New York City with the Aussies


When I went to New York City last weekend to visit my favorite Aussies, I had this idea in my head that I would be a good blogger. I’d take a ton of really cool pictures while I was there. I’d take a bunch of up close and artistic pictures of my favorite stores like What Goes Around Comes Around and The Strand because that is what good bloggers do.

Instead I paid attention to my friends. We had long meals filled with good conversations and way too many drinks (Although several ended up on the floor). I went on long walks around Union Square and Soho with my boyfriend, my camera long forgotten back at the apartment.

The few pictures I do have are either:
a. Blurry from a few too many drinks on Saturday night
or
b. From the camera of my insanely talented friend Jessica.

This would be one of the too-much-to-drink-pictures


One of the few pictures I did take.

I may have only a handful of pictures from the weekend, but I’m not likely to forget this amazing weekend anytime soon.

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Gorgeous Eating


I’ve definitely been spoiled these past few weeks with some absolutely gorgeous meals. My frantic (but fun) trips between Virginia, New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York has allowed me the opportunity to visit some of my favorite restaurants like Swanky Bubbles, Mas Tapas (where I had the best oysters I’ve ever had in my life), and The Local.



Even with all those visits to great restaurants, there’s been plenty of cooking going on in my house. Like my Aussie friend’s amazing meringues served with a peach sauce and fresh strawberries. My little vain side loves that she made my dessert in the shape of my name.

Plus a new favorite salad of arugula, fresh sliced figs, manchego cheese, shaved fennel, grape tomatoes, strawberries and prosciutto topped with a dijon balsamic vinaigrette. We accompanied this with a veggie burger on whole wheat topped with a lemon aioli and arugula.

I can’t wait for true Autumn weather so I can start making big pots of soup and chili.

Happy Birthday, Aunt Liz


It’s my dear Aunt Liz’s birthday today. I was so happy that I got to see her this weekend at her daughter’s stunning wedding.

My Mom and Aunt Liz have been friends forever, and one of the great things about going through Mom’s old photos is seeing pictures of the two of them throughout their lives.

I hope that one day I’ll have such a gigantic collection of photos of my best friend and me.

Happy Birthday, Aunt Liz. I hope the day is as lovely as your are.

Cupcakes


I am not a baker by nature. I really would like to be. I have dozens upon dozens of baking cookbooks, and pour over baking and candy making websites. Although I have a massive sweet tooth, I’m a much better chef than I am a baker. While I can easily spend an entire day making my family’s beloved Bone Soup, I get overwhelmed by flour sifting, the right kind of vanilla and whether or not the dough will rise properly.

However, there are two conditions that encourage me to forget myself and my worries, and bake:

1. Having a proper reason to do so.
2. Having a friend over who loves to bake.

If either of those conditions are in place, then I am ready, willing and able. The month of September has given me plenty of reasons to bake. It’s brought about the return of my dear friend Jessica back to Charlottesville, and she is a baking goddess. Second, I had two little guys that needed some cupcakes.

In this house? When we bake we go all out.

While the plan for the cupcakes was my idea (Pokeballs for some Pokemon obsessed kids), Jessica was the one who executed the idea. She made the frosting with the perfect consistency and shine, and mixed the colors so they were just perfect.


Even though I had no doubt that our plan would work out, the end result was even better than I could have hoped. Are these some fantastic Pokeball cupcakes
or what?


And since I am currently obsessed with The Bakerella’s cake pops, the Pokeballs got their own little Pikachus to keep them company.

The end result? Happy little cupcake eaters.

Wishlist Travel: Charleston


Doesn’t this just make you want to sing the theme song of Dawson’s Creek? Wrong Carolina, I know, but still.

My New Year’s Resolution for this year was to travel more around the U.S. since while I’m very good at traveling internationally, I’ve been a lousy in-country tourist. My rationale has always been that if I’m going to spend $1,500 on a trip, I want a stamp on my passport. Sometime last year I realized that there’s a ton of beautiful things in the U.S. that deserve to be seen so I decided to travel more right here.

This year I’ve been to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Naples (Florida), New Orleans, Martha’s Vineyard, Newport (Rhode Island) and a whole host of new places during my West Coast road trip. Not too shabby, right? Last weekend I was lucky enough to hit one of the places on my U.S. Cities Wishlist–Charleston, South Carolina.



It was a place I always wanted to visit when I lived in Atlanta, but never got the chance due to being an always-broke college student. So finally, 8 years after leaving Atlanta, I got the opportunity to visit Charleston for a friend’s beautiful wedding.

To get in the right mood for the trip, I spent the summer (Yes, the summer, the book was 18 CDs long–the man is wordy) listening to Pat Conroy’s South of Broad. One of the trade-offs for the extremely verbose writer’s work is that it provided a wonderfully detailed picture of Charleston, which had me so excited to visit the city since I could picture it so clearly in my head.

My opinion of the city after visiting it? It lived up to every expectation. In the book, Conroy calls Charleston by its nickname–the Holy City. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more perfect nickname for a city. That’s exactly the feeling you get when you walk around. It’s not only the abundance of churches that gave the city its nickname, but there’s something almost otherworldly about Charleston when you walk around it just as the sun starts to go down.*


With just about 4 days to explore the city, I got a whirlwind highlights tour of Charleston which means that I’ll definitely have to make a trip back in the future. My friend and I spent most of our time (when not at the beautiful wedding) just walking around the city & sampling the way too many delicious food options. We wandered through the tiny little streets that hold some of the biggest houses I’ve ever seen, all around King Street for its magnificent shopping (where I got a $400 Cynthia Rowley LBD for $29–one of the joys of being a sample size), and, of course, we walked along the water which seemed to attract people young and old-splashing in the fountains and eating massive ice cream cones.

I loved that Charleston is not just one thing. It’s not just a proper and refined Southern town. For every quiet and immaculate mansion there was a rowdy (and I do mean rowdy) bar filled with gaggles of happy brides-to-be celebrating the night before (Charleston is right after Vegas for most weddings in the U.S.). For every fancy restaurant that offered decadent Southern food, there was a little hole-in-wall place that offered $5 peel-n-eat shrimp.


Our appetizer of homemade potato chips covered in bleu cheese at the famous Magnolias Restaurant.

My time in Charleston went way too quickly, but it was a magical weekend. I got to watch two friends get married in a city that is so special to them, and I was lucky enough to experience some of the magic of Charleston myself.

*To be fair this could also be do to the magnificent Happy Hour every single bar in the city seems to have. After my 5th $2 Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, everything seemed a little magical.

It’s the Little Things

One of the greatest parts of living with one of my best friends, who is also a foodie? Amazing last minute dinners like this.

Homemade antipasto platters that include apples, sharp cheddar, olives, hummus, strawberries, brie and prosciutto.

We take extremely good care of ourselves here.

Local Wineries: Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards


One of my favorite things about having out of town guests is that I get to take them around to Charlottesville’s ever-expanding list of wineries. The newest one that has received the most buzz is Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards.

When S was in town, we took a ride down to see the winery, and were amazed at how beautiful it was. I think the pictures speak for themselves.

The place is picture-perfect, which I suppose is not surprising since they are marketing themselves as a wedding venue. The owners have definitely thought about every little detail, and it shows the minute you walk on to the porch. I think the nice surprise is that on top of that the wines are delicious already. While the selection isn’t huge, but we were both impressed with the Rose.



I can’t wait to go back and try the food menu because the cheese plates listed on the menu sounded amazing. Plus, a winery in the area that offers real food rather than packaged crackers and cheese? A huge plus in my mind.


I hope they start hosting public events here soon. S and I both thought this place would be amazing in the fall and winter (I spied a fire pit) with big bold reds, working fire pits and live music.

Old Photos, Part 3

The miserable weather we’re currently having in Charlottesville has me curled up in my house in my favorite quilt, drinking tea and uploading old photos again. Here are some of my current photos.

My Momma clearly showing off her hippie dippie hotness.




I love this photo because my Aunt Liz and Uncle Billy look like 1970s models.

Obviously my mom enjoyed torturing her children as a hobby.

Where the Jackalopes Roam


It’s no secret that I love kitsch. After all, I’m the girl that picked which town to study in in Russia based on a ridiculous festival celebrating a vegetable. So when, on a weekend trip to Charleston, South Carolina, I began seeing signs for South of the Border I knew I had to stop. A place that was half astoundingly offensive racism combined delicately with over the top capitalism? It was like a big tacky mothership calling me home.


Luckily for me, I was traveling with my favorite Australian who is always willing to indulge in my ridiculous need to see all things tacky. I’d always heard of South of the Border, but it was even better than I could have possibly imagine.

It is like the epicenter (and after the past week of earthquakes and aftershocks in Virginia, I know all about epicenters) of bizarre and tacky, and I loved every second of it. I’m still not sure which part was my favorite. I have to say that it was hard to ignore the magnetic draw of the random assortment of fake animals that decorated nearly every three feet of pavement, but I was equally drawn to the polite reminder that firearms are not allowed in stores in South of the Border.

However, I have to say that I was most drawn to the famous World of Hats store that occupied much of our time in this magical place.


How can you not love a store where no one blinks an eye at you donning an oversized hat and pretending to shoot a dinosaur that is also wearing a hat?

Exactly. You can’t.