Friday, April 30, 2010

Events ~ RISD Alumni Spring Art Sale, Providence

RISD Alumni Spring Art Sale
Benefit St.
Providence, Rhode Island
10 am - 4 pm (rain or shine)

From RISD's calendar:
"RISD Alumni Art Sales feature thousands of items designed and created by alumni from all over the country and the world. Items for sale include fine art, home accessories, greeting cards, jewelry, paintings, furniture, rugs, clothing, photographs, glass and ceramics."

Bear and I really want to make this one. We both love art in all its forms, and would love to "window shop" the great selections.

One piece that caught my eye on the Art Sale slideshow is this one by Heidi Caswell Zander.

The Art Sale also has a set on Flickr.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dining ~ L'Elizabeth, Providence

285 S. Main St.
Providence, Rhode Island

By sheer coincidence (we were hungry and happened to be driving by), we discovered L'Elizabeth. We were fortunate to get parking on S. Main, right near the front door. A sandwich board outside informed us "L'Elizabeth ~ pastries and martinis," although the posted menu listed lunch items as well.

After passing the outdoor seating, the first thing we saw was the beautiful stained glass window in the front door.

L'Elizabeth stained glass window

We were charmed by the decor. It's very eclectic, with couches and armchairs and small decorative tables scattered around. There's an old-fashioned bar in the back where they mix up martinis and other drinks, and eclectic wall art throughout.

L'Elizabeth interior L'Elizabeth interior

It kind of had the look of an antique furniture shop.

Ruth, our waitress, was very nice. She was pleasant, attentive and helpful. It appeared that she was the only person working in the restaurant, but then, we were the only customers.

I ordered the Beef & Cheddar on ciabatta with mashed potatoes. My oldest daughter got the stuffed artichoke, and Bear got the Thanksgiving - turkey and stuffing with cranberry mayo.

We were all disappointed with the food. Boiling bubbles around the edge of the mashed potatoes and the gray appearance of the meat led us to think that the food was microwaved behind the bar. We each shared our meals with the others, and all agreed, it was bland.

We decided against ordering dessert, and headed out. After discussion, our consensus was the same: Cute little place, good service, disappointing food.

In fairness, their sign does advertise "pastry and martinis," so it's possible that their sweets are better than their savories. I might go back if I were in the mood for a martini or some cake.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rhody artists ~ eco-woolies

Providence, Rhode Island

One of the crafters we met at Craftopia was Joanne Sargent of eco-woolies. Joanne takes used sweaters and makes them into something new. Clothes, blankets, hats, scarves, all so beautiful.


I fell in love with the blanket behind her, a quilt of various black, white and gray sweaters, backed by a metallic silver material that was so soft! I just wanted to snuggle up under it then and there.

Bear fell in love with the hats. I think she wants one of each kind! This one from her Web site is crazy-cute:

We both loved the Christmas stockings, in so many great colors and designs.


Joanne takes custom orders as well, and she is so friendly and enthusiastic about her work! It was a pleasure to talk with her.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Events ~ Corn Planting Ceremony, Portsmouth

Aquidneck Island Intertribal Indian Council
Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Bear and I were invited to attend the Aquidneck Island Intertribal Indian Council's Corn Planting ceremony over the weekend. My eldest daughter was out for the weekend, and she joined us as well. The weather was perfect, warm and sunny with enough breeze to avoid being too hot.

The full moon in April is the Corn Planting Moon, and this particular ceremony was derived from the Cherokee ritual. According to my grandmother, we have some Cherokee ancestry, so it was especially interesting.

We didn't photograph the ceremony itself, but we were able to take shots of the rehearsal.

It begins with the Corn Maiden (that's Anastasia) being brought into the Sacred Circle by the Warrior Guard (Chief Blue Eagle). They approach the Sacred Fire. The Corn Maiden carries a basket of corn kernels.

Warrior Guard and Corn Maiden

Seven women of the tribe approach the Corn Maiden one by one. They each take a handful of corn and back away from the sacred fire, walking around the circle to one of the seven points staked out within the circle. Since the Sacred Fire carries their messages and prayers to the God or Creator, they do not turn their back to it.

Receiving corn

The points are positioned at points of the compass, with only the east left open. This is the position of the Sun and is left open for him.

Planting corn

Once all seven women are in their positions, the first one takes four steps toward the Sacred Fire. Using a pointed stick, she makes a hole in the ground and drops in some corn, then covers the hole with dirt. She repeats this action four times, then the next woman takes her turn.

Planting Corn

Once all the women have planted their corn, they return, again one at a time, to the Corn Maiden to return any corn they did not use. Each woman backs out of the circle, and the next starts her turn.

During the actual ceremony, a single drummer counts out beats. The drum is huge, as big as a bass drum in a marching band. The drum, too, is sacred, and is played only by men. It is said that the drum was a gift from women to men, and so women don't touch the drum. Women participate in the drumming by putting her hand on her man's left shoulder as he drums.

The ceremony was followed by a pipe ceremony, drumming, dancing and food, which we unfortunately missed. Chief Three Horses Sly Fox sent some photos of the activities:



drumming noah looks on

the drumming circle

Sadly, my older daughter was getting quite sunburned by the time the planting ceremony ended, and we had to get her home. There was still so much more to see and learn when we left, and we look forward to going to other ceremonies. Special thanks to Chief Three Horses Sly Fox for his kind and generous welcome, and to all of the Council for sharing their ceremony with us.

Amazon carries a book called The Cherokee Full Circle: A Practical Guide to Sacred Ceremonies and Traditions that has more information.

Amazon also carries a book on Sacred Drumming.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dining ~ Best Eastern Chinese & Japanese Restaurant, North Providence

Best Eastern Chinese & Japanese Restaurant
1820 Mineral Spring Ave.
North Providence, Rhode Island

Bear loves sushi. Loves it. I am not a fan. So it was nice to find a restaurant that serves both Chinese and Japanese food. Bear got her sushi: a Maki combo of tuna roll, shrimp roll and California roll. She liked it quite a lot, though she wasn't a fan of the tuna. But then, she's not a big fan of tuna generally.She wants to try the Rainbow Maki next time.

I got the pupu platter, which we shared. It's a huge amount of food, served on what looks like a wooden crudite tray. Between us we didn't finish half of it, but it made a nice evening snack, too. And there's still enough for lunch tomorrow. Bear and I both agreed that the crab rangoons are quite good, as are the boneless ribs and egg roll. I didn't love the beef teriyaki, but the chicken teriyaki was quite good. Go figure.

The restaurant is very clean, and looks to have been in business awhile. It has a slightly run-down appearance and a kind of 80's vibe.

Pam (Pan? I couldn't quite catch it), our waitress, was great. She was quick and courteous, and it was easy to catch her eye when we were ready for the check. The prices were very reasonable.

There were several menu items that Bear and I dithered over. We'll go back to try them.

Rhody themed ~ CatStudio RI glasses

image: CatStudio

CatStudio has these cute Rhode Island-themed glasses, pillows, dish towels and more. You can also get them in themes from other states, cities and even culinary...but why would you want to?

You have a chance to win the theme of your choice at Lisa Cooking. There are lots of things you can do to earn an entry. Stop on by and have a look!

Rhody artists~ Stella Marie Soaps

Stella Marie Soap
Kim Gonzaga, Owner

A great variety of soaps, lotions, balms and butters in fun and funky fragrances. Kim Gonzaga hand-crafts her soaps with no animal products or by-products, so they're vegan-friendly.

I bought a collection of her products for my oldest daughter as a Christmas gift. She really enjoyed them, and wants more. I love the Rockaway Beach coconut cream soap. It smells wonderful!

Stella Marie Soap is available in select stores in Rhode Island, Mass and New Hampshire. She's also at the Wintertime Farmer's Market in Pawtucket, and took part in Craftopia earlier this month:

Stella Marie

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sights ~ Swan Point Cemetery, Providence

Swan Point Cemetery
585 Blackstone Blvd.
Providence, Rhode Island

photo: Swan Point Cemetery

Swan Point Cemetery is a beautiful "garden cemetery," founded in 1846, that now sits on about 200 acres along the Seekonk River in Providence. It has excellent examples of burial monuments dating from the 1700s in a beautifully landscaped setting. All the trees we saw had identifying plaques, there were well-maintained drives, and stunning overlooks of the river.

Bear and I like to go there in the autumn to enjoy the fall colors. This was our first time visiting in the spring, and the blossoms were spectacular. Everything is in bloom, from cherry trees and magnolias to forsythia and tulips.

Bear under a tree

Photographing the monuments isn't allowed, but a very friendly guard happily led us to a couple of the more well-known monuments.

H.P. Lovecraft is buried here.


As it was in the photo above, Lovecraft's marker was lined with stones and what may have been magnets. We didn't want to disturb them, so I didn't investigate closer. Someone had also left a pale pink rose at the base:

offering at H.P. Lovecraft's grave

A number of Civil War generals and Rhode Island governors are at rest at Swan Point as well.

One particularly poignant marker is that of the Sprague children, Mary (age 10) and William (age 3), who died within months of each other in 1860. The monument is set up like a child's bed, with the children asleep on it. Flickr user Mr. Ducke created a collage of shots.

One thing that struck me: this collection of photos was taken in 2007. Note the placement of a small stuffed bear between the children.  A different bear had been placed between them when we were there. It's clear Bear and I weren't the only ones moved by the monument.

There is far too much of Swan Point to see in one visit, and Bear and I will go back again and again.

Amazon has Swan Point Cemetery: A centennial history and The Birds of Swan Point Cemetery for further reading.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sights ~ Bank of America Building, Providence

Bank of America Building
111 Westminster St.
Providence, Rhode Island

Bank of America Building


I've been charmed by this building since the first time I saw it. I'm told it's called the "Superman Building" by the locals, though I've never heard anyone call it that. This is because it resembles the Daily Planet building from the 1950s Superman tv series and comics.

With its Art Deco architecture and appointments (like its limestone carvings of Rhode Island history) and its tall lantern at the top, it dominates the Providence Skyline.

Providence skyline at night

According to Emporis site, it was constructed as the Industrial Trust Building in 1927 and since then it's been called the Industrial National Bank Building, Fleet Bank Building, and now the Bank of America Building. It's the tallest building in Rhode Island, and the oldest building to hold "tallest building in the state" status in the U.S., according to Wikipedia. The architects, Walker & Gillette, were a New York firm that handled both commercial and residential accounts. I don't see evidence that they built any other Providence landmarks.

I'd been eager to go inside since we moved here, and this week I finally did. It was probably naive of me to bring my camera inside, but I just didn't realize that the main lobby is also the teller stands. I had expected a lobby that led to offices and bank tellers, I suppose. At any rate, no photos of the interior allowed, for security reasons.

I can tell you that it's spacious. There are red and gold tapestries on the wall, and white marble floors. It's probably more impressive if you go and see it yourself, but it's worth a look, even if it's just to say you did.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dining ~ Cindy's Diner, North Scituate

Cindy's Diner
46 Hartford Ave.
North Scituate, Rhode Island

It's been awhile since Bear and I stopped by Cindy's on our way home from our trip to Foster.

It had just gone dark, and there was Cindy's bright neon sign, looking like something out of Happy Days.

Cindy's Diner exterior

The interior stayed faithful to the sign's promise. Lots of aluminum, checkerboard flooring, bright red and white decor, in a Coca-Cola® theme.

Cindy's Diner interior

Cindy's Diner interior
(note, there are much better pictures on the RI Film and TV Office Web site)

The seats look like they came out of the back of my great-grandma's 53 Chrysler. In a good way.

The service was friendly, and when the waitress learned that they were out of what I'd ordered, she came back to apologize and ask what I would like instead. It was tough to make up my mind, but in the spirit of thinking/shopping local, I opted for the New England potroast. To the waitress' credit, she warned me it would be bland.

I should have listened. Even with the gravy, it was blah. The mashed potatoes were decent, the sweet potato fries were very good, but the potroast itself lacked any real seasoning.

Bear, on the other hand, loved her fried shrimp and clam cakes.

New England Potroast with sweet potatoes and mashed     Clam cakes, shrimp and green beans

Despite my rather disappointing experience with the potroast, it was a good time. The service was good, the place is clean and pleasant. We'd certainly go again.

Rhody Artists ~ Unusual Threads, Pawtucket

Unusual Threads
Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Unusual Threads' Etsy shop has these adorable picnic placemats. A sectioned pocket holds bamboo utensils, and the whole thing rolls up for easy transport/storage. Such a clever idea. They really put me in the picnic mood!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dining ~ The Wickford Diner, Wickford

The Wickford Diner
64 Brown St.
Wickford, Rhode Island

We arrived at Wickford's Daffodil Days around lunchtime, and since we both like a good diner, decided to check out Wickford Diner, located right on Brown street, the main shopping area.

Wickford Diner

It's a pretty place, lots of wood, a nautical theme that fits right in with Wickford's harbor town ambience.

Wickford Diner

The main diner has an additional room with booth seating. The booths were pretty full, but there wasn't much activity in the bar area. Bear and I grabbed seats at the head of the bar, next to the cash register.

It took awhile before we were acknowledged by the wait staff, even though one of the two women used the register right in front of us. Despite being less than two feet away, she never even glanced our way.

I should take a moment here to say that Bear and I make a point to interact pleasantly with people. I've worked in retail, as a cook and as a waitress. There are few people as obnoxious as hungry people in a restaurant, so we go out of our way to make eye contact, say "please" and "thank you," and to engage in conversation if it appears the other person has time.

Eventually our disinterested waitress took our drink order. It was a good ten minutes before she returned with our sodas for our meal order. We ordered lobster bisque, quahogs and coconut chicken fingers.

A few minutes later, our waitress called over, "we're out of coconut chicken." I reached for the menu. "You want something else?" I didn't. By now, I was getting a bit annoyed. We got a halfhearted "sorry" as she turned away.

When she brought the food to us, it landed with a thunk on the bar. We had to say our "thank you" to her back as she walked away.

The quahogs were good. Not spectacular, but decent. The lobster bisque was excellent.

The waitress did stop by again to ask if everything was okay, however she walked away before we could answer. From what I could gather from conversation the waitress had with another patron, they may have been short-staffed, and perhaps without a dish washer.

We didn't stay long, though. Bear was antsy to get out of there. We ate quickly, paid for our lunch and left.

On leaving, Bear commented on the poor service, noting that the waitresses seemed "mean" and "rude."

Perhaps this was an unusual day. Being short-staffed can make people hectic and short. However, that should not show in front staff's interactions with customers. Honestly, the crowd should not have been more than two waitresses could handle.

While I would certainly recommend the food at The Wickford Diner, Bear and I probably wouldn't go back. We both agreed that we didn't enjoy our experience there.

For more reviews on the Wickford Diner, check out UpTake.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Events ~ Daffodil Days, Wickford

Daffodil Days
Wickford, Rhode Island

Daffodil Days in Wickford is this weekend, so Bear and I went to check it out. We'd attended last year's and enjoyed it enough to go back this year.

Daffodils in Wickford

The village daffodils lining Brown and Main Streets, and since daffodils are my favorite flower, it was especially nice to see.

Daffodils along Main St.

Today there was a fashion show (that we missed). Tomorrow will be more festivities. We did get to see the bagpiper, a lone woman marching slowly along the sidewalks as she played. She was very good.


We stopped by the Wickford Diner - a disappointment (more on that in another post). Other than that, though, we had a good time seeing the sights. There are a lot of historic buildings in Wickford, and we saw many of them.

The First Baptist Church
First Baptist church

St. Paul's Church
St. Paul's Church

Old Narragansett Church
The Old Narragansett Church, 1707
(we'll go back this summer to get a tour of the inside).

Wickford House
Wickford House "Old Yellow"
Affectionately known as "Old Yellow"

Narragansett House
Narragansett House

I don't know if this building has a name, but it's got an interesting shape.
Curved building, corner Brown and Main St.
I'll have to do some reasearch.

We didn't go into any of the historic buildings (more on some of those later, too), although we did a little browsing in the shops. It was a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sights ~ More of Roger Williams Park, Providence

Roger Williams Park
1000 Elmwood Ave.
Providence, Rhode Island

Right near the Japanese Garden is Hasbro's Boundless Playground. The playground opened in 2001, sponsored by Rhode Island-headquartered Hasbro, and has been very well maintained. Nothing looked broken, rusty or out of service.

It was very busy when we were there, with easily 50-100 children and parents enjoying the spring weather and fun, brightly-colored fixtures. Even though the park was crowded, it had the sense of being active without being overwhelming.

Hasbro Boundless Playground

Hasbro Boundless Playground

The park was designed for children with all types of abilities, and so incorporates a wide range of sensory activities.

Pat drives the bus
Pat enjoyed driving the big yellow "bus."

Bear liked the whole environment and loved the swings. A definite must-do for anyone with kids.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sights ~ Roger Williams Park, Providence

Roger Williams Park
1000 Elmwood Ave.
Providence, Rhode Island

Roger Williams Park is 427 acres, situated in the south side of Providence. Land for the park was donated by Betsey Williams, a descendant of Roger Williams, founder of Providence and Rhode Island. The park is much too large and has too much to offer to fit into one post, so in honor of Hana Matsuri, the Japanese Flower Festival, we'll focus on the Japanese Gardens.

Japanese Gardens

Yesterday, Bear and I decided to take advantage of the unusually warm spring weather, and enjoy the park.

There should be an annual cherry blossom festival, like they have in DC. All the (presumably) cherry trees were in bloom, with white and pink blossom-covered branches extending along the paths and draping gracefully toward the water.

Japanese Gardens

The Japanese Garden is set on a couple of small islands in the middle of one of the park's ponds, connected by a series of arched wooden bridges. There are granite slab benches and paved paths that make great photo ops, and invite you to stay awhile.

Bridge at Japanese gardens
Look closely to see Pat the Bear sitting on the apex of the bridge.

Plenty of other families had the same idea. We saw couples, groups and individuals of all ages enjoying a stroll or a seat near the water.

Amazon has a book chronicling the history of the park: The Jewel of Providence: An Illustrated History of Roger Williams Park, by David Marshall.