finding inspiration

So what does one do when it’s spring, but the temperatures are beyond chilly and the winds are whipping the little blooms right off the trees?  You go to a museum for inspiration. It’s interesting, I’ve never been a museum person until I found my passion for photography.  Somewhere along this journey of mine I heard someone say…museums will give you inspiration, and it doesn’t have to be just a photography exhibit.  How true I’ve found that to be.

Ever since a couple of years ago when I walked by an amazing mansion on the Upper East Side here in Manhattan and learned that it was being transformed into a 21st-century museum, I’ve eagerly awaited the opening of…The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.

Cooper Hewitt Design Museum NYC

But in full disclosure, it wasn’t the museum per se that I was eagerly waiting for…but just the opportunity to see inside of this home…as the beautiful copper and glass canopy at the main entrance certainly had me at hello.

Cooper Hewitt Design Museum

Just imagine back in 1898 when the owner, Andrew Carnegie, decided to purchase property way north of where his peers were living.  There he built this 64 room mansion for him and his wife to raise their daughter along with their 20 servants.  Not to paint him as someone who flaunted his wealth…from what I’ve read he purposely moved to this area to escape the highfuluting behavior of the people living along Millionaire Row in the Upper East Side.   Carnegie also bequeathed considerable amounts of money to his staff as well, as he considered them members of his family…not to mention what he did with his fortune by establishing over 2,500 public libraries and other institutions of higher learning.

I’d read up a little on the mansion prior to my visit.  Articles that mentioned Carnegie’s insistence on modern technology…the first private residence with a structural steel frame…one of the first to a have a residential Otis passenger elevator…a sub-basement that housed a minature railroad track for a miner’s cart to get coal to the boilers to heat the house…one of the first to have air conditioning…the list goes on. Now imagine what Carnegie would think if he knew his home had turned into one of the most technologically advanced museums in the country!

Cooper Hewitt Design museum in niece

Upon arrival you’re given an interactive pen to use on various touchscreen tables throughout the museum…making the museum experience much more interactive.  As an example…the Immersion Room.  Oh my…one can play designer and explore an amazing collection of wallpapers.  By using the pen and touchscreen you can explore patterns and color, mix and match borders while projecting it all on the walls of the room.  Who thinks of this stuff??   There’s so much…the Process Lab where you can design solutions through both hands-on and digital activities.  Wow.  Not only a museum, but it’s own on-site, degree granting master’s program making it the authority for the study of design in the United States.

Even the stairwells have design!

stairwell in Cooper Hewitt in NYC

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and happy to be a member…and can’t wait to return to spend more time playing designer and learning more about the mansion transformation.  Then not a block away…I came across the National Academy Museum & School that just happened to have an exhibit…self-portraiture…or as we know today…selfies!  More on that visit another day.  It was equally as awesome.  You gotta love New York!

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend!  gg




Enchantments in the East Village NYC

An aura of mystery…an Addams Family kinda feel…(assuming you’re old enough to remember that show)…and a whole lot of grunge…just the way I like it!  Welcome to Enchantments in the East Village of NYC…filled with friendly witches…personable cats…and lots and lots of incense, candles, essential oils, resins and herbs. Oh, and a great selection of books (occult themed) and cards…think divination and tarot. Oh, oh, oh…and then there’s magical tools…witches brewing pots and such. But if you’re looking to cast a spell on someone…you’ve come to the wrong place…no black magic…only good intentions are promoted here.

It’s obvious from the constant movement of customers to the back of this tiny little store that people are interested in their custom-carved candles. After you belly up to the candle bar, you explain your scenario and the candle witches go to work by customizing a candle and a ritual for you to take home. Perhaps you’re trying to bring clarity to a situation, improve your relationships, or clear away obstacles…whatever…there’s a candle to help you with that.

What really got my attention was the huge collection of pewter talismans hanging above the checkout counter. Now you have to understand…I have an evil eye from Turkey, a hamsa from Morocco and Turkey, a bronze four leaf clover over the entry of both homes, the feng shui mystic knot from Chinatown, a buddha amulet from Thailand and of course numerous buddha statues purchased locally or from travels. So….of course a talisman was a must to add to my growing collection. So I looked and looked and came across the travel talisman. Of course! It was perfect…as the travel talisman is designed to bring good luck, unexpected adventures and protection from accidents, theft and illnesses.

My travel talisman is about an inch in diameter and interestingly enough…handmade in Connecticut right here in the states. If you’re interested, Enchantments has an on-line store within their website if you can’t make it to the city.

pewter travel talisman

I know it all sounds crazy…but I just love these bits and pieces of cultures from throughout the world. And hey…every little bit of good karma helps, right?

Anyway, if you’re into this kind of stuff…Enchantments on E. 9th in the East Village is a must the next time you’re in the area!  Just to poke your head in and look around is a real treat!


p.s. this isn’t a paid advertisement…
I just enjoy sharing unique and interesting businesses when I come across them…
have a great day!  gg

weekend menagerie…

A gorgeous weekend in my city…just meandering around…no agenda…

 let’s see…I came across Earth Day celebrations in Union Square

Union Square Earth Day 2015

Union Square Earth Day 2015

 and PETA was there promoting their Ride the Horseless eCarriage…

(to replace the horse carriages in Central Park…boo)

PETA eCarriage in NYC

and down on the lower east side

a work in progress…


Lower East Side NYC

and then out the blue…<smile>

out of the blue in niece

and to finish the day…a stop in New York City’s oldest occult store…

But that’s for another post on another day…so stay tuned! gg

spring fever in the city!

daffodil project in nyc

Walking through New York City and seeing the amazing variety of daffodils popping up everywhere…prompted a google search.  Do you know there’s somewhere between 40 to 200 species and over 25,000 cultivated varieties…now that’s a lot of different daffodils!  And can you believe the last bulb count for the city was around five million?  The largest volunteer effort in the city’s history…since 2001…parks, schools, businesses, individuals have (and continue to) plant daffodil bulbs as a living memorial to September 11.  When I learned that six years ago…that daffodils had been planted in remembrance of those who perished during 9/11…I can no longer look at a daffodil without thinking of all of the lives lost…a touching memorial that will continue to remind us year after year…

Sharing some images for my impressionist photography class…taken while enjoying an early morning walk in Central Park and looking at thousands of daffodils!

impressionist photography


impressionist photography


impressionist photography


impressionist photography

 We’re not bursting with bloom…yet…but we’re getting there!

Hope you’re enjoying a colorful day wherever you live! gg

slowing down…

Isle Lake, Myanmar

So I’m back in my city…and I bet you thought a New York City street scene would be showcased, ha!  Actually, instead of hitting the streets, I’ve been heavy into getting my travel photos all loaded, backed up, organized, you name it.  As a photographer, I experienced something often read about…and that’s to return to your photos a few months later and take another look.  And look what I found.  This photo never even hit my radar screen back in December/early January when I was working through them, but oh how it takes me back to that very moment of excitement when dusk took over…creating a silvery golden cast on the water and a blue glow from the low hanging smoke that floated across the villages at Inle Lake in Myanmar.  This image takes me right back to that very moment.

So this experience (and a couple in the villages of Nicaragua) really got me thinking about when I have that feeling…that feeling when my heart starts racing and I’m so excited about getting “the” shot. How I often think I need to s-l-o-w down…feel it…smell it…and let my intuition guide me.  That’s the difference in taking a photograph and making one, I think.  And that’s exactly what I’m learning now with Eva Polak’s on-line course.  To slow down.  

But let me back up…for a number of years I’ve been enamored with impressionist photography.  This type of photography continues to surface in my library of images and when it does…I fall even more in love with the soft, dreamy, painterly feel of the scene.  I’m only into week one of Eva’s course, but already I know this is exactly what I needed to continue on the path of unraveling my vision for my photography.  For the first time, I’m recording my thoughts and reflections from my photoshoots…visual journaling as she calls it.

But, that doesn’t mean I won’t be hitting the streets!  But, before I go there…I’ll give you a peek at a series of Arizona sunsets I’m putting together…and will continue to work on as I return several times to the desert during the remainder of this year.  This is all such a journey…and one that I’ll continue to share as it moves along…

Arizona sunset - impressionist photography

More soon!  gg

giving you the world…

night-blooming cereus

When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment.

I want to give that world to someone else.

The night-blooming cereus cactus (in the backyard of my Arizona home) had only bloomed a couple of times over the past years…and when it did…only one or two blooms…max.  So you can imagine my excitement when I saw all of these little buds one day…and from then on…I checked on it daily…

Then one day it looked like this…

night-blooming cereus

And 24 hours later it looked like this…and realize I had only one day left (before I headed east) to capture this amazing sight…so it really needed to h-u-r-r-y and b-l-o-o-m!

night-blooming cereus

And then that day…as if in fast motion…the blooms started opening and that meant many trips throughout the day to see what was happening…you see this type of cacti only blooms once a year…and only for about 24 hours!

night-blooming cereus

That night, with a flash light, I went out and sure enough…20 of the 22 blooms had opened.  The next morning I woke up early…just like a child on Christmas morning…the sweet aroma permeated the air as soon as I opened the door to the backyard…if I could’ve only captured that fragrance too!

night-blooming cereus

So all morning long I played and played…

and like Georgia O’Keeffe said in her quote…

and now I offer you the world…

to take a moment…to relish in the beauty.

night-blooming cereus

night-blooming cereus

night-blooming cereus

night-blooming cereus

This very day was also the one year anniversary of my daddy’s passing…

and something tells me he played a big part in making sure I relished in the beauty as well…

Have a wonderful weekend…so happy to be back in MY city! gg

harvesting coffee beans in nicaragua

coffee bean harvesting in nicaragua

Being a farm girl…checking out a coffee plantation has always been on the “must experience” list.  So visiting Nicaragua was the perfect opportunity since coffee production is an important part of this country’s history and economy.  How fortunate to see the process on what turned out to be the very last day of harvest!

Kilimanjaro Coffee Plantation in Nicaragua

Kilimanjaro Coffee Plantation in Nicaragua

The Kilimanjaro Coffee plantation is located on about 500 acres in the hills of San Rafael del Norte in the Jinotega area of Nicaragua.  Pictured on the right in the above image is the owner, Andres.  He explained that his father named the plantation after seeing the movie…Kilimanjaro which is why we have a coffee plantation in Nicaragua named after Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa!   Really enjoyed knowing that the plantation is multi-generational and even his sons are now involved in the business.  As much as I love coffee, I’ve never really had the opportunity to understand how it’s grown and harvested.

The plant itself is like a large shrub…growing as tall as a small tree.  Banana trees are tossed in the mix to provide shade as well as yummy afternoon treats.  (voice of experience)

Kilimanjaro Coffee Plantation in Nicaragua


Kilimanjaro Coffee Plantation in Nicaragua

Who knew the fruit which contains the bean is called a cherry? This particular plantation selectively pick the ripe cherries (red ones) by hand…a very labor intensive process.  My understanding…since this was the last day of harvest…all beans were picked and then sorted by removing the green ones.

Kilimanjaro Coffee Plantation in Nicaragua

Kilimanjaro Coffee Plantation in Nicaragua

Kilimanjaro Coffee Plantation in Nicaragua

This was the very last load of the harvest for this season…

Kilimanjaro Coffee Plantation in Nicaragua

The cherries are processed using the wet method…meaning they are passed through a pulping machine where the skin and pulp is separated from the bean.  The pulp is washed away with water, usually dried and used as mulch.  After several additional steps, the beans are then ready to be dried.  For this particular plantation, the beans are dried at another facility in another town.  It was fascinating to view up close and personal the harvest process!

Returning home after a hard day’s work…you know they must be tired!

Kilimanjaro Coffee Plantation in Nicaragua


This pretty much sums up my trip to Nicaragua.  I do have one more post that I’ll share soon…the hospital in Jinotega where the surgical missions are performed.  To give you an idea…I got one bad ass case of chiggers (in the mite family) in this hospital that I’m pretty much over at this point…minus the scarring which I’ve read could last for a real long time.  So let’s just say I don’t have a lot of affection for that place, ha!  There’s also many one-off type images – abstract, wabi-sabi, contemplative – to name a few…that will be sprinkled in via the blog or Instagram in the future. But what a trip!  Thank you all for tagging along and providing such wonderful thoughts and comments along the way!

It’s been wonderful to be in the desert this time of year and I’ll miss the afternoons on the patio and evenings by the fire…but now I’m off to the farm in Virginia…before I head north to my city!  Yeah…summer in the city!!

Chat soon! gg

my buddy santos

esperança mission in nicaragua

Throughout the time on the Rio Coco, my thoughts were often on “the story” that would tell how a person’s life would be forever changed due to this surgical mission.  It was the very last day on the river that the perfect individual arrived on the scene.  It was Santos…a 36 year old…from a community within Penas Blancas…an area that’s part of the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve in Nicaragua.  He had walked to the village of Par Par (our last stop) and had waited a day or so for us to pick him up.  During the first two days of being together, I checked on him often and slowly began to earn his trust.  The morning of his surgery, using an interpreter, he agreed to tell us his story.

santos and gg


As a small child I knew I was different from others…and people would often laugh at me. I didn’t go to school for that reason, so today I cannot read or write.  I did have an opportunity to have surgery when I was very young, but my father died and I had to move in with my uncle.  There was no money to pay for the surgery.  Even years later there was an opportunity, but there was never enough money.  Then just recently, I learned through the local clinic that a boat would take me if I wanted to have surgery.  I am very comfortable and confident about having the surgery and I’m very thankful to have this opportunity.

Santos is married and has three children…a son and two daughters…the oldest being six years old.  He provides for his family using his uncles’s land to grow beans and corn.  He doesn’t have any animals to tend to, but uses his machete to clear the land and work the fields. Until this trip he had never been anywhere outside of his community. His cousin accompanied him, leaving his wife and children for over a week to make this journey and have his surgery.  When we asked what would be the first thing he’ll do when he returns home…I want to take good care of my surgery.


esperanca mission in nicaragua

His surgery was very successful and was made even better by two dentists that came along with Dr. Retson and his team.  This was Santos just a day after his surgery and already we could see what a huge difference the surgery had made, even with all the swelling.

esperança mission in nicaragua


 Another 24 hours…the day of departure…

…a life forever changed.

Healing, Health and Hope

 photo courtesy of Healing, Health, and Hope


The ultimate would be to return one day to locate Santos and his family and see how he’s getting along…perhaps a future visit?  As I mentioned in my previous posting, it takes the amazing work of Esperanca, Healing, Health, and Hope and of course all the donations from people like you and me to make this all possbile.  How fortunate we all are to be a part of it!

Next up?  A visit to a coffee plantation!

the medical mission…the people…

Esperanca medical mission in nicaragua

During the seven days on the Rio Coco in Nicaragua, we traveled a total of 340 miles and visited 14 villages and returned with seven patients and eight guardians.  All of the patients we found (and subsequently delivered to the hospital in Jinotega) were children, with the exception of one and that was a 36 year old male, Santos.  You’ll hear more about my buddy Santos in the next post.  He so deserves his very own post!

I just picked a few…some from the villages along the Rio Coco…some from the surrounding areas of Jinotega…but all in all there were 31 lives changed during the week from various surgical procedures.

First up is Gabriela and her family…Gabriela is in the purple top standing between her parents.

Gabriela's family in the remote villages along the Rio Coco in Nicaragua

Gabriela’s father (Vincente) accompanied her on the trip just like he did last year when she had her cleft lip repaired.  She never spoke a word…so not sure if she couldn’t due to her palate issues or if she was just too timid.  Gabriela was scheduled for a palate repair this trip, but unfortunately 24 hours prior to surgery her father received word that his sister had passed away suddenly in the exact hospital where we were located. Imagine after a grueling trip coming right off the Rio Coco and then having to return almost as soon as they arrived…it was just heartbreaking.  I could only take this one photo (below) before the family and the casket began to fill the ambulance. They would begin the long drive to the launching point on the river and then who knows how long it would take to return to their village.  I can’t imagine how hard it was going to be to find a panga (boat) that could handle such a load and get them to their village for the burial…not to mention the price…even though several of us pitched in to help make that happen.   It was a very emotional departure for me…after seeing what both of them had gone through just to be a part of the medical mission and then to experience a death in the family and have their hopes and dreams just vanish within minutes…I just couldn’t photograph the ending.  Hopefully Gabriela and her father will be able to return again in August when the next plastic surgery mission will be made possible by EsperancaDr. Nicholas Retson’s nonprofit…Healing, Health, and Hope and the many donors like you and me.

ambulance at the Jinotega hospital in Nicaragua


Then there’s Jaxi…also in purple standing between her parents.  Of course it seemed the entire village came out to see us too!  Jaxi recognized a couple of the members in our group and those memories from last year when she had her cleft lip repaired brought many tears.

family along the rio coco in nicaragua

She never smiled until we were leaving…little did she know at the time we’d be back to pick her up…as we made our way back down the river.  Her grandmother accompanied her…and Jaxi finished up the week in Jinotega with a fixed palate and all went well!

family on the rio coco, nicaragua



My first introduction to Yeslin was at the hospital…walking around blasting music from someone’s mobile phone. The total opposite of the quiet children from the villages along Rio Coco.  To give her something to do besides drive us crazy with her music…we put a camera in her hand!

children for the Esperanca surgical mission in Nicaragua

As you can see below…she had a sheet for her bed with blankets and toys…totally different from the children from the villages who had very little.  In fact…from this photo one would think the hospital was just as we’d expect here in the states…but in a future post, you’ll see this is so far from reality.

esperança medical mission in nicaragua

This is Abner…he lived just a couple of streets from the hospital in Jinotega…and came to have his fused fingers separated.  So polite and excellent English!  He was thrilled to have one of our backpacks, as well as some clothing that we brought to all the children.

Esperanca surgical mission in Nicaragua


Bryan was our rock star.  So adorable…I mean really…does it get any cuter?  I’m sure he thought I was some kind of magician when I pulled that frog out of my pocket!

Esperanca surgical mission in Nicaragua

Bryan had a tooth in his palate area that needed to be surgically removed.  Of course they’re all angels when they’re sleeping, right!

Esperanca surgical mission in Jinotega, Nicaragua


This is Eyner…he had his palate fixed, but unfortunately there was nothing that could be done for his eye.  To help pass time…my Fujifilm Instax mini camera saved the day and brought many smiles to both the children and the parents.

Esperanca surgical mission in Nicaragua


There’s so much more…but I think you get the idea.  What a gift to have seen up close how donations…from a few dollars a month from many donors…to the thousands that the surgical teams spend…can make all this happen!

Have a wonderful weekend!