Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Water Has Subsided . . .

Thankfully, the flooding has subsided some at my home - we are still pumping but not nearly as much as yesterday . . . my yard no longer looks like a pond:


The flooding at the local park I pictured yesterday has worsened; seagulls and geese have taken over the picnic tables and are using them as their own private islands:


The rivers, too, have risen.  I couldn't get anywhere near the Taunton River in Bridgewater where I took photos yesterday.  The closest view was a bridge on Route 18 - the water level is very elevated but it has yet to rise high enough to close the bridge:


I look forward to writing a "non-flood" entry tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Not Again . . .

More rain yesterday and today, which means more flooding!!  At 3:30 AM - there was no water showing in my basement; by 5:00 AM - it was everywhere.  We have been keeping up with it by using portable pumps and the wet/dry vac and are keeping the waters at bay.  Unfortunately, other people in my town are losing the battle; families are being evacuated due to high water and unsafe conditions; my neighbor had to admit defeat when their sump pump stopped working.  The local electric company has disconnected their power and they are on the long waiting list to be pumped out by the fire department.

I've been out doing errands (looking for new pumps and hoses as backups) and have been taking photos:

My front yard

Another view of my yard

Our hardworking pumps (love you guys!)

Oliver Mill Park - approximately 11:30 AM

Same view - 4:15 PM (the picnic table is barely visible!)

Route 44 West, a major road in my area - a few miles completely closed due to the overflowing Taunton River

My neighbor's yard - what a terrible way for her to spend her birthday!


The Taunton River overflowing its banks on Summer Street in Bridgewater

Tonight it is still raining and the sound of vacuums can still be heard around the neighborhood.  Next door the groan of a gas pump echoes out of the darkness as they attempt to drain the few feet of water that accumulated during the afternoon - they are forced to work in the dark as the power has been cut for safety reasons.  Compared to others, I can't complain as I sit her (still in my wet socks!) in a warm, well lit, and fairly dry house, typing away on my computer - hoping
 bedtime comes very soon . . .

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Busy Weekend . . .

Yesterday was a crazy day - my oldest son crossed over from Cub Scouts into Boy Scouts.  As a volunteer with his Cub Scout Pack, there was much preparation for the ceremony to be done.  Unfortunately, I did not have time to plan my usual "virtual weekend"; next week I will return with a fabulous destination - check back on Friday!

As I have written about before, it is amazing to me how quickly time passes.  How did this little guy . . .


Transform into this big guy . . .


In the blink of an eye?

  Well, the "blink of the eye" is actually 11 years - but it seems like an instant!

Have a good weekend everyone!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"In Wilderness is the Preservation of the World . . ."

Another beautiful spring day in New England, but when I awoke I was not looking forward to my day with enthusiasm.  On my agenda for the day was a trip to pick up popcorn for an activity at my sons' school in a city approximately 1.5 hours (each way) from my home.  Having been plagued with a terrible cold all week, staying home with a box of tissues, a cup of tea and a good movie sounded like a more inviting plan; but, alas, mine is the life of a mom - sick days aren't allowed!

In an effort to add some enjoyment in this trip, I decided to make a stop at Walden Pond  in Concord, Massachusetts on the way home.



Best known for the retreat of author Henry David Thoreau who lived in a small cabin (10' x 15') on Walden Pond for two years (1845-1847). His book, Walden or Life in the Woods, recounts his experience living one on one with nature.


The Walden Reservation has a replica of Thoreau's cabin, along with an excerpt from Walden that shows the costs of the building materials used in the construction.

Boards: $8.03
Shingles: $4.00
Laths: $1.25
Two windows with glass: $2.43
One thousand brick: $4.00
Two casts of lime: $2.40
Hair: $0.31 (what does this mean?!)
Mantle-tree iron: $0.15
Nails: $3.90
Hinges and screws: $0.14
Latch: $0.10
Chalk: $0.01
Transportation: $1.40
Total:  $28.12

The exterior and interior of the replica cabin

Over the years there have been movements to try to develop the Walden Pond area (there was an amusement park located at the far end of the Pond in the early 1900s, but it was destroyed by fire and never rebuilt).  The land was managed by Middlesex County in the early 1960s, and it was proposed that part of its 60+ acres be razed for parking and other amenities.  This plan was averted by a Massachusetts Superior Court judge who ruled that in the deed donating the property to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it was specified that the land be put in conservation so it could never be developed and thus preserving its natural beauty for generations to come.  The property is currently managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Statue of Thoreau outside the replica of his cabin

In an effort to further preserve Walden, singer Don Henley founded The Walden Woods Project in 1990.  The Project has raised awareness of the value of this historic area, and has protected over 100 acres in and around Walden Woods, along with offering educational programs about Thoreau's life and work. 

Path along the perimeter of Walden Pond

The next time you find yourself speeding through the craziness of life, slow down for a minute and visit Walden Pond . . .  you will see how simple and peaceful life can be.  I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Walden:

"I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves. I had not lived there a week before my feet wore a path from my door to the pond-side; and though it is five or six years since I trod it, it is still quite distinct. It is true, I fear, that others may have fallen into it, and so helped to keep it open. The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity!"



Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum . . .

Today, everyone is talking politics and healthcare.  When I started this blog, I made a decision to stay away from political discussions of any kind.  Be thankful for this - I am a political junkie and could go on for hours about any issue!  I've made a compromise and am today writing about something political that is still a travel destination - a Presidential Library!


There are currently thirteen Presidential Libraries in the United States which are part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); there are seven other libraries that have been built for former presidents, but they are not sanctioned by the NARA.  The libraries were organized to house and protect the important documents generated by the presidential administrations.  Over the years, many important papers had been lost, sold or destroyed (either accidently or deliberately) and their historical value has been lost.  In the 1940s, Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to find a way to preserve the papers that had accumulated during his years in office.  His solution was to turn these documents over to the National Archives.  In 1955, President Truman decided he wanted to build a library to preserve his papers, and worked with Congress to pass the Presidential Libraries Act.  These libraries are built with private funds, of which some are provided by the President for whom the library will be named; no Federal funding is used in building the Presidential Libraries. 

The John F. Kennedy Library is located in the Boston, Massachusetts neighborhood of Dorchester. President Kennedy had scouted sites for his library and museum in the weeks before his untimely death in 1963.  His first choice was a site in Cambridge, Massachusetts near Harvard University, facing the Charles River.  Although the residents of Cambridge welcomed the idea of the library in the early years of its planning, as time went on they realized it would become a large attraction for many tourists, and their enthusiasm cooled.  In 1975, it was decided that Cambridge would not be the site for the future Kennedy Library and Museum, and the current site in Dorchester, near the campus of the University of Massachusetts/Boston was chosen.

The building, which was completed in 1979, was designed by world-renowned architect, I.M. Pei.  It is a modern design with a large 115 foot glass pavilion, offices, archives, museum exhibits and two theaters.



A visit to the Library begins with a short film that overviews President Kennedy's life including his childhood, his service in World War II, his political life his tragic death in Dallas.  Exhibit areas include the Democratic National Convention of 1960 (my personal favorite - the carpet looks as if a victory celebration has just taken place - pieces of confetti are woven into the pile of the rug), the Oval Office, and a section dedicated to Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, including some of  the fashions that made her famous.  There are also many artifacts from his White House years, gifts he and Mrs. Kennedy received from foreign dignitaries, letters, photographs and furniture. 
  
The large flag that hangs in the pavilion

Upon completion of viewing the exhibits, stroll into the pavilion and be surrounded by views of Boston Harbor.  In the pavillion there is a replica of the "Profiles in Courage" award, which is bestowed annually by the Library to a person who demonstrates great courage and conviction in the political arena.
 The replica of The Profile in Courage award in the pavilion

During the summer months, President Kennedy's sailboat, the Victura, is on display outside the pavilion.


The Library also hosts the Kennedy Library Forums, a series programs which focus on different historical and political topics.  These forums are open to the public and have featured such noted speakers as Michael Beschloss, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.   

If you are visiting Boston area, or live here and have never been, visit the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.  It is a must see for anyone who is interested history and politics, and has plenty of interactive exhibits that make it interesting for both adults and children.  Visit their website, which has complete information about visiting the Library and the details of the many programs it offers.


Friday, March 19, 2010

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia . . .

Well, not really - it actually rained the last day I was there!  But spring weather is forecasted for the East Coast this weekend so Philadelphia would make an ideal "virtual" destination!

Independance Hall

Philadelphia is a great family vacation city.  Because it is not very very large and spread out , it is easy to walk from one destination to the next.  It is filled with museums, historic sites, classic architecture and culture.

Although most of the major hotel chains are represented in Philadelphia, my of choice would be The Four Seasons, a five-star establishment with a Forbes Travel Guide award winning restaurant, spa services, an indoor pool, fitness facilities and spacious rooms and suites.  The Four Seasons has over 360 rooms and 96 suites, some with views of Logan Square and the Swann Memorial Fountain, or if you prefer you can choose a room with courtyard view of the garden and waterfall below.
The Courtyard of The Four Seasons (photo courtesy of The Four Seasons Philadelphia)

Swann Memorial Fountain

History is a large part of Philadelphia's charm.  It is almost obligatory for a first time visitor to Philadelphia to visit Independence National Historic Park.  The park is made up of a few sites including Independence Hall, Congress Hall and the Liberty Bell Center.  If you do plan to visit Independence Hall, be sure to visit the website to obtain reservations; we were unaware of this when we visited and could not obtain tickets.  Congress Hall, next door to Independence Hall, is the original site where the Senate and House of Representatives conducted business when Philadelphia was the capital of the United States from 1890 to 1900.  A few steps away from Congress Hall and Independence Hall is the Liberty Bell Center, which opened in 2003.  If you are lucky enough to visit on the afternoon of any July 4th, you will see descendants of signers of the Declaration of Independence tap the bell thirteen times in honor of the patriots from the original 13 states.

Interior of Congress Hall

Now that we have had our history lesson for the morning, let's grab a cheese steak for lunch and head back toward The Four Seasons as our next destination is near Logan Square.  Any fan of "National Treasure" will surely recognize The Franklin Institute from the movie, but in the film it was portrayed to be a historical museum; it is actually an interactive science museum.  There is a striking rotunda with a 20-foot high memorial to Benjamin Franklin directly inside the front entrance and can be viewed without paying the museum entrance fee.

The Benjamin Franklin Memorial at the Franklin Institute

After leaving the Franklin Institute, you may want to run back into the hotel to change your shoes - running will be involved in our next stop!  A short walk up Benjamin Franklin Parkway will bring us to our next destination, The Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The 72 steps leading from the street level to the museum entrance were made famous in the 1976 movie, "Rocky", and if you are there, you must run up all 72! 

My sons running up the museum steps!

When you reach the top step, raise your arms over your head and do a victory dance!
Don't feel silly - everyone does it!
You are probably a little hot and tired after running up all those stairs!  After descending the steps, stop by the Rocky Water Ice cart on the sidewalk in front of the museum, near the Rocky statue.  Water Ice is Philadelphia's version of Italian ice; choose from over 30 flavors of this frozen treat to cool you down before we grab a cab to head back to the Historic District for dinner.


Still haven't had enough history?  For dinner, make a reservation at The City Tavern.  Established in 1733, it was the unofficial meeting place for the First Continental Congress in 1774, and was been the dining establishment of choice for George Washington and other notable historic figures (the rolls served before the meal were the personal favorite of Thomas Jefferson).  It is a lovely restaurant with great atmosphere (candles on every table, a harpist in the hallway) and delicious food based on the culinary menus of the 18th century.  I recommend a bowl of Hearty Turkey Soup as an appetizer, followed by the Chesapeake style crab cakes with remoulade sauce - very tasty!  It's been a long day; let's go back to The Four Seasons for an evening swim in the pool and some rest!

The entrance to The City Tavern

One last stop before leaving this lovely city - brunch.  The London Grill  on Fairmount Avenue has an extensive menu with the added bonus of having a "make your own Bloody Mary" bar, where your drink can be made with vodkas infused with interesting items such as smoked meat to enhance its flavor, along with adding as many fixings as you would like. 
Photo courtesy of PhillyMag.com

Our exciting weekend getaway to historic Philadelphia has come to an end.  If you would like to visit this interesting, stop by Visit Philly and make some vacation plans for the upcoming summer months!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Take Me Out To The Ballgame . . .

Yesterday was the first little league baseball practice of the season!  Some people feel spring has arrived when they see the first crocus, spy a robin hopping on their lawn; for us the arrival of spring is heralded by my son's first baseball practice.  After not having picked up a glove, ball or bat since baseball camp last July, it is time to work out the cobwebs and play ball!

Like his father, my oldest son is a baseball fan (my younger son is more like me - he would rather watch Samantha Brown on The Travel Channel than sit through a televised baseball game; he enjoys attending games - but I think it is the lure of the concession stand more than the thrill of the game!).  By age 10, my older son had already visited five major league baseball parks, as well as a few minor league fields.  He also attends a summer baseball clinic/camp with the Wareham Gatemen, a minor league team that is part of the legendary Cape Cod Baseball League, from which many players have gone onto fame in the major leagues.

Here are some photos of the trips to the major league parks:
Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland

At the "old" Yankee Stadium in New York during its last season before being torn down

Citizens' Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies

And, of course, being from Massachusetts, he is a true Red Sox fan . . .
Fenway Park in Boston (one of my favorite photos of him!)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away . . .

Well, it finally did go away, but it has been raining here for the past three days and nights - streets and basements flooded, rivers overflowed their banks and people lost power in their homes.


When heavy rains are forecasted, we have our preparedness routine:  get out the pump and wet/dry vac, move things out of the basement and check the downspouts on the gutters.  It rains heavy for a few hours, we check the basement periodically for water leaks, wet/dry vacuum a few times and it's over.  During this storm it was like running a marathon!   Trying to stay awake to vacuum every 20 minutes, having a hissy fit when the wet/dry vac decides it's not going to work properly, walking around in soaked sneakers and socks, praying the power won't go out - I thought it would never end!  We were very fortunate as we just had a little water and did not suffer any property loss; many people I know have had devastating water damage to their homes.

While out today I took some photos of the rivers and flooding in my town of Middleborough and the neighboring towns of Bridgewater and East Bridgewater:

Route 18 in East Bridgewater looking north (toward the old Joppa Grill on the right)

The Taunton River overflowing on Plymouth Street in Bridgewater

Another view of the Taunton River rushing through the yard on the right

Oliver Mill Park in Middleborough - the Nemasket River overflowing its banks

Two residents of Oliver Mill Park who were not bothered by the flooding!

Oliver Mill Park - for comparison - the photo below was taken next to the large wall on the right; today's photo (above) was taken from the bridge you can see behind the boys: 


Another view of Oliver Mill Park

On the lighter side, The Boston Globe printed an article on how to build an ark in the event it ever rains like this again . . . and I made a new friend to help me with further basement flooding issues: