Ten Places to Visit in New York City

And the Importance of Getting Away...(Without Your Kids!)

Ten Places to Visit in New York City

Instead of giving you the play by play of my recent weekend in New York City—which no one has time to read, below I’ve created a Top 10 list (in no particular order) of things we saw/did while in NYC (+ few items from my prior to trip to NYC with my parents and my husband.) Hopefully this will give you some inspiration when planning your own trip to this fab city. There's always Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park—but once you've done the major tourist attractions, these are some great places to eat and shop and feel like a New Yorker. 


The Breslin Bar & Dining Room (located in the Ace Hotel). This was our first stop after checking into our hotel on Friday night at 10 p.m. It’s super trendy, noisy, and vibrant. Plus there are lots of animal heads all over the walls (apparently meat is really in right now in NY). If you do like meat, the lamb burger was divine!

Eataly! Mario Batali’s artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace—the largest in the world. It's a foodie playground. We shared a bottle of delicious rose wine, and three plates of stunning cheeses, plus a green salad. Admittedly, we were a bit drunk in the middle of the afternoon, but that made shopping afterward all the more fun! (photo above).

The Fat Radish. This is a great place for brunch with a focus on fresh produce and lots of veggies. (I had poached eggs with clothbound cheddar & potato cake surrounded by sauteed Brussels sprouts). And, this trendy little restaurant is smack dab in the middle of the Lower East Side, an amazing neighbourhood for wandering around, shopping in tiny boutiques, and checking out some of NY’s most interesting history at the Tenement Museum.

Blue Bottle Coffee (Lost Weekend NYC). One thing that’s certain when you’re visiting New York is that you’ll need a lot of coffee in order to keep up with the locals—who never stop! The best latte I had on this trip was from this tiny cafe in the Lower East Side. Blue Bottle Coffee (originally from California) is served inside this little gallery/shop, which is described as carrying “a line of artwork and lifestyle accessories to suit the Lower East Side male.”

ABC Home & Carpet. My girlfriend who lives in NY discovered this store, which is a home décor lover’s paradise.You'll be blown away by the selection of dishes, vases, art, jewelry, clothing, and accessories from around the world.


Strand Book Store. If you’re a book lover then you must visit the Strand. Its slogan is: “18 miles of books.” And, books are all priced below cover price. It's easy to spend hours inside this shop.


Little Cupcake Bakeshop. Time to refuel! This adorable bakeshop in the heart of SOHO has some amazing flavours of cupcakes (Coconut Cloud, Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter) and awesome lemonade and iced tea (yum!). Plus, there is a perfect bench outside for people-watching and resting your feet. Plus, check this out; the entire shop was designed with Green and sustainability in mind.

Scholastic Store SoHo. Ok, I know, this has nothing to do with a girls weekend, but I have to throw this shop into the list as the perfect place to go if you (like I did) promised to bring your kids home a gift from your trip. It’s either this or the insane Toys R Us in Times Square that will literally make your head explode. This store was like a trip down memory lane for me, it was full of all my old favourite titles. And, if you happen to have your kids with you, there is loads of entertainment for the little ones.

High Line Park.Craving fresh air and a scenic stroll? This new addition to New York is a must-see. The High Line is a park that runs along a historic freight rail line above the city on Manhattan’s West Side. It’s spectacular and peaceful; and little vendors set up along the trail selling baked goods, popsicles, and other treats. (After you've seen the park, it's worth wandering through and grabbing a bite in the Meatpacking District).


Once The Musical. Finally, I have to include a plug for this stunning Broadway show we saw on Saturday night. I haven’t heard voices like this in a long time, and you’ll be humming the soundtrack for weeks after. It’s a love story based on the Academy Award Winning movie of the same name. The story is heart wrenching, but also totally inspiring. It’s about a shared love of music and how important it is to nourish your passion. It really is a must see show and I bet it will win the Tony for Best Musical.


To celebrate the May 2-4 weekend, two of my closest girlfriends and I planned a getaway to New York City. We have all been friends since our university days and have been talking about a "girls trip" for as long as I can remember. But, we'd never actually made it happen…other than a bachelorette party in Niagara Falls last June. There were always excuses: money to spend on other "more important” things, jobs, engagements, weddings, babies…

Finally we decided the timing was right. My two girlfriends don't yet have babies, but I'm sure they will within the next few years...and I'm finally starting to think about baby #2. So, we decided this spring was the time to actually do it. We were all going to get on a plane and go somewhere—together!

With my daughter happily being looked after by my parents and my husband in Las Vegas for a bachelor party, it was time to focus ONLY on me for three whole days. No running after a toddler who can't sit still. No nap times to schedule my day around. No snacks to pack. No diapers and wipes to schlep around. I hardly had to say the word ‘No’ the whole weekend. It was all about me—and it was pure luxury!

Because I had already been to NYC once in May, and about seven other times prior to that, I took on the role of "tour guide." My secret passion is trip planning, so I spent about a month researching cool places to eat, shop, and visit. I even made an itinerary and sent email copies of it to my friends (yes, I'm a nerd!). I also enlisted the help of my childhood best friend who now lives in New York and joined us on many of our  excursions around the city. A few of the suggestions below are thanks to her insight! I was so excited for this trip.

The plan was to eat and drink as much as possible in three days. Shop. Walk. Explore. And enjoy. All pretty easy to accomplish in New York. We stayed at a great hotel in Chelsea called Hotel Indigo. Our room was small (typical by New York standards) and had two double beds (which is surprisingly hard to find in this city!). It was modernly decorated and brand-new. The beds were super-comfy and we all had to drag ourselves out of them every morning. Indigo is part of the InterContinental Hotels Group (which also includes Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza) and the price was reasonable considering there were three of us splitting the bill! The best part of the hotel was the location—we could see the Empire State Building when we stepped out onto the street and could basically walk everywhere we wanted to go.

If you have any great NYC tips to add to this list please post them in the comments below.

And remember, if you can make it happen, there is nothing better than taking some time out just for YOU to play! You deserve it.


How Singer Pamela Gerrand Finds Happiness

The Healing Power of Music

How Singer Pamela Gerrand Finds Happiness

YOUR HAPPY PLACE is a regular column in which celebrated and celebrity mummies share their vision of happiness, plus tactics for cheering themselves up when the going gets tough.

Name: Pamela Gerrand
Occupation: Singer/songwriter and speaker with a passion for personal and planetary healing and transformation. Pam spent four seasons in the Acting Company at the Stratford Festival, and has performed on stages across Canada, including the Hummingbird Centre, where she was guest soloist with the Canada Pops Orchestra in 2003. Pam travels widely, performing at forums and festivals devoted to peace and social justice, and delivering workshops at universities, spiritual centers and conferences.

At Home: Pamela resides in Stratford, Ontario with her husband Stephen, her children Carly and Jared, and their singing dog named Henry

Claim to Fame: She's well known in the personal empowerment/self-help world and has performed her original music at keynote talks given by Byron Katie, Deepak Chopra, James Twyman, Margaret Trudeau, Stephen Lewis, Bruce Lipton, Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Don Miguel Ruiz.

Why we love her: Her voice is magnificent and her lyrics powerful and inspiring with a true healing quality. Pam did a concert in my parents' condo to help raise money for her upcoming album, and she had us all in tears. This song "October Sky" inspired by the birth of her daughter will give you an idea of how incredible she truly is. And, any mom will surely relate to her powerful words.

1. How would you describe your Happy Place?
My happy place is comprised of both sound and silence. I find peace in the silence of a forest walk and meditation, and experience happiness hearing the laughter of my family and friends, and the sound of great conversation shared heart to heart. Music is definitely a gateway to my happy place, either in deep listening, dancing or singing. Recently, I stepped into a day that combined all of my loves, which brought me to a very happy place. I spent the day with my husband, kids and my niece and her young boys at the Toronto Zoo walking in the fresh air, seeing the animals through the eyes of the little boys, and spending time with my family all rated a four star happy day!! My two dogs, Henry and Rufus, love to sing with me, and it never fails to make me smile. They are pretty fabulous at making our home a happy place!
2. What do you do to make yourself happy when life gets overwhelming?
My answer again comes back to sound and silence, with some yoga, tai chi and Pilates set to fabulous music. I love the BodyFlow class at GoodLife, and I find it to be one of the most grounding, elevating hours I can give myself in the day. If I am feeling low energy, I put on some great music, sing along or dance to really get the chi moving. I also chant Sanskrit mantras to raise my vibration—they are literally codes for healing and harmony, and offer a vibrational bridge to your heart and to a profound state of bliss. I have an infrared sauna, and it is my 'meditation temple' especially in the cold Canadian winters.
I find it a powerful metaphor to enter a state of silence and presence, detoxing my mind while sweating and detoxing my body. Although I am a performer, I am at heart an introvert, and I 'fill my well' in these moments of spiritual practise. I thrive on balance, so to contrast these solitary moments, I love to have a great conversation on the phone or Skype, or tea with a friend. I surround myself with people who are positive, supportive and inspiring - and I find my energy really soars after a heart to heart conversation. It has been called 'processing verbally'—I just know that it brings clarity, perspective and can shift me quickly from low to high on the 'happy meter.'
3. Is there a Happy person you aspire to be more like?  What is it about him/her you'd like to emulate?  
As I ponder this question, many people come to mind as 'happy mentors' that I would like to emulate. If I have to pick one person, it would be my Mom, Ella Gerrand. She is one of the most genuinely kind, joyful, wise, and present people I know. She has a way of loving every single person for exactly where they are, and finding the silver lining in every difficulty. Her life has brought her many losses and challenges, and I see her as a wise, compassionate woman who has transformed these trials with her patience, presence and  pure, unconditional love. She is never happier than when her kitchen is full of grandchildren and the makings of a fabulous meal to be shared. I would like to emulate her ability to find the sweetness in every person, the giggle in a baby with just the right 'tickle spot', and the grace to hold space for both tears and triumphs with an open heart. 


The Mom Who Invented Yard Sale For The Cure

What's Your Big Idea?

The Mom Who Invented Yard Sale For The Cure

How many times have you had a really great idea and then, for some reason—be it you were too busy, didn’t think you’d be able to pull it off, or just didn’t have the motivation—instead of acting on it, you pushed it out of your mind and moved on with your life? I think we can all relate. Often, coming up with the great ideas is the easy part—but having the courage to breath life into them is much more difficult. All of you mompreneurs who have dreamed up business ideas and actually put them into action, should be applauded!

This is a story about a mom who gave birth to a great idea, not with the desire to turn a profit, but rather the desire to give something back. Rachael Smith was recovering from surgery, plus eight rounds of chemotherapy, plus 45 rounds of radiation treatment when she first came up with her idea. The 43-year-old mom of two daughters had been shaken when she was diagnosed with breast cancer a number of months prior.

She made it through her treatment with the help of an extremely supportive team of nurses at the Toronto East General Hospital, and when she was finally feeling well enough, she decided she wanted to find a way to thank them—and to support other women living with the same disease.  

“We had two kids and a basement full of stuff we no longer used and so it dawned on me and my husband that a great way to raise money and clear out our cluttered basement, would be to host a yard sale,” Rachael tells me. “We live in The Beach neighbourhood of Toronto where yard sales are a common occurrence, and people who host them tend to do pretty well.”

The original plan was that their family would host a yard sale and any money they earned would be donated to the hospital that had helped Rachael throughout her cancer treatment. It was a simple idea—with big heart.

But Rachael’s husband didn’t want to stop there.  

“I remember him asking, ‘Why don’t we invite everyone on the street to participate?'. . . so we did!"

Because she and her husband work in advertising/marketing—they had the power of influence on their side.

With most of the houses on the street agreeing to participate in their fundraising efforts, the couple decided to take the idea a little bit further.

 “All of a sudden we were heading out with flyers, knocking on doors and encouraging every home in The Beach to host a yard sale on May 25, 2005.”

Their influence worked.

That day there were 350 yard sales in their Toronto neighbourhood.

Participants signed up and paid a $20 fee. This got them a large sign that they were able to post on their lawn indicating they were officially part of this fundraising effort. “Once you agreed to host a sale, you could donate all or a portion of your proceeds to one of three causes: Toronto East General’s Oncology Unit, Princess Margaret Hospital, or The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF),” says Rachael. “We registered as an official charity and everyone who donated their proceeds got a tax receipt.” They also got t-shirts, a kit with tips on how to host a yard sale, and other gear that would help them promote their sales. All of this was put together by Rachael and her friends and family—gathered around her dining room table

That year $42,000 was raised and Yard Sale For the Cure was born.

“At the time I imagined we’d turn this into an annual event in The Beach, but I didn’t imagine it would ever become nation-wide,” says Rachael. The following year the event grew to encompass a few more Toronto neighbourhoods. Then it expanded its reach across Ontario. In its fourth year, 2008, there were yard sales being held across the country for a cause that was near and dear to Rachael’s heart.

“In 2009 we were the largest third-party fundraiser for CBCF and they approached us to see if we were interested in letting them take over the event,” she recalls. “At the time we had a full-time person working on the project, it had become really big—we had relied on family and friends for five years to help it get to where it was at.” It was time to pass her idea on to the people who she knew could take it to the next level.

Today Yard Sale for the Cure is second only to CBCF’s Run for The Cure and this signature event has raised more than $1 million dollars toward breast cancer research. “The fact that my little idea has made it possible to raise this much money toward finding a cure for breast cancer one day, is phenomenal,” says Rachel. 

This Saturday May 26, just like every other year since 2005, Rachael and her family will don their pink t-shirts, or wigs, or hats, and host a Yard Sale for the Cure with all of their family and friends who have been supporting them since the beginning.

“It really is an amazing feeling,” says Rachael, who now works as the event’s spokesperson.

So, no matter how small or impossible your idea may seem—instead of coming up with a million and one reasons not to do it—take a chance and give it a shot! You never know what you’ll be able to accomplish when you set your mind to it.

To learn more about Yard Sale for the Cure and to find a sale near you visit

Insider's Tip: these Featured Sales are often the best bet for finding amazing stuff at bargain prices!