The Final Inspection!

Yesterday happened to be Dave Jenkinson’s birthday (he is the main contractor on the house) so I ordered a cake from Concord Teacakes to celebrate. Right as we were cutting into the cake and all of the workmen were gathered in the kitchen, the inspector drove up the driveway to perform the final inspection and give us the occupancy permit so that we could actually stay in the house. It all passed, so last night was our first official night in the house!IMG_3273-2

We were able to get our Christmas tree up which seemed appropriate for our first night there.I feel like this house is a combination of all of our years as a family-we took a piece of each of the 12 houses we have lived in and enjoyed, and created this house. Christmas trees are the same-each ornament brings a memory-something one of the 5 kids was interested in,or a place that we visited,or a location where we have lived over the last 34 years. A true piece of your history as a family.

IMG_3279

Happy Holidays to all!

The Rose F. Kennedy Greenway in Boston

In 1991, after almost a decade of planning, construction began on the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, more widely known as the “Big Dig”. The project, recognized as one of the largest, most complex, and technologically challenging in the history of the United States, would remove the elevated highway and create a tunnel system below the city.

With the elevated highway to be relocated underground, community and political leaders seized the opportunity to enhance the city by creating the Greenway, a linear series of parks and gardens that would re-connect some of Boston’s oldest, most diverse, and vibrant neighborhoods. The creation of the Greenway was a joint effort of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (MTA), the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the City of Boston, and various civic groups.

DSCN2008DSCN2010DSCN2025DSCN2015

 

DSCN2009DSCN2014

 

The Greenway Carousel officially opened to the public on August 31, 2013 .The Carousel features 14 different characters native to the land, sea and sky of Massachusetts including a sea turtle, a cod, a peregrine falcon, a grasshopper, a harbor seal, a fox, a skunk, a whale, three types of butterflies, a barn owl, and a sea serpent. The characters were inspired by the drawings of Boston school children and fabricated by Newburyport, Massachusetts artist Jeff Briggs.

DSCN2016DSCN2018

 

There is also a set of lights in the section called “the Wharf District Parks” that can change color according to who just won games-Red for the Sox,blue for the Patriots etc. In addition Winter Lights on the Greenway is a series of lighting displays intended to bring warmth and cheer to the Greenway during the darkest part of the year.

DSCN2023DSCN2026

 

Right now and until October there is an incredible sculpture, As If It Were Already Here,from internationally renowned local artist, Janet Echelman.  Knitting together the urban fabric, it soars 600 feet through the air above street traffic and pedestrian park.

The form of “As If It Were Already Here” echoes the history of its location. The three voids recall the “Tri-Mountain” which was razed in the 18th-century to create land from the harbor. The colored banding is a nod to the six traffic lanes that once overwhelmed the neighborhood, before the Big Dig buried them and enabled the space to be reclaimed for urban pedestrian life.

The sculpture is made by hand-splicing rope and knotting twine into an interconnected mesh of more than a half-million nodes. When any one of its elements moves, every other element is affected. Monumental in scale and strength yet delicate as lace, it fluidly responds to ever-changing wind and weather. Its fibers are 15 times stronger than steel yet incredibly lightweight, making the sculpture able to lace directly into three skyscrapers as a soft counterpoint to hard-edged architecture.

DSCN2032 DSCN2029

Mostly it was nice to see people out enjoying the beautiful day and hanging out-walking,strolling,chatting in this new, beautiful 1 1/2 mile Greenway.

 

Big Bird From Sesame Street

la-2426755-ca-0510-caroll-spinney0021-jpg-20150506

On the way back to Cleveland where we lived at the time from New York, where I had just been to my Dad’s retirement party, I sat down on the plane next to a very nice man and his wife. They also seemed to be traveling with a gentleman a row ahead of us. The two men were exchanging all kinds of funny lines back and forth which finally led me to ask if he was a comedian. He answered very shyly “I”m Big Bird”! I didn’t really know Sesame Street that well at the time-I only had Kate who was 6 months old. In the end, he invited my family with extra tickets to bring another family(our best friends) to come to Blossom Music Center-he was going there to conduct the Cleveland Orchestra for Father’s Day. He told me all about his role as Big Bird-he had been in every major parade,been to literally almost all countries, been on Hollywood Squares repeatedly,met millions of movie stars and yet could travel like he was as a “normal” person, as he called it. That friend who we invited to go to Blossom and see him sent me this article that recently came out. Thank you, Nancy! Here is a picture of Kate,Tom Johnson and me with Big Bird in June 1984:

photo-176

from the Los Angeles Times-May 6,2015 by Patrick Kevin Day

“There aren’t many octogenarian entertainers who have managed to stay relevant in the ever-changing cultural zeitgeist, but then there haven’t been many people who have played Big Bird. Caroll Spinney helped create the big yellow bird for PBS’ “Sesame Street” in 1969, and he’s been playing the character ever since-for 45 years.

And if that isn’t impressive enough, he’s also played Oscar the Grouch for the same number of years. Although Big Bird is an international star, Spinney, 81, has mostly remained hidden behind the feathers. But an Oscar season parody of the film “Birdman” titled “Big Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Orange Pants),” which went viral, and the new documentary “I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story” (opening May 15) are finally giving the veteran puppeteer his due. And as “Sesame Street” heads into its 46th season, he has no plans to retire.”

Q-“Watching “I Am Big Bird” is a very emotional experience for someone who is just a fan. How was it for you to watch?”

A-“It was something else, because I don’t like to make it a big deal that I’m on TV. I just have a wonderful job. I’m used to seeing characters I play on movies and things but not to see myself. [My wife] Debra and I didn’t realize it was going to be a romantic movie about our love affair. Well, it’s not an affair — we’ve been together for 42 years come June. It’s a joyous 42 years, let me tell you, the way we get along. If everyone in the world got along the way we get along, divorce would be almost unknown.”

Q-“The film makes extensive use of your home movies. Are you constantly shooting them?”

A-“That’s probably only 1% of everything we have. It took them 4 and a half years to go through everything to put [the documentary] together. We gave them boxes and boxes of stuff. We had 8mm films and even some 16mm. I used to be an animator, and they used some of that here and there in the show. They came in three separate cars to our house, and their back seats and trunks were completely filled with boxes of films and videotapes and photographs. They put it all on DVD for us, which is great, even though I keep a VHS player in the house so we can put in a videotape now and then.”

A-“Yes, definitely. It was the second time I was in the White House performing for a bunch of U.N. children from different countries in the costumes of their land. I’m trying to walk out of the scene — we were performing in the East Wing — and I stepped on one child’s lap. I heard this sound, and I thought it was a squeaky toy it was so small. I didn’t hurt the child, thankfully. I can’t see down, and there’s no way to see out. The only connection to the outer world is through the little, tiny TV set I’m wearing on my chest.”

A-“It was a joke I told when we first worked together three years before we went to China. In 1976, I was invited to be on “The Bob Hope Special.” They wanted Kermit the Frog, but Jim [Henson] was too busy, so he said, “You can have the bird.” One of the writers said they could make some jokes for the bird, but when I got there, they were all Col. Sanders fried chicken jokes. I thought he could do better.”

So I was in the bird [suit] when he walked onto the stage in front of 300 people. It was the warmup period before they start the tape. Big Bird looks at him — he was known for his swoopy nose — and says, [Big Bird voice] “Boy, I thought I had a funny-looking beak.” Here he is, one of the greatest comedians in the world and he laughed so hard he almost hit the floor. He laughed so hard, he had to put his hand down to catch himself. That was satisfying. It won him over, and it got me all the way to China.”

Q-“Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch are two of the most popular “Sesame Street” characters, but since you do both, are they never able to meet?”

A-“I was asked to be on “The Colbert Report” last year as Big Bird and Oscar. But when we got there, we discovered they wanted both characters on at the same time. Stephen Colbert didn’t know one man plays them both. We called Joey Mazzarino, our head writer, who’s a very good puppeteer as well. He agreed to zip over and do Oscar. I pre-recorded Oscar’s words, so it sounded right.”

Q-“You’ve gotten to meet and work with so many people through Big Bird. Your wife, Debra, says in the documentary that you still haven’t met Paul McCartney. Has that changed?”

A-“Not yet, but I’m determined. One time, we heard when he was a guest on some show, he said he would love to do a children’s show that had rock ‘n’ roll in it. I said, “I want to be with him on that special.” I told our cameraman, Dave Driscoll, who’s also a cameraman for him when he plays big arenas, to mention it to him. He comes back from tour and I say, “Did you see him? Did you tell him?”

He says, “Yeah, I said, ‘Paul, Big Bird wants to do something with you.'” Paul says, “Doesn’t he know I’m married?” That’s not what I’m talking about! I’m a happily married dude!”

 

One Of My Favorite Things and it is 49, Going On 50…

54e4f1e81ac93f5b57842bc6_sound-of-music-vf

Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, photographed in New York City.
Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music, which first captivated audiences in 1965. Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer reflect on the making of the classic, their decades-long friendship, as well as the mountains they’ve climbed since then.

On a late afternoon last winter she and Christopher Plummer met me at the Loews Regency Hotel, in Manhattan, to talk about the 50th anniversary of the movie version of The Sound of Music, which is being re-released in theaters in April. For anyone who saw it originally, in 1965, it hardly seems possible that so much time has passed. Now that Plummer is 85 and Andrews is 79, you can imagine how they feel.

It was during the filming of The Sound of Music that Andrews and Plummer began a friendship, which, half a century later, is still going strong. Andrews’s husband, Blake Edwards, directed Plummer in The Return of the Pink Pantherin 1975, and they remained friendly until the director’s death, in 2010. (Edwards and Andrews had been married for 41 years; Plummer has been married to his wife, Elaine, since 1970.) In 2001, Andrews and Plummer co-starred in a live television production of On Golden Pond, and in 2002 they toured the U.S. and Canada together in a stage extravaganza called A Royal Christmas. By now, they have perfected the well-worn patter of an old married couple themselves.

Once Andrews’s kettle was pressed into service and the tea was brewed and poured, the two of them settled onto the couch in a suite to talk. They had just returned from a photo shoot. I asked how it went, and Andrews leapt in: “Well, I was dressed in black. He was dressed in black. We were against some white, I think. I had a great pair of earrings, and my hair was really exciting. It was done up rather wildly.”

“You didn’t notice me at all, did you?” Plummer asked wanly.

“No, I didn’t,” she answered vigorously.

He pouted. “I haven’t eaten anything for days,” he announced.

She responded on cue. “Oh, honeybun, that’s terrible!”

Heartened, he continued, “There was a charity dinner last night, and the food was so awful nobody ate anything.” She fumbled through her bags. He looked on hopefully, but she landed on a bottle of Advil. “I have to have these—I’m sorry,” she said, shaking out a few pills, which dropped onto the carpet. She picked them up and swallowed them anyway. “There were just so many stairs today,” she said, continuing to dig until she unearthed a Kashi peanut-butter granola bar. “I brought half a peanut-butter cookie with me,” she told him cajolingly.

He eyed it shrewdly. “Not half,” he said. “A quarter.”

O.K., guys. Part of the reason we’re here today is to talk about your 50-year friendship.

“What do you mean, friendship?” Andrews asked.

“Exactly,” Plummer said.

Through the decades, Plummer has remained unabashedly ornery about playing Captain von Trapp. He was, even in the early 1960s, a celebrated stage actor and chose to do the film primarily as training for playing Cyrano de Bergerac in a Broadway musical (a role that would not materialize until 1973). Instead, at 34, with gray highlights in his hair, he found himself shipwrecked aboard what he considered the Good Ship Lollipop as an unwitting party to seven chipper children, a warbling nun, and a bosun’s whistle. Indeed, whenThe Sound of Music was released, the reviews were awful. Pauline Kael trounced it as “mechanically engineered” to transform the audience into “emotional and aesthetic imbeciles when we hear ourselves humming the sickly, goody-goody songs.” In The New York Times, Bosley Crowther allowed that Andrews “goes at it happily and bravely” while noting that the other adult actors “are fairly horrendous, especially Christopher Plummer as Captain von Trapp.”

Whether Plummer likes it or not, the legacy of The Sound of Music feeds his currency. The incurably handsome, subtly grieving, widowered Captain von Trapp was always the heartthrob in the movie, never Rolf, the twerpy teenage messenger boy. The fact that it took a guitar-playing nun with bad clothes and good values to trump the elegant yet shallow Baroness is pure Hollywood justice. Off-screen, the well-born Plummer (his great-grandfather Sir John Abbott was prime minister of Canada) spent his life compensating as a notorious bad boy—drinking and carousing, skewering himself with self-deprecating humor as he happily trashed the conceited or self-important along the way. His 2008 memoir, In Spite of Myself, is a show-business tour de force.

Andrews is a different animal altogether. The Sound of Music followed Mary Poppins by six months; they were preceded by her Broadway triumph as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Jack Warner famously rejected her for the movie version of My Fair Lady, hiring Audrey Hepburn instead (and dubbing her singing voice). During the 1965 Golden Globe awards, when Andrews won best actress in a musical or comedy for Mary Poppins, she made it a point to thank Warner in her acceptance speech.

She has been a movie star ever since. Although frozen in the minds of millions as an improbable hybrid of nanny and nun, Andrews is much more, obviously; her triumph both on-screen and onstage in her husband’s Victor/Victoria is an example of her range, along with her critically acclaimed dramatic turn in the film version of Duet for One. Besides her preternatural singing voice, what has always defined her is plain hard work. During rehearsals for My Fair Lady, her co-star, Rex Harrison, was disdainful of her dramatic abilities and wanted her replaced. The director, Moss Hart, dismissed the cast to spend 48 hours working solely with Andrews to improve her performance. As she tells it in her memoir, Home, when Hart finished, his wife, Kitty Carlisle Hart, asked how it went. “Oh, she’ll be fine,” Moss replied wearily. “She has that terrible British strength that makes you wonder how they ever lost India.”

 

-excerpts from Vanity Fair Hollywood

 

Have Yourself A Messy Little Christmas!

images
 This is from my nephew who has three children aged 12-8 years old. I just thought I should share it after yesterday’s blog about Christmas Creativity! It gave me a real chuckle:
“You should tour our house – the theme is “Childhood Christmas Mess.”  I particularly enjoy the way the rumpled clothes and towels on the floor make the shape of a Christmas tree.  The stairsare decorated with last week’s homework, a tie, and a shirt top. Down in the basement we have vestiges of last week’s movie night.  Perhaps I can pick up the left-over popcorn and make a nice string for the tree.The dishes in the sink remind me of the tinkling of Christmas bells as I scrub 3-day-old dinner off them and they clang together.Ahh, we could rival anyone’s house with a little imagination.”

Maya Angelou-A Legend Is Gone

 

Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress

(CNN) — A literary voice revered globally for her poetic command and her commitment to civil rights has fallen silent.

Maya Angelou died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Wednesday, said her literary agent, Helen Brann.

The 86-year-old was a novelist, actress, professor, singer, dancer and activist. In 2010, President Barack Obama named her the recipient of the Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.

One of Angelou’s most praised books was “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”The memoir bore witness to the brutality of a Jim Crow South, portraying racism in stark language. Readers learned of the life of Marguerite Ann Johnson (Angelou’s birth name) up to the age of 16: how she was abandoned by her parents and raped by her mother’s boyfriend. She was homeless and became a teen mother.

Its publication was both daring and historic given the era of its debut in 1969.

“All of the writers of my generation must honor the ground broken by Dr. Maya Angelou,” author Tayari Jones posted on her Facebook page Wednesday.

“She told a story that wasn’t allowed to be told,” Jones said. “Now, people tell all sorts of things in memoir, but when she told the truth, she challenged a taboo — not for shock value, but to heal us all.”

Black American novelist Julian Mayfield is said to have described the autobiography as “a work of art which eludes description.”

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” was an international bestseller and nominated for a National Book Award in 1970. In six other autobiographical books she subsequently penned, Angelou revealed myriad interests and occupations of her life.

From being a drop-out to Dr. Angelou

Angelou spent her early years studying dance and drama in San Francisco but dropped out of school at age 14.

When she was 16, Angelou became San Francisco’s first female streetcar driver.

Angelou later returned to high school to get her diploma. She gave birth a few weeks after graduation. While the 17-year-old single mother waited tables to support her son, she developed a passion for music and dance, and toured Europe in the mid-1950s in the opera production “Porgy and Bess.”

In 1957, she recorded her first album, “Miss Calypso.”

In 1958, Angelou become a part of the Harlem Writers Guild in New York and played a queen in “The Blacks,” an off-Broadway production by French dramatist Jean Genet.

“I created myself,” Angelou once said. “I have taught myself so much.”

Affectionately referred to as Dr. Angelou, the professor never went to college. She has more than 30 honorary degrees and taught American studies for years at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem.

“Maya Angelou has been a towering figure — at Wake Forest and in American culture. She had a profound influence in civil rights and racial reconciliation,” Wake Forest University President Nathan O. Hatch said Wednesday. “We will miss profoundly her lyrical voice and always keen insights.”

Angelou spoke at least six languages and worked as a newspaper editor in Egypt and Ghana. It was during that time that she wrote “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” the first in a series of autobiographical books.

“I want to write so well that a person is 30 or 40 pages in a book of mine … before she realizes she’s reading,” Angelou said.

Poetry after childhood tragedy

Angelou was born April 4, 1928, in St. Louis. She grew up between St. Louis and the then-racially segregated town of Stamps, Arkansas.

The famous poet got into writing after a childhood tragedy that stunned her into silence for years. When she was 7, her mother’s boyfriend raped her. He was beaten to death by a mob after she testified against him.

“My 7-and-a-half-year-old logic deduced that my voice had killed him, so I stopped speaking for almost six years,” she said.

From the silence, a louder voice was born.

In her poem “Caged Bird,” Angelou wrote: “A free bird leaps/on the back of the wind/and floats downstream/till the current ends/and dips his wing/in the orange sun rays/and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks/down his narrow cage/can seldom see through/his bars of rage/his wings are clipped/and his feet are tied/so he opens his throat to sing.”

Surrounded by greats

Angelou’s list of friends is as impressive as her illustrious career. Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey referred to her as “sister friend.” She counted Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., with whom she worked during the civil rights movement, among her friends. King was assassinated on her birthday.

In an interview with CNN in January 2009, just days before President Obama was inaugurated for his first term, she gave her thoughts about the United States’ election of its first black president.

“It was as if someone in the outer sphere said, ‘What can we do to really show how important Martin Luther King was?'”

Seeing Obama about to take office made her feel proud, she said.

“I’m excited. I’m hopeful. I’m talking all the time to people, and sometimes I’ve really said it so many times I wonder if I’m coming off like a piece of tape recording, but I’m very proud to be an American.

“In 30 or 40 years, (the election) will not be considered so incredibly important. … There will be other people in those next three or four decades who will run for the presidency — some women, some native American, some Spanish-speaking, some Asian. We’re about to grow up in this country.”

Obama remembered Angelou on Wednesday, saying she was “one of the brightest lights of our time — a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman.”

He noted that she expressed her talents in many ways, but “above all, she was a storyteller” and “her greatest stories were true.”

The president said that his own mother was so inspired by Angelou that she named his sister Maya.

‘A long journey’

In CNN’s 2009 interview, Angelou spoke in the way that she came to be famous for, each sentence a crescendo of emotion, a call to everyone to act and to be better.

“Our country needs us all right now to stand up and be counted. We need to try to be great citizens. We are necessary in this country, and we need to give something — that is to say, go to a local hospital, go to the children’s ward and offer to the nurse in charge an hour twice a month that you can give them reading children’s stories or poetry,” she said. “And go to an old folks’ home and read the newspaper to somebody. Go to your church or your synagogue or your mosque, and say, ‘I’d like to be of service. I have one hour twice a month.’

“You’ll be surprised at how much better you will feel,” she said. “And good done anywhere is good done everywhere.”

Here is a piece that she wrote that I love:

I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

 

Cokie Roberts and Founding Mothers

ABC News - 20120520_american-revolution-624x407

 

We were lucky enough to have Cokie Roberts speak to us in Concord tonight about the role of women in the Revolutionary War. At the Concord Museum we currently have an exhibit entitled “The Shot Heard Round the World:April 19,1775″” so this tied into the exhibit perfectly. She was both humorous and extremely interesting as she led us through her investigation of the role women played behind the scenes. Cokie is the author of several books on this topic-“Founding Mothers-The Women Who Raised Our Nation” which looks at the patriotic and passionate women whose tireless pursuits on behalf of their families-and their country-proved just as crucial to the forging of the new nation as the rebellion that established it. “We Are Our Mother’s Daughters” examines the nature of woman’s roles throughout history as well.

Cokie Roberts is a very familiar voice to anyone who’s listened to NPR over the past three and a half decades. She worked as NPR’s congressional correspondent for ten years before she moved into TV and became co-anchor with Sam Donaldson of  ABC’s “This Week”.

Currently she is a political commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition and ABC News. In addition, in her latest book that is for children and came out earlier this year, Cokie examines how the wives, mothers and sisters of America’s founding fathers helped forge the nation.

It tells the story of some of America’s first first ladies, including Martha Washington, Abigail Adams and Dolly Madison, as well as patriots like Deborah Sampson, who disguised herself as a man and fought in the revolution. This children’s book is based on Founding Mothers based  but this is an illustrated children’s version. It’s called “Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies.”

-excerpts from Radio Boston