Friday, August 30, 2019

New York's Museum of the Dog is something to bark about

With her faithful service dog, a young visitor poses her animal next to a one of the AKC Dog Museum bronzes. 


A fine collection of vintage books is among the museum finds.

NEW YORK has gone to the dogs -- and happily so -- with the AKC Museum of the Dog.
The delightful museum recently returned to New York City, back to where it began over 35 years ago. We spent a fun afternoon there, strolling from our Times Square hotel a few pleasant blocks to 101 Park Avenue, to enjoy one of the world's finest collections of canine-related art.
Beautiful bronzes, whimsical watercolors, oils, ceramics, drawings, prints, carvings and inter-active exhibits celebrate man's best friend.
A lovingly curated two-story tribute unfolds as one walks from room to room, admiring portraits of royalty with their dogs, hunters with theirs, children and their favorite pets, society matrons dressed to the nines with their canine companions and more.
Beautiful bronzes of dogs are poised to watch over
visitors at various spots in the two-level museum.
THE SHINY new purpose-built galleries are across the street from Grand Central Station in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Combining fine arts with cutting edge technology and interpretation, the Museum of the Dog provides unique and engaging experiences for visitors of all ages.  
A whimsical band features
these musical pugs.

As a life-long dog lover, with more than 15 doggies in my history, I was moved by the permanent collection and its variety. It is both touching and expansive, one of the finest and largest collections of canine-related fine art and artifacts in the world. Dog-related memorabilia and artifacts await the dog devotee:  trophies, collars and books about dogs.
Show trophies, collars and other dog-related works are also featured in the collection.

One of the most famous White House dogs, Millie,
belonged to George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush.
IF YOU have dog related art in your home, and are thinking of passing it on, but not sure who in the family or friend circle might enjoy it, consider donating it to the museum. Many wealthy patrons have done this, contributing oils, bronzes, watercolors, terracotta and many other treasures.
An interactive exhibit allows visitors to pair
their "bark" with a dog. Ours: a Tibetan Mastiff.
The museum, sponsored by the American Kennel Club, relies primarily on donations and provides a forum for other AKC endeavors, including a highly ranked canine retreat and changing exhibits. On view now is a lively collection of Constance Bannister's world famous dog and baby photos. "Bannister Babies and Pet Pin-Ups" is on loan from Bannister's daughter, Lynda, who inherited her mother's 100,000 images.
Memberships range from basic $60 a year, with unlimited museum admission, to "Blue Ribbon," "Best of Breed," "Champion," "Grand Champion" and "Best in Show." Those higher-priced tax-deductions range from $500 to $10,000. Walk-in admissions are $15 or $5 for kids, $10 for seniors or military.  We give paws up and recommend an engaging afternoon or morning visit.

Welcoming touches with natural rock, wood and even lichen make
the Wayne and Pamela Gustafson home an inspiring retreat.
UP NEXT: A place to call home, and a beautiful place it is.  The elegant home Pamela and Wayne Gustafson is built with love and artistry.  The couple integrate their artful touches -- he an architect and she as a needle artist -- to create a restful, soothing and inspiring home.  A recent writers' workshop there was a wonderful experience for a dozen accomplished participants.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a fresh look at the arts, nature, travel, family, pets and more at

Friday, August 23, 2019

New Yorkers and their parks: Central and Bryant, a winning pair

Children's pools, playgrounds, rowing ponds for all ages, beautifully kept greens greet the eye at Central Park East.
A calming stroll along the perimeter of Central Park is a must.



A summer day is enjoyed by these two folks, sunning
and enjoying a bite of lunch in Bryant Park's gardens.

PARKS ARE at a premium in the middle of large, congested cities. No one loves their parks more than New Yorkers, those fast-talking subway travelers. They live at a frenetic pace, these taxi honking, gesturing folks who eat, play, relax, take the sun, play cards or chess, people-watch, unwind and even nap in their beloved parks.
New York City has more than 1,700 parks, playgrounds, and recreation facilities across the five boroughs. They are well used by the city's 8.3 million residents and 63 million annual visitors.
NEW YORK's park properties range from swimming pools to wetlands and from woodlands to skating rinks.
Free concerts continue through the summer in Central Park.
One of our favorites -- and millions of others -- is Central Park, that magical 843-acre green space featuring rolling meadows, peaceful bodies of water,  concert areas, food trucks and a famous restaurant.
In 1857, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and architect/landscape designer Calvert Vaux won a design competition to construct thepark with a plan they titled the "Greensward Plan". Construction began the same year, and the park's first areas were opened to the public in late 1858.MUCH SMALLER but equally lovely Bryant Park in Midtown, is a 9.603-acre privately managed public park.  It sits  between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and 40th and 42nd Streets in Midtown Manhattan. So you'll find a mix of businessmen and women, tourists and patrons of the nearby Main Branch of the New York Public Library.
Sound equipment is readied for a concert, while
a few folks are taking their seats early in Bryant Park.

Both parks have a lively performance schedule.  Bryant's "borrow a blanket, grab some food" offerings feature NYC's acclaimed Drilling Company. We saw "Hamlet" there; "Othello" runs Aug. 30-Sept. 7 on various days. Accordion masters perform a wide range of styles this summer, along with five free Carnegie Hall concerts and three New York City Opera hour-long cuttings of "La Boheme," "Carmen" and a Pride Concert celebrating New York's diversity.
CENTRAL PARK'S equally popular Summer Stage Series is an outdoor festival of the arts held each year at Rumsey Playfield. Performances are mostly free, except for a few big-name benefit concerts that help fund SummerStage programming.
Shakespeare comes to Bryant Park
(here) and Central Park as well.
We always stop at Central Park's Strawberry Fields, a wonderful living memorial to the world-famous singer John Lennon. Financed and dedicated by his widow, Yoko Ono, it movingly celebrates the life of the songwriter and peace activist, best known as singer and composer with the Beatles. Every time we've wandered through, we've heard someone playing the guitar.
Strawberry Fields invokes tourists and New Yorkers
to "Imagine" a better world, as John Lennon asked.
pause, reflect and often leave a flower or note in this touching, beautiful place.
Both parks have wonderful, user friendly websites with maps, events and more:;

The AKC Museum of the Dog is a barking good treat in NYC.

UP NEXT:  With a wealth of museums to pick from, we  write about several a year.  This time we returned to several of our favorites and a new kid on the block.  We paid a visit to a museum designed to honor and pay homage to man's best friend. The AKC Museum of the Dog is a unique, one of a kind museum with paintings, photos, videos, games, sculpture and more devoted to every manner of canine.  Among other features, a self-portrait dog match machine takes your portrait photo and matches you to a lifetime dog. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a new look at travel, the arts, nature, pets, family and more at

Friday, August 16, 2019

New York at Night: Glitz, glamour from Hornblower to Hell's Kitchen

Viewing the New York skyline from the water aboard Hornblower makes for a splendid evening.

Lady Liberty aglow viewed from  a Hornblower cruise.



"I want to wake up in that city that doesn't sleep
And find I'm king of the hill -- top of the heap."
--"New York, New York," by Fred Ebb & John Kander

NO OTHER city in the world offers the nighttime magic that New York does.
Vegas is a close second, but it doesn't have the water. Nor does it boast the history.  After all, President George Washington first took office in New York City.
From left, Bruce Keller, Cookie Meyers,
Misha and David Minesinger about to board
Hornblower's New York evening dinner cruise.
It's no prettier than from inside a cozy boat, transiting the waterways at night.  The city's lights and the water's beauty make a Hornblower evening cruise a spectacular way to see one of the world's great cities.
Sister time:  Misha and Cookie pause to 
reminisce before joining others on deck.
WE BOARDED Hornblower's City Lights Dinner Cruise with my sister and her husband, celebrating our reunion and a Broadway binge.  The evening marked the 55th anniversary of a fondly remembered family trip to New York to witness the 1964 World's Fair.  In honor of that my show-biz sister Misha dressed us alike, as our mother had over a half-century ago. Our husbands were gracious good sports, donning look-alike shirts to match our blouses and jeans.
For free:  strolling New York at night, to
admire its classic and new buildings.
New York's Brooklyn Bridge, a treat to pass under.
Our family has a long, happy history with Hornblower. It's a sentimental favorite at reunions on both coasts. We've toasted birthdays and anniversaries aboard Hornblower vessels in San Francisco, San Diego, Newport and New York with festive brunches, dinners and whale watching treks.  This trip we booked a delightful three-course meal surrounded by other happy cruisers from around the globe.  An Indian couple was celebrating their 20th anniversary.  A family from Boston was celebrating with their recent Columbia Medical School graduate. 
Guantanamera serves up spicy
Cuban fare late, with live music.
New York's "The Imbible" is a fast-paced history of drinking. 
BARTENDERS served up artisan cocktails so we could stroll out on deck to admire the city's architectural mix -- from Art Deco to modern. Breathtaking. As our amiable DJ announced our approach to Lady Liberty, champagne was delivered and our international group toasted the statue. Hornblower offers a leisurely way to admire famous New York landmarks -- the Chrysler Building with its ornate spire, the World Trade Center standing proudly rebuilt, Rockefeller Center and the Empire State building.  We picked out these landmarks as we dined to soft background jazz. A perfect evening's afterglow.
Dawn breaks over the bridges and skyline.
OFF THE boat, it was still prime time for New York, although it isn't exactly true that the city never sleeps. However, a good reporter can find intimate bars and neighborhood restaurants that stay open into the wee hours. As in Europe, diners often don't take a table until 9 or 10 p.m., and some joints offer live music and dining until 3, even 4 a.m.  One of my favorites was the popular French diner, Florent, which closed, sadly, in 2008.  It was "the" destination for those who had too much medicine, serving up legendary goat-cheese omelettes and black coffee in a noisy "New York" after hours atmosphere.
Near Tiimes Square, the action is lit up and lively all night long.
UPHOLDING the Florent standard for the hangover crowd are Taco Mix, at East 116th St., with fabulous spicy fare; the Penrose on East 82nd Street with smoked gouda on its mac and cheese; Guantanamera on 8th Avenue,  with delicious calamari, magnificent Cuban sandwiches and live music; Vida Verde between Hell's Kitchen and the Theater District, with tasty nachos and fish tacos.
WE DISCOVERED a delightful play, "The Imbible," a spirited musical comedy tracing the history of alcohol from the cave man to modern times.  A little science, a lot musical theater, the show is clever, quick-paced and includes several drinks and another evening option.
If you're in the mood for a walk, nothing is prettier than the historic buildings and new skyscrapers of Manhattan's mid-town.  Take a walk -- it's free -- then taxi back to your hotel.

New York's Bryant Park provides chairs, tables and a
lovely green expanse for residents and tourists to enjoy.

UP NEXT: A pair to draw to.  New Yorkers love their parks and there are dozens of them -- from large, welcoming and expansive public spaces to small neighborhood parks accessible only to residents. Then there are lovely alcoves within museums and businesses.  We take you to our two favorites -- Central Park and Bryant Park, much beloved by tourists and native New Yorkers alike. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel look at the arts, travel, nature, family and more.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden rises grandly from a man's vision

Bromeliad, heliconia, anthurium, ginger, mango, spider lily and more await viewers at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.

A gecko suns himself on a leaf, here caught by the camera in silhouette.


Hawaii's familiar upright heliconia is on showy display.
The garden also offers a lovely hanging variety.
Fronds, stalks and stems make
beautiful patterns as you stroll.

At right, Kate Logan, horticulturist and supervising manager
at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, greets Cookie.

A GARDEN in a valley, with a walking path to the ocean..... and along the way a fabulous fiesta of flowers, shrubs, trees, surrounded by abundant bird life, lovely little lizards enjoying the sun, bees buzzing happily, beauty all around.
In 1977, Dan Lutkenhouse Sr. was visiting from the Bay Area when he fell in love with the Big Island of Hawaii and its lush Onomea Valley.  Vacationing with his wife Pauline, he purchased 17 acres without really knowing what he would do with it.
BUT SOON HE HAD a  vision to transform the neglected piece of land.  Says his son, Dan Lutkenhouse Jr., who carried on the project, "When my father first saw the valley, it was an overgrown, virtually impenetrable jungle."

A beautifully laid out gift shop offers unique way to support
the Botanical Garden with handmade and local crafts.

His dad returned to the mainland, sold his 40-year old San Francisco trucking business and moved to Hawaii.  For eight years, he devoted himself to the garden's transformation.
 With assistant Terry Takiue, and two helpers, the four men labored. Today, devoted horticulturist Kate Logan continues Lutkenhouse's dream, which showcases the natural environment and preserves valuable plants.  During the creation, to preserve rare plants and not disturb tree roots, they used cane knives, sickles, picks, shovels and chain saws.  Working seven-day weeks and long hours, they eventually cleared paths through the jungle.  Colleagues and family remember that he'd leave in the morning 
You'll feel as if you've gone down the rabbit hole as you duck
to avoid the garden's thousands of brightly blooming plants.
with a sandwich, his tools and high hopes. The garden opened to the public in 1984 and now hosts more than 150,000 visitors each year.
WHILE IT OFFERS visitors a beautiful, restful experience in nature, its mission is also to educate.  School children learn the importance of conservation on our beleaguered planet. Guests join the move to preserve the planet's beauty, faced with over-population and imperiled resources. Armed with an excellent trail guide and map of the garden's dozens of plants and trees, we meandered. We followed paths leading gently down to the sea, mingling with people from around the world, just as the founder imagined.
Two lovely rivers and waterfalls enhance the 2,500 species of plants, including many endangered species. The ocean coastline hosts mollusk, black crab, endangered sea turtles and the threatened Hawaiian monk seal.
The garden boasts spider lily, ti leaf,
jackfruit, mango, ivory nut palm and more
The sound of water enhances the garden's beauty.

WE RETURNED TO OUR ship after the eight-mile drive back to Hilo, having spent a lovely afternoon being peacefully educated by the fruits of one man's dream. The glorious garden he imagined lives! 
For a few short hours, we were an international link, admiring flowers and plants from the Hawaiian Islands, talking quietly, taking photos, praising the vision of this visionary man with a dream.
And so it came to pass: "If you build it, they will come."

New York at night by Hornblower offers a fine opportunity to view the Statue of Liberty.  

UP NEXT:  Experiencing New York at night is a memorable affair.  No other city, except perhaps Las Vegas, has such glamour, glitz and allure.  But New York has history, too, and water.  Come with us to Ellis Island, Times Square and other famous landmarks, celebrating remembering to explore, learn and live. Catch us each week for a fresh take on travel, the arts, family and nature at  

Friday, August 2, 2019

Na Pali Coast wonders: beyond Honolulu's glitz, NCL's 'Pride' reveals breathtaking beauty

The most spectacular views of the Na Pali Coast are from the air or sea. 


Not far from the coast line, pineapple
fields grow much of the world's fruit.

OAHU'S NORTH Shore offers one of the world's most spectacular coastlines.
But not many visitors to Honolulu take the time to enjoy the beauty. We took a leisurely sail past this wonder, aboard Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America. 
Years ago, Hollywood discovered this pristine stretch of coastline with its eye-popping scenery. The crystal-clear water, jagged mountains and cascading waterfalls transport the viewer to fictional worlds such as those introduced in the "Jurassic Park" movies, "The Hunger Games" and many other famous films. Yet the cinematic beauty of this part of the Hawaiian Islands is very much "non-fiction."
More than four million years ago, volcanic plates formed the islands. Where these plates came together, volcanoes were created, sending magma rising upward until it erupted on the seafloor, at what are called  “hot spots.”
Pride of America offers a leisurely way to see the islands.
WE HAD a recent close encounter with the result of this Earth-shaking phenomenon.  We've visited Hawaii many times, so booked a week aboard NCL's Pride of America for a different take. NCL is the only line making a popular weekly spin around these fabled isles.
We wanted a laid-back cruise, since we are taking five other more demanding cruises this year.  We highly recommend this pleasant transit of the islands.  The Pride makes the trip each week for a leisurely look at the top towns and attractions on the four major Hawaiian islands.
If you want a longer time on Oahu, we also recommend Turtle Bay Resort on the north shore, which provides fine access to the Na Pali Coast for myriad activities.
Eager Pride of America passengers disembark for a look at the North Shore.
Some of us took helicopter rides, as well as enjoying the boat's tour.
LUSH JUNGLES and rain forests lead to verdant cliffs that sometimes hang below the clouds. The jagged peaks and shades of green remind of the mountains and jungles of Peru.
The scenic Na Pali coast is hard to beat for spectacular beauty, which is why it has attracted film directors for decades.
  Some of the jungle scenes of  the "Jurassic Park" films were shot in Waimea Valley, also on the North Shore. That lovely canyon is also a great place for a delightful hike. Among the 250 other films shot here are "Blue Hawaii," with Elvis Presley, "Jumanji" and "Godzilla."
 At Kualoa Ranch, you can tour jungle film sets
 or a secret island, visit Hawaiian fishponds,
go for a horseback ride, or drive an ATV.
While visiting the North shore, check out the Kualoa Ranch, which served as a backdrop to the "Jurassic" pictures and many other science-fiction and adventure films. A working cattle ranch, it offers fun tours, some by jeep, of  its "Jurassic Park" locations, chosen by directors and cinematographers for the stunning scenery. Today, world famous Kualoa Ranch capitalizes on its good fortune -- with tours that take visitors to the locations, telling the stories of dinosaurs brought out of extinction through cloning.
Approaching the Na Pali Coast, passengers aboard NCL's
Pride of America enjoy the sun and prepare for a treat. 

MANY OTHER movie jungle scenes were captured in nearby Manoa Valley. One can take the trail in Manoa Valley to the 150-foot Manoa Falls. This gorgeous waterfall is well worth the hike, even if you aren’t a fan of the movies.
There's something cinematic about visiting Oahu's North Shore and Na Pali Coast, but pinch yourself -- because it's all very real. This wonder of the world is thankfully being preserved by the Hawaiian people and shared with us all through  tourism -- and the movies!

Veteran travel writer Christene "Cookie" Meyers and horticulturist
Kate Logan at the entrance to Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.

UP NEXT: One of the world's most extraordinary gardens is the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, created by a Bay Area man who discovered a neglected 17-acre property 40 years ago and determined to create an oasis. After seven years of work, seven days a week, a beautiful garden emerged.  It is one of the treasures of the "Big Island" of Hawaii and we'll take you there.   Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a novel look at travel, the arts, family and nature.