From Bay To Beach To Backyard – The Birds Of 91st Street

“The wild color warblers of spring and fall, the shorebirds of summer, the waders for waterfowl or birds of prey on a winter day? Our year-round residents, or regular or rare visitors? How about birds photographed right here on Beach 91st — from bay to beach to backyard, street tree to jetty — all year long, something to see. Untangling the songs, tuning in: a moving leaf, a new sound, a distinct shape in the sky. A rhythm of arrivals and the departures — certain or shifting — charting time, signaling seasons.”  Bridget Klapinski

Beach 91 Community GardenBridget in front of her exhibit at the. Photo by Kristi Dickerson.

Her interest in birding began about four years ago during the pandemic. It was a way to pass time; a way to be in fresh air; a way to tranquility.

Next came the camera.

The parallels between gardening, birding and surfing are a connection photographer Bridget Klapinski senses deeply; the pause, the waiting, the calmness. Nature grants her the space to take a full, long breath. Then, in a blink, the petal opens gifting vibrant joy; feathers flash – snap snap and the mighty wave pops, peeling into motion.

I’ve seen Bridget’s photography on Instagram and could not believe the diversity of bird species she is documenting. I was surprised and delighted to learn through her work that hummingbirds spend time in Rockaway! Bridget has counted 70 different fowl on Beach 91st Street but estimates it’s closer to 100 that live or migrate yearly.

Ovenbird Rockaway Beach QueensHave you seen an Ovenbird in your yard?

To capture the intricacy of her subjects in their natural environments, Bridget uses a Canon R10 and a Canon T-6S Rebel. Many of the photographs are shot with a Tamron 150-600mm. This wide zoom lens is essential to detail elusive birds.

Summer-Tanager-SlideSummer Tanager Slide

A Great Egret snacks on a Rockaway RooftopA Great Egret snacks on a Rockaway Rooftop

Bridget Klapinski is the President of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association, an excellent wave rider (body and board) and a community champion of coastal conservation. View Bridget’s photography series, Birds On 91st Street…  on…. 91st Street at the Beach 91st Street Community Garden and more here: @saltwatercrab. The monthly rotating art gallery is curated by Kristi Dickerson, a dedicated garden and leadership member. Follow the garden’s Instagram account to see more of Bridget’s photographs and learn about the B91 Gardens’ community outreach and mission.

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Introducing…Tomato Glow A Holland Avenue Soap Collab

“Hey, I have an idea, let’s make a tomato-scented soap!” Over the winter, Mike Benigno of Holland Avenue. Soap, Co. reached out asking if I’d like to collaborate on creating my very own Glorified Tomato garden soap. I kinda lost it!!

“Yes.” I said.

Mike has partnered with others to create custom soaps like community group Sea Changes and The Beach 91st Street Community Garden, drawing inspiration from their unique complexions. He offers personalized, create-your-own scented soap for individuals, customized soap for a special event such as a bridal or baby shower. And Holland Ave. Soap caters to wholesale markets.

Holland Avenue. Soap, Co. Paula DiGioia Soap

What fascinated me most about this collaboration was discovering Mike’s approach to selecting scent combinations. I visited the Holland Ave. soap-making studio to choose the Tomato Glow scent profile. The best way I can describe the process… an effervescent science experiment.

First, we discussed what “tomato” meant to me and how to express the scent and the vibe of my personal energy in this product. From there, Mike brought out essential oils that he felt expressed our discussion. Then we began a process of elimination by dabbling delicately with tomato tinctures. What fun! We joked that we’re both Italians with wonderfully large noses with exceptional smelling capabilities. Seriously though, Mike has a great nose. It was impressive to see him at work, wafting, thinking, sniffing near, and detecting far. His perception of smell has an incredible range. I learned that sensing scent is an art form. Mike Beningo is a soap sommelier.

We created two test batches. The scent profile of Tomato Glow is a secret combination of tomato flower oil, cedarwood, and patchouli. It takes five weeks for soap to cure, a process called saponification.

Paula DiGioia Tomat Glow Soap
Photos by Mike Benigno.

I eagerly waited! Finally, the morning came to shower and test the two versions of Tomato Glow! They were similar but one was more sweet than the other. I needed more punch.  We made tweaks to our tomato potion, upping the peppery vibe (more patchouli please). Five more weeks for the final batch and during this time Mike and I brainstormed on the name, worked on the packaging and Mike shot the beautiful photography for the Tomato Glow soap line.

Where is Tomato Glow soap available? It debuts at Rockstock, this Saturday, June 22, on the boardwalk at 92nd St. I’ll be hanging around with Mike at his pop up, so come through and experience the delicious aroma of Tomato Glow!

Tomato Glow and Holland Ave Soap favorites are for purchase on online and in many of our favorite local shops.

I am filled with gratitude to Mike and Holland Avenue Soap, Co. for this opportunity. I’m so pleased with the aroma of Tomato Glow, it’s just right. Who would have ever thought The Glorified Tomato would have a soap line?  I’m learning to trust my senses and life will reveal the fragrance of endless vining paths of opportunity.

Holland Avenue. Soap, Co. creates unique, cold process bar soaps inspired by the ocean, often using purified seawater and garden-grown herbs. Their soaps express the joys of being near the sea and nature, thereby enhancing daily cleansing rituals. With community support as a central part of their mission, 10% of profits are donated to the Laru Beya Collective, a Far Rockaway organization that offers surf lessons and water safety education to empower local youth. Learn more, follow Holland Avenue Soap Co. on IG – @hollandavenuesoapco.

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Grow, Share, Savor: Beach 91st Community Gardens’ New Herb Bed!”

We saw woody thyme scattered throughout the Beach 91st Community Garden at season’s close last September, when the colorful camouflage of rich, red tomatoes, green peppers and the lanky yellow black-eyed Susans disappeared. It became visibly clear there were duplications of so many herbs. This sparked an idea – build a communal herb garden!

My friend Katherine and I presented the concept at our monthly garden meeting last season, and everyone was on board! The objective of this project was to maximize growing space in members’ plots. Given the abundance of duplicated herbs, interested folks would relocate their herbs into the dedicated herb bed, which would then be cultivated for the benefit and enjoyment of all members as a shared herb garden. This would allow for more space in individual plots for growing vegetables.

Member Bobby Carnevale draws out the plans for the herb bed.

Project-plan-overview-Beach 91 community garden

Project plan overview.

Builder Bobby Carnevale filling the bed with garden refuse.

A community effort.

Melissa Draugsvold planting herbs!

The fantastic idea was convinced, and now we needed to execute the project. Bobby Carnevale, Katherine’s husband, had a circular saw and the ambition to build the bed! Leadership member Kurt Dorian collaborated with Bobby on design and materials. I’m proud to say we managed to build the 10 ft bed for under 100 dollars. We sourced the wood for free, used weed barrier fabric we already had and only needed to purchase some blades, screws, and soil!

Thank you, Bobby, Kurt, Katherine, and garden members who donated and planted their herbs for the shared herb bed. I’m excited to cook with fresh herbs all summer long and look forward to fall when we’ll dry and preserve our late crop for year-round, home-grown spice and flavor.

If you’d like to see our new herb garden, good news… our plant sale has been rescheduled for Sunday, June 30th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Browse a selection of house plants, perennials, garden totes, and shop Holland Ave.Soap while spending a lovely day in the garden. Event details and more photos and video of the herb garden build-out can be found on the Gardens’ Instagram – @beach91communitygarden

For more on gardening, f0llow me on IG @theglorifiedtomato.

Meddle Juice: Music And Performative Garden Escapades

I didn’t know what Meddle Juice was when I first heard about it through the Rockaway internet grapevine this past winter. All I knew was that I needed to show up at this newish venue called the Rose Den on Beach 116th Street – on a Monday night. And so I did. And so it all became clear. Meddle Juice was the secret ingredient to creative survival I needed to immerse my senses in, to sustain my being through the cold, lingering Rockaway winter.

Jello Art Paula DiGioia

To keep the beat flourishing, Meddle Juice creator, Justin Bozza, is producing a summer series of Secret Garden Shows in Rockaway. I’m excited to say, I’m collaborating with mastermind Justin, artist m i c c a, Videographer Robert Carnevale, and Community Organizer, Rachel Krieger-Garone on this project.

Each event will showcase different musicians, artists, and performers in three different locations. And each gathering will offer nourishment and beverages.

Tini Vessel.

The concept of the Meddle Juice Secret Garden Shows and all the exhibitions Jusin Bozza and m i c c a create is an idea I feel strongly about. They strive to cultivate a community ethos that recognizes artists, musicians, performers, and creators as individuals who can freely express themselves, entertain, contribute art, and rightfully expect compensation for their creative talents.

The first show is on June 9, 3 7 p.m. in Rockaway Beach. Here’s what to expect:

The music of Tini Vessel (@tinivesselmusic) is ethereal, maybe delicate. With an undercurrent of darkness in melodic echoes. Rockaway inhabitant, Singer, and Composer Christina Bowers, has two new singles available, find them on Spotify and fall in love.

Electronic artist Lace Card (@lace_card) will tromp us through abject and ecstatic zones of listening. Lace Card sculpts sound landscapes out of raw energy, weaving together beats and sound to construct an ocean of vibrations.

Johnny Butler is a Brooklyn-based saxophone player and a Grammy-award-winning musician and arranger for his work on Beyoncé’s “Love on Top (among other accolades). His sound reminds you of  “A renaissance court jester, groveling before the queen.” Butler performs on June 9 and will be combined with movement and dance. More:

Food energy provided by Kim Kimchee (@kimkimchi.legacy) -tangy, spicy, and umami-packed flavors for your bodily enjoyment and a sensory eating encounter. Enjoy specialty cocktails and other liquid potions by m i c c a and friends.

There will be jello…

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