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