S&S Exploring… The National Infantry Museum

A few years ago, while visiting my mother and stepfather for Thanksgiving, I was introduced to The United States Army National Infantry Museum.  Opened in 2009 and located in Columbus, Georgia, the NIM tells the story of the US Army infantryman, from the American Revolution to Afghanistan. The museum houses artifacts from all eras of American history and contains interactive multimedia exhibits. The NIM emphasizes the values that define the infantryman, as well as the nation he protects: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.

Furthermore, the museum is also located near Fort Benning.  Infantry soldiers from Fort Benning were approached, during the construction of the museum, for the wartime-reenactment exhibit that’s shown below.  (No, the following images are not of actors – they’re models that were cast from actual soldiers. Amazing and lifelike, aren’t they?)

I was fascinated by the collection of artifacts and memorabilia, from the early 20th Century to the 1950s.  Not to mention, the lovely “Hall of Valor” – a breathtaking gallery that pays tribute to American Infantrymen who have received the Medal of Honor, the US’s highest award for bravery.  (The very last photo, depicts a portion of this hall.  Each of the pictured soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor; and, I should mention that I only captured a small portion of the dedication hall.  It’s a huge exhibition space.)

If you’d like to view all of the images from our visit, you can see the full gallery here.

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S&S Exploring… Coral Castle

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Though I’m unable to recall the way that I was first introduced to Coral Castle, I can say (with 100% certainty) that I was instantly curious about this strange destination.  Nestled between the Florida Keys and Miami, Coral Castle is an astounding monument to one man’s determination. Often referred to as America’s Stonehenge, it has baffled scientists, engineers and scholars since its opening in 1923.

Coral Castle is a stone structure created by the Latvian American eccentric Edward Leedskalnin (1887–1951) north of the city of Homestead, Florida.  The structure comprises numerous large stones (mostly limestone formed from coral), each weighing several tons.  Local legend claims it was built single-handedly by Leedskalnin using reverse-magnetism and/or supernatural abilities to move and carve numerous stones weighing many tons.  (There are, also, legends of people viewing UFOs from the site.  Due to its scientifically accurate replication of the solar system.)  It’s estimated that 1,000 tons of coral rock were used in construction of the walls and towers, and an additional 100 tons of it were carved into furniture and art objects:

  • An obelisk he raised weighs 28 tons.
  • The wall surrounding Coral Castle stands 8 ft. tall and consists of large blocks each weighing several tons.
  • Large stone crescents are perched atop 20-ft.-high walls.
  • A 9-ton swinging gate that moves at the touch of a finger guards the eastern wall.
  • The largest rock on the property weighs an estimated 35 tons.
  • Some stones are twice the weight of the largest blocks in the Great Pyramid at Giza.

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Above: Other tourists wander through Leedskalnin’s creation.  (By the way, there is nothing holding the blocks of stone together, other than the sheer force of gravity.  No mortar, nothing.  Isn’t that incredible?)

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Above: The infamous crescent moon…With a colorful little visitor perched.

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Above: A view of the “throne” that Leedskalnin carved.  There is almost no “actual” furniture on the property; only pieces fashioned out of the stone.

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Above: My comrade for the day, and good friend, Marie.

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Above: This is where Ed Leedskalnin lived, during the time in which Coral Castle was being constructed.  He lived pretty simply, with just the few personal belongings that you see here and as you continue below.

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Working alone, Leedskalnin (who is pictured life-sized, above) labored for 20 years – from 1920 to 1940 – to build the home he originally called “Rock Gate Park” in Florida City. The story goes that he built it after being jilted by his fiancée, who changed her mind about marrying him because he was too old and too poor. After wandering around the U.S. and Canada for several years, Leedskalnin settled in Florida City for health reasons; he had been diagnosed with tuberculosis.

He began building his coral home in 1920. Then in 1936, when a planned new subdivision of homes threatened his privacy, Leedskalnin moved his entire home – and its many tons of coral – 10 miles to Homestead, where he completed it, and where it still stands as a tourist attraction.

How Leedskalnin managed this feat of engineering has remained a mystery all these years because, incredibly, no one saw him do it. A secretive man, Leedskalnin often worked at night by lantern light. And so there are no credible witnesses to how the small, frail man was able to move the huge blocks of rock. Even when he moved the entire structure to Homestead, neighbors saw the coral blocks being transported on a borrowed truck, but no one seems to know how Leedskalnin got them on and off the vehicle…

Finding Micanopy

Last Fall, my mother-in-law introduced us to Micanopy – a tiny, sleepy, little town that you’d completely miss, if you blinked while driving along 441. My mother-in-law knows of all sorts of interesting places that are under the radar, from a time in her life when she owned a motorcycle; and conducted a lot of her own exploration. I completely trust her judgement, when she insists on showing us someplace new!

Just south of Gainesville, Micanopy is a hidden treasure. Here are some interesting facts, about this Southern delight that’s cocooned in a time-capsule from the 20th Century:

  • It’s romantic.  I fantasize about returning to Micanopy for a long weekend… Staying at the Herlong Mansion, leisurely strolling in and out of the antique shops that pepper the main street, and eating homemade comfort food in the cafes that populate downtown. (Doesn’t Herlong look amazing? It’s, also, pictured below; and I fantasize about lounging on its wrap-around porches with a great book and a mint julep.)
  • It’s a haven, for antiques.  Or, it’s “heaven” for antiques. Whichever way you want to look at it! There’s so much vintage eye-candy in Micanopy, I thought I might go into sensory-overdrive. Authentic, Ball mason-jars from the 1920’s…incredible, wooden furniture…Relics galore, that you wouldn’t believe would be collected in one location, outside of a museum. And, (almost) all of them, for sale. On my next return, I’m making it a point to put some cash aside, to invest in quality pieces.
  • It offers other great shopping.  If you’re not into antiques; but you are interested in purchasing decorative items for your home, there are other options. The Shop is a fantastic little space, offering a huge variety of decorative items and folk art. (Thanks to my visit to The Shop, I now know of Johanna Parker – who has become a staple in my home, when decorating for Halloween.)
  • Bring cash.  It’s the 21st Century, now; so, most of the businesses accept debit/credit cards. However, I emphasize that this is a (wonderful) little town that’s very dated; and it’s better to be safer than sorry, in a financial pinch. Bring cash, just to stay covered.
  • It’s, secretly, famous!  Ever hear of a little film called Doc Hollywood, with Michael J. Fox? That was filmed in Micanopy. (In fact they used Herlong Mansion, for the exterior shots of the mayor’s home, during production of the film!)

Enjoy the photos below – and, if you want to see my full gallery, click here.

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Refresh, Recharge, Renew

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I’ll be honest, this past week has been a pretty tiring week.  (I know – that’s not quite what you’d expect as an opening line, when the accompanying image is this gorgeous sunset that you see before you.)  I’m still trying to get used to blogging on a regular basis, when I already have so many other (time-consuming) things on my plate.

And, if I’m going to be really honest, I should admit that…on many occasions through this past month…I’ve been up until the wee hours of the morning…fighting for blog inspiration, editing photos, and mustering the ability to write content.  Hopefully, it’s been engaging stuff, up to this point; but, I feel that I haven’t reached my full potential in this space I’m carving for myself.  I’ve been so drained with getting things started, it’s prevented me from focusing on writing that’s of quality.

I know I can make this little blog so much better than it’s been.  The words can be so much more insightful.  The topics so much richer.  What I need, is to find a balance between contributing to my place here; and my place in the “non-digital” world…

When I searched through my photo archives, for inspiration on how to conclude this week, I came across these images.  They’re from the trip that Hubby and I took to Greece, when we were on our honeymoon.  And, while I realize that it might not make very much sense to publish these, when this blog is supposed to be dedicated to my life in AMERICA…  I’m posting these, regardless.

It’s a serene looking place; isn’t it?  Well, the pictures don’t do it justice.  It was heaven on Earth.  Literally.  I don’t remember a place making me feel more at peace; or, giving me as much of a sense of possibility in the world.  And, perhaps that’s the point…  Maybe I need to get back to living a sense of that; and not complicate things for myself…

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I hope you have a a wonderful weekend. I’m planning to spend mine, relaxing, so that I may return here next week…refreshed and ready to give this my all.

An Impromptu Trip to Rifle Paper Co.

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It’s not often that I come across a brand that has such a deep and lasting affect on me, in which my overall taste becomes impacted. Come to think of it, I really can’t think of any previous examples of this ever happening to me!

…With one exception, after coming to know the Rifle Paper Co

Rifle Paper is the brainchild of Anna Bond – an illustrator whose work has catapulted to the top of my list of favorites.  Rifle’s products are becoming accessible all over the world; but, their headquarters is located in Winter Park, Florida – which isn’t that far from me.  (It’s not exactly close, either.  A little over a three-hour drive.  So, it’s accessible within a day’s trip; but, a bit out of the way.)

I’ve been looking for the perfect excuse to visit Rifle’s main store, for just under a year or so.  A few days ago, their Facebook page advertised that they were having their Autumn Sample Sale, this past Friday and Saturday.  Seeing that was just the push I needed to send me over the edge; and get moving to Winter Park!

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Above: One of several tables, outside of Rifle’s brick and mortar shop, with various products for sale at discounted prices.

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Above: Rifle’s meeting room, modified to accommodate a full spread of discounted and specially priced items.

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Above: The reception area. (Loved the added warmth from the flowers, and the Halloween touch with the small bowl that was filled with candy corn.)

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Above: The main showroom – and heart of the store!

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Above: A nice view of the street. (Also, I’m such a sucker for a beautifully dressed window display.)

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Above: Another shot of the reception area. But, if you look closely at this one, you can see a slight capture of the behind-the-scenes operations. (Basically, I’m referring to their fulfillment area – where personnel was organizing products and preparing orders for shipment.) I didn’t want to distract anyone from their work, by leering around the corner with a camera; so, I really tried my best to be discreet.

I’m so happy that I decided to just get in my car and go. Hubby thinks I’m crazy, to go all that way by myself, just to turn around and immediately head back home. But, I don’t care. It was invigorating!

I Heart Delray Beach

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One of the first places I ever explored, when I made the move to Florida, was Delray Beach. About a fifteen minute drive from my residence, I first became acquainted with Delray through my college boyfriend. Our relationship didn’t last; but, my love affair with this little city by the sea certainly has.

Easily, it’s one of my utmost favorite hangouts.  It has fantastic restaurants, festivals, and historical value.  (I’m a big History buff, as you’ll realize if you keep following along.  I’m definitely one to “geek out” over things that are vintage and have a story to tell.)

On a personal level, Delray has a very special place in my heart, as it’s where my husband and I spent most of our time when we fell for each other.  (It’s also where we chose to have our wedding.)  Furthermore, outside of my main role working in television production, I do freelance theatrical work at Delray Beach Center for the Arts.  I guess you could say that the place has had quite an impact on me!

Anyways. Delray is also home to some awesome Southern architecture.  When I feel bored of curating home-improvement ideas on Pinterest, I enjoy strolling around and snapping up images of my favorite landmarks.

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