Subway Therapy and Therapy Beyond the Subway


After reading about Subway Therapy, past election, I was really glad to participate. I thought the 6th Ave L train station was the site, but when I got to Union Square Station, the big crowd was the clue. Maybe there’s more wall space here, or the project has expanded.


Communications have grown, yet the messages have stayed simple, as is the process.


Take a post it note from the floor. Write on it, and stick it on the wall. I was glad to make a contribution: “resilience over fear.”

Read. Contemplate. Contribute. Connect. Whatever your transit schedule will allow.


It is good. We are not alone.


I reflected on a statement in a novel I just finished, which has nothing and everything to do with the election outcome: We’re all different, and we’re all the same.


I thought about what makes us the same. What is it we all want? To be heard with dignity and respect. I certainly have been dismissive this election season. Many, many people feel neglected and threatened now. That’s my takeaway, rededicating myself to people who are now more vulnerable than ever, including myself.

So what’s the answer?


Well clearly, one is to turn from the serious to the silly. Look at these ice cream cones.

Big Gay Ice Cream. What would our president-elect make of this?

How do I decide?! Ruben was my guide.

How do I decide?! Ruben was my guide.


My cone was lined with peanut butter, along with the Salty Pimp. Oh my!

Fall-time cider

The New York Times reported this week that the one upside to global warming is that the foliage in autumn is more vivid. The drought we’ve been suffering means leaves make a vivid shout out to fall and cling to the trees longer.

Today, as I wandered toward B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill, I jumped off the highway to avoid an accident and took some winding roads through scorching hot foliage territory. Spicy reds, sunshine-ing yellows, and sparkler oranges. Thank you, global warming, I guess…?

By the time I got to the Cider Mill though, the trees were already bare. I guess it’s just a tidge cooler there.


Operating since 1881, Clyde’s is the only steam-powered mill still in operation. Six generations of the family have worked the press, and I was there to see the apple cider get made. They can make 500 gallons an hour of cider. That might seem like a lot to you, but when you figure how many people had the same idea as I did today, well, maybe not so much.


The apples are loaded into the chute as you see above. Today’s were Honey Crisp. The cider and baked goods all shift in flavor through the long season depending on the apples that are harvested and used.

Once the apples are washed, they are funneled into a grinder, making a really thick apple sauce. The sauce is raked, yes raked, four times and put on a rack, swung around and pressed until the liquid flows. The smell is just wonderful.


The engine room powers the machinery. This cider mill is a, wait for it, National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, for all this original equipment. They have a little historical display, and I was most taken with the pamphlets and articles on prohibition, one extolling the virtues of drunkenness. What?



Well, Clyde’s makes 8 kinds of hard cider. I visited the tasting area, where a long line formed so that each of us could taste four of the 8.

While waiting, Mary became my guide for all things cider. She had tasted all these various styles of hard cider and knew all about the subtle flavor shifts as the apple harvests come in. What a palette!


Mary also clued me in to the apple cider donuts, which I admit are pretty outstanding. Who knew that a Honey Crisp donut would taste different from a Micun!


I’m most grateful to Mary for turning me on to Shagbark Syrup. Turkeywoods Farm was there selling various syrups they create from hickory trees. Without Mary’s deft guidance, I might have fallen for hickory nut syrup or the hickory ginger syrup. They are wonderful.

Shagbark. That’s the find!

Mystic Hickory Shagbark Hickory Syrup

Now with wine tastings, you have all these descriptors that distinguish the various nose, mouth feel, etc. You know how it goes.

Same thing for syrup. Shagbark Syrup has a complex flavor profile, blending woodsy, earthy, nutty, smoky, even honey overtones. This from the bark of the hickory tree. Not the nut, not the sap like a maple tree.

So yes, I’ll be eating bark with my French toast for some period of years to come. That’s how long it will take me to finish a bottle this size.

Okay, bark with some processing. It is boiled and then aged. Yes, age your cheese and your bark. Then the aged bark is blended with natural sugars. It’s divinely delicious.

And no trees are hurt in the process. The shagbark hickory tree naturally sheds its bark starting at age 7. The bark is harvested when it falls from the tree or carefully removed when loose.

We can thank the Connecticut Native American population, likely the Pequot, for this wonder. They drank tea prepared by steeping hickory bark in hot water, sweetened with honey. It’s supposed to help with arthritis. But who cares? It helps with my spirit.

So did my visit to nearby Enders Island, home to the St. Edwards retreat/monastery.

Enders House at St. Edmund's Retreat

I watched rocks and water for a peaceful retreat of my own.



Docomomo in New Haven

Docomomo had its day today.  All over the U.S., preservation groups were leading Docomomo tours.  So what is Docomomo?  “Documentation and conservation of bulidings, sites, and nieghborhoods of the modern movement.”  Read that as modernist architecture from the mid-20th century.

Walter Malley house, 1909, designed by Grosvenor Atterbury

Walter Malley house, 1909, designed by Grosvenor Atterbury

In New Haven, land of great architecture, New Haven Preservation Trust took on the awesome duty of touring us to see modernist residential architecture.  And where better to visit that elegant St. Ronan Street?  Wait?  What?  Yes, among those classic beauties, crafting the first “streetcar suburb” in the area, are emblems of modernity.

2016-10-08-14-21-23After the Civil War, when New Haven became an industrial powerhouse, estates were built in the country outside New Haven on St. Ronan Street.  Yes, St. Ronan is walking distance from much of Yale, but that just shows how small New Haven was at the time.  Eli Whitney was among the notables to build leafy green estates here.

By the 1920s, with a wave of modernism, the estates were broken up into small lots.  Streetcars carried people the easy distance to downtown jobs.





Adolph Mendel house, 1913, designed by R.W. Foote

Adolph Mendel house, 1913, designed by R.W. Foote





By the 1950s and ’60s though, like so much of the country, car culture created real suburbs, and neighborhoods like this one were in radical decline.  Large houses were converted to rooming houses.  Lots were subdivided again with urban renewal and back filled with smaller homes.

Architecture students graduating from Yale were building experimental houses on these small lots.  Established architects, like H.W. Foote, who designed stately homes like the Adolph Mendel house above, shifted to constructing modernist designs.

Jose Delgado house, 1959, designed by Gualtier & Johnson

Jose Delgado house, 1959, designed by Gualtier & Johnson

Houses like the Jose Delgado house applied a California philosophy to the modernism.  Low pitched roof lines overhang garages placed near the street.  Behind the garage, the private part of the house opens onto garden spaces behind, melding the indoor and outdoor spaces.

But having the garage up front “deadens the streetscape,” we were told.  That’s why traditional houses with front porches will hold a place in people’s hearts.

It’s all a tradeoff.



Mrs. E.H. Tuttle house, 1956, designed by E. Carleton Granbery

Mrs. E.H. Tuttle house, 1956, designed by E. Carleton Granbery


You can see an earlier California design again in the Tuttle House from 1956.






Stanley and Margaret Leavy Residence

Stanley/Margaret Leavy house, 1967, designed by Granbery, Cash & Assoc.

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Piet Mondrian, Lozenge Composition, 1921

My favorite was the Leavy house.  I just love the geometric lines and blocks of color, reminiscent of a Mondrian painting, and what must be bright, open interior spaces.

Dr. Leavy saw patients in the home originally.  Now, the patient area is rented out as an Air BnB.  Let me know if you stay here!


Robert/Judith Evenson house, 1979, designed by Kosinski Architecture

Robert/Judith Evenson house, 1979, designed by Kosinski Architecture

By the 1970s, architects were concerned with energy conservation, as we can see in the solar-designed Evenson house.  Skylights allow heat to radiate through the space, heat water, that then circulates through radiator piping to heat the house.  Heavy walls and small windows provide solar gain, too.

The eclectic architecture of the St. Ronan area shows a pattern of architectural history in towns and cities replicated across the country.  The desire to build large homes in traditional, European styles gets intermixed with a robust American modernism.  Eye candy all!

Corn Maze

Everyone is trying very hard this weekend to make it seem like autumn, despite the warm temperatures.  Apple festivals, hayrides, pumpkin ice cream, and corn mazes are everywhere.


I went to the Nathan Hale Homestead for their corn maze.  Since a wedding had just ended, I had the whole maze to myself.


Except for Butterscotch, of course.


There’s still some corn left to be plucked.


The corn definitely grows as high as an elephant’s eye, way over my head.


And it makes its own music, like a rainforest, as you can hear in this video.

All is quiet enough to be surprised by a spook around the corner…


…and mourn the loss of some silly spirits.









No doubt, this place would be scary at night, but would it be scarier than this ear of corn?


What any of this has to do with our young patriot who wished he more than one life to give to his country, I’m not sure.  But today was not about questions and finding answers.  It was about getting lost in the corn.


Raising and Releasing Monarchs

2016-08-13 10.08.15It’s the Monarch butterflies that love this hot weather.  They can only do their thing when it’s 60 degrees or higher.  Today’s temp was certainly lots higher when Nancy at Natureworks told us about their concerted effort to help replenish the declining Monarch population–over 50% in the past 40 years.

As of 2015, Nancy and Natureworks released 100 Monarchs, with 30 more being nurtured now.  Only 1 in 100 eggs becomes a butterfly, so for a typical female that lays 300-500 eggs in her 2-5 week life, that 3-5 offspring.  But with a care program like Natureworks’, those odds are wonderfully improved.

Why is it so tough for an egg to make it?

Everything has to be just right, and that means, everything.  Presence of habitat, nourishment, evading predators.  So many potential complications.  Those eggs can sure use some TLC.  Natureworks cultivates the desired diet – milkweed – and introduces ladybugs to eat the aphids, one of those predators that loves the Monarch eggs.

Nancy points out a Monarch egg

Nancy points out a Monarch egg

Can you see it?

Can you see it?

Monarch eggs are teensy, and egg hunting is no small task.  Once found, the eggs are brought inside and placed in hatching boxes.

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The Monarch’s work is just getting started.

It takes a week for a caterpillar to grow to the size of a sunflower seed.  It eats its shell for protein and then molts four times, consuming the shed skin.  The caterpillars will eat Monarch eggs, too–a species-imposed impediment.

Then it’s time to grow, and as Nancy puts it, “poop.”  The hatching boxes have to be cleaned twice a day, which involves removing the caterpillars, not losing any, cleaning the waste, and replacing the carefully counted caterpillars.  It takes about an hour each time.  No more complaints about litter boxes!

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The caterpillar “unzips its skin” to turn into a chrysalis.  Then Natureworks dangles each chrysalis from a silk threat clasped by a tiny clothes pin.  You can see the stages, as Nancy points out the hanging J that becomes a chrysalis.

In 7 to 14 days, the caterpillar will “liquefy as it re-forms itself as a butterfly,” Nancy told us in genuine wonder.  When it emerges, the Monarch’s wings are wet, and it has to hang, like dripping laundry on the line, for 4 hours to dry.

Males have spotted wings

Males have spotted wings


Then they need to eat.  Voracious, these Monarchs.  Those white blobs are cotton balls saturated in hummingbird nectar, so that the Monarchs have a meal ready.  They love their nectar plants – daisies, phlox, ironweed, Astoria, goldenrod, and of course, the butterfly bush.

Natureworks releases the butterflies on their second day.  Below, a Natureworks staffer brings the day-olders to the nectar garden, so they can immediately “start tanking up.”  It’s like a “health food store,” Nancy explained.

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See, the butterflies born in late August into the early fall have a very different journey.  Unlike their short-lived parentage, the Monarchs are flying some 50 miles a day to get to a very particular 10,000′ mountain and 60-square-mile forest in Mexico, arriving November 1. Imagine having that kind of built-in radar.

Now their migration can be tracked through an innovative tagging program, and their arrival is celebrated in the nearby town.  Locals believe the butterflies represent the “souls of the departed,” and their arrival is celebrated as a Day of the Dead.  Traditionally, the butterflies are released in honor of someone who has died.

On the return journey through Texas and the Midwest, marked by laying eggs in milkweed, this 4th generation will die out.  A new generation takes over, branching out to different home spots, including Connecticut.  You can track their migration on Journey North.

But first, we have work to do.  It’s time to release those butterflies born yesterday.  One by one, the Monarchs are taken from their protective home…

One by one, the Monarchs are taken from their protective home...

…and off they fly.

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Released, the Monarchs head right into the nectar garden…

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…and start their miraculous journey…

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Kudos Natureworks for your astonishing Raise and Release program!


Collaged Townscape

Jane Fisher, Director, is a visionary leader for the Wallingford Public Library, and today, she gave me a tour of the marvelous new community technology lab there and a glimpse into the future of public libraries.

Witness the community art project conducted by over 100 Wallingford residents from January through April this year.  Dedication, creativity, inspiration, and town-celebration all rolled into one.

The Wallingford Townscape is a 4′ x 10’4″ photo-collage created with the leadership of artist Rashmi Talpade.  Rashmi is from India and has sold her work internationally.  She immigrated to Connecticut in 1991 and has gotten deeply involved with community arts and museums around the state.

Rashmi Talpade. The God Next Door. Photo Collage.


In Wallingford, she worked with residents to collage over 1000 photographs of the town.  See if you can make out historic images, as well as contemporary scenes.

Wallingford Townscape detail

Wallingford Townscape detail

The four panels create an ‘imaginary’ yet realistic landscape that tells so many stories when looking up close and coheres into something universal at a distance.  It’s magical.

Rashmi Talpade with the collage waiting to be hung at the library

What a great idea to do in your community…

Monochrome, Pattern, and Shadow

At the moment I seem to be attracted to stark images, quiet shadows, monochromatic palettes.  Maybe because there’s so much color and noise in the world right now.  Take a quiet moment with me.

Hart House, Old Saybrook, original wall

Hart House, Old Saybrook, original wall

Bartow Pell Mansion

Bartow Pell Mansion

Wallace Nutting, Tenon Arm Windsor Double Back Settee

Wallace Nutting, Tenon Arm Windsor Double Back Settee

John Henry Twachtman, Snow, c1895-6, PAFA

John Henry Twachtman, Snow, c1895-6, PAFA

Charles Vezin, Winter Grays, Brooklyn Docks, c1900, on view at the Mattatuck Museum

Charles Vezin, Winter Grays, Brooklyn Docks, c1900, on view at the Mattatuck Museum

Francois Clouet, Mary Queen of Scots, c1549, Yale University Art Gallery

Lilian Westcott Hale, Black Eyed Susans, before 1922

Lilian Westcott Hale, Black Eyed Susans, before 1922, on view Florence Griswold Museum

Hedda Sterne, Annalee Newman, 1952

Hedda Sterne, Annalee Newman, 1952, Vassar College Museum

Girolamo Fagiuoli, Penelope and Her Women Making Cloth, c1545, Engraving, Yale University Art Gallery

Girolamo Fagiuoli, Penelope and Her Women Making Cloth, c1545, Engraving, Yale University Art Gallery

Charles Courtney Curran, Shadow Decoration, 1887, Vassar College Art Museum

Charles Courtney Curran, Shadow Decoration, 1887, Vassar College Art Museum

Renee Iacone, Stacks, 2015-6, Mattatuck Museum

Renee Iacone, Stacks, 2015-6, Mattatuck Museum

Vassar College Art Museum

Vassar College Art Museum

Grotesque Mask, 16th century (?), on view at Yale University Art Gallery

Grotesque Mask, 16th century (?), on view at Yale University Art Gallery

Grotesque Mask, 16th century (?), on view at Yale University Art Gallery

Grotesque Mask, 16th century (?), on view at Yale University Art Gallery

Etienne Delaune, Music book plate, 16th century

Etienne Delaune, Music book plate, 16th century, Yale University Art Gallery

Etienne Delaune, Perspective book plate, 16th century, Yale University Art Gallery

Etienne Delaune, Perspective book plate, 16th century, Yale University Art Gallery

Silas W. Robbins House, Wethersfield, CT

Silas W. Robbins House, Wethersfield, CT

Corona Park, Queens

Corona Park, Queens

Lotus Pagoda Library Lamp, Tiffany Studios, c1905, Queens Museum of Art

Lotus Pagoda Library Lamp, Tiffany Studios, c1905, Queens Museum of Art

16th-century frame waiting for you to fill it

16th-century frame, on view at Yale University Art Gallery, waiting for you to fill it

Writing on the Wall

Every historic house has stories to tell, which is why I am continually enchanted with them.  Putnam Elms is distinctive in several ways.

First, Cynthia, who took me through the house, is clearly more interested in the history of the people who lived in the 1790s house than the stuff in it.  She is actively researching the who’s and what’s and that’s what she passionately shared.

My geeky delight was sparked by the connection to a couple I know a little something about and who are included in my “Clothes Make the Country” talk.  Here they are.

John Smibert, Portrait of Francis Brinley, 1729

John Smibert, Portrait of Francis Brinley, 1729

John Smibert, Portrait of Deborah Brinley, 1729

John Smibert, Portrait of Deborah Brinley, 1729











They are wonderfully interesting.  Come to the talk and find out.

Here's Catherine

Here’s Catherine


Of the two marriages in the house, one took place in the parlor.  Cynthia and I figured out that Catharine Putnam married George Brinley, the Roxbury, MA Brinley’s (pictured above) great grandson.

So you see Francis, Jr. in Deborah’s lap.  Francis, Jr.’s grandson married a Putnam (more about them below) in the parlor.  Doesn’t that make the people seem more alive to you?  This baby grew up and, who knows?  Maybe he witnessed the wedding here.


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The other wedding was of an African American couple in the Episcopal chapel, a room in the house, pictured below.

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That brings us to one of the other fascinating people who lived here.  Emily Malbone Brinley Morgan, an independent thinker and progressive doer.

She is a descendant of the first owners and vowed to buy the house if it came on the market.  It did, and in 1906, she bought it.  Not to live in, mind you, but to convert it into a vacation home for women.  Working women.  So if you were a teacher or a clerk or an architect, in one notable case, from New York, Boston, or Providence, you might come here to lounge and have fun in the company of other women.

Cynthia shows me the guest book

Cynthia shows me the guest book

Cynthia shows me Emily's picture

and Emily’s picture

Emily was apparently congenial and funny and set up outings for the women guests.  Like a trip to the metropolis of Putnam!  Imagine how nice it would be to vacation with people who get you and don’t judge you for being a working woman.  A relief, I would think.

So back the wedding #2.  The land was purchased as a farm in the 1740s by slave trader Godfrey Malbone, who left it to his sons.  No doubt, they used slaves to work the land.  In 1791, Daniel Putnam (son of the well-mythologized Israel Putnam, who dropped his plow the moment he heard about the shots fired at Lexington and Concord to fight for the rebel cause) married Malbone’s niece and built this house.

So in this one place, we witness the transition of the state from a slave-holding place to one where African Americans would marry and be celebrated in a white person’s home.

Every house has stories to tell.  Here there’s the writing on the wall.  Literally.  Family members signed the wall.  Who knows how that tradition got started, but there they all are.  The wall throbs with energy and laughter and delight.  A guest might sign the guestbook.  But the family?  They write right on the wall.

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Oops, a mistake. I'll just scribble it out...

Oops, a mistake. I’ll just scribble it out…

Guns to Apartments

I’m still musing on how I feel about two recent tours and guns pervading every aspect of our lives.  During the Hartford Blooms Garden Tours, I went to the top of the onion-domed Colt Armory–the day after the Orlando shootings.

Having passed the notable landmark so often on the highway, I was both curious and a bit repulsed.  No one else on the tour seemed to make the connection to Orlando.  So I decided to just experience and listen, not share my dis-ease.

We took an elevator almost to the top, only having to climb one flight of stairs.  Then we walked through an industrial, attic-like area to the stairs to the cupola.

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Yes, the view was interesting, as our guide told us how Sam Colt needed the nearby Connecticut River for transporting raw materials and manufactured guns.  She explained how important the horse at the top is to people in Hartford, who clamored, when it was removed from the building, for its return.

Still, I felt restless, just wanting to go back down and get out of the building.

The fact that the factory now has been converted into apartments seems weird and ironic to me.

Who would want to let guns so palpably into the space where they nourish, refresh, restore, and relax?  Their home?

My presumptions were challenged again, with today’s tour of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas and its tour with New Haven Preservation Trust of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.  I have been curious about this site and the transition to living spaces, curious enough to overcome my distaste.

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Yes, at its peak, 30,000 people worked here.  Yes, they produced washing machines and sporting equipment, as well as rifles and ammunition.  And yes, the factory buildings are being converted to office and apartment spaces.

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Yes, I support adaptive reuse and get excited when old buildings find new energy.  Yes, the restoration has preserved a historic character combined with modern sensibilities.  Yes, wonderful Susan Clinard has created art from the wood no longer usable, now hanging on the walls and above the old fireplace (as seen above).

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But somehow, I would rather leave the ruins (knowing that’s not good for New Haven).

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A reminder that guns are not so central to every aspect of our lives.  Or leave some of these dilapidated messes as a balance, a reminder that some things are better left in the past.

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I asked one of our guides about bad juju, cleaning the energy.  He didn’t know what I meant.  He commented on how Winchester labor and workmanship are being celebrated with new life in the old building.  They discovered and restored this ceiling mural from a 1904 wing.  Reinforcing the complex’s past.

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The apartments feature original wood with those fashionable industrial finishings.  And the place is 90% occupied.

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Obviously, many people don’t feel the same way I do.  They aren’t put off by the ground water contamination and hot spots, the lead and asbestos (remediated, of course), the years of water accumulating in derelict structures.

They can look beyond whatever history happened here and throughout Connecticut (Remington was manufactured in Bridgeport) that led to guns, guns, guns, everywhere, all the time.

Maybe I should be celebrating the conversion from guns to apartments.   I just don’t know.  What do you think?

‘Tis the Season, the Summer Season Up the Hudson

Since the early 1800s, flocks of painters would leave New York City in the summer, with its sweltering heat, and head for the countryside.  The first bunch to make a name for themselves doing this were the Hudson River School.  Those intrepid artists ventured up the Hudson River to the Catskills and beyond, when traveling was tough.

In my comfortable car, I followed in their tracks, to visit the upstate New York homes of Thomas Cole and Jasper Cropsey.  I can’t tell you how much you will fall in love all over again with their paintings, when you spend time in their homes.  They become, well, real, and you can see what they saw and feel what they felt.

Thomas Cole came first and became the titular head of the (non-physical) Hudson River School.  Although not a teacher, almost everything he painted and the way he created his compositions informed artists for several generations.

Even though Catskill, NY was already crawling with tourists by the time Cole lived at Cedar Grove, he painted its wilderness.  You get a sense of what he saw from his porch.  Those beloved mountains.

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I could look at that view for hours, dreaming.  I could also meditate on the up close and personal, seen from another porch angle.

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What stories this tree can tell, and knowing that trees were hugely symbolic for Cole–a symbol of the nature we must all work to preserve–I can imagine he heard them all.

The house has been a restoration-work-in-progress.  And you can really see the progress now, compared to my first visit several years ago.  Now it includes Cole furniture, like his working desk.  Notice the handles on the side for portability.

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I have a thing for artist studios, and two of Cole’s are so lovingly recreated now.  He designed them, of course, with that wonderfully consistent northern exposure, here through that window high up.

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Can you make out on the easel below the notches on the side?  That’s so Cole could raise and lower that horizontal stabilizer for his canvasses, which were huge.  Then he could work more comfortably on different parts of the canvas.  Clever!

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You can also get a sense of how large the studio is, and this is the small one.

Cole made use of a camera obscura, which I didn’t know.  The device uses mirror-lenses and light to create depictions (albeit upside down) of a targeted scene.  The artist then has a way to create accurate details, by tracing the projected image.  Maybe you can get a sense of it here.

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I don’t know if Jasper Cropsey used a camera obscura for accuracy, but I’m sure the Ever Rest guide Tony would know.  The Cropsey scholar gave me a private tour of the 1830s house that Cropsey and his wife bought later in life, well after the Civil War.

You can probably see why they were so attracted to this Hastings-on-Hudson cottage, despite the town’s industrial dominance.  This picture, the first approach, makes the house look deceptively small.

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This one gives you a better sense of the scale.

Carpenter Gothic style; this is the ‘front’ of the house with the peekaboo view of the Hudson

The inside is a revelation, particularly the studio Cropsey built for himself.  The house has always been with the family and is now run by a foundation, so all the furnishings and art are intact from when Cropsey lived here.  His presence is palpable.

Unlike so many other artists that wanted privacy and quiet in their studio, Cropsey made his workspace part of the house and the flow of activity.  At one time, two pianos filled the room with music and laughter from his daughters’ playing.

Now the room has only one piano, and the walls are filled with his canvasses.  All the paintings had to be repurchased.  When he died, his wife sold off all remaining his paintings to pay off their debts.  Unfortunately, the Hudson River School artists in 1900 were out of fashion, and she sold them for a song.  By the 1970s, descendants began buying their family heritage back, still for depressed prices.  They have recreated the atmosphere of the studio when Cropsey worked there.

Ever Rest Studio of Jasper Cropsey

And boy, is there ever atmosphere.  Every object has a story, and Tony knows them all.  But the space is commodious and certainly doesn’t feel crowded.  He and I could talk for hours in there.  What fun that would be.

So your homework now is to go look up these two quintessentially American artists and plan a trip to see what they saw.  Who knows?  You might want to paint it all, too.

P.S. If you hurry, you can see this marvelously evocative Cole painting “Architect’s Dream” at the newly opened exhibition space on the site of his second studio.  The painting apparently never leaves the Toledo Museum of Art, but Cedar Grove snagged it for this inaugural exhibition featuring Cole’s architectural work.

Thomas Cole. The Architect’s Dream. 1840.

That’s likely Cole lounging in the foreground with his architectural drawings, in this dreamscape of architectural styles.  The patron refused the painting (!), which is why it hung over Cole’s mantle in Cedar Grove through several descendants.  The patron wanted more landscape.

I reveled in this painting, with its Grand Tour of architectural stylings.  It’s truly a must see.  A rare and delightful display of Cole wit and whimsy!

Victoriana and Frogs

As many days as I commuted to Willimantic to teach last fall, I didn’t realize that it and Windham are gifted with so many Victorian and even older homes.  Because of the mills, these towns thrived with the Industrial Revolution, particularly after the Civil War.  Now, as with most other post-Industrial cities, life is a struggle.

So here’s to the brave homeowners who fight to keep the vintage alive, one going so far as to house his carpenter on the 3rd floor!  That’s really taking home repairs to hearth, all puns intended.

I started by visiting one of the mills that brought great wealth to Willimantic, an east coast train hub (who knew?).  The Willimantic Linen Company made its fortune, go figure, with cotton.  After all, attempts to grow flax for making linen really wasn’t practical, and why import when cotton was grown in the States?

Civil War military demands made the first wealth for the company.  As you know, I love the origins of words.  So t2016-06-04 11.09.59he Union Suit, what now we call onesies for infants and long johns for adults, came into being as the cotton underwear for under those scratchy Union Army uniforms.

And “all the bells and whistles.”  That comes from the bells and whistles in the mill’s tower to communicate with the workers.

A glimpse of mill grandeur; Greek temple front, Palladian windows, stone-built to last

A glimpse of mill grandeur; Greek temple front, Palladian windows, stone-built to last

This mill clearly no longer has all the bells and whistles.  Mill #2 has been converted into office space, but I was more taken with the “ruins” on site.  Who needs Europe?  Just tour post-industrial towns.  Imagine what Detroit looks like…

Nearby ruins

Nearby ruins

I visited 6 of the 10 houses on tour and was completely surprised that the Nelson Daniels House was built as a factory.  Yes, really.  From about 1902 to 1927, the Thread City Collar Company operated out of the building/house.  Like a cottage industry, although no doubt much more machine based, the 20 to 40 employees turned out men’s collars and cuffs, as well as tuxedo vestibules.  I wondered what that stiff stomacher of men’s tuxes was called.  Now we know–vestibules.

Carousel Porch

Carousel Porch

The Willimantic homes were definitely on the strolling path of neighbors, and I adore how the George Tiffany House’s porches were named.  The ground level porch is called the “carousel porch” because of its shape and the passion for carousels in the 1890s when the house was built.  Lounge on the carousel porch to let everyone know you are feeling sociable.


Look up for the Gossip Porch

Look up for the Gossip Porch




The upstairs porch is called the “gossip porch.”  Why?  When you sit up there, you are communicating to passersby that you do not want a visit.  Instead, you can hide and listen in on the conversations to catch the latest gossip.




I also learned a new term at the Wilton Little House, built about 1896.  The house style was described as Queen Anne-Folk.  Hmm.  Not too sure what Folk means, I said to the owner.  The example he used to make the point are these original stained glass windows.




Queen Anne

Queen Anne

Weir House decorative facade

Weir House decorative facade

Originally, I wanted to go on this tour because the Impressionist artist J. Alden Weir’s house was open in Windham Center.  Weir Farm in the Western part of the state is a wonderful national site that I’ve written about here.  At the current Weir exhibit, curated by wonderful Anne Dawson, at the Lyman Allyn, I learned that Weir also lived in the Quiet Corner of the state, in Windham.  When his first wife died, he married her sister, and they split their time between the two farms.

I really enjoyed seeing 3 viewing stations, where the scenery could be compared to Weir’s paintings.  Weir bragged about his “hollyhocking,” changing scenes for aesthetics, adding a hollyhock, moving a mountain, etc.  So those tweaks were fun to actually see.  Others have been transformed by modern life and more than 100 years.

Photograph in the house of Weir sitting in front of this view

Photograph in the house of Weir sitting in front of this view

The Great Frog Battle of 1758 is a Windham Colonial legend, and one of its key participants lived at the Eliphalet Dyer House, built in 1704.  Colonel Dyer was called out one night during a dry, hot summer, when loud, strange noises led residents to conclude they were being attacked by Native Americans.  Cautiously waiting until morning to check out the cause of the ruckus, the Colonel found that frogs had ferociously fought to the death over the remaining water in a nearby pond.  Sheesh.

On that note, on this hot day, I thought it was time to exit before I encountered an aggressive frog.  I like my frogs cute and cuddly.

Watch for killer frogs if you get near the Eliphalet Dyer House!

150 years and things

Time to stretch my brain with a visit to the Peabody Museum of Natural History, now celebrating its 150th anniversary with 150 distinctive objects from the collection.

You know me and science.  When people ask what a particular plant or tree is in the garden, I usually reply, “pretty” or “yellow.”  Astute, don’t you think?

So you can imagine how accomplished I was during the behind-the-scenes tour today.  My group visited mineralogy and anthropology (I thought I might have a chance with something humanish).

2016-06-02 16.43.51I liked the mineralogist, Stefan Nicolescu, short in stature, tall in passion.  Fortunately, he didn’t tell us about the 40,000 specimens in the collection, but focused instead on some history of the museum and a couple of good local stories.  He explained his accent, since he is from Transylvania.  One of the tour participants noted Transylvania was the origin place of the Unitarians.  Another quipped, “aren’t they the ones that stay up all night?”  Smart group.

They tracked with Stefan on all his explanations.  I played on the surface, liking the story of the meteor that landed nearby in Connecticut – yikes – which allowed Yale scientists to deduce for the first time that meteors are extraterrestrial.  And the explanation that 9 new species of minerals (minerals have species? Yes!) were discovered in the nearby Branchville quarry.  Each specimen makes the reference point for all other identifications!

Spodumene-top shelf, on the right

Spodumene-top shelf, on the right



There you go.

When you need to identify spodumene, I suggest you take your sample and compare it to this beauty at the Peabody.





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How do you talk about two million objects in 20 minutes?  I’m not sure, and maybe Roger Colton, curator, wasn’t either.  We found ourselves deeply admiring the 1930s storage compartments, which could be a study in themselves.  Dovetailed just like a good piece of furniture.

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A behind-the-scenes tour that is object-based would probably last 3 hours.  And that truly would be amazing here.

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One fact that stuck with me is the interesting find from a nearby rock shelter–a dolphin vertebrae.  Now how did that get here?  Deer bones, fish skeletons, fossilized birds, yes.  But dolphin?  There’s always more to discover with science.



Richard Conniff, author of House of Lost Worlds, then told us stories about the museum.  I liked the movie stories.  How the brontosaurus at the Peabody served as the model for the dinosaur Cary Grant’s character in “Bringing Up Baby” works on for years and years, before Katharine Hepburn brings it crashing to the ground in love for him.  Did I mention that Hollywood created a bone-by-bone replica?

The Peabody’s work on dinosaurs provided source material for Godzilla, Jurassic Park, and Indiana Jones, based on the Yale explorer Hiram Bingham.

Life magazine’s cover from 1953 that excerpted from the 110′ long mural at the Peabody inspired a generation of budding scientists, including Richard himself.

You can glimpse the mural in the background, by looking through the dinosaur bones.

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From the exhibit, I was enchanted by Stumpy, the Archelon fossil of the largest marine turtle species ever found.  Incredible to be in its presence.  Richard calls this mammoth turtle Stumpy, due to that missing foot, taken off by a shark perhaps?  The Archelon may have eaten giant clams that grew up to 4′ wide.  Yes, the clam that ate New Haven is on display nearby.  I suggest you run…

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No need to run from this Olmec Colossal Head.  This king doesn’t scare anybody, not even this pint-sized girl with her stuffed animal.

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I have a particular fondness for statues with tongues sticking out, so you can imagine how much I like this debating stool from Papua New Guinea.  Carved from one piece of wood, his eyes are made of shell.

The stools are not for sitting but for formal debates.  The speaker strikes the stool with a bundle of leaves to reinforce a point.  Maybe Hillary needs one.

For most of my Peabody visit, I felt just as wide-eyed as this guy!



Smiles and Shadows

The New York day was jammed – with heat, with tourists, with smells, and with action.  Three museums, two plays, a movie, and a partridge…

Best of all though was walking the streets and letting New York happen.

Seeing “Skeleton Crew” by Dominique Morrisseau was brilliant enough in itself-so assuredly written and acted, characters thick with their (extra)ordinary struggles that transcend when put in Detroit in 2008.  The genuine acknowledgement of the craft at its peak with sustained applause through two curtain calls.  The wonder of discovering a gloriously talented playwright.

After, I had nowhere to be fast or slow.  As I strolled out the door onto the sweltering street, I smiled at a woman sitting on her stoop (Atlantic is on a residential street in Chelsea), and she smiled.

A tiny women, all bent over, asked, “so how was it?”

“Excellent”…”so good,” a young man and I answered together.

“I’ll get my ticket,” she said tottering toward the theater.

The young man, so pretty and sweet and gay and put together, and I compared notes, admiring the playwright, whom he worked with when he first moved to the City.  Turns out he’s 39, although he looked 23 at most, and an actor.  Of course.   We chatted amiably until parting for the next adventure.

I turned the corner, scanning for Blossom where I was planning to have a vegan burger with the onion ring and vegan bacon inside–crunchy and yummy by the way.  I stopped in front of a movie theater playing “Love and Friendship.”

Nothing feels so good as the cinema on a really beastly day.  Okay, I thought, I’ll just see what time it’s playing.

In 30 minutes.  So I got a ticket, now involving selecting an exact seat.

“You have such beautiful diction,” commented the ticket sales woman.

“I narrate for the blind.”

“See there?  I’m so smart.  I just at knew it,” she said proudly, handing over my ticket as she peered over her cheaters with a smile.

I smiled right back, then went outside to find Blossom.  The girl working as a greeter at the entrance to the theater looked with me across the street.  “I don’t know it,” she mourned, throwing her hands up in resignation.

I went across the street anyway in search and found its tiny storefront camouflaged behind the only tree on the block.

After my burger, I found the same girl stationed by the door, and she seemed delighted I came back to report to her.  We shared a moment about that tree.

The movie based on Jane Austen’s Lady Susan promised to be her most biting, with its true antiheroine.  But alas it was unfinished, and the movie feels the same.  Its sour cynicism is enormously amusing though.

After, even though the evening was still oppressively hot, I decided to walk the 20 blocks to the Broadway theater.  Still in Chelsea, virtually everyone responded to my sparkly glasses and goofy grim with a smile right back.  The tall, slim young man waiting for the 8th Ave bus, the bagel peddler, the barista selling iced, cold brew coffee.

My first sip exploded like a crunched, toasted coffee bean in my mouth, round, smooth, and strong.  Was anything ever so delicious?

Of course, entering the Penn Station  area, then Times Square, sobered me up fast, and I got back to people watching with my game face on.  The two girls, all brown flesh and swagger, in their rainbow-colored, twisted balloon crowns.  The three sailor boys in their Navy whites.  Wait!  One was a girl, her blonde hair braided and tucked under her cocked cap, and her thin, wire-rimmed glasses just cloaking her Times-Square-neon blue eyes.  The long, sweaty lines of theater goers waiting for that first whoosh of theater-cold air and relief.

Summer in New York can be horrible, but its neighborhoods and people never are.  The best part of any day.

Wonderful exhibits.  I was captured by the shadows, creating new works of art.

Moholy-Nagy, Twisted Planes, plexiglass and steel, 1946

Moholy-Nagy, Twisted Planes, plexiglass and steel, 1946 at the Guggenheim

Hellenistic Wrestlers

Hellenistic Wrestlers at the Met

Zeus' head and fist

Zeus’ head and fist at the Met

Greek theatrical masks

Greek theatrical masks at the Met

The Russian Thing and People Watching

Before Memorial Day, the beaches are still possible.  I hadn’t been to Brighton Beach before, so grabbed the opportunity to check out the densely-Russian-populated neighborhood in Brooklyn.

We stopped at La Brioche, which would seem to be French, but was full of interesting pastries of Eastern Europe origin.  I got a cheese filled thing and a pistachio cookie.  Very tasty and definitely worth the stop.  Once my handful of pastries was weighed, I owed a dollar.  Now that’s a bargain.

After a walk on the Boardwalk, we stopped at Tatiana’s to eat.  It’s right there, which is what makes it worth it, as I found the food too salty.  Never one to ignore kitsch, I just had to show you this gal pointing to the Tatiana’s restroom.  So chic.

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2016-05-22 13.20.22We poked in a few stores, and there was kitsch galore.  Lots of nesting dolls, although even I couldn’t resist this one, with its bottle of vodka hidden inside, for $7.  Now what do I do with that vodka?

I also thought this chess set was funny.  Hand painted in Russia, it features the U.S. presidents on one side (see if you can identify them all) and the Russian presidents on the other.  A perfect Cold War emblem, bringing back all those memories of the Spassky-Fischer matches.


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The walk from Brighton to Coney on the boardwalk only takes 10 to 15 minutes, and although the day was gray, the temperature was perfect.  I enjoyed the stretch between the two hubs, where things were a bit quieter.

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A quick stop to the New York Aquarium was in order.  A lot of it was under construction, but I still was mesmerized by the fish, got a jolt of energy from the joy the children took from the place, and laughed at the sheer cuteness of the otters.

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I’ve decided Coney is wonderful anytime.  I’ve captured it before mid-winter when it was empty and a bit eerie, in a compelling way.

Today, I just enjoyed people, kite, and mango watching.

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I watched this woman make her mango flowers for quite awhile.  She sold them just about as fast as she could make them, but for one moment, she had a small collection.  You can see how she displays them on her cart.

She was lovely about allowing me to film her carving the fruit.  She is a sculptor, for sure!




A day at the beach is a timeless thing in many ways.  It makes my heart happy.



Freedom, Tolerance, Acceptance

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The oldest surviving Colonial American synagogue is in Newport, representing Rhode Island’s commitment to religious, political, and personal freedom.  With the contentiousness and ridiculous attack on civil liberties by the presumed Presidential candidate, how refreshing to reconnect to principle American values.

Even George Washington thought so, writing a letter to the Hebrew congregation of Touro Synagogue stating “To Bigotry, No Sanction.”

With the Spanish Inquisition, specifically the Alhambra decree after their civil war declaring that all Spaniards must be Catholic, some Jews converted (Conversos), others pretended to convert but dangerously still practiced Judaism (Cryptos), and others fled.  This diaspora generally took Jews to Portugal, which soon found the similar need to Catholicize, and then Amsterdam, famously tolerant until the Portuguese took it over.

Fleeing the Portuguese again, the first Jews came to New York in 1654 and were barely tolerated by Peter Stuyvesant who enacted severe restrictions on Jewish involvement in civic life.  The next group decided to test Rhode Island, known for its separation of church and state.  Soon Cryptos were coming out by leaving Spain for Newport.  By 1677, the Newport group had enough demand to buy land for a burial ground.


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By 1763, the Sephardic congregation wanted a Rabbi and couldn’t find one willing to come to the hinterlands from progressive Amsterdam.  Until Isaac Touro, who hadn’t finished his training, came and became the namesake for the newly built synagogue.  The location is not off in some periphery, but adjacent to Newport’s historic center (just as its congregants were central to Newport life).

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What a beauty!  I’m a complete sucker for anything Palladio-inspired, and so was the architect Peter Harrison.  The Italian architect Palladio created pattern books, so his style spread through the European-connected cultures.  The secret was to know how to place the parts from the patterns.  Balance, symmetry, harmony are the principles.  Nice with the freedom, tolerance, and acceptance that Rhode Island embodied.

You can see how lovely the space is, with its dentil molding, arched Palladian windows, the ancient-Greek-inspired pediment, balustrades, and Ionic columns on the men’s level and Corinthian columns on the women’s balcony (yes, this was always and still is an Orthodox congregation).  Each column is a solid tree, smoothed before painted.

Harrison had to work with more than Palladio’s pattern books to design for the needs of the congregation.  He may be turning over in his grave with the asymmetrical placement of the President’s box, where important people including JFK, Eisenhower, and presumably George Washington attended services. When the President of the congregation has been a woman, she, alas, sits upstairs, not in the downstairs box.  Some things just can’t be tolerated apparently.

The raised bemah placed in the center of the space for the Rabbi is a Sephardic tradition.  Opening the ark housing the Torah and bringing it to the Rabbi for the reading involves a short procession.  This synagogue’s Torah was already 200 years old when it was brought from Amsterdam in 1763, and we got a quick glance at its browned pages.

1760s eternal light and candlesticks bought for a bar mitzvah, by the bimah

1760s eternal light and candlesticks bought for a bar mitzvah, by the bimah

Throughout the centuries and today, the pull to America has been about freedom and the chance for a better life.  What a nice reminder that at some points in our history, those ideals were gloriously met, for the greatest good of all involved.

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The Housekeeper’s Dance

Lizzy WillsIt’s 1887, and Lizzie Wills has offered to take us through the house.  Miss Lizzie is a maid in the Mark Twain House, and boy, does she have stories to tell!  She always seem to have been conveniently hiding in a closet or cleaning in the next room…well, you get the idea.

Nobody is allowed to touch the piano, except the five family members.  But when the family’s away, Lizzie has no qualms about running her fingers along its keys.  She’s happy to take a break from her work and dream of romance when one of the girls plays “The Sweet By and By,” the song Sam Clemens (Twain was his alias) and his wife Livy sparked to.  Lizzie read to us from a letter that just happened to fall to the floor while she was dusting.  It tells us just how romantic Sam and Livy are.

Three to five formal dinners are held in the house every week.  Dinners with many more courses than our largest meals today.  And the cook has to start at 5 a.m. making the servant’s breakfasts.  The long days, plus Clemens’ was notoriously crotchety about food.  No wonder the average tenure for a cook is only a month.

But Lizzie sticks around, listening in on the jokes told by Twain at these dinner parties and equally happy to gossip away with us.  Believe me, she’s less than happy that the china cost $150, as much as she makes in a year!

So she feels more than justified in telling tales.

Twain travels a lot, and once staying with the cartoonist Thomas Nast, a Twain quirk came out.  He hates a ticking clock, and as Nast’s guest, he went around the house and carried all the ticking clocks to the front lawn.  When he missed his train the next day because his own alarm clock was on the lawn, Nast made this cartoon.

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Miss Lizzie is proud of her employer though.  She shows off his inventions in this very modern house.  The annunciator is the call-system for servants, working off push buttons.  Annunciator, as in annunciate.  Lizzie had us touch the pages of the self-pasting scrapbook, Twain’s most successful invention, which earned him $50,000.  Clever, right?  (He later would bankrupt the family by investing all their money in a failure that also cost them this house.)

The burglar alarm of his invention was the source of many a story.  Controlled from the master bedroom, once Sam and Livy were awakened by the cellar’s alarm.  Livy was worried a burglar had broken in.  Sam replied, “Well, I don’t think it was the Sunday School Superintendent!”  Funny, even in the middle of the night.

Lizzie has Clemens to thank for that burglar alarm doing its job.  Her gentleman caller Willy Taylor was supposed to leave the house before 10 p.m., when the alarm was set.  When he triggered it, Sam forced him to marry Lizzy that very night.

The house and the Clemens family’s Hartford years were happy times, and Miss Lizzie tells us many stories of the 3 daughters and their adventures in the house.  Clemens had the girls home schooled.  Their German governess Rosa Hay taught them in her native language.  Although Rosa was beloved, Suzy complained she didn’t understand anything the teacher said.  Lilly Foote, neighbor Harriet Beecher Stowe’s cousin, soon took Rosa’s place.

The girls would study in the morning, but then the afternoon, they teamed up with neighbor children, playing piano and singing and putting on plays.  Miss Lizzie’s favorite was the Shakespeare Club, particularly the Balcony Scene (side note: Happy 400th-death-day, Shakespeare!).  At one point, the girls tried public school, but Clara racked up 13 detentions.  They were spoiled for conventionality.

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Girls will be girls, and these daughters fought so continually, that a reward system was devised.  For every day they didn’t argue, they earned a piece of candy.  A piece for peace, I say.  Lizzie tried it for the quarreling servants, with a shot of whisky.  That idea didn’t fly.

Yes, the servants squabbled a lot.  Clemens commented that the staff had “all the makings for warfare,” with their different countries of origin, languages, backgrounds, and religions.  They could insult each other in Russian, Polish, Irish, and Southern English.

Only George, the butler, seemed to get on with all the girls.  Get handsy with all the girls, we could say.  Sam said he’d have to hire girls “who were strong enough and wide enough to withstand his affections.”

2016-04-23 12.09.27Lizzie seemed much more interested in telling stories than complaining about her tiny room off the servants’ stairwell, the four flights she regularly had to run up and down, the 12 fireplaces she had to stoke, or the 7 bathrooms that needed cleaning.

She was also happy to show us something most people don’t get to see–the basement, her own private, if grim, workspace.  Since the house had no electricity, the space is woefully dark, she says.  But Miss Lizzie?  She’s anything but woebegone.  She even taught us a little dance she favors.  And if you’re willing to listen, she has a story to tell!

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Decorative Delights

Everywhere I turn, I’m seeing beauty in the world.  Yes, the snow, and also the handwork of so many startlingly talented people from today and history.

The Guilford Arts Center has a crisp show of Connecticut-made contemporary quilts, “Local Color: Connecticut Stories.”

I was impressed by the landscape and genre character of many of the quilts.

Paula Klingerman, Happily Every After

Paula Klingerman, Happily Every After

And the number of artists using the photographer as part of the image.

Rita Daley Hannafin, Snapshot

Rita Daley Hannafin, Snapshot

Kate Themel, Self-Portrait

Kate Themel, Self-Portrait

Talk about mixed media!

With quilts, part of the pleasure is the texture.  I like this work that mixes different kinds of needlework.

Detail, Karen Loprete, Joy

Detail, Karen Loprete

This work reminded me of Miriam Schapiro’s exhibit at the National Academy of Design Museum.  A must see!

Once she got past what the art world was doing and found her own voice, in alignment with 1970s feminism, Schapiro’s work is simply breathtaking in its decorative design and message power.

Miriam Schapiro, Blue Burst Fan, 1979, acrylic and collage on canvas

Miriam Schapiro, Blue Burst Fan, 1979, acrylic and collage on canvas

Here, she shows us a traditional female object–the fan–and creates a form of high art from what male critics deemed low-art.  Together, with Judy Chicago, Schapiro reshaped the dialogue about what art was and how to bring the woman artist out of anonymity.

On the wall label, she is quoted from 1977, “I wanted to validate the traditional activiites of women, to connect myself to the unknown women artists who had made quilts, who had done the invisible ‘women’s work’ of civilization.”

Detail, Blue Burst Fan

Detail, Blue Burst Fan

Schapiro coined a term femmage to describe this art form that is created by a woman, has women-centric themes, and uses mixed media, patterns, and narrative.  The definition is even more detailed that I just relayed and is a bit prescriptive for me.  I don’t know that the term has taken off, but this outstanding show demonstrates how important she was for opening doors to today’s artists, including the quilters at the Guilford Arts Center.

I love this piece, which my friend Helen describes as a transition from her early work of hard-edge abstraction to her own voice of femmage.

Miriam Schapiro, Lady Gengi's Maze, 1972 is she referencing the amazing illustrations in Tales of Genji, the world's first novel?

Miriam Schapiro, Lady Gengi’s Maze, 1972
is she referencing the amazing illustrations in Tales of Genji, the world’s first novel?

For a little wow factor, it never hurts to stop in at the Met.  Although I was headed to another exhibit, I was delayed by Diana and Her Chariot.  This video gives you some sense of her magic.

Automaton Clock in the form of Diana and Her Chariot, German, c1610

Automaton Clock in the form of Diana and Her Chariot, German, c1610

Her eyes move with the tick-tock of the seconds, the leopards leap up and down, the wheels of the chariot move, the monkey raises and lowers that hand with the ball, and yes, Diana shoots the arrow!

The “Luxury of Time” exhibit is full of such beauty and grace and magic.  Fun, too, when the clocks go off on the quarter hour.

Mantel clock (pendule de chiminée)

Clockmaker: Paul Gudin Le Jeune, figures by the Meissen Factory, Flowers by Vincennes Manufactory, c1750

I was enchanted by this Rococo clock, with it’s ‘hand-kiss’ group and elegant flowers.  Charmant!

How’s this for a souvenir?


Watchmaker: Firm of Vacheron and Constantin, c1844

If you went on the Grand Tour, and didn’t want to schlep a lot of art around, you could pick up this pocket watch, with its view of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican etched in.  Pretty nifty.

I would like one of these though, even better.


Watchmaker: Abraham Vacheron Girod (Swiss), 1832

The Great Ruby Watch

Watchmaker: Nicolaus Rugendas the Younger, c1670









What I was actually headed toward is the special exhibition of Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age.  Oh my goodness!

Detail of the Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room

Dazzling.  Ah, what a little money will do.  Here are some of my favorites.

Cabinet, made in New York City, 1884-5, Rosewood, mahogany, cherry, pine, pewter, brass, mother-of-pearl inlay

Cabinet, made in New York City, 1884-5, Rosewood, mahogany, cherry, pine, pewter, brass, mother-of-pearl inlay

Imagine the mother-of-pearl inlay in the star pattern shimmering in candlelight.

Side Chair, New York City, 1881-5, mahogany, other woods, mother-of-pearl, brass, copper, pewter, upholstery

Side Chair, New York City, 1881-5, mahogany, other woods, mother-of-pearl, brass, copper, pewter, upholstery

Who’s sitting in this chair?  Well, everyone who comes to visit (and hopefully has a small bum).  It’s one of a set.

Herter Brothers, Secretary, from the Jay Gould House, New York City, 1882

Herter Brothers, Secretary, from the Jay Gould House, New York City, 1882

As with many of the objects I was attracted to, this dense inlay in the floral pattern recalls the then-fashionable Near Eastern patterns.  I talked with a woodworker who was mesmerized by the piece.  They just don’t make ’em like this any more…

Bedstead, carved for Elizabeth Love Marquand (daughter of the 2nd president of the Met), 1881-4

Bedstead, carved for Elizabeth Love Marquand (daughter of the 2nd president of the Met), 1881-4

Women weren’t the only anonymous artists.  This bed was likely carved by an expert immigrant who brought his skills to the U.S.

Those anonymous artists are lost to us today, but fortunately, we can still melt into the magnificence of what they left behind.

Dead Wake

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Having just finished Eric Larson’s Dead Wake about the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-Boat, I got interested in visiting the Submarine Museum in Groton, CT.  Naturally, I arrived when part of the museum, including the actual submarine were closed off due to a Change-of-Command ceremony.

After heading to a local diner, eloquently called The Shack and packed for lunch, I was able to come back and have the full sub experience.  No, I didn’t have a sub for lunch, although that would have been poetic.

    The tallest point of a sub

The tallest point of a sub

The film told the history of submarines in the U.S., starting in 1900, when the Navy bought a sub from Holland for $150,000 (This ignores the historic submarine written about previously in this blog).  In 1905, Teddy Roosevelt took a 3-hour trip on the second U.S. sub, leaving from his home in Oyster Bay and sailing around Long Island Sound.  He declared it “fun.”  I say, “bully!”

Over time, safety became a priority, with the shift to diesel power from gasoline with its danger of asphyxiation and engineering improvements–angle of diving, the rotating and retracting periscope, and the control room.

But life on subs was woefully hard.  Called ‘pig boats’, subs were basically ‘glorified sewer pipes’ that were cramped, dirty, and smelly.  Little water was available, so no one could bathe or brush their teeth.

One drunk sailor returning from shore leave had a skunk on a leash and apparently argued with the on-board duty officer that the potential smell was no worse than the existing, and everyone would get used to it.  I don’t know the outcome–if Pepe le Pew became a submarine pet–but I bet not.

(Overall, it probably helps to be a man.  I sure couldn’t do it.)

After Pearl Harbor, the US Navy was able to enter the game of war quickly because the submarines were spared.  Within days, unrestricted sub warfare was engaged, with US subs sinking Japanese ships.  Interesting that among the visitors at the museum were Japanese tourists.

Subs continued to play a big part in the Navy through the Cold War.  We “hounded the Soviet Navy,” one captain declared.

On board the Nautilus

On board the Nautilus

The real reason to go to the museum is to board and crawl around in the Nautilus, the nuclear power sub.  I followed a bow-tied, curly hair, bespectacled man with two children.  He explained each thing to them, in terms I could understand, so I didn’t even have to listen to the audio tour.  Apparently, he had worked on a nuclear sub!

The stairways are really, really narrow and the steps very steep.  Discovery number 1: you have to be skinny to work on the sub.

Step way up and duck at the same time

Step way up and duck at the same time




The bunk beds–8 to a closet–are teensy.  Discovery number 2: it helps to be short if you work on a sub.

The hatch opening between areas are kept small, so not only do you have to duck, but you also have to step over the the bottom of the opening to the next compartment–probably about 2 1/2 feet high.  Discovery number 3:  you have to be agile to work on a sub.

Do you qualify?  I, for one, was plenty ready to climb those steep stairs back to the deck.  Clearly, I’m not built for sub life.

The commodious officer's dining room

The commodious officer’s dining room

8 bunks, 4 on each side

8 bunks, 4 on each side

The facilities

Better accommodations

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This electric submarine resembles a whale

This electric submarine resembles a toy whale

Riffs on Art and Quirky Toys and Games

As you know from Artventures! Game, I’m so happy to play with the over-seriousness of art.  One thing we need more of in the world right now is laughs.  So I’m delighted to introduce you to Bjorn Okholm Skaarup’s work currently on exhibit at the Bruce.

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Riffing on Degas.






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Ingres’ Odalisque

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Sphinx cat and Nefertiti







Just what I needed after a tough day.

Being a game inventor now (really?), I was especially interested in the look at historic Connecticut toys and games today at the Connecticut Historical Society.

I know that you like me can’t wait to play these games!

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In particular, I can hardly wait to play the board game ‘Connecticut’s Great Blizzard’.  Not.  Today, temps reached into the 60s.  Global warming has given us an incredibly mild fall.  Imagine during that first big storm calling out, “honey, want to play the Great Blizzard?”

The game is about getting all your errands done before Snowmageddon.  Really.

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Maybe in the 1980s, people loved just this kind of thing, cuddling up with a big mug of tea.  Would that be more fun than, say, ‘Campaigning for Election’–a game that seems to be about fundraising, too.  Both are a little too Reality-Showish for me.  Hilarious nonetheless.

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I’m getting a sense of my age, because toys from my childhood have hit the historic ranks.  We played telephone, my brother and I.  And with the Erector Set and Silly Putty and Whiffle Ball–all Connecticut-made.

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In that era of gendered toys, I’m pretty sure my brother had a chemistry set.

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We definitely had the toys that teach about the world of work–banks, fire trucks, and peculiarly here, a delivery truck of G. Fox & Co.  Maybe to help children to grow up to aspire to work there?  Or just good ol’ fashioned promotion.


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I’ve always found dolls creepy, and this c1902 doll in its underwear is absolutely no exception.  But below may be the first Teddy Bear I have ever found off-putting, this one made by the German Steiff Company.

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Gilbert was a New Haven company

Gilbert was a New Haven company





Some toys don’t seem to go out of favor and even become timely again–the Star Wars Pez dispenser heads, Barbie Dolls, and this James Bond Action Figure, strongly resembling the young Sean Connery.

Tough enough for boys, buff enough for girls.

How do you like that ad slogan I just invented?


I’ve written before about the Frisbee game invention that started with Yalie’s tossing the Frisbee’s 2015-12-12 14.28.25Pie tins.  What I didn’t know is that the Frisbee was originally called the ‘Pluto Platter’, a tie-in to the craze from Pluto’s discovery.  Which do you think works better–Frisbee or the Pluto Platter?

These hotly-debated questions fill my mind as I curl up with my hippo odalisque.






Men riding around on horses and hitting a ball.  Long breaks, where British people drink tea and make snarky remarks about everyone else.  Stamping down the divots in the turf.  That was polo for me before today’s Yale-Stanford match-up.

Stanford in red, checking out the arena before play

Stanford in red, checking out the arena before play

While Yale got stomped by the Stanford team, I feel the victory.  I learned that polo is not just a men’s sport, but according to the Yale women players in the stands with us, they don’t ever play co-ed.  “The men are more aggressive,” one said, also acknowledging my query about bruises.  Yes, the play involves pushing into your opponent, playing defense, as well as riding all out to hit a little ball with a mallet.

Yale was in blue

Yale was in blue

The object–to score a goal by knocking the ball into a marked area at each end of the arena, while riding full tilt.  It is definitely harder than it seems.  We saw our share of air-swings, balls once struck that sputtered and went nowhere, balls that ended up knocking around between horses’ legs.

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They bunch up during play

The rules have built-in forms of protection for players and horses, but these are so obscure that even the players don’t quite understand them.  Here’s one.  When a player hits the ball, that forms an ‘imaginary line.’  Yes, imaginary.  You, and the horse, have to envision this line that now you cannot cross.  If you do, foul!  The other team gets to take a foul shot.  This rule supposedly prevents collisions.

“But…,” I said, “but.”

“Yeah,” replied a player.

“It’s imaginary?  Then how…”


To make things more complicated, this imaginary line is redrawn every time the ball is hit, too.  Um, okay.

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The father of one of the Yale team, a polo player himself, explained.  “You just get it when you’re out there.  Some horses even get the line and know how to work it.”

I tested this idea out on the women players.  One’s eyes sparkled as she said,”Yes!  The good ones definitely know the line.”

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So you think everyone would want that horse, right?  Well forget it.  The Stanford team traveled across the country for 90 minutes of play (4 chukkers of 6 minutes each, with breaks), so they certainly don’t bring horses with them.  They ride the Yale horses.  And after 2 chukkers, the teams switch horses, to make sure there’s no favoritism.

The visiting players don’t know the horses, their quirks, other than what a handler will tell them before the match.  The players do have a few minutes to canter around the playing field, and that may help some.  There are four players per team, with 3 playing at a time, 3 chukkers each.  So the players rotate horses and teammates.  it’s a game that moves in all kinds of ways.

2015-11-15 12.32.16Oh, by the way, the rules are different when played indoors, as we saw today, versus playing outdoors.  Don’t ask.  These rule changes are too complicated for my simple-poloish mind.  They have something to do with changing which goal is whose after scoring, and, well, you probably have to go to Yale or Stanford to fully understand the rules.

Even so, it was just fun to watch the play, which became noisier as the competition heated up.  At first, the play was so quiet, we could hear the horses’ hooves when they shifted into a gallop.  Then the coaches started calling instructions, and whoops burst out with goals.  I think you’ll hear it all in this video:

Gentlemen to the end, the Yalies and Stanford victors shook hands after the final whistle.  It’s all good fun at the collegiate level.  The summer may call me to a professional competition, outside on a polo green.  I might even get out and do the divot stomp.

Cooling down after the match

Cooling down after the match

The closest I'll ever come to playing polo!

The closest I’ll ever come to playing polo!