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Tuesday
Mar212017

Fading Away

Nature does not hurry,

but everything is accomplished.

Lao Tzu

As winter fades away I welcome spring.  It has been a long time coming.  Some winters are not so bad but this one was really, really long for me...I'm yearning for color and warmth.

Tuesday
Mar142017

The Many Gifts of St. Maarten

As I sit here in the middle of Blizzard Stella, with the snow swirling and the wind whipping nuggets of hard packed snow on the window above my desk...I take myself away to a warmer and gentler day.  A day where the breeze was gentle, slapping my face in the most comforting way.  Embracing me with it's warmth, relaxing every bone in my body.  Winters in New England are tough and they can last a long, long time, that's why a winter escape is necessary, if you can manage it.  That's what helps me get through days like today. Don't get me wrong, there is so much beauty in winter.  I love to see the snow and the sense of quiet that it brings.  It locks me in and slows me down and I appreciate the enforced retreat to be with just myself and my muse. I think of it as a free day. A Gift. Sometimes though, it goes on just a tad to long and it can be mighty fierce.  That's when I go back to St. Maarten...just to remind myself.  Time does not stand still and soon it will be warm and wonderful here also...

 

I hope you enjoyed my little tour of parts of the Island of St. Maarten.  It is always warm, it is always sunny and it is always relaxing...When I'm there, I love it and enjoy all that the Island has to offer.  Then when I'm home I'm right back into New England...because the truth is, no matter how far we travel, how long we are gone, whatever we do and experience while we are away...there is no place like home..So tomorrow, when my feet hit the floor and the bedroom shade goes up on a new day...whatever is waiting for me outside that window will make me happy...hopefully there will still be some snow to grab a shot of...but I did enjoy my little visual jaunt back to the lovely Island of St. Maarten...I'll tell you another little secret...it's always best when the boys and Jenna come...

 

 

Thursday
Mar092017

Rejoice

He said, "Let today be 

a day where you take nothing for 

granted.  For Life is fleeting, fragile

and precious and can change on a whim.

Say all the things you really

want to say to your loved ones today,

say the things you would regret

should they pass on and your words

remain unspoken.  Rejoice, for you 

and they are alive today-and should

you or them pass on to unknown 

shores, rejoice even more for you

have a wonderful love story to tell."

Jaxson Godard

Poem given to my by Papa on my 70th birthday.

Monday
Feb272017

The Salem Diner

I love a good diner.  I always have. When I was little my Grandmother's sister and her friends owned a diner..It was always so much fun spending time there.  Fortunately for me, my friend Dina, loves a good diner also.  So often when we go out on our Friday morning jaunts, we might end up in a diner if we come across one.  This diner though, is special for so many reasons and I was just beside myself to be there.  I was amazed at how many memories it stirred up for me and how nostalgic it was. Truth be told, I should have been to this one a very long time ago..but another truth, I'm so happy we were there on this day.

The Salem Diner is a historic Sterling Streamliner diner. It's one of only two Sterling Streamliners left in New England, The other Sterling is in Rhode Island.  Sterling Streamliners were made by the J.B. Judkins Company of Merrimac, MA. They built diners from 1936 to 1942. It sits on it's original site on Loring Ave...just across from Salem State College.  I was born and brought up in Salem, but until Dina and I went there a few weeks ago, I had never been inside this diner.  After eating there and meeting the people, I must add it to my list of "should have done this sooner"...but then again, thankfully we made it before it was knocked down or fell down because it was really old in there but I was just so happy to be there.  

So here it is in all it's turquoise and pink. Oh my, right out of the fifties. Everything and I mean everything, from the ceiling to the lights, the swivel counter stools, the counter itself and of course the booths.  I'm not sure about the grill but I'll check that out the next time.  For a full five minutes, I couldn't stop looking around and taking it all in.  Do you know how rare this is, to find a piece of history still intact, and I was just so giddy about the color.  

So here we are in the only booth left.  I'm so happy we got this booth.  We are actually sitting in the front of the Streamliner. Our table is in the middle of the front end, hence the shape. So there we sat, next to each other, the perfect spot for great people watching, counter talking and dishes flying out from the kitchen and grill.  Check out the curtains, they look pretty original.  Well, I did check out the curtains and it was pretty sketchy up there.  I told Dina to have a look.  We could see daylight and a few other things we didn't recognize...LOL, so we just looked ahead.  We both had the homemade hash with eggs and it came with all the fixings...and my, my, it was so good.  We both got the clean plate award.

 

 

Check out the menu...the prices are very good for all that food.  I think we walked out of there for $20.00 and that included a good tip.  Honestly, the menu design is straight from the 50/60's also.  I wanted to take one home for old times sake but Dina wouldn't let me...

It was a special morning at the diner and although we were fascinated by the vintage feel of the place, there was also a sense of today there that you would not have found in the 60's. Kids still playing with their I-phones, and a take out order waiting to be picked up.  You can hold on to the past but the here and now is always present, as it should be I guess.  For me though, I loved being in a place that brought back the excitement of my youth, my high school years and talking to people who sat so close to us, eating their breakfast also and sharing our stories from the past.  

So you might ask, why was this my first trip here.  Why didn't we hang out here when we were young and this lovely diner was new.  It's simple, we had no car and we had no money.  This was not within walking distance to my house or my life.  It was very much out of the way.  Mostly though, back in my younger days, not many "regular people" went out for breakfast. Actually, we didn't go out to eat very much at all.  Only on special occasions.  As I look back now, I wonder where my Mom even got the money for those special dinners...that were eaten at noon time. By the way, noon time was dinner, five o'clock was supper.  Hmm, I wonder when that changed.  See what I mean, it brings back so much.  Even still, the times we did go out were lovely and remembered, even today.  Today, kids go out so much it's not special to them at all.  More routine.

So that's my story for today...What I know for sure is, I will go back.  I have to take Jim.  We will have a great breakfast and I know we will spend our time there sharing old stories..only the stories that him and I will understand and laugh about. I hope we get to sit in the same booth that Dina and I did.  If not for Yankee magazine last month I might not have made it here but I did and it was a wonderful trip down memory lane...one thing though, I do wish they had donuts and desserts.  No Pie.  Desserts are usually a highlight at most diners.  I'm not going to tell them that though...

 

"A poet could write volumes about diners, because they're so beautiful. They're brightly lit, with chrome and booths and Naugahyde and great waitresses. Now, it might not be so great in the health department, but I think diner food is really worth experiencing periodically."

Tuesday
Feb212017

The People of the North End

The people of the North End in Boston are so unique.  If you get to spend some time here, you will know what I mean.  I took my first solo trip to Boston when I was sixteen years old.  Well, I wasn't exactly solo, Jim was with me.  We came to Boston to see the movie West Side Story.  He was seventeen and driving. That was the beginning of my love affair with the sights, smells and friendly atmosphere that defines the North End. You see those boys in that photo above...they probably meet here a few times a week.  It's there neighborhood. You can always count on the "boys" to be hanging out, smoking a cigar, drinking coffee or a beer on Hanover Street.  The other thing about the boys, they always speak to you.  It's easy and fun in the North End. It's also Italian...very Italian.  That my friends is where the smells come in...

75

I know, I know, everyone that comes to the North End usually just walks Hanover Street but people, you need to move down a few side streets.  It's where the locals eat and shop. It where you will learn where these people and their ancestors came from. The side streets are the heartbeat of the North End.  Now take the bakeries for instance.  Everyone raves about Modern and Mikes, and I agree, they are great, but pretty touristy.  It's not where the local shop, get off Hanover and get down to Salem St.  That's where the best smells are coming from.  Bovas bakery, family owned since 1932.  Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The yeast bread gets you when you turn the corner, step inside and the cakes and pies hit your nose as soon as the door opens. The smells are great, but the eye candy in the cooler cases will really get your juices flowing. This is where I come now, I love the people. So friendly and eager to explain their history to you. They also encourage you to try something new.  This day I was buying some chocolate cover pretzels for my Jaxson and Liam.  I told the lady that they were for my Grandsons and she picked up the ones with the most chocolate on them for me to give to "my boys".  That would not have happened at Modern or Mike's...next time your in the North End, give this bakery a try...

The cannoli stuffer at Bovas bakery.  Not hidden away in the back room but right out front where you can watch him work his magic..I was impressed with his ability to hold that big bag of ricotta and squeeze it ever so gently into the tube.  I don't think he would like my work even if I could hold it up.  He was really nice and didn't mind at all that I took his photo. You just have to trust a place that works out in the open...no secrets to hide.  

 

This lovely lady was on her way to go to the market.  This day I was with my friend Dina, who is also Italian..and as we passed this woman, we said hello and asked where she was going with her basket and bags.  Thirty minutes later she and Dina were still talking Italy.  Where their families were from and how did she end up here in the North End.  She told us she came over after she got married at 18 and settled here with her husband.  They bought a house close by and now each one of her three kids has an apartment in that house. I'm thinking to myself that surely she would have a great recommendation for us for an authentic, neighborhood lunch spot.  Not so, she looked at me like I had a screw lose and said, "I dont' go out, I cook. I cook better than any restaurant here"...O.K. I get it...we were on our own.  I was finally able to drag Dina away and we found us a great pizza place not to far away.  I was happy for Dina that she got to talk to someone that was from Italy and I'm pretty sure we were this ladies entertainment for the day.  Sure wished she had invited us up to lunch though...Maybe the next time.

Bello, right.  ah if only I was 50 years younger but I'm not so I'll just have to settle for this beautiful smile that he was so willing to give me. He sure knows how to flip a pizza dough around though.  Probably knows how to snag a few woman with those dreamy eyes also.  He is the man behind the pizza bar at Quattro's. Best pizza anywhere.  I just love that speck of flour on his hand...be still my heart, your to old for him...a but a girl can dream...when the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that's Amore...

You say, what would this guy be happy about.  Well he is  happy to have a job.  It was a beautiful day.  "You must be tired at the end of the day" I say. Yes, but it's a good tired.  The laundry has to get done and it's my job to deliver it to the cleaners. Table linens for that fancy restaurant.  He was of good cheer though.  It seems everything is done right out in the open in the North End. I like that.  I like how it still holds onto it's old ways.  No pretentious ways here.  No one above another.  All work for the good of local business and each other.  I did notice though, that work stopped for a second so he could enjoy the beautiful lady passing by.  Nice laundry bags also...

I saved the best for last.  This is my friend Bobby.  He owns my favorite tea and spice shop, Polcari's on Salem St.  I know his shirt says coffee but don't let that fool you.  His tea is the very best and at a price you wouldn't believe.  I love a good tea and I like fresh tea, in small amounts so it never dries out.  This is where I come.  I've been visiting Bobby for many years now. Not only does he have the best tea, o.k., he also has the best coffee beans that he grinds for you...smells delicious.  Then he has a few spices.  If you've ever had fresh, you would never go back to buying in a grocery store again..Same with the tea, small amounts and visit frequently. What I love best about him though is his love of the people who shop there.  We have had wonderful conversations over the years about our lives, families, and just life in general.  He feels like a member of my family that I just go and visit every few months.  Christmas time is the best time at his shop. So festive, all the Italian candies and fresh nuts.  Even chestnuts, loose.  I don't like them but I love to see them because when I was a little girl, Chestnut trees lined the street I lived on.  Sadly everyone of those trees are gone now but then there they are at Polcari's.  You see all those jars in the background...tea and coffee. Doesn't get any fresher.  Now if only I could get him to brew some tea while we chatted...I'm pretty sure that is not going to happen though...So when your in the North End...visit Bobby, tell him I sent you. That will get you nothing but it will give Bobby a smile...

So here's the thing, this blog post turned into something entirely different than what is was suppose to be.  I started out just writing about a few things in the North End...I really wanted to tell you all about the side streets and alley ways, and of the course that bakery.  Then I was started thinking about the news that I heard today about 45's new plan to keep immigrants out of our country.  I went back and looked at my photo's of the North End and started to really think about what is so special about this section of Boston.  It didn't take me long to know that my love of this area was about the people.  Their stories of how they got here.  How they stayed together in this new place to feel a bit closer to the homes they had to leave.  How they have made wonderful lives for themselves.  How they serve those of us who were born here.  How they appreciate being here and then I thought of what they give to me.  Without them I would have no knowledge of their history.  They share it with such pride.  I would not have made so many friends and feel so at home here now.  My husband went to school in Boston and lived in the North End.  He always felt safe.  I feel safe even now when I go in with the boys and my girlfriends. These are hard working, everyday people, just like us. I feel such joy when I am around them.  How sad for me and everyone else who visits here if they had been kept out.  How sad for them also..Kindness matters, every day.  Who are we to say that you can't come here. I welcome their diversity, their lessons, their authentic food and their stories.  I'm so glad to have lived in a time when we welcomed our friends from across the water.  I'm sad that 45 feels the need to change this. What I hope for though is that we, as a country will stand strong against his predjuice mind and move forward with compassion for all mankind.  That, my friends, is what I learned by walking the streets of the North End... little Italy.  Now come on in for a cappuccino and some ricotta pie...you won't be disappointed. Also, say hi to the boys if their sitting outside...it will make their day and yours.