Sunday, October 31, 2010

City Views, Country Dreams

Happy Halloween from New York.

This is a beautiful afternoon, but oh, so very windy! It will be very chilly for folks who might want to attend the annual free form Halloween Parade up Sixth Avenue later on this evening. I decided to venture out earlier, in the sporadic warmth of the sun, to take a few photographs.

We will start with a splendid array of pumpkins at the farmers market. Some might yet turn into jack o' lanterns before nightfall.

Leaving those pumpkins, I strolled over to a brownstone-filled neighborhood street that goes all out every year with its decorations. Around twilight today, the street will be closed to vehicular traffic and will become a magical place for little ghosts and goblins. There will be a street party. I imagine that the shrieking and laughing will be quite loud.

Here are some of the decorations adorning the steps and entrance ways to buildings on this block. The small round pumpkins in the following photo will be lit after dark.

These two Dracula characters are competing to see who is scariest.

This fellow gets my vote. (Ahh, our election day will be this Tuesday.)

I am not sure if this display will or will not actually spook children climbing these steps in search of candy.

Brownstone houses usually have a entryway to the "garden" level of the house, and this entrance way is located under the main front staircase that leads to the "parlor" floor. This little fellow must be busy with his garden at this time of year.

The following photo shows a bit of a mish mash (or is it a Monster Mash) attached to the wrought iron gating over the garden level window. Sometimes, less might be more in the frightening stakes.

One house along the street was decorated tastefully with seasonal plants. These stairs serve as a bit of a palate refresher between the spooky bits.

I began this Halloween post with some pumpkins and will close with another sort of pumpkin. I could not resist taking a picture of this adorable little girl and her mom, whose long shadows echo some of the shapes of the trees along this walkway just behind the Museum of Natural History.
I hope that your Halloween will be filled with many treats.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.
This has been a beautiful late October day. Sweater weather. Blue sky. And from my point of view, even better that all that, it has been a day off.
The past week has been a bit too full of activities that have left me searching for extra hours of sleep, and for more time for pursuits of my own choosing. In other words, work has been demanding. I am glad that it's been busy on the work front, because that situation might signal a continued improvement of our economy. At my age, I am glad to be employed, and to have the energy for that employment.
I will now tell you a bit about some places I visited on my time off. Let's start with Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, absolute midtown, and the location of the main branch (and total architectural gem) New York Public Library. The Fifth Avenue facade of the library is currently undergoing some clean up processes, but the two stone lions, affectionately known as Patience and Prudence, who guard the stairs to the library's entrance way, are definitely looking very good. I liked the composition of the following photo featuring a gent catching up on news via a printed newspaper, not via a more modern medium.
I was on my way to a sample sale of a wonderful Italian company that specializes in cashmere knit accessories and beautiful leather gloves. The giant mums below were amongst the plantings just the other side of the stone lion. At all times of the year, the library makes a point of having this little garden space full of beauty.
The sample sale was very well organized, and full of beautiful bargains, but I resisted. This company will hold two more sessions of this sort of sale leading up to Christmas, and at each subsequent session the prices will be reduced. It's a great place to find fabulous gifts.
I had more errands to do that day, and managed to get through much of my list. Some of this list involved boring bits like housecleaning and laundry. It also involved the gathering of food. I visited the big farmers market at Union Square and got some fresh veg and a vast selection of various apples. Many of these apples have now become part of a yummy apple crumble.
My local food market is located next to another food market. The other food market is a bit more expensive, and so I rarely shop there. I do, however, admire their window displays that often feature fanciful arrays of seafood. The following photo gives you a glimpse of such a window.
This time next week it will be Halloween. While gazing at this past week's brilliant full moon, I began to think about how much I love Halloween. This might be due to childhood memories of candy gathering, but I also feel it has to do with the tradition of donning a costume. It's lovely to have this annual opportunity to cast aside one's day-to-day face, and to try another persona.
My neighborhood is still traditional in certain ways, and there is already evidence of Halloween preparation. There is a little antiques shop that does seasonal window displays crowded with various vintage decorations appropriate to the upcoming holiday.

The above photo shows a tiny model haunted house, with a very tiny pumpkin out in front. I took some other photos of the same window, but the sunlight's reflection diminished the effect of those pictures.
Many brownstone houses in the neighborhood have begun to put pumpkins out on their front steps, and I will try to get some photos of these doorways for my next post.
Today, I tried to get my errands done early, so that I could have a very easy going afternoon. I continued working on my current sock knitting project, while doing a bit of reading. Yes, it's possible to read and knit at the same time. This is easy multi-tasking. I have just about finished this sock, and will soon begin work on its mate. The Trekking (XXL) yarn from Germany has a variegated colorway that gives a subtle striping to the socks. The yarn is much more of a red than is apparent in my photo.
Tomorrow, it will be back to work for me.
Before I end this post, I would like to mention that a relative dear to me lost her long, long battle with cancer this past week. She was someone whom I always thought of as the epitome of glamour, sophistication, intelligence and talent. She was a gifted poet, lived in many parts of the world, and together with her wonderful husband raised two talented sons. May her soul rest in peace.
Best wishes to you all. May you all have a grand week ... perhaps you will also enjoy celebrating the liberating possibilities of Halloween.

Monday, October 11, 2010

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York on Columbus Day.
I am writing this as I near the end of a rare occasion, a three-day weekend. The weather has been so beautiful, and the days have been relaxing.
Let me take you along to some places I visited.
Saturday, October 9, was what would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday, and I walked over to Central Park's Strawberry Fields area to add my thoughts to those of many others who crowded in to this special place all day.
The following photo is taken from the vantage point of Strawberry Fields, and shows through the trees, a view of the famed Dakota apartment building where Lennon lived.

From there, I travelled downtown to the Union Square farmers market to find some apples and a tiny pumpkin to bring home. The pumpkins below are destined for the homes of others, and might be carved into Jack o'lantern faces.
I have used my mixture of apples to make a delicious cinnamon, butter, and sugar flavored apple crumble. Yummy, and so easy to make. Just the aroma of this dish baking signaled autumn's arrival.
Sunday was another gorgeous day, perfect for a parade. New York City has two Columbus Day parades. The traditional, Italian, parade took place today, Monday, and went on for many hours as lots of school bands and polititians made their way up Fifth Avenue.
I elected to visit yesterday's Hispanic Columbus Day Parade, that honors Spain for funding Columbus's voyage. It is filled with wonderful music and costumes and dancing, and its route covers about three miles of Fifth Avenue.
There are always some wonderful mounted police officers at the beginning.

Then, the parade contingents from Spain arrive. As you might guess, yesterday there was evidence of the Spanish pride in having won the World Cup.

This fellow turns up every year, with his tie-died beard and dog, and party dress. He has a grand time, and no one seems to mind his joy at parading. I do not know which country he represents!

It was at this point that I realized that my camera's battery was not going to last for the entire parade. Alas.
Spain was followed by Argentina, with lots of graceful tango dancers.
Next in line were the representatives from Bolivia, and I did manage to click a shot of one of hundreds, hundreds of costumed dancers. These ladies were able to twirl rapidly while moving forward briskly, and this got their mini skirts whirling around waist high. No photo of that.

I am so sorry not to have a photo of the group from Chile who honored the about-to-be-rescued miners. They each wore a miner's hard hat and scruffy work clothes. The crowd applauded, and some eyes were very moist.
Another event that took place this weekend was the second annual NYC yarn crawl, organized by a group of prominent yarn/knitting shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Each shop had special offers, a lottery drawing, a scavenger hunt for visitors to find the hidden knitted apple (NYC is known sometimes as the Big Apple.) The event went on from Saturday through today, Monday.

I did visit some shops on Saturday and Sunday. At the Purl SOHO shop downtown on Sunday, I had the pleasure of meeting a delightful and skilled knitter, Kristina McGowan, whose new book has just been published. It is called Modern Top-Down Knitting, and is a guide to creating various dresses, hats, sweaters, etc., from the top down ... so that each garment is made in one piece. It is a very clever concept, and I wish Kristina great success with her lovely book. I bought a copy and the cover is in the following photo.
Today was another blue sky day, and I traveled across the Park to meet a friend at the Metropolitan Museum. We went up to the roof exhibition space. The Met is actually located on the Fifth Avenue edge of Central Park and so its roof garden has fantastic views. I share the southern view with you.

I wanted to visit the roof not only for the view but also to see the Big Bambu construction that has been made by the Starn twins, who usually are known for their big photos. Big Bambu will be dismantled at the end of October. Every summer, some artist has the roof space to display some sculpture that is just for the roof.
What do you think? Is this a nest gone crazy? A unnatural thicket?

Within this mass of bamboo staffs, carefully knotted together, is an actual pathway in which one can climb up inside the assemblage...a few at a time, please. I did not take the path up today.
Perhaps you can make out the lady in the red dress who did make the climb.

Here is a close up view of how the poles are connected. Would you want to climb?

Here is a mother and son debating whether they want to join the queue for the ascent.

After seeing all that we wished of Big Bambu, we went back downstairs (real stairs) into the Musuem and saw an exhibit of beautiful Renaissance paintings by Jan Gossart and others. It provided a huge contrast to the roof.
After that, we ambled through a few other parts of the Museum and then left in search of a quiet cafe for lunch and lots of chatting. It was a lovely day.
I got home in time for a few errands, and then sat down to work on one of my current knitting projects, a multi-cabled, chunky weight scarf in a gorgeous soft yarn. Project on top of Rowan pattern book. (Yarn is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Superchunky.)
Tomorrow morning, I will return to work and hope to carry with me the relaxed state of mind that the past three days have granted.
Best wishes to you all.