English Countryside? No, Belvedere Castle in Central Park

Belvedere Castle is a folly rising majestically over Manhattan containing exhibit rooms and an observation deck, and since 1919, has also housed the official Central Park weather station. It was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1867–1869 and provides some of the best views of Central Park*

I took this photo on my early morning walk last weekend and love the contrasts of color and texture. For me, the elegant landscape and majestic beauty of the castle simply balanced by a child playing ball which bring the scene into the present, are even more reasons to love NYC.

* wikipedia

A Strange HIPPA Story, Where Are the Boundaries?

The morning R & N, two of my dear friends were leaving for a Colorado vacation from their home in Akron Ohio they discovered an injured vulture in their yard. With no time to spare they called a third dear friend, a retired landscape architect and animal rescuer extraordinaire who promised to head right over, capture the bird and take it to the closest bird rescue center. C and one of her helpers managed to successfully capture the injured bird but not before it became frightened and fled under the very large deck in R & N’s yard. By crawling under the deck and throwing a blanket over its head they were able to maneuver the injured and badly frightened bird out from under the deck and into the back of their van. They then sped off to the rescue center where the injured creature could be seen by a specialist and tended to by the staff.

This is where it gets crazy. A few days later, unbeknownst to eachother, both R and C called to check on the vulture’s welfare. The woman who answered the phone at the rescue center said she was sorry but she wasn’t allowed to give out information regarding the birds’ welfare to an unauthorized person. C explained that she was the one who had rescued the bird and brought it to the clinic for treatment AND that the information she was requesting was about a VULTURE not her second cousin once removed or her Aunt Tilly! But it was to no avail. When R tried and got the same response she asked the woman to at least tell her if the bird had survived-to which the message was irritatingly repeated, she could only give that information to “authorized“ people. Seriously, is there such a thing as wild bird HIPPA?!  R & C probably would have had better luck inquiring about the welfare of Aunt Tilly!

Oh What a Storm!

Other than a few leaky windows my apartment was a safe harbor from the terrible storm Wednesday night, sadly many New Yorkers were not so fortunate.

Photos show the before and after Central Park Lake flooded the Bethesda Fountain Terrace

A huge tree down on one of the paths in Central Park. The tree removal services were on the job everywhere
Machine being used to suction water out of the church basement next to my apartment building

Sometimes It’s the Journey Rather Than the Destination and Sometimes It’s Both

A few days ago I decided I deserved a reward for my fine attitude and behavior during the lockdown. I didn’t want anything dramatic like a piece of jewelry, (who wears jewelry anymore?) or new clothes (good heavens, I have a closet full that I’ve barely worn over the last 16 months and, since they all seem to have buttons and waists, I may never wear again).

I decided a Jo Malone scented candle was the perfect choice, sufficiently self-indulgent and something I’d wanted for a long time. I even knew the exact scent I craved, Lime, Basil and Mandarin, very light and fresh and for whatever reason, reminds me of a cool summer day (how’s that for poetry?).

 To make sure this was still my choice I decided to go to an actual store and have a real person wait on me (emphasis on the “wait on me” part). Fortunately, just as google promised, the Jo Malone store in the Time Warner Building at Columbus Circle was still in business, so last Friday morning I happily set off on my quest.

As I entered the tiny, well-appointed shop Frank, the Manager, and the only other person who could fit in the store, greeted me with a friendly smile and a big hello. Candles of all sizes were displayed on glass shelves in clear glass containers with shiny silver lids and black ribbons all looking lovely and esthetically pleasing.  Frank agreed I had chosen an excellent scent then asked if I wanted to purchase a diffuser along with the candle, if so, he suggested I buy the large candle to assure that the scent would “gently waft through the rooms and perfume the entire home”. I explained that “the entire home” was a small NYC apartment which definitely wouldn’t require more than one small candle. “Aha” said Frank indicating that he understood, then proceeded to tell me he had a three-bedroom house on the beach in New Jersey which required three diffusers and three of the largest candles (and you are schlepping to Columbus Circle to work everyday? said the thought bubble appearing over my head).

Next my new friend Frank asked what turned out to be his most important question, was this my first Jo Malone candle? Tempted as I was to lie and say no thus avoiding the possible risk of being candle shamed, I meekly answered yes, this was indeed my first Jo Malone scented candle.  “Aha” he happily exclaimed again, then I will give you my new candle users tutorial” (seriously, a new candle users tutorial? said my second thought bubble). “Frank”, I replied, “you are very kind but I have used scented candles before and managed just fine”. From his expression I could tell I wasn’t getting out of that store without hearing his new candle users tutorial whether I liked it or not. What had started out as a happy excursion was suddenly beginning to feel like I might be in a Stephen King movie.  I quickly decided to ditch my cynicism, get rid of the thought bubbles and adjust my attitude thus giving myself a better chance to escape alive, and who knows, I just might learn something, which I did…

The first time you light a scented candle (Jo Malone or otherwise says me, not Frank) you must let it burn for at least two hours so the melted wax reaches the entire perimeter. This allows the candle to always burn evenly and release the scent efficiently.

Every time you light the candle clip the “mushroom” off the top of the wick otherwise the buildup of carbon will cause your candle flame to burn higher and your candle will soot and smoke.

The tutorial only took a few minutes but then came the elaborate wrapping process reminiscent of the scene in the movie Love Actually when Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) the jewelry salesman takes forever to elaborately gift wrap the gold heart necklace Harry has just surreptitiously purchased for his secretary while waiting for his wife.

Ok so I’m exaggerating, but only a little. First Frank carefully wrapped tissue around the candle and with a flourish placed it inside an elegant black and cream Jo Malone box. Next he proceeded to spray perfume on reams of more tissue paper so I could “place them in my drawers”, then he delicately placed the box and the tissue paper inside a cream and black Jo Malone shopping bag after which he carefully cut just the right amount of black silk ribbon, meticulously tied it in a perfect bow to hold the handles of the bag together and ceremoniously presented it to me as if he were indeed bestowing me with a well deserved reward.

Despite my irreverent thought bubbles and cynicism the experience turned out to be unexpectedly unique and fun (and educational) and it all took place in an actual brick and mortar store where I was waited on by a man who clearly loves his work. Purchasing the coveted candle may have been rewarding, but the journey and the destination were right up there as well.

Morgan and Murphy

These two beauties belong to my friend Judy Stewart. I spent the day with them (and Judy) on Sunday and just had to share this great photo. They are not only beautiful but also very camera savvy hence the big smiles and casual pose they assumed as soon as they saw me aiming my phone in their direction. To quote Designer Extraordinaire Jennifer Lissner Kranitz “Nothing is more right in this world than those dogs in that room /on that floor!”

A Magical Afternoon

If you could spend an afternoon with two of your most favorite people on the planet (daughter Wendy and granddaughter Rian to be more specific) learning to make a gorgeous spring flower arrangement who would you choose to be your private instructor? If you were lucky enough to choose Bella Meyer you would be learning at the feet (or hands) of a true master! As my birthday gift Wendy arranged an afternoon session for the three of us with Bella in her magical flower shop, fleursBELLA located in Greenwich Village. She is a very warm, relatable & charming alchemist with an impressive pedigree. She earned a Ph.D. in Medieval Art History in Paris where she was born and raised, then after moving to NYC she opened her flower shop in 2005 to create “enchanted garden-like arrangements that evoke fantasy and pleasure” which it does, and then some! Imagine our surprise when we saw what looked like an original painting of a lilac garden signed by Marc Chagall, casually sitting on an easel on what we soon discovered was our work table. The painting was surrounded by huge pots of lilacs and various other spring flowers of every size and color ready for us to select from for our arrangements. An original Marc Chagall you might ask, how is that possible? It is totally possible when you are Bella Meyer, his granddaughter!

Hoping to try and impart a small sense of the magic of the afternoon I chose a few of our photos to share, I do so with love and gratitude to Wendy for the unique and wonderful gift which will always remain a treasured memory, and with gratitude to Bella for so generously sharing her magic.

Entrance to fleursBella, notice the little chair with an entreaty to “Please Take a Flower”
Bella at our worktable with her Grandfather’s painting as our inspiration
A closer look at our inspiration
Rian with her beautiful arrangement
Wendy hard at work
My finished arrangement, carefully transported home

The Misadventures Of A Brooklyn Tortoise And A Flock Of Sheep End On A Happy Note

This article from The Gothamist, an online newsletter about New York City news, arts and events, and food, published by New York Public Radio, appeared in today’s edition. I thought it was too good not to share with my many loyal followers (!). Now you can see why my oft stated comment “only in New York” never gets old.

A flock of young sheep huddled in the rear yard of a Brooklyn home. Meantime, Doris the tortoise is back home in Brooklyn.

BY DAVID CRUZMAY 1, 2021 11:07 A.M. • 

The separate misadventures of a pet tortoise and flock of lambs came to an end on Friday, with authorities corralling the animals and bringing them to sanctuary safe and sound.

The case of “Doris” the tortoise began ten days ago after the four-legged African Leopard Tortoise split from her Bay Ridge home after the gate had been left open. The owner, Laura Torres, organized neighborhood search groups and posted a reward for the return of the animal. A Facebook page dubbed “Tortoise Lost in Brooklyn” was also created. The hard-shell animal somehow lumbered her way to Staten Island (by swimming or crossing the Verrazano Bridge is anyone’s guess), surviving all those days on who knows what.

The Brooklyn Paper reported that Doris was found on Staten Island by a Staten Island resident who called the local zoo thinking it had escaped from there. Zoo workers were then able to reunite Doris with Torres.

“After 10 days, Doris is finally home,” the family wrote on their Facebook page. “We’re so grateful for all the love and support in helping us find her, and we are so glad to finally have her back.”

On the same day Doris was back home safe and sound, elsewhere in Brooklyn, eight young sheep were discovered in a backyard in Marine Park. The homeowner called the 63rd Precinct, which covers south Brooklyn near the Gateway National Recreation Area, who then brought in the NYPD’s Special Operations

Pictures posted on the special ops Twitter page shows officers corralling the fluffy younglings in a narrow alleyway and putting them in a small trailer with an assist from Animal Care Centers and the NYPD Mounted Unit.

The ACC posted a tweet saying the lambs are “safe” and on their way to Skylands Sanctuary & Animal Rescue in Wantage, NJ, about an hour’s drive from New York City. Authorities still don’t know exactly where the sheep originated

The tortoise and little lambs could not be reached for comment.

Almost “Normal”

Sunday I had an almost “normal” day. Despite the threat of severe thunderstorms three friends and I met at the Morgan Library to see the David Hockney exhibit (my son was totally confused when I told him about my day wondering why I wanted to see a hockey exhibit!).

Two of these friends are extreme fashionistas and the other two, one of them being me and one I’ll call JB are much more understated (lots of beiges and blacks). One fashionista only wears custom clothing made from the most exotic and gorgeous fabrics you could ever imagine and the other dresses only in wild colors and fabulously funky outfits.

After enjoying the great exhibit, we set off on our excursion to the restaurant for dinner about 1.5 miles away, JG in her gorgeous silk /linen outer coat with various and sundry silk undercoats and a few amazing scarves for good measure and JS in her flowered coat, sequined and polka dotted leggings and wildly colored sneakers. Then there was me in all black and JB in alot of beige. As we were leaving the Morgan JG and JS (sorry about all the J’s) noticed that the raincoat JB was carrying over her arm had a wildly colored lining. Together they demanded she MUST wear it inside out!

With great hesitation JB agreed arguing that everyone would know. We had a serious discussion right there in the Morgan lobby, examining it from every angle, deciding It looked great, and, since the label was under the hood, we assured her no one would ever know and that she was joining the ranks of the fashionistas.

On we went to dinner where we enjoyed a delicious meal and eachother’s company, together non-virtually for the first time in over a year!

I promise you this entire story is true but before I finish it needs reiterating…..

As we were leaving the very elegant Greek restaurant a couple at the next plexiglassed and socially distant table beckoned me over. Puzzled, I moved as close as I dared and in a “stage whisper” almost in unison, they said “tell your friend she has her coat on inside out”!

 It’s refreshing to know that in spite of being homebound for over a year some NYers haven’t lost their need to mind your business!