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A Great Place for a Staycation

8 Jul

I love living in Johnson County, Kansas.  Our county is constantly listed among the most wonderful places to live in the United States.  We have beautiful parks, delightful museums and a multitude of theaters; our schools are excellent.  When my children were little, I often took advantage of the many free or low-cost activities available to keep them occupied.   It is easy to have a staycation, a stay at home vacation,  because there is so much to do.

Even though I no longer have small children, but am not yet a grandmother, I still like doing these fun activities. Luckily for me I have a friend who enjoys these activities as well.  I hope that we never grow up or grow old.  As they say, age is just a state of mind. And we keep exploring.

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In the last two weeks, my friend and I spent an afternoon at the local Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead.  While there we visited all the farm animals.  But we also walked through the historic sections we were went through an apple orchard, visited a cow barn, spoke to a school marm in a one-room school house, visited a bank and a doctor’s office, went to a mine, visited an Native American encampment,  and entered several shops learning about blacksmithing, ice cream and the general store from the late 1800s to early 1900s in Kansas.

I admit we did not go on the hay ride or the pony rides.  We also did not go fishing or pan for gold.  But we could have!  And I have done some of these activities in the past.

We walked through the lovely gardens.  In some ways it was more delightful than the last time I was there with my friend and her grandchildren.  We did not have to keep track of anyone or find things for them to do.  We just meandered and enjoyed.

About two weeks later, I called my friend and told her we should go to the Johnson County Museum, located in the Arts & Heritage Center. I wanted to go specifically to see a temporary exhibit about The Wizard of OZ.  And for people living in Kansas, OZ and the Wizard are a big deal. This exhibit was from a personal collection of OZ memorabilia.

We did not only go to that exhibit.  We went through the entire museum learning about the history of our community and seeing mementos from the area.  The museum moved to its current location about four years ago.  I had visited the museum in its former location many times with my children, but this was my first time seeing it in its lovely new location.

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The electric house and a period car.

The exciting part for some of the children who were there, was the house in the middle of the museum. One of the first all-electric houses in the county, the house was enclosed inside  the new museum before the new building was completed.  Moving it took over six-hours from its previous location.  I actually enjoyed watching a video about the move.

There was another area called Kid Scape for the children.  My friend and I did not go in to experience the activities and the crafts, but we peaked inside.  I think my friend will be returning with her grandchildren!

The Heritage Center, where the museum is located, was a bustling place.  When we left the museum, we walked over the historical society, although we did not visit the displays as we  were captivated by the sounds of music. In another room, at the end of a hall,  a live band was playing ballroom dance music, specifically a tango.  We watched as about 12 couples danced around the large room.   I might have to come back with my husband one day.  We enjoy ballroom dancing. Unfortunately, he is usually at work on a Friday at 2 pm.

As we left the building, I looked over to where the black box theater is located.  Beginning in the fall, my husband and I will be coming for productions of the Spinning Tree Theatre shows.  We have been season ticket holders for several years and are looking forward to the company’s move to Johnson County.

I think our next adventure is a return visit to the Overland Park Arboretum.  The plants, the art work, and the pond, the train garden, provide a lovely spot to walk.  It will be another fun day in Johnson County.

 

https://www.opkansas.org/things-to-see-and-do/deanna-rose-childrens-farmstead/

https://www.jcprd.com/327/Arts-Heritage-Center

https://jcprd.com/330/Museum/

https://www.opkansas.org/things-to-see-and-do/arboretum-and-botanical-gardens/

https://spinningtreetheatre.com/

https://www.niche.com/places-to-live/c/johnson-county-ks/rankings/

 

 

Loving All Things Dr. Seuss

10 Jun

I am a bit obsessive compulsive.  For me that means when I like something, I want to know everything about it.  When I like an architect, I study his or her work.  When I like the books written by a certain author, I also want to learn about the author.  When I like art, I need to know about the artist.   I think it all started with Dr. Seuss.

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My collection of Dr. Seuss books.

I believe I remember the first time my Dad read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to me.  I can see myself sitting on one leg with my brother on the other leg.  We are wearing footsie pajamas.  I loved that book.  I also loved Go Dog Go!   The pictures, the language, the rhymes all contributed to my anticipation of a new book by Dr. Seuss.  I loved all books Seussical.  I wanted my parents to read them to me again and again and again.  In fact, I learned to read by reading Dr. Seuss books.

And who can ever forget The Cat In The Hat?  I am always worried that the house will still be a mess when Mom gets home.  Even when I am the Mom!!

Of course, when I had children, I made sure that all the Dr. Seuss books were in my home for me to read to my children.  Which I did as much as possible.  Although my children are grown, I keep those books as I await the arrival of grandchildren.  I know that I will be excited to read these books to a new generation.

Among our favorites was The Lorax, as my husband and I are committed to keeping our world as green as possible.  Reading The Lorax is a wonderful way to explain what happens when people do not care for or protect the world and the environment.  We used to watch the 1972 animated movie about The Lorax when our children were little. Yes, we own a 1990s VHS of this movie!  I guess it is a collector’s item now.  We have seen the new 2012 Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, but for me the original is best.

My husband loves these books as well, especially And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.  Why that one?  Because he grew up on Mulberry Street in St. Louis!

When our children were little we were excited when “Seussical the Musical” was presented by the local children’s theater. I especially loved the songs, Oh, The Thinks You Can Think and How Lucky You Are! (See link to songs below.)

When the book, Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel: A Biography was published in the 1990s, I had to have it.  Reading it was somewhat eye-opening.  Theodor Geisel was a much different man than his alter ego, Dr. Seuss.  I was a bit disappointed in what I read, but how could I not still love what he created?  So I did. I also learned from the book, that he lived just north of San Diego for the last part of his life.

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The Cat In The Cat at Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss

In 2015, while spending a few days in San Diego, I wondered about finding something related to Dr. Seuss while we were there.  I did not have to look too hard.  While we were visiting museums in Balboa Park, we came upon a Dr. Seuss exhibit at the History Museum: “Ingenious! The World of Dr. Seuss.”   Serendipity to be there at the right time! 

The artwork, the statues, the rooms set up like scenes from his books.  All of these gave me joy. The exhibit is closed now, but I can always remember it because I purchased the book that went with the exhibit.  I also purchased Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War 11 Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Geisel. They actually mailed the books home to me, as I had no room in my luggage. But I needed those books! I still enjoy them.

But my love of all things Seuss does not end with books, books and more books.  Four years ago, I discovered that there was an area at Universal Studios in Florida called Seuss Landing.  Is it possible to find a more delightful spot for a Seuss addict?  No.  We went to see the Harry Potter worlds of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley, which were quite wonderful.  But when I found Seuss Landing on our way out of the park, I knew I had found my happy place.

I realized I loved Seuss Landing more than the World of Harry Potter.  Do not get me wrong.  I purchased a Luna inspired magic wand that I can use to work magic.  I loved the atmosphere, the shops, the rides and the food of Diagon Alley.  But the world of Dr. Seuss still has my heart.

A few weeks ago we went back to Universal.  Yes, we did visit Hogwarts again.  And yes, I did have my wand with me.  And yes, I had fun.  But the magic for me was returning to Seuss Landing.

 

It was our first stop beginning our day at Universal, and our last stop on the way out.

I enjoyed walking all over this area with all the children and their families.  My husband and brother-in-law were with me.  Luckily, they are both pediatricians, so being around many children does not frighten them.  My husband went on two of the rides with me, and the three of us rode together for the Cat in Hat ride.

Just walking around makes me happy!  Seeing all the places from his books come to life delights me.  I love the book store filled with the many children’s books he created.  Yes, I went to the gift stores. This time I did not buy very much, as I had stocked up the last time we were there.  However, I do not mind the rides that end in a store, which usually drives me crazy.   In a Seuss Landing store, I just browse with a smile on my face.

Harry Potter World is wonderful,  but crowded with the many Harry Potter fans.  Seuss Landing is delightful, and not as crowded.  It is a great place to bring your younger children and enjoy going into a great world of imagination. An imagination that is not frightening at all, just fun!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36b07-zZZ8A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOIh1uVb6as

 

 

Visiting Kennedy Space Center: My Celebration of the Walk on the Moon

6 Jun

With the fiftieth anniversary of the Moon Landing fast approaching, I knew our recent trip to Florida had to include a visit to the Kennedy Space Center.  How could we not go and relive the excitement of the United States’ journeys to the sky and the moon?  So we did!

We went on an uncrowded Sunday, the first one in June 2019.  Not quite seven weeks before the historic 50 anniversary which will be on July 20!  Although we did not take the bus tour to the launch pads, since we did that four years ago, we still had more than enough to do by touring through the exhibits.  At each one remembering our own excitement as we watched the race to space advance during our lifetime.

While there, we made sure to visit the memorial to those men and women who gave their lives while involved in the space program. The names of the Apollo and shuttle crews who perished are inscribed in a black wall reaching to the skies.  We were the only ones at the memorial when we went.  I wish everyone would visit this area of the Space Center.  Those who perished in the two shuttle catastrophes are also memorialized in the exhibit featuring the Atlantis Space Shuttle.

Atlantis, the last of the Space Shuttles, is housed in a giant building.  You cannot appreciate the size of the shuttle and its rockets until you are standing next to them.  Impressive! You learn so much about the ability of so many who worked together to create the space program.

But before the space shuttles came the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.  The Center is filled with information about the astronauts, the engineers and the many people who helped create the leap into space.

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Friendship 7 Mission Control

The Heroes and Legends includes an Astronaut Hall of Fame and an exhibit of the original mission control.  While looking at this room, you watch a short video about John Glenn’s first orbits around the Earth and the fears when one of the lights came on indicating that the heat shield had come loose.  Luckily that was not the case, but you sense the fear.  Mission control looks so outdated today.  Computers and electronics are now so advanced.

I now understand, even more, why the mathematicians I learned about in the book and movie, Hidden Figures, were so important.  The state of technology was low, and brains were important.  I loved learning about Katherine Goble in the movie.  Seeing the mission control short movie about the Friendship 7, reminded me the importance of her calculations, which were also used in the Apollo 11 and Space Shuttle missions, even though she is not mentioned.   I believe it is important to remember all the women who also had an impact on the space programs! I once thought my daughter would join these women at NASA. (See blog below.)

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Mock up of the newest moon rocket.

At the Kennedy Space Center, you can watch a variety of movies on the space program at the IMAX theater.  My favorite was the opportunity to listen to a briefing about what is happening at NASA and the chance to meet an astronaut at the Universe Theater.   We did learn that there is an effort to return to the moon in 2024 and we even saw a mockup of the space craft that will take astronauts there.

I still remember watching Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. (See blog below.). The summer of 1969 Is one I will never forget for both the walk on the moon and for the Woodstock music festival that was less than two miles from my home in the Catskills.

Space has had a place in the fabric of my family.  Visiting the Kennedy Space Center and learning about the past, present and future of the space program is a way to celebrate innovation and science.

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I visited the gift shop to purchase a t-shirt commemorating the 50th anniversary. I had to get a Snoopy shirt.  For me, the Apollo missions to the moon will forever be attached to Charles Shultz and his cartoon character, Snoopy.  In fact, the Apollo 10 lunar module was called Snoopy, while the command one was called Charlie Brown.

Earlier this year I watched as Israel sent its first spacecraft to the moon with the help of Space IL and the Israel Aerospace Industries.  The Beresheet spacecraft crashed in its final moments, just before landing.   Think of the capabilities of technology today compared to 1969!  And even today it is nearly impossible to have a perfect landing.  This indicates so spectacularly how remarkable were the United States early trips to the moon.   I look forward to the 55th anniversary and the next attempt by the USA to have a man and a woman once again walk on the moon.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2019/03/07/our-daughter-not-an-astronaut/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/06/29/spaceastronomy-and-the-first-walk-on-the-moon/

www.KennedySpaceCenter.com

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-and-peanuts-celebrate-apollo-10-s-50th-anniversary

https://www.space.com/israeli-beresheet-moon-landing-attempt-fails.html

 

Visiting the Van Vleck House and Gardens

3 May

Another delightful site to visit in Montclair is the Van Vleck House and Gardens.  Once a private estate, the house and its gardens were donated to The Montclair Foundation in 1993 by the heirs of Howard Van Vleck, who owned this Italianate villa.  The house was built in 1916.  While other homes once were on the estate as well, this is the only house that still remains.

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The original main entrance to the house on Van Vleck Street.

The gardens are open to the public for free every day!  No holiday closures!  The lovely house is used as a center for nonprofit groups for meetings, events, and fundraisers.  I actually saw people having a yoga class in one of the rooms! What a spectacular yoga studio!  The windows overlook the gardens!

The house and gardens were a short walk from the Montclair Art Museum, just along Upper Mountain Avenue.  Our visit came after several days of rain, so all the grass was lush.  But the blooming season, except for the daffodils was not yet in progress.  I think by the end of May these gardens will be stunning.  When we saw them, everything was greening up, but not much was flowering.

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The formal garden in the back of the house.

There are several walkways and levels of gardens.  The formal gardens behind the main house are lovely. Staff members were setting up for an event when we were there, so we tried to stay out of the way. Although not much was blooming yet, it was a great place to get a good walk in a lovely setting.

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One of my favorite spots.

The Upper Lawn had several stations to check out.  You can download the Van Vleck house’ app and learn about the different areas using codes on the signs.  I liked an area on the upper lawn that had many daffodils and a bird house.  When you walk across the upper lawn, you come to the Mother’s Garden and then to a percola that was renovated.

At first, I was not sure if you were allowed to walk on the lawn, as there were no paths. But seeing the information signs across the way gave me some confidence that this was acceptable.  Also the Garden Etiquette flyer we picked up at the Visitor Center, says, “Walk only on the pathways and grassy areas.”  So we did!

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The Visitor Center with an Ap sign.

The children’s butterfly garden should be lovely as well. It is located behind the Visitor Center. (Where there are good restrooms.  Always important when walking.)  I also liked the colorful signs with details about insects and disease impacting trees and what to look for that lined the path from the butterfly garden to the front of the Visitor Center.  I was glad to see on the website that there are many children and family activities planned throughout the spring and summer.

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The pavilion by the Tennis Garden.

We did not go on the Rhododendron Walk.  It was somewhat muddy and damp, and I was not in the right shoes for that.  However, I did enjoy the Tennis Court Garden, planted where the estate’s tennis court once stood.  To the side is little pavilion.  I could, in my mind, see people resting there between sets of tennis, or watching those playing while enjoying the shade.

I hope to go back to Montclair and visit the Van Vleck gardens when everything is in bloom!

 

To learn more about the gardens and home, go to: www.vanvleck.org

 

A Little Gem, the Montclair Art Museum

1 May

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I just spent five days in Montclair, New Jersey, visiting my sister who recently moved there.  When we drove to her apartment, we passed the Montclair Art Museum.  Outside many of its trees were covered with crochet and fiber art works, my attention was immediately captivated.

She knew what I was thinking.

“Yes, we are going.  I knew you would want to go.” And I did.  I crochet; I knit; I sew; I have embroidered; I do candlewick embroidery; I needlepoint.  In simple terms, I love fiber arts.  And this display was calling my name.  I wanted to take photos of the trees from her moving car.  But she told me to calm down.  We could actually easily walk over to the museum

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On exhibit at the museum is the 2019 new Jersey Arts Annual – Crafts, “New Directions In Fiber Arts.”  It will be at the museum until June 16, 2019.

There was felt art, and crochet art, and quilt art.  Each of the 32 artists have their own specialty.  Each is special.  But I must admit, I have my favorites.

One artist, Jeanne Brasile, does water color and embroidery over braille newspapers.  I loved the geometric shapes and the colors of her work. They are delightful. Another, Robert Forman, makes yarn paintings.  I liked how the yarn formed another painting over the existing work.  You sort of see two different works of art at one time.  Geri Hahn sees art in musical sounds.  Her work on fabric looked like butterflies dancing to me. So Yoon Lym’s lovely felt painting looked like a water color.  I also enjoyed the story quilt by Faith Ringgold.

But every artist’s work had something to intrigue.  I enjoyed that each one wrote a statement about their work.  I, of course, read every one.  But I also purchased the booklet that went along with the exhibit to help me remember.  Actually, I should be honest, my sister purchased it for me, as she is a member.  Thanks!

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I also liked that scattered among the art works were little signs called Family Threads for family activities and questions.  This made the the exhibit much more interactive and family/child friendly.

The fiber exhibit was not the only gallery that I enjoyed.  Currently, the “Undaunted Spirit: Art of Native North America” is also on display until mid-July.  Part of the display, the baskets, I believe, are always on display.  The gallery that housed this exhibit, The Rand Gallery, is named for Annie Valentine Rand, and some of the many Indian art baskets and art works that were collected by her and her daughter, Florence Rand Lang, are on display there.

In March, my husband and I  spent a week on the Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations in Arizona, so I was fascinated by the many baskets which reminded me of what I saw in Arizona.  But seeing the art work of the Plains Indians also called out to me as I live in Kansas and enjoy seeing Indian Art locally as well.

My sister and I loved walking through the room filled with George Inness paintings. Many showed scenes from Montclair in the late 1890s.   My favorite was the Niagara Falls and Winter Moonlight.

Outside of the walled museum, there are art sculptures on display.  But for me the fun was walking to each tree and seeing the fiber art that encompassed the trunks and some of the branches of the trees.  I love seeing yarn bombing examples.  I felt a bit badly as it rained several of the days we were there which was dampening to the art and to the spirit.  Luckily, a break in the rain helped our visit to the outside grounds more enjoyable.

The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and open from 12 – 5 pm on the other days. To find out more about the museum and its programs and events go to  www.monthclairartmuseum.org

 

 

Adventures in Mathematics at the National Mathematics Museum

29 Apr

After a losing hope about the state of mathematics in the world, I was delighted to learn about and visit the National Mathematics Museum (MoMath)in New York City. Located at 11 East 26 Street, it opened to the community in December 2015. It is worth the trip!

From the Pi symbol door handles to the hologram engraved art work, each inch of this museum is filled with interesting sites and many interactive activities! I loved riding a bicycle with square wheels. It was a little hard on the rear! But fun.

We three adults were having as much fun as the children. There are two floors of activities that parents and children can work on together. Some are math and logic problems to solve. Others are just fun activities like watching your arms branch out into fractals in a living tree exhibit.

I wish I can tell you my favorite activity, but I cannot since so much of it was great fun.

There is also a room where temporary exhibits are housed. When we were there it was unbelievable math art that has to be made through 3-D printers. And fantastic origami art.

The gift shop is packed with educational games and activities to buy. More important this museum is open every day except for Thanksgiving! Need something to do with your children school age and older, go here! There are events and activities listed on its website which I put below.

It is an easy walk to Madison Garden Park where you can sit for a bit and people watch, take great photos of the flatiron building and buy lunch or a snack.

Being there gave me hope. There are parents and children and grandparents interested math and learning. I did not see one frown while there, I just saw adults and children intrigued by what they were seeing and learning while having an adventure at the MoMath!

Www.momath.org

Technology Equals No Division

27 Apr

I had the most pleasant dinner with my husband and siblings in a restaurant in Montclair, NJ. The food, fish for all of us and ice cream and sorbet for dessert was delightful. We chatted and ate and visited and finally were ready to leave.

I have to admit that perhaps we asked for too much. We wanted to divide the check so that my husband and I paid half and my siblings each paid a quarter of the bill. The waitress said it was fine. And so we gave her three credit cards and waited. And waited. And waited. I should have known something was not working out.

Our bill for four people was $129.02. She came back with my credit card and a receipt for $86. She then was going to divide the $43.02 between my siblings. I was astounded that she did not even realize that this was not divided in HALF. It was two-thirds and a third, but definitely not half. $86 and $43 are NOT equal!

I went up with my receipts to speak to her while she was running the other cards. I politely said, “Wait. This is not right. $86 Is not half of $129.02.”

She was not convinced. “Are you sure? I have to get my manager,” she told me as she hustled away with a dazed look on her face.

A few minutes later the manager came. “How cam I help? ” He was pleasant.

“This is wrong. $86 is not half of $129.02. ” I told him. I was sure he would understand. But no such luck. “You asked for half on one card and the rest divided between those two!” He told me.

“Yes half. $86 is not half of $129.02. Half of $130 is $65. This is wrong.” I started doing the math, the division on a piece of paper. I showed him the math. But that was not what he needed. I offered to show him on my phone calculator. But no. He had a calculator that he pulled out.

He typed in 1292. No I said. You need a decimal. It is 129.02. He might have been anxious at this point. I noticed my siblings laughing and looking at me. I was getting exasperated. And I now was in teacher mode. I had taught at a high school. There is a definite teacher voice and look that can come over me.

In any case he correctly typed in 129.02 and divided by 2. 64.51 was the number it read. “You are right,” he admitted. “I am sorry. I will fix it. ”

I wanted to make it easy. I wanted him to credit my sister’s account and just put the rest on my card, the other $43.02. We would sort it out later. But that was too much as well. He ended up crediting my account and my sister’s. He ran a new receipt putting all the money on mine. I paid , added tip and we settled up.

My siblings laughed all the way to the car. They knew I was frustrated, they told me that the look of our mother came over me as I tried to explain the math to the manager. Mom taught fourth grade for 30 years.

“I just can’t understand how the waitress and the manager did not see that $86 was not half. $43 and $86 are not equal. Did they not understand half, divide by two,” I was still frustrated.

I was concerned that they did not believe my division that I did on paper. They would only believe a calculator. I felt like I was in a science fiction novel that I had read years ago where a boy who could do math in his head was considered a genius because everyone else HAD to use a calculator!

I am worried Technology is destroying the ability to calculate math in our brains.