Tag Archives: Travel

NYC Days 3-4: The Met and 1D!

Before I start this final (I promise!) post about this trip, I feel compelled to mention that, lest anyone worry that Ella was forgotten and lonely at home (unlikely), she was having the time of her life with Dave and the friends she got to play with while Dave was in class. I was so thankful for my great friends that watched her and for Dave for working his schedule so that I could go on this trip! I owe you guys big time. It was really amazing what a few days away did for my psyche. I felt like mostly human again (I kid).
Dave made it through church solo and even did Ella’s hair on his own (his biggest worry before I left, haha). Round of applause emoji! Notice he traded the diaper bag for a manlier backpack. Smart thinking.
I had never Face-timed Ella before–seeing as I’ve never spent a night away from her–and it was so funny! If I pretended to kiss the screen, she would go in for a kiss as well. And literally kiss the screen.
Dave even hiked the Y with her in the backpack, and if you’ve ever done that hike you know it’s not a piece of cake so….I was suitably impressed!
So our last full day in the city started off with a minor tragedy, as we missed our bus in the morning. I got cocky and suggested we try to catch it at a stop closer to our hotel, but since Nyack didn’t have any clearly marked bus stops (is it just a word-of-mouth system there, or what?) and we watched in silent horror as our bus passed us right on by and cruised down the hill and around a corner. So, we got into the city an hour later than planned. We did, however, have a little time to kill at the hotel until the next bus, so we were able to catch the end of One Direction on GMA. It got us nice and pumped for the concert the next day!
The second, larger, tragedy was that our first stop, the Neue Gallery, was closed on Tuesdays–and seeing as it was Tuesday, and our last day in the city, we were out of luck! Super sad because we wanted to see the painting from The Woman in Gold in real life (have you seen the movie? SO good!). So we headed right over to Dean & Deluca to abate our sorrows in upscale groceries.

Another way that we saved money was buying food at grocery stores instead of restaurants (not that we invented this tactic–lots of seasoned travelers do this!). Anyone who’s ever been inside of a Dean & Deluca knows that it’s a food lover’s dream, so you’re not missing out on the New York foodie experience by getting something to go from a grocery store rather than a formal eatery. We probably spent like 40 minutes looking around and trying samples before deciding what to get for our picnic outside of the Met.

Since we were going to be getting burgers later, I went with something a bit healthy–this kale, shrimp, and noodle salad with some kind of delicious sesame dressing. It was SO good, and at like $6, much cheaper than getting a salad in a restaurant would have been. As you can see, we had to try the sea salt and dark chocolate cookie too. We HAD TO.
Grace took to phrasing her texts as lines from Gossip Girl throughout the trip, so chilling outside of the Met was fitting.
If I had to pick my favorite thing that we did in New York, it was probably the Met. It’s mind-blowingly huge and overwhelming, but awesome. Like, you find yourself passing by works of art and just being like, “oh, that’s a Monet? Well, it’s not one of the more famous Monets, so I’ll keep going.” There’s just SO much famous, cool stuff to see. I spent wayyyyy too long in the first gallery we went through and found myself trying to make up time later on, so I’m positive I missed things I would have wanted to see, but oh well.
For the first little bit my sisters and I decided to pick a gallery to see, but go through things at our own pace and meet up at the end and then pick another one to start on. Well, I decided to stick with Tess, since she’s the art expert in our family, so she could tell me what was famous?But I was taking my own sweet time, and got separated from her, and so I found myself just wandering doing and seeing who knows what by myself. I ended up in the Egyptian section and a kindly tourist noticed me taking pics and offered to take one of me. By myself. In front of some kind of Egyptian sentinel. Why not?
I was so charmed by this elementary school group just sitting around sketching a Klimt. What a field trip! I’m pretty sure my second grade class went to the post office.
And I’ll ignore the hoards of people crowding around, feverishly taking pictures of a Van Gogh behind glass because we know it just makes me ragey.
I think we spent four hours there and barely scratched the surface. So many iconic paintings and not enough time! I really wonder how long it would take you to visit every gallery and every room in this museum.
After the Met we headed over to Shake Shack and I have to say, it really lived up to the hype! I feel like any time I read a blog or instagram post or whatever about anyone visiting New York there’s a nod to Shake Shack, so I wanted to try it but I was skeptical. These things are rarely as good as expected. But it was! I mean, if you like burgers, fries, and shakes, which I do. I knew that Utah has truly sunk it’s claws into me, though, when I realized that I was having true stress over the fact that this place doesn’t have fry sauce.
We also checked out Bloomingdale’s and Magnolia Bakery after this but somehow I didn’t get any pictures. My thoughts on Magnolia Bakery–yummy cupcakes, but I don’t really think that they are any better than plenty of other ones I’ve had. I don’t know if I’d need to make a pilgrimage there the next time I’m in the city.
The next day was pretty much entirely consumed by getting to the One Direction concert–let me clarify, the concert started at 7pm. Well, the opening act was starting at 7pm. Since I have the compulsive need to self-sabotage and be late to everything in my life I was baffled that we needed to be there super early (I was thinking we could roll in around 7:30 or so…..I’ve never been on time to a concert before), but Anne was in charge that day, and visibly stressed, so I just let her lead the way. So after checking out of our hotel in Nyack, taking an Uber (or is it just “taking Uber?” I’m not cool.) to New Jersey, and getting something to eat, we got to the stadium at 4:30.
We had plenty of time to kill with selfies.
So I had never been to a concert with this crazy level of fandom before. I mean, so many shirts (plenty of “Mrs. Styles” or “Team Payne,” etc.) , homemade signs, crazed screaming–it was so nuts! I was handed both of these signs by little teeny boppers who had printed out thousands on their own dime and just wanted to spread their love to the boys, I guess. We were supposed to fill in the top one with the date that we started “loving the boys” and wave them at a certain time.
Icona Pop opened and they were actually pretty good! I only really knew their hits but they were entertaining and played for about 45 minutes. By that point I was like, “Ok, we’ve been here for four hours, they’ve got to be coming on soon.” No dice. That was my one complaint about this concert–wayyyyy too much time between the opening act and 1D actually coming on! But I guess you can see from this pic that they needed time to fill in the seats and for it to get dark.
When the guys came on, I have to say, it was totally worth it. They were awesome! I love 1D–they helped me realize that I am, in fact, beautiful–but I will admit I wasn’t expecting them to be great live. But they were! Harry, especially–what a rock star. He was running all over that stage like a crazy person. No wonder there are so many videos of him tripping and falling during concerts. I was sort of expecting him to be too cool for school, but he was super funny and worked the crowd like a pro. Can you tell I love Harry? No shame in my game. It really was a once in a lifetime experience to be in a crowd that was THAT crazy for a band. They sang “Drag Me Down,” which had dropped like 48 hours ago, and everyone in the stadium knew every lyric (granted, it’s not exactly complicated. They rhyme “me” with “me.”). And you know what? We didn’t even miss Zayn.
And with that, I hopped on a plane and went back to my little family the next day!

NYC Day 2: MoMA, Chelsea Market, and The Highline

Day two of our NYC trip was supposed to start off with the Museum of Modern Art first thing, but I begged to take a short detour to Rockefeller Plaza to see the NBC studios. This would be the first (well, not actually the first, I think the first day had several too) of many de-railings of our agreed-upon itinerary that I would impose upon our group and my sisters were agreeable, but warned me that this was all I could demand for the day (hey, I was child-free for a few days and ready to go wild! As in, not paying attention to our schedule at all).
I am a huge fan of basically any and all NBC comedies from the past several years, especially 30 Rock, so as cheesy as it was I was super excited to see the actual building! Unfortunately, Liz, Jack, Kenneth, and the rest of the gang were nowhere to be found.
We were there a little after The Today Show would be filming but I couldn’t help but sneak a peek into the studio. We thought about trying to get to the Plaza early in the morning and watch the broadcast but we decided for how early we would have to get up and how much time it would waste, it just wasn’t worth it. Still, a little part of me hoped to see my idols just chillin in there after the fourth hour. But I had to settle for the KLG and Hoda graphics instead.
Please also appreciate that I am wearing running shoes with shorts, thus completing the tourist ensemble.  stupidly only brought Saltwaters for walking and after the first day my shins were dying. Arch support is nothing to mess around with, peeps! Learned that lesson.
Yes, my shirt also came unbuttoned in the back. Killing it on the fashion scene that day!
After our little sidetrack we walked a few blocks to this food cart, King of Falafel and Shawarma. Just writing this reminds me that I need to go on Yelp and give them five stars immediately. SO GOOD! And cheap, too. I think my Falafel was $5 and had super fresh veggies. I couldn’t even finish the whole thing. Food in NYC is expensive but we found that eating at less touristy and formal places saved a ton of money.
Diet Coke was not included but a very necessary side purchase. We all agreed that we drink more pop when we are together because if any one of us gets one we all realized that we need one too.
Our next stop was the MoMA. I had been here the first time I came to New York but it had been over ten years and I’m really glad we went back. So much famous art (coupled with very odd things like a book covered in nails with a knife sticking out of it–which, I’m sure is some kind of brilliant commentary on society that is just over my head) and it’s way more accessible than the Met. We hit up the main galleries and a few of the newer exhibits in a few hours. Whereas in the Met you can spend like five hours there and feel like you’re still skipping a ton of important things (see next post!).
One thing that really drives me bonkers is the fact that, around the super famous pieces of art, you can’t even really just stand there and enjoy the painting because people are going nuts trying to snap pictures. I know that’s hypocritical because I just posted a collage of paintings that I took pictures of….but a quick snapshot is fine. It’s just people standing there forever trying to line up the perfect shot, or sticking their camera in the air and therefore blocking anyone around them from seeing it. I get that it’s fun to have a picture for the memory, but really…..are you going to lovingly study a poorly-lit cell phone picture of a painting after the fact? I’m pretty sure Van Gogh would cut off his other ear in rage over this. I wish galleries would just go back to no photography. You can look the paintings up online, people!
What is it about looking at art that just kills your back? Benches are a must.

After the MoMA we hit up Chelsea Market and that might have been the best surprise for me of this trip! When we were all coming up with ideas for what to do while in NYC, this wasn’t on my list (not that I didn’t want to go, I just hadn’t heard a lot about it beforehand) but I am so glad we checked it out. From what I understand–don’t quote me on this–this used to just be a complex of industrial food production sites that kind of fell into decay as the area became less industrial in the 1990s. It used to be the site of Nabisco, and the Oreo was invented here so….I was immediately impressed. A developer had the idea to connect all of the little brick buildings all with this cool corridor and create an indoor food vendor marketplace. Upstairs is the Food Network offices and I think a few other TV channels too.

We just strolled through and tried things that caught our fancy, and, let’s be honest, that we had googled beforehand. These donuts were amazing (in searching my brain for more creative synonyms for “amazing” all I came up with was “amaze-balls,” “the bomb.com,” and “out of this world,” so my modifiers need some help). Seriously, the food options were endless and everything we tried was super good, and everything we laid eyes on looked fantastic. I could have eaten until I was sick!
We took our sweet time at Chelsea Market and then checked out The High Line on our walk back to the metro station. Anyone who’s been to NYC recently already knows about this….I felt like this was the hot new thing on every list I read before this trip….but it’s an above-ground park built on an old raised train track. Very clean and well-kept, and it was fun to get some up-high views as you strolled along.
I will say that living out west, you just kind of get used to having access to wide-open spaces at your fingertips at all times. With this park, and Bryant Park, I was like “….oh, this park is very small (duh, Claire, it’s on an old railway track). Where do kids play?” I know that probably makes me sound really naive! It’s just so different there, but in an awesome way. And The High Line is a really creative use of space and included a ton of cool plants with little plaques about them too. If you’re in that part of the city I would for sure check it out! I read some reviews that said it was over-hyped but I didn’t think so.
Hopkin girls on the town!

The City So Nice, They Named It Twice: Day 1

I mentioned a few post ago  that I had the amazing opportunity (I feel like that phrase is soooo overused but I can’t think of a more original way to say it) to visit New York City with my sisters during the first week of August! The stars just sort of aligned and Dave was so great to let me leave he and Ella for a few days, and I most definitely owe him, but I had such a blast! I was going to compile all of this into one post and it was getting colossally long so….day-by-day recaps it is. Feel free to come back in a week or so if vacation synopses are not your thing. Totally understandable.
We stayed outside of the city in the little village of Nyack. We did this for a couple of reasons, but number one, it was significantly cheaper than staying in the city would have been. Like, a third of the price! We just took a bus into the city every morning which wasn’t a big deal at all. So if that’s something you were ever considering, I can say I would really recommend staying somewhere that has transportation into the city (basically everywhere around here) and just commuting in, if you’re pretty flexible on timing. Obviously, if it’s a once in a lifetime trip to NYC, though, you may just want the whole city experience including staying in the middle of it all.
Another perk of staying at a good ol’ Best Western was we got free breakfast, which saved us some money too (being on a budget was the only way this trip was going to happen). We were sort of just expecting the typical cereal, bananas, toast, etc. thing that most motels offer but this place was like a full diner complete with surly waitresses and huge portions. Apparently the Nyack Best Western hotel restaurant is famous for their cheesecake….and the advertising was plastered on every corner of the place, including cocoa mugs. Sadly, we were so stuffed when we got home each night that we were never in the mood to try any, so I can’t vouch for Lisa’s Cheesecakes myself. But apparently she won the New Jersey State Fair so…..Lisa’s a pretty big deal in Nyack.

Sorry this is way grainy….stole it off my sister’s Insta

Once we got into the city our first stop was church, since it was Sunday (Anne was with her bf for most of Sunday so they attended church at his ward). We attended one of the wards that meets above the Manhattan temple, which was really cool! I know that every Mormon that visits New York writes about this but….I can’t help it! It was so different and yet the same as attending church in suburbia! And since it was testimony meeting we got to hear from really interesting people from all over the world.
Our next stop was the Staten Island Ferry to get views of the Statue of Liberty and the skyline. All of us have visited New York before and had done the ferry and tour of Liberty Island as we decided we didn’t need to do that again, and we just wanted to try something new. But if I had never been before, I would have definitely done the whole shebang, and visited Ellis Island too, since I remember that being a great experience. For second-timers though, I LOVED riding the Staten Island Ferry! For one thing, it’s totally free! It’s actually set up to be a commuter shuttle but it happens to offer pretty good views of Lady Liberty, so we decided to give it a shot.
It was fun being out on the water and it felt less touristy than a lot of the big sights around Manhattan, even though I know plenty of tourists take the ferry too. Since it was a weekend it was pretty packed but the rush to get on and get a good seat was actually kind of fun. The first pic on this post was about the best shot I got of the Statue of Liberty, though, because right as we were actually passing it, a huge commercial cruise ship–complete with water slides on the roof–passed right in front of it! It was actually pretty funny! Since we were hitching a free ride, I guess we can’t complain. You get off on Staten Island and reboard through the terminal and just enjoy the views from the other side on the ride back. Totally recommended!
We then rode the subway (Train? Metro? What do real New Yorkers say?!) back to Grand Central Station and took a little audio tour that we had downloaded onto our phones beforehand. We didn’t stand out as tourists at all 🙂 Tons of cool history here and the sleekest Apple store I’d ever seen in my life.
Tess trying out the Whispering Gallery on the lower level. It works!
We then walked towards our bus terminal by way of Bryant Park (I must confess we also stopped for Chipotle on the way…..I know, who goes to a chain restaurant in NYC?! We had big plans to try this fancy salad place but ran out of time and I had a coupon on my phone….) Ok, I’ll be honest and say that Bryant Park was pretty and all, but I read so many things that just raved about it, I guess I was a little underwhelmed. The fact that it has so many community services, like the reading room and the art cart for kids, etc, makes it super cool, but if I didn’t know why it was significant, I would have walked through it and just thought it was a nice city park (and I guess it used to be a hotbed of crime and they’ve really cleaned it up recently, so that’s admirable too!). I wouldn’t travel across town just to check it out, but since we were walking that way anyway, it was definitely worth strolling through.

Our bus terminal was like a block away from Time Square, so we walked through there as well. Time Square is at once breathtaking and horrifying. It’s like the perfect representation of all that is commercial and garish in America. I mean, it’s got Madame Tussaud’s and Ripley’s Believe it or Not right next door to each other! You can tell just by glancing around that basically everyone walking through (at a snail’s pace, because it’s packed) is from out of town, or trying to sell you some bus tour or caricature. And who goes to New York and gets Cold Stone (says the woman who ate at a Chipotle half and hour earlier)?! BUT, it’s truly one-of-a-kind, and really entertaining for people watching sake. So it was worth a short visit.

Grace and I had a short panic (Tess said she likes being the youngest because several other people have to fail before she’s expected to step in) when we couldn’t figure out where our bus depot was–for some reason, there were two buildings designated “42nd Street Port Authority”–but thanks to a helpful lady in the wrong terminal we found our way. I wish I had a picture of the three of us freaking out that we were getting on the wrong bus back to Nyack, though, even after we knew we were in the right depot. For some reason the bus departure gates have these tall, skinny escalators up, but not down, and so we thought we were trapped at the wrong gate. You can imagine all of the commuters waiting to get on their bus home after a long day and seeing these three frantic girls running back and forth within the glass waiting area like hamsters. Thankfully, we were in the right place, ha! What’s traveling without a few mishaps?

Childhood Unplugged


I have to start by saying that I borrowed the title for this post from an Instagram account that I love called Childhood Unplugged (not affiliated in any way, just a humble, no-name fan). I’m not sure how I came across the account (probably trolling the “explore” section, let’s be honest), but I have been inspired by their mission to make “a conscious effort to encourage our children to get back to the art of play.” The gorgeous pictures they feature of kids playing sans any sort of electronic device have stuck with me for the last few weeks. I have nothing against technology, obviously, as I am sitting here typing away on a laptop. And I don’t even expect that our kids will never use an iPad or watch TV, I just don’t want technology to be their definition of fun. I know it’s a big part of our world today, but I don’t want it to be our whole world.

Last weekend was our annual family reunion with Dave’s side of the family, and this year we gathered at Bear Lake right on the Utah/Idaho border. As we approached the lake the weather was getting stormy and cold and I was internally lamenting that it probably wouldn’t be much fun to play outside that day, which was a shame since that was our only scheduled day to actually be on the beach. Well, I guess I was wrong because sun or no sun, Ella was completely and totally enthralled from the second her little toes hit the sand and she made a beeline for a bucket and a shovel.

This was her first time on a beach and we could barely drag her away to eat a lunch that included Doritos (so you know she was serious).

I love these pictures because you can see the succession of the weather/her filth level. Thankfully, what started as a super cold. windy, rainy day got progressively warmer and played through the entire thing.

Finally, swim-suit level warmth.

I don’t know if there has been another activity in Ella’s 21-months of life that has kept her this interested for such a stretch of time with no interference from me. She played for four and a half hours, through lunchtime and nap-time. I was totally in awe that she was just doing her thing, totally oblivious to the fact that she would be totally expected to be in meltdown mode at this point under typical circumstances.


As the afternoon wore on and she got dirtier and dirtier I couldn’t help thinking that these are the sort of classic kid moments I want her to experience as she grows older. No electronics, no manufactured stimulation, just a little gal, outside, exploring the mud and water. Childhood at its finest!


More on the reunion later, I just wanted to get these pics up while the thoughts were still fresh