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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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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New York Girl

I’m not really sure how Christmas has already come and gone…the holidays always seem to disappear in the blink of an eye. Back in November I made a weekend trip up to my old stomping grounds to visit friends, eat at some of New York’s finest establishments, and of course…take in the autumn leaves! It’s nice to look back at the golden colors since the leaves are now long gone and snow is the only thing New Yorkers will be staring at for the next few months.

^^Pink gem-faced mannequins inside Topshop.

^^NYC always looks better in lights.

^^Having a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” moment on the stoop from the 1961 movie.

^^The best tacos in the city at Tacombi in Nolita. Carne Asada tacos, fresh watermelon juice, and grilled corn in a cup.

^^Central Park was covered in golden LEAVES!

^^So many popsicles to choose from at Popbar.

^^The colors inside the park were just breathtaking.

^^Massive fortune cookie dessert at TAO.

^^Lady Gaga’s bone dress at her ARTPOP pop-up installation in the Meatpacking District.

^^DVF has always been one of my favorite buildings, just love those hot pink lips!

^^The famous Jeff Koons ‘Balloon Dog‘ worth $58.4 million! Should have stuck it in my purse…hah!

A Day in the Life

1. Pumpkin spice coffee and a raspberry cronut from Piquant on a stormy morning. // 2. My first professional photography project for Luxxe Bands live on Fab.com. // 3. Mimosas at one of my favorite brunch spots in town. // 4. Chocolate cannoli from Lucky Dill Deli. Almost as good as the ones at Ferrara in NYC. // 5. Beautiful chandeliers inside the newly renovated Ritz Ybor. Fun night with Icona Pop! // 6. My first attempt at royal icing. Engagement ring cookies in honor of my future sister-in-law’s bridal shower. // 7. The most amazing dry ice martini at Ocean Prime. // 8. Spent two days with Giuliana Rancic on set at HSN for her fall launch of G by Giuliana Rancic. // 9. Strawberry donut and my new photo book by Elsie + Emma of A Beautiful Mess.

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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Goodbye Summer, Hate To See You Go

I decided to soak up some Florida sunshine this past weekend and spend Sunday afternoon at the Don CeSar Hotel on St. Pete Beach. Some friends from college were staying at the hotel for the weekend so I joined them and we spent our afternoon laying on beach chairs, sipping frozen drinks, going for a dip in the pool at their villa, and watching a summer thunderstorm roll in. I forgot how gorgeous St. Pete Beach is. I felt like I was a million miles away on a tropical vacation. What a nice little weekend escape!

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week has always been one of my favorite times of the year. I love seeing what the designers put on the runway for each season. Fashion’s Night Out is the official kick-off to the most fashionable week of the year. Every September, over 500 cities nationwide participate in this event. I met up with some girlfriends at International Plaza in Tampa for a night of dressing up, posing on the red carpet, and of course, shopping.

I took a weekend trip up to Gainesville to visit one of my best friends, Jamie. We had planned this trip over a month ago but in the meantime, her boyfriend Paul popped the question and she is now engaged! It was a wonderful weekend being able to celebrate with the happy couple.

We spent an afternoon at the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens which was full of colorful flowers, bamboo gardens, hundreds of fresh herbs, and a lakefront view. We continued our relaxing weekend with Gator football, dinner at my favorite tapas spot Emiliano’s, a stop at the mall for some fall shopping, lattes at Starbucks, and a whole lot of home cooked food.

I’m looking forward to heading to my mom’s hometown in Ohio for the weekend. I’ll be spending the first day of autumn with temperatures in the 40’s and if I’m lucky, some leaves changing colors. It really is the little things that make me the happiest.

Goodbye to You

I’ve spent the last week cramming in as many fun activities as possible. I have finally checked off everything on my “NYC Bucket List” and feel like my time here is almost complete. I had brunch last weekend with three of my best girlfriends Alyssa, Lauren, and Christen at a gorgeous place in Chelsea called The Park. You felt as if you were sitting in an enchanted forest underneath vines and pretty winding branches.

I won tickets to the Sex and the City bus tour a few weeks ago at a trivia night. My friend Gabby and I finally redeemed out vouchers and went on the tour around Manhattan. We were the only locals on the bus but thoroughly enjoyed the trip around the city. We stopped at Buddakan where Carrie and Big had their wedding rehearsal dinner in the Sex and the City Movie. We stopped in the West Village for some Magnolia’s cupcakes and shopping at Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs. One of our final stops was at Aiden’s bar “Scout” where we cooled off and enjoyed cosmos.

This past week Courtney and I made dinner reservations at Lady Gaga’s parent’s restaurant Joanne Trattoria. Of course I wanted to visit this restaurant because of it’s relation to Gaga but the chef, Art Smith, is the former personal chef to Oprah and Jeb Bush.

We walked into the restaurant and Lady Gaga’s mom, Cynthia, was sitting at the front bar. It’s pretty scary how much they look alike except her mom was wearing more than Gaga’s typical leotard and heels. As I walked up to the hostess, I realized it was Gaga’s younger sister, Natali. She showed us to our table and after we finished the wonderful Italian meal, Cynthia came over to chat with us for a bit. She told me I looked fabulous and that she wanted my dress. What a compliment from the Queen of Pop’s mother! I just found out Gaga was at the restaurant this past Saturday- looks like I just missed her!

I was lucky enough to get 15 of my NYC friends together for my going away brunch. Courtney hosted the event and we held it at one of my favorite Upper West Side spots, Calle Ocho inside the Excelsior Hotel. Their Cuban inspired dishes and unlimited sangria bar are only a few of the reasons I chose this location. It was so fun to get dressed up and spend the day with close friends. I feel so blessed to have met so many wonderful people while living here!

I topped off the weekend with some shopping in Soho and lunch at Tacombi. I’m proclaiming this as the best taco spot in the whole city. They make the tacos in an old VW van and they had the best grilled corn straight off the cob. Georgetown Cupcakes, made famous on the TLC show “DC Cupcakes,” just opened a shop in Soho so of course we stopped by for some peanut butter cupcakes.

My mom arrives into NYC today and we start packing this week. Looking forward to visiting Hoboken today for Pretty Little Liars trivia night! What a perfect way to start off my final week in the Big Apple.

City of Blinding Lights {Part 2}

I’m excited to share this post with you since it has to do with two of my favorite things! There’s nothing like a really great dessert and a brand new pair of shoes. And if you were wondering where to find these two things in the city, you’re in luck.

Five Favorite NYC Desserts

1. Vanilla Cupcakes at Magnolia’s Bakery – Although I prefer chocolate over vanilla any day, these vanilla cupcakes are unlike any other. You can watch the cupcakes being iced right behind the counter. They taste like they were baked in your grandma’s kitchen and there is just something so wonderful about them.

2. Frozen Yogurt at Pinkberry – Pinkberry is located in various states around the country but it was in NYC that I first fell in love. There are several flavors close to my heart- the original tart, mango, and salted caramel. I love the various toppings they put on the frozen yogurt. Here’s a little inside tip- they have cheesecake bites hidden in the back so don’t be afraid to ask for them when ordering.

3. Chocolate Cannolis at Ferrara Bakery – As if I didn’t love regular cannolis enough, they decided to dip these in a chocolate hard shell. If you’ve never been to this bakery in Little Italy, I suggest you stop by as soon as possible. I love ordering the mini pastries so I can try out a bunch of different ones. My other recommendations are the fresh fruit tartlets and cream puffs.

4. Salted Caramel Gelato at Il Laboratorio del Gelato – This is the best gelato I’ve had outside of Italy. There’s something so amazing about this savory sweet flavor. The best part about this spot is that they have over 250 flavors to choose from and they’re all created in the laboratory right behind the counter. This Lower East Side spot is perfect for an after dinner treat. They have all of the classic gelato flavors as well as my other favorites- root beer, cream cheese, and lavender.

5. Vanilla Soft Serve Cone with Chocolate Sprinkles at Mister Softee – I understand that this is a simple ice cream truck that serves basic ice cream cones but Mister Softee and I have a special relationship. Being a huge ice cream lover, it’s great that Mister Softee has about 100 trucks that can be found all over Manhattan. Let me warn you though, make sure you only purchase from the REAL Mister Softee because there are knock-off trucks trying to fool people all over the city.

Five Favorite NYC Shopping Spots

1. Forever 21 in Times Square – I’m a huge Forever 21 fan and what could be more amazing than a five story location in the heart of Manhattan? Despite the tourists and hundreds of preteen girls flocking to the store, it’s still one of my favorite places to shop.

2. Henri Bendel Flagship Store on Fifth Avenue – Every time I walk into Bendel’s, I like to pretend I’m Blair Waldorf stepping into a shopping mecca. I have purchased some of my favorite jewelry inside of this gorgeous store. Every girl needs something that sparkles and this is the place to find it.

3. Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market – Before moving to NYC, I never appreciated a good flea market. I thought they were full of junk and never took the time to notice they were full of treasures. They sell everything from jewelry to antiques to vintage clothing. This weekend market is open year round and is the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

4. Topshop – If I was forced to spend all of my money in one store, it would definitely be Topshop. They have the most unique selection of clothing, shoes, and accessories. Although the prices don’t allow for frequent shopping sprees, I can be caught perusing the racks and drooling over the shoes quite often.

5. Century 21 – This Financial District shopping staple is a great place to spot a good deal. I recommend hitting the store during the week when the tourists are at a minimum. My favorite part of this location is the massive warehouse-type room filled with every kind of purse imaginable. Although you’ll spend at least 30 minutes in line for the fitting room, you’ll always walk out with a great purchase.