The Best Of New England

New England scene showing pumpkins and a field with haystacks

My mom and I recently went to a farm stand. It was so perfectly New England in late summer moving into fall. The pumpkins, stacks of hay, freshly picked vegetables and fruits remind me of the beauty in Massachusetts.

Given the levels of trauma and sadness happening in this country on a daily basis, any degree of serenity and peace I can find is a much needed gift. So with this roundup post, I’m celebrating some the best of things in New England.

Best Drive-In Movies

Going to drive-in movies is a thing again because of the pandemic. I remember going a few times when I was very young and having a blast. Fodor’s Travel lists ten of the best drive-in movie theaters around the country and three of them are in New England. With chilly weather here, it’s the perfect social distanced activity.

#3 Sunset Drive-In – Colchester, VT

#2 Mansfield Drive-In – Mansfield, CT

#1 Wellfleet Drive-In Theater – Wellflett, MA

Best Places To Live

As a third generation New Englander, I’m definitely biased, but there are many good things about living here. People travel here from all over the world to attend school. Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, our sports teams are some of the best. We have world class hospitals and medical care, which is especially important right now. Five places in New England made Money magazine’s list of the 50 best places to live in America.

#37  Salem, NH

#28  Chesire, CT

#26  Braintree, MA

#14  Chelmsford, MA

#12  South Windsor, CT

Best Craft Distilleries

Rhode Island Spirits, located in Pawtucket, came in third in USA Today’s list of the ten best new craft distilleries.  They sell organic and gluten free gins, vodkas and liqueurs. This reminds me of the great time I had touring a rum distillery with my father.

Best Pizza

The Daily Meal recently declared the top 101 pizza places in the United States. Several New England pizza places made the cut. Connecticut has the most places on the list of the New England states and beats the entire country with the number one spot. Mystic Pizza is arguably Connecticut’s most well-know pizzeria and the movie by the same name helped launch Julia Robert into stardom. Back in January 2019, Playbill wrote that Melissa Etheridge was working on the score to a stage adaptation of the movie. Despite the fame of the pizza shop, it’s not on the list.

#90 Micucci Grocery – Portland, ME

#86 Slab – Portland, ME

#67 Al Forno, Providence, RI

#47 BAR – New Haven, CT

#45 Zuppardi’s Apizza – West Haven, CT

#43 Colony Grill – Stamford, CT

#40 Tilton House of Pizza – Tilton, NH

#25 Galleria Umberto – Boston, MA

#16 Modern Apizza – New Haven, CT

#9 Sally’s Apizza– New Haven, CT

#7 Santarpio’s – East Boston, MA

#1 Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana – New Haven, CT

Best Scents

I can’t claim that these are the best scented candles, but I like the idea of them. The brand is called Homesick and the scents are supposed to remind you of a place.

Scent is a big thing for me, so I was thrilled when I was invited to take a smell walk in Boston. That walk focused on scent was one of the coolest things that I’ve done as a blogger.

The Boston candle is described as “Fall days spent wandering the cobblestone streets. Notes of spiced tea with clove and orange capture the City on a Hill.”

There are a few more city candles and state candles too. I think these would make a great gift. To wind up this roundup, here are the descriptions of the scents for each of the New England states.

Connecticut: “Warm-baked pies fragrant of nutmeg, clove and lemon. Eucalyptus and oakmoss evoke memories of brisk fall afternoons spent outside.”

Maine: “Reminiscent of wild Maine blueberries and lavender fields. Woody notes of cedarwood and patchouli balanced with a floral bouquet.”

Massachusetts: “Apple cider, simmering coffee, and just-baked donuts. Sweet hints of tonka bean are balanced by spicy cinnamon and a touch of fragrant clove.”

New Hampshire: “Cozy up with a cup of hot apple cider. Autumn days spent outside with views of foliage and the sweet smell of vanilla in the air.”

Rhode Island: “An afternoon on the Cliff Walk with hot apple cider and cozy sweaters to keep warm. The rolling tides carry the sweet and spicy scents of fall.”

Vermont: “Vibrant foliage covers the rolling hills of the Green Mountain State. Scents of cinnamon and apple pie blend with decadent maple syrup.”

What do you think? Do these scents represent the best of New England? And just because you might like it, here’s a cider donut locator. It doesn’t get much more New England than that.

Quote of the Week: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined US Supreme Court August 1993

Dissents speak to a future age. It’s not simply to say, ‘My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.’ But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow.    ~ Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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I took this picture of the steps of the United States Supreme Court in August 1993. At the time, I was applying to law schools and visiting different campuses. This trip to Washington, D.C. was a personal pilgrimage of sorts. I felt that I should see the seat of government in person before becoming a lawyer. I love a good ritual and traveling too, so it was perfect for me.

Before the trip, I got a visitor’s pass to the House of Representatives and sat in while they were in session. It was a free for all and the behavior reminded me of a bunch of kindergartners. The representatives were walking all over the place, shouting and talking over each other. The gavel was repeatedly pounded and many requests were made to come to order. I remember feeling disappointed and dismayed. No wonder the country had so many problems!

It was harder to get a pass to visit the Senate, so I wasn’t able to see the behavior. The Senate is supposed to be more dignified. Maybe then. But the way things are now, I know better.

While I was there, I took a short tour of the public parts of the Supreme Court, but did not see the Court in session. I’m not sure what day in August 1993 I was there, but on August 10th, Ruth Bader Ginsburg took her seat. I never thought about it before, but I was there at a very historical time.

The United States is a better place because she served. Her death last night was such a blow. RBG held on for as long as she could. I hope that she is at peace.

Fruits & Vegetables: USPS Forever Stamps

At no other time have I been more concerned about the USPS. The Postmaster General is seemingly trying to destroy it from within and the timing is especially harmful. The pandemic isn’t going away any time soon and the most important election of our lives is just weeks away. Reliable mail delivery is paramount.

I certainly can’t save the Postal Service on my own. None of us can individually. But each of us can support it in tiny ways. How? Make a few purchases from the post office.

When you really think about it, it’s so cool that we have a choice of different stamps. They’re colorful and pretty and whimsical. They don’t need to be. A stamp could be quite utilitarian. But we’re provided choices of new ones on a regular basis — practical pieces of art celebrating American culture.

Back in 2014, the Celebrity Chef stamps were a favorite of mine, along with the Farmers Markets stamps. Now, you can purchase USPS Farmers Markets Notecards, which include the stamps. They’re a nice gift for yourself or someone else.

I’ve never bought notecards from the Post Office, but I will in the future. However, I did recently purchase two books of the new Fruits and Vegetables stamps. They’re so pretty!

The stamp designs that we’ve known and loved over the years were created under the direction of USPS art director Derry Noyes. Noyes was interviewed for an article on Artsy, where she explains the process.

It all begins with the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC)—a 12-person panel composed of historians, educators, designers, and others who determine the subjects for each year’s crop of stamps. (Noyes actually served on the committee herself for several years, before transitioning to art direction in the early 1980s.) Their goal, she said, is ‘to pick a broad spectrum that reflects American history, pop culture, people, events—to try to get a good balance for each year.’ …

The stamp-making process typically lasts between two and four years, Noyes said, though it can go on for much longer—particularly if legal issues arise. During this time, the four USPS art directors meet monthly to discuss their ongoing projects and critique one another’s work. Eventually, they share their work with the CSAC to see if they like the direction. The committee eventually votes to approve the final stamp designs, which then must be approved by the postmaster general before they can be released. ‘Unlike a fine artist working for him or herself, doing whatever they feel like, this is a real team effort,’ Noyes said.

While most of us don’t send as much mail as we used to, we still do every once in a while. So buy some stamps that light you up, so the next time you send some snail mail, you’ll spark some joy in the simplest of ways.

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Photo Credit: USPS

The Zodiac Constellations & Virgo Season

The Zodiac Constellation

It’s my birthday eve and I’ve been reading up on all things Virgo. ‘Tis the season! I love that astrology has its roots in science and then goes way beyond.

The American Astronomical Society explains the difference between astronomy and astrology.

Astronomy is a science that studies everything outside of the earth’s atmosphere, such as planets, stars, asteroids, galaxies; and the properties and relationships of those celestial bodies. Astronomers base their studies on research and observation. Astrology, on the other hand, is the belief that the positioning of the stars and planets affect the way events occur on earth.

Just as the phases of the moon heavily influences the tides, to me it’s quite logical that positions of the stars and planets may impact people. With more than half of our body weight consisting of water, it makes sense that the moon could impact our behavior. So why not the other planets too?

The object pictured above is NGC 4388, which is part of the Virgo Cluster, which contains more than 1300 galaxies. The center of this cluster of galaxies is part of the constellation of Virgo. It’s so beautiful!

The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains Earth and our solar system. The Virgo Cluster is the closest large cluster of galaxies to us. The lingo can get a little complicated, so here are some quick definitions as I understand them.

Star clusters are groups of stars held together by gravitational pull. A constellation is a name given to a group of stars based on a pattern that appears in the sky. Stars are also the “fundamental building blocks of galaxies.”

So when does astrology kick in?

When the planets, moon and sun pass through the Zodiac constellations. The constellations correlate to our astrological sign, which is also our sun sign. But there is one additional constellation, Ophiuchus, which is not used as a zodiac sign.

What’s interesting is that when we can see our own zodiac constellation in the night sky does not correlate with the timing of our birthday. The Virgo constellation appears in late May, June and July, according to EarthSky.

The sun passes in front of the constellation Virgo each year from about September 16 to October 30. Because Virgo is such a large constellation, the sun stays in front of Virgo for longer than one month.

The dates of the sun’s passage through Virgo may conflict with what you read on the horoscope page, which probably says from about August 23 to September 22. Keep in mind that astrologers are referring to the sign – not the constellation – Virgo. Yes, there is a difference between a constellation and a sign!

A constellation of the zodiac refers to certain section of the starry sky. On the other hand, a sign of the zodiac refers to the seasonal position of the sun, irrespective of what constellation backdrops the sun at a given season.

As I approach my 56th time circling the sun, I remember the past, look forward to the future and feel grateful for my birthday present.

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Image Credit: ESA/NASA