23/50 NYC Adventures: Hillsong NYC

Hillsong NYC

I would be completely remiss if I didn't highlight this very special part of my and Stevie's time living in NYC: our community at Hillsong NYCHillsong is a church in Australia that has plants all around the world, and we were thrilled when we moved to NYC and realized there was a branch right in Midtown. After the first Sunday morning visit, we knew this place was "home". The atmosphere, the message that was spoken, the incredible worship and the warmth of the people completely drew us in. Not to mention the fact that we "felt" the presence of God so strongly. It just felt right. It felt like an atmosphere of love. And who doesn't want to be immersed in that? But I'll be honest with you. What caused us to stay at Hillsong NYC? It was our incredible small group.

We had the BEST community group that met weekly, right on our block on the Upper West Side, in the coziness of our friends' apartment. Each week this wonderfully vibrant assortment of souls gathered together, sprawled across the bare hardwoods, sharing a meal and talking REAL talk. We delighted in each other's poignant joys and cried in moments of sadness and disappointment. We prayed. It was the most intriguing experience, to knit my heart together with people so unlike myself. Different accents, different heritages, from different countries all around the world, all working in different industries under this city's torrential stretch of skyscrapers. And yet. Here we were. Not so different from each other at all. People with the same rhythm in our heart, chasing truth and love. Fumbling around. But making our way in this gritty, gorgeous city.

// Top: Party People, Middle: We sold Hillsong swag, Bottom: More Party People. //

Love You City Folk.

I feel super proud to have been a part of this powerful group of people. Thank you, Upper West Side Connect Group, you made our life in NYC a technicolor dream. We can't wait to return to the city and visit you! And of course, bring a special visitor along with us :)

If you live in NYC, you should totally check out Hillsong NYC, which meets in the Manhattan Center in Midtown. They're fun to follow on Instagram. Also, check out the newest Hillsong United album, No Other Name, which I'm loving lately :)

22/50 NYC Adventures: West Village Eats & Treats

// Washington Square Park with my bro and sis-in-law //

My West Village Gems.

Manhattan's West Village is too cool for school. Windy little streets, Sesame-Street-esque colored buildings, celebrity-infested and foodie-infused, this little hamlet in downtown Manhattan often sweeps people away with its posh allure. Rent in this area of town is OUTTA CONTROL, but it's because you truly feel like you are living in a little village. There is some really grand food, and I won't pretend to know half of the hot spots, but here are a few that are definites on my list. Especially if you are visiting! Munch away, my friends!

Olio e Piu.

This place. Made me believe for a split-second that we were back in Italy. The open-air seating, the quaint tables and the killer-good wine... there is just something about Olio e Piu that is so reminiscent of a foreign dream. This is where you are seated outdoors, served an authentic Italian meal, and will relish the most subtle of all breezes cooling the hot city pavement, with probably not a cloud in the sky. Ah. The margherita pizza is killer. As is the olive appetizer. Order the Montepulciano d'Abruzza Riserva wine, it's my fave. We sat and talked for hours, watching the sun go down over the village and the fashionistas strut out of hiding. Downtown always houses the hip. Remember that.

Magnolia Bakery.

I wasn't a cupcake girl. I wasn't. But then I had Magnolia Bakery's extremely basic vanilla cupcake and I was a changed woman. What the heck are they putting in these fluffy mounds of puffery and delight? Whatever it is, I'm always left wanting more. You must must MUST have a cupcake here before you bounce out of the village. Don't be shy now. While there are a zillion of these locations around the city, the one in the Village is the original contender. I believe this bakery sparked the "cupcake craze" that our fine country went through a few years ago (with the help of its prominent featuring as a hot spot for the ladies of Sex and the City to indulge in a sugar craving.) At Magnolia, that cupcake trend is still going strong, with GOOD reason.

// When my sis came to visit, we went to TOWN in Magnolia. //

Johns Of Bleeker Street.

Here's the deal with Johns: the pizza isn't all that great. But for whatever reason, this is one of those famed, rite-of-passage kind of spots that is super old and boasts "New York-style Pizza!" so millions of people rush this place every year. It's neat to visit once (if only for the stained old photos of John with every celebrity under the sun), but then make sure you hit up Juliana's in Brooklyn for the reeeeeeeally good stuff. And tell them I sent you. (hahahaha don't do that - they don't know me at all.)


Okay, this is a truly delicious West Village dinner spot. This Italian joint is named after the owner's mother, inspired by the seasonal bounty from her fresh vegetable garden in Lucca, Italy. What makes this place unique? It boasts a rather impressive rooftop farm, so everything served is truly farm fresh, plucked from the urban garden. How urban-chic is that? Get the Caprese Foccacia appetizer, the Braised Pork Shoulder or the Lamb and don't forget about the vino!


Apparently everything I adore in the West Village is Italian in heritage. Grom is a deeeeeeelicious gelato bar featuring the richest, thickest, creamiest gelato I've found in the city yet. It is the closest thing to what we tasted last summer on our Italian escapade. Favorites? The Pistachio & Stratiacella Gelato (IN A CONE), or you could go wild and get the lemon sorbet. It will make you pucker for sure, but nom nom nom, it's the best kind of sour.

// At Ayza, GET THE FONDUE. //

Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar

This is a fun, romantic little spot for a special treat, a date night, or even a ladies night. I've been to Ayza for dinner, appetizers, and dessert and you just CAN'T go wrong. Except if you don't have a reservation. Then you will be all kinds of rejected at the door. But seriously, make the resi and don't forget to order the fondue for dessert.

These are just a handful of my faves down in the Village. There are literally zillions of places you can grab wine, cheese and desserts galore and be a happy little frantic. Let me know if you check these hot spots out! As some of my close-to-heart West Village dream spots, I am already counting down the days until I return... and munch munch munch!

21/50 NYC Adventures: Basking in Bryant Park

Basking in Bryant Park.

Bryant Park is just glorious. Located in Midtown, tucked squarely between the busy-ness of Times Square, the Rockefeller Center & Grand Central Station, this park is a standout NYC spot. Bring a blanket to lounge on, or not. There are tables and chairs aplenty, ready to serve your every park-loving whim. Substantially smaller than Central Park, this is an excellent spot to meet a friend for lunch and bask in the citylicious fun of Midtown. With lots of greenery and foliage to bathe your scurried mind in a peaceful calm. Ahhhh, breathe in that oxygen.

There is just something about Bryant Park that is old-school, inviting some kind of connection to the past generations of corporate New Yorkers. Their leather-bound briefcases and smart, tailored suits. Gazing upward at the impressive structures that represent industry, success, power. But here? Put business time aside and just relax. It's the perfect place to meet a pal for lunch. To ice skate in the winter. To read in the summer. Come visit the free Art Cart! Yes, there are free arts and crafts, where you can just draw and paint for hours, lounging by Le Carrousel. What is that? Oh, just the most charming, fanciful merry-go-round in the city. Or if that's not your thing, you can always head over to the Putting Green or Potanque Court for a friendly game. And did I mention the summer long Film Festival? Oh, how I loathe that I cannot be present for this summer's lineup of classic films. This park seriously has it going on, hosting every kind of community activity from yoga to book club to juggling, modern dance and fencing. Yes, fencing.


I recently met my sweetheart friend Jenna in Bryant Park for a quick (and delicious!) sandwich at 'Wichcraft, a delicious food cart of sorts. We met each other in Boston when we worked for an ad agency (she hired me!) and we somehow both found ourselves in NYC not too shortly after. I have loved getting time to explore the city with her. On this particularly perfect sunny afternoon, we basked in the breezy warmth and discussed the craziness of living in this city, and the craziness of leaving the city. And she gave me a most beautiful, poignant gift: this book, Good Bye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York. It is a meaningful collection of essays, an homage highlighting all the glorious and gritty that New York offers its proud citizens. Such a sweet gift. I sat in the park for the afternoon, after she scurried back to her office, and read and read and read. And found a thankful peace in the midst of such a strange, exciting transition.

Basking. And thankful.

Thank you, sweet Jenna, for celebrating our departure from New York as a positive thing. For making me feel that this bittersweet decision is really just a progression from one season to the next, leaving a delicious taste in my mouth for this wonderful place I was proud to call home, even if only for a short time. And thanks to Bryant Park, I will always remember that feeling :)

20/50 NYC Adventures: Black Seed Bagel

Black Seed Bagel.

Word on the street is that this is THE PLACE for bagels in NYC. Forget those monstrous, slathered-in-cream-cheese, bloated New York bagels... Black Seed Bagel boasts the latest and greatest recipe in the bageling world. It's the only place in Manhattan serving this style... and it hails from Canada. That's right. You read me correctly. CANADA. Much like the cronuts at Dominique Ansel's, people line up at the crack of dawn to score their beloved breakfast bread. And sometimes? Well, Black Seed runs out. So you better hurry.

The Hype.

Why all the fuss? Apparently Montreal-style breakfast bagels are the jam these days. How do I know this? Weeeeeeeeeeell, I went to this uber-posh dinner party for a dear friend, and let me tell you, the guests at this gig were SO CHIC. A real New York moment, honestly. I don't know how I got invited. One guy was a fashion designer, another guy was an artist (like, a REAL one), another dude and his wife started this super cool blog that was taking Manhattan's restaurant realm by storm. It was like everywhere I turned, there was another awesomely accomplished, interesting-souled person to talk to. And one of those delightful humans shed some light on the "best bagel in the world" that I "absolutely HAD to try" before moving out of NYC. So I mean, what do you do when a stranger so strongly recommends something? Usually nothing. But people, he was talking about BREAKFAST FOOD. So, an obvious exception.

Taste the Gluten. DO IT.

Thank God we listened to him. Black Seed Bagel blew my mind. And our mystery friend was right - it was the best bagel I had ever tasted. Stevie and & seriously considered getting back in line for seconds. Why are they so great? These bagels are significantly smaller than NYC bagels, with a honeyed hint of sweetness and an almost almond-esque finish. It could be the fact that they bake them in a brick-fire oven. Or the way they hand-roll the dough and then poach the bagel in its final moment before serving. Could it be the butter-glazed outside, the tenderly crisped inside? Stevie opted for the Everything Bagel with cold-smoked salmon, avocado, tomato & cream cheese, while I omitted the salmon and had everything else. It was truly, truly SO GRAND. Ah, I'm salivating just at the memory.

Just Sayin'.

You lucky Manhattan-ites - go and get it. NOW.

19/50 NYC Adventures: The Soho Saunter.

The Soho Saunter.

Still reminiscing over some memorable moments in NYC from the past few months. Stevie and I spent a glorious day sauntering around Soho (I would say "stroll", but these days, my stroll has slowed down a good bit, thanks to pregnancy feet). We had such a happy Saturday in the sun that we subsequently returned to Soho everyday for about a week in a row, just because we couldn't stop exploring, eating and shopping! It's a bit of a trek down to this hood from the Upper West Side (New Yorkers, permission to obnoxiously eye-roll here), so in the winter we never took the time to wander around this area. Thankfully, a few weeks ago we did and had THE BEST DAY. If you wanted to wander around for a few morning hours in Soho, here's what I would do (because I did!)

Ground Support Cafe OR Brunch at Hundred Acres.

Start with brunch at Hundred Acres. My sweet friend Jenna introduced me to this place in the fall and I just fell for it. It's quaint and delicious, tucked right in the heart of Soho at MacDougal between Prince St. & W. Houston. When you step inside and wander throughout the rooms of the restaurant (it's cozy like a friend's home), there is a warm charm that puts you at ease. Almost as if Christopher Robbin invited you over for breakfast and his mom is in the kitchen, whipping up some honey-brie pancakes and waiting for the rest of the gang to arrive. It's just got a great vibe :) The menu changes a lot with the season, so everything tastes really fresh and "of the moment". Without a doubt - you must order the "appetizer" cinnamon rolls. SO GOOD.

If you're not feeling a big sit-down, filling brunch meal, you could do a quick stop by Ground Support Cafe. This place has awesome coffee, lattes, you name it, and quiet little places to sit down inside and out. We opted for outside so we could people watch... which we did for a while. So much good fashion walks by you in Soho.

Treats at Laduree.

Post-coffee time always beckons a hit of something sweet. Well, look at that, right across the street from Ground Support is the famed Laduree, the Parisian macaroon parlor. Laduree is known for flying in the macaroons from Paris several times per week, so you can't get much more French than this. You also can't get much more expensive - they are like $3.50 a piece! But we had to try one. I personally love macaroons, but I've never been able to get Stevie hooked - he's more of a ice cream and brownies kind of guy. As you can see:

// Perhaps not totally pleased. But look at him rocking our Euro Trip Kavu bag with pride! //

What can I say? At least he talked me out of buying the $20 box of them... I would have scarfed those puppies down alone. The flavors I personally loved were the Citron, the Marie-Antoinette & the Carmel a la fleur de sel. There are some other equally amazing treats at Laduree. We just drooled, didn't partake.

Ah, the French are so fanciful. At this point, you might be rightfully full and needing a break to just walk around. Wander! Shop! And maybe see a celebrity acting all "please don't notice me", sitting at a sidewalk cafe in gigantic sunglasses. That's right, you weren't hiding, Tyra Banks. Don't act all coy with me. (But people, the eyes? So fierce.) There is so much to see and do in Soho. Yes, it can be a bit touristy, but where in NYC isn't?? When there's great weather, the people are out!

// Totally snapchatted my sisters immediately after seeing Tyra Banks. Because DUH. //

Sweets in Soho. 

Soho, what a wondrous day you showed us. I have more fun spots that we discovered in this neighborhood, but I'll save those to share next! :)