Friday, April 22, 2016

The Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden

(click on photos to enlarge)
I went recently with my high school friend, Suzy Ferenczy MacEnroe, to the New York Botanical Garden located in the Bronx to see the Garden's annual Orchid Show. What a great time we had. The New York Botanical Garden is situated on 250 acres where over one million living plants grow in extensive collections. Besides its different gardens, it is a major educational institution dedicated to conservation and research, employing 80 Ph.D. scientists.

The Garden was created at the end of the nineteenth century and was inspired by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, near London. The great New York financiers of the day funded the Garden which was designed by Calvert Vaux, who designed Central Park with William Olmstead. At the end of the nineteenth century, New York City was becoming a great world capital, with a new library and a new art museum, and the Botanical Garden was part of that development, as it brought plants and the beauty of nature to the city and its urban dwellers.

The jewel of the Garden is surely the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, which is the largest Victorian glasshouse in the United States. Opened in 1905 and recently renovated, the glass and iron marvel includes ten glass greenhouses where all kinds of plants are displayed. Suzy and I took the MetroNorth train together to the Botanical Garden stop and headed straight to the Conservatory to see the Orchid Show.

Inside, we followed the signs to the Orchid Show. We filed through the various plant exhibitions - the rain forest garden, the desert garden, the water lily garden. It felt like we went through all ten greenhouses! "Where are the orchids?" we thought, "Did we miss it?" We kept following the signs. Finally, we came upon it - an explosion of orchids -

The Orchid Show was in two rooms and there were orchids everywhere - sprouting out of rocks, hanging from trees, lining a waterfall, displayed on tables. It really was an eyeful.

On the clear sunny day, outside the glass windows, the beautiful garden was in view and the blue sky beyond.

There was Debussy piano music playing in the background which added to the delight -

Suzy and I paused in front of a orchid-covered waterfall for a pic -

Orchids were crowded onto tables - what luxury.

Boxes of orchids packed in a crate on the floor were ready to be displayed. It would be nice to have just one!

We kept walking around looking at everything. There were so many flowers to take in. Each petal looked like it was handpainted.

Finally we left, satisfied that we had found it. We walked to a nearby cafe and sat outside and ate lunch. Inside the gift shop, an array of orchids were presented for sale - smart!

A ride on a tram offers a tour of the full Garden and all that it includes. As it was early in the season, there was not a lot in bloom on our view from the tram as it rolled up and down the verdant hills -

but I know from experience that the Garden is glorious in season. Go in June to see the rose garden in bloom! The Brooklyn Botanic Garden also offers a rapturous rose garden in June. Suzy and I were so glad to see the annual Orchid Show, which ended on April 17. Coming up May 14 - Sept. 11 is an exhibition called Impressionism: American Gardens on Canvas, which sounds wonderful too.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Trip to Murray's Cheese

Murray's Cheese, at 254 Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village.
My brother Thom and sister-in-law Karen invited family over for dinner on Easter and I thought it would be nice to bring some cheeses so I headed down to Murray's Cheese on Bleecker Street, which is a delightful destination. Murray's Cheese was founded by Murray Greenberg in 1940 so it has been in institution in the Village for more than seven decades. Rob Kaufelt bought the business in the early 90s, and has expanded it with a branch in Grand Central Station and shop-in-shops in local grocery stores across the country. Additionally, the store is committed to education, offering cheese classes and a cheese bar next door.

It's always fun to go and shop there. The people who wait on you - yes, they are called cheesemongers - are very helpful and knowledgeable, and they give you little tastes of the cheese. And there is a huge case of selections to choose from –

Ok, so I have read in magazines that for a cheese platter, you offer a soft cheese and a hard cheese and something in between, which is what I told the guy who was helping me. I think it was his first day on the job. But he was very eager to please. We started with the soft cheeses. He suggested a brie and gave me a little taste of it on a small wooden knife. It was ok. He offered a taste of another, and I asked for something not so soft. The young woman working next to him suggested the Fromage d'Affinois, which was creamy and mild and buttery. Wonderful. He took out a big knife and cut off a piece and wrapped it in paper and attached a detailed and descriptive label of the cheese.
Then we moved to the hard cheeses –

A customer standing next to me was tasting a hard cheese and she said, "It's like golden light." I said, "I'll have what she had." It was Beaufort Alpage, which an eighteenth century gourmand named the "Prince of Gruyeres." The descriptive label on this cheese said, "Enormous 85 pound wheels are trundled down from the Savoie Alps at the end of fleeting summers where indigenous cows have feasted on sloping meadows of flowers and grass." Delightful!

We moved on to blue cheeses. I tasted a couple. Another cheesemonger suggested Chiriboga Blue, which was moist and earthy and a little mineraly. I got a wedge and as I was waiting, more of it was sold - it must be a popular blue. Then I got some crackers to accompany the cheeses. I picked up Firehook Sea Salt Mediterranean Baked Crackers, which are crisp and dry and speckled with sea salt. I like a little fruit with cheese so I also got dark Kiwi Natural Artisan Crisps with Date, Walnut and Fennel.

At the party, I put the cheeses and crackers on one of Karen's platters with cheese knives.

We drank a cold pale pink rose wine. It was all delicious. Stop by Murray's in New York or one of the branches if you can. The service and the product are great. It's a wonderful local business, which is getting rarer and rarer here in New York City. Many of our neighborhood pleasures have been crushed by escalating New York City rents (Restaurant Florent, Camouflage, Mxyplyzyk, our sushi place) and our neighborhood grocery store is closing because the landlord is TRIPLING the rent. Hopefully Murray's Cheese will be around for a long time.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ernest Heminingway at The Morgan Library

Ernest Hemingway in Paris in 1923.

"You have the sheet of blank paper, the pencil, and the obligation to invent truer than things can be true. You have to take what is not palpable and make it completely palpable and also have it seem normal and so that it can become a part of the experience of the person who reads it."
Ernest Hemingway

So begins the exhibition on Ernest Hemingway now up at The Morgan Library on Madison Avenue, which we went to see on Sunday, the day after the big blizzard here in New York City. Like many, I am fascinated by Hemingway, particularly during the Paris years in the 1920s when he was hanging out with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Juan Gris, Diaghilev from the Ballets Russes, Gerald and Sarah Murphy, and many more. One of my very favorite books, which I have read numerous times, is Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, which is about this period and, which I learned in this exhibit, was published posthumously. This one-room show at The Morgan focuses on Hemingway's work between the two world wars, presenting early manuscripts, galley proofs and letters. 

Hemingway was raised outside of Chicago and eshewed college to work for a short time as a cub reporter at the Kansas City Star newspaper where he adopted his writing style from the newspaper copy guide: Use short sentences, use vigorous English, eliminate superfluous words. He was enlisted to the Italian front in World War I and so began Ernest Hemingway's adventures, far from the American Midwest. In Paris, he and F. Scott Fitzgerald really invented a new American literature. 

Hemingway in uniform in 1918 -

There are many interesting documents in this simply mounted show including an interview with George Plimpton at The Paris Review in which Hemingway reveals that he wrote the last page of Farewell to Arms 39 times. "Was there some technical problem there? What was it that stumped you?" asks Plimpton. "Getting the words right," replied Hemingway.

Hemingway at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris in 1923 -

Also presented is a reading list which Hemingway gave to a young writer - Flaubert, Tolstoy, E. E. Cummings and Henry James make the cut (click to enlarge and read) -

The exhibit notes that Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954. This show steers clear of Hemingway's personal life - there is no mention of his four wives or his suicide by self-inflicted gun shot wound in 1961. (Hemingway's father also committed suicide and his granddaughter, the stunningly beautiful American model Margaux Hemingway, died of a drug overdose at age 41 in 1996.) I think some personal context would have been helpful and that The Morgan might improve the design quality of its installations. But I really enjoyed this up-close look at an American genius, there until January 31.

Afterwards we wondered around the museum and into Mr. Pierpont Morgan's libary, which was completed in 1906 and is one of the great rooms in New York -

Then we repaired to the Cafe in the sunny glass atrium where we sat under a green leafy tree and ordered lunch and a glass of Chardonnay. It was a lovely way to spend the day after the blizzard.

Blog bonus:
Read Lillian Ross's profile of Ernest Hemingway in The New Yorker from 1950.
Read George Plimpton's interview with Hemingway in The Paris Review from 1958.
(Don't you love the internet?)

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Night at the Opera

The cast of La Bohème takes a bow in front of the golden curtain.
The other night TD and I went to the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center to see La Bohème. I always love going to the Metropolitan Opera. Everything is dark red velvet - the seats, the carpeting, the walls - it's like being inside a jewel box. Also people really do dress up to go to the opera so it's good people-watching and you don't see the casual, sloppy clothes worn to Broadway theaters. I've always wanted to see La Bohème, which is the Met's most performed opera. There is that great scene in the movie Moonstruck where Cher and Nicholas Cage attend a performance of La Bohème at the Met. And of course it's fun to go at Christmastime as there is a beautiful snowy scene. You can read all about the production here.
Operas are interesting for me too because they are like art history come to life. La Bohème debuted in Italy in 1906, though it is set in Paris in 1830. It was written by Giacomo Puccini, who lived from 1858 to 1924. Here is Mr. Puccini, a dapper fellow -

I like his double-breasted coat and bowler hat.
La Bohème is of course the story of a group of artists, or bohemians, in the Latin Quarter in Paris, and a love affair between two of them. The arias in this opera are some of the best known in the classical world - it's one hit after another!
The Met's production, designed by Franco Zeffirelli in the 80s, is a splendor. It starts out in an intimate garret in Paris and then moves to a joyous parade in the street with a cast of seemingly thousands (photos from the Met web site) –

Act 3 is the snowy scene. It is set outside a small inn where the lovers meet. Snow falls and darkened figures travel along a road in the background. It really is like a painting.

Act 4 finds us back in the Parisian garret. I won't tell you how it ends.

The music is glorious and the visuals divine. It was such a holiday treat here is New York City.
Blog bonus - an excerpt from Act 1 -

I am wishing you dear reader a holiday season of beauty and love –

Thursday, November 5, 2015

TD and I Got Married!

When I began this blog in 2008, 469 posts ago, I started with a post about TD, Beautiful Thing #1. I am happy to say that recently, upon the occasion of our 30th anniversary (how can that be?), we got married! With the Supreme Court decision in June making gay marriage a right, it was high time. On our fifteenth anniversary in 2000, we had a big commitment ceremony celebration party with family and friends at the home of garden designer Rebecca Cole on King Street in Soho.

This marriage ceremony involved only our two ministers at Judson Memorial Church, Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper and Rev. Micah Bucey, to officiate. A few days before the ceremony, we went to the City Clerk's Office to apply for a marriage license. I had been to the office last summer with my sister Cynthia and Barb. The City Clerk's Office is a joyful, happy place because everyone there is getting married. There are all kinds of couples - young, old, gay, straight, every race and combination you can think of. It's very New York. Some people are dressed up, like women in bridal dresses, and we saw kids in short and flip flops. Some couples come with family and friends, some couple come alone. But everyone, as they wait anxiously for their number to come up, is happy to get married!

Once we had our marriage license we took it to Judson Memorial Church for the marriage ceremony with our two ministers. Our ministers know us very well so the marriage ceremony was very intimate and personal and perfect. We did it!

Afterwards, a picture outside in Washington Square Park –

We promptly high-tailed it out of town and headed north to Hudson, New York, a once prosperous river town which had fallen on hard times but is now a favorite destination with a plethora of good restaurants, bars, antique stores and art galleries. A lot of New Yorkers with good taste have moved up to Hudson. We stayed at the Inn At Hudson which was built as private home in 1903.

It's a beautiful inn with gracious hosts. We recommend it.

After enjoying the pleasures of Hudson we drove farther north up to Argyle, New York, to visit my uncle Brian and wife Susan. They own some houses on top of a hill with beautiful views and down the road is a peaceful lake.

Susan took us to her favorite antique stores in the area which was great fun, and we enjoyed some wonderful dinners with them. It was a most relaxing Labor Day weekend.

Back in New York my brother Thom and his wife Karen hosted a celebratory dinner. Karen, who is trained at Le Cordon Bleu, made an extremely delicious buttercream wedding cake decorated with two elegant grooms which she searched for -

She also make vanilla heart-shaped cookies personalized with our initials -

Two grooms –

It's a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Peaceful Week in Connecticut

A lot of blue and white clothes were packed for the trip. (click on the photos for larger, clearer versions)
TD and I miss going out to Connecticut where we visited my parents so at the end of the summer we rented a beach house for a week on the Connecticut Shoreline to have a chance to be back in the area. I found a nice beach cottage on the internet at, where I have in the past found vacation houses on Martha's Vineyard and the Jersey Shore. This one in Connecticut was located on the border of Clinton and Westbrook, not far from Guilford, where my parents lived. The location of the house was nice - across the street was the Long Island Sound for swimming 

and behind the house were peaceful salt marshes where the sun set in the evening and the only sound was the birds singing.

We took the train from Grand Central, as we often did, to the New Haven train station. There we rented a car and stopped in Guilford to visit the farmer that my father regularly frequented. We stocked up on vegetables and fruit and country flowers.

In that beach house we had the most relaxing week. After the cacophony of New York, the quiet was most welcome. The birds sang a lot in the morning at sunrise and again at sunset. It was a nice neighborhood to go running in. On a run I passed sidewalks that led down to the water

and other beautiful vistas out to the Long Island Sound.

TD and I always enjoy being near the water. We went to the beach at Hammonasset Park which was nearby. And we visited Guilford. We bought books at Breakwater Books, Guilford's wonderful independent bookstore, and headed to the town beach where we had spent many afternoons over the years -

At the end of the day we went to Chaffinch Island which is pretty place that my mother favored. She liked to bring drinks there for cocktail hour, and we have a good family black and white portrait which a photographer took of us there. After my mother passed away, I dropped her ashes in the water at Chaffinch Island -

One night we drove to nearby Essex, Connecticut, where we had dinner at the Griswold Inn, founded in 1776. The Tap Room there, its walls covered in paintings, is one of the great bar rooms.

After dinner, we walked around Essex which is such a pretty town and was famously attacked by the English in 1814 during the War of 1812. This is one of my favorite houses on Main Street. It reminded us of Cooperstown -

As dusk fell we walked down toward the water and all was still -

We had been before to the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme and we wanted to go back. This museum was originally a boarding house owned by Florence Griswold where American artists, known as the Lyme Art Colony, lived and painted. The original neoclassical mansion is charmingly preserved. Here is Miss Griswold pictured at home painted by William Chadwick circa 1905-1908.

Miss Griswold inherited the house from her father, Captain Robert Harper Griswold, who is here painted by Thomas Coke Ruckle in 1840. In her letters, his wife mentions gazing at his portrait during the Captain's long voyages out at sea.

Towards the rear of the property is a modern gallery where current exhibitions are displayed. TD and I enjoyed it all –

There was also a trip to the Clinton Crossings Premium Outlet mall where we stocked up on clothes!  We had such a nice relaxing week in Connecticut and it was great fun to visit our favorite places and see them again. On our last night there, the sun set dramatically over the salt marshes in the back - 

while in the front over the Sound the most extraordinary rainbow appeared. The last time I saw a rainbow was on the day my mother passed away when we were at the New Haven train station headed back to New York City.
This huge rainbow stretched from one side of the Sound

to the other. Too giant to get in one photograph!

I thought it was my mother saying a big Hello.