Saturday, February 25, 2017


We had the good fortune to visit two churches in Wisconsin that were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright was born in 1867 (yeah, that surprised me too) in Richland, Wisconsin, a small town about 60 miles northwest of Madison. For a mid-westerner, he really got around. He designed over 1,000 structures, 532 of which were actually built. There are 25 structures designed by him in my home state of California, including the famous Hollyhock House.                                                                                                                           Wright lived a very colorful and often controversial life and died in 1959.  In 1991 he was deemed "the greatest American architect of all time" by the American Institute of Architects.  
We visited the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Milwaukee. Wright was 89 years old when he designed this church in 1956 (two years after the above photo of him was taken and three years before he died), and the church was completed in 1961, two years after his death. He drew from Byzantine architectural styles (particularly the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul) for his design. I love the reflecting pond out front that presents a shimmering, ephemeral version of the church:

We were so disappointed that it was locked up tight with no one around. Photos of the inside show it to be quite a spectacular church:
Picture from here.  Go to the site for other gorgeous photos.

I would have loved to see this window from the inside:

Friday, February 24, 2017


I used to think that Europe had cornered the market on stunning church architecture and decor, but the more we travel around the United States, the more treasures we discover in our own country. The Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee is certainly one of the most beautiful churches we've seen in the U.S.
I must confess, however, that initially I had a hard time getting the phrase "Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!" out of my head. (For the origin of that phrase, go here.)  This isn't THAT Jehoshaphat. 

St. Josaphat was born John Kuncevic in 1580 in Lithuania, which was part of the Polish kingdom at that time. He became a monk and archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and was killed in what is now Belarus in 1623 for the part he played in reuniting a segment of the Eastern Orthodox Church with the Roman Catholic church. He was canonized in 1867.

In 1880 there were 30,000 Polish immigrants living in the Milwaukee area, and they wanted a church. They modeled their church after St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican and dedicated it to St. Josaphat. Ground was broken in 1896, and much of the work was done by the poor immigrant parishioners, who had little money to donate to the building fund. When  the structure was completed in 1901, it was the city's biggest church. The interior was completed in 1926, and in 1929 it was designated a Minor Basilica by Pope Pius XI, only the third church in the United States to be so honored. In the Catholic Church, basilica status is given only to the largest, most beautiful and historically important churches. Today Wikipedia says there are eighty-two basilicas in the United States, and those churches are the closest we get to European cathedrals.

This giant church, which can seat over 1,000 on the main floor and hundreds more in the galleries, is nestled among well-kept homes that reminded me of giant dollhouses:

Friday, February 17, 2017


Years ago, my husband Bob would take off for continuing education programs and leave me stranded at home with three little children.  I was always very jealous that a) he got to get away without kids, and b) he could keep learning in his field. As an English major, I guess I could also "keep learning in my field," as long as I could find time to read with those three little kids around.

Anyway, one of the places he went several times was to a tax planning seminar at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.  Until we spent a few hours in Wisconsin while on a trip to visit my sister in Minnesota in fall 2015, I had never been to Wisconsin. Well, last July, after years of not attending that seminar, Bob decided it was time to go again, and this time, I got to go along!

Bob flew to Wisconsin several days ahead of me, and I flew in shortly before his week-long seminar ended. I wandered around Madison during his final day or two of the seminar, and then we headed east to Milwaukee.
Here is the sum total of what I knew about Milwaukee: "Schlitz, the beer that made Milwaukee famous" was a popular slogan when I was a kid, and had it not been for that slogan I probably never would have heard of Milwaukee.  Oh yeah, and I had also heard of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team, which I've always related to the Schlitz slogan.

Well, Milwaukee has a few things other than their beer (which we don't drink anyway) that are worth noting. I'll start with the Milwaukee Zoo, a 200-acre spread that boasts over 3,300 mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles that comprise 377 species. It began in 1892 as a mammal and bird display in the city park, and within a few years it grew to 800 animals housed on 23 acres of land. Over the next 100 or so years, it grew and grew and GREW until it reached the size it is today. In acreage, it is twice as large as the famous (at least to us Californians) San Diego Zoo, but it has only 10% of the animals and half the number of species that the San Diego Zoo boasts of.

Fewer animals on more land--that's what we liked about this zoo.

The sleek impala looked happy on this lot:

Monday, February 13, 2017


The very last stop on our great Alaskan and Canadian adventure was Vancouver's Chinatown. We have been in several other Chinatowns, including in Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco, and I've visited the Chinese Garden in Portland. It was interesting to note similarities and differences. The Vancouver Chinatown website notes that with 300,000 people, Vancouver has one of the largest Chinese populations in the world outside of China. However, the actual Chinatown--at least the touristy part--didn't feel as large as San Francisco's or New York's Chinatowns, which each have a population of about 100,000.  It felt more like the LA Chinatown, which has about 10,000 people. Maybe we just didn't explore enough, or maybe they just don't play up to tourists as much in Vancouver.

Every Chinatown we've been to has a grand entrance gate of some kind. There are two in Vancouver, the Chinatown Millennial Gate:

 . . . and the China Gate:

These dragon-decorated street lamps were added in 1979:

"The Monument of Canadian Chinese" is shaped like the Chinese character "zhong," which symbolizes Chinese, moderation, and harmony. The two figures standing on the base represent the local Chinese contributions to North America: a Chinese railroad worker and a Canadian Chinese World War II soldier:

Thursday, February 9, 2017


Our next stop was the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.  We knew we were in trouble when the nearest parking spot was about half a mile away from the entrance. We were there on a very busy day.
The Capilano bridge is 460 feet long and 230 feet above the river. The original bridge, built in 1889, was made of hemp ropes and cedar planks. Version 2.0 was built in 1902 and was a wire cable bridge. Version 3.0 is the current bridge, completely rebuilt in 1956. In 2004, a feature called "Treetops Adventures" was opened--seven footbridges suspended 98 feet above the forest floor between old-growth Douglas firs.

In 1935, local First Nations were invited to place their totem poles in the park

My favorite:

The central feature of the park is, of course, this incredibly long span. As it bounced up and down and swayed back and forth as we traversed the gorge, it reminded me of the seemingly fragile but surprisingly strong thread of a spider's web:

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Warning: This is mostly, but not exclusively, a post about beautiful food. If you are hungry, this is going to make things worse.  If you are on a diet, this will do you in. If your fridge is empty, you'll feel a sudden urge to go grocery shopping.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

On the last day of our cruise, we tried to take advantage of what Princess had to offer on board the ship. There were some beautiful food creations:

Like all good cruise passengers, we ate far too much:

In addition, on the last day of our cruise the skies were finally blue, at least for a little while:

Sunday, February 5, 2017


Our cruise ship docked at Ketchikan, our final Alaskan port and our last chance for another Alaskan Adventure. Of course, Bob couldn't just ride on a scenic train or take a tour of some ordinary place, not when there were more BEARS to be seen! And so we boarded a tiny four-seater float plane:

Up, up and away!