OMG. Gong Xi Fa Cai. Did I forget to say happy Chinese New Year? Quel dommage (French for “oh my goodness”). The first new moon in February always ushers in the beginning of the Chinese New Year, celebrated with Peking duck and a gong that is rung every time it is served, all in the name of good luck. The new moon also ushers in the season of Lent, where you might want to give up the Peking duck along with some other delicacy as a symbol of reflection. With Lent comes Mardi Gras–or is it the other way around, with Mardi Gras first, then Lent? Get it right.

Remember the time when a good Chinese restaurant could be found on practically every corner? In a puff, they all seemed to disappear, replaced by Chinese takeout and delivery-only. A few still do remain. One of our favorites is the Chinese restaurant located on 97th Street and Broadway. The restaurant itself is roomy, comfortable, has good service, good food, good prices–and, best of all, they deliver uptown, although the delivery man will stand at your door and look at you if you don’t give him a good tip, at least what he thinks is good.

Of course, if you really want to go authentic, there’s the Peking Duck House, located at 28 Mott St., right in the middle of Chinatown. Peking Duck House serves in the traditional Beijing style, believing that duck brings happiness and luck.

What in the world is Peking duck, you may ask? Well, it’s all in the preparation, my dear. Cooked until the duck’s skin is crisp with the meat inside still moist, it is then thinly carved and placed into pancakes with scallions and then drizzled with a rich hoisin sauce. Yum. The Mitchells, though, are a little partial to cold sesame noodles with peanut sauce. Throw in an egg roll and hot mustard with a Coca-Cola on the side and I’m good.

The General is a newly opened Chinese restaurant located at 199 Bowery. Featured is a shrimp dish with snow peas in garlic sauce that’s pretty much to die for.

Each Chinese New Year recognizes one of 12 different animals. You will have to Google the exact origin of the tradition. All I can tell you is, this is the Year of the Snake. Those born in the Year of the Snake, which include 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001 and 2013, are said to be charming, elegant in dress, something of a skeptic and a deep thinker who likes to judge by intuition. And, lest we forget, also one who is fortunate in wealth throughout life!

Falling on the night of the first full moon, which this year will be Feb. 24, is the lunisolar new year. This is celebrated with the Lantern Festival, which brings an end to the Chinese New Year season. There are several traditions associated with this festival and many cities have spectacular lantern displays, where children make their own paper lanterns. The traditional food associated with the Lantern Festival are Yuanxiao dumplings–sticky rice dumplings with sweet or savory fillings. Along with Black History Month, there is something to look forward to all month long.

Something else to look forward to is daylight savings time, which is only three weeks away. That’s interesting news to me because the occurrence of DST seems to keep changing. I thought it didn’t occur until some time in April. Somehow, if you don’t really try to keep up with these things, you never find out for sure when DST is until the weekend thereof. Usually, it’s by chance, when you notice public clocks have been changed or when you either oversleep or wake up too early and find the time on the cable box has changed.

Hear ye, hear ye. Applications are now available to take the MTA Bus Operators test. From now until Feb. 26, all those interested in applying to take the exam should run, not walk to the MTA website, where you can apply online. You may also submit an application via U.S. Postal Service. Of course, there is a decent starting salary along with benefits, and all that is required is a Class B Commercial Driver License valid in the state of New York. Don’t worry if you have a past that haunts you, as even those with a felony conviction may apply. It’s all good.

Please forgive me, as I forgot to mention that Fred Terrell, husband of Jonelle Procope, CEO of the Apollo Theatre Foundation, was also at the Studio Museum in Harlem’s gala–and looking quite dashing, I might add. Did I forget anyone else? Of course I did–after all, there were over 500 people there.

I want to say thank you to Connie from the Bronx, an avid reader from whom I received a letter regarding my post on Beyonce singing at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. First, let me say, it is always so good to hear from you, dear readers, as I love to know of your thoughts. Secondly, for those who may have interpreted my words much like Connie did, contrary to the thought, I do like Beyonce, really, I do. How can anyone not like Beyonce? While her voice is sometimes great and sometimes irritating, she’s talented, beautiful and in love with her husband. I just know the plight of struggling artists who only need a break, but how can they get one if only one person gets the spotlight all the time? Some say Beyonce is on her way to becoming an icon. Hmmm. Like Obama, I welcome differing points of view and encourage a lively discussion, so for anyone else who cares, I can always be reached by mail via the Amsterdam News or at montana2us@yahoo.com. I plan to write in return, dear Connie, just hold on.

According to life coach Patti Greco, “You can have perfectionism, or you can have connections. You can’t have both. People don’t connect with perfect people.” In other words, people like people who show their humanity and compassion. We can strive to be good, even excellent at what we do, but we don’t have to be perfect. Greco goes on to say that sharing secrets is good, based on the premise that “secrets equal shame.” Share the secret, get rid of the shame. Well, I have a problem with that. How about when someone plans a surprise birthday party? That’s a secret, and it’s a good thing if it doesn’t leak out. Think about the last time you went to a surprise birthday party and everyone yelled “SURPRISE!” and the person was moved to tears. Or the allure of a well-dressed person who wears a hat or something revealing, just a dash of skin, as if they have a secret–the intrigue can be inspiring. Yes, secrets are for sharing with someone you love, for bringing friends close together or maybe even a sense of empowerment. Millions were made from that old TV show “I’ve Got a Secret.” Isn’t one of the lyrics in an old Blue Magic song, “And we can share a secret…”?

I love having someone I can share a secret with, don’t you? If you don’t have that someone, then take the time to find one and share a secret–it’s good for the soul.

Until next week … kisses