An Historic House in Cambridge; the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House

August 3, 2014

Travels across the United States

Hooper Lee Nichols House

Recently I had the opportunity to roam around a little closer to home than I usually do (practically my own neighborhood) with a docent led tour of the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House on Brattle Street in Cambridge. Built in the late 17th century it is the second oldest house in Cambridge. The first being the Cooper-Frost-Austin House ca. 1681. I have known about the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House for years but had never been inside. What I learned on a tour of it was very interesting.

The first part of the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House, two rooms, were built by Richard Hooper in 1685. Hooper was a man of many “businesses” one of which had something to do with medicine. None of the businesses were very successful, when Richard died in 1690 his wife Elizabeth turned the house into a boarding house that served liquor. She died in 1701 in dire poverty, the house was empty…

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Listening to the Dropkick Murphys at McHugh’s Bar in Belfast Northern Ireland

July 27, 2014
courtesy of McHugh's Bar

courtesy of McHugh’s Bar

I was only in Belfast an hour when I headed over to McHugh’s Bar (ca. 1711) and had the most delicious fish & chips, the national dish of Northern Ireland. Light as a feather they were.  Or, as the Irish say “it was a beautiful dish”. The friendly barkeep could tell I was from Boston – maybe it was the Red Sox cap, certainly not my Massachusetts accent. 

Anyway while I scarfed down my food what should come on the radio – the Dropkick Murphy’s Shipping up to Boston.  Michael, the barkeep looked at me and said “Didn’t one of your Red Sox pitchers leave the bullpen on a trip to the mound while that was playing?”  “Yup” I told him “that was Jonathan Papelbon’s lead in song.  He swore it brought him luck.”  I was not surprised that he knew about Boston sports – a lot of people in Northern Ireland watch the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins on their sports channel or have relatives or friends living in the Boston area that keep them tuned into our sports scene. 

Titanic Museum Belfast

July 20, 2014

Moored at a dock near the Titanic Museum Belfast is the SS Nomadic a white Star Line tender ship that carried 1st and 2nd class passengers out to the Titanic from Cherbourg. For a trip that took only 35-minutes it was outfitted with a lot of opulence… Like Titanic the Nomadic was built in Belfast at Harland and Wolff shipyard in 1911 Eighty-percent of the inside contains original cabinets, staircases, furniture, doors, clocks and tableware.

In 1960 Cunard took over the White Star Lines and the Nomadic’s last year as a tender ship to ocean liners was in 1968. She was bought by a French businessman and for 25 years was a floating restaurant on the Seine River. In 2006 the Department of Social Development of Northern Ireland in developing the Titanic Quarter purchased Nomadic bringing her home to Belfast. Where she underwent a multi-million dollar restoration.
Taking a guided tour of Nomadic is a must before going into the Titanic Museum. It gives you an idea of the opulent comforts that was put into even these tiny ships and a sense of the history; rich passengers, their piles of luggage and trunks and servants being tendered in style across the channel from Cherbourg to where the great ship waited.

The Titanic Museum Belfast sits on the exact spot in the Harland and Wolff shipyard where the great ship Titanic was built. Architect Edward Kuhne designed the building to be 126 feet high the same height at the Titanic’s hull. The inside covers 130,000 square feet with a main exhibition area of 118,403 square feet. The core is the many galleries that show the designing, building and outfitting of the Titanic.

Since it opened in 2013 1.2 million people have visited. Given its enormous size the best way to see it is on a self-guided tour with an audio.

Exhibits start on the top floor explaining the history of Belfast, how it was, because of the 15,000 people that were employed at the Harland and Wolff shipyards, the shipbuilding capital of Ireland. Watch the video made up of original footage of Titanic’s launching. Where you stand is approximately where the great ship slid into the water on May 31, 1911. The pointed glass bow of the building is angled down the Titanic’s slipway towards the River Lagan.

The Titanic Museum Belfast pays homage to the history of the doomed ship and to the city of Belfast. On April 2, 1913 she sailed from Belfast to Southampton. Belfast residents like to say “When we sent her off to Southampton she was fine and grand”.

Burdick’s Chocolates

February 3, 2011

I am a chocoholic.  I not only love chocolate, I adore it in any shape or form that’s why Burdick’s Chocolate shop in Harvard Square is a regular haunt for me. I love the tiny ganache filled chocolate mice. My favorite way to eat them is by holding one by its satin tail, dangling it over my mouth and nibbling from its head and almond ears upwards ending when I reach the satin tail.

Not into devouring mice? No problem, you can nibble on penguins. Nestled up against the mice in the gleaming glass cases are chocolate penguins, looking dapper in their dark and white chocolate tuxedos.  Don’t like penguins…then go for the white chocolate snowmen decked out in their dark chocolate top hats.  Linger in the cafe over a slice of Burdick’s homemade zuger Kirsch, vanilla tea cake with Kirsch and butter cream or Chocolate Mousse Cake, a dense chocolate cake layered with lingonberry jam.  Wash these down with a cup of mocha hot chocolate topped with whipped cream, an excellent way to warm up a winters’ day.

Burdick’s has three locations; Brattle Street in Harvard Square Cambridge, their signature shop in Walpole New Hampshire and their new shop on East 20th Street in the Flatiron District of New York City.

Walk Boston’s Freedom Trail in Winter

January 31, 2011

Millions of visitors to Boston walk the Freedom Trail – a two-and-one-half-mile red stripe on the sidewalk that takes you to 16 historical sites pertaining to the Revolutionary War – our fight to gain our freedom from Great Britain in the 18th century. 

What most visitors don’t realize is the Freedom Trail does not shut down in winter. The Freedom Trail Foundation offers daily guided tours of the first mile of the trail, weather permitting, starting at 12 noon from the Boston Common.  The tours are given by members of the Freedom Trail Players who are actors and school teachers portraying historical persons from the time of the Revolution. 

If you can’t get a tour then purchase a map or a guide book at the visitor’s center and be your own guide. 

Each of the Freedom Trail sites is open year round.  The official start of the trail is the Visitor Information Center

Freedom Trail Foundation Players

near the Boston Common.  The trail is marked on the sidewalk by either a red stripe or red bricks that winds its way up to the gold-domed State House, then down to the Park Street Church.  Next to that is the Granary Burial Ground, across the street to Kings Chapel and burying ground, then down to the Old South Meeting House, around to the Old State House in front of which is the Boston Massacre Site. Then it crosses to Faneuil Hall, past the Union Oyster House, the oldest continuously operated restaurant in America, to Paul Revere’s House, then onto the Old North Church and Copps Hill burying ground.  The Freedom Trail continues across the bridge to the USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument. 

Other advantages of following the trail in winter; there are no throngs of tourists waiting to get into the historic buildings, and, the cold is a good excuse to stop into a café along the way for some hot cocoa or a historic pub such as the Green Dragon for a pint of Samuel Adams beer. 

So, layer up your clothing, dig out the mittens, hats and scarves and take a walk on a winter’s day in Boston, one of America’s most historic cities. 

For More Information go to: The Freedom Trail Foundation or the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau.

African-American Patriots Tour of Boston – February is Black History Month

January 23, 2011

February is Black History Month, and a good way to observe and learn about African-American patriots in Boston is by walking the Freedom Trail

Routes of history 

During the tour he leads visitors past the Boston Massacre site in front of the Old State House, to Granary Burial Grounds (where Attucks is buried), past the Park St. Church, where William Lloyd Garrison later gave his stirring anti-slavery speeches, and to Beacon Hill. The tour ends at the Museum of African-American History on Beacon Hill.   

Tales of bravery

Woven throughout the 90-minute walks are stories of bravery and defiance by black Bostonian patriots. Other African-Americans whose deeds and lives are mentioned on the tour are the first published African-American poet Phyllis Wheatley, the prominent citizen Prince Hall, founder of the African Lodge of Freemasons in America, and Peter Salem, a former slave who was a veteran of the Battle of Bunker Hill and several other battles of the American Revolution. 

Tour details

Tours must be reserved 24 hours in advance. Tickets ($13.65 for adults, $11.55 for seniors and students, $7 children 4 to 12 years of age) can be purchased online, at the Visitor Information Center on the Boston Common, or at the Bostix booth inside the Quincy Market building at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. 

For further information; The Freedom Trail Foundation, 617-357-8300.

Independence Missouri – Leila’s Hair Museum

December 8, 2010

Mourning jewelry made from hair

If you’re ever in Independence Missouri and want to see museum pieces that are very different then head to Leila’s Hair Museum.

Leila Cohoon started collecting wreaths and jewelry made from hair, in 1956.  Twenty years ago she opened Leila’s Hair Museum in a tiny strip mall in Independence Missouri to house her growing collection.  A retired hairdresser Leila teaches hair weaving and is writing a “how to” book on the craft. 

What you see in her museum is both beautiful and eerie. These aren’t just clumps of hair that Leila shored off customers heads, it’s a carefully culled collection of 300 wreaths and 2000 pieces of jewelry containing human hair.  The fact that, for the most part, the people were dead when the hair was removed from their heads is the eerie part.   

The strands she is proudest of come from the pates of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan.  Being a stickler for authenticity Leila purchases most of her memorabilia of famous people through the Manuscript Society of which she is a member.  The society is an organization dedicated to the collection and authentication of photographs and manuscripts. 

Appropriate to the historical aspect of the collection is the hair of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, their infamous duel in 1804 was the cause of Hamilton’s death.    

There is even a little bit of Hollywood with pieces of Marilyn Monroe’s golden locks and a curl that belonged to Elvis.  All of these are displayed in frames, which along with the hair; contain photographs of the person and documentation.

A hundred years ago, to pass the time on a cold winter’s night, women would gather together to make hair wreaths, much like quilting bees. They created the wreaths by weaving strands of hair around wire, twisting that into various delicate shapes and embroidering family names, dates of births, deaths, and weddings onto the mountings.  Various materials were used; seed pearls, ribbons, strips of baby clothes along with white satin from wedding dresses.  It was a way of preserving the past for the next generation. 

A technique known as sepia was used in the jewelry pieces, this is where a scene is painted with a mixture of hair that has been mashed into a powder then mixed with acrylics. One brooch, a remembrance piece, depicts a man standing by a grave under a weeping willow tree that is woven from strands of his wife’s hair; she passed away at the age of twenty-five. 

During the tour Leila will tell you that her fondest wish is that if all the people whose hair she has in her collections could come back from the dead and tell her their stories.   


Leila’s Hair Museum

1333 S. Noland Rd., Independence, Missouri 64055


Hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday thru Saturday

Admission: $5 adults; $2.50 seniors and children under 12

Nantucket Christmas Stroll

December 2, 2010

Carolers line the streets of Nantuckettown

From December 3rd to 5th the island of Nantucket, off the coast of Massachusetts, will celebrate what has become an island tradition – Christmas Stroll weekend.

The stroll began in 1973 when local merchants, in an effort to boost the island’s economy, kept their shops open late on the first Friday in December inviting Nantucketers to do their holiday shopping on-island instead of traveling to the mainland. 

Along with their crafts, books, clothes and wares shopkeepers offered samplings of wine, hot chocolate, tea, mulled cider, fruitcake, and holiday cookies. 

That Stroll, billed by the merchants as a “Christmas Stroll on Main Street’ lasted three hours and was a huge success with islanders. 

Fast forward thirty-seven years and that one night of holiday shopping and schmoozing has exploded into a weekend full of events that draws thousands of people. Whether you stay for a day or the weekend many of the island’s restaurants, inns, and bed and breakfasts are open for the stroll. 

On Friday night get in the holiday spirit by joining throngs of people (with flashlights and maps in hand) for the Holiday House Tour visiting six of the island’s historic houses, some of them more than three hundred years old, beautifully decorated for the season with wreaths and evergreens. The tour ends at the Whaling Museum with the Festival of Trees, one hundred Christmas trees decorate in island themes ranging from lightship baskets to buoys to the Nantucket firefighters’ tree dripping with Fire Department badges from around the world. 

On Saturday at the stoke of noon the town crier in Colonial dress walks down Main Street ringing his bell heralding the official opening of the stroll.  At 12:30 Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive the island way – by sea – on a historic Coast Guard vessel surrounded by a bevy of Coast Guard men and women decked out in red life jackets and red and white stocking hats.  After a horse-drawn carriage ride down Main Street Santa sets up shop at the Pacific National Bank where children (and children at heart) can have their pictures taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Learn about the ghoulish side of Nantucket town on an evening walk to several of the island’s haunted places with Nantucket Walking Tours.

If history is more to your interest then join the Nantucket Historical Association’s guided walking tours where you will hear about Nantucket’s years as a whaling port that supplied the world with sperm oil.  And, how over a hundred years ago Centre Street was called Petticoat

Row because all the businesses lining the street were owned and operated by women. It was Nantucket women who kept everything going at home while their men were away on sea voyages lasting three years.

There is an abundance of activities to choose from that will fill your entire day or weekend; concerts, theatrical performances, ice skating, wine and beer tastings, book signings, open houses, and, not to be forgotten, the shopping.  Nantucket has beautiful and unique shops and galleries offering art, antiques, books, leather goods, jewelry, clothes, and decorative things for your home. 

Cold sea air blending with the scent of pine from the decorated live Christmas trees lining the streets, carolers and bell ringers in period dress performing in the square make for a gorgeous setting.  The Nantucket Christmas Stroll is a lovely way to start your holiday season.


Nantucket Chamber of Commerce 1-508-228-1700,

Image courtesy of Michael Galvin for the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce

Lulu Lemon

August 14, 2010

One thing I’ve noticed at Lulu Lemon stores; the staff  are always thin.  There’s the key word, thin.  I’ve been to several Lulu Lemon stores in various states and all I’ve ever seen are these size two staff members walking around.  Thinness must be a pre-requisite to work there. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Lulu Lemon Athletica apparel, I just can’t fit into any of it. I’m a full-figured woman who practices yoga (yes Lulu Lemon execs big women do exercise) but their stores carry nothing above a size 12.  I would love to be able to wear one of the great looking sports bras but I’m not an A cup so why not make one in a DD you know, one that will fit an average woman.  The same goes for your pants and tank tops, how about putting out some size 18’s or 22’s?

So here’s my shout out to Lulu Lemon execs “Hey, are the words “full figured” in your vocabulary? Take your heads out of the sand, look around and you’ll realize that plus size women like to do yoga too. And we like to look nice while doing it.  So, why not design clothes that are 1x, 2x or 3x? Not every body in this world is a thin body”.  

The only things that I’ve ever found in a LuLu Lemon store that fit me are the yoga mats, which, by the way, are great.

Flour Bakery in Cambridge

July 9, 2010


A display of the sweet delicacies offered at Flour Bakery & Cafe


Chef Joanna Chang has done it again, opened another of her fabulous bakeries, Flour Bakery & Cafe, this time in Central Square Cambridge.  This new addition to her two Boston locations is a knock out both in the menu and decor.  Her tarts, cakes, muffins, fruit breads, brioche au chocolat and croissants are displayed in sleek stainless steel cases all the better to drool over.  Sprinkled around the cafe are cozy tables and counters to sit at and enjoy your meal.    

I can tell you from experience that Chef Chang’s food is to die for.  A Harvard graduate who has a degree in mathematics Chef Chang left the high-powered financial world to pursue her passion, cooking. And, she is marvelous at it.  Everything is made on the premises; choose from sandwiches of smoked turkey, cheddar and cranberry chutney or hummus, cucumber, radishes, sprouts and onions or fresh mozzarella, basil pesto and tomato are served on country and multigrain rolls and slices.  Her Quiches filled with ham, cheddar, zucchini, spinach and parmesan are as light as air.     

Chef Chang is known for her talent with sweets, her sticky buns definitely will not disappoint you they sell out early so if going on a weekend order them in advance.  Her cookies run the gamut from peanut butter to oatmeal, raspberry crumb bars (my favorite) to almond biscotti to Belgain chocolate brownies.  And, the piece de resistance, Chef Chang’s homemade chocolate covered Oreo cookies, clearly a chocoholic’s delight.     

Run, do not walk to Flour Bakery in Central Square.       

Image courtesy of Flour Bakery.