Fall 2016 TV Preview

September 19, 2016

It’s finally here! New TV shows are premiering this week and I can’t wait to start watching them all. Historically I haven’t been great at picking winners (My picks for Fall 2014 included a few that have stuck around and a few that were canceled after just a few episodes.) so I try to watch at least the first episode of anything I think looks good. It’s going to be extra hard this year because GASP, we don’t currently have a DVR. Needless to say, some extra planning is totally necessary.

So, let’s check out what’s premiering this fall on the various networks. Note that this list is all kinds of biased/sarcastic and may not include everything you’re looking for! It’s just my take on things. If you’re looking for more straight info, visit TV Guide’s Fall Preview. Also note that I did not include midseason premieres due to length, but hope to share those in a few months!

Fall 2016 TV Preview
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How to Save Money at the Movies

September 7, 2016

Last year Nick and I saw 27 movies in theaters and this year we’ve seen 34 so far.

Just let that sink in for a second. Yes, I know we are insane.

A lot of people ask us how we see so many new releases, and we always tell them its about getting familiar with your local theater chain. Before we dive into the details, I wanted to explain exactly why we are so interested in movies. (You can read more about this challenge here.)

A few years ago Nick and I realized that we were very lacking in our movie knowledge. Growing up we tended to watch the same movies repeatedly and never really explored any of the classics. Plus, tons of movies were being released each month that just added to the list of movies we hadn’t seen. In February 2015, we noticed that our local Cinemark location was doing an Oscar Movie Week, with all eight Best Picture nominees being shown once or twice over one week. We decided to accept the challenge and saw every movie, finishing the last one (Birdman) just hours before it won Best Picture at the Oscars. As you might imagine, seeing eight movies in one week quickly turned trips to the movie theater into a habit. We started seeing movies more frequently and before we knew it, we were seeing one or two movies a week. I’m proud to call myself a movie junkie, but we still have a long way to go!

How to Save Money at the Movies

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September 2016 Goals

August 30, 2016

Making a post about my goals for August seems a little ridiculous , so I’m skipping July and going straight to September. Between my birthday, going to New York and work starting to pick up, blogging has fallen by the wayside. (And that’s okay!)

Before I elaborate on that, let’s revisit my goals from July…

Goal #1 – Finish reading “Outlander.” FAIL. So I didn’t finish reading “Outlander” because Harry Potter and the Cursed Child came out. I’m a medium-speed reader but I can’t stand to sit still for longer than like 30 minutes at a time so while my friends finished it in just a couple of hours, it took me a few days. I also received the “Hamilton: An American Musical” annotated script (also known as Hamiltome) for my birthday and I’m almost finished with that. So I’ve read two books since July, and I’d call that a win.

Goal #2 – Plan our NYC itinerary and purchase tickets for any shows/tours we want to do. CHECK! I blogged about our NYC trip earlier this month. Although we didn’t get to everything on our list, we made quite a dent in it. Impressive for being there for only three full days!

Goal #3 – Organize my closet. I never got around to doing this to the extent that I wanted to, but I did clean it up and try to evaluate what I had available to me. To be honest I’ve started wearing fall pieces because I’m trying to will the cool weather into existence. We’ll see if it works. I’ll keep you posted.

Goal #4 – Blog at least twice a week. I didn’t exactly hit my goal of twice a week, but I did blog more frequently than I have in the past few months. I’d call that a win!

Goal #5 – Attempt our “month with no going out to eat.” Okay, well I thought this was something we were going to try but apparently I did not communicate that properly with my sweet hubby. Oops. Now since we are watching what we eat, we are eating out less during the week. (But the weekend is still an issue…)

september goals

Recently I’ve been spending more and more time thinking about the future. To me, I’d rather spend my time doing something that I love and not something I’m obligated to do. So what does that mean?

#1 – I’m blogging for me, not anyone else. I feel like I go through waves on the blog between really loving it and feeling like it’s a chore. But over five years, I feel like I’ve never “gotten it,” whatever that means.

Back in the day when blogging meant sharing weekend recaps and swapping sidebar ads and linking up for silly reasons any day of the week. The blog world as it is now is different. Last week I made a big decision to leave all blogger share groups on Facebook and Instagram pods. I’m not participating in follow or comment threads anymore. I don’t want it to seem like I don’t want to support fellow bloggers, but I don’t want it to be done in a superficial way. I want any comments I receive to be genuine and not influenced by an obligation to comment. In return, any likes or comments I leave are because I want to, not because I’m being forced to.

As for my blogging related goals, that’s just it. I’m not going to have any. Other than a reminder to myself to not get swept up in numbers and comments and followers and likes, I’m going to try my hardest to blog for myself and no one else. That’s not to say I won’t be sharing my favorite foods, products, places, etc. but I’m trying to be less influenced by the rat race of it all. That’s all I’ll say for now about this topic (as I could go on forever).

#2 – Continue to log food in my Fitbit app and work out. Last week I was on point. I was making clean meals, snacking on fairly healthy things, all while letting myself enjoy some things (namely Starbucks and movie theatre popcorn). I was also walking at least 3 miles a day. I had more energy, felt happier, and slept better. Over the weekend I slipped but I’m hoping to hop back on the wagon. Although I do have a goal weight in mind, I’m more concerned with changing my lifestyle and just doing better in general.

#3 – Say “yes” more. I know that we as women are encouraged to say “no” more, and I honestly think I’ve gotten to the point now where I say “no” to everything. Instead of making up excuses about why I shouldn’t do something, I want to start asking myself “why not?” For example, last week was the first preseason Panthers game. I haven’t been to a game in Charlotte before but decided I wanted to go and we bought tickets just a few hours before game time. It was spontaneous and we had a fantastic time. I want to start taking advantage of my surroundings and sit on my butt less.

I know these are very generic and not very measurable, but it’s what’s on my mind for this month! We’ll see how it goes.

What are your goals for September? Is there anything in your life you want to improve on?

Welcome to New York (Recap)

August 19, 2016

Even though we’ve been back for almost a week, I’m still getting used to life back in small town South Carolina after spending five days in New York City! To say things are different is an understatement.

The trip, spurred by an extremely lucky chance at two decently-priced “Hamilton” tickets, was meant to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary and my 27th birthday, both of which had passed the two weeks prior to our trip. (In case you missed it, I recapped my thoughts on seeing Hamilton live yesterday on the blog.) If you can believe it, Nick and I haven’t flown together since 2014 when we visited DC, so going on a “proper” trip was long overdue.

The Hotel

NYLO NYC Hotel - New York City - Upper West Side

Nick and I spent a lot of time looking (and stressing) over where we were going to stay. I knew that NYC was pricey and the rooms were notoriously tiny. Not so great for a girl who’s claustrophobic an d on a limited budget. After lots of searching we eventually settled on the NYLO NYC hotel. We stayed at a NYLO location in Plano, TX a few years ago and really enjoyed the experience, so we knew the caliber of the hotel. The lobby of the hotel was absolutely gorgeous and our room was too. (It was very small, but we made it work. Plus the bed was insanely comfortable.) If you’re looking for a moderately priced hotel in NYC, we definitely recommend NYLO. It’s located in the Upper West Side on Broadway and 77th, so it was easy to walk to the subway and had lots of great food options within just a few blocks.

Tip: No matter what you’re planning to see in NYC, this hotel is a great location. It was just two blocks away from Central Park and the Museum of Natural History, both of which are great things to see!

The Food

Nice Matin - New York City - Brunch - Upper West Side

Speaking of food, it’s a pretty important thing to us when we are traveling! But because we did SO MUCH WALKING during the day that we stuck close to our hotel for dinner each night. Many of my recommendations came from blog friends (especially Betsy) and they did not disappoint. We didn’t really hit the ~hot spots~ (in Hell’s Kitchen or anywhere in lower Manhattan really) because we didn’t want to spend tons of money on food this trip. Favorites included Nice Matin for brunch, Luke’s Lobster for a quick dinner, and Celeste Pizza* for some yummy Italian. We also hit up Gray’s Papaya (Nick liked it more than I did) and Shake Shake (I liked it more than Nick did.) The star of the trip was absolutely Levain Bakery. If you go, you HAVE to get the chocolate cookies. They are divine and unlike anything I’ve had before.

Tip: Many places we went to only accepted cash. It’s probably a good idea to carry cash with you when visiting NYC. There are ATMs all over the place and since we bank with Bank of America there was always one nearby. (Not sponsored, just the truth)

The Sights

While we had a general idea of the kinds of things we wanted to see while in NYC, we tried not to schedule too much so that we could enjoy being on vacation! Two things we purchased prior to our trip was tickets for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island and The Tour at NBC Studios. Both of these attractions fill up early so you want to make sure to purchase them prior to your trip.

Since we waited to buy tickets until the week before our trip, we were only able to visit the grounds of the Statue of Liberty and weren’t able to go into the podium or crown, but it was the perfect amount of “playing tourist” for me. An audio tour is included in your ticket price so we took these and walked the perimeter of the island, which took about an hour. We knew it would be busy and very hot since we visited in August so we took the ferry that departed from Battery Park at 8:30 a.m. It was the perfect time to go, even if it did rain a little. Ellis Island was definitely worth checking out as well. Seeing the huge registry room took my breath away. You could feel the history on this entire island.

Manhattan - New York City - Statue of Liberty

Tip: Take travel sized umbrellas with you if there’s even a slight chance of rain in the forecast. We were saved by these twice on our trip.

After departing on the ferry from Ellis Island, we made the 10 minute walk to Trinity Church. Prior to my “Hamilton” obsession, I knew this church from a movie I watch more often than I might admit: National Treasure. (No lie, I watched it last night on HBO.) In addition to the historical nature of the church, I really wanted to see the graves of Alexander Hamilton, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton and Angelica Schuyler Church.

Alexander Hamilton grave - Trinity Church - New York City

Tip: In the last song in Hamilton, Eliza sings that Angelica is buried at Trinity Church near Hamilton. Well in this case, “near” is a relative term. In fact, she’s buried on the other side of the church towards the back of the graveyard. There’s an American flag and historical marker that indicates her plot.

Angelica Schuyler Church - Trinity Church - New York City

A short jaunt over a few blocks from Trinity Church is the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. This was such a surreal experience, even though we didn’t enter the museum itself. The footprints of each tower is now a memorial fountain. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go (I’m not great at handling emotional things like that) but I’m glad we visited. I think the most heart-wrenching thing was seeing a construction worker just walking around and visiting the memorial on his lunch break. Even with him living in the city, he took time out of his day to visit and pay respect. It was really touching!

That afternoon we took The Tour at NBC Studios, which was a real treat! I’m a huge fan of the NBC network and its shows so it was so cool to be able to see the studios where things are done. Since the Olympics were going on, basically the entire NBC team is in Rio so we didn’t have any sightings. But because of that, Jimmy Fallon’s show was on a break and we were able to tour his studio. It’s much smaller than you might think! We also got to see the studio where they film SNL and it’s also much smaller than it looks. TV magic, I suppose.

NBC Studios - Rainbow Room - New York City

Friday we spent the morning out of the sun (it was BRUTAL, y’all) and inside at the Museum of Natural History. Yes, this is the one from Night at the Museum! Having visited many museums in DC and Houston, I was very impressed with the quality of the exhibits.

Tip: You should be wearing comfortable shoes through the whole trip but especially here at the Museum. It took us about three and a half hours to do the whole thing. I accidentally wore flats instead of my comfy sneakers and my feet were killing me! 

We continued our day of museums and visited the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) that afternoon. On Fridays beginning at 4 p.m. the museum is free admission so we took advantage of that! Unfortunately so did EVERYONE ELSE IN NEW YORK CITY. It was extremely packed. But the chance to see Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and and Monet’s “Water Lillies” up close was totally worth the crowd. This was one of my favorite things we did in NYC.

The Shows

Hamilton Musical - Richard Rogers Theatre - New York City

If you read my Hamilton post from earlier this week, you’ll know that it was one of the best experiences of my life. Being able to see a show on Broadway was such a cool experience. And for it to have been the reigning Tony Award winner for Best Musical? Even better. I won’t go into how much I loved it again, but I highly highly recommend it for anyone at all.

We ended our trip to NYC on Friday night with another Broadway show, The Color Purple. It also won a Tony this year for Best Revival of a Musical and its lead actress, Cynthia Erivo, won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical. Plus my girl Danielle Brooks (she’s from South Carolina!) from “Orange is the New Black” was also in the play. Having known nothing about the play before we saw it was a little challenging (sometimes it was hard to follow) but the music and performances by the cast were flawless. Cynthia brings tears to my eyes anytime she opened her mouth, and Danielle was the perfect comic relief. It was a great show!

The Color Purple - Jacobs Theatre - New York City

The Transportation

Getting from LaGuardia to the Upper West Side was fairly simple. We opted for a private taxi since there were two of us and the trip only took about 20-25 minutes. I believe we paid $35 plus tip for the ride. For me it was so much less of a hassle than the subway might have been.

However, we did take the subway for everything else on our trip. It’s easily the cheapest option and while it might not be the easiest or most glamorous, it is fairly quick and helps you save a few bucks. For our purposes we only ever took the “1” train (it’s the red line) that runs north to south. When we went to the Statue of Liberty we took it from the 79th street station to Battery Park which was right beside the ferry. Mostly we took in to the 50th street station which is just north of Times Square.

When leaving the hotel to get back to the airport the hotel offered a private car which was very nice. We encountered a little bit of traffic but nothing too bad. We had time to eat lunch before our flight (The Delta/American Airlines terminal in LaGuardia has some pretty good food!) and I even took a short nap while waiting to board our flight back to Charlotte.

Overall we really enjoyed our trip to New York and even though we didn’t do everything that we had hoped to do, it was both a relaxing trip and also full of excitement!

Have you ever been to NYC? Were you able to take a trip this summer?

7 Things to Know Before Seeing Hamilton on Broadway

August 17, 2016

Well folks. It happened. I saw Hamilton on Broadway last week.

Nick and I decided to take the plunge and purchase some (relatively) inexpensive tickets to the show back in May. After some convincing (and begging… lots of begging) we purchased the tickets as a joint 5th wedding anniversary gift to each other. I plan to cover our entire trip in a blog post tomorrow, but I wanted to focus solely on Hamilton first because I’ve had so many people ask me about our experience seeing the show!

I thought it would be best to just break it down into bullet points. Hopefully you can use these tips and tricks if you have the chance to see it on Broadway! (And it’s not as hard as you might think…)

7 Things to Know Before You See Hamilton

7. Be wary about where you purchase your tickets, but don’t worry about where you sit. Buying tickets at face value from Ticketmaster is almost impossible since the tickets disappear as soon as they are posted. Because of that, be sure to exercise caution if purchasing through StubHub. After having worked at an event venue for four years, I saw many folks scammed and disappointed after buying fake tickets online. That’s not to say that all tickets on StubHub are fake, but the only way to get certified tickets for the show is through Ticketmaster. They have a resale option built into the ticketing page, so be sure to look there. (A few years ago I wrote a blog post for my former employer talking about safely buying tickets online. Can you tell I’m passionate about this?)

When you get to deciding where you want to sit, I promise you that any seat is a good one. Our seats were on the last row of the lower mezzanine in the exact center and I loved seeing the stage from above. I have friends who sat very close to the absolute back row and they still thought they had the best seat in the house!

I should also mention that while tickets are expensive, they aren’t hard to find. I found 12 seats for today’s show starting at $435 each on Ticketmaster. You can also enter the digital lottery, but be sure to confirm your email address after entering!

6. There’s no need to arrive more than an hour early. The doors open 30 minutes prior to the event, and folks typically don’t start lining up earlier than an hour before the show. If you already have tickets, there’s no need to rush! You will have plenty of time to get your merch and drinks before the show starts. If you want to stay nearby the theater, Times Square is literally around the corner. Go be touristy and kill some time before the show!

I do want to mention: if you’re going to a Wednesday matinee like we did, you should absolutely go see Ham4Ham! Ham4Ham is an in-person lottery done at noon on Wednesdays, unlike the digital lottery that’s done for all of the other shows. Guests are treated to a live performance by Hamilton cast members, other Broadway actors or musical guests. The best part? It’s hosted by Rory O’Malley, the current King George. Even though we weren’t entering the lottery, we were able to see the “show.” We arrived at around 11:40 and joined the crowd inside the barricades.

5. The lines for the bathroom get super long. Well, I can’t speak for the men’s bathroom but I’ve heard rumors that folks have missed the beginning of the second act of the show because of bathroom lines. I drank about half a bottle of water while waiting for the show to start, but I kept it at that. I didn’t want to struggle with my notoriously small bladder! (#TMI, whatever.) So if you can avoid a trip to the bathroom, definitely do so.

4. Yes, merch and drinks are expensive. A soda costs about $7, but you do get a souvenir Hamilton “sippy cup” so I think it’s worth it. My friend and fellow Hamilfan Mia recommends the Hamiltini and the Founder’s Fizz if you’re looking for an adult beverage. T-shirts are roughly $40 each but the designs are gorgeous and it’s a (probably) once in a lifetime experience so I say go for it! Oh, and be generous to the staff selling snacks and merch. They have a lot to deal with, so flash them a smile, say thanks, and give them a tip. It goes a long way. Oh, and if you’re sitting in the mezzanine, they have additional booths up there, so skip the lines in the lobby!

3. Don’t be discouraged about not seeing the “original broadway cast.” We purchased our tickets in May for our August showing knowing that contracts for the show came up in July and Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr) would be leaving. We also knew that Lin Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton) and Phillipa Soo (Eliza Schuyler/Hamilton) would also be leaving sometime in the summer, but we hoped it would be after our Aug. 10 show. Unfortunately all three of these cast members PLUS Daveed Diggs (Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson) departed before we could see them. I held on to the fact that we would still be able to see Chis Jackson (George Washington), Renee Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler), and Anthony Ramos (John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton).

Well, lo and behold, all of the above cast members were off for our particular show. (We did get to see Oak though!) But you guys. It honestly did. not. matter. one. bit. Every single person in this cast and company were absolutely fantastic. Javier Munoz (Alexander Hamilton or “Javilton” as we lovingly refer to him) brought something entirely different to the part and honestly blew me away. Lexi Lawson was the perfect choice for delicate but headstrong Eliza and our Angelica (Alysha Deslorieux) sounded so similar to Renee that I almost couldn’t tell a difference.

But the star of the show was Andrew Chappelle as Lafayette/Jefferson. I’ve followed Andrew on Snapchat and Twitter for a few months now and he is freaking hilarious. I was so nervous to see how someone could possibly fill Daveed’s shoes because the role felt so tailored to him. But y’all: Andrew KILLED IT. He brought the perfect combination of Lafayette’s insanely difficult raps to Jefferson’s sass and so, so much more. I don’t believe he has been cast officially in this role, but it’s just a matter of time, in my opinion. He had the entirely audience rolling on the floor in laughter every time he was on the stage.

2. Bring tissues. Even though I’m a sensitive soul, movies, books or TV shows don’t typically make me cry. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve cried on my couch, bed or in a theater over something I’m reading or seeing. Well folks, “Hamilton” is easily one of those experiences that has brought me to tears. And guess what? Everyone on my row, women AND men, were crying too. Just do yourself a favor and slip some Kleenex in your pocket. Thank me later.

1. The show will blow you away. I didn’t think that I could possibly love Hamilton anymore than I already did. After Nick introduced it to me last Thanksgiving, I listened to the soundtrack at least twice a week since then. I know every line, every ad lib, every note. To say I’m obsessed is an understatement. To be honest, I wasn’t sure it would live up to the expectation I had created in my mind.

Well, I’m pleased to tell you that it absolutely did live up to it. In fact, it went above and beyond. Merely listening to these songs at the office or in the car offers only one dimension. Seeing the looks on the characters faces, the choreography, the costumes, the set… all of these combined amplified everything I already loved about the show. Some lyrics were delivered in a slightly different way that made me understand them more than I had before and many of the artistic decisions had my jaw on the floor. It was a stunning (STUNNING) piece of art that I cannot wait to see again. (Donations to Whitney’s Hamilton fund can be made via Paypal… *wink*)

So have I convinced you to buy tickets to the show yet? I promise you won’t be disappointed! If you somehow made it through this entire post without having listened to the soundtrack… just go to Spotify and listen to it right now.