Monday, December 31, 2012

Buckyball at Madison Square Park

As another ball drops in Times Square later tonight, its artistic twin (of sorts) sits in Madison Square Park. Mesmerizing and delighting viewers, the thirty-foot tall illuminated Buckyball sculpture changes color moment to moment in an open space just within view of the Empire State and Flatiron Buildings. Lounge chairs surround the artwork allowing visitors to sit and interact with the ever-changing light show. Buckyball is made from a larger (twenty foot diameter) three-dimensional molecule form comprised of hexagons and attached to other hexagons of the same size by a common side. Inside, lies a smaller (ten foot diameter) identical and self-similar version of the shape based on geodesic figures and domes made famous by Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller. More about the artist, Leo Villareal, the mathematics, and scientific concepts behind the artwork can be found at the Park's website.
Enjoy the many colorful iterations of this sculpture below and in Madison Square Park through February 1, 2013.









Monday, December 24, 2012

A Bronx (Christmas) Tale - The Bronx Christmas House


Where can you see Santa (with all of his reindeer), cherubs, unicorns, Cinderella (complete with carriage, horsemen, and pink horses), Marilyn Monroe, Cher, Diana Ross, Superman, Michael Jackson, Disney figures, glitzy Bob Mackie-style gowns, religious figurines, body guards, AND a manger scene all together on the same gold-leafed, rococo-style, columned stage?
This time of year neighbors often try to outdo each other when it comes to the holiday decorating, there's nothing like the "Christmas House" in the Bronx. It's a cross between Disney World, a wax museum, the Grammys, the Oscars, and the Radio City Christmas Show. Even during the summer months, if you're driving down Pelham Parkway, you'll first be distracted by the house's garish pink color. At this time of year, you'll also notice the extra spotlights and activity; like some kind of party is going on. Then you'll notice the crowds. You'll be forced to turn the car around and see this up close for yourself.
The delightfully tacky display with its own Yelp review page and website has been a Bronx tradition for about 40 years since 1973 when the Garabedian family experienced a Christmas Eve miracle which they vowed to keep as a family secret. A blurb in the New York Times tried to get to the root of it, but the family will not discuss it. The Garabedians have been decorating their cotton-candy colored home this way ever since as a way to say thanks and "give back" to their community. It's a full time project with new ideas and new figures (almost 200) appearing annually. If you look closely, it was even a backdrop for Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" video.
Great care is taken with the mannequins and gowns. The extensive arrangement is dismantled nightly, and covered during inclement weather. As I was taking these photos, various family members were unwrapping the moving mannequins, replacing them after a night of indoor storage, straightening their gowns, and quaffing their wigs and furs. "I'm So Excited" by the Pointer Sisters and other lively music blares into the otherwise silent night. Passers-by continuously take in the strange and overwhelming scene. What is this all about? The son of the family explained that it's a party, a party of the utmost celebration and importance. As he pointed to the manger scene on the roof, "it's a very special birthday party, not just for celebrities, but for everyone. Everyone is invited."
I overheard someone asking the family why don't they just have the usual snowman and Santa on the front lawn like everyone else? The reply was that anyone can have those things, but you can't see anything like this anywhere in the world. He's probably right.



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Manhattan's Christmas Windows - The 2012 Tour and Review

The magic of the holidays in Manhattan has begun. Come hither, and peek behind the curtain into Bergdorf's cabinet of fabulosities....
The girl with the wild eyes and her poodle act (left); and
the guardian of the miniature mannequins (right).

Composed of different "acts" this year's theme was Vaudeville shows and performers of the 1930s and the Art Deco era. Bergdorf Goodman never disappoints when it comes to their holiday windows. Never. Always over the top and full of visual drama, this is what a storefront in New York City during the holiday season should be. 
Icy glass reflections of the Jazz Age. 
An odd couple out for a night at the theater.

I can't say that for all of them this year though. The windows at Bloomingdale's featured these odd microscopic dolls in a setting with a lot of spare space. Only after seeing an ad on television with similar imagery, did I figure out that there was a Cirque du Soleil theme. Tiffany's was equally disappointing with staid dollhouse-looking rooms. They were nicely done, but didn't grab me. Maybe it's the economic environment, but shoppers and tourists alike need something to lift their spirits. Even in bleak times, people come to New York to see a spectacle. Overall, Fifth Avenue let me down this year. (I haven't made it to Macy's or Lord & Taylor yet.) 
 Feathers and crystalline light of the Roaring 20s.
The finesse and flair of the visual department is evident by the birds' eye perspective of these bawdy ladies enjoying music and playing instruments in this black and white window.
But wait....there's more!
_________

Barneys opted for the easy way out this year- a video in collaboration with Disney called "Electric Holiday". It is a loop of the story of Minnie Mouse's love for a Lanvin dress with a side ruffle (a girl after my own heart). She becomes bewitched by the dress and consumed in a starstruck Parisian Fashion Week daydream featuring stylish heavyweights like Lady Gaga, Daphne Guinness, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz, and other well-known stylists, designers, photographers, and magazine editors.
In a clever merge of haute couture with adorableness, Minnie's dream continues with familiar and beloved Disney characters elongated for the Paris catwalk. The crowd on the sidewalk in front of Barneys cheered with laughter at an expressionless Goofy in his hipster gear as he marched to the hypnotic electronic beat. In the end, Minnie gets a surprise Christmas gift from her longtime beau, Mickey - guess what was in the big box?! It was disappointing that Barneys didn't have their usual window outlandishness, but the animation and story line were really cute.
Anthropologie's usual stunning displays made from simple, everyday objects and materials.
The Saks windows tell the story of the deconstruction of snowflakes and the science behind them. The bulk of the display consisted of lame kinetic figures. I've honestly seen better moving figures on front lawns in the outer boroughs and suburbs. By far, the most appealing part was the kaleidoscope imagery above and the digital chalkboard-like drawing of the reindeer below.
The view that everyone in Midtown is clamoring to see.
Bendel's celebrates with a golden Miss New Year floating from the rafters in a giant glass of champagne. 

Happy 2013, everyone!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Collecting - Gluhwein Mugs From The German Christmas Markets


Left to right: Gluhwein Mugs from the Markets of Nuremberg, Berlin, Munich, and Dresden

Nothing cures a bone-chilling freeze like a cup of gluhwein, hot and spiced mulled wine with a European twist. Two years ago, my mom and I discovered this deliciously heady drink while trolling the Christmas Markets throughout Germany. Just a few sips and it feels like the outside temps are rising. Those vendors are smart; it can also make you a little dizzy and put you in the mood for some serious shopping! Soon, we became experts at finding the sellers, learning that each mug was different from town to town, market to market, stand to stand. The mugs are meant to be returned, or for an extra euro or two, to be taken home as a souvenir. After a somewhat slow start with understanding how it all works, a small collection was inadvertently formed. We're ready to go back for more...as soon as we warm up!
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You don't need to be in Europe to enjoy this hot drink. 
Gluhwein is also really easy to make at home during the holiday season. 
Just follow this simple recipe to get your holiday buzz on (adapted from the Dreaming of Winter Blog):

Gluhwein Recipe

Ingredients:
  • One gallon of red wine - try a burgundy. It doesn't have to be expensive!
Add these remaining ingredients to taste. 
All amounts will need to be proportionate to the quality and amount of wine used. 
  • Sugar (start with about 2 cups - you may want to add more later)
  • 6 - 8 Cinnamon Sticks
  • Whole Cloves (approximately 15-20)
  • 2 Oranges (sliced)
  • 1 Tablespoon Allspice (whole)
  • 2 Cups Orange Juice - you may want to add more
  • If you wish to add a little extra kick, add brandy, sweet sherry, or port (optional but delicious!)
Directions:
  1. Pour the red wine into a large pot and put it on the stove on a very low heat – do not let it boil.
  2. Cut the oranges into slices then put a few cloves into each slice in a dotted formation, then place them gently into the wine.
  3. Break the cinnamon sticks in half or thirds and add them to the wine mixture.
  4. Add the allspice.
  5. Add in the orange juice (and the sherry or port if you decide to use it).
  6. Add in 2 cups of sugar and stir.
  7. Stir occasionally for at least 30 minutes to give the spices time to infuse with the wine, taste it, and add more sugar as needed (it's possible to need up to 4 or 5 cups more if the wine is bad).
  8. Let the mixture continue to heat for about 30 more minutes (again, do not let it boil).
  9. Drink and be happy!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lovin' Lanvin

The designs of Lanvin keep catching my eye. Deep inside, I guess I'm an old Parisian sort of girl. I love that voluminous signature style paired with a well-placed ruffle captured in expensive fabric. For the past several years, every time I saw an absolutely gorgeous gown or dress, I find that it's Lanvin on the label. Here, a tribute windows by Barneys honoring Alber Elbaz as the current successor of Paris's oldest fashion house (1889).


Predating Chanel by about a decade, milliner Jeanne Lanvin created lasting fashion impact out of a need for more stylish clothing for her young daughter. The clothes became widely recognized, and in a relatively short time, Lanvin was a highly sought after seamstress. The wealthiest children and adults in Parisian society suddenly had a new couturier. Clothing for women and children gradually developed into sportswear, lingerie, menswear, housewares, and perfume all creating an overall branded lifestyle like we know of most labels today. From simple beginnings to fashion empire, it is a house that is still very much alive.


For more on Lanvin see the history timeline and their own window displays.



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