Sunday, September 18, 2011

City Views, Country Dreams

Good morning from New York.

It's a beautiful September day here, with cool air that will require my wearing my favorite heavy woolen sweater when I venture out this afternoon.

I am now coming to the last hours of my glorious time off.  It's been a grand week filled with lots of relaxation, creativity, and fine visits with friends.  Some of these visits involved celebrations of my birthday at a cafe and included very rich chocolate cake.  

Cafe Lalo is a charming neighborhood place that provides an expansive selection of cakes, tarts, and other pastries and various beverages.  There are also various light meals on the menu, but I've always concentrated on the baked goods.

Although orange is not my favorite color, I admit that I do like the look of the large cups in which coffee is served at the cafe.  And the little cow might be sitting down, but is always ready to pour a bit more milk or cream.

My photo does not do justice to the density of the dark chocolate in this slice of Chocolate Satin Cake.  The helpful waitress asked if I would like it heated slightly so that some of the icing would melt a bit.  Oh yes, I replied, and did not regret my answer.

The friend who was treating me to this birthday fun chose a much more modest pear tart, but seemed to enjoy it!

I do wish that the music played at the cafe would be kept at a bit lower volume, but that is being too picky when such cake is available.

Other friends also treated me to another visit to the cafe later in the week and I tried the tempting chocolate caramel mousse cake with toasted pecan topping.  Bliss!

All was not chocolate this week.  I also had fun visiting Casa Barilla, a promotional event by the pasta company that was set up in a vast tent in Central Park.  One could learn from master chefs how to prepare unusual, and also familiar, pasta dishes, see the latest kitchen products, consider buying some Barilla products not usually available over here, of all, sample a wide variety of pasta dishes and complete that meal with your choice from various Lavazza coffees, made to your order.

Everyone received a recipe booklet to take home, and I also held on to the clever little multi-functional fork/spoon/knife with which I gobbled up my pasta variations.  I was surprised that the event did not seem to be too well attended, and amused that when I handed in my complimentary entry ticket I had my hand stamped with a Barilla blue farfalle design...the closest I will ever get to a tattoo.

Let's see, what else happened this week.  Ah yes, I ventured out of Manhattan (aka New York) to the Borough of Queens to visit a friend I had not seen in far too long.  We had lunch in a lovely restaurant where the owner and staff really knew how to treat patrons well.  Our multi-course lunch, accompanied by wine and  lots of catch up conversation, lasted almost three hours!  

The food was delicious and plentiful, and there was certainly no need for me to have more than an omelet for supper that night!

I visited the Union Square farmers market and brought back some beautiful little apples, that I may get around to sketching before I gobble them up.

These pretty vintage cups and saucers were amongst the lovely birthday gifts I received.  I have already done some sketches of them and want to get my watercolor paints and brushes out soon.

I also did a search through my stacks of fabric remnants, left over from long ago when I used to sew most of my clothes.  I found some beautiful cream colored silk, cut it up into large sections and have tea-dyed those sections various shades.  My plan is now to use the clever little gizmo in the following photo to make up a bunch of gathered silk "yo yo" circles, that I will then attach to each other with silk embroidery threads and superimpose on some other fabric, probably either linen or silk velvet, and make up cushion covers.  It is typical of my to really get into full creative flow just as I come to the end of my free time!

Ah, here are some other projects that I have worked on this week.  The knitted checkered cushion has been completed.  Its striped reverse side is done in a knit-every-row garter stitch,  using two-row repeats of the various colors used in the squares.  Its envelope styling closes with three buttons and has its front and back connected by a few rows of single crochet.

The giant ball of cream colored Cascade Ecological Wool is being transformed, cable by cable, into a very long scarf.  (I have two more hanks of this wool available!)  The pattern is from last autumn's Debbie Bliss magazine.  It is very easy!

I've also enjoyed lots of walks over in Central Park, and have managed to read several books, including several mystery novels, and my current book, La Seduction by Elaine Sciolino.  I've also found lots of time for daydreaming.

It's been a grand week of self indulgence.  However, when the alarm clock beeps tomorrow morning, I will have to heed its insistence that it will be time to get ready to return to work.  Perhaps this is the time to remind myself that it's the working that allows me to have these enjoyable breaks!

I hope that you all have also been able to enjoy the current changing of the seasons.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Since 2001, around this time of the year I begin to think that I will concentrate on farmers markets finally showing us naturally ripened tomatoes, following who is advancing toward championship in the U.S. Open tennis tournament, seeing how the morning and afternoon light is changing and the birthday that I will reach on September 12.

However, we New Yorkers also continue to be annually reminded by various media and our own minds of what happened ten years ago.  I'd guess that not one of us who woke up that 2001 morning to see the beauty of the blue sky will ever quite get over how our city and perhaps even the world was changed by what two air planes did to our landscape, our fellow New Yorkers, and how that devastating shock was soon amplified by violence in other places.

Yes, we do collectively try to embrace our continuing realization of our collective fragility, and to value each day.  Even so, bad and tragic memories continue to color the beauty that autumn in New York can bring.

This particular morning's blue sky quickly turned to overcast grey with the possibility of rain.  Even so, I headed over to Central Park around midday to see if I could detect any Hurricane Irene damage to that lovely landscape.   I preferred that to staying indoors and watching any of the television coverage of memorial ceremonies being held further downtown.

The opaque sky really muted all the greens and gave those of us walking or bicycling through the Park a sense of a quieter day.  Perhaps this was appropriate and a hint from nature.  (Tomorrow will give us a full moon, with all that night light might do to affect us mere mortals.)

Tomorrow will indeed be my birthday.  I find it difficult to believe that I have reached the age that I have reached.  Perhaps everyone feels this same way as years go by.  In any event, I am taking this week off from my usual workaday life, and will be enjoying playing with my creative notions, spending more time outdoors, and getting together with friends for lots of cake...most of it chocolate.

The following photo shows some brightly colored glads that were given me by my work colleagues...along with a delicious fruit tart that we shared after I'd made my wish and blown out the requisite lit candles.

I'll keep the light touch in this post going with another photo taken in Central Park today of a massing of tiny, bright yellow blooms in an embrace of gentle green leaves.  I continue to find that nature is reassuring, even after a hurricane's reminder of her power.

Our city is now under its latest security threat warning.  Since 2001, we have consistently been under a very high security threat, so it is a bit tricky to understand what ratcheting up these degrees of warnings actually means.  For myself, I continue to welcome each day, and to try to continue to go where I love to go, do what I love to do, embracing life.

Best wishes to you all.