California: Beautiful Catalina Island

View of Avalon from Hilltop

View of Avalon from Hilltop

Avalon Harbor

Avalon Harbor

Eagle Statue at Catalina Ferry Terminal

Eagle Statue at Catalina Ferry Terminal

Catalina Sea Life Tile Mural

Catalina Sea Life Tile Mural

Historic Catalina Tile Fountain

Historic Catalina Tile Fountain

Allen's Hummingbird

Allen’s Hummingbird

Catalina Island has been famous as an island getaway for southern Californians for over 100 years.  Early advertising boasted “In all the world, no trip like this!”  In 1957 the Four Preps sang “Twenty-six miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a-waitin’ for me”.  Dick Clark dubbed it the first surfer song, and Brian Wilson said it was a major influence on the Beach Boys.  A fun LA Times article about the song is at:  http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-ca-socal15jul15-story.html.

The maritime distance from the Los Angeles mainland to Catalina Island is actually 22.3 miles, which is easily traversed these days by high speed ferry.  In 1894 messages were sent there via Carrier Pigeon Service.  Notes were printed on tiny oilskin squares, rolled up, and placed into little canisters on pigeon legs.  Within an hour a pigeon could complete the ocean crossing and deliver the message – twice as fast as steamships at the time!  By 1902 the service ended when wireless messaging became available.  We were charmed by the island’s beauty and landscape.  Visitor information is at:  http://www.visitcatalinaisland.com/.

California: Stunning Glass Church

Wayfarer's Chapel on Hill Overlooking Coast

Wayfarer’s Chapel on Hill Overlooking Coast

Garden at Front of Chapel

Garden at Front of Chapel

Round Window in Center of Chapel

Round Window in Center of Chapel

View Looking into Chapel

View Looking into Chapel

View Looking Up in Chapel

View Looking Up in Chapel

View Looking Out from Chapel

View Looking Out from Chapel

Chapel Wedding Picture in Visitor Center

Chapel Wedding Picture in Visitor Center

Chapel Bell Tower

Chapel Bell Tower

View Overlooking Foggy Pacific

View Overlooking Foggy Pacific

Black and White Image of Walkway Outside

Black and White Image of Walkway Outside

Beautiful Pink, White and Yellow Rose in Garden

Beautiful Pink, White and Yellow Rose in Garden

Colorful Bird-of-Paradise Flower in Garden

Colorful Bird-of-Paradise Flower in Garden

The Wayfarer’s Chapel is a beautiful church for people of all faiths in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.  A natural cathedral is formed by redwood trees arching over the chapel’s clear glass walls.  The chapel is a place of meditation with emphasis on the harmony of the natural world with the inner world of mind and spirit.  Only natural colors and materials were used in building the Chapel, such as sky blue on the bell tower, green on the floor, and local wood and stone.  The sanctuary and garden sit on a hill overlooking the foggy Pacific Ocean.  The overall effect is stunning!  This Swedenborgian church was designed by Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright).  Wright believed in the principle of “organic architecture” – creating buildings in harmony with the environment, including repetition of patterns in nature such as those found seashells and trees.  The Chapel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a popular place for weddings.  One of the most famous Swedenborgians was Jonathan “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman, who distributed church literature while planting trees across the American Midwest.  Info about visiting the Chapel is at: http://www.wayfarerschapel.org/

Florida in Winter

Sebastian Beach Ocean Waves

Sebastian Beach Ocean Waves

Black Skimmers Sunbathe Flat on Sand

Black Skimmers Sunbathe Flat on Sand

White Ibis at Lagoon

White Ibis at Lagoon

Laughing Gull with Mouth Open

Laughing Gull with Mouth Open

Pink Spoonbill and Blue Water

Pink Spoonbill and Blue Water

Lesser Scaup at Backyard Pond

Lesser Scaup at Backyard Pond

Tricolor Heron with Purple Eyes

Tricolor Heron with Purple Eyes

Great Blue Heron with Windblown Feathers

Great Blue Heron with Windblown Feathers

Bald Eagle and Black Vultures Near Home

Bald Eagle and Black Vultures Near Home

Alligator in Pond

Alligator in Pond

Double Rainbow Over Backyard

Double Rainbow Over Backyard

In Florida we enjoy an outdoor lifestyle year round.  Although it may get chilly from time to time when winter cold fronts blow through from the north, the weather usually warms back up to 70°F within a few days.  That means we go outside and enjoy the beach, gardens, and wildlife. 

Florida is home to over 500 species of birds, which makes it one of the top birdwatching destinations in the world.  Our local birding and wildlife festival is the largest in the nation!  Info about the festival is at:  http://www.spacecoastbirdingandwildlifefestival.org/   Come on down and enjoy nature in the Sunshine State!  

New York: Special Egypt Exhibit at Met

Head of Crocodile God Sobek on Human Body (1859-1813 BC)

Head of Crocodile God Sobek on Human Body (1859-1813 BC)

Jackal Head and Toad on Basket - Apotropaic Wand to Protect Mother and Child (made of hippopotamus ivory)

Jackal Head and Toad on Basket – Apotropaic Wand to Protect Mother and Child (made of hippopotamus ivory)

Bovine Deity Statue Head (1961-1917 BC; limestone)

Bovine Deity Statue Head (1961-1917 BC; limestone)

Queen Neferu Having Her Hair Done (2051-2025 BC)

Queen Neferu Having Her Hair Done (2051-2025 BC)

Cowrie Shell Girdle (belt) Made of Gold, Carnelian, and Feldspar (1887-1813 BC)

Cowrie Shell Girdle (belt) Made of Gold, Carnelian, and Feldspar (1887-1813 BC)

Exquisite Necklace with Two Falcons Symbolizing God Horus (1887-1878 BC)

Exquisite Necklace with Two Falcons Symbolizing God Horus (1887-1878 BC)

Pottery Jar Decorated with Dolphins and Birds (1749-1650 BC)

Pottery Jar Decorated with Dolphins and Birds (1749-1650 BC)

Ancient Egyptian Coffin of Nakhtkhnum (1850-1750 BC)

Ancient Egyptian Coffin of Nakhtkhnum (1850-1750 BC)

Maaty at Food Offering Table (2051-2030 BC)

Maaty at Food Offering Table (2051-2030 BC)

Middle Kingdom Panel 1 (2030-1650 BC)

Middle Kingdom Panel 1 (2030-1650 BC)

Middle Kingdom Panel 2

Middle Kingdom Panel 2

Middle Kingdom Panel 3

Middle Kingdom Panel 3

Middle Kingdom Panel 4

Middle Kingdom Panel 4

Middle Kingdom Panel 5

Middle Kingdom Panel 5

Seated Colossal Statue

Seated Colossal Statue

In December we visited New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to see a special temporary exhibit on “Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom”.  Over 230 pieces assembled from 30 international collections were on display. Ancient Egyptian art has always fascinated people, especially since the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922. Recently Egypt announced there is a high chance that two rooms are hidden behind King Tut’s tomb – perhaps those of Queen Nefertiti. How exciting! Stay tuned – scans will continue throughout 2016. Let’s hope  that more treasures wait to be discovered! An article about recent findings is at: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/11/28/457680483/high-chance-that-2-rooms-are-hidden-behind-king-tut-s-tomb-egypt-says

New York: Inspiring Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Liberty Island

Liberty Island

Statue of Liberty on Pedestal Base

Statue of Liberty on Pedestal Base

Closeup of Crown

Closeup of Crown

Internal 22 Story Spiral Staircase to Crown (reserve crown tour months in advance)

Internal 22 Story Spiral Staircase to Crown (reserve crown tour months in advance)

Lifesize Replica of Face in Museum

Lifesize Replica of Face in Museum

Full Scale Replica of Foot

Full Scale Replica of Foot

Original Torch

Original Torch

Statue of Liberty Themed Clock

Statue of Liberty Themed Clock

Statue of Liberty Themed Menorah

Statue of Liberty Themed Menorah

Statue of Liberty Themed Plate

Statue of Liberty Themed Plate

Statue of Liberty Themed Glass Lampshade

Statue of Liberty Themed Glass Lampshade

Statue of Liberty Themed Coin

Statue of Liberty Themed Coin

Ornate Ellis Island

Ornate Ellis Island

Inside Ellis Island Immigration Museum

Inside Ellis Island Immigration Museum

The Statue of Liberty is magnificent close up!  It was a gift from the people of France in 1886.  Unless you visit, you may not realize that she has broken shackles of tyranny at her feet and she is stepping forward to freedom.  Miss Liberty has 7 points on her crown to signify each of the 7 continents.  She holds a torch to light the way, and her tablet is inscribed with the American Declaration of Independence (dated July 4, 1776).  Because of deterioration, the original torch was replaced in 1986 – just in time for the centennial celebration.  The new torch is covered with thin sheets of 24K gold leaf.  Live views from the Torch Cams are at:  http://www.nps.gov/stli/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm. The original 1886 torch has been restored and now sits on display in the museum in the statue’s base pedestal.  The width of the copper exterior of Miss Liberty is less than 2 pennies thick.  The copper’s green patina results from weathering and acts as a protective coating.  Her official name is “Liberty Enlightening the World”.  She is iconic in America, and an inspiring monument to freedom and hope to people around the world! If you would like to visit, more info is at:  http://www.nps.gov/stli/index.htm.

Miss Liberty was the first thing over 12 million immigrants saw when they came to America and passed through Ellis Island between 1892-1954.   The main building has been restored beautifully (1984-1990) into the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.  If you would like to research your own family history by searching the free passenger archives at Ellis Island, go to:  http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/passenger

New York: One World See Forever Observatory

Reflective Glass Surface of Tower

Reflective Glass Surface of Tower

Looking Up at One World Trade Center

Looking Up at One World Trade Center

Glass Windows Looking Over Hudson River

Glass Windows Looking Over Hudson River

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in Distance

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in Distance

View North of Manhattan Skyscrapers

View North of Manhattan Skyscrapers

Sign Detailing Manhattan Landmarks

Sign Detailing Manhattan Landmarks

One World Trade Center in Skyline

One World Trade Center in Skyline

Memorial Pool and Waterfall within Footprint of Fallen North Tower of World Trade Center

Memorial Pool and Waterfall within Footprint of Fallen North Tower of World Trade Center

Remains of "The Sphere" which Stood at Original World Trade Center Site.  Endures as a Symbol of Hope.

Remains of “The Sphere” which Stood at Original World Trade Center Site. Endures as a Symbol of Hope.

Cool Globes Exhibit at Battery Park

Cool Globes Exhibit at Battery Park

Details of Children's Globe

Details of Children’s Globe

I couldn’t visit New York City without seeing the new One World Trade Center, which opened in October 2014.   Including the spire, the building is the tallest in the Western hemisphere and the sixth tallest in the world at 1,776 feet (a reference to the year the United States signed the Declaration of Independence). The glassed-in One World Observatory on floors 100-102 offers magnificent views of Manhattan, including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the distance. The See Forever Observatory opened on May 29, 2015, and the smooth elevator ride up takes only 60 seconds. Info on visiting is at: https://oneworldobservatory.com/

New York: Empire State Building

Empire State Building at Night

Empire State Building at Night

Empire State Building Mural

Art Deco Mural

Lobby Decorated for Holidays

Lobby Decorated for Holidays

Gold and Silver Floor

Gold and Silver Floor

Colorful Glass Tile

Colorful Glass Tile

Sunset from Empire State Building

Sunset from Observation Deck

Looking South Toward One World Trade Center and Lower Manhattan

Looking South Toward One World Trade Center and Lower Manhattan

Looking North - Chrysler Building on Right

Looking North – Chrysler Building on Right

Looking North - Midtown Manhattan

Looking North – Midtown Manhattan

New York City Skyscrapers at Night

Skyscrapers at Night

King Kong Poster

King Kong Poster

When we visited New York City, one of our favorite activities was viewing sunset from the Empire State Building’s 86th floor Observation Deck. This beautiful art deco building was constructed in 1931 and is a National Historic Landmark. It was the tallest building in Manhattan from 1931-1970 and 2001-2012. It has 102 floors reaching up to 1,250 feet – nearly ¼ mile into the sky! The spire on top brings the height up to 1,454 feet. The 17-story spire was originally supposed to be an anchor point for dirigibles (blimps/airships) that crossed the Atlantic, but strong winds put an end to that plan. At one point a majority of TV and FM radio stations were broadcast from the antenna spire. On average the spire is struck by lightning 23 times per year. The color of the LED lights illuminating the top of the building changes with holidays and special events. The lights are turned off at midnight during Spring and Fall migration to prevent birds from colliding with the building. On a clear day, five states are visible from the Observation Deck: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Wonderful views of Manhattan are visible in all directions. The building’s name reflects New York State’s nickname – the Empire State. If you would like to visit, more info is at: http://www.esbnyc.com/.  An interesting article is at:  http://www.interestingamerica.com/2011-02-04_Empire_State_Building_at_80_by_R_Grigonis.html

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