Friday, October 29, 2010

Baltimore Adventure #2: The American Visionary Art Museum


From the top of Federal Hill, you can see a lot. The American Visionary Art Museum was right next to the hill. Like when I say next to was at the foot of the hill. I could have rolled down the hill and onto the museum's grounds.

What caught my eye was the amazing mozaic, glittering in the sun.


I am attracted to sparkly things and bright colors...I had to get a closer look. Was this a restaurant or a museum or both?


Well, as it turned out, it is an art museum with a cafe on the top level. One of these days I will have to make a return visit and check out the cool things inside and eat up at the cafe.

I didn't have a lot of time so decided to check out what was outside. Admission to the museum is $15.95 for adults, a very reasonable price. However, I'd want to get my full $15.95 out of my visit and really get a chance to linger at their exhibits....if they are as cool as what is outside, I think I could spend several hours there. They are open Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

So here is what I did see:


Is this not a fantasy garden? That "play house/tree house" is so cool. If I were a kid, I'd embarass my parents and immediately take up house and start playing pretend. I just imagine tree nymphs and faeries all over this garden.


The detail of the house is just amazing a true work of functional art.


Some of the magical critters, a pink donkey, I think. Much of what I saw outside was fresh and childlike. I mean childlike in the best of ways. The things I saw were right out of a young imagination that hadn't been stuffied up by what grown-ups consider art or beauty or a technique or the fact that in reality donkeys aren't pink (well why not?)


Now I just loved, loved, loved this sculpture! A bird and her nest. Talk about an industrial size bird...and a musical one at that.


Here is her beautiful egg. I love these glass mosaics. It reminds me of a place near my home. Maybe some of my homies may remember the house on Hayes Avenue up by Speigal Grove where they had these towers of cement with pieces of beautiful glassware, plates and mirrors pressed into them. I'm sure many adults may have thought the elderly couple's "glass and cement garden" an eye sore but I thought it was the lovliest thing. I always wanted my mom to stop to let us look through the chainlink fence at the sparkling, colorful rocks. The elderly man's works were no comparison to this egg or the mosaics around the museum buildings.


So back to the mosaic that caught my eye...oh, the balcony above is the restaurant.



Now is that a school bus or is that a school bus?! Below, close-up of the outer wall mosaic.


Biker chick is right over the entrance, you can't miss her.


This glittery mirror tree is right in front of the main building. I can't imagine how cool this must look if it gets hit directly with sunlight. It certainly sounded pretty, tinkling in the soft breeze that afternoon.


This is a close-up of some of the glass and mirror leaves on the tree.


Now, if something can be judged by its 'cover', I have to think the stuff on the inside is pretty cool. The welcome mat for the museum was made out of brightly colored tooth brushes, so who knows what other fun, imaginative, out-of-the-box stuff is inside. If you are in Baltimore, visit the American Visionary Art Museum...if you go, take me with you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Balitmore Adventure: Freedom Hill

Can I just tell you I hate driving in a city. It was almost a disaster for me as I almost got in a car accident trying to find my hotel. I was in the wrong lane so at the last minute I attempted to change lanes (often done in city, right). Since it was the weekend, there wasn't a lot of traffic so people were driving much faster than the speed limit. Before I committed to my lane change, I checked my rearview mirror to see a VW coming up at high speed. I stopped where I was. Lots of room for her to get by on my right but she still layed on the horn and screached to an almost stop and shot me a snotty look. So that's how it started.

After locating my hotel, but it being too early to check-in, I headed to the Inner Harbor. I went to check out Federal Hill which is on the other side of the Harbor, a view I've not really seen before.

What is Federal Hill?


Federal Hill was discovered by Captain John Smith in 1608 on his first exploration of the Chesapeake Bay. It earned its name in 1788, when thousands of Baltimoreans marched from Fells Point to the hill in celebration of the Maryland General Assembly's ratification of the Constitution. (Residents of the neighborhood reenacted the parade 200 years later.) Subsequently it was the scene of other civic celebrations. Shortly after Independence, an observatory was erected on the hill so merchants could get advance warning of the arrival of their vessels. The hill gained notoriety during the Civil War. Federal troops occupied the hill and trained their cannon on the city, whose loyalty to the North was in some doubt.


The city government acquired the hill in 1875 and made it a park. The marine observatory was discontinued in 1899. For much of the 19th century the Federal Hill shore shared with Fells Point the city's thriving shipping trade and related industries. Federal Hill itself was mined for sand for a nearby glassworks, leaving behind some caverns which exist to this day and are a favorite subject of legends.


Modern Federal Hill was born around 1960, when a few hardy pioneers bought and began renovating homes in what had become a dowdy neighborhood. But the existence of the neighborhood was threatened in the mid-60's by a plan to plow through it with an interstate highway, part of a complex of connecting freeways that would have demolished the Inner Harbor and Fells Point. The residents rebelled, joined hands across the harbor, and eventually defeated the plan. The rebuilding of the Inner Harbor area in the late 70s and early 80s greatly increased interest in Federal Hill as an enclave of intimate residential streets within minutes of the city's business and entertainment heart.


Below are some views of the Inner Harbor from the hill.




Monday, October 18, 2010

Holy Muscle Failure, Batman!

Just when my muscles were getting used to the killer tri/chest/abs workout my co-worker created two months ago, we switched it up with one I put together. What was I thinking?!?

Well, I was thinking muscle failure actually. The creation of this three part circuit was intended to cause failure for a particular muscle area. I was not expecting it to feel like this. My arms were jiggly at the end of the first set and the skull crushers almost became true to their name.

Here is the workout. It is a circuit, so each exercise should be done right after the other with minimal rest. Rest for a couple minutes at the end of the set. We have been able to make it through the circuit two times in 40 minutes. If you have more time, you could do this 3 times. However, I can tell you that your arms will want to fall off after the second set.

Standard push-ups (as many as you can do)
Supinating dumbbell chest flye (10-15)
Skull crusher back and cross alternating (total of 30 or 15 of each)
Bench press (10-15)

Knee tucks (as many as you can do)
Military push-ups (as many as you can do)
Triceps push-downs (10-15)

Plank (1min)
Wide push-ups
Side Plank (30- 60 sec on each side)
jumping jacks (30)

After doing our other killer workout for two months, I was not expecting this to be that hard. Just doing the push-ups in a different order from our other workout made a BIG difference. I'm a little afraid of my Bi/Back/Abs workout...I hope that one doesn't make me want to throw-up.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Skyline Drive Mid October 2010

Where the heck are the fall colors?

Yes, I do know this is a pine tree and it should remail green all year long. Look at the surrounding mountains and hills, green.

Only when you get to the higher elevations are the rusts showing. They don't think we'll have a very bright fall this year because of the drought at the end of the summer.


This milkweed pod is my favorite photo of the day. There was a whole field of milkweed all bursting with their fluffy seeds. The field was backlit by the sun so the white fluff sparkled like monster size, silky, snowflakes. I wonder how this got the name milkweed and not snowweed?

Here are some red leaves backlit by the setting sun, maybe a sampling of what is yet to come?


A lonely bench. This was at one of the first visitor's centers at the northern most part of Skyline Drive. The bench is facing a clearing in the mountain that overlooks the Shenandoah valley, its the perfect place to sit to watch the sun set. Maybe I'll make a return trip later in the month and I'll see not only a red tree but a beautiful sunset.