Stumped For A Gift? Visit a Museum

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are one or two months away and if you are lucky enough to still have your mother and/or father around now is as good a time as any to think about what to get them. Rather than just picking up something at the last minute from the local drugstore you might want to try to find something a little more creative and relevant for your loved ones. I am reminded of this after visiting the Gift Shop at Leu Gardens last weekend.  The place is jammed packed (literally – it’s hard to move around too quickly in there) with all kinds of “gifty” things for your favorite gardener. From accessories to books the variety of items on offer was quite diverse and the store offers gift certificates if you can’t make a decision.

Of course, I bring this up because I love museum stores and I’ve recently visited a few interesting ones. Sometimes the merchandise can be pretty pricey but many have a wide range of items that are truly unique to the region or focused on a particular interest. I’ve purchased coasters from the Dali Museum in St Petersburg, Florida, a decorative ceramic tile from the Museum of Fine Arts store in Boston and jewelry from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

In New Orleans, we visited the Museum Store at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) and I was sorely tempted to buy a new scarf. I decided against it because I already have quite a collection of scarves. However, my friend did find some beautiful garden tags to label her herb garden. The brightly lit store has a significant children’s section with books, games and toys.

Many of these stores offer discounts to members which can be a reason to join if you love the merchandise enough to buy a significant amount of items over time. And, in some cases you don’t have to go into the Museum itself (either via the online store or via a separate entrance to the store on site) to visit the store, thus eliminating the admission to some places. 

So what follows is a list of some of my favorite museum stores.

The Dali Museum, St Petersburg, Florida. Huge store with Dali prints and Dali images reconstituted into all kinds of merchandise.

The Harry P. Leu Garden and Museum Store, Orlando, Florida. Small store crammed with decorative garden items and books.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. Unique jewelry items. Art prints including limited editions, books, toys, clothing and accessories.

The Morse Museum, Winter Park, Florida. Tiffany Lamp reproductions and stained glass items. Stationery, apparel and accessories.

The Art Institute of Chicago. Beautiful prints and books. Unique jewelry items as well.

The Smithsonian, all the museums of this institution have a store but these, located in Washington DC stand out in my opinion.

World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta, Georgia. Okay this place is a living commercial for Coca-Cola products but I’m a Diet Coke fiend so if you love Coke memorabilia this is the place to go crazy.

Shanghai Museum of Art.  You won’t necessarily find any bargains here but what you find is genuine merchandise without the typical haggling and harassment you will find as a tourist in Shanghai.  A peaceful place to shop for quality items.

This is just a small sampling of what’s out there. Do you have a favorite Museum Store?

Priscilla Emery, one half of the Travel2some

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The Other Orlando: Harry P. Leu Garden

Every now and then we like to highlight an area of the Orlando, Florida region that is not related to the amusements and attractions area, such as Disney and Universal. We have many friends that have been there and done that and are looking for a different vibe. The Harry P. Leu Gardens are a great place to not only look at foliage indigenous to the central Florida area but the Leu House provides a window into early Florida life. We finally visited this place yesterday after driving past it for the past 10 years and always saying, “we should visit this place one day.” With ideal spring weather we finally took the time to check this place out and we both agree that it is a gem.

The gardens are nicely laid out and provide a nice variety of focus areas for particular interests. I found the Vegetable Garden and Herb Garden to be particularly interesting since I’ve had some challenges with successfully growing anything edible in this hot Florida climate. I didn’t see tomatoes but I did see pole beans, cabbage, peppers and sugar cane. The herb garden had basil, culantro, cilantro, rosemary, lavender, and several varieties of mint. These weren’t farm size areas but the kind of size plot one would put together in a larger backyard. And if you are new to Florida and need a sense of what “works” and what doesn’t in this climate, this is a great place to get some ideas.

The Butterfly Garden wasn’t loaded with butterflies when we visited but was nicely laid out and was a nice place to sit while taking in the colorful early blooms of Spring. The White Garden seemed a little wilted in areas but the overall effect was nice. The Citrus Grove gave us a chance to see a variety of limes, lemons, grapefruits and oranges up close and it was good to see that the ripened fruit is donated to local food banks. If you like camellias this is the place to visit since it has the largest collection of camellias in the southeast. Leu Garden is also a popular location for weddings and we observed members of wedding parties wandering the park looking for the wedding party preparation area.

The present Leu House and Museum located on the grounds was built in 1888 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Tours of the house are given every half hour and they end at 3:30pm (the gardens close at 5) and they get more crowded as the day progresses. The museum tour is included in the price of the $10 admission to the Garden. The house is generally staged to look like it did in the 1920s with some of the original furnishings and photos included in the mix. Overall it was a nice way to break up our walk through the Garden.

We ended with a walk to the Wyckoff Overlook , a deck overlooking Lake Rowena. It was nice to observe turtles chasing each other in the water. I suppose that at times there are alligators in the area but there weren’t any at this time. May is alligator mating season so they should be more visible at that time. I’m looking forward to our next visit at another time of the year when different flowers and roses will be in bloom but I think I’ll avoid the alligators.

Priscilla, one half of the Travel2some

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Butterfly Garden

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Leu House

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Vegetable Garden

Valentine’s day at IKEA

IKEA may not sound like the most romantic place to celebrate Valentine’s Day but we get plenty of opportunities to be romantic every other day of the year, so we decided that a $9.99 Swedish buffet dinner was a pretty good deal and worth a try.

We bought our tickets a few weeks ago because some of these IKEA events get sold out well ahead of time. As it turns out IKEA may not be as popular for a Valentine’s date night because there were still some tickets left for people to purchase at the entrance. However, the long line to get in and the length of the buffet line proved that this was definitely a pretty popular option. And the broad appeal wasn’t just with the over-60 set (used to going for those early bird specials). There were tables with young couples, parents with children, girls only groups of all ages, and every other demographic group you could imagine.

So what do you get for $9.99? Well, if you’re willing to wait in line for a few minutes for a few rounds over the course of two hours, quite a bit. However, I’m not that patient so if I can’t fit it on enough plates to carry in one pass that’s it. As it turns out, that was enough.

There were plenty of both hot and cold Swedish specialities. The advertised menu included roast beef, Swedish meatballs, glazed pork loin, Prinskorv (like a Vienna sausage), assorted herrings, green salad, shrimp cocktail, deviled eggs with shrimp, an assortment of cheeses, red beet salad and cucumber salad. But there was more including several kinds of potatoes (I picked the dill potatoes and they were delicious), and crab spread canapés and assorted breads. Desserts included a fairly dense chocolate truffle cake, Princess cake with strawberries, strawberries and whipped cream and an almond torte – all delicious.

The atmospherics are pretty bares bones – a red napkin at each seating area. You pick up your utensils with everything else on the buffet line. But, this is IKEA. Minimalism is an expectation. They did have someone busing tables so that was a slight upgrade from the typical dining experience at IKEA.

But added bonus was upon leaving we were given a large bar of chocolate and three different frequent purchaser cards that each had been stamped or punched to reflect purchases made. In one case that amounted to $50 of prepunched value. Not too bad a bonus for a person who loves to shop at IKEA.

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Orange County Regional History Museum – well worth the trip.

Ted Bundy's Name carved into Defendant's Table

The Orange County Regional History Center is a fascinating museum right in the heart of downtown Orlando.  A trip up the elevator to the 4th floor brings one back to the very early days of Florida. Tattooed, pierced and adorned with shells the Timucuan Indians were the first the Europeans  came in contact with.  Today one can find Floridians who are tattooed, pierced and adorned with shells. Sometimes it seems as much as things change they stay the same. 

 The 4th floor has interesting exhibits on the First Peoples, the European First Contact, Florida Seminoles, Pioneers, and Citrus and Cattle industries.  I learned some interesting facts. That no spot in Florida is more than 60 miles from the Gulf of  Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. That many of Florida’s 7,800 lakes are water filled sinkholes such as Lake Eola, Lake Apopka and Lake Conway. And to reduce the mosquito population, hang a dry hallowed gourd to attract mosquito eating Purple Martin birds. Who knew that late 19th century Kissimmee had the Country’s first “Ride-Up” drive through saloon where thirsty cowmen didn’t even have to dismount their horses to buy a drink.

The third floor includes Orange County’s old courtroom (the museum is housed in what was the old court-house).  It was educational to see the old style courthouse and see Ted Bundy’s name scratched into the defense table.  On this floor there is a transportation section with old train and steamboat exhibits, tourism before Disney, Central Florida through the wars, then Aviation and finally Disney: The Day We Changed. 

The second floor had a Road To Modern Orlando Timeline, an extensive African-American Heritage section, and houses the special exhibits gallery and changing exhibits gallery. There were “old school” video games. Pinball machines, Pac -Man and others that were enjoyed by all.  Exhibits on Jack Kerouac the famous writer and poet, Orlando Magic, Military, Disney and Tourism.

The museum is easy to reach, right off the I-4 highway, and parking is available in a public parking garage a block away and across the street from the Orlando Public Library. The museum is open Monday – Saturday, 10am -5 pm. and Sunday, noon to 5pm. Admission is $9.00 , seniors (60+), AAA, military and students $7.00, $6.00 for ages 5-12, and free ages 4 and under.  It is well worth the trip and all ages will enjoy it.

Art (one half of Travel2some)

Mennello Museum of American Art, Orlando, Florida

We like museums and here is another one located in the Orlando, Florida area that we have visited.

Location: 900 East Princeton Street, Orlando, FL 32803

Telephone: 407.246.4278   www.mennellomuseum.org

Hours of Operation:  Tuesday – Saturday, 10:30 am – 4:30 pm, Sunday, noon – 4:30 pm, Closed Mondays and major holidays.

Admission: Adults: $4.00 + tax; Seniors (60+): $3.00 + tax; Students with valid ID: $1.00 + tax;

Children under 12: Free; Members always admitted free.

Focus:  This small museum, run by the city of Orlando, is focused on showcasing works by American artists.

Permanent exhibit is devoted to the paintings of Earl Cunningham (1893-1977).  True examples of American Folk Art, many painted on board vs. canvas, these bright paintings mostly all have a link to the water.

Typical Amount of Time to Go Through the Museum;  Even if you read all the little white cards, this small museum should only take about 1 hour to an hour and half to cover.  All exhibits are located on one floor.

Children’s Activities: None really observed but some special events may include children’s activities.

Café or Food on-site?  No.

Gift Store?  Yes, very limited but interesting collection of American Folk Art items that change with the seasons. 

Although the museum is somewhat small, the Cunningham collection was strikingly colorful, setting a tropical tone, even though not all scenes are of tropical locations. Many scenes feature some link to the water whether on a dock, in a marsh, on a river or a sunset on the Gulf. The museum also does a very good job of educating the viewer about Mr. Cunninghams life and motivation behind his work.

The special exhibits change throughout the year.

Overall this museum is worth a short Sunday afternoon visit. A walk around the grounds, which abuts a small lake, can also be a peaceful diversion. On a down note some of the outdoor sculpture seemed to be in need of a cleaning. I dont think the artists really intended for any of their works to become laden with moss or mildew.

Priscilla (one half of the Travel2some)

Travel via alternate airports

Sometimes a  cheaper way to travel isn’t from your local airport or to the airport of your destination. When we went to Toronto we flew Southwest to Buffalo instead. Airfare was cheap and renting a car and seeing Niagara Falls and then driving to Toronto was a great way to travel.  Traveling to Montreal one can fly Jet Blue to Burlington VT. Airfare is cheaper and you can drive from there to Montreal. Flying to St Thomas from Orlando International Airport was hundreds of dollars more than flying from Ft Lauderdale airport. So we hopped in our car and drove to Ft Lauderdale.

We flew to Europe by flying out of Sanford International Airport via  Icelandair to Iceland and then on to Amsterdam. This was a lower cost way to travel and less stressful at this smaller airport. Leaving and arriving back from our trip was a piece of cake and the low stress airport in Iceland was a pleasant surprise too.  So when traveling look at other airports as an alternate to your home airport and as an alternate to your destination.

Art ( One half of the travel2some)

Winter Park a delight all year round

Winter Park Florida is a must see when traveling to Central Florida.  You can arrive by car but can also arrive via Amtrak as the train stops right in the middle of town. Smack in the center of town is a lovely park with wonderful local shrubbery, plants and trees. Stroll down its Park Ave  lined with  fantastic restaurants, bars, wine bars, al fresco dining  and eclectic shops. At the bottom of Park Ave is the famous Rollins College campus and located there  you’ll find the Cornell Fine Arts Museum.  Photo exhibits and art exhibits change throughout the year.  Admission is only five dollars and is open Tuesday through Friday 10am -4pm and Saturday and Sunday 12pm -5pm.

Art ( one half of the Travel2some)