Thursday, November 3, 2011

New York, New York Part II

Oct 27 - Oct 31

Day two in the city - wet, cold, and snowy.  New York City, and most of the New England era was hit by a snow storm on Saturday.  The storm manifested itself as rain, sleet, and snow in the city, beginning early and ending late. That doesn't mean that we didn't have a good time.

Our first stop of the day was to the 9/11 Memorial.  This memorial would hands-down be much better without the sleet.  There were benches to sit and listen to the water running through the two memorials and a tree-lined walking path.  Unfortunately it was too cold and wet to really enjoy the site.  After a brief moment of remembrance I quickly headed to the temporary museum (the main museum is still under construction).
Memorial pool at the site of one of the towers.
Names on the Memorial.
Trees and walkway. 

After a long walk (Dad and my understanding of the addressing of the city was sadly wrong), we headed for a pie.  A pizza pie, that is.  We went to Lombardi's Pizza - claimed as the first New York City pizza parlor. ( They still use their coal fired pizza oven to bake their delicious pizza.  We ordered their original, the margarita pizza, simply topped with cheese and tomato.  Delicious!!

Slice of Lombardi's margarita pizza.

After pizza the family went back to the hotel to warm up and take a break.  Then we headed to Seminar - starring Alan Rickman, Jerry O'Connel, Lily Rabe, Hamish Linklater, and Hettienne Park.  I thought it was a great play, and a nice change of pace from the musical from the night before.

Day three - Sunday
The day started early with a trip to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  These two sites were, by far, my favorite of the trip.  I know it sounds hokey, but it was patriotic to finally see Lady Liberty in person.  The engineering of the statue was amazing!
Dad on the Ferry boat to see the Statue of Liberty.

Our second stop was to Ellis Island.  It was awesome to see and learn that Ellis Island was not the first immigration station in New York.  That honor goes to Castle Clinton (see previous post), where immigrants were processed until 1890 when it was moved to Ellis Island.  The history of Ellis Island was fascinating.  I would highly suggest that if you visit, take the audio tour, it offered so much more information than just the plaques on the displays. 
Ellis Island.
Interior of Ellis Island.

After the tour, we hopped on the site-seeing bus to see lower Manhattan.  On a whim, we stopped for a late lunch at a great Indian restaurant.  Yum! Hopping back onto the bus we traveled up the island where we saw the UN and Rockafeller Center.  We even got off the bus to see the Waldorf Astoria hotel.  Very swanky and expensive!
Brooklyn Bridge

Sunday night we went to see Godspell.  The theater was in the round.  It was a great show, that was expertly updated to today's audience (references to Donald Trump, Steve Jobs, the Shot song - you get the point). I would definitely go see this show again.  I think we all enjoyed it the most out of all of the shows we saw on this adventure to NYC.

Day four - Monday, last day...

A shortened day for us before heading back home.  However, we did get the chance to see a lot of the city via the tour bus.  We headed up north this time and saw Harlem and the Guggenheim.
The Guggenheim. 

I really wanted to see the Empire State Building and Mom and Dad were willing to go to the top with me.  The views were great - and the building was even more awesome. I love Art Deco style and this building had it all - the vertical lines, the gilding, and the geometric shapes. One of my favorite features were the U.S. Mail shoots that traveled through the floors.  I would love to have seen letters falling through the chutes from the various offices when the building was full.

Empire State Building interior.

Empire State Building Mail chute.
From the top we could see everything - the Flat Iron building, the Chrysler Building, Central Park.... and on and on...
Flat Iron Building. 
Me at the top with the Chrysler Building in the background.

The day was wonderful - the week was wonderful.  I was sad to leave on Monday night.  But, I know that I will be back for another adventure.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New York, New York - Part I

Oct. 27-Oct. 31

My latest adventure was a short vacation with Mom and Dad in New York City.  In four days we saw a lot, but there is so many awesome things to do and places to visit in the city and one could easily spend many vacations there. I took a lot of photos, so I will only post the highlights.

Friday -
After a delayed start, we arrived in NYC late Thursday night.  Friday morning, we awoke fresh and headed out to South Ferry to take the Statue of Liberty tour.  Instead of getting on the ferry we took the tour of Castle Clinton, the battery built after the Revolution to protect the city and harbor from any British invasion.
Castle Clinton

Cannon protecting NYC

Castle Clinton with downtown Manhattan in the background

The battery was later used as an opera hall and aquarium. In the 1950s, the building was given to the National Park Service and restored to its earliest use as a battery.  I wish I could have seen the McKim, Mead, and White aquarium design, but oh well!  If you are in the city, this site is definitely worth checking out.(and hard to miss because this is where one goes to pick up or get tickets to the Statue of Liberty and Elis Island)

Later in the day we went to a wood working business in Brooklyn.  The business, primarily mail order, was located on the fifth floor of a warehouse.  I have never ridden in a freight elevator before, and it was an interesting experience!
Yep, the woodworking store was located in one of these warehouses.

Before heading to the theater, we took a stroll through the lower quarter of Central Park.  This is really the only green in the city and it is great to see that such lucrative land was used as park space for the enjoyment of all.  I don't think I can imagine NYC without Central Park - and to be honest, I am sure that the residents there would go crazy without any green.  Here are some of the sights...

Awesome stone arch bridge in Central Park

Dad in the park.


After a walk through Central Park in the evening we headed to the theater district to go to our first show - Mary Poppins.  The show was in the New Amsterdam Theater in the whimsical and elaborate Art Nouveau. The musical was great, with the traditional classics and some new music. The best part for me was the set, a house that broke apart at each of the floors so that when a scene was set in the children's attic nursery that stage set descended from the ceiling.  Mom and Dad got back stage passes to meet the cast, see the set, and ask questions!  No one has more awesome parents than me - what a great treat and incredible experience!!

The family with 'Bert' on the Broadway stage for Mary Poppins

'Mary Poppins' herself posing with us.

The 'Bank's' home.  I loved this set; you can see how it breaks apart at each level in this photo.
 I can't believe how much we got done in our first day in New York together. Part II to be posted soon!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Homecoming 2011!

Sept 30 - Oct 2

It has been five years since college graduation, and I cannot believe it!  I made it a point to go down to Pella to visit history professors and former classmates for the 2011 Central College homecoming.  Being back on campus brought memories of tea and cookie runs to the Library cafe; lectures in small, but homey, rooms; study sessions, and long days in the library archives.  In many ways I miss the culture and life on a college campus. 

I had a great time talking to my favorite history professors - Dr. Barloon, Dr. Schrier, and Dr. Witt - on Friday afternoon.  I was filled in on my history classmates lives, discussed current historical issues, and brought them up-to-date on my life.  Jackie, my good friend since high school, lives in Pella.  We attended Central together and had the joy of running in the Lemming Race together Senior Year.  The Lemming Race is the official student kick-off of Homecoming weekend. Students create inventive costumes and run down the mall into the Central pond.  The pond is, by no means, clean - and the ensuing bath is smelly and yucky.  But oh, so much fun.  Jackie and I did not recreate our Senior Year Lemming run - but we did watch.  I forgot to bring a camera, but I am sure there are pictures out there.  My favorite costume of Lemming Race 2011: men dressed as unicorns with mops for manes and tails.  So funny, and inventive!

Central College, view of the chapel.
The library mall.  Lemming Race starts at the library (pictured).
On Saturday I became a student again and attended a lecture on Central College students in the Civil War, given by Dr. Barloon and a current Central student.  I was amazed to hear that 114 students served in some capacity during the Civil War!  One professor also served, but only for a short period of time.

Saturday afternoon was spent at the football game.  Go Dutch!  It was a good match between Central and rival Coe College.  The final score - Central 38, Coe 34.  It was a nerve-wracking game.  I went to the game with two good Central College friends, Jackie and Jenny.  Both of these girls live in Pella, which allows me to return to the city often.  Jackie brought her daughter, Brooklyn, to the game to watch.  So much fun!
Jackie (with Brooklyn), me, and Jenny at the homecoming game.
Central v. Coe, Homecoming 2011.

Go Dutch!
Jenny holding Brooklyn at the game.
What a great weekend!  It was fun to see old acquaintances and catch up with current friends.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Grand Opening!

Sept. 10, 2011

The Historic Park Inn Hotel is officially open!  On Saturday night I attended the Grand Opening celebration for the hotel. It was my first time in the building since 2007 - and wow!  It honestly took my breath away just walking in the door.  The woodwork, the fixtures, the colors, textures, and materials are all perfect.  The original tile floor combined with the warmth of the wood and terracotta tiles was stunning.  The ballroom, watched over by Mercury, the perfect space for entertaining. 

Cocktail attire.
Ann MacGregor, a wonderful mentor, and me at the event.

Finished product.  Near: City National Bank, now the ballroom.  Far: Historic Park Inn Hotel entrance.

NRHP plaque.

Reproduction of the original light fixtures.

There was a perfect moment, when I was standing on the Lady's Parlor balcony over looking Central Park, that it just hit me that the project was done.  Even though I played a small part in the process, in many ways, it felt (just a little bit) like it was my hotel.   The mezzanine, restored to its original location, with a small lounge area above was perfect.  My favorite room, though, was the skylight room.  The original 25 stain glass panels in place below a skylight lit up the room. The gentleman's lounge, complete with the billiard table ("oh we got trouble, right here in River City") and a bar, is the perfect gathering place with a "big city" feel for a late night cocktail.
Skylight room.  

Hotel lobby with the restored mezzanine.  The ceiling is about 6'0" tall.  Andy could not stand up straight under here.

Gentleman's Lounge.


Ballroom, looking toward the original bank entrance.

Mercury stands guard over the doors form the ballroom to the hotel lobby.  These statues used to preside over the bank teller windows. 
One could tell everyone at the gala was extremely proud, and it seemed if everyone felt (a little bit) like this was their hotel. It is a must see if you are in Mason City, Iowa.  If you are not - go to visit.  Stay a night; eat at the restaurant.  You won't be disappointed. I can't wait to do so myself.

Monday, August 8, 2011

We're Goin' to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo...

8.5.11 (a random summer's day)

Nothing really says summer like a trip to the zoo.  The recent addition of penguins to the Minnesota Zoo ensured that I was going to make it out there this summer - and I did this past weekend!  All the way there I sang a song at the top of my lungs from my kindergarten "pink tea" (that is like graduation for those not from Newman)---
         "Daddy's takin' us to the zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow. 
          Daddy's takin' us to the zoo tomorrow, where we will will stay all day.
          (chorus) We're goin' to the zoo, zoo, zoo.  How about you, you, you?
          You can come too, too, too.  We're goin' to the zoo, zoo, zoo..."

You can totally hear what I am talking about at  P.S.: Ignore the Aussies intro and video.  This is not the Minnesota Zoo.  But this song is awesome.
The main event were the South African Penguins. While I thought their holding area seemed small, they were happily swimming about in the water and waddling around the shore.   They spend most of the time in the cold ocean waters and only go to the beach during very specific times in their life.  Smaller than Emperor Penguins, these little guys can swim up to 12 mph!  The zoo had a nice ad campaign for there new addition, which even included a new song.  Here it and learn more about these penguins at

African Penguins

Zooming along
What else can one see at the Minnesota zoo?  Oh, there are many animals, friends!  Some of my favorites were the sea otters, prairie dogs, lemurs, bison, leopards, and monkeys.  I even had the opportunity to touch a living sea anemone (they are sort of squishy).
Sea Otter swimming - these guys are the size of a golden retriever!

Brown Bear hanging out

Prairie Dog just chillin'

Ring-tailed Lemur getting ready to settle down for an afternoon nap

Leopard waking up from an afternoon nap

Really, what a great way to spend an afternoon.  Just one of the places for an adventure nearby. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Goodbye Farm


This weekend I visited my Grandparent Gochanour's Farm outside Osceola, Iowa for probably the last time.  My grandmother now lives in a nursing home and the farm is being sold.  While it is a sad moment, I have lovely memories of 20 years of visiting the farm.  When I was a kid, my brother, Andy, and I would stay at Grandma and Grandpa's for two weeks out of the summer.  These visits helped foster my relationship with my grandparents as well as help my imagination grow.  I remember one specific summer when my brother and I decided we were going to build a karate studio out of the wire corn crib.  We definitely had (and still have) wild imaginations!

Farm yard layout to the east

Farm yard layout to the west
While there I had a chance to look at the abstract to reveal some history on the house.  As a preservationist, I have always been interested in the farm's past - speculating about the farmhouse, how large the farm was, and how it evolved over time.  Finally, I had some answers!

Loafing Shed

The land was originally sold to Ebenezer (yes, really) Staling in 1855 by the United States government.  Staling sold the land in 1902 to the Marshalls.  I speculate that the Marshalls built the house - a two-story modest cube that had lead glass windows and a hip roof. 

The farm lost a big chunk of land in 1967 to the Iowa Department of Transportation for the construction of Interstate 35.  In the abstract, the interstate removed two corn cribs and a silo, and divided the farmland in half.  I was really interested in this piece of information because I never knew how large the farm originally was!  The Marshall family owned the land until the 1970s when it was sold to the Larry Reynolds, who sold the land to the east of the interstate to my grandparents in the late-1980s.

One of my favorite buildings at the farm is the barn.  I didn't remember how tall the gambrel-roof barn was! There were many afternoons spent roaming around in the hay loft, and coming up with great ways to attach a zip-line to fall into a pile of hay.  I never noticed when I was a kid the original hay hook that was inside.  I can imagine it being the 1900s with men pitching hay in the hay loft. 


Inside the barn
My grandparents, with my parent's help, did a lot of updating to the farmhouse, including additions to three elevations, adding vinyl siding, and replacing most of the windows.  Because the farm is only a fragment of what it was originally and the updates were made to the house, it would never be eligible for the National Register.  Not that it really matters - the farm will always hold a very special place in my heart.