Friday Five – March

Money Tree
This little gem was a house warming gift from my mom. The Chinese story is a money tree is supposed to bring good fortune and luck to a small business, but you can’t get it for yourself. It has to be gifted. I definitely have a black thumb and usually kill anything that I come into contact with. She has been thriving. I’ve been watering her once maybe twice a week. I try to wait until the dirt gets pretty dry and then just add a little water to dampen it. Lots of sun throughout the day and some of these leaves started getting pretty big. I need to start looking into maybe repotting it. Anyone else have luck with keeping these money tree’s alive? Were you gift your’s?

Our last snow
I can’t complain too much, this winter hasn’t been terrible. We had a few decent storms and each time, the majority of the snow was gone within 24 hours (thank you living along the coastline). At the beginning of the month we had a little storm and I was able to snap some photos on my way to work. I know, not very safe, but could you blame me? As beautiful as the snowfalls are, I am sure glad it’s in our rear view. The extended hours of sunlight since Daylight Savings last week has already been giving me a whole new motivation for summer time. I’ve done a little bit of spring/summer shopping. New shoes, shorts and dresses have been showing up on my doorstep for the past week and I’m not even mad about it.

Girls nights
Sometimes midweek you need a little girls’ night. We are in the middle of planning a trip for 13 of us in April so a few of us got together for one of our last planning sessions. We have a ton of amazing things planned for this bachelorette and I cannot be more excited! And having an excuse to get together with two of my best friends every couple of weeks isn’t a bad thing either. Note to those planning a big trip: don’t plan too much after glasses of wine. We’ve had to make a few changes after we were over served… by ourselves. Welp, it should just add to the adventure.

Barre3 Subscription
This spring and summer there are lots of plans. A few girls’ trips to new, sunny locations to celebrate a few engagements, a couple of weddings, and looking forward to summertime at the beach. Problem is, when I get home at night from work, I defiantly don’t want to go to the gym, or go out in the still too cold for me weather to do an outdoor workout. For the past few weeks I’ve been doing Barre3’s online workouts and they are everything! I feel like I am getting a full body workout, a couple hours a week, right from my living room. It has been wonderful!

Besides the convenience of being able to do the workouts from my living room, I love that I’m able to take as long or as short of a class as I need for the day. I also am able to choose what type of workout I want to take between Calming, Challenging, Energizing, and Focusing. Barre uses a combination of ballet, yoga and pilates to work your entire body using your own weight or small pieces of equipment like small weights, resistance bands or exercise balls. I can’t wait to add in a few outdoor walks and summer hikes once the weather gets a little more bearable.

Solo Breakfast to get work done
I have been having a little trouble getting focused in my apartment to get work done. Editing photos is super easy for me. I can do it in front of the TV, and each time a photo looks good, its instant satisfaction. But writing, how people work when their TV is right there is beyond me. So last Sunday I ran out to our local coffee shop, grabbed a coffee and omelet and just worked for hours. My biggest advise when you’re feeling unmotivated, change your atmosphere.

Weekend in St. Augustine

Hello friends and happy Monday. How was everyone’s weekend. Here in Connecticut if finally broke 40 degrees so pull out the bathing suits!! Summer is here. (eyeroll)

I have been dreaming about the warm winter days I had a few weeks ago in northern Florida. These below freezing temps we have been getting along the shoreline in Connecticut have been killing me. If it’s going to be cold can’t I at least get a snow day out of it? Instead mother nature has been hovering at a whopping 24 degrees for the past few weeks. Instead of sitting through this crazy weather, I decided I needed a mid-winter break and headed down to St. Augustine, FL for a few days.

Did you know St. Augustine claims to be the oldest city in the country? I’m not really sure how they can back that claim because Florida wasn’t part of the original 13 colonies but its okay. I’ll let them have it. So, in St. Augustine, you can see the oldest house, oldest street, oldest school house, and pretty much oldest EVERYTHING. It became the running joke of the trip, but they sure are proud of their history.

What We Did
We decided to take the Old Town Trolley Tours. Essentially it is a hop on, hop off trolley tour of the town, which happens to be a fantastic way of getting around town. We ended up getting a three-day pass which was perfect because we were there for just that amount of time and we were able to see everything we wanted with those three day tickets.

The first day we spent the morning on St. George Street, the uber popular pedestrian-only street that is full of original buildings that are now chalk full of restaurants, candle shops, clothing boutiques, ice cream shops, and handmade pottery stores. Walking the streets, especially so early in the morning, before the crowds came out, it was easy to feel like you stepped back in time.

We wandered down to the Plaza, which we learned was a requirement that Spain had for every major city in the new world. Lining the Plaza was also the Government House and Cathedral Basillica of St. Augustine, also both required by Spain, plus a ton of shops and restaurants (required by the present day tourists).

On the far end of the Plaza is a trolley stop where you can pick up a beach shuttle. This was perfect because we essentially never needed our car during the day. We hopped on the beach shuttle and crossed the Bridge of Lions over to St Augustine Beach. Here you can make stops at the Alligator Farm, the super popular St. Augustine Lighthouse and museum or head out to the beach like we did to relax under the Florida sun.

The shuttle runs every hour so you can really spend a good amount of time on the other side of the bridge.

After a long day of exploring we needed to check out the libations that St. Augustine had to offer. We took the trolley over to the St. Augustine Distillery, an old ice plant turned small batch distillery who specializes in whiskey, vodka, and gin. The quick half hour, free tour tells the history of the locally owned distillery and how they are involved in their community, shows tourists how the different spirits are created and what makes them different, and ends in the tasting room where you can try three different mixed drinks. All curated from the spirits created right there in that building.

What I really loved about the distillery is their dedication to their carbon footprint. For instance, all of their bottles are hand bottled, sealed and labeled. Because to ensure their whiskey can be labeled bourbon, all of their char-oaked barrels can only be used once. So instead of getting rid of the barrels at the end of the aging process, they share them with local wineries and other distilleries to create other spirits.

One of the wineries the St. Augustine Distillery shares their barrels with is the San Sebastian Winery just up the street. This was our next stop on the trolley. The San Sebastian Winery was built in an old railway building and they get their grapes from the west coast of Florida at their sister property, Lakeridge Winery. San Sebastian Winery focuses on dessert wines. Sweet wines are not my favorite and I didn’t honestly love any of them but they have won a ton of awards for their wines so if sweet wine is your thing, defiantly check them out. They also have an amazing roof top that I would absolutely check out again. Thursdays through Sundays the rooftop is open where they have jazz performers. The view from the top is beautiful.

Another one of my favorite stops off of the Old Town Trolley was the Castillo de San Marcos. This was the main fort for the village of St. Augustine to protect against intruders. In the 17th century, if the city of St. Augustine was under attack all of the towns people, and their animals could fit in the fort and in the dry moat that borders the base of the fort. This National Monument covers 20.5 acres of land and is run by the National Parks Service so there is a small fee to enter. If you like history, check it out. It was really interesting. And if you don’t like history, check it out anyway. There are some beautiful views from the top of the fort.

The Old Town Trolley Tour had so much to offer. Below I listed some other stops that I would love to check out next time I’m in town.

  • Lightner Museum and Café Alcazar – This was formerly a hotel which Henry Flagler (who pretty much built up St. Augustine) built for his famous and rich New England friends according to the Old Town Trolley Tour guides. The Café is super popular for lunch and is in the base of the pool of the hotel. Like what!
  • Flagler College – Named for the city’s founder this college has the largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows. Can you imagine being in college and stumbling into the cafeteria hung over to sit next to the largest collection of Tiffany’s stained glass. What the heck!

Where We Ate
We didn’t get to explore the food scene in St. Augustine the way I would have liked. I have a cousin that lives a half hour away so we spend one night with them having a little cocktail party with amazing appetizers that filled us up completely. But I do have a list of a ton of restaurants I’ve heard amazing things about, and some that my cousin’s wife recommended first hand.

Maple Street Biscuit Company – I’ve heard so much about Maple Street Biscuit Company that when I found out there was one in St. Augustine, I dragged my non-breakfast eating mom to try it out. (She’s fine, she had kid’s mac and cheese at 9am and was a happy camper.) I totally over indulged and got the Ralphie and added a fried egg on top. It was A LOT! One of the breakfast sandwiches would have probably been enough but how do you go there and not try their gravy?? I may need to try to push a trip to the Maple Street Biscuit Company for our Charleston trip in April.

The Kookaburra – This Aussie-American coffee shop is located right on the Plaza in St. Augustine and was a perfect spot for an afternoon pick me up. Their cold brew was everything I needed and their Aussie pies were an awesome snack. The actual location was so small and got pretty tight when a group of 8 business men came in to place their order also. Just a little tip- they have a small location just outside and across their patio for a sitting area.

Salt Life Food Shack – I would LOVE to check out Salt Life during the summer. This restaurant was across the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine Beach, it had a huge outdoor patio with a fire pit and outdoor bar. There was, what looked like, a pretty big rooftop that during the day you would have views of the beach. The rooftop was closed while we were there, I’m assuming because it was January.

I started my dinner with a bowl of Bahamian Fish Chowder which was delicious… but HUGE. Definitely only needed a cup of that to try the soup. I ended up having Lobster and Shrimp Pasta and it was amazing (and again, huge). My parents both had tacos and they looked amazing. They have a full raw bar and sushi as well as burgers and sandwiches. Anyone can find something there and I’m pretty sure everything would be awesome!

Here is the list of other restaurants we didn’t get to try but came highly recommended:

  • A1A Ale Works
  • OC White’s Seafood and Spirits
  • The Tini Martini Bar
  • Raintree Restaurant
  • Columbia

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Florida. It’s hot and sweaty, and sticky and yuck but this trip gave me a different perspective of our southern most state. St. Augustine was so charming and historical. I’d love to go back to St. Augustine and explore a little more. Have you ever been?

Weeknight Chopped Salad

Happy Friday morning! I am three weeks out of my January Whole30 reset and I may have fallen off the wagon a little more than I would have liked to. After January was over I went straight onto vacation and I never knew how much southern comfort food Florida had. When I say one morning, I had the largest biscuits and gravy meal I had ever seen, I’m not lying.

But now that I am back, home for a little more than a week, I decided to make sure this week was off to a good start. I made one of my favorite go-to’s and it’s perfect for meal prep earlier in the week. This huge chopped salad is a whole head of lettuce, a can of garbanzo beans, grape tomatoes halved, diced cucumbers, a can of olives halved topped with a little bit of feta. (A girl can’t be away from her cheese for too long.)

Making this salad on a Sunday or Monday allows me to have a quick lunch of dinner whenever I need it throughout the week and to change it up throughout the week, I change the protein I put on top. One day I had grilled sirloin, and one night I had scallops. Grilled shrimp and chicken are always easy to have ready to cook and throw on top also. And of course, to keep it as Whole30 friendly as possible, and because it’s one of the best store bought dressing I’ve ever had: Primal Kitchen’s Dreamy Italian dressing. I mean…. worth every penny.

 

Favorite Chick Flicks

Is there anything better than a movie night? Now a days we get so caught up binge watching the most recent Netflix or Amazon series that we don’t always sit down and watch a movie. Last weekend I dedicated my Sunday to sitting on my couch with some popcorn, in my sweats, with a cup of tea (which turned to a glass of wine as the night went on). It was good to get lost in some of my favorite movies. Bring on the couple that falls in love that you would never expect (but you always knew), the strong woman who is stronger than she knew herself, and the girl gang who you wish you were a part of. I ended up putting together a list of my favorite chick flicks for any occasion. So grab a glass of wine and enjoy. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Weekend in Philadelphia

Hey there friends, and happy Sunday! I spent the last week catching up and getting back to work. I was away for a long weekend that spilled into last week’s work week. This year, one of my goals was to visit 10 new cities and so far I got two under my belt. Last weekend I went down to St. Augustine, FL to do a little exploring, but a few weekends ago a group of us headed down to Philadelphia for my first weekend trip of the year.

I have a friend I grew up with who plays base in a band, so when we had the option to go to Boston, which we’ve all been to a million times before, or Philadelphia to see the Revivalist play, my friends and I chose Philly. We had the show at the Met on Saturday night so that gave us 24 hours to eat all the cheese steaks and visit as much of the historical city as we could.

What we did and Where we ate
Our first stop was food. We headed to Reading Terminal Market to explore Philly’s food scene. Conveniently located across the street from the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and just a few blocks from Philadelphia City Hall, Reading Terminal has a plethora of coffee shops, fish markets, cheese stands, and a ton of cheese steak places. We started our food explorations with Old City Coffee and an amazing black iced coffee.

For our first Philly Cheese Steak we tried Spataro’s traditional with cheese whiz and grilled onions. I know, I know I questioned it too but it wasn’t half bad. I’m not a huge fan of cheese steaks to begin with so this one didn’t really knock my socks off, but it was ok.

We walked a few blocks up Arch St. to snap a quick photo of the Chinatown Friendship Arch. There were so many eateries I would have loved to run into but we had just left Reading Terminal Market and were not ready to stuff our faces with Pho and Dim Sum.

After checking out Chinatown, we really wanted to see Love Park. We headed down Arch St. until we essentially walked straight into Love Park. Beautiful. The views down Benjamin Franklin Parkway, with the stunning views of the Philadelphia Museum of Art were outstanding. I would love to see these views during the summertime. I could only imagine how stunning it would be.

After all of our exploring and walking we needed to sit down and enjoy some of the libations Philadelphia had to offer. Sansom St. was very good to us. We visited Mission Taqueria, a cute bar that channeled all of my Los Angeles vibes with the indoor-outdoor feel and cute little outdoor courtyard in the middle of the restaurant. The drinks were fantastic but my favorite was the Bee Sting.

One thing that we kept hearing the entire day was that we needed to try Jim’s Steaks on South Street. Before this month, when I hear of Philly, I heard about Pat and Geno’s. The two dueling cheese steak restaurants that are open 24 hours, and fight for customers as well as the title of best cheesesteak in town. But the locals (and Ubers) said they’re both overrated. (Listen to your Ubers people, they know what they’re talking about.) We needed to go to Jim’s. We went late night, and it may have been the drinks from the concert so take this with a  grain of salt, but Jim’s was lifechanging. But in all seriousness, the area was beautiful. Skinny streets, pretty row homes, it looked like an area that would be great to walk around during the day, close to the water with a super local feel.

The next morning, we headed back to Sanson St. to Harp & Crown for one of the best brunches I ever had. Harp & Crown is a beautiful English pub style restaurant that apparently has a secret basement bowling ally for late nights. Next time I fully intend on taking advantage of this.

How we got around
Ultimately Philadelphia is a very walkable city. We stayed across the Schuylkill River right near the campuses of Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania. To get over to the city center it was about a 10-15 minute drive but parking is not too easy to find, and definitely not cheap. We decided to try out the SEPTA, or subway system.

We are used to New York City subways, where the stations are packed and the trains are plentiful. This was the complete opposite. There weren’t a ton of people on the subway, and it was pretty easy to get to different areas of the city on the subway, but we waited for about 10 minutes for our train. Once we were in town, we decided to check out Ubers to get back to our hotel and the price was AMAZING and there were a ton of cars available. It was even cheaper, and quicker to grab an Uber from our restaurant back to our hotel. From then on, we stuck to rideshares.

We didn’t get to try it out but there is a trolley system also run by SEPTA and it seems like there are a ton of stops as well. Maybe something to try out when the weather is a little warmer.

Where we stayed
We ended up staying a little out of city center, but the Sheraton Philadelphia University City was a great place to stay, especially if you are visiting either Drexel or the University of Pennsylvania. For us it was right along the subway line and just a quick two stops to city center.  There was a good amount of quick bite restaurants around and a few shops that we ended up taking advantage of to buy new outfits for the concert.