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Showing My Family My Two Favorite NYC Dives

A couple weeks ago now for my younger sister Julia’s spring break (the high school sister, not the Ole Miss sister), my mom, our cousin who is Julia’s age, and my mom’s twin sister/my Aunt Kimmy, came to NYC! They’ve had this trip planned for a long time – since before I knew I was moving here, which was actually sort of nice because it took the pressure off me a little, and they had a hotel in midtown close to my office I crashed at 🙂 (That’s me below with my sister Julia on the left)

They got in about 5 hours after I got in from Seaside – talk about a tight turnaround! I had enough time to drop my stuff off at home, clean EVERYTHING, go to a quick class at the gym, and then meet them for dinner near their hotel. We did a ton of really fun, classic NYC things when they were here, but I was most excited to show them my favorite little divey places around the city. Anyone can go to a great NYC pizza place or a Broadway show, but I really think (and hope) I gave them a bit more of a local flavor than they would’ve gotten otherwise. So, if you’re ever in the city looking for some local eats, try these places and let me know how you like them! I am OBSESSED and my wallet is happier for it 🙂

Tom’s Restaurant

On Saturday, it was St. Patrick’s day and I strongly urged my fam to come to Brooklyn for the day and therefore avoid the mass chaos that is NYC on St. Patrick’s Day. My all time favorite restaurant near my apartment is this old school cash only diner called Tom’s Restaurant. I’m moving in a couple months and I’m by far the most sad about not being close to Tom’s.

It’s like the Prospect Heights version of Luke’s from Gilmore Girls, and my heart is filled with happiness when I walk through the door (even if I’m standing in a long line!).

They serve classic breakfast food, and also have a lunch menu, although I’ve certainly never looked at that. My absolute favorite thing here is the chili cheese omelet (severely not whole30 but food like this is good for the soul). Also on my shortlist, is the chocolate cake french toast (pictured below), the cinnamon roll pancakes, and the western omelet. Their coffee is amazing and they’re known for making their own butter, make sure to ask for it because every meal comes with a side of toast. Not sure how something so simple can be SO good!

Info on Tom’s:

  • Neighborhood: Prospect Heights/Crown Heights in Brooklyn
  • Address: 782 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
  • Must order: Chili cheese omelet, toast with their homemade butters, cinnamon roll pancakes
  • Yelp page

FIAT Cafe

My friend Audrey recommended this place one night after we proceeded to spend $60/person at Rin Tin Tin (soo good but soo $$$). It’s our other Nolita favorite and about half the price.

Their salads are what really gets me going (same with Rin Tin Tin), when I was there last I had their Radicchio salad with apples and Gorgonzola and I inhaled it.

Another staple there is their prosciutto and mozzarella, as well as their bruschetta.

Oh, and the fact that a bottle of decent Chianti is $28, in the middle of NYC, totally floors me. That’s less than $6/glass!!!

Lastly, the FIAT pasta is what I get if I’m super super hungry or find a friend to split it with. It’s got sausage and peas in it which seems so random but makes for a great combo.

Info on FIAT Cafe:

  • Neighborhood: Nolita (just north of Little Italy)
  • Address: 203 Mott St, New York, NY 10012
  • Yelp page
  • Must order: FIAT Pasta, prosciutto and mozzarella, any salad, a cheap bottle of Chianti, the chocolate mousse

Do you have any favorite little known local places I should try? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading, fam 🙂

Travel Diaries: Seaside, Florida

When I first moved to New York, I received a great piece of advice: have a February/March beach trip planned so you don’t get stir crazy in the cold when the NYC winter is STILL dragging on in full force. So about a month after I moved, my sister who goes to Ole Miss Law and I planned a vacation to Seaside, Florida during her spring break. It was so rejuvenating and exactly what I needed – especially because a full fledged blizzard came and went in NYC over the course of our beach trip.

To get to Seaside, I flew into Birmingham, and her and her golden doodle named Goose drove from Ole Miss to pick me up, and then 3 hours straight south to the beach. We drove through Alabama backroads the whole time and the clouds were puffy and beautiful, it was exactly what I needed after 3 months in New York City with all my transportation taking place underground.

We decided early on that this trip would be all about health/wellness/de-stressing from our crazy lives. We cooked whole30 dinners every night (with the exception of red wine), read our bibles every morning, went for long runs on the beach, and lived life slowly.

We stayed at this adorable guesthouse behind this big house on one of the main streets in Seaside, Tupelo Street. Come to find out, the house our guesthouse was behind was the founder of Seaside’s house while they were building the town! And our street was the first street in Seaside – SO COOL!

We found our house on airbnb, and it was one of the only options that was within our budget and could accommodate a pup. If you’ve never used airbnb, you should check it out! You’ll get $40 off and I’ll get $20 off #blessed if you use this link. Our house had a cool loft area for the ‘bedroom’, and a cozy little kitchen only one person can really fit in comfortably, so we took turns cooking meals for each other. We loved hanging out on the porch in the mornings with Goose in the little yard.

On Monday we went to an adorable coffee shop to work/study a bit. It was too cold for the beach on Monday, so this was the perfect indoor activity.

I know some people say when you’re on vacation to totally shut down your work, but I say do whatever makes you less stressed. It totally made me happy and de-stressed to work for 2 hours, check up on things, and get ahead on a couple projects while my sis studied. Also, how would I have discovered this Salmon toast if we didn’t go to this coffee shop to study??

Several of my friends and co-workers have asked me about my overall experience in Seaside, and if I’d go back again. The answer is a resounding YES. I’ve come to the conclusion that the ideal time to go would be in early May when it’s warmer and when kids are in school. See my pros/cons list below for details:

 

Pros:

  • The beach/water is incredible. The water is turquoise and the sand is squeaky white. I love Florida panhandle beaches but this water is for some reason the most pretty of all of them
  • The town itself is almost utopian it’s so perfect. It reminds me of Main Street USA at Disney World. It’s just SO cute there are no words
  • There’s lots of similar surrounding resort towns we got to visit. Seagrove, Watercolor, Rosemary Beach. They’re all on this road called 30a. Apparently lots of people in the south are obsessed with the 30a beaches. It’s a thing. They have bumperstickers. And I can totally see why.
  • There’s a church and it’s beautiful and perfect and the pastor did an excellent job of preaching a sermon catered to all denominations and to believers and non-believers alike. It was an incredibly well rounded sermon, and a breathtaking chapel building. 

Cons:

  1. This town is overrun by teenagers! Not college kids, but high schoolers who I guess are there with their parents? Or their friends invited them on their family vacation so there’s big groups of kids? I’m not sure of the logistics but there’s representation from every college prep high school in the south and they’re all going to run you over on their bikes
  2. The traffic is terrible. Basically plan to not drive. Do like the teenagers do, and bike (or walk like we did)
  3. There’s no really good foodie food. And the food is expensive…and a little greasy. I mean I live in New York so I guess it makes sense to be underwhelmed by beach town food. But we made most of our meals because it’s cheaper anyways, and I’m NOT complaining about our food! My sister literally brought her Vitamix so we could make acai bowls and bulletproof coffee…now that’s commitment! Also, I’m writing another post soon about our gulf shrimp salad we made. YUM!

Neither pro/con but worth noting:

  1. Everyone in the town gets around by bike. Driving is pure hell because there’s one (yes, one) big street in the whole town
  2. It’s not as warm as the rest of Florida like Miami or Palm Beach. This is great in July, but in March it means can be 55 degrees still (not always, but it can be, and it was for us). Hence the jackets and pants and cloudy skies in a lot of our pictures
  3. It’s basically all houses/vacation rentals. This was perfect for us because we had Goose, and we wanted to cook a lot. But if you’re a hotel person you may be out of luck. But luckily the houses are cute!

To wrap up, here’s a list of all the places we went that we would recommend in the Seaside/Santa Rosa Beach area:

  1. Grayton Beach Area:
    1. Black Bear Bread Co. (Coffee shop; 26 Logan Ln Unit G)
    2. Chiringo (Coastal/Spanish sitdown restaurant; 63 Hotz Ave)
  2. Seaside
    1. Amavida (Coffee shop; 2236 E County Hwy 30A)
    2. 45 Central (Wine bar; 45 Central Square)
    3. The SEASIDE Style (Store; 121 Central Square)
  3. Misc
    1. Goatfeathers Seafood Market East (Seafood market; 4042 E County Hwy 30A)

That’s all folks! Now go plan your vacation to Seaside! Thanks for reading 🙂

Family in Town: Food Edition

This week was super eventful because my cousin Rachel was in town for a conference last Saturday, and then the very next day, my sister Ali and her boyfriend Reed came to visit for 4 whole days! I seriously love getting to show people around NYC, it’s half the reason I started this blog, to be able to build up recommendations of my favorite places in New York City.

Originally, this post was going to be a little longer, but I got super sick on Monday and didn’t go to nearly as many fun restaurants as I had planned on 🙁 BUT I hope you still enjoy the 4 I wrote about below, and head on over to my NYC page for a full list of all my recommendations throughout the city!

 

SERENDIPITY 3

I took my cousin Rachel here, because it’s pretty centrally located close to midtown and it’s such an iconic NYC restaurant. Frequented by celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol, and Jackie O., this restaurant is very famous and very yummy.

What it is: American restaurant, famous for dessert

Where it is: Upper East Side (60th and Lexington)

What to get: Challah french toast, frozen hot chocolate

Why I love it: It’s the most eccentric little restaurant, you never know when you’ll see a celebrity, and the whipped cream covered in chocolate shavings on top of the frozen hot chocolate is HEAVEN

How much it costs: It’s a pretty standard priced restaurant for New York City. Entree’s typically between $15-$25.

 

JAVELINA

Ali and Reed and I came here after church Sunday night because it’s super close to my church. It’s New York City’s truest Tex Mex and honestly one of the best margarita’s I’ve ever had. I had my birthday dinner here and have gone back several times since, including with Ali and Reed, to ease them into NYC life with some comforts from home.

What it is: Tex Mex

Where it is: Gramercy (18th and Park)

What to get: Bob Armstrong Queso (white or yellow, they’re both amazing), habenero peach margarita (or any frozen margarita)

Why I love it: It is the closest Tex-Mex to the real deal that NYC has to offer. Still not quite exactly like home, but such a close second that I’ll take it any day when I’m craving my Texas

How much it costs: It’s a pretty standard priced restaurant for New York City. Entree’s typically between $15-$20. Bob Armstrong queso was $7 (I’m pretty sure…), and the classic frozen margarita is $11.

 

SHAKE SHACK

Yes, this does exist in places not NYC, but it certainly doesn’t exist in Mississippi, so Ali and Reed were super excited to try it. There’s one really close to my apartment, so it’s the first place we went when they got here. I love how you can get your burger wrapped in lettuce instead of having a bun.

What it is: Burgers, hot dogs, custard, milkshakes

Where it is: All over town

What to get: I love the burgers wrapped in lettuce, they are whole30 approved if you get the plain hamburger! This time I got the smokeshack and it was amazing (but NOT whole30 approved).

Why I love it: It’s cheap, it’s yummy, it’s on my way home from work

How much it costs: $7ish for a bugers, a few more bucks for some fries

 

FIAT CAFE

I’m such a sucker for good Italian food, and although this place is technically in Nolita, not Little Italy, it’s still my favorite one in the area. It’s a really small restaurant, everything (especially the salads) is very reasonably priced, and it’s close to my other favorites, like Mother’s Ruin and Rin Tin Tin.

What it is: A low price, Italian cafe

Where it is: Nolita (On Spring St. btwn Mott and Elizabeth St.)

What to get: We got the prosciutto parma and mozzarella appetizer, and I got the FIAT pasta, which is super yummy and has sausage and peas in it. TBH that’s the only thing I’ve ever ordered there but it all looks amazing.

Why I love it: It’s very reasonably priced and I love the hustle and bustle and the ambiance and the small restaurant feel.

How much it costs: Very reasonably priced. Salads all under $10, most pasta was $10-$15. Wine is a little expensive, my cab sauv was $9 but thats still pretty good for NYC

 

What are your favorite NYC restaurants? Let me know in the comments below…I’m always looking to try new places!

The Importance of Christian Community in a New City

Hi friends! This is my first blog post I’m doing specifically about my faith, but it’s really important to me to talk about this HUGE part of my life. So here goes…

Moving to a new city is absolutely daunting. You may not have friends, you don’t know where anything is or how to get anywhere, and everything can seem new and big and scary. Having a community of friends to get you through this challenging transition is absolutely crucial, but what if you don’t have that in your new city yet?

I have always been a part of a church community and a bible study since I was in 6th grade. My bible study I joined in 6th grade carried me through middle school, high school, and even into college. I met my very best friend in the whole world Nicole through this bible study, and I got to stand next to her as her bridesmaid when she got married last year.

(This is a picture of my middle school/high school bible study at Nicole’s wedding. I refuse to post the picture I found of us when we were in 6th grade because it’s HORRIBLE. Anyways…)

Christian community is a crucial part of my weeks and having a group of fellow believers to vent to, learn with, laugh with, and do life with is priceless. When I moved back to Dallas after college, I ran into my friend Jill (the girl on the far right, above) at a frozen yogurt shop by our neighborhood and she invited me to a bible study at the church we grew up at. That bible study became my absolute family over the year I lived in Dallas. I can pick up the phone and call any of them at any point and they were SUCH encouragers in my life. In all reality, it took a WHILE for me to really feel comfortable and get into that ‘friend’ phase with all of them. And that’s ok! I think some people may give up easily or feel like you don’t quite ‘fit in’. And I totally get that feeling and maybe it is valid, but I would encourage anyone to stick with a group for a while to sort of get out of that hump.

(This is my Dallas Young Adults bible study at my going away party. I miss them sooo much!)

Fast forwarding to today, I am SO fortunate to have been able to find a bible study so quickly in New York City. I started going to the Apostles Church Union Square location (I can’t wait to share my journey of finding Apostles with y’all, I’ll do that soon :)) literally the very first Sunday that I moved to New York. The following Wednesday, I went to a bible study (connection group, or CG as they call it) that I had found out about through their website. With this group I’ve shared my high highs and low lows, studied God’s word, eaten a million cookies and chicken nuggets, volunteered and laughed with, and it’s only been 4 months! My church volunteered with Hope For New York this Christmas to give toys to underprivileged families, and it was the most fun way to spend a freezing NYC Saturday.

Going on a retreat with these kids in November really bonded us, and that’s one thing I highly recommend diving right into when you start going to a new church.

This I want y’all to know that I am so happy in New York, and very largely due to this church and it’s congregation. They listened to me week after week vent about how hard moving to New York was, until the week I showed up, looked around, and realized it all made perfect sense. I am meant to be here and in this community, at least for the meantime. Who knows what the future holds, but in the present, this church and my Jesus are holding me, and that is enough.

Amen!

 

 

Paris and Bordeaux in the Wintertime

As my facebook timeline has so cruelly been reminding me, I was in France this exact time last year AND the year before. But alas I am currently stuck in a tunnel on the Q train headed to work in New York, and certainly NOT in Paris. I’ve been to Paris many times, but I’ve gone twice now in the winter, and there’s a reason I went back a second time. Yes, it’s cold and it gets dark super early. But there’s $350 flights from JFK so yes I will take an early sunset in exchange for saving $400+ any day.

The first time I went to Paris in the winter was December 2015 through New Years, and then we went down to Bordeaux in January. It was sort of a last minute trip, I had been saving up for a puppy and had a massive epiphany that I as a 22 year old college senior can’t handle a puppy, so I booked a very cheap flight to Paris the next day (I was super rational back then) since my friends has been begging me to come with them for their New Years trip. These friends I’m referencing are absolute professionals when it comes to traveling in France.

We were all French majors together, except for the one friend who had graduated and was living in France teaching English in Normandy (that’s her below on the left).

My winter in Paris 2017 trip was with my sister Ali and we went right before she started her study abroad trip in Italy. This was much more of a sightseeing trip since she had never been to Paris and I am not as much of a seasoned professional like my friends who studied abroad and/or lived in Paris are.

I’ve been reflecting back on my winter France trips, talking to all my friends about it, and we’ve come up with a pretty comprehensive guide to France in the Winter. I hope you find it helpful!!

NOTE: Anything below that starts with a (B) is about Bordeaux. While this post is MOSTLY about Paris, Bordeaux is a 2.5 hour train from Paris, has some of the best wines in the world, and is full of culture. I highly recommend going to Bordeaux if you get the chance.

 

PLACES TO GO

These of course are great year round, but for France in the summer there would be a million parks, gardens, and vineyards on this list. These are all the great indoor places I’ve been to in winter, and considering France has some of the best architecture in the world, you’re not missing too much by sticking to indoor activities, even if it is the summer.

  1. Musee L’Orangerie in Paris (€9, 1er): This is my second favorite museum in Paris, only behind le Musee Rodin, which is a summer museum for me as its mostly outdoors. L’Orangerie houses impressionist and post-impressionist paintings and it’s the official home of Monet’s water lily paintings, and also has a collection of my favorite painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. 
  2. Palais Garnier (€12, 9ème): This is the famous opera house that Phantom of the Opera is based off of. Either see a show here, or just take the self guided audio tour. The architecture and history is breathtaking, and if you’re walking from the 1er arrondissement, you pass tons of shopping along the way.
  3. Eiffel Tower (€10+, 7ème): It doesn’t matter what time of year, this iconic landmark is breathtaking, and it lights up every hour at night (which comes sooner in the winter).
  4. Centre Pompidou (€14, 4ème): The Centre Pompidou houses Europe’s largest collection of modern art. The architecture is really cool, and VERY different from your typical Parisian architecture. It’s in a really cool area of town, but still really central. 
  5. (B) Bordovino Wine Tasting Class (€49): We took a wine class in Bordeaux and it was incredibly informative, fun, and entertaining. Because Bordeaux is such an outdoor city, this should be at the top of your list for a winter trip there. This same company also does vineyard and wine tours when its not winter.

NOTE: I would not recommend the catacombs for winter, if it really is cold outside. The line can be hours long, which generally IS worth it, but my sister wore flats that day we went in January (ahem, see below…never do that) and the older sister in me was terrified she was going to get a frostbite.

 

PLACES TO EAT

  1. Angelina for Hot Chocolate and Pastries (1er, expensive): This place has the best, richest, thickest hot chocolate I’ve ever had. It’s like if you add milk to brownie batter I’m not even joking. The line tends to be quite long which isn’t ideal for winter but sometimes it’s not. This is also close to L’Orangerie!
  2. Vin Chaud Street Cart (throughout central Paris, €1-€4): Vin chaud is mulled wine, it’s super hot and super yummy. They sell them from streetcarts all over Paris. I’ve seen these streetcarts most notably in the 6ème on the Boulevard Saint-Germain outside l’Église de Saint Germain des Prés, and also at Place de la Concorde right by L’Orangerie in the 1er. While you’re at it, go ahead and get a crêpe also. YUM.
  3. Bistrot Victoires (2ème, inexpensive): This Place is my secret and I can’t even believe I’m sharing it with you. If you want $13 steak and $6 creme brulee, $4 wine, and unlimited free bread in a very authentic french setting, go here. And don’t get there before 7 p.m. or they will yell at you despite the fact that their door is unlocked…
  4. Akash (4ème, moderate): Yes, this is Indian food. However you’re still very aware that you’re in Paris, and it’s honestly some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had. So if you’re sick of bread and cheese, stop in for some chicken tikka and you’ll feel like a whole new person.
  5. (B) Le Wine Bar (moderate): We just thought the name of this place was funny, so we stopped inside. It’s super clean and fresh looking while still maintaining the authentic french look. It’s right smack in the middle of Bordeaux.
  6. (B) Cock and Bull (inexpensive/moderate): Chill bar in Bordeaux. Nothing too special, but really solid fun vibes. Of course, all of my friends are super well connected and one of them knows the owner of this place. Go figure.
  7. (B) Maison du Vin (inexpensive): This place. YOU GUYS. They have wine direct from the surrounding Bordeaux vineyards and they do small pours so you can taste a lot, so the cost per glass is quite cheap. Oh, and the cheese. And the bread. What a time to be alive…
  8. Paul (All over, inexpensive): Oh, I have so much to say for Paul. It’s like the Starbucks/Panera of France. They have coffee, pastries, bread, sandwiches, pizza-type-things, and most importantly, QUICHE. It’s a quick grab and go, or sit down place, and it’s just…wonderful. And just like Starbucks, I swear there’s one on every block.

 

WHAT TO PACK

  1. All Black – Everyone in Paris wears black especially in the winter. Or dark neutrals at the very least. Don’t stick out like a sore thumb. Don’t bring your American flag ski jacket…
  2. Lots of layers – It’ll be cold outside, the heat may be cranked up too high in a museum, and an old church you’re touring may not have heat, so it’ll be warmer than outside but not warm enough for just a shirt. I’d wear a coat, a sweater, and a light shirt underneath, at the least.
  3. Scarf/gloves/hat – This is just my small amount of winter weather experience here. You’ll hate yourself if you don’t have gloves or something to cover your ears.
  4. Boots – Everyone in France wears boots, boots are comfortable, they go with everything. Bonus points if they’re black also.
  5. Sinus and allergy medicine – It might just be me, but my allergies go crazy every time I go to France and I’ve been known to get back to work only to have to take more time off when the inevitable sinus infection crops up 2 days later.

 

WHERE TO STAY

My hands down favorite neighborhood is Saint Germain de Pres, which is in the 6ème Arrondissement (Arrondissement = Administrative District). But here is a more well rounded view based on my experiences in and out of the 6ème.

  1. 1er Arrondissement – Stay here if you want to stay in a very touristy area in the center of everything. Walk to the Louvre, The Tuileries Garden, tons of shopping, Opera, the Seine, Orsay, etc. My sister and I stayed at the Saint James Albany Hotel and Spa when we stayed in this area. 10/10 would recommend.
  2. 6ème Arrondissement – Stay here if you want to stay in a quintessential super Parisian super central residential area. I’ve stayed at two different airbnb’s here and they were both very nice and very clean for a decent price.
  3. Bastille – Stay here if you’re ok being slightly more far out/want to save money/want more space

I’ve been asked about airbnbs vs. hotels vs. hostels. I say it depends, I’ve done all of the above. Do airbnb if you have kids or are planning on saving money via cooking some of your own meals. I stayed in an airbnb with my french major friends since we were in college and wanted to save money, and then again with my 14 year old sister because I knew she’d be happier with €2 buttered noodles than with fois gras and steak, so that was a huge money saver. On the flipside, I’ve stayed at a hotel before with my other sister who was about to embark on a study abroad trip revolving around European culture…it was important to us to eat every meal at a different type of restaurant so we could soak up all the culture and cuisine. It depends a lot on your priorities and where you’re willing to give and take.

 

WHERE TO NOT STAY

It’s no secret that there are bad areas of Paris. So so many people have visited Paris and then come to me after and said, “Tori, I don’t get why you love Paris, its dirty and scary and not like I imagined,”. My first question is always, “Well where did you stay?”. There are a few areas of Paris that I would recommend avoiding at night or staying in. This is only two of them, but my point is do your research, and stay as centrally as your budget allows if you want the quintessential Parisian experience. This is NOT me being judgmental, this is my personal experience and my gut feeling as a young American woman in Paris, combined with research and crime statistics.

  1. Do NOT stay in Montmartre – I might get some backlash for saying this. You should visit Montmartre. You shouldn’t stay there. Yes, Montmartre is near the Basilica de Sacre Coeur, which is a super cool place, but it is frigid in the winter anyways because it’s so high up, and especially for an American college girl, this is not the place you want to be walking home to late at night especially if you’ve had a drink. Go during the day for the views, go during the summer if you don’t want to be freezing. Go shopping in the vintage and discount stores. Don’t stay here. (Yes I have stayed here before and am only talking from experience)
  2. Do NOT stay by Gare du Nord – My friend and I stayed here the second time I ever went to Paris, and we had no clue what we were doing. We found a hotel that was shockingly cheap despite the fact that it was a 4-star hotel, so we booked it. The hotel was super swanky, the location made us want to sprint from the train station home every night. Other people I have talked to share the sentiment, avoid this area.

 

WHAT TO BUY

France has some amazing products that I feel like you just can’t get the equivalent of here. I stock up on these things when I’m there, and whoever I’m with thinks I’m a crazy person, but I’m very satisfied with that, because I’m buying French things in France and I don’t care what people think

  1. Skincare – You’ll notice pharmacie’s all over France by the large green square cross sign outside the building. Walk inside, and yes you will be able to get advil and melatonin. But you also will find a mecca of inexpensive, top notch skincare you can’t get in the US. My favorite toner and facial cleanser are both La Roche Posay from French pharmacies that I have been using since I was 20. Yes, they sell it in the US now, but it is not the same.
  2. Sour candy – The sour candy in france is LEGENDARY. Sour sketti, the little sour smurfs, and any sour haribo product will change your life, it will melt in your mouth, you’ll be in heaven. Buy all of it. To my knowledge, US Customs and Border Patrol has no law about sour candy, so load it up!
  3. Wine – The technical US Customs and Border Patrol rule is 1 liter, so please keep that in mind. This is why I ship my wine home instead of taking it in my suitcase. I don’t have to worry about wine soaked clothes or breaking federal laws 🙂 Wine directly from France lacks sulfites, which is the preservative that ALL domestic and commercially imported red wine contains. And it makes your hangovers worse. So do yourself a favor and send yourself over some sulfite-free wine.

 

OVERALL PROS OF GOING IN THE WINTER

  1. Flights are 30-60% less expensive
  2. Hotels are infinitely less expensive, ex: my sister and I paid about $170/night for our room at Saint James in January. I just looked to book it for my upcoming trip in June, and the same room is $750. So go figure. If you clicked the link and wondered if we’re rich because we stayed at such a nice hotel, the answer is NO, we went in the winter. RIP my budget 5 months from now when I go to Paris in June…
  3. Less crowded

 

OVERALL CONS OF GOING IN THE WINTER

  1. Winter weather delays: You never know when you’ll be stuck at O’Hare for 7 hours due to a blizzard…
  2. Cold
  3. Gets dark earlier
  4. (B) Vineyards are closed

 

So there you have it! I hope this was super helpful, and please comment below if you have any other Paris or France questions, winter or not 🙂

New Years Resolutions, a Blizzard, and Paleo Potato Salad (Bear With Me)

Hey fam! Happy new years! I know it’s been a little while since I’ve posted, but I’ve been crazy busy, traveling, and having some well needed family time…I got back from visiting Texas for Christmas about a week ago and since then, the year has changed, there was a HUGE blizzard, and I started Whole30! I feel like in recent years past I haven’t really made any resolutions but this year (for some reason) it was more important to me. Maybe the fact that I’m more of an adult now than ever before has made me realize I need to set goals…I’m not really sure. Did any of you get that feeling as you got older? I think the word for that is ‘maturity’ but also there’s no way that’s actually what’s happening to me, so we’ll just roll with it. Anyways…

My new years resolutions are:

  1. Make my bed every single day – I’ve sort of/basically been doing this lately but this year, it will happen EVERY DAY. It just has to be the VERY first thing you do in the morning. I’ve sort of been trapping myself into doing this by waking up and immediately throwing all of my pillows onto the floor while still half asleep, because then there’s no room to walk in my little room until I make the bed and arrange the pillows back again. (Please don’t mind the teal duct tape, we’re having some snow-coming-in-through-the-window issues but don’t worry I’m fine).
  2. Church every Sunday (even when traveling or sleepy or busy or WHATEVER) – It’s easy to go to church on Sundays in New York because I have so many friends at Apostles, but when it’s 0 degrees, or I’m slightly hungover (sorry mom), that motivation to see my people mysteriously disappears. I’ve been to some cool churches in London, France, Africa, etc. and I don’t want traveling to stop me either. Witnessing people worship God all over the world is amazing to me.
  3. Explore NYC More – I made my first step in doing this by going to the Met after work yesterday, just on a whim. I need to do that more instead of just going to the gym and then home to bed. I live in an AMAZING city, and I want to get to know it inside and out
  4. Read a book a month – I just got a NYPL library card, and I’m going to use it!
  5. 750+ credit score – I’m so close! That Executive World Elite American Airlines credit card is calling to me…
  6. Be way better about Paleo eating – I killed this goal when I first moved to NYC, and I (think) I looked and felt great. But after discovering the magic of Seamless, this deteriorated rapidly and my diet consisted of sushi, pizza, and chinese food delivery. Eating paleo is SO GOOD FOR YOU and I felt so great when doing it. Which brings me to…

I started whole30 on January 2nd! 

This is the second time I’ve done this, and if you’re one of my Plano co-workers, I apologize that I’m once again gabbing on about whole30. If you want to do it, I highly recommend spending a good chunk of time educating yourself about it by reading It Starts with Food, and Whole30 by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig before your start. Whole30 is like pushing the ‘reset’ button on your eating habits, where you only eat a very certain list of foods for 30 days. It’s excellent for if you feel sluggish, bloated, have acne, potential allergies, digestive issues, or just want to look and feel better. For 30 days, you cut out:

  • Dairy
  • Grains
  • Alcohol
  • Legumes
  • Added Sugar
  • Carageenan, sulfites, MSGs

Y’all, it sounds weird and SO restrictive (which it is) but it’s AMAZING. Well like it sucks. But the amazingness weighs out the suckyness.

So I started whole30 on 1/2, and then on 1/4, the northeast got a MASSIVE blizzard. It was insane, and my office told us to work from home. So of course I worked very hard at home for 8 hours, but on my lunch break I just had to wander outside into the snow, and it. was. INSANE. you couldn’t even see our building’s stairs because it was covered in snow, it just looked like a giant slope

Our street, sidewalks, stoops, roofs, cars, piles of trash, everything was covered in so so so much snow, I surely have never experienced anything like it.

My street is beautiful even on a mediocre day, but today, it was breathtaking.

I got a little bored inside working from home on Thursday, so I decided to make up a recipe with some ingredients I had laying around…can you guess what all of these are about to make?

I think this is one of the best whole30 recipes I’ve ever concocted, and trust me I’ve tried some weird foods trying to avoid that inevitable food boredom, but today’s product of winter storm Grayson’s kitchen experiment is Whole30 Chipotle Potato Salad.

Y’all, this stuff is so good, I’d eat it all at once but that’s probably not advised. I got to work boiling a couple potatoes and a couple eggs while I tried to figure out what exactly I was going to make. I had purchased some Primal Kitchen Chipotle Lime Mayo before starting whole30 and was dying to try it. If you’re adventerous and want to try this, here’s the recipe, completely made up from the brain of Tori:

[Printer friendly version here]

Ingredients (makes 3-ish servings):

  • 2 red potatoes, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 strip of Smithfield whole30 compliant bacon
  • 1-3ish tbsp of Primal Kitchen Chipotle Lime Mayo
  • A couple shakes of garlic powder
  • A couple shakes onion powder
  • A couple shakes of salt
  • 15-ish cranks of black pepper

Directions:

  1. Boil the eggs
    1. Put the eggs in a pot and cover with cool water
    2. Put on the stove on medium-high and bring to a boil
    3. Once the water starts boiling, turn the stove off and let the eggs sit for ~15 minutes
    4. After 15 minutes, take the eggs out with a slotted spoon and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking
  2. Cook the potatoes
    1. Bring a pot of water to boiling
    2. Put the potatoes into the boiling water
    3. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until tender with a fork (these are pretty small pieces so shouldn’t take that long)
    4. Take off stove, strain in a colander, and put in a mixing bowl the fridge for about 20 minutes
  3. Cook one strip of bacon, transfer to a paper towel, and let cool completely
  4. Chop the eggs into small pieces and add to the bowl with the potatoes
  5. Chop the bacon into bits, and add to the bowl
  6. Add the spices, and give everything a quick stir
  7. Add the mayo, 1 tbsp at a time, until it’s reached the amount you want

So there ya have it! My take on a whole30 compliant version of potato salad. If you’re on whole30, remember to pair this with veggies and a protein to make a complete meal out of it. If you try it, please let me know what you think!

 

NYC Thanksgiving Far From Home

Before I moved here, I would ask my friends how they deal with living so far from their family in Texas. They always told me that in NYC, your friends become your family. And after living here for a few months, I can truly attest to that. I was really sad that I couldn’t come home to Texas for thanksgiving. I don’t have any more days off for 2017, and by the time I even considered flying home just for a couple days, tickets were $700+. Not to put a price tag on my family, but I just couldn’t quite stomach that :/. Luckily, I got to be a part of three separate thanksgiving celebrations this week, and each one was so fun and unique, and I feel so blessed by each experience. It’s so great to know that I really DO have friends who are like family up here in the northeast, and I was able to celebrate with so many people I love.

1 – FRIENDSGIVING ON SUNDAY 

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, my roommates and I hosted a friendsgiving for all of our college friends from Texas who also live up here. We had EVERY thanksgiving food you could imagine and 6 days later I’m still eating all the leftovers (is that safe..? tastes good to me still!).

Our friend Toria made a 17 pound turkey and it was INCREDIBLE. I’m so confused about how she’s not super intimidated by that task, and how she did SUCH a great job. It was so juicy and delicious!

We cooked some of the food ahead of time, but then some other girls came over a few hours before dinner to help make even more food. It was such good ‘family’ time of hanging out, cooking, and drinking yummy apple cider mimosas.

For our main drink, I wanted to do something simple but different, so Sunday morning I bought some fresh apple juice at the farmers market and then made mulled cider by adding nutmeg, cloves, and a few cinnamon sticks to the apple juice on the stove for about an hour. I let it cool, put it back in the fridge for a few hours, and then mixed the 1/2 gallon of mulled cider with 2 bottles of brut champagne. It was AMAZING and we drained my little mason jar drink dispenser pretty dang quickly 😉

These fun little get togethers are always awesome opportunities for me to utilize my secret love of arts and crafts, especially ones that start with things I can print for free at my office 🙂

2 – VOLUNTEERING IN HARLEM

I was involved with the Junior League of Dallas with I lived in Dallas, and I was able to transfer my membership to the New York Junior League when I moved here. My committee this year is the Reading Rangers. It’s a program at a East Harlem community center that we host every Monday where we do an activity for 1/2 hour, and then read for 1/2 hour. Our activity this Monday was making turkeys, where each of the feathers say what we’re thankful for.

The little boy I was working with said he was thankful for his mom, dad, cat, God, and California. I almost laughed out loud when he asked me to spell California. Kids’ minds crack me up, and I’m so glad I get to spend some time with these kiddos every Monday, especially one where we could all discuss what we’re thankful for.

3 – THANKSGIVING DAY IN GREENWICH, CONNECTICUT

For thanksgiving day, I took the Metro North up to Greenwich where my Plano co-worker Christina is from. Her and her family were so gracious to let me stay with them in Greenwich, and then go to thanksgiving dinner with them and their extended family near Hartford, Connecticut.

This was my first time in Connecticut and I LOVED it. I know Connecticut is a very diverse state but the parts of it that I was able to experience in this very short trip were super cute. I am so grateful to the Rokholt family for letting me pretend I was one of them for the day, their hospitality made a really hard day away from home so wonderful, and my heart feels so full <3

BONUS: 5 THINGS I’M THANKFUL FOR THIS YEAR

When I was younger we’d go around the table and say 5 things we’re thankful for. We did this at friendsgiving, and also in the car with the Rokholt family headed back to Greenwich after thanksgiving supper. After much thought and deliberation, here are the 5 things I’m thankful for this year (I’m thankful for millions of things, but these are 5 random top of mind ones)

  1. My health – I am so grateful to be alive and kicking! How blessed am I to be mentally and physically 100% healthy and fit? I try and remember every day how rare that is.
  2. My job – My ability to provide myself, make wise financial choices, be able to pay my rent, and do something I love is something I’m SO thankful for
  3. Javelina margaritas – Being so far from Texas, having a NYC spot for truly amazing margs is ABSOLUTELY crucial! Texans, if you live in NYC look no farther than Javelina’s frozen house marg.
  4. My favorite Kiehl’s face mask – This seems petty but I’ve struggled with over dry skin for years, and moving to a cold climate did NOT help. I wear this overnight twice a week and my skin hasn’t been dry at all! First time in my life I can say that.
  5. My new church – I promise I have a blog post about my new church cookin. But I am beyond grateful for my new community at Apostles. I would be lost in this dark city without their shining light.

What are you thankful for this year? There’s so much to be thankful for! Happy Thanksgiving, y’all <3

Tourist in My Own City – Broadway, 9/11 Museum, Cheese, and Good Friends 

I moved to New York almost exactly 2 months ago, and this weekend I welcomed my first official visitors! Adjusting to the city life has been pretty time consuming and overwhelming, so I really haven’t taken a lot of time to sightsee and try tons of new things. I knew I’d have time for that at some point, but getting adjusted has been my first priority…until this weekend! 

My two co-workers Margaret and Regan from Capital One’s Plano office came to visit and we wasted no time for the 2.5 days they were here. They made fun of me for having such a well curated agenda, but it helped a ton, and I would highly recommend planning things as much as possible ahead of time. I’ve definitely had trips where we just wandered around and the experience was not as rich without a plan. Before I tell you what we did, I have one more tip: Check hours on yelp before you go places 🙂 Just because bars are open until 4 a.m. on Saturdays, does not mean they’re open at all on a Thursday. 

Friday was the first full day that they were here, and we started by buying discounted Broadway tickets at TKTS in Downtown Brooklyn. I don’t think I’ve ever paid full price for Broadway tickets, and although it involves a little bit of work and standing in the cold, better to pay $75 for front row Chicago tickets than $200+. Then you have more money for cheese! 

ZUCKERS BAGELS:

After we got our tickets, we went to Zucker’s Bagels in Tribeca, which is an amazing bagel place right by the 9/11 museum that my friend Kate recommended. New York takes their bagels to a whole new level, it’s insane!

9/11 MUSEUM:

We chose our bagel location purposely because of how close it was to the 9/11 Museum. We purchased our museum tickets online ahead of time, which I think really cut down on line time. This is the second time I’ve been to the 9/11 Museum, and I’ve been to the outside memorial ponds many times. This place really gets me every time.

The museum is build underground under where the twin towers used to stand. The architecture and the way it’s designed preserves so well what little is left of ground zero. This picture below is of the FRONT of a fire truck that responded on 9/11. Can you believe that? When we realized that was the front, we were so shocked. SO much destruction happened that day.

One of the crazy things we saw was the exact steel beam that was directly impacted by the airplane that hit the north tower. The museum guide (who was awesome) said that each steel beam was labeled by the manufacturer so they could tell which was which during the cleanup. Look how it was litteraly bent and mangled by the force of the plane hitting it.

MURRAY’S CHEESE BAR:

We timed our day perfectly to be able to go to happy hour right when it started at Murray’s Cheese Bar in West Village. This place was a little busy when we got there at 4:30 but by the time we left at 6, it was totally packed. We got a cheese board, salami, and a cheese dip special from the Happy Hour menu.

While the fancy cheeses were quite delicious, I must say my personal favorite was the spicy pimento cheese. Spread onto a piece of baguette with a little salami on top…YUMMY!

We went home and napped for a bit after Murray’s cheese bar, and then went to Rin Tin Tin for dinner in Nolita. I didn’t take any pictures because I brought my tiny purse for going out afterwards. After dinner, we walked 2 doors down to Mother’s Ruin, which was CRAZY packed but a super cool place! I’m excited to go back when it’s not so packed.

LASAGNA

Yes, the name of the restaurant we went to brunch at on Saturday is Lasagna. Yes, we did order lasagna at Lasagna. Yes, it was heavenly.

We all just shared everything for our meals on this trip, because we’re indecisive and wanted to be able to try as much as possible. We finished the lasagna in 2 minutes flat and I think our waiter was very confused what we were doing. Also, they have this pesto garlic bread that is literally heaven in a basket and if you don’t eat 30 pieces of it until you can’t feel your toes anymore, I don’t even know if we can be friends. 

With all the lasagna, pesto bread, mimosas and coffees, we sort of made a little mess at the table but to me that’s just the sign of a meal well eaten! We raced off to Broadway after that to catch our Chicago matinee. 

CHICAGO ON BROADWAY

Chicago was an amazing show that I saw once before when I came to NYC in high school. The theater is pretty small and cozy and we had amazing seats. It was so so fun and I felt very much like I was doing a quintessential New York activity going to see a musical on Broadway.

We had a couple hours to kill between Chicago and dinner at Joe’s Shanghai, and we didn’t really have anything planned, but we ended up packing so much in! We went to Time Square, Rockefeller center, and this adorable bakery I pass every day walking to work that I totally didn’t realize was famous and SO delicious – Magnolia Bakery. 

We sat at Rockefeller eating our cookies and famous banana pudding from Magnolia while we all took turns taking so many pictures 🙂 SUCH the fun girlie activity.

JOE’S SHANGHAI

One last thing, then I’ll leave you alone. After our little midtown walk around, we got on the B downtown to Chinatown to go to Joe’s Shanghai. It’s AMAZING Chinese food in the heart of Chinatown. The wait is crazy but it’s super worth it. They’re famous for their soup dumplings and they do not disappoint.

Honestly, as much as any Chinese food place is known for anything, my favorite will always be the General Tso’s chicken. It’s just gotta be so bad for you and yes it’s the most basic thing to order, but it’s AMAZING and I love it and I’ll never not order it.

We got home from Joe’s Shanghai pretty late (the wait was over 45 minutes, so we ate super late). Regan and Margaret had to leave at 5:30 a.m. the next morning so we crashed almost immediately. It was so so great seeing my sweet Dallas friends AND getting to explore my own city a little bit more. Friends, you’re always welcome to come visit, and push me to get out of my usual weekend farmers market/coffee shop comfort zone to go exploring 🙂

Weekend Getaway: Church Retreat in Hudson Valley

This past weekend was one I have looked forward to for a long time (or at least like…6 weeks). My new church, Apostles Union Square, had a retreat in the Hudson Valley area of New York in Red Hook, NY. Like I’ve said before, it’s so important to me to get out of the city every once in a while and breathe crisp clean country air.

Going apple picking last month and ‘camping’ this month were so rejuvenating – I completely understand why so many New Yorkers have country homes! It seems almost necessary for your mental health to be in nature – something I daily took for granted in Texas – my office window literally looked onto a farm 🙂

Anyhoo, this weekend was really special because it was the first big event I participated in with my new church. Finding a church home has by far been the biggest blessing in my life since moving here, and I’ll write more specifically about that soon. It’s so crazy how quickly I’ve made friends and gotten involved and I know it’d be so list in this city without this faith and these friends (well more than just these two but they’re still awesome 🙂 )

We arrived pretty late on Friday, it took almost 3 hours to get here from the city (thank you Friday rush hour). On Saturday we went on 2 hikes, one ‘strenuous’ and one that was basically a nature walk. The strenuous hike was seriously hard! I was climbing on my hands and knees at one point, and I definitely had a few non-graceful moments that we won’t discuss here :).

The summit view was so worth it, seeing all the trees for miles with all their gold and red leaves. 

If you hike a lot don’t make fun of me, but I didn’t realize how hard it is to get back down the mountain! I was so nervous and I know going back down took more time than walking up, which is so backwards in my mind. The post-hike nature walk was also super beautiful and a lot more low key. It was basically a walk around the little lake on the retreat property.

The hikes were amazing but of course the best part of the day was the campfire and s’mores! I literally ate so many that my stomach hurt, but NOTHING is better than a good fire roasted marshmallow <3).

I’m so happy I got to spend my birthday weekend surrounded by faith and friends, able to dive into God’s word and relish in this beautiful world he made for us. Yes, I do try and read my bible within the concrete walls of my Brooklyn apartment, but there’s something about sipping your coffee by the lake while the leaves change color around you that draws you in just a little closer.

And now, it’s 3 p.m. on Sunday, and I have laundry, groceries, cleaning, meal prepping, and working out to tackle all before I go to bed early so I can wake up on my first day as a 24 year old rested and ready to tackle the week.

AMEN!

Happy NYC Halloween!

Happy Halloween, y’all! I hate to start with negativity right off the bat, and I definitely thought I wouldn’t spend time talking about Halloween day in this post at all since all my Halloween events happened this past weekend, but I was wrong. It makes me so sick that my first Halloween in NYC, and my first couple months of living here, are overshadowed by NYC’s largest terrorist attack since 9/11. I was nowhere near the attack when it happened and none of my friends were involved. A girl in my bible study witnessed the attack from the 30th floor of One World Trade, but she wasn’t involved or harmed. I did decide not to go to the Halloween parade that night as I had planned, but many of my friends did and I’m super proud of them for going anyways and not backing down in fear. I am keeping everyone involved in the attacks in my prayers, and I hope you do also.

But, in lighter news, I did have a fabulous weekend leading up to Halloween, and I’m excited to smile a little while I tell you about it!

My roommates and I hosted a Halloween party on Friday night and it was TONS of fun. It was really the first time the three of us have all planned anything together and I’m excited that it went so well. Look how adorbs my roomie Ilene/Moana is – such a good hostess 🙂 

We tried to save money as much as possible because NYC life is expensive so we just printed off decorations at our office and made them look cute, I think we did a really good job! You can find the printables we used here, here, and here.

The paper cutter at my office was super loud so I only cut out the first half of the letters for the halloween sign before I literally heard people whispering ‘What’s that noise?’ and I got super embarrassed and ran back to my desk before anyone could look to see that the noise was the new girl, using the paper cutter for non-work purposes…BUT I still say worth it even though I had to cut out the rest by hand 🙂

My roommate Ilene was Moana (above), and my roommate Ale was Carmen San Diego, and I was a mouse (duh!). You better believe those boots came off the second after pictures were over, they’re deceivingly high but this was the first chance I got to wear them and I LOVE them.  

We originally thought this would be a short little party people would stop at before going out to Manhattan for the night. We had no real plans for going out after but figured it was halloween and people would want to go out. But after a while our apartment was packed with people, the last of whom didn’t leave until after 2 am. Talk about a party!

Thanks for everyone who came, it was super fun 🙂 whose hosting the next one? Cheers!

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