i n t e r m i s s i o n : providence edition

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a time to build up, a time to break down
a time to dance, a time to mourn
a time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.

As they say, to everything, there is a season.  There has been much food, culture, and luxuriating in my favorite little state these past few weeks.  I’m looking forward to getting back into my tea and homework tours soon, but for now, we turn turn turn…

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IMG_2335+ a sunset picnic playing catch up at Prospect Park

+ 2 visits to Oberlin in 2 weeks

+ a trip to Trinity to see friends in Oklahoma!

+ an old school Exeter slumber party complete with fireworks and cartoons

+ a (rather spontaneous) 5-course dinner/wine tasting with Theresa Heredia at Flemings to benefit the ballet

+ brunch at The Beehive to celebrate a special birthday girl

+ beers for the ballet is happening this Saturday at Hope Street’s annual spring block party.  Come visit me in the beer garden if you’re local!

a whole lot o’ hot cocoa

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There’s a lovely little place in Fox Point that I’ve written about time and time again, where the folks feel like family and the walls, works of art.  It’s a favorite of PVD’s most instafamous, out-of-towner coffee connoisseurs searching for the perfect cup, and an adorable grandpa/grandson combo who’s adorable avocado toast-sharing ritual I’ve witnessed on several occasions now.  Well, that sounded stalker-y.  Let’s move on.

For the past 2 years, this lovely little place, also known as The Shop, has held a rather wonderful event during the first few weeks of the new year.  Hot Cocoa Fest, as they call it, brings a different artisanal hot chocolate flavor to The Shop each week for PVD’s tasting pleasure.  At the end of the ‘fest’, the community votes for its favorite flavor, which then wins a spot on The Shop’s winter menu for the remaining months.  Yay hot cocoa, yay democracy, yay trying new things!

Because I’m a huge fan of wintertime treats, homemade marshmallows*, and things that involve checklists, I decided to take this year’s Hot Cocoa Fest into my own hands.  Making the whole operation a lot more official, my sweet friend Melissa (the one looking just darling in the Elmer Fudd hat below) actually bought me a gift certificate-good for 8 hot cocoas- on which she gel-penned the complete list of flavors for my checking-off enjoyment.  Behold:

I’d like to share the results here, as they stand, before spring really springs and my opinion of assorted flavors of warm winter beverages becomes even more irrelevant than it already is.  If you happen to be interested…

Peanut Butter Cup: Wow. The Fest started out with a bang.  PB Cup, as I affectionately referred to it throughout the duration of the hot cocoa-a-thon, was by far one of my favorites.  It didn’t taste like straight up peanut butter the way I thought it might, no, it was truly a peanut butter cup somehow magically infused into the hot chocolate.  As a recent pb cub convert who used to trade her Halloween Reese’s for anything she could get her hands on, I can confidently say this hot cocoa was fantastic. 4 stars.

Dulce De Leche: The dulce de leche brought it back to the classics.  Though very delicious on its own, in comparison to every other flavor being offered throughout, this guy just didn’t stand up to the competition.  A very chocolatey hot chocolate.  So yeah.  Good, but, ya know, 2 stars.  Moving on…

 

Banana: Another favorite, and another display of pure sorcery on the part of those Shop baristas!  I was afraid it might taste like banana laffy taffy soaking in the bottom of an otherwise perfect cup of cocoa, but boy was I wrong.  The banana flavor was subtle and trailing.  The experience was much more reminiscent of a banana/nutella marriage (i.e. more nutty, less sweet), and I mean that as a MAJOR compliment.  4 stars.

Cranberry Nut: The pattern seemed to be one week on, one week off.  Though tasty, the cranberry nut seemed to lack well, cranberries and nuts.  I may have had my expectations set a bit too high for this one, as Cape Cod trail mix happens to be one of my favorite snacks, but the extreme subtlety of flavor left me pretty darn disappointed.  1 star.

 

Peppermint Stick: Confession time: I missed this one!  Woops!  BUT, I did seek out friends for their opinion (as well as interrogating the owner for his opinion of the cult classic the following week), and the general response seemed to be this: If you like peppermint patties, this hot cocoa is for you.

Raspberry: Yum.  I drank this one fast.  I should have savored the flavor a bit more, but was walking up Wickenden with my mom on a chilly day and the warm goodness in my tummy just felt too good to syphon.  Plus, they were out of ‘mallows that day, so the barista (Hi John!) decorated our cocoas with pretty little hearts and that kind of ingestible art is truly irresistible, am I right? 3 stars.

 

*Kettle Corn*: Oh boy.  Be prepared because things are about to get weird over here.  The kettle corn hot chocolate (pictured at the top of this post in all of its sweet, salty, smooth, crunchy glory) was what my grandma would call “really somethin’ else”.  Melissa and I met for a study date (what up, Whole Dancer program?!), and kept interrupting each other to discuss the sheer awesomeness that was taking place in our mugs.  It demanded our undivided attention.  The kettle corn, made locally by Biggest Little Popcorn Company, was buttery delicious bomb diggity on its own, but topping The Shop’s expert hot cocoa (mallow on the side), the two became a truly 5-star treat.  Bravo.

PB & J:  Or, PBJ, as I prefer to call it, did not disappoint.  While not quite an act of pb&j-sandwich-in-a-hot-chocolate magic like its pb cup and banana predecessors, the PB & J hot cocoa certainly did not disappoint.  It was much sweeter than the others- in a good way.  A total throwback to last week childhood, where the wholesome sammy sat secondary in my diet only to the prized grilled cheese.  Delightfully delicious. 3 stars.

And with that, I challenge you, Shop Wizards, to concoct for me a grilled cheese hot cocoa…IMG_9255

*It’s worth noting that the marshmallows are marketed as being ‘optional’ but I consider them completely necessary and worthy of their 50-cent (2 quarters, not the rapper) up charge.  Those bad boys are totally scrumptious.

Special thanks to Melissa for sponsoring my artisan hot cocoa habit, and to Michael for indulging my weekly trips to The Shop!  You guys rock.

a birthday for the books

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The 24th one.  A day of hugs and smiles and warm wishes and tea.  After work I skipped my workout (BOOM- BIRTHDAY SWAG), showered and actually put on normal human clothes.  And red lipstick- on a Thursday.  I know.

I took myself down to Dave’s on South Main, where the wide windows were nearly opaque with steam from the inside and cold February wind from the outside.  They seemed wholly unsure of whether to freeze or sweat.  From where I stood, awaiting my matcha-latte-with-almond-milk-to-go, the escaped vapor of coffee beans turned to beverages ran down the windows like wax down the sides of a burning candle.  Happy Birthday to me.

I walked myself (briskly with the setting sun) up to Benefit Street and right into the peaceful Providence Athenaeum.  The historic library is one of the most breathtaking in Rhode Island, if not the entire country.  I sat myself in one of their windsor chairs, reminiscent of my childhood in an 18th century home, pulled The Intimate Journal of George Sand from the shelf and began writing in a brand new journal of my own.  (Happy Birthday to meeeee.)

When the Athenaeum closed and I returned to the east side, my favorite cousin M was awaiting with a bevy of glorious gifts- including a cheese-cake consisting of my favorites: brie, smoked gouda, and a cute, stinky, delicious little round one to make up the top tier.  We lit the beeswax candles (dang, isn’t she cute?) and I made a wish before blowing them out.  A cake of cheese was all I truly wanted for my birthday.  Apparently it took me 24 years to figure this out.  #wisdom

Friends filtered in one by one, all of them bringing presents with their presence (see what I did there?) and showering me with all of it quite righteously.  We sipped Cliquot, nibbled cheese and I unwrapped and unwrapped, giddy as, well, a birthday girl.  We headed out into the cold night under a slivered moon, which resembled- with almost eerie similarity- the very earrings decorating me, the ones A had just gifted me with.  Birthday magic.  Next it was off to The Grange (of course) to meet with even more friends and drink a flaming cocktail.  Yes, the drink was on fire.  Yes, it was cool.  There were also brussel sprouts and pomme frites and potato croquettes.  There was joking and cheers-ing and merriment all around.  It was birthday with, for, but certainly not by the books, and I’d like to do it all again next week, pleaseandthankyou.

jonas stroll

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Just when I was giving up hope, January redeemed itself with a pretty little snowstorm.

Though hardly the blizzard we were promised, Jonas certainly worked its magic over the city.  Every skeleton tree was dusted with luminous pearls, every rail draped in crystal lavalier.  It was all quite befitting of Saturday night’s engagement, a birthday fête reflecting all that sparkles in its title alone: Champagne 2016.  Impromptu snowball fights followed.

The next morning summoned yet another round of shining, the sun bouncing up with all the levity of an April afternoon.  Of course from inside one’s cozy apartment, the only appropriate course of action would be to whip up some cornmeal pancakes (with blackberry compote, like you do) and eat them on the couch, warm mugs in hand.

So we did.IMG_7313

Post-pancakes, M and I set out to explore the sunny snow day.  We tasted alllll of the olive oils, straight from their shiny steel fustis.  We hoofed from Prospect to South Water, pondering the purpose of faux-windows while peeking through real ones, spying on table-makers and clay faces and ricotta pizzas as we passed.  We ducked behind columns and into city cul-de-sacs, down secret steps and up so many hills.  We admired the snow-covered city from up close and far away, in the glowing light of the golden hour and under a chilly, purple sunset.  We said silly things and I laughed, and laughed, and laughed…

IMG_7402…until the snow started to melt and once again that big J stared me down from atop my kitchen calendar.  You know how an enchanted snowy weekend can make the work week feel at once refreshing and melancholy?  One more week, Mr. January.  Then let’s give February a chance to make some mushy Valentine magic, okay?

sweet november

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November might just be my favorite month of the year.  Sandwiched between the sadness of summer’s end and the craze of December’s bustle, November invites a welcome change of pace and a conscious appreciation of earth’s seasonal rhythm.  Bulky sweaters are out yet coats and gloves remain unrequired, hokey Halloween has passed but pumpkins (and the plethora of baked goods they inspire) are still considered seasonally acceptable, and the pages of my calendar are buzzing with the sweet approach of the real holiday season.  What I’m referring to, of course, is the last Thursday of the month.  Thanksgiving.  Those who know me well know that I find Thanksgiving paramount to all other holidays- in my eyes no other celebratory event compares.  And it’s only 10 days away.  But who’s counting, right?

After the opening of Up Close On Hope, M and I had the most peaceful of Sundays, complete with noodles at DENDEN, a visit to the Providence Athenaeum (my first), and a stroll around the RISD Museum to finish the final few rooms we’d missed on our first go round.  We discussed the difference between Udon and Buckwheat, delighted in the heady drunk of a slow walk down Benefit Street, and let our eyes fall wide over the ancient artwork wrapping the walls of PVD’s most prestigious gallery.  We whispered with friends, surrounded by books, quintessential colonial New England architecture, and even a little FBP press.  I dove into George Sand’s Intimate Journal and fell in love with one too many passages.  Later we mused on the intention of baroque artists, the devastating failure of a blurry squirrel mirror and the absurd nonchalance with which we were able to experience all of these wonderments.  Providence, you are so good.

Yes, I admit to loving Thanksgiving for its emphasis on family, food, and stretchy pants.  But my penchant for a holiday based on giving thanks is rooted in just that: a heightened awareness of everything for which to be grateful in my life.  I am so very thankful for the resilience of the magical city of lights in the wake of such tragedy, the physical and mental health of the people I love, and the culture-drenched city I come home to each night.  At the conclusion of every weekend in November, I like to take inventory of the smaller things in life which garner my gratitude.  Right now, those things include fuzzy turtlenecks, shared cinnamon buns, and curry-peppered popcorn pushed promptly passed my lips by the very best hands.

local cavalry

IMG_4137If you recently read my, um, lengthy 24-hour guide to Providence, then you already know I’m a huge fan of all things Rhode Island.  I know, I know, it’s a major nerd alert.  But there is just so much to explore in our coastal little corner of America, it’s hard to resist the occasional ocean-state-flavored mush fest.  Judging by the number of vehicles I’ve seen sporting this sticker, safe to say I’m not alone there.

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The only thing better than Rhody’s multitude of beautiful destinations (none further than a mere 30 minute drive, mind you) are its exceptionally talented and welcoming inhabitants.  The sweet spirit of RI runs especially deep in the bunch I’ve recently befriended, a pack of hungry creatives that seem to contain an undraining supply of warmth and love.  In a manifestation of this unique energy, I’m incredibly proud to represent RI’s newest lifestyle brand, Local Cavalry, a line of American-made apparel focused on adventure and experience.

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 What I love about this brand (besides the softness of their inaugural tee) is their mission to share in the journey of each wanderer.  It’s a wearable realization of Rhode Island’s penchant for creating a community of individual explorers, and we firmly believe everyone deserves a spot in the cavalry.  So whether you’re surfing the North Shore or treading the concrete jungle, scoop up your LC gear and get out there.  Bring them to your favorite spot or head out into the great unknown, snap a photo and tag local cavalry to share your adventure.  Play on.

a day in providence

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    Despite a modest 20-square-mile area, the city of Providence is so packed with destinations worth exploring, 24 hours does not come close to lending a sufficient amount of time to do, see, and taste it all.  It does, however, provide just enough time to be charmed beyond recovery.  Full disclosure: You may fall in love with this little city.  Consider yourself warned.

I also find it necessary to alert you to the fact that, Providence being the foodie mecca it is, you will be consuming an absurd amount of food during your (hypothetical) 24 hours here.  In fact, your visit to Providence will revolve mostly around incredibly delicious, alternatively prepared, farm fresh and locally-sourced food, in an extremely abundant supply.  So loosen your belt buckle a notch or two, and let’s dig in.

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night lights

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Night explorations have been top shelf, as of late.  Some of my favorite spots…

My backyard for rosé and s’mores. (and cheese)

The Grange for drinks and tapas. (re: more cheese)

Ogie’s for hot toddies and mayoral sightings.

The Rooftop at G Pub to see the top of the city up close.

Prospect Park to see the top of the city for afar.

fall report

IMG_2740So much can happen in the quick quarter of an orbit.
IMG_2739The wily weather tests and the earth changes her ticking dress.
IMG_2808New faces become your favorites and different places are dubbed The Best.
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An adventurer’s comfort lies in knowing that discovery chases the bend of the wind.
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Temporal tides tempt exploration, and seasonal shifts never meet an end.

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Does this spot look familiar?  Despite the 80-degree week days, so far September’s weekends have welcomed a slight chill to Providence, and it’s got me feeling all kinds of cozy.  And cozy feels deserve warm brunch and beanies.  M and I decided to celebrate autumn’s arrival by filling our bellies with Salted Slate and visiting a rickety old friend of ours.  Man, I love September.

thoughts on solo dwelling

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Last Thursday night, preparing for my performance at Waterfire’s Fire Ball event, the entirety of my dark-colored clothing collection spewed from my closet like a rumpled maze of fabric on my apartment floor.  In this moment, attempting to define a dress code* of “Barnaby Black” (black tie? Barnaby turtleneck and jeans?) I did not like living alone.

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This morning, as I readied myself for day two of Season 38 with FBP, I sat on the curved edge of the bathtub- bathroom door wide open- cutting my toenails half naked and singing along to a song whose title I’m too embarrassed to share.  Then I remembered how much I love living alone.

Happy Wednesday friends.

*Special thanks for A & D for picking me up early, telling me which dress to wear and convincing me that heels were necessary.  That was impressive.  You guys rock.