A Birthday to Remember

Wow. Life certainly has its own way of surprising you! This past week has been a crazy, beautiful, fun, ecstatically wonderful week (minus a slightly unnecessary over-night hospital stay – which I will cover in another post due to the already crazy length of this one). Having said that, I apologize for the long post, but I must share it all!

Last week LT and I were gearing up for a trip to New York City for my birthday when I got an email from a woman at the creative department of the daytime TV show “The Chew”. We had previously gotten tickets to see a filming of the show for Thursday morning. The email was an invitation to respond if we, as audience members, would be interested in doing a segment on the show about cooking at home.

I sent a reply almost as soon as we got it, and to our great surprise, received a response back immediately. Within an hour, I was on the phone interviewing with this woman. We had a great chat, I sent her pictures of our home and family, and by the following day, we were discussing our availability to possibly come to NYC at the end of the month with the entire family to do a segment. We were extremely excited to even be in consideration for this, and of course did everything we could to ensure her that we would be available, and do whatever we needed to in order to make it work.

The next day, we left the boys in the care of my grandmother and headed for the train station on our way to the city. I got a phone call from the same woman I had been in contact with – she wanted to be sure we had the availability at the end of the month. She also let us know that she’d switched the tickets we’d gotten to see the filming of the show from the morning to the afternoon, so that everyone necessary would be available for an in-person interview. (We figured out then that we would be at the filming that would air on my birthday, March 2nd!) While we tried not to hope too much, for fear of being overly excited about such a small possibility, our excitement doubled.

When we arrived in the Big Apple, we made a feeble attempt at figuring out the NYC subway system, and somehow managed to make it to our hotel to check in. That evening we met a very dear girlfriend of mine from college for dinner at Centrico – a Mexican restaurant whose executive chef is Aarón Sanchez of Food Network fame. When traveling, we like to make it a point to try to get to places like this to expand our “foodie” horizons. Dinner and company alike were fantastic, and afterward we stopped at the Hard Rock Café for a few drinks (and to grab LT’s souvenir shot glass – he’s building a collection).  We retired to the hotel room in anticipation of an exciting day coming up. We had no idea.

Thursday morning we woke and grabbed a cheap & greasy but good breakfast at the golden arches, and set off in the direction of ABC’s Chew studio. When we got there, we gave the man behind the ticket desk my name (which is the one they had on file there), and he seemed to recognize it right away. We were given our tickets and pointed in the direction of the audience holding room. There we waited and chatted with various Chew workers, trying to weasel our way into tasting seats. We were told there were a lot of “clients” there, so they were full up, but they’d keep us in mind if anything happened.

When the time finally came to be ushered into the studio, we were asked to remain at the back of the group of people we were called in with because they had “great seats” for us. We were perfectly happy to follow their direction, figuring that this was because we were supposed to be interviewed after the show. When we made it to the studio, a crew member glanced at our tickets, asked for our name, and told the woman seating everyone “This is the World Tree family.” She happily led us to seats right on the aisle, complimented us on our brightly colored clothing (hinting that it was part of the reason she was seating us there), and let us take our seats. At this point, we were really thinking they were just setting us in an easily-spottable place, so they could send whatever intern they needed to retrieve us once the filming was finished.

The filming commenced and we were thoroughly enjoying watching everything that was going on in the studio – both during filming, and during “commercial breaks”. About half-way through filming, during a break, the woman I’d been in contact with previously approached us in the audience, saying that there was a segment coming up where they would need volunteers to taste some cookies – and she’d given them our names. Supposedly just because she had them on hand and knew we would be there. She asked us to just taste whatever it was they gave us, and let them know what we thought – especially if they were good. We said “okay!”, again, thinking this was just some kind of test for the interview. After the next break, we were gearing up for our little part, and Clinton Kelly brought us down to the filming floor. We were completely blind-sided by the fact that it was all a grand façade, and we’d actually been chosen to win a Disney Cruise on their newest ship (the Disney Fantasy) at the end of the month!

Needless to say, we were speechless. We felt like deer-in-the-headlights! I could feel the tears welling up a bit in my eyes, prompting Michael Symon to say “Oh, she’s tearing up!” and Mario Batali to dab my tears with his orange tea-towel. We could say nothing but “thank you” to the hosts, and what was probably thirty seconds on the floor felt like an eternity! When we returned to the audience, we were given many “Congratulations!” from fellow audience members, and as we thanked them, we remained stunned.

After the filming finished, we were introduced to some of the producers that work on the show (including the man that owns the voice that announces the “coming up” and “today on the Chew” parts of the show). We signed some necessary paperwork and were asked by the crew to send a postcard and photos from the cruise! (By the way – you can enter to also win a cruise on the Chew’s Facebook page! Good luck if you decide to enter!!)

Over the next few hours, we couldn’t help but keep talking about how surreal the whole thing was. We are incredibly lucky, thankful, and excited to have been selected for this prize!

In the aftermath of all of the excitement, we took it easy walking around Times Square and doing some shopping for the boys at the Disney store there (and, I can’t lie – I bought a mug for myself, mug-whore that I am!). We found a little Irish pub off the main drag, and were delighted at the atmosphere while we had a small appetizer and a drink before we went back to our room to get ready for dinner.

We found our dinner reservations at a restaurant called “The Modern”; attached to the Museum of Modern Art. It is an expensive French restaurant, but we knew ahead of time, and we were there to splurge. Not to mention it was well worth it. The food there was delicious and beautiful (plated like you see in super fancy places on TV!), and delicious. Yes, I said that twice. We will very likely always remember that meal as one of the most perfectly executed (the waiters and waitresses worked together like a flawlessly well-oiled machine to make the whole experience seamless), and most delicious we’ve ever had.

Once we’d finished dinner, we headed for our show of the evening, Wicked. We had yet to see the show, but always wanted to. In the end we decided it was a great show, but, to put it simply, it was like the Disney version of a Grimm fairy tale. Something you may love, but a little on the “made for all audiences” side. Which we totally get, and ultimately we did enjoy it.

Having watched the show, I was super excited to be meeting up with my good friend once again, this time plus her boyfriend and another of my good friends from college. We met at a bar that was apparently the inspiration for the “How I Met Your Mother” bar, and rang in my birthday in great company. We really, sincerely enjoyed that evening (thanks, friends).

Ice Skating Row

Friday morning (my birthday) we woke to a relaxed schedule, got a bit of breakfast, and headed off to begin my husband’s plan for the day. He took me to Rockefeller Center to ice skate – for the first time in my entire life! Despite two falls (I was attempting stupid things for a first-time skater), we had a fantastic time, and found that we thoroughly enjoyed ice skating. Following that fantastic adventure, we went to the top of “the Rock”, which is, I am told, the best view of the entire city. It was quite amazing from up there.

In the afternoon, we grabbed some lunch at the “Shake Shack” (holy delicious crazy burgers, batman!), and met up with another of my friends (I couldn’t believe the number of friends I’ve made over the years that now live in or around NYC!) for tea. Yes, we had afternoon tea – at a little place called “Alice’s Tea Cup” just off Central Park. It was a charming little café with quotes from “Alice in Wonderland” hand painted on the walls and a gigantic tea menu. And again, we thoroughly enjoyed the company we were in.

That evening, we had a not-so-thrilling dinner at “Tony’s di Napoli” just off Times Square (hey – there’s gotta be one, right?), which was easily forgotten by the time we saw the show we’d bought tickets for that evening.

Wit was just absolutely stunning. I’d read the play, written by Margaret Edson, while I was in college at SU. I remembered it being an incredible play, and was extremely excited to be seeing it with Cynthia Nixon (of Sex & the City fame) as Vivian, the main character. We were not let down. It was masterfully acted, and captivating for the duration. LT was floored, and I was glad to have chosen this play to be his first introduction to “real” (as in not musical) theatre.

Once the play was over, we headed once again to the Irish pub we had found for a few drinks and an appetizer, thus wrapping up our stay in NYC. The next morning, we hopped on the train and came home.

I cannot express how extremely thankful and happy I am about the whole trip. It was such a wonderful experience, and one that I will never forget. Happy 28th Birthday, self!

2 Responses

  1. Deven Rue
    | Reply

    Wow! What an amazing experience! And how much you make me miss NYC! Bre and I will eventually make our way in that direction and I plan on showing her all the wonderful things I love so much about that city. So happy you had a glorious time and next time, get more piccies! I love food piccies! =D

    • Rowena
      | Reply

      Thanks Deven! (And thanks for commenting here, rather than on Facebook!) I have grown to appreciate NYC much more now than when I was younger. There are just so many fantastic things to do there! We will do more pictures next time – promise. And I do love taking photos of food, too – but that place was super upscale, and I kinda felt that if I pulled my phone out there, I’d get in trouble! 😀

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