Friday, May 27, 2011

Out and About in the Boston Area

As many of you already know, I lived most of the first half of my life in and around Boston..

These days, I try to get back for a visit once and year, but it often turns out to be closer to every two years. Fortunately, many friends and family come to visit me so we do stay in touch.

The first part of my visit was with Amy, who lives south of Boston. The evening that I arrived, Amy and George got freshly cooked lobsters from a place in Hull. This was the best lobster I've ever eaten...and much bigger than any I get in my local seafood restaurants. What a treat and the perfect start to a week in New England.

On my first day of my trip, I spoke about "Tea Culture" at UMass Boston's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

After my talk, some family, Phyllis, Manny, Caroline, as well as Joe and Amy, went to lunch on the waterfront in Quincy at Siro's.

One of their specials this day was Fried Clams. I could not pass them up and, just like the evening before's lobster, they were unbelievably fresh and delicious. Guess making those lobsters and clams fly to California is a bit much to demand of them. They don't get off the plane tasting the same way they do when they are prepared fresh closer to their origin!

After the wonderful lunch at Siro's, we headed back to Amy's house where George was preparing our dinner: Portuguese Cod Stew which was so delicious, I devoured it, despite my rather large lunch a few hours earlier.

Most of my second full day was spent with Amy and another longtime friend, Cheryl, at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA).

The MFA dates back to 1876 when it opened in Boston's Copley Square. In 1909, the MFA moved to a new Beaux Arts building on Huntington Avenue, where it has remained. I get regular emails from the MFA and was anxious to see their new Art of the Americas Wing which opened in November.

This new wing is a major expansion for this already-large museum. It enables the MFA to double the number of objects in their Art of the Americas collection that can be on view at any time. The new wing was designed by Foster + Partners (London). In my estimation, the new wing, while dramatically different from the older MFA, works well with the old architecture.

In addition to having lunch in the New American Café in the new wing we spent most of our viewing time seeing Art of the America's exhibit which occupy the three floors of the new wing.

For my lunch, I continued to enjoy local seafood and ordered the Fried Clam Po' Boy sandwich...well worth the splurge!

One of the most memorable pieces on exhibit is the John Singer Sargent "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (1882) which Sargent exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1883.

The vases on either side of the painting are the actual Chinese vases depicted in the art work.

We saved time to view the special Chihuly "Through the Looking Glass" exhibit (through August 7, 2011), which, while much less extensive than the big Chihuly show that was recently in San Francisco's De Young Museum, was enjoyable to view to Chihuly fans like features selective pieces from the larger traveling exhibit.

Amy and I started our final day together with a very long walk on Nantasket Beach in Hull.

Nantasket is the beach where I went most often, as a child. The beach is still beautiful, but the Paragon Park amusement park, with its wooden roller coaster, carousel and game arcade, is gone...completely closed in 1984. I have wonderful memories of riding the carousel and playing skeeball in the penny arcade, in hopes of winning a stuffed animal or some other coveted prize.

It was a very warm the morning that we walked the beach and it was just being cleaned up of winter debris, in anticipation of the Memorial Day weekend that was just a few days off.

Halfway through our walk, we left the beach to walk a few blocks into town for pastries and coffee at Weinberg's Bakery.

It was well worth the detour, not only to rest a bit but to enjoy the freshly-baked Cinnamon Chip Muffin that I chose from the bakery selection. Weinberg's has been at Nantasket Beach since 1942 and is a favorite with the locals; it's the kind of place a tourist might pass by, but the kind of place I always enjoy discovering because it is at places like this that I get a feel for the local community.

And, we got tipped off to Weinberg's newest restaurant venture a block away, Lynda's, which has table service and serves full breakfasts (all kinds of egg dishes, Pancakes, Waffles, French Toast, etc.) all day long, along a more expansive menu for lunch. Amy and I stopped at Lynda's to take a look and talked with the owner who proudly showed us around. The main dining room is cozy and inviting. All lunch items are priced at under $7. If I were to have lunch here, I'd have one of their enormous Submarine Sandwiches, probably the Meatball Sub (Sub sandwiches are big sandwiches made on a long French or Italian roll and packed with meats and cheeses. They are often featured in restaurants and delis where there are large Italian American communities. While called Submarine Sandwiches in New England, a similar sandwich is called a Hero, Hoagie, Grinder, Poor Boy, and several other names, depending of what part of the United States.)

One final Nantasket Beach foodie item is pictured here.

It's called Linda Bean's Perfect Maine Lobster Roll and specializes in freshly-made Lobster Rolls, served to go at a walk-up window, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. A Lobster Roll is another New England food specialty: Cold Lobster Salad in a top-loading hot dog bun. Linda Bean's Lobster Rolls are packed with a quarter pound of lobster meat, the equivalent of the meat from a one-pound lobster. Yes, you can get a Lobster Roll in the Bay Area at a few restaurants that prepare them and sell them for about $24 a sandwich (!!!!!), but, there is nothing like the real thing in New England. An added interest item related to Linda Bean's is that she is the grand daughter of L.L. Bean of Maine, the well-known purveyor of outdoor gear and clothing. This Nantasket location is a branch of her Maine lobster restaurants, most of which are in Maine.

From Amy's, I headed to Brookline to spend the rest of my visit with cousins, Jonathan and JR. More about that in my next post.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


In mid-April, my local hospital, John Muir Medical Center's facility in Walnut Creek, opened a new building, the Tom and Billie Long Patient Tower.

As a neighbor and a patient of this medical center, I've been following the progress of this new building for over a decade.

Just before it's April 17, 2011, opening, there was a big community open house where we got to tour the building. It is a beautiful state-of-the-art medical facility. Not only is the inside of the building spectacular, so is the outside.

Last week, Louie and I set out to take a walk around John Muir's new landscape, hardscape, and public art.

Keeping with the theme of the hospital's name, the landscape pays tribute to John Muir and his explorations in the High Sierra.

The following two photos are of rocky "mountains" with a waterfall that becomes a blue glass river leading from the mountains to the hospital entrance.

I especially like that there are many park-like areas around the building where people can sit, meditate, or simply eat their lunch. I've spent my share of time hanging around hospitals with nowhere to sit or relax or just have some time for myself. At John Muir, there is an abundance of seating areas, walkways, and interesting plants and art.

One of the most peaceful places to sit is in Sharon's Garden, a garden, financed by donations from Don and Sharon Ritchey. It has benches, inspirational quotes and a sculptural backdrop representing mountains.

The hospital faces both La Casa Via and Ygnacio Valley Road. These photos are part of the landscape along Ygnacio Valley Road and winding around to the La Casa Via side.


Well, last Sunday was Animals on Broadway in Walnut Creek.

And, as he has for the past 9 years, Louie was there to take part in the doggie walk as well as to partake of the festivities and free samples from the many booths that lined the street in the Broadway Plaza shopping center in Walnut Creek. Many animal rescue organizations had booths at the event and brought dogs along in hopes of finding them new homes.

Animals on Broadway is a fundraiser for Tony LaRussa's Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) a worthy organization dedicated to finding homes for animals. Several of our neighbors have rescued dogs from ARF and these dogs are all wonderful companion animals. In addition to rescuing animals, ARF offers classes and other services to assist people and their animals.

Sunday started out rainy, but that did not keep any of us away.

As the day progressed, the sun came out.

We started with the walk that was about a mile long, best as we could estimate. It was very well organized and we all remained safe while walking on public sidewalks and crossing several intersections...there were wonderful volunteer monitors all along the way. Of course, there was always time to make the necessary pit stop.

Just past the finish line, there were places for the dogs to refresh themselves.

Louie made friends with many dogs. He seemed to single out other black poodles like himself, but made sure to mingle with dogs of all breeds.

Our Pet Sitter, Allison of Housepetality had a booth there and we visited with her and her staff. It was at Animals on Broadway several years ago, when we were in need of a pet sitter, that we found Allison and her company. We highly recommend Housepetality.

Here's Allison with her own dog, Finnegan.

And, this is Cody, who also accompanied Allison to the event.

Some dogs dressed up quite a bit.

The event went from 10:30 a.m. until at least 4 p.m. It's fun and a special fundraiser in which we always participate.