Thursday, December 1, 2016


Mardi Gras World - New Orleans, Louisiana

There's so much I could write about New Orleans. It's a city so overflowing with musical talent that traffic stops daily for impromptu marching band performances. Its architecture and scenery are so stunning that I spent an entire day dedicated to touring mansions and graveyards. Although I could write ten posts just about its unique flavors and dialect, I'm going to focus on Mardi Gras World since museums are what this blog is all about and Mardi Gras is what New Orleans is best known for.
Mardi Gras World was a welcome and refreshing departure from the war museums I had just toured in the past two days in Alabama and Mississippi. 

First, our guide let us try on costumes and play with props. We watched a short but important film about the history of Mardi Gras. Then we got to eat King Cake which is a New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition. If you've read some of my other posts then you know that any museum that gives me free food (or beer as was the case with the Guinness museum!) gets an A+ in my book.

What I loved most about Mardi Gras World, besides the cake, was that we got to go behind the scenes and see the entire process of making the floats from start to finish. Inside this room, designers are creating digital templates for the machines that will cut the styrofoam forms.

These two women are using a papier-mache technique so that the forms can take paint.

This one has been fully covered with the paper and is ready to be painted.

This looks like a stone statue but it's really just made styrofoam. The detail is truly impressive.

An artist is finishing the paint job on this trumpet player. 

Here are some floats that are completely finished. Our guide took us through the entire space and gave us heaps of information about Mardi Gras, float making and how you can get yourself a spot on a float. 
After he left we were allowed to wander around by ourselves for as long as we liked. There was so much to see and it was all so magical and inspiring. 

Mardi Gras World is a bit out of the way if you're on foot but they have a free shuttle that will pick you up and drop you off and they have King Kong and King Cake so you have no reason not to go!!

Visit their website for hours and address and other info

Wednesday, November 30, 2016



The problem with an unplanned road trip is that sometimes you stumble upon places that you wish you hadn't. We were really taken by all of the old plantation style homes in Mississippi and wanted to take a tour of one. The woman working at the Mississippi welcome center told us to go to Beauvoir and we had no idea what we were walking into.  

I've been debating whether or not to write this post for a long time because I don't want to give promotion to a place that made me feel so uneasy. I guess my naive expectation was that I'd be touring the site in a historical context that would condemn rather than glorify the Confederacy. A very brief history of Beauvoir is that it was the former home of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy and now it's a National Historic Landmark and Museum. Davis's wife sold the plantation to the Mississippi division of The Sons of Confederate Veterans with the stipulation that it be used as a Confederate state veteran's home and later a memorial to her husband.

Growing up in New York, when we were learning about the Civil War and slavery in Social Studies class, I remember my teacher told us that the part about slavery was omitted from textbooks in the south. I was in disbelief over this revelation. Now that I live in the south, I see history is written more like fiction than fact here. 

The tour of the home was led by a sweet old volunteer that turned out to be a proud member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. I had a very hard time reconciling my feelings about this racist grandpa. As a Northerner who dedicated many years volunteering for the African American Museum, I hadn't been this uncomfortable since we took a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam, where our guide told us that his mother died saving him from napalm and he had the scars all over his body to prove it. Needless to say, he was not a big fan of Americans. However, this part of the Beauvoir tour was really just about the house. Very little was mentioned about the war and Jefferson Davis himself. There was a video playing in the library glossing over the history which we went to watch after the house tour was over. 

Personal feelings aside and viewing the house strictly from a museum standpoint, it was very disappointing. We got to see two rooms in the whole house. The rest were closed off or piled with furniture and there was nothing really architecturally impressive about it either. Much of the original home was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina and for some reason, they were granted funding and given donations to help rebuild. More than 200 people in Mississippi died during Katrina and 90% of the structures within half a mile of the coastline were destroyed. With all the people who were left homeless, I don't understand why money was granted to restore an empty home commemorating our country's shameful past. We decided right then that there were far too many war museums in this world and that we had been to one too many. We had both reached our limit in Mississippi. 

The site was originally 608 acres but is now 52 and consists of the residence, a botanical garden, a former Confederate veterans home, Confederate Soldier Museum, the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library and Museum, a gift shop, various outbuildings, and a historic Confederate cemetery, which includes the Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier. Five of seven of these buildings were destroyed by Katrina and replicas are being planned. 

I will admit that the grounds were very pretty, especially the little botanical garden which had hundreds of butterflies everywhere. 

Confederate Dead
No Nation Rose So White and Fair

None Fell So Pure of Crime
Trying to keep open minds, we also walked around the cemetery and the museum. I don't see any other way to interpret this tombstone. Do you?

Oddly, the gift shop was probably the most disturbing part of the entire visit. It was full of confederate flags and stickers for sale which did make me feel sick but it was the screeching parrot that actually had us running for the door. Yes, someone keeps their angry pet parrot in a cage in the gift shop and even he hates the place. On the plus side, he did a great job of keeping customers from spending money in the store. We ran out of there, went directly to our car and drove right out of Mississippi. 

**I just want to add that overall we had a really nice time in Mississippi and there are a lot of wonderful places to visit. Downtown Ocean Springs is a great place to stroll around. It's filled with charming shops and art galleries and great restaurants. In fact, I had the best seafood of my life at a restaurant called Phoenicia Gourmet. The lesson learned here is that next time I'll do a little research into where I decide to spend my time and money. Instead of spending your time and money at Beauvoir, I'd recommend visiting The Pleasant Reed House or donating to the Southern Poverty Law Center

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Battleship Memorial Park

Battleship Memorial Park is located in Mobile, Alabama. 

Admission price includes self-guided tours of the Battleship USS ALABAMA, Submarine USS DRUM and the Aircraft Pavilion.
Visitors are given a 4-page guide with color-coded tours in Red, Green, and Yellow. The ALABAMA has color-coded numbers throughout for visitors to follow as they read the information on their guides.

You must be careful going through the small doorways (hatches). I suspect this was much more challenging for tall crew members.

The battleship was a seemingly endless maze of ladders, corridors, and tiny rooms.

These beds were stacked 5 high! 

This is the deck of the Battleship
Battleship USS ALABAMA was commissioned on August 16, 1942. She earned 9 Battle Stars and shot down 22 enemy airplanes during World War II. The ship is 680 ft long and 108 ft 2 inches wide. She weighs 35,000 tons (70 million pounds), but under battle conditions, she weighed in at well over 45,000 tons (90 million pounds).

Inside the aircraft pavilion
The aircraft pavilion is the only place in the world that houses the complete collection of "F" series fighter jets.

The park has more than 25 of the nation's finest military aircraft on display. 
There are also aircraft and tanks located outside throughout the grounds of the park.

The USS DRUM was commissioned on November 1, 1941. The ship is 311 ft. 8 inches long with a beam (width) of 27 ft. 4 inches. 

Inside the Submarine USS DRUM
She earned 12 Battle Stars during World War II. 

The most important advice for visiting Battleship Memorial Park would be to wear sturdy footwear. There's a lot of very narrow metal ladders to climb within the USS Alabama and the Drum. Keep in mind that if you're not able to climb up and down the ladders then you'll only be able to view the outside of the battleship and the submarine.  If you are claustrophobic, this tour might not be for you. Space is very tight inside the DRUM as well as the ALABAMA.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

More Florida

Last week my husband and I set off on another adventure. We took an unplanned road trip through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Unplanned trips are great because there's no schedule to keep and no expectations. We didn't book any accommodations, we made no reservations and did no research into museums or activities. We just got in the car and drove. 

Our first stop was right here in our own town at the Port Saint Lucie Botanical Garden where they were having their annual free tree giveaway. 

First, you had to register and get your ticket. Then you had to go to 5 out of 7 educational booths in order to get your tree. The booths were manned by volunteer Master Gardeners who were there to teach us how to take care of our new trees.

 The topics covered information about each type of tree, climate, soil, planting, pruning, watering, pests, fertilizing and more. 

I have to say that I learned a lot of useful information from each Master Gardener because this New York native is really not great when it comes to living green things. Once our ticket was punched from all 5 booths we were allowed to select a tree.

We chose the Southern Live Oak. This is a picture of it in the back of our car. We had to fold down the back seats and lay it down in the trunk. It reached all the way to the front. 

Eventually, this tree will grow to be 40 to 60 feet tall and will have a spread of 60 to 100 feet. We planted it next to our hammock so that in 30 years we'll have shade!

Once we adopted our tree we were back on the road and drove north to Lake City, Florida. This area of Florida is about as country as it gets. You know you're in the country when you have a store that sells thousands of cowboy boots in every size, design, and color imaginable. 

There's not much to do in this area except for the boot store and the Florida Welcome Center where you can get discounted theme park tickets, free orange juice and see a 14 foot stuffed alligator. The reason for this stop was because it's located near Ichetucknee Springs State Park. (Click this link for address and hours of operation information)

The Ichetucknee River is the best place for tubing in Florida. It costs just $6 per car to enter the state park and you can rent tubes at various stands located along the road outside the park. The river is 6 miles long and stunningly beautiful. It was one of the most relaxing activities I've ever done. We got there early and so there were only a few other people in the river. As the current took us down the river we watched the morning fog rise off the water. We listened to the birds wake up and start to sing while we gently floated by. I only wish that I still had my GoPro camera so I could share pictures but it's just more incentive for you to go and see for yourself. I know that I can't wait to go back again. 

Please come back next week to read all about the next leg of our adventure in Alabama.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Florida Everglades Airboat Adventure

Touring the Everglades in an airboat is the quintessential Florida experience. We went on our airboat ride at Sawgrass Recreation Park in Weston. We saved a few bucks by buying tickets online. They can be used any time which was great because our first attempt to go was rained out so we wound up going a few weeks later. Tours leave about every 20 minutes so you don't need to reserve a specific time. Just show up and get in line. 

My best friend begged me to go on the boat wearing big sunglasses and a headscarf. Oh, the things I do for my friends! This wound up being a very practical move since it gets extremely windy once the boat starts moving.

This woman in front of me had the right idea too. It was like a glimpse of my future self! 

Here's a view of the dock, boats and the Everglades. Everglades National Park is a 1.5-million-acre wetland preserve made up of coastal mangroves, sawgrass marshes and pine flatwoods that are home to hundreds of animal species.

Our driver had 30 years of Everglades knowledge and Airboat driving experience but I won't spoil it for you by revealing the cool things we learned from him. 
Below is a photo of the 14-foot gator that swam right up to our boat and bumped it with his nose! I only wish I took a video of the woman who grabbed her two teenage boys and jumped up onto her seat screaming for the driver to start moving. That was definitely my favorite part of the trip!

The ticket price also includes admission to all 3 animal exhibits.

The best part is that Florida residents are able to use their tickets for free admission for a whole year. You and your family can go on as many airboat rides as you like and receive 10% off at the gift shop as well as discounts on 10 other South Florida parks like the Miami Zoo and Lion Country Safari. So what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Curiosity on Court

New Project

These are some illustrations I made for the subway component at a new children's play space in Brooklyn, New York.

My family members did a great job modeling for me so I could create the perfect image of subway riders. (Grumbacher watercolors and Prismacolor pencil on Fabriano paper)

My husband is the happiest MTA subway conductor ever.
(Grumbacher watercolors and Prismacolor pencil)

   This is the view from the conductor's windows. (Prismacolor pencil and Nupastel on Bristol vellum) 

Work in progress

This is a simplified subway map for kids created using a combination of hand drawings, Photoshop and Illustrator.

Photos of the finished subway car below. (Photo credits: Paul Orselli)