Brunching our way through 2018

Ryan and I share a love of breakfast food. Any time we have the chance to go out for brunch we really enjoy it, so we decided that for 2018 we were going to make that a priority and try a new brunch place each month.

We decided to keep track of all the places that we try and rate each place based on factors that are important to us: coffee, taste of the food, service, portion size, and price. I’ve listed the places we tried in order from least favorite to our favorite place of the year!


  • Jack & Nellie’s (Forest Hills, Queens) — Unfortunately, we were not very impressed with this place. It got great reviews on Yelp, but we felt like it was too pricey for the amount and quality of food you received.
  • The Supply House (Upper East Side) — We enjoyed meeting up with some friends for brunch on this day and were pleased when we weren’t rushed out after finishing our food. We do wish the portions were a little larger, but overall we enjoyed our brunch!
  • The Omelette Shoppe (Grand Rapids, MI) — We received good food for a really good price. We would definitely visit this place again to try something else.
  • Agora Taverna (Forest Hills, Queens) — We loved that the servers gave us some muffins to snack on while we waited for our food, although we were pleasantly surprised to receive our food so quickly after ordering!
  • Highland Bakery (Atlanta, GA) — The friend who told us about this place raved about the peanut butter stuffed French toast, so we had to give it a try! It was a peanut butter lover’s dream, and we would love to come back next time we are in Atlanta to try something else.
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  • The Harold (Midtown Manhattan) — This was the best coffee we had all year! The food was delicious too, but unfortunately the service we received wasn’t very good and that really affected our experience (almost to the point of not wanting to go back).
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  • Banter Irish Bar & Kitchen (Forest Hills, Queens) — This restaurant offers a fixed price for brunch which includes coffee, tea, or a cold drink. It is a little pricier than some other options, but well worth it in our opinion.
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  • Ward 8 (Boston, MA) — Great atmosphere with delicious food and coffee make this a great brunch option! We loved the creative options offered here, like the croissant egg sandwich pictured below.
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  • The Apron Cafe (West Hampton Beach, NY) — We enjoyed a relaxing brunch outside watching planes take off and land at a small airport close by. The food was delicious and was a good price for the portion received. Even better, they offered to-go iced AND hot coffee!
  • Sanford’s (Astoria, Queens) — Best omelette we had all year, delicious hot AND iced coffee, and unique pancakes. Success!
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  • Trestle (Astoria, Queens) — This was one of our favorite places this year! We especially enjoyed the coffee and thought it was a nice touch that they still honored our request for to-go coffee even though they had to place it in kiddie cups. 🙂
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  • Thomas Ham & Eggery (Long Island, NY) — This restaurant boasts of the best breakfast in Long Island for 72 years, and we believe it! This was the best service we received, hands down! If you decide to give this place a try, be prepared to wait for a table, but don’t let that keep you away! This place is well worth the wait!

 

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Thankful that this guy loves coffee and brunch as much as I do!

What a fun year of exploring brunch places together.

2018 Recap

1 international trip

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5 round trip flights

5 bus trips

6 states visited

5 years of marriage

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7 visits from family and friends

2 weddings attended

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1 baby niece

13 brunch places tried

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2 Broadway plays

21 books read

2 trips on the subway with a whole car to myself

This year was full — Full of laughter, time with friends & family, coffee, subway rides (and delays), Trader Joe’s trips, memories, church activities, lessons, seasons of growth, and so much more.

Looking forward to what adventures 2019 will bring!

 

Trader Joe’s Beauty Picks

It should come as no surprise to you by now that I am a huge fan of Trader Joe’s and its amazing array of products. What some of you may not know is that Trader Joe’s doesn’t only sell food products. That’s right…they sell beauty products as well! I am going to share a few of the products we pick up on a regular basis.

  1. Lemon Kitchen Hand Soap – Where has this been all of my life?! I just recently picked this up, and I couldn’t believe how well it works. I had been using Bath & Body Works kitchen lemon soap for years, but it wouldn’t always remove super strong smells from my hands (mainly onions). After the first couple of uses, I quickly realized that the TJ lemon hand soap truly eliminates those stubborn kitchen odors. This has definitely become my go-to soap to keep in my kitchen.
  2. Moisturizing Cream Shave – Quoting directly from the back of the bottle, it says, “This unique blend of lubricating emollients maximizes absorption of water, lifting and softening unwanted hair for effortless razor glide and reducing the risk of nicks, cuts, and irritation.” I have been buying this product for a few years now, and I don’t plan on stopping. In fact, Ryan prefers using this shave cream over other big name brands that he has used in the past. One side note about the formula on this shave cream, it goes on more as a lotion than a shaving cream, but don’t let that deter you from giving it a try!
  3. Ultra Moisturizing Hand Cream – This is one of my go-to hand lotions, especially during the winter months. This winter has been really dry, and I find myself applying this hand cream on a daily basis. The best part is that it doesn’t leave your skin feeling super greasy after applying it. I have only seen this product available during the winter months, so if you want to give this hand cream a try be sure to pick some up ASAP!
  4. Refresh Citrus Body Wash – I have been using this body wash for a while now, and I absolutely love it. Its light, refreshing scent is perfect and not overpowering. True to their nature, TJ keeps the price low which is something I really love!
  5. Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo – Ryan has been using this shampoo for about a year now, and he keeps requesting that I pick up more (that must mean he likes it, right 😉 ). One of Ryan’s favorite aspects about the shampoo is that it doesn’t leave his hair feeling dry, even though he doesn’t use the conditioner with it. It gives you all of the clarifying benefits that come with a tea tree shampoo without the large tea tree price tag.

These are just a sampling of the great beauty products Trader Joe’s sells. I have received body butters as gifts and have had many opportunities to use them with the frigid temps we have been getting this winter. I buy certain beauty items from Trader Joe’s simply because of the low prices (e.g. tea tree oil and Vitamin C).

I am always on the lookout to see what new beauty items TJ has come up with and love to give these new products a try when I can. What about you? What TJ beauty products can you not live without??

2017 Highlights

I cannot believe another year has almost passed. I know people seem to say this every year, but time really flew this past year. Here are just a few of the highlights from 2017 for us.

January – Traveling to Detroit to celebrate Christmas with Ryan’s family.

February – Showing our friends Biz and Rob around our new city, which included seeing Wicked on Broadway.

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March – Checking off items on our NYC Bucket List (walking the Brooklyn Bridge and seeing the 9/11 Memorial) while showing my parents around NYC.

April – Celebrating Ryan’s birthday by going to our favorite neighborhood bakery, Martha’s Country Bakery.

May – Traveling to Watertown, WI to celebrate Ryan’s sister’s graduation from college!

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June – Exploring NYC with Ryan’s family — parents, sister, aunt, uncle, and grandma — while they were here visiting the city.

July – Taking an anniversary trip to explore Maine and Rhode Island and taking advantage of a work trip for Ryan to see friends in California! July was a busy month; we also had my good friend Stephanie come visit for a weekend.

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Acadia National Park

August – Taking in the spectacular NYC city views from the Top of the Rock with my sister and her fiancé while they were here visiting. (Also worth mentioning, celebrating my birthday at the beach!)

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September – Exploring more of NYC and finding new places to take family and friends when they come visit — notable mention: Neal Caffrey’s house from White Collar. Where are my other White Collar fans at??

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Fangirl moment: Seeing Neal Caffrey’s house!

October – Sightseeing around the UK and Ireland for 2 weeks, which included staying with our friends Josh and Annie in Ireland. (We had been planning this trip since we got married 4 years ago!)

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At the top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland

November – Spending time with my parents and grandparents as they came for a quick visit to show my grandparents the city.

December – Hosting friends and family during the weekends leading up to Christmas and showing them the iconic Christmas sites in the city.

This brief glimpse into our past year doesn’t even give me the time to mention visiting many new coffee shops, getting more involved in our church, developing new friendships, trying all sorts of new foods, and so much more. This has been quite the year for us, and I cannot wait to see what 2018 holds!

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Happy New Year! 🙂

Christmas Traditions

Thinking back to our first Christmas together 4 years ago, I remember being so concerned about starting our own traditions for the holiday season. As each year passed and no traditions seemed to be sticking for us, I began to worry that we would never develop traditions as our own family. But then I stepped back and took a look at the last 4 Christmases and realized that we did have our own traditions; they just so happened to change based on where we were living. So this year I have decided to not spend my time worrying about what traditions we are developing but rather to just sit back and enjoy where we are right now.

A tiny look at our traditions through the years

Michigan | 2013-2014 
– Listening to Christmas music while decorating the Christmas tree
– Watching our favorite Christmas movies (Home Alone and White Christmas)
– Decorating Christmas cookies together
– Spending Christmas Eve with my Papaw
– Spending Christmas being surrounded by family (Tanis family in the morning and extended Archibald family in the afternoon/evening)
– Watching and being a part of the Christmas program at our church

Maryland | 2015
– Taking a trip to 34th street in Hampden to see the amazing display of Christmas lights
– Taking a trip to Washington D.C. to see the national Christmas tree
– Decorating Christmas cookies
– Watching our favorite Christmas movies
– Attending the Christmas Eve service at my parents’ church

NYC | 2016 – Present
– Taking a trip into the city to see the famous Christmas sites
– Walking down our street to look at the Christmas lights
– Hosting friends and family who have come to see the famous Christmas sites
– Watching and being a part of the Christmas program at our church
– Listening to Christmas music as we decorate the Christmas tree
– Decorating Christmas cookies
– Watching our favorite Christmas movies

As you can see, we do have some traditions that stay the same year after year while others are unique to a specific area. This gives you a small look into how we celebrate during this exciting time of year, and even though it may not be the most exciting, I love it!

Whether you have traditions that stand the test of time, or your traditions just seem to keep changing, I hope you don’t let this season pass without taking time to remember what Christmas is really all about: God’s gift to us, Jesus. Taking time to praise God for His precious gift is a tradition that I hope never changes for Ryan and me.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

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TJ Seasonal Favorites: Christmas Edition

Trader Joe’s sells amazing products year round, but this time of year they really outdo themselves. This year, I decided to finally try some products that I have had my eye on for a few years. Let’s just say, I have definitely found some new favorites!

Gingerbread Coffee – This coffee just tastes like Christmas! If you are a gingerbread fanatic like Ryan and me, you NEED to go pick up some of this coffee.

Jingle Jangle – This is a delightful mixture of dark & milk chocolate covered pretzels, dark & milk chocolate peanut butter cups, chocolate candies, dark chocolate covered caramel popcorn, and chocolate covered sandwich cookies. Seriously guys, this is so good! If this sounds good to you, make sure to pick up a tin quickly. This mix has a tendency to sell out quickly! – If Trader Joe’s sells out of Jingle Jangle before you can pick up a tin, don’t fret; pick up a quart of Jingle Jangle Ice Cream instead. This is definitely another tasty option.

Apple Cranberry Herbal Tea Blend – If coffee isn’t your thing, give this tea a try! Ryan and I had a sample while we were shopping the other day, and it was really good — such great flavors for this time of year.

Mini Gingerbread Men Cookies – Like I said before, Ryan and I LOVE gingerbread, so when I saw this box of cookies in the store, I knew I needed to pick them up for us to try. These little cookies have the perfect blend of spice from the gingerbread and sweetness from the fudge icing.

Take some time to swing by Trader Joe’s this holiday season and peruse their vast array of products! I guarantee you will find more than a few delicious treats to enjoy this holiday season. What are your favorite TJ Christmas season products??

Pumpkin Picks

I am going to be honest with you all; fall is not my favorite time of year. Now before you break out the pitchforks and storm my apartment, give me a chance to explain myself. The beginning of fall marks the end of my favorite season, summer, and is a reminder that winter and cold temperatures are coming. However, there is one thing that helps to excite me about the cooler autumn months — Pumpkin. Ryan and I aren’t obsessed with ALL things pumpkin, but we do enjoy getting our fill this time of year. Here are some of our favorite pumpkin flavored items we like to enjoy each fall season.

  • Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix – This is by far our absolute favorite pumpkin item of all time. It is so good that we continue to eat these muffins as long as Trader Joe’s continues to carry the mix — which last year was well into the winter months.
  • Pumpkin Pie Larabars – Larabars are our favorite, so when we saw this flavor in stores a few years ago, we had to give it a try! This seasonal flavor will only last in stores for a limited time, so make sure to grab a box soon. I have seen Target stores carry the pumpkin pie flavor in the past, AND for those of you looking to save a little money, coupons.com occasionally has a free printable coupon for $1.00 off a box of Larabars.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts’ Pumpkin Swirl – For us coffee lovers, nothing is better during the fall than a pumpkin spice latte.  Unfortunately, Starbucks famous PSL doesn’t cut it for us, but with the discovery of Dunkin’ Donuts’ Pumpkin Swirl flavoring, we are now able to enjoy the cult favorite. We simply ask for a dark roast coffee and add the pumpkin swirl flavoring instead of opting for the latte. The latte can be a little too sweet at times, but this alternative is the perfect balance between the naturally bitter flavor of the coffee and the sweetness of the pumpkin.
  • Pumpkin Pie Bagel from Panera Bread – Being a MyPanera rewards member has its perks, for instance getting a free bagel every day for the entire month. I was offered this reward for the month of September, which just so happens to be the time when Panera Bread releases their pumpkin pie bagel. Ryan and I usually like to wait until October to partake in pumpkin flavored products, but this year we HAD to make an exception in order to indulge in a few pumpkin pie bagels.
  • Trader Joe’s October Fearless Flyer – Now I know this is not a food, but Trader Joe’s offers a plethora of new pumpkin products each year. If you are looking for something new to try, just read through their flyer. I found dozens of new products that I want to try!

These are a few of our current favorites. Considering that pumpkin seems to continue to grow in popularity each year, we are always on the lookout for new ways to enjoy it. This year we are hoping the pumpkin spice flavored cereals are really as good as they look! What pumpkin flavored foods get you excited about the fall season??

My Healthy Obsession with Trader Joe’s

It is no secret that Ryan and I are HUGE Trader Joe’s fans. Shortly after we got married, we decided to find out what all the talk was about and check out the Trader Joe’s store close to our apartment. It was love at first sight. The many interesting products, friendly staff, and delicious samples were some of the first things that grabbed our attention and kept us coming back on a consistent basis. Since that first visit, we have learned so much more about Trader Joe’s, which has only encouraged our obsession. In the months to come, I will be sharing some of our favorite products, but first, let me share with you a few of our reasons (in no particular order) for making Trader Joe’s a staple in our home.

  1. Friendly Staff: The workers at Trader Joe’s are always so pleasant (yes, even here in the city!). They are willing to stop what they are doing and help you find exactly what you are looking for. Also, it is not uncommon to strike up a friendly conversation about recipe ideas or TJ products with your cashier.
  2. Samples: Not only does Trader Joe’s allow you to taste test selected products at their sample stand, but they also allow you to sample ANY product in the store (with the exception of items you need to prepare like a cake mix, frozen items that need to be cooked, and liquor). If there is an item that you want to try before purchasing, simply take the item to a TJ worker and ask to sample it. Ryan and I take advantage of this ALL the time!
  3. Return Policy: Trader Joe’s allows you to return any item for a full refund even if the item is half-eaten because you just didn’t like it. No receipt is required making the return process super simple. I have taken advantage of this return policy and can say with confidence that it really is as simple as it sounds. I opened a bag of salad and it smelled bad even though it was not past the expiration date. I simply took it back to Trader Joe’s and got my money back…no questions asked!
  4. Low Prices: Trader Joe’s prices are noticeably lower than other major health-food grocery stores which makes it much easier to eat healthier on a budget.
  5. Quality of Trader Joe’s Brand Products: In addition to low prices, Trader Joe’s private label products contain NO artificial flavors, NO artificial preservatives, NO MSG, NO genetically modified ingredients, and NO partially hydrogenated oils. This is stated in their stores and on their website.

If you have never set foot in a Trader Joe’s store, I would highly recommend that you pay them a visit. Although — just a warning — it can be slightly overwhelming during your first few visits due to the (typically) smaller size of the stores and the vast amounts of people shopping for their essentials. DON’T LET THAT SCARE YOU! Soon enough you will know just what you want and will be able to find your favorite items in a flash.