When it comes to holiday shopping, I’m always thankful when inspiration strikes. So I was thrilled to attend Babbleboxx’s recent Unboxing Event.
The soiree was held at 404 NYC, a sleek all-white event space in Midtown West. Babbleboxx curated a fantastic mix of familiar brands and newcomers in the food, drink and accessory categories–perfect for getting a variety of gift ideas.
My first stop was upscale bath and body product line Sabon. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Sabon has a number of great gift options–from snowflake shaped soaps to lotions with a festive new fragrance, Celebration Essence. Their shower oils are a nice departure from shower gel (I love the Green Rose scent). Grande Cosmetics showcased its eyelash and eyebrow enhancing serums—with models whose full lashes and brows offered compelling visuals of the products’ effectiveness.
From product manufacturing to packaging, Earth is truly a green company. They use only water-based adhesives in their footwear, much less toxic than traditionally used solvent and oil based alternatives. All leather products are tanned with a vegetable-based process that doesn’t contain harmful chemicals and uses tannic acids naturally found in various plants.
I also loved Babblebox’s selection of sweet treats and refreshing cocktails. Mochi ice cream wowed with its cookies and cream flavor. The confection is made from Japanese mochi with an ice cream filling and packs a delicious punch. Edible photo booth Selffee offered its selfie cookie—who knew eating your face could be so much fun? Splash Mixers sampled its all-natural non-alcoholic gluten-free collection. The Moscow Mule was my favorite.
Venerable brands in the food & beverage space had fun things to share as well. Edible Arrangements served up white chocolate covered strawberries, while luxury tea purveyor Tea Forte featured its Warming Joy Deluxe Gift Set which includes 40 infusers and 20 blends.
The highlight of the evening–catching up with my dear friend, Babbleboxx founder Sherri. Babbleboxx is an agency that brings brands and influencers together, something Sherri started doing years before it became commonplace, and in a first-class way that continues to outshine competitors. I’m in awe of what she has accomplished.
One of the best decisions I’ve ever made was to go to Mount Holyoke College. In addition to providing a liberal arts education, my alma mater gave me the opportunity to learn in a setting where I was surrounded by smart, inspiring and compassionate women–several of whom remain dear friends to this day.
Building upon the solid foundation I was given by my late, beloved parents, MHC reinforced that no dream or goal is impossible if you’re willing to work hard and stay open to learning. And when you attend a women’s college, you also see that gender doesn’t have to determine how far you go–a lesson I cherish even more now as the floodgates have opened about sexual harassment and toxic environments in multiple industries.
There is a feeling of sisterhood that bonds you with fellow MHC alums–even if you didn’t connect on campus. I had the pleasure of rediscovering this recently, when I was invited by class of 96’er Ahu to participate in a career panel at Meredith Publishing for visiting MHC juniors and seniors.
I said yes immediately–then found myself feeling more than a little anxious. Put me in front of a camera or on a karaoke stage, no problem. Public speaking? Cue the nerves, intensified by this being my first such engagement and wanting to impart something of value to these future grads.
Fortunately, I relaxed as soon as I felt the positive, inquisitive energy from the 20+ women before me. Given how circuitous my professional path has been, I wanted them to know that there is more than one way to get to where you want to go. In an era when hyper specialized majors are common and millennials tend to think they need to have their entire future mapped out, it felt good to share a different perspective. And to reflect on my varied career.
I graduated from college with dreams of TV news stardom. The winding road of that part of my career took me to places glamorous (Sydney, Australia) and places…less so (Bangor, Maine, Southern Illinois, Dover, Delaware). After seven years in the business, a freelance writing gig for fellow J-school alum and highly-regarded travel journalist Valarie D’Elia led to my next chapter—hospitality PR and marketing. Thirteen years later, I am blessed to still love my job and look forward to work every day.
As I told the MHC students, at graduation I never imagined doing what I do. But now I can’t imagine doing anything else. So thankful to my alma mater for preparing me well for the zig zag trajectory my career has taken. And, of course, for connecting me with amazing women I’m proud to call friends.
The transporting power of live theater is something I’ve been fortunate to experience many times—going back to my childhood days of seeing Broadway musicals with my late, beloved parents. I’ve always felt that theater not only takes you out of your world while immersing you in another, it is a reminder of our shared humanity and common experiences—something that’s never felt more important or comforting given these turbulent times.
When I joined The Pierre six months ago, I had a vision of bringing the magic of Broadway to this iconic five-star hotel. That vision recently came true—and it was even more exciting than I imagined.
My first experience of working with the theater community happened at Starwood Hotels. I loved every minute of it, impressed by those in front of and behind the scenes. Unlike other entertainment fields, the theater world is primarily populated with down to earth, accommodating people who make collaborating a true pleasure. There is no greater example of this than the team over at WICKED.
Having partnered with the acclaimed musical on an activation a few years ago at the Westin Times Square, I thought of it immediately for The Pierre. When I reached out via email, the show’s gracious company manager got right back to me even though she was on vacation. And so began our second partnership, with several fun elements including a costume display, show-themed cocktails and the WICKED Witch Hat Trick– a theatrical dessert dreamed up by our award-winning Executive Pastry Chef Michael Mignano, complete with smoke from dry ice and a melting chocolate hat.
Of course, the main event of this great collaboration was a cabaret-style performance in The Pierre’s swanky Two E Lounge. Reuniting for the occasion–WICKED alums Jenny DiNoia (Elphaba) and Hayley Podschun (Glinda), who became best friends while performing in the show’s national tour.
Their 60-minute set was incredible from start to finish. In addition to singing beloved songs from the show including Popular and Defying Gravity, Hayley and Jenny shared stories of life on the road and delivered pitch perfect renditions of several pop hits. The highlight for me came when they sang the epic ballad For Good. They became visibly emotional and, as I have both times I’ve seen WICKED, I found myself getting tearful as well. The song always hits me at my core and this time was no exception.
As I listened to the words, I couldn’t help thinking about the song’s message–that the impact people have on our lives can be a lasting one even if their presence is not. I thought of friendships past, family members who have passed and long ago loves. And, of course, the many amazing people who fill my life today. How profoundly blessed I have been by all of them.
After the show, I had the pleasure of chatting with Hayley and Jenny, both as beautiful and gracious as they are talented. I got a little emotional as I thanked them for turning my vision into a reality and they gave me a big hug.
We already have three more musicals confirmed for The Pierre series. Sometimes, just like Dorothy sang in The Wizard of Oz, the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.
Over the years, I’ve had many wonderful times in Las Vegas. Like everyone else, I was heartbroken about last Sunday’s tragic events. And a little unnerved because, during my recent visit a few weeks ago, I stayed right next door to Mandalay Bay. It was a sobering reminder of how fragile life is–and how important it is to live every day fully, as tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.
Vegas has always been a place about making the most of every moment, by experiencing the joys of good hospitality, great entertainment and fantastic food. I was fortunate to enjoy all three during my recent weekend getaway.
I had already been to Sin City with family, friends and significant others. This was the first big trip with my beloved dog Benji. And it couldn’t have been more perfect.
Our JetBlue flight was easy breezy, as both Benj and I slept for the duration. Upon arriving at the swanky Delano Hotel, our host for one night, I knew immediately this would be a much more relaxing stay than I’ve had at other Vegas properties.
A non-gaming, non-smoking hotel, the Delano has an inviting boutique vibe that makes you forget you’re right on the Strip. Spacious accommodations, first class staff and pet-friendly amenities—including dog walking services and a pet relief area right in front—made for a perfect night (full hotel review coming soon in 25A Magazine!).
One of the major highlights—Rivea, the Delano’s Alain Ducasse rooftop restaurant on the 64th floor.
Joining me for a decadent multi-course dinner on the terrace was college friend Tiffany. Though we hadn’t seen each other in about twenty years, that time melted away as we talked about life, work, singlehood and getting through tough times. We talked for hours and didn’t want the night to end.
Friday, Benji and I moved to the Residence Inn across from the Convention Center. Part of a complex of three Marriott properties, the all-suite hotel is an ideal choice if you want to be off the Strip but still in a central, convenient location.
As soon as we arrived, I was treated to the warmth and home away from home atmosphere for which Marriott is known. I checked in with an upset stomach and having just caught my finger painfully in a door. The kind front desk agent offered Band Aids, first aid ointment and a handful of herbal tea packets.
We were upgraded to a penthouse suite—a spacious loft with a living room, eat-in, fully-equipped kitchen, loft bedroom and two full bathrooms. Plenty of room for Benji and me to roam around and kick back. The pool was modest but well maintained, and blissfully quiet compared to the loud, crowded scene at most Sin City resort pools.
Much like trips to Vegas with my parents back in the 80’s, this one afforded the opportunity to see some amazing entertainers.
Despite lip synching for most of her 90-minute set, Jennifer Lopez dazzled with flawless dancing and eye-popping costumes, performing most of her hits and an unexpectedly beautiful cover of Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.” My beloved Ricky Martin–the reason for my trip–blew the roof off of the Park Theater with incredible singing and dancing, playing an energetic mix of his signature pop tunes and soulful ballads.
For the last show of the weekend, I went old school with Tiffany (and Benji too!), visiting the Tropicana’s Laugh Factory to see Rich Little. At 78, the legendary comedian is just as hilarious as I remembered him to be when I saw him decades ago. And I had the pleasure of telling him so at a meet and greet afterward.
Definitely a memorable, exhilaratingly fun weekend from start to finish.
Sending so much love to everyone in this amazing city–and praying for healing.
One year ago today, I found myself somewhere I never thought I would be–the inside of a psychiatric ward. Like 16 million other Americans, I was suffering from depression, one that seemed to only intensify with each passing minute.
As days stretched into weeks, I reached a point where I thought I would never feel like myself again. Which made the prospect of not living anymore seem frighteningly appealing. In reflecting on how far I have come since then, I am also thinking a lot about what it took to pull me back from the brink. Along with my strong spiritual faith, what carried me to the other side more than anything was the tremendous support and care that I received from loved ones.
Family drew in close. Most especially my aunts, Titi Nancy and Titi Lydia, cousins Aidita, Alexandra, Andrew, Carla and Marcella, sisters-in-law Barb and Pris and, of course, siblings Ray, Steve and Hilary.
Friends near and far rallied around me. I am profoundly grateful to Molly, for being my lifeline when the darkness took over while I was in L.A. I am beyond thankful to Julie, Tiffany, Natalie, Sara, Guida, Viva, Heidi, Jackie, Cindy, Caroline, Marilyn, Pam, Jenn, Donna, Lee, Bobbi, Lauren, Louise, Dave, JP and Steve. And forever indebted to my two Lisas–Lisa R. for giving me a home and TLC when I needed it desperately; Lisa L. for brightening up so many of my long days in the hospital. And every single person who reached out to me after I shared on here what I was going through.
Many years ago, a wise person told me the redemptive part of going through trials in life is it makes you more empathetic to other’s hardships. It also heightens to a visceral place your appreciation for the fragility of life–and desire to make the most of the time you’re given.
One of the high points after returning to my beloved NYC was going to see the musical “On Your Feet” with dear friend Natalie. There’s a part of the show that deals with singer Gloria Estefan’s bus accident. As her post-recovery anthem, “Coming Out of The Dark” played, the words resonated with me on a much deeper level—
Starting again is part of the plan
And I’ll be so much stronger holding your hand
Step by step I’ll make it through I know I can
It may not make it easier but I have felt you
Near all the way
Coming out of the dark, I finally see the light now
And it’s shining on me
I see the light
Coming out of the dark I know the love that saved me
You’re sharing with me
Thank God for new beginnings.
Since adopting my beloved dog Benji last month, I have found myself thinking about how the Internet (petfinder.com, specifically) made it so easy to find him. The same can’t be said about finding a mate.
I’ve often said that online dating is like the Powerball–there are the lucky few who win and then there’s the rest of us. I truly hit the jackpot with Benji. He was my first choice of just two dogs I liked online. Just three weeks later, he was officially my fur baby. No hesitation on his part or mine, no second guessing or thinking there’s something better out there. Just gratitude and joy that we found each other.
When it comes to online dating, constant questioning and interminable searching are par for the course. For as much as it enables you to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise, it has also made dating a commodity–engendering the idea that someone better is always right around the corner and diminishing the value of mutual chemistry. Not to mention causing a certain degree of apathy about putting in the effort it takes to make a good first impression.
Case in point–I recently exchanged emails with a boating aficionado who suggested meeting after work for coffee or drinks. He suddenly shifts gears and proposes I meet him out of the city for an afternoon of sailing. Which would be lovely–with someone who wasn’t a total stranger. When I demurred, he griped that he was “tired of having to prove” he has good intentions.
Then there was Mark, the divorced dad of two who actually did plan a great first date, choosing a cozy bar and lounge on the Lower East Side. Conversation and compliments flowed freely. Apart from his lengthy tangent about other online dating experiences–another unfortunately common and decidedly unromantic post-modern practice–it was a perfect evening. We walked and talked for hours and even kissed goodnight.
He texted the next day and several times while he was out of town. Upon his return, he was pretty effusive during our second date–telling me he was taking his profile down (which he did), talking about going away together, etc etc. Experience has taught me to be wary when someone comes on too strong too quickly, and alas, it turned out I had reason to be.
Mark proceeds to disappear for a week, resurfacing with this text–
“How’s your weekend going cutie?!”
He said he wanted to see me and he would call me later that day.
I never heard from him again.
That’s the thing about dating, especially online dating, today. It doesn’t matter if you (seem to) have a connection with someone. Because most singles believe they can just log on and find the next distraction. And in New York, for better and worse, there’s no stigma attached to being single. Which creates a kind of Peter Pan mindset.
God knows being unmarried and childless certainly isn’t a tragedy of epic proportions. What it is for me, though, is an unnerving irony. Not just because I have put so much into looking for a life partner, but because the lasting relationship gene is literally in my DNA.
My late parents had the kind of enduring love that exemplifies happily ever after. Both of my brothers have been devotedly married for many years, while my sister is in a happy long term relationship. Sometimes, it’s hard to be the last solo sibling standing.
All this is not to say that I have not had great romance and big love in my life. I have felt it and received it in return. During our early days together, an old boyfriend once said to me —
“People live a lifetime on less than what we’ve already shared.”
I’m thankful for these experiences. And, after the terrible depression and upheaval I’ve been through over the last year, I am no longer allowing my single status to define me. I am, as my wise mother always encouraged, learning to be content with what I have. My health. Amazing family and friends. A job I adore. The best dog.
And, of course, my most longstanding love–NYC.
Twenty two years ago, I embarked on a whirlwind three-week Contiki tour around Europe. The trip introduced me to two wonderful people who became cherished friends–Australians Sue and Dave. This week, I had the great pleasure of being reunited with Dave, for the first time since my last visit Down Under in 2009.
As soon as I saw Dave, it felt like no time at all had passed. We picked up right where we left off–enjoying some beloved NYC haunts along the way.
We brunched outside at neighborhood eateries Beach Cafe and Five Napkin Burger, both of which I love even more now because they’re dog-friendly. My sweet Benji joined me and Dave, quietly taking in the scenery while we ate.
Taking advantage of picture perfect weather, Dave and I also strolled around Central Park and the High Line, and did rooftop drinks at Meatpacking District hipster hotspot the Gansevoort Hotel. For dinner, we lingered at The Plaza’s Food Hall by Todd English (epic truffled lobster mac and cheese), savored the Greek delights of Gramercy bistro Barbounia and indulged in Italian fare at favorite UES Bottega restaurant (Tiramisu to die for).
Throughout the delicious meals and engaging local sights, Dave and I shared wonderful, soul-soothing conversations about life, love, loss, careers and travel. I was in awe when Dave told me about his post-tsunami volunteer work in Sri Lanka. And he listened with compassion as I confided what I have been through over the last year.
I’m a big believer in the saying that friends are the family we choose for ourselves. God has truly blessed me in my extended family–and I am so thankful Dave is a part of it.
Til next time, my dear friend.
When it comes to one’s career, my brother Ray is fond of repeating Confucius’ wise words–find something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. A wonderful truth I’ve been reminded of every day since starting at The Pierre Hotel almost three months ago.
It’s no accident that this hotel is one of just a few in the U.S. to be consistently recognized with both AAA’s Five Diamond Award and Forbes’ Five Star rating. You can feel how deserving it is of these sought after accolades from the minute you step onto this majestic, iconic property.
Every single staff member you interact with is welcoming and warm. In addition to grand event spaces and elegant rooms with unparalleled city and Central Park views, this extraordinary level of hospitality is what keeps guests coming back. And one of many reasons I feel so fortunate to work at such a storied hotel.
From the General Manager to my boss and every other colleague, I spend my days with talented, smart, dedicated people who genuinely care about the guest experience and preserving the rich legacy of the Pierre.
And what a legacy it is. This is where the likes of Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor have stayed. Where many of New York’s most prestigious events have been held year after year since the hotel opened in 1930. And where many, many couples say their I dos. You can feel that history walking through legendary spaces like The Rotunda. Or the Cotillion Room (fun fact: Scent of A Woman’s tango scene with Al Pacino was filmed there). It’s like being transported to another era.
I am both proud and honored to be part of the team tasked with telling The Pierre’s story. My job has reinforced what a blessing it is to have a gig that combines what I love and, ahem, what I think I’m good at.
I’ve often said that looking back on my career, I couldn’t have planned it any better–even though I never imagined my circuitous professional path would lead me here. Every single job I’ve had–from TV news reporting/producing to PR Agency Account Supervisor–has prepared me for what I do now. I get to utilize my experience and skills in a way that makes the workdays fly by. Being an avid traveler, I am beyond thrilled I get to do that inside what a former boss accurately dubbed one of the most renowned establishments in the world.
An unexpectedly wonderful bonus — The Pierre is a pet friendly hotel. I brought my beloved Benji in when I had to work a Vogue Taiwan photo shoot one weekend. From the front desk to security, IT and food and beverage, my colleagues gave Benji a first-class welcome (along with a few treats). And after seeing this photo of my pup in The Rotunda, my awesome boss said Benji could be the star of our next pet-inspired photo shoot on property. Really–it doesn’t get any better than this.
Actually, it does. Because every day I get to experience the magic of The Pierre all over again. How lucky can a New York City gal get?
Last fall, when I was in the midst of a very painful depression, my brother and sister in law suggested I get a dog. The idea stayed with me–surprisingly given my personal history with canines.
Growing up, our family pet was my grandparents’ dog Teddy. A French poodle whose bark (or rather growl) was as bad as his bite, Teddy lacked the warmth for which most dogs are known. I nicknamed him Cujo–as in the rabid character from Stephen King’s novel of the same name–that’s how unfriendly he was.
Years later, I became intimately acquainted with larger canines when I dated a guy whose world revolved around short-haired pointer Miles and Weimaraner Jasmine. As crazy as it sounds, they became an obstacle to the relationship. My ex never stayed over because of them, while Jasmine was visibly jealous and possessive (Miles and I, however, bonded over being third wheels). When we were on a road trip, he called out “there’s my beautiful girl.” Imagine my surprise when I turned toward him and realized the compliment was directed not at me but at Jasmine.
Because of that canine-induced drama, I swore I would never get a dog. Ironically, it took another man to completely reverse my thinking.
As soon as I met this guy’s beautiful white mutt Zoe, I knew that she was a different, more loving breed of animal. In getting to know and love her, I also found myself feeling a surge of longing toward dogs I passed in the street.
Knowing that I wanted a rescue pup, I visited two NYC shelters and a pet adoption fair–with no luck.
“You don’t choose the dog, the dog chooses you,” Zoe’s dad told me.
He also encouraged me to look on Petfinder.com, which was how he had found Zoe. That’s where I discovered Benji and applied online to adopt him.
A few days later, a lovely woman from Second Chance Rescue called me. The road to adoption would include a phone interview, providing two references and a virtual home visit. I was both impressed and heartened by her obvious care and commitment to finding pets a good second home. I can’t say enough good things about Second Chance.
The more that I heard about Benji, the more I felt–even without meeting him–that he was the pup for me. Especially because of what happened upon receiving the good news that I was approved to adopt him.
I had a dream about my late, beloved parents. Benji was in it too, happily roaming around our family home, getting lots of love from Mom and Dad. It was the first time in a while that I dreamt about them. I knew in my heart they were saying Benji was indeed meant for me.
When I went to pick him up, he came right to me, jumped into the car with no fuss, then slept all the way home (probably tuckered out from his journey up here from Georgia). And just like that, this 19 pound bundle of shih tzu sweetness stole my heart.
Over the last week, every day with Benji has brought a joyful new surprise. Playing fetch with him. Curling up on the couch together. Sleeping side by side. I understand now what so many people have told me over the years about the unconditional love and comfort that a pet gives you. It’s so wonderful coming home to my little guy. He brightens up every day and is already teaching me so much.
I feel so blessed to have Benji. He’s everything I wanted in a dog and more—including being a great traveler. I have a feeling that on future trips, pet-friendly is going to top the list of amenities I look for!
Welcome home, Benj.
Years ago, during my Single Gal In The City days, a blog reviewer astutely identified my most successful love affair. That love affair is blossoming anew as I rediscover the many joys of life in the Big Apple.
One month into my job at the legendary Pierre Hotel, I am truly savoring every workday. From a picturesque location directly across from Central Park to talented and welcoming colleagues—The Pierre has reminded me why I love what I do. Hospitality attracts creative, dedicated and generous people. And it offers the opportunity to be immersed in everything that makes the Big Apple so special.
Over the last week, I’ve been to three Broadway shows (Present Laughter, On Your Feet and Cats—all must sees!). I’ve taken in the sweeping views from Top of The Rock and walked the High Line with one of my best friends. I’ve enjoyed a girls night out that included dinner at Rosa Mexicano in Union Square and seeing the always awesome Jessie’s Girl. And I’ve enjoyed a beer garden and five-star cheese shop in Williamsburg. On the work front, I’ve helped to launch an exciting upcoming outdoor event and I’ve become acquainted with a delightful, accomplished opera singer who shares my passion for all things NYC.
I feel like I am looking at every Big Apple adventure through fresh eyes. Before my five-month stint last year in L.A., my vision was more than a little cloudy when it came to NYC. Now, I know with every fiber of my being that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. In the city so great they named it twice. The concrete jungle where dreams are made of.
And where it’s never, ever too late to begin again.