TRULY, a New Boozy Sparkling Water?!

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As Memorial Day weekend quickly approaches and summer starts to tease, I can’t help but get a little giddy about one of my most favorite times of year; That’s right, it’s Spritz Season! While I’m partial to a well made spritz any time of year, there’s nearly nothing as refreshing during the warmer months than this low alcohol, bittersweet sparkler. However, I maaaay have tried something recently that rivals my beloved spritz (just don’t tell my Italian side!) in the light, refreshing, low alcohol and sparkling department – TRULY, Spiked & Sparking, a sparkling water that just hit shelves less than two months ago, has just a hint of fruit (that tastes like real actual fruit!), and is then SPIKED for good measure! By adding a small amount of alcohol made from cane sugar (5% ABV), TRULY takes sparkling water and buzzes it up just enough…

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The past couple of years have introduced us to the hard seltzer segment – an entirely new alcohol niche we didn’t even know we needed! This trend is building on the major growth and popularity of carbonated bottled water in the U.S., which has apparently doubled since 2012, and the overall interest in lower calorie alternatives to wine, beer and cocktails. This is NOT just a flavored malt beverage ala the dreaded Zima (still sold in Japan!) from the 90s; In fact, TRULY is gluten free – for those that are avoiding the stuff. It may only be 100 calories and they avoid using artificial flavors and colors but, most importantly, the product actually tastes good.

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Of course, women are the target audience for this new segment, but I’m just relieved that the TRULY packaging is as clean and tasteful as the product. There isn’t a lady in a dress on the label and it’s not covered in pink rhinestones (no offense to pink rhinestones, I’m down with bling, just not when I’m being “marketed” to as a lady consumer.) They’ve rolled out with three flavors: Grapefruit & Pomelo, Colima Lime and Pomegranate. Each one has just a subtle hint of the flavors featured on their labels. My favorite was the Colima Lime, tasting like a burst of effervescence with a squeeze of fresh lime.

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I tested all three flavors out with friends a few weekends back, and I’m happy to report that the dudes were equally as into it as the ladies. It’s nice to lighten things up every now and then, and TRULY is a nice refreshing alternative to a beer or higher alcohol sparkling wine.

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So, as you all prepare for the long weekend and get ready to hunker down for the next couple of days, look out for this new spiked and sparkling sipper to add to your provisions. TRULY is available in about 20 major markets throughout the U.S. at the moment, but they’re already seeing growth. To find out where you can buy it, visit their site.

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TRULY Spiked & Sparkling products provided for this post. As usual, all opinions are my own.

Gulden Draak Ale


When I was first asked to try out the Belgian beer Gulden Draak in order to be featured on this here blog, I was a bit hesitant. Not because I don’t like rich, complex, high alcohol beers or I have some sort of thing against the Belgians…I just haven’t really featured much beer on Bit by a Fox. At least, not by itself. I’m a huge fan of using beer as a cocktail ingredient and even as a main player in a shandy-type cocktail. But I haven’t yet profiled a beer on its own. But after doing a bit of research on Gulden Draak, and then finally trying it (research with my mouth!), I was won over.

So, here it is. My first ever beer feature! Seems appropriate that it’s a great big, boozy one!

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Gulden Draak, Flemish for Golden Dragon, is named after the 700 year old golden dragon statue perched at the top of the Belfry of Ghent – a medieval tower that overlooks the Belgian city of Ghent.

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This dark brown triple ale – a Belgian Strong Ale, brewed since the 1700s, is in a stylish bottle reflecting its name and some of that rich history. Gulden Draak may look and sound a bit imposing, but the beer itself is pretty approachable, despite its full body and rather high alcohol content – 10.5%.

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Gulden Draak is actually considered a Barleywine, a style of strong ale named because its alcohol content is comparable to wine. But obviously, since it is made with malted barley instead of fruit it is still considered a beer. There is just something fun about referring to your pint of brew as Barleywine so you feel like an Olde English weirdo. “Look at me drinking a chalice of Barleywine!”

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A secondary fermentation where wine yeast is used may be what contributes most to Gulden Draak’s distinctive flavors – sweet malt, bitter chocolate, coffee and a touch of yeast. This is a bold, full-bodied beer that the brewer, Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V.  suggests to be drunk as an aperitif or as dessert. I can definitely see this as more of an after dinner, wind down for the day beer. The high alcohol content and the rich, slightly sweet quality lends itself to a later night treat. Perhaps paired with a little dark chocolate…

For more information about Gulden Draak and where you can purchase it, you can head to their Facebook page, which will include location and availabilities with a zip code researcher. And if you DO get your paws on this yummy beer and LURVE it and then want to get all social on it, you can post a pic to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter tagging #ConquerTheDragon or #GuldenDraak and be entered into a drawing for Gulden Draak swag. Conquer the Dragon is pretty badass, you’ve got to admit. Let’s all do it!


Sponsored: This post was made possible by Gulden Draak and this project was fueled by Barleywine! As usual, all opinions are my own.

The Viking Daisy – A Preakness Cocktail for the Maker’s Mark #TrifectaChallenge

We are full-on into horse racing season, also known as Bourbon Season….or just Drinking More Bourbon Than Usual Season. And, of course the Mint Julep holds a special importance this time of year because of the Kentucky Derby. But, we’re just getting started!

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The Kentucky Derby may be the first but it is just one out of the three races known as the Triple Crown, which also includes Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, that determine the best of the best three-year-old Thoroughbred horses in the game. Every race deserves their own signature cocktail, right?! I personally think a signature cocktail should be created for nearly any occasion, so I might be biased. But did you know that the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, Preakness Stakes, also has an official drink? It’s the Black-Eyed Susan, a cocktail named after Maryland’s state flower and the official Preakness flowers that are used to make a blanket that drapes over the winning horse at the end of the race.

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Traditionally, the Black-Eyed Susan has orange and pineapple juice, and a combo of rum, vodka and orange liqueur. My good friends over at Maker’s Mark, however, have challenged me to create a riff off of this using their iconic bourbon. All for a chance to be crowned champion of the Preakness’ Black-Eyed Susan as part of their #TrifectaChallenge on Instagram. So, naturally I was like…where do I saddle up?!

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First, I decided it needed a new name. Fun fact: because Black-Eyed Susans are NOT in season during the time of Preakness, the blanket that they create for the winning horse is actually made out of over 80 bunches of Viking Daisies. The center of the daisies are then painted with black lacquer to recreate the appearance of a Black-Eyed Susan. Voila! Because of that little historic footnote, a Daisy cocktail emerged and the Viking Daisy was born!

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As I’ve noted before on this blog, a Daisy cocktail is more or less a sour, using nearly any base spirit, with a little soda water added. Often served in a julep cup with crushed ice, with orange liqueur and grenadine serving as common ingredients, I figured the Black-Eyed Susan seemed like it could easily be adapted to a Daisy. And a delicious one at that!

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The Viking Daisy
2 ounces Maker’s Mark Bourbon
1 ounce mandarin juice
1/2 ounce pineapple juice
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1 tsp grenadine
1 ounce seltzer
Garnish: brandied cherry

Directions:
In a cocktail shaker add everything except the seltzer and shake over ice until well chilled. Add seltzer to tin and stir well. Strain into a cracked ice filled julep cup. Garnish with brandied cherry.


This post was made possible by Maker’s Mark. As always, opinions are all my own.

Kumquat Basil Caipirinhas & The Wooden Palate

Moving to a new city is hard. And making new friends can have its challenges. But one of the best parts of relocating to LA for me has been re-connecting with college friends, and former New York friends who made the move out west several years prior. And a huge perk has been getting to know their circle of friends. It’s certainly made my move to a completely foreign place feel more familiar and welcoming.

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One of these people that I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know through a dear college friend, is Eileen O’Dea, co-founder of The Wooden Palate, a wood working studio producing some of the most beautiful and luxurious kitchen and home pieces, made to last a lifetime.

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When Eileen mentioned that they had been working on a new line of muddlers and that she wanted me to test out their prototypes, I was all about it!

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And what better cocktail than a caipirinha to test these babies out with?

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Cachaça, a distilled spirit made from raw sugarcane, sometimes referred to as Brazilian Rum, is the base spirit in a caipirinha. Lime and sugar make up the other ingredients in this incredibly simple and delicious cocktail, making it one of the easiest cocktails to throw together. I’m surprised the caipirinha isn’t more popular outside of Brazil (their national cocktail). But with the advent of more cachaça brands being readily available in the states, this drink is slowly catching on.

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Because it’s such a simple recipe, it is also one that can be built upon pretty easily. Adding different fruits and herbs takes this already tasty cocktail up a few notches. Eileen literally foraged from her yard these kumquats and fresh basil, which became the inspiration behind this springtime caipirinha. Have I mentioned how much I love California?!

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Kumquat Basil Caipirinha
2 oz Cachaça (Leblon is a solid choice)
1/2 lime (cut into wedges)
1 tsp raw sugar
2-3 basil leaves
1 kumquat (1/2 for garnish)

In a mixing glass or tin, muddle the lime, sugar, basil and 1/2 kumquat. Add ice, pour in cachaça and stir. Transfer to a chilled old-fashioned glass and garnish with 1/2 kumquat.

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With Mother’s Day around the corner, this springtime, garden party take on the caipirinha is sort of perfect for brunch or really any time chill sippin’ with your momz! And The Wooden Palate couldn’t be a better destination for beautiful gifts. Starting today(!) the beautiful muddlers are up on their site.  Follow them on social media to witness some truly remarkable wood porn, and to keep up to date on their stunning inventory.

Pitcher-Style Jalapeño Cucumber Margaritas with Sauza Tequila – #MyKindofCinco

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Cinco de Mayo is the best. I mean it’s basically a holiday that has been hijacked by margaritas and guacamole, and, with all due respect to Mexico’s victory in The Battle of Puebla, I think we’re all ok with that. Because…margaritas.

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I celebrated early this year because I got a little party pants care package from the fine folks at Sauza Tequila as part of their ‘My Kind of Cinco’ campaign. I was able to put my own spin on a bunch of pitcher-style margaritas for a group of friends at the beach this past weekend. And in turn, I ate my weight in guac and chips. It was a win-win.

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When entertaining for a group of people, even if it’s a small group like we had, making a batch of cocktails is key. What’s better than a cocktail? An entire pitcher full of cocktails! People can help themselves and you are not a slave to the shaker. Don’t muddle your life away, people! You can still create quality, craft-style cocktails in a pitcher. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

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While Sauza Signature Blue Silver Tequila, made with 100% blue agave, was the star in these margs, jalapeño simple syrup and muddled cucumber were featured players. I love the heat the peppers lend and the opposing cooling quality of the cucumbers.

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And because Sauza’s classic silver style has an herbal and almost savory quality from the fresh agave notes, the combo of bright, green flavors works really well together.

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Jalapeño Cucumber Margaritas – (serves 8)
2 cups Sauza® Signature Blue Silver Tequila
1/2 cup Cointreau
1/2 cup jalapeño simple syrup *
1 cup lime juice
1/2 cup muddled cucumber slices
Garnish: cucumbers, rock salt

Lightly muddle cucumber slices at the bottom of a mixing glass and then place in pitcher with the rest of the ingredients. Fill with ice. Serve in margarita glasses rimmed with rock salt and garnish with a thin slice of cucumber.

*Jalapeño Simple Syrup
1 cup of turbinado sugar
1 cup of water
1 jalapeño, sliced, with the seeds removed

Combine the sugar and water over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the jalapeño and let sit for at least an hour. Strain through a mesh sieve and store in the refrigerator. Keeps for about a month.

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Disclosure: This post was made possible by Sauza® Tequila in conjunction with their #MyKindofCinco campaign. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

 

Zen and Tonic: Savory and Fresh Cocktails for the Enlightened Drinker & Massive Bar Swag Giveaway!

Before I knew Jules Aron as the author of the beautiful, new garden to glass cocktail book Zen and Tonic, I knew her online as the Healthy Bartender. As a certified health and nutrition coach with a background in bartending, she was always transforming green juices and fruit smoothies into boozy concoctions, and figuring out ways to get those superfoods and antioxidants in to help balance out that boozy booze. And now she’s created a whole book of these recipes that lean heavily on the local, organic and seasonal and immune boosting fruits, herbs and veggies.

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If you’ve ever gotten a juice or smoothie and thought while sipping on your salad greens or slurping up a fruity ambrosia, “Hey! This would be aMAHzing with a splash of tequila in it!”, (and who hasn’t, let’s be real?!) then this book is for you. Aron breaks the recipes up into different categories: Lush and Fruity, Fresh and Crisp, Garden Fresh, Floral and Fragrant, Sweet and Spicy, and Rich and Creamy. I decided to make a cocktail from the Sweet and Spicy section – the Peach Honey Bomb.

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A blend of whiskey, fresh peaches, lemon juice, honey and ground turmeric, this is one of the easier concoctions in the book, tastes like sunshine and looks like it too!

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I used a new-ish to me whiskey, the “Alabama Style” Clyde May’s. This is a 6 year old bourbon mash with hints of dried apple and cinnamon…a lovely addition to the bright fruit and spices in the Peach Honey Bomb.

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Peach Honey Bomb (from page 199 in Zen and Tonic)
4 ounces whiskey
2 peaches, pitted
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend well. Serve chilled.

Superfood Spotlight
Turmeric, the bright orange spice, has long been used in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions. 


MASSIVE COCKTAIL SWAG GIVEAWAY!

You have five days from today to enter the Zen and Tonic giveaway for the chance to win a signed copy of the book and over $500 in bar swag! Some of my favorites like Love and Victory glassware and Gastronomista jewelry are included in this amazing prize, so you don’t want to miss out on this! Enter HERE for the chance to pimp your bar today!

Campari Women Cocktail & Spirits Writer Interview Series with Gastronomista

In partnership with Campari and JUST in time for the last day of Women’s History Month, Emily Arden Wells from Gastronomista, one of my favorites in this industry and my Boozy Babes partner in crime, has started a series of interviews with women Cocktail and Spirits writers on her blog. And I’m so honored to kick it off with the first interview!

If you ever wondered what my journey has been into this crazy spirited world, you can check it out here. I also talk about some of the spirits writers who inspired me when I first was getting into the booze industry, and what I think of the LA cocktail scene so far! (hint: I have a long way to go!) You can also get my recipe for the festive Piña Sparkler, originally created for New Year’s Eve but so easy and delicious any time of year! Check out the interview on her site and check back in to see the rest of the series. Ladies in the hoooouuuusssse!

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photo by This Aperture

Bartender Style – Pamela Wiznitzer at Seamstress

Bartender Style is a collaboration between Bit by a Fox and photographer Rose Callahan. This series, exclusively on the Bit by a Fox blog, explores and documents the personal style of some of the best bartenders in the country. This month, we’re profiling rock star cocktail whiz, Pamela Wiznitzer at her home base, Manhattan’s Upper East Side hotspot Seamstress, where she serves as Creative Director, bartender and all around boss fox.

Pam is your Bartender-Next-Door. She’s your cool-girl confidante – a firecracker of positivity, doling out hugs and advice between perfectly crafted cocktails. She can hang with the boys, work the girl’s girl angle, and imbues equal parts warmth and confidence behind the bar. Pam Wiznitzer is your Bartender BFF.

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Those who know Pam, have worked with her in some way, and/or have been lucky enough to have been served a cocktail crafted by her, know why she is so well-regarded in the industry. And why she is often a go-to mixologist and face for events and liquor brands looking to sparkle up the proceedings.

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She’s highly skilled, passionate, creative, incredibly charismatic, and one of the hardest working bartenders in the biz. In short, she’s a superstar. Not to mention, she’s also pretty easy on the eyes.

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And, considering the amount of awards and accolades that she’s amassed, and the breadth of titles for various cocktail competitions she’s collected these last few years, her trajectory in the bar business has been off the charts! Pam serves as President of the New York chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild and she’s only really been in the game for about 7 years.

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Hospitality is key with all top bartenders, but Pam’s philosophy is next level. And it’s proven successful for her. She has a way of befriending everyone around her. It’s no wonder that she is known for having a devoted clientele. In her early days of bartending, after unexpectedly getting laid off from a startup, she found herself behind the stick during the day shift at a sports bar in Murray Hill. And, making the most of it, she packed them in. Pam’s following only grew as she honed her craft as an original hire at Dead Rabbit, (Tales of the Cocktail’s World’s Best Bar 2015), where she also earned a New York Bartender of the Year title from Village Voice in 2014 as well as landing a top 10 finalist spot for Tales’ Best American Bartender that same year. At the end of 2014, Pam made the move to help open and create the cocktail program for Seamstress, a new restaurant and bar on Manhattan’s Upper East Side that has quickly gained momentum, in large part based on Pam’s connection.

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The Seamstress moniker extends to the interior theme, with vintage sewing machines and scissor designs displayed throughout.

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The theme is also reinforced in the menu. As Creative Director, Pam has curated 50 classics and created 20 signature cocktails that all fall within four different sewing categories: PatchworkOverlayEmbroidery, and Lining.

While Pam wanted the bar staff to wear whatever they felt comfortable and attractive in during their shift, the customized bartender apron that they all wear, ties the Seamstress theme together. They are “unified by one thread while still being individuals.”

The apron serves a basic functionality for the bar staff – the utilitarian style with multiple pockets allows for everyone to keep their tools close and their phones handy.

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It also serves as a stylish outfit topper with sexy leather details that reflect some of the curated items sold in the shop occupying the front of the restaurant.

Pam is a fan of body conscious silhouettes and pops of color behind the bar.

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She believes confidence is key. Owning your fashion. She’s not afraid of bright colors and patterns or taking risks. Patricia Field, famed costume designer behind Sex and the City, has served as one of Pam’s style inspirations.

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Patrick Brauss, a former bar back (in one of Pam’s bars) turned personal stylist at Top Shop, came on board with Pam once she turned 30 and she decided she may need some assistance with all of the outfits she had to prepare for various events and judging panels and gigs where she needed to put her best face forward.

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Patrick is able to push Pam’s fashion boundaries while knowing exactly what she likes: high wasted skirts and crop tops, mixing vintage and new, incorporating classic and chic with a touch of daring whimsy and sexy edge. But most importantly, she says, he always ensures she is presented in a professional way.

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We asked Pam what the most popular cocktail at Seamstress was and without missing a beat, she prepared the Mortimer & Mauve, a rye whiskey based cocktail with chai tea infused vermouth and Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur. Simple, delicious and it can traverse various seasons. There’s a reason why this is such a popular cocktail. Our Bartender BFF should know!

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Mortimer & Mauve
1.25 oz Whistle Pig Rye Whiskey
1.25 oz Chai infused Martini & Rossi Rosso
.5 oz Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur

Method: Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and stir over ice until well chilled. Strain into glass over large ice cube.
Glass: Rocks glass
Garnish: Use orange twist to extract oils. Discard peel.

Getting Into the Oscars Spirit with The Sparkling Limoncello Drop

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Oh, hello darlings, I didn’t see you there…

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Now that I officially live in La La Land, I’m pretttttty Hollywood. I mean, I lounge around all day in my velvet robe and sip on fresh citrus and bubbly cocktails without a care in the world.

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My meals are mainly variations of avocado toast and the occasional fish taco…if I’m eating at all! And palm trees, crazy beautiful sunsets and 70+ degree weather in February is like…”whatevs” now. It’s pretty zen out here, you guys.

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LOL, JK, I’m still an impatient New Yorker who eats! (that stuff about the avocado toast is pretty true, actually. I’m ODing on the stuff).

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And the palm trees, warm days and sunsets are blowing my mind on the regular. You mean, it’s like this every day? ERRR DAY?! I’m trying not to flood my Instagram feed with just that!

But, moving is harrrrd. And moving across the country, getting a bronchial infection and then trying to set up shop in a foreign, albeit very sunshine-y place, is NOT conducive to updating a cocktail blog. You might have noticed that I’ve been absent here since first announcing the move because…LIFE. But, now that I’m nearly a month in, I may not have gone full Hollywood, but I am starting to get acclimated, and I’m loving so much of it. Including the fresh citrus everywhere!

One thing I have noticed since I’ve been out here is how you can really feel the awards season in this town. The excitement building for the Academy Awards, the grandaddy of them all, is palpable here. (Mainly because the city shuts off major thoroughfares through town about a week before the show even airs. LA traffic, gah!) Since the Oscars are this Sunday and many of you are either hosting or going to viewing parties, I thought you might like to have a festive (and delicious) cocktail in your arsenal to serve for the night.

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Inspired by one of the easiest and most popular of all of my recipes, The Limoncello Drop Cocktail, this sparkling version is a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

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In fact, I even tested this sparkling version out on a group of dinner guests a couple of weekends back (with Sobieski Vodka), and I can safely proclaim, it was a hit!

Even if your favorites don’t win this year (or weren’t even nominated), if you make this sparkling ray of sunshine in a glass, you’ll have a winner of a cocktail at least!

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The Sparkling Limoncello Drop

Ingredients:
3/4 oz Vodka
3/4 oz Limoncello
3/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
1/2-1 oz Sparkling Wine

Garnish:
lemon peel
superfine sugar and lemon wedge to rim glass

To sugar the rim of your cocktail glass, take a freshly cut lemon wedge and slice the middle. Slip the wedge over the rim of the glass where you’ve cut the lemon, and sweep around the entire top of the glass until it is well coated. Gently dip the glass upside down into a saucer filled with sugar until just the tip of the glass is coated.

Directions:
Shake all ingredients except sparkling wine over ice until the outside tin is frosted over. Strain into a well chilled, sugar-rimmed cocktail glass, leaving room for the sparkling. Top with sparkling wine. Add a lemon twist.

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All photos of Prairie Rose taken by the very talented Shannon Carpenter of THIS APERTURE. A Spring Session Discount is currently running on the site. Book by March 15th and receive 25% off your print order.

See you later, New York

See you later, New York

I always wanted to live in New York City. I can’t remember a time when I hadn’t ached to live in the big city with the bright lights, exotic people and constant movement. These fantasies were fed by old movies, family stories, and the TV show Fame, of course. As a young girl, I was lucky enough to have family to visit, to eat lunch at the Russian Tea room, visit the Met and see the Rockefeller Center magically lit up at Christmas time, further feeding my romantic notions of the city. In my teens, I sipped coffee in a tiny, crowded cafe in the east village surrounded by foreign accents. I saw a performance at St Mark’s Church, walked the snowy city streets, and it was then that I knew I had found my city and my people, that I would someday make this place my home. Just a few years after that visit I did. With a backpack and $300 to my name (borrowed from my very worried grandparents), I shared a bed with college friend for a month and then graduated to an egg foam mat in a filthy bachelor pad in Brooklyn for 8 months after that, scraping by on hard-earned tips from a bagel shop on Court Street. And I was smitten.

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New York has surpassed those original romantic notions in so many ways. It is my big love and my biggest heart-break. It is my family and my heart…and it is magic. How do you leave your family and your heart and all of that magic? Knowing that you can’t ever really leave. Even though I grew up on the west coast and I’m so grateful for that, I am a very proud fourth generation New Yorker. I always will be, no matter where I live.

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I wrote this mid-flight, straddling both coasts physically and psychologically, having just come off of a marathon of crying jags, and a flurry of mini panic attacks. I was finally able to address how I was feeling about leaving my home of 18 years. The truth is, it took up until the very last-minute for me to feel the heft of it all. I’ve been so excited about moving to LA and looking ahead, I wasn’t doing a lot of looking back. But packing up my entire adult life in New York City for the past five days straight into medium-sized cardboard boxes to be shipped over 2,000 miles away to an apartment I hadn’t even laid eyes on yet in real life, forced me to let it all sink in. And, hoo boy, did I! While I KNOW that I’ll be back regularly and it’s very important for me to stay connected to New York – it IS still the cocktail epicenter in many ways, I wanted to acknowledge the end of this particular chapter in my life. And because New York has been a huge part of this blog, I wanted to let you all in on that as well. It’s been a crazy, beautiful, mad love affair for nearly two decades, not without its bumps(!), but without any regrets.

Now I can really look ahead with the knowledge that I’ve floundered and flourished and everything in between in one of the greatest cities on earth. And I know there is life and a world outside of that. I’m so ready for what’s next. And to share this next journey here. Los Angeles, I’m coming for you.


 

All photos by Shannon Carpenter from This Aperture

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