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

net worth = six dollars + $2.99 shipping

personal

A year ago, almost to the day, an envelope arrived at my home in Connecticut (creepy) from a student named “Jackie” asking if I would sign my autograph on the enclosed blank sheets of paper for a “Broadway Autograph Collection” project at her school called “Monte Special Education School.”

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Obviously, I was smart enough to recognize that this wasn’t legit.  The handwriting was very clearly written by an adult trying to disguise themselves as a child.  Better yet, it was stamped with the name of the school, which I promptly looked up along with the return address and discovered did not exist but, hey, it was flattering that some random human walking around this world wanted my autograph.

I sat on sending something back; on the off-chance that all the conclusions I had drawn were wrong and this was in fact a student named Jackie from a Special Education school asking me to participate in their Broadway project and I did not respond, I would have felt badly (not that I would have ever found out).  Also, at least one of my ensemble girls had also received the same letter, and felt comfortable sending something back,  so I threw them a bone, and I signed the signature I was using on the CATS company posters (not my signature for legit documents, credit cards, etc., because that would be foolish).

To be completely honest, I forgot this even happened.  In a weird series of events, I happened to google myself this morning in hopes of adding some undiscovered gems to my website.  If you Google “Tara Llewellyn Actress” the third result that comes up on Page 2 is this:

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A recently expired eBay listing of my very professional signature (equipped with a small heart and all) available for $6.00 (plus $2.99 shipping) sold by prettyboy45220, an eBay member since 2003 (I find it impressive that Jackie is experienced enough to have had an eBay account since Outkast’s “Hey Ya” was number one on the charts and can still manage to snag a spot in Monte Special Education school’s Class of 2017).

Mama Llew and I haven’t stopped laughing for the last half hour.  Thank you, prettyboy45220, for not only giving me a chuckle today but an inevitable title for a chapter in my forthcoming memoir somewhere down the line in my career.

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”

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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”

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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

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.