Archive | December, 2011

I Love My Schlumbergera!

31 Dec

I love my Schlumbergera!

Actually, I didn’t even know that I even HAD a schlumbergera until I started this post, and read about Christmas Cactus on Wikipedia.

I had been planning on titling this post “I Love My Christmas Cactus!” – but “I Love My Schlumbergera!” sounds much more intriguing, doesn’t it?

Here, from Wikipedia is an illustration of a schlumbergera, from a 1839 botanical magazine.

When I lived in Atlanta and had lots of space, I was the proud owner of several schlumbergeras. (Schlumbergeri?)

Sweet plants!

And so loyal – mine bloom every Holiday season – from Thanksgiving through New Years.

There are websites dedicated to making Christmas Cactus/Schlumbergera bloom. But honestly, I don’t do a danged special thing.  My schlumbergera sits outside when it’s warm, and indoors on the windowsill when it’s cold. I water it every-so-often.

And it blooms EACH AND EVERY year.

I brought one from Atlanta when I moved to New York City, so this one is well over 15 years old.

The “Care Of Christmas Cactus” site (link above) says:

Since Grandma’s day, the Christmas cactus has been a favorite houseplant. It’s not unusual for a single plant to be passed down from generation to generation because they’re long-lived, rather easy plants to grow.”

Our only problem here in the NYC apartment is that Sammy The Cat likes to chomp on our schlumbergera. So we have to keep a close eye on the beast.

If you like plants, don’t want to work hard at it, and appreciate it’s loyalty and beauty during the holiday season, I strongly suggest that you get a schlumbergera of your very own.

Otherwise known as a Christmas Cactus.

Happy 2012, everyone. I hope it is peaceful, healthful and prosperous to us all.

Filled with good friends, beasts and schlumbergera.




Who Ya Gonna Call? GumBusters!

30 Dec

The sunlight lit up the sidewalk. The sidewalk simply sparkled in the light.

Except for those dark splotches.

What ARE those dark splotches??

Get ready for this, people. Those dark splotches all over the sidewalks are…


Yes – gross, spit-out ABC gum.

Already Been Chewed gum.

It apparently is not a new problem. Here is a reprint of an article that ran in The New York Times on April 17, 1921:


A Prophecy as to the Ultimate Fate of New Yorkers.

   Chewing gum appears to have a very firmly established place with Americans, but now it has its objectionable features, just like all fads, according to Mrs. M. L. Heath, manager of the Travel Information Bureau of the Boomer Hotels. Mrs. Heath says that unless the vogue of gum-chewing passes or unless city, State and national laws are passed and funds appropriated for a special sidewalk cleaning department, with chemical outfits and scrapers, the City of New York may become totally enveloped in refuse chewing gum in the course of time.

   “Few people realize what it means to have this refuse chewing gum lying about on the sidewalks and pavements,” said Mrs. Heath. “It is deposited in enormous quantities and at first it is extremely unpleasant to walk over, although this is lessened by the absorption of dust and it gradually works into the pavement. But, of course, what is bad for some is good for others and it applied to this case the other day when a young Latin-American couple returned to the McAlpin Hotel after a sightseeing trip about the city.

   “They came in to tell me how much they had enjoyed the trip, and remarked that they had never seen such delightful walks as were found here in spots. ‘Soft to the touch, yet very firm,’ they said, ‘much of the paving seemed to be of a spotted material and in other places is a solid brown or black. We walked for miles and never tired, and neither of us are good walkers.’ I explained to them it was chewing gum, and that we thought it was something of a menace – that business houses and tenants fight against it with scrapers and gasoline, but it keeps ahead of them – but the South Americans could not get my point of view.”

Fast-forward to the here and now.

There is a company called GumBusters.

Some details from their website:

The GumBusters system is 100 percent effective in removing all shapes and sizes of gum with a simple method. The gum is heated with 300-degree dry steam which is then mixed with a cleaning agent. With a little pressure, a small brush at the end of the cleaning hose will remove the stain. The best part is that the process can be done without closing off streets or disrupting daily activity.

Bubblegum, sugarless, spearmint – to GumBusters they all wind up the same, as sticky blackened spots on the landscape. The only difference is that sometimes when the heat hits the gum, “the smell wafts up, and you can tell if it’s cinnamon, grape or strawberry.”

And, do you know the history of chewing gum?

From Wikipedia:

Modern chewing gum was first developed in the 1860s when chicle was exported from Mexico for use as a rubber substitute. Chicle did not succeed as a replacement for rubber, but as a gum it was soon adopted and due to newly established companies such as Adams New York Chewing Gum (1871), Black Jack (1884) and “Chiclets” (1899), it soon dominated the market.”

And, Just where did Thomas Adams invent his modern-day chewing gum?

In New York City, of course!

Should we thank him or curse him?

Well, at least we have the services of GumBusters!



The Saga Of Seeing “War Horse”

29 Dec

Hubby and I celebrated my birthday by eating at our favorite Mexican restaurant Mi Nidito and seeing the new Steven Spielberg film “War Horse”.

Hubby generally doesn’t like seeing movies on The Big Screen.

First of all, it ain’t cheap. Here in NYC, the adult ticket price is $13.00 pp.

And, why are the previews so LOUD?

Also, sadly for Hubby, I like to arrive early to get good seats. That means a lot of “pre-show entertainment” – which means endless sub-par shorts and painful auto-tuned recordings.

People around you talking on their cell phones, munching popcorn in your ears, and rocking your seat.

And, despite you getting there early for the prime seats, there are many late-comers who jostle through in the dark and ask that you move OUT of your prime seats so that they can squeeze in.

Regardless, I happen to like movies on The Big Screen, and Hubby accommodated me for my BDay.

He even let me take his picture at the Star Wars display.

I wanted to see War Horse. I’m a sucker for animal films.

Plus, I like Steven Spielberg films, generally speaking. After all,

who can argue with this track record?

I didn’t read anything about the film before seeing War Horse.

Here are some things that I think would be good to know about the story, if you plan on seeing the film.

From Wikipedia:

Michael Morpurgo wrote the 1982 children’s novel War Horse after meeting World War I veterans in the Devon village of Iddesleigh where he lived. One had been with the Devon Yeomanry, and was involved with horses; another veteran in his village, Captain Budgett, was with the cavalry and told Morpurgo how he had confided all his hopes and fears to his horse.

Both told him of the horrific conditions and loss of life, human and animal, during the Great War. A third man remembered the army coming to the village to buy horses for the war effort: horses were used for cavalry, and as draught animals, pulling guns, ambulances and other vehicles.

Morpurgo researched the subject further and learned that a million horses died on the British side; he extrapolated an overall figure of 10 million horse deaths on all sides.

Of the million horses that were sent abroad from the UK, only 62,000 returned, the rest dying in the war or slaughtered in France for meat.”

Wow. Just wow.

You think about the men lost in war; I hadn’t ever thought about the War Horses in World War I.

(I need to ask my Father or my Uncle about my Grandfather’s involvement in The Great War. Here he is circa 1917, when he was about 19 years old.)

But back to the film, and the horses.

Wikipedia says:

Representatives of the American Humane Society were on set at all times to ensure the health and safety of all animals involved, and the Society awarded the film an “outstanding” rating for the care that was taken of all the animals during the production.”

Good to know. Some of the scenes are rather hard to watch. This information is good to know going into the theatre.

An animatronic horse was used for some parts of the scenes with barbed wire; the wire was rubber prop wire.”

Hubby and I both cried a lot through this movie. We’re both suckers that way.

During filming fourteen different horses were used as the main horse character Joey, eight of them portraying him as an adult animal, four as a colt and two as foals; four horses played the other main equine character, Topthorn. Up to 280 horses were used in a single scene. A farrier was on set to replace horseshoes sucked off in the mud during filming, and the horses playing the main horse characters had a specialist equine make-up team, with their coats dyed and markings added to ensure continuity.”

Spielberg is quoted as saying “The horses were an extraordinary experience for me. I was really amazed at how expressive horses are and how much they can show what they’re feeling.”

I liked the movie. Maybe not Spielberg’s best, but it certainly got me thinking a lot about the War Horses of WWI.

A documentary inspired by the film and telling the true-life stories of horses sent from the UK to the battlefields of World War I is planned. The play and film versions of War Horse are credited with renewing interest in the equine charity, the Brooke Trust, which was founded in 1930 to aid old World War I war horses.”

Now, after reading all of this, I just might want to see this movie again.

Hubby probably won’t.

Oh, that $13.00 adult ticket price?

The ticket seller took one look at Hubby and me, and automatically charged us the $9.50 Senior price each.

That almost hurt more than watching the barbed wire scene.



Art At Rockefeller Center – For Example – “News” By Isamu Noguchi

28 Dec

Art is everywhere you look.

But often, I am overwhelmed at the art in New York City.

Much of it is FREE for the viewing.

Consider Rockefeller Center.

I love this  piece by Isamu Noguchi entitled “News” (Commissioned 1938-1940. Low-relief panel of stainless steel – 22 feet high, 17 feet wide – located above the main entrance to 50 Rockefeller Plaza.)

From their website:

Soaring above the entrance to 50 Rockefeller Plaza, this dynamic plaque symbolizes the business of the building’s former tenant, the Associated Press. One of the major Art Deco works in the Center, it depicts five journalists focused on getting a scoop. AP’s worldwide network is symbolized by diagonal radiating lines extending across the plaque. Intense angles and smooth planes create the fast-paced rhythm and energy of a newsroom. News is the first heroic-sized sculpture ever cast in stainless steel and the only time Noguchi employed stainless steel as an artistic medium.”

I have read that News was Isamu Noguchi’s first major architectural commission.

From The Noguchi Museum’s website:

Noguchi’s work was not recognized in the United States until 1938, when he completed a large-scale sculpture symbolizing the freedom of the press, which was commissioned for the Associated Press building in Rockefeller Center, New York City.”

I’d say that he got off to a mighty fine start!

You can take a tour of Rockefeller Center, and learn all about its buildings and its art.

Here’s a review of the tour, and in part it says:

Opened in 1933, Rockefeller Center was one of the first building complexes to incorporate artwork throughout, all reflecting the progress of man and new frontiers. The most significant urban complex of the 20th century, Rockefeller Center’s innovations included heated buildings and the first indoor parking complex. Rockefeller Center was an important employer during the Great Depression — its construction provided 75,000 jobs during the early 1930s. Built with a facade of Indiana limestone, Rockefeller Center reflects the Art Deco style of elegance without ornamentation.

Participants on the Rockefeller Center Tour will come to discover the extensive artwork and architectural nuances throughout this 14 building complex, as well as understand the important innovations that made Rockefeller Center revolutionary when it was built in the 1930s.”

From the Rockefeller Center website:

Join us for a look into the history and artistry of Rockefeller Center. Your tour touches upon great works of art and architecture as an historian will guide you through the Center’s buildings and gardens. Follow along with a headset enjoying a closed circuit connection. Tours are hourly beginning at 10AM each morning, 7 days a week.

You can order tickets here for $15/ each.

You can also visit The Noguchi Museum in Long Island City – but that’s another blog for another day!



Isn’t She Lovely?

27 Dec

I like to dabble in genealogy research from time to time.

It’s an often slow and plodding process. Thus, it’s always such an exciting moment when a clue is discovered, when a lead is followed by success.

Last Spring, I contacted the Historical Society in Eureka, Kansas – where my Grandmother was born and raised. Those wonderful people researched her family (maiden) name, and mailed me copies of some newspaper clippings, including her wedding announcement.

That announcement included the name of her high school where she graduated.

I wanted to contact the alumni director within the school – but by then it was the summertime and the school wasn’t in session.

Then time passed, and this desire got filed away on the back burner.

In early November, I did contact someone at the school. She said that they didn’t keep yearbooks from that long ago (late 1920’s), but she would get back in touch with me if she found anything pertaining to my Grandmother.

Lo and behold, a few days later I received this email from her:

Your grandmother is on the graduation wall panel.  There was 17 in her graduation class.”

I emailed back asking what the graduation wall panel was? Could she supply anything else?

No word.

Dead end.

Thanks but no thanks.

Don’t call me, I’ll call you.


On December 21st, I received this email from her:

I hope that you hadn’t gave up on me.  I had a death in the family & then my husband had to have surgery.  I haven’t been very productive.  I hope this is what you want. This picture is from the wall composite. We don’t have any yearbooks.”

She graduated in 1928 – it had her name below her picture. She was lovely. I think the picture turned out great. Merry Christmas and I hope your mother likes the picture.”

Oh yeah!

I think Mom will like the picture!

Wasn’t my 17-year old Grandmother-to-be  lovely?







My Favorite New Christmas Tradition – Crackers And Puzzles

26 Dec

Thanks to the lovely Eva, here’s my favorite new Christmas tradition:

It’s an English Christmas Cracker.

Eva has gifted them to each family member for the last couple of Christmases, and they are SO MUCH FUN.

First – a description – from this webstore:

Crackers are decorative party favors widely used in Great Britain to celebrate a variety of special occasions and festive events.

They consist of a beautifully wrapped and decorated cardboard cylinder containing a paper crown (tissue party hat), a motto (British joke or riddle), a snap (popping device), and a small gift or novelty item.

At dinners and parties, crackers are used to decorate individual place settings and are usually opened prior to serving the meal or refreshments.

The pulling of crackers and donning of the party hats creates a relaxed, festive atmosphere certain to get any party function off the ground.”

And, sometimes the little “novelty item” inside is one of these charming yet infuriating wire disentanglement puzzles. Which – in our family – gets passed around the table from person to person as we each try try try to part the pieces, then either somehow succeed or give up with exasperation.

Here’s our sequence of the events:

The pulling of the cracker:

And it breaks apart with a bang!

You root out the gifts inside.

You unfold the paper crown.

You read the joke out loud.

“What did the necktie say to the hat?”

“You go on ahead; I’ll hang around here.”

(On our paper, the punch line was cut off – the fun part was Hubby figuring out what it said. Guess you had to be there.)

We laughed and laughed!

We played for a bit with the wire puzzle,

then we hunkered down to enjoy our meal – soy-maple-syrup-marinated wild salmon, wild rice with onions, and roasted brussels sprouts. YUM.

A bottle of nice red wine with the meal, and Southern ambrosia for dessert – along with maybe a cookie or two.

It was a Wonderful Christmas Day.

Check out these Christmas crackers. They add LIFE to the party. I guarantee they’ll be a hit.

Thank you, dear Eva, for introducing me to my favorite new Christmas tradition!



Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows

25 Dec

From Thanksgiving to the New Year, New York City is famous for its Holiday Windows.

Many of the stores are justifiably visited just for their Holiday Windows. But by far and large, Bergdorf Goodman’s are always the most elaborate and the most beautiful and the most magical.

Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan is located at 5th Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets. The men’s store is located on the east side of 5th Avenue and the main store is located on the west side of 5th.

This year’s display is called “Carnival of The Animals”.

From Bergdorf’s official press release:

The holiday windows at Bergdorf Goodman, a true New York holiday spectacle, continue their well-known tradition of high fantasy, dramatic surprises, extraordinary fashion, and great storytelling. The 2011 windows, entitled “Carnival of the Animals,” take their inspiration from diverse settings reimagined in various materials… and the animals that dwell there. David Hoey, Senior Director of Visual Presentation, and team devote an entire year to the production of the holiday windows. They will remain on display through January 3, 2012.”

The windows are simply astounding to see in full, but I also like to photograph the details.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, as I am totally speechless!

To view some of this year’s windows in their complete glory, please visit this great website.

Much kudos to the great photographer who captures the Bergdorf windows, Ricky Zehavi. You can see more of his spectacular images here.

Happy viewing!



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