Rising Above External Influences After a Breakup

Last month, a writer by the name of Paul Hudson of Elite Daily, wrote a short article, entitled “The Pain of Loving Someone You Should Let Go Of, For The Both of You“.  He talks about experiencing true love, the pain of heartbreak and how the hardest part is learning from it, being honest with yourself and being able to move on.  He makes some insightful points about what is a very intensive introspective process that can be very hard to master, especially alone.  What he doesn’t touch on are external influences that can not only damage the healing process, but also isolate individuals, causing deep depression, as well as a variety of other issues.  In other words, we have a responsibility to balance the projection of our own experiences with the compassion of being completely open to understanding that not everyone will think/feel the way you do.

Last weekend, I was in somewhat of a heated discussion with someone I considered not just a close friend but a (future) potential mate.  Given how small this world is for our social group, many rumors are communicated and many side discussions are had in various levels of severity and unfortunately, some of them do a lot of damage.  Apparently, not even the most open of individuals are safe from the many judgmental minds of my hometown.

My back story: Last year, I was married.  This year, I am not.  My ex and I decided it was best to go our separate ways and we did so peacefully.  Although he still resides with me until May, there is no animosity, weirdness or other negative feelings that usually accompany such a split.  I went to therapy to sort through how I was feeling and also spent a lot of time reflecting.  The bottom line is, life is too short to sweat it.  It didn’t work, my life isn’t over, I take care of myself and I walked away with a boatload of lessons about myself, my future and what I want in a future partner.  It left me feeling confident in myself in a whole new way. My ex and I are the best of friends and sometimes, that was what was meant to be all along.

Anyway, my friend is upset with me because 1. A girlfriend of mine (being the good friend that she is) indicated to him that he needed to take a more “active” role in this mutual interest and 2. Rumors started flying when I got home that I had been engaged five times and that something else was up because I am still living with my ex (amongst a few other amusing rumors that came out).  This is in addition to the numerous judgments passed on my current situation that he was listening to from people who didn’t know me at all. I can’t lie, for as strong as I am, it hurt.  It hurt to think that someone I was interested in (and who I considered a good friend) was more interested in passing judgment, based on the draw of his own experiences and opinions of others, than giving me a chance to show that oftentimes, what you hear, isn’t true.  It made me (briefly) question if I even knew how to date and if I should just give up because I started to feel hopeless.  By the next evening, it occurred to me that there was something going on in his own life he wasn’t sharing (wasn’t over his own break up maybe, likes the idea of commitment but his heart really isn’t in it, etc.) because anyone who works with a clear conscience handles things differently – especially if they like you back.

Another example that has happened to countless women in my home city (and no, this is not a personal experience because I’m a D.C. native):  A young woman moves to the city, not knowing many people.  She gets hooked into the social scene with no knowledge of the men that encompass it.  She’s new, she’s young, she’s beautiful and naive.  These men see her and start approaching her.  She goes out on dates, falls for one of them, sleeps with one of them and all of a sudden, she is then labeled as “used” and “has no respect for herself”.  For two reasons: 1. The other men didn’t get a chance and they are mad (so they vocalize their frustration) 2. The thrill of the chase is over but no one else is allowed to have her (so they vocalize their triumph).  The rumors start flying – “she has slept with everyone”, “she’s just like every other woman”, “she must be in it for money”, etc.  She feels utterly destroyed and lost.  People are nice to her but she can feel the silent judgment coming from every direction.  She gets depressed and ends up on meds because she is no longer dating material to anyone and her world feels screwed up – she will always be judged for her past, unless she moves to a new town.

In both cases, the bottom line is that everyone has their own life story and almost everyone has been through their own personal hell.  Our unique experiences shape us into who we are – especially when we allow ourselves to really reflect on the meaning of our feelings and why they cause us to do and say what we do.  Breakups cause pain and sometimes, we shove that pain way down into the depths of our being to get by, to appear stronger and eventually FEEL stronger.  So when someone comes along who is quick to pass judgment on another simply by reciting a rumor or drawing from a half thought-out personal experience, it can cause the other to have to practically (involuntarily) regurgitate a negative feeling on the subject they swore they would never feel again. In both stories mentioned above, the person passing the judgment/spreading the rumor is deflecting on something they are dealing with in their own lives that have nothing to do with you.  It’s almost as if subconsciously (and sometimes it’s conscience too) it’s a small little triumph to see pain across someone else’s face because in that small moment, they feel better that someone else is down too.

Sure, in my story, I felt immediate pain, hurt, sadness, insecurity and definitely had a thought that I’m just not good at relationships, and needed to swear myself to a life of solitude.  But then I realized that it isn’t me and my own experiences that are the issue.  Perhaps timing isn’t right, perhaps I’m getting great insight into my friend’s true stripes, or perhaps we are just not a match.  In any case, I told myself that life is too short to really dwell on it for much longer – everything passes with time, it all happens for a reason and the universe has a funny way of working (which when you’re a glass-half-full kind of person, it always means it’s something wonderful). And, because I love adventure and surprises, I’m always excited to see what comes next.

So my advice to everyone who relates to this post: Be yourself, be happy, spread light and laughter in the world.  Appreciate every day you have on this planet – feel like you have accomplished something (even if it’s doing the laundry), don’t waste time sweating stuff because your time is too valuable and you deserve to have someone that understands and appreciates that.  Don’t dwell on things that will hold no significant meaning in the future (your life is NEVER OVER after a bad day), don’t project past negative experiences onto others and don’t ever deflect – deal with your own issues first.  The best thing you can do for yourself and for others is to be honest, to grow as a human being and self-contain any issues you’re facing.  In other words:

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There Has Been No Slowing Down in February

“There are five days left in this month to get some sleep,” which is what I keep telling myself while I start looking at booking my next few trips for March because somehow, I’ve gone from relaxing 1 or 2 days a week to not knowing how to sit still.  When 2015 started, I saw it as a fresh beginning, and departure from how my life had been going until that time.  Experiences and adventure make life exciting and I’ve never been one to color “inside the lines”.  In my life, I’ve moved across the country and back (what will be) three times, lived in four states, traveled the world, made countless friends, all while maintaining a great career with some incredible stories that came with it.  But for all the fun I’ve had, there are so many things on my bucket list I realized I never took advantage of for years, that I finally realized I needed to do something about it.

It was this realization that violently shoved my life in a different direction – accomplishing life goals that I’m finally in a position to take on.  February had me running at full speed…

Novel Writing

My penchant for story-telling has finally erupted into me putting my effort into writing a novel that I hope will one day be published.  I’m one preface and two chapters in.  For anyone that is a writer, you know how difficult it is to not scrutinize every word, to find that stopping point where, with a shaky hand, you start handing over your proposal to publishing companies, hoping they don’t tear apart your labor of love.  In the weekends I’ve been at home (which has been exactly two), I’ll go for a 6-8 mile walk around the beach to clear my head (a few snapshots are below of the incredible place I call “home” right now) and then hole up in my coffee shop (I call it mine because I refuse to go anywhere else to write) and get to work.

I got to be in Ted 2… and see my Stepdad on Bill Maher!

Ok… so only the sounds of my cheering from the audience are heard but it was still pretty awesome to see Bill film his small segment for the upcoming release of Ted 2!  Even cooler, being able to watch the filming of the entire Real Time with Bill Maher segment for February 13th, to support my stepdad and his new book.  And if it couldn’t get any better, meeting Bill Maher, David Duchovny, Zanny Minton Beddoes, Baratunde Thurston and Robert Kenner just topped it off.  To be surrounded with an incredible level of intellect and accomplishment gave me more inspiration than I ever thought possible, to really pursue my dreams.

Not even a “little” snow stops me from going back across the country to prepare to call D.C. home for good…

Although San Diego has been amazing, there is nothing quite like living in Washington, D.C.  Living in San Diego, and away from the almost frenetic energy, can be a really great thing – it gives you time to clear your head and set you back to neutral.  I call my one year away a “mental vacation” of sorts, something I truly needed.  Still, my friends and (most of) my family live in the DC metro area and the draw to move/ come back to visit, even in the worst of weather, is too great to ignore.

Last weekend, I braved a crazy snow storm to reconnect with friends, attend a charity event and begin the “re-acclimation” process of amping up my energy levels, as of course, there are no shortage of things to do in that city.

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Spending more time with the love of my life…

Almost every spare moment I have, goes to the love of my life.  In the last 6 1/2 months I’ve had him, he’s given me more love than I have ever received.  He’s my best friend.  While he deserves his own blog about his fun adventures, we’ve narrowed them down to just a few.

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Can’t wait to see what March brings…

Sundance 2015

According to the Sundance Institute website, “In 1981, Robert Redford founded the Sundance Institute to foster independence, risk-taking, and new voices in American film. That year, ten emerging filmmakers were invited to Sundance Resort in the mountains of Utah, where they worked with leading writers, directors, and actors to develop their original independent projects.

Today, our staff of 150 employees works from offices in Park City, Los Angeles, and New York City to provide 24 residential labs, grants exceeding $2.5 million, and ongoing mentorships that support more than 350 artists each year. Each January, our Sundance Film Festival introduces a global audience to groundbreaking work and emerging talent in independent film. More than 50 other public programs connect artists with audiences to present original voices, inspire new ideas, and create community around independent storytelling.

But, it hasn’t just become an important event for independent film makers, it also helps to foster connections in the entertainment industry, provide even A-list celebrities a chance to branch out into other areas of filmmaking, such as writing, directing and producing; as well as giving movie enthusiasts a close connection to the entertainment industry that few get to experience.

Year after year, I’ve seen my friends attend this (rather cold yet glamorous) event, posting pictures of them with celebrities, parties, movies and other goings on.  Year after year, I’ve longed to go.  Finally, I had an opportunity and now, I’m hooked.

Day 1: Thursday, January 22nd

Since it was a low-key night, we headed to Robert Redford’s restaurant Zoom for dinner and drinks.  It’s an incredible place!  I highly recommend the Short Rib dish.

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Day 2: Friday, January 23rd

My girlfriend and I headed over to the spa at Montage for the day (which I highly recommend – we spent the whole day there, taking advantage of the entire 35,000 Sq. Ft. facility).  Note, Montage is also the place many celebrities stay, including The Stone Temple Pilots (STP), Gwenyth Paltrow, Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon!  That evening, Montage was holding a free, live concert with STP, which was incredible (see videos below).

In the late evening, we headed over to Bistro 412 for dinner – a place I wouldn’t recommend unless you’re in for a large, loud crowd and ok service.

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 Stone Temple Pilots at Montage

Day 3: Saturday, January 24th

This was a great day to be out and about, running into celebrities (shout outs go to Alec Baldwin and his family, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Bacon, Keanu Reeves, James Franco and Zachary Quinto), taking in free/private events and generally wandering around, exploring.

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 Chase Sapphire Lounge Q&A with James Franco and Zachary Quinto

Acura Live!

Collective Party with Pras

Fun with iPhhhoto at the Collective party!

Day 4: Sunday, January 25th

On our final day in Park City, we decided to start the day out with something a little unusual but highly therapeutic – dog sledding!  We hired Racer Gibson, via All Seasons Adventures, to take us on our 50-minute ride.  It was the most incredible experience.

Through Racer Gibson, the husband and wife team have a foundation called Arctic Rescue that helps rescue huskies, which they both will foster and take on permanently.  Some of these pups have been with the team for four weeks and are already sledding.  And from personal experience, every one of these dogs is so happy, in amazing health and just wants to run!

I spent time going down the line, playing with each of them and even the elderly ones that get to go along for rides in the car or just for slower, shorter experiences.  All of them were so loving and gentle and of course, I wanted to bring them all home!

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Dog Sledding around the old mines

On our last day in Park City, we also went to brunch at the Stein Eriksen Lodge, hung out at the Lipton Sparkling Tea Lounge, listening to the amazing mixes of my friend DJ Mr Best; and explored as much of Main St. as we could before we all headed home.

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More fun with iPhhhoto at Lipton Sparkling Tea Lounge


While this was an amazing trip, there are definitely a few things I’d do differently:

Passes

No kidding, passes for 2016 will start becoming available in April of 2015.  Check out the Sundance website for more information.  All Access passes definitely provide you the best experience and while they seem costly, almost every event is free food and alcohol.

Transportation

There is no easy way around town at all – it doesn’t matter if it’s by cab, uber or car rental.

Taxis: Taxis are the MOST EXPENSIVE way to go.  To give you an example, taxis charge $120 (with tip) to get to Park city from the airport.  Ubers charge half of that (if you go with Uber X).  To give you another example, taxis were charging $45 to go one mile from our place in Deer Valley to Main St.,  Uber X was $7.

Ubers: While Ubers seem to be the cheaper option, they are not always available the way you would hope.  During the day, Uber was only deploying Acura SUVs, which had a MINIMUM rate of $35 – $50, depending on the time of day.  Uber X’s were not available until the evenings.  HINT: If you get ahold of an Uber X driver, ask for their cell #, as they will be more than happy to get you when you need a ride.

Park City Shuttle: Pending you are near a stop, this is the cheapest way to get around, as it is free!  Most shuttles run in their own loops with their main station being on Main St.  It will virtually take you anywhere you need to go, including the resorts!

Renting a Car: Depending on what you rent, this is also a great option (and one I might entertain next year).  While parking is a HUGE PAIN during most of the time on Main St. (and around $20-$25 a day), it does allow you a lot more flexibility to come and go.  The nights are so cold that waiting for a cab, Uber or a shuttle is painful.

Lodging

There are many resorts to choose from, all of which do provide free shuttle service if you are staying with them (although the rates are incredibly pricey).  The other option is to rent a house.  Deer Valley is the place to be however, if you want more inexpensive options, try looking even 20 minutes outside of the city.

Events/Parties/Eating/Drinking = LONG LINES

There is a pecking order to any place you want to get into.  All-Access get first right to entry, followed ticket holders, then  guest list attendees and then if there is availability, walk-ins.  Given that the venues are much smaller and intimate now, the latter usually do not get entry and are oftentimes, waiting outside all night.

Oftentimes, this means finding a bite to eat can be rather difficult. Most of the restaurants and bars are taken over by private events.  Make any and all reservations you can, well in advance.  Note that those establishments without parties oftentimes have a long line, since everyone wants to eat and very few places are available.  My suggestion: Either eat at your resort or go grocery shopping as much as you can.

What to Wear

I’m sure it’s no secret, I’m a fashion enthusiast, which means layering was not something that crossed my mind.  When I was putting together my outfits, I kept thinking that I’d be inside more than outside.  This is definitely not the case.  Warm, chic coats, hats and gloves are KEY.  I saw women layering a turtleneck with a fur vest AND a coat AND a scarf.  It’s possible to look amazing while staying warm :-) Also, note that there is ice and snow everywhere so heels are not ideal most of the time.  Reserve those for the nights out (the sidewalks on Main St. are pretty clear).

…until next year…

Every Year is a New Adventure – Here’s to an Extraordinary 2015!

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A few months ago, someone handed me this sticker.  It is such a fantastic reminder of staying in the present, appreciating all that is around you and having fun.  In other words, live the type of life that stories are made of.

Reflecting back on this past year, I’d never expect to be saying the words, “My 2014 was what screenplays are based on”.  In other words, I (happily) lived a great story!  Below is my recap.

It’s Better to Have Loved and Lost, Particularly if You Grow From it!

2013 brought a fairytale to my life – one that few understand unless you experience it for yourself (or you are close enough to me, to have witnessed it unfold).  Whether you have known someone for 6 weeks, 6 months, or 60 years, people constantly evolve and sometimes, it doesn’t happen in the harmony you had hoped for.  I was lucky (with no regrets) to take a huge risk in love and although we’ve decided to part ways this year as good friends (please join me in wishing him the best – he’s a good person), I am proud to have learned so much about myself in this process.  Like my dad always says, “Everything happens for a reason”.  I am very eager and excited to see what this new year will hold – both in love and in other aspects of my life.  But if there is one thing I’ve learned (above anything else), is to just go with the flow and enjoy :-)

Speaking of Loves, There’s a New One In My Life!

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As almost everyone has seen, a little furry bundle came into my life one week before my birthday, this past summer.  Leo Devolites is now 7 months old, loves to play fetch, has learned some new tricks and can be found snoozing under furniture.  He loves long walks on the beach (and chasing seagulls), squeaky toys (particularly when you’re watching TV) and car rides with the top down.  He’s the best addition to my life and such a joy.  He’s excited for all the new adventures that will happen next year.  “Mom” is excited for doggy day camp, hiring a dog walker next spring and wearing him out :-)

Exploring the World Feeds My Soul

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Lake Ontario/Toronto

Traveling is the number one biggest “must have” in my life.  I love the thrill of exploring new places, taking long drives and seeing even the same scenery from a different perspective.  This year, my traveling took me to: Grand Rapids, Nashville (my first time at the Grand Ole Opry!), Dallas, Las Cruces, San Diego, Barcelona, Los Angeles (several times), San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Toronto.

I’ve experienced the California coast line from the train, played tour guide (up and down the coast) to countless friends, and have done enough wandering to appreciate the beauty in my surroundings.

In the first half of 2015, my travels (so far) will take me to Birmingham, Washington D.C., Salt Lake City (Sundance!) San Francisco, Bahamas, Budapest, Greece and Italy!  I can’t wait to see where else my travels will take me, feeding my soul just a little bit more along the way!

I’m Taking on a Side Job as a Professional Mover. (Not quite.)

My beautiful view.

My beautiful view in San Diego.

This past May, I made the “great move” to San Diego, eager (and excited) to start a new life.  Through the vision of being by the beach everyday, hiking, walking, running, yoga, etc., I was looking forward to a more active lifestyle. Over the last six months, I’ve discovered that perfect weather and beaches nearby cannot replace the fact that the Washington, D.C. Metro Area is (and always will be) home.  I’m so blessed to have an amazing, beautiful and successful group of friends in my life who have made me realize that home is where the heart is and as discovered, the rest of me needs to join that vital organ back where I belong.  On May 9th/10th, Leo and I will have packed up our belongings, shipped everything off and will be heading home FOR GOOD!  (He says he’s excited to mix with D.C. dogs, as these SoCal ones are too laid back :-) ) We promise this is it and that the next time we move, it will be into a purchased home!

When Do You Find Time to Work With All This Adventure?

I’ve been super blessed to be with the same company for the last three years (who have been very understanding of my indecisiveness on living locale) and really love what I do!  I’ve learned an immense amount about the innovation space, constantly seeking new ways to contribute and new ways to learn.  In the last year, I’ve gotten to work with some incredible companies that have helped me to grow professionally, turning me into a thought leader.  I have many professional goals for 2015 but the biggest being innovation game development that excites people about these types of programs!

Yes, I Also Have Hobbies Wedged In There

When people ask me what else I do with my life, I tell them I love to throw dinner parties, drink great wine, cook, shop, and write – the last two being the passions I spend the most time at.

As some of you know, I was the Director of Marketing for Tysons Galleria a few years back, which then turned into an opportunity to write a weekly fashion column for Washington Life Magazine.  I resigned from that post at the end of last year to focus on the move to San Diego, as well as all the other things going on in my life at the time.  But, there is still no escaping the fact that I love fashion – it’s part of who I am.  In the last month, my Pinterest account is getting a lot more attention, as I decided to follow my passion of constructing complete looks for particular travels ( it’s Sundance at the moment).  It is my goal that (aside for being discovered for Street Style in Park City :-D), I can contribute to some fashion publications again, as I can’t imagine not staying involved!

And, while on the subject of writing, I’m two chapters into my untitled novel!  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my blog post on it here.  It is quite a laborious process and one that I am glad I am going through.  My goal by the end of 2015: Get it out to publishers with a solid marketing plan!

Here’s to Another Great Year of Living Your Story!

With all that has happened and all that I have to look forward to, I am excited to create the next chapter in the new year! Stay tuned for the same cast of characters (with a few new ones along the way) and what my story will hold.  Here’s to a fabulous new year for each of you.  Thank you for being a part of my life and Happy New Year!

Fashion Follows Form: Fashion That Makes You Think

Per my travel blog yesterday on my wonderful time in Toronto, I mentioned the fashion exhibit that my girlfriends and I went to see at the Royal Ontario Museum, entitled, “Fashion Follows Form”.  I felt it deserved its own blog post.

Located in a hidden section on the fourth floor and although small, the exhibit was powerful.  It presented three different questions that really made you think about how one shape does not fit all, and that there are some niche markets out there that could be big business for the right designers:

1. How do you construct clothes for the handicap?

2. What if you do incorporate less-often used materials into fashion – how does it change the silhouette?

3. Have we been shopping for outfits all wrong?

Designing Clothes for the Handicap

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Well-known, Canadian designer-to-the-stars, Izzy Camilleri, was approached in 2004 by a handicapped journalist, asking her to create a functional, yet fashionable wardrobe for her.  It was then that IZ Adaptive was born (you can read the full history here).  She had a small but wonderful collection of her designs on display, ranging from functional leather jackets, to trench coats and wedding attire.

It was a wonderment to see how she was able to deconstruct even the most classic of pieces, such as a trench coat, that makes you really think about HOW clothes are constructed.  Her exhibit explains that even clothing for abled-persons isn’t designed for sitting – it’s designed for standing.  The standard patterns used are a straight cut, causing most dresses, skirts, shorts and pants to ride up when we sit down.  For a person who is wheelchair-bound, it doesn’t make any sense thus, she designed an L-shaped pattern that is more comfortable and flattering.  It also reduces the amount of “bulk” that can result from ill-fitting clothes in a sitting position.

Her exhibit makes you think – how else can a pattern be reconstructed to accommodate other types of functional needs?  Will fashion ever get away from mass production, one-shape-fits-all standards?  Will more designers emerge for specialty clothing that accommodate special needs?  This could open the door to new lines of business for already existing designers.

Updating Classics Using Mixed Materials

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The other half of this exhibit was centered around silhouettes, updating classics and how the use of mixed materials can change both dramatically.

The image above is an unbelievable fur and mesh mix dress from a classic silhouette pattern.  The bulk of the fur and the leather belt accentuates the femininity of the garment while providing a unique twist on an evening gown.  In person, it’s stunning.  Fur isn’t something widely used past outwear and accessories, provoking thoughts of what other materials can be used to create wearable designs.

But, it’s not just about material and finding inspiration within a silhouette or a classic.  It’s also about the detail and appreciating the painstaking process that a designer goes through to complete their work of “art”. In the image below, you can see the creative use of beading, colors, materials and shapes.  Take a look at each piece and study the detail.  Take a look at how these outfits actually flow together to create stunning, complete looks.  It makes you realize that individually, you may never wear these pieces but instead, they were made to go with each other.  When you look at it this way, it changes our way of shopping. Instead of shopping for individual pieces, we start to shop for entire outfits because “the look” is actually what we’re after, not just the pants or the shirt.  (Check out my Pinterest page for examples.)

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Being enthralled with fashion and taking the time to really study this exhibit, it was inspiring and impressive.  Even if you’re not a fashion enthusiast, walking through this exhibit gives you a newfound appreciation for those that can take something simple and turn it into a wearable masterpiece.  I highly suggest that anyone, who finds themselves in Toronto, checks it out.

Itinerary: Toronto, ON

This past weekend, I helped celebrate a girlfriend’s birthday.  For the last month or so, we deliberated on where to go, discussing the usual spots, such as Miami, Nashville and Charleston.  I came up with the idea of Canada.  For us Americans, it’s (unfairly) something we never think to visit and yet, it’s a beautiful country.  Although snowy and cold this time of year, a winter/holiday jaunt in a new city sounded like a lot of fun to all of us.  Below is our itinerary of where we stayed, visited and dined.  We highly recommend a visit there!

CN Tower and 360 Restaurant Holiday Brunch

When in a new city, you have to be a tourist, right?  The CN Tower was the tallest tower in the world (at 1,815 ft.) until 2010.  It’s about a 70 second elevator ride to the rotating restaurant, 360 The Restaurant, which sits at the top (check out the video below).

It takes 70 minutes to do a complete rotation, giving you views of Toronto and Lake Ontario.  We managed to see one and a half rotations.  Check out the pics below:

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Price: $65 per person 

Royal Ontario Museum

Our next stop was the Royal Ontario Museum to see the “Fashion Follows Form” exhibit.  This museum kind of has a little bit of everything in it (think of it as a Smithsonian mashup) – dinosaur bones, animals, bugs, gemology (my favorite), artifacts from around the world, an art gallery and this.

The exhibit deserves it’s own post (which can be found here) but if you do have the time to go to this museum, I highly suggest it – it’s always great to get in a little culture.

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Price: $10 per person

Visiting Santa and The Eaton Centre

One of the best parts about visiting a wintery place during the holidays, are all of the holiday decor and events going on.  Behind our hotel (Marriott Eaton Centre), was a back entrance to the Eaton Centre mall.  Along the path to get there, was a little Christmas cottage with Santa clearly napping inside.  His “helper” let us in to take a couple of pics, by which he was then quite “jolly”.

Canoe

On the 54th floor of the TD Bank building (66 Wellington W.) sits one of Oliver and Bonacini‘s award-winning restaurants, Canoe.  Known in Toronto for their impeccable menus and service (as well as locations), it was the restaurant I was most looking forward to experiencing, and we were not disappointed.  We were given a table overlooking the CN Tower and Lake Ontario at night, which was beautifully lit and quite peaceful.  The ambience definitely gave you a first class feel and the food portions were perfect.  I can’t wait to come back and try the other ones in their portfolio.

Price: About $100 per person, including two glasses of wine.

High Tea at Fairmont Royal York

If there is one experience you should do around the world (wherever it is provided), it would be high tea at the Fairmont.  Having never done this before, it was one of the most incredible “dining” experiences I’ve ever had.  The Fairmont in Toronto is just exquisite, even more so because of how impeccable it was decorated for Christmas.

In the Library room, we had a staff of three providing us with amazing service, even remembering to make me gluten-free versions of the finger sandwiches, scones and pastries they set out.  It was such a lovely, relaxing experience that we vowed to not just do this tea wherever we are, but to also never stay in any other hotel again (I’m starting a Fairmont travel fund).

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Price: $60 per person

Christmas Market

… I mean how could you NOT want to go there?  It’s a fun experience for a few hours.  The Toronto Christmas Market is set in the Distillery District, amongst boutique shops, art galleries, breweries and restaurants.  There are spirits vendors, providing free samples of holiday cocktails, holiday-inspired treats, performances, Christmas ornament vendors and more!

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Some things to note on travel:

  • Porter is the easiest way to get to Billy Bishop Airport (YTZ) on a direct flight, although not all U.S. airports include Porter.
  • YTZ has a lounge with free beverages (coffee, tea, sodas and water), free wi-fi, and a living-room like atmosphere to relax in before you are paged for your flight.
  • Yes, you need a passport to get in and out of Canada and their security rules follow the same rules as the U.S.
  • Taxis are not always available in Toronto.  They have rotations – we discovered that between the hours of 2-5, it’s their “break” time, so don’t be surprised if no one stops!
  • There is Uber but that is just as difficult to get
  • You can calculate taxi fares here.  But note that with traffic, two miles is about $13.
  • Conversion rate – $1 for 1 CAD.  Banks will be different – USAA’s conversion rate was $.88 for 1 CAD
  • You need an international cell plan for Canada – definitely don’t forget that!

Winter Fun at The Gaylord National Harbor

In Washington, D.C., Christmas is magical – millions of twinkling lights, a few dozen holiday performances, the lighting of the National Christmas tree and jolly Santas everywhere (some are questionable).  But, there are very few places in the city that have all-day Christmas adventures that bring out the kid in all of us – even if it means braving 9 degree temperatures.

For the second year in a row, I went to ICE!  This year’s theme was “Frosty the Snowman” (I’m guessing next year might be “Frozen”) and it was just as magical as  “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.  Check out the slideshow below.  Note: Next year I will remember my own parka, two pairs of gloves (not one) and a hat.  I keep forgetting that 9 degrees is 41 degrees too cold for me :-)

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Beauty Product Review: Younique 3D Lash Mascara

Whenever anyone asks me what three things I’d bring on a deserted island with me, I always say one of them has to be mascara (and a good moisturizer and a man).  All joking aside, it doesn’t matter what kind of night I’ve had (or even day).  I don’t leave the house without putting it on.  Yet, I’ve stumbled to find a really good one that actually maximizes your lashes to the point that people wonder if they’re false.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been using Younique‘s Moodstruck 3D Lash set and I’m in love!

Me with no makeup.

Me with no makeup.

Me getting ready for a night out - full makeup on!

Me getting ready for a night out – full makeup on (including the lash set)!

For those of you who have just bought the set, or are contemplating purchasing it, or even are interested in learning more, I’ve included a set of tips for use.  These tips come from a professional makeup artist who swears by this set as well:

  1. The instructions tell you to put a coat of your mascara on. Skip this step. It does absolutely NOTHING for you. Plus – you don’t need 2 products! Instead, start with an eyelash curler to get maximum effect.
  2. Have both lids untwisted so you can move seamlessly through the application process.
  3. Apply a normal coat of the transplanting gel – like a mascara.
  4. Start mid way up your lash and wiggle the fibers through. Don’t forget the lashes near the outer corner of your eye! That’s where you get the real WOW factor!
  5. Seal those fibers in with another coat of the transplanting gel. This is where you will start to see the lashes re-separate into long thick beautiful lashes.
  6. The first time you do it, you may find yourself going through the lashes with a safety pin to separate those that got stuck. Be patient! This is something new and there is a slight learning curve. In a few applications you will be a master!!!

If you want to purchase this set, click here.  Are you currently using it?  Comment on this post with before and after pics!

Happy holidays!

Overwhelmingly Grateful at Second State!

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Some of my beautiful friends that joined me for dinner.

On Monday, December 8th, I was so honored and humbled to be thrown a “welcome home” dinner at Second State (thank you IMMENSELY Reese), and to be surrounded by so many close friends (that braved the DC protests, Prince William’s arrival and the FREEZING, wet weather to see me). Words cannot describe how wowed I was at the group that joined me.  Each of them do incredible things with their lives and all have something to be super proud of.  I am definitely blessed to be surrounded by beauty, brains and warm personalities!!!!

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I also want to take the time to mention what an incredible job Reese did on his new restaurant, Second State.  Once the Mighty Pint, a dive bar with the best tater tots in town, he transformed it into an rustic-meets-urban, down-home cooking, dining experience with some of the best food I’ve eaten in quite some time.

My good friend Reese - he just keeps knocking out of the park with his restaurants (stay tuned for Orange Anchor and Union Social!)

My good friend Reese – he just keeps knocking it out of the park with his restaurants (stay tuned for Orange Anchor and Union Social!)

Very rarely do I ever look at a menu and think, “I want EVERYTHING on it!”  Instead, we all chose things to share.  I chose to  the root beer braised short ribs (that literally melted), brown ale butter chicken, fried brussels sprouts, roasted pheasant and root beer baked beans (which Reese indicated is his grandmother’s recipe with some tweaks).  With just that little tasting, I’m already hooked!

Note: I hear their brunch is incredible and their lunch menu is great as well!

Below are some more pics.  Thank you to Vithaya Phongsavan for the clearer ones and to all of my friends that provided the rest!

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OMG, I’m Writing a Novel!

Yeah, you’ve probably heard this from one or two of your friends.  Everyone has a story to tell and everyone tries to tell it – whether it be self-published, misspelled literature; or they are staring at the first sentence, in hopes the rest will just flow out of them, like in the movies (minus Funny Farm – if you saw that and can appreciate his attempts, beyond the humor, then you get it.).

Well, I fell into the latter description.  My mom encouraged us to read as kids, especially every summer.  Some kids got put in sports camps, we got put in library camps.  No joke.  I used to complain and complain about going but secretly, I loved it.  I learned how to write stories and plays, develop characters and to let my imagination go wherever it wanted.  I spent hours in my room coming up with stories, reading light-hearted fiction books (I read “This Place Has No Atmosphereat least 15 times, mainly because I loved that she was moving to the moon and it was so creative!), mysteries (Nancy Drew was HUGE) and biographies on all sorts of fascinating people – celebrities, Presidents and well-known societal fixtures.  Reading took me on journeys – something I am a huge believer in.  So how did I come to want to write the novel I’ve started?

Sixteen years ago, I was on vacation in South Myrtle Beach, SC for GMU Greek Beach Week.  Although not really tied to any one sorority, I was often invited to join in whatever festivities were happening.  I remember my third night there, I was watching some incredibly inebriated groups of individuals attempt to couple up.  One particular pair included (a now semi-famous) DJ and this drop-dead gorgeous girl (names are left out).  Although he was up-and-coming, he didn’t have enough money to really get her attention still, he tried anyway.  That very night, while he was attempting to get (at least) a date, I could hear her excuses for why she wouldn’t go out with him: “Don’t you know who I am?  “I’m well-known in L.A. and what would the tabloids say?” “I need to be SEEN with someone who everyone will talk about.”  He kept promising her the world and she kept refusing (two years later, his career was MADE in Miami and she came running back).  Anyway, once she got frustrated and gave up, she walked away from him and was back with our group.  She clearly didn’t think any of us heard that conversation. We all knew her real story – she wanted a boyfriend so bad but the addiction of attention was far greater than settling for one man.  She desperately wanted to pull away from her L.A. lifestyle and while it was true that many people knew her, she did exaggerate a bit to him about just how many did.  She wanted to be loved, adored and envied by everyone yet, there was a small part of her that wanted to run to the woods of Montana and settle down with “Farmer John” and live a much simpler life.  Although I don’t keep in touch with either of them, I often think about what happened to them.  Still, she became my inspiration for my main character.  It’s then that the idea of a novel popped into my head.  Why?  Because on some level, everyone can relate to an internal struggle that is impacted by leading both public and private lifestyles, and I am fascinated by people and their stories.

I tried developing opening chapters with her as the character, trying to imagine what it was like growing up as her, and even reading biographies about celebs to gain a perspective; but never quite connected the way I needed to.

Since I was fascinated with people and their own lives (including my own), I started drawing on personal experiences and stories of others for fodder – something that will be peppered throughout the novel(s) (along with a lot of crazy fictional events).  I thought if I did this, the opening chapter would come to me.  And so, for the last 16 years, this novel sat in the back of my brain as something that would “one day” happen when it was time.

Well, that time finally came while I was in Barcelona, checking out the church I was (supposed) to be married in.  The minute I walked in, it hit me.  My opening chapter’s angle was all wrong this whole time and what was about to be put down on paper was going to be extremely powerful.  I thought about this opening constantly.  Just like a handbag, or a pair of shoes you CANNOT get out of your mind, this concept was taking over most of my brain all the time.  It had to be written down – I had to do this.  Finally, the time came when I couldn’t ignore this anymore…

While I’m still developing the description of what this is all about, here is what I have so far, “Alison Gibson is an envied woman.  She leads a sophisticated lifestyle.  She’s beautiful, successful, well-known and well-liked.  She knows that she can have anything she wants, whenever she wants it.  To everyone else, she makes her life look effortless and exciting.  To her, it’s a mess.  While everyone else sees miles of palm trees, endless parties with the wealthy and piles of opportunities; she sees charred landscapes with no sense of direction on how to get out of it.    She feels lost, she wants to be loved and she cannot figure out how to snag the right man that will stay forever.  Each time there was promise, it was let down after emotionally violent let down.  One day, that all comes to an end…”

Stay tuned!  This will be a long process and honestly, I don’t know it it will amount to anything other than attempt at my dream.