On the annual Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dea") celebration, it is believed that the souls of those who have died return to visit the living. It is a Mexican holiday that has been celebrated for centuries, tracing back to a similar ritual observed by the Aztecs. It is now celebrated in certain parts of the U.S. on November 1 and 2, and its underlying theme for this holiday is that it is a time of great celebration, not mourning...and it's not the Latino equivalent of Halloween.

The small, but wonderful Figge Art Museum featured a superb exhibition of more than 30 hand-made catrinas, skeleton figures made out of clay or paper mâché. Instead of honoring specific people, most of the catrinas honor themes.

Here are my favorites:

All of the catrinas were made at the Casa Guanajuarto Quad Cities. You can read about their organization here.

To read more about the terrific Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, click here.

All photos in this blog post were taken by me during my visit to the Figge Art Museum in October, 2013.



The second day of our Washington DC trip began with a walk of the area around the White House.

We began at the northeast corner of Lafayette Square. Here sits the home where former First Lady Dolly Madison lived after her husband, President James Madison, died until her own death in 1849.
Crossing the street into Lafayette Square we came upon one of hundreds of statues that decorate Washington DC. This one is of Polish-Lithuanian Brigadier General Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a hero during the Revolutionary War. He is also famous for designing and constructing the fortifications at West Point.

Even the bronze side statues are beautifully designed. Here Kosciuszko is dressed in a Polish military uniform lying on the ground; the standing figure is a Polish soldier dressed in peasant military attire to symbolize the Polish Army.

Walking to the middle of the square you come to the statue of President Andrew Jackson. Commissioned in 1847, it is the first equestrian statue made in America. I like the four cannons on each corner.
From the other side of the statue we saw our first view of the White House.

Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House may be closed to automobile traffic, but you can certainly walk right up to the fence to take those memorable photographs.
At the end of the block on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue is the red-brick Renwick Gallery of American Art. The Renwick Gallery focuses on American craft and decorative arts from the 19th to the 21st century.
Directly across the street from the Renwick Gallery and next to the West Wing of the White House is the spectacular Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB). The building houses a majority of offices for the White House and various agencies that comprise the Executive Office of the President. This is the view from Pennsylvania Avenue...

Turning the corner you can see why I love the architecture of this building: all of the columns...there are 900 of them! Designed by Alfred B. Mullett, it was originally built to house the State, War, and Navy Departments. It took 17 years to complete and is considered one of the best examples of French Second Empire architecture in the country. I can't believe it was nearly torn down in 1957.

We continued our walk all the way past the EEOB. This brought us to "E" Street which runs between the south White House lawn and the area known as the Ellipse. Like Pennsylvania Avenue on the north side, it is traffic-free but pedestrians are allowed to walk down the street...except when the President is taking off in the Marine One helicopter from the south lawn. Once he took off (and we took photos!) we were able to walk down "E" Street. Yes, the president was in that helicopter! I like how you can read United States of America on the side.

Continuing with our walk we reached the south side of the EEOB. This area is known as President's Park.

The tall pillar with Winged Victory on top...

is the First Division Monument which was originally dedicated to those who served and died in the First Division of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I.

However, memorials to the First Division members from World War II...

and the Vietnam War have now been added.

Walking east on "E" Street put us in front of the south side of the White House, allowing for more memorable photos...

The Kitchen Garden was planted in the spring of 2009 by First Lady Michelle Obama with the help of students from a local elementary school.

Continuing past the White House led us to lovely Sherman Plaza where the grand statue of Civil War General William Tecumsah Sherman stands.

The four figures at each corner of the monument represent the artillery, infantry, cavalry (shown here) and engineers.

Across from Sherman Plaza sits the place where all your tax dollars end up...the Treasury Building.
Like the Eisenhower Executive Office Building I loved the architecture of this building. The entire east side of the building has massive columns running the length of the building. Each of the 30 columns, with a fantastic Ionic capital atop it, is 36 feet tall and was carved out of a single block of granite.
We continued up 15th Street back to Pennsylvania Avenue. Here you can see the north entrance to the Treasury Building with the statue of the 4th Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin.
A 180-degree turnaround shows even the bank branches in Washington DC have impressive architecture.

Completing our walk around the White House block we took the opportunity for a few more glimpses of the White House.
All photos in this blog post were taken by my husband and me during our visit in September, 2013.



It was clear and sunny the day we visited the Washington National Cathedral, so the sun shining through the stained glass windows created a kaleidoscope of colors on the massive pillars.

The cathedral is built in the shape of a cross and as you reach the point where the nave meets the two transept arms you normally have a great view of the cathedral's three beautiful rose windows. However during our visit two of the windows were covered with scaffolding so the only rose window visible was the Church Triumphant window in the south transept.

The Space Window commemorates the Apollo 11 mission to the moon and holds a piece of moon rock brought back by its crew. Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins delivered the seven-gram sample from the lunar Sea of Tranquility.

The clerestory or upper-level stained glass windows were designed by Rowan LeCompte. He was first commissioned for a stained glass window in the cathedral at the amazing age of sixteen! Check out the video interview with Mr. LeCompte here as he tells the story and shows how he and his partner made their final window for the cathedral.

War and Peace is the title of this brilliant stained glass window located in the Woodrow Wilson Bay. There are many images symbolizing events in the life of the president who is buried in the cathedral.

On December 8, 1891, in the Washington DC home of Charles C. Glover, a group of men met and decided to build the Washington Cathedral. This event is commemorated in these Glover Bay windows.
Scenes depicting the lush lands explored in the 1803 Lewis and Clark expedition make up these two windows. The sun shining through the colorful glass made the stone of the window bays brilliant with color.

These windows, located in the National Cathedral Association Bay, portray some of the roles of Christian women as "life-givers, healers, purifiers, and teachers".

Above the Abraham Lincoln Bay is this beautiful abstract-designed window titled The Agony of Civil War.

The last window is a brilliantly-colored clerestory window above the Bettelheim Bay...

For more information visit www.nationalcathedral.org.

All photos in this blog post were taken by my husband and me during our visit in September, 2013.