Out With the Old, In With the New

In the blink of an eye, another year has passed us by. Welcoming a new year is always a perfect time to reflect on the past year. 2011 was an unbelievable year for me and I feel so grateful for all of my blessings and for the unconditional love and support of my family and friends.

Right before I went home for Christmas vacation, one of my best friends Alyse came up to NYC for the weekend. Our first stop was one of my favorite BBQ restaurants, Brother Jimmy’s. We continued our night bar hopping on the Upper West Side and finished off a great weekend at brunch in Chelsea. It’s always fun to play tour guide when friends come to visit.

The next night was our friend Flo’s birthday party. It’s always cool to get a big group together and go out in the city. We started our night at Barramundi, this cozy little dive bar in the heart of the Lower East Side. After hanging out there for a few drinks, we headed over to a new bar in the area called Interstate Food & Liquor. We had the entire loft reserved for our group. It was a wonderful night full of great friends, dancing, and celebrating!

The weekend before I headed back to Florida was a busy one! My friends Alyssa came into the city for the afternoon. Even though I only got to see her for a short time, it’s always nice to spend time with her!

My friend Dana who I met at the NYC Pi Phi Alumni Club (she also went to FSU) hosted a Christmas party at her Upper West Side apartment that evening. She always throws lovely parties, spending the entire day baking and making her apartment smell like a quaint little bakery. I was surprised to see my first real Christmas tree inside a New York apartment. It was much more impressive than the little two foot tree I bought inside Penn Station.

After her party, I met my friend Arielle at Webster Hall to see one of our favorite bands, The Rocket Summer. I’ve loved this band since high school and it sure was a flashback to hear them sing all of the songs I used to love in 2006.

I was really looking forward to being able to spend two weeks in Florida over the holidays. I left dreary, cold New York for warm, sunny Florida. It was so wonderful to see the ocean, palm trees, and sunshine- all things I took for granted while living in the Sunshine State.

I spent my first few days back home prepping for Christmas. My days consisted of Christmas shopping with my brother, holiday parties, wrapping gifts while my cats stuck their noses into everything, consuming massive amounts of my Mom’s famous Christmas cookies, and one of my most cherished traditions- driving around looking at Christmas lights with my family.

Our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day traditions are pretty standard for us. We spend our Christmas Eve at an Italian dinner followed by the Candlelight Service at church. It’s always a memorable evening with family and remembering the real reason for the season.

Christmas morning is a bit different from when my brother and I were kids. Tyler and I don’t seem to wake up before 10am even though we know the stockings and gifts await us. Once we finally woke up, we spent the morning opening gifts and enjoying our favorite homemade coffee cake and peanut butter fudge given to us by our family friend. It’s a tradition for my brother and I to receive scratch off lottery tickets in our stockings. He usually wins more money than I do but this year I hit the jackpot and won $120! Santa must have put me on the good list this year.

After spending the afternoon indulging in our Christmas feast, I looked back at my gifts and felt so thankful for everything I had received. My favorite gift was a Nikon D40 SLR camera that I’ve been wanting for a while. You can expect a whole bunch of beautiful pictures in the new year.

And really, what’s better than shorts and sunshine on a Florida Christmas day…

The day after Christmas is meant for gift returns, taking down the decorations, and thinking about the diet you need to go on after eating all of that food the day before. Instead of doing any of those things, I spent the afternoon outside in the beautiful weather. Tyler and I went down to the Dunedin Causeway at sunset and captured some stunning shots of the beach while the sun dipped below the horizon. Being out on the beach is so peaceful and reminds me what I love about being home.

My Annual Christmas Party is one of my favorite things about the holiday season! It’s always so wonderful to catch up with all of my high school friends and of course, participating in the gift exchange, which seems to more intense every year! It makes me so happy to know I’ve been able to stay in touch with many of my friends from home after we’ve all scattered around the country.

As my trip came to a close, I spent my last few afternoons with my Mom out on the water. One day was spent out at the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs lunching on Greek salad and perusing the shops. On my last day, we went out to Clearwater Beach to soak up the sun. The day started off in the high 70’s and was clear and sunny. After a few hours, it turned windy and cold and needless to say, we were forced to put on jackets and retreat from the beach.

I feel so lucky to have grown up in such a scenic town! There’s nothing like Palm Harbor, Florida!

I look forward to this new year; not a new beginning but a continuation of the beautiful life I’m so lucky to already have.

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