Monday, May 27, 2013

No chocolate left behind- Boston Strong Chocolate Tour

This weekend, my friends Karen, Kim and I went on the Boston Strong Back Bay Chocolate Tour. My sister and I went in on the ticket for Karen as a birthday present. My sister is not into chocolate that much so she elected to give her ticket to Kim.

We assembled at the first stop on this walking tour, Hotel Chocolat. They had prepared the tasting room just for our group of 18.

Our guide, Victoria, introduced herself and explained about the tour. She talked about the significance of this particular tour because all the proceeds from the tour would go to the One Fund. She has been a Bostonian for 11 years and she was clearly affected by the Marathon Bombings.

Victoria had us sign a poster which would later be placed at the Marathon Memorial. I loved what Victoria wrote.

Mine was not nearly as eloquent. I think I mentioned in a previous post that six people from my hometown were seriously injured in the bombings.

We all signed the poster and got to know each other. A couple from New York just in Boston for the weekend, a mother and daughter from Rhode Island, friends from Wisconsin, a couple celebrating their anniversary.

Before the first tasting, we received a goodie bag and were given the ground rules of the tour. "No chocolate left behind!" proclaimed Victoria. We had to eat all the samples or they were to be put into the ziploc bags we were given with the goodie bags. I knew this was one rule I could obey.

I forgot to mention we all received a Boston Strong T-shirt and we were asked to wear them on the tour. The T-shirt was designed by a young Melrose girl.

Let the sampling begin! First a little education about chocolate. That big red thing? A chocolate pod.

We didn't break it open and eat it. Instead, we had a milk chocolate disc and a pecan brownie chocolate. Yum, nothing went in my ziploc bag at this stop!

Having our appetite whetted for chocolate we were on to the next stop. Victoria led the group down the street to Ben and Jerry's.

A section of Ben & Jerry's was reserved for us. We learned a bit about Ben & Jerry and their Vermont based business.

We were educated about fair trade and the natural ingredients that Ben & Jerry use in their ice cream.

Then it was on to the ice cream! Vanilla with chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chocolate chip cookies and a third cookie as well. It was delicious!

Here's a better look at the Tshirt. Colors of the Boston Marathon, blue and gold. A gold heart and the city skyline with the words Boston Strong showing through.

I firmly believe that no matter what your age ice cream and chocolate will always bring a smile to your face!

Victoria and friend were happy too. They were making all of us happy and raising money for the One Fund. Win win!

Next stop, Teuscher Chocolatier. Swiss made chocolates, yes please! Bring on the ziploc bag!

The chocolates in this shop are flown in daily from Zurich. We had champagne truffles, yum!

This shop was so beautiful! Flowers and chocolate everywhere. Of course I found it appealing!

Karen took this shot of Kim and I. The only photo you will see of me as I am always the one behind the camera!

Time for a chocolate cupcake at Sweet on Newbury. This reminds of a shop you might see in Paris. Attention to detail on the inside and  out.

These cupcakes honored our Boston Bruins hockey team. Go Bruins, all the way to the Stanley Cup!

And of course, Boston Cream Pie cupcakes were for sale.

I told you this shop was cute inside too. Wouldn't this be heaven for a little girl's birthday party?

And I definitely need one of these for my next party!

You know I have a chalkboard obsession so I knew I would love the next stop, Robin's Candy.

A couple of samples of chocolate at Robin's. When I was asked if I wanted to try a chocolate covered cricket I thought it was a cricket shaped chocolate candy. I tried it and later found I had indeed eaten a cricket covered in chocolate. Eew! It was quite crunchy and leggy. Yuck!

Visual overstimulation and a sugar rush. Members of our group soaked up the festive atmosphere at this store.

Members of our group relaxed outside after the frivolity inside Robin's.

My friends enjoyed the sunshine after the downpours on Saturday.

Boston's beauty was certainly on display this Sunday afternoon.

We trekked onto the next destination, savoring the sunshine and near perfect temps.

Victoria told us to take 5 pieces of Lindt Chocolate Truffles- one of each kind.

We walked down Boylston Street and stopped at the Boston Marathon finish line. We held a moment of silence for the victims of the bombings. The sound of sirens and ambulances did not permit a true silence and I wept briefly thinking that this is the exact sounds so many victims heard after the bombs went off. Sirens.

We walked past the very ornate Copley T Station (that's the public transportation system for those of you who are non-Bostonians). 

And we passed in front of the Boston Public Library, one of my favorite buildings in the city.

We headed to the last chocolate stop Gourmet Boutique at Copley Place.

Taylor spoke about the different product lines at Gourmet Boutique. It is a teeny tiny shop but lovely. 18 of us squeezed into the shop to taste 3 kinds of chocolate.

Victoria wanted to place our poster at the Marathon Memorial so we walked with her. I had not seen it and I wanted to pay my respects.

I read many of the sentiments on cards, posters, running shoes and watched the people's faces. Emotions are still raw and shock and grief are still evident. It has been little more than a month.

Those who died were memoralized.

Others expressed their feelings of patriotism.

And of their resolve to keep on running.

Messages of strength.

And solidarity from those who know the pain from acts of terrorism.

We will all feel better in time but we can feel good about our small contribution to the One Fund Boston. 

If you would like to take a Boston Chocolate Tour click here for info.

To donate to the One Fund Boston click here.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

26 acts of kindness- making progress

It's been a while since I gave you a progress report on my #26 acts of kindness. I have to say I didn't do a lot of heavy lifting with these acts. For most of them I just opened my wallet but I still think I made a difference in people's lives. So here they are, acts 10-19.

#10- My friend Debbi's friend Marguerite is a kindergarten teacher in Revere, MA. Marguerite applied for a grant to create a vegetable garden at the Paul Revere School. She received the grant but needed some extra money to buy some EZ Grow Starter kits for growing plants inside. If they were to plant outside too soon, all the plants would die. So with the help of several donors including myself, they got some of the plants started inside. Next week they will transfer them to the garden outside.

I think this is so cool! 5 year olds are learning to garden and grow their own vegetables. Good luck to Mrs Guide and her kindergarten students!

#11-  This next story tugged at my heartstrings because it involved an injured animal.

Lokin is an italian greyhound who, with his sibling, dug under a fence in his owner's yard and escaped. The owner was able to grab the other dog right away but Lokin took off running. He is a rescued greyhound  and a fast runner.  That night there was a police report that a greyhound at been hit by a car. The driver stopped but the dog ran off.  Lokin was found two days later in the bushes of a home just over the town line in Stoneham. Lokin lives in Melrose.  Lokin was severely injured with lots of broken bones and bruises. Lokin's vet bills are in the thousands. An online fund was set up which goes directly to the vet.  I felt so bad for the dog and his owner I gave some $$$ to the fund. I just checked again and Lokin is recovering nicely.

#12- And then there was the Boston Marathon bombings. I gave to the One Fund Boston. The funds to be distributed to the families of the 4 killed and the 260 victims. There was no question or waivering on this one. It was the right thing to do.

#13- At work, we had a children's book drive so I donated 6 books. I enjoyed looking at the books in the bookstore and picked out a few that would interest me if I were still a child. I think they'll like them.

#14- The marathon bombings were so devastating to our city. The day after, I found out that I knew two of the victims. Marc Fucarile is the son of one of my former co-workers and his aunt is my friend. His mom lives on my street.  Marc was severely injured. He lost a leg and was burned over half his body.  He continues to recover with family at his bedside every day at Mass General Hospital. My friend Debbi asked me if I personally knew any of the victims. She wanted to donate to someone that one of her friends knew. So she gave me a check  for Marc and so did my sister. Debbi also had a Kentucky Derby party and everyone donated their earnings to Marc. We raised $250. for his care. Hardly a dent in his medical bills but it's something.

#15- I was checking on Lokin's vet bill fund and I noticed that donations had slowed down. I am sure it was because everyone in this area was giving to the Marathon Victim's Funds. I gave a few more dollars to show that a recent donation was made to the fund. It also rounded the donations to a total of $1400 collected for Lokin. The goal is $5,000.

#16- My friend Jeanne's 17 year old daughter is going to Kenya this Summer. She is going to help the people in a village by helping to build a school. She is also going to do the water walk which means she will be walking in the heat for 2 hours to obtain water to bring back to the village. The Kenyan women do this at least twice a day. Victoria is fundraising for her trip so I gave some $$ for this cause. She is going to learn some life lessons on this trip. I am glad to help her with this opportunity.

#17-  gave my hairdresser a ride home from her salon. Then she invited me to stay for dinner. I benefitted from my act of kindness!

#18-  another monetary donation. This time to the Stoneham Strong fund which is a fund for the 6 Boston Marathon bombing victims in my hometown of Stoneham. As I mentioned, I knew two of the victims. You may have seen Jacqui Webb on Dateline and other shows. She is the girlfriend of Paul Norden who is one of the two brothers who each lost a leg that day.  Jacqui is a realtor and I am a lender so I know her through business. She also worked with my friend Jeanne who is also a realtor. So of course, I had to give a donation to this local fund.

#19- a simple act of kindness - I almost wasn't going to count this one because it is so minor. My neighbor has a baby and she is constantly trekking the baby up the stairs to her condo unit. The other day she was trying to manage the baby, the dog and bundles from the grocery store. I was wondering how she was going to manage all this so I volunteered to carry most of her bundles so she could concentrate on the baby and dog. She was appreciative.

Can't believe I have reached 19 acts of kindness and I'm feeling really good about it.

I thought it might be good to read about others' acts of kindness so I bought a book from Amazon called The Year of Doing Good by Judith O'Reilly. It's a great book. Judith made a resolution to do one good deed a day for an entire year. The book chronicles each of her acts of kindness. It reads like a diary as she tells a story with each entry she posts.

I am only on act #20 but it has already captivated me. She writes with humor and familiarity. I feel like she is a friend telling me her stories over a cup of coffee. As I read the book I think she could be me. Can't wait to read about the other 345 acts!

Judith has already brought up some questions I was also thinking about my own acts of kindness. For instance, Judith did a good deed for a friend and then she received a thank you note, a bottle of wine and some chocolates from the woman. So she was wondering if she should count the good deed. She never expected a gift and she only did the kindness with the purest intentions.  In the end, she did count it.

I hope you will chronicle your own good deeds so that you can tell me what you did. I am thinking we could do a collaborative post about doing good.  And if you are interested in Judith's book you can only buy it from Amazon UK. Yes, it all took place in England which I think makes it even better!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Picture of the Day

. Today was Mother's Day. My sister and I had lunch with my Mom at her nursing home. It was nice, we had our lunch and dessert and then we had presents.

I took this shot at lunch during a particularly silly moment.  I love this photo because my Mom is cracking up and so is my sister. Quite the candid moment.

Hope you all had a wonderful day with your families too!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Playing hooky in Exeter

There's nothing more enjoyable than taking a Ferris Bueller Day off from work and spending it in a cool New England town. Actually, I did not have to feign sickness. I had a scheduled vacation day.

My sister was on vacation from school and my friend Karen also took a vacation day. We met at Karen's new condominium which is absolutely gorgeous and we headed to Downtown Exeter.

I, of course, needed coffee right away. I didn't have any coffee or breakfast before I left the house so we stopped at Ollie's for refreshment. They sell coffees and teas and breakfast and lunch items. They had toast on the menu. 2 slices of nice thick buttery hot cinnamon toast! I was in heaven, I split an order with my sister. It was as good as I had hoped it would be.

With full bellies, we walked around the downtown area. We stopped at Reminisce, one of my favorite shops on Water Street.  A bit of silliness ensued as we tried on hats. The shop owner demonstrated how this hat should be worn.

My sister preferred the red velvet with the black tuelle which resembled a veil.

Isn't this a cool way to display your jewelry? Just use suction cups to hang necklaces.

The storefront at Reminsce featured vintage dresses. The shop owner had lots of stories about her vintage clothes.

Don't you love wreaths made from sheet music? I'll take this mirror too.

Reminisce is a must see on your tour of downtown Exeter. We enjoyed our visit.

No trip to Exeter is complete without a stop at Art'NTiques and a visit with Charlie. Charlie is the owner of the shop's adorable rescue dog. I think he remembered me from my last visit. I called out, "Charlie".

And he came right to me. He must be saying to himself this is the crazy cat lady who also likes dogs.

If you enjoy rummaging this is the place for you. Luckily, I do enjoy picking.

We walked around to a few more shops and then it was 2:00 and we hadn't eaten lunch yet. We chose Sugar & Ice because they had sweet and savory crepes.

The shop was adorable and there was a wonderful selection of coffees and ice creams.

We were deciding on dessert when Karen saw frozen hot chocolate on the menu. She quickly proclaimed that she needed it.

I opted for the German Iced Coffee. The shop owner explained what it was to me. 2 scoops of ice cream and coffee. I had a scoop of belgian chocolate and one scoop of coffee ice cream. This was absolutely delicious and I am so trying this at home!.

My sister didn't want anything fancy and she decided on strawberry fields ice cream.

Exeter is participating in the Communitree Project for charity. So many of the trees were artfully wrapped with knitted items. This one was my favorite.

We were so fortunate to have a sunny day with moderate temperatures for our "fun day". We vowed that this will not be our last fun day of the year.  Both Karen and my sister have birthdays ending in a zero this year so I think there should be many more fun days scheduled in the near future.


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