Yesterday was the Summer Solstice and for the past 16 years someone has been leading yoga in Times Square. The theme is “Mind Over Madness” and the challenge is to maintain your zen in the middle of one of the most distracting places in the world. I have been seeing pictures of this for awhile and I always meant to try it. This year I was on my game and signed up for the first class of the day, at 7:30 am.
I was pleased that I got there early enough to receive a free yoga mat from Athleta as well as a gift bag. The best thing in the gift bag was a pack of coupons for free yoga classes around the city. This may be where my excitement ended, however. We spread our mats on the street on Broadway between 43rd and 44th streets. I had been assigned to a group far behind the large group where the actual instructor was. Although the instructor was on one of the televisions in Times Square, we faced the opposite way, so we couldn’t even see her. For five solid minutes at the beginning of the practice the sound system screamed and blared things that weren’t for the yoga practice. This got so bad that they had to unplug the speakers entirely and the poor model had to yell poses for us to try (which didn’t match with what the instructor was doing). After about fifteen minutes they fixed our sound and we re-joined the rest of the class. All throughout protesters would wander into the area and start screaming about the workers in Bangladesh who died. If anyone in that group found their zen, I would like to meet them.
It was cool to lay on the street in Times Square and look up at all the screens and advertisements. It gave me a new perspective on my city. In the future though, I will skip the first class of the day at Summer Solstice yoga and sign up for one once things start running smoothly.
Trust me, this is a fun party. The weather was gorgeous this past Monday so I went online to find something interesting to do. When I saw that Monday Night Bingo happened on a rooftop in the Lower East Side, I knew I wanted to go. When I learned the Bingo was hosted by drag queens I knew I HAD to go. I called the venue, Hotel Chantelle, and asked if I needed a reservation to come. She said “sure” and took my name but when we got there it was seat yourself.
The Hotel Chantelle has a retractable roof, so if the weather had turned we still would have been fine, but it continued to be a gorgeous night the entire evening. We got there around 7:30 and learned the rules of the game. The night turned out to be surprisingly affordable. There was no cover and there were pretty good drink specials. Each Bingo card cost $2 and there was a minimum of 2 cards per person. You were allowed (and expected) to use the same cards all night. We played about 8 games of Bingo over the course of the evening, mostly for fun, campy prizes, like a Miami Vice t-shirt and a plastic paddle ball set. The final game of the night was for cold hard cash, though. I was most impressed/disturbed by one round that required the winners (3 total for this game) to come to the front and get naked before claiming their prizes of free drinks from the bar. (Don’t worry, they warn you that showing off your birthday suit is a requirement so you know not to yell out BINGO unless you are prepared to bare it all.)
I loved, loved, loved the hosts: Linda Simpson and Murray Hill. Their banter was hilarious and they definitely added to the evening and it made the participants more chatty towards each other. All in all it was a great crowd. It made Monday night WAY less boring and depressing and I can’t wait to go back!
This past weekend I signed up for a retreat in the Hamptons with the lovely ladies at Uplift Studios. I have only been to the Hamptons once before and I have never been on a fitness retreat. I am not one to forego wine and only eat veggies, so this retreat, where you worked out AND had a good time seemed like something I could get behind. The description said that in addition to working out we would also be dining out at yummy restaurants and sipping on vino after our workouts in the sand.
Uplift is a ladies only gym. I was a little reluctant to jump into a trip with 17 female strangers, but I knew I loved the founders of Uplift, so I decided to trust my instincts and take the plunge.
The weekend schedule went like this: we took the Jitney out to the Hamptons on Friday afternoon and Uplift put us up at an ocean front hotel. We did a quick workout next to the ocean and then went to a delish seafood dinner. Afterwards we all sat around and chatted, listened to music and drank wine. Saturday morning was a long, intense workout followed by a shorter afternoon sweat session. All throughout the workouts were hard, but easily modified. The best thing about the workouts was that there were no judgments. There was frequent downtime where you could socialize or chill with a book, and I really liked the low-pressure vibe that remained throughout the weekend. Everyone was there to have a good time!
After Saturday’s workouts we went out to a fancy dinner at The Meeting House and followed by a trip to The Stephen Talkhouse to hear an 80s cover band. Sunday morning we crammed in one last (less intense) workout before enjoying a long, leisurely brunch and hopping back on the Jitney. I returned to the city Sunday night feeling like I had enjoyed a fabulous escape and had made a bunch of new, fantastic friends in the process. I know I am not the only one who felt that way since the same group of ladies is planning a reunion event soon. Uplift deserves props for cultivating such an amazing clientele and planning and organizing a fantastic retreat!
New restaurants can be hit or miss. I have found that trying them out before they have been open a month can sometimes be REALLY bad news. (I am talking to you, El Centro). But, despite my reservations, I was so impressed by a recent review in TimeOut of Distilled, a new restaurant in Tribeca, I decided to break my rule and give it a taste in its opening days.
I really liked the vibe at Distilled, it is casual dress and the staff was friendly. The décor was lots of hard wood and low lighting. The cocktail list looked unique and delicious, and all of the drinks came out looking pretty, but no one at our table found a drink we were particularly smitten with, and we tried most of the specialty libations on the menu before the rainy night was over.
The food, on the other hand, was pretty darn delicious. I was a little reluctant to try the fried duck and waffles, but it was FANTASTIC! The scallops with duck was also really good (and paired nicely with a glass of Malbec). Lastly, the wings tasted sweet and spicy and the blue cheese dipping sauce was super creamy. I was seriously impressed with these dishes, and they, along with the relaxed but attentive staff will bring me back to Distilled again for sure.
When I saw the Citibikes around town, I knew I needed to get in on the action. I signed up the first weekend they were available because it seemed like such a great deal. For $100 a year I could take unlimited 45 minute bike rides around the city. I was bummed that the bikes only went up to 60th street, but hopefully that will change in the future!
My annual key came a few weeks later and I was anxious to give the bikes a try. I decided to go in the middle of the day when I didn’t need to get anywhere quickly because I wasn’t sure how hard it would be to check out the bikes or maneuver them around town. I am definitely intimidated by the taxi drivers in NYC so sharing the road with them was going to be a challenge to overcome.
I used the free Citibike app to find a kiosk on 25th street and 6th Avenue. I slid my key in and was granted access to that bike. Success! The seat was easy to adjust and I hooked my bag into the space at the front of the bike and took off in the bike lane. I biked from 25th Street to 41st Street and it was a really easy trip. I only had to swerve out of the bike lane for parked trucks a couple of times and I actually felt really safe on the giant bike. I am an convert of this program!
The only downside came when I tried to return the bike. I shoved it into the slot on 41st street (you have to push pretty hard), but did not get a green light (which is supposed to indicate the bike has been returned). When I tried to take it out and return it again it wouldn’t let me. I ended up having to call customer service. They were really friendly and they closed the trip out for me and didn’t charge me, but still, it was annoying to call. I think there are still some glitches to work out with the program, but for now, I am glad the bike share exists in NYC, flaws and all!
I don’t think I have any talent when it comes to the visual arts. Drawing, painting, sculpture, they all seem to baffle me and my attempts end up looking like some odd squiggles. Despite this lack of talent, I was excited to try a PaintNite (mostly because they encourage you to drink while you paint and I thought that might improve my skills). The classes take place at various restaurants all around the city and you can pick your date and place on the website before hand. I opted for Spring Natural Kitchen, a spot near my apartment, but I might be more adventurous next time. I scored a deal on Living Social for a cheaper ticket for two and the hubby and I spent a rainy Monday painting.
I have to say, this was one of the more fun things I have done in the city lately! The company provided everything you needed and the teacher was friendly and approachable. She helped you paint a specific picture (you can see in advance what it will be on their website before you sign up) but no one cared if you painted something totally different or if you used different colors (as a couple of class attendees did). They played music and sipping wine definitely helped me channel my inner Van Gogh. See the picture for what I produced and let me know what you think of it in the comments!
I also really liked seeing how the other paintings turned out. I find it incredible that I could 1) have a great time and 2) make a great gift for my mom all in the span of two hours. If you haven’t checked out a PaintNite, I definitely recommend giving it a try, and who knows, you may see me at the next class too!