Saturday, October 10, 2009

Peeping Tom!

Here I was minding my own business, trying to get the yard mowed before dark. I had a small window of opportunity as the previous days had either been rainy or blustery. Before I began, I happened to grab my camera hoping to catch pictures of the foliage in the woods that back up to our yard. Suddenly I heard neighbors hollering at me and I turned around to find this hot air balloon lightly crashing through the tops of the trees.

Below are a two videos of the event. Click the arrow to play.

The Eagle has landed!
All the neighbors came spilling into our yard. The video below is of our neighbor Diane. She's a remarkable woman, recently diagnosed with MS. You'll rarely meet a more positive person!

The balloon basket was filled with 7 people standing shoulder to shoulder when it landed. Overall it was a big adventure indeed. Unfortunately Roger was on his way home and missed most of it. He did get home in time to watch them pack up, which is no easy feat.

You can see on the far right that I've resumed the initial task at hand as the sun has already set.

Friday, June 5, 2009

National Donut Day!

June 5th is National Donut Day and we couldn't live in a better part of the country to celebrate. New Englanders are mad for their Dunkin Donuts. The map above shows the locations near my office. SEVEN all within ONE mile.

However, its not about the donuts for these folks, its about the coffee. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, morning, noon and night. I've never seen anything like it before and it comes with its own lingo when ordering. I'm not talking about the fancy foreign language terms used by Starbucks. At Dunks' it's more like a loud-mouthed waitress yelling an order to the short order cook working in the back of a greasy spoon. Only the loud-mouthed waitress is instead a customer.

Back to map, if you're wondering where #6 is, its hiding behind #7. The two stores are located across the street from each other.

As an aside, this is actually the first I've heard of National Donut Day, but apparently the Donut/Doughnut is honored the first Friday of every June.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Speaking of Winding Roads

Roger buffed and polished each and every spoke on his Harley today. Click on the photo to see the detail. Sparkly!!!

Oh, and Guinness supervised!

Friday, May 1, 2009

And, they're off!

First, a very long overdue thank you to Tim (T.D.) Thornton who invited us to be his guests at Suffolk Downs as the horse racing season was winding down last fall. Thank you! We loved it and will be back for more racing.

As long time horse race fans, we were very excited to get our own private tour of the behind the scenes look at what goes behind calling a horse race.
We first had to cross a catwalk that soared above the grandstands, then followed winding hallways that seemed to go nowhere. When we finally arrived at the offices for the officials it was truly a step back into time. While waiting for T.D. to arrive, we were seated in what used to be the press booth. There were many chairs and tiny, wooden windows that overlooked the track from high above the stands. It was somewhat eerie and exciting at the same time thinking of the cigar-chewing, bourbon drinking reporters who spent countless hours at Suffolk Downs covering the races.

In T.D.'s booth, a simple walk across plywood on top of the roof gets you there, where he alone sounds the bugle (a well kept secret as to whether there's an actual bugle) and then calls the race, there exists an old, heavy wooden desk. When you slide out a little panel above the drawers, there is an ages old, hand-written list of whom to call in case of emergency. My guess is most of these contacts are now watching horse racing from heaven. It's amazing to think of how many people have used that desk over the years, possibly going back to when Seabiscuit made his appearance in 1937.

Now on to today's action. We watched T. D. prep for the upcoming race, which involved color coding the entries on his race card and attaching a mental note to each horse. He then methodically rattled off in a mumble his notes and repeated them again, while we stood by very silently. It was amazing to see and hear him call the race. I'm still dumbfounded how he pulls this off.

Once a race is over, his mind completely clears and he moves on to the next race. He attributes his ability to not confuse horses from one race to the next to a potential "character flaw," his words, if I remember correctly. T. D. is able to completely forget what just happened. I'm thinking this has to be a nightmare for his wife if there's a really good argument going on. On the flip side, it could have its benefits as well!

Of course, occasionally there's a miscall as indicated in the photo below. T. D. seems to be a pretty even tempered guy, but as with any professional, you hate to screw up! As an aside, try to say "
sitting chilly" (a term used when a jockey lets the horse do the work, thereby biding his time) three times and see what you get.
T. D. has been involved in horse racing for most of his life and has written for many publications, not only about horse racing, but other sports as well. He's one of the fortunate few to be able to eke out a living while following his passion for horse racing and writing.

In 2007, his book
"Not by a Long Shot: A Season at a Hard Luck Horse Track" was published with many good reviews. This book follows the 2000 racing season at Suffolk Downs, which like many other tracks has seen a loss in attendance and revenue.

However, while attendance may have dropped significantly, revenues are only slightly down in comparison, thanks to Off Track Betting parlors and continuous links to other tracks across the world. The picture below is the server room where live feed from tracks across the country come in. There's a whole other bank of monitors and computers directly across from where T. D. is standing. Two ladies monitor the entire show from here.

While, it's great that there's other sources of revenue, for real fans of the sport itself, you just have to be there in person. To feel the power of the horses as they thunder either away from the gates, and inevitably, toward the finish line, is an truly an unbelievably awesome feeling.

Suffolk Downs may not be the beauty that it once was, as the lower level "frost heaves" can toss a beer from an unsuspecting bettor's hands in seconds, but it's still a great place to spend an afternoon outdoors with a racing form in one hand and a cold beer or hot dog in the other hand.

May 2nd kicks off the 2009 live racing season in conjunction with a simulcast of the Kentucky Derby. We may not be there this weekend, but will definitely find our way there on other sunny days.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Play Ball!!!

From our first meeting, Roger and I have always enjoyed going to baseball games. Early on it was the Texas Rangers. This was before the beautiful "Ballpark in Arlington" was built. The old stadium was like an erector set that just happened to play host to a major league baseball team. Historic Fenway Park on the otherhand may not be much to look at either, but as true fans know, the beauty lies in its history and layout.

I'm proud to say that my own grandfather sat in one of those seats in the 1950's. His oldest daughter, Juanita, up and married a Bostonian, so one summer the rest of the family packed up the sedan and drove from Amarillo all the way to Boston to visit her and the new in-laws. Papaw, who was once a recruited ballplayer himself, had to have been thrilled to catch a game at Fenway Park. It's hard to imagine that at the time, the park was already 50+ years old. He'd be amazed to know that it still stands in its original configuration and still has a manually operated scoreboard. He'd be even more amazed that the Redsox went 86 years between World Series titles. Supposedly the lack of a title was a result of a curse brought on by trading Babe Ruth to the "evil empire".

Other baseball memories include the summer of 1977 when I worked as an usher for the Texas Rangers. We wore gauchos, gingham shirts and a cowgirl hats. During this time, Roger was in Lawrence, Kansas cheering on George Brett and the KC Royals.

Tickets to Redsox games are very hard to come by, not to mention over-the-top expensive, so we enjoy the games from the comfort of our living room. To quench our appetite for the "real thing", we began going to see the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, one of the many MLB farm teams in the area. There's just something about a game of baseball. The easy, steady pace, with the sudden pop of a flyball, or better yet, a homerun to regain the crowd's attention and cheers.

Here's an excellent link if you'd like to read more about the history of Fenway Park.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The "Other" Portland

Recently Roger and I celebrated our 18th anniversary in Portland, ME. We had driven through Portland a time or two, but never had the opportunity to stop and really check it out. From what we saw though, we knew it would be a great place to spend some time.

The trip was nice, however, I was recovering from a sooner-than-expected surgery, so it wasn't quite what we had in mind, but nonetheless, it was still great to get away and relax in our wonderful hotel room and explore the very nearby restaurants and shops, if only for 2 days.

The young, vibrant atmosphere of Portland, Maine bears some resemblance to Portland, Oregon, but for the most part, that's where the similarities end. Portland, OR is large with a population of over 1/2 million people, compared to Portland, ME's population of not even 90,000. That includes the town of South Portland.

The biggest difference however is age (Portland, ME settled in 1633, while Portland, OR was settled more than 200 years later) and the fact that Portland, Oregon is essentially landlocked. I checked on google maps and the city lies a good 1 1/2 hours from the ocean. So where did it get its name? According to the ever reliable wikipedia, Portland, Oregon was actually named after Portland, ME. Feel free to read the entire story here:,_Oregon#History

Back to the "original" Portland. This city has a lively working water front, be it fishermen or tourist boats, there's constant activity. The area is also rich with unique shopping showcasing local merchants and artisans. In between the shops are many, many restaurants. In the summertime, if you've tired of the waterfront or just want to rest your feet, you can catch the AA Portland Seadogs, one of the minor league teams of the Boston Redsox.

It takes us less than 90 minutes to reach the downtown area, so we can't wait to get back to really explore the area.

I hope to add more of my own photos of Portland in the future, but in the meantime check out these Daily Photo Blogs of both Portlands.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Bump in the Road

On Friday, February 20 I had emergency girlie surgery. While recovering at home, our friends back home sent me a fabulous care package complete with, you see it in the picture, a tiara! I absolutely loved it. So on March 10, when I found myself back in the hospital due to a complication, Roger brought the tiara to the hospital.

Don't worry, I didn't wear it around the staff!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bonjour, Montreal!

They look like us, act like us and drink beer like us, but they are most certainly FRENCH Canadians, er, pardon', Canadien fran├žais!
Last September, Roger and I decided it was time to head to Canada again for vacation. We ventured up that way several years ago, covering Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Not wanting to travel that far again, we chose Quebec, specifically Montreal which is only a 5 hour drive from Haverhill (correct pronunciation is HAY-vrill).

The city is beautiful and just like the guide books say, doesn't seem nearly as large as it is with 1 million plus in residence.

The guide books also say, don't worry about speaking French as they all speak some English. WRONG! I do know French, certainly not fluently, but as long as I practice beforehand I can manage pretty well. So, I took the guidebooks at their word and tossed the CDs aside until our next foray to France.

From the 1st pit stop at a convenience store after crossing into Quebec, we (I) realized we were in trouble. We were in search of an ATM and not even the teen-aged boy who worked there spoke English. That was only the beginning. Not to say that we didn't find any English speaking people here, but English is far from their first language of choice. Next time, I'll be much better prepared!

Montreal itself is very pretty with so much to do. Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal, located where Vieux Montreal meets the financial district, is a must see.

Along with the church, where Celene Dion was married by the way, Vieux Montreal is the main tourist destination...lots of little streets to explore...
...with a multitude of stores for tourists,
but also many boutiques and art galleries.
And you can't miss Place Jacques-Cartier which rises above the St. Lawrence River. Street performers, outdoor cafes, artists...

...and of course carriage rides.
There are many other areas worth exploring, specifically near the Universities where kitsch and bohemia collide. Not to mention the endless row upon row of bars and restaurants.

Rather than stay in a hotel this trip, we decided to take our chances on renting from an individual and found this fabulous place in Vieux Montreal on This unit specifically can be found at The place was a fabulous surprise, as the website photos didn't really tell the whole story.

The best part was the roof top deck with a shallow pool for ambiance, deck chairs and plenty of seating for lots of folks. We took full advantage!
So if you have a hankering for being somewhere on the slightly exotic side, but don't want to cross the pond, definitely head on up to Montreal and visit our North American Cousins!

All the images are even better when you click on them and get a much clearer view of the details in the scenery.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How Roger got out of Grocery Shopping Duty

I know times are hard, however, we have jobs and can certainly afford to swill something with a cork. The only thing missing is a jug handle on the side of the bottle and a bag of pork skins.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Still Snowing

Even as we're in the midst of our ninth winter in New England, we're always amazed by the beauty of the snowfall. The mulberry tree below was featured in "The Ice Storm Cometh". Hopefully in the next couple of months, we'll be able to get it inspected for any potential healing.
With the unmistakable winter, we're completely confused as to why the robins are still here. Previous winters, the arrival of the robins was to be celebrated as they gave us hope of Spring and the blooming of tulips and forsythia. Now, we're not sure what to look for.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hoisting the Main Sail

Oops, I led with the wrong picture...
...Susan, hoisting the main sail!

Susan typically comes up once a year and we always find new things to do each time. Her trip this past August was no exception. On her final evening we sailed on the Ninth Wave catamaran out of Newburyport. The weather earlier in the day was very stormy, but fortunately the skies completely cleared, as did the seas.
The earlier storm had the unexpected benefit of keeping the larger crowds at bay.

The boat provided the beverages, so we packed a small cooler of cheeses, meats and homemade bread made by Roger.With, or without Susan or other visting guests, we'll definitely make this trip again. That's the beauty of living here - for Roger and I, this is just a typical weekend!But, like I said, this was Susan's final evening and we did plenty before that. Her first day out we had breakfast at Fish Tales, a small diner located directly on the waterfront of Salisbury, looking across the Merrimac River to Newburyport.
From there we took drove up Route 1A, where along the way the fog and mist set in, which led to some stunning scenery.

We stopped at Odiorne State park where we came across this lady enjoying a book by the sea.

From there, we went into Portsmouth for a drink, or two , (maybe it was three?) at Poco's Cantina on the edge of the Portsmouth Harbor where the tug boats dock.
The next day we slept in, then headed once again for the New Hampshire shoreline, but this time for a lobster lunch at Saunders in Rye Harbor.
Sadly, the restaurant, though literally yards away from the lobster boats, was still charging 2007 lobster prices. So instead we settled for casserole and salad, after I promised Susan we'd do our own lobster boil . Twice the fun, half the price.

Before heading home, we stopped at Cider Hill Farm. I'll share more about this place in a later post, but as you can see it was absolutely beautiful on this day.
We made one more stop at Jewell Towne Vinyards, one of several local wineries in our area, then headed for the fish market for dinner!

Susan and I almost spent all four days together without wanting to strangle each other!