Saturday, February 15, 2014

Snowshoeing in West Point Foundry Park

Wow - cushioned seats on the station platform!
We were a mixed crowd - two skiers, one snowshoer, and one hiker - and we initially struggled along in the deep snow toward the park, until one of the skiers had the idea to (gasp) actually put on our special footwear.  

That made it much easier going.  The snow was crunchy and crusted enough that the skiers and I could generally stay on top (though we occasionally crashed through), while the hiker still had to work hard climbing in and out of the footsteps of her predecessors.  She struggled bravely on, while the skiers effortlessly surged ahead.

View across the Hudson

The stark, flat simplicity of the wooded hill reminded me of naïve New England folk art scenes. 
Ho-hum, a Boring Mill.


Trees fuzzy with parasitic vines (mostly severed)

We enjoyed a lunch at my favorite place in Cold Spring, Le Bouchon.  I got the Le Bouchon salad and a glass of wine (as always) and was quite satisfied.  Should have ordered the creme brûlée for dessert though.  Oh well, there's always next time.

Mount Snow!

Ice floes from the train.
Apparently there has been a run on snowshoes in NYC; my friend tried to rent or buy some yesterday, and everywhere was sold out.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow Days

We brought our mini-crowd out onto the slopes this weekend.  It's so cool to see my favorite young athletes -- both notable for their determination and focus on matters that that interest them -- increasing in skill and confidence on skis.  They know they can handle any blue slope (especially when conditions are good), and they are tackling black slopes as well.  The little one has made a checklist of every slope at the resort, organized by peak and by color, so that she can check them off one by one.  She is determined to conquer the black slopes, and is willing to fall as often as it takes. 

On our off-hours, we feasted like royalty (thanks to M and R!), played "Ticket to Ride," and watched bits of the Olympics.

Ready for the post-chair future. 
On Sunday night, we visited an ice castle at the resort.  It is a sprawling complex, with nooks and niches, a throne and waterfall, arches and a slide tunnel, all illuminated from within by changing color displays.  

The architecture is somewhat organic in appearance; the walls and towers all have a mushroom-cap look (rather than right angles).  We watched one of the workers add to the edifice -- he was planting icicles almost sideways at the top of the wall to build out a crown structure.  Once the ice "bones" are in place, they apparently run sprinklers over them to allow walls and ledges to build up.

Very cool.  Even maybe a little too cool - none of us had really thought about dressing for the weather when visiting an ice palace after dark.  

~ ~ ~

I still haven't gone snow shoeing yet this winter, though we've had the snow for it.  But I did visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for the first time in a while.

I never promised you a rose garden

Cherry trees

Espaliered tree, with bird's nest

The last robin of winter?

Friday, February 07, 2014

Multisyllabic in-line rhymes

There's something really beautiful about in-line rhymes, by which I mean two- or three-syllable rhymes that do not coincide with the natural pause in speaking at the end of a phrase or sentence.

I was just noticing it today with "Tears of a Clown":  "Don't let my show convince you /that I've been happy since you  /decided to go." The music signals a break as marked, but the meaning propels us past the rhyming words in one continuous unit.

The best (most sustained and exuberant) example I know is JRRT's "Errantry" poem, which exists in several versions. Here's a snippet:
He caught her in bewilderment
with filament of spider-thread;
he made her soft pavilions
of lilies, and a bridal bed
of flowers and of thistle-down
to nestle down and rest her in;
and silken webs of filmy white
and silver light he dressed her in.
(Of course one of my all-time favorite rhymes is tchotchkes with watch, please. But that's more conventionally placed in the line so it doesn't count here.)

Thursday, February 06, 2014

"Let it Go"

I haven't bought the soundtrack to Frozen, just the one song, and I've listened to it several times this evening.  At certain points, I keep tearing up.  Here's the key one:

It's time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
[triumphant] I'm free 
[voice soaring, belting out] Let it go, let it go
I'm one with the wind and sky ...
And of course I'm trying to pinpoint what is so moving about this.

Partly it's the synergy of the message and the flow of the music; the combination taps powerfully into the well-remembered adolescent longing to break free from others' expectations and/or one's own insecurities.

But there's also the adult knowledge that there's never a moment when the insecurities are fully gone. You really can never be fully "arrived" and "proven" once and for all...  At least, not unless you're willing to stop taking risks, to stop learning and growing altogether.

And there's also the adult knowledge that freedom isn't all that it's cracked up to be.  It's the human connections that bind us together (and constrain us in so many ways) that make life worth living.  It's the constraints on our time that make free moments precious.

And even within the frame of the movie itself, there's a certain irony in Elsa singing "No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I'm free!" - because she quickly learns that she isn't.  When she finds out that her exuberance has imposed a long-term winter and famine on the land, she is immediately contrite and seeks to find a way to undo the harm she has caused.  She imagines, briefly, that she is free as a monster is free, but she remains fully human.  Which is all to the good of course, because she presumably learns to embrace her powers and find a way to live among others with integrity.  But it still nearly moves me to tears - that inflection point between idealism and reality.

There's a great parody video (albeit with some foul language): "Here I Go (Despair of an Alto)"

As for the movie overall, I just loved it.  The sisters reminded me so much of L&C.

Monday, February 03, 2014

"Web of Life" (John Biggers)

At the Brooklyn Museum.  This is the left half of the painting.  I liked all the animals curled up into all the hiding spots.  

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Crustless Pumpkin Pie

I bought some canned pumpkin a while back because I had the urge to make some sort of pumpkin custard or pudding.  Ultimately, I decided to use the "famous pumpkin pie" recipe on the can, with a few tweaks.

Here's what I ended up doing:

Preheat oven to 425 F

Prepare sugar-and-spice mixture:  
                    ½ C sugar (reduced from original)*
                    ½ tsp salt
                    1 tsp cinnamon
                    ¼ tsp cardamom (substituted for ground ginger)*
                    ¼ tsp ground cloves

In large bowl:
                    Beat 2 eggs 
                    Stir in 15 oz can pumpkin
                    Stir in ¼ tsp vanilla extract*
                    Stir in sugar-and-spice mixture
                    Very gradually stir in 1 can (approx 12 oz) condensed milk*

Pour into 9" square glass baking dish

Bake for 15 minutes at 425 F

Reduce temperature to 350 F

Bake until knife inserted near center comes out clean (this was approx 50 minutes)

Let cool on metal rack for two hours 


Verdict: It turned out well, except that it was actually a little sweeter than I expected.  It wasn't until I started writing this post that I realized why: I'd accidentally used sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk!  So it might not be necessary to reduce the sugar further next time.  I'll just try using evaporated milk.

FN* Here are the alterations:
  • no pie shell
  • ½ C sugar instead of ¾ C sugar
  • ¼ tsp cardamom instead of ½ tsp ground ginger
  • original recipe did not call for vanilla
  • condensed milk instead of evaporated milk

Villanelle I

This is my first-ever (and so far only) villanelle.  I wrote it for one of my fellow Mythgard students, as a birthday challenge, and have slightly adapted it for publication here.  "Verlyn" refers to my hero Dr. Verlyn Flieger, a great light in the world of Tolkien studies.  "Corey" refers to Dr. Corey Olsen, the founder of Mythgard, whose irrepressible and highly contagious enthusiasm for the works we study routinely induces him to prepare far more slides for each lecture than he can possibly cover.  So of course we kid him that we are placing bets on how many slides he will get through during class.
Tolkien studies offer us a glimpse of heaven,
Verlyn our professor, Mythgard's mighty spark.
Hunched at my computer and it's past eleven. 
Cast aside my law books with their dry "replevin,"
"heretofores," "whereases," and judicial snark --
Tolkien studies offer us a glimpse of heaven. 
Knocking back espressos with some cream from Devon.
Haven't read Beorhtnoth - hope it is not too dark.
Hunched at my computer and it's past eleven. 
Deadlines they are looming, it’s my Armageddon.
Typing at the keyboard with the thrush and lark!
Tolkien studies offer us a glimpse of heaven. 
Thoughts are effervescing much like yeast or leaven,
Can I write a thesis on Huan's last bark?
Hunched at my computer and it's past eleven. 
Corey's slides win wagers (they'll be less than seven!),
Images by webcam glowing in the dark.
Tolkien studies offer us a glimpse of heaven
Hunched at my computer and it's past eleven.
Jun. 2013, rev. Feb. 2014

Great poetry it ain't, but it was fun to write.