Monday, November 23, 2009

Haggin Museum

This outing again comes from the AAA recommendations and I have to say that this is a GEM of a museum. The Haggin Museum is a small museum in Stockton, about an hour and 15 minutes away from where we live, but it is definitely worth the drive. The admission is only $5 for adults- which is such a steal to see such amazing pieces. It is located in the center of a park with several mini-lakes and fountains.

The main draw for me to the museum was their special exhibit- "American Legacy: Our National Parks"- that they have in conjunction with the national parks documentary by Ken Burns. The exhibit mainly featured paintings that had happened in plein air- only a couple were done in the studio- and all of them had been painted within the last few years. Something that I had not expected was that these paintings were actually for sale- some had already been purchased. I glanced at the price list to see that the prices ranged from $3000-10,000. It was fascinating to look at all of these different paintings of our national parks because they each evoked a different feeling than a photograph. Several of the nearby plaques detailed how several of the artists struggled to not exactly document the scene like a photograph but rather to capture a deeper level of emotion of the paintings. I particularly enjoyed this special series they had of Zions (a place I still need to visit) where they had 14 artists paint in the park for a week. It just re-enforced to me how unique each artists perspective is because most of them chose different objects and scenes to focus on, and it was fascinating to view the individual emotional experiences of each.

The main highlight of the museum for me was that they had about 10 paintings by Albert Bierstadt- this incredible landscape painter. Bierstadt took nature and elevated it to the spectacular. For me, his works evoke very spiritual feelings about the majesty and grandeur of nature, and that these masterpieces were designed by a greater hand. I have only seen a handful of his works in all of my other museum travels and so this was an unexpected delight. My favorite of his was entitled "Sunset in Yosemite Valley" and this image does not do it justice. You definitely have to see it in person to get the full effect. They also had several works by Thomas Moran, another great landscape painter of the time, and my favorite was "A Woodland Temple." These pieces alone made my visit, but there was still much more to be seen.

They have a small collection of Egyptian artifacts (including a mummified cat), Greek, Roman, Mayan, and Aztec, as well as beautiful elaborate French clocks and vases, Wedgewood china, and Chinese Jade. They also had a Renoir and a Gaugain mixed in among some portrait paintings. The opposite side of the museum houses artifacts, models, and replicas of the history of Stockton. I though that this area was particularly well done in that they had spent an enormous amount of time customizing backdrops for each scene- like this one about the Spanish missions- and and the shipyard where boats were constructed.

They had rooms decorated to illustrate what a Victorian home looked like, as well as a school, blacksmith shop, stores, Indian lean-tos, and they had an incredible gift shop. It was already elaborately decorated for Christmas with several trees, lots of art books, and other trinkets. And the staff was so friendly. I honestly cannot rave enough about this museum. I will definitely be back.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Butterflies at National Bridge State Park

My mom sends me articles about activities to do around the Bay area from the AAA magazine. This is one way that I find out about some of the random activities that I end up doing. Every year, thousands of monarch butterflies migrate down to this warm area in Santa Cruz. There is this grove of Eucalyptus trees nearby where they feed and the park has built wooden pathways down into the grove. We timed it just perfectly in between all of the school groups and were able to enjoy some quiet time in the grove admiring all of the THOUSANDS of butterflies. I have been to several butterfly enclosures in my life but I have never seen as many in one place.

This looks like some kind of hanging pod but it is actually about a hundred butterflies all nestled together resting.

I learned some new things about butterflies- they cannot fly if it is cooler that 55 degrees Fahrenheit and cannot even move if it is under 45 degrees. They are the only creature that can live off of the poisonous milkweed. They stay here until late January until they move off to another location again. It obviously was above 55 degrees since this monarch was spreading her wings and getting ready to fly

Nora absolutely loved the butterflies- she kept saying the word "butterfly" and pointing at them. It was so adorable just how fascinated she was with them

We also went down to the beach to see the natural bridge that used to be connected. It was such a beautiful day and only slightly windy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

There's a Mystery There: Sendak on Sendak

I cannot even begin to tell you just how much I adore my husband- he is one of few people who would indulge me by going to 3 museums in 1 day and did not complain AT ALL about it (don't worry- we didn't do anything this weekend). After the Tut and Postmortem exhibits, since we were already downtown and still had some time and it being the first weekend of the month, I got in free to the Contemporary Jewish Museum with my Bank of America card. I wanted to see the special exhibit "Sendak on Sendak" which has been perfectly timed with the movie (we still haven't seen it yet) and it was great. They not only had the developmental sketches for many of Maurice Sendak's 100 books but they also had excerpts of him discussing some of the themes and processes in creating these amazing illustrations. One of my favorite video excerpts had him talking about how he learned early on in his career after illustrating a book by Leo Tolstoy that he did not like to illustrate for such great writers because they had already done all of the describing for him. The illustrations did not contribute anything to the story. He then gave the specific example about how no one would want to see him do illustrations for a Jane Austen novel :-) He loved doing illustrations for books like "Where the Wild Things Are" because he could reveal the additional stories not described in the text- thus the "hidden mysteries". I had not known that he had also done the illustrations for the Little Bear series- one of my favorites growing up. It was fascinating that he had several different styles of drawing; there was not one uniform look to his work. I also thought it was clever to hear that many of his "scary" characters are based upon members of his extended family :-) They had these larger scale drawings of his throughout the museum. All in all, it was a very interesting exhibit that made me want to go back and read many of his illustrated books.

We also went and saw their other main exhibit at the museum- "As it is Written: Project 304,805"- which turned out to be quite fascinating. This project has a female scribe (in keeping with the contemporary nature of the museum) who is doing a complete copy of the Torah over the period of a year- which equals 304,805 characters. She was not doing the work as it was Shabbat, but they had a video interview of her doing the process. When she sits down to begin the transcription, she has to announce out loud that she is beginning the work and she had to say the Hebrew character before writing it. She has to copy the text; she cannot do it from memorization. If she makes a mistake, she can erase it by scratching off the ink and writing over it. This is her first full work and the copy of the Torah will be given to a congregation when it is finished. She said that the hardest part of the whole process is making the quill to write with. It has to be carved to precisely the right angle or the characters will not turn out right. The work is written on scored animal skin and once a page is finished, it must be covered unless it is being read. Old copies of the Torah- including ones partially destroyed in Hurricane Katrina- have to be buried. We were lucky enough to be able to see an unrolled copy that had somehow been "decommissioned" (not sure of the process). We were also able to see the mantle- a special cloth covering- that encases the scroll when it is not in use. We both felt that this was such a fascinating exhibit that we very highly recommend.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Very Postmortem: Mummies and Medicine

Following the Tut exhibit, we then headed up to the Legion of Honor to see their related exhibit "Very Postmortem: Mummies and Medicine." The exhibit contains the coffin and remains of a mummy- a priest named Irethorrou- who is owned by the museum. The mummy was recently CT scanned at Stanford University and the exhibit shows video going inside the mummy, as well as still shots showing where various amulets were found throughout the wrappings. It was neat to be able to "look inside" of the mummy, as well as see what he looked like from the outside. One interesting thing we learned from the exhibit is that Irethorrou was only middle aged when he died but he had extreme wear on all of his teeth due to the SAND particles that were always present in their bread. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to bite into a "soft" piece of bread and encounter grit. The exhibit is fairly small- it took us about 30 minutes to thoroughly read all of the panels and watch the scan. You get into this exhibit for free if you go the same day as you visit Tut. It was a good companion to Tut but if you can only go to one, Tut is the definite must.

We also saw another exhibit at the Legion that we both DO NOT recommend. It featured the work of John Baldessari, a contemporary artist who is kind of a variant of pop art by Andy Warhol, but not nearly as good. He liked to place round circles over faces- which I guess is his trademark. Neither of us really cared for the work and so we had a very quick walk through of his work.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs

We went to the members day at the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibit at the De Young Museum last Saturday. Our entrance was only $15 each and we each got an included audio tour. Our time was for 10 am which was perfect because there were no wait lines- when we left the exhibit, the lines were huge. Even though we were early in the day, there were still TONS of people. The first few rooms of the exhibit featured items from his ancestors, including a BEAUTIFUL full golden coffin of Tjuya. But my favorite piece in the exhibit was a golden coffinette from Tut's tomb. This is what part of it looks like- though this is an extreme closeup to maximize the intricate detail. Coffinettes were like canopic jars in that they held the internal organs of the pharaoh. This one was actually for another individual- they had to scratch off the cartouche inside and write over it- they open up the coffinette so that we could see it.

They also had this calcite canopic stopper of Tut's- they had to have a separate container for each organ so it makes sense that he would have several different types. William thinks that this stopper bears a resemblance to Michael Jackson :-)

They had a projected image of Tut's mummy and they showed where the amulets were located in the wrappings. I had hoped they might have had one of his several coffins- but they only had a replica video of the five or more that he had. I also liked seeing the map containing the layout of the tomb- I had never seen it before and it was fascinating to see just how small it was in comparison to other pharaohs. They think that since he died so young- probably due to a hunting or a chariot accident (due to the CT scan they performed on the body)- there was not enough time to build a proper tomb so he just took the tomb of his older adviser who assumed the throne after his death and just built himself a bigger tomb.

Also in the exhibit was one of the little coffins of one of two fetuses found in the tomb- they think that it was the daughter of Tut but won't be sure until some more tests are conducted. I highly recommend this National Geographic film about Tut. It was made a few years ago in 2005 and features the results of the MRI scan along with the history. As for the curse of Tuts tomb, it is mainly thought not to have been relevant since many of the individuals died several months after visiting the tomb. Some have speculated that they contracted so form of toxic mold but that probably would have killed them earlier.

And no trip would be complete without a stop a the gift shop where they even sold Ghiradelli chocolate in the shape of the headdress of the King Tut coffinette and don't I look somewhat similar to that (William thinks that I look more like a court jester than the wife of an Egyptian pharaoh). We didn't buy either of these items but don't worry- I did get the book about the exhibition :-)

This is my name in hieroglyphics inside a cartouche- and it was only $1 :-)

This was a great exhibit that gave us a taste of Egyptian treasures but it really has only peaked my desire to actually go to Egypt . . . .

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stanford Campus Tour

I'm at the end of my second week of my research job and I'm enjoying it. The professor that I am working for is currently a visiting professor at Stanford so it has been fun to visit the campus to meet with him or hear him lecture. After one of his lectures while walking back to my car, I saw that the Stanford Campus tour was starting and so I decided to join it. I've done my fair share of college tours having been to several universities and I also did a back-East college tour while in high school so I would say I have a wide range of experience. This tour wasn't very good- the girl really liked to talk about the fountains. There are 38 all over campus, the water is dyed red during Homecoming week (I think? or for some other event), and as freshman- one tradition is for them to run through all of the fountains (my tour guide did). I did see more of the buildings than I had seen before- like the Hewlitt and Packard buildings (the Packard building is shown below). I love the modern design of the buildings- especially all of the glass.

The main campus really does have beautiful and unique architecture with a Spanish flavor and some Romanesque elements.



Beautiful colonnades.

Hoover Observation Tower, which I still need to visit the top.


Even their "underground system" has decorative elements to the manhole covers- and don't worry- its "sanitary"

But my favorite building is Memorial Church. The inside of the church has beautiful stain glass windows illustrating scenes from the New Testament. The exterior has this elaborate mosaic on its facade that contains over 20,000 tiles!!!



I did learn a few things about Stanford. Stanford was founded in honor of the only son of the Stanford family who died as a teenager. There are over 8,000 students (graduate and undergraduate) and just as many bikes since the campus is so huge. Initially, tuition used to be FREE for the first few years the university was open (don't you wish you could have gotten in on that!) In front of Memorial Church are several metal inlays lining the corridor of columns each with a different number on them like "90". I found out that underneath each of these columns is a time capsule from the graduating class of that year. Disturbingly, inside one of the time capsules is a slice of pizza. Gross! I would definitely NOT want to open that up- supposedly, this same slice was kept by a girl for four years, through her whole career at Stanford, and that was why it was so "important" to be placed inside the time capsule.

Halloween

This is the LAST post about Halloween :-) But isn't it kind of appropriate that I am posting it on Friday the 13th? :-)On the actual day of Halloween, we went to the temple and then also saw the special exhibit at the Oakland Temple visitor center. Its entitled "California's Pioneer Heritage: Saints, Soldiers, and Settlers." They have a one hour video detailing the experiences of the Saints who crossed half-way around the world in the ship Brooklyn to arrive in San Francisco. Growing up in Utah, I have heard many pioneer stories- some including my own ancestors- about how they crossed the plains in covered wagons and handcarts as well as the hardships that they endured. I now feel that there is an important group of these pioneers who also need to be recognized: those on the ship Brooklyn. They were on the ship for 6 months. They experienced major trials as well such as motion sickness, rancid water and food, extremely rough waters, calm waters with no wind (just as dangerous in sweltering heat), and deaths of loved ones. The exhibit also had informative plaques and artifacts from the time period as well as some living history actors. These are individuals who know all about the history of these pioneers and dress in period costume and teach about life in that period. We found out that it is a calling- I think that would be such a great, fun calling. They also travel around the state at different history events.

William then indulged me as I drove around this neighborhood in Los Altos where they do extreme decorations- particularly this one house. They really go all out with lots of balloon creatures like this spider on top of the skull, a cat with a moving head, a horseless carriage, a giant tarantula on the roof,

and hanging ghost lights- I absolutely LOVE these!!! So adorable

We were gone all night so we don't know if any trick or treaters came to our house. But don't worry- we stocked up on the candy sales after Halloween :-)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Googleween

We went to the Googleween party on Friday afternoon and it was fun like it has been the past two years. William was feeling anti-Halloween and so we didn't dress up but I did wear my Salem MA black shirt with a witch on it, so that has to count for something :-)

They had the gummy candy bar where I loaded up on gummy brains and skeletons, caramel apples, cookies, and popcorn. They had a haunted house set up inside one of the buildings and the first part was pretty lame since it was just a black room with some barriers. But the last room was great because they poked fun at some of their projects: a Google Labs room where there were performing some interesting human experiments and a Blue Screen of Death. They should have gone more for the humorous aspect than the scary.

The highlight of the party was the costume contest. The winning costume was this group one for the movie "UP." They had the dog, a replica house, the old man with the walker, but the best part was the scout with the balloons.

Here's a better closeup of him

The second place winner was "the guy as the giant brown box" (how they announced it) but I think he was trying to be Domo

We had a great time at the party even though we were not dressed up.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mother's Group Halloween Party

Our friend Kristen threw a FABULOUS Halloween Party for all of the little trick-or-treaters. She had the most adorable details like these little bats on the goodie bags

mummy rolls (with black sesame seed eyes)

and homemade caramel for caramel apples along with lots of different toppings and melted chocolate (I chose to make mine and William's both Oreo)

And there were several great kiddie costumes like a fireman, a bear, princess Belle, Dorothy, Pebbles, and a pretty witch.

Pumpkin Fudge

I tried the following recipe from one my friends back in Boston and I have been meaning to try it. The only issue with the fudge is that it is SUPER rich and this makes a full 9x13 pan so make sure you have lots of people to help eat. I'm still eating it as William isn't big into pumpkin. I do think that we need a new candy thermometer as it never approached the right temp despite going over 12 minutes.

3 c. sugar
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 (12 oz.) pkg. butterscotch morsels
1/4 c. butter
1 (7 oz.) jar marshmallow creme
2/3 c. evaporated milk
1 c. chopped almonds
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. solid pack pumpkin

In heavy saucepan, combine sugar, butter, milk, pumpkin spice. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until it reaches 234 degrees on candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in butterscotch chips. Add marshmallow creme, nuts, vanilla; mix well until blended. Quickly pour into greased 9"x13" pan. Cool at room temperature.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pumpkin Butterscotch Cookies

I tried this recipe for Pumpkin Butterscotch Cookies which I slightly tweaked by using pumpkin pie spice instead of just the cinnamon. These were ok but not my favorite pumpkin cookie based recipe. I do think that the addition of butterscotch chips is brilliant and enhances the flavor of fall. If anyone has any great pumpkin cookie recipes, send them my way!

Cafe 50's

My sister Cynthia took me to this cute diner in LA called Cafe 50's. The decor is your typical diner with the booths and stools along the soda fountain but they also have all of these advertisements, posters, and photos from the 50s era. Their shakes are great- thick and rich and they give you the metal can with the remaining ice cream in it. They also have great sweet potato fries and cheddar bacon fries. My sister Cynthia frequents here often and says that they have pajama night the last Wednesday of the month where if you wear your old school flannel pant bottoms and button long sleeved tops you get a free meal!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bellagio Conservatory and Water Show

My other favorite thing about Vegas is the Bellagio. Unfortunately, they did not have a good art exhibit (it was only showing what the future architecture plans are for Las Vegas- I'd rather see them in person) but we were able to see to Conservatory and a couple of water shows.

The conservatory was fall themed with covered bridges,

giant pumpkins weighing over 800 lbs,

- and some giant Ents.

They also had a model of the Bellagio complete with fountains

But I prefer the REAL water show.

I could watch this all night and be happy

Cynthia was kind enough to let me watch 3 shows- what a great sister I have :-)

This wraps up yet another fun trip to Las Vegas

La Reve

My sister Cynthia and I decided that we would also see La Reve at the Wynn. Neither of us had known anyone who had seen the show but it was created by Dragone who did the Celine Las Vegas show (which was AMAZING) and so we decided to give it a chance. AND IT WAS AMAZING!! The theater is smaller than any of the Cirque shows so it provides a much more intimate atmosphere. I also loved that it was a theater in the round so that every seat was a good one.

The show was much more dancing based than any of the Cirques yet they still had some incredible feats of strength (like one guy supporting another guy upsidedown on his shoulders, neither of them holding on and walking around), acrobatics, and trapeze. The show had a stage that moved up and down in the water and so the dancers and synchronized swimmers would go under the water to enter and exit the staging arena. And how could I not think that the show is incredible with great decorations like this! This was for the finale (thus the only reason I could take photos since it was after the show) and it was just as beautiful as it looks from the photo.

I loved this show- the ballroom dancing was incredible, as well as the staging, lighting, and just the overall performance. My sister Cynthia went so far as to say that this is the BEST show she has seen in Vegas. I would say that it is definitely one of my favorites. One of my favorite things about Vegas is all of the great shows that you get to see.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Luv It Frozen Custard

My mom called us to let us known about this frozen custard place in Las Vegas that she had read about in the AAA magazine. It was called "Luv It Frozen Custard" and it turned out to be right down the street from our hotel. I got the vanilla custard and it was SO good. It reminded us of Nielsen's Frozen Custard in Salt Lake if any of you have been there. And it was pretty inexpensive as well. We tried to go again the next day but they don't open until 1 and we had to leave at 11 to drive back. Come on- I'm sure that LOTS of people want some custard before lunch at 11am- especially since it is still so hot in Vegas :-)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

U2 360

UNREAL. Completely amazing. I am beyond words for just how good it was. U2 is ABSOLUTELY my favorite band of all time- they truly just keep out doing themselves. I went to their first concert back in high school for the PopMart Tour. It was seriously so awesome to see the band emerge out of a giant lemon. I then went to the Elevation Tour back in 2001 which was so great because they incorporated so many lights elements. I saw Vertigo tour twice- once in Boston and once in Salt Lake and loved the heart shaped catwalk and Bono with the bongo drums. Each concert has been more amazing than the last and just when I don't know how they will be able to top themselves, they do.

Cynthia and I drove to Vegas and picked up some Cafe Rio takeout before getting my friend Michelle from the airport. We had planned to eat before the concert but the traffic getting to the concert was HORRIBLE. It took us nearly an hour and a half to make a journey that normally would have taken 20 minutes. PAINFUL. At least we weren't in a taxi- I can not even imagine just how expensive that would have been. So, we ate our dinner while in the car which meant that of course, I spilled on my Vertigo shirt :-( At least I have long hair that covered it up. We only saw a few of the performances by the Black Eyed Peas which was fine because they were not very good live. When we drove up, we could hear them and just how flat they were. We were just thrilled that we didn't miss any of U2.

I was unable to buy our 3 tickets together but luckily, I was able to squeeze on the end of the bench with my friend Michelle- the people next to us were super nice to let me do that.

Michelle and I have a LONG history of loving U2 all the way back to our freshman year at BYU. She went to the concert back in Dublin Ireland this past summer (SO JEALOUS) and was thrilled to make arrangements to come at the last minute to see them again. Cynthia was just down the row from us but joined us for a photo after the concert.

The stage was HUGE with the "apparatus" or "spaceship" as it was called.

They had a circular stage with an additional catwalk going around it that was connected by these two movable bridges. There was a classic moment during the concert when the Edge was on one and Bono was on the other and they got close to each other and were reaching out in a manner like the Fall of Adam.

I also LOVED the big screens that they had which showed great artistic shots of the band, such as this one with Bono

and then Adam.

I also loved all of the different colors and lighting effects that they had

I think that the stage definitely looks like a spaceship with this lighting. For the song "Spanish Eyes" they had views of Earth from the Space Station as well as a special message from one of the astronauts.

I also loved the swinging microphone for Bono

It made the stage almost take off.

But, as much as we all wanted to be transported to a different place after the concert, it wasn't possible for awhile due to the massive traffic jam. SO WORTH IT.

Cynthia enjoyed having some "free" popcorn

And here are several clips from a few of my favorite songs that they performed. To my delight, the last song they played was "With or Without You" and of course I taped the whole song. I wish that I would have taped Bono singing "Viva Las Vegas"- he totally sounded like Elivs!

Get on Your Boots
video
Magnificent
video
With or Without You

(I tried like 5 different times for several hours at a time to upload this video but it just won't work. At least I can still listen to it :-)

And you can also watch the entire concert from LA on YouTube- I've watched the first half again and it gives you a completely different perspective of the concert.

I will get to see this great concert AGAIN next June when they come to Oakland!! I have to sit by myself but it will be SO WORTH it to get on my boots again with Bono and the band :-)