Miami Vacay

Happy hump day blogosphere!

I’m hitting those midweek doldrums hard today and to escape the monotony of rainy Baltimore, I thought it would be a great time to recap my January vacation to Miami. It was a fabulous trip with the hubby where we spent as much time as possible on the beach soaking up some sun. We pretty much only left the shore for sustenance and let me tell you we ate and drank aplenty.

hallandale beach florida

The culinary highlight by far was dinner at Jose Andres’ The Bazaar. The swanky restaurant is in South Beach at the SLS Hotel. As a big fan of Jose Andres’ DC restaurants, we were excited to give this tapas spot a try. The menu has a lot of the more traditional Spanish tapas dishes you find at Jaleo with the addition of more internationally inspired small plates. Everything we tried was fabulous: creative and interesting without being to froufrou or pretentious.

the bazaar jose andres miami

I was blown away by the Yuca “churros” which we ordered last and served as our dessert. The slightly sweet yuca was served with peanut butter and honey and was so, so good. My second favorite dish was the Iberico sliders which were meaty and delicious. Other favorites were the Dragon Fruit Ceviche (a little disappointed that they were out of the scallop ceviche) and the Kueh Pai Ti which is described as “Singapore’s Favorite Street Food”. The presentation of both dishes was great: the ceviche actually looked like a dragon fruit due to the hibiscus foam and the street food looked like little edible baskets. We also tried the octopus romesco, chicken with black garlic sauce and the brussels sprouts – all fantastic! Yes, there were only two of us. Yes, we stuffed our faces. And the Jasmine’s Margaritas hit the spot to wash it all down.

Other vacation activities:

  • Window shopping and people watching on Lincoln Road.
  • Shuffleboard. Things got very competitive.
  • Exploring Ft. Lauderdale.
  • Lobster mac and cheese at the Tipsy Boar.
  • Video blackjack at Gulfstream casino.
  • Shopping at Charming Charlie because we don’t have one in Baltimore.
  • Going for a run and spotting a giant iguana.

iguana florida

On past trips to Miami we’ve:

All in all it was a great vacation! And now I just want to go back…

Have you been to Miami? What is your favorite thing to do there? 

 

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Young(ish) Year in Review

Wow, it has been quite a year in for us in Baltimore. Good times and bad, quite a few big moments and a lot of delicious food. Before we move forward into the new year, let’s take a quick look back at our 2015.

January – this year started with a bang: I began a new job in Baltimore (which I can walk to from my house!!), my amazing baby nephew was born and I traveled to the Bahamas on a cruise for my bachelorette party. In sports new, I went to my first Maryland Big Ten conference game and the Ravens, who were actually good last year, beat the Steelers in the first round of the playoffs only to lose to the pre-deflategate Patriots.

cruise two nauti shirts bachelorette turnt up for the tropics bachelorette cruise

February – included an Abby and Jeanette Galentine’s Day date at Papi’s where we feasted on tacos and skinny margaritas before meeting the fellas at Max’s Belgian Beerfest. February ended with a beautiful bridal shower thrown for me by my cousin, aunt and bridesmaids, but the month will always be remembered for an epic nine hour drive to Atlantic City in a snowstorm. Our amazing friend navigated the icy roads and Jeanette and I hopped out of the car multiple times to push us out of snowbanks on 95-North. While it probably wasn’t our smartest move, the drive was ultimately a success and we got to AC in time to celebrate our friend’s bachelorette.

bridal shower art atlantic city bachelorette 2

March – the month I married my best friend and love of my life. Our wedding weekend at the end of March was like a dream (albeit an unseasonably cold dream), we celebrated with a rehearsal dinner at the Rusty Scupper before saying our vows in front of family and friends at the Royal Sonesta.

elevator mirror pic baltimore wedding wedding baltimore

April – In April we traveled to Turks and Caicos for our honeymoon and enjoyed a week soaking up the sun in paradise with fish tacos, frozen drinks and our first time scuba diving. After we returned to Baltimore, the city flipped upside down. Freddie Gray was killed, riots broke out and the city was occupied by the National Guard. It was a weird time for our city. The sound of choppers overhead was incessant as 4-6 media/police helicopters were constantly circling around downtown. My office in the Inner Harbor was closed for an entire week. They played an O’s game two blocks from our apartment in front of zero fans. We obeyed the 10pm-5am curfew which felt particularly surreal – especially when last call was at 8pm so bartenders and staff had time to get home before 10. Hopefully, everything that happened in April was a wake-up call and the start of change and healing for Baltimore.

turks and caicos seven stars resort honeymoon national guard baltimore

May – we started this blog with our very first post! Adam and I also celebrated our five year dating anniversary on 5/15/15 at Cinghiale, enjoyed Memorial Day weekend at Breaux Vineyards and dressed like mustard (and Jeanette relish) with our bocce team. We also saw O’Malley announce his candidacy for president.

IMG_7528 baltimore social sports bocce federal hill

June – officially meant summer, the return of happy hour and going to quite a few O’s games. I also spent a weekend in New York for a friend’s baby shower, went for a jog through Central Park and had a delicious brunch at Hundred Acres.

Baltimore Orioles Game New York City Brunch

JulyIndependence Day in Baltimore brings parades, fireworks and celebrations. Also in July we went to a wedding, more O’s games and Kastles matches, had a staycation in DC and had two amazing meals at Parts & Labor and Salt.

fourth of july baltimore cocktails Salt Baltimore

August – and September brought some travel. I spent a day at the beach in Rehoboth and visited a friend in Williamsburg. Jeanette scouted a great groupon for kayaking in Essex at Island View Waterfront Cafe where we spent an awesome afternoon on the water followed by the best half and half crab soup. And let’s not forget that Tiger Woods lost his 20th major since 2010 when I bet Adam that Woods would win a major other than the Masters in the next five years. Boy, was I ever wrong on that one.

rehoboth beach kayaking in essex

September – Birthday month! I felt like I was everywhere but Baltimore in September: NJ for a wedding, a long weekend at Bethany Beach and a trip back to New York City. I celebrated my birthday with dinner at Wine Market Bistro, a day trip to Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, and brunch with family at Crepe Du Jour.

baltimore wedding New York Pizza

October – was non-stop falltivities: A trip to pumpkin patch, a pig roast, tailgated at a Maryland football game, went to the Renaissance Festival (where we ate literally everything: corn dog bites, mac and cheese on a stick, gyros, s’mores on a stick, warm cookies, and probably other things on sticks) and dressed up for Halloween.

Halloween maryland rennaissance festival

November – During Maryland homecoming, Jeanette, Adam and I returned to the freshman year dorm where we all met ten years ago. I’m pretty sure we also forgot that we aren’t in college any more since we spent the entire day drinking and didn’t even go the game. We also celebrated Adam’s birthday at Food Market and traveled to South Carolina for Thanksgiving with my mom’s family.

Turkey Balloon Food Market Cocktail

December – closed out the year with quality time with family and friends celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas. Jeanette and I exchanged gifts and had a festive day skating at the Pandora Ice Rink followed by lunch at Cheesecake Factory. Adam and I spent Christmas Eve with his family at Grano Emporio where we had an amazing Italian feast including antipasto, lasagna and a blood orange martini. After dinner we walked over to 34th Street and saw the fantastic light display and an equally fantastic cross-section of life in Baltimore. The block was packed with families and couples, groups of friends and several dogs, everyone was smiling and in a good mood because it was Christmas and it was Baltimore and it was over 60 degrees. What a perfect end to 2015.

34th street lights hampden baltimore 34th street lights hampden

What was a highlight of your year?

Friday Five (Escape the cold vacation ideas)

The days are getting shorter (for another couple weeks) and the cold of winter is starting to set in. This is about the time of year when I start getting a strong bout of wanderlust and can’t help but daydream of warmer climates. Here are my top five favorite warm vacation spots for when you just need a break from winter:

Warm vacation destinations

  1. Florida – Adam and I have escaped to Hallandale several years in a row and are making the trip again in January to the small beach town between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. We stay in the condo of a family friend and usually make a pit stop at Publix for granola bars, cereal and sandwich makings. To save some cash money we eat breakfast in the condo, make sandwiches to bring down to the beach and go out for dinner. We have had some awesome meals at Kitchenetta in Ft. Lauderdale and Michael’s Genuine in Miami along with delicious authentic Cuban food. We usually hit up the casino and shops at Gulfstream, take a walk along the Hollywood Broadwalk and of course spend time people watching in South Beach.
  1. Cruise to the Caribbean – Last winter I escaped to the Bahamas on a three day cruise with ten of my best girlfriends for my bachelorette! We spent our days by the pool and our nights with big hilarious group dinners (thanks for the bread, Dino!). While we were docked in Nassau we walked to a gorgeous beach and basked in the sun while we waded in the crystal clear water. It. Was. A. Blast.
  1. Las Vegas – Vegas can be oppressively hot in the summer which makes the weather pretty perfect in the winter. When I was growing up my Grandad lived outside Las Vegas so we visited a lot, including for a couple of Christmases. It’s almost like visiting New York at Christmas, with fabulous shopping, holiday decorations and shows, but without the cold and with more gambling. It’s a trade off 🙂 Most recently, I’ve stayed at the MGM and the Flamingo and because of the many hotel options, it’s easy to find a good deal.
  1. Austin – While not as warm as a beach vacation, you can find temperatures in the low 60’s from December-February which is still a nice break from the bitter cold of Baltimore. Visit the flagship Whole Foods, eat some amazing Barbecue and Tex Mex and get drinks on 6th Street. The bbq is even delicious at their gas stations – no lie, check out Rudy’s for some amazing brisket.
  1. New Orleans – I haven’t been to the Big Easy since college, but I am dying to make a return visit. I’m ready for beignets at Café Du Monde and walks through the French Quarter and I’ve heard Frenchman Street is the bomb. Adam’s heading there in March and I’m tempted to tag along…

The best part about all of these locations? (Besides the glorious warmth and sun) Southwest flies directly to all of them from BWI. So check out Jeanette’s travel tips and book a fun vacation now!

Linking up with Courtney, Mar and Cynthia for Friday Five and Heather for Friday Favorites.

Are you traveling anywhere this winter? Do you prefer cold or warm climates? I am not a skier, I’m all about those tropical getaways!

Beach Day!

Itching for the feeling of sand beneath our toes and the sound of waves crashing on the beach, Adam and I woke up bright and early Saturday morning for a day trip to Rehoboth Beach. We were over the Bay Bridge before 7:30am and after a quick stop for coffee and breakfast we made it to the beach by 10am. Rehoboth has a public beach where visitors can park for just $10 all day so that is where we set up shop. We had minimal supplies – two beach chairs, towels, a boogie board, sunscreen, a book and frozen water bottles which was all that we needed for a fantastic day!

Beach

For lunch we walked to the boardwalk and ducked inside a fairly empty Mediterranean place for gyro salads. Pro tip: friends and I discovered Semra’s Mediterranean last year and it has air conditioning, clean bathrooms and fast, refreshing food. We try to avoid the typical beach fare – pizza, french fries etc. because who wants to be weighed down by heavy, greasy food while in a bathing suit? Not this girl! Before we walked back down the beach we popped into the Coffee House for my favorite iced chai.

Maybe I’m just a wuss, but I think August is the best time to be at Rehoboth (and Bethany/Ocean City/Dewey etc) because the water is finally warm enough to go in! It was also the day of a big sand castle contest so we checked out all the amazing sand creations.

Proposal Sand Castle Sand Castle Minions Sand Castle Greek Sand Castle

People were so creative! I loved the minions and the proposal. After another few hours enjoying the beach we changed clothes (in our car in the parking lot) and drove to Rehoboth’s main drag for dinner. There were a ton of cars cruising around looking for parking but we lucked into a spot and grabbed seats at the bar at Pig and Fish. They have a daily happy hour so we ordered quickly ordered crab dip and a couple beers. I mentioned last week that I love wit beers and the Ommegang Witte really hit the spot after a long day in the sun. The crab dip in bread bowl was warm and gooey and amazing. We followed it up by splitting the happy hour fish tacos and a seafood salad sandwich. Because obviously we needed ALL the seafood.

Ommegang Beer

Crab Dip

Seafood Sammy

After dinner we walked around, split some ice cream (salted caramel) and piled back into the car for the drive home. Two and a half hours later we walked in the house exhausted and a little sandy, but very happy from our beach day. Yes, it was a lot of driving, but it was definitely doable and with most beach hotels having 3 night minimums in the summer it was certainly a more affordable option.

What’s the farthest you would drive for a day at the beach? 

Have you been to Rehoboth?

Friday Five (of my travel tips)

Travel Tips

I’m stuck sitting on a runway waiting for a tech to reboot my plane’s computer system, so it’s only appropriate that today’s Friday Five is dedicated to summer vacation. I’m not a total pro, Up In The Air style, but I like to think I do OK.

1. Book It. Experts say the best time to book your flight is 50-100 days in advance. I like to start monitoring flight prices early, then book when I find a good deal. Remember that you have 24 hours after booking to cancel your purchase if you change your mind. I love Southwest, and if you’re loyal to a brand, definitely take advantage of any loyalty programs they have. My flight home ended up costing me $5 because of all the points I had racked up! I also rave about ITA Flight Matrix, which is owned by Google flights. ITA lets you customize your search more than any other travel site I’ve seen. It can be a little tough to use at first, but it’s definitely worth learning.

2. Plan ahead. I’ll admit, I’m a little overzealous on this. My boyfriend gets stressed out by my detailed Google doc itineraries. But I can’t stand being somewhere cool and wandering. I want a vacay bucket list–a list of cool places I can get to at a moment’s notice. Trip Advisor is great for this, as is Yelp. Research everything down to tour guide companies so you know who does the best ghost tour or which whale watching company the locals use.

3. Pack your bags. No, seriously.. Pack some bags. I stuff grocery bags, Ziplocs, a canvas tote and a collapsible duffel in my luggage. I can’t tell you how often I end up using them. Other packing tips: Keep at least one outfit in your carry-on in case of lost luggage; mini bottles of liquor are permitted through airport security (in your liquids Ziploc); photocopy your passport and other travel documents and keep separate from the originals; and alllwaaayyys have a few granola bars on hand.

4. Hit the app store. Make sure you have any apps that might help make the trip smoother. Download your airline’s app, your hotel’s, the destination’s, Yelp, etc. It makes looking things up so much simpler. In fact, I just helped my seatmate by looking up the flight status of her connecting flight.

5. Relax, enjoy, and don’t forget to take pix! I know I am probably making travel sound really stressful, but I guess my point is that by doing all this prep in advance, you should be better able to enjoy your trip. Don’t sweat the small stuff–a flight that’s two hours delayed and just got deboarded, for instance (grr)–and don’t be afraid to go rogue from your schedule. Have fun!