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

3 Fun Shows for your Broadway Hit List

June 29, 2015 by  

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At any given moment, there’s a plethora of shows to see in New York City, fitting any personality. These three are shows I’ve seen recently, which I think would make for a great dinner-and-a-show date night.

It Shoulda Been You

The tag line to the show goes: “You’ll laugh.  You’ll cry.  You’ll be home by 10.”, so you bet this was a winner in getting the hubby to the theater!  Seriously–I’d say this has to legit be the funniest show on Broadway right now.  With a stage full of blushing brides, nervous grooms, overbearing moms, unexpected guests, and more twists than a bar full of martinis, It Shoulda Been You will make you fall in love with Broadway (and the bloke sitting next to you!) all over again.

You’ll love this if: Modern day romantic comedies are your jam!  The songs are catchy, characters lovable and relatable (with their many flaws and all!), and it’s really a perfect show for your better half that may not be QUITE as in love with everything musical theater as yourself…it’s just so funny they’ll forget they’re on Broadway!

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

One of Shakespeare’s more whimsical plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream takes you on the ultimate summer loving ride!  You’ll follow crisscrossed lovers into the woods, where they quickly fall under the spell of an impish charmer weaving a wacky web of true love. Magic, mixed messages, and misunderstandings lead lovers awry and will leave the audience questioning which wedding we’ll attend before the story ends!

You’ll love this if: You were a literature or theater major in college…only kidding!  Actually, I’ve seen many reproductions of this play, and have to say, this is probably the most accessible to the everyday Joe who doesn’t live and breathe Shakespeare.  The cast is full of thespians who clearly LOVE what they do to the moon and back, which makes everyone in the audience love the show to the moon and further!  And at a running time of 90 minutes with no intermission, it’s the absolute perfect amount of theater to digest before heading to dinner and drinks!

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An American In Paris

The romantic story of a young American soldier, a beautiful French girl and the picturesque city of Paris are at the heart of this breathtakingly beautiful new musical.  Couple the Gershwin tunes with the gorgeous ballet numbers, and you have yourself a Broadway romance with staying power.

It Should Been You is likened to the latest bromance featuring Matthew McConaughey, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes spicy remake of Romeo and Juliet, and An American In Paris would be a film of the timeless classic genre, let’s say Casablanca.  You can’t quite pull your eyes off the screen even though you have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen at the end.  Plus, having been nominated for 12 Tony Awards this year (and winning 4!), this will give your date some water cooler chitchat at the office.

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What shows would you recommend for a good date night?  Share below!

35 Fabulous Foodie Finds in New York City, From High End to Street Food

June 23, 2015 by  

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There’s no shortage of great food in New York City. My favorite dining experience this month was Nougatine, the more casual sister restaurant to Jean-Georges. This place gives you a legit 3 course lunch (that you get to choose!) that is simply out of this world delicious.  Bonus: they have outdoor seating which is perfect for breezy summer days. The budget friendly award goes to Shake Shack–while it’s not a place I go too frequently, it’s always a lovely treat when I do, particularly their mushroom veggie burger! Let’s take a look at some of my favorite picks lately.

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Bar Pleiades: Upper East Side // $$$ // Nestled in the Surrey Hotel, this spot can do no wrong in my book.  Top notch service, artfully displayed meals that are as tasty as they are pretty, it makes for a wonderful date spot…and who knows? It may even inspire you to elope on the rooftop!

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{Nougatine: Columbus Circle // $$$ // The more Jean-George restaurants I try, the harder in love I fall with his food.  Seriously–for the lunch menu price point of 3 courses for $38, it’s truly the best fine dining experience you can get in the city.}

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{The Peninsula Hotel: Midtown // $$$ // As a fun surprise date, the hubs took us for couple’s massages at The Peninsula, complete with a poolside lunch afterwards.  Something about massages always leaves me famished, so I pretty much inhaled this veggie panini. }

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{Il Gattopardo: Midtown // $$$ // Nestled in the most charming townhouse and boasting the motto “passion is our main ingredient”, I had no doubt I was going to love this place.  If you go, request to sit downstairs–they have the most amazing high glass ceiling looking up onto Midtown.  The cucumber + tomato salad and simple spaghetti are the best I’ve tasted in NYC.}

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{Shake Shack: Various Locations // $ // Ok–I had the brilliant idea to go to my favorite chain on Memorial Day–along with every other New Yorker and tourist, it felt like!  I mean, it’s the New York answer to BBQing, right?!  The line literally wrapped around the block, taking a solid hour to get through.  But by that time I was determined that nothing was coming between me and my shroom burger.  Totally worth it!}

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{Plaza Food Hall: Midtown// $$ // In the basement of the Plaza Hotel sits a feast for every sort of diner–from sushi, to salads, to steak–this place has it all and does it all exquisitely, too.}

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{Nobu: Midtown // $$$ // The famed Japanese restaurant really needs no introduction, but here’s a hint my husband (the real foodie of this relationship!) taught me: always ask them what “off-menu” items they have–because they always have some for the adventurous palate, and they’re always done to perfection.  Also–dinner rezzies go fast, but if you walk in at lunch time you can usually get seated without a reservation.}

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{BG Restaurant: Midtown // $$$ // Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of the food at this place.  Nestled on the 7th floor of Bergdorf Goodman, you know straight from the get-go that they won’t think twice about charging you $35 for a salad (a salad that is just okay in my view.)  BUT–for a special girlfriend treat, do go for their afternoon tea.  It’s no more expensive than anywhere else in the city–and make sure to ask for a table by the window so you can overlook Central Park while you sip your tea.}

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{The Smith: Upper West Side // $$ // You guys know I love this comfort food staple–from their cheesy jalapeno grits at brunch to their avocado sammy at dinner, this place makes all the good stuff just right.}

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{Melt Shop: Hell’s Kitchen // $ // Grilled Cheese.  Tomato Soup.  And TOTS.  I needn’t speak more.}

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{Cafe El Presidente: Flatiron // $$ // I was having THE BIGGEST craving for veggie tacos when I stumbled by this place on an early Friday evening.  It was PACKED, but they quickly squeezed me into the bar.  The vibe is hip, drinks strong, food solid–and Mexican cuisine is one of those I don’t play around with–in my book there’s only good and bad–and this place is muy buen.}

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{Il Buco Vineria: East Village // $$ // The rustic vibe and wine wins all the points for this downtown Italian joint–and you’ll probably adore the food if you’re a meat eater–but veggies, beware.  Your pickings are slim, and if you’re anything like me you’ll hold a bit of a grudge against the place for charging you a stupid amount of money for noodles in a butter/garlic sauce.}

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{The Little Beet Table: NoMad // $$ // When my sister, the celiac, came to visit last weekend, I researched “best gluten-free restaurants in NYC” and this place popped up, right at the top.  It’s 100% gluten-free, but the dishes all tasted really good–also a good place to go if you’re trying to eat healthy, I’d imagine.}

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{Benoit: Midtown // $$ // Featuring authentic Parisian bistro fare, I was so pleasantly surprised by this French gem, nestled on an unexpected street in Midtown.  The front bar area is perfect for grabbing some apps and a glass of wine, if you’re not up for a whole sit down dinner.}

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{Urbo Grind: Times Square // $ // I swear, this place is a hidden gem on what is probably the busiest street in all of America. We were looking for a quick spot to grab coffee before a show, and stumbled on in–shockingly, there was no wait, and we pretty much had the cafe to ourselves!}

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{Sigmund’s Pretzels: East Village // $ // After reading Sarah’s zest for these pretzels at the Choice Eats Food Festival, I knew I had to check it out. I ordered an egg sammie on a pretzel bun, which was phenomenal, and the hubs went for the burger on a pretzel bun. Little secret: we liked this place so much (and the price point!) that we broke our little “no repeat” rule and came back again.}

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{Prohibition Bakery: Lower East Side // $ // Okay, while this definitely won’t be taking the place of my favorite cupcake bakeries, I needed to include it because a boozy bakery is something you should for sure try…once.  The tiny bite sized cupcakes are packed with alcohol infusions that create such intense flavors your tastebuds will do little cartwheels in your mouth–beer and pretzel was my favorite.}

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{Benihana: Midtown // $$ // Is now a good time to admit that hibachi is one of my foodie guilty pleasures?  Okay then.  If you have a weakness for rice with garlic butter fried and smothered with ginger dipping sauces, all made with fire and fanfare in front of you, this is your spot.}

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{Joseph Leonard: West Village // $$$ // Intimate, small, cozy, and food cooked to perfection. Just trust me on this–go–and send my compliments to Chef Pablo. The ONLY downfall is they don’t take rezzies–so go at an off time or be prepared to squish into the bar and wait.}

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{Treat House: Upper West Side // $ // A five year old’s dream–and mine too, apparently. This place specializes in one thing, rice crispy treats, and boy have they perfected them.  The sugar cookie treat (with the little duck on it) was my favorite.}

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{Saffron Garden: Sunnyside // $ // When Indian is done right, it can be one of my favorite cuisines. I loved how everything on the menu was clearly labeled as veggie or vegan friendly, and the aromatic spices in the food really created a lovely experience for all the senses.}

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{Le Pain Quotidien: Various Locations // $ // While not quite as popular as Starbucks, you can pretty much find an LPQ in any neighborhood.  The food is healthy and fresh, and I think it’s adorable (and very French) how they serve their coffee out of bowls.}

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{Jean-Georges: Columbus Circle // $$$$ // Without a doubt, one of the top 3 dining experiences I’ve ever had in NYC.  The vegetarian tasting menu was out of this world (I finished EVERYTHING), truly deserves a post of its own. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, skip the gift and come here instead–an experience you and your tastebuds will not soon forget.}

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{Chez Napoleon: Hell’s Kitchen // $$ // This has long been my favorite “hidden gem” French comfort food restaurant–owned by the most delightful French family, you can expect warm service and the most delicious house-made vinaigrette that you’ve ever tasted–slather it over everything!}

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{Bouchon Bakery: Inside the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle // $ // Perfect place to catch your breath after a walk in the park or a morning of shopping–large size vanilla macaroons are my go-to order.}

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{Tavern On The Green: Central Park West // $$$ // I always assumed this was a tourist destination so steered clear until recently (it’s where our out of town guests picked, go figure), but was really pleasantly surprised! The food was delicious, and there’s a toasty fireplace you can warm up next to! I got the soup for brunch, but the french toast was clearly the way to go.}

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{1 Dollar Pizza: Hell’s Kitchen // $ // Dollar pizza, folks. Love it or you hate it, but I’m SUCH a lover.}

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{Nai Tapas Bar: East Village // $$ // Feel like transporting to Spain for the evening? This hole-in-the-wall tapas joint will get you there. Along with the small plates, we were so pleased with the entertainment–live music and gorgeous flamenco dancing, and no cover charge to boot!}

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{Dominique Ansel Bakery: Soho // $ // Meh, ok so were got here early in the morning for the cronuts (but nope, not early enough).  After waiting we figured we may as well order something, so we grabbed a few croissants and this Nutella bread.  It was okay, but just okay.  It left me a little confused as to the popularity of the place?}

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{Circo: Midtown // $$$ // We stumbled on this circus-themed joint during restaurant week, and while I was impressed with my appetizer (cauliflower flan, now that’s fun!), the main course and dessert course were just so-so.  Because it was Restaurant Week?  Maybe.  But it wiped out any chances of becoming regulars–which I guess is good for this No Restaurant Repeat Challenge!}

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{The Four Seasons: Midtown East // $$$$ // Ok, you know how I said before Jean-Georges was one of the three best restaurants I’ve experienced? Well, this is on that list, too!  Seriously, BEST SERVICE I’ve ever received in NYC…not to mention such playful and innovative dishes–besides that cotton candy, I was over-the-moon thrilled with their veggie lunch option (a delightful farro salad) and miniature house-made croissants, still warm from the oven.}

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{The Modern: Midtown // $$$ // Perfect for a classy date night.  Wear your favorite dress.}

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{Bibble & Sip: Midtown // $ // Their  lavender latte is everything you’d ever dream it could be. Small cafe, but nice for catching up with a book or friend…tends to be my post-yoga class spot.}

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{Prune: Lower East Side // $$$ // Great for meat lovers–the vibe is leaning towards the side of hipster for a casual, yet pricy, night out.  Probably not the best place if you have any food concerns (gluten-free, vegan), but they will produce this lovely off-menu veggie platter if you ask nicely–you must not be afraid of butter, though.  It’s on the cozy (read: small) side, so claustrophobics need not come.}

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{The Bar Room: Upper East Side // $$ // They won me over with peacock wallpapering, and then locked it down with those extra crispy french fries–nice spot for a casual lunch or dinner.  You can also catch the game at the bar.}

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{BluePrint: Whole Foods // $ // Well, it’s not a martini on the rocks or anything, but certainly the most efficient way to get in all your leafy greens in one swig. The taste is not nearly as terribly as one must think, promise!}

Soulful Discovery at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral

June 21, 2015 by  

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The first cornerstone was laid in 1858, and on May 25, 1879, St. Patrick’s Cathedral was finally opened and blessed by then-archbishop John Cardinal McCloskey in New York City.  Still under its 175 million dollar renovation, St. Pat’s is expected to be fully restored by September 2015 when the Pope visits–making now a perfect time for you to visit yourself and take a free guided tour, offered at 10 am on varying dates.

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1. Notable figures such as BabeRuth, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and New York Governor Hugh Carey have had their funeral Masses held here.

2. St. Pat’s receives an average of 5 million visitors per year.

3. The most popular saint visited at the cathedral? That would be St. Anthony, the patron saint of finding lost and stolen articles.

4. The seating capacity in the main cathedral is 2,400 worshipers.

5. There are 19 bells that ring in the cathedral, and each is named after a different saint. Today the bells are electrified but prior to 1952 there was an actual bell ringer who climbed up to make the melodies.

6. A record is kept of everyone who says “I do” in St. Pat’s.  On April 3, 1920, author Francis Scott Fitzgerald married his bride, Zelda Sayre. He was 23. She was 19.

7. For a quieter, more intimate place to worship walk behind the main cathedral to the“secret cathedral” which seats only 200 worshipers.

8. In order to get married at St. Pat’s (talk about a big white wedding!) you or your groom must be a parishioner living in the Archdiocese of New York.  The same rule applies for baptisms.

9. Love music? There is a specific calendar just for free musical events held at St. Pat’s.

10. A weekly luncheon is held by St. Pat’s to support its older members, with lunch provided by notable local restaurants (21 Club, PJ Clarkes, The St. Regis.)  To volunteer with this program and visit with the seniors, contact Roberta Shea, Director of Volunteer Services and Our Neighbor Program, at 212.355.2749.

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New York’s Belmont Park for Early Summer Horse Races

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fter visiting Louisville a few summers ago, attending the Kentucky Derby has been high on my travel bucket list.  I haven’t managed to make it yet, but this year I was able to get dolled up for a derby day a bit closer to home–at New York’s own Belmont Park!

Located in Eastern Queens, getting there isn’t nearly as hard as you may think.  If you’re a lucky New Yorker with a car, simply enter 2150 Hempstead Turnpike Elmont, NY 11003 into your GPS and off you go!  Door to door from Manhattan it’s about 45 minutes.

No car?  No worries!  You can easily reach the track by bus, railroad, and even subway!  “Subway?!”, you ask.  Yes!  So simple, I promise!  Take the F train to 169th street or 179th street then take the N6 or the Q2 bus to Belmont or take the E train to Jamaica Center (Parsons Blvd.) and then take the Q110 bus to Belmont.  All for the swipe of a Metrocard!  How’s that for an inexpensive day trip?

Once you’re at the track, General Admission is a slight $5 per person (with the exception being Belmont Stakes Day, when it jumps to $15.)  Obviously, watching the horses race and perhaps placing a bet or two are going to be high on your list.  I love how up front and personal you can get to the finish line!

The day I was at the track, attire of spectators ranged from derby day finest to dungarees–so if the idea of spiffing up in your Sunday best is keeping you from checking out the track, don’t let it.  (But if dressing pretty is your jam, by all means, get wild!  Gentleman can be seen donning blazers and bowties, and ladies in Lilly Pulitzer and ginormous derby hats!)  Also, there are some areas of the Park that adhere to a strict dress code so if you’re interested in box seats or scooping out the Paddock with the horses and jockeys, dress your best!

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Breakfast At Belmont

If you’re of the early risers crew, head to Belmont for breakfast, which runs weekend and holiday mornings. For $8.95 per person, you’ll get a continental breakfast from 7 to 9:30am at the Trackside Cafe. Afterward, you’ll be able to take a free tram ride through the stable area for an up-close view of the horses, complete with a demo of how the horses are loaded into the starting gates before the races begin. Definitely a fun activity if you have horse loving little ones in tow!

Picnic

There are plenty of on-site options to nosh at Belmont (The Garden Terrace Dining Room for fancier fare or Heritage Club Food Court for quick bites), but bringing a picnic is certainly welcome, too!  The Backyard Picnic area is a fan favorite because of its space and accommodations for children, and has several concession stands offering burgers, hot dogs, French fries, ice cream and more. While no barbecues are permitted, you are allowed to bring coolers into this area (just no glass containers.)  So pack a picnic of your faves before leaving the city!

Belmont is truly such a quick, easy, and affordable day away from the city–and with all the horses and greenery, you’ll practically feel like you’re in Louisville!

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A very special thank you to America’s Best Racing for hosting us at Belmont!

5 Places for Great Outdoor Yoga in the Big Apple

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There’s nothing quite like downward dogging with the buzz of NYC floating around you–taxis honking, construction sites clanking, and different languages being spoken.  Yep, I’m talking summertime outdoor yoga in in NYC!  And what’s better–there’s many places that offer free, regularly scheduled classes during these warm months!  Can I get a namaste?!

Grab your bestie, your boo, or yourself and head out to one of our five faves:

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1. Yoga in Bryant Park

Instructors from Yoga Journal will be guiding free one-hour classes on Tuesdays at 10am on the Upper Terrace and on Thursdays at 6pm on the lawn.  Super bonus: Mats are provided!  Walk-ins are welcome, but you can also save a bit of time by registering ahead of time on their website.

2. Yoga in Washington Square Park

Sacred Sounds Yoga offers free classes on Wednesday mornings from 8:30-9:30am for adults in Washington Square Park, starting on June 3rd. You must bring your own mat; more details and registration instructions are available on their website.

3. Yoga in Riverside Park

Riverside Park offers free sunset hatha yoga classes every Wednesday from 6:30-7:30pm at the 66th Street Plaza starting June 3rd. You must bring your own mat, and can get more details on their website.

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4. Yoga in Prospect Park

During the month of July, YogaSole will offer free tree-shaded Sunday morning classes in Prospect Park from 10-11am. Bring your own mat.

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5. Yoga in Socrates Sculpture Park

Every Saturday through late September, free classes are offered from 9:30-10:30am and 11-12pm.  A gorgeous waterfront environment filled with nature and art.

Would love to know…what’s your favorite way to exercise in the summer?  Share below!

Experience China’s Fashion at The MET’s The Looking Glass Exhibit

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Every year while our long awaited warm weather settles in, there is another welcome arrival in my beloved NYC.  It defines the NYC summer season, makes a permanent mark on the cultural scene, and is referenced for years to come.

The must-see event for Spring/Summer of 2015 is China: Thru the Looking Glass, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual thematic exhibit representing the fabulous talents and vision from their glorious Costume Institute.

The moment you enter the initial palatial sized room of the exhibit you are gobsmacked.  It’s as if Shangri-la has been realized. The mystical tone, the exotic soundtrack, the mysterious lighting–immediately you reach an exotic sensory overload.  I swear Yves St. Laurent’s landmark perfume, Opium, scents the air, so strong is the atmosphere. How appropriate!  Timeless ultra sheik designer dresses are highlighted as viewed thru another layer–a looking glass–and mirrored over the centuries by Orientalism.  For instance, there are fantastic contemporary designs by the world’s top fashion designers yet artfully mirrored alongside are the actual 18th century kimonos which define the chosen color and pattern.

Each and every room in this exhibit has its own distinct, imaginative manner of accenting its thematic treasures.  This extraordinary aesthetic defies metaphor, but let’s say it’s like swimming in champagne and toweling off with red velvet.  It is not only the gorgeous items themselves, but the actual manner of presentation that creates such a musical enchantment to this show.  The talented MET curators cleverly take it all to a level unknown to us mere mortals, but we are welcome to their luscious world.

The exotic East had quite a global impact despite the centuries of China’s closed door policy–such a range of international designers, from Karl Lagerfeld to Ralph Lauren, Alexander McQueen to Yves St. Laurent, John Paul Gaultier to John Galliano have overtly yet subtly been affected.  What a sumptuous visual feast for our viewing–dress designs, perfume bottles, cinema, statuary, and jewelry–China’s reach is in every corner.

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As you enter the exhibit your eyes adjust to an enormous darkened space in which huge, slim, glow in the dark, overly elongated bamboo lights dominate.  Subtly hidden in this fluorescent field of reeds are clothing designs obviously influenced by China’s everyday wear.

There’s a twist–the futuristic morphs into the ancient!  Bordering the parameters are all manner, shape and size of Buddhas from the 8th century onward, subtly reminding the spectator that it took centuries to arrive at this suspended moment.  At the enormous end wall of this intriguing space is a tremendous film screen displaying carefully chosen, gravity defying film clips from “House of Flying Daggers.”  I am telling you, I was so overwhelmed by the enormity of this exhibit, I needed oxygen, it was so breathtaking.  And to seal the deal yet continuously explore the East’s contributions to the world’s cultural stance, this entire exhibit abounds with astounding film clips from China’s dynamic cinematic repertoire.

“The Last Emperor,” “Farewell My Concubine,” “The World of Suzie Wong,” “In the Mood For Love,” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” are a few of the films represented–reminding us of yet another art form originating from China’s distinct vision.

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You float from room to room–from the most exquisite golden ball gown by Guo Pei (she designed Rhianna’s enormous mustard colored robe for the MET Gala) which is featured in its own spectacular room–thru the mindset of a mystical, moonlight reflection room delightfully filled with Dior designs by John Galliano.  Step into a room of sensual Valentino red gossamers–underscored by film clips from “Raise the Red Lantern”–followed by Alexander McQueen visionary geometric blues–even the disturbing but politically important Mao Red Army uniforms are represented here.  The range and variety of these exquisite displays and the manner in which Asian objects d’arte, both ancient and modern, are used to highlight and accent are equally representative of China’s conceptual aesthetic.

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I couldn’t get enough of the “Anna May Wong Room.” The life of this pioneer actress is worthy of a mini series, and actual black and white film clips from her remarkable career freely roll while you wander thru a black and white space containing huge class cases of designer dresses inspired by the slinky dragon dresses worn in her early films.  Look upwards in each display case, and you will see the actual costume inspirations behind each contemporary displayed designer dress.  Again, that all the important reflection thru the looking glass suggestively defining while establishing another dimension of viewing.  This magnificent exhibit takes you well beyond the lost horizon.  Such a mesmerizing journey–as intriguing as the destination. Allow plenty of time for viewing, you are in for quite an experience and will need time to continually catch your breath while your mind expands.  Who knew?!

Would love to know…what art exhibit has left you speechless recently?  Share below!

By Joanne Theodorou

Getting Healthy in Miami: Walks & Fruit Parfaits

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Ahh yes, going for morning walks on south beach in beautiful sunny Miami. A girlfriend celebrated a birthday recently in Miami, so it was 30 whirlwind hours of airports, beaches, pools, food, and of course, champagne.    

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Early morning fruit parfaits…

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Am such a fan of the boutique hotel we stayed at, the betsy.

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View from under my umbrella, ella, ella!!

Your Top 10 Key West Florida Guide

May 15, 2015 by  

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Ever have a passion for beach music, deep sea fishing, and a toes-in-the-sand-drink-in-my-hand? A fitting destination to match this is Key West in southern Florida.  We spent about a week there recently and here’s my fun recap of 10 things I loved about the island.

1. Key Lime Pie

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I tried all kinds of key lime things–chocolate dipped ice cream pies, key lime cocktails, key lime crepes, key lime cheesecake–but my favorite was the original key lime pie from the Six-Toed Cat cafe.  Hint: I asked local shop owners where the best pie on the island was, and this is where we were directed.  I couldn’t have agreed more!

2. The Conch Train

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I always make a point of jumping on a tour when visiting a new place.  Key West’s tour de force is the Conch Train, a guided trolly tour that takes you all around the island, sharing bits of history, trivia, and insider’s knowledge along the way (how much do you love garbage cans used only for coconuts?!)  Bonus: with the temperature situated around 80 degrees, the open-air trolly provided a breezy and comfortable alternative to walking!

3. The Hemingway House

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The famed writer Ernest Hemingway spent many years on the island, nestled in his writing studio (pictured above) every morning at 6 am, hitting 700 words or lunch, whichever came first.  A visit to the house comes with a guided tour, featuring lots of anecdotes on the writer’s life, and many wives, too!  You also get plenty of opportunities to pet descendants of his original 6 toe cats.  And yes, the offspring got the 6 toe gene, too!

4. Sidewalk Poets

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Outside the Hemingway House sits local poets, who you can hire (at whatever donation you choose!) to compose a poem for you or a loved one on any topic you choose.  Such a cool concept (and the poet was REALLY good–I had her write a love poem to the hubs back in NYC, which is now framed in our living room!), and makes for a much more interesting souvenir than say, a Key West shot glass.

5. Cuban Coffee

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We started each day with the stuff that fuels the locals: Cuban coffee.  It’s all over the island, but my very favorite place to get it was 5 Brothers.  Get yourself a small coffee and egg and cheese sandwich, and you’ll be set for a full afternoon of lounging on the beach…or anything else that may come your way.

 

6. The Southernmost Point

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When in Paris, Eiffel Tower.  When in NYC, Empire State Building.  And when in Key West–the Southernmost Point Buoy!  This is the spot that marks as far south as you can go in the continental states (well, that tourists are actually allowed to visit–the true southernmost point is on a restricted naval base!)  There’s even a live streaming webcam that shows the incredible line of people waiting to take their photo by the buoy!

7. Smathers Beach

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Unlike the Hamptons where a day pass on the beach can easily set you back $50, this gorgeous beach in Key West is absolutely free to the public.  Plenty of sun, and palm trees, as well, to enjoy a full day of swimming, reading, and napping.

8. Live Music, Everywhere

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You couldn’t walk down a main street in Key West without hearing bands and musicians playing–Duval Street being the most famous (complete with its own webcam, too!)  I really dug Sloppy Joes, but I promise, just follow the music and there’s no way to go wrong.

9. The Cutest Houses You Ever Did See

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Entire afternoons can be spent strolling up and down the residential streets in Key West, taking in the adorable gingerbread-like houses, complete with brightly painted shutters and orchids growing everywhere.  Rent a bike for an afternoon and take it all in!

10. Little White House

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President Truman first started using this “little white house” as his winter retreat back in 1946, and today it’s been restored to its original glory (read: exactly how it looked when Truman was using it, so cool!), and opened as a museum to tourists and locals.

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Have you ever been to Key West?  What were your favorite things?

A very special thank you to the wonderful folks at Historic Tours of America!

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