MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas (In The Islands)

This is it!  I leave for New York in less than a day... by this time Thursday, I will be on the Queen Mary 2 for a holiday unlike any I have ever had... this year I will be spending Christmas through New Years on a cruise through the Caribbean.

I start off tomorrow running - Amtrak to NYC to the hotel to dump my bags and then off to a show.  I need some wintery weather in my holiday season, so I have my sites on the Irving Berlin musical, Holiday Inn for a matinee.  Then a friend is meeting me for dinner, some wandering around and an evening with Sutton Foster in the 50th Anniversary of Sweet Charity

Then Thursday, off to Brooklyn to hop on the boat!  Now - when a cruise says it is out of New York, I expect it to be out of the city.... not an hour away.  I am not looking forward to that taxi ride.  But after that it is 3 days of relaxation, 5 days of power touring, and then 3 more days of relaxation before I am back to the grind.

On tap?  First island is St Maarten where I will be hiking at Loterie Farm to get a glimpse of the island from its highest point, Pic Paradis.  The next day in Tortola, I am looking forward to seeing "one of the most unique features in the Caribbean" - Virgin Gorda.  This special island is known for huge rock formations - volcanic boulders piled on top of each other and form small grottos and pools, which contrast with the pure white sand.  The pictures should be fabulous here.  Day 3 brings me to Dominica, one of the last unspoiled islands in the Caribbean; here I will be traveling via open air 4x4 (a la Jurassic Park) to see Morne Bruce for views, wind through the mountains to Wotten Waven Sulphur Springs to see volcanic activity to the rainforest to Ti Tou Gorge.  More great photographic opportunities await on this tour.  Day 4 I take a "chill" day and hop the St Kitts Railway to watch coastline, farmland and villages roll by on this open air rail.  Our last day island hopping brings us to the only island I have visited on this itinerary, St Thomas... here I will be swimming with the sea turtles, if they show up.  I hope that the waterproof bag I have for my phone holds up (it worked great in Iceland)... I want some underwater shots and I never got myself a camera for that purpose.

Fingers crossed for good weather.  I hope to post some great shots on Instagram along the way... and I will post once I return.  Happy Holidays everyone! 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Fall Weekends Revisited - Mountains of Color, Spooktacular Homes and Friends

I have always considered myself, first and foremost, a Jersey Girl!  I was born and raised in the Great Garden State.  I love my home and think there is nothing better than the diversity of riches available in NJ... don't believe me, I bet you have never been off the Turnpike. Give me a weekend, and I will show you a New Jersey you did not even know existed.  Still, other places have soaked into my psyche... I have had other homes.  I am extremely lucky to have experienced 2 very different states, not just on visits and vacations, but to have seen them as second homes.  I lived in Louisiana and Colorado  for short periods and fell in love in different ways.  Every year, I try and go back to visit friends (more like family), favorite places and aim to keep exploring these amazing places.

I flew out to Denver for a very quick weekend in early October.  With only 2 1/2 days in the Golden State, there is not much time for much besides friends and a few local outings.  My mentor, friend and Colorado Mom and I needed to catch up.  For years now she has been channeling Wonder Woman, Supergirl, She-Ra and any other badass female superhero as she fights and wins against cancer.  She is a walking miracle and marvel at her strength and determination.  And while she fights the good fight and works on various causes related to her cancer struggle (including the Colorado Ovarian Action Network), she also is a lover and supporter of the art community in Denver. 

My visit was her first attempt at major activity since a surgery to remove a tumor. So a trip to the Denver Botanical Gardens sounded like a nice leisurely thing to do... we wandered the paths.  Autumn color was all around AND we bumped into one of her friends.  The Gardens were displaying multiple Mexican Day of the Dead alters and her friend was designing one.  Just like that we went from a slow stroll to design consultants.  I have never worked on an alter before - it can be a highly personal thing.  These friends shared that cancer connection, and the alter recognized the strength of family, friends and women to tackle endless adversity.  It was a powerful message.  Three shelves - three parts to the theme.  I was honored to help. 

After reinforcements arrived, we walked a little more before we headed to Cherry Creek for some food at a fabulous French restaurant, LA Merise.  I think we were there for 2 hours just chatting, sharing pictures and enjoying our food.  Truth was I wanted her to rest, and this was the perfect way.  Neither of us wanted to call it quits (I fly a long way to see her) - so we headed to the Denver Art Museum to check out their newest special exhibit on the Italian Venetian Renaissance.  The special showing featured 50 significant works, including 19 from the Gallerie dell'Accademia. 
We didn't take one this time
Not my favorite genre, but I did complete a few Smithsonian classes on the period - I could do this.  I knew that this was really about color and light, and I even recognized a few from class. This was a chance to see paintings from the 1400s-1500s - that fact alone is amazing.  We both dissected a few pictures noting the glitter like quality of the oil painting in some portraits and contemplating the feelings some of the subjects were displaying - if anything, the Venetian Renaissance was the time of emotion.  After asking lots of questions of museum staff and reminiscing about trips to Venice, we headed to the gift shop that has incredible offerings... we perused  and I took her home.  I am so grateful for the time I get with her... she is an amazing woman.  (Her memoir, Remarkably Stable brought me to tears.)

I left one friend and headed to another, out in Golden.  Our plan was very domesticated - her son had a soccer game that weekend... so I was set for a fancy spaghetti dinner with my 6 year old best friend and some serious Lego time.  Promises to embarrass him at his game proved fruitless as he was excited by the idea that I would scream endlessly for him if he scored... alas, practice time was trying on my vocal cords as he manipulated a goal in close range with no goalie ... I should have thought that deal through more. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Nutcracker, Magicians, the Sound Machine and THE TREE

Rockefeller Christmas Tree
December is here... how did that happen?  The year is not over yet, and I have a few big things planned before the calendar flips to 2017... first up, a trip home to NJ.  I needed to get home, just to say Hi, I won't be home for the holidays.  I wanted to stop by my alma mater to see my favorite professor.  I wanted to get into the city to see the tree and some theatre (and maybe do some shopping).  While this has been my best theatre going year in a while, there are still shows out there that I want (really, need to) see. 

I had good intensions, but the weekend went too fast.  I didn't get everything accomplished, but I had fun trying - and now I am TIRED.

We started our adventures with a viewing of the Nutcracker.  The local dance company, BalletNOVA, invited me to their performance and reception... I could not say no.  I grew up attending the Nutcracker every year. To this day, I see it, on average, every other year.  I, myself, never danced in the Nutcracker growing up - ballet was my not specialty. (Sometimes, I wish other dance genres were given holiday love as well - we could do the hulu to Mele Kalkimaka or a fun jazz number to Santa Baby - but I digress)... my sister was an angel in the NJ Dance Theatre Guild's production and a few of my company friends who did kick ballet butt were featured dancers.  So, this local performance was of interest to me... I wanted to see what they brought, as unique.  And my boyfriend wanted to attend, making it our first ballet together.  So we watched local dancers with aspiring dreams pirouette to Tchaikovsky. After he was impressed with the professionals they brought in for the Sugar Plum Fairy Waltz, I now have license to explore some of the Washington Ballet's performances with him... HA! 

Following the show, we attended the reception, met some dancers, the artistic director, the executive for the school and some Board members. My boyfriend was excited since he got to chat up an ex Redskin player (from their last Superbowl run); I had a chance to speak with an artistic director of the Dance School of Harlem.  I was embarrassed to say that I have yet to see a performance by them - I have to put that on my theatre agenda.  And  I will have to check out more of BalletNOVA's local performances.  You need to support the arts locally as well as on a professional level.

We did not get home until after midnight, and we had a quick turn around if we were going to make it into the city for some shows and fun... so after power packing and some sleep, we hightailed it out of DC and headed north along I-95!  Oh, for one glorious day, we did not hit traffic (once out of DC); I seriously do not recall a trip in recent memory where I was not stuck in central or northern MD or sat parked in DE.  I have long resolved to miserable traffic in DC, no matter the time, but the trip home has been beyond frustrating- this morning, when we were in a rush, the traffic gods smiled upon us and we sailed along smoothly.  As a multi-tasker, along the way, I texted my brother promising a free dinner and verified plans with a friend.  Dinner and a show has become a "thing" with this grouping - Something Rotten, Dames at Sea, Disaster, and now On Your Feet!  How awesome is it when different parts of your life all fit and get-along?  I love nights like this! 

But before we met loved ones, we had to get into the city.  We had eyes on a matinee!  Sadly, our
traffic luck ran out once we hit Secaucus.  And all hopes of making the 2pm show were dashed.  The train station was packed and there was no parking to be found.  We weighed the option of parking at the local warehouse lot but decided against it - I did not want to risk getting towed (and my brother assured me that was a wise decision)... so, as a seasoned warrior of city driving, we turned around and headed into the tunnel.  I grew up driving into the city via the Lincoln Tunnel for classes and shows (we headed over the GW Bridge for family visits) - so as we drove through it, I advised my passenger to watch out for the state line... it was his first time in the tunnel.  And since I was driving I did not try to replicate our childhood attempts at holding our breath for as long as possible (we never made it to the line).

The Show Summary Letter
We got through the tunnel, parked and made it just in time to TKTS to score some primo 6th row seats to the 3pm showing of The Illusionists-Turn of the Century.  Seeing the Broadway magicians was not on my top priority list, but it was what we could fit in and could be fun.  The boyfriend was interested... and we did just see Maxwell Blade in Arkansas.  I do love a good magic show, so I was game... I just did not know what to expect, I did not see the Illusionists first run on Broadway last year, nor have a read a lot about the show. I was going in blind (just not blindfolded). 
My name - spelled correctly
Quickly, the audience is told that this show harkens back to the early 20th century when magic was king, Houdini was the celebrity master and conjurers were the rockstars of the day.  We were entertained by multiple cast members - a davedevil. a charlatan, a showman, an eccentric, a conjuress, the Grand Carlini, the "immortal" and 'The Clairvoyants'.  There were jokes (lots of them), floating balls and people, rings and cards, jellybeans, a marionette magician, a bird and feats of strength.  AND, I got to fulfill an old dancer's dream and stand on a Broadway stage.  I was called on stage by the Clairvoyants when a sponge ball landed in my hands... I did not try to catch it, it bounced out of the hands of people in at least 3 rows... I did not meet these people, I have only seen them on TV.  Yet, here I was with the ball in my hands, and when they said please come up I auditably said "f*#k" - got a laugh, but was definitely not the impression I wanted.  So, I climbed over half my row and headed up on stage to verify cards, pull an letter out of a box and find my name at the bottom of the show summary!