TOP FIVE: June 27-July 4

Top Five

#1: Home Cooking Podcast

I listened to the beautiful, inspiring, and fun podcast “Home Cooking” by Samin Nosrat and Hrishikesh Hirway over the last couple weeks. (Samin is the host of that beautiful Netflix special whose name I can never accurately remember…I think SALT, FAT, ACID, HEAT. Could I Google it? Yes. What can I say? I am lazy, and Googling it seems to be the equivalent of getting up to put the kettle on so I can have a cup of tea while I write this post.) And Hrishi is the co-host on the West Wing Weekly and the host of Song Exploder and if you listen to podcasts I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. ANYWAY, here is how they describe their podcast:

“Home Cooking is a podcast from Samin Nosrat and Hrishikesh Hirway. We want to help you figure out what to cook (and keep you company) during the quarantine!”

It is SUCH a good listen, and full of amazing cooking tips and fun stories. There are only a few episodes, but they are each a delight. Plus, it leads me to my next item on the list, which is Yo-Yo Ma.

#2: Yo-Yo Ma

In one of the episodes they were chatting with Yo-Yo Ma and brought up a series of music he’s been making called Songs of Comfort. They are beautiful and recognizable and seem to be a reaction to the turbulence and uncertainty of these times. Here’s a clip of him discussing Songs of Comfort:

He just seems so NICE, doesn’t he?!

The host asks, “What can music and art do?”

And Yo-Yo says, “I kept looking for my voice, and I think my voice is in finding the needs of others and then representing them…So, everywhere I go, it’s always about finding what people are thinking, feeling, how they think about themselves in the world, and if I can find something that they need and if I can actually offer a little bit of something that is comforting, than that’s how I would define my job.”

I couldn’t say it better, I couldn’t agree more. In my small way, through flowers and paintings, I hope I can achieve the same.

Here is one of my favorites:

#3: Grace Rose Farm

Grace Rose Farm. There are hours of endless inspiration to be had just by scrolling through their feed. Any time I need a little injection of beauty or to see unbelievable roses, I hop over to their Instagram account. I’ve been drooling over the mail-order bouquets they offer and I’m not sure I can resist THESE incredible roses…

#4: Morgan Harper Nichols

Morgan is many things, but I know her from her art+poetry that I first came across on Instagram. She writes beautiful poetry and creates beautiful art around it. I am personally inspired to start sharing more of my words and thoughts as a result of her work! Click here to go to her Instagram page and see some of her beautiful work.

Loosen your shoulders

relax your jaw

breathe deep.

Make room for peace

right here in the wild of things.

-Morgan Harper Nichols

#5: The new course I’m taking!

I’m so excited because this week I started an online course called “Leverage Your Art” with Stacie Bloomfield, whose work you might know from Gingiber. Just in this first week, I’ve really been challenged to expand my art and I want to start sharing it with all of you as well. There is a unique challenge to be found in drawing and creating new things but maintaining my voice and style overall. I’d like to be able to paint a flower and have someone say, “It looks like Alex painted that!” and have that same hand be evident in the people or animals or objects I draw. That’s a lot of work! But it is work that I love ūüôā

What did you love this week? Tell me about it below or join the conversation on Instagram by clicking here!

A GOOD WEEK

dirt on my face, family, friends, friendship, garden, photography, small town life, Uncategorized

Good morning!

This past week was a pretty good one. There were, of course, good moments and¬†bad moments, but looking at it as a whole, it was a successful week. Now, if only I had better short-term memory, I could tell you exactly¬†why it was a good week and¬†what¬†we did, but I’ll need to look at the archives (AKA pictures on my iPhone) to remember exactly what happened.

First of all, in Breaking Garden News, we have our first tomato!!!

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HELLO! WELCOME TO THE WORLD! I CAN’T WAIT TO EAT YOU!

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Sister looks on in amazement at the tiny green tomato

I submitted a painting to a contest meant to benefit a local arts group. The jury planned to select twenty works of art and then in September there is an auction where the proceeds are split between the artist and the charity. They were meant to respond by Monday and since I didn’t hear anything, I figured they just notified the winners. It was a little disappointing, but it felt good just to submit something.

But THEN, late Thursday night they sent an email and said they had accepted my painting! It is a botanical watercolor of peonies, and I am so excited!!

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These are a couple botanical prints I’ve been working on this week. I’m hoping that by the end of the summer I’ll have enough to do a small show or even open an online store to sell prints and original paintings. That is exciting, right?!

Sister got her first byline and was published in the local paper. Junior Ace Reporter!!

Both brothers had good news about their respective jobs, which is great.

On Thursday we went with our cousin to one of my favorite places ever…the Book Barn.

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The resident cat, who I’m pretty sure runs the place, is named Dickens, which is a name that works on several levels.

It is a big, dilapidated barn in the absolute middle-of-nowhere filled to the brim with books about anything you can think of. It is a place full of inspiration and magic, and I love, love, love it there.

Uncle Gee and Aunt T invited us to Tanglewood to see a jazz band with them on Friday night, and we accepted because we love to do stuff! I’m SO GLAD WE ACCEPTED because it was one of the best concerts I’ve been to, SO FUN.

The band is called the Hot Sardines, and I would liken it to…the closest you can get to a roaring party in a 1920’s speakeasy. We also had FRONT ROW SEATS, bantered a bit with the band, met the lead singer afterwards and had the best time.

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See the guy in the cream colored fedora? He is the band’s resident mobster/tap-dancer. At first, I thought, does he just sit there and tap his feet the whole time? BUT THEN HE DANCED and now I think every band should have a resident tap-dancer. Furthermore, their rendition of Summertime gave me goosebumps.

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That was a great and spontaneous treat and a wonderful end to the week. Here’s a video from their YouTube page to give you an idea of the music:

Plus, they inspired me to work on a Secret Project which I’ve been thinking about all weekend. I have more than one Secret Project going on right now and I’ll have to fill you all in at some point…here’s a slo-mo video of one of my secret-works-in-progress…

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Secret Project: dirt on my face and everywhere else, too. 

We also got to see the best of little cousins again this week. I love spending time with those two kids, they are the sweetest and most imaginative little buddies to have around. And they give great hugs!

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I’ve also had some of my flowers bloom in the past week, and that fills me up. I love the vegetables, but¬†flowers are food for the soul, I’m pretty sure.

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I played tennis for the first time in over a year and I won, which felt great! Plus, Sister and I have kept up going to Pilates, which we started a few weeks ago. I LOVE PILATES. The class is Wednesday and Friday mornings and I think Sis and I are the youngest people there by about 30 years? Great. A class full of retired women is¬†just my speed. Pilates is fun and it is also hard, but I like all of the breathing and stretching breaks, and if the soreness I’ve felt for the last couple days is any indication, it’s a WORKOUT.

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Okay! That’s it from around these parts, tune in next time for a garden progress report!

 

Thomas Cole and Bad Mexican

family, friends, humor, personal essay, photography, small town life, Uncategorized

Today, the three of us siblings which are present here in New York went adventuring (the fourth sibling unable to make it as he currently resides in the far-off land of Kansas. HI J!).

We drove thirty minutes south-west-ish and crossed the mighty, winding Hudson River, and ended up in Catskill. We were hungry after all of that pre-adventuring, so we thought we would look for a cute cafe or a tasty-looking treat.

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One of the last remaining places with a functional fax machine.

Alas.

There was no cute cafe and there were no tasty-looking treats. We settled on a Mexican joint, and we don’t need to talk about it much as we shall not be returning there. Nor shall we be returning¬†to Catskill in the near future.

But then we wound our way to the Thomas Cole Museum!

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The view from the porch. Wowwee.

Thomas Cole was one of the leaders of the Hudson River School of art, which originated right around here in the Hudson River Valley. The museum was smaller than I expected, but had stellar views off the front porch and some nice flowers. There were a few rooms open to the public and since we were too late for a guided tour, it didn’t take long to see the contents of them.

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Nice flowers

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Re: the Hudson River School of art, I’ll quote Wikipedia, because that is the easiest thing for me to do and it’s late and I’m kind of lazy:

The Hudson River School was a mid-19th century American art movement embodied by a group of landscape painters whose aesthetic vision was influenced by romanticism. The paintings for which the movement is named depict the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area, including the Catskill, Adirondack, and the White Mountains.

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I will forever have a soft spot for The Hudson River School, in part because I grew up with those landscapes saturating my mind, and in part because both my Mom and my teachers did a great job exposing me to local art and history as a kid. The art that came out of those landscape painters was idealistic and romanticized, but also beautiful and idyllic.

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Back to the Thomas Cole Museum: there was a lot less art than I had hoped for. The house is decked out with cardboard-y reproductions of the paintings that hung when Cole lived there. They are not very good reproductions. However, the “New Studio” has rotating, temporary exhibits and they were featuring some works of Sanford Gifford, who was one of the leaders of the Hudson River School.

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“Going Sketching in the Catskills” Sanford Gifford, 1866

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Details of oil paintings by Sanford Gifford

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There are other famous painters from the Hudson River School around here–I was so lucky to grow up in a place that is so steeped with history! Olana, the home and studio of Frederick Church, is only 25 minutes away, and we visited it a lot when I was growing up. It is a beautiful home full of interesting architecture, although the last time I visited, it was full of contemporary, experimental art which I found really jarring in the 19th-century surroundings. Also, as you will see below, Mr. Church and I have a bit of a history.

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Maybe this is just me, but if you’re at a museum dedicated to one of the country’s foremost landscape artists, should you at least paint feet onto the guy?

The following things happened at Olana:

  • I had many, many,¬†many amazing picnics with my mom, pizza bagels, and siblings
  • I learned from Patty O that I could cross one eye and make the other one go in loops. This is largely a useless skill.
  • I loved those picnics and the pizza bagels
  • Frederick Church put in a heart-shaped pond for his wife, which I thought was the most romantic thing I ever heard of when I was about 10. Now I think it is kind of impractical and hard to see the shape clearly? But good for him!

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In Thomas Cole’s “old” studio

Once, on a school field-trip, our class went to see Thomas Cole’s “The Course of Empire”¬†¬†which is a thought-provoking series of five paintings depicting the rise and fall of human civilization. The Internet tells me that their permanent home is in NYC, but I think it must have been a temporary exhibit around here, because I don’t remember going to The New York Historical Society, which is where they live. It was a memorable experience and I’ve thought of those paintings a lot over the years.

There were¬†also a few Frederick Church paintings at that same exhibit and, guys, I don’t much like it when people tell me what to do. This was in the pre-moving-around-the-world era of my life and I think I hadn’t been to many art museums, so when they told us not to touch the paintings, the inside of me basically crawled inside-out and demanded that I touch a painting. I chose a landscape by Frederick Church which had lots of little, bumpy green leaves, and I looked to my right (covertly) and saw the museum guard glance away, and I DID IT. I reached out and touched it!

I JUST WANTED TO AND I DID.

I can’t believe it. Present-day Alex would NEVER DO THAT.*

I think the guard saw me and told me not to do it and I had a secret thrill and then I went into the next room and saw that civilization was destined to crumble anyway, according to Thomas Cole, who based his series on a poem by Lord Byron, who is not someone I want to base anything on.

I digress.

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Anyway, in summary, we had a nice time out and learned a few things** and we saw gorgeous views of the Catskills. I also saw a piece of dust adhered to an oil painting and I longed to reach out and brush it away and also touch the painting. Instead, I just weirdly blew on the painting a few times, watching this giant dust bunny flutter around, and then I realized that hearing me suddenly breathe loudly in the very silent New Studio probably sounded super weird to the elderly couple behind me.***

Kindly old man: “Excuse me, I noticed you were quietly appreciating the paintings, but now you are loudly huffing and puffing. Are you having an asthma attack?”

Me: “No, I just saw that there is this clump of dust on the painting and it’s really bugging me, so I thought I would just try to loosely, like, you know, blow it off of there…”

Kindly old man (fumbles for his wallet, rifles through it, withdraws business card, holds it out): “Here, this is the number of my psychiatrist. Maybe he could help you.”

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Why yes, there is a large piece of dust affixed to this painting. Perhaps someone should blow it off or something?

*but she still kind of wants to

**like avoid Catskill and the Mexican restaurant in Catskill

***because it was super weird