Celebrating The Season With Babbleboxx

When it comes to holiday shopping, I’m always thankful when inspiration strikes. So I was thrilled to attend Babbleboxx’s recent Unboxing Event.

Holiday Hug: Dear friend and Babbleboxx founder Sherri

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.

Sabon’s Celebration Essence collection

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.

One of the night’s best discoveries for me—Earth Footwear. The eco-friendly brand was giving away its signature black velvet Zag, a snazzy sneaker that is super comfortable.

Earth’s spiffy and comfortable Zag sneaker

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.

Selffee’s selfie cookie

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.

Tea Forte’s festive Warming Joy Deluxe Gift Set

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.

Happy Holidays!

A New Chapter Begins

Two of my favorite things about living in NYC are discovering new favorite places and rediscovering old ones. Thursday, I got to experience both during a night out in Midtown with my good friend Derek and his boyfriend Ricardo.

The evening began at 230 Fifth, a happening hotspot for many years now, attracting a good looking crowd to its expansive rooftop with dazzling city views. This time, since it was overcast, I parked myself near the spacious indoor bar, enjoying a Shirley Temple with vodka. There’s something about drinking an adult version of my favorite mocktail as a child that hits all the right notes.

Boozy Shirley Temple = cocktail bliss!

 

Speaking of hitting high notes, our dining destination, Raymi did so and then some. The Peruvian restaurant offers warm ambience, friendly service and fare that’s truly delicioso. We started off with pisco sours and canchita, roasted unpopped popcorn that is sinfully addictive. I also savored my entree, arroz con mariscos (rice with seafood).

Over dinner and drinks, Derek, Ricardo and I talked about their upcoming European getaway, work and my exciting new job–Marketing Executive for The Pierre Hotel.

The five-star luxury property has a long and storied history of 87 years. It’s a registered historic landmark and one of the only hotels left offering white gloved service and elevator operators. I couldn’t be more proud to   help tell the Pierre’s rich story–and more grateful for the support family and friends gave me throughout the five-month job search process.

During this time, I did something I’ve never done in my professional life–worked in retail.

Thanks to a referral from longtime dear friend and style maven Heidi, I joined her in becoming a Brand Ambassador at Banana Republic’s Rockefeller Center location. The brand’s flagship store, it has a deservedly strong reputation for both product selection (3 floors of BR fashion) and service. Being part of the team gave me a much needed anchor when I was feeling very low. And I have an even deeper appreciation now for what it takes to work in a customer service role. It’s harder than you might think and I admire people who make a career of it.

I can’t wait to return to hospitality, my true passion. Thank God for new beginnings.

An Epic Girls Day Out

One of the high points of my five month stint in LA last year was getting to know my colleague Inga. We became fast friends while working at the SLS At Beverly Hills, bonding over our long distance then-boyfriends and efforts to acclimate to California life.

All smiles with Inga in L.A. last year

Inga later moved back to Hawaii, her home prior to LA. We got to catch up this week while she was in town, during a truly epic girls day out.

Our first stop was Vella, a wine bar that used to be a favorite of mine. Time hasn’t been kind to this Upper East Side venue. The hostess was surly when I asked if they could turn down the blaring house music more appropriate for a nightclub. We were given dirty glasses that had lipstick marks on them, as did the replacement ones. If you’re in the neighborhood, skip this place and visit the far superior Uva and Vero.

Enjoying wine at delightful Mela East Restaurant

Our second destination more than made up for the first. Mela East restaurant offers rustic charm, great Italian fare and wine selections, and fantastic service. Affable Italy-born host Enzo took great care of us.

While seated comfortably at the bar, Inga and I continued our wonderful, wide ranging conversation. We talked about career crossroads, why L.A. wasn’t for either for us, old flames, new crushes and the joys of having a pet (I’m planning to get a dog soon). About ten hours passed before we said goodnight.

Another dear friend bought me an engraving that says friendship brings the sun. As I come out of the darkness of depression, it is truly the light of all my friends that has gotten me to the other side. That and being back in the city I love more than ever.

Settling In Again

 

Time and again, I’m reminded how fortunate I am to have a large, loyal circle of friends both near and far. Last weekend, I had the pleasure of catching up with one of them, Lana.

Lana and me

Lana and I initially connected through Airbnb back in 2010, during my European Dating Blitz. Based in Paris, she last visited NYC in December 2013, so it was wonderful to see her again. We met up for a late afternoon brunch at The Smith’s East Village location. The popular bistro offers a hearty menu and friendly waitstaff.

Over a delicious meal (I had the truffled mushroom toast, yum), Lana and I talked about travel—she was just back from Brazil and Bolivia—and taking chances.

Lana was supportive of my decision to try living in L.A. last year, yet curious about why I left a city and a job that I love so much. Considering how difficult the move ended up being, it was surprisingly easy to make the leap. Choosing to return to NYC after only five months out West was harder.  I felt like I had failed somehow. And, as I mentioned in February, it’s taken some time for me to get my emotional bearings since coming back.

Thankfully, the comforts of being home and near loved ones has helped tremendously. I understand in much a more visceral way now why my mom said walking the streets of NYC gave her strength to weather life’s storms. I know this is where I belong and I am so grateful I found my way back to the Big Apple. As John Steinbeck once said–

“Once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.”

Amen.

 

 

 

 

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.

A Reunion And A Farewell

Last weekend, I caught up with my good friend Bobbi for a fun girls night out.

It was Bobbi’s first visit since moving to Dallas a year and a half ago. After brunch at Grand Central café Pershing Square, we met up later for dinner at Zengo in Midtown. The Richard Sandoval restaurant serves up Asian-Latin fusion in an inviting atmosphere with a cozy downstairs bar that’s packed for happy hour during the week.

Reunited: Bobbi and me at W’s Living Room Bar

 Over the course of both meals and then drinks at the W New York hotel, we talked about work, dating and memorable times past—from a spa getaway in Connecticut to our joint 40th birthday celebration. We also reminisced about Helen, our beloved mutual family friend who introduced us 12 years ago.

Tante Chaya and me at my family’s annual holiday party, December 1997

Helen, Tante Chaya as I knew her, passed away on Monday at the age of 99. For 50 years, she was a huge part of my family–going back to when she and Mom worked for Dad’s company Leeds. Instrumental in bringing my late parents together, Tante Chaya persuaded Mom to stay at Leeds when she wanted to resign within weeks of starting. She also convinced Mom to take a chance on Dad years later and was the one who managed to find a rabbi who would marry them (Mom was Catholic, Dad was Jewish and interfaith marriages were a rarity at the time). It’s no exaggeration to say that, without Tante Chaya, I probably wouldn’t be here.

Though she never had children, Tante Chaya was a surrogate mother to me, Bobbi and so many blessed to know her. Her no nonsense advice and razor sharp wit never failed to make life’s trials—especially those of the romantic variety–easier to bear.

I will never forget the conversations we had–about everything from cherished memories of Mom and Dad to celebrity breakups and of course, affairs of the heart. Tante Chaya encouraged me to never give up on finding love. She was so eager for me to meet my mate that she proudly showed me the gown hanging in her closet, on hold for her to wear at my future wedding day.

Should that day ever come, I know she will be by my side, as she was in life for me and my parents. I have no doubt they are all together again.

Rest in peace, Tante Chaya. You will be in our hearts forever.

Weekend In Long Island

For as much as I adore my hometown, sometimes I need a break from the relentless hustle and bustle of NYC.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite places to unwind from city life is Long Island. I’m very fortunate to have several loved ones who are LI residents and last weekend, I had the pleasure of catching up with two of them.

Saturday, I headed out east to visit my cousin Carla. Our first stop–Verace, an airy Italian bistro located on Babylon’s charming main street. The friendly staff was in the Halloween spirit, dressed as nerds while serving delicious fare (eggplant caponata pasta and flounder oreganata for me, burrata ravioli for C).

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The gypsy and the owl: Me and Carla at Molto Vino

After dinner and changing into our own costumes, we headed over to wine bar Molto Vino. Bustling with spirited locals and a jovial waitstaff, it was the perfect spot for people watching (Marty McFly and a mobster were among the costumed characters) and enjoying a festive Halloween night.

Settling ourselves at the bar, Carla and I savored a few glasses of red sangria as we talked about milestone birthdays and winter travel plans. It was the perfect Halloween night–low key fun with one of my favorite family members.

On Sunday, I spent the afternoon with galpal Julie. Our destination–Bar Frites in Greenvale, which with its buzzy vibe and French charm, reminded me of NYC’s currently-closed Pastis.

We both treated ourselves to the decadence of a croque madame sandwich while having the kind of soul soothing conversation that reminds you what a blessing it is to have good friends.

One of the subjects that came up–the mental shift that accompanies entering your forties. With three decades of life and learning behind you, this is the era of being truly comfortable in your own skin, of fully embracing your choices without apology or explanation. I’m also discovering that it is a time for letting go of the past and focusing squarely on what’s right in front of you.

Like the saying goes, the present truly is a gift. Especially when you’re fortunate to have wonderful people to share it with.

An Epic Saturday

 

Last weekend, I enjoyed an action packed day in my beloved hometown.

It started at Bistro LeSteak on the Upper East Side with my dear friend Crystal. This eatery is a cozy slice of French charm, with charming decorative touches like Impressionist wall paintings and draped ceilings.

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Bistro Le Steak’s window seating is charming

Crystal and I settled into a table by the window. Over a delicious brunch (my first taste of eggs Benedict with crabcake. Yum!), we caught up on life, work, family and more.

With her incandescent smile and genuine warmth, Crystal is always like a dose of sunshine. She has a gift for making you see the beauty and fun of what’s right in front of you– as I rediscovered when we strolled through Central Park.

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Reconnecting with my inner child in Central Park

As we took a leisurely turn on the swings, I savored the lush surroundings and muted sounds that make the park such a haven for New Yorkers. It hit me how lucky I am to have this gem a short walk away.

After saying goodbye to Crystal, I headed down to Union Square, where I met up with LA-based galpal and blogger Tess. Over cocktails and appetizers at The Coffee Shop restaurant, we talked about why Westin rocks as a hotel brand — yes, I’m an employee but I legitimately love it. And how there’s no city in the world like New York.

Two All-time NYC Favorites

I recently had the pleasure of catching up with two friends I hadn’t seen in awhile–over dinner at two of my favorite NYC restaurants.

First, I enjoyed a night out in the neighborhood with gal pal Lisa. We headed to Ko Sushi, a cozy Japanese eatery on the UES that never disappoints (best shumai dumplings ever and yummy sushi rolls).

An accomplished magazine editor and travel writer, Lisa shares my lifelong passion for NYC and I always love hearing about her latest adventures in and out of our hometown. We also talked about the profound blessing of being happy in our respective careers and never taking it for granted.

My good Stacy and I reconnected over drinks and appetizers at Pershing Square. This laidback bistro and bar right across from Grand Central serves up delicious bistro fare in a comfortable setting ideal for conversation.

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Pershing Square Cafe (photo courtesy: pershingsquare.com)

We had plenty to talk about — from memorable concerts and developments at work to the soul soothing joys of travel.

As Stacy shared her recent jaunt to London, I felt a wave of nostalgia for my other favorite city–the only place I love as much as NYC.

Well, almost as much.

A Birthday To Remember

When it comes to birthdays, I usually agree with what Oprah says about celebrating them — rock it out. After the fanfare with which I greeted turning 40 last year, though, I enjoyed a quieter but equally festive celebration for my 41st, while being reminded of just how fortunate I truly am.

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Celebrating with my pals Crystal (left) and Sara

Last Saturday, longtime dear friends Sara and Crystal joined me for dinner at Sushi Samba in the West Village. This lively fusion restaurant never fails to disappoint, with its festive vibe and fun menu. In addition to rock shrimp and mouthwatering sushi rolls, we indulged in a decadent dessert duo — chocolate banana cake and s’mores pops.

We talked a lot about new beginnings happening for each of us at the moment. 2015 definitely feels like a year that will continue the fresh start I embarked on in 2014, from my home makeover to taking on a third hotel at work, the fantastic Westin New York At Times Square. The blessing of truly loving what I do is one that I never, ever take for granted.

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My Westin Times Square colleagues surprised me with this delicious tiramisu cake!

Speaking of blessings, my birthday was jam packed with them.

Wednesday began with receiving two beautiful bouquets of flowers, 11 text messages and a flurry of birthday greetings on Facebook. Old friends, new friends and even a few old flames took a moment to wish me a Happy Birthday. After treating myself to a huge vanilla cupcake at Crumbs and my annual spa massage at Bliss 49, I enjoyed dinner at Luna Piena, a longtime favorite Italian restaurant, with my beloved cousin and best friend, Alexandra.

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Alexandra and me

Celebrating with my nearest and dearest, moments of pampering and feeling truly loved — as far as birthdays go, 41 couldn’t have been any more perfect!

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