New York in May!

We headed back to New York for a few days at the beginning of May! The weather was oddly cold and rainy a few days but we had fun! I was just happy it wasn't 90 degrees like it was in Florida. 

The rain wasn't super fun and it actually flash flooded on that Friday we were there which was very odd and not very fun to be out in. Other than that the day we went to Central Park it was gorgeous! 

Guys, we got to eat cookie dough at Do!! And the first time we went we barely waited at all!! (We went back a second time on Sunday and we had to wait about 30 minutes). It is so yummy! It tastes exactly like raw cookie dough but without the raw eggs so you don't have to worry about getting salmonella! I had the Nuts for Nuts flavor and it was amazing!

We went back to The Lower East Side Tenement Museum again! We did the Irish Outsiders tour this time and man I love this museum! I think if I lived in NY I would try to figure out a way to work or volunteer there! 

We saw Cats the first night we got there which was amazing! I was really pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed Cats. It has been updated with cool new hi-tech things and I loved the actress that played Grizabella! The worst part was how long we had Cats songs stuck in our heads... My cousin and I saw Anastasia one night too which I was very excited about but I was a little underwhelmed with actually. They made a lot of changes from the story in the movie and that made me sad. It also felt like they added about 10 new unnecessary songs. Ah well, the audience really seemed to love it. 

I introduced Rachael and Waldo to my favorite bagel place at Best Bagel and Coffee which I have deemed the best bagel I've ever had in my life! Every time we eat there I enjoy it so much. And we ate there 3 times during this trip.... Seriously, go grab a bagel there if you're in New York. 

Ah, New York. That grand dame of cities! Sitting here looking at these pictures I wish I was back there! I'll have to start planning another trip soon! 

EPCOT's International Food and Wine Festival!

It's Food and Wine time in Orlando!!! Well, it's almost over actually. But I didn't get to experience much of the fun until the last few weeks. I had actually never done Food and Wine before and I really enjoyed it! 

I've now been three times (with one more trip planned for the final weekend) and the results are in! 

Favorite drink: The Martini Slush from France (Runner up being the Szarlotka from Poland which I have no picture of!)

Favorite food: The Buttered Chicken with Naan from Africa! 

I also snuck in a picture of our pizzas from Via Napoli! OMG I love that place more and more every time I visit! 

What are your favorite things to eat and drink at Epcot's Food and Wine??

Moments from the last few months

Whew, it's been a long time!! 

I don't really have an excuse for not posting, other than we haven't been doing much and I've been staying inside lots because it's so darn hot outside! 

We have managed to make it to Disney a couple of times over the past few months now that we have our annual passes and we got Universal passes last week! 

Here are some moments from my phone from the past few months! 

Disney World!

We came back from Disney World back in April!! It was quite a busy trip. I've never spent 6 days in the parks in one trip so that was pretty tiring but we had a lot of fun! 

We took our entire family including all my sisters and niece and nephews for their first trip. We did all four parks and a couple of Disney DIning experiences we had never done before. 

We miraculously ended up planning our trip around the Spring Dapper Day event and I was overjoyed!! I have been trying to get to a Dapper Day event since I heard about them a few years ago. It was so much fun to be there and see everybody dressed to the nines! I also really enjoyed watching the confused looks on the other park goers' faces! 

I also heard a middle aged women explaining to her friends that this was called DISNEYBOUNDING. Which, some people were disneybounding but most of us were just dressed up for Dapper Day. It was great! I highly recommend it if you love vintage or retro style. 

We went on Kilimanjaro Safaris first thing one morning when there was Extra Magic Hours at Animal Kingdom and we saw more animals than I've ever seen on the safari! We saw a couple of elephants and the male lion as well as tons of other animals. 

The Teacups happened to be pretty much all of the kids favorite rides which was fine by me because I love theming and the color of the teacups! 

We were there for the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot which was gorgeous! 

We got to meet Baymax at Epcot which was especially awesome for Rachael and I because we are a little obsessed with Big Hero 6, especially Baymax. 

I fell in love with the snapchat filters from all over Disney. Especially this one, I mean c'mon I'm OBVIOUSLY very hot & juicy. 

We watched Wishes a couple of times throughout the week but this was on Monday, on my birthday! Not a bad way to end your birthday!

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Hollywood Studios general aesthetic is basically my favorite. I hate that the Streets of America (cough, half the park, cough) is closed though! 

The World Showcase at Epcot is always one of my favorites and sadly we didn't get a ton of time to explore it. But we did walk through a few of the pavilions. 

We did wander around Morocco though and I had Rachael take this photo of me which I absolutely love. 

I also wandered up the train station steps to take photos of the castle and stumbled upon Mary Poppins just hanging out with only one or two people around her. 

All in all it was a great trip and there was still so much we didn't get done that we had wanted to. But I'm sure there will be more trips in the future. 

I have another post coming up about all the awesome food we ate and the dining reservations we had. 

What's your favorite part of Disney World?? 

Our Cruise!

Back in December Rachael and I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise with a few of our friends. It was so nice to escape the gloomy winter weather for the tropical Caribbean! We went on the Six Day Western Caribbean cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale that went to Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Haiti. This was our first cruise and I really had no idea what to expect to be honest!

I found this couch in one of the lounges and I really want one installed in my future house! 

Sunrise the morning we arrived in Grand Cayman. 

7 Mile Beach in Grand Cayman

7 Mile Beach in Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman and not our cruise ship in the background. 

Buster, our towel puppy!

Jamaican kids waiting on the school bus. 

Jamaica!

Jamaica was definitely my favorite out of the three ports we visited. We decided to pay for the RC excursion for the catamaran cruise and snorkeling. We also took a 45 minute bus ride from Falmouth to Montego Bay which I enjoyed because we got to see a little bit of actual Jamaica (not the weird Disney-fied Jamaica that is the Falmouth port). 

Snorkeling in Jamaica. Ugh, so gorgeous. 

Labadee, Haiti

Our private beach bed in Labadee. We split it between all 6 of us, so worth the money! 

We decided the night before we got to Haiti that we were going to rent one of the beach beds. If i recall correctly it was about $175 but you can split it between up to six people, which made it super reasonable! It comes with two floating mats to use in the water and a butler. Plus a bottle of evian for everyone which was nice! It was nice to have a butler because your RC drink packages work in Labadee, so you could order from the butler and have soft drinks and alcoholic drinks delivered right to your beach bed! 

Overall, I'm not sure if the cruise life is for me. Although I definitely enjoyed being able to go to three different ports in three days. The days on the ship though definitely felt like way too many people in a small space (although the ship was really huge). The food was alternatively so-so and pretty good depending on the dish. 

The entertainment on the ship was okay to pretty funny. The love and marriage show (like the Newlywed Game) being the best. There was never a lack of options for scheduled activities if you are in to things like that. I might have also enjoyed it more if we had had better weather on our at sea days so that we could actually lay out. It was alternately cloudy or drizzly for most of them. 

I know some people absolutely love cruises and while I might do another one, specifically a Mediterranean or Hawaiian one, I think there are other ways I'd rather spend my money traveling. That said, we did get a fantastic deal on this cruise that we will probably NEVER beat (BOGO and no port fees). 

Have you been a cruise? Where did you go? Any cruises you're dying to go on? 

We're going to Disney World!

Guess what!?! We're going to Disney World in less than a month!!! I'm so excited! Disney World is kind of one my favorite places ever! It's also the first time we're taking my entire family including my niece and nephews for the first time! It's going to be crazy and hopefully amazing. So I'm sure I'll have lots of photos and video to post once we get back. 

In the mean time I wanted to post a few photos from previous trips to Disney, including a couple of hilarious ones from when we were little! 

My friend Meagan and I in Disney in 2005. This would be the trip we pretended we were twins (which we kinda did a lot) and told everyone it was our birthday. Both false, clearly. 

Rachael and I sometime around 1999? Maybe. Also that horse on the right is killing me. 

Kayla, Rachael and I there around 2010. 

What should have been our family photo this year. 2001?? 

Also, what is now my favorite photo of myself at DIsney that i've found! Just walking casually down Main Street with my Lisa Frank autograph book! And the castle was my favorite way it ever looked! 

We're doing a lot more dining reservations than we've ever done before so that should be interesting. We're trying out some new places like Chef Mickeys and Via Napoli as well as an old favorite, The Whispering Canyon Cafe! 

We also have all of our fast passes planned out so our days are pretty much planned. I'm super excited and can't wait to share a trip report when we get back! 

Have you been to Disney World? What's your favorite ride and food to eat??

Tampa Bay Area

Next up in our Exploring the Sunshine State Series! I went to the Tampa Bay Area at the end of October!! And I'm just getting around to finishing this post in February!! 

We stayed in a two bedroom condo at Sunset Vistas Beachfront Suites on Treasure Island that was right on the Gulf of Mexico which was very nice! It had a pool and hot tub as well as a kids pool, too. 

The view from Bongos on St. Pete Beach

Above was the view from dinner one night when we headed down to St. Pete Beach to eat at Bongos Beach Cafe. We ate beachside and the sky put on a great show! The restaurant is around the back of the hotel, on the beach. 

Downtown St. Pete

One of our first days we wandered around downtown St. Petersburg which is super cute and pretty pedestrian friendly. There are a fair amount of shops and restaurants all within walking distance of each other. 

We ate brunch one morning at Clear Sky Cafe on Clearwater Beach and I got this excellent waffle! We didn't actually spend any time on the beach at Clearwater Beach, but there is a pier there you can walk on and beach access as well as some beach shops and restaurants. 

Downtown St. Pete art murals

Ybor City!! I was not hipster enough...

We took a walk around Ybor City one afternoon and stopped in the most amazing vintage shop called La France. I wanted to buy everything in there and also move in. Oh to have unlimited money. 

Treasure Island beach

University of Tampa

Downtown Tampa

Downtown Clearwater architecture

When I started researching food for our trip to the Tampa Bay area of course I had to include some doughnut places!! Here are our doughnuts and cronuts from St. Pete Bagel Co. I had a really awesome blueberry bagel from them too! I love a good bagel. Almost as much as I love a good doughnut. The cronuts were really lovely as well! This was my first time eating a cronut, so i will definitely have to try again somewhere else to compare!! 

Overall, we spent a lot of our time in Tampa at the beach and laying by the pool which was very lovely and relaxing! The weather was gorgeous in October, in the 80's most days. We also spent a fair amount of time in the car driving around the Tampa Bay area exploring all the different towns and cities like St. Pete, Clearwater, Tampa, Treasure Island, Largo, etc, etc. 

 

Apple Pie Cookies

Here's a great recipe for Apple Pie Cookies just in time for Thanksgiving!!

Apple Pie Cookies

These require some work but they have all the deliciousness of pie in a portable form. We recommend serving warm with vanilla ice cream.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

CRUST

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon table salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold

1/2 cup water, very cold

 

FILLING

3 medium apples, whatever you like to bake with

Squeeze of lemon juice

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Boiled Cider (for cup form of cookie)

FOR ASSEMBLY

1 large egg

Coarse or granulated sugar for garnish

Baking sheets Lined with parchment paper

Rolling pin, pastry brush (for egg wash), fork (for crimping and dipping) and sharp knife (to make slits)

Round cookie cutter or cup.

Directions:

Make the pie dough: 

- Whisk together flour, sugar and salt.

- Using a food processorchop the butter into smaller pieces then add the flour mixture, working the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of small peas.

- Move mixture back into large bowl and gently stir in the ice water with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a ragged mass forms.

- Knead mixture two or three times to form a ball.  
- Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten a bit, like a disc. Chill in fridge for at least an hour.

Prep other ingredients:

- Line up six small dishes.

- In the first one, pour some water.

- Leave the second one empty; it will be used for apples.

- In the third one, mix the sugar and cinnamon.

- In the fourth one, place a little bit of flour to dust your surface and dip your fork for crimping.

- In the fifth one, whisk an egg with one teaspoon of water until smooth.

- In the last one, or in whatever container you keep it in, add some coarse or regular sugar for decorating the tops of the pies.

 Once crust is chilled:

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

- Roll out your pie dough pretty thin, ~1/8-inch thick, on a well floured surface. One disk at a time

- Ensure that it rolls out evenly and be sure its not sticking in any place. - Using the cookie cutter or cup to cut as many rounds as you can from the dough.

- Transfer them to parchment-lined baking sheets and keep them in the fridge until you need them.

Prepare apples:

- Peel apples and cut then into thin slices

- Place them in your second bowl, covering them with a few drops of lemon juice if theyre browning quickly.

Assembly:

Hand Pie (double crust)

- Lightly dampen one one side of a crust round with the water, to help it seal.

- Toss a few pieces of apple in the cinnamon sugar.

- Place sugared apples on the damp side of the bottom disk.

- Place a second disc of dough on top

- Seal the disks by pressing the tops and bottoms around the apple with your fingers.

- Cut decorative slits in your pies.

- Dip a fork in flour and use it to create a decorative crimp on the sealed edges.

- Brush assembled cookie with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

- Place on baking sheet and chill while you prepare the others.

Cup (using oiled muffin tin)

- Place crust round in bottom of muffin tin, creating a cup

- Toss enough apples to fill cup in cinnamon sugar

- Place sugared apples into cup of pie crust

- Drizzle with 1 tsp boiled cider

 Bake:

- Bake your apple pie cookies for 25 minutes, or until puffed and bronzed and very pie-like.

- Transfer to a cooling rack to cool before eating

Alternatively, we also made a few in muffin tins to make them look more like little apple pies. All of them were amazing!! 

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Labor Day Weekend on the Gulf Coast

Kayla, Rachael, and I headed to Gulf Breeze for Labor Day weekend. It was so nice to spend some time at the beach since we hadn't been since May!

We ate at Sidelines, Peg Leg Pete's and Cactus Flower but sadly I have no pictures of it because I really fell down on the picture taking this trip. I do have a ridiculous amount of snapchats though.. 

We went out on Kayla's mom's new boat! 

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A pirate ship?? And we look naked.. 

Reenacting Titanic

Pensacola and Gulf Breeze

Next up in the Exploring the Sunshine State Series:

Pensacola and Gulf Breeze

Ohhhh hometown glory!! I mentioned that we grew up in Florida right?? So of course we can’t leave our hometown out of the sunshine state series! It’s pretty darn awesome, though we might be a little biased.

This will have to be a multi part story because there are a lot of great places to eat and hang out in Pensacola!

I know everyone knows about Destin as the place to go for vacation when you live in the Midwest, but Pensacola Beach is the undiscovered gem of the Gulf Coast (well until that recent article naming it one of the best beaches in Florida…). Anyway the sand is just as white and the water is usually a gorgeous blue/green. Plus there’s less traffic (sometimes) than Destin and quite a bit to do!

Where to Stay

The beach! DUH.

Portofino is a well loved option (although I’ve never stayed there)

There are tons of great places on P’cola Beach. Check out the options on VRBO.

Downtown Pensacola is getting cuter and cuter, but you will be two bridges away from the beach (two traffic filled bridges in the summer).

To Do

The BEACH! I mean c’mon look at this water. There is also live music on the beach during the summer at Band’s on the Beach

Festivals like the Greater Gulf Coast Arts Festival in November and the Seafood Festival in September are two big ones that come to mind.

The Blue Angels: Pensacola’s Naval Air Station is the home of the Blue Angels and you can catch their huge show on the beach in June.

Fiesta of the Five Flags: Happens in May every year to celebrate the fact that Pensacola was settled by explorers from five different countries before it became part of the US. Fun fact: Pensacola is the oldest city in Florida but it was wiped out by a hurricane, thereby losing it’s historic slot to St. Augustine. There are treasure hunts and parades for the festival.

The Bushwacker Festival happens every year towards the end of the year if milk chocolate alcoholic drinks are your thing. Bushwackers are available year round at many different places on the beach.

Mardi Gras happens in the early spring every year. Obviously not a big as it is in New Orleans, but there are a variety of parades and parties that happen each year downtown and on the beach.

See more at the Visit Pensacola website. 

Downtown Pensacola

-       Seville Square

-       Gallery Night

-       Browsing the many shops and restaurants.

To eat

Fish House/Atlas

            This is two restaurants in one. It’s on the bay in Pensacola and is gorgeous at night, sitting on the deck. If you like sushi you should definitely go on Tuesday nights because Atlas has half price sushi rolls. There is live music many night on the Fish House side and amazing food all around.

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Peg Leg Pete’s

            Peg Leg Pete’s is probably my favorite place to eat on the beach. Great seafood, views of the sound, and really great drinks.

Sidelines

             I don’t really remember when the first time I ever went to Sidelines was, it feels like it has always existed in my childhood memories. It’s one of my favorite places to eat on the beach, even though it’s a sports bar and not a true “beachy” restaurant. They make some killer wings and pretty much all of their other food is awesome as well.

Cactus Flower

             Cactus Flower is a newer favorite place, and they serve some delectable Mexican food! Our absolute favorite place for mexican used to be Cancun’s in Gulf Breeze but they got shut down for selling drugs (whoops.. maybe that’s why their food was so dang good??). So alas, we’re left with Cactus Flower. Their location on Pensacola Beach is on the boardwalk so it’s pretty, but all their locations serve great food.

Santino’s            

           If you are looking for a non chain place for pizza and grinder’s Santino’s is your place! Mmmm. I love their pizza.

Bagelheads

            The only bagel place I truly love, everything else just pales in comparison. Bagelheads has been around for almost 20 years and oh my goodness is it amazing. You can buy a huge variety of bagels, muffins, baked goods, sandwiches and soups. And of course coffee. Pretty much everything there is amazing, but if you love fruity bagels you’ll definitely want to try the Blueberry Cobbler bagel which is coated in a cinnamon sugar glaze.

There's just a few of my favorite parts of Pensacola and Gulf Breeze. I'm sure there will be more posts to come, because there's no way to cover these in just one post. 

What's your favorite thing to eat and do in the Pensacola area?

June Moments

Some moments from June originally posted on Instagram. Happy Fourth of July weekend!! 

New York, New York!

New York, New York
You’re a helluva town
— On the Town

Rachael and I took a last minute trip to New York and New Jersey last weekend! So why not a post about the Big Apple? (Get ready for a REALLY photo heavy post)

We decided last Wednesday that we were going to fly to NY on Saturday. How’s that for last minute planning? All made possible because of my wonderful friend Liz who lives just over the river in New Jersey. We stayed with her, which is where I stayed when I went to visit her last November as well.

The city from the New Jersey side of the river! 

We got there early Saturday morning and ate some breakfast before heading into the city to see Darren Criss in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. At first we weren’t sure we were going to see a show but then Rachael remembered that Darren Criss was in Hedwig and we decided that we’d see that.

An illegal picture of the Hedwig stage

Hedwig is an hour and forty minute rock show/acid trip. It was delightfully quirky and hilarious though! I’m not sure I’d see it with anyone but Darren Criss because I loved his version of the role. I laughed out loud many times throughout the show and I can’t imagine having to peform that show 8 times a week because it is crazy hard vocally! I also loved Rebecca Naomi Jones in the lead female role. Whew can she sing! 

His eyes are all over New York… 

After the show we met up with Liz and headed over to Mother Burger  for some amazing food. Love their burgers!! Their meat is locally sourced from Long Island and man is it delicious! I’ve had both the turkey burger and regular burger and they are awesome.

With as many photos as I take, you'd think I'd learn to get my finger out of it. 

With our gorgeous host! 

With our gorgeous host! 

After that we wandered up to Columbus Circle and into Central Park. After dog watching in Central Park (Rachael and I exclaiming overy ever single dog) we wandered over to the Hudson Hotel’s two different rooftop bars. We ended up sitting down for some (albeit pricy) drinks at the Sky Terrace. But hey, you’re paying for the atmosphere. 

The Hudson Hotel lobby

Throwing some serious shade at Liz.

Next we headed back to midtown to the piano bar Don’t Tell Mama. Unfortunately we’re old ladies (and had been awake since like 3:45 am) so when we got there at 7ish there wasn’t much singing happening.

After a bit of time there we headed back to Hedwig to try the stage door, since the stars hadn’t come out after the matinee. But a couple hundred teenagers waiting see Darren Criss wasn’t our idea of a great time so after a bit of waiting we decided to leave and head home. 

Some things never change, like me chasing sunsets. 

Don't Tell Mama! 

Don't Tell Mama! 

We spent Sunday sleeping in and then headed down to the river in New Jersey to walk, sit and people watch (DOG WATCH). It was a gorgeous day, windy but sunny. That evening was the Tony Awards so we classed it up with Chinese takeout and watched the Red Carpet and Tony’s! 

Mmmm, chinese food! 

Mmmm, chinese food! 

Monday we headed back into the city to go to the public library at Lincoln Center. There was a Sinatra exhibit we wandered through (only took the rest of the day to get his version of New York, New York out of my head).

I devoured a yummy ham sandwich on a baguette at the Muffins Café on the Upper West Side, Liz headed to work and Rachael and I wandered across the park to the Met for the singular purpose of taking Rachael’s picture on the steps (a la Gossip Girl). Sidenote: I’ve never been to New York when it hasn’t been cold and/or snowing, so being there during the summer is gorgeous! There is green on the trees and everything!! 

Muffins Cafe

Central Park boat pond

After that we headed down to the Strand bookstore but took a quick stop in Grand Central Station because Rachael had never seen it. We met up with one of best friends from childhood, Meagan! We headed down and got a doughnut from Dough. Then walked to The Strand Bookstore. I wanted to move in, I mean four stories of books??? I restrained myself and only bought a couple of books.

Rachael's photo of Grand Central

I promise this doughnut from Dough is not as big as it looks! The plate is just tiny!

Be still my heart

We wandered up to Madison Square Park with the intention to get Shake Shack from the original. Mmmm. But we hung out a bit with Meagan before she left to go home. We stood in the, admittedly quite long line but finally got our food and frozen custard! Liz met us and we headed back to her house because we were tired and sore from all the walking we did that day. 

We ended the night with a misty walk along the river home, gazing at the New York skyline. Ahhh…