Monday, March 2, 2015

The Orchid Show at the NY Botanical Garden

As this never-ending winter continues, Stretch suggested yesterday that we should seek out some flowers again before the next scheduled snowstorm was due to arrive in the mid-afternoon.  The annual Orchid Show at the NY Botanical Garden opened this weekend, so I innocently packed him in his carrier and headed off.

Now you’d think after going through a press conference at the Monter Center where Stretch was the center of attention, being upstaged by him in an article in our local newspaper, seeing his image displayed in an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum and having him appear at the Oyster Festival with Yolanda Vega from the NY Lottery, nothing would surprise me anymore when it comes to this bear. Well, you'd be wrong.

It turns out the reason the little guy was so anxious to get to the Orchid Show was that he was scheduled to be interviewed by a news crew from NY1 who were anxiously waiting to hear his review of the show. As usual, I will just fade into the background and let him tell you about it (although I will admit he did invite me to say a few words for the broadcast).

So here I am at the NY Botanical Garden’s annual Orchid Show, meeting up with my new friends from NY1—Tara Lynn Wagner and Matt Ealy. They were most gracious and made me feel right at home in front of the camera.  

Some highlights of my review:
This is the perfect place to spend a winter day, surrounded by colorful tropical plants.

You’d need a big patio to hang that giant orchid sculpture!

My assistant tells me that back in the last century when she was in high school, every girl wanted to get one of these orchids from her prom date.

These Moth Orchids really do look like fluttering moths, don’t they?

Now here’s one of those things I don’t understand about humans. They call these orchids “Epiphytic” which means they grow clinging to other plants, especially trees. So why not just call them “Tree Huggers” so everyone would know what you’re talking about.

Even though the sign said these flowers “serenade” you, I didn’t hear any singing. But maybe that’s because the sign says they serenade the king and I’ve been dubbed an Emperor by my friends.

Well, there were a lot more beautiful orchids at the show, but I didn’t want to take an entire news show with my report, and my assistant was still pouting a bit about my stealing the limelight again. So I thanked my wonderful new friends Tara and Matt and headed off to the gift shop where I found the perfect present to cheer up my assistant.
She was so thrilled she could only blurt out some incoherent babble when I presented it to her.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Camellia Festival

It’s the start of another week here on Long Iceland (formerly known as Long Island). We’ve decided if spring won’t come to us, we’ll go find it. This weekend our local arboretum, Planting Fields, held a “Camellia Festival” advertising music and things blooming. If you’re as sick of looking at ice and snow as we are, we thought you might enjoy some of our pictures from this event.

As it happens, my cousin Anne-Marie who has an eerie sense of what I need the moment I need it, had just sent me a wonderful book titled “The Language of Flowers” and in it I discovered that the Camellia is named after George Joseph Camellus, a Jesuit priest. (Love those Jesuits!)

The book also informed me that the meaning of the White Camellia is “Unpretending Excellence.”
Stretch says he can totally identify with that.

While we strolled around the Camellia House, we were entertained by a wonderful Barbershop Quartet.
“Wait till the sun shines, Nellie,
When the clouds go by.”

We then moved on to the Main Greenhouse where a steel guitarist was entertaining visitors amid the tropical displays, playing one of my favorite songs.
“I see trees of green, red roses too”
“I see them bloom for me and you”
“And I think to myself, What a wonderful world.”

We think this yellow Trumpet Daffodil should be called “Marilee” instead of “Marieke;” it’s delicate and at the same time beautiful inside and out, just like my sister-in-law.

And we leave you with this very wise advice found on a Memorial plaque on one of the benches:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Year of the Sheep

Tomorrow starts the Chinese New Year and this year is very special for me because it’s the Year of the Wooden Sheep, which is my Chinese astrological sign.  (If you were born in 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955, 1943, or 1931 you’re a Sheep too.) People born in Sheep years are said to be artistic, kind, empathetic and very creative. And I was happy to learn that Sheep tend to struggle in their youth but become stronger and discover their true calling as they age, and the most fortunate part of a Sheep’s life is when they are older.

Stretch: “Wow! You’re so “last century” you must have reached the best time of your life!”

Me: “You know Stretch, as I sit here surrounded by all the cards, gifts and loving messages I’ve been receiving for what has turned into my birthday “week,” I’m not even going to argue with you about that.”

Anyway, this is supposed to be my year to shine; predictions say everything will come easier to me this year and I should go after what I want in life whole-heartedly.  In other words, just follow Stretch’s example!

I shouldn’t be teasing the little guy because he and Tiny bought me a very nice gift for the Chinese New Year, my own little wooden sheep.
General predictions for the Year of the Sheep say that this is a time for healing, kindness and diplomacy. (And we sure could use a lot of that in our world today!) Family and close friendships are most highly valued in a Year of the Sheep, and we should strive to be more caring, gentle and sensitive towards each other.

A few weeks ago on a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art we checked out a small exhibit they had about the Year of the Sheep and discovered a very good reason to follow this advice about being gentle and loving this year. As you can see from the picture of the figures of the 12 signs of the Chinese Zodiac, the Sheep takes prominence this year. But look at that little figure next to the Sheep’s vacant spot—next year is the Year of the Monkey! 
I haven’t checked out what a Year of the Monkey might bring, but in my experience with monkeys it’s going to be a wild ride. The one person I know who will be waiting eagerly for the Monkey year is my cousin John who just loves monkeys, especially the flying kind from the Wizard of Oz.

But getting back to the Year of the Sheep, I also discovered some advice on how to make sure you start off this year with good karma.  Some of the suggestions seem like common sense to ensure a more peaceful life any time, such as “Make sure that your living space is completely clean to encourage good luck in the coming year” and “Do not talk about anything negative on this day as you will be setting an example for how the rest of your year is to be lived.”

Another suggestion which might be fun to do if we weren’t in the midst of an Arctic cold spell: “Open all the doors and windows in every part of the house to bring in clean, new good luck for the year.” It’s also suggested that at the same time you switch on all the lights in the house to attract good luck from outside.

Stretch has his own suggestion on how to start off the Chinese New Year on a positive note. He says if you want to attract good spirits into your home, set out a feast of Chinese food and then say a prayer of thanksgiving and ask for blessings in the New Year.  I think he has the right idea!

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Happy President's Day!

This holiday weekend Stretch and I were debating between a couple of really interesting outings relating to George Washington that would make great stories for our blog for President’s Day.  Then I stuck my head out the door to check on the weather. Did you ever see the W.C. Fields short entitled “The Fatal Glass of Beer?” The story takes place in the Yukon, and several times during the film Fields opens the door to swirling snow and says “It’s not a fit night out for man or beast” and he’s immediately hit in the face with a large wallop of snow.

Stretch put his paw down and said there was no way I was getting him to go out. He pointed out that technically he should be hibernating.
You don't think I'm getting out of this cozy bed to go out in that Arctic weather?!

So we decided to go to Plan B for our blog. We’ve been reading about our First President lately and discovered to our surprise that Ol’ George was quite the party animal. It’s reported that he loved strong drink so much that he named his favorite dogs “Drunkard,” “Tippler” and “Tipsy.” He also apparently was a regular at a fishing club which served his favorite drink aptly named “Fish House Punch.”

Further research turned up a recipe for this punch in one of the daily papers printed for the 1939 World’s Fair; someone named Messmore Kendall who was in charge of the Washington Hall pavilion was credited with finding this old recipe. So if the snow is driving you to drink and you want to party like George Washington for President’s Day, or if like us, you just find this historic trivia fascinating, here’s the actual recipe:
1 pint lemon juice
¾ lb white sugar
½ pint cognac
¼ pint peach brandy
¼ pint Jamaican rum
5 Tbs bitters
2-1/2 pints cold water
Mix together—ice and serve.
Me: Hey, what are you guys doing? I don't want you drinking that punch!
Stretch: We're not planning on drinking it, we're going to serve it to Mother Nature. Maybe it will knock her out for a few weeks and we'll get a break from the snow.
Me: Great plan!

And for all of us who can’t/don’t imbibe, Stretch and I have another alternative for your President’s Day celebration—and this one involves comfort food. Thomas Jefferson apparently loved food as much as George Washington enjoyed drinks. It’s reported that he spent $50 of his daily allowance on food (nearly $1,000 in today’s dollars!). One of his favorite dishes was macaroni and cheese, but he didn’t just go down to the local supermarket and buy some elbow noodles and cheddar cheese. He brought a macaroni maker back from Italy to serve mac/cheese at his formal dinner parties.

So, maybe when it stops snowing and warms up around June, we’ll be able to do those other outings to share with you. In the meantime, we’re hibernating with some mac  ‘n cheese and chocolates!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Winter Day at the Arboretum

We’ve been in a pattern of blizzards lately here in the Northeast, and I happen to have a birthday that falls smack dab in the middle of the snowiest/coldest part of the season. But I’m not looking for sympathy; my birth date is very special to me. Years ago when I was bemoaning yet another birthday party hindered by the latest snowfall my mother told me that she had tried really hard to have a February baby because no one else in the family had a baby born in February and she wanted me to be unique. My cousin John came along a few years later just a week apart from me, so I didn’t have the birth date distinction long, but I think my mother did succeed as far as the “unique” part goes. (Go ahead, laugh!)

And I’m happy to say that this year the snow took a break long enough for me to get out and celebrate on the actual day of my birth, although I was subjected to another kind of blizzard—of cards, gifts, hugs and good wishes enough to keep me feeling warm and cozy until the spring thaw finally arrives.

Oh--and don’t feel bad about my being upstaged by John, I have my ways of getting back at him . . .

So for everyone who wrote or called to ask what Stretch planned for my birthday, he had the wonderful idea of taking me to the arboretum for the day. I even had the day off from taking care of whatever he needed since he got Joe to drive us and my cousin June to pay for our outing. And if you’re as sick of looking at snow and ice as I am, here are a couple of pics from our afternoon inside the tropical greenhouses:

Wow! I didn’t know snakes came from a plant!

It must be too early in the season, I don’t see any candy bars on these chocolate vines.

Me:  That’s because chocolate comes from the seeds of the plant which are processed to make cocoa powder. The Mayan peoples believed the cacao plant had divine origins, and that’s where its botanical name comes from: “theobroma cacao—food of the gods.” I have to agree with that!

What are you laughing at?

Hey look—this room is filled with trees in my size!
Me: These are Bonsai trees—Bonsai is considered to be a living sculpture. Here's what the guide says: "The Art of Bonsai is in its understatement. The tree itself is pleasing; it satisfies the visual sense. But there is more to bonsai. An invitation for the imagination to soar is ever present. One is enticed to see beyond the tree, to follow the undulating meadow, to feel the fresh breezes blowing through the boughs . . . The reaction of each person viewing a bonsai will be individual and personal. This is the uniqueness of bonsai."

Hmm....I think that might also apply to a certain little bear . . .

Stretch: Hey, look, this Japanese White Pine tree has a placard that says it was 66 years old in 1988 when the garden acquired it. That’s even older than YOU, isn’t it?
Me: Never mind!

This is really interesting, I think I’d like to try this sometime . . .

You can guess the ending to this story: