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!

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! :)

Fun Freebies

Fun & Free.

Last week was a divine retreat from reality. I escaped the bitter cold of Manhattan and spent some time bouncing around northern Florida (more details on that trip later!) If you're so over the continual snow storms (which have caused a nasty non-stop case of the winter blues), then take a moment here. Go get your pretty tea cup (yes, the really pretty one), brew a hot pot of flowery tea, and just enjoy ten minutes of bliss, browsing through some blissful things.

Some beautiful (FREE!) things/ideas/projects to brighten up your life:

Gorgeous Desktop Wallpapers (even for your iPhone!) from DesignLoveFest. I've been enjoying my computer SO much more since I set my background with the last floral design. So so happy.

Homemade Herbal Tea Face Mist from the always lovely Free People Blog. Have you poked around this blog yet? It's so breezy and cool, just like the brand. And this spring-y DIY is so easy. Ah.

- A bevy of 50+ Gorgeous & Free Wall Art Printables from Fab N' Free - all different design styles, just download, print, and load up your walls with some fresh inspiration! I don't know about you, but with all this snowy weather, I could definitely use some refreshing in my home. I chose the botanical prints :-)

More Fun Stuff.

- Also, I would really love to use this heavenly wallpaper in my bedroom. Think I could get my husband on board? Yeah, me neither. But still - so dreamy!

Creamy Pesto Avocado Sauce from neverhomemaker to be used on anything from burgers to pasta. Dear God, yes.

- I snagged this during its 24-hour free period, but I still think that this new tune from U2, "Invisible" is more than worth the $1.29 on iTunes. Get it here. Bono is a bonafide wordsmithing genius, right?

Hope your days are slowly becoming a little more springy. I hate to keep harping on the winter blues, but for today, just today, these lovely little things made me a little happier. Hope they did the same for you!

Columbus Circle Romance: Robert

// The Columbus Circle Loop. And our view from the top! //

Getting Back Out There.

I took a couple of months off from life. When I found out I was pregnant, I was shocked. Then thrilled. Then ill. For quite some time. I have finally unearthed from my icy apartment and started exploring this wonderful city once again. One of the first places Stevie took me (to celebrate our being normal restaurant-goers once again, oh, and the kid coming our way) was to a restaurant in Columbus Circle called Robert.


Located on the 9th floor of the Museum of Arts & Design, this restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over Columbus Circle and the west side view of Central Park. Pretty legit. The restaurant itself is verrrrry hip, with darkened mood lighting, super modern furnishings and live tuneage played on the baby grand piano in the corner. Very "New York"-y. We had the best time being normal adults again. Like, laughing. And not wearing days-old pajamas (okay, to be fair, it was only me who did that). But just to marvel at this incredible city we live in - ah, it was just such FUN. I continually have these "aha" moments about living here in New York. I can't believe we are here. I can't believe I am actually auditioning and attempting to live my dream. It's probably a conversation for another time, but "living the dream" isn't always what you think it will be like. Ha. But this kind of restaurant ambiance is the perfect setting to have THOSE kinds of conversations. Aren't date nights the best when you can really talk and process with your best friend? Anyways, back to Rob.


The service was super outstanding - our waiter was so attentive and insisted that I shouldn't miss out on all the fun because I'm pregnant. He surprised me by bringing out (several) gorgeous, flowery virgin cocktails. So adorable and made me feel really special. It could have just been sparkling lemonade, but it made me feel like a lady again. And then they threw in free dessert! Such spectacular service.

// Sorry for the grainy photos - it was really dark in the restaurant! Check out the fancy lemonade they used in my pregnant-friendly cocktail - apparently it's available at Whole Foods, yumm. //


The food was decently good, though perhaps not totally outstanding if you're looking for really inventive cuisine. I would definitely recommend visiting for pre-dinner drinks or post-dinner dessert and coffee. The live music really makes it feel swanky, and looking out over the sparkly lights of Columbus Circle, well, that's doubly swanky. Make sure to reserve early on Opentable for a table by the window - those spots go weeks in advanced!

// A chilly walk home along the park. //

Walk in the Park.

All in all, if you're a New Yorker and haven't yet discovered Robert, it's a definite MUST. And if you're visiting, it's a decadent spot that captures all the charm of Upper West Side New York. Now go on, enjoy!