Travel: Taking On Toronto

Day 3. New adventures await! The day started with a trip to Kensington Market, where I had matcha green tea crepe cake. Although the area was interesting, it was a bit overwhelming for us. The streets were congested and packed, crowds moving very slowly, and hard to navigate. We decided to reroute, and found ourselves in the midst of the Chinatown markets.

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Instead, we made our way to the other side of the city to the St. Lawrence Market. There, we were greeted by an endless supply of food. St. Lawrence Market was actually once named the world’s best food market by national Geographic in 2012 and one of the ten best fresh food markets by CNN. It certainly did not disappoint. I would recommend this stop even if you aren’t looking to buy food merely for the experience. Vendors sell a variety of goods from fresh fish, meats, cheeses and sweets.

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Our walk continued past the Gooderham Building to the “Times Square” of Toronto, the CF Toronto Eaton Centre. This mall has over 330 restaurants and shops. We then visited Nathan Phillips Square again, which was still playing baseball on their oversized TVs.

 

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Tell us, what are some of your favorite places to visit in Toronto?

 

 

Travel: Taking On Toronto

Day 2. After a long road trip one our first day, it’s time to actually see Toronto. First thing is first, though, we needed to get my Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon and Half Marathon packet. That required getting on a school bus and taking the shuttle to Exhibition Place, which sits off the Western Channel of Lake Ontario. After getting my packet, we took a short walk to Toronto Inukshuk Park, which was a quiet area with runners, boats and a waterfront park with memorials.

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We continued to follow the waterfront trail through the Toronto Music Gardens, Spadina WaveDeck, and finally settled in for lunch at the Amsterdam BrewHouse.  There, you can eat delicious, fresh food with amazing views of the waterfront- puppies included!

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That evening, we had Nutella crepes from Sobeys Urban Fresh’s Nutella Cafe. We then took a walk to Nathan Phillips Square, where locals were gathered to watch the Toronto Blue Jays play the Cleveland Indians. There, I tried poutine and finished our night in Canada’s largest city square relaxing.

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Travel: Niagara Falls

Well, we recently returned from our latest adventure to Canada.

We woke up at 3 a.m. (Yes, for those who know me, my Venti iced coffee was not-so-eagerly awaiting in the fridge.) We spent the morning driving through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York until we finally reached Niagara Falls on the United States side. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Niagara Falls (or this entire trip to be honest). I suppose we are accustomed to seeing the picturesque falls straight on (namely Horseshoe Falls), which just so happens to be the Canadian side. Instead, we saw only a fraction of the falls from a side angle (American Falls). They were still incredibly massive and you could undoubtedly feel the power.

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Once we crossed the Canadian border, however, we were greeted by Niagara Falls, Ontario, which is adorned with restaurants, a promenade full of tourist attractions, and easily the best view of Niagara Falls.  The combined three falls mark the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world. I could have easily spent a night eating near the water and seeing the falls at night.

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Instead, we went on our way and started the two hour trip to Toronto. By the time we checked in, we were tired and ready to get some rest after traveling for over ten hours. We opted for a short walk to the CN Tower before having dinner at Milestones.

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Yum: Delicious Apple Crisp Recipe

 

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Like it or not, fall is right around the corner.

Although I may be in a state of denial, I tried to start embracing it this Labor Day weekend. We went apple picking at Curtis Orchard and Pumpkin Patch in Champaign. My mom has apple trees that mass produce at an alarming rate, but other than that I will be the first to admit this is a little out of my wheelhouse. Eating apples. Cooking with apples. Basically anything apple. 

First of all, who knew there were so many apples?! Turns out, there’s over 2,500 apples grown throughout the United States and 100 varieties grown commercially. The apples ready to be picked were Honeycrisp, Jonathan and Ginger Gold. This, of course, meant nothing to me. So, after carefully scouring Pinterest, I learned that the taste buds led us in the right direction! We opted to stock up on the sweet, Honeycrisp apples, which are perfect for cooking and baking.

This only leads me to my next dilemma. Just what am I going to make with all these precious little apples? Well let’s find out…

 

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My first recipe is warm, delicious apple crisp. This particular recipe is from oh, sweet basil. This is another boyfriend-approved dish worthy of our next holiday function. Of course, next time I’m investing in an apple corer and peeler.

Ingredients
For the Apples
  • 4-5 large Honeycrisp or Gala Apples, peeled and sliced thin
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter, melted
  • 4 Tablespoons Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 4 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
  • ½ Teaspoon Vanilla
  • ¼ Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon White Sugar
  • ¾ Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ¼ Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • Dash of salt
For the Topping
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 1½ Cups Old Fashioned Oatmeal
  • 1½ Cups Brown Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • Dash of Salt
  • ¾ Cup Unsalted Butter, cut into small cubes
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375.
  2. Spray an 8×9″ baking dish with nonstick spray. Set aside.
For the Apples
  1. Place the melted butter in a large bowl, and whisk in the flour, lemon juice, heavy cream, and vanilla until smooth. Add the sugar and seasonings. Whisk until smooth. Add the apples and gently fold to coat entirely.
  2.  Spread the apples in the bottom of a baking dish and set aside.
Topping
  1. In a large bowl, add the flour, seasonings and oatmeal. Stir everything together. Add the butter cubes and using a pastry cutter begin to cut in the butter. As the butter begins to be incorporated into the mixture, switch to using your hands and squeeze and mix everything together until it is like a very thick dough and no flour remains. We like clumps so I squeeze together little clots of dough to sprinkle over the top. Top the apples with the mixture and bake for 18-20 minutes or until lightly golden in color. Cool for 5-10 minutes and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Tell me, what are some of your favorite apple recipes? Plus., be sure to check back in on other recipes I’ve been trying!

Travel: 3 Day New York Itinerary

Looking to book the perfect weekend trip to New York, but overwhelmed with the possibilities? Don’t worry… this quick guide will help you during your first visit to the Big Apple.

Day 1:

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Morning

Central Park- You could easily spend hours exploring Central Park and all that it has to offer. After all, it is 843 acres and is one of the most filmed locations in the world. I highly suggest downloading the free app, which will help you navigate the park and prioritize which sites you’d like to see beforehand. Grab some must-have walnut chocolate chip cookies from Levain Bakery (Upper West Side) and find somewhere relaxing in the park to people watch. I personally enjoyed visiting Bow Bridge (the second oldest cast-iron bridge in America) and Bethesda Terrace.

Afternoon

Upper East Side- Once you’re ready to venture on, weave your way towards the Upper East Side. You can visit the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) or the Guggenheim, both located right off Central Park. If that isn’t for you, you can visit Carrie Bradshaw’s stoop, shop along 5th Avenue or grab a bite to eat at Shake Shack.

Evening 

Times Square- Our hotel was conveniently located off Times Square so we went back to get refreshed before heading out for an early dinner (after all, we had been traveling) and spent the night watching the sun set in Times Square. Now, many reports state locals avoid this area like the plague and that’s easy to see why. It’s extremely congested and can be frustrating. However, it’s someplace you’ll want to experience albeit briefly while you’re in New York City. We selected Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain, but unless you’re a fan of the Food Network (like myself!), I’d opt for something local during our next trip.

Showtime- After dinner, make your way to a Broadway show or, in our case, the Comedy Cellar. Find which option works for your budget and better accommodates your interests. The Comedy Cellar allowed us to see some high profile comedians in an intimate setting, for the cost of just one Broadway ticket. The schedule is released one week ahead of time and does take reservations. You will be required to purchase two items per person. Still, all of this at the cost of less than one Broadway ticket and a wonderful performance you truly can’t get anywhere else. If you’re still up for a late-night snack, visit famous Joe’s Pizza, located in Greenwich Village.

Day 2:

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(Now, when I planned New York City, I wanted to steer clear of any tourist traps or overtly tourist attractions as much as possible. That being said, it’s about to get pretty touristy on day 2. I figured since this is Brandon’s first time, we absolutely had to visit these locations. During a future visit, we might allocate our time differently.)

Morning

Battery Park- Take the subway to Battery Park, which runs along 25 acres on the southern-most tip of Manhattan. We opted not to go to the Statue of Liberty, but the Staten Island Ferry is a free opportunity to get one of a kind views without the price tag. Once you’ve explored Battery Park, make your way to Wall Street. Even if trading doesn’t speak to you, you’ll want to pass by the famous charging bull. You can also alter your route to pass by Trinity Church (on Broadway and Wall Street), which is extremely rich with history.

9/11 Memorial and Museum- The first time I was in New York City was about a year after 9/11. As you can imagine, it was a far cry from the beautiful memorial it is today. Be sure to set aside enough time to pay your respects and reflect at this significant location.

Late-Afternoon

Chelsea Market- Whether you are interested in a late lunch or a delicious chocolate orange gelato from L’Arte del Gelato, fuel up on some of the best variety of food the city has to offer in a unique, confined hub. There is something that speaks to everyone’s palette. It can be overwhelming, so I suggest looking up a few that appeal to you beforehand to have an idea of where you’re going.

The High Line- Afterwards, take a short walk to the High Line, a converted train track that is now an urban park with unique city views

Evening 

Chelsea Piers- Catch a glimpse of the sunset at Chelsea Piers, or better yet, why not take a sunset cruise? There are a few options to choose from that will give you gorgeous views of the city skyline, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. Find the right option for you here.

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Day 3:

Morning

Brooklyn bound- It’s time to head out of Manhattan, grasshopper! Hop on the subway and make your way over to Brooklyn. If you’re feeling hungry, stop at Doughnut Plant for a bevy of unique and interesting doughnuts. Trust me, you’ll want to grab one even if you aren’t feeling hungry. (I suggest one with the jam filling.) Afterwards, there are a host of places to visit according to your interests. We went to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, but you can visit the Brooklyn Museum, Prospect Park Zoo, and more. If you’re visiting the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, make sure you’re going during a bloom season.

Afternoon

Brooklyn Heights- Take the subway or walk towards Brooklyn Heights. Enjoy lunch with the Brooklyn Bridge looming in the background. There is a spacious promenade on the waterfront with a carousel for the little ones. When you’re done, don’t forget to fill up your water bottle as you prepare to make your way over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge- Once you’re ready, follow the signs towards the Brooklyn Bridge. You’ll want to set aside enough time to walk across. It will take you roughly 25 minutes and can get quite busy and congested.

Evening 

Head back to the hotel to freshen up and get ready for dinner. Then, make your way to visit the major sites around midtown. Rockefeller Center, Grand Terminal Station, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Empire State Building are all viable options.

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Some thoughts for next time… 

This really only offers a taste of what the city has to offer. Now that we’ve covered a majority of the tourist attractions that the city has to offer, I’d love to go back and explore Brooklyn in more depth. I’d especially love to visit Williamsburg for Smorgasburg (Brooklyn’s Flea and Food Market) and the Mini Mall.  I’d also love to explore Little Italy, Chinatown and Tribeca.

Tell us, what are your favorites things to do and eat in New York for first time visitors? Share in the comments section below!

 

 

Travel: New York City Day 4

 

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Our final day.

First of all, I absolutely had to go back to Levain Bakery.

As you can see, we had some unexpected rain. We were stranded in Central Park while the storm passed. Yet, there we were. At Belvedere Castle, under shelter with a cellist playing to the crowd. It was actually quite sweet looking back. What are the chances?

Afterwards, we wandered the streets of Upper East Side and got lunch at the Shake Shack. Whew… was that busy! But worth it. You guys know I’m not a big meat eater, let alone red meat. This was a splurge though. With time ticking down, we headed down 5th Avenue. Somehow we managed to stumble across the flea market running down the streets of New York.

I love how every street is a new adventure. You’ll never know what treasures you’ll find or what memories await. There is potential and opportunity everywhere- racing by you. Truly, racing.

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Get a look at the entire day in more detail here.

 

 

Travel: New York Day 3 (Brooklyn)

 

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Day 3: Time to hop on the subway and explore Brooklyn. Even armed with subway apps galore, it does take some time to get our footing. Luckily, we purchased the 7-day Metro card which gets us unlimited rides throughout our trip. A worthy purchase if you’re feeling up for the challenge (and much quicker and less expensive travels throughout the city).

Once there, we made a quick stop at Doughnut Plant. Here, you can get a variety of sweet and unique donuts like vanilla bean and blackberry jam. Yes, yes please.

Then, we toured the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

 

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Another quick subway ride and we were at the edge of Brooklyn Heights enjoying the gorgeous skyline views. The Brooklyn Heights Promenade was among my favorites places throughout our trip.

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After a full day, we were excited to go on our sunset cruise, which sails under the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and more. Of course… to see what happens, find out here.

Travel: New York Day 2 (Chelsea Market Shopping)

Well… after a 22 hour day chock-full of activities, we had a late start to our second day. To all my foodies, listen up. Our first stop was an absolute must. We headed to the Chelsea Market, where you could easily spend hours snacking, shopping, and people watching. We had some orange chocolate and strawberry gelato (respectively). Both flavors were extremely rich, although the chocolate was slightly creamier. Next time, I’d love to try it on the brioche for a gelato sandwich (noted).

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The area is also home to the High Line, an elevated park built along old railroad tracks. Here, you’ll experience plenty of places to sit down, relax or grab more gelato.

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Shockingly, even after the abundance of food, we headed back to Greenwich Village for Joe’s Famous pizza. Hey, how could we go to New York and NOT have pizza?!

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The remainder of our day was spent doing ultra-touristy things, like Wall Street, Battery Park and the Statue of Liberty (from afar). We also made sure to visit the 9/11 Memorial as well. These all could have been given much more attention and time if allowed. Unfortunately, we were in such a rush to capture as much as we could. Nonetheless, there were some powerful moments as we made our way through this part of the city.

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After yet another busy day, we decided to stay near Times Square for dinner. Afterwards, we headed to the Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Radio City. Want to see all the fun action? See the entire day here!

 

Travel: New York Day 1 (Best Cookies You’ll EVER Eat)

After months of meticulously researching, scouring Pinterest and creating endless lists of places to visit- New York finally arrived!

We checked into The Premier Hotel New York, located right off Times Square. One block away from Times Square, this is a perfect location for someone experiencing the city for the first time- not to mention access to several subway stations once you’re ready to get acclimated to the rest of the city!

Iced coffees in hand, we weaved through the city streets and made our way to my first carefully selected stop- Levain Bakery (Upper West Side). I had read about these delicious, oversized chocolate chip walnut cookies for months and they certainly did not disappoint. These are an absolute MUST HAVE. They are easily the size of your palm and are still warm as you bite into one! Even at $4 a piece, these are worth taking a box home for later. Trust me… you will want more later.

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Armed and overflowing with cookies, we headed to Central Park to relax and take some photography for a few hours. Helpful hint: Be sure to download the Central Park app, which will help you navigate and pick your route carefully.

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After our adventure, we returned to the hotel to get ready for dinner. Dinner was at one of Bobby Flay’s restaurant’s, Bar Americain, located right off Times Square. Rated 4.1 on Google, I selected this mostly for the experience since I happen to love Beat Bobby Flay (or let’s face it, anything about food). Unfortunately, the menu was limited for, ahem, certain picky eaters. However, my shrimp and grits was delicious to the last drop. (Clean plate club, for sure.) If I were to go back to New York City, I’d avoid restaurants near Times Square. However, I was happy to make this one exception.

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Our night finished off with a trip to Greenwich Village for the 11:30 showing of Comedy Cellar. The show was amazing, but extremely intimate. Be sure to get reservations and show up early for a good seat, otherwise you’ll essentially be sitting on a stranger’s lap or two (it’s thatclose). Also, you’re required to buy two items per person. We got a pitcher, so come hungry and/or thirsty! We got extremely fortunate to see Jeff Ross, Dave Attell and other big names- even a preview of the Rob Lowe roast.

 See our entire day here.

V: Oh So Lucky Charms

This past week, I took Thursday off to have a lunch date downtown with my boyfriend.

It might not sound like much, given that I’ve called Chicago home for the past few years and literally just had a date night at Navy Pier. But the occasion did stand for something. I walked away from a busy workload and approached the day with an open mind and no plans. It was just the small dose of adventure I needed to remember to stop and enjoy the moment.

Sometimes it’s nice to remind ourselves how fortunate we are for the little things. Don’t forget to stop and be grateful today and maybe, just maybe, have a little bit of an adventure!

Alex and Ani Four Leaf Clover Charm Bracelet, $28

“Four leaf clovers are iconic symbols of prosperity, believed to bring good luck to those fortunate enough to stumble upon them. Carried by Eve from the Garden of Eden, the four leaf clover is traditionally associated with four blessings: faith, hope, love, and luck. With the serendipitous combination of faith and timing, you’ll find the luck you desire when you need it the most.”

 

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Alex and Ani May Charm Bracelet, $28

“A sacred stone of the goddess Venus, May’s emerald is thought to preserve love. A symbol of hope, wear the emerald to grow spiritually and to seek inner wisdom.”

 

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© 2017. Cookie Cutter Couture. Website by Brandon Kleszynski.