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These photographs of New York storefronts were taken by James and Karla Murray in 2004 – the year I moved to NYC.  A lot has changed in ten years – see for yourself.  However, I like the photos from 2004 the best of all.

 

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How To Be Productive

Infographic designed by annavital
I liked this one, especially:
“Define your fashion uniform. Wear it daily.”
“When you read something helpful, write to the author”
“Do a bad first draft”
and my favorite: “Better done than perfect”, my version of which is “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”

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I came across this string on Good Reads via Smart Bitches Trashy Books a year or two ago and have been slowly working my way through the list (I’ll request a few from the library at a time).  A good book is the best therapy money can buy and I love having a long, long list to work through!  Sunday was just one of those days around here (doing our taxes, open houses, life not going according to plan, you know, the usual!).  We had a long subway ride to Brooklyn to go see an open house and I decided to take a time out with a good book  - The Winter Witch ($2.99 Kindle version) - to see if I could shift my attitude and the tenor of the day.  The hour flew by as I got sucked into the hills of Wales (with sheep! and magic! and PONIES!) and a bit of love and redemption, too. After the dust settled, I joked to Tim that we need to have a Kindle preloaded with some new-to-me books mounted on the wall with a “break glass in case of emergency” sign.   Do you read to calm down, too?  Also, if you haven’t read Tam Lin by Pamela Dean, it’s a modern fairy tale treat!

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After a doctor’s appointment on the East side this afternoon Alex and I did a little wander.  We popped into the Ukrainian Institute ($5 suggested donation), an old world mansion on 5th Avenue.  We saw some modern art and some amazing architecture.  But really, we came for the Ukrainian eggs on the third floor!

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Then, we had a dinner date at Serafina, all alone on the airy third floor (which used to be their roof!).  A glass of multipulciano (for me) later, and a pizza and platter of ravioli (for Alex) we rolled on to the Metropolitan Museum, where Alex was in charge of our itineracy.  We saw the knights, the Egyptian temple, we saw the American Wing (returned three times to the guitar player in the American Wing Courtyard) and ended the night in the Greek and Roman Gallery “what happened to their arms?” (and other body parts…) Alex asked of all the armless and member-less male statues.  A few weeks ago when I was despairing about finding the right place for our family (another bid on an apartment fell through, this time on the UES) a friend said to me  ”New York is a place of highs and lows” and boy is that the truth.

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This morning I almost missed my stop on the subway because I was so absorbed in Bernd Heinrich’s Winter World.  It seems counterintuitive that just as winter is ending I can’t get enough of descriptions of how animals survive the cold.  Heinrich brings to life the world of the woods in a compelling and readable way for those of us who are far from being scientists.

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All of us have our rites of spring, the moment that suddenly, vividly, marks winter’s absence.  For one friend, it’s the week the magnolia tree in her yard blooms.  For me, it’s when the forsythia bushes that line the traffic crossing through Central Park at 86th street start to bloom.  The yellow blossoms streak past the taxi window, thrown into contrast with the dark stone walls below and the just barely leafing trees above. This week the bushes just started to leaf; the buds can’t be far behind.  Finally, we’re inching towards spring.

Huge bushes of forsythia  lined our driveway in Vermont and each spring we’d gun the Jeep up the muddy driveway (mud season!).  There the gold blooms were in contrast to the muddy earth and the white-blue spring sky.  Back then, mud season was the real rite of spring. I must have been 5 or 6 when we came around a turn on the dirt toad that connected us to town to find a neighbors car sunk so deeply into the mud that you couldn’t see the wheels.  My capable, calm mother pitched in the recovery effort – which included wooden planks (retrieved from our barn?) and quite a bit of pushing.

I first read the Robert Frost poem Nothing Gold Can Stay in the spring of my freshman year of high school:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

My English teacher, Louise Schwingel, pointed out the window at the early blooming gold forsythia, suggesting this was an example of how nature’s first green could be gold, which made absolute sense to me.  Louise required each of us to memorize one poem by the end of the year. ‘Just one,’ she said, ‘because you never know when you’ll need it.’ To illustrate her point, she recounted how a former student of hers, rendered speechless upon seeing his newborn son for the first time, drawing a total blank, suddenly spouted whatever poem he’d memorized. (And presumably, was so relieved to have had something appropriately sage to say in that moment, then wrote her a thank you letter!)    At 15 I certainly couldn’t imagine having a child, let alone why you might be so exhausted and overwhelmed as to be in need of a memorized poem.  But, I did memorize Nothing Gold Can Stay, just in case and to be suitably armed for the mysterious follies of adulthood. Twenty years later, I’ve never had the presence of mind to use Frost’s poem in any kind of momentous moment, but I do love to recite it as I cross the park in the first days of spring, thinking of all the years that have passed, of all the winters vanquished and the summers ahead.

PS: Some poetry experts on Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Also, for those of you not in NYC, a slow and shaky video I took of the 86th crossing last spring:

Forsythia Crossing Central Park from Design Scouting on Vimeo.

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My mother sent me and Alex a care package of goodies, including all the supplies to do “Milk Painting” – which I had never heard of.  It’s sort of like marbling, except totally non toxic.  My mom also sent along the link to BabbleDabbleDo which as the full technique explained.  I can’t wait for the weekend to play around and make something with Alex.

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We’re in a new phase here at Nova/Wright HQ.  The era of the birthday party is upon us. For the last four years, birthday parties have really seemed more for the parents than for the kids (everyone has fun, but the focus is on celebrating the parents surviving another year).  However, it turns out the age 5 is when parties start being important to the kids, too. We’re on the spring circuit here, a party every weekend and each one seems to out do the next.  Alex has started planning his own Ninja party – here is what he has requested so far:

  • a ninja pinata, filled with ninja candy and ninja cakes
  • every kid is going to get their own ninja costume in black while Alex is going to get a red ninja costume
  • a ninja fight show

A party at our karate place seems like a logical and low key way to meet some of these requests.  Trying to find good gifts for these parties is a another balancing act.  I like to give a good book and a small gift.  Some recent favorite books have been Zen Shorts and In The Town All Year Round.  I also like to give Iota – the tiny tin (perfect for purses or small NYC apartments already filled to the brim) holds an awesome card game – easy enough for Alex to grasp the rules but enough of a game of strategy that Tim and I enjoyed it too. I highly recommend!

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Henri rousseau’s 1909 painting The Equatorial Jungle that I first saw in Talking to the Sun.

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Sometimes I feel like I’m more magpie than human since shiny things catch my eye easily.  Case in point: this red, candy-colored paring knife from Lamson.   Tim and I had a quickie dinner date tonight at Gotham West and walked through The Brooklyn Kitchen on our way out, and this knife sang its little siren song to me from behind the cash register.

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These mandalas made by artists Hillerbrand and Magsamen are making me re-think the daily messes around here.  Maybe I should just create art instead of picking up all these legos!  ha! Found via Boing Boing (the very first blog I ever read).

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We’re watching The Great Beauty tonight – to say it is a visual feast is an understatement.  Rome and Italy are the real stars (and the suits!) – the clip below is a compilation of scenes from the film. It’s all good, but my favorite scene is at 2:59 where a man with keys to all the private houses in Rome walks us through one of them. Highly recommend.

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So, what is everyone reading and watching this weekend?  I just finished up The Iron Duke, a steampunk romp which is currently on sale for $1.99 (thanks Smart Bitches, Trashy Books) and have started on Japanese Farm Food but am jones-ing for a all-absorbing read. In terms of TV, we’ve finished up The Americans and started in on the latest season of Scandal (both so good!).  Also, I discovered at the library on Friday that Henning Mankell, on of my favorite authors, has done a young adult series! So that is also on my list.

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I grew up a half hour car ride from the nearest library or bookstore (we lived in the Vermont woods, up a long dirt road).  We didn’t get TV reception, not really anyway.  I remember some very grainy images of the Challenger explosion on a TV that only got black and white reception, flickering in and out and no audio at all.  We weren’t totally without access to culture – we did have a VCR and a whole lot of bootleg VHS tapes (Laurel & Hardy, Say Anything, Roxanne to name a few), and a radio and a whole lot of books.  True, a few friends’ parents had cable but that was a real luxury. On the other hand, I had friends who lived farther out, further off the gird.  So I felt sort of solidly normal growing up in this time before the internet and Kindles and streaming TV, a time, I might add, that is increasingly hard to imagine. [click to continue…]

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