top five

top five

Last night, three karafs of sangria in with my two girlfriends from college, we started discussing our top five favorite artists.  I’ve already touched on my love for Ed Sheeran (see before i dive right into you), but I got to thinking about my personal top five, and wanted to share them with you (in no particular order) —

S A R A   B A R E I L L E S

sara-bareilles-2013-650-430

My heart has been beating for Sara Bareilles since high school.  I’ve seen her in concert twice, and went to her opening night as Jenna in Waitress.  That is how much I adore her.

F A V O R I T E   A L B U M

R-2754478-1307221483.jpeg

T O P   F I V E   F A V O R I T E   S O N G S

Uncharted — Kaleidoscope Heart

Many The Miles — Little Voice

Goodbye Song

Free Ride

Casseopia — The Blessed Unrest

D A V E   M A T T H E W S   B A N D

Dave-Matthews-and-Tim-Reynolds-at-Farm-Aid-2015-17

Another one of baby Tara’s favorites.  It all started when I was a freshman in high school trying to impress my senior boyfriend who loved DMB; and then I actually fell in love with his music and carried it with me into college and beyond.  I’ve never seen him perform live, which is shocking, but I will one day.

F A V O R I T E   A L B U M

8289953392_387229b5a1_o

T O P   F I V E   F A V O R I T E   S O N G S

Satellite – Under The Table And Dreaming

Why I Am – Big Whiskey and the Gru Grux King

Ants Marching – Under The Table And Dreaming

Grey Street – Busted Stuff

Crash Into Me – Crash

M U M F O R D   &   S O N S

rs-196542-161048637

My Mumf love started in the autumn of my senior year of college back in 2012.  Ever since then, Mumford and Sons forever holds my fall-time anthems.  I have tried many times to see them live, but have yet to succeed.

F A V O R I T E   A L B U M

sighnomore-packshot

T O P   F I V E   F A V O R I T E   S O N G S

I Will Wait – Babel

Little Lion Man – Sigh No More

Lover of the Light – Babel

The Cave – Sigh No More

Winter Winds – Sigh No More

J A S O N   M R A Z

JasonMraz-NewPub-BilZelman

What can I even say about Mr. Az?  I love him, I love what he stands for, I love his music – all of it.  He is a brilliant artist and his affiliation with Sara Bareilles makes my heart beat for him even more.

F A V O R I T E   A L B U M

jasonmrazbeautifulmess_liveonearth_cddvd

T O P   F I V E   F A V O R I T E   S O N G S

Butterfly – We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things

Traveler/Make It Mine – Beautiful Mess: Live On Earth

You F*ckin Did It – LOVE Is A Four Letter Word

Welcome to Saratoga: Older Lover Undercover – Selections for Friends

Live High – Beautiful Mess: Live On Earth

E D   S H E E R AN

68851e05-cec7-421b-8cf8-3e68eb7d60f6

This is the newest addition to the top five family.  Thinking Out Loud struck a chord in me, as it did with many people back in 2014, and from there I just fell in love with Ed Sheeran’s music.  I bet you’re starting to sense the trend I have with male guitarists.

F A V O R I T E   A L B U M

636243283768859926-1689261771_ed sheeran divide

T O P   F I V E   F A V O R I T E   S O N G S

Dive –  Divide

Thinking Out Loud – X

One – X

Photograph – X

Galway Girl – Divide

O T H E R    F A V E S

sweet pot noodles

After deciding to incorporate the Whole30 guidelines into my lifestyle rather than practicing only on a month-to-month basis, I’ve gotten incredibly crafty when it comes to my meals.  One of my absolute favorite things to make: sweet potato noodles.

You can make them yourself, or buy them in store (my boyfriend and I found them recently at Big Y Market in Connecticut for $4.99).  I bought a really inexpensive spiralizer on Amazon, which makes it incredibly easy to make veggie noodles of any kind at home if you don’t want to buy the precut ones.

Below is a real yummy recipe I made at home for next to nothing:

Processed with VSCO with 6 preset

S W E E T  P O T A T O  N O O D L E S

2 narrow sweet potatoes – spiralized

2 TSP Black Pepper

1 TSP Cayenne Pepper

1 TSP Salt

2 TBSP Refined Coconut Oil

Sauté spiralized sweet potato noodles and coconut oil in a medium-sized frying pan on medium heat until soft.  Gradually add spices while the noodles cook.

R O A S T E D  B R O C C O L I

1 small head of broccoli

1 TSP Black Pepper

2 TSP Lemon Pepper

1 TBSP Melted Coconut Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread out chopped broccoli on a baking sheet and drizzle with melted coconut oil.  Sprinkle pepper and lemon pepper evenly over the broccoli.  Bake for 12 minutes, or until slightly crispy.

G U A C A M O L E

1 Avocado

5 Grape Tomatoes

1 Scallion Stalk

1/2 Lime

1 TSP Cayenne Pepper

1 TSP Black Pepper

Peel and slice avocado and mash in a bowl.  Dice grape tomatoes and scallions and add to avocado.  Squeeze “half a lime” juice into the bowl and add 2 TSP of pepper.  Stir until all blended to your liking.

Outline your plate with the sweet potato noodles, creating a ring around the edge.  Then take the broccoli and do the same on the interior of the sweet potato noodles, leaving a small circle in the center.  Fill the center with the guacamole and viola!

twelve cafes i love a latte

If you’ve been reading my prior posts, or know me in general, I love coffeeshops.  My morning latte is a crucial start to my day, and I’ll sometimes get a second (decaf, of course) if I’m feeling it.

Living in Manhattan ignited this obsession – before moving here I was a brief coffee-addict, then tea-drinker, turned latte-lover when I went to my first small coffeeshop in Hamilton Heights (see chipped).

Here are twelve different coffeeshops scattered across New York City that pack a mean shot of espresso for all your caffinated needs —

Double Dutch Espresso | Harlem @ Fredrick Douglass Blvd

20140617_Double+Dutch-96

Sister store of my personal fave, The Chipped Cup, is Double Dutch Coffee in Central Harlem.  It’s also related to Filtered Coffee on 141st and Amsterdam, and their newest location on 184th and Broadway.  All locations brew and serve (my favorite) Counter Culture Coffee.

Irving Farm Coffee Roasters | West 72nd Street & Broadway

irvingfarm

Irving Farm is an UWS favorite of mine.  Their coffee is amazing, which is a given, but they have multiple locations scattered across Manhattan (including a stand in the midst of Grand Central Station).  Their pastries and egg sandwiches are also to die for.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters | West 8th Street & Washington Square West

IMG_0186

I’ve already sang praises about Stumptown Coffee Roasters (see my landmarks), but this is my post-barre class go-to in the West Village.  This particular location is easily accessible to Washington Square Park and the various shops that welcome you into the heart of the village.  They also have a nifty nitro brew on tap.

Bibble & Sip | West 51st Street & 8th Avenue

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Known best by tourists for its cream puffs, Bibble & Sip also has the mom n’ pop coffeeshop taste while it sits in the heart of midtown.  This place saved me from drinking crappy Starbucks lattes during tech for CATS.  They too serve Counter Culture Coffee; bringing a little taste of The Chipped Cup around the corner from my home-away-from-home at the Neil Simon Theater.

The Monkey Cup | W 146th Street & Amsterdam Avenue

IMG_3818

This sweet little hold-in-the-wall has brought in many regulars in the two years since its opening back in 2015.  I vividly remember being intrigued by the signs for this new place on my way to the A train when I lived in this neighborhood.  It’s a little off the beaten path from the main-stream gentrified spots along Broadway in Hamilton Heights, but it’s great for a quick pit-stop if you find yourself in need of caffeine on your walk to the 145th A train.  The Monkey Cup serves Irving Farm Coffee Roasters and some sweet vegan treats on the weekends.

Birch Coffee | Columbus Avenue & 96th Street

BirchCoffee-620x400

I fell very hard and fast for Birch Coffee in the Autumn of 2014 when I met a couple friends there and had a brilliantly sweet almond tea to stay.  I shamelessly walked out of there three hours later with a fresh bag of it to bring home and brew myself.  At the time, they also served a variety of fresh-pressed grilled cheeses, beer on tap, and, of course, great coffee and pastries.  The grilled cheese has since been taken off the menu, and while I can’t speak for everyone, it was a pretty deep blow to not have access to grilled cheese that good.  However, their Lenka granola bars and coffee keeps me coming back there.  They too have locations scattered across Manhattan, but their proximity to a shopping strip saturated with my favorite stores (TJMaxx, HomeGoods, Michaels, Bareburger, Whole Foods) on Columbus Avenue is what makes me a frequent customer.

Four & Twenty Blackbirds | Brooklyn @ Third Avenue

Four-Twenty-Blackbirds-6

I cannot lie, I have only ever been to Four & Twenty Blackbirds once in my life, as I do not find myself in Brooklyn very often.  It was a beautiful summer afternoon in 2015 and I was waiting for a friend to get out of a yoga class and stumbled upon this place.  They are best known for their pies (which I did, in fact, try), but their ambiance and lattes are also something to write home about.  If you find yourself in this neighborhood, definitely stop in.

Hamilton’s Bakery | Broadway & 146th Street

postcard-5.5inx8.5in-h-front

Joining the ranks of the trendy restaurants along Broadway in the 140’s a little over a year ago was Hamilton’s Bakery & Coffee.  At the time, they were two blocks away from my apartment and admittedly took me away from the Chipped Cup for about a month.  The owners did a fantastic job at turning two run-down shops into a beautiful cafe.  It’s been a couple months since I’ve stopped in, but I believe they’ve expanded their menu to include more dining-in options, including Sunday Brunch (mimosas and all).

 

Le Cafe Coffee | West 14th Street & 5th Avenue

lecafe

Home of the first lavender latte I ever tried, Le Caffe Coffee is a great stop if you need a little pick-me-up amidst the shopping in Union Square.  It’s very small, so don’t expect to sit for a while (if at all), but you can also grab a great salad, sandwich or DOUGH doughnut.

Gossip Coffee | Astoria, Queens @ 30 Ave

Gossip1z

I was so mesmerized by Gossip Coffee when I went in there on January 1st this past year.  It was a beautiful new adventure in Astoria, Queens that I am excited to revisit on the warmer days when I can enjoy their beautiful back patio.

Aroma Espresso Bar | Church Street & Barclay

aa7e6dc16b39761c12726eafc47ad95d

Aroma Espresso Bar looks like your typical commercial coffee spot (and it is), but a sip of their coffee will make you quickly forget where you are for a moment.  They have pretty decent food, and also accompany every espresso drink with a small chocolate (kinda like a pillow mint, if you will).

Plowshares Coffee Roasters | Broadway @ West 105th Street

plowshares

I will go out of my way to get myself a latte at Plowshares Coffee on the Upper West Side. It is home to one of the best lattes I’ve ever had.  It doesn’t look like much on the outside, but it packs a punch in their espresso drinks.

 

 

before i dive right into you

Over the past few years, Ed Sheeran has wiggled his way into my top ten favorite artists (I may even be so bold as to throw him in my top five).

I recently took a liking to his newest album, Divide.  Following it’s release, I found myself putting off listening to Divide for a couple months because I didn’t want anything to break my addiction to his album X (I’m not as familiar with +, but if you haven’t figured out the trend by now, his next album will likely be called Subtract).

It got me thinking about my tactics of listening to new music by my favorite artists.  I’m always fearful that the newest album will never amount to the ones I already love.  Sometimes, I’m right.  Dave Matthews’ Away From The World will never touch any of his previous albums.  And Jason Mraz’s Yes was a bit of a let-down after playing We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things and his Live From Earth album on repeat for years.

I’ve started to realize that my feelings about music fluxuate with my affiliation of these albums to certain chapters of my life.  The nostalgic coorolation is what makes them so much more sacred and harder to listen to something new.  As cliche as it sounds, most of my favorite music changes with the seasons of my life.

This season’s anthem is Dive from Ed Sheeran’s Divide.  It stood out to me the first time I heard it last month, and rapidly became my favorite.  Give it a listen, or don’t – whatever suits your fancy.  Maybe you already know what your season’s anthem is; this one is mine.

IMG_5615

musical(s) I…

I’m jumping on the Facebook status bandwagon sweeping my News Feed, creating a laundry list of musicals we do/do not enjoy.   As with any social media trend, we’re always fascinated yet skeptical to actually join.  It got me wondering about my taste in musical theatre; so instead of a simple status update, I decided to turn it into a more fleshed out post:

Musical(s) I Hate:  Hello, Dolly!

Okay, hate is a very strong word. But I truly don’t understand the draw with Hello, Dolly! It was the spring musical my sophomore year of high school and it was so boring. I have many friends involved in this Broadway revival and I’m sure it is nothing short of phenomenally executed, but the show itself doesn’t tickle my fancy. I’m hoping that seeing so many loved ones in this revival will change my mind.

Musical(s) I think is overrated:
Sunday in the Park with George

So hear me out – I love Stephen Sondheim. He is my all-time favorite composer. But I was not as moved by Sunday in the Park… as I thought I would be. Maybe I need to check myself into the Bernadette/Mandy filmed version…

Musical I think is underrated:
The Bridges of Madison County

I don’t care what people say – I was in love with this musical. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine. But I went back to see it three different times (I tried for a fourth closing week, but it was sold out). It was brilliantly written and executed. Steven Pasquale has my heart.

Musical(s) I love:
The Bridges of Madison County
See above^

Dear Evan Hansen
Holy shit in a shit storm this show is phenomenal. I could see it over and over again and cry my heart out every single time and give Ben Platt a standing ovation every night.  Even if I’m standing on the street.

Waitress
The day I found out Sara Bareilles wrote a musical, I knew I would be in love. The album is on constant repeat.

Musical(s) I cherish:
Wicked
This show made me fall in love with musical theater. Plain and simple.

Into The Woods
I will always love this musical. It feels like home.

Memphis
This show should have never closed when it did. UGH. So damn good.

Godspell

What a beautiful and uplifting show to be a part of.  I felt emotionally connected to this show every night I performed with it.

Guilty pleasure musical(s):

Heathers
I’m not even guilty about it, I just love it.

Musical(s) to star in:
Realistically —

Waitress (duh)
Heathers (hi, hello)
Into The Woods (it’ll happen again…)

Unrealistically —

In The Heights (I loOove it. I’ll never be Nina)
Footloose (I’m past my prime for Rusty)

Musical(s) to Direct:
Spring Awakening
Heathers

Musical(s) you know like the back of your hand:

Into the Woods
Wicked
Heathers
Spring Awakening

beantown

I am a Manhattan gal, through and through.  I don’t think I’ve said it enough on this blog (sarcasm).  But holy crap, Beantown!  I did not think I would fall in love so hard and fast.

If you ordered a super-sized Williamsburg, you would get Boston on a silver platter.  It’s like Manhattan’s mild, laid-back, chilled-the-fuck-out cousin; lower buildings, less litter, and everyone is so friendly.  You don’t see a Starbucks on every corner, the bars are quaint and original, and I had some of the best brunch of my life.  After a short and sweet 48 hours, I quickly fell for Boston’s charm.
I only scratched the surface of this city, but below you’ll find the stand-out places I explored in my two days.
Jacob Wirth Co. – Stuart Street, Boston
tmg-facebook_social
This place is very Jacob’s Pickles meets Rosy Tomorrow’s.  It’s charming and hospitable, cozy yet much larger on the inside than you would have guessed.  They make a slammin’ cosmopolitan and their burgers are out of this world.  I’m pretty confident our waitress couldn’t understand my New England accent, but she was sweet.  Her Boston accent was amazing.
Thinking Cup Gourmet Coffee & Espresso Bar – Tremont Street, Boston
thinking_cup_4-718x403
When I saw the small “Stumptown Coffee Roasters” sign outside, I knew we had to stop in this place.  Thinking Cup is massively likable and the baristas are exceptionally friendly.  They seem to be pretty popular for their Bourbon Latte.
Intermission Tavern – Tremont Street, Boston
20443597888_6c261db96d_b
In the heart of the Theater District sits this very quaint tavern clad in theatrical memorabilia to satisfy every post-production drink desire.  After tirelessly searching for dessert our first night in town, we stopped inside this gem, where we struck out for the last time.  Our waitress was pretty honest with us when we asked if the city was void of all sweets; our walking radius was just a bit too small for what we needed.  They were fresh out of cookies n’ cream, so we settled for their tiramisu.  Their cosmopolitan was nothing compared to Jacob Wirth.  But the boys that came in were pretty fun to look at.
Masa Restaurant – Tremont Street, Boston
FullSizeRender 2
I will never forget this place.  Ever.  Best brunch, best cocktails, best service.  My three friends and I came here on a whim and it was the highlight of our trip.  Our server, Antonio, immediately asked if we liked mimosas upon seating us and never let a moment pass without ensuring the bottles of complementary champagne on the table were full enough to accompany our fresh-squeezed OJ.  The food was incredible – I personally got the breakfast burrito and don’t think any burrito I eat again will ever compare.  Antonio then brought us free tequila shots, which he quietly took with us.  And at the end of it all, the manager knocked $20 off our bill because she liked us.  We would have paid full price for the experience. Nuff said.
Joe’s American Bar & Grill  – Newbury Street, Boston
e18084image5
Wow.  Wow wow wow.  Joe’s was worth every compliment my friend Gerardo paid it when he insisted we have dinner there.  I am a freak about Spinach and Artichoke dip.  And despite the fact that the Whole30 has left my stomach in knots whenever I eat dairy, I took the chance for Joe’s Spin Dip.  Holy crap.  Either they lace it in crack, or it’s the best I’ve ever tasted (likely the latter, but hey, you never know).  The pineapple cosmopolitan couldn’t hold a candle to a classic, but it was a new experience.
The Pour House Bar & Grill – Boylston Street, Boston
9474179937_36ae9cf549_c
There’s a Ms PacMan machine in the back (score), but the treble on the sound system is way too high and massively distracting.  Their prices are fair and their cosmopolitan was my second favorite of the trip.  Cute pit-stop find.
The Beehive – Tremont Street, Boston
aac6ce1597f772a360a72c82eaf08f82
Although not much could measure up to our brunch experience at Masa, The Beehive came highly recommended from many of our friends.  We were seated directly in front of the live jazz band as we enjoyed our Eggs Benedict and Waffles with homemade whipped cream and fresh fruit.  It was a bit more expensive than we anticipated, but something had to be as pricey as New York to bring us back to reality.
South End Buttery – Shawmut Ave, Boston
17884088_10210803863846656_8786881633083944002_n
As you know by now, my morning latte is very important.  When The Beehive didn’t carry non-dairy milk, we stopped in this place to settle my caffeine addiction.  Clean, cute, and addiction-friendly.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace – South Market Building, Boston
9514074660_fa38c7a43a_b
Our last stop was towards the North End to Faneuil Hall Marketplace.  Filled with small shops, restaurants, bakeries, and live music, this place reminded me all to much of the streets in Edinburgh.  I have never found a place in The States that has reminded me of the UK as much as Boston did.  And maybe that’s why I loved my time here so much.
New York City is my home; but it’s the only city I’ve ever truly known.  I loved exploring another city that isn’t the city.  Boston truly dug its way into my heart this weekend, and I can’t wait to go back again someday.  Whether for a visit or maybe something long-term, I see Boston in my future.

leroy walton

The overwhelming motto of 2016 was in regards to how many monumental lives were taken from our world.  David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, Prince…to name a few.  My biggest celebrity loss came in the form of a 6′ 9″ vivacious man named Leroy Walton; whose beautiful soul was taken from our tangible world and brought to another one year ago today.

On April 7, 2016, I sat at St. Luke’s Hospital amongst my closest friends, former classmates, professors and strangers with my heart in my stomach, as we all collectively tried to cope with the fact that we were about to lose a friend.

I met Leroy in the fall of 2011 when he entered our theater program at Western Connecticut State University.  There was nobody like Leroy.  Standing at 6′ 9″ with the personality (and voice) to back it up, no one could dim that light.  He gave the best hugs.  I don’t think anyone could have drawn a bigger crowd that day at the hospital than Leroy.  He made a lasting impression on everyone he met.  I’ll say it again: there was nobody like Leroy Walton.

For a person whose life was filled with complications, Leroy made the most of every moment.  Nothing…and I mean nothing stopped him from pursuing his dreams.  He had so many obstacles and roadblocks that could have easily discouraged or inhibited him at every turn, and he never gave into them.  Leroy was a gracious and compassionate fighter.

I could go on and on about the countless times he made me laugh.   I could describe in detail the last time I saw him; and how I wish I could have stayed sitting across from him at brunch had I known it was the last time I would talk to him.  I could take you through the moment we all found out he had passed at Mel’s Burger Bar that night.

But I believe, today and every day, Leroy would never want us to dwell in his loss, but in his light.  He may no longer be tangible, but each day he lingers in beautiful reminders of his brief but brilliant time with us.  He is undoubtedly up in the clouds, drinking a margarita, cackling at every bad date we go on, crying with us when we’re down, and giving us standing ovations for our triumphs.

I miss you, my sweet friend.  April 7th will forever be my reminder to choose joy.

Processed with VSCO with 8 preset

www.leroywalton.net