I Have Found That If You Love Life, Life Will Love You Back

As most of you know, I’m not exactly the most avid sports fan but when I had the chance to root on my home team, I jumped at it. A few weeks ago I went to a Yankees game when the Tampa Bay Rays were in town. Although it ended up raining about 75% of the game, we had a great time cheering on the team and enjoying some of the finest food Yankee Stadium had to offer.

There was a food stand called “fried dough.” It consisted of every type of food thrown into a deep fryer and coming out with an additional 1000 calories added. We saw one guy ordering a cheeseburger that was served in between two glazed doughnuts! I decided to stick with my (somewhat) lower calorie meal of a hot dog and garlic fries…

Once a book has hit #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List or when friends can’t stop talking about a certain story is when I decide to pick up the book. I read the Twilight series, the three Hunger Games books, and recently decided to test out Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve heard many “interesting” things about it so I thought I would see what all the hype was about. Since this is easily an “R” rated story, this is no place for a book review but I thoroughly enjoyed all three books and might have fallen in love with the main character Christian Grey…

Last week, I attended my first book club meeting. Some friends were gathering to discuss the book so I decided it would make for a fun Friday night. We sat around giggling about the storyline, sharing our opinion on the book, and drinking wine. Not to mention, the view from the apartment where we were was absolutely breathtaking.

I always love when I have a celebrity sighting in the city. I was at a bar with friends the other night and recognized the guy walking in. It was one of those instances where the person’s face was familiar but I just couldn’t place him. Courtney recognized him as a doctor on Criminal Minds and after some Googling, we realized it was Matthew Grey Gubler from 500 Days of Summer. I dragged Courtney over to say hi as my friends back at the table watched us and laughed. Although it was a brief conversation, I never give up the chance to speak to a celebrity.

Last weekend hosted the most beautiful weather we’ve had all year. I would finally consider winter to be completely gone and summer making its way in. A few girlfriends and I went out to Central Park for an afternoon of laying on blankets under the sun, listening to Frank Sinatra, and snacking on berries and wine. It was one of the most relaxing afternoons I’ve had in a while.

Over the last few years, I’ve really learned to appreciate the styling and quality of food. I’ve always been a big Food Network fan and love getting the chance to eat at the various chef’s restaurants around the city.

On Sunday, I went with Courtney and Flo to Chris Santos’ restaurant Stanton Social on the Lower East Side for brunch. All of the dishes are served as tapas and you order a few plates to share at the table. We agreed that our favorite dish was the huevos rancheros mini tacos. The mixture of bacon, eggs, avocado, and various spices was absolutely delicious. We also enjoyed the “upscale” chicken taquitos, potato latkes, brie and apple quesadilla, and French onion soup dumplings.


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.

Cheers To One Year

This has been one of the craziest weeks since I’ve moved to NYC. On Tuesday afternoon, I was sitting in my room when I felt my bed begin to shake. All of a sudden, pictures on my walls started to move and it felt like the entire apartment began to tremble. I was on the phone with my friend Laura (who lives about 50 blocks away) and she claimed that her entire apartment was shaking too. It only took us a few seconds to realize what was going on..EARTHQUAKE! I didn’t even think earthquakes could happen on the east coast!

After the excitement of the earthquake, we were warned that Hurricane Irene was making her way to the North. We are now under a “State of Emergency” and a large part of the city has to evacuate this weekend. Heading out tomorrow to stock up on food and water. I leave Florida yet all of the crazy weather follows me…

A few weeks ago my friend Melinda came from DC to visit Courtney and I in the city. We met Melinda when we went to visit our friend Steven in DC a few months ago. We ended up becoming quick friends and invited her to come stay with us for a weekend!

Her first afternoon here, we made our way over to The Met to see the Alexander McQueen “Savage Beauty” exhibit. We waited in line for close to 2 hours but it was totally worth it. It was unlike any exhibit I had ever seen. Every item of clothing was a piece of artwork. The dim lighting and eerie music really set the fantastic atmosphere for the exhibit. By the time the exhibit closed in August, close to 600,000 people had seen McQueen’s beautiful creations.

“There is no way back for me now. I am going to take you on journeys you’ve never dreamed were possible.” -Alexander McQueen

Despite the weekend being the hottest temperatures the city has seen in 20 years, we made the most out of Melinda’s visit. Since it was Restaurant Week, we took full advantage of eating at a fabulous five star restaurant. Ever since I fell in love with Gossip Girl a few years ago, I’ve wanted to eat at Butter, just like Blair Waldorf. I also found out the executive chef at the restaurant is Alex Guarnaschelli, one of the judges from the Food Network show “Chopped.” We had a fantastic three course meal complete with a bottle of white wine. Our dinner lasted well past midnight and it was one of those meals I will never forget.

We spent the next day walking around the Lower East Side, exploring little boutiques, indulging in gelato, and having lunch at a fantastic Greek restaurant that made you feel like you were truly dining on a Greek island. To conclude our fabulous weekend, we had Sunday brunch on the rooftop of 230 Fifth. It’s a popular celebrity hotspot but I think we fit in just perfectly.

I’ve become involved with the NYC Pi Phi Alumni Club up here. I found that it’s a great way to meet girls from all over the country and go on some fun outings! Since I hadn’t been to the beach all summer, except when I was home in Florida, I decided to go on the day trip to Fire Island. It took us 2 hours to get there..train, bus ride, and ferry to the island. Nothing like Florida where we would drive 15 minutes and be on the sand! The island was beautiful though. Reminded me of something out of a Nicholas Spark’s novel. I was walking around the island and a deer just appeared in front of me on the path. Quaint little beach houses were scattered all over the island, it looked like a postcard.

Steven popped into the city two weeks ago! I only got to see him briefly so we spent our time together exploring the High Line, drinking apple pie milkshakes from the milk bar at Chelsea Market, and at my favorite bar in the East Village, Angels & Kings. It’s always so fun to have my old friends from home come to visit.

That week, Alyssa also came to visit me for an evening. It was her friend’s birthday and they took a limo into the city so of course they invited me to tag along for a fun night out!

I made a quick trip to the West Village one afternoon with some friends to see Carrie Bradshaw’s stoop from Sex & the City! The apartment is now a private residence but it’s one of the hottest tourist attractions in the city..well for females at least!

Last Thursday night was a dream come true for me. After being a fan of Lady Gaga for almost 4 years now, I finally had the chance to meet her…all thanks to MTV! I was selected to be featured on another Lady Gaga MTV special. After waiting in line for an hour with 100 other people dressed as Gaga, they finally let us into the old TRL studio.

Within a few minutes, Gaga herself appeared behind shimmering gold curtains. She looked absolutely stunning, obnoxiously large hat and all. This MTV special was to premiere Gaga’s new music video for her song “Yoü And I.” While the video premiered on MTV, we watched Gaga sing and dance to the song, only a few feet away. She was then interviewed by MTV’s Sway for the next half hour before she departed for the night. Everything about being in her presence seemed surreal and it was a truly magical night.

On August 15, I celebrated my one year anniversary with New York City. It has been one of the most incredible years of my life. I’ve made new friends, adjusted to city life, spent time traveling around the north, and made some memories that will last a lifetime.

Cheers to one year and many more to come!