City Escape: Sticks & Stones Farm
Just over an hour from NYC lies a rustic little destination that feels worlds away. Sticks and Stones farm is a working farm and retreat center that offers unique accommodations, home grown organic foods and a variety of health benefiting programs and events.
We recently visited Sticks & Stones after discovering their houseboat rental on airbnb. We soon found that their offerings went far beyond the little riverboat, and came to discover a rustic playground where nature and sustainability reign. Located in the hills of Fairfield County, Connecticut, the 60 acre farm is a rare rural pocket centered on being self-sufficient and eco-friendly.
While visiting, we stayed in Pagoda, one of the farm’s screened-in cabins that is nestled in the woods on their expansive property. With no walls, electricity or running water, the hope is that guests will disconnect with the outside and reconnect with nature and the simpler things in life. It truly was an experience like no other!
Several other simple wood constructed cabins are offered, including Summit which (as its name denotes) is perched on the top of the mountain and overlooks the rolling CT hills. More traditional (walled) cabins are also available for rent as well as camping spaces to pitch your own tent. Guests have access to a shared “rustic kitchen,” outhouses, and outdoor showers.
A weekend can easily be spent at Sticks and Stones without ever leaving the property. Miles and miles of trails can be explored (or, in our case, lost in at night). Guests can hike through woodlands, wander by “moss mountain”, walk along marshy shores to the farm’s own organic vegetable garden, or take some time to meander through a meditation labyrinth. You might even see a stone sculpture or two peering out from the woods along the way. In fact, little surprises can be found throughout the property– like the whimsical little “fairy house” perched atop the mountain that offers a quiet respite, and the perfect place to contemplate or just enjoy the view.
Wander down to the main farm if you’re seeking community and some of the comforts of home. The beautiful stone farm house houses a lovely yoga studio, meeting space, ping pong table and large indoor kitchen for cooking. Just outside, resident dwarf goats will greet you, and you may even see free-range chickens milling about (who, incidentally, supply some pretty great organic eggs for in-house meals!) Make sure to take advantage of the organic farm-to-table meals that are also offered at the farm (delicious!).
Above all else, the people who run Sticks and Stones are truly what make it a special place. We shared meals with Ethan and Desre who run the farm, and got to hear about their endeavors and experience their warm and generous spirits first hand. It was also a pleasure getting to know Tim, the farm’s owner (and Ethan’s dad), who gave us a glimpse into his eclectic life and shared some of his adventures (including how he acquired another retreat center in Hawaii). If you’re lucky, he might even break out his ukulele and play a song or two after dinner.
All in all, if you’re looking for a place that is the complete opposite of NYC, this is it. It’s just a couple hours drive, and you can even get their by train as the farm offers pick you up from Metro North. For more information on all that Stick’s and Stones offers, visit their website.
City Escape: Waterfalls & Wonder (just an hour from NYC)
So, my latest city escape is inspired by a little day of discovery that happened recently. We were at the house in Garrison where we spend most summer weekends, and when pondering what to do that day, I began to vaguely recalled a swimming hole I had been to a decade or so ago. My memory leaves much to be desired, so with google as my aid I searched to find a little direction to this natural pool that I remembered being tucked away in the woods somewhere. There was nothing online but this youtube video, and a few vague comments on it’s location. With that in hand and an adventurous spirit, we set out to find it. And this is what we found.
Garrison, NY is a beautiful area just over an hour north of NYC. It’s filled with natural beauty and perfect for hikers and those seeking to get away from it all. The appalachian trail runs through, and hikes like the popular Breakneck Ridge and less known Chimney Walk challenge and reward with picturesque vistas and amazing views. Natural hidden treasures abound in the area, and the town of Cold Spring (just to the north) offers a pretty little main street with a variety of restaurants, antique shops, and a pretty little promenade on the hudson (where incidentally they do free concerts and outdoor films on summer weekends).
Garrison has a few accommodation options including Bird & Bottle and The Garrison but there is no central town per say. Airbnb is a great option for those looking to live like a local for the weekend. Cold Spring also offers some sweet little inns including the Pig Hill Inn, and is within walking distance to Metro North– making a day trip or weekend for city dwellers easy. However, I suggest renting or borrowing a car to fully explore all the area has to offer including Boscobel, Constitutionl Marsh, Fahnestock State Park, Lakefront Yoga and, of course, all those hidden gems you might just discover.
Soul Cycle East Hampton Ditches The Bikes For Total Body Workouts.
Soul Cycle just rounded a corner in the Hamptons. Starting in July, the East Hampton studio will ditch the bikes (well….part of time) and offer up total body classes as well. The SoulSummer series will run for 6 one-week programs designed to get you in your best shape ever. Some offerings to entice even the most hard core riders off their bikes include:
* BOOTCAMP with AKIN: Get into fighting shape with this off-the-bike class, filled with plyometrics and calisthenics. You’ll boost strength, agility and endurance with Bosu balls, steps, and hand weights. SoulSummer Body classes with Akin will run once a day at 11:15 AM July 8-14 and August 5-11.
* FULL-BODY TONING with RIQUE: Achieve the beach body of your dreams with this cross-training workout. “Everyone is going to say amazing things about your toned butt on the beach after a week of SoulSummer Body classes and riding!” he says. Catch Rique’s SoulSummer Body classes once a day at 11:15 AM July 15-21 andAugust 12-18.
* TOTAL TRANSFORMATION with EMILY: Flatten your abs, sculpt your arms and lean out your legs with this cross-training class, on and off the bike. “Riders will rotate between pedaling and tapping it back, to holding a series of core engaging planks, and completing sets of mountain climbers, then they’ll be back on the bike for sprints, and then off it again for a combination of lunges and squats,” says Emily. SoulSummer Body classes taught by Emily will run once a day at 11:15 AM July 22-28 and August 19-25.
Classes are pieced at $40 but regulars can use their Hamptons series to book.
Mix Up Your Hampton’s Workout With Fitist Collective
Weekends in the Hamptons are healthier now that The Fitist Collective has arrived. Yes, our friends that once focused on booking classes in NYC have moved into bringing the best of fitness (and more) to East End this summer. Offering classes like IntenSati and new workouts like ReXist360, Fitist looks to gather the best of the best under one roof.
The FITiST Collective is located at Summer Kicks, 5 Railroad Avenue, East Hampton, NY (just steps away from the train station). Single class is $40, 5-class pack for $195. Classes will run on the weekends only through June, then throughout the week starting in July. Classes run from 7:30am-6pm. For a full schedule and to book, visit FITiST.com.
Expect an unrivaled schedule complete with pop-up workouts, as well as ongoing events, collaborations, retreats and more. The Collective gathers the best of the best in fitness under one roof, providing instructors and existing studios an opportunity to build their businesses in a shared space, and serving as a meeting place for the fitness and greater wellness community. The Collective will offer Harmless Harvest coconut water, LuluTonix juices, Oribe hair products, Mio Skincare, Aromaflage fragrance and a curated retail collection (debuting in July).
Farm To Fork: Rooftop Dinner & Yoga (presented by Brooklyn Grange + Farm to Yoga)
Join us for a day of leisure and nourishment at the Brooklyn Grange and enjoy the very best the season has to offer. Tour the roof top fields of veggies and learn about the source of your food. Relax in the sunshine, overlooking the city with a yoga class lead by amazing teachers on the roof top deck. Following yoga, enliven your body with a super fresh , organic farm to fork meal grown at the Brooklyn Grange and prepared by our team of holistic chefs.
June 29th – Brooklyn Grange + Farm to Yoga
Farm to Yoga is going city-slickin’. Join us as we merge our goodness with Brooklyn Grange’s rooftop farm at the Navy Yard. Dynamic chef duo Hannah Gruber and Rusty Zimmerman will be serenading the flavors of the field onto our plates and Abby Paloma takes us on our mats for a rooftop yoga class, celebrating the abundance of the farm and the health of our bodies.
GETTING TO THE FARM:
Brooklyn Grange is an easy adventure into the Brooklyn Navy yard.
GENERAL DAY PLAN:
- 3:00pm Arrive with friends and check-in
- 3:15pm Farm Tour
- 4:15pm Yoga Class
- 6:00pm Dinner from the field, on the rooftop farm
EXCHANGE: $100 (FULL EXPERIENCE: YOGA, FARM TOUR, DINNER)
**All of their events are family friendly. All dinners are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free friendly.
Please bring your yoga mat.
Space is limited and tickets are non-refundable
City Escape: A Desert Oasis With Plenty Of Sunshine
Spring has certainly taken it’s time to show up in NYC, but at our latest city escape we found glorious sunshine in full force. The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, located in beautiful Arizona, is a perfect destination for those seeking fun, relaxation and outrageous spring temperatures. Located on 62 acres of Sonoran Desert, this expansive resort truly has something for everyone.
The property is gorgeous featuring manicured rose gardens and fountained lagoons, interspersed with natural desert fauna and the majestic McDowell Mountains as a backdrop. Accommodations range from deluxe rooms to private casitas, all boasting a great combination of luxury and comfort. Throughout the resort, the Spanish style architecture brings old world charm, and modern touches give the property a luxurious contemporary edge.
Five sparkling swimming pools await guests ready to cool off or soak in the sun. The South pool offers a trendy vibe with luxurious cabanas and a happening poolside bar, while the expansive East pool is beyond family friendly. The Sonoran Splash pool is a huge hit for kids of all ages, featuring two twisting water slides, as well as a serene zero gravity entry pool for the little or less adventurous ones. No matter where you head, reclined chaise lounges and towering palms await.
Well & Being, the resort’s amazing spa and wellness center, is by far the best feature of this luxury resort. Indulge in signature services like the Hacienda Retreat, a 90 minute escape featuring a unique corn & lime exfoliating scrub followed by a richly hydrating mask of shea butter, lime and soothing lemon. The gentle massage application and “cocooning” that follows will have you falling into a deep relaxing state you won’t want to end. Inevitably it will though, but don’t despair, the spa also offers an amazing array of amenities including an impressive whirlpool, inhalation rooms, an outdoor waterfall “grotto” and a glistening rooftop pool.
Another fabulous part of Well & Being is the unique fitness classes that are offered (which incidentally are also included at no additional cost when purchasing any spa service). Forget regular old yoga or cardio classes, Well & Being takes things to a whole other level with Aerial Yoga, TRX Suspension training and super fun SurfSET Fitness.
Of course good food is essential at any vacation spot, and Fairmont Scottsdale doesn’t disappoint. In fact we were also impressed with the healthy options available. A smoothie and juice bar sit within Well & Being, and their delectable spa menu– offering black bean burgers, quinoa crab cakes, and more– is available throughout the resort. The Fairmont also features an array of acclaimed restaurants. La Hacienda, their latest opening combines incredible ambiance with modern mexican flare. And The Grill, which sits overlooking the impressive Stadium golf course is a step above most “clubhouse” restaurants, with delicious salads and inventive mains.
All in all, the Fairmont is a desert oasis offering beautiful surroundings and amazing amenities. The first class spa and wellness offerings make having a HealthyStyle vacation easy. Relaxation is easy there, and of course, they also have one thing we all have been missing– plenty of sunshine!
To find out more about the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess or to make reservations and receive $100 Resort Credit Click HERE.
City Escape: A “HealthyStyle” Vacation at PGA National In Palm Gardens
With snow and ice being the leading story here in NYC, what better time to escape to warmth and relaxation. The Sunshine State is a top pick this time of year, with perfect temperatures and plenty of direct flights. Palm Beach Gardens has a wealth to offer– from top tier golf courses to golden beaches, not to mention some unexpected treasures along the way.
Our latest trip took us to PGA National, a luxury resort and spa in the heart of Palm Beach Gardens. Famous for it’s championship golf courses, this hotel delivers for those looking to tee it up and play where the pros do. However, we found out that this hotel holds much more than just great golf. A gorgeous pool and spa complex, a variety of dining options and a wealth of activities await– all within an expansive resort that (pleasantly) has more of a country club feel.
One unique feature of PGA National is the enormous Health & Racquet Center that makes having a “HealthyStyle” vacation easy. Guests have unlimited access to the fitness center which includes state of the art equipment and a full schedule of group fitness classes. We took a challenging vinyasa class and on the way passed by a active spin studio. The center also offers up 19 Har Tru tennis courts, racquetball courts and an outdoor lap pool. Fitness is easy here, and unlimited access is included in the price of your stay.
Of course vacation is often about relaxation and The Spa At PGA National definitely delivers that. Newly renovated, this full service spa and salon offers over 100 treatment including unique water therapies and exclusive signature services. My treatment of choice was the Plush Papaya, an invigorating pineapple scrub that is topped off with deliciously decadent swedish massage. No matter what you choose, make sure to leave time to enjoy the spa’s Waters of the World mineral pools, each containing healing salts that have been imported from around the world. Relax in the Slies De Biern or let tension and stress float away in the Dead Sea.
If you’re looking for a different kind of water therapy, the resort’s main pool complex is another sparkling option. The enormous zero-entry main pool perfect for all, and plush lounge chairs and towering palms allow vacation to be what it should be. The poolside Wave restaurant offers creative dishes (try the island explosion salad) and live music on weekends.
Endless great options await within PGA National Resort, and even more just outside it’s borders. Some of Florida’s best beaches are within a few short miles. Our favorite by far was Blowing Rock Nature Preserve– a peaceful barrier island sanctuary in neighboring Jupiter Beach. Walk windy trails through the mangroves and along the dunes and sit on magnificent unspoiled beaches. Keep your eyes open and you’re likely to see all sorts of species- from gulls and blue crabs to loggerhead turtles. Surf, sand and sunshine…I’ll take them any day over snow.
Silent Retreats: One New Yorkers Quiet Reflection
While I used to live for the busy streets of New York, after-work industry parties and large street fairs or events, these days I crave silence. I never thought it could happen, and hope my need for slowing down has nothing to do with fact that I’m approaching the big 4-0…um, in a few years. It does help that I moved out to the river town of Hastings on Hudson. And while I can see the beautiful NewYork skyline from the edge of our town, I welcome the distance.
All this quiet got me interested in signing up for a three silent retreat at the Ananda ashram, an pretty yoga retreat and spiritual center founded by Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, only 40 minutes from where I live. Most people think they would go mad not talking for days long. Speaking is everything to many people, and if you notice most people have a lot to say about very little. But no judgement there! I’m guilty.
So I drove up to the ashram and silent retreat lead by this guru lady Joan Suval. Joan looked like a nun to me, wearing an all white robe and with white hair pinned back. But instead, she turned out to be an old Jewish woman who studied with the guru Sarasvati since the age of 30. She was wise, spiritual, open minded and funny at the same time. Not your average Jewish grandmother! I was drawn to her instantly and called the “Mother of the Ashram” I could tell everyone felt the same way.
Although we weren’t allowed to talk, we took yoga classes, meditated, watched a movie, walked through the woods and around a lake, saw a traditional Indian concert at night, chanted and had big vegetarian buffets for meals. (which was one of my fav parts. I wondered how staying silent could make someone so ravenous!)
Joan also gave us talks about life and philosophical teachings from the guru that eased our worries and lifted our spirit. Here were some of the points I remembered jotted down in my note book:
- Our ego is like a drunken monkey with a loaded gun — don’t give into it.
- The more people disturb us, the more you advance. — meaning every person or situation that upsets us is only there to be our teacher and bring new knowledge. Welcome the challenges, they are our biggest teacher. You can be happy with every problem if you know it will advance you in self realization.
- It’s only through the quiet and calm that we make the most progress. When our mind is busy, we have no clarity and no wisdom. Quiet is the gateway to clarity and progress…
I was feeling pretty calm during the weekend…and happy. From a distance, my life seemed perfect and exactly in line.
Though when I first got home, I told myself a different story. All of a sudden, I started to feel stress creeping into my senses, and things and people were weighing to me. Joan’s teachings weren’t helping me in my new moments and the transition from silence to life felt a little drastic. How could I feel so great and then feel so bad? (And it wasn’t even that time of the month!)
But after a couple of days and some patience, I got it together and found my silent center again. Life is funny that way. Things always work out on their own, with time and without much effort. These days I know the ashram is always only 40 minutes if I need to get quiet and create that peaceful state again — a vacation from the mind. Then again, I can always put that “In Silence” button on and wear at around my home and work. I’m sure no one would mind. They might even welcome it!
This Weekend: Experience Fall Five Different Ways
Five Fun Fall Activities This October Has In Store:
Apples & Pumpkins
What better way to spend a Saturday or Sunday with the fam, your man or even a good group of girlfriends (apple pie baking fest, anyone?) than to hop in the car and head outside the city for a few hours and stock up on all of fall’s most natural and favorite treats? For you Long Islanders, be sure to check out Fink’s Farm for a bevy of fall related activities, like going through the 7 acre maze or having a bite of some delicious roasted corn. Or there’s Wilklow Orchards in Highland NY, complete with its own little roadside stand filled with all the fresh fall baked goods your heart desires. For those headed to New Jersey, there’s also Riamede Farms which offers 34 varieties of apples from the classics to even a few specialties. All in all, New York and beyond is in no way short on delivering in the pumpkin and apple department this fall!
With the weather changing, although it’s fun to get outside for a few hours and enjoy the crisp temperatures, sometimes it’s just as fun to head inside and curl up with a good movie. The 49th New York Film Festival is the perfect excuse to get inside on one of these upcoming rainy days (they’re inevitable, let’s face it), have some popcorn and enjoy a cinematic masterpiece. With classics playing like Ben Hur to some of the most buzzed about films of the season like The Descendants (George Clooney? Sign me up!) and My Week with Marilyn, it’s sure to be every movie lovers dream come true!
One of my favorite fall activities is hitting the stores looking for the perfect sweater. Sure, summer has its perks with all the fun skirts and tank tops to choose from, but a true New Yorker should know the art of stocking your closet filled with a unique sweater for every occasion. With fashion heavy weight DVF going modern with an exaggerated (and ultra forgiving) turtleneck that’s perfect for a fun night out, to truly affordable everyday fashion with The Gap’s striped cable-knit, there is certainly a lot to look at and try on before you make up your mind on which sweater suits you best!
Scare Me Please
Come October, not only are the stores chock full of candy and treats galore, but there’s also an endless amount of Halloween related activities around the city to choose from.
Something fun for the whole family is the Halloween Pumpkin Parade and Sail in Central Park. Be sure to wear your costume and bring your most prized carved Jack O’Lantern to take part in NYC’s largest pumpkin flotilla at twilight.
New York Botanical Garden plays host to the Haunted Pumpkin Garden October 1st – 30th. Although this is another great activity to check out with the kids, it’s not lacking in the scare department. With spooky scarecrows, spiders and snakes at every turn and an after dark nighttime adventure in the garden, remember to bring your flashlight and best creepy costume to really get in the Halloween spirit!
Parade Me Around
Fall is definitely the season of parades, and quite frankly, we’ll take ‘em! With the annual Columbus Day parade bringing 35,000 marchers, bands and floats all making their way down Fifth Avenue, this is one spectacle not to be missed!
For some parade fun you can take part in yourself, NYC’s Village Halloween Parade is definitely one to check out. All those in costume are invited to join hundreds of puppets, 53 bands, dancers and artists on the trek down Sixth Avenue on the night of the 31st.
All in all ladies, let’s make this the season of the 3 F’s: Fall Festive Fun!
City Escape: Farm Time In Gansevoort, NY
Until recently when I heard the name Gansevoort my only association was the trendy NYC hotel chain where I would sip cocktails rooftop or work them off at Exhale. I came to find out, Gansevoort is also a town about 3 hours north of the city (near Saratoga Springs) which would become the destination of our very first road trip with little Miss A.
I had found a sweet little cabin on a farm on airbnb and since Aria is obsessed with animals I thought it would be an adventure. And, adventure it was since the cabin was without electricity or running water (I totally knew this going in), and although a very slight inconvenience at times, it totally added to the experience.
The cabin itself was gorgeous (beautiful wood interior from floor to ceiling and tons of windows) and the location was perfect for unwinding. We would wake in the mornings to total silence, except for the occasional distant whinny of one of the horses (Aria’s first word in the morning was always an exuberant “Horsey!”). Each day we would go for walks and wander down and see the animals. Evenings consisted of watching the sun go down, cooking out ( on the fire pit/dutch oven, propane burners or charcoal grill) and sitting on the front stoop star gazing and using lanterns to light our way inside. We throughly enjoyed “roughing it” and the beauty, serenity and fun we found there.
Although we could have easily stayed put and enjoyed the weekend without ever leaving the property, we ventured off and found some great local spots. On Saturday I dropped Aria’s dad to golf, and she and I hit Lake George State Park, a lovely spot with several little beaches, a very touristy beach main street and trails and campsite (we snuck in a hot shower there). On Sunday we all hit Saratoga Springs, which, much to my surprise, I loved. It has a great main street, cosmopolitan restaurants and a whole lot of charm. Of course, Saratoga is known for the horse race track so on the way back we checked out the ponies and placed a few bets which was good fun.
All around it was a winning weekend, and one I’d totally recommend for any urbanite looking to shake off the city and get back to the basics.