Saturday, March 27, 2010

Boston Flower Show

Yesterday I went to the Boston Flower Show at the Seaport World Trade Center in downtown Boston with some ladies from the International Women’s Club. I hopped on the express bus into the city at 7:50 am, went to South Station, from there got on the Silver Line and took it to the World Trade Center.

It was a cold, blustery Boston morning. It was snowing a little bit and the traffic was terrible because of the weather, but I made it in plenty of time to meet the ladies by 10 am. The only thing was I was once again not really dressed warmly enough. I keep forgetting how cold it can be walking around in Boston! I shouldn’t have had to walk outside very much, but I got lost when I initially got out at the World Trade Center stop and walked over to the Boston Convention Center by mistake. So by the time I got to the Flower Show I was thoroughly frozen.

Fortunately it was warm and beautiful inside the flower show. I took lots of pictures of course. In my mind I was comparing it to the Hong Kong Flower Show in Victoria Park. If you click on the link you can see my pictures in Flickr from this show. One nice thing about the IWCB – I wasn’t the only one doing comparisons to previous experiences. One of the ladies said she was a bit disappointed but that was because she was comparing it to the Chelsea Flower Show in England, which is probably the premier flower show in the world. It’s a funny thing about having a lot of amazing world experiences. Yes, it does enrich one’s life immeasurably, but we also have to fight against feeling like everything else pales in comparison. I mean right now I can look out the window and it’s a beautiful, sunny( if a bit chilly) very early spring day. Yes, the view doesn’t include a misty mountain or the lights of thousands of high rise buildings, but it’s very pretty in its own way.

I took lots of pictures, of course, and I ran into several venders that were selling things that seemed like they might work for us. One store I especially liked sold something called Rain Chains . Our house doesn’t have gutters. It has a very steeply pitched roof and an area of gravel drainage around the house that soaks up the water as it rolls off. This works great in most areas and because of all the trees it’s really nice not to have gutters to clog up with leaves. The steep pitch also prevents snow from pilling up . The only problem is in one area in the back right by the kitchen door, where the water falls on the deck and freezes in the winter, so Lee is going to build a gutter in that area to move the water away. Once we have a gutter we’ll need a drainage spout and I think we could use a rain chain instead.

I also found a place called The Garden in the Woods that holds classes in Wildflower identification and gardening with native plants. The classes are run by the New England Wildflower Society.  I’m curious to find out what the best plants are to use for landscaping around here. The classes look very interesting so I’m going to sign up for a couple. More education for me!

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Big Tree Fell on It

Sunday morning on Hilton Head we got a call from Daniel, who was back in New Hampshire taking care of the dog. “A tree fell on the house last night. A big tree. A REALLY big tree. Water is pouring into the attic and down the wall in the hall.” Yikes!

We call our homeowner’s insurance company. “Due to extremely high call volume in your area, please call back later.” Well, we have had a lot of wind storms recently. I give them ten minutes and then call back again. After twenty minutes I manage to get someone on the line to report the damage. In the meantime Lee finds a tree removal service in Salem and calls them. They promise to come right out and get the tree off the house and make some temporary repairs so that the water will stop getting in, until we can get the roof fixed.

View of Big Tree from the Front of the House

Pine Branches Piercing the Roof from the Attic

Apparently Saturday night there was a huge storm in Salem. One of the giant pines trees in the wetlands in front of our house, its root system weakened by all the snow and rain we’ve had, fell over. Five of the tall spiky branches on the tree pierced the roof. The tree was so large that it came across the entire house and the top of the tree fell on the deck behind the house.

The Part of the Tree that Ended Up in the Back Yard

This all happened in the middle of the night. Daniel heard it fall, but just thought it was lightening. Fortunately it was at the opposite end of the house from where he sleeps. He got up in the morning and took Harper outside, but didn’t notice the tree. He fell asleep on the couch for awhile, got up and took Harper outside again, and THEN noticed the tree. Well it WAS raining pretty hard at the time, but if you look at the picture above, the door from the kitchen to the deck where we normally take Harper outside, is right next to where the top of the tree landed. Maybe the boy needs to start drinking coffee...

When we get back to New Hampshire we are impressed by the size of that tree. Suddenly the  remaining huge trees in the wetlands in front of our house take on a menacing quality. Will another one decide it wants to fall over and squish our house again? Its not a comforting thought.

Wetlands in Front of the House, Where Many More Trees Reside

Fortunately the insurance adjuster comes quickly and is very accommodating. Service Master comes and starts drying things out. Lee finds a good contractor through friends at work and they start on the necessary repairs.

Everyone up here to which we relate this story just laughs and says “Welcome to New Hampshire!” Hmmm…

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Savannah and Hilton Head Island

As soon as we knew we were moving to New England last fall we started planning a late winter getaway. With months of cold and snowy weather ahead of us, we knew by March we would have cabin fever and need some warmth and sunshine. So we decided to go to Savannah, Georgia and Hilton Head, South Carolina. A little southern charm, and little beach; what could be better?

Of course we had no idea that this would be one of the craziest winters ever on the east coast. While the locals up here complained about the dearth of snow and the lousy skiing, down around Washington D.C. and Virginia they were digging out from major storms that left record amounts of snow on the ground. The whole southeast had an unusually cold winter. So, we left sunny snowless fifty degree weather in New Hampshire and flew into rainy chilly fifty degree weather in Savannah. Wait a minute!

Savannah was as pretty as every picture I’ve ever seen of the place but it was barely spring there and hardly any flowers were blooming. But still, all the historic houses, the beautiful little squares, the riverfront, the fresh pralines from a local candy store….we were not at all disappointed. We stayed in the Dresser-Palmer bed and breakfast, a beautiful old house close to Forsyth Park. For dinner that night we went to a restaurant right around the corner, 700 Drayton. We began the trend for the week, which involved many, many meals of southern-related food, all very good and very filling.

Our first full day in Savannah, a Thursday, dawned rainy and cold. Not to be deterred, we grabbed a couple of umbrellas and headed out for our first house tour, the Owens Taylor house on Lafayette Square. There are lots and lots of very beautiful, historic houses in Savannah. Most of them date from around the early 1800’s. It’s hard to believe now that most of them were in severe disrepair until a group of ladies decided they should be restored and preserved back in the 1950’s. I had a recurring thought throughout most of our time in Savannah. What makes an old object valuable? When and what decides that something should be preserved? A couple of weeks ago when we spent a weekend in New York City we visited MOMA. There was an architectural exhibit there that included items from the 50’s and 60’s that Lee and I could both remember seeing in people’s houses back then. When did this stuff become something to put in a museum? It’s a puzzling and confusing thought to which I currently have no answer.

After the house tour we walked to an antique shop at 37th Street and Abercorn. It was farther than we thought and along the way it started raining harder. The antique store had cufflink bracelets like the one I have. We asked the shop-owner about them and she said that it was one of those ideas that get passed from one artist to another. Shucks, I thought mine was unique! Nowadays when I go to an antique store in the US I’m always looking for stuff from Asia. I like to smirk at the outrageous prices for things that could be gotten for a song in the markets of Hong Kong. I guess its just another example of things acquiring value just because they are not common to the area where they currently reside. After lunch at the adjoining French Cafe, we decided to walk back to the B&B. By now the rain is just pounding down so I’m not quite sure what possessed us to keep walking and not call a taxi. Sometimes I love walking in the rain, although living in Hong Kong has diluted some of the romance involved. But this was a cold, hard downpour, and we got soaked. My linen trousers, perfect for sunny southern days, were wet to the knees, but since they were my Outfit For The Day, I wasn’t about to change into something else and mess up my efficient packing plan. So instead I propped my feet up on a chair in front of the gas fire in the parlor of the B&B and dried myself out that way.

For dinner we went to a Savannah institution, The Olde Pink House. We ordered a bunch of appetizers, trying not to overeat, but we ordered a lot of appetizers so we weren’t very successful in that regard. Everything was good, but the southern-style shrimp sushi was amazing. Too bad we weren’t hungrier. I’m afraid we were starting to feel like a couple of stuffed pigs.

Friday dawned to nicer weather, no rain but still chilly. We toured the Juliette Lowe house (the founder of the Girl Scouts) and had, a really good docent that made the tour lively and interesting. Then for lunch we went to a place called Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House. This was more than just a Savannah institution – it’s listed in the book 1000 Things to Do Before You Die – and the long, long line to get in was a testament to its popularity. The amazing southern style fried chicken and seventeen accompanying side dishes included biscuits, okra, black-eye peas, gravy, three kinds of potatoes, turnips, beets, endless glasses of sweet tea, and dessert.
We waddle slowly back to the B&B where we discover that they have an electrical problem. At first they move us to another room. But then the entire house has to be shut down. They help us move to a different B&B and refund our two nights stay. I feel very sorry for them since next this weekend begins a big St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Savannah and they are going to be out a lot of money, but I’m also excited about two free nights lodging. With using miles for our airline tickets this is turning into a pretty inexpensive vacation, even with our voracious calorie consumption.

2nd B&B and Lee

Our next B&B is the Hamilton House. Right across the street is the Flannery O’Conner House, where she spent the first thirteen years of her life. Since she is one of my favorite authors we go straight over and even though they are supposed to be closing the very kind docent recognizes a fellow O’Conner enthusiast when he sees one and gives us a great little tour. The house is nothing special, but the stories are great, including ones about O’Conner’s sharp tongue and love of chickens.

We stick to salads for dinner. We aren’t hungry at all, but need to have something in our stomachs for the next activity, a Haunted Bar Tour. This is something completely out of character for us. We don’t go to bars, haunted or otherwise, and we don’t normally stay up late, but this sounded like lots of fun and it was. I drink margaritas as we go from one bar to another listening to stories about all the ghostly things that have happened in Savannah’s bars. I don’t believe in ghosts but the drinks are good, it’s not raining and we manage to stay up after midnight.

On Saturday we head to Hilton Head Island. First we take a short detour to see the lighthouse on Tybee Island. We climb the stairs and take in the view. We decide on barbeque for lunch and end up having one of those foodie experiences that make life worthwhile. Lee finds a highly recommended place called Wiley’s Barbeque on the road out of Tybee. It’s crowded and the only seats available are at the counter, which we don’t mind at all, especially when we discover that we are sitting right next to Wiley himself. He says he cooks KC style barbeque and we order a sampler platter to share. Then he lets us have a sample of his special secret sauce with some pulled pork – this is true South Carolina barbeque, vinegary, sweet and spicy at the same time. It’s just amazing…the whole experience reminds me of sitting at the chef’s table at Bo Innovations and getting to share some of Alvin’s private stash of Laphroag !

From there we head to Hilton Head, which is beautiful, in a resorty sort of way. The Marriot is nice but our room seems plain after the ornate B&B’s of Savannah. We have an AWESOME ocean view though. We have dinner at a local place recommended by the concierge. Its fine, but I can’t remember the name, and I’m temporarily sick of eating rich restaurant meals. It’s like a vacation we took to New Orleans many years ago where I was so frantic to try the food that I completely overdid it. I feel like I am permanently overstuffed.

Sunset at Hilton Head

The remainder of this vacation involves running and biking on the endless beach, watching the sunset over the ocean, an afternoon massage, and general laziness. If there had been more sunshine and more warmth it would have been perfect. We did enjoy one final amazing meal at a restaurant called CQ’s which I highly recommend. It was one of the best meals of the trip, and considering how much we ate on this vacation, that’s saying a lot.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

One Year

One year ago, almost to the day, we left Hong Kong and returned to the US. Lately I have been missing Hong Kong a lot. I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m just tired of winter. Maybe I’m a little bored. Maybe I’m a teeny bit lonely. I don’t know, but my heart hurts when I think of Asia.

The View From Our Hong Kong Apartment at Night

It’s funny though. If Lee came home tomorrow and said we were moving overseas again, I think my first reaction would be a huge groan. I’m very tired of moving around; we just moved too much this past year, and were too unsettled. I love this house and I’m just starting to discover New England and there’s a lot more discovering to do before I get tired of our new location. Lee likes to fantasize about what we might do and where we might go once he retires. But for now I don’t even want to think about it.

Front Porch of our New Hampshire House

There are plenty of things about our new life that are really great. I just LOVE this house, it’s so beautiful and it has so much potential. Our new dog, although a lot of work right now, is just funny and adorable. Once she’s completely trained she’ll be great to have around. I’m starting to find things to do. I loved my Nabokov class and I’m looking forward to taking another class at the Cambridge Center that starts at the end of March on Mozart. Its fun to take the express bus into the city and go exploring, and it will be more fun when it warms up and the dog is older so I don’t have to worry about her when I’m gone.

I met some really nice ladies at a coffee for the International Women’s Club of Boston and I’ve gone to a coffee for the Windham Newcomers Club too. I’ve found a great needlework group in the nearby town of North Hampton. And I’ve made contact with the New Hampshire League of Women Voters, although so far I haven’t been able to participate in any of their activities.

The things I don’t like have mostly to do with logistics. We really are farther away from Boston than I initially realized. Going into the city is not a trivial thing; it’s a day-long project. The town of Salem, although something of a basic necessities shopping Mecca, is just not a very attractive place. I like the people around here though. They are friendly and blunt which to me feels comfortable and familiar. And I can easily imitate their accent, which probably is not a good thing!


I started this post several days ago but I never finished it. At the time it seemed too negative, but after letting it sit a bit it doesn’t seem that bad after all. I guess in a way I think I should be “over” repatriation by now but like any emotional process these things aren’t necessarily orderly or logical. I think I put off some of the feelings involved in coming back to the US because I was just too busy to deal with them at first. Now I have time to think, while riding the bus into Boston, or taking the dog outside to go potty. The funny thing is as much as I miss Asia, I miss Texas too! I would love to go running on Town Lake, or eat at Z Tejas, or hang out with my Texas friends….

Texas Bluebonnets

Maybe the trials of repatriation are as much a form of nostalgia as anything. And nostalgia is where memory is formed and endures. I have some amazing memories now…all that pinching and ordering myself to pay attention and remember are paying off. It doesn’t hurt to have three years worth of blog posts to go back and read either!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...