Archive for the ‘New England’ Category

A new resource for cycling routes and services

May 22, 2015

One of my favorite things is spreading the word in high-profile publications about people, services, and destinations I think contribute something positive to the world. Here’s one of them, about Bikabout, a wonderful cycling-centric service for travelers founded by cycling enthusiast and tireless advocate Megan Ramey. A small article ran in the New York Times May 17. Here’s my original version, which includes a few more details. Happy pedaling! 

By Diane Daniel

Bikabout founder Megan Ramey with daughter Annika Ramey on Plum Island, Mass. [photo Kyle Ramey]

Bikabout founder Megan Ramey with daughter Annika Ramey on Plum Island, Mass. [photo Kyle Ramey]

Megan Ramey’s first bike-related vacation with her husband and their daughter, now 5, partly inspired her to start Bikabout, an online travel resource for everything bicycling, with information on bike-friendly lodging, traveling with bikes, renting them, and where to ride them around town along with tips on culture, etiquette and safety.

“When our daughter was nine months we took our Burley trailer on the Chinatown bus from Boston and had the most amazing five days biking around with her in Brooklyn,” said Ramey, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., and volunteers with several bicycle advocacy groups. “Our next trip was to the Netherlands, where one out of every two people bike, which was totally eye-opening. If I can help get the US halfway to where the Netherlands is, then I will have accomplished a great thing.”

The site, which launched last year, is this spring rolling out new guides on Washington and New York City, soon to be followed by Atlanta, Milwaukee, San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, adding to the 13 cities already available.

Bikabout founder Megan Ramey with daughter Annika in Madison, Wisc. [photo Kyle Ramey]

Bikabout founder Megan Ramey with daughter Annika in Madison, Wisc. [photo Kyle Ramey]

The downloadable homegrown local rides, provided by Bikabout “ambassadors,” have proven to be the most popular part of the service, she said.

“You can of course go on MapMyRide and find rides there, but most of those are for people going 60 miles a day. Ours are for everyone and are less than 20 miles. They’re designed to have people really see and support the real city, to get off the beaten path and into the nooks and crannies.”

For example, the 7-mile East Van Brewery Tour in Vancouver visits six craft breweries and a few food stops, while the 13-mile Charleston (S.C.) Coastal See Food Tour includes key dining spots and expansive water views. Ramey also has partnered with several Kimpton Hotels, including those in D.C., and will supply them with themed routes starting from each location to give guests.

“Someday I’d like Bikabout to represent every major city in the U.S. that can accommodate bike tourism,” she said. “I don’t have the goal of making tons of money on this. I’m doing this more as a change agent. I want there to be a direct correlation between the amount of money that cities realize in bike tourism and how much they invest in bike infrastructure and safety.”


Towering trees keep us grounded

April 22, 2013

In honor of Arbor Day, we salute a handful of our country’s notable trees.

Dogwood at Matthis Family Cemetery in Clinton, NC

Dogwood at Matthis Family Cemetery in Clinton, NC


One of the largest dogwoods in the country, measuring 31 feet tall with an average branch spread of 48 feet and a trunk circumference of 114 inches, this tree heralds spring from Matthis Family Cemetery in Clinton. I wrote a full story about it a couple years ago. Love that tree!

American elm at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum

American elm at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum


Despite being heavily damaged, this American elm, more than a century old, survived the bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, and is now part of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. Its saplings are distributed on the bombing’s anniversary.


The Captain Bangs Hallet House in Yarmouthport is famous for the photogenic beech in its back yard, which is more than 60 feet tall and estimated to be between 150 and 200 years old.

Morton Oak in Nebraska City, Nebraska

Morton Oak in Nebraska City, Nebraska


This survivor of an old oak savanna remains a beloved spot at Arbor Day Farm, a 260-acre historic landmark and visitor attraction on the original property of J. Sterling Morton, a journalist who encouraged tree planting and who started Arbor Day in Nebraska City in 1872.


This giant sequoia at Sequoia National Park commands the world’s attention. By volume it’s the largest known tree in existence and is thought to be about 2,300 years old.

Polar plunges will warm your heart

January 5, 2013

I seriously cannot imagine taking a “polar plunge.” Heck, I’m sitting here with cold hands and feet in my office as I type this. But I do love the concept, which is why I wrote this roundup of plunges for the Boston Globe’s travel section. Most take place on New Year’s Day, but one hasn’t happened yet — which means there is still time for you to sign up! Or, you can ready yourself for Jan. 1, 2014! Here’s the list:

MSP Polar Bear Plunge, Annapolis, MD (photo Steve Ruark)

MSP Polar Bear Plunge, Annapolis, MD (photo Steve Ruark)


The largest plunge in the country, hosted by the Maryland State Police as a fund-raiser for Special Olympics Maryland, is held later in January, this year on the 26th. In 2012, some 11,000 plungers jumped into the Chesapeake Bay, raising $2.6 million.


The Coney Island Polar Bear Club, founded in 1903, these days attracts about 1,500 participants who kick off the New Year with a daring dip in the Atlantic Ocean.


While polar bear plunges are a New Year’s Day tradition all across Canada, the Courage event on the shore of Lake Ontario has become the country’s biggest, with more than 700 dippers and thousands of onlookers. To date, nearly $1 million has been raised to support clean water projects through World Vision Canada.

Nieuwjaarsduik (New Year's Dive) Scheveningen in 2010 (photo Alexander Fritze)

Nieuwjaarsduik (New Year’s Dive), Scheveningen in 2010 (photo Alexander Fritze)


As in Canada, New Year’s Day dips are held in dozens of communities across the Netherlands. The largest is in Scheveningen, a beach resort town near The Hague, where about 10,000 dive into the North Sea, many wearing sponsor Unox’s orange hats and gloves.


In our backyard, upward of 700 swimmers jump into the frigid waters of Boston Harbor for the annual Jan. 1 plunge from the Curley Community Center. The Brownies, who started the event in 1904, are so named for their year-round tans.

At MFA in Boston, old, new, and still friendly

January 9, 2012

The original grand entrance to the Museum of Fine Arts remains the same

When I lived in the Boston area, from 1989 to 2003, I visited the Museum of Fine Arts often and knew the layout and collections pretty well. Returning to the MFA recently was like visiting an old friend who had struck it rich but was as likeable as before. From November 2010 to September 2011, the museum grew by about 200,000 square feet, first with the Art of the Americas wing and then with the smaller but also wonderful Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art. Everything was familiar, but different.

Glass tower anchors the courtyard

Most visually new and exciting is the Shapiro Family Courtyard, a huge gathering space with café and the 42-foot “Lime Green Icicle Tower” by glass artist Dale Chihuly. The museum appealed to the public last year to help purchase the yummy cylinder of glass for $1 million. They came through, and we’re all benefiting. (I love this time-lapse video of the tower going up.)

Before I go further, let’s discuss the rules, summed up succinctly below in the neon installation “Please” by Danish-born artist Jeppe Hein. Delightful, playful, informative. Love it!

You'll want to follow Jeppe Hein's rules

In the Art of the Americas wing, I gave up trying to find my place and just enjoyed the 53 (!) galleries, including nine period rooms that are like little extra museums. The more than 5,000 works shown more than double objects previously displayed. About 500 are new, 175 are loans and the rest had been stashed in the basement.

The European art was moved around enough that it took me forever to find my favorite Van Gogh, “Lullaby,” a painting of Madame Roulin, the postman’s wife. But where I was when I found it I had no idea. Clearly I’d need to spend many more afternoons here.

In the contemporary wing, which tripled the space of the previous area and shows 250 works in seven new galleries, I was thrilled to find my favorite Kiki Smith, “Lilith,” hanging from the wall as always, along with many more purchases and loans. The last rooms we entered held a special show, 30 of Ellsworth Kelly’s wood sculptures, spanning his career. (It’s up through March 4.) Unlike his colorful paintings, these are natural wood tones, sparse and elegant.

Alas, time has run out for 'The Clock'

Before we left, we watched 30 minutes of  “The Clock,” a 24-hour video by Christian Marclay that apparently is no longer at the MFA. (FIND IT AND SEE IT!) The compilation of thousands of movie and TV clips of clocks and watches tells the current time at any given moment and is synchronized with real time. While there’s no plot, we were hard pressed to leave our seat, waiting to see how, for instance, 1:42 p.m. will be depicted. While we were constantly reminded of the time, it still got away from us.

DeCordova Sculpture Park a beauty outside and in

December 8, 2011

Ozymandias by Douglas Kornfeld

I hadn’t been to the DeCordova for almost a decade, and couldn’t wait to see its expansion both inside and out during a trip to Boston last month.  Formally the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, it’s adjacent to a large pond in the lovely, historic town of Lincoln, northwest of Boston. Somehow, even though the DeCordova is listed in various guides, it remains a best-kept secret. Below were some of our favorite sculptures, but you must also go inside to see current contemporary exhibits, check out the cafe, and do not miss the gift shop, one of the best places to buy craft in the Boston area. If you’re feeling ambitious (we didn’t have time), take a walk along the Sandy Pond Trail, which circumvents the pond. It’s a great place for lady slipper viewing in the spring. Whatever you do when you get there, just get there!

Diane (right) and friend Vicki have a heart to heart in front of Two Big Black Hearts by Jim Dine

One piece from Armour Boys by Laura Ford

Eve Celebrant by Marianna Pineda

Testing a World View (Again) (left) by Tory Fair, Humming by Jaume Plensa

In the shadow of the Pilgrims

November 17, 2011

Original and still-grand entrance to Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

We’re tooling around New England the week of Thanksgiving, and while we won’t be in Plymouth channeling the Pilgrims, we will be on the move. Here’s what I can’t wait to see (not counting my friends, of course!) Downtown Brattleboro, Vt. Specifically I’m curious about the after-flood effects, hoping that recovery has been going strong. The expanded DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Mass., long one of my favorite spots in metro Boston. My old house in Quincy and downtown Quincy, which I’ve read is being redeveloped in a major way. The mightily expanded Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; I’m really eager to see that one. Finally, in Portland, Maine, the ever-evolving downtown. We’re also taking the ferry to Peaks Island, which I managed to never do when I lived in New England. Away we go!

Happy Dutch-American Friendship Day!

April 19, 2010

A salute to Dutch-American Friendship Day

Wessel loves his Dutch-themed days, so I’ve given over today’s blog posting to my favorite Dutch citizen (I think the Quincy connection is very cool!):

Today is Dutch-American Friendship Day, which commemorates that on April 19, 1782, John Adams was admitted by the States General of the Dutch Republic as Minister of the United States of America, thus obtaining the second diplomatic recognition of the United States as an independent nation (France preceded in 1777). It was also the day that the house Adams had purchased at Fluwelen Burgwal 18 in The Hague was to become the first American Embassy in the world. A treaty of commerce and friendship was signed and Adams negotiated a loan of five million guilders for war supplies. In the years after, Adams arranged three additional loans. Let’s just say that money talks.

Birthplace of U.S. President John Adams, in Quincy, Mass., is operated by the National Park Service (photo Wikipedia)

Adams had strong ties with the Netherlands. His sons, John Quincy and Charles Adams enrolled at the University of Leiden in 1781. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized that these were the Adamses, the US presidents from Quincy, Mass. Quincy is where Diane lived for years before we moved to Durham, NC. So we’re doing our part to continue a tradition of centuries of Dutch-American relationships.

When you bee in need of mead

April 5, 2010

Ben Alexander next to the tall columns for the fermentation process

When Wessel and I were in Maine a couple weeks ago we made a point to visit Maine Mead Works in downtown Portland. I was impressed that they really live up to their “or by appointment” declaration with visits other than regularly scheduled tours. I called ahead and owner Ben Alexander made time for us outside of their regular hours, not knowing I was doing a piece for the Boston Globe. (Yes, I told him when we arrived!) Here’s the story, which ran in the Travel section of yesterday’s Globe:

PORTLAND, Maine — Workers were busy as bees the day we visited Maine Mead Works, housed inconspicuously in an industrial section of downtown. Inside the 800-square-foot space, two young men were bottling the signature blueberry mead, a caterer had stopped by to pick up a case of the in-demand beverage for a culinary event at the Portland Art Museum that evening, and owner Ben Alexander was preparing his deliveries for the day. Those alone keep him busy — these days Maine Mead Works’ HoneyMaker mead is sold in 150 shops and restaurants throughout the state and shipped to more than a dozen other states.

Maine Mead Works can produce 500 to 750 bottles a week

If your notion of mead is a thick, syrupy liquid consumed at Renaissance fairs, Alexander, 34, would like to have a word with you.

“People expect we’ll be serving mead in a skull-like mug that you need both hands to hold,” he said. “The perception is that it’s always cloying and sticky, something you only want a few sips of. But we’re one of the few meads that is really more like wine.” That includes the alcohol content of 12.5 percent.

To help educate the masses, Maine Mead Works offers regular tastings and tours, where visitors can see every step of the mead-making process — except the bees.

Mead, “mankind’s oldest drink,” as Alexander likes to say, is a simple concoction made with 20 percent honey and 80 percent water. The honey, primarily goldenrod from northern Maine, comes from Swan’s Honey in Albion.

Meadery makes dry and semi-sweet meads

Maine Mead Works started in 2007, when Alexander, a technology entrepreneur, partnered with Eli Cayer, a hobby mead maker, beekeeper, and community organizer. (While Cayer is still a co-owner, he recently left to start his own mead-making operation.) The two men turned to pioneering mead maker Garth Cambray, a South African scientist. Cambray, an expert in advanced mead-making systems, supplied Maine Mead Works with its initial yeast and taught Cayer and Alexander his “continuous fermentation process.”

Visitors can see where the mixture of honey and water, which is called must, is pumped into the fermentation room. Within 24 hours, 85 percent of the sugars in the must are fermented into alcohol. The process takes place in eight five-foot-tall tubes; production can be expanded by adding tubes. For now, the meadery can produce 500 to 750 bottles a week.

After the must is fermented, it is then pumped into maturation barrels, where it’s aged. The must-to-bottle process typically takes six to eight weeks, Alexander said.

Ben serves mead not in globlets but in nice glass tumblers during the tasting session

We were eager to taste the stuff, which comes in three varieties — dry, semi-sweet, and blueberry. Special flavors are made throughout the year, including one that was still on hand, the “applecisor,” made with apple cider instead of water. Other seasonal flavors include cranberry and lavender.

As Alexander promised, the mead, served in nice glass tumblers, not Medieval-looking goblets, is much closer to wine than syrup. The dry is a tad sweet, but not very, and the semi-sweet is just that. The plucky blueberry has a touch of tannin from the berry skins. We preferred the dry and semi-sweet, and bought several bottles for ourselves and friends.

“These varieties will taste different in another batch because the honey changes from season to season,” Alexander said.

I guess we’ll have to come back and see for ourselves.

Maine Mead Works, 200 Anderson Street, Portland, 207-773-6323, Free tastings and tours are held 2 to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday or by appointment (hours may vary seasonally). Bottles (750 milliliters) cost $14 to $16.

They’re dying for you to see it

March 22, 2010

Race car #61, marker for Joey Laquerre Jr.

I recently came upon a mention of Hope Cemetery in central Vermont, bringing back memories of our own visit there a few years ago. Situated in the small city of Barre, the “Granite Capital of the World,” the cemetery is the canvas for masterpiece markers honoring deceased granite workers. Some are somber, some are playful, and some are just wild. Here’s a piece I wrote about it for the Boston Globe: 

BARRE, Vt., — It was a dark and stormy day. And all the better for visiting Hope Cemetery, except that our marker map got soaked. This cemetery in central Vermont is no ordinary final resting spot, but a Louvre of memorial art. 

In memory of soccer fanatic Robert Davis

When you live granite, as a huge number of Italian immigrants did a century ago in this working-class Vermont city, you die granite. What better way to memorialize a granite sculptor or a worker’s loved one than with a locally produced and quite unique grave marker? 

The 65-acre cemetery, just north of Route 302, is a lovely setting for viewing and strolling. Visitors — from all over the world — are a common sight. A large burial service was going on when we were there on a late fall afternoon, which kept our mood rather somber. That is until we came upon the granite automobile marker, and the airplane, and the soccer ball. These markers celebrate life as much as mourn death, striking a balance between comical and poignant. One of my favorites was an oversized chair in the form of a favorite chair of the deceased. 

Elia Corti's impressive gravestone stands out as being cut from a single piece of granite

The floral carvings are also amazing, and the Visitors Guide to Hope Cemetery, published by the Barre Granite Association, explains the meaning of some of the flowers. Roses symbolize love and wisdom, Easter lilies, purity, and calla lilies sympathy. 

One of the cemetery’s most famous gravestones is that of Elia Corti, who died at age 34 in 1903. This large statue was cut from a single piece of granite and is a life-size likeness of the deceased, carved by his brother. In the sculpture, Corti is seated with his right elbow on his knee. Seams, wrinkles, and creases, and buttons are detailed in his clothing. His face is extraordinarily lifelike. The tools of his trade surround him. All this from one block of rock. 

A granite cube honors Paul Martel

You’ll also come upon bas relief carvings, including one of an angel and another of an elaborate sailing ship said to symbolize salvation. There are family mausoleums as well. The Vanetti family’s has eight crypts. The elaborate grillwork on the door is made from granite. 

Whether your day is dark and stormy or sunny and clear, this is a place to celebrate life and the rocks of ages. 

Hope Cemetery is at Merchant Street at Maple Avenue in Barre. For a map, contact the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce, 877-887-3678. The cemetery can be reached at 802-476-6245.

We heart (spoon) Gourmet

October 7, 2009

200910_15_Gourmet coverThe very day (Oct. 5) it was announced that Conde Nast was shuttering Gourmet magazine after 69 years of service, I had started a pitch letter to an editor there. Well, that was not meant to be. Not that I’m feeling bad for myself, when dozens of employees are now out of work. Welcome to the world of freelancing, my friends.

Meanwhile, I felt nostalgic for the first little piece I wrote for Gourmet in 2002. I’m thrilled to report that the subject — Beehive Kitchenware Co. — is not only still in business but thriving, with many gorgeous new pieces in its cupboards. Read on:

From the February 2002 issue of Gourmet (click on the cover above and you can see article. Woo-hoo, technology!):

Spoons for lighthearted and heavyhearted ingredients

The spoons that launched a dozen magazine articles, mine included

Some men give their sweethearts flowers for Valentine’s. Not Jim Dowd. He made girlfriend Sandra Bonazoli a pancake turner, the spatula end shaped like a heart, the handle resembling cupid’s arrow. A few years later, it ended up being one of the couple’s first in a collection of handmade cookware. After Dowd, a custom metal fabricator, and Bonazoli, a jeweler (both are 33 and have masters’ in fine arts), married in 1998, they looked for a joint project. Bonazoli, whose family owned a neighborhood restaurant in Newton, Mass., for two generations, already had a fondness for kitchenware. “One day she was waxing about how new kitchen utensils work well, but they don’t have the soul that a lot of older ones do,” recollects Dowd. “So we said, ‘why don’t we make them?’ ” Now their company, Beehive Kitchenware Co., based in Fall River, Mass., has a line of 13 pieces (and growing) and two production assistants. (UPDATE: I count 37 on their website in 2009.)

Now that's my cup of tea!

Now that's my cup of tea!

Hearts show up in much of their work, including a pewter tea strainer and rest, coffee scoop, and measuring spoons. A set of spice spoons takes care of recipes that call for a “dash,” “pinch” or “smidgen.” Hearts also are found in the etched patterns of Beehive’s copper and silver-plated measuring cups. “Hearts are traditional and even kind of corny, but people really respond to them,” Dowd says. “What we’ve tried to do, instead of take kitchen utensils and try to slap something on them, we try to incorporate the heart into the design so it seems a little more seamless.”

Cupid's best baking friend

Cupid's best baking friend

Also traditional are their fabrication methods. “In order for us to make these things we needed old equipment.” From an antique tool broker they found an old wiring machine and other traditional metal-smithing pieces.

For new ideas, “we look at a lot of examples of folk art,” Dowd says. Beehive’s newest offering is a pizza wheel cutter with an ivory-colored resin handle, based on a 19th-century scrimshaw-decorated cutter they saw at the New Bedford (Mass.) Whaling Museum.

Diane’s 2009 update: I don’t see the scrimshaw-inspired cutter in their list of products. You can purchase items from that products page, or, for a list of brick-and-mortar outlets that carry Beehive products,  go here. Happy shopping!