Thursday, July 31, 2014

Grounds for Sculpture

Last summer after years of debating, we became members of Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton,NJ (or as they advertise "minutes from Princeton"). Boy did we time that one right! Not long after we joined we heard they were planning a retrospective of J. Seward Johnson's works for the summer of 2014.

J. Seward Johnson has been our favorite sculptor for decades. The retrospective is a collection of his works spanning five decades -- since he was let go from Johnson & Johnson (otherwise known as the family business). About a decade ago we went to Washington, DC and saw his work on display with Wendy and Dave. We were already fans before we took that trip.

Johnson is famous for creating life-like statues. I'm sure you have seen some of them someplace. The most famous might be the one of the businessman that stood outside the World Trade Center and became a memorial following 9/11. The first one I saw was the man eating a hamburger in Princeton. In 1992, he took the old fairgrounds in Hamilton and converted them into a sculpture garden. In the beginning the grounds were free. Then they started to charge admission.

A docent described this exhibit as "all the kids coming home for dad's birthday." Johnson is 83, but this marks his 50th year as a sculptor. Nearly 300 of his works are on currently on display in Hamilton. This will probably never happen again.

Personally, I've enjoyed watching his progression as an artist. It is most evident in the paint used on the "skin."

A quick lesson, then onto my favorite pictures. His works can be divided into three categories:
1) Celebrating the Familiar -- i.e., images such as the man eating the hamburger, the businessman, people reading newspapers, etc.

See what I mean about adding a twist to a classic piece of art?
2) Beyond the Frame -- famous paintings brought to 3-D life with a twist added to them. These include Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Boathouse, Mona Lisa, etc.

3) Revising Icons -- such as the 30 foot tall statue of Marilyn Monroe or Unconditional Surrender (the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on V-Day).

Here is a sampling of my pictures taken this spring and summer. A few were in the days leading up to the exhibit. All are part of the current exhibit. The retrospective runs through September 21. Let me know if you go and I'll try to join you. We do have a couple of guest passes, so we might be able to get you in for free.

Johnson is the man in the background wearing a hat.

You can be in the frame with the Girl with a Pearl Earring.

A close up of "Were you invited?"
It is fun, and highly encouraged, to become part of the sculpture.
This is one of his newest sculptures. The newspaper article he is "reading" talks about Marilyn Monroe being installed. 
This one is in two place -- gigantic in the far corner of the grounds, and normal sized near Marilyn.
He has a bit of a sense of humor about it all.
This is one of his most realistic sculptures.
He added himself to this party scene

This one, along with others, is off the beaten path

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

NYC race

At the beginning of the year I made some resolutions -- Meatless Mondays, read 100 books, participate in the 365 photo challenge, and a few others. Last week I succeeded in accomplishing the goal of running a race in a new (to me) state when I ran the NYCRUNS Riverside Run #3 5K.

Months ago my running buddy, Sharon, took on the challenge of finding me a race in NYC. I did not want to run one very early in morning, nor did I want to spend a lot of money on a race. She found a race at 7 PM that only cost $10. How could I say no?

We took the train into NYC. Sharon gave me a quick tour of Columbia University, St. John the Divine, Tom's Restaurant, and Riverside Park. We checked into the race early and soaked up the ambiance.

It was a very sticky night. Very. It was in the 80s with 90% humidity, or so it seemed. I can't find the exact details. It was the type of night where you broke a sweat standing still.

Before the race began I studied the pool of runners. They all looked so fit. I was certain I would finish dead last. Turns out, I finished 287 out of 334, so there were a lot of people behind me.

My time was slow, even by my standards (37:18), but my splits were a lot more even than normal (each around a 12 minute mile). Best of all, I can say I ran a race in my 6th state (NJ, PA, CA, OH, FL, and now NY).

I thought this would be a locals-only race. I was surprised when the first people we met came from The Netherlands. The winner, and his wife, came from Germany. 

Overall, it was a very festive evening. The race did not offer any frills (no medals, no swag bags), but, as promised, with lower expectations came more enjoyment. Not sure how they did that! My friend, Sharon, placed in her age group and was rewarded with a glass, probably a leftover from a different race, just as our bibs were leftovers from previous races. No frills means no frills.

Best part, we missed the thunderstorms and made it home to New Jersey wet with sweat, but not with rain drops.

Ice Cream Festival

I recently wrote about how much I like ice cream. It should come as no surprise, then, that I went to the NJ State Ice Cream Festival in Toms River, NJ. It has been on Don's wish list for awhile now. We had a funeral to go to in the morning, but the rest of our day was clear. Sometimes that is what qualifies as a quiet day.

The festival ran from 3-8:30. The weather was nice -- not too hot, not rainy. The crowds were moderate.

The deal was, you pay $7 and get coupons for free ice cream from six stands. The lines at each of these stands was long. Some, such as the Yeungling stand, easily handled the crowds. The line at Giffords was the worst, and the kicker was they changed their flavor from the announced salty pretzel to toasted coconut. Toasted coconut is not a bad flavor, but it does not taste like salty pretzel. 

Each sample was quite tiny. The Neapolitan was the smallest scoop, but each used the same size cup. Our favorite was the Yeungling Black and Tan -- instead of beer it was rich dark Belgian chocolate and salty caramel ice cream. Fortunately they sell it in pints in Wegmans. Unfortunately, it is not cheap.

In the end, I left feeling as if I missed something. We walked up and down a street sampling ice cream and trying to not get in the way of people trying to shop at the other booths. Eh. The same festival held in Princeton with Thomas Sweet, Halo Pub, and bent spoon all competing against each other would have been a treat. This was just a crowded event.

The saving grace for the day was hanging out with good friends Bill and Dee. They were kind enough to salvage the day by inviting us over to their fire pit for s'mores, because after eating all that ice cream (each sample was quite tiny) s'mores hit the spot.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM

It will not come as a shock to most of my friends and family that I really like ice cream. Don and I like it so much we toyed with making a stop at Thomas Sweets on our wedding day in our tux and gown. Unfortunately the logistics were not quite right. A day without ice cream is a sad day indeed.

I was amused when I recently read a list put out by Travel and Leisure of America's Best Ice Cream Shops and realized we have eaten at 3 of the 20 this summer. 

The link above will bring you right to our local ice cream winner: the bent spoon in Princeton, NJ. The bent spoon uses all locally grown foods and creates non-traditional ice cream flavors such as sweet corn and basil, as well as the favorite dark chocolate. They bill themselves as a "farm to spoon" ice cream parlor.

My second favorite place on the list is jeni's. Jeni's is based out of Columbus, OH. Unlike the bent soon, jeni's (no idea why both places use lower case letters in their name) has multiple locations, and sells their ice cream in grocery stores, as well as in a vending machine at the airport. Once their website is back up and running I'll fill in more details about the place.

The third place we've tried is Salt and Straw located in Portland, OR. They bill themselves as a farm-to-cone ice cream store specializing in using "the best local, sustainable and organic ingredients that Oregon has to offer." Their line is always at least 30 minutes long. They have three locations in Portland, and will be expanding to the LA area soon, where they will use the best, local, sustainable and organic ingredients that CALIFORNIA has to offer. After waiting in line for so long, we wished we were ho-hum about the ice cream. Not ho-hum enough to not give it a try in a different location, but it wasn't jeni's or bent spoon. Must be because they capitalize their name while our top two choices do not.

Here's to wishing future vacations bring me close enough to try the other 17 best ice cream spots.

UPDATED: I found another list. This one includes locations in Paris, Rome and Australia, as well as Cleveland, NY, and Chicago:

Monday, July 28, 2014

Composting, round 2

Did you ever notice in life that there is sometimes a difference between knowing what is the right thing to do, and actually doing it? I mean things like choosing to eat more veggies and fruits and less ice cream (I'd never advocate against eating ice cream). Or walk instead of drive, even when the weather is bad. The voice inside you tells you the right thing to do, but (at least I) often take the more comfortable route. Or get up and run or bike when you'd much rather sleep in just a little longer.

The same is true for me about composting. I know it would be fabulous to keep organic waste out of the trash, but I don't do it. A local farm tried their hand at collecting compost, and we gladly participated, but they gave up that program after a few months.

Recently we started bringing our food waste to a neighbor's house. They can have all of our future mulch. We are just happy to keep it out of the waste stream and feel like we are doing something good for the environment.

Lawrence Township is trying to build on Princeton's organic waste program. It is completely voluntary. Once a week a truck will come around and pick up your organic waste. Much easier than going to a neighbor's house. Equally as easy as putting it in the big blue trash container we are all issued.

The blurb from the township website:

  • Lawrence Eco-Curbside Waste Collection
    Lawrence Township will be offering voluntary Food Waste Recycling in the near future.  In order to kick start the program, the vendor must have three hundred participants to initiate the collection program. For more details regarding this program click on the attached link. For details on several meetings scheduled to provide additional information see the attachedTo sign upinterested residents should contact the Public Works Department at (609) 587-1894 or by email at to be placed on a list for further instructions.

  • So the main kickers are:
    1) We need at least 300 families (currently have around 200).
    2) There is a $17 a month fee, which (thanks to a grant from Sustainable Jersey) will be reduced to $12 a year for the first 300 families to sign up.
    3) You can cut your fee in half by sharing a green bucket with your neighbor. One family signs up, but you each pay for half of it.

    A common concern I have heard is: but won't it smell and attract critters? Well, no more than when you dispose of the food waste in the regular trash.

    Come on, Lawrence residents! This is a trend. Just like in my lifetime we went from driving our cans and bottles to a recycling center, also within my lifetime organic curbside pick up will become the norm. Let's work together to make this happen sooner rather than later.