Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In the shadows

A month or so ago I bought this yeti cut out from Owly Shadow Puppets. The best part is that his arms are hinged so you can make him flap them around (although he's mostly been hanging out just like this in my living room). The other day I noticed these great shadows on the wall behind it and it suddenly clicked--I don't know why it didn't occur to me before that that was the whole point of a shadow puppet. (So I'm a little slow sometimes.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Walking the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, again

Last July Dave and I explored a very small portion of the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, which is a footpath that runs along a masonry tunnel that first brought New York City a clean supply of water in the mid 1800s. It runs about 26 miles from Ossining down through Manhattan, passing through wooded areas, back yards, college campuses, town centers. It makes for a really interesting and diverse walk with quite a bit of historic interest as well.

On Saturday we decided to explore a different and much longer section of the trail, starting in Tarrytown and ending in Scarborough (we had intended to go all the way to Ossining but wimped out). In Tarrytown the trail literally cuts right between people's backyards (note the patio furniture in the background). At one point we actually had to step around someone's lawn chairs and playground equipment. But it technically is part of the trail, so if someone were to have seen us we would have been in the right (but it still was a bit uncomfortable!).

Luckily it quickly turned into a less private-seeming trail. Above is ventilator #12, one of many stone towers that were placed about a mile apart along the aqueduct to provide for circulation of air. Some of them also had a door in their base, permitting workers direct access (I didn't see any of those).

In addition to the ventilators there are also a few buildings such as the above, called a weir. These contained large metal gates to regulate the flow of the water. I realized after seeing this that I had come across one in Van Cortland Park last March without realizing what it was (which means I had stumbled upon the aqueduct trail without meaning to).

At one point the trail borders a cemetery. It looks pretty new (not the historic cemetery in Sleepy Hollow that I initially hoped it was).

One of many helpful signs pointing you in the right direction.

I love the wrought iron gate (the above picture is only half of it).

A steel bridge over a highway.

A closeup of the sides of the bridge.

I really wish someone had had more of a sense of humor about this sign and not included the head on the horseback rider (it being in Sleepy Hollow after all).

A woman picking berries on the trail.

A giant fallen tree trunk.

We encountered quite a few animals throughout the day. Above is an adorable bunny that was munching on some grass when we found him. We also saw cows, roosters, butterflies, a cardinal, chipmunks, dogs,

and a gigantic deer, huge antlers and all. Sorry about the blurry photo, but I had to include it. He was standing so motionless that I almost wasn't sure that it was real--until he took off into the woods.

We ended the walk on the platform at Scarborough station, waiting for the train to take us back to Tarrytown. We unfortunately missed the train by about a minute and had to wait an hour for the next one. But at least it was right on the water and provided some beautiful views of the Hudson River (note the geese off in the distance).

Now I just need to conquer the trail in Van Cortlandt Park and up into Yonkers. Hopefully before the summer is over!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Blue Hill Farms

Somehow I stumbled upon the website of Blue Hill Farms, and wondered where Pocantico Hills, NY, was. Somewhere up in the Hudson Valley, I figured, maybe a few hours away. Then I looked it up on a map and realized it was only about 30 minutes away from me, in Westchester County. On Saturday I finally made it up there.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns is a working farm and educational center with two restaurants on the grounds, both of which are stocked with food grown on the farm. We saw cows grazing in the fields and roosters walking around the parking lot, which was fun though not the most exciting part.

We'd of course come for the food. There is one formal sit-down restaurant, and another less formal cafe (we of course went to the latter). There we enjoyed a blueberry muffin, a peanut butter cookie, a slice of sweet potato pizza, potato salad with greens, and some kind of whole grain and squash salad. Dave couldn't resist trying a jar of their pickles as well (see above). All told, the place is a bit pricey, and you don't get the hugest portions for your money--including the pickles we spent about $25 and I did not really feel particularly full upon leaving. But everything was delicious. I'd definitely go back--if I lived a bit closer I could see myself falling into the habit of stopping by for coffee and scones every weekend. (Sigh.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Get Creative with Penguin, part deux

Today the second episode of Get Creative with Penguin, a show on Penguin's Video and Radio Network that focuses on creativity and crafting, goes live. As I mentioned when I posted the first episode, this is a fairly new project for me and it's an enormous amount of work, but at the very least it's about something I really enjoy.

In the above video Summer Pierre, author of The Artist in the Office, describes a few ways to make your work day more tolerable—I now do this by drawing giant back drops for video sets and making illustrations of the Eiffel Tower (as seen in the above clip). And if you go to, you can also learn to make a stuffed dog out of a pair of gloves (from the book Sock and Glove), and then Doug Lansky, author of The Titanic Awards, will show you some photos of what not to do while on vacation (he also has a few tips on what you can do to pass the time during a long airport delay). So check it out—you'll be making me happy, as it means we haven't been working on all this for nothing. And if you missed it last time, you can watch the first episode too (in which you can learn to make some very cute stuffed owls, a cute sandwich—we're all about cute here—and a worm bin—okay, not so cute but very useful if you have a garden).

Monday, June 21, 2010

First flea market trip of the season

On Sunday we woke up extra early and headed up to New Milford, CT, to the Elephant's Trunk flea market. The only thing I was really hoping to find was a vintage industrial style fan (particularly one that worked)...and that's exactly what I came home with! This one pictured above was just $25 (a bargain compared to the asking prices I've seen elsewhere for similar items). I love the sculptural shapes and lines, and better yet, it works incredibly well.

Here it is in action. The blades look a bit ghostly. (They're also pretty sharp. I need to be careful not to chop off a finger.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hiking in the the city

In El Paso the Franklin mountains are a constant presence, looming in the distance. The Franklin Mountain State Park is actually the largest urban park in the nation--that's 37 miles of desert and mountains, all within the El Paso city limits.

Once you're on the one small road that goes into the mountains, the mental distance from the city is immediate. Dave kept asking, are you sure it's okay to be on this road? Are we going to see any banditos crossing over from Mexico? (He was obsessed with banditos!) But it's totally legit--the road dead ends at the parking area for the Ron Coleman trail (above), which we decided to try out. The goal was to reach the cave off in the distance, which seemed much closer than it actually was in reality.

Along the way we encountered many varieties of cactus: prickly pear

and ocotillo (my favorite--I love the spiny tentacle-like stems).

I think the spiky looking bushes are yucca plants.

I love the texture of the ground we were walking on.

Almost there...

We made it! The cave (really more of a little indentation in the rock) was covered in graffiti. On the way back down we passed by a few people with beer (technically illegal). This place must be a pretty sweet late night drinking and makeout spot (definitely saw some signs of this...) for El Paso teens. Not much else to do on a Friday night.

The view from up top. You can kind of see the city past the mountain but it definitely feels pretty far removed.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

White Sands

Driving back from Marfa we went a little bit past El Paso, to White Sands National Monument* in Alamogordo, New Mexico: the world's largest gypsum dune field, covering 275 square miles of desert. If you're ever in the area I highly recommend the stop--it was definitely the highlight of our day (and perhaps one of the highlights of the trip in general).

There's an eight mile drive you can take, with various stopping off points along the way. Above is the farthest point you can take. I was kind of obsessed with all of the covered picnic tables scattered throughout the parking area. I love the shapes and the random placement.

We had a lot of fun running up and down the dunes in our bare feet. I just wish there'd been an ocean to run into--it's kind of like a beach with no water.

These crazy looking plants were everywhere. Apparently they're soaptree yuccas.

A gypsum plant stand off in the distance.

Another one up close--it looks like some kind of weird Muppet creature.

I noticed a lot of these clusters of seeds gathered in indentations in the sand. I don't know if they naturally formed with the wind or if some animal has been doing some organizing. (Note the little footprints in the center.)

This tree is so creepy looking, I love it.

A steep incline--someone actually ran down this, as evidenced by the footprints.

The trail back to the car.

*If you've ever seen the Errol Morris movie Vernon Florida, you may recall the couple with the jar of New Mexican sand who claim that the sand grows. They most certainly collected that sand from this place, as the gypsum absorbs moisture (and back in their humid home state, there would be a lot of moisture to absorb)--thus the sand in fact does "grow".

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Afternoon at the Chinati Foundation

While I think overall I enjoyed the morning tour at the Chinati Foundation a little more than the afternoon, the later tour had its highlights. First on the agenda was Dan Flavin's large-scale fluorescent light works.

I really liked these, especially the visual effect they created when standing up close to the lights.

Although after awhile it did start to get repetitive--it's essentially the same thing over and over spread throughout six identically-shaped buildings.

Another really interesting building is this mess hall, in which glass frames were placed around original paintings from the 1930s found on the walls in order to preserve them just as they were.

The last things we saw were Donald Judd's 15 concrete boxes that run along the border of the property, which was technically after the tour was over--we were given the option of checking them out before the place closed, and I think only one other group of people chose to do it. I guess they'd had it with minimalist art for one day (admittedly about halfway through the boxes I started to get a little tired myself).

They're pretty awesome though. And there's no tour guide to tell you not to touch them.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More pictures around Marfa

My trip to Marfa feels like it happened ages ago, even though it's only been a few weeks. But I still have so many photos left to share (ha)! Here are some random photos from around town.

The hammock grove at El Cosmico. We spent a little while Monday afternoon reading (as there is not much else to do on a Monday in Marfa).

Outside Padres, quite possibly the only bar and music venue in town. It gets pretty hopping on the weekends but it was pretty quiet on Monday at 4 (I don't know why we were so hungry so early) while we ate rice and beans and listened to Willie Nelson.

Great sidewalk art.

Dave told me that Robert Frank already took this photo.

The Chinati Foundation owns a castle too. They own everything.

The listings in the window at this real estate agency were all several years old and covered in dust. I don't think it's a working business anymore.

Orange shell chairs in the waiting room at the local clinic.

The keys to the Royal Mansion. When I look at this photo I just picture myself laying on the couch with the breeze coming through the windows. It was such a peaceful vacation!