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Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

A Touch of Brasil in Herald Square

In New York on April 1, 2012 at 8:42 pm

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.

In New York on March 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm


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 VRBO.com. 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 fowens@kianrealtynyc.com or via phone at 212.757.8268 x126.




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

In New York on January 20, 2012 at 1:58 pm

“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

In New York on January 1, 2012 at 5:20 pm

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

In New York on November 29, 2011 at 3:15 pm

The Cartier store, wrapped up for Christmas

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.

Macy's display window


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

Lord and Taylor

Lord and Taylor display window

Lord and Taylor display

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

Saks 5th Ave

Saks window display. What you can't see is the woman riding the unicycle in the background.


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.

The Plaza at Rockefeller Center

The tree at Rockefeller Center waiting to be lit

Teuscher Chocolatier on the Plaza

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

Those are Rocketts above the door at Bendel's

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

Goodman's display

Like a scene out of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Goodman's

Goodman's window

Golden Goodness at Goodman's

Under the sea at Goodman's

Bergdorf Goodman's

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.


My approach, will be much more subtle than Fendi's however- yikes!