5 Things Laura Loves

5things1{Strolls on the beach}

I love the promise of Spring.  When you see the buds finally sprouting out of the ground, the birds chirping in the morning and dewy mornings that lead into warm afternoons.  Spring is such a magical time in the city.  Everything starts to bloom and people start dining outside at sidewalk cafes.  It’s like the warm air brings life into the city.  It’s Easter weekend and for some of us, it has a religious significance while for others it just means egg hunting and peeps.  Whatever it might mean to you, it means that we should really appreciate right now because before you know it, Summer is here.  My girlfriend just mentioned to me recently that if you live in the past, you always regret.  If you live in the future you are always worried.  You have to live in the present to be happy.  For better or for worse, I always live for the future.  I’m always waiting for the next big thing.  The next big trip, the next long weekend, the next girls night and I never really savor the moment.  What is up with that?  My goal for this month is to live in the moment and most importantly, not to be looking to the future in order to be happy.  Because I’ve noticed in the past that once you get to the place where you thought you would be happy, you’re not actually happier.  Once you get there, you’re just onto the next big thing.  So let’s all try to live in the moment and be happy now shall we?  After all, you never know what tomorrow has in store for us.  These were the things I was lovin’ this week.  Happy Friday everyone!

5things2{Pastel Macarons | Photo: Style Me Pretty}

5things3 {Magnolias}

5things4{DIY glittery Easter eggs}

5things5{Drinks with girlfriends at ABC Kitchen-One of my favorite spots}

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Hogar Dulce Hogar

basquebakery1Hogar Dulce Hogar means home sweet home in Spanish and it’s exactly how you feel when you step into this quaint Basque bakery in Soho.  When you walk into the sun filled space, your attention is immediately drawn to the right where there’s a wall filled with green plants.  To the left, there’s your typical bakery fare of an espresso machine, Basque pastries and gelato.  I love the attention to detail here like the mini chalkboards in milk bottles and the mini potted plants that are on each table.  There’s also a huge chalkboard in the back for kids to draw on.  Every little detail adds to the homey feel you get here.

If you’re terrible at geography, the Basque country is located in Spain but there’s a lot of French influence.  You will notice it in the pastries.  Two of my favorite things to get here are 1) the almond cake which is super moist, not too sweet and the perfect portion size and 2) the gelato.  The gelato is probably the best in the city and they make it in-house everyday.  Get the hazelnut flavor which is out of this world good.

Hogar Dulce Hogar is a light and airy bakery in Soho that offers delicious and unique sweets.  I can’t say that I’ve ever had Basque pastries before but now I want to learn more!

basquebakery2{Almond cake}

basquebakery3{Green apple gelato}

basquebakery4{Basque pastries}

basquebakery5{One of the many cute quotes around the bakery}

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Buvette

buvette1If you’re craving a little bit of Paris in New York make your way to Buvette in the West Village.  There will most certainly be a wait but it’s worth it.  The food is exquisite, the service impeccable and the space so quaint and charming.  Everything from the printed menus that change seasonally to the small plates that your meal arrives on is done with a great deal of detail.  It’s what the French do best, pack a lot of goodness into a small package.  Dining at Buvette transported me to a sidewalk cafe in Paris and when a girl can’t get to Paris, Buvette is the next best thing.

Buvette2 {Croque Madam}

buvette3{The Bar}

buvette4 {The inside of the restaurant is so cute and quaint}

buvette5 {The bustling bar}

buvette6 {One of the many cute collages featured on their website}

buvette7 {LOVE}

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Surfing Lessons

surfinglessonsLearning how to surf officially has been on my bucket list for years now.  I sort of learned when I lived in San Diego from a friend but got discouraged by the cold water and the inhospitable surfers who were actually good at surfing (true story).  Years later, I took a surfing lesson from a tiny balinese boy who barely spoke English so summing up all this experience, I felt like I needed a legit lesson.

My resolution for 2014 was to do things outside of my comfort zone and I knew surfing would be one of them because let’s be honest, surfing takes patience and endurance.  Surfers have ripped bodies for a reason, it’s because they are literally werkin their asses off to catch the perfect wave.  Then you add in all the elements like rip currents, huge waves, and other surfers.  It all just seems so overwhelming.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I planned a trip to Costa Rica and one of my goals for the trip was to learn how to surf once and for all.  Luckily for me, Mama also had surfing on her bucket list.  There’s something you should know about Santa Teresa, it’s a surfing culture.  Everything about this town caters to surfers the food, the clothes, the lifestyle.  What was so surprising about our surfing experience was how welcoming everyone was to newbies like us.  They clapped when we caught our first wave and encouraged us to keep trying.  Surfing here was inclusive not exclusive.  Our lesson with Juan Carlos was $40 for 2 hours with board rental.  Surfing here is not an elite sport only accessible to the hip and cool who frequent Montauk.

Surfing is such a metaphor for life.  I kept mental notes of everything Juan Carlos told us during our lesson.  These were the lessons I learned:

  1. You WILL fall just get back up and try again.
  2. You have to be PATIENT and wait for the GOOD wave.
  3. It’s all about the timing and finding balance.
  4. You’re going to have to paddle out through the waves but you have to power through it because it’s going to be worth the ride.
  5. The hardest part is paddling out.

Learning how to surf was the highlight of our trip because it wasn’t easy but once we stood on our boards, it was all worth it.  It was a great testament that if you’re patient enough a good wave will come.

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5 Things Laura Loves

5things1{Surfboards}

It’s amazing what a little bit of warmer weather can do to a person’s spirit.  Everyone seems to be walking with a lighter step and wearing big smiles on their faces.  It’s that magical time of year when everything starts to bloom and the hellish winter we all suffered through seems like a distant past.  I love Spring because it signifies a rebirth and I totally feel like that’s the case in my life right now.  I’m ready to put the past behind me, close that chapter and start a new one.  Even if you’re not going through something, Spring should be a fresh start for you as well.  Have you ever wanted to learn something, face your fears, do something out of your comfort zone, or traveled to a foreign country?  If there’s one important lesson I’ve learned over the years is that you never know what tomorrow will bring, you can’t wait for things to happen.  So ask yourself, what are you waiting for?  Spring is your time!  These were the things I was lovin’ this week.  Have a beautiful weekend everyone!

5things2 {Dragon fruit}

5things3 {Succulents with hot pink rocks | Photo via Jen Lauren Grant}

5things4 {Awesome quote | Quote from Simply Designing}

5things5 {Cocktails with flowers | Photo from Pinterest}

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Charlie Bird

charliebird1I honestly didn’t know that much about Charlie Bird except that many people I know have been raving about it and that it’s grown quite a buzz.  My girlfriends took me there for my birthday dinner and I’m still dreaming about it.  It’s an unassuming space on King street.  You almost miss it if you’re not looking out for it but inside, there’s an intimate ambiance with unforgettable food and a to-die-for wine list.  As I’m writing this I keep thinking about the farro salad which is literally the best salad I’ve ever had.  It’s made of pistachios, pumpkin, mint and parmigiano.  The best part of the meal had to be the wines which were expertly paired with our food by our sommelier.  We still have goosebumps from one of the wines he poured us.  All of the ingredients are locally sourced from farms and waters around the city which makes everything taste incredibly fresh.  I lean towards simple food with minimal ingredients but packs a lot of flavor and Charlie Bird delivers on all fronts.

charliebird2 {Every meal should start with oysters}

charliebird3 {Farro salad}

charliebird4 {Razor clams}

charliebird5 {Pasta with clams}

charliebird6 {Ribeye, anchovy butter and duck fat potatoes}

charliebird7 {Goosebump worthy wine}

charliebird8 {Making a wish}

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Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

santateresa1Sorry I’ve been MIA for two weeks, I have a really really good reason but more on that later.  I’ve been to a lot of beaches around the world but no other beach town has made an impression on me like Santa Teresa, Costa Rica.  Last December, I decided that I wanted to go to Santa Teresa for my thirty-second birthday to learn how to surf, do yoga, and cleanse my soul.  Little did I know at the time that it would be the ugliest Winter in history.  When March finally rolled around with about a dozen or so nasty storms under our belt, I was so glad I booked my trip to paradise.

Since I started this blog, I’ve always juggled between wanting to share my personal life and my struggles and keeping it more private.  I’ve received many emails from readers encouraging me to share more but honestly, I’m so freaked out about it.  I’ve always dealt with things my own way.  Mostly with a mix of aggressive optimism and not dealing with things right away.  The problem is no matter how long you delay things and how far you run away from reality, it still catches up to you.

It’s a catch 22 because I’m a die-hard optimist but it’s false advertising to say that everything is always great because it’s not.  Sometimes, it’s fucking shitty.  This blog is my happy place, a place where I share my photos of travels and creative ideas.  However, I do want to use my own personal experiences to inspire others to go after their dreams and pursue happiness.  So while I’m going through a rough patch right now in my life, I hope to have the courage one day to share my struggle and how I come out of the darkness into the light again.

This trip to Santa Teresa couldn’t have come at a better time.  It definitely had themes from the get-go like, “let it go,” “happiness is worth everything,” “patience,” “live simply.”  Why Santa Teresa in Costa Rica?  Costa Rica has always been on my bucket list as I’m sure it’s on yours.  I felt like I had the rainforest experience in the Amazon so I wanted it to be more of a surfing trip.  One of the best surfing towns in Costa Rica is Santa Teresa, a small town on the Nicoya Peninsula.

Being a New Yorker in Costa Rica is like being a fish out of water.  My first inclination is to do everything right away.  Land-check in-change-beach-drinks-dinner.  Natalia, one of the gorgeous girls who works at Nautilus, told me to relax.  One of the things I loved the most about Santa Teresa was that we were the only Americans in the town.  Not that I have anything against Americans or New Yorkers but going to any Caribbean island is like you’re in New York with a prettier back drop so what’s the point?  Lesson 1: Relax.

Costa Rica really lives up to its motto of Pura Vida.  Every day we had organic food, green juices, and everything is pretty much sustainable.  Everyone is fit.  Literally everyone including the 75 year old grandfather is ripped and gorgeous.  This is where the average person goes to get hot.  Everyone surfs in the morning or at sunset, eats healthy and goes to bed early.  I’ve never felt more cleansed in my life.  Excluding our nightly ritual of drinking a local beer at sunset (don’t judge it was cheaper than water) and sweating 5 lbs of water weight off in the 97 degree weather, I felt amazing.

I really can’t describe to you in words the experience I had in Santa Teresa because words nor photos would do it justice.  It was magical.  The minute you step onto the beach around sunset, it’s pure paradise.  To the left you see a family swimming together in the ocean, surfers trying to catch the last waves of the day, dogs running around, and everyone else waiting in anticipation of the most magnificent sunset you will ever see in your life.  Everyone was so happy and relaxed with only a surf board, 2 sun-dyed t-shirts (which was actually sun-dyed and not a $100 tshirt sold in a hipster store in Williamsburg), with little to no possessions.  I kept asking myself, are we doing it all wrong?  Lesson 2: Live simply.

There was a part of me that didn’t even want to write about Santa Teresa because it’s so special to me.  It’s such a pure and magical place in my memory that I hope it never gets tainted.  Like any paradise, it’s a trek to get to but like all things in life, the best things are worth waiting for.  I landed in Santa Teresa as a lost girl and left renewed and fired up.

santateresa2 {Nautilus Hotel Entrance-Pure Serenity}

santateresa3 {Gluten Free Pizza at Olam}

santateresa4 {Zwart Cafe-Perfect for Breakfast or Lunch}

santateresa5 {Art Gallery at Zwart Cafe}

santateresa6 {Gallo Pinto-Costa Rican Rice and Beans}

santateresa7 {Surfers at Sunset}

santateresa8 {Almendra the Miss Buttercup of Santa Teresa}

santateresa9 {The Most Gorgeous Walk to the Beach}

santateresa10 {Surfing at Sunset}

santateresa11 {Daily Ritual of Watching the Sunset Every Night}

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Istanbul Eats

istanbuleats1When people ask me how the food was in Istanbul there’s only one word: amazing.  Everything was so fresh and so flavorful, you really can’t go wrong with any of the options.  Everything from the street food to the up and coming chef’s restaurant was memorable.  There was definitely an abundance of your typical Turkish food like kebabs and yogurt but there were so many dishes that I’ve never seen before.  Because of it’s history and location, Turkish cuisine is a mix of its Ottoman heritage, Middle Eastern, Asian and European influences.  Since Istanbul is such a large cosmopolitan city, there’s now influences from around the world.  Here were some of my favorite Istanbul eats.

istanbuleats2 Under the Galata bridge you can get a whole fresh fish grilled.

istanbuleats3At Dürümzade you can probably get the best kebab you will ever taste.

istanbuleats4The kebab includes fresh ingredients.

istanbuleats5The kebab is made with homemade flatbread that’s grilled.

istanbuleats6At Sekiz Istanbul, the chef makes Turkish cuisine with a modern twist.

istanbuleats7Isn’t the plating just gorgeous?

istanbuleats8 Pearl couscous with beet reduction and pine nuts

istanbuleats9 Duck liver

istanbuleats10Beef ragu on bazlama bread

istanbuleats11The wet burger as seen on Anthony Bourdain’s show.

istanbuleats12 It’s actually really tasty.

istanbuleats13 This is a common sight in Istanbul.

istanbul14 For delicious lamb grilled in a fire pit go to Sur Ocakbasi.

istanbuleats15 The best baklava I’ve ever had at Hafiz Mustafa.

istanbuleats16 These Turkish delights don’t look like much but they’re so addictive!

istanbuleats17 Turkey’s answer to the bagel-Simit

istanbul18Freshly baked simits

istanbuleats19 Lahmacun or Turkish pizza

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Pumpkin Biscuits

pumpkinbiscuits1You’re probably wondering, why is she posting about pumpkins?  It’s nearly Spring?  Well, it all started about six years ago when I used to frequent the bars by Sutton Place and Turtle Bay in NYC.  I met this girl at one of those bars during a happy hour and became Facebook friends with her.  You know how that happens, you meet someone for one night, you Facebook friend them and you have an insta-friend.

Last year, I had a feng shui moment on Facebook and started deleting “friends” who weren’t really friends, old school mates, colleagues and came across Kait Turshen’s profile.  I noticed that she started her own blog called Bubble Girl Bakes.  I was curious and started reading her blog and I was instantly inspired.

Kait found out that she had over twenty food allergies which was the cause of her continual state of misery (as she puts it).  What I love about stories like Kait’s is that she took her less than ideal situation and turned it into a gain.  She’s dedicated herself to providing vegan, allergen friendly, and gluten free recipes that even people without allergies can enjoy.

When I met Kait about a month ago, she came bearing gifts.  Her chocolate heart cookies (recipe here) and her all purpose flour that she created.  It’s an all purpose baking flour that’s gluten free, vegan and allergen free.  She told me that I had to make her most popular recipe; sweet potato biscuits.  Oddly enough, my supermarket didn’t have sweet potatoes so I ended up making her pumpkin biscuits.  Hers turned out prettier but mine still tasted amazing.

I don’t have any food allergies but I’ve come to the conclusion in the last couple of years that I don’t want to eat crap and food with chemicals.  I don’t really miss it either because recipes like these pumpkin biscuits are so delicious you don’t even know that they’re gluten free and vegan.

I love meeting inspiring young women like Kait.  It just goes to show you that you can’t let barriers hold you back from your dreams and sometimes, when you have obstacles in life they are blessings in disguise.  Visit Bubble Girl Bakes for more recipes!

pumpkinbiscuits2

pumpkinbiscuits3

pumpkinbiscuits4

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Jeepney

jeepney1Filipino cuisine is not one that you find very often in restaurants.  When I lived in San Diego, I lived with Filipino roommates who always made lumpias, which are fried spring rolls.  That’s about how extensive my knowledge of Filipino food was.

My girlfriend Geena who happens to be Filipino frequents Jeepney, a Filipino gastropub in the East Village.  I told her that I wanted to experience real authentic Filipino food and that she had to guide me in the right direction.  Lucky for me, she suggested the Kamayan night at Jeepney which is an all out feast of rice, vegetables, and your choice of seafood or pork.  The only catch is they don’t give you plates or utensils.  That’s right we ate with our hands.

It was the most delicious, flavorful, fun and interactive experience I have ever partaken in. I didn’t think I would be able to eat with my hands but after a while, I got used to it.  So there’s this thing called balut it’s infamous in Filipino cuisine.  It’s a developing chick that’s boiled alive and eaten in its shell.  If you google it you’ll see some pretty graphic photos.  I will always try anything once.

That night, I tried my first balut.  When I peeled the shell, it looked like a discolored egg. It did not look very appetizing but when I tasted it, it tasted like an egg yolk.  I was told that Jeepney’s version of balut is a conservative one so I didn’t taste feathers or anything like that.  It actually wasn’t that bad.  Discover Filipino food at Jeepney gastropub it’s like nothing you’ll ever experience.

jeepney2 jeepney3 jeepney4 jeepney6jeepney7jeepney8jeepney9

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