Travel: New Orleans Birthday Weekend

It’s been a while since I have posted any travel blogs.  I will be working on my Sicily one soon (so many photos to sort through), but in the mean time, here is my latest New Orleans trip from this past weekend.
This was my 4th trip to NOLA.  With one of my best friends, Natalie, living in this wonderful city, I am lucky enough to get to see it as a local would.  The last time I visited was 3 years ago and I had stayed for almost an entire month.  If you read that post, things were a little different… I was 100% vegan then and I was in a bit of a funk.  I had blamed the haunted city a bit for it.
Thankfully, this time it was different.
While Natalie was at work Friday, I spent the morning at my old hangout, Cafe En Vie.  Although the coffee isn’t my fave here, mostly because they kept giving me medium roasts instead of dark, I enjoy this French Quarter cafe for its ambiance.  Large arched windows and a full bar gives it an authentic European cafe feel.  I did work on my laptop as some locals chatted around me and even dragged me into some conversations.
I was there for hours drinking coffee and enjoying the people around me, all while I got work done for a client and journaled.  By the afternoon, I was eager to stretch my legs and walk around exploring the familiar area.

Inside Cafe EnVie

I visited the witchcraft shop next to En Vie, named HEX and then next to that is a small nook with street vendors selling things outside.  I loved hearing different stories of how these vendors made their crafts.  One guy acquired a bunch of fish scales from a dead woman and decided to make pretty jewelry out of them.  I passed on the purchase, but it was still interesting.  I did partake in buying some tea, however.  I got a decent-sized mason jar of hot lavender black tea spiked with vodka.  It was delicious and kept me warm and toasty as I walked around.
I headed to Central Grocery for a late lunch — muffuletta and some Zapp’s VooDoo chips.  Muffulettas remind me of New York and Italy — after all, Central Grocery actually imports all of their items from Italy.  If you’ve ever had a really good New York deli sandwich, then you can imagine what a muffuletta is.
St. Louis Cathedral from inside Jackson Square.
After lunch, I walked through Jackson Square, always a must for me… it doesn’t feel like New Orleans if you don’t go to the square!  I headed to the CBD (Central Business District) to meet back up with Natalie since she was getting off work.
On my actual birthday, we hung around the Garden District mostly.  In the morning, Natalie and Mike (Natalie’s boyfriend) sang Happy Birthday to me with a king cake.  We headed to Toast for brunch (aebelskivers were delish!) and then to Lafayette Cemetery Number 1.  Natalie claims I have been to this cemetery, but I only remember going to Lafayette Number 2.  Anyway… the cemeteries are always cool to see in NOLA and there was an adorable black cat hanging around, which added a creepy (not creepy to me at all) factor, haha.  He was too cute to be creepy!

We also went to a couple of bookstores (Octavia Books and the Garden District Bookstore) where I picked up some great Tennessee Williams reads!  I’m a huge fan, which is why I made a point to go to the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone the next day.  Supposedly, Williams hung out there with Hemingway and Capote back in the day.  I had a Ramos Fizz because he allegedly liked them.
Ramos Fizz at the Carousel Bar inside Hotel Monteleone.
For my birthday dinner, we went uptown to Jacques-Imo’s Cafe.  Amazing!  By far the best place I have eaten in all of the times I have gone to New Orleans.  Natalie and Mike made me try this alligator cheesecake… I know, I know, I made the same face you are probably making… but think more of a quiche than dessert.  It was fantastic.  The complimentary cornbread was also delicious!  For my entree, I had stuffed catfish, mashed potatoes and greens.  Surprisingly, the greens were the only thing I didn’t like… and I always like my greens… but there was bacon in them and it made a lot of juice, so they tasted too smoky for me.  Anyway, if you visit New Orleans and venture out of the French Quarter — definitely try Jacques-Imo’s!
The stuffed catfish at Jacques-Imo’s.
The next day, Natalie and I went into the Quarter because I was set on seeing a psychic.  That was something I hadn’t done in New Orleans yet… well, I don’t think I can truly knock that off my bucket list yet.  We went to Conjure, which had great reviews on their psychic readings.  However, the psychics left for the day even though I had called and they told me to come in.  The cashier wound up giving me a card reading… but not a tarrot card reading… a playing card reading!  Yes, the 52-card deck with spades, hearts, clubs and diamonds… I was game.  I figured, eh, why not?
While I don’t think the reading was shocking or super detailed, it was inspirational.  The guy was very motivating to me as far as encouraging me to be… well, me.  I liked that.  So if nothing else, I got a pep talk for $30.
That’s pretty much the gist of my trip… that and spending quality time with my friends.  Some of my favorite moments were just sitting on Natalie and Mike’s couch laughing over YouTube videos or talking about our nerdy obsessions.
The famous Cafe DuMonde
Have you ever been to NOLA?  Planning a trip and need some tips?  Hit me up in the comments!
Featured photo: Doodle journal created by me.

LTL's Edvin Ortega Appeared Live on the Sweet Beatz Show to Talk Boy Bands, Justin Timberlake and Long Island Show with 98 Degrees' Jeff Timmons!

LARGER THAN LIFE will be appearing at Mulcahy’s Pub in Wantagh, NY on January 26th!
Cuban-born, New York native Edvin Ortega(Orange Is The New Black, Gotham) is the talented actor/singer/emcee and businessman behind Larger Than Life: The Ultimate Boy Band Tribute Show.  He appeared on Long Island’s Old Westbury Web Radio’s Sweet Beatz show with DJ Sandra Dee on Friday.
The radio appearance was to promote Ortega’s upcoming LARGER THAN LIFE show with 98 Degrees’ Jeff Timmons at Mulcahy’s Pub on Friday, January 26th.  Performing a full set of hits from The Jackson 5, New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC and 98 Degrees, Larger Than Life offers up nostalgia, sing-a-long fun, and awesome choreography.
LTL regularly headlines the Long Island bar’s ’90s Nites, with the occasional boy band guest.  Earlier this month, *NSYNC’s Joey Fatone hosted and appeared on stage with LTL.  On January 26th, 98 Degrees‘ founding member, Jeff Timmons will not only be hosting, but performing some of his group’s hits with Larger Than Life!
DJ Sandra Dee talked to Ortega about the show, their mutual love for boy bands and Justin Timberlake’s Super Bowl appearance.
LISTEN: https://www.mixcloud.com/DJSandraDee/edvin-ortega-from-larger-than-life-1-19-2018/
Edvin Ortega is available for interviews and other press opportunities are also available.  Please contact sandy@sandylo.com for more information.
For more information on Larger Than Life: www.wearelargerthanlife.com
For ticket information: www.muls.com

Larger Than Life and 98 Degrees' Jeff Timmons Take Over Mulcahy's 90s Night!

Larger Than Life: The Ultimate Boy Band Tribute Show and 98 Degrees’ Jeff Timmons Set to Perform at ’90s Night in NY!

Appearing at Mulcahy’s Pub in Wantagh, NY on January 26th!

Edvin Ortega (Orange Is The New Black, Gotham) is the talented actor/singer/emcee and businessman behind Larger Than Life: The Ultimate Boy Band Tribute Show. With regular gigs around the tri-state area, Edvin’s LTL shows are instant crowd-pleasers!
Performing a full set of hits from The Jackson 5, New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC and 98 Degrees, Larger Than Life offers up nostalgia, sing-a-long fun, and awesome choreography.
LTL regularly headlines the Long Island bar’s ’90s Nites, with the occasional boy band guest. Earlier this month, *NSYNC’s Joey Fatone hosted and appeared on stage with LTL. On January 26th, 98 Degrees‘ founding member, Jeff Timmons will not only be hosting, but performing some of his group’s hits with Larger Than Life!
Larger Than Life has opened for Timmons in the past, so this reunion made in pop heaven will be a blast no boy band fan should miss!
Edvin Ortega is available for interviews and press opportunities at the show are also available. Please contact sandy@sandylo.com for more information.
For more information on Larger Than Life: www.wearelargerthanlife.com
For ticket information: www.muls.com
Save

Doodle Journal: 2018 Goals

A little late, but Happy New Year!  I know I haven’t been in touch on here or on my social media accounts as much as usual…and if I have posted, it’s been regarding The Merry Workshop.
To answer some questions you may have — yes, I am still writing.  In fact, my novel “Decaf For The Dead” is coming along nicely!  I have given myself lots of time to write at my own pace.  Usually, I keep myself to a strict writing/publishing schedule of a book a year!  I’ve been doing that since 2009, so as you can imagine — I became a little burnt out.
2017 was a transitional year for me.  I delved deeper into who I am and what I want.  I traveled to Sicily (which I still owe you a blog on), was maid-of-honor for my best friend’s wedding (Kindell from Postcards & Daydreams) in Nashville, spent time with family, and also spent a lot of alone time.  Perhaps too much alone time.
Turns out being away from New York so much has diminished friendships due to no longer living in the convenience of the city.
The end of the year brought on a new project — The Merry Workshop — a business I started with its first product being letters from Santa.  I now offer Valentine’s Greeting cards and will also be featuring other seasonal cards and personalized gifts.  I didn’t know how much excitement this would evoke in me.  I had the idea for it all in November and it quickly snowballed!  It allows me to explore a side of myself I had put to rest when I was a kid — the artist in me.
As far back as I can remember, my first dream jobs were: artist and veterinarian.  While I never thought to follow through with becoming a vet due to my overly-emotional response to animals in any kind of distress, being an artist took a backseat when I began to focus on writing.  Don’t get me wrong — writing is an art form, but it is not the only one I enjoy.
While my natural talent of sketching and painting is limited these days, I would like to explore those avenues more.  I already have begun honing my calligraphy/brush lettering skills.  Check out some of the creations here: themerryworkshop.com.
It’s like arts & crafts everyday for me now and I have such a child-like excitement again!  I hope everyone can find something that makes them feel what I am feeling.  Even if it’s just something you do that you don’t share with anyone else.
I created some goals — nothing too restrictive — for 2018 in the form of a doodle page in my new journal.  I have discovered this way of journaling on Instagram and fell in love.  Not only does it allow me to practice brush lettering and decorative doodles, but it also helps me focus on key words to inspire/motivate me and that express my current moods/feelings.
Do you journal?  What are your 2018 goals/resolutions?  Is there something new (or something old) you want to try or do more of?  Post a comment or create your own doodle journal entry and share it with me!  Leave a comment below or tag me on social media: @sandylobooks.

98 Degrees Gets Playful with New Holiday Tour

In case you haven’t noticed, 98 Degrees have been creeping into your life this holiday season.  They’ve been in my holiday music rotation since 1999 when the then Motown-signed group released This Christmas.  98 Degrees dropped a brand new Christmas album in October titled, Let It Snow.  To support the new songs, band members Nick Lachey, Jeff Timmons, Drew Lachey and Justin Jeffre have been making the rounds on national television appearances, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, Good Morning America and The Today Show, as well as performing live on Top 40 radio, like Z100.
Peppered in between appearances, 98 Degrees are currently on a 31-city tour across the U.S.  I caught their show in Long Island and was pleasantly surprised to see a side I hadn’t seen too much of from the guys on stage: theatrics!  The stage was set simply and fittingly with a few snowflakes.  There was no big lighting changes or effect–just the four men who adorned our walls once upon a time and who still steal our hearts.  However, this 98 Degrees didn’t just verify they still have talent with their amazing a cappella chops, 4-part harmony, muscular bodies, and the sweetest, most personable smiles, but that they are also showmen!
The guys added much more choreography than expected.  98 Degrees was always known as the “boy band who can’t dance”.  We’re used to seeing them sitting on stools or doing exaggerated hand movements without really having to dance.  Nick Lachey is often heard making fun of his dancing ability, or lack there of–even on his recent participation on season 25 of “Dancing With The Stars”.
Along with their hits, “Invisible Man”, “The Hardest Thing” and “Because Of You”, 98 Degrees filled most of the show with Christmas music from their two holiday albums, often being cheeky with choreography or exaggerated facial expressions.  They even did a cover of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and Frozen hits, “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” and “Let It Go”.  Brothers Nick and Drew ballroom danced together and leapt around the stage as if they were Elsa and Anna while Justin and Jeff got into their own holiday characters.
The band shared personal stories from their holidays as children and now with families of their own.  It was an intimate show that really did feel like a gift, especially when the group performed one of my favorite Christmas songs, “This Gift”.
If you’re looking for a holiday show to see this year, 98 Degrees gets the job done!  If you can’t make it to one, make sure you have both This Christmas and Let It Snow on hand to make your season bright.  And set your DVR on November 30th for ABC’s Wonderful World of Disney: Magic Holiday Celebration!

Letters From Santa Service by Sandy Lo

In my previous post, you heard me ramble on about my sickening (LOL) Christmas spirit lately… Well, it has still taken over me, and expanded!
For years, I had toyed with the idea of starting a service to write letters from Santa, the Easter Bunny, or personalized cards/speeches for people.
Well, this year my sister-in-law had asked me to write letters from Santa for my niece and nephew.  That got me thinking… and I decided I wanted to so something good this season to help keep the magic alive.
I made an announcement on my personal Facebook page that I would like to write letters from Santa for anyone who is interested.  I received plenty of people interested and even though I am offering this service free, I am still getting offers from people who want to pay.
I’m very flattered and I do realize that if this project blows up big, I will need some financial help to support it and even expand it.  Next year, I would love to offer a gift from Santa or from a sneaky elf.  With that sentiment in mind, I have decided to accept payments on PayPal for anyone who wants to donate to the cause.  It is only optional!
Click on this link to donate: https://www.paypal.me/merryworkshop

Request a Letter from Santa:

Disclaimer: Any information you send me is for the strict use of a letter from Santa to the address provided.  I will not mail out anything else to the provided address.

For any other questions, you can also send me an email at themerryworkshop@gmail.com.

What Christmas Means To Me

WARNING: This may be the cheesiest post I have ever written. But these things I’m feeling are real.  Don’t be a grinch, okay? 😉
I’m not usually one of those people who gets excited for Christmas before Thanksgiving even hits.  For some reason, this year I’ve gotten into the spirit early.  I even started Christmas shopping!!!  Every year I say I will start shopping early, but find myself scrambling to shop the week before the 25th.
I had to do my best to keep from starting up the holiday playlist, which you can find on my Spotify.  But with one of my favorite groups coming out with a new Christmas album (cough*98 Degrees*cough), it wasn’t much of a struggle.  Lately, I find myself in winter PJs, sipping hot chocolate while watching cheesy Hallmark movies I tease my sister for watching.
I am dreaming up holiday cookie baking events with my niece and nephew and thinking of a creative letter from Santa to help them believe in magic.  I started practicing my calligraphy skills again, which my niece doesn’t know I have.  Hopefully that’s enough to fool her.
So, what is up with me???
As a kid, I was like this — often opting for Christmas music in October and starting my Christmas list around that time.  But truthfully, I haven’t felt this level of spirit since my mother passed away.  So much of that magic centered around my time with her — shopping and cooking and laughing all set to Christmas music.
Usually, I am stressed with the busy retail season at work when I was a barista along with traveling home to New York to see my family.  So maybe that’s it… now that I have moved back to New York and live with my niece and nephew, the magic is back.  Plus, I am lucky enough to not have that extra work burden.  Sure, I work.  I help out with the kids and with my brother’s company, but my life is filled with so much more fulfillment now.
I have time to write.  I have time to workout.  I have so much time to spend with my loved ones.  For instance, I got to spend a night in the city — which is looking pretty festive already — with my sisters last weekend.  I don’t think the three of us have done something together like that in years.
I am thankful for not what I have lost in life, but for what I have gained.  The simple blessings of family, friends — even if some are far away, heart-warming movies, using creativity to bring back the feeling of youth, and the euphoria that music brings into your life.
A single song can lift your spirits and bring back a memory, all while making new ones.  This year, this is what Christmas means to me… to let simple things fill my heart with happiness, especially during a time in our world when we so easily find bad news anytime we look at our phone.  It’s important to remember the good and embrace it.  I know that’s not easy for everyone, but don’t be afraid to allow yourself to actually feel happiness when it creeps into your soul just because there is suffering elsewhere in the world.  Be mindful and compassionate, but letting it bring you down is not helping the cause.  You can change that negative energy by donating money, toys, or time to a good cause instead.  That’s guaranteed to make yours and someone else’s holiday brighter.
Here is to hoping you all feel the spirit of the season and may God bring peace and light into your heart.
Hugs, Kisses & Stars,
Sandy
Enjoy my holiday playlist – beware, it’s extra poppy, extra upbeat and there may be 10 versions of every Christmas song ever.  Haha! j/k…kind of.
https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/1231631838/playlist/6v3ADch9TaxdIxBo9GygSD

We're All Connected.

Do you ever see someone who looks incredibly familiar? You’ve met this person somewhere before, but you can’t put your finger on it. Did you go to school with him or her? Or maybe you’re from the same neighborhood?
I assume this experience has happened to everyone.
What I am not so sure about is that you can be somewhere, in a different state or country, around no one you know, and “recognize” people.
This is how I feel.
This deja vu-ish feeling of familiarity comes over me no matter where I am. At any given time, I can glance into a crowd of people and spot someone that I’ve “seen” somewhere before.
The feeling used to overwhelm me. I’d wrack my brain trying to place where I know the person from. Back then, I only lived in New York–Staten Island–to be exact. So it was common to see someone you knew or have crossed paths with. As crowded as Staten Island is, it feels rather small when you grew up on it. It was likely I passed someone my parents knew or older siblings knew, or a friend of a friend type of thing.
As I got older and traveled more, though, the experience happened more often. And it wasn’t always one-sided. So many times, people would tell me I look familiar and claim they know me from somewhere.
Whether I was in Manhattan or Nashville or L.A. or Italy, there was always someone that I swore I’ve seen before! Over the years, I became so accustomed to it, that I learned not to linger my gaze trying to figure out how I know the person. Most likely, I have never met them, right? I mean, I’ve met many people in my short lifetime, but what are the odds that I know someone every place I go?
My only conclusion is that we’re all connected in some way. Don’t ask me how because I don’t know. Maybe from past lives. Maybe our souls are all connected through God or some other entity. Maybe we’re all characters in someone’s mind and therefore share a common bond. I really don’t know!
What I do know, is that I’ve always been tapped into things in the spiritual/psychic world a bit. Maybe I am blocking out information for these “familiar” people that I am supposed to deliver. Okay, so maybe that all sounds like a plot for a future novel of mine (now there’s an idea!), but I figured it was interesting enough to share.
Have you had any experiences similar to mine? Please share in the comments. 🙂

Two Sides of the Mirror

I thought I lost her. I left her there somewhere in a dark hole. Feeling empty and numb. 
The only time she felt something was when the guilt set in. When the shame she put on herself was too much. The mirror she looked into through blurred vision told her she was nobody. A stranger. 
I buried her deeper, hoping she never saw the light. She didn’t deserve it. 
Somehow in the cold, dark cave I isolated her in, she began to rise. She clawed and screamed. She told me to fuck off.
She is good enough. She deserves love. She can have more. She is brave. She is beautiful. She has purpose. 
With tears brimming my eyes, I stared at my reflection in the mirror and said, “You’re right.” ❤️
Pass this on to someone who needs it. 
Hugs, Kisses & Stars,
Sandy

The Fall of Journalism

The year was 2002. I was an exuberant teenager ready to attack any opportunity that came my way as a writer. Back then, I considered myself solely an entertainment journalist.  I dreamed of writing for Rolling Stone or working for MTV. Those were the outlets I turned to when I wanted my music news. 
Never in a million years had I planned to start my own magazine!  StarShine Magazine was my webzine back when blogs and online magazines were considered “new media” or simply shuffled in with “fan sites”. They were not taken seriously. 
I had to fight for every interview I got. I was a young, bubbly female that everyone wanted to patronize and push aside. But I kept going. I kept pushing. And I let my writing speak for itself. I had a knack for writing articles. For talking to people. For making them feel comfortable in interviews. 
Soon, I was the one being invited to interviews, release parties, and concerts. In a predominantly older male-driven profession, I had made it. I gained integrity and respect as a journalist and I was incredibly proud of that as a twenty-year-old. I was getting millions of eyes on my website before social media was a thing!
The big problem was… how the heck was I supposed to make money? I put so much energy into writing, interviewing, listening to music, going to events and designing websites that I didn’t have the energy or know-how to monetize the site. 
And once I started to think about it, it took the fun out. So began the fall of StarShine. That and a big site crash that my server had.  Good website hosting was hard to come by back then!
I lost plenty of readers in that down time. I started to pursue other ventures… novel writing, being a publicist, and writing for other websites and magazines. 
The dream to work for MTV completely died. MTV had, in my opinion, turned to crap. As for Rolling Stone, I didn’t think my style would vibe with them and wasn’t so sure their reputation was going to hold up anyhow. 
Truth is, I liked running my own magazine. I liked being the positive, no gossip website people came to discover new music.  It was hard writing for other publications — letting them decide what I should listen to and write about. It felt forced, it felt phony. 
I found a few magazines that I did enjoy writing for. But if they were print magazines, one by one, they folded. If it was a website, they paid very little or nothing at all. On top of that, they either wanted me to trash celebrities or write about ones whose music I hated and would never listen to in real life. 
So I kept to my own site for the most part, but find things are too strange for me these days to be a “journalist”. 
Anyone can call themselves that as well as a “blogger”. In today’s world, it’s harder and easier to get your article noticed. 
Harder because everyone is flooded with daily content. Easier because you never know what might go viral! 
To be a journalist today, you have to be super present on social media. Not just keeping up posts on your accounts, but following the top influencers on all platforms as well as celebrities. 
You basically have to create a story from a series of tweets and Instagram photos like stalkarazzi. Either that or you can turn to mommy or political blogging. 
None of those sound appealing to me as a writer. Aside from not being an actual mother, I am not the journalist that trendy outlets want. And the ones that my style does fit in with are places I don’t really want to work for. 
Truth is in my experience, journalism eats up your life, wants you to compromise who you are and prefers you do it all for free or for pennies. 
I miss the old days. When people read full articles and journalists formed bonds with publicists and a story didn’t become old after half a day. Journalism was a craft. It wasn’t something meant for everyone to do. 
I know some photographers who feel slighted by Instagrammers always going viral. But I wonder if there are any journalists out there who feel burned by social media and their “snackable” content that is nixing the relevance of long-form articles…
Who’s with me?

Sandy Lo Media
Left Menu Icon