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.

Bon Appétit

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It seems like every visit I make back to NYC revolves around food. It’s necessary to stop at all of my favorite spots for a bite even when making a quick trip. I started off my Fourth of July weekend with patriotic doughnuts and iced coffee at Doughnut Plant in Chelsea. The trip continued with fireworks on a friend’s rooftop in Brooklyn, a glamorous Italian dinner at the Mondrian in Soho, beautiful pastries at Dominique Ansel Bakery (sadly, they were sold out of cronuts for the day), and Upper East Side cocktails to escape the heat.

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Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset^^The most ornate French pastries at the newest Ladurèe in Soho.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset ^^Lime Me Up tart with brown sugar sea salt at Dominique Ansel Bakery.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset ^^I need these doughnut pillows that adorn the wall at Doughnut Plant.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset^^Patriotic doughnuts calling my name.

IMG_4331^^Our view of Manhattan before the fireworks on the Fourth. 

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset ^^Spaghetti Al Limone & Garganelli Bolognese at Isola Trattoria. I wish I could teleport this pasta to my kitchen right now.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset^^Our view while we ate our pasta. The glass chandeliers were absolutely stunning.

DSC_3999^^Escaping the heat with cold cocktails at Upstairs at the Kimberly.

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Paris is Always a Good Idea

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Paris is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever had the chance to visit. The decadent pastries, the charming cafes, the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower, the high fashion pieces adorning the windows of the Champs-Élysées…so many of my favorite things in one place. While I was in NYC last month, I stopped by the new Ladurée tea house in Soho modeled after the Paris location. Rose petal tea, French Toast, and macarons while dining under a crystal chandelier is my idea of the perfect breakfast.

Then it was out for a quick stroll around snowy Central Park, Fifth Avenue shopping, and a stop by the always stunning Bergdorf window displays. I suppose NYC is a pretty good substitute for Paris but there sure is nothing like the City of Lights.

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A Day in the Life

1. Beautiful glass stars overhead at Red Mesa Cantina. // 2. Celebrating the start of “autumn” with rooftop drinks at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach. // 3. First cool morning so I took full advantage of reading + morning coffee on the porch. // 4. Spontaneous afternoon at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino for a little blackjack. // 5. The best orange margaritas at Casa Tina’s in Dunedin. // 6. My favorite Ladurée macarons shipped straight from NYC. // 7. Fancy dessert night at the Bern’s Dessert Room. // 8. Giuliana Rancic celebrating her one year anniversary at HSN. // 9. The most perfect Florida sunset. The sky looked like it was on fire.

The City That Never Sleeps

There’s something so magical about photographs and the way they can capture a moment. Sometimes living in the past just for a split second can rekindle your love for a place you once adored. That’s one of the reasons I’m constantly snapping pictures when I’m somewhere I want to remember.

Spending a few days back in my old town under a rainy haze made me realize how much I miss the city life. It gives me comfort to know that I’m only a plane ride away. I’ve planted a new chapter of my life back in the Sunshine State and I’m so lucky to hold both of these places close to my heart.

^^The most amazing carnitas tacos at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg.

^^Picnic-themed cookies from Dylan’s Candy Bar.

^^MARC by Marc Jacobs zipper earrings.

^^LaduréeUniqlo collaboration = adorable macaron tees.

^^Cat shopping bags at Topshop.

New York, New York

When I arrived in NYC last week, the first thing I did was take a stroll through the Upper East Side. The spring blooms lining Madison Avenue, colorful macarons at Ladurée, the intricately designed railings in front of the elegant brownstones, the window boxes full of hydrangeas at The Plaza, and the dazzling spring fashions displayed on Fifth Avenue.

Even after walking these streets hundreds of times while living in the city, there is still something so charming and magical about this part of town. It felt almost as if I was in a dream. A chic, elegant, perfect dream.

Macaron Madness

I don’t know what it is about these delicate little cookies, but I am completely crazy over French macarons. My first tasting was at the original French pâtisserie, Laduree, in New York City. These colorful cookies are not only beautiful but come in amazing flavors such as salted caramel, blackcurrant & violet, and strawberry mint.

^^Stopped into this sweet bakery in St. Augustine.

I picked up these adorable cards while making a quick trip to Barnes & Noble. Although I would love to be greedy and keep this collection of cards all to myself, I suppose they were made to be mailed away. To add to my ever growing collection of macaron-themed items, I also received this tiny trinket box as a birthday gift.

My Pinterest “Wish List” includes these stylish little dessert plates and this print that I’ll be adding to my gallery wall. And tell me this charming umbrella wouldn’t instantly brighten any rainy day?

 ^^Who doesn’t need macarons painted on their windows?

There is Nothing Like Fifth Avenue

I spent my final week in NYC packing boxes, selling furniture, and saying goodbye to some of my favorite places. The first night my mom arrived, we took the train over to Hoboken, New Jersey to meet some of my friends for “Pretty Little Liars” trivia night at a local bar. Beforehand, we decided to make a pit stop at Carlo’s Bake Shop from the TLC show “Cake Boss.” After waiting in line for an hour, we were finally granted access to the coveted pastry shop. It was a complete madhouse inside but we ended up with a box full of cannolis, cream puffs, and a mini red velvet cakes.

At trivia that night, we originally won first place until a few minutes later they announced there was a calculation error and we had actually won second place. I was just impressed with how many questions we got correct. Looks like we are true Pretty Little Liars fans. I even got a shout out on Twitter from the show’s producer Marlene King who congratulated us on our win!

Throughout the week, I was lucky enough to spend time with most of my close friends. I had dinner at Empanada Mama with Alyssa, lunch at Peanut Butter & Co in the West Village, strolled through Washington Square Park, had a soft serve cone at Mister Softee, visited the September 11 Memorial, indulged in mini cupcakes at Baked By Melissa, and spent Thursday night at Brother Jimmy’s and Bourbon Street.

On Saturday night, we bought tickets to see Jersey Boys on Broadway. I had heard amazing things about the show but my mom had been dying to see it so she could sing along to all of Frankie Valli’s hit songs. After the show, we did a traditional post-Broadway meal at the iconic Sardi’s which has been a popular NYC landmark for the past 90 years. In true New York fashion, we didn’t finish dining until the clock struck midnight.

It’s always hard to say goodbye to a place you’ve lived in for several years. I spent my last day on my favorite street in all of Manhattan, Fifth Avenue. After a morning brunch, we wandered from E 79th Street down towards The Plaza Hotel. We stopped at Ladurée for macarons, did some shopping in Henri Bendel’s, and strolled along Central Park. With an arm full of shopping bags and the rain pouring down, we decided to call it a day. After a few hours of relaxing, we met Lauren at Shake Shack in Madison Square for my “last supper.”

I said goodbye to the apartment I had spent the last two years in. As bittersweet as it was to leave, I didn’t feel very sad cause I knew I was returning to the land of large closets, central AC, and full size kitchens. Mom and I spent many hours in the Delta Lounge at Laguardia Airport since the Florida thunderstorms delayed our flight 3 hours. I can’t complain since the lounge provides you with an open bar and free food. After a quick stop at Chick-Fil-A in Tampa, I was happy to finally be home.

My favorite blogger Emily Schuman of “Cupcakes and Cashmere” even sent me a welcome home tweet! What a great way to spend my first hour back in Florida.

Sparks Fly

We recently celebrated Courtney’s 24th birthday at Pier i Cafe out on the Hudson River. We arrived just in time for sunset and spent the night under the stars celebrating with friends. On Sunday morning, we had a lovely Mexican brunch at Gabriela’s and topped off the day with some frozen yogurt. Our friend Steven, who we recently visited in DC, happened to be in town so it was great he could join us!

Christen and I spent an evening at the rooftop club Le Bain on top of The Standard Hotel. It was such a glamorous setting, lounging on white leather couches and overlooking lower Manhattan. The cucumber lemon coolers were quite delicious as well. On Saturday, we did some shopping on Fifth Avenue and stopped for macarons at the Parisian bakery, Ladurée on the Upper East Side. It was one of those days that felt like a vacation in my own town.

On the Fourth of July, I was lucky enough to be invited to a VIP Macy’s event by my friend Alyssa and her family. We brought our blankets out to the private grassy area and enjoyed an afternoon of free food from Dos Caminos and Bill’s Burgers, Food Network chef Marcus Samuelsson conducting food demonstrations, free Macy’s gift bags, and a beautiful view of the Hudson River. We were lucky enough to meet Nigel Barker, famous photographer and judge on American’s Next Top Model.

After a great day at the event, we were prepped for the NBC telecast that would be filmed right in front of us  that night. I was lucky to have the chance to stand right next to Regis Philbin at the telecast and had a front row view for the fireworks. We saw four sets of fireworks shoot off over the river while the American music played loud on the speakers. What an amazing New York experience!

I just spent a wonderful weekend with my brother in town. We ate at some great restaurants, ventured to four different boroughs, and challenged each other at Scrabble. More to come in the next post…