Leaving the Familiar

I came across this quote while reading Anthony Doerr’s Four Seasons in Rome, and it’s become one of my favorite quotes about travel.

One of my favorite quotes about travel from novelist Anthony Doerr. Inspirational Quotes | Spain | Ronda

Photo taken in Ronda, Spain.

As we leave home and explore the unfamiliar this week, I hope you’ll consider doing the same. It doesn’t have to be a grand, sweeping or expensive adventure. Travel to the next county over, visit that state park you always say you’ll get to, try a restaurant in a new cuisine, explore an unfamiliar part of town. Leave the comfort of your home and become new all over again.


My Favorite Online Resources for Pretty Much Everything

When it comes to living in this digital age, it can feel like a modern-day Dickens novel:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness … we had everything before us, we had nothing before us …”

We have access to so much information (The best!), and yet how do we sift through all of it to get what we need? (The worst!) How do we figure out which resources to trust and which are full of nonsense? We have everything at our fingertips, and yet when we really need help, answers, advice or inspiration, it can feel like nothing quite fits.

The internet is obviously not one-size-fits-all, and I can’t claim that I’ve got it all figured out. However I do feel as if over the years I’ve been able to curate a list of trusted sources on the internet. I’m able to rely on these sites for the areas of my life in which I most often seek information. I recommend them so often to so many different people I thought it would be handy to have them all in once place.

As a reader, I hope you find at least one resource in this post that makes your information-loaded life just a little easier or brighter. I’ve included a brief description of why I love the particular site, as well as a link to an example of the kind of useful information that makes them so wonderful. And if you happen to stumble on this post and you’re responsible for creating the great content on the resources listed below? Thank you so very much! You make my life easier and brighter! Enjoy.

The best online resources for media, travel, fashion, food and home. These are my favorite places to turn online for advice and inspiration.


Movies, Shows, Apps & Media for Kids

Common Sense Media: I’ve been using this site for years, and it’s never let me down. Wondering if that latest release in theaters is too scary for kindergartners? Have fond memories of The Goonies, but wonder if language could be an issue? Search movie titles on Common Sense Media and they’ll give you detailed information on it all: consumerism, sex, violence, language and more. I’ve also used it to check out video games before purchasing them for Eli. Beyond reviews, the site is also a wealth of information and inspiration for how you can use media wisely in your family. I don’t subscribe to many newsletters, but I do receive the newsletter from CSM and almost always find something relevant and useful.

Example: The New Guide to Managing Media for Tweens and Teens

Books (For Kids)

Brightly: This lovely site, launched last year in partnership with Penguin Random House, is another bright spot in my inbox. The site is full of advice, inspiration and book recommendations to help parents grow lifelong readers. Whether you’re the parent of a toddler or a teen, you’ll find something of interest here. I’m always finding titles, old and new, to add to Elena and Eli’s reading lists. I especially enjoy the Brightly newsletter. Not only does it link to new content on the site (and you can tailor the newsletter for the age and stage of your own readers), but they always include some interesting links from around the web.

Example: 10 Books for Kids Who Only Want to Read Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Books (For Grownups)

Modern Mrs. Darcy: I’m relatively late to the MMD bandwagon, but now that I’m on it I wonder how I lived without her! I’m a big fan of Anne Bogel’s book recommendations for sure, but I love her writing about life and motherhood as well. Her site is very well organized, and her reviews are thorough and extremely helpful. I also highly recommend her new podcast, What Should I Read Next? It’s always entertaining and down-to-earth, and it never fails to send me to my To Be Read List to add yet another title.

Example: 11 Books That Are Better in the Spring

MomAdvice: You can find all kinds of great content on Amy Allen Clark’s blog, but for years she’s been my go-to resource for book recommendations. If she gives something 5 stars I know I need to read it! Amy reads lots of new releases, many before they’re published, so if you like to stay on top of the latest reads you’ll especially appreciate her reviews. I also enjoy her interviews with authors and tips for getting more reading time in a busy life.

Example: February 2016 Must-Reads


Pinterest: I know that it seems as if Pinterest would be a classic information-overload trap, however I find it extremely useful in planning trips. I can’t think of any other online resource where you can find so many unique resources for travel, whether it’s across the world or in your own city. My tip is to use keywords judiciously when searching. For example, instead of typing in “New York City,” type “New York City with Kids,” or “3 days in New York City,” or “Where to eat in Chinatown.” That will help both narrow down your results as well as home in on what’s most important in your travel experience. I always advise that you search as specific as possible, and if that doesn’t get the results you want then broaden your search.

Example: My Pinterest boards, of course! (I recently organized my travel boards to make them easier to search.)

Trip Advisor: I always turn to Trip Advisor when researching hotels and restaurants. I love all the filters: you can search by location, amenities, best for families, cost and more. Once you have your search parameters set you can sort them by their ranking or price. I don’t typically book my hotels through the site (I’ve always been able to get the same deal or better by calling the hotel directly), but it helps narrow down the choices to my top few and then I go from there. You can also search your destination for top restaurants and things to do. I find the reviews on Trip Advisor to be very thorough and helpful.

Fashion Advice

The Mom Edit: Fashion blogs are tough, and so very personal. Everyone’s style, life circumstances, age, budget and body size are so different, making it impossible to say one fashion site is THE one for you. I’ve subscribed to dozens, and this is the only one that’s stayed. I think that’s because Shana uses a team of moms as contributors, meaning you’ve got several different body types and styles to pick from. Sure, there’s plenty of stuff on here I would never wear, but the Mom Edit team often gives me ideas for ways to wear what I already have or ideas of a few pieces I could add that would take my style up a notch. The Dressing Room Selfies posts are my absolute favorites. (FYI, if you’re looking for Capsule Wardrobe inspiration, Mom Advice has that covered really well.)

Example: Athleta Dressing Room Selfies


America’s Test Kitchen: I wrote a round-up post last year about why I make dinner and how I use different resources to make meal planning and meal prep easier. These suggestions were featured in that post, along with some others. I did want to post a quick update on America’s Test Kitchen. I recently received a full subscription to the website (Disclosure: I’m an affiliate.) and it’s been a game-changer. I still love and will never give up my cookbooks, but having the entire ATK archive in one place? Fantastic. If you’re looking for a huge resource of well-researched recipes in just about every category you can imagine, ATK is your one-stop shop. Consider me a life-time subscriber.

The Kitchn: The recipes on The Kitchn are top notch as well, but I also appreciate the extras on the site: tips on kitchen organization, meal planning, and just general advice on all things food related.

Example: How I Use Google Sheets for Grocery Shopping

Serious Eats: Serious Eats, despite the name, doesn’t take itself as seriously as ATK or The Kitchn. That doesn’t mean I don’t pin at least 20 recipes a month from their site! As I mentioned in my New York City post, their city food guides are fantastic, too. I especially love anything written by J. Kenzi Lopez-Alt for The Food Lab Series. Many of his well-researched recipes have become Meal-Plan All-Stars.

Example: Bar-Style Tortilla Pizza

Home Management and Design

Apartment Therapy: Apartment Therapy is also the home of The Kitchn, and I love them both for their clean, concise articles. There’s a ton of content on AT, and I probably only read less than 25% of it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not adding value to my home life. They’ll often run a series of posts that are helpful in cleaning and organizing your home, such as the January Cure. I appreciate that they feature real homes that people of all walks of life live in, which gives me practical and useful inspiration for my own home.

Example: Living Room Geometry: the Basics of a Well-Balanced Room

Design Mom: I mentioned Design Mom in one of my book review posts, after reading Gabrielle Blair’s book How to Live With Kids: a Room-by-Room Guide. Like Mom Advice, Gabrielle’s blog is so much more than one thing (in this case, design), but this is an area where her content really shines for me. Her weekly series “Living With Kids” is always so interesting! I hate to pigeonhole this blog into one category, as I save and use the information from so many of her posts in my daily life … it’s a good one.

Example: Living With Kids

It’s your turn! Tell me about a resource you consistently turn to on the Internet and how it’s most helpful in your life.


Three Days in New York City

Three days in New York City … what’s a girl to do? Eat, walk and shop, of course!

Statue of Liberty from Pumphouse Park

Mike likes to tease me about my love of taking surveys. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good survey that finds its way to my inbox. Often these surveys are to see if I’m eligible to participate in a focus group of some sort. You typically get paid to participate, which makes it a win-win for me: I get to try something new, talk about it, and make a little fun money. Mike makes a valid point in that there is probably a better use for my time. Nine times out of ten the survey leads to nothing more than 15 minutes spent in front of a screen and a pile of laundry that won’t fold itself.


Last fall, I filled out an online survey about my interest in life coaching. That survey led to trying out Life Reimagined, a program designed to help you find your life’s purpose and work toward goals that matter to you, and participating in a focus group. I spent some time on the site, chatted with a life coach, found out I loved the program, and gushed about my experience in the focus group. They said thanks, paid me for my time, and I was on my merry way.

A few weeks ago, another email from Life Reimagined popped up. Might I be interested in traveling to New York City to film a testimonial video? OH YES, YES I WOULD. It all came together very quickly, and so a little over a week ago I found myself in New York City for three days. Part of one day was taken up with filming the video, but for the rest of the time? I was on my own, to see and explore the city as I wished.

I’ve only been to New York once before, when Mike and I went for our 10th anniversary. It was a fantastic trip, but I was 6 months pregnant. I was so excited to return very much not pregnant and – as much as I love Mike – free to eat wherever and whenever I want. Here’s how I spent those 3 lovely, whirlwind days in the Big Apple.

Day One

There were five of us involved in the Life Reimagined project. Three of us were from the Indianapolis area, and I was on the same flight as one of the other women. We shared a cab to our hotel, and after dropping off our luggage, ventured out together for lunch.

My base for the trip was the Sheraton Hotel in Tribeca. Previously I stayed near Times Square, and I have to say I really enjoyed exploring the city from this location. It was quieter than staying in Times Square, and the location was fantastic. A 5-10 minute walk in any direction would lead you to Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho, Nolita, or Greenwich Village. If I needed to venture further, there were two subway stations nearby.

I convinced my new friend that tapas were the answer to “What should we eat for lunch?” After a 10 minute walk and a quick order at the counter, I was diving into a jamón and goat cheese bocadillo, boquerones, and a crisp glass of white wine from Despaña. Everything tasted just as wonderful as it did in Spain (you have no idea how much I’ve missed those little pickled fish!), and I’m so jealous of all you New Yorkers that could eat like this every day if you wanted.

Tapas from Despana SOHO

I had very little on my agenda for this trip on purpose. I knew the weather was going to be perfect (sunny and in the 60s), so all I really wanted to do was walk the city and see what enticed me. After lunch that’s what I did, wandering the shops of Soho. I discovered the wonderful world of Muji (oh the office supplies!), wandered through a couple of chains I’ve only browsed online (Joe Fresh and Uniqlo), and did a little happy dance when I came across the brick-and-mortar Birchbox store. Of course I stopped in and built my own Birchbox!

For dinner that evening I met up with the rest of the gang in town for the video shoot at David Burke Kitchen. I enjoyed getting to know everyone over a glass of rose, lobster, and a simple (yet completely addictive) little pan of roasted mushrooms.

Day Two

This was the day of the video shoot. We each had different time slots for filming, so we were on our own during the day. I didn’t have to be there until 2:30, so I put my best walking shoes on and hit the sidewalks early-ish. (Hey, I had a king-size bed all to myself. I planned to enjoy it!)

I walked north towards Union Square. On the way I stopped at Dominique Ansel for the original cronut. I’ll admit, as much as I wanted to try one, I was prepared for it to be one of those gimmicky foods you eat once just to check off your list. So I have no other cronuts to compare it with … but it was SO good. I devoured it sitting on a bench around the corner from the bakery, jam and sugar covering my fingers, wishing I’d gotten another! I also bought a kouign amann (a type of Breton cake that was featured on the pastry episode of The Great British Baking Show). I ate it the following morning for breakfast and may have shed a few tears over it’s deliciousness and the fact that I only bought one. (Dominique Ansel calls theirs a “DKA,” by the way, in case you want to order one with minimal confusion.)

Dominique Ansel Cronut

Sticky and happy, I walked on to the Union Square Greenmarket. I loved seeing a traditional farmer’s market in the middle of the city, buzzing with shoppers and commuters briskly making their way to work or school. I wandered the stalls with a cup of hot cider in hand.

Union Square Greenmarket radishes

Union Square Greenmarket spring flowers

From there I made my way over to another market, Chelsea Market. I got there fairly early (around 11) and was able to wander the former Nabisco factory and all of its wonderful food vendors without the crowds. By the time I finished it was lunch time and the place was packed. Because I’m a grownup and can do what I want, I skipped lunch there and instead bought myself a gelato from L’Arte del Gelato.

I left the market and slowly made my way back to my hotel through Greenwich Village. I stopped at an adorable little Swedish candy store, Sockerbit, and picked up some treats for the kids. I bought a pair of boots at a little boutique that I absolutely do not need, but came home with me anyways because that’s what you do in New York. And I scarfed down a big, delicious slice of pizza from Bleecker Street Pizza because that’s also what you do in New York.

Bleecker Street Pizza

By then it was time to freshen up for my video shoot. I’m not sure what I expected when I arrived to be filmed. I guess I figured I’d sit in a chair, someone would point a little video camera at me, I’d talk about Life Reimagined, and we’d be done. Instead, I walked into a full-fledged, completely legit filming operation. There was hair and makeup and very serious outfit selection. When I walked into the room to be filmed, it was like something out of a movie set. Lots of people, lots of lights, lots of very serious equipment. I panicked just a little bit – so much pressure! But everyone on staff was wonderful, making me feel relaxed. Other than some bizarre mouth twitch I couldn’t shake once it came time to take some stills, all went well. If or when I have the final product, I’ll be sure to share it with you.

Chinatown Market New York City

The shoot took about 2 1/2 hours from start to finish, and being “on” for the entire time drained me a bit. I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in my room. In the evening I reconnected with a few of the women from the shoot and we wandered around Chinatown and Little Italy. We shared spring rolls, pork buns and dumplings at Shanghai Cafe. Everything was delicious and very inexpensive. I could’ve eaten more, but we had Italian food calling our names. Next we hit Parm, an adorable little restaurant in Little Italy. The menu is small, but packed with traditional Italian-American choices. They specialize in sandwiches served on rolls or on a hero. I couldn’t manage a whole entree, but I happily munched on Italian fries with spicy sauce. I had a bit of my tablemate’s meatballs and they were amazing. On our way back we stopped at a place I couldn’t pass up: Rice to Riches. Oh yes, an entire shop of rice pudding. People feel one of two ways about rice pudding, so you’re either drooling or retching right about now. I was drooling and had the hardest time deciding between more than 20 flavors of … you guessed it, rice pudding. I also felt a little bit ridiculous shelling out $8 for said rice pudding (I chose Coconut Coma in case you wondered). It didn’t seem quite so ridiculous when I destroyed it in my pajamas from my hotel bed an hour later. It was fun to see it make a cameo in a recent episode of “Girls,” too.

Rice to Riches New York City

Day Three

My final day came so quickly. Everyone else had flights home on this day, but I’d requested an extra day so I could get in a few more things without being rushed. One of the women had a late afternoon flight, so she joined me for the morning. I had only one thing on my trip wish list that was a must-do: visit the 9/11 Museum and Memorial. When Mike and I visited in 2007 the area was completely under construction, and I wanted to take time to reflect in this space and pay my respects. We stopped for bagels at Zucker’s, which put my sad excuse for bagels I buy at Target to shame.

Zucker's Everything Bagel New York City

The museum is so well done and an incredibly moving experience. It’s very difficult to put the experience into words. It’s emotionally charged, gut-wrenching, and heart-breaking. It’s something I will never forget. You aren’t able to take photos in the main exhibits, which I’m so thankful for. It really compels you to be present and just take everything in. I did take a few photos in other parts of the museum and memorial though.

9/11 Museum New York City

9/11 Museum New York City

9/11 Memorial New York City

You see this installation as you enter the exhibits and it just took my breath away. The panels you see are 2,983 individual watercolors, each a distinct attempt by the artist (Spencer Finch) to recreate the color of the sky on that beautiful September morning.

9/11 Museum Spencer Finch art installation

We shared lunch at the charming Square Diner (great atmosphere, meh food) before she headed back home. Since I was in the neighborhood, I swung by the Sports Illustrated/MMQB office to say hi to a few of my favorite sports writers. It was fun to chat and see where the football magic happens.

Angie Six Jenny Vrentas Kalyn Kahler Sports Illustrated MMQB

It was another gorgeous day in the city, and so I strolled back to my hotel along the Hudson river, stopping for coffee at La Columbe before recharging in my room. Sadly, my efforts at winning lottery tickets to Hamilton didn’t pan out (nor was I willing to shell out over $1000 for a ticket to that evening’s performance). Everyone was gone, I was all by myself, and I had a choice to make: spend the evening in my room or put on my big girl panties and have a fun night out. I chose the latter, and I’m so glad I did.

Rockefeller Park New York City

I navigated the subway to Times Square and made my way to the TKTS booth. I had a few Broadway shows in mind that I would see, and ended up purchasing a ticket to Fun Home. Based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel about growing up with a closeted gay father that runs the family funeral home, it won 5 Tonys in 2015 (including Best Musical). It was a fantastic show, and I highly recommend it. If you don’t have your heart set on a show, or don’t want to commit to buying tickets in advance, I’d also recommend using TKTS. You can only purchase the day of the show, and you have to purchase your tickets directly from the booth (no online sales), but you can see pretty much all the shows (except Hamilton, of course) for a deal. I had a sweet seat and got my ticket for 50% off.

New York City Subway Shake Shack

I didn’t have time to eat before the show, so I was famished when it was over. I joined the crowds at Shake Shack for a burger and a peanut butter milkshake. As I rode the subway back to my hotel, I was completely worn out but content – head, heart and belly were full. In the morning I snuck in a quick trip to Baked for breakfast and to snag some goodies to bring home for the family.

Baked Tribeca

There were so many things I wanted to do (and eat!) that I just could fit in such a quick trip. Momofuku comes to mind, as does walking the High Line and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I really wanted to wander around the Strand bookstore, too. I guess I’ll just have to go back!

A couple of things that I found super helpful when planning this trip on such short notice:

  • This tutorial on how to create a custom Google map. I was able to plug in all the potential shops, restaurants and sights I wanted to visit. Anytime I was wandering a neighborhood, I could pull up the map and see what was nearby. It worked beautifully, and I can’t wait to use it for our upcoming trip to southern California.
  • Kevin & Amanda also have some great blog posts on NYC eats, especially if you have a hankering for the sweet stuff.
  • Any of the myriad of food guides I found on Serious Eats. The SE office is in New York City, so the team knows their stuff.

New York City street art

Thanks for following along on my travels!

Traveling to New York City for a weekend or quick trip? See how I spent 3 days in NYC with tips on what to see, where to shop, where to stay, and (most importantly!) what to eat! Travel | Solo Travel | USA Travel

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