It has been a bit since my last post. They say “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” I’ve filled the last few months with plane tickets and passport stamps. I ended 2014 “the year of travel” by spending an incredible 10 days in London, Paris, and Brussels. As soon as 2015 arrived, I headed up to North Carolina to visit family then on to Las Vegas and sunny Los Angeles. Now that my life has settled down a bit before my next big adventure, I thought it would be the perfect time to play catch up.
^^Colorful blooms at the Columbia Road Flower Market in London.
^^Taking a quick snap inside the photobooth at Giada’s new Vegas eatery!
^^Every single building in Paris is so simply beautiful.
^^A carousel constructed entirely of fresh flowers inside the Wynn Vegas.
^^The incredible Jeff Koons exhibit at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
^^A casual baguette lunch across from The Louvre in the Tuileries Garden.
^^It wouldn’t be a trip to Belgium without a Belgian waffle!
^^A collection of the old Vegas neon signs at the Neon Museum boneyard.
^^A ridiculously good chocolate hazelnut cookie at Sycamore Kitchen in LA.
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!
^^A classic Christmas wreath outside this iconic London hotel.
^^Christmas markets on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
^^Merry Christmas….from PARIS!
^^A pink “Christmas tree” made of dessert boxes at Ladurée in Brussels.
^^Baby Christmas trees waiting to be adopted in Belgium.
October is my favorite month of the year. The crisp, cool air…the colorful leaves on the trees…oh wait, that doesn’t happen in Florida! Every year, I make a desperate attempt to celebrate autumn despite the 80° temperatures. I invited a few friends over to carve pumpkins but ending up spending most of our time hovered over the food table. I mean who wouldn’t be impressed with a Jack-O-Lantern shaped veggie platter and bloody knife cupcakes? The rest of our night included sipping on cider, enjoying the beautiful weather and everyone cramming onto the couch to watch Halloweentown.
I love donuts…that’s no secret. I’m guilty of stopping at Dunkin’ a bit too often. The ceramic donut bank on my desk doesn’t help my constant cravings. So painting mini pumpkins like my favorite sugary breakfast item seemed only natural. I stopped by a local pumpkin patch (or two or three…I love pumpkins, okay?) and picked up a whole bunch of mini pumpkins for an afternoon of Halloween DIY fun!
Step 1: Pop off the stem of the mini pumpkin or cut it short so it doesn’t get in the way of the donut hole.
Step 2: Use a matte spray paint (in a light tan color, mine came out a bit too dark) to coat the pumpkin and let it completely dry overnight. Using a coat or two of spray paint helps get rid of the pumpkin’s waxy texture so the frosting layer of paint goes on a little smoother.
Step 3: Pick out your frosting colors. I went for the classic chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Use a tiny brush to draw the frosting outline and a little circle on top for the donut hole then fill in the rest with a larger paintbrush. You might need 2-3 coats depending on the thickness of the paint.
Step 4: Once the frosting paint layer is completely dry, it’s time to add the sprinkles! I opted for puffy paint. It was extremely easy to add the sprinkles this way plus the three-dimensional texture made them looked even more realistic.
Step 5: I dare you not to take a bite out of your new little treats. They look almost good enough to eat!
Just because Labor Day is the “official” end of summer, it doesn’t mean you have to put away the grill. These recipes were inspired by one of my favorite NYC taco spots Tacombi, which you last saw in this post. I was craving their tacos and decided to whip up my own version along with their famous Corn in a Cup.
Corn in a Cup
- 4 ears of corn
- Queso Fresco
- 2 limes
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1/2 cup mayo
- 1/2 cup sour cream
Throw the corn on the grill following this recipe. Cut the corn off the cobs, add the mayo and sour cream, and mix together in a bowl. Add some lime juice and scoop into the cups. Add a dollop of the sour cream/mayo mixture on top, squeeze some more lime juice, and sprinkle with chili powder. Crumble the Queso Fresco to top it off.
*If you want to make the Mexican Street Corn version, leave the corn on the cob when you’re done grilling. Mix the mayo with chili powder (eliminate the sour cream for this version) and spread onto the cob with a brush. Throw back on the grill for a few minutes. Add a bit more chili powder and roll in Queso Fresco before serving.
Pineapple Pork Tacos
- 1 lb pork tenderloin
- 1 pineapple
- 1 bag of cole slaw mix
- 2 limes
- Corn tortillas
- Queso Fresco
- Handful of cilantro
- Teriyaki sauce
Marinate the pork in teriyaki sauce for a few hours before you cook. Saute the pork on the stove or throw on the grill. Slice up the pineapple and grill. I love cabbage on tacos but instead of buying a full head of cabbage, I use a bag of cole slaw mix that has a combination of white and red cabbage. To build the tacos, add the pork, grilled pineapple, cabbage, crumbled Queso Fresco, a few pieces of cilantro, and squeeze a lime over the top. Drizzle with the sour cream sauce (recipe below).
Cilantro Sour Cream Sauce
I don’t like to measure a whole lot when making a sauce. I think it’s more fun to taste as you go. For this sauce, I throw everything in the food processor. Small container of sour cream, fresh garlic, cilantro, green onions, a dash of milk (to thin the sauce), and salt & pepper.
Summertime in Florida can be brutal. You have to occupy yourself with things that involve AC otherwise the sweltering heat can ruin your summer days. There’s only so much time you can spend at the beach so I’ve been discovering new local spots for brunch and dessert (the two most important meals of the day). With a stop in Palm Beach, night strolls along the beach at sunset, gelato at the Italian market, rooftop pool parties, and even more vacations to look forward to..I’d say it’s been a pretty successful summer.
^^The colorful ride at Mazzaro’s Italian Market. The most incredible spot…gelato bar, pastries, homemade pasta, and a wine & cheese room.
^^Indulging in a Nutella-filled eclair after our French-inspired brunch at Piquant.
^^A weekend trip to a Palm Beach palace.
^^Macarons galore at Chocolate Pi inside the new Epicurean Hotel in Tampa.
^^Orange creamsicle beers on a sunny day at 7venth Sun Brewery.
^^Old fashioned cocktails served on an antique door at Mandarin Hide.
^^Incredibly delicious spicy Asian tacos at Oxford Exchange.
1. The sunflower booth at the Saturday Morning Market always has a line wrapped around the block. // 2. Homemade salted caramel brownie cookie sandwiches; the cousin to my famous red velvet cookies. // 3. Root beer floats under twinkling lights at Urban Brew & BBQ. // 4. Colorful cocktails overlooking Beach Drive at The Canopy. // 5. Checking out Scarlet Johansson’s newest indie flick “Under the Skin” at the enchanting Tampa Theater. // 6. Ridiculously delicious Nutella banana waffles at Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe. // 7. Lady Gaga in Ft. Lauderdale kicking off the first night of her artRave world tour! // 8. Quiet afternoon underneath the wall of lamps at Mandarin Hide. // 9. French macarons and blood orange mimosas for brunch at Birch + Vine.
I remember learning in middle school geography that Greenland was the blustery, frigid country while Iceland was the greener, warmer spot. Whoever decided to confuse the middle schoolers of the world is in real trouble. Although Iceland is considered to be the “warmer” of the two countries, we still saw our fair share of snow and ice.
On our second day in the country, we drove out into the Icelandic countryside and watched the sunrise over the glaciers. We stopped by Gullfoss as part of the Golden Circle Tour. Standing at the top of the frozen falls was easily one of the coldest moments of my life. We watched Geysir erupt every five minutes and spew white steam into the air. The sun was so beautifully reflected on the solid ice surrounding the pit of boiling water. We soaked in a thermal bath overlooking the snow capped mountains. We ended the day at Café Paris for the most decadent hot chocolate. And I can’t forget about our favorite meal of the trip…tacos and beer. Sorry Iceland, but nobody wants your whale burgers or steamed puffin.
^^The most perfect sunrise from the window of the bus.
^^Standing at the peak of Iceland’s most famous waterfall, Gullfoss.
^^The bubbling waters of the 10,000 year old Geysir.
^^View from the thermal bath. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon…
^^The most heavenly hot chocolate, European magazines, and baby Milka chocolate bars at Café Paris.
The first question I usually get living in Florida is “do you go to the beach all the time?” The next question is “why are you so pale?” Hah, but seriously, I get that a lot. Honestly, I’ve never been a big beach person. I’m not a huge fan of baking under the sweltering sun, burning to a crisp, and tracking mass amounts of sand into my car. I spent the day at Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach for my birthday last month and I could really get used to this type of “beach day.” This old time motel was built in 1957 and later turned into a swanky vacation spot complete with beachfront hammocks, colorful books lining the lobby shelves, fish netting dangling from the ceiling, and sunset murals adorning the walls. Talk about the perfect place for a little rest and relaxation.
As residents of the Sunshine State, we are so lucky to have January days that look like this. Although we have our chilly nights, most days are full of blue skies and palm trees swaying in the wind. I spent last weekend exploring the historic Vinoy in downtown St. Petersburg. The hotel was unveiled back in the Jazz Age, almost 90 years ago. Something about the mix of modern design and old world charm make the Vinoy quite a site to see.
^^The stunning yellow chandeliers inside the hotel’s lobby.
^^This took my love of lighting fixtures to a whole new level. A one-of-a-kind Chihuly blown glass piece.
^^I loved the delicate detailing on the exterior of the hotel.
^^Sunny day essentials at The Birchwood’s rooftop lounge.
^^Nothing beats a pretty petite pastry from Cassis American Brasserie.