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Happy Birthday, Martha Stewart!

Tuesday, Aug 3 2021 by

Martha Stewart seems ageless. The home and lifestyle guru has gently taught America, and the world, about “good things” for forty years but she’s as popular and fresh as ever.

Today, as she turns 80 years old, let’s take a look at some important places in Martha’s life.

Cantitoe Corners in Katonah, N.Y

Martha’s main residence is in Katonah, a small town in Bedford, New York. She has lived here since 2000, and has acquired about 150 acres of farmland. It had been owned by an eccentric millionaire, and when it went on the market, Martha knew it was meant to be her next home.

Martha lives in the “Winter House” rather than the original 1700s “Summer House”. It has several other homes and buildings on the property, and she paid about $15 million for the entire estate.

Martha Stewart's House (Google Maps)
Martha Stewart's House

Next Door Neighbor Ralph Lauren

Martha has lots of rich and famous neighbors, including her next door neighbor Ralph Lauren. He has described the 17,000 square foot mansion as “part hunting lodge, part stately home.” The home is surrounded by unpaved roads, 250 acres of land, and an impressive collection of classic cars.

As one can expect, the interior is an homage to the famed American designer, with deep colors, plaids, plenty of leather, and a great deal of wood. With more than $6 billion to his name, he can afford all the fancy upgrades he could want.

Ralph Lauren's House (Birds Eye)
Ralph Lauren's House

East Hamptons, NY

Like any self-respecting East Coast millionaire, Martha owned a great house in the East Hamptons. But, with the upward pressure Covid-19 put on the local housing market, Martha decided to cash in. She sold her house in the summer of 2021. She had owned the Lily Pond Lane home for more than 25 years, and even threw her 50th birthday party there.

She rarely stayed at the 1880s-era home, and while the selling price isn’t known, it was listed for about $4.8 million. Knowing how hot the market was, she certainly didn’t lose money on her investment.

Martha Stewart's House (Birds Eye)
Martha Stewart's House

Skylands, Seal Harbor, MA

When she’s not at her Bedford home, Martha loves to spend her summers at her Seal Harbor, Maine home. Built for Edsel Ford, Henry Ford’s son, “Skylands” was designed not to stand out but to be an extension of the granite, wood, and moss surrounding the estate.

The home was sold to Martha complete, with most of the original furniture, decor, and even dishes and linens! Martha has upgraded and added her personal touch to the property, but she considers the estate “an American treasure” and views herself as the “caretaker”.

The main house has 35,000 square feet! She also bought another home to restore the estate to its original design. The property has a church, indoor squash court, multiple garages, greenhouse, and a fully-stocked wine cellar.

Martha Stewart's house (Bing Maps)
Martha Stewart's house

Turkey Hill in Westport, CT

Martha got her start catering local parties out of her kitchen in Westport, CT. She and her then-husband bought Turkey Hill in 1971 and worked hard to restore the home, which had been part of an onion farm. They acquired another home, part of the original farm, for a grand total of less than $100,000.

They turned the larger property into a working farm complete with orchards, kitchen gardens, flower gardens, animals, and more. The home, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, was a central feature as Martha grew in her success. The kitchen, living room, and other rooms have been featured on her television shows, in magazines, books, and more.

Eventually, Martha outgrew the estate and moved her activities to Bedford. She put the estate on the market, asking just under $9 million, in 2007. It took several months, but eventually she found a buyer who would love the property as much as she did.

Martha Stewart's House (former) (Birds Eye)
Martha Stewart's House (former)

Snoop Dogg’s Diamond Bar, CA Residence

In 2008, Snoop Dogg appeared on Martha’s show, and the two had an instant connection. Nearly 15 years later, they are closer than ever. Sincerely friends, the two have turned their odd couple friendship into a professional powerhouse.

They’ve done commercials together, supported each other’s businesses and even have an Emmy-nominated television show together!

Snoop Dogg could not be further from Martha in terms of lifestyle. The OG rapper bought a home in the LA area in 1992 for less than $750,000. It’s now worth millions, but Snoop has no intention of leaving. It’s on nearly three acres, has four bedrooms, a pool, spa, basketball court, and amazing views.

He bought another home in the neighborhood that he considers his man cave, and since he’s worth more than $140 million, it totally makes sense!

Snoop Dogg's House (Birds Eye)
Snoop Dogg's House

Martha has more than $400 million to her name, which makes it easy for her to celebrate in style, whether it’s a low-key celebration with loved ones at Skylands, or somewhere fabulous enough to ring in her next decade. No matter what, it’s sure to be full of “good things”. Happy birthday, Martha!

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The Tokyo Olympics, Late But Still Great

Monday, Jul 26 2021 by

Last March, Covid-19 spread throughout the world, bringing everything to a standstill. Even the Summer Olympics in Tokyo were delayed.

The world is reemerging from a yearlong hibernation, and we are finally having the 2020 summer games. They will run July 23 to August 8, and will be a much-needed celebration of sport and life, and a great distraction for the entire world.

The Paralympics, the international sports competitions for athletes with disabilities will follow on in Tokyo and Japan from August 24 to September 5.

Let’s take a look at some of the important locations for this year’s competition.

Temple of Hera, Olympia, Greece

In ancient times, a flame was kept burning during the Olympic games as a symbol to honor the gods. In modern times, the flame has become a symbol of the competitive spirit of the games.

The flame is lit at the Temple of Hera, at the ancient temple site in Olympia, Greece. The temple is the oldest of the temples on the grounds, and has been restored somewhat after an earthquake struck the area nearly two thousand years ago.

A few months in advance of the games, women representing the vestal virgins who once presided over the temple light a flame using a parabolic mirror, marking the countdown to the Olympics.

Ruins of Olympia (site of the ancient Olympic Games) (Google Maps)
Ruins of Olympia (site of the ancient Olympic Games)

Nahara, Fukushima, Japan

In March 2020, the flame was already on its procession in Japan when the games were cancelled. The flame was stored in the National Stadium, waiting to continue the journey.

Exactly one year later than scheduled, the journey began again. The first destination in Japan held great significance, as Fukushima is one of the areas hardest hit by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the country in 2011.

The flame traveled across Japan, and the lighting of the cauldron in the Tokyo National Stadium was an important part of the opening ceremony on July 23.

Fukushima-Daini nuclear powerplant (Google Maps)
Fukushima-Daini nuclear powerplant

National Stadium, Tokyo, Japan

The National Stadium in downtown Tokyo was entirely rebuilt in anticipation of the summer games, at a cost of $1.4 billion. It was designed with traditional Japanese architecture in mind, and has both metal and wood throughout, including wood from all 47 prefectures in the country. It can hold 68,000 people, and has a partially-covered roof, as well as live plants built into the actual structure.

The stadium will be used for the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as  track and field, women’s soccer finals, and other events. This is the center of the games, and from the opening ceremony to the end of the closing events, it will be here that the Olympic flame will burn.

Olympic Stadium - Tokyo (Google Maps)
Olympic Stadium - Tokyo

Yoyogi National Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan

Japan hosted the 1964 Olympics, and built several sports facilities for the events. The Yoyogi National Gymnasium was revolutionary when it was built, and still sticks out today with its famous suspension roof.

The arena can hold about 13, 000 spectators, and hosts concerts, as well as hockey, futsal, and basketball events. This summer, the handball events will be played here.

Yoyogi National Gymnasium (StreetView)
Yoyogi National Gymnasium

Sapporo Dome, Sapporo, Japan

While the games are centered in the capital city, events are spread around the country both to promote the best experience for the athletes and to bring the games to the people of Japan. Soccer games in particular will be played around the country.

Preliminary soccer games will be held in the Sapporo Dome, in Sapporo, in northern Japan. The stadium is used for both soccer and basketball games, and was a venue for the 2002 men’s FIFA World Cup.

Sapporo Dome (Google Maps)
Sapporo Dome

Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan

Another legacy stadium from the 1964 Olympics is the Nippon Budokan, which was built to host the judo competitions. Since then, the venue has been used to host many martial arts competitions (“budokan” translates into “martial arts hall”). But perhaps the most famous entertainment was when the Beatles performed there in 1966.

This year, judo and karate competitions will be held here, similar to the 1964 Olympics.

Nippon Budokan (StreetView)
Nippon Budokan

Tokyo Big Sight, Tokyo, Japan

The Tokyo International Convention Center, known as the “Big Sight” is a large convention and expo center in the harbor area of Tokyo. The structure is a distinctive feature in the Tokyo skyline, with the eight-story inverted four pyramid conference tower topping off the building.

The Big Sight will be the dedicated media center for the Tokyo Olympics, hosting broadcasts, press events, and the media for the games.

Tokyo Big Sight (Google Maps)
Tokyo Big Sight

Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, Fukushima, Japan

Japan is a baseball-crazy country, which is why the sport has been brought back for the competition in 2021. Some of the first games will be played at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, which was built in 1986 and can hold up to 30,000 people.

The location was chosen to honor the region, still recovering from the earthquake and tsunami a decade ago.

Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium (Google Maps)
Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium

Yokohama Stadium, Yokohama, Japan

After some preliminary rounds are played in Fukushima, the remainder of the baseball and softball competition will take place in the Yokohama Stadium, in Yokohama, which is just outside Tokyo.

The stadium, which holds about 35,000 spectators, will be a prominent feature for Japanese viewers of the games, as they tune into see their home team compete against the world on their soil.

Yokohama Stadium (Google Maps)
Yokohama Stadium

There is no substitute for the excitement and magic that surround the Olympics. The amazing opening ceremony will introduce Japan to the world, with their unique culture, music, history, and style on display.

The athletes will represent their nations in friendly competition on a world stage. The closing ceremonies will highlight the friendships made, the victories achieved, and then at the end, it will introduce the world to the next summer Olympic host: Paris.

And at the end of it all, the flame will go out.

Until 2024.

(Comments)

July's Deep Dive into History: Russia's Last Czar

Saturday, Jul 17 2021 by

Czar Nicholas II of Russia and his family met a tragic end on July 17, 1918, when they were executed by Bolshevik revolutionaries in an effort to quell any potential uprising in support of the Czar and his family.

On this historic date, let’s take a look back at the life and death of the last Czar of Russia.

Alexander Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Nicholas was born on May 18, 1868 in the Alexander Palace, outside St. Petersburg. He was the heir-apparent to the third-largest empire in history, spanning three continents and including more than 125 million people.

The Alexander Palace was built by Catherine the Great for her favorite grandson. Czar Nicholas and his family loved the palace, and it was one of their preferred residences.

After Nicholas abdicated the throne, the family resided here until they were moved to their final residence in Yekaterinburg.

Alexander Palace (Google Maps)
Alexander Palace

Livadia Palace, Livadiya, Crimea

The Romanov dynasty owned estates across the empire, including an estate in Livadiya, Crimea in present day Ukraine. It was in a palace here that Nicholas’s father died, and Nicholas was consecrated as Czar Nicholas II.

The czar broke ground on a new palace in 1909. The family spent many of their summers at the new palace, which had 116 rooms, and an exterior structure with four unique facades, all made of Crimean limestone with marble features.

The palace was later the site of the important Yalta Conference that helped map out the post-war landscape between the Allied victors at the end of World War II.

Livadia Palace (Google Maps)
Livadia Palace

Dormition Cathedral, Moscow, Russia

For 350 years, the Dormition Cathedral inside the Kremin in Moscow was the site of the coronation of Russian monarchs. Nicholas was crowned czar of Russia on May 26, 1896. His coronation was the last.

The next day, during a celebration set for the people of Moscow, nearly 1,000 people were killed due to poor crowd control. That night, Nicholas and his wife Alexandra, were obligated to attend a formal gala, but the people of Moscow resented the action and never forgave their new czar for his perceived disregard for their suffering.

Dormition Cathedral (Google Maps)
Dormition Cathedral

Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Winter Palace in St. Petersburg was the official palace of the Russian Czar for nearly two hundred years. It was designed and built in the 1750s, and was a massive, impressive palace fit for the large empire arriving on the national stage.

The palace is reported to have 1,500 rooms, 1,800 doors, and nearly 2,000 windows. It is more than 500 feet long and 100 feet high.

By the time Nicholas II was Czar, the palace was reserved for formal events, due to security concerns. Czar Alexander II had been shot nearby and passed away in the palace, and after that, the Romanov family didn’t feel safe there.

Even though the royal family did not live in the palace, it was still the symbol of imperialism that the Bolsheviks fought against, and it was the site of several riots.

Winter Palace (Google Maps)
Winter Palace

Birthplace of Rasputin, Tyumen, Siberia

Nicholas and Alexandra had four daughters, and finally, in 1904, a son. Alexi was born with hemophilia, a blood disorder that left him at risk of severe bleeding from minor injuries. Alexandra especially sought to help Alexi, and reached out to anyone peddling a cure.

Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, a Siberian peasant and self-proclaimed holy man, found his way into the Czarina’s good graces. He came from Tyumen, a small village in Siberia, the cold central region of Russia.

Pokrovskoye - Rasputin's place of birth (Google Maps)
Pokrovskoye - Rasputin's place of birth

Murder Site, Moika Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Yekaterinburg (Google Maps)
Yekaterinburg

As Alexi’s health continued to worsen, Alexandra relied more and more on the healer. Many people, including several nobles, resented this influence at a time when the Czarina was largely ruling the country.

A group of men conspired to murder Rasputin. According to lore, on December 30, 1916, he was poisoned, poisoned again, and shot three times at point blank, but only succumbed to his injuries after being dropped into a freezing river with his hands tied.

No matter, he did die that night, at the Moika Palace. The noble family who owned the palace were incredibly wealthy, and owned more than 40,000 works of art, including works by Rembrandt and other famous artists. The home is now a museum, so visitors with a sense of history, or a morbid curiosity, can take a tour of a famous crime scene.

Moika Palace - Rasputin's place of death (Google Maps)
Moika Palace - Rasputin's place of death

Murder Site of the Romanov Family, Yekaterinburg, Russia

As Russia exited World War I, beaten, broke, and divided, political unrest overtook the country. The czar and his family were targeted by the powerful Bolsheviks, who advocated a policy that was later labeled communism.

Nicholas abdicated the throne and fled with his family, first to the Alexander Palace. They eventually ended up in Yekaterinburg, a thousand miles from Moscow.

In the early morning of July 17, 1918, the family was woken up and taken to the basement of the house. There, they were met with a firing squad. Because the women had sewn jewels into their clothes, it took several shots for them to die, dragging out the scene tragically.

Yekaterinburg (Google Maps)
Yekaterinburg

Burial Site, Yekaterinburg, Russia

Shortly thereafter, the bodies were buried in an unmarked grave nearby. It wasn’t until 1979 that some of the bodies were discovered. The remaining two were discovered in 1998. Genetic testing on the family members proved conclusively that the remains were the Romanov family and their trusted servants.

Romanov (Tsar Nicholas II) family former burial site (Google Maps)
Romanov (Tsar Nicholas II) family former burial site

Final Resting Place, Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia

After more than 75 years of communist rule, the Soviet government collapsed. This and many other events have led to a restored reputation of Nicholas and his family. They have been interred in the Peter and Paul Cathedral alongside nearly every other great Russian monarch.

The family have also been recognized as saints in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Romanov (Tsar Nicholas II) family former burial site (Google Maps)
Romanov (Tsar Nicholas II) family former burial site

Nicholas, while he was widely regarded as a weak leader, was a wonderful father and husband. He loved his family, did everything he could to protect them, and looked out for their comfort and safety until the very last moments of their lives. No matter his governing, he will be remembered for doing his best for his loved ones.

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