On our third and final full day in New York City, we opted to start the day with a world famous restaurant that ordinary travelers and celebrities alike brag about- Serendipity 3. First of all, I do not recommend you trying to eat here without a reservation, unless you have a limitless amount of time to wait. The restaurant is not overly large and people wait for hours sometimes (on the street) to get a table. We had called ahead the night before and got a reservation for when they opened at 11:30. This restaurant is like Hot Topic meets your grandma or crazy aunt's house. It has a very eclectic feel with chandeliers and artwork hanging all over the walls and ceilings. The furniture is a mismatched assortment of patio furniture and dining tables. My mom and I decided to share an order of their Spudniks (potato skins) and a chicken pot pie. Unfortunately, the skins were burned and the pot pie was just okay. Also, some of the workers (particularly the hostess) were a little on the snobby side. All in all though it was a fun experience to eat at the restaurant where people such as Bill Clinton, Sarah Palin, and the cast of High School Musical had been. Would I go back again? Probably not, but if I did I REALLY want to try their frozen hot chocolate that makes them so famous (I was too full after lunch).
Just down the street from Serendipity 3 is Dylan's Candy Store (Owned by Ralph Lauren's daughter Dylan) and I had never been so of course we had to stop. This store is over the top with candy! I mean it has wall to wall baskets and shelves full of candy, the walls and floor are decorated with candy, they have personalized candy, I could go on and on. I knew going in that the two things I wanted to get were of course a candy bar for the Mr. and a personalized tin of mints for myself. It is rare that I actually find something with my name on it and my mother-in-law bought me some from Dylan's before so I knew they had Summer! Surely enough I found it and then we waited in line to check out longer than we were in the store- it's a hotspot for kids in NYC!
After we got our bellies full and a stash of candy for later, we walked off lunch by heading north towards Central Park. On the way we actually got stopped by a Latin American heritage parade and it was so neat! That is one thing that I love about traveling to large cities, you never know what you are going to find and there is always something going on! I don't think I would ever get bored living in New York! Once we were finally allowed to cross the street we found ourselves in front of the legendary Plaza Hotel. Is it possible to go to NYC without a walk through The Plaza? The outside of the hotel was getting a bit of a facelift, but the inside was just as beautiful as I remembered it being. One day I will stay at The Plaza... when I win the lottery... and come to terms with spending $900 per night on a hotel room.
After The Plaza, we crossed the street and headed into the most famous toy store in the world FAO Schwarz. I absolutely love visiting this store and it seems to always be changing. They have areas of the store that always remain the same, but as popular movies or toy items come out they change areas of the store around to display that merchandise. I was a little sad to see when we went that they had removed the Harry Potter section of the store... I guess we are the only people who still read the books at least once a year (Mr. P circulates through them regularly). One thing that never changes though is the Barbie section! The 27 year old little girl in me loves to visit this part of the store and see all the wonderful Barbie things that they add each year. My mom even indulged her little girl and bought me a vintage inspired Barbie notebook. Thanks Mom!
No trip to New York is complete without a visit to Central Park. The solitary oasis of nature in the bustling city has so much to offer. I have been on a carriage ride once before during the winter months and it was beautiful. But now the drivers seem to have created a type of union and you cannot seem to find a ride for less than $100. So we decided to skip that tradition and take a free walk through the park. My Aunt Pam had been telling us about the Central Park Carousel, which has been a part of the Park since 1871. Legend states that the original carousel was actually powered by a horse beneath the platform and that it stopped and started based on a tap by the operator on the floor boards of the carousel. The second and third carousels were destroyed by fire, so in the 1950's they began searching for a vintage carousel as a replacement. They found an abandoned one on Coney Island that was built in 1908 and it is the carousel that you see today in Central Park, of course it has been through a restoration process and is not operated by a live horse! For only $3 you can have the ride of your life and I now have a new favorite thing to do in New York City.
We were getting a little hungry at this point, so we headed for Rockefeller Center to take a break and grab a snack. On the way though, we had to stop by the Fox News Headquarters and let my mom see her main man Sean Hannity. She didn't get to see him in person, but she was happy with a picture in front of his sign! We headed over to Rockefeller Plaza and took a seat inside watching the people on the ice rink. Rockefeller Plaza is located very close to another Magnolia Bakery store, so we grabbed a couple of cupcakes to eat while we rested. Our final stop of the day before dinner was the American Girl Doll store. I have never been to one, but I can see why little girls love it! They have everything! It is 4 floors of girly goodness with almost every doll they have ever made, a cafe, a photo studio, and of course the doll hair salon. There were hundreds of little girls going wild picking out dolls that looked like them, selecting matching outfits, and they even have strollers and car seats for your little dolls. Just a warning parents, be careful taking your little ones in this store- they will want everything they see! Whoops there goes their college fund!
Dinner on our final evening was a no brainer- we wanted Italian, which we had every night we were there! We decided on Angelo Bellini for its reviews and proximity to our hotel. It was magical. It was the best Chicken Alfredo that I have ever had. We ate until we could not breathe and then waddled ourselves back to the hotel for a good nights rest before heading home the next morning. We had actually changed hotels earlier that day, because our first hotel only had two nights available, so when we got back to our new room and opened the window we were blown away by our view. We had not noticed in the daylight, but our room looked out on to the Chrysler Building and at night it was breathtaking!
Our last morning in the city we had a relaxing breakfast in the Starbucks in our hotel, had the smoothest car service experience to the airport, and boarded our flight home with no major issues. This goes down in the books as one of my favorite vacations! I had so much fun with my sweet mom, mother-in-law and aunt- I cannot wait for another trip with them! Thanks Ladies!
Saturday morning (Day Two) started out pretty early with breakfast at George's, which is a wonderful restaurant down in the Financial District. The restaurant, which has been open since 1950, was actually destroyed during the 9/11 attacks, because of its close proximity, but was thankfully rebuilt in the years after the attack. After homemade french toast and home fries, we went to stand in line to wait for the opening of the 9/11 Memorial.
We had tickets for the earliest time slot and its a good thing, because the place fills up quickly. I think the 9/11 Memorial was by far my favorite stop on our trip and I have to commend the person who designed the memorial, because it is one of the most beautiful tributes that I could have ever imagined. The flowing water into the black marble pits looks like diamonds reflecting in the sun. The continual flow of water reminds us that while the lives of those men and women were lost on that fateful day, their impact and legacy will live on forever.
After spending some time in the 9/11 Memorial park, we took a walk around downtown and saw sights such as Trinity Church, the New York Stock Exchange, and of course the Wall Street Bull! We decided not to take the trek out to see the Statue of Liberty on this trip, mainly because it is very time consuming, but very worth it if you have the time (we went to the top of the crown in 2009 and it was amazing!). In order to see the SOL and a good view of the island as a whole we hopped on to the Stanton Island Ferry for a 25 minute trip across the harbor. I have to recommend that you all try this if you are in NYC- its free, has the best views of the city, and did I mention it was free? A little tip that I learned this trip (thanks to a certain awesome tour guide/aunt) is to head to the back of the ship as soon as you get on the boat. This is where you will be able to see the best views of the city, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. Another note is once you are at the port in Staten Island, you do have to disembark, but you can go right around and get back on for the return trip. Do not make a bathroom pit stop or you might be left in Staten Island!
We left the New York Port Authority terminal and took a walk along New York's stockyards and seaport. Around the late 1800's and early 1900's, this area of the country was the biggest area of trade in the world due to the opening of the Erie Canal. This is what created the boom in population in New York City, because immigrants came to America looking jobs and found them here! Excuse the history lesson- that's what you get when you read a history teacher's blog. From there we walked to the Brooklyn Bridge. I was so excited to check this off of my bucket list! I will have to admit that this bridge is huge in person and the walk is no joke! We made it maybe halfway across the bridge and decided that we had seen enough and there was no way we were going to make it to Brooklyn and then walk all the way back! If you have some free time and like to bike, I suggest renting bicycles for the day and trying to make the trip across the bridge. However, beware of the professionals who bike it regularly, because they do not take kindly to pedestrians or amateur bikers getting in their way!
One thing I should probably mention at this point in my recap of the trip is that this was a very walk intensive trip. This means that breaks are necessary! So being typical Americans and frankly delirious from thirst we took a pit stop at McDonald's for sweet tea and french fries. They were amazing. After refueling we began our trek to the Flatiron District to see the infamous 112 year old Flatiron Building. This was another thing on my must see in New York list. The triangular shape building was so controversial when opened in 1902, because many believed its odd shape would cause it to fall over easily. It was built at the cross section of three roads (which is another oddity) and many business owners complained that it redirected heavy winds towards their buildings. In the end the iconic landmark stayed and you should definitely see it if your in the area.
We had a wide open afternoon, so I decided to channel Audrey Hepburn's character Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's and spend the afternoon in the gorgeous New York Public Library. It only took about 2 seconds of standing in that foyer to realize that if the Mr. and I could get married again this would be the spot! I mean everything about this building is to die for. Large marble staircases, classic lantern chandeliers, thousands of books, decadently decorated study rooms, the list goes on and on. I even registered for a library card- which was a temporary one, but hey it was exciting! We spent the remainder of the afternoon lounging in the courtyard area in front of the library, much in need of a rest after a long day on our feet.
When I traveled to New York in 2009 we found this amazing little Italian restaurant and we knew if we returned we would have to go again. So we set out to find Fagiolini later that evening. The problem was that there are actually two restaurants with the same name and we did not remember which one we had visited before, so we picked one and it turned out to be the one we had not been to before. No worries though, it turned out to be just as amazing as I remembered the other one being. I opted for one of their specials that evening and while I cannot remember the name of it, it was basically a Philly cheesesteak and lasagna wrapped into one. It was amazing! Everything was homemade and the pasta melted in your mouth.
An evening in New York would not be complete without a walk through Times Square, so after dinner we decided to walk off all the pasta we had consumed. Our destination: Juniors Cheesecake in Times Square. Juniors is one of my top picks in New York and while the wait for dinner is often long, they have a separate area for take out where you can choose from among their many flavors of fresh homemade cheesecakes. We grabbed slices of red velvet and chocolate swirl, headed back to the hotel, and chatted late into the night over our decadent desserts. There might have even been some popcorn to offset all the sweetness, but who cares about calories on vacation- they don't count, right?
See you guys later this week with the final installment of my NYC trip. Coming up: Central Park, Serendipity3, and Dylan's Candy Store just to name a few! Have a great Wednesday!
Happy Friday everyone! Summer vacation has me dreaming of all kinds of amazing vacations I would like to take. It occurred to me that back in October 2013, I went on a wonderful long weekend trip to the Big Apple with my mom, mother-in-law, and aunt-in-law and I forgot to share. The four of us girls ate, laughed, and walked our way through the City That Never Sleeps. The best part of this trip was that we coined it the "trip of firsts." All four of us had been to the City before, so we wanted to make sure that we set out to do things that we had never done before.
My mom's first flight! So a selfie was a must!
Due to a very delayed flight we finally arrived in NYC after midnight on a Thursday. After swooning over our lovely hotel we quickly jumped into our beds in order to get as much sleep as possible before hitting the ground running on Friday morning.
The next morning we were up bright and early ready to explore. We started out the day at the world famous Carnegie Deli, with walls lined with the portraits and signatures of its famous customers throughout the years. The rest of the day was relaxed and we strolled around the City. Both my brother and my husband's cousins are firemen so we naturally had to take the moms to see some of the famous fire stations throughout NYC. We stopped at the NY Fire Museum, where they have a wonderful 9/11 tribute and also the infamous Rescue 1, which is the elite of FDNY. Hunky firemen... not too bad, but I'll take Mr. P any day!
We spent the afternoon strolling through Chelsea Market (an indoor marketplace with anything you can image including the offices of the Food Network and MLB.com) and down the Highline (an outdoor park/greenway). The Highline is magnificent and it allows you to see the city from a different vantage point. Once completed it will be over a mile and a half of outdoor space made from repurposed materials such as old railroad tracks. All that walking makes you a little hungry so next on the agenda was Grand Central Station and the Magnolia Bakery kiosk.
You CANNOT goto NYC without a stop at one of Magnolia Bakery's shops. Without a doubt they are hands down the best red velvet cupcakes I have EVER had! Red velvet and an old fashion bottle Coke, I think I will!
An early dinner was on the books for our first night, because we had big plans later in the evening. After a lot of researching, we found what we think might be the best pizza in New York! Located in the infamous Hell's Kitchen district, Capizzi, had the most amazing pizza I have ever tasted. Cooked on a real brick oven, their pizza has a gourmet touch to them without being so fancy that your questioning what you are eating. We opted for a pepperoni, sausage, pepper, and onion pizza to share with a cannoli for dessert. The staff was incredibly attentive and gave all of us chef hats to wear while we took a photo in front of the brick oven. Honorary pizza chefs!
We wrapped up our first real evening in New York in true Broadway fashion with the show Annie. Absolutely precious! I am amazed by the star power of those young little actors. On a previous trip to NYC I saw Mamma Mia and I highly recommend that as well! If your a North Carolinian, check out the DPAC for tons of amazing Broadway shows!
What is your favorite thing to see in New York City? My personal favorite changes each time. This time it was a tie (for very different reasons) between the 9/11 Memorial which is breathtaking and Central Park (specifically the Central Park carousel which is so much fun). Details on both will be coming next week! Have a great weekend and thanks for reading!
Who doesn't love a one pan recipe? I know I do... dishes are for the birds! I found this recipe a few years ago here and it is one of those recipes that quickly became a favorite in our household for its flavor and simplicity. It is a versatile dish as well, because you could easily replace the pork with chicken. Also, don't be afraid of the fact that this recipe uses Catalina dressing, it is an odd ingredient, but gives the sweet potatoes an amazing flavor! I hope you enjoy!
what you need
4 boneless pork chops
1 very large or 2 medium sweet potato, cubed
1 medium or 1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 box stuffing mix (use any flavor you like)
1/4 cup Catalina dressing
salt and pepper (to taste)
how to make it
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix sweet potatoes, red onion, and Catalina dressing together and place in greased baking dish.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir. Then move to the edges of the baking dish.
Make stuffing mixture according to package and create a mound in the middle of the potatoes.
Salt and pepper pork chops to taste and place on top of stuffing.
Place in oven and bake for 40-45 minutes (Cooking time will vary based on size of pork chops).
I cannot believe I am typing these words, but I am off to Europe again! In just one month I will be on a plane, headed to the amazing country of Spain! Bull fights, world famous jamon, and flamenco dancing are all awaiting me on the other side of the Pond. Our tour will begin in Madrid and travel through the northern area of Spain called the Basque Country and finally ending in Barcelona. I have very little travel knowledge of Spain, so this is going to be a completely different experience from last years trip to the United Kingdom and Ireland. You can find recaps from that trip on the blog, and in the next few days I will be finishing up that series. (I was a slacker and stopped posting after day 6... I promise I will do better this time around!) Stay tuned for lots and lots of travel related stuff... I see a change in the focus of my blog in the near future!
With only a couple of days left to get your costume in order I thought I would talk about some of my favorite Halloween costumes this year. Luckily, we like to keep the celebration going on for a couple of days so I actually have a couple of costumes this year. In the last few years we have been Charlie Brown and Lucy, Cinderella and Prince Charming, and Tinkerbell and a Jedi just to name a few.
I won't revel my actual costume until Friday, but I will throw out some inspiration outfits I considered this year. There are so many choices that it is so hard to narrow it down to just one! Also, Daniel and I have a hard time deciding on couples costumes so we like to exercise our individuality and just go as whatever we want!
I am sure you have seen this idea floating all over Pinterest, but I decided to put my own spin on it and create something wonderful for our two-year wedding anniversary back in August. First of all, I cannot believe its been over two years since we said I Do. Secondly, since it has only been two years you would think I would have a million gift ideas, but man it is tough (especially since we have been together for a total of 8 years)! Thankfully, Pinterest to the rescue again!
My One Year of Dates gift is 12 pre-planned dates outlined in sealed envelops. Daniel gets to open an envelop at the beginning of each month and we pick when we are going to take our date that month. Over the course of this year I will share our monthly outings. Sorry, I can't reveal all of them at once or Daniel would miss out on all the fun! The best thing about this gift is that it is totally customizable to the individual couple. Do you like hiking? Go on a hike! Do you like baking? Then make cupcakes! The key to this is to plan ahead and try not to pick dates that require specific timelines, it is not impossible, but you do not want to stress out about trying to fit it in on a specific day. I like to add variety to our dates as well. Some are more elaborate away from home dates, some are around town, and others are simply in our home. The most important thing is HAVE FUN!
We have already gone on our September and October dates so I have included all the details below!
Date: Putt-Putt and Dinner
Cost: $7 per person for putt-putt and your choice for dinner
Supplies: Putt-putt tickets, dinner reservations
To kick off our One Year of Dates we headed out to our local putting green. Before going to putt-putt we hit up a local restaurant called The Laughing Owl. The Laughing Owl is a great restaurant that mixes American favorites with Asian cuisine from the owners previous restaurant. I opted for my favorite Beef and Szechwan String Beans over Lo Mien. The food is delicious and a nice, fresh change from traditional chain restaurants. After dinner, we headed over to Larry Bill's Fun Time Golf for 18 holes of fun! It was perfect, hardly anyone was around so it made for a romantic yet fun setting. I must confess, much to Daniel's displeasure, that I came out the winner that night, but I'm not sure either of our scores were much to brag about. We called it an early night and came home to watch Love Actually on Netflix.
Date: State Fair
Cost: $18 for fair entry and spending money for fair food and games!
Supplies: fair tickets, cash for food and games
Daniel and I have always loved going to the fair and since we have not been to our State Fair in about 6 years I decided to make that our agenda for October. One of my suggestions in date planning was not to choose something that had to be done on a schedule. However, the fair was in town for almost two weeks so that gave us plenty of time to pick our date. Unfortunately, because of my busy schedule the only day we could go was the last day of the fair which meant it was very crowded. We had a blast anyway! We arrived around lunch time and were immediately thinking "what should we eat first?" My tip for places with lots of food options is SHARE! We split almost everything we got at the fair and it made it a lot easier to try all kinds of foods. We always like to try the local booths so we hit up two places for country ham biscuits and fresh cut fries. They were amazing. After cruising through the midway, winning a stuffed minion (stay tune he will be very useful come Halloween), and almost losing our appetite in the livestock buildings it was time for round two! I opted for the fried mac and cheese bites while Daniel got his favorite fried Snickers. We spent the rest of the fair combing through the crafts and hobby section and the Village of Yesteryear and then finished the afternoon off with a blooming onion. We had some friends at the fair too and one of them got a Krispy Kream burger. That was by far the most unique creation of the fair this year, a cheeseburger with all the fixing between two Krispy Kream doughnuts instead of buns. She said it was amazing and I can't wait to try it next year!
Question: How do you and your significant other make plans for dates? Preplanned or spur of the moment? Take turns choosing or always let one person decide? Weekly, Monthly, Bi-monthly?