Thursday, October 30, 2014

Stretch's Halloween

Stretch and his little friend Tiny are busy getting ready for Halloween today. We'll be spending tomorrow at the Monter Center where I’ll be seeing my oncologist to get the results of my quarterly tests, then undergoing treatment. So we'll be celebrating the day with our doctor/nurse friends. They wanted to know if I'll be wearing a costume--I told them I'm coming as a metastatic breast cancer patient. It doesn't get much scarier than that!

But that won’t interfere with the Halloween party Stretch has planned tomorrow night and you’re all invited.  He and Tiny took over the top of my fireplace as their party room and are busy setting up. (A special thanks to Stretch's friends Mitzi and Paul Van Dort who contributed many of the decorations you see in the background. You guys are the best!)

I told Stretch the head on the platter might be a bit politically incorrect this year, but he said in the good old American spirit of freedom, he's not letting any terrorists dictate that he can't have some Halloween fun. Besides, he said it's actually a tribute to our cousin Harold the bionic man who's having everything replaced except his head.

Looks like the little one may need some help reaching those bobbing apples.

One of Stretch’s little cousins is practicing playing “The Monster Mash” on the piano.

Joe bought the guys the awesome Halloween tree with ghost lights that have three functions—they can light steadily, blink or run. 

Is this bear spoiled or what?

And because so many have been asking what costume Stretch is going to have for Halloween, I let him and Tiny get a jump on their trick-or-treating. (Of course, Tiny is going as a clown, his favorite outfit.)

Since, as you’ve no doubt noticed, Stretch doesn’t care to be hindered by clothes, he chose a Groucho Marx persona for his Halloween costume.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Oyster Festival 2014

This past weekend Oyster Bay celebrated our annual Oyster Festival. This event started as a homecoming parade for our local hero, Teddy Roosevelt, and slowly evolved into the largest outdoor festival on Long Island. Of course Stretch would never miss such a big event, and he’s very glad he didn’t pass it up this year because as it turns out, he had the opportunity to meet one of his favorite celebrities. I’ll let him give you the details of our day:

My favorite event at the Oyster Festival is always the oyster shucking and oyster eating contests.

This guy, Louis Tuccillo, shucked 31 oysters in 4 minutes. I have no idea how to shuck an oyster, but I understand it takes quite a bit of skill.

I do know something about eating oysters, however, so I was very impressed when this fellow, Nathaniel Cocca-Bates, downed 96 oysters in just a couple minutes!

Watching those contestants scoff down the oysters gave me a craving to try a few myself.

Then we took a stroll down to the waterfront where some famous boats were docked, including this fireboat, the John J. Harvey. This boat has sentimental value for us New Yorkers because not only did she serve New York for 63 years, she came out of retirement on September 11, 2001 and pumped water to the World Trade Center site for 80 hours.

I wonder if these water cannons still work? Maybe if I press one of the buttons  . . .


I was a little worried when I saw these pirates hanging around by the beach, but it turns out they were very friendly and even shared some of their booty with me.

There were lots of other fun things at the Festival, but I can’t digress anymore, I need to get to the Most Exciting Thing Ever! If you’re a New Yorker, you’ve no doubt heard of the famous Lotto announcer, Yolanda Vega. Well, guess who’s now one of my very best friends?
Love you Yolanda!

Stretch's Artistic Debut

My little buddy Stretch had quite an eventful time last week.  It all started when he was invited to be part of an installation artwork at the Brooklyn Museum. The piece, entitled “The Commons,” is a cork statue of a horse modeled on the horse in a famous equestrian statue of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. The artist, Paul Ramirez Jonas, feels that by having “commoners” attach something personal to the work it transforms an imperial statue into a more democratic model for the distribution of power.

While Stretch was a little uneasy about being lumped in with the “commoners,” (after all, he does have royal blood—or perhaps that should be “royal stuffing?”) he did like the idea of his picture being displayed as a work of art.

I must say, since I often think of this little guy as a “work of art” in other terms, this does seem an appropriate venue for him.

Later we’ll be publishing another post for our local friends, Stretch’s review of our town’s annual Oyster Festival where he has a dream come true from his Bucket List—he becomes friends with one of his favorite celebrities!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Matisse: The Cut-Outs

A new exhibit opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City last weekend. It’s called “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs” and it showcases an extraordinary collection of the artist’s late work.  Before you yawn or groan and decide to skip this latest blog entry because you’re not a big fan of Modern Art, please bear with me and read on, there’s a reason I chose this topic.

I confess to not really knowing much about Matisse’s work before I visited this exhibit, and I’m not a huge fan of some of the modern abstract art movements. So what made me trek into Manhattan and battle the Columbus Day parade crowd to get to this show? Two lines from an article in The New Yorker magazine:

“Matisse made his first cut-out in 1943, in the Occupied French countryside, with German soldiers staked out in the basement. Two years earlier, doctors had given the artist only three years to live; he survived until 1954 . . .”

From the Tate Museum website

Further research told me that Matisse had separated from his wife in 1939; he was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent a colostomy in 1941. That’s when doctors gave him the dire prognosis. He could no longer manage to paint, so he came up with the idea of creating art out of cut-out collage pieces, a method he had used earlier in life as “blueprints” for his later paintings. Videos throughout the exhibit show how Matisse worked either from his bed or a wheelchair, cutting out the shapes he visualized in his mind and having assistants pin them up on the walls until he was satisfied with the arrangement.

Many of the pieces reflect happy memories Matisse had of his visit to Tahiti in 1930. 
"The Sheaf" from the Tate website

One of the artworks, entitled “The Swimming Pool” is a huge work on exhibit for the first time in twenty years. Matisse decided one day that he wanted to go watch swimmers and divers at a nearby pool but when he was taken there the sweltering summer heat was too much for him. So he said if he couldn’t go to the pool, he would have the pool come to him and created a cut-out mural to surround all the walls of his dining room. MOMA has installed this piece in a room the actual size of Matisse’s dining room so you get the full effect of the piece and can imagine sitting down to dine in this playful atmosphere.

Part of the wall mural
I admit I didn’t pay all that much attention to the technical information about the artwork. Phrases such as “ornamental audacity” and “lyrical tilt toward abstraction” just breezed past my conscious mind. What I did focus on were the absolutely gorgeous colorful works that spoke to me of joy and vitality and persistence in the face of daunting obstacles.

Picture taken from the Tate website
 And oh yeah, another instance of a doctor’s dire prognosis being scoffed at (those “two years to live” turned into more than 13 years and Matisse died at the age of 80).

Our favorite works in the exhibit were the stained glass panels Matisse designed for a chapel in France. Stretch bought a copy of his favorite among these entitled “Nuit de Noel” (Christmas Eve) to hang in his art studio. It will be a reminder to us never to underestimate the power of the human spirit.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Curious Events Day

According to my calendar, today is “Curious Events Day.” When I researched to find out exactly what kind of curious events we’re supposed to be celebrating, I discovered that this is a day dedicated to pondering things such as whether the Loch Ness Monster exists, or did aliens really land at Roswell, New Mexico?

As it happens, the other day Stretch found something curious on e-Bay.  Although I don’t think it technically falls into the category of a curious “event,” I think it would be really appropriate as a treat for Curious Events Day.  It’s called a “Knickerbocker Glory.”  When Stretch showed me these ice cream sundae-type desserts, I admit I had no idea what the heck they were.

Apparently, they are popular in Great Britain (Lynda, Susie, Sonia—are you familiar with these?) but almost unknown in the U.S.  Their origin is uncertain.  Some accounts say they originated in America (“Knickerbocker” is a classic historic name for New Yorkers); other versions say they were invented in Britain, most likely at a seaside resort.  There is no standard recipe for these—they are just supposed to have many layers, be served in a tall glass and can contain ice cream, crushed fruit, and even liquor.

If you want to try one, I found a recipe on the Culinary Exchange website that sounds pretty simple and delicious. It calls for:
4 ounces ice cream
½ ounce chocolate syrup
½ ounce raspberry, crushed
3 ounces whipped cream
2 brandied cherries

Place the ice cream in a glass and add chocolate syrup and some of the whipped cream. Add the raspberry fruit and then the rest of the whipped cream. Top with the cherries. Sit back and enjoy as you ponder whether the pyramids were built by aliens and what is the meaning of Stonehenge? If your brain gets irritated from all that puzzling, you might want to add a drop or two of a fruit-flavored liqueur to your Knickerbocker Glory . . .

PSSST!!! Stretch here. Speaking of “curious” stuff, get a load of the decorated pumpkin my human sidekick bought  for Halloween. If you’re looking for evidence of aliens among us, look no further.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Kiku--The Art of the Japanese Garden

It’s Monday again! If you’re not feeling that get-up-and-go spirit today, or if you just want some peace and beauty to kick off the week, you might enjoy joining Stretch for a virtual tour of the Japanese gardens presently on display at the New York Botanical Garden. (All the information on the plants comes from the placards surrounding the displays at the garden.)

Come on in! We’ll start with this display of “Ozukuri” where a single plant is trained to produce hundreds of flowers in a massive dome-shaped array.

These flowers are grown to resemble upside-down brooms. Their name in Japanese is “hoki-zukuri” and they’re created from Ise and Saga chrysanthemums.

What do you mean, come along? I’m just resting my paws a minute.

This flower display is known as “tazuna-ue” which translates to horse bridle.  These diagonal rows of perfect flowers in pink, yellow and white echo the colors and pattern of the bridle of the Japanese emperor’s horse.

Don't these pink ones look like fireworks?
"Ogiku" means "big chrysanthemum" in Japanese. These plants are trained to produce a single enormous, perfect blossom.

Wow! That is big!

These chrysanthemums are called “kengai” which means overhanging cliff. They’re designed to resemble plants that grow in the wild and cascade down cliffs.

What are you mumbling about now?

Hey, look, they named one of their plants in honor of me!

That concludes our tour. Except for my assistant, who after seeing my last comment mumbled something about going back to suggest to the gardeners that if they want to honor me they should create a massive plant larger than the ozukuri and call it “Ego-ku.”