Friday, December 27, 2013

The Art Scene in Peekskill, New York

Roaming around Peekskill's Riverfront Green Park, now draped in snow, thanks to a storm that hit just as my Metro North train departed NYC's Grand Central Terminal, I understood how, over the centuries, artists  have taken their inspiration from the Hudson Valley. Many infuse their landscapes with a sense of the romantic

Today, I stroll Peekskill's waterfront green space as well as downtown and find both sprinkled with sculptures (installations and murals) by a retinue of artists, mostly from New York State with a smattering representing the international community. The works are varied in their themes, materials and sensibilities.

Basha Ruth Nelson's oeuvre, a 10-foot-high steel ring, is a simple, graceful form that allows the viewer to interact with it, viewing the park and the Hudson as if through a window. "The Golden Mean," sculpted by Carol A. Feuerman, is a buff, 16-foot-high bronze diver that's so infused with energy, it looks as though he will fly into the river. Nearby, Serge Onnen's Planetariummonetarium is a steel sphere resembling a space object. Farther along the shoreline is a small hut constructed of weathered steel and set atop a steel bar. This work by Daan Padmos,"Time Sharing," is inherently unstable, looking like it was just washed ashore.

In the town itself, art work appears just about everywhere you look, whether in a vacant lot, across from parking spaces, snuggled between buildings, coating an expansive facade, even set atop concrete benches. 

Normally the presence of convex mirrors reflects a security function. But not with Marko Remec's "What Would I Wish For," which is constructed of more than 100 convex mirrors covering two utility poles. They act as fun house-type mirrors, reflecting your image, over and over again for the narcissist in you. Another Remec piece, "Totem (Up/Down)," -- it's more than a mile away, near the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art (HVCCA) -- suspends two bicycles along a flag pole, upending the idea that bikes represent the American dream. Perhaps one of the most whimsical is Leon Reid IV's "Pedestrian Shuffle," twin school crossing signs that are stepping out along a particularly ordinary Peekskill street.

With all the focus on these large works and with the snow draping every outdoor surface, it's easy to miss the series of colorful tile-covered concrete benches that lead visitors all the way to the HVCCA. The tilework, created by some two thousand school kids, provides visual representations of the history of the Hudson River and Peekskill, including English explorer Henry Hudson himself.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

The Best Christmas Lights in New York City

Why would I trek over an hour on the sluggish D train to Brooklyn and then wander another 20 minutes from the 18th Avenue subway station in Bensonhurst? For the extravagant Christmas lights in Dyker Heights, of course. The online real estate company, Redfin, considers this mostly Italian-American neighborhood to be among the top five neighborhoods in the U.S. to see holiday lights.

While there are one- and two-family homes that trim their modest dwellings with extravagant holiday decorations, it's the $1 million+ mansions along 84th and 85th streets between 11th and 12th avenues that are the real draw. So much so that tour buses make Dyker Heights a holiday destination for New Yorkers and out-of-towners alike, while the police cordon off 84th St. between 11th and 12th avenues, allowing crowds to overflow onto the asphalt.

Multi-floor balconies are decked out with glowing red bows and garlands of lights. Giant lighted gingerbread stand sentinel on one lawn. Another outlined their gazebo in blue, red and white lights, and set up brilliant reindeer and a golden sleigh nearby. This homeowner allows the public to shoot photos of their kids in the sleigh.

Colorful icicles drip from the eaves, trees are densely peppered with scarlet lights from the tippy top to the base; animated toy soldiers peep out of windows; grand staircases, pillars and old fashioned street lamps are bejeweled with gold, azure and emerald lights; a small merry-go-round spins; and a giant animatronic Santa beckons all. Even the trees along the sidewalks glitter with the dangling snowflakes and Christmas balls. And, of course, the Eiffel Tower makes an appearance on one property. Tacky? I don't think so.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Giveaway: Products for Healthy Holiday Travel

If you'd like to win one of two cool products, read on. Whether you're packing for a hot or cold weather vacation, it's likely you'll be including ointments, gels, salves or lotions that will help you deal with rashes, bites, burns or just chapped, dry skin. And finding a company that manufactures environmentally friendly products is a real plus. That's why I have long recommended products by All Terrain, a New Hampshire-based company that's focused on natural ingredients and children's health. (They support organizations that are concentrating on reducing childhood obesity by promoting an active lifestyle.)

I recommend two of All Terrain's products --Aloe Gel and Herbal Armor Spray -- on the laminated list that's included with Doc-in-a-Bag, my unique travel first-aid kit organizer. (I've blogged about this first-aid-kit organizer here and here.) And, with the holidays fast approaching, I'm holding a savvy travel giveaway, thanks to All Terrain that's providing these two products, each to one lucky winner. 
Herbal Armor is a DEET-free insect repellent that relies on oils from plant-based oils: citronella, peppermint, cedar, lemongrass, geranium and soybean to repel mosquitoes and ticks. This is the only product I used on my recent river cruise along the Amazon. It's safe for children, it won't irritate your skin nor will it damage your clothing, and it's water and sweat resistant. Because it's 100% effective over a two-hour period, I simply reapplied it every two hours to remain mosquito free. The giveaway is the 4 oz. size that retails for $8.99.

Aside from containing aloe, the paraben-free Aloe Gel has, among the ingredients, extracts of chamomile and cucumber, as well as lavender oil that are all noted for their skin-healing properties. This product works well to relieve dry, cracked and chapped skin and it does so without any curious scent or greasy residue that seem to accompany many other aloe products. I carry it on all my trips and find it ultra soothing without negatively impacting my clothing. The giveaway is the 5 oz. size product that retails for $8.99

To enter the contest, simply leave a comment on this post as to how you try to stay healthy while traveling during the holidays. Make sure to include a way for me to contact you (whether your email, Twitter or Facebook account) in case you're one of the winners. All comments must be submitted by 11:59 pm on December 23, 2013. I will randomly choose two winners who will each randomly receive one of the two products above. You must be a U.S. resident to be eligible to receive the prize. Good luck everyone.
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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Skiing Switzerland's Goms Valley

Zermatt, St. Moritz, Gstaad and Davos stand at the apogee of name recognition among Switzerland's downhill ski resorts. But what's the Swiss equivalent for Nordic skiing? Why the Goms Valley, course, at least among the Swiss. Few in North America have ever heard of this sunny landscape that's sliced by the Rhone River and hemmed in by 10,000-foot-high peaks. What a shame, considering it's laced with 100 km of trails, and blessed with thick snow for four months a year, and excellent mass transit: a little red train lets skiers hop on and off in their village (and trail networks) of choice. (A trail pass even includes train access.) I skied the 22 km from Obergestein to Niederwald, passing dark larch structures fashioned sans nails and graceful steepled churches, crossing wooden bridges over the Rhone, and gliding through forests thick with spruce.

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