Sunday, May 17, 2015

Great Hamburgers in a former Wool Mill in North Andover, MA.

Sometimes on a Sunday afternoon, you just get an itch to do something new.  A month or so ago, that happened, so with very minimal arm twisting I got my husband to go out for dinner at a spot I had made note of when brunching with my daughter.

I didn't know if it was fancy or not.  Yelp gave it good reviews, especially for drinks and burgers.
This is what its home looked like originally. Jaime's was a  bit higher priced than I expected, but  it was also  upscale in attitude. The food was delicious. We stuck with the burgers (around $15 with fries) -- but didn't feel ripped off because of the presentation and atmosphere. Cooked to perfection.  I sucked up my first no-salt Margarita which probably didn't hurt.  I'm wondering if salt and Margaritas aren't a "thing" in New England. There were plenty of empty tables, with a moderate crowd watching hockey finals on flat screens at the bar.  Our waiter claimed that the sheltered outdoor patio was VERY popular.  (It was very breezy when we were there and the patio was deserted. I can imagine it busy week days  because of the Converse National HQ across the street, along with several smaller businesses, artist lofts, residences,and other development projects.

What may have been the biggest surprise was the small museum of impressive turbines that ran the wool processing equipment in the original mill building.  It would seem that Davis and Furber carding and twining machines are used, even though that company seems to have been bought out or otherwise succumbed soon after Mr. Davis's death in the early 1900's.
 Can you imagine the decibels these would generate if going full speed?


Here's another image I found of the original factory.  The restaurant entry is at street level just to the left of where the flag is. 
Below is the dusk silhouette of the tower on the West side of High Street.  You can see its roof in the etching above, too. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

When the Plein Air is Cold and Gusty

 A couple of weeks ago when it seemed Spring might finally be on her way, I joined a number of Nashua Breakfast Club members to do some sketching and/or painting in New Castle, New Hampshire (just south of Portsmouth). Our meeting place was described as "near the Wentworth,.  The Wentworth location has had its ups and downs.  At present, it has been magnificently restored by Marriott and is listed as a spa location.


I wasn't lost, but I needed to wander a little,  which meant that at first, I landed at the wrong state park.

Fort Stark was apparently quite important and busy during WWII.  It won't be open for visitors until after Memorial day. People who wrote reviews either loved or hated the fact that the Fort had been benignly neglected. 

  I got a great view of a lighthouse, though.
When I looked to the Northwest, I realized that what I had thought was a big building was actually a ship!
  "The Carriage House" on Wild Rose Lane looked promising for an architectural rendering. I don't know if it is a B&B or what.  Couldn't find listings for anything with that named that matched what I found.  Besides,  I was still searching for "my people."

 I finally found actual destination was Great Island Common.  
The Common is a public park of about 30 acres.  There are picnic tables, benches, trees, decks, docks and bbq stands. The day WE were there, there was also a bone chilling wind.  So much for Spring!  I did one page of sketches and then said adios and returned to the shelter of my car.

We did take time to pose behind this artists' frame. 
Because of the time of day, lighting, and prevailing wind, the view below was the "best" I could find.  I actually had more fun sketching a painter. 
  Nearer the Wentworth Hotel was a minor street named Campbell's Lane.  There were several large homes on that private road.  They had views of tinny harbor inlets.

 I wish our house was in a location like this.  I'm sure we'd see family members and guests more often.
I did realize that I NEED a stool for sketching. Darling Hubby got me one for Mother's Day!  Yay.  I'm wanting to go back to New Castle and use it!  Might even see if there is a Coast Guard Station tour.

How was this day different from all others? It was Mother's Day

Mother's Day is kind of a strange occasion.Anna Jarvis just wanted to commemorate the good works of her own mother after she died in the early 1900's.  Her mother had been a peace activist in Civil War times and started Mother's Work Day groups to improve public health.  The Senate was encouraged to proclaim a national Mother's Day observance, but refused because they didn't want to have to honor mothers-in-law.
Eventually, Woodrow Wilson prevailed and the "holiday" was instituted in 1914.  Hallmark got into the biz by 1920 and Ms. Jarvis was chafed.  She tried to rescind the whole thing. She hated the commercialism.
It certainly had little to do with toddlers making cards for their mums. Or Dads getting their kids to be surrogate compliment givers.

Turns out my husband was right... it isn't about Motherhood or ALL mothers.  It's supposed to be about your OWN.  And it isn't supposed to be about mothering, either.  So many women who want(ed) to be mothers but who weren't suffer through this day.  Not to mention the women whose children are lost or gone.

I don't know what my children were thinking about me as they planned our Mother's Day outing.  Someday, I'd like to know what they thought about me as a mother.

What I do know is that they invested a lot of planning and thought to making it happen. The priorities seemed to be
  • Food
  • Bird and nature watching with a wee bit of walking thrown in
  • Something creative
  • More food

We met at the Mad Raven in Waltham, MA for brunch.   My husband, grown kids and granddaughter.  The coffee was great, the omelet satisfying and conversation relaxed.  Note to self:  do not talk about their Dad.  Almost 30 years and there's still pain about a divided family.  Sad for this mother.

Then we were each gifted with a rubber stamp, an ink pad, and a mini notebook.  My son's team got a crown stamp, I got a camera with a heart in it, and my daughter's was something about woman power. We were going to go Letterboxing.  I had heard of it, but not done it.  My daughter has searched out several letter boxes (the web site is and she thought it would be fun for all of us to do.  It is a sort of combined treasure hunt, nature walk, and excuse to do something together.  GREAT IDEA.
We had been told to wear comfortable shoes and it was a BEAUTIFUL day.  I'm not sure we've had Spring, but this was summer-like in all the best ways. We headed for "the parking lot in back of Shaw's Grocery and found the path.  They we took a gander (!) at the instructions for finding the letter box.  Um.  They were vague.  VERY VAGUE.

Obviously,  some of the clue writers have never done that high school speech assignment about giving instructions.  "Count 40 steps past the marker in the ground."  "Pass the second pair of granite markers..." which were probably 2500 steps past the first pair! But undaunted, my daughter tried to figure them out.
We never found this particular letter box, but did have a nice walk/hike.  It was a challenge for me and possibly my VERY pregnant daughter-in-law.  Hubby bailed out because his joints hurt.But it was an honest effort, invigorating and definitely a shared experience.

But I loved wandering with my family members, chatting and watching for birds, bicyclists, squirrels and people sleeping on the benches.  Hard to imagine that this path was completely overgrown  not too long ago.

 I recognized Mallards, Herons, Robins and nearly ubiquitous Canada Geese.  I did admire the gumption of the one who was perched on the antique train trestle. If you search on line, there's also a great treatise on all of the wild, native plants the conservationists planted in the area.

And then there was more food.  I should probably have just had water, but Dairy Joy had fantastic Yelp reviews about their soft serve.  I had coffee flavored... and it was indeed creamy and delicious.

I arrived home with tired feet, a tender heart and a sunburned neck, knowing that even though I wasn't a peace activist, suffragette or crusader, the children were willing to spend time together-- while NOT succumbing to the commercialization that irked Mrs. Jarvis so much.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Tomie dePaola helps celebrate Family Literacy in Concord, New Hampshire!

I am SO glad that New Hampshire has a statewide Humanities Council!

Last Saturday we drove to the Concord Auditorium to hear beloved children's book writer and illustrator Tomie de Paola talk about his 60 years in the business.   He spoke conversationally with interviewer Rebecca Rule and then answered questions. I was surprised and grateful to know that TD Bank was the primary sponsor with further support by the Rowley Agency.  We also discovered another independent bookstore in town, Gibsons.  (they supplied books to buy and get autographed.  I understand that Mr. DePaola stayed for TWO HOURS signing books.  Pretty generous for someone who described himself as 80 and a half!

We were asked not to take flash photos... which meant I only captured the aura of this saintly gnome.  (He's not actually wearing vestments.  But he claims that when you are an artist you MUST wear scarves.  His was of nearly Whovian length.    You can see a dozen professional (i.e. GOOD) photos on the NHHC website here.     The identifiable image at right is his publicity photo from the SCBWI.  Isn't he devilishly darling?

One little girl asked if he had children.  He noted he had been married for about five minutes to a French woman, and had never  had children.  Then he asked the girl if she would like to be HIS daughter.  She paused and ultimately said "No."  I'm thinking I might have said yes.  Or at least asked to be an honorary niece.
 I wish my phone camera had been able to capture the full charm of the childhood(?) drawing of a cat.

 You are most likely familiar with his first big hit, Strega Nona.  He's written and illustrated more than 200 books, many of which are retellings of folk tales or lives of lesser known Saints. Since I left the world of children's books, he also wrote a series of books about his childhood living at 26 Fairmount Street in Meriden, Connecticut.

Who knew that minor adventures, mishaps and major life changes, charmingly told, could be so enjoyable.  Think of the kindness of Beverly Cleary's family tales and the sense of "a different place; different time" of the Little House Books.

The customs from the Italian (paternal) and Irish (maternal) sides of the clan are recognized as noteworthy, but depicted as just the way things were.

He talked at some length about how he KNEW he wanted to draw and illustrate from the age of four.  AND how supportive his entire family was. He had twin Aunts who were professional photographers in New York City, and one of his Dad's cousins was a famous singer of the era, so the arts were a part of the atmosphere.  He repeated his Aunt's advice which really resonated with me:

He then told most of the story in The Art Lesson which included a teacher who didn't understand the art prodigy (at first) but who became a life long friend.
We had no patience for standing in line for autographs (I've gotten his autograph before, and my grown son has a signed copy of Strega Nona), but we did want to find the independent bookstore.  While I was there, I took pictures of the titles they hadn't taken to the auditorium.

He also talked about the support he gets from his editor, Nancy.  I had no idea that he would  have qualms about his drawings or story telling given his experience, success and crowds of adoring fans.  I, too, am grateful that Nancy Paulsen helps him keep keeping on.  (And envy that she gets to do so!)
You might think that because his illustrations (and fine art paintings) are so simple, he didn't have "real" training.  But he did.  He went to the Pratt Institute, and then spent almost 20 years teaching at various schools in New England and California.  It wasn't until then that he devoted full time to books and illustrations.
To my admittedly amateur eye, when you look at his work critically, the composition, design, color and "mood" meet all of the highest criteria.

  " I try to be as clear and simple as I can be in my illustrations so that the child can tell what is going on 
and what the emotions are. "
Of course, I've been a "fan" for years.  But what struck me more than anything else that afternoon was what a NICE HUMAN BEING Mr. DePaola is.  And I can be critical, judgmental and snarky (you probably know that if you read much of my blog!).   
After a reference to the many many books of bible stories, lives of the saints and so forth, the interviewer asked him at one point to identify what was important to him. He said that although one might expect it to be religion or God, is was actually Faith.  And Family.  And (of course) Love.  All I can say is that we would all be better off is we were as loving and lovable as Mr. DePaola.

Thank you for the lovely afternoon.