The New York Botanical Garden is one of the most beautiful places I know. It's beautiful because of it's own natural beauty, but also because of where it is. Often called an oasis in New York City, it is just that - a break from the harsher city outside of its gates that brings peace, tranquility, beauty and fresh air to an otherwise congested and noisy area. A friend gave me a beautiful gift of a trip there the other day - a day pass is an affordable luxury, but it was made all the sweeter because it was a gift from a friend who I enjoy spending time with. The Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden was in full bloom, and there was an exhibit of Impressionist paintings with garden and floral themes - both things that made the sweetness of the adventure even sweeter and more delightful on one of the most beautiful days we have had this summer.
The weather has been very hot for many days, and I needed to go food shopping for a few things that are perishable, so one evening I set out, hoping that the slightly cooler temperatures of the evening would keep me and my purchases fresh enough until I got home again. Weather like this makes me feel a little delirious - I don't have air conditioning, so I feel like I'm moving through water the whole time - not cool refreshing water, but that heavy hot and tired feeling that the high temperatures and humidity of the dog days can bring when everything we do seems exhausting. The route I took to the supermarket I needed to go to took me to an area where there is a light rail station, and as I entered the place where there is an elevator that commuters and walkers like me can use to go from one area to the next, I saw one of my favorite musicians braving the heat to give us an evening concert. I'd seen Jeremy Freire in that place before, and though I'd always smiled as I walked by I never had taken the time to introduce myself so that night I did. He's always such a great presence, and I wanted to find out more about him because it's rare these days to see someone performing with such dedication and originality for passers by. His band is No Damnation, and as he says, that kind of says it all in what they are trying to do and share with the world. I like that message - it reminds me of one of my favorite scripture passages - "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:1) It's a message I love and one that I love to share, and however and wherever I hear it, it has a way of lifting me up and out of the every day. As I continued on my way I felt uplifted, and was able to enjoy the evening's warmth and moments of beauty with a lighter head and heart.
Oscar Wilde had a way with words, and his quote "My tastes are simple, I simply like the best," is something I've always appreciated. When it comes to making choices in things I am going to buy, places where I shop and people who I spend time with, I like to feel like I'm making a good investment with my time and money. I don't eat a lot of sweets although I like them, because I know that the foundation of my diet needs to be healthier well balanced meals, so when I do choose to have something that doesn't fall into the category of whole grains or fresh fruit and vegetables, I want to make sure that I'm choosing something that is truly excellent. There's a concept in nutrition education about discretionary calories - those foods that don't fall into the "healthy food choice" category - we are allowed to have some, but it's advised to choose wisely. In my opinion, if I'm going to have discretionary calories, they've got to be something special - I don't like sweets just for sweet's sake.
When I saw that there was a gelato shop opening up in Jersey City Heights, I wanted to try it. The weather has been so hot that anything cold is appetizing. The day before their grand opening they were giving sample tastes, and when I tasted a few things I was delighted. I stopped by and spoke to the owner the other day, such a generous man who gave me his time and showed me the process of making gelato - something that is a dream come true for me because I love everything cooking and kitchen and food related, especially when I don't have to do the dishes.
Maestro Kenneth Jordon has been a resident of Jersey City Heights for 39 years, and he's had his eye on his new space since he was 7. A trained pastry chef and baker since the 8th grade, he's attended Middlesex County College and the Gelato Pastry Institute to enhance his skills. He's serving gelato and sorbet in cones and cups, gelato on home made Belgian waffles, gelato pops coated with the most amazingly delicious coconut or chocolate crunch coatings, gelato cakes, gelato filled cookies, and something I'd never heard of before called Affogatto, a shot of espresso with gelato. Regular flavors include pistachio, hazelnut, tiramisu, kookies & caramel, chocolate and cheesecake, and there will be more sweets and more delectable creations, seasonal choices and special flavors. He thinks the way I do about how to make delicious things even more delicious, and the ingredients he uses are simply the best. After eating a Belgian Waffle with two scoops of gelato - my choices were pistachio and chocolate - complete with chocolate sauce and whipped cream, I didn't have any feeling of sugar overload or heaviness, just a deep feeling of satisfaction and happiness in the choice I had made. His kitchen is spotless, his ingredients the best, his knowledge the deepest and his passion for excellence the icing on the gelato cakes he makes. I'm going to have to rename it a lot of gelato, because I know I'll be going back for more.
I do believe that children are our future. When we work with youth, we are sowing seeds that will bring a harvest of whatever we have sown into the lives of the young people we work with. I always tell the groups that I work with, whether children, youth or adults, that if I've done my work they won't need me after our classes end. I'm always happy to come back to support and celebrate, to bounce ideas off of, to brainstorm and to plan, but if I've truly done the work that I've been called to do, the people I've worked with are empowered to move ahead without me.
One of the organizations I was introduced to several years ago embodies the deep beliefs I hold, and through watching their growth and vision over time, I have come to learn and understand some beautiful ways of thinking and deep truths about what it means to empower youth, families and communities. CITYarts helps support youth in the process of creating murals in community areas where art may not have been readily seen, and also helps youth recreate and design and rejuvenate existing murals and public art. Recently I attended a moving party and art sale at their offices in downtown Manhattan, and I share photos of some of that art work here. Over 200 works of art were available for purchase, from artists including:
Damian Henry, Hank Virgona, Cris Gianakos, Art Hijack, Daniel Libeskind, Darrell Nettles, Benjamin Edwards, Carri Skoczek, Emi Avora, Victor Mira, Taewon Jang, Abby Leigh, Carl Van Fechten, Eva Lundsager, Ben Moon, Peter Sis, Gregg Louis, Fire Ash, Faith Ringgold, Khalil Abdul Wahid, Larry Brown, Mimi Thompson, Rush Resnick, Marsha Levin-Rojer, Christo, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Zigi Ben-Haim, Karen FitzgeraldJessica Diamond, Joseph La Piana, Michael Kagan, Linda Williams, James Evans, Paul Deo, Holly Hughes, Carl Friedman, Matty Grunberg, Stephan Lack, Judith R. Brodsky, Kanchan Chander Jr., Gregory Heisler, Suzzane Anker, Nelleke Nix, Moshe Kupferman, Nicky Nodjoumi, Tim Davis, Lobe Robert, Nina Yankowitz, Richard Hunt, Jackie Gendel, Melamid and Komer, Vik Muniz, Charles Yuen, Louis Mendez, Duda Penteado, Ernesto Burgos, Joel Fisher,Andrew Ginzel and Kirsten Jones, Rebecca Arnold, Sylvia Mendel, Rose Viggiano, Aaron Johnson, Emilio Cruz, Jennifer Danner, Jackie Gendel, Jennifer Clarke, Audree Anid, Damien Mitchell, Brad Melamed, Rodney Ripps, Jackie Kingon, Yonatan Ziv and Lily Rattock, Victor Pierce, Marilyn Dintefass, Paul Dikgwele Molet, Amelie Hegardt, Richard Mock, Francine LeClerq, Mathieu Jais, Julie Hedrick, John Batho, Kamdar Vidhya, Louis Lieberman, Herman Rose, Mia Enell, Tjunkiya Napaltjarri, Lane Twitchell, Cathy Billian, Norman Rockwell,serif;">Birgit Wolfram, Yorly, Aveza R. Quereiski, Eric Ginsberg, B. Thilk, Jane Kent, Bill Albertini, Keith Cerone, Barbara Schwartz, Dennie Bellone, Ann McCoy, Joan Snyder, Mette Tommerup, Betsy Kaufman, Donna Schulman, Patrick Casey, Michael Johnson, Ivan Valtchev, Brooke Borg, Jackie Ferrera, Janice Melham, Weissglass, Gitte Blass, Saummer, Ed Eyth, Stuart Netsky, Carlos Paez Vilaro, Motsamai Thabane, Issac Lin, Robert Cronin, Alette Simmons-Jimenez, and Jenny Holzer. Artists who have created murals with CITYarts include: Duda Penteado, Paul Deo, Brooke Borg, Sean Carlson, Peter Sis, Michael Davis, Dominique d’Orange, Janice Edelman-Lee, Sadie Edginton, David Flores, Netonda Hall, Charles Jean-Pierre, Bob Krasner, Hoyi Leung, Todd Merchant, Damien Mitchell, Minaa Moshin, Ben Moon, John Moore, Joanna Nowek, Cheng Pansum, Dakota Warren, Peter Ziemciewicz and Natalie Zuckerman.
It was a lovely evening of inspiration surrounded by the work of some of the greatest local contemporary artists of our time, and perhaps the most inspirational of all was knowing that those artists are also fully aware of the importance of art in empowering the lives of youth and their communities. In the words of CITYarts, "CITYarts engages youth and professional artists in the creation of public art, including murals and mosaics. Through this creative process, CITYarts empowers, educates, and connects youth and children locally and around the world to become active participants in realizing their potential and transforming communities." Current projects include Garden Playground, a mural in Brooklyn that will be designed to celebrate nature, and the Upper West Side Story project that connects youth with local business owners to design and create banners for local businesses. I've seen some of the gorgeous projects and met some of the youth and the artists, and I can tell you that CITYarts is doing amazing work. As their founder Tsipi Ben-Haim
states so beautifully, "When kids create, they do not destroy." I'll add to that from my own experience, that when people create, they begin to learn to live fully.
Executive And Creative Director Tsipi Ben-Haim
With Shulamith Bahat, Chief Executive Officer Of Beit Hatfutsot
Closer To Home
There is never too much art in my opinion, and on Saturday when I visited Rummage and Ruffage at The Church of The Holy Innocents in Hoboken, I saw one of the loveliest groups of women with beautiful hand made jewelry I have seen. Artist Martha Velasquez creates each piece with such care and joy that they seem to come alive on the table, and when you try them on they bring her vibrantly peaceful and joyful energy to the wearer. Martha and her daughters plan to be at Rummage and Ruffage every Saturday, so stop by whenever you can to see what new designs Martha has made. Martha's daughter Diana Franco is a Founding Partner and Director of Business Operations of CoreWoman, an organization that "Empowers women by developing the skills and capabilities necessary to succeed in high school, college, as leaders in business, and as entrepreneurs." You can meet Diana when you visit with Martha, as the jewelry business is one of the CoreWoman projects.
Artist Martha Velasquez With Her Two Daughters
Handmade Jewelry For Sale - A Project of CoreWoman