Happening Lately.

These two. A little reunited party :)

Happening Lately.

Good morning! Happiest of Mondays, to you. My little family just got back in town from what I like to call "the dueling spring breaks" - Stevie was in Istanbul for a wedding this past weekend, so I hopped in the car and headed down to my sister's place in St. Augustine! I am still soooooo jealous that he got to take such an exotic trip without me, but we didn't think it would be a great situation to bring Everett all the way over to Turkey and then not have a babysitter for the wedding. Womp womp. So he spent the weekend batchin' it up and eating Turkish Delights with his buds from business school. I had a blast, playing with my sister and her kids, taking Everett to the pool FOR THE FIRST TIME, and of course enjoying the ocean and the grand town of St. Augustine. We sent each other the silliest photos - me holding Everett in various swim hats, he taking selfies outside of mosques. He's going to share about his whirlwind experience in Istanbul here on the blog later this week, but for now, a few photos of Spring Break with my little man.

Time at my sisters' place includes jogs to the beach, exotic flowers in bloom everywhere, 5 o'clock mojitos, and yes, I'm aware that this isn't real life. But it's real fun.

Top: Everett attacks my sunglasses. Middle: We might have given him his first hair trim. Ah! Bottom: He attacks my sunglasses again. I wizened up and bought a cheapo pair that he can gnaw on to his heart's desire :)

Other Life-ish Things:

*New Site Coming!

I am soooo excited about the work that the lovely Maiedae ladies are doing on my new site. I can't wait to show you! I got a sneak preview of it over the weekend and it's going to be RAD. Much cleaner design, simpler navigation, and more robust user interface. So that YOU can access recipes, travel guides, etc. much easier - woohoo! Yaay for growth! I'll keep you posted on the switchover :)

*Future Travels.

Our fam is gearing up for a handful of travel dates over the next several months. I am most excited about our May trip to Madrid and Rome! If any of you have advice for traveling abroad with a baby, I am all ears! I've been researching and compiling lots of info, and so far this and this have been super helpful. The last time Stevie and I Eurotripped, we did it totally hippie-style, with backpacks as our only luggage and an eternally long list of "must-sees" - I have a feeling this little adventure (with a BABY) will be quite different.

*This Week.

I've got another great "salad"-ish recipe, our experience at The Color Run, and of course, Stevie's Istanbul trip, coming at ya this week. So many fun things to share! Hope your Monday is magnificent!

Watercolor Your Own Valentines Cards.

Watercolor Your Own Valentines Cards.

I've been doing this thing where I am actually trying to follow through with my New Years resolutions. It's actually kind of hard. Why is it such a struggle to do the things that are in my heart?! It shouldn't be. Especially because my resolutions were hilariously self-centered and with the purpose of intentionally having more fun. My whole philosophy this year was "set the bar low", so that I could be uber proud of myself. Ha. Now that I think of it, I have got to get to the gym this month...

Watercolor painting was one of my resolutions because it seems like a relatively easy (and beautiful!) way to ignite my creative brain. It's been a looooong time since I've gotten crafty, but I am, at my core, a creative individual. I know that if I take the time to be intentional and invest in myself creatively, it will be good for my soul. And probably my skin.

This is the moment where I should mention that I am not an excellent watercolor-er, but that is hardly the point of the exercise. This was fun. Who needs to be having more fun? Don't act like you didn't just raise your hand in your heart. On top of the whole, "Let's have fun by watercolor painting today!"-thing, I also really love giving people presents, so I decided to make my own watercolor Valentines this year. I was inspired to do this by my bff Natalie, because she used to make her own cards and it was SO evident that she put special effort and thought into each one. So I put my best effort forward and you should try it, too!

// Don't laugh at my picture. It was the exercise round and I was just blowing off steam. WHY AM I DEFENDING MY ART TO YOU. //

Watercoloring Your Valentines:

1. Set up your spot.

I laid down newspaper, set out my paint set & brushes, fetched a bit of water, and snagged some flowers for inspiration. When I say "snagged", I mean it. They weren't my flowers. They were my mom's from my dad. Side note, no matter how old you are, it just warms your heart from the inside out to know that daddy bought flowers for your mommy. Sigh.

2. Find a friend.

In my case, I convinced my sister to join me in this endeavor. And she is endlessly more creative and talented than I. No seriously - she actually painted those roses, I just copied stuff I found on Pinterest. But getting shown up by your sister is the best feeling. Because, you know, she's your sister and she's so cute it hurts. If she only knew.

3. Set the stage.

I'll admit it. We know how to party. We made my new favorite granny beverage, turned on some French Cafe Pandora and went to town on our feelings. And I've got the heartfelt cards to prove it. Okay, you could have basically done exactly what I did with a set of Sharpie markers from Walgreens, but just so you know, they are all hand-painted with watercolors. So there.

// I came up with this one all on my own. I'm actually quite proud. //

Fetch the Paints!

Do it! Paint your feelings! Make up cheesy sayings and put brush to paper! I guarantee that you will feel so fun and fancy free after doing so. And also, tell your dad to buy your mom flowers. Because somehow it will weirdly make you feel great, too.

Happy Valentining to you :)

Dr. Bombay's Underwater Tea Party

Dr. Bombay's Underwater Tea Party.

The week I went into labor, I was feeling antsy.

I had this urge to go out and have lots of fun, because I knew that sooner or later this baby was coming and I would be home bound for a bit. But oh my. Those last few pregnant weeks were a challenge. I was huge. I was swollen. And in GEORGIA. Land of the sweltering, unforgiving humidity. Not to mention it was July. My word.

I got the fabulous idea to have one last girly hurrah and visit a much-talked-about tea parlor in the city. I dragged my mom and my sister downtown (okay, there wasn't much dragging, we all enjoy a good bout of fancifulness), and we found our way into Dr. Bombay's Underwater Tea Party. The name itself lends to all sorts of curiousness. Who's this doctor? Is he really from Bombay? And, what is meant by "underwater"?? Also, WHERE CAN I PUT MY FEET UP. Like I said, the mind can really wander.

We shuffled around the tiny shop and cheerfully breathed a sigh of relief when we found a few strewn-about chairs. We rearranged them across from each other at an indoor picnic table and were thankful we could actually sit together. This place seemed like a haven for the studious and the entrepreneurial. Everyone sitting in the shop was working on something, gaze intensely focused on their laptops. We were the only party who seemed to be there to, well, have a tea party. And so we did. Rather loudly.

We gleefully ordered the Caroline tea for two (and a few other delicacies) and split everything between the three of us. Not only were the tea, scones, quiche, brownies, CLOTTED CREAM and finger sandwiches an absolute delight, but enjoying the sweet company of these fine women absolutely capped off my final week of pregnancy. It was the perfect, priceless, princess-y kind of celebration. And while we never really got any of our questions answered (Dr. Bombay is still an underwater mystery), we did get to laugh and laugh and laugh until we just couldn't anymore. Little did I know that nine days later I would be in the throws of labor and very far removed from all that laughter and silliness. I'm thankful for this cherished memory and for discovering another gem in this familiar city.

8/50 NYC Adventures: High Tea at The Plaza Hotel

The Plaza.

Iconic. Epic. Faaaaaahncy. This hotel is so known, so featured throughout historical literature and film that it has become a character in its own right, almost a living, breathing entity. The Plaza is a cornerstone of all that was scandalous and glamorous in Fitzgerald's roaring twenties epic, The Great Gatsby. This hotel set the awkward dichotomy between regal and bumpkin as Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin cracked us up 'til we cried in Big Business. Every little girl was jealous of Eloise's spectacular living situation and every little boy wanted to be Kevin in Home Alone 2, sliding across the slick mosaic tiles in the lobby. This hotel has been impressed upon our memories even as children. It's a legend in it's own right, the epitome of classic perfection and a standard of American royalty.

// Walking in on a red carpet. Well sure. //

The Time I Took My Sister There. And Surprised Her.

I've told you about The Plaza before. I've visited so many times over the past year, because DUH it's pretty and fancy and there are always gigantic arrangements of fresh flowers in the lobby that looks like they were flown straight in from Eden itself. And I like the chandeliers. Each time I walk through the lobby (usually touring around guests), I long to sit in that gorgeous central restaurant, the renowned Palm Court. It's probably just where people meet for important business lunches, but in my mind (that of a 12-year old little girl who loves tea time and china and playing dress up), I think it's the pinnacle of all fanciful fun in this city. Yes, so silly. But I knew that there was someone who would probably love a tea time experience here even more than me: my little sister.

The Company.

I say little. But she's not. She towers over me at 5'8 and whenever strangers meet us, they immediately think she's the older sis. It's probably because of my cheeks. I have some wicked chipmunk cheeks. Even though I look like I'm storing away some nuts for the winter, these days I've accepted them as a semi-endearing feature... while Rachel's cheeks are high and contoured and chiseled like an America's Next Top Model. But I don't tell her that too much. Cuz I don't want to lose all her goodness to the realm of modeling. She's got brains, too. Aaaannnywho, my little sister is a total doll and I just knew that she would die if I took her to The Plaza for high tea. And who doesn't want to see their baby sister freak out in the middle of a quiet, refined hotel? Too bad she's so composed. Drat her meticulously polite upbringing. Where did that come from??

This is fun. She thought I was just taking a picture of her:

Rachel at the Plaza from Kristen Hale on Vimeo.

The Menu.

We were seated. We tried not to giggle too much. We were presented with gold-tipped menus. I tried not to talk to the waiter in a fake British accent. It was hard. We ordered one of each of the tea services and awaited our porcelain beverage china to arrive. We tried to talk about the weather and mother and daddy and where "everyone should summer" (much like Phoebe from Friends at 2:06). Then our drinks actually arrived and instead we dove into real conversation about life, dreams, boys (eek!), babies (double eek!!) and our dissimilar yet spectacular journeys. My sister is a fountain of sweetness. We had such a dear, wonderful time together.

The Service.

Should you be surprised? The service was astounding. Our waiter was precious, noting my pregnant belly and artfully explaining to me what I should and shouldn't eat and drink. He brought delicious substitutions for all the soft cheeses and uncured meats in the meal and left us to sit and talk for hours. There was no rush. So of COURSE we sat there for hours, sneaking pictures when I hoped others weren't looking. I didn't have the heart to whip out my giant SLR (you can't help but feel a sense of decorum in that place) so all the photos are brought to you by my handy dandy iPhone. One of the best parts? Well, one of the tea sandwiches was so delicious, I might have ordered a second helping. Which he gladly brought out and didn't charge me for, stating, "the baby must have what it wants!" Seriously. So precious. Although that rosy memory has faded slightly since I had a weigh-in at the doctor yesterday... perhaps a few too many tea sandwiches. Perhaps.

The Experience. 

Overall, this experience was just THE BOMB. The Plaza holds its standard. I mean, that place could have some mad ego because it's so dazzling and spectacular, and yet, the air is crystal clear of any vanity or pretension. It's just so, swell. There was nothing unpleasant about our high tea experience, even the bathrooms were stunning. Coming to New York? I would more than highly recommend a reservation at the Palm Court for the high tea service. You would absolutely be wooed by the opulent romance and epic, lavish charm. And if that doesn't get ya, the tea sandwiches will.