tj maxx, you should go

tj maxx, you should go

So anyone who knows me is well-aware — I am undoubtedly a Maxxinista. Most of my wardrobe, from my dresses, to my shoes, down to my underwear, is from one of the TJX stores.

Well, last week, I had the most outrageous experience with a $10 shirt that I purchased from the 57th Street TJMaxx in Manhattan earlier last month. It was a simple, pink, cotton shirt that was stylish without breaking the bank (as most items at TJMaxx are) manufactured by a brand named Lavender Field.

By the time I reached work at noon on Saturday, this shirt had stained everything I was wearing including my bra, my new purse, my Levi jeans and even my skin.


It was WILD. So I did what any millennial would, and I tweeted about it — pictures and all.

I was met in the days following with flawless customer service. Theresa, Andre, and Kevin were so incredibly helpful, kind, and generous with my situation. Since, of course, every item that was damaged came from their store, I was able to go in to the 57th street location in Manhattan and get store credit for, not just the culprit shirt itself, but every single item that it dyed (except my skin, cause they don’t sell that there).

I just had to write about this. The TJX corporation has always been one of my faves and it was so comforting to know how highly they prioritize customer satisfaction. They will forever have my business because their customer service is MAGICAL.

green bean salad

green bean salad

So I have to be honest, I am extremely picky about my salads; mostly because 9 out of 10 times, restaurants will give you half a pound of lettuce, sprinkle it sparingly with toppings, and call it a salad.  It turns people off from the healthy alternative, and you’re left paying an arm and a leg for a bed of lettuce will never actually satisfy you nor fill you up.

Instead, I would much rather build my salads from the ground up with substance.  On a sweltering hot day such as today, all I could think about eating was cold, fresh fruits and veggies.

So I bought a bunch of raw fruits and veggies that I love and dreamt up a lettuce-less salad to make at home.

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My base was green beans – which I know sounds weird, but I love raw green beans.  They’re crunchy, delicious and a alternative green base to your salad.

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I topped it with chopped baby carrots, raw sweet corn, avocado, red peppers, cucumbers, scallions and sliced cherry tomatoes.  To keep it as clean as possible, I made some guacamole as a “dressing.”  A little lime and black pepper and voila!

escaping reality

escaping reality

Manhattan is undoubtedly momumental; a concrete jungle filled to the brim with basically anything you could want at a moments notice.  It is yes and no all at the same time.  You can feel like you have everything and nothing in New York.  You can feel so suffocated yet so lonely in New York.  You can feel so much freedom yet so much restriction in New York.  New York City contains endless possibilities yet endless obstacles.

I have had many heart-to-hearts with a kindred spirit of mine, Hailei Moriah Call, who endlessly commiserates with me on many levels; but more recently the struggle of living in Manhattan while yearning for the escape to places outside of our itty-bitty city.  After a fourteen-show stretch at CATS, we all needed a breath of fresh air.  My breath of fresh air typically lies in the small town of Brookfield, Connecticut where I have spent the majority of my life learning and blooming into the person I am today.

Having two homes is simple and difficult all at the same time.  When I’m in one for too long, I crave the other.  And as I sit here in a Starbucks that lives on the corner of Route 3 in Rocky Hill, Connecticut rather than the average Manhattan street corner, I can’t help but wonder if my heart will ever feel settled somewhere.

love my life in New York.  I wake up in my sunny Manhattan studio apartment each morning feeling undeniably grateful (and a little hungover on most weekends).  But as we ripen through our twenties to approach an age bracket where we should be “settling down,” are we settling for where we settle?  Do we even have to settle?  Or can we break the glass ceiling and choose to put roots down in multiple places that set our souls on fire when we need them to?

My father said to me today that New York is not a part of me.  My heart almost exploded as I instantly went on the defense, because New York is a part of me.  Three and a half years of mistakes, adventures, tears, and triumphs become a part of you and they will continue to as long as I allow New York to be a part of me.  But the Statue of Liberty holding a chuck of my heart in her hands will never yank my roots out of the Connecticut soil, nor will it step on the roots I create anywhere else in my life.  For I would not be the person I am today if I did not ground myself into various places of this world.

tony

tony

The Tony Awards have held a special place in my heart since I started watching them in my adolescence, and it has been my dream to attend one day in some capacity.  This past year, when I was asked to join the company of CATS as a dresser, I truly thought that I would have the opportunity to be involved with the 71st Annual Tony Awards.

When the revivals started popping up like weeds in the Spring, I surely thought our show could never be passed over.  I mean, come on, we’re CATS.  Reviving this show was huge for the theatrical community.  And when we did not receive a nomination, for anything, I was admittedly surprised, but took solace in the fact that we were not alone.  Many shows got snubbed – namely a fellow ALW revival, Sunset Boulevard.

Despite being disappointed, I quickly reached a place of acceptance – we were walking into a ten-day work week leading up to the Tony Awards and on top of our fourteen consecutive shows, had to put in four new actors before Monday.  A Tony performance would have annihilated us.  It was a blessing in disguise.

But as I watched tonight’s Tony Awards Broadcast, I realized that, despite zero recognition from the American Theatre Wing, CATS is one of the most resilient and hardest-working companies on Broadway today.  We put forth one of the most physically demanding shows, on a raked stage, on one of the most difficult schedules, every single week.  And we don’t need a nod from anyone to tell us that.

Congratulations to my friend Philip Heckmana fellow dresser at CATS who had the honor of dressing Mr. Kevin Spacey tonight as he brilliantly hosted these awards.  A huge shout out to Daniel Gaymon, our Macavity in CATS and one of the kindest and most enjoyable colleagues I have at the pleasure of working with each night at the Neil Simon who was one of those delicious men in the opening number.  Kudos to Andy Blankenbuehler, who probably couldn’t pick me out of a line-up, but still says hello to me every time he visits our theatre.  Who brought us boxes on boxes of incredible doughnuts yesterday with a message reminding us that we deserved to be performing on the Tony’s tonight.  Who revamped this iconic show and made it possible for me to have a job, and who won the Best Choreography Award for Bandstand, where in my old colleague Drew McVety performed while my buddy Zak Jacobs cheered in the wings as Assistant Company Manager to this new musical.  A huge congratulations to my girl Kate Baldwin, who I dressed in Songbird, and was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical for Hello, Dolly! which I absolutely cannot wait to see.  I was tickled to see Gavin Creel win for Supporting Actor in Hello, Dolly!, a genuinely brilliant man who educated me in an hour-long masterclass about acting through song and cheered me on as he steered my performance in a productive direction back in 2012, which I will never forget.  To see Kristolyn Lloyd performing alongside the cast of Dear Evan Hansen after dressing her years ago in Heathers and knowing her warm spirit was such a proud mama moment.  And Zach Prince making the goofiest face next to his man on-screen during the line-up for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical, was nothing short of typical and fabulous.  It has been an honor to work with all of you in some capacity throughout my time in Manhattan and even more exciting to see your success on screen tonight.

 

Congratulations to everyone who has poured their soul into these productions, both on and off the stage.  The nominations and winners were beyond well-deserved, and I am so grateful to be a part of the theatrical community as the small fraction that I am.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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:

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.