Monthly Archives: January 2011

Photo Friday: Ghost Sign

While in New York (site of last week’s Photo Friday), I became completely entranced with “Ghost Signs”, faded advertising signs painted on the sides of brick buildings. Most of these are from decades ago. Some are faded beyond recognition. Many offer goods and services that have seen more popular times: millinery, lithography, shirtwaists, coatfronts, sewing machines, steam heat, furs and skins, paper and twine.

As I walked around Manhattan’s streets, gazing up and peering around corners for ghost signs, I felt like an urban archeologist. Each sign held a clue to past generations. Each felt like a surprise to discover, as well as a fleeting treat. I knew that the next time I might pass this way, the sign could very well be faded completely, lost to memory — or lost to new construction, as glass and steel might completely cover it up, much the way the tearing down of old buildings to make way for new ones may have led to some of these old ghost signs seeing the light of day once more.

I try to photograph ghost signs wherever I go. I have found New York City and Portland, Oregon, to be especially rich places for them, in addition to forgotten main streets and quiet roads where rural barns advertise tobaccos and colas. Look for an upcoming post that will feature more.

In the meantime, keep observing, wandering, and being open to a surprise or two. Last week reader Alice sent a link to this story on Slow Photography, which is more about the joyful process of taking pictures than it is about the finished result. (Thank you Alice. See Alice’s photos on flickr.)

Have you seen and photographed something unusual, whimsical, beautiful, or otherwise interesting in your travels? Has anything surprised you or caused you to pause? Or have you simply experienced a small, lovely moment that you wanted to capture? If so, I hope you’ll share with us by leaving a comment with a link to your photo. I look forward to seeing it!

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

Photo Friday: Empire State

Photography is a wonderful activity for the “slow”. When I find myself wandering around with a camera (which is most of the time), I tend to look up and around more than usual, seeking those things which are just out of the ordinary. Senses are heightened, connections are made.

It is in that spirit that I start this Photo Friday feature. I hope you’ll be inspired to share your own photos and observations — any time!

Walking in New York City’s plant district last summer, I was very amused to come upon this extreme juxtaposition of the leafy and the urban. Of course the phrase, “It’s a jungle out there” sprang to mind. I spent a whole free weekend walking, photographing, experiencing and seeing that wonderful city. It gave me complete joy.

Have you seen and photographed something unusual, whimsical, beautiful, or otherwise interesting in your travels? Has anything surprised you or caused you to pause? Or have you simply experienced a small, lovely moment that you wanted to capture? If so, I hope you’ll share with us by leaving a comment with a link to your photo. I look forward to seeing it!

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

Easy Stir-Fried Ginger Chicken in Lettuce Cups

Some good friends recently made this dish for us. It was so tasty, healthy and filling that I asked for the recipe and quickly tried it at home. When my daughter licked her plate clean, I knew I had a winner, and this dish quickly became a staple at our house.

Officially called Stir-fried Garlic Chicken with Cilantro, the dish was pioneered by inventive San Francisco chefs Anne and David Gingrass of Postrio and Hawthorne Lane restaurants. In addition to being tasty and easy to make, it’s low in fat, and the ginger and garlic offer powerful health benefits. You can adjust the spices to your tastes. I like the dish on the gingery side.

2 pounds coarsely ground boneless and skinless chicken (leg meat is ideal)
1 teaspoon chili flakes, or more to your taste
2-4 cloves finely chopped garlic (the original recipe calls for 4 Tbsp.)
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
4 scallions, thinly sliced
Leaves from 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8 cups loosely packed julienned spinach leaves
24 outer leaves of radicchio or other lettuce
Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish

1. In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken with the chili flakes and 2 tablespoons each of the garlic and ginger. Mix gently until flavorings are evenly distributed.

2. To prepare the stir-fried chicken, heat a wok or large skillet until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then the chicken mixture. Stir-fry slowly over medium heat, allowing the meat to brown lightly. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons each garlic and ginger and stir-fry quickly over high heat until fragrant, then add the red wine vinegar, soy sauce and demi-glace. With the pan still on high heat, let the liquid reduce until it begins to coat the meat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the scallions and cilantro; then toss to mix thoroughly.

3. Make a vinaigrette for the spinach in a large salad bowl by whisking together 2 tablespoons olive oil with the sherry vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Toss the spinach with the vinaigrette to coat it lightly. Place 3 radicchio leaves on each plate, then fill the leaves with the spinach salad. Spoon a small amount of the stir-fried chicken over the spinach and garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Yield: 8 servings.

Here are more tasty and low-fat recipes. Enjoy!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Slow News: Movement to Restore Free Play Gains Momentum

As many of you know, I’ve been riding the hobby horse of free play for some time on this blog, as have many other delightful and like-minded colleagues.

Now the New York Times has chimed in:  The culture of play is vanishing, Hilary Stout writes. It’s an all-too-familiar tale — children’s face-time with electronic screens is growing, their outdoor world and their freedom within it are shrinking. Organized activities have replaced imaginary and child-directed ones. Fear of litigation and/or academic fallout have caused some schools to do away with recess. Some parents hover; some are too busy; some don’t like the mess ..

It has all added up to a culture in which free play is not valued or experienced. The New York Times tells us that the tide may be turning. They cite many groups that are working toward enhanced free play, such as Kaboom and Play for Tomorrow, which created a “play day” in New York’s Central Park last fall, with more than 50,000 attendees!

People, clearly, yearn to play.

The folks at the Rhode Island Children’s Museum would concur. Their Play Power program largely came about because they noticed that children were starting to be conditioned to want to be told the “right way” to play. And parents seemed to be oriented to outcomes, rather than the process of playing.

From the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, NY, comes this resource about the benefits of free play.

Susan Linn, author of The Case for Make Believe, has a lot to say about children’s need for play, including:

A good toy, a toy that nurtures creative play is ninety percent child and only ten percent toy.

From Education.com comes a really good piece about the importance of free play, how it may have been lost and how to get it back.

Last April, I wrote about the trend toward toys that fostered children’s imaginations and led to open-ended play, and included the wonderful story of the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose, CA, which built a whole Box City when they realized that kids were happier playing with empty boxes than with some of their installations.

Since then, I came across another delightful tale of box play.

Other great resources and people fostering the free play movement include The Alliance for Childhood, The National Institute for Play, Playborhood, and The Children & Nature Network, among others. (There are more on the Slow Family Resource Page.)

Want to explore more? The U.S. Play Coalition is holding a Conference on the Value of Play, Feb 6-9 at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C.

Whatever you do, keep playing! And fostering a love of play in your kids.

Related Posts on Slow Family: Babies Learn by Playing

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman