|February 18, 2016|
It's been really cold this week in the Boston area. We are certainly feeling the brunt of the winter season. On Valentine's Day, the weather was very cold that it felt like minus 26 in MetroWest.
Most Bostonians has had enough of the winter and looking some signs of Spring. One good sign is that the Red Sox equipment truck has left for Florida. Pitcher and Catchers report in a few days.
If you're looking for a place to see the first flowers of Spring, I would recommend heading over to St Botolph Street sometime around the third week of March.
Last year, on the first day of Spring, I captured this photo of a blooming Crocus:
It turns out that this was one of the first flowers to spring up during last year's terrible winter. My picture even made it to several online media outlets like this one:
Here's the location of where you can check to see the first signs of Spring. It's near the intersection of Garrison Street and St Botolph Street, just a few blocks from Copley Place:
|February 11, 2016|
I started working in the back bay Boston back in September 2011. The area has changed a lot since then. Here is a picture that I took from the 16th floor of the Christian Science Center administration building.
Here's the same picture today from the 14th floor:
Some of the notable differences between the two photos:
I wasn't able to take a picture from the same spot since our company expanded to other floors in the building.
|February 4, 2016|
I used Suffolk County as my location target because it covers all of the Downtown Boston areas. There are a few interesting things I learn along the way....
Technically the two closest Dunkin Donuts shops are located in the Back Bay Commuter rail station. There is a regular Dunkin Donuts on one side of the station and an express on the other side of the station. Both are extremely busy in the mornings.
Aside from that, the next two locations is a close tie between the stores on the corner of Bowdoin Street and the stores on Stuart Street and Charles Street. It looks like the Dunkin Donuts on Bowdoin Street wins by a slight margin.
I haven't been up to Bowdoin Street in a long time, but I recall that Duck-Boat operators' often refers to one of the coffee shops as "the only place in town where you can get a cappuccino and sushi at once." Not a good combination, in my option.
The two closest Starbucks shops are the shop on Dartmouth Street and the one in Copley Place. In fact, when your sitting at the table in Copley Place you can see the store on Dartmouth Street.
The Starbucks on Dartmouth Street is right next to the FedEx office. The other one isn't in the Copley Place but in the lobby of the Westin Copley Place. The easiest way to get there is to enter Copley Place and then take the pedestrian bridge over Stuart Street towards Westin Copley Place. You'll see it after you get off the pedestrian bridge. This is a real Starbucks since you can get all the drinks and food, and they sell Starbucks gift cards.
With Boston having such a diverse mix of Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks, it got me wondering, what is the closest you have to walk to get from one store to another?
You don't have to walk too far if you want a glazed donut from Dunkin and a Triple, Venti, Half Sweet, Non-Fat, Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks in the Back bay. The two establishments on Massachusetts Ave are practically next to each other, separated only by Haviland Street.
I am pretty sure that you won't find any place else in the country where a Starbucks and Dunkin are closer than they are on Massachusetts Ave.
Do you know of an even closer Dunkin/Starbucks? Send me an email with a picture. Small express stores don't count, they both should offer the full menu to qualify.
|January 28, 2016|
Last week I suggested a unique lunch place in Boston to try, this week its about trying a classic coffee shop - Thinking Cup.
Boston has it's share of Dunkin Donuts (20) and Starbucks (19), but there's nothing like visiting a local coffee shop to enjoy something local. Plus it's good to try something different every once in a while.
This week I stopped in to try the French Hot Chocolate and their "Salted Chocolate" cookie:
A French Hot Chocolate is basically a very creamy Hot Chocolate. They actually don't make it anymore, but the guy running the drink section made an exception and made an extra creamy hot chocolate. How awesome is that! Try that a Dunkin or Starbucks. The drink was very good and very creamy. I still like LA Burdock, which is about a 1/2 block away. This hot chocolate was very similar in taste. I only ordered it because I was intrigued on what a french hot chocolate would taste like. The "large" cup size didn't really seem that large to me.
The "Salted Chocolate Cookie" was also good. It was nice and soft and lots of chunks of chocolate, it did remind me of the great cookies I got at Paradise Bakery. Unfortunately, it wasn't gluten free, so my daughter wouldn't be able to try it. But Thinking Cup did have a lot of snacks and meals that are gluten free that she would enjoy.
They had lots of great classic coffee shop foods - except donuts. I didn't see any in the display case, perhaps they only have enough for the morning rush?
The coffee shop is a bit small, I would expect it to be very busy in the morning. When I stopped in at lunch time it wasn't all that busy and I did see some empty tables. There was a bit of a line waiting to place my order, which was fine because I was able to look at the display case and see what snacks I wanted.
The people working at Thinking Cup were very friendly and helpful. When I placed my order, they repeated it back to me to confirm what I told them. That's something that I haven't encountered at Dunkin or Starbucks. Everyone there was smiling and very helpful to all the customers waiting and those that were seated.
I would suggest trying out Thinking Cup on Newbury Street. Can't make it there for a snack? They do have several locations around the city, such as Downtown...
If you should eat in at the Newbury Street location. Try to get one of the tables on the left as soon as you walk in. You'll be away from the line traffic and have a good location to watch people walking down Newbury Street.
|January 21, 2016|
Spending some time in Boston's Back bay? Considering a unique cafe to eat at? Try the Trident Booksellers and Cafe on Newbury Street. They are the last independent bookstore in Boston. Certainly worth checking out to eat, or to browse around the store.
This a small bookstore that is pack with all sorts of unique books. This is a perfect lunch spot to stop in while window shopping on Newbury Street. You can eat in the Cafe or pickup and go. In the summer time, you can eat outside and watch all the nice cars go by. The outside patio does get very busy around lunch time, your best bet is to eat early or after 1:30.
You can find all sorts of books around the cafe. What makes this place better than Barns and Noble are the personal touches. Are you looking for a good book to read? Do you want to rely upon the reviews that you read online? Directly across the cash register is a bookshelf filled with staff recommendations. You can read why people suggest the particular books. I found that some of the recommendations are much better than anything you can find online. If you're unsure about a book, just ask someone. (Try doing that on Amazon!)
While browsing around the store recently, I encountered a large section of adult coloring books. These are all the rage right now. You can browse the collection to find the one that suits your needs. In addition, they have a good collection of color pencils and pens for the books.
Trident Booksellers and Cafe is a great place to find the hard to find gifts too. They have all sorts of little gifts on the tables around the store. I am not sure how they find some of these things, but it's always fun to go in and see what new and creative thing that they have in stock. In addition, near the cash register, they have a good collection of Boston gift items for people looking for souvenirs. They have a good stock of 'Good Night Boston' and 'Hello, Boston' book series.
Just because Trident Booksellers and Cafe is on Newbury Street, one of the most expensive retail streets in New England, it doesn't mean everything is way over priced. I have found the prices on books and gifts to be very reasonable. Their sandwich prices are very competitive with most of the eating establishments around the Back Bay.
Trident Booksellers and Cafe is located on 338 Newbury St in Boston's Back Bay. The nearest cross street is Massachusetts Ave. Their location is perfect for anyone walking down Newbury Street.
Suggest Trip idea: Make Trident a midway breakpoint as you explore the various stores on Newbury Street. Starting from the Boston Gardens walk down the even side of Newbury Street. When you reach Trident, sit down and enjoy a snack then walk back to the Commons on the Odd side of Newbury Street.
If you're attending a convention at the Hynes Convention Center. Consider stopping by the Trident Booksellers and Cafe, it is about a 5-minute walk from the Convention Center main entrance to the Cafe. I am sure that the food and experience will be better than anything you get at the Convention Center.
|January 14, 2016|
The Christian Science Plaza in Boston is a beautiful place to walk around or to sit and enjoy the sights and sounds of Boston. From the east side of the plaza, you have an excellent view of the Prudential Tower and surrounding buildings.
If your visiting Boston in January, you can still get nice pictures of the Boston Skyline with the winter blue sky. You don't need to have water in the reflection pool to appreciate the architecture of the City of Boston.
The best time to take pictures at the reflection pool is in the afternoon. That's when the sun will shine on the right side of the Prudential Tower.
The Reflection Pool at the Christian Science Center is 670 foot long. Compare that to the famous Lincoln Memorial Reflection Pool, in Washington DC, which is 2,029 feet long.
The water in the pool usually drains in the middle of November. The water comes back a couple of weeks after opening day at Fenway Park (around mid-April). It usually takes about 4 hours to fill up the reflection pool.
The Christian Science Plaza will not publicly announce when they plan to empty or fill up the pool. (This seems like a missed opportunity.) If you're visiting Boston in November or April, you never know if the pool is going to change. It's worth stopping by to see to see the difference the plaza is with and without water.
Like most reflection pools, there is no swimming allowed. Last year, the management allowed people put in remote control sail boats in the pool. It's kind of cool to see the boat going back and forth, and then trying to figure out who is controlling it. (Tip: Usually the person near a big duffle bag which is used to carry the boat.)
On hot summer days children can cool off at the water fountain. The fountain is running every day when the temperature is above 50 degrees. Just before the fountain is shut off for the season they run the water at full blast, this causes a lot of steam which causes a nice effect.
If you do bring your children, you can treat them to come cool ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery on the other side of Belvedere Street.
Be sure to visit other sites around the plaza. Check out the gardens near the reflection pool and the trees around the plaza. There's lots of weekly activities at the Mary Baker Eddy Library, including the historical Mapparium.
|January 8, 2016|
If your looking for a productive Macintosh screen capture tool, I highly recommend checking at Skitch by Evernote. This is a free tool that works very well with your existing Evernote account. You don't need Evernote to use Skitch, but they work so well together, why wouldn't you?
Use an existing image or capture a new one, then add shapes, write on it, draw on it, annotate it any way you like, and save it to your Evernote account so that it is available everywhere Evernote is.
Evernote is a notes application designed to help you stay organized that goes far beyond what you'd typically think of as a notebook. You can add text, images, audio, scanned documents, files, and more to your notebook, synchronize everything across all of your devices in Evernote's beautiful, free apps, and then quickly find anything with powerful search that can even recognize text inside your files and images.
Your Screen Capture on Steroids
The key thing to remember is you can "quickly find anything with powerful search." This means that when you use Skitch and save the screenshot in your Evernote account, you can search for text that is in your screen shot.
That's the power of Evernote and Skitch.
Skitch has all the image annotation that you come to expect from a screen capture tool. You can add arrows, Text, Shapes, Highlights, predefine stamps, Pixelate, and crop images. You can easily export the image out of Skitch so that you can add it to a Jira issue.
The good thing about Skitch is that it will create a notebook to store all the images, so the screenshots won't clutter up your default Evernote notebook. In addition, you can manage the notebook how you want, so if you don't want the files, simply delete them. You can tag the notes so that you can find them even easier.
I have plenty of space in my Upload Allowance.
Image/Shape Library - This would be a personal library of shapes and images that users could add to the screenshot. Knowing the image was issue happen in Firefox or Chrome could add a lot of value to the screen shot.
|January 7, 2016|
This was a tricky list to put together. It really made me think of all the various restaurants that I visited in the Boston Area over the years and which ones that I would want to go back to.
Today's post is all about three restaurants that I wish were still open and get one last meal. I had to think really hard of places that are no longer open that I would like to eat at again. The criteria for this list is simple; the location must be in the Boston area, closed for at least 5 years and a place where I ate their many times.
So here's my list:
Location: Wychmere Harbor, Harwich Port
Ah I can still remember hearing something like this over the loud speaker:
"Miles, Miles party of seven your table is ready. Go down the stairs and down the dock and see the waitress name Nancy. Miles Party of seven."
Then there is the classic radio commercial:
"Hey, Where are you going... I am going where the tasty clams are...Thompson's... Where? Thompson's Clam bar, it's where the tastes clams are...come by boat, come by car, come the way you are. Thompson's Clam Bar in Harwichport"
Here's one version of the famous New England Commercial:
This was the place to go if you wanted fine seafood by the sea. It would be cool to see boats that would pull up to the pier by your table and see people get out just to get some excellent New England Cooking.
When I was little my family use to go at least once every summer as part of our summer tradition. It was fun to sit and watch the boats go by. At the time we were members of the Yacht Club, which was on the other side of the channel, and we would look over to see what was going on at the club while we were eating.
I remembered that they had a great mix of rice crackers on the waiting tables on the patio. (Basically bar snack food) I remember them tasting really great and they weren't too spicy. For years, every time I would see a similar pack of Rice crackers in the grocery store I would buy it wishing it would be the same. I never found one that had the same taste.
The last time you could get fried clams at Thompson's Clam Bar was Labor Day Weekend in 1995.
Location: Handover Street, Boston Massachusetts. (North End)
This was a great go to restaurant in the North End. I remember my Dad would park the car under the causeway and we would walk over to Hanover Street and to the European. It would be an awesome treat.
The pizza was good and I remember some of the decorations around the restaurant. I remember the back room had a tall ceiling and their were lots of tables. I believe that they had family seating similar to Durgin-Park.
We didn't make it an annual tradition, but if we were going to get a bite to eat in Boston it would be at the European.
After we left the restaurant we would head over to Mike's Pastry and some awesome deserts. That is if we were still hungry from eating the large Italian Pizza.
The Aprile's European Restaurant in Chelmsford is supposed to be the modern version of the fine food served at 'The European.' I haven't been there to try it out, might be worth the drive to check it out.
For over 80 years, The European was an institution in Boston's North End. Now Eddie Aprile has brought back the recipes and the spirit of the European to North Chelmsford. Located in a historic brick millhouse, Aprile's European Restaurant has a comfortable, yet elegant atmosphere while that serves rustic Italian cuisine. Come join us for lunch, dinner, at the bar, or to book your private event.
The The European Restaurant open in 1920 and served it's last pizza on January 7, 1997. Today CVS occupies the space that was the historic European.
Location: 1 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge Ma (Harvard Square)
Nothing like getting a cheap hot dog for lunch in Harvard Square. The Tasty was a very small diner where people could get a quick hamburger or hot dog. They were very well known for their hot dogs and very small counter that surrounded the kitchen.
When I was working in Harvard Square for a few years, I would intentionally take later lunch breaks so I didn't have to wait to get a seat. I remember many times sitting up on the counter at lunch time and asking for 2 hot dogs and a coke with fries.
Don't remember much of the fries, but I do recall that the hot dogs were very good and snap when you bite in to them. They would have about 10-15 hot dogs on the warm part of the grill and would move the hot dogs to the hot burner as soon as you place your order.
It was kind of cool to just sit at the counter and listen to people talk to the cook about what's going on in their world. Since it was Harvard Square, you never know who would be sitting next to you. Would it be some famous Professor, future lawyer or even a future President.
Federico Muchnik did a film of the history of the Tasty:
'The Tasty' served it last hot dog in November 1997. (It was in business for 81 years.)
How did I do?
Do you know any places that I might have forgotten about that should be included? Let me know, send me an email or catch me on Twitter.
|December 31, 2015|
Levenger was found in Belmont, Massachusetts in the suburbs of Boston. They had their first retail street the Prudential Shops in 2004.
Sales must have gone down recently as the Boston retail store never reopened after closing this past Christmas. They didn't make any mention of the store closure on their website or on Twitter. You would only know by visiting store and seeing the paper covering the windows.
This is the second flagship store to close - in 2011 they closed the Town Center Mall in Boca Raton. They now only have stores in Chicago and Washington DC.
Since I frequently buy from them I get their email advertising with all the hot deals. This week I noticed that the Boston retail store was removed from in all post Christmas advertising.
The store closing can't be too much of a surprise to anyone who regularly shop there. When I went to buy some Circa paper for Christmas I noticed that the store had a lot of space. It wasn't missing inventory, just like look very open. Specifically, they weren't displaying as much furniture as they did before. When I was shopping, I didn't think anything of the lack of shoppers or inventory. Perhaps I should have asked about it.
Hopefully Levenger hasn't given up on the Boston market and open up a new store soon. In the meantime, I'll be buying my Circa paper from their website.
|December 24, 2015|
Today's post is about Santa Claus at The Shops at Prudential Center in Boston. This seems an appropriate topic for a Christmas Eve posting.
Last weekend we stopped at the Prudential Shops to look at some of the Christmas decorations, grab an early dinner at Five Napkin, and then see Santa Claus.
I was thinking that it would be risky to see Santa Claus on the Sunday before Christmas, clearly there would be a long wait. To our surprise it wasn't busy. We only waited for about 15 minutes. Which wasn't bad for a 4pm visit.
What made this even better is that Santa Claus took plenty of time with each child so they could let him know what they want for Christmas. For some kids he did it before the photo opportunity, and for others it was afterwards. It was awesome to see that they didn't rush through the whole photo process.
Around the same time, one of my friends posted on Facebook on the long waiting at the Natick Mall. I was very happy that we didn't choose to do that. We did visit the Natick Mall Santa, and actually thought the santa photo packages were cheaper in Boston
So if your looking for something to do on December 18, 2016 how about heading to the Prudential Mall and doing some last minute shopping. You can park at the Prudential for $15 all day, with validation, and walk around the Mall and then take a stroll down Newbury street. Your best bet for parking validation is at one of the restaurants in the mall, including 5 Napkin.
The lights and window displays on Newbury street are absolutely beautiful this time of the year, and certainly will make everyone appreciate the Christmas Season.
|December 20, 2015|
We sat in the middle section of the upstairs balcony.
Some notes and observances on the show:
Some observations on the Orpheum Theatre
We had a good time and My daughter liked the show, and that's all the really matters. However, given the choice of a Peppa Pig and and Disney on Ice, I think she may want to see Disney on Ice.
|December 17, 2015|
You can travel here and there
You can travel everywhere
there's no place like Hawaii...
..and when you have to go... you have to go...
the bathroom are upstairs to your right...
Today's post about bathroom seems a bit ridiculous until you need a place to go. These are some of the places that you can find a bathroom if you need to go. You can find restrooms in all the restaurants in Boston, but if you need a quick place to go, here are three public facilities that have bathrooms:
Back Bay Station
Located on 145 Dartmouth Street Boston, MA, the Back Bay T Station is the third most popular MBTA station in Boston. The station serves the Orange Line and the Commuter Rail for many trains that depart or arrive at South Station. The bathrooms is right near the ticket area at street level.
While the bathrooms may not be super clean, they are in better shape than any facility you'll would find on a train. Definitely worth stopping in before getting on the train.
The Prudential Mall, officially called the 'The Shops at Prudential Center' is located at the base of the Prudential tower. The best entrance to get to the bathrooms would be Huntington Ave entrance near Shaws.
The Prudential Mall is currently undergoing some major changes and the bathrooms are in a different location than you may be used to. The bathrooms are now located near Levenger in the 'Back Bay Arcade' wing. The mall does a good job keeping the bathrooms nice and clean.
The bathrooms are usually accessible outside of the regular Mall hours since many people travel through the mall going to/from work.
Boston Public Library
The Boston Public Library is one of the nation's oldest public library. You can find some very nice art around the library. They have an impressive collection of Newspapers and Magazines in microfiche format.
Use the Boylston Street entrance and head downstairs as soon as you enter the staircase area. You'll see the bathroom signs at the bottom of the stairs.
I have found that these aren't the cleanest bathrooms in the Back Bay. The library tries to keep the place clean. However, they are popular with homeless as they spend much of the day in the library to keep warm or dry.
|December 10, 2015|
Boston's Magic 106.7 (WMJK) is a popular music station that is broadcast out Dorchester, Massachusetts. It has an adult contemporary format.
Things change right after Thanksgiving as they change format and only play Christmas music. Chances are if your driving to the Burlington Mall on a Saturday, many of the cars waiting for a parking spot has Magic 106.7 on. Every year at 6pm on Christmas Eve, they start playing commercial free Christmas Music until the 26th.
The Christmas Music tradition started back in the mid 1990s (I wasn't able to find the exact year.) It has generated a good fan base. Check out Robert Gillis website where he attempted to track all the songs they were playing on Christmas Eve in 2010. He put together a pretty cool spreadsheet of the music that they played.
A few years ago they put together a CD collection of their all time favorite Christmas music. It was quite a list and for many years my Christmas Playlist. I really liked it when every once in a while they would add, "This is Magic 106.7." It's really cool when your listening and your not in the Boston area.
They don't put out a CD anymore, and perhaps you can find a copy at a used music store. This is the CD music list from when I imported it into iTunes back in 2007. (I don't know why the name of the artists don't show up in all of the listings.)
|Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree||2:05||The Magic Of Christmas||Brenda Lee||12/20/07, 10:13 PM|
|Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer||3:31||The Magic Of Christmas||Elmo & Patsy||12/20/07, 10:13 PM|
|Jingle Bell Rock||2:22||The Magic Of Christmas||Various Artists||12/20/07, 10:12 PM|
|Sleigh Ride||3:02||The Magic Of Christmas||Various Artists||12/20/07, 10:12 PM|
|The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year||2:17||The Magic Of Christmas||Various Artists||12/20/07, 10:13 PM|
|Linus & Lucy||3:05||The Magic Of Christmas||Vince Guaraldi||12/20/07, 10:13 PM|
|The Chimney Song||2:12||The Magic Of Christmas||Various Artists||12/20/07, 10:13 PM|
|Feliz Navidad||3:06||The Magic Of Christmas||Various Artists||12/20/07, 10:13 PM|
|Mary's Boy Child||5:10||The Magic Of Christmas||Various Artists||12/20/07, 10:14 PM|
|Silver Bells||3:34||The Magic Of Christmas||Kate Smith||12/20/07, 10:14 PM|
|Carol Of The Bells||3:43||The Magic Of Christmas||Various Artists||12/20/07, 10:14 PM|
|Hark The Herald Angels Sing||3:32||The Magic Of Christmas||Various Artists||12/20/07, 10:15 PM|
|Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas||4:46||The Magic Of Christmas||Various Artists||12/20/07, 10:15 PM|
|December 3, 2015|
Boston is a fun shopping town and there's nothing like browsing around various stores at Faneuil Hall Marketplace at Christmas time. You can find all sorts of unique gifts for people that are hard to shop for.
Faneuil Hall is also well known for it wide selection of foods from various counter restaurants in the Main hall to various sit down restaurants in the area. If you want to try something new this is the place to go.
If your looking for a good Celiac friendly restaurant, your best bet the same place your grand parents might have eaten at - Durgin Park. This is local favorite with a unique atmosphere and a menu that hasn't changed much since George Washington stopped by.
Historic Durgin Park, one of the oldest Boston restaurants, has served traditional New England home cooking near Faneuil Market for almost 200 years. Durgin Park "established before you were born." Features New England specialties such as prime rib, delicious steak and chops and a variety of fresh seafood. Other favorites include Indian pudding, corn bread, Yankee pot roast and strawberry shortcake.
Recently I stopped in with my brother and had a great dinner. It's been a long time since we both stopped in. We enjoyed our traditional New England cuisine and the service was excellent.
As we were leaving, I inquired if the restaurant had any Gluten-free options for my daughter. I was very surprised to find out that they had a large Gluten-free menu that offered a lot of the same specials as their regular menu.
I did notice that they didn't have anything special for kids. The manager on duty did tell me that they would work with us to put together a dish that my daughter would love. They did have a Frankinster dish on the Gluten-free menu - which is basically a couple of Hot dogs grilled, baked beans and French fries. This is certainly a dish any kid would enjoy. Incidentally the baked beans were very yummy, I highly recommend this as a side dish to any meal.
The manager told me that the kitchen would make sure the meal was prepared in a separate part of the kitchen - this is to prevent cross contamination. He seemed very knowledgeable about concerns that people have about eating Gluten-free.
If you need to eat Gluten-free, you don't have to miss out on going to one of oldest restaurants in the country. Next time your in Boston try Durgin Park. I highly recommend it.
|September 3, 2015|
While sitting in a nice air condition office, the MBTA kindly let's me know how hot is is outside. On hot days, I get a text notifications about the delays on the Worcester/Framingham commuter rail train due to heat restrictions.
The longer the train delays means that it's pretty hot outside. It seems that most of the delays impact the early afternoon trains. Usually by 5pm the delays aren't as bad.
Heat restrictions are a problem only with the Worcester/Framingham line. This is because CSX used welded steel rail which can expand during high heat. To avoid any derailment, trains have to go slow.
You can join in on the MBTA weather fun by signing up to the MBTA T-Alerts on their website. It's a handy notification to have when you need to know ab