Category Archives: Our 30 Days

Ah, sweet luxury

This past weekend my friend, Julia, and I were talking about how much we love local little places that sell soaps and beauty products. So I took her to my favorite spot called the Bartlett Soap Company which reminded me that I never filled you guys in on this place! Christopher and I discovered it during our 30 Days together and I wrote a draft on my blog, but then never published it. After two months of using their products, my review is even more glowing now than it was when I originally wrote this. So enjoy!

Have you guys ever been to White Basin or Lush? They have wonderful soaps and bath bombs and lotions. I found a couple of bath bombs and bath salts at White Basin earlier this year while we were in Vegas. I wish I had written down the scents because they were wonderful and now I can’t order them online because I can’t remember which ones I liked, ha! But now I have an even better option!

bartlett soap company

During our 30 Days we were exploring around and discovered the Bartlett Soap Company. Oh my gracious, you guys. It’s awesome. The place is super cute, but better than that – their products are awesome. This is not a sponsored post. They have no idea I’m even writing this, but I just loved it all so much that I want to share!

soaps

I love the Bartlett Soap Company for several reasons. First of all, like Lush & White Basin they have all the awesome luxury products. And their scents are divine. Honestly, I liked them better than any of the ones I smelled at Lush or White Basin.

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I love them because their products are plant based and all organic. And they are local. I am all about supporting local businesses. Especially when their products are just as good (or in this case, better!) than the chains. And the prices are comparable to White Basin and Lush.

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And finally, I love their products! I have never been a soap girl. I like how they are so cutesy and smell great, but I don’t like the way soaps feel on my skin. I much prefer to use a shower gel. Until now. Their soaps are divine. So moisturizing and delightful. Both Christopher and I really liked it (our favorite is the Good Morning Sunshine soap). Better than our shower gels even. And their bath bombs are fabulous. So luxurious. They have two different moisturizers in them so they can leave your tub a little slippery, but it’s worth it.

fall scentsFall scents!! (We have been using the Hot Buttered Rum one this month)

So, I say all that to say, if you are in the area – check out the Bartlett Soap Company. And if you’re not, feel free to order from them online. Trust me, friends, you want to. You really do.

Do you like to use soap or are you more of a shower gel person? 

Have you tried using a bath bomb before? 

Love Rach

My FAVORITE part of our NYC trip!

We flew through Nashville for our NYC trip so my sister picked us up at the airport. Over dinner she asked what my favorite thing was and I began with my typical “Oh, I don’t know! How do you choose between so many amazing things?” And prepared to start listing off the first things that came to my mind. But before I started, Christopher smirked and told Abby, “I can tell you her favorite. Hands down it was Les Miserables. Her reaction to it tells you all you need to know.” At first I protested. I mean, yes, I adored Les Mis. But can I really say 100% that I loved seeing it even more than walking into Macy’s on 34th Street? Or seeing the Museum of Natural History? Or Keste Pizza? (See! So many favorites!). But Christopher has a point. I did have a pretty serious reaction to seeing it. But first I need to back up a little.

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In 1996 I was part of the cast of Oliver Twist at the Cumberland County Playhouse. And in 1997 I was part of the cast of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat at the same playhouse. I blogged a little about it here. 🙂 During this time, I fell in love with plays and musicals. I dreamed of going to Broadway someday. Not that I really knew what “Broadway” was as a 9 year old, but everyone talked about how amazing it was in relation to musicals. So I knew I needed to go someday.

oliver twist 1996{The cast of Oliver Twist in 1996. I’m on the front row rocking the plaid pants.}

In 1998 the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert (the dream cast!) was released on DVD. And our family got a copy. You guys, I fell in love. As an 11-year-old who didn’t understand any of the “adult content” of the musical, I fell in love with the music. We moved overseas in 2000 and that DVD came with us. And I just continued to love it. By the time I was a senior in high school, I understood the more “adult” parts of it, but loved it all the more for the depth the lyrics conveyed. I ended up listening to it every day while I did my homework. It was the background music to my last year of high school education. I even chose one of the songs (“On My Own”) to translate for an assignment for my Mandarin class.

chinese lesson{My sister and me with our Mandarin tutor when we lived in China. Obviously we were being very studious here. 😉 }

Then fast forward a lot of years to 2011 when Les Miserables came to the Orpheum here in Memphis. It was my first time to see it live and I loved it. It was absolutely amazing!

les mis at the orpheum{Les Miserables at the Orpheum in Memphis in 2011}

So when we decided to go to NYC, I knew I wanted to see something on Broadway. Our top picks were Les Mis, Wicked, and Phantom. We nearly chose not to see Les Mis just simply because we’d seen it live before and we hadn’t seen the other two live yet. But I just couldn’t get past the feeling of how much I wanted to see it live again. And on Broadway! Christopher told me to go with my gut so we decided on Les Mis. Right after I bought the tickets I wondered if I’d regret it once we arrived in NYC. I shouldn’t have worried.

rach in the city{Notice the Les Mis sign behind me!}

My friends, we walked into that auditorium and I was giddy to be at a playhouse in NYC. To watch my first ever show on Broadway! My smile was enormous! Then the lights dimmed. And the first strains of music began. And I immediately started to cry. And not a cute cry. I wasn’t sobbing, but there were actual tears flowing and snot and everything. And I couldn’t stop. No joke, I cried for at least the first 10 minutes of the play. I was just that happy. I’ve had the whole “happy cry” thing happen here or there, but it’s more like “tearing up” not so much actual tears. It was just too much for me in such a good way. A literal dream come true.

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Christopher thought something was wrong at first so he kept whispering to me to ask if I was okay. I just kept telling him, “Yeah… I’m just…SNIFF…so…haaaappy. SNIFF.” Thankfully no one else seemed to hear me (I mean, the music was pretty loud and I was thankfully quietly crying my eyes out, ha!). But we were both pretty surprised by my reaction. Typically when I’m really, really happy I get super giddy. Squealing. Clapping of hands. Floating on cloud 9. That sort of thing. Occasionally, I have moments where I am just awe struck and totally silent (like seeing the Colosseum for the first time – another dream come true). But crying out of happiness was a first for me.

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Eventually I got the tears under control, but they picked right back up throughout the musical as my favorite songs were performed. It was true magic, my friends. I’m not sure why it hit me so differently to be watching Les Mis on Broadway in NYC versus when we saw it here in Memphis. But it did. I think it was just that feeling of doing something I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid. Seeing Les Miserables on Broadway! The whole dreams come true thing. 🙂

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So, after some time to reflect on our whole trip. I think Christopher was right. If I had to pick only one favorite thing. This would be it. It was amazing. I get a little teary eyed just thinking about that moment of magic when I realized that I was literally sitting in the audience at Les Mis on Broadway. Magic. 🙂

Love Rach

Iconic NYC

We saw SO many iconic things while we were in NYC. If I blogged about each and every one then I would be blogging for several more weeks, haha! In an effort to really consolidate things, I’m going to share only my favorites today!

Central Park

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central park bridge

Oh my gracious, you guys, Central Park is SUCH an iconic site! I loved seeing the fountain and bridge in person. This place has been featured in so many movies and TV shows. Being there in person was so neat! I mean Enchanted, Avengers, Bride Wars, Night at the Museum, Hitch, and Elf are just a few of my favorites that feature Central Park! Parts of Central Park were teaming with runners, bikers, and speed walkers. But other parts of the park are quiet and peaceful. The perfect spot for a romantic stroll. And like I mentioned last week – Christopher loved it just simply because it gave him some space to breathe. 🙂

Grand Central Station

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grand central station2

grand central station

Another iconic spot featured in so many TV shows and movies! We kept expecting a flash mob to start at any minute because we’ve seen so many on Youtube that were set in Grand Central Station. 😉 I knew there was the one huge beautiful space that is always shown, but I had no idea that the whole station was huge and every wing of it was beautiful. We loved walking around and exploring here!

Times Square

times square

Speaking of places that are in tons of movies and TV shows… this is yet another one. And to be honest, my least favorite on this list by far. I am not a huge fan of Times Square. I wasn’t a fan when we were there in college and nothing had changed this time around. In general, I don’t mind crowded streets, but I don’t like being in packed crowds where I’m pressed together with strangers or herded along the sidewalks with the masses. But I kept thinking it couldn’t be as bad as I remembered so we checked it out again. It was, in fact, just as crowded as I remembered, haha! At one point we found a spot to sit down and just take it all in – that was my favorite part of Times Square. Great people watching for sure.

Macy’s on 34th Street 

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My favorite on this list! I grew up watching Miracle on 34th Street on Christmas Eve every year so Macy’s has always had a special place in my heart. When I came to NYC in college a couple of my girlfriends and I took a photo outside Macy’s, but we didn’t have time to go inside. So I was super giddy to have time to shop! I bought an adorable clutch that was 70% off aaaand a Christmas ornament! Walking around that store made my heart so happy! Clearly from the photos I’ve got crazy face and pointing fingers. Sure signs that I’m overly happy. 😉 Ah, so fun!

And of course this list isn’t including seeing the Statue of Liberty, eating at Shake Shack, walking down Wall Street, seeing the WTC Memorial, and attending evensong at St. John the Divine! So many amazing things we got to see and do!

Coming up on Monday will be my final NYC recap post all about my very most favorite thing we did! {hint: it has everything to do with seeing Les Miserables on Broadway!}

Love Rach

Our Favorite New York Style Foods!

Because we love good food, we always do lots of research before we travel to a new place. Urbanspoon (now Zomato), TripAdvisor, and Yelp are usually the top three that we use for research (as well as asking any locals in the area that we know). I’ll type in the city we’re going, the type of food we’re wanting, the price point we’re trying to stay around, and then start going through page after page of the top recommendations. I’ll pick out all the ones that sound best to me and then I’ll cross reference my lists from each website. This process takes a little bit of time, but so far it has yet to lead us astray. This is how we’re always sure to get a taste of the best a city has to offer and all thanks to hundreds of other people who have left reviews.

We ate at a lot of places in NYC, but this list is of our favorite New York Style foods. From bagels to hot dogs to pizza! 🙂

99 Cent Pizza

99 cent pizza

Yes, there is such a thing as pizza for a dollar. We saw several of these places around the city, but Serious Eats led us here for a little snack in Times Square before our Broadway show. So in we went. We split this greasy slice of pepperoni pizza and it was delicious. Not the best pizza in NYC by any means, but for the price – it was a winner!

Bleecker Street Pizza

bleeker street pizza

The best New York style pizza award goes to Bleecker Street pizza. It was phenomenal. This picture just doesn’t do it justice. It was perfect NY style pizza with the perfectly foldable crust and deliciousness in every bite! I wish we’d been more hungry when we arrived because we only split a piece of pizza here as well. But it was amazing! Keste was still my favorite place we ate in NYC, but it’s a different type of pizza. Bleecker St Pizza is all about the NY style slices. And they are amazing. I can’t recommend them enough!

Bleecker Street Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gray’s Papaya

gray's papaya

Hot dogs aren’t high on my list of favorite foods, but we felt strongly that while in NYC, we had to try their hot dogs. So research sent us here. The hot dogs are on the small side, but considering how cheap they are – it just means you need to get two! 😉 I tried their chili-cheese dog and just a regular one. I enjoyed them both!

Gray's Papaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Street Food Hot Dogs

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On our last day in NYC we were headed back to our hotel to pick up our bags when we realized that we didn’t have time to stop and eat lunch somewhere. So we stopped at the first food cart we saw and I got a chili dog and Christopher got a pretzel. His pretzel was just okay, but my chili dog was ah-mazing. No joke. I had no idea it would be so good from just some random street vendor whose cart looks identical to every other hot dog stand we passed. But it was! I literally stopped at the next cart I saw and bought another chili dog because it was so good! Ha! Also, in NYC… chili dogs come with spicy mustard. It seemed like a strange combo to me, but after trying it, I’m sold!

Cafe Grumpy

cafe grumpy

While I usually do most of the food research for our trips, Christopher does the coffee research because he’s the coffee snob connoisseur. 😉 We went to several different coffee shops during our time in NYC, but this one was by far his favorite. Not just his favorite in NY, but one of his favorites ever. Which is high praise. So if you’re craving good coffee in the big city – Cafe Grumpy is your place! Oh, and the logo… perfect for a coffee shop. 😉

Absolute Bagels

absolute bagels

And of course we couldn’t go to NYC without trying their bagels. We tried a couple of different ones, but these were our favorites (a spot called Hot & Crusty was a close second, though). The one thing that really surprised us about bagels in NYC is that if you order them with cream cheese, they come with a 1/2″ to 1″ thick cream cheese middle. It’s a pretty intense amount of cream cheese for those of us who are used to just a taste of a thin layer. I honestly ended up scraping off most of the cream cheese so I could actually taste the bagel. 😉 But! The bagels themselves were amazing!

Absolute Bagels Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

How do you decide where to eat when you travel?

If you’ve been to NYC, what was your favorite place you ate?

Love Rach

Chinatown!

When I told my mom that we were planning to go to NYC she lit up and began making recommendations based on her recent trip there with my dad. But then she stopped mid-thought and said, “Oh, but wait until you go to Chinatown. You’ll feel like you are right back in China again.” At that moment, I was sold. We already had planned to go to Chinatown, but I didn’t want to have my expectations too high. However, my parents are in China (the actual country) a couple of times a year (in fact while we were in NYC, my parents were in China) so I knew I could trust my mom’s opinion on it really having a true China feel.

chinatown

Maybe I should back up a bit since I have a few new readers. I spent my teenage years living in Wuhan, China where my parents taught English at a university. I moved back to the States for college in 2004 when I was 16 years old (I turned 17 just before starting university). I went back to visit once while I was in college, but that was 10 years ago. A decade since I’ve been to the place I once considered home. So you can imagine how excited I was to get a taste of “home” again. 🙂

chinatown

Christopher didn’t quite know what to make of all the new smells (I’m looking at you dried spices & raw fish for sale), but he rolled with it. He really enjoyed getting to see all the sites!

chinatown

I loved seeing all the open market place areas. That really was so like China! Don’t get me wrong, I love going to my air conditioned, spacious grocery store that doesn’t smell like the food I’m buying, buuuut it was nice to visit. 🙂

eating in chinatown

And of course we had to eat while we were there! We stopped at Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles and I think the name says it all. 😉 I loved watching them making the noodles! And we also stopped at Tasty Dumpling and again the name says it all. 😉 Plenty of tasty food to be had in Chinatown!

It was so fun to visit Chinatown. And I loved that Christopher got a taste of the culture that shaped me so much. 🙂

Love Rach

A taste of Italy in NYC

Our very first stop in NYC after dropping our stuff off at the hotel was to go to Keste Pizzeria. We’d heard that they had true Neapolitan style pizza and that it was the best in the city. Since our favorite pizza in Italy was from Naples, we knew we had to try this place out.

keste collage

Oh my gracious, you guys, it did not disappoint. I could close my eyes and imagine I was back in Naples again. We both absolutely loved it. We ate lots of delicious foods while we were in NYC, but this was definitely one of my favorite meals.

Kesté Pizza & Vino Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

That evening we ventured down to Little Italy to check out America’s first pizzeria. A little place called Lombardi’s that opened in 1905.

lombardi's collage

It seemed to be a mix of Neapolitan style and NYC style pizza. Very tasty, but honestly – not the best pizza we had in New York. The sauce was pretty sweet and the crust chewier than what I’ve come to love of Neapolitan style pizza. Honestly, if I hadn’t already eaten at Keste, I would have loved this place way more. It honestly is good. I just like Keste better. However, their bruschetta was tasty! And we love that we can say that we’ve eaten at the oldest pizzeria in the US! 🙂

Lombardi's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Also, let me just take a minute to discuss how adorable Little Italy was. It’s such a small area of town, but precious. We enjoyed just ambling around and taking in the sights there!

rach in little italy

True story, I saw these lights and I excitedly said, “Christopher! They have Christmas decorations up already! How fun!” Because I always have Christmas on the brain. Christopher smiled and kindly said, “Do you think maybe they’re lights just for Little Italy because that’s the color of the Italian flag?” HA! Of course! But I still secretly think that they are both Italy-lights and Christmas lights. 😉

One night we checked out Chelsea Market and it was absolutely adorable! All very hipster looking with it’s exposed brick and metal. But very clean and cute.

chelsea market

There’s a little Italian grocery store inside called Buon Italia that we loved. The best part… we found type 00 flour!

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This is one thing we haven’t been able to find here in Memphis and all the recipes we have from Italy call for 00 flour. We are SO excited to try it out on our next pizza night! 🙂

I can’t remember where I first heard about Eataly, but from the time I knew of its existence, I knew I had to go. It’s part grocery store, part restaurant. Since we got there kind of late one evening, we decided to get focaccia bread pizza to go.

eataly

It was the perfect late night snack! Their focaccia bread is really good and topped with all this goodness – even better! 🙂

We ate even more pizza than I featured here, but it was NYC style so I’ll blog about it in a NYC favorites post. This is just a taste of Italy in New York. We enjoyed reliving some favorite Italy memories while we ate good food and explored all these places. 🙂

Love Rach

Walking with the dinosaurs (and other incredible things we saw in NYC)

We got to go to two museums while we were in NYC as well as hit up the New York Public Library which is like a museum in of itself. Exploring each of these places was so incredible! The buildings and architecture alone were amazing. And then all the stuff inside was so cool to see as well. 🙂

Our first museum stop was the American Museum of Natural History (where Night at the Museum was set). It was incredible! We knew we’d love the dinosaur exhibit, but really the whole museum was so neat. Seeing animals up close and personal really helped us put into perspective how massive some of these animals really are (like Moose and Whales!). Our other favorite part of the museum was the Rose Center for Earth and Space. It is amazing how intricate this planet we live on is. We walked away with this awed sense of “wow”.

american museum of natural history

american museum of natural history

DSC_0786You can’t tell from this photo, but these guys are ENORMOUS! They towered over us!

american museum of natural history

The next day we checked out the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We walked in knowing that we’d love the Greek and Roman statues, but we had no idea how cool the huge Egyptian exhibit would be! Not to mention how neat the Medieval Knights part was. Really I could spend days in the MET and the AMNH. They are just fabulous!

the MET

the MET

us at the MET2

the MET

And on our last day we went to the New York Public Library and you guys, it was kind of magical. I just kept thinking about how incredible it would be to go to this library to do research or work on editing photos. It was all so gorgeous. And in the children’s area they had the original umbrella that inspired the Mary Poppins series! Aaand to cap it all off – they had one of the original Gutenberg Bibles on display (one of only 48 surviving copies). Incredible!

new york public library
ny public libraryWhat? Your local library doesn’t have soaring ceilings with painted murals or lion spigots for water fountains? 😉

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DSC_1112Oh you know, just hanging out in the children’s wing of the New York Public library reading Harry Potter (okay, clearly this is a fake, posed picture. We were in far too much of a hurry to see everything to stop and read. But I couldn’t pass up an opportunity for a photo! 😉 )

gutenberg bible at the NYPL

Coming up next… a taste of Italy in NYC! 😀

Love Rach