Monthly Archives: April 2016

Journey to Boston: Part Three

Part III: Trollies, Trails, and Seafood

The concierge said, “Boston is a walking town.” Beantown is relatively flat and compact, so in many ways that is true. Over the three days, I walked a total of 35 miles. But you don’t have to walk everywhere, there are several tour services that will take you around.

I chose the Old Town Trolley. Their bright orange trolley-buses were a familiar sight for me growing up in San Diego, so I knew I’d get my money’s worth from them. One of the advantages of this company is the “on-off” feature. They make stops throughout the city and you can disembark visit a location and then hop back on the next one. They run about every fifteen minutes so the wait is never long.

My driver and guide was Little Dave. A native of Boston, who took great pride in his city but wasn’t shy about sharing a joke that would make your eyes roll. He was happy to share his knowledge and recommend places to visit. It was from him that I learned about the Gibson House Museum. He also recommended that I follow the Freedom Trail, a walking tour through the oldest parts of Boston.



Little Dave, Driver and Tour Guide for Old Town Trolley Boston


Early Sunday morning I set out on the Freedom Trail, with my map in one hand and my smartphone set Freedom Trail website.  The walk begins in the Boston Commons, now a beautiful park but once a shared cow pasture. It wound its way passed some of the oldest structures in North America.

Here are some of the highlights:

The State House – It stands out with its 23-carat gold leaf dome. The original dome was made of copper by Paul Revere. The change was made in 1874 for the Unite States centennial celebration. During World War II, it was painted black to camouflage it.



The State House, Boston


The Granary Burying Ground – Here are buried many notable Bostonians, including Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin’s parents, and the eight victims of the Boston Massacre. The rows of tilled, moss-covered, and worn tombstones are hauntingly beautiful in the early morning sun.



The Granary Burying Ground, Boston


The Old Corner Bookstore – Originally built in 1636, as the home for William Hutchinson and his family the building has seen many incarnations. Destroyed by fire in 1711, it was rebuilt and used as an apothecary. In 1719, it became the home of the Boston Gazette, which is still in publication today. Since then a series of publishers and booksellers use the building. It was here that Hawthorne’s novel, A Scarlet Letter, was published, as well as many abolitionist pamphlets. Today, it is home to a Chipotle Restaurant.



The Old Corner Bookstore, Boston


The Old State House – This is Boston’s oldest public building. It was here the royal governor met with patriots about the taxes and housing of British soldiers. And at its doorstep, the Boston Massacre took place. The multimedia presentation offered here is well worth the time. You are given a character, I was given Sara Revere (the first Mrs. Revere) and asked to take her perspective as I viewed the exhibits.

The Paul Revere House – This 1681 house, squeezed between modern buildings, is very small for the number of family members. The first floor was the kitchen and entry way. The second from with two bedrooms and where one had to double as a sitting room to entertain guests. An attic room provided more sleeping space. Here Revere ran his silversmith shop and raised sixteen children by his two wives. It was from here, he and William Dawes, planned their “midnight ride.” Beautifully preserved, with many objects passed down through the Revere family.

The Old North Church – Officially Christ Church, this is where the lanterns were hung that sent Revere and Dawes riding toward Concord and Lexington. The church is still an active parish and as I approached the bells were ringing calling the parishioners into worship. In need of some rest, I entered the sanctuary where an usher welcomed me warmly and then led me to a box pew near the front. It was moving to be worshiping where once the Revere family and other patriots once worshiped.

On my last day in Boston, I took a leisurely walk through the Boston Public Gardens. As I wondered I saw a statue commemorating the first use of ether by a doctor at Boston General Hospital. Just past this I meet some old friends, Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack. They were following their mother, Mrs. Mallard, to the duck pond in the park. You remember them, don’t you? The statues of the ducks are to honor author Robert McCloskey and his Caldecott Award winning book Make Way for Ducklings. I then wandered over to the duck pond where I saw Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, but no ducklings.

Of course, you can’t go to Boston and not have some seafood! My guide on the Old Town Trolley recommended I try Legal Sea Foods. A short walk from the Boston Public Park I one of their establishments. They are called “Legal” because they were an off-shoot of a Legal Grocery (a store that gave Legal Stamps, a precursor to S&H Green Stamps). I had a lovely meal that started with Lobster bisque. The best I’ve ever tasted. For my entrée, I chose their seafood casserole with scallops, shrimp, and white fish all covered with a white cheese sauce. It was accompanied by draft Samuel Adams Beer (that was a treat because in California we only get the bottles.) It was a bit on the expensive side, but I did not go away hungry or disappointed. If you’re in the Boston area, make a stop at Legal Sea Foods.

That wraps up my trip to Boston. I had a wonderful time. Thanks for letting me share it with you.

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Journey to Boston: Part Two

Part II: Sailors, Brownstones, and Pasta.


U.S.S. Constitution, Charlestown, Massachusetts

Boston as a long history with ships and the sea. It is currently the home to the oldest commissioned Naval vessel in the world still afloat, the U.S.S. Constitution. Yes, the H.M.S. Victory is older, but she is cemented in permanent dry-dock in Portsmouth, England and unable to sail. The Constitution, on the other hand, can be sailed out of Boston harbor should the Navy desire to do so.

Of course, this Navy veteran couldn’t pass up the chance to pay her a visit.

Built in 1797 to defend United States merchant ships from the Barbary Pirates, she was America’s first line of defense during the War of 1812. During a battle with the H.M.S. Guerriere, on the afternoon of August 19, 1812. When cannon fire from the Guerriere bounced off of her sides, a crew member declared, “I swear she’s made of iron!” Giving her the nickname “Old Ironsides.” She would fight thirty-one battles and win all of them.

Today, she is looking a little tired and undergoing a $1.5 million restoration. It’s a long process but she is still welcoming visitors.

The day I was there, my group was guided by Airman Garcia. The Constitution is still a commissioned ship of the U.S. Navy, and her crew is naval personnel. Airman Garcia was an able interpreter of the ship’s history, keeping both adult and children engaged.



Airman Garcia of the U.S.S. Constitution at the end of the tour. 


After the tour, I was, with the assistance of another crew member, able to fly a U.S. flag on the ship’s mainmast. The flag was then folded and given to me. I am looking forward to placing it in a shadowbox and displaying it in my home office.



U.S.S. Constitution crew members folding the American Flag 


After the visiting the Constitution, I headed across town to the Back Bay area. Here stately brownstone mansions line the streets. Once a shallow bay, the area was filled in and homes built on the “new land.” Tucked in between the old brownstones converted into apartments one remains very much as it was when it was built in 1860.



Beacon Street, Boston



The Gibson House Museum was built by Catherine Hammond Gibson (1804 – 1888). It was unusual for a woman to purchase a house in their own name, but build it she did. She was the widow of John Garner Gibson (1799 – 1838), a man who had made his fortune in the shipping business. It is thought she built the house in order to attract a suitable bride for their son, John Hammond Gibson, Sr. (1836 – 1916).

Her grandson, John Hammond Gibson, Jr. (1846 – 1954) never married and lived in the house until his death. An author, poet and prolific letter writer, John Jr. want to preserve Victorian architecture and style. He began preserving the house and its contents to be open as a museum in honor of his grandmother many years before his death.

Three times a day, visitors are led on an hour long tour of the house. It eye-opening to see lavish decorations filling the narrow house. The grand staircase just inside the door led to time capsule into how the elite of Boston showed their wealth and power. Downstairs in the kitchen and laundry room, the simple space of the servant’s domain. If you are a fan of Downton Abby or Upstairs Downstairs, this museum is a must-see when you are in Boston.

One evening my husband I went to Boston’s Maggiano’s Little Italy. Just a short walk from the Boston Park Plaza, where we were staying, even at nine-thirty it was still alive with patrons. We were sat in a little booth with a view of the main room. Large tables filled with food, served family style, surrounded us. Bread and herbed olive oil were brought to the table with the menus. We kept our choices simple. He ordered “Mom’s lasagna” and I the eggplant parmesan.  The servings were generous and there was not room for dessert.



Maggiano’s Little Italy, eggplant parmesan 


Walking the city and full of good food, it was time to say goodnight.


Coming Soon –  Part III: Trollies, Trails, and Seafood

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Journey to Boston: Part One

Journey to Boston: Where America Begins

This past week I was blessed with a visit to Boston, Massachusetts. It is a great city with three hundred and eighty-six years of history, making it one of the oldest cities in the United States. In this three-part series, I will share some to the highlights of my three days wandering the streets of Boston. Each will feature a place or two that I visited and one meal. Come join me on the journey.

Part One: Ships and Tea Parties

Boston is really where the story of the United States begins. It was the home of John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams and Paul Revere. Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, though he later made his home in Philadelphia. The first shots of the American Revolution could be heard in Boston, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  In the 1870’s a series of events would change a group of British colonies into a united independent nation. One of these events would become known as the Boston Tea Party. On December 16, 1773, ships, taxes, and tea collide. That night a group of young men, calling themselves the Sons of Liberty and disguise loosely as Mohawk Indians, snuck aboard three ships and dumped their cargo of East Indian Tea into the harbor. The act lead to the blockade of Boston harbor nearly starving the residence of the city. Other colonies united in support of Boston leading the way toward them working together for independence.

Due to dredging, which has enlarged the city significantly, the original location of the wharf is high and dry. Today you can visit a new pier within a few yards of the original Griffin’s Wharf, home of the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.

Upon entering the “Old South Meeting Hall,” I was greeted by Benjamin Burton (played by Armando). He gave me an identity of one of the Sons of Liberty – a role I would play during the interactive program.  From there, in our Mohawk disguises, we went aboard the Beaver and destroyed the tea. This was followed by a multimedia presentation about the aftermath of these events and how they produced the foundation for the unity of the colonies.



Benjamin Burton calling the meeting at the Old South Meeting Hall, Dec 16, 1773.


One of the highlights for me was seeing one of the two known remaining tea boxes from that night. This simple wooden cube had been saved and passed down the generation of one family. When I saw it I thought it was very much like the one I had seen at the National Portrait Gallery Washington D.C. in 1975. It actually was the same box! The Robinson Half Chest (as it is called) had been on display there before being moved to the Tea Party Ships & Museum as part of their permanent collection.



A replica of the Beaver, one of the three ships carrying tea. 


The visit didn’t end there. After the tour, Mr. Burton led the group to Abigail’s Tea Room. He introduced us to Mercy Scollay (played by Diana). In the tea room were lunch items, sweets, and tea for purchase. The tea room highlighted samples of the five teas that would have been on board the three ships that night.

With my tea cup in hand, I sampled the teas.

First up was Souchoung. Made from the older larger leaves of Camellia sinensis, they are smoked of over pinewood fire before they are fermented to make a strong black tea. It was one of the more popular teas during the colonial period. Miss Scollay warned me this was a tea that “you’ll either love or you’ll hate.” It was not like anything I had tasted before. This tea was very strong and had a smoky taste. It was like drinking barbecue.

The second was another black tea, Congou. This tea was one of the more expensive teas and was served in the more elite homes. It was full-bodied and well-balanced tea, reminding me of a very good English Breakfast.

The third was the last of the black teas, Bohur Blu. This was the least expensive of the black teas and would have been found in most homes before the passing of the 1773 Tea Tax. The taste on the bitter side and reminded me of your basic tea bag from the grocery store.

The last two teas were green teas. This surprised me. I asked Miss Scollay about this, thinking it rare for green tea to be found outside of Asia at this time. She said that the shipment on the ships destroyed during the Boston Tea Party would have been the first shipment to colonies.

The first of these green teas was Young Hyson. This tea was said to be Thomas Jefferson’s favorite and that he served it at the White House during his presidency. It was a light flowery tea that reminded me of jasmine green tea.

The final tea was Singlo. Picked later in the season, when the leaves are larger, this green tea was a very strong. It reminded me the tea served in Japanese restaurants today.

After sampling the teas, I poured myself a full cup of the Congon to drink with my cranberry-orange scone. As I enjoyed my refreshments, I continued to chat with my new friends. Diana and Armando broke character to tell me about their work. They told me most of the cast were either professional actors or historians. They truly enjoyed working at the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, especially with school groups come to visit. The interactive-multimedia presentation “brings the story to life, makes it real for them,” explained Armando.



Benjamin Burton and Mercy Scollay, Abigail’s Tea Room


I enjoyed my visit to Griffin’s Wharf. A special thank you to Diana and Armando for sharing their time and knowledge with me.

Coming soon:

Part II: Sailors, Brownstones, and Pasta.

Part III: Trollies, Trails, and Seafood

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Oh Look! A Pelican!

Oh look, a pelican!

If you’ve known me any length of time you will know that I am easily distracted by dogs, horses, and birds. If one of these creatures comes into my visual field, you will lose me briefly. One bird, in particular, will capture my attention – the brown pelican.

The brown pelican is a miraculous bird. When I was growing up, they were a rare sight on beaches of Southern California, as their numbers dwindled due to the use of the pesticide DDT. But since the toxin has been banned in the United States the population has rebounded. Just a few years ago I saw a large gathering on the rocks and islets off of coast of Mendocino. Hundreds of them had gathered in preparation for migration. The sight held me mesmerized. I almost forgot to breathe.

When I began writing my novella, Leap of Faith, I wanted to name some of the native animals found on the beautiful islands of the Bahamas. I discovered the brown pelican could be found soaring over the cays of this Caribbean country. So I put one in my story.


Leap of Faith tells the story of Grace, an administrative assistant, working for a Chicago candy manufacturer. Her life takes an unexpected turn one frosty morning when she is knocked off her feet, literally, by a stranger. Not content to remain a stranger, Philippe Santiago offers her a job on his sugar plantation in the Bahamas.

Here is Grace meeting George, the pelican, for the first time as she arrived on Orchid Cay. An excerpt from Leap of Faith:

As they stood on the dock, their luggage was carried down the gangway and loaded into a lime-green golf cart by the lanky, dark crew members.

A light breeze caressed Grace’s cheek. She took in a deep breath and sighed.

“Are you all right?”

“Yes.” She smiled up at him. “I’m just amazed. The air even smells like vanilla.”

“That would be the wild vanilla orchids that give the island its name.” He put his hand on the small of her back and turned her inland. “It is just a short walk to the house.”

A brown pelican waddled over to her and opened its greedy mouth. Grace didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the sight of the poor, ungainly bird and its crooked wings.

“That would be George. He was blown onto the cay during a hurricane last year. Xandra nursed him back to life, but he is too badly injured to care for himself now. He follows her around like a puppy. I’m certain she’s still fishing, so he waits and hopes someone, anyone, will give him a fish.”

“Hey, boss,” called a dark, lanky man unloading their luggage, giving them a bright smile. “I got some fresh bait cut in dat bucket. If you want, I can share with George. Then pretty lady be his friend.”

“That’s an excellent idea, Charlie.”

Philippe reached into the bucket, pulled out a large chunk of fish, and handed it to Grace.

She took the slippery fish between her forefinger and thumb, cringing as she held it at arm’s length. She tentatively dropped it into George’s beak pouch, which he quickly snapped shut with a loud clack.

“Oh,” she said jumping back.

“Don’t you worry, George, he not hurt pretty lady.” Charlie laughed. Grace couldn’t help but smile at the man who towered over her. “Give him another piece.”

She gave the bird second bit of fish and this time she was less timid.

“That should keep him happy until Xandra gets home later this afternoon,” Philippe said. “Now, it’s just straight up this path to the house.”

I hope to have Leap of Faith ready for you to read in its entirety very soon. In the meanwhile, sit back and have a cup of tea.

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Remember . . . the importance of story.

Remember . . .

Stories often begin with “Remember when . . .” Events are marked by “Remember this . . .”

We are told stories from infancy some are real, some are fairytales. We are told stories by our parents, our grandparents, our siblings and our friends.

Sharing stories is nothing new. The human race has been telling stories for millennium. The first stories paintings on cave walls, the first graphic novels really, saying “Remember us.” Ancient kings and scribes left records of great deeds and powerful events, saying “Remember us.” Biblical prophets said, “Remember.” Jesus said, “Remember.” Paul said, “Remember.”

Why is it important that we remember and continue to retell the stories?

Perhaps it is what binds us together in community. The stories we share. The common history we commemorate. They define us as a people. They tell us who we are. They pass down our culture and our values to the next generation. We demonstrate who we are by the stories we choose to remember.

Remember the day President Kennedy died?

Remember when the towers fell?

Remember when the Angels won the World Series?

But sometimes it’s important to reflect on the stories that get forgotten, pushed aside or just ignored. That says something about what we valued at that time and how much things have changed.

Who remembers Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. (March 4, 1877 – July 27, 1963)? He was an African-American inventor. He patented the safety hood, the prototype for the respirator firefighters wear today, and the traffic light, which has prevented countless accidents.

Garrett Morgan

Who remembers Rosalind Elsie Franklin (25 July 1920 – 16 April 1958)? She was Jewish-English chemist and x-ray crystallographer. Her photo, shown to Crick and Watson, without her knowledge, was the key to unlocking the molecular structure of DNA.

Rosalind Franklin

Who remembers Margaret Heafield Hamilton (born August 17, 1936)? She was the computer scientist who wrote, by hand, the code used by NASA to land a man on the moon.

Margaret Hamilton

Within our families, we do the same story telling. It gives us our history as an individual; it binds us into a family.

Remember your great-grandfather crossed the prairie in a covered wagon.

Remember when we went to the Grand Canyon?

Remember when your little brother was born?

But even families have stories that get swept under the rug. Things we’d rather have forgotten. Things we are ashamed of. Things that hurt too much to remember.

Who remembers the cousin that got pregnant and had to “go away” to visit a distant aunt?

Who remembers the sister, who died of a drug overdose?

Who remembers the great-great-grandfather who was hung as a horse thief? (Okay, if you’re writing a family history, this little bit of scandal might be interesting.)

And perhaps this is why I write, to tell the stories that need to be told. Even though novels are fiction, they tell the story of what people valued. Who did they think were heroic? Who did they think were villainous? Stories can change minds.

Would the Civil War have happened in 1861, if Uncle Tom’s Cabin hadn’t been written?


Would we have dared dream of landing on the moon, if From the Earth to the Moon hadn’t been written?


Would our food supply be safer, if The Jungle hadn’t been written?


Stories are also where we learn. We learn new vocabulary and facts. We learn empathy and problem-solving. We experience new things and emotions. All of this from the safety of our favorite chair.

Remember to share your stories – real or imagined. They are important. They are powerful. They are you!

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