Wednesday, April 16, 2014

5 things i love: hotel edition

goin' all tripadvisor today.

1. vero beach hotel & spa (vero beach, FL)

i've written about this incredible place before, but it's just one of a kind. everything is absolutely 5-star, from the oceanfront location to the service to the rooms to the animal print robes (which i can't resist taking selfies in every single time i stay), but the price usually isn't! vero is a gorgeous, super-sleepy, stereotypical "old person" florida town. but you know what that means ... $$$. ridiculous, cool people stay here, and you get to meet all of them at the nightly wine hour. after you're comfortably tipsy and have made some new friends, you can stumble down to the ocean grill or bobby's for a deliciously drunken seafood dinner (or the hotel restaurant, if you're feeling fancy). then, come back to the hotel to sit in the hot tub or hang out around one of the fire pits. and THEN put on your animal print robe and chill on your patio. it's perfection. 

the last time i stayed, it was right after i had finished grad school, and i had made an offhand comment to one of the staff during the aforementioned happy hour. my parents and i came back to our room that evening to a friggin' bottle of champagne, three glasses, and a handwritten note congratulating me on my master's degree. R U SERIOUS? that's how you do customer service, folks.

2.  best western sunset plaza (west hollywood, CA)

hands-down, the cutest hotel i've ever stayed in. located right on sunset boulevard in weho, it has the feel of a quaint b&b, so don't be fooled by the best western name. i remember that when i first arrived in the room, i threw open the adorable windows -- no screens, praise jesus -- and inhaled that sweet california air (and probably some exhaust fumes, too). i also shared an elevator with marion raven from fallen tween pop group m2m, so that was chill. for a car-dependent city, the location is great and kinda-sorta walkable to a starbucks, saddle ranch chophouse, the house of blues, and mel's diner. the pool is legit an oasis in the middle of LA.

3. the westin ottawa (ottawa, canada)

i don't really know why, but canada was always my dad's destination of choice when it came to family vacations when i was a child. as a result, i have an immense, random love for ottawa which most people are weirded out by. but it's such a cool, vibrant city! and i'm pretty sure this hotel was part of why i love it so much. it's right in the heart of downtown ottawa, overlooking parliament hill, aaaaand connected to a mall. sold!

4. doubletree guest suites (new york, ny)

i actually won a doubletree stay at a work christmas party a few years back, and decided that instead of imposing on my NYC friends and crashing on their couches for 4th of july weekend, i'd just fly solo and go big and stay in times square. props to the very friendly front desk man who remained super sweet as i rolled up with nothing but a big-ass backpack and a crumpled up certificate in my purse, checked in, and started eating my complimentary doubletree cookie before he even gave me the receipt. i emerged from my room 10 minutes later in a way-too-mini dress, still eating the cookie, and he just smiled at me, probably thinking something along the lines of "thisbitch." i don't think i'm suite material. anyways, definitely had a few macaulay culkin moments at this place because the rooms are HUGE. the views are also amazing -- where else can you scope out the half-price broadway ticket line from your bed?!

5. courtyard virginia beach oceanfront south (virginia beach, VA)

give me a balcony overlooking the ocean, and i'm a happy girl. this hotel, in addition to having oceanfront balconies, is also in a prime VB location that's super-close to a bunch of really good restaurants (shoutout to tautogs) and literally steps from the beach. my favorite thing to do during my stay here was people-watch the boardwalk, uh, walkers, from the balcony. endless entertainment, especially the dude i saw wearing an "FBI: female body inspector" shirt that was walking with his small child. good times.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

my spring fashion wishlist

every year, around early march, i tend to get overzealous when it comes to spring shopping. i go on a quest to buy ALL THE COLORS and it usually results in me wearing things that are bright pink or yellow or teal when there's still a foot of snow on the ground. i've been a little better this year, and have (mostly) reserved my excitement for my pinterest boards. here are some things i'd love to rock if money weren't an issue and/or it were a lil' warmer and sunnier out.

floral turtleneck crop top (forever 21)

i'm pretty happy the crop top is making a comeback. i already bought this '90s-lovin' one, but you can never have too many.

camp director tote (modcloth

i don't know about "camp director," but i feel like this tote would be perfect to take with you on a cross-country train trip filled with strange places and exciting strangers. and stuff.

"gumdrop gems" necklace (kate spade new york)

the best thing about this is that i am pretty sure i owned a similar necklace at age 5.

pop boutique playsuit (ASOS)

i always called them rompers, but ASOS calls them "playsuits." how friggin' fun are playsuits?!

lydia cutout loafers (anthropologie)

classy but quirky. i dig.

what's on your must-have list for spring?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

playlist: come on, spring!

today, on march 13th, it snowed. i know that it's still technically winter, but whatever. the snow has attacked us one too many times this year and i've honestly had enough of its crap.

in a fit of desperation, i put together a compilation of my favorite spring-y songs in the hopes that it will usher in some warmth and sunshine.

to me, these 16 tracks sound like birds chirping and FINALLY cruising with the windows down again and flowers blooming (not that you can hear that, but you feel me) and seasonal affective disorder just going "deuces!" enjoy.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

thing i love: pharrell "happy" lipdub videos

an elementary school classmate posted a video on facebook the other day, set in my (original) hometown of syracuse NY. it featured people dancing and lip-syncing in the snow to pharrell williams' song "happy." in the related videos, i discovered that this trend has apparently gone global, with people from all over the world creating their own "happy" videos.

i LOVE lipdubs to begin with, so watching all of these has been making me ridiculously joyful. hopefully they add a little more happiness to your day, as well!

here's that syracuse one i was talking about:

and then there's one from my favorite city in the world (thus far) ... nice, france:

and i basically just want to be friends with everyone in this clip from vienna, austria:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

laissez les bons temps rouler: new orleans!

take me back to new orleans, please. the third city in our southern travel series, gleni and i decided upon NOLA back in the fall when we were trying to figure out which locale to conquer after austin and nashville. neither of us had been, and we were both intrigued by everything we'd heard. it turned out to be not only our best trip, but probably the greatest trip i've ever taken. legit!

before i get into the good stuff, i HIGHLY recommend staying at the prince conti hotel. i was so pleasantly surprised at how cozy, cute, and well-kept our room and the whole property was. it's only half a block from bourbon street, but on the quiet end of the french quarter, so noise wasn't an issue for us. the staff was so friendly, and there's also a great little cafe attached to the hotel that's open for breakfast and lunch.


central grocery

this famous muffuletta was the perfect first meal, because neither of us had eaten since before our early AM flights and needed sustenance in the form of large quantities of italian meats. we split half of one, and it was more than enough. i am literally still dreaming about it. the olive salad and dressing really just sealed the deal. order the zapp's dill chips with it if you go.

acme oyster

chargrilled oysters all day. we made friends with our second retired couple of the trip here.

praline connection

no frills soul food. check out my stewed quarter chicken, mac and cheese and collard greens. i also got a praline to go and learned from the waiter that in nawlins, you say "prahhhline." whatever.

commander's palace

hands down, the most insane, upscale dining experience of my life. we escaped into this southern culinary landmark (emeril is among the chef alumni, and james beard winner tory mcphail is currently cooking there) after we abandoned our walking tour of the garden district. our tour guide had mentioned for the 100th time that nicolas cage has been arrested 4 times in new orleans (twice with his wife), and other dumb facts we didn't really care about, and we'd had enough. anyways, the hostess talked us into making reservations for later that evening, and i literally had to call a reservation hotline from the lobby of the restaurant. fancy, huh? we got dolled up, came back, and were greeted by at least 10 smiling servers who said "welcome" on the way to our table. it was like "be our guest" up in there. things that happened:
  • we got "mardi gras sidecars" (pictured above) that came with free beads
  • the waiter walked each of us to the bathroom.
  • the waiter gave gleni a NEW GLASS when the ice started to melt in her water. wait what?
  • the waiter shined a little flashlight into my purse when i couldn't find my umbrella as we were leaving. WHY DID HE HAVE A FLASHLIGHT?
  • we got to see the kitchen when we accidentally started going down the wrong staircase to leave, and the hostess swooped in to let us know that it was totally fine because it was an open kitchen. cool.
soup trio: turtle (BEST), butternut squash/sweet potato, and gumbo
seared gulf fish with vegetable succotash 
bread pudding soufflé with whiskey cream sauce omggggg

cafe du monde

we HAD to, and it was so worth it. who doesn't love fried dough? we lucked out with no line since we went on a monday morning. i was fully prepared to hate the chicory-infused coffee, but i found it completely delicious, and nowhere close to starbucks in terms of bitterness. the beignets were a revelation as expected. powdered sugar errywhere.


carousel bar

located in the hotel monteleone, this bar almost rivals the place with a hot tub in the middle of the dance floor as the most unique bar i've ever been to. true to its name, it looks like a carousel (no horses, though), and you revolve sloooowly around it as you drink. cool at first, probably not the more you imbibe.

arnaud's french 75 bar

stopped for a nightcap at this cocktail bar on our first evening, and met this adorable older couple from mississippi who were absolutely hilarious. the guy ordered us each the signature drink (the french 75, duh) and couldn't stop laughing at us when he said that he'd known his lady for 30 years and gleni responded, "we haven't been alive for 30 years!" then we took a picture with them where i'm in a headlock for reasons unknown:


oldest bar in the country! for some reason, the bartender was like, berating me for not being done with my drink 10 minutes after i ordered it. step off, bruh. so we ran away from him and sat around a piano on the other side of the bar and sang beatles songs with this weird hippie lady. cool vibes though.

pat o'brien's

we tried the notorious hurricane drinks, which led to drunk shopping at 1pm on sunday afternoon. i actually had to throw mine out 80% of the way through because i was ALL SET.


celebrity sightings:

sorry, but i'm still not really over randomly meeting josh homme in the street and i need to discuss it for a minute. i picked a queens of the stone age song as one of my favorites from last year. i posted a semi-raunchy tweet about mr. homme a couple weeks ago during his grammy performance with dave grohl and trent reznor. he may or may not be on one of my pinterest boards. and he's one of anthony bourdain's close buddies. so ... PRETTY big deal for me. i credit this destined moment to the lucky penny i picked up about 4 hours earlier at the muffaletta place, since it was complete chance that we got lost en route to our destination and walked down the street where the magic happened.

the best part is that he's been in the news twice in the past week for being surly/salty, and here i am just touching his arm and acting like his new BFF. he was nothing but nice to me, and even complimented my phone case (which is hot pink with houses on it??? no idea). he sent us on our way with a "cheers. have a great night, ladies," and i died. i think he was under the influence of at least one thing. loved aaaaall of it.

we also saw matt smith from doctor who. i wouldn't have recognized him but gleni did, so that was fun.

cat's meow

we went to this karaoke bar twice in one night and didn't even drink either time. that's how entertaining it was. at one point we couldn't stop laughing at these drunk hos that were up on stage smoking cigarettes and singing like dying cats to miley cyrus' "we can't stop." i even took a video of it because it will forever make me laugh when i feel sad. i also developed a weird crush on the karaoke host's hype man, who was kind of a lil' jon doppelganger but in a hot way (gleni captured both he and the host in the video below). they gave some random birthday girl a lap dance to ginuwine's "pony" and it was genius.


speaking of felines, we received some of the most verbose catcalls ever during this trip, mostly from gutter punks. among them:

"i just want you to know that you're both beautiful, each in your own individual way."
"hey, i told my mom about you. she wants to meet you."
"go get 'em, girls! you ladies are looking lovely."


2nd saturday gallery crawl and whiskey tasting

gleni's old roommate lives in the marigny area, a hip neighborhood right outside of the french quarter. we got to see his apartment, which is this huge "shotgun" house (we northerners know it as railroad-style, where you have to walk through one room to get to another). very cool to see. he took a bunch of us around to these art galleries where i ate king cake. i also made myself a saucy letterpress souvenir:

before we parted ways with our hosts for the evening, we stopped into this wine place that hasn't officially opened yet. the owner cracked open some alabama whiskey he just got in, and we had ourselves a little private tasting. it was pretty badass.

jazz at preservation hall

after our fancy dinner on the final night, we decided to keep it classy by taking in some live jazz at the legendary preservation hall. we grabbed old fashioneds next door at pat o'brien's (where i had to dougie in order to leave) and grabbed some seats on the benches in the dimly-lit room. it was a really nice, relaxing, and fitting end to the trip. highly recommended.

all in all, best vacation everrr. seriously. 'til next time, NOLA!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

5 things i love right now

1. dunkin' donuts brown sugar cinnamon coffee

believe it or not, i worked at a dunks when i was 19. it was somewhat character-building (i have so much respect for food service workers), somewhat cool (unlimited free coffee AND donuts, fo' real), and somewhat horrifying (i worked the 5am-11am shift, during which i had to make change for my smirking high school crush while wearing a visor and uniform 10 sizes too big for me). BUT I DIGRESS.

my point is that the only things that grossed me out a little bit were the coolatas and the flavor syrups. they just weren't my scene. but these days, i actually live next door to a dunkin' donuts -- my apartment building's parking lot smells like heaven. on a recent visit, i happened to notice a sign advertising a new brown sugar cinnamon flavor, and decided to face my aversion head on. it was glorious! it's all warm and cozy and a perfect pick-me-up for the dead of winter when i look solely to my morning joe to provide me with happiness and caffeine. 

2. rediscovering this mtv special, 25 lame

the year was 1999. chris kattan, denis leary, janeane garofalo, and jon stewart gathered together in an MTV studio to riff on the worst music videos of all time, and magic was made. VHS was still our device of choice, and you best believe that 13 year-old me "taped" this special and watched it until i accidentally recorded over it with making the band or limp bizkit's diary episode or some bull. i thought i'd never see it again, until a few years ago when a wonderful, wonderful person uploaded almost all of it to youtube. something made me think of it the other day, and i still cry from laughter every single time i watch. if you've ever seen the clip of vanilla ice destroying his own video, it's from this. one of my personal favorites, however, was the rico suave bit.  enjoy!

3.  the house fund wallet from modcloth

how did modcloth know that i just started house-hunting and need something cute to keep my funds in? but, um, i feel like this should be a piggy bank or something. because i usually spend the money in my wallet ...

4. this song, "temple," by kings of leon

at first, i loved KOL. then, right around the time i saw them in concert and "use somebody" was hitting hard, i started to hate them. and then "sex on fire" came out and i was just like "SERIOUSLY?". but i've gotta admit, they've redeemed themselves with their latest album, mechanical bull. 92.9 has been playing this one a lot lately and it's just a fun, solid tune. you're alright again in my book, kings.

5. this mug

...and oprah. and anyone else you admire. go get it!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

around town: pajama brunch at tremont 647

i've only been to this south end spot twice, so this might be a little presumptuous, but i'm pretty sure that tremont 647 is my spirit restaurant. you know, like a spirit animal, except it's a restaurant. i actually wrote about it in a guest blog post a while back, so things are getting kiiiind of serious now.

it's not just the menu (to which i nod and say "yep, yep, yep, that too" to almost every item), nor the warm and sorta whimsical ambiance, nor the extremely attractive bartenders and waiters (just keepin' it real). all of these things combine to make this place a truly special eatery. oh, and chef andy husbands was on "hell's kitchen" some years ago, so that's pretty legit.

i stopped in for their "pajama brunch" with a friend this weekend -- sans pajamas -- and it was the perfect escape from the torrential downpour outside. things were off to a great start when coffee was promptly delivered to our table by a server in HIS PJs. cute.

to start, we split the house-made cherry cheesecake pop-tart. there was an awkward food moan or two.

my friend ordered the croissant breakfast sammy (maple sausage, fried egg, cheese, and whatever "roasted garlic herb pistou" is) and i went for the pork carnitas benny (hash browns topped with seasoned pulled pork, poached eggs, and hollandaise). i could tell you how amazing it was, but the picture really speaks for itself.

perhaps best of all, the staff is super-friendly. i think we were greeted genuinely upon our arrival and thanked upon our departure by every single server and host in the joint. 

so, who's coming back with me for restaurant week?!