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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Pink Palms

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.

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.

Fiesta Time

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Last year my best friend hosted a rooftop “Cuatro de Mayo” party at her apartment in NYC and I figured we needed something to soak up the tequila so I brought this Margarita Cake. The salty pretzel crust mixed with the tartness of the lime made for the most perfect combination.

I have been obsessing over these adorable Piñata Cookies. One of these days, I’m going to dedicate an afternoon to creating these little treats. Good thing they have Halloween-themed Piñata Cookies because I may not muster up the courage to make them until October!

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Image^^Colorful peppers at the Saturday Market in downtown St. Pete.

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Image^^My favorite tacos at Burrito Boarder.

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Feelin’ Blue

Each spring, I anticipate the arrival of fresh berries. I needed to make a dessert for a family get-together and didn’t have time to be too creative so I thought a Blueberry Cheesecake would please everyone. I usually consider cheesecake to be one of those super indulgent desserts, only saved for special occasions but when combined with fresh berries and jam, it’s the perfect spring treat.

I went apple and pumpkin picking while living up in New York and it was one of my favorite autumn memories. When I heard there was 25 acres of blueberry bushes at Keel & Curley Winery, I took advantage of an afternoon of berry picking. Although picking blueberries is a bit more tedious than picking apples, I came home with a bucket full of berries and a great reason to start baking.

Locals Only

There’s something so wonderful about being a tourist in your own town. You wander the streets with open eyes, wanting to explore new territory. Farmer’s markets are one of the only reasons I’ll get out of bed early on a weekend (well, that and brunch). Rows of fresh produce, tents full of orchids and succulents, local bakeries convincing you to buy sweets at 9am, and a quirky local band playing some early morning tunes.

Image^^Nothing better than margaritas + this beautiful view.

Image^^My favorite British coffee spot in downtown Dunedin.

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^^Touristy mugs at the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks.

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I Have Found That If You Love Life, Life Will Love You Back

As most of you know, I’m not exactly the most avid sports fan but when I had the chance to root on my home team, I jumped at it. A few weeks ago I went to a Yankees game when the Tampa Bay Rays were in town. Although it ended up raining about 75% of the game, we had a great time cheering on the team and enjoying some of the finest food Yankee Stadium had to offer.

There was a food stand called “fried dough.” It consisted of every type of food thrown into a deep fryer and coming out with an additional 1000 calories added. We saw one guy ordering a cheeseburger that was served in between two glazed doughnuts! I decided to stick with my (somewhat) lower calorie meal of a hot dog and garlic fries…

Once a book has hit #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List or when friends can’t stop talking about a certain story is when I decide to pick up the book. I read the Twilight series, the three Hunger Games books, and recently decided to test out Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve heard many “interesting” things about it so I thought I would see what all the hype was about. Since this is easily an “R” rated story, this is no place for a book review but I thoroughly enjoyed all three books and might have fallen in love with the main character Christian Grey…

Last week, I attended my first book club meeting. Some friends were gathering to discuss the book so I decided it would make for a fun Friday night. We sat around giggling about the storyline, sharing our opinion on the book, and drinking wine. Not to mention, the view from the apartment where we were was absolutely breathtaking.

I always love when I have a celebrity sighting in the city. I was at a bar with friends the other night and recognized the guy walking in. It was one of those instances where the person’s face was familiar but I just couldn’t place him. Courtney recognized him as a doctor on Criminal Minds and after some Googling, we realized it was Matthew Grey Gubler from 500 Days of Summer. I dragged Courtney over to say hi as my friends back at the table watched us and laughed. Although it was a brief conversation, I never give up the chance to speak to a celebrity.

Last weekend hosted the most beautiful weather we’ve had all year. I would finally consider winter to be completely gone and summer making its way in. A few girlfriends and I went out to Central Park for an afternoon of laying on blankets under the sun, listening to Frank Sinatra, and snacking on berries and wine. It was one of the most relaxing afternoons I’ve had in a while.

Over the last few years, I’ve really learned to appreciate the styling and quality of food. I’ve always been a big Food Network fan and love getting the chance to eat at the various chef’s restaurants around the city.

On Sunday, I went with Courtney and Flo to Chris Santos’ restaurant Stanton Social on the Lower East Side for brunch. All of the dishes are served as tapas and you order a few plates to share at the table. We agreed that our favorite dish was the huevos rancheros mini tacos. The mixture of bacon, eggs, avocado, and various spices was absolutely delicious. We also enjoyed the “upscale” chicken taquitos, potato latkes, brie and apple quesadilla, and French onion soup dumplings.

Spring Fever

As a girl from the south, we don’t believe that true BBQ can be found outside of our region. After dinner at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Harlem last week, I have to disagree with that statement. This is one of the most famous spots for ribs and fixins’ in the tri-state area. Ribs, cornbread, salted potatoes…and completely worth the hour and a half wait! Before dinner, Courtney and I explored Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It’s a neat part of the city- full of vintage shops, flea markets, and eclectic little stores. The Belgian waffle truck also happened to be in the area that day.

I’ve been a huge Gossip Girl fan since the show premiered in 2007. This show is one of the reasons I truly fell in love with the city. My apartment is only two blocks from the Empire Hotel where the character Chuck Bass lives on the show. They film at the hotel quite often but you never know when the actors are actually going to be on set. This week I was out in the area and decided to stop by the hotel to see if they were filming. With my luck, Leighton Meester (Blair Waldorf) and Ed Westwick (Chuck Bass) were heading to set right when I walked by. Leighton was in a hurry but Ed stopped to take a picture with me. Too bad he didn’t invite me to the Empire for drinks in his penthouse!

Since spring decided to arrive early this year, the flowers have been blooming like crazy! One day everything was dead and the next there were tiny blooms on every branch. Since we don’t have cherry blossoms in the city, I ventured to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens with Isobel to see their collection of cherry blossoms and exotic plants. Everything was in full bloom and so picturesque. The quaint gardens and Japanese inspired decor made you feel like you took a step out of the city and into the zen gardens of Asia.

We finished off the afternoon with lunch in Little Italy and a stop at Ferrara’s for chocolate covered cannolis. To complete my celebrity-filled week, I ran into Cynthia Nixon (Miranda) from Sex & the City on the street corner!

April Showers Bring May Flowers

I really hope the title of this entry rings true during the month of May. I now understand where the saying “April Showers Bring May Flowers” comes from. It rained for at least 50% of April and it has continued into May. The flowers are finally blooming and the trees have gotten their leaves back. But I keep wondering, when is it finally going to get warm?

During the rainy month of April, one of my best friends Kate got engaged! I told her 2011 was going to be a big year and to her surprise, her boyfriend Korey finally popped the question! I’m so excited she asked me to be her Maid of Honor and has included me in the planning process of the wedding. She is going to make one beautiful bride.

Nicole came to visit a few weeks ago and we had a great time taking her and her friends out on the town! The next weekend, Courtney and I spent a day at the spa getting facials and manicures. They tried to convince us to get a facial once a month- if only I could afford that in this expensive city!

I ate at one of New York’s best burger restaurants called The Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridian. The restaurant is a little grungy hole in the wall inside a glamorous midtown hotel. And I must say, the burgers were just as amazing as I was expecting.

One of my favorite places I’ve visited is the Brooklyn Flea Market. It’s a mixture of art, vintage jewelry and clothing, and local food vendors. I had a gourmet grilled cheese and bought the most glamorous 1960’s vintage dress for a big night out. There’s always so much to see and do in New York.

Courtney and I took a weekend trip to Washington DC to visit Steven. We spent the weekend enjoying everything DC had to offer. We went to the Natural History Museum at the Smithsonian and saw an IMAX movie, went bar hopping in Chinatown, had brunch and mimosas on a rooftop, and saw the monuments and the White House. On Sunday, we spent the afternoon in Georgetown. It’s so quaint and made for the perfect afternoon. We saw DC Cupcakes from the the show on TLC. Since the line was wrapped around the building, we ended up having cupcakes at Sprinkles and eating them in the park. What a lovely weekend! This trip to DC was much different from when I visited as a kid.

I had off work on Good Friday so I spent the day exploring my neighborhood. Between Lincoln Center, The Empire Hotel (the hotel Chuck Bass owns in Gossip Girl), Julliard, Columbus Circle, and Central Park, there’s lots to see (and photograph)!

It’s hard to believe Easter has come and gone already. I was adopted by my friend Alyssa’s family and went to New Jersey for the weekend. The weather was amazing- it was the warmest it’s been here since September. We ate tons of food (and an entire chocolate bunny). Of course I missed coloring eggs with my family but my Mom sent me an Easter basket in the mail with all of my favorite candy. What a lucky daughter I am!

As a female, it was my duty to partake in the Royal Wedding festivities. Since no one I know would wake up at 5am to celebrate with me, I decided to watch the wedding on my own. This is one of those things I’ll be telling me grandkids about one day. Kate Middleton looked absolutely stunning. It was insane to see how many people had lined up outside of Buckingham Palace just for a glimpse of the bride and groom. I must admit, if I was in London, I would have been one of those people camped out!

Last weekend, we went to some beautiful gardens right outside of the city. It was acres and acres of lush gardens, greenhouses, colorful flowers, rolling hills, and never ending pastures all behind the most picturesque lake. It was the sunniest of days and we spent an hour just sitting in the chairs under shady trees. It was the most peaceful place I’ve found since I’ve been here. What’s the best way to end a day at the gardens? With Chinese food of course.

One of the coolest things to do on the other side of the bridge is visit the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg. There’s a free tour of the brewery and then you absolutely must stay to have a beer. It’s packed on the weekends, full of people drinking beer, playing board games, and eating picnic lunches.

As you all know, I’m not a huge sports fan but I felt going to a Yankees game was a New York ritual. The stadium was absolutely amazing! I cheered for A Rod and Jeter, the only two players I knew. It was a step up from all of the minor league games I’ve been too. The only way to end an American day of baseball is with some great barbeque at Brother Jimmy’s.

On Monday night, I found out Ryan Cabrera was playing an acoustic show at one of my favorite bars, Angels & Kings. Of course, I hopped in a cab and headed downtown as soon as I heard. Ryan still looks the same, big hair and all. He put on a great acoustic set and we even had a little conversation after the show. It sure felt like a high school flashback.

I want to wish my Mom a Happy Mother’s Day! I don’t know where I would be without all of her wisdom and guidance. She’s a truly remarkable woman and I would be lost without her. Thanks for all you do Mom- I love you!

“We can’t expect everybody to be there for us, all at once. So it’s a lucky thing that really, all you need is someone.”