Friday, June 25, 2010

Mount Everest Man

Our great friend Don Healy is back from the summit of Mount Everest! You may remember that I wrote about his climb before he and his wife Joyce left New York in March. Well, I am happy to tell you that he made it to the top on May 24th, a few days after his 65 birthday. And don't forget, he has an artificial hip.
The Healys had a jolly celebration this week in their home on Jane Street, and Don presented a slide presentation of his journey, which was quite amazing. The Healys live in a great house which is reached by traveling through the alley of a building which fronts Jane Street. The Healys' house was originally a blacksmith shop built in 1833. Around 1850 it became a bakery, and the baker built the front house. The Healys completely renovated and created a three storey home with a central stair well and exposed brick walls. We started with drinks in the courtyard and then moved up to seats on the top floor for the slide presentation. When it started to pour, rain splashed on the big sky lights overhead. It was very cozy.
As many good things do, this story begins with a book. Don said that he has wanted to climb Mount Everest ever since he was a boy and read The Conquest of Everest by Sir John Hunt.

While training for mountain climbing a few years ago, a serious bicycle accident left him with a shattered hip and debilitated for eleven weeks. Nevertheless, in March with a new hip he and Joyce left for Kathmandu, destination Mount Everest.

Joyce trekked with Don to base camp (a difficult climb in itself) and returned home in April. Don continued his eight week climb to the summit. EIGHT WEEKS! You can read about his adventure in detail on his blog. The extreme weather and lack of oxygen are only two factors which make it very dangerous. It took Don eleven hours to climb the last very steep mile because he had to take four breaths of oxygen for every one step.
But make it he did, pictured here on the summit where other climbers have left their prayer rugs.

Then began the careful descent; more accidents happen going down the mountain than going up. Don made it back safely, fifteen pounds lighter.

Upon returning, he set about raising money for the Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Children (HRDC) in Kathmandu, which specializes in orthopedic surgery for children in rural areas with congenital deformities. Because of his hip replacement, Don wanted to sponsor an organization that provides orthopedic care to those in need. To find out about making a contribution, go to his web site Everest Hip Hop, and click on the "Donate" button.
With his accomplishment Don proved that age and physical setbacks need not be barriers to achieving one's goals. It's an inspiration to know a true adventurer, and it's a good story too: There was a feature about Don in The Wall Street Journal, and he appeared on the Today show, interviewed by Matt Lauer:

Congratulations Don!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Flowers From the Market

TD and I headed over to the Union Square Farmers' Market on Saturday where things are now in full swing. We always go first to the north east corner of Union Square to the Durrs' truck. They have a plenitude of offerings year 'round. On Saturday there were bouquets mixed with different flowers, which look pinkish here because of the red tent overhead.

There were clouds of what I call little daisies; I don't know their proper name.

These are branches of cranberry something, I couldn't understand the guy's accent. I love flowers, but I also love things that are not flowers – vines, leaves, branches, berries like this.

Other vendors offered a wealth of potted plants for the garden

and buckets of lilies.

We bought a bunch of the little daisies and cranberry branches and a mixed bouquet.

The cranberry branches went into the galvanized florist's bucket. TD added in some of the daisies. I like an arrangement that is loose, airy, simple and natural looking – as if it was just cut from your own garden. It gives a feeling of the country when you're in the city. Over-sized is good too.

I took the bouquet apart and put some of the red bits into our radicchio vase from Tiffany's. The colors of the flowers repeat in the hand-painted vase.

TD likes a flower on his bedside table so he got the sunflower.

The little daisies went in the entry hall, where they light up at night.

After all the arranging, everyone was pooped.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Trip to Rochester

The Erie Canal

We're celebrating Aunts and Cousins week here at Bart Boehlert's Beautiful Things. You may remember that the weekend before last, we attended the graduation party of my aunt Ellen, age 73. Last weekend TD and I went up to Rochester, New York, for my aunt Molly Boehlert, born Molly Gilroy from Utica, New York.

Molly married my father's brother Bob who was a widower with one child. Together the couple had four children. My uncle Bob sadly passed away twenty years ago. When we attended a Boehlert family reunion on Oneida Lake two years ago, I wrote about my aunt Molly so I won't repeat it here except to say that when I was growing up, I spent many summer and winter vacations with my cousin Peter, born the same year as I. Molly was always taking us off on some adventure – to a neighbor's swimming pool or to the beach at Lake Ontario or to a picnic in the park. Now Molly is seriously ill. To mark her eightieth birthday an invitation arrived in our mailbox for "a celebration of life." How could we resist?

We had the good fortune to stay with my cousin Peter and his wife Lorie in their great home in the charming village of Pittsford, founded outside of Rochester in 1789. Pittsford is well known for its historic district and beautiful houses.

The town has a lot of nineteenth century brick buildings which I love. This is the Phoenix Hotel, which was built in about 1812 to serve the Erie Canal and carriage trade. It was restored in 1967 and now houses local businesses.

Here is the town hall, built in 1890.

A picturesque brick house is now the Canal Lamp Inn bed and breakfast.

Gardens and flower boxes were in full bloom.

We took a walk along the Erie Canal, which was completed in 1825. This phenomenal feat of engineering and human toil was built to link the great Lake Erie with the Hudson River so that goods could flow from the Atlantic Ocean to the Midwest; it helped make New York City the chief U.S. port. The Erie Canal links the upstate cities of Albany, Utica (my hometown) and Rochester so it was always a presence in my childhood.

Peaceful, tranquil, and flat, the Eric Canal takes us back in time.

I'd like to take a boat ride on the Eric Canal.

This residential dock perched over the canal looked like a relaxing spot.

Lunch along the Erie Canal.

Later in the afternoon, we visited Artisan Works, a non-profit organization housed in a huge warehouse which supports local artists. There was miles of art everywhere, on the walls, on the ceilings, and on the roof.

We stopped at Molly's house which has been the family home for fifty years where I visited as a kid. Then we stopped at cousin Brian's who has just bought a big new house. That night we had a delicious dinner with Peter and Lorie and their adult daughters Maggie and Dottie and her fiance Bryce at Richardson's Canal House, the oldest original inn on the edge of the Eric Canal. The inn was first a farmhouse, built in 1818, and then a tavern which was popular with the rollicking canal builders. The building was restored in 1979 and placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings. We ate outside under a tent and when it started to pour rain we remained dry. An illuminated guide boat sped by on the dark canal.

The next day we went to visit a couple who are friends of Peter and Lorie's and own and live in the historic Strong mansion, which I read on the internet, "was perhaps the most lavish ever built in Monroe County except for the Eastman House," the home of George Eastman, a founder of Eastman Kodak. The beautiful Strong mansion had seven, I think, bedrooms on the second floor which reminded me of Winterthur, the DuPont house museum in Delaware. On the second floor Peter's friend built a two-storey library filled with rare books. On the ground floor was a full-size indoor swimming pool. On the way home we stopped at Wegman's, Rochester's rather stupendous grocery store chain. It really was impressive. If you're in Rochester, don't miss a trip to Wegman's; Cher doesn't.

On Sunday we were off to the main event at a nearby restaurant, Molly's party! It was great to be with her and all of my cousins and their children. One of the joys of these family parties is to see my cousins' children who are growing so fast that they are almost unrecognizable. Molly received a serious diagnosis but she is a very strong person and has rallied incredibly, defying expectations. She was trained as a nurse and I bet she was a resolute nurse, determined to make patients get well just as she was determined to entertain us when we were children.
A very happy birthday to my aunt Molly.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Monet in Chelsea

Darlings, run don't walk to the show up now at the Gagosian Gallery at 522 West 21st Street on the late work of Claude Monet. It's there until June 26th and it's a beautiful thing. A year ago Mr. Gagosian mounted a show on the late work of Pablo Picasso. Hats off to the gallerist for bringing these shows to the public, free of charge.

Off course you know that French Impressionist Claude Monet (1840-1926) created some of the most poetic and idyllic paintings in Western culture. This show focuses on the end of his career when he was enjoying some prosperity, and had bought the house and gardens in Giverny which would inspire and comfort him. He turned his attention to the gardens and the water gardens for subjects, and created his meditative, transporting water lily paintings. You may remember when Jane and I visited his famous Water Lily series at the Museum of Modern Art.

At the Gagosian, the paintings are hung in four rooms. The gallery has very high ceilings and openings of light that imitate sky lights. It's like being in a very modern church.
(Images from Gagosian web site)

My favorite paintings were light and sunny. Green, blue, pink and olive green swirl together suggesting reflection and water depth in this painting from 1907.

This take from 1908 was more greenish, suggesting a bright day.

One painting of water lilies from 1916-1919 featured pink lilies that looked like fat roses floating on light green leaves in a pond of light blue water. Dark green tendrils of weeping willows hung down the sides. What a vision. Claude Monet once said, "I perhaps owe becoming a painter to flowers."

I have long been drawn to the work of Claude Monet. When I first arrived at college at McGill University and even before I became an art history major I bought myself in the college bookstore a poster of this painting by Monet.

It's titled The Regatta at Argenteuill from 1872. I loved it's buoyant, cheerful colors. The brushstroke streaks of pink and orange reflection in the water just made me happy.
Monet famously lived a life of great style at his house in Giverny which I have wanted to visit. I have some books about his art of living including Monet's House which covers how the house was decorated

and Monet's Table which includes recipes, for he and his wife were renowned entertainers.

The house at Giverny included a big studio where Monet painted. Here is the old man now.

I like the wicker furniture, the polished wood floor and the paintings hung high up on the walls. Isn't it fun to think of Monet painting here some of the works now on display at the Gagosian Gallery.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Family Style in New Jersey

On Saturday TD and I headed out to bucolic New Jersey, where everything is now green and lush. First stop, my brother Eric's house where we met up with my parents. Eric and his wife Tracy own the prettiest house surrounded by verdant gardens. There it was peaceful and quiet.

We had a delicious lunch

and went to a lacrosse game which my niece Jane was playing in. You remember Jane. Here we are a couple of weeks ago on the roof garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She likes art and she likes sports: well-rounded!

We walked two blocks under giant leafy trees to the lacrosse playing field and sat on the bleachers in the shade.

Jane scored a goal! Here she is, bottom row on the left. It was fun to see her in action.

Then it was on to the main event of the day at the home of my cousin Kathleen. My aunt Ellen, my mother's sister, age 73, just graduated with her B.A.! Her three daughters, my cousins, had a party. That's a good reason to celebrate, don't you think? It was a big party with a white tent in the backyard and a lot of family and friends. I took advantage of this garden party to wear my new Liberty tie. The white tent was accented with purple flowers and the setting was picturesque.

Do you think my cousins were influenced by my post on purple flowers?

It turns out that purple is my aunt's favorite color. In fact she was wearing a silk jacket the color of these petunias.

Little pots were arranged with a mix of flowers. My favorite detail was the little purple confetti shaped like graduation caps.

Even the desserts sparkled with purple.

Inside, Madeline, Jane and Tracy.

and their great shoes.

Outside, my cousins Kathleen, Linda and Mary Ellen dressed in black and white gave a three-part toast to their mother. Chic, no? My grandmother would have been proud.

At age 65, Ellen decided to go back to college to pursue her Bachelor's degree. She enrolled at Montclair State College and worked hard at it for six years. A knee ailment made it difficult to walk around the campus plus the academics were challenging. She was always the oldest person in the room, including the professor. Ellen was tempted to give up but she persevered, and in a great example of determination at any age, she ended up graduating cum laude in Women's Studies. At her party she quoted Eleanor Roosevelt: "You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
Big congrats to my aunt Ellen.