Category: turning 40

February 5th, 2014 — 9:19pm

My wonderful weekend in Toronto continued with a girls day out with dear friend .

Jackie and me

As always, we picked up right where we left off, confiding in each other about career transitions, dating dramas and the heavy contemplation that accompanies turning 40.

Along the way, we enjoyed a fun-filled afternoon at Yorkdale Shopping Centre on the outskirts of T.O. First, a yummy lunch at Glow Press, which serves a mouth-watering variety of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Then, we hit various stores before heading out to pick up Jackie’s little boy Ryan.

Back at their place, Jackie whipped up spaghetti and meatballs, and surprised me with chocolate birthday cake.

The decadence continued back at my hotel, where a carrot cake amenity from my Westin Grand Central colleagues was waiting for me. I must say I love extending the big 4-0 festivities (waistline considerations notwithstanding).

Saturday, snowy conditions didn’t get in the way of my next reunion — with high school buddy Emma.

Emma and me

Over a delightful brunch at Fran’s, one of T.O.’s venerable old-school diners, we reminisced about old times and reflected on motherhood (Emma has a young son), getting older and the ties that bind. Emma spoke fondly of my late, beloved parents, sharing with me that she told her partner—

“They had an intimacy not just as a couple, but as friends.”

It meant so much to hear Emma say this, to be reminded of the impact that had on everyone fortunate enough to know them. My friends in Toronto got to know them very well indeed during epic slumber parties, prom night and the like.

These and so many other happy memories of our years living up north crossed my mind over the course of the weekend. As I walked along familiar streets, many now replaced with new stores and attractions, I couldn’t help thinking of what time hasn’t changed—my gratitude for old friends and my late, beloved parents’ enduring legacy of love.

This week, they would have celebrated 41 years together. I have no doubt that somewhere, they’re enjoying one hell of a party. Cheers to you, Mom and Dad, still my all-time favorite couple.


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January 29th, 2014 — 10:08pm

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 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

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.

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

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.

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January 22nd, 2014 — 4:01pm

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

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 .

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 for 80’s cover band ’s first gig in their new home (the awesome closed a few weeks ago, *sigh*).

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

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!

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!

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January 16th, 2014 — 9:47pm

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.

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January 9th, 2014 — 9:17pm

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

The evening began at , 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

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!

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December 9th, 2013 — 9:15pm

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

We headed over to , 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

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 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.

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November 10th, 2013 — 8:46pm

For as much as I adore NYC, there’s one other city that also has a big piece of my heart — .

Longtime readers of this blog know I first became smitten with England’s capital during my junior year there. Earlier this week, I got to indulge my inner Anglophile — and catch up with my dearest London-based BFF .

Back In The Day: Steve and me in London’s Leicester Square (July 1998)

Steve and I met up for dinner at , a quaint little Turkish bistro in Midtown East. We were celebrating a very special milestone — twenty years of friendship.

Steve is one of those friends whose wisdom and understanding have carried me through some of the hardest times of my life — and whose company I always look forward to. Our 20th anniversary get together found us, as always, falling into effortless, engaging conversation. We talked about family, relationships and the soul searching questions that come up as you approach 40.

We capped off the night with milkshakes at Johnny Rockets, promising to do the same when we mark 40 years (sigh) of friendship.

Speaking of special occasions, I joined galpal (and former London resident) Stacy to commemorate the UK’s Guy Fawkes Night.

Cheeky Fox: Stacy and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening’s signature cocktail

We attended the St. George Society’s night out at posh shop Thomas Pink. As a DJ spun British pop tunes, we enjoyed cocktails, hours d’oeuvres and mingling. We ended up chatting with two expats who recently moved to New York. They agreed that London and NYC are sister cities, equally irresistible in their varied charms.

I feel very fortunate that both of these vibrant places are a part of me. And I’m counting the days until I’m London bound again!

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July 10th, 2013 — 8:33pm

Saturday, my wonderful long weekend in L.A. continued with an afternoon at Malibu Wines.

Nestled in the foothills of Malibu on Mulholland Parkway, this winery is one of the most delightful I’ve ever visited. Umbrella-covered tables compliment two wine tasting taverns, set against a backdrops of mountains and vineyards.

The picturesque setting of Malibu Wines

The occasion for my visit — joining dear friend A, his wife Leslie and their friends for a performance by talented daughter Ren and her partner Mimo.

I had the pleasure of hearing Ren sing during my last L.A. visit in November as well and she was just as dazzling this time around. With a depth and conviction far beyond her 19 years, she has the kind of voice and stage presence that reminds you of Adele or Joss Stone.


Ren and Mimo delighted the crowd at Malibu Wines

In addition to performing her own original music — “That’s The Truth” is one I can’t wait to download — Ren nimbly delivered soulful renditions of classics by Bob Dylan, Melissa Etheridge and Adele too — infusing each song with emotion and taking you on a journey with every note. Mimo’s skilled guitar melodies harmonize perfectly with her. A star is born.

Head on over to her for music downloads and info about Ren and Mimo’s upcoming shows.

After the performance, the weekend’s theme of reconnecting continued. First, over a delicious dinner a Wilshire Restaurant in Santa Monica with longtime family friends Jane and Doron. Then, yesterday, brunch with high school buddy Allison at the W Westwood‘s poolside venue, The Backyard.

Allison and me

Allison and I talked a lot about getting older and the heavy contemplation it brings. She said she’s decided to make the next decade her “fearless forties.”  I love the sound of that, of embracing the upcoming big 4-0 with fortitude and adventure.

Catching up with Allison was the perfect ending to a fantastic weekend. My visit to L.A. did everything a vacation is supposed to do, not the least of which is feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle life back home.

Here’s to a fearless second half of 2013!

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April 14th, 2013 — 9:17pm

Earlier this week, I was editing my profile when I noticed a glaring mistake — my age was listed as 40 instead of 39.

I could feel panic seize me as I rushed to correct the year of birth I had accidentally clicked while creating my profile. Because though it’s only a one year difference, it might as well be one hundred years if we’re to believe what society tells us about being a woman of a certain age.

With my 40th birthday only eight months away, I can’t help noticing more and more the popular sentiment that a woman’s eligibility somehow expires once she leaves her thirties behind. Despite the increase in age-defying female celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Halle Berry, there’s still a lot of media coverage and self-help books reinforcing the notion that there’s a time limit for finding love. Interestingly, according to all of these same so-called experts, that eligibility dropoff doesn’t seem to apply to men.

The end result is a milestone birthday becomes a cause for fear rather than celebration – something Oprah Winfrey decries in the latest issue of O Magazine.

“The pathway to your best life isn’t the route of denial. It’s owning every moment…And, with gratitude, embracing the age you are.”

I found myself thinking about age from a different perspective as I spent this afternoon at a coffee hour for seniors with some spirited older women. One of them, a silver-haired sweetheart named Helen, asked me what I was studying in college. Of course, I gratefully welcomed the compliment. But more than that, I appreciated how 39 looks to a woman who is in the twilight period of her life.

Smiling warmly, Helen scoffed when I responded to her compliment by complaining about the physical changes that accompany getting older.

“You’re so young,” she told me.

It’s easy to feel otherwise as you approach the end of a decade without hitting certain benchmarks. But their absence doesn’t take away all the good that has come with my thirties. Nor does leaving this decade behind mean having to let go of the hope and promise of new beginnings that come with every birthday.

Forty, bring it on.

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