This Pretty Much Made Our Year

Picture me miming the act of getting out the ol’ Bucket List and crossing off one of the most major “pipe dream” things on there. As we quickly mentioned here, three Wednesdays ago The Nate Berkus Show contacted us and asked if we’d be interested in being on their show… which was taping just two short days later in NYC. If so they’d fly us out the very next day.

Uh, yes please.

See, I’ve been obsessed with Nate for years. And not just mildly obsessed, we’re talking can’t-mention-him-without-my-voice-going-up-an-octave status. The man just does something to me (check out a few I-love-Nate posts of yore here and here). But what the heck would we be doing on the show anyway? They explained that they were introducing a new feature: Nate’s Crate Design Challenge. It would involve two real-people contestants competing for his affection design kudos using a mystery crate full of basic household items (craft paper, blankets, a feather duster, push pins, burlap, staple guns). Basically Nate would be challenging them to a design duel on two identical white rooms for the hour-long duration of the episode using only those unconventional decorating items to alter their spaces and score the win. Here’s a pic of those lucky ladies with their finished rooms behind them:

But where did we fit in? They actually wanted us to be the judges a la Paula and Simon (or soon-to-be J-Lo and Steven) since we’re big on the whole DIY thing and working with everyday household items is our idea of a good time. No words, people. We had no words.

They even gave us a little American Idol-ish desk:

And added this blush-inducing subtitle below our names. Insanity.

Nate even invited us on stage to demo of a few fun DIY projects using items from the crate.

But back to how we found ourselves standing on stage with Nate. The day after we received that unbelievable invitation to be on the show, we were on a plane to NYC. Yes, it really does move that fast. It was Clara’s first flight ever, and thankfully she slept like a champ (we intentionally timed our departure after her bedtime in the hope that she’d lay low- and hallelujah it worked).

We arrived at LaGuardia and got picked up by a fancy limo service. Yeah, we’re those dorks who took a picture of the sign with our names on it. Guilty as charged (or GAC as they say on Cougar Town).

It was around 11:30pm when we finally got to our hotel. They generously put us up at the Flatotel- where the contestants have lived on shows like Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model (holy Tyra Banks, Batman). And look how cute the beanette looks in a big girl bed (though she actually slept in the crib they sweetly provided).

In the morning we were up at 5:30-ish. We had to be at the studio by 7:15 and we could hardly sleep due to nerves, excitement, and I-get-to-meet-Nate mania. But we did take a moment to enjoy the view (we were in an awesome corner room with two amazing city views) before we headed off to our morning taping.

By around 7:30 we were settled in the green room, where my mom (who lives in NY) met us to play babysitter while we got our Nate Berkus on. It was actually the first time we had an official “babysitter” since Clara’s birth five months ago. So even though we would only be gone for a few hours of rehearsing and taping I was totally that person. You know, the nutjob mom who spouts off info like “if she seems tired she likes to be held like this, and she likes when you rub her back like this, and then she might want to stand so hold her like this, and then she might want to read a book but only for a few minutes…” Of course everything was fine and my mom didn’t need the ridiculous Clara crash course at all. And look how cute our offspring looks on the almost baby-sized settee in our private green room (complete with fresh eats and flowers). Seriously, who did they think we were? We would have been happy to hang out in a cardboard box.

Then it was time to get our faces on. Yep, even John got powdered up. And look how much makeup it takes to make me TV ready. See all that stuff in the foreground? I needed it all. The two makeup & hair gals were awesome (there was even one named Sherry, spelled my way) and they regaled us with tales of making people beautiful on soap opera sets and movie lots.

And as if the day weren’t awesome enough, then we ran into Mrs. Limestone who was also scheduled to be featured in the same show (read more about how she ended up on another episode here). It was so amazing to meet her after years of being virtual blog buddies. And she was just as beautiful and sweet in person. Her hubby was awesome too. And of course they killed it on the show, eliciting tons of well deserved oohs and aahs when they showed a few of their jaw-dropping before and after house pics.

We don’t have any first-hand pictures beyond this because we weren’t allowed to take photos in the studio. But after a quick rehearsal, a speedy make-up touch-up, a last minute Clara feeding, and some mic-age we walked out there and taped the show. They don’t post full episodes online, but here’s a clip of us doing our little ditty about using unconventional items for quick home makeovers (yes, I do scream “pickle jars”):

And here’s a clip of the design challengers revealing their final rooms (and us judging the results):

Here’s where I’ll go off on a vain rant. I also learned that when on TV I should follow the FIB rule (FIB= fitted is better). I don’t know why I thought a bright red flowy shirt was the way to go, but after I caught a glimpse of myself in the monitor I knew I made a mistake. I giant red lollypop-esque mistake. So to any other self-conscious not-quite-back-to-your-pre-baby-body moms out there I offer this advice: flowy isn’t good. Unless the body shape you’re going for is round (and you want your aunt to call and ask if Clara is getting a brother or sister). So now I know. But on the bright side, in the looking-crazy department, I felt like I did my creepy perma-smile thing and clapped a little too enthusiastically, but overall it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Most times I could be found just gazing at Nate…

… and waving my hands around wildly (it looks like I’m yelling at one of the contestants here but I promise I was nice).

But enough self-dissection. Back to the story. It was an out of body experience. Words can’t describe how funny, gracious, and amazing Nate was. Not only did he personally compliment our house and our design sense on and off camera (at one point I felt like I was melting into a happy little puddle on the floor) but he gave us a whole new respect for how hard the whole TV thing is. He didn’t just have to master basics like how to read a teleprompter, think on his feet, and keep the audience engaged, he also had to memorize which camera to look at while delivering each segment (and there were at least 6 cameras in different locations and positions). Sometimes it felt more like a choreographed dance than a show. Mad props to Nate Dog.

And did I mention we got pretty chummy onstage? I mean, check out how close our hands got in this shot of us discussing the merits of burlap.

We had barely finished recording our last segment when a producer whisked us off set and told us we had to run to catch our flight (they graciously booked us on the earliest one possible so we could make it back to Richmond just in time to entertain Katie, Jeremy, and Will Bower who were spending the weekend with us. We ran out so quickly we barely had time to geekily snag the paper placard from our green room door. And it’s only a coincidence that we snapped this photo with it in front of NYC’s very own Home Depot as we sped sat in traffic on the way to the airport.

Despite all the traffic we had plenty of time to kill at the gate, which was quite entertaining for Clara since she was more awake for this trip to the airport than the one the night before. Look at that TV ready smile. Too bad she didn’t get to be the third judge (although I doubt her squeals and dribbles would be as adorable to everyone else as they are to us).

And since we were traveling during the day this time, she not only squeezed in a nice quick nap on the plane, but also enjoyed some alert time to look out the window and soak up the view. We are SO GRATEFUL that Clara’s first two plane trips were so smooth. We feared the zip-in-zip-out plan might throw her off and result in a very sad baby indeed, but she’s such a great little travel buddy. Just happy to go with the flow and see new things.

Anyway, happily our little family of three made it home just in time for the arrival of the Bowers. And boy was Burger happy to see us (thankfully John’s sister Emily fed, snuggled, and pottied him while we were gone, just like she did when we were in the hospital with Clara).

So that’s the story of flying to NYC on a day’s notice and returning within 22 hours of leaving. In fact we both woke up on Saturday morning and had the same though: was that all a dream? Were we really in NYC the morning before? We didn’t really believe it until we saw the episode yesterday. Turns out it really happened. Somebody pinch slap me.

All images and video clips of the show, courtesy of thenateshow.com.

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