Daddy's Christmas Angel

Monday, April 30, 2012

A to Z Blogfest Around the World in 30 Days, the Final Chapter

"Into the Night" MMSikes
This is the final post in the A to Z Blogfest Around the World in 30 Days. For the Passenger to Paradise, "Z" is for Zest. She has an enormous zest for travel, a zest for life, a zest for people, and a zest for using her imagination.

So many places remain on the list of places she must visit. She would love to see New Zealand and along the way, go to Australia and maybe Tazmania. Except for war zones (why are there such things), she would enjoy traveling the world. She wants to go to Alaska and see the Canadian Rockies along the way. She's making a list and adding to it.

What places are on your list for destinations you most want to visit while you can? The Passenger to Paradise has a Zest for going everywhere--if not in person, in her imagination!

Thanks to all the folks who made the A to Z Blogfest possible: Arlee, Tina, KarenG, Shannon, Stephen, Konstanz, Jenny, Alex, DL, Elizabeth, Damyanti, Matt, and Jeremy. It was a fun challenge. I learned a lot and met new people. I'll keep my list up and continue to check out new folks. - Monti

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A to Z Blogfest Around the World in 30 Days - Yosemite or Yellowstone

"Yellowstone Falls" MMSikes
What should "Y" stand for in the A to Z Blogfest Around the World in 30 Days? The Passenger to Paradise couldn't decide between Yosemite National Park and Yellowstone National Park, so she selected them both.

In mid-June last year the Passenger traveled to Lake Tahoe and along the way had planned to take a sidetrip tp Yosemite. After all, she had long admired the photographs of Ansel Adams, many of which were taken in Yosemite. However, she learned after arriving in California that heavy snows still closed the road she needed to use for travel through the park. She was very disappointed.

In 2006, the Passenger spent two weeks touring Yellowstone National Park where she was thrilled to see the wild life, the geysers, the mudpots, and so much more. She wondered if the waterfalls pictured on the left might be similar to some of the scenery found in Yosemite.

Perhaps, another time she'll go to Yosemite. Have you visited either or both of these national treasures?

Friday, April 27, 2012

A to Z Blogfest, Around the World in 30 Days - Xanadu Gallery

Elaine Horejs, Director of Xanadu - MMSikes
"Watching Him Paint"
Wow! We are winding down and almost there. For "X" in the A to Z Blogfest, Around the World in 30 Days, the Passenger to Paradise has chosen Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale AZ. She's been following the gallery for several years on the Internet and was thrilled to actually get to visit Xanadu a couple of weeks ago during her trip to Arizona.

The Passenger was delighted to visit galleries up and down the street, all filled with exceptional art. Xanadu was special with an outdoor sculptural presence as well as a variety of paintings inside.

Following the stroll up and down the street of the Scottsdale Art District, the Passenger paused for lunch at Cafe Forte dining to a serenade of classical guitar music.

What can be more magical than a stroll through and lunch in a spectacular Arts District like the one in Scottsdale AZ where Xanadu actually exists?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A to Z Blogfest, Around the World in 30 Days - West Virginia

When the Passenger to Paradise was considering her blog for the letter "W" for Around the World in 30 Days for the A to Z Blogfest, she hesitated. She thought about Wien (Vienna, Austria), then remembered she'd probably focused on Vienna in last year's blogfest.
What to do?
"Mountain Sunset" MMSikes
Then she thought of West Virginia--a state she's passed through many times and a state with Hilltop House, one of the hotels she spotlighted in her coffee table book, Hotels to Remember. It is a destination that during her childhood, her grandmother spoke of many times. There were many relatives living there, including her great-uncle, inventor of his own cameras that he used in his photography business. Uncle Ben Gravely also invented a tractor that developed into the Gravely Tractor Company. Her grandmother was especially proud of her brother and talked about him so much that West Virginia became a special place in the Passenger's memory. It was special, not because she'd been there but because the rugged mountain state had become an iconic dream inside her heart!

Do you have a place that perhaps you've never visited but is special for you in some amazing way?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A to Z Blogfest, Around the World in 30 Days - Puerto Vallarta

"Puerto Vallarta Waves" MMSikes
One of the favorite journeys the Passenger to Paradise has taken was to Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. That's why when she started thinking about "V" for A to Z Blogfest, the Passenger chose that picturesque resort site.

She and her family spent a week at Puerto Vallarta several years ago. While on a bus tour, she was forced to make a quick decision, purchasing a ring with inlaid opal design. The bus threatened to leave her there, but she was happy with her purchase.

"Sky View" MMSikes
En route to Puerto Vallarta, the Passenger encountered some of the most beautiful cloud views she's ever seen from the air. She took dozens of photos and eventually planns to use them in an art project.

Do you enjoy travel to Mexico? Do you intend to visit there again in the near future?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A to Z Blogfest, Around the World in 30 Days - Unknown

"On the Tarmac at Dallas/Ft. Worth" MMSikes
The Passenger to Paradise pondered for a while over the "U" for her Around the World in 30 Days, A to Z Blogfest. Then she remembered an airline magazine article she read while flying cross country. It was about a couple's trip to a lush Caribbean island. The husband planned it as a surprise for his wife. All she knew about where they were heading was it would be warm and she would need a bathing suit. The final destination was unknown.

How exciting! How romantic! The Passenger loves the idea of an unexpected journey to a far-off (or even close by) unknown spot.

The Passenger remembers a novel she once read about a man of means who whisked his girlfriend off in a private jet for dinner in Paris. Depending on where you live, that could be a long flight. But it would be fun to fly off on a luxurious plane stocked with champagne and caviar.

Destination Unknown! It's an exciting idea.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A to Z Blogfest, Around the World in 30 Days

Entrance  MMSikes
Still loving her trip to Sedona, the Passenger to Paradise selected Tlaquepaque for "T" in the A to Z Blogfest. After all, she spent a great deal of her time there during eight days in the Sedona community.

Conceived as an artist location, Tlaquepaque 
is known for shopping and lovely upscale art galleries. The Passenger found inspiration in browsing through the galleries and strolling in the sculpture garden outside of one gallery. The lawn there was filled with metal sculptures that twisted and circled in the wind. Throughout the village, beautiful and nostalgic bronze sculptures intrigue the visitor.

Because of her love of sports bars, the Passenger spent many late afternoons dining and watching the Cardinals play on TV at Stakes and Sticks located across the footbridge. The food and service there were outstanding, so it has become one of her favorites.

If you long for the flavor of the Southwest or if you're looking for a great sports bar, Tlaquepaque is the perfect spot.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A to Z Blogfest Around the World in 30 Days - Sedona AZ

Cathedral Rock, Sedona AZ  MMSikes

For "S" in the A to Z Blogfest, the Passenger to Paradise didn't think long for her Around the World in 30 Days choice. She has just returned from an amazing week in Sedona AZ where there are photo ops at every turn. She loves nothing better than photo ops!

Sedona Art Outside a Gallery  MMSikes

So much to see, you have to long to return again and again. The Passenger to Paradise can hardly wait until her next trip there!

Friday, April 20, 2012

A to Z Blogfest Around the World in 30 Days -Rhinelander WI

Hodag in Rhinelander MMSikes
For the "R" in the A to Z Blogfest, the Passenger to Paradise has chosen Rhinelander, Wisconsin for her Around the World in 30 Days. Last summer, in a whirlwind tour of eastern and northern Wisconsin, she visited Rhinelander and discovered the Hodags there.

Of course, the Passenger had never even heard of a Hodag before. She learned this is a creature of folklore devised to give the town a mascot. This strange little creation, designed in a number of forms only limited by the imaginations of the artists who make them, is said to inhabit the local woods. Needless to say, the Passenger did not go hiking to seek any of them out. She did photograph a few of those that decorated the lawns of public buildings.

Another Rhinelander claim to fame is that the town had the first "comprehensive rural zoning ordinance in the United States." Adopted May 16, 1933, this became a model for land management in other Wisconsin counties and communities throughout the country.

The Passenger enjoyed her visit in Rhinelander which included a stroll through the downtown streets and a visit to the Oneida County Courthouse. Have you visited some of the pleasant rural communities in the mid-western states?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A to Z Blogfest, Around the World in 30 Days - Quakertown PA

"Spring Trees" acrylic painting by MMSikes hangs in Quakertown
The letter "Q" was a tough one for the Passenger to Paradise. Around the World in 30 Days, she wanted an exotic destination and considered Quebec. However, she used that location in the A to Z Blogfest last year and didn't want the same one. After thinking for at least 24 hours, she selected Quakertown PA. This is a place she's visited a few times. Because of its location 50 miles north of Philadelphia, the drive there can be grueling. Along the way, you might encounter an Amish horse and buggy which adds atmosphere to the community of about 9000 people.

In the early 1800s, the little settlement was known as Great Swamp. During the Revolutionary War, the Liberty Bell is said to have been concealed there en route to a hiding place in Allentown. Located in Upper Bucks County, the community has some historic places and a few restaurants to visit.

If you're driving in the area, stop by and visit a restaurant and some shops. The Passenger to Paradise was glad she did.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A to Z Blogfest Around the World in 30 Days -- Page, Arizona

Antelope Canyon One MMSikes
The Passenger to Paradise didn't have to think very hard to get her "P" travel post for the A to Z Blogfest Challenge post. After all, she just returned from an amazing trip to Arizona. Probably the most memorable experience of the entire adventure was the three-hour drive from Sedona to Page.

Before last week, the Passenger and her DH had never hear of Antelope Canyon. They certainly had no idea there were both a Lower and an Upper Canyon. After overhearing a couple in a restaurant discussing Antelope Canyon with their waitress, they decided to find out more. At a Sedona tourist information center, they learned that some of the most fantastic scenery in the world could be found within the walls of the narrow slotted canyons. Although they wanted to travel north to visit the Grand Canyon again, they decided they would first head farther north to Page. The canyons were only about three miles east of that community which is located just south of the Utah border.

Leaving Sedona at about 7 a.m., the Passenger and her DH reached Cameron Trading Post at 10 a.m. where they stopped for a delicious breakfast. The post is on the Navajo Indian Reservation and features some major local crafts for visitors to buy and a little museum that displays some of the older relics. It's about an hour's drive from there to Page.

Before reaching Page they had to decide whether to tour the Upper Antelope Canyon or the Lower Antelope Canyon or maybe both. They decided on the Lower Canyon (which was really the upper location on the map). It was amazing. After paying $52 in fees, along with another couple, they followed Chris, their guide, into the Canyon. The Passenger put her camera down only long enough to climb ladders and rocks ever deeper into the Canyon during the hour-long excursion. There were photo ops everywhere--front, back, up, and down.

Olen and Monti
At the end of the day, it was too late to drive back down to the Grand Canyon before sunset. Now they have to plan another Sedona trip to visit that Seven Wonder of the World once again.

The Passenger took dozens of photos. She could not get enough of the scenic beauty of the Canyon.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A to Z Blogfest, Around the World in 30 Days - Old Towne, Petersburg VA

Petersburg Studio MMSikes

Looking for an "O" location for the A to Z Blogfest, the Passenger to Paradise pondered and pondered. Then she realized, her Around the World in 30 Days selection was just too close to notice. For the last 10 years, she has maintained studio space at Petersburg Regional Art Center in Old Towne Petersburg. Along with 40 or 50 other artists, she moved into the new studio space located in an old Butterworth Furniture store on North Sycamore St. The artists were forced out of their previous spaces in Shockoe Bottom Art Center in Richmond--an artist studio facility patterned after the successful Torpedo Factory in Alexandria. After the artists turned a rundown part of Richmond into a place to gather and visit for art openings and other times, owners of the huge warehouse structure decided it was time to move the artists out and turn the building into condos. So the Passenger had to leave.

Petersburg was not the thriving location the artists had expected. A tornado had swept through the Old Towne section and destroyed some of the old buildings. But the artists kept hoping for an upturn and that has begun. There are new restaurants opening and more buildings getting renovated. Last summer, part of a Lincoln movie (Steven Spielberg) was filmed in Old Towne Petersburg. There are famous battlefields located nearby and a big military base, Ft. Lee. New artists are moving in, replacing those who have tired of waiting.

Now things are looking up for Petersburg. Perhaps the art clients will arrive and gather in the Old Towne space. The Passenger to Paradise has her fingers crossed.

The Petersburg Regional Art Center is open to the public 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. The second Friday of each month, there is an Art Open House.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A to Z Blogfest, Around the World in 30 Days - New Age Locations

"Angel Over Sedona" MMSikes
The Passenger to Paradise is fascinated with anything "New Age", and what place is more "New Age" than Sedona, Arizona.? Sedona is one of the places she loves, so that's why she selected "New Age" for "N" in the A to Z Blogfest Challenge.

Last week, almost the first thing the Passenger saw while visiting Sedona was a angel in the sky. Of course, she yanked out her camera and snapped a photo.

"New Age Shop Rocks" MMSikes
There's something mystic and mysterious about Sedona. The Passenger first visited there in 1994 and was captivated by the Red Rock formations. She was also inspired by all the New Age shops with rows of advertisements for psychics along with lovely glowing rocks for sale. Nothing pleases the Passenger more than beautiful precious smooth rocks in heart shapes. To keep from buying more heart rocks for her collection, she raced outside to the backyard garden where fantastic trees, large crystals and other rock formations rose up from the ground.

There is a mysterious presence that fills the air of Sedona, and the Passenger enjoyed the quiet loveliness of this destination.

What do you think of her angel?

Have you ever visited Sedona?

"New Age Garden" MMSikes
Do you have another New Age destination you'd like to recommend?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A to Z Blogfest Challenge, Around the World in 30 Days - Milwaukee

The Passenger to Paradise visited Milwaukee last summer, so she decided the city was a good destination for the A to Z Blogfest Challenge and her Around the World in 30 Days - "M".

"Milwaukee Diners" MMSikes
Mixed media art Milwaukee Art Museum MMSikes

Pfister Hotel MMSikes
She was distressed to discover that the awnings on the Pfister Hotel are now red instead of the green  color she used when painting the hotel for her Hotels to Remember book. She couldn't change her painting, and now the outside of the hotel had a different appearance. Thankfully, she had already decided her book and all the paintings, photos, and stories in it were just a "snapshot in time".

The city had a pleasant feel to it, and the Milwaukee Museum was only a short walk down the street where it sits on the edge of Lake Michigan. Although she is not a big fan of Chinese art, the Passenger toured the special exhibit that was heading back to China the following week.

Since her last visit, the museum had completely changed, and the Pfister had a different exterior appearance. Nothing is certain except change, she decided.

What cities do you like to visit?

Friday, April 13, 2012

A to Z Blogfest, Around the World in 30 Days -- Las Vegas

Like it or hate it, Las Vegas is a favorite American destination. That's why the Passenger to Paradise chose that city as the "L" for Around the World in 30 Days.

A few years ago, the city tried to clean up its image and become a family destination. That didn't work out very well, so they are back to the slogan, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."

Because Las Vegas is the location of the Public Safety Writers annual conference, the Passenger has visited the city several times in recent years. It's interesting to wander among the slot machines en route to and from workshops, she's found. The conference food is excellent, and she looks forward to those lunches. In the past, she's taken in some of the theatre productions, including "Mama Mia."

On the final day of each conference, she takes a certain amount of money--big for her, but laughingly small for regular gamblers--and plays the slot machines, penny ones, of course.  Last year, she played as long as she could and was down to almost nothing when she decided to switch machines and play to the last penny. All of a sudden, she hit a winning streak and regained her losses plus a little more. She calmed her urge to play some more.

Maybe one day she could become a gambler, but not anytime soon. And so continues her love/hate relationship with the city.
"Sky View En Route to Vegas"

Have you been to Las Vegas? What did you think?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A to Z Blogfest, Around the World in 30 Days the the Passenger to Paradise - Key West, Florida

"Southernmost Point in the USA"
Monti in Mona Lisa Portrait

Olen in Renoir Portrait by Johnson
The Passenger to Paradise loves exotic destinations, especially ones that involve islands. For her next Around the World in 30 Days, "k" destination, she has chosen Key West, Florida. What an amazing destination. The Passenger has headed there a few times. At least twice, she has gone by way of driving from Miami to Key West passing through all the keys along the way. What an unbelievable sight! She has found the southernmost point in the US and enjoyed being there.

While in Key West she visited the J. Seward Johnson sculpture projects in which he chose paintings by the masters to create sculptures in which viewers can interact. She loved getting involved with these sculptures/paintings in Key West. This destination is so much more than just visiting another island. It was a special destination for President Harry Truman. It was also special for author Ernest Hemingway.

What destinations are special for you? Have you visited Key West?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Blogging A to Z Around the World in 30 Days - Jupiter, FL

The Passenger to Paradise is a baseball fanatic, so what could be more perfect for "j" than Jupiter. Not the planet, but Jupiter, Florida. Every February/March, the Passenger rushes down for spring training. It's the most exciting time of the year for her because there is great hope for a wonderful baseball season.After all, every team has a chance in the spring.
"Molina Batting"  MMSikes
"Afternoon at Palm Beach" MMSikes
The St. Louis Cardinals are the Passenger's team, so when she heads to Jupiter she doesn't care about any place other than Roger Dean Stadium. She watches the team on the practice fields. She waits by the parking lot gate in hope of getting an autograph from a favorite player. She thrilled when Matt Holiday stopped to sign and when Lance Lynn did the same.

Although the beaches in the area are beautiful, the Passenger seldom sees them. She's almost always at the playing fields.

How sad it must be when April arrives and all the players are gone.

Do you have a sport that you love? Have you ever been to baseball spring training.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A to Z Around the World in 30 Days -- The Islands

"Island Sunrise" MMSikes
When the Passenger to Paradise selects her "i"  destination, she has to choose Islands. After all there is no other destination that suits her so well. She adores the islands of the Caribbean. She also loves islands such as Hilton Head. And, of course, she cannot help but hold in adulation the Hawaiian Islands. How can she help but want to return to Sint Maarten, or Antigua, or Jamaica? Of course, she wants to go. And she is writing a second Hotels to Remember book that focuses on the exotic Hawaiian Islands destinations that include the Royal Hawaiian and the lavish hotel at Princeville.

So many destinations, but the Passenger wants only the warm ones. She's never been to the Greek Isles, but she would love to go if only to have a chance to photograph the amazing colors that frequently descend upon those special islands.

How you visited any of the islands? Which ones draw you back? Please let us know.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Around the World in 30 Days - Hilton Head, South Carolina

Hilton Head Beach - MMSikes
We're up to "h" now, and the Passenger to Paradise has chosen Hilton Head Island, South Carolina for her next Around the World in 30 days destination. For about the last 30 years she has spent at least one week a year there, often more time than that.

Hilton Head is known for its tennis. An avid tennis player, the Passenger first visited Hilton Head to take a week-long tennis clinic along with her husband. The Dennis Van Der Meer clinic was intense, running from early morning to late afternoon. They both loved it and improved their games as well. The Passenger plays tennis and takes the stroke of the day clinics every year at Island Club where the beach is spectacular. On Monday evenings, pros from Island Club and usually from Port Royal Resort put on a fun exhibition for vacationers.
Hilton Head beach path - MMSikes
Boathouse II has a good Sunday brunch, she has found. Sitting at outdoor tables overlooking the sea and enjoying the crab omelets and other treats, she watches many boats, including big yachts, as they are transported from the massive boathouse and lowered into Skull Creek.
In the years before Waldenbooks closed on the island, the Passenger enjoyed book signings there. A signing for her first novel, Hearts Across Forever, was especially exciting.

The Passenger has been associated with several art galleries on the island. Because of art sales, she visited homes on the island to see her work hanging there.

Perhaps, most important of all were the days when the Passenger and her husband visited Hilton Head as a base for attending football games at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Their daughter was part of the marching band, so their time was filled with the excitment of seeing the half-time performance.

Hilton Head is a versatile and fun destination. It holds a myriad of memories for the Passenger to Paradise and her family.

Do you have a place of many memories to which you return over and over again? Do you have a destination of wonder you will never forget? That's what Hilton Head is.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Around the World in 30 Days - Guatemala

"Far Jungle" by MMSikes
Around the World in 30 Days, Blogging A to Z, for the letter "G", the Passenger to Paradise has chosen Guatemala. Although she's never been there, the Passenger feels closely connected to that destination. For her book, Jungle Beat, she started in Antigua and ended in Antigua, but along the way she also "visited" Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.

The Maya Ruins in Mexico have long been close to her heart. A few years ago, when she visited the ruins at Palenque in Southern Mexico, she was certain that as she gazed across the thick green jungles through a window of the Temple of the Inscriptions, she was seeing into Guatemala. Perhaps she was and perhaps she was not, but the memory of her thoughts that day have invaded her psyche and given directions in her art and in her writing she would never have taken without that journey of destiny.

Besides her book, the Passenger has created an exhibition of Maya Ruins paintings that will be on view at Crossroads Art Center in Richmond, VA starting May 18 with an opening reception and book signing. She is fascinated with the Maya and the end of their calendar December 21, 2012.

Is that date the end of time?


The Maya.

What do you believe?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Around the World in 30 Days -- Fredericksburg, VA

"Angel Light from the Sky" - MMSikes
Around the World in 30 Days with the Passenger to Paradise continues with the "F" destination -- Fredericksburg, Virginia, the city of her birth. She recalls growing up there in the shadow of the Civil War Battlefields. For much of her childhood, she lived just below Sunken Road where thousands of soldiers perished or were wounded in the Battle of Fredericksburg. She walked the long blocks to her elementary school located on the bank of the Rappahannock River. En route she passed historic Kenmore with a Civil War cannonball embedded in the brick wall. Old Lafayette School served as a hospital during the Civil War, and floors still wore the stains of blood from the wounded and the dying. No wonder the dreams of the Passenger were stirred by the images she saw on her daily trek to and from school. She ran as fast as small legs would carry her past Kenmore for fear she might spy the ghost of Lafayette riding his horse across the grounds.

Strange, what memories we harbor from childhood. What memories do you have about the place of your birth? Do you long to go back?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Around the World in 30 Days --Eagle Harbor, Michigan

Eagle Harbor, MI - MMSikes
Continuing Around the World in 30 Days, the Passenger to Paradise fell in love with Eagle Harbor, Michigan while visiting there last summer. She had never been to Upper Peninsula before but had heard lots about it from artist Mary Ann Beckwith. Passenger was amazed by the remoteness of the area and the beauty of the landscape. However, the thought of spending a winter there hidden beneath the snow was not very appealing.

Eagle Harbor sits on the edge of Lake Superior, the largest fresh water lake in the world. Passenger couldn't put her camera down, she was so captured by the beauty of the lake and so many other things, including a 1915 bridge over Eagle River.

The end of her journey was in Houghton where Passenger met her artist friend Beckwith, sipped wine on her porch and enjoyed a tour of the art hanging in her home. She also visited the construction of Beckwith's new studio over her garage. It was a trip filled with excitement, and although the Passenger has no plans to return, it was a powerful experience for her.

Have you ever visited the Upper Peninsula? Would you like to live there?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012