New York City

5 Date Nights New Yorkers Love


5 Date Nights New Yorkers LoveNew York City is one of the most romantic cities in America.

5 Date Nights New Yorkers Love

When it comes to date night options, New Yorkers definitely have the edge. The city that never sleeps is full of artistic, intellectual, scenic, athletic, artistic and downright goofy activities and events.

I mean, we've got Broadway, some of the finest restaurants in the country, the Empire State, carriage rides through Central Park, the Met, the MOMA, the list goes on...

5 Date Nights New Yorkers Love

5 Date Nights New Yorkers Love:

1) The Walking Date:

Back Camera

Whether it’s across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset, over the High Line in the afternoon, through Central Park, along the West Side Highway, or the Coney Island Boardwalk, New Yorkers love to walk. You can find everything from hiking trails to walking trails, self-guided walking tours and green spaces. The city lends itself to stunning skyline views, scenic landscaping and architecture- Bonus: It’s FREE!

2) The Creative Class Date:

5 Date Nights New Yorkers Love

With so many exciting innovations both creative and technological, New York is city where ideas become reality. People here are bursting at the seams with passion and creativity and love to share that passion with others. There exists a class, workshop or seminar for everyone. Whether you’d prefer a painting class, a language class, a ballroom dancing class or a cooking class, in this city of doers, creatives and seekers, you’re bound to find the right class for you and your partner. The city has so much to offer from free workshops to certificate courses. A couple that learns together, stays together.

3) The Museum Date:


From world class galleries, to quirky specialty spaces like the Museum of Sex and the Museum of the Contemporary African Diasporan Arts to larger venues like the Museum of Natural History and the MOMA, there is a museum to satisfy every interest in New York. Most museums offer free admission and special evening programs on certain nights. Museum dates are fun, low key and on the right day come catered with wine and cheese.

4) The Sports Date:


From Yankee Stadium to Madison Square Garden to the Barclays Center, New York is home to some of the finest sporting venues in the world. Games can be as expensive or inexpensive as you plan for. Nothing says love, like getting caught up in the frenzy of fan chants and screams as you watch the thrilling highs and heartaches associated with organized sports. Not a spectator? Try a flying trapeze class at Chelsea Pier, spar together and learn Krav Maga, take a few laps around the Rockefeller Ice Rink.

5) The Bar/Club Date:


We are a city of clubs and bars! We’ve got neighborhood bars, piano bars, dive bars, themed bars, gaming bars, wine bars and pubs. Whether you want to sit with your beloved and play couples trivia or prefer a good old fashioned prohibition era murder mystery, there is a bar experience for every couple in the Big Apple. If sitting and drinking isn't your style, dance the night away together. New York is home to some of the finest DJ's out there. Whatever your musical tastes, we've got it, from Bhangra themed club nights to Slavic Soul Funk!

Live at the Blue Note

Blue Note NYC This weekend, my trombonist hubby had the honor of playing at the Blue Note with the fabulous jazz vocalist Nicole Henry, which means, I had the honor of attending.

Perhaps, one of the most iconic jazz clubs in the world, the Blue Note, located in the West Village of Manhattan has hosted one of the most elite who's who lists of musicians since its opening in 1981.

John Coltrane
























Inspired, by Blue Note Records (est. 1939), the record label that launched the careers of such greats as Miles Davis and John Coltrane, the Blue Note offers an intimate and cozy setting in which to relax, enjoy the dying art of live jazz music and enjoy a good meal and drink.





The house was packed the entire weekend.

It's nice to know that America's classical music has a home.

Perhaps nobody enjoyed Saturday night's sets more than Ohm, who surprised everyone by sitting silent and entranced through two sets while playing the air trombone. I prepared myself to have to run to the green room every few minutes, but my two and a half year old was one of the most well behaved patrons of the evening.



The highlight of the evening for me, was Nicole Henry's performance of Blues in the Night! It was a knockout!!!! I always forget how great this song is until I hear it performed live and I get chills.

Now, I love my husband. I've never truly been "burned" by love. I don't know what it is, but I just love this song!

For those of you not familiar with the piece, I've attached a clip of Nicole Henry singing Blues in the Night. This is not from the Blue Note as recordings are not permitted. You get the idea though.

Dim your lights, grab a glass of wine, and enjoy!


 The Blue Note Jazz Club NYC

131 W 3rd St, New York, NY 10012

*Visit the site for a full schedule of performers and times. I can't wait to see Seu Jorge in November!













Rockaway Beach Is New And Improved!

Ohm and I enjoy one final day at the beach on Labor Day. Overhead, the sky was awash in confusion. A thick haze of gray stretched across the horizon. Seagulls and pigeons flew in graceful loops, the seagulls dipping every so often into the water.

In the sand, children built sandcastles, played with shovels and buckets, and set to work burying dads. Groups of hipsters with fedoras and novels huddled under umbrellas, groups of girlfriends in bikinis chatted lazily beneath the haze. The waves lapped at the sand with mediocre force as the wind created a perfect warm clear day. It was, despite the haze and threat of rain, a perfect Labor Day beach day.

This Labor Day, I went to the brand new and improved Rockaway Beach in Queens, New York. I hadn't been in years, and not since hurricane Sandy devestated the beach front. There were definite reminders of what had been. Sand bags lined the base of the boardwalk, a few houses along Ocean Drive remained boarded up and damaged, but it's not what wasn't but what was.

Homes on the block before the beach. This entire block was destroyed by Sandy. Many of the houses remain boarded.

Rockaway Beach is a great beach. With a section for surfing and a section for swimming and miles of sandy beach, it is the perfect waterfront getaway. Here you can swim, you can relax and when you're done you can visit the delicious food kiosk which offers a great selection of healthy food from veggie burgers to fresh squeezed juice. Yes, they've got your standard hot dogs, fries and frozen yogurt as well.

Pushing my stroller along the wooden boardwalk, I am struck by something. This is not the beach I remember, it's so much better.

It's hard to believe that summer is being replaced by fall already. Where did the time go?

The Bronx River Forest

A series of shelf mushrooms cling to the trunk of a tree in the Bronx River Forest. These mushrooms serve the vital purpose of decomposition.  



















For a unique New York City experience, explore the Bronx River Forest. That's right, Bronx forest. There is a forest in the Bronx. A true, honest to goodness forest. If I didn't see it for myself, I never would have believed the stories of its existence.

You descend into the Bronx River Forest, much as you would any other city park. Follow the downward sloping path into a surprising gathering of trees, note the sudden quiet, the thickening canopy of green above, the soothing hum of rushing water, the call and response of cicadas, you are suddenly transformed. The air is decidedly clear. Your feet sink into the fluffy soil below. You've discovered a special place.

The Bronx River Forest is home to many medicinal plants such as mugwart and witch hazel.





















One of the oldest forests in New York City and a natural flood plain, the Bronx River Forest, home to the magnificent 23 mile Bronx river, is the perfect place to explore walking trails, go fishing, or rafting. Whether you live in the city and are looking for an autumn day trip or are visiting the city and want to do a little more than pound the pavement, the Bronx River Forest is a sanctuary worthy of exploration.

Exiting the walking trail

For up to date seasonal happenings, check out

New York Watering Holes You Don't Want to Miss!

There is a loud pop. The band stops playing and a collective gasp is heard. At the staircase a crowd is gathering. By the bar, a man lays motionless; a circle of blood pools beneath his head. A petite woman collapses in a plume of red feathers, sobbing, howling as she pounds her fists on the body.

"Santori," She screams, black mascara tracks line her face.

"My cousin just killed my husband!"

An angry buzz fills the air. Actors scurry to the bar as patrons relax into their seats. The second scene is off to a dramatic start.  Sipping my jalapeno infused vodka and bitters drink from a white porcelain teacup, I allow myself to enter the world of the play. The band plays the old New Orleans standard St. James Infirmary as the body is marched through the bar.

Not your typical bar experience? In New York, there is no such thing.

In a city that goes above and beyond, bars are no exception. In New York, you can expect to be taken on a journey, whether that journey is back in time to the roaring twenties, to the garden for a farm to drink herbal infused cocktail or on a sensual trip to Italy via her finest wines.

Here's where to go for a memorable New York bar experience:


9 Doyers St

New York, NY 10038

In a dark alley in Chinatown, through a small unmarked door,  you'll find Apotheke. Enter to be transported to "Old New York." Behind the bar, along the exposed brick wall highlighted by candlelight, you'll find apothecary jars, herbs, bitters and a variety of liquors. Bartenders dressed in suspenders, vests or lab coats, mix, measure, whip and blend their creations. You've heard of farm to table, but have you embraced the concept of farm to bar? Here, organic herbs are infused into drinks with formulaic and medicinal precision. Broken down into categories such as stimulants, aphrodisiacs, stress relievers, pain killers, and euphoric enhancers, the menu is reminiscent of an old apothecary.

67 Orange Street

2082 Frederick Douglass Blvd

New York, NY 10026

Earl Grey infused gin? Whisky with herbal essences? Inspired by Almack’s Dance Hall, one of the first black owned bars in Harlem, 67 Orange Street is a hip central Harlem staple. 67 evokes the feel of the Harlem Renaissance. It is a small intimate speakeasy, the perfect bar for a quiet night out with your artsy friends. Be daring and ask the mixologist what drink they're working on and give the off-menu options a try. We sipped a dark chocolate margarita inspired cocktail infused with jalapeno peppers. So good.


98 Rivington Street at Ludlow

New York, NY 10002

Rustic and cozy, Inoteca is a classic wine bar (and restaurant) on the LES. The wine list carries over 500 varieties, you can't go wrong here. Inoteca is where I first discovered Lambrusco during a slow post-brunch wine break. With a ceiling to floor window wall facing Ludlow, this is the perfect spot for people watching, or if you're in the mood for privacy, head downstairs to the wine cellar, where you can relax around aromatic wooden tables with family, friends and a bottle or glass of your favorite vino.

The Back Room

102 Norfolk (near Delancey St) New York, NY 10002

Walk down a flight of stairs, crouch through a small wooden door that leads into an alleyway, walk up the fire escape and in through the small door and you've arrived at The Back Room. Come prepared to play. There's dinner theatre and there's the speakeasy bar theatre experience at the Back Room. Conjure up your finest Gatsby era attire and rub shoulders with ghosts of New York's prohibition past. Sip drinks out of teacups as you do the Charleston to a live brass band, take in a burlesque show or two on the second floor and get ready for the theatrical action as actors simulate a bar fight, a murder, a police raid and countless other scenarios.


Wine Spot

127 Macdougal Street

New York, NY 10012

Easily one of the most romantic spots in New York, Wine Spot, is a cozy, exposed brick room, in the heart of the West Village. I'm reminded of that iconic scene from Lady and the Tramp whenever I stop by. Between the french inspired cafe tables, the soft candles and delicate flower arrangements, it is hard not to fall in love. If you time it right, you can snag the chaise lounge in front of the working fireplace. This is an ideal place for a date night, but the best time to go is during the week before seven pm, as it crowds quickly.


The Plaza Champagne Bar

768 5th Ave

New York, NY 10019


For a dose of sophistication, the Champagne Bar at the Plaza Hotel is an afternoon or evening well spent. Get dressed up and relax in the luxurious lounge. The Champagne list is extensive and features some of the finest champagnes the world has to offer. With crystal chandeliers overhead, plush velvet seats and a great view of Central Park, it's easy to spend more than a few hours and dollars here. Drinks are pricy, but at least the buttery popcorn is free.


Alice's Arbor

549 Classon Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11216

Alice's Arbor is a hipster hang-out with an emphasis on farm to table fare. Part bar, part restaurant, the drink menu is as quirky and layered as the country cottage/mod decor. Alice's Arbor has a hearty wine and whisky list. When it comes to creative cocktails, it's all about the details and my favorite is the spicy jalapeno infused margarita.

Exploring the Herbal Side of New York City's Botanicas

The air is musty, almost minty and decidedly green. A row of silver machetes hang above a circular wicker basket containing Nag Champa soap. Along the far wall are endless shelves of colorful candles adorned with images of patron saints and the deities of the Orishas. Herbal bath packets and glass tincture bottles fill tubs on the floor alongside statues of Ganesh, Buddha, the Virgin Mary, Yemaya and Jesus. At the checkout counter are endless herbal sachets promising wealth, health, beauty, and various other wishes. African masks with cowrie shells for eyes and ox fur for hair, some with mouth's sewn shut, others with, wait, are those human teeth?!?, leer at you from the wall behind the register.

Botanicas have become staples in New York's Afro-Latino Caribbean communities. Sanctuaries of healing,  Botanicas are a place to find medicines, novelties and comforts from the old country. Every Botanica is slightly different depending on the origin of the owner and community, but for the most part, Botanicas are small unassuming stores that stock alternative products such as herbal oils, ceremonial candles, herbs, amulets, ritual baths and plants often associated with Santeria and its many rituals.

A direct product of the African diaspora, Santeria is a fascinating belief system that combines the Yoruba religion of West Africa, Roman Catholicism and Native American healing traditions.

The herbal practices specific to  Santeria have evolved from the indigenous healing practices of West Africa and from the Native Americans. In Santeria, the two traditions are merged to create a powerful system of alternative medicine. At a Botanica you can find salves and teas, tinctures, oils and healing baths. There is a tremendous wealth of herbal knowledge in these unobtrusive storefronts.

The Afro-Latino communities in New York, mostly hailing from Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Columbia and Venezuela have been relying on Botanicas for generations to assist with matters such as the common cold, arthritis, high blood pressure, hair loss, fertility issues, and issues related to love, finances, death and divorce. Botanicas are centers of hope and healing in these communities and provide a way for people to maintain a connection to the natural healing traditions from their homelands.

In a world where people are quick to pop a pill for every minor ailment, it's refreshing to see a return to tradition a return to the basics.

“You have any sugar?”

“No, no baby, I don’t got any sugar, but you can check next door. I got a good relationship with them.”

“How about honey?”

“Yeah, I got it. Just a second.”

“I’m in no hurry, take your time.”

The woman holding the white paper cup of tea, leans against some boxes beneath a row of alligator claws. Steam rises slowly and swirls before her face causing her black framed glasses to fog. She makes no attempt to wipe the lens.

“Can I help you?” The man in the white t-shirt says, eying me over quickly.

Beads of sweat have formed on the top of his bald head.

“I’m just looking.” I glance around hesitantly.

“Take your time.” He says before disappearing behind a dull red patterned curtain leading to a back room.

I walk by shelves stacked with china bowls and boxes of feathers. Drums and dried herbs hang above my head.

Having made my way to the back of the store, I try to take everything in, the amulets, talismans and masks.

The woman, whose long black hair is tied into a tight ponytail, breaks a leaf off of a nearby aloe plant allowing the clear slimy liquid inside to slowly drip into her cup.

Within seconds the man emerges with a plastic bottle of honey.

“A little more.” She directs as he squeezes the honey into her cup.

“That’s good.” She takes a small sip. “Thank you.”

The man disappears once more behind the curtain.

“I need some of that stuff for a sore throat. That powdered stuff you got. I think I’m coming down with something.” She calls towards the curtain.

The man returns with an amber jar and scoops a heaping tablespoon of what looks like ash into the woman’s tea.

“Thanks.” She smiles, swirling the wooden stir stick.

“Any questions?” The man looks at me.

“Yes,” I feel emboldened. “What remedies do you have for stress?”


Of course, there is a controversial side to Santeria, a world of ritual and conjuring, but as I have not been exposed to it, it is not my place to judge. I am however in absolute admiration of the herbal traditions of the faith and will make it my business to explore and support the Botanicas in my community regularly.

Below is a list of the Botanicas I visited for this post.

Botanica Universal

376 5th Ave, Brooklyn NY 11215 (718) 832-3606

C&G Botanical Inc.

1467 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn NY 11226 (718) 282-9022

Botanica San Lazaro

3834 Broadway, NYC 10032 (212) 781-7131

Justo Botanica

1702 Lexington Ave, NYC 10029 (212) 534-9140


Broadway Week/ Restaurant Week- It's Time to Visit New York!

The ornately ensconced lights were deliciously dim. Excited chatter filled the space around me as I sunk into the plush seat. With an air of quiet dignity, the curtains parted revealing a beautifully detailed, expertly lit set, a grand replica of the interior of a Victorian era brownstone.

The Heiress, a period drama set in 19th century New York City is the story of Catherine Sloper, a young woman of great affluence and fortune whom despite her training and exposure, has grown into a shy, reclusive, awkward creature.

Catherine’s disposition is distressing to her father, a prominent New York physician who wants nothing more than for his daughter to blossom into a witty, charming, fashionable beauty. Desperately seeking her father’s approval, her attempts to please him succeed only in driving him away.

Just when we think our protagonist is doomed to a loveless life of needlepoint and cats, the debonair Morris Townsend shakes up the foundation of young Catherine’s world.

The result is a sharply executed multi-layered story with universal appeal.

The Heiress stars Jessica Chastain (Academy Award® nominee for The Help), David Strathairn (Academy Award® nominee for Good Night, and Good Luck), Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey) and Judith Ivey (two-time Tony Award® winner).

The Heiress plays through February 10th 2013 at the Walter Kerr Theatre (219 West 48th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue)

This is one of the best times to take advantage of Broadway. Broadway Week is in full swing. During Broadway week, you can buy one ticket and get the second free. It’s a great way to grab a friend or a date and discover a new favorite show. It also turns out, that New York City is in the middle of Restaurant Week 2013 which is always a great excuse to dine and wine yourself into a food coma. During Restaurant Week, some the city’s best restaurants feature discounted Prix-Fixed menus. The fact that these two events overlap is very good news for you when it comes to planning and enjoying a great night out in Manhattan.

Here’s what you do to take advantage of Broadway Week tickets:

Broadway week runs January 22nd-February 7th.

The Heiress is my current top choice when it comes to plays but there are so many others.

Click here to see a list of participating shows and to purchase tickets.

Here’s what you do to take advantage of Restaurant Week:

Restaurant Week (which is more like Restaurant Month) runs from January 14th-February 8th

Click here to see a list of participating restaurants and to make reservations.


*I’d like to thank BlogHer, Have to Have, and Serino Coyne for sponsoring my fabulous Night on Broadway!

What's your favorite show of the moment?


Destination South Street Seaport

I've always been a huge fan of New York's South Street Seaport. Away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, the seaport is breezy, nautical, and reminiscent of a 20th century port.


When I first moved to New York, I would often take the train from Harlem and set up camp on the pier with a novel or my writing journal. The seaport offered beautiful scenery, free outdoor events, and a wonderful break from the chaos of many New York neighborhoods.


Definitely worth a visit, there is no shortage of things to do at the seaport. Prepare to spend hours here.

The cobblestone streets are lined with shops, the pier is dotted with restaurants offering menus ranging from the fresh catch of the day to authentic-ish Mexican.


There is a scenic walkway and park right on the water with excellent views of the Brooklyn bridge. In the summer you can enjoy outdoor concerts. If you are in the mood for a quick tour of New York's waterways, several tours leave from the Seaport, including the popular Water Taxi. There is a Seaport Museum as well as a museum hosting the world-famous Bodies exhibit.

For those holiday enthusiasts, the seaport turns into a picturesque Christmas village in the winter.

Whenever you choose to come,  wonderful moments await you at the South Street Seaport.

Head  on down here!

Stone Street, Manhattan

In the center of old New York you’ll find a narrow cobblestone street that is the very embodiment of old-fashioned charm and quirk.

Introducing - Stone street, a hip pedestrian-only strip oozing 19th century charm, modern elegance and a carefree vitality not commonly associated with New York’s Wall Street neighborhood.

First established by the Dutch in the 16oo's, Stone street has been transformed into an easygoing alleyway, boasting bars, restaurants and fabulous shops.

In the summer, spring, and fall, you can enjoy alfresco dining and abundant people watching.

No visit to Stone Street is complete without a trip to Financier. If you like French pastries, in particular macarons, then this is the place for you.



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:



I was recently looking through my short pieces of fiction to see where I could fill the dead spots in a collection of stories I'm currently working on. While this piece, "New York Minute" didn't make the cut, I figured I'd make a space for it here on the blog. "New York Minute" is a slightly (very slightly)  fictionalized re-telling of an incident that happened a few seasons back.


The afternoon was promising. It was one of those rare November days where you could smell the memory of summer in the wind bursts that placidly came and went. It was as if summer had taken an encore. Everyone and everything seemed to glow from within.  We had stumbled upon one of those ever elusive, November, your coat is optional, get up and join all of the happy people in the street before it gets too cold, days.

I enjoy showing off my city, the real city, the splendor and grit that lays beyond the insanity that is Times Square. I relished visits from out of town guests. Hailing from Japan, my group was ecstatic. On their first full day in New York, they were drinking in the full Manhattan experience. Playing tour guide, I led our expedition through narrow crowded streets, over brown mystery puddles, in and out of quirky shops, pointing out my favorite restaurants and bars along the way.

Making a right turn onto Ludlow from Houston, we had a plan. We were on a mission to sample the sweet goodness in the display case at my favorite cupcake bakery.

Suddenly, two teenagers darted out of a skateboarding shop, breaking our stride. That was when I heard the sound, a sound I will never forget. My ears rang as a guttural hacking noise, familiar in a sickening way filled the space around us. I looked up just in time to see one of the teenage boys, one of the cutter-offers, hack an enormous phlegm ball over his left shoulder.

Did I mention there was wind? Did I mention the wind was blowing in my direction and that I stood directly behind the boy’s left shoulder? Did I mention that I was mid-sentence, still raving about the cupcakes we were on our way to try?

What happened next, happened so quickly, I barely had time to react. The phlegm particles, foamy white and sticky began to divide in the air as they flew in the direction of my face. I was powerless. My central nervous system entirely and systematically shut down as I felt the saliva and mucous of a stranger spray my lips and nose. There was nothing I could do to brace myself.

Tamika and Makiko stared helplessly, silently as I ran down the list of possible diseases that could result from having someone spit in your mouth. My lips were teeming. But there was nothing that I could do.

And in a move that surprised me, I took a deep breath through my nose, wiped my face with my scarf, and continued to direct my walking tour. I felt disgusting, I felt violated, but more definitively, I was resilient. Three paces later, I turned to my horrified friends, put on a charming smile and announced, “Welcome to New York!”




A Touch of Brasil in Herald Square

I wish I were a natural green thumb. I crave green leafy goodness to enliven the dull slate that characterizes city living. Despite my best intentions, I am the curator of a string of failed urban garden attempts. Luckily, my longing to see vibrant green, eye-popping red and creamy yellow was satisfied today with a trip to the Macy’s Flower Show.

A Herald Square tradition since 1953, the Springtime show features an aromatic and beguiling array of flowers and plants making it the perfect anecdote to the gray rainy haze that regularly parades itself as Springtime in New York.

The theme of this years show is “Brasil: Gardens in Paradise.” Running from March 25- April 7, “Brasil: Gardens in Paradise” is free to the public and well worth the twenty minutes or so you’ll most likely spend on line.

The show is housed inside a large tent (spanning just under a block) located in front of the main entrance to Macy’s at Herald Square.

The windows at Macy’s, similar to the pomp and circumstance of the Christmas season, are decked out in the festive fashion of Brazilian Carnival.  Allow your feet to shuffle and step  as Samba music escapes onto the street.

One step inside the show tent, and one is greeted with warm humid air, the smell of earth and greenery, the sound of birds and running water, and a colorful quilt of exotic plants and flowers.

Designed to resemble various floral landscapes in Brazil, you will be transported from a waterfall beside a bridge, to a porch in Rio, to a market square and on and on as you stroll through the tent. Sensual and compelling, “Brasil: Gardens in Paradise” is a journey that transcends time and place.

*Note: The Flower Show hours are the same as the Macy's store hours.

Visiting New York? Try a vacation rental.

  When it comes to planning a New York City vacation, there are numerous accommodation styles worth considering. From hostels, to bed and breakfasts, to hotels and motels, you can find a little bit of everything in Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs. But did you know that there is also a booming rental market for city guests? Whether you’re in town for a weekend, a week, or an extended stay, apartments and condos can be rented for a comfortable and authentic New York experience.

I met up with Fred Owens, a licensed New York real estate agent partnered with Kian Realty NYC where we got the chance to talk holiday/vacation rentals and tour some available units.


Sojourner:  Why should visitors to New York City consider renting apartments as opposed to staying in hotels?

Fred:  While visitors from all over the world dream of one day waking up in the “city that never sleeps,” the cost of lodging in New York often prevents travelers from experiencing some of the most quintessential attractions the city has to offer such as a Broadway show or a night out on the town. So, in order for visitors to get the most out of a New York City vacation without taking out a second mortgage to stay at a top hotel, vacation rentals can be a lower-cost alternative. Choosing a vacation rental makes a lot of sense for travelers who prefer a home away from home environment. Whether traveling with children or with more than a few guests, sharing space, a kitchen, laundry, private bedrooms, and all the amenities of home makes for a more comfortable and pleasurable vacation experience.


S: Are apartment rentals easy to come by? What is the process of renting an apartment?

F: Vacation rentals are very easy to attain, however, it is very important for visitors to understand what they’re getting.  Travelers should be sure to ask the landlord key questions such as: A) What is the pet and children policy? B) What is the cancellation and payment policy? C) How many people can stay? D) When/Where you’ll need to pick up the apartment keys?  E) Is daily maid service included?

If the landlord does not offer one, always request a rental agreement/contract. This usually covers payment (such as security deposits and refunds), check-in and checkout information, fees, and other details. This can help protect you should a disagreement arise.

As with any other lodging, travelers will have the most options for location and amenities the further in advance they reserve accommodations.  It’s also important for travelers to keep in mind that they will most often be staying in an apartment building where people live full time. Being courteous is a must.


S: Does a visitor have to be in New York for an extended stay for these rentals to be worthwhile?

F: No. The average hotel price in New York City is $300 per night. Most vacation rentals are often less expensive than hotels, there’s more space and more amenities. Also, staying in a vacation rental can give travelers the sense of living in New York City instead of just visiting.


S: What amenities do rentals come with?

F: Amenities vary; however usually standard is a kitchen with cooking utensils, refrigerator, bed/s, linens, Wi-Fi, and Cable/Satellite TV.


S: How would someone go about finding apartment rental listings?

F: There are many websites, which travelers can use to seek vacation rentals in the city. One of my favorites is When travelers are exploring the various sites, it is important that they be aware of rental scams, which are an unfortunate part of the vacation rental industry. Employing the services of a local licensed real estate agent, such as myself can help provide travelers with keen insight on safe and desirable areas of the city as well as landlords who can legally provide vacation rentals.


S: Are there listings across the five boroughs?

F: Yes. While every borough has vacation rental options, the most desired rentals tend to me in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Fred Owens at a property on Wall Street*If you have questions or would like to search for a rental, Fred can be reached via email at or via phone at 212.757.8268 x126.




In Search of Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free Delicious Desserts

“I’m going to recommend, if you still want to breast feed, due to the nature of Ohm’s allergies, that you adapt a total elimination diet so that we can determine the source of his irritation.” “What does an elimination diet entail?”

“No dairy, no eggs, no nuts, no soy and no wheat.”


“Absolutely no dairy, eggs, nuts, soy or wheat.”

“What can I eat?”

“Not very much. I suggest you stick to the hypo-allergenic baby formula.”

And there I was, standing beneath the fluorescent bulb of the examination room, my diaper clad infant splayed across my lap, six red raised splotches on his back, confirmation that he was indeed allergic to everything. I had a decision to make. I was being forced pledge ideological mommy allegiance. To breast feed or to formula feed. I was a breast feeder. I believe firmly that a mother’s milk is best. I nursed my son through the early pain and frustration until it became a comfortable part of our daily bonding. But after three and a half months, Ohm began to break out in horrible hives and eczema patches began to take over his soft baby skin. I was referred to a pediatric allergy specialist where I received the devastating news:  no dairy, eggs, nuts, soy or wheat if I were to continue breast-feeding.

I am an eater. I love food. With no allergies or food sensitivities, my system has never let me down; I have never known what it means to do without. Determined not to back down and give in to formula feeding my son, I gathered my list of things I must do without and attempted to move forward, cold turkey.

I’m lucky, to live part-time in New York where I have access to an enormous variety of niche foods and options.

A dessert girl through and through, the most difficult thing for me to give up was my thirst for baked goods and tasty sweet treats. After a little research however, I was able to find several bakeries with delicious alternatives to cater to my vegan, gluten-free, egg free, soy free and nut free needs. To my surprise, not only did I have options, I had a plethora of delicious and alluring desserts to choose from.

If you are faced with a similar plight as mine, or are on a strict diet, or simply want to sample a twist on your baked goods classics, here are some New York (Manhattan and Brooklyn) bakeries sure to satisfy your sweet cravings.


 Sun In Bloom: Vegan, Gluten-Free and Raw Kitchen in (Park Slope)

460 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217


My favorite things here are the chocolate-chip whoopee pies and the cupcakes.


Luv Tea Café (Clinton Hill)

14 Putnam Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11238


You will find gluten-free/vegan snacks amongst the regular snacks. Everything is clearly marked. My favorite is the flourless dark chocolate cookies.


Champs (Williamsburg)

176 Ainslie St, Brooklyn, NY 11211

(718) 599-2743

Yummy cupcakes!!!!




248 Broome Street (Btwn Orchard & Ludlow)

New York City, NY 10002


Try the cinnamon buns, they are fabulous! You’ve also got to taste the cookies.


Of course there are other fine establishments, but these are the ones that I frequent. I'd love more tips to update my list if you have any.

* Side note, despite indulging in sweets, clear skin and weight loss are great side effects of the elimination diet!

Hotel Week NYC

Happy New Year! We made it, it’s January, and January means hotel discounts throughout New York City. After charging exorbitant prices during the peak holiday season from November through December, New York City hotel prices drop to amazing lows in what is called Hotel Week.

Similar to Restaurant Week, where New York’s finest restaurants make way for the common man, offering reasonably priced prix-fix deals, Hotel Week, which runs from January 6th- 15th, makes the city’s most exclusive hotels accessible, if only for a little while to the masses. Hotels that are easily well over $500 dollars a night become available for anywhere between $100-$250 per night.

This is the perfect time for New Yorkers and visitors alike to plan a weekend getaway.

Tired of your apartment, your neighborhood, and the dreary predictability of January? Book a night or two at one of the participating Hotel Week hotels and see Manhattan through a new window, a high rise panoramic one offering some of the best views in the city. In fact, let yourself go, order room service, relax in the hot tubs and saunas, and get a massage. You wont have to pay for a flight and you’ll leave feeling refreshed as if you’ve gone away.

For those of you who don’t live in the city, if you can brave the cold, January is one of the best (in terms of price) times to visit New York. Not only are there post-holiday sales in the stores, but you can take full advantage of the winter wonderland that New York can become this time of year, from carriage rides in Central Park, to Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center.

Here are the deals:

$100 a night at the Pod Hotel, Z NYC Hotel, and the Hotel at Times Square

$200 a night for Andaz Wall Street and the Hyatt at 48th and Lexington

$250 a night at the Hotel Gansevoort


Happy 2012!

The Christmas Light and Window Displays in Manhattan

I love Christmas. For as long as I can remember, I have experienced what can only be described as full body possession by a deranged little elf towards the culmination of Thanksgiving dinner.  Dropping my fork, after my final serving of desert signified one thing and one thing alone- Christmas season had descended yet again.


This year was no different. With my final buttery bite of pecan pie on Thursday night it began. No, I was not elbowing my way into stores at the crack of midnight, the shift was more subtle, more about the sentimentality that the season ushers in. A feeling that causes one to hang stockings and string lights in order to make everything look a lot like Christmas. And I was in good company, because as I was preparing to make my apartment look a lot like Christmas, my city had grander plans.


One of the best times to visit New York is during the Christmas season. Manhattan hosts some of the most elaborate display windows and lights displays of the holiday season.  Best of all, you don’t need to spend a cent. As free to enjoy as air, anyone can enjoy the city’s festive flair. So grab a cup of savory hot chocolate ( preferably from Le Masion de Chocolat - so blissful) and enjoy a walking tour of  some of Manhattan’s finest Holiday displays.


When I set out to see the sights, I began at Macy’s on 34th street and 7th Avenue.


Next stop, Lord and Taylor on 38th street and 5th Avenue.

On to Saks Fifth Avenue at 50th street (ish) and 5th ave.


When I was done there, I made the trek over to Rockefeller Center where I caught a glimpse of the giant spruce (not yet lit) and watched the skaters take a few laps around the ice. The plaza was fully decorated as were many of the shops nearby.

Henri Bendel's at 56th street and 5th ave

Now on to one of the most elaborate displays of the evening- Bergdorf Goodmans at 5th avenue and 58th street (ish).

After taking in all of the Manhattan holiday sights and sounds, I am inspired to outdo myself this year when it comes to decorating my apartment for Christmas.