When it comes to the holiday season, there’s no place quite as magical as NYC. For many years though, I’ve dreaded the period between Thanksgiving and New Years– a time when I always feel the loss of my beloved parents more acutely. Now, at long last, I am finally appreciating what I have and trying not to dwell on what I don’t.
With a more festive perspective in mind, I happily invited my beloved cousin Alexandra to experience an annual Pierre Hotel tradition and first for me- the tree lighting in Two E lounge.
The festive event featured live music from Grammy-winning sax player Frank Catalano, and festive cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. As always, Alex and I talked the night away, catching up on work, life and plans for 2018. Like the city that surrounds it, The Pierre is a winter wonderland, with colorful holiday decor throughout the lobby and public areas.
Decorating my own abode was lot more fun than its been in awhile–especially now that my home is finally a reflection of me instead of the past.
Continuing the interfaith traditions I experienced as a child, I have both a Christmas tree and a menorah. I thought of my Dad with every candle I lit during Hanukkah. And how fortunate I was and am to have grown up with two parents who exemplified the beauty of honoring both religions, teaching me that what matters ultimately is having and honoring faith–not which house you worship in. I think of that powerful, healing lesson a lot in these divisive times and how much better the world would be if there was more of such mutual respect for spirituality.
One of my favorite traditions growing up was our annual holiday party, a large gathering of family and close friends. With Dad’s birthday in mid-December and Hanukkah often bumping up against Christmas, there was always plenty to celebrate. Since 2008, every year except one, I have hosted an intimate soiree at my place. After skipping it last year because of my depression, I felt doubly blessed to have an evening with some of my dearest friends and family.
It was a perfect night from start to finish. There was yummy Italian food (from a fabulous neighborhood caterer), decadent drinks (wine, rum-infused eggnog and vodka shots) and decadent desserts (I made my late Grandpa’s vanilla pudding and first ever cinnamon-sugar monkey bread). And lots of laughter, affection and, of course, love for Benji.
This was Benji’s first big event at home since I adopted him in July. Like everything else, he handled it with charm and grace–happily seeking out belly rubs and parking himself near all the action. Several friends brought gifts for my little guy, who has become one of the best dressed pups on the Upper East Side!
The holiday festivities continued in Delaware, with a visit to my brother and sister in law Ray and Barb. We enjoyed an intimate Christmas full of reminiscing and watching our dogs hit it off with each other.
Friday, after a delightful lunch in Midtown with my dear cousin Carla, I walked over to Rockefeller Center to see the tree. Despite the bitterly cold temperatures, I felt a warmth envelop me as I thought about how far I’ve come since last Christmas.
A year ago, I felt joyless and unable to appreciate anything about the holidays, wishing them away like I have so often since my parents died. Now, thanks to feeling whole again and my sweet Benji, I treasured every part of this season.
Even for a writer like me, it’s difficult to put into words the gratitude I feel for the new beginning that God has given me. 2017 will always be the year that I found my way back to the light–and to a new chapter as a dog mom. I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings.
Happy New Year all!
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.
For over four years now, one of my favorite things to do in NYC is share a meal with my good friend Stacy. A foodie like me, Stacy has a knack for picking fabulous retaurants.
We headed over to CajunSea. Unexpectedly tucked away in Koreatown, CajunSea serves up seafood and more with Southern flare. The restaurant also has fantastic happy hour specials–including oysters and $5 martinis (the lychee martini is perfection). I enjoyed steamed lobster with corn and potatoes, while Stacy had a spicy seafood boil.
Over dinner, we talked about work, the Academy Awards and my recent big trip–on the second annual 80s cruise.
Like the inaugural sailing last year, this year’s itinerary featured nightly concerts with beloved 80s artists and awesome NYC-based cover band Jessie’s Girl, themed costume events (including neon night, Purple Rain and rock versus hip hop) and four Caribbean ports of call. It gave me the chance to reconnect with a lot of amazing people, most especially my dear friend Natalie, who I met on the 2016 cruise.
The week long journey was also a much-needed break from the negativity that seems to pervade so much of our national conversation these days. It was a beautiful reminder of the joy that comes from celebrating what connects us – particularly when that celebration has an 80s soundtrack.
One of the greatest blessings of moving to L.A. can be summed up in one word — Molly.
My dear friend from high school, Molly has made it joyfully easy to pick up where we left off 25 years ago. She is a transcendent human being–loving, kind, funny–and a glorious reminder that good people remain good through all the seasons of life, period.
A talented, accomplished writer/editor and creative spirit, Molly is plugged into LA’s artistic scene. So I was delighted when she invited me to join her at the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica for a gathering of the Young Literati Club.
The fundraising event for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles attracted an engaging mix of Angelenos — and offered readings of Shakespeare from a high profile group. Among them: actors Colin Hanks, Mae Whitman, Shawn Hatosy and Constance Wu. The actors delivered energetic, witty takes on the Bard, making even literary criticism about him leap off the page.
Molly and I were also delighted to find ourselve siing at a highboy table during the reception with 2 lovely ladies — one of whom, Alexa, turned out to be a fellow New York transplant too. A writer, former lead singer in a band and retired schoolteacher, Alexa had a flare and bon vivant charm that made me smile when she revealed she’s from the Big Apple.
There is an instant connection when you encounter a New Yorker outside of the Empire State. It’s like an instant understanding passes bewteen you, a bond you can only have with people from your beloved hometown. When that hometown is New York City, you take it with you wherever you go.
Like the saying goes, you can take the girl out of the city….
When you’re adjusting to life in a new city, reconnecting with family and friends makes all the difference. Welcoming loved ones makes you feel more like a local than a visitor. I was reminded of this over the weekend when my friend from college Pam visited from San Francisco.
Pam and I hadn’t seen each other since our 20th Mount Holyoke reunion last year so we had plenty to catch up on. We shared a lot of laughs and conversation about life, love, career and the swift passage of time. And we did it while exploring some of LA’s iconic attractions.
On Saturday, we headed over to Dodger Stadium to watch the Dodgers take on Pam’s beloved Red Sox. It was the first visit for both of us and we were impressed with the stadium’s retro design and pristine facilities. From oversized bobble head figurines to bright blue décor, Dodger Stadium harkens back to a time when venues were named for beloved teams instead of corporations. And there’s no shortage of great food options too (Mexican fare and delicious fries among them).
After the game, we drove over to Santa Monica. I was pleasantly surprised and a little impressed that I was able to navigate us better than Waze or Google Maps. Even though I’ve been more of an Uber/Lyft passenger than a driver over the last five months here, I’m definitely learning my way around! Santa Monica was packed with pedestrians and the odd street musician as we strolled around the Third Street Promenade.
We stopped for dinner at Italian bistro Trastevere—B-minus overall, Locando del Lago nearby is much better—before taking in the lively scene at Santa Monica’s historic pier and amusement park. Then it was back to my place in West Hollywood for an evening of wine, watching the Olympics and more great conversation.
No matter how much time passes, you can always pick up right where you left off with true friends. So thankful that Pam is one of them.
One of the great blessings that has helped in transitioning to life in LA is knowing some pretty awesome people out here. I was reminded of this during a recent girls night out with journalism school classmate Cole.
We met up at cozy West Hollywood wine bar A.O.C. Over some fantastic white wine and shared plates, Cole and I had a fantastic conversation about long distance love, leaving the TV news world behind and the emotional journey of moving from NYC to LA.
It felt so comforting to talk about shared experiences — from acclimating to LA’s significantly more sprawling layout and follow your bliss vibe to the high volume of aspiring celebrities waiting to be discovered at almost every bar/restaurant. And to have a sympathetic ear for the challenges of making such a huge life change.
I am thankful for the opportunity that brought me here and the great friends new and old in my new zip code. Still, LA doesn’t quite feel like home yet. That reality was apparent during two recent weekends away when I was asked by multiple Uber drivers where I am from.
“I’m from New York but I live in LA,” I replied.
I just couldn’t bring myself to say I am from LA. When you’ve spent most of your life in New York like I have, it is more than your hometown — it is a huge part of who you are.
Of course, it has only been 3 months since I left the Big Apple and I have barely scratched the surface of La La Land. But I know for sure that I will continue to carry NYC with me. Always.
After joining LA Fitness’ Beverly Hills location, I worked out for the first time in a month–the longest I’ve gone without hitting the gym in about 4 years. I forgot how exhilarating it feels to exercise. And it felt even better that as always, I managed to time my workout perfectly to catch a rerun of my favorite show Castle.
If there’s one thing that intensifies as you get older, it’s the swift passage of time. That hit me last week as I returned to NYC’s Marriott Marquis hotel for the first time in six years.
Like one of my 2010 evenings there, this one was for the HSMAI Adrian Awards — the Oscars of travel PR and marketing. And once again, I was fortunate to be celebrating multiple wins, including a Gold Award for the Womanhood Redefined program I launched at one of my hotels. Joining me at the even t– good friend and ace publicist Jen Maguire, who secured front page coverage for the campaign in The New York Times.
The travel marketing world is a small and friendly one, so Jen and I caught up with several former colleagues during the cocktail reception. I told Jen about Paula Butler, an industry veteran and amazing woman responsible for my 2010 blog partnership with Marriott Hotels. Imagine my surprise and delight to run into Paula seconds later!
You really never know when or how a wonderful connection is going to come into or return to your life. That kind of serendipity was also on my mind when I met up later with Australia-based buddy Giuseppe.
Both huge Sex and The City fans, G and I initially connected years ago when he was blogging about the show/movies. Now a hugely successful fashion author/blogger, G moved to Oz after meeting his partner during a trip down under.
Over cosmos at the Marquis’ rotating View lounge, we had an awesome conversation about relationships, travel, work and embarking on new adventures.
Giuseppe is launching an exciting new enterprise. Hearing about it and reconnecting with him was a reminder that it’s never too late for a fresh start. You just have to be brave enough to seek it out.
One of my favorite things to do is play tourist in my hometown. Last weekend, I had the pleasure of doing just that. The occasion — a mini NYC Mount Holyoke reunion with my fellow class of ’95-ers.
Our big 20-year on campus reunion in May left us nostalgic for our alma mater, and newly appreciative of the sisterhood it provided. So, about fifteen of us alums, some local and many from out of state, enjoyed an action packed Saturday taking in some of the Big Apple’s best sights.
Our first stop — the Whitney Museum of American Art. Now located in a brand new building in the Meatpacking District after years in a much smaller venue on the Upper East Side, the Whitney offers a much greater wow factor now. In addition to featuring a better showcase for the likes of Pollock, Hopper and more contemporary artists, it boasts outdoor patios with fantastic views of the Hudson River. A must see for sure.
After strolling through Chelsea Market — and savoring the varied aromas of its many food purveyors — we made our way down to NoLita. First stop, The Daily, a cozy bar with a speakeasy vibe and robust cocktails (that change daily) with names like El Presidente.
For dinner, we enjoyed the rustic charms of the downstairs room at Peasant. Seated a long, distressed wood table by candlelight, we were well taken care of and well fed. The restaurant’s family style menu included three courses, all equally delicious.
As the food kept coming, I had the pleasure of catching up with classmates Sara T., Gretchen and my MHC bff, NYC-based Sara. We reminisced about our college days and the unnervingly swift passage of time since then.
After saying goodnight to the rest of the crew, Sara and I headed uptown to THE LCL: Bar & Kitchen at my work home, The Westin Grand Central. Over cosmos, we talked about relationships, travels and the importance of maintaining life balance, whether you’re a city dweller or country mouse.
Even in the frenetic pace that is life in NYC, finding that balance is doable. Especially when you’re fortunate to have great friends to do it with.
Friday, I headed out to New Jersey for a night out with my Ohio-based friend Marilyn, her daughter Karen and son in law Russ. Marilyn was in town for her grandson’s high school graduation, so we were celebrating.
We went to dinner at Ursino, a fabulous restaurant located on the campus of Kean University. Featuring a farm to table menu and picture perfect views of fountains and greenery, Ursino is a truly delightful experience. Both the food and service are fantastic.
Over a delicious meal (kale salad, halibut and angel food cake, yum!), we talked about European travel, how romantic relationships develop and city versus suburban life.
As the evening progressed, I couldn’t help thinking about how much has changed for me since I last saw Marilyn in September.
At the time, I was very much at a crossroads, considering a move out of New York and feeling pretty down. Now, I can’t imagine leaving my beloved hometown — and it has given me so much since I recommitted to staying here.
Work remains a tremendous joy, as I enjoy juggling three hotels and my new title of Complex Marketing Manager. Family and friends nearby continue to nourish my spirit. And I’m nearing the completion of my home makeover. With summer officially here, it truly feels like a new season on several fronts.
Aren’t new beginnings just wonderful?