Out With the Old? Not so fast…2018 version.

Yes, it’s a new year, so in with the new…but not without another shout out to some “old” that’s coming with me into 2019.

Big Island Candies
Oh. My. God. Crack in cellophane wrappers. If you are EVER purchasing a lovely giftMika Mints basket to send, or in the mood to treat yourself and your family, look nowhere else. Not a huge sweets person, I can usually sample and leave alone. Not with Big Island Candies. My introduction began with the Mika Chocolates: These soft nibbles feature a dark-chocolate coating on the outside, and on the inside, a smooth, lightly whipped blend of dark and milk chocolate, cream and butter, and finally, a cooling touch of mint flavor. They are all that and more. You won’t find a better chocolate mint.  I next became enslaved by the Milk Chocolate Macadamia Nut Toffee, followed by the Milk and Dark Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts.  But no need to stop there…Big Island Candies also has Signature Shortbread cookies,  brownies, and a number of other treats. Don’t take my word for it…experience these treats for yourself. https://www.bigislandcandies.com/

Bissell Powertrak Compact Vacuum
One might imagine I’m a cleaning nut with this addition, but the reverse is true. I like a clean space, but just about anything else can pull my attention away from cleaning.  This little vacuum encourages me back to the task because it’s powerful enough to be effective, so light I don’t mind going up and down stairs with it, and super easy to use and maintain. I bought it for around $60, and it boasts cheery lime green accents! A winner from Bissell.  The Bissell says this little number is no longer available, but it is at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Snatch it up… Bissell Powertrak

Louise Penny
If you have not been introduced to award-winning bestselling author Louise Penny, here are the basics: A Canadian author of mystery novels set in the Canadian province of Quebec centred on the work of francophone Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec.
If there’s one thing I have done my entire life, reading is it. After spending my entire childhood focused on reading, I majored in it in college. Reading remains my biggest joy and Louise Penny is my favorite author. Interesting, because I’m only a sometime mystery reader, but Louise is so much more than a mystery writer. Her revelations regarding character, relationships, philosophy, and psychology set against the haunting backdrop of  snow-covered Canadian woods make her a literary treasure as well as a popular one. She belonged on this list last year; I’m sure she’ll belong on this list next year. https://www.louisepenny.com/

Yes, those little packets of seasonings and ingredients for tasty food fast. Roast turkey is a top favorite meal in my family, particularly in November and December.  My home-made gravy is considered part of the tradition, but what my family didn’t know was that I was relying on a natural seasoning packet that isn’t available anymore. In steps Knorr’s Turkey Gravy packet to save the day, and we’re back in business. In 2019, I plan to increase my supply of Knorr’s helpers to have on hand for a last-minute meal.  https://www.knorr.com/us/en/home.html

Blanket Scarves
Days are cold in winter in New England, and increasing years can bring increasing sensitivity to temperature. A dear friend introduced me to the luxury of blanket scarves when she returned from a trip to Ireland and gave me a royal blue wool scarf/shawl. Perhaps the term blanket scarf wasn’t in use then, and perhaps I’m using the term a bit loosely, as a true blanket scarf is probably more of a square or rectangle that can be used like a small throw, or folded to be used as a scarf.  Whatever the exact dimensions, anyone who gets chilly in winter, or in air conditioning, would benefit from these cozy additions to be worn around the neck, the shoulders, or wrapped around legs and feet. I have three at this point, and decided my mother-in-law needed one for her birthday this year. A MUST for plane travel…

Take good care of yourself in the new year!



May Day Magic Indeed!

1-FullSizeRenderDoes this look like fun or what?! This art is from the lovely book Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions by Sarah Ban Breathnach, a must have for families wanting to continue some of the delightful seasonal traditions practiced in the Victorian home.

I’m forever  attracted to traditional festivals attached to nature and the seasons.  Add spring flowers and streamers of pastel ribbons, and what’s not to love?  May Day is a natural for me, and dancing the May Pole has happily been checked off my bucket list. While I might have imagined a daytime version of dancing in the woods under the moon in a light muslin shift accompanied by Van Morrison’s Moon Dance, the actual experience of dancing the Maypole was a lovely one nonetheless.  My son’s Waldorf school had built a Maypole in the school yard and the school’s families,  from toddlers to grandparents, gathered in the spring air on a sunny May day to take a turn holding onto one of the ribbons and moving gracefully in a counter-clockwise circle around the pole accompanied by recorder music. Magic indeed. And may I add, my son’s school also added the tradition of serving fresh baked shortcake with fresh strawberries and real whipped cream, an inspired addition if there ever was one.

Another May Day tradition is the creation of May baskets.  Early in the morning, children in the Middle Ages gathered wildflowers to create baskets that they secretly left for friends and neighbors. Tradition said that if they were discovered, they had to run back for a kiss.

How romantic is that!!  Too romantic to be left there, I decided. So this alluring tradition became the seed from which blossomed (at least I like to think so) my contemporary romance, May Day Magic. Single mother Diane enlists the help of her two children to create a May Day basket to deliver to her ailing mother, their grandmother. She’s all thumbs when handsome plant nursery owner Marc joins in to help select the flowers.  Diane has also secretly created May baskets for her children as a surprise they will discover when they return from delivering their grandmother’s basket. But there’s one more surprise coming, this time for Diane. Marc’s got a little May Day magic of his own in mind…

Here’s to enjoying some May Day magic with Marc and Diane, and making a little May Day magic of your own!

May Day Magic on Amazon


Folks and Spokes – or, Hold the Spandex

Too late now – the invasion has begun. The bicycle folks are out in numbers, in our little town, and it looks like they’re here to stay. Almost every day, mostly all day, there are bicyclists on the road, clad in their black and neon spandex outfits, hydration at the ready, sunglasses, and – helmets, I’m happy to say. Like it or not, car drivers and pedestrians are having to share the roads and crosswalks with the folks on bikes. Most times, we adjust, but sometimes it’s not so pretty and can be downright scary. Twenty years ago when we moved here, it was not so. Now, they are part of the landscape: bright, quick, darting insects, in whizzing motion, on the periphery of my vision.

I enjoy riding a bike myself on occasion, on quiet roads or cleared trails. More or less I enjoy the scenery, taking my time, fresh air, small hills and few gears. Not so much for the bike folks, I think. The bikes themselves are highly engineered pieces of sporting equipment, not mere transportation. Expensive. And tricky to repair, requiring knowledge and expertise. The bikers themselves are by and large a fast, fit group, no dawdlers among them, and in it for speed and distance, I suspect, not recreation. No doubt there is merit in it, and benefit: stress relief, exercise, endorphins, perhaps and maybe a kind of meditation in motion. But, the hazards! My frequent reaction is to wonder, “Don’t they fear for their lives on these narrow shoulders?” or “Don’t the gas fumes bother them?” or, “Why do they want to scale that big hill on a bike, anyway?” Even more perplexing, to me, is the “spinning” craze, of indoor cycling that gets nowhere and sees nothing, but has its true adherents, I know. Maybe, like the more extreme sports, it’s the adrenaline rush and the escape from everyday problems. Yet, that hasn’t been, for me, the experience of biking.

I logged a lot of miles as a kid on a bike on rural roads in Connecticut, and I know that my husband was attached to his bike like another leg, that got him where he wanted to go. It was freedom, for us. No helmets, of course. There were the occasional accidents, although none fatal. My cousin Bobby had a spectacular “wipeout” at the bottom of Newgate Hill. We must have been ten; I was first on the scene to observe the damage to boy and bike, a bloody mess. I rode like holy hell to get help from the adults. Only, it was a minor cut after all. Apparently, the forehead bleeds a lot. My husband bought a piece of land on the Cape (with his mother), from a settlement after being hit by a car on his bike, around 12 years old. Also broken leg, missing weeks of school, and tutor at home. Our associations with bikes were not very glamorous or associated with anything like achievement. A means to adventure, yes, but not an end in itself.

In another chapter of my history with bikes, I arrived in Gloucester, England for a homestay during a semester abroad, and was promptly given “my bike”. That was it; no family car. Wherever I needed to go in town, hop the bike (buses or trains for longer rides). The trick there was figuring out where I was going. Fortunately, I had a self-appointed guide, the family’s 12 year old daughter, Moira, who took me everywhere. The biggest adjustment, of course, was the left-lane car traffic, and for bikes, too. And, the experience of being among so many other bikers on the old city streets. Yet, we managed without much fuss, and I’m here to write about it today. In visiting Europe in more recent years, there is still a “bike culture”, men and women, young and old, casual or business, priests and nuns. But not much spandex, that I could see. And how many would have said they were riding for exercise, I’m not too sure. Don’t think so, though. My son made great use of the bike-share program in Paris, and it seemed to work very well, but the bikes themselves were kind of bland, gray, workhouse models, maybe less likely to be coveted and stolen.

My old purple bicycle has gone out to pasture. I’d like a new bike; that is, I’d like to be able to go bike riding. But where? I’m still old-school when it comes to bikes: safety, comfort, and enjoying the scenery. Hold the spandex, please.


The Walking Life (Part 2)

In these midlife years, I walk, but principally for pleasure and exercise. Everything in suburbia is geared toward the car, so I have to make a special point to walk, sometimes in nature, but sometimes just around the block with my earphones on. When we first moved here from a more urban area, it was awkward to take evening walks, in darkness, as I was used to. Prowling a suburban neighborhood at night may be considered cause for alarm, or dog chases. So, reluctantly I gave up my evening “constitutional” – which is so much a way of life in Italy, and other parts of the world, in places big and small. So, now I walk only in daytime, often at noon, when I won’t be the only one on quiet stretches of trails through the woods or the meadows, rambling along with my phone, keys and a whistle.

I have my favorite walks, i.e., the Great Meadows, the Minuteman Bike Trail or Shawsheen cemetery around here, and along the harbor and Falmouth Heights beach at the Cape, but my enthusiasm is not shared much by my own family members.  In a word, speed. My guys all like to skate – ice or roller – but walking seems boring to them, and pointless.  Once in a while, they will volunteer to accompany me, as a favor, but never on their own.  As for exercise, walking doesn’t have much appeal for them, compared to hockey or working out at the gym.  My husband grew up peddling around town on his bike, which he enjoyed,  until he got hit by a car while on his bike, breaking a leg.  The biking revival has not reached him, and he’s not one for spandex.

 For a time, I was pretty much a solitary walker, but increasingly, I see other walkers in the area, many of them with dogs or kids or strollers – as it should be. There is a lot more foot traffic in town, along the main roads, where before I don’t recall any.  Kids out on their half-days with a few dollars in their pockets and lots of places for a quick bite. The older Chinese couples, and some Indian, out to do errands.  I see some of the half-way house crowd walking along, fast or slow, their destinations unknown.  We have now a population of homeless families residing at a local hotel, and more and more I see the young moms with strollers, or a dad holding a kid’s hand, walking to the grocery store. 

 I can’t say that my fellow walkers are necessarily out for the pleasure of the outdoors – more like necessity. There was a time where it seemed most people out walking in town were people of color, with some of the socio-economic background that implied – who had no other means of transportation. We have more bus-riders now, I’ve noticed, and all kinds of commuters, white and blue collar, that walk to and from their bus stops.  Sometimes a drag, I know. But that doesn’t mean they won’t discover some of the benefits of walking. Maybe a slightly slower pace of life, and maybe a better pace of heartbeat.  Maybe a different way of thinking or problem solving.  I don’t mean Henry David Thoreau, and his rambles in nature.  My neighbors live more hectic and scheduled existences, I think.  But still, they’re out there, in the elements, breathing the air (and sometimes, fumes), sharing space with their animal kin, and feeling the sun or the rain on their faces.  Exploring the world
outside the bubble, out there for everyone to see, so that we may know
each other by our face and our gait, and not merely the flash of a car going


Zumba…Por Favor

Zumba is the dance/exercise craze set to Latin music or hip hop or even belly-dancing music. Not for me, I thought. I like Latin music, to dance to. I love to dance for fun and for personal expression. And I like to move for exercise, whether yoga or aerobics. But the concept of Zumba put me off for a long time. It sounded too artificial, regulated, corny, all the things I don’t like about group exercise. Even the videos seemed extreme to me, too much attitude and not enough freedom.

 And then I tried it, finally, as an aerobic activity during cold months when I don’t always get outside for my walks.  It was local, and at a good time. I loved it, absolutely loved it. And I can see and feel the benefits. But most of all, best of all, is losing myself in the movements, and not thinking, or problem solving, except, what’s the next step?

 I have to say, a lot has to do with the instructor, Sharon, and the small but enthusiastic group of women who come, from twenties to sixties. The choreography is expressive and sometimes quite challenging. And the music, almost all in Spanish, songs that I find myself humming around the house: salsa, meringue, reaggatron, hip-hop, all different, all so infectious. We’ve had in the class a woman from the Dominican Republic, a Venezuelan, a gal from Eastern Europe, two East Indian women, and the assorted rest of us, all with our own take on the dance steps. It’s certainly not perfectly coordinated, but it’s impressive in a way, to see all those different women getting into it.

 There are a host of other exercise programs I could have tried, more or less aerobic or with elements of dance. So, how did I finally get over my prejudice against “Zumba”, the brand name with its own funky style and clothing line?  Really, I have to thank a former student, Luba, who wrote an essay about her Zumba class. Believe it or not, she made me see Zumba in a different light, more than a trend. Her experience of Zumba offered pretty specific information about the warm up, cool down, high intensity portions, and the way that the steps are modified by most of the members of the class, not all in lock-step with each other.

 Basically, Zumba is an opportunity for people to reunite with the pleasures of physical expression of dance, which is lacking so much of the time for most people, to irresistible, upbeat music. The exercise, strength building and rapid heart beat, are almost incidental. But working up a sweat and losing yourself in the music is more than fun; it’s good for stress and the spirit.  I’m still a yoga girl, and will probably be for the rest of my life; my joints demand it, and my anxious personality. But Zumba has added an element of spce and excitement spice that I’m happy to have in my life.  Thanks, Luba!


Board Games; Gotta Love Em'?

        I am playing board games again. Or rather my family is. Not because we have children hanging out in the house–we are all consenting adults—but because its’ summer and the perfect time to enjoy the traditional simple pleasure of a non-mechanized game. We spend time together and let the conversation flow. Our exchanges may be social; news about family or friends or neighborhood happenings. They may be goofy; teasing about who is going to win and who is going to lose, or which playing piece brings the most luck. They may be meaningful; musing over a disappointment or revealing a  lofty goal. These conversations don’t happen when we are in front of the television, huddled over a computer, or attending to our cell phones. I can’t say they happen over meals that often either. Our meals tend to be more functional than social as we all run busy schedules and have more to get to in that day. But board games, ahh. Everyone playing has put aside at least a portion of time, and isn’t hurrying anywhere. Nirvana.

          We have a friend, who upon discovering our propensity to enjoy board games or card games, said with some horror, “Oh, so you’re one of those. You’re all game people. My wife is one, too.” We all knew he didn’t mean high-tech game people; that would have been more understandable, and acceptable, I’m sure. Nope, we meant, he knew, recoiling, the good old- fashioned kind of games, with a board or a fifty-two care deck.   

        So this is my public confession.  I am one of those.  

        A recent acquaintance who also has one adult son, not to mention a PhD, told me she and three of her friends have a regular board game night. Immediately, I knew this woman was my kind of gal. One of those, and not afraid to say so.    

Favorite Board Games:  With a nod to my blog mate Peggy, who never fails to give us a good tip or two, here are a few of my favorite board games.  Parcheesi, where dice strategy and how you play your rolls is key; Life, where we all get to choose a profession, choose a spouse, choose how many children we want, purchase insurance, and decide when to retire; and Amazing Labyrinth, where those who still have the ability to maintain focus for an extended time can forecast the openings of the labyrinth as people make their moves and come out the winner almost every time.  And, finally, Clue.  I’ve played this game maybe hundreds of times over the years, but there’s always room for one more round with Miss Scarlet, Colonel Mustard, or Professor Plum. Who can resist the draw of the Billiard Room or the Conservatory to ferret out that dangerous candlestick or hefty wrench?  Or the opportunity, in less than an hour, to flush out the villain and put things to rights every single time…     


Words With Friends

I had to pull myself away from playing Words With Friends to write this blog.  If you like to read or write or play scrabble you will love Words With Friends

Words with Friends – the game that got Alec Baldwin in trouble  – is addictive.  I am currently playing with 3 friends (2 of which have 2 games going on with me simultaneously).  That adds up to 5 games at once.  My Iphone is set to make a little ping noise whenever it is my turn.  So, no matter where I am – watching TV, eating dinner, walking the dog, working at my desk – I know when it is my turn to make a word with the most points possible.

I am competitive enough to try to win every game.  Do I?  No way!  My friends win as often as I do.  Sometimes I just can’t make a good word or my letters are lousy or my friend plays a stupendous word with lots of points and I lose.  It makes me mad and I want to try again.  Thus the never-ending competition.

I have my strategy – look for the triple word, then the double word, then the triple letter, then the double letter spaces and try my hardest to land on them with my letters.   Probably everyone has the same strategy but I don’t  know; we don’t discuss our strategies.

One of my friends spells words that I never knew existed like ka and ai.  Now I play them too.

Since I started playing the game months ago, I have probably wasted a huge number of hours doing so.  The only up side is that I play less Sudoku. 

Want to play?  You can use any smart phone.  But, don’t even start if you don’t want to get addicted.

Now I have to go…I just heard the ping.  It’s my turn…

Real Estate Hint – Realtors spend a lot of time doing odd jobs for their clients.  This week alone I met a French client at the Social Security office to assist her in getting her social security card; opened a house I have listed for the moving company to make an estimate of the amount of furniture for the client’s move to Sweden; called a snow plow man to clear the driveway of a house so the moving company would be able to drive up to the house; brought my own fake fruit to a home so we could fill a basket in her kitchen before the public open house; met a fireman at a home so he could check the smoke alarms.  You get the idea!


Go Away – I Don't Need Any More Friends

I wrote a previous blog about the logistics of setting up  social events with my friends – the complicated and seemingly neverending process of What, Where, When.  But, recently I have felt that I have to add Who to the list.

  I realize that I have many different groups of friends, mainly women but not entirely, who like to socialize on a regular basis.  This is a good thing.  But, I am starting to feel overwhelmed.  In fact lately it feels that all my groups are planning get-togethers and I find myself running from one to the other.  I shouldn’t complain.  Too many friends is not a bad thing; many people would like to have more friends.  Or maybe there are lots of people nowadays with groups of friends and are feeling as stretched as I do.  And, before you even think it –  I am not just talking about the holiday season which of course only adds to the frenetic activity.

So, here’s what I am talking about:

Writing Group
I put them first because this is the group that sponsors this blog.  This is a relatively new group for me.  I know it’s been years since we started meeting, but I didn’t join this group for social reasons; I joined it to encourage my writing. But I really enjoy this group of women – fun, smart and able to speak about things that are of tremendous interest to me –  and they seem to want to be  a social as well as a “working” group.  I enjoy our chats at the meetings and look forward to our holiday dinner.  This group wants to add lunches or dinners throughout the year so we can chat in an informal atmosphere; not when we are supposed to be reading and writing.  Also this is a party group and I have been pleased and surprised by the invitations I have received to some grand and wonderful parties at their houses. But I am still a bit surprised that the writing group has morphed into one of my social groups.  

Childhood Friends Group
I am extremely close to 2 women that I grew up with in Ohio  who live within a half hour of me here in Massachusetts.  We get together for all 3 birthdays and Christmas as well as numerous other times throughout the year.  We also have a quasi dinner party group where we irregularly cook gourmet dinners for each other as well as 2 other classmates and 2 spouses.  I love these people!  They are like family!

Work Group
Not only are there the rare office parties – Christmas, Retirements, Birthdays – but I am also a member of a sub-sect of about 20 folks who go out for drinks and apps every now and then.  Work parties are common in most offices and should be attended.

Hen Party
This group consists of 4 women who hung out together this past summer at White Pond.  We started to text each other when we were heading over to the pond so we could meet to  lounge in our chairs and chat in between dips in the water. We get along so well that we decided to continue our chats through the winter so every Friday at 9:30 we meet at a local breakfast joint to drink coffee and just catch up with each other.  They are interesting and funny women and I hate to miss a hen party. Cluck Cluck!

Movie and Dinner Group
I regularly go to dinner and the movies with 2 friends – a man and a woman who used to work with me.  We are spontaneous.  We text each other when there is a movie we want to see and then we quickly figure out the logistics – what night the 3 of us are free before the movie disappears from the theater.  I love to go out with these friends – we have a really good time – and I get to see the movies I want.  We can arrange a date in a few hours and run out to see a movie that very night! Impromptu “dates” make me feel young again!

Past Dog Group Group
I met 2 wonderful women at the dog park many years ago.  I still go to the park, but they don’t.  In order to see each other we plan get-togethers to try new restaurants or attend local events.  We went to the Concord Museum to see the Annie Leibowitz photo exhibit, to the Concord Art Association for a lecture, to 80 Thoreau to try the new restaurant.  We get along famously and try to always have an outing on our calendars.

Wink Wink Group
Every couple of months I attend a Wink Wink club meeting at a restaurant.  The members of this club are one of my favorite couples and one of their friends that they have introduced me to who I like a lot.  I won’t tell you what Wink Wink means but it makes us laugh. 

Mentee Group
And I mustn’t forget my group of 4 mentees.  I mentored these 3 women and 1 man for over 2 years with regular meetings and on-the-job instruction and now they want to continue meeting but in a social setting.  Drinks, dinners, visits to homes…whatever… just to get together and enjoy one another’s company.  I think it is good for them to rely on each other as they try to make sense of the crazy world of real estate.   I can’t not go; I am their leader.  But, again, another working group that has become social.


Recently a woman who I know from the dog park told me that she wanted to set up a weekly coffee klatch so a group of us dog lovers could get together to sit down and talk in comfort rather than just stand around at the park.  I blurted out, “Oh I already have a weekly coffee klatch and don’t think I have time for another one.”  I realized that I had insulted her, but it’s the truth.  I think I belong to enough social groups and I can’t commit to any more.  Am I a brat? 

I also have other friends I see by themselves – my colleague I have coffee with every two weeks, a friend I meet for lunch whenever the mood strikes us, my realtor friend that counts on me to eat Sushi with him every couple of months,  an old customer that I meet for Indian food…

As you can tell, I am a very social person, but I think I have reached my limit. So, if you are not on the list already – sorry – enough is enough.  I am sure there are plenty of people reading this who have lots of friends too.  If not, can I introduce you to some lovely folks?

Real Estate Hint – Our commission checks are based on a percentage of the purchase price.  It can be difficult for a Realtor to put the money out of her head and give equal service to all.  But a good Realtor does just that.  This week a man I have hired to do handiwork called me to represent him in his purchase of a piece of land listed for $35,000.  He is going to offer $27,000.  Of course, I told him that I would be happy to represent him in the transaction.  I stand to make $305.00.  Compare that to the sale of one of my listings priced at $1,500,000 which would earn me $21,150.  Hard to grin and bear it but that’s the job!


The Boating Life

A yacht, it’s not. Our little boat is about 11 feet long, flat-bottomed with two seats and an electric trolling motor. We got it used about four years ago, and have been enjoying the heck out of it on the pond in Falmouth near where we live. It’s white, fiberglass with a few dings on the side, a Coleman Craw Daddy. Without a trailer, we have to throw it in the back of our van to transport it (not very far), and it’s lightweight enough for two people to carry. We leave it down at the pond beach most of the summer, pushed off to the side, and we carry the motor and batteries back and forth from the house in a little Red Flyer wagon. Plus fishing poles and tackle box – it’s quite a parade, I assure you. But with this modest purchase, we became part of that special group – boat owners.  And as limited as it may be in size and speed, there is still the special feeling of being out on the water, away from the land.

We did not envision ourselves as boat people – both of us inexperienced and somewhat intimidated – until our younger son badgered us into buying one. Neither my husband nor I had spent much time on boats growing up, and it seemed to us a lot of work and responsibility, not to mention expense. And living at the Cape, we’ve seen that almost always more boats are moored at harbor than out at sea, even on the most beautiful summer days. My notions of being on a boat were quite romantic – with someone else doing the work. The few times I’d been on a boat were with a capable captain, good weather, and no sea sicknesses (except one exception when I’d gone below deck to use the “head”).  Essentially, my boating experience was limited to small sailboats or large cruise ships, with a couple of whale watches or snorkeling excursions thrown in.  All good.  But, boat owners was another thing entirely.

 I had a brief sailing chapter in California, where I took a class at UC/Santa Cruz on those tiny Sunfish, rarely venturing out further than the harbor. Mi novio at the time, Angel, was a fearless, proficient sailor, since his early years of instruction at the Boys and Girls Club in Southern California, truly loving his time on the water.  He liked speed, movement and being in the elements, out on the vast ocean. He knew how to read the wind and currents, how to navigate, and the pleasures of sun and spray. Most of all, I think, he loved the control and the freedom.  One of his dreams in life was to own his own, larger boat one day — which came true, with the Papi Chulo, and another dream was to share his love of sailing with some of the less privileged children of Santa Cruz, both the power and the pleasure  of commanding a boat. Like the kids, I found it scary and exhilarating at first to be surrounded by water, far from the coast. But I have some wonderful memories from that time – even the time the sailboat capsized, and we had to right it by standing on the keel! Oo-wee!

 Ironically, boats and ships are in our families, so to speak, courtesy of the US Navy. Both my father and my husband’s were Navy men.  The Navy paid for my father’s medical education, part of which was spent on a hospital ship. My father- in-law was a WWII vet, on a Destroyer Escort ship in the Pacific, where he was Ship’s Cook – for hundreds, if not thousands, of men.  My two brothers were Navy guys also, although one flew for the Navy, and the other spent a good deal of time at supply depots. Still, they both did their assignments at sea. But, that obviously, is not the same as pleasure boating. As far as I know, after their duty, none of them ever chose to buy or spend a great deal of time on a boat.

 One of my favorite walks in Falmouth is along the shore line to the harbor, where I watch all kinds of boats, come and go:  the Island Queen ferrying folks to Martha’s Vineyard; the fishing boats, for fun and business; the little motor boats out for a cruise in Vineyard Sound; and the sleek yachts, no doubt a stopover on their longer jaunts along the Eastern Starboard. In the early evening, I enjoy walking along the docks, looking into the large, comfy boats in their slips with their big comfy chairs and large-screen televisions – like hotel rooms that are open to the air – but with clever names. We have a neighbor in Falmouth who has a houseboat, affectionately called the Shack — in Falmouth!  Or, Woods Hole, rather. It’s their getaway to another world in fifteen minutes.

 Last weekend, the sky was overcast, threatening. The water at the pond was choppy, and the wind picking up. Still, we were out there, the two of us, casting away at fish that weren’t biting, in our own little world in our own little boat.



Dinner is Served!

I am carrying around a sense of accomplishment.  Something I did well.  Something I enjoyed doing.  Something I could do quite effortlessly.  Something I received compliments for and knew they were sincere.  It’s a great feeling!

My friends, Julie and Kathy, and I celebrate our  birthdays and Christmas/Chanukah together.  We are very very old friends – I’ve know Julie since pre-school and Kathy since third grade when her family moved to our small town in Ohio.  So, our celebratory dinners are fun and relaxed and always include thoughtful presents.

Kathy’s birthday on May 20th signaled another  traditional birthday dinner. Julie and I asked Kathy if she would rather we treat her to a dinner in a restaurant or cook for her.  Kathy told us that she would rather eat “at home”.  So, I quickly offered my house for the birthday dinner.

Protocol dictates that whomever hosts the dinner is responsible for the menu and the entree.  So, it fell on my shoulders to decide what to make for dinner and tell Julie what to bring as a complement.

I thought about Italian meatloaf which is simple and yummy.  Then I thought that I would experiment and try to make stuffed cabbage for the first time in my life. I thought about shrimp over pasta which I love.  But, then I heard the weather – 88 degrees on Saturday.  Boy, it would be hot during our dinner!

So, I came up with an all-cold menu.

Drinks – Gin and Tonics

Appetizer – Julie brought two artisan cheeses and crusty bread.

Main Course – Cold salmon with yogurt/cucumber sauce
Side dish – tabouli with fresh tomatoes, scallions and parsley

Green salad – Julie brought a lovely salad with homemade dressing

Dessert – Fresh strawberry shortcake

Saturday morning I drove to the fish market and Idylwilde farms for the very freshest salmon and fruit and vegetables.  Then I happily microwaved the salmon and set it aside to cool.  I mixed up the yogurt sauce – adding not only the diced cukes but enough garlic and salt to give it a tang.  I followed the directions on the box of tabouli and cut up the veggies to add to it. 

The only thing I did to the strawberries was de-stem and sprinkle sugar on them and stick them in the refrigerator for later.

Then I baked the shortcakes using my mother’s favorite recipe for them – Bisquick!

All the food was prepared ahead of time and the only thing that I had to do during the course of the meal was whip the cream.  Easy, relaxing, cool and delicious.  The components of the main course melded together – pink and moist salmon slathered with yogurt sauce; tabouli as a perfect side to salmon; yogurt sauce mixed in with tabouli and a crisp green salad as a palate cleanser. 

Fresh strawberries slightly sweetened left to produce their own juice. Freshly baked shortcakes cut in half with the strawberries and juice on one half and a large dollop of freshly whipped cream on top covered by the other half of the shortcake.

Kathy and Julie loved it all – and so did I!

So, yes, I have a feeling of accomplishment.  And, I might add that everything I made except the tabouli and the shortcakes was done without a recipe.  I cooked, seasoned, added and enhanced all the food by taste.  I am a Cook!!! Hear me roar!

Real Estate Hint – I was taught a lesson this Memorial Weekend.  I put a new listing on the market late Thursday.  The price point was low for my town so I knew it would get a lot of interest.  The sellers wanted the house to go on the market NOW even though we were heading into Memorial weekend.  I decided to give it my all!  I ran public open houses Saturday and Sunday.  I thought that perhaps nobody would show up and it would be a waste of my time.  But, they turned out exactly as I had hoped – 7 parties on Saturday and 18 parties on Sunday.  And, we got two offers on Sunday after the open house!  So, holiday weekends can be great real estate weekends!  Stay home and buy a house!