Dating in April

This week, I was so excited to be featured with my boyfriend on DateNightIs, an awesome site filled with date ideas and stories.  Our feature was called “Date Night Is…A Friendly Competition.”  It inspired me to begin a new series, which has my top 4 date ideas for a given month.  While my ideas will focus on NYC, they can definitely be modified for whatever city you are in!

April Date 1: Go to a baseball game!  I will be going to my first Yankee’s game of the season in mid-April, when the Red Sox come to town (I’m a Yankee’s fan).  Going to a baseball game, or other sporting event, can be a great way to really get into something together – you’ll sing, dance, scream and cheer on your team, while enjoying a few beers and indulging in some totally unhealthy but delicious stadium food.  My favorite meal at Yankee Stadium includes the garlic fries and gluten-free beer.

April Date 2: Go to a local Farmers Market and then cook a meal together.  I personally love the Union Square Farmers Market, and try to go most Saturdays in the spring and summer.  When you go with your honey, you can spend time tasting the local foods (cheese, meat, wine) and then pick up what you like best.  Later on, cooking together will really turn up the heat in your relationship and bring you two closer together.

April Date 3: Go rockclimbing and then to an open air food truck bonanza.  In NYC, I’m talking about Brooklyn Boulders followed by Smorgasburg!  Brooklyn Boulders often has deals on Gilt City or Groupon, so find a great deal and go for a day.  Once you’ve built up a huge appetite, head over to Smorgusburg and feast on as many items as you can.  I’ll be heading on this date in a week and a half, and I can’t wait!

April Date 4: Go to the Bronx Zoo.  By going in April, you’ll avoid the summer crowds which will start before we know it.  While you’re there, check out the New York Botanical Gardens and finish the day at Arthur Avenue for some great Italian food.

What are your favorite April dates?

 

Date Night in the Bronx

If you’re looking to get out of Manhattan for a romantic evening with great food and a fun activity, look no further than the Bronx!  It was my turn to plan date night, so I decided to start the date on Arthur Avenue, “the Original Little Italy”.

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After a bit of research, I found two restaurants that have gluten-free options: John’s Pizzeria and Mario’s.  I decided on John’s, as they had more options – including gluten free pasta and pizza – and orchid show ticket holders received a 15% discount.  We took the the 4 train from 59th street to Fordham Road, which took about 20 minutes.  We then hopped on the BX12 SBS.  While talking, we accidentally missed the stop which would have let us off right near the start of Arthur Avenue, so had to backtrack about 10 minutes (in the rain!) to get there.  When we finally arrived, we went into the back dining area.  When I asked for the wine list, our waitress informed us that it was BYOB…score!  We ordered, and then my boyfriend ran across the street to grab a bottle of wine.  A few minutes later our food arrived – mine was Gluten-Free Penne a la Vodka (my favorite pasta dish) and his was regular PALV with chicken.  We also had a side of broccoli rabe.  Though the restaurant is nothing fancy, the pasta was traditional and delicious.  The portions were huge (we easily could have shared one dish).  The sauce was creamy but filled with enough tomatoes that the texture was great.  While I’m not usually a fan of “chain” Italian restaurants (John’s has two other locations in NY/NJ), this experience did not disappoint.

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Filled and satisfied, we left the restaurant to go to Orchid Evenings at the New York Botanical Gardens.  We got absolutely soaked while trying to find a cab in the pouring rain, but we eventually found one and got to the Garden.  This year’s theme is “Key West Contemporary”.  You walk in to a beautiful room with a fountain and massive plants as the centerpiece.  The space was beautiful, and was filled with orchids from all over the world, as well as many other beautiful plants.  While certain parts were filled with people, there were moments when we felt like we were alone in the jungle or in a beautiful garden – it was super romantic!  Each evening has a special guest DJ, so you may even be able to steal a dance with your date.  Your ticket also includes a signature cocktail: last night featured Four Roses Bourbon – it was light, refreshing and very smooth.  There are also a couple cash bars, so you can purchase wine and beer.  Tickets to Orchid Evenings are $30, but you may be able to find a deal for a little bit less.  We spent about 1.5 hours there, and then hopped on the Metro North (Botanical Garden Station) and were back in Manhattan in 15 minutes.

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Despite the downpour, this date night was perfect.  Orchid Evenings is ongoing through the end of April, so grab a ticket and go soon.

John’s Pizzeria | 2376 Arthur Avenue, Bronx NY

New York Botanical Garden | Bronx NY

 

 

Quick Eats – February Edition

There is no denying that I love a long, leisurely delicious meal.  Having drinks to start, several courses and trying to save room for dessert is fun – especially when you are with great company.  However, sometimes as busy New Yorker’s, we just need something fast…without the sacrifice of deliciousness.  So this month I’m sharing my three favorite “quick and delicious” joints, that are not remotely “fast-food”.

Untamed Sandwiches.  Conveniently located by my office (and Bryant Park), Untamed is the best place to get a sandwich.  My first need in a great sandwich shop is  gluten-free bread.  Check!  Beyond the bread, these sandwiches are like no other that you’ve tried.  The focus is on slow-braised meat made with fresh, sustainable and delicious ingredients.  My favorite is The Butt: made with cider braised pork butt,  broccoli rabe, pepper jelly, dijon mustard and sharp cheddar.  It is melt in your mouth amazing- the gluten-free bun soaks up the juiciness of the pork and it’s simply divine.  Others I’ve tried are the beef-brisket, chicken tinga and ciambotta style vegetables (yes, there are options for all the veggie-lovers out there!).  I will most certainly be returning soon to check out the already famous Chupacabra (braised goat) and the Ray Ray (Habanero BBQ Duck – $1 of every sandwich also goes to a great cause).  The lunch rush is pretty crazy (though still relatively quick) so I recommend going in the evening – they also have local wine and beer, so you can truly make your next quick meal amazing.   43 West 39th Street 

The Halal Guys on 53rd and 6th.  If you live in NYC, you have heard about The Halal Guys.  While there is no lack of street food (especially halal) in the city, there is one that is so infamous, people report waiting in line for over 45 minutes just to get a platter of their gyro and chicken.  This week I went on a cold night around 6:30pm.  No line.  I couldn’t believe it!  I got the chicken and gyro mix over rice (no pita bread, though my boyfriend said it was amazing) with white sauce on top and hot on the side.  It was actually really fantastic.  The meats were cooked wonderfully, and the rice was flavored well.  The white sauce was perfection and the hot sauce packed a punch (seriously, get it on the side).  And, for only $6, the plates are huge.  I could have easily made two meals out of it, but as we were going to a Broadway show afterwards, I sadly had to say goodbye to a good portion of it.  So, when that craving for  great halal just won’t go away, check out this truck.  The line is worth it.  [NOTE: There are several trucks on 53rd and 6th.  The real one is on the SE corner and has a sign that says "We Are Different"]  53rd and 6th 

Burger Joint.  Burger Joint as Le Parker Meridien is another famous place to get a fast, juicy and tasty burger with no frills.  They recently opened a downtown joint, located in the West Village.  I went this past Saturday and was impressed.  The downtown restaurant is much bigger than their hotel spot, and allows you to sit down and enjoy the meal.  I had a cheeseburger with the works, wrapped in a lettuce bun; my mom had a burger, and we split the fries.  All this for only $20 and about 10 minutes.  Not bad!  The burger was cooked perfectly (medium) and the meat itself was delicious.  The shoestring fries were also very yummy, and there were plenty for two people to share.  The place was nearly empty, so we had a nice sized booth to share.  It gets more packed on weeknights, so forgo brunch and check out this spot on a Saturday afternoon wandering around the village.  33 West 8th Street 

What’s your favorite place to get a quick and delicious meal in NYC?  Let me know, so I can check it out in March!

26 for 26

I love birthdays.  If you know me, you know I love planning surprise parties, buying the perfect gift and celebrating my family and friends on their special day.  I also love using mine to set goals for the next year of my life.  This year, I’ve decided to come up with the 26 things that I want to do / accomplish this year.  Some are already on my bucket list.  Some are inspired by other’s lists.  I will be sure to update my blog as I complete these – both to share with you all and to keep myself on-track.

  1. Write at least one blog post per week for 52 weeks.
  2. Read 26 books (last year I did 50 – making this more manageable, but I’m sure I’ll surpass!)
  3. Practice Spanish at least once per week for the first 26 weeks of the year.
  4. Practice Italian at least once per week for the second 26 weeks of the year.
  5. Go to 3 states that I’ve never been to.
  6. Travel internationally at least twice.
  7. Go skydiving.
  8. Go to Brazil for the World Cup.
  9. Run a New York Road Runners race.
  10. Do a headstand, crow pose, a pull-up and a split.
  11. Take a solo weekend trip.
  12. Meditate every day for 26 days in a row.
  13. Write a love letter.
  14. Get into graduate school.
  15. See the Book of Mormon.
  16. Master Moonlight Sonata on the piano.
  17. Have an article published on the Huffington Post or Under30CEO.
  18. (Start to) write a book.
  19. Paint a picture.
  20. Perfect 2 signature cocktails and 6 recipes.
  21. Research my family history – and prepare something to share before Christmas.
  22. Mail birthday cards to my family and friends.
  23. Knock off at least 2 things from my “In The World” and 6 from my “NYC” bucket lists.
  24. Become a finalist for a social impact fellowship (and hopefully win!).
  25. Treat myself to a spa day.
  26. Give back – do something for someone else every week for 52 weeks.

Bonus Goal: Be OK with changing or revising these goals as the year goes on.

The TEN things you should do EVERY DAY.

I have been thinking a lot about the things I do (or try to do) every day to live a happier and more fulfilled life.  I came up with the following list…Many are backed up with scientific research (contact me if you want sources!) and all have been proven to help me in my everyday life.

  1. Wake up early: I’ve always been an early riser, and I find that the earlier I wake up (as long as it’s after 6am), the more productive I am.  I have a chance to start my day off with reading or exercising which always puts me on track for a great day.  And come on…what’s better than watching the sun come up?
  2. Work Out: The research is unquestionable – there is nothing better for you than 30 minutes of exercise each and every day.  I try to get in an hour (or more) when I can, so I can really sweat and push my body.
  3. Eat Well:  Eating well gives your body the fuel it needs to push you to reach your full potential every day.  I’ve recently started to map out my eating plan for the week on Sundays (my exercise plan too) and have found that it really helps keep me on track.  I like to eat every 2-3 hours, so I’m never hungry – and never focused on my next big meal.  I also like to indulge and enjoy really great food – see almost any article on this blog for more on my favorites.
  4. Learn Something: I like to learn something new every day.  Well, actually – I like to learn constantly.  However, I try to make a concerted effort every day to learn something totally new.  Listen to a TED talk, take a Khan Academy lecture, or read an article on something you know little about.  You’ll find it addicting, and the knowledge you accumulate will only increase your happiness in life.
  5. Be Grateful:  Remind yourself (over and over and over again) about the good things going on in your life.  It’s not realistic that every day you have is going to be great – in fact, many will not be.  But by thinking for a few minutes every day about the good things in your life (no matter how small), you’ll start to change your mindset, and end up increasing your happiness.
  6. Do Something for Someone Else: Wait the extra 15 seconds to hold the door for someone; let someone onto the subway before you; give food to a homeless person…the list can go on, but whatever you do each day – make sure to do at least one thing for someone else. You feeling better about yourself + someone else feeling loved or noticed = increased happiness for everyone.
  7. Set Goals: I love setting goals.  Seriously, I love it and do it constantly.  I believe that each day you should set three goals for work and three goals for you.  They should be the three things you want to focus most on.  They don’t need to be huge, but must be written down.  Check out my post on simplifying your life for more.
  8. Smile: It’s important to do something that makes you happy every day.  Whether it means watching the latest episode of Modern Family, having a tickle fight with your honey or laughing with friends over wine, it’s critical to smile and have some fun each and every day.
  9. Don’t Feel Guilty: So you didn’t do anything on this list.  So what?!  Never feel guilty about how you spent a day (unless you hurt someone else or did something seriously illegal!).  If you sat around in sweatpants watching Real Housewives and eating pizza all day, oh well – you probably needed a day like that, and that’s okay.  Re-evaluate whether or not you want tomorrow to be like that, and if the answer is no, see #7.
  10. Go to Sleep Early: Like waking up early, try to get to bed early.  A good night’s sleep leads to increased happiness, weight loss and a longer life.  So shut off technology an hour before bed, light a candle and curl up with a good book, and get those zzz’s.

What else would you add to this list?  What is most important to you?  These are just my suggestions, but I hope you will come back to them when life starts moving a little bit too fast.

Your next trip to Brooklyn will be at night

This weekend I made the trek to the Brooklyn Night Bazaar – a market located in a warehouse on Wythe and Banker Street.  Entrance is free (or you can get a superpass), and when you walk in, you are immediately immersed in an adult fun house.  With food, drinks, games and shops, this bazaar is a must-do for all.  It’s open on Friday (7pm-1am) and Saturday nights (6pm-midnight) and is the perfect place to spend a cold winter night.

When you walk in, take a right and head over to the arcade.  With air hockey, skee-ball and Big Buck Hunter, I had so much fun playing old school games (they even have two-person pac-man!).  In an adjacent and graffiti-filled room, there is ping pong for $5/person/30 minutes – unfortunately I lost several times to my boyfriend – but it was still fun!

I happened to go this weekend on a double date with my best friend and her boyfriend.   After playing a few games and taking a full lap, our foursome grabbed drinks and went to the 9-hole black-light mini golf course.  It was a surprisingly difficult course, which was very welcome in our competitive group.  After working up an appetite in mini-golf, we went to grab a bite to eat (my boyfriend beat us all at mini-golf too).   I went for the Oaxaca Tacos, which are an old favorite of mine.  I devoured a korean and a carnitas taco.  With fresh and delicious ingredients, this taco-joint is one of my favorites in the city.  Other vendors include Arancini Brothers, Lobster Joint, Briskettown, and Rosamunde Sausage Grill.  We ate and enjoyed the live music – which seemed to be straight out of our favorite high school show, The OC.

After eating, we played more games, looked at all of the vendors, ate sweets (gluten-free apple butter cake!  gluten-free brownies! gluten-free “fried dough”!) and just enjoyed the atmosphere.  Three hours later, it was time to go to other events, but we promised to come back soon.  Next trip will include the quiet beer garden (perfect for date-night) and the professional photo shoot.

I’ll be back again soon, so until then – get to Brooklyn!

Brooklyn Night Bazaar | 165 Banker Street, Brooklyn

Restaurant Review: Market Table

This past Wednesday evening, I enjoyed an outstanding dinner at Market Table, located on the corner of Carmine and Bedford in the heart of the West Village.  When you walk in, you are greeted by a cozy interior – walls are lined with beautiful wine and beer bottles, hand-written menus sit atop the bar and the candles light the room perfectly.  The large windows allow you to look out on the streets of the village, watching passersby’s pass on by.

I started with a Tom and Ginger – with several ingredients, including gin, aperol, plum, and a sliced jalapeno, this drink hit the spot.  It was perfectly proportioned and not too sweet.  After having a late lunch at Pera, I decided to skip the appetizer and move straight to the entrée.  I enjoyed the grilled arctic char, cooked medium-rare over creamy fingerlings & leeks and grilled red endive – there was a ton of flavor added from ginger and chives.  It was perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious.  After another cocktail (it really was so good!) I completely indulged in the flourless chocolate cake.  It had one small scoop of peanut butter mousse and one of banana chip gelato, and was lightly covered with brittle.  To describe in one word: heavenly.  My wonderful friend, who I enjoyed this lovely dinner with, had the applejack braised pork shoulder (over antebellum grits, roasted roots and apple mostarda) followed by a baked local apple.  She also completely enjoyed the food and the dining experience.

After receiving the bill in an adorable book of hand-written notes from patrons (see ours below – representing our high school alma matter), we ventured out, full, and completely satisfied.  So the next time you find yourself wandering through the village on a cold winter night, hop into Market Table  - you will be sure to enjoy!

 

Market Table

 

Market Table | 54 Carmine Street, NYC

Straight Up NY Weekend Edition: Nov. 8-10th

Halloween is behind us and Thanksgiving is just three weeks away – so it’s important to make the most of every day before the holiday season totally takes over.  Which is why I’m sharing your weekend guide one day early to ensure you have plenty of time to plan.  Here are my top must-do’s in NYC this weekend (including the new drink section).

All Weekend

It’s Taste North Fork this weekend in the Hamptons.  With free shuttles, free/discounted wine tastings and beautiful November weather, it’s sure to be an awesome weekend.  Plan your trip on the LIRR today.

Friday

The Arts: The Rubin Museum is free on Friday nights from 6-10pm – check out Happy Hour at the K2Lounge (where you’ll find 2 for 1 drinks); then enjoy live music at 7pm and check out a Cabaret Cinema film at 9:30pm (free with a $7 bar minimum).  You can go back and forth to the bar during the movie, so it doesn’t get much better than that.  This week the film is the 1943 Hitchcock classic ‘Shadow of a Doubt’.

Sports/Rec: Grab your date and head to The Rink at Rockefeller Center.  The crowds are only going to get bigger, so go now to enjoy a romantic evening on the ice.

Eat: Ippudo’s new outpost on the west side is now serving up Gluten Free Ramen!  They are staying true to their motto that ramen is for everyone – even us G-Free-ers.  The last time I went to Ippudo I waited three hours for my ramen bowl to be filled with rice instead of noodles…this is so much better.  Thank you, Ippudo!

Drink: Go to Friday Night Flights at the Chelsea Wine Vault in Chelsea Market from 7-8pm.  For $20, you will taste and learn about 4 wines.  A relaxing way to end the week and kick-off the weekend.

Saturday

The Arts: You live in NYC, but have you made the most of the hundreds of awesome art galleries that are here?  Check out a Chelsea “Best Exhibits” tour at either 1 or 3:45pm and you’ll see 7 artists throughout the neighborhood.

Sports/Rec:  It’s November, so the boats at central park will be closing up shop for the winter soon.  Head to the park and take a leisurely cruise around the pond before it’s too late.

Eat: I’m totally loving the list that came out on Guest of a Guest today which shares NYC’s best restaurants with fireplaces.  Cozy up with your honey at one of these restaurants and enjoy the start of the colder weather – no better way to spend a Saturday night.

Drink:  What’s hotter on a Saturday night then going to the Museum of Sex?  Well the MoS just opened up an awesome new cocktail lounge called Play, serving up drinks and small bites.  So grab your date to try these new concoctions brought to you by Jim Kearns of Death & Co.

Sunday

The Arts:  Enjoy Christmas early by checking out the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.  There are several shows on Sunday, with tickets as low as $46.

Sports/Rec: The Rangers are taking on the Florida Panthers.  If you haven’t been to MSG for a Ranger’s game, make sure to get there soon – with pucks flying, fans screaming and beer a plenty, it’s a fun way to spend Sunday.

Eat: The November Manhattan Heatmap is out – there are 21 must-try restaurants included – I’m especially looking forward to the UWS Red Farm, Toro and The Cecil.

Drink: CBS served up the 9 best fall cocktails.  Check one out to finish your cozy weekend – try the Prince Street Cider at Delicatessen or the New York Harvest at Lantern’s Keep.

Straight Up NY Weekend Edition – November 1st

I am a firm believer in making the most of your weekend.   In NYC, or anywhere for that matter, it can sometimes be hard to know what is going on.  That is why I am writing my first Straight Up NY Weekend Edition.  Please let me know what you like, don’t like, or want to see in this post, so each week I can make it even better.

All Weekend

Check out Broadway Bites (daily from 11am-9pm) located at 33rd and Broadway.  Filled with eats and drinks from 25 awesome chefs, this adorable Urban Space outpost is perfect for a leisurely lunch, after work happy hour or even date night with your honey.

The Winter Village in Bryant Park is back!  With free ice skating (skate rentals are $15) and over 125 vendors, this is a great place to spend the day – especially before the major holiday crowds take over.

Friday

The Arts: Check out the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) for Target Free Fridays.  From 4-8pm you can go for free (Typically $25) – be sure to check out their new photography section, or the American Modern: Hopper to O’Keefe exhibit.  The Whitney Museum also offers “pay what you wish” entrance from 6-9pm.

Sports/Rec: The Brooklyn Nets are taking on the Miami Heat – check it out at the Barclays Center tonight at 8pm.

Eat: Grab a Thanksgiving Croissant at Momofuku Milk Bar.  Back today for the season, they are filled with turkey, gravy and cranberry sauce, these treats are sure to excite pre-Thanksgiving taste buds this November.

Saturday

Arts: It’s Target First Saturday at the Brooklyn Museum.  This month the spotlight is on Jean Paul Gaultier – there will be music, talks, dancing, film and discussion at this exciting free night at the museum.    If you don’t want to trek out to Brooklyn, check out the Guggenheim, which is pay what you wish from 5:45-7:45pm.

Sports/Rec:  Check out the Dash to the Finish Line 5K, which takes runners on the last few miles of the marathon route.  My friends Amanda and Justin are running it this year – go GET it you two!

Eat: Eater just came out with it’s 10 best hangover busters.  Make sure to check these out to cure your hangover quickly and get on with your weekend.

Sunday

Arts:   If you aren’t one of the millions watching the marathon, there is still plenty to do this Sunday.  The Frick Collection is pay what you will from 11am – 1pm and the Studio Museum in Harlem is also free from noon – 6pm.

Sports/Rec: It’s finally here…the NYC Marathon!   Make sure to get the bib numbers of all your running friends and track them here.  Be sure to look at the course map and plan for the crowds.  Finally, if you want to be a REALLY awesome friend – make a video for your favorite runner to cheer them on!

Eat: If you’re not meeting a runner, it’s best to stay far away from the finish area of the marathon. Time Out NY recently came out with a list of the 30 best taco restaurants: why not check out some of the favorites, like Country Boys, Taquitoria, Los Tacos No. 1 or Taquiera Diana.  For the full list, click here.

The Scariest Month of the Year

It is no secret that I am a little bit obsessed with Halloween.  I love everything – the movies, the haunted houses, and of course, being scared.  This October was particularly awesome.

It started off with a trip to Sleepy Hollow, located in Tarrytown.  A group us went for the day – the town itself is quite cool, and as it gets darker, it definitely gets spookier.  We watched the sun set over the Hudson and walked through the Sleepy Hollow Graveyard.  We went for dinner and drinks at the local pub (The Huddle).  Though the service was quite terrible that night, I enjoyed a couple hard ciders and a great burger.  We then headed to the Phillipsburg Manor for their haunted house/walk – and it was great!  The property is huge, so we had seen sneak peeks of what was to come while walking through town.  Our group of 7 walked through together with many monsters and ghouls scaring us along the way.  We also were lucky to have my boyfriend on the tour who added extra scares for all of us.  The entire tour was about 45 minutes long and I would certainly go again.

Next was Fright Fest at Six Flags.  The roller coasters added fun thrills throughout the day (my first time on the Kingda Ka…WOW!), and at night the monsters came out.  Some were quite scary – a man walking through the crowd with a chainsaw, another dragging a shovel and of course, many clowns.  While we didn’t have enough time to go through the Haunted House (the wait was 2+ hours) it was a great day.

Next up on the Halloween favorites was the Haunted Hayride in Guilford, Vermont.  My boyfriend and I went on a cold Saturday night and were pleasantly surprised with how well-done it was.  After staying warm with hot chocolate by a huge bonfire, we boarded the hayride and were guided through a cornfield and woods filled with some classics (children of the corn, Freddy, Jason) and some typical scares, like chainsaw killers.  I screamed quite a bit, especially when the characters jumped up onto the wagon.  While in New England, we also carved pumpkins, watched The Shining and did a corn maze – all to round out the fun that this month provides.

This past Monday was the last scary activity (pre-Halloween).  My boyfriend brought me to Nightmare Killers 2 – a haunted house on the Lower East side.  When you get inside, you will be indulged by a very creepy “dead” lady performing in the corner while reading about all of the serial killers you will soon see.  As you get closer to the front, you make a decision: are you willing to be touched or no.  We both said yes, so with red “X’s” painted on our foreheads, we entered.  I won’t share too many details (you’ll have to see for yourself) but it was definitely scary!  Lots of creepy characters and even some moments where you might get taken off by yourself (this happened to me).

Now, it is only October 30th after all.  Tomorrow is my favorite day –Halloween!  I’ll be at the village parade for its 40th anniversary.  On Friday we’ll have another Halloween party, to keep the festivities going for one more day.  Of course I’ll be eating plenty of candy.  However…I do not yet know what I’m going to be!  I always decide last minute, so I will make the most of these last few decision making hours.  And if you have any recommendations, please send them my way.