Friday, April 27, 2012

Lilac Time

It's lilac time in New York! I love this time of year as it heralds spring in full bloom, but it is so short. Bursts of purple appear all over the city - like above at my lovely Northern Spy Food Co. where the anesthetist and I have a yummy breakfast on the way out to the boat - and all over Central Park.

Lilac has different connotations for me. Before coming here, whenever I thought about lilac I thought of the color of old ladies' hair after a bad dye job, and the name alone conjured up moth balls and mustiness. I think it's because I never remember the flower being readily available in Sydney or Melbourne - although my lovely friend from my peartree house may tell me otherwise on that one!

But here, come spring, before the blue hydrangeas of summer appear, it's all about lilac and cherry blossom. The Union Square farmers market positively bulges with lilac. One florist specializes in lilac and he unloads from his enormous truck wonderful shades of purple, as eager shoppers wait restlessly. Imagine what his fields must look like! Heaven, So now, I love this flower and this color. I even have beautiful lilac-colored linen sheets form Libeco Lagae.

My new found love for this flower also led me to a very famous poem by Walt Whitman. He wrote it as an elegy on the death of Abraham Lincoln, who was assassinated during the lilac season:

When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd,
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night,
I mourn'd, and yet shall mourn with ever returning spring.....

The poem continues for another 16 verses so I will let you explore it on your own. In the meantime, don't forget to look out for this beautiful flower when it's springtime in your part of the world.

images: (1-3) mine, (4) libeco, (5-6) 29 blackstreet

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ladies Who Lunch

Duchess of Windsor and C.Z. Guest leaving La Cote Basque, NY 1962
Tony Palmieri, Conde Nast archive

I never 'do' lunch in Manhattan because I look after the international media, not the US media. But today I was invited to attend the New York Women in Communications Matrix 2012 Awards Luncheon. This organization is for female professionals in the NY metro area and its mission is to "empower women in all communications disciplines to reach their full potential". The Matrix Awards are held annually to honor women in all fields of communications whose outstanding contributions "change the world".

Now when I think of ladies who lunch in Manhattan, I think of C. Z. Guest, Babe Paley and Jackie O as they step out of the front doors of time-honored lunch spots such as Le Cote Basque, Le Cirque and La Grenouille, straight into the flashing bulbs of the then-famous social photographers. But the female power that was packed into the Waldorf Astoria ballroom today, was extraordinary. It was exhilarating, inspiring and exciting to be amongst some of the most notable women in communications today. Tyra Banks, Barbara Walters, Peggy Noonan and Katie Couric rubbed shoulders with Glenn Close, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Maria Cuomo Cole. Each woman was either being honored this year, a past recipient of the award or presenting the award to this year's nominee. Hearing these women and others speak, and learning about what they have achieved, made me suddenly realise the power of New York and the infinite possibilities it offers a woman if you have the drive and ambition.

Below are some of my "faves" from today and their remarkable achievements:

Maria Cuomo Cole: 
sister of Andrew Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York and daughter of a once governor of New York (the whole family was there today) has chaired HELP USA, the largest provider of services for the homeless, victims of domestic violence and war veterans, since 1992. She has produced several short films and public service announcements on the subject of domestic violence, gun violence and homelessness, was shortlisted for an Academy Award and had a premier at 2011 Sundance Festival. Her latest documentary, 'The Invisible War',  looks at sexual violence in the military.

Deputy Chief Theresa Shortell:
Only one of two women in the 40 top ranked NYPD officers, Deputy Chief Shortell is a tiny bundle of Bronx sass. Her resume reads like a NYPD TV program. She is currently the Commanding Officer of the Citywide Gang Division,  she has served on the Organized Crime Control Bureau, Special Victims Unit and the Narcotics Division to name a few. She became Glenn Close's mentor when Close was preparing for her role in the series, The Shield. When Close asked her what the hardest part of her job was, she replied, "Being a woman and not letting that get in the way."

Peggy Noonan:
Speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Noonan is recognised as writing some of the most powerful American political speeches of the 20th century. For Reagan's address to the country after the space shuttle Challenger disaster, she wrote, "We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved good bye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God'.
Noonan has written loads of books, one about her time working with President Reagan called, "What I saw at the Revolution".  She is currently a columnist for the WSJ.

Tyra Banks:
Yes, I'm afraid she is leggy, buxom and beautiful in real life. And she has a personality and the smarts! Her show, "America's Next Top Model", is in its 19th season and is syndicated in over 100 countries. She won two Emmy's for her daily talk show "the Tyra Show", has more than 5 million followers on Twitter and more than 1 million facebook friends. She uses her power and reach to talk about body image empowerment and self esteem for young girls. Her own personal wake-up call; when the media slammed the size of her body in a swimsuit while shooting in Australia. She became every girl's pinup heroine when she walked onto her talk show in the same swimsuit and told all her critics to "Kiss my fat arse".

Katie Couric:
Veteran TV host and award winning journalist. She is also heavily supportive of various cancer groups. Her quips for the day; "I went into TV news at a time when many were trying to get the 'broads out of broadcasting", and, "Back then, 'harass' was a two-worded insult."

I walked away from this lunch realizing there is a very strong sorority amongst women across all fields and the opportunity to be inspired and guided by some extraordinary women. And as someone quoted today the words of Madeline Albright, "There is a special place in Hell for women who don't help other women."

images; vanity fair, zimbio, nywici, biography, makeup and beauty care, celebrity daily post

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spring in the 'Burbs

The weather was so glorious on the weekend, the Anesthetist and I decided to do some bike riding. we drove out to Larchmont, a pretty town full of French people on the Long Island Sound. It's only 45 minutes from Manhattan, but feels hours away. It's real suburbia with large houses, sprawling gardens, quiet streets, sea views and open parks. The architecture is very mixed. There's 'Psycho' houses but with colored paint, Americana with large flags, Tudor and the rest, all built around the 20's and 30's.

After the bike ride, we decided on a walk in a nearby marshlands conservancy and here I saw my first real, live, wild turkey. Like straight off the bottle of bourbon! It was huge! And quite beautiful.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mural Mural on the Wall

Agrarian Leader, Zapata

For those of you who are interested in the ongoing relationship struggle between Mexico and the US, you must see a wondrous exhibition on at MOMA that focuses on Mexican artist Diego Rivera's murals, including fascinating correspondence between Rivera and Rockefeller Jr about his infamous mural for the Rockefeller Centre.

Rivera never hid his disdain for capitalism or fervent love of the Communist ideal. He and his wife the incredibly beautiful and talented Frida Kahlo, were always leading workers' demonstrations in Mexico and decrying US expansionism in Latin America. And yet the United States, ever the capitalist pinup child despite the Depression, remained fascinated by this ugly mammoth of a man and his art.  Interestingly, MOMA's second-ever exhibition focused on Rivera in 1931/32 and it had the highest attendance of any recorded exhibition until that time.

MOMA brought Rivera to New York 6 weeks before the exhibition and set him up in a massive space to create murals without walls. Rivera produced five "portable murals" depicting Mexican life, class inequality and revolution.  He then added an additional three murals about the Depression-era New York. This is the first time in 80 years that all eight murals have been reunited.

Indian Warrior

The Uprising

Electric Power

Frozen Assets

But the part that interested me the most was the fractured relationship between Rivera and the Rockefeller family. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller was actually one of the founders of MOMA and a pivotal player in getting Rivera to New York in the first place. In 1933, John D. Rockefeller Jr commissioned Rivera to create a mural for his work-in-progress Rockefeller Centre. The story goes that both Matisse and Picasso were both approached about creating a public work of art before Rivera was. Matisse declined and Picasso never replied! 

Rivera did a sketch of what he wanted to create, Man at the Crossroads, which was to depict the social,  political, industrial and scientific possibilities of the twentieth century. But what he painted was very different to the sketch. He decided to include a portrait of Lenin on one side and a martini-swilling Rockefeller partying with a prostitute on the other side. Given this was the era of Prohibition in the US and the cult of Stalin in Russia, The controversy of it all proved too much for the Rockefeller family and one of the strangest patron-artist relationships came to an end.

How the rest of this story played out is showcased in some wonderful letters. There is the very polite request from Nelson Rockefeller to "substitute the face of some unknown man where Lenin's face now appears," whilst still remaining "enthusiastic" about the work Rivera was doing. "The piece is beautifully painted, but it....might very easily seriously offend a great many people."

Even the lawyer's letter is polite, if not to the point. "We cannot but feel that you have taken advantage of the situation to do things that were never contemplated by either of us at the time our contract was made. We feel, therefore, that there should be no hesitation on your part to make such changes as are necessary...."

Of course, history shows us that Rivera refused to comply and ultimately, the mural was removed and destroyed.

Mural covered with canvas, May 1933

Rivera called this "cultural vandalism" and promptly re-created the mural in Mexico city with the funds he had received from the Rockefeller commission.

images: (1-5, 11) moma, (6) this cultural christian, (7) flickr, (8-10) mine taken at moma

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Deeper Shade of Green

I must confess I have conducted a very public love affair throughout winter with something other than the Anesthetist. It's not that he was boring me, but you know when you start something new and you get that feeling of exhilaration? Well, it started like that. And since then, it's been almost a daily addiction, comes in various forms and makes me feel soooo good. In fact, the Anesthetist sometimes indulges as well now. It's called Kale. And it is delicious and super good for you.

I had never heard of or eaten Kale until I lived in New York. Now, it's my new best friend. I juice it, steam it and eat it raw. I can feel the green goodness seep through me as soon as I touch its deep green leaves. I swear I did not get sick once through the whole winter because of this superfood (the fact that is was a very mild winter is beside the point). Frankly, I cant get enough of the stuff.

And it seems that I am not the only one. Tyler Brule wrote an acerbic piece in his weekly Financial Times column, noting Kale was clearly the new water in New York. He sniffed that just as everyone here apparently always carries a litre of water around with them for fear of being caught out in a flash drought, so too does every restaurant serve kale with everything. Personally, I find this exhilarating, being able to go from restaurant to restaurant without missing my daily intake of iron and vitamins.

For those who are not sure what the heck I'm referring to, Kale is a member of the cabbage family but doesn't form a head. It looks more like silver beet or broccoli whose floretes have unwound, if that makes sense! I won't go into all the nutritional value of this wonder veggie, but if it isn't yet in Oz, I encourage someone to buy some heirloom seedlings from here and start growing it. Now I've developed my kale passion, spinach and broccoli have gone out the window. And it is so versatile! Here are 2 simple recipes to try that will make you go "yummm"....


This is very similar to the signature juice in the BluePrint Cleanse, but you don't have to go on a juice diet to reap the benefits:
  • Kale
  • Granny Smith apple
  • celery
  • lemon
  • ginger
  • cucumber
  • parsley
Put all ingredients through a juicer and there's your breakfast, afternoon wake-me-up or liquid dinner. Just don't expect to go to sleep straight after. You will feel more like doing a workout!


This is a riff on a salad we had at Maialino one brunch:
  • washed Kale leaves with the stem cut out and leaves chopped finely
  • Kohlrabi - or I use chopped radishes
  • roasted hazelnuts
  • shaved pecorino
  • simple dressing like oil, lemon, salt and pepper
Delicious on its own or great as a side. The only downer on all this is apparently kale is much sweeter during winter and into spring. So what am I going to obsess over during summer?!

images: the luxury spot, raw epicurean, robb report, 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Spring in the Village

I hope you all had a lovely Easter/ Passover weekend. The Anesthetist went to Texas to celebrate passover with his 86 year old father and grumpy academic sister who lives in LA. So I spent a heavenly Spring weekend in "my" West Village. The weather was glorious, the bulbs are out and all the locals flocked to the parks to eat chocolate eggs and bask in the sun.