UYC’s Book Club: Miracle On 34th Street

For this month’s selection, we kept it simple…as in kid-lit simple.  December seems to be a lot busier than any other month, so I figured a short, sweet, NYC classic that’s also big on holiday spirit would be a good way to go.  Result?  Miracle on 34th Street, my friends!  Here’s a synopsis from GoodReads:

Kris Kringle is an elderly gentleman who lives at the Maplewood Home for the Aged in New York City, NY. When the Santa hired for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade shows up drunk, Doris Walker, the somewhat frosty, divorced Personnel Director at Macy’s, hires Kris to take his place, and Mr. Shellhammer, Head of the Toy Department, suggests that she keep Kris for the permanent job of Santa at Macy’s Department Store on 34th St., where he creates a lot of good will which even owner R. H. Macy notices.

Kris even affects Doris’s daughter, six-year-old Susan, who has been brought up by her disillusioned mother to be as matter-of-fact as herself, and their neighbor and Doris’s would-be boyfriend Fred Gailey, a lawyer with whom Kris moves in. Everything is going well until people begin to find out that Kris actually believes that he is the real Santa Claus. So the Macy’s company psychologist, Albert Sawyer, who dislikes Santa Claus anyway, decides to have Kris committed to Bellevue Insane Asylum and does so secretly without Doris’s knowledge. When he learns about it, Fred petitions for a court hearing to decide Kris’s sanity and determines to have him declared sane.

Discussion time!  While this novel was written with kids in mind and is definitely on the shorter side, I still thought its theme was perhaps the biggest of all the books we’ve read this year.


1. What was your biggest takeaway from the story?

For me, it all comes down to the part in the book that says, “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.”  Indeed, while having faith in Santa Claus may look different for a small child than a grownup, the concept is just that…we can’t always see what’s there, but no less need to believe with all our heart…rain AND shine.  (And obviously we are talking about Santa Claus metaphorically–sub in whatever spiritual persona/seemingly unattainable goal or wish you want here;-)

2. This is a rare case of the book being written after the movie.  Do you think this had an effect on the story?

I did find the writing style a bit childish and almost overly structured…granted, it is a kid’s book, but I feel that perhaps the author was relying too heavily on the screenplay version?  I can’t help but think this story may have sounded a bit differently if written before.

Regardless, I’m glad I finally read this holiday classic.  I’ve seen the film countless times over the years, and it was nice to experience it in written form.

3. Being written in 1947, do you feel the book expresses a different kind of NYC than we have today at the holidays?

Shockingly, no!  The book starts out at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which I imagined to be very much similar to the one we still have today.  Macy’s Department store and legendary Santa Claus are still very much important landmarks in NYC.  I think maybe that’s why it was so easy for the remake of the film, taking place in 1994, to seem so realistic, despite the decades that have passed since the original.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the book below, and make sure to join us next month for our discussion on Panic in a Suitcase, which we’ll hold on the blog on Thursday, January 22nd. Between now and then feel free to share your thoughts on Twitter with the hashtag #UYCBookclub!

By: Jessica Tiare Bowen





5 Tips For Stress-Free Holiday Entertaining + Giveaway

This contest has officially ended. A huge New York thank you to all who participated, and congrats to our winner, HS! Stay tuned for more exciting giveaways!

With the holiday season comes a lot more entertaining, am I right?  Whether you’re hosting a full on dinner party or simply having friends over for a few festive cocktails, here’s a few tips that can make your holiday soirees a little more merry and a little less stressed.


1. Keep Well Stocked

This time of year, I always try to have a few essential things on hand: bottles of wine + champagne, Bounty, and a go-to app such as cheese and crackers.  This way, you’re prepped for spur of the moment visitors, and also the cleanup that comes with.

2. 15 Minute Pick-Up

A big-ol’ cleanup before guests arrive can take the joy out of the experience, and let’s be real…coming from work, there’s just not always time.  So here’s my little trick: I set the timer on my phone for 15 minutes, blast some Christmas music, and in that time run around like a crazy person cleaning the area of the house I know the guests will be in.  Meaning: kitchen/living room/bathroom get a proper clean, but I’m not so worried about the bedroom.  When the alarm goes off, I’m done.  You’ll be surprised at how much is accomplished!

3. Go-To Playlist

Spotify has taken the stress out of playlist creation (yay!), so now it’s as simple as typing in “Dinner Party” or “Christmas Cocktail Party”, and voila!  A fully stocked playlist of music, at your service.

4. Scented Candles

Probably my favorite gift to receive ever is candles.  Seriously, I go through them like nobody’s business.  Not only does it add a festive scent to the air (Pumpkin Spice + Fir Tree are staples this time of year), but also do wonders for ambiance.

5. Seasonal Outfit

Ok–I realize this tip is not going to be taken seriously by the fashionistas, and probably doesn’t apply to a big chunk of NYC women, but…here’s the thing.  If you’re going to be doing a lot of seasonal entertaining, you want a cute outfit.  I am trying super hard not to clutter my closet with things I will wear once, and to stick with garments that will get plenty of use (we’ll talk more about this in the new year!)  So at the beginning of the season I purchased a red plaid shift dress which has already been worn like, 7 times.  I also make sure to dry clean it immediately so it’s ready for the next wear.  Only downfall?  You’ll be in the same outfit in all your pictures:-)


And a special holiday treat for our readers!  We’re partnering with P&G and hosting a giveaway valued at $55, including full-size P&G samples plus a $25 AMEX gift card!  Exciting right?!  Simply leave a comment below telling us your tips for prep or cleanup for your holiday parties.  Bonus points for tweeting out your response using the hashtag #NYTough (just be sure to tag us so we see, @UsedYorkCity.)

The giveaway will end on Christmas, and winners will be notified via email.  Best of luck!






Cheap Date: Gingerbread Extravaganza At Le Parker Meridien


It’s always fun to stumble upon an unexpected treat, particularly when that treat is made entirely out of gingerbread!

I popped into the Le Parker Meridien Hotel lobby to check the menu at Norma’s, and low and behold was greeted with the sweetest display of gingerbread houses, bridges, and Broadway extravaganzas I ever did see!

The theme?  Why, “Made in New York”, naturally!  Bakeries from all over the city put their noggins together and create delicious displays they feel represent the theme…all of them wildly different and innovative, as you’ll see!

unnamed-9I snapped photos with my phone (hence the so-so quality), and did a bit of recon when I got home.  Turns out this edible extravaganza is hosted by City Harvest annually, as a way to feed hungry New Yorkers.  Okay, not feed them gingerbread, but to have you place $1 vote on your favorite house, and then THAT money goes to feed those in need in the city.  (It’s all in the details!;-)

This is such a festive way to round out a Midtown dinner date in NYC, don’t you think?

Which one is your fave?

unnamed unnamed-2 unnamed-1 unnamed-3 unnamed-7 unnamed-6 unnamed-4 unnamed-8

By: Jessica Tiare Bowen




7 Ways To Spread Kindness Around NYC

Tis the season to be a little bit nicer, a little bit more giving, and a little more focused on others.  This may seem simple in terms of your actions to your immediate family and friends, but I say go further and spread that cheer through the city!  A little bit of unexpected kindness can go a long way, especially during the holidays.

I promise I’m not going to tell you to stand in Central Park with a “Free Hugs!!!” sign, (yeah, you’ve see them too?), but here’s a few super simple ways to brighten a random New Yorker’s day.

free-hugs-campaign-international-englandGo on out there and spread some cheer.

1. Accept the flyers.

You all know what I’m talking about…those folks standing in the middle of the sidewalk in the freezing cold handing out flyers for pubs and pedicure places that nobody really wants?  Don’t be a Scrooge, make their job a little bit easier and take the flyers this season.  (And if you’re worried about killing trees you can always turn them into scrap paper back at your office/apartment!)

2. Give up your seat on the subway.

To someone who is not elderly, disabled, or pregnant.  Because I’m going to assume you do that everyday, anyway, right?  Right??;-)  Trust me, an unexpected seat on a crowded train after a long day can do wonders for anyone’s mood.

3. Use their name.

At every grocery store and Starbucks and every other kind of retail environment people wear name tags which are so rarely utilized.  I remember my days working at a movie theater, and can still count the handful of really great interactions with customers buying popcorn that took the extra two seconds to look at my name tag and say, “Hi Jess, how are you?”, before rattling of their order.  I was so shocked for a moment it was like, “whoa, stalker, how do you know my name?!”  But then I was happy:-)  Real interactions go a long, long way.

4. For a job well done, let people know.

If you receive extra great service at a restaurant (or anywhere!), don’t just think in your head, “wow, you’re really the friendliest waitress I’ve ever met in this city!”  Tell them!  Or go the extra mile and tell the manager how rockstar they were.

5. Donate a few dollars to the neediest kids in the city.

I’m on the Young Leadership Committee at a great organization called the Pajama Program, which promotes literacy (so important!), but also reaches some of the city’s forgotten kids…ones in shelters and group homes.  We aim to get a pair of pajamas and a book to as many of those kids as we can for the holidays, and you can easily donate to our holiday campaign here.

6. If you have a stocked up Metrocard, swipe someone in who’s asking.

Ok, pay close attention to my wording (I would hate for the MTA to come after me with handcuffs;-)  I didn’t say Unlimited Metrocard (cause I guess that’s illegal?), but if you have one stocked up with extra money and someone asks for a swipe, let em’ on through.

7. Buy the person behind you in line their coffee. 

On road trips when we were little, my mom would often tell the toll booth person that she wanted to pay for the car behind her, too…just as a random act of kindness thing.  I was trying to think of a NYC equivalent and was all “oh, coffee shop!”  Now, I totally get that there’s a fine line between being holiday happy and being totally creepy with this one…so use your judgement.

Would love to know…how do you spread holiday cheer throughout your city?

By: Jessica Tiare Bowen

Photo Credit: 1




New Yorker Moments

unnamed-13{baking my favorite christmas cookies}

The holiday season is in full swing here in NYC…twinkle lights strung in every restaurant, Salvation Army volunteers dancing on every corner (seriously, LOVE that they’ve added dancing to their bell ringing this year!), and this week we even had our very first snow of the season!

Here’s a few of my favorite moments from the week.  I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

unnamed-16{my go-to welcome drink for winter: cranberry juice, sprite, a pop of champagne, and floating cranberries}

unnamed-14{visiting st. patrick’s cathedral}

unnamed-12{catching a matinee of the beautiful and touching performance of love letters on broadway}

unnamed-15{out of town guests means…first official viewing of the rockefeller christmas tree}