C&C makes a comeback

It’s been a while since the Cub and the Cougar have been in action here.  Somehow, yet perfectly, as we near the 4-and-a-half-year mark together our lives continue in parallel – making it seem as though this arrangement was more than just happenstance. Nance has been plowing through her masters program with only a few weeks to go.  Meanwhile I have been engaged in a 3-pronged approach for figuring out the next step in life. Yes, my indecisiveness persists.

Our unwavering love of New York continues to unite us. The rhythm, heartbeat, and excitement don’t get old for people who get bored easily and can thrive just as well alone as with others. Our days are still littered with stories that color our present and surely resonate for the future.

For me, a persistent urgency to make a decision on what’s next has underscored this year. Often when I try to decide what’s next, the choices appear overwhelming. The decision is made harder from the fear of choosing the wrong, rigid path forward. To add to that, most of my friends seem to be swirling around in the same boat. Though, I don’t see this as floundering but exploring – picking up souvenirs from this exploration and broadening our horizons for what’s next.

Even though Nancy is in a different life stage with different concerns and burdens, she has remarkably been in a state of exploration herself. It really is remarkable. And inspirational. I truly believe that our time together fueled years of  a mutual introspection that will be difficult to recreate. These days, we’ve both become laser focused together – wonderfully in sync. The starting visual of our sitcom on a Sunday morning these days? The Cougar reading the Times and the Cub reading the Economist. Sorry. Less interesting than random men slinking past our doormen at 7 AM but life goes in phases and we’ve toned it down for the moment.

We know we won’t always be together. My path forward may take me from New York. However we have many months more of our wonderful time in life’s dazzling sun together.  As the years rush by I do have a sense that this is one of those times that will be cherished, but as we still live through it, this time must be capitalized upon while we have the pen in hand for this chapter.

And so that’s what we’ll do. The stories will persist and the parties will abound, albeit more intimately. Although the unforgettable antics that marked the start of our wonderful friendship remain, they have been somewhat tempered to stories that accompany long-term camaraderie. This blog was always a soapbox for our thoughts but also a snapshot of a truly remarkable time in two New Yorkers’ lives. Two unlikely, wonderfully perfect friends.

Stay tuned for surprises that await.

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IMG_2922As the start of another New York City Summer fans out it sun-kissed feathers, Ivanka bids farewell to our glittering city for a new position in LA. How can Faye and I fill our bougie void (as we sullenly asked ourselves over a farewell picnic)? What if I want to get dinner at the latest French resto and reminisce about Paris with my favorite foodie? We’ll always be uptown betches at heart, but you’re not actually going to be uptown? Clearly I’m confused. And in denial.

However sad I am over the fact that our love affair will now need to be long distance, all I can think about is the exciting nature of her move. Being that I surround myself with overachievers and power betches, it’s no shock that great opportunities are ripe to entice friends away from their NYC trajectories. I believe our generation lives in a dynamic time full of prospects and high-reward risks; when being in the right place at the right time may mean making the decision to move across the country, or perhaps further across the globe.

Though as much as the bold embrace change, change is scary. Will we grow in a different direction from those we’ve already established our lives with? I think often, we’re afraid of what change will bring, and how as a result, we ourselves will too evolve.

But can’t that be the wonderful aspect of uprooting ourselves? I’ve said it before but you grow the most when you’re off-balance. In these key periods in life, we’re compelled to be assertive and naturally are introspective on what we want to achieve and who we are. Also, I think that we can retain our meaningful ties if we commit to doing so. Yes we may not grow in the same place or a the same pace as others, but if we keep growing and move toward a similar goal, we can still meet and continue to connect between the parallel paths we pursue.

Some may balk at the instability of making a radical change to start afresh and rather choose to be safe. But isn’t it more exciting to commit to being dynamic and taking a chance? I mean don’t get CRAY and run away blindly into the abyss, but if the right opportunity presents itself, take that leap of faith.

So as Ivanka roots herself in LA’s eternally sun-soaked hills, she inspires me to push myself further in our NYC playground. Time will tell whether NYC is back in her cards, but one can never tell the future. Perhaps when she comes back I’ll have moved on. All I know is that our bougie-Paris-stained ties run deep and we surely will continue to achieve success even if now we’re making bi-coastal strides. I’ll hold down the fort in Manhattan for now lover.

Down a Betch: Ivanka Makes Power Moves

C&C Dinner Party Series: Seasonal, French & Pensive

Ahhhh Avril. Je t’aime. Fresh produce starts to come alive, mornings workouts are actually carried out in the sunlight, and fashion scarves can once again find a happy place in my day-to-day wardrobe. I emphasize this point in a lot in my posts, but the seasons heavily affect us New Yorkers. We live in our concrete jungle bubble and as a result we’re a slave to the seasonal elements of Manhattan. I firmly believe that the NYC elements builds character, with the start of new season making me extra pensive on what I’ve done and what I want to achieve next.

This year, Nance and I hosted another wonderfully-springy French dinner party; intimate and exclusive – because not every C&C shindig can be a rager. To start I made an onion crème brulée. Yes you heard right – onion. If you think about it, it’s not crazy since onions innately have a lovely sweetness when cooked down. I’ve gotten sick of the traditional French mainstay for dessert but decided to try this recipe (Courtesy of one of my favorite cooking shows, Rachel Khoo). Although heavier than what I normally like to start with for a first course, it had an undeniably whimsical quality that I couldn’t resist trying. I paired it with a frisée and mesclun salad with a simple dijon mustard vinaigrette.

For the main, Nance made Julia Child’s show-stopping blanquette de veau (essentially veal braised in all kinds of creamy white sauce goodness). Served alongside parsely rice and a cauliflower purée, she was intentionally going for a white/saintly-Easter-themed main.

If that wasn’t enough, I decided to end with a Paris-Brest. Essentially this pastry comprises of chou molded into a hollowed out circle, sprinkled with slivered almonds, and filled with whatever creme you prefer. My favorite is Julia Child’s pastry cream so I decided to make an vanilla-brandy variation of her famous recipe. Garnished with strawberries, this did not disappoint with the wow-factor.

April has a way of injecting boldness into our veins. Is it the vitamin D? Is it the warmer weather? Who knows, but I seem to raise my bold-i-can-do-anything factor in this, my favorite, month. Lately I’ve been focusing on one philosophy: Everything in life, if done with purpose, can make you better.

Your less-than-ideal job may be crazy but you can produce passable work or you can produce work that wows. Yea you may not be up for a raise, but that work may make you a more-experienced presenter, a buzz-worthy analyst in the office, or give you an extra bullet on your resume when you want to switch careers. Kill yourself to go to the gym, so you can enjoy that happy hour, and then kill yourself to do cardio in the morning (OK I know most people don’t do this, but they should). Work to get the next promotion and learn how to effectively be a shark in the process – riches don’t come quickly to the meek. Never settle and kick your mediocre fling to the curb, or boyfriend who you don’t want to admit is flawed beyond salvation, and look for someone who checks off all of the boxes. Harsh perhaps, but necessary in my opinion. Should these posts start to be tagged as Musings of a Bitchy Ice Queen?

Frankly, there’s no time to waste on pursuits, or people, that don’t make you better. So byeeee Felicia. As I careen towards a milestone birthday, I know I have a lot more life to live, but looking forward, I also know I need to position the train toward those things that are necessities rather than passing desires. Settling is for the throes of winter, capitalize on that superhuman energy now when it’s back in our veins.

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C&C Dinner Party Series: Chandeleur to Save us from Winter

Once again NYC is in the throes of winter. I’m not amused. Living in NYC has actually made me hate a season I once thought of fondly while growing up in the suburbs. It’s dark, it’s windy, it’s downright frigid. I can’t wear fashion boots because of the slush and corrosive salt. I stay at home more which makes me just want to binge eat, which I can’t do effectively on a paleo diet, meaning I binge eat on almond butter (This will not be a sustainable habit when I get older). I stand by my proclamation that it’s troll season, necessitating me to be somewhat of a recluse, opting for Yoga rather than scoping out men.

Not all is lost however because at Chez C&C, cold weather provides the perfect opportunity for a dinner party. For us francophiles, the logical choice for a February fête is to celebrate Chandeleur – the glorious holiday all about crêpes. I remember when I studied abroad, coming home on February 2nd to 3 courses of crêpes! How can you go wrong with that?

In the wintertime, to combat the harsh weather, the menu should aim to be decadent. For appetizers I made Chorizo-filled, medjool dates, wrapped in bacon. I don’t need to say more other than to say that these are paleo-friendly. Along with some classic French cheeses and a mushroom tapenade, you can tell we were going for a lite menu, no?

Nancy dazzled by making a Provençal Omelette Cake. 5 stacked omelettes finished with a tomato coulis. Completely decadent, oh-so eggy, and quite the crowd-pleaser – this main course of layers was purposefully picked to play on the theme of crêpes.

For dessert, I aimed to impress with another layered centerpiece, a Crêpe cake filled with layers of chocolate-brandy whipped cream. Finished with a chocolate-brandy ganache and truffles, I must say this is surely a show-stopper.

If that wasn’t enough, Nance made some extra crêpe batter and we had dessert crêpes made to order (with options like Nutella, sugar, honey, and Rum) for anyone feeling extra gluttonous. It was a lovely evening – the feel perfectly homey – with just the right amount of wine-drunk conversation, where good food and friends meeting friends proved to be an accomplished goal.

Circling back to my passing thoughts amidst this drab NYC deep freeze, I can’t help but feel slightly off my game in winter. My New Year’s resolutions were all about priorities but winter has a way of making question the worth of the daily grind. For me, as I tackle the goals  at the top of my list, I sometimes wonder if I am focusing on the right priorities. As I focus on shifting goals, my free time and energy shrink, a trade off I realized I would have to make for somewhat overexerting myself. Though I’ve lived through almost 3 cycles of Manhattan seasons to know that spring will bring a blossoming of beautiful weather and renewed superhuman drive for us New Yorkers. So I keep telling myself to stay zen and razor-focused. I tell myself I’m building character – let’s hope that’s sound rationalization. Screw you polar vortex.

Winter in NYC is horrid. But honestly, it doesn’t make me love NYC any less. I liken it to the mood swings of a lover, something I can look passed due to its countless redeeming qualities. So where the hell are you Spring? My limited optimism can’t hold out forever.

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Check your road

The Cub gave me a personal dispensation from blog posting over the past several months due to an unfortunate series of personal events that has bordered on the catastrophic. However, since we share the uncanny ability to listen to each other, I heeded his entreaties to get back in the saddle and write damn it!

The dreariness of the month of January leads us humans to personal reflection. Thoughts turn inward as we set expectations through soul searching. Thoughts also turn outward as we try to put those goals into motion. This brings a favorite quote to mind from Ayn Rand that is apt for this time of year.

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.”

Her advice to check your road and the nature of your battle reminds me of the importance of periodically checking our path. This holds particular significance for me since for most of my life I neglected this sound advice. The truth is that we all fall prey to the normal tendency to get wrapped up in the present and, being so consumed with perpetuating a few steps ahead, we forget to ask ourselves if it serves us well. Some time later we may realize that we’ve gotten off our path and become overwhelmed by the effort required to turn our personal journey back to the right road. So we give up and accept the path, live an unhappy, unfulfilled life eventually having a mid life crisis that rocks our world and most possibly, the lives of others closest to us.

The Cub and I are both checking our paths. We both feel that change is coming. Being young and as yet only marginally tested by the vagaries of life, he is hopeful about this change. Being older and unmoored repeatedly by disappointments, I am less hopeful. Likewise for his bevy of betches, life is promising change. Relationships are solidifying or unraveling; objectives are being met or ignored. In sum, the life paths of many are being considered. I think it promising that these young people are intelligent enough to take a moment to reflect on what their present path might indicate for their future; what the decisions of today could have on their tomorrows. Although we learned that a psychic doesn’t hold a looking glass into the future, we know intuitively that we should take an active ownership of our present (no, don’t eat that piece of cake!) or our future (change jobs, get an advanced degree, commit to a relationship). In the end, I actually have no desire to see the future just feel that my future is not so vulnerable. That means that I should feel confident that despite potential bad decisions, I have the ability to right my road.

To be or not to be selfish

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There’s a thought that’s been brewing in my mind for the last few weeks as I gear up for what may be my busiest year yet: Life is a constant push-pull between being selfish and meaningful personal relationships.

When I say selfish I don’t think of a negative connotation because we all need to be somewhat selfish in life, no? To attain the things we want, for ourselves and those who we want to share our lives with, we have to prioritize the things that lend to those end goals. Possessing an “overachiever-first” mentality, I do not think it’s a crime to set personal goals in life and be uncompromising. Often we compromise on the things we know we need and regret settling down the road. Being selfish to me means deciding on what we want –  not what your parents, friends,  boyfriend, boss or anyone else wants – and propelling ourselves forward to attain that which we have decided upon.

But at the other end of the rope, we all seek fulfillment. Meaningful relationships, the feeling that what we’re doing in life makes a difference, or at the very least makes us happy to go to work each day. And of course love. Sometimes the goals we set for ourselves can lend perfectly to this kind of fulfillment but, conversely, often putting yourself or your career first can get in the way of meaningful connections. Being too single minded in what we want can cause us to rush passed life without stopping to smell the roses and share the experience with others along the way.

It’s a conundrum that I often think about. And frankly it’s not easy to ameliorate the constant push-pull.

It’s clear that I skew in the direction of camp selfish but I see it like this: If I’m not happy with myself, my accomplishments, and where I want to be in my career, I will not be happy in my personal life. I often feel as though it is emphasized that we all need fulfillment from others. However you’re a dreamer if you think attaining the things we want out of life should take a back seat on the priority list.  For me, the ideology that a significant other makes you better, or a person who needs a relationship to be happy, is innately flawed and destined for a personal crisis down the road. Taking a step back, mulling over yourself and deciding what it is that makes you happy has to be an equal priority with sharing your life with others.

The perfect balance between selfishness and meaningful relationship most likely doesn’t exist.  But for me the dilemma reminds me that no matter how caught up you get pursuing one end of the spectrum, it’s good to pause and assess your progress on the other end. Maybe I think about it all too clinically, but in the rat race that is life, understanding the tradeoffs of push-pulls is the first step to balancing it all successfully.

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Unexpected Moroccan Flair: Claudette

Recently Faye and I decided to leave our glittering city to explore Morocco. I must say, from a cultural perspective, I haven’t been so taken aback by the sheer vibrancy of a people and place in quite some time. From the unique intersection of Arabic and French influences to the array of colors of zellij mosaics and endless courtyards with old-world intrigue to the simply breathtaking effect of the Saharan desert, Morocco is surely a place you MUST visit before you die.

As for the food, I have always I have loved the rich flavors of Moroccan cooking. Fragrant cumin, rich saffron, warming cinnamon, and so many more treasures fill the Moroccan spice souks. Yet, after 13 days of Moroccan cuisine I was sick of tagines, the traditional Moroccan stew similar to the Western method of braising. After having 3 course Moroccan feasts, nearly every day for BOTH lunch and dinner, Faye and I resolutely agreed no more Moroccan food for a while.

However, my first brunch back in NYC brought me to newly-opened Claudette with Naisha. Although I had anticipated mainly French fare, ironically we found Moroccan-inspired dishes on the menu. I suppose I shouldn’t have been too shocked since there is strong influence from the Mahgreb these days in France, so much so that couscous is commonplace in Paris. Nevertheless, the coincidence made me smile.

Claudette is located in Greenwich village, at the heart of it all on 5th Ave a few blocks from Washington Square Park. It’s that part of NYC that everyone would love to live in and the perfect place to brunch on a lazy Sunday. The interior is bright and airy, furnished tastefully, filled with all the laid-back charm that I seek in a restaurant. I had thought that we would have to wait on an endless line for this newly-opened hotspot but thankfully they accept reservations via OpenTable, because who really likes waiting an hour+ for brunch (I’m looking at you Good Enough to Eat).

For food, Naisha ended up getting the Harissa Baked Eggs (baked eggs, chickpea ragoût, tomato & flatbread). Harissa, being one of Morocco’s best known novelties, elevated this standard brunch dish by adding some spice. Definitely the healthier option, as I had Claudette’s Honey Pot (baked phyllo, almonds, rose water, golden raisins & spiced honey). All the sweeter flavors of Morocco baked into one dish. Both mains evoked flavors of Morocco with a nuanced, oh-so-New-York-City twist.

OK so clearly I have not sworn off Moroccan food because the image above clearly shows some traditional French options on the menu.  What can I say? I always like adventurous options. Sorry Croque Monsieur but I indulged on you during my Paris days, I’m good for now. Though these days, I am all about incorporating Moroccan flavors into mainstay dishes. The only souvenirs that I bought for myself were edible: Argan oil, rose water, Harissa, Mint Tea, and Ras el Hanout  – frankly all are wonderful to experiment with in the kitchen, wowing guests, or taste-tester cougars, with their aroma and depth of flavor.

Claudette is definitely a place that I’ll go back to as the menu is seasonal and I’m intrigued to see what the ambiance is like during dinner. For a discerning critic who dislikes trying a restaurant twice, I’ll say that’s a compliment.

Claudette – 24 Fifth Avenue – 212 868 2424

See more reviews at NYC Restaurants.

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To the Year of Execution

As 2014 whips to a close, we once are again left with the swirling questions of where did it go, what did we accomplish, what will we never forget?

As life rushes by, we pass the years where each year is filled with constant life-shaping milestones: The milestones of college, our first jobs, and our first dysfunctional relationships. These are replaced by seconds and thirds as we learn from our past mistakes to pave the way for future success. Although there are still many milestones, it seems as though each passing year moves a little faster, each year comprising a larger whole of one’s life, relentlessly pushing forward through the rough times and even faster through the wonderful memories.

For me it was the year of purported clarity starting with the perfect new job. It was a year teeming with llamas in Peru and camels in Morocco, one signaling a shift in the weather for many of my relationships, and a momentous step in another direction for my career. I look back on 2014 and smile because it was a good year. Not particularly momentous but filled with a train of many successes after purposefully moving toward the goals that I had set for myself.

I’ve discovered that one of my biggest fears in life is to be mediocre. I think it’s something about NYC that propels us forward but I’ve come to realize that not achieving everything you can out of life is a crime – both in regards to your personal and professional life. This mentality will shape the new year and urge me to do more. It also perpetually makes me want to surround myself with those who share the same life trajectory.

To ring in this year we celebrated with close friends yesterday on the eve. Is it true that how you start the new year dictates how you spend your year? Not sure but I spent it bougie of course. We had blood orange champagne sparklers to toast a new year. A Young Pecorina Fonduta (D’s recipe), an Olive Tapenade with Biscottes, and Serrano ham-wrapped Persimmon with Rosemary. After the ball dropped Naisha, Ivanka, Blake and I finished off the bougie night at a Black and Gold Masque at the McKittrick Hotel. Nance wanted to come but she’s recovering from shoulder surgery so we thought that may be a little bit overzealous. It was a perfectly low-key NYE with good friends to kick-off the year.

I said I wanted 2014 to be a year of clarity and I think that it’s all somewhat clearer. Was I thinking I would have an epiphany and know exactly what path to pursue in life? Yes but no year can do that I suppose, no matter how diligent you are. Like I always say the key is making a plan but ensuring flexibility in that plan.

What do I want this year to be? The year of execution. The seeds have been planted and now let’s see which ones take root. I have a much better idea of what I want and the trade-offs that I may need to make to attain the priorities I set in my life. Having many conflicting priorities is natural, but choosing which ones mean the most is the only way to prevent yourself from getting burnt out. Here’s looking at you 2015.

 

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2014 Soundtrack

2014 Soundtrack

As always the end of the year makes me pensive and nothing evokes wandering thoughts more than a wandering playlist. Certain songs will always evoke specific moments in my life. A song can evoke a flashback to when I first heard it, when it really resonated with a momentous life event, or surface a memory from an angsty time when I had a certain song on repeat.

A big shout out to my music Guru Plums! Check out her AWESOME blog HERE if you want to know what will be on the radio a year and half from now. Half of these songs were her recs.

Enjoy my 2014 Rewind Playlist (Check out this link to hear it all on Soundcloud):

  • Do it Again – Robyn & Ryksopp
    • Appropriately on repeat all day long when starting my new job. Gay icon anthem at the seemingly gay mecca of ad agencies. I couldn’t be happier of my move to gay mecca.
  • Texas – Magic Man
    • Evoking an innate positive exuberance that can’t help you to smile. The perfect morning run song.
  • Waste of Time – MØ
    • When they aren’t paying attention to you? This is the perfect hairflip song.
  • Hard Time – Seinabo Sey
    • As I was battling snow on a Peruvian mountain, I was gritting my teeth and listening to this song to get me through.
  • My Silver Lining – First Aid Kit
    • “I’m don’t know if I’m scared of dying but I’m scared of living, too fast too slow.” My mantra for the year.
  • Victor – Prinze George
    • The angst in this song is on point.
  • Young & Beautiful – Lana Del Rey (Cedric Gervais Remix)
    • My love song with New York City. Most listened to song this year on my iPod.
  • Empire – Shakira
    • Any power balad where a betch is running around in a wedding dress in a field, away from a chapel, is fine by me.
  • Riptide – Vance Joy (FlicFlac Edit)
    • Sometimes a remix is so much better than the original. That’s the case with this gem of a find.
  • Pressure – Nadia Ali, Starkillers & Alex Kenji (Alesso Edit)
    • My Half-Marathon pump up song. A testament to the fact that my music taste pendulum has officially shifted to into the realm of house… like mostly everyone else in our generation.
  • Comeback – Ella Eyre
    • The biggest hairflip song of the year.
  • Running for Cover – Ivan & Alyosha
    • The perfect song to let your mind wander when crossing the Moroccan dessert. And falling sleep into Faye’s lap.
  • You’re not the One – Sky Ferreira (Blood Diamonds Remix)
    • I’ll admit it. This song resonates with my life. No more of this in 2015 but for now sing it betch, he’s not the one.
  • Runaway – Galantis
    • This was on repeat during T-giving. Not sure what the undertones say there.
  • Walk this Way – MØ (Lido Remix)
    • One more MØ song, my artist of the year – Danish, Fabulous, and doesn’t give two shits what you think. Good workout song when trying to empower yourself for the day ahead.
  • Don’t Save Me – Haim
    • My anthem going into the New Year. Essentially: Say you will save me. But I want it all, if you can’t hold on and you’re dumb betch then don’t save me.
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C&C Dinner Party Series: A Perfectly Intimate Christmas

I’ll admit I’ve been quite the Scrooge this Christmas season. Seemingly no amount of sparkling lights, yuletide cheer, or Christmas shopping could lift my spirits. Maybe as you grow older and get extremely caught-up with work, it’s harder to stop and take in the holiday season. It also could be something about NYC – I avoid the touristy Christmas attractions like the plague. Rockefeller Center makes me want to die this time of year, which inevitably makes me somewhat aggravated with the heightened hoopla of it all.

But like all things serendipitous in the Nancy-Brian-Cub-Cougar story, our life together managed to snap some cheer back into my ice queen soul. I was all set to have no Christmas party this year but Nance and her daughters made a point of committing to a Christmas celebration, albeit intimate but always bougie. The petit soirée included picking out a tree, tree trimming, champagne, and baking cookies. Nance is recovering from a surgery (explaining her hiatus from the blog) so she lorded over all as we served her nom noms and decorated the apartment.

Perfect dish for a party such as this? Swiss fondue of course! I made an Emmental cheese variation with Swiss white wine (Nance’s go-to recipe) so we could all binge eat over a course of hours. Served alongside my favorite Maison Kayser baguette (New Yorkers – If you haven’t tried this yet, go NOW), apples, cornichons, and saucisson, you really can’t go wrong. Throw in some FOIE GRAS from Juju’s beau and our standard extravagance for dinner parties was achieved.

As I sat in our beautiful apartment looking out onto the Upper West Side, so very happy with my adopted Manhattan family, it dawned on me that this has become home. It’s funny how a transition like that happens gradually overtime but the sudden realization can catch you off guard. I guess home is where you choose to create your life, feel comfortable, and are the happiest. That has become our apartment in 14A, filled so often with betches and laughter, always brimming at the seams with real talk, big dreams, and small successes from our New York City life.

We wish you the very merriest.

Brian & Nance – C & C

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