Virginia Mountain Adventures! [Planning & Video]

My husband, Tom, and I decided that the money we would be spending on our summer birthdays and anniversary gifts could be better used toward a vacation together. We brainstormed a few ideas – a beach resort in the Dominican Republic, or maybe a European-style stay in Montreal – but we ultimately settled on a mountainesque trip. Someplace where we would be surrounded by peace and tranquility, nature as far as the eye could see, yet within a 20-30 minute drive from civilization and fun activities.

While looking through Airbnb, Tom found some listings for treehouses. Some were actual houses built around or into trees, while others were simply houses built amongst trees. We decided on one that was the latter because of the location and price. The house we chose was located in Basye, Virginia, right near the border with West Virginia.

Going into the trip, we really didn’t have anything set on our agenda. We both wanted to catch up on some leisure reading, do some hiking, relax, enjoy nature and, ultimately, each other’s company. It’s really easy the get caught up in millions of other things in New York City – from the general, everyday hustle and bustle everywhere you turn, to the millions of stores and street fairs, to just sitting in your teeny weeny apartment, watching Netflix or getting lost in a black hole that is the internet. There’s always something to do, so it’s hard to shut your brain off or really sit down and read that book for fun or get a real touch of nature.

We knew there would be no internet, so right off the bat that took millions of options off our plate, in a good way. The place was also located in a mountain resort (it’s mainly a ski resort), so it was mainly going to be families on vacation or people that live there year-round. It seemed like our to-do list could stay as simple as we wanted, and I loved that.

Once we booked the treehouse, we decided it would be better (AKA cheaper and easier) to just rent a car in NY and drive down ourselves. Flying would take the same amount of time, what with getting to the airport 2 hours early, the flight, unboarding, and then renting a car to drive the hour from the airport to the resort, and would probably cost way more money. A train would be less stressful, but, again, we would have to rent a car to drive that hour to the resort again (the train station and airport are both in Charlottesville, VA).

I also liked the freedom that came with driving: go at our own pace, beautiful scenery, and singing out loud to good tunes. I love singing to music in the car because you can’t really do it in NY – people on the subway or on the street with think you’re a bit kooky and quite annoying.

So instead of going through every detail in writing, you can just watch the video I made of our first day! There will be 2 other videos after this one showing the other three-ish days (the fourth day was another travel day, so there wasn’t much footage). It’s pretty self-explanatory, so I hope you enjoy!

We’re Moving!!!

After 2 years of living in Brooklyn, we’re moving to Manhattan!

Brace yourselfNo, it’s not that far, but we’re moving all the same.

I’m so excited and it all happened so fast. I came home from work one night two weeks ago and Tom was in the home office. Out of the blue, he started showing me some apartments he found in on Craigslist. In Manhattan. I didn’t recall him mentioning moving before this, so I was surprised and quite curious. He said that he wanted to be closer to the WordPress/developer scene as well as his job’s office and clients, which all take place in Manhattan.

I was down with the idea (since we don’t really like our neighborhood in BK anyway), just as long as we didn’t move somewhere that made my commute farther. Even then, I can’t even complain because my commute is currently about 30 minutes, which is about a third of the average time workers in NYC commute daily.

So for two weeks we’ve been scouring Craigslist, Zillow, RentHop, and realty companies’ websites, looking for decent apartments that wouldn’t [totally] break the bank, would keep us in a good location for transportation, and weren’t cardboard boxes.
"Cozy" room

Let me just start by telling you that the cheapest most “too good to be true” apartments are fake. The apartments Tom showed me that first night were immaculate and only a couple hundred dollars more than what we currently pay in Brooklyn. When I started noticing that all of those “BEST DEAL IN TOWN” postings were by people with three names (example: Lydia Jasmine Nancy), I knew they were scams.

We quickly realized that what we needed/wanted would cost us a lot more than we were hoping; isn’t that always the case?

This past weekend, we contacted a couple realty agents about posts we saw on Zillow and RentHop. We had one set up for over the weekend, but they canceled on Friday night – it probably got rented before we even got a chance to see it. Such is the story when trying to rent in NYC: there one minute, gone the next.

The search continued and we contacted a few more agents. We were interested in one apartment whose agent got back to us on Sunday. We set up a viewing for the next day and started getting as much paperwork as we thought we’d need.

On the train ride to the first apartment, we were discussing this apartment and weighing pros and cons of what we knew about the area so far and the apartment before seeing it in person. I told Tom that if it didn’t fit what we wanted, that we would keep looking at the other apartments she had set for us. He seemed pretty set on this apartment before seeing it, though.

Our current apartment was something we both agreed on before we even walked in. We were both so nervous that we were going to miss out on it, but we lucked out so hard. There was actually a girl scheduled to view it before us but she had a family emergency, so we got to see it first; as soon as we walked in and checked the place out, we looked at each other, smiled, and agreed that we wanted it. The poor girl called just as we signed the final piece of paper saying she was on the way and could she still check it out; the realty agent had to break the news, and although I felt bad, I was ecstatic. We had all of the necessary paperwork with us and got the keys a couple days later.

This time around, however, has required a lot more paperwork and patience. More on that in a bit.

When we got to the first apartment in Manhattan, I had a feeling it was going to be underwhelming just standing outside. It was in a nice area, but the outside didn’t seem all that great and I remember the pictures showing pretty small rooms with not much storage space (closets or kitchen storage). The website post for it wasn’t amazing, it was just better than others that we had seen. When we walked in, it looked even smaller than in the photos and didn’t seem like it would fit our wants or needs…other than having a roof over our head and running water. We decided to try our luck at a couple of the other apartments she had within the same price range and the same area.

NYC Expectations vs Reality

The second place was a few blocks away and up three flights of stairs. The hallways were narrow, but we were greeted by a fully renovated, fresh paint-smelling, beautiful, but oh-so-teeny-tiny apartment. The kitchen was part of the living room, which isn’t unheard of in the city. However, I’ve seen friends’ apartments that have this layout, but there’s enough room to serve as the living room that it doesn’t really impede on the kitchen (and vice versa). This apartment, though, left no room for any proper seating area while still allowing cupboard doors to open. Plus, we have to consider space for Tom’s computer setup.

I think it would make a great bachelor/bachelorette pad, but it would be tight for two people plus guests. The bathroom was immaculate – like, you’ll never find a more beautiful bathroom in the city for this price. But, we don’t plan on spending copious amounts of time or entertaining all of our guests in the bathroom, so we had to pass.

The third place was a couple more blocks away, and noticed a police station nearby, so that made us feel pretty safe. The apartment was on the first floor which was such a pro compared to the last apartment. When we walked in, I thought she was showing us a studio apartment because the main living area/kitchen was huge. But to my surprise, there was a whole other room for a bedroom to the left with a really good-sized closet. The kitchen, although open to the living space, had a much better layout to allow us to have a table and chairs without creeping into the living area. The bathroom was..a bathroom – nothing fancy, especially compared to bathroom #2 (ha), but it would get the job done.

We looked at each other, just as we had when we got our current apartment, and told the agent that we wanted to go ahead with it. We went back to the office, signed some papers, realized that we didn’t have nearly enough documents that they required, and agreed to have them in ASAP. We have been emailing back and forth about 100 times with our agent, sending more paperwork, getting clarification, re-sending clearer pictures and scans of documents, etc.

When a good apartment is on the line and you have to wait a whole business day for your landlady to provide a letter stating that you are a good tenant who pays on time, it feels like a lifetime because anyone can jump on the apartment at any time and it’s first come (meaning first applicant with 100% of the necessary documents) first served. Just because we put a deposit down didn’t mean it was ours yet.

It feels like this has taken a week because the waiting and scrambling to get everything together feels like it’s been going on forever.

But it’s only been 3 days.

At 2pm yesterday afternoon, we finally submitted everything we needed. Our agent was super quick with her responses and was supportive the entire time. She was unsure if the new landlord would accept one of our documents, so she left us with an email that said she would get back to us once she got word back about the status, and that this might take a day.

So I sat back, relieved that it was out of our hands, and figuring we wouldn’t hear from her for at least an hour, maybe not until the following day.

Five. Minutes. Later. She sends us an email congratulating us because we had been accepted!!!!!!!!!!

I can haz new howse?

We signed the lease today and it feels surreal since we can’t move in right away; I’m getting a colonoscopy Saturday (fun!) to make sure my Crohn’s is okay, and then we’re going to a concert on Sunday. We’ll move slowly since we have our current apartment for another 30 days or so, which is great because neither of us has huge chunks of free time to pack, move, and unpack. I’M JUST SO PUMPED!!!

Holiday Travels? [Day 20]

This was actually Day 21’s question, but I had already written it all for today, so tomorrow’s post will be today’s original question. Got it? Cool because this is really important.

And by important, I mean not at all important, but worth sharing…or maybe not…? Anyways, moving on.

Day 20: Do you travel on the holidays?

Heck to the no. However, before and after the holidays: yes.

I’ve actually travelled around the holidays since my parents split, but that was always less than 2 hours worth of travel each way.

Since Christmas 2011, I have travelled around Christmastime every year. It all started because there was this tall, handsome redhead that lived 350 miles away.

  • Christmas 2011
    • I finished my semester of student teaching on December 16; I was then on a train to NYC on December 17 to spend a few days downstate with Tom and his family before Christmas. Tom met me at Penn Station and I finally met his roommate and business partner Jim! We sat at the Starbucks while waiting for the next LIRR train to Stony Brook. Tom’s parents gifted us tickets to Godspell on Broadway, so we went back to the city for a day to ice skate in Rockefeller Center and see the show.
      Christmas 2011
    • On Christmas Day, I made a trip up to Buffalo to spend the day with Courtney and her family. It was such a lovely day and we started our tradition of taking pictures in front of her tree, as if we were posing for a Christmas card…on Christmas Day. Her dog Jack looks like he’s about to poop.
      Christmas card 2011
    • I made a trip back to NYC with three of our friends (Courtney, Matt, and Laura) to stay at Tom’s apartment in Brooklyn over New Year’s. Three of us drove from western NY to Albany to pick up our other friend, and from there took a really inexpensive bus ride (I think it was $7) from Albany to NYC. Tom met us at the bus stop in midtown and we all took the subway from there. A bunch of college friends that lived downstate met up with us in Times Square and we made a day of hanging out, playing hide-and-go-seek in ToysRUs (now I think this is obnoxious haha…tourists…), playing the giant piano in FAO Schwartz, chilling in Bryant Park, and just enjoying time together. On New Year’s Eve, Courtney, Matt, and Laura went to Times Square to see the ball drop in person. I knew that my bladder could not handle this, plus Tom and Jim had bought tickets to a party in Union Square. So I went to the party with them and Jim’s girlfriend, Tara, to ring in the new year. It was a blast and I’m really glad I had all that extra time with friends, new and old, and of course Tom.
      friends in nyc 2012
  • Christmas 2012
    • This was my last Christmas living upstate. I was moving downstate to attend Teachers College, Columbia University for grad school in less than a month, so I didn’t plan a trip to see Tom as I would see him in less than a month. Before Christmas, all of my high school friends got together and we named it Ggg-mas as we call ourselves the Gs/Gggs.
      Gmas 2012
    • After seeing Mom and opening presents with her on Christmas morning, I went up to Buffalo to spend the day with Courtney and her family again. Of course we continued our tradition of Christmas card-esque photos.
      Christmas card 2012
  • Christmas 2013
    • This was my first Christmas downstate with Tom and his family. I had just finished grad school the week before and we had gotten engaged over the summer, so everything was super exciting. It was great getting to spend time with his extended family as well since Tom’s parents usually host holiday parties at their house. December 27, we made the trek upstate and spent time celebrating friends and my mom. We had G-mas again, minus one; but we Skyped her in and got a picture of that.
      Gmas 2013
    • We unfortunately didn’t get to go to Buffalo to see Courtney, but she and Matt came to us so we grabbed lunch together for some much needed friend time!
      Main St Pizza with friends
  • Christmas 2014
    • We went upstate before Christmas since we had plans to go to Orlando over New Year’s. We got to see friends and family as usual AND made it to Court’s house for some quality time and Christmas card pictures!
      Christmas card 2014
    • We also had G-mas, minus two; but don’t worry, we made plates with their most flattering pictures on them. At one point, we all took a drive to the most lit up house near our hometown. This house has always been a spectacle every year, so Tom got to experience it.
      Christmas 2014
    • The trip back home was ridiculous as our train arrived an hour late and within 30 minutes after departure, one of the axles locked up, so we had to wait for over an hour while another train came to tow us back to the Rochester station. We then had to wait another hour or two until buses came to pick us up; that was mad chaos. We finally arrived home 14 hours after our trip started (train ride usually takes 7) and every time we travel upstate by train, I hate it. Tom isn’t a fan of flying, but sometimes I make him suck it up because the train can be a real pain.
      train disaster
  • Christmas 2015
    • We are currently upstate visiting friends and family, so yee-haw! We took a plane this time and our flight was delayed 4 hours and my mom’s presents got thrown out because lotion is considered a liquid (okay okay it’s understandable…but they were still fully wrapped AND wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper!) and I didn’t feel like going through security again after checking my bags. Stupid.. The plan is to go to church and later have our annual G-mas (high school friends) on Sunday, see my mom and Godmother Josie on a daily basis, and go to Buffalo to see Court and her family on Tuesday. Other plans are still in the works.

“Why are NYC people so rude?”

New York City is known for its tall buildings and late-late-late night life. It’s known as the “Big Apple”, interestingly because of its history with horse racing. It’s also, and for more obvious reasons, known as “The City that Never Sleeps”. As soon as you mention that you’re from New York, people from out of state automatically assume you mean NYC. It’s America’s melting pot, holding 8 million residents of all different backgrounds, nationalities, races, religions, sexual identities and preferences, etc and so forth.

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And among these familiar names and characteristics, New York City is highly known for being home to a lot of rude people. When NYCers step foot outside the city, they are astounded by how friendly people are in other places (especially Upstate and The South). They realize that people in other towns smile as they pass one another, usually throwing in a greeting, and seem so genuine while doing so.

Now, coming from a small town in Upstate/Western New York, I get it. People back home are friendly. When taking a leisurely walk down the street, everyone tends to smile and say “Hi” to one another. Things are much slower-paced, allowing for time to stop/slow down and smell the roses.

But the thing is, people are rude in small places, too. I worked at Walmart back home – believe me, rude people are everywhere. Plus, people in small towns and/or cities have less interactions with others on a daily basis. While they’re in their cars driving to work, maybe cursing at other drivers for poor driving skills, we don’t have that luxury (well, most of us don’t).

On the same note, friendly people are in large places. I’m on a first-name basis with the two guys at the deli I go to every weekday morning for breakfast. They greet me by name, ask how I am, and know my usual order. My co-workers are lovely people. The ladies at the laundromat are friendly; although their first language is not English, they still give me a smile and tell me to have a nice day.

So, sure, there are rude people in New York City, but there are also wonderful people, too.

Plus, not to defend jerks with outright disinterest for other people’s well-being, but I can kind of understand why some people are rude here in NYC (to an extent). I was thinking about this the other day after an older gentlemen sitting next to me on the subway told me to have a nice day. I smiled and said the same to him, kind of hanging back before putting my book away and getting up to leave the train. I didn’t want him to notice that we had the same stop. I didn’t want him to try to strike up a conversation.

After living in the city for 2 years, I’ve realized that no interaction means no bad interaction. I understand that it was 7 a.m. so there were tons of people around. If he tried any funny business, after dealing with me there wouldn’t be a lack of people around to help if I needed it. Not that the presence of a lot of people guarantees safety, but that’s another can of worms.

So anyways, I stayed 10 feet behind this older man to ensure that we wouldn’t cross paths again. But then he looked back and noticed me and as I walked by him, he made some comment to me with a smile. It was not a rude, sexualized, or otherwise uncomfortable comment; it was something like the coincidence of us meeting again.

Now, this guy was friendly, polite, and didn’t approach me in a threatening way. BUT. Hearing stories of how women (and men) get sucked into uncomfortable and dangerous situations has me on high alert most of the time. I’ve tensed up when someone approached me (male or female, any color) just to ask directions because I’m not sure what they are going to ask or potentially try to do to me. I know this sounds so dramatic and like I’m making up crazy stories in my head. But these things happen!

One morning before work last year, I was once getting a Metrocard from the machine in my local station when I felt someone grab my butt. And I mean grab. It wasn’t just a brush of someone’s hand or someone’s bag bumping into it. It was a full-palm-and-fingers-curled-around-the-left-cheek grab.

Joey Friends shocked gasp gif

Stunned and flustered, I turned to the first sign of movement to my left and yelled with lots of attitude, “Excuse me, please don’t ever do that again!” Who knows if that was the culprit? I don’t. But either way, that person felt like it was okay to grab me and make me feel vulnerable. I held back tears because I was mortified, embarrassed, and scared. Has this person been watching me? Did they know I would be here at this time? Will they try it again?

I wasn’t even wearing anything revealing or anything that might lead someone on – I was wearing a pair of flare jeans (not skinny, not tight), sneakers, a plain black t-shirt, and my hair was up in a ponytail. That is like the most “leave me alone, don’t talk to me” outfit.

And that ruined my whole day. I was worried about coming home that night because I still wasn’t 100% sure who the culprit was and whether they would try it again. What if they brought a friend or two along and cornered me? My station is pretty busy all the time, but still. They have their ways.

So anyways, long tangent, but same point. I think a lot of people are more cautious than they are rude. It may be a different story in Manhattan during morning and evening rush hours, but in my case I have a trust issue. Especially as a white female – the looks I’ve gotten from guys of all ages is enough to creep me out forever. The things that have been mumbled to me on street corners as I’m taking my laundry to the laundromat in broad daylight amidst a large group of people is not appropriate for my blog. It’s disheartening and frustrating.

So for those of you that are not from NYC or have only visited and were put-off by the rudeness you’ve experienced, just remember that you don’t know where that person has been and what they’ve been through that day or in life. There are a lot of high-stress jobs here in the city. Their home lives may not be great. Their train could have been delayed, making them late to work. You never know.

Also, just a heads up that tourists can be very annoying to residents going about our daily lives. Now, believe me, I’ve been a tourist in the city. I get it. You’re excited, you’re in a new place. I’m just asking that you be more aware of your surroundings like you would anywhere else. We rely on public transportation which can be unreliable, smelly, and cramped when all of your luggage, book bags, and fanny packs take up excess room. There are hundreds of people walking down sidewalks, so we appreciate it when the flow of foot traffic is steady. Please don’t stop abruptly to look up at the tall buildings, take a picture/selfie, look at a map, etc. We have places to be while you have sites to see. Keep it moving and stay to the right.

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Anyways, that’s my two cents on why people in NYC seem rude. I hope this sheds some light for those thinking that everyone in NYC are asses. We’re not all bad. Occasionally, we might let our stress get the best of us, but that’s a universal thing we all share as human beings, whether small-town or big-city.

Join a meetup!

The assignment for this week in my Social Media and Learning class was to sign up for meetup.com, join some groups, and attend a meetup. Based on interests and hobbies, aspirations, and even potential business purposes, you can find all sorts of groups of people looking for and interested in similar things. It’s huge for techies and you could even find “Mr/Ms Right” at singles meetups.

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The website is based out of NYC, so there are tons of groups based here, but you can find groups virtually anywhere. From the meetup.com wikipedia page, I found this interesting:

The attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, was pivotal to the formation of this social network. Meetup co-founder Scott Heiferman publicly stated that the manner in which people in New York came together in the aftermath of that traumatic event inspired him to use the Internet to make it easier for people to connect with strangers in their community.

I needed to find a meetup within the next week or so, so this limited my possibilities seeing as many groups I was interested in (math, teachers, etc) meet a few times per month. So then I expanded my search and looked at groups that focus on fitness and health. There were a ton of soccer (football, for all you foreigners) meetups – mostly pickup games in which at least intermediate skills were encouraged…

Apologies but this isn’t a group for people who are learning how to play, please only sign up and come along if you can play to a decent standard.

(AKA “you better know what you’re doing or you’ll ruin it for everyone”). That’s from an actual pickup group. Hmpf.

And then I stumbled on a group that not only had games as meetups, but also offered lessons for all skill levels. I mean, I played for my school in seventh grade, but I would not say I was good. So I signed up for the basic coed lesson meetup, and I was pumped. Nervous. But pumped.

The lesson was this morning and for $15 I was hoping to meet people with a similar skill level as me (little to none, mind you), be active for 75 minutes (burn off the 2.5 pieces of pizza from dinner last night), and have fun.Hudson River Pier 25 NYC

Now, the lesson was in the morning…

…On Pier 25 which overlooks the Hudson River….

…In March….

…So it was cold.

But it was so much fun. Everyone was so friendly; we were all there for the same reason, mostly to improve our skills and maybe make a hobby out of playing pickup games. Our ages ranged from 20ish to 60ish, the ratio of females to males was pretty even, and there was no equipment necessary – no shin guards or cleats.

Frank, the instructor, was so helpful; he understood our mediocre skills, but pushed us to become smarter players and learn skills properly rather than simply kicking a ball away from us toward a goal. You can check out his website, Soccer Beyond, to get private lessons or even purchase his book!Frank Soccer Beyond

We scrimmaged for the first half hour or so and I was intimidated at first; throwing us to the wolves without teaching us skills? But it was a great warmup and, again, great skills were not required. Frank encouraged us to learn everyone’s names; we were to call their name before we passed the ball to them, or to let them know we were open for a pass. It was definitely a great team building experience.

We learned basic skills – dribbling and “faking”…is it called “faking” in soccer? I mean, I always see this move (roll the ball back with your toe and then kick it behind and to the opposite side?) but I don’t know the technical term. Anyway, we then finished up with another scrimmage. It was great.

I definitely recommend anyone looking for a great workout and fun with others to join a group on meetup.com and attend a meetup. No super duper skills necessary! I think that’s the best part; the point of the site is to encourage people to find others with similar interests. You can even start your own groups! You never know who else shares your interests, no matter how strange they may be.