Overflowing Adventures – Driving, Riding, and Walking

Long Wharf compass rose

Casting my shadow over Boston.

My recent trip to New England was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. With so much to do and so much going on in the places I visit, I try to fill my time as much as possible with interesting things. I live a relatively quiet life in Upstate New York most of the time, so filling my road trips to overflowing is always something I enjoy.

I was blessed with beautiful weather driving out to my hotel in Seabrook, New Hampshire on Wednesday. It was cool at my house in New York when I left, but by the time I reached my hotel, it was 90 degrees and humid. It’s not unusual for that to be the case and I was happy just to arrive after a full day of driving. Following a small issue where the first room at the hotel hadn’t been cleaned yet, I was given a nice, clean, recently updated room that was bigger and far more comfortable.

I stayed at the Seabrook Inn and the staff were very friendly and accommodating, especially since I kept somehow rendering the key card to my room useless. I’ve stayed at the Seabrook Inn before and I’ll be staying there again as needed on future trips. They have a nice continental breakfast, they’re in a somewhat secluded location, but still right near plazas filled with everything I need. I spent Wednesday night unwinding a bit from the drive, doing some homework, catching up with friends, and grabbing what I needed from the nearby Wal-Mart.

Thursday I headed into Boston early by catching the commuter rail from Newburyport Station in Massachusetts. Although the train is a bit more expensive than me driving to the nearest T station and taking the subway into Boston, after so much driving, I enjoy just sitting on a train for an hour to get where I want to go. The train started out mostly empty, but by the time we arrived in Boston, I was squished against the window as the seats around me filled up. I still didn’t mind though because while all those people were commuting to work, I was just heading into Boston to enjoy myself.

Once the train arrived at North Station in Boston, everyone rushed off while I took my time. I didn’t want to get in the way of people who had somewhere urgent to be.

North Station Boston

People heading into North Station ahead of me.

I walked leisurely through North Station amid the crowds and patiently waited in line at Dunkin Donuts for some iced coffee to help me wake up since it wasn’t even 8:00 a.m. yet. Iced coffee in hand, I navigated out of the North Station and walked to a little park like area with an overlook of the bridge coming into Boston. Traffic coming in was thicker than traffic going out and I snapped a photo because I like that vantage point.

Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge

Traffic coming into Boston on the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge

I then began my walking journey through Boston as it was a cool, breezy morning and I didn’t feel the need to use the T just yet. I walked through Quincy Market and grabbed a breakfast burrito to eat in the upstairs seating area of the building. There was only one other person sitting up there and she left shortly after I started eating. I enjoy being in Quincy Market that early before it gets so crowded with people you can barely move. At that time in the morning, restaurants and stores are still receiving their early morning deliveries, people are sipping coffee, and the full bustle of Boston hasn’t started yet.

Quincy Hall, Boston, MA

Looking out the windows on the upper level of Quincy Market

Once I finished my breakfast, I headed toward Long Wharf, one of my favorite spots to visit when I venture into Boston. The sunshine and breeze made for a lovely visit and I watched the whale boats and ferries fill with people heading out on the first trips of the day. From Long Wharf, I wandered south along the harbor trail and saw new areas I hadn’t explored yet.

Long Wharf Boston ferry

Ferry coming into Long Wharf.

Long Wharf compass rose

Looking toward Boston at Long Wharf

I discovered some very nice looking apartments/houses/condominiums/town homes, whatever they call them there, along the waterfront and wondered what it would be like to wake up every morning with such a gorgeous view of the harbor. Of course they also had to deal with the constant noise of planes taking off from Logan Airport (although not too loud at that distance) and the boat traffic sounds, but I imagine it’s a minor inconvenience. While I can understand the appeal of living in such a location, I know how much I like having a yard, space of my own, and not having to share walls with people. Certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility of me having a weekend place in the city someday when I’m a famous author though. 😉

Boston harbor condos

Homes with a beautiful view of Boston Harbor.

 

Arch at Rowes Wharf, Boston

Arch at Rowes Wharf, Boston

Boston skyline

Boston skyline view from the end of Rowes Wharf.

I ended up walking all the way down to South Station in Boston without even realizing how far I’d gone. It was just such a beautiful day for a stroll along the harbor! I stopped into South Station and grabbed a muffin for a snack before heading to the nearest T station to make my way to the library. For me, no visit to Boston is complete without a visit to the Boston Library to sit at one of the long tables with their green lamps and convenient plugs to charge my phone. Plus, it’s a nice opportunity to enjoy the quiet and rest my feet for a while.

Bates Hall in Boston Public Library

Bates Hall in Boston Public Library

Once my phone had a better charge and I’d written down some of what had happened that day in the small notebook I always carry in my messenger bag, I headed to the Copley T Station and took the T back north in search of a restaurant I’d visited before. I really liked what I’d gotten there, but I was dismayed upon arriving to discover that they’d changed their menu completely. It was getting close to the time I wanted to get back on the train to return to Newburyport, so I decided to forego lunch until later and get back to North Station.

After getting briefly lost trying to find North Station (getting lost is sort of my thing), I found my way there just in time to board the train back to Newburyport. The train was a bit crowded when we started out, but more and more people got off with each stop and I was able to stretch out a bit and just enjoy the ride. I was very hungry by that point, but had a plan for lunch when I got back to the station, so I knew I’d be okay. Overall, I was very happy with my visit to Boston and suitably tired.

I wasn’t able to make a solo trip into Boston last May when I made this annual road trip, so I was glad to have accomplished it this most recent trip. There was more I’d wanted to see, but I just didn’t have the energy and I know I’ll be able to see it next time. Some people might get tired of Boston after a while living, working, or visiting there, but I don’t see that ever happening for me. It will always have a place in my heart and call me to it for new and interesting adventures.

A Highly Successful Vacation Redo!

My girls standing at Pickering Wharf in Salem, MA

I can honestly say that this most recent vacation with my girls was the best one we’ve had so far. We crammed a lot into it while still finding time to relax and best of all, we had fun! Having spent last year’s vacation in hospitals, Jaycie was eager to do things on this vacation and every day she enthusiastically asked, “What are we doing tomorrow?” She wanted every day filled with something and for a girl who admits that she’s lazy and is proud of that fact, it was an amazing thing to experience!

While the drive out was filled with the usual traffic on 495 the last hour or so, we all had a good time. The girls watched movies on my laptop and I listened to my music up front. We stopped plenty of times for leg stretches and snacks and I didn’t worry about being stuck in traffic because we were in no rush.

We arrived at the Best Western Merrimack Valley in Haverhill, MA a little after 5 p.m. and I was immediately impressed by the cleanliness of the facility and the friendliness of the staff. Our room was on the third floor and I was pleasantly surprised to find that we had our own private balcony with a sliding glass door leading out to it. Being on the top floor, the room had high, upward slanting ceilings and was very spacious. We had two queen beds and they were very comfortable with clean bedding. The room felt very homey and welcoming and I knew we’d be happy there.

Shortly after unpacking the car, the girls and I headed down the road to the 99 Restaurant. We don’t have 99’s where we live in New York, so it’s a treat going to one in New England. Although the restaurant was a little busy for a Wednesday night, we had a great waitress and got our food relatively quickly. The food was delicious and the girls devoured their food, while I took half of mine back to the hotel to eat later. It was a great first evening on our vacation.

The next morning, we headed into Newburyport for the Newburyport Whale Watch. This was what Jaycie had been most excited about and her excitement continued for the entire cruise. She loves boats and being out on the ocean and she was smiling, animated, and happy the entire time. We saw a large pod of dolphins, a sunfish called a mola mola, a couple minke whales, and a humpback whale. At one point, Jaycie was walking back and forth through the lower level of the boat checking one side and the other for whales as the narrator of the tour suggested. She’s spent most of the summer relaxing on the couch or outside swinging so watching her be so animated was almost like seeing a different child. Jordan enjoyed herself too, but was a bit more reserved in a typical 15-year-old fashion. She’d go up on the upper levels of the boat or sit inside reading the book she brought along.

We ate lunch on the boat and weren’t quite ready for dinner yet so we headed into Amesbury, MA to Friendly’s for some ice cream. Ice cream after several hours in the sun on a boat was just what we needed and we decided to just have dinner back at the hotel after picking up some groceries.

On Friday, we headed into Salem, MA because the girls had never been there. I’ve visited twice before, once in October and once in the summer, so I knew my way around pretty well. We walked the streets a bit and I took the girls to the Salem Witch Memorial and around the graveyard a little. We then ate lunch in Red’s Sandwich Shop, which was delicious! Jordan and I brought over half of our lunches with us and they were worth carrying around Salem for a bit before we returned to the car. We visited the Peabody Essex Museum just for the gift shop and to enjoy the air conditioning and then decided it was time to head back to the hotel. We ended up back at the hotel most evenings by 5 p.m. and that was fine with all of us because we were tired.

Saturday, we headed into Boston via the Oak Grove T Station and we got in shortly before lunch. Comic Con Boston was going on so we headed toward the Convention Center just to people watch. On the way there we stopped at South Station for lunch in the food court area because we could all get what we wanted and it was nice and air conditioned! We eventually reached where Comic Con was happening and sat down outside to watch people coming and going. It was fun seeing all the people dressed in costumes and trying to guess what some of them were. Jaycie didn’t quite understand why Jordan and I were so excited seeing people in costumes, but she was a trooper and made the walk for us.

After that we headed back to South Station and then took the necessary subway lines back to where we’d parked the car at Oak Grove. It was a good day to be in Boston because there had been some clouds and a nice breeze, but we were all hot and tired nonetheless. I showered once we got back to the hotel to wash the T humidity off of me and we just relaxed for the evening again.

I’d determined Sunday would be our day of not doing anything and that’s indeed what it turned out to be. We hung out at the hotel for most of the day then drove to a nearby town in New Hampshire to get Popeye’s and Long John Silver’s for dinner. We don’t have either of those chains near us so again, it was a treat for us. I got my beloved hush puppies from Long John’s while the girls got chicken and biscuits and we all ate happily back at the hotel.

Monday, we headed up to Portsmouth, NH for a bit and then drove the short ways up to Nubble Lighthouse in Maine. There’s not enough parking at the lighthouse for the endless stream of cars coming in so we ended up parking at the ice cream place up the road and walking down to the lighthouse area for a bit. We then walked back up the hill and enjoyed ridiculous large “kiddie” size ice cream dishes as a reward for our exercise.

The highlight of Tuesday was heading to Hampton Beach State Park in New Hampshire in the afternoon. The girls had a ball walking and splashing in the waves and as they both said that was their favorite part of the trip, we’ll be spending more time at the beach next summer. Actually, when I asked Jaycie what her favorite part of the day was at the end of the day she’d always say getting whatever toy I happened to buy her. When I asked Jordan what her favorite part was, she’d say not being in a hospital. So having both girls agree that the beach was the best part was quite impressive.

Although the hotel was nice, clean, conveniently located, and had a lovely indoor pool that Jaycie enjoyed, we all three agreed that next year we’re going to rent a cottage on Plum Island, MA again. It’s just nice staying in a home where I can make dinner and we can just hang out and enjoy our surroundings. I’m going to try and reserve the cottage I stayed in our first week long vacation in New England because it was on Plum Island sound and I loved watching the various birds fly overhead every morning and see the tide come in and out from the sound. As I have a whole year to save up for next summer’s trip, I know I won’t have to type my fingers off the last couple months before the trip and I won’t feel quite so pressured. Next summer sounds like a long way away considering this summer isn’t over yet, but I know it will be here sooner than we expect!

A glimpse of a busy day

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My day in Boston was full of new adventures and fun but it only left me with enough energy to post some of the better photos I took with my phone. It will have to do until I get home and have the time and energy to write all about it.

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From out and about to forced inside

Yesterday's sunset, wanted to remember what the sun looked like...

Yesterday’s sunset, wanted to remember what the sun looked like…

Took this picture today during a brief break from pouring to only sprinkling.

Took this picture today during a brief break from pouring to only sprinkling.

It rained all day here! It’s still raining in fact! It literally put a damper on any plans to go out and about but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Spending a day inside just relaxing is perfectly acceptable when on vacation. I enjoyed not having to drive the car anywhere and the girls enjoyed just hanging out playing and watching DVD movies.

The girls playing in the sunroom.

The girls playing in the sunroom.

Remnants of the girls playing in the sunroom lol

Remnants of the girls playing in the sunroom lol

Up until today, we’d been going out and about to various places every day. Monday was our adventure in Boston and we all had a great time! Yesterday we did some general errands and shopping in Amesbury, MA to stock up on toys for today’s rainy day indoor play. I introduced my girls to Ed Justen from Workspace 36, Kathi from Attentif’ Design and Deb from Parke Place Boutique and I was happy my daughters could meet the nice people I call friends in Amesbury.

My daughters with Kathi and Deb in Amesbury, MA

My daughters with Kathi and Deb in Amesbury, MA

Our adventures in Boston require a whole separate blog entry that I’m too tired to tell now but hopefully someday! I used today’s indoor day to catch up on my beading and redo the clasp on my handmade bead chain for my key pendant. I also started a couple other projects, took a nap and tried up online odds and ends. Having a day to regroup after running around was exactly what I needed so I don’t mind Mama Nature’s usual Wednesday “attack of the bad weather” tantrum.

My new heart shaped clasp end for my necklace. One side is blue, the other is silver =)

My new heart shaped clasp end for my necklace. One side is blue, the other is silver =)

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and beautiful so we’ll be out and about on more adventures but for now, I’m still enjoying just relaxing. Oh hey! The sky is getting a lighter shade of gray! Maybe the rain will stop before it gets totally dark…

The Power of Three prepares to conquer New England!

The Power of Three in Newburyport last summer.

The Power of Three in Newburyport last summer.

This coming Saturday, my two daughters and I are heading to New England for a week-long vacation. We took a family vacation to New England last summer but it was only for my usual custody days with them, Saturday through Wednesday. This time I have them for an entire week and instead of staying in a hotel like last time, we’ve rented a cottage on Plum Island. This is the first week-long vacation we’ve ever taken just the three of us and I’m certain the Power of Three will find many new adventures!

Last summer’s vacation to New England was filled with ups and downs, including a trip into Boston that didn’t exactly go well. That was the first time I’d been in Boston in the summer and I was overwhelmed by the amount of people! We visited the Aquarium which was far too crowded and noisy to enjoy and went on a whale watch that evening. We did see some humpback whales which was amazing but the long boat ride out and back took a toll on all of us.

Girls excited about Boston on the train in.

Girls excited about Boston on the train in.

One of the whales we saw.

One of the whales we saw.

How the girls looked heading back on the Whale watch.

How the girls looked heading back on the Whale watch.

As I just went into Boston in June, I’m now better prepared for the crowds and I scouted some great places to take the girls. We’re driving to a T station and heading in that way because taking the train from Newburyport ended up being more exciting than we wanted when we had to take buses back for part of the journey due to a shooting at/near one of the train stations.

All threes of us crammed into one seat on the bus. It was a bumpy ride!

All threes of us crammed into one seat on the bus. The girls smiles are a bit more strained lol. It was a bumpy ride!

I don’t want my daughters having that last experience as how they remember Boston so this time, we’re going to take our time, have fun and take the T as much as possible to avoid getting exhausted from walking. I have faith they’ll enjoy Boston much more this trip!

I will of course be taking the girls into Amesbury, MA more than once during the trip so they can meet the new friends I’ve made there. We’re going into Amesbury Saturday night after we get in because I promised Jordan pizza from Flatbread as a second birthday dinner. This Friday she’s turning 12 and while we’re having a birthday dinner and cupcakes here at my house, it might be a bit hectic as I finish packing the car and such. My promise of a second birthday celebration once we’re in New England made Jordan’s eyes light up like fireworks and I’m sure we’ll all be happy to be munching yummy pizza after a day in the car!

We’ll also be venturing into Salem and Plymouth which I’ve been to and Gloucester which I haven’t visited yet. Even though I’ve been to places before, they’re always new to me when I have my daughters with me as they point out things I missed in previous visits. Three females on a trip together might not be all smooth sailing but we’ll navigate the waters in our usual Corbin woman way and return home with a boatload of great memories! Look out, New England, this Power of Three is coming your way!

Pictorial New England adventures!

I had such a busy and adventurous day today that I’m far too tired to write many words. So instead I’ll share some pictorial highlights from my travels as a prologue to future posts. Enjoy!

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Map of Plimoth Plantation

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Dwelling in the Wampanoag Homesite

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View from the fort at Plimoth Plantation

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plimoth Grist Mill

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Plymouth Rock

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Mayflower II

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Driving toward Cape Cod

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Waterfront in Hyannis

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Driving back north through Boston

Expanding explorations

A rough idea of where I'll be going this trip!

A rough idea of where I’ll be going this trip!

Tomorrow I’m heading out to New England for one of my monthly adventures. I make it a goal every trip to explore a new area of New Hampshire or Massachusetts and so far, so good! My last trip I explored new areas of Boston, scouting out places to take my daughters in August and finding the best route to get there. Despite getting lost once or twice in Boston, I found exactly what I was looking for and know the girls and I will have a ball in Beantown.

For my trip starting tomorrow, my newest exploration destinations are Plymouth and Cape Cod, MA. I’ll be staying in Seabrook, NH as usual but on Friday I plan on leaving rather early to head south to the Cape Cod Bay area. I’ve encountered the traffic to the Cape on more than one occasion and I know that the earlier I go, the better. I plan on visiting Plimoth Plantation and the Wampanoag Homesite and then wander wherever the spirit takes me.

Before heading to Cape Cod Bay Friday, I’ll spend Thursday in my favorite city/town of Amesbury and the surrounding areas. I plan on visiting my favorite businesses in Amesbury and investigating a couple of the new ones for future write-ups. There are also trails I’ve yet to walk and sites I’ve yet to see! I’ll scope out where the girls and I will be staying on Plum Island in August and visit the beach at least once.

On Saturday and Sunday I’ll be attending the MCNAA Annual Summer Moon Pow-wow in Danvers, MA and have volunteered to help out there on Saturday. It’s supposed to be a beautiful weekend and I’m looking forward to experiencing more of the Native American culture.

I cram a lot into my days in New England and I love having the freedom to go wherever I wish. This summer is going far too fast but I’m going to fill it up with endlessly expanding explorations as I pursue the path leading to my future in the area I love most!

Friday Morning in Boston

Sun rising over the trees outside my hotel on Friday morning.

Sun rising over the trees outside my hotel on Friday morning.

I woke at 4:30 a.m. on Friday, June 27, 2014, the day I’d chosen for my return to Boston as a solo explorer. I laid in bed for a half hour before giving up the ghost, getting up, showering and dressing for the day ahead. I was eager to get into the city before it got crowded so I could get my bearings. Well, as much as lost me can ever get my bearings.

As taking the commuter rail into Boston last August didn’t end well, I decided to drive to a T station this time and take the subway in from there. When I saw that a couple of the orange line T stations were down and buses were being used, I opted for the blue line instead and drove down to Wonderland Station.

It was an absolutely beautiful morning and as it was barely 6:30 a.m., traffic was pretty light. I found a lot where I could park for $5 all day and my little Matrix was one of only 3 cars there. It was right next to the T station and within moments of parking my car and equipping myself with my trusty black messenger bag, I was standing on the platform, my loaded Charlie card tucked into my back pocket.

I boarded the next inbound subway train and found a seat easily in the nearly empty car. The car got more crowded as people entered at each stop and I’m pretty sure I was the only one on the T truly happy to be there. I took pictures at the Airport Station and didn’t care if I looked like a tourist. I think I’d love the ride even if I did it every day for work!

View inside the Airport T Station

View inside the Airport T Station

I’d decided to take the T into the Aquarium Station because I knew it was near Faneuil Hall/Quincy Marketplace and I was very familiar with the whole Long Wharf area from my past three trips into Boston.

T Station map at the Aquarium stop

T Station map at the Aquarium stop

I got off at my destination and took the multiple escalators up to the street. When I got to the top, a friendly gentleman who’d been behind me asked “Do you need help? You look lost?” I smiled and said “No, thank you, I’m good. I always look lost.” He returned my smile and exited to the street while I inwardly wondered if a warning went out through Boston that lost Julie was on her way in for a visit…

Once out on the street, I grinned happily as I saw the huge clocktower rising into the morning sky proclaiming the time as barely 7 a.m. The clock was actually a bit slow but I took a picture anyway to make the occasion.

clocktower morning

I walked around a bit, refamiliarizing myself with the area and I found a handy dandy map I don’t remember seeing before. I took a picture in case I needed it later but then totally forgot I took the picture so it really didn’t help. It’s the thought that counts I suppose.

Map of Long Wharf

Map of Long Wharf

My next order of business was finding some breakfast as I’d only eaten a cookie on the drive to Wonderland Station. I heard a couple of tourists on rented bikes ask the cashiers at the Boston Harbor Cruises where they could find coffee and she suggested a Dunkin Donuts around the corner or a Starbucks further down. I watched the direction they rode off in and walked that way at a leisurely pace.

I don’t think I’d walked that way before and if I had I totally missed the dolphin sculpture/statue standing, well I guess it’d be swimming, there. It looked quite lovely in the morning sunlight and the date on it said 1977 so it was a timeless classic the same age as myself.

Dolphin sculpture

Dolphin sculpture and the morning sky in Boston

I continued on and found the Dunkin Donuts but the line stretching outside the door made me decide to look elsewhere for food. I headed to Quincy Market hoping there was someone open serving breakfast. I found several delivery trucks lined up outside the long narrow building and I thought it was very cool that I was early enough to see such beginning of the day routines.

Delivery trucks outside Quincy Market

Delivery trucks outside Quincy Market

I slipped inside the open doors avoiding men with dolly carts full of supplies and the aroma of food met my nose. I looked down the almost completely empty hall in wonder knowing that within a few hours it would be packed with hungry customers.

Deserted hallway looking one way

Deserted hallway looking one way

Deserted hallway looking the other way

Deserted hallway looking the other way.

As I stood in the center below the large dome of the building, I was treated to lovely music played by a young man at one of the “Play Me, I’m Yours” pianos located in the Market. He was very good and I took a few pictures while trying to avoid him noticing I was taking pictures. I didn’t care if I looked like a tourist, the music was lovely and deserving of recognition.

guy playing piano

Man playing piano.

My stomach growled reminding me why I was there so I set off down the hallways in search of someplace with a breakfast menu. A simple thing like eating breakfast is never a simple thing with me and that tale must wait until tomorrow.

An anniversary of sorts

Amesbury mural by Jon P. Mooers

Amesbury mural by Jon P. Mooers

This coming Wednesday, June 25th, I’m heading to New England for one of my monthly/bi-monthly visits/adventures. I’m celebrating an anniversary of sorts because around this same week last year was the first time I made an official and well-planned trip to Amesbury, Massachusetts. I visited during Amesbury Days last year and this year’s visit is timed perfectly with that same event!

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I started visiting the area that I immediately fell in love with during my first official trip to North Shore. After that first trip, I wanted to visit as often as possible and quitting my office job to do freelance writing full-time gave me the ability to do just that!

I’ve visited the area through all seasons now. Walking the sandy beaches in summer was invigorating, seeing the  autumn colors around Lake Gardner was breathtaking and I even found the area beautiful and welcoming when it was buried in three feet of snow. I caught a glimpse of spring’s beginnings during my April visit and by the time the girls and I visited for Memorial Day, the splendor of spring was in full bloom! I don’t live there (yet) but I know New England’s charm remains through all types of weather.

 

Plum Island beach

Plum Island Beach, MA

The beautiful color on Lake Gardner in Amesbury, Massachusetts

The beautiful color on Lake Gardner in Amesbury, Massachusetts

The deep snow in Amesbury, MA after a February 2014 storm

The deep snow in Amesbury, MA after a February 2014 storm

Spring flower boxes in downtown Amesbury, MA

Spring flower boxes in downtown Amesbury, MA

Girls playing on the beach at Salisbury Beach State Reservation

Girls playing on the beach at Salisbury Beach State Reservation, MA

My plans for my upcoming trip are flexible as always and I tend to go wherever the fancy strikes me. There’s the 16th Annual Amesbury Chamber of Commerce Block Party on Thursday, 6/26/14 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. that I’ll definitely be attending and a variety of other happenings around town I might investigate. I also think I’ll venture into Boston this trip since I haven’t been into the city solo since November of 2011. That first trip to Boston inspired me to write and publish my first e-book New England Adventures: Boston, MA and was the beginning of what has become an amazing and ongoing chapter in my life. I can only imagine what another solo journey will bring!

The conviluted walking route I took during my first visit to Boston

The convoluted walking route I took during my first visit to Boston, MA

I’m planning another visit in July and then August brings a huge first: the first time I’ve had the girls for a whole week of vacation since the divorce. I’m indescribably excited about spending that much time together! We’ve rented a cottage on Plum Island that comes complete with bikes and kayaks and we can even bring Jazz! The drive there is going to be unforgettable I’m certain as I fit an entire circus in my little Matrix but I know we’ll all have fun!

Before the fun for my upcoming trip can begin though I have to finish my freelance work so off I go! Is it Wednesday yet??

New England in December, At Last!

Amesbury, MA looking festive, November 2013

Amesbury, MA looking festive, November 2013

Tomorrow morning I’m loading up my car, getting Jazzmin settled in shotgun position and hitting the road east again on another trip to New England. I haven’t taken Jazz on a trip to New England since last summer but as she loves car rides, I know she’s up for it!

This will be the first time I’ve been in New England in December. I’ve visited Boston and the outskirts twice in November but I’ve never made it in this month full of holiday festivities. And wow are there festivities! There are a couple events in Amesbury I plan on attending and other fun, new things I’ve never done before that await my enjoyment.

I do hope to get into Boston one of the days so I can see everything properly lit up and festive. A lot to do in not enough time! But I’ll cram it all in somehow or other, along with walking Jazz of course.

Endless Dreams

This morning I was browsing houses for sale in North Shore Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. Jordan had just finished her breakfast so she came over and looked at some of the photos. She expressed great interest in the pictures I had up on my screen.

There was a lot to like in the houses I was looking at. They all had lovely floor plans and nice lots and were far newer than my current house. I told Jordan that I look at houses for sale to inspire me to keep working hard at my writing. I told her the only way I could afford to own a house out there is by selling a book (or six) for substantial money.

Jordan’s response was that several people seemed to like my “Unbroken Flames” book and I said that yes, they did. Alas, I’m still so busy writing freelance for income that I can’t write for pleasure. It’s a frustrating conundrum. I’m sure I’ll figure out a win/win solution eventually.

Jordan asked what was involved with my job as a freelance writer and I told her it’s like writing several short research papers every day. My mind is so stimulated by the time I go to bed that I have endless and detailed dreams every night. I can doze off for 20 minutes and have five different dreams. So while I do sleep through the night, it’s not the kind of sleep that leaves me feeling rested.

At the end of the day I lose my ability to spell easy words correctly or even talk in forward sentences. I was reading football stats yesterday afternoon and I read “tackled” as “tickled.” Now wouldn’t that be a totally different game! Amusing yes, but a bit exasperating. Mental exhaustion with a purpose I suppose.

While I sleep I have endless dreams. While I’m awake they transform into endless daydreams that motivate me to keep plugging away with my writing work. If achieving dreams was easy then everyone would have done it by now. I have faith that someday after a full day of rewarding writing I’ll have the pleasure of taking a stroll on a Massachusetts beach to watch the sunset and be soothed by the sounds of the crashing waves.

Reconnecting and Revisiting

I haven’t created a new painting in quite some time. I’ve been busy juggling so many things at once that I haven’t had time to express that part of my artistic side. I had a little free time yesterday evening so I decided I’d finally get my paints out, reconnect with my creativity and give it a go. I’ve been wanting to paint pictures based on the photos I took of Amesbury and Newburyport during my recent visit in June so that’s exactly what I did.

I pulled up some of the photos I took around town in Amesbury and settled on one of the fountain outside the Amesbury Library. I took it on a rather dreary, drizzling morning but it’s lovely even in that light. I decided to interpret it as a tree because painting realistic things isn’t my strong point. I took the basic shape and style of it and “branched out” as it were. I then decided it needed some different colors so I tied in the colors from the beautiful hydrangea blooms I saw walking around Amesbury.

Amesbury Library fountain

Amesbury Library fountain

Lovely hydrangeas in Amesbury

Lovely hydrangeas in Amesbury

I’m biased of course, but I rather like it. I wanted it to be more vibrant but it turned out rather muted. I can always try again. I’ve never actually done the same type of painting so perhaps it’s time.

Flowing Inspiration - created 8/11/13

Flowing Inspiration – created 8/11/13

I’m going to try to do some more paintings based on my photos from Amesbury and Newburyport because I’ll be visiting there with my daughters and mother during our upcoming trip that starts this Saturday. I enjoyed my stay at the Fairfield Inn in Amesbury but they’re out of my budget for this trip so I’m taking everyone up into New Hampshire to stay. The hotel is just a short way over the border and we’ll be traveling down into Boston one of the days. I’m eager to show my family everything I’ve seen in Boston and we’re all going on our first whale watch! We’re also going to the aquarium because I promised my girls two things. Jordan wanted to see the aquarium and Jaycie wanted to go on a boat. Check and check!

After our Boston visit, the rest of our time will be spent exploring the New Hampshire area near the hotel and of course, Amesbury and Newburyport. I’m glad I’ve been to those two neighboring towns enough to know my way around now. I’m eager to see everywhere I’ve been through my daughters’ eyes and get their impressions on things. What they love might be totally different from what I love. We’re going to venture down to Plum Island beach to play in the sand and waves and travel wherever else our fancy takes us. It will be a grand adventure and only my second non-solo road trip to Massachusetts and points beyond. I can’t wait!

Fulfilling a Promise for Father’s Day

I realize not everyone has a good relationship with their father. I know how lucky I am that my father and I were so close. My father wasn’t perfect, no one is perfect. We’re all human and we’re flawed but our imperfections are what make us beautiful.

My father almost always greeted me with the words “Hi, beautiful!” and that is something I will forever keenly miss. I never doubted that he meant those words, they were never a ploy to win my affection, they were how he saw me. Me seeing myself as that beautiful is a work in progress.

My father gave me a priceless and timeless gift. He showed me what unconditional love from a man feels like. He accepted me as I was, no changes necessary, and he loved every bit of me, even the parts that get me lost and in trouble. A very wise woman told me that it speaks to my strength that I want to feel that kind of love again. That I’m still open to the possibility of it. It’s a scary concept though.

Being open to that kind of love is terrifying because the last time I had it, it left me. I know my father’s spirit is always with me and he will always love me that much but it’s different not having his physical presence anymore. I have great hope that someday I will be strong enough to take that leap of faith and trust that another man who I love can love me as unconditionally as my father did, but in a romantic sense. I’m standing at the edge now looking into uncertain depths and I imagine I’ll be fidgeting and biting my lip in worry for a while.

As promised, my e-book has launched today. It’s a promise I made to myself in honor and memory of my father. It’s a promise I made to my closest friends and they’ve helped me keep it with encouragement and input. It’s a promise I made to the new friends I’ve found through social media who are themselves talented writers, artists and musicians. Most of all it’s a promise to my father that I never said to him while he lived. I never said to him “I promise I’ll be published someday, Dad.” I wasn’t sure I could keep that promise. He knew I could though.

My e-book is about my self-guided and often lost tour through Boston, Massachusetts during my first visit. It was originally posted as a blog and was well-received. Somehow turning it into an e-book made it more personal for me and that much harder to share. What can a simple girl like myself say about Boston that hasn’t already been said? I am just one small voice among many, why do my words matter? My answer to that is that there is only one me on this whole world. How I feel about Boston is unique to me but will hopefully give even lifelong Boston residents a new perspective of their beautiful city.

I’ve pasted in the synopsis below and the links to my book for sale on Nook and Kindle are at the end. Even if you don’t buy my book, thank you for reading my words!

Massachusetts Adventures: Boston 

What happens when you take a girl from the country, known for getting lost in her own kitchen, and set her free on a first-time tour of Boston? A true Massachusetts adventure!

Intrigued by a new discovery on the internet, JulieAnn takes an inaugural, out-of-state, solo road trip to the breathtaking city of Boston, Massachusetts. The early November drive stirs a sense of freedom within her that she’s never felt and opens her eyes to endless possibilities. JulieAnn’s travels introduce her to new friends, evoke memories of her beloved father and lift and awaken her spirit in unimaginable ways. An afternoon spent in the City of Boston helps her understand true inner strength and feeds her endless curiosity.

Explore the City of Boston with JulieAnn in this autobiographical story of her adventures in Beantown. View photos of numerous historical Boston buildings and landmarks as seen through the eyes of this first-time visitor. Get swept up in the beauty of the city as JulieAnn wanders happily lost among cobblestone streets and skyscrapers on a journey of self-discovery. Massachusetts Adventures: Boston is the first story in an upcoming and ongoing series detailing JulieAnn’s continued visits to Massachusetts.

Sometimes being lost is the only way you can truly find yourself.

Massachusetts Adventures: Boston on Kindle 

Massachusetts Adventures: Boston on Nook

My Boston Story E-book Launches Tomorrow!

View of Boston skyline from Long Wharf. I used this photo as part of my cover.

View of Boston skyline from Long Wharf. I used this photo as part of my cover.

I’ve been working late hours at my computer all week getting my Boston story formatted for Nook and Kindle. It’s been a fun process but more time-consuming than I expected. The only way to learn is by doing though so I’m glad I’m finally doing!

It’s quite lovely that both Nook and Kindle allow fast and easy changes to a story once it’s been uploaded. I’ve re-uploaded and modified my Nook version more times than I can count because every time I preview it I see some little thing that could be improved. I don’t promise that my Boston story e-book will be the greatest work of literary non-fiction ever written or that the visual appeal of it will knock your socks off, but I do promise that it will be 100% me.

This story is the first in an ongoing series detailing my adventures in the beautiful state of Massachusetts. I visit there at least twice a year and will be increasing those visits until I finally at long last live there. Every time I drive into that New England state I feel like I’m coming home again and I can almost hear it saying “Oh boy, here’s that crazy New Yorker again! Wonder where she’ll get lost this time!”

Two of the hardest parts of the whole e-book were writing my author biography and the synopsis of the story. Once they were complete I ran them by my best girlfriends and they said the biography described me perfectly. They should know since they’ve been my friends through thick and thin. I still think the synopsis is a bit wordy so I might be editing that more before I’m completely satisfied.

My e-book officially launches tomorrow on Father’s Day and I know that no matter what happens, my father’s spirit is very proud of me. Sharing this story is both frightening and exciting to me because it is my own personal experience, but it’s definitely at tale that must be told!

Here’s my author biography, enjoy!

Born with a boisterous and adventurous spirit, JulieAnn didn’t fully explore her potential until she set out on her first solo road trip to Boston in November of 2011. Her life was forever changed by that first Massachusetts adventure and her eyes were opened to a fresh future of possibilities.

When she’s not busy being a single mother, homeowner, writer, painter, pack leader-in-training, hopeful gardener and baker extraordinaire, JulieAnn enjoys sleeping–because balancing all that is exhausting! Fantasy manuscripts, scribbled in cursive pencil upon the pages of college-ruled spiral notebooks were JulieAnn’s first venture into the world of writing. In recent years she’s found her own personal voice and shares her daily adventures with others via her blogs, one of which she transformed into her first e-book.

For fun, JulieAnn enjoys playing with her daughters, walking her pup Jazzmin’s paws off, grilling with excessively high flames, singing odd bits of random show tunes and getting lost driving around the Northeast United States. You’ll often find her where you least expect, doing something so uniquely quirky you’ll roll your eyes.

A Shattered Evening

I HAD to mow my lawn yesterday afternoon. The grass was up to Jazzmin’s belly, almost long enough to make tiny, adorable bales and I had several varieties of mushrooms popping up all over the place from the wet weather. Yesterday it finally stopped raining and it was supposed to be sunny for the entire day. The way this spring has been going, that’s not a window of opportunity I could afford to miss. As it turned out, I had some fortunate and unfortunate luck with windows yesterday.

I checked the gas tank in my mower and saw that I had enough to do the back yard. I decided I’d get started and then go into town for more gas when I finished that largest section of the lawn. It was a lovely, sunny afternoon so I sprayed on my sunblock, popped in my ear buds, donned my big, clunky, noise-dampening ear muffs and cranked my mower up to set to work.

My lawn looked less like the field finally!

My lawn looked less like the field finally!

I put Jazz out on her lead by the swing set so she could get fresh air and be in the shade safely away from where I was mowing. She of course chose to lay in the full sun and ignore the shade. I glanced over toward where Jazz was every time I went by that way and she was either laying down in the sun or sniffing around. I was about halfway done with the back yard when I looked over at her and saw her sniffing around in the driveway. That confused me because her lead doesn’t reach that far. Then it clicked. She’d gotten off the lead! I stopped the mower as calmly as possible, turned off the blades and turned it around toward the shed and called Jazzmin cheerfully over. She followed me to the shed and I grabbed her collar before she realized she wasn’t on any sort of leash.

I decided it was the ideal time to drive into town for more gas. With Jazz in one hand and the gas tank in the other, I walked to the car, happy to be off the mower for a while. Jazz hopped into the front seat and I loaded the empty tank in the back and off we went on the five-minute drive into town. It was 75 out so I had the AC cranked and Jazzmin took great pleasure sniffing and snotting up the air vents. She loves riding in the car and looked around at the passing scenery.

Jazzmin ready to go!

Jazzmin ready to go!

I filled up the mower gas can and my own car at the cheapest station in town (which had a line out to the road) and made the quick drive back home. I put Jazzmin in the house so she could stay cool and out of trouble and then resumed mowing. It took me another hour and a half to finish mowing and I was extremely happy and relieved when I was done! No more tall grass, no more mushrooms, no more caring that it was going to rain for the next several days.

The local farmer was baling the large field behind my house and I took a few pictures while mowing and afterward. As I set my lawn furniture back in the grass and out of the driveway, I considered relaxing in a chair for a bit to watch the farming demonstration.

The farmer windrowing the hay

The farmer windrowing the hay

The baling machine at work

The baling machine at work

Gathering up the large bales

Gathering up the large bales

I saw something odd out of the corner of my eye and turned toward my car in confusion. Something wasn’t quite right about the passenger side window. I took a step closer and my mouth dropped open. There was a large hole in the window and the remaining safety glass was shattered in place. I groaned at my own stupidity. I’d mowed with the shoot toward my car and a stone had flown up and hit the window. I know better! I emitted a long slow swear word and sighed heavily. The damage was done and getting angry about it wasn’t going to change anything.

Large hole in my window and remnants of glass

Large hole in my window and remnants of glass

Shaking my head, I grabbed my leather gloves from the shed and started picking the glass out of the window and front passenger seat. There were tiny pieces of broken safety glass everywhere and the remains of the window collapsed the moment I touched it, sending several pieces of glass into my boots. Deciding it was as good as it was going to get for a while, I went inside and showered. Before full dark I ventured out with a clear garbage bag and duct tape and created a makeshift window to keep the bugs and forecasted rain out.

Thankfully I have full glass coverage on my auto insurance so I called in the claim and scheduled the window replacement for the following day. That drama dealt with, I turned on the Stanley Cup Playoffs hockey game to root for the Boston Bruins against the Chicago Blackhawks. With the game on in the background, I set to work redesigning my Boston story ebook cover and tried my best to leave the shattered evening behind me.