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A Mexican Interlude

9 Feb

A week in Cabo San Lucas has been a joy. The weather is a dream. Seeing the humpback whales with their babies a delight. Listening to the Pacific Ocean pound the shore throughout the day is actually relaxing even in its furious attack against the land.

Granite rock formations honeycombed by the erosion are fascinating. We saw the famous Cabo arch.

Before we came, people told me to be careful. But there was never a problem. In Cabo itself, where the ocean liners dock daily, there is a strong police and military presence. I never felt insecure or unsafe. We walked around the marina several different days and experience the restaurants, the shops and the whale watching boat tour of the cove and watched the baby whales frolic (Cabo trek). Marine biologists went with us to give us interesting facts about the whales.

We walked into town several times both during the day and at night to experience the restaurants, with no issues. Just joined the trickle of others also walking along the well lighted paths. So many good restaurants! Guacamole, fajita, chimichangas, tacos, grilled fish, tamales and more specialities filled us each day.

The live music ranged from two or three men playing mariachi in restaurants throughout the city to classical violin and cello melodies floating through the air as we sat outside.

We drove to Todos Santos and explored the streets and sights. The Mission of Santa Rosa sits in the center of town, with its high vistas to the sea. Another great restaurant, Tequila Sunrise, had our taste buds smiling.

At both Tequila Sunrise and Las Guacamayas (in Cabo), the owners came to speak to us and tell us if we needed help in anyway they would help. And they did, even helping us find things outside of the food they served.

We walked through the Hotel California and examined the art in the many galleries in Todos Santos.

We visited beaches along the Sea of Cortez, and watched the pelicans dive into the waters to catch fish.

The people of Mexico were friendly and helpful. They enjoyed my meager efforts to speak Spanish. But truly appreciated my husband’s more fluent attempts. Smiles would like their eyes when he spoke to them. And several said to his comment that his Spanish was not that good, “but you are trying. You make the attempt!”

Were there times when I wish there were not as many people trying to have you buy something ? Of course. But in my many travels, I have seen this in all tourist sights. Cabo, with its cruise ships is ripe for this behavior. But in Todos Santos, there was no pressure from vendors. It was a delight.

Our last restaurant meal was at The Office, which sits right on the beach. The food was excellent. The margaritas strong. Luckily I don’t drink so I drive back to our resort, The Grand Sol Mar.

Our week exploring the Baja Peninsula is over. We fly home in the morning. It was well worth the trip to visit this lovely site in Mexico.

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The Purloined Blankets: A Winter’s Tale

30 Dec
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Blue purloined blanket and plaid purchased blanket.

With the bitter cold weather, I am thinking about my Dad and one of his lessons to me.

Always keep a blanket in the car during the winter months, especially when driving long distances.  His insistence about blankets used to drive me crazy.

My parents would come to Kansas to visit and not understand the Kansas winter mentality. Many people here do not wear winter coats most of the time.  Since we have a ‘drive up to where you are going attitude’ in the suburbs.  We really do not walk around that much.  We get into our cars and drive to where we are going, then run in.  So why wear a winter coat? A sweater is more than enough. I admit when I was younger, I would do the same thing.  But I always kept my children bundled up.

This attitude sometimes backfires on our children.  My god son went from the Kansas City area to Madison, Wisconsin, for college.  His mom suggested that he take long sleeve shirts and a winter coat up to college with him, his freshman year.  No, he did not want any of that.  Then came Thanksgiving break.  His main request was a hat with ear flaps.  He was so cold walking across campus.  Winter coat, gloves, scarf and long sleeve shirts returned with him to Madison.

My daughter went to college in New Jersey.  She also was impacted by winter in this unexpected manner. Walking across campuses really is different than Kansas ‘run in and run out.’  Her request that first winter was a coat that covered her tush. I quickly agreed to that request.

But back to my Dad.  When my family was young, we often drove to and from St. Louis in the winter months.  My husband’s family lived there. It made my parents nervous.  So they purchased a plaid blanket for my car in case the car broke down.  Having a blanket in the car was their idea of safety against the cold of winter.

He also purchased a car emergency kit for me that had a first kit, jumper cables and a flash light. Even though that kit is long gone, I have made sure we always had one in every car. That makes sense to me. So I never argued about that.

It was the blankets in the car that really drove him crazy. He wanted me to have a blanket for each person in the car. What would happen if we were stuck? We needed a way to keep warm. His passion became stronger after the time my husband, children and I got stuck in a snow storm on the way back from St. Louis.  But we spent the night in Columbia…at a hotel… I told him.   It did not matter.  He was now truly concerned. I  needed blankets,  now!

Dad did buy me another blanket.  But I have to admit, even though he was an honorable, kind and gentle man, my Dad had one flaw that I hesitate to tell you about. But I will.  He was a bit of a goniff, a thief!  He stole the blue blankets from airlines. Do you remember them?  We used to get one each time we flew…not any more.  But years ago, they always had a blanket and pillow on every seat. (His favorite airline blanket….Continental.  The airline no longer exists, except for the many blue blankets in my life.)

Dad would not use his.  He would bring in to my house still wrapped in its plastic bag. It made me crazy. When he flew to visit in the winter time, he often would come off the plane with a blanket. When he got to my house, he would pull it out of his carryon bag and quietly place it in my car.  I soon had a collection of blue blankets. During the winter, I kept a canvas bag filled with blankets in my car in case of emergency. Some purchased, some purloined.

We had disagreement after disagreement as the blue blankets continued to enter my home.  Finally my Mom had enough.  “Don’t tell him not to bring you the blankets.  The more you complain, the more he does it,” Mom demanded.  She was right, once I stopped yelling at him and arguing, he stopped taking the blankets off the planes.

Dad passed away in 2011.  I no longer worry about the blankets in the car.  Or so I thought.

My son’s girlfriend lives over an hour away. They drive back and forth every weekend. One coming here, or one going there.  It is so cold today and she has to drive home, so I asked, “Do you have a blanket in your car?” The answer, “NO.”

Oy,  I feel my Dad’s spirit rising up in me!

The plaid blanket my Dad purchased for me over 30 years ago is going into my son’s girlfriend’s car. My son will get the canvas bag filled with purloined blankets.  When it is this cold, you do need a blanket in your car for long distance travel!

As we enter the new year, I realized more and more that we do become our parents. My sister also has our Dad’s safety gene. She gave me a Vera Bradley blanket that folds into a pillow for Hanukkah. It is my new car blanket.

Wishing everyone a safe, warm, and happy memory filled year!

A Touch of Jewish Philanthropy In Lincoln, Massachusetts 

30 Oct

The entrance to the museum. The house is on the hill.

I always enjoy going to Boston, as I can immerse myself in our nation’s history. And I love history.  I also enjoy going because I get to visit with my college roommate. She is my official Boston tour guide.  With this visit she decided it was time to get out of Boston and see some of the surrounding sites. It was a beautiful fall day. I am always ready for a new Museum.

Her choice was the de Cordova art museum and sculpture garden in Lincoln. With my interest in Jewish genealogy, I was very familiar with the name De Cordova or Cordova as a Sephardic Jewish name.  But searching for the name of Julian De Cordova online, there was no mention of any Jewish roots.   Just that he was a the son of a Jamaican merchant with Spanish roots.  So to me it was obvious that this was a family which left Spain due to the expulsion of the Jews and ended up in Jamaica.  I love the white wash of history.

In any case I was excited to see this museum, walk through the sculpture garden and visit with my friend.  We decided to go inside first and see the exhibits.  The main topic was screens and  the different interpretations of a screen:  television screens, screens that separate rooms,  screens that keep people out. It was interesting.   But as we wandered the through the museum, we passed a little display on a wall that discussed the history of Julian de Cordova.

Part of the house.

Julian was the son of a Jewish family of merchants in Jamaica who was able on his own merit to become a successful business man in Lincoln,   He and his wife, who was from the local Dana family,  I assume not Jewish,  traveled the world and purchased art wherever they went.  He loved going to Spain because of his family’s Spanish roots. While there,  He also fell in love with castles and so remodeled his summer home in Lincoln to look like a castle.

He also set up that when he died, this summer home, its land and his art would be donated to the city of Lincoln as a museum.  When he died in 1945, the de Cordova Museum was established.

One of my favorite pieces.

So although most do not know that this lovely estate and museum was once the abode of a Jamaican, Sephardic Jewish man, to me it added a bit of joy as I walked the grounds, enjoyed the art and the lovely setting.  It made me appreciate how immigrant Jewish families have added to our country and the arts.

My friend and I spent two hours walking through the museum,  most of our time was spent walking around the sculptures, along the paths that led to the pond and lovely gardens.   Afterwards we spent time in Concord and the Minute Man National Park.  But this little jewel of a museum is well worth the visit.

In This Time of Asking Forgiveness, I Am Donating to Help Hurricane Survivors

28 Sep


We were in San Juan, Puerto Rico in June.  A lovely island for a day of sight seeing as we cruised the Caribbean.  We took a bus to the Fort in San Juan, and then a walking tour from the Fort back to the ship.   We passed beautiful flowering trees and plants, lush gardens, We toured the Fort that overlooks the ocean and once protected the island from invaders.  We looked down the coast to see the lovely beaches.


But Hurricane Maria has devasted the island.   So many millions without food, water, housing.  Searching for a way off the island, tourists who live elsewhere are stuck, stranded away from their home.  While those whose home is Puerto Rica are afraid of the future.  When where the power grid be repaired, when will the water and the food be available again. When will the roads be fixed.  When will medical care and schools be able to return to normal.


Puerto Rico is one of many islands that faced destruction in the way of Hurricane Irma and Maria, while Florida and Texas also suffered horrors during to hurricane season, Hurricane Harvey and Irma impacted these areas.  Connected to other states and cities,  Florida and Texas are fortunate in that help can come more quickly for these impacted areas, where as the islands of the Caribbean are isolated.

Cruise ships are cancelling vacation cruises in order to help evacuate the islands and bring supplies.  But in reality, there is no tourism or vacation in some sections of the Caribbean now as the destruction of the islands’ infrastructures make tourism impossible.

I cannot go there to help.  But I can donate. I can provide tzedakah to those in need. I chose the “oneamericanappeal.org” that was endorsed by and set up by our five former presidents: Bush, Bush, Carter, Clinton and Obama: Republicans and Democrats coming together to help our citizens in need.

I know that not everyone can help financially.  But those of us who can, must.   The island of Puerto Rico will never be the same.  But perhaps it can even be better as the power grid is rebuilt and the water supply fixed…as it will be updated and modernized. The Virgin Island of St. Thomas was also devastated.  These islands are our responsibility.  The citizens of these islands are citizens of the United States.

It has been a difficult time for many.  Fires in the west and northwest are causing destruction and health issues.  The many hurricanes have devasted areas with their high winds and flooding rains. I also sent sent a donation to help with these disasters as well through the Jewish Federation.

With this season of asking for forgiveness, the time between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur, I think that doing good for others ,  tzedakah and gemilut Chasadim, shows my commitment to tikkun olam.  As I ask forgiveness for all that I might have done to hurt others during the year, I send donations to help those in need. 

Learning About The Civil War While in Arkansas

5 Sep

When I woke up Sunday morning, I did not expect my day to end up focused on the Civil War. It was not even a topic that was remotely on my mind. I was in Arkansas visiting friends and we planned a trip over to Bentonville to see another friend who was busy with pet adoptions as they prepared their shelter to take in animals from Houston. 

But politics and the Civil War were waiting for us in Bentonville. 

We arrived in Bentonville exactly on time to walk to the town square and meet up for lunch at a local restaurant.  For those who have not been there, Bentonville is the site of the very first Walmart store.  There,  along the town square, is the Walmart Museum. A peaceful little park with a statue fills the town square.  I was surprised to see an abundance of American flags in the center of the square surrounding the statue. 

American flags surround the the statue in the town square.


My Eureka Springs friend said to my Bentonville friend upon greeting, “Well you have had some excitement here.”  My Bentonville friend, “Don’t even go there!” So of course I needed to know.  That lovely little statute I had seen several times was actually a monument to the Confederate soldiers who lost their lives in two battles near Bentonville, the most important was the Battle of Pea Ridge. 

I  never realized what the statue was before.  We had seen it and walked past it and never really looked at it. But over the last few weeeks, quiet Bentonville had been the scene of protests over this statute.  

We left town square for lunch and all conversation turned to the rescuing of dogs from Houston.  My Bentonville friend was involved with a shelter that was receiving dogs that afternoon that were being transported up from Texas.  The day before a truckload of pet supplies had headed south. My contribution had been cat litter. Our discussion of the Civil War ended as we discussed Houston.   

After lunch we left Bentonville and headed back to Eureka Springs on a different road. As we traveled, we planned the rest of the day. My husband was checking his phone to see what was around when he came upon the Pea Ridge National Park.  We had recently purchased our life time National Park passes and were excited to use them.  We were not sure what we would see.  But were delighted.  It is a gem!

Pea Ridge Battlefield.


Who know that one of the most important and vicious battles of the Civil War took place in Arkansas?  Not me!  The battle that changed the direction of the war was here!  16,000 Confederate soldiers  met 10,000 Union soldiers on Pea Ridge in March 1862.  At the end of the two-day battle almost 3500 soldiers were dead.  Many more were wounded. This battle changed the balance of power of the Civil War in Missouri.  It was here that the Union defeated the largest Confederate army ever brought together and due to that defeat were able to keep the Confederate soldiers out of Missouri and head south to split the Confederacy in half. This battle basically set the course for a Union win. 

Elk Horn Inn was a privately own home used as a field hospital.


Here at the battle site stands the recreated Elk Horn Inn, which served as a field hospital, where soldiers from both sides were treated and many died during the two day battle. (Right in front of this building runs the Mikitary Trail road. This road was also the path of Cherokee Nation on the Trail of Tears. Over 11,000 Cherokee passed this inn between 1837-39.)

  Although many soldiers were originally buried at this site, the graves of the soldiers were disinterred in the late 1880s and moved to two cemeteries: one for Union soldiers and one for Confederate soldiers, both in Fayetteville.  But in a field near the Inn are two monuments that were placed in a plea for unification. 

The large open field where the soldiers met is reminiscent of Gettysburg.  In watching the movie at the museum and walking through the museum displays, one can feel the sorrow that this battle caused. One sign commented that local farmers could not plant crops that year due to the destruction and the blood soaked lands. Agriculture was destroyed. 

We drove the circuit around the battlefield, stopping at several key sites. This was a battle for our nation’s soul. This was a battle that changed the course of the war. And so many lives were lost. We spoke to park rangers at the Inn who explained in more detail what had happened there.  

When we drive from my friend’s home in Eureka Springs to Bentonville, we pass a house where the owner flies the Confederate flag. That always angers us. Why fly this sign of hate?  Why not honor those who died by joining together to work in unity, and as is honored at the Pea Ridge site unification. 


In the car on the way back we discussed the Pea Ridge site. The impact of what we had seen. The next day, the local newspaper, “The Northwest Arkansas Democratic Register, had an article about discussions the Bentonville  community will have in a public forum. 

My personal opinion: The statue of the Confederate soldier should be moved. If it was a statue honoring both sides, I would feel differently. But it is not. I believe it could be moved to the Confederate Cemetary in Fayetteville. A plaque explaining its history should be placed by it. 

I am not for destroying monuments, I am for placing them in sites where their value as a lesson could be used. We should not be honoring those who battled to destroy the United States through treason and sedition.  But we also can never forget what happened here in the Civil War. Losing that memory will also remove our collective history. And we should never forget that in slavary human beings were once treated as cattle.  And that is wrong.  

The Way to My Husband’s Heart is Ice Cream

31 Aug

During a recent conversation with my daughter, I realized that even my children understand that their Dad loves ice cream more than any other food. She was discussing a man at work, who when offered ice cream, said something to the effect that he loved ice cream and if they wanted any, they should take it now because he would eat it all. And he did.

In telling me about it, she said, it made her laugh so much because he ate ice cream the way Daddy did. She was actually still laughing when she told me how he put the spoon in the ice cream and just dug in.

I knew exactly what she meant. My husband eats ice cream with gusto! He scoops his ice cream with a whole heart and a big spoon.   My husband does not savor his ice cream. He devours it!   He absolutely loves ice cream. He even rates his travels on how good the ice cream is. We have tasted ice cream across the USA and in countries far and wide.

Although he speaks a bit of Spanish and Mandarin, my husband’s word of choice in any language is Ice Cream. In Italy it is Gelato. When in Milan, my husband ate ice cream every single day from the ice cream parlor around the corner from our hotel. On our last day, he went back for a second treat before we left. I would say he loved that ice cream.

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The most delicious ice cream in Rome, Italy.

In Rome, a friend of his took us to the La Gelateria Frigidarium, a place he called the best ice cream ever. And he was so right. I loved it because they had sorbet. But this sorbet was so creamy, I was sure it had dairy in it. But it did not!!! Yum. My husband had three scoops there. I know if we had stayed longer in Rome, there would have been many trips to Frigidarium. As it is, we recommend it to anyone heading to Rome.

His least favorite ice cream was in Turkey. He said they put taffy in it, which destroy the value of true ice cream. He is an ice cream purest. But he still ate it. Ice cream addicts need their fix.

When we were in Israel in December, we took a private tour in Tel Aviv. My husband was interested, but not so much as we walked through an outdoor pedestrian shopping area. Shopping is not his favorite thing to do. As the guide and I were talking, I noticed my husband stopping. One word came from his lips, “Galida.” Ice cream; his one real word in Hebrew.

The tour came to a thirty-minute stop as we all had an ice cream treat. The guide said, “This is a great idea, especially when I have children on a tour. From now on, I am stopping here for a treat as we do the tours.” I am glad my husband’s ice cream fanaticism helped the tour guide with future successes.

Last week when we went to see the eclipse in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, he found Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream in Jackson. I enjoyed the Huckleberry sorbet the one time I went.   I am not sure all the flavors he tried over his multiple trips to Moo’s.

In February of 2016, my husband, sister and I went to Universal Studios in Florida. We had two-day passes. On the first day, while my sister and I used a rest room on our way out of the park, my husband found an ice cream parlor. He loved the ice cream, so we had to have some as well. It was great for me, as they had sorbet. The next day, we had a planned stop for ice cream there as we left the park. My husband was so excited when he found out it was part of a national chain, with a store not too far from our home…about four miles. Stone Cold Creamery was his new favorite ice cream.

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Out of the hospital for about 20 minutes. The smile is for ice cream.

This past year he had to have some major surgery. On the day he was released from the hospital, I took him to Cold Stone Creamery for a treat. It might have been hard for some people to eat ice cream with a neck brace on, but not my husband.

I posted a picture of him, and a few days later, he received gift cards in the mail from some of his friends so he could get more ice cream. Two weeks later, when the neck brace came off, I took him back for more.

The way to my husband’s heart is ice cream. The way to cure pain of surgery is ice cream. The way to deal with stress is ice cream. The way to end a day is ice cream. I know my husband loves our children and me. I even joke with him by saying, “I love you more than ice cream.” But when it comes down to it, sometimes I am not quite sure if he has the same sentiment.

PS: my 96 year old grandfather died after eating ice cream. His last words were, “yum, delicious.”  I hope, way in the future,  my husband’s ending is as happy.  

The Grand Teton National Park Combines History And Nature

29 Aug

The Grand Tetons


As I ate lunch in the Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park and stared out the windows at the marshland and the mountains, I could not help but wonder ‘what if?’ 

What if John D. Rockefeller had not come to Jackson Hole? What if the beauty of these mountains and the need to preserve the land had not touched his heart? What if the strong opposition to the creation of another national park so close to Yellowstone has persevered?  What if there was not a wealthy Rockefeller who was willing to spend his own money to buy up thousand upon thousands of acres of land and then donate it to the National Parks?  

What if?

But he did come out to Wyoming and preserve the beauty of the Grand Teton National Park.  

Jenny Lake ( Photo by my husband.)


Who knew there were 12 glaciers high in there jagged mountains!  Not me!  And the stunning lakes, like Jenny Lake and Jackson Lake waiting to be explored. Even the Visitor Centers are lovely. Especially the Laurence Rockefeller Center with its meditation room which surrounds you in the calming sounds of the forests. A short walk to the waterfall at this  Center brings you past a stunning river scene. 

An abandoned barn in Mormons Row.


Then there are the historical buildings and sites within the park. A small Episcopal Chapel — The Chapel of the Transfiguration– with the most stunning view. Praying would be easy there as you look toward the mountains and see the glory of nature. The settlers houses from the late 1800s and early 1900s are somewhat preserved so you can see how the original settlers lived before modern conveniences. It must have been so cold!  We walked down park of Mormons’ Row. A settlement that is now mostly abandoned homes and barns where a Mormon Community once thrived. Now there is just one active homestead belonging to a family who runs a bed and breakfast. 

Seeing the site of the ferry that once took settlers across the river in safety and the home where the ferry owner lived and opened a small outpost, reminds you that the settlers did not have cars and bridges. 

I think it is best to go to Grand Teton Park before going to Yellowstone. This way you learn the history of the area and the ‘ normal’ natural beauty of the Jackson Hole area before going up the mountains to the weird and amazing beauty of Yellowstone.  Most important you learn of the people who persevered to settle in the stunning, but relentless mountains of Wyoming.