Category Archives: Reviews

The Perfect Bridal Shower

Last Saturday, the 21st, my gorgeous bridesmaids and mama threw me the most beautiful bridal shower at White Dog Cafe in Wayne, PA. I cannot thank them enough, especially my sister and Maid of Honor, Allie, for all the hard work they put into the perfect little party.

Bridal Party

The whole weekend was a whirlwind, beginning with my family meeting us at a local Italian place Friday night, only to be trailed by my grandma who lives in Florida and my best friend Lauren from Arizona, two of the biggest surprises I have ever had! I had no clue they were flying in for the weekend, and as I hadn’t seen Lauren in 5 years (how is that even possible?!), it was an emotional get-together!

My parents’ house was pretty packed over the weekend, as they were joined by my sister and her boyfriend Oscar, my two grandmas, Lauren, and Josh & I (oh, and two big, excited dogs!), so it was like a huge sleepover all weekend! We celebrated my 28th birthday and our shower weekend kickoff with an amazing confetti Birthday Cake by Momofoku. Oh. My god. Best cake ever.

Momofoku Confetti Cake

Saturday was my shower, and the boys took off to golf while the gals headed to PA. The shower wasn’t a total surprise, but I didn’t know where it was going to be or who was able to make it…and White Dog was the perfect spot. My girls know me well!! The place is adorable, with fabulous sustainable and local food and pictures of dogs everywhere. Plus, they decorated it so beautifully, it was like a page out of a magazine (and the favors?! So very “me”….Lush soaps and Momofoku Confetti Cookies…perhaps even better than the cake we had the night before?! David Chang, I love you. And the Philly Cooper cheese box is so perfect!).

Lush Soaps and Momofoku Cookies Favors Shower Gift Table

Allie and I

Beagle!Dog topiary 11052872_10104021060699022_6660058446950184928_n

I should’ve known with my sister’s skills from working for Anthropologie for so long (and my artistic friends), it was going to be aesthetically stunning! Alyssa even gave me a real Hawaiian lei of tuberose and white orchids that smelled like heaven and felt so special!! I have always wanted to wear one! It was a pretty intimate shower, with my closest friends and relatives there….we wanted to keep it on the small side. It wasn’t totally traditional, in that I didn’t open gifts there or play any games, we just started with cocktails and mingled and then sat down for a great meal (I had the lobster bisque, the cheeseburger with truffle fries, and the dessert trio…soooo insanely good).

cheeseburger and fries

 

dessert trioJosh’s mom came all the way from New Hampshire, and Josh and Oscar showed up shortly after to say hi to everyone and help take the gifts home. The drinks and food were awesome, the decor was stellar, and the company was just the best. It was the most low-key, perfectly “me” shower ever, and I am SO thankful for everyone who came far and wide to make it! It gives me butterflies thinking about it!

The girls 11403277_10104021063683042_7852609095590584119_n 11057974_10104021063069272_455410853692074069_n

A few of us stopped at my bridesmaid Alyssa and her boyfriend Mike’s house for a bit after to keep the party going, and then came home to ice cream from Latteria, the best place known to mankind. They are doing ice cream at our wedding!

Sunday, Allie, Lauren, and I woke up and headed to Philly for something I have been anticipating for a LONG time! We went to Max Brenner, famous for his chocolate….so we obviously had to get something chocolate-laden to try. We split a Mexican omelette (with a sugar-dusted biscuit and molten chocolate spread on the side. Wut.), a Philly cheesesteak waffle sandwich with KILLER sweet potato fries, and a peanut butter and chocolate crepe. Ugh, my mouth is watering even thinking about this meal. I cannot wait to take Coop to the NYC Max Brenner!!

Max Brenner's Max Brenner's Max Brenner's

We then walked all around Center City and Old City, did some shopping, and included a quick stop at Josh’s old place on Elfreth’s Alley. I miss that house!! And Philly….always holds a special place in my heart! Remember this from our engagement pics? We HAD to come back to take photos in a place so reminiscent of the beginning of our relationship. And every time I am in the area I love to walk by and peek in the courtyard.

Elfreth's Alley

City Hall on Broad Street

That evening, the clan drove me back up to JC (Coop was at practice in PA all day), and it was so nice to spend more time with my parents and grandmas and Lauren before she headed back to AZ, and it was fun walking down to the waterfront so they could take in the iconic views of the Manhattan skyline. It was a nice way to celebrate Father’s Day with my dad, too. Oh, and did I mention I also got to test-drive my dad’s friend’s brand new 2015 Corvette, too?! Just another feather in the hat of the weekend.

Father's Day 2015 in Jersey City

It was a jam-packed, indulgent weekend, and I have never felt so loved! It was the perfect kickoff to our wedding festivities…it finally feels like it is really happening! I cannot believe we are only a few months away!

xoxo

 

Guess who’s back…

Heyyy, remember when I blogged sometimes?

It’s been a crazy ride here since I’ve become a Jersey Girl again, and I love being just a quick hop into the city. If you told me this time last year I would be where I am today, I would laugh at you. But! It has been so amazing, Coop is loving his not-so-new-anymore career move to Manhattan, I get to see my city-dwelling BFF like WAYYY more, and I don’t think the same weekend night can ever be repeated. Always something so fun and new to try. I feel like our life has been infused with didn’t-even-know-we-needed-it new adventure, and it feels amazing. Also, we are less than three months out to the wedding (WHAT?!?!).

So! I have been thinking, and Coop and I have agreed it would be so fun to document this time in our lives. We could be up by NYC for years to come, or things could change by next year…who knows! So we are taking full advantage of it. And so, I think you will be seeing a little bit more of me over here!

Starting with this past weekend. It was one of my absolute favorites I have had since moving! My 28th birthday was last week, so our weekend started off with a bang when Coop took me to a restaurant on the waterfront I have been dying to try. And it did NOT disappoint.

Battello JC

Battello is on a pier in JC with a breathtaking view of the city, and the decor was crazy impressive, as well.

And then there was the food.

We decided on a chef’s tasting, where we could each choose an appetizer, a pasta, an entree, and then received a tasting of 4 different desserts. We also each had a Brooklyn Blast IPA and then split a bottle of Malbec while the sun set.

Bread and Truffle Butter

 

 

Mussels

Tuna Rollatini

Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage Bolognese

Linguine with Clams

Pancetta Wrapped Scallops with Red Quinoa and Almond Puree

Ribeye Steak

Dessert Sampler

(That popcorn ice cream and the chocolate/caramel/powdered PB/caramel popcorn dessert were TO. DIE. FOR.) We both agreed it was one of our best experiences in JC and one of our favorite dinners/date nights ever, period!! The service was stellar, too. Even though the place was packed, our server was attentive and had great suggestions while still allowing us to not feel ushered out once we finished our meal. He even took a photo of us on the water before we headed out! Nothing but glowing reviews for Battello, and we cannot wait to come back for oysters and drinks at the bar, and will certainly be a go-to for any celebratory dinners.

View of NYC

NYC

We were able to walk along the boardwalk to another beer spot that I didn’t even know existed….Taphaus is another with one of the very best views of the city, with a solid beer list and lots of space. Definitely will be back here as well.

Saturday was another memorable day for us; after walking to his local barber for a quick hair cut, we hopped in the city to Indochino for Coop to get fitted for his suit for the wedding. It was so fun to be there while he chose all of the unique details of his suit, including stitching, the lining, even the inside monogram of my soon-to-be new last name and our wedding date. SO fun, and the associate that helped us was so great. Can’t wait for his custom-made suit!

Indochino fitting

We were STARVING after, so we walked to one of our favorite spots in the city…Cooper’s Craft & Kitchen (how appropriate…)! Last time we were here we had THE BEST oxtail gravy and biscuits for brunch, seriously, the best, but as this trip was a little later in the day and brunch had ended, we went with the pretzels and beer cheese and a dozen hot buffalo wings. I planned on sharing a yummy-sounding grilled cheese after, but we were so full after this! Also, their own IPA is on point.

Cooper's Craft & Kitchen

Pretzels and Beer Cheese

Buffalo WingsCooper at Cooper's

After a quick pitstop to visit my best friend Christine who happened to be a few blocks away with some girlfriends (and inhale a quick margarita on the rocks because, well, Mexican restaurant), we went back to JC to see Jurassic World! Seriously SO fun, it was the perfect mixture of adventure + corniness + visually awesome. Go see it in 3D, you won’t be disappointed! After a late-night cajun turkey hoagie (with fresh mozz!!) stop at Stella’s on the way home (our go-to late night JC food spot…solid little 24hr pizza and sandwich shop on our way home from downtown), we were more than ready to crash!

Sunday Coop had band practice in PA, and my mom and grandmother came up for the day to hang. We walked to the water and went to City Diner (another go-to for us!) for salads and burgers (cannot wait to try the Veggie Jalapeno Burger again), and came back to our place to relax and watch a movie and drink coffee from my favorite bakery downstairs.

Veggie Jalapeno Griller from City Diner

 

It was my grandma’s first time to Jersey City, and it was so fun to see how much she loved our new place and our neighborhood! Another fabulous weekend in the books, and next week is our wedding shower back in Philly/South Jersey. I know my sister has been planning up a storm and I am so excited to see what she has in store for us. See ya then! 😉

The Balance Artist Faves…in Beauty

These are a few of my favorite things!

TBAFavesBeauty

As a recovering beauty product junkie, I used to be constantly on the lookout for the hottest new thing. But now, as I have began to simplify and purge lots of excess crap from my life, I have chosen some absolute favorites throughout the years…and I keep coming back for these. Plus, they all give a little pep in my step during the yucky, cold, dreary, pale winter months.

1. Urban Decay Naked Eye Palette 1 & 2: Hands down the best color selection in a palette. I own both and use them ALL the time. Perfect for a low-maintenance girl when it comes to makeup, as the colors are gorgeous neutrals, but also can be used to create the prettiest smoky eye.

2. Coconut Oil: I love it for cooking (doesn’t burn at a high heat like EVOO does!), but this stuff is pure magic for your hair. The only leave-in conditioner I use anymore. Does wonders for your brittle ends and parched hair! You can find it in any grocery store with the olive oil.

3. Mac Eyeliner in Teddy: The prettiest eyeliner with amazing staying power. Been a favorite for years.

4. Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Tiger Lily: The only chapstick I buy over and over and over, everytime it runs out. Smooth and not tacky, no overpowering flavor, and the slightest, most natural tint. Love.

5. Sephora Blush in Rose Glow: Natural, light, pretty. Seeing a trend here? Gives a perfect hit of color to paler winter skin.

6. Essie Turquoise & Caicos: Just look at it. It is perfection in a nail polish. Tropical!

7. Benefit Hoola: Love this in the hollow of the cheeks & across the nose and forehead; it’s great year-round, and looks awesome with a little rosy blush on top. Love that it’s not shimmery. And Benefit always has killer packaging. Hoola, you get a gold star in the bronzer category!

8. Loreal Voluminous Mascara: It’s just the best. I’ve tried ’em all, from department store to drugstore, and this, my friends, wins them all. Makes for easy, feathery, long, full, and bold lashes, all at the same time. Lift, and separate!

9. Philosophy Lotion in Unconditional Love: I love all of their lotions; this one is a fave, but I often pick up limited edition ones that I fall in love with and cry when they are discontinued. Sniff, miss you, Aloha Girl! But their lotions smell the BEST! This one is heaven in a scent. Yum.

10. St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse: Because the evil sun rays scare me. I am petrified of wrinkles and skin cancer, and although I am a beach-lover and sun-goddess through and through, SPF is always at hand! This is hands down the best self-tanner. And again, I’ve tried ’em ALL! The lotion is even better in the color department (read: darker), but has a much stronger smell. Can’t go wrong with St. Tropez, though.

What are your beauty favorites? Do you love any of these?

xoxo

Fit for TBA: My Favorite Workouts

Today I am introducing a new series on The Balance Artist: the Fit for TBA Awards! For each installment, I will discuss my favorite fitness and healthy-living-related things. Although I am not a certified instructor or personal trainer yet, I enjoy sharing my favorite things with fellow fitness and healthy-living enthusiasts!

First up: My Favorite Workouts! (Part I)
Fit for TBA Awards: My Favorite Workouts

BodyCombat is by far my favorite group workout. It is a perfect combo of boxing, tai chi, taekwondo, karate, and muay thai, and beats plain old steady cardio any day in my book! Lots of jabs, crosses, knees, uppercuts (my favorite), roundhouses and side kicks (my other favorite). The hour flies by and you are drenched in sweat by the end, and you feel super powerful! It is amazing what your body can do. And there’s always so much energy in the room! Since I have been taking Combat regularly for the last year, my core, legs, and arms are noticeably stronger, and my endurance is way up. SUCH a fun class!

Runner-Up: Zumba. Since I was a dancer for 13 years, I can be very picky about dance-inspired classes, but if you find a great instructor, this can be one of the most fun classes!

These DVDs are by far one of the toughest workouts around! Shaun T means business, and this 90 day challenge does NOT get easier as it goes on. In fact, the stronger you get, the harder you are able to push yourself, and these are some serious workouts! I started doing Insanity when I moved back home from college and wanted to change some things about my life. One thing I was able to control was my fitness and dedication to a healthy lifestyle, and I was so ready to finally do something for myself! And….let’s just say Shaun T whipped me into shape, and FAST. You begin to crave these sweaty workouts. Don’t be too intimidated, you get out of it what you put in, but you will build up so much strength if you stick with it (and you use ALL body weight! No free weights, pull-up bars, or any other fitness equipment needed. So at-home friendly.) and you will no doubt get some new definition in your muscles.

Runner-Up: Beach Babe by Tone It Up. It’s no secret I love the Tone It Up girls, Karena and Katrina. Their nutrition plan is top notch, but you don’t have to be a TIU member to take advantage of their workouts. They post workouts every Tuesday on their blog, and also partner up with Livestrong to deliver great videos. This DVD is great and their HIIT the Beach workout (1 of 7 included in this DVD) is perfect when you are short on time but want a good, sweaty HIIT workout.

Not many better things in the world than being about to get a good workout in while exploring the beauty this world has to offer. Two of my favorite places to hike?

New Hampshire

and Tucson, Arizona.

I miss the Sonoran desert so much! Always had the best hikes there.

Runners-up: Walking/Running with the Pup and Kayaking. On my fitness bucket list: try stand up paddleboarding! And SUP yoga sounds super awesome, too!

These are hands-down the best sculptor for your obliques. They are tough, but I am obsessed with them! The conditioning tracks at the end of BodyCombat and BodyPump often incorporate these, and since I have been doing variations of planks throughout the last year a few times a week, my core is stronger and more defined than ever. These things TRUMP sit ups, anyday!

(You don’t need to have your top leg up…just the regular version of a side plank is killer!)

Runner-Up: Regular plank, with alternating shoulder taps, or alternating knees + pushups.

Gina is not only a Tucson-native, with an adorable husband and baby, but she is also an awesome instructor of all-things-fitness. When I get back out to Arizona, I am for sure going to make it out to one (or more!) of her classes! Her Tabata Thursdays are great, as are all the posts in her Focus On: series.

 

Be on the lookout for future Fit for TBA series posts including: favorite workout clothes/accessories, and my favorite health and nutrition finds. What are some of your favorite workouts?

Off to do some last-minute prep for a best friend’s bachelorette party tomorrow! Early morning Dirty Double (Combat/Pump), pretzel tray pickup (DROOL Philly Pretzel Factory!!!), and then AC, here I come, baby! Mary, I hope you are ready for a wild night at Revel! 😉 Have a great weekend everyone!

A Birthday Post! And The Balance Artist Links

Not only is tomorrow Coop’s Big 3-0….but today is my blogging anniversary! TBA hasn’t been around that long (since April!), but my original blog, Sam Bock Illustration & Design, began this day, last year.

(Any readers remember this?)

Happy Birthday, Coop!

This past weekend, I surprised Mr. I-Don’t-Want-a-Party-Grumpy-Gus with a room at Windrift in Avalon.

(Photo via windrifthotel.com)

We fell in love with it Memorial Day weekend when we first saw the renovations, and I knew we had to stay there! Had to do something special…thirty is a big deal!

I made the two of us some veggie-filled pitas and some smoothies to get some last-minute nutrition, and we headed down to the good ol’ Jersey shore early Friday afternoon.

It was a really great weekend full of friends and surprises. Started off with discovering our sweet room view (right over the pool!) and cracking open some Malbec after hunting for a wine opener.

We ate lots of great food (wood-fired pizza, sushi, oysters, Bang Bang Shrimp, etc. from Windrift are all Sam & Coop-approved), and my sister Allie and her boyfriend Oscar came for the first night.

Shenanigans ensued.

Gosh, I love them.

Saturday was a hot one, but our friend Norty met us after the four of us had brunch on the deck and we beached it for hours until we took it to the pool.

(Photo via windrifthotel.com)

(Photo via windrifthotel.com)

It was so convenient having our meals at the hotel, and we actually didn’t make it out to any other bars at all in Avalon this time. We had too much fun and never left! Saturday night, a bunch of our friends from Ocean City came to surprise Coop, and we ended up hardly leaving our small suite…we had the best time!

Sunday was reggae happy hour at the Golden Inn next door, where we met the CUTEST basset hound/black lab puppy named Sadie and Coop sat in for one of our favorite reggae bands, The Raggamuffins!

My rockstar can play chill reggae, too! It was a very different “shore weekend” for us, but it was so much fun! Already can’t wait to go back to WD. If you are ever a Jersey shore-goer, definitely check it out. It is our absolute favorite!

Happy Birthday, Blog!

I also wanted to implement a new little aspect to my blog, since it IS my blogging birthday!

Called “TBA Links,” I will link up four links of possible interest at the bottom of posts. Since my posts tend to be lifestyle-related on a regular basis, I figured these links will help me stay true to my original intent for my blog…balancing my life of art, food, fitness, and fun.

One for each section of the heart and soul of TBA: Art, Food, Fitness, & Just for Fun. Here are my first TBA Links!

  • Are you a big birthday-celebrator?
  • Have you found any great links lately?