(Not quite) More Muppets than Imaginable (or a trip to a museum closer to home)

Ciao Readers!  Happy Almost-Back-From-Turkey-Day!

So, today we venture to the Albuquerque Museum for the Jim Henson Exhibition, which just got underway this past week.  While our museums can’t compete with the big guns (or apparently even Omaha, Nebraska – which gets a Monet even though they have 100K less people than we do (see last post)), this is a pretty cool exhibit.  It features a history of Jim Henson and the muppets and we even get some of the real muppet puppets on loan from a bigger museum in NY.

So, a little personal history, which also explains why this exhibition is a big deal to me….

I was just a few months shy of turning 3 when Sesame Street premiered on November 10, 1969. As you may know, it just marked its 50th!!! anniversary!  When I was a kid I LOVED the muppets – so much so that my 13 imaginary brothers and sisters that all lived in an imaginary dresser were muppets, not people (insert psychoanalysis here). My favorite easy-read books were all from Sesame Street, and the one pictured below, The Monster at the End of This Book, was my all time favorite, and an original is on display at the museum (notice the price in the corner):

Even as an adult, I still love the muppets and my own Jim Henson Muppet Factory puppets have starred in their own epics, such as “The Puppetinos Move to Italy.

 

In any case, there were several cool old muppets from the 50’s and 60’s (I didn’t realize most of the muppets were created for commercials, like Rowlf the dog for Purina), some old sketches, notes and videos, and several actual muppets (though not the 47 the museum in NY has – play small violin here). I tried my best to take photos without people in them, but this is a big deal for little ‘ol Albuquerque and it was a full house….Enjoy!:

 

 

More Monets than Imaginable (or a VERY quick trip to Denver)

Happy Thanksgiving Readers!!!!!

I hope you are all safe and warm!  We are snowed in, which is perfect since we weren’t going anywhere and we cooked everything yesterday.  Pretty, huh?

 

In any case, this is a post about Monet and Denver, so on with it….

The Denver Museum of Art is a pretty amazing place, and right now it is showcasing the largest Monet exhibition in the U.S. When I read about it, I HAD to get tickets, which I did, for this past Monday at 12:00. So, off we go to Denver on Sunday….I had checked the weather several times throughout the week and the driving weather there, and back on Tuesday, looked great. Which is why it was a bit perplexing as we drove in Sunday evening to keep seeing road signs saying “Storm Warning: Expect Road Closures for Monday-Tuesday.” Being the modern age, I was able to get on my iPad and weather.com, and what d’ya know, it was supposed to start snowing Monday about 3:00 and then pretty much not stop. Time for an impromptu plan….

Our tickets were for 12:00 on Monday and it wasn’t supposed to start snowing until 3:00+, so no problem, we could see the exhibit, then hit the road and beat the snow! AND – I almost forgot – before we went I discovered Denver has a Shake Shack (you may recall my obsession with shake shack burgers from previous posts).  We had planned to go to Shake Shack after the museum, but new plan – get to Shake Shack before they open at 11:00, be the first in line, get our heavenly burgers, then high-tail it back the 40 minute walk to the museum just in time for our ticket time!   And, amazingly enough, we pulled it off!

The exhibition was beyond description – when I had read “100+” Monets, I expected a few big ones and lots of little half sketches, etc. NOPE – it was room after room after room of giant, gorgeous, mind-blowing Monets!!!  I read the info on each and every one because I wanted to know where they came from – they were sourced from all over the world including Tokyo and a museum in Omaha Nebraska!  Second only to the Stendhal Syndrome-inducing exhibit was my amazement at what it took to get all those paintings to the Denver Museum all at once for this show. In any case, if you are anywhere near Denver (when it is not snowed in) before February 2nd, I cannot recommend this exhibition enough.

So, street art on our walk to Shake Shack; our beloved burgers; and just a taste of the Monets….Enjoy!!!

 

Sneak Peak of the Penguins at the ABQ Zoo!

Ciao Readers!  (and HELLO new readers who found me through the zoo’s twitter!)

Two blog posts in one week – I know! And both with us dudded up in black-and-white* to go to some fancy schmancy shindig!

Tonight we had the unique privilege of getting to go to the “sneak peak” event of the soon-to-open Penguin Chill exhibit at the ABQ Zoo.  Let me tell you, it is SUPER COOL!!!!! (bad pun intended). The exhibit itself is amazing – a multi-level sub-antarctic environment with various viewing areas (even underwater!), complete with interactive activities including Skyping with Antarctic scientists!  But of course the main attraction is the penguins (31 penguins, 3 different species – you can read all the info on the link, above). They are just getting used to being in Albuquerque and while they are trying to keep them on their usual wake/sleep cycle (and warned us they would be asleep), they were all fully awake and diving and swimming tonight – it was a site to see! You can’t use a flash and it was nighttime, so the one photo I got was dark (sorry) – but check out all the penguins in it!  (there are some good videos on the zoo’s twitter @abqbiopark)

On top of the cool penguins, there were h’orderves, sushi, drinks and catching up with old acquaintances. And, one really neat thing that made me smile (you’ll have to figure it out from the photos)…..Enjoy!

*see if you can spot all our penguin-themed attire

 

 

Quirky & Cultured: The Santa Fe Opera

Ciao Readers!  Happy back-from-the-long-weekend!!!

Boy, it has been a while, huh?  I’ve missed you (almost as much as I’ve missed doing things I thought were “blog-worthy”).  I think this past weekend’s excursion counts, so….

For the very first time in our lives we went to the opera! Specifically, La bohème, at the Santa Fe Opera. Now, in full disclosure – the two biggest reasons we went were for 1) the quirky and cool tradition of fancy tailgating before hand, and 2) the amazing scenery at the venue (which I had seen years before when I went there to see an Indigo Girls concert).

So, as to the tailgating – this is a major tradition (you can read more about here) – everyone dressed in their finery gets to the venue a few hours early and sets up for dinner (anywhere from a cooler to an all out banquet table) – there is champagne, h’orderves, fancy food, etc. (you can also order dinner from the venue, as we did). It is a unique site for sure. We went semi-all out and brought a little table, fake flowers and some fake (i.e. dollar store plastic) “crystal.” Steve even brought a lawn-looking rug and an umbrella (which we needed as it started raining shortly after the picture, below, was taken). Here’s also some other folks (picture from the opera’s website):

In the background (when you are tailgating, but also inside the open-air venue) are both the Jemez Mountains and the Sangre De Cristo’s (since you can’t really get the full effect from my photos as it was raining, I’ve also included a youtube video):

 

So, fun fancy food, beautiful scenery and…..then the opera. Ack, this is the part where I have to admit, that despite desperately wanting to feel cultured and all (and really appreciating that my friend Julie’s daughter is an opera singer) – I’m just not that into opera. I can appreciate the singing and the costumes and all of it, but for some reason it just doesn’t hold my attention like a broadway show or a concert. And, while I could use the excuse that it was raining and COLD (in the 50’s) for summer and late by the time intermission rolled around and that’s why we left…I realized on the drive home that if it had been a Green Day concert it could have been hailing and 2:00 a.m. and I would have toughed it out.  But – we have been talking about going back – specifically for the tailgating (is that weird?) – we are pretty sure there were some other folks doing that as they packed up and drove off after the tailgate part (or it could have been the rain). In any case, a unique experience well worth it, even if I had to discover I am uncultured in the process!

Five Reasons to Boycott Valentine’s Day

Ciao Readers!  Happy belated New Year to you and Birthday to me!

So, I think I am making reposting this – my most “liked” post ever – a yearly tradition. Enjoy!

Originally posted in February of 2016:

So, today I go off on a tangent (i.e. mini-rant); one of my only posts not about travel or food. I figure, I have this grand public forum, why not totally abuse it?  If you don’t know this about me, I HATE (yes H-A-T-E) Valentine’s Day and have since I was a teenager.  I honestly think it is the worst, most sadistic/masochistic, commercialised abomination ever.  I hope you’ll agree and join my 3-decades long boycott.  Here’s why…. (in no specific order and somewhat redundant)….

  1. No one ends up satisfied.  Seriously, how many people are out there right now building up their expectations for Valentine’s Day and how many people are fretting about the expectations put on them? What percentage of people on February 15 think “YAY, let’s do that again!” v. “Whew, thank goodness that’s over!” or “Boy, am I disappointed!”?
  2. It makes kids feel bad.  Do you remember counting the valentines cards you got in elementary school?  How about the carnations you got in jr. high or high school?  I remember the “popular” girls would all have tons – it took a couple of years to realize they were buying them for each other – they weren’t more loved than us other kids, they just had more spare lunch money and a marketing plan.
  3. It makes adults feel lonely.  If you don’t have that “special someone” to spend Valentine’s Day with you end up feeling left out, sad, lonely, etc. It seems like a day that’s specifically meant to make you feel bad (crappy premise for a holiday, no?!). As I am old and un-hip, I am not 100% certain how this works, but I am guessing this societally-induced feeling leads to alot of poor [tinder?] [grindr?] decisions at about 11:30 p.m.
  4. Big Hallmark owns you.  Seriously, do you need Hallmark to tell you when to express your love, appreciate the people around you, buy your wife flowers, call your mom, and so on?  Okay, maybe you do, but you could revolt and just pick any other day of the year.
  5. The candy is 50% cheaper the next day.  Seriously, same delicious chocolate, half the price.  ‘Nuff said.

Since this post does not readily lend itself to photos, but I’ve learned that photos are de rigueur, I am about to randomly pick some that I think would make good anti-Valentine’s day cards….

 

 

Sempre Rivoluzione (or waxing poetic about Lucca and life)

Ciao Readers!  I just wouldn’t be me without at least one philosophical blog post from this trip…

So, the title of this post are lyrics from the song “Non E’ “ by Luca Carboni (you can read the lyrics and hear a clip here).  It’s basically a song about how everything changes, with a few jabs to the state of humanity thrown in for good measure. (Perhaps an edgier version of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds?) In any case, not only do I like the sound of the song, but the lyrics speak to my current state of mind – trying to accept that everything changes (and trying not to get too worked up about it when it seems to change for the “worse”).  I have to admit, it hasn’t been easy – I’ll take a year when I run my first half marathon and get cast in a movie over one with personal angst and a friend’s suicide any day, but such is life.  But lest I get too pesante (heavy), I’ll move on to Lucca….

As I mentioned in my Florence post, I was expecting that upon my return I would see that everything had changed; much to my surprise, almost nothing had. I’m not really sure why I was so surprised, as I had always thought Florence was frozen in time in the Renaissance. And since Lucca is literally walled off from the world, I’m really not sure why I was surprised it hadn’t changed either (okay, my favorite sweet shop moved a few doors down).  So, take it from Italy to disprove my point, and throw a monkey wrench into my coming here to help me accept change plan… (To prove my point, here are photos I took last March and ones I took today:)

 

Favorite sweet shop in old and new location, same great pistachio cookies:

 

Since I’m headed to Milan tomorrow and then home, I will say Ciao for now!  Have a nice Thansgiving!

“The Wanderer’s Guide to Lucca”

Ciao Readers!
So, this week I am back at the school in Lucca I went to last year. And, since like Florence, Lucca hasn’t changed much and I have come down with a major chest cold, I am taking the easy way out and reposting this blog about Lucca – it is just as picturesque in the Fall. Enjoy….

New Mexico to Italy

Ciao Readers! And happy Monday after Spring Break! We have finally made it to Italy….

The title of this post reflects both its focus, as well as the book from which I got most of the substantive information.  As you may recall, back when we lived in Florence (was that real?!), we took a day trip here and had a thoroughly lovely time.  Now I have 10 days in which to really explore this place…

Lucca is mainly known for two things – primarily, its wall; secondly, Puccini.  Apparently there have been 3 sets of walls built around Lucca, dating back to Roman times;  the current wall, which completely circles the town, was built from 1550 to 1650, using much of the town’s resources (human and economic) for 100 years!   Either it was money and time well-spent or wasted, depending on your perspective – no one ever tried to bombard…

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