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January 5, 2009

Our Secret

Happy New Year one and all.

Conservatory Gardens The city offers many hidden treasures, not the least of which is this gorgeous pocket in uptown Central Park. I didn't know its name — The Conservatory Gardens — until I found a recent blurb about it but I have been amazed by its beauty for several years now. It looks just like this photo. You feel as if you are momentarily living in a place like Versailles. You become an instant poet just by visiting. It's on 104th Street and 5th avenue but don't tell anyone. It's our secret.

October 12, 2008

A Beautiful Spot

Glen Island Park is right near my current stomping ground of City Island.

Glen Island Park

This shot doesn't do the grounds justice. A beautiful spot to walk along the water by, especially at night. A little oasis in Westchester. Ahhh.

October 9, 2008

Eiffel Tower Has the Blues

France's Tour Eiffel or Eiffel Tower, probably Paris' most famous landmark, is decked out in blue light for six months in honor of being the current head of the European Union. The blue light with yellow stars signifies the EU flag. A gorgeous architectural tribute.

Blue Eiffel Tower

Photos by Linda Mathieu — by way of Just Muttering

September 17, 2008

Asian Design Today

Monday evening, I attended a lecture and exhibition reception at Sotheby's titled Creative Hong Kong. The event was co-chaired by the IDSA, which is how I got invited and heard about it.

Creative Hong Kong

Established designers from Hong Kong spoke about their work and thought process. All were men and all were well-traveled and spent plenty of time in the U.S. and Europe as well as Hong Kong, although all were born and raised in Hong Kong. Their approaches ranged from playful to serious. All the designers spoke about not maintaining a primarily Chinese or Japanese focus, however, there were elements in their work, in both practical and philosophical terms, that came from an Asian aesthetic. They were influenced greatly by practical needs of space constraints and traditional ways of living in Hong Kong. I had never been to an event at Sotheby's before so it was a nice opportunity. The building is very nice and the larger exhibition of which this lecture was a part was on display. It was a civilized New York art event; nice to be a part of it.

July 3, 2008

Loving Your Job

This little guy loves his job.

Loves His Job Would we were all so well suited to our daily tasks. I found this cutie pie on Hula Seventy, which I found following an enjoyable train of links including the following interesting resources:

Coudal Partners

Gelato Baby

Jim Flora

Irwin Chusid

Wardomatic

Hula Seventy

Which is where this happy guy resided, under an orange-themed day. 

June 23, 2008

The Island of the Color Blind

Oliver Sacks is probably my favorite living nonfiction author, although his stories have the action, drama and intrigue of a good thriller. He is “An investigator of the mind's mysteries, in a class by himself,” says Publisher's Weekly.

Books by Oliver Sacks

A few of Oliver Sacks' entrancing books:
The Island of the Colorblind
, Migraine, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

For anyone who doesn't know his work, Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who writes like a poet. Some of his books, all true stories, have been made into movies, such as Awakenings, starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro, directed by Penny Marshall and At First Sight, starring Mira Sorvino and Val Kilmer. Dr. Sacks' brilliance and impact is because he is a scientist who looks at his subjects like an artist, thereby allowing developments and conclusions that others might miss.

The Island of the Color Blind focuses on the tiny Pacific atoll of Pingelap, where Dr. Sacks traveled, spurred on by reports of an isolated community of islanders born totally colorblind. Dr. Sacks set up a clinic in a one-room dispensary, where he listened to these achromatopic islanders describe their colorless world in rich terms of pattern and tone, luminance and shadow. The adage that “when one door closes, another one opens” happens neurologically also. People with extreme limitations in one area often seem to develop or be granted extreme capabilities in another area. Apart from the innate intrigue of the subjects Dr. Sacks covers, his studies provide profound awe at the depth of the human spirit and appreciation of the scientist's acceptance that people are not just a set of physical facts.

Speaking of islands, Oliver Sacks used to live here on City Island. It said on the back of one of his books, "Oliver Sacks lives on City Island where he swims and grows ferns.“ It was, in fact, one of the three things that introduced me to City Island and made me curious what such a place in the midst of New York City could be. Alas, he had already moved off when I moved on.

Oliver Sacks' latest book is Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. It “examines the extreme effects of music on the human brain and how lives can be utterly transformed by the simplest of harmonies.” I can't wait to read it. Also worth reading are Seeing Voices and A Leg to Stand On, one of my favorites.

Books by the fascinating Oliver Sacks

If you believe that there is inherent value in people, you will like the writing of Dr. Sacks. If you are interested in unusual neurological occurrences, you will like the writing of Dr. Sacks. If you are an artist who knows that the unseen and the seen are two sides of a coin, you will like the writing of Dr. Sacks. If you enjoy a good thriller, stories with surprising conclusions, you will like the writing of Oliver Sacks. In short, if there is anything in which you are interested within the depths of human nature, you will find Oliver Sacks' tales well worth your time.

June 14, 2008

Z is for Zoo

Friday I went to the zoo.

Magnificent peacock

Dazzling peacocks moseying around the grounds 

Seeing nature's vibrant colors up close is startling. What was really fun about the peacocks is that they were behaving like pigeons, walking around the picnic tables hoping for tidbits. We saw giant camels, lions and a polar bear. Turns out the Bronx Zoo is very near my home stomping ground of City Island so I intend to visit more often. We took a ride on their pleasant trolley that transports you through the gracious grounds. Here is my niece Avery with her lovely blue tongue from our lunch of science fiction-colored frozen blueberry and grape drinks with pretzels, potato chips and nachos made from what looked like the sides of taxicabs (plastic or metal combo of yellow cheeselike substance). A great time was had by all.

Avery with a blue tongue

Avery displays her peacock-challenging turquoise tongue 

May 9, 2008

What Not to Do on Mother's Day

Mother's Day is this coming Sunday, May 11th.

Mother and baby bear

While it's great to celebrate the incredible effort of mothers and to honor them, I was raised being told that this type of holiday is a “greeting card holiday,” meaning that it was invented purely as a money-making proposition. I think my parents are right, although it's nice to take a moment and celebrate the arduous challenge of being a mother. Not being a mom yet myself, I am in extra awe of the work moms put in. It's hard enough to try to hold down any sort of job, get your own basic needs taken care of, let alone do the laundry. But try to get some tyke off to school? Rush them to the emergency room? Help with homework? Who wants to do homework?! Not to mention pay for a thousand things. Animal mothers work their butts off for their offspring too and perform heroic feats to protect their little ones. The mother instinct is a beautiful thing.

Meanwhile, whatever you do to acknowledge mothers, do NOT come to City Island on Mother's Day. For some unknown reason, the entire borough of the Bronx and more seems to swarm here on Mother's Day and you cannot get on the island after a certain hour. Why anyone would want to put themselves through this is beyond any of us residents. Last year, I had to leave for some reason and it took over an hour to get through a five-minute section. This is not the day to visit our cute spit of land. Come the day after or the day before but do yourself a favor and avoid it like the plague on the actual day.

May 5, 2008

Happy Cinco de Mayo

Today is Cinco de Mayo or the fifth of May in Spanish, a day of celebration.

Mexican food

Officially, the holiday commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle of Puebla in 1862. In reality, in my part of the world, it's an excuse to celebrate and eat Mexican food. A group of my friends and I went to an early outside festival on Sunday (the 4th) in Peekskill and had Mexican food at Ruben's Mexican Café, as well as at the outside fair. There was much merriment, music, food and fun, although the restaurant was strained way past capacity. The food was mostly great with one odd exception being the nachos. The guacamole was fantastic. The day turned out to be beautiful despite a week-long prediction of rain. We got to spend more time at the Flat Iron Gallery which was, as before, inspiring.

April 27, 2008

Art is Everywhere

Spontaneity is not my strong suit; I like planning so I can be prepared. Nevertheless, yesterday my friend Susan took me to Peekskill, New York for a spur of the moment visit to get us out of our too-familiar routines. The right kind of spontaneity can renew your faith in the world's unforeseen opportunities and shake us out of our limited views.

Art in Peekskill, NY

Above, L to R: “Theatre in the Streets” photograph by David Small, Kevin Kall Oil Stick Painting, two of the many fine artists whose work is on exhibit at the Flat Iron Gallery in Peekskill, NY

Peekskill is a town that is on the comeback trail, having recently witnessed an extensive renovation of their main theater, which was host to a concert by opera singer Jesse Norman last night and will present a concert by jazz/pop singer Phoebe Snow in May. Coffee shops, a tea house and several art galleries are nice places to peruse nearby. We had an amazing concoction of fresh scones with home-made whipped cream (nothing like the canned kind) and a mountain of fruit at Kathleen's Tea Room (she doesn't want a website). Then we were lucky to wander into the Flat Iron Gallery, which houses hundreds of talented artists. Proprietor Wendy Garber eagerly showed us around. Without her, we wouldn't have realized half of what was there. My friend and I were both inspired. It's great to share ideas with other creative people; it leads to new thoughts and possibilities, both personal and artistic.

More art in Peekskill

Above, L to R: “Floral Pastures and Cows” in oil by Steve Frim and “Thumbnail” from Sanguine Nudes by Andrew Lattimore

April 26, 2008

Poignant and Superb Films about Jewish and German Atrocities

Movies have an uncanny ability, when done well, to take you inside a time period and characters' lives. I've seen a wealth of movies over the last year, all foreign creations, dealing with issues relating to Jewish and German struggles.

The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others focuses on an East Berlin Stasi (State Security) official's spying on an artistic couple's lives and his personal transformation. It sensitively portrays a realistic character's life-changing experience through tragedy and the equally powerful concept that art cannot be suppressed any more than love can be, regardless of tyrannical ruling forces. One of the best movies I've ever seen. Lead actor Ulrich Müre is mesmerizing. The extraordinary major motion picture debut by director and screenwriter Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck.

Black Book

Blackbook is a blockbuster style movie in cinematic beauty and effects while telling the story of an invincible young Jewish woman caught in Holland during World War II and forced to flee for her life. She subsequently takes on several identities and ends up working as a spy. She moves to Israel after the war; one of the only movies I've ever seen that shows an inside vantage point as to the huge modern-day significance of Israel for many Jews. Great acting, particularly by the astonishing Carice Van Houten.

Nowhere in Africa

Nowhere in Africa follows the true story of a family where the husband realizes that Germany is becoming unsafe for Jews in the late 1930s so they move to Africa, one of the only relatively safe options at the time. The daughter (real life author, Stefanie Zweig) grows up with an unusually varied cultural view. The wife struggles with Africa's difficulties and deprivations. Their whole family back in Germany is killed. And life in Africa is still unsettling for Jews, not to mention that an intellectual lawyer has to learn to work a farm. Powerful and moving.

Aimee and Jaguar

Aimee and Jaguar centers around a wealthy married woman with young children and a gutsy Jewish woman who meet and eventually fall in love (the married woman's husband is a lout). Stylish, believable and emotional, it's a very different take on World War II tales, based on the real life experience of the married woman (Lilly Wust as told to writer Erica Fischer). Another in-depth and beautifully done portrait of a scary time in history.

Aurevoir Les EnfantsAu Revoir Les Enfants is based on director Louis Malle's own life story about a Jewish boy who was hidden in his boarding school during the time of World War II. Criticisms have found this film cold but I found it poetic in its spareness; the story of children told simply. The talented young Jewish boy is eventually found by German soldiers and killed. Very sad.

These movies passionately portray gut-wrenching cruelties committed during the time of World War II primarily and have made me feel as if I know what it felt like to live at that time and with such conflicts and pain. However, perhaps my favorite in this exemplary bunch is The Lives of Others, focusing on the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is astounding to me that Germans created the situation of the East German Stasi and the Berlin Wall after having gone through World War II. It's almost as if they wanted to punish themselves and their own country.

April 14, 2008

In Praise of Edamame

Delicious and pretty edamame (sometimes incorrectly spelled edamane) is a Japanese vegetable that's soybeans in pods.

Delicious and Beautiful Edamame

Edamame contains fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals in high numbers. It's lots of fun to eat too, as you pop out the feisty beans from their pods. I've had it a few times. Once was at an Asian fusion restaurant in Manhattan and it was superbly prepared, with spicy, salty outsides that enhanced the beans as you worked them into your gob. Then they're also irresistible in a crispy snack from Trader Joe's. The simple at-home way to prepare them is just to boil water, plunk them in, add a little salt, bring back to a boil and cook for five minutes. They're yummy hot or cold, very low in calories, very good for you, very satisfying and very GREEN.

April 12, 2008

I'm a Little Teapot

These graceful little teapots by HuesNBrews come in a variety of sizes, styles and colors and reminded me and my friends of beautiful housewares by Russell Wright from the 1930s.

Great Tea Pots by HuesNBrews

In person, there's a slightly antique quality to the ceramic as well as the Deco-ish design. The above pots hold tea for two but these come in a few sizes. The coolest thing about these — and other similar designs that can be found lately — is the easy-to-use removable strainer. The strainer sits neatly inside the top and makes using tea leaves a breeze. It also makes the brewing process simple since you can remove the tea leaves after two–five minutes, the recommended amount of time to not over-brew your tea, which varies based on the type of tea being brewed (black, green, oolong, white or herbal).

Caffeine Reduction Tip 

You can make caffeine-reduced tea by steeping for 30 seconds, discarding the liquid and re-steeping for the recommended amount of time. This in-the-pot strainer makes that easy to do. I got mine at the Silver Tips Tea Room in Tarrytown, mentioned a few entries ago, a very relaxing place to spend time. Really nice designs.

March 24, 2008

Tea Time in Tarrytown

Tarrytown is one of the pretty towns on the banks of the Hudson. I used to have fun driving there for sessions with a music hypnotherapist. I adore singing and sing with my own jazz band but have serious issues with performance anxiety. The hypnotherapy was really just relaxation therapy and it was soothing but didn't solve my issues completely. However, I loved the drive to and from historic Tarrytown.

Tarrytown, New York

Last week, I had the treat of another trip to Tarrytown to the Silver Tips Tea Room, an unassuming restaurant with great food and countless tea varieties. My sister made the suggestion that we meet there because it's around half way between where she and I live. The day was sunny and crisp, the drive as much fun as I remember, the food delicious and the company warm and welcoming. My sister has a new line of gorgeous original jewelry she showed me, about which I am very excited. I will be taking photos and will entice you with some of her great designs. Afternoon tea with a sympathetic companion is a delicious brew.

March 16, 2008

Four Leaf Clovers to You

Apparently, the Chicago River gets dyed green in annual celebration of St. Patrick's day, which is tomorrow, March 17th.

A green Chicago River

Since green is probably my favorite color, I can't help but commend them, St. Patrick's Day or not. Meanwhile, here's wishing you the luck of four-leaf clovers, with or without finding any. We all know that true luck comes from within, but just to hedge my bets, I have a hot date with a leprechaun tomorrow afternoon. He's a saucy little sprite, is he. And while I'm not Irish, I am half Scottish, although some Brits would probably tell me that that's way off. I have, on occasion, been told that I look "Black Irish," which I love because it's a striking look with very dark hair and very light skin, a combination I do have but since I went to an international school, I know what the "real thing" is and it's utterly captivating. There is a short road passage near me that looks enchanted at twilight where I know more leprechauns will be dallying tomorrow so I'll have to pass by there.

December 10, 2007

Bring on the Bad Weather

Happy feet make for a good day. And good design makes me happy. I believe it makes everyone happy, just some people know it and others use well-designed objects and don't realize why they like them better. Now that winter is upon us, it's especially time for bad weather gear. The boots below are all gorgeous, high style footwear that also happens to be weather or waterproof.

Gorgeous Weatherproof Boots

Weatherproof Boots by L to R, Stuart Weitzman, Aquatalia by Marvin K, Brilliant 

I own the boots at left, purchased at a very good sale price from Gotham City Online. I also own a pair by Brilliant, the maker of the boots on the far right. Both have held up amazingly in bad weather. The Brilliant line is specifically made for snow and is more casual and less expensive than the other two examples in terms of quality and style. Although all these examples are suede, they are not delicate to wear (they look it, though) and are warm and toasty. It's a thrill to have nice footwear on snowy days when you sometimes think you'll have to put boxes on your feet. The chic pair at left, by Stuart Weitzman, well known for his rain-proof line, has held up perfectly. I was afraid to get them soaked but got caught in a torrential downpour and they look unworn and kept my feet dry. Aquatalia is a line made to be good-looking and resistant to bad weather; they hold up. These boots are not cheap (approximately $150 – $450 range) but are worth buying instead of a couple of other pairs, as you can wear them more and longer and continue to look and feel great. You can also find great deals online if you hunt. Sudini is another maker that offers a similar nice product in the less expensive price range. Now, if these great designers and manufacturers would just go full-speed ahead and make this footwear in brilliant colors, the world would be an even better place.  

November 25, 2007

Critter Blessings

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill is a film (also a book, a separate project) that documents the life-changing relationship between a flock of wild parrots living near Telegraph Hill in San Francisco and a man named Mark Bittner.

Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

A powerful and touching real tale, this is one man's journey that led him where he never expected. Anyone interested in the lives of animals, self-exploration or who has empathy for people whose paths are not always direct will appreciate this story. The documentary is beautifully put together, with sensitivity but not sentimentalism. The film won multiple awards and the book has been a New York Times bestseller. You will never look at birds the same way again.

October 14, 2007

Favorite Spots & Expanding Horizons

My friend and client, Peppy, has been on a long, adventurous road trip as she makes her way (with her equally intrepid husband, Eric) to San Diego, moving from New York. I design her website and set up her travel blog for her and love following their trail. It has made me think about places to be and visit.

When I close my eyes, my favorite places to imagine look something like the image above — gracious spots where you can wile away time, alone or with a friend — in a garden-type setting that has both wild growth and cultivated aspects to it. I hope to have my own garden that looks like this some day. There's a small beach at the end of my block that I and many of my friends love deeply too. It's not kept up well but it has a magnificent view of three bridges, a usually gentle ocean (being on the bay side of the island which is calmer), picturesquely run-down slabs to sit on and a light breeze coming off the ocean. This is a good place to reflect and take a break from the hustle bustle in which we can get so caught up. Trips like Peppy's open our eyes and minds to how much the world has to offer. Sometimes we get stuck in one way of seeing and being. It's great to get unstuck and breathe a little.