Subscribe to our RSS Feeds
Blog Index

Entries in Black and White (5)


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...


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' 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 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 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 won't be disappointed. Also, say hi to the boys if their sitting will make their day and yours.




Giving Thanks

Tonight at sunset walking on the snowy road,

my shoes crunching on the frozen gravel, first

through the woods, then out into the open fields

past a couple of trailers and some pickup trucks, I stop

and look at the sky. Suddenly: orange, red, pink, blue,

green, purple, yellow, gray, all at once and everywhere.


I pause in this moment at the beginning of my old age

and I say a prayer of gratitude for getting to this evening

a prayer for being here, today, now, alive

in this life, in this evening, under this sky.  David Budbill


I love the dark hours of my being. My mind deepens into them. There I can find, as in old letters, the days of my life, already lived, and held like a legend, and understood. The knowing comes: I can open to another life that's wide and timeless. So I am sometimes like a tree rustling over a gravesite and making real the dream of the one it's living roots embrace: a dream once lost among sorrow and songs.  Rainer Maria Rilke


I remember all the different kinds of years.  Angry, or brokenhearted, or afraid.

I remember feeling like that walking up the mountain along the dirt path to my broken house on the Island.

And long years of waiting in Massachusetts.  The winter walking and the hot summer walking..

I finally fell in love with all of it.: dirt, night, rock and far views.

It's strange that my heart is as full now as my desire was then.   Linda Greg


Reflections on turning 70.  Of where I have been, what is a part of me...Memories kept, just for me.  Where I am going...and coming to peace with aging.  I don't think we have to like the numbers but we should live the life that is given to joy and celebration.  Some never get the chance to be older, some never get a chance to forgive the past and celebrate the future. Enjoy the great memories and finally live in the moment every thanks for this life of mine...I know it's value and I'm full of gratitude for those who have joined me on this journey now and those that were with me in the past...I sure hope the 70's are going to rock and roll...gotta keep on moving...



The Peace of Mindfulness

This past Saturday I attended my first, half day mindfulness retreat.  It was a combination of sitting and walking meditation, along with some instructions and teachings of the Buddha.  My son, was the teacher for this day of meditation.  I had some reservations about going as I have never sat for that long and it was also a silent retreat, so I wasn't sure I could stay quiet for three and a half hours..

I arrived a bit frazzled and stressed...I was a tad late and the ride into the meditation center was quite far into the woods, on a curvy, narrow road. By the time I arrived I had a headache and my mind was all over the place. I was the last to arrive and so I just took a chair in the last row..and so we began, twenty four students learning to be in the moment, all at different levels in our journey.  I'm at the point now where I know the language pretty good and I can easily sit for 45 minutes.  This program consisted of sitting for three 45 minute sessions and two sessions of walking meditation. During the walking meditation you could go wherever you want, get a cup of tea, use the bathrooms.  It all had to be done in silence.  The grounds are so beautiful, deep in the woods with lots of Buddha's and nature to help keep you grounded.

My son is a wonderful teacher, soft spoken, gentle in his words and compassionate of peoples feelings and comfort while they are in this space.  He offers guidance, which I like, it helps to get me back to where my mind belongs when I tend to wander, which is quite natural in meditation.  The warmth of the sun streaming in the windows fills you with such a sense of calm.  It took me the entire first 45 minutes to get myself settled down and relax into my chair.  As I moved through the rest of the retreat I came away without my headache, I think I left it somewhere during my walking tea time, and such a sense of well being and goodness.  It is my intention to return for another retreat to this wonderful Center...I have come a long way in my meditation practice and it has served me well in stressful times.  I love the sitting now and the bells and the smell of that wonderful, earthy, all bring me right into the present moment..


"I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wonderous earth.  In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality.  People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle.  But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.  Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eye of a child-our own two eyes.  All is a miracle."   Thich Nhat Hahn...From the Miracle of Mindfulness.

Chris left on Sunday for his own retreat in Burma, studing with the in the mail, I got two books from him...the one I quoted above and Peace in Every Step both by Thich Nhat Hahn, whom I love. I was surprised and delighted that he sent these to me right before he left.  He is with me still, even from the other side of the world...walking his own path...



Step Out and Take A Chance

Dreams deferred are most often dreams that never happen. Sometimes we just have to step out, take a risk, without letting anything stop us.  How will we ever know what we are capable of if we don't at least try. How will we ever know what our true passions are if we don't challenge ourselves and most importantly, how will we live a life of  commitment, dedication and authenticity to our creative side,  if we never take that first step.  The simple answer is, we won't. 

These are the ideals and idea's that Liam is helping me work through these past few years.  At seven years old he is already my hero for trying new things and for not letting obstacles get in his way.  He is brave and he challenges himself in many ways...through sports and through the arts.

For a long time now he has been asking me for Irish Step Dancing lessons.  It was a gift that I really wanted to give him but we couldn't find a place close enough to where we lived to do this for him.  So for awhile, he would forget about it.  Not for long though.  Each time we would go to a pub or see a show that had step dancing as part of the entertainment he would start on me again.  Each time I told him that as soon as we could find a place, we would send him.  This year my daughter told me of a dance company coming to her work out center and they were offering Irish Step Dancing...I called and in fact they were coming, just in time for his birthday..I signed him up.  There was one caveat though that I thought would throw a monkey wrench into his desire to try this dream of his.. THERE WERE NO BOYS IN THE CLASS.

So, on Liam's birthday, we gifted him the lessons. He was very excited.  I did not tell him about the all girl class.  On his first day, we went.  Upon entering the studio he looked around and stood in the back.  The girls were already dancing..three little ones.  Before he knew what was happening his very lovely, Irish teacher, Miss Jackie, called Liam in like he had been going to this school for years.  I swear he didn't know what hit him but jump in he did.  I sort of slinked away so he couldn't see me and ask to leave.  In the end, I was the one who was surprised, not Liam.  At the end of this very first class he told me that he loved it and would be going back.  Then I asked him about all the girls...he said, no problem.

After only three weeks of lessons for all of these sweet children, they did a little recital for a local Long Term Nursing Center. The girls were so cute in their tutus and Liam was so smart in his velvet pants, white shirt and red tie. For that special occasions his Mom got him his first pair of step dancing shoes, which he now wears each week for his lessons. Come now, with me, as we revisit that wonderful day for all these little ones who so proudly showed off their new found talent.

Not one to be left out..Jaxson sneaking in for a photo opt.

Miss Jackie...full of motion.

The holidays are now over and Liam, once again, is back to dancing.  I think of him often when I'm deciding an issue, especially if it's a challenge for me.  I think of his tenacity, his perseverance in never giving up until he finds a way to make things happen.  Mostly I love that he is so willing to try, to accomplish dreams that most kids don't even seek.  He doesn't always go on to continue year after year on one of his endeavors but he always gives it a fair shot.  He took horse back riding lessons for over two years and although he doesn't ride anymore because of sports, it's still a love of his.  The seed has been planted.  Maybe someday he will ride again with no fear of it.  The point is, he tries. 

I feel like this year I want to try different things to challenge myself.  Take a few different classes, work on my web-site, learning how to make changes to it, finding the light more often even if it means getting up earlier or staying out later. Writing more with passion. A craft I so love doing and of course reading is always top on my list but this year, more technical books. I'm not setting huge limits for myself...but I am opening myself up to new possibilities...I did tell you that is my word for the year, right?  Some things will work and perhaps some won't but it won't be because I don't step over that line and try...

I'm going to keep following Liam's lead.  He is so good for my spirit and he's also good for finding adventures. 

Do you have anything you'd like to try this year?  Something new and exciting...if so, make it happen...

Having the courage to take the steps we want to take is the only way we will know where we want to in yourself.




Happy Birthday Papa

First thing this morning Facetime's Jaxson..."Happy Birthday Papa " so that sets the tone for the day..Jaxson and Papa have a date today, just the two of them.  Liam and Papa had their day yesterday...and all they have to do is call and Papa is putty in their hands.

I could write all kinds of wonderful things about Jim here for his birthday...we've been together a very long time but what I see now as the big love of his life is these two little guys, who think the sun shines and the moon rises because of this most generous man.  He is the keeper of all their batteries, for all there toys.  He is their number one fix it man.  When there is a problem of any kind, they call Papa and guess what, Papa always has the answer.  He plays and builds with them.  He swims and walks in the park with them.  They check out bugs, spiders and all kinds of creepy crawlies that give me the willies.  In truth, they are best buddies...

Sometimes though they get in trouble..They are not suppose to go to McDonalds but sometimes he takes they can get the latest toy in the Happy Meal box.  Sometimes they stay down in the workshop so long they are late for getting to where they need to be...but nothing is cooler than building in the workshop with Papa.  They even gave Papa a new apron for the workshop for Christmas this year. The other thing that Papa lets them do is each week after swimming he lets them get real junk food from the vending machine..I think that's part of the reason they go to's all good though in the end.

The best part though for Papa is to get kisses and I love you's..everytime they are here.  Jaxson declares him "the best"...and Liam is his best game buddy.  He has walked with them since their first steps, he still carries Jaxson in the house when he falls asleep in the car.  They have ridden on his shoulder countless times and they have driven his boat better than him and he lets them.. He is strong for them, teaching them all the lessons little boys need to know as they grow. He's already taught them how to shave...LOL   It's a wonderful relationship that these three have.

So onward Papa, for another year.  Where you walk they will follow, what you do they will copy. What you teach them they will believe.  Wishing you a very happy birthday today...and I hope Jaxson isn't beating the pants off you at the Castle...Papa your the very best...the boys told me so...

This little quote discribes you perfectly:

"Grandpa has ears that truly listen, arms that always hold, love that’s never ending and a heart that’s made of gold."