Disclaimer: This was my first Florida trip with Marco last October 2014. There are two more trip worth coming from last Thanksgiving and also more recently this Valentine’s Day. Read it like it was last year, yeah?

So, this was unplanned. Just a couple of weeks ago Marco was interviewing with the Orlando Sentinel and now we are moving him down to Florida. But, what better time to have an adventure, right? We began this trip with a trek across Iowa on our way to Charleston, Illinois.

We wish that we had an extra week to actually do the traveling. I’m a person who likes to just spot signs and stop at roadside attractions, or every time I need gas to ask the people there what fun stuff is hidden locally. We had to be a lot more selective this trip because we did have a timeline. We left Thursday around noonish. We had planned on packing Wednesday night but of course had to do some final farewell drinks and dinner with friends. That’s one of those things you can’t avoid because it’s hard to tear yourself away when you (Marco) know you won’t be seeing them again likely for a long time.

We stop at A LOT of rest stops, well, because Marco has a bladder the size of a peanut. The upside to this however is that I often get to read a lot of text panels, stretch my legs, and sometimes see some gorgeous scenery. We stopped at several really gorgeous rest stops along the way.


20141026_103211_Richtone(HDR)Our one planned stop for Iowa was at The Candy Kitchen in Wilton, Iowa. This is a little gem our friends Ruth and Troy told us about. Wilton, a town of about 3,000, is a fairly typical little town except George and Thelma Nopoulos live there. This amazing couple in their 90s have lived in Wilton most all of their lives and actually met when Thelma worked at the Candy Kitchen as a young woman. The Kitchen opened in the 1860s and has existed in approximately the same location ever since. The Nopoulos Faily has operated it since 1910. The Candy Kitchen is an old-fashioned soda shop and the owners are a riot. Though we just intended to stop and grab ice cream to go we probably stayed close to 45 minutes, chatting and laughing, looking at photographs of important visitors, and deciding whether to buy the triple dipped malt balls or the chocolate covered peanuts (we got both). Road trip munchies.



From there, back on the road to Charleston. Marco was being inducted into the Eastern Illinois University Journalism Hall of Fame and so we had planned to spend a few days there over the school’s homecoming celebration. Luckily it worked out that Marco’s family was able to come down from Chicago as well. First thing Friday morning we had that ceremony and then back to the less serious stuff. We spent the whole weekend with Marco’s college buddies and had a great time at the homecoming game and the journalism department’s chili cook-off.


Sunday morning back on the road towards Florida. Now we had planned to pick one town and do some touristy things because as I mentioned we were on a time schedule here. Also, I refuse to eat at chain restaurants on vacation, even on a tight schedule. There are so many smart phone tools that allow you to figure out what the locals eat anywhere you are. Would it be easier to grab a cheeseburger? Sure, but then I wouldn’t have eaten this deliciously over-pepperonied pizza at Woody’s in Clarksville, Tennessee.


We randomly picked a place on the map for fun activities and the destination became Chattanooga, Tennessee. The goal was to see the site for the Battle Above the Clouds and Ruby Falls but we only managed the latter. By the time we arrived it was too dark to enjoy the museum and lookout point of the former. Battle Above the Clouds happened during the Civil War in which, it seems, a strange fog falls on the town blocking the site of the mountain while also blocking the view of town from above. Thus the battle on the mountain being named Battle Above the Clouds. We did get to go to Ruby Falls which was beautiful and intriguing. One of these posts coming up (I know, I get out of chronology) will be about the trip to Crystal Lake Cave in Iowa we took with my nieces and nephews. Similar in that you tour through a cave system with all sorts of interesting stalactite and stalagmite formations with cute little names given to them, but Ruby Falls has FALLS. Some of the tallest underground to be found. This was one of those times I wish I had a $1,000 camera. Marco thinks I unfairly critique museum and site tour guides. I think people should just be good at their jobs. Ours wasn’t too bad, though I felt we could have heard so much more historic background of the cave. I suppose she was a bit distracted by the two people on our tour who were out of their minds on some drug and kept falling hundreds of feet behind. Ahh, life experiences. 20141026_185444

20141026_183454 We camped out in Macon, Georgia. In which Marco insisted we eat Bacon in Macon before leaving in the morning, we did. Weird, floppy, continental breakfast bacon. Also, at rest stops in Florida you can get little tiny tasters of orange and grapefruit juice. Delicious. Again, local food at the Bakery Mill & Deli. The interwebs recommended I have the Reuben and boy did it win. Give me all your kraut and coleslaw. Finally in Florida by mid-afternoon. Luckily, Marco has a first floor apartment and not a lot of stuff. We managed to get everything in the car that he has. We left behind a box fan, a laundry basket, and Sprout. I won’t tell you about Monday, it was boring. Grocery shopping and unpacking.

20141027_113617Tuesday Marco and I weren’t planning anything but more unpacking and relaxing but decided to check out a local park called Wekiwa Springs. Supposedly it was to have a nice natural spring pool for bathing and that sounded like enough excitement for us for the day. What we found was wonderful beyond words. The spring pool area was like an oasis and we figured out you could rent canoes. Rent canoes to where? Up the river, we don’t know where it leads but sure! We are in the middle of the city (suburbs of Orlando) and not only is there this beautiful area but we also canoed up a river that would never give any sort of hint there was a city anywhere behind the trees. I’ve traveled a lot in my life but it always amazes me to look at trees and animals in the wild and have no clue what they are. Leapin’ lizards! And lots of them, name that movie!


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Trees, plants, gators, and especially birds were all over the place. We canoed upon a little tiki bar island and pulled off to enjoy drinks with the locals. We met very few people born in Florida there but a lot of transplants who gave us a ton of suggestions for nearby points of interest. What a beautiful and relaxing day we didn’t plan on having….except when I fell in the water (because I was rescuing Marco) and thought I was going to be eaten by a gator. No big deal.

Tuesday we hit up a recommended spot, The Dandelion Café. Turns out they were having a comedy slam and even asked Marco to judge. The Café is a gourmet tea and vegan type place so we bought some fun drinks and settled in on the patio. Because it’s October and beautiful outside in Florida. Not everybody was great but it was good night of giggles. If you ask me, Marco is too kind of a judge.

NEXT STOP DISNEY WORLD! Well the Hollywood Studios portion at least. This was Marco’s first time and since he is like a 12 year old anyways, I knew it would be super fun. Also, he hadn’t ever been on a roller coaster before and I was sure excited to be the one taking him. The Tower of Terror was the best because he just giggled, not laughed, giggled the whole time. Not only did he grab me when the cart dropped but also the guy sitting next to us, AND the moment was caught on camera! Marco and I got our Disney personalities…what do you think that says about us?


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Disney was a lovely time and I was really quite impressed with the service, movement of lines, 3 free fast passes, and the fact that you can bring your own food to save on bucks was wonderful.

Thursday evening was quite possibly the highlight of the trip. We went to Capone’s Dinner Theatre. Now, yes, we both LOVE theatre and musicals and dinner, but this was one of the most entertaining shows I’ve ever been to. The cast was spot on, all the “help” was always in character, and it was very participatory. The food was decent (some of the best we’ve, now months later, had at dinner theatres in Orlando). My favorite quotes from the show:

Old Lady: What time does the show start?

Our waiter (a real wise guy): Whenever the hell I want!

Waiter asks if he can take my plate and I say yes

Waiter: I like it, a real proper burial with the napkin on top like dat.

Marco especially got a show.



Friday Marco worked, I explored Orlando. The really amazing thing I wasn’t expecting from Orlando was the parks an lakes and wildlife everywhere. Lake Eola, just a couple of blocks from Marco’s work, is really gorgeous. Then I spent 5 hours at the Orange County Regional History Center (big surprise right?), a phenomenal museum with some great exhibitions. Their current exhibition was ‘Gone With the Wind’ which I, of course, loved.



That night we went down to the Halloween celebration at Old Town in Kissimmee. Good fun, photos can speak for themselves. Old Town is a great place to waste some time with a lot of restaurants and neat (over-priced as expected) knick-knack shops. We saw a random group of zombies break out Thriller, that was amazing.


SATURDAY WAS SUPPOSED TO BE BEACH DAY. BOOOOO! We had several beautiful and warm days, just for this one to be super cold and windy. But, as always we made the best of it and went to the Kennedy Space Center. Not enough hours in a day to spend at that place but we “did” as much as we could. We did go to the beach for just a little while and even though it was so cold it was beautiful. So many jellyfish!


I touched a piece of the moon!!!




2014 Round Up (Food Style I guess)

So… blogging. Like many others in my field I’ve reached, continually, the “too busy for blogging” threshold.




Just to show a few…

Like they all say, it hasn’t been because I’m not busy or because I don’t have anything to say (YOU ALL KNOW that’s not true). It’s because blogging takes a lot of time. Not only to think about, but to write, and to remain well-read on other blogs to make sure you aren’t just regurgitating a bunch of stuff people have already figured out.

2014 has been a very busy year for me, unfortunately it went out with quite an awful ending being sick with all the flus for a month and capping it off with a bacterial infection in my sinus. BY MY BRAIN! If that doesn’t freak a person out and make them reflect on their year.

Believe it or not the reason I decided to post tonight was, well because, I made something unbelievably delicious. I’ve always wanted to be a food blogger, because I love cooking and I’m damned good at it if I don’t say myself, but I don’t have the patience to photograph every step of what I do. I wing, fling, and often garbage cook (throw whatever I have around in, but more responsibly than my Grandma Rose’s Garbage Soup, that lady seriously put EVERYTHING in there!) so I never think about photos until I’m done and the spoils have been mostly demolished. I’ve been so sick the last couple of weeks my menu has basically been tomato soup, mashed potatoes, and oatmeal (not all together). Thank goodness for my parents taking care of me or I may have shriveled away to nothingness in a heap of agony and not being able to chew. Tonight, I’m either getting better or was at the right point in my med schedule that I felt I had the gumption to chew real food. However, I haven’t been home in a few weeks, nor have I been grocery shopping. That left me to the devices of the cupboards I’d been trying to run out before I left. I made Buffalo Chicken Quinoa. Sounds weird right? It’s amazing. It’s the second best quinoa I’ve ever eaten in my life, right after my lemon, sun-dried tomato, asparagus, edamame quinoa that I make. The biggest annoyance in making quinoa is titling the dish, that’s why I just list almost every single ingredient included anyways. Here are a few of my faves from the year:


Mediterranean stuffed beef tenderloin, rosemary potatoes, homemade sun-dried tomato bread.


Not going to lie, these were not a win! I made these for Joel’s birthday because what about 40 rolos on top of a brownie sounds like a bad idea? It was, unless you like getting your teeth ripped out with every 1,000 calorie filled gooey but delicious bite.

20140302_171803The 70s themed Oscars party (right?). This was not my own doing, I had a lot of help in creating all the delicious and terrible things we consumed that night.


Taught myself how to make pua’a in a crock pot. One of my new favorite recipes, and the ever beloved cheesy hashbrown casserole that is a family staple.

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Made cornbread from scratch for the first time, attempting to model it after cornbread muffins I had in Atlantic City. Sorry Showboat, mine won out. Also, made a lot of these style breakfast sandwiches for Marco. Wet yolk grosses me out, but does that man love him some breakfast.

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My crepe recipe had been perfected for years, but again in an attempt to copycat, I recreated the Cheese Shop’s Rosemary Ham for my crepes. For the major win! Also, perfect my pumpkin seed roasting technique so that they are crunchy instead of weird and chewy. Buffalo Ranch, go figure.


Last but not least, I reinvented Long John Silvers’ chicken and hushpuppies (but with a green chili and cheddar spin). I really don’t attempt a lot of copycat stuff but this year I was pretty successful whenever I set out to do it. My friends whine at me because when we go out to eat I say I could make it at home, well, sorry. There are a few things I’ll never make quite the same as the original though:

My mom’s chicken dumpling soup

Bareli’s (New Jersey) Buffalo Filet Mignon

Eddie Palardy’s Broccoli Rabe and Pasta

Campbell’s Tomato Soup (though I think I may have beaten this with homemade this year)

Last but the most important, my Grandma Martha’s Blarney Stones.

I didn’t set out for this post to be entirely about food, it was supposed to be about my 2014. As usual, food played a big part. Again, I hope to be better about blogging this year, on all fronts, personally and professionally. Here’s looking at you 2015.

2015 Food Resolution – Get better plates to photograph food on. I mean seriously.

Writing About, For, and In Museums

Content coming soon!


The second series post and already I’ve had to change up my tag, that’s because this adventure was of a particularly special sort, one with my family. With a growing number of us it gets harder and harder to coordinate things. I missed out on most of our family vacations as a kid because I was the baby of the family and was either too young to go, or the other siblings got too old or busy for us to have one. Womp womp. But, as adults, we’re bringing back family vacations! This is will be fun because now that we are older we can get away with so much more. 


August 23, 2014

Making it Up as We Go

Mom had a lovely trip planned for us. We were to go to Chestnut Mountain in Galena, Illinois and ride either the Alpine slide or chairlift down the Mississippi River valley to the water, then enjoy a beautiful 1.5 hour river cruise via pontoon seeing the sites. What we ended up with was a beautifully rainy foggy day. Upon arriving to Chestnut, Dad and I volunteered to run the couple of hundred yards to the office in the pouring rain to see what the plan was. Would we go or would it be cancelled and we’d have to come up with something else for 12 people and an adorable little baby to do? They sent us back running through the rain to the hotel office where we gladly accepted a refund. The goal was to run back (remember it’s pouring rain) to the vans and game plan from there. Dad goes to the “boys” van and I run to the “girls” van to find that it’s nowhere in sight. They left me, standing in the pouring rain, slippery flip flops in hand. Turns out they had pulled up to the front door so Kim could use the restroom and neglected to notify me as I sprinted by, falling out of my flip flops, that they had moved. Lovely. Thank you. Bonus epiphany from the drive, we can now plug a crockpot into Mom’s car, #DrivingWithMeatballs. Also, our new road trip mantra, “Will stop for all balloons!” (denoting parties at places we weren’t invited to) especially when they are red, yellow, and blue. #PrimaryColorParty


I guess this means our picnic in the park is also rained out? It’s okay, we’ll improvise. We decided an indoor activity would be best for the day so we opted for the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque. I love this place but much of our party had never visited. We ended up being able to have a soggy picnic outside their cafe. Mom, of course because she’s always prepared, had a delicious  array of sandwich fixins, chips, desserts, etc.


On into our educational experience. Something you should know about my family: if there is a statue, it will be mimicked. Look forward to more of this. This episode starring Jenni and Destiny do pioneer trade. Yes, in the second photo Destiny is playing the canoe. (Really, there may be an entire post coming your way soon of JUST photos of us mimicking statues. It’s a forte for us).  The Museum has many great artifacts (though I hate when text panels don’t include dates!) and a wide variety of types of display. Some dioramas, some interactives, etc.

Statue 1 Statue 2

It’s no secret that I love 4 and 5d theatres. Marco and I went to one in Illinois once where I actually thought I was going to crash in an airplane and that bees were flying at me. EEEEK! We opted for the full experience package which included two short movies, unfortunately they weren’t  about turtles and sharks like the website said they were going to be. We got stuck with Spongebob Squarepants (loathe) and Planet Earth which I actually like. It was pretty tame but offered a wonderful opportunity for a full fam photo. Of all children in the movie, ours included, I daresay my 30 year-old brother Matt was the most ill-behaved of everybody. Typical.


Probably my favorite photo of the day. Grandma and Gramps relaxing with Allie while the adult boys play in the water exhibits.


The rain let up and we were able to go wander around the outside parts of the complex,  in which I was almost tackled into the Bald Eagles’ water pool. Can you spot the eagle?


Have I ever mentioned how beautiful I think nature is and the colors that occur there. The picture below is beautiful and all it is is algae. Who’d have thunk it?


I haven’t been on many really ships in my life, boats sure, but not ships. At the museum you can actually tour through a historic dredge boat and see the cabins, engines, etc. Ship ahoy matey!

ShipAhoyHave I mentioned we all got to spend the day with this lil’ peanut?


As much as I don’t like zoos and aquariums, as long as the animals are well-cared for it’s hard to complain about getting to see amazing animals close up you otherwise wouldn’t get to. Turtle TURTLE! Who wore it best?

TurtleTurtle Me

Clearly it was me…

We spent a lot of time walking through a Mark Twain inspired exhibition and a Civil War one called the Battle for the Mississippi, in which I have the opportunity to take a selfie with Abe Lincoln.


After an amazing, interesting, and educational day it was time for dinner. There will never be a Schwartventure without the presence of so much food. My Mom and Dad (who are the best by the way) have been together forever, I mean since my mom was 13. As kids they used to go to a  pizza place in Savannah, Illinois called Manny’s. Like them, we grew up eating at this restaurant and it is THE BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD. Seriously, go there, eat it, and just TRY and prove me otherwise. Disclaimer: all competing pizzas to be purchased by the challenger.


The “girls” van had a very successful detour after dinner to the lookout point at Palisades Park just outside of Savannah. Beautiful!


Lil Miss Allie Rose will be turning one on September 6th, so we decided to have a practice birthday cake smash party for her. But, let’s be honest, nerf balls are far more delicious than homemade cake.


Last but not least, after a wonderful family weekend, I leave you with a little piece of zen from the weekend. I currently hold the household record for rock stacking at 13.


#Iowaventure, but what does it all mean?

So, I started this thing I like to call


That is, sporadic Iowa adventures to wherever discovering whatever I/we can find. Occasionally I do this by myself, but usually Marco is there as my partner in crime. Once in a while we explore other states and have thing like Illiventures. I’ve been meaning to blog these all along so we might get a little out of order as I catch up on old adventures while having new ones! We’ve had many trips prior to this point, but this post is about the first trip I really considered an Iowaventure experience.

May 10, 2014

Greenfield and Beyond

On a work trip to Omaha, Marco spotted a sign for the Iowa Aviation Museum in Greenfield, IA and (knowing me) recommended it for a day trip. We did a little research beforehand to see open times and what else is in the area. I ALWAYS recommend this when going to hidden, out of the way places; they are closed too often to leave being there at the right time up to chance. Given our obsession for golf we can find a course just about anywhere and built this in to our trip. Early(ish) in the morning we headed towards the Greenfield Country Club so that we could fit in 18 holes and still have time left in our day. We assumed because this is a country club that it would be a private course, but decided to call anyways. For the record, the course is PRIVATE, but if you pay the greens fees you can play there… so… it’s not private?20140510_113759

On our way there we randomly spotted something that I think has been the entire inspiration for our adventures since. Driving along we see a man painting an enormous rock on the side of the road and decide to turn around, pull in (only kind of creepily), and ask the guy what he’s all about. Turns out we’ve found Ray “Bubba” Sorensen who paints Freedom Rocks. Inspired by the movie Saving Private Ryan, Ray began painting a new “thank you” to our veterans each year. We chatted with him for several minutes and enjoyed his artwork. Part of the mural was created using paint that has the cremated ash of veterans mixed in.

Alas, we arrived at the Greenfield Country Club to find some really beautiful scenery for our golf game.


Meals are always a very important thing to me on road trips. I absolutely HATE traveling to/in new places and eating at restaurants I could find anywhere ( no McDonald’s or BK for me). I always try to look up or ask for local suggestions and have found many an amazing place this way, also, some not so delicious. We had a couple of options on the horizon as we headed into Greenfield proper, population 2,000. Unfortunately, Greenfield turns into apocalypse town during the afternoon with everything closed and nobody in sight, so,  we were left with the  bowling alley, approx.3 lanes wide, to find our fare.  The food was as you’d expect, but the people watching was great. I love sitting in small local joints and seeing the familiarity between people and servers, and overhearing the conversation.

From here, to our actual destination, the Iowa Aviation Museum. I was pleasantly surprised by this little find. I recommend it as a stop to anybody traveling along 80. The museum houses several unique aircraft, an Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame (full of VERY interesting stories), and an exhibition area. I know nothing about airplanes, and didn’t think I was interested in them, but we spent a substantial amount of time here.20140510_153226


Marco Kong

Marco Kong


At this point, our intention was to head home because we had plans to attend an Iowa Cubs game in the evening and we had to let little pupperkins out.


That’s right, within minutes of leaving the museum hail came down upon us. Naturally we turned around and headed south to figure something else out. We are so very glad we did because from there our adventure continued. As we were driving we saw a sign to Roseman Bridge, one of the Bridges of Madison County. Having been to one during the Covered Bridges Festival last year, we decided to hunt for it.

While driving we saw the most amazing white barn owl sitting on a barbed fence against the backdrop of a dead tree and the gloomy sky. I yelled at Marco to stop so I could take a photo but while reversing the owl flew away. You can imagine what it was like with the photo below though.GloomAltered20140510_170547

After the bridge, we continued our detour and once again found a sign, this time to my very own state park.


Turns out at PAMmel State Park you can ford a river! There were no signs offering us suggestions, but we assumed the following A) Caulk the Nissan Sentra and float it, B) Find an Indian Guide to help us cross the river , or C) Ford the river now. We were fresh out of caulk and there were no guides to be found. I tested the waters by walking it first and deemed it safe, Marco chose to stay back with the children and oxen. We forded the river!20140510_174330

Because of time constraints we didn’t get to explore the park as much as I would have liked but it looks like a great place to camp, hike, and be outdoorsy. Last but not least, we made it home for a beautiful evening at the ballpark! Go ICubs Go!20140510_200601

This concludes our first #Iowaventure (which will always be concluded with a photomontage).Expect more upcoming posts with insights on little known but interesting finds across Iowa and other places! Don’t want to miss any of these gripping adventures? Subscribe to my blog and you’ll receive a notification whenever I come up with another exciting post!May 10 Iowaventure

Don’t hate, repatriate.

I find repatriation to be an extremely interesting topic. For anybody unfamiliar with the term (as it pertains to museums) it is essentially the returning of an artifact of particular cultural/historical significance to its originating country (typically from one institution to another). Most of the world’s best museums, even my own, are filled with artifacts from around the globe, not just from local resources.

In October 1972 the 17th UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization) Convention happened and in a similar vein, November 1990, NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) was enacted.

In extremely short summary:

UNESCO Convention – Defined what is cultural property and created guidelines/restrictions for it’s import, export, sale, and transfer.

NAGPRA – Describes the rights of native tribes and descendents with respect to the treatment, repatriation, and disposition of native human remains and cultural items.

The result, some museums began returning things on their own, others began demanding artifacts from their country be returned to them, even when some were lawfully obtained.

Let me start by saying, I get it. You want your stuff back, and why wouldn’t you? Chances are it was stolen or wrongfully obtained in the first place.

In the 1800s to early 1900s there was a lot of artifact mining in every country; America wasn’t the only one doing it. The archeological dig was prominent with amazing piles of artifacts and works of art being discovered all over every day. There was this rat race to get all the stuff, to be the biggest, the best, most diversified, with all the finest pieces of the history puzzle. The British Museum ended up with the Elgin marbles, the Penn with the Troy gold, Troy with what was (at the time) thought to be Alexandre’s sarcophagus from Lebanon.

Photo of a piece of the Troy Gold from the Penn collections. http://www.penn.museum/collections/object/160936

Photo of a piece of the Troy Gold from the Penn collections. http://www.penn.museum/collections/object/160936

So, in 1966 the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology purchases for $10,000 some gold jewelry/adornments thought to be from Troy. They tell Troy before they do it, but because the provenance of the artifacts wasn’t proven they weren’t interested in them (before UNESCO). After conserving them and further research, the Penn almost assuredly proves them to be from the Troy region, circa 2400 B.C. This is AFTER the UNESCO Convention takes place mind you. Surprisingly (not!) Troy decides they want their goods back. One big difference in this case, as opposed to most others, is that the items were not obtained illegally. They had actually even been offered to Troy. So, now we have a big legal/contract issue. In this case, naturally, the Getty refused to return them, but, for the sake of international relations, has put them on indefinite loan with Troy. Troy is, in fact, demanding the return of its antiquities from all over. However, when asked if they planned to return the not Alexandre’s sarcophagus back to Lebanon, it didn’t seem promising. As far as they are concerned, they obtained it when Lebanon was still part of the Ottoman Empire and so it will remain theirs. Interesting.

The Elgin Marbles are another, some might say, infamous example of a country wanting their stuff back when they just aren’t going to get it. The Elgin Marbles is the term given to a collection of stone features collected from Athens between 1801 and 1805 by Lord Elgin. These well-known pieces were purchased by the British Parliament in 1816 and are still on exhibit at the British Museum today. Honestly, if Elgin hadn’t rescued these pieces when he did, they likely would have been destroyed by Turkish soldiers using them for target practice, as well as a variety of other vandalism. I could talk about the marbles all day, not to mention how beautiful they are. Although older, a good article here.

Elgin Marbles, Head of a Horse of Selene from the British Museum Collections. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_image.aspx?image=an18006.jpg&retpage=18108

Elgin Marbles, Head of a Horse of Selene from the British Museum Collections. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_image.aspx?image=an18006.jpg&retpage=18108

I repeat, I understand, you want your stuff back but there is also something to be said for diversity in museums. Part of the allure, I think, of the British Museum was that while I was working there not only did I get to visit the UK, I also went to Greece, Egypt, other parts of Africa, back to America, China, and more. What if everybody demanded their artifacts back? Then, in my life, chances are I would never have gotten to see the Elgin marbles, the Rosetta stone, mummies, pieces from Pompeii, etc.

This will never happen, I realize, because aside from the ‘greatest’ items there is simply far too much stuff to go around. Believe me, I know. Who knew the citizens of Boone County would keep 29 typewriters and a plethora of merchandising yard sticks. Yardsticks for EVERYBODYYYY!

(I’m not criticizing; I actually LOVE the yardstick collection, just not the typewriters.)

I digress. Repatriation is important. We shouldn’t be digging up early native graves and keeping the stuff we find for our own morbid little displays.

Museums are morbid for the sake of learning.

It should ultimately A) stay in the ground undisturbed (okay, maybe after careful survey, study, and photographing without flash!) or B) be returned to the existing members of their culture and the decision left to them.

There will be a happy balance of repatriation of artifacts to keeping diversified collections (or between some countries maybe there won’t be).

How does this relate to you? I’ll tell you.

It’s kind of like when a great-relative decides to sell your grandmother’s blue popcorn bowl off on their garage sale. You find out her neighbor snatched it up for $3. That bowl was a part of your heritage. It tells a story, it’s paramount in the timeline of who you are. You want it back so you knock on the neighbor’s door prepared with your sob story about how close you were to your late grandmother and that the bowl holds precious memories from your fleeting childhood. They don’t buy it. Turns out they’ve been eating popcorn from it every single night with their greasy little fingers and they like it. So, you try another tactic. You paid $3 for the bowl, I’ll give you $50 (a price you are happy to pay to reinstate the object responsible for some of your happiest, most well-fed memories). This time it’s with sheer malice, they shake their head no and say, “I don’t think so. I’m sorry but I bought it and it’s mine.” – $100 – Nope.

You panic. Your past is in that bowl and now it’s going to be two miles away in a completely different neighborhood. The neighborhood where it was once used by smiling little cherub faces. How do you return that bowl to its homeland? Your hands, your heart, your stomach.

It could happen to you.

Don’t hate. Repatriate.

For more about the ongoing Troy Gold loan read here.

Family History Library Extravaganza

For a month that had no plans, March has become quite the adventure:

A 70s themed Grammy party,


a trip to Utah,

20140307_125021seeing Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band,


tomorrow a trip to Philadelphia and then on to New Jersey for the weekend.  Oofta. I’m only half way through the month but I daresay that my trip to the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah is probably one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. I just wish I had been better prepared.

I was actually in Utah to visit the family I nannied for while I lived out in New Jersey. It has kind of become a thing that I vacation with them each year so that we get a chance to see each other. We went to the Canyons Resort in Park City with plans to spend the time dining, snowboarding, zip lining, and more but when I found out how to close to Salt Lake City I was going to be, I knew I should plan at least one day to work on genealogy at the Library.ZipLine

The FHL is the largest genealogy hub I have ever heard of and I could easily spend three weeks there full time and still not be finished doing everything that I would like.  Their collection includes over 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed  records; 727,000 microfiche; 356,000 books and serials; over 4,500 periodicals and 3,725 electronic resources. It is absolutely astounding. There is practically a whole floor JUST for Germany!

I was greeted by several very friendly Sisters who helped me to figure out where I might even want to start. Do I go to England where my family just falls off with an apparent baby born out-of-wedlock? Do I go to Ireland where I have almost no information after my great-grandparents? Do I start in Germany where I have a lot of names and dates to work with? Choosing Germany, I searched a couple of branches that come from an island off the north of the country called Fehmarn. A German-speaking volunteer (thank goodness) came to my aide in finding the parish my family went to in Oldenburg and helped me figure out which microfiche I needed. THERE IS NOT ENOUGH TIME IN A DAY! I could have spent weeks just on that floor but instead I obtained five copies of marriage records and moved on, wanting to spend some time on other floors in other countries. One record dates back to 1777 with my fifth great-grandfather Peter Wacker. I can’t even believe I have a copy of that record. Major nerd.


Next, I moved on to the United Kingdom hoping to start with Ireland. After finding out about how difficult Ireland can be because of a lack of records, the library’s lack of copies of them, etc. I chose to move right on to England. Another road block. OF COURSE most of the English family came from Bloxhom, Oxfordshire  and as the Library has only ONE copy of those parish records, they are kept in a granite vault out in a mountain some where. Yes, you read that correctly, a GRANITE vault INSIDE a MOUNTAIN. Intriguing. It would have taken them a day or two to bring them in for me to look at. It looks like I’m going to be making a better (more organized) trip back to Salt Lake City.

If you are interested in genealogy just go there. It is so worth the trip and I’m warning you to be prepared! See their website here to begin figuring out what you’ll want to look at while you’re there.

This post should have happened last week, but instead it’s happening today when I already have a million other things I’d like to write about. Today is the first day of the Legal Issues in Museum Administration Conference in Philadelphia and conferences always get me fired up about everything museum. Expect a barrage of posts in the next couple of weeks. But, if this post just wasn’t enough of me for you tonight, in honor of our evening reception being held at the Barnes Foundation, you can read my rant about how displeased with that place I am.

The secret is in the brûlée

Anybody who has ever dated me, lived with me, or really has known me knows that my two most favorite desserts (in this order) are my Grandma Schwartz’s Blarney Stones and then crème brûlée. I’m not a huge fan of chocolate so when dining out my first go tos are the aforementioned and then cheesecake. I have had brûlée twice in my life that actually WOWED me. I may be an atypical brûlée eater in that I love a super caramalized top, but I also like the creme to be just a little bit warm. I don’t want my dessert straight out of the refrigerator.

Related, but on a different note, it is also VERY hard to find what I feel is exceptional pizza. So, my quest begins to create the perfect pizza and the perfect crème brûlée. My roomies will find their role as taste testers arduous I’m sure.

However, today’s post IS NOT about crème brûlée, it’s about grapefruit. I love grapefruit, I grew up having it fed to me bite by bite via spoon by my grandmother (much past the age when said action was necessary, mind you). Carefully layered in sugar, after every last bite was scraped out, we would squeeze the thing to death to make sure we got each little droplet of juice either into the spoon or sprayed onto our face.

So, when the “broiled” grapefruit trend became popular I was like “NO WAY!” grapefruit is fine just as it it. But, my curiosity got the best of me and I tried it. Gross. How DARE anybody take a beautifully crisp citrus thing and make it into a warm mushy acidic sullied mess! I threw it away. I couldn’t even bare to look at it let alone eat it.

Months later, I no longer remember how the topic came up, I was explaining to a friend my dismay with wanting it to be delicious and having the result be quite the opposite. This dear dear friend of mine, whom I joke with as being my soul mate (because let’s be honest, we are) Sharyn Jackson informed me that to prevent the nasty warmness but still get the caramalized crispy sugary coating (that smells like cotton candy!) just use a crème brûlée torch to toast the top.

GrapefruitFolks, my life has been changed forever.It was delicious, a duality of crispy citrus and caramelized sweetness, warm crusty top and cool juicy below. Give me all the brûléed grapefruit.

That’s it. That is all there is to this post. Just try it, your life will be more delicious because of it.

I should have been born a man…

…but not for the reason most people think that about themselves. It’s because, someday, when/if I decide to get married I’m hesitant to give up my last name. If I do things the traditional way my children will not carry my father’s name, they will carry my DNA but that is all. Anybody who meets them will not know that they are a Schwartz. The first time I had this thought was way back in high school. At that time, I was actually convinced my brothers might not produce a worthy enough heir to my family name and my heritage, at least the most obvious part of it, would be lost forever. (I can at least now retract that statement)

Family Tree

Free family tree charts available via findmypast.com

I am extremely attached to my family and its roots, so I suppose I should understand that my children will be proud to carry their father’s name as well. But, what about mine? The truth of the matter is I’m not just a Schwartz. I’m a Schwartz, Taplin, Johnson, Haiar, Hoepner, Mangler, Gerdts, Weisler, Haye, Kuhl, Batey, Grossman, Cook, Flor, Weimerskirch, Manders, and on and on and on. You may call me Schwartz, descendant from the island, Fehmarn, off the shore of Germany but actually, I’m thousands of amazing people all rolled into one. Literally, a piece of each of them lives on through my DNA. Think about that. That’s genealogy.

A week or so ago I was extremely blessed to receive 148 pages of information pertaining to my paternal genealogy. I took a chance by e-mailing a gentleman whose website had been closed down for several years and was lucky enough to hear back from him immediately. What I received was an ahnentafel (German for “ancestor table) record covering (to me) 20 generations back to the beginning of the 1400s. These records are derived from 30 years of research by the man who sent it to me, 40 years from the man who gave it to him, and before that the brotherhood records straight from the island which, if I understand correctly, are no longer available to the public. Instead of being listed like a family tree diagram this is a fixed sequence numbering system of ascent. If I am 1 then my father is 2 and my mother is 3. my paternal grandpa is 4 and grandma is 5, maternal grandpa is 6 and grandma is 7. Men are always even, females are always odd (Haha!), forgiving the subject no. 1 of the record that is. It’s a whole mathematical formula that is actually quite interesting, but I won’t take the time to fully explain to you here. Google it.Ancestors of Pamela Sue Schwartz

I finally broke down and got the Family Tree Maker software because the data was just getting to be too much to sort out on my own. It’s pretty amazing, glichy and slow at times but it makes up for it in all the different reports, charts, etc. you can publish. I have been finding a lot of interesting things, like my 3rd great grandmothers were sisters… what can I say, we’re German. Keeping the lineage pure and stuff. Chances are there will be more personal genealogy posts in the future.

Aside from my own stuff, I’ve been conducting a lot of research at work for individuals from afar about their genealogy and it has presented a lot of frustrating, interesting, time consuming, yet enjoyable mysteries. One woman from British Columbia is just trying to find where her great grandfather is buried. I spent last Tuesday morning walking through a pioneer cemetery in -7 degree weather, by myself, some where in the north of Boone County. It was sad, beautiful, and peaceful. Other than my own, the only footsteps to grace the freshly fallen snow were those of the deer and an occasional rabbit. I walked from stone to stone, plenty belonging to infants and young children, admiring the shapes, decorations, and inscriptions, many of which were illegible.  I did not find Richard Berry. Our last records of him are in an 1885 census and 1887 history as the Chancellor of a local Knight of Pythias organization. Was his 6 year old granddaughter, who died of (at the time rampant) diphtheria buried next to him? She was originally listed in one cemetery but actually rests in another. Though some graves were moved in 1896, that was also the year she died, hard to believe they buried her and moved her shortly thereafter. There is plenty of space around her plot in the new cemetery but no markers to be found marked with Richard’s name. He has no death record, no cemetery listing, no probate record, no obituary. He just disappeared.


These are the interesting mysteries of genealogy. I’m sure I will come to that place in all sides of my family when some piece of information just simply can not be found, either because the records were destroyed or because they were simply never made. That being said, I’ll keep trying.

Having *really* started delving into genealogy about 4-5 years ago I’m likely one of the youngest genealogists in existence. That being said, I’m happy to help others get started as it can be a little overwhelming. My end goal is a hard bound book with fold out trees, stories, photos etc. with three discs in the back, a dvd of home movies, cd of family oral histories, and a cd of family photographs. I hope to have a copy for each family member. This will happen quite a few years down the road. I wish somebody would pay me to retire and work on the project full time right now.

Side note: driving around the countryside usually poses at least a few beautiful views and interesting sites. Notice the creative sculpture on the left side of the structure. It’s a deer skull with an arrow through it, oh Iowa.



So, I’ve been thinking

So, I’ve been thinking.  I’m a very passionate, opinionated, and outspoken person, so this is always a dangerous thing. I often think, “I should blog about that…” but in reality they wouldn’t be very long posts. They’re over a tweet (140 characters) but under a post size. Recent topics include:

1. Sometimes I get really annoyed when I go into a restaurant and spend good money on a dish I could easily have done much better. Is there a benefit to not having to put the time into cooking and clean-up? Sure, but not when the dish is a fraction as delicious as I could have done for a fraction of the price. My crepes are better than your crepes.

20140125_1015372. NPR/IPR – I generally dislike the news because it’s depressing. However, I listen to public radio every morning on the way to work (at least until my reception goes out) to make sure that I’m not totally removed from the world. Politics and current issues get me super fired up. Most recently, re-sentencing for minors. Don’t even get me started. Furious.

3. I hope I’m a gorgeous amazing old(er) lady some day. Examples: my grandmothers, Maggie Smith, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, Jane Seymour, etc. I figure I have an ok shot at aging well?

Though these all seem like dismal, pessimistic things (ok, maybe not #3). I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about how lucky I am and how thankful I am for each and every day. I get to call my grandmothers (91 and 93) whenever I want, I have a family I can depend on, I’ve done some traveling, I have two degrees and am debt free, etc. I really SHOULDN’T complain at all.

Recently, somebody I would consider a dear friend in Boone, passed away. Yes, I’ve only been in Boone about a year and a half, and to be honest had only seen Dwain a handful of times but I would consider him one of my biggest fans. The first time I met him was when he came in to talk to me about planned giving and some collectible items he was considering giving to the Society upon his passing. The very first thing he said to me, “Has anybody ever told you you have the most beautiful smile?” Now, my guess is this was one of his common compliments, but it is one I get a lot. I think it’s because I have big teeth.

The point is that Dwain was always smiling, only ever had compliments to give, and within a short time of meeting me became a huge advocate and supporter of my museums. His passing was unexpected and he was by no means old, so it came as a big shock to me when I overheard somebody mention his funeral. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day to day scramble and stress that is my life, but it’s at those times I need to remember the people who are, and have been, in my life that are/were always wearing a smile for me. I need to be rosier.

Though I’ve been blessed to have many of these people in my life, there are two people who almost daily come into my mind, reminding me to live to the fullest, to take advantage of my talents, to seek opportunity, and to love (and be vocally thankful for) those close to me.

Jim, who is the real reason I found my love of museums and is (one) of the people who pushed me as an artist. When I was just in high school, he was my bus driver, and unbeknownst to be at the time a phenomenal artist. He invited me to create a mural (and later another) with him for the school board meeting room. This is how I found myself at the local historical society, losing myself in historic photos of my little blue collar hometown. His support, and early interest in my development as a person and artist, has shaped my now 12 year career in museums. Also, he taught me never to settle, in both my professional and personal life, especially as I grew older. Though you’re gone Jim, your sound advice is still with me.20140114_183348

My Grandpa Taplin, the closest friend I ever had, passed when I was in 6th grade and there isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think about him. As a child I thought he was the kindest, most understanding, and sweet man in the entire universe. I believed he could talk to animals and make flowers grow, ahhh… the innocence that is childhood. Even so close to his passing, he found the strength to try and sit up and play one last game of Canasta with us. In honor of him I will never eat tomato soup with anything but a big spoon. I hope someday I can be as kind and caring as he was, and to experience a love like he and my grandmother had, always adorable and always so sincere. I am proud that my niece carries their names, Allie Rose. I have a feeling she will live up to filling some very  big shoes.


This post is definitely more for me than for my readers, but, as I said I’ve been thinking. Occasionally, I like to put it all down. I’ve been lucky to have a lot of truly wonderful people in my life and I hope to meet many more. Some days when things are tough, be it work, my personal life, smashing my poor car up, etc. I just need to remember (and you should too) that life is wonderful, I’m healthy, and there are much bigger things ahead.