Spring 2016

Spring Immersion on NYC's High Line

Natalie Rinne's vision of the High Line

Natalie Rinne's vision of the High Line

Today the elevated gardens of the High Line stretch  from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street - 1.45 miles of beautiful walkways and gardens inspired by Paris’ Promenade Plantée. The gardens of mostly native plants change throughout the seasons with dogwood, magnolia, phlox, star of Persia and other Spring ephemerals blooming now. 

Once the tracks were covered with a vast wild, garden - something only intrepid trespassers and a few fourth floor apartment dwellers could appreciate until The Friends of the High Line prevailed in collaborating with the city to turn it into an accessible city park.  A hike along the High Line is a great way to gain a new perspective on the city. Note not just the flowers but the grasses, trees, climbing vines, insects, birds, tourists and futurist architecture. 

Take one of New York City Naturalist Leslie Day's field guides with you to identify the flora and fauna.  Although not quite as immersive an experience as the endless lap pool originally suggested by Viennese Natalie Rinne or a three-hour Shinrin-Yoku (Japanese "forest bath"),  it is definitely a great place to unwind in the middle of the city. 

Today you can also drink in the High Line’s public sculpture, food trucks and even an occasional cabaret.  Support the High Line by adopting a plant or volunteering your time.

 
 
 
 

Enjoying the Clearwater on the Hudson

The Clearwater has been sailing the Hudson River since 1969 when musician Pete Seeger and friends launched their vision to bring entire communities onboard to gain an appreciation of the Hudson.

Support the Clearwater by volunteering, taking a sail on the Hudson, or making a direct donation.

Last fall the 106 foot white oak sloop (a replica of an 18th century tall ship) was pulled out of the water and dry docked at the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston’s Round Out. The sloop’s hull, centerboard trunk, frames and planks below the waterline were all replaced. The massive renovation was pulled off by volunteers and Clearwater staff and funded by donors. Now she’ll be returned to the water where the white oak will swell and make her buoyant for her first sail in late June.

Spending a Sunday with the Clearwater crew to help with the restoration gave us a hands-on understanding of just how labor intensive the restoration process has been. We helped sweep and tidy the shop, cut and grind steel bolts, make wood plugs, paint and hammer the plugs into the hull. And we’ll gladly be there the next time they pull her out for maintenance.

Of course, sailing with the Clearwater on a private or public charter is another way to keep her afloat! And you truly experience the boat, the river, and the community that loves them both. A brief moment of silence to  listen to the Hudson lapping the side of the sloop is a highlight.

Join the mailing list today so you can stay abreast of excursions as they are added to their calendar. You might even be able to hop on one of the other boats in their fleet this weekend!

Spicy Cold Shéchuán Noodles with Tahini

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The first New York City street food I ate at 15 was a bowl of spicy cold noodles somewhere off Union Square. Few restaurants do them justice today having removed the bite and replaced fresh Tahini with routine peanut butter.

For the Tahini - blend two cups of toasted sesame seeds with about two tablespoons of sesame oil (you’ll have plenty left over to spread on your morning toast).

Use a pound of Chinese egg noodles or regular Italian spaghetti - just boil until al dente and reserve a half cup of the warm pasta water. Toss cooked noodles with a few tablespoons sesame oil and let cool to room temperature (don’t refrigerate or they will stick together).

For the sauce, mix half cup of the warm pasta water with:

  • 4 Tablespoons Tahini
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 4 Tablespoons ponzu sauce (soy sauce made brighter with yuzu)
  • 2 Tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon hot sesame oil or paste (depending on how much heat you like)

Let your guests garnish with shredded daikon radish, chopped scallions, toasted sesame seeds and Japanese Shichimi Togarashi*.


*includes sesames, uzu peel, chilies,  nori seaweed and more

 
 
 

Easy Textile Recycling in NYC

New Yorkers trash an average of 46 pounds of textiles per person each year. That's 193,000 tons of clothes, shoes, linens that could be reused, reincarnated into low grade fiber products (like insulation) or  redistributed as second-hand clothing.

     accepted:

  • Clean and dry clothing
  • paired shoes
  • linens
  • handbags
  • belts
  • other reusable textiles
  • (no pillows or carpeting)

 

If you're a New Yorker, your annual Lunar New Year house cleaning will be all the easier with  Grow NYC's textile recycling program.   Your Marie-Kondo-inspired purge of outgrown and threadbare cloths no longer needs to be accompanied by the guilt of tossing them in to the curb in contractor bags! 

Just drop off on a Monday or Saturday Union Square Green Market from 8-4. This program has recycled 3 million pounds since inception.   See if there is a drop off closer to you.

Marinating Bocconcini in spring herbs

Marinated bocconcini is a year-round favorite because it lasts and lasts and lasts (until we devour it!).

We bake it into focaccia, melt it on pizza, toss it with cherry tomatoes and vinegar and call it a salad.

Readily available at just about any market (but more delicious if purveyed locally), it's super easy to marinate with whatever flavors you have on hand - lemon zest, black peppercorn, rosemary. This week we combined lemon thyme, parsley, spicy nasturtium, sea salt and red pepper flakes.

Simply rinse your bocconcini, put it in a sterilized glass jar, add herbs and enough olive oil to cover the very top of the cheese. Keep it in the refrigerator and eat it any which way you can as fast as you can! 

Kids, Unplug!

Imagine misplacing your ten year old - a digital native - and looking for him in vain. You try shouting, phoning, Facebooking, Tweeting, Slacking, Skyping, texting, Face-timing with no answer. 

Then, suddenly, your digital-immigrant brain suggests 'Minecraft'. You log-into his user account on your laptop. You launch the game, you maneuver your way around the hot lava, through the pen of sheep. You swim the length of his 200 yard lap pool, climb the stairs of his McMansion, and  traverse his booby-trapped garden. Pass through his grotto, hike the verdant fields beyond and there you find him -  riding a horse. You catch up to him, clash swords, grab his attention and you text ‘phone, home, now!’

A FANTASTIC, FUTURISTIC DREAM? REALITY? NIGHTMARE? FOR ME THIS CLOSE-TO-REAL-LIFE EXPERIENCE WAS ALL THREE.

Until my son turned ten, I set draconian limits on his media consumption and I consumed all media with him (Friday night movies like E.T. and Saturday morning Looney Tunes).   But with the proliferation of gadgets in our home like the iPod, DS, and laptop, he began to spend more and more time alone (and with friends) in virtual landscapes. 

The desire to limit my son's screen time has always had more to do with my gut instinct - and Bill Gate's famous decision to limit his kid to 45 minutes a day - than anything else. But it turns out it's not-so-common sense. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends just 1 to 2 hours of entertainment screen time a day for kids over the age of two. Yet the average 13-18 year old spends close to eight hours a day online according to the Pew Research Center. 

MIGHT THE CALL TO 'UNPLUG' BE A RALLYING CRY FOR TODAY'S KIDS? 

My favorite health writer,  the New York Times' Jane Brody, recently published an article "Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children"  illustrating that  "..there’s no question that American youths are plugged in and tuned out of “live” action for many more hours of the day than experts consider healthy for normal development." With a follow up article "How to Cut Children’s Screen Time? Say No to Yourself First."   she bluntly states"Parents are often at fault, directly or indirectly, when children and teenagers become hooked on electronic media, playing video games or sending texts many hours a day instead of interacting with the real world and the people in it."

Long before reading these articles and the studies Brody quotes, my young son and I discussed how to maintain our eye-to-eye, face-to-face, parent-to-child connection as he stands on the brink of middle school where even his relationships with peers may soon play out on Social Media.

TOGETHER WE BRAINSTORMED THE 'KIDS, UNPLUG!' RALLYING CRY TO INSPIRE PARENTS AND KIDS TO UNPLUG.

Unplugging is a challenge for both of us - how do we determine the weather? the time? communicate with friends (not the dreaded telephone!), find recipes for dinner? the rules of Crazy 8s? Like any worthwhile pursuit - it takes practice (even discipline). But there are huge benefits to it - not the least of which is nurturing my son's skills in the real world - from eye contact to the art of conversation and play. Not to mention my own skills, will I ever beat him at a game of "spit”?

Sharpie tea set

 

This week my son and I transformed a set of plain white ceramic tea cups and saucers into a tea set fit for two adorable nieces. Inspired by a few days home from school with a cold - we wrote a story about two little mice who wander into a warm house and share tea with a sniffy little boy. Then we recreated the characters on a tea set.

Using oil-based sharpies in red, gold and silver, we directly and on the dishes. Then we put them on a baking tray in a cold oven, set the temperature to 350F and baked them for thirty minutes. We once made an entire set of dishes as a school auction project and our research tells us they will even be dishwasher safe!

 

Improving Feng Shui with a DIY Hataki Duster

 

Legend suggests a Japanese hataki duster - made of bamboo and cotton cloth - activates positive Feng Shui. Rather than collecting dust - it pushes it to the floor to be swept up. The French housewares company Perigot makes beautiful hataki dusters you’ll find in the basement bricolage of Paris’ Bazar de l'Hôtel de Ville. But you can easily make one from your own favorite fabric - as useful as it is beautiful.

All you need is a length of bamboo, some fabric and twine. Cut two rectangular pieces of fabric and iron accordian folds into them. Position the folded fabric on either side of one end of the bamboo. Tie with twine. Fold the fabric back and wrap the twine around again. I chose to make mine with a five foot long bamboo pole from my garden for hard to reach cob webs.

 

The Magic of Tidying Up

 
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You may have read already read the rave reviews, but what  no one has told you about Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is that it is a beautiful little volume you’ll enjoy holding in your hands and the magic lies in the last few chapters. 

Along with detailed tutorials on how to tidy in “marathon’” style to avoid “rebounding” and exactly how to roll one’s socks - Kondo encourages you to only acquire and hold onto the things that truly spark “joy” because “being surrounded by things that spark joy makes you happy.”  

It isn’t until the last chapter of the book that she reveals the magic really lies in accumulating and tidying less.  She points out you can truly cherish only a few things at a time - and spending your time acquiring and tidying a mountain of possessions defeats the purpose of life.  In her words: “...put your house in order now, once and forever….Pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life. I am convinced that putting your house in order will help you find the mission that speaks to your heart. Life truly begins after you have put your house in order.”