Saturday, February 28, 2009

By The Numbers: Married Or Not Edition

I recently went to my first-ever engagement party. The bride to be is my first galpal here in New York to find Mr. Right -- so the occasion got me to thinking about the role of geography in finding true love.

The Big Apple doesn’t rate highly in most surveys about top dating destinations

Most of my friends who have tied the knot are from smaller cities. Many surveys support the idea that New York is a challenging place to be a single. The Big Apple failed to make either of The Top 10 lists in a Sperling roundup of best and worst dating cities in the U.S. (for the record, Austin, Texas was the winner).

In my own social circle, I’ve definitely seen the effect that where you reside has on who you end up with. Here are some examples of this dynamic -- By The Numbers:

Number of married girlfriends: 7
Number of married girlfriends who live in NY: 1
Number of single girlfriends: 13
Number of single girlfriends who live in NY: 11
Number of NY girlfriends in serious relationships: 2
Number of NY girlfriends who found love within days of moving back to the Midwest: 1

One of my best friends once asked if it has ever occurred to me that my soul mate isn’t in New York. The honest answer to that is no. And not just because I’ve been there and done the long distance thing, or because I’m not open to Mr. Right candidates outside of my zip code.

No, it’s for the simple reason that home is where my heart is. And I believe that even in a competitive dating marketplace like NYC, when your heart is truly in the search for happily ever after, eventually--statistical odds be damned--you’ll find it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mardi Gras In Manhattan

Tuesday night, I caught up with my cousin and soul sister Alexandra for a spontaneous girls night out.

Our evening began at delightful Upper West Side eatery Pappardella, where we enjoyed a three-course prix meal for $25 – butternut squash puree soup, sauteed salmon and dessert (TiramiSu for Alexa, strawberry and cream filled pastry for me).

Pappardella on NYC’s Upper West Side serves up tasty and traditional Italian fare with a hospitable staff

Over dinner, Alexandra and I dished about favorite recessionista bargains (Kohl’s and H&M top the list) and our love lives. She said she’s taking it slow with an on-again off-again old flame, while I filled her in about a few promising prospects – one of whom, if his picture is any indication, bears a resemblance to “Sex And The City” hunk Chris Noth.

From Pappardella, we headed down to the Empire Hotel for a Mardi Gras party benefitting Mercy Ships, a global charity that operates hospital ships in developing countries. Held at the hotel’s swanky rooftop bar, the soiree featured a live jazz band and interesting crowd of professional types.

Most of the men in attendance were either wearing wedding rings or engrossed in a guys night out, so we concentrated on people watching with cocktails in hand, and talking about plans for our annual girlfriends getaway. Still, I was happily surprised when a tall drink of water stopped me on our way out to ask for my number.

With a date tonight and plans tomorrow that might result in another, it seems that my romantic fortunes might be changing. Who knows? Maybe 35 is the new 25 after all, encroaching crow’s feet notwithstanding.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Saturday Night In SoHo

Saturday night, after my friend Cindy’s engagement party in Westchester, I returned to the city and headed downtown for another soirée – celebrating my fabulous cousin Carla’s birthday.

My cousin Carla and me at her birthday bash in SoHo

About a dozen of Carla’s close friends joined in the fun at SoHo nightclub Santos Party House, including her adorable colleague Seth.

A 32-year-old teacher, Seth spends his after-school hours working (and working out) at the gym and taking post-graduate classes toward his administrative degree. We talked about the charms of Long Island, where he grew up and still resides, and the merits of Stephanie Meyer’s popular “Twilight” series.

Upon deciding to get a drink, Seth took my hand and led me through the crowded bar area. I didn’t mind the brief wait for a cocktail -- it forced us to stand thisclose as the easy conversation between us continued. I’d almost forgotten how much fun it is to flirt when the chemistry feels mutual.

Seth and I are now Facebook friends and have emailed back and forth a few times this week. He’ll be joining Carla and me for drinks when I head out to Long Island on Saturday. I’m looking forward to seeing where our second encounter leads.

Up next…Time Out New York’s The Set showcases some of the city’s best rising stars and a singles schmooze fest for a good cause.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Surviving My First Engagement Party

Saturday night, I attended my friend Cindy’s engagement party – my first experience as a guest at this type of soiree.

Like most firsts, this one was accompanied by some anxiety about the unknown. What kind of gift is appropriate? Would I be stranded in a sea of couples, forced to explain why I’m still single? Thankfully, I emerged from the event not only unscathed but happy to have been part of it.

Bride-to-be Cindy and me at her engagement party

Held at the inviting Westchester clubhouse of the housing development where Cindy’s parents live, the intimate party (about 50 guests) acquainted me with more of her nearest and dearest – and gave me the opportunity to catch up with her fiancé Jason.

A genuine sweetheart of a guy, Jason always has a smile on his face and a concert on his calendar. We talked about our shared affinity for live music (he’s been to more than 700 shows – including a week-long stint attending Springsteen at Giants Stadium last summer) and about his pragmatic approach to wedding planning.

Simply put, he said, follow his spreadsheet of nuptial to do’s and act quickly when finding a great vendor.

“I’ve got concerts and movies to see,” he quipped.

Jason’s don’t-waste-time approach mirrors the path he and Cindy have taken since meeting on J-Date about a year ago. They got engaged in December and will be married in July. They knew what they wanted and made it happen, no muss, no fuss. My kind of couple -- and the complete opposite of another 30-something duo at the party.

Together on and off for more than two years, they spent most of the evening sniping at each other. The male half told me he’s in no hurry to move to the suburbs because he’s still “single.” Yikes.

When it came time for speeches congratulating the happy couple, I couldn’t help feeling a surge of envy – not for their romantic bliss, but for their good fortune in having parents to share it with.

And then, just like that, I remembered my parents’ attitude of gratitude and redirected my thoughts toward what I do have -- a world of family and friends who I know will be right by my side when my turn as a bride comes.

For now, I plan to continue enjoying the perks of life as a single gal. Much to my surprise, the second part of my action-packed Saturday night afforded the chance to do exactly that.

Coming up…A Mardi Gras celebration at one of New York’s swanky rooftop bars and a look at a local performing arts showcase.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Communicating The Old Fashioned Way

When it comes to online dating, I’m a big believer in moving swiftly from emails to talking on the phone. Call me old fashioned, but I think physical communication is a better indicator of chemistry than texting, IM’ing and the like.

Though I clearly state this preference in my profile, it’s not uncommon to hear from guys who seem to have more of an interest in becoming pen pals. Like Chris, for example, from After emailing him my number, this was his response:

“I am much more of an emailer and txt'er than a phone-er. The winter months have me pressed to the wall in terms of time-management.

When things are hectic I am very poor at finding time in my day to reserve for a phone call. I can't call out from work; basically. It's rare. Then, once i arrive home and get some quiet moments after cooking dinner and exercising; it's very late and I am drained.

Weekend: I usually go to Manhattan on friday nights for happy-hour; then
sleep til after noon on saturday. Invariably there's a Brooklyn night-out on saturday; and much of my other hours are filled in with cleaning; cooking; groceries; errands.

Cell phones are just not my thing: I mainly depend on them for logistics only. I can text a lot more often than chat. I have a pay-as-you-go plan which emphasizes texts over voice, too. Thats' another consideration.

The bottom line is that I am almost always near a computer screen and
I can communicate and do my work at the same time!”

I’m not sure what I find more astonishing, that Chris found the time in his busy schedule to send this email, or that he explained in such excessive detail how busy he is.

I wish him the best of luck with his time management challenges. I, meanwhile, am looking forward to a date later this week -- with someone who had no problem picking up the phone.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Dazzling Evening With Oscar

Last night, four of my galpals joined me to watch the Oscars. As we settled in for a long evening – made sweeter by two kinds of popcorn and Klondike bars – all of us were happily surprised at how entertaining Hollywood’s biggest night turned out to be.

The 81st annual Academy Awards was one of the best in years – and not just because the show managed to run only 30 minutes over its 3-hour running time.

Puttin' On The Hits: Host Hugh Jackman teamed up with Beyonce for a cheesy but entertaining movie tunes medley (photo credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Tightly produced with brilliant staging and choreography, the Oscars had a flow absent in previous telecasts, thanks to a clever ‘plot’ explaining how a movie gets from conception to post-production. Technical awards were finally given as much attention as their acting counterparts, rightfully shining the spotlight more on the behind the scenes magicians who bring movies to life.

Even the usually tedious montages were energized, with lively musical performances and seamless juxtapositioning of past and present films. Dashing and multi-talented Hugh Jackman did a great job presiding over the festivities, and who knew Anne Hathaway could sing?

Best of all, the stars themselves brought their A-game, delivering heartfelt, well-prepared acceptance speeches. Most touching – the tribute to late Best Supporting Actor winner Heath Ledger from his family. Most exciting – all 8 wins for the fantastic “Slumdog Millionaire.”

“Slumdog Millionaire” producer Christian Colson surrounded by cast and crew after the movie wins Best Picture (photo credit: Gary Hershorn/Reuters)

My friends and I were all in agreement about the Oscars’ tackiest moment – cutting to Brangelina not once but twice while Jennifer Aniston was presenting. They’ve all moved on, it’s past time for Hollywood do the same.

Overall, big kudos to Oscar's producers for a show truly worthy of the industry it celebrates. And to the talented, irresistible cast and crew of “Slumdog,” I have two words for you - Jai Ho!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Inside The Fashion Week Tents: Take Two

Thursday night, thanks to my good friend and fellow PR maven Cyndee, I paid a second visit to the tents of Fashion Week at NYC’s Bryant Park.

After sneaking me into the chic W Hotels lounge, Cyndee headed off to work the swanky crowd on behalf of her clients. I sipped on a screwdriver while doing some people watching.

The View From W: Me in the chic hotel chain’s lounge

In the small world department, I ran into Erin, the twin sister of a former colleague who’s now working in Starwood Hotels’ corporate PR office. We talked about the downside for our industry of President Obama’s stimulus package -- discouraging executives from traveling -- and the need for people to travel and to spend, even if they don’t splurge, in times like these.

Around 8pm, Starwood security politely asked everyone to exit in order to make way for the celeb guests arriving for designer Zac Posen’s show.

I spotted Fox News anchor Juliet Huddy and Cheetah Girls singer Adrienne Bailon.

Cheetah Girls singer Adrienne Bailon posing for the photogs at NYC’s Fashion Week

Alicia Keys looked stunning in sleeveless black mini, flashing a million dollar smile as she breezed past. Like Alicia, super skinny Nicole Ritchie was surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards.

Nicole Ritchie checked her Blackberry before leaving the Bryant Park tents

While I was taking it all in, I ended up chatting with aspiring fashionista and photographer Kyna Lantz.

Kyna and her delightful friend Lewis regaled me with tales from the shows they attended.

Kyna was all atwitter when she spotted Fern Mallis, one the planning masterminds responsible for launching Fashion Week in New York. I was relieved to see that this style powerhouse looked healthy and fit -- a departure from most of the skinny fashionistas roaming the tents clad in black and thigh-high boots.

On our way out, we couldn’t resist posing for pictures in front of the big Barbie display celebrating her 50th anniversary. About 500 dolls were lined up in the entry hall inside huge letters spelling out Barbie's name.

A Fashion Icon Turns 50: Me in front of the display celebrating Barbie’s 50th

I’m already looking forward to NYC’s next Fashion Week in the fall. Who knows? Maybe by then I’ll have someone special to gatecrash with.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Opening The Vault: Part Twenty Five

It’s often said that couples should avoid going to bed angry. When you’re a long-distance couple, the same wisdom holds true for airport goodbyes -- as I discovered the hard way years ago with my California-based beau Mark (a.k.a Sparky).

Nine months into our bicoastal romance, things between us were on shaky ground. During a December visit to see Sparky, the tensions caused by our situation were aggravated by deception -- me lying to my parents about where I was that weekend, and Sparky neglecting to tell me he was struggling financially.

It all came to a head as the weekend drew to a close. I now Open The Vault and take you back to the winter of 1994.…

December 8th, 1994
New York, NY

Dear Diary,

Monday morning [the 6th], a crazy impulse popped into my head. While Sparky was getting dressed, I called American Airlines and changed my departure to the following day.

He was furious, berating me for not consulting with him first and reminding me he had plans with his daughter Rosie. He added that he couldn’t blow her off again (he had cancelled his weekend plans with her because of my last-minute visit).

Love Shack Gone Awry: Sparky’s condo was where we had some of our worst moments during a tumultuous weekend back in December ‘94.

I was extremely hurt that he threw this back in my face. I had specifically told him after I arrived on Friday that he should go see Rosie as planned -- he was the one who insisted it wasn’t a problem to do otherwise.

He left the room and I felt foolish about my last-ditch attempt to salvage our time together.

* * *

We were pulling into LAX when something -- I can’t remember what -- set Mark off.

“You can’t expect me to just drop everything to come and see you,” he yelled.

I was shellshocked, remembering a recent nightmare I’d had in which he had said almost exactly the same thing.

“We could’ve been together three times for what it cost you to come out here,” he said angrily.

He continued attacking my monetary values, looking so menacing it frightened me. Never before had I seen such rage in his eyes. And I couldn’t even mutter a response because all I kept thinking was I was about to get on a plane and leave. That didn’t stop Mark.

As he told me about his financial woes, he said--

“And if you don’t deposit that check [covering half the airfare], I’ll never speak to you again.”

* * *

The aftershock of Mark’s airport tirade ended up lingering long after we said goodbye. Our next encounter would be haunted by that moment -- and colored by a surprising revelation.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Meaning Of Socks

Wednesday night, I met up with my new friend Jean for a light bite at Demarchelier, a charming French bistro on NYC’s Upper East Side.

As I enjoyed mushroom soup and crab and avocado salad (complemented by a smooth glass of Chardonnay), Jean and I talked about the allure of the blogosphere -- she’s got a fabulous idea for a new culture-themed blog -- and the perks and pitfalls of single hood.

Bistro Elegance: Demarchelier on NYC’s Upper East Side serves up delicious French fare

We both agreed that New York knows how to deliver an array of non dating-related distractions. The challenge? Finding commitment-minded males in this urban playground.

While trading Valentine’s Day horror stories, Jean shared with me her most recent one -- receiving socks from her boyfriend.

Apparently, he didn’t want to give her a gift that implied too much about his feelings. Mission accomplished and time to move on, Jean decided. Thoughtless, overexplained gifts -- when paired with a pattern of thoughtless, inattentive behavior -- are definitely a deal breaker.

Speaking of deal breakers, I shared with Jean my experience that they usually emerge early on. In an attempt to brush past the commitment issues I’ve often been (rightfully) accused of having, I’ve tended to ignore these initial red flags. And every single time, they’ve ended up contributing to why a relationship didn‘t work out.

Lesson learned -- trust your instincts. Or as Oprah and my wise, late mother used to say, when in doubt, don’t.

Up next…celebrity sightings at my second Fashion Week stint and being a first-time engagement party guest.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Behind The Tents At Fashion Week

Monday night, I enjoyed my first foray into the tents at Bryant Park for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

Strike A Pose: Making my debut at NYC’s Fashion Week

My entré into the by-invitation-only affair came courtesy of my friend and fellow publicist Cyndee, who was working the event on behalf of a high-profile photographer client.

After getting over the disappointment of missing Justin Timberlake by just a few minutes, I followed Cyndee into the entry hall, which was teeming with fashionistas and sponsored kiosks.

Behind The Tents: A display celebrating Barbie's 50th dominated the entry hall at Fashion Week

We stopped at trendy NYC bar Tenjune’s area, sipping on a few cocktails (French martini for me) as we talked about new romance and when it’s appropriate to bring up the future. The question’s been on Cyndee’s mind with her beau of four months.

Next, we walked over to the W lounge, a purple-lit perfect reflection of Starwood’s modern chic hotel brand. On the complimentary menu -- cheeseburger sliders from Pop (yum) and red velvet cupcakes courtesy of Billy’s Bakery.

Cyndee introduced me to charming and adorable celeb gossip Ben Widdicombe, of New York Daily News, Star magazine and fame.

Cyndee, gossip columnist Ben Widdicombe and me

Turns out Ben is from Queensland, my new favorite state Down Under since last month’s big trip to Australia. He made it clear he doesn’t miss it much. I was surprised -- I miss it and I only spent a week there!

Still, as much as I love the land of Oz, there’s no denying NYC is the place to be when it comes to fashion and, well, everything.

It was fun masquerading as a hipster for an evening. And even more fun knowing my snazzy metallic jacket was a bargain purchase from Kohl’s. After all, in times like these, it’s especially fabulous to feel like a million dollars without having to spend as much.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Festive Valentine’s Day Downtown

Saturday night, my friends Tiffany, Prince and I headed down to Woolworth Tower Kitchen in NYC’s Financial District for Jon’s birthday bash.

Jon, 31, is a real estate guy I went out with a few times last summer. He recently resurfaced on – of course – Facebook – and I couldn’t resist the invite to his soiree. A true social butterfly, I had a feeling he would attract a decent crowd despite the fact that it was Valentine’s Day.

Sure enough, about 100 people filled the restaurant over the course of the evening – most of whom were single, many of whom were men.

As for the birthday boy himself, he greeted me exuberantly, admitting he’s been a “flake” about keeping in touch. I, meanwhile, was more interested in mingling – an activity Jon graciously helped facilitate for those of us in attendance who knew him and no one else.

A live band, belly dancer and DJ made Jon’s party a lively affair

As an energetic (albeit ear-crushing) Israeli band and DJ kept the dance floor packed, Tiff and I joined Jon and several of his buddies at a table, where we ended up sitting next to Aaron, an adorable West Point friend of his with an impressive resume (well traveled, athletic, job he’s passionate about, etc.).

While we were absorbed in conversation, Jon interrupted to tell Aaron how “amazing” I am. Later, when Jon spotted me by the bar, he asked me -- in a curious-like-a-girlfriend kind of way -- what happened with Aaron. I laughed, appreciating the irony of tapping into a former date’s social circle.

After braving the crowded dance floor to shake my booty with Tiffany and Prince to the Gipsy Kings’ “Bamboleo,” I continued chatting with Aaron.

I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t ask for my number when we said goodnight. Still, I couldn’t help smiling – about my fabulously festive Valentine’s Day, one that reminded me you never know who's going to cross your path when you least expect it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: A Priceless Tale

Last week, my good friend Sara and I went to see “Slumdog Millionaire.” It’s not often that a movie lives up to any hype you hear about it, but this sleeper hit does exactly that and then some.

Based on Vikas Swarup's 2005 novel “Q&A,” “Slumdog Millionaire” is the story of Jamal (Dev Patel), an 18-year-old orphan who becomes the unlikely first winner of India’s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” show. When Jamal is arrested under suspicion of cheating, he explains the difficult events of his life on the streets -- a life that led to him knowing the answers.

Against All Odds: Jamal (Dev Patel) and Latika (Freida Pinto) struggle to be together in "Slumdog Millionaire"

Tragedy brings Jamal (Dev Patel) and fellow orphans Salim (Madhur Mittal) and Latika (Freida Pinto) together when they're children. After they are separated from Latika, Jamal never gives up on finding her, and so begins the enchanting love story at the heart of “Slumdog.”

Jamal’s tale unfolds against the gritty backdrop of Mumbai’s slum villages and director Danny Boyle provides an unflinching look at this other world, helped along by a very talented cast. The children who portray young Jamal, Salim, and Latika turn in devastatingly heartfelt performances equaling the work of their older counterparts.

Patel is riveting as a man who refuses to be cast as a cheater or relinquish his longtime love. His perfect chemistry with the luminous Pinto has you falling for both of them – especially when she asks him why he can’t let go of the bond between them.

“It is our destiny,” he says simply.

“Slumdog Millionaire” is up for 10 awards including Best Picture at this Sunday’s Oscars.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Girls Night Out In Westchester

Friday night, I headed out to Westchester for a belated birthday celebration with my friend and colleague Carla.

After picking me up at the train station with her gorgeous little girls -- two-year-old Georgianna Jean and one-year-old Nancianne -- in tow, the four of us went to Mary Ann’s for dinner.

Grinning Gals: Carla and one-year-old Nancianne during our girls night out

A cozy, casual Mexican chain, Mary Ann’s serves a mean chimichanga (I tried the ground beef and cheese varieties) and a chocolate confusion cake that leaves no doubt you’re in dessert heaven. A scrumptious mix of mousse and sponge cake, this is a must-have when you’re dining at Mary Ann’s.

From there, Carla and I dropped the little ones off, then drove over to a packed neighborhood pub for some cocktails and girl talk. On the conversational menu -- applying PR savvy to the search for Mr. Right and gratitude for the good friends we’ve made through Quinn & Company. I’m especially thankful that Carla is one of them.

Up next…my first foray into NYC’s Fashion Week and a big Valentine’s night out.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Merits Of Being A Ski Bunny

Much as I love the idea of being in a winter wonderland, I've never been much of a skier. The last time I hit the slopes was fourteen years ago this weekend, during a Poconos jaunt with my California-based then-beau Mark. Recent events have me reconsidering the merits of being a ski bunny.

During a winter weekend in Vermont not too long ago, a good friend of mine found romance on the slopes with a Boston engineering whiz. Now immersed in a full blown long-distance romance, the two are about to take their third trip together.

Apparently, skiing is to men what spas are to women -- perfect for a getaway with friends. At a party the other night, I found myself sitting next to an adorable New Yorker recovering from a rare injury on the slopes. Turns out he's regular on the mountains of upstate NY.

I think it may be time for me to brush up on my skiing skills. Even if it means having to squeeze into a jumpsuit again -- something that was a lot less daunting back in 1995.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Most Important PR Campaign Ever

In the course of my four+ years in travel PR, I’ve had the good fortune of working on some groundbreaking campaigns.

From Starwood Caribbean’s award-winning Procreation Vacation package (named by yours truly) to Tourism Queensland’s current global phenomenon, Best Job In The World, these initiatives have taught me the tremendous value of getting your message out to as broad an audience as possible.

Now, inspired by friend and colleague Carla, I’ve decided to apply my PR savvy to a more personal objective -- finding Mr. Right.

When it comes to PR, the best ideas are often the simplest ones and so, I’m forgoing stunts in favor of deploying good old fashioned word of mouth to achieve my goal.

Who Should I date? You tell me!

I’ve already taken a few steps in this direction, putting friends, family and business associates on notice that I’m open to matchmaking attempts. Now, I’m asking you, dear readers, to play Cupid and answer the question -- who do you think I should date? Do you know a great guy -- or know someone who might know one -- that’s single and looking?

When it comes to bachelors, I don’t necessarily have a physical type. As I once told, I’ve dated everything from short and balding to tall and muscular. I do have a few prerequisites, though. Here they are:

Age range: 35-45
Zip code: Anywhere in the tri-state area (NY, NJ, CT)
Must Haves: Intelligence, spirituality, ambition, a well-worn passport
Dealbreakers: Cats, dogs, small kids, no sense of humor
Optional: Enjoys Scrabble, concerts and a good meal

Feel free to forward this post far and wide -- viral marketing is key to any successful PR program -- and email me your suggested Mr. Right candidates at

I can’t think of a better date than February 14th to launch a plan for finding a permanent sweetheart. Happy Valentine’s Day, Everyone!

Friday, February 13, 2009

By The Numbers: Valentine's Edition

Today may be Friday the 13th, but my mind is on Valentine’s Day -- an occasion I’ve always had a great affection for.

Any holiday celebrating love is a good thing, and this one has part of its origins in a fellow alum from my beloved alma mater Mount Holyoke College.

Victorian Valentine: A Mount Holyoke alum launched the tradition of Valentine's greeting cards

Artist and businesswoman Esther Howland, who graduated from MHC in 1847, is responsible for popularizing Valentine’s Day greeting cards. After receiving a Valentine from her father’s business associate, she marketed her own brand of Valentine’s cards – and so began the tradition that now keeps Hallmark in business and men scrambling at the last minute through the aisles of Victoria’s Secret.

Single and not, I’ve had more than a few memorable Valentine’s Days over the years. Here are a few standouts – By The Numbers:

Number of significant others with whom I didn’t get to spend Valentine’s Day: 2
Number of men who gave me a dozen roses for V-Day as I spent the evening with another: 1
Number of boyfriends who cut a business trip short to spend V-Day with me: 1
Number of romances that ended just before V-Day: 1
Number of teddy bears received for V-Day from long-distance sweethearts: 2

One of those teddy bears came from my high school sweetie Hogan, at a time when we hadn’t been in touch for awhile. The surprise was a wonderful reminder that Valentine’s Day is a great occasion for reconnecting with people close to your heart – and that it’s never too late to do that.

Up next…a girls night out double header and a look at the sleeper hit “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Second Thoughts About Pricey Matchmakers

Earlier this week, I mentioned my plan to sign up with the dating service Great Expectations. Since then, a little Google research has revealed it might not be the best bet in this (or any) economy.

Apart from a hefty membership fee ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, Great Expectations has generated a number of complaints from disappointed customers.

“I never ever would have signed their contract if I was told the truth about their services or clientele,” said one Florida woman recently in a roundup of negative feedback for Great Expectations at

So, much as I was looking forward to the photo/video shoot that comes with GE’s pricey package, I’m going to invest in some budget-friendly tried and true online dating services instead – and add a few new ones to the mix too. Apparently, there’s a site geared toward board game lovers. Maybe I’ll find my Scrabble soulmate.

My Great Expectations research reminded me that it pays to be a savvy shopper – especially when you’re browsing for someone special.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Best Friends Forever

One of my favorite sayings is friends are the family we choose for ourselves. That’s never been more true for me than with my best friend of 20+ years, Lisa.

Lisa and I first connected as pen pals back in 1987, bonding over our shared affection for the witty NBC soap opera “Santa Barbara.”

We clicked even more when we met in person several months later. And so began a friendship that has defied geographical odds (Lisa lives in Kansas City) to become the sisterhood closest to my heart.

Lisa and I during a girls getaway to L.A., Summer 1997

Lisa and I speak 3-4 times a week, and email and text each other daily. Over the years, we’ve shared everything -- celebrity gossip, love life highs and lows, job-related trials and triumphs and the seminal loss in each of our lives, that of our respective parents.

Though I wish with all of my heart we didn’t have this in common, there’s no denying that having each lost both of our parents has deepened the bond between us -- because we’re the only ones we know who’ve lived through this double tragedy as young, single women.

Though no two experiences of grief are the same, ours have both been filtered through the prism of having had parents we genuinely adored and respected. I cherish that I was able to know Lisa’s Mom and Dad and I know she feels the same way about mine.

Lisa is everything a best friend should be and more -- a trusted advisor, sympathetic ear and the person I think of first whenever something really great (or really terrible) happens.

I’m looking forward to many, many more decades of friendship with Lisa. And many more conversations about how much we still love watching our old VHS tapes of “Santa Barbara.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Swanky France Tourism Soirée

Last night, I headed down for a cocktail reception at Robert DeNiro’s Tribeca Grill hosted by France Tourism.

Attending swanky events is definitely one of the perks of working in PR and France Tourism knows how to throw a truly first-class affair.

In addition to a generous selection of Champagne and French wines, last night’s reception offered a bountiful spread of cheeses, breads, and passed hors d’oeuvres that included brie cheese encrusted beef, mini potato and cheese strudels along with bite-sized desserts ranging from chocolate concoctions to Tirami Su.

The well-attended soirée featured industry folks from the media and travel agent worlds and gave me the opportunity to catch up with one my favorite new journalist friends -- blogger and writer extraordinaire Kent St. John.

Memories of Brisbane: Kent and I on the final night of last month’s press trip to Queensland

I also connected with delightful travel & lifestyle writer Jean Tang, just back from a month-long stint in Paris. We quickly bonded over our mutual love for Australia (like me, she spent five months as a Sydney resident) and I told her about my client Tourism Queensland’s exciting Best Job In The World campaign, which has generated worldwide media attention and 11,000+ applicants so far.

Joining us at our lively table were veteran Daily News editor Mila André, travel PR and writing maven Meryl Pearlstein and freelance writer Jeryl Brunner. Conversation flowed freely as we talked about the appeal of mingling at gallery exhibits in NYC and the joys of doing what you love for a living.

One of the biggest joys for me -- regularly encountering smart, talented women as excited as I am about travel, and about living in the world’s greatest city.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Closer Look At Dating Services

When you live in a city like New York, there’s no shortage of companies promising to connect you with the opposite sex. Meet Over Drinks, It’s Just Lunch and 8 At 8 dinners are among the many dating services available to residents of the Big Apple.

Relentless phone calls from an online dating site I recently scoped out got me to thinking -- might it be time to try one of these services that does the matchmaking for you?

Two of my longtime friends have tried dating service Great Expectations with varying degrees of success. One met several nice guys that she had no romantic chemistry with, while the other is in the midst of her second serious relationship procured through the company.

Now that I’m officially halfway through my thirties, I’m even more open minded when it comes to exploring avenues I haven’t before for meeting my potential soul mate.

I’m going to sign up with Great Expectations -- and maybe a few other dating services too. Because, much like any good job hunt, the search for Mr. Right requires putting yourself out there to as broad an audience as possible. Even if it’s only to polish your dating prowess.

Up next…mingling at a France Tourism soiree in Tribeca and bowling with friends in NYC’s Union Square.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Night Of Dancing With The Stars

Wednesday night, my cousin Carla and I headed to Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum to see “Dancing With The Stars” live.

Both big fans of ABC’s top-rated ballroom dance contest, we couldn’t wait to see some of our favorite celebs and their pro partners in action. After a tepid opener with couples from local dance schools, the entertaining 2.5 hour show kicked into high gear.

My cousin Carla and me just before showtime

Recreating the TV show’s set design, the cast made their entrance from a grand staircase center stage. Kicking up their heels for the crowd were former N’SYNCer Lance Bass and his pro partner Lacey Schwimmer, Olympic athlete Maurice Green and Cheryl Burke, Oscar winner Marlee Matlin and Fabian Sanchez, singer Toni Braxton and Alec Mazo, along with the rest of DTWS’ superstar pros -- champs Mark Ballas and Derek Hough, Aussie Kym Johnson, Poland-born Edyta Sliwinska and newly-engaged hunk and show choreographer, Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

Poetry In Motion: DWTS' Maks and Edyta

Mirroring DWTS’ successful on-screen formula, the show’s sequin-clad talented cast was accompanied by a 10-piece live band as they performed a variety of Latin and Ballroom numbers, including many of last season’s signature routines. Cheryl and Maurice reprised their mambo, Matlee and Fabian glided through a Viennese waltz and Lance and Lacey rocked out a gothic tango.

Lance and Lacey rocked it out to a cover version of Rihanna's "Disturbia"

Marlee and Fabian doing the Viennese Waltz

I was especially excited when the DWTS cast reprised their dramatic group paso doble routine from last season.

The group Paso Doble was even more exciting to watch live

An additional treat -- two huge video screens showcasing never-seen-before rehearsal footage and outtakes.

Midway through the show, Toni Braxton took to the stage, moving the crowd when she shared her Autistic son’s recent milestone -- speaking for the first time. She sang a breathy rendition of her classic hit “Unbreak My Heart.”

Breathe Again: Toni Braxton did more singing than dancing

One of my favorite group numbers was set to the Sinatra tune, “Fly Me To The Moon.” As the cast sashayed across the stage sporting colorfully mod flight attendant attire evoking an era gone by, I was reminded of that feeling I only get when I hear Old Blue Eyes -- the desire to climb right into the romantic world he sings of.
Fly Me To The Moon...Or anywhere near hunky Maks

The show ended on a high note, with the entire cast taking to the stage for a rousing rendition of “Dancing Queen.”

The finale was performed to ABBA's "Dancing Queen"

Carla and I left with big smiles on our faces (and even bigger crushes on Maks), and with eager anticipation for the new season of “Dancing With The Stars.”
Season 8 begins March 9th.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Weekend Getaway In Delaware's Capital

This weekend, I’m enjoying a little getaway to Dover, Delaware’s sleepy but sweet capital city, and some quality time with my brother Ray and sister-in-law Barb.

Mi Familia: I took this picture of Ray and Barb at the Jersey Shore, May 2007

After a delicious home-cooked breakfast courtesy of Barb (melt in your mouth fried eggs and English muffins), we continued our tradition of bargain hunting with a visit to Shoe Show, a Payless-esque store where I struck footwear gold. Two pairs of shoes and three pairs of slippers for $56 – a welcome change of pace, so to speak, from price points in my beloved Big Apple.

Another tradition – going to Franco’s, a longtime favorite, for dinner. A casual neighborhood eatery serving up tasty, traditional Italian fare, Franco’s has a deserved reputation for being one of Dover’s best. Italy-born Franco and his charming wife Louisa, who greeted us with big hugs and kisses, really make you feel like family.

Over a shared plate of lightly breaded calamari and some superb pasta entrees (the fettucini carbonara was heavenly), Ray, Barb and I talked about the $650 million Delaware budget gap that could lead to a first-ever state sales tax, the allure of New Orleans and the superiority of snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef over anywhere else.

As we left Franco’s, I couldn’t help thinking how rare it is that going somewhere makes you feel like you’re coming home. And how lucky I am to feel that way whenever I visit Ray and Barb.

Friday, February 6, 2009

By The Numbers: Adventure Edition

When it comes to adventure, I’ve always been a fan of going out on a limb -- literally.

My most recent thrill seeking excursion -- climbing Sydney’s Harbor Bridge -- got me to thinking about some of the other adventurous jaunts I’ve undertaken. From canopy tours (a.k.a zip lining) in Costa Rica and Belize to dangling over the edge of 135-story Sin City’s Stratosphere, I’ve never shied away from sky-high fun. Here are some of my more memorable experiences (way) above ground -- By The Numbers:

Approximate number of amusement parks visited: 15
Number of rides on Coney Island’s legendary (and rickety) Cyclone roller coaster: 2
Number of times spent dangling harness-clad from a crane on amusement park ’bungee’ rides: 2
Number of gravity-defying rides experienced at the Las Vegas Stratosphere: 2
Number of rock climbing walls I tried while on the high seas: 1
Get Out There: Taking direction from Royal Caribbean’s famous tagline, I made it about halfway up this rock climbing wall on the Navigator Of The Seas ship‘s top deck, January 2008.

Number of zip lining adventures: 2
Number of feet above ground during highest zip line: 315

I’ll never forget the panoramic view as I soared from tree to tree at Costa Rica’s Turu Bari nature park. It’s amazing how free it makes you feel, even with the clunky harness you have to wear.

Coming up…A knockout "Dancing With The Stars" performance and a weekend getaway to the First State.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Love Lessons From My Parents

Yesterday would have been my late and adored parents 36th wedding anniversary. The date got me to thinking about some of the many lessons I learned from them about finding and sustaining lasting love.

My all-time favorite couple: Mom and Dad

Love comes along when -- and where -- you least expect it: My mother was my dad’s secretary, and it was far from love at first sight when they met. Years and two respective divorces later, they began to see one another in a new light.

Love means taking a risk -- and letting go of the past: Mom wasn’t initially convinced that Dad was worth the risk. He, meanwhile, wasn’t too keen on investing himself in a serious, committed relationship. Both of them got past their fears, even though it took a few bumps (and breakups) along the way for them to get to saying "I do."

Love is a job with lifetime benefits -- if you’re willing to do the work: Relationships have their ups and downs, and my parents’ relationship was no different. But they never took each other for granted, or stopped paying attention to the important stuff big and small -- from taking good care of themselves physically to sending cards for no occasion except to say “I love you.”

Love is the best medicine: Whether facing small challenges like the ongoing drama attending their daughter’s love life or great battles like cancer, Mom and Dad always drew strength from one another. I think that’s why, between the two of them, they survived a combined 26 years after being diagnosed with cancer.

Mom and Dad’s enduring love set the bar pretty high for me when it comes to happily ever after. But that’s okay. I’m ready, willing and able to do the work to make it happen.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

PR Girls Night Out: Stitch

Last night, I enjoyed a girls night out with four of my favorite fellow PR ladies – Andrea, Lauren, Louise and Tara.

It had been many months since our last PR chicks happy hour, so we had much to catch up on over drinks at Stitch, a watering hole in NYC’s Garment District, right around the corner from my office.

Stitch: The perfect place for after-work imbibing, even on a chilly winter’s night

As we nibbled on some tasty appetizers (mozzarella sticks, chicken quesadillas and coconut flavored chicken nuggets), Tara filled us in on her plans for a fall wedding at a stately home in Florida with her beau of four+ years. Louise talked about her relatively new gig at Dan Klores Associates, Andrea mentioned revisiting, and Lauren and I (both Aquarians) shared our disbelief over turning 35.

After some shoptalk and musing about dream alternate career paths – culinary school, EMT training and full-time writing among them – we got onto the subject of online dating misadventures and our own personal experiences of the book-turned-movie “He’s Just Not That Into You.”

What is it, we collectively wondered, about meeting online that seems to subvert the whole point – getting to know someone in person? It’s almost like there’s an aversion to graduating from emails, texts, and IM’s.

I told the girls my approach to cutting down on the interminable communicating – saying right in my profile that I have no interest in it, and responding to an email from an interested guy with my number. If all he wants to do is chat online, I move on. Time is too precious, especially when you reach your mid-thirties, to do anything else – and much better spent enjoying the delightful company of good friends.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Brainstorming For A Worthy Cause

Last night, I attended my first meeting as a member of the Cancer Research Institute’s fledging Young Philanthropists group.

Last year’s Midsummer Social event sponsored by the CRI’s Young Philanthropists group attracted about 140 people, myself included

I was introduced to the organization and the group last summer, when I attended their first annual Midsummer Social event. Having lost both of my parents to cancer, it is a cause close to my heart, so I’m excited to be part of promoting CRI and their efforts to support scientists on the frontline of cancer research.

The 15-member Young Philanthropists board boasts a cross section of smart, talented 20 and 30-somethings from CRI and the private sector. I’m looking forward to working with every single one of them on the group’s 2009 summer event.

If you’re interested in being part of this dynamic group, drop me a line at

Monday, February 2, 2009

Unconventional Dating Tactics

A colleague of mine recently told me about Tamara, a fellow single New Yorker, and her new blog chronicling her quest to go on 31 dates in as many days. Her clever idea got me to thinking about unconventional tactics for meeting the opposite sex -- and how inspiration for finding some of your own often comes from the most unexpected sources.

Single New York Female: This 31-year-old journalist is keeping busy with 31 dates in 31 days

Having always been a pretty outgoing person, I’m no stranger to being adventurous about broadening my romantic horizons.

Along with trying non-traditional venues (speed dating,, etc.) before they became mainstream, I’ve consulted a matchmaker (though I balked at her $11,000 introductory fee) and posted a “Lady In Waiting” ad on my building’s bulletin board.

When you live in a competitive dating marketplace like New York, thinking outside the box can go a long way towards increasing both the number of men you meet and the odds that you’ll click with one of them.

Tamara’s dating marathon has inspired me to get back out there and redefine what it means to be 35 and single in the Big Apple.

What’s the most unusual approach you’ve tried to land a date? Let me know and I just might give it a try myself!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Belated Birthday Celebration

Last night, I enjoyed a belated birthday dinner at trendy East Village bistro Il Cantinori.

Fortunately for me, I fared much better than Carrie Bradshaw when she dined here alone on her 35th, as some of my best gal pals and my Delaware-based cousin Chris joined me for the festivities.

Celebrating With My Nearest and Dearest: Me with (clockwise from left) Caroline, Amanda, Chris, Sara and Leila

After raising our glasses and enjoying a complimentary antipasto of grilled vegetables, we talked about everything from current events and recession-related job uncertainty to adventure travel and what destinations each of us would visit if we get laid off. Eastern Europe, Ireland, South America and, of course, Australia (for me) topped our-post pink slip wish lists.

As I enjoyed a Caprese salad appetizer and some heavenly osso buco, the conversation turned to affairs of the heart -- specifically how the dating scene varies according to where you reside, and how much easier it would be to meet someone special if attached friends would pay it forward and play matchmaker.

Enjoying a candlelit slice of Tirami Su and an operatic birthday serenade at Il Cantinori

To my great delight, I was treated to a birthday serenade by Il Cantinori’s talented wait staff that surpassed any of the ones we heard for other celebrants over the course of our three-hour meal. There’s something about the way “Happy Birthday” is sung at an Italian restaurant that gives me goose bumps -- especially when the adorable waiters call me “Bella.”

A plate of Tirami Su ended the evening on a delicious high note. I was reminded once again that dessert, much like milestone birthdays, is always sweeter when it’s shared with family and friends.