Monday, August 29, 2011

0060: Covered Bridges - Vermont

This morning as I continued to read about the devastation left behind by Hurricane Irene I am once again reminded of how fragile life is. Irene formed on August 20th and within a week caused extensive damage in the Caribbean and the U.S.  
Today's post is in memory of the estimated 27 people that died as a result. 
Covered bridges are new to my world. I think I'd vaguely heard about them somewhere before but my interest was peaked as I saw this 141 year-old bridge (Bartonsville) washed away by the raging waters of Hurricane Irene. It was a 158 foot long bridge, one of the longest in Vermont.  
This is the news clipping that caught my eye - 
Rockingham, Vermont (WCAX News) - August 29, 2011
The flooding took a toll on infrastructure around the state -- including some of Vermont's historic covered bridges.
In Rockingham, the destruction of the 150-foot long Bartonsville Covered Bridge was caught on tape as it was swept away by the roaring Williams River.
The Village of Quechee was heavily damaged, with the covered bridge there torn away and left in tatters.
In Northfield Falls, the Cox Brook jumped it's banks and was doing damage to the Upper Cox bridge, one of three covered bridges in a quarter mile stretch.
So, my goal this morning was to find out how and why covered bridges came to be... 
  • Covered bridges can be dated back two thousand years to a time when they were being built in China and even earlier in ancient Babylon (780 B.C.). But the first covered bridge built in America was built in 1804. This bridge spanned the Hudson River in New York and was called the Waterford Bridge, lasting 105 years.  (Source: History of Covered Bridges)
  • One reason for covering bridges was to protect the trusses from the weather because the environment caused bridges to fail sooner. Bridge engineers pointed out "that a housed timber truss span has a life expectancy at least three times greater than one unhoused".  (Source: History of Covered Bridges)
  • In the U.S., Pennsylvania has more covered bridges (over 200) than any other state. Vermont and New Hampshire have more covered bridges per square mile than any other place in the world. Oregon has the largest number of historical covered bridges in the western U.S. (Source: Wikipedia)
Here are some other beautiful shots for you to enjoy...
Pulp Mill Bridge was built in 1820 over the Otter Creek.
It is a 195 foot long two span double barrel Burr Arch.
Photo: B&S Photography
Gold Brook Bridge a.k.a. Emily's Bridge was built in 1844, is 49 feet long,
crosses a stream in Stowe, Vermont and is reportedly haunted...
Photo: Joseph Sohm
Middle Bridge was built as a reproduction in 1969 in Woodstock, VT. A 1877 iron bridge
succeeded it.  It carries Union Street over the Ottaquechee River and is 139 feet long.
Woodstock Vermont, I couldn't find the name of this one
but thought it was an extremely beautiful photo...
365 Grateful Blog by Leslie
Cornish-Windsor Bridge is two-span and 460 foot long. It was built in 1866
and is the longest in the U.S., spans the Connecticut River between
Vermont and New Hampshire. Photo: Joseph Sohm

Saturday, August 27, 2011

0059: Birdcages

I just got these birdcage inspired decorative pieces and just love them. Once I get Nathan Lane and Robin Williams' movie Birdcage out of my mind (which I thought was hysterical...) I think there is something about a birdcage that is whimsical and pretty.

Birds were originally caged for their exotic beauty nearly four centuries ago in ancient Egypt. Doves and parrots were early favorites. The first primitive bird cages were likely made of twigs, rope mesh, reeds or bamboo. Gradually, as birds became more popular with the wealthy, cages became more elaborate. Bamboo and wooden cages were in many kitchens in the early American colonies and heavily ornamented birdcages became popular in the Victorian Parlors...

Just for fun, here are a few famous bird owners...

Popular among the royalty... King Henry VIII, King George V (named his Charlotte),
Queen Victoria (named hers Coco) and Marie Antoinette
all had African Greys... Photo:
Winston Churchill had a female blue and gold macaw, named "Charlie"
Print: Jules Scheffer
Steven Spielberg has a Panama Amazon Parrot named Blanche. But seems as though
Blanche had issues, Steven is pictured with Ken Globus - the bird whisperer ...

Lastly, Martha Washington, first lady, had Polly the parrot. Rumor has it that George Washington hated the parrot :-)

But I am not looking for anything requiring upkeep and much less a bird whisperer... My birdcages will never house real birds, I'm just looking for the "essence of" :-) like these two that have painted birds inside. They will hang in my outdoor, covered patio area. I think they are beautiful!

Then I got three birdcage cloches (French term for "bell") that can be placed over some small flowering plants, I'm thinking these will go nicely in my kitchen or dining area...
I bought these because I thought they were pretty and then realized I have joined a birdcage trend - I couldn't be happier with the warm and fuzzy feeling I get when I see these pieces. I think they are wonderful... I hope you enjoyed the fun facts :-)

Sources: The Well-Appointed Life, Planned Parrothood

Thursday, August 25, 2011

0058: Memories Through Photography

I'm not sure about you but I love pictures and I love remembering moments and laughing at everyone's differing versions of what was going on when the picture was taken - it's all good and it feeds the soul. 

So why is it that 98% of my pictures reside in my computer? I'm not sure.... But I do have them all synced with my laptop, iPhone, iPad, iPod and desktop :-) When I wrote about the El Salvador Volcanoes (0052) it prompted me to pull up that trip's pictures and with it some sweet memories. Come along as I take you through Mr Roger's neighborhood - just kidding... though some of the 'local' areas of this little country. A country whose beauty is often overshadowed by stories of poverty and danger (which exist but the pueblos and countryside were like stepping back in time when life was simpler. Some can argue that these 'poor' people are wealthier than most...). Embarrassingly, even I had let myself get caught up in the stereotype but I was instantly charmed and won over by the brightness and cleanliness of the pueblos and the warmth of every person we came into contact with. I truly experienced the heart of this country...  
Yes, she travels with me :-) A family friend's countryside home... this was a garden prop, we weren't traveling via horse-drawn carts :-) although that could've been cool!! 
Stairway at the Boqueron Park (the volcano). The park was closing so we begged and were let in last minute. We were the only people there. It was so serene... Being surrounded by nature and these rustic additions was simply beautiful. 
Coatepeque Lake from above, sweaters were definitely at hand because of the elevation
but the cool air just added to the laughter and energy of the trip. My family was fantastic, they patiently showed me a country I didn't know and reminded my mother of places she hadn't seen in decades.  
Coffee is a huge product of ES; I'd never seen the actual plant...
cool right? 
A garden at one of the mountain restaurants we went to - this fountain was in memory of the owner's little girl who passed away, it was sad and sweet. This angel made them feel as though she was always home. The grounds were gorgeous, they even had an awesome tree house - in the background - the food was amazing. 
The entrance to the hacienda turned restaurant... The cool thing about this kind of home is that they all open to an interior garden/courtyard with covered walkways where the rooms are around the perimeter. I loved that all rooms opened to a common outdoor living room/garden area. These covered walkways are pretty spacious and it is very common to have hammock hooks hanging for when you just want to sway the day away.... 
Back to our friend's home... they had an amazing outdoor kitchen - taking the BBQ concept to a serious level!!  It was like an entire second kitchen but with a gigantic brick oven/grill, fruit was hung until ripe and cooking tools sat ready for the next feast. It felt staged but it was very much part of every day life. 
Las Brumas, another home turned restaurant. Although a smaller courtyard, it was so serene and pretty. The food was fabulous but the view was heavenly....
Las Brumas - view of the valley and sunset. The air was crisp and filled with laughter, my belly was full and I had a nice red wine in hand - life could barely get better. And although you can't see it, the backyard was tiered along the mountain with garden levels then acres of untouched land.
Need a hat?? Then head to the market ("mercado")...
I don't think they will be running out anytime soon :-)
A typical pueblo-style home, with an interior courtyard... I became obsessed with these courtyards. Everyone is done so differently; each was like a secret garden. Well, secret to everyone but the family...   
Almost all commercial establishments in Ataco were brightly painted.
This was a sweet cafe and next door was a handmade craft store... 
An internet cafe - rare but they still exist... 
Office buildings were also sweet. The architecture had such a 'yesterday' feel to it. This street made me feel like I was on the set of an old western movie,
I loved it!!
Even buildings that were in need of repair retained their charm and vibrancy. 
Well, I hope you enjoyed this little trip as much as I have enjoyed writing about it. And if you are ever interested in going and don't know where to start... feel free to email me ( I'm no travel agent but I can recommend first-hand insights and specifics so that your experience is as amazing as mine was. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

0057: Happy Stranger's Day

Cartoon by: The New Yorker

Although it's been awhile since I worked in NYC I still read the New Yorker. A couple of weeks ago I came across this article - JUST FOR YOU: HAPPY STRANGER'S DAY, Posted by Robert Mankoff - and thought it was a pretty cool idea...  

What better way to spread great energy or meet someone you have been meaning to reach out to? So to all of you beautiful people out there that I have never met...

Happy Stranger's Day!!

"We are each others angels, we meet when it is time."
- Chuck Brodsky -

All the best, whether we ever meet or until we finally meet :-)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

0055: Instagram (Smartphone App)

The original picture is my Blog 0020: The Beach

Although it launched in 2010, this is one of my new favorite things - its a social photo-sharing app which I just signed up for yesterday and I'm hooked! I like that it allows you to enhance your pictures or post them as originals. (To learn more go to the Instagram blog.) Check out these "enhanced" shots - beautiful right??? :-)

The app is easy and fun and some of the pictures you see are AMAZING... Anyway, enjoy!

On a bike ride, in her basket - I know E.T. right....

Mushroom Pic from this morning's walk. 
BTW, if you don't have a smartphone you can still check out the site on - its the web interface for instagram. And if you are on instagram, check out some of my other pictures - under "WITIB".

Irish Coast

Sunday, August 21, 2011

0054: The Mona Lisa - From Masterpiece to Icon...

I love this picture! Despite having seen her 6 times I have never been able to appreciate her this close up. She is a relatively small painting (30 in X 21 in); she is encased in glass then displayed at a distance, behind a velvet rope - the ultimate VIP! THEN there is always a crowd of at least 5 deep so you have to slowly follow the procession and get your turn to spend a few seconds with her - which of course is nothing. This is such a beautiful painting and probably the first piece of art I learned about.  It's wonderful to know that she is so beloved and so protected...

Check out "A Closer Look at the Mona Lisa" by The Louvre Museum
This series of short clips will give you a great insight into EVERYTHING about the Mona Lisa.

But that wasn't always the case... It was the art theft of the century, 100 years ago today, in 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Salon Carré in the Louvre. From the beginning this portrait was greatly admired and much copied, and it came to be considered the prototype of the Renaissance portrait. Mona Lisa even got so many love letters that her portrait was the only artwork at the Louvre to have its own mailbox! Then she "left the building" - some say that this is when she left as a masterpiece and came back an icon. The story is fascinating... (Source: 

t Famous last words - One year prior to the theft...

"You might as well pretend that one could steal 
the towers of the cathedral of Notre Dame."
- Theophile Homolle, museum director of the Louvre. -
(He was forced to resign soon after the robbery.)

The kind of short version... 
On the morning of 8/21/1911 Vincenzo Perruggia (a painter/carpenter at the Louvre) walked into the Louvre, removed the painting from its frame, hid it under his clothes and walked out. The 'kidnapper' then returned to his humble apartment only blocks from the Louvre - this is where she stayed, for two years.

Louis Beroud, an amateur painter, went to the Louvre on Aug 22 (the next day) to paint the Mona Lisa only to find that she is missing from the spot she had been in for 5 years. He inquired with the guards and before you know it they all realized she had been stolen. The museum was locked down and closed for a week while everyone searched for her room-by-room, floor-by-floor, all 49 acres of the Louvre. 

When the Louvre re-opened thousands came to stare at the four iron pegs that once held her. France was stunned and the line had the feeling of a funeral where everyone was paying their respects. No one had a clue what had happened. At one point a 29 year-old Pablo Picasso, known to be cocky but suddenly very nervous, was arrested and questioned - then released. Picasso, who had nothing to do with the theft, was the only person arrested in France for the theft of the Mona Lisa. 

Two years went by with no word about the Mona Lisa. And then the thief made contact, responding to a newspaper ad from Alfredo Geri that stated he was "looking for art objects of every sort". Alfredo was in Florence and although the thief wanted to meet in Paris, Alfredo said he could meet in Florence - he never thought this would be the real Mona Lisa. Alfredo brought along Giovanni Poggi, museum director from the Uffizi, who at once knew they were dealing with the original painting.

They asked to take the painting to the Uffizi to verify the authenticity then they called the police. Vincenzo was arrested (later tried, in Italy, and served 7 months of a 1 year sentence). He claimed that he didn't "steal" the Mona Lisa - that she had been stolen by Napoleon (not true, despite taking a lot of other art to France, he never got the Mona Lisa) and that he was simply acting out of patriotic duty to return her to Italy. Of course trying to make a profit along the way...

For two years, the Mona Lisa who had been so impeccably taken care of since she was originally commissioned had spent her time in a closet, exposed to humidity, cigarette smoke, heat, etc. It's thought that she sustained a lot of damage because of the elements. 

So, even back in 1911 this story was reported and followed all over the world. Whether an icon or celebrity, the huge publicity surrounding the theft helped launch Leonardo's great painting into the stratosphere of fame.

La Gioconda or Mona Lisa
Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo

Painted between 1503 and 1506
By Leonardo Da Vinci

Saturday, August 20, 2011

0053: French Pastries

"Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first."
- Ernestine Ulmer - 

I have this wonderful French bakery about 5 minutes away from my house. This little gem of a place makes all their goodies on site and has been around since 1986. (Here is their website if you are ever in Ft Lauderdale... Croissan' Time.)

These are my recent acquisitions :-)
Almondine Tarte - this should last two sittings but I had mine in one...
I ate it very mindfully so I felt no guilt afterwards. (And I ran in the morning :-)

It was SO incredibly moist and yummy! I had one as soon as I got home.
Just this precious little tarte, a cup of tea and me
I savored every bite then went to take a nap. 
What can I say about this "coffee cake"... it took up my entire cake pedestal so you can imagine how big it was.
If you are from New Orleans you will understand when I say it had the consistency of King Cake.
It was a soft cake with moist pieces and had some kind of glaze inside and out and golden raisins.
I'm really not sure what it had but it was yummy and a hit at the family dinner party I took it to.
(I don't typically cook so I make up with great - homemade - purchases!!)
It looked like a giant cinnamon roll but it wasn't. But I can see it being a distant French cousin of the cinnamon roll....

0052: El Salvador Volcanoes

Although I never lived there, I was born in El Salvador. Barely... as my mom who was very much into her 8th month - and no airline would allow her to fly - made my dad drive her from New Orleans to El Salvador (her mother country). I literally was almost born in Mexico, no wonder I've always loved Mexico... The things husbands do for their pregnant wives :-) Sadly I don't know as much as I should about the country and its history but I do know that when I went last year I realized first hand how beautiful it is. I can only recall being there 3 or 4 times but this time I really got to see the magic of its natural resources including its volcanoes. 

Volcanoes are plentiful in this tiny country (8k sq mi) and volcanic activity makes for fertile soil—and dilemmas. Attracted by the ability to grow good crops, along with the cooler temperatures that come with higher altitude, people often risk volcano hazards. (Wikipedia lists 22 volcanoes in E.S.) Here are a few of them:
Apaneca. Elevation 6680 ft / 2036 meters.
This volcano is considered extinct (unlikely to erupt again) and is in the mountain range of Apaneca. Apaneca, is one of the most beautiful landscapes of the Salvadorian countryside. This region has the highest concentration of coffee plantations in the country (that's what you see in most of the picture). If you like coffee Salvadorian coffee is really good. The sad thing is I don't drink coffee, some people in my family say its unpatriotic :-)

Santa Ana. Elevation 7812 feet / 2381 meters.How cool is this one?!? This volcano has been active since the 16th century and last erupted in 2005, its first eruption in more than 100 years. The eruption reportedly shot out car-sized lava rocks and a flood of boiling mud and water.  It has a small sulfurous lake in its crater, the likely source of the boiling water flood. This is the highest point in El Salvador. 
Izalco. Elevation 6398 feet / 1950 meters. El Salvador’s newest volcano, Izalco. Izalco sprang up in 1770 and erupted frequently until 1966. This young volcano isn’t covered in vegetation, but remains black with recent lava flows.
Coatepeque Caldera. Elevation 2447 feet / 746 meters. This is a large lake inside the Coatepeque Caldera (considered extinct), created when a series of volcanoes collapsed in explosive eruptions between 57,000 and 72,000 years ago. The youngest dome, Cerro Pacho, formed after 8000 BC. There are hot springs near the lake margins. This is one of the largest lakes in El Salvador and was one of my favorite places.  
Boqueron. Elevation 6430 feet / 1960 meters.
Boqueron means "big mouth". This volcano is composed of 3 peaks (2 can be seen in the picture), The Jabalí, the Picacho and finally the Boquerón peak. The most recent eruption was in 1917 caused the crater lake inside to boil and totally evaporate then a cinder cone appeared, christened 'Boqueroncito'.
Lake Ilopango. Elevation 1476 / 450 meters.
This lake fills another beautiful volcanic caldera. The caldera collapsed in the 5th century AD, which produced widespread pyroclastic flows (translation: fast-moving flows which can reach 450 mph) and devastated Mayan cities. This eruption was rated a 6 out of 7 on the (VEI) Volcanic Explosivity Index (the amount of tefra, the stuff volcanoes spit out - technical definition I know... was 20 times as much as the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens)