Monday, June 27, 2011

Back to Work

Wow it's been a busy bunch of days. Let me catch you up. Last week I got the news that I have a new job. Yay! That set off a whole chain of events on Thursday and Friday, from peeing in a cup to shopping again. I'll skip the details on the former (you're welcome) and expand on the latter. When you are looking for a job - especially when you are of a certain age - they tell you to network. In fact "they" tell you that only 10-15% of jobs are filled from internet/resume applications. The remainder are through personal connections. That's LIVE people, folks. With this information in hand, I began telling everyone I knew, from my cousins to my hair cutter, that I was looking for a job. Everyone promised to mention me to someone they knew but no one managed to convince me I would ever hear from that person.
I started to get nervous, as my mortgage payments inched closer to exceeding my bank balance, and decided to call a realtor to put my condo on the market. I chose her at random from the internet and we made an appointment for her to see the place. When she arrived we chatted for a few minutes and then I began the tour. Afterwards she sat down and blurted out "I'm not going to sell your place - I need to find you a job!" I was flabbergasted. She said "It's so obvious you love it here and that's my job as a realtor - to put {or keep} people in the house they want to live in." To make this long story a little less long - well, she gave me the name and email address of a friend of hers, after a few misfires I got an interview and ultimately they offered me the job!
Crazy, coincidental, unbelievable. ME! The person who is so solitary I prefer to go to the movies alone - I got a job through networking! So last week was spent filling out forms, getting drug tested (oh really!) and preparing a truly personal and heartfelt thank you gift for my new favorite realtor (thus the shopping). So I have another 2 weeks to tie up loose ends, finally tackle some projects around here, get some new clothes and get back to work.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

HiHo Redux

I know I've posted about HiHo Home Market before but I am a little obsessed with that place! I took a ride up there again today. Look at the pretty window boxes! So cute. The shop owner has such a wonderful eye for display. SUCH a wonderful eye, as a matter of fact that - I finally realized - I love her store more than I like her product. Every little corner is evidence of a special kind of devotion, each diverse item so lovingly placed. I think if she ran a butcher shop I would want to hang out there! I visit often, not necessarily to shop but to enjoy the atmosphere. I do try to buy something each time I visit, to support her efforts and small business owners in general. Don't get me wrong, her mix of merchandise - foods, spa products, new and old jewelry, vintage and reproduction furniture, books and stationery - certainly makes it easy enough to find a little sump-in' to love. Yet I likely wouldn't be compelled to buy the same item if I saw it in a department store. Wait a minute - did I just have an Arsenio moment? Did I just find something to make me go "Hmmm?" Do you think maybe THAT'S one of the keys to success in the oh-so-hard-to-compete-in world of retail? Perhaps being true to one's heart is as important as having a national presence. Maybe offering merchandise that one believes in is as important as carrying every hot new thing. Is it possible that an owner, like Heidi, is as important - or more important - than an army of buyers, crunching numbers and not caring about the product?

I imagine her each morning cheerfully greeting the postman, accepting this day's new treasure. Carefully peeling tape off the carton, like a child pulling the ribbon from a birthday gift, she gingerly pokes her hand inside, searching for the little gem through the packing. Excitement builds as it emerges. She lovingly unwraps the surprise, turning it over and over, as it coyly reveals itself, a little at a time. She holds it, gazes at it, wonders just where it wants to live. She has an idea - maybe in the front corner, with it's sunny yellow siblings. Or rather, nestled amongst its aged brethren in the cozy back nook. So many possibilities but, in the end, only one right answer.

I guess I should reveal right here and now that I am so inspired, I am seriously considering that this is the right time to open my own shop. Cause or effect? Probably a little of both. I've had the thought many, many - many - times over the years. Originally I wanted to have a gallery-shop offering handcrafted, artisan goods. While I would love that I know the immense investment and risk of that kind of venture was, for me, self-defeating. I have another idea now and am in the process of coming up with the ole elevator pitch. In fact I am using the blog format to develop images, ideas, plans etc. I will post about it when I get closer (shhhh...please don't tell the unemployment police!).
 Everybody have a great Memorial Day - but please take a few moments to honor, in some way, the brave men and women who have given so much for all of us!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Is it just me?

Am I the last person in the world to figure out how fabulous BAKING SODA is? My fav appliance {in the kitchen} has, for a long time, been my toaster oven. I rarely use the big jobbie anymore but this little guy cannot be beat for convenience, thriftiness and ease. I've been through about 3 of them now, not because they didn't work or didn't serve my needs, but because they all got gross looking after a fairly short while. Yesterday I got bit by the domesticity bug and began hopping from one little task to another. Laundry, vacuuming, ironing, cleaning. I did it all. When I got to the kitchen, there was no question but that I had to attack the drippy, cheesy, goop that the week's leftover pizza slices left on the t.o.'s floor, door and grill! Ugh! I soaked what I could in the sink and began scrubbing away at the rest with my trusty Dobie pad and scouring powder. Not very appetizing. Then I remembered the jar of baking soda and water I had saved the last time I tried to clean my chrome bread bin. I pulled that out and OMG - what a great job it did! Super quick and easy, I scrubbed away all the greasy, charred spots. I even removed the glass door, handles and knobs, attacking those corners and crevices, and my once elegant, stainless steel Kitchenaide oven is loverly again! Yippee! Oh boy. I guess I REALLY need to get back to work.

Friday, May 27, 2011

5 Stages

I've been thinking about the 5 stages of grief. Identified by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross the 5 stages are commonly displayed by people facing their own, imminent death. The concept has become popularly associated with most any type of tragic or devastating occurrence. Not to make light of true tragedy, for I am acutely aware of how often we throw those kinds of words around, rendering their original intent nearly meaningless. In its own way this has been a devastating experience...being unemployed without the means to support myself, to pay my bills, to face retirement without a hope of normalcy. In the beginning I kind of wondered why - having acknowledged its seriousness - the situation was NOT freaking me out. Was it, in fact, denial - the first stage of grief? I think in some ways it was. I am still a little in denial, now hoping more than believing that I - unlike all the people I know in the same situation - I will find a job before the problem becomes serious. But the second half of stage 1 - isolation - WAS prominent. I was choosing not to see anyone or do anything when possible because it all seemed too frivolous. I felt I had to be conservative, workman-like in my day-to-day activity. Stage 1: check!

Stage 2, Anger. I don't know that I was angry. I didn't blame the company or anyone in it, I didn't rail against God and humanity. But then I realized, as time went by, I was beginning to become infuriated at the situation itself. How could I, a person who always played by the rules, who never took anything from anyone, who has done everything necessary to be a responsible self-supporting "good citizen," be in this situation? How unfair is it that the unscrupulous businessmen/bankers/brokers et al are getting handouts from the government to save them from themselves and I'm on my own. Stage 2: check!

Stage 3, Bargaining. I didn't exactly skip stage 3 but my bargaining was a little more subtle. I gave myself a month to be unemotional, proactive and hopeful. Well the month came and went with no change. I gave myself one more week because, after all, there were some hopeful signs. The week came and went. I gave myself another day and the day came and went. Stage 3: check!

Stage 4, Depression? Hmm, stage 4. Suffice it to say for the first time - there were tears. Stage 4: check!

And stage 5, Acceptance? I'm not sure. Yes I've accepted "it" for what it is. And this is really where the analogy falls apart. I can say I have accepted it but, unlike one in the throes of a real tragedy - I will go on. My acceptance is only of a revised way of life - not the end of one. That's what I need to hold onto. I need to get over myself - it's not a tragedy - it's a setback. I have started doing things again. I have days I feel positive about the changes to come. I will likely have to embrace a new way of living,. I will likely have to make some decisions that do not come easily to me. I am already a little taken aback at my lack of a decisive direction. Maybe - since this isn't about a tragedy of that magnitude - maybe the fifth stage in this process - of forced reinvention - is Action.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Uncle Freddie

Uncle Freddie w his cousin Elmo, Italy
Just a quick post to remember my Uncle Freddie. He passed away after a long, full life - a good life well lived - in April. We will miss him dearly. Uncle Fred, give our love to dear Aunt Alda.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Art and Artists

Franz Ludwig Catel, "A View of Naples Through a Window"
I had a great visit to Manhattan last week with an artist friend of mine. Carol suggested a couple of different exhibits we could see. One was a show at the Metropolitan called "Rooms With a View," featuring works from the Romantic period of European painting circa 1810-1820.
Adolph Menzel, "The Artist's Bedroom in Ritterstrasse"
Each painting (or drawing) depicts a portion of a simply outfitted room interior, composed so that a window - and the view beyond it - is featured. These are generally lovely, luminous works, combining rigid draftsmanship with elegant brushwork.
   Georg Friedrich Kersting, "In Front of the Mirror"
I love everything about this type of painting: the juxtaposition of  the hard architectural, elements of a space with the organic forms of flora and fauna beyond, and in some cases within the room; the vivid contrast of light flowing in the window and the subdued shadows and washes of a spare interior; the sharp focus of the foreground vs.the softened, faded distance.
Georg Friedrich Kersting, "Woman Embroidering"
Léon Cogniet, "The Artist in His Room at the Villa Medici, Rome"
 I realized as I walked through the exhibit that this is not a new affinity for me. I had a trio of prints by the artist Johannes Vermeer framed and mounted in the dining room of my last apartment in Old Brookville.
Johannes Vermeer of Delft, "Milk Maid"
One of my favorite painters, this 17th century Dutch master was highly acclaimed for his sophisticated use of color layering, expensive, rare pigments and - especially - the lighting effects he employed to achieve exceptionally complex and delicate modeling.
Johannes Vermeer of Delft, "Lady Writing a Letter With her Maid"
Johannes Vermeer of Delft, "The Girl With a Pearl Earring"
I remember being captivated by a similar effect evident in the work of another artist when visiting Europe some years back. I was unfamiliar with Georges de La Tour until I saw his "Education of the Girl Mary" in, I believe, The Tate Gallery in London.
Georges de La Tour, "Education of the Girl Mary"
 Like most of de La Tour's works, the drama of the scene is achieved by a strong focused light source, usually a solitary flame.
Georges de La Tour, "Magdalene With the Smoking Flame"
Mary Magdalene was a favorite subject for de La Tour but the divine quality of his illuminating technique brings all his paintings to life. 
Georges de La Tour, "Christ in the Carpenter's Shop"
When I met Pam Ingalls, exhibiting at a craft show in Bellevue, Washington, I was again enthralled by the shafts of light jumping off her canvases, creating a bold and compelling focus for each.
Pam Ingalls, On The Hook
Her scenes are more mundane than most of the old masters' - a vintage kitchen with dirty dishes in the sink, a bed with crumpled linens, even a toilet and sink - but this quality of light defining the entire structure of the piece elevates them all to the same level of beauty and wonder.
Pam Ingalls, Ethiopian Restaurant
Pam Ingalls, Second Stories
Pam Ingalls, Room With A View II
 Hmm funny I didn't recognize my attraction to this common element earlier, eh? ;0)

Saturday, May 14, 2011


No, no no not THAT frosting! I too have cupcakes on my mind, what with the Gardiner Cupcake Festival, FINALLY ready to kick off tomorrow. But today I am thinking about frosting glass. I want to show you a little project I've had in mind for awhile and finally got to last week. It involves one of my favorite products that, I think, can be used in many creative ways around your home. It is frosting spray, available at all the craft and home improvement stores (I got mine at Lowe's).
First, some background. When I moved from my little cottage style apartment in Piermont I realized having ALL the things I love on display might make me feel good but seeing the amount of dust they were capable of accumulating in a very short period of time did not. I decided that in the new place most of it, if it were not going to be put away, would need to be displayed behind glass. So I schlepped my matched pair of giant vintage-Conran glass fronted cabinets with me, added glass doors to my bookcases and eventually bought a couple more armoires with them as well. Fast forward to my latest move, where all these large cabinets got dispersed into various rooms. One of the beech-toned Conran pair took up residence in the dinette where it houses all the overflow platters, silverware, vases, bowls etc. I've lived with it this way for almost 4 years, wondering all the time if I liked it enough to keep it in my long range plans. The jury is till out on that but I decided that while it sits there it needs to function better. That's when I figured out that the can of spray frost I had bought for a picture frame project would serve here as well. So I reorganized all the stuff in the cabinet, concentrating the bar-related bottles and glass ware to just two shelves. I then taped off the glass doors, above and below these shelves. I cleaned the glass really well and got to spraying. And in just moments I scored a great solution to a small storage dilemma.
There's a lot of reflection in this picture so I don't know how well you can see it but the stuff that looked cluttered and utilitarian is now hidden behind the elegant frosted glass and the bar shelves are highlighted behind the remaining clear glass! I love it! I hope ThriftyDecorChick will be proud!
As I mentioned this works well to add another dimension to framed art work. What looks like a blue matte in the photo above is actually the frosted part of the glass, softening the sage green matte behind. Really cool. You can also try this spray to add a little interest to an inexpensive mirror by taping off a 1/2 to 1 inch strip and frosting it for the look of an etched frame. Use your imagination!

Monday, May 9, 2011


I distinctly remember when I was a kid, for a few months at least, having an irrational fear of quicksand! Why you might wonder would a 12 year old from Queens, New York with a homemaker mom and a retailer dad have any reason to even think about quicksand much less be terrified by its mere existence? Well, all these years later, I still know why: #1, it was always portrayed in the movies (from whence the whole of my quicksand knowledge was drawn) as surreptitiously lurking out there, hidden in plain sight and #2, of course, the slow and painless way it would trap the hero, unrelentingly pulling him down, down, down until his suffocating fear yielded to real life-ending suffocation. The last month has been like living in quicksand for me. I am stuck up to my waist - not sinking any further but unable to move to get myself out of it either. Each day starts much as they always did...up at 6am, putter a bit, wash, dress and have something to eat while listening to those crazy guys on the radio. But then what? Several people have suggested it's like an unexpected vacation, at first. Well, not really. I do spend 4 to 5 hours on applications but after that it feels too cavalier to do almost anything else. Like I'm on that vacation rather than unemployed. So I surf the web, watch tv, walk to the grocery. Unproductive. Unengaged. Emotional quicksand.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Field Trip: Vassar College

Now tell me again: what did people do before the automobile?  I am constantly impressed by those who to this day choose to do without this marvelous invention. I know somewhere in my heart of hearts there is an argument to be made against it but really...can you buy into it? Tuesday this week was yet another gray and dreary kind of raw day around these parts. I had decided to take that day – my birthday - off from all the tedious but necessary bits that have become my new occupation. Since the weather was not conducive to a stroll outdoors I decided to do a little exploring and headed upriver to Vassar College.
I am ashamed to admit that before I moved to this area I did not realize this somewhat legendary college resided just a few miles across the Hudson in the city of Poughkeepsie. I happened upon the interesting little street on which the campus sits, with its quaint brickwork and cozy round-abouts, while passing through for business. When I realized what lay beyond those brick walls I made note to return for a visit. A bit of research on lead me to The Francis Lehman Loeb Art Center, the rather impressive collection it houses, and the decision that this would be the day’s destination. So I hopped into my little red bug - with the top up today - and motored on up for A Good Life Well Lived field trip!
There are several entrances from Raymond Avenue, that charming tree-lined street, to the Vassar campus. I suggest the main entrance – through the gateway arch of Taylor Hall, which also houses the Art Center. You can park right alongside the galleries or you can take a drive through the College's rambling and eclectic campus.
To quote from their web site, “Universally acknowledged as one of the most beautiful in the country, the Vassar campus comprises over 1,000 picturesque acres ranging from the manicured lawns and formal gardens of the main campus to the meadows and woodlands of the Vassar Farm. The buildings, designed over the course of the college’s history by some of the most prominent architects of the day, range in style from Collegiate Gothic to International and include two National Historic Landmarks.”
 The institution's founder, Matthew Vassar, was known for declaring that "art should stand boldly forth as an educational force." Adding action to his words, Vassar donated his extensive collection of Hudson River School paintings to the college, making it the first college or university in the country to include an art museum as part of its original plan. 
Today’s collection of 18,000 pieces includes art from the ancient world up through contemporary works by world class artists from European masters (Brueghel, Picasso, Cézanne, Braque) to the leading twentieth-century American painters (Pollock, Rothko, Stella, O'Keeffe).
The collection recently resettled into a newly renovated 1993 building, designed by Cesar Pelli. Modern and sleek the Loeb sits in interesting juxtaposition to the old Taylor Hall with its elaborate carvings of artists and mythical creatures. The building provides a compelling experience, leading visitors through a low, glass enclosed tunnel, past a small outdoor sculpture garden to a high, sky lit central hall with jewelbox-like displays of ancient vessels under a high coved ceiling.
A huge portrait of the founder looms ahead, marking the entrance to the Hudson River School gallery on the left and the remainder of the exhibits to the right. The multiple galleries are nicely sized and arranged more or less chronologically with an occasional temporary or changing exhibit interspersed.

Though the collection in some ways rivals that of a Met or Chicago Institute in breadth, of course in size it is much more limited. The wonderful thing is that this allows for each room to contain one genre or historical period, making the transition from one to the next startling but also exhilarating.
 To stand amongst the richly carved medieval altarpieces and statuary, kissed with the burnished remnants of a polychrome glaze, and spy the overpoweringly simplistic color fields of an Ellsworth Kelly through an open doorway heightens one’s awareness of each - and jaded one cannot be! All you need to know about the Art Center can be found here. For general info on all Vassar has to offer click here.
The Student Inspiration Room
Mark Rothko
Jackson Pollack
Georgia O'Keeffe (Detail)

Monday, April 11, 2011

New York City, April 2011, Part 2

Yesterday on the bus ride to the City I noticed that finally, it seems, spring has come to New York. While the forsythias are not yet the blinding chrome yellow of their full bloom, the buds are certainly bursting and the color is unmistakably sunny! So with the dual enticements of a warm cloudless day and the advent of New York's seasonal outdoor displays I thought, while I was there, a walking tour was in order. I'd read a piece about a new public art installation along the Park Avenue mall. Will Ryman's crazy large, blatantly garish fiberglass roses were planted in January on a few dozen of these little urban stages, between 57th and 67th streets.

They are just the latest of the always eye-catching displays along this wide residential boulevard but definitely one of the more fanciful.

See them through May 31st during the day or under the spotlights at night.  You can find more details and read the artist's statements here.

What I love most about Manhattan is the likelihood that without warning you might all at once stumble upon the completely unexpected. One could argue that a 25 foot tall flower looking like the spawn of Little Shop of Horror's resident man-eater Audrey is the very definition of unexpected and one would be right. But in this case the unexpected I'm referring to is that particular vignette, vast and imposing or tiny and delicate, that one has no idea is lurking around the next corner.  So the surprise, in addition to the delight, is the thing.

At any moment you might be feeling oppressed by the gray hardness all around you when suddenly the crowd thins and you see an improbably large flower pot exploding with the glow of daffodils and the perfume of hyacinths.

Turn the corner from a boring, unending expanse of dreary storefronts and feel the exhilaration of a wide open esplanade lined with elegant residences punctuated by a parade of planters packed with masses of tulips, each with petals just now shyly peeking out from their green leaf robes.

Walk up the street a way and - can you believe your eyes? Is that a frightfully large yellow - YELLOW?! - teddy bear! Yes. Very large. And a fine shade of yellow. Like the lemon in lemon meringue pie.  And it seems to be knit from yarn. And it has the shade of a black desk lamp sitting on its head. Like a wayward baseball cap - or batting helmet. And its poor little head is crammed up against the light bulb in the lamp. And all the diminutive people, as amazed as I am, are milling around, fascinated. Or completely ignoring it as New Yorkers do.

This art installation, one of 3 by sculptor Urs Fischer, can be viewed on Seagram's Plaza (Park Avenue at 53rd street) for the next five months before being auctioned off by Christie's (in case you just HAD to have it for your own plaza).