Monday, November 30, 2009

Curiouser and Curiouser

Ahh Bergdorf. Store of my dreams and aspirations. You are to me what Tiffany is to Holly Golightly. You welcome me into your parquetry and chandelier-clad embrace to tempt and enchant me. This holiday season is no exception. You've outdone yourself again.

Inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, this year's holiday windows on Fifth Avenue feature the Cheshire cat, the Queen of Hearts, the White rabbit and more. The detail is so intricate it is almost too much to take in. But the images below give you some idea of the wonderland created. There are a couple of close-ups so you can see the detail. It's all a great teaser before Tim Burton's take on Alice comes out next year.

The windows below along 58th have nothing to do with Alice, but they are still dreamy!

Images: Comicmix, Rudy Pospisil at

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Little Red Lighthouse

A stunning autumn day in Manhattan like today calls for a bike ride up the Westside Highway, following the Hudson River.
As I came to the George Washington Bridge that connects the north of Manhattan with New Jersey, I noticed a little red lighthouse sitting snugly under the bridge's vast span. It has a lovely history that I wanted to share with you.

In 1880, the lighthouse was erected on the New Jersey side at Sandy Hook, to guide ships into the New York harbor. But by 1917 it had become obsolete, so was dismantled and put into storage.
Meanwhile, on the Manhattan side, Jeffrey's Hook was always a hazardous point on the Hudson for boats at night. So in 1921, the Little Red Lighthouse was reassembled and renamed Jeffrey's Hook Light. Standing at only 40 feet tall, it is the southernmost lighthouse on the Hudson River and the only lighthouse on Manhattan. Nobody ever lived in it but a part-time attendant ran the light.
Only 10 years after Jeffrey's Hook Light was assembled here, the George Washington Bridge was built overhead. It's bright lights made the Little Red Lighthouse obsolete for the second time and in 1947, its light was extinguished forever.
In 1951, the Coast Guard proposed to dismantle the Lighthouse, but the public responded with an outpouring of letters to various officials. This was due mainly to a beloved 1942 children's book called The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge:

In the book, the Little Red Lighthouse feels dwarfed by the Great Gray Bridge. He feels unneeded and unwanted until one particularly foggy night when the bridge calls out to him, "Little brother, where is your light?" The Lighthouse wonders, "Am I brother of yours bridge? Your light was so bright that I thought mine was needed no more." The bridge replied, "I flash to the ships of the air. But you are still master of the river. Quick, let your light shine. Each to his own place little brother!"

The campaign to save the lighthouse was successful and on July 23rd 1951, it came under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a New York City Landmark.

Book image: media macaroni

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

"I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, US essayist & poet (1803 - 1882)

Today is America's biggest holiday and feast. It is equivalent to our Christmas Day, when people travel from all over the country and world to break bread with family. Highlights include roast turkey, football and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. This is my third Thanksgiving and I have never stopped to understand what it is really all about. So here goes.

"Pilgrims going to Church", George Henry Boughton

The timing and place of the original feast has been debated, but most agree it all started with the pilgrims of Plymouth Massachusetts in 1620. After a really harsh winter killed more than half the pilgrims that year, they decided to form a relationship with the local Wampanoag tribe. These Indians taught them about fishing, planting and hunting. By autumn of 1621, the pilgrims had collected enough food to feed the community through the coming winter. The Wampanoags joined them for a three day feast in celebration of their bountiful harvest. Historians are not sure that turkey was on this first menu, but certainly seafood, pumpkin (of course), corn and other autumn vegetables were.

"The first Thanksgiving", Jean Louis Gerome Ferri

For later generations, this holiday became less about the 1621 harvest festival and more about religion. Descending from the puritan days of fasting, prayer and giving thanks to God, every autumn the governors of each colony would declare days of thanksgiving for bountiful harvests, victorious battles and drought-ending rains.

In 1777, the Continental Congress decreed that all colonies celebrate a national day of thanksgiving in celebration of their victory over the British in Saratoga. By the mid 19th century, many states were celebrating the holiday. But the date would vary each year and between states. It was a magazine editor name Sarah Josepha Hale who was determined to set a national Thanksgiving Day, because she passionately believed such a day would help unite a country heading towards civil war.

Through a letter writing campaign, she urged politicians to establish such a holiday. Her efforts were rewarded in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln, who saw the merits in uniting the country. He declared the last Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving Day. This has been observed ever since.

There are plenty of Thanksgiving prayers and quotes that are used on this day, but perhaps the most simple and eloquent is a prayer/ poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I started this post with him, so it is only fitting to end with him as well:
For each new morning and its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, 
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

Images: Norman Rockwell, American Gallery, Harper Library, Wikipedia

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and New York has developed pumpkin fever. Every year between Halloween and the biggest holiday on the American calendar, this city becomes obsessed with everything in the gourd family: orange pumpkins, white pumpkins, green pumpkins, mini pumpkins, oversized pumpkins, butternut squash, winter squash...and the list goes on. Granted we are in the Harvest season, but pumpkins have been incorporated into everyday life in more ways than ever thought possible. There are the store windows:

Then there are the "Pumpkin Ales" sold in the local supermarket:

There are a plethora of design suggestions for Thanksgiving pumpkin decorations - as a table centre piece...

... or as a random design feature around the house:

And the big wow comes in the Thanksgiving meal. I love roast pumpkin and pumpkin soup, but have you ever thought about pumpkin shake, pumpkin maple waffles, pumpkin creme brulee, pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin pecan butter? Think again!

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Whoopie Tarts

Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes

Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing

Pumpkin Parfait

Spiced Pumpkin Souffle with Bourbon Molasses

Pumpkin Shake

Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Brownies

I'm game if you are.....

Images: Country Living, Martha Stewart

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Imagination in the 21st Century

In light of America's relations with China being a hot topic this week, there was a great article by Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times today. He started wtih the adage "Britain owned the 19th century, America owned the 20th Century and China will more than likely own the 21st Century". But Friedman refuses to cede this century to China yet. He argues that in a world of increasing commoditization, there is still one thing left that can't be commoditized and will serve a country now better than ever before and that is imagination.
In Friedman's view, America still has this and he doesn't want to give a century away to an authoritarian society who controls the internet. But he does go on to say that the only way to harness creativity is good governance and that is only going to be possible by better citizens.
A thought provoking piece worth reading.
Advice from Grandma, Thomas L Friedman


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Where's Gemma?

According to Fashionologie, Aussie model Gemma Ward "has not done with modeling yet". I must say I have been wondering where she disappeared to for the past two years. The last time I saw her was standing in the loo line at the Gramercy Park Hotel. I was wedged between Gemma and some other Glamazon - it was New York Fashion Week after all - and for some ungodly reason, I was wearing flat shoes. What was I thinking?! So Gemma towered over me with her sky-high Louboutins and long, long straw-blonde hair which she kept flicking over her shoulder and into my face (perhaps she was trying to connect with a fellow aussie?).
Then she was suddenly gone;  from the bathroom, the catwalk and the pages of Vogue. Her famous wide-eyed alien look morphed into Sasha Pivovavora to the point that I honestly could not tell if I was looking at Ms Russia or Ms Australia:

I thought that Gemma was perhaps devastated when she realized she had a doppelganger. But no. Apparently she has been grieving the death of her friend Heath and taking time out to star in a film and do some shakespearian acting classes (as you do when you're a top model). The good news is we will see her on the catwalk again next year! So in homage to her earlier work, I turn to this fabulously kitsch Vogue US shoot by Norman Jean Roy in the December 2007 issue:

And also by Norman Jean Roy but this time more sophisticated for Vanity Fair in 2006

Images: 1:, 2/3: Corinne Day, 4-8 Norman Jean Roy at, 9-11: Norman Jean Roy at