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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Mini Donut Pumpkins

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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!

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¡Olé, Olé!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Sunshine State Summer

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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.

IMG_3479^^The colorful ride at Mazzaro’s Italian Market. The most incredible spot…gelato bar, pastries, homemade pasta, and a wine & cheese room.

IMG_3753^^Indulging in a Nutella-filled eclair after our French-inspired brunch at Piquant.

IMG_2717^^A weekend trip to a Palm Beach palace.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset^^Macarons galore at Chocolate Pi inside the new Epicurean Hotel in Tampa.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset^^Orange creamsicle beers on a sunny day at 7venth Sun Brewery.IMG_2718

IMG_2456^^Old fashioned cocktails served on an antique door at Mandarin Hide.

IMG_2947^^Incredibly delicious spicy Asian tacos at Oxford Exchange.

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A Day in the Life

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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.

Blue Lagoon

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Sometimes in life (or on a really good vacation), you have a moment that is so incredible, you wish that it would never end. My trip to the Blue Lagoon in Grindavik, Iceland was one of those moments. On the last day of the trip, we stopped by these natural hot springs on the way to the airport. Our bus took a winding road through desolate, thousand-year old lava fields before approaching the milky blue waters. You could see the thick white steam swirling from the boiling waters all the way out into the parking lot. We stepped into the chic changing rooms and threw on our swimsuits before battling the 20 degree temps to get into the Lagoon.

On that day, the sun was shining so bright and the clouds were unlike anything I had ever seen before. Our first stop was the swim-up bar for 11am cocktails. We covered ourselves with the white silica mud that filled the bottom of the Lagoon. My skin had never felt so soft. We soaked until our hands were pruney and reluctantly forced ourselves out of the water. Although a hot shower after a long day is pretty great, it will never compare to the heavenly day we spent at the Blue Lagoon.

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Image^^View of the entire Lagoon from the rooftop.

Image^^The clouds looked so magical and almost dreamlike.

Image^^Nothing like strawberry champagne while soaking away in the steamy bath.

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Double Dose of Art

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As a kid, my mom would have to drag me to museums and bribe me with ice cream just so I would sit still. Fast forward a few years and now I am completely infatuated with museums. There’s something so calming about the beautiful portraits hanging from the walls and the stillness of the room. I spent so many Saturday afternoons at The Met when I lived in NYC. I found it to be the perfect escape from bustling city life.

I finally stopped by the Chihuly Collection in downtown St. Pete and was completely blown away by the exquisite blown glass pieces. If you’ve ever been to the Bellagio in Vegas, you’ve seen Chihuly’s colorful glass ceilings inside the lobby of the hotel. The St. Pete exhibit houses the same floral ceiling as well as many other truly stunning pieces.

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Image^^The floral ceilings at the St. Pete collection; identical to the Bellagio hotel exhibit.

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Image^^My favorite part of the exhibit…the ‘blue room.’

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I also stopped by the Warhol “Art. Fame. Mortality” exhibit at The Dali. The traditional Campbell’s Soup prints were on display and black & white Warhol movies were projected onto the white walls. We also got a chance to do a 3-minute screen test captured by a 1960’s camera.

Image^^View from the top of the Dali Museum, overlooking the marina.

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Image^^My favorite downtown spot.

Image^^Even the staircase inside The Dali is a piece of art.

Image^^My Warhol screen test. Sitting still for 3 minutes is next to impossible.

Image^^My favorite shots from the screen test.

Image^^Greetings from Sunny Florida!

The Land of Fire and Ice {Part 2}

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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.

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Image^^The most perfect sunrise from the window of the bus.

Image^^Standing at the peak of Iceland’s most famous waterfall, Gullfoss.

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Image^^The bubbling waters of the 10,000 year old Geysir.

Image^^View from the thermal bath. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon…

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Image^^The most heavenly hot chocolate, European magazines, and baby Milka chocolate bars at Café Paris.

 

Beach Chic

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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.

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