Sunday, January 31, 2010

SundayStills - texture

During a bitterly cold winter day, a visit to a conservatory will lift one's spirits immeasurably.
... the sun shone brightly while inside
a water wheel at Allan Gardens
amaryllis against weathered barnboard

the cactus garden
... where texture abounds

see more textures at SundayStills

Thursday, January 28, 2010

feeling peckish?

Why don't we go for a little walk. Perhaps find a bite to eat. If you are visiting me, chances are we will head out for a meal because, well, you'll want something more than toast, won't you? And it is so nice to eat out - the selection of different foods all prepared for you by someone else, served to you by a friendly waiter. And all the prep and clean up done behind the scenes. Then you saunter home to a tidy kitchen with no mess or smells to deal with, for a comfortable visit with a glass of wine....

The hardest part is choosing where to eat.

I live mere blocks away from the downtown shopping area.
We could walk along the Lakeshore and stop at any one of these eateries

or we could wander along some of the side streets to find these options

or venture up the main street for about 4 blocks for these delicious attractions

Whichever way we go
it will take only about 15-20 minutes to pass them all.

My treat.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

an estate worth visiting

Shopping is not one of my favourite things to occupy my time. Unless it is in a foreign country. Or an antique store. Which, in a way, can be like shopping in a foreign land.

There is a certain allure to antique shops. You never know what you are going to find. Some places cater to a very specific era like Victorian or Mid Century Modern or to clientele with upper class tastes for lots of needs-to-be-polished silver. Some are elegant while others a total mishmash. Some are more junk than antique. One thing they do have in common is a high turnover rate with no idea of what may be in stock next. Even if you are not particularly an antique lover you can usually enjoy a moment or ten perusing items that may remind you of your childhood, or finding a lovely Moorcroft vase that you never knew you had to have until that particular moment.
Some items may or may may not be actual antiques (like this vase I found on the internet, but it is a particularly fine example of modern Moorcroft Pottery)

And antique dealers are a different sort than your usual shop owner. They will often negotiate a price, sometimes even before you start demurring. Afterall, there is always more stock coming in. Someone could walk in the door with a stack of numbered prints or a phone call could come about Mother's estate that no-one in the family wants, or a restaurant could go to auction... room is always needed. I do believe they want to see their treasures go to someone who will really appreciate them. And it is not unusual to find a dealer who will spend a fair bit of time excitedly showing you various objects that he knows you have no intention of buying, but because it is so beautiful or unusual and he wants you to see it.

I have had dealers like Carrie phone me to let me know that there are more lampshades in like the one I was admiring a few months ago. There is Robert who will wrap up an item I am trying to talk myself out of buying and put it aside for the next day when I will return with money. Yes, you really need this. Of course, you need to have shopped there many times and made yourself known to them. Otherwise, you learn to buy it before someone else does, remembering that you cannot return it.

So you can imagine my dismay at seeing a MOVING SALE sign outside my favourite antique shop a short walk away from my house. No one was happy. The rent was raised to such an astronomical amount that he had no choice but to leave. There are still many other great antique shops not too far away, but none quite like Robert's and none within walking distance.

There will, however, be a new restaurant within walking distance...

More on that later.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

where I have been not so busy with things that do not involve blogging

The cafe was nearly empty for most of the afternoon, which suited me just fine. Perhaps not so for the proprietors, so I went up and got another coffee and added a cinnamon bun to my order. Diet be damned. (I know, I could have had a salad, or a sandwich, but the bill in my pocket turned out to be only a $5) I had a book to read that I cannot put down and I enjoyed the peace. Stieg Larssons' The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - highly recommend it, if you like mysteries and thrilling family sagas. It is at best, an exciting engrossing read and at worst, a confusing engrossing read. The family tree included has become the most thumbed page in the book.

I sometimes feel a twinge, when I slink past my local coffee house, the one I used to patronize at least twice weekly, to go to my new favourite coffee house. They are both friendly with very good coffee, but this other one has more of the comfy chairs and has many more bigger windows to let in the light. And it does seem a shame to leave my very bright, sunlit apartment to come sit in a dark cafe. I like to drink coffee out. It seems more sociable, even if I am alone. And I can get more writing done when I am out, for some reason. And today I had five postcards to get written. One day I will upload pics of the latest postcards I've received and share more of them with you.

Anyway, I walked past my LCH to come to the new favourite one that was so quiet yesterday. I walked in the door, out of the cold, and was met with a line up to the counter and not a seat to be spared! With a deep sigh, I turned, clutching my book, and walked back to LCH, where I was enthusiastically greeted by name. And where the overstuffed chair by the window sat empty, waiting for someone with a book that cannot be put down.

the pic above has nothing to do with this post, it is simply a lovely plant that a friend gave me and I promised to display it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

my trip #3, or meeting interesting people

Reading a map is a skill I am proud of having. But, every now and then, it fails me. Like when I’m coming up to street level from a subway. Subway entrances can be very disorienting. So I was rechecking the map, one more time, after having walked for hours and hours.

“Where you going? You already been looking at that map.”

“I’m just checking the best way to get to the Brooklyn Bridge.”

“Oh, girl, you almost there. Here, I’ll show you, come on.”

I really wish I could share his accent and his laugh, but you’ll just have to imagine it.

cable net of Brooklyn Br“I was going to play there, but man it’s cold. I was going to play my sax on the bridge. Sometimes I’m here, or on 42nd St” “You play a sax? On the bridge? Isn’t it awfully windy?”

“Yeah and cold. Man, it’s cold. But, well, maybe I’ll try. Maybe there’s some other crazies on the bridge and I’ll make $3, $4. Come on, there it is, see?”

“I’d love to hear you play. Did your sax warm up enough in the subway so you could play for me?”

frozen water tower I give him a dollar as he searches for a cigarette. He needs a light, but no one else seems to have one either. I wish I’d brought the matches from my hotel room. I remember the next day to put them in my pocket in case I run into him on 42nd St., even though I have no plans to be down that far.

More talk, about Brooklyn, how long he’s lived here, tourists… I stop to get my camera out, he’s still talking and walking on ahead… suddenly realizing I am lagging…

view Brooklyn Br“Oh man, you got a camera, I might have known. Come on girl, you gotta keep up. And stay on the right. Don’t stop to take pictures or you gonna get run over by some crazy guy on a bike.”

playin' the sax He is happy to finally get a light and heads to a bench to get out his sax. He plays for a bit, but the sun is setting and I need to take pictures.playin' the sax 2 When I come back, he’s gone.

sunset Brooklyn Br Then there is Erna. She needs a big shout out. I met her at the airport. She was searching for a student and I was standing out in the cold, waiting for a limo that never showed up. Sound familiar? First visit, I lose a hotel; second I lose a limo! A friend had insisted on ordering me a ride, so I wouldn’t have anything to think about when I got off the plane. It was a nice thought that went awry. Erna’s student was nowhere to be seen and after several phone calls on my cell and me hopping into her car so she could run inside at two different terminals to look for her… eventually the girl is found and Erna offers to drive me into the city for my help. I pay the tolls and she takes me right to my hotel. We chatter the whole way. Much more fun than being on a shuttle bus, or train with stone-faced people. I perked up when I saw the skyline and maybe even squealed when I saw the Statue of Liberty (because I hadn’t expected that for some reason) even though I was not all that interested in her – but it was a sign that I really was on holiday. We drive uptown and I give her a running commentary on the things we were seeing that she didn’t know about, highline to standard hotel

like the Highline, the old railway tracks that has been converted to an above ground natural park space and

Gehry's Iceberg

the IAC building that is shaped like an iceberg, built at the pier where the Titanic should have arrived.

Friday, January 15, 2010

my trip #2, or put the camera away now

The main point of my visit to NYC was to eat see certain exhibits at certain musea (sorry, I cannot write museums).Orozco 1 Now, galleries have a responsibility for the exhibits they put on display. The temperature and lighting are just so. The spacing is designed for maximum viewing and flow.

So it is extremely annoying to have people stand in front of displays and chat on their phones or, worse … tim burtontake photos. Take photos in spite of the ‘no photography’ signs you have to walk around to get into the room of the display. In spite of the signs that are on stakes at waist level, or on the floor, or where the wall meets the ceiling. In spite of, even, the security people shouting out as you enter the room: there are no photos allowed inside this area.

Now, I found a certain thrill at seeing some of these things in person. And, yes, I did take a couple of pictures where it was allowed. But in nearly every room someone tried to get away with taking pictures when they shouldn’t have used a camera or a flash. And get away with it they ultimately did.

samurai treeReally, though I’m pleased with this, it doesn’t even come close to conveying how it felt (or looked) to be in a huge room full of these panels. Or how it was to sit and quietly contemplate each one to see the changes in c olour combinations. Just as any blurry picture taken quickly from a camera phone would only be a disappointment; a throwaway shot if taken on film. There are books to buy that may be expensive (though the one for the Tim Burton exhibit was not) or post cards that all have perfect photos if you need a souvenir. Or, here’s an idea – look it up on the internet where almost any image can be found.

So, to the woman at the Silk Road exhibit at the Hayden Planetarium, who took pictures of pretty much every display despite several warnings from the security guard – 6 times she was told to put her camera away – what possible reason could you have for such behaviour? Why should you not have been asked to leave and had your photos deleted by the guard? Now, that would be a good response to such blatant misbehaving. Just as you might have had your film ripped out of the camera if you ignored the warnings or took a picture of something considered ‘secure’.

That day may come again. Maybe the guards would like to have a little more disciplinary power, instead of just repeating themselves all day.

polaroid photogs

I liked these guys who were using a Polaroid facsimile type camera.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

my trip #1, or stop talking now

I offer you one observation from my trip: most of the average New Yorkers on the street are friendly, helpful and willing to talk; most of the travellers in the airport or on the airtrain, not so much.

All you had to do was stop walking and look confused and someone was offering to help you on your way.

At the airport, there was little but grumbling. Even though the lines looked like they snaked for a mile or more, we moved through fairly quickly. No one seemed at all interested when I commented the airtrain car was full of gentlemen when I noticed that all four men were standing so that the four of us women had seats. Nor was there any reaction when I pointed out a falcon exercising his wings on the railing beyond the platform. Maybe they all thought I had one of those silly Bluetooth thingies and was not talking to them.

Or maybe I am just practising too intently on my transformation into one of those old ladies one avoids. Not the one at the checkout counter who meticulously counts out her change after the sale is rung up. No, I am becoming the one who chatters endlessly to anyone within earshot.

As someone who was painfully shy as a child, this is a little strange to imagine.

However, at least that makes for some good conversations with some interesting people on my walks around Manhattan.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Over the years, my handwriting has changed. Actually over the course of writing a letter my handwriting can change. This has always fascinated me. I can actually write a word with multiples of the same letter and each time that letter will be written slightly differently. I don't know what this says about my personality. That I am inconsistent? unreliable? or just creative?

In some ways, I like the old style of writing, where every one learned cursive script the same way. You can identify the writing of a prewar letter by its style, and an 18th century script by its flourishes. But I also chafed against it when I was in public school and I remember arguing with a teacher about why I couldn't write my b as it is printed. I have practiced writing my a or a and I am totally inconsistent with the tails of my g and y. I actually longed for a name that began with Q just so I could write that letter every time I signed my name. I have never, ever, ever, signed my name with a heart or a circle over the i. I am proud of that.

I am not so proud of the era where I thought it was cool to write with a serious back slant. Or the time when it was so tiny as to be almost unreadable. Now, I find I start out writing huge letters before they finally settle down to a more appropriate size. Sometimes I will look at my penmanship as I write and wonder if my hand is possessed, it looks so unrecognizable.

I have a collection of pens for this task, too. Some are the run of the mill Bic (though I always preferred Papermate) and many are now of the gel variety. Depending on my mood, I may use a fine, or very fine point, though in my heart I prefer the medium point with the wide swath of dark blue ink. I like the way the pen scratches on the paper and even the way it makes an indent when you press too hard. Writing is the one way we can all display our creativity or individuality. We also display our mood and personality as we write. You cannot detect that from a keyboard.

Now most of my writing is on postcards. And with some of the long names or addresses from places in China and Finland, for example, I need to be vigilant and neat, and write small to fit it all in. It is at times a challenge to write neatly, but I do want these people who may not be so proficient in English to at least be able to read what I’ve taken the trouble to write. I have seen some pretty elegant handwriting on some of these cards that I would like to emulate. I have also, unfortunately, seen some that I could not decipher at all, mostly because of the script, not necessarily the messiness. I try to guess about the writer – their age or sex or interests even, before looking up their profile when I register the card. I also received a card from another blogger and found her handwriting to be exactly as I would have expected. That does not always happen. Sometimes, one is appalled by the chicken scratches that other people pass off as penmanship, or surprised by the flow of letters that doesn’t seem to match the personality.

So, bearing in mind all I have said above… I have tried several samples and this seems to be the best I can do today. It really doesn’t feel like me. and yes, that is purple ink.

this post inspired by Jazzpoor writing sample

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday AMuse

"Steampunk is a way to combine the past and the future in an aesthetically pleasing yet still punkish way... that combine the scientific romanticism of the Victorians with our real present and imagined future." The Steampunk Home

the monitor on this Victorian all in one computer is designed as a stage
there is step by step instructions on how this was 'built' here

the arms of this monitor are from gas lamps
again, full instructions for this creation can be found here

even a flashdrive was rehoused...

makes your plastic model look kinda cheap, doesn't it

Sunday, January 3, 2010

my eyes have seen...

So, where have I been?
Nowhere and everywhere.

I have finally gotten my new progressive lens glasses and believe you me, they take some getting used to. I took them to the movies with me while I gazed at George Clooney staring at goats and dispensing advice of air travel. I took them off and replaced them with cool 3D glasses for A Christmas Carol and Avatar. I have been practising with them by watching tv and reading at the same time. Reading a new Grisham and the first Steig Larsson. I can't put either one down just yet. Watching marathons where I went to The Office in Pennsylvania and Florida with The Golden Girls. Then I discovered a way to watch almost anything from television on the internet (ninjavideo) so I caught up with the dark side of Florida with Dexter and balanced it out with a bit of Glee. There was another charming bit of Dickens with a rather young Derek Jacobi in Little Dorrit for eight straight hours. Then some more time travel with Mad Men and finally with the End of the Time Lord himself with Dr Who.

At least my eyes muscles got some exercise.
I am exhausted.
Even though it is still rather cold here, it has warmed up enough for me to venture out for a coffee. Where there is a fireplace, to finish my book. Where I may practice writing while wearing my new glasses.