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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reminder: No Post Today

Just a reminder that as I stated in a previous post, I will be "remodeling" my blog's layout. The new changes will show up on February 1, 2011.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Cones

The snow fell so hard last night that it actually woke me from a deep sleep, and when I looked out unto my terrace where I have my urban terrace garden and saw that, my SODA sign, which is at the north end of my terrace was almost covered, leaving only the top of the letters "O" and "D" ---nearly giving the impression of winking. 

All my plants, herbs, and shrubs were completely buried except for a few brave branches from my Contius Coggygria  or Smokey Bush (which you can see in the extreme left hand corner of the photograph posted above) peering out of the burlap-wrapped container which "houses" my Smokey Bush, and that is tied with turquoise jute. This amazing shrub has served as an inspiration on many occasions, including "posing" for a photograph which was later rendered into a note-card which I have written about in an early blog entry.  I've called this card Grace (Smokey Bush) because this shrub is fondly referred to as "Grace" or "Royal Purple" by growers.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Down by the Riverside, Down by the Riverside, Down by the Riverside . . .a Polka Dot Garden Grows!

What's a blogger who is a gardener and tandem-bike-stoker to do when snow and frigid temperatures prevent such activities? If cross-country skiing, sledding or building a snow sculpture aren't options; then perhaps thinking about what lies beneath the snow may be the way to go. 

As I look out onto my snow blanketed terrace garden (seen above), which I have written about in previous posts that you can read by clicking here and here and here, as well as here, I find myself hoping that in nine days, on February the second, Groundhog Daythat the groundhog will not see his shadow — as this will supposedly signify that winter will soon end. 

Hardly the most reliable prediction, but  Acu-Weather could take some lessons from this animal. As an urban gardener, I know that the cold temperatures and remaining snow also cause other urban gardeners that I know to fantasize about spring. However these winter facts-of-life are not a deterrent to accomplishment, as Victoria Mackenzie-Childs (wife and business partner of Victoria and Richard Emprise) clearly proves. Her snow-blanketed garden that she maintains with her husband, Richard MacKenzie-Childs, is located down by the riverside, and can be seen in the photograph below) as it awaits the on-set of warmer weather.

Yes, their garden is down by the riverside, and this is because they live on a boat — the 104 year old ferry boat at the Hoboken shipyard, known as the Yankee Ferry — and their garden is on the boat's (now snow covered) pier. Victoria and Richard Mackenzie-Childs, the garden's owners, are well known artists. 

They have also been guardians to the historic, and allegedly the last remaining Ellis Island Ferry Boat, for about ten years. Living on a boat in winter weather has them hoping the groundhog will not see his shadow on February second, as it is quite cold these days aboard Yankee Ferry but this has not stopped either of them from being on the move, as you will see by the end of this entry. But what about their garden beneath the snow?

Their garden is known as The Polka Dot Garden, and looked like this (see photos below)... the beginning of gardening season last year. 

The story goes that one day the boat crew was gathering tires for "fendering" to serve as a cushion preventing the pier from damaging the boat, when the idea of growing herbs and tomatoes inside the tires was born. Since the diagonal alignment of the tires had a resemblance to polka dots, Victoria Mackenzie-Childs named the endeavor The Polka Dot Garden

Because of her many patterned products, it is no surprise that Victoria connected the dots to give the garden this name. However, this is not the first time the use of polka dots came about by happenstance. Polka dots used in patterned fabric has been credited to Walt Disney. 

It is documented that when Disney was designing Minnie Mouse's outfit, he was pondering what type of pattern should be used for Minnie's skirt; stripes were out, and plaid was too hard to animate, and as he contemplated this dilemma, a drop of ink fell on his drawing, prompting Minnie Mouse's distinctive white on red polka-dot skirt. As the drop of ink could've ruined a drawing for Walt Disney, rows of tires could have been limited to fendering for Victoria and Richard Mackenzie-Childs. 

However, since they are a "if-life-gives-you-lemons-make-lemonade" couple, as you might know from their well documented struggle to keep the branding of their products, and as you also might surmise from the photograph of them posted below, they are always on the move.

In regards to how The Polka Dot Garden grew, below are two photographs. The first one  shows how much heirloom tomatoes enjoyed the space, and the second one shows how The Polka Dot Garden ultimately flourished. Wittika, the granddaughter of Victoria and Richard Mackenzie, can be seen in the third photograph of the garden.

Along with her brother, Felix, she is the co-star of many Victoria and  Richard Emprise videos promoting their unique products.Whether the groundhog sees his shadow in nine days or not, Victoria and Richard will be on the move, continuing to live out George Bernard Shaw's philosophy (expressed before he won the  Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925) in which he stated "You see things; and say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were, and I say 'Why not'?"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

When life "hits you in the head" with a brick:"Stay hungry, Stay foolish . . . "

The video posted above is something most Apple product lovers have seen. However, in my blog entry of January 18th 2011, I promised to put up a post outside of my regularly scheduled postings, and dedicate it to Steve Jobs.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

National Coffee Break Day

Drinking a cup of strong Venezuelan coffee (that I make a from a blend purchased at Sensuous Bean) in my apartment, and listening to 93.7 AM (NPR), 1010 WINS or Lite FM at 106.7 which are New York radio stations, to find out (among other things) the upshot of the traffic and transit report before heading to work is my morning ritual; and, doing it this morning, I learned that  today is National Coffee Break Day

This information prompted me to share my black and white photograph, Federal Café (posted above), on this morning's post. Federal Café, is not my only café-themed photograph. 

My image, At the Café, also pays tribute to reflective times that cafés offer, when one takes the time to truly take a "coffee-break" — a break without texting or tweeting or checking phone messages or journal or blog writing or making lists or  making phone calls.

Making the time to do nothing and allowing the mind to empty is the ultimate coffee break; it recharges the mind's batteries and refreshes the soul.

Hopefully, I've conveyed this in these two photographs, which can be viewed with others on my web-site, where they also may be purchased. Additionally, the second photograph, At the Café, has been rendered into an all occasion note-card which can be found in the store-front  pages of my web-site.


I no longer actively produce event program covers, invitations and the types of greeting cards described here or on my website but arrangements might be able to be made under certain circumstances. My focus is on the Words In Our Beak book series, pictured below...


...whose stories are told from the point of view of Cam, a female cardinal, whose photo is on the cover of each book. Words In Our Beak’s goal is to open readers to a simple understanding of the winged world and their environment. Set in my rooftop urban garden in New York City. Words In Our Beak is directed to children and adults who are curious about birds, and want to learn about them from a unique perspective. The books include hundreds of images of flora and fauna, links to movies, as well as to informative narratives that have been created by the author.

Please click here to go to my blog post that provides details as to where you can get these books.

Additionally,  I have rendered some images from these books into other formats and they are available via Fine Art America (FAA). Some of my other photographs (Black & White Collection, Kaleidoscopic Images and the famous Mandarin duck who visited NYC) can also be found on my FAA pages.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's Thesaurus Day (but I'm still at a loss for words)

Like the character in The New Yorker cartoon posted above, I try to write a little everyday, but today, I am a bit at a loss for words as I am overcome by the news that Steve Jobs announced that he had to take a leave of absence from Apple to "focus on his health."

I found it bittersweet to learn that Jobs said, "I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can." I also hope you can be back soon, Steve Jobs, and not because of any fear of "consequences" to the stock market that filled yesterday's newspapers. I love Apple too, especially the people who work at the company's store on Sixty-Seventh Street and Broadway (in the Upper Westside of Manhattan), where I gave a presentation (that I blogged about in a previous post). I plan to go into more detail on this topic over the coming week-end once I've learned a little more about the situation.

For now, even though it is Thesaurus Day (given this name because of its founder Peter Roget's birthday— January 18, 1779) and I have access to many words, because of the Thesaurus, as well as the Oxford Dictionary, I am at a loss for words to articulate what I feel about Apple and Steve Jobs, who have meant so much to me — but will post about this on Sunday the twenty-third as promised.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Guide us to Thy Perfect Light . . . "

The other day I came across this card that I received several years ago depicting The Three Kings (or Wise-Men) speaking on cell phones as they rode their camels to Bethlehem. Since I wrote about The Three King's celebrating Epiphany last week on their feast day (January the Sixth), I do not think it is too late to follow up on that post with today's blog entry, and a very short thought: The Three Kings on cell-phones! I hope they had GPS and an ipad too!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tree Lined Streets 2011

Orphaned Christmas trees fill the streets of New York City at this time, giving a new meaning to the phrase "tree-lined streets" and it is a sad sight. The photographs posted above are just a tiny fraction of this occurrence. I am including this fact in my blog because, as a gardener, I want to remind my green-thumb followers that one small consolation is that abandoned Christmas trees can easily be turned into mulch (for free) at various facilities, and you can go on-line to find the center nearest you. As for me, I only mulch once a year, every December before the onset of winter, but if you mulch frequently or have a larger area in which you garden, you might find these centers meet your needs.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Making and Breaking New Years Resolutions (Plus the 2011 Posting Schedule for The Last Leaf Gardener)

As of this morning, January the Seventh, I am finally presenting my 2011 posting schedule in accordance with one —the only one — of my New Year's resolutions. It's not that I don't have resolutions to make. I have weight to lose, bills to pay, a temper to monitor, faith that feels watered down and needs building up, and the habit of swearing that needs to be stopped immediately.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Reflecting on The Twelfth Day of Christmas AND Camels Hitting the Streets of The City That Never Sleeps . . .

Today I put my figurines of the three kings (pictured above) on display and invited a friend to dinner, so we could pay our own homage to ring out the Twelfth day of Christmas, January the Sixth: the Gregorian Calendar's Day for Epiphany (also known as The Feast of The Three Kings as well as The Twelfth Day of Christmas). 

To honor this day, in New York City, The Feast of the Three Kings Parade, a parade which includes camelswill march down Fifth Avenue. This is an annual event that I have yet to attend, in my nearly thirty years of living in New York, although the idea of seeing camels march down Fifth Avenue, in East Harlem, is more intriguing than checking out Easter bonnets at the annual Easter Parade down more trendy parts of Fifth Avenue — another annual parade that I've missed. The fact is: I don't list attending parades as one of my favorite things to do; and, although I live just a half a block from the part of Central Park West which is the route for the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, I have only seen part of the parade twice.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

" . . . Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?" (Hmmmmmmmmm, that depends.)

Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Many people probably asked this question in the singing of the Auld Lang Syne song as they rang in the New Year a few days ago. 

The answer? 


I recall walking up Central Park West sobbing over a broken heart from an unhealthy relationship with a man, when I was confronted by a woman walking her dogs, who cried out to me, "I hope that's not over a man!"

Monday, January 3, 2011

In Loving Memory of Aunt Grace Fitchie . . . (And One Reason I Like the Paper Card)

My blog, as you may know, is only a little over a year old and has only recently celebrated its anniversary. Today, like an occasional WNYC (NPR) program of The Brian Lehrer Show,  Prairie Home Companion, Car Talk and even Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me, in which repeats of favorite shows are aired again, I am repeating part of an entry from February 2010. This is in honor of Grace Fitchie, my dear great aunt pictured in the photograph posted above, standing in the middle of the last row next to my grandmother, Clara May, who is at Grace's left hand side. 

Grace was born on this day, January the third, in the early 1900's, I blogged about her in February 2010. She was an influence on my knowing the value of sending cards, and one that she sent me, over forty years ago, is still an impetus for me to continue to persevere in the new year with my designs of cards that are about more than communication, invitations that preserve moments in time, and event program covers that enhance an occasion, in keeping with the mission I have laid out in my philosophy which I have mentioned in numerous occasions within this blog.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Star of Wonder: Who is "counter-cultural"? When IS Epiphany?

Patricia Youngquist uses words and images to tell stories about her passions. Based in New York, she currently is authoring a series of nature books on birds of the city. Now in Apple’s iBooks store @

"Star of Wonder, Star of Night
Star with Royal Beauty Bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy perfect light"

My neighbor lives in a studio apartment on the top floor of a building that is a few doors west of me and her window (where she has a small indoor garden of succulents) faces south. It looks directly into a window where someone has hung a star.

The star, we once speculated, was hung in honor of the Epiphany, which is the twelfth day of Christmas, January the sixth, and often celebrated with the familiar hymn, We Three Kings (its chorus lyrics are posted at the top of this entry). However, today, January the second, this traditional Epiphany hymn will be sung in New York City Catholic churches, where masses will be offered and celebrated for the Feast of the Epiphany, because the bishops have decided to move this feast day up to the second Sunday after Christmas. In spite of this, the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, insists it is the secular world that is the one rushing Christmas, when for me, it appears the church is rushing it too — by moving up holidays.