Imagine this street, without cars…

How would our neighborhoods change if a majority of the streetscape were not used primarily as storage for cars?


Children playing a game of pick-up soccer

Older people strolling by and sitting on stoops

Couples passing on bikes

Toddlers free to walk and fall without worry

Benches full of teenagers gossiping and giggling

Someone reading a book or a magazine

If we want our streets to be ALIVE we have to put people first and reconsider that instead of being co-opted as parking lots for rarely used cars, they could be thriving centers of city life.

Aminah Ricks

"We are a reflection of our cites and our cities reflect us." Aminah Ricks
Italian Piazzas Perform

On a typical midday afternoon in springtime, this is a scene seen across the country – casual and spontaneous public life.

What is the secret to Italian piazzas?

Our friends at NextCity, attempt to share this secret in an in-depth article that examines how urban planners look to Italian piazzas in order to learn and replicate the success of attracting people to spend time out of their homes, in a communal way.

Hint – it is not just the beautiful architecture that does the trick.  Learn more here


Photography Credit: Aminah Ricks



Slowing Down for Unexpected Beauty

Living in cities, we find ourselves often in a rush, on the go, lots to do, and with little time to do it all.

However there are the moments, when by some fortunate chance, we do stop…or at least slow down, we discover beauty is in front of us.  It makes you smile; it makes you feel lucky.

Coming across the photography of Ben Fractenberg – who for over a year, found beauty in worn down, old posters within the New York City subway system –  is a visual treat.  Share these photographs.  Spread the fortune.

Roam your city.


Read in his own words, his experience and observations on this photographic find in


Photography Credit: Ben Fractenberg

A Day in Slo_Mo, A Visit to Sonoma

Carlo Petrini founded the Slow Food movement to promote the use of fresh local foods. “Slow” eventually became shorthand for a philosophy and way of life that is now applied to many activities and aspects of life, or generally as Slow Living

Sonoma is the first area in the United States to be designated “Cittaslow,” which translates from Italian to mean Slow City.  Our curiosity peaked, we decided it was time to visit and experience slow city life. With no plans, schedules nor time limit, we set off to see it for ourselves.

The short road trip from San Francisco took about an hour. We arrived on a sun filled, blue-sky day. Mother nature was doing her part.  Slowness was setting in.  We drove into the town center and easily found a parking spot (no meter, no parking limit).  Ah….


We walked at a slow pace. We looked around slowly. Yet, we took it all in one viewpoint. There were two playgrounds for our daughter to choose from.  Some shops and galleries were open, others not, which dictated our path.  We wandered around a corner to discover an amazing local bookshop named accurately Readers Books. It was cozy, with stacks of books and seating to encourage rest and a chance to peruse the offerings. Ahhh …

As hunger set, we paid for our books and decided to ask advice of the shopkeeper for a family friendly restaurant for brunch. We wanted one which would not take too much of a toll on our wallets.  We were directed to Sunflower Caffe’ –with a very casual environment, no reservations or waiting.  Order your meal, sit down with a number and wait for a server to arrive.  The offerings were varied and interesting.  There was fresh omelets with local eggs, kale and ricotta cheese. Our daughter loved the waffle and fresh squeezed orange juice.  The door was open; a fresh breeze blew in from the outdoor seating in front to the garden out back.  We took our time, eating and enjoying the food and each other.  Ahhhhhh….

Lastly, we remembered that we had a dinner party soon to attend.  We wanted to take a nice bottle of wine.  Knowing nothing about wine from Sonoma we ducked into a little place called Sonoma Wine Shop.  They focus on small production, small wineries that have no other outlet for sales.  The wines are one of a kind and the woman working that morning was great at explaining the options to go with ragu lasagna.  We left with a great and affordable gift.  Ahhhhhhhhh. . .

Our last stop in the plaza was to visit the Lisa Kristine Gallery that was showing her dramatic and engaging photography from around the world. “ Lisa has documented in more than 100 countries around the world, inspiring unity and global change as well as bringing to light such tragedies as modern day slavery and extreme poverty.

A stroll through the park, some fresh food, a great gift supporting local wineries and finally art seen through beautiful photography – slow city living did not disappoint.  In Sonoma, we eased our bodies and minds.  Slowing down, taking in the long-view of life is essential.


Photography Credit: Fabio Cuzzi


Top 5 Urban Escapes

Top 5 Urban Escapes

The city offers a symphony of sounds. Sometimes these sounds are welcoming – an impromptu jazz trio in the park, children laughing or the brisk sweeping of a storefront sidewalk.  Sometimes these sounds are unwelcoming – police sirens, garbage trucks or the screeching of brakes, avoiding a pedestrian.

We city dwellers accept the noise and chaos.  It seems a small price to pay for all the incredible benefits urban life can provide daily.  However, many city dwellers seek to find a balance between the calm and the crazy, to gain back a bit of serenity and to keep us even keeled within the urban landscape.

dining alone

Here is a curated list of our team’s favorite five Urban Escapes:

  1. Take a book, magazine or tablet to a park or street bench and pretend to read while actually people watch, being mesmerized by the un-rehearsed street theatre.
  2. Visit a favorite neighborhood cinema to watch film after film, with cell phone off and imagination on.
  3. Step into a yoga or meditation center for any class that focuses on deep breathing and relaxation.
  4. Eat alone, in a quiet café or restaurant with no need to make any effort except to enjoy a complete meal, its smells, its texture and its tastes.
  5. Go to any tall building with public access to the rooftop and take a macro view of the city as a whole, above the noise and distraction, simply appreciating the view.

 Photo Source for both images:

Elevating City Life