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.

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

Hidden New York: Warren Place Mews

It’s no secret that I find immense joy in geeking out on NYC. Going on an expedition to explore one of the many nooks and crannies in this great city? Sign me up! To my great pleasure, last weekend my friend Monique and I did just that. She’s a Brooklyn-native, so if there’s a corner of the borough to check out, she knows where it is.

After catching up over plates of cheesy grits and biscuits at Cobble Hill eatery/market, Ted and Honey, we walked around a part of Brooklyn I had never stepped foot in: Warren Place Mews.

Until we reached our destination, this section of Cobble Hill looked like any other: tree-lined streets, Brownstones and brick row houses. (Swoon, swoon and swoon.) Then we reached Warren Place. A vision in mid-19th century architecture and charm, this gated block of town homes made me fall in love with New York all over again. Just when I think I can’t stand to look at one more glassy high-rise, I remember that there is plenty of charming beauty to be seen.

A quick Google search told me that these Cobble Hill town homes were built to house working class families in the late 1800’s. The level of detail, from the wrought iron gates and spiral staircases to the old school doorbells (actual bells with rope), had me reeling. I’m no authority on architecture, but why aren’t buildings designed like this anymore? I guess it’s too expensive/modern design just went in a different direction, but I think we’re missing out on something here. Anyone want to open a revival architecture firm with me?

Here are a few pictures from our jaunt through the mews. (Please excuse the “meh” photography. iPhone 4 problems.)

IMG_4156 How charming!IMG_4158 How quaint! IMG_4160 There’s one of those darling little bells.IMG_4162 If only I could get inside…

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I’m sold on the Warren Street Mews. Although, who am I kidding? A Curbed NY listing had one of these babies going for $1.4 mill in 2013. Back in 1976, just one of the town homes sold for the micro price of $63,000. That’s NY for ya.

Showering Amanda With Wedding Wishes

I’ll never forget the day I met my friend, Amanda. It was in 9th grade, and we were at the Calhoun High School homecoming game. I wasn’t transferring to the school until the following year, but went to see my friend Danielle perform in the kick line. Amanda came right up to me in the bleachers and introduced herself with a friendly smile. We’ve been best friends ever since.

Her and her fiance, Adam, are getting married next month, and I am overjoyed to be in her bridal party. We’ve been in two other wedding parties together, so that makes it all the more special. It also makes me happy to know that at least one of us has moved on from the days of watching The Notebook and lamenting our singlehood. I kid, I kid.

We celebrated her impending nuptials last weekend at an English tea-themed bridal shower. From the teapot-shaped cookie favors to the beautiful vintage tea tins Keri scored for the floral arrangements, everything was perfect. The crazy good Italian food served at Piccolo’s didn’t hurt either. If you’re ever on Long Island, definitely check this place out. Here are some pictures from the day. Next up, Montauk for the bachelorette party!

couple  The happy couple.

photo-3Wishing Well filled with makeup and travel goodies.

photo-4Vintage tea tins and teapot-shaped cookies!

photo-5My sister, the artist, being put to work!

photo-6The Bridal Party. What a pretty bunch, if I do say so myself.

Toilet Paper BrideWhoever invited the Toilet Paper Bride game is a genius and a whack job.

Granny’s Lentil-ish Soup

home to table

The Dish:

Granny Pat inspired Lentil Soup – Our take on a Granny Pat classic adding some spinach and a little bacon for flavoring and color. We’d have stuck to the original recipe had we been able to find it – but there’s nothing wrong with a little kitchen improv when the time calls… at least thats how us amatuers see it!!

From Me to Chef Joe:

I will reach back out to you as soon as I have things ironed out. As for the Lentil soup, my grandmother didn’t put any meat in it – we ended up tweaking her recipe a bit, adding chicken stock to the water and tossing in some garlic, spinach and a little bit of crushed bacon for added flavor. Lentil soup is underrated…

From Chef Joe to Me:

That all sounds great but you should learn to make it the way Grandma Pat…

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Reflections… Dedicated to Vera E. Ceci

Happy New Year!

As it’s been almost TWO months since my last post, I’m starting this new year on the right foot with a fresh blog post. I swear I am literally the laziest person whoever dared to dabble in blogging. But, as the wise Lindsey stated last night before we rang in 2014, “no negativity!” – and she’s right. It’s easy to ramble off all the things you don’t like/aren’t happy about when it comes to X, Y or Z, but we should just as easily ramble off the things we do like/are happy about. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but a little positive reinforcement never hurt anyone, right?

You can’t help but be reflective this time of year when everything from movies and music to even Instagram feeds are turned into “Best Of” lists. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s good to regroup on what you’ve been through and prep yourself for the year to come. 2013 was definitely a trying one for my family, filled with loss and sadness, but it was also a beautiful year filled with new beginnings (weddings! friends with babies!) and hope. I am proud of myself for getting a new job I really love, moving into an apartment in Brooklyn and finally traveling to California and Chicago. 2013 was a busy, exciting year but also one that is forever marred.

My grandma lost a torturous 12-year battle with Lymphoma after suffering a stroke in May… as if the cancer wasn’t enough. Those few weeks and the months leading up to it were excruciating. I really don’t know what my family would have done without each other. The week between her stroke and her passing, we were all on hospital, and then hospice, duty every single day; reminiscing, looking through hundreds of photos, crying or just sitting and waiting. She couldn’t see us or talk to us, but we all knew she could hear us, so we talked a lot. My grandma was such a central part of our entire family that there were – are – an infinite amount of good times to look back on. From the famous 30-person Christmas Eve dinners she used to throw when she lived in “The Queens Village House” (as my family calls it), to her days as the most glamorous dancer you’d ever seen. The list goes on. It’s easier to picture my grandma as the beautiful woman who always loved being in a room full of people, wearing red lipstick even if she was staying in the whole day, than the sick person she unwillingly became. When I sit and think about it, that’s what makes me the most angry. Why does old age have to be so cruel? Why does a person have to lose all of their dignity? Why can’t it be graceful and peaceful? The universe works in mysterious ways though, because she passed away on my Pop Pop’s birthday. He died 16 years ago, so we all agreed that he got the greatest present that day. It’s truly an image I will always hold on to; the two of them being reunited.

While losing my grandma was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face, especially witnessing the toll it took on my mom and uncle, I am lucky to have had such a wonderful grandmother. As she was the only living grandma I had, we were extremely close. When I was little I would spend weekends with her and my Pop Pop at their house in Whitestone and, just for the weekend, I was an only child who got to do everything with her. We would eat out AND get ice cream, go to the hairdresser and spend all day shopping. She also let me drink coffee; a mug filled with mostly milk and sugar with a drop of coffee. My hypothesis is that this is the reason I like coffee really light and sweet. I spent time like that with my grandma well into my teens, and even as I got older and went to college and then got a full-time job, I still loved sleeping at her house or talking to her on the phone.

I’ve always been a glutton for nostalgia, so I wish I could flip a switch and go back to the time I asked her, “Grandma, why do all old ladies have short hair and wear glasses?” or the time I told her neighbor that she had food stuck in her dentures, but it doesn’t work that way. Instead, I have a plethora of memories to think about and for that I am grateful.

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She could have easily passed for a Hollywood movie star

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In her dancin’ days

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Me as a flower girl in her wedding

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Here with my cousin Leigh and sister Kerry

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My Pop Pop and Grandma ❤