My Orlando Love Story

This June marks fifteen years for me in Central Florida. My favorite memories through the years are wrapped up in good food, great friends, and lots of love.  I’ve grown so much and right by my side this city has too. 

It’s 2002 and I’m visiting for freshman orientation at UCF. We have dinner at Bubbalou’s Bodacious BBQ before dad drops me off at the dorm to spend the night. I discover new friends and the freedom of being on my own.  And I discover Tijuana Flats.  Life is never the same.

It’s 2003 and I have found my footing and great friends.  The Student Union smells like Subway sandwich bread.  We eat sweet chicken teriyaki subs on the deck quickly before the squirrels attack.  We spend birthdays at the Olive Garden and Kobe Steakhouse.

It’s 2004 and I’m a server at Pebbles Winter Park.  I toss nutty cheesy salads tableside to the well to dos of Orlando who serve as the board of directors for the nonprofits I’ll work for later.  On Sundays I work doubles and when there’s a lull we sneak over to Aloma Bowl and bowl a few frames.

It’s 2005 and I meet friends for dinner at Dexter’s and Chili’s.  I graduate from UCF and celebrate with friends and family at P.F. Changs.

It’s 2006 and I work at Second Harvest Food Bank by day and as a waitress at Don Pepe’s Habana Grill in Altamonte at night. I want to eat Cuban food every meal for the rest of my life.  

It’s 2007 and I spend my nights at Crummer Business School at Rollins College. I pick up quick dinners at Tropical Smoothie and the Rollins cafeteria.  

It’s 2008 and I’m working at Kids House in Sanford.  I spend lunch breaks at Yabi Sushi and That Deli!  On Halloween, after a failed attempt to go downtown, my BFF and I find Bobby G’s a dive bar in Altamonte. We spend many Friday nights there over the next few years.  Years later someone points out to me that it’s a Steelers bar.  I don’t do sports so I never noticed.

It’s 2009 and I start dating a very cute MBA classmate.  We spend a beach day in Cocoa and chow down at Slow and Low BBQ. We do dinner before a movie at Café Murano in Altamonte.  We spend an hour chatting in line outside Boston’s Fish House.  

It’s 2010 and time for graduation.  I celebrate with family at Hot Olives and then we meet up with friends at Stardust Lounge for dancing and lots of drinks.  We take day trips to the West Coast to eat at the Old Salty Dog  and the Dali Museum.

It’s 2011 and together with my cute boyfriend we start the short-lived food blog, Danie & Reidy Bon Appetity.  We cover Hawkers, Winter Park Fish Co., Hamburger Mary’s, and Junior Colombian Burger before we quit (food blogging, not eating – of course).  

It’s 2012 and we visit the Maitland Farmer’s Market on Sunday mornings for crepes before we spend a leisurely afternoon at the Mall at Millenia or take in a movie.  We meet friends for dinner at Prato and the Pharmacy.  Life is effortless and the city is ours to explore.  

It’s 2013 and we run away to Key Largo and elope.  We celebrate the next night at home with our best friends at Luma on Park Avenue.

It’s 2014 and our daughter is born.  We stop at Donuts To Go on the way home for a treat.  We celebrate Violet later in the year with family and friends at Hamilton’s Kitchen and photos on the lawn of the Alfond Inn.

It’s 2015 and I’m offered a job at Orlando Shakes.  Proximity to Pig Floyd’s makes it a no brainer.  The sweetness turns one and we celebrate with a party at home catered by Tijuana Flats.

It’s 2016 and we’ve traded brunches for breakfasts.  We spend afternoons at the park and then go to Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream for a treat.  We have dinner at Zona Fresca where they don’t side eye us for the mountain of rice our two year old gets on the floor.

It’s 2017 and I’m nine months pregnant in January.  A week before our little boy arrives, friends come over to celebrate my birthday and we binge on Banana Dream cake from TooJay’s Deli, assorted goodies from Buttermilk Bakery, and the best cookies of all time from Gideon’s Bakehouse.  Simon arrives and our world is turned upside down in the best chaos.  We pick up Foxtail Coffee before taking our toddler to Disney.  We have quick lunch dates at Hunger Street Tacos.  On Sunday mornings we still go to the Farmer’s Market but spend most of the time pushing Violet on the swings.  We take a break to eat popsicles and walk around the lake.  We are flourishing.  Orlando is flourishing.  We’re just starting to scratch the surface.  

Note:  Any restaurants without links are no longer open (Sad).

Monthly Mix: June

Follow along my monthly mix as I explore Orlando with family and friends.  Each month I’ll bring my list to shake up our routine and try new fun things.  Here’s what I’m up to this month.

Must Try:  We recently thought to buy our own cold brew pitcher and are drinking all the caffeinated things!   We want to figure out how to make the most perfect delicious brew.  Flavor city here we come.  Yeah, I said that.

Must Eat:   Local seafood adventures continue!  And even though my May selection was a bust, I’m determined!  Years ago we found Cafe Heavenly in New Smyrna Beach and have been fans ever since.  It has been longer than I can remember so I think it’s time for another stop.  

With the Kids:  Throughout May we found ourselves on two different occasions painting outside.  First at Violet’s end of school year party and then later at Kids Fringe.  Both times Violet could’ve stayed there for hours to paint.  She was so calm and peaceful….and occupied!  It got me thinking about this small fence we have in our backyard that we’ve wanted to brighten up.  Sounds like a job for Violet Van Gogh.

Wild Card:  Orlando Museum of Art’s First Thursday is one of those things I’ve always wanted to do and so tonight I’m having a little BFF date to check it out.  Each month on the First Thursday, Orlando Museum of Art hosts local artists with a themed event featuring food, drinks, and music.  This month’s theme is “Florida Grown”. I’m so excited! 

How will you mix it up this month?  Let me know if you take on any of these adventures.  And check back for my updates on how things turn out!

Image Sources: Coffee Lobster

Monthly Mix: May Recap

Check out the first part of the series (click here) to see what I set out to see, do, eat, and make this month!  

Must Try:  In effort to knock out some of my untouched Pinterest pins, I put this buckeye cake on my list.  I added it to my Mother’s Day plans so I could spend time baking with my toddler.  I only read the recipe in depth when we were throwing together our grocery list for the week.  Oh goodness what a reminder that I should read recipes first!  It was a low carb and sugar cake and had a lot of very specific ingredients.  I bit off more than I could chew right out the gate.  I decided I could easily substitute for things I had.  This is so comical because one of the things I love about baking is that it’s a science and if you just do exactly what the recipe says things will work out in your favor.  Luckily, my substitutions were alright and my family (and later, my co-workers) enjoyed the cake.  It was definitely at its best after it had fully chilled in the fridge.  Of course it was nowhere near as pretty the original post.  But I’ll take edible over gorgeous any day of the week.

Must Eat:  Scott Joseph’s review of Capsized Kitchen is what set me on my way to visit this seafood joint.   But halfway through May they closed while they build out their new location!  I’m putting this one on the shelf for now but will be there as soon as they reopen.

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With the Kids:  We are one month into swim lessons and things are going, dare I say, swimmingly!  The first lesson was traumatic for little V with 30 minutes of straight crying and screaming.  Second lesson was a success with just three minutes of crying.  Now she talks about her swim instructor friend all week and can’t wait to go back.  We’ve seen huge progress already and I’m sure we will have a talented swimmer before the summer ends.

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Post swim lesson ice cream treat!

Wild Card:  This necklace made it to my list and was a fun project to tackle.  The picture didn’t have any instructions so I had to figure it out on my own.  I purchased a few different embroidery threads and went with a cranberry no. 8 thread and gold beads (shout out to my Gryffindors).  I cut 15 strings about 16 inches long and then threaded 50-100 beads on each string.  This was super easy and just a bit tedious.  I dropped a lot of beads and continue to find them scattered around the house near where I was working.  At least the baby isn’t crawling yet and won’t be eating them? 

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Tah dah!

How did you mix it up this month? Can’t wait to dive into June (two swimming puns in one post is my max, I promise)!

Header Image Sources: Seafood  Buckeye Cake Necklace

Monthly Mix: May

Follow along my monthly mix as I explore Orlando with family and friends.  Each month I’ll bring my list to shake up our routine and try new fun things.  Here’s what I’m up to this month.

Must Try:  My list of Pinterest recipes I haven’t tried to make is at least a mile long (yours too, right?) This buckeye cake looks like a perfect place to start.  

Must Eat:  After reading Scott Joseph’s review of Capsized Kitchen I added to my OMG I have to go there list.  Amazing seafood restaurant inside a gas station?  I’m there.  

With the Kids:  I admit with just a tiny bit of shame that my 3 year old doesn’t know how to swim.  We’re in Florida so this is kind of a big deal.  We’re committed this month to starting swimming lessons and turning our little princess into a little mermaid.

Wild Card:  One of the side effects of being a craft hoarder is the leftover supplies you have after becoming fanatical about a project.  Case in point, after one bracelet making adventure I have an absurd amount of seed beads tucked away in a box.  This necklace looks like the perfect project to use up my leftovers from five years ago and make something pretty.  

How will you mix it up this month?  Let me know if you take on any of these projects.  And check back for my updates on how things turn out!

Image Sources: Seafood  Buckeye Cake Necklace

Yes you should start your Etsy shop. And no, it’s not about Etsy at all.


Before you read this and think, this has nothing to do with me.  Let me tell you it does.  Maybe arts and crafts aren’t your thing and you don’t want to start an Etsy shop.  This isn’t actually about Etsy.  It’s about why you should start the thing you really want to do that scares you.  Okay, now please proceed.

I’ve loved making art and doing arts and crafts for as long as I can remember.  I am one of those people that looks at something and says, “I can make that” and then actually try it.  I love taking on the challenge to figure it out.  

In college I led my roomies in a crusade to DIY our apartment including repainting our goodwill dining room table and chairs bright blue and making our own wall art.  When I’m helping with a baby shower I make a diaper cake and any number of perfectly themed crafts.  I’ve DIY’d everything from bracelets to curtains.  You name it, I think I can make it.

And with the completion of any successful project comes the chorus of “You should sell that” from impressed friends and family.  After hearing that one too many times I thought, “Well, I guess I could.” I guess I could turned into “Maybe I should.”  And then finally, “Here we go.”  I’m still shocked every time someone buys something from my shop.  I’m even more shocked that opening the shop has taught me huge lessons about myself and taking chances.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

You don’t have to know everything to do something.

DSC_0373.jpgOne of the things that scared me most about starting the shop was that I had no idea what I was doing.  I had five ideas for listings not 500.  I didn’t know how I was going to ship things or what they should cost.  I didn’t have all the answers.  I decided to just turn the shop on and figure things out as I went along.  And so far that’s worked.  I still don’t know everything but I know a lot more than when I started.

Everyone you know is not lying to you.  Your work is good.

I am at times beyond insecure to the point where I annoy even myself.  And for some DSC_0158.jpgreason I thought everyone I know and have ever met must be lying that my art was good and should sell it.  That doesn’t make sense, like at all.  To this day I still worry when someone emails me after they receive their order that they got the package and hate it.  That hasn’t happened yet.  Your art is good.  You are good.  And though not everyone will appreciate what you’re making, those that do will be the ones to purchase from you.  

Creativity builds creativity.

The more I create, the better I get at it.  And the more ideas I have.  And the more opportunities that come my way.  When I opened my shop I had just a few listings.  The DSC_0217.JPGmore I sold, the more ideas that popped up in my head.  And as people found my shop they’d email me with requests for custom work that sometimes I could take the finished product and add it to the shop.  Suddenly five listings became 30.  Last year as local workshops started becoming more popular, I thought “I could do that!” and came up with an idea for a papercraft workshop.  I pitched the idea to West Elm and wound up having a sold out workshop in store.  I had no idea when I started that was a thing that could ever happen.

You can say no.

This tends to go against most advice I read on how to be successful which is tells you to say yes to all opportunities that come your way.  And saying yes to as much as possible is something I do believe and follow in my life.  But the flip side is, you have to know your boundaries of what to take on.  Once I started selling I got worried if I put the shop on vacation (Etsy’s option for closing your store temporarily) or turned down a request from a coworker or friend that they’d be mad or that I’d never sell another thing.  But this isn’t true.  Saying no helps avoid frustration and burnout and makes me happier to return to crafting on my terms.  

Not every idea is a good idea.

One of the first listings I had on my shop was really cute but a pain to make.  Every time it sold I wound up frustrated and it took me at least three drafts before I was satisfied with the final product.  Then one day it occurred to me, I could just take it off the shop and then I wouldn’t have to make it anymore.  Sometimes the simplest answers take way too long for us to realize.  After that epiphany, I made sure to pull the plug on anything that I wasn’t exceptionally proud of or didn’t bring me joy when I made it.  

I’ve gained immeasurable confidence in my art since I opened my shop.  It has been an incredible creative outlet and connected me to so many new people. Recently, I’ve started thinking of new ideas to reinvent the shop.  I’m so excited to take a new leap.  I still don’t know everything and have no idea where my creative future lies.  But if my history has taught me anything it’s that I should just do it and see what amazing things happen.

You can check out my Etsy shop here.

What have you taken a chance on that taught you about yourself?  Tell me about it in the comments!


Parenting books that I really need

Every new mama winds up with a shelf full of parenting books.  During my first pregnancy I tried to read What to Expect when You’re Expecting.  I think I made it to week 18 or so.  Books are boring, scary, and also completely irrelevant until your baby arrives.  There’s no way you could possibly understand what a book is trying to teach you until you’re “in it”.  Now  as a seasoned toddler mama here’s my list of books I really need.

What to do when you accidentally teach your kid the F word.  

Yes that f word. And yeah, I did that.

And its sequel… Words that replace the F word so you phase the real one out.

I went with “farts” but I mean that’s going to get me in trouble soon too.  Leading by example, pro mom.

How to get your kid to go to sleep. A guidebook for babies 0-103. 

Hi, why don’t these babies want to go to sleep? It’s literally the only thing I want to do.

Potty training doesn’t mean what you think it does.

Guys, when people say you’ll potty train your kid in no time, they mean pee. Poop takes months. Why didn’t anyone say that?

How to get your kid to do things without bribing them with candy.  

I mean really, is there another way?

How to have an adult conversation without bringing up your babies every 5 seconds.

Just kidding I wouldn’t read this book.  Listen about my kids or get outta here!

How to hold and comfort a toddler who has just barfed, without barfing yourself.

The worst.  THE WORST. But gosh they really need a hug from mama when they’ve barfed all over themselves.  I more than gladly do it. But still, ick.

1,001 daily reminders that you’re doing a good job.

Being a mommy is hard.  It’s easy to tell myself everything I do wrong in a day.  But I’m trying my best and doing alright.  If only my brain could let that sink in!

With parenting I tend to think that everything is hard until it’s not.  In another year I’ll probably be in need of a whole different set of books.  What’s missing from my shelf? Let me know the real parenting books you need in the comments below.

How is this birthday different from all other birthdays?

Passover is one of my favorite holidays.  I have fond memories growing up of being with my cousins and scouring our grandparents’ condo for the afikomen.  I remember sitting at the kids table giggling through the very long seder.  And daring each other to eat the gefilte fish.  As I got older I would head home to be with my parents, siblings, and aunts and uncles to sing ‘Dayenu’ (Hebrew for “it would have been enough for us”) at the country club in a room full of snow birds.

Family togetherness, food, and laughter have always been the cornerstones of my Jewish experience.  We’re not that religious and I don’t always know what I’m saying when I recite prayers in Hebrew.  But I love being Jewish. 

Several years ago my very cute non-Jewish boyfriend (now husband) agreed to abstain from bread during Passover.  I thought it was a lovely gesture and was excited to bring him in the fold of some of the best matzoh recipes I knew:  matzoh pb&j, matzoh pizzas, and matzoh s’mores. After two days he asked for clarification on how long we’d be without bread.  He hadn’t read the fine print before he agreed. 

Today we have a beautiful family and cherish opportunities to celebrate together.  Our daughter arrived three years ago just before Passover & Easter.  I knew the day would come that her birthday would line up during Passover.  What would we do?  I couldn’t stop obsessing that one day she wouldn’t be able to have cake on her birthday.

So here we are three years later and the time has come.  Violet has requested to take donuts to her class to celebrate her birthday.  Every day on the way to school she points right and says, “Donuts that way.” And then points left and says, “School that way.”  I’ve gone back and forth on what to do.  Should I send ice cream instead?  Will toddlers like macaroons?  Does this matter?    My answer is, I don’t know. 

I have to parcel out what’s important to me as a Jew, for us as parents, and for our daughter who is a small person with limited understanding of the world around her.  At the end of the day, I have to go with what I do know.  I know my daughter will be happy to share donut holes with her friends at school and then come home to make matzoh pizzas for a special birthday dinner.  It will be enough for us.  Dayenu. Dayenu. 

Stress Relief Tips from my Toddler

“Come dance with me mommy!”  Can you think of anything cuter?  The first time she said it I almost melted.  And we danced care-free and silly in the living room.  And by the 20th time she said it, I was vaguely listening while I cleaned up a mess or put laundry in the wash or who knows what I was doing.  

The mom life is stressful y’all.  It takes everything I’ve got to be a good wife, mother, friend, and employee.  There’s so much stress in the everyday grind of going to work and coming home just being a functioning human.  And while my toddler certainly causes me so much stress I’ve also realized I’ve got plenty to learn from her as well.  Because sometimes you should just stop what you’re doing and dance.