See the city like a local on your next vacation

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

vayable

I’m in a constant state of wanderlust, so when I heard about Vayable, a website that allows you to book and offer themed city tours, I was all set to pack up my suitcase and “Experience Bohemian Paris!” Oh wait, that requires a plane. Fine then, I would settle for something a little closer to home: “A Hipster Tour of Williamsburg!”

I set out to experience my first Vayable tour and first time exploring the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. My only reservation about the tour was the idea of showing up on a random street corner to meet a stranger. The tension was alleviated when I met Macie, my tour guide, who explained that all tour guides go through an intense screening process, complete with a Skype interview, “The questions are very personal,” she assured me, “it couldn’t just be a [ro]bot on the other end.”

Macie knew the area well and easily adapted the tour for my interests, taking me to a popular coffee joint where the beans are roasted in house and recommending the Café Mocha, because it was made with locally crafted chocolate, and going to The Whiskey Brooklyn to throw down picklebacks (a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice,) which originated in Williamsburg. We even discovered a pop-up vintage spot together that had to-die-for frocks from the 50s and 70s in perfect condition.

The beauty of Vayable is that you don’t necessarily have to be traveling far to sign up for a tour; you can discover new things in your own city. “You get to meet a lot of interesting people,” said Macie, who was considering going on a Vayable coffee tour during her upcoming trip to Quito, Ecuador.

Launched April 2011, Vayable CEO Jamie Wong was eager to connect travelers to natives that could give them an authentic taste of the city. The idea was inspired by an experience she had in Morocco, meeting a shopkeeper that took her on the trip of a lifetime through the Sahara Dessert. I can relate: during a trip of my own in Amalfi, Italy, my friends and I went back and forth trying to decide if we really wanted to fork over 40 euros for a boat tour around the island. Instead, we ended up on the private boat of an older gentleman who whisked us around in his motorboat for nominal fee and told us stories of the island that could only come from a resident (not to mention he let us drive the boat.) Lesson learned: there is always value in learning from the locals.

What to Buy if You Missed Out on the Isabel Marant for H&M Collection

Friday, November 15, 2013

Embodiment of the phrase “effortless style” and designer to every cool looking girl in France, Isabel Marant has had new and old fans alike counting the days until her coveted collection for H&M launched. Select stores in the US opened their doors this morning to lines of fashionistas waiting to snag the designer’s duds at a fraction of the cost of her regular collection, where a knit sweater is in the $500 range.

Something made me crazy enough to stop in to H&M in Times Square (which also opened it’s doors for the first time at midnight with a ribbon cutting ceremony overseen by Lady Gaga) at 9am today on my way to the office. Surprisingly, there was still product left after 9 hours of consumers ravaging the store. The basics all had the perfect slouchy-sexy look that Marant has perfected so well and were reasonable priced. Other duds just didn’t feel worth it–like these studded heels I was initially excited about, but would never pay $200 for H$M shoes. Despite some of the overpriced pieces, like the embellished tweed cropped jacket that oozes Marant’s style, the collection sold out in stores and online in a matter of hours and left angry online shoppers in a virtual queue to check out, and then informed them everything had sold out.

While I’m sure people will be making their returns over the next 7 days (as is the collection’s return policy) and items will inevitably appear on eBay, here are a few pieces you can shop for right now that will give you the same je ne sais quoi!

lame_tank
Left, Isabel Marant for H&M, $69.95; J. Crew Collection, $98

fringe_earrings
Left, Isabel Marant for H&M, $24.95; Ali NY via Max and Chloe, $60

aztec_sweater
Left, Isabel Marant for H&M (Men’s), $129; Max & Mia from Nordstrom, $98

fringe_boots
Left, Isabel Marant for H&M, $299; Isola ‘Antonella’ Boot from Nordstrom, $139.95

sweatpants
Left, Isabel Marant for H&M, $59.95; Noisy May from Asos, $49.83

marled_sweatshirt
Left, Isabel Marant for H&M, $59.95; Sanctuary Studded Crewneck from Nordstrom; $79

Get shopping! And if you’re wondering, I treated myself to the gold lame scarf

Good Read: The Shining Girls

Sunday, September 29, 2013

shining_girls

A serial killer on the loose through time, an enchanted house bursting with answers, a girl haunted by her past and determined to control her future, and a city bursting with change and stories. Lauren Beukes’ third novel marks her as an author that shines. The mark of a good novel is in the detail–the details so specific and real that you almost feel you know too much about the character, the setting, the plot–but just enough that you feel well-informed but not over acquainted.

Meet Kirby. Kirby is your first acquaintance, a young girl with a wild imagination that grows into a wild ambition, an ambition to hunt the man who tried to kill her. A twentysomething Kirby finds herself tied up in a plot thicker than she ever expected as she searches for clues about her attacker in old police files and newspaper clippings, pulling a host of characters along with her to aid in the pursuit.

Meanwhile, her attacker seeks out other bright women, like a wild dog hunting it’s prey, sniffing them out among decades and crowds, following them through childhood into their adult lives.

Beukes’s thriller will paralyze you with fear, make your heart lurch with excitement, and maybe even teach you a little something about the 90s alternative music scene and some Chicago history. What!? Yeah, all that in under 400 pages. Shining Girls: 1. Serial Killer: 0.

Idée fixe: Roses

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Idée fixe: French for “fixed idea,” this term was originally used to describe recurring themes in music and literature. Later, it became a psychological term for a preoccupation or prolonged obsession. This is what I’m fixating on now.

 

Once only thought of in modern day fashions for Spring, roses, the flower full of symbolism in many cultures as far back as the Classical Era (in Roman times, “under the rose” meant to keep a secret) is now making a modern comeback–as a beauty elixir, a print on denim, and in food and drink, and I’m falling for the classic beauty.

For centuries, roses have been used in beauty products as an olfactory ingredient, but now their calming and moisturizing properties are coming to fruition as they take on another role in skin care.

I first fell in love with rose water while living in Italy and spotted the elegant Florentine formulated blue bottle at the Farmacia and decided to try it out as a toner. H. Roberts and Co. Acqua Distallata alle Rose is both calming and refreshing on skin, first thing in the morning or right before bed. The scent is amazing and I wi

When I discovered Rose Cleansing Foam from Fresh, I was immediately reminded of my favorite rose toner and soon I saw roses blooming everywhere!
rose
Printed denim is swimming in the delicate petals, but I opted for the Nike Floral Pro Bazaar Tight, a sporty take on floral pants, that I’m just as apt to wear to the gym as I am for a day of browsing the farmer’s market.

In addition, roses petals are being ingested more than ever. The tasty petals flavored my macaron a few weeks ago at my favorite Parisian patisserie– Lauderee (thank goodness they are now in NYC too!) Try it in cupcakes too, with this tasty recipe for Rose Vanilla cupcakes from Williams-Sonoma.

Tummy grumbling? Try rosehip tea, which is known to aid in digestion.

Easy White Bean Hummus

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I’m famous for my crazy unplanned, unmeasured hummus mashups. Everyone is always impressed by the tasty bean spreads, but they are seriously the easiest thing EVER. You’ll need a food processor, but that’s about as complicated as it gets! I’m still using a food processor that my parents got as a wedding present almost 3o years ago, so don’t fret if you don’t have a fancy appliance–anything works!

You’ll need:

-1 can Cannellini beans
-1 tsp. tahini
-pinch of Sea Salt
-fresh lemon juice to taste
-sprinkle of Harissa
-Sicilian blend spices to taste
-1 clove fresh garlic, grated

hummus
Strain liquids from beans and rinse (I highly recommend getting one of this adorable little can strainers, pictured above, if you are going to make hummus a lot–it it the least messy way to strain, and it’s quick to clean!)

garlic
Grate clove of garlic using a garlic plate (these are also an amazing tool for hummus-makers) or a garlic press.

lemon
Toss ingredients into food processor, squeeze in lemon juice, and blend until smooth.

final
Ta da! People will be impressed, I swear.

Good Read: The Vatican Diaries

Sunday, April 14, 2013

vatican diariesFor the number of religions and religious and spiritual groups in the world, one group seems to attract more attention than others. The media has long since been fascinated with the Catholic Church–scandal or not. All eyes have been on Vatican City recently, first for Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI’s retirement, then the election of the new pope–the conclave, and the official induction ceremony. Now every move the chosen pontiff, Pope Francis, former Cardinal Jorge Bergiglio, makes, has people turning heads. Washing the feet of a woman and people of different denominations at Holy Thursday service, blessing a guide dog at his first press conference, lifting a young American boy with cerebral palsy from his mother’s arms and kiss him on the head during an audience.

Since his induction on March 19, attention has not left the seat of power, and many media outlets have been spinning the new Bishop of Rome as the one who will bring transparency and honesty to the church.

In a new book by veteran Vatican journalist John Thavis, it’s revealed that the inner workings of the church may not be as secret as many think–one just needs to know where to look. Thavis takes readers inside the walls of the Vatican to reveal things that stand to humanize the church that is seen as such a superpower. He shares his experiences, observations and opinions gained from almost three decades of covering the Vatican, from flying on the papal plane to the sex abuse scandals, Thavis stirs up some Vatican events that many have forgotten, others that were covered from every angle, and some that probably went unheard by the vast public until now.

The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the- Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church is a recommended read for every Catholic, every journalist, or anyone with a taste for history, humor and a dose of reality.

Good Read: The Silver Star

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jeannette Walls’ 2005 bestseller The Glass Castle has been translated into 22 languages and was read by just about everyone I know: my grandmother, my mom, my best friends (male and female,) and every book club in town. I stocked up on extra copies just so I could give them away to anyone who said they hadn’t read it. It is THAT good.

Her follow-up novel, the semi-biographical Half Broke Horses (2009) portrayed her grandmother’s story, another heart wrenching tale of growing up in a tumultuous and at times unbelievable world. I tore through this one just as fast as Glass Castle and relished its Little House on the Prairie goes badass quality.

Now, Walls debuts her first purely fictional work, The Silver Star, told from the perspective of a girl on the brink of teenage-hood in the 70s, with a stardom seeking mother who leaves for undetermined amounts of time, leaving her two daughters with frozen chicken pot pies to hold them over until she returns. In the absence of their mother, the girls must take their lives into their own hands and discover their mother’s past while determining their own futures.

Out in June, The Silver Star is a perfect read for your summer vaca—hilarious and serious, deep yet light at the same time. This is the next book that you’ll be farming out to your friends after you’re done!

My Favorite Travel Moments

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I have been reading a lot of travel lit lately, partially because I’ve been stock piling books for years and finally have the time to start reading them now, partially because I’m in a state of wanderlust. It’s only been 4 months since I’ve been overseas, but my mind and heart is still constantly wandering to thoughts of hiking in Switzerland, swimming in the Mediterranean, ogling over the shiniest, most purple eggplants in Bologna, and the smell of deep earthy espresso in Rome. In the spirit of adventure, these are my top moments in travel (abridged.)

-sharing churros and chocolate with a stranger in Madrid

Churros and chocolate

-having an entire plane held for me and almost getting stuck in Eindhoven, Netherlands for 3 days

-sneaking into El Prado in Madrid

-becoming “a regular’ at multiple cafes in Rome

-eating McFlurries in 5 different countries

McFlurries Rome

-singing Eminem at a karaoke bar in Rome

-forgoing the regulated boat tours around Capri and instead taking a ride with a crazy wine-offering old man

capri

-celebrating my 21st birthday with a pub crawl in Rome

-renting apartments so I can cook my own  fresh food from European markets

-seeing LMFAO (the band) shoot a music video in the streets of Amsterdam

LMFAO tour bus

-ending up on a bus, alone, in the wee hours of the morning with two transvestite hookers in the outskirts of Rome

-sleeping on a couch overnight in the Nashville airport

-running into a schoolmate at a grocery store in Germany

-picking fresh figs in Greece and eating dozens a day

-scouring the Black Forest for its namesake cake on a roatrip

I could go on and on…and I’m sure I will in another post! There are so many snapshot moments from my travels that have become integral parts of who I am. These are the things that make travel so dynamic and intoxicating; even the disastrous moments, the slightly scary moments, the not-like-the-picture hotels, the flight delays, the ill packed luggage, and finally coming home to your familiar Arrivals gate, greeted by the smell of Starbucks and Subway.

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