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

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.

tony

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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.

my landmarks

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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!

chipped

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Alright, let’s be blunt: I love coffeeshops.  Unless I am desperate, you will never catch me with a Starbucks cup in hand.  I have an unhealthy addiction to my morning latte, and it all started at one beautifully quaint coffeeshop on 149th and Broadway.

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If you know anything about me, you know that for the past three years I have lived in four different apartments, seven different theaters and one coffeeshop called The Chipped Cup.  I discovered my love for mom and pop coffeeshops about nine months after my move to Hamilton Heights when I met a friend there for breakfast.  Their coffee is incredible, that’s a given; but privately-owned coffeeshops are so much more than their coffee.  The serenity that comes from being in a cozy, unique environment is such a special find in this loud and vivacious city.  Very rarely can we revisit a space outside the confines of our own that fill the warmth and peace that a small coffeeshop provides.

Looking back, I have made more memories, conversation, and artistic endeavors sitting in that coffeeshop than most other places in Manhattan.  I collaborated on my first pilot there.  I played catch up with a friend for six hours at the wobbly table in front of their bar.  I spent the afternoon there before my one woman show talking out dialogue kinks with my director and compressing my nerves.  I fell apart about my frustration with my career to my best friend at a table surrounded by their packed rush one Saturday afternoon.  I have brought many a friend there to share the warmth and familiarity this place provides for me.

People are always asking me why I pour so much time and, subsequently, money into this place.  It’s not about the coffee (although they make a mean latte).  It’s about the space they’ve created amongst the strip of 149th and Broadway that keeps me coming back.

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spring

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Spring has grown on me immensely since I moved to New York.  I think the winters have become so bitter that we ache for Spring to arrive as soon as humanly possible.  As a New Yorker, you’re way more exposed to the outdoors, so the seasons matter a bit more.  March especially has always been the toughest month because, year after year, it can never figure out what it wants to be.  Sometimes it snows, sometimes it rains, some days it’s 62 degrees and the next I’m pulling out my parka.

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I think my favorite part of any season changing, is the changeover of my closet.   It’s such a tangible representation of the anticipated change coming out of one long season into the next.  We’ve grown so restless for something different that we welcome the changing seasons with open arms.  There’s something so miraculous about what the warmth brings to our every day mood.

I am ever-changing with the seasons, and am welcoming Spring with open arms.

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