MUSIC ABOVE THE HUDSON RIVER

Cadet Chapel

Cadet Chapel

Not far from the Verazzano Bridge, I went to a school in the Fort Hamilton area in Brooklyn, New York, a school of the same name, ‘Fort Hamilton’, overlooking the Hudson River. Looking back, I didn’t appreciate the privilege to be at such a beautiful location everyday.

Part of the score

Part of the score

This past Sunday, I visited another school, fifty miles from New York City, West Point,  also a beautiful location, in the mountains that overlook the Hudson River. I think the whole world descended upon the Cadet Chapel at the US Military Academy to hear Handel’s Messiah. Cars were parked end to end, far as we could see. There was not one small space left. Tom dropped me off, thank goodness, and finally found parking, but he had to walk miles uphill in the pounding wind. westpoint red 1200px

All the red seats in this picture were overflowing with guests (we saved one for Tom) to hear the Cathedral Choir with other choirs, and the West Point Academy singers, perform.

Gail, Joanne, Tom, Paul, Stephen

Gail, Joanne, Tom, Paul, Stephen

The sounds of the music filled the spaces of the cathedral as it wound in and around the massive, majestic neogothic architecture. Our daughter-in-law, Joanne (in the white blouse) participated in the Cathedral Choir. She invited lucky us.

West Point, from Phillipstown. engraving by W. J. Bennett showing the original buildings of the United States Military Academy

West Point, from Phillipstown. engraving by W. J. Bennett showing the original buildings of the United States Military Academy

The United States Military Academy at West Point (USMA), also known as West Point, Army, The Academy or simply, The Point, is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located in West Point, New York. The entire central campus is a national landmark and home to scores of historic sites, buildings, and monuments. The majority of the campus’s neogothic buildings are constructed from gray and black granite. The campus is a popular tourist destination complete with a large visitor center and the oldest museum in the United States Army.

The Continental Army first occupied West Point, New York, on 27 January 1778. It became the oldest continuously-operating Army post in the United States. If you love American history, here’s a boat load full.

Where’s your favorite place to hear Handel’s Messiah?

 

DO YOU HAVE A FOXY NEIGHBORHOOD?

foxEveryday, when we go for our morning walk, we spot the neighborhood red fox. I think the fox is more frightened by us, than we are of the fox. But is the fox really a danger?

redfoxBackground
Here’s the word about the red fox in Connecticut. It is widespread and abundant in Connecticut. The population that exists today is made up of hybrids, a result of interbreeding between native red foxes and the European red fox, which was introduced into the eastern coastal areas of the United States in the mid-18th century. The native red fox was a boreal species that historically occurred in the northern regions of North America and at higher elevations (montane areas) in western areas. Foxes are members of the dog family, Canidae, just like domestic dogs and coyotes.

Range
Red foxes occur over most of North America from Baffin Island, Canada, and Alaska to the southern United States, except for coastal western Canada, Oregon, and California, the Great Plains, the southwestern desert and the extreme southeastern United States.

Description
The red fox is best identified by its reddish coat, black legs and ears, and long, white-tipped, bushy tail. It has an elongated muzzle, pointed ears, and a white underside. Other color phases are uncommon but include silver, black, and a cross, always with a white-tipped tail and dark feet. The tail is proportionally longer than the tail of a coyote and, when the fox is running, it is held horizontally behind the animal. Red foxes weigh between 7 and 15 pounds, averaging 10 to 11 pounds, and measure between 39 and 43 inches long, including the tail. Males are slightly heavier and generally larger than females.

The gray fox, which also is found in Connecticut, is often confused with the red fox because of the rusty red fur on its ears, ruffs, and neck. Although somewhat similar in size, the gray fox has a gray coat, with a whitish belly, throat, and chest, and a shorter muzzle and ears. It also lacks the white-tip on the tail exhibited by the red fox.

redfoxcubs2smHabitat and Diet
Red foxes prefer to inhabit a mixture of forest and open fields. They use the transition zone or “edge” between these habitats as hunting areas. Suburban and urban areas are commonly inhabited.

The red fox is an omnivore, meaning that it eats both plant and animal foods. Food items include small rodents, squirrels, woodchucks, rabbits, birds and eggs, amphibians, and reptiles. Foxes also will eat vegetation, fruits, nuts, insects, carrion, and garbage. Red foxes may partially bury, or cache, excess food, cover it with soil, grass, leaves, or snow, and mark it with urine.

Life History
The breeding season is from January through March. After a gestation period of 51 to 53 days, females give birth to a litter averaging 4 or 5 pups. Red foxes may dig their own burrows but they usually improve an abandoned woodchuck burrow. It also is common for foxes to den in the crawl space under decks and sheds. Most foxes have more than 1 den and will readily move their young if disturbed. The pups stay in the den until they are about 4 to 5 weeks of age, after which they emerge and begin to play outside the den entrance. Both adults care for the young by bringing food and guarding the den site. The pups are weaned at about 12 weeks and join the adults on hunting forays, learning to catch food on their own. The young disperse from the family unit in fall and will usually breed during their first winter.

redfoxandmousesmct-govInteresting Facts
Red foxes tend to be solitary, usually hunting alone. They can be active at any time of day, but appear to hunt most often during dawn and dusk. It is not unusual to observe foxes during daytime. They remain active all year and do not hibernate. The normal home range for a fox is about 2 to 4 square miles in Connecticut, but it may vary depending on the abundance of food.

Foxes are quite vocal, exhibiting various barks, howls, and whines. The sounds vary from a short, sharp “yap” or bark, followed by a “yap, yap,” to a combination of screeches, yells, and long howls. A common report to the DEP Wildlife Division involves the sounds made by red foxes (e.g., a raspy, single syllable scream or bark, repeated regularly every 3-10 seconds).

fox sleepingFoxes are important predators of prolific prey species like mice, rats, and rabbits. Adult foxes have few predators, although coyotes likely will not tolerate foxes within their territories. Several studies have found that red foxes only occur in the gaps between the larger territories of coyotes. The relatively recent expansion of coyotes throughout Connecticut may have displaced red foxes from much of their prime habitat.

Foxes can carry the organisms that are responsible for several contagious diseases, such as mange, distemper, and rabies. Sarcoptic mange is sometimes deadly to foxes and coyotes. It is caused by a microscopic mite that lives in the skin. Animals with mange lose hair and weight; their skin becomes cracked and encrusted with heavy scabs. Infected foxes usually die from the affliction within 2 to 4 months. Humans can contract the mite from infested coyotes, foxes, and dogs, but the disease is less intense, consisting of a mild form of dermatitis.

Raccoon rabies is the most common strain of rabies found in Connecticut. Raccoons are the primary carrier but foxes also can be infected. Foxes are the primary carrier of different strains of rabies that occur in other regions of North America. Most red foxes die from rabies too quickly to spread the disease to other animals or humans. Nevertheless, animals that appear sick or are acting abnormally should be avoided. The following symptoms may indicate the presence of rabies or other neurological diseases in mammals: unprovoked aggression, impaired movement, paralysis or lack of coordination, unusually bold behavior, and disorientation. The local animal control officer or police should be contacted if assistance is needed with a potentially rabid animal. If you are unable to contact local authorities, call the DEP at 860-424-3333.

Living with Foxes
Foxes commonly live in close association with human residences and communities where they can find plenty of food, water, and cover. They frequently inhabit yards, parks, and golf courses, especially areas that adjoin suitable, undeveloped habitat. Foxes can become accustomed to human activity but are seldom aggressive toward people. Problems associated with foxes include depredation on domestic animals, perceptions of danger to humans (healthy foxes pose virtually no danger to humans), and their potential to carry disease organisms. The mere presence of a fox should not be perceived as a problem and foxes need not be feared. However, those who are uncomfortable with the presence of foxes can take certain actions to reduce the chance of problems:

Do not allow pets to run free! Keep cats indoors, particularly at night, and small dogs on a leash and under close supervision at all times.

NEVER feed foxes! DO NOT put out food for any mammals. Feed pets indoors. Clean up fruit dropped from trees and bird seed below feeders. Secure garbage in animal proof containers and store in a garage or shed. Feeding, whether direct or indirect, can cause foxes to act tame and may lead to bold behavior over time.

Close off crawl spaces under decks and sheds. Foxes will use these areas for resting and raising young.

Protect livestock. Foxes will prey on small livestock, such as ducks, chickens, rabbits, and young lambs, but generally do not bother larger livestock. Livestock can be protected with secure pens, coops, or fencing. Make sure the enclosures prevent entry from above and below as foxes will dig or squeeze under poorly maintained fences and may climb over small fences. Most predation occurs at night so it is particularly important to provide protection at that time. Some electric fence designs can provide good protection.

Use frightening techniques. Human presence often is a deterrent to foxes. Foxes that travel into residential yards can be harassed or scared with loud noises, bright lights, or spraying water from a hose. Disturbing a den site physically or with unnatural odors (e.g., moth balls) during spring may prompt foxes to move to another den which may be farther away.

Trapping and Hunting
Foxes are classified as furbearer species, and thus Connecticut has established regulated hunting and trapping seasons. Hunting and trapping can be used to regulate fox populations while providing recreational opportunities for sportsmen and women. Nationally, millions of dollars are generated every year from fox pelt harvests. The silky, dense fur of the red fox is more valued than the fur of the gray fox, which is coarse and thin. Live-trapping and relocating foxes is not recommended because the state’s fox population and fox “problems” are widespread, and relocated foxes can cause problems in new locations. Removing problem foxes through trapping or hunting is only recommended during designated seasons or in situations where individual foxes show a pattern of preying on livestock.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8xJtH6UcQY

Poor little fox, it scampered, as fast as it could, when I yelled in its direction. Does your neighborhood have a resident fox? Do you keep your pets restrained and safe?

Logo The Technical Assistance Informational Series is 75 percent funded by Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration – Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Program. The P-R Program provides funding through an excise tax on the sale of sporting firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment. The remaining 25 percent of the funding is matched by the Connecticut Wildlife Division. (rev. 11/2010)

 

 

COFFEE–WHAT’S IN A CUP?

Espresso factory

Espresso factory

I don’t remember when I had my first cup of coffee, but I do remember when I had my last. Today, after a long afternoon workshop, painting Coney Island round- about swings.

Espresso factory

Coney Island round-about swings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The coffee tasted good. It refreshed me with just enough caffeine to replenish my energy.

 

 

 

Needs cream?

Needs cream?

Coffee is slightly acidic (pH 5.0–5.1) and can have a stimulating effect on humans because of its caffeine content. It is one of the most popular drinks in the world. It can be prepared and presented in a variety of ways. The effect of coffee on human health has been a subject of many studies; however, results have varied in terms of coffee’s relative benefit. The majority of recent research suggests that moderate coffee consumption is benign or mildly beneficial in healthy adults. However, the diterpenes in coffee may increase the risk of heart disease.

Lavazza espresso regular & decaf

LavAzza Espresso regular & decaf

Coffee cultivation first took place in Abyssinia. The earliest credible evidence of coffee-drinking appears in the middle of the 15th century in the Sufi shrines of Yemen. In the Horn of Africa and Yemen, coffee was used in local religious ceremonies. As these ceremonies conflicted with the beliefs of the Christian church, the Ethiopian Church banned the secular consumption of coffee until the reign of Emperor Menelik II. The beverage was also banned in Ottoman Turkey during the 17th century for political reasons, and was associated with rebellious political activities in Europe.

Coffee for two

Coffee for two

What’s your take on coffee? Or do you prefer soda or tea or something else?

LIFE OF A LEAF

The autumn leaves

The autumn leaves

On that day, that fateful day when the wind and rain tore the red and gold leaves from their bones and they fell at my feet–inspiration flooded my soul. Imagine what it must be like to have such a short life. Sprout in spring, fizzle in fall. I picked one up, the one floating in a puddle and pondered its life.

We aren’t the only ones that have a life. So does a leaf, the lowly leaf. It lives long enough to filter the air  you breathe, to fill those empty spaces between the bones of a tree, to add color to the container you call your world.P1120623

Japanese maple leaves

Japanese maple leaves

It’s hard to believe that small spring bud pushing it way out on a tree branch will blossom into a handsome colored shape, some pointy, some rounded, some straight, some huge, bigger than a man’s hand.

leaflines

leaflines

All those hard-working leaves have done their job and fall off the tree before the onset of winter. They get raked and  bagged and get trotted off to the landfill . But hold one deciduous leaf up by its stem, look at it. I mean really look. It has several life lines. A leaf is basically the power generator of a plant. Leaves have specialized cells that carry out photosynthesis when exposed to sunlight. In photosynthesis, sunlight, water supplied by the roots, and carbon dioxide from the air produce oxygen and sugars (stored plant food).

The visible lines running through the leaf blade are veins that carry the water and nutrients involved in photosynthesis to and from the rest of the plant. The network of veins includes a mid-vein (aka midrib) that runs through the center of the leaf. Secondary veins branch off from the midrib and tertiary veins branch off the secondaries. To read more click this link.

What’s your favorite . . . spring time or fall time?

 

CMA AWARDS

P1120476I needed flake-out time after a whole day on my feet painting pretty pictures for my Coney Island project. Right at the bewitching rush hour, I left Silvermine Arts Center, plowed through miles and miles and miles of traffic to home to sit back, put my feet up and unfrazzle myself. This blog is not about being unfrazzled, rather it’s about watching the CMA (Country Music Association) awards, while I unwind. Tom and I love country music. Country music is all about the story. Every song is meant to pull on your heartstrings. You see, the music comes from the heart, about life’s hardships and happiness.P1120479

There are so many great singers and great contributors to our country music culture. But The Band Perry intrigued me tonight when they performed. They made a great sound. Like so many talented bands, Kimberly, Reid, and Neil Perry are siblings. In 2008, they were discovered by Garth Brooks’ manager Bob Doyle and subsequently have had top albums over the last six or so years. P1120474What made them prominent was that on Sunday, February 2, 2014, the band performed in the pre-game show of Super Bowl XLVIII. It gained positive publicity after offering to cover the burial expenses for the funerals of nine people (a mother and eight of her children) killed in an accidental house fire in the Greenville, Kentucky area. The band is also paying the costs of family members’ hotel expenses while the father and the surviving daughter are being treated for burns at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Cheers for The Band Perry.

P1120483No CMA would be complete without one of country music’s legends, Loretta Lynn on the right with Kasey Musgrave.

What’s your take on Country Music?

LAS RAMBLAS

Gaudi lamppost and bench

Gaudi lamppost and bench

We spent three days in Barcelona, Spain, mostly touring Architect Antonio Gaudi’s work, Gaudi’s architecture is all over the city, like this lamppost with it’s stone bench. Pretty comfortable too. I think you will agree you have not seen a lamppost like this—ever, unless you have been to Gaudi’s city of Barcelona. His architectural works also dot the perimeter of Las Ramblas, the city’s most interesting street.

Human Statue

Human Statue

Its fame with tourists has affected the character of the boulevard, with charming cafes and souvenir kiosks. Las Ramblas can also be roughly divided into seedy and non-seedy areas. This distinction becomes a lot clearer during the nighttime when the Southern-most end of the Ramblas becomes something of a red light district.

Las Ramblas Artists

Las Ramblas Artists

Even so, you will find dozens of restaurants and beautiful shops along the full length of the Barcelona Las Ramblas, along with artists hawking their wares.

Did you know there is a Miró on Las Ramblas? The famous painter Joan Miró actually created part of the Ramblas. Many thousands of people walk right over the Miró circle on the Ramblas every day and don’t even know it!

Miro circle

Miro circle

Entertainment is prevalent with street performers, acrobats, impersonators, and musicians. Costumed actors were the most fascinating with expert disguises as human statues.

Human statue

Human statue

barcelona-las-ramblas-eating-outPeople watching is a must while you sit on the Ramblas with a jug of sangria, it’s an absolute must!

If you abide by the conservative fashions,, it will be harder for those pickpockets to find you. Hint, hint, shorts scream tourist, tourist, tourist, making it easy for the seedy. Are you up for the challenge?

Thanks for the images go to Barcelona-touristguide.com.

EXPERIENCE ESPARDRILLES

Leopard & black

Leopard & black

Espadrilles have been made in Pyrennean Catalonia (Spain) and the Occitania region since the 14th century at least, and there are shops in the Basque country (Spain) still in existence that have been making espadrilles for over a century. The oldest, most primitive form of espadrilles goes as far back as 4000 years. Traditional espadrilles have an canvas upper with the toe and vamp cut in one piece and seamed to the rope sole at the sides. Often they have laces at the throat that are wrapped around the ankle to hold the shoes securely in place. Traditional espadrilles are worn by all.

La Ramblas, street in Barcelona

La Ramblas, street in Barcelona

A must when in Spain, is to visit an espadrille workshop. La Manual Alpargatera, the workshop we shopped, started their business just after the Spanish Civil War in the 1940s. The shop is near the Ramblas, the most popular street in Barcelona. La Manual is a must visit for the informed traveler and a yearly appointment for the folks of Barcelona. Tom and I enjoyed selecting the sole, the tops, the colors.

Like picking candy, which one?

Like picking candy, which one?

Yes! We did, we went shopping in Spain. The espadrille is an ecological light shoe made with natural materials like hemp and jute. The soles can be rubber. Those are for street walking. Jute soles are more delicate, but they are so soft, it’s tempting to wear them for everything. You can get sneakers, or high wedgies. Men wear them as well as women and children. images-7 images-9

Tom bought a couple of pair, I bought several, in different colors, for me and for gifts. The owner of the store worked with us. He told us to buy them one size smaller because they stretch. It’s difficult to get them on, but once you do, they fit fine, and they do stretch.

In those 4000 years, the tradition has survived, with variations, you can imagine, but the basics have not changed. The shoe offers comfortable footwear that fit any feet. images-10 images

Care is easy. Wear on dry ground. If they get wet, the hemp/jute (vegetable fibers) soak up the water. The drenched sole will deform due to weight of the wearer’s body. But they can be redeemed. Wash them with soap and water right away. If hand sewn, wash by hand in cold water, rinse well and dry. This prevents rot. For the washing machine, use a short program and cold water. White or cream colored espadrilles sometimes yellow if the canvas dries before the sole. If that happens, when dry, clean the canvas with bleach mixed in water to whiten.

Here’s where – Carrer d’Avinyo, 7 – 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Tel. +34 933 010 172 – amanualalpargatera.coml

Are you espardrille owners? What do you like about them?

 

LA SAGRADA FAMILIA

Antonio Gaudi, unappreciated in his brief life as an architect. His genius gave life to an edifice in Barcelona, never before done . . . anywhere. We were witness to his genius in 2010.

Construction of Sagrada Família commenced in 1882 and Gaudí became involved in 1883, taking over the project and transforming it with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted his last years to the project, and at the time of his death at age 73 in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete.

Spires of the church.

Spires of the church.

Sagrada Família’s construction progressed slowly, as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, only to resume intermittent progress in the 1950s. Construction passed the midpoint in 2010 with some of the project’s greatest challenges remaining and an anticipated completion date of 2026, the centenary of Gaudí’s death.On 19 April 2011, an arsonist started a small fire in the sacristy which forced the evacuation of tourists and construction workers; the sacristy was damaged, and the fire took 45 minutes to contain.

Stained glass windows

Stained glass windows

The stained glass windows were placed perfectly to permit sunlight penetration, spreading colors from the stained glass onto the massive columns.

La Sagrada is an architectural wonder, however, yet unfinished. Worth a trip to Barcelona. Then you can see other works of Gaudi’s architectural ingenuity.

You can purchase your ticket on-line the day before to avoid the long lines and make sure you include a trip up to the top of one of the towers for an amazing view!

For those of you who have been and seen, what details were your favorite?

 

THE BIG CITY

NY statueoflibHasn’t everyone been to the big city? New York City. That’s also known as the Island of Manhattan. That plot of land in-between two bodies of water, the Hudson River on the Westside,  and the East River on the, well, you can guess.

 

The Westside has the Battery with the Statue of Liberty,

Ellis Island in the distance

Ellis Island in the distance

Ellis Island and One World Trade Center and Chinatown. The East Side has Gracie Mansion (NY Mayor’s home) and the Brooklyn Bridge, a historic landmark. Battery Park, seen here,  is worth a visit.

It’s because of Lana, our house guest, that we visited all these places, neglected when you live in their midst. Here’s pieces and pictures of the city. Over the city sounds you can  hear the hawkers selling food, pictures (a law prohibiting hawking by Spider Man and his friends is coming), clothes, souvenirs, and more. Below there are photos of St. Patrick’s under renovation, the flags at Rockefeller Plaza, city view lights, cars, people, Lana taking it all in.

One World Trade Center (Renamed from Freedom Center)

One World Trade Center (Renamed from Freedom Center)

 

Ellis Island

Ellis Island close-up

P1110523 P1110536 P1110534 P1110513 P1110391 NYchinatwn nystreetview1 P1110500You have to love living here with all there is to explore. When’s the last time you toured “the city”?

LES MIZ

Les-Miserables-Playbill-03-14Wonders of youthful dreams. He was a boy when I met him, my grandson’s best friend.

David & Kyle

Kyle’s dream was to be on Broadway.

Off to the pub for dinner.

Off to the pub for dinner.

Here he is, the guy on the right, a star in Les Miz. The other guy is my grandson, David. The photo was taken after the show backstage. Kyle got us house seats and joined us for dinner. It was more than special, and so exciting to see him perform. Lana, our guest from South Africa, although she had seen the show at home, she, with us, enjoyed interfacing with a Broadway cast.

Les Miz photos

Les Miz cast photos

Here’s some scenes from the show.

Everyone want his autograph and to take pictures with him. He is good looking and charming, of course.

Everyone wanted his autograph and to take pictures with him. He is good looking and charming, of course.

Here we all are, not everyone get a group shot with a star. Thank you Kyle.

Here we all are, not everyone gets to take a group shot with a star. Thank you Kyle. Have you seen this revival?