the craft beer that’s brewed in Wisconsin and stays in Wisconsin. I highly doubt you can walk into a bar in the state and not find something from New Glarus. The Boy and I visited the brewery last spring when in town for a wedding (check it: The Wisconsin Brewery Mothership) and it was everything we’d hoped for and more…alas, this beer was not one of their best. Were our expectations too high? Perhaps. This Pumpkin Weiss is great for those new to pumpkin beers and who tend to order lighter things (we’re more stout and Belgian-style ale fans). We found it lacked the expected pumpkin flavor; we couldn’t detect at all. It honestly pains me to say that because we love New Glarus. Give us a Spotted Cow, Fat Squirrel (actually drinking one right now, in fact), or Scream IPA any day; this one can stay in the pumpkin patch. But, for those craft beer aficionados who like to keep it local and try different seasonal brews, this is definitely one you should try!
Last, but not least, Lakefront Brewery’s latest seasonal release: Imperial Pumpkin Ale brewed with pumpkin, spices, vanilla, and aged in brandy barrels (I know, right?! #totallywisconsin). This one was a limited release and we weren’t optimistic about founding it out in Jersey, but lo and behold, Joe Canals comes through again! This ale has a higher abv than most of Lakefront’s other brews (9.5%)…which is probably why it came in at the top of our list. Like the others, the pumpkin flavor was not prominent; but the spices and warmth won us over. It’s a nice, stronger alternative to their popular Pumpkin Lager.
Of these four, here’s our ranking: 1) Lakefront 2) New Glarus 3) Stevens Point 4) Horny Goat. Though, I gotta say, in the “pumpkiness” category, none of these was particularly…smashing. Maybe our expectations are too high and we’ve grown accustomed to Southern Tier’s Pumking (only the best pumpkin beer ever) and the imperial pumpkin ale from our local favorite, Weyerbacher. I think we both had higher hopes for all these Wisconsin brews…just like we had higher hopes that the Packers would pull off a win Sunday night. Too soon? #cheeseheadproblems
October 21, 2014 § Leave a comment
When The Boy and I moved into our apartment in Princeton in August 2013, we had recently traveled up to Providence, Rhode Island to see some friends and enjoy some theater…naturally, we came back with a growler from Trinity Brewing Company (like ya do). Not quite knowing what to do with the growler, we just set it next to the TV and, at some point, started tossing spare change into it, joking that it was our “vacation fund.” The change slowly began to accumulate and before we knew it, the growler was overflowing! So what did we do? Why, get another growler, of course (again, like ya do)! Though this time we kept it local and went to Triumph Brewing Company in Princeton.
Earlier this summer, we booked a trip to Walt Disney World over Halloween weekend. After that, the growlers really became the legit vacation fund. As many of you probably know, I worked seasonally for Disney for many years following my College Program in 2006 and had to let it go (haha, #disneypun) two and a half years ago (Intrigued? Get the full story here: The Dog Days Are Over). I haven’t been back down there since May 2012 and, among many other things, need to re-acclimate myself to full-price Disney (castmember discounts were amazing and so good while they lasted).
Well, the long-awaited magical trip is about a week away now (oh bother, where are my Mickey ears?!) and last night was finally the time to check in on those vacation funds. Here’s our M.O., coin by coin (ok, not really, we didn’t want to nickel and dime you with too many details):
Step 1: Pour thyself a drink (in our case, Michter’s on the rocks).
Step 2: Put on a Disney movie (Nightmare Before Christmas…appropriate, no?)
Step 3: Release the coinage.
Step 4: Think like Ebenezer Scrooge and start counting!
Step 5: Add up each set of coins…by hand…twice…write it all down and do the math…by hand.
Step 6: Put the numbers in Excel to confirm the bourbon-induced math is correct.
Step 7: Separate the coins in bags to take to the bank whilst thinking about the plethora of ways to spend the money at the happiest place on earth (Hello, Epcot Food and Wine Festival!).
Step 8: WASH YOUR HANDS. OVER. AND OVER. AND OVER AGAIN.
Two Michter’s on the rocks, 2668 coins (including two Sacagawea dollars and coins from Canada, Jamaica, Ecuador, and Europe), two empty growlers, and 75 minutes later and…drum roll, please…we have a grand total $223.57. How amazing is that? Fourteen months of accumulating loose change, wow it all adds up! We were a little too overwhelmed to think of anything specific to splurge on at the moment, but I have no doubt we’ll come up with something and—I’m going out on a limb here—I know it will be simply magical.
July 25, 2014 § Leave a comment
“And thou, all-shaking thunder,
strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!”
It all started when the virtual ticket lottery for Shakespeare in the Park was, well, much ado about nothing. (Which also happened to be the name of the first show of the park season…coincidence? You bet your Benedick.)
So for the second show of the park season—King Lear starring John Lithgow and Annette Benning—the boy decided to get tickets to his first performance of Shakespeare in the Park how Public Theater and New York Shakespeare Festival founder Joseph Papp himself only could have imagined: by standing in line with the masses in Central Park to obtain the tickets for free. Quick facts: Central Park opens at 6am; people begin lining up outside the 82nd street park entrance at what can only be described as “ass-o-clock” in the morning; when the park opens, another line forms outside the Delacorte Theater area; lastly, tickets are distributed (2 per person) at noon.
The boy left Princeton at 4:30am and got to Central Park just as they were opening up and got a cozy spot, 27 people from the front. As the hours ticked by, the line grew and grew…and grew. [I got a great play-by-play as I sat at my desk that morning]
After 6 hours of waiting, the moment arrived: ticket distribution. And he got ‘em!
I hopped on an express train from Princeton and we grabbed a bite to eat at one of our favorite Upper West Side eateries: Jacob’s Pickles. Bourbon, biscuits, and pickles—what could be better before a night of Shakespeare in the Park? For most of the day, we’d heard that a thunderstorm was on tap for the evening. Bring. It. ON. Being the smart and resourceful twenty-somethings that we are, we stopped at CVS to get plastic trash bags to use as makeshift ponchos (no umbrellas are allowed in the open-air theater during the performance and we weren’t about to pay $15 each for ponchos). #noshame #onabudget
The performance started at about 10 after eight; no rain. Within minutes of the play beginning, a few flashes of lightning lit up the sky and purplish/orange clouds began to creep in from the west. We got 25 minutes in when thunder joined the party. No sooner did the stage manager come over the God mic with “hold” when it began to downpour. Everyone trickled out of the theater and huddled under the awning outside the space. Many left immediately, many waited for 10 minutes and left when the storm didn’t pass…and then there were the rest of us who waited hopefully with bated breath. Thunder [boom!]. Lightning [flash]. Rain [pouring]. Hey, it’s all part of the experience, right? Right.
After 20 minutes huddled with a gaggle of theater-loving folk under the awning, it was announced that we’d be resuming the performance in 10 minutes (thank you Shakespeare Gods). We went back to our seats, slid plastic bags over them, made little ponchos and covers for ourselves, and settled in for however much more of the production we’d be fortunate enough to experience. Here we are, decked out in garbage bags…like ya do:
The drizzle was steady during Act I along with a few lingering flashes of lightning, but these actors were unphased (except for John Lithgow’s early admission upon returning to the stage and attempting to pick up where they left off: “I’m sorry, I’m completely lost.” That got a nice chuckle from the audience.). Early in Act II, the rain stopped. We got all but a five-minute reprieve when it started up again…tease. Though, Mother Nature couldn’t have planned it better: the rain began again just as Lear and his fool were braving a storm of their own and the king was building up to his “storm speech.”
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!
Before the performance started, we were at least hoping to make it to that scene. And we did. Everything from there on out was gravy. The rain steadily came down for the remainder of the performance and actually made the whole experience quite fascinating to watch. A particular moment in Act IV stands out in my memory: Annette Benning’s Goneril was being belittled by her husband, the Duke of Albany, and the subtle lighting combined with their positions on the complete opposite side of the stage from us really highlighted the rain pouring down on them and gave the scene such a cinematic edge. It was incredible. (I can only imagine what these actors can do when it’s not raining buckets on them and they’re not traipsing across a slippery stage.)
Fighting…deaths…end of play; it was now midnight. No need to rush out of the park for us. The next and last train to New Jersey wasn’t until 1:22. So we sloshed out of the park with the masses a la Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook and made our way to Penn. This was my first experience with King Lear and I think I can honestly say that nothing else will top it. Definitely a night out at the theater for the record books!
June 27, 2014 § Leave a comment
The West Wing, House of Cards, Veep, The Daily Show, The American President…I’m a huge fan of political dramas and satires, yet I have no interest in actual politics (go figure). I first went to Washington, DC three years ago and was utterly fascinated by all there is to see and do; this past weekend was no exception. I traveled down to DC to galavant around the city with a college friend of mine and man oh man did we log the miles (I’m afraid to map it, but I have a blister on my left pinky toe to prove it). From wandering around the Newseum (journalism nerds!) and visiting various Smithsonian buildings and the Holocaust Museum, to walking across the Arlington Bridge, riding bikes around the entire Tidal Basin, and scaling the Washington Monument (ok, so we didn’t exactly scale it; we rode up the elevator, but it was still pretty bad ass) …We. Did. So. Much. (We also stopped at Foggy Bottom so that I could say I went to Foggy Bottom…I blame this clip from The West Wing: Root Canal).
The short trip was also a great excuse to play around with the Nikon. I still need to learn more about how to use the camera, but hey, practice makes perfect right? A handful of shots are below. The flags at sunset and looking across the still water of the mall toward the Washington Monument are my two favorites. #photogwannabe
June 21, 2014 § 1 Comment
Real women don’t drink light beer.
Confession: despite being from Brew City, I haven’t always enjoyed beer. In fact, it wasn’t until moving to the East Coast that I became a bit of a beer snob; specifically, a Wisconsin beer snob.
We take our beer seriously in Wisconsin. From Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee (OMG best brewery tour I’ve ever been on!) to Capital Brewery in Madison and a recently discovered favorite, Central Waters in Amherst (excellent coffee stout!), Wisconsin is chock full of amazing craft brewers. But the first Wisconsin brew I introduced to The Boy, as well as many of my co-workers, was of course none other than New Glarus Brewing Company’s claim to fame: Spotted Cow (naturally, followed by Fat Squirrel and a seasonal fave that’s now extinct, Laughing Fox). Spotted Cow is a refreshing farmhouse ale and, according to someone who shall remain nameless, “there’s a cute little cow on the label.” What’s not to love? Plus, it’s pretty much a guarantee in any bar in the state. For the win!
While enroute to Madison last weekend for the wedding of a childhood friend of mine, we took a slight 45 minute detour (or perhaps pilgrimage is more apropos?) southwest of Madtown to New Glarus to hit up the brewery. Following a fish fry at a little dive bar and pre-gaming with a New Glarus sampler (4 samples for only $5.50…I love Wisconsin prices), we headed to the brewery with only about an hour to spare before their 4pm closing time.
Set atop a hill just outside of the downtown New Glarus area, the brewery itself is as amazing as the beer (and we didn’t even go on a tour!). The outdoor area has a “ruins” type feel to it as you can see in some of the photos below (I was also having way too much fun my new camera and was fascinated by how the sun lit up the beer and really brought out its color…spoken like a true Wisconsinite, no? Or a photography/beer weirdo, take your pick!). We sampled nearly everything they were offering! New faves were the Scream IPA, Two Women, and the Strawberry Rhubarb specialty, though we also sampled the Back 40 Bock, Serendipity, and Totally Naked. Yes, we got Totally Naked in New Glarus (wink, wink). Though we only had time for a quick tasting (and it’s about a 2 hour drive from Milwaukee), New Glarus is definitely worth the trip through all the farm fields of southwestern Wisconsin for any lover of local craft beer. We definitely plan on going back for the infamous hard hat tour! After all: Only in Wisconsin!