Family Fun With My First L.A. Visitor

I recently hit the 90-day mark of my move to LA. And with it has come the inevitable bumps of the emotional roller coaster that accompanies relocating to a new city.

Friends who have made similar moves have said the 3-6 month mark is the toughest. Because the euphoria begins to wear off, replaced by the reality of having to build a life and cultivate a new support system. What I am learning is that it is much easier to do that when you’re in your twenties — as I did multiple times, moving to Bangor, Maine, Dover, Delaware and Sydney, Australia — than it is at this stage of life.

Still, the Facebook perception until recently was all was sunny literally and metaphorically for me in La La Land. Which is why I decided to come clean about the challenges I’ve been having. The outpouring of support truly lifted my spirits, as did welcoming my first visitor from back home, my beloved cousin Carla.

All smiles in Malibu with Carla

Our action-packed weekend together showed me how much I have learned in a short time about my adopted hometown, and that I have actually been here long enough now to have a small semblance of geographic bearings. It was such a joy to share amazing meals and decadent cocktails at my favorite eateries (Madeo, Sushi Mon, A.O.C. and Doheny Room) and to explore new venues (Mastro’s Ocean Club, Culina). And to indulge our inner child with a trip to Universal Studios. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a fan’s dream come true. The absolutely delicious frozen butterbeer concoction is a must.

My first visit here in more than two decades!

Carla and I also enjoyed a few brushes with celebrity over the long weekend. We had a quick drink at Craig’s on Melrose Avenue as papparazzi waited outside for Angelina Jolie and Jon Voight (whom we didn’t see). We were turned away from hotspot The Nice Guy because Dawsons Creek star James Van Der Beek was having a private party there. But the real A-list moment happened at Culina, when Carla spotted a guy in a white fedora seated a few tables away. Who was the hatted man? None other than Empire actor Terrence Howard.

During her visit, Carla surprised me with a silver bracelet engraved with the phrase, “Forever Family.” Seeing her was a much needed and comforting reminder of how true those words are. What a blessing.

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.


A.O.C. in West Hollywood (photo courtesy:

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.

Getting To Know West Hollywood

On Thursday, I enjoyed a girls night out with my colleague Inga.

After work, we headed over to Santa Monica–my favorite part of L.A. for years now with its iconic pier, fabulous restaurants and shops and pedestrian friendly streets. Over a delicious dinner at Italian bistro Locanda Del Lago on the Third Street Promenade, Inga and I talked about the joys of working in hospitality, much loved travel destinations and the time it takes to settle into life in a new place. Inga just relocated here from Hawaii. Though she lived here years ago, she understands the ups and downs that accompany starting over.
One of the definite ups–getting to know my new hometown more and more each day. And discovering just how great my neighborhood of West Hollywood is.

The tree-lined charm of Swall Drive

After years of living in the concrete jungle of Manhattan, I love residing on a quiet, tree-lined street of low-rise buildings. But the New Yorker in me also loves that I’m within walking distance of two huge supermarkets, Madeo–one of LA’s best Italian restaurants (popular with lots of celebs, apparently) and the trendy bars and eateries Santa Monica Boulevard.
As I become better acquainted with WeHo and surrounding areas, I am truly savoring the firsts along the way. A few that stood out this week:
     Discovering Sushi Mon, a cozy Japanese eatery just a few blocks from my pad. Mission to find favorite neighborhood sushi place accomplished!

The Naked Roll at Sushi Mon: yum!!

      Walking past a restaurant on Melrose and seeing three paparazzi camped out. Closest I’ve come so far to a celeb sighting!
      Taking the bus. For all the criticism I’ve heard about LA’s public transportation, my first experience of it was great. Easy 10 minute ride home from Beverly Hills. And the bus driver insisted on taking only $1 of the $1.75 fare when I scrambled for change (that never happens in NYC, where MTA drivers will give you the stink eye and hold up the bus if you don’t have exact fare).
      Getting a haircut at Danny Vee Salon. When you uproot your entire life, reintroducing familiar pleasures–like the joy of good old fashioned pampering–takes on a special joy.
The next first I’m looking forward to here–having a home with furniture in it. Soon (though not soon enough!), my belongings will finally arrive from NYC. After a month of living with only a bed and comfy chair, it is going to feel downright luxurious to have all of my stuff again.
In the meantime, I continue to be grateful for what I have been able to bring with me — most especially the love and support of my nearest and dearest.

Bidding Farewell To The Big Apple

Last weekend, I returned to NYC to pack up all of my belongings. It was my first visit since moving to LA a month ago. And as I anticipated, being back in my hometown brought with it a flurry of emotions.

Urban Oasis: the roof deck view from my building in NYC

 I found myself feeling the nostalgia for NYC that there wasn’t a chance to indulge in the whirlwind leading up to my departure in April. The comforting familiarity of my Upper East Side neighborhood. The tasty delights of favorite restaurants Beach Cafe and Ko Sushi. Seeing totally awesome 80s cover band Jessie’s Girl. And, more than anything, the soul soothing joy of being with loved ones.

Jenna O’Gara and Chris Hall of Jessie’s Girl–the BEST 80s cover band ever!

Not surprisingly, the truly overwhelming moments came as the movers emptied my apartment, my home for the last 12 years–longer than I have resided anywhere. I have lived a lot of life there, celebrating happy milestones, grieving losses and disappointments. And like most goodbyes, this one was hard.
I absolutely love my new job and LA is a fantastic city. But when you pick up and move your life across the country, even for the best of reasons, there’s an enormous transition period. And now that the frantic rush of finding a place, stocking up on basics at Target (my new favorite store now that it’s within walking distance!), etc, has subsided, I’m feeling the bittersweet emotions of leaving the city where I have spent most of my life.
Which is why I am especially thankful for the amazing people who continue to support me through this journey. Family, friends and my wonderful boyfriend Matt have been with me every step of the way, reminding me that geography doesn’t diminish the ties that bind. It only makes them stronger.

Life In L.A. Begins

It has been nearly four weeks since I left my beloved New York for Los Angeles. And, as I had hoped and expected, picking up and moving across the country has been an exhilarating, emotional and revelatory experience.

All smiles at Yamashiro Restaurant with a panoramic view of LA behind me

All smiles at Yamashiro Restaurant with a panoramic view of LA behind me

First and foremost in this journey is the job which brought me here — Marketing Manager for the SLS at Beverly Hills. In the short time that I have been a part of the team, I have felt truly welcomed and utterly impressed by my smart, spirited and dedicated colleagues.


Altitude Pool: one of many spectacular amenities at the SLS

The hotel itself is a dream for a storyteller like me — rich in its design, service and food and beverage offerings. During a rotation at The Bazaar restaurant, in which I had the pleasure of sampling several innovative tapas, I told a coworker I was running out of synonyms for delicious and awestruck. Wow.

One of the best parts of this move – and a key factor in my decision to do this — has been the many wonderful friends and acquaintances I know out here. Like longtime galpal Natasha, with whom I enjoyed a girls night out in Pasadena, a charming little town not far from LA. And blogger/author Kelly Seal, who gave me my first taste of local Mexican food and margaritas at Mercado on West Third Street, a stretch known for great eateries. And my dear friend from high school Allison, who moved here from Toronto nine years ago and understands the inevitable adjustment period that accompanies such a huge life change.

I am blessed to know alot of awesome people here and can’t wait to catch up with all of them.

In the meantime, this New York City Gal is appreciating the differences between the Big Apple and my new hometown. Among those I’ve noticed so far…

Quiet. With its sprawling nature, LA has a lot less noise pollution than NYC.

LA is also far more pedestrian friendly than you would think. An amalgam of neighborhoods with varied personalities, LA has several walkable areas. While I am looking forward to eventually getting a car, I haven’t felt stranded thanks to Uber (much cheaper and faster here in the state where it launched) and Zipcar.

Plenty of New Yorkers live here. I’ve met them at work and out and about, feeling an instant kinship with all of them. But I’m also enjoying getting to know the locals. And looking forward to feeling more like a local myself. In the meantime, I’m truly enjoying the honeymoon period.

It’s truly amazing when you follow your bliss and it leads to an incredible fresh start.

A New Chapter Begins


When it comes to embarking on a new chapter in life, I’m rediscovering that timing really is everything. The time has never felt more right for me to take an extended break from New York. So it is with the happiest heart that I prepare to leave my beloved Big Apple for LA.


All smiles in Santa Monica (July 2013)


My journey to becoming an Angeleno began, in some ways, half a lifetime ago, when I fell in love for the first time with a California guy. During the year of that bicoastal romance, I was introduced to some of the West Coast’s varied attractions–from the charms of Santa Monica and majesty of the Pacific Coast Highway to quaint beachside town Morro Bay. Though the love affair ended, it was only the beginning of my fondness for Cali.

Over the years, I have enjoyed a weekend getaway to San Francisco and Napa, unexpected romance in San Diego and many, many trips to visit friends in L.A. It was during one particular visit nearly 3 years ago that my California dreaming began.

Longtime dear friend A invited me to join his wife at Malibu Winery to watch their incredibly talented daughter Ren perform outdoors. Sitting there in the sunshine with the mountains behind us, I found myself wondering–why have I never lived here??


A glorious afternoon at Malibu Winery with A and his wife Leslie


That question intensified when I applied for a job in LA. The news that I didn’t get it came as I headed West for a third time in six months. At this point, the question shifted to, can this born and bred New Yorker navigate LA’s car – based lifestyle? Was I really ready to bid farewell to my hometown, or just going through the inevitable weariness that comes with living in the city synonymous with hustle and bustle?

So I settled back into NYC life, or I tried to at least. What I found, though, was that it became increasingly more difficult to keep up with the relentlessly fast pace here. Travels to other places only amplified my desire to slow down. And once again, my thoughts turned to LA.

Despite the frequent rivalry between my first and future hometowns, I have always felt that New York is yin to LA’s yang. Opposites that compliment one another. And for this Big Apple native, there’s no other city which feels more appropriate to explore as a local.

Like I said, timing is everything. Two years ago, I reached out to a Starwood colleague who was making the move from LA to NYC. She graciously shared her insights about her life and career in Cali. We had the chance to work together while she was here, and stayed in touch after she went back last fall. She is now going to be my boss and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Along with congratulations and best wishes, I’ve received some questions from family and friends. Among the most popular–how can I possibly leave NYC?

Quite easily, actually. Having already lived in Sydney, I know I’m going to love the beach – cosmopolitan city lifestyle of LA. And I’m also going to love spending more time with A and my other friends out there.

And, even though my zip code is about to change, one thing most assuredly will not–I am a New York City Gal. Forever proud to be, just ready to adopt a new hometown.

The adventure begins April 10th!


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.


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 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.

Burger Bliss: 5 Napkin’s New Addition



In the crowded landscape of burger joints in the Big Apple, Five Napkin Burger is one of the best. So I was excited when 5N recently opened a second location — right around the corner from me.


5N’s asiago turkey burger is delish

Like its sister restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen, the Upper East Side 5N offers a low-lit bistro vibe, friendly wait staff and a mouthwatering menu of options for burger aficionados. During my first visit, I grabbed a high table near the bar and enjoyed the asiago turkey burger, delicious and as plentiful in size as its beef counterpart. Their cocktail menu is equally robust. I enjoyed the Velvet Mule, a refreshing variation on the Moscow mule.

Signature drinks were also on the menu during my second visit to 5N, with galpal Ayesha. She tried the Breakaway Mai Tai while I savored a Rum Swizzle Punch, both from the Caribbean-inspired drink menu section, and which immediately made me think about relaxing on an island somewhere.

Served in a tiki glass, the Rum Swizzle Punch is a taste of the Caribbean

Speaking of travels, we talked about upcoming vacations (I’ve got 3 getaways planned for 2016), fighting the holiday battle of the bulge and job changes. The new year will bring an new dimension to work, with the addition of the Sheraton Grand Chicago to my marketing manager job. So excited for this–and the promise of a fresh start that always accompanies turning the calendar page.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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