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Bario Neal: Treat Yourself to Ethical, Locally Made Jewelry

I had been on a jewelry kick for quite some time and with the advent of a milestone birthday, lots of accomplishments and life changes I wanted something with meaning. Splurging on expensive handbags or solo vacations like I did in the past were certainly options, but given where I was in life it felt necessary to get something timeless. I decided to purchase jewelry for myself but not just any jewelry would do. It needed to be real (sorry Claire’s) and it needed to be ethically sourced.

My frantic search for ethical jewelry was a quick one once I stopped by Bario Neal’s Lower East Side showroom to see the collection up close. Bario Neal was founded in 2008 in Philadelphia by Anna Bario and Paige Neal who set out to source and design ethical pieces for the milestones in our lives. Still based in Philadelphia, the duo work with a team of local craftsmen and artisans on Jeweler’s Row for most requests which are customized. The materials in their work consist of either fair mined or recycled metals, antique diamonds or diamonds from Canada, Namibia or Australia which are conflict-free, and ethically sourced gemstones like Zambian emeralds, Montana sapphires and Anthill garnets.

When describing why she and Bario are meticulous when it comes to sourcing gemstones and metals, Neal says “we wanted to feel good about our jewelry’s origins.” The history of mining gemstones and diamonds in harsh conditions that violate basic human rights is long, complex and tumultuous. Every stone regardless of size and piece of metal is accounted for using the founders’ rigorous standards that surpass the industry’s Kimberely Process. With customizable options and an average lead time of 6 weeks for rings I was ready to buy. I just needed to narrow down from my list of favorite pieces below.

Enamel Arc Bracelet

Quince Ring

Sapphire Slice Studs

Andalusite Cluster Ring

Circ Chandeliers


Hex Sapphire Cluster Ring

Ray Pendant

Aquamarine Halo Ring


Photo Credit: Bario Neal


Showroom Locations

Philadelphia Flagship & Workshop

700 S. 6th St.

Philadelphia, PA 19147

NYC’s Lower East Side Showroom

195 Chrystie St. #900-A

New York, NY 10012

By Appointment Only


Sel et Poivre: Uptown NYC Classic French Bistro with Low-key and Charming Appeal

One evening after a long day of work, I needed an escape. While most people go to happy hour, I needed something a bit more substantive that wouldn’t leave me with a hangover the next day. So, I walked into Sel et Poivre, a bistro on the Upper East Side with updated French fare and a carefully curated complimentary wine list. The restaurant has been around for 27 years (an eon in the NYC restaurant scene) so it was sure to be a delight.

Sel et Poivre has an intimate, romantic ambiance and seats up to 65 people. I was fortunate enough to grab a table in the back without a reservation, which is preferred. Service was attentive and swift, which was great because I was starving after speed walking more than 20 blocks uptown!


Celery Root Remoulade

In a gluttonous move, I started with two appetizers. The first was celery root remoulade with red beets. Remoulade, an aioli-based sauce, covered the fresh crunchy celery roots which were placed atop cubed beets. While I detest beets, I ate the entire plate before I realized it. The celery roots, covered in sauce juxtaposed with the softness of bittersweet beets, were an adventurous delight for my taste buds. This dish isn’t for everyone and usually it wouldn’t be my first choice but I needed to switch it up and I’m glad I did. The fish soup however is a dish I would normally choose. The soup, which was flavorful and creamy in its own right, also came with crostini with a garlic spread and sprinkled parmesan. The garlic and cheese crostini added texture and elevated the subtle flavor of the soup.


Aged Sirloin Steak

Next up, the entrée; my favorite dish. I was still hungry so I sampled a variety of dishes. I started with the leg of lamb with haricot verts. The lamb was tender and juicy, haricot verts crunchy, and potatoes flavorful with roasted herbs and drizzled with gravy. The standout entrée however was the aged New York sirloin steak with poivre (pepper) sauce paired with Cotes du Rhone. The medium steak was draped with peppercorn adding tenderness and elevating the flavor with spice. Days later I’m still thinking about that delicious, juicy steak.



Finally, dessert was served. The profiteroles, while too sweet for my palette, are a sweet tooth’s dream. The puffs were filled with ice cream and covered with a chocolate drizzle and nuts which added crunch and texture to an otherwise soft and decadent meal. My favorite dessert and a preferred dish for those who can’t take sweet dishes, is the tarte aux fruit. The tarte’s crust was crisp and crunchy filled with a soft, zesty custard and fresh berries.

This small intimate uptown bistro is recommended for those seeking classic French cuisine in a low-key causal environment. Knowledgeable staff and great service are an added bonus. Bon appétit!

Preferred Dishes: Fish Soup, Sirloin Steak with Poivre Sauce, Tarte aux Fruit

Sel et Poivre

Sel et Poivre


Address: 853 Lexington Ave., New York, NY



Noon – 4pm, Monday – Friday 


4pm – 10:30pm, Monday – Thursday

4pm – 11pm, Friday – Saturday

4pm – 10pm, Sunday


Noon – 4pm, Saturday – Sunday

Authentic: On Being Fourth Generation Mexican-American

Growing up without a father left me confused about my identity at a young age. There was an entire line of genetics within me that I had absolutely no idea about. I secretly hoped I was like Princess Mia of The Princess Diaries series, and would learn my long lost father was a great prince of a European country, and left me a great inheritance. Of course that would be far, far from the truth.

I knew the majority of family I’d known about, had lineage descending from Mexico, and this was the culture I longed to embrace, but was only able to live in it when I was with grandparents. With them I would be around Spanish speakers, enjoy authentic Mexican dishes, and learn more about my family tree by pestering everyone with questions and writing down their answers in my notebook. Other than the little information I had, my immediate family did not follow any cultural traditions, and I wished we did.

When I had to take statewide exams in elementary school, it would ask students to write their names and to mark our race before we started. They were incredibly limited in options: White/Caucasian, Black/African-American, Latino/Hispanic, Pacific Islander, Other. I didn’t know what half of those meant, so I marked white because my skin is white. I was never educated about what race actually was. It was something we were just supposed to know and not talk about. In this respect, I have high hopes the conversation around race at a young age will begin and children won’t be as confused as I was.

Another aspect of elementary school I didn’t enjoy, was the infamous day when we all had to turn in our family trees. Given that an entire parent and their family was missing from my life, it became an embarrassing assignment for me. The one parent I did have information on was severely limited to only three generations. I felt like a hodge podge of the unknown. The last thing I wanted to do was share, what I considered humiliating, with my entire second grade class. I loathed the assignment and would have rather failed the class than be forced to turn in an incomplete assignment that caused me so much shame.

It wasn’t until my early 20s when I started to do my own research. I eventually learned that my biological father’s side was Mexican and Italian. I loved to learn I was even more Mexican than I had originally thought. It made me feel more validated and justified in how I chose to identify myself when I became more educated on the matter: Latina.

I was very self-conscious about identifying as Latina because I have incredibly light skin, can’t fluently speak Spanish, and I’m fourth generation. I only grew up with a hint of the culture and traditions from great grandparent. I was afraid I was going to be labeled a fraud by those who grew up with all of the things I didn’t. Then I stumbled on a quote from an interview with the late, great singer, Selena Quintanilla, that spoke of her Mexican-American heritage, that would forever change my life and confidence in how I identified:

“I feel very proud to be Mexican. I didn’t have the opportunity to learn Spanish when I was a girl, but … it’s never too late to get in touch with your roots.” -Selena Quintanilla

She was a woman after my own heart. It was as if she took the words right out of my mouth. I now know I didn’t need affirmation about how I identified, but it still felt good when I received it. I began to learn Spanish, and can read it quite well, but still struggle verbally. I even learned how to make my grandmother’s enchiladas. I know these small things don’t make me Latina of the year or anything, but it does make me proud of my roots, and I look forward to learning more about the culture in which my ancestors embraced.



Aleece Reynaga is a New York-based writer. She is currently attending Columbia University’s MFA program for fiction writing.

Heyday: The Anti-Spa for Facials

I took a trip to the Heyday store in the New York City neighborhood of NoMad during a lunch break. I wanted to see just how convenient a facial could be at this shop that offered high quality and somewhat pricey skincare products and facials, yet claimed to be “anti-spa”. I scheduled a 1 o’clock 50-minute facial with any skin therapist available. You heard that right, therapist. Heyday uses the term “skin therapist” in lieu of aesthetician as part of their anti-spa brand. The Heyday co-founder and Chief Brand Officer Michael Pollack decided to create an anti-spa because, “Facials have been tucked away in spas for too long. Not only are they often expensive and inconvenient there, but the story ends up about beauty and indulgence. We’ve pulled them out of the spa and into a space that’s about skin wellness. It’s about taking care of your body’s biggest organ and the one that faces the world every day.”

Soon, I checked in. I signed a quick form describing my skin history on an iPad mini. After a bit of a wait Alvina, my therapist, took me into a dimly lit back area with 2 rows of stalls that included reclining chairs, all the facial products Heyday carries, and soothing music but not the cheesy rain drops and ocean wind kind but Sampha and Disclosure. I like both of those artists. I got comfortable in my chair, Alvina drew the curtains although they didn’t completely close – something I wasn’t fond of, but spoiler it was the only thing I wasn’t fond of during the entire experience.

After a quick walkthrough of treatments and products my skin needed – hydration and brightening – she got to work and I got busy closing my eyes and relaxing. A steamed compress and Ormedic Gel Cleanser were used to remove my makeup and other impurities I had on my skin. She made me inhale three deep breaths of a lavender eucalyptus concoction and the extractions began. Imagine my surprise when they didn’t hurt at all. I don’t know why but Alvina had the magic touch. I didn’t question it and instead wavered between states of relaxation and sleepy, barely there consciousness.

After the extractions another steamed compress was put on my face to soothe my skin and thus began the traditional facial. A Moss Blemish Treatment Mask was spread on my skin to purify my pores. After about 10 minutes another compress was put on my face to remove the mask and a Lavender Honey Mist toner was introduced to further soothe and balance my skin’s ph levels. After a brief facial massage a pigment lightening serum by Alchimie was gently applied all over my face to attack bouts of hyperpigmentation. Finally, Image Ormedic Balancing Bio-Peptide Creme was used as a moisturizer to top me off and send me on my way.

After my 50-minute facial I got on the train and headed back to work happy for the reprieve, the convenience, and the best skin I have seen this season. The best part I had an email from Alvina waiting for me by the time I got to my desk with a list of suggested products to use, instructions on how to use them to achieve my 30-day skin goal, and a facial recap.

I will definitely be back in the next 4-6 weeks with better skin. I’m sure of it.


Heyday Hours & Locations:

Weekdays 8am – 10pm
Weekends 9am – 8pm

1130 Broadway
New York, NY 10010

Tribeca (Now Open!)
92 Reade Street
New York, NY 10013


Beyoncé is Having Twins

The queen of surprise pregnancy reveals, Beyoncé, announced on Instagram that she and Jay Z are having twins! What a joyous way to kick off Black History Month.

Shepard Fairey Wants You to Defend Dignity

Shepard Fairey, the artist who created Barack Obama’s 2008 “HOPE” poster released 3 new posters available for download in partnership with the non-profit, Amplifier Foundation. These posters oppose Donald Trump’s presidency and aim to ensure all people are included when politicians and fellow Americans utter the words “we the people”. Fairey’s lastest posters include a Muslim woman, an African-American woman, and a Latina woman. Fairey said, “We thought (they) were the three groups that had been maybe criticized by Trump and maybe were going to be most, if not necessarily vulnerable in a literal sense, most feeling that their needs would be neglected in a Trump administration.”

Check out and download the posters by Fairey and other artists like Ernesto Yerena and Jessica Sabogal at Amplifier Foundation.

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Hygge: The Danish Art of Cozy Living

Talk of hygge (hoo-gah) – unofficially Danish for “cozy” – is everywhere and for good reason. It’s cold. It’s dreary. And there’s got to be more to life in winter than schlepping to work in the morning with 10 layers on and schlepping back home in the dead of night when it’s only 5 o’clock. Danes are known as some of the happiest people on earth and they’re no stranger to cold weather. And in the midst of political tension and winter blues I’m certainly taking a page from the Danes. Here are 7 ways to achieve hygge, or cozy winter bliss.

1. Set the mood with candles.

2. Keep warm with cozy pajamas.

3. Be happy and drink up – tea, mulled wine, hot chocolate, etc.

4. Feed yourself with a fresh and hearty meal.

5. Taboo topics are off the table- keep it light.

6. Snuggle up with loved ones.

7. Be mindful, present and filled with gratitude for you are fine where you are.