I find myself feeling a bit more sentimental than usual over the last few days. At the beginning of January, I always take some time to reflect on the prior year. But this year has been different -- different because I find myself in a place in my life where I couldn’t feel more thankful. Thankful not for material things, but instead, for the people who mean the world to me and the new friends I met who opened my eyes to new experiences.I married someone I couldn’t imagine ever not meeting, someone who made me believe in the idea of soul mates. Marriage was never something that was important to me…but then I met Gio and marriage suddenly became one of the most important things to me. Our wedding was enchanting, something that looked like it was out of a fairytale. We were surrounded by our closest friends and family members, everyone radiating love and positivity. Our parents proudly walked down the aisle before we did, something that meant so much to us because the day was about celebrating not just our love, but our love for our family and friends. To hold onto my mom’s arm as she walked me towards my sister, who married my husband and I, is an image I will never forget - a woman who from the moment I came out to showered me with nothing but love and acceptance and is one of the biggest advocates I know today.I got to experience different parts of the world this year, immersing myself in beautiful cultures and spending time with people native to the lands we visited. In Bali, a local driver named Ari brought my husband and I to one of the most sacred temples on the island. In this temple, he pointed at a woman praying and said, “Look, look. Look how beautiful she is.” She was praying in a Buddhist temple, but was a Muslim. It’s one of the only places that I have seen where two different religions can share a space to pray. If only our world could learn from this gesture of peace, it may be a much more harmonious place.My sister, one of my best friends in the world (we are only 16 months apart), also got married and I couldn’t be more thrilled to see how happy she is. She is one of the most kind-hearted people and deserves nothing but happiness, so it moves me to see her get her happily ever after. My cousin had a baby this year, allowing me to step into the role of “Uncle,” while my other cousins bought their first home in New Jersey, gearing up for a family of their own. My best friend and cousin Joey fearlessly moved across the country to LA to fulfill a dream of spending some time out West and my Dad and Stepmom (although I hate that word, I prefer to say my second mom because she is such an important person in my life) bought a house down the Jersey Shore, finally doing something for themselves after doing so much for their children throughout their entire lives. As of April, I gained a new beautiful Cuban family who I can’t imagine living one day without. Our families blended together and now we are one big Italian-Cuban mixture of personalities who try to see each other as much as possible.In the fast-paced city life where work has no starting or ending time because it is a constant machine that always has to be fueled, and the days seem to go by too quickly, it’s important to stop and reflect on the things that matter most to you. For me, it’s family and friends. While I am thankful for all of the amazing opportunities I have had in my company and career over the last year, it is the people I love most who I would give up anything in the world for. Always remember to take a minute and tell the ones dearest to you that you love them. In a world where it sometimes feels like chaos and cloudiness fill the air, the power of love will always shine through. Happy New Year.
It is officially the holiday season which means my Christmas music is playing every chance that I get. There are so many great covers of the Christmas classics, but below I have aggregated a list of some of my favorites. From nostalgic nineties pop (I did grow up in that decade after all), to operatic classics to acoustic ballads, this is a playlist that will keep you feeling festive throughout the next few weeks! 1. Josh Groban (with Faith Hill) - The First Noel
2. Death Cab For Cutie - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
3. *N Sync - All I Want Is You This Christmas
4. Lea Michele - Last Christmas
5. Il Volo - O Holy Night
6. CeeLo Green - White Christmas
7. Christina Aguilera - These Are The Special Times
8. Mariah Carey - Joy To The World
9. Pentatonix - Hallelujah
10. Mariah Carey - Oh Santa
This was the second Thanksgiving that my husband and I hosted for our family, and it has become one of my favorite traditions to kick-off the holiday season. We are very lucky to have such a supportive, accepting and loving family, and we take great pride in being related to such an inspiring group of people. That’s why we wanted to make Thanksgiving extra special for our family.We started the preparations by putting up our Christmas tree two nights before the holiday. Our nine-foot beauty filled the apartment with sparkling white lights and the scent of fresh pine - my absolute favorite this time of year. With festive touches put up throughout our home, the ambience was cozy and holiday-ready. Now came the fun part - creating a menu that offered something for everyone. This year I partnered with my go-to food store in Manhattan, Whole Foods, to ensure I bought the highest quality and freshest ingredients for the meal. Being pescatarian and dairy-free, I had the challenge of creating a spread that was appealing to both my husband and I and the rest of our family, but it was a challenge I gladly accepted.I won’t lie – because I am not a meat eater and don’t often cook it, I relied on Whole Foods for the turkey. I ordered a fully cooked, all-natural, twelve pound, grass-fed turkey from their catering department and simply had to pop it in the oven for two and a half hours before dinner and voila, a beautifully browned, crispy turkey was cooked. According to my family, it was perfectly moist and seasoned so I was relieved to know that the most iconic part of the meal came out delicious.For the non-meat eaters, I baked a miso probiotic-crusted salmon drizzled with a lemon marinade. This is one of my favorite ways to prepare this type of fish and quite easy (pre-heat oven to 450 degrees, pour lemon juice over the salmon, coat with garlic and miso spread and cook for 13 minutes). To accompany the meat and seafood dishes, I also made truffle macaroni and cheese (per request from my little brothers), a pomegranate, thyme, lemon and butternut squash quinoa, paleo pumpkin muffins, and a homemade artichoke dip. A roasted vegetable medley, truffle-whipped mashed potatoes and freshly seasoned stuffing rounded out the meal. As someone with a big Italian family, I always stress about not having enough food, but I am happy to report that there were tons of leftovers! I also ordered cupcakes from the bakery at Whole Foods (and they even had vegan options), and my family brought in delicious pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies for dessert.It was so special to have my family over for Thanksgiving and to take a moment from all of our busy lives to enjoy each other’s company in a city that is magical this time of year. At the end of the night, my dad looked at me and said, “I’m proud of you guys.” I couldn’t help but feel emotional, because here is a man who I have always looked up to throughout my whole life and no matter how old you may be as a child of a parent, it always feels good to have their approval and know that you are making them proud. Wishing you a very special holiday season full of memories that will last a lifetime.
* Get my Paleo Pumpkin Muffin Recipe (makes 12 muffins):
1 cup almond butter (store-bought or homemade)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 whole eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
1/3 cup cacao chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix until a smooth batter is formed, folding in the chocolate chips last.
Distribute the batter evenly among the 12 baking cups. Bake for 17 minutes at 350F, until the centers are firm and starting to crack.
“The Media is Corrupt.” “The Media is Rigged.”
These careless phrases repeatedly being thrown around lately sadden me. They are creating anger in the American people by perpetuating a generalization of how all people in the media operate. But here's the problem: generalizations are dangerous.
My husband works in the media. Many of my closest friends work in the media. They work their asses off, and more often than not, put themselves in danger’s way to keep America informed and safe.
They sacrifice so much of their time to tell the stories that need to be told, and in some cases, they put their lives at risk. If a person doesn't like what someone in the media is saying or the way they are telling a story, they have the option of finding someone they do like to get information from. I promise you, there's someone out there for everyone. But don’t diminish the work these reporters, producers, and crews do 365 days a year by making generalizations. While my husband is in the path of a category 5 hurricane, or at the center of multiple manhunts with deadly killers on the loose, please tell me how bad the media is while so many watch safely from home, sitting next to the family they love.
Generalizations are dangerous. They lead to stereotypes, judgments and hostility. As a society, I hope we can do our part to minimize this. The divisiveness it creates is something our country doesn't need to be clouded with. We are a team, and regardless of the outcome of this election, I'm hopeful that one day we can get back to being one nation.
Static fills the quiet classrooms as the old intercom system powers on. Scared, confused, worried, panicked. Uneasy classmates stare up at the speaker, praying their name won't be called. One by one the principal calls in students. But not for detention, but because their parents were in the towers falling to the ground. The smoke could be seen from the roof of my high school. It all felt so close to home, and it was. It's important to never forget those innocent people lost in the horrific attacks on 9/11, and the heroic stories of so many brave people who put fear aside to help those around them. It's important to never forget those who helped rebuild a city and bring a community together that so badly needed to feel comfort and love. Today, and always, I honor and stand with you. Never Forget.