Sunday, October 27, 2013

If It's October, It Must Be Time to Visit Salem

Most Halloween lovers will agree that Salem, Massachusetts is one of the top places to visit during October.  Haunted Houses, various witch themed museums, ghost tours, psychics and even a pirate museum abound in this historic New England town. 

A pedestrian walkway on Essex Street houses dozens of tents selling Salem themed shirts, witches hats, food and a host of Halloween themed items.  Salem Vintage Photography features an extensive shop of costumes where customers can dress up and purchase period photos. 

People in costumes roam the pedestrian walkway on Essex Street 
While rich in maritime history, Salem is best known for the Salem Witch trials of 1692 where 19 people were hung and one man, Giles Corey, was pressed to death.  A reenactment of an accused’s hearing is performed in the Witch Dungeon Museum.  Downstairs is a replica of the jail that the accused witches were sent. The Salem Witch Museum has a narrated version of the witch hysteria history of the with scenes above for viewing.  Then visitors are brought in the back to view a timeline and hear more history from that time period. 

There are several ghost tours departing at various times starting in the late afternoon and continuing through the evening.  We signed up for a 5:00 tour.  Our guide Pete was extremely knowledgeable about Salem’s history and was impressed with my sons' active participation and extensive history knowledge throughout this tour.  Pete showed us where the original buildings in 1692 Salem were, took us through the historical cemetery, and ended the tour in front of Captain White’s house where Captain White was murdered in Salem.   His murder later inspired the Parker Brother’s game Clue.  Parker Brothers, originally the George S. Parker Company, was founded in Salem.

Pete was an extremely knowledgeable tour guide.

Salem Witch Memorial dedicated in 1992- Each bench bears the name of one of the twenty people killed in 1692 for practicing witchcraft.  

Giles Corey, pressed to death during the Salem Witch Trials

Part of the Salem Cemetery

Captain White's house - his murder inspired the game Clue
Salem has a number of good restaurants.  Our favorite is Rockafella’s  with its fantastic food and wonderful specialty drinks.  Murphy’s Restaurant is another place we enjoy for a quick lunch and pumpkin ale.  I have heard the Lobster Shanty is a recommended place by visitors and locals alike, and we will have to check it out next time.

Wear your costumes, don your witches’ hats and join in the fun!  There’s something for everyone in Salem!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Superstitious Much?

Walking home from the school bus stop, a shiny copper penny gleamed on the road.  As I picked it up I recited, “Find a penny, pick it up, and all say you’ll have good luck.”   I laughed to myself as my next thought was that my germiphobe husband would have probably had a heart attack on the spot if he saw me touch that filthy, germ infested coin.  And he would have been laid out in the coffin when I sat on the ground to get a photo! 

Do you avoid walking under ladders and ‘knock on wood’?  Do you pick up abandoned pennies on the ground ?   I read that if someone has a bad Friday the 13th, they may stress about all Friday the 13th's regardless of the fact that the ones before were pretty uneventful.  I usually have good Friday the 13th's.  Do you?

What are your superstitions?

Friday, October 18, 2013

David and The Bully

October is National Anti-Bullying Month.  Fliers came home from school requesting kids wear orange on October 9 to support anti-bullying.  And on October 7, David came off the bus with the misery face on. 

“What happened?” I asked.

“Kevin pickpocketed me.”  He replied.

Evidently Kevin, who in less than 2 months of school has been suspended twice for bullying, pushed up against David and took his pocket pack of Kleenex out of his pocket, then waved them around the bus to show everyone.  Tissues Kevin?

David wanted to confront Kevin and stand up for himself.  In principle he should stand up for himself, but frankly I was a little worried. Kevin has a history of physical violence towards other kids.  He kicked a boy daily in elementary school and ripped up the boy's homework.  The boy didn't say anything at first and endured this for weeks until someone saw and told one of the teachers.  Another one of Kevin's teachers would also make him empty his backpack before going home every day as he frequently stole from his classmates.  During the first week of middle school, Kevin slammed a kid in the back with his heavy backpack.  He received a one day suspension.  A couple of weeks later, after the bus dropped him and several others at their bus stop, Kevin sucker punched a kid in the face, causing that boy to bleed.  He was subsequently suspended for 5 days.    

The next day, on the way to the cafeteria, David asked Kevin if he needed some tissues.  Kevin turned around to face David and David told him that he had better not touch him or his things again.  While Kevin initially denied taking anything, David didn’t back down.  “I know what you did, you know what you did.  Don’t do it again. “  Kevin ended up telling David he would never ever ‘steal from him again.’ 

Bullying is a serious problem that unfortunately isn't going away.  Talk with your children.  Be aware of what they are doing and who they hang out with.  Step back, but also know when to step in to avoid situations getting out of control.  

Standing up to a bully is empowering and David was so proud of himself for standing his ground.  I’m proud of him too, but also relieved there was no physical retaliation on Kevin’s part.   Hopefully that will be the end of it for this time.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular ~ Love This Time of Year

One of the perks to living in the Providence area in October is the Roger Williams Park Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular which is now running from October 4 through November 3.  This popular display includes over 5000 hand-carved pumpkins.  Appropriately themed music is played throughout the path and my favorite this year was Summer Wind by Frank Sinatra.

This year's theme is Pumpkinville, USA, representing the different regions and various eras and history of the country.  

Pumpkins are freshly carved and replaced constantly throughout the month-long spectacular.  We generally go twice each season and see same themed but slightly different carvings on each trip.  Last admission is at 10pm during the week and 11pm on the weekends with the display closing an hour later.  When the display opens at 6pm, there are generally long, intimidating lines which is why when we go as late as possible during the week.  By 9:30, the younger kids are tucked in for school and the trail is not overly crowded.  We tend to linger, taking photos and enjoying the music throughout the trail, so the less people, the better for us.

The finale is breathtaking.  There are hundreds of small pumpkins hanging in the trees with huge lighted jack-o-lanterns on the ground.  Don't Laugh, a mix of someone laughing to a fun, spooky beat plays in the background and smoke comes up during certain times in the song. 

A tribute to those lost during the past year includes a carving of James Gandolfini and angels in memory of the children and teachers lost in Sandy Hook. 

If traveling in the Rhode Island area, put this on your list of things to do.  This is a definite must see! 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Scrambled Eggs Please...And Kindly Hold the Flies...

Alex & Ika is a "recommended" area restaurant to visit while in Cooperstown. As a matter of fact, we had been treated to brunch by friends at this restaurant in early December, 2012.  The food was very good, service was good, but we almost choked when we saw the bill for mimosas, coffee, juice, fries and eggs for 5.  $189.00 before tip.  

Check shows an order for Floridian (*Special Order - scrambled)
$7.00 glass of juice
However, we did enjoy the food, so we decided to treat our friends to brunch on our September trip. The only redeeming thing about this visit was our waitress.  She was great.  Unfortunately, everything else was a total disappointment.

We specifically came in for Sunday brunch. Upon walking into Alex and Ika’s, we were promptly seated and presented with dirty menus, littered with cruddy dried pieces of food on them.  There was an overwhelming number of flies in the building.  Another party of 5 or 6 women at a table next to us were also complaining about the dozens of flies flying around.   At this point, we really should have walked out. 

The brunch menus from last year were replaced by a single card on each table with 4 entrees to choose from, 3 poached egg dishes, one Florentine-ish dish, stained as well. 

Dirty, stained menu card on the table.

As my husband does not eat poached eggs, he requested the Floridian eggs benedict, but with scrambled instead of poached eggs.  This exact request was accommodated in December.  (And shown in the photo above of the bill).

The waitress took our orders and immediately the owner, Ika, came over to tell my husband they ‘would not’ do scrambled eggs.  He asked why, it was done for us previously.  Her answer was that they only do it their way.   He could have something else from the menu.  Again, at this point, we should have walked out.  Our friends would have left too, but my husband knew everyone was hungry and he just ordered a BLT on wheat.  Our friends and I  ordered our Floridian eggs benedict and two orders of fingerlings (fries with aioli dipping sauce) to share.  When our order came, the chef had forgotten to make the fingerlings and my husband’s sandwich was on rye bread, not wheat.  They rushed the fingerlings, which were a small portion of fries that were presented to us undercooked and soaked in grease at $9.00 per order.  They were awful. 

We literally had to cover our food and silverware with napkins so the flies would not land on them.  I can only imagine how many flies were in the open kitchen if there were literally dozens buzzing around the dining room.  Additionally, as we sat, we looked around and noticed the walls were filthy and scratched up and we even saw cobwebs around the ceiling areas.  Inexcusable. 

After the check was paid and we left, my husband stopped to speak with Ika.  He said, ‘You know there is an overwhelming amount of flies in here.”  She replied, “yes I know”. She said they had some sort of machines to kill them (which obviously weren’t working).  She admitted that the other table complained as well.    My husband said that he had been in business for over 25 years, and usually businesses try to cater to their customers.  She curtly replied, “No, we don’t do that.”  Are you kidding me?   My husband asked for a substitution of scrambled eggs on a check that was over $100 for breakfast for 4.  As a former waitress, I did not see this as an unreasonable request, AND it had been accommodated in the past.  Customer service is clearly not a priority in Alex & Ika Restaurant.  Ika could care less.  Nor is cleanliness a priority as is evident by just looking around (and seeing what’s flying around). 

From the time I worked my first job at McDonalds, to working in retail clothing stores, to waitressing at both pizza joints as well as a fine dining restaurant, customer service was always drilled into my head.  “The customer is always right,”  the managers and/or owners would say.   And while I do not 100% agree with that statement, the bottom line is that businesses need to make their best attempt to cater to the customer.  Within reason.  And when this basic principle of customer service is so blatently disregarded, in a more 'exclusive' restaurant as Alex and Ika claims to be, I truly am shocked.

We visit the Cooperstown area 2-3 times per year and I can guarantee you that we will never eat at Alex & Ika again.