Fat Tuesday & A Return To The 80s

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.

Jessie’s Girl rocked every concert they did on the 80s cruise. Best 80s cover band ever!

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.

Natalie and me on neon beach party night

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. 

An Evening With My Best L.A. Buddy

One of the greatest blessings of moving to L.A. can be summed up in one word — Molly.

Molly and me enjoying a recent concert at the Greek Theater

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.

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The Young Literati Club crowd

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.

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Actors Colin Hanks and Mae Whitman wowed the crowd

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….

Catching Up With A Dear Friend

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.

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Pam and me at Dodger Stadium

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.

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Take me out to the ball game!

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.

Not Quite Home Yet

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.

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A.O.C. in West Hollywood (photo courtesy: aocwinebar.com)

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.

Celebrating The Firsts Of My LA Adventure

When you move across the country and your entire life changes, reconnecting with what’s familiar takes on a special dimension. So I was especially happy that the last couple of weeks have offered a lot to help me feel more settled here in LA.

What A View: Doheny Drive palm trees during my walk home from the gym.

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.

One of the greatest joys of my move out West so far–a long overdue reunion with high school classmate Molly. Over a delightful dinner at French bistro Little Next Door on West Third Street, I was quickly reminded why Molly was such a dear friend during our HS years. Warm, funny and sweet, she is as lovely as ever. 25 years fell away and we picked up right where we left off. I am so excited to spend more time with her.
Another happy reunion happened when my furniture and belongings finally arrived from NYC.

Home Sweet Home: my bedroom, furnished at last

For over a month, I lived with a bed, lounge chair and that’s about it. While I adore my LA abode, it didn’t start feeling like home — until now. I literally greeted almost each item with a big hello as it came through the door, much to the amusement of the moving guys. The simple pleasures of sleeping in my own bed, cooking in my kitchen and eating at my dining room table, among others, are ones I won’t be taking for granted anytime soon.

A Night Out At The Marquis

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.

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Jen and me at the HSMAI Adrian Awards

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.

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Catching up over cosmos: Giuseppe and me

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.

A Mini MHC Reunion In NYC

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.

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MHC women: (from left) Sara, me and Sara T.

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.

Catching Up With A Dear Friend

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.

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Marilyn and me

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?

Catching Up With A Cleveland Friend

Yesterday, I headed over to Bed, Bath and Beyond, where I had the pleasure of catching up with my Cleveland-based friend Ryan.

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Ryan and me

Ryan was in town sampling his delicious Inca Tea. Ryan and two of his college friends were inspired to create Inca Tea after hiking a 16,000 foot Peruvian mountain trail. During their journey, they learned about an ancient Incan tea recipe including antioxidant rich purple corn.

As a longtime tea lover, I love that all Inca Teas are non-GMO and made with 100% natural ingredients. Each individual tea bag is also twice the size of what you get from other brands. Inca Tea currently offer four varieties–black, mango, peach and my personal favorite, the top selling spiced berry. New flavors coconut ginger and chamomile will debut next month.

Ryan’s visit to sample Inca Teas in NYC and New Jersey coincided with a significant anniversary — five years to the day since my Great Dating Blitz.

Ryan was one of several fun, friendly singles I met in Cleveland, the first stop on my eight-week, eight city adventure. As we reminisced and caught up about life, work and dating, I couldn’t help thinking about how much I’ve grown because of everything I experienced during that eventful trip.

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Cleveland rocks: (from left) Locals Diana, Ryan and Kim showed me a great time during my Great Dating Blitz visit (March 2010).

I’ve written and spoken a lot about what I learned of both the similarities and differences of dating in each city on my itinerary. And I’ve shared often one of the major takeaways from the trip — that the best thing about being single in New York is also the worst: there’s no pressure to settle down. But the greatest epiphany I had is one which has taken me all of these years to fully act on.

After my first dating blitz ended (a European sequel followed a few months later), I realized that a pair of ghosts — my deceased parents and first love Mark — were holding me back. I was so stuck on mourning those losses that I had little emotional bandwidth to move forward. I was also living in the past (literally) in a home defined by furniture, art and knickknacks inherited from Mom and Dad.

Now, at long last, I am completing what I started five years ago. I am embracing the present, buoyed by a decluttered mind and heart and newly redecorated home. I am appreciating exactly where I am in life, mindful that it’s different from where I expected to be but no less wonderful because of it.

A few days ago, I came across this quote–

“The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you’ve come.”

Amen.

A Wonderful Weekend

For as much as I adore my city and country, there’s another part of the world that has a big piece of my heart – Australia. This weekend, I was reminded of why thanks to a visit from my Aussie friend Dave.

It had been more than 12 years since I last saw Dave, when I stayed with him during a fun-filled visit to Perth in Western Australia.

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My last night in Perth back in ’02: Dave (far right) and me with his friends (from left) Adrian, Michelle and Jason.

The quintessential example of Aussie hospitality, Dave hosted me though our only connection was my best Aussie mate Sue being the wife of his buddy Chris. The trip ended up being one of the highlights of my five month stint as an Australian resident, due in no small part to Dave setting me up with a very charming friend of his.

So when Dave recently sent me a Facebook message that work would be bringing him this way, I was more than delighted to reciprocate his generosity in opening up his home to me – and show him some of my favorite NYC hotspots.

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Dave and me at O’Flanagan’s

Friday night, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at El Porron on the UES, sharing tapas (flank steak empanadas, grilled squid) dessert (vanilla flan) and conversation about family, work and the appreciation of time that comes with getting older. Then, it was off to Irish dive bar O’Flanagan’s for after dinner drinks and the smooth grooves of cover band East Coast. An aspiring Texas-born comedian and his girlfriend added to the fun, as did having the chance to hit the dance floor a few times.

Yesterday, we stopped at Stumptown Coffee in the Ace Hotel before heading over to Barbounia, an equal parts cozy and trendy Greek restaurant in Gramercy, then on to the W Union Square’s lobby bar.

Our last stop of the night was Lillie’s Victorian, a venue rich with the décor that inspires its name and packed with twenty and thirtysomethings. Dave and I were there to celebrate my dear friend Lauren’s birthday, which we did with a lot of laughs and musings about the joys of binge watching (having recently signed up for Netflix at last, it’s something I am attempting to resist).

Catching up with Dave brought back many fond memories of my time Down Under. And made me look forward to the day when, hopefully, I pay the land of Oz another visit!

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