A trip to Texas Hill Country

Although I already reached my goal of taking 12 trips in 2016, I just can’t seem to stop travelling! Two weeks ago I packed my bags again and hopped on a plane (weirdly my first flight since March!) and flew out to visit my sister in the hill country of Texas.

Although I lived in Texas for six years and have visited frequently since leaving in 2008, I had only been to the small city of San Marcos once before, for a wedding many years ago. I was so excited to explore with a local and see what this place has to offer.

Brunch at The Root Cellar, San Marcos, Texas

Our first order of business, naturally, was brunch. Ally and her best friend Angelica took me to their favorite spot, where I scarfed down as much French toast as I could handle and then marveled at the $13 check. Definitely not in New York anymore!

Texas State University

A tour of Texas State University was necessary, and I have to say it was really fun being back on a college campus! Especially because classes just started THIS week, so there were very few people around as we explored, and the clearance section of the bookstore hadn’t been raided.

San Marcos, Texas

Seriously, San Marcos is just the cutest place – we kept coming back to the square for more food, coffee, shopping and ice cream.

Donuts from Shipley

As usual, this trip was all about the food for me. I demanded trips to Torchy’s for tacos and Shipley for donuts, much to the amusement of my sister and her friends, who eat these delicious treats on a regular basis.

San Marcos River

As you  may have noticed, it was overcast and rainy for my entire trip. A real bummer, since San Marcos is very much an outdoor town! I wanted to go tubing in the river but the weather never cooperated, so I settled for a walking tour on my last evening in town. I seriously felt like I was in a country song!

Greetings from San Marcos, Texas

San Marcos, you’ve won me over. Until next time!

P.S. You can read A’s take on my home on her blog today!

Currently: August 2016

 

San Francisco-style building on the Lower East Side, New York City

I love this building on the Lower East Side – it reminds me of San Francisco!

It’s August! I’m actually really excited for this month – some people I love are celebrating birthdays, the summer excitement is still in the air but the promise of cooler weather is looming, and I have some exciting travels coming up – more exciting than New Jersey and Long Island, I promise. Here’s what I’ve been up to for the last 30 days!

Reading: I finished Americanah this morning, and I loved it, but was super disappointed in the ending. I have a couple “easy” reads lined up next.

Wearing: It’s been too hot and humid lately to wear anything but shorts (or skirts, to the office) and cotton tops.

Buying: Just ice cream, mostly. (See: Way too hot outside. I’ve definitely become a hardened New Yorker!)

Listening to: I recently discovered the Best of Friends podcast and have been listening to old episodes on my commutes, especially when election coverage sends me running from NPR (I love NPR and their coverage, but sometimes you just need some humor in your day!)

Eating: Lots and lots of salads and fruit. I was REALLY proud of this fruit tray I put together for the opening ceremonies!

Watching: Mostly re-watching old shows for the summer (FriendsGrey’s Anatomy, Parks and Rec), and getting SO excited for the Gilmore Girls revival in November!

Planning: My sister is doing most of the planning for this, but I’m going to visit her in Texas NEXT week! And then I’m heading upstate for Labor Day – but again, letting my friends do the planning. I think I wore myself out planning trips earlier in the year!

Excited for: TONS of travel, my best friend’s birthday this week, seeing my sister for the first time in over a year, picnics, my best friend from college visiting in October, etc etc etc

Books read: 25/52

Trips taken: 12/12 – That’s right, I’M FINISHED! But not really. I can’t wait to see how high this number gets before January!

And how is YOUR August going?

World Trade Center, New York City, at sunset

A self-guided tour of Lower Manhattan’s ice cream shops

During the dog days of summer in NYC, it feels like there’s a new ice cream shop opening every weekend, and they all have a gimmick: They roll their ice cream, they shave their ice cream, they serve their ice cream with marshmallows or gold flakes or potato chips. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and you can let that feeling drive you to the bodega for a classic pint of Ben & Jerry’s – or you can dive right into the world of New York’s boutique ice cream shops.

When Emmie and I realized our list of places to try was growing exponentially, we decided that the only way to make a dent was to visit more than one at a time. So on Sunday, we put on our loosest clothing, feasted on carbs in preparation (it soaks up the dairy, probably) and ventured out in the rain to five of the trendiest, most Instagram-able ice cream spots in Lower Manhattan. Here’s what we discovered.

Magnum bar at Magnum Store in Soho, New York City

Magnum NYC Store

In this beautiful space – it’s seriously so bright and classy – you can customize your own Magnum bar. For only $7, you get a chocolate or vanilla bar dipped in chocolate (dark, milk or white), sprinkled with three toppings and drizzled with more chocolate. And then you can blast it on social media using the decorated light boxes that are everywhere you turn. The Magnum Store knows what the people want.

I opted for a vanilla ice cream bar dipped in milk chocolate, covered in mint chocolate chips, mini marshmallows and gold flakes, and drizzled with white chocolate. In case you were wondering.

Strawberry balsamic ice cream at Morgenstern's, New York City

Morgenstern’s

Our next stop was perhaps our most traditional of the day. Rather than crazy concoctions and presentation, Morgenstern’s is known for their adventurous flavors. I had the strawberry balsamic (strawberry is my favorite flavor, but I knew I had to branch out a bit here) and Emmie had green tea pistachio – both of which we highly recommend!

Mango ice cream at 10Below, Lower East Side, New York CityMango ice cream at 10Below, Lower East Side, New York City

10Below (Lower East Side location)

If you’ve been on Instagram in the past few months, you know 10Below. Here, cream and toppings are transformed into ice cream before your very eyes, and then rolled and placed into cups, just waiting to be Instagrammed. It was fascinating to watch the employee beat nothing but cream, mango chunks and strawberries into what became a creamy and delicious treat. I can speak highly of the mango flavor, and Emmie loved the Oreos variety, although another friend mentioned she wasn’t a fan of the Oreos when she visited. This place is a MUST if novelty is at all important to you when picking an ice cream spot.

Shaved cream at Snowdays, East Village, New York City

Snowdays (East Village location)

Snowdays specializes in “shaved cream,” which as far as I can tell, is ice cream with the texture of shaved ice. The portions here are HUGE, so Emmie and I decided to split a regular (small isn’t an option!) We opted for NY cheesecake flavor with rainbow sprinkles and blueberries (because it seemed like a good time to start caring about our health). The shaved cream was delicious, but the absolute highlight for both of us was the spoons: They change color when they’re cold!

Soft serve and friends at Chloe's, Union Square, New York City

Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co.

I admit, this was a nostalgic choice for us rather than an adventurous one: Emmie and I met here in July 2014! This whole day was a celebration of our friendship and the shared love of frozen treats that brought us together. Chloe’s is one of my absolute favorite places, bias aside: It’s delicious AND healthy! I ended our adventure with strawberry soft serve – no toppings, because my stomach was DONE – and Emmie had mango with kiwis. Wonderful, as always.

Some notes:

  • This ended up being an excellent order to go in: Not only is it a relatively sensible walk (straight east, then straight north), but the ice cream really goes from heavy and extravagant to simple and light.
  • Sunday started out as a rainy day, so we got lucky and didn’t have to fight crowds. Some of these places – particularly Magnum and 10Below – are notorious for lines that wind around their blocks. We didn’t wait more than five minutes anywhere.
  • Eating ice cream all day makes one crave salt. We ended up at Friterie in the East Village shoving fries into our mouths, in between 10Below and Snowdays. Don’t judge.
  • We really, truly loved all of these spots! For more dessert and NYC recommendations, check out my delightful guide to New York City.

What’s your favorite ice cream spot in New York City?

Catching up via Instagram: 7/17/2016

In between getting settled at a new job and taking a slew of day trips (to Philadelphia of course, and to the beach pretty much every weekend), I’ve also been having a lot of fun hanging around New York City! There are always a million options for things to do in the summer, and I’m trying to take advantage of as many of them as possible. Here’s a little glimpse at the start of the season…

Fourth of July at Rockaway Beach

For the Fourth of July, I booked it out to Rockaway Beach for the day with a big group of friends and an even bigger American flag to stage photos with. It was the very first holiday since I left the 24-hour news industry, and I loved being able to celebrate without half a mind on work.

Cookie from Momofuku Milk Bar, New York City

My friend Sara came to visit from Chicago, and somehow our casual lunch turned into a food tour of the East Village. This cookie is from Milk Bar, and we also ate at S’mac. Other NYC suggestions here! 

Freedom Tower at nightSunset from the Upper East Side, ManhattanMidtown ManhattanFreedom TowerWashington Square Park archRainy sunset in Crown Heights, BrooklynGrace Church, New York CityUnion Square, New York CitySunset over lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge

Sorry not sorry that I’ve been here over two years and I still stop to photograph pretty buildings and sunsets.

Cocktails at Please Don't Tell, New York City

When my friend Chelsea wanted to spontaneously drop into the speakeasy Please Don’t Tell, I balked – it has a reputation for being impossible to get into. But to my surprise, we didn’t wait long on a Friday evening and enjoyed some delicious cocktails!

New York Philharmonic at Central ParkSummer sunset at Central Park

One of my favorite summer adventures so far was going to see the New York Philharmonic play in Central Park. They do a summer park series every year and it was great to picnic with friends, watch the sunset, hear the music and even see fireworks after.

 

Eating through Cold Spring

I spent a grand total of about two hours in Cold Spring, New York, and I managed to eat an absurd amount of food in that amount of time. Turns out hiking makes you hungry! Not only that, but everything was delicious. Here are my recommendations for a day in this small town – I can’t wait to go back and eat even more!

Brunch at Hudson Hil's Cafe, Cold Spring, New York

Hudson Hil’s

Our first order of business after making it off the mountain was obviously brunch. We went to Hudson Hil’s, were immediately seated (something a group of ten New Yorkers was definitely not used to) and ate our weight in food. I can definitely recommend the French toast – and, yes, that is a beer. I deserved it.

Cold Spring Candy Co. in Cold Spring, New York

Cold Spring Candy Co.

We then made our way to the Cold Spring Emporium, where a group of us was immediately distracted by the free fudge tasting! I left the candy store with a huge piece of peanut butter fudge, enough to last me a full week. This place is the definition of small-town charm – the owner is also a guitar dealer across the way, and pops back and forth between his shops!

Ice cream parlor in Cold Spring, New YorkIce cream parlor in Cold Spring, New YorkIce cream parlor in Cold Spring, New York

The Village Scoop

Conveniently located right next to the train station, this ice cream parlor made the perfect last stop on our day trip. The ice cream isn’t anything to write home about, but it was delicious enough, and the parlor is adorable. Also, they’re cash only – which reminds me, I owe my best friend five bucks…