ART/Culture – New York’s 10 Coolest Hidden Museums


While exhibits at the Met, MoMA or the Whitney might get most of the media attention — and tourists’ admission fees — there’s a slew of under-the-radar (and underrated) institutions scattered throughout New York City worth a visit. From a *very* impressive collection of trolls to a museum dedicated to animals from the torah, we round up ten hidden gems that should be on your shortlist the next time you want a dose of off-beat culture.

  1. Mmuseumm

    photo by Isabel Alcantara)
    photo by Isabel Alcantara

This one’s not much of a secret at this point, but Mmuseumm, located in a freight elevator in Tribecca, is home to some of the most interesting artifacts of the modern age. In an insanely small gallery space, allowing only three visitors at a time, the curators somehow manage to display an even tinier collection of cultural oddities. Mmuseumm’s Season 3 exhibit includes the shoe thrown at George W. Bush in 2008, Saddam Hussein watches, plastic spoons, and fake ID cards. Maybe it’s just the lack of oxygen in those cramped quarters, but after awhile, this assemblage of seemingly random objects seems to be telling a much bigger story.

Mmuseumm is located at Cortlandt Alley, between Franklin St & White St, New York City, NY. Suggested donation. Open Saturday and Sunday, 12-6 pm. 

  1. Torah Animal World museum2

    Torah Animal World might easily be one of the most unique places on earth. The Borough Park row house that has served as the museum’s flagship location since 2008 began as a means for visitors (largely Hasidic Jewish families, visiting Christian and Amish bible groups, and curious hipsters) to get up close and personal with those animals prominently featured in the Old Testament. Spread across the museum’s three locations are a multitude of beasts, frozen in time for all eternity, and valued at roughly 1.5 million dollars. The menagerie includes taxidermied camels, giraffes, bears, and much more, each with a plaque explaining its biblical significance. The pig, however, remains conspicuously absent.Torah Animal World is located at 1605 41st St., Brooklyn, NY.  Admission is $10 per person, per exhibit. Open daily Sunday-Thursday from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm by appointment only.
  2. museum3The Troll Museum        Trigger warning: this one might send you straight to the nightmare factor. There are collections, there are museums, and then there are pathologies, and this one definitely leans towards the last. Founded in 2000,The Troll Museum can be found inside of an LES six floor walk-up apartment belonging to self-proclaimed “trollologist” Reverend Jen and her chihuahua, Reverend Jen Jr. The room is packed floor to ceiling with a technicolor swirl of vintage troll dolls and their memorabilia. It’s a psychedelic trip you might never recover from.The Troll Musuem is located at 122-124 Orchard St #19, New York, NY. Admission is free, however, a piggy bank reads, “Suggested donation: $3,000.”  Open by appointment only.  212-560-7235
  3. Morbid Anatomy Museummuseum4 The Morbid Anatomy Museum, a Brooklyn-based, non-profit institution, has a thing for all things gothic, beautiful and disturbing. Though known for their frequently sold out lectures on topics ranging from bejeweled skeletons to flesh-bound books, their exhibits are equally fascinating and macabre. The one currently on display analyzes the art of mourning, showcasing memento mori, including hair art and spirit photography. And make sure not to miss their monthly singles mixers!The Morbid Anatomy Museum is located at 424-A 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. Admission is $10.  Open Wednesday – Sunday, 12-6pm. 347-799-1017
  4. museum5The City Reliquary       Located in Williamsburg, the City Reliquary looks like a little bodega on the outside but is in fact home to a treasury of artifacts all pertaining to the history of NYC. What started as just the window display of a ground-floor apartment in 2002 has now turned into a whole storefront overflowing with relics alongside community-curated exhibits, such as the current one celebrating all things chicken.The City Reliquary is located at 370 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY. Suggested donation. Open Thursday – Sunday, 12-6pm 718-782-4842
  5. The New York Earth Room  museum6What could be more fascinating than a white room in SoHo packed full of dirt? Ok, so maybe don’t bring a first date to this one, but The New York Earth Room is still one of the city’s greatest hidden treasures and a cultural landmark. The entire gallery is actually an installation by Walter De Mariat that has been on exhibit since 1980. The room’s 3,600 square feet of space is filled with a uniform layer of dirt 22-inches deep and is the last of the three De Maria works like it left in existence, maintained by the Dia Art Foundation.The New York Earth Room is located at 141 Wooster Street, New York, NY.  Admission is free.  Open Wednesday-Sunday, 12-6pm (closed from 3-3:30)
  6. (Photo by Librado Romero for The New York Times)
    (Photo by Librado Romero for The New York Times)

    The Trash Museum

Though technically illegal, The Trash Museum of New York is, hilariously, situated in the heart of the UES. Providing a similar appeal to that of Mmuseumm, the Sanitation Department’s collection of random junk provides a rare, voyeuristic glimpse into the lives of others. Inside the second floor of the garbage truck garage, you’ll find an unbelievable assortment of neatly organized detritus accumulated by sanitation workers over the past 33 years. Good luck if you want to get into this one though — admission is only granted to those authorized by the NYSD themselves.  Oh, too bad!

The Trash Museum is located on the second floor of the 99th Street Sanitation Department Garage, between 1st and 2nd Ave.Not open to the public.

8. The apartment museum of Jan Yoors

museum8                                                             Jan Yoors, a weaver from the ’60s and ’70s who hobnobbed with artists like Marc Chagall, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Yoko Ono, is still a relatively unknown name. But that might soon be changing. Over the past five years or so, the artist’s estate, managed by his son Kore, has begun to receive international acclaim, with several solo shows throughout Europe and the US and even a write-up in the New York Times. But still the best collection of Yoors work can be found within the tapestry-laden walls of the family’s apartment. Though not technically a museum, a quick email to Kore is likely to get your foot in the front door.Yoors Family Partnership is located at 22 Charles St. New York, NY. Not open to the public.  917-523-5132

9. Holographic Studios Inc. 

(Photo by Jason Sapan via)
(Photo by Jason Sapan via)

Located in a former blacksmith’s forge in the basement of a Gramercy building on 26th Street is NYC’s only holography gallery and laser laboratory. Started in the sixties by Jason Sapan, Holographic Studios Inc. is home to the world’s largest collection of motion image holograms. Sapan has also been commissioned to digitize more than a few celebrities. Bummed you could never get a real life selfie with Andy Warhol? Sapan’s got the next best thing.

Holographic Studios Inc. is located at 240 East 26th St, New York, NY. Admission is free. Open Monday – Friday, 2 pm – 6 pm. 212-686-9397 –

museum1010. Museum of the American Gangster

A place for those who never quite got over the end of The Sopranos (like me), this two-room gangster memorial is located in the East Village above a former speakeasy. Though St. Mark’s might not seem like the most logical of locations, that neighborhood was once a hotspot for wise guys like Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, and John Gotti. The Museum of the American Gangster boasts an impressive collection of mobster memorabilia, including bullets from the Saint Valentine’s Day massacre and John Dillinger’s death mask. If you ask nicely enough, they might even take you down into the basement’s escape tunnels and show you the safe still hidden there.

The Museum of the American Gangster is located at 78 St Marks Pl, New York, NY.
Open every day 1-6 pm.  Admission is $15, Tours are $20.  212-228-5736newyork1

Tell me, have you been to any of these?

Source: Emily Kirkpatrick for



Words…what women want

flower5Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly. “One must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” –  Hans Christian Andersen

Flowers are a mainstay for an appropriate “any occasion” gift.  They light up any room.  Think about it.  What would a wedding be like without flowers?  If you are hosting a dinner more than likely someone will bring flowers.  Valentine’s Day?  There should be at least one long stemmed red rose.  Funerals – there will be an arrangement even though donations are de rigueur these days.  Do you know anyone who does not appreciate a flower as a
thing of beauty
?  Me neither!  They come in many guises, many sizes, many colors, many scents and usually never fails to bring a smile to a face.  You can have one or you can have a whole arrangement with a theme.flower3


The earth laughs in flowers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The downside – so we don’t need a lavish bouquet. There is growing (no pun intended) concern that cut flowers are bad for the environment (like so many other things).  “Fair Trade-” and “Organic-” branded bouquets are increasingly available at mega- retailers and florists in the U.S.,  including Sam’s Club, FTD, natural food stores and Web sites like, Organicbouquet,TransFair, and 1-800-flowers.flower2

Photos: d. king



Health MATTERS – spice it up with natural healers

It’s almost déjà-vuhealthyI know I’ve written about the healing powers of herbs and spices before but just in case you missed it, or need further explanation of what certain ones are capable of doing, read on…

Herbs and Spices have long been one of our greatest natural healers.  Ancient Egyptians combined coriander, mint and sage with wine (aha!) to treat everything from herpes to upset stomachs.  True story: Cinnamon is such a powerful antimicrobial that it was even used in embalming to slow decay.  I know that’s kind of gory but impressive right?  These old-world remedies continue to play a role in fighting new world diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Diabetes, thanks to their potent antioxidant qualities.  Here are three of the world’s healthiest spices:


The golden spice that gives curry its distinctive yellow colour also provides a medicine chest full of health benefits. Turmeric is high in dietary fibre, iron, manganese, vitamin B6 and potassium. Studies show it helps relieve bloating and indigestion and also has antibacterial properties. A 2012 study in Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology shows the active ingredient in turmeric curcumin is a potent anti inflammatory. Researchers at the University of Buffalo recently discovered that these anti-inflammatory properties may be good for your waistline and reduce the risk of obesity related diseases. Try using turmeric to jazz up scrambled eggs, soups, rice or veggies, or brew up a pot of turmeric tea:

Boil 1-2 cups water, then simmer with one teaspoon turmeric, one teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg for 10 minutes. Strain. Sweeten with raw honey and add a dollop of almond or coconut milk to taste. Include a pinch of cloves or a teaspoon of fresh ground ginger to the water.


Did you know that just one teaspoon of ground cinnamon contains the same amount of cancer-fighting antioxidants as a half cup of blueberries? A study published in BMC Cancer found that cinnamon extract may actually help prevent tumour cell growth. Cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives the spice its colour and flavour, is also the key ingredient in fighting a host of other illnesses. A 2013 study from the University of California, Santa Barbara found it may even help ward off Alzheimer’s by preventing the development of “tangles” in brain cells. Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Hannover found that cinnamon also helps control blood sugar in patients with Type 2 diabetes. Study participants who took cinnamon extract three times a day (the equivalent of about three grams of cinnamon) for four months had significantly lower glucose levels than those who didn’t sample the spicy extract.


Pepper flakes, cayenne and paprika not only add pizzazz to plain dishes, they’re also a handy source of healing and pain relief. Capsaicin, the chemical that gives peppers their kick, fights pain by blocking pain signals to the brain. (The hotter the pepper, the more pain-fighting bang for your buck.) Capsaicin is often used as a cream or lotion to relieve neuralgia (pain that originates in nerves near the skin surface). A study in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology found that capsaicin in nasal spray form reduces migraine pain and also helps fight cold symptoms. And although spicy food is often blamed for stomach upset, eating capsaicin actually promotes digestive health by reducing stomach acid and relieving bloating and nausea.

More Herbal Healers:

Ginger – studies show that ginger relieves symptons of morning sickness, a condition that affects as many as 85% of women in their first trimester.

Lavender – There’s a reason this fragrant plant is so often used in soaps and lotions – studies show its subtle scent soothes anxiety and mental stress.

Mint – Don’t deny yourself an after-dinner-mint – peppermint has proven to be an effective treatment for bloating, gas, diarrhea, and even the pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome.

Rosemary – This flavourful herb is high in antioxidants and studies show it may help relieve symptoms of indigestion.

Saffron – Tame monthly miseries with a daily saffron capsule – studies show saffron may provide fast relief from PMS symtons.

Photos: IStock

Source: Canadian Health and Lifestyle

Feel-Good Friday:  taking stock of the markets

20141107_09423720141106_152548Whenever traveling to a new place I always look for the markets to see the variety of foodstuff they offer and what kind of handiwork they produce.  As you can see from these photos there was no shortage of either in Oaxaca.

Making the Zapotec Rug
Making the Zapotec Rug is a long process.


On one trip to Arizona I bought six Zapotec rugs not realizing that I would be in the birthplace of the Zapotec here in Oaxaca.
On one trip to Arizona I came home with six Zapotec rugs not realizing that I would be in the birthplace of the Zapotec here in Oaxaca.
Making black pottery at San Bartolo Coyotepec.
Making black pottery at San Bartolo Coyotepec.
To produce these lovely vases among various other items.
To produce these lovely vases among various other things.  You cannot carry these on board.
women weaving on back strap looms
women weaving on back strap looms


To produce these beautiful shawls and runners.
To produce these beautiful shawls and runners.
The making of Alebrijes (hand made wooden figues) in Arrazola.
The making of Alebrijes (hand made wooden figues) in Arrazola.
One example of a finished Alebrije.
One example of a finished Alebrije.

Photos: d. king


style – Cape Town, any town.


We can all use a good cover up.cape11

There’s something chic about wearing a cape.  At this time of year it’s not a constant but for in between the wet and very cold weather for those “off days” you can certainly pull it off (or on).  cape1
I think it’s a must in a woman’s wardrobe.cape5
On the Autumn/Winter 2014 catwalk scene capes were coveted in a big way – check the Burberry (think trench and blanket style), Saint Laurent (tartan button-down) and Valentino (embroidered, shin-length) shows for a heads up on how to wear yours.cape3

Shown here are some of my favourite caped crusaders.cape6

And as a serious style maven, it’s no surprise that Sarah Jessica Parker got her hands on one of Burberry’s much sought after monogrammed capes. cape8cape4rl

SJP with her twin daughters wearing Burberry.
SJP (with her twin daughters) wears Burberry.

I’m imagining dlk


Food – more more more

Mole, mole mole…(mole-ay) is one of my favourite Mexican dishes not only because it is rich and flavourful but because one of the ingredients is chocolate.

Chicken breast marinated with purslane, cactus and sweet potato chips with black mole.
Chicken breast marinated with purslane, cactus and sweet potato chips with black mole.  El Restaurante Catedral.

These intricate sauces, made by toasting and grinding spices, seeds, and chiles, are truly the hallmark of the Oaxaca region and in fact was invented there. The wide variety of “mole” in Oaxaca is enough to satisfy the most demanding palates. The different types you won’t find anywhere else – they include black, red, yellow, green, “coloradito,” “chichilo,” and mole with almonds.

This is chicken wrapped in rice and red mole.
This is chicken wrapped in rice and red mole.

If you’re craving a burrito you’ll have to go elsewhere.


 If you’re a cheese lover you might miss certain varieties like sharp cheddar, creamy brie or blue but they have a cheese, known as “quesillo,” which whether alone, in quesadillas, or with snacks, is a Oaxacan specialty that you should certainly try.  Grasshoppers are another typical dish of Oaxaca.

Chapulines at the Benito Juárez Market  - goes well with honey.
Chapulines at the Benito Juárez Market – can be sweetened up with honey.

You can find them everywhere – even the top hotels and restaurants (so be aware the Spanish name is “Chapulines” otherwise you might think you’re getting some exotic sounding beef because when it’s covered in mole you can’t really tell).  These delicious (so they say) fried insects are eaten in tacos, and the tradition says that whoever eats grasshoppers, will return to Oaxaca.  Oh, oh…I didn’t know about this before now.  Where are the little buggers when you need them?  I don’t remember the last time I saw a grasshopper here in Vancouver – I think they all mistakenly moved to Mexico for the warmer weather.

After that a taste of something sweet.  The "best" coconut flan with dulce de leche & soaked in mexcal.
After that a taste of something sweet. The “best” coconut flan with dulce de leche & soaked in mexcal. Topped with pecans.  Zandunga.

Other typical dishes from Oaxaca are “Tamales” stuffed with “mole,” poblano chili strips, or beans, and wrapped in banana leaves. “Tlayudas” (tla-u-da) are another appetizer that you can find almost anywhere.  I shared one in a market which was topped with delicious Mexican chorizo (a cut above – with less grease or fat), avocado, tomato, beans & cheese and it tasted great on a crunchy tostada. Other traditional dishes are the beef called “tasajo,” jerky, and “chiles rellenos” or stuffed chile.

Fantastic Chilean salmon at "El Quinque" - a great little restaurant.
Fantastic Chilean salmon at “El Quinque” – a great little restaurant.

In short, everything we ordered tasted superb and the care of presentation was impressive.  Of course getting a tumbler of mexcal before your meal ensures everything will taste good.

A starter of gazpacho at "Les Danzantes" for the pre-fixe lunch.  Excellent!
A starter of gazpacho at “Les Danzantes” for the pre-fixe lunch. Excellent!

But honestly, I have nothing but rave reviews for the culinary skills of Oaxaca.  Squash blossom flower sauce anyone? During ten days my friend Judy introduced me to some of the finest places to eat so if you plan to go just let me know and I’ll be happy to recommend a few places to drink spots.

chili chocolate brownie
chili chocolate brownie

Next week I will post an authentic red mole recipe but I’ll forewarn you that it is time consuming and maybe 1% of you will actually make it.  It is however less expensive than travelling all the way to Oaxaca.

Photos: d. king  (click to enlarge)


Travel/Culture: – Oaxaca, Mexico

Mexico has always been good to me.

Church and Plaza Santo Domingo
Church and Plaza Santo Domingo

I’ve visited a variety of places from bustling and busy Tijuana to what used to be known as the sleepy fishing village of Barra de Navidad to the resort towns of Cancun & Playa del Carmen. I worked at one of the Club Meds in Mexico years ago. Never had a bad time or gotten sick.

A restaurant in al centro
A restaurant in al centro

Last week I returned from spending ten days in what is considered to be “the most diverse” state in all of Mexico.  Ten days in vibrant Oaxaca (pronounced wah-hah-ka) is definitely not enough time, but it is just enough time to know that I want to go back.  It was wonderful.

A typical stroll
A typical stroll into town

A friend was house sitting another friends spectacular house high up on a hill with a 180 degree view and invited me to stay.  At the time she told me about it I was considering going to Las Vegas to run a half marathon along the strip at night while listening to rock bands (for something different) but I made the wiser choice.

Many, many of these arches
Many, many of these arches (arquitos)

Before I came to Oaxaca (a UNESCO world heritage site) I thought I knew everything a lot about Mexico.  I was expecting to hear mariachis everywhere and get a plate of chips & salsa delivered to our table as soon as we sat down at any restaurant.  Not so…although you can.  Instead we listened to a combination of Cuban, Jazz, Salsa, Argentine Tango, Classical and a 12-piece brass orchestra visiting from Belgium which took place in the dazzling Macedonio Alcala theatre – all gratis.  Every night there is something different to take in and lots of puppetry, fireworks and dancing.

Monte Albán, built by the Zapotecs, is one of the country's most important ruins.
Monte Albán, built by the Zapotecs, is one of the country’s most important ruins.

So much activity goes on in the town centre amidst local artisans selling their wares, craft shops and street markets.  All the cuisine we had was unbelievably top-notch.  I heard this to be true but had to find out for myself.  The only thing I did not sample were the worms and grasshoppers that are considered delicacies there (I’ll leave that for the locals and was not so brave even to try the crunchy ones).  I might need a whole bottle of Mexcal before doing so.

The inspiring rock formations of a petrified waterfall at Hierve el Aqua.
The inspiring rock formations of a petrified waterfall at Hierve el Aqua.

Here is what else I found besides an amazingly wide variety of food – stunning architecture, rich cultural traditions, important ruins, a great little *Spanish language school where you can sit outside in a garden setting for your lessons, a soft temperate climate (which allows you to sit outside) and Oaxaca’s specialty spirit, mezcal,

I'm not sure I can do this
I’m not sure I can do this
There are many little tasting spots called "mezcalarita's" around town
Many little tasting spots  (mezcalerilas) around town

which is made from dozens of types of agave (unlike tequila, which is made exclusively from blue agave).  Another thing is that you don’t want to have too much of that.  Don’t ask me how I know that…somebody told me. I think it can make you hallucinate.

So I don’t know everything about Mexico but I’m willing to learn.  This is a place I’d like to further explore with a side trip to Huatulco. Not to mention brush up on my Español .  Hasta la próxima vez!


Have you been?



Photos: d. king (double click to enlarge)

*SchoolOaxaca Spanish Magic

Link to my Oaxaca board for more photos on PINTEREST (which I will keep adding to):



Words….trying not to get lost in translation

This is written on the wall of a shop in Oaxaca, Mexico. 20141107_105844

Translation (more or less):

when you love what you are

there is nothing that is unconquerable or unreachable

when you really love yourself

(here is where it gets a little lost) live only in the light of your own laughter

and travel only by the way of joy and happiness

Look up.…look way up!   and… “Don’t Lose the NOW20141107_220753

This one is a photo taken of a famous poem written by Jorge Luis Borges that filled the whole ceiling of a quaint little wine bar/restaurant in historic Oaxaca where my friends and I listened to live Cuban music.  Borges, an Argentine poet, short-story writer, essayist and translator was a key figure in Spanish language literature.  His work embraces the “character of unreality in all literature.”  This is a beautiful writing and will make you think about your life:20141107_220753 - Copy


If I could live again my life,
In the next – I’ll try,
– to make more mistakes,
I won’t try to be so perfect,
I’ll be more relaxed,
I’ll be more full – than I am now,
In fact, I’ll take fewer things seriously,
I’ll be less hygenic,
I’ll take more risks,
I’ll take more trips,
I’ll watch more sunsets,
I’ll climb more mountains,
I’ll swim more rivers,
I’ll go to more places – I’ve never been,
I’ll eat more ice creams and less (lime) beans,
I’ll have more real problems – and less imaginary
I was one of those people who live
prudent and prolific lives –
each minute of his life,
Of course that I had moments of joy – but,
if I could go back I’ll try to have only good moments,

If you don’t know – thats what life is made of,
Don’t lose the now!

I was one of those who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer,
without a hot-water bottle,
and without an umberella and without a parachute,

If I could live again – I will travel light,
If I could live again – I’ll try to work bare feet
at the beginning of spring till
the end of autumn,
I’ll ride more carts,
I’ll watch more sunrises and play with more children,
If I have the life to live – but now I am 85,
– and I know that I am dying …

Jorge Louis Borges

Feel-Good Friday: cute cuppa coffee

in ice cream coloured cafetieres.bodum1

To celebrate 70 years of innovative kitchenware Bodum (the maker of the iconic French press) have re-launched some of their classic and our favourite items in fresh fun colours.  Makes you think of spring/summer but that’s just fine at this time of the year.20141119_083015

It makes the start to my day that much merrier.

Happy Anniversary Bodum!

A perfect cup of moka just days ago at Café Arábigo in Oaxaca, Mexico.
I had the perfect cup of moka just days ago at Café Arábigo in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Beauty: eyes, lips, cheeks – favourites

Every year Sephora puts out the ultimate beauty boxed gift sets (even if the gift is meant for ourselves) so we can sample the best of the best.


This year I was eyeing “gimme more lip” when I realized that I already have almost half the box in my beauty cabinet at home.  Which  means it’s a pretty useful and gorgeous set.sephoragivemesomelip

For your EYES ONLY
For your EYES ONLY

It’s kind of like the makeup version of the Japanese boxed lunch where you want to sample a little bit of everything because you are so hungry for it all.  

So, which one of these appeals to you the most?