I’ve loved every place I’ve lived post-high-school… but the biggest downfall with each move is that I’ve gotten farther and farther from “home.” My family lives in a Chicago suburb and I never get back as much as I’d like to. This week was the first time I’d been back since my dad’s surprise birthday party in July — and it was just what the doctor ordered.
My visit also happened to coincide with #Chiberia/the Polar Vortex/Snowpocalypse — my flight into Chicago was delayed for 12 hours and my flight back, for three days… but the below freezing (with wind chill, -45 degree!) temperatures were the perfect excuse to suit up in cuddly PJs all weekend watching movies and drinking cocoa…only venturing outside to go to dinner (and let me tell you…we had yummy comfort food every night). In the top photo you can see my mom and I at Maggiano’s, our Italian family’s favorite go-to spot… in the second photo, some quality time spent with Grandma after we took her to a casino (she’s a high roller!).
I spent about a week there — never enough time… but it left me refreshed, re-energized and ready for 2014! One resolution: more time with family.
Every year, the city of Albuquerque transforms the Botanical Gardens into the “River of Lights,”a seemingly endless trail of glowing shapes and gorgeous formations. There are cute, campy animals and more inspired designs, made even more festive with a band playing carols and the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had (perhaps the bone-chilling cold made it a little better even…). It was my first time going, and I loved getting the chance to check it out!
Though extravagant and orchestrated, it reminded me of one of my favorite “Christmas moments” of all time. In Columbia, Missouri where I went to college, a man who goes by “Will Treelighter” turns a crabapple tree into the “Magic Tree" every year. You can see a story of the transformation here… though it’s hard to do the sight justice online. It’s funny how a tangled mess of wires in a box can become an arrangement that sparks so much childish excitement.
Does eight hours of baking constitute a “marathon”? Either way, I’m calling it one. Christmastime is probably the only acceptable season to spend $50 on baking basics (plus $20 on tins at the Dollar Store) and call it a necessary expense.
I count down to holiday baking. It’s a completely acceptable excuse to whip up countless batches of sweet, simple favorites. This year, I knocked out chocolate covered pretzels in favor of “lemon crinkle cookies” — and it’s safe to say they’ll now be a staple.
Here are the four fool-proof recipes I arranged my day around… all of them you can mess with a little and still get good results. (More peanut butter, more lemon, more chocolate chips…you see where I’m going with this!)
Peanut butter kiss cookies: A Christmas classic — though I don’t know why we don’t make them year-round!
Lemon crinkle cookies: I googled “lemon cookies (I’ve been on a lemon kick lately)” and this was the first recipe to come up. I more than doubled the lemon zest and juice — just made ‘em a little crinklier and more “lemony” than “sugary”.
Chocolate chip cookies: Everyone has their own recipe. I roughly went by this, but used regular bagged chocolate chips. Also, I didn’t chill overnight… frozen dough= snacking hazard.
Russian tea cookies: These can be a pain, and they basically coat your house in powdered sugar…but when made right, they melt in your mouth.
When I look back at this list, I do realize— my Christmas cookies aren’t all that Christmassy— where are the sprinkles, the snowmen and the peppermint? I tossed some candy cane kisses into the tins — hopefully that makes up for it.
Moving from New York to New Mexico, I knew I’d be trading skyscrapers for mountain peaks — but I didn’t realize just how varied and beautiful the state’s landscapes would be. I was lucky enough to say farewell to this autumn with an adventure in the southeastern part of the state — home to the beautiful Sierra Blancas and the noisy Rio Ruidoso.
It rained most of the time we were there, which pushed heavy hiking off our to-do list. But it also turned the creek behind our rental into a loud, rushing river and gave us an excuse to hole up in our cabin dancing to Bob Dylan, cooking up a storm and trying to get a fire going (we never did succeed). It was relaxing, it was refreshing, and it was perfect. If you’re ever looking for the perfect place to have breakfast with a mountain view, bop from town to town (Alto to Carrizozo to Capitan) in search of cherry cider and apple pie, discover your own secret back roads and make friends with strangers at an Irish pub before hitting the local bar for dancing and a couple Coronas… you too need a trip to Ruidoso. Here are your must-do’s:
-A cabin in Upper Canyon: There are hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts in town but you can’t go wrong with a cabin. Many are family-owned and most are more than charming. We stayed in A Stone’s Thoreau — the web site doesn’t do it justice but it was the home I want to have when I “grow up.”
-Lunch at The Village Buttery: The buttermilk pie melts in your mouth and the atmosphere is whimsical without being pretentious. More of a brunch with your girlfriends than lunch with your boyfriend spot.
-Pizza from Cafe Rio: Sounds like Mexican, looks like a dive, tastes like heaven.
-Small-town visits: Google Alto, Capitan, Lincoln, Carrizozo, Cloudcroft and Hollywood. Bring sandwiches, a camera and your sense of adventure.
-Get down: Finish each night with drinks and dancing (two-step a couple nights a week) at local bar & bbq Quarters. Wear jeans and cute but comfy shoes.
It’s a cheap place to eat, drink and stay — a gorgeous place to explore — and somewhere I know I’ll be back.
Vacation with the family.
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been able to go on vacation with the family - living far away means that when I do take a trip it’s usually home to Chicago or Cleveland for a holiday, not to the beach. This year, though, I was able to meet up with my mom, dad and one of my little brothers (the other two are in college and have a different Spring Break, boo) in West Palm Beach, where we spent time with my grandma (who lives in Stuart) and some family friends who were also in the area for the week.
We spent most of our time on the beach and at our hotel pool — and due to accidentally using expired sunscreen, we all got burnt as lobsters (but it was worth it!). We also caught a spring training baseball game, spent lots of time walking around downtown Stuart and saw the Hunger Games. Plus, I was able to meet up with Robert, who works at a TV station in West Palm/Ft. Pierce. It was a great trip all around- relaxing, re-energizing, and a lot of great quality time with my family. Of course I’m read to go back already, but it was the perfect break and now I’m loving New York in spring and a lot of fun projects at work!
It’s been a busy few weeks— I’m starting a new role and finishing an old one at work, and that coupled with plenty of visits from family and friends, a little apartment redecoration and getting around to a lot of the personal, logistic and financial odds and ends has made for a summer defined by iced coffees (one after the other after the other). But no complaining here— while some people might be looking for the perfect slice of pizza or macaron or craft beer, I’m a coffee girl. I don’t know a lot about coffee, but I know that I like it and it’s something I want to start learning more about (which probably starts with ditching my one-cup Keurig, but we announced our engagement recently so that’s probably not happening any time soon).
Aside from buying lots and lots (and lots) of cups of coffee, I recently made my first “big girl” purchase— a new camera (a Canon 60D, in case you were curious). I’ve always had an interest in photography and though work and life have called for a lot of time behind the video camera, I’ve never spent much time on stills— and want to. At this point I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing, to be honest… and one of my goals for this week is to actually read the manual that came with it… but this morning after work I let myself play with it a little bit, and I’m already in love. (Arnell, above, was patient and let me click away mid-conversation all morning.)
I also met Jessica (above) for coffee at the Art of Joe (hence the title) on 13th— one of my favorites in the city so far. She’s interning at MSNBC and is part of a fellowship program I was involved in last year, and is a rock star.
So far, it’s been a summer characterized by change, exploration and, as corny as this sounds, entering a new stage of my life— one where I’m starting to strike a balance between professional, personal and social spheres of life, and one where I’m starting to have time to explore interests I’ve had for awhile… and to actually take them on. And as I factor more cooking, dance (and soon, photography!) into my life, I’m finding that I’m better at work and better with family and friends. It’s something it took me awhile to learn, but it’s okay to spend time on projects and activities that don’t have a clearly defined purpose. In fact, it’s a good thing.
I think these are called “hobbies.” This may or may not be a gateway to stamp collecting and embroidering throw pillows… but I’ll take it.
Nothing beats a weekend with the family.
And nothing blows my mind more than the fact that my twin brothers — each a foot taller and four years older than when I’d see them for more than a few days at a time — are now high school graduates, headed off to college (which certainly doesn’t feel like long ago at all, for me…). When I think of what they’ve accomplished, how they’ve developed and what amazing, thoughtful, service-oriented, motivated and kind adults they’ve grown into, I can’t help but feel incredibly proud and blessed to call them family. I was lucky to be able to head home for the weekend to catch their graduation party and the ceremony and to catch up with much of our amazing extended family as well - it gets more and more fun every time.
Congratulations, Mario & Dominic!
Iced coffee, floral dresses, bare legs & boat shoes: summer really is here. Love. (Taken with instagram)
On that note: floral dresses are my newest material, sartorial addiction; nothing feels more fitting given the sunshine. Is there anything wrong with dressing in blooms all summer long? I sure hope not.
fashion don’t?: necessary glasses for life’s awkward moments
Whether you’re a micro-celebrity on the run from paparazzi… or (more likely) want to avoid the embarrassment of trip-and-fall, bad hair day, unattractive-cupcake-eating pictures on Facebook… or worse… it’s now possible.
(Did I legitimately buy these $12 glasses because I think I will need them frequently? Yes, yes I did. But hey, you can’t tell who’s in this picture, now, can you?)
White lace, royal pink pants- obviously we’re dressed for the Royal Wedding. (Taken with Instagram at NBC Universal)
I know I probably sound a little saccharine lately, but it’s hard not to feel like I’m walking on clouds. The weather in New York is to die for and life as of lately has been a whirlwind of amazing little moments. Today: breakfast with a friend, walking to work again (!!!), and then out on a shoot before outdoor drinks with friends.
The shoot was with Darius Rucker & his manager, and we stayed to shoot (and watch) the show he was doing at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe. It reminded me of just how much I love country music. I was trying to explain to someone today why I like country — because it isn’t really the music itself, always, though the stories are a huge part of why I’m drawn to certain artists — and he said I liked it because it was “experiential.” I suppose you could say that about any kind of music, but when it comes to country, I absolutely listen to it “experientially.” It’s a mindset. Country can make me smile, country can make me cry, but country always brings me back down to Earth. There’s a song by Brad Paisley that kind of sums it up — life in a song.
So often, too, when I get into my country music phases, I miss driving and family and another kind of “lifestyle” — and, once in a blue moon, it makes me question whether I have my priorities straight and my heart in the right place. But hey, as Darius Rucker (above in the viewfinder) would say, every stoplight I didn’t make…
(Snagged this picture from Ziad, who snapped & instagr.am’d via Twitter while we were at the shoot.)
It all led me here to this.
Capping off a perfect Sunday —sleeping in until a more-than-reasonable hour, Grey Dog coffee & some park-bench-magazine catchup, a healthy amount of retail therapy, Jack’s Stir Brew iced coffee (in the running for my favorite) & a much needed walk & talk reunion with a close & missed friend, and experimenting with a return to church (after “an unholy amount of time away,” according to my mom) — with salsa & gossip at Cilantro (the UWS one this Sunday, as opposed to last) with one of my favorite people. Now pilates, cleaning & prepping for this week — and, possibly, even more coffee.
The past few weeks have been absolutely nonstop — in a really great way! I’ve been busy at work, at home, out & about and in general, and loving every minute of it. This weekend, a visit from Stephanie capped off the madness of this March, and it was great to catch up big-time over multiple brunches, West Village window-shopping and a mid-afternoon cupcake break.
Now I feel like I’m finally catching up, and trying to get back into the swing of things — developing a better routine, getting dance & pilates back into my mornings, and better keeping up with what’s new and what’s news. Here’s to the start of spring (which also means, this week, spring cleaning — my apartment & life in general).