Easy Tip: Iced Coffee Cubes

Someone you know has been very busy planning her wedding, participating in bachelorette shenanigans, and prepping for a cross-town move. Apologies, dear readers, for letting Sparkles slip this past month. I am back! And with a fun new Easy Tip share.

-2I’m going to guess that if you’ve ever sidled up to the counter at Starbucks and requested an iced coffee with “light ice,” we have a lot in common. I absolutely cannot stand when my ice melts, making the coffee watery. But when you do order an iced coffee without ice, you’re risking it not being cold enough. You’re also spending about 5 bucks on something you could make–better–at home.

Josh and I are addicted to Starbucks coffee and we often brew ours in the one wedding gift he’s letting me use before the big day. But with the summer heat blazing, my beloved has found himself letting his cool and then throwing ice cubes in an hour later. Classy! How about we make our own iced coffee at home, on purpose, and fix the melted watery mess problem?

cubeThe iced coffee cube cools your drink to the desired temp, but when it melts, it tastes like coffee! Score.

1. Brew a large pot of coffee. Then, switch off the machine allowing the pot to cool to room temp.

2. Pour into ice cube trays. I used these star-shaped ones we got at West Elm.

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3. Place trays in freezer and put the remaining coffee in its pot in the fridge. You’ll be drinking that later!

Once frozen, pop a few in a cup and pour yourself an iced coffee with flavor that will last.

Want some other easy tips? These blend up beautifully into your morning protein, banana, and almond milk smoothie. Yum!

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One Happy Hour that Will Make You Very Happy

I recently met an editor friend for drinks after work. My happy hour history is spotted with too-sweet margaritas, short glasses of crappy pinot grigio, and other sad favorites. Hey, if it’s cheap, it works, right? So, being a know-nothing on the topic of where is “good” for happy drinks, I was relieved when my friend suggested we head to Simone martini bar on First Ave and St. Marks Place.

Red, strong, delicious. The perfect $4 beverage!

This charming spot offers a proper happy hour menu including $4 well drinks, wine, sangria and beer; $5 martinis, cosmos, and more. Happy Hour is Monday-Thursday and Sunday from 2-7 pm midnight to 2 am, and Friday and Saturday from 4-7 pm. The perfect place for a summer evening, we sat outdoors and enjoyed a light breeze and the local color of passersby and their dogs, boyfriends/girlfriends, and experimental outfits. I savored two delicious glasses of red sangria and was in and out for about the cost of one pre-tax drink elsewhere in the city. Oh, and though we didn’t eat, the bites at adjacent tables looked delicious.

Green machine

In an effort to get healthy, Josh bought a juicer on Amazon a few weeks ago. He’s been whipping up (or should I say squeezing out?) vegetable juice by the pitcherful… shocking creations of red, green, and inevitably a mushy sort of brown. He adds garlic and hot sauce, a little salt and pepper, and chugs the potion at lunch time to fill up without eating naughty snacks. I’m impressed!

And while I do like to nurse a glass in the evening while curled up watching reality TV, I don’t quite crave its garlicky-salty-veggie flavor with the same passion as my extraordinarily health-conscious boyfriend. Instead, I’ve been jonesing for something sweet. This week, he flipped the switch. On Sunday morning, we wandered through our local market selecting veggies for his coming week of juice. The usual suspects added to the cart, I saw him grab four granny smith apples and a lemon. I was intrigued. Sure enough, my cry for a quenching summer beverage had been answered. This “appleade” required only two granny smiths and a lemon. No added sugar, no extras. Low in calories, high in delicious flavor, and packed with nutrients, this is the ultimate summer beverage. I am one lucky girl…

Happy, Chic, Mother’s Day

The mothers of New York could not have asked for a more beautiful day than this. The sun is shining but the heat is not oppressive. There are perfect, white, puffy clouds floating around in a baby blue sky and cherry blossoms–in full bloom–dot the trees throughout Central Park.

We opted to take Mom to the stylish and modern Beauty & Essex on the Lower East Side for luxurious-yet-worth-every-penny brunch replete with homemade cinnamon buns, ricotta and pear “jewels on toast,” communal candied bacon and maple grits, Mexican hangover-special eggs, and even some dessert (butterscotch pot de creme, anyone?). My mother, who eats about 1100 clean, green calories a day and treats herself to a single scotch a week indulged in every last bite of sugar, butter, and carb. She even toasted the feast with a sweet, strong, milky cocktail that she sucked dry. It was glorious.

But almost as heartwarming as a morning spent with family was the utter fabulousness (is that a word? It is now) of all the hot mamas in New York City this morning that I couldn’t help but observe. Pushing strollers along Houston and Rivington in skinnies and pastel blazers, clinking glasses with their grown kids at brunch, or even fully preggers newbies resplendent in maxi dresses and designer shades. The streets were swarming with beautiful, classy, well-dressed broads and the fashionable, happy broods that love them.

My own was decked out with a fresh blowout, Gucci sunglasses, diamonds (and pearls!), a crisp, knee-length, navy blue raw silk sheath recently nabbed at Saks, creamy-beige nubby leather Prada 3-inch platform sandals, and toting a slouchy metallic suede satchel I mistook for Ferragamo. (She whispered, “It’s Tahari. I got it on sale,” with a wink.) She might be (almost) 30 years my senior, but my mom looked significantly hotter than I did today. She often does.

So this is just a quick shout-out to all the pretty, stylish mommies in this pretty, stylish city. You all look fabulous, and you deserve your moment in the sun. Cheers!

Mama ❤

Gemma, A Gem

The Couple, En Route to Lower East Side

On Sunday afternoon, my boyfriend Josh and I had a couple hours to kill and after a quick subway ride downtown, we found ourselves wandering in the vicinity of the Bowery Hotel. We were starving, and cruised the neighborhood briefly looking for something appealing that would work with my food allergies (ugh. annoying). We found the charming Gemma, took a quick peek at their dinner menu and went right inside. It was 4:00, that witching hour when it’s tough to find a great meal. But we knew immediately that we’d lucked out.

The endlessly charming interior cannot be captured adequately in photographs, no matter how lovely they turn out. The space feels at once comfortable yet elegant–as if you’ve wandered in to some fabulous aging debutante’s private dining room and pulled up a chair. Lush, amber lighting compliments the decor comprised of vintage wine bottles wooden tables, mix-and-match chairs, thick white candles, and large antique mirrors.

The wait staff was friendly and attentive–bringing our water in a label-less wine bottle and a basket full of fresh-baked-still-warm foccacia as soon as we sat down. (This Celiac was not able to indulge in the bread, but the boy loved it!)

For our first course we shared the Chef’s selection of meats and cheeses ($18), each heavenly bite of which was devoured instantly but allowed to linger on the tongue. For dinner, he ordered the parpardelle with oxtail ragu ($16) and I had the artichoke salad with parmesan and truffle vinaigrette ($13)–and, never one to turn down a truffle, I paired my salad with the truffled polenta fries ($7). The salad was delightful and full of flavor–not too much truffle oil, but enough to make the taste buds sing. The polenta fries came with two dipping sauces–one a cheesy pot of wonder and the other orange, spicy, and divine.

Munching and sipping contentedly, I scoped out the place and found a diverse spread of happy diners. A young hippie couple sat in a mirrored corner toasting life and enjoying appetizers. A rowdy group of girls my age huddled in a booth drinking too much wine and loving every drop. A long table in the center of the space provided adequate seating and food for a big family celebrating something on a lovely Sunday evening. An older couple held hands over their intimate table while awaiting entrees. And there was the inevitable screaming baby by the bar area, but we were too happy to care.

As our meal drew to close, I knew we had hours ahead of us to wander the streets arm-in-arm and shop and enjoy Downtown. But I was still so sad at having to leave Gemma, the warmth and friendliness of which had charmed us deeply. In a city full of eateries, each with its own schtick, it is always such an amazement to me that it can be so tiring finding the perfect place to fit your mood, budget, and aesthetic. Gemma was Sunday’s perfect discovery–a memory formed over prosciutto and fine wine, a romantic spot that will be just as special when I return with my mom, a friend, or a business associate. It was incredible. It was a gem.