Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Shakespeare's Birthday featuring Romeo Bear and a Cast of 1,000 Juliets

Today is the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and it’s traditional to quote the bard today. After the past few days with Stretch, the first quote that comes to my mind is:

Van Dort Studios

“How far that little candle throws his beams.” (Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice)

Remember how I had that brilliant idea to sprinkle Stretch with holy water from St. Patrick’s to make him a little more “angelic.” Listen closely. Yes, that’s God’s laughter you hear.

Those who follow this blog will recall that right after we left the Cathedral, Stretch made friends with Olivia and her rabbits. Then he sent a message to his friend Kristy about the Faberge butterfly egg on display in Rockefeller Center and she dubbed him her “little stud muffin.”

Later that day we stopped at Whole Foods where the woman at the checkout, Wendy, spotted Stretch and pronounced him “adorable.” So now Stretch has a girlfriend at the supermarket.

I tried to mostly keep him inside and out of trouble the past few days, but even when we just went for a walk around the apartment complex at lunchtime, he managed to catch the eye of a neighbor. She’s going to teach him yoga when she recovers from back surgery.

Fast forward to today when I had my latest CT scan to check on the breast cancer. I’m lying on the table ready to go into the machine and I hear the technician saying, “Oh, I just love this little guy that’s sitting in the pocket on the side of your purse. He’s so cute!” Here I am in the middle of a scan and the little guy is over on the other side of the room flirting with the tech. Anyway, you can guess the rest. . .

When I related these stories to Stretch’s friend Terry, he made the comment that Stretch should be in the movies, which is a timely comment since today is also the anniversary of the first movie projected to a crowd in a theater. For those of you interested in historical trivia, here’s what the Library of Congress says about it:

On April 23, 1896, the Vitascope movie projector made its debut at Koster & Bial's Music Hall in Herald Square, New York City. The vaudeville circuit was a fitting venue because it not only provided a ready audience but also a source for film subjects including Annabelle, the "butterfly dancer" and the theatrical production of "A Milk White Flag." During the premiere, film was projected onto a screen set within a gilt frame to create literally a "moving picture" for an amazed audience.

Terry suggested that a good film for Stretch would be a new version of “Girls Gone Wild” entitled “Stretch Gone Wild.” (Or maybe “Girls Gone Wild Over Stretch?”) I mentioned this to Stretch and here’s his response:

 “I appreciate the suggestion Terry, but I think it would be even better if we featured me in an updated version of the film “Shakespeare in Love.” That way we could pay tribute to both Shakespeare’s birth and the anniversary of the movie theater while presenting me in a very appropriate production.”

Shakesbear in Love

I will have poetry in my life. And love. Love above all.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Faberge Easter Egg Parade 2014

Happy Earth Day! As promised, today we’re sharing photos of some of the Faberge Easter eggs on display in Rockefeller Center.  This seems appropriate since eggs are of course a symbol of spring and rebirth. I’ll let Stretch narrate the tour:

I don’t think this egg is headed for a rebirth!

But this one does seem really suited to Earth Day.

Guess who chose this as her favorite egg?

I wanted to get this egg for my friend Kristy’s Easter basket but it wasn’t for sale. She loves butterflies. Even though she recently got married, we’re still real close. In fact, she refers to me as her “little stud muffin.” (BLUSH)

This was a cool egg, I had fun hunting for our favorite constellation.

So which came first—the chicken or the egg?

Here’s a couple more eggs I really liked:
A penny for your thoughts!

By the way, you know it was a long winter when you see the Easter bunny ice skating!

I worked up an appetite viewing all these eggs so I slipped into this candy shop to get something to bring home to share with Tiny.
They sold imported Swiss chocolates and these are filled with genuine Dom Perignon champagne.
I’m thinking perhaps I should get some smelling salts to revive my human sidekick when she gets the bill. . .

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Parade 2014, Dyngus Day and Queen Elizabeth's Birthday

Well, Easter Week has started off as the usual quiet uneventful holiday, just like all the others we’ve had since Stretch came into our lives. (Just thought you might enjoy starting the week with a laugh.)

We decided to take Stretch to Easter Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral yesterday. The magnificence of that church is somewhat muted by all the scaffolding covering the inside and outside of the building during some much-needed renovation work, but it’s still a very awesome experience to attend a service there. I even sprinkled a little holy water on Stretch, thinking that would tone down his antics a bit, but it was soon proven to me that God does indeed have a sense of humor.

Almost as soon as we left church and headed down Fifth Avenue to mingle with some of the elaborately dressed folks taking part in the traditional “Easter Parade,” Stretch met a new friend.
Olivia was wearing what Stretch voted the very best Easter bonnet ever. She had a whole bevy of little bunnies his size riding on her hat as they enjoyed their own Easter celebration.

She even invited Stretch to join them for some tasty treats.
I’m afraid all the other sights dimmed in comparison to that magnificent bunny bonnet, but we snapped a couple pics to share with those who might be unfamiliar with the interesting revelers who come out for this parade.
This British lady's bonnet honored little Prince George, and she was accompanied by Stretch's British cousin.

Some people go LARGE with their bonnets.

Others prefer the more traditional look.

Tomorrow we’ll share some other scenes of the Easter decorations surrounding Rockefeller Center, especially the massive collection of incredible, very large Faberge-style eggs on display. These have been hidden in various locations around New York City for several weeks, reminiscent of the “cow parade” of a few years back. And Stretch also met another new friend later in the day.  But today there are other holidays on the calendar and Stretch and Tiny are waiting patiently to begin celebrating.

This is Dyngus  (pronounced  dingoos) Day  in Poland. Traditionally on Easter Monday boys run around squirting girls with water. As with many Christian holidays, it has its origin in a spring purification rite that was supposed to appease the god of nature who was named “dingen.” The Poles turned it into a Christian holiday to celebrate the baptism of Prince Mieszko in 966 A.D., at which time Poland was converted to Christianity. (For those who are groaning at the sexist implications of this holiday, don’t fret. In this day of equal opportunity, girls get to chase the boys around and squirt them on Easter Tuesday.)

Today is also Queen Elizabeth’s birthday, she is 88 years old today. My British friends should be glad that I’m across the ocean so they can’t hear me singing “God Save the Queen” to honor this venerable woman. (Lynda and Sonia, just imagine how off key some of the old recordings from years ago used to sound when the records wore out and you’ll get an idea of what I sound like.)

Stretch said instead of piercing the Queen’s eardrums with my singing, we should do something nicer for her, so he and Tiny invited her to a High Tea with them.

STRETCH! You can’t pour water on the Queen even it if IS Dyngus Day and we have Polish ancestors!

Excuse me, I have to go prevent an International Incident . . . as promised, we’ll return tomorrow.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Getting Ready for Easter

Once again it’s time to color eggs and wait for the arrival of the Easter bunny who we were thinking might have to use a sled this year, or as our friend Donna suggested, at least a pair of snowshoes. Fortunately the snow that blanketed our newly blooming flowers with a cover of white the other day has melted away and we’re being promised a return to spring-like temperatures for the holiday.

Of course Stretch and Tiny are always ready to celebrate any occasion no matter what the weather, so they’re busy dyeing their eggs.  
Stretch wanted to know who came up with the idea of painting hard boiled eggs for this holiday, so we did some research. We couldn’t pin the tradition down to any individual person or event, but we did find out that people have been coloring Easter eggs since at least the 13th century and the practice may have started because eggs were originally a forbidden food during Lent. Apparently this led to the idea to decorate or paint the eggs colorfully in celebration of the end of the season of fasting rules.

We also discovered that eggs are an ancient symbol of new life, so when you crack open an egg on Easter, you are celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. We also found suggestions on a few sites that the annual Easter egg rolls that are held were originally supposed to symbolize the stone being rolled away from the tomb.

All this talk of Easter eggs reminded me of the exhibit we went to at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last year, a display of Faberge Easter eggs.  The first Faberge egg was designed for Tsar Alexander III to give his wife Empress Maria Fedorovna as an Easter gift in 1885 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their betrothal.  As Wikipedia describes it:

“Known as the Hen Egg, the first Faberge egg is crafted from gold. Its opaque white enameled “shell” opens to reveal its first surprise, a matte of yellow-gold yolk. This in turn opens to reveal a multicolored gold hen that also opens. The hen contained a minute diamond replica of the imperial crown from which a small ruby pendant was suspended.”

As they say, the rich are different from you and me, so when word got out about Alexander’s gift, in the years that followed other wealthy women began finding elaborate Faberge eggs in their Easter baskets.  This one, the Kelch Hen Egg created for the wife of a Siberian mining magnate in 1898 is similar to the first Hen Egg.

Also in 1898 Nicholas II gave his wife Alexandra the “Lilies of the Valley Egg” for Easter:
“The translucent enamel egg forms a lovely foil for the lush growth of pearl-and-diamond-studded lilies, the Czarina’s favorite flowers. Spinning the pearl knob at the right causes a trio of miniatures to appear: Nicholas II, under a diamond-encrusted replica of the Imperial crown, is flanked by his two oldest daughters, the Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana.”
Pictures and text taken from the book Imperial Surprises

Pretty spectacular stuff, and fun to admire, but we’re content with our simple colored organic Easter eggs, right Stretch?

Uh, no, I didn’t know about the “Emperor Stretch” Faberge egg . . .

Photo courtesy of Van Dort Studios, Stretch's personal celebrity photographers

Monday, April 14, 2014

Look Up at the Sky and Laugh

To be exact, today is both “Look Up at the Sky Day” and “Moment of Laughter Day.”
Of course Stretch has a great telescope, so he’s all ready to look up at the sky today.  I enjoy star gazing as well, but I usually do my sky watching with the naked eye or a good pair of binoculars, so I haven’t reached his level of expertise in identifying space objects.
The constellation I’m best at finding is Orion. In the winter, it’s easy to spot the three stars that make up Orion’s belt in the sky across from my balcony, and then I can trace a path up to Betelgeuse on Orion’s shoulder. Recently I discovered something new about this constellation—it also contains a monkey’s head!
Our readers know my affinity for monkeys, so of course I found this news exciting. The down side is that it takes something along the lines of the Hubble telescope to be able to get a view of this monkey head nebula. You can see it on the Hubble website where I found this picture and information:
To celebrate its 24th year in orbit, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has released a beautiful new image of part of NGC 2174, also known as the Monkey Head Nebula. This colourful region is filled with young stars embedded within bright wisps of cosmic gas and dust.
NGC 2174 lies about 6400 light-years away in the constellation of Orion.
The detail shown in this image lies within NGC 2174, a nebula which gets its more common name, the Monkey Head Nebula, from its curiously familiar shape when viewed in wide-field images.
Considering how I seem to get along with live monkeys (anyone who has been to a zoo with me will tell you stories about the antics they pull whenever I stop to talk to them or try to snap a quick photo), I think the Moment of Laughter that goes along with Look Up at the Sky Day can be attributed to the fact that there’s a hidden monkey laughing at me from my favorite constellation.
Stretch says he doesn’t see what the problem is with viewing the monkey head nebula, he can see it quite clearly through his telescope.

And he has an appropriate joke to give everyone a Moment of Laughter today:
Why did the monkey like the banana?
Because it had appeal!
Stretch says you’re invited to come have some chocolate covered bananas and gaze through his telescope tonight.
“Look out into the universe and contemplate the glory of God. Observe the stars, millions of them, twinkling in the night sky, all with a message of unity, part of the very nature of God.”  Sai Baba