Winter Wonderland Begins!

We had big plans: see a tree lighting – with choral accompaniment, thank you – in Carl Schurz Park at 5 p.m., then hop on over to Park Avenue and 91st Street by 6:30 p.m. to see the ceremony that takes place on the steps of Brick Church at which all the lights on the center islands of Park Avenue are lit.

http://www.nycago.org/Organs/NYC/html/BrickPresChap.html

Brick Presbyterian Church on 91st Street & Park Avenue, NYC

Huge crowds amass.  We celebrate our courage and merriment in the darkness.

http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/node/1362359

It’s all pretty cool.  The Brick Church ceremony began in 1945, following the end of World War II.  The trees and their lights commemorate those who have sacrificed their lives in the cause of peace, and celebrates peace itself.

Of course, sundown was at 4:28 p.m. and snow was predicted to begin shortly thereafter.  Which it did.  And it turned super cold.

You can see this coming, right?  If it were just me, or if it were just DH and me, we would have meandered over to one, then the other, lighting.  But when kids with homework and a senior fighting a cough are a part of the equation, we eschewed the outdoor festivities in favor of the comforts of home.  And then, in what is one of the quintessential New York experiences, I went to move the car.

The snow was lovely, and hence my short film, above.

How did you celebrate the day?

Happiness at Kinokuniya

Basquiat.WashiTape.EyelashesMagazine@Kinokuniya©WendyJournalista

Temptation lurks in the downstairs floor of Kinokuniya, a Japanese book, art supply, paper supply, and household accessory store across from Bryant Park.  Bryant Park is home to the majestic New York Public Library, and temporary home to Fashion Week, but I digress.

In the top row of my collage, above, are two iPad covers featuring Basquiat-derived designs.  These make me wildly happy even though (a) I do not own an iPad, and (b) who knows what Basquiat himself would have thought of such a creation.  Maybe he would have liked his images on iPad covers (I’d like to think so), considering that he painted white sweatshirts in 1977.  Now, of course, these sweaters retail, at auction, for just under the price of two new Nissan Altimas together.

On the bottom left of my collage is a selection of Kinokuniya washi tape.  Maps, labels, cancelled vintage stamps, cherry blossoms – they’re all represented.

On the bottom right is a magazine that comes with its own false eyelashes!  What could be more delightful?

I don’t need to own these items – this is not a possession thing.  It’s enough to know that they exist in the world.

Happy, happy, happy.

NaBloPoMo Wants to Know: What Have You Learned, Dorothy? or Reflections on Daily Blogging

http://www.blogher.com/nablopomo-november-2013-prompts

The good people of NaBloPoMo provide daily prompts that bloggers are free to embrace – or ignore.  Here is today’s:

http://www.blogher.com/nablopomo-november-2013-prompts

It’s only eight days into the challenge; how much can we have learned?  Established a new habit?  No.  Push through to new understandings?  Maybe.  Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, endures almost 103 minutes of trials and tribulations before the Tin Man asks her the now iconic sum-up-your-experience question: What have you learned, Dorothy?  Dorothy’s journey seems longer than the actual eight days that have transpired since the beginning of the BlogHer challenge to blog every day in November, although, arguably, her adventure lasted only one day.  Her takeaway, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with,”  is open for interpretation.

Here’s my takeaway, so far:  

1. Daily blogging changes the brain, much like any activity practiced with intensity.

Have you seen Shawn Achor’s TED talk on The Happiness Advantage?  He talks about how we can take an active role in training – or retraining – our brains for happiness, based on various scientific research.  In his book, he describes an experiment in which college students were paid to play Tetris for many hours at a time.  That was all it took for the experimental subjects’ brains to change and begin to scan for certain patterns.  Some students reported that subsequently, when they went to the supermarket and saw empty spaces on cereal shelves, they had a strong desire to move other cereal boxes from higher shelves to fill the gaps, emulating an analogous goal of the game.  Achor says that the lens through which you view the world shapes your reality.

Hence, blogging – or even knowing that you are going to blog – everyday for a month acts as both a filter and a focus.  If nothing seems to have magically presented itself as blogging fodder appropriate to my art/life subject matter, I may ‘trol through my brain, my experiences, my ‘hood, filtering out what is unnecessary for the task, seeing only that which is blog-worthy (casting an admittedly wide net).  If I am in the midst of some experience and the daily pressure is “on” to blog, I may select an element, a focus, about which to write and photograph.

The lens through which you view the world shapes your reality.

As Shawn says (I can call him “Shawn,” can’t I?), “Suddenly, what wasn’t even thought of as a possibility became a reality.” (If you click on the link, this is said around minute 6:20.)

2. I give myself sub-rules about blogging where no such restrictions may be necessary.

For example, in BlogHer’s “14 Tips to Help You Survive (and Thrive!) During NaBloPoMo,” Tip #4 is to “take shortcuts.”  Shortcuts, in this case, means posting a picture or video and nothing more.

Somehow, I haven’t been able to do that – yet.  The blogs that I love, that I turn to almost daily, provide a cavalcade of words and pictures.  Even if a picture is worth a thousand words, words give pictures a context.  And pictures that incorporate words have a special place in my heart.

3. Despite the nascent brain-training of blogging every day, a mere eight days is not enough to establish a habit – yet.

4. There is much I have yet to discover about the technical side of blogging and sharing one’s blog.  The learning curve is steep…

5. I’ve learned that constructing a blog post takes longer for me than I expected it would.

6. Dorothy’s tale was a classic Journey Story.  In her journey, she set out to achieve Goal A, was thwarted, but learned something new and achieved Goal B, and then returned to her starting point.  (Same plot structure as that of Apollo 13.)  If my Goal A is both to see if I can complete a demanding challenge and to be part of the November blog challenge community, what will I learn along the way – before I return home?

Aaron Curry Sculpture at Lincoln Center

The main plaza at Lincoln Center is iconic and forms a kind of outdoor room in its own right.  The plaza is formed by three cultural houses: Avery Fisher Hall (it used to be called Philharmonic Hall), The New York State Theater (now, officially “David A. Koch Theater”), and The Metropolitan Opera House.

Even if you’re not from New York, you know the place.  You might remember Cher running into her movie dad (played by Vincent Gardenia) and his mistress (played by Anita Gillette) at the Metropolitan Opera House.  If you’ve seen the original film version of The Producers, how can you forget Gene Wilder skipping around the central fountain as he declares his dedication to a shady production scheme?  I’ve seen The Nutcracker, The Big Apple Circus, B.B. King, Young People’s Concerts, craft fairs, Midsummer Night Swing, and so much more here.

The Lincoln Center Plaza itself is home to artist Aaron Curry’s sculpture exhibit, “Melt to Earth.”

Aaron Curry Sculptures at Lincoln Center 2013©WendyJournalista

These are wonderful, playful painted aluminum pieces.  Come visit them!

And you can still skip around the fountain, if you like.

The Best Hot Chocolate Recipe

Or maybe “The Best Practical Hot Chocolate Recipe.”
Two Mugs for Hot Chocolate, ©Wendy Journalista

Mugs for Hot Chocolate by Wendy Journalista

As per item #6 on my Autumn Manifesto of yesterday, I herewith share my recipe.  It’s super-easy.

There are two main ingredients:

HOt Chocolate Ingredients, © WendyJournalista

Hot Chocolate Ingredients

Häagen Das Chocolate Ice Cream, and Milk.

(You should know, the pumpkin in the photos is just along for the ride.  No actual pumpkins were harmed in the making of this hot chocolate.)

The measurements are simple.  For one person with tons of self-discipline, smash chocolate ice cream into half of a cup from which you will be drinking.  Your cup could be a mug, it could be a demitasse, it could be something in between  – the choice is yours.  Dump the ice cream into a saucepot.  Now, measure milk up to the “high water mark” left by the ice cream in the cup from the previous step.  In other words, equal parts of ice cream and milk, by volume.  Dump the milk into the same saucepot.  Heat the mixture until it begins to rise in the pot, reaching out to you with it’s wicked, tempting ways.  Switch off the heat entirely or lower the flame and let the liquid reduce a bit, making it thicker.  Remove the pot from the heat – do not let it overflow to detract from your hedonistic imbibing experience by your having to clean a spill.

Pour your steaming thick, aromatic hot chocolate into the cup of your choice.  And here’s the breathtaking finish: place one spoon of cold chocolate ice cream on top where distracting and work-inducing whipped cream might have been.

Savor.

~~~

I’ve had great success with Häagen Das and not so much with many other brands.  The HD thickens nicely, with no concerns (as of this writing) as to how a chemical additive might change when heated.  Do you have another ice cream brand or recipe (although “recipe” implies making something that requires careful thought and extended effort, which this venture is not about) that works for you?  Let me know!

Variations:

  1. Use half chocolate and half coffee Häagen Das ice cream to heat up.
  2. Use half chocolate and half vanilla Häagen Das ice cream to heat up.
  3. Top with coffee ice cream.
  4. Top with vanilla ice cream.
  5. For adults only: add a splash of Kahlua or any other coffee liqueur.

Experiment as you wish – and let me know what worked for you.

Once you taste this luxurious, thick corner of heaven, you won’t be able to go back to the powdered stuff.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Autumn Manifesto 2013

Autumn Manifesto 2013 ©WendyJournalista

My Autumn Manifesto 2013 is different from My Summer Manifesto 2013.

I made a very long list for my Summer Manifesto this year, knowing that it would be impossible to achieve everything on it.  My Summer Manifesto was an ode to happiness and potential.  It was more about collecting ideas than achieving every one of them.  It was also a push to do more, embrace more life, to see the world through the filter of wonderful potential experience.  A filter like that is like having your own benevolent spirit guide leading you into happiness.

I taped the Summer list on the side of a bookcase right outside my remarkably small kitchen.   The stuff that I did, I checked off .  I feel great about what I did and not at all bad about what was left to do.  Well, except for one thing.  I really wanted to host/participate-in-making-happen an outdoor movie.  Incredibly impractical.  Have I mentioned that I live in a city?  I wanted to hang up that sheet or find that blank outdoor wall, have technology magically cooperate, and show something fun.  I was thinking Swing Time, and some among us wanted Toy Story 2A double feature in the backyard of my cousin-in-law was in the air.

It didn’t happen.  And that brings up perfectionism.  Sometimes, list stuff happens, but not exactly as we envisioned.  For example, that outdoor movie actually did happen.  The City Park’s Department showed Finding Nemo outdoors in Carl Schurz Park on a beautiful starry night at the end of July.

 

“Finding Nemo” at Carl Schurz Park on July 29, 2013, ©WendyJournalista

“Finding Nemo” at Carl Schurz Park on July 29, 2013, ©WendyJournalista

I should have checked “Outdoor Movie” off of my list, but I have not.  There are reasons why (I didn’t see the whole movie that night chief among them), but I am rethinking perfectionism.  Hit the ball squarely where you want it to land – which may not be as common as one would like, or find the joy in the happenstance?

Enter my Autumn Manifesto 2013.

My Autumn Manifesto is much shorter.  It contains not every possibility, just the essence of the celebration that is autumn.

What’s on your list?