Honey, I’m Home.

When I first moved into Manhattan over 10 years ago, I lived in a nunnery. A no-boys-allowed, chapel-on-the-first-floor, crucifix-at-every-turn nunnery. And not because I had the calling, but because Saint Mary’s Residence was on 72nd Street, Hunter College was on 68th, and I needed off-campus housing that was affordable with my part-time salary. I was elated when I got the call (from the residence office, not God) saying I was accepted and would have a room all to myself. I had shared a room with my sister since birth, so this first glimpse of independent living felt like hitting the lottery–no offense, Ker. I lived there for just the fall semester of senior year, but I’ll never forget that first phase of NYC living: the girl who lived on my floor and ate whole pomegranates on the common table, splattering juice everywhere; another girl who really loved Bush and showed me photos of her with Gavin Rossdale; the fact that we didn’t have cable, so I watched Dancing with the Stars on my little TV with bunny ears; the one time my friend Danielle came to visit and, while on the E train chatting, we missed the Lex Ave transfer and wound up in Queens. Oops. The place was spartan and strict, but I was living in The City, goddamnit! Spring semester I moved down to the Hunter Dorms on 25th Street and lived there until graduation. It was a fine experience, but kitchen roach pads crawling with bugs and rooms that were once part of Bellevue didn’t leave me feeling nostalgic for the place.

A few years later, after finding a full-time job downtown and saving up enough cash money, my friend Nicole and I moved from Long Island to East 93rd Street. I lived there for 3.3 years (pardon the specificity) and was completely smitten with the place. It was a five floor walk-up with no laundry, but this was 2010 and, with the city still reeling from the financial recession, rents were cheap AF. The apartment was completely renovated and had exceptional cabinet space. Like, there were two rows of kitchen cabinets stacked atop one another. We could have started a self storage side business. Nicole and I had an epic housewarming party and drank coffee together after dinner like an old married couple. Upon receiving a sweet job offer she couldn’t refuse, Nicole moved out on her own and my first CraigsList roomie moved in. Thankfully, she wasn’t a murderer, thief or drug addict. When she moved out to live with her boyfriend, my sister took her place. We had incredibly fun sleepovers with our cousins where we dragged the mattresses onto the living room floor, and Kerry had parties on the roof that turned me into June Cleaver, admonishing them for partying too close to the edge. (Literally.) Those were great years, made even greater by the fact that my best friends and I lived within a 10 block radius. From Christmas parties to Winter Storm Nemo to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we were all together in our corner of the Upper East Side.

Rising rents and a need for change ushered in the next chapter of my life, The Brooklyn Years. I’ve lived in Park Slope since 2013 and love it. Strangers and friends alike know I have a thing for brownstones, and this neighborhood is chock full of ‘em. It may not be as cool and hip as Greenpoint or Crown Heights or Bushwick, but it’s cozy and pretty and has an incredible park.

If you read my last post you’ll know I started the hunt for my own apartment a few months ago. After a myriad trials and tribulations, I found a beaut just 14 blocks north of my former apartment. It’s a 1 bedroom, well, probably technically a junior 1 bedroom since my full-size mattress peeks out of the doorframe, but it has great windows, an intact kitchen and a living room I could do cartwheels in if I wasn’t incredibly accident-prone. It’s a beautiful thing coming home to your own place after work or a night out. To sit on your couch in your underwear eating Triscuits and drinking wine just because. To have your girlfriends over for a catch-up session, making sure their glasses are full and the olive bowl is, too. Sure, there are the annoyances typical of old buildings: a sink that gets easily clogged, a bathroom that’s so small my butt hits the heating pipe when I bend over, the vague odor of food smells mixing in the hallway, but it’s home. My home.

I’ve always been an independent person, but living with roommates did come with a bounty of upsides. I’d like to briefly mention a few things I was grateful to have had in roommates: 

  • Someone to kill the roaches. Shout-out to Katie and Julie, sisters who killed roaches with their bare hands without flinching. (I had killed roaches myself before, but not with their brazen abandon.)
  • Someone to be there when the carbon monoxide detector goes off and you call the fire department in the wee hours of the morning just in case. (This happened the first night my roommate Maddie moved in, and it was just a battery on the fritz. Again, oops.)
  • Someone to go into your room because you’re certain you left the iron on. You didn’t. But thanks for checking, Julie.
  • Someone to join you in watching The Bachelorette and a million hours of The Golden Girls, Parks and Rec or The Office. (Sometimes all in one weekend night. But especially during blizzards.) 
  • Someone to help you hang blinds in the kitchen.  Reaching above your head is the worst. 

In just a month of living here, however, I’ve killed a few bugs myself (no roaches, thankfully, but moths love flying into my living room), jerry-rigged closet shelving and assembled many unnecessarily complex pieces of Ikea furniture, even when the instruction manual had an X over the illustration of a single person and a check mark next to the one with two. (How rude?!) Tough stuff aside, I eagerly anticipate hosting shindigs in my new digs. Like the time I threw a Christmas party and did an impromptu tape dance in my kitchen. That was great. 

I’ve come a long way since the days of Saint Mary’s Residence. I might still not have cable, but boys are definitely allowed.

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The 7 Year Itch… or Something Like That

They say your body changes every 7 years. And by “they” I mean the allergist who told my cousin she is now highly allergic to her own dog, who has coincidently been a long-standing member of the family. (We still love you, Rocky.) Call it a sudden interest in numerology, but that fact–and others I’ll soon get to–have me obsessing with the number 7 and wondering if this purported change isn’t limited to just your physiology.

This January I will have lived in NYC, officially out of my parent’s house on Long Island, for 7 golden years. In some ways the past 7 years have flown by and in others it seems like just yesterday I was in Bed Bath & Beyond picking out a new shower curtain. I have been itching (7 year itching? corny? ok.) to get my own studio or one bedroom apartment for months now, but a recent change in my employment status has pushed the move to 2017. When that day comes–aside from mentally stressing about my suddenly increased Brooklyn rent–I anticipate feeling like a boss as I enter a new, even more independent stage of adulthood. Not having roommates to help you kill roaches in your room is a major change if I’ve ever heard one.

The 7 year hypothesis truly rears its head for me when you consider we’re entering the year 2017. I’m a perpetual optimist and pride myself on always seeing the good in situations. And while 2016 had many seriously awesome moments, notable mentions go to my first trip to LA and my cousin and BFF both having babies, it has been a MF BEAR of a year. From family ish to Electiongate–seriously, WTF happened on November 8th?–to me getting laid off from a job for the very first time, this year took pains to burn itself into my memory. I look to 2017 with a mix of nervous uncertainty (cough, POTUS-elect, cough) and excited optimism about starting a new gig. Ironically, the nation’s unemployment rate hits a 9-year low the year I find myself unemployed. Not funny, 2016.

And who knows, maybe this year will be the year that cupid points his arrow my way. I completely own being Miss. Independent and do that surrounded by the best family and friends, but it would be awesome if 2017 is the year I delete all my dating apps. Those data-draining, time-consuming dating apps, which I loathe and love at the same time. The apps with which “It’s Complicated” would be the appropriate relationship status. But if it isn’t, so be it.

I recently got my passport renewed, so 2017 may also be The Year of the Second Stamp, a couple of years (unfortunately not 7, which would have been poetic) since the first one was stamped by a lovely Bahamian customs agent. So whether this 7 year thing is legit or just a wive’s tale that happens to hold symbolism for me, it will be channelled into the makings a great year.

50 Shades of LOL

If you needed to find a single lady friend of yours yesterday, chances are she was seeing 50 Shades of Grey. I read the first of the three books, and while yes I had no expectations of a Pulitzer Prize-winning piece of literature, it was a steamy little story that was fun to read. So naturally when I heard it was being turned into a movie, I made a note to pre-order tickets on Fandango. I’d never object to watching a hot, semi-nude Irish lad on the big screen.

But before I go on to write what everyone else has already written about this movie–the cringe-worthy acting and implausibly cheesy one-liners–I have to start with the atmosphere in which my friends and I saw this movie. There’s only one other flick I’ve seen where serious scenes prompted wild laughter from the audience, and that was Twilight, and I was one of the people laughing. Seeing 50 Shades was a hysterical experience; people in every corner of that theatre were cracking up, which then made everyone else laugh even harder. The commentary from the women in back of us was probably better than the on-screen dialogue. If anything, we can all credit 50 Shades for laugh-induced six packs.

And then there was the orchestra of wine bottles clinking; the movie’s true soundtrack. My friends and I had brought our own stash of wine in the form of plastic airplane bottles, but I was not expecting everyone else to be packing–and regular glass bottles, no less! After a while, all you heard was the sound of multiple wine bottles clattering on the floor from every direction. (This was an alcohol-fueled crowd, for sure.) At one point our plastic bottles even tumbled to our feet, but that was just embarrassing.

As far as the movie itself goes, Jamie Dornan was mighty fine eye candy even if his his acting was stiff. Too bad Christian Grey’s character didn’t have an Irish brogue; what a missed opportunity. Dakota Johnson (often confused with Dakota Fanning by this author, lol) was OK as an awkward good girl, but her doe-eyed stares and exaggerated moans made us all want to punch someone. There should have been a little lot more of Dornan’s skin and a lot less of Johnson being turned on by a simple forearm graze. Let’s be real, people.

The real kicker, however, was that Lindsey and I decided to make a bathroom run right as the movie was ending. That’s how anticlimactic the ending was, we didn’t even know it happened until the ladies room started flooding with people leaving the 4:30 showing! Oops.

Bottom line: 50 Shades was really silly, but very fun to watch. An entire theater filled with people laughing as its absurdity combined with a symphony of wine bottles clattering on the floor was well worth the $16.

Resolving To Make New Year’s Resolutions

I typically don’t make New Year’s Resolutions; they just seem like another way to set yourself up for failure. Alas, as I embark on the year of my 30th birthday I’ve found myself rattling off the things I want to accomplish in 2015. Sound like resolutions, right? I thought so, too. I guess this year’s as good as any to start. So, in addition to the old adages of eating healthier and getting my butt to the gym regularly (late nights at the office be damned!), here are a few that I’m really rooting for.

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1) Start a list of all the book I read in 2015–and if all goes well–keep that list going forever. My uncle Ed has been keeping a list of all the books he’s read since the 80’s and it’s really inspiring to hear him talk about it. Sure there are the books taking up real estate on my book shelf, but then there are the books taken out of the library or borrowed from friends that slip my mind. It seems like a list I’d be proud to whip out and scan 5, 10, 20 years from now. What, did I really read all of the Twighlight books?!? I’d also like to go to more book readings this year; not just just add them to my iPhone calendar, actually go to them.

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2) Blog at least once a month. This seems like a negligible amount of blog posts a month given what the pros do, but coming from someone who has gone months without logging into WordPress, I have to set reasonable expectations!

3) Volunteer again. A few years ago, I volunteered with New York Cares alongside my friends Roe and Nicole. We planted a garden at a senior center, walked with disabled persons in Central Park, served food in a soup kitchen, played with kids at a rec center and did some post-Sandy clean up. After a two year hiatus, I am way overdue to do some good.

4) Take advantage of living in NYC and do more cultural things! I wish I could say I was one of those New Yorkers who goes to weekly concerts/art galleries/museums/enter events here. However, I am not. Sure, I go see my fair share of bands and even went to my co-worker’s rooftop comedy show in Bushwick this October (that counts, right?!), but I don’t go to nearly enough as I would like to. And it’s hard; between work/gym/obligations/just wanting to drink in a bar/just being tired, before I know it months have gone by. So, I am grabbing the bull by the horns in 2015 and making sure to go to at least one live event a month. January is starting off strong with a Jack White concert at MSG and a few Broadway shows, so here’s to hoping that momentum sticks.

Screen shot 2014-12-21 at 7.20.29 PMReal Estate, Music Hall of Williamsburg

5) Do more things in Brooklyn. I’ve lived in Park Slope for over a year and a half now, but I’m subject to these regretful twinges that I’m not taking advantage of my own borough. It’s so easy (and amazing!) to go out in Manhattan; it’s where I work and where most of my friends live. But there are cool things going on in my ‘hood, too. So to build off #4, there’s a cute little bar a few blocks from my apartment called Barbes that has live music every night. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t pop in there and take a listen, right?

I have high hopes for you, 2015!

Southern Hospitality Is Real, Y’All

Warning: This post treads sappy ground, so apologies in advance 😉

Columbus, Georgia is home to the nicest people in America. That is fact, not hyperbole. After spending four days working on a video shoot at Aflac’s headquarters there, I felt compelled to write about it. Of all the places I’ve visited in the south—from New Orleans to Tennessee and Virginia to other parts of Georgia—Columbus remains the cherry atop the southern hospitality cake.

The project I worked on gave me the opportunity to meet the AMAZING people employed by Aflac. At the risk of this post coming across as ad copy for their HR department, I have never spent time in an office with lovelier people. Each and every one was friendly, charming, polite, sweet, engaging and every other positive adjective you could imagine, while simultaneously being completely genuine and un-annoying. There’s nothing worse than a fake, overzealous, peppy person, amiright? Long conversations and brief hallway greetings equally left me wanting to adopt about 50 surrogate aunts and uncles from Columbus. It may sound trite and cliché, but seriously, southern hospitality is where it’s at.

As a native New Yorker who grew up on Long Island and has lived in NYC for the past 5 years, I often find myself defending New York and the New Yorkers who automatically get a bad rap for being assholes. That said, the description is totally warranted in some cases. I’m talking to you disgruntled coffee barista/sales clerk/enter person here. I consider myself a nice person, and value/appreciate/witness that quality in others, so I take pride in seeing someone help a mother carry her stroller down a staircase, for example. But I have plenty of grouchy/mean-spirited moments—a morning commute on a late and crowded subway train can do that to a girl. However, the pleasantness exuded by Columbus-ians (sp?) make me look like a total dipshit. There’s something in the water down there; they take it to the next level. And I willingly admit; it’s hard to always be nice in NY, or anywhere for that matter. Smiling at everyone you walk past isn’t top priority, lest you look like an escapee from Bellevue. But really, can the cashiers at my local C-Town at least make eye contact with me as they’re ringing up my Triscuits?!

On the flip side, being nice isn’t always considered the most desirable personality trait, either. I’ve heard of nice people being described as doormats; people who aren’t sure-footed or strong-willed. I like to think that you can be genuinely nice and still be badass and respected.

But back to the people of Columbus, GA. At one point during my trip, I attempted to buy a water bottle from a vending machine. This machine would just not take my dollar bill. I asked an older gentleman next to me if he knew if the machine was broken or not, and he offered to help. After taking a stab with my dollar bill, he proceeded to swipe his own credit card and buy the water bottle for me! This might not seem like a big deal—and I did give him my dollar in return—but it was such a helpful gesture that it put some pep in my step. It’s like that one commercial: witnessing or experiencing an act of kindness really does make you want to help someone else. Does anyone else feel like this is verging on self-help-book territory, lol? But I digress…

So, rather than doing lip service to this diatribe, I am going to channel the Columbus, GA way in my New York City life, and offer up a smile or a “hello,” without being creepy about it, of course. I already tried it on a security guard at JFK, but sadly it was lost on him. To the other 8+ million people who live in NYC, you better watch out.

That Time We Slept In A TeePee In Woodstock, NY

All my life I’ve heard the story of my mom’s singular camping trip. My dad (an outdoor enthusiast) took my mom on what should have been an exciting tryst with Mother Nature, but instead turned out to be a rainy, un-air conditioned nightmare without indoor plumbing. Now, my mom is no prima donna (LOVE YOU MOM), but she likes her air conditioning. Needless to say, she never went camping again. Ipso facto, my brother and sister and I never went camping as kids. Flash forward to last weekend, and there I was chopping wood and sleeping in a teepee in Woodstock, NY.

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Pit stop at Cornwall, NY sculpture park on the way to Woodstock.

Lindsey’s friend Joy had found a teepee for rent on Airbnb, so the three of us and Roe drove up to Woodstock for an outdoorsy weekend. When we got to the site, we quickly took stock of what was in store for us: a teepee, an axe, a woodpile, an outhouse, an axe. As we started unloading the car, our nice hippie landlord greeted us with a Father Time beard and a glass of wine. He showed us how to chop the wood and build the fire. So this was really happening. We rolled up our sleeves, chopped some wood and got to work. Roe stoked that fire like she was born to do it. If it wasn’t for her, we might have frozen to death. Well, maybe not exactly, but we would have been really cold.

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Our teepee sat on the bank of a little creek that flowed through a beautiful wood. Woodstock at this time of year is nothing short of picturesque. Amber-colored leaves and crisp mountain air really has a way with four city gals.

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 After driving into town for dinner at Cucina, we returned to the teepee, layered up in our Ugg survival gear and settled in for a night of serious fire building, tarot card reading and wine drinking.

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^^^We built that fire^^^ Thanks for keeping it roaring, Roe!

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Camping essentials: s’mores and wine

We slept pretty comfortably considering, save for the sound of bullet-like acorns falling off branches and onto the teepee. After brushing our teeth the next morning by the creek, we ventured into town to shop and have lunch. Then we checked into our final Airbnb: a Euro-modern house that was welcome shelter after a night without indoor plumbing. The catch? The shower knew only two temperature levels: ice cold or scalding hot. That’s what you get for wanting a warm shower on a camping weekend.

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Pretty nice, right?

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What’s a trip to Woodstock without participating in a drum circle…

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…or sitting in a peace chariot.

I highly recommend a mountain retreat with the best of friends, it’s good for the lungs and for the soul. I also recommend watching this Hyperlapse from our first night in the teepee 😉 http://instagram.com/p/uT3NiLJosH/?modal=true