Friday, August 26, 2011

Art Swap

I can't remember being so excited about going to the mailbox since applying to college.

On a whim I decided to participate in Kat Sloma's Liberate Your Art Postcard Swap. I came across it at a time when I was happily reconnecting with my creative "self" after years of ignoring her. For months no one but Jim had seen any of the art I was experimenting with, and I'd begun to secretly wonder if keeping my collages stashed in a closet was a sign of some sort of fear. Or denial.

Then along came Kat.

This postcard swap thing put a whole new spin on my notion of showing people my stuff. It felt far less scary than sharing my work with friends or family because I had no idea who was going to see it. Even more exciting was the fact that--if it worked--I'd get postcards from five artists who I didn't now either!

The biggest surprise was how much fun I had deciding what image to share--and then turning it into a set of five cards. I remember putting them in an envelope and mailing them off to Oregon in July. Part of me panicked, convinced I'd done something wrong and wouldn't get a single card from anyone (like those ridiculous & annoying recipe chain emails.)

But Kat came through. In a matter of weeks the slow trickle of miniature masterpieces began. My heart sang when I'd discover a card nestled between the utility bills and Container Store catalogs. The first one set the tone beautifully, proclaiming, "We are all just a little cracked." The last one closed the loop by reminding me to chose things that scare me.

In between were words and images I'll treasure forever. Thanks to Marie 1 and 2, Natasha, Diane, and Elaine for having the courage to put their art out into the world. I hope you got as much in return as I did.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


My sister Deborah hung her first solo show in the gallery at the Newark Arts Alliance in Delaware.

The opening was Friday night, and there was plenty of support from family and friends. She’s called the show “Quite a Pear”, and she and her husband Mark made all of the food—from chutney to Cinnamon Pie Bars—using pears as a key ingredient. Mark, an unsung hero on the dobro, also provided the music.

Then there was the art. Deborah describes the show as “exploring the ripe metaphors of pears through visual images paired with the poetry of language,” and it was certainly all that. I was especially thrilled to see the progress she’s made in her mastery of technique. Especially in her mixed media paintings, which use elements that she’s returned to often enough that they're familiar—now treated in fresh and skillful ways.

What I can’t put into words is the feeling that came over me as I gazed around the room, its white walls awash in gorgeous colors and lush shapes. Pride? (As in, “Well yes, she’s my sister.”) Delight? (“What a beautiful show!”) Relief? (“She sold quite a few pieces in just one night!”) Amazement? (“Wow, she must have busted her butt to create so many new pieces!”)

Or maybe it was Love. Love for the sister with whom I’ve been paired in a long-running artistic tug-of-war—and have now found peace.

Maybe it was all of these things, plus a dollop of Lucky. Lucky to have a sister who is an artist and writer. Who connects with my artist and writer self. And with whom I can share openly—and celebrate wildly—our considerable gifts.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bran Fan

Bran muffins are one of my favorite guilty pleasures.

Along with French fries and chocolate chip cookies, they comprise the triumvirate of foods I‘d need to survive on a deserted island.

Before I began to worry about what I ate, my weekday breakfast consisted of a New-York-City-sized bran muffin, slathered with butter, and a medium coffee. This habit went on for years. Each time I moved offices or changed jobs, my #1 priority was finding the deli or street cart en route that had the best muffin-and-coffee combo.

Since I started worrying about what I eat, the challenge has been to find a bran muffin recipe that is both healthy and delicious. Not an easy feat, I assure you. But thanks to Heidi Swanson and my new favorite cook book—Super Natural Every Day—the search has finally ended!

As she puts it (modestly) in her intro, “If good bran muffins have eluded you, give these a shot.” As I put it (emphatically), “Bingo!”

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Stairway to Heaven

It’s easy to see why the High Line has quickly become one of Manhattan’s biggest tourist draws.

An old elevated train line magically transformed into a public park—what’s not to like?

Winding along the far west side, snaking through neighborhoods in various stages of re-gentrification, it offers an unprecedented aerial view of everything from warehouses and centuries-old corner bars to shiny new art galleries and Frank-Gehry-on-steroids apartment buildings.

Where else can you walk under the hip-and-happening Standard Hotel, then over a fledgling Japanese garden visible through the grates of a metal flyover? Sip iced latte on a (surprisingly comfortable) wooden chaise lounge? Or enjoy an Italian ice as you stroll, block after block, through an ever-changing botanical wonderland in the sky?

On Monday, at dusk, I found myself entering the High Line's recently-opened Section 2 via the stairway at 18th & 10th. The designers have worked miracles, incorporating the actual rails into the walkways and flowerbeds in ways so inventive they literally stop you in your tracks. Their achievement appears even more fantastic when juxtaposed against a still-to-be-converted section of the tracks near 30th Street.

It was breathtaking and, in many ways, even more enchanting in the dark than in the bright light of day. Here’s my paltry attempt to capture the magic...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Adventures in Eating

Jim and I have a well-earned reputation for driving great distances to enjoy unique culinary experiences.

When yesterday’s hiking plans were scrapped due to a threat of thunderstorms, we set off on one such “adventure in eating”: to check out a burrito place that Hudson Valley Magazine raved about in its July issue. The fact that these burritos are served from a food truck way up in Red Hook, NY was not only beside the point—it was at least 50% of the draw. The food may be the main event, but it’s really just a reason to explore the wonders of this part of the country.

A little online research revealed that Bubby’s Burrito Stand wasn’t open on Sundays. And neither was our second meals-on-wheels choice—Rae Rae’s To Go in Poughkeepsie. Undaunted by the lack of info on our third choice, we set the GPS for downtown Newburgh, NY and hit the road.

Ironically, we’d passed through Newburgh on our way back from the recent peach-picking excursion—and decided that we couldn’t imagine a reason to return. Now we’ve found one: the Ixtapa Taco Truck.

Despite the truck’s dubious location and sketchy appearance, these were hands-down the best tacos this Mexican food fan has ever tasted (and Jim concurs.) And at $5 for a platter of four, lets just say I’m glad this truck isn’t parked anywhere near my home or office!

We do plan to visit Bubby’s when I have a Friday off later this month. Because yesterday’s experience reminded me of the lesson I learned while working in Manhattan for so many years: some of the best food on the planet is served from the tiny window of a rolling restaurant.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Just Peachy

Nothing tastes more like summer than a peach.

Thanks to Maryanne, who’s all about supporting local farmers; and Jim, who’s all about not being bored; we drove 90 minutes to Prospect Hill Orchards in Milton, NY. We chatted with farmer Steve, then bounced around in the back of a tractor-pulled wagon to spend 20 minutes collecting a bucket of fuzz-covered, not-quite-as-ripe-as-we’d-hoped fruit.

Now I’m about being outdoors on a gorgeous summer weekend. But even a pit-stop at the Raccoon Saloon to check out their much-lauded burgers (my veggie version was delish!) and surprisingly spectacular view of the Hudson didn’t stop me from thinking it might have been a waste of time.

But when I sliced up a ripe one this morning in hopes of jazzing up my bowl of Special K, I tasted sweet sunlight at the first juicy bite.

And decided that no peach tastes peachier than one you’ve picked yourself.