Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas in Douglas, 2009

Susie and I spent Christmas Day with her family as they gathered at Dick and Dorothy's home in Douglas, MA. The food was delicious, the hospitality warm and the conversation lively. But hey, the photographs speak for themselves:

Cathy and Bernice:

Sister and brother - Bernice and Frank:

Mieke -- jetting in from Brooklyn:

And of course it wouldn't have been a Christmas gathering for a group of Vandenbergs without one round of the Bernice game -- Bernice, Mary and Dorothy:

Uncle Frank:


A day of smiles indeed:

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Remembering Scarborough Beach

After one major snowstorm followed by day-after-day of bitterly, brutally cold temperatures, a sneak back at warmer times along the ocean seems most appropriate.

Monday, December 21, 2009

December in Providence and Spring in Paris

As some of you know from personal experience, the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and various other parts of the eastern US got hit by a fairly dramatic snowstorm this past weekend. In some ways it was convenient timing -- it began early Sunday morning when most folks were safely tucked in their beds. We were at any rate.

By the time all was said and done we had more than a foot piled on our condo parking lot with two feet in drifts. And the temperatures were brutal -- more like a deep hollow in Vermont in February.

But today the sun is out, Susie is off tidying up a few things at Gracie's, like this delicious chocolate ganache with cocoa mascarpone cream:

Our one piece of big news is that we will be returning to Paris in the spring, something that is fast developing into a tradition it seems. Anyway, Susie has her tickets -- she's going from mid-March until mid-May and I plan to join her for the last three or four weeks.

My hope is for Susie to decompress, unwind, study French and spend quality time walking the Seine.

And for me?

I have two objectives: one is I hope spend a week in Italy, most of that in Siena and Rome if possible. It would be nice to get to Mouchan to see Richard and Pauline, to go to Strasbourg or anywhere in the Alsace for that matter, to return for a longer stay in Normandy . . . the list goes on. Certainly to spend a solid day in the Musee d'Orsay and a schedule-free trip to Pere Lachaise.

Oh, and in case you were curious, here's the roofline of the building I work in, formerly a warehouse converted into an indoor shopping mall on the Providence River, it now houses a variety of offices:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Afternoon light in Providence

There are times, usually early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the light in Providence is extraordinarily beautiful. The early morning light resembles a light pink champagne; the afternoon light is an incredible cross between light orange and yellow. I'm no designer so my palette is rather weak here; but it is gorgeous.

Anyway, I took these images from the 3rd floor of our office building in Davol Square, overlooking the point where the Providence River readies itself to move up in the world and become a full-fledged bay -- the Narragansett Bay in fact. Not that the Narragansetts called it that, of course.

This is the old Narragansett Electric building -- and another abandoned city project:

Finally, the Point Street Bridge -- with just a hint of Photoshop:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving with the Bechis in Asciano

As I was going through some photographs I took some years ago in Italy, I came across a short series of images from Thanksgiving of 2005. Susie and I were living in Siena and had been invited to join Patti and Roberto Bechi and a few of their friends for Thanksgiving at a home of another of theirs in Asciano, just south of Siena.

That's Patti above.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving in Douglas 2009

Dick and Dorothy generously (and once again) opened their home to family and friends -- but they did much more and fixed virtually the entire meal as well! (Photo above: Susie, Joyce, Mary and Dick.)

Our friends Andrea and her mother Barbara met Susie and me at our place and the four of us convoyed north up Route 146 heading for the wilds of Douglas, MA. Thirty minutes later we were pulling into the driveway off of Linden Street and hauling sparkling wine, fresh-baked provolone bread and a massive pear-almond-cherry tart into the house.

Andrea and Barbara had brought a scrumptious cheese plate, which was the focus of attention for the next hour or so as we all caught up on the latest news.

Uncle Frank and Cathy as well as Joyce, Carl and Jonathan (all three back in civilization briefly from the north woods of Maine) were already there and Mary and Mallory arrived soon after we did.

In addition to Susie's desserts we also had a couple of pies compliments of the Quincy, MA, contingent. (Sadly, Mieke was hung up in NYC and couldn't join us this year.) Mary decorated the table and Dorothy and Dick laid on the traditional T'Day meal: an incredibly moist (read perfectly brined) turkey with all the trimmings, mashed potatoes and gravy, whipped sweet potato casserole, little carrots done to perfection, and tasty green beans (I swear Dorothy has a sixth sense about picking exceptional beans at the grocery store).

We lingered at the table, chatted about one thing or another but mainly enjoyed being together. So many have so little and no one to share even that little with. We are fortunate indeed.

Joyce showing her latest quilt project:

Andrea and her mother Barbara:


Uncle Frank:


Gathered together (again), Susie, Joyce, Carl and Uncle Frank:

Some smiles just can't be beat:

Oh, and for more photos check out Dick's slideshow on Picasa.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Paying our respects to Coach and the Concord Four

Fall is still hanging on here, although most will agree winter is inevitable and that such arboreal tenacity is futile, but nonetheless fascinating and rewarding to the eye.

Work is going well for both of us -- you'll be pleased to know that I now style myself an "image library designer." Just think of the pretentiousness that entails. (Still, it is difficult organizations to put their images in one place and make them accessible. That's where I come in. The question is, where do I go out?)

Susie, on the other hand, continues to make incredible desserts and has just come up with her own multi-layered version of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Ummmmmmm Good!

The end of the week brought a relaxing dinner at one of our favorite neighborhood eateries: Broadway Bistro. The place was filling up -- it's not terribly large to begin with -- so we sat a the bar. Susie had the salmon and I had Pat's turkey meat loaf. His food is not only what we have come to style as "comfort" but scrumptious and filling at the same time. Good value as well.

I suppose the highlight of our week -- maybe the whole month -- was a trip we took this last Sunday to Cranston, RI and Concord, MA. Susie and I wanted to say thanks to Nick "the Coach" Colasanto who, even though he's been gone for many years now, still manages to make us laugh every time we see him on "Cheers."

The day began a little blustery but sunny as we headed off just the couple of miles or so from our house to St. Anne's cemetery in Cranston and conveniently arrived just as church was letting out. We parked the car, found the entrance in this huge burial complex wedged between St. Anne's and St. Mary's churches on Cranston Street, and with our handy guide set off on foot to find the Coach. We passed section after section of stones bearing Italian names, along with some wonderful epitaphs. (One thing New Englanders can be justly proud of is there tendency toward remembering their better sides in death.)

Using the directions out of Tod Benoit’s Where are They Buried we soon found the small, flat stone in section 31 that marked the final resting place of “the Coach.”

Thanks Coach.

As we returned to the car the clouds began rolling in and by the time we were scooting up I-95 north toward Boston the day turned overcast.

A quick hour’s drive and Susie and I pulled into the wonderful little town of Concord, MA. We were in search of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and had little difficulty finding it since it was within earshot of the town center. Our objective was to find four of the greatest writers in American literature: Henry Thoreau, Ralph “The Waldo” Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott. Buried along the spine of what the locals call “Author’s Ridge,” the locations is well marked and quite easy to find.

With a few minutes we stood atop the tiny ridge amidst a cluster of family plots that demarcated the final resting place of so many great wordsmiths in such a small space.

Like Emerson:

. . . and Hawthorne:

. . . and Louisa:

. . . and the man from Walden Pond himself:

After paying our respects to the Concord Four we wandered around the cemetery for a few minutes, amazed at some of the incredible (and incredibly detailed) epitaphs these men and women from so long ago left behind (to amaze us I suppose). We also spent a little time in concord and plan on a return visit in early December. Yes, it is really that kind of a place, one that you want to return to.

The last bit of news from us here in Providence (motto: “Amorality is our middle name”) is that we said good-bye to our little red Mini Cooper.

Goodbye to Go-Kart handling and 40 mpg (highway, your experience may vary), but also an overdue good-bye to tiny tires, and an inability to deal with the incredibly bad streets (or what passes for streets) in the "Creative Capital" -- creative used here as only an adjective to describe how the city comes up with ideas to extort cash from its citizens.

But as with the closing of one door, you always open a new one and we said hello to an old friend: an Audi A4, one of the best winter vehicles there is. (Susan was fearless in our old A4, tearing up and down that back road that claimed to be a driveway in our home in Chittenden. After all, it's not many folks who can claim their driveway could easily substitute for the slalom course in the winter Olympics.) It’s gray and seems 40 feet long compared to our old Mini. But I feel less stressed driving around town in Providence.

Life is full of tradeoffs.

Have a wonderful thanksgiving. Turkey, generous Indians and pilgrims with funny-looking hats aside, remember the men and women, boys and girls who, right now, are far from their loved ones, in the service of their country.