Mars: Top Ten Fun Facts


One of the first images taken by Perseverance on Mars!

Do you remember when I had the good fortune of chaperoning Team Mercury to the Kennedy Space Center? My daughter, along with her team of high school Space Exploration students and their teacher John Yi, took a trip to the KSC when they won NASA’s App Development Challenge. We watched the launch of a rocket, NASA’s Orion Ascent Abort-2, toured the building where rockets are built, the Vehicle Assembly Building, built our own rockets, stood under the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and learned about NASA’s work to get Perseverance to Mars through lectures and participation in the Mars Experience.

On February, 18, 2021, Perseverance landed on Jezero Crater on Mars, and the excitement of the engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab was palpable. Perseverance, which launched from Earth on July 30, 2020, will stay on Mars at lease one Mars year (657 Earth days) with a goal of seeking “signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth.” Hon, did you watch the landing? Want to view raw images from Mars? Click here.

Top Ten Fun Facts About Mars

  1. Mars is named after the Roman God of war.
  2. Mars is red because of rusty iron in the ground.
  3. The average temperature on Mars is minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  4. There are signs of ancient floods on Mars, but now water mostly exists in icy dirt and thin clouds.
  5. A day on Mars is 24 hours and 37 minutes.
  6. A year on Mars is 687 Earth days because it takes a lot longer than Earth to complete its orbit around the Sun.
  7. Mars has two moons. Their names are Phobos and Deimos.
  8. Based on the make-up of the planet and atmosphere (iron, magnesium, sulfur, acids and CO2), researchers have concluded that Mars smells like rotten eggs.
  9. Mars is home to the highest mountain in our solar system, a volcano called Olympus Mons, which is about three times the height of Mount Everest.
  10. The first spacecrafts to land on Mars were the Viking Landers, which touched down on the surface in 1976.

Sources: NASA Science Space Place, Australian Academy of Science, National Geographic Kids

Key Karma

Image c/o Bill’s Lock & Key

Did you know February 14-20, 2021 was Random Acts of Kindness Week?

I was the lucky and happy recipient of a recent act of kindness!

On a recent drive from New Jersey to Maryland, Hubby used his own set of keys to drive my car. It’s habit for me to grab my keys when leaving the house, so there I was with an extra set “just in case.” We don’t usually bring our dog Lucy, but decided she’d join us on this adventure.

We stopped at a rest stop in NJ where Hubby and I took turns escorting Lucy to “do her business.” Habit again–approaching my car, I took my keys out, but then stuck them in my coat pocket when I remembered they weren’t needed. Lucy didn’t love the hand-off, and practically pulled me off my feet trying to follow Hubby inside the rest stop. I bet you can guess where this is going.

It wasn’t until we reached Maryland that I realized my keys were missing! We re-traced steps and searched the car to no avail. I called the only place we’d stopped on the road and–guess what?--my keys were at the rest stop! The manager had them in his possession and would be working the next day at the same time we’d be driving back to NJ.

A woman had found them in the parking lot and turned them in! An act of kindness for sure! We surmised that when Lucy anxiously tried following Hubby, my keys fell out of my coat pocket. The woman left her contact info because she had the foresight to remove one of the car key fobs. Her intention was to turn that car key into a dealer who would then locate the car’s owner–us! Wasn’t that above and beyond?

On our return trip home, two things happened. The first is that we retrieved my keys. Whew! The second is that we found out the name of the thoughtful woman and–hon, get this--her last name is same last name as my oldest childhood friend and one of my dearest friends in New Jersey! Isn’t that an interesting coincidence?

So, shout out to good karma, random acts of kindness and thoughtful people!

And SHOUT OUT to Stephanie Brenner for stopping at the rest stop, finding my keys, turning them in, and mailing me the other car key fob! THANK YOU!

Hon, have you been been the recipient of a random act of kindness? Have you been the kind person? I’d love to hear about it.

Sorbet for the Soul, Hope

HOPE sculpture in Manhattan by Robert Indiana

This is the last of the “Sorbet for the Soul Series,” at least for now. I hope to get back to the MOMA, the MET or any other place where creativity, inspiration and peace of mind resides. Shout out to Lyn Sirota who shared a September 13, 2019 program on TED Radio Hour NPR called “How Art Changes Us.”

Marc Chagall, The Lovers, Oil on canvas.

Gustav Klimt, Hope II, Oil, gold, and platinum on canvas.

Pablo Picasso, Guitar and Clarinet on a Mantelpiece, Oil, sand, and paper on canvas.

Sorbet for the Soul, Modern Art

Big Blue Man statue by French artist Xavier Veilhan.

One of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done was volunteer to teach Art Appreciation in my children’s elementary school. Before I entered kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms, I thoroughly researched artists. I learned so much about Modern Art, and came to appreciate work I hadn’t understood before. The students and I discussed artists, examined paintings and sculptures, and worked on related projects. Fun? Being called “The Art Lady.” Fantastic? Getting a call from a mom who said that when her family visited a Chicago museum, her son remembered learning about Rene Magritte from an Art Appreciation class.

Stanley Whitney, Fly the Wild, Oil on linen canvas

Helen Frankenthaler, Western Dream, Oil on canvas

Piet Mondrian, Composition, Oil on canvas

Sorbet for the Soul, Henri Matisse

Taking in The Swimming Pool by Matisse, MOMA.

Henri Matisse is one of my favorite artists. His paintings and cut-outs, along with French Impressionism, were among the first pieces which stirred my emotions. I love how he played with two and three dimensions, placed his own artwork in scenes, and used lines and shapes to create movement. And the colors! His vivid colors create backgrounds that both emphasize the main subject and give my eyes and mind a place to rest while taking in the whole scene. You can view his work at the MOMA and the MET. Want to know more about his cut-outs? Click here.

Henri Matisse, Nasturtiums with the Painting “Dance”, Oil on canvas

Henri Matisse, Lilacs, Oil on canvas

Henri Matisse, The Cut-Outs, paper and gouache

Sorbet for the Soul, French Impressionism

Me and Morgan after visiting the MOMA.

As the inauguration nears, my mind is cluttered and my heart feels heavy. This on top of a global pandemic. One of the things that’s cleared away dread of more bad news, even for a few hours, is art. If I study a painting, I can imagine myself in it. Or I might focus on brushstrokes, color, composition, historical context, and meaning. Recent visits to the Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art were much needed respites. Art is sorbet for my soul.

Hon, what helps you?

Claude Monet, Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies, 1899, Oil on canvas

Georges-Pierre Seurat, Peasant Woman Seated in the Grass, 1883, Oil on canvas

Paul Signac, Setting Sun, Sardine Fishing, Adagio, 1891

On the Edge

Images source: Edgenyc.com

While the nation’s been on edge during this tense presidential election, Hubby and I celebrated our anniversary by visiting the actual Edge. Suspended in mid-air 100 stories up, Edge is an “outdoor sky deck” offering 360-degree views around Manhattan. Looking straight down from the indoor windows is dizzying, but amazing. Taking in the panoramic view once outside is breathtaking!

Edge is located in Hudson Yards, a new neighborhood built on top of what used to be open air over train tracks. We didn’t ascend the Vessel, interactive artwork in the form of a spiral staircase, but we walked through Hudson Yards, past The Shed towards the High Line and down to the Meatpacking District for dinner. By the time we returned to mid-town, The Empire State Building was lit up in my favorite color. Exploring a new site and walking in the city was a great distraction and a fun date!

Down the Shore!

Heart in the sky!

The “Week of Positives” may be over but I have more pics to share. This summer, more than ever, “finding the extraordinary in the ordinary” wasn’t just a tagline to my blog.

Growing up in Baltimore, everyone I knew loved Ocean City, MD. It may be have been three hours away, but that didn’t stop my friends and I from making day trips to Chesapeake Bay and beyond. (We’d leave at the crack of dawn and get back at midnight!) Family vacations to OC always included days on the beach, hours in the ocean, French fries with vinegar, popcorn, ice cream, and salt water taffy. Who can forget the smell of salt air mixed with heat-press transfers at tee-shirt shops on the boardwalk? Who can forget collecting seashells? Who can forget the enormous sandcastles spotlighted at night? Who can forget the feeling of summer?

Living in New Jersey, we go “down the shore” whenever we can. Guess what, hon? My mom loved the beach too, and since she grew up in Morristown, NJ, went “down the shore” with her family to Bradley Beach. Yesterday would have been her 79th birthday, so this post is dedicated to her, one extremely Brave Girl.

Surfer at Avon-by-the-Sea.

Barnegat Lighthouse.

NJ Day Trip: Hacklebarney State Park

Hiking in Hacklebarney State Park

Hiking was Hubby’s Father’s Day request, so we packed a picnic, harnessed Lucy and drove to Hacklebarney State Park in Long Valley. We thoroughly enjoyed hiking one of the shaded trails that follow the Black River. Next time, I want take advantage of the boulders adjacent to the river by rock scrambling. I’d also bring my “good camera” because the mini waterfalls, towering trees, and foliage are a nature photographer’s dream.

Info from the website:

The freshwater Black River briskly cuts its way through rocky Hacklebarney State Park, cascading around boulders in the hemlock-lined ravine. Two tributaries, Rinehart and Trout Brooks, also course their way through this glacial valley, feeding the Black River. Even in the heat of midsummer, the temperature of Black River gorge is cool and refreshing.

Today Hacklebarney is a favorite place for avid anglers, hikers and picnickers, yet in the 19th century the park was a mined iron ore site. The gushing river against the grey boulders and dark green hemlocks creates a majestic beauty in any season.

Three rare and endangered plant species exist within the park: American ginseng, leatherwood and Virginia pennywort. Over a hundred bird species and wildlife such as black bear, woodchuck, deer and fox live in the park.

Top Ten Places to Travel Virtually

Stonehenge

Hon, hope you had a nice July 4th weekend!

This year, though our friends’ holiday bbq was nixed, we still got together, socially distancing of course. Since our school district doesn’t let out until late June, July 4th feels like the official start of summer. But what does this summer hold? Will I return to work or not? Will Elegant Lifestyles publish a September issue? Is it safe to visit family in different states? Will one of my daughters have to quarantine when she returns home after four months away? Will my younger daughter’s college hold classes? The questions go on and on. One thing we can do is travel…virtually. This is a list of places I’d love to go one day. Where would you like to go?

Top Ten Places to Travel Virtually

1. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

David Attenborough leads you on an interactive tour underwater to explore the Great Barrier Reef. Through interactive time-lapses, videos, and weather maps, the tour shows you the Earth’s most bio-diverse ecosystem.

All the while, a tracker notes miles traveled, total sailing time, and the effects of climate change during your “exhibition,” making this a great educational tour for adults and kids alike!

2. The Great Wall of China

China’s most famous attraction offers virtual tours of some of the most visited sections of the wall, 3,000 miles of which are walkable. With much of the country under quarantine measures, the virtual tour offers a reprieve from the crowds who normally come from all over the world to see the 2,000-year-old marvel.

3. Iceland

Welcome to Iceland 360 VR!Select one of hundreds of locations around Iceland in the search field, panorama location list or location map or try out our location basedand themed virtual tours!

4. Taj Mahal, India

Our online virtual tour enables visitors to interactively explore the “UNESCO World Heritage Site”, the Taj Mahal at Agra in India. Visitors may tour 22 different areas of the monument and gardens through 360° panoramas, maps, narrated mini-movies, music and text.

5. Alaska

Experience virtual tours and in-depth educational videos of Kenai Fjords National Park. Journey into the beautiful landscape of Alaska to discover the wonders of the glaciers, local wildlife, geology and so much more!

6. Ireland–25 Virtual Tours

In an attempt to bring those of you that want to be here a little closer to Ireland, we’ve created a guide that’s packed with virtual tours (and 360 photos) for some of Ireland’s best-known attractions.

7. Scotland

“Immerse yourself in the amazing history, cities and landscapes of Scotland from the comfort of your own home…virtual tours of Scotland, including fascinating documentaries and Scottish museums that offer online tours. So sit back, relax, and enjoy your virtual journey through Scotland.

8. Safaris, Africa

Get up close with some of the world’s most amazing animals from the safety of your sofa.

9. Israel

Coronavirus messing up your plans? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Join us for a virtual tour of the most beautiful places in Israel with our popular series, Postcards from Israel.

10. Redwoods, California

Join an interpretive ranger in series of VR episodes about some of the natural and cultural history of the park. Move your mouse, handheld device, or wear VR glasses to experience this in 360 degrees.