Peace and Party At The Farm

All animals are equal,

but some animals are

more equal than others.

George Orwell

Now that travel to other continents is not feasible for many of us in 2020, I’ve had to re-consider my aversion to long drives (ie, anything beyond 7 minutes) and to explore the joys of what’s within driving distance.  Two hours from Manhattan is the Peaceful Windhorse Farm, an idyllic party venue for those with the “return to nature” sensibility or those who want relief from all this isolation and regroup under open sky. When public transit comes back in style, the Metro North is another romantic way to get there as you soak in the zen Hudson River views along the way.

The farm’s gracious overseer guided me on a tour of its 108 acres with her handy plant ID app. That afternoon, she discovered that the wide variety of foliage on her land included a liberal sprinkling of olive trees and bushes which could be fruitful if warm weather were more fashionable year round in the Northeast.

We meandered over grassy pathways through woods and prairies that have hosted memorable candlelit parties on long dinner tables under the stars, gatherings around breathtaking bonfires, happy hour on a hill at sunset with a bartender or two possibly serving drinks from a rustic hunter’s hideout.  Its main house has a pool that can host a family for the summer.  Its expansive barn has been converted into a spacious event space for weddings or family reunions. Guests are thrilled to pet and feed the Noah’s ark stable of local residents:  2 enormous pigs, 2 handsome goats, 2 bucolic horses, 2 sheepish (I couldn’t help this!) sheep. There may have been more than 2 chickens, but we all know extra eggs always come in handy.

After harvesting the mulberry tree as far as our fingers could reach and a few futile attempts at convincing the goats and pigs they’ve had enough feasting underneath it, we sat for a picturesque dinner overlooking the pond. To my hostess’ delight, what appeared to be a little rock tucked next to the candle on the table was a live frog. She let her ravioli get cold as she excitedly searched for and downloaded the Frog ID app, determined to identify the species of this Frog Prince before we deemed it worthy of a kiss. She snapped the frog’s photo and we held our breaths while the app searched its data base. We waited… and waited some more… until, at last, the app made up its mind. This creature, the app decreed most assuredly, was a mushroom.

For inquiries on hosting your next memorable party event or family reunion at Windhorse Farm Events, contact ‭(212) 807-9642‬. And enjoy making the best of this summer of our new normal!



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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Dutch Masters at the Met


There are only two styles of portrait painting:

the serious and

the smirk.

Charles Dickens


Halima Aden in Vermeer’s Girl With The Pearl Earring, Harper’s Bazaar Oct 2017

The exhibit that just opened at the Met yesterday brings together sixty seven of the Museum’s greatest works by Dutch Masters.  In Praise of Painting orients visitors to key issues in seventeenth-century Dutch culture—from debates about religion and conspicuous consumption to painters’ fascination with the domestic lives of women.

This fresh perspective on the Dutch Golden Age unites paintings typically displayed separately in the Museum’s galleries. Rembrandt’s Gerard de Lairesse and Lairesse’s own Apollo and Aurora are presented side by side for a thematic and visually compelling narrative about the tensions between realism and idealism during this period. My favorites from a few of the grand masters featured:

Virtually ignored in his own time, Johannes Vermeer is now considered an Old Master. His fascination was the faithful reproduction of beautiful light on canvas best seen on his most famous work Girl With a Pearl Earring. Using the camera obscura that became available in the Netherlands in the mid-17th century, Vermeer’s best works generally feature windows, and Vermeer would use his new tool to depict the light shining through them in ways never before seen in his time.Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring (which inspired the Harper’s Bazaar interpretation with model Halima Aden at the top of this page) appears seductive precisely because of her restraint and the gorgeously observed fabrics. The coy glance lends it a sense of undefinable mystery,

Danaë (finished in 1636) is Rembrandt van Rijn’s best nude painting and one of his greatest masterpieces. It depicts Danaë, the mother of the ancient Greek mythological hero Perseus, welcoming Zeus who came to her in the form of golden rain. This painting was bought by Catherine II of Russia in the 1770s and has been housed in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg ever since.

Considered the greatest and most famous portrait painter of all time, Rembrandt was a master of observation, chiaroscuro and, perhaps most importantly, brutal honesty, as seen in his self-portraits. These depict the ravages of time on the artist’s face without any sense of vanity, and are heartbreaking when seen in succession.

A generation older than Rembrandt, many of the great’s works would not have been possible without the work of Frans Hals. Hals’ work featured looser brushwork than any who had come before him, introducing a lively sense of movement and a lived-in quality to many of studies. The most famous example of this being The Laughing Cavalier.

Unlike many traditional Baroque artists, Hals did not paint completely objectively. He would create an atmosphere and a different sense of composure for each subject to convey a true sense of self in his paintings. In this way he would accentuate not only their status in society through various symbolic gestures and dress but also portray features of the sitter that made them human.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share the painting that most inspires you.


Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits with a

Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people!


Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman




China at the Met

Be not afraid of growing slowly.

Be afraid only 

of standing still.

Chinese proverb


Couture inspired by Anna May Wong’s costumes in her Hollywood classics. Among my favorite pieces is this very easy to wear hot number with seductive tassels as shoulder straps and as a dramatic train sweeping the floor.

If you’re near Manhattan this weekend, get to the Metropolitan Museum early (or very late to avoid the crowds) and catch the end of their hit exhibit China: Through The Looking Glass.  Attracting more foot traffic that the Alexander McQueen exhibit a couple of years ago and even more than their King Tut exhibit in 1979, this latest feature of the Anna Wintour Costume Institute is a collection of haute couture influences flowing East to West and vice versa.

China as a collective fantasy began when it was still beyond the reach of most Western travelers. Chinoiserie by the best artisans, creatives and film makers have since perpetuated the myth of this land as one of wealth. elegance, mystery and romance. Sample the best of the best at the Met on its last weekend of display.  Museum hours extend until midnight this Friday and Saturday (September 4 and 5, 2015) and this exhibit closes on Monday, September 7th.

Dragon dress inspired by an imperial robe, John Galliano for the House of Dior


Intricate embroidery and silk are among my favorite things!


In the China Pavilion, a collection of John Galliano pieces for the House of Dior


Haute couture in a forest reminiscent of the bamboo scene of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon


A lotus flower ballgown by a Chinese designer


Mao and Chinese calligraphy as design elements


The Weight of the Millennium artwork made of porcelain shards by Li Xiaofeng 2015


Glamour couture inspired by designs on Manchu robes


Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what country captivates you best.


Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

At the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum

You can’t connect the dots looking forward.

You can only connect them looking backwards.

So trust that your dots will connect in the future.

Steve Jobs


Benker & Steiner 1996 poster on the beleaguered patriarch

What museum allows you to photograph and assemble a webpage of your favorites among their exhibits? Encourages interactive fun for design inspiration? Has the stairs of a London Bus wedged into a mansion’s grand staircase?  New York City’s Cooper Hewitt checks “Yes” to all these and more! Even my difficult-to-please teen says he’ll save his ticket stub to remember our visit. Next time the heat gets unbearable this summer, hit this cool destination with your favorite young adults!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share your fun family ideas in/around NYC this summer.


In the mood to design a hat, a chair, a building? Possibilities can be endless here…


Extrusions 2009 by Heatherwick Design Studios.

A metal bench inspired by the toothpaste you squeeze out of a tube.


My kind of grand staircase model, but, boy, would I hate forgetting something in my bedroom upstairs!


An artwork from the more glamorous days of luggage airline tags.


A functional chair that lets you spin like a top.


Next two photos, a dress that folds itself neatly soon as you drop it onto the floor. Every mom’s dream!



Did I say we love the Cooper Hewitt?

Go on weekdays to enjoy the “Immersion Room” for more than the 5 minutes you’re allowed when there’s a crowd. Draw a single object and the projector will multiply it across two walls. Lucky my teen was game to plaster himself amidst his heart pattern.


See my collection of Cooper Hewitt exhibit favorites at

Happy Summer!


Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother


The Golden Girl

The true New Yorker secretly believes that

people living anywhere else

have to be, in some sense, kidding.

John Updike


This Powerful Goddess has a thing for moody portraits, yet she has that joie de vivre and a smile more sunshiny than her halo of golden hair.  As a European, she had always dreamed of living like a local in New York City.  What to do with the minor glitch of having a devoted husband whose career didn’t allow for an extended sabbatical?

“I want to live in New York for awhile,” she blurts over their dinner for two last year.

“Say that again?” her husband couldn’t be sure he heard her right.

But he did.  And knowing that this has been a big item on her bucket list, he helped figure out how to make her Manhattan adventure possible: living on her own this side of the Atlantic, taking classes to learn new skills, and expanding her world with new friends along the way.

Now that she’s back home celebrating the next chapter of her fabulous life, these portraits count among her favorite souvenirs of how well she welcomed her golden age, thanks to her great courage and her husband’s grand gesture of love and generosity.

The happiest of birthdays to you, Powerful Goddess!  You must tell your darling man he is a gem truly worth his weight in gold while I practice saying to my husband “I’d like to live in Europe for awhile.” 😉

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share who has opened your eyes to golden possibilities.







Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

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