happy new year?

In fashion, September marks the beginning of a new year. A time to shed those old clothes and last year's Louboutins in order to forge yourself a new identity. This seems highly appropriate for me these days with my new job, my new apartment, and my new designer wardrobe (hah... i wish!).

For me, September also brings about a reevaluation of sorts. Change is in air. Fall is approaching, kids have headed back to school, and last but not least, another birthday creeping up on yours truly. More so than during the New Year, during this time I find myself setting new goals and aspirations for the future. I always feel too pressured on New Year's Eve to slap together some bogus list of resolutions (this year, I will not eat chocolate, and pick up gardening... and take ballroom dancing?!). In September, I feel genuinely inspired to create a list of priorities that hopefully will propel me into the direction of becoming a wiser, kinder person. So far the list I have compiled is thus:

(1) apply for graduate school for fall 2012... or eventually (2) volunteer at a soup kitchen, shelter (sadly, I haven't done this since high school) (3) workout more regularly (4) don't stress out if I don't workout regularly (5) read more. blogs, twitters, and emails don't count-- time to get a library card! (6) explore New York City. It's the greatest city in the world, and now my new home. (7) put together a kick-ass grown up wardrobe (my work clothes are waning) (8) never be too busy for my friends (9) never ever be too busy for my family (10) remember that loving others starts with loving yourself  (my friend Oprah tells me everyday)

So far, the start of September has been great. I was able to visit Nashville and Murfreesboro during Labor Day weekend and boy, was it nice! First off, I stopped by Nashville Friday morning where I met up with one of my former Art History professors and then went to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts to meet with the director/another of my former professors. It felt like being home. It was so nice to get some professional advice as I have been quite confused about how/when/why I should apply for graduate school. Having my questions answered and my worries slightly eased has boosted me to take the plunge.

After a day in Nashville, I went to the Boro to see some of my high school friends and in particular to celebrate the engagement of my friend Morgan! There are moments when it hits me that I really am growing up, and this summer has been chock full of them.

And last but not least, I am so happy to no longer have to keep this secret: my college-roomie for all 4 years and 1/2 of the renowned Dynamic Duo, JESSIE CAPPS, is back in the states!! She made an early surprise trip back home from Ireland to surprise her brother and his fiancée! The timing could not have been more perfect. After one full year of not seeing her, we were finally reunited on Sunday morning over one of her favorite pasttimes: venti Starbucks coffee (and chai for me). Welcome Home JESSIE!

Now, I'm back in New York City having just finished the first day of my big-girl job at the Met. Today seemed completely stress-free and natural. It felt good to be back. Moving into my apartment yesterday, however, was quite an adventure! When my flight got in at 3p, I called my apartment manager to tell him that I would need someone to let me into my new place since both my roommates were out-of-town. Turns out, he's in Costa Rica. But no problem, his replacement said he would send someone over to meet me at the building at 4p. Perfect! Fast forward to 7.30p, NO SHOW. no one but me sitting in the lobby of my apartment building with both my suitcases, my September Vogue and a growling stomach. Luckily, a middle-aged French lady in my building saw me stranded and invited me to her apartment to have some tea. Turns out she and her fellow Frenchie roommate are both artists who have lived in New York for 20+ years! We sat and chatted about art and the city while I tried to decipher their snippets of French. They were so incredibly sweet, and I will forever be indebted to their hospitality. When one of my roommates finally arrived at 10p, I bid them adieu but not before exchanging numbers. Who said this city is rude? Non moi!

the south meets nyc

everyone knows that the south knows how to do bbq. apparently even new yorkers.

so when my friend anne larimer asked me if i wanted to go to a barbeque block party at madison square park i thought, 'heck yes!' and when we learned that martin's bbq from nashville, tn was coming, i took it as a message from God saying 'Go, eat barbeque and be merry.' which we did.

not even the pouring rain on saturday could stop dedicated fans from having a good ole southern time. both the food and the bands reminded me of honky-tonking in downtown nashville. i felt so at home as i ate my bbq sandwich and listened to the guitars playing and just a tinge bit homesick.

luckily, i was quickly comforted by an old friend from high school (and fellow tennessee girl), sonia, who has been living in brooklyn. we had dinner at le verdure in eataly (an AMAZING italian market!). the gnocchi with tomato and mushroom ragu was delicious and at $14 a great deal. unlike this little chunk of cash!

we then headed to a small joint where all the local new yorkers like to hang... TIMES SQUARE. i have to say i did not want to like times square. it's garish, hectic, and filled with slow tourists. but boy was it FUN! i was completely swept away by all the glittering lights and massive signs. it was my HELLO new york! moment.

i cannot wait to see WICKED with my mother and sister when they come this summer!

big apple bbq block party
madison square park, ny ny
(646) 747.0584
 
eataly
entrance on 23rd street & 5th avenue, ny ny
(212) 229.2560
 

i ♥ nashville

dear nashville,

if ever i were to truly call a place home, it would be nashville. a beautiful city full of all the conveniences of a big city and the warmth of a small town, nashville encompasses the best of the south. while known for its country music and fried chicken, there's so much more to nashville than that. and now that i don't live there, my recent visit made me miss it even more. so if you've never visited this wondrous city, here are some of my favorite spots.

hope y'all enjoy! xo
 
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prime 108 in union station hotel
1001 broadway
(615) 726.1001

my sister promises that when we grow up she will buy this hotel just so we can have brunch here every day. set in an old railway station in downtown nashville, the architecture and interior of the building remind you of setting foot into a gothic cathedral. it's a great way to treat yourself or someone special to a high class experience at a relatively low price (most dishes are under $15).

my favorites are their crab cake benedict and silver dollar blueberry pancakes.

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sambuca
601 12th avenue south
(615) 248.2888

for a swanky meal set in the swanky gulch, sambuca fits the bill. i've celebrated both my past birthday and graduation at this restaurant and at each occasion both the food and service were top-notch. the menu is heavily seafood based with latin and asian influences but there's something for every palette. dishes such as the shrimp & crab dip and miso sea bass are amazing but i always wait to hear the specials of the night. they're usually just too good to pass up. if the food wasn't enough, every night there's a live band that is guaranteed to put you in a festive mood.

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monell's
1235 6th avenue north
(615) 248.4747

if you (and your stomach) are in for a good home-cooked marathon, look no further than monell's. the atmosphere is family style which means you'll find yourself at a large table passing baskets of biscuits and bowls of banana pudding with strangers. but by the end of the meal, you will all share the kindred bond that can only come from making beautiful food babies.

each night monell's features weekly specials ranging from spinach lasagna (my favorite) to bbq ribs along with the everpresent fried chicken. but make sure to save room for the banana pudding. it's beyond blissful.

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fido
1812 21st ave south (hillsboro village)
(615) 777.FIDO (3436)
 
i cannot tell you how many times i've sat at fido proofreading a term paper or cramming for an exam. but the truth is i usually tried to find an excuse to 'study' here just to eat their delicious goodies. it's part art gallery, part hipster hangout with a coffeeshop core. from breakfast to dinner, they offer a variety of first-class nosh, including many veggie friendly dishes. make sure to indulge in their unique bakery selection as well which offers goods such as beet-chocolate chip muffins and bagel concoctions. 
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the stage
412 broadway
(615) 726.0504

if i am downtown, i will inevitably find myself at the stage at one point of the night. it's mostly filled with out-of-towners and tourists but i love the place. the band is ALWAYS amazing and the openness of the two-story bar keeps you from feeling like you're sweltering in a smoky dive. if the line at the front is too long, go to the somewhat-dark, totally safe alley behind the bar and get in through the back entrance. there's usually no wait, and you'll just feel so darn honky-tonk cool.

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big bang
411 broadway suite 201 (upstairs)
(615) 747.5851

with employees wearing t-shirts that say 'bang this,' this dueling piano bar provides a really low-key environment with tongue-and-cheek humor. the two pianists who sit face-to-face behind grand pianos will take any song request from beethoven to lady gaga mixed with their own comedic riffs in between. unlike most downtown bars, there is a cover charge of $6 (which is completely worth it). but on a slow night around 1am, i've gotten in without paying.

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frist center for the visual arts
919 broadway
(615) 244.3340

nashville is not known for its art scene but the quaint venue of the frist center hosts many traveling exhibitions. this means that there's always something new and interesting to see. on my last visit, they were showcasing an exhibit solely dedicated to the hindu god vishnu. the building itself, once a post office, is a renovated art deco structure and a work of art itself.  i had the chance to volunteer here during college and can say that the people who work here are truly dedicated to enlightening your experience with art free of any pretense or formality.

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belcourt theatre
2102 belcourt avenue
(615) 383. 9140

i love films. and when i'm in the mood to see something a bit off the beaten path, i always go to the belcourt theatre. an intimate space that showcases indie and foreign films, there's always something to stretch your cultural knowledge. another plus, they serve booze at the concession stand!

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jack daniel's distillery
280 lynchburg highway, lynchburg, tn
(931) 759.4221

when in paris, you take a day trip to see versailles. when in nashville, you take one to the jack daniel's distillery.

found about 1.5 hrs south of nashville in lynchburg, tn, the jack daniel's distillery will make a whiskey lover out of you. the tour is completely free and walks you through the entire process, from water to whiskey. the tour guides are always hilarious, just don't mention the cursed words: jim bean.

        

my alma mater, y'all

my friends and i would often joke about how at times our university seemed more like a finishing school than college.  but the truth is, i'm so incredibly proud to call myself a graduate of vanderbilt university. and although i technically graduated last december, it didn't seem to truly set in until this past friday, may 13, 2011 when i walked across the stage to receive my diploma. 

i have to admit the entire day was not all strawberries and champagne (which were to come after the ceremony). at 5.30 that morning, i received a text alert stating that commencement had been moved from the beautiful alumni lawn on campus to the basketball gymnasium due to severe weather (which never came). i then arrived late to the gymnasium and haggardly ran onto the floor of the gym after the ceremony had started.  yet even on this unluckiest of superstitious days, some wonderful moments seemed to have slipped by.

sitting in the sea of thousands of black caps and gowns, i couldn't help but think back to my own high school graduation 5 years earlier. the 18 year-old me saw graduating high school as completely passé. it was merely the last hurdle to the ultimate goal: college. i felt ready to leave, ready to move on to bigger and better things. and now the 23 year-old me was sitting in a similar gym, wearing an almost identical cap and gown completely humbled by the fact that somehow i had managed to graduate college. i felt grateful for every moment because i knew that i had worked for it so much more than i had ever worked for anything in high school. i don't know if anyone's ever told you this but, college is tough. if you don't have moments of sheer panic or existential meltdowns about what classes you're going to take next semester, you probably don't care about your future. honestly, there were times when i didn't know how i would ever finish a paper, much less graduate.

so i didn't care that they handed me an empty diploma (because my real one had already been mailed to me months earlier) or that i was sweating bullets due to the lack of AC in the gym or that i didn't graduate summa cum laude of my class. because for once, finishing the race actually felt better than winning it.

Margaret Choo, Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience from Vanderbilt University

i cannot tell you how elated i felt when the last name was finally called. because now, i could finally celebrate! my friend and fellow graduate alyssa and i did just that. our families and friends dined at one of our favorites restaurants sambuca and then headed downtown that night to boogie as only newly-minted vandy alums can.

congrats to all the graduates of 2011!  as for me, i'll be off to nyc in 3 weeks :)

my outfit: Tibi dress, Target wedges, David Yurman jewelry