2017: A Year In Review

The key takeaway from 2017 – NOTHING MAKES SENSE!

Everything I thought would happen didn’t, and the unexpected – good and bad – happened in full force!

The Different Moods of 2017

This is how I started the year feeling. I was all over the place.

By mid-year this mood kicked in…

And by the end, this is exactly where I’m at (thanks Suzy).

BLC Communications

I landed what would be my favorite consulting gig at MKTG in Q1…creative and passionate people and a very fun project to work on. How many times do you see branded soda machines with adorable little super hero characters?

A Return to Moet Hennessy 

I worked at Moet Hennessy, USA in my twenties. What a ride! I began on the Hennessy brand, worked on 10 Cane Rum, Glenmorangie Scotch, and Belvedere Vodka. I left to work at Serralles, USA and eventually opened my own consulting firm but had the amazing opportunity to return as the Hennessy V.S Brand Director. Going back to where it all started….

I got to join in the ranks of these extraordinary folks.

My first day was my birthday, March 27th, and I must say it was pretty amazing. The day started in Las Vegas with a helicopter ride through the Grand Canyon and VCP Champagne. A pretty incredible way to meet my team.

There was an amazing trip to Cognac to see the Hennessy distillery and experience the history first hand.

I even had the privilege to meet Roch Hennessy.

…and see the archives.

Back on US Soil, I organized a team building day at the DogPound where we boxed out our aggressions. Yes, I have a boot on…

I also had the honor of participating in the launch of Hennessy V.S Limited Edition with Jon One.

Had another fantastic trip to Champagne in June. I’m still in the boot!

And in the summer I enjoyed an educational market visit to Florida.

By the end of the summer, I moved into the role of Experiential Marketing Director for the Hennessy Portfolio.

In November, I was thrilled to have Hennessy participate in Hopeland’s annual gala. The organization finds loving homes for children, a cause very close to my heart.

Year end dinners were celebratory, although some were bittersweet as some people left the Moet Hennessy family.

And I had the great fortune of closing out the year with the Hennessy team at our delicious holiday lunch at my favorite Italian restaurant in NY, Carbone.

My Best Friend’s Wedding

My best friend, Linda, had her fabulous NY Bachelorette Party in March and we danced the night away! (Eddie the Eagle?)

She married Adam Ponsi in April and her wedding was epic on every level. Linda, thank you for making me your made of honor. It was my honor to be by your side! Love you.


The story of my life…

Keith and I experienced the chicken parm pizza at Quality Italian with Cristina + Ralph Racanelli. We loved it so much we went back with Linda and Adam.

Can’t say enough about the bagel at Nur. This was a delicious experience with Linda and John.

Who says you can’t have it all? Champagne, pizza and a pierogi!

4 Charles’ 40oz Prime Rib – MEAT, MEAT, MEAT!

Discovered the best duck in NY at Decoy (thanks Orit!)

Although I love Carbone, there is nothing like a home cooked Italian meal with homemade red sauce. Cristina, thank you for this amazing meal.

Ayurvedic Cuisine at Divya’s with Orit.

I had my 2 extraordinary moms – Karen + Diane – come together for a cook off where they made their famous recipes and I took a ton of notes! The output = 3 days worth of delicious meals my dad got to taste test.

The Grill – Keith and my 9 year wedding Anniversary meal.

Beyond proud of Simon Kim, my brother from another (Korean) mother. What a tremendous year. He closed Piora, opened Cote, won another Michelin star, had a baby girl and serves some of the best steak I’ve ever tasted.

Pu Pu Platters and Wonton Soup with sliced pork. The way it’s supposed to be.

The NoMad’s Chicken with Cooper.

Hillstone – Trish and John 🙂

Emmy’s: Burger, Detroit-style pizza and the rice krispy treat dessert.

Love useful food pairings!

I’d like the dover sole. He’ll have the branzino…

My Family: Keith and Rambo

Rambo and Paulie – Grumpy old men.

Our trip to Aruba. We didn’t get to do a lot of personal travel this year but this vacation was so relaxing and a good mid-year reset.

Keith and I continue our broadway nights where we usually start with wine, then move to champagne, then scotch and if ambitious tequila. Over the course of 5 hours, we sing all our favorite show tunes, dance around our apartment with Rambo, or if warm, sing on our balcony. We usually end with an order from our local 24 hour diner.

Keith’s Bday with polish cuisine.

Rocking out at Linda and Adam’s wedding!

Date night for my 36th birthday.

Keith’s Christmas Decor – Disco lights in the apartment surrounded by ‘spirits’

My handsome 13 year old dog child.

Our annual holiday tradition of fancy cocktails in our favorite NY Hotels. He still fits in his tux from our wedding (9 years ago) and I rocked my mom’s dress (the one that as a daughter I use to think she was a princess in).

Rutgers Tailgating and Football

Yeah, we’re still tailgating with the greatest crew.

Things That Made Me Smile in 2017

Leaf cookies, walkman (felt like Star Lord), the baby boys, and this Christmas card.

Love you, mean it!


Being able to work and play in this extraordinary city.

The JC Crew.

Powered by Pizza!

The ability to leave freezing NY for sunny Miami.

The BNBs.

Housewarming Parties.

Coffee & Wine.

The Eclipse.

The DogPound – best workout on the planet.

The Caruso’s – this was quite a Q4 for my family but it was a reminder that you will do anything for your loved ones. I truly have the craziest, but most amazing parents. And Nicole, we just need you to continue to watch over us.

The Witek’s – I am truly blessed to have such supportive and loving in-laws. Thank you for all your help this year.

What I Learned

Because I’m an obsessive, hyper-detailed type A personality, I had quite a wake up call this year. I questioned the way I was leading my life and what I was prioritizing. Was what I considered success a few years ago ‘success’ now? By conventional definitions, you could say I was successful but when you had a year filled with health mishaps – 4 broken ribs and a broken left foot forcing me to wear a very sexy (insert sarcastic face) boot for 4 months, 2 ER trips for my hypertension, and a surgery, I would say I didn’t feel that way.

I will admit, up to the age of thirty, I needed conventional successes to create structure. After thirty, everything I’ve learned has been from failure, rejection, humility, and vulnerability. I think that’s how your soul expands. Admittedly, I don’t always like it, but I realize the acceptance and perhaps surrendering to it makes me realize how strong I actually am.

There were a few key learnings I took away this year that I hope in my sharing helps you.

  • Sometimes you need to simply listen.

  • When people become multi sensory, they become more aware. That’s why I love traveling to new places because it forces me to engage all my senses and I actually feel more alive and alert, no longer operating on auto-pilot.
  • It never hurts to see the good in someone. They often act better because of it. Make people feel valued, seen, heard, and treat them with reverence and respect. You will bring out the best in them.
  • There is power in vulnerability and trust.
  • We live in a scarcity culture – nothing is enough. We are not good enough. We are not thin enough. We are not safe enough. I challenge that now. I think we have enough if we allow ourselves to enjoy the moment

  • It’s ok to surrender to the hurt, loss, resentment and disappointment. Accept it because it did happen, and now it’s done.
  • The energy we put out is the energy we get back – the law of attraction.
  • Get rid of the disease to please. Not worth it cause you’re never going to make everyone happy. You must make yourself happy.
  • You are in control of 2 things: how to prepare for what might happen and how to respond to what just happened.
  • Success is being healthy, living a life you admire and finding inner peace.
  • When I have a comparison moment, I now ask: What am I trying to prove, to whom and for what?
  • Nothing Makes Sense 

My hopes for 2018

I have a lot of ambitions for 2018 and hope for a healthy, balanced year.


I don’t want to let a moment pass without my acknowledgement and full experience of it. I plan to stay mindful, grateful and hope to entertain, enlighten and uplift those around me. #3QT

Stay inspired and cheers to 2018.



8 Delicious Gluten Free Recipes from Positive Health Wellness

It’s been almost half a year since I’ve posted. So naturally, what do I write about? FOOD! The love for all forms of consumption continues, but I have learned there needs to be a balance.

In an effort to find delicious recipes that are easy to make, I came across a great site: Positive Health Wellness.

Not only does the site address diet + nutrition / recipes, it includes beauty, fitness and pain relief advise. It’s a great resource.

Back to the food…. Here are 8 delicious, unique, gluten-free recipes that will be a hit at any social function! I just made the pineapple and ginger pavlova. It certainly satisfied my sweet tooth!

Enjoy and #stayinspired!

Guide to Charleston, South Carolina

This post is dedicated to Jonathan Libutti. He fueled my interest to visit this city and I am forever grateful for the recommendations he gave me.

The food has a distinct flavor, the weather is warm, and the people are charming. Charleston has been voted best city in the U.S. numerous times in numerous publications and secured #1 in the world in Travel and Leisure. So what is it about this city that beats New York, Paris, Hong Kong and the other behemoths?

1) The Lowcountry Cuisine: Charleston’s restaurant scene is gaining national attention for its distinctly southern flavors, uniquely modern restaurants, and talented newcomer chefs. Local ingredients have always been a point of pride for area restaurants, and in recent years Charleston’s finest have rallied behind a standard of using only fresh, locally sourced foods. Charleston is known for comfort foods with a Gullah influence, and famous for such dishes as Shrimp and Grits and She-crab soup.

2)  Historic Homes: Early in Charleston’s history, the city collected property tax on the street width of the house, rather than the length, creating a preference for the long, narrow houses that are signature Charleston style homes today.  Almost every home on Charleston’s peninsula is historic. Beautifully colored antebellum mansion homes can be found on East Bay on Rainbow Row, and at the Battery on Murray and South Battery streets. Most of these picturesque dwellings also contain shady secret courtyards and black ironwork gates.

3) Southern Hospitality: A town raised with “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am,” Charleston demonstrates its southern hospitality in every aspect of life.  Hotels in Charleston go above and beyond the usual amenities you’d expect, with many offering complimentary wine and cheese receptions in the afternoons, and cookies and milk in the evenings.

4) Beaches: While Charleston’s downtown itself is a harbor town, three beaches are located just a short drive off the peninsula. Isle of Palms, the furthest beach from downtown, is full of upscale beach condos and remains relatively uncrowded most of the year. Sullivan’s Island, only about 15 – 20 minutes away by car, is a flat sand beach with beautiful homes and rentals, unique bars and restaurants, and is the home of Fort Moultrie, a defensive fort used in both Revolutionary and Civil wars. Folly Beach, a 20-minute’s ride away on James Island, is most popular with college students and Charleston vacationers.

5) American History: Called the Holy City for its many church steeples and historically early religious tolerance, Charleston’s great tale begins when King Charles the second of England chartered Carolina to his 8 Lords Proprietors. Established in 1670, Charleston fell victim to attack in the centuries to come by Native Americans, Pirates like the “Gentleman Pirate” Stede Bonnet, and throughout the War of 1812, and American Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Visit historical sites like Ft. Sumter in the Charleston harbor, to stand where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.


  • Planters Inn: Elegant, with a southern style and amazing amenities. Located in the Historic District, it’s in the middle of everything (read: you can walk everywhere)

Dining – Respect the Food:

  • Hank & Hyman Seafood: The She-crab soup is a must. It’s Charleston’s signature dish made from the sweet meat from the female crab. The Carolina Delight takes grits to a new level – fried, cheese, more cheese. And the build your own platters are magnificent.

  • Jestines: Old southern cooking. Always a line. Classic soul food: fried everything, cornbread, and the blue collar special (peanut butter and banana sandwich with potato chips)

  • Anson: The crab and brie fondue, fried green tomatoes, catfish and chicken under the brick are delicious!
  • Husk: The bar serves Pappy! The focus is ingredient-driven cuisine and was 2011’s Best New Restaurant in America by Bon Appetit Magazine. The menu changes but get the corn bread. The Carolina Heritage Pork is very flavorful and the Short Rib is succulent.

  • Hank’s Seafood (next to Planter’s Inn): Located in a turn of the century warehouse, the ingredients are as fresh as they come and the seafood is divine.
  • Peninsula Grill @ Planter’s Inn: Totally romantic with flickering lanterns and a historic brick alleyway. To start, you cannot go wrong with the lobster 3 way (ravioli, tempura, and sautéed) and the she-crab soup. Their steaks are outstanding with an assortment of beautiful sauces of all flavors to accompany the decadent meat. (Ginger-Lime Beurre Blanc?) And where else could you get a wreckfish? Although I’m not a dessert person, their Ultimate Coconut Cake is off the hook.

  • FIG: Local, fresh eatery that services a Provencal fish stew and a roasted tilefish! The rabbit pie is also a distinct dish.
  • McCrady’s Tavern (George Washington Spot): This was Keith’s favorite. A favorite of notable Charlestonians before/during/after the American Revolution, this establishment hosted a grand 30-course dinner for President George Washington in 1791. The calf’s head soup is one to try.

  • Hominy Grill: With a James Beard award winning chef, the entire appetizer menu is worthy – jalapeno hushpuppies, fried chicken basket, fried green tomatoes, okra & shrimp beignets… where do you stop?


  • YoBo: “Healthy Mexican” with the legendary Mason Jar Margarita: double shot of gold tequila and margarita mix.
  • Charleston Harbor Resort’s: Blended mudslide cocktail
  • Mercantile & Mash: All about American spirits. 120 whiskeys, including limited releases and single-barrel and cask-strength offerings.


Must See / Excursions:

  • King St – For all your shopping needs

  • Rainbow Row: Window shop for mansions

  • Museum of Charleston

  • Meeting sweetgrass basket weavers at the Charleston City Market – yes we bought one and I store my chargers in it

  • Horse and Buggy Tour: Historic District, Ft. Sumner/Park
  • Boone Hall

  • Candle Store across street from Planters Inn Hotel (can’t remember the name!) – the most amazing scents.
  • The Holy City Salt Scrub @ Hyman Seafood – best salt scrub ever!

  • Hug a really big tree!


First Aid Travel

After all my travel experiences, I have learned bringing a first aid/prevention kit is imperative for any length trip. I’m known to carry my little ‘pharmacy’ pouch in my purse on a daily basis. There is no way I’m going away without the proper precautions when traveling domestic or abroad.



  1. A list of your prescriptions (in case you lose them). If you are traveling abroad, translate them in advance to the language.
  2. Pain and fever reducers (Advil, Tylenol)
  3. Hydrocortisone cream for bug bites / rashes
  4. Bandages
  5. IF you have heart problems, a copy of your most recent EKG – yeah, I bring mine
  6. Antihistamines for allergies
  7. Tweezers, small scissors, adhesive tape, alcohol wipes
  8. Rehydration powder (I like packets of Adventure Medical Kits’ oral rehydration salts)
  9. PH Drops
  10. Back up power battery which can juice up your phone or camera battery on the go
  11. Sunscreen
  12. Imodium in case you have a run-in with the porcelain god

Depending on where you travel, you should consider the following:

  1. Travel Insurance
  2. Antibiotics
  3. Wet wipes and toilet paper
  4. Emergency contraception
  5. Iodine tablets in case you have to purify water in an emergency
  6. Dramamine for when you get queasy on those bumpy roads or rough water

Enjoy your travel adventures and #stayinspired

When Life Hands You Lemons…

Life has handed us all lemons…so what do you do when it happens?


Put A Sliced Lemon Next to Your Bed At Night:

  • Few scents are as refreshing as a lemon.
  • Slice it into quarters and sprinkle some salt on it. Done!
  • Put those slices on your nightstand and brace yourself for these benefits:
    • Stress Relief: The smell of citrus relaxes one’s brain waves and emotions.
    • Increased Focus: If you’re an insomniac whose brain tends to race all over the place – like me – a good night’s sleep is dependent on focusing on positive things and relaxation exercises that will get you to a state of rest. That’s where the focus-boosting lemon fragrance does its job!
    • Better Breathing: Let the gentle scent of that anti-oxidizing, anti-bacterial fruit waft through your nostrils and sleep.
    • Buh-bye Insects: Tired of mosquitoes making a meal of you at night? Or maybe it’s that fly buzzing around your ear that’s got you going insane. Fear no more! Lemon repels all sorts of insects!
    • Increased Energy & Positivity By Morning: I know, morning is the last thing you want to think about as you climb into bed. But those slices on your nightstand will make wake-up time a lot less painful. That’s because the smell of lemon boosts your brain’s serotonin levels.
    • Improved Air Quality: When’s the last time you thought about your home’s air quality? Not sure? Lemon not only smells great – it also purifies air. It’s so powerful you can use it to draw paint fumes out of a room.
    • Blood Pressure Reduction: Considering many American’s suffer from high blood pressure – myself included – this little lemon comes in handy.

Make Warm Turmeric Water with Lemon:

Tea cup with lemon on a wooden table

Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Curcumin or the active ingredient of turmeric is a powerful antioxidant which can provide many health benefits. Try turmeric water – which has numerous healing properties – and combine it with lemon juice.


  • ½ teaspoon of turmeric
  • ½ lemon
  • Organic honey
  • Warm water


You need to squeeze the lemon juice into a glass and pour the warm water into it. Then, mix it along with the turmeric. Add the honey and make sure to mix them well. Enjoy!

Benefits of Turmeric Water:

  1. Keeps Diabetes in check

Turmeric has the ability to regulate insulin resistance and to prevent diabetes type 2. It is very important to consult your doctor before using it because when it is combined with certain medications, it can cause some side-effects such as hypoglycemia.

  1. Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant properties
  2. Relieves Arthritis
  3. Prevents Heart Disease
  4. Prevents Cancer

Drink Lemon Water Every Morning on an Empty Stomach

There are numerous health benefits to this daily practice due to the fact that water keeps the body hydrated and removes toxins while lemon contains essential nutrients like calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin C, A, and B-complex, pectin fiber, carbohydrates and proteins.  Lemons also have the powerful antibacterial, antiviral and immunity boosting properties along with citric acid. The most important benefits from this simple practice are:

  • Boosts Immune System
  • Cleanses the Urinary Tract
  • Improves Digestion
  • Increases Skin Health
  • Helps Weight Loss
  • Controls High Blood Pressure
  • Boosts Energy
  • Balances pH Levels
  • Treats Throat Infections
  • Treats Bad Breath

New Leaf Wellness’ 31 Paleo-Friendly Crockpot Freezer Meals

These meals get me through the gloomy winter season! I usually have 2 crock pots going at a time every Sunday to prep for the week.

New Leaf Wellness made a list of Paleo-friendly crockpot recipes that are:

▪ Freezer-friendly (they can last up to 3 months)
▪ Dairy-free
▪ Grain-free and gluten-free
▪ Soy-free
▪ Sugar-free (with the exception of honey)
▪ Free of processed foods (except canned tomatoes)

Here’s the link, and list – enjoy and #stayinspired. Steve Skladany, I dedicate this post to you!



1. Chicken Tortilla-Less Soup from Paleo Hacks
2. Beef and Sweet Potato Chili from One Lovely Life
3. Pot Roast with Carrots (YUM)
4. Italian Pork Roast
5. Garlic Honey Chicken with Peppers and Zucchini from Paleo Parents
6. Pineapple Salsa Verde Chicken from Mangia Paleo
7. Banana Pepper Shredded Beef
8. Hungarian Beef Stew from Perchance to Cook
9. Beef Picadillo from Rubies and Radishes
10. Seafood Boil
11. Roasted Pumpkin Coconut Soup from PaleoPot
12. Cool Ranch Shredded Chicken
13. BBQ Ribs from Ditch the Wheat
14. Pulled Pork Chili from PaleOMG
15. Stuffed Peppers
16. Hawaiian Pork Burrito Bowls from With Salt and Wit
17. Chicken Fajitas (serve on a salad instead of tortillas)
18. Chicken Vegetable Soup from Multiply Delicious
19. Paleo Mississippi Roast from Plaid & Paleo
20. Green Chile Chicken and Lime Soup from My Paleo Crockpot
21. Garlic-Mint Pork Loin
22. Simple Chicken from Paleo Leap
23. Chicken Curry (our fave! substitute cauliflower for peas)
24. Beef Fajitas
25. Beef or Turkey Chili from Paleo Newbie
26. Italian Chicken from my ALDI freezer prep session
27. Spaghetti Squash with Marinara Sauce from my October healthy crockpot post (add homemade meatballs for extra protein)
28. Beef Stew from Once a Month Meals
29. Chicken Soup with Mexican Seasonings
30. Apple Pork Tenderloin from Clean Eatz
31. Jalapeno Popper Chicken and Beef Chili from Skinnytaste

Guide to Savannah, Georgia

This post is dedicated to Forrest Gump (His famous bench is in Chippewa Square).

Yes, I know he’s a fictional character but he’s been a beloved character to millions of people. What I love about him is that he attains all of his successes through his innocence and his imperviousness to contamination by the business of living. He never negotiates his spirit regardless of his fears or insecurities. He remains authentic through and through and that is beautiful. His goal isn’t to live happily ever after, it isn’t to finish the plot, resolve the conflict and roll through the credits. He realizes there’s more to life – life is a process that we will always work on.

Savannah is an enchanting southern escape. Defining it is difficult because it has the classic southern charm with a quirkiness mixed with grace and hospitality. There is also a romance to this city that cannot be explained until you walk (this is a perfect walk anywhere city) through the beautiful squares.

*This is Keith’s favorite US city. He equates it to a classic Hollywood starlet.

1) Historic Squares: Savannah has 22 breathtaking squares with grand live oak trees and ample green space. All of the squares are located within walking distance of one another, so seeing them all in one day is doable. If you’re pressed for time, limit your journey to the picturesque squares along Bull Street.

  1. Live Oak Trees: I’m not a nature person, but these trees are massive, magnificent and hauntingly beautiful.

  1. Cemeteries: There’s no better place to learn about Savannah’s history than in her cemeteries. Colonial Park Cemetery, located in the center of the Historic District, features gravesites that date back to the mid-18th century. Laurel Grove Cemetery, on the city’s west side, is a haunting reminder of Savannah’s segregated past, with separate sections for whites and blacks, along with a Civil War burial ground for Confederate soldiers. Bonaventure Cemetery, on the city’s east side, boasts breathtaking views of the Wilmington River.

  1. St. Patrick’s Day parade: The parade, the second largest in the nation, is held every year on March 17 (except when the holiday falls on a Sunday), but expect the party to get underway a few days prior and continue until the last pint of Guinness is chugged.


  • Kehoe House – Exquisitely restored 1892 Renaissance Revival mansion in the historic district, this luxury bed and breakfast is quaint and beautiful. We spent our anniversary weekend here. It’s in walking distance to everything.


Respect the Food:

  • Huey’s: Cajun-creole cuisine that is SO good. I was obsessed with the gumbo and the crawfish etoufee.

  • Wilkes Dining Room (closed on weekends + month of Jan / cash only / no reservations): There is always a line but it’s DELICIOUS Southern home cooking. Family-owned since 1943, the lunch crowd finds seats at one of the large tables-for-ten shared by strangers. By the time the meal is over, you are no longer a stranger. Located in the same building as the original Wilkes House, the Wilkes Pied-A-Terra property is a perfect place to stay during your visit to Savannah.

  • The Olde Pink House: We had our anniversary dinner here. Savannah’s only 18th Century Mansion, the Olde Pink House was named for the beautiful shade of “pink” stucco, which covers its old brick. Food standouts? Reynolds square platter, mac and cheese poppers, pulled pork, blackened oysters and crispy fried lobster tails. Wow!

  • River Street Inn: Gorgeous for a cocktail at sunset. Was an old converted cotton house.

  • Clary’s Café: Wonderful breakfast – The Elvis! The Victorian! Country fried steak! Also, a great post-drinking morning meal.
  • Back in the Day Bakery: Fresh-baked bread, cupcakes and fork-ready pies – hearty portions at this vintage bakery & espresso bar.


  • Just do a bar crawl on the waterfront

Must See / Excursions:

  • Hit the cemeteries – Its strangely beautiful and peaceful
  • Forrest Gump’s bench (Chippewa Square)

  • Horse and buggy ride tour to see the city – so romantic!
  • Pop into any antique store.
  • Take one of the bus tours (if you don’t do horse and buggy) because you get to see all parts of the city and can journey back to your favorite spots. Remember it’s a walking city.

  • SCAD Museum of Art is part of the Savannah College of Art and Design, and housed in an 1853 train depot.
  • Just walk around and see what you run into!


My Favorite NY Ramen Spots

This post is dedicated to Renee Iselin, my Ramen partner in crime, and Sats Gawa, a world-renowned ramen expert hailing from Japan – he knows the real deal!

It’s in my blood. I love soup, and I especially love Ramen. For me, it’s the ultimate comfort food. I have sampled some amazing ramen throughout Manhattan and wanted to share my favorites.

Zundo-Ya: The soup base has integrity. Pork bones are simmered in a special pot called a zundo (hence the name) for twenty hours, creating a thick, creamy liquid. To ensure the results are as close as possible to the broth found in Japan, the team “softens” the water using a closely guarded technique. The blend incorporates some dried fish into the sweet and salty mix, adding more umami flavor than most compounds have.

Ipuddo: In 2008, this was the place that made me fall in love with Ramen. It’s authentic Hakata tonkotsu pork soup. You cannot go wrong. Expect a wait.

Takashi: I stumbled upon this gem when my girlfriends and I wanted to try premium Japanese and American beef. The selections are delicately prepared and served raw to be grilled right at your table (yakiniku). Note: they serve a variety of very decadent meats (raw liver and flash-boiled achilles tendon). I discovered through my friend Simon Kim, owner of Piora restaurant which happens to be down the street (more on his place later!) that Takashi served a LATE NIGHT BEEF BROTH RAMEN!!!! Pure ramen heaven. Here’s the info!

Mei Jin Ramen: Hip Japanese place for ramen & izakaya-style small plates with an adjoining cocktail & dessert bar. The chicken spicy miso ramen and curry beef ramen are exhilerating.

Totto Ramen: You simply cannot go wrong with any of the ramen varieties. The assortment of additional toppings is ridiculous, and they even serve ‘specialty’ ramen. Be experimental and play with your noodles!

Hide Chan: The Tonkotsu Ramen is a rich creamy pork bone soup with thin long noodles. Tonkotsu, which means pork bone, usually has a cloudy white colored broth. because it’s made from boiling pork bones, fat, and collagen over high heat for many hours. The result is a hearty pork flavor and a creamy consistency that rivals milk, melted butter or gravy. The ramen is hearty and delicious.

Mr Taka: The ingredients are carefully selected and there is a lot of care that goes into these slurp worthy noodles. One of the owners ramen restaurant in Japan, Bigiya, was listed on Michelin Tokyo in 2015. It was the first year for Michelin Tokyo to list a ramen restaurant and there are 5000 in Japan. It’s worth a trip here.

I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list as more ramen joints open up, but for now, these are my staples. Enjoy – slurp up and #stayinspired.

La Dolce Vita! An Italian Adventure.

La Dolce Vita! An Italian Adventure in Venice, Verona, Padua, Florence, Pisa, Rome, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Palermo (Sicily)

This post is dedicated to my father and mother’s family: The Caruso and the Rossi Clan – I am blessed to be an “honorary” Italian.

Italy is remarkable. It’s a kaleidoscope of regions and experiences with an incomparable artistic and cultural heritage that coincide with natural wonders fueled with a feisty passion for living. Throughout Italy, the local character and color is astonishing mainly due to the survival of regionalism, old traditions, customs and lifestyles coupled with a healthy interest in food, perseverance of history/events and elaborate commemorations of everything imaginable. In summary: everything is a celebration. I could get used to living like this…

Chapter 1:  Venice

Posted on 3QT separately: http://threequartersthere.com/2016/12/venice/

Chapter 2: The Veneto Region (Verona and Padua)

Verona is a vibrant trading center and the second largest city in the Veneto region after                             Venice. It also boasts many Roman ruins, second only to those of Rome itself!

Must See / Excursions:

  • Romeo and Juliet: We are all familiar with this tragic story. At the Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s house) No 27 Via Cappello, Romeo is said to have climbed the balcony. In reality, this is actually a restored 13th century inn, but people still line up to see (myself included). The Casa di Romeo is a few streets away and the Tomba di Giulietta is displayed in a crypt below the cloister of San Francesco al Corso on Via del Pontiere.

  • Piazza Erbe: Colorful market built on the site of the ancient Roman forum and considered the center of Verona.

  • San Zeno Maggiore Church: Unusual medieval bronze door panels with extraordinary carved scenes honoring Verona’s patron saint.
  • The town of Padua is not far from Verona and is an old university town with an illustrious academic history. It houses a major museum complex which occupies a group of 14th century monastic buildings attached to the church of the Eremitani. A must visit spot is the Cappella degli Scrovegni dating back to 1303. The frescos of Christ are stunning and reveal what a powerful influence this art was on the development of European art.


Chapter 3: The Tuscany Region (Florence and Pisa)

The cradle of the Renaissance, but also a vibrant witness to new forms of creativity in wine, food, fashion and artisanship, Florence is magnificent. As a writer, I was tickled pink to know that writers such as Dante, Machiavelli, and Petrarch contributed to the city’s literary heritage, though it was the paintings and sculptures of artists such as Donatello, Michelangelo, and Botticelli that turned the city into an artistic capital. I was only here for a day, but it’s a compact city and a majority of the sites can be seen on foot. (Brian and Liz Shick – thank you for the tour)

Must See / Excursions:

  • Explore San Marco area: These buildings once stood on the fringe of the city serving as stables and barracks (lions, elephants and giraffes were held there). It’s fun to see the hustle and bustle of the young Florentines.

  • Explore the Duomo area: Dante was born here! It retains its medieval feel and is home to the Baptistery, one of the city’s oldest buildings. The richly decorated Duomo – Santa Maria del Fiore has become Florence’s most famous symbol.

  • Santa Croce: This gothic church is home to the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli. The setting is a masterpiece but realizing the company you are keeping is incredibly humbling.

  • Uffizi: Offers a chance to see the world’s greatest collection of Italian Renaissance paintings – there is nothing left to say. A must see.
  • Piazza della Signoria: The great bell used to summon citizens to public meetings and it’s a popular promenade for visitors. The piazza’s statues commemorate the city’s major historical events.
  • Cappella Brancacci: The church of Santa Maria del Carmine is famous for the Brancacci Chapel, which contains frescoes on The Life of St. Peter.
  • Shopping in Florence: There is a kind of magic when shopping on these medieval streets. From family-run businesses, artisan workshops, high end designers, local goods, antiques, fine arts and FOOD, there are few cities comparable in size that can boast such a profusion of high quality shops.

  • Near to Florence is Pisa, known for its Duomo, Baptistery, and Campanile (Leaning Tower) which are all testaments to the city’s scientific and cultural revolution.
    • Duomo and Baptistery: Pisa’s famous Leaning Towner is now the best known building on the Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles), but it was intended as a campanile to complement the Duomo which is one of the finest Pisan-Romanesque buildings in Tuscay. The Baptistery houses a marble pulpit carved with reliefs of the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, the Presentation, the Crucifixion and the Last Judgement.
    • The Leaning Tower of Pisa: Begun on 1173, the Leaning tower started to tilt on the sandy silt subsoil in 1274 before the 3rd story was complete – and there are 8 total. It has been defeating the laws of gravity since.

Chapter 4: Rome

(This paragraph was taken from Wikipedia – it summarizes the history better than I could have)

Rome’s history spans more than two and a half thousand years. While Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome at only around 753 BC, the site has been inhabited for much longer, making it one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe. The city’s early population originated from a mix of Latins, Etruscans and Sabines. Eventually, the city successively became the capital of the Roman Kingdom, the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and is regarded as one of the birthplaces of Western civilisation and by some as the first ever metropolis. It was first called urbs aeterna (The Eternal City) by the Roman poet Tibullus in the 1st century BCE, and the expression was also taken up by Ovid, Virgil, and Livy. Rome is also called the “Caput Mundi” (Capital of the World).

I will return to Rome. There was not enough time to see everything and the city is truly glorious. Italy’s capital is a sprawling, cosmopolitan center with nearly 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture and culture on display. It’s a global playground twirling with passion and energy. Rome has a bounty of things to see and the mix of its architecture is a testament to its past: ruins, baroque squares and Renaissance gardens combine to give the city its enticing edge.

Respect the Food:

  • The Flavors of Rome: Roman cooking is slow and inventive. Pasta is the vital ingredient and the best dishes are simply prepared with the freshest ingredients. I can still taste fresh vegetables (artichokes), the fruit (lemons are the size of softballs), the bucatini all’amatriciana with spicy tomato and bacon sauce. Try everything.

  • Camp De’Fiori: It use to be the place of public executions, but is now a picturesque market by day. At night, it turns into a hub for nightlifers with restaurants and bars open for business
  • Piazza Della Rotonda: City square on the south side near the Pantheon. In the center of the piazza is a fountain, the Fontana del Pantheon, surmounted by an Egyptian obelisk. La Campana is nearby – Rome’s oldest trattoria (1518).

  • Piazza Navona: The Stadium of Domitian built in the 1st century AD is here. It was an open space stadium where the ancient Romans went to watch games. It was called the Circus Agonalis (competition arena). Check out Il Cantuccio – dazzling celeb place – for a delectable Roman meal.

Must See / Excursions:

  • *The Colosseum: It’s an ancient amphitheater and Rome’s most legendary landmark. This Roman icon, where gladiator battles once entertained more than 50,000 spectators has a maze of subterranean chambers which caged the fierce animals used in the battles – over 9,000 wild animals were killed.

  • The Roman Forum: It was originally a chaotic area with food stalls, brothels, temples and the Senate House but soon became the ceremonial center of the city under the Empire. Think House of the Vestal Virgins, Temple of Castor and Pollux, The Temple of Romulus, Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius.

  • Palatine Hill: Located in the same archaeological area as The Roman Forum, this is the spot on which the first settlers built their huts, under the direction of Romulus. It is one of the seven Hills of Rome and is located in one of the most ancient parts of the city.
  • The Pantheon: This was the temple to ‘all gods’. The maze of streets around it is a mix of lively restaurants and cafes.

  • *Vatican City: The world capital of Catholicism is the world’s smallest state.

  • Tens of thousands of people visit the Vatican to see St. Peter’s Basilica, masterpieces by the likes of Michelangelo and Raphael, and the Sistine Chapel. It is a UNESCO-listed complex with a collection of galleries filled with classical and Renaissance masterpieces, including the Sistine Chapel frescoes. Stroll through rooms like the Gallery of Maps, with its golden, vaulted ceiling; the Raphael Rooms, painted by Renaissance artist Raphael; and the stunning Sistine Chapel, considered to be the Pope’s home chapel, with Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam and The Last Judgement. Finish with a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church ever built and one of the holiest and most important sites in Christendom. The Pietà, one of Michelangelo’s earlier sculptures that depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion, is breathtaking. St. Peter was martyred and buried here, and became the residence of the popes who succeeded him. This was one of the most overwhelming experiences of the trip. Everything is grand and almost larger than life. You are completely humbled regardless of religious affiliation by this experience.

  • Fontana Di Trevi: Rome’s largest and most famous fountain features figures of Neptune flanked by two Tritons, one trying to master an unruly seahorse, the other leading a quieter beast, symbolizing the two contrasting gods of the sea.

  • Arch of Constantine: The triumphal arch is one of Imperial Rome’s last monuments built in AD 315 a few years before he moved the capital of the Empire to Byzantine.

  • Piazza Di Spagna and the Spanish Steps: The network of narrow streets around this Piazza forms one of the most exclusive areas of Rome – Via Condotti. This is the most famous square in Rome.

Chapter 5: Naples & Campania Region (Pompeii)

The UNESCO-listed site of Pompeii is worth the trip. After the volcano’s infamous AD 79 eruption, lava and volcanic ash destroyed the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii. Evidence of those ancient streams of lava is still evident in the area. Once a thriving Roman city, Pompeii is best known for its archaeological digs, which are home to a wealth of relics.

There were preserved fossils and other ruins, plus plaster imprints of the town’s victims who were buried for years (there was a dog on a chain frozen in time!).

The ability to wander the streets and see how locals lived before the ashes took over is amazing. You’ll see where ancient shops, cafes and even brothels existed.

Chapter 6: Amalfi Coast

Discover one of Italy’s most beautiful stretches of coastline: The Amalfi Coast (aka: Brielle’s retirement). The picturesque towns combine stunning Italian scenery, archaeology and history.


The town of Amalfi was a former naval power now famous for its cliffside perch on the coast of the Tyrrenhian Sea. The views/cliffs are scary and breathtaking. Relax over a coffee or limoncello at a café.

Oh, and there is a Hotel Caruso… I think I need to stay here next time…

Chapter 7: Sicily (Palermo)

Active volcanoes, Greek ruins, remarkable landscapes? Palermo is an eclectic crossroads of Mediterranean and northern European civilization I also have a soft spot because my father’s family is from here – The mighty Caruso Clan!

*Keith and I were here in August. It’s hotter than hell. The only other place on earth we experienced such heat was XI’AN China (check out that post). We rationed water and dripped sweat but continued to explore this amazing town. The softball size rice balls and pizza fueled us…powered by pizza had a whole new meaning.

Respect the Food:

Make sure you eat!!!!! Sicilian food bears the mark of medieval influences. The Arabs introduced sugar cane, rice and certain citrus fruits, and the strong flavors of caponata (aubergine and caper salad), arancine (filled rice balls), cassata and cannoli (both filled with a sweet ricotta cream) are tasty testaments to the kind of culinary culture which evolves only over the course of centuries. Artichokes, harvested in winter and spring, are thought to be native to Sicily, while lamb and swordfish are so popular that they might almost be considered “national” dishes. Everything dish is perfection.

Must See / Excursions:

  • The Mafia (means hostility to the law) is an international organization founded in Sicily. It developed against a background of a cruel state, exploitative nobility and severe poverty. By the late 19th century it had become a criminal organization thriving on property speculation and drug trafficking.

  • Vucciria Market: Dating back 700 years, this spirited open air market is filled with more fresh food than you can imagine, Chinese imports, toys/junk, and hidden gems that are squeezed into the maze-like streets. The market has lost its tenuous links with its mafia past.

  • The Crypts

  • Teatro Massimo: Beautiful opera house located in the Piazza Verdi
  • The Casa Professa: Stunning baroque church
  • Quattro Canti Quarter (Baroque Square)

Chapter 8: Where I Still Need to Go

Milan, Naples, Sardinia, Capri – I’m coming for you!!!! #stayinspired

Ciao for now!

20 Signs You Are Succeeding in Life from Lifehack

Well, another year ended and in classic human form, we re-evaluated what we did and didn’t do, trying to get closure, creating new goals/resolutions and having faith that the best is yet to come.

For many years, I viewed success through my career, love life, financial situation, tangible goods, travel… It probably sounds like all the ‘Enlightenment’ stories… but in the end, it didn’t satisfy me and was never enough. I didn’t feel successful even though I was fortunate enough to have what I did. Something was missing.

I came across this beautiful list that re-defined success in such a wholesome, balanced way and wanted to share. Seems that we are all probably much more successful than we give ourselves credit for. I bet most of us are starting 2017 on the right foot!

This was posted on the lifehack.org site.

Enjoy and #stayinspired.

  1. Your relationships are less dramatic than they used to be.

Drama is not maturity. As we age, we should develop maturity. So maybe your relationships were drama-filled in your past, but if you have moved beyond that, then you are successful.

  1. You are not afraid to ask for help and support any more.

Asking for help does not equal weakness. In fact, it is a strength. No person has ever succeeded in isolation. It takes teamwork to accomplish goals. Asking or help is a sign that you have grown as a person.

  1. You have raised your standards.

You don’t tolerate bad behavior any more – from other people, or even yourself. You hold people accountable for their actions. You don’t spend time with the “energy vampires” in your life anymore.

  1. You let go of things that don’t make you feel good.

No, this is not narcissistic even though it might seem like it. Self-love is success. Love yourself enough to say ‘no’ to anything that doesn’t make you happy, doesn’t serve your purpose, or drags you down.

  1. You have moments where you appreciate who you see in the mirror.

Ideally, you should appreciate who you see in the mirror at every moment. But even if that doesn’t happen, if you do it more than you used to, then that is success. Love yourself. You are awesome.

  1. You have learned that setbacks and failure are part of self-growth.

Not everyone can have success 100% of the time. That’s just not realistic. Life is about victories and losses. So look at your setbacks as stepping stones to something better. In reality, there really is no such thing as as setback. It’s all just part of a wondrous journey.

  1. You have a support system that includes people who would do anything for you.

If you have figured out the people who “have your back” and recognized the ones who only pretend that they do, then you have succeeded. This is a painful realization, but once you learn to see the signs of betrayal, you can stay away from those people.

  1. You don’t complain much.

Because you know there really is nothing to complain about. Unless you really have gone through some horrific life experience and had unimaginable losses, most of what we all experience on a day-to-day basis is just mundane. And successful people know that. And they live in a space of gratitude.

  1. You can celebrate others’ successes.

Just because other people succeed, that doesn’t make you a failure. Applaud the people who rise to the top. The more positive energy you give to other people’s victories, the more you will create your own.

  1. You have passions that you pursue.

You are not stagnant. You know you have something wonderful to contribute to the world. You have unique talents and gifts. Not only do you know that, you pursue it.

  1. You have things to look forward to.

If you don’t have exciting things going on in your life that you are eagerly anticipating, then you are slowly dying inside. Successful people create goals that they are passionate about pursuing. They let this excitement drive their life.

  1. You have goals that have come true.

Even though “failures” are a part of life, you have stuck to your goals and dreams long enough to make them come to fruition. You have some tastes of victory. It fuels you.

  1. You have empathy for others.

A person without empathy is dead inside. Empathy equals spreading love and positive energy into the world. Successful people know this. They love others as if they are family.

  1. You love deeply and open yourself up to be loved by others.

Love is risky, and sometimes scary for people. It’s the one thing we all strive for, but it’s also intimately tied to the one thing we fear the most – rejection. If you open your heart enough to love and be loved, then you are successful.

  1. You refuse to be a victim.

You know that life doesn’t always happen to you. Many times, you are a co-creator of your life experiences. Successful people know this and refuse to be kept down by life experiences. The rise up and conquer anyway.

  1. You don’t care what other people think.

You know you can’t please everyone. You know that the standards with which society judges people is many times unrealistic. So you just keep true to yourself and love the person you are.

  1. You always look on the bright side.

Life can be full of disappointments – if you choose to see them that way. Otherwise, they are learning opportunities. No negative experience is ever wasted as long as you learn from it.

  1. You accept what you can’t change.

Let’s face it – there many things you can’t change in life. All you can change is how you view what happens. If you can change your negative perspective on situations to a positive one, then you are successful.

  1. You change what you can.

And let’s face it again – there are many things you can change in life. Successful people don’t sit around accepting the negatives that are changeable. They get out there and do something about it!!

  1. You are happy.

To me, this list is the ultimate definition of success. It doesn’t matter what the balance is in your bank account, how big your house is, or how many fancy vacations you take. If you are happy, then you are succeeding in life.

Even if you don’t see yourself in many of these 20 things, don’t fret. It’s okay. Be happy that you see yourself in just a few. In time, the rest will come. You just need to keep moving onward and upward.