Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Amalia’s Egg-straordinary Manhattan Adventure

Last week I was in Manhattan, where Spring is in full bloom (not like here in Massachusetts), and I got to tag along after granddaughter Amalia, 2 ½, to see how a preschooler who lives on the Upper East Side fills her days.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays she has yoga at a nearby store called Sprout, with teachers Rebecca and Samara.

It includes headstands, tree pose while balancing, and, her favorite-- kicking at bubbles.  There are stories and songs too.

We went to Central Park every day, stopping to admire the gardens in front of some brownstones.

In Central Park the daffodils and lots of other flowers were in bloom.

Some days the playground was crowded.  Amalia had new sand toys for building castles and hiding treasures.  She’s getting better at sharing.

Other days, especially in the late afternoon, we had the playground to ourselves.

We ate with Mommy at some of Amalia’s favorite restaurants, including Big Daddy’s Diner.

And had breakfast with Uncle Bob and Aunt Robin at Alice’s Teacup, featuring Amalia’s new favorite food—pancakes.

Everywhere we went we encountered giant eggs decorated by artists.  There are nearly 300 of them “hidden” around Manhattan and on April 22 they will be sold at a Grand Auction. The bids are already coming in—each egg starts at $500 and the egg by Jeff Koons (we didn’t see it) has already hit $360,000.  

The money will be used for art education for New York City’s children and to aid Asia’s endangered elephants.  And weekly prizes of jeweled egg pendants are being given away.  If you want to know more, check at

When we went into the Metropolitan Museum on Friday afternoon, we found three more giant eggs.

We were coming for dinner at the Petrie Court Café, which Amalia likes because she can run around and look at things, but first she wanted to show me the Temple of Dendur in the Sackler Wing.

Especially her beloved alligator.

And she had to throw some pennies into the reflecting pool to make wishes.

Then we walked through the American Wing to get to the Café.

Amalia discovered that she could make a hat out of her napkin.

She had salmon and noodles and strawberry ice cream for dessert at the end of an exciting day, but sometimes, after her adventures, Amalia has to take a power nap on the way home.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Are You Ready for the Blood Moon?


As you probably know, tonight is the beginning of Passover.  You may also know that tonight we have a full moon—and the full moon will experience a total eclipse, climaxing between 3:07 and 4:25 Eastern Standard Time tomorrow morning (April 15—income tax day.).

But did you know that the moon will appear to be red in color and that this is referred to as a “Blood Moon”?  And even more rare—tonight’s blood moon will be the first of four such full moons—each appearing six months after the last one—occurring through 2014 and 2015.  Four blood moons are called a Lunar Tetrad and a Tetrad, according to the Bible –is what will happen to mark the end of days.

“The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood before the great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.”

(This theory has been publicized by Pastor John Hagee in his 2013 book “Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change.”)

So are you ready for the end of the world? 

Happy Passover!  Pesach Sameach!

P.S. I don’t really believe this, of course, but I’m always fascinated by superstitions and the way they are often shared by completely unrelated ethnic groups and how they often seem to have roots in ancient pre-Christian times.

Here’s one that I heard recently, first as a Greek superstition, then I learned it was also a popular belief in Viet Nam:  If two siblings get married in the same year, one of those marriages will end in divorce.

But why?

Do you have any mysterious superstitions to share?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Aging Gracefully vs. Cosmetic Intervention

Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

When I saw the large photograph of Dr. Fredric Brandt, the “King of Collagen” on the front of last Sunday’s New York Times Styles section, I was startled by the image of an expressionless face with red over-puffed lips and a gold halo around his head like that of a saint on a Greek Orthodox icon.

My first thought was that it was Bruce Jenner, father to the Kardashian klan, who seems to be turning from a man into a woman with the help of cosmetic fillers and plastic surgery.

But no, it was an article on dermatologist Fredric Brandt, who is evidently the leading doctor of choice with celebrities like Madonna and Stephanie Seymour, thanks to his ability to keep them looking ageless.  According to The Times, “Dr. Brandt is the designated magician responsible for keeping faces both well known and otherwise in states of extraordinary preservation. …The 64-year-old physician acts as the syringe-wielding wizard responsible for using techniques like his signature Y lifts—in which fillers are injected below the cheekbones—to hold back time for any number of supermodels, trophy wives, celebrities and industrial titans of either sex.”

The author of the article, Guy Trebay, responded to a comment by Dr. Brandt that some Hollywood stars want to cut too soon, to overfill, “When there’s too much pulling, too many procedures, you lose the softness along with the personality of the face…” by asking him if he felt his experiments on himself had produced that effect.  Brandt replied, “People think I look pretty good.”

Now I’m not in a position to criticize people for using cosmetic surgery, since I’ve written several articles for Vogue magazine on the subject of my two facelifts over the past 20 years and a go-around with “Fraxel: Repair” laser treatment five years ago. (I’m now 73.).  But my gut reaction to The Times’ photograph of Dr. Brandt was that he’d be an ideal candidate to play a vampire in one of those films that have become so popular recently. His skin is so taut and his face so pale (except for the red puffy lips) that he seems embalmed.

This was much like the reaction my husband had to the sight of Kim Novak in her much-discussed appearance at the Oscars.  (I missed it, but looked her up later.  The problem that both Kim Novak and Dr. Brandt seem to have is:  too much filler and too much Botox, eliminating all the expression lines that make a face individual.)

On Sunday I saw the article on Brandt, then on Tuesday I looked up the reactions on-line to the piece.  I wondered if I was the only one appalled by the famous doctor’s work on himself, but after reading 106 comments, I learned that the vast majority of the reactions echo my thoughts—that the doctor’s appearance is “super creepy” and, as one person wrote.  When a doctor can't even perceive his own disfigurement, how could you possibly trust his aesthetic decisions?”

 Monday night, on the Turner Classic Movie channel, I saw an hour-long interview with Eva Marie Saint, talking about her life in films and the leading men and directors she’s worked with.  She said straight out that she was 88 years old (and has been married to the same man for over 60 years.) People, she’s turning 90 on July 4, 2014!

I thought she looked wonderful—she had wrinkles, sure, but they were nice wrinkles.  I can’t tell you if she’s had any “work” done, but her neck did have the turkey wattle effect that is so hard to avoid.  I remembered Eva Marie Saint vividly from her role in “On the Waterfront” with Marlon Brando.  It was her first film and she won an Oscar for it in 1954, when I was 13. It was a shock to see once again in the clips from the film what a young, innocent, almost vulnerable girl she appeared.  But now, at 88, she was confidant, vivacious, funny, smart and she moved with youthful grace—all of which made her seem much younger than her years.

I listened avidly to what she said about her life, hoping to catch some clues as to how she remained so vital.  One thing she emphasized was:  “You have to walk every day—walk for an hour every single day!”  It was also a matter of genes—her mother had lived into her nineties.  And she remarked several times that she had a very happy childhood and a long, loving marriage to a husband who was a director—and thus understood her art as an actress.  But she felt that if she had married a fellow actor—or a lawyer or doctor—there might have been a clash of egos that would doom the marriage.

First I heard about all the plastic surgery digs on the social networks during the Oscars, then last weekend I read about Dr. Brandt and saw the results of his work. Finally, after marveling at how Eva Marie Saint has maintained her verve and beauty for 88 years, I think it’s time for me to stop fighting.

In the last year or so I’ve acquired those fine crepe-y wrinkles around the mouth and eyes. Everyone knows that  people like me, with fair skin and blue eyes, wrinkle sooner and worse than those with darker skin, but I’ve decided to let time take its toll without further cosmetic intervention---except, maybe, just a teensy, tiny shot of Botox between the eyebrows now and then, when I notice that those frown lines are back, making me look perpetually angry.