Thursday, December 17, 2009

St Martin

What exactly is the ultimate beach vacation for you? Is it a crowded sandy area filled with laughter, sandcastles and roaring jet skis? Or is it a calming, relaxing place where the lapping of soft waves and the palm frongs blowing in the wind are the only noises you hear?

It's diffrent for everyone and I entered my beach vacation not really expecting one or the other. I did my best to heavily research the small French/Dutch island (French side is know as Saint-Martin and the Dutch side is Sint Maarten), situated just off of Anguilla and near St. Barts. The 4-hour flight from NYC and reviews by adventure travelers drew me in. But, once we booked our tickets and deliberated over the hotel we couldn't find much more we were dying to do on the island. Assured that I'd figure it out once we arrived I packed up my guidebooks (a.k.a. traveling nerd) and headed off.

Our drive from the airport to our hotel took over an hour, and was approximately 20 miles long. Island-style indeed, we crawled along the 2-lane road at rates of 20-25 MPH and took in the sights at our leisure. The main International airport, Juliana, is located on the Dutch-side of the island, which is located in the southern region. The French-side of the island, which we opted to stay on for it's finer cuisine and beaches, is located to the north of the airport and provided quite a geographical and phonographic change. We drove through mid-sized towns with bus stops, supermarkets and chain restaurants and small agricultural centers.

We drove over steep hills which offered amazing views of the expansive beaches and along palm tree lined avenues. Finally, we arrived in Grand Case, the town we had decided to stay in. The small town was packed with a variety of waterfront restaurants from tasty Lolos, an outdoor grill and basic table service, to 5-star, Michelin-rated havens.

Our hotel, the Grand Case Beach Club, had a private gate and white exterior walls. The gate opened to a cobblestone driveway and tropical landscapers dream. Our check-in was quick and we situated ourselves in our suite, outfitted with a patio, lounge chairs, full kitchen, and fresh cut flowers spelling out a welcome.

We didn't waste much time before hitting the beach, and took in the ocean breezes from the deck of the Sunset Cafe and Grill attached to the hotel. The cafe was built around the only large rock that jutted out past the beach all along Grand Case. It offered amazing views of the beach and as it turns out...the sunset.

We found our favorite vacation spot on our first night there. Two lounge chairs sat alone in a guarded alcove, part of a wrap around deck on the other side of the rock, pushed out into the ocean. An unobstructed view of the sunset with room to play! As you may have guessed we visited the same exact spot every night and even did a silhouette photo shoot one night.

We tried out best to dig through our books and online resources, the hotel offered free wireless, to find ideas for activities the next day but couldn't be bothered to lure ourselves away from the beach. Our one outing, the grocery store to stock up on goodies for our fridge and liquor cabinet, proved to be exhausting, yet cultural and fruitful. We came away with enough groceries to feed us for 3-nights and 4-days along with enough booze and wine to keep us tided over most of the time for under 100 Euros.

Of course the store was an intresting experience, with all its unique fruit and European-style lay-out.

Our island adventures included a full driving tour of the island, with jumps in and out of the car for beach time and photos. We saw the drastic differences between the Dutch and French sides of the island, which do not maintain a strict border control, and cherished France's white sand beaches over Holland's casinos and packed marinas. We visited the nude beaches of Orient Bay, which was oddly paired with the main water sport activity area on the island, and took in some serene breezes at Oyster Bay.

We came across some magnificent wine bars, like Bachus, tucked away in strip malls and back allys. We saw the backstreets of the bigger towns and were reminded ofthe poverty that always surrounds resort islands such as this one.

We also did some adventuring close to the hotel. Each day we took the time to dive into the water and take in a swim. We remembered what it's like to splash in the waves and feel the pull of the water under your body as you swim freestyle. My fish fear, which I can't seem to track back to more than a water skiing incident 20 years ago (seriously brain, you can hold onto this but you can't remember the Italian language?) seemed to subside after our day out at sea snorkeling.

The French snorkeling instructor - Laureen, was a walking replica of Frank Azeria's character in 'Along Came Polly' - took Jerome another couple and me out to Creole Rock a couple miles off the beach to check out the wildlife. We spotted several new fish I hadn't seen before in past snorkling adventures but mostly, we interacted with the fish, thanks to our fun filled instructor. A long octopus darted under a rock to hide from us, while sea anemones came out to suction to the side of Laureen's mask. Somehow, it made my fish fear subside and my long afternoon swims became much more comfortable.

On my birthday, which was the Tuesday before we left the island, we planned a special day aboard a sailboat, which was headed out to Anguilla for the day. The trip was canceled that morning and we turned to find a new plan. Still adjusting to our first real beach vacation since we got together 10 years ago, we took some time to sit and sink our toes in the sand. Then we took more time to swim and take long hot showers. Eventually we knew we needed lunch and headed to the close by wine bar for escargot and taste bud shattering cheeses. As you can see, our day rolled along, unplanned and perfect. Evening rolled around and we made reservations at a nice restaurant in town recommended by a close friend's parents which turned out to be incredible and blew away the lunch I just had (previously rated as my top meal on the island). Overall, an amazing birthday and wonderful trip.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Santa Con NYC 2009

Santa Con, or the annual Santa and friends convention, took place on Dec. 12 in NYC this year. This convention describes itself as, "...a not-for-profit, non-political, non-religious & non-logical Santa Claus convention, attended for absolutely no reason." Although they are very careful to avoid promoting themselves as a alcohol and drug induced march through city streets, that's what draws the crowds. Shortly before the convention date the organizers post a book of revised Carols, including such tunes as Cannabis is Coming to Town and O Come all ye Perverts. It's a blast to participate it, and provides a kind of jovial, silly way to kick off the holiday season. It's also an amazing photo opportunity with all the creativity streaming through the veins of fellow new yorkers, which Jerome, Davina and I did our best to keep up with.

I included some of my shots below. Some great photos from fellow Santa's, Christmas Trees, Elves, Ms. Claus', Nutcrackers, and several provocative red and white striped convention goers are posted on Flicker.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Open Letter to 2009

My story is not that different than many people this year. I work as a publicist and have had a very successful career over the last 9 years, earning the title of VP at my last firm. But, as the economy sank, client’s budgets shrank and PR agencies had to shut doors. I lost my job last July and have worked hard to supplement my income with freelance work and try my best to spend my free hours volunteering and fundraising for amazing charities such as Harlem Baby College and New York Cares. The emotional paycheck I earn from volunteering and investing myself in these charities is priceless.

But, my dream to travel and buy a place to call home have been put on hold. I had a round-the-world trip scheduled with my boyfriend in 2010 and now have to focus on paying bills and rent. I hate collecting unemployment (on weeks when I can’t get freelance projects) after taking all the right steps to get my career on track and make smart choices to secure my future. And, while I refuse to place blame on our economy's current place in time, I have to be patient while I work to find the perfect clients to build out my business and understand that drive, intelligence, experience and ambition won't come as quickly or easily as they used to.

So, to my fellow 2009 vets, and every entrepreneur who's working to make something new and different out of this sludge I salute you and will do my very best to keep up with you as we enter a new decade and (hopefully) economy in 2010

Thank you,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Book review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In 1966 Harriet Vanger, daughter of the CEO of the large family-run Vanger Corporation, goes missing from her family's island community and is never seen again. Not even a body is found, and her great uncle, Henrik Vanger, has explored every possible lead to discover what happened to his one and only favourite family member.

Over the last forty years her disappearance has become Henrik's obsession, and he's positive someone in the family murdered her - but they never found a motive, and without one he doesn't know who to suspect. Now, in 2005, Henrik has little time left as he grows old and plenty of money to indulge in his obsession one last time.

Mikael Blomkvist is a forty-something financial journalist and editor of Millennium magazine, a magazine he co-founded which prides itself on investigative journalism. But Blomkvist and the magazine have just suffered their first big blow: he's been convicted of libel against one of the biggest business entrepreneurs in Sweden, Hans-Erik Wennerström.

Wanting to keep a low profile and pretend he's been fired from the magazine in order to try and save it from further attack by Wennerström, Henrik Vanger's proposition comes at an ideal time. Mikael's father once worked for the Vanger Corporation, and Harriet herself had babysat little Mikael a few times. Henrik offers Blomkvist a year-long contract with the pretext of writing a history of the family - an autobiography of Henrik - while his real mission is to discover what happened to Harriet.

After some convincing, Blomkvist takes the job - but when he discovers the first new evidence since the tragedy occurred, he realises he needs help - and who better to go to than the private investigator who did such a good job on Blomkvist when Henrik hired her?

Lisbeth Salander is a quiet, secretive young woman who excels at what she does because she's also a genius hacker. With a troubled past and a dicey present, her trust in Blomkvist takes her by surprise. The two team up to discover the truth about Harriet, and to take Wennerström down.

It is a mystery, and a thriller at times, and a detective book - but it's also a political and economic commentary, has one of the more original and daring heroines of the genre, and is invigorating in its details. I don't read many mystery novels, because (ironically), I find them boring. Aside from a quiet patch at about the two-quarter mark, I never found this book boring, even though not a whole lot happens until the last third.

Both Blomkvist and Salander are engaging protagonists, for very different reasons. Things happen to them that will make you upset and angry, especially Salander, whose side story holds you enthralled and revolted at the same time, as does the truth about Harriet - but there's nothing gratuitous here, or unnecessarily included or described: it's all relevant.

The cold of Sweden - at times down to -35F was vividly realised - as was the setting of Hedeby Island. I would have liked to "see" more of Sweden - everything was terribly familiar - but a mystery book isn't really the place for that.

This is a very mature book, with themes that make you despair yet are handled so compassionately that you are never alienated. I also enjoyed the economic side of the other plot line, and Blomkvist's words towards the end were very apt considering the recent problems with the American stock exchange and subsequent recession, when he's asked by a TV host about "the fact that Sweden's economy was now headed for a crash." He calls it nonsense, which I couldn't agree with more.

The other side of the commentary that's strong and interesting is the issue of journalistic responsibility, and ethics. Decisions are made at the end that are highly questionable, but there are no easy answers - Blomkvist is the voice of our conscience here, and yet you can see the other side too. I don't envy him his position!

I love the story of this author and I'm looking forward to reading the second and third installment in this trilogy. Despite the lenght of the book and the unusual pacing (which slows to a stop more than once) I loved it!

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Book review: Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea

Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Just plain fun! Although the book starts off a bit slow, Handler has a unique way of writting about adult-hood that is laugh-out-loud funny. Just try not to read it in public. :)

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Book Review: Stiff

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This unique book did a good job of taking the fairly odd (and somewhat gross) subject of human cadavers and making it conversational, educational and amusing. It fell short in a few chapters -- taking readers down a long, boring rabbit holes -- but overall it demystified the use of human cadavers for science, etc. which was an education I’d prefer to learn through book. Worth a read after you’ve read a few to many fantasy or romantic books.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Boston - in less than 48 hours

I've visited Boston 5 times in the past, and had an entirely different experience each and every time. From my first trip in high school with my parents, where I stood in awe of the stacked brick houses and picturesque river and bridges, to my last trip, where I strolled the city comfortably with a post-local snapping photos of towering churches and tree lined streets. Every trip has been a good trip and while I've never spent more than a few days there some places have left a lasting impression. An Ode to some of my favorite spots....and moments during my last trip with my kind tour guide and great friend, Marisa.

The Boston Commons

The New England Holocaust Memorial

Beacon Hill

The original Cheers bar, which is actually called Bull & Finch Pub, "where everybody knows your name,".....

Marisa and I enjoying some beers at Cheers

Swan Lake

Back Bay

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween 2009: Max and Ira Storm Manhattan

I decided to sew, button, Velcro and glue my Halloween costume together this year. I've never been much of a domestic genius, and although I knew sewing was going to be horribly challenging I wanted to give it a try. I figured Max, from the newly topical Where the Wild Things are, would be an easy enough costume to create with a few yards of white fabric, big buttons, a dowel, silver king ball, and a crown. How hard could that be to re-create? Answer: 2 full days in the fashion districts tinyest shops and at least 8 hours trying to figure out a sewing machine.

First off, sewing is tough (don't combat me on this, I already know I'm domestically challenged) and sewing with a cheap sewing machine is even harder. The fleece fabric I bought for the pants, which would be tucked under the white sweatshirt with big round buttons and a white hood, easily caught in the sewing machine and tended to fall apart if yanked to hard in the wrong direction. The king staff turned my living room into a silver glitter and gluey mess and my Max PJ pants turned into short shorts with white leggings.

Jerome's take on Ira included some long white claws, attached to old gloves, tall horns, filled with aluminum foil and attached to my headband and fur from one of my winter coats.

So, we stormed Manhattan, from Fredrick Brown's show in the Lower East Side to Gus' birthday part on the Upper West Side and made plenty of friends along the way. Some photos, prepping for our night out:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Life Coaching....What's it all about?

Life and career coaching never appealed to me and I may have even mocked it a few times when it was brought up over cocktail hour. But, after doing some reading about it, in a time of my life when I continue to seek clarity and perfection (please note: my version of perfection is very different than most, I thought it would be worth taking a closer look.

First off, I wanted to know what to expect when working with a life coach. My life does not necessarily need coaching, although the idea of having an educated cheering team on my sidelines is appealing. I've always used my amazing support system (including friends, family and my professional network) for advice and guidance, which is what I'm guessing is the basis for life coaching.

So, I did some digging online and found 'Tips for choosing a life coach' from In their words, "You will know (life coaching works for you) because your motivation, clarity and overall well-being will improve and within a few sessions. You will feel relaxed and comfortable with your coach. You will feel you can be open and honest and see them as the same."

Well, I'm not sure who would turn down an offer so sweet. But, I've been a consumer for 25 years, as well as being a PR and marketing professional for 10 years so I suppose I know better than to focus on the positive words in a sales pitch. So, I decided to dig a bit deeper and interview some potential coaches who wanted to, "improve my overall well-being."

I started by interviewing three different coaches including one with Meredith Haberfeld Coaching, who gave me the best information (which is why I'd prefer to focus on our conversation than drag you through two boring sales pitches I heard from the other candidates). So, the coach from Meredith H. Coaching, who I'll leave nameless for now did a beautiful job summarizing who a life coach does and who the best candidates for life coaching are.

Based on my conversations a life coach can act as good cross between a friend, a therapist, a cheerleader and a guidance councilor. Through asking the right questions, placing emphasis in the right areas, motivating clients to narrow down their focus and take a hard look at what they need in life - they get their clients "on track." I'm not to sure I ever fell off-track, but I like the idea.

The Meredith H. coach also made a good point about how coaching is broken down. While life coaches are willing to focus on client's trouble-areas, it's all to common to find that one troubled area is simply a product of another problem (ripple effect). So, most of them take a holistic approach to life coaching, and open up the discussion to all aspects of your life.

I interviewed two other coaches I interviewed with a series of 5 questions:

What can your clients expect when working with you?
Do you focus on specific aspects of a clients life, or the "whole ball of wax?"
How long is each session? How many sessions would you recommend for someone like me?
How to you measure results?
What kind of financial and time requirement do you expect?

Both of the other coaches I spoke with were certainly qualified but didn't spark any thought on my part. They both answered the questions asked with one-sentences responses and didn't ask me any questions that I wouldn't expect from my local bartender.

I'll continue to think through the process of taking on a life coach and decide if it's right for me. What do you think of the process and profession?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fire on 122 Street

A fire tore through an apartment across the street from us tonight at 230 W. 122 Street. Some photos of the event below. Luckily no on was harmed and the fire department responded quickly.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Documentation of Jerome's Birthday

You only turn 33 once. And you only pull together friends from all walks of your life a few times a year. So, as I avidly promised Jerome on the eve of his birthday, I photographed his entire birthday party (which he shared with the lovely Emily). The next morning we realized that we didn't necessarily want to see all the photos I took, but it's to damn funny to keep to ourselves. So, the photos of Jerome's party at BEast are below for all to see (and laugh at, if necessary):