Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had a wanderlust I can’t explain. Maybe it started because we moved around a lot when I was a kid. I know not everyone in my family loved that, but to me, it was fun. A new house to explore, new friends to make, new restaurants to try, a new school to navigate. Not that it was always easy. As a matter of fact, fifth grade was downright hard. It was my fifth school in as many years. I had actually been home schooled for 4th grade so my mom and I could travel with my dad (now that was awesome!), so trying to fit into a school where all the kids had been together since kindergarten was challenging. I found my place, though, with the pigeon-toed girl with the coke-bottle glasses, the girl from the trailer park and the girl with the sideburns. I’ve lost track of the first two, but the girl with the sideburns no longer has said sideburns — she’s quite a beautiful up-and-coming opera singer.

But I digress…

Top of the Empire State Building on my first trip to NYC at 17

As a preteen it was all I could do to keep from bursting with the anticipation of my first trip to NYC, which wouldn’t come until I was 17 years old. That was a long, tortuous wait. But at 18, my parents loaded up our car and drove me 900 miles from Atlanta to NYC so I could begin my college education. Finally! I was a New Yorker!!

Here I am in Portugal, at the top of some medieval castle

I met a guy who was from Portugal, and every summer my dad would pay for me to fly over to spend 2-3 months with his family and explore the beautiful country. I do lament that I had my head so far up my a$$ over this guy that I never really enjoyed it as I should have. Frankly, I complained a lot that he wasn’t attentive enough to me. Ugh. Young love. But still, it was an opportunity that few get, and even though I wasn’t as grateful as I should have been then, I’m grateful now for the experience. And I know that I’m a better person because of it.

When I met Eric, we were both pretty broke college students. And we would be broke for a looooong time. Ha! But we still found ways to travel, to move, to adventure. Even trips-gone-wrong turned into great memories. Like the time we were supposed to fly to Florida for a long weekend, but the snow cancelled our flight, so we rented a car and headed for a B&B in Vermont instead. For hours we hung our heads out the windows of the car, trying to see the road through the onslaught of snow! It was scary, and needless to say, we didn’t make it to Vermont. Instead, we ended up near Holy Oak, Mass, at a Motel 6, where the hotel staff shared their chili with us and we went swimming in our clothes in the indoor pool.

One of the thousands of pictures we took in London

One of my favorite trips of all time was to London five years ago. We watched the London episode of The Bachelorette the other night, and I was almost in tears remembering the amazing time we had there. I can’t wait to go back and discover more of what that incredible city has to offer.

My all-time favorite non-touristy trip was to Sandals this past February in Great Exuma, Bahamas. Wow. So incredibly beautiful. So much so actually, that in September, we’re moving closer to it! That’s right — we’re off on another adventure all because of a week spent in the Bahamas. And once we’re settled there and saving lots of money as a result of moving OUT of NYC, we’ll be off and running again, putting pins in our map of places we want to visit around the world.

We’ll be moving near to here soon…paradise awaits!

Speaking of pins…Pinterest makes it easy for me to keep track of all the awesome places I want to visit or have visited already. Here’s the link to my Favorite Places & Spaces board, if you want to see where I want to go.

But what about you? Do you love to travel? Do you embrace change, spontaneity and adventure? Or do you prefer to stay rooted in the familiar? What are some of your favorite places to visit or your most memorable trips?


RWA Nationals: NYC Eating, Shopping, etc…PART 3

Okay, now we come to my second favorite thing to do (eating is number one, people!)…shopping! When you’re in Times Square, you’re at the crossroads to everything, including awesome places to shop.

Head about 10 blocks south of the hotel, and one avenue over, and you’re at the legendary Herald Square, home to a Macy’s so big you’ll want to have your GPS with you to navigate it!

But Macy’s isn’t the only game in town!

In case you forgot a t-shirt or a comfortable sundress, the flagship Old Navy is on 34th Street between 6th and 7th (150 W 34TH ST)

Forgot to bring extra panties? Victoria’s Secret is at 34th and 6th (901 Avenue of the Americas)

Looking for something trendy and hip to wear to your pitch session? H&M has you covered (435 7th Avenue at 34th Street, but there’s also one right next to Victoria’s Secret on 34th Street, but maybe it’s new and that’s why I can’t find any info on it???)

What about a super unique shopping experience? Visit Muji! This Japanese housewares/clothing store is all the rage right now. From beautiful pens and notebooks for writing down your story ideas to spherical ice cube makers to make round ice cubes (yes, we own them, and yes, they’re awesome!), this place will surely have something to tickle your fancy! (620 8th Avenue @ 40th st.)

Sanrio…This ain’t your mama’s Hello, Kitty! store. Visit the Sanrio on 42nd Street and you’ll feel more like you’re in a Juicy Couture. They renovated this place several years back and it went from playful kiddie store to chic boutique. It’s easy to waste time here, and yes, your jaw will drop when you discover that pretty little Hello, Kitty! necklace under the glass is a whopping $1,000!!

When you walk out of the hotel, you’ll see plenty of other places to get your shop on: Sephora for all your makeup needs, The Gap, Ann Taylor Loft.

So we’ve covered clothing, but what about finding a way to get in  helpings of the most important food group? Don’t worry, you’ll be able to find plenty of candy right up the street from you!

Hershey’s has a beautiful and fun store at Broadway and 49th Street. They even put chocolate scent in the A/C (something I’ve been trying to convince the hubby to do for years!)

And no trip to NYC would be complete without visiting M&M World. You can’t miss it – the green M&M hangs over 7th Avenue, larger than life! Inside, you’ll discover 3 glorious floors of everything M&M.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more NYC stuff! 🙂

RWA Nationals: NYC Eating, Shopping, etc…PART 2

Okay, yesterday I talked about eating on a budget in Times Square…now let’s talk about if your not on a budget…or if you’re looking to drop just a little more dough on “an experience.” I’ll start at the lower end of things…

Havana Central (151 West 46th Street, Between 6th and 7th – .1 mile from hotel)
With delicious food and live music, this is definitely the place to get your salsa on! You feel like you’ve stepped into Havana itself in this classy theme restaurant. And honestly, the food isn’t terribly expensive. Look to pay $12-$20 for an entree. I recommend the Arroz con Pollo, but then again, I’m not a terribly adventurous person 😉

Carmines (200 West 44th Street – 79 feet from hotel)
This staple of New York group dining is not to be missed. The massive restaurant serves massive plates of food (which you order off of a massive billboard on the wall) to massive tables of people celebrating everything from Birthday parties to anniversaries to weddings. And while bigger doesn’t always mean better, in the case of Carmine’s, you can’t get enough. The food is fantastic! But be warned, the wait can get very long, and sometimes they even turn you away if you don’t have a reservation already. This tends to run us about $30/person whenever we go, but it can be more or less depending on alcohol consumption 😉

Vinyl (754 9th Avenue @ 51st St – .6 miles from hotel)
This place may be a little off the beaten path, but it’s super cool. You feel like you’re in a 60s/70s disco with mirrors and records hanging everyone. But the best part is the menu. There is literally something for everyone. Fried chicken, mac&cheese and other American favorites, spaghetti and meatballs, Pad Thai, Masaman Curry or General Tso’s chicken…seriously, there’s something for every palate. And it won’t break the bank either. Plan to pay around $12-$20/entree.

Bond 45 (154 West 45th Street – 299 feet from hotel)
Okay, this place is no joke. You can’t see in the windows and the gigantic sign reading BOND 45 is so intimidating that we didn’t step foot in this place for years – we thought only people like Al Pacino would be allowed in. However, when we finally did go, we were thrilled, and we felt so important. This is a fine Italian steakhouse. The food is amazing, the service impeccable. But be prepared to break the bank with this one. They don’t list their prices online, so you know they’re expensive. It’s been a while since we visited, but the entrees are definitely upwards of $20/entree. Of course, if you go for steak or seafood, you’ll spend more. But if you have some cash to burn, I highly recommend you check it out…or if not, maybe just stop in for drinks.



RWA Nationals: NYC Eating, Shopping, etc…

Hi all!

Well, the time is drawing nigh! Nationals is upon us…just a few more weeks until 2,000+ romance writers descend upon my hometown of NYC. I can’t wait! In preparation, I’ve been compiling lists of places to eat, places to shop, and things to do while you’re visiting us. Hubby and I were on our way to see a show the other day, and I started taking notes of all the great places there are in Times Square and the surrounding neighborhoods. Places that are often forgotten about if they aren’t right in front of your face. So, without further ado, here’s my list of stuff you might want to know about…

Budget Eating…

Just because you’re on a budget or in a hurry doesn’t mean you have to eat at McDonald’s! Here are some spots that offer what I consider upscale fast food…

Chipotle Mexican Grill – this one is a mere .3 miles from the Marriot! My favorite thing here is the veggie burrito bowl – it’ll run you about $7, but you won’t have to eat again for 3 days! Ha!

25 West 45th Street

New York, NY 10036

Cosi – This is a great sandwich/soup/salad place that turns into a full-service restaurant at night, with booze and everything. The Signature Salad is TDF, but just FYI – it’s not at all waist-friendly! If you’re looking for the Weight Watchers-friendly meal there, get the half Turkey Light sandwich and the half soup (I l.o.v.e. the artichoke soup!). .3 miles from hotel…

1633 Broadway

New York, NY 10019

Baja Fresh – .2 miles from the hotel, this Mexican cantina is a favorite from out west! With light, fresh fare, you’ll be walking on air as you walk down Broadway!

1441 Broadway

New York, NY 10018

Famous Famiglia – Looking for that famous NY slice? Pop on up to this legendary pizza joint, just .2 miles from the hotel. 1 slice, 1 order garlic knots and 1 diet coke (to off-set the calories in the pizza and knots, of course) and you’re good to go!

1630 Broadway at 50th St.

New York, NY 10019

Dallas BBQ – if you have a little more time to spare, but still don’t want to break the bank, this BBQ staple of NY is even good enough for this southern gal! My favorite thing here: Quarter rotisserie chicken (white meat, honey basted) with yellow rice and corn bread (slathered in butter, of course.) It’s more food than you could possibly eat for $7.50 (plus tax+tip) Oh, and if you want to get your drink on, go for a Texas sized Strawberry Margarita…yum! .2 miles from hotel…

241 West 42nd Street

Jamba Juice – if you’re really in a hurry or not terribly hungry or just want to drink your fruits/veggies, Jamba Juice is there for you! It’s .1 mile from the hotel, and it’s open until at least midnight every night!

712 7th Ave.

The Counter – I’ve talked about it before, but it bears repeating. This build-your-own burger joint is awesome, and they have a full bar, too! They also have plenty of vegetarian options if you’re not a carnivore. .2 miles from hotel…

1451 Broadway

KFCNo, I’m not talking about Kentucky Fried Chicken, I’m talking about Korean Fried Chicken! This amazing double-fried chicken is like nothing you’ve ever eaten! You’ll never be able to look at buffalo wings the same way again! Ask for a sample first before you order a whole thing of the spicy wings, and if you do go spicy, don’t touch your eyes until you’ve washed your hands at least 5 times. Personally, I love the non-spicy wings the best! Be prepared though…you may have sticker shock when you see the prices, but trust me…it’s worth it!

Try Bon Chon – 207 W. 38th St. New York, NY 10018 (.4 miles from hotel)  or Kyochon 319 5th Ave, New York (.8 miles from hotel.) (The atmosphere at Kyochon is pretty great, so if you don’t mind the walk, I recommend going there!)

Okay, I’ll be back with the next part of my list…

RWA Nationals: Must-Have NYC Apps!

Though I write historical romance and sometimes wish I lived in the 1800s, I’m incredibly grateful that I live in the year 2011 and have such amazing tools at my disposal, such as a smart phone. Whether you have an iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile or Blackberry, these little babies can really come in handy, especially when you’re about to embark on a trip to a new city.

Since Nationals is in my hometown of NYC this year, I’ve scouted out a few important apps for all you iPhone users that you won’t want to leave home without! (Some of these are also available for Android, but I’m not sure about the others. You may want to search for something comparable in your phone’s marketplace, though!)

Up first…NYC Way

This is a pretty neat app, and it’s free! This is kind of one-stop shopping for lots of different things around the city. It uses your location (click Allow when that warning pops up) to locate you and then when you click on, say, the Restrooms button, it will show you the nearest restroom to where you are. They’ll show you coffee shops, dining options,Wi-Fi hotspots, banks, transit, local attractions, and more! Definitely a great app to have when you visit the city!



Okay, so maybe you’re not aware there’s a cupcake craze going on in this country, or maybe you’re glued to the TV every time Cupcake Wars comes on the Food Network, but either way, you’ll want to have this app at your disposal. The City’s 50+ cupcake bakeries are listed by neighborhood, so hop from one to another in an afternoon. It’s a great way to see different neighborhoods while checking out the fun and unique cupcakes the city has to offer. It also has reviews, Editor’s Picks, up-to-the-minute cupcake news, Facebook and Twitter integration, as well as the ability to comment on the bakery and star your favorite spots.

Oh, and did I mention it was created by Yours Truly? That’s right! My husband and I embarked on a cupcake marathon tour last summer and we’ve released the app just in time for Nationals! It’s been a long time in the making, but I’m sure you’ll agree it was well worth the wait! Available for both iPhone and Android AND it’s on sale for Memorial Day! You have until 11:59pm tonight (5/30) to get it for $0.99!…



And last, but not least, Beer Gardens NYC 

I bet you didn’t realize that so many RWA members were whipping up useful iPhone apps, but here’s yet another must-have app for NYC…

For multi-published romance author, Hope Tarr, Beer Gardens NYC was a true labor of love. She and her real life Prince Charming, information architect Raj Moorjani, spent six weeks visiting their initial pool of 50 New York City beer gardens before launching on the App Store in September 2010. Within one month from launch, they received press coverage in The New York Times, The New York Post and Gothamist. Appolicious named Beer Gardens NYC as one of its six “Best iPhone Apps for New York City.” The suds-loving duo recently launched a 2.0 version that includes Foursquare integration, GPS functionality, and even more city beer gardens!

Tarr will be presenting her workshop, “Nobody Cares You Just Had a Muffin: Ten Tips for Using Social Media to Brand Your Books,” at The New Jersey Romance Writers’ annual conference on October 21-22, 2011. To learn more about Beer Gardens NYC, visit the web site at www.BeerGardensNYC.com.


So there you have it, folks! These are my picks for the 3 best phone apps, whether you live in NYC or are just coming here for a visit!  For less than $4 (or $3, if you buy on Memorial Day!), you can have the city at your fingertips!