About Jessica Tiare Bowen

Jessica Tiare Bowen

Jessica Tiare Bowen lives in the juicy Big Apple with her adorable pink-nosed chihuahua, Gillman. He's the inspiration for her first published children's book, "Park Avenue Pound Puppy." The book is the combined result of her two greatest passions: pooches and penning stories.

Her passions include art, urban hikes through Manhattan, drinking coffee with 3 creams and 6 sugars, making extremely detailed itineraries and traveling to far away places, singing along to Broadway shows, Netflix movie nights, discovering incredible treasures at Goodwill and thrift stores, and listening to stories from little people under 7 and big people over 70.

She started her career as New York City Teaching Fellow, teaching elementary school and theater arts at a special education school in the South Bronx for 6 years. She is now a Special Education School Improvement Specialist working in public schools throughout New York City. She is the Editor-In-Chief of the online New York City travel magazine, Used York City. The magazine focuses on finding the best of New York...as used by New Yorkers. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and an ASPCA Ambassador.


Latest Posts by Jessica Tiare Bowen

Behind the Scenes in Northampton Massachusetts!

January 25, 2016 by  

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How would you describe Northampton Massachusetts to someone who has never been?

Ah, I think I used to best describe it as “not a completely far stretch to move here after living in San Francisco!” It’s very alive. It’s young, hip, artsy, green, organic, fun, connected, beautiful, and full of opportunities. You can build a life here. You can build yourself here. You can certainly build a family here.

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What are three words that define Northampton?

Progressive. Rainbow. Alive.

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What is the one Northampton clothing essential?

I’ll give you two! A flowing sundress in the summer, for farmers markets and concerts and getting ice cream. And definitely wool socks in the winter. I think they’re called SmartWool and they’re a “thing” around here.

Somewhere super touristy you still like to visit?

Not in Northampton, but nearby is Deerfield’s Yankee Candle Village. It’s a huge tourist attraction but I have two kids and they love it. I personally love the candle smells, the candy and cookies, and they have an incredible Santa Claus who can be found there year-round. Every five minutes, it “snows” in the Christmas trees section, and there are trains and all kinds of things to delight your kids (or yourselves) and to empty your wallets.

What’s the best way to get around the city? Bike, bus, car…

Well other people would say differently, but I say car!

What is your city’s philosophy?

That’s a tough one! I’d say it’s “live and let live, and support one another where at all possible.” And also, eat organic, see some nature, exercise and buy local!

Describe an ideal day in Northampton?

Breakfast, of course! I really love The Green Bean. Then shopping up and down Main Street, preferably with our dog to show her off. Lunch at Paul & Elizabeth’s, walking around Thornes Market, and ice cream at Herrell’s! Then, according to my kids, crossing the footbridge of the Manhan Rail Trail on tricycles is way cool. While we’re there, we may as well leave Northampton for a bit to get cookies at Greggory’s Pastry Shop. Pretty much I’m fixated by food, as you can tell. And a trip to Faces (now under new ownership) is a good late afternoon delight.

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What hotel do you recommend to visiting friends?

Hotel Northampton, whether alone or with family.

What is your favorite place for…

A date night: the best date we ever had here was front row tickets to see Bruce Hornsby at The Calvin and then ice cream at Herrell’s. A dinner with friends: Sierra Grille!

Working: I only work at home! My home office overlooks the woods.

People watching: Anywhere on Main Street.

Shopping: Faces

Your coffee shop: Shelburne Falls Coffee.  There are a few locations but the Northampton one has the most character.

Your local bar: I love going to trivia night at Hinge.

Your park: Look Park! I do many client family photos there.

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Okay, now some really hard questions…never having been to Northampton myself, the first thing I associate with it is Smith College.  Does the town have a large college vibe?

Very much! The college kids (girls, in this case) are everywhere. At the end of August, the town empties of summer tourists and fills with the Smith girls. I really love how vibrant they keep the town.

Being not a native Massachusetts gal yourself (Jersey and California first, right?), how hard was it to acclimate to the culture, on a scale from 1-10?

Probably a 2! This is my land! These are my people! I’m all for eating healthily and organic, with lots of treats too. I love the wide open land, with the small city vibe too. It’s like the best of anything. And politically, I’d say the vast majority of people here agree with my beliefs.

Would you say Northampton lends to an easy lifestyle of raising a family?  Challenges?

Very much. That was what first drew me in here. I can’t imagine a better place to raise kids.

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Winter, spring, summer, or fall?

I think I’m supposed to say fall because it’s amazing here. I’m a spring girl, though.

ANSWERS BY  LOCAL TAMARA BOWMAN

Hip & Authentic New York State Hotels for Winter Getaways

January 18, 2016 by  

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We did a little research on hotels we’d love to explore in 2016 in New York State and came up with a wish list for those we’d like to take a closer look at for those long weekend getaways, all easily accessible from the Big Apple.

The Graham & Co.

My goodness, could this spot get any dreamier?!  With its minimalist industrial vibes, it’s seriously an Instagrmmer’s utopia.  Located at the foot of Hunter Mountain in Phoenicia, this 20 room hotel is inspired by the heritage of the Catskills, and features a swimming pool, hammocks to lounge in, a badminton court, a fire pit, picnic area, bikes to explore on and plenty of places to relax with a cocktail.

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Distance from NYC: 2.5 hours

Well suited for: Travelers seeking a Williamsburg, Brooklyn vibe in the country

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The Roxbury Motel

This might be a motel yes, so not a standard “luxury” stay, but this isn’t just any motel, but one offering THEMED ROOMS!  How fun is that?!  With rooms ranging from “George’s Spacepad” to “Genie’s Bottle” to my personal favorite “The Wizard’s Emeralds”, you can truly have a different experience each time you visit!

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Distance from NYC: 3 hours

Well suited for: Travelers with a sense of humor seeking a quirky, kitschy experience

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Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa

Built in 1883 as a private home, this Adirondack Mountain resort is on the shores of Mirror Lake, one block from Main Street and close to the Olympic Center.  Rooms have mahogany walls, vaulted ceilings, polished walnut floors, and private balconies with beautiful water vistas.  There’s plenty to do on site throughout the year (complimentary snow shoes, gorgeous indoor pool, one of the top 30 spas as voted by Conde Nast Traveler, yoga retreats, delicious dining, skiing, and much, much more!)

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Distance from NYC: 5 hours

Well suited for: Travelers seeking an authentically Adirondack escape. Be sure to see the We Blog the World review on the property from last summer.

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Turning Stone Resort & Casino

One of our favorite places to travel has always been Las Vegas.  Shockingly, not for the gambling, but for the host of other great entertainment it provides around the clock: shows, exquisite cuisine, spas, nightlife, golf, and very entertaining people watching…!  I doubt we’ll be flying to Nevada this year, but I was excited to find a resort in New York state that certainly looks like it has a lot of the same things!

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Distance from NYC: 4 hours

Well suited for: Travelers looking to hit the blackjack or roulette tables

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The Surf Lodge

We had brunch here during the height of the summer season a few years back (delicious!), but I’ve always had a thing for staying at beach getaways during the winter months.  The idea of waking up to grey skies, bundling into Icelandic wool sweaters and beanies, and sipping morning coffee and reading a book while overlooking the quiet water sans crowds just makes me really, really happy!

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Distance from NYC: 3 hours

Well suited for: Travelers looking for bohemian sophistication in Montauk.

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Would love to know…whether it be near or far, what’s on your travel wish list for 2016?  Share below!

Kailash Parbat for Delicious Kosher Indian Food in New York

January 15, 2016 by  

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With nearly as many any Indian restaurants in New York City as there are Starbucks, it’s tough to know where to start when the craving for spiced and griddled flatbread and a sweet lassi hits you.  The choices are overwhelming, so how do you begin to sort the meh from the good from the great?  Simple: head to Curry Hill, walk into Kailash Parbat, order anything on the menu, and prepare to be amazed.

With the goal of ensuring that the food tastes exactly as it does in their restaurants in India, Amit and Gary Mulchandani, third-generation descendants of the original owners, have diligently trained the chefs in New York.  I, for one, have a super soft spot for family run establishments, so this little tid-bit of information pleased me to no end!

Not only does Kailash Parbat cater to two specific culinary subgroups (hello, kosher vegetarians!), but they do a really, really good job of keeping the dishes exciting and fresh, and make every single morsel in house daily.  (Trust me, this is a pretty big deal because unfortunately it is not the case in a lot of these restaurants!)

Popular entrees include vegetarian dishes inspired by the Punjab: diwani handi, mixed vegetables and paneer combined with mint and spinach, bright green and punctuated with the fresh taste of ginger and the individual flavors of carrots, cauliflower and spinach; paneer makhanwala, house made Indian cheese in rich tomato sauce; kofta-e-dilbar, a tender, lightly sweet round of soft paneer and vegetables in a thick cashew and onion gravy; andlasooni dal tadka, yellow lentils cooked until just on the verge of falling apart, delicately flavored with cumin seeds, garlic and curry leaves; as well as Indo-Chinese, traditional Sindhi and tandoor dishes.

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The desserts have also helped make Kailash Parbat popular since 1952; In particular, gulab jamun, balls of sweetened condensed milk, lightly fried until golden brown, and soaked in rose-flavored sugar syrup, served warm, and kulfi falooda, a smooth rich ice cream made with the best quality milk, accompanied by sweet vermicelli noodles.  Truly, the kulfi is one of the most unique dessert dishes I’ve ever tasted, and surely mixes it up from the typical NY style cheesecake found in most of our city’s restaurants!

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To complement the spice and soothe your palate, you’ll definitely want to check out the restaurant’s brand new full bar menu. I went with the delicious Sharabi Lassi, built with mango lassi, vodka and a touch of rose syrup.  Along with classics (think a dirty martini), the bar is also stocked with eight brews (yep, two of them are authentic Indian options), and plenty of wine–including kosher labels.  They host a happy hour from 4pm to 7pm so do be sure to stop by and check it out!  Cheers!  Or, as you are more likely to hear in India…”Badhai Ho!”

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Details: Kailash Parbat is located at 99 Lexington Avenue, between 27th and 28th Streets, 212-679-4232, and is open Mon-Sun from Noon – 11pm. Happy hour Mon-Fri from 4pm – 7pm.

 

5 Fabulous Reasons to Travel to Cuba

December 27, 2015 by  

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Cuba, a large Caribbean island nation, is perhaps best known for its communism, colonial architecture, and (let’s be honest), cigars.  But there’s a whole other side to Cuba, featuring white-sand beaches, rolling mountains, salsa music, and plenty of rum.  Cuba is a travel gem, waiting to be discovered!

Here’s a few of the reasons we think this country should definitely make your travel bucket list for 2016:

So You Can Swim Below A Waterfall

If jumping off rocks cascading over a waterfall pool has long been on your bucket list (and come on, who hasn’t had this particular travel fantasy?!), then El Nicho Waterfalls are not to be missed!  After you’re done with your cool dip, be sure to check out the area’s nature trails, caves, local bird watching opps, and enjoy a meal at one of the area’s ranchon-style restaurants.

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…And Swim With Dolphins

If you were a fan of Flipper as a kid, Cuba will definitely make your dolphin dreams come true.  The Dolphinarium at Cayo Naranjo is a popular spot which allows visitors to engage in dolphin shows and then throw on a life jacket and go for a swim with their new friends!  Bonus: if you’re a sea lion lover, they have those sweet guys here, too!

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Because You’ve Always Wanted To Go Snorkeling In A Freshwater Cave

Saturno Cave is a freshwater subterranean cave with a pool billed as a snorkeling and swimming spot. The water’s about 20°C and the maximum depth is 22m.  The magical experience is guaranteed to be a favorite travel memory!

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…And Take A Romantic Walk Along A Most Exquisite Beach

The Varadero Beach is famous for its beauty–warm water, collectable seashells, white soft sand, and aqua water.  Go ahead and check “long walk on the beach” off your 2016 bucket list, folks!

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Can We Talk About How Cool A Stroll Around Old Havana Is?!

From the salsa bands playing in the plazas to the rum, cigars, and local dishes in the restaurants to the classic cars dotting the streets to the historical and cultural sites, Havana is a city to experience in 2016 and remember for a lifetime.

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There’s so much more that this gorgeous country offers its visitors, and with the recent allowance of sea travel to Cuba for US citizens, 2016 is the perfect year to swoop in and and start experiencing it…before it gets too many tourists!;-)

Would love to know…what’s on your 2016 travel bucket list?  Share below!

Wellness Travel: Where To Get Fit in the Big Apple

December 27, 2015 by  

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 I wish I could say I’m that person you’ll see running around Central Park at the crack of dawn every morning but instead you’re more likely to find me on a bench, coffee in hand, out of breath just watching them. I think it’s safe to say my motivational skills are somewhat lacking, don’t get me wrong I love to exercise, I relish in that feeling you get after an early morning work-out or that dull ache the next day that makes you feel like you’ve achieved something. But I quite as easily fall out of my ‘healthy routine’ as I fall face first into a cheeseboard.

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It’s hard to stay motivated, especially if you’re traveling or first move somewhere new and lose your usual pattern, so it’s important to make sure you enjoy what you’re doing otherwise exercise is hell. I don’t care what people say, you have to make it fun and enjoy it otherwise that bikini body doesn’t seem worth it when you’re half way through a workout and you’re ready to give up and crawl back to bed.

So here are some of the most fun and unique exercise classes I have found in New York so far – these will definitely make exercising a different experience, who says you just have to tie yourself to a treadmill to see results? Why not try one of these, after all exercising should be fun and enjoyable, how else are you going to get through it?

Trapeze School New York

How often do you tell your friends you spent the morning at a Trapeze School? I’m going to assume not a lot? Not only is this a ridiculously unique experience but it’s also a great core workout. Trust me, after a few hours swinging back and forth imagining you’re in Cirque du Soleil it really works those arms, and you are really going to feel this in the morning! My arms didn’t know what had hit them. The closest thing they usually get to a workout is lifting my latte up and down.

A flying trapeze class takes all the stigma and boredom out of your generic exercise classes, after all it’s basically two hours of fun. I doubt you’ll find a friendlier more relaxed environment, the staff are lovely so if this counts as exercise then that’s more than okay with me. A workout without even realizing it? Now we are talking.

I can’t recommend booking a class enough, or maybe you are just looking for something different to do, this would make a great activity, maybe even a date? If you have friends visiting and want something unusual then why not take them here. I mean did I mention how fun it was? Plus you’re guaranteed a good Instagram photo at the end of it and who doesn’t want that.

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Find TSNY here:
Pier 40
353 West Street, NY

Physique 57

When I first thought of Barre class I was thinking something along the lines of an adult ballet-style class, I might even have foolishly thought this would be relatively laid back and dare I say easy? I could not have been more wrong- karma came and kicked me into shape big time.

1 hour at a Barre Class with the guys at Physique 57 and you might need assistance walking up the stairs the next day. Okay maybe that’s slightly dramatic and don’t be scared off but this class made me feel like I’d really worked out. It was tough, don’t get me wrong, but I felt like I’d achieved something, and more importantly it was different – the atmosphere in class was upbeat and the teachers really make it. They’re positive and lively enough without being annoying and I desperately need that energy and encouragement when I’m ready to give up. But thankfully just when it seems like you can’t do one more squat the set is over and you stretch it out, which genuinely feels like the best thing ever at the time. You really push yourself and make your body work and if it’s your first class you may struggle like I did at first but who cares, it’s your first attempt and I came away from this class wanting to go back and do more and get better.

This class covers lots of different areas without you even realizing it, and it keeps it fresh by constantly changing it up and the sets go by so fast you don’t have time to death stare the teacher through the tears.

I definitely feel that signing up to one of their studios and becoming a regular would really show a difference after even just a few classes. Well worth visiting these guys and getting them to put you through your paces.

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SurfSet NYC

When you think of surfing, you might be picturing a clear blue ocean, maybe watching a beautiful sunset as you relax on your board after catching a few waves. Let’s get that tranquil image out of your head right now. I wouldn’t have been able to see it through all the sweat running down my face.

This class is really going to get your heart rate pounding. They aim to ‘challenge your body in new ways with fun, extreme surf-inspired interval workouts’ Think lots of squats to get that bum ready for bikini season. You might hate them half way through the class but I have a feeling you’ll be thanking them later on. This is definitely a class you want to check out if you want the benefits of an intense cardio workout with muscle benefitting sets, basically it’s an all rounder.

My cardio level is non existent. I mean literally what cardio level: I get tired running up the stairs so this really got me working. Diana the instructor is so bubbly and energetic I think it rubbed off on me every time I was ready to lie flat on my board and give up.

I like how it incorporated yoga moves: the two are very closely connected. Ask any surfer and chances are they practice yoga: it’s great for the balance.

And god knows how but I managed not to fall off my board. This class is tough but its uniqueness makes up for the pain. If you’re after a good core workout and to squat that bum into shape then I think you should give this a go. When it all gets too much just look over at the beach projections and with all the sweating you’re doing it’s pretty much feels like you’re in the water anyway.

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Find SurfSet here:
Paradise Factory (4th Floor)
64 East 4th Street

Deep House Yoga

I love yoga, I mean I wouldn’t say I’m particularly good but it is without doubt my favorite form of exercise, anyone who says yoga isn’t a good workout can show me how well they balance their whole body on one arm before I acknowledge that comment.
Seriously yoga is tough and a great way to build up your core and strength, but one thing I had never tried before was Deep House Yoga. I saw yoga as a relaxing workout where I need all my attention focused on holding a pose and not falling over so I was dubious about how you could do yoga in a club with a DJ but I have never been happier to say I was completely wrong. I went to a Deep House Yoga class and absolutely loved it, like seriously enjoyed it. The whole concept was so oddly relaxing and refreshing, from the huge projections that covered every wall you could see, playing a constant loop of these incredible scenes and backgrounds to the surprisingly fitting music, think soft house, it’s hard to imagine practicing yoga now without it.

The teacher was great and oddly my favorite part – his little dance breaks through out, I’m not normally a fan of dancing around in front of a room of strangers and let it go but you know what, this time I really didn’t care, I closed my eyes and gave a dance performance usually reserved for when I’m home alone. There’s just a great free atmosphere here, the workout is great, you get an amazing soundtrack to go alongside and it’s a really fun concept. I’d encourage anyone – yogi or not – to book a class.

Find Deep House Yoga here:
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54 N 11th St,
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Warrior Fitness Bootcamp

Well what can I say, this is exactly like how I think you’re imagining it…tough. Like really tough, especially for someone like me who has the fitness level of a flea but and there’s definitely a big but, it does exactly what it says on the tin and after all this is why you’re going right? The guys here are going to make you work, they are going to make you sweat more than you have all year so by the end of class it looks like you swam there but they are going to push you and give you that desire to do more, or at least finish the session.

See I was terrified when I turned up, there was a lot of people there who looked like they could be the trainers and no part of me had any desire to exercise anywhere near them let alone in a group situation but I did and I actually found I came away strangely satisfied. Yes I was literally exhausted but I’d pushed myself harder than I thought I could, see if I’m on my own in the gym and I try to work out I’m giving up as soon as my muscles start to wake up, I need that person to yell at me to continue or that drive to compete against others to push me further.

If this sounds like you then just try one class, I know it’s scary but I really think if you are really determined to get fit and get into shape then there is no cutting corners with this one and the results will speak for themselves. That I’m sure of.

What’s more I came away really proud of myself, so yes I was definitely the worst person there, I got lapped continuously on the run parts but it didn’t matter, I did it and I tried my best. The good thing about the scary group situation is you can’t stop and rest, the trainers and other class members will not let you – it pushes you to realize your body can actually do more than you think, and it’s only when I was holding a plank as if my life depended on it that I realized I could actually do it.

This is intense, it’s hard but it’s also going to really work you and if you are in desperate need to improve your fitness then I think it is literally impossible to not succeed with those goals here.

Trust me. Try one class at least and go from there.

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Find Warrior Fitness here:

29 W. 35th St (3rd floor)
New York, 10001

Aerial Arts NYC

It has always been on my list to try a Silks class, come on we can all picture how elegant we think we’d look as we twirl around twisted in the ribbons like a professional in a film. Sadly, it’s safe to say I looked more like a whale thrashing about in a net but still I loved this class.

Yet again somewhat foolishly I think I underestimated this as a workout or more like I forgot how I have absolutely no upper body strength, I struggle opening bottles let alone heaving myself up a rope, but everyone has to start somewhere and let’s just say I definitely started at the bottom. But it was definitely something I want to try again, I already want to go back for another class and I only went a few hours ago, I also fully understand that come tomorrow I am going to need assistance brushing my hair, it’s a great upper body and core workout and your thighs are really going to be put to work as you attempt to shimmy up the silks.
This is definitely a refreshing workout to your everyday generic class, the classes are small which I definitely prefer, less embarrassment and also more attention because I need all the help I can get and the hour will literally fly by in no time. You’re going to be so concerned and focused on mastering the moves that you won’t notice the time so before you know it you’ve smashed out an hour’s work out. Perfect.

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Find Aerial Arts here:
235 E. 49th Street
New York 10017

Brooklyn Zoo

You must go to a Parkour Class they said, it’ll be fun they said, full disclosure: I fell flat on my face literally within the first five minutes in what can only be described as potentially the most embarrassing but hilarious moment of my life. If it had been recorded I would be sending it in to some home-movie program and be earning some serious compensation money. A fall is putting it mildly, I tripped up a piece of equipment as I have the co-ordination of a new born deer, I struggle to walk on flat ground without falling over and then you expect me to run up a wall, realistically it was inevitable. So let’s just say after breaking my knee I was a feeble parkour attempter however I have it on very good authority from my friend who came with me that this was the best class she has ever done and she has since signed up to the club. So I guess it fully shows that if you are a normal human then this will be great fun, if you are clumsy like me then maybe sit this one out but I will tell you that it looked really fun from my seat on the sidelines.

My friend said it was one of the toughest workouts she’s had but she didn’t even realize at the time because she was having so much fun as a human monkey, it was only the next day when she couldn’t move her arms above her head that it makes you realize how hard you’ve worked, but as she said if keeping fit can count as swinging on the monkey bars and leaping from objects then she’s definitely in.

So this could be another perfect example of a great different way to exercise without realizing it. Keeping fit clearly doesn’t just mean a regimented gym session, Parkour is a unique way of getting your dose of cardio and working those muscles but in a way that makes you feel like a big kid. (Not for the un-coordinated *me)

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Find Brooklyn Zoo here:
230 Bogart Street,
Brooklyn, 11206

So what do you think? These certainly put a different spin on exercise classes right? Does anyone have any others they’d suggest? After all unless exercise is fun I’m really going to struggle to pretend I do it.

By: Charlotte Revill

Holiday Recipe for Cranberry Snacks & Carrot Cake

December 24, 2015 by  

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Christmas is just around the corner, the Rockefeller tree is finally up and all the window displays have been revealed. I know the shops have been in the Christmas spirit since early May but I have been holding off on any festive cheer until lately, some may say “Grinch!” but I have no desire to hear Mariah wailing on about what she wants for Christmas every time I go in the supermarket, ya know?

Christmas literally means food overload, everything revolves around eating: work parties, nibbles everywhere, enough food to feed a small army, and there’s always that big bowl of chocolates that appears in the house for “guests”.

In an attempt to embrace Christmas in as healthy a way possible, why not make our Christmas Carrot Cake & Cranberry Bites?  These are full of healthy all natural ingredients plus they are quick and easy to make because come on…who has any spare time in December? And we can pretend they are festive because they taste like Christmas (trust us – you’ll see when you try one) and the coconut looks like snow!  Did someone say Xmas in a ball?

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What you’ll need:

– 2 carrots finely grated
– large handful of pitted dates
– large handful of cranberries
– 2 cups of mixed nuts
– dollop of honey
– 1 cup of coconut flakes (+ more to roll the balls in at the end)
– teaspoon of nutmeg

What you’ll need to do:

– Add all your ingredients to your food processor and blitz until the mixture is sticking together
– Add in more honey or cranberries depending on your taste
– Empty the sticky mixture out and roll into little balls in your hands
– Empty some coconut onto a plate and roll your balls around until generously covered just like snow
– Store in your fridge and enjoy

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And there you have it, our little Christmas Bites!  With the naturally sweet combination of the carrots and dates you’re still getting your ‘sugar’ fix, plus carrots and cranberries are full of nutrients and antioxidants, a pretty essential win/win during this feasting period.  If ever you needed a healthy alternative it’s now. Enjoy.

What’s your go-to holiday treat to make?  Share below!

By: Charlotte Revill

5 Fun Things To Explore in Barcelona Spain

December 10, 2015 by  

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Despana

During a lunchtime nosh sesh with at our favorite Spanish-inspired restaurant/market in NYC–Despana–the discussion naturally led to holidaying in Barcelona.  Given that I haven’t been to Barcelona in awhile, I was more than happy to take in a few tips from expats who have frequented the city more regularly than I have in the past several years!  We swapped NYC insider tips for Barcelona insider tips, and I can’t wait to have the chance to use them!

In the event that you’re headed to Barcelona in the near future, here’s what should be on your list, to take you beyond Gaudi and basic Spanish:

Take a Catalan/Spanish Cooking Class

Sure, you can eat your way around the city, but why not COOK and eat your way through Barcelona’s most famous dishes with the chefs at Barcelona Cooking!  With their classes, you’ll learn to prepare dishes like seafood paella and Crema Catalana (the Catalan version of Creme Brûlée) and other regional dishes with seasonal ingredients purchased from Barcelona’s celebrated Boqueria Market.  And to make things even more memorable, you can accompany one of the school’s chefs on the hunt for ingredients at the market!

Cooking Class

Pick Up A Unique Gift At The Sunday Book Market

In the quarter of Sant Antoni takes place the Sunday Book Market every (you guessed it!) Sunday morning.  A part of the street closes to traffic, and it becomes full of stands of old books, new books, comics, DVDs, and vinyl records.  Also a great place to people watch the locals, as all around, you see neighbors walking with their dogs or playing with their kids, and bars open for midday vermouth.

Book Market

Paddle Around The Lake In Ciutadella Park

Ciutadella Park is home to Barcelona’s zoo, the Catalan Parliament, and hosts interesting events (and political demonstrations) throughout the year. During La Mercé (Barcelona’s city-wide festival), there are open-air concerts and events here.

But by far the biggest attractions are Josep Fontseré’s massive fountain with its gorgeous central waterfall and sculptures, and a large lake, where you can rent a paddleboat for a few euros.

The Park

Pay Homage To The Capital Of Sparkling Wine

If you like sparkling wine, the Cathedral of Cava, Codorniu should absolutely be on your itinerary, as it has the world’s largest underground cellars.  A visit includes a tour, complete with cava tastings, strolls through the garden, and lots of history via the museum.

Wine Cellar

Eat Tapas On The Cheap Like The Locals Do

For a truly local experience, and the fastest tapas in town at ridiculously cheap prices, try La Esquinica on for size. Do as the Barcelonans do and drink vino turbio (house wine shaken until it’s frothy) and sample a little bit of everything. Croquettes, bombas, patatas bravas (potatoes with garlic mayonnaise and hot sauce), stuffed mussels, and grilled Spanish meats, all prepared in house and served up in a matter of minutes.

Tapas

I’m super excited to be able to check these places out on my next trip to Barcelona!  Would love to know…have you been to Barcelona, and if so, what hidden gems would you recommend to visitors?  Share below!

5 Places To Get Your “French Fix” in the Big Apple

December 2, 2015 by  

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It’s no secret I have a crush on all things Parisian.  From the fashion to the food to visiting the City of Light itself, Paris is a place that just oozes beauty.  While frequent trips over the pond for a visit may not be on the agenda (hello, budget), there’s certainly no shortage of Parisian to be found right here in NYC.  I’ve sought out some Parisian-inspired restaurants and bars over the years of living here, but was thrilled when Doni Belau’s book Paris Cocktails: An Elegant Collection Of Over 100 Recipes Inspired By The City Of Light was released, in which, along with sharing her favorite French cocktails, she also shares her favorite French stomping grounds right here in the Big Apple.

Here’s the 5 French places you should experience in NYC:

Maison Premiere

Located in Brooklyn, this horseshoe-shaped bar and little restaurant boasts a working absinthe fountain and 30 kinds of oysters–2 French staples!  If you’re up for juggling a crowd, join them for $1 oyster Happy Hour, starting at 4pm.

Maison-Premiere

Cherche-Midi

Crispy frog legs, anyone?  This downtown staple is perfect for grabbing cocktails at the bar, then indulging in a nice, slow, classic French dinner, accompanied by loads of wine, of course.

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Experimental Cocktail Club

This Lower East Side gem is a place to enjoy creative and complex cocktail concoctions, while taking in the vintage-chic vibe it oozes.

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The Top of the Standard

With a swanky 1940’s vibe and a killer view of the NYC skyline, this is a place every New Yorker (French fan or not!) should experience at least once.  It’s really one of my favorite places in the city to go all dressed up and feel drenched in glamour.

CHARLOTTE RONSON Hosts the Celebration of ABSOLUT TUNE at TOP of the Standard

Your Apartment!

One of the highlights of Belau’s book is that she gives different French-inspired entertaining tips throughout–depending on season and theme.  Since the holidays are fast approaching, I love love love her idea of a Joyeuse Noel Fete, which can be held in your very own tiny NYC apartment!  The concept goes like so:

-Start the party later (say 8:30pm) because dessert is the concept

-Set your Spotify/Pandora to a Christmas themed playlist, of course accompanied by French holiday classics

-Serve a signature French holiday cocktail

-Do a French holiday dessert exchange, similar to a cookie exchange.  As the host, you will provide boxes or vintage tins for guests to collect an assortment of desserts to take home and enjoy throughout the season!

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Thank you for these fabulous suggestions, Doni!

Do you have a favorite French inspired place you frequent?  Share below!

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