Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Bicycling on Randall's Island in New York City

Poor Randall's Island. It doesn't seem to get any respect, even from the locals. Many have no idea where it's located -- in the East River. Some think it's one big prison. In fact, the island is noted for its mental health facilities as well as several shelters; but no one else lives on the island. My reasons for visiting really surprised everyone: I was going to check out the wildflowers. Well, actually one weekend I rented a bicycle to check out the bridge architecture. And the next week, I visited on a weekday for the wildflower meadow tour.

The Randall's Island Park Alliance is all about promoting the environment and raising awareness of our wetlands and waterways. On this island with almost five miles of shoreline, there are some nine acres of wetlands, and a small urban farm that's open to visitors on Saturdays. (They grow edible flowers and an array of organically-grown fruits and vegetables, including medicinal herbs.)

The Alliance has a calendar of monthly events that I found enticing, including the Wildflower Meadow tour of one of two such meadows. Two horticulturists, Jill and Annie, led our small group pointing out plant and insect specimens. We learned that the Cloudless Yellow Butterfly is a great pollinator, thanks to a long proboscis that allows it reach deep down into the plant. A boldly purple hued Northeast Aster is pollinated by both bees and flies; the latter mimicking the bees in color as a way to avoid predators. Several kinds of sunflowers were also in bloom. And edible plants were in abundance, including mountain mint, the sunchoke (You eat the root, usually raw), and Anise Hyssop (With its licorice smell, it makes a great tea). With myriad colorful blossoms, fall is a perfect time to visit this garden that doesn't rely on any chemicals.

Other ecosystems found on the island are a salt marsh and freshwater wetlands which are both important as a habitat for wildlife, including various bird species. 

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Maine Cross Country Ski Weekend in Pictures

It's probably not surprising to read an article describing how cell phones have infiltrated every aspect of our lives. But reading an article in the Sunday New York Times today "Step Away From The Phone"  -- describing, among the cell phone "detox" methods, how phones may need to be put into a lock box in order to foster normal human interactions in the home -- made me reflect on how I often completely disconnect from the phone and the Web by immersing myself in the wilderness. 

One of these trips with the Appalachian Mountain Club was a long weekend of guided lodge-to-lodge cross country skiing from Gorman Chairback to Little Lyford Lodge in Maine. The phone is the furthest thing from my mind -- lock box not needed -- as I embrace the simple pleases, such as stepping into a wood-fired sauna; enjoying a family-style dinner of pan-seared salmon with blueberry chutney; and snuggling in my bed that's decked out with comfy, flannel bedding. This short YouTube video slideshow provides a window into my experience.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Paris in Pictures

My friends and colleagues virtually swooned when I informed them I was spending a week in Paris. (Sadly, when I told them my next trip was to Sarajevo, Bosnia, all I got was silence and then the odd question "Why would you go there.) That being said, for most travelers Paris is all about visiting the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe and other iconic sights. And it's also perhaps all about shopping. I didn't do either. Instead my trip focused in on parks and gardens, smaller art museums and galleries, wine bars and wee coffee shops and cafes.

The Jardin Catherine Laboure is so tiny that even Parisians were perplexed as to where it was. It's a bucolic haven for local residents, created on the site of a vegetable garden. Promenade Plantee, an elevated park-garden, reminded me of New York City's High Line, but more romantic because it lacks the High Line's frenetic hipster and tourist scene. Many people forget to visit Musee Marmottan-Monet, an intimate museum that recently featured a fascinating temporary exhibition "La Toilette," showing off the evolution of bathroom spaces and the art depicting it. At Musee Zadkine -- another space that even my hotel didn't know about -- the verdant garden is dotted with with Zadkine's neo classical bronzes that have mythological origins. This YouTube video slide show provides a small window into my trip to Paris. 

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

My Newly Designed Website

Sometimes it seemed easier to find a competant, personable and smart hair stylist and colorist  -- never easy for me  -- than a web designer. I'd tried for years -- yes, years -- to find someone to redesign my website. And, yet, even after doing an extensive vetting process, I ended up with people who overcharged, set things up that didn't work properly, gave me the exact opposite of what I wanted -- what isn't clear about my saying "I don't want anything Goth or retro" only to see that they designed a site that was Goth- or retro-laden? -- or disappeared off the face of the earth, never answering email or voice mail.

I basically gave up. And then everything changed when I ran in to Mickey Luckens -- in Reykjjavik, of all places -- who's the Marketing Strategies for Neww York City-based Ujima Digital. He interviewed me, asking me questions about my goals for the site, the products I designed, my target audience, and bunches more. He was smart, savvy, analytical, and insightful, providing suggestions and advice that no one had ever offered, advice that was creative and innovative. But, one of the most important things was that he was outgoing with  an optimistic personality, and not a hit of condescension or pretention. And then he introduced me to Danielle Pearce, the actual designer. Again, I was worried that she wouldn't get it and that Goth and retro would somehow migrate into my  site. Not a chance. Daniellle designed a contemporary, clean, stellar site that shows off my store and my photography.  (Check out my newly-designed website here.) I found her to be a gem of a designer, who's  personable, creative and innovative (just like Mickey). In fact, I agreed with 100% of her suggestions which, for me, is a first.

I'm going to continue working with Ujima Digital as I  move forward with my site and  produce more products. (My unisex travel bag and clothing line as well as my plush  Angry J Creatures doll will soon debut.)

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