New York

Ring in Chinese New Year at Congee Villiage

It was an uncharacteristically warm afternoon for New York. Gliding effortlessly into Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge, the sun was high, illuminating the water in glimmering patches of silver. We were on our way to Chinatown to see the Chinese New Year parade in honor of 2014- the majestic Year of the Horse.

Along the narrow cobblestone streets of Chinatown, barricades had already been set up, a small crowd had taken its place, giving the drab, snow and ice coated streets a burst of color.

With twenty minutes until showtime, we would have just enough time to park and slip into a place along the parade route...only there were no parking spots- not a single one. For thirty minutes, we circled Chinatown and the Lower East Side. There wasn't a single available spot. Even the parking garages were full to capacity (what?!?).

In the distance we heard the drums signaling the beginning of the parade. We could make out a colorful red dragon undulating its way down the street. Our wheels spun over the icy street.

On the sidewalks, children skipped and yelled, popping cherry bombs against buildings and sidewalks. Shops were closed, gates down with signs in Mandarin or Cantonese and English announcing : Happy New Year- Closed!

"At least we can grab some food!" Mark, always in the mood for Chinese food suggested. It was clear the parade wasn't happening.

So, instead of making our way towards the music and colorful floats, we made our way down Bowery towards Congee Village.

Known for serving up authentic Cantonese food, Congee Village is an award winning restaurant that is heralded by foodies. Bizarre Food's Andrew Zimmerman himself isn't opposed to the occasional visit.

Ohm was fascinated with the fish in the indoor pond.

After miraculously securing a parking spot almost directly in front of the restaurant, we were ready to re-claim the day of the horse. If there wasn't going to be parading, then there would most certainly be eating- lots of it.

Though mainly written (I believe in Cantonese), there are some English subtitles to help you navigate the menu.

We settled on fried vegetarian dumplings, two chicken dishes and vegetable lo mein.

The food was delicious!

We didn't need so much as an ounce of sauce as everything was seasoned and flavorful. The lo mein noodles were light and flat, the vegetables fresh and sauteed to a vibrant glossy green crisp. The chicken was tender and arrived pretty much in tact.  It was such a far cry from your typical Chinese take-out experience where the vegetables are soggy and microwaved, the noodles gummy and heavy and the chicken gristly, gray, and covered in a thick starchy sauce.

It was a great meal!

Fully sated and invigorated by our taste journey to China, we accepted the fact that we missed the parade, because we had gotten much more than a quick glimpse of China, we had an authentic and delicious taste.



Congee Village

207 Bowery New York, NY 10002


Discover Beauty and Peace at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden  

















On a clear Tuesday morning not too long ago, I was let in on a secret.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Under the shade of Eastern Parkway I pushed Ohm. He sang Row Row Row Your Boat on loop as we set out for a day of adventure in Prospect Park. The wheels of his massive red stroller handled the uneven gaps in the sidewalk with ease. Past the Brooklyn Library we rambled, approaching Prospect Park when something caught my attention.

Out of the corner of my left eye, I noticed a string of diaper bag laden nanny's pushing strollers through the open gates of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

What's this? I thought to myself as I followed, creeping curiously towards the gate. Then I saw the sign Free admission on Tuesdays until noon! Our plans were suddenly and serendipitously changed as we too entered the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden



































It turns out that trees aren't the only things that grow in Brooklyn. The botanic garden is home to several thousand species of plants, flowers, herbs, trees, shrub and wildlife.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is located off of Grand Army Plaza, between Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Library. If you're planning a trip to Brooklyn, you can tackle all three of these wonderful landmarks.

The Garden has three entrances:

150 Eastern Parkway 455 Flatbush Avenue 990 Washington Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11225

Tuesday–Friday: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday & Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Mondays

Take a Trip to Bountiful!

The shadows on the wall indicate the passage of time. Lying awake, the full moon overhead, you’re anxious. You are compelled to go, to run into the quiet street. The dull ache in the center of your chest, the pulling, the heaviness begins to flutter- “Bountiful…” the whispered word tumbles from your lips before floating into the night sky like a prayer.

On a muggy evening, earlier this week, I made my way through the buzz of electric excitement that is Times Square to the intimate Stephen Sondheim Theatre to see The Trip to Bountiful.

Expertly directed by Michael Wilson, The Trip to Bountiful features an esteemed cast of actors. Cicely Tyson, who won the Best Actress Tony Award for her role as Carrie Watts, gives one of the most profound and memorable performances on the stage this year. Every subtle nuance of Carrie’s struggle was captured effortlessly. Vanessa Williams, as Jessie Mae Watts was seamlessly demanding, cantankerous and endearing. She was an antagonistic character you couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming empathy towards. Cuba Gooding Jr., played the role of Ludie Watts radiating a profound internal sadness.


Aesthetic perfection was achieved with the set, at times gloriously backlit in optimistic specks of amber and cerulean, at others, a reflection of a still star spangled midnight sky. The costuming - stockings, slips, beautifully patterned dresses with matching coats, pearl necklaces and bracelets, rolled hair, gloves, clutches and hats, was authentic and stirred in me a nostalgia for an era I was born decades too late to have experienced.


This brings us back to Bountiful, a place Carrie has clung to, a light in the darkness. Home often isn’t necessarily where we live. It isn’t always the place we hang our hats and lay our heads. Home is more profound than that, more powerful. Home is the place our fondest memories were made, the foundation that built the defining stories of our lives. Home is the place we aspire to go, when everything else has failed us.


The Trip to Bountiful runs through September 1st, 2013 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre at 124 W 43rd Street.




I will present one lucky reader with two tickets to The Trip to Bountiful. Here’s how to enter:


1) Sign-up for my newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter

2) Follow me on Facebook

3) Follow me on Twitter and Follow Bountiful on Twitter

4) Share this post on your FB page

5) Tweet this post using the hash tag #bountiful and @sojossojourns

The winner will be selected and announced on Friday, July 12th.

* I’d like to thank the Britto Agency for the tickets and for sponsoring the giveaway!

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Email Format

If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them: A Times Square Photo Essay

One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around. ”  -Anne Lamott


It is in the spirit of A. Lamott that I create this post.

The sun had just disappeared and the sharp pinks, blues and yellows of the billboards and signs, illuminated us at once.  Like Peeps on a rapid conveyer belt, we cruised down pockmarked sidewalks, at times spilling over onto the smoky street. Without warning I was being rushed. Whizzing past my right side, tourists clamored to the street corner, elbows bent like wings, cameras posed as the symphony of snaps and flashes began. Not to be outdone, I joined in. I wasn’t quite sure what I was snapping, but I didn’t want to miss out. It wasn’t until the first two rows of people had cleared, that I discovered I was for better or for worse taking a picture of a man dressed as Edward Scissor Hands as he gave a hair demonstration on the corner of 43rd. Caught up in the enthusiasm, I had become a tourist all over again.

It was Saturday; I was looking forward to a quiet weekend in Brooklyn. I had a bunch of things to catch up on, a yoga client whose session I needed to prepare for, my sister was in town, writing to do, instead, I found myself hastily packing a weekend bag in full flight mode. Quite unexpectedly I was fleeing my Brooklyn apartment so that an exterminator could step in and work his magic. One of the joys of city living and making a home in an old brownstone is the ever-persistent parade of vermin. Since I have Ohm, who is not yet one, and since you can take the girl out of the suburbs, but you can’t take the suburbs out of the girl, we left for a few days to let the chemical residue subside and for peace of mind.

Dusting off my Starwood points I found a last minute deal at the Four Points Sheraton in Times Square. My stomach lurched, Times Square, with its boisterous parade of clamor and glare was not where I wanted to be, then again, neither was my infested apartment. Times Square won, and so it went, that I found myself heading off to my least favorite part of Manhattan, the tourist trap called Times Square on a Saturday afternoon during the peak of its frenzied lunacy.

On a typical day, under normal circumstances, I avoid Times Square by all means. The only exception to this rule is if I am going to take in a show. When this happens, once I surface above ground after riding the train (good luck finding parking), I dart purposefully towards my desired location weaving expertly around tourists stopping too long and most inconveniently to take photos and around vendors attempting to dazzle rather forcibly said tourists into making purchases they don’t need.  After the show, I embark on the same sprint back to the train, where I shuffle down to the village or back to Brooklyn for after theatre drinks and food. Being jostled about and forcibly packed into narrow, neon, noisy streets (hey alliteration), with a bunch of strangers inevitably too close for comfort I find off-putting.

Times Square is not now, nor has it ever been my scene. My weekend of refuge in Times Square has not changed this fact. It has however changed the way I view the area to the extent that I can now appreciate this part of my city, that I had long ago written off.

Times Square is like a flashy but good-natured cocotte. She holds nothing back to lure you in. The buildings are quite impressive. The amount of energy that is compressed into one tiny space, as long as you’re not in a hurry, can be quite invigorating. There is something fanciful about watching a parade of taxis whirl down Broadway. There’s comfort in the sweet smell of roasted nuts, the melodic harmony of foreign languages, and one does get the sense that they can do anything, be anything beneath the spotlight of Broadway theatres (even if Disney has almost taken over). Times Square has her charm, she has her time and she has her place.


If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them: A Times Square Photo Essay: