Celebrate Italian Heritage Month with Cacio e Pepe & Stemmari Nero d’Avola

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe & Stemmari Nero d’Avola 2013

October is Italian Heritage Month, and to properly celebrate, I wanted to share one of my favorite pasta dishes paired with an excellent red wine. On National Pasta Day (October 17th) I decided to chef up Cacio e Pepe, a Roman dish which literally translates to “cheese and pepper”, that is comprised of a thin pasta, Pecorino cheese, and black pepper. My wine pairing was a  bottle of Stemmari Nero d’Avola 2013 that was sent from their PR company.

Nero d’Avola is an intense red grape harvested in the Agrigento provence of Sicily, marked by its deep ruby red color, bouquet of dark red fruit, and velvety texture on the palate. Given these characteristics, I surmised the peppery quality of the pasta would balance the notes of the wine.

Since I had a box of Barilla Thin Spaghetti to work with, I googled “Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe” and found a great recipe from Olivia’s Cuisine. I did not have the exact ingredients listed in her recipe, mainly the fresh grated Pecorino and Parmigiano Reggiano, so I like to call this “Andrea’s Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe On a Budget”.


My cooking style is very on the fly, always trying to use the ingredients I have at home at the time when hunger strikes. It is much easier to work with what I have got, so when I opened the fridge to see I was out of Parmigiano Reggiano, but had pre-packaged Parmesan cheese, I decided to go forth. Let us get into everything you will need to make this dish.


  • 1 Large pot to boil pasta
  • 1 Large Saucepan or wok to mix pasta and sauce
  • Tongs


  • 1 lb (box) of Barilla (or any other brand) thin spaghetti
  • 2 tbsp ground black pepper plus extra for serving
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 stick of butter unsalted
  • 1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese (can be doubled)
  • Salt to taste

Simple goodness

Now, here are the steps to get you into the world of pasta goodness!


  • Fill large pot 3/4 full with water seasoned with a dash of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Boil spaghetti.
  • While the pasta is boiling, toast the black pepper in your saucepan/wok approximately 30 seconds until fragrant. Add olive oil and stick of butter. Once butter is melted, remove from heat and reserve.
  • 2 minutes before spaghetti is al dente, remove from heat. In this case the pasta should cook approximately 7 minutes. Remove from heat, strain pasta and reserve 1- 2 cups of the pasta water.
  • In your saucepan, add a 1/2 cup of pasta water to your pepper/olive oil/butter mixture, stirring in pasta until coated over medium heat. Dash in cheese bit by bit, stirring vigorously to melt cheese and avoid clumps. Repeat these steps until all cheese is blended in and you achieve your desired consistency.
  • Serve immediately in a warm pasta bowl or plate. Add cheese, black pepper, and salt to taste.

Close up

Isn’t this divine? With a prep and cook time of about 20 minutes, this dish is simple pasta with a hearty amount of cheese and intense flavor. Pour up a generous glass of Nero d’Avola (13% ABV, if you were wondering) and you are transported to Italy, if only for the moment.

For more information on Sicilia DOC wines, be sure to head over to their website. Buon Appetito!


*Photos by Andrea K. Castillo

What I’m Reading: “The Bridge To Brilliance: How One Principal In A Tough Community Is Inspiring The World” by Nadia Lopez

A few weeks back, I recapped the book release and conversation event for Dr. Nadia Lopez’s newly published work, The Bridge to Brilliance, at BRIC Media House in Downtown Brooklyn. As I have completed the book, I wanted to share my experience in reading it, and the lessons that have rang true to me. The Bridge To Brilliance is a non-fiction work by Dr. Nadia Lopez, principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy middle school in Brownsville, Brooklyn. She quickly rose to fame on the internet in the past year when a student of hers named Vidal mentioned to Brandon Stanton of the popular Humans of New York blog, that she was the person that most influenced his life. The viral reaction of this post led to a full profile on the school, its staff and students, and a massive crowdfunding campaign to send the students on annual trips to Harvard, which was fully funded over 10 times over.

The book recounts Lopez’s own childhood, growing up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn to immigrant parents (from Guatemala and Honduras, respectively), and how good teachers affected her life and livelihood in her younger years. It focuses on  Lopez’s transition from the corporate world working at Verizon to the NYC Board of Education as a Teaching Fellow, to her current position as founder and principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy. The tone of the book is very no-nonsense and easy to read as it is the words of an educator. Lopez clearly gives breakdowns on the NYC Board of Education and its processes in funding, mass gentrification and its effects on students, and the importance of taking students outside of their school and comfort zones to experience the vast world outside of Brooklyn, New York.

As the daughter of immigrant parents from Belize who have worked for (and continue to work for) the NYC Board of Education in special education the majority of my life, I immediately connected with the majority of the stories in Lopez’s book. A lot of jargon, specifically in the special education sector, which Lopez worked in in her earlier years, was easy for me to understand as I have learned it from my parents. It felt like with each page I turned, I was reading the experience of someone just like me, which I do not often experience when reading books. The words are very familiar.

What I did not entirely expect, was the amount of trials and tribulations that Lopez went through, both in her personal and professional life, to get to where she is today. She mentions that she was on the point of giving up when Brandon Stanton visited her school. It made me realize that everything is not as it seems, and that sometimes in life we have to reach rock bottom in order to go up. Her steadfastness and relentlessness did not allow her to give up on herself or her students when the future was not promised. I really enjoy this story because it really did inspire me to keep going, but to be kind to myself. Women, particularly Black women and other WOC are often expected to be strong, but it is necessary to have a tribe of women and men to lean on in the tough times to get through it all.

If you are interested in learning more about the NYC public school system, or are a lover of inspirational stories (or both), I would definitely suggest picking up The Bridge To Brilliance. The book is available for purchase at booksellers nationwide, with all online retailers listed on Dr. Lopez’s official website. Happy reading!


*Photo via Amazon.com

Transparency On This #WorldMentalHealthDay

My happy place, Belize

What do you do when you don’t know how to ask for help? From a young age I learned how to help myself in many ways as I did not want to bother others, or would lose patience in waiting too long for help. Being able to help myself made me feel very independent; I learned how to assemble furniture on my own as a preteen, and could always conjure up a meal or snack in the kitchen with limited ingredients. This will to “make it happen” on my own terms is why I started A Life In The Day of Andrea five years ago; I wanted to have my own online destination where you could learn something new, view beautiful photos, and feel like you were present for all the experiences I have documented thus far. At the age of 30, I have come to the conclusion that this ability to help myself is a huge issue I deal with, and it has been quite detrimental in many facets of my life, the largest one being my own mental health.

In the past, I have written tidbits of my struggles with depression from dealing with the deaths of many family members and friends in four short years, and how stuck I have felt from losing jobs over and over again. I have had many temporary highs in that time, whether it be working with a respected publication, partnering with brands, traveling to a new city, and meeting awesome people, but behind my smiles and pristine photos, the high would end as soon as I got home. To attain more highs, I would keep myself busy, go on as many coffee dates, making sure to attend as many events and partaking in the open bar so I could temporarily escape from my existence of being unhappy. I can’t really pinpoint where this feeling of unhappiness and feeling of ongoing depression began, but as of late, I have really hit a wall. I like to think of myself as a natural born leader who has a strong vision for what she wants in her life, but I often fall short as my thoughts of self-doubt, riddled with anxiety hold me back. It is hard to really explain where it comes from, but it has been pretty consistent for years now.

In recent weeks, the combination of my depression (caused by lack of opportunities, and recent birthdays of the deceased) and anxiety have had me locked up in my bedroom for days. My sleeping habits changed, going to bed after 3 AM and awaking in the early afternoon. I have avoided meeting groups of friends as I did not want to answer the question, “so what are you up to?” In my avoidance, I have developed a feeling of guilt as I believe I have disappointed people. The idea of disappointing people is often worse than actually disappointing people. A few days ago while trying to draft a post here, it happened; I had a pretty awful anxiety attack that felt like my chest, specifically over my heart, was caving in. I cried for hours alone, drank water, and took pain meds to ease the pain that I had caused myself. I texted friends and family as a cry for help, and they listened, but what I really needed was a real life human in the same room as me, to listen and help me with what I was/am going through.

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Celebrate National Vodka Day With Tips From elit by Stoli Global Brand Ambassador, Brent Lamberti

It seems like everyday there is another “national (insert noun here) day”, but here at A Life In The Day of Andrea, the ones that excite us most are those that celebrate an adult beverage. Lucky for us and the free world, today, October 4th is National Vodka Day!

Here are some fun facts about vodka from the folks at elit by Stolichnaya, to impress your buds later for happy hour:

  •  Vodka is lighter than water – 1 liter of water weighs 1,000 grams while 1 liter of vodka weighs 953 grams
  • Distilled liquor in the Middle Ages was used mainly for medicinal purposes, as well as being an ingredient in the production of gunpowder
  • Contrary to popular belief, vodka can go bad if stored for longer periods of time. Ideally, vodka should be consumed within 12 months of the manufacturing date

We had the opportunity to chat with elit by Stolichnaya Global Brand Ambassador, Brent Lamberti about the right way to drink vodka, and his personal favorite cocktail.

 elit by Stolichnaya National Brand Ambassador, Brent Lamberti

When it comes to vodka, often some of us are reminded of our younger years and the improper way to imbibe. On National Vodka Day, what are your tips for enjoying vodka without the hangover?

As long as you are enjoying elit responsibly, there’s definitely no wrong way to enjoy it. As for hangovers, the best way to avoid them is to drink cocktails with minimal sugar content. The overly sweet cocktails of 10 years ago have been replaced by more sophisticated, spirit forward cocktails. Traditionally in Eastern Europe, the birthplace of vodka, people drank it with food. While vodka pairs perfectly savory appetizers, the food also helps you from over-drinking.

We have got a taste of the LED Martini and The Golden Hour cocktails, but what would you say is your favorite cocktail made with elit by Stolichnaya?

I love an ice-cold Flame of Love cocktail. The Flame of Love is a martini variation from the Rat Pack Era. Substitute Fino Sherry for Dry Vermouth and an orange twist in place of a lemon one. Serve with a side of Jamon Iberico and I think you’ll enjoy National Vodka Day just fine!

The Flame of Love
3 oz elit
1/4 oz fino sherry
3 orange peels

Method: rinse and season a chilled martini glass with the sherry and then discard the excess. Using a match, express and ignite the oils from 2 orange peels so the burned oil coats the inside of the sherry-coated glass. Stir elit with ice until very cold and fine strain into the seasoned glass. Finish with one more flamed orange peel.

For more info on elit by Stolichnaya, head over to their website, or to @elitbystoli for more vodka cocktail and entertaining ideas. Cheers to National Vodka Day!


*Photos courtesy of elit by Stolichnaya

Saturday Sounds: Kaytranada feat. Syd “You’re The One” (Music Video)

Earlier this week, my best friend in my head, Kaytranada, dropped the much anticipated music video offering for his single “You’re The One” featuring vocals from Syd. Directed by Shomi Patwary, the visual is colorful and fun, referencing various movies and TV sitcoms from the ’90s, like Martin and Coming to America.

The bouncy tune and equally carefree video are sure to be the base for a great Saturday. Press play below.

Kaytranada kicks off his 99.9% Tour today in Seattle, wrapping up on November 12th at the Camp Flognaw Carnival in Los Angeles (that I am still trying to get to this year). Check out his website for all dates and ticket info. He rocks NYC on October 5th at Terminal 5, so keep us posted if you are going to the show!

Event: Mezcal de la Raza Premium Mezcal Tasting, Columbus Day @ Astor Center in NYC

When it comes to the world of spirits, would you say you are familiar with mezcal? Some call it the “smokier cousin of tequila” which is just scratching the surface. This comparison is often made as like tequila, mezcal is also produced from the agave plant. In the United States, mezcal is more of a novelty spirit, but the folks behind Mezcal de la Raza have the mission of breaking those barriers down.

To be held on Columbus Day at Astor Center in NYC, Mezcal de la Raza is a premium mezcal tasting like no other, offering a curated selection of over 30 mezcals from 20 producers in all nine states of Mexico which legally produce the spirit.

Featured brands include:

Cielo Rojo Sotol
Del Maguey, Single Village Mezcal
Mezcal Derrumbes
Mezcal Don Amado
Mezcal El Jolgorio
Espíritu Lauro
Koch el Mezcal de Oaxaca
La Venenosa Raicilla
Mezcales de Leyenda
Mezcal Marca Negra
Mezcalero mezcal
Nuestra Soledad Mezcal
Ochocientos sotol
Mezcal Pierde Almas
Sotol Por Siempre
Mezcal Real Minero
Rey Campero
Mezcal Vago

In addition to the tasting, seminars will be held, focused on food pairing, cocktail creation, and the history and production behind the spirit.

  • Food Pairing Workshop with Yana Volfson of Cosme NYC: discover how different varieties of mezcal express themselves with cuisine
  • Behind The Bar with Alex Valencia of La Contenta NYC: cocktails, glassware, and presentation
  • Production, Culture and Myth with Tess Rose Lampert of PalateTrip: take a trip from the earliest known evidence of distillation through to the modern day

Tickets are available now, with a number of price ranges for the full event, tasting only, and single seminars. Today is the last day for early bird tickets for the full event, for $60, with the price going up to $75 thereafter. Be sure to scoop up your tickets here, and I hope to see you there!

Mezcal de la Raza
Monday, October 10, 2016
2:30 – 6:30 PM
Astor Center
399 Lafayette St.
New York, NY 10003

Take A Bite: Burgers & Bloggers at Harlem Shake’s El Barrio Outpost

Harlem Shake’s new El Barrio location

When it comes to food, I like to call myself a bit of an explorer, but nothing satisfies my hunger like a nice juicy burger. At the end of August my blogger bud Mary, of Mary in Manhattan informed me that she was organizing a blogger meet-up aptly called “Burgers & Bloggers”, and in true Andrea fashion, I agreed to be a part of it, without even knowing the location. Once the date was set, I was all about it. The location of our meet up? The newly opened Harlem Shake location in East Harlem, more affectionately known as El Barrio, reflecting the majority Latino residents.

We met up in the afternoon of Saturday, September 10th, on quite possibly one of the hottest days of the season. I was running a little bit behind as weekend subway service is always a hassle because of construction and detours, but I managed to make it in the last hour, and get the lowdown on the restaurant and its unique menu items and decor.

Interior view

Like its West Side counterpart on W. 124th St & Lenox Ave., the new restaurant is decorated to evoke the diner/ice cream parlor style of yesteryear, featuring a bevy of seating options by the bar, large booths, and smaller tables and chairs.

Jet Mag covers

Staying true to the neighborhood, the main dining area hosts a “Wall of Fame” of autographed photos of some of your favorite people, and a wall of Afros. When you turn the corner to head to the restroom, there is one entirely decorated with Jet Magazine “wallpaper”, and the other covered in all of the covers of Marvel’s Luke Cage comic book.

45 coasters?

At our booth, a range of 45 records were placed in the center, I believe to be used as coasters. It freaked me out a little because as an audiophile, the music picks were splendid and the vinyl was still in very good condition to play, but I digress. Now that you have a picture and feel of the space, let’s get to the food!

Harlem Shake is known for their delicious high-quality beef burgers, made from Pat LaFrieda beef, and their handmade, organic milkshakes made from Blue Marble ice cream.

Signature “Poppin Parcha” Milkshake

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Recap, The Stoop Series: Nadia Lopez in Conversation w/ Michaela Angela Davis

To live in an ever-changing Brooklyn, NY, in a world where women are STILL fighting for equal rights can prove to be exhausting. To quote the late Malcolm X,

The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.

As a Belizean-American woman who identifies as Black, I make it my duty to seek out empowering spaces, activities, and events, for women and girls. I always welcome the opportunity for verbal exchange, as I see it as a form of self-care.

While browsing the BRIC website, the leading presenter of free cultural programming in Brooklyn, I was excited to see a free event on the calendar entitled, Bridge to Brilliance: Nadia Lopez in Conversation with Michaela Angela DavisAs coins are a bit low for me, the FREE was a huge draw, but the women featured were most important. By now, you should be familiar with Dr. Nadia Lopez, the Principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Her story became viral via popular Instagram account & blog, Humans of New York, when her student Vidal, mentioned to Brandon that she was the person who has influenced him the most.

The conversation, moderated by CNN contributor and image activist Michaela angela Davis was to serve as the release event of Lopez’s book, BRIDGE TO BRILLIANCE: How One Principal in a Tough Community is Inspiring the WorldI purchased my copy of the book prior to the event as I figured the inspiring story would help lift my spirits, and help me get out of the “I’m 30 and I have no idea what I am doing with my life” rut.

The event, held on the evening of Tuesday, September 20th, took place on “The Stoop” at BRIC, where many public community events are held. At 7 PM, introductions were made, and we began the night watching Dr. Lopez’s TED Talk “Why open a school? To close a prison”, which was filmed in November 2015.

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#ALifeInTheDayInBelize: In Times of Chaos, Respite in Tobacco Caye

A view of Tobacco Caye

Writing about my travels is one of my favorite topics to cover on A Life In The Day of Andrea as I always include the photos I shoot whilst abroad. I must admit, I have not been very inspired lately in the realm of photography, and I knew that another trip with family to Belize would solve it. For ten days in August, I visited Belize with my parents, making it my eighth trip to the motherland. I brought my computer, but for the first time ever, I did not turn it on, and really took my time in the country as a serious vacation.

We had not made any concrete plans, but knew we would stay in Belize City for a bit of time, and venture south to Dangriga, where my mother’s cousin Sherry and her husband Warren live. For me, the spontaneous trips are some of the best. Whilst in Dangriga, enjoying nature and sipping on the freshest of coconut water, we were able to set up a day trip to Tobacco Caye with family friends; one who chartered a boat (as that is the only way to get there), and one who owned a property on the caye. My parents and I had never been to the caye, so for me, it was something new and exciting for us all to experience together.

Broken dock at Tobacco Caye

Belize as a nation was hit pretty badly by Hurricane Earl in early August, and its path was seen throughout the city and towns, with a plethora of debris, damaged docks, and structural damage to houses and buildings. Despite this, the people remained resilient, carrying on daily life and working through the destruction. At Tobacco Caye, Earl was present, mainly in the damaged docks, but aside from this, it was quite peaceful. Unlike larger caye destinations like Ambergris Caye where San Pedro is, and Caye Caulker, Tobacco Caye is tiny; stretching approximately three acres in the protected waters of the South Water Caye Marine Reserve which is a part of the Belize Barrier Reef.

After Earl

We took the approximately 10 mile boat trip from Dangriga to Tobacco Caye in a group of eight family members and friends. As it was a day trip, we brought all of our provisions to make a proper Belizean breakfast, juices and coffee included, as well as lunch. A standard Belizean breakfast consists of fried jacks (a fried bread similar to bake in Trinidad) with a side of guava jelly, refried beans, scrambled eggs, juice and coffee.

Making fried jacks

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Event: Target First Saturdays Celebrating Caribbean Culture @ Brooklyn Museum 8/6/16, Feat. MeLo-X & Majah Hype

MeLo-X. Photo by Hannah Sider

With the recent celebration of Emancipation Day in many Caribbean nations on August 1st, the Brooklyn Museum will be celebrating Caribbean culture in all forms this weekend at their monthly Target First Saturdays program.

The full line-up which you can see below, features film, storytelling, crafts, and live performances by choreographer and dancer Blacka Di Danca, comedian Majah Hype, and musician (and my friend!) MeLo-X.

5-9 pm CaribBEING House: Mobile art center caribBEING House stops by our Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden. In our galleries, contribute to an interactive wall map of Brooklyn’s Caribbean heritage, tell us stories of your #MyCaribbeanHeritage, and see photos from the classic film Rockers.

*6 pm Film: Watch Rockers (Theodoros Bafaloukos, 1978, 100 min.), a documentary celebrating reggae culture and sound systems in Jamaica.

6-10 pm Backyard Bashment: Join choreographer Blacka Di Danca in a dancehall workshop at 6 pm, hear comedy by Majah Hype at 7 pm, and enjoy music by MeLo-X from 8 to 10 pm. All programming takes place in our outdoor Beirgarten in the Steinberg Sculpture Garden.

6:30-8:30 pm Pop-Up Gallery Talks: Enjoy short talks about Caribbean and global masquerade traditions in the exhibition Disguise: Masks and Global African Art.

*6:30-8:30 pm Hands-On Art: Create your own Caribbean-inspired musical instrument.

7-8 pm Community Screening: Join artist Rusty Zimmerman in a presentation and discussion of his Free Portrait Project, a portrait painting series that captures the diversity of Crown Heights. Learn more about the project through #WeAreCrownHeights.

7:30 pm Book Club: Danielle Brown performs musical excerpts from her book East of Flatbush, North of Love: An Ethnography of Home, which chronicles Trinidadian music from Brooklyn.

*8 pm Film: The film Bazodee (Todd Kessler, 2016) captures the power of Trinidad’s soca to overcome cultural barriers. For the film’s opening weekend, the screening will be followed by a Q&A with actor Machel Montano, writer Claire Ince, and producers Susanne Bohnet and Ancil McKain.

9 pm Performance: Disguise: Masks and Global African Art artist Alejandro Guzman performs Ganggang: Creative Misunderstanding Series. Featuring Abigail Deville, Christopher Manzione, Clifford Owens, Elan Jurado, Geraldo Mercado, Jessica Gallucci, Marcus Willis, Sam Vernon, Tre Chandler, and William Villalongo.

All events that are starred are ticketed, with tickets available in the museum lobby before showing. As always, EVERY TING FREE, so come through and whine it up with me!


Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, New York 11238-6052

Take A Bite & Sip: Henri’s Backyard in Park Slope

Henri’s Backyard

The dog days of summer in Brooklyn, New York call for many things; proper air conditioning, delicious eats, cold drinks + adult beverages, sun, and great company. What if you could get all of these things in one place, and if you live near the South Central region of BK, just with a quick trip on the train or by car? Yes, it is possible.

Say hello to Henri’s Backyard, the laid-back sister restaurant of Henri on Fifth. It is the second Brooklyn-based dining spot from Binh Douglas of the HENRI Hospitality Group.

Indoor seating & bar

Located on 4th Avenue between President & Carroll Streets in Park Slope (or Gowanus, if you prefer), the bar-centric eatery is easily accessible from the Prospect Expressway and Union St. R-Train station. I attended the media preview earlier this month, and arrived cool and in style via Uber. I was working in Bushwick that day, so it was perfect that we had Uber codes for the event, or else it would have taken near an hour of commute time. To my surprise, I was the first guest to arrive (which never happens, in life) and because of this, I was treated to a nice little tour from Kayla, who handled all press for the event. I also bumped into one of my college friends, Erin, who works at the restaurant and created the indoor & outdoor stencil artwork for the establishment.

The backyard

As it was a muggy day, and I tend to get flustered really quickly, I was immediately treated to a cocktail from mixologist Leon. More on cocktails later. I sipped on my cold beverage as I learned more about the owners, food & drink menu, former business in the space (vegetarian eatery Pickle Shack), and was able to meet the chef.

Walking through and arriving at the backyard, in which the restaurant is named, was a delight! Its simple design featuring wooden plank flooring, no nonsense tables, aluminum chairs, and rattan benches evoke summer vibes all year round. What about the colder months, you ask? They’ve got that covered, with a retractable roof/awning that will keep patrons warm and dry when the weather cools up again.

Cocktail menu

A key feature of the backyard, aside from its cool city oasis feel, is a full bar, with 18 lines of beer on tap. Sure to satisfy even the most discerned drinker!

Now, let’s get back to cocktails, as that is how I began my evening. Seen above is the full signature cocktail list for Henri’s Backyard. As I love glamour and excess (or whatever) I began my evening with the S.O.B. which along with bourbon and a mixed berry purée with citrus, was topped off with champagne. Throughout the evening, I ended up sampling all cocktails, but of course, there was one that stood out.

Backyard Boogie cocktail 

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From A Fan’s Perspective: Yuna Wows at #UberSummerSeries at Hotel Indigo in NYC

On the evening of Monday, July 18th, I had the pleasure of attending #UberSummerSeries at Hotel Indigo in NYC’s Lower East Side. The event series is a partnership between Uber, Perrier USA, and Hotel Indigo to highlight the music industry’s brightest talent in an intimate live show at sunset. Last month hosted the souled out sounds of Jhene Aiko, and the July edition featured none other than my favorite Malay songstress, Yuna. For those that have been following the blog and my various social media channels over the years, you would know that I am a HUGE Yuna fan. She is the first artist that I have covered in a From A Fan’s Perspective review twice, and rightfully so, because she deserves it.

Held in Hotel Indigo’s rooftop restaurant & lounge Mr. Purple, the evening was a mix of industry folks and fans alike, who were able to win entrance into the show through requesting “YUNA” in their Uber app between the hours of 6 – 7 PM. Refreshments were provided by Perrier and bites including hand-rolled sushi & kale salad were provided by Uma Temakeria. I was invited super last minute by my buddy Jay from UMG, but was super excited to see Yuna perform tracks from her new LP, Chapters.

Yuna touched the stage minutes after 7:30 PM for a set that was about 30 minutes long. Although many in the audience were a bit loud in their conversations, Yuna’s soothing voice soared over the noise. Not only did she perform songs from Chapters, but from her previous projects Nocturnal, Decorate, and her self-titled debut. I sang along to every word and joked with my friends that I would be available to be a back-up singer if necessary. The acoustic renditions of her songs were perfect for the time of day, featuring guitar, upright bass, drums, and percussion.

My favorite moments of the evening? Performances of the tracks “Lanes” (FAVE), “I Want You Back”, “Crush”, “Decorate”, and oldie-but-goodie “Live Your Life.” Wait, that may have actually been her entire set, with the exception of a song or two. Another key moment of the evening was when my bud Jason, who was there filming for Vibe, handed me his camera and told me to take photos; the ones that you see throughout this post. In my quest to become a better writer, especially music writer & journalist, I oftentimes push my photography skills to the back burner, as my camera is a bit outdated. Working with Jason’s fancy Canon Mark III was definitely a confidence boost, and I hope the photos show that.

In concluding her performance, Yuna was whisked off to conduct interviews with various media outlets that were present. Guests that wanted to hang a little longer were treated to a DJ with the most fire Drake set, more cocktails, and a GORGEOUS sunset.

As I am days away from celebrating my 30th year on this Earth (July 24), I am super grateful for moments like these. Way to start off the festivities right!

*All photos by Andrea K. Castillo

Need Some Jerk In Your Life? Miss Lily’s SoHo’s Got You Covered Monday Nights

Jerk vibezzzzzzz

Summer in New York City is in full effect, and all of my favorite things are on the radar; free concerts, chilling in the park, dance parties, and of course, a plethora of barbecue options. As a purveyor of everything NYC and Caribbean, summer in the city for me is filled with reggae music, corn, and jerk chicken.

Our friends at super-popular Jamaican restaurant Miss Lily’s (in SoHo) feel my sentiments, and are offering a unique special all summer. Every Monday night in the summer, the restaurant is offering all-you-can-eat jerk chicken, jerk pork, jerk corn, and watermelon salad for the awesome price of $25 plus tax & gratuity! This is a great deal as main courses go for about the same price. Peep the info below.

Want to get your jerk on? Make sure to head over to Miss Lily’s on a Monday evening to get your fix for #misslilysjerkfest.

Miss Lily’s SoHo

132 West Houston Street (at Sullivan Street)

New York, NY 10012


*Photos courtesy of Miss Lily’s

Celebrating The Launch Of The Laughing Cow Cheese Dippers With A Special Soar & Savor Evening at Trapeze School New York

Laughing Cow Cheese Dippers

To celebrate the launch of their new on-the-go Creamy Swiss Cheese Dippers, The Laughing Cow hosted a unique “Soar & Savor” event at Trapeze School New York, right off the Hudson River for NYC-area press and food bloggers. I attended the event back in May as The Laughing Cow team is awesome to work with, and always provide an awesome experience for attendees. I have never tried the trapeze before, so I was just as excited to try something new, and soar through the air.

The trapeze

The day was quite overcast and I feared rain would appear, but the weather stayed calm for the evening of bites, sips, and high soaring. I was immediately greeted by the team upon arrival and got the lowdown on the evening’s schedule, and was encouraged to have some snacks before my trapeze lesson and experience.

Food galore

I had eaten a pretty hefty lunch prior, so looking at food at this point felt like gluttony, but it was so pretty! There was a crudite platter with various cauliflower varieties, celery, peppers and carrots, potato & tortilla chips, two varieties of guacamole (pea and asparagus based), and miniature sandwiches for all dietary requirements. Cheese Dippers were sprinkled throughout the space, of course.


Beverage choices were just as great as the snacks, featuring lemonade, hibiscus tea, citrus-infused water, and basil lemonade. The basil lemonade was my favorite as it had the perfect blend of citrus and sweet, with a hint of herbaceous quality from the basil.

Observe the facial expression

It was finally my time to soar the skies, and we were given all the info we needed from the experts at Trapeze School. They gave us tips on how to stay up in the air and properly dismount. Anxiety slowly started to ease in once I was strapped into my harness, but I told myself constantly that it would be fun!

We added our names to the whiteboard, and of course I ended up being last on the list. I must say, walking up the ladder was one of the hardest parts for me. Once I was up, looking down gave me a small scare, but once I let go, I felt so free!

Letting go

To feel the wind across my body as I moved so freely through the air was a wonderful feeling. I was having a tough few days, so to try something new and truly let go was a great feeling. I managed to do all the turns in air, and dismount safely.

The dismount

The high I got from the experience was totally infectious, and I proceeded to take flight two more times after my initial try. Who would have thought that something so new would end up being so exhilarating. Many thanks to the team at Laughing Cow for putting together such an awesome event with great snacks. Be sure to check out the Cheese Dippers next time you visit the grocery store. Perfect for those busy days, and a great solution for those hungry times we all experience.


*All photos, unless marked, courtesy of TheLaughing Cow

Event: The Other Festival, NYC’s 1st All Female Festival, Sat. June 11th at Spring Studios

Here at A Life In The Day of Andrea, we know that the WOMAN is the source of our humanity, and without her, we are nothing. Over the years I have featured the stories of various female entrepreneurs, creatives, and makers in my #WOMANday column who I felt deserved shine for the waves they are making in their respective fields. I genuinely receive most inspiration and support from women, and I always seek to be in spaces with likeminded women to exchange ideas and words of wisdom. Imagine an entire festival featuring badass women?

With the launch of The Other Festival in New York City, we get just that; the city’s first all female festival for makers and creators. Created by Dee Poku, founder of the influential women’s leadership program WIE Network, the fest features panels, workshops, live music performances, and a curated marketplace on Saturday, June 11th at Spring Studios.

Check out the incredible line-up below, featuring talks from Naomi Campbell and Rosario Dawson, and music from Yuna, Vashtie, and many more!

The day begins with talks at 11:30 AM, transitioning into live music at 5:00 PM that lasts into the night. Tickets are on sale now, ranging from $50 for a student pass, $75 for a music pass, $125 for GA, upwards of $1,000 for the super VIP experience. You may purchase here.

The Other Festival

Sat. June 11, 2016

Spring Studios

6 Saint Johns Lane,

New York, NY 10013