Post surf-sess chillaxin.


Man! Life has a way of getting busy, and these last few weeks… months… this whole year?? has been one hell of a ride. From whirlwind travel to burning the midnight oil, meeting deadlines and the everyday hustle of freelancing, I’m not really even sure where 2014 starts and stops.

I know whenever there’s a little extra time in my schedule I love updating this blog, but on a recent midweek afternoon, I found another way to fill my time. I bought my first surf board! For those of you who have been following along with me over the last year, you know I fulfilled a major resolution by attending surf camp at Witch’s Rock in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. The idea was, it would be the first step in embracing my new hobby.

On a chilly, overcast Wednesday morning a couple of weeks ago, I took my dog Rascal for a walk down by the beach and lo and behold, there were waves, real, actual waves. Waves that I could picture myself riding.

Rascal says there's waves today.

Rascal says there’s waves today.


Now, this wasn’t the first time this phenomenon has occurred in my backyard since I’ve returned from Tamarindo, but it’s a rare occasion nonetheless. It finally dawned on me that I wasn’t going to be able to ride them until I had a board of my own–you know, like what Virginia Woolf said about women writing and a room of one’s own.

I’d taken a couple of mini surf jaunts to Long Beach, Long Island and Venice Beach in LA where I rented boards and/or instructors, and I was frustrated to be downgraded back to soft tops when I’d so proudly made the leap to epoxy. I was starting to understand why surfers take their boards so seriously.

So on this drizzly, cold front of a day in Miami, I texted my surf touchstone of a friend Brad Wells of who gave me just the nudge I needed, “Go buy one now! Never a better time.”

And so I did.

I headed down to F1RST Surf Supply Co. at South Pointe, which happens to be where South Beach’s best break is–when it’s breaking–and the owner Mark Gamez (along with live texts to Brad) helped me pick out my very first board. They advised me towards a 7’2″ Matt Kechele fun shape (you know, a long board and performance board in betweener). I was a little nervous since it’s more than a foot shorter than anything I’d been on before and considerably lighter, i.e., I can actually carry it to the beach without my arm falling off, but they assured me that I could handle it and I’d grow into it–and obviously be ripping in no time!

This one, you say?

This one, you say?


Brad, what do you think? Enough total volume for me?

Brad, what do you think? Enough total volume for me?


I'll take it!

I’ll take it!


Since the waves were still curling into the afternoon with a nice and rare offshore breeze, I waxed her up (still consulting with Brad via text about just how much wax was enough wax. “More is always better,” I learned), and headed out to the beach behind my house. I was the only one out there–it was really cold, after all–save for one lone standup paddle boarder off in the distance.

Is this enough wax? And, it's normal to wax your board on your bed, right?

Is this enough wax? And, it’s normal to wax your board on your bed, right?


The excitement of gliding into the surf on my very own board was second to none, and the sheer act of paddling was invigorating. When I managed to stand up and actually ride a wave on that first afternoon that surfer’s perma-smile was plastered on my face for the rest of the day.

Dudes, admittedly, I still have a lot to learn out there, but it’s fun as hell and I’m totally, tubularly stoked to have my very own board to practice on and to improve. See you out there! I’ll try really hard not to drop in on your wave and then get into an epic surf brawl Ă  la Keanu vs. Anthony Kiedis in Point Break.


Whether you’re just revving up for Art Basel or you need a little detox from the mayhem of the week, swing by Exhale Spa South Beach at Loews Hotel tomorrow morning from 10 a.m. – Noon, and join me for a restorative, rejuvenating yoga flow class poolside on the St. Moritz lawn with Jodi Carey.

Yogis on the lawn at the newly opened Exhale Spa at the Loews Hotel South Beach

Yogis on the lawn at the newly opened Exhale Spa at the Loews Hotel South Beach


Class starts at 10 a.m. sharp. Afterwards, enjoy a trunk show, mini spa therapies, hair braiding, complimentary bites and sips. There will be a live graffiti show and even you can even make your own creation on a canvas to take home. Email to RSVP. It’s totally free! See you there.

Nothing a good back bend can't fix!

Art Basel can totally fry your nerves. Nothing a good back bend can’t fix!


More Art Basel News Art Basel Hotel Party Guide

The Points Guy: Miami’s Hottest Hotel Openings in Time For Art Basel

The Points Guy: Ultimate Art Basel Guide to Miami’s Hottest Neighborhoods A Curated Guide to Miami Art Week and Art Basel Miami Beach

Miami Herald’s Miami Art Watch Live Blog

Pretty pink flamingos at Fisher Island's aviary

Pretty pink flamingos at Fisher Island’s aviary


Last weekend, my sister Kristy and I spent a day on Fisher Island hosted by Luxury Living Realty. It was my first time at this private enclave of Mediterranean-style homes and condos, situated on an island just south of South Beach, accessible only by ferry for residents and their guests. And let me tell you, it was everything it’s cracked up to be.

You immediately feel like you’ve been transported from the hustle and bustle of the “mainland”–even if that mainland happens to just be the slightly larger island of South Beach–to a quiet getaway of picturesque bay views, greenbelts and golf cart living. A happy bon vivant air permeates the island from its healthy (and wealthy), well-tanned residents heading to the spa for a morning workout to those enjoying a languid lunch at the oceanfront restaurant.

In addition to private homes on the island, there’s also a lavish 15-room boutique hotel with three luxurious cottages starting at about $800 per night, as well as a grocery store and a handful of restaurants–so you really never have to leave.

To get a sense of the real estate, the most expensive homes on the island are $14 million and up. On the low end, it’s possible to buy a studio villa for about $300K, but be prepared for quarterly homeowners fees around $6,000 and to fork over the one-time membership fee of $250,000. We were told most of those purchases are made for nanny’s quarters or visitors’ cottages by those who own more lavish properties on the island. Kristy and I considered pooling our resources for one such cottage, and we’ll be sure to let you know what we decide.

We spent the day enjoying a delicious brunch in a private home, touring the island on golf courts and exploring the aviary where I snapped the above pic of pink flamingos. They also had loquacious parrots, and we spotted iguanas and a manatee on our tour. We capped off the day with a dip in the ocean and a lounge session on cushy white chaises at the private beach.

We can’t wait to go back.

My family celebrated my parents’ 41st wedding anniversary last month by setting sail on a seven-night Alaska cruise with Celebrity Cruises aboard the Celebrity Millennium. These are my favorite moments in pictures from the incredible journey.

1. Dungeness Crab Feast in Ketchikan


I mean, yum!

2. Hiking the Nature Trail in Hoonah with Dad and Kristy


We had fun winding along this nature trail that hugged the beach and meandered through a forest with tall trees.

3. Whale Watching with Captain Paul in Hoonah


We saw at least five humpback whales, as well as sea lions, sea otters, seals and a brown bear on the beach.

4. Taking a Helicopter from Juneau to Taku


Incredible views as far as the eye can see. This is the dock we touched down on in Taku.

5. Taku Glacier


I loved the colors and the ice formations of this glacier.

6. Hubbard Glacier


Truly breathtaking. The Hubbard Glacier calving at dawn.

7. Learning About the Ship with Captain Kostas


What can I say? I’m kind of a geek when it comes to maritime facts and figures. I also enjoyed the talks on porpoises by our shipboard naturalist Chelsea.

8. Dinner at Qsine


That Mediterranean Sampler is totally Instagrammable. Pass the lamb chop!

9. Our Stateroom Balconies & Getting Off the Boat in Seward


Gorgeous views at all hours from these balconies. This is Dad, Brett and Kristy right before we disembarked.

10. Driving Through Wasilla While Wikipedia-ing Former Less Than One Term Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin


It was pretty entertaining observing this tiny Alaskan town while learning fun facts about Sarah Palin (she went to like five different colleges before finally graduating) and cracking jokes with my Dad.

11. The Anchorage Museum


Okay, this snapping turtle is only one of the cool things at the Anchorage Museum. They have a great art collection and exhibits on history, science and a children’s hands-on section. Their cafe is also delicious.

12. Nature Walk at the Talkeetna Lodge with Brett and Kristy


Look! That leaf’s bigger than Brett’s head!

13. Flightseeing Denali National Park


Unreal bird’s eye views of Denali National Park.

For more on Alaska, check out these two stories I wrote last week for The Points Guy:

12 Unexpected Things I Learned on My Alaska Cruise – On The Ship

12 Unexpected Things I Learned on My Alaska Cruise – On Shore

City Wheel 4, close up

City Wheel 4, detail


Miami’s art world is starting to buzz as Art Basel draws closer to the horizon, and Wynwood’s Second Saturday Art Walk always brings a slew of fresh new shows. Saturday night, Philadelphia-based artist and craftsman James McNabb’s solo show “Metros” opened at the Robert Fontaine Gallery. While I had every intention of making an appearance at this month’s Art Walk for the show, it just wasn’t in the cards. Instead, I swung by Robert’s gallery mid-week to have a look at the new works.

McNabb creates intricate, otherworldly cityscape sculptures in beautiful geometric compositions, like wheels, tables and cubes using scrap wood and a bandsaw. His work explores the sociological construct of cities: their beauty, uniqueness and, oftentimes, their overdevelopment. The resulting works are fascinating, almost like child’s play, yet decidedly sophisticated and beautiful. They’re fun pieces to study and marvel over the details. I highly recommend checking it out if you find yourself in the neighborhood before the show closes on October 28.

Next up for the gallery is Nick Gentry’s “Synthetic Daydream” opening November 8 during Art Walk, a must see show featuring the London-based artist’s mixed media portraits composed of obsolete technology, like floppy discs and film negatives.

From left:

From left: Astrid and Alexandra Pedregal, Sari Azout, Ginger Harris at Cecconi’s for Fashion For Breakfast


Thursday morning, I donned the most fashionable thing I could throw together in my closet (BCBG silver pumps, TIBI black and white striped jersey pencil skirt, white BCBG blouse, beaded necklace from Calypso New York and my new red Lanvin handbag–sorry, forgot to take pix #notafahionblogger) and headed to Cecconi’s at Soho Beach House for their new monthly Fashion For Breakfast series, featuring panel discussions with fashion entrepreneurs.

This month, fashion blogger Ginger Harris moderated a discussion with Sari Azout of Bib + Tuck, a “shop your closet”-style website, and Astrid and Alexandra Pedregal, the sister duo behind Miami-based men’s swimwear line Crasqi. They carried on a great conversation about following your passion and the rewards and struggles of starting your own business.

We enjoyed 50% off Cecconi’s breakfast menu and had plenty of time to mingle with friends and peers in a lovely setting. Attendees were also invited to become A Friend of Cecconi’s, earning great discounts at the restaurant, as well as the spa and valet. Not a bad way to get your Thursday started.

For more info on the Fashion for Breakfast series, including what’s next, shoot an email to

So many boat moments. With my crew: Brett, Krista, Ted & Matt aboard Grand Banks

So many boat moments. With my crew: Brett, Krista, Ted & Matt aboard Grand Banks


It’s easy to forget that Manhattan is an island surrounded by water and one of the country’s earliest port cities when you’re tucked inside a cozy West Village bar or caught in the bright lights of Times Square. It was Melville who wrote in the opening chapter of Moby Dick, “There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs—commerce surrounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward.”

A vestige of these early seafaring days has rafted up to TriBeCa’s Pier 25 on the Hudson River in the form of a historic 142’ schooner-turned-oyster bar. Named Grand Banks for the shallow waters where the boat once fished for cod off the coast of Newfoundland, the vessel F/V Sherman Zwicker, built in 1942, was effectively salvaged from the scrapyard for this venture.

“She’d been for sale for seven or eight years,” said Adrien Gallo, part-owner. “We were gifted her by the [Grand Banks Schooner Museum Trust based in Boothbay Harbor, Maine] and we created the Maritime Foundation to preserve her.”

Gallo, a New York City nightlife veteran whose previous ventures include Double Happiness and Happy Endings, along with professional sailors and brothers Alex and Miles Pincus (the duo behind the development firm Arts & Leisure), have created a unique venture combining the non-profit Maritime Foundation with the for-profit Grand Banks oyster bar aboard the same vessel.

Grand Banks aft deck

Grand Banks aft deck


Shaded by a yellow and white-striped awning, shackles are tossed atop barrels, a brass mermaid sculpture leans against a mast and dock lines are coiled in ship shape on the wooden deck. Belowdecks, you’re enveloped with the earthy scent that can only come from a wooden boat and a mini exhibition by New Draft Collective is on display covering the history of the Sherman Zwicker and the Atlantic Ocean’s cod fishing industry. The heads (toilets) even keep with the maritime aesthetic, offering varnished wooden seats in a chevron pattern and toilet paper hanging from lines.

The well-edited menu by executive chef James Kim consists of sustainably sourced oysters, seafood small plates (like, fluke crudo with slab bacon, Asian pear, grapes and olive oil) and nautical-inspired riffs on classic cocktails that change daily (like, El Diablo made with tequila, ginger, lime, vermouth and club soda), along with wine and beer.

The waitstaff dons chic nautical striped t-shirts, each accessorized to showcase personal style (a vintage Yankees cap, an arm stacked with brightly beaded bangles, a nose ring) creating the feel of a motley—and very hip—crew.

With a capacity of 145 people and a no reservation policy, New Yorkers have thronged the gangway ever since it swung on deck in early July, oftentimes waiting in line to snag a seat at the forward and aft bars or midships tables.

So what is it that keeps Manhattanites flocking to Grand Banks all summer?

“It’s unique. There’s nowhere else like it in the city,” offers Gallo. He quickly amends his answer with the exception of the Frying Pan, a historic lightship-turned-bar-and-grill, which has long held court (albeit under the radar) further up the Hudson River at Pier 66 in Chelsea. “We’re different, though, because we’re more intimate,” he adds, noting the Frying Pan’s capacity of over 700 people.

The Frying Pan is another great spot for drinks on the water

The Frying Pan is another great spot for drinks on the water


This summer, the North River Lobster Company has also made a splash at Pier 81 in Hell’s Kitchen as a “floating lobster shack” that actually leaves the dock for half hour sails at regularly scheduled intervals.

Perhaps it’s the unflinching lure of the sea that Melville wrote of and a unique venue where “crowds of water-gazers [are] posted like silent sentinels… mortal men fixed in ocean reveries.”

Or perhaps, in the case of Grand Banks, it’s a beautifully restored wooden boat offering sweeping views of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and sunsets over the Hudson River and Jersey City. Combine that with a dozen fresh oysters and a seasonal cocktail, and you’ve got a winning formula.

As most ships do (and seasonal bars, for that matter), Grand Banks will be sailing on after October 31 when its permit is up. According to Gallo, it may very well raft up to a slip near you in Miami or the Keys during the winter season. “That’s still all in the works,” he said. Until then, you can step aboard in Manhattan from noon to 11 p.m. on weekends and 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays.

Other Novel Ways to Enjoy New York on the Water

Paddleboarders on the Hudson at sunset

Paddleboarders on the Hudson at sunset


Sail On- For a bastion of New York’s maritime history, visit the South Street Seaport Museum where you can set sail on the historic tall ship Pioneer built in 1885. Likewise, the Schooner Adirondack departs Chelsea Piers for regularly scheduled sails and dinner cruises.

Kayak & SUP- While there was a time in not so distant memory when New Yorkers wouldn’t dream of risking submersion in the Hudson River, kayaking and standup paddleboarding has grown in popularity. Try Manhattan Kayak Company in Hell’s Kitchen or New York Kayak Company in SoHo.

Surf’s Up- Urban surfers flock to the Rockaways in Queens (about an hour’s journey on the A train from Manhattan) where many hip spots have cropped up, including Rockaway Beach Surf Club. Here, you can store your board after a morning session, grab a bite to eat (anything from Carolina pulled pork sandwiches to a vegan lobster roll) and stay for live music or a movie screening late into the evening.

Hotels with Great Outdoor Space

The Standard High Line

The Standard High Line


The Standard High Line – From the ground level Biergarten and Standard Grill to the rooftop Top of the Standard and Le Bain, The Standard High Line straddles its namesake elevated urban park offering outdoor spaces with views of the city as far as the eye can see—as well as plenty of trendy dining and nightlife experiences. Rooms from $620.

Hotel Hugo – The newly opened Hotel Hugo, on the western edge of SoHo, boasts a glass-enclosed (and open air) rooftop bar overlooking the Hudson River, as well as Italian restaurant Il Principe with sidewalk café seating. The décor is maritime-inspired with a modern twist. Rooms from $425.

The Viceroy – The Viceroy on 57th St. offers prime views of Central Park from its rooftop perch, fittingly dubbed The Roof with a bustling after work scene and South Beach-priced cocktails. At ground level, Kingside restaurant offers New American fare under the tutelage of chef Marc Murphy. Rooms from $418.

A version of this story was originally published on

Exhale Power Facial

As Exhale Miami’s Brand Ambassador, I’m psyched to share this amazing offer on Power Facials throughout the month of October. I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it again, the Power Facial has absolutely saved my skin on more than one occasion. From unbalanced, oily, acne-prone skin to fine lines and discoloration, this customizable facial is a worthy investment to clean up your skin as the season’s are changing. At $75 off this month, the Power Facial will cost you $170 (normally $245).

During the 60-minute treatment, an aesthetician analyzes your skin to customize the facial to your personal needs utilizing multiple techniques and technologies that may include any of the following:

  • Peel: exfoliates to reveal brighter skin. Also allows whatever comes next to go deeper in your skin.
  • Extractions to decongest your pores and reduce pore size
  • Ultrasonic Therapy: gives a deep cleanse, drives vitamins and nutrients deep into the skin
  • Cool beam: makes you look younger by boosting collagen – also fights breakouts
  • Vitamin Masks: to hydrate, fight acne, rebalance, or smooth your skin

Seriously, expect to walk out of there looking hydrated and well-rested with smoother, even-toned, glowing skin.

Here’s how I recommend you spend your day at the spa. First, decide whether you want to visit Exhale at the Epic Hotel downtown or at the Loews Hotel in South Beach. Book your facial for mid-afternoon and select a core fusion or yoga class to drop-in on in the morning. Check the class schedule here. Then, grab lunch by the pool and enjoy a leisurely afternoon at the spa before your treatment. Note: Pool access is only accommodated at the Epic for spa-goers.

You’ll receive 10% off products purchased the day of your treatment, so if your aesthetician recommends something you need, go for it. I’m a big fan of the Sircuit line–I use their cleansers, moisturizers and exfoliators daily.

Happy spa-ing!

Avocado toast and the salad of the day at Zak the Baker.

Avocado toast and the salad of the day at Zak the Baker.


This week, I decided to diverge from my usual lunch routine of GoGo and Icebox on the beach, and make the trip across the bridge to Wynwood to meet fellow writer Carla Torres at Zak the Baker’s fresh new digs. While he’s long baked up loaves in Hialeah and supplied many local restaurants with his creations, this is his first cafe and bakery, which opened this summer. The menu consists of toast topped with fresh ingredients–like the avocado spread that I tried–salads, sandwiches, quiche, soup and sweet baked goods that change daily. It’s best to mix and match your meal or order a few different things to share.

I opted for the aforementioned avocado toast with a sprinkling of red pepper flakes and ricotta and the salad of the day with fennel, cauliflower and quinoa tossed in a vinaigrette. I’ve tried his grab-and-go sandwiches at Panther Coffee in the past, and this freshly baked, freshly toasted variety does his bread much better justice. The toast is warm and pillowy soft with a perfectly crunchy crust creating a true “comfort food” experience. Carla ordered the lentil soup and a sandwich with lox.

I couldn’t resist the chocolate babka displayed enticingly on the counter for dessert, and it was a worthy, moist indulgence that I’d gladly return for. In fact, Zak has all the makings of a regular lunch joint–fast and friendly service, a fresh and healthy menu, and a bright and cozy dining room. Most items on the menu range from $7 to $12 and, of course, whole loaves of bread are also available.

The lagoon-style pool at Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort.

The lagoon-style pool at Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort.


I stayed at my first all-inclusive resort this month in Riviera Maya, Mexico  for the Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) North America Conference. The 2,500 room (read: massive) Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort is one of seven in a family of all-inclusives across the Yucatan Peninsula.

In the end, it didn’t add up to my ideal vacation experience. My biggest problem was the lack of quality food and drink. I also wasn’t impressed by the massive (slightly worse for wear) resort setting and the beach that pales in comparison to nearby Cancun’s white sand and electric blue water. For the full story, read my review on The Points Guy.

While the resort wasn’t for me, they have a loyal fan base of repeat customers with a majority of glowing reviews on TripAdvisor. It also provides great value with generous resort credits in addition to the all-inclusive perks, which includes food, drink and gratuity.

The true merit of an all-inclusive seems to be a divisive topic based on some of the comments on my TPG post. Then again, this wouldn’t be the first time that I dislike something that most people like. A few others include:

  • Ice cream
  • Most Ben Stiller movies
  • Thanksgiving food
  • H & M

So I’m wondering, have you every stayed at or considered an all-inclusive resort? What did you think? Weigh in below.