Space Window at the National Cathedral: Washington, DC

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Moon Rock detail, Space WIndow

For people visiting Washington DC this week, hopes of seeing the Air & Space Museum’s wonders are looking to be dashed with the US government shutdown closing all Smithsonian museums.

Hope is not lost entirely though, for a rather special window at Washington’s National Cathedral features a moon rock, brought back by Neil Armstrong, within its beautiful stained glass design.

The window is not the only ode to space in the cathedral. Look carefully upwards and you may spot some space-themed designs worked into the masonry. Free guided tours are recommended in order to spot them all.

Venturing into the realm of space fantasy, a grotesque of Darth Vader can also be spotted high up on the cathedral’s northwest tower.

A magnificent sight to behold, a visit to America’s second-largest (and the world’s sixth-largest) cathedral is a must for space and architecture enthusiasts alike.

Darth Vader

Space Window photo courtesy of space.com

Darth Vader photo courtesy of nationalcathedral.org

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Contemporary Art at the Cathedral of St John the Divine

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Detail from Jane Alexander, ‘Convoy’, photomontage (2008). © Jane Alexander

In New York’s unforgiving heat, worshippers and tourists alike breathe easy upon stepping into the cool shelter of the cavernous Cathedral of St John the Divine. As industrial fans are set to full-force, the astounding architecture and history of America’s largest church is not all that awaits visitors.

Until Monday 29th July, church guests have the opportunity to see South African artist Jane Alexander’s unusual and haunting exhibition ‘Surveys (from the Cape of Good Hope)’, taking place within the cathedral.Known for her exploration of racial and political themes stemming from the apartheid regime in her homeland, Alexander’s first major exhibition in New York can also apply to racial and cultural issues on our own home front, reignited most recently by George Zimmerman’s trial for the killing of Florida teen, Trayvon Martin.

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The strangeness of Alexander’s work – a collection of sculptural installations and photomontage  – is enhanced by its setting in the Morningside Heights church. The installations that are found in and around the rear chapels of the cathedral bring to mind the diorama of a nativity scene; though in this case the baby Jesus and farm animals are replaced with dark imagery of half-human beasts, contorted by the forces of society. It raises questions to the viewer of what values our culture deems important and the darkness it tends to set its focus on.

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Alexander’s creations while alarming at first glance, do convey a sense of hope and innocence upon further contemplation. Her contemporary works, engulfed by such traditional and familiar symbols, are well worth a visit uptown for.

The exhibition is presented in association with the Museum of African Art, and curated by Pep Subirós.

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Photographs courtesy of the New York Times, Shared Interest and africasacountry.com 

This Weekend in Central Park: Free Theater

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The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Amphitheater may be the most famous theater one can find in Central Park, but it is not the only theater company taking advantage of the city’s best free stage. Two other companies will be performing this weekend, both also free. And for these shows, you don’t even need to book tickets — just show up!

First up are the Spontaneous Shakespeare Players, who will be performing Hamlet at Summit Rock, located near the 86th Street park entrance at Central Park West. The SSP theater company is known for performing as closely to the way in which Shakespeare plays were performed in the Elizabethan Age, for those who like an authentic Shakespearean experience. Catch them at 12pm on Saturday, June 22nd, or 3pm on Sunday, June 23rd.

If Shakespeare isn’t your thing, why not see Chekhov’s The Seagull, which is being performed by The New York Classical Theatre company. Set against the backdrop of The Pool, this performance is “roving” — starting on one side of the mini-lake, and ending up on the other. It’s fun, and very much suitable for the ADD-inclined (ahem, yours truly), not only because it physically moves around, but because of the marvelous distractions of the other goings-on in the area.

At last weekend’s performance, across the lake by which the play is set, six children tumbled, giggled and rolled their way down the hill. Moments later a dog-walker cuts through a gap in the audience, and the action shifts to five rottweillers working in unison to carry a prized 5-foot-long stick (it was actually more like a log). By no means are these distractions so successful because of the quality of the show – the play itself is first-rate, as praised recently by The New York Times. Rather than take away from the performance, these distractions add a fun element to the experience (although the actors may not feel as enthused).

The Seagull will be played at 7pm on June 21st, 22nd and 23rd. Find it by entering the park at the 103rd Street entrance at Central Park West.

Recipe of the Week: Delicious Low-Cal BBQ Chicken Salad

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I came up with this recipe while trying to create a meal that is low in carbs and calories, but is still delicious, nutritious — and filling. My problem whenever I try to reign-in my eating is that I’m left feeling unsatisfied, and worse — still hungry.

This salad is really simple and quick to put together. There are few ingredients, but it is still very healthy. Poaching is the healthiest way to cook chicken, and doing so carefully ensures it doesn’t dry out. Along with the protein in the chicken, the healthy fats and fiber in the avocado help in making you feel full, as well as providing vitamin E and anti-inflammatory properties. The romaine lettuce and arugula are packed with vitamins and minerals, and of course the chia seeds are a powerhouse of nutrients, providing omega-3 fatty acids, as well as protein and fiber.

The nutritional details are at the bottom of the post. The serving below comes out at just 195 calories. For a heartier serve, you could double the amount of chicken, while only adding an extra 50 calories. Enjoy!

Ingredients: 1 serving

1-2 large handfuls romaine lettuce

1 handful arugula

1/2 boneless, skinless chicken breast (organic free-range)

1/4 avocado

1/2 lemon

1 tsp chia seeds

1 tbs BBQ sauce (I’m currently hooked on Annie’s Naturals Organic BBQ Sauce)

Black pepper

 

1. Place the chicken in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer then poach, semi-covered, for 10 minutes, or until cooked.

2. While chicken is cooking, tear up lettuce & arugula leaves, scatter some diced avocado throughout. Give the lemon a good squeeze over it.

3. Once chicken is cooked, drain and shred in a small bowl. Add the BBQ sauce, tossing the chicken pieces so that they are completely covered.

4. Add the chicken pieces to the salad. Grind some black pepper over the top, scattering the chia seeds as a final touch.

 

Nutritional info:

Calories: 195

Fat: 11.2 gm

Carb: 6.7 gm

Fibre: 5 gm

Protein: 14 gm

United States Botanical Garden: Washington DC

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Museum foyer

A few weekends ago I woke in NYC to torrential rain and unseasonably cold weather. Determined not to spend the following days cooped up in my apartment, I made a bee-line for the Megabus, and 4 hours later I was in splendid, sunny Washington DC.

Having made zero-to-few plans, I wandered out of Union Station and down towards the Capitol. One of the things I love about DC is that it’s such a joy just to wander around. Unlike New York, there’s no bustle or shoving, and though it’s tourist-packed, there’s enough space to keep people out of yours.

On the far side of the Capitol building, at the start of the National Mall’s many museums and galleries, is the United States Botanical Garden. Dating back to 1820, it is the oldest botanical garden in North America. Not only is walking through the living museum like stepping into paradise, it is a place to discover fascinating plant species, many of which are important not only to the planet’s eco-systems, but also to humans in economic, cultural, and medical circumstances.

Best of all, it’s a sensory pleasure — the array of beautiful flowers and smells is what captivated me most. Here are some snaps of the pretty plants — mainly orchids, I can’t resist them!

Recipe of the Week: Avocado, Parsley & Lime on Toast

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When it comes to breakfast I’m a creature of habit — I’ll fall in love with a meal and do it to death, then suddenly I can’t touch it for half a year. Hopefully my current obsession lasts, because it’s so delicious, so healthy and so simple to put together! I can’t say I came up with it on my own — it’s a slight variation of a Nigella Lawson bruschetta recipe. Love that woman.

I usually need some kind of protein in the morning to stay satisfied for longer than a couple of hours, but I find the healthy fat & fiber in the avocado (along with the fiber in the bread) keeps me nice and content through lunchtime.

1 slice of bread (I like either light wholegrain or rye)

½ an avocado

½ a lime

a pinch of sea salt

freshly-ground white pepper

fresh parsley

While your bread is toasting, mash the avocado in a bowl, mixing in the juice of the lime. Lump it all on top of your toast, tear some parsley leaves over it, and sprinkle some salt and pepper on top. Too easy!

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Bees in the Meidiland Roses

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These gorgeous Coral Meidiland roses seem to always be in bloom. They are a very popular with bees — a critter whose population is dwindling at an alarming rate. If you’re into gardening, do Mother Nature a favour and get yourself one of these beautiful plants — or give one as a gift!

Coral Meidiland rose

Preparing to land

Coral Meidiland rose

Harvesting the pollen