Friday, July 29, 2011

Guest Post--Jessie, DIY Kid's Art Display

It's Friday! :) Today I want to welcome my friend Jessie to my blog. She's been a friend since we were roommates in college and you have all heard about her on here before! :) I haven't really told you any fun stories about her yet though. ;) Being roommates in college there is all sorts of stuff to share, but I'll just tell you a little about what I remember from rooming with her. She loved dance and is very good at it. She's been dancing since she was a little girl and it's obviously a passion for her, so much so that she took on the role of starting and coaching a dance team to perform at our college sporting events. I'm pretty sure she has some God-given gift to get an enormous amount of stuff done in one day (I'm serious!). She is very dedicated, responsible and willing to take on all sorts of challenges. She's very open-minded, willing to see the best in everyone, and a giver of second-chances. Jessie is a great & loyal friend! I have to tell you this one funny story! :) I'm not even sure if she remembers this or not, but I sure do. She wanted to go see a movie one particular night and asked me to join her. I didn't have any idea what the movie was or what it was about, but it was NOT my kind of movie. It was called A Joy Ride (I think) and it was anything but joyful. It was some creepy movie about a semi driver. Anyway, I was freaked out and had my eyes closed for about 90% of the movie and was seriously freaked out by semis for quite a while after that one. ;) I learned my lesson though, ALWAYS find out about the movie before going to see it! It makes for a funny memory for me of my time with Jessie, though. Hehe!!

Now I'll let her tell you a little bit about herself though, here are her words from her own blog (which I'd encourage you to check out):

"I am a wife of six years to my husband, Marty. A mother to my preschooler son, Ben, and my baby daughter, Jane. We have a dog, Hank. A Minnesota state educator of Language Arts for seventh graders. A dance team coach. And a passionate woman who enjoys life. Shared experiences are one of life's blessings and so here I am sharing mine with you."

I hope you enjoy her post today and show her some love! 

With my son Ben going into preschool this fall coming home with many inspiring art pieces and with the fact that my fridge is full and Jane yanks everything off the lowerhalf ripping it in half or many pieces, I saw this idea in Disney Family Fun magazine last night and thought I could easily replicate it. I found a good spot in the kid's room (one Jane couldn't reach) to display some nice pictures and it took ummm....all about five minutes.

You will need:
2 nails
a few feet of yarn, string, rope, or ribbon of choice
a few clothes pins

It is very eye catching when you walk in. Ben came home from Bible school today and was in awe; he loved it. :) He was so proud to see his stuff up like that. It's cute.

More ideas for hanging artwork

Click for Directions

Thanks for stopping by today! :) Have a great weekend. What DIY projects do you have planned to do?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

T-Shirt Upcycle

For a while now I've seen all these great ideas of things people make with old t-shirts. We had a large supply of old t-shirts ourself, so I was looking forward to using them on something useful. I've actually done several things with them, today I'll share the first one.

What we had planned for the actual 4th of July, turned out to be on the 3rd of July so I as SCRAMBLING to finish this project in about 30 minutes. So, I'm sorry, but the pictures aren't the best.

I'd seen people make necklaces and bracelets out of old T-shirts and thought that would be a cute way for my daughter and I to match at the festivities. :) I also made my daughter a headband to wear out of the sleeves too.

Start with: 
I actually didn't end up using the needle and thread because the sleeve fit perfectly around my daughters head. :)
BUT, I did use a hot glue gun which I forgot to add to the picture. 
 Then, measure your strips of t-shirt to about 1 1/2 inches wide, cutting it through both sides of the shirt, don't cut the seams.

Pull them tight between your fingers and let them "roll" themselves. They'll look like this:

Then you just wrap them up however you'd like a tie them together for a necklace or bracelet.
 There are other ideas for bracelets, which I'll share with you another time too.

Then for the headband, like I mentioned I used about a 2 1/2 strip from the sleeve of my shirt as the "headband". Then to doll it up a bit, I added some "flowers". I basically wrapped and twisted a 1 1/2 in strip around itself and glued it along the way. 

  Like this:

They will look like this when you are finished: 
Sorry about the poor quality of picture.
AND, because I was in a hurry, I did a sloppy job with the glue and you can see that on the blue one. :-/ It'd look much better if I had time to be more cautious with where I put the glue. 
 The finished product with the most adorable models:

So there you have it, my very first upcycle t-shirt project. I like the idea and think it would look really cute in different color combinations too.

Got any old t-shirts?? ;)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

One Year Anniversary--Debt Diet

YAY!! We've made it. A year ago today we started on this journey to become debt free. If you haven't been following along since the beginning you can get all caught up on our debt story here. Rather then writing a whole long post about all the challenges along the way and our determination to make it past this financial "hurdle" (that you've all heard before), I'll just share the highlights today. :)

-A year ago today we owed just under $38K on all our school loans.
-Today, we owe less then $8K! :)
-During this year we've paid $29, 959. 58 (not that we're keeping track! ;)) on school debt.

We didn't even imagine we'd be this close in just 12 months. It's so exciting!

This how we feel today--like we're soaring. It's so worth celebrating today! :)

Making it to this place, seeing that large of a number paid off in a year and now being in the "single digits" left, has been worth all the sacrifices we've had to make. 

Thanks for all your support and encouragement along the way too. We are grateful for friends that have come along side us to stay focused and make this goal a reality, hopefully in the near future. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Project ADD

Today will be brief, I have too many "projects" to work on! ;) I'll be updating you on all of them soon. 

I'm having a serious case of "Project ADD" right now! I have so many projects I'm trying to work on and pull together that I'm struggling to really finish any of them. I'm working on getting all the posts written up for all these said projects, but it all takes some time.

Do you ever have too many projects you're trying to do at the same time? I sure hope I'm not the only one! ;) I a really am looking forward to sharing them with you though. Stay tuned. :)

I have a GREAT update I want to tell you about tomorrow. So be sure to come back to see what it's all about.

Monday, July 25, 2011

June Grocery Budget

Oops! I bet you all figured July would pass before I finally got around to updating you on the June list. I finally got around to adding up the receipts and it wasn't a fantastic month. The total was $179.30, but part of that was paid for with money we had set aside for our son's birthday party. So, from the actual grocery budget it was $155.59. Not horrible, but over budget. It's getting harder and harder to keep it under the $150 with the prices of food going up. I also think our little man is starting to eat a little more and maybe it's not fair to not count him as "person" in the food budget any more. I'm going to try to keep pushing through, because this wasn't totally out of control, so there is still hope! :)

How about you, have you been able to stick to your grocery budget? What things are you noticing going up? Has it been harder for you to stay on track because of prices on the rise?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Blog 1 Year Anniversary!

It's a PARTY! :) 

Photo Credit
Today marks ONE year since the very first post went live. If you're weren't hanging out with us then, you can read it here. Ever since then I've shared with you all about our journey to become debt free, we've made all sorts of homemade things together, I've shared with you the ups & downs of living on a budget and sorts of odds and ends from this past year! ;) Most importantly, we've shared life together. I've enjoyed having your support and encouragement along the way and I hope you've found some inspiration for your own life too. 

Thanks for coming by and checking in each and every day. I'm honored to have you along for the ride! 

Now, what's a party without gifts, right?! :) Three lucky followers will be getting the gifts this time! A good blog is made far greater by it's fabulous readers. You deserve to be celebrated because you are a lovely community of friends. 

So, here's how it'll work. Like I promised before, there will be special followers that will be honored on here occasionally. Today is the first "randomly selected date".  My two dear friends, who have followed from the very beginning deserve a special treat, don't you think? Yes, indeed they do.

Add caption
Who doesn't love a good cup of Joe for our country's favorite: Starbucks! :) These lovely readers will be getting a sweet little note with a gift card to Starbucks, courtesy of A Simple Life. Now, remember girls, there is free wifi at all Starbucks locations, so be sure to check in with us and tell us what you enjoyed! :)

The first is my bestie from high school, Sarah. You can read all about her and her coolness here. ;)

The second one will be my friend and roommate from college, Jessie

Thanks friends for being a support from the very beginning! I appreciate you! Watch for your little note coming in the mail for you. :)

Yes, I did say THREE and that was only TWO. I can count! ;) Who is the third you ask? It could be YOU. 

Here's how you can enter to win a little Starbucks treat for yourself. 

1. Publicly follow "A Simple Life" (can be through Google or Facebook)
2. Leave a comment about your favorite post to date

That's it.  A winner will be chosen by random and will be contacted to claim their prize. Good luck! :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Homemade Yogurt

I did it! :) I made my first batch of homemade yogurt. It's really NOT hard at all. I was so surprised to find that it doesn't take much effort or special ingredients/equipment.

This time, I stuck to the most basic version and will try some adaptations as I get more comfortable with this process. It wasn't a perfect batch of yogurt, the texture is runnier and slightly stringy. I've read up on it and found that that is common for the first few batches, until you master the best mix for your taste. This recipe is for plain yogurt, which is not usually my favorite, but again, I was following the recipe this time without changing anything. When I serve it though, I've added some honey and fruit to each helping and LOVE it. It's so fresh and yummy.

The benefits to making it yourself:

-You control the sugar content. If you look closely at the labels on store bought yogurts, you'll often find a really high amount of sugar. I know, didn't know that until recently, not as healthy as we had thought! The batch that I made has no sugar, we've been using honey to sweeten it along with the sweetness of fruit we add to it. There are a lot of other benefits too, a quick google search will lead you to all sorts of information!

-It's cheaper, significantly. Especially with prices going up so quickly.
Here's my price breakdown:
1/2 gallon of milk: $0.99
1/2 C of yogurt: $0.31 (A 1/2 C is 4oz, the container has 32 oz and cost $2.50)
Total cost for 52 oz. of yogurt was $1.30

So, here's what you'll need: 
-1/2 gallon of whole milk. *It can be made with other types of milk, but you should do some research before trying it to make sure you get the temperature/times done correctly. *I did find websites confirming you could use soy and almond milk for a non-dairy alternative.

-1/2 C of plain, active, live, natural yogurt. You can also buy a yogurt starter and use that. After you've made a batch of yogurt you can use 1/2 C of your homemade yogurt as your starter. *If you're looking to make non dairy option, you can use soy or almond yogurts, possibly some starters, too. I didn't research this in depth, but did come across some sites using these alternatives.

-A 4 quart crock pot
-A large, thick towel

Disclaimer: Keep in mind that you will need to use all fresh ingredients, if you do not, your yogurt could be unhealthy or not consumable. I'm not an expert on yogurt making, this is the process I used and it worked for me, but I'm not responsible for in any way for how yours turns out. 


-Plug in your crock pot and turn it on Low.
-Pour in 1/2 a gallon (approx. 8 cups) of whole, pasteurized milk.
-Cover and cook for 2 1/2 hours
-Leave it covered, but unplug the crock pot and let it sit for another 3 hours
-After the 3 hours have passed, scoop 2 C of the warm milk out of the crock pot and whisk it together with the 1/2 C of yogurt (or starter).
-Pour it all back into the crock pot.
-Leave it unplugged, but cover it again and wrap up the entire crock pot with your towel.
-Let it stand over night or for 6-10 hours, one site said at least 8 hours.
-After it has set, some suggest for best results to put it directly in the refrigerator in the crock pot for it to set up better.
-Once it has set and is cooled, you can add your favorite flavorings and toppings and enjoy!

That's it! It takes so little effort. The only thing that's challenging is you need to be home to watch it and change things at the appropriate times, other then that, it practically makes itself.

Have you made homemade yogurt? How did it turn out? Any tips/tricks that worked for you? Please share!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Honey!!

July 20, 2002
Today we are celebrating 9 years together! Crazy how quickly that has gone by. Just for fun, lets take a little trip down memory lane.

We got married on a beautiful day! We were surrounded by so many people who love and support us. It was a fantastic day.

*You'll have to excuse the poor quality of pictures. We got married in the dark ages (digital pictures were rare and pricey!) So I had to take pictures of the pictures to get them on here. Like I said, poor quality.

My girlfriends! :)
My sister and SIL are missing from this picture, but were bridesmaids.

The boys!

First time we saw each other that day! :)

Leaving on our horse drawn carriage! See that beautiful blue sky? It was a perfect day! 

Here we are, 9 years and two precious kids later. So much has happened in our lives since that day. We've some great years, so good years and some difficult years, but through it all we have grown together and continue to love each other. I love you babe! Thanks for being my partner through life. You're still the bestest! :)

Have you ever noticed once you have little ones, there are rarely any pictures of just the two of you?!?!  ;)

To see where I linked up today, see this list

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A picnic table for the Minis. :)

Our neighbor was getting rid of this little picnic table she had for her grandkids (who are too big for it now). Score for us! :) It was in rough shape though. The surface was really rough, a splinter waiting to happen! Something had to be done to make it useable for our little minis and their friends. In three easy steps I took this little table from drab to fab! :)

Step 1: Sand it!
I used an electric sander to give this table a much smoother surface and take some of the splintery parts off. I focused primarily on the areas the kids would be using. 
After a good sanding!

Step 2: Hose down!

After sanding it, I gave it a good cleaning. I hosed all the extra dust off and cleaned all the spider webs and such off it. Just after those first two steps, the table was looking better. I decided to take it a step further though to make it look finished.

Step 3: Apply stain!

My parents had some stain left over from a project they had worked on this summer, so they let me use some. Yay, free stain too! :) Of all the steps, this one took the longest. It did go pretty quickly though, I wasn't overly concerned about it being perfect, the table isn't meant to be "perfectly finished" in my opinion. The part that made it the hardest was my son insisting I should be holding him instead of working on his table, by screaming in close proximity to me the entire time! :-/ ugh! I'd agree to a good snuggle time normally, but it has been raining EVERY afternoon around here this summer, and I had to give this enough time to dry before the downpour arrived, so I was on a mission! 

Thankfully he saw the light after some convincing and let me finish! :) 

All done!

Ready for a picnic! :)
Total cost for my "new" picnic table: $0. Free makes it that much better, right? ;)

What projects are you working on? Do you have anything sitting around waiting for a quick face lift?

You can see my link up list here.

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Monday, July 18, 2011

Poll Results and New Poll

Alright friends, the poll has been closed for a while, so it's about time I share the results with you. Apparently we have a lot of Dave Ramsey fans following along! ;) I agree that that would be a great way to celebrate being out of debt. I love hearing those stories on Friday's on his podcasts. It makes me so happy for them, but also gives me strength and hope that we can get there soon too!

I'm pretty sure going on a trip might be the winner for us though. We aren't quite sure, but we certainly want to do something big for the big celebrations coming next year. Whatever we do, I'll be sure to share it all with you! :)


Throw a party
  1 (10%)
Go on a trip
  4 (40%)
Call Dave Ramsey Show
  5 (50%)
  0 (0%)
Leave me an idea in the comments!
  0 (0%)

Votes so far: 10 

Here's the next poll. Remember all of these answers are anonymous, it's all just for fun and to get to know each other a little bit! 


I found a new blog hop! :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

5QF & Sneak Peeks!

Alright friends! Here's the Five Question Friday answers.

1. If you knew your best friend's spouse was cheating on her or him, would you tell her (him)?
ABSOLUTELY! My loyalties are to my girlfriends, first. I'd probably talk to her husband first and give him a fess up-or-else, kind of talk. If I knew their husband was cheating, I would be heart broken for them, but if he didn't tell her, I would certainly tell her. I know there is the "it's not really your business" approach, but if I had a friend that knew my hubs was up to no good and never told me, I'd be really upset. I'd probably feel betrayed by her too. It's an awful situation to be in, but I'd feel best if she found out sooner then later. 

2. Soda in a can or a bottle?
I don't really care. I grew up with them in a bottle, so there's an element of nostalgia that way, but a can works just fine too.

3. What do you wash first, hair or body?

4. What advice would you give to any new mama?
Cut yourself some slack. Rest as much as you can. Be willing to ask for help and accept other people's help/ideas (even if you don't use them then, always be keep them in stashed in your memory for future reference, it may be useful later or for your next child). Be flexible, don't get to strict about how you think things should go, it's much less stressful for everyone if there is a serious amount of flexibility! Snuggle and love on them as much as you can!!

5. What is your best hangover remedy?
I've got nothing. I've never actually gotten to a place to need a remedy. I can barely handle the taste for one drink. Sorry, no help here! 

That's it. I hope this gave you another little glimpse of who I am. 

And, just for coming by on this lovely Friday, I'll share with you a few sneak peek pictures of some upcoming posts and projects I'll be revealing soon.

Three T-shirt upcycle projects!
A new recipe
What do you think this will be?
A new picnic table.
Re-doing our daughters room, lots of projects will be revealed for this one!
Come check them out throughout the next couple of weeks. I'll be posting some tutorials and some DIY project reveals. I've also been learning a few new tricks in the kitchen that I'm looking forward to sharing with you soon! 

Also, during this upcoming week we'll be celebrating TWO big days! They'll be all sorts of fun to share with you!

Have a great weekend and I'll see you back here on Monday! :)

This is a blog hop, join the fun! :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thankful Thursday

This week I've been reflecting on how thankful I am for God's provision in our lives. Looking at the "numbers" (income, how much debt has been paid off, living expenses, etc), it's nothing sort of a miracle. God has been SO faithful to us. He has blessed us with a stable income and along the way has given us extra little blessings like overtime pay, a tutoring job for me, a raise for my husband, you get the idea.

I'm just so thankful for how well He has taken care of us. Yes, we've done a lot of hard work and have had use self-disciple and self-control to manage our money well, but He has ultimately provided the means for us in the first place.

Yay God! Thank you for your provision in our lives.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Grocery List: Revealed

I've been asked a lot by readers what I'm actually buying to keep my grocery bill so low ($150/mo), well today I'm revealing my typical monthly grocery store list--just to you, my faithful readers! :)

First, lets review a few of my basic principals:

-Buying in bulk and stocking up, if you'd like to read more about that, you can read my thoughts on the bulk shopping method or a little more about my bulk madness at my grocery budget Q & A (a good one to read if you're just curious about all of this).

- A few things that you'll need to remember is that we buy all our meat in bulk.

-If you've read my pantry list and freezer list posts, then you'll also remember I keep all sorts of things on hand for fixing meals.

-As a rule of thumb, nearly everything I buy is the generic brand or the cheapest unit price.

Now, lets get to my list, shall we. Due to all the things I just explained above there are very few things I need to buy regularly, but here they are:

-Dairy products:
*We get our milk delivered (but I'll occasionally buy a gallon or two when they are deeply discounted for the freezer).
*Yogurt, we usually go through a large tub a week, so I'll buy 2 each trip to the store (2x/mo).
*Cheese is one of the only large ticket items I buy at the store regularly. I'll buy the largest blocked cheeses, usually only once a month to every six weeks. I'll bring them home and freeze about 1/2-3/4 of each block to get us through for a while and just use what's not frozen for the first couple of weeks. Sometimes I'll also buy a large container of cottage cheese.
*Every once in a while I'll buy a heavy whipping cream if I have a recipe that calls for it or coffee creamer, which lasts me forever, it seems like!

*Most of the time I'll buy the largest container (2 1/2 dozen) and will last us about a month.

*I'll buy the largest container there is, so it'll last us a long time! When real butter & margarine sticks go on sale (usually around the holiday season) I'll stock up on as many as I can get and freeze them.

*I'll buy day old french bread to prepare and freeze as garlic bread or for making french toast, usually at least once a month (often times we'll go through a loaf before it's bad that week too). Sometimes they have rolls, buns or other baked goods that will work for something we're having that week or for freezing.
*When our "usual" sliced bread goes on sale for $1.50-$2/loaf I'll buy several loafs and freeze a few of them.
*If we have a meal coming up that requires buns, I'll buy those fresh for that week.

I try to have a high portion of our diet be fresh fruits and vegetables, so I get a significant amount of produce each trip to the store. I'll always buy what is on sale and/or the best value to keep the cost down. Since I do the price matching it's not uncommon for me to get prices like:
-$0.49/lb for Roma tomatoes
-4-6 avocados for $1
-6 cucumbers for $1
-10lb bags of potatoes for $1.59
-Special fruit like strawberries, pineapple, mangoes, watermelon are all really reasonable right now, most can be bought for around a $1 (except for the pineapple and watermelon, both can be bought for around $2, though).
Basically, my list depends on what's on sale in the produce department, but I'll get us well stocked! :) If there aren't any greats deal going on (especially in the winter) then I'll buy large bags of apples and/or oranges which will get us through a couple of weeks, easily.

-Rounding out what we've used or Stocking up on Sales:
The rest of my list will consist of a few things that we've run out of or are about to run out of from our stock pile. Sometimes there is quite a bit, other times it's just a few items. If it's something that is on a great sale then I'll stock up a bit.

That's about it. My lists are nearly the same every couple weeks. A few dairy products, some fresh produce (unless it's farmer's market or garden season!) and some breads are the main things I have to buy, the rest is just to keep on hand. Everything else is already in our freezer or pantry. Every once in a while I'll need a special item for a menu item or new recipe, but for the most part I can create all sorts of meals out of these basics.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Top 10 Favorites from My Trip to NYC!

Like I shared with you a couple weeks ago, last month I got to share a wonderful weekend with my siblings in the big apple. Going to NYC has always been on my "bucket list" and I'm SO glad I got to go. Not only was it awesome to see all the sights, but I got to share it with my brother and sister, who both live far away. I don't think we've ever done a trip with just the three of us, but hopefully we'll do so again, because that was great fun. Reconnecting with them on this adventure is sure to go down as one of my favorite family memories. We also got to spend some quality time with great friends from our high school which was an added last minute bonus! :) 

Here are my Top 10 highlights from my trip to the big city. 

1. The first night we got in we hit up a few sites real quick! On our way to find a restaurant for dinner, we went right past the Empire State building, so we took a quick photo in the lobby. ;) We opted out of going up this time, because we just didn't have the time and we have to save a few things for the next time, right? 

2. After enjoying a delicious dinner (which you'll get to hear all about another time), we realized we had a really short amount of time left to make the train out of the city to our friend's house. We ran a few blocks before realizing a taxi would be the best idea at that point. We quickly jumped crammed into the next cab that came by with our bags on our laps (we were in too much of a hurry to bother putting them in the trunk!) I'm sure the cab driver thought we were nuts! ;) We made it to Grand Central Station with only minutes to spare. While my sister bought tickets, my brother and I snapped some quick pictures of what would turn out to be one of my favorite places in NYC. I loved this building. It's SO beautiful and full of character. It's no wonder it ends up in so many movies. The ceiling is covered in amazing paintings and lights, the whole place is just plain beautiful. They just don't make buildings  like that anymore. 
Sorry the picture is a bit blurry, we were in a hurry, remember?! :)
Then we had a true New York experience running to the catch our train...we made it without a minute to spare! :) What a great way to start our New York city trip! 

3. The next morning we were up and ready to hit the city, early! We round the subway into the city along with all the rush hour commuters. That actually turned out to be another one of my favorite parts of the city. Constantly being surrounded by so many cultures and types of people was very fascinating to me. We all loved the international feel of the city and it's very evident on the subways and trains! We laughed about being the only white people in NYC, wondering if it really was part of the US or if we needed to show some sort of proof that we really were Americans and not foreigners, even though we looked like it! ;) 

4. Not only was coming in during rush hour a fun way to experience the life of a New Yorker, but it also gave us a real perspective for what it must have been like for people in that city on 9/11/01. We arrived at Ground Zero, where The World Trade Center buildings had once stood right about the time the first plane hit the first building. WOW! Nothing like being in the area around the exact same time that so much changed for that city and our nation. Seeing what the streets were like around that time of the morning, you can visualize just how big of a moment that was that morning. All of NY was doing what they normally do on a Tuesday morning, go to work. The streets were packed full of people minding their own business, carrying their favorite cup of coffee, eating breakfast on the go, listening to some great tunes on their ipods, when the earth shook and changed all of their lives forever. They had spent their morning much like we had the morning we went to visit the site. We woke up to our alarms, got ready, wished our friends a great day, rode in on a crowded subway or drove through crazy traffic, and went to work. Crazy how just seeing the "normal" morning routine made the attacks all that much more of a surprise to all of us and you recognize the devastation that immediately took place on just another, beautiful Tuesday morning in September. 

One of my favorite places to visit was this quaint little church, literally right across the street from the World Trade Center. It became a central hub for all the people that were working the rescue and recovery mission as well as where people sent letters of support and encouragement and pictures of the missing. Talk about emotional! Seeing all the faces of the people that lost their lives in those buildings, because they were responsible enough to go to work that morning, next to their children or spouses, makes the numbers--personal. It also was a reminder that no matter the size of your church or community, when the needs arise, you find a way to meet it. This church is very small, but has made a world of impact in the lives of those that needed it during the weeks and months after the attacks. They too, are heroes for stepping up and being a support in every way they could, even though they too had been affected by the tragedy in their own personal way, they were there for the community that needed them. I was also surprised to find that it is directly across the street and was left unharmed, even though the subway entrances just a block away was covered in debris when the buildings collapsed. God, in his sovereignty, spared this building to be a refuge for the hurting. 

The beautiful church that supported NYC during the
most trying 9 months in recent history.
 Just across the street from the church there is a small memorial site with information about the redevelopment plans taking place on the site now. They have a running video of people who were there that morning telling their stories from their perspective. They have pictures of the events and a timeline of what took place that morning. It's also evidence that New Yorkers are survivors!

The plan for the new site, scheduled to be completed
by the 10 year anniversary, September 11, 2011. 

5. Interestingly enough, we weren't far from the symbol of our freedom that still stands as a reminder that we are Americans and we are the land of the free. We walked down Wall Street and by the New York Stock Exchange on our way to the Staten Island Ferry, that takes you right past the Statue of Liberty. When I think of New York, this is what I think of: Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.  Seeing it in person was awesome. Sadly, it was kind of a cloudy day so the view was perfect, but again, some things had to be left for next time, right? ;) And there will be a next time, because I LOVED this city!

6. Our friends told us about a local attraction that was a must see. Chelsea Market, fitting right? ;) So we made our way there and it turned out to be one of our favorite places. It's a great building full of amazing little food shops and tons of character! Just across the street the old train tracks have been recreated into a beautiful walkway with flowers, fountains and wonderful views of the city skyline. We met up with our great friend, Josh, from high school there too which made the stop even sweeter. 

7. Okay, really, how can you go to NYC and NOT get a frozen hot chocolate at the world famous Serendipity? Just minutes from Central Park, this cute little restaurant was a favorite stop, for sure! Plan on going with a big appetite because the food there all looked amazingly yummy & because their is a minimum purchase required too. But, since there is regularly at least an hour wait, you're sure to build up an appetite just thinking of all the tasty treats you'll be ordering soon. 

It's no wonder these tasty drinks are world famous, because they are SO good! Really, THE BEST cold chocolatey drink in a cup I have EVER had. :) This was also a "bucket list" item, but it might be worth leaving on there a little longer just to make sure I get a second helping! ;)

8. Since we had an hour wait for Serendipity, we made a quick trip to Central Park. Rather then running through the park we decided to sit right across from the Central Park Zoo entrance and have a meaningful talk about the ups and downs of our childhood. Along with our friend Josh, we have a unique childhood experience that created a fun and interesting discussion for us to explore as adults. A highlight of the trip, for sure. Surrounded by the beauty of the park and serenity out of the chaos of the city, it was the perfect little break before indulging in some chocolate. 

The next morning, we decided to got right back to Central Park to begin our second day in the city. It turned out to be one of my favorite places. It is surprisingly quiet and calm. It never felt crowded or busy, though I'm certain there were hundreds of people spread out throughout the 50+ blocks of park! We barely saw any of it, even though we walked through a large portion of it. It's a beautiful, beautiful place. The trees and structures make it a serene escape from the city, but the city skyline along all sides of it makes it an even more beautiful site. 

9. Spending some quality time with our friends was a highlight to note. It had been over 10 years since I've seen both Grames (the friend and his wife Sheila that we stayed with) and Josh (the friend who came along with us site seeing in the city). It's impossible to describe the connection that exists between us, because it's purely based on our common experience, but it's always a sweet time to reconnect with these special people from our childhood. 

10. To wrap up my top 10, my favorite part of NYC is the character and culture of the city. I've mentioned it throughout the list, because it's really in every part of the city. We got to explore a little bit of Brooklyn (to see the Brooklyn Tabernacle) and Queens (to find an Argentine restaurant to enjoy some food from our childhood) the second afternoon and those were crazy experiences all together, but it gave us an even fuller picture of what New York is really like. Manhattan was by far our favorite area, but it was great to see some non-touristy parts of the city too. Back to the character, it's every where, from the subways to the streets, the buildings to the people. I'm realizing that there is a part of me that is international (despite being fully American), it brings something alive in me to be surrounded by richness of culture and history and that's exactly what this city symbolized for me. There are no two places that looked alike, a representation of the people of New York to me, a place full of uniqueness. I instantly fell in love. 
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