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Holidays: The Name’s the Same!

Posted: December 20th, 2013 by

It appears there are a number of cities and towns in the US with holiday type names, so how about a little trivia where the name is the same when it comes to holidays?

The Star of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is easily visible 20 miles away

The Star of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is easily visible 20 miles away

Probably the most recognized Christmas related town name is Bethlehem, and in the US there are (reportedly) eight to 12. I’ve discovered 9 of them: Bethlehem, CT; Bethlehem, GA; Bethlehem, IN; Bethlehem, KY, Bethlehem, MD; Bethlehem, MS; Bethlehem, NH; Bethlehem, PA; Bethlehem, WV, with Bethlehem, PA being the most prominently known.

It was on Christmas eve in 1741, when a group of Moravians founded the mission community of Bethlehem, which proved to be a town for the future when in 1762 it built the “first-water works in America to pump water for public use.”

After the Civil War Bethlehem became a city, and a center for heavy industry and trade during the industrial revolution, thus Bethlehem Steel Corporation was founded, becoming the 2nd largest steel producer in the US, and was also one of the largest shipbuilding companies in the world. Unfortunately they ceased their operations in 1995, after about 140 years of being in business.

Could it be the result of a grand ceremony on December 7, 1937, during the Great Depression, when the wife of Bethlehem Steel Corporation President, Charles F. Brown, flipped on the switch to turn on the new Christmas street lights and a large wooden star [that the city of Bethlehem still beckons visitors]? It was also at this time the Chamber of Commerce adopted the nickname ‘Christmas City, USA’. Today, that wooden star when lit up can be seen as far as Wind Gap, 20 miles away.

Bethlehem is also home to three large universities, including Lehigh University, and Money Magazine listed it at number 88 out of 100 ‘best cities to live’ . . .

ZOOrific Holiday Family Outings

Posted: December 4th, 2013 by

Flickr image by cliff1066 tm of Zoo Lights at the National Zoo

Flickr image by cliff1066 tm of Zoo Lights at the National Zoo

When was the last time you visited a zoo? If I am the example it more than likely was when you were a youngster, or your children or grandchildren were youngsters.

Flickr image by therichardlife

Flickr image by therichardlife

What could be more magical than Christmas at the zoo – with twinkling lights strung up along the walkways leading everyone to playful chimps, long-necked giraffes, big and fuzzy bears, or a magnificent tiger or two, amongst other creatures, sure to delight the whole family. More and more zoos decorate with lights and dazzling displays to encourage families to include animals in their holiday activities, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or any number of culturally traditional holidays during December and January.

Indianapolis Zoo at Christmastime (photo courtesy Indianpolis Zoo)

Indianapolis Zoo at Christmastime (photo courtesy Indianpolis Zoo)

It seems the Indianapolis Zoo was the “first zoo (since 1957) in the U.S. to hold a holiday lights event.” Since then, Christmas at the Indianapolis Zoo “has become known for its spectacular holiday lights and Christmas displays,” making it a great place for holiday memories. Surely if there has been snow falling during this time, when evening comes and twinkling lights set the stage, it would indeed be magical!

Tis’ The Season to be Shopping . . . Fa La La La La … La La La La

Posted: November 21st, 2013 by
What can be more festive than a holiday bedecked mall - flickr image by e e paul

What can be more festive than a holiday bedecked mall – flickr image by e e paul

Although statistically speaking, it has been said that approximately 71% of Americans will do their shopping online this year, for many it’s just not the holidays without a mall visit. After all, the jingling of bells, the hustle and bustle of people mingling and jostling bags and boxes, the aromas of holiday treats wafting from various food vendors, decorative store fronts with tinsel and twinkling lights, Santa’s here and there, and just the happy chaos that is reminiscent of the past that many of us have not forgotten is reason enough to at least abandon our online shopping for one or two store bought gifts.

So where are the most popular shopping places anyhow? While Travel and Leisure listed 32 of the most popular shopping malls during the holidays, we’ll spare you all the details and list the top 5, although you can learn more about this phenomena here

Number 1 Shopping Mall during the Holiday Season

Number 1 Shopping Mall during the Holiday Season

No. 1 Mall of America, Bloomington, MN
Annual Visitors: 40 million
Year Opened: 1992

With more than 400 shops and a nice blend of retail and entertainment (a roller coaster inside no less) it is no wonder the Mall of America is at the top of the list.

Is that a snowman we see outside of Aventura Mall in Miami, Florida?

Is that a snowman we see outside of Aventura Mall in Miami, Florida?

No. 2 Aventura Mall, Aventura, FL
Annual Visitors: 28 million
Year Opened: 1983

Oh my, what isn’t good about Aventura Mall? Its located in sunny Miami, Florida and hosts special events like the Chocolate Festival and the Great American Bake Sale, plus has the added advantage of Gulfstream Park thoroughbred horse racing and championship golf courses among other features in its enclave.

By the way, if you’re in need of a good night’s sleep after you shop til’ you drop, check us out.


Reflections of the Past – Stepping Stones for the Future . . .

Posted: November 11th, 2013 by
Flickr image by cwwcoff1

Flickr image by cwwcoff1

Can we ever truly thank our veterans enough for their service to our country? Many have sacrificed their lives so we can continue to enjoy the freedom we Americans have come to know, and unfortunately often forget how fortunate we are.

Let us not just celebrate November 11th as a day to honor America’s veterans, active or deceased, but let’s aspire to acknowledge them on a daily basis. A kind word or an unexpected thank you will go a long way in showing a veteran that you appreciate their service, past or present.

I am always reminded on those occasions when we are honoring our veterans of the beautiful poem that LTC John McCrae, Canadian (1872-1918) wrote, and once again wish to share it with you.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Ten Musical Reasons to Like Halloween Plus Some Travel Trivia

Posted: October 24th, 2013 by

mask No. 10 Head to the sunshine state, more so to Miami, Florida to soak up the sun by day and then by night dress up like your favorite zombie and head over to the Massive Ideas Masquerade. For family fun, the Miami Zoo can’t be beat for its free range where animals are grouped together based on their geographic territory and exhibits are entirely cageless. Afterwards try a Cuban sandwich at La Carreta, the original Cuban kitchen.

FALL: It’s All About Falling Leaves and Festivals

Posted: October 2nd, 2013 by

Fall in Aspen, Colorado is evident by the stark white bark of the Birch Trees and their brilliant yellow leaves sprinkled with radiant reds.  Flickr photo by snowpeak

Fall in Aspen, Colorado is evident by the stark white bark of the Birch Trees and their brilliant yellow leaves sprinkled with radiant reds. Flickr photo by snowpeak

Every October the same phenomenon occurs when leaves of the quaking Aspen glow in various shades of yellow, and the Beech dazzles with golden bronze while the Birch tree’s’ bark’ is as captivating as its leaves of golden-yellow brillance. Probably the most favored trees in the fall for resplendent foliage are Maple and Oak trees. Japanese Maple trees are drenched in bronze, purple and red leaves come October, and then there is the Paper Bark Maple with its bright red leaves, or one of my favorites, the Sugar Maple with its explosion of orange foliage and the silver maple with its shimmering yellow leaves.

Have Dog: Will Travel!

Posted: September 10th, 2013 by

How could anyone leave Mylee behind . . .

How could anyone leave Mylee behind . . .

I confess: I’m a pet lover; and like a lot of other pet owners; in particular dog owners, I just can’t bear to shut the door with my pets’ soulful eyes staring at me, and even though the tail wagging is out of control when I return, I still feel a twinge of guilt when I depart sans Fido. I’m talking about going to work and doing errands, so I shudder to think about a little vaca . . . pet sitters and kennels alike can cost an arm and a leg, and leaving one’s (as some perceive them to be) mutt with relatives just might not be in the best interest for both species; hence my list of places to get a little R&R for both you and your faithful four-legged, tailing wagging BDF . . best dog friend

After a great deal of research it appears California seems to offer more puppy love than many other states; however, to be fair I am focusing on lots of places to travel to with your beloved dog:

Pilgrim Bark Park and the seashore of Provincetown, MA provide a perfect venue for Fido to romp in the surf and sand

Pilgrim Bark Park and the seashore of Provincetown, MA provide a perfect venue for Fido to romp in the surf and sand

Whale watching is a popular attraction for Fido and his master in Provincetown

Whale watching is a popular attraction for Fido and his master in Provincetown

In 2010, Dog Fancy Magazine revealed Provincetown, Massachusetts was selected as their #1 canine city, with businesses providing ‘doggy’ biscuits and bowls of water for those furry shoppers who bring along their human companions, but, if you’re heading west then Carmel By the Sea, Benito, Fort Bragg and Sand Diego, California, or Salem and Lincoln City, Oregon, as well as Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Madison, Wisconsin are all listed as places you’ll want to take Fido.

Other traveling with your dog special places include Chicago with its 18 miles of paved trails that trace Lake Michigan’s edge or in New York with its NYC Dog Walking Tour visiting Greenwich Village, SOHO and Little Italy. And, if you want to memorialize your trip to NYC, check out the William Secord Gallery where (at a price and advance reservation) your pooch can have its portrait painted.

Anonymous photo title "Yo Quedo Pizza" taken at one of many pet-friendly eateries in Orlando

Anonymous photo title “Yo Quedo Pizza” taken at one of many pet-friendly eateries in Orlando

Manitou Cliff Dwellings Wikimedia Image

Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Wikimedia Image

Not to be outdone by its Eastern pet-friendly venues are the cities of Orlando (where in Florida there is a doggy dining law that allows dogs to dine with their owners in outside eating venues) and for healthy alternatives such as hiking and breathtaking scenery you’ll want to travel to Colorado Springs, Colorado where you can meander with pooch around Bear Creek Nature Center, the Manitou Cliff Dwellings or Garden of the Gods National Park; and finally there is Austin, Texas with 12-off leash parks for doggy fun and games.

Sweet Dreams -  Flickr image by Nieve44/Luz

Sweet Dreams – Flickr image by Nieve44/Luz

I could go on and on . . . but, I won’t. I would like to say however, your problem won’t be leaving your BDF behind, but in deciding which dog-friendly venue to travel to. By the way, if you and your furry friend are in need of a good night’s sleep after a full day’s activities there are many lodging places that accept pets.


Posted: August 27th, 2013 by
Crown Center Fountain, Kansas City, MO (by night)

Crown Center Fountain, Kansas City, MO (by night)

crown Center Fountain, Kansas City, MO - by day

crown Center Fountain, Kansas City, MO – by day

Some of you may remember my August 2010 blog, ‘Cool Places to Visit during the Dog Days of Summer’ where I featured half a dozen or more ‘cool caves’ to explore. Well, here it is the end of August and we are smack dab in the middle of those dreary dog days, when even our four-legged furry friends are looking for a place to cool off.

Childrens Fountain, Kansas City, MO

Childrens Fountain, Kansas City, MO

If ‘spelunk in’ is not your thing, and descending deep into the earth is not on your mind, then join me and your fellow blog readers in dancing around one of many ‘cool’ water fountains. We’ll begin with Kansas City (MO), which is officially known as The City of Fountains and has more fountains than any other city (except for Rome) in the world.

Nicholas Fountain, Kansas City, MO

Nicholas Fountain, Kansas City, MO

What began as the City Beautiful movement in 1890 resulted in the creation of fountains, not just for landscape decoration, but also for practical purposes, such as one built in 1904 featuring spigots pouring water out of a number of lions’ mouths so passerby’s could get a cup of clean drinking water; while at the same time water poured into a granite basin at the proper height for horses to get a cool drink, with the overflow ending up in four small pools so dogs could lap up fresh water as well. The Humane Society of Kansas City was responsible for not only this innovative and useful fountain, but went on to mount more than 100 more fountains throughout the city.

Atlanta, GA Centennial Park

Atlanta, GA Centennial Park

Crown Fountain, Chicago, IL (by night)

Crown Fountain, Chicago, IL (by night)

Not near Kansas? Why not cool off in Chicago, Illinois Crown Fountain, or in Atlanta, Georgia’s Centennial Olympic Park Fountain?

While there is some controversy surrounding public water fountains, citing disease, dirty water, etc., it would appear (and is so noted in numerous articles) municipalities that have public water fountains have a variety of filtration systems to assist in alleviating these issues, and continue to offer a respite from summers’ heat for its citizenry.

Rockafeller Center iconic water fountain

Rockefeller Center iconic water fountain

Whether you elect to participate in romping through a fountains’ man-made droplets of rain, or to simply admire the architectural beauty found in water fountains, one can’t help but feel a little bit cooler in doing so.

Please note: All photos credited to Wikimedia Commons

It Takes My Breath Away . . .

Posted: July 31st, 2013 by

We’ve all had an awe-struck sensation a time or two in our lives. Even viewing a single sunset or sunrise can cause us to mouth an exclamation of sorts, and in an instant the site takes our breath away.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

me-with-dancers1me-blue-bear1Every time I return home to Denver. It matters not if I am flying in or driving in, for as soon as I glimpse the panorama of the Rock Mountains as a back-drop to the Denver skyline I get a lump in my throat and have that awe-struck moment . . . .Denver is also a city that embraces the arts, so much so that no matter where you go you are visually impacted by the city’s love of art, and the beauty of this is that there is no cost to see sculptures that will make you smile (like the big blue bear) or stop you in your tracks for that second look (like the dancers).
New York City Skyline Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

New York City Skyline Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Certainly nature’s vistas and breathtaking skylines can take one’s breath away. Check out this Youtube fan and video contributor with his top ten skyline choices at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbHq5crFsu8. You’ll also discover a boat load of other Youtube videos with even more great skyline photos as well.

Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Whether it is a sunset that causes you to pause and just drink in its beauty or the site of nature’s paintbrush in the Grand Canyon or red rock formations in places like Utah or Arizona, or the beauty of historic structures or mind-boggling wonder of buildings that seem to defy gravity, we all have our awe-struck moments. There is no time like the present to get out and enjoy the sites; after all, there is no cost ‘just to look’ . . .

What are your favorite sites to behold, and when was the last time you experienced them?
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Food and Travel ‘Bandwagon’ . . . .

Posted: July 17th, 2013 by

It is normal to select a vacation site based on popular attractions; be it an amusement venue like Disney World, or an outdoor wonder such as Old Faithful, or a pristine beach for frolicking in the sand and sea, or maybe a historic landmark. I have, however, decided to take you on a trip based on food first, then we site-see.

Instead of a road map or atlas, I am seeking out vacation sites based on the popular Food Network show “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives” . . . featuring its colorful host, Chef Guy Fieri. After all; I’ve heard that an Army travels on its stomach, so why not you and me?

mobile bayWe’re going to begin in Fairhope, Alabama, “a vibrant town on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, known for its lovely parks and sweeping panoramic view of Mobile Bay.” Civil War buffs will appreciate the significance of the 3,800 acre Historic Blakely State Park, site of the ‘last major battle of the Civil War’ or if you are a nature lover then check out the Fairhope French Quarter, home to the largest crepe myrtle in the South . . .an Alabama Champion Tree . . . and let’s not forget that ¼ mile pier jutting out in the gulf; surrounded by swimming and picnic areas, a landscaped rose garden, plenty of benches, marina, walking trails and a duck pond.

Here’s the skinny on the food angle: Panini Pete’s and the Gumbo Shack were both featured on Triple D, but after reading the menu ‘our pick’ is Panini Pete’s where the European Panini with house-roasted meats and homemade mozzarella is a favorite – located in Fairhope’s French Quarter – here’s a little trivia about how the Panini became a favorite sandwich for many . . . it can be found here: http://www.calphalon.com/Pages/Content/Articles/Panini-A-Culinary-History.aspx

We’ve visited the South; now how about a trip to the Northeast, where we discovered O’Rourke’s’ Diner, which opened its doors in 1941 in Middletown, Connecticut. A more appropriate name, however, could be the Phoenix, for it has risen from the ashes, after a fire that destroyed the original O’Rourkes back in 2006. You know it’s got to be good when the towns’ people chipped in and helped raise enough funds to have it rebuilt.

Greater Middletown Military MuseumJust where is Middletown anyhow and how did O’Rourke’s become one of its main attractions? Before it became a settlement in 1650, the Wangunks, a distinct Native American Indian occupied Middletown (beginning around 1634). Because it was the halfway point between Windsor and Saybrook, the town was named Middletown in 1653. Many settlers selected Middletown due to economic opportunity and their descendants became merchants and shipmasters, and in time its port became the busiest in the colonies between Boston and New York. The “Triangle Trade” comprised sailing to the West Indies with a cargo of livestock, lumber, farm products and other raw materials, returning with rum, salt and sugar among other commodities; unfortunately in 1807, the passage of the Embargo Act, along with the war of 1812 brought an end to Middletown’s days as an important shipping port.

O'Rourke's Diner Middletown, Connecticut

O’Rourke’s Diner
Middletown, Connecticut

The 19th Century saw the rise of manufacturing in Middletown, as well as the first wave of Irish immigrants, with perhaps Uncle John O’Rourke’s ancestors paving the way for O’Rourke’s Diner.

If you are travelling to Middletown be sure to visit Wesleyan University, founded in 1831, encompassing 316 acres overlooking the Connecticut River; and for those adventurous folks, why not take a stroll in the Connecticut aMAIZEing MAZE, with two miles of winding paths in a living, growing cornfield. A must do and see for those of you with one to eight year-olds and their ‘adult’ friends is the Kidcity Children’s Museum; with a space age road trip, a Clipper Ship and The Farm among other interactive activities. http://www.kidcitymuseum.com/

downtown Midd flickr imageflickr Pilgrin on this road - Bill RevillDowntown Middletown has been named “One of America’s Most Romantic Main Streets” and then there is Wild Bill’s Nostalgia Emporium. Check it out as well as many other Connecticut treasures at this website: http://www.ctmuseumquest.com/?page_id=5521, which by the way is a pretty thorough history of Connecticut along with a very creative blog.

Just thinking about toasty tasty Panini’s and some good ol’ Irish Stew not only makes me hungry, but I just might take a road trip to Fairhope, Alabama or Middletown, Connecticut!