Beautiful Things

Wild Horses

The Rolling Stones Said it best:

“Childhood living is easy to do
The things you wanted I bought them for you
Graceless lady you know who I am
You know I can’t let you slide through my hands
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses, couldn’t drag me away”
We’ll ride them someday.”…..

Middle childhood (ages 8 to 10) is a time when horses become magical. They are living creatures that can carry a child when his own parents no longer can. (Although part of growing up, this physical separation is a small heart break for many small kids.)

horse-book1

Horses can fill that emotional need to be carried with a fantasy. And because few children have access to a farm or horses, a love for horses is a gentile introduction to the concept of love and longing.

But maybe this just me thinking too much.

My eldest daughter is crazy for horses and I was too at her age. So I bought her my two favorite horse books, which she now likes too. They are: “The Gift of the Sacred Dog” and “The girl who loved Wild horses” by Paul Goble. Both books are based upon Native American legends of the Great Plains. They describe horses as divine creatures who needed special care and respect.

My daughter’s birthday is next week, and she wanted a horse party. So I organized a horse themed craft for the party. As a full disclosure, I searched on Pinterest and found a great pattern, created by a local artist, Ann Wood. I love Ann Wood’s art installation which she created in 2009. She has generously provided the instructions on the Design Sponge Website. (She also has some awesome crafting kits on her own site!)

I loved her interpretation of a herd of wild horses because it reminded me so much of Paul Goble’s stories. The way in which her horses are painted and then grouped together imbues them with  mystical beauty and grace.

So lets get to crafting. I have made a few modifications to Ann Wood’s directions. One was to replace the buttons with brads. Another was to use more kid friendly materials.

horses-supplies

Supplies:

Heavy to Medium weight Card-stock paper

1/8″ round paper punch

Paper clips or Binder Clips

Long Popsicle sticks or wide paper straws

Glue sticks or Rubber cement

School Glue

Sequins, Stickers, Glitter glue, Markers or Glitter

Brads and Brad Eyelets -3/16″

Small google eyes

Directions:

  1. Cut out two copies of the horse template by hand. I used Ann Wood’s template to cut out the horses using my Silhouette Cameo Machine and a Pixscan mat. horse-photoscanhorse-blog(Yes, this is totally cheating. But I got 12 horses to make! Each horse requires two copies of paper. That’s 168 little body parts!)
  2. Glue pieces of duplicate parts together. Place the differnet pieces of the horse in position. One pair of legs, should be under the body and one pair on top of the body. Hold it all together with binder clips or paperclips.
  3. Locate the center of the leg joints and place a dot there. Use a 1/8″ hole punch on this dot. (The doubled paper will be too thick to punch all at once so you will have to punch the top leg first, use the hole in this leg to make a mark on the body below. Next punch the body, mark the leg below and lastly punch the leg below with the whole.)
  4. Take the body or each leg separately.  Place a 3/16″ eyelet in one hole.  Place the paper and eyelet between two old dictionaries and press down hard to flatten the eyelet’s collar. Repeat (You can also use an Eyelet Punch and save your book covers from dents.) Each moving piece should now have it own eyelet. (This mult-eyelet assembly will allow the legs frequently with less damage to the paper.)
  5. Attach the back leg, body and front leg together with a brad. Repeat with the other pair of legs.
  6. Glue the eye, tail and mane in place. Decorate the horse with glitter, stickers and sequins.
  7. When decorations are dry, glue a Popsicle stick to the back of your horse with school glue.

    Horseassembly-7

    All Done!

 

 

 

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Pillow Talk? – Let’s Clean It Up!

Do you have various fabric in your closet and don’t know what to do with it? I do. I particularly have lots of shawls, wraps and head scarfs that I have been given as souvenirs from other people’s vacations.

Let's Clean Up!

Let’s Clean Up!

So for many years the fabric has piled up in my small Brooklyn apartment, taking away space from more useful objects like towels and sheets. I even packed away my wedding china in a storage facility to make room for the growing pile of fabric. Well, now that New Years is here, I can delay no longer! TIME TO CLEAN STUFF OUT! (My New Year’s resolution is to make use of my existing fabric or donate it.) And one great way to use my fabric is to make pillows!

A few months ago at Loop of the Loom studio, I saw a kid (really a 12-year-old kid) get out the sewing machine and make a pillow out of his loom project. I was amazed at both the simplicity of the idea and its practicality. It was explained to me that this is a traditional method of making pillows in Japan.

The pillow’s size is determined by the dimensions of the fabric available. (Standard pillow inserts may not work. This pillow type is usually stuffed by hand and sewn closed. You can also make your own pillow inserts for the ease of washing.) This pillow can be made out of any rectangular fabric whose length  is a minimum of 3.33 times its width and a maximum of 3.5 times its width. The length of the fabric selected will become the diagonal dimension for the finished pillow. C:UsersKimberlyPicturesBaaBaaBrmy patternsnew-Japanesepill

Directions:

  1. Follow the above diagram to determine if your fabric is large enough to make a pillow. (Cut down the A dimension if needed.) Iron your fabric and fold at the center line with the fabric’s wrong side facing outward. The fold that you just made is FOLD A.
  2. Pin the fabric with the wrong side facing outward. Sew a 1/2″ seam along one long side of the folded fabric so that two sides of the folded fabric are closed (one sewn closed, one closed by the fold) and two sides are open. This seam is labeled: SEAM B. C:UsersKimberlyPicturesBaaBaaBrmy patternsnew-Japanesepill
  3. Sew along the side opposite to the fold with a 1/2″ seam allowance.  This is SEAM C. You should now have a fabric pouch.
  4. Draw two lines with chalk. The first line will be 1/2″ from the pouch’s opening on the outside or wrong side of the fabric. Turn the pouch inside out so that the right side of the fabric is facing out. pillow-step3        Draw the second line at 1″ from the pouch’s opening. Turn the pouch inside out again so that the wrong side of fabric is on the outside.C:UsersKimberlyPicturesBaaBaaBrmy patternsnew-Japanesepill
  5.  Trim the pouch’s opening with pinking shears above the 1/2″ chalk line. Trim the corners of the pouch by cutting a diagonal slice from seam line to seam line. The wrong side of the fabric should still be facing outward.C:UsersKimberlyPicturesBaaBaaBrmy patternsnew-Japanesepill
  6. Fold the pouch in half again so that you have almost a square. Iron the pouch so that the side SEAM C and FOLD A meet.
  7. Unfold your pocket so that the new fold (FOLD D) is now a crease. Iron open Seams B and C. Open the pouch. Take two pins. Place a pin on each side of FOLD D.C:UsersKimberlyPicturesBaaBaaBrmy patternsnew-Japanesepill
  8. Fold a cuff over along the inside 1″ chalk line. Sew the cuff with a 1/4″ seam allowance for only half of the pocket. This means that you only sew from one pin to the other.
  9. Turn the pillow inside out so that the fabric’s right side is outside. Pull the fabric out so that the Seam B is flat on the on a table. This seam will be pillow’s center diagonal. Pull the pouch cuff’s ends outward to form a square. Make the sewn cuff and the pinked edge meet to form another diagonal line.  Move the sewn cuff to cover the pinked edge. You may have to fold and tack extra fabric at the cuff’s corner edge. Iron the pillow flat.

  10. If the pinked edge and the sewn cuff do not overlap enough, turn the pouch inside out again. Then re-sew Seam C inward in 1/2″ increments until they meet. Don’t forget to cut off the old seam with pinking shears!
  11. Stuff the pillow with poly fill and close the open seam with a blanket stitch or snap buttons.

Here is a print out of the pattern:

pillowsheet1, pillowsheet2, pillowsheet3, pillowsheet4
Happy New Year Everyone!

2016 happy new year concept with sand and clock

 

NY State Sheep and Wool Festival Recap

Two weekends ago was the The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, New York. And like many local craft fanatics, I was in attendance. (Yes, this post is sooo late. But leaving the husband and kids at home for the weekend does mean you have to repair the resulting damage after.)                             Rhinebeck-outside

The day was crisp and sunny with all of Autumn’s beautiful colors on full display. Rhinebeck was the picture postcard of a northeast fall.

The Dutchess County Fair ground on Saturday was full for this exciting event. The array of wool related crafts and supplies was amazing and quite frankly almost overwhelming.

Craft specialties on display included: spinning, weaving, needlepoint, felting, knitting and crochet. In addition to the wool-related crafts, the festival featured livestock judging, sheep dog competitions and tons of craft workshops.

The livestock competitions and displays were mostly limited to Thursday and Friday but many animals were still in residence over the weekend. The different sheep breeds varied drastically in size, color and wool. I am not an expert on sheep but it is easy to see why breed specific wool makes such a difference in a yarn’s texture and gauge. A big draw at the festival were whole-cut fleeces from one sheep for the proposes of making your own yarn. Of course you must wash it, card it, dye it and spin it first.

The finished craft vendors and exhibitors were not grouped by their discipline, which made navigation a challenge. In truth, the festival organizer needs to hire a logistics consultant to assign booths. But the amazing creations and products were worth the subway-crowding experience. It was definitely worth the trip up the Hudson.

Among the craft supplies and finished products were large amounts of felting supplies and felted crafts. Many finished crafts were Montessori inspired creations like those from Flowering Heart Farm. While other creations were completely original like the designs from Going Gnome. The growing popularity of felting was reflected by the Best in Show Award which was given to a felted purple blanket of wild flowers.

A wonderful highlight of the festival were the Hooked Rugs. (These rug designs are not your typical “acrylic rainbow rug hook kit that you hide behind the macrame”.) The designs and kits from Hooked on Ewe and The Paisley Studio were beautiful and stylish. Every finished pattern kit was of heirloom quality. I had to restrain every finger on each hand not to take up another project before Christmas. But now I do know what to ask for this Christmas.

Many of the craft supplies were works of art in themselves. One booth by Melissa Jean with handmade porcelain buttons was amazing. The glazing and firing process gives colors a multi-surfaced appearance. Many buttons were whimsical shapes like flowers, stars and leaves which made them all unique.

I will admit it, I have never used a spinning wheel or dyed anything. Perhaps I will catch the bug someday. But until a magical new closet appears out of the ether, new hobbies are on hold.  The spinning bug definitely bit a majority of attendees at the festival. So If you ever decide to start making your own yarn this is the place to get your own spinning wheel, carding machine or dying kit. I can’t wait for next year!

New York City’s Street Trees

Soon the leaves will be falling from the trees, making life in New York magical again. All the colors and the sweet cool air are wonderful. Oh what a joy to sleep with the windows open and hear the soft shaking of leaves in the wind.

Bonus to the fall splendor, you don’t have to rake them or clean out any gutters because you live in an apartment. (Unless you bought a townhouse in that, pre-gentrification, post random crack vile on the sidewalk, time window. But even then, I do no feel sorry for you.)

As you blissfully crunch through those leaves, do you ever wonder what type of tree the leaves came from? We all have our favorites. (So does the NYC Parks Department.) But wouldn’t be cool to learn the names of each tree on the block?

Someone has actually recorded the trees on your block. There is a NYC Tree Census for 2005.  The numbers are interesting. The total tree stock for the five boroughs is 592,130 trees. Brooklyn has about 150,000 trees — about three times as many as Manhattan but not as many as Queens. Web designer Jill Hubley has created a color-coded digital map which breaks down the tree population by species and location.

This year, 2015, is also a census year but the data is still being collected. About 1,100 volunteers are currently taking down the numbers. It would seem an impossible task but just eight varieties account for 74% of the total tree count. This means you can commit the most popular tree types to memory. Let’s break it down.

For reference here are some general terms:compound_leaves

 


  1. Maple Trees: Oh Canada, Oh Canada….. right THAT tree. The Canadian flag has a sugar maple leaf emblazoned on it. And thankfully these trees are easy to recognize with their iconic five-lobed leaves that turn beautiful reds, oranges and yellows in the fall. Maple trees make up 20.8% of total tree stock. Unfortunately, there are no Sugar Maples in the city. (Too much pollution and poor soil.) But other types of Maple are very popular: Red Maple (3.5%), Norway Maple (14.1%) and Silver Maple (3.2%).  All three maple varieties have seed pods which resemble a boomerang.  The leaves are the iconic five-lobed configuration and have slightly shallow sinuses (the space between lobes). The bark is grey-brown and has shallow wrinkles. Depending upon the tree type, the bark can peel.
  2. Sycamore Trees:  This is a tree type which is better identified by its seed pod and bark rather than its leaves. Its leaf can easily be confused with a maple or chestnut leaf. But a Sycamore’s pod is a ball and usually very spiky. A hybrid of the Sycamore, the London Plane Tree is the most numerous tree species in the city, especially Brooklyn. Overall the London Plane is 15% of the total NYC tree population. Why? Because it was Robert Moses’s favorite tree. The round pod of the London Plane is only slightly spiky. It’s bark is beautifully modeled in white and tan. The leaves are broad like a shield with 3 to 5 shallow lobes (the arms of a leaf) and very few teeth (the sharp pointed on the outline of a leaf.) The tree itself, is broad and has a large root spread which can destroy pipes and sidewalks. The Parks department rarely plants these trees anymore.
  3. Locust Trees: I personally think that these are the ugliest trees ever and I am horribly allergic to their pollen. But they are resilient to pollution, drought and pests; which would explain their popularity at 8.9% of the total tree stock. These trees grow relatively quickly. The fruit pods of these trees look like elongated dead fingers and are used to make Carob. (Go figure.) The leaves are small elongated ovals grouped on one stem to form bipinnate leaflets. The bark is of medium thickness and gray-brown.
  4. Oak Trees: These trees are both easy and hard to identify. The easiest way to ID these trees is by their acorns. (You know, those nuts with the cute little hats.) The difficulty of identification beyond this lies in the many different shapes of the leaves depending upon the genius. (White Oak, Scrub Oak, Blackjack Oak, Red Oak, Pin Oak, Post Oak and so many more) The leaves share a shape type called Lobed just like the maple and sycamore. The oak leaf has five or more lobes which are gently rounded but sometimes have a pointy tip. The most iconic of the Oak species is the White Oak. (Remember the WWII German infantry insignia?) The Parks Department rarely plants white oak and prefers the Pin Oak at 7.5% of the total tree stock. Pin Oaks are pretty cute due to their pronged lobes and their variegated red-brown fall colors.
  5. Linden Trees: The name Linden is the European version of this tree and is used liberally in the Northeast due to its romantic connotations. But the rest of the country refers to this tree as the Basswood Tree. The leaves are broad, elegant and resemble an upside-down heart. These leaves are the best method for identification of the tree. The seed pods are very small green spheres. They grow fragrant, small, white and clustered flowers in the spring which can be made into tea. The trunks are gray, lightly grooved and often grow in multiples. The city plants mostly Silver, American and Crimean Linden trees. Linden trees make up 4.7% of the total tree stock of NYC.
  6. Ash Trees: The dominate Ash Tree of the Eastern Seaboard is the Green Ash and it makes up 3.5% of NYC’s tree population. The Ash tree is a very old relative of both Olive and Lilac trees. Groups of 7 leaflets grow on one stem that is usually 10″ long. The name Ash comes from a rough translation of the Latin word for Spear and which refers to the leaf’s shape. The Green Ash’s flowers do not have petals and usually go unnoticed. The seed pods, however, look uniquely like tadpoles or paddles and grow in clusters.
  7. Ginkgo Trees: (aka the stinky tree) My husband hates these trees for their smell which is slightly similar to rotten bananas. But it is only the female ginkgo trees which smell. The Parks Department has a policy of planting only male ginkgo trees but they are twice the cost of the females. (Thus the tree supplier is getting a deal when he substitutes for stinky.)  Despite the smell, they are hugely popular as street trees due to their resistance to pests. They comprised 2.8% of the total tree stock in 2005 but will likely increase in the 2015 count. These trees also have a small root area, thus less damage to sidewalks over time. They are easy to recognize by their unusual fan-shaped leaves with a slit in the middle. They turn a soft yellow in the fall.
  8. Callery Pear: Why have I placed this tree last on the list even though it constitutes 10.9% of the total tree population? Because I hate it. Yes, I hate a tree because it stinks even worse than the Ginkgo. (Dog-pee smell would be an accurate description.) Most of these trees live on Staten Island so thankfully my exposure is limited. Their popularity is due to the white spring flowers. These trees are easily mistaken for crab apple or cherry trees due to their round inedible fruit. The leaves resemble  small basswood leaves but are waxy and smooth.  They turn a orange-red color in the fall. Their genius was imported from China for its disease resistance but is now considered invasive everywhere but NYC.
  9. Bald Cypress: This tree is actually rare for New York City but I have one on my block. (I used to have two on my block until a garbage truck plowed one of them down. Give me a moment while I  silently curse that guy out.) The Bald Cypress or Swap Cypress is delicate for a street tree but they were popular as a memorial tree at the beginning of the twentieth century. Although it looks like a conifer it is actually a deciduous tree that rarely loses all of its leaves. The piney leaves turn orange-brown in the fall and then the tree looks like a dead pine. The female cypress produces small round cones about the size of a nickel. The bark is an orange-red and tends to peel. The tree can grown incredibly tall but at a very slow pace. There is something very romantic about this tree and I wish that I would see more of them.
  10. Other Trees:  Hickory, Beech, Elm, Walnut, Chestnut and Box Elder. Pollution, disease and invasive pests have been the reason why so many iconic Native American Trees are no longer planted in New York City. Dutch Elm disease outbreaks in the early and mid-twentieth century have wiped out most of the European and American Elm tree populations. Maples, elms, willows, and birches have also suffered large losses to the invasive pest: the Asian Long-horned beetle.

 

Fall Fiber and Craft Festivals!

Who Doesn’t love a road trip in the fall? All the beautiful foliage makes you glad that you didn’t take that transfer to LA or Miami when you had the chance. That bikini body could not have survived child-birth anyway.

There are tons of fun events this fall to combine with a weekend of leaf-viewing, apple picking or just biking in the city. So let’s get out of the apartment and enjoy the crisp fall air! Below is a short list of some upcoming interesting events. If you have any to add, please comment and I may update the list.

  1. Gowanus 2015 Community Yarn Bomb: September 17,18 and 24, 2015, Textile Arts Center, Brooklyn, New York. You will need to RSVP.
  2. FDR Powwow, Redhawk Native American Arts Council: September 19 & 20, 2015 in Yorktown Heights, NY
  3. 30th Annual Knitters’ Day Out: September 18 & 19, 2015 at Central Pennsylvania College, Summerdale, PA
  4. Big Apple Knitters’ Guild Annual Luncheon: September 26, 2015, New York City
  5. North Jersey Fiber Arts Festival: October 1 to 3, 2015 at the Unitarian Society, Ridgewood, NJ
  6. Autumn Crafts Festival at Lincoln Center: October 3, 4, 10, & 11, 2015 at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York City
  7. 27th Annual Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival: October 3 & 4, 2015 at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds, Tunbridge, VT
  8. Eastern Great Lakes Fiber Conference: October 9 to 12, 2015, in Chautauqua, NY
  9. Kings County Fiber Festival: October 10, 2015 at Brooklyn’s Old Stone House, Brooklyn, NY
  10. 2015 Indie Untangled: Oct. 16, 2015 at the Garden Plaza Hotel, Kingston, NY
  11. The NEW YORK State Sheep and Wool Festival: October 17 & 18, 2015 at the Dutchess City Fairgrounds, Rhinebeck, NY
  12. The Fiber Festival of New England: November 7 & 8, 2015 at the Eastern States Exposition, West Springfield, MA
  13. The Renegade Craft Fair: November 14 & 15, 2015 at the Metropolitan Pavilion, New York City, NY
  14. The Long Island Craft Guild Annual Craft Fair: Nov 21, 2015 at the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island, Garden City, NY
  15. The 6th Annual Degenerate Craft Fair: December 6 & 7, 2015 at The DCTV Firehouse, New York City (Not super-sure of this one, so fair warning.)

Renegade Craft Fair Recap

Brooklyn New York - July 12 2015: Graffiti covered buildings in Williamsburg Brooklyn. Williamsburg has become known as an arts and culture mecca in New York city.

This past weekend the Williamsburg/ Greenpoint neighborhood hosted another installment of the Renegade Craft Festival at the Brooklyn Expo Center. I saw some really wonderful artists and craftsmen selling wares from all over the tri-state area.

Some of my favorites were:

The SeaPink: A super cool stationary studio which specializes in neon-colored cards and prints. These would be perfect for a child’s birthday or room decor.

Muny Design Inc.: The clothing designs for adults and kids are both comfy and stylish. The fabric is so soft and the patterns are beautiful. All the fabric is hand-woven in India. Layered cotton blankets are also available at reasonable prices.

Vintage by Crystal: These little figurines were a hit at the fair. Everyone was vying to take a look. They resemble many of the spun cotton figurines of the Victorian era with a defiantly modern twist.

Archie’s Press: I was so enamored of a map of Milwaukee (my hometown) that I had to get it for my sister. Archie has created maps which describe a city as an assembly of neighborhoods, particularly walking neighborhoods. I wonder if he ever read Léon Krier? His maps of the moon’s geography and the solar system, complete with orbiting moons were awesome. (Just a suggestion, but could you do Rome too?)

 

My Quilting Quest

I have recently discovered a hobby even MORE EXPENSIVE than Scrap booking. That hobby is Quilting and I am now tightly in its clutches. And if I don’t stop collecting craft supplies, my small Brooklyn apartment is going to become a lighting rod for all the block’s static electricity.

Nicole Susan and John. They are so cute!

Nicole Susan and John. They are so cute!

It all started when I received an adorable Save the Date postcard from my cousin Nicole and her fiancé John. I already knew that I would have to make a quilting project for the Christmas pageant but Nicole’s engagement really upped the ante. I decided to make her a quilt wedding present. (Don’t spoil it if you are family and actually reading this.)

First stop was Manhattan’s largest quilting store The City Quilter. Located on East 25th street between 6th and 7th Ave, my stop at the shop was an easy sell to the kids due to it’s proximity to Eataly ergo Gelato.

If you haven’t been to either The City Quilter, you really should. The City Quilter has a great selection of products and is currently attached to The ArtQuilt Gallery NYC.  The Artquilt Gallery is a sewing studio which has a cool collection of finished quilts with a NYC theme. You can purchase the New York themed fabric and patterns for these quilts at the store and online.

Fabric from The City Quilter: subway, times square and skyline.

Fabric from The City Quilter: Subway, Times Square and Skyline.

In the end, I decided upon a cute pattern: “Key to my Heart,” by Sweet Jane’s Quilting design. The fabric for the quilt is “Cold Spell” by Moda Fabrics. Moda has a great selection of pre-cut fabrics, which really saves a ton of time and saves money. And since I am still a novice when it comes to quilting, I am looking for easy, easy, easy. However, next time when I am more adventurous, these online stores have some fantastic fabric and patterns:
Hawthorne Threads – The Cotton and Steel Brand is my fave
Missouri Star Quilting Co. – The site has great free demonstrations
Craftsy.com – I learned the basics with these Online classes

I was initially going to do a small throw for Nicole and John but then my husband reminded me that Nicole’s intended is a really big guy and that a queen size bed quilt might be more ahem….. fitting. Well, we will see how far I get. Thankfully, I have until spring.

Twelve blocks done, only 28 more to go!

Twelve blocks done, only 28 more to go!

Opus 40

If you haven’t noticed I have been upstate for most of August and it was wonderful to escape the heat of Brooklyn. My family and I stayed near to the town of Woodstock, which is where half of Greenwich Village has chosen to retire. And although the geriatric driving by New Yorker’s who obviously never owned a car before was ubiquitous, I was still sad to go. So on our way out of the Catskills, we stopped at the famous Opus 40.

A sculptor named Harvey Fite, built a massive blue-stone earthworks on an abandoned blue stone quarry in Saugerties, New York. Mr. Fite did all the work by hand, employing traditional hand tools, pulleys and dry stone masonry to build the massive sculpture. He also named it Opus 40 because after working on it for 20 years he believed that it would take him another 40 years to finish.

The stone masonry ramps and platforms were originally intended to display his more conventional sculptures: Flame, Tomorrow, The Quarry Family and Prayer. Mr. Fite realized that his earth work had become a sculpture in its own right. His representational pieces did not fit. These earlier sculptures are now placed around the grounds while a nine-ton monolith now occupies the center of the earthworks. This was a revolutionary departure from his representational sculpture to large-scale abstract art.

Mr. Fite was the very first artist to create what is now known as land art. This is an artwork that is  integral to the natural landscape surrounding it. Today you can see Fite’s influence in the works of Anthony GoldsworthyRobert Smithson and even Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC.

 

A City on Seven Hills

A city on seven hills? San Francisco? Nope Rome.

Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinal and Viminal Hills are the original Seven.
Rome is called the eternal city for a reason and personally I think that it beats the pants off London, Paris and New York combined. But alas, my Italian language skills could be compared to those of Gomer Pyle’s English. Life as an expat was not meant to be.
However, I do have a good friend who is leaving for a Roman Holiday on this extra-ordinary Jubileo Year and asked me for suggestions. Blog post inspiration? You bet.
So of course there are
The Four Major Basilica of the Rome:

    • Bascilia of Saint Peter
    • San Giovanni in Laterno
    • Santa Maria Maggiore
    • Basilica Papale di San Paolo fuori le Mura.

The Seven Pilgrim Churches of the Roman Jubileo

  • Bascilia of St Peter
  • San Giovanni Laterano
  • Santa Maria Maggiore
  • Basilica Papale di San Paolo fuori le Mura.
  • San Lorenzo fuori le mura
  • San Sebastiano
  • Santa Croce in Gerusalemme

But what are my favorite places? Places that most people may not notice?

In honor of the Seven Hills of Rome, Here are my Seven favorites:

Galleria of Villa Borghese

Galleria of Villa Borghese

  1. The Borghese galleries: located in the gardens behind the famous Villa Medici (Notice how the infamous Papal families really loved art?) is the Galleria. To visit you MUST purchase and reserve tickets ahead of time through their website. Otherwise you will miss this fantastic mini museum. This little building has some of the best art from the age of Humanism crammed into the least square footage without it being overwhelming. It houses great works by Bramante, Bernini and Piero della Francesca. The villa even has THREE Caravaggios! (Can you believe that! See #3) I would even recommend this gallery over the Vatican Museums. (Especially if your stay is short.)
  2. The Baroque Churches: The Baroque period is when Rome truly experienced it’s rebirth. (The bronze statues of Romulus and Remus with the she wolf reflect this.) The fantastic churches of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale, Sant’Angnese in Agone, Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme and San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane with their undulating facades are the usual examples. The most famous is San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane due to it’s fantastically ornate interior, it’s gorgeous cloister and it proximity to the Quattro Fontane. (Actually, I would make time for this, even though it is at the top of a uuggghhh big hill.) There are two churches which  are off the radar but right near Piazza Navona Piazza and an easy walk: Sant’ Ivo alla Sapienza by Borromini and Santa Maria della Pace by Bramante. Let me just say thatSant’ Ivo is looks like a wedding cake and it is my absolute favorite church of ALL TIME. Santa Maria della Pace’s charm lies in the small piazza surroundingit’s facade. Both the facade and the buildings around it form a cute architectural jewel box.
  3. Caravaggio’s Paintings: Forget Caravaggio’s influence on the Dutch Renaissance how about his influence on Pedro Costa, Pier Paolo Pasolini and all of American Film?  The best example of Caravaggio’s work in Rome is St. Michael’s cycle in the Contarelli Chapel, located in the church of San Luigi de’ Francesi. (Have coins available for the pay-to-light machine.)Caravaggio_-_San_GerolamoAnother famous church, Santa Maria del Popolo houses: The Conversion of St. Paul, The Crucifixion of St. Peter by Caravaggio, as well as, The Assumption of the Virgin by Annibale Carracci (Carracci was Carravaggio’s Nemesis. muuu haaaa haaa). Santa Maria del Popolo is also a great place to see the development of art and architecture from the early Renaissance through the baroque. Other places that host one or two Caravaggio’s are: the Capitoline Museums (you must see the Campidoglio, so pop in), Sant’Agostino (located right near Piazza Navona, see #6) and of course the Borghese gallery.
    View Of Tiber River In Rome City On May 31, 2014
  4. Trastevere: (The word literary means “Over the Tiber”.) So take the romantic Point de Sisto footbridge and return by the Isola Tiberina, a small island in the middle of the Tiber River that was once a Roman Temple associated with Asclepius and  the healing arts. It now houses a church and a hospital. The island itself looks very much like a boat and to me, feels like the belly-button of Rome. Trastevere used to be considered a working-class neighborhood of narrow streets and overgrown gardens but just like Williamsburg, Brooklyn; the damm yuppies have taken it over. But, this neighborhood, houses a beautiful church dating from the Bystantine era, Santa Maria in Trastevere. Being a Byzantine church the mosaics are phenomenal. The colors look like stars in the sky. 
  5. Gellato and the Pantheon: People keep saying that the Roman authorities are going to close the building to tourist because they think that the ceiling will cave-in one day. Well, it hasn’t yet, so go while you can! The Pantheon was built as a Roman Temple to all the Empire’s gods and was the seat of Emperor Hadrian. (Now it is a church of course.) But how cool is it to stand in the only large and intact Roman Temple left in the world? One thing to notice about the Pantheon is the extensive use of porphyry which was prized for its purple color. This stone is so rare that its main quarry closed in Roman times but it is still used extensively in the Basilica of Saint Peter. Right around the Pantheon are the two best (or so I think) Gelaterias in Rome: Gelateria della Palma and Giolitti. A few paper stores such as Il Papiro, are in this area and make gorgeous products too look at.
  6. Rome’s Fountains: Did you know that Rome’s fountains are supplied water from a series of Roman Aqueducts? There are so many of them and they are all like little presents!  In fact many popes  had their ascendance marked by the restoration of an aqueduct and the building of a commemorative fountain such as the Quattro Fontane. (Refer to #2 on my list.) The most awesomely large fountains in Rome are: Trevi Fountain (yes, you knew that) and Berninini’s Fountains in Piazza Navona. Both should be visited at night when they are lit when they are lit like (ahem) Roman candles.
    There is a cute little book fountain which I love near San Luigi de’ Francesi. And the sweet little Fontana delle Api is my favorite. Almost all these fountains are made from the main stone of Rome: Tufa. I really love this stone because it looks so light and spongy but it gets harder along it’s cut lines. (Unfortunately, in has some radioactivity to it too.)

    Campidoglio

    Campidoglio

  7. The Campidoglio and its Museum! (Forget the Colosseum if you don’t have time. Those guys in toga costumes outside it are not worth the 15 Euros.) You do get the best view of the Roman Forum from the back of the Campidoglio and that’s free.
    The Campidoglio was designed by Michelangelo! He was primarily  a sculptor; so this and his Moses are his best works in Rome. (Yes the Sistine Chapel is beautiful but Pope Julius II forced Michelangelo to paint it as a form probation for taking part in the Florentine populist uprising.)
    Right near the Campidoglio is the Basilica San Clemente which houses gorgeous Byzantine Mosaics (these mosaics were copied in New York’s Church of St. Ignatius Loyola.)Recently, a temple to the god Mithras was found  below the Basilica’s crypt.
    Also Artifacts: Look for them! They are the little pieces of Ancient Roman buildings that either made their way, usually downhill, from the forum the Palatine hill or the Capitoline hill to construct building in the late middle ages or the Cinquecento. The most famous example is the Bocca della Verita located in the church of Santa Maria inCosmedin.

California Dreaming

My last post tortured both myself and you with endearing places within that great beauty, San Francisco. And since I am, maybe not you, a glutton for punishment, I will continue my day-dreamy memories.

One particular spot perfect for day dreaming or just plain people watching  in San Francisco is  Lovejoy’s Tea Room.


Lovejoy’s is located in Noe Valley but it looks straight out of high tea at Downtown Abby. You can order finger sandwiches, scones, petit fours and of course, tea. The scones were fantastically flaky and light. The finger sandwiches are of the traditionally English variety: ham and olive, Stilton cheese and pear, cucumber and cream cheese. This being California, the fresh fruit salad and vegetables were amazing.
The decor is charmingly shabby chic with an associated antique store across the street. There you can purchase electric china and three-tired desert trays.

Just a short distance but up a big hill are the Seward Street Slides. These slides are open to the public but close at 5:00pm. How does a slide close? Answer: Gates. I find this to be the strangest solution to preventing drunk adults from self-injury. But New Yorkers are usually more causal with all that bodily harm stuff. Well, just look at our Subways.
Other fun slides, although for kids, are the slides at Mission Dolores Park and the Koret Playground in Golden Gate park.