January 29, 2014

Return To Toronto: Part One

Ever since my family lived there when I was a teenager, Toronto has had a special place in my heart. So it was with great anticipation that I returned last weekend — for the first time in 8 years– to my former hometown.

After checking in to the Sheraton Centre hotel on Thursday, I bundled up and headed out on a nostalgic tour of my old neighborhood.

My home from 1985-1989: 70 Rosehill Avenue

My home from 1985-1989: 70 Rosehill Avenue

As I approached 70 Rosehill Avenue, I  was flooded with happy memories. Recollections of living there with my beloved late parents and grandfather, of slumber parties and first kisses.

Old times also resurfaced during a walk through of Deer Park Public School. Crowding by the lockers (still a hideous shade of blue!) before and after class, adolescent angst about unrequited crushes.

IMG_20140123_154941_726

Where I spent 7th and 8th grades in Toronto

Speaking of crushes, I had the pleasure of catching up with one from high school, Oliver. It had been more than two decades (and at the prom, I think) since Oliver and I had last seen each other. The years quickly fell away, though, as we reminisced and caught up as old friends.

Oliver and me

Oliver and me

Over a delightful dinner at the Sheraton’s BNB Restaurant (roasted tomato soup, chicken quesadillas and – who knew? – Canadian Shiraz), we had the kind of conversation that felt so fitting on the heels of turning 40. Oliver and I talked about the comparatively kinder, gentler times of the 80’s, the enlightening joys of travel and the journey of finding the right relationship.

After we said goodnight, it hit me that the dread of entering this new decade was disproportional to how it feels now that I’m in it. I’m beginning to appreciate why the fortysomethings I know have raved so much about this era. You’re old enough to have accrued some wisdom and strength yet still young enough to make new discoveries. Or, in this case, be reminded of comforting truths—namely that time and distance are no match for good friends.

Comment » | catching up with old flames, catching up with old friends, Toronto, travel, turning 40

January 22, 2014

Celebrating The Big 4-0

There are some milestones in life you can’t help but celebrate with great fanfare and reflection. The big 4-0 is one of them—and it’s been a celebration even sweeter than I could have imagined.

The festivities began over a week ago, during a lively dinner with my fellow turning 40 galpal Bobbi and several of our friends. We enjoyed a delicious three-course meal and dancing at sprawling Meatpacking District hotspot Manon.

Birthday Girls: Bobbi and me

Birthday Girls: Bobbi and me

This past weekend, I continued the fun with family. My brothers and sisters-in-law came in from Dover and Boston respectively, joining my sister, aunt and cousins for a very special meal at Il Cantinori.

Best brothers in the world: (from left) Ray, me and Steve

Best brothers in the world: (from left) Ray, me and Steve

There’s good reason why Il Cantinori has such a storied reputation (and, natch, was the location for Carrie’s 35th birthday non-dinner on Sex And The City). We were well taken care of in a private room downstairs, which was beautifully adorned with flowers and candlelight. The ambience, food and service were all fantastic. But the best part for me was being surrounding by the people I love most.

There was something magical in the air that reminded me of the many happy family occasions we were so blessed to have when my parents were still with us. Though I will miss them forever, on this night my heart felt nothing but joy and gratitude.

After dinner, I joined my cousins at Le Poisson Rouge for 80’s cover band Jessie’s Girl’s first gig in their new home (the awesome Canal Room closed a few weeks ago, *sigh*).

Family Bonding: Me and my cousins (from left) Carla, Dana and Alexandra

Family Bonding: Me and my cousins (from left) Carla, Dana and Alexandra

As always, they rocked it out, this time with an assist from American Idol and “Rock of Ages” alum Constantine Maroulis.

Constantine wowed the crowd

Constantine wowed the crowd

Yesterday, my actual birthday, was quieter but equally wonderful. After a delightful lunch with good friend Vicky at Midtown bistro Gente, I pampered myself with a massage at Bliss 49. The evening was spent with my beloved cousin and soul sister Alexandra, enjoying dinner at Baraonda on the UES (yes, I can never get enough Italian food!) followed by drinks nearby at Bounce.

Happy Birthday to me!

Happy Birthday to me!

During my massage, the therapist and I talked about turning 40. Now 45, she shared some of the wisdom and growth that has come to her in this decade. At the top of the list — feeling completely comfortable in her own skin. It’s a sentiment similar to what I’ve heard from many of the fabulous fortysomething women I’m so fortunate to know.

Nurturing that self-assuredness is one of my goals for this milestone year and decade. I feel like I’m beginning an exciting new chapter in my life. And I’m so thankful to have wonderful family and friends to share it with.

40 and fabulous indeed!

Comment » | 80's cover band, 80's music, family bonding, family reunion, Il Cantinori, Jessie's Girl, Le Poisson Rouge, Sex and The City, turning 40

January 16, 2014

Opening The Vault: Farewell To The Thirties Edition

As I write this, I’m just days away from the big 4-0. The milestone coincides with another — recently beginning my 100th journal.

I can’t help feeling more than a little reflective at the moment. And thinking about how, for all that has happened over the last decade, some things have remained the same. So I happily discovered in rereading the following journal entry. I now Open The Vault and take you back to my 30th birthday…

* * *

January 21, 2004

Dear Diary,

Well, I am officially 30. Strangely, I do feel different somehow. And, for all the fanfare that led up to today, my actual birthday is a bit quieter than I expected it would be. But that’s okay – it gives me the opportunity to reflect on what the decade I’ve just left behind has taught me.

I’ve learned a lot about letting go during my twenties – whether it was saying goodbye to people I thought would always be in my life, or accepting that, much like people, dreams change. I’ve had the chance to indulge my wanderlust time and again..I think that is why I feel the rightness of being home [in NYC] for good with every fiber of who I am.

Oprah Winfrey is fond of asking people, what do you know for sure? Life may be a sea of constant change, but here are some things I know for sure:

*Friends really are the family we choose for ourselves.

*Faith, hope and the support of those close to you will carry you through your greatest trials – but you yourself must have the strength to persevere and heal.

*Nothing is in vain as long as you learn from it.

*Death may separate you physically from the people you love—but memories live forever, keeping their spirit close to you always.

*Romance, whatever form it takes, is one of the greatest joys, period.

*To be healthy and loved is to be profoundly blessed.

And finally, with apologies for ending on a cliché—

*There really is no place like home…especially when home is the greatest city in the world.

* * *

Ten years later, I still believe all of the above to be true. And I continue to feel profoundly blessed to have the life that I do. It may be different from where I expected to be at this point, but it’s still fantastic.

I can’t wait to see what the next decade has in store for me.

Comment » | life lessons, Oprah, turning 40, turning thirty

January 9, 2014

A Fabulous Girls Night Out

Last weekend, I enjoyed a girls night out double header.

The evening began at Saju Bistro, my favorite French restaurant in Midtown, with my friend Anna. While i enjoyed heavenly escargot and healthy chicken paillard, the two of us caught up on life, work and dating.

We talked about taking chances and breaking rules–two things I’ve been trying to do more of. It’s not always easy, especially when what you consider to be going far out of your comfort zone is viewed as no big deal in today’s complicated singles world. I was reminded of that recently when another friend said–

“This is going to be the year Melissa takes big risks.”

Clearly I still have some work to do.

After dinner, I met up with galpal Ayesha to see “Saving Mr. Banks.”

Saving Mr Banks: one of my favorite movies in a long time

Saving Mr Banks: one of my favorite movies in a long time

Richly deserving of the positive buzz about it, the movie is a witty, poignant tale of Mary Poppins’ journey to the screen. Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are spectacular, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater at the film’s moving end.

As the credits rolled, Ayesha and I talked about fun to dos for 2014 – from new Broadway shows we want to see to delicious desserts we want to indulge in again (churros, please). If these final weeks of my thirties are any indication, the big 4-0 is going to be fabulous!

Comment » | Girls Night Out, new year's resolutions, turning 40

January 1, 2014

Lessons from 2013

dec-31-calendar

A colleague of mine recently shared the following quote about the promise of a new year–

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”

As I embrace the renewed sense of hope and purpose that accompanies turning the calendar page, I can’t help thinking about everything I learned in 2013. The final year of my thirties brought many epiphanies both great and small.

I learned why there are so many horror stories about home renovation projects. The upgrade of my tiny galley kitchen took two contractors and six months longer to complete than expected. Like most endeavors in life, though, the trials were worth the triumph of what awaited me at the end—in this case, a more inviting, updated space in which to do the cooking I’ve come to enjoy so much.

This was also a year in which I learned the power of letting go, especially when it comes to old wounds and festering grudges. After a lengthy estrangement with someone who hurt me very deeply, I extended the olive branch of forgiveness. I immediately felt a huge emotional weight lifted, leaving room for healing and reconciliation in its place.

Of course, no reflection on the 12 months just passed would be complete without a look back at the ups and downs of being a single gal in the city. After a relative quiet 2012, 2013 was a year in which I really made the effort to put myself out there again. And that brought a string of bad dates and romantic disappointments – the cumulative effect of which I didn’t realize until someone very special came along.

Over the last couple of months, this person taught me that there’s a big difference between being cautious and expecting the worst. And even when I continually engaged in the latter, he responded unconditionally, calling me out on my behavior while never holding it against me.

This week, he leaves the country to return to his hometown. I am a better person for having known him. He reminded me that the imprint someone leaves on your life has nothing to do with the duration they’re in it. And that when it comes to matters of the heart, taking a leap of faith is always a good thing.

Here’s to leaping forward on all fronts in 2014. Happy New Year!

Comment » | dating optimism, new year's goals

December 25, 2013

Singles Event Pick: New Year’s Eve Party

Champagne Though there’s no shortage of ways to celebrate New Year’s in NYC, finding the right one isn’t always easy–especially if you don’t want to break the budget. Croton Lounge has a festive option for singles that’s not too pricey.

The Midtown venue is hosting a party for singles ages 20-early 40s. The event includes open bar from 7-8pm, DJ and dancing all night, ice breakers, prizes and a complimentary Champagne toast at midnight. Tickets are just $65 until Friday December 27th (regular price $100). Click here to get tickets and use promo code NYE2014 to get $20 off the current price.

As for me, I’ll be spending this final December 31st of my thirties away from the hustle and bustle–with friends in New Jersey.

With the big 4-0 less than a month away, I want to ring in 2014 quietly taking stock of everything and everyone that has brought me to this milestone in my life. It’s definitely a time for counting my blessings, and I feel very thankful to say there’s a long list of them.

Merry Christmas!

Comment » | New Year's Eve, singles events, singles parties

December 17, 2013

Celebrating The Season

Saturday night, I hosted my sixth annual holiday party — in the midst of this winter’s first big snowfall.

All smiles with my dear friends Crystal (left) and Sara

All smiles with my dear friends Crystal (left) and Sara

Given the weather, I wondered whether it might end up being a party of one for the night. Much to my great joy, a dozen friends new and old braved the elements to join me for a delightful,  laid back evening of festive food, drink and lively conversation.

It was a night of reunions. Parisian-based single gal Lana, whom I connected with three years ago during my European Dating Blitz, happened to be in town.

Lana and me

Lana and me

Fellow dating blogger Rachel came with three friends. And gym buddies Ayesha and Sheryl, with whom I used to take classes, were part of the mix too.

Amidst the laughter and talk about only in New York moments, we eventually got onto the topic of being single here. Rachel’s friends Sam and Dan admitted the dating fatigue that often sets in and I was reminded of something it’s easy to forget—women aren’t the only ones navigating the ups and downs in this unpredictable, often exasperating landscape of the unattached.

Another comforting reminder—you never know when you’re going to connect with kindred spirits. And isn’t that part of what the holiday season is all about?

Comment » | being single in New York, holiday parties, holiday season, The European Dating Blitz

December 9, 2013

Girls Night Out: Upper East Side

Saturday, I enjoyed a girls night out with my good friend Bobbi.

We headed over to Bottega, an Italian bistro on the UES that I’ve been meaning to try since it replaced a Greek seafood eatery in the same location.

Bottega Restaurant: A welcome addition to the UES

Bottega Restaurant: A welcome addition to the UES

My neighborhood has been lacking an Italian restaurant with authentic charm since Da Filippo closed a few years ago. Though on the pricey side, Bottega fills the void quite nicely with Mediterranean ambience, welcoming, attentive service and delicious food. I enjoyed a heavenly beet salad and red snapper, both of which were excellent.

Over dinner, we talked about work, plans to celebrate our upcoming 40th birthdays and, of course, our latest dating travails.

One of the things I’m discovering in this final stretch of my thirties is how much harder it becomes to not close yourself off because of past hurts and disappointments. When the opportunity for romance arises, it feels fraught with more emotional risk somehow. But, as more than a few wise women have recently reminded me, failing to take a chance is an even more perilous scenario.

Fellow dating blogger Kelly Seal told me:

“Life is short. Enjoy good relationships, even if they are brief. Pain can come with any relationship, because we make ourselves vulnerable. This is a good thing, not a bad thing. Each person has their own personal romantic trajectory, different from anyone else’s. Who’s to say what will happen next?”

Well said — and words I’m taking to heart.

Comment » | dating bloggers, dating in your thirties, Girls Night Out, turning 40

December 2, 2013

Catching Up With Caroline

One of the many wonderful things about old friends is always being able to pick up where you left off. That’s exactly what happened when I recently caught up with my beloved galpal Caroline.

Caroline was back in NYC for the first time since moving to Australia nearly two years ago. We had plenty to catch up on, and we did so over the course of two delightful evenings.

Reunited! Caroline and me

Reunited! Caroline and me

Longtime readers of this blog won’t be surprised to know that I’ve been living vicariously through Caroline and her adventures as a Sydney resident. My love affair with the land of Oz began during a vacation there in January 2002. Shortly thereafter, I became a Sydneysider myself for five glorious months and to this day, it remains one of the most cherished times in my life.

Not surprisingly, Caroline has fallen under the spell of Australia’s many charms – welcoming, hospitable people, amazing scenery and a much healthier work-life balance among them. As she shared stories of traveling around the country and all of the new friends she’s made, I couldn’t help recalling my own journey Down Under.

Like Caroline, I was in my twenties when I lived in Australia. It was a time when I felt hopeful and unburdened by the concerns and tempering effect of age. Caroline, who has always been one of the most positive and effervescent people I’ve ever known, is truly living in the present. Seeing her again reminded me of just how important it is to do that, to not let life’s trials and tribulations wear away at your ability to appreciate exactly where you are – even when it’s not necessarily where you thought you would end up.

I miss my good friend already. And I may just have to pay her a visit in the only city to rival NYC and London for my affections.

Bon voyage again, Caroline!

Comment » | Australia, catching up with old friends, living abroad

November 24, 2013

Girls Night Out With Allure And ESQ Movado

Thursday night, my good friend Sara and I headed over Lord & Taylor’s flagship store in Midtown for a Girls Night Out with Allure Magazine and ESQ Movado.

The evening featured Champagne, sweet treats and the opportunity to try on a sassy, colorful ESQ One watch. We also got to enjoy mini manicures. Sara chose a festive gold color while I went for my usual pale pink (note to self: be more adventurous with nail color in 2014).

All smiles: Sara enjoying a mini manicure

All smiles: Sara enjoying a mini manicure

One of the evening’s highlights – a Q&A session with dating expert and author Andrea Syrtash. Andrea has long been a favorite of mine when it comes to dispensing practical advice that is based on common sense rather than outdated rules.

“The best thing you can do for your love life is to love your life,” she told the crowd of about 200 women.

Dating expert Andrea Syrtash

Dating expert Andrea Syrtash

Andrea also encouraged taking risks this holiday season, whether it’s approaching someone at a party or exploring a new hobby that answers the question, where do I shine?

As for the right time to broach the subject of where a relationship is going, Andrea maintains there’s no one size fits all answer.

“Some couples know after 3 weeks, some couples take seven years,” she said.

Everything Andrea said truly resonated with me. 2013 has been a very bumpy year when it comes to dating – one that has raised more questions than it has answered. It’s forced me to reexamine long held rules which may be holding me back, and to see how hard it is to check your emotional baggage at the door when you’re getting to know someone new.

With 2014 right around the corner, I’ve already decided on my first New Year’s resolution – to not make any that have to do with my love life. That’s a first for me, so maybe the approaching end of my thirties has made me a little wiser after all.

Hope springs eternal.

Comment » | dating advice, dating in your thirties, Girls Night Out, new year's resolutions

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