Thursday, January 29, 2015

Happy 105th birthday Pop!

I still miss you, Dad -- steak with baked potatoes tonight. Ti amo Papa!!

Blizzard in Providence, 2015

While Providence pretty much escaped the nastier side of this last snowstorm, the blizzard of 2015. the wind, the blowing snow and the whiteout conditions, in the city no less, underscored how nasty it must have been in the rural areas. The university where I work was closed both Tuesday and Wednesday and local government called for everyone to stay off the streets.

So, we just hunkered down in our apartment --  I tinkered with learning how to wipe a computer's hard drive (not once but twice), on purpose using both restore disks and the new Internet Restore feature provided by Apple. Susie turned her hand to baking: especially trying her first ever English Muffins. You can read more about that right here.

Anyway, this being Providence many of the city streets still remain under-plowed and sidewalks treacherous and often unshoveled, forcing many to walk in the street. But the sun is out this Thursday morning and I'm back at work.

out of our bedroom window, looking east up Westminster toward the center of town

looking out of our living room window, west up Westminster

our parking lot -- lots of drifting up to nearly 3 feet in some places

Monday, January 26, 2015

Quincy Church

Located in the heart of Quincy, Mass., United First Parish Church is the final resting place for two US presidents: John Adams and his wife Abigail, their son John Quincy Adams, and his wife Louisa.

It was cold, sunny winter Sunday when we tried to get inside but found it closed up tight. We'll just have to return in the spring.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Lizzie Borden, Oak Grove Cemetery, Destination Soups and Whaling

Saturday was a gorgeous day here in southern New England. It was chilly to be sure but the sky was blue and the air clear. Since we were also faced with a long weekend (Johnson & Wales was closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day) we felt compelled to see more of this part of the United States.

Out of the blue Susie suggested we drive to Fall River to visit the Lizzie Borden House and then to New Bedford, have lunch at Destination Soups and then finish out the afternoon at the New England Whaling Museum. And so we did.

It was about a 20-minute drive to Fall River and we easily found the Borden House -- now a Bed & Breakfast as well as a tourist attraction. We parked in the rear, and made our way into what used to be the Borden barn but is now the gift shop tourist waiting area. After paying our admission fee we met our guide Danielle -- and since we were the only ones there we had our own private tour.

OK, so here the facts in a nutshell:

Abby and Andrew Borden were hacked to death at their home, 92 Second Street (today no. 230) on the morning of Thursday, August 4, 1892; Abby, Andrew’s second wife, was killed sometime between 9am and 10:30am, and Andrew between 10:30am and 11:10am.

The two other people in the house, daughter Lizzie and live-in maid Bridget Sullivan, heard nothing and saw nothing out of the ordinary. The elder daughter Emma was out of town and a relative who had been staying with the Bordens, Lizzie’s uncle John Morse, had left the house that morning to run several errands (all confirmed by eyewitnesses who placed him elsewhere during the crimes).

No strangers were seen on or around the property and no one witnessed anything out of the ordinary. No murder weapon was ever found and no trace of blood or brains (both skulls were horribly crushed) were found anywhere in the house.

Lizzie was arrested and tried for the crimes. She was found not guilty. According to a statement made by one of the jurors years later, the evidence against her was weak and completely circumstantial (true). Still, the mind boggles, especially after visiting the house, to comprehend that not one but two terribly violent crimes were committed over the period of an hour or longer, without the knowledge of anyone in the same house.

No one else was ever charged with the crime.

barn is in the rear to the left; Mrs. Borden was murdered in the 2nd floor room to the left front; Mr. Borden was found axed to death in the sitting room on the first floor toward the rear o the home

Danielle, our guide, in the front parlor, giving us the introduction to the house and the murders

kitchen, where the original autopsies were done

this is what Mrs. Churchill would have seen when she came up the stairs - she discovered Mrs. Borden's body

the front, 2nd floor guest bedroom where Mrs. Borden's body was found

Lizzie's bedroom
After our tour we hopped back into the car and headed off for "Maplecroft," where Lizzie and Emma lived for many years after the murders and then on to Oak Grove Cemetery to visit the Borden gravesite.

Lizzie died alone on June 1, 1927, at her French Street home in Fall River; her sister Emma died 9 days later in New Hampshire. Both were buried with their sister Alice, who died at age 2, and their parents and stepmother. Later in life Lizzie had changed her name to Lizbeth, and that's how she's listed on the family burial marker.


Andrew Jackson Borden 1822-1892 
Sarah Anthony Borden 1823-1863 
Abby Durfee Borden 1828-1892 

Children of Andrew J. and Sarah A. Borden 
Alice Esther 1856-1858 
Lizbeth Andrews 1860-1927 
Emma Lenora 1851-1927

From Oak Grove Cemetery we found our way back to I-195 east. Our next stop was for lunch at Destination Soups in New Bedford, Mass., where we had a delicious bowl of (wait for it) soup. After lunch we made our way the three blocks or so to the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Located in the heart of "old" New Bedford, the Whaling Museum is packed with fascinating collections, generally well-laid out with lots of information. There were a few places where things seemed a bit jumbled as if they needed someone to rearrange things or put them back in order, but otherwise it was very nicely done.

Our first stop was the Wattles’ Family art galley and this is not to be missed: this room is not so much about whaling or whales but nevertheless contains some powerful artwork by New Bedford artists.

"The Spar" by Clement Nye Swift

"The Seaweed Gatherers" by Clement Nye Swift

Detail of "The roman Forum "by William Wall

"The Dancing Lesson" by Margaret Pierce
The main exhibitions are on the upper level and there’s plenty to see. The “model” ship designed mainly for kids is lots of fun for adults as well and is the centerpiece in it’s own galley, laid out like an old library with upper levels on either side. There’s also a well-done, informative gallery devoted to explaining the impact the Portuguese and Cape Verdeans have had on the whaling industry, particularly out of New Bedford. There's also a room of model ships -- this is a must-see. Incredible detail and impressive craftsmanship.

Lastly, the five whale skeletons are simply overwhelming; and the scrimshaw room is incredible.

There is also an observation deck that opens out onto the harbor — a great place to stop and sit as well, weather permitting. Speaking of sitting, there are plenty of places to sit and relax

The tour takes about 1-2 hours and there is an admission fee. Parking is on the street or in the nearby public garage.

From New Bedford we headed back to I-195 turning west to Providence and after a quick stop for wine and groceries drove home. Not a bad way to spend a sunny Saturday in New England.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Paris in the past - Eglise Saint-Augustin

Road trip to Michigan for Christmas

Looking ahead to a long two-week holiday break from work -- Johnson & Wales University closes down over Christmas and New Years -- Susie and I packed up, loaded the car and headed off for the wilds of western Michigan. The idea, which proved to be a sound one, was to spend Christmas with Susan's mom in Grand Rapids. And so we did.

The drive through Massachusetts and New York state was uneventful with good weather. It took us about seven hours to cross the border into Canada where we spent the night at John's Gate Gourmet Bed & Breakfast in Niagara on the Lake. For dinner we walked a very chilly three blocks to the Cannery Restaurant in the Pillar and Post Inn. The service was outstanding but the food unremarkable although remarkably overpriced. Still, it was nice to try a selection of local wines. and the festive feel was certainly in the air:

Johns Gate B & B
It was a bright, cold morning when we loaded ourselves back into the car and headed back for the highway. Before we made our way to the QEW, though, we took a quick swing through the center of town and thought it would be a great place to spend a night or two, particularly in the spring or summer. The views across the lake to the other side of Ontario and across the mouth of the Niagara River to the USA were simply gorgeous.

Our last six hours or so to Michigan were as uneventful as the previous day's drive and the weather cooperated the entire way. In fact, we saw no snow the entire time we were in Michigan. Amazing! And we made both border crossings in record time with virtually no traffic backups!

Susie and I spent the next week or so pretty much hanging out with family, although we did see a couple of friends. We enjoyed a tasty lunch at Nonna's in Ada and Charley's Crab in downtown Grand Rapids. We also enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Marco's Bistro: quiet, great service and tasty food wrapped in a nice price. One couldn't have asked for anything better.

chicken pot pie at Nonna's

quiche and salad

We also scored several opportunities to see family during our week in Grand Rapids: our kickoff was a little quality time with Susan's Uncle John and Aunt Tine VandenBerg at their Raybrook apartment.

Bernice and Tine - golfing partners
Susan's cousin Mary Vandenberg Speyer coordinated the meeting at Raybrook
We also made a return trip to Raybrook to visit Aunts Betsey DeKorne and Fran Van Halsema -- with so many cousins to keep track of, Susan finally got a chance to catch up on all the family news!

Another goal during our trip was to get out to the Ten Have compound at Clear Bottom Lake, just west of Rockford. So, even though it was quite cold the skies were clear when we headed out to Clear Bottom to check on the progress of the new Ten Have home. When all is said and done, hopefully by spring, Uncle John and Aunt Marian will be comfortably settled in their wing along with cousins Jennifer and Scott and their daughter Clare. This is going to be one fantastic summer at the lake!

uncle John keeping an eye out for crazed squirrels

"OK, so this thing here is gonna go there and we're gonna have this over there. . . "

cousins Susie and Jennifer
Sadly, while we were in Grand Rapids, Susan's Uncle Bob DeVries passed away after battling cancer. I didn't know him well but the little time I spent with him over the years he always had a warm smile on his face and strong handshake; he was also pretty good at telling a story or two.

Aside from spending quality time with Susie's mom and seeing family and friends, we did get the chance to check out a few pieces of property. After last summer we began looking seriously at moving back to this part of the country to be close to Bernice. Anyway, it was a good opportunity to see what the property values are like compared to the eastern seaboard (good) and the availability (not-so-good). But we're in no big rush, at least for the present.

Our return trip to Providence went off without a hitch -- border crossings were OK, although not quite as smooth as our outbound leg. But we managed to make it to our overnight in Rochester in good weather, although our dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse reminded us to keep our expectations .low when it comes to (most) chain restaurants.

The final driving day, New Year's Eve, was pretty uneventful, although we encountered a few annoying snow squalls in central New York. But by the time we hit the Hudson River Valley it was smooth sailing right into Rhode Island.