the coffee chronicles: gossip

the coffee chronicles

Let’s Gossip.

I basked in the first day of 2017 with an astonishingly horrific hangover as I sat across from one of my best gals, Hailei, in Astoria, Queens following a New Years Eve that was overflowing with many different types of liquor and a night for the books.  After trying to stomach a breakfast burrito at Queen’s Comfort (key word — trying.  I tolerated maybe two bites), she took me to the promise land: a little coffeeshop on 30th Avenue called Gossip Coffee.


Gossip1

I live for a great aesthetic and, despite my aversion to anything bright that morning, I was living for this houndstooth-coated coffee shop.

It’s been well over a year since my first visit, but today I share with you my return to Gossip Coffee in Astoria, where I enjoyed a decadent oat milk latte with my beautiful Hailei (where neither I nor she felt like a tiny man was mining for coal inside our heads).

*It’s important to note that Gossip Coffee passes the Oatly test: They have it. That’s the only question on the test.

Our barista was wonderfully weird — fun and chill and jumping into our photos while she made us lattes and convinced us that doughnuts would perfectly accompany our drinks (There was no real arm-twisting here). Gossip has Chef Scottish Francis’s hashtag-shaped doughnuts for sale, but I opted for a vanilla frosted with rainbow sprinkles (my fave).  If you’ve just finished a Whole30 stint, do yourself a favor and only eat half the doughnut. I have zero shame in admitting that I could not stomach the whole thing.

Hailei and I sat in the courtyard behind the glass double doors for a bit; which was bearable despite the weather, and will be perfect come summertime (If we ever get a summertime…). It’s home to many plants, benches, and a mini tricycle that I attempted to sit on but was too scared to actually ride.

Gossip was filled to the brim with patrons without being overly crowded. It’s great to see that a local coffee shop is getting the traction it deserves. The aesthetic, baristas, doughnuts, and in-house espresso blend make it worth a return visit.

xo,

T

*It’s also important to note that the closest subway station to Gossip Coffee (30 Av) is closed for the time being as the MTA exists only to create chaos in our lives rather than to simplify it. I walked from the Broadway stop and it was less than desirable, but totally doable.

t h e   l o o k

Bagatelle Heritage Red Bell Sleeve Jacket:

I found this jacket on super clearance for $18 at Marshalls Stores  all because one of the snaps were falling off.  It was a steal.

Cynthia Rowley Cream Sweater:

I got this sweater as a gift and I live in it!  Cynthia Rowley is one of my favorite designers, and many of her items are sold at TJX stores; which I can only assume is where this is from…

H & M Black High-Rise Skinny Jeans:

I’m a high-rise gal all the way.  And while many of my denim comes from TJMaxx, I also dig a good high-rise skinny from H&M.  They’re $20, they make your tush look great, but they’ll last you maybe the year before they start to fall apart.  You’ve been warned.

Style & Co. Venesa Riding Boots:

These boots are originally from Macy’s with their Style&Co Brand marked at $80.  I happened to break my lace-up black boots a few weeks ago while visiting family in Connecticut and stumbled upon these at a second-hand store, Plato’s Closet Danbury, brand new, with tags, for $12.

week three

lifestyle, personal

Three weeks into my Whole30 Challenge and this has been, by far, my most action-packed week of the month.  I have climbed mountains, walked over hot coals, and successfully saved a kitten from a burning building (actually I did none of those things, but it got your attention, didn’t it?).

My week consisted of multiple camera angles, starting new projects, celebrating friends, and anticipating yet another nor’easter (that ended up being a huge letdown, might I add).  It was filled with lots of laughs, making new friends, and a lot of iced lattes.  Feel free to watch and/or read below (or you can settle for the vague, Reader’s Digest version I just gave you and go about your day).

“Drag Night” celebrating RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars at At The Wallace in Harlem have become Tara’s unemployed Thursday evening ritual.  This week, that tradition, along with the season, came to an end; for my Thursday evenings will soon be filled with rehearsals (more on that later).  After the season finale, I walked home and called the wardrobe number for my background stint on Blue Bloods the following morning.  “Khaki pants.”  I was playing a nurse, and they wanted me to bring khaki pants.  Let me tell you something Blue Bloods, I am not at my mother’s house, nor do I have the arsenal of pants I was forced to wear when I worked at Office Max many moons ago.  Also, it’s 10 P.M. (do you know where your children are?) and I cannot go out and buy khaki pants that I will likely never wear again (unless you want me to be a reoccurring role, then it may be worth it).

I probably texted every woman I know within a one mile radius (it was 10 P.M., I was not traveling far).  But, shockingly (sarcasm), nobody seemed to have khaki pants at their disposal.  Luckily, my friend Ty told me that he had pants I could borrow and voila!  Khaki pants.

Of course, they had a full costume ready for me when I walked in on Friday morning, and I didn’t even need the khaki pants.

After our shoot wrapped in Brooklyn, I made it home with enough time to eat something (and change out of the khaki pants) before babysitting on the UWS. I took a car home around midnight. I earned that car home around midnight.

St. Patrick’s Day in New York City can be extremely hit or miss — especially on a Saturday. My mom told me about something called “Leprecon” (like Santacon, but a far better play on words) happening in New York, so I had braced myself to see thousands of grown men dressed like leprechauns throwing up on the side of a bus outside the nearest Starbucks. But, alas, I managed to miss those sightings.

I spent Saturday afternoon at the first rehearsal for a musical called Chess in Brooklyn. Each year on St. Patrick’s Day, I am grateful to say I am working on a show in some capacity — most years it’s been wardrobe. This year, it’s a musical I’m in, which is pretty snazzy. Saturday night was filled with Irish music and birthday celebrations for one of my best guys, Oliver. The bar he chose was super mellow and void of Leprecon-participants. Praise.

Sunday was marathon day. It started at morning daywork for Kinky Boots, took me down to Brooklyn in the afternoon for another Chess rehearsal, and rounded out at The Blue Note in the West Village celebrating my buddy Chris’s birthday; sitting front and center (actually, a little to the right) for Roy Haynes’ 93rd Birthday Celebration. I got to sing with him (you should really watch the video now) and Jon Batiste was there!

(Just another Manic) Monday began with an 8:30 A.M. call to a bar (yes, a bar) in Hell’s Kitchen where I shot an episodic called The So-So You Don’t Know for a few hours. It was a lot of fun; and the girl I was paired to play best friends with ended up being someone I could probably become best friends with. After some brief babysitting, Manic Monday ended with me laying on the floor of my apartment watching Gilmore Girls, eating plantain chips, and reflecting on the fact that I had just done two weeks’ worth of activities in four days.

Tuesday I had two goals: make my audition, make my train home. I accomplished both, in heels yet. Connecticut was expecting its fourth nor’easter of the month; which was perfectly timed, seeing as I was coming home to multiple appointments on Wednesday that I needed to take care of. But alas, all appointments were cancelled due to the impending storm, where most parts of New England were expected to get 12-18 inches of snow before Thursday morning.

By 3:30 P.M. on Wednesday, there was not an ounce of fresh snow to the name of Brookfield, Connecticut. So I went shopping. And the grand total of three inches of snow we received did not start falling until around 6:00 P.M.

Mama Llew made a delish Whole30 din for us, which is pretty self-explanatory in the video. But so much happened this week, I was fresh out of time to make any Whole30 food-making videos. You’re welcome.

My heart is full and I am ready for these last ten days!

xo,

T

week two

lifestyle, personal

It’s the end of week two on my Whole30 extravaganza (no grains, no added sugar, no dairy, no alcohol, no social media).  It’s getting increasingly easier to refrain from checking social media platforms, but I’ve realized how essential it’s become to our everyday lives — not just for the sake of putting ourselves out there, but the wealth of information that comes along with it.  I have had many moments this week where I’ve gone to recall something — a name, a photograph, etc. — and realized most of that information comes from a social media platform.  It’s tough.

But, alas, despite the fact that Facebook sent an email informing me that I have 91 notifications, they still remain unseen.  And they will continue to until April 1st.

This week, I went on many adventures, took on new challenges, and spent time with many people I adore.  Feel free to watch and/or read below!

 

Thursday I attempted my first pilates reformer class, but couldn’t find the entrance to the studio, so instead I stopped by the Neil Simon (my old CATS home) to visit with former colleagues and dear friends who are in the midst of previews for Angels in America (the newest Neil Simon occupant).  My Thursday evenings have been spent more recently with friends at “Drag Night,” an hour-long dedication to RuPaul’s Drag Race AllStars hosted by a local bar; which has been increasingly difficult to attend since starting the Whole30 last week.  They don’t have any Whole30-approved meals on their menu, so the club soda with lime has become a close pal as I watch my friends eat grilled cheeses and waffle fries.  I spent most of Friday at The Chipped Cup serendipitously sharing, creating, and collaborating on new ideas for films and web series and other projects with friends; and ended it wandering the new Marshalls uptown, then at iHop eating a Whole30-approved omelette (which was delish).

Saturday was the day for a new show!  I visited my old stomping grounds at 52nd street to see Mean Girls: The Musical on Broadway.  After dining at one of my fave restaurants in the area (Blue Dog Kitch, I missed you, old friend) I sat in a house filled to the brim with members of (and friends in) the Broadway community for the final dress rehearsal of the show.  The energy was palpable and the production was incredibly well-executed.

On Sunday, my beautiful mama turned another year wiser and I felt very lucky to celebrate it with her.  She picked my favorite Connecticut BBQ joint (The Cue Danbury) for her birthday lunch.  There was a roasted pig sitting at the communal brunch table named “Mr. Porky” who simultaneously broke our hearts and terrified us.  But the iced tea is top notch.

I found myself on a last-minute train back to New York Sunday evening after being asked to work at Kinky Boots The Musical the following afternoon.  Praise!  She’s back on Broadway for a couple days this week!  Lucky for me, I made it back in time to miss traveling through the snow on Tuesday (and finally to the entrance of my pilates class in the late afternoon).  And by the evening, the snow had melted and I was wandering the world of Margaritaville; the second feel-good Broadway musical of the week (and it was all fo’ free!).

And here we are.  Another Wednesday.  Day fourteen — also known as Pi Day.  I made a Whole30-Approved-Ingredients-But-Pie-Is-Not-Approved Pie (a creation I should absolutely send over to the writers at Waitress)  and spent some time with my best guy.

Week two has been filled with laughs, friends, a lot of Broadway and real good food; some of which I made, some I did not.  But the recipes I did make are below.  Enjoy!

T   H   E      R   E   C   I   P   E   S


“Breakfast Burrito Without the Burrito…or the Cheese…or the Sour Cream”

M  A  R  C  H    1  2

Ingredients

3 Eggs, Scrambled

Vegetables of Your Choosing (I picked mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions)

Salsa (*With No Added Sugar)

 1/2 an Avocado

Scallions (Garnish)

I love breakfast for dinner.  When I was younger, my fam jam would go nuts when my dad would tell us he was making pancakes for dinner.  Well, since pancakes are off-limits on the Whole30, I decided to make a savory breakfast for dinner.

Scramble those eggs, season then with salt and pepper, and add in as many vegetables as you please.  I chose mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions.  Top with (or toss it on the side) salsa and avocado and garnish with scallions if you please.


“Whole30-Approved-Ingredients-But-Pie-Is-Not-Approved Pie”

M  A  R  C  H    1  4

Ingredients

Pie Crust Ingredients/Recipe Here

Filling Ingredients

1 Gala Apple

2 TSP Cinnamon

1 TSP Nutmeg

1/2 Pint Frozen Blueberries

The apple “pie” left much to be desired, but the blueberry “pie” rocked.  I baked mine in little pie forms, so if you’re using a standard size, these measurements may be off.

For the Apple “pie,” I chopped and sauteed one gala apple in coconut oil with the cinnamon and nutmeg.  This allowed the apples to soften before baking it within the crust.  For the Blueberry “pie” I just dumped the blueberries into the pie crust and let it work its magic.  There is a Pinterest recipe for a blueberry tart that includes chia seeds in the filling, but I didn’t have a chance to try that.  It seems like a nice option if you’re looking for something to congeal the blueberries!


xo,

T

the actor’s life: a survival guide

Books

Upon its release last week, I rapidly ordered a copy of Jenna Fischer’s new book The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide.  As a newly-obsessed fanatic of The Office, you can only imagine my level of excitement when it arrived on my doorstep two days later (Bless you, Amazon Prime).

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My intuition was right – I couldn’t put it down.  And not because she spent 250 pages gushing about her time on The Office and guaranteeing the dreamers that, one day, they’ll too find their own Pam Beesly and live happily ever after in the magical world of Hollywood — no. While her eight-year stint on The Office was indeed life-changing, Jenna spent just as many years fighting for screen time before and after Pam.  Every struggle was a stepping stone towards a career that brought her dreams to fruition in unexpected ways.  This book is a testimony to the fact that, despite her success, she too experienced failure, confusion, doubt, and rejection along the way.  Reading Jenna’s words felt very much like reading a heartfelt, encouraging, and honest letter from a mentor or close friend who shares in your struggle and simply gets it.

If you are an aspiring and/or working actor read this book.  Read it now.  Read it next month.  Read it next year when you’ve hit a low point and you need a reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing.

After personally spending the past year feeling artistically stifled and struggling to find my rhythm again, Jenna’s book came at the perfect time to reignite my momentum as a new year of new possibilities and adventure approaches.

Below are my favorite takeaway moments from The Actors Life: A Survival Guide — moments that I connected to and gave me permission to feel the range of emotions that come with the pursuit of an artistic career.

T   H   E     S   T   R   U   G   G   L   E

Before I moved to Los Angeles, I thought the life of an actor seemed easy.  And now, years later, I am telling you it’s not.  It can be rewarding, inspiring, magical, intense, terrifying, consuming, passionate and unique.  But it is not, and will not, be easy.  However, just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

I can’t even begin to list the times I’ve questioned whether or not I have the strength to “make it” in this industry; or how often I’ve thought of giving into the struggles that come with pursuing a career in the arts.  It is hard.  Others will try to convince you that what you do is easy; because many people on the outside rest under the misconception that being an actor is a cake walk. This is why they’re on the outside.

For me, what made the struggle even harder was the fact that my friends and family back home couldn’t understand “what was taking so long.”  They couldn’t see the value of these small milestones.  They just wanted to know when I would be on TV.  Because that’s what translated as success to them.

I am incredibly lucky to have a family comprised of tireless cheerleaders.  Whether I’m in the back row of the ensemble or standing center stage as the star, they are at every performance of mine.  My family is a vessel of encouragement, love, and support, without whom I would not have the strength to persevere through the low points in my career.  Every endeavor of mine since moving to New York has been applauded or met with excitement. But everyone’s measurement for success is different.

For anyone reading this who may not know me, I work in wardrobe as my “day job.” It has kept me artistically connected these past four years while I pursue a career as a performer.  Currently, I’m a dresser at the Broadway Revival of CATS.  Many people consider what I do to be “successful.” Sometimes, I fail to see the see it the same way.

I vividly remember the moment I told my entire family about this job opportunity at a holiday dinner two months prior to the remount of CATS.  My aunt burst into tears, hugged me, and texted everyone she knew. My uncle started singing “Memory,” and my grandma turned to my grandpa and asked if he remembered seeing the show in 1987 (he nodded vigorously, but I don’t blame him if he didn’t).  And even after their glowing reaction, I quickly followed it up with, “This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on performing just because I’m working on a Broadway show doing wardrobe.”

Why, Tara?  Why did you just say that? Why did you feel the need to justify that to your family?  This huge beacon of enormous faith in my talent, and I still felt the need to blurt out that finding success in one area of this industry did not negate the success I still sought as a performer.  Of course they knew that.  Of course I knew that they knew that.  Why was I so fixated on saying it aloud?

Sometimes, we have to remind ourselves by reminding others.  It’s not because my family asks the question of “when?”– it’s because I do.  And I don’t just blurt out to my family, I blurt it out to friends, colleagues, working professionals who learn that I simultaneously work in two facets of this business.  I will tell anyone who will listen that I am an actor because reminding myself of who I am is crucial to how I operate moving forward in this industry.  I don’t want to leave the impression that I’m “just a dresser.”  But just as much, I don’t want to leave the impression that I’m “just an actor” either. Because of this job, I have become more educated, multi-faceted, and valuable. And while it’s taken a while to embrace it, that has become my measurement for success.

The cool thing about the life of an actor is that many pointless and mundane experiences actually become important moments that you’ll reference later in your career.  You may not know now, but in a magical twist of fate, what you’re dreading doing today could inspire a role years from now.  

When you are able to use your experiences to feed your creativity and passion for acting, it doesn’t seem as hard.  Mining for gold is not easy.  But if you do it l on enough, you get to be the person who found gold.

  A   U   D   I   T   I   O   N   S    &                            S  U  R  V  I  V  I  N  G         R  E  J  E  C  T  I  O  N

You cannot possibly get every role you audition for, so don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself. 

This is the best damn sentence in the book.  Hello, of course we should not be putting that kind of pressure on ourselves.  But do we do it anyway?  I certainly do.  Almost every audition I walk into, I’ve already envisioned what opportunities the role could bring me, or how much time I would have to take off to accommodate rehearsals, or how excited I would be to share that I’ve booked this job.

That is a mindset that just breeds disappointment before even walking in the door.  Much of the defeat I’ve felt over the past four years stems from the pressure I put on myself to book shows in hopes that it will fulfill a certain level of happiness and curb the satisfaction of knowing that I haven’t failed myself in my endeavors to become a working actor.

No job really changes everything. Nothing removes the struggle completely.

Every audition is a chance to learn, practice, and grow as an actor.  The success is not always in getting the part but in the seed that is planted.

Failure cannot exist in persistence.  If I’m still auditioning, I have yet to give in to the fear of failing myself as an artist.  Auditioning and rejection are both an unfortunate part of the process.  But if we weren’t rejected from the auditions we don’t book, there wouldn’t be room for the opportunities that are meant for us.

Your job as an actor is to create a consistent body of work.  It is not to book jobs.  It is not to worry and beat yourself up over every job you didn’t book.  Those decisions are out of your control.  What is in your control is your approach to auditioning.  So just because you didn’t book a certain role, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed.  More often than not, getting or not getting a role has very little to do with how well you performed at that particular audition.  It boils down to who you fit into a bigger picture they are painting.

Living the life of a working actor requires a very special emotional constitution.  You must have a strong will, you must be determined, and you must be able to withstand countless rejections without becoming depressed, cynical, or self-destructive.  Because the hard truth is that it often takes more than good work to get the job.  It’s about doing good work, certainly, but it’s also about timing, luck, being the right height, the right weight, having the right hair color, being the right race — any number of arbitrary factors.

So what if you never fit into the bigger picture?  You’re relentlessly putting yourself out there, day after day, to find out where you fit in, and the offers seem to be few and far between, if they come at all.  Does this mean you’re not giving the industry what it wants?  Do you have to go back to the drawing board and rebrand who you are in order to find your place?  Are you required to be someone you’re not to fit into the bigger picture or are you, as you are, enough?

So often we worry that we have to bring some amazing razzle dazzle to a role to stand out.  We try to figure out what they are “looking for” when really we need to figure out how to bring ourselves to the role.  Only you can give your performance.  Only you have your unique set of experiences, emotions, and way of expressing yourself.  Trust that you are enough.

It was hard to keep putting myself out there over and over, only to not get the part.

I found this Chuck Norris quote and put it on my bathroom mirror: “A lot of people give up just before they’re about to make it.  You know, you never know when the next obstacle is going to be the last one.”  I defiantly told my representatives that I would give it one more year, and after that I was calling it quits.  And, wouldn’t you know it, that was the year Allison called me in to audition for The Office.

H   E   A   D   S   H   O   T   S

If acting is the business, you are the product, and your headshot is the packaging.  You can be the most talented actor on the planet, but if you have a crappy headshot, you may never get the chance to show off your chops. 

[Casting Director] Mara Casey suggests picking five adjectives that best describe the kind of characters you might easily play.  And then ask yourself, does your headshot convey those five adjectives?

Jenna goes on to show examples of her prior headshots and the mistakes she made when choosing the right one to print and send out to agents, casting directors, etc.  So I thought I would do the same:

I’m no more than thirteen in these photos and absolutely used them the entirety of my high school years.  What is happening?  I look like a small child.  I am a small child.  I also seemingly have auburn hair when in actuality it was dark blonde.  S.O.S.

Cut to the college years, when my theatre program required us to get headshots done by the photography department at the beginning of each school year.

2009 vs 2011.  Talk about an awkward first-day-of-college photo disguised as a “headshot.”  They weren’t great, but at least I looked my age.  They were also a far cry from the small child straddling the white chair above circa 2005.  Even so, I shamelessly sent these shots along with a barebones, unimpressive resume to professional casting directors and producers in New York while I was in school.  What on earth was I thinking?

In 2012, my senior year of college, my school was blessed with a miracle named Julio Agustin Matos, who served as the first head of our Musical Theatre program and completely changed my life.  Fresh off the Broadway stage, Julio created an intensive called The Transition Workshop — a guiding light for college seniors and recent graduates who were making their move from an educational setting to the “real world”.  Many of his teachings mirror everything Jenna discusses in her book; Julio’s background is just more rooted in stage work.  He too published a book entitled The Professional Actors Handbook: From Casting Call To Curtain Call  (which I strongly recommend if you are actively pursuing a career on stage — it’s worth every penny).

Julio rapidly shut down the free school headshots we were getting and rattled off a list of professional New York headshot photographers we needed to schedule shoots with.  I found a local headshot photographer (Julia Gerace Photography) in Connecticut who turned out some pretty comparable work.  Here’s what I came to him with:

Not too shabby for a couple hundred dollars, huh?  My hair still looks auburn, but these were my post-red-head days as I was transitioning back into my blonde locks.  So as in love with these shots as I was, they were only going to last me about a year or so as I continued the journey back to blonde; but I finally found something that worked.

And you know what?  I used these for three years.  THREE WHOLE YEARS.  Six months after these photos were taken, my hair was longer and blonder and my energy was completely different.  So you can only imagine how mistaken most casting directors were when I walked into a room two years later and placed these photos in front of them.  I was a completely different person, with a completely different look, and a completely different mindset.

Just before audition season approached in 2016, I wised-up and went to Curtis & Cort Photography in New York.

Hallelujah!  I finally looked like myself.  Let’s do a little side-by-side, shall we?

How did I go this long without new headshots?  How did I pass around a shot from early 2013 almost three years later?  HOW?!  These are two completely different women.  The one on the right is confident about what she’s selling.  She’s got energy, she’s self-assured, she’s wise.  She is ready to take the audition season by storm.

And you know what?  2016 was my best audition season to date.  I didn’t book anything, but I was getting appointments and callbacks and more callbacks (oh my!).  Rebranding myself was a giant step in the right direction towards getting in the room with the people who needed to see me.

Even the best actors need seasoning and time to grow into their potential.  View this period as your time to grow and gain experience. 

S   E   L   F   –  C   A   R   E    &                             T   R   U   S   T    I   N   G          T   H   E                   J   O   U   R   N   E   Y

Your body is your instrument.  You need to treat it kindly.  People come in all shapes and sizes, and so do characters.  Embrace a healthy size that feels easy to maintain and go from there.

Too easily in this business, we fall into a pit of comparison on many levels — career-wise, success-wise, and most commonly — the physical comparison.  Eating disorders develop, thoughts of plastic surgery ensue, and Planet Fitness is tired of seeing you three times a day.  When did becoming a carbon-copy of someone else start manifesting success?  Sure, there are many women I compare myself to, admittedly, on a daily basis — especially actresses.  She’s in better shape than I am.  Her hair is styled perfectly every day.  She’s got everything I want.  But, does she?  Does anybody?  Why do we think that having what someone else has will fulfill our own needs?  We are all so unbelievably unique with a completely different set of goals and skill sets to bring into this business.  And that can, in turn, be the hardest logic to maintain in an industry where everyone is competing with one another for their next big break.

First, I needed to accept that things weren’t going to happen quickly.  A lot of my anxiety was coming from my belief that I was failing because things were “taking so long.”  I needed to stop comparing myself to other people and commit to an actors life, with all its ups and downs.

All too often, we compare ourselves to the results we see in other artists without the knowledge of the full journey it took to achieve those results.

Listen, it’s going to seem easier for other people than it is for you.  That’s the harsh reality of this business.  I cannot count on New York City’s fingers and toes how many times I have looked at someone else’s career and thought, “Wow, how has it been so much easier for them than it’s been for me?”  But this is what we signed up for.  We signed on to face rejection and comparison because that is part of what makes this business a business.  Sometimes you get the part, sometimes you don’t.  Sometimes you work for months, years even; sometimes you rest in the drought for just as long. Facing that truth is so crucial; because it’s easier to take out the frustrations of the inner workings of this industry on other artists who are reaping the benefits of a seemingly “successful career” rather than using the rejection to propel us forward so that we may share in the success one day too.

Every artist has a different journey, and you’ll have to figure out yours — you’ll have to determine how much you can endure.  Because the roadblocks, doubts, and insecurity are all part of living an artistic life.

Resist the temptation to become cynical, judgmental, and negative about your fellow artists.  Most importantly, don’t be judgmental about what you need to thrive as an artist either.  Don’t be afraid to be a little self-indulgent.  It’s okay to have rituals,  It’s okay to have needs.  The important thing is that we find a way to create a mutually satisfying environment.

C   R   E   A   T    I   N   G     T   H   E                    W   O   R   K

If you want to be an actor, you must live an artistic life.  You must find ways to express your artistic life with others.  Artistic lives are full of risk.

Being able to generate work for yourself is an essential part of the process of becoming a working actor.

Sustaining work as an actor starts with the relationships you make with other artists…Building a successful career is not about getting in good with the people who are already established.  It’s about creating the next big thing with people just like you.

In 2014, I met an actress by the name of Emm O’Connor doing a poorly-run production of Grease here in New York.  I was playing Marty, she played Jan. Emm was goofy, wonderful, talented, hilarious — the total package.  Shortly before the run of our show, she shared that she was considering straying from acting to pursue screenwriting and asked me join a table read for a pilot she wrote called Capital Advice.  It was a laugh-out-loud series about a quirky overnight radio host named Gwen who tries to “Delilah” her way through a conversation with a caller who dials the wrong number looking for her cheating boyfriend at the local pizza joint. Gwen awakes the following morning to learn that her words of encouragement inadvertently inspired the caller to burn down said pizza joint. Thinking that these unfortunate events will ruin her career, Gwen’s show starts getting more traction and attention than any other segment, and she defies her boss’s orders to refrain from taking calls beyond song requests and turns her late-night playlist into a talk-back called Capital Advice.  It was certainly impressive to read something so cleverly crafted, filled to the brim with massive potential from someone as young as Emm. And wouldn’t you know, eleven months later, we filmed the damn thing.

The single best thing an actor can do, both professionally and personally, is to create their own work.  Whatever you do, I promise it will create momentum.

Every project you finish has value.  Whether it’s the one-woman show you wrote, the web series with only twenty-four views, the pilot you wrote with your friend, all are important and will pay off somehow.

Shooting the pilot of Capital Advice inspired me in many ways to create more work of my own.  Watching Emm fearlessly pursue her desire to be a screenwriter inspired me to create work of my own.  Two months later, Emm and I began collaborating on a new series called Technical Difficulties.  It was the first time I had written a finished product that I was proud of.  Six months after that, I wrote my first one-woman show, and performed it twice over the course of the following year.  Since then, my mind has been overflowing with new ideas and ways to create my own work — and it started by meeting someone who showed me that you can go out there and make it happen for yourself.

It’s completely normal to want others to see something special enough in your talent to create opportunities for you.  But if we’re not simultaneously creating opportunities for ourselves, we’ll just be sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring.  Be the call you’re hoping for and put your talent into the ether.  You never know if your idea could be the next sensation.

The very best way to advance your career is to be seen.  Nobody will see you in your kitchen, expect your creepy neighbor!  Student films, short films, showcases, improv shows, web series, standup, YouTube videos, play readings, street performing — you never know where they’re going to lead.  The more work you do, the more people see you, the more likely the right people are to find you.

Establishing good luck isn’t just about being in the right place at the right time.  It’s about making the kinds of choices that put you in the right place at the right time.

As actors, artists, and performers, we are undoubtedly going to face discouragement and obstacles.  But moreover, we will also experience triumphs and elation if we persevere.  Jenna’s words provided me with that reassurance and confidence, and I hope it can do the same for you. The Actors Life: A Survival Guide is a must-read, must-know, must-feel.

You’ve chosen an unpredictable life, but certainly a life worth living.  Go forward, embrace the journey head-on, with all of its ups and downs.  More than at any time in recent memory, we are in need of artists and stories to remind us of our shared humanity.  As you go forward, though you may get discouraged, please don’t hold back your gift.  Because the world needs actors.  The world needs you.

showering the bride

weddings

I know what I’m about to say will shock you, but weddings are stressful.  I’m not even getting married and it’s overwhelming!

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I’m the Maid of Honor in my best friend’s wedding this upcoming October, which is a much more complicated job than meets the eye.  Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to be such a special part of her day, but I’ve learned that the MOH title comes with many more responsibilities than simply holding the bride’s bouquet and planning a wild weekend in Vegas.

One of the biggest undertakings as Maid of Honor has been the planning of the Bridal Shower.  It’s always easier when you have help from your fellow bridesmaids.  But as a person who loves solitary planning and executing, I have spent months preparing and researching the best, and most cost effective, ways to go about popping my bridal-shower-planning cherry.

Before I dive into this, I just have to offer the best general advice I can to any first time MOH planning a shower:  It’s going to be what it’s going to be.  Planning a shower is a huge undertaking, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself – you’re only human!  You can plan every single detail down to a tee, but no matter what goes right or wrong, your bride will leave feeling showered with love simply by surrounding her with the people who love her (and maybe a cocktail).

I N V I T A T I O N S 

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I ended up going with VistaPrint for my invitations.  I got the best bank for my buck there, and the shower invitation options were endless.  However, I did shop around before settling on the invitation manufacturer.

Wedding Paper Divas was high on the list.  For just $1, they sent me a sample of the shower invitation I was considering so I could get a tangible idea of what exactly I was spending my time and money on.  While they tend to be a bit pricey, if WPD is running a great sale, it’s just about as much as VistaPrint.  Zazzle also had some beautiful options, and are also worth ordering from with a great sale.

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Enclosed with each invitation, I decided to put these sweet recipe cards I ordered from Paper Sushi on Etsy (I did price them out on Vista Print, but with the difference of only a few dollars, I opted to go with these guys.  They were prettier and I would rather give my business to a small shop that sells handmade items like this one!).  I asked our guests to fill out this recipe card and bring it to the shower instead of a card.  This way, our bride can put these to good use rather than feeling obligated to keep a bunch of cards that will sit in a box until the end of time.

 

D E C O R A T I O N S

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Okay, this is a big one.  The aesthetic of your shower is key.  It’s the first thing people see when they walk in and ultimately sets the tone for the day.  I am the very first to admit that I used Pinterest to storyboard my ideas (who doesn’t?).  Pinterest really helped me to bring those visions rolling around in my brain to fruition.

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I found this cute “Bride To Be” sign at TJMaxx for $4 and paired it with an ivory chair cover I purchased at The Christmas Tree Shops for $2.  By simply tacking the ends of this banner to the chair cover, I turned a simple folding chair into the head-of-the-table for our Bride-To-Be.

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The centerpieces were my biggest undertaking, and totally worth it because people made a huge fuss over them.  I got the glass vases from Goodwill during a super sticker sale for only $1 each and filled them with a ton of dollar store glass pebbles (Dollar Tree will truly only charge you $1 per bag).  I got the hydrangeas from Michaels by scouring the clearance/sale section for two months leading up to the big day.  Michaels will also provide a 40% Off coupon every day on their website for one regular price item, so that also saved me a good chunk of change.

The tables were lined with lace-detail plastic tablecloths I got at Michaels on clearance for $2/each, and I covered each food/beverage table with plastic table skirts to keep it all looking clean and organized (secret’s out — there were a ton of extra bags and thing we found we didn’t need hidden beautifully under those tables).

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G A M E S  &  A C T I V I T I E S

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What ended up simultaneously serving as a stellar backdrop for our Bride-To-Be to open her gifts was also a Photo Booth area.  I found a giant gold and white sheer curtain at Goodwill for $6 and tacked it to the wall (I picked a spot that already had a hanging photo to hide any tack holes from being seen once we cleaned up).  I then taped a few gold and white tissue pom-poms I had purchased at various places (BIG mistake I made: I first purchased these from Michaels and Amazon thinking I wouldn’t find them anywhere else and spent way too much money on them.  The best prices were at The Christmas Tree Shops and Dollar Tree…for $1 each).  But the tissue pom-poms ended up hiding the top of the curtain beautifully.  The banner was a Marshalls find in their paper good and stationary section for $7.99.  I also provided a few Photo Booth Props so people could take pictures with their phones.

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So, I cannot tell a lie — given everything I had already planned, I wasn’t into the idea of playing any tacky bridal shower games.  Sure, they’re a great ice breaker, but I didn’t want to go through the ordeal of buying prizes as incentives for the winners.  But the Bride-To-Be had her heart set on playing some games.  So at the 11th hour (and I do mean the 11th hour…I’m talking midnight the night before), I cut up some extra banner letters, recycled some blank envelopes and pulled a Jeopardy game out of my tush.

And I must admit, it was a really fun time.  I’m so glad we had this game to keep the energy of the party alive.  The guests got really into it and I even stumped them with a few questions (toss toss).  In addition to Jeopardy, we also played Bridal Shower Bingo and How Many Kisses?.

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F O O D,  B E V E R A G E S,  &  D E S S E R T

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Because I had planned a Sunday-Early-Afternoon-Shower, one word came to mind: brunch (duh).  So I wanted there to be as many brunch options as possible while still keeping people full for the day.

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There were two waffle irons going for DIY waffles accompanied by Nutella, whipped cream, butter and various syrup options.  Tons of bagels from Bagleman (best bagels in Connecticut) with spread options sat at the opposite end of the table.  And in the middle, there were three different quiche options for guests to enjoy.  I figured quiche satisfied the egg-breakfast craving without having to make trays of scrambled eggs.

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What’s a Bridal Shower Brunch without a little bubbly?  The following table held the Mimosa Bar and Fruit Platter for people to enjoy.  This giant stainless steel bucket that held the Prosecco over ice was found on clearance at Walgreens.  Both the carafes holding the OJ and the plastic champagne glasses were a steal from Dollar Tree.

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The adjacent table to the food held other beverages like coffee, tea, water, iced tea, lemonade, and most of the desserts.  One of the bridesmaids made these amazing “eat me” cookies to accompany our Plastic Tea Cups that had little DIY tags reading “drink me” (our Bride-To-Be has always had a soft spot for Alice in Wonderland).

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Other desserts included a variety of cookies, cupcakes, chocolate walnut banana bread, another fruit platter, and watermelon slices.  Needless to say, we sent a lot of food home with our guests.

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Weddings are stressful.  Showers can be equally as stressful if you don’t plan accordingly (and sometimes even if you do).  But it doesn’t have to cost you your first born child to put something beautiful together.  You just have to know what you’re looking for, set a budget, and ask for help from your fellow bridesmaids.

I will reiterate my best advice for any and all MOH’s getting themselves tangled up in bridal shower planning:  Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Get a good night’s sleep the night before, trust the work you’ve done, and let it be what it’s going to be.  Your bride will love what you do because she loves you and your friendship, which is why you were chosen to be her Maid of Honor.

Oh, and put on some good music.  People love a party with good music.

tj maxx, you should go

lifestyle

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.

sweet pot noodles

lifestyle

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!

whole30

lifestyle

A few days ago, I posted about a really amazing breakfast bowl recipe I concocted on a whim during the final days of my first Whole30 challenge.  Well that challenge ends today!  For anybody who may be unfamiliar, the Whole30 challenges you to eliminate all heavily processed food for thirty days.  This includes all grains (bread, rice, etc.), dairy products (milk, cheese – ugh.), legumes (peanuts, corn, beans), unnatural added sugars, many saturated oils, and alcohol (yup, you read that correctly).  It’s main purpose is to train your body to “eat clean” for thirty days, then incorporate foods you used to eat back into your diet to see what affects you after you’ve reset.

I have struggled with my eating habits since I was thirteen years old and noticed my metabolism wasn’t as rapid as a prepubescent.  I tried the crash diets in high school, college, and from time to time since moving to the city.  Especially being exposed to many different routines in Manhattan, it’s easy to get wrapped up in a quick-fix solution.  But the Whole30 Challenge is no quick-fix, it’s a lifestyle change.

My biggest reservation about challenging myself was the fear that my self-control would get the better of me.  Luckily, I had already made many changes over the past three years in my diet – I’ve spent months going gluten-free, switched to almond milk in my lattes, and spent a great deal cooking with coconut oil.  My struggle over the past twenty-seven days has been to avoid drinking alcohol.  Not because I’m an alcoholic but, let’s face it, amongst the top ten phrases out of New Yorker’s mouths is, “Hey, wanna grab a drink?”

Today I’m sharing with you the things that helped me get through these past thirty days unscathed and without a cheat day to be had:

Sweet Potatoes

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Excuse my language, but I fucking love sweet potatoes.  And guess what?  You can have as many as you damn well please on the Whole30.  You wanna bake a potato and put some salt and pepper on it?  You wanna mash em up and pretend like you’re eating a Thanksgiving dinner? You wanna make yourself some sweet potato fries at home? Live. Your. Life (but use coconut oil…).  Truthfully, the Whole30 allows you to eat white potatoes in moderation, but sweet potatoes are just straight up better for you.

Almond Butter

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This stuff saved me from going out of my mind during this challenge.  When I moved her in 2014, I became a crunchy peanut butter girl (Smuckers’ Natural PB if we’re getting specific).  I put peanut butter on everything, so when Whole30 told me I couldn’t eat peanuts (they’re a legume, not a nut), I didn’t know what I was going to do.  Justin’s Classic Almond Butter is a perfect choice – there’s no added sugar, the ingredients consist of only Palm Oil and Almonds.  Some will argue that the 2g of sugar on the nutrition label violate the Whole30 sugar intake.  They’re wrong.  The nutrition label and the ingredients are two very different entities.  If added sugars are in your ingredients, it’s off-limits.  If no sugar is added but natural sugars appear on your nutrition label, you’re safe.

Smoothies & Acai Bowls

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While the Whole30 strongly urges you to avoid substitutions, we all have a sweet tooth we need to appease.  Through the moments of wanting a milkshake or sorbet, I whipped out my Nutribullet at home and made this challenge drastically easier for myself.   I also found myself at Juice Generation daily (who am I kidding? I lived there before this challenge too).  As long as you know exactly what they’re putting in your smoothie, you’re in the clear.  Same goes for their acai bowls – I avoid the hemp granola garnish like the plague.  It tastes too sweet, and I don’t need it.  Acai bowls are also a lot of fun to make at home because you know what you’re putting into your smoothie, and ultimately, your body.  If I wanted to make the above recipe (which you can find here), I can be enjoying something sweet in minutes.

Avocado

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Do you love guacamole? Fabulous.  Have at it on this challenge.  Guacamole, if made correctly, is naturally gluten-free and vegan.  I personally like to use bell peppers and sweet potatoes as a substitute for chips and make my guacamole at home.  I found my recipe here on Official Whole30 Recipes Instagram.  I also added avocado to my smoothies for consistency, and pretty much topped all my meals off with it, because I have a healthy addiction to avocado.

Bareburger

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I wanted to include at least one “going-out” restaurant because making every single meal at home when you live in Manhattan is just not ideal.  The Whole30 creators understand that and have made adjustments to their rules to accommodate eating out.  My personal favorite is Bareburger.  These restaurants are scattered throughout all the boroughs of New York City and will easily accommodate your dietary restrictions.  They have many ingredients listed on their menu and pride themselves on being a very natural establishment.  My personal go-to is the turkey burger on a collard green wrap with spinach, mushrooms and guacamole.

Bottom line, when it comes to any challenge, you have to want to do it.  If you’re considering Whole30, you won’t complete it if you let your doubts or cravings drown out your desire to change your eating habits.  It’s only 30 days – it sounds like a lot, but it flies.  I know my relationship with food is very different than it was 30 days ago.  I am excited to move forward knowing how food affects my body, and furthermore, knowing that I was able to complete this challenge for myself, even when I thought I couldn’t.

my landmarks

Uncategorized

Starting this Friday, I’ll be taking a twelve-day vacation from my job.  I need to rejuvenate and relax; take a step back from my city and my every-day life.  Part of my vacation will be spent in Boston, a city I have never had the pleasure of exploring as an adult.

I’ve been asking friends who have lived there to give me some of their favorite go-to places.  I considered looking up the best spots to visit online, but I’m not interested in being a tourist.  Today I was reflecting on how much better it would be to share in places that are memorable to the natives of a city than their traditional “landmarks.”  I then realized, even after living here for over three years, I haven’t been to many of the landmarks that are often deemed crucial to a true New York City experience.  Instead, I have my landmarks that make this city so special to me; places I would recommend any day over your typical “must-sees” in Manhattan.

So I’ve decided to share ten of them with you.

1.  Bryant Park | W 40th & 6th Avenue

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I fell in love with Bryant Park when I was in high school and my mom took me to see Broadway in Bryant Park one summer weekday in 2008.  It was small, yet beautiful, and could accommodate an entire stage full of Broadway stars and their fans to watch from the lawn.  They have a gorgeous carousel in the midst of it all; not to mention the beautiful giant fountain as you enter from Sixth Avenue.

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Since moving here, I have spent many days sitting at one of their tables on a Spring day,  drinking an iced tea from Pax across the street, and reading a book.  Over the holidays, they transform the lawn into an ice-skating rink, and set up small, private shops around the perimeter to avoid letting this beautiful park sit idle during the holidays.

2.  Stumptown Coffee Roasters | W 8th & Washington Square West

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I’ve already written an entire post about my love for Hamilton Heights’ The Chipped Cup, (which, if you missed it, can be read here).  So, rather than bore you with those details again, I’d rather talk about another favorite Manhattan coffeeshop of mine.  Stumptown Coffee Roasters in the West Village is a cozy and simple, with a delicious latte to match.  It’s tucked away in the midst of West 8th street, right past Sixth Avenue.

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I have spent many an afternoon there, mostly after my barre classes which are steps away at barre3 West Village.  It also kept me alive during the run of a show I worked on at the Minetta Lane Theatre last Spring.  Bless you, Stumptown.  Your nitro cold brew and bearded baristas will always keep us coming back.

3.  Harlem Public | W 149th & Broadway

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Oh, H.P., where do I even start with you?  Harlem Public was the very first restaurant I dined at in Hamilton Heights.  It was the summer before I made the big move to Manhattan, and some friends who lived close by took me here for lunch.  The cocktails, the sandwiches, the outdoor seating – it is all fabulous.  This was the beginning of every Hamilton Heights resident’s dream come true.hp02

On Broadway between 148th and 149th, H.P. now sits along what has become a strip of amazing eateries including (my favorite) The Chipped Cup, At The Wallace, The Handpulled Noodle, and their newest addition, The Honeywell.

4.  DOUGH | W 19th & 5th Avenue

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My first roommate in Manhattan was doughnut-obsessed.  At the time, I enjoyed a good doughnut but, truthfully, my knowledge was pretty limited to that of Dunkin Donuts and Entimmens.  In case you missed the train like I did, you do not know real doughnuts until you’ve hit a place like Dough.

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After you’ve experience a true doughnut, you will never touch one from Dunkin again (okay, never say never, but they don’t stand a chance against one of these babies^).  The Chelsea shop is perfectly located to pick up your doughnut and enjoy a beautiful day sitting in Union Square.  It will rock your world.

5.  Jacob’s Pickles | W 84th & Amsterdam Avenue

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Let’s play two truths and a lie – Jacob’s Pickles on the Upper West Side has some of the best cocktails in Manhattan, only serves variations of pickles as food, and caught fire about a month ago closing it down until further notice.

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Unfortunately for the Upper West Siders, the beloved southern-style restaurant known for, not only its pickles, but its biscuits, brunch and cocktails is closed until further notice after the building next-door caught fire earlier this month, damaging the restaurant.  But that won’t take it off my landmark list.  Jacob’s Pickles was introduced to me shortly after my move to Manhattan as a must-eat, must-drink, must-experience restaurant.  Their brunch, in particular, is to die for.  Luckily, to curb our cravings in their absence, is Jacob’s new sister store Maison Pickle.  I cannot speak for this new establishment, but I hope in due time I can pay them a visit and savor a little bit of Jacob until he’s back in action.

6.  Washington Square Park

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love this place – plain and simple.  It’s small enough to enjoy every inch, but big enough to find your quiet space.  Over the summer, there will always be live music or vendors, but the vibe is never dull.

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I was lucky enough to take in Washington Square Park for the first time last Spring to hear Senator Bernie Sanders speak (I bet if you look real hard in this photo, you can see my little blonde head).  It was amazing to return there the next day and see how different the park was.  After that experience, I would go out of my way to walk through Washington Square just to take in the day (and to also feel the residual Bern).

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7.  The Grey Dog | E 12th & University Place

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I have an infinite addiction to conversation and the breakfast quesadilla at The Grey Dog on University Place.  This is my go-to spot to meet up with one of my closest friends, Danielle, when we just want to lay out our week and eat our feelings.

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You can take it to go, or take a seat – the vibes are super chill here.  They love U-Mich (University of Michigan), cut pumpkin pie slices the size of your head, and have about eight different kinds of bread to put your sandwich on.  Personal recommendations include the Breakfast Quesadilla, the Turkey, Apple and Brie Sando, and The Guacamole & Bacon Grilled Cheese (which has delicious Wisconsin cheese curds on it).

8.  Sprinkles Cupcakes | E 60th & Lexington

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As a West Side gal, I never found myself on the East Side of Manhattan until I started working on 59th and Park Avenue about a year into my life here.  I was rapidly acclimated to the area, and looked forward to Sunday evenings with work buddies when we would grab a burger at Pig n’ Whistle and a cupcake from Sprinkles before heading back to the theater.  It became a ritual.

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Yes, you are seeing that correctly.  That, my friends, is a Cupcake ATM.  It actually dispenses cupcakes.  You can also get most flavors in vegan and gluten free for anyone with serious allergies or choice dietary restrictions.  Oh, and there’s a Sprinkles Ice Cream Shop right next door.

9.  Blockheads | W. 49th & 8th Avenue at New World Plaza

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My first industry job in Manhattan was working for the Off-Broadway musical Heathers at New Wold Stages in 2014.  For the first few months, I didn’t realize what was happening above our heads at New World Plaza where Blockheads and its sister-store Mother Burger live in a promenade, until it became heavily populated as summer approached.

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I have made many memories and inhaled many margaritas at this place.  There are a few other locations scattered across Manhattan, but what makes New World Plaza’s Blockheads special (besides their $5 margaritas), is the outdoor experience.  Be warned, the food isn’t great – I highly recommend their crunchy tacos, and the list ends there.

10.  The Jeffrey Craft Beers & Bites | E 60th & 2nd Avenue

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This last one’s a little bit of a plug, but roll with me.  One of my very best friends has been the morning barista at The Jeffrey for the past three months.  Again, I’m a West Side gal, so hiking over to the very edge of Manhattan’s East Side is no picnic for me.  But I will gladly make that trek to sit at The Jeffrey.  Believe me, it’s mostly for the kindness and warmth of my barista friend, Gerardo, who brings such vibrancy to this place.  But The Jeffrey has everything – coffee, food, beer, liquor, heart.  

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It might be because they let me redo their “Coffee Bar” board.  It might be because they have a slammin’ Green Bean Salad.  And it very well may be because the artist currently painting a mural on their dining room wall is super attractive.  Either way, I love this place.  It is so special and encompasses how you can find the most charming places where you least expect them to be.

We should all have our landmarks, no matter how big or small the city, town, or state we live in.  We may discover new spaces, new landmarks, from time to time, but the ones that matter will always stick; for they make our home a home.

the whole bowl

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To kick off the month of March, I decided to shift my eating habits and take a crack at the Whole30 experience.  In case you’re unfamiliar, the Whole30 challenges you to eliminate all heavily processed food for thirty days.  This includes all grains (bread, rice, etc.), dairy products (milk, cheese – ugh.), legumes (peanuts, corn, beans), unnatural added sugars, many saturated oils, and alcohol (yup, you read that correctly).

My thirty days will be up at the end of this week, and I can’t wait to share with you all my experience with this challenge.  But until then, I would like to share my recipe for a wonderful breakfast bowl I made today using my Nurtibullet and some fruit from my local grocery store.

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blended ingredients:

1 frozen banana

1 cup frozen raspberries

1/4 avocado

2 tsp Justin’s natural almond butter

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

garnish:

chopped walnuts

sliced banana & strawberries

frozen raspberries

1 tsp Justin’s natural almond butter

If you couldn’t tell, I love Justin’s Natural Almond Butter, or really any unsweetened almond butter.  And using frozen fruit is an amazing way to satisfy the inevitable sweet cravings we have when we eliminate processed sugars from our diet.

Stay tuned for my complete journey on the Whole30 Challenge later this week!