Mooching Round South End Boston

IMG_6002My son has an apartment with a beautiful view from the 15th floor in a building that is in the neighborhood called “Ink Blot” that is part of the South End of Boston. It is a great place to stay because it is easy to catch the T and visit other parts of Boston and it a great neighborhood to mooch around.

This morning I took my time getting up and then I walked through the rain to Blackbird donut shop. These donuts are delicious. The chocolate cake donut was like a super good slice of chocolate cake. Alas, like many places in Boston, there is no where to sit. This is a city with sucky weather–rain, snow, cold wind, muggy hot–and yet many restaurants serve you food and offer no real space to consume it.

I needed to find a post office, so I set off toward the closest one and stopped at a Cafe Nero on my way and ate my donut with a cup of good, hot coffee. (They have decaf coffee on tap! Bonus points.) Then I began walking back toward SoWa art studios. My path took me past some public housing projects and the Holy Family Cathedral undergoing restoration. This is appears to be paid by the City of Boston!? Interesting. My church St. John’s Lutheran is having to pay more than $600,000 for a historically accurate roof and the City of Sacramento is giving us the opportunity to apply for a grant up to $25,000. Not saying one is right or wrong, just different.

I was ready for something hot to drink and a walking break from the cold rain. I remembered that the nonprofit More Than Words should have completed their remodel and reopened. Voila! The gorgeous retail space is open. It feels good to shop when you know that young people are also given the opportunity to learn life/work skills. Alas there is a reading room but no coffee. I made a contribution (haha) and then pressed on to Cuppa Coffee on Traveler Street. I was just about back to my son’s apartment building.

What a lovely morning, in spite of the wet cold weather.

Holy Cannoli! Little Italy in Boston’s North End

IMG_4739I was looking for some hidden gems in Boston so I checked out the website Atlas Obscura. Reading about Caffe Vittoria was intriguing. When I shared the address with my son, he’s wanted to go too because it is in Boston’s North End.

You got to love a big city that costs only $10 to Lyft across town. Boston is very compact and you can walk 15 minutes in almost any direction to a new neighborhood and experience something unique and fun.

We were dropped off across the street and faced Caffe Vittoria on the left and Mike’s Bakery on the right. There was a line down the block to get a cannoli from Mike’s Bakery. But we came for coffee and gelato and the coffee related ephemera in Caffe Vittoria. It is also the first Italian coffee cafe in Boston. I loved the pistachio gelato and Tevis enjoyed his blackberry gelato. My decaf Americano was good.

We started walking off our dessert as we headed to the T Station. We paused at North End Park where many people were relishing their cannoli and playing in the fountains. It is a great small park with adult swings and nifty lawn chairs.

People in Boston complain about the T and the need for maintenance. Yet it goes where you need it to go and is affordable. Coming from a place with limited public transportation I find it delightful. We walked home from the station enjoying the cooler evening.

Swatch: Bead + Fiber

IMG_4659If you find yourself in the South End of Boston and you want to mooch around a bead store or yarn shop you can satisfy both urges at Bead + Fiber. It is walking distance from the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center or Tufts Medical Center. It is also in heart of SoWa Arts Center. I discovered it while enjoying the Sunday open market.

IMG_4658I walked in and was offered a giant bone from the shop dog. Quickly someone asked if I minded dogs. Of course not. By the time I left there were three dogs between customers and the shop keepers. I love it.

IMG_4657There was a lot to look at and the shop offered a/c on a 90 degree day with 50% humidity. I love it.

Meet the Artist Nedret Andre

Nedret Andre with the Book that inspired her work focused on sea grass: World Atlas of Seagrasses.

On Sundays the SoWa Art + Design District in South End Boston hosts an Open Market. I didn’t know what to expect, so I followed my muse. There are food stalls but we had just eaten a great brunch at Worden Hall. Instead I headed to the tents where makers were selling their creations. I paused at one of the stalls with art by Nedret Andre, the colors and abstractions really spoke to me. Her assistant encouraged me to meet the artist at her studio on the 4th floor of 450 Harrison Street.


I worked my way through the market checking out the whimsical art of Mitra Farmand then admiring the print works of Goosefish Press. Finally I beat a retreat to the air conditioned multi-story building of art studios. I took the elevator to the 4th level and sought out studio 415.

Nedret Andre was in her studio. She stood amidst the large canvases beautifully filled with paint and imagination. Her work is all based on the abstraction of sea grass. And before you roll your eyes, appreciate how much she has learned about the ecological importance of sea grass in the New England seashore ecosystem. Nedret’s paintings reveal a world we don’t think much about and hopes to spark our curiosity to learn more about our interdependence with the ocean.

IMG_4662We had a fun conversation with another Julie who stepped into the studio at the same time as me about the menacing green crabs–an invader from Europe who roots up the sea grass. Should we celebrate the intrinsic beauty of the green crabs even though they are destroying the ecosystem for lack of predators?

Nedret has shown her work at many galleries and often collaborates with scientists to give them an opportunity to share their expanding knowledge at the art show openings. You can also learn more on her blog at Or follow her on instagram @nedretandre.


More Than Words Inspires


I am visiting my son in Boston and he just moved to South End (between downtown and South Boston). It is a place in transition with new buildings going up on almost every block. Around the corner from him in the redbrick Medieval Manor a local nonprofit, More Than Words, is opening a new used bookstore. It is more than words/books as it provides job training and life skills to at risk youth in the neighborhood. Based on the Google listing I walked there expecting to go book shopping.

Unfortunately the old bookstore is closed so they can remodel and reopen later this summer with far more space, a coffee shop, and meeting space. Fortunately they were hosting an open house today so I was able to take a tour of their warehouse facility and learn more about their youth program.

It all begins with book donations from people in the greater Boston community. This is a community of readers and it looked like the quality of donations was a notch above what the Sacramento Library receives. Program participants are paid to sort the books, check the ISBN numbers for marketability, catalog the books into their tracking system, shelve the books, retrieve them as on-line orders come in, and ship them out.

They also have kiosks like the one at the local coffeeshop where people can select a book and pay a flat $4 via Venmo and start reading.

The new bookstore location (opening this summer) will give even more job training opportunities. Program participants are held accountable for showing up on time to work, not missing days of work, setting goals and achieving them, school attendance and more. They make a base salary of $108 a month and if they perform well they have opportunities to work more hours and earn more. There is also a clear path to earning more responsibility.

It is hugely inspiring. My son forwarded me a crowdfunding appeal later the same day and I was happy to make a contribution. I am happy to report that they exceeded both their goal of $50,000 and their stretch goal of $75,000.

IMG_4590Also in the neighborhood: Grab breakfast or lunch at Cuppa Coffee, the Aussie coffee shop around the corner on Traveler Street. Be sure to get the egg and cheese pie, or lamb pie, or other meat pies specially made to their recipes. There is also a Blue Bikes bikeshare kiosk on the same corner.


Boston Must See: Gardner Museum

I read about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum a couple of decades ago before the expansion. I’ve been yearning to visit ever since. The couple of times I’ve made it to Boston the family agenda has superseded mine. I finally made it! Since I first read about it they have added a whole new administrative wing with a cafe, book shop, reading room, music hall and offices.

Gardner created her palace of fine art to show off her collection. What I didn’t realize is that it designed as an immersive experience. It is Gardner’s assemblage masterpiece. For example, the wing she added for John Singer Sargent’s El Joleo. Her cousin owned the painting and accepted an ambassador appointment. He had planned to will her the painting, so she offered to “babysit” and then immediately added this Spanish Cloister to best display the painting. On one side are spanish tiles and pottery and an archway into the center courtyard garden, and on the other side is a mirror to better enjoy the painting and light. She didn’t use electrified lighting (although her personal apartments did) so there is a place on the floor where the original lantern stood. She opened the new gallery space to much fanfare, so of course her cousin could not ask for the painting back!


I definitely recommend the docent guided tour. In an hour the docent explains in depth 6 different paintings and in the process you see most of the museum. I must warn you though, you’ll either want to plan for time to go back and look longer at the things you had to speed by on the way, or go again or both!  This vignette is typical of Gardner’s creations. In the Raphael room, she created this scene for us to admire Raphael’s painting of a friend. They do have elevators to help people who cannot cope with the stairs.


In 1990 the Museum experienced a theft of 13 paintings–3 from the Dutch room–by 2 men dressed as Boston police officers. This self-portrait of Rembrandt remained because it is on wood and could not be cut out of the frame. There is a $5 million reward for the return of the paintings. They have left the empty frames awaiting their return. The will stipulates that nothing in the gallery can be changed and this has been honored almost to the last inch, making the theft more tragic.  The 2005 documentary Stolen is fascinating (I just ordered a used DVD for $12. I originally saw it from a rental from the video store–remember those?).

Isabella Stewart Gardner was fascinating in her own right. A bad-ass woman for her time, or for any time. She used her $33 million inheritance to create this museum masterpiece. I bought a biography, Mrs. Jack, from the excellent gift shop. I look forward to reading it. There were at least 2 portraits of her in the museum. My favorite was the John Singer Sargent portrait hanging on the top floor of the gallery. Henry James introduced Gardner to Sargent and she became his patron and enthusiastic collaborator. He painted her portrait just after the scandal of painting Madame X and having it refused by the client. This portrait also caused a ruckus and Gardner’s husband Jack asked her not to display it in the gallery (and so she did not until after his death).  I love it!


Getting to the museum was an easy walk from the Ruggles Station on the Orange Line. Gardner bought the land at the edge of Frederick Law Olmstead’s new park Fenway (what was on the edge of town at the time). There are a number of art colleges surrounding it and it is just a short walk from Boston’s Museum of Fine Art. I also found Lyft to be super affordable and never waited more than 4 minutes for my driver. It is just slightly more expensive than the T. It is only $15 admission but thanks to my Crocker Art Museum membership I got in free. There are senior discounts $12 and student discounts $5.  The museum hours vary and the galleries are closed on Tuesdays.


Pussyhats and Women’s March


I love the way women create together. The Women’s March was a spontaneous reaction to the US election results. Loads of women (and men) thought they’d be celebrating the first woman President. Cue glass ceilings shattering. Instead we shared a state of shock and dismay. What does it mean when a man who grabs kittycats and whose Vice President is hostile to women’s health issues is going to form the 45th Administration?  So after a viral bump and then some rumbles about the organization and sustained enthusiasm from around the USA and then the world (over 35 countries having Women’s Marches too), the Women’s March in Washington and over 270 cities in North America will take place on January 21, 2017.

Sometime in early January friends sent me links to the Pussyhat Project. I knit and I’m going to the March in Washington, DC so it’s like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I scooted over to my local wool shop Rumplestiltskin to buy pink wool yarn and some circular needles and downloaded a couple of patterns for Pussyhats on  My knitting is not as fast as it used to be and I have enough yarn for six hats. My goal is to knit four before I leave on Wednesday morning for Boston, then two on planes, and automobiles. It is fun and women are sharing photos on Instagram and women who cannot go to DC are knitting in support. This so reminds me of other women organized events–we ace the details and embellish and enhance until it is something truly special.


Why am I flying to Boston? Don’t I know that Boston is an 8 hour drive from DC? My son and granddog Dozer moved to Boston in August and I have not visited them yet. I am going to spend some time in Boston before and after we drive to DC for the March. Not sure my son will want a Pussyhat, but he’ll have the option. He is an excellent driver so I will be able to knit, a lot.

#WhyIMarch is to speak out as a woman who has experienced adversity because of my gender that women’s rights are human rights. I am motivated by this election to #staynoisy and to not take the progress women have won for granted.