What I’m thankful for

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I’ve always been a big fan of making time to count your blessings — and having a special day to do that with loved ones never fails to soothe my spirit.

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Family bonding: Me with (from left) my cousins Bruce and Amie, sis-in-law Barb and brother Ray.

In keeping with tradition, I spent the holiday in Delaware with my brother Ray, sister in law Barb and family. As we went around the table and shared what we’re each thankful for, I found myself thinking about how this has truly been a year of breakthroughs and new beginnings for me.

Back in July, I bid farewell to my Single Gal In The City blog after six years. More than a few wise, dear friends had encouraged me to do so and now I know why. Saying goodbye to my ersatz Carrie Bradshaw online persona created room for a seismic shift in my love life and how I approach it. And that change has paved the way for others too.

As I recently mentioned, I am in the process of making over my home to be a reflection of me instead of a shrine to my late, beloved Mom and Dad. It is quite a process, one which has illuminated just how stuck in my grief I’ve been. With each parental knickknack I take down and new self-chosen item that goes up, it feels like another  step toward healing.

Then, of course, there is my job. A job I adore so much that my Facebook friends are probably tired of hearing me rhapsodize about it in my many “why I love my job” posts (I think I’m up to reason #530 approximately). I recently added The Westin New York At Times Square to my Marketing Manager duties for Starwood Hotels.

From my very first day, I could feel the energy and level of excellence that make this such a fantastic hotel. After more than two years with Starwood and being at The Westin New York Grand Central, it’s exciting to now be a part of the WTS team too. This new opportunity reinforces how grateful I am to have a job that I love, in a city that continues to challenge, inspire and reward me in so many ways.

With the holiday season in full swing, I can’t think of a better time to feel truly blessed —both professionally and personally.

Experiencing Parlor & The Joys Of Moving On

Last Saturday, my dear friend Sara and I visited Parlor, a private members-only club in SoHo.

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Parlor in SoHo (photo courtesy: fastlifeluxury.com)

Tucked away behind a private, unmarked door on Spring Street, the exclusive 5,000 square foot venue is – according to the invite I received to try it out — for people who enjoy “making connections, have a love of fine dining, exceptional wines and cultural events.”

Sara and I enjoyed a tasting menu of creations by Chef Hilary Ambrose, a protégé of David Bouley. After a round of scrumptious, creamy pumpkin martinis (in graham cracker-rimmed glasses—mmmm), we enjoyed a three-course meal: smoked avocado puff pastry, couscous salad and pike fish for me, deer chop for Sara and for dessert, espresso-flavored ice cream. Our overall verdict: the portions were small but that was our only complaint. Parlor offers the attentive, first class service you would expect from a club that charges $1500 for annual membership.

Parlor’s low-lit, upscale ambience is very conducive to conversation. Sara and I talked about family, upcoming girls nights out (including a black tie charity event next week) and the importance of being true to yourself — especially when it comes to saying goodbye to people and patterns that are no longer any good for you.

It is, of course, one of the great rewards of being older and wiser; having better instincts about when and how to move on. Some people are only meant to be in our lives briefly. As I shared with Sara, realizing this about someone recently reminded me that everything really does happen for a reason. And that there’s no feeling more exhilarating than taking the positive from an experience and leaving the negative where it belongs, in the past.

I can’t help thinking of one of my favorite sayings, by writer Mary Wollstonecraft: the beginning is always today. I’ve never felt that more or been happier or more excited to live in a city where fresh starts are always around the next bustling corner.

In Celebration Of New Beginnings

Friday, I enjoyed an epic girls night out with my cousin Alexandra. We met up at Grata, one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Midtown East.

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Grata Restaurant (photo courtesy: gratanyc.com)

Attentive service, an enticing menu and cozy atmosphere make Grata a delightful experience every time. We enjoyed mouth watering burrata salad, spaghetti in a light lemon cream sauce and chocolate mousse for dessert. I also discovered the pleasures of French martinis. Mmm.

Alex and I had a lot to catch up on. I told her about my exciting new chapter at work — adding The Westin New York at Times Square to my Marketing Manager duties. She filled me in on what’s new with her and hubby. During our soul soothing four-hour plus conversation, we also covered a lot of emotional ground — reflecting on family, romantic relationships and letting go of the past to make room for new beginnings.

I’ve been working a lot on the latter lately, especially when it comes to my late, beloved parents. For far too long now, I’ve been holding on too tightly to their memory, and surrounding myself with physical reminders of them. After ten years in my home, I am at long last starting the journey of making it a reflection of me now.

Though I will forever and always miss Mom and Dad, grieving daughter is no longer the label I want to have define me. It’s time for a fresh start and looking forward.

Here’s to new beginnings — at work, home and most of all, in the heart.

Celebrating The Season With InStyle Magazine

Earlier this week, I headed down to Chelsea for Celebrate The Season hosted by InStyle Magazine and Single Edition Media. Held at The Glass Houses, a fabulous venue with stunning city views, the blogger event offered a sneak peak at seasonal beauty/fashion trends — and the chance to enjoy some fantastic cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

I kicked off the evening by trying Flight Song Wine’s crisp new Sauvignon Blanc, a delightful find that I look forward to having again.

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Cheers: Enjoying a glass of Flight Song Wine

Another tasty highlight — discovering Gardein‘s line of meatless, plant-based bites. As someone who is a happy carnivore at heart, I was blown away by how flavorful the Canada-based brand’s fishless filet and chips, lightly breaded ‘turkey’ burger and rosemary pecan crusted ‘chicken’ skewers are. Yummm.

Among the many great brands in attendance — Sears, which showcased the relaunch of Metaphor, its versatile collection of mix and match items that easily transition from day to night.

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Pieces from Sears’ Metaphor collection

Signature pieces include a faux leather dress, embellished metallic brocade skirt and knit sweaters with embellishments and asymmetrical backs. Best of all — every piece is under $100.

Elizabeth Arden wowed with a selection of bold Moisturizing Lipstick for the holidays (I love bronze berry/#35) and Untold, a sophisticated fragrance with floral notes and an amber base that I was immediately smitten with.

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Absolut is my favorite in the Untold collection

Buying perfume as a holiday gift? Elizabeth Arden’s rep at the event offered these tips: consider the recipient’s leading personality traits, qualities that best describe them and favorite time of day.

During the cocktail hour, I had the chance to catch up with Globetrotting Mommy blogger Lyla Gleason. We chatted about her adorable, fashion savvy five-year-old daughter, the perks of being a blogger and how swiftly time seems to go by – especially at this time of year.

After checking out all of the brands on display, we enjoyed a presentation of holiday tips and trends. Makeup artist Patti Dubroff raved about Jergens’ BB body cream. And one of InStyle Magazine‘s beauty editors shared her picks for amping up your holiday look. Among them: pastels (in makeup), textured waves for hair (the messier, the better) and flower accessories.

InStyle has long been one of my favorite magazines, with its accessible take on celebrity fashion and lifestyle. So I wasn’t surprised that the gift bag featured some fabulous items—including Balsam Hill’s white river spruce scented ornaments and Beautiful Textures’ hair gel.

Thanks to InStyle and Single Edition media for a fantastic night that reminded me all over again how much fun it is a New York City gal.

A Wonderful Week To Remember

It’s been an amazing, action-packed week – one that has reminded me yet again how fortunate I am to reside in the Big Apple.

The fun kicked off last weekend, when I met Beth, a longtime, Massachusetts-based reader of my first blog, Single Gal In The City.

Beth and me at Blue Bar

I joined Beth and her husband for drinks at the iconic Algonquin Hotel’s Blue Bar. Beth shared how they connected through a dating service more than 25 years ago. I could sense immediately what a great fit they have been and continue to be for each other.

It meant so much to finally meet Beth face to face, and thank her for all of her support over the years. When you blog about your dating life, it inevitably often invites feedback of the critical variety. Beth continually reached out with encouraging emails like this–

“I am getting so impatient for you to meet the right guy!”

The next exciting day was Tuesday. Katie, a business colleague, invited me to join her for a performance of the new musical, The Last Ship, featuring an exhilarating score and songs penned by Sting. After drinks and appetizers at Victor’s Café 52, we headed over to the Neil Simon Theater for what was one of the best nights I’ve ever experienced on Broadway.

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Soaring Entertainment: The Last Ship (photo courtesy: ThelastShip.com)

The Last Ship is fantastic—a compelling tale of love, regret, family and life in a shipbuilding town. It takes you on an entertaining, satisfying emotional ride. And, of course, the music is pitch perfect, with two of my favorite Sting tunes featured — “All This Time” and “When We Dance.”

Katie, who works in the building, arranged for us to get a backstage tour after the show. Much to our great surprise and delight, Sting himself was standing on stage as one of The Last Ship’s understudies walked us around.

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The one and only Sting! *swoon*

Katie and I immediately looked at each other and both swooned. Sting is not only agelessly handsome in person, but truly gracious. He happily shook our hands and signed our programs. Wow.

Thursday, I headed over to the Beacon Theater for Fresh Fall Fest, hosted by my favorite local radio station, 102.7 FM. The two-hour plus concert featured Nico & Vinz, Matt Nathanson, Bleachers, Neon Trees and Ingrid Michaelson.

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The artists who rocked Fresh Fall Fest (photo courtesy: fresh1027.cbslocal.com)

It was so much fun dancing the night away to pop hits like “Am I Wrong,” “Headphones,” and “Girls Chase Boys.”

In addition to all of the above, it’s also been an amazing week on the work front, with new adventures coming up that I look forward to sharing soon. I’ve never felt the rightness of being in New York more than I do right now.

As one of my dear friends is fond of saying, life is good!

An Epic Night On The Town

Saturday, I enjoyed a wonderful girls night out with my cousins Dana and Carla.

With Carla in Long Island and Dana traveling often for work, it had been awhile since the three of us were together. And we quickly made up for lost time with an action packed evening and delightful, soul soothing conversation.

The night kicked off at the UWS location of popular, lively brasserie The Smith. Over a delicious dinner, we talked about home makeovers (I’m about to undertake one), old flames and new beginnings.

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Dana, Carla and me at NYC’s Empire Hotel

Our next stop was the Empire Hotel’s swanky lobby bar, where I savored a pear martini (okay, two…) and some nostalgic reminiscing.

Among the funnier recollections: our adolescent affinity for consuming entire tubs of Betty Crocker Creamy Deluxe frosting. Yes—an entire 16 ounce tub for each of us. In one sitting!

After saying goodnight to Dana, Carla and I paused to take in the majesty of Lincoln Center at night before heading over to a few places in my hood, the Upper East Side.

First, we visited Session 73, which was hopping with a great cover band playing 90’s tunes and current chart toppers. Then, we walked over to dive bar Stumble Inn for one last round of drinks.

As Carla and I made our way back home, I couldn’t help thinking how fortunate I am to have beloved cousins who are more like sisters to me. And, of course, how lucky I am to live in the world’s greatest city, a place where you never know what adventures and new beginnings are right around the corner.

Why I’m Newly Smitten With NYC

When it comes to being a New York City gal, I have a confession to make—I’ve thought a lot this year about changing that.

After turning the big 4-0 in January, I found myself not surprisingly at a crossroads, questioning whether it was time to try a new zip code. The very things that I had grown to accept about life in my hometown began to get on my last nerve—the relentlessly fast pace, the dating scene and of course, the local crankiness on subways, buses, etc.

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One thing that never gets old in NYC: the majestic skyline

Case in point: Not too long ago, I was daydreaming while walking along the platform of the 4/5/6 at 59th Street and Lex. All of a sudden, I felt a sharp pain as someone’s laptop bag came down on my shoulder.

“Didn’t you see me? You cut me off!” yelled a guy who clearly has some anger management issues.

“Obviously, I didn’t see you!” I retorted angrily, storming off and thinking to myself: this city seems to have a knack for lighting a match with people who have short fuses.

Maybe, I wondered, the time had come to live somewhere more laidback and less prone to random acts of mean spiritedness. Somewhere that you don’t have to fight for every inch of space because there’s breathing room—maybe, even, LA?

I know, I know–a traitorous thought for a New Yorker, especially for one like me. I not only grew up here, but come from two parents who did too (Mom in the Bronx, Dad in Brooklyn) so being committed to the Big Apple is literally in my DNA.

A funny thing happened on the way to planning my exit, though. Like the ne’er do well boyfriend who keeps luring you back, New York slowly started working its magic on me again. The diverse array of people and places to explore, the thrill of possibility around every corner and yes, even the crazy hustle and bustle have made me swoon over my hometown all over again.

Living in New York really is like a relationship. There are ebbs and flows—and, if you’re willing to make the effort, always the chance to make a fresh start.

A Delightful Rooftop Party

One of the many reasons I love my job is it affords many opportunities to experience the best of NYC. Thursday night, my colleague Lisa and I headed down to 250 Hudson Street in for a party hosted by Corbis Images.

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The crowd at Corbis’ soiree

The soiree was held on the building’s expansive rooftop deck, with beautiful views of downtown Manhattan and the Jersey skyline across the river. We arrived in time to enjoy a picturesque sunset that had me newly smitten with my hometown.

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Beautiful view of New Jersey across the Hudson River

While enjoying cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, Lisa and I talked shop for a bit before moving onto meatier topics — life after loss, memorable first dates and the courage it takes to begin again.

A bundle of warmth and positive energy, Lisa has become my best friend at work. Not only is she a delight to collaborate with, she is a great cheerleader and confidante.

I’m looking forward to many more fun nights out with her — in the city that offers no shortage of great places to spend them.

An Evening In Long Island

Much as I love my hometown, there are times when I need a respite from the non-stop hustle and bustle of life in New York City. Friday, I enjoyed exactly that with an evening jaunt to Long Island to visit my dear friend Julie.

Long Island is one of my favorite places to retreat to. With its charming suburbs, cozy beaches and more neighborly vibe, it’s the perfect getaway from Manhattan. Though the swanky, star-studded Hamptons tend to receive much of the attention, it’s LI’s low-key enclaves that I love. From a romantic getaway in Montauk to family occasions in Deer Park, LI has always provided plenty of fun and rejuvenation over the years. Friday was no exception.

After a brisk 30-minute train ride, Julie picked me up in Manhasset and we drove to nearby Jericho. Our destination–Market Bistro, a lively restaurant packed with locals celebrating the start of the weekend.

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Market Bistro in Manhasset (photo courtesy: marketbistroli.com)

While waiting at the bar for our table, a gracious gentleman moved over so Julie and I could both have a seat. When he quoted Patrick Swayze’s infamous line from Dirty Dancing (“Nobody puts baby in a corner”), I smiled. No question about it–New Yorkers are witty, playful people.

For dinner, Julie and I shared delicious pretzel bread and cheese-infused tater tots while I had perfectly cooked halibut with salsa verde. But the best part of the meal was Julie’s company.

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Julie and me at my annual holiday party (December 2011)

There are some friends who serve as an anchor when life thrusts you into choppy waters. Julie is one of them.

After meeting four years ago at a mutual friend’s birthday lunch, I found myself pouring my heart out to her about an ill-fated romance during our first solo outing together. She’s that kind of person. Someone you can bare your soul to, secure in the knowledge that you will always be heard, understood and comforted. I adore her.

And I adore my hometown. For many reasons–including the varied pleasures available just a short train ride away.

Girls Night Out: Times Square

Friday, I enjoyed a girls night out in Times Square with my dear friend Lisa.

The evening’s main event – Rock of Ages. As an 80’s child and diehard fan of music from that era, I’ve been wanting to see this show for years. It didn’t disappoint.

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Constantine Maroulis and the cast of Rock of Ages (photo credit: Joan Marcus/Playbill.com)

American Idol alum and original cast member Constantine Maroulis anchors Rock of Ages’ lively cast in the story of a city boy and small town girl seeking love and stardom in L.A. The show offers plenty of sing a long moments, weaving in about 80’s hits from, among others, Foreigner, Pat Benatar, REO Speedwagon, Twisted Sister and Whitesnake.  It strikes the pitch perfect balance of kitschy, nostalgic fun and cheeky humor. Constantine is back through October 26 only, don’t miss your chance to see him.

After the show, Lisa and I briefly braved the Times Square crowds to walk over to Blue Fin nearby for a late dinner. I enjoyed bronzino with squash salad and cinnamon ice cream–all delicious with a capital D.

As I headed home, I thought about two things: good friends and my good fortune to live in NYC.

I heart my hometown.

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