Thursday, February 27, 2020

Books, Posters and Magic

Framed Tourists on The Highline

One of the things that I really love about living in New York City is that there is always something to do or see. If you are in the city, and you have some time to pass, there are many ways spend that time. I discovered three small museums in the Chelsea/Mid-town south neighborhood that are each a great way to spend an hour or two.

The Center For Book Arts


Most people pickup a book without giving any thought to how it is produced. Why was a particular font chosen? How was the cover designed? What role does the printer play in making the book? The Center for Book Arts is a great place to explore those questions, and others, about typography, book binding, and printing.

Type Trays

The Center “promotes active exploration of both contemporary and traditional artistic practices related to the book as an art object.”( It offers exhibits that explore the interaction between writing and designing books. On display during my visit was “Warren Lehrer: Books, Animation, Performance, Collaboration.” Warren Lehrer (b. 1955) uses typography to capture the shape of language. He sets poems to visually explore the words and ideas presented. (Until March 28).
Dream Invention for Typewriter and Bach



Also on display was “Remembering Walter Hamady: Selections from the Perishable Press.” Hamady (1940-2019) Hamady worked with poets and prose writers to produce limited run books that explored the idea of book as art.

Have you ever wanted to learn how to typeset, or create your own book? The Center also offers classes. You can learn to design and print business cards,  or take a four week course on book binding. Explore your creative side, along with your writing skills.

The International Print Center New York


The IPCNY is “dedicated to innovative presentations of prints by emerging, established national and international artists” ( When I visited, their exhibit, “Homebody” was on display (through March 21). Homebody presents the work of thirty-one contemporary artists from six countries, whose works expire the relationship between personal and domestic structures.

Beauty of America by Kristen Powers Nowlin

Surrender by Robert Hague

The Houdini Museum


If magic is your thing, or if you are at all curious about the life of Harry Houdini, head to The Houdini Museum. It holds over 1500 pieces of memorabilia, including pieces used and/or owned by the famous magician and escape artist. These include artifacts from his act and even from a movie serial that he starred in, along with photographs and posters from his shows.

The museum also offer magic tricks for sale, and they will provide group or private lessons. They host lectures and shows highlighting some of the top magicians around.

So, the next time that you are in New York with some time to kill, or when you want to explore art, design and the craft of putting together beautiful objects and shows, then look to the city’s many small museums and galleries. They offer specialized collections and presentation that give great insight to their work.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Guanacaste, Costa Rica, Old cities, traditional pottery and great food

In Santa Cruz

Some people can head to a resort and just sit on the beach for a week. They are happy to enjoy the sun and sand. But they learn nothing about the country they visit. That is not how I or The Amazing Ms. D travel. So, during our visit to Costa Rica, we hired a driver to give us a private tour of some of the local towns in Guanacaste Provence. We wanted to have a chance to explore a little of the lives of Costa Ricans, or as they call themselves, Ticos.


Our guide picked us up on a Saturday morning, and we headed for our first stop, the city of Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz if the second largest city in Guanacaste. It has a population of around 25,000 people. The city reminded me of many towns in Central America and the Caribbean that have roots in the Spanish colonial era. Its narrow streets are lined with low buildings, with awnings and balconies that provide shade for the people walking below. We parked near the Bernabela Ramos Park, one of the town’s main squares or locals. The center of the square has a covered bandshell that is modeled after the area’s native heritage. There are tree-lined paths and the parks northern side has a stage and performance space that is used to celebrate it festival days.

A local bakery in Santa Cruz

Across the Calle Centrale from the square is the Iglesia Santo Christo de Esquipulas. Santo Christo de Equipulas is one of the “black christ” churches that created by Spanish Missionaries in their effort to convert natives and enslaved Africans. The original church building had fallen into a state where it needed a lot of repairs, and it was torn down, and and replaced with a more modern building. The new church is beautiful in simplicity and its feeling of open space. It is an amazing counter to the tradition of catholic churches, especially in Latin American countries.

The old church tower

Our next stop was in the town of Guaitil. This small town is known as the Pottery Capital of Costa Rica. Guaitil is filled with potters who maintain the Chorotega pottery style. We stopped at the Taller CUDEG, where we met Andy Campos and his wife Maria José Noguera. Maria gave us a tour of their workshop, along with an explanation of the Chorotega process. The hand-made pottery is produced in earth tones, made from local clay and hand-ground volcanic stones. The clay is shaped, dried and polished using pieces of plastic recycled from bottles. The designs are painted onto them with pigments produced from natural stones and materials. The pieces are again allowed to dry, and then they are fired in traditional beehive ovens. The designs have been produced in the area for hundreds of years.

Andy Campos, potter

Maria José Noguera

Ground pigment

Bee-Hive Oven

Traditional Bowls

Our final stop was in the town of Belén. This town’s population is made of farm workers and people who work in the tourist industry. We came here for lunch, and a special treat promised by our guide. Lunch was at the Soda Chicharronera del Almendra. A “soda” is a small restaurant, often set up on a patio outside of someones house, or another building. What we had is called “casados” or marriages. It is a plate overflowing with rice, beans and meat. I ordered a plate of fried chicken and pork. It was delicious and the three of us ate for around $12. The treat was and example of “You have to be a local to about this.” Our guide pulled up to a house on a street in town and walked up to the gate. He came back a few minutes later with a bag of wonderful sweet-cheese empanadas.

Belén Plaza

Belén church

Church fountain

Church fountain

Soda Chichorranera del Almendra

My Casada

You gotta be a local

After lunch it was back to our hotel in Tamarindo. We had a wonderful day exploring some parts of Costa Rica that tourists rarely get to see.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Diamante Eco Adventure Park - Costa Rican Animals, Culture and Adventure Fun


The Amazin’ Ms. D and I traveled to Costa Rica for a restful beach vacation. Truthfully, Sitting on a beach for a whole is more vegetating than I usually can stand, so I decided to look for a tour to take. Now, I am not a person that does “adventure travel”, but there was a tour that interested me, the Diamante Eco Adventure Park.

The Diamante Park was built about 5 years ago near the town of Matapalo. It sits on a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was a two hour drive from our hotel in Tamarindo, and the Hotel Tamarindo Diriá offered a trip there on its own bus. They sold two different tours. The “Adventure” tour, which included a choice of zip-line or horse-back riding, including a very long “superman” zip-line.  Another choice is the “Cultural” tour which includes a demonstration of the history of sugar, coffee, and chocolate in Costa Rica. Both tours offer the opportunity to visit the Diamante Animal Sanctuary and include aa buffet lunch. I chose the Cultural Tour.

After arriving, and checking in at the welcome center, we took shuttle down the hill to the Sanctuary. Now, some people hear that word, and picture a jeep driving through the Serengeti. Well, this wasn’t that. It is a zoo. The enclosures are larger than just a cage, but it is definitely a zoo. What you find is a good collection of local fauna. Our tour started with the large cats. They have two jaguars, two pumas and two ocelots, each in their own enclosures. Next came spider monkeys and then capuchin monkey. After that we arrived to the animals I was most interested in, the sloths. Unfortunately, they were all asleep, so all we saw were balls of fur laying among the branches of a tree.





Capuchin Monkey

Spider Monkey
Three Toed Sloth

There were two aviaries with toucans, a butterfly encounter crocs, iguanas, snakes, and turtles. The selection of animals was interesting, but I was disappointed. I was hoping for something more. I was looking forward to seeing more interaction with the animals. At least a keeper with sloth that was awake and moving around.

Yellow-Billed Toucan

Yellow-Billed Toucan

Rainbow Billed Toucan

Fiery Billed Aracari


After the zoo, we went back to the welcome center for lunch. They served a buffet that offered a nice selection of salads (green and mixed), along with rice, beans, bbq ribs and roast chicken. We ate at tables on a covered patio that looked out over the valley and the ocean.

Waiting for the Zip-line

 After lunch it was back down the hill to the botanical gardens and the cultural center for the “Sugar, Coffee, and Chocolate Cultural Experience.” Our host was Andy. He gave an interesting and comprehensive talk on the history of, and demonstration of the preparation of, all three. We stated by pressing fresh sugar cane. Andy collected the juice and we all had a taste of fresh sugar juice. Next was an introduction to coffee. Andy is a firm believer that a medium roast is the beast because it balances flavor, acidity and bitterness. He ground some beans and made a fresh pour for us, using a coffee sock, a reusable cloth filter. Finally, Andy showed us the fruit of the cacao tree. He explains how the seeds were taken and roasted and then ground into a paste. He explained the difference between dark and milk chocolate and then provided us with the opportunity to create our own mix of cacao, sugar and powdered milk.

Traditional Ox Cart

Pressing Cane

Pouring Coffee

Cacao pod

Cacao Seeds

My hand-made chocolate

Diamante Eco Park is a nice diversion. The people who did the zip-line seemed to really enjoy it. The sanctuary was not impressive to someone who lives near the Bronx Zoo, but did have a nice collection of animals, and the cultural experience was a lot of fun.

Nuts and Bolts:
You can drive to the Park, although I would suggest a 4-wheel drive car as there are several places where the road is not paved, and one where it runs through a river bed.

Admission - Adventure (zip-line) $118 adult/$95 child
          Discovery (cultural) $48/$39

Hotel Tour prices - Adventure - $150
               Discovery - $115