Pumpkin Carving Party

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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.

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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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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.

 

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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The Land of Fire and Ice

We landed at Keflavik airport at 6am. It was pitch black. The sun didn’t rise until almost 10am and it still felt as if it was the middle of the night to us Americans. We stayed at an ultra modern hotel right off the city center. We spent out first day wandering the streets of Reykjavik, Iceland exploring all that the city had to offer. Our first stop was the Hallgrimskirkja church (don’t ask me to pronounce that) and we were in complete awe of the architecture. It was so intricately designed…nothing like I had ever seen before. We took an elevator to the top of the tower and had a spectacular view of Reykjavik. The sky was so blue and there was not a cloud in sight. Only snowy mountaintops and colorful rooftops.

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We popped into different shops. There were stuffed puffins in every store window. Only in Iceland is the national bird revered by locals and also served as a main course at dinnertime. We stopped into a quaint cafe for lunch and ended up with hot chocolate and homemade apple crumble. We ventured to an Icelandic mall, which made American malls look sad and boring. We attempted to take a bus back to the hotel, got lost, wandered across a highway, couldn’t understand the language and eventually got someone to call us a cab. The food was incredibly overpriced and actually pretty terrible so we stuck to ordering alcohol and dessert for most of our meals (along with the mass amount of granola bars that we packed). But day number one came to an end and I was completely in love with this new city that I called home for the next 4 days.

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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.

Chai Latte

I first tried chai tea in a little cafe in Mexico. Maybe that wasn’t the best place for my first taste because I was not overly thrilled with the flavor. While living in NYC, I had a friend reintroduce me to the drink, guaranteeing I would like it. Although I was sure I would hate it once again, I ended up loving it. It even become a weekly ritual to stop by my local coffee shop for a chai latte.

Since the end of the year is right around the corner and the “cooler” weather has joined, I want to spend most of my time with a warm drink, bundled up in flannels watching movie marathons all afternoon. But considering it’s still 80° and I’m currently in shorts, I figured I could at least pretend it’s chilly out if only for a bit. This Chai Latte has a bit of a kick to it. The creaminess of the condensed milk combined with the cinnamon makes it the perfect morning treat.

Iceland

A few weeks ago, I booked my dream trip to Iceland with one of my best friends, Jamie. I’m not sure exactly what it is about this country that intrigued me so many years ago but I have been dreaming about it ever since.

My love for Iceland grew immensely after looking through the photos taken by one of my favorite bloggers, Nicole Warne of Gary Pepper. There were never-ending miles of glaciers, Northern Lights dancing across the sky, and the steamy waters of the Blue Lagoon. You better believe my Iceland “to do” list is growing more and more each day.

{photos courtesy of Gary Pepper}

City of Blinding Lights {Part 3}

I officially have 10 days left in New York City. Every day that I’ve spent in this city, I think about the things I would miss if I left. On the other end of the spectrum, there are things I would not miss at all.

Five Things I’ll Miss About NYC

1. Autumn – There is something so magical about this time of year. The brisk weather, the orange and yellow leaves adorning Central Park, and the feeling that winter is on it’s way. If I had to pick one season to spend my entire life in, autumn would win in a heartbeat.

2. Brunch – I know what you’re thinking, you can have brunch anywhere, not just in NYC. But brunch is a typical weekend activity in the city. Sitting around a table with a bunch of friends sipping mimosas has quickly become one of my favorite activities.

3. Casual Celebrity Run-ins – I have been very lucky to see my fair share of celebrities while living in the city. Some of my most exciting run-ins have been with Ed Westwick, Joe Jonas, and Rachel Zoe. The pictures below were other casual encounters with Matthew Settle (“Rufus” from Gossip Girl) and Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone at the “Crazy, Stupid, Love” movie premiere.

4. Skyscrapers & Rooftops – There is something so magical about the view of Manhattan from a rooftop. The never ending “concrete jungle” is such a sight to see. The view from the plane ride flying into Manhattan is also one of the coolest spectacles.

5. Art & Fashion – New York is such a great place to soak up the art and fashion cultures. Every designer has their exhibitions and shows open in the city. Fashion Week has been down the street from me for two years. The elaborate window displays on Fifth Avenue are unlike any other.

Five Things I Won’t Miss About NYC

1. Small Apartment – As much as I love my little apartment, I can’t wait to have more space. Having to switch out my summer and winter wardrobes because they won’t all fit in my closet is something I don’t really love. I enjoy cooking but with a counter top that is only about a foot wide, it makes it nearly impossible. I will also not miss my window air conditioning units. They keep me cool most days but I really love central AC.

2. Winter – I hate winter. The only thing I like is that my hair doesn’t get frizzy and I get to wear cute scarves but besides that, nothing good comes between the months of December to April. I could live without the random blizzards, icy sidewalks and constantly wet feet.

3. Public Transportation – As efficient as the subway is, I really will be okay without it. The extreme heat in the middle of the summer, the homeless people constantly bothering you, and the less than delightful smells are all things I won’t miss. I can also do without riding in NY cabs and dealing with the (mostly) rude drivers. If I’m going to cut someone off or speed down the highway, I’d rather do it in the safety of my personal vehicle.

4. Rodents – Back in Florida, I’m used to seeing squirrels and lizards. In NYC, mice are the equivalent of these creatures. It’s sad that when mice cross my path here, I don’t even flinch or think twice. Also, a few months back, I was sitting in a Times Square movie theater enjoying a flick when I heard little chirping sounds next to me. I look over and realize there is a rat sitting on my armrest. I jumped up as fast as possible and ran to customer service, demanding a refund after being traumatized. No one even apologized because they said “this happens all the time.” I really dislike these disgusting little creatures.

5. Higher Cost of Living – It’s hard to write my rent check each month. My rent is double from what I paid in college and I have half the space. A trip to the grocery store includes a $6 box of cereal or a $15 pack of toilet paper. I will no longer have to fill my suitcase with Walmart toiletries when visiting New Jersey.

Farewell Winter Nights

Going to concerts has all been one of my most memorable activities growing up. Seeing your favorite bands play live is one of the most thrilling experiences I can think of. I was lucky to see two of my favorite bands play this month. I saw my all time favorite band Jack’s Mannequin play at Irving Plaza with my roommate Laura. Although I’ve seen them play about ten times now, I was as excited as if I were seeing them for the first time. Then last Friday, my friend Chris and I went to see Sleigh Bells at Terminal 5. They played their noisy, electronic, dance tracks and it was one of the craziest live shows I’ve ever seen!

My friend Emily who I worked with at the UCF Arena came up to NYC to play at Rockwood Music Hall. She’s an extremely talented musician and it was so cool seeing her perform live. She’s on her way to stardom!

Since her show was on the Lower East Side, my friend Flo and I decided to explore that side of town afterwards. I created a “NYC Bucket List” with things I want to do while I’m here. I always hear of great places to eat and visit yet always seem to forget about them when the moment arises. One place I’ve wanted to visit was Il Laboratorio del Gelato. It’s a gelato factory and shop that has over 250 flavors. After spending 15 minutes taste testing and deciding, I chose cream cheese and salted caramel gelato. It was one of those life changing desserts, the gelato was so rich and creamy. I’m already looking forward to going back and trying out new flavors!

This past weekend, Courtney and I decided to cross some things off my bucket list. I had heard of this pie place in Dumbo, Brooklyn called Bubby’s. We ventured down there on Saturday afternoon. The weather has been so beautiful. It’s been chilly but the sun has been shining and there has hardly been a cloud in the sky. We walked around the Brooklyn waterfront, discovered Jane’s Carousel near the harbor, and finished the afternoon at Bubby’s indulging in some peanut butter and key lime pie. What a perfect Saturday!

On Saturday night, Lauren and I went on a snow tubing adventure in New Jersey. We bought a deal through Living Social and took a bus from the city out to the snowy slopes. We spent the evening snow tubing, drinking hot chocolate, and playing in the snow. Our fun night ended with a midnight buffet at a nearby pub.

To top off the holiday weekend, we took the ferry over to Staten Island for the afternoon. The tourism video in the ferry station made it look much more appealing than it really was. We ate lunch at a little pub called Steiny’s and walked around the town of St. George. After about two hours on the island, we decided to take the ferry back to Manhattan. We stopped in the financial district to see the new Freedom Tower and do some shopping at Century 21. Courtney and I finished off the day with something sweet- Toasted Marshmallow Milkshakes at Stand4 in Union Square!

I have so much to look forward to in the next month! I’m off to Florida next week to begin my 24th birthday celebrations. Cannot wait to see my family, spend time on the beach, BBQ in the backyard, and celebrate turning another year older.