Fall Mornings

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Don’t you just love Fall? Sure, everything’s dying, the chilly wind might be a little much to take first thing in the morning, and you’re just creeping closer and closer to snow everywhere, all the time. But I don’t mind. I adore sweater weather and sometimes find myself counting down the days in the summer when the heat and humidity (and constant re-applying of sunscreen) makes me a little cranky, and also very, very burned. I’ve never been one for warm weather. Give me a cool, sunny 70 degrees and we’re good. Give me a balmy 90, and we can’t talk because I’ll be inside hugging an air conditioner like a long lost friend.

Fall means the start of lots of things. When I was a student, it meant going back to school and seeing how people had changed in just three months. It meant going on a Back-to-School shopping spree at Target and pretending you were a contestant on one of those grocery store game shows from the 90s (Fill up the cart! Fill up the cart!). Now, it means the beginning of Holiday Season, and all that comes with it. I’ll admit that it is often disconcerting to see Santa Claus in late August, but it’s wonderful to see him still greeting me in December. Sure, it might be a little too soon to start playing a holiday record here or there, but one will never get tired of hearing Ella Fitzgerald sing “Sleigh Ride” no matter what time of year it is.

For me, Fall means the door has been opened to the holidays I live for. I don’t mind the extra jacket because it means I’m well on the way to spending time with relatives far away, and eating my weight in cookies, cakes, pies, etc. You will never eat enough pumpkin-apple-cinnamon-spice ANYTHING, and that, my friends, is an actual Fall fact of life.

So, bring on the chilly weather! I’ll just put on thicker socks.

 

P.S. HAPPY HALLOWEEN WEEK!

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Field Trip to Chicago!

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Whenever I’m home, I make it a point to sit back and appreciate that Chicago, one of the best cities in the world, is just an hour away. And while it is an hour away, and with it thousands of opportunities, I’ve been there just a handful of times in my entire life. And when we go, we go as tourists; mainly sticking to the downtown area and Navy Pier. That had to change. It just had to change. Luckily, my friend Lafayette, who I’ve known for close to…TEN (oh wow.) years, just moved down to the Second City, and was nice enough to show me the real Chi-Town. I had a BLAST.

Bon Appetit is one of my favorite magazines, and my reading library has been so backed up that I’ve only JUST finished the “Travel Issue” from months ago. It was a good thing too, since they wrote a great feature on Chicago that gave me a few ideas of where to go when I went to visit.

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First up was P.O.S.H. aka one of those vintage home goods stores that you thought only existed in your dreams. It’s located in a swanky part of town with all types of stores that appeal to the hipster in all of us. P.O.S.H. is one part vintage, one part European, and one part etsy-esque all rolled into a beautiful package with a tiny conservatory in the back. Vintage hotel silverware and dinnerware, adorable one-of-a-kind tea towels, milk glass mixing bowls, vintage market baskets,  letter-pressed cards with clever sayings on them, and more fill the many shelves and tables that fill this place. And there is definitely something for every single person that walks in. If you’re looking for a unique gift for someone that is fond of quality-made items that you just can’t find anymore, try P.O.S.H. I declared that I was not about to leave that store empty-handed under any circumstances (thanks for being patient, L) and walked away with two cute gray plaid dinner plates that were even on SALE.  Lafayette even scored a deal on some awesome vintage maps, so I’d say that it was win-win for all parties involved.

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Back in July when I was in New York, Eataly was at the top of my “must-see” list, but there were just too many other things I wanted to do (two pages worth in fact), that we never made it. When I was contemplating where to visit in Chicago, I made SURE that Eataly was on my (much shorter) list. And I have to say it: I was really disappointed. I don’t know, maybe I built it up too much, or maybe I was expecting something a little bit more authentic. Mario Batali once described his vision for Eataly as feeling like you’ve just stepped into a classic Italian piazza, but that’s not how I felt. I felt like I was in an upscale food mart. Don’t get me wrong, the surroundings were beautiful, and the smells mouth-watering, but it felt too gimmicky for me to really get into it. But don’t let this to deter you, go. Decide for yourself. It’s worth a visit to form an opinion at LEAST. Bottom line: I’m happy I went, but I don’t think I’ll go back. I still love you, Mario!

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One of the things I really like about Chicago is the architecture. To work up an appetite for lunch, Lafayette and I decided to take a walk around his neighborhood. I love any American city with European roots, and Chicago is no exception. We each picked out at least a dozen houses that we’d love to buy and live in. Someday, right? And another thing I’ve noticed? People in Chicago are actually….nice. What a concept, right? I think my years spent on the East Coast have hardened me, and I’ve forgotten my roots. People smile at you for no reason, and it feels so weird to me! In the Midwest, complete strangers talk to you like they’ve known you for ages. And honestly, when did friendliness become such a bad thing? I need to spend an extended amount of time in the place where everyone says “hello,” and the grocery stores are deserted because it’s Sunday and the Packers/Bears are on.

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I’m getting pretty into Wicker Park, a very trendy neighborhood in Chicago, and I think I have Birchwood Kitchen to blame! Since it was a Saturday, and since we were in a city, the only logical meal to have was brunch (obviously) and Lafayette picked the best place! If you asked me to describe Birchwood Kitchen in one word, that word would be: FRESH. Seriously. I have never tasted anything so pure and from the earth as I did eating those splendid roasted potatoes, and beautiful green salad! I ordered the Breakfast Sandwich, Lafayette ordered the Croque Vert, and each of us grew a little quieter as there really shouldn’t be so much talking when you’re concentrated on the piece of culinary art and deliciousness that is in front of you. The atmosphere is cozy, modern, and very inviting. The staff is young and friendly, and the food…well, it just couldn’t have been better. I plan on making many trips back to this place in the near future.

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I had a train to catch in a few hours, but I just can’t leave a new place without first checking out a popular bakery, and as soon as Lafayette casually mentioned the word “pie” it was settled. So off we went on the El, full as we were but not so full that we’d ever pass up pie, all the way to Logan Square to Bang Bang Pie Shop. When we walked in, the first thing I noticed was that everyone working behind the counter was a twentysomthing, and every single one of them looked like the coolest kids in Chicago. You want to be them, you want to make pies, you want to eat said pies, you just want to have it all. After reading the menu, and lamenting that the signature pie was already sold out, we decided on the French Silk, which was absolutely no one’s consolation prize (PIEze, if you will). The French Silk is a winner, and my new first choice. It’s everything that it should be: creamy, smooth, choclately rich without being so overwhelmingly rich that you get a tummy ache. AND THE CRUST. This pie actually brought a lasting smile to my face, for it has been quite a while since a bakery has really blown me away. And the feeling of discovering something new is really one of the best feelings. It was the best ending to a fantastic day trip.

 

I’ll be back, Chicago. You haven’t seen the last of me.

 

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Scenes of the Summer

It’s been a really busy summer, and one that didn’t start to slow down really until today. The month of August was CRAZY busy with my cousin’s wedding in Nashville,  visiting friends and doing a little sightseeing in Colorado, and spending some much-needed time with my family back in the Midwest. I’ve spent more time in the car with my parents in 31 days than I possibly have in my life. And I wouldn’t change it…even though we all really needed our space in separate rooms for a while afterwards!

 

Here are just a few scenes from my Summer 2014:

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I am officially in love with these United States, and I totally want to live everywhere all at once. Ever get that feeling?

 

 

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO?

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Loretta’s Last Call, Y’all

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Wednesday I went out with my old pal Melyssa, who I’ve known since pretty much the beginning of Sophomore year. She’s the person I turn to when I want to check out a new restaurant, so when she sent me an article announcing the opening of a new Southern eatery in Fenway, I was beyond stoked! I had yet to find an authentic Country experience in Boston, and I’d all but given up hope. Enter: Loretta’s Last Call, the only place in Boston that tempted me to pull on my cowboy boots in 90 degree weather.

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The whole restaurant is a tribute to Honky-Tonk, right down to the giant jukebox with Country classics, and the hundreds of records and pictures on the walls. There’s even a stage all lit up for live music. We picked a night where there was no fellow in a ten gallon hat serenading us with a twang, but it just gives us an excuse to come back!

I was impressed with the menu even before we got there.  Along with mouth-watering dishes, the drink menu was off the charts! If you’re a fan of whiskey, Loretta’s is your place. But Melyssa  and I were in the mood for a good cocktail, and after much deliberation, we decided on The Dogwood: grapefruit juice, moonshine, elderflower liqueur, and garnished with a lemon. And of course it wouldn’t be appropriate for a good home country restaurant to not serve their specialty drinks in Mason Jars! The Dogwood was perfect, refreshing, and exactly what you need on a hot summer’s evening.

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Now, let’s get down to the food. No one makes good Southern food better than my grandmothers, let’s just be honest. They’re the reason I believe in whole milk and butter in everything that I make. But since my Grammy and Grandmama both reside in Nashville, Loretta’s is where I’ll be going when I need a good buttermilk fried chicken fix.  Generally, Melyssa and I are big chatterboxes, but once our food was served, all you could hear was the music. It was crispy, it was a little spicy, the meat so tender, and utterly satisfying. And I have to say, I’m very impressed. I can be a bit critical when it comes to food I grew up with, so I don’t give my compliments lightly. Out of all the Southern establishments I’ve patronized in Boston, I’m only wiling to make the trek to Fenway from now on. And if you’re in the mood for some good biscuits, might I suggest the Fried Buttermilk Biscuits with Maple Butter for dessert? Share it with a friend. You won’t regret it.

One thing I would like to note very quickly though: once our food was taken away, it really seemed like they were trying to hurry us out, even though the restaurant was pretty empty. Sure, there was a home Red Sox game that day, but it wasn’t over yet, so there was no rush from hungry baseball fans. We came to relax and take it all in, so in the future, let us sit for a bit, eh? We paid, and we liked it there!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, talking about the South for so long has made me miss Nashville, and so I’m going to go cry in a corner listening to some Patsy Cline for a while.

 

How was your weekend??

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Sydney in the City

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Right, well, to say that I had the time of my life in NYC would be putting it pretty lightly, I’d say. I HAD THE TIME OF MY LIFE. Even when it was down pouring, even when it was so hot that we felt like we were walking in slow motion. I wouldn’t change a second of it. And it sure is true what they say: that city certainly never sleeps. Maybe I would’ve changed that actually; Maybe we could’ve slept a smidgen more.

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I got there pretty much on time Thursday afternoon, and that evening my best friend Tori whisked me to dinner at Alice’s Tea Cup, which was just like a dream, really. If you’re even remotely a fan of Alice in Wonderland, then you’ll love this cafe’s nod to a classic. Everything is very kitschy and weird in the best way, with waitresses in vintage dress, and tables with doll heads in them. I loved it, I loved the huge tea selection, and the FOOD. The food was TOPS. It was the perfect kick-off to my big summer adventure…until it started to rain.

And not just any rain, my friend. Oh no. Hurricane rain. And as a woman of color I must tell you: water and hair are mortal enemies when it isn’t bath time. And because my little umbrella refused to be our big protector from the elements, Tori and I ran to the closest Duane Reade for both shelter, and emergency ponchos. And I’ll tell ya, those glorified saran-wrap sacks with hoods actually served us well. Sure, we got horrified stares from the pretty fashionistas on the F train, but we were relatively dry. And we just couldn’t stop laughing all the way home.

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We were fortunate enough to stay at a little B & B in Brooklyn, so we got to do some exploring. On Saturday we decided to grab a quick breakfast at a nice cafe called Ted and Honey where we got breakfast sandwiches that were positively divine. I never would’ve thought to eat a leafy green salad for breakfast, but in New York, I’m up for anything. Afterwards we decided to semi-surpise my other best friend at work, then take a very wet stroll around the East Village. Tori was dying to catch at least a bit of the Germany/France game, so we ducked into a nearby bar with plenty of open tables.

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We spent the Fourth of July on top of my friend Devin’s rooftop mainly saying “excuse me” to the millions of hipsters joining us, and commenting on how terrible we thought the band playing was. We saw the Fireworks from the Brooklyn Bridge though, and that made it much better.

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Saturday was spent the exact way it should be: with your best friends, having a makeshift picnic in Central Park with items you find from Trader Joe’s, and laughing until you cried. We were supposed to meet up with our other friends that afternoon, but got there a bit early. To kill the time, Tori took me to one of her favorite cookie shops, which she’s been excited to take me to for months. If you’ve never been to Levain Bakery, then you haven’t tasted the decadence that is a gourmet cookie. This place has it made, let me tell you. It’s this tiny hole-in-the-wall that you might probably pass right by, but you wouldn’t, because the line is constantly out the door. There are only a few selections of cookies, and only cookies, and it’s WORTH IT. Must try.

Later that afternoon I corralled the group into coming with me to The High Line, an old train track that has been repurposed into a totally excellent park. It’s got trees and vine tunnels, and plenty of benches, and amazing views. It doesn’t take you long to get from end to end, but there’s so much to see and do. And if you get peckish, there’s a nice little indoor gourmet food court for you to enjoy along the way.

After we left the High Line, everyone was up for drinks, so they took me to the Art Bar, which is the type of place that you would expect in New York if you’ve ever watched Friends. It’s cozy and intimate, and there are sofas and throw pillows everywhere. The drinks are delicious, and the music was constantly on point. 

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We spent the rest of the night wandering around the West Village, admiring all the designer storefronts, and even making it to Katz’s Deli! I didn’t get a chance to order a sandwich (I’d stopped earlier at Bleecker Street Pizza for a quick slice), but that didn’t stop me from taking a billion pictures and making the patrons by the window super uncomfortable. Hey, par for the course if you want to sit near the entrance and people-watch.

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Sunday’s breakfast was by far the dreamiest. We ventured to Provence en Boîte in Carroll Gardens’ Restaurant Row, and as soon as we stepped inside, it felt like we’d just left New York and entered a little French cafe. It’s rustic and chic, and French casual, always with a hint of sophistication. And when one is in a sophisticated French cafe, one must always order French press coffee. One simply must. Our waiter was also outstandingly hilarious and friendly, so that was a plus. As the swift breeze flowed in and out of the windows, blowing the flags up and down with the warm breeze, Tori and I felt compelled to give in to the magic, and order dishes as sophisticated as the atmosphere: For Tori, Eggs Florentine, and Eggs Benedict for me. Both OUT OF THIS WORLD. And perhaps I say that a lot, but I MEAN IT. My eggs were so good, and the brioche so fluffy, that I was slightly disappointed that it had ended so soon.

We got to see an old High School best chum of mine for thirty minutes later that afternoon which was lovely. It was sad that the time was so short, but after five years, we’ll take it! I promised I’d be back and we’d do something spectacular then anyway. After, we went to a pet store called Puppies where I got Oscar an ADORABLE “I Heart NY” hooded sweatshirt that I know he (re: my mother and myself) will love.

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That night Tori took me on my first trip to Williamsburg where the mustaches and beards are plenty, and there is always the threat of a sculpting-wax shortage. I loved it. It reminded me of Allston, honestly. But far, far more expensive.

We had dinner at this totally awesome restaurant and biergarten called Radegast, where the authentic German beer flows freely and the waiters speak with faint German accents. Tori had beet latkes with the best goat cheese aioli that I’ve ever tasted (I hadn’t had any prior, so my opinion is high), and I had Swiss Chard and Beet Pieorgies. Devin ordered lamb bratwurst with Sauerkraut, and since I’m from the Midwest, I couldn’t stop myself from trying a giant bite. The prices are great, the food is good, and it really feels like there’s a little bit of Germany residing in Brooklyn.

We ended up staying out WELLL into Monday morning, which made parting a little groggy and way too quick. But we all got dressed and ready in record time, let me tell you. I grabbed a great fried egg breakfast sandwich from a kiosk in Bryant Park, and I was on my way back to Beantown.

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I’ve just now finished my last B’Day truffle from Momofuku Milk Bar, and now it really feels like my dream adventure is officially over. But all is well. If I didn’t leave, I wouldn’t appreciate just how special these moments truly are. Miss you already, but I’ll be back.

 

Count on it.

 

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Let’s Go on a Trip

I’m off to New York for the Fourth of July Weekend, and to say I’m excited would be…like the grossest understatement in the history of understatements. Five (almost six!) years in Boston, and I have not once ventured to NYCGoing to The Big Apple used to be the big trip of the summer for my family, but the last time I stepped foot in that beautiful city was all the way back in 2004. Needless to say, I am long overdue. Here are some of the things I’d like to bring with me for the big adventure!

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Merona Stripe Weekender Duffle Handbag // River Island Ora Sunglasses // Revlon ColorBurst Lacquer Balm in “Provocative” // San Diego Hat Company Striped Sun Hat // Where’d You Go, Bernadette: A Novel // Cath Kidston Set of 2 Provence Rose Travel Laundry Bags

 

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Cupcakes and a Movie

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I had my first Cakeology experience downtown and I have to say: DELICIOUS. Not only do they have beautiful full-size treats, but mini cupcakes as well. I tried two, and I WILL BE BACK.

 

Also, finally, FINALLY saw Belle after reading about it in Entertainment Weekly for a few months now! Go see it if you love period pieces (and you know I do.)

 

Here’s the trailer:

 

Happy Thursday!

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Time for Key Lime (Pie)

This is late. This is CRAZY late. But better late than never, right? RIGHT!?

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For my work chum’s birthday I’ve been saying for months that I would make him a key lime pie, because he will eat anything citrusy. So I finally did.

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Graham cracker crusts are the easiest crusts to make in the whole wide world.  A little butter, some sugar, a little baking, and you’re in business.

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And making the filling is even easier! Like shockingly easy. Like I thought I had done something wrong, it was so easy. And what I like about the recipe I found is, you use every part of the lime. Fresh lime juice. Check. Lemon zest. Extra check. It gave it more of kick, and I think my chums really liked it.

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Graham Cracker Crust

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Key Lime Filling

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
Zest of 1 large lime
1/2 cup lime juice, from 5 limes

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter with a fork. Mix until graham cracker crumbs are moist. Press mixture into a 9 inch pie plate or dish. Pat down the bottom and sides. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown.

While the crust is baking, prepare filling. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks. Whisk until well combined. Add in the lime zest, and lime juice. Whisk well. Set mixture aside. It will thicken up as it sits.

When the pie crust has cooled to slightly warm or room temperature, pour the lime filling over the pie crust. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack. When cool, chill the pie in the refrigerator. The filling will set up as it cools. Chill for at least one hour before serving.

Serve cold.

 

SOURCE: Two Peas and Their Pod

 

Happy Friday!

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Birthday Weekend in Pictures!

Birthdays are great when you can spend them with friends!

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Something I don’t do very often is get very, very dressed up. And I never wear heels. It’s not that I can’t walk in them, it’s that Boston has more cobblestone streets than I’d like to count, and walking on those, with heels that could break your ankles, is not a good time. But if you can’t dress up on your birthday, when can you?

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FINALLY I can cross the Tip Tap Room off of my list of places to visit! If you’ve never been, you must go for the huge selections of beers on tap (Get it? Tip TAP Room) alone! Go for the beer, stay for the pleasantly unusual menu. Antelope Meat Loaf? Okay!

We ended up choosing the classic Steak Tips, and a special for the night: Korean Style Ribs with Kimchi! Loved it. There was a time when I would turn down any spicy food, but now that I’m older and more mature (Kind of. Not really.) I’ve learned to welcome all of the flavors into my life.

 

After dinner we went dancing at West End Johnnies on Portland Street, then hobbled home, vowing to never wear heels again.

Until next year, I guess.

 

Happy Wednesday!

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Address Me as “Your Majesty”

I’m the Birthday Princess!

Today was such a simple, such a LOVELY day.

You know how people say that as they get older, they don’t really care about doing it big for birthdays anymore? All they really care about is being with the ones they love? I get that. For some reason, there’s all this pressure to have a good time on your birthday, making it incredible, and that’s too much to live up to. I’d rather be close to the ones that I cherish, eat some good comfort food, then eat again. And take lots of pictures. So that’s what I did. I took pictures, ate, laughed, ate, took more pictures, went in search of more food. And it was the best birthday yet.

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I feel like Gourmet Dumpling House is one of Boston’s best kept secrets. Tucked away in the heart of Chinatown, you’ll pass by a lot of delicious options before you find this place. But there’s a reason that the line runs out the door most nights. I can say without a doubt that those are the best dumplings in Boston. HANDS DOWN. And I have had many, many dumplings. I don’t know what they do, but they do it well. It has been a staple dinner place in my friend group for many years, and those I take there know how sacred it is. And don’t you dare leave until you’ve had an order of scallion pancakes. Good gracious, now I want some.

I also brought a disposable camera that I picked up from the pharmacy. I miss the days of using film, so I’m trying to get myself back into it. So far so good. Anna was kind enough to put up with me taking “artistic” shots from the crosswalk.

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I know I’m so late to the macaron trend, but I can’t believe how much one of these can change my entire day. We went in search of the Cameo Macaron truck and found it parked by Prudential. I memorized the walk because I think I’ll be making it rather often this summer. We ate our cookies by the water and waxed nostalgic about how much we’ve grown and changed in seven years. She’s graduating and going home soon, so being with her today made this  birthday so much better.

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What am I going to do without my beautiful best friend? Ah well, we’ll manage. We always do.

 

It’s my birthday, and I’m drinking a mini bottle of Pink Moscato bubbly. This is the life.

 

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