Imagine my surprise while riding the 101 bus across 125th Street–I couldn’t believe my eyes: The Gap Outlet Store has opened.

“When did this happen?” I exclaimed. Where have I been? Inch by inch, 125th Street is becoming what it always used to be, a major commercial corridor, with stores and shopping for everyone. They’re lining up, one by one, side by side, just as they did in the olden days. Joining the enterprise is Shell’s Bistro, located on Fifth Avenue and 132nd Street, which has an all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch and live jazz at 6 p.m. It’s a must; check it out.

In continuing celebration of the Year of the Snake, the Philharmonic Orchestra held its second annual Chinese New Year Gala, raising over $800,000. The evening began with a traditional dragon dance along the Lincoln Center promenade, followed by a cocktail hour, topped off with dinner and concluding with a concert in true Chinese tradition inside Avery Fisher Hall. It was a little bit of yin and yang with performances by Herbie Hancock and Peking opera star Yan Wang, among others.

Meanwhile, the annual winter gala for the Museum of the City of New York, held this year at the Pierre Hotel Grand Ballroom, raised roughly $500,000, benefiting its children’s program for New York City school children. Good cause and good party. The food was great, the speeches short and the music was by DJ David Chang. The crowd was mainly cliquish, as everyone knows everyone, with only a few newbies sprinkled here and there to keep it interesting. However, a good time was had by all, so what the heck?

Are you ready for this? Just when you think there is an organization, benefit, gala and committee for everything, another one pops up. This time, it’s in recognition of the turtle. Yes, that little creature that we love to watch and the soup we refuse to eat. Indeed, the first annual Turtle Ball was recently held at the Bowery Hotel. It brought out a few heavy hitters, where everyone had their own personal turtle story or, if nothing else, philosophy. What does a turtle make you think of?

Seeing as how I am too much of a scaredy cat to have a pet that’s bigger than the palm of my hand, growing up, I always had a pet turtle and a pet fish. Until they became listed on the endangered species list, you were able to buy them at the pet store. To me, the turtle was always a safe little creature. He was so cute when he stuck his head out to chomp on a piece of lettuce, and just plain adorable when he snuggled his little head into his shell for a long winter’s night. I recall one day taking my turtle to the doctor’s office, located on the lobby floor of my building, after he hadn’t been moving for awhile, I thought perhaps he was sick. “Looks like he’s dead,” the doctor replied; and off he went to turtle heaven.

I would love to take my turtle out of his bowl and watch him scamper across the floor, or feel his little paw grasp my finger. As they were never a bother or someone you had to spend a lot of time cleaning up after, turtles were my favorite pets. There was a time when you could find someone selling them in a little container out on the sidewalk. I never could figure that out but there they were and I was always ready to buy one. I remember buying one for my father once. I named him ZaZu Pitts; my father named him Muscles. Eventually he went the way of all turtles, off to that big turtle heaven in the sky.

Until the Turtle Ball, I don’t think I’ve thought about the turtle in years. I do remember a couple of years ago when Jerry Della Femina was all prepared to host his annual Fourth of July party on Main Beach in East Hampton, when the town council suspended all holiday activities because the turtles were mating. Della Femina, being Della Femina, decided to have his party anyway. After all, what’s a $25,000 fine after spending $80,000 for the bash? Somehow the authorities got wind of it and, well, I don’t know what happened from there, but I do know Femina didn’t have the party.

OK, so the weather has been rough and you’re bored to tears from having to stay inside. What to do, what to do? One of my favorite things to do at times like these is to change the entire apartment around. Totally re-arrange the living room. Move pieces that have been in one place since forever, clean out that dusty corner and switch pieces from one side of the room to the other.

It’s also never too late or too early to clean out your closet. Just make sure you have a king-size shopping bag nearby to dump in clothes you haven’t worn in years (they say if you haven’t worn it in three years, you never will). Give them away to someone who will just love that shirt, dress or sweater that no longer fits or just isn’t your style anymore. The next person will love it and it will make you feel better.

If you really want to make it fun, engage your mate in helping you move things around, especially those heavy pieces of furniture. Just because the couch is heavy doesn’t mean it has to sit in one place forever; shake it up a little. Before you know it, time will have passed, you will love your new look, and if you clean as you go, that fresh aroma in the air is all you need to feel like a brand new you.

Until next week…kisses