Monthly Archives: February 2014

All it needs is a partridge…

Most fruit trees typically live for 100 years, if cared for properly.  They are susceptible to weather, insects, and fungal diseases, and are generally lucky if they celebrate their centennial.  The Endicott Pear Tree, however, did not receive this memo and has managed to live for nearly 400 years.


Photo: Click here

The tree, located in Danvers, was planted by Massachusetts governor, John Endicott, around 1630 and is still going strong.

The tree is mind mindbogglingly tenacious and has survived centuries of abuse – both from the temperamental New England weather and vandals.  It was attacked by hurricanes numerous times in the 19th century and hit severely by one in 1934.  After the last hit, it managed to regrow from the mangled trunk.  In the 1960’s, vandals cut off the tree’s branches and cut down the trunk to 6 feet above ground.  Yet again, the spunky pear tree regrew.  How’s that for determination?

Aside from being the oldest of its kind, the Endicott Pear Tree also has the distinction of having been cloned.  It’s clone is also doing quite well and it will be interesting to see if the clone manages to outlive us all as well.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Endicott Pear Tree, to us anyway, is the fact that it’s a living treasure from our colonial past.  Yes, we have houses, writings, and artifacts dating back from the same time period, but it’s fascinating to know that something has physically lived and survived for all of this time.  


Just roll with it…

If there’s anything we love, it’s sharing information and alliteration.  In the spirit of both, we bring you “Traveler Tip Tuesdays.”

Between forgotten essentials, lost luggage, and cancelled flights, traveling can be a pain.  We’re here to bring you the occasional tip or tidbit to help make traveling less stressful.  So, keep a lookout on Tuesdays for a helpful (and often fun) traveler tip!

5-tips-for-avoiding-overpacking-1For today’s “Traveler Tip Tuesday” we broach the subject of packing.  For lack of more eloquent phrasing, packing is awful.  If you’re lucky, you get 1 free piece of checked luggage on your flight and refuse to pay for a second.  Everything must fit in that one bag.  And once you do manage to get everything from toiletries to clothes, shoes, and “essentials” you’ll never use but feel obligated to bring “just in case”, you find that your suitcase is literally coming apart at the seams (which probably says more about buying discount department store luggage on Black Friday than it does over packing).


Isn’t organization grand?

But there is a solution to ease the burden of fitting everything into your suitcase: rolling.  There are many instructional videos online on the art of rolling clothes, but the nub and the gist is, rolling articles of clothing saves space in your luggage.  If done properly (and not too tightly), it also saves your clothes from getting wrinkled in transit.  Perhaps more importantly, it looks super neat and organized.

Some travelers even take rolling a step further, layering a shirt, pants, and undergarments, and then making one big outfit-roll. The only drawback is that the outfit-roll tends to be bulky and take up a little extra space.


Here’s a great instructional video on clothes rolling from eHow:

**Rolling clothes isn’t just limited to travel, though.  It’s also very practical if you don’t have a lot of drawer space at home.  And besides, what’s easier; opening a drawer and searching through a stack of t-shirts trying to find the one you want (and messing up said stack when you try to take the desired shirt from the bottom) or searching through a drawer of rolled t-shirts, each roll easy to take out without disturbing the others? 


I’ve Got a Golden Ticket: A trip to Harbor Sweets

DSC_0096Many have lamented the decline of Valentine’s Day: it has become a commercialized holiday focused solely on greeting cards (containing mass-produced soulless poetry) and expensive gifts.  We must take the time to remember the true meaning of today: chocolate.  Sweet, savory, melt-in-your-mouth-yummy-deliciousness chocolate.  We agree with Eliza Doolittle that a good life would mean “…lots of chocolates for me to eat.” Oh wouldn’t it be “loverly” indeed!

DSC_0098Valentine’s aside, this week also marks Salem’s So Sweet Chocolate and Ice Sculpture Festival (February 7-16).  It was timely, then, when we took a trip to Harbor Sweets, which has been described as “Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory meets Santa’s Workshop.”  Truer words have never been spoken: our tour of Harbor Sweets was like receiving the elusive golden ticket.  Upon entering, we were greeted by a friendly staff member and invited to take a chocolate from the expansive plate of samples.  We were hooked on the first bite.

What began in 1973 as Ben Strohecker’s desire to create the world’s best chocolates has become a New England staple which creates 2 million Sweet Sloops a year and ships nearly 2,000 packages a day during the holiday season.  Did we mention that it’s all done by hand?

DSC_0077Harbor Sweets utilizes original chocolate-making techniques and methods.  This includes slowly melting the chocolate in copper kettles and hand molding, filling, wrapping, and packing all of the chocolates.  During our tour, we watched as the staff patiently and efficiently filled chocolate with caramel centers and dipped Sweet Sloops in crushed pecans (giving the chocolates their delicious outer crunch and texture).  As we learned from Lucy, making chocolate by hand is not easy but the staff at Harbor Sweets are old pros – they’re also terribly friendly and knowledgeable, answering our questions and, at times, letting us know where the best camera shots were.  If there’s any secret ingredient in Harbor Sweets’ products, it’s probably the care that goes into making, molding, and wrapping each chocolate.

DSC_0069Harbor Sweets’ best-known chocolate are Sweet Sloops, almond butter crunch dipped in white chocolate with a dark chocolate, pecan-coated, base (is your mouth watering yet?).  The delicious chocolates were created by accident during a dark chocolate shortage.  President and COO Phyllis LeBlanc (who had worked at Harbor Sweets while a student at Salem State College) has expanded the company’s offerings with the Dark Horse Chocolates (inspired by her passion for horses) and Perennial Sweets (influenced  by her own gardens and love of gardening) lines.  Their newest line is Salt & Ayre (introduced for Harbor Sweets’ 40th birthday in 2013).  We highly recommend the Sweet Sloops, Peanut Butter Sea Biscuits, Marblehead Mints, and Caramel with Himalayan Sea Salt (and will wait patiently as you complete your online order).

Harbor Sweets care and commitment doesn’t end with its chocolate-making.  They give back to the Salem community, supporting local organizations such as the Salem Food Pantry and Boys and Girls Club of Salem and donate a percentage of its profits to these local institutions.


Did you really think we could go home empty-handed?

Visiting Harbor Sweets is like visiting a real, live Candyland (minus the scary peppermint-clown-man).  The setup inside the store is pretty open, allowing customers to see the production floor as they shop (this means that the smell inside is heavenly-chocolatey).  Tours are available on most Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11am (it is best to call ahead of time – 800-234-4860) and we can’t recommend the tour enough! Can’t make it to Salem?  Harbor Sweets chocolates are available at these shops (click here for full list) or you can order online at

Thank you so much to Harbor Sweets and to Billie Phillips for giving us such a wonderful tour and so much fantastic information (without which, we couldn’t write this blog)! 🙂

Sing a Song of North of Boston


The North of Boston region is deeply rooted in the arts – a subject we wrote on awhile ago in our blog entry on the region’s literary offerings (click here for a shameless plug).  Our relation to the arts, however, does not lie solely in our literary history.  Aside from being home to some fantastic museums and art galleries, the region also has a rich connection to music.  We are home to many great music festivals, including the Rockport Chamber Music Festival and Salem Jazz & Soul Festival, and host top acts from all genres of music at venues such as the Shalin Liu Performance Center, North Shore Music Theatre, and Blue Ocean Music Hall.  Even our beaches are known to sing at times…

It’s no wonder, then, that the North of Boston is the birthplace of many famous musicians.  You may have heard of…



Rob Zombie
A Haverhill native and graduate of Haverhill High School, Zombie was the lead singer for the band White Zombie before going out on his own for a successful solo career.  He is also well-respected in the world of horror film, having directed such movies as “House of 1000 Corpses,” “The Devil’s Rejects,” and the recent “Lords of Salem.”




Joe Perry
Although Aerosmith is primarily known as a “Boston-based” band, lead guitarist Joe Perry was born in Lawrence, MA.  When not playing with Aerosmith, Perry has maintained a respected solo career on the side and has collaborated with many other musicians.  Also of note, he is the only North of Boston native that we know of who has his own Disney World Ride – the Rockin’ Roller Coaster.



Paula Cole
Rockport native and Rockport High graduate Paul Cole has had an illustrious career (which includes a Grammy award, nonetheless).  Her song “Where Have All the  Cowboys Gone?” was a Top 10 Billboard hit in 1997, although she is probably best-known for her hit “I Don’t Want to Wait” (aka, the theme from “Dawson’s Creek.”).



Leonard Bernstein
Perhaps the top composer of the 20th century, Leonard Bernstein was another native of Lawrence.  He is probably best known for his work for the musicals “West Side Story” and “On the Town” (the film version of “On the Town” starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra only used 1 song from the stage musical.  One can never have too much knowledge).