2021: A Year in Review

They can’t all be good photos, right?!

Welp, friends … there goes another year. As the photo above indicates, we’ve had our highs and lows. I think the year didn’t quite pan out the way most of us were hoping it would, but still, there were bright spots to be found.

Here’s hoping 2022 brings you and your family all the happiness and cheer that you deserve! And here’s what we were able to get up to in 2021 …

April

We dusted off our travel boots for the first time in more than a year (!) this past April for a trip to the mountains. We headed to one of our favorite low-key spots — Granby Ranch — and the older girls even tried their hand at skiing for the first time.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Lotte, Grace & Emilia cuddled up on our couch in the cabin.
Chris and the big girls posing on frozen Grand Lake.
They look a little weathered here because this was after their lessons … but I HAD to get a pic of the two of them with their adorable little set of skis!
We wrangled the kids to take a quick selfie when we got out on the lake in Grand Lake.

June

By the time June rolled around, Chris and I were fully vaccinated, and we were able to start hosting some of our favorite people at our house again. We also went on a fun mountain/lake hike, Lotte continued her adventures in skiing and started running (well, that was pre-June, but I blogged about it in June!) and we continued to find adventures everywhere we could in the great Colorado outdoors. We also spent Father’s Day in one of Chris’ favorite places.

Grandpa came for his first visit in more than a year!
Lotte started track!
Evergreen Lake, Evergreen, Colorado
Evergreen Lake, Evergreen, Colorado
Me and my JMU girls 😉
We sure do love a good splash pad!
Just a dad and his trio of ladies.

July

The end of June and beginning of July was a busy time for us, as we packed up the car and hit the road for our trip out East! We started in Colorado and made out way out to New Jersey and New York and then back, stopping in a number of states along the way. (You can find all the gritty details here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

Cody Park, Nebraska
Cody Park, Nebraska
The Bean in Chicago!
Brigantine Beach, NJ
These cutie cousins <3
With Atlantic City in the background
Staying at a real, working farm in Pennsylvania was … interesting!
One of the best stops on our trip home!
The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
entering Colorado on the way home
Colorado State Line

Then, at the end of July, our firstborn turned FIVE!

August

We hosted more of our besties in August, Lotte started kindergarten, Grace returned to preschool and we managed to make it to Frisco for one final summer mountain visit.

Frisco, Colorado
Frisco, Colorado
Em’s first Frisco visit!

September

We hosted one of Chris’ good friends in September, and they hiked a 14er (a tradition they started years ago). We also spent Labor Day at Standley Lake with friends.

Kayaking on Standley Lake
Kayaking on Standley Lake
Standley Lake, Arvada
Standley Lake, Arvada

October

We spent October in our traditionally favorite way … with all the fall activities!

December

As the holidays rolled around, we were really looking forward to spending Christmas and New Years with family back in New York. Unfortunately, Covid had different plans for us. Perhaps we’ll have better luck next year. Still, we managed to get a day in Manhattan, and we did get to spend actual Christmas Day with family, which was an upgrade from last year, so we’ll call it a win.

Times Square is never not entertaining!
Grace was very taken with the Rockefeller tree 😉
Snow on Christmas Eve was a perk!
Christmas Day cuties
Merry Christmas to you and yours!

And that’s 2021, my friends. We’re looking forward to a quiet New Years Eve (and wedding anniversary, for myself and Chris <3) and planning for (hopefully) some fun travels to come in the New Year.

But until then … bis bald, friends!

The Covid Christmas We Should Have Seen Coming

Christmas Day was surprisingly joyful, considering what came before and after …

As the final days of 2021 wind down, I’m hoping that you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy. Our trip to New York for the holidays got disrupted by an outbreak of Covid within our family (extended family, at least, so far the five of us are still Covid-free), so we ended up cutting it short by a week. Still, we managed to pack in a lot of celebrating before things turned ugly.

While I’m grateful for the positive things that came this year — vaccines, three healthy daughters who turned five, four and one, a husband who loves me and takes care of us in this roller coaster of a life, a career that I really love, and so much more — I also won’t be sad to see it go.

Here’s hoping there’s even more to look forward to in 2022. Bis bald, friends … and happy New Year!

The “Calm” Before the Storm

The week heading into our trip was crazy for us, as well, with my stepdad flying in for a visit, Grace turning four and Emilia turning one. We managed to get in a lot of partying before we even boarded the plane.

My sweet, sassy middle daughter. I hope you never, ever change <3
She insisted on having her dinosaurs with her in this picture. Just one of the many reasons I love her so.
My last baby. Emilia turning one has been bittersweet for me. It’s the most fun to watch her grow, and also the saddest to leave the baby phase behind.
Never. Not. Happy.
We took the family to see the holiday lights at Chatfield Farms before we flew out to New York, which ended with freezing cold kids and lots of tears … but it was pretty while it lasted!
Early Christmas at home before we left meant another excuse to wear our matching Christmas pajamas … not that I ever need an excuse.
Thank you, Denver Airport, for having all the fun holiday entertainment! Emilia hadn’t met Santa yet, so this helped me tick that item off my bucket list 😉
As a surprise to no one, Emilia is a champion traveler.
At Grandpa’s …. pre-Covid confirmations :/

New York City for a Day

We had always planned to head into the city for a day during this trip, but we got spooked by Covid numbers the morning we were meant to catch the train. So we ditched the public transport idea and decided to rent a car, instead. I’m so glad we did, because it ended up being a highlight of the trip. It was the first visit for Emilia, and seeing the city we love all decked out for the holiday … well, there’s really nothing quite like it.

We stuck to the touristy parts of midtown — Grand Central, Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and the Saks Fifth Avenue holiday window displays — and seeing these things through the kids’ eyes, for the first time, was so much fun.

Ah, the allure of a mini-van. I won’t lie … it was definitely nice having this extra room! We love our Highlander, but a mini-van … let’s just say I get it now.
There is nothing like that skyline.
This is the building where it all started for me. My first real job in magazines — an internship at More and then a full-time gig at Parents — was right here, and I must have walked these streets hundreds of times. To be back there, taking a photo with my girls, really meant a lot to me <3
Of all the places in the city to visit on a holiday trip, Bryant Park is my absolute favorite.
And of course no NYC trip is complete without a big ole’ street vendor pretzel!
Times Square was freezing! But the ball was up, and the girls thought the craziness was so much fun!
Grace was very excited by the Rockefeller Christmas Tree 😉
We spent a lot of time in front of these window displays, and Lotte would have stayed even longer! She was so thoroughly entranced by them, and it was the cutest thing in the world to see.
We ended our visit with a trip to Grand Central, where Chris showed the girls the parabolic curve (where you can talk to people on opposite sides!) and the pretty main hall.
And the Grand Central Market for treats, of course!
Love ya, NYC. Until next time …

Christmas and the Days Before It

We learned the day after we got back from the city that my stepdad had Covid, so we hightailed it out of his house and went over to my sister’s (after we all got negatives on our rapid tests, of course). This ended up being futile, since our Christmas morning tests were negative again, and by the next day my brother-in-law and then sister had it, as well. Still, for those couple of days, we continued on, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Chris and I had already decided that we would be leaving early, and we had already cancelled our Airbnb trip to a lake house in PA (THANK YOU AIRBNB FOR ISSUING A REFUND!) and had moved our flights up by a week to return home (THANK YOU SOUTHWEST FOR ALLOWING US TO DO THIS FOR ONLY THE COST OF THE FLIGHT CHANGE, A MEASLY $150!). We figured if we’re going to get sick, we’d want to be at home when that happened.

Plus, we had nowhere to stay. We officially had Covid cases in both of the family homes where we could go.

I know a lot of people had their holidays ruined or changed due to Covid this year, and I can only hope that by next year, we’ll be in a better place. Who knows, really, but for now, like I said, I’m counting my blessings …

At least there was snow on Christmas Eve!
Christmas Eve gifts from elves, courtesy of my sister <3
At-home manicures were a big hit!
The cutest.
Also the cutest!
Christmas morning cuties!
Grace’s face pretty much says it all … does it not?!

And that was our trip in a (shortened) nutshell, friends. We made it back home in one piece, which is pretty much all that I can ask for at this point, and we’ll be ringing in the New Year together as a family of five <3

See you all in 2022 … and BIS BALD!

Keep the drinks coming!

Pennsylvania, Brooklyn & NYC — A Tale of a 5-day Trip

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^^ Gussied up in our fanciest for a very pretty (if somewhat cold!) Central Park wedding.

Hi friends,

Well we just returned from a super quick and very fun trip over to the east coast. We headed out last Friday, arriving in Pennsylvania around 10:30 p.m. for a second Christmas with my dad and stepmom, sisters and their husbands and Rory and Jude. Nan and Aussie Poppa came, too, which made the trip a super lot more fun.

Second Chrissy was only one of our objectives with this trip — we also rented a car and drove to Brooklyn on Monday, where we stayed with a friend of mine in her gorgeous brownstone and attended a wedding in Central Park on Tuesday and the reception at the Wythe Hotel.

This was Lotte’s second trip out to the east coast — a trip that followed quickly behind her trip out the mountains at the end of last year — and she was nothing but a wonderful pumpkin full of smiles the whole time.

Something tells me we got super lucky with this kid of ours.

Anyway, here’s what we got up to, in photos 😉

01_flyingout^^ Super pumped for her second trip out east!

02_flyingout03_flyingout04_christmasday
^^ These two together … it seriously always warms my heart.

01_drinkinggame
^^ My family has a little tradition of doing a taste-testing competition for one holiday (usually it’s Thanksgiving), and although we’d already done wine in the past, we decided why not do it again 😉 After what was meant to be a tie-breaker using beer between the three wine-tasting winners (my dad and both my brothers-in-law), both of my brothers-in-law won the beer round. This was not in the least surprising 😉

02_drinkinggame03_jennjude04_christmas05_christmas06_christmas07_christmas08_christmas
^^ Steph and I chipped in to get Rory an actual excavator toy that he can ride, and I think it’s safe to say he liked it. (Thanks Uncle Brian for setting it up!)

09_dinner
^^ The chef — aka my brother-in-law — hard at work.

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^^ My delicious dinner plate. These shrimp with Kev’s homemade barbecue sauce were to die for.

05_pub
^^ At the sports bar the next day with the fam!

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^^ A poopy diaper explosion meant Lotte was taking photos with her cousins in pjs instead of her super cute daytime outfit. Oh well, still cute, though!

13_tired
^^ Yup. Parenting is tiring.

12_car
^^ Sleeping on the ride from Pennsylvania to Brooklyn.

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^^ The gorgeous setting for Tuesday’s wedding in Central Park.

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^^ Almost four years ago, exactly, Chris and I stood under those very same arches and sat on those very same steps, taking photos of our own after we had just been married 😉

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^^ Meanwhile, my friend Carla manned the fort back in Brooklyn with both of our babies … and her dog Simon helped.

22_wyath
^^ After a short hiatus, the reception took place at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn, which was nice because I had never been before. The views of Manhattan were spectacular, and the food was super delish. All-in-all, it was a very fun wedding.

19_carla
^^ At one point during the night Carla sent me this picture, which I seriously adore. She even said Lotte went down super easy that night, which may have been because of …

21_magicsuit
^^ This amazing sleepsuit! Have you heard of this?! Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit is, as promised, magic! Lotte simply loves it, and although I’m pretty sure I’m not meant to be using it anymore since she can roll over, for now I’m just grateful it’s helped get her to sleep after the disruption of her routine over the past couple weeks. Thanks Carla, for letting Lotte borrow Fiona’s!

23_withfiona
^^ Fiona and Lotte the morning before we left to fly back to Denver. It is my sincere hope that these two become good, lifelong friends. At least I know Carla and I will do everything in our power to help make that happen.

24_homeagain
^^ Home. There’s no place like it.

And that was our trip in a nutshell, friends. We’ve got a pretty busy couple first months coming up, with trips planned and visitors coming out. But busy is how we like to be 😉

Until next time – bis bald!

Back in the Borough: Go Shopping in NYC

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Well here we are friends — at my final entry in this ‘In NYC’ series. Chris and I officially leave the apartment on Saturday, and we fly out to South America on Sunday to start our new journey.

Gulp.

But we won’t go into that just now. For now, let’s talk about something fun … like shopping in New York! There’s no better place to do it, friends. Here are a few of my favorite haunts.

Where to Go Shopping In NYC

1. Chelsea Market [for any and everything]: Especially around the holidays, Chelsea Market is one of my all-time favorite places to shop (and even just hang out) in NYC. They have some seriously delicious eats, dozens of retail stores and, as an added bonus, it’s close enough to the High Line to hit up both in the same day. That would be one of my ideal ways to spend a shopping day in Manhattan.

2. Union Square Farmer’s Market [for produce]: Check out amazing produce from local farmers every Monday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Union Square at the Greenmarket. In peak season there are around 140 regional farmers, fishermen and bakers, selling their goods smack dab in the middle of the city. It’s a pretty fun experience.

3. The West Village [for a picturesque stroll]: With its cobblestone streets and nooks and crannies, nothing says old-timey New York quite like the West Village. Go for a stroll here and you’ll happen upon tons of boutiques, cafes and other gems. (Or get a feel for the lay of the land ahead of time with this guide on the best places to shop in the West Village.)

4. Century 21 [for discount clothing]: For great clothes at knock-out prices, my husband swears by Century 21. You’ll have to do a little digging here (and have a lot of patience), but if you can handle the crowds, you’re bound to score some pretty awesome finds.

5. The Strand [for books]: If you’re a book lover, plan to spend hours in this literary Mecca. Chris and I just hit up The Strand a few days ago to sell back some of my old books that we won’t be taking to Denver (hello $30!), and I was reminded of how awesome this place is. Their tagline is ’18 miles of new, used and rare books’ … don’t you want to see that?

6. Grand Central Market [for treats]: I’ve mentioned the Grand Central Market before on this blog (most recently regarding the awesome cheese options they have there), but it’s worth mentioning in the shopping section, too, because it’s just that awesome. With about a dozen individual sellers, anything your little heart desires, you can find it here. Candy. Breads. Cheese. Fruit. Coffee. Tea. Chocolate. While it’s relatively small in size, the Grand Central Market is a treat-lovers haven.

7. Gotham West Market [for a smorgasbord]: If you’re with a group of people who just can’t agree on what to eat, Gotham West Market is the place to go. I’ve talked about this place before here, but with their eight artisanal food options, there’s something for everyone. It’s also close walk to the Hudson River Park, so you can eat a little, take a little walk, then eat a little more. My favorite things in life.

And that concludes my ‘In NYC’ series, friends. I hope you found something that piques your interest, or that inspires you to add to your ‘must see’ list the next time you’re in town. I know these places will always be on my list when Chris and I make our way back to the city to visit (which we plan to do a lot). 

Bis bald, friends. I hope everyone’s having a great week.

Back in the Borough: Get Cheesed in NYC

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Welcome, friends, to the 8th installment of my In NYC series, wherein I discuss the most amazing places in the city to eat cheese. I know that sounds odd (it felt odd just typing it), but cheese is something of a thing here in Manhattan. People have their own favorite places, we’re all about the artisanal cheeses, and you absolutely do not show up at someone’s place without bringing a block of your stinkiest findings along.

So, friends, here are some of my favorite places to load up on this tasty treat.

Where to Get Cheese In NYC

1. Murray’s Cheese: With monthly clubs to join, classes to take and an entire section on their website dedicated to simply teaching about cheese, Murray’s is about more than just tasting cheese — it’s about learning everything is there to know about this delicacy.

2. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese: I’ve mentioned Beecher’s before on this blog, so I won’t go into too much detail here again, but I’ll just say that I love the fact that you can actually watch them making the cheese at Beecher’s. [And their downstairs cafe and wine area helps bring this place to the top of my cheese list, as well.]

3. Lucy’s Whey: Granted this is a neighborhood fave and maybe a bit out of the way for your average tourist, Lucy’s Whey (located at Lexington and 93rd in our hood, or 425 W. 15th St.), has a lot going for it. The staff is always super friendly at the store in our neighborhood, and have been very helpful when I’ve stopped in. Plus their little cafe is a great place to grab some lunch.

4. DTLA Cheese [Grand Central Market]Mostly because of its fun and fabulous location in the Grand Central Market, DTLA Cheese makes a great pit stop when you’re heading in or out on Metro North.

5. The Cheese Counter at Fairway Market: If you don’t have the time to seek out a dedicated cheese store, hop on into a Fairway Market and hit up the Artisanal & Gourmet Cheese Counter. With over 600 types of cheeses available and classes to boot, the Fairway Cheese Counter can certainly hold its own against an actual cheese store.

6. Vitner Wine Market [dying to try]: Along with everything else on the menu here, the cheese plates sound out of this world. [Hey Cow Plate with Brie, Teleggio, Raclette and Aged Gouda … I’m coming for you.]

And that’s it for the cheeses, my friends. My last ‘In NYC’ category [which I will justbarely squeak out while we’re still actually living in NYC] will be Shop In NYC.

Bis bald, friends!

Back in the Borough: Take Awesome Photographs in NYC

NYCBackground_PHOTOGRAPH

Hi friends,

So I haven’t updated this series in a while, have I? With our days in this amazing city numbered, I wanted to make sure that I got through the last three categories I had mapped out, so welcome to today’s tour — the best places (in my humble opinion) to take photographs in NYC.

So without further ado …

Where to Take Great Photos in NYC

1. Top of the Rock: It’s touristy for a reason, my friends. While the Empire State Building is a nostalgic must for many visitors, if you hit up the Top of the Rock you’ll be able to actually take photos of the Empire State Building — along with the rest of the city.

100_0332^^ Psst … look familiar? This is the photo I used for the header for this entire series, so, yeah, you know it’s gotta be good 😉

2. The Boat Basin/Hudson River PromenadeIf the river’s more your thing, walk yourself on over to The Boat Basin for some beers, and while you’re over there take a stroll down the Hudson River Promenade (which is especially gorgeous in the spring when the trees are blooming).

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3. The Staten Island Ferry: A quick ride on the Staten Island Ferry is an easy way to get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty … without all the horrible lines.

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4. Madison Square Park [for Flatiron and Empire State Views]: The park in and of itself is quite lovely (and often full of art and sculptures from local artists), but it’s also the perfect spot to take stunning photos with either the Flatiron or Empire State Building in the background.

C&C42^^ Flatiron views

C&C44^^ Empire State Building views

5. Pier 25: Two summers ago now, a friend of mine rented a sail boat for her now-husband’s 30th birthday, and Chris and I were just lucky participants on that trip around the NYC harbor. We set sail from Pier 25, though, and let me tell you — the view was some kind of special.

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6. Dying to try: ManhattanhengeFriends, I’ve had the best of intentions for many years now to catch this yearly Manhattan phenomenon. Alas — it was never meant to be. Manhattanhenge — so coined by Neil deGrasse Tyson, “occurs when the setting sun aligns precisely with the Manhattan street grid, creating a radiant glow of light across Manhattan’s brick and steel canyons, simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough’s grid.” If you’re lucky enough to be here during one of the two times a year that this happens, get thyself to a good vantage point (clear cross streets include 14th, 23rd, 34th. 42nd, 57th, and several streets adjacent to them), and bring your camera!

_DSC1363^^ Our sad attempt to capture Manhattenhenge last year. You foiled me that time, clouds, but trust me, one of these years I will get my amazing photo!

And those are them, my friends — six great places to take photos in Manhattan.

See ya next time for … drum roll, please … the best places to score cheese in NYC. (We take our cheese very seriously here, friends.)

Bis bald!

Back in the Borough: Grab Some Sweets in NYC

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Welcome, friends, to the delectable part of my Weary Wanderer ‘In NYC’ Guide that is ‘Grab Some Sweets in NYC’! I cannot tell you how much I appreciate sweets — and even more so in the summer, for some reason. There’s just something about the warmer weather that says fro yo and candy in the park to me.

Anyway, there are a lot of places to get your sweet on in NYC, but I’ve compiled a list of my six all-time favorites here, along with one ‘must try ASAP’ option. So, without further ado … you no longer have an excuse for not sugaring up when you’re visiting Manhattan.

Where to Grab Some Sweets in NYC

  1. Baked by Melissa for cupcakes: Sure, you could hit up Crumbs for the most gigantic cupcakes of your life that will totally spoil your dinner and, trust me, there is a time and a place for that — but on any given day, you can hop on into a Baked by Melissa shop and eat multiple of the most delectable, delightful, teeny tiny cupcakes you’ve ever had in your life. I mean, July’s ‘Mini of the Month’ (how adorable is it that they call them that?) is the Root Beer Float cupcake. Ummm … ’nuff said.
  2. Dylan’s Candy Bar for candy: There isn’t one stinkin’ stankin’ thing that I don’t love about Dylan’s Candy Bar. (Well, maybe the prices, but hey, it’s Manhattan.) OHMGEE you guys. Back in my days as a staffer at magazines, I used to attend events on the top floor of this candy wondershop, and I always hopped at the chance to go. The decor is adorable. They have every candy option under the sun — I mean, they even do Candy Cocktails. For candy, Dylan’s can’t be beat. [Oh and by the way, “Dylan” of Dylan’s Candy Bar is Dylan Lauren, daughter of Ralph, inspirer of all your little kid candy-covered dreams — so that’s cool.]
  3. Corner Cafe & Bakery for cake: Okay you guys, I’m not gonna lie — this is a bit of a shout out to a neighborhood joint. I’ll admit it — Corner Cafe & Bakery holds a special place in my heart. This little cafe is in my neighborhood [on the corner of 3rd and 92nd, to be exact], and many, many, many a night I have walked home past an appropriate bedtime [sorry, Mom and Dad], past this tiny little bakery, to the sweet smells of the night staff making all those delicious treats fresh for the morning. Plus, this is pretty much where we get our birthday cakes every single year. They’re kinda the best. [They make a mean Chai Latte, too!]
  4. Tasti D-Lite for frozen yogurt: Frozen yogurt is kind of a huge thing in the city, my friends, I’m not sure if you know that. But while the 16 Handles and Red Mango’s and Pinkberry’s of the world are trying to inch their way in, I’m still a Tasti D kinda gal all the way. There used to be one on our block — the kind that only served three variations — chocolate, vanilla and a flavor of the week. But it’s closed, and now I have to, sadly, walk all the way to 86th street, to a much larger Tasti D with many, many more options (phooey) to get my fix. The best frozen yogurt is a very personal thing to Manhattanites — but if you want this girl’s opinion, I’ve tried ’em all, and you can’t go wrong with the classic D-Lite.
  5. Li-Lac Chocolates in Grand Central Market for chocolate: When a place has been around, in NYC, since 1923, you just know it’s got to be great. Li-Lac is conveniently located in the Grand Central Market, just perfect for picking up a delicious little chocolate treat in between tourist stops at the Chrysler Building and Bryant Park. Go on … you know you want to.
  6. Macaron Parlour for Macarons: Candied Bacon with Maple Cream Cheese. Elvis. Honey & Cognac. S’Mores. Oh, Macaron Parlour … you just get me. Located in the East Village [which is so fun], and conveniently next to the Hummus Place [which I adore], the Macaron Parlour is the perfect place to stop in for a sweet treat in NYC — although I dare you to try eating just one macaron. I maintain that this is a physically impossible feat.
  7. Dying to try: Levain BakeryThe Levain Bakery seems to have everything I love and more: from cookies and baguettes to brioche, sticky buns and apple bread. I want it, I need it, gimme, gimme gimme! Levain is most definitely on my dying to try list.

And that’s it, friends! If this list doesn’t get you sufficiently sugared up, well I just don’t know what will. Up next on my ‘In NYC’ list … amazing places for photographs in NYC.

Bis bald friends — and to all, a happy Independence Day!

 

Back in the Borough: Caffeine Up in NYC

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Happy Thursday, my friends! Today I’m talking about something that is near and dear to my heart — awesome places to caffeine up in NYC. I absolutely love a good cup of coffee, and a bad cup of coffee just makes me so, so sad. I’ve scoured this great city of mine for awesome spots to grab some coffee [and tea!], and this list, I think, is sure to make any caffeine addict happy.

So drink up, my friends!

Where to Caffeine Up in NYC

  1. Alice’s Tea Cup for tea:  Herbal. White. Red. Organic. Green. Black. Name a tea, and Alice’s is sure to have it. Tea arrives in your own personal tea pot, and be sure to throw in an amazing scone with your drink for good measure. [P.S. There are three Alice’s locations in the city: one in midtown, one in the UES and one in the UWS, so you know, it’s pretty convenient.]
  2. Cafe Mocha for lattes and cappuccinos:  Chris and I hit up Cafe Mocha after seeing STOMP at the beginning of this year, and it quickly became one of my faves. This East Village gem is charming around the holidays with its cute little twinkle lights, and the cappuccinos are fantastic. If you happen to be hungry, as well, try a tasty crepe — they come in so many varieties, you’re sure to find one you like.
  3. The Palm Court at The Plaza for the atmosphere: About two years ago now, Chris’s parents were visiting from Australia and had a hankering to try out the fancy tea service at The Palm Court in The Plaza hotel. If you’re looking for a place where you can wear your fanciest duds and sip on extravagant teas [extravagant in both presentation and price], then this is the place for you.
  4. Dean & Deluca for convenience: Felicity may have made it famous for kids my age, but Dean & Deluca has been delighting caffeine lovers in NYC since 1977. With locations in the Rockefeller Center Plaza, SOHO market and the Madison Market and Espresso Bar, this is truly a busy tourists coffee dream come true.
  5. Crumbs for a quick, tasty to-go option: Although Crumbs is mostly famous for its insanely humongous cupcake options, I personally have found the coffee there to be mighty tasty as well.
  6. Dying to try: Stumptown: I’m hearing good buzz about Stumptown, my friends, but I’ve not yet been able to try it for myself. If anyone’s been, I’d love to hear how it compares!

So that’s my caffeine list, my friends, I hope it helps! Next up on my NYC tour — amazing places to grab some sweet treats!

Bis bald!

 

 

Back in the Borough: Bee-Bop in NYC

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I’m back today with a guide to fun (and somewhat funky, I’ll admit) places to listen to music in NYC. Of course there are plenty of concert halls and traditional places to catch your favorite band, but again, I’ve gone for a bit of the unconventional here. Some of these places offer live music as a backdrop, for others it’s the main event, but either way, listening to music at any of these “venues” will definitely give you something to talk about the next day.

Where to Listen to Music in NYC

  1. The Subways: One of the most amazing things about this place is that music is absolutely everywhere. You don’t always have to pay for it — you don’t even always have to want it! — but it’s there, all the same. The subways here are seriously alive with the sounds of music. From solo singers to Mariachi to 10-piece bands, you might be surprised with the talent you’ll be subjected to just when trying to get from one place to another. If you’re seeking out the music, try some of the big stops like Grand Central, Union Square and Times Square. Those are always happening.
  2. Terminal 5: This place is also somewhat sentimental for me and Chris [as was The Highline on my ‘Things to Do in NYC’ list] since it’s where we met and got engaged, and it’s also the only traditional music venue I’m putting on my list. Besides the amazing artists that perform here [we’ve seen Gogol Bordello, La Reux, The Gaslight Anthem and many others], they also have a fabulous rooftop where they sometimes throw parties or sponsor events. I particularly love the open floor plan of this place, and the two levels make it really easy to get a good spot to watch all the action.
  3. Fat Cat: Oh how we love Fat Cat. Come to this awesome little bar in the West Village to play some pool, scrabble or ping pong, drink some PBR (it’s so cheap!), and listen to some really amazing jazz music.  Plush couches and chairs make this venue so comfy, too.
  4. Philharmonic in the Park: Of course you could listen to the Philharmonic play on a stage … but where’s the fun in that? This event is seasonal, of course, as it takes place only a couple times of year, outside, under the stars in Central Park (and a few other parks in other boroughs). If you’re visiting during the summer, I highly recommend looking up the schedule for performances (found here), and grabbing a picnic to camp out on the lawn and listen. It’s an experience like no other. [Read more about our own experience with Philharmonic in the Park last year right here.]
  5. Cafe Wha: In Greenwich Village there sits a small and dark little venue called Cafe Wha … that is absolutely amazing. I have to admit that we haven’t been back here for years — maybe since Chris’s sister was here a couple years ago because she absolutely loves it. If you’d like to check this place out, you might consider calling ahead of time and making reservations, because it gets pretty packed. [Also of note: this place and Terminal 5 are the only places on my list so far that charge.] Another thing to keep in mind — this isn’t a place you come to chat. It can get pretty noisy once the band starts playing, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for something to provide a more low-key atmosphere.
  6. STOMP at the Orpheum Theater: Okay — if my other options here are somewhat unorthodox, this one takes the cake. Technically, STOMP is so much more than music — it’s performance art. The theater is located in the East Village [you may recall, Chris and I took in a performance as part of our one-year anniversary celebration], and the performers act out the entire “story” using props like trash cans, brooms, mops, etc. It’s honestly pretty amazing, and totally worth seeing. The things they can make shopping carts do — I can’t even use a shopping cart properly when I’m not trying to make music with it!
  7. Dying to try: Jazz StandardIt’s not that I’m totally in love with jazz or anything, but this city has such a rich history of it [and Carrie and Big make it look so fun on that Sex in the City episode!], I’d really love to try out a jazz place — and this one looks amazing. They’ve got two earlier sets — one at 7:30 and one at 9:30 — and then a later one for the real jazz fans that starts around 11:30 on Fridays and Saturdays. Check out the site ahead of time to buy tickets.

And that about sums it up, my friends — my list of amazing places to take in some music here in the city. Hope it helps! Up next week: some of my favorite places to caffeine up!

Bis bald, all!

Back in the Borough: Do in NYC

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Welcome to the third installment of my Things to Do in NYC series. This time I’m comin’ at ya with a list of some of my favorite activities in NYC. You don’t have to be a tourist to love these things — Chris and I partake in most of them on the regular, even though we live here.

There’s really no limit to the number of things you can do in this city, and this list is maybe a bit unconventional. I didn’t include things like taking in a Broadway show (always worth it) or visiting the Empire State Building (an ancient tradition). Some of these things might take some planning, and a couple of them are seasonal, but to accomplish some or most of the things here will, I promise, make you one very happy person.

What to Do in NYC

  1. Bike in Central Park: Whether you rent your bikes from one of the many stores available near the bottom entrance of the park, or just pick up a couple of Citi Bikes, biking through the park will still allow you access to some of the most beautiful areas of CP (although be cognoscente of the areas where you are supposed to walk your bike, and not ride it),  and it might just save you a little bit of time in the process. Be warned, though — biking around the outer loop of Central Park is not all fun and games. There are some pretty tough hills to tackle, my friends, especially in the northernmost  section of the park (otherwise known as the Harlem hills). Don’t be embarrassed if you have to get off your bike and walk it up in this area … I certainly did.
  2. Walk The High Line: The High Line will always hold a special place in my heart, since Chris and I stayed at The Standard Hotel overlooking The High Line the first night that we were married. But even without a sentimental reason to visit, The High Line is still pretty amazing. This public park is actually built on a set of old freight rail lines elevated above the city on the West side. It’s free to enter, and there are tons of snack and drink vendors along the walk. There’s also a fun seated section with a huge window overlooking the street where you can sit and watch the cars drive by as if from right underneath you.  After you’ve walked The High Line, stop off at the The Standard Biergarten for some drinks and pretzels [my fave!]. Another warning for you: this place gets packed, so if at all possible, I would make your High Line walk as early as possible, so that your visit to the Beer Garden is on the earlier side, as well. [Check their hours to see what suits your schedule.]
  3. Watch Shakespeare in the Park:  So this activity definitely takes some planning, but if done correctly, it can really be a spectacular day. The hardest part about this suggestion will be actually getting the tickets for admission. There is an online ticket lottery, but the chances of actually getting tickets this way are slim-to-none. In my opinion, your best bet is to camp out for them — and camping out is half the fun! As you may recall, I did this one day last summer with a friend [and I’m hoping to do it again this summer], so I won’t go into a ton more detail here.  You have to get there super early  [I’m talkin’ 4:30 a.m. early] to even have a shot at getting the tickets, but you can camp out and read, and local restaurants send out delivery men to take food and drink orders, and park performers stop by and serenade you while you wait — it’s all part of the experience. Tickets are handed out at noon [they’re free!], and the performances start around 6, so after you get your tickets you have the whole afternoon free before you have to come back for the performance. [Perhaps a nap will be in the cards?!]
  4. Visit DUMBO: Brooklyn has its own set of fun adventures to partake in, so I’m only going to include this one thing here, since visiting the DUMBO [which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass] section of Brooklyn provides you with the most amazing view of Manhattan, as well as access to a ton of other activities, like pop-up pools in the summer, Jane’s Carousel for the kids, lots of shops and restaurants and ice cream, etc. Check out more about DUMBO in this post that I wrote about my visit there last year.
  5. Ice skate in Bryant Park: If you know me at all, you’ll know that ice skating in Bryant Park is absolutely one of my favorite pasttimes. [So much so that my husband’s first ever Christmas gift to me was a pair of skates and a lock specifically to use for the lockers at Bryant Park.] Anyway, it’s not just the skating rink at Bryant Park that makes it so special, it’s the entire Winter Village. The pop-up shops surrounding the rink provide the most festive ambiance for a late-night skate, and they play old-timey music and you can stop by Celcius afterwards for a hot toddy. The rink usually opens in November and closes around February (although the shops close right after the holidays), so that’s plenty of opportunity to dust off the old skates and go for a twirl! Skating is free here if you bring your own ice skates and lock.
  6. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge: I mean … enough said, right?
  7. Dying to Try: A Visit to The Cloisters: A visit here is definitely on our NY to-do list. The Cloisters are technically a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, although they’re actually located in Fort Tyron Park (check out directions here). I’ve heard that the grounds are beautiful, and the extension is used to exhibit the museum’s collection of art, architecture and artifacts from Medieval Europe. Pretty cool.

So those should keep you busy for a while! Up next: Bee-boppin’ around NYC. [AKA, the best places to listen to some music!]

Bis bald, friends!

Back in the Borough: Drink in NYC

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Hi friends — welcome to the second installation of my ‘Things to do in NYC’ series. Today I’ll be taking on an uber-important category … drinking. We tend to do a lot of going out where drinks are involved. When you’re hanging out with friends, when you have people in town, when you’re celebrating something — all of these occasions tend to lend themselves to the drink.

Does that sound bad?

Anyway, Chris and I love a good classy cocktail as much as we love beer as much as we can get behind a tasty glass of wine. Essentially, we’re not picky. When it comes to places to grab a drink, though, well that’s a different story. A great place to kick back with a drink can be hard to find. And it doesn’t always have to be fancy — I love a good dive as much as the next guy. I’ve been taking mental notes throughout my past almost-seven years here, remembering those bars that seem great for certain occasions, and I’ve come up with a list that, I think, covers most of the bases.

Let’s see what you guys think.

Where to Drink in NYC

  1. The Lobby Bar at Ace Hotel for the trendy set: I’ve talked about the Ace Hotel bar on this blog before, but it’s worth repeating on this list. On any given night here you’ll see drag queens hangin’, actors still in costume from the plays they just finished performing chillen’, boys and girls canoodling on the comfy couches — just a whole bunch of really amazing stuff you can pretty much only find in Manhattan. Plus, the bartenders make a mean Mojito.
  2. Brooklyn Brewery for the hops lovers: Having been to the brewery a handful of times now, I can honestly say this is the place to go for a relaxing afternoon with your friends. While it’s a bit out in the middle of nowhere, and it can take some time to get there if you’re traveling from Manhattan, it’s worth the trek. The beer is delish, the atmosphere is festive, and you can order pizza from a nearby restaurant and get it delivered right to your table. There’s just something so fantastic about that.
  3. Little Town for a taste of New York state: NYC is relatively small, right? So there’s not a whole lot of room to brew our own beers here. The entire state, however, is quite large, and amazing little breweries have been popping up all over for some time now. You don’t have to travel the length of NY to try them out, though — Little Town will bring them directly to your table. The last time I was here I talked about the map on the wall, which points out all of the locations around the state from which they gather their brews, including places like Ithaca, Rochester, Syracuse and Binghamton. It doesn’t hurt that their appetizers are amazing, as well.
  4. The Raines Law Room for an old-school feel: If sophisticated swilling of fine, fancy cocktails is what you’re looking for, look no farther than The Raines Law Room. Knock on the front door and see if you’ll even be allowed in — fanciness comes with a bit of attitude, my friends. If you are indeed let in, you’ll find that It’s dark, quiet and comfy with all of their soft, plush couches. And there’s no rushing the bar, here, either — just click the hidden buzzer at your couch and the waitress comes to you. Now that’s service.
  5. 2nd Floor on Clinton for speakeasy seekers: Another hidden gem (you have to walk to the back of a raging Mexican restaurant and politely ask the bouncer at the back stairs if you can go up), 2nd Floor on Clinton is the polar opposite of what you’ll find downstairs. Decorated as if you’re at home in a good friend’s apartments, you’ll find fireplaces and dim lighting, small tables, comfy chairs and couches and quiet music. The cocktails here are pretty $$, but they’re delicious, and I would highly recommend ordering the chocolates infused with different liquors.
  6. The Campbell Apartment for classy convenience: Let’s say you’re in midtown, and you’d like to grab some drinks, but you’d rather not head into a dive bar or spend hours trying to find a place that’s good and not crazy expensive. The Campbell Apartment is conveniently located right inside Grand Central Station, and their cocktails are cool and sophisticated (if also somewhat $$). There’s a dress code here, though, so if you walk in off the street in your jeans you may feel a bit out of place.
  7. Refinery Rooftop for the view: One of my favorite things about New York is rising above it. You’d be amazed the difference you’ll feel after a 10 second elevator ride brings you from concrete jungle to awe-inspiring vistas. The Refinery Rooftop is a new find for us (friends just recently brought us there earlier in the spring), but it’s bound to be a go-to place over the summer, especially when we have visitors.
  8. The Guthrie Inn for Manhattan lovers: This suggestion comes to you from the hubs, who prides himself on trying out Manhattans at every single bar we go to. He’s had ’em at every single bar on this list, as well as countless others, and he swears, my friends, that in his expert opinion, The Guthrie Inn is the place to go for a slammin’ Manhattan in its namesake city. To be honest, this bar is a bit of a hole in the wall, and at Park and 97th St., it’s pretty out of the way of anything touristy — but the drinks make it worth it!
  9. Dying to try: The Roof Garden Cafe and Martini Bar at the Met: The rooftop at the Met can get pretty insanely crowded, as I’m sure you’ll imagine, so we have yet to brave the visit. Still, I’m hoping to hit up this hot spot during the early evening in the near future when I have a friend in town … I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!

Bis bald, friends! Next up on our tour around NYC — DO in NYC!

Back in the Borough: Eat in NYC

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Welcome, my friends, to a new series I’ve decided to start! (A few of my fave bloggers have been doing similar things lately, so I decided to steal the idea from them and make it my own.) For the next few weeks I’ll be using a couple of different posts to share some of my absolute favorite places in this beautiful city with all of you. Whether it’s food, drinks, activities, shopping — I’ve got you covered.

Of course no NYC guide can be that comprehensive. This September will be my 7-year anniversary calling myself a Manhattan-ite, and I feel that I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what this city has to offer.

Having said that, I’ll give it my best shot! Today we’ll be starting with EAT in NYC. So enjoy — and if you’re ever in town, please feel free to stop by some of these places because, in my humble opinion, they’re pretty stinkin’ awesome.

Where to Eat in NYC

  1. Jane Restaurant for brunch: Head to this SOHO gem super early, because day-um she gets packed! But for good reason, though — this place is seriously amazing. The Sunday brunch comes with your choice of one free complimentary cocktail, and their vanilla bean french toast is to-die-for.
  2. Eataly for lunch: A trip to Eataly is as much about the people watching and ambiance as it is about the food … but the food is not to be missed! If you can tear yourself away from everything that’s happening in the store (pastas and truffles and meats … oh my!), pick from the nine different restaurant options [we’ve only made it to La Piazza so far, but I hear Birreria, the rooftop restaurant and brewery, is pretty amazing as well] to relax and have a lovely glass of lunch wine. Who doesn’t love that?
  3. The Fig & Olive for a simple dinner: If you like Mediterranean food, you’ll adore the Fig & Olive. They bring a sampling of olive oils and breads to your table before your meal, and the food is so pretty, you almost won’t want to eat it.
  4. Monkey Bar for a fancy dinner out: I’ve waxed poetic about this place before, so I won’t bother you again except to say that if you’re looking for some place so old-school Manhattan you’ll feel like you’re back in a black-and-white noir film, this is the place for you. [And the food’s fantastic as well!]
  5. Jacob’s Pickles for Southern food: Sometimes a gal just has to have a big ole’ plate of biscuits and grits, and while Jacob’s Pickles is relatively new to our list of haunts, it definitely fills the void that’s been missing in my diet since I left college in Virginia. You might come for the comfort food, but you’ll stay for the pickle sampler plate — at least I do! [Just call me a Southern Bell! Actually no, please don’t do that.]
  6. Landmarc at Columbus Circle for the view: Forget the food (the food’s fine, really, but that’s not actually what matters) — you’ll be too busy looking out the window. The floor to ceiling windows overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park will keep you occupied for hours … you might even forget to order.
  7. Dying to try: Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn: I’ve read about it. I’ve seen Instagram photo after Instagram photo of it. Now, I just need to try it. With dozens upon dozens upon dozens of vendors, this Brooklyn Flea Food Market seems like it has a food option for every taste. [I’m particularly interested in Blue Marble Ice Cream and Noodle Lane … I would like to try those, please.]
  8. Pizza and bagels: I know what you all are thinking. I can hear you all right now. “What the hell kind of NYC eats list is this without pizza and bagels?!” Well I left ’em off on purpose kids, I left ’em off on purpose. The thing is, every single New Yorker, if you were to ask her, will tell you her own favorite bagel and pizza place. Of course I could point you down the traditional, touristy route [“Hey, have you tried H&H Bagels … so good!” “That slice of pizza from Grimaldi’s was killer!”], but I just can’t stomach it. Instead, I’m going to be honest — both my favorite pizza in New York City ever and my favorite bagels in New York City ever are (or I should say were) right here in my neighborhood, probably because they’re easy and I’ve eaten them the most. The bagel place we frequent doesn’t actually appear to have gotten good reviews lately [it’s like our own hair band in the soup incident from Seinfeld — “Paco must be cooking!” Only true die-hard Seinfeld fans will probably get that], and Zesty’s Pizza, I tip my hat to you. This delightfully delicious pizza parlor lived on the corner of 95th and 3rd for six of my seven years here, only to have recently been shut down by a very ugly building owner who wants to turn that whole block into a high-rise condo [as if we need any more of those]. I’m still in mourning, and I haven’t found a good pizza substitution since. Sorry if those categories are so lame, my friends, but what can I say … them’s the breaks.

Bis bald, my friends! I hope you all have fun weekend plans — and get excited, because DRINK in NYC is up next!