Saturday, February 28, 2009

In Bloom This Week

This is Hamamelis (vernalis I think), a kind of witchhazel appropriately called vernal or winter witchhazel. The genus Hamamelis belongs to the family Hamamelidaceae, a small group of flowering shrubs found in eastern North America and eastern Asia. I really like the shot above but the shot below is a little more true to the flower color.
Witchhazels typically grow to 6' to 8' tall and 8'-10'+ wide by their maturity. A dense rounded shrub their big leaves provide a nice medium texture to the landscape in summer and gift us with these spidery flowers in fall and winter depending on the species and/or cultivar. The flowers do have that wonderfully unique fragrance but you often have to get right up to the shrub to really get the full scent. As far as the native species, Hamamelis virginiana is the common species and blooms late fall, whereas this vernal species blooms about now, Febraury into March. The flowers are not the most long-lived, or perhaps you miss them because they are hidden under the dried leaves refusing to fall to the ground, but they are still a pleasant reminder that spring is in fact on it's way. The Asian species, Hamamelis mollis, Hamamelis japonica and their various crosses and cultivars I have seen do fine in full sun but I always thought the native species did better with a little woodland shade. For the most part I find these to be amazing durable shrubs, pretty disease and pest resistant, and hardy in USDA Zones 4-8.

Snowdrops are botanically known as Galanthus, a Eurasian genus of bulbs in the Amaryllis family, Amaryllidaceae. The name comes from the Greek gala (milk) and anthos (flower) referring to the 6" tall pendulous white flowers.
Galanthus nivalis, the common snowdop, is a European species hardy in Zones 4-9. Like most spring bulbs they like a humus rich soil with good drainage, and they naturalize pretty easily in the landscape. The flat, blue-green leaves emerge first, only to 4" or less, and the flowers follow. When they get hit with a little shot of sun through the dappled shade the outer petals flare out and expose the inner petals. Around here there are usually two species of Galanthus that you find planted, Galanthus nivalis and Galanthus elwesii. The way to tell them apart is that nivalis has just the one green marking at the end of the inner petals while elwesii has a second, larger green dot as well.

Flora, A Gardener's Encyclopedia (Timber Press, 2003)

Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses by Michael A. Dirr (Stipes Publishing, Fifth Edition)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Retail Therapy (aka Feb New Playlist)

This morning I decided it was time for what I love to call a little "retail therapy". On the coffee table sit a number of little pads on which I am constantly scribbling down artists and titles, often based on the TV show presently on the tube. There are a lot of lists, numerous genres, everything from early 80's classics to "blazin" hip hop and R&B, and much, much more. Today I figured I work hard enough to enjoy a little visit to the iTunes store. My brother talks about the tactile nature of record buying that is lost in this technologically advanced age of ours, and that is surely a valid blog post of it's own, but for today I will admit the ability to purchase a slew of single songs from the comforts of my own couch is pretty killer. For now it is called the "Feb New Playlist".

Coldplay, Parachutes, released 2000
Obviously following the Grammy's and their latest record (see below) Coldplay has been getting a lot of exposure and I'm down with that. I think they are definitely a talented bunch with a magnificent sound. I began the playlist with a few of the popular tunes from (I'm pretty sure) their first full length album, Parachutes. 'Yellow" was the first choice for me, having been stuck in my head for a while now, but the song "Shiver" and a few others are quickly growing on me.

Coldplay, Viva la Vida, released 2008
I am sure the single off of Coldplay's latest album is getting a ridiculously excessive amount of radio play but luckily I don't listen to the radio so I haven't gotten sick of it. Their performance on the Grammy's had me scribbling down "Viva la Vida" in no time. Excellent tune indeed.

Chris Brown, Forever, released 2008
One show that we are definite fans of every year is America's Best Dance Crew. The moves and choreography the different crews from around the country come up with is rarely shy of mindblowing. Whether a dancer, ex-dancer, or none of the above I think you can totally admire the art and passion these kids embrace. Anyhoo, one of the crews recently danced to Chris Brown's hit "Forever", and damn is it catchy! Like not listening to the radio, I am equally not much of a club goer anymore, but I know I will be psyched when this comes up on shuffle in the future. I don't tolerate any sort of domestic abuse and for that reason perhaps I shouldn't have endorsed this dude, but the tune is jammin'. So dancy!

Chamillionaire, The Sound of Revenge, released 2005
You might not know the name Chamillionaire, hell, I didn't until one of those VH1 countdowns a few weeks/months back, but the song "Ridin" I am sure you would recognize. I always thought the song was called "Ridin Dirty" but apparently I was wrong, but that might remind you more of the song I am talking about. Fast rhyming, clever hook, and definitely one for the hip hop shuffles.

Outkast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, released 2003
While in the genre I had to revisit the classic "Hey ya!" off of Outkast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. I already have "The Way You Move" from Rossa and Lara's wedding CD and every time it comes on the iTunes I wish I had "Hey ya!". Well, no more! This tune totally reminds me of when this album first came out and I would hang out over at Rossa and Lara's place atop 54th and Broadway after work and we danced to this song over and over and over again. I guess it was the summer of 2003 you heard that song at every party and you couldn't help but get up to get down.

Bon Iver, Blood Bank (EP), released 2009
People that know me know my musical taste is all over the place so I went in a completely different direction with Bon Iver. My freshman year in college my roommate was a creative and intricate guy from right there in Colorado. Jake has always introduced me to new music, and some times he is so right on I feel so lucky to have him as an artistic buddy. I guess it was a rainy day out in northern California and he was enjoying Bon Iver's latest EP, Blood Bank. I decided to check it out and was pleasantly surprised by the strummy hummy melodies and guitar tracks. Not to mention a little trippy instrumental action never hurt anyone. Thanks JMar.

Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago, released 2008
Bon Iver is actually a gentleman named Justin Vernon. His solo debut was recorded in a cabin deep within the woods of Wisconsin. This album had been on someone's top ten list from 2008 and had made its way to my stack of scrap papers. Again, strummy, hummy, kind of melancholy, but a whole lot of fabulous. Definitely check out "Skinny Love" and "Re:Stacks", my two faves off the album so far.

Squarepusher, Go Plastic, released 2001
I thought I was pretty much done doing damage to my bank account and then Squarepusher came into my head. Again, the extremes of my musical taste might make some scratch their heads. I think I was thinking about China and when I lived there in 1997 and the amazing people I met. One was a guy named Ben from New Jersey who listened to a whole bunch of electronic music I had never heard before. One of his tapes that blew my mind was Squarepusher (aka Tom Jenkinson). I don't often think to check out the drum'n'bass section at the record store but I do love the sound some times. Granted this album in particular came out years after our far east adventures but just the same I think "My Red Hot Car" is a genius track.

Squarepusher, Burningn'n Tree, released 1997
Burningn'n Tree is one of the earliest records from Squarepusher, and on it is a song called "Central Line". Just plain awesome! Makes me wish I could make music like that.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to make some breakfast and listen to this playlist again. Happy Saturday everyone. Consider treating yourself to some new tunes. Your ears will be glad you did.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A "Modern Day Tragedy"?

I am terribly sorry that a Connecticut woman had to watch her good friend get mauled close-to-death in her own driveway. That is horrible and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. However, why has no one said that a 70-year old woman having a 200-pound chimpanzee as a "house pet" is absurd and foolish? Even as an ex-student of anthropology and engaged to an amazingly smart and well-skilled veterinary technician I wouldn't even think of harboring such a creature in our residential neighborhood. The Times this morning called it nothing more than a "modern day tragedy". I shake my head in disbelief, overwhelmed by so many questions. Common sense? Accountability? Anyone? ...Anyone?

Monday, February 16, 2009

home town drive (winter edition)

It was a spectacular weekend and thanks to the presidents la femina and I were able to take two days off together and get out of the city. We headed east to my folks place and my home town out at the end of Long Island. Since our engagement we have been having a lot of fun thinking about where we might get married. There are a few things we know: fall, east end of Long Island, close to or on water is important, the general size, focus on being outside and enjoying the surroundings, space to drink, eat, and dance until we can't move anymore. And then there are a lot of things we don't know: our ultimate budget, what "expensive" really means in terms of numbers, safeguarding against bad weather, and a million other topics we haven't even thought up yet. But we decided not to get too ahead of ourselves. We used the weekend to treat ourselves to an adventurous drive around EH and MTK to brainstorm some ideas. I kept reminding myself this was more for information gathering than decision making. In the end we were excited to find that we did learn a lot about how to look at a space and what spaces we already love and different ways to think about doing the ceremony and reception. Above and below are a few pics from our days out and about.

Mansion and Hydrangea
One of the first stops we hit with my mom, who lined up for us a special viewing of a mansion overlooking the water off Cranberry Hole. The place was massive, and so funky, and parts of each of us really loved it. The space, as terrific as it was, however, would need way too much amending to make it work for our wedding, more money and time than we knew was possible. Such a shame, but we still loved lurking in those old hallways guessing about all the summers gone by.

Fish Factory and Pinus
We told mom we'd see her at cocktail time and we sat for a minute to plan our general itinerary. On our way out to Montauk I took my love by the fish factory. As much as it was a wedding planning drive it was also a chance for us to visit a bunch of the beautiful vistas I was fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by as well as share them with my love. Granted rusted warehouses aren't necessarily beautiful to everyone, I knew she would love how they looked against the sand and evergreens and blue sky. We put the car back in drive and moved on.
Montauk Manor
We climbed the hill to Montauk Manor and it reminded me of a million years ago when my old babysitter worked as an engineer there. The building is massive and so picturesque standing tall above the village.
Montauk Manor and Prunus
The courtyard has these fabulous old cherry trees that have weathered the storm well in their nice sheltered nook.
This sure does scream wedding, but the sticker shock could also have us screaming for the hills. There was no need to talk to anyone or attempt to get an actual quote. It's winter in Montauk and it is a different beast. We were just out for fun, and nothing was going to interfere with our day dreaming.

We migrated down to the ocean. One of the things we discovered right away was that most places do not necessarily have a big meeting/event space. We scoped out what might end up being great accommodations recommendations more than wedding spots. But hey, we're learning, and that is awesome. A few places we checked out were awesome in fact. The catch I realized though is that we were basically trespassing around a few "members only" areas so I had to limit amount of pics posted. Ooops! ;) Silly kids!

But when we got to the end of East Lake, a road I definitely hadn't been on in years, we stumbled upon the Inlet, a restaurant mom noted that morning.
The Inlet Restaurant
Since it was winter we couldn't get too close or inside but we decided we have to get back here during the summer and check it out. The beach was nearby, plenty of parking, some great water views. According to the internet and some images I found on flickr the food looks slammin'. One thing about restaurants is the question of where to dance, another very important aspect of our special day. But the Inlet with it's two big decks had us really intrigued. Coming soon: Montauk Summer Session 2009!

Maidstone Pavilion
From Montauk back to Amagansett, my roots, for some more drivebys and snacks. Eventually the sun was fading and so were we. As a last stop we decided to climb up into Springs, to one spot we know we love. The pavilion has been home to some of the best, most raucous, most loved, and most blissful parties and moments ever. How we would make it work we still have no idea, but we did talk a lot about getting married somewhere that means something. And this place does.
It might not look like much to the unknowing eye, but this wooden structure has more life in it than you could ever imagine.
And the surrounding beauty? Oh, come on, it's unmatched as far as I'm concerned.

Sunken Garden
The other place we love that falls into the "how would we make it work?" category is the sunken garden. It is a relatively unknown spot and for that reason we love it all the more. We love it as one of the last sacred spaces out east that hasn't gotten too bitten by all the selfish tourism. Before calling mom to let her know it was time to head back to their place we did a quick walk through. The space was bigger than I had remembered and it was so fun to envision all of our loved ones sitting and celebrating our love. Who knows if the owners would ever in a million years consider it, but it was fun to dream.

Now, on to that cocktail.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

I am one of those people that thinks that Valentine's Day is a little totally ridiculous. I have at times bought into it, there is no question, but overall I try and avoid the Hallmark holiday as best I can. Perhaps instead I'll pick up Amy Stewart's book Flower Confidential, an amazing look into the realities of the cut flower industry. If you are at all intrigued I highly recommend this book - a fascinating read.

No, honestly, my love and I try and treat every day like Valentine's Day, with exception of chemically-processed roses and an over-abundance of chocolate of course. We strive to be loving people not because we are expected to be, but because we think life is better that way. Life and love and laughter should be a daily ritual, not a yearly one.

Allow me now to take you back to my childhood, to a song and video sure to tug at your heart-strings and encourage singing along. When I woke this morning I had a song so stuck in my head and I couldn't figure out how it got there or from where it came. But, being such a classic track I knew I had to share. Happy Hallmark Holiday, Happy Singles Awareness Day, Happy V-day, whatever, Happy Day!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

On the TV (aka The Grammy's)

Honestly, I don't get the hype about the Jonas Brothers at all. And if you are going to be playing with an American musical icon don't you think you should at least learn the lyrics? Money and fame is not the same as hard work and respect, you damn misled kids. Stevie Wonder, however, I could listen to happily until the end of time. Here is the genius himself, courtesy of youtube, sans pop wastes of space. "Superstition" in the studio, circa 1973.

Note birthday: May 13th

Friday, February 6, 2009

Magnolia Sky

For the last few weeks I have been staring up at the sky a lot, pruning dead wood out of long stands of lilacs and magnolias. By this point I have gotten my eyes well conditioned to pick out the big, fuzzy magnolia buds and the smaller, plump, greenish-red buds of the lilacs. By the end of the day your neck is killing you from all those hours of looking up and your shoulders are about to fall off courtesy of the 6' pole pruner, but the shrubs look so much better and you realize it is well worth it. Not to mention I never get tired of the view. What I love about this quick shot from my phone this morning on my daily rounds is that it also sort of resembles all the cracking ice I have been chipping on the days that have been too brutally cold to prune. Ah, winter. And people say there isn't anything going on in the garden - ha!

Friday Happy Hour

I'd been thinking about margaritas for a little while now so after work today I decided to treat us to a little Friday happy hour. If you live in or around Astoria, Queens I highly recommend Luna de Juarez on Steinway and 28th Avenue, and a pitcher of Luna Margaritas. They are slammininin', and the staff and owners are all super nice. "Cheers to engagement, week three!!!" Thank you agave.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Happy Superbowl Sunday

I might be stuck at work purning Syringa (lilacs) today, but trust me, my heart's in Tampa. Luckily the garden closes at 5 so I'll make it home by kickoff. Happy Superbowl Sunday everyone. Go Steelers!