I’ll Be Home for Christmas

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Most Black Friday shoppers spend their day battling crowds at the mall; instead, I ditched the retail madness, hopped on a plane, and traveled 4,000 miles across the world. Although Thanksgiving had just ended for us in America, Christmas was in full swing overseas. The big ceramic bulbs were dangling from the ceiling at Covent Gardens in London, the upside down Christmas tree was sparkling at the Galeries Lafayette in Paris, and fresh holly lined the window sills of chocolate shops in Brussels. As incredible as it was to spend time in a winter wonderland on the other side of the globe, there really is nothing like being at home for Christmas.

Wishing everyone a very happy and Merry Christmas with your loved ones!

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IMG_8431^^A classic Christmas wreath outside this iconic London hotel.

IMG_8430^^Christmas markets on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

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IMG_8428^^Merry Christmas….from PARIS!

IMG_8424^^A pink “Christmas tree” made of dessert boxes at Ladurée in Brussels.

IMG_8426^^Baby Christmas trees waiting to be adopted in Belgium.

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Shine Bright

During the month of December, I seemed to be constantly entertaining, stopping by unlimited amounts of Christmas parties, wrapping gifts, and overeating my mom’s famous cookies. I decided to make a weekend trip to Orlando to visit some college friends and reunite with my old town. It’s hard to believe that this was my first trip back to Orlando since graduating two and a half years ago.

I started off the weekend with tapas at one of my favorite places, Cafe Tu Tu Tango. The walls inside the restaurant were adorned with art by local artists and the passion fruit sangria was to die for. I spent the next afternoon perusing the Orlando Museum of Art, picking out a Union Jack teapot at The British Shoppe, and doing a little shopping at The Mall at Millenia. I was so excited to see one of my favorite bands, Marina and the Diamonds, that night in downtown Orlando. Before I headed home, I went for a walk through the farmer’s market and had brunch at Spice on Lake Eola. It sure was nice to be back!

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Our family friends had extra Disney tickets that were going to expire at the end of the year so my mom and I decided to spend one of the last days of 2012 at Magic Kingdom! I hadn’t been to the park in four years so I was excited to be back at Disney. It ended up being quite cold, although I refused to wear a hat or gloves since I was in Florida.

We rode Space Mountain, visited the Haunted Mansion, ate Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, watched the Electrical Parade, and even got a glimpse of the fireworks on the way out of the park. The castle was completely covered in twinkling lights and it was a truly magical way to end the night!

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Out With the Old, In With the New

In the blink of an eye, another year has passed us by. Welcoming a new year is always a perfect time to reflect on the past year. 2011 was an unbelievable year for me and I feel so grateful for all of my blessings and for the unconditional love and support of my family and friends.

Right before I went home for Christmas vacation, one of my best friends Alyse came up to NYC for the weekend. Our first stop was one of my favorite BBQ restaurants, Brother Jimmy’s. We continued our night bar hopping on the Upper West Side and finished off a great weekend at brunch in Chelsea. It’s always fun to play tour guide when friends come to visit.

The next night was our friend Flo’s birthday party. It’s always cool to get a big group together and go out in the city. We started our night at Barramundi, this cozy little dive bar in the heart of the Lower East Side. After hanging out there for a few drinks, we headed over to a new bar in the area called Interstate Food & Liquor. We had the entire loft reserved for our group. It was a wonderful night full of great friends, dancing, and celebrating!

The weekend before I headed back to Florida was a busy one! My friends Alyssa came into the city for the afternoon. Even though I only got to see her for a short time, it’s always nice to spend time with her!

My friend Dana who I met at the NYC Pi Phi Alumni Club (she also went to FSU) hosted a Christmas party at her Upper West Side apartment that evening. She always throws lovely parties, spending the entire day baking and making her apartment smell like a quaint little bakery. I was surprised to see my first real Christmas tree inside a New York apartment. It was much more impressive than the little two foot tree I bought inside Penn Station.

After her party, I met my friend Arielle at Webster Hall to see one of our favorite bands, The Rocket Summer. I’ve loved this band since high school and it sure was a flashback to hear them sing all of the songs I used to love in 2006.

I was really looking forward to being able to spend two weeks in Florida over the holidays. I left dreary, cold New York for warm, sunny Florida. It was so wonderful to see the ocean, palm trees, and sunshine- all things I took for granted while living in the Sunshine State.

I spent my first few days back home prepping for Christmas. My days consisted of Christmas shopping with my brother, holiday parties, wrapping gifts while my cats stuck their noses into everything, consuming massive amounts of my Mom’s famous Christmas cookies, and one of my most cherished traditions- driving around looking at Christmas lights with my family.

Our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day traditions are pretty standard for us. We spend our Christmas Eve at an Italian dinner followed by the Candlelight Service at church. It’s always a memorable evening with family and remembering the real reason for the season.

Christmas morning is a bit different from when my brother and I were kids. Tyler and I don’t seem to wake up before 10am even though we know the stockings and gifts await us. Once we finally woke up, we spent the morning opening gifts and enjoying our favorite homemade coffee cake and peanut butter fudge given to us by our family friend. It’s a tradition for my brother and I to receive scratch off lottery tickets in our stockings. He usually wins more money than I do but this year I hit the jackpot and won $120! Santa must have put me on the good list this year.

After spending the afternoon indulging in our Christmas feast, I looked back at my gifts and felt so thankful for everything I had received. My favorite gift was a Nikon D40 SLR camera that I’ve been wanting for a while. You can expect a whole bunch of beautiful pictures in the new year.

And really, what’s better than shorts and sunshine on a Florida Christmas day…

The day after Christmas is meant for gift returns, taking down the decorations, and thinking about the diet you need to go on after eating all of that food the day before. Instead of doing any of those things, I spent the afternoon outside in the beautiful weather. Tyler and I went down to the Dunedin Causeway at sunset and captured some stunning shots of the beach while the sun dipped below the horizon. Being out on the beach is so peaceful and reminds me what I love about being home.

My Annual Christmas Party is one of my favorite things about the holiday season! It’s always so wonderful to catch up with all of my high school friends and of course, participating in the gift exchange, which seems to more intense every year! It makes me so happy to know I’ve been able to stay in touch with many of my friends from home after we’ve all scattered around the country.

As my trip came to a close, I spent my last few afternoons with my Mom out on the water. One day was spent out at the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs lunching on Greek salad and perusing the shops. On my last day, we went out to Clearwater Beach to soak up the sun. The day started off in the high 70’s and was clear and sunny. After a few hours, it turned windy and cold and needless to say, we were forced to put on jackets and retreat from the beach.

I feel so lucky to have grown up in such a scenic town! There’s nothing like Palm Harbor, Florida!

I look forward to this new year; not a new beginning but a continuation of the beautiful life I’m so lucky to already have.

It’s Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas

It’s hard to believe another year is coming to an end. It seems like just yesterday I was wrapping gifts, baking cookies, and filling my closet with winter clothing. The holiday season in the city is the most magical time of the year. Over the last week, lights have been strung on trees, Fifth Avenue is lined with sparkling snowflakes, and store windows are being transformed into the most magical of spaces.

Before all of the Christmas decorations go up, the leaves turn yellow and orange. Central Park becomes the most enchanted spot in the whole city. Although winter can be rough, the first sight of autumn makes me so excited for the cooler weather to roll in. I cherish those few weeks a year when the air turns crisp and the magic of fall wanders in. If only it would stay for a little while longer…

While I was home in Florida, I was so happy to spend some time with friends and family. We celebrated my brother Tyler’s 22nd birthday. Hard to believe my little brother is growing up so fast! My mom and I ate at some of my favorite chain restaurants and Mariah and I went to the nail spa and mall for a little girl time. I always love being back home!

Kate’s wedding day started off at a beautiful hotel suite on the ocean at the Dunedin Marina. We spent the morning getting our hair done, sipping mimosas, and watching wedding movies to get excited for the big day! We slipped into our champagne bridesmaid dresses and helped Kate into her gown. The ceremony at the white chapel in Palm Harbor was perfect and the reception in the gardens was so magical. I was so happy to be a part of Kate and Korey’s special day and I wish them a lifetime of happiness!

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve woken up early on Thanksgiving morning with my brother to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The giant balloons floating down the streets next to the skyscrapers seemed like watching a fairytale. This year, Courtney and I were going out to her aunt’s house in New Jersey for our Thanksgiving meal but decided to go to the parade that morning. The 6am wake up call was well worth it. The balloons seemed even larger in person and everything about being at the parade was so spectacular.

It wouldn’t be a complete blog entry without something Lady Gaga related. This holiday season, Barney’s has dedicated an entire floor to the lady herself- they call it Gaga’s Workshop and it’s a brilliant display of art, gifts, music..and of course a lot of leather and sequins!

2011 has been one of the most memorable years of my life. I have so much to be grateful for..I’m living in the most amazing city in the world and have the most loving friends and family I could ever ask for. As cliche as it sounds, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

I’ve Got the World on a String

Happy 2011! It’s hard to believe another year has gone by. I know I say this every year but 2010 really flew by. It was a monumental year in my life. I was so lucky to graduate from UCF (in 4 years), travel to Greece and Turkey, and live my dream by moving to New York City. I have high hopes for 2011 and believe it’s going to be an amazing year for me.

I just spent a wonderful 2 weeks back home with my family and friends for the holidays. Going home to 50 degree weather was a treat! While everyone complained about how cold it was, I took advantage of wearing shorts and no coat. On my first night in town, we had a belated 21st birthday celebration for my brother Tyler. We went to a Brazilian steakhouse in Tampa and it sure was a fabulous meal. The next week was followed by plenty of Christmas festivities- looking at Christmas lights, baking with my mom (and eating WAY too many cookies), and my annual Christmas party. I’m so happy I got to spend time with all of my friends back home.

I had a wonderful Christmas with my family. It was a beautiful 70 degree Christmas day, as usual. Although it was warm, we sat around the fireplace and pretended as if we were somewhere much colder. I was lucky I missed the blizzard in NYC. They said it was the fifth largest snowfall in the city’s history. Two days after Christmas, the temperatures in Florida got close to 80 degrees so needless to say, I spend the next few days at Clearwater Beach. I spent my last day of 2010 soaking up the sun with friends. I can’t complain one bit except for my bright red sunburn. I refuse to use sunscreen in the winter but this time I finally learned my lesson!

One of my favorite things to do back home is visit the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs. I’ve been going there since I was a kid and it reminds me of my trip to Greece. I had a delicious Greek salad and baklava. The gift shops are filled with sponges, seashells, and tacky Florida souvenirs. There’s just something so comforting about this place that reminds me of home.

I spent New Year’s Eve with two of my best friends, Kate and Alyse. On New Year’s Day we had our traditional meal of pork and sauerkraut. Every holiday is a reason for a big meal in my house. After a great time back home, it was time for me to return to the snowy north. I was greeted by snow showers and plenty of ice. It was my first real snow of the season and I must say, I was pretty excited. Although it’s really cold, the huge snowflakes and icicles have turned the city into a winter wonderland. I was also looking forward to coming back to the city because Courtney now lives here! I’m so happy to have one of my best friends living here. New York City sure is the place to be.

I’ve had a great start to the new year and can’t wait to see what 2011 holds…

“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

This Peppermint Winter is So Sugar Sweet

Today was New York City’s first snowfall of the season. I’ve come to the conclusion that the “flurries” I saw a few weeks ago might have just been sleet so today was the official start of winter. My Florida body isn’t handling winter too well. The highs have been in the 30’s but it has felt more like below zero to me. I’m learning that the radiators make funny noises but if you want to stay warm, you just have to deal with them. It’s going to be a long winter…

Two weeks ago my friend Alissa from college came up to visit me! We kicked off the girl’s weekend with some shopping in Soho. There was a Victoria’s Secret display on the street showing off all of the wings from past fashion shows. The wings were absolutely gorgeous in person! We found the Kardashian’s new Dash store and decided after about 5 minutes that we couldn’t afford anything (not even the $8 water bottles) so we were satisfied with window shopping from then on. That night I took Alissa and her friend George to one of my favorite restaurants in the city, Cafeteria. On Sunday, we went to see the Rockette’s “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” at Radio City Music Hall. With my employee discount, I was able to score us 6th row seats. What a fantastic show and perfect end to a great weekend!

The week after Thanksgiving Alyssa and I went to the Rockefeller Tree Lighting. It has always been a holiday tradition to watch it on TV so I thought it would be cool to see the ceremony in person this year. It ended up being warm and crowded and quite a mess! But in the end, we were front and center to see the tree being lit up. We also got to hear some wonderful Christmas carols from Mariah Carey, Josh Groban, Susan Boyle, and Jessica Simpson. It is said that the tree lighting is the official start to the holiday season! If you ever get the chance, visit New York during the Christmas season- everything is so magical this time of year.

It’s hard to believe 2010 is coming to close. What an amazing year it has been! I have so much to look forward to in 2011. My brother, Tyler, turned 21 a few days ago- hard to believe he’s getting so old. And on my final note of the night, I have some great news. One of my best friends since elementary school, Courtney, is moving to NYC in January to start a new job at an advertising agency! We have talked about being together New York and it is all finally coming together.

Happy Holidays to all of my friends and family. Thank you for all of your never ending love and support- I’m the luckiest girl in the world!