Tag Archives: Kristin Van Bibber

Big Fat Love Italia

I am blessed in this life.  I love, and I am loved.  Earlier this month, I flew thousands of miles to see love, to see one of my best friends Cheri get married.  And it was while I was miles away from home that I had a torrid, scandalous love affair with the greatest love of my entire life…

Eating 01

FOOD!

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite pastime is eating.  And anyone who doesn’t know me can only imagine what happened when I traveled to Italy earlier this month…  I feasted my big fat heart out.  If you vacation overseas while on a diet, then you’re living a nightmare you’re not really on vacation.  Because when you are truly on vacation like I was, all control, restraint, the MyFitnessPal app, and restrictions go out the Mini Cooper window.  I was free to order anything and everything on the restaurant and cafe’ menus that I wished to taste.  Veal scaloppine with mushrooms. Risotto with artichoke.  Prosecco. Melon wrapped in prosciutto. Fresh mozzarella and tomato. Fernet Branca and cola. Brioche and pistacchio granita. Cannolis. More Prosecco.  Caponata.  Pan-fried sea bass.  Limoncello.   Arancinette.  Mushroom flan.  Double espresso.  Another bottle of Prosecco.

In those moments, who cared about  caloric intake?   (I obviously cannot flaunt that question ten years from now, or currently to my primary physician.)  Who cared about the amount of Euros being shelled out?  I was in m#thaf$cking Italy bitch, and I was going to take full advantage of this wonderful opportunity to enjoy the culinary orgasms.  There were times I left the dining table so completely stuffed and ridiculously full, that the few steps to the elevator up to the hotel room seemed comparable to climbing Mount Etna.  Dining in Italy was an evangelical foodie revival, and sharing those moments with friends, family, and loved ones was magical, especially when the sole reason any of us being  there was to celebrate love.

Wedding Group 02
There are few people that anyone in their lives would go out of their way, and cross the globe for.  My dear friend Cheri is one of my few.  After all, I was right there the very first time she met her new husband Michael nine years ago in Chicago.  I had invited Cheri to fly to the windy city to meet my friends Gina and Neil, and Michael happened to have been visiting Gina from Los Angeles that same weekend.  Here we were nearly a decade later sitting across from one another at a dining table inside of a castle in Sicily for their wedding.  It was just meant to be.

Just as everyone who traveled to Cheri’s wedding was meant to be there.

So many stories were shared.  So many stories were told.  So many new friendships and bonds were formed.  The most touching moment of the entire trip, and one of the most touching moments of my entire life’s existence was Cheri’s Uncle Junior’s toast to the newlyweds.  Perhaps it was his strength during the darkest moment in life that inspired me while he proclaimed how important it is to love and to be loved, but I was moved.  I was moved to tears.

Whether love padded our midsections and caused planned wedding outfits not to fit.  (Thank God for backup outfits!)   Or whether the love was through stories shared at 1am over hysterical laughter, and endless glasses of wine and champagne…  that entire week in Italy, we were all surrounded by love  …and pasta.

Congratulations to Cheri & Michael.  I love you both.

 

If I ate my heart out in Italy, then I drank and danced the rest of the time in London.  My European adventure continues in London…  STAY TUNED for my next post coming soon!  TO BE CONTINUED.

 

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“Diamonds” by Lane 8 featuring Solomon Grey: I also had a love affair in my earphones with this song while traveling…  If seduction had a sound, it would sound like this!

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Pride & Passion 2014: an avant garde wedding

Yet another Pride & Passion event gone by!

In its 8 years, the event has slowly transformed into a fashionable night out downtown to dress up and party.  This year’s theme was an avant garde wedding celebrating the union of art + community + diversity.  I decided to play with the theme, and turned the pimp factor level up a few notches when dressing as my interpretation of an avant garde groom.  And that’s one of the many things that I love about Pride & Passion: how one can be decked out in leather and fur with opera goggles in Florida during the summertime, and not one person bats an eyelash at the ridiculousness of it all.  Pride & Passion is a night to play dress up, and an evening to play with one’s Uncle Karl Lagerfeld André Leon Talley Okie Fierce alter ego.

However, the true importance of this event is the $75,000.00 net that was raised from just one evening for the Tampa Museum of Art, its exhibits and community programs.  As an avid supporter of the arts and of Tampa raising its profile, I applaud this year’s Chairs Kevin Reder and Rick Scherer, the Museum staff, and the Pride & Passion steering and host committee for a spectacular event.

P.S.  Next year, I plan to dress even more ridiculously!

Photos courtesy of Nicole Abbett, Owen Hunt Photography, Todd Montgomery and Nicholas Cardello.

PP2014 Group 02PP2014 CrowdPP2014 ModelsPP2014 Okie GroupPP2014 Rick Crystal Kevin#PP2014TampaPP2014 Okie Aneta Jose 02PP2014 Areis GroupPP2014 GroupPP2014 Uncle KarlPP2014 Okie NicolePP2014 Wedding ModelsPP2014 Okie Kevin JessPP2014 Jaime Jaden 02PP2014 Mike Neil DancingPP2014 WindowPP2014 Museum Lights#PP2014Tampa#PP2014TampaPP2014 Okie ShanePP2014 Okie Jocelyn Jose#PP2014TampaPP2014 Okie KaliPP2014 Okie KristinPP2014 Corina
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“I Can’t Keep Up” by Tourist featuring Will Heard:  There’s just something in the way that Will Heard sings SANGS this song that does something to my soul.  When the frenetic pace changes up at the 3:00 mark, the song becomes pure, unadulterated audio ecstasy.

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My Coachella

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The Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival… holy @#$! shit, what an absolute amazing experience!

This was my second time attending the nation’s reigning mother supreme of music festivals (and the most-successful festival according to Billboard Box-Office).  For anyone with a hard on for live music of all genres, Coachella is the ultimate wet dream.  There truly is no other way to describe the magic that is everything Coachella.  My obsession with Coachella stems from the diverse line-up all in one setting, surprise superstar performances, and 100,000 music and art lovers dancing, singing, and getting their life in the California desert.

LA14 Dinner Group

LA15 Club Group

This year’s Coachella adventure kicked-off with a friends’ reunion in Los Angeles with my best friends Cheri and Harry a.k.a. Hit & Run (childhood friends from Tampa) and Kristin (who just so happened to be visiting California the same weekend).  I linked up with other former Tampons Jamal and Robert that evening, and received the ultimate surprise when I found out that my New York friends and family (sans Jason ::insert tears::) were in L.A. celebrating Gary’s birthday.

It was one big, fat, gigantic Tampa reunion in Los Angeles that just so happened to come together randomly.  The entire randomness of it all is best described by Nadia’s greeting to me when we first ran into one another that evening: “What the fuck are you doing here?  Are you real?  Is this night even real?”

Cochella14 Girls Group 1 Coachella14 Prom Girls

The weekend continued as we met up with Daddy Neil and Rusty, drove to Palm Springs and prepared for the onslaught of the next three days.  One of the weekend’s highlights was meeting Chloe and Erin, two fabulous (and quite hilarious) beauties from the UK.  We instantly clicked on night one during Outkast’s ho-hum reunion performance, and spent the rest of the Coachella weekend singing and dancing the nights away.

The music highlights of this year’s Coachella include:

  • Empire of the Sun…  I had been dying to see them live since I was first hypnotized by their “Walking on a Dream” single six years ago, and the boys certainly did not disappoint.  They were the perfect blend of pomp, flash and drama needed for the Sahara tent, and my pick for the best performance of the weekend.
  • Skrillex… Sonny Moore remains one of the few prominent on the EDM scene whose artistry and craft emanates from his every DJ set.  For those cynics who wrongly insinuate that there is no true talent or work in being a DJ, Skrillex’s thrilling set at Coachella is the receipt to silence them.
  • Rudimental…  It was a treat to finally see this British band perform, especially to witness how their music which encompasses drum and bass, R&B and soul, and pure funk came together in a live setting.
  • Calvin Harris…  Mr. Harris now boasts the second largest performance attendance in the history of Coachella, second only to 2012’s Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg Lion and the 2Pac holgram’s historic California Lovefest.  He played an effortless set of his greatest hits, from “Feel So Close” to Rihanna’s “We Found Love” to new single “Summer.”  No guest performances, no surprises.  And for those cynics who complained that his set played it safe, well why reinvent the wheel when it is still spinning?
  • Arcade Fire…  I will admit that I only knew a few handful of Arcade Fire songs.  I am not infatuated with Arcade Fire like their hardcore following of fans, nor am I one of their many detractors who simply do not understand their hype.  I have always stood on neutral ground with them, so  I was anticipating their headlining, closing performance to find out in which direction I would be swayed.  In the end, I enjoyed their performance, despite lead singer Win Butler’s misguided comments regarding us in the VIP section.
  • MGMT…  I forgot how much I loved MGMT until I woke up from my afternoon nap on the lawn and was greeted by the sounds of their music.
  • Lorde…  if only she could follow the rule of “less talking, less storytelling, more singing,” then she would have had an A+ set.
  • CHVRCHES…  when a band sounds as glorious as their studio recordings, it’s a win-win situation.  CHVRCHES lead singer Lauren Mayberry’s voice sounded like heaven.

A random festival-goer summed up the entire weekend best, when he and I accidentally walked into one another.  I immediately apologized during our run-in, and he just laughed it off, smiled and remarked, “it’s all good man.  No need to apologize.  It’s the best weekend of the year.”

…and yes it was.

To my dear friend Mike Hammonds, thank you for being the best music festival partner in crime.  Daddy Neil, thank you for being you, for teaching me the music festival bunny ways, and for reminding me that this was “my Coachella.”  And lastly, dear Coachella, I’ll be missing you next year, but will return in 2016 to cash in on the best weekend of that year!  [READ: 2012’s Coachella Adventure post]


“Comfortable” by The Knocks featuring X Ambassadors:  I am pissed that I missed The Knocks at last year’s Governor’s Ball in New York City, because I become more and more enamored with their music each and every passing day.  “Comfortable” was this year’s unofficial Coachella anthem.  Perhaps because I demanded that this song be played on repeat at high decibels.  Or simply because this anthem ROCKS, and will serve as a reminder of this beautiful weekend in Coachella Valley.  :: sigh ::

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The ROAR of a Perfect Party

How to throw a PERFECT PARTY

Jaime Bday14

My friend Jaime knows how to throw a party!  Every year, she selects a different theme for her birthday and transforms my dream house her house into her very own magically themed wonderland for the evening.  From the catering to the decor to the handcrafted cocktails to the glassware and tableware, everything is handled with detailed attention and an atmosphere of hype among her invited guests is created.

This year, Jaime chose the roaring 20s as the backdrop for her celebration.  All of her guests were clothed in their most stunning flapper and Jay Gatsby ensembles.  Cocktail connoisseur and genius Ro Patel concocted a handcrafted cocktail menu of muddled and shaken masterpieces.  And a stunning dessert bar was on display parading cake pops and bite-size creations that resembled featured accent decor from Z Gallerie.  “Should I eat this?… but this is too pretty to eat,” constantly ran through my head.

Jaime Bday14 Dessert 02

Every party that Jaime and Jaden host should be the blueprint for any EVERY party thrower in their mid-30s to follow.  Food, cocktails, friends, and a helluva lot of personality and heart with a splash of creme de violette.  It also doesn’t hurt to have various theme props around your house for your silly friends to snap even sillier photos with at the end of the night.

Happiest Birthday again to my friend Jaime!

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“Sleeping With A Friend” by Neon Trees: Press play if you want this song to stay stuck in your head for the rest of the weekend! Let’s all sing along…


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Festa Italiana 2013

Festa Italiana 2013

The 16th Annual Festa Italiana took place in Ybor City on Sunday, April 7, 2013.  Festivities officially kicked off at The Italian Club’s Wines of Italy event the Thursday prior, and the celebration continued each day until the main event at Centennial Park.  My work is a huge supporter and sponsor of Festa Italiana which amusingly began as my bosses’ picnic for their friends and family.  Today, a staggering 10,000 patrons attend their lil’ Italian festival picnic.

Way before I ever became involved with and worked for Festa,  I remember loving the event which can best be described as an overwhelming experience of food, drinks, culture and people.  To now officially be a part of a local tradition that honors and preserves a culture’s heritage and traditions is rewarding and very worthwhile.

Viva Festa Italiana!

Festa 2013 Group 1Festa 2013 Group 2Festa 2013 Group 3Photos courtesy of Radko Keleman Photography

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I have a slight obsession with Olly Murs whose Right Place, Right Time album has been receiving ample play on my iPod.  Olly rose to fame on the UK version of The X-Factor, and conquered the European charts before storming American shores. His current single “Troublemaker” is rapidly racing up the Billboard charts, and he’ll be playing at The RITZ Ybor next week Wednesday, May 8, 2013.

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Black, White & Pink Rockabilly Kids from the 1990s!

The problem:  You have been invited to three different parties that are all taking place on the same night.

The solution:  You accept your popularity and attend all three parties adhering to an unofficial party-hopper timeline.

The problem:  How do you dress when each party has a distinct theme?
More Info:  Party #1 is a fun 1990s-themed bday party, Party #2 is a very classy bday party with black, white & pink as the event theme colors, and Party #3 is the Rockabilly-themed closing party for the Gasparilla International Film Festival.

The solution:  You wear a bright pink t-shirt to Party #1, wear a black blazer on top of bright pink tee to Party #2 and then just make sure that you are way too drunk to care by the time you arrive to Party #3.

PROBLEMS SOLVED!!! Crisis averted.

GIFF 2013 Group B

Party #3:  Rockabilly Revival, the closing party for the Gasparilla International Film Festival

Jaime Bday 2013 AParty #2:  Jaime’s Black, White & Pink Birthday Soiree

Josh P Bday 2013Party #1:  Josh’s 1990s-themed Birthday Party




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“Finally” by CeCe Peniston, one of my favorite songs from the 1990s.

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You’re Not Alone

KVBS Bday 2013 Okie KristinKristin, my best friend that I’ve known the longest, celebrated her 33rd birthday at CHEAP in Tampa last Friday with her most favorite friends.  And in honor of her palindrome birthday, I present three FUN FACTS about me and Mrs. Schmidt:

#1:  POP DIVA CONCERTS & OUR FRIENDSHIP DO NOT MIX WELL…

Britney Spears’ Oops… I Did It Again Tour 2000:  A huge fight over post-its an hour before Brit Brit’s Oops… I Did It Again show nearly derailed our plans to see the Mouseketeer.

Janet Jackson’s All For You Tour 2001:  Our first time seeing Janet Jackson became my first time seeing Janet Jackson, because Kristin and I once again got in a huge fight over Sandy Frink.  (Side note: 10 years later, we finally saw Janet together at her Number Ones, Up Close and Personal show.)

Madonna’s Re-Invention Tour 2004:  We drove to Sebring, Florida to be the first in line to purchase tickets to what would’ve been her first Madonna concert, but I wound up taking someone else because Kristin and I got in a silly fight over who’s the Rhoda and who’s the Mary.  (Side note: Last year, we finally saw Madonna together at her MDNA show in Chicago.)

KVBS Bday 2013 Kristin Cake

#2:  KRISTIN AND I HAVE MATCHING TATTOOS…  and matching tramp stamps to boot!  Sue me.  I was 21-years-old.  I was in in Ybor City with her, and we both randomly made the decision after knocking back a few Jack Daniels’ drinks.  I always told myself that I would never ever get a tattoo unless it was original, designed by moi and had personal meaning.  So the Japanese symbol for “God” may not be original nor was it designed by me, but it does carry a lot of personal meaning because Kristin and I are both trashy and tramp stamped branded with it.

#3:  MINE AND KRISTIN’S THEME SONG IS…  no not that one Madonna song.  And no, it’s not a song by Britney Spears.

Every great friendship has that one song that when randomly heard or played manages to make you instantly think of the other person.  For some reason, Olive’s “You’re Not Alone” (below) is our song.  I do not exactly know how or remember when it was decided that “You’re Not Alone” would be blessed as the one-song soundtrack to our 22-year-old friendship.  Yet everytime I hear that 90’s electronic-trance-pop masterpiece, I immediately think of Kristin.  (And no we both weren’t sporting JNCO pants and sucking on lollipops when this song became our anthem in the 90’s.)




Happy Birthday Kristin!  Click on image below to enlarge photo:

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Congratulations, Happy Holidays & Farewell

Congratulations, Cheers, Farewell… it seems that the trend this year was for every celebratory event to conclude with a goodbye.  (Click here.)  I have always disliked saying goodbye and try to make the situation as short, sweet and to-the-point as possible.  Last weekend was yet another weekend filled with commemorative celebrations followed by a goodbye.

I know a handful of people who have been in school since what seems like 48 B.C.  When I first met Bryan 7-8 years ago, I thought that he too would be one of those people I refer to as a lifetime student: a person who takes one class every other semester and swears to the high heavens and Madonna that graduation is the ultimate goal.  Well what do you know?  Last weekend, Bryan graduated from USF with not just his Bachelors but his Masters degree and threw a party to celebrate.   So congratulations to Bryan for busting his ass and working so hard to accomplish his goal, for proving me wrong in my very initial assumption and for putting up with Jocelyn’s 40-balloons graduation gift.

Bryan Okie 1 Bryan Jocelyn 2 Bryan Boys Jocelyn Balloons 2 Jocelyn Balloons 1



After recouping from Bryan’s Greygoose-filled evening the night before, I had a Holiday Dinner with friends to attend at Texas de Brazil the next day.  My good friends Cheri and Mike were in town from Los Angeles for just one day, and maximized their brief time in Tampa by inviting their closest friends to dinner.  Every year, my best friends and I throw a Holiday Party / Gift Exchange.  Given everyone’s crazy schedules this year, Cheri & Mike’s dinner doubled as this year’s Gift Exchange.  As always, it was wonderful to see Cheri and Mike again, to consume 931 lbs of meat at Texas de Brazil and to remind yourself how friends can also become your family.  Happy Holidays and cheers to Cheri, Mike and everyone and anyone else who is reading this!

Cheri Group

Cheri Boys

Cheri Girls

Cheri Okie

Cheri Jocelyn

Cheri Billy

Cheri Linley

Cheri Robby

Cheri Jaime

Cheri JadenCheri NielyCheri Kristin Cheri JonCheri JessCheri Jaime Jaden



The celebratory weekend concluded on a bittersweet note with my friends Jamal and Lorena leaving Tampa and moving to Los Angeles.  I first met Lorena through mutual friends three years ago, and since then we’ve traveled together, lived with one another (best roommate ever), worked together, shared a toy poodle (and the best dog ever) named Zoe and devoured chili dogs and taters in the middle of my living room floor at 4am.  Although I will miss her and Jamal dearly, its encouraging to know that my annual trip to California is right around the corner.  So for now, farewell to Lorena and Jamal.

Okie Lorena Jamal Okie Lorena

 



I willl conclude this entry with a lyric video for the song “I Am Yours” by the band Churchill.  Right now, the band is right on the brink of taking off with their hypnotic and catchy current single “Change” but this particular song has been receiving much more love on my iPod and Spotify.

Congratulations… Cheers… and Goodbye… but Hello to new music!

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The MDNA Tour: Miami

“Start saving your pennies now. People spend $300 on crazy things all the time, things like handbags.  So work all year, scrape the money together and come to my show. I’m worth it.”
Madonna defending her MDNA Tour’s $1,500.00 VIP Floor Ticket Price
to Newsweek magazine earlier this year

MDNA Nicole

Nicole and I have been friends for almost a decade.  She is the friend that constantly makes you laugh with her infectious silliness.  She is the friend that always remains drama-free and loyal.  She is also that nutty friend that scraped up almost one-thousand-dollars for a ticket to see our lifelong idol, Madonna in concert.

Whenever Madonna goes on tour, Nicole is my go-to gal pal and touring buddy.  Reason 1:  Like me, she’s been a huge Madonna fan since she can remember.  Reason 2:  She and I get along so fabulously when traveling.  Reason 3:  Just like myself (and Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), she too admits that she is I-N-S-A-N-E… but only when it comes to seeing Madonna LIVE.

In 2006, we drove to Miami together to see M’s Confessions Tour.  Two years later, we flew to Chicago for M-Dolla’s Sticky & Sweet Tour.  And this past November, we found ourselves back in Miami for two nights of Madge’s latest MDNA Tour opus.  (For my review of the MDNA Tour when I first saw it in Chicago this past September, CLICK HERE.)

MDNA 2 MDNA 1 MDNA 3 MDNA 4The above photos were all taken on Nicole’s cellphone from our 3rd Row seats

I have a love/hate relationship with the city of Miami but the concert and our time in South Beach were an obvious blast, mainly because it was an experience shared with many of our friends from Tampa.

MDNA Michelle Jocelyn

Girls Gone Wild (literally… and I do have incriminating photos) Jocelyn and Michelle sat right beside us on night 1 of the tour, and one row over on night 2.  (Fun Fact:  Like my friend Kristin before her in Chicago, Jocelyn cried her eyes out during the closing song of the tour… only Jocelyn had seen the show a good 5 or 6 times before this show already!)

MDNA Brian Angela

Bryan and his Madonna Tour gal-pal Angela were staying down the street from our hotel on Collins Avenue, and were the cheerleading pep squad to mine and Nicole’s football jocks.

MDNA Group

We got to hang out with  Tony and Jose at the MDNA VIP Party and at both afterparties at Hyde and Grand Central.  By the way, the VIP Party was pretty amazing and totally worth the price: a buffet of catered food, hosted beer and wine bar, a heavily stocked gift bag, photo backdrop stations.

MDNA Adam David NicoleMDNA Adam David

Jacksonville friends David and Adam gave Nicole and I their seats for night 1 because they won Golden Triangle Pit Tickets.  My other friends Paul and Zach won Pit Tickets for night 2.  Meanwhile, mine and Nicole’s Twitter feed resembled that of an overeager-beaver stalker in our failed, multiple-Tweet attempt to persuade Guy Oseary (M’s manager) to handpick us to join our friends in the Golden Triangle Pit.  We may not have secured those Golden Triangle Pit tickets, but Nicole and I may have inevitably secured Twitter restraining orders from any of our followers during those two days.

My friend Jason pretty much told me that my birthday celebration this year was being stretched out like turkey meat: birthday dinner party, Square One event, Miami trip, Madonna concert, etc.  Well… Jason was 100% correct.  I sho’ nuff did milk this year’s bday for all that I could yank, tug, pull, push and shove.  When you’ve had as wonderful of a year as I did in 2012, going all out for your big birthday at the end of the year is the final topping:  the icing on one delicious ass cake!  I could not have asked for a better birthdayweek celebration than I had and experienced this year.

MDNA LungeMDNA Jerseys

To my dear friend Nicole, start saving those pennies for the next tour because we will be sitting front-row center baby, right next to Gloria Estefan!


Girl Gone Wild by Madonna

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Oops! I Became a Palindrome… Again

pal-in-drome:  a word, verse, or sentence or a number (as 33) that reads the same backward or forward

I never understood why people in their 30’s and 40’s feel the need to proclaim that they’re re-celebrating their 21st birthday on their special day.  Anytime I told someone that I was turning 33-years-old this year, they jokingly tried to correct me by saying, “oh, you mean 21, right?” which only prompted me  to correct them by letting them know that I am proud to be the age that I am.  When compared to when I was a clueless 21-year-old, I am in a much better place in life: basically wiser, richer and more connected with who I am and what my purpose in life truly is.  Getting older is inevitable, so I fully embrace each new year like a brand new pair of shoes.  I am 33-years-old dammit!

Kristin and I decided to host a birthday party for 40 of my closest friends at her house this year.  With friends already flying in from NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ohio and Miami for that weekend’s Square One event at The RITZ Ybor the next day, I didn’t want to invite everyone out to a huge group dinner for 40 at (insert restaurant name here).  Those type of birthday group dinner gatherings always turn into more of a headache, lack any type of intimacy and just are never any fun: you are forced to socialize more with whoever you happen to be sitting next to, the bill is always wrong, food comes out late, the wrong dishes come out with some dishes not even making it to the table, etc.

Even with the already hectic and crazy work schedule, this year’s birthday party was worth every dime and minute that went into planning it… mainly because I love my friends more than the world.  I wish everyday could be my birthday if only I could have as much fun as I did last weekend!


33rd Birthday… BEST Birthday Ever!


Diamonds by Rihanna

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