Tuesday 30 September 2014

Have You Ever Been to Boston in the Fall?

Boston Public Garden in the fall courtesy streetmedicine.org.

I had my heart set on going to the Boston Public Garden in downtown Boston.  The hotel's front desk person printed out directions for us.  We found the garden without any trouble.  However, we did have to circle the block three times before we found a parking lot.  All of the streets surrounding the Public Garden are one way.

We walked across the Boston Common first.  It is a large expanse of lawns intersected by walking paths.  A few benches line the pathway.  Some of the trees had already changed colour; Massachusetts was ahead of Ontario.  We stopped at a beverage stand where I bought a Powerade for Jacqueline.  Mom and I bought iced tea.  It hit the spot on a warm sunny day.

We crossed Charles Street, walked through a wrought iron gate, and entered the Public Garden.  It looked like a miniature version of Central Park in New York City.  It was a bit of nature in the middle of a big city, surrounded by skyscrapers on the perimeter.  It had grass, trees and a lake or lagoon. My mission was to find the statues of ducklings made famous in the picture book Make Way for Ducklings.  I had researched the background of the book.  The writer/illustrator went to art school in Boston in the 1950's.  He used to sketch in the Public Garden where he saw a family of ducklings. That's how he came up with the story of the ducklings on their way to the park's lagoon and stopping traffic as they cross the street.

But before we met the ducklings, we met a wedding couple taking photos under the bridge by the lagoon..  Jacqueline admired the ducks and mallards taking a drink of water.  I spotted the ducklings in the corner of the park.  We made our way over to find a couple of toddlers sitting on them.  Mom thought a blond haired girl of about two was particularly cute.  It was Jacqueline's turn to sit on one of the ducks; Mama Duck was the biggest so that's where she sat as I snapped a picture.

We strolled around the lagoon.  A one-man band played.  Jacqueline spotted a squirrel munching on a nut.  We entered a circular garden full of flowers, still in bloom.  In the center was a statue of a man on a horse.  I thought maybe it was Paul Revere, but instead it was Washington.  I snapped a picture and then we headed across the bridge..

Have you ever been to Boston in the fall?  As we walked back across the Boston Common, I thought about how we got the best of both summer and fall:  the flowers were still in full bloom and yet the trees were colourful too.  As we approached the exit to the park, we heard the trademark car horns -- the same car horns that the ducklings had heard back in the 1950's when they tried to cross the street. The peace and quiet was good while it lasted.

Note:  For more information about Make Way for Ducklings, read my post at http://alinefromlinda.blogspot.ca/2013/06/june-30.html.

George Washington statue in Boston Public Garden courtesy upload.wikimedia.org.

Monday 29 September 2014

The American Girl Store

All summer my daughter Jacqueline has been talking about American Girl dolls.  She has been researching them online.  She knows their names, clothing, accessories and furniture.  She even started an American girl club at school, even thought none of the four members has an American girl doll.

But that all changed this past weekend.  My parents had planned a trip to Boston for a family reunion. My dad wanted me to come along to help with the driving.  The night before we left, Jacqueline asked:  "Can I come with you to Boston?"  My first reaction was to say no.  But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was a good idea.  There was lots of room in the car, in the hotel room and it would be like a giant field trip filled with geography and history.  So I said yes.

We arrived Friday night.  On Saturday, we headed out bright and early to the Natick Mall, about 25 minutes outside of Boston.  But this wasn't just any mall.  The only mall that we Canadians have that is bigger is West Edmonton Mall.  It has its own parking garage.  We entered the mall by Macy's, hoping to find a place to eat.  It turned out that there were two food courts, both of which were at the opposite end of the mall.  We stopped at McDonald's for breakfast where Jacqueline had a egg McMuffin with bacon, I had "hotcakes" and my Mom ate a bagel.  My Dad took half an hour to park and half an hour to find the McDonald's.  Ten people in the mall swore up and down that it had no McDonald's -- that's how big it is.

After breakfast, we followed the star symbol to the American Girl Store (http://www.americangirl.com/index.php).  Two security guards greeted us at the entrance.  We said "We're from Canada.  Do we get a discount?" " I've never heard that one before," said the female guard.  Jacqueline was in awe at what she saw:  dolls, dolls, everywhere.  Caroline, the War of 1812 doll.  She comes with a black and white kitten called "Inkpot" (for a price).  Kit, the Great Depression doll.  She has a wooden rolltop desk and a typewriter because she wants to become a journalist when she grows up.  Rebecca, the World War I doll.  My Mom offered to buy Jacqueline the matching purple dress that Rebecca wore, but my daughter couldn't decide.  Addy, the Civil War doll.  She has an ice cream making set.  Josefina, the Mexican immigrant doll.  She comes with a clay oven and a freshly baked loaf of bread.  Kaya, the Native Indian doll.  Kaya rides a pony.  Samantha, the early 19th Century.  Samantha's ice cream parlour has a tiny silver cash register.

While the prices are steep, the displays are enticing.  I like the fact that they are historical.  Each doll comes with a book, explaining some of the background of the era.  Jacqueline made her decision:  she chose Caroline, the War of 1812 doll.  "Good choice," I said.  "The War of 1812 was fought between the Americans and the Canadians (British).  That's an appropriate doll for a Canadian girl to get."

After our purchase, we headed upstairs where more dolls waited.  Half of the upper floor is taken u by a bistro where girls can eat with their newly purchased dolls.  But we had spent enough money for one visit.  Jacqueline took a couple of photos to show her American Girl Doll club members back home.  With Caroline in a giant shopping bag, we headed back to the car.

Thursday 25 September 2014

The Silence of Nature

1.  Crunching leaves courtesy www.mobileapples.com.

2.  Babbling brook courtesy ipadmini-wallpapers.org.

3.  Chirping birds courtesy 3.bp.blogspot.com.

4.  Chirping crickets in a field courtesy www.mi9.com.

5.  Lapping of the waves courtesy www.paleotoronto.org.

6.  Whisper of the wind in the trees courtesy istock.com.

7.  Seagulls' cawing courtesy wikimedia.org.

8.  The pitter patter of rain courtesy cloudfront.net.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

One Square Inch of Silence

To complement my post "Noise! Noise! Noise!" I am making a list of quiet places here on Earth.

1.  Hike through the Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, and listen to the hypnotic sounds of nature.

2.  Poke your head inside a Sitka Spruce on Rialto Beach.

3.  Visit the Great Northwest and be astounded by the size of the trees and the sound of the forest.

4.  Listen to dawn in the Midwest.

5.  Visit a small town in Iceland.

This small town in Iceland.

6.  Visit the Austrian Alps.

This house on a mountain slope in the Kaprun ski region, Austria

7.  Visit a beach house in Maldives.

This beach house in the Maldives.

8.  Visit Cape Neddeck Lighthouse in Maine.

The Cape Neddick Lighthouse in York, Maine.

9.  Visit a peninsula in Norway.

This house on a peninsula in Skudeneshavn, Rogaland Fylke, in Norway.\

10.  Visit a cabin by a waterfalls in Isafjordur.

This placid cabin by a waterfall in the valleys by Isafjordur.

Source:  www.buzzfeed.com

Tuesday 23 September 2014

A Beacon of Light

1.  Lindau Lighthouse, Germany courtesy mentalfloss.com.

2.  Portland Head Light, Maine courtesy mentalfloss.com.

3.  St. Augustine Light, Florida courtesy mentalfloss.com.

4.  Tower of Hercules, Spain courtesy mentalfloss.com.

5.  Bass Harbour Head, Maine courtesy mentalfloss.com.

6.  Newcastle Nobby courtesy weburbanist.com.

7.  Europa Point Light courtesy weburbanist.com.

8.  Mukilteo Lighthouse courtesy weburbanist.com.

9.  Kovalam Beach courtesy weburbanist.com.

10.  "Flying vs Rowing" courtesy weburbanist.com.

Monday 22 September 2014

Presidential Palaces

Here are ten famous houses in history.

Monticello resized on picnik

1.  Monticello was Thomas Jefferson's house in Virginia courtesy www.bootsnall.com.

2.  Franklin D. Roosevelt's Hyde Park estate on the Hudson River courtesy historystarproductions.com.

3.  George Washington's Mount Vernon estate courtesy tripadvisor.com.

Hermitage Mansion

4.  Andrew Jackson's The Hermitage, Nashville, Tennessee courtesy www.thehermitage.com.

5.  Woodrow Wilson's house in Washington D.C. courtesy www.woodrowwilsonhouse.org.

6.  John F. Kennedy's birthplace, Brookline, Massachusetts courtesy www.tripadvisor.com.

7.  Sherwood Forest, Virginia, home of John Tyler courtesy en.wikipedia.org.

8.  James Madison's home, Montpelier, Virginia courtesy blogspot.com.

9.  James Buchanan's house, Wheatland, Pennsylvania courtesy padutchcountry.com.

10.  Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, New York, home of Theodore Roosevelt courtesy en.wikipedia.org.

Sunday 21 September 2014

Mason, Jackson & Wyatt

To match my post, "Lucy, Mia & Scarlett", I am writing today about the Top Baby Names for Boys for 2014.

Liam is #1.  I think of the actor Liam Neeson.  It can be short for William.

Mason is #4 on the list.  That's the name of my nephew who just turned 3.  It's also the name of a TV show "Perry Mason" from the 1950's.  Surnames seem to be common these days as first names.

Jackson is #8.  My daughter Jacqueline had a boy named Jackson in her Kindergarten class.  Andrew Jackson was the 7th president of the United States.  Michael Jackson was, of course, the King of Pop.

Jack is #10.  I think of President John F. Kennedy whose nickname was Jack.  His name fit so nicely with his wife's nickname, Jackie.

Luke is #11.  It's a strong, masculine name.  I think of Luke Duke from the TV show "The Dukes of Hazzard".  Paul Newman starred in a movie called "Cool Hand Luke" in the 1960's.

William is #15.  My brother's name is William.  Prince William is popular right now with his recent marriage and new baby.  It's a solid, masculine name.

Wyatt is #26.  I think of Wyatt Earp, the Deputy Marshal from Tombstone, Arizona.

Dylan is #32.  I immediately think of the folk singer Bob Dylan.  I don't like his raspy voice but I do like his poetic lyrics.  Also, Dylan Thomas was a famous poet.

Landon is #37.  I think of Michael Landon who played Mr. Ingalls on the TV show "Little House on the Prairie".

Saturday 20 September 2014

Hampton Breaks Colour Barrier in Music

"As far as I'm concerned, what [Goodman] did in those days -- and they were hard days in 1937 -- made it possible for Negroes to have their chance in baseball and in other fields..." (Lionel Hampton)

     Just as Branch Rickey paved the way for Jackie Robinson to break the colour barrier in baseball, it was Benny Goodman who paved the way for Lionel Hampton to break the colour barrier in big band jazz.  In 1937, Goodman invited Hampton up on stage to play piano one night at the Palomar Ballroom, a full ten years before Jackie Robinson played for the Yankees.  

     Benny Goodman, the King of Swing, went on to form the first integrated jazz quartet which included Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa.  Lionel Hampton mastered other instruments besides the piano including the drums and the vibraphone.  In 1940, Lionel Hampton said goodbye to Benny Goodman and formed his own orchestra, recording such hits like "Flying Home" and "Stardust".

     Lionel Hampton continued to record jazz music until 1995.  He received many awards and honors including an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Howard University.  He was invited to the White House for Black Music Week in 2001.  

Lionel Hampton in New York City circa 1946 courtesy en.wikipedia.org.

Thursday 18 September 2014

Chapter by Chapter

I've spent the last three weeks editing my chapter book I'm Just Daisy.  A kind editor from B.C. critiqued my manuscript for free and offered me some constructive criticism.  His two main points were:  your prose is too flat and you need to engage your characters more.  So, chapter by chapter, I've gone through my manuscript, trying to follow his advice.  I cut the final chapter which seemed unnecessary.  I added a chapter "The Tea Party" to give the book a bit of humour.  I lengthened several scenes, adding dialogue to bring them to life.  I added details to every scene to make the story less generic.  I've given the main character Daisy a stronger point of reference.  Wherever possible, I've tried to re-work important items into the book in later chapters:  Daisy's famous butter tarts, a yellow-throated bird that lives in the Muskokas, the confetti that lands in Daisy's hat on her voyage to Canada.  The editing process gave me a chance to do further research on the era.  I worked in a paragraph about the history of the Model T, Charlie's first automobile.

I discovered once again that I don't just love the research stage and the writing process; I love the editing process.  What's the next step?  I've made a list of ten more publishers to query.  I feel confident knowing that this time I can mail them a stronger version of I'm Just Daisy

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Spite Houses

"A spite house is a building constructed or modified to irritate neighbours or other parties with land stakes.  Spite houses often serve as obstructions, blocking out light or access to neighbouring buildings or as flamboyant symbols of defiance." 

We had a spite fence on our street for years.  One neighbour had asked the other neighbour for years to share the cost of building a fence and been turned down.  Then they had a fight and as revenge, the neighbour who had turned down the fence idea, built half a fence.  It remained that way for ten years until five years ago when the house was sold; a condition of the sale was that the other half of the fence be built.

However, I had never heard of a spite house until today when I read about it on Facebook.  Here are some famous spite houses:


1.  The Skinny House in Boston, Massachusetts is "the narrowest house in Boston" according to The Boston Globe (wikipedia.org).

2.  Marblehead, Massachusetts circa 1912.  This house was the result of two brothers arguing over an inheritance (wikipedia.org).

3.  Alameda Spite House was built after the landowner had a large portion of his property taken away by the city to build a street (wikipedia.org).

4.  Montlake Spite House, Seattle, Washington.  The owner's neighbour made an insulting low offer on the piece of land so he built an ugly house on it to spite him (wikipedia.org).

5.  O'Reilly Spite House, Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The owner wanted his next door neighbour to buy a piece of his land.  The neighbour refused and the owner built this 308 square foot building (wikipedia.org).

6.  "Freeport Spite House" was built to block the route of Lena Avenue in Freeport, New York (wikipedia.org).

7.  The McCobb Spite House in Maine was built as a result of a dispute between two brothers.  Thomas Mccobb assumed his father would leave his house to him in his will.  However, while Thomas was at sea, the father gave the house to his stepbrother.  Thomas built this spite house right across the street from the original house (wikipedia.org).

8.  The Taylor Spite House in Maryland was built when Dr. John Taylor learned that the city wanted to extend Record Street to meet up with another street.  He found out about an ordinance preventing road construction if work was in progress on a substantial building in the road's path (wikipedia.org).

9.  The Hollensbury Spite House, Alexandria, Virginia, was built in 1830 by the owner of the adjacent house to prevent people from using the alleyway next door (mentalfloss.com).

10.  Unknown spite house circa 1920's (mentalfloss.com).