Thursday, May 25, 2017

MAY 2017 - Lobstahs, and surfboards, and cars, oh my!

First Encounter Beach on Cape Cod Bay welcomes Spring visitors
May is the final wakeup call for businesses to open for the season, and one of Eastham's most popular, well-known and eagerly awaited openings is Arnold's Lobster and Clam Bar.  They combine the trifecta of beach resorts - seafood, mini-golf and ice cream, and get annual accolades and awards for each.  The big date this year is May 19th, and in honor of the revered crustacean, here is some lobster trivia for you:

A female lobster is called a hen.

A lobster that weighs about one pound is called a chicken.


A lobster with no claws is called a pistol.


A lobster's brain is the size of a grasshopper and they are sometimes referred to as "bugs of the sea".


Research suggests that lobsters keep growing forever, but scientists won't be able to tell how long they really live because traps aren't designed to catch the largest ones.  


Lobsters can regenerate lost limbs, but it will take a good five years for a one-pound lobster to grow a claw that's close to the same size of the one that was lost.


Lobsters taste with their legs and chew with their stomachs.


A lobster claw can exert pressure of up to 100 pounds per square inch.  Ouch!


Lobsters are banded because when they're crowded, they become cannibalistic.


Lobsters only turn red after they're cooked.  They're mostly green, although occasionally a rare blue one is caught.


Lobster meat is actually a healthy source or protein and omega 3 fatty acids, if you don't overdo it on the butter.


Lobsters were once so plentiful, they were served to prisoners and servants and they make excellent fertilizer.


The record holder for consuming lobsters is Sonya Thomas, who ate 44 of them in 12 minutes at a contest in Kennebunkport, Maine.


You can actually hypnotize a lobster by standing it on its head with it's tail turned inward and rubbing up and down on the carapace [upper shell] and between its eyes. Eventually, it might stand by itself, but no one really knows why you'd want to do this.  And, on that note, ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY LOBSTER!


If April was all about nature reawakening, May on Cape Cod is all about Memorial Day, the beginning of High Season.  In May, you are just as likely to be driving behind a boat as a car.  Or, if it's a car, there's a good chance there will be a surfboard or 3 bicycles dangling from it.  The Department of Transportation has been racing to finish repaving the main road after 2 years of digging it up to install water pipes for a new town water system.  Fresh, white stripes will finally replace the orange-striped barrels that residents have been dodging all Spring.    


Spring on Fort Hill in the National Seashore
Although Cape Cod is known for fogs that sometimes roll in and sheathe familiar terrain in gauzy camouflage, there's a different kind of cloud casting gloom over the usual anticipation of High Season here, and elsewhere in the country.  'Trump Slump' is the name attributed by travel industry experts to the murky fog that has rolled over the tourism industry this year.  Search engines reported a steep decline [26% according to Market Watch] in international travelers looking for flights to America immediately after his controversial order to ban refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries in early 2017.   Industry experts report that the fall in travel to the U.S. is also thought to be due to political factors, which have made the country "an uncomfortable place for foreigners".  Here on Cape Cod, not only have we witnessed this unfortunate situation, but there are other factors impacting us, as well as other National Parks around the country.  Cuts to funding of the National Seashore are playing havoc with programs that guests have enjoyed for years.  And local businesses, who depend on foreign students with travel visas to help staff their restaurants, hotels and shops because of the shortage of local applicants, are finding that students are unable to obtain the necessary visas this year.  Compared to more dire world issues, this may seem like small potatoes, however, this has a very real ripple-effect on the economy.   Locals who depend on the tourism industry to support their families also support other local businesses, who support larger companies.  Considering the impact of all the funding cuts to every National Park in the country, the resulting repercussions as it travels up the chain to the top could significantly effect decisions on spending, hiring and investments.  The ripple-effect should never be underestimated for both undesirable AND desirable results.


And giving equal time to a story with Major Desirable Ripple-Effect, I'd like to tell you about Sarah Swain, the founder of The Cape Wellness Collaborative, which is funded by her Cape Cod Women's Music Festival.  A lot could be written, and indeed has already been written about this amazing woman, but here's the incredible short story:  Sarah is a very talented local musician, whose mother died at an early age from cancer.  In her honor, Sarah founded an organization on Cape Cod to help cancer patients pay for integrative therapies, which are not covered by insurance, to manage pain, nausea and anxiety, and to increase well-being during their illness.  The collaborative refers to what seems like an endless list of local practitioners for an equally impressive list of therapies to make the cancer patient's road to recovery a little less bumpy.  Approximately 1400 people are diagnosed with cancer each year on Cape Cod.  In this organization's first 18 months, it was able to distribute over $65,000 in wellness therapies to over 200 people, and they're just beginning.  Sarah's wonderful idea, with the support of an astounding network of talented and caring women musicians, created the best kind of ripples that affect whole families and beyond.     


Sarah Swain - center
For more on Sarah's personal story:  "The Big Decision"

After hearing last month that one of my photos was chosen for the cover of the Eastham Chamber of Commerce information booklet, life quickly returned to daily chores, putting pants on one leg at a time, and then totally forgetting all about it.  Until...the new copies were delivered this week and word started getting around.  I'm certainly in no danger of being stalked by paparazzi over this accomplishment, although one friend actually did ask me to autograph her copy.  Honest!  I warned her not to try to sell it on ebay, as it would be a very disappointing experience for her.  I really can't take too much credit, as the magnificent Fort Hill did all the hard work for me, but, here it is in all its glory, and can even be viewed online to read the bio and enjoy other pictures of our beautiful town!

 


[click the left and right arrows to turn the pages.

As my 8th Memorial Day as a Cape Cod resident looms, I recognize that it's feeling a little different from my first few here.  While I wouldn't consider myself an old-timer, yet, there is a quiet, knowingness from experience that expresses itself with more subtle anticipation.  It's a sharing of recognition with other locals of, "Here comes another one, are you ready?"  The answer to that is 'yes'.  I have my relaxation CD's in the car, ready to soothe my patience as I wait to turn left on the highway, and inch my way through clogged rotaries.  I will try to remember that parking at the back of the lot is good exercise.  Knowing how lucky I am that I don't have to leave after only a week will make room in my heart for visitors who maybe forgot to pack their manners with their swimsuits.  So, maybe I'm not that old-timer yet, but I feel that I've maybe graduated from pre-school. May these lessons please last through high season.


Let the season begin!



Sunday, April 30, 2017

April 2017 - April on Cape Cod is all about the flora and fauna.



Gone are the big stacks of firewood and salt containers on the porch.  The glider pillows have reappeared, and little seed packets are getting tucked into peat pots, hoping for a few good seedlings to go into the garden by May 1st.  The grape jelly and oranges are out for the orioles to rediscover, and the hummingbird feeder just got its first syrupy infusion.  Each day there are new bird reports of who spotted the first of a species.  And, even if you have no use for a herring, it suddenly has become very important to know if they are running, yet.   With some milder April temperatures, the perennial gardens seem to be in a race to see which plant will bloom first, and bare tree branches are suddenly bursting with buds, which please the birds, as they offer better camouflage from the hungry Cooper's hawk.  This is Phase Two kicking in of life beyond winter, but only after the brave crocuses and snowdrops first tested the waters.  Now each day through Fall will bring new discoveries of long ago plantings, revisiting as old friends.  


It gets very quiet when the Cooper's hawk visits.
One of the perks of the fallow winter garden is that it gives gardeners a chance to reflect on the successes and failures of their efforts.  And, with the quiet winter season of a resort town, there is plenty of time sitting by the cozy fireplace to come up with new, grandiose plans of what will make it "the perfect garden" next year.  In the dead of winter, achy bones don't factor into these plans at all.  One can still visualize the finished project and not worry about how it actually gets that way.  The changes are just beginning, and  are resulting in the removal of one of the three raised beds to reposition the greenhouse so it will receive better sun.  As it turns out, this wasn't a difficult decision as I really hadn't counted on it filling up with roots from the big trees nearby.  Live and learn, AND relocate a lot of dirt, with a lot of help from friends.  




Once this is accomplished, the next phase, when time allows, will be to increase the garden fence height by a few feet of lattice to make it more of a "secret garden" for the innkeepers, family and friends.  The lattice will, of course, allow for peeks of color and activity, but with more of an illusion of privacy.  And, for good measure, the old wooden gate from the now defunct garden on the shady side of the house will be refitted to make a real entrance.  It's so nice to have a carpenter in the house.  While politics rage across the country about "sanctuary cities", we are designing our own little sanctuary in the truest sense.     



For some, Easter is a religious holiday, for others, it's all about finding hidden candied eggs, but for us, it turned into a perfect day to spend some pre-High Season relaxing time at the beach.  As a kid, growing up two hours from the ocean, I always thought if I ever lived closer, I'd certainly be walking the beaches every day.  I guess I hadn't counted on all that darned grownup stuff getting in the way, but we're vowing to do better this year. 


First Encounter Beach on Cape Cod Bay - our favorite.  

And, the fauna report wouldn't be complete without an update on whales.  A researcher at the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life reported seeing 112 in one day.  Scientists estimate that there are only 524 North Atlantic right whales left, so this sighting represented about a fifth of the world’s population.  
Enjoy this aerial view:   Return of the right whales

Next month...LOBSTAHS, or "lobsters" as the rest of you pronounce them.


Monday, March 27, 2017

March 2017 - "Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush." - Doug Larson

There's activity in the garden area, again.


Whiplash weather best describes March.  When a mild spell hits, it's time to dig out a T-shirt and do a little garden cleanup.  Days later it will be covered in snow again, and the temperatures will plummet, demanding multiple layers of clothing.  But, when the next warm front creeps in, it cheers the heart to see the efforts already taken.   

THIS PLACE CALLED FORT HILL
The historic Captain Penniman House in the background
It was in the month of December, seven years ago, that I made Cape Cod my home.  Not even then did I fully appreciate my sheer good fortune at having landed at the foot of Fort Hill, a part of the Cape Cod National Seashore.  Oh sure, I knew it was a beautiful spot, one of many wonderful vistas on this tiny piece of land, carved by glaciers and jutting into the Atlantic Ocean like a mighty flexing arm.  The only reference I've been able to find about how Fort Hill got its name was a brief mention in local writer, Robert Finch's A Cape Cod Notebook of a short-lived fort, built by Bartholomew Gosnold in the early 1600's, after sailing from England to start a new colony on the New England coastline.  Apparently, an altercation with the Cape Cod Nauset Indians convinced him to move along.  Gosnold is also credited with naming Cape Cod, and also the nearby island of Martha's Vineyard, which he named after his daughter and the abundant wild grapes they found growing there.

As I made the short walk down my street up Fort Hill more frequently, it taught me its rhythm and seasons, always changing like an ongoing movie, as it has done for centuries. 


Less than half a mile from the main route traversing the Cape, it manages to remain a peaceful sanctuary for all forms of woodland wildlife and a major flyover zone for a wide variety of migratory birds.   The wonder of turning one's back on a major highway, and walking just a short distance to climb a timeless, giant boulder, where I can sit gazing at a restless ocean and listening to wind weaving through towering seagrass astounds me every time.  There's no room for nonchalance or smugness, whether a first-time tourist experience, or locals who have their first "Dunkie" [Duncan Donut coffee] of the day as they gaze humbly from their cars.  It's a soothing, awe-inspiring gift of nature there for the taking, no matter who you are.  It changes with every season, but its beauty and peace is constant, and it doesn't care a whit how long your family has lived here.   

   


An unending light and cloud show play on nature's big screen and has inspired many artists and photographers, as well as rock-sitters contemplating one thing or another.  Rock walls built centuries ago wind around and through the land, each with their own composite story to tell, summoning up visions of a simpler lifestyle, based primarily on survival.  There was no need for gyms when these rocks were excavated and piled into walls to clear the fields to grow food.  


Each month of Spring and Summer offers a stunning transformation of the frozen, bare hills and valleys as beach roses and wildflowers compete with little dots of reds, yellows, blues, violets and pinks with the monstrous, green thickets that engulf the fields by Summer's end.  The year's new crop of baby bunnies peek out at the many trail explorers, practicing their new hopping and hiding skills.  Birds chant and trill their whereabouts, ignoring the many birder binoculars and watching instead for hungry hawks.  And, if you're out at daybreak or dusk, you may find that you're being watched heedfully by a family of deer.  


By Fall, the hill takes on a golden-orange glow with scarlet vines weaving spidery patterns up trees and rocks, and seed pods bursting into next year's fluffy promise.  The calls of the seabirds seem more plaintive as many birds desert the area to journey South.  At this point, the Park Rangers mow the thickets back to a bare hill.  As the Winter temperatures chill, everything quiets and the field takes on a light golden glow, contrasting with the ocean which turns a deeper blue.  





Most winters bring at least a couple blankets of blowing, drifting snow to complete the tuck-in for the season's deep rest.  These are days when one can walk the trails completely alone with one's thoughts, feeling rich beyond measure and compelled to find the words to share the appreciation.  



I've recently found out that Fort Hill has given me another gift.  One of my photos of the beautiful Spring-blooming lupins on Fort Hill was chosen to be the cover shot on this year's Eastham Chamber of Congress booklet and will be used in ads for the National Seashore publication and Summer Guide.  It's been a goal that I set for myself a few years ago, and considering the competition, it's quite a gratifying honor.

It's time for baseball - GO SOX!  When time does the game start?

With the unpredictability of what we can now expect of seasons, I made a bold move when the weekly Ocean State Job Lot coupons came out and purchased a small greenhouse for starting seeds.  As it is, we're encouraged by statistics to wait until May 1 before planting anything outside, so by March, there are little packets of seeds with tempting pictures of thriving, fragrant herbs, prolific fruits and veggies, and dazzling blooms pleading with me from the bowl on top of the breakfront.  Short of covering every possible surface with little pots of dirt, and if that isn't enough of an unsanitary picture, keeping the cats out of them...well...it was a brilliant $16 solution.  And, it even fits in the kitchen until I see sprouts and don't hear snow in the forecast anymore. The main impetus came from a second attempt to grow lingonberries this year.  The first attempt yielded nothing but one sprout that turned out to be a sunflower.  The red seeds are the same size as a flea, and even jump when you try to pick them up with a pair of tweezers, but I have high hopes for lingonberry preserves.  Maybe not this year, but I like to set goals. 



So much for the old sayings; our March came in like a baby chick and is going out like a polar bear.  The circumstances of who we host at the B&B are always new chapters in an ongoing anthology
 for us.  Our first B&B guests of the month were actually rescheduled guests from Nantucket and Connecticut, who'd had to cancel because of February's blizzard.  As it happened, their new date prompted a March blizzard, but an early start gave them the leg up this time.  Our "Stormwatcher" from Vermont tried to get here for the fun, but his flight was cancelled from where he was in Florida at the time.  You see, there are even more enthusiastic people about blizzards than ME!  Following them was a Minnesota couple, who had recently made NYC their home, and were looking for a peaceful getaway, more like the Northwest pace they'd left.  Next was a couple from the Boston area taking advantage of off-season rates for a quick dose of seashore.  A couple who'd recently settled in Rhode Island made us a weekend birthday treat to bring the month to a close.  As for our avian guests, we're overjoyed to report that the bluebirds have decided to make Crosswinds their home this year, and we count at least five pairs, prompting the consideration to change the name to Crosswinds B & B & B.   




Friday, February 24, 2017

2017 "One kind word can warm three winter months. " --Japanese Proverb


Here's a little story that didn't make it into the holiday post.  Nevertheless, it has stayed with me and is not something I want to forget.  It was mid-December and I'd stopped in to the consignment/thrift shop where I volunteer to check on things.  I noticed three people shopping in one of the clothing areas.  A young woman was squealing in delight at a dress she'd found, and her male companion was encouraging her to get it because it was SOooo right for her.  She ooh'ed and aah'ed over it, then finally put it back on the rack muttering something about spending money she shouldn't.  Her male friend tried to talk her into it, but she was still trying to resist.  Finally, the older woman grabbed the dress off the rack and said, "you obviously love this dress, I'm getting it for you."  Off she marched to the front to pay for it, with the young woman protesting after her.  I looked at her male friend and said, "That was her mother, right?"  He said, wide-eyed, "No, we don't know her at all!"  At that point, the young woman returned with the dress in the bag, flabbergasted at what had just happened.  We were all smiling and I said, "You know what to do now, right?"  Without hesitation she replied, "Pay it forward!"  It was a tiny moment in a big, messy year, but it felt like a good reminder that kindness will be just as rewarding after the holidays.  


January was relatively peaceful on the Cape.  We have the roads and shops mostly to ourselves.  The pace is finally relaxed and the talk turns to weather and what's simmering in the pot on the stove.  So, when the cable service went down, cutting power to the internet, television and landlines, that got a lot of peoples' attention.  When the service rep on the phone reported that there had been a fire, Ron thought he was getting another dubious story, so he grabbed a coat and said, I'll be right back.  Sure enough, the five minute trip to the Xfinity headquarters in Orleans revealed flashing firetrucks and police lights and a parade of onlookers who had nothing better to do on a cold winter night when their cable was down than to go check it out.  The event even made the Orleans news in the weekly Cape Codder, which gives you an idea of just how little it takes to make news and entertain us.  


photo from the Orleans Fire-Rescue Facebook
Admittedly, not everybody is nuts about football around here, but even non-watchers have at least a sense of pride in their New England teams.  Our New England Patriots didn't let us down this year.  Despite a four-game suspension of our quarterback for "Deflategate" and numerous team injuries, their skill and determination has told this year's story, carrying them, and us with them, to the Superbowl for the fifth time.  By halftime, our chances to win against Atlanta's mighty Falcon defense looked truly dismal.  But, for a diehard Patriots fan, the urge to switch to a movie, or even turn in early was not greater than knowing that however unlikely it seemed, Tom Brady is capable of working magic when all seems lost.  We've seen him do it too many times to switch that channel.  I'll spare you the game details because if you don't know them by now, you're obviously not interested.  Suffice to say, in what looked like a punishing defeat, our team never lost hope, never faltered, made every second count and showed what could be accomplished with sheer willpower and never giving up.  Now, this might seem a little corny, but perhaps there is an allegory in this Superbowl at this particular time in our country's history.  This is almost too easy, but when situations seem dark and out of control, such as the state of our current politics, do we shrug helplessly while liberties are threatened, or do we team up and fight for victory?  This story doesn't work as well, of course, if you're a Falcons fan, but you can bet their coaches are dissecting how it fell apart right now, and they will come up with the same conclusion.  Never get smug, think outside the box, and never give up.  And, that's what everyday patriots, New England and otherwise, must remember every day.  [I've even forgiven Tom Brady for his Make America Great cap.]  So, GO PATS, and thanks for giving us all something to think about and emulate.   
  

I certainly never gave up on our bluebirds.  They typically show up for only one or two days in the winter, and I've been ready and watching for this annual treat.  Sunflower seeds, dried mealworms, nuts, berries and suet, clean water in the birdbath with the defroster going, all at the ready.  The only question was would we be fortunate enough to be here when they dropped by.  Happily, the answer is not only YES, but they have so far graced us with their presence all month!  There is something about several pairs of bluebirds cavorting in the courtyard that takes the sting out of life's pesky tribulations.     
Share the joy with this short video snippet:  
Click here on:  Bluebirds [https://youtu.be/d0WbO6ix-n8]



As I've mentioned before, winter on Cape Cod can be as isolating and peaceful an experience as you choose, or you can dive into as many different activities as you wish to make time for.  One of our favorites is the Provincetown 24 Hour Theatre Festival.  This delightful weekend thrusts teams of volunteer play writers, directors and actors together to present a whimsical evening of creativity.  This is the process:  all interested parties meet on a Friday night and put their names in hats.  The play writer draws a director.  The director then draws actors.  The groups meet to see who they have to work with to stage their contribution to the next evening's festival.  The play writer is given 3 mystery props to incorporate into the story and has the rest of that evening to come up with a ten minute play.  The following morning, the director meets with the actors with the fresh emailed script, while the writer catches up on sleep from writing all night. They have the rest of the day to rehearse before performing that evening.  After participating as an actor in this romp before, Ron took on the director's challenge this year.  Experience is not a prerequisite for participation, which brings seasoned equity artists together with good sports who've never been on a stage, but thought it would be fun.  It is, and I join the most tolerant and appreciative audience one could ever hope to find to do my part.


The luck of the draw paired Ron with 3 women who all knew each other and had never been on a stage before.  In a sense that made directing easier because their inexperience and lack of time to prepare made them very willing to just follow his directions.  The play, Teachers' Lounge, written by Lucy Blood, a former teacher, was based on the topical subject of the appointment of Betsy DeVoss, the new U.S. Secretary of Education.  The results provided some of the biggest laughs of the evening and may even have launched some local future stars.


Teachers' Lounge, Provincetown Playwright's Lab
An odd thing happened mid-month that defies logic, but it somehow feels connected to the unseasonably mild weather that has settled in.  Upon rising one morning, I opened the bedroom door to see our Maine Coon cat, Tommy, prancing around the living room with something in his mouth.  Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I approached and saw whatever it was flapping on both sides against his whiskers.  A bird?!  I quickly picked Tom up under his stomach and gently bounced him up and down until he opened his mouth in protest, and the bird dropped out and flew to the other side of the room.  Shoving Tom into the bathroom and closing the door, I grabbed some kitchen gloves and gently picked up what looked like a European Starling and took him outside, where he was very happy to fly indignantly away.  No doors had been open, including the ones to the fireplace, and it continues to baffle me, other than an omen of some kind.  Just as it was last winter, February seems to have replaced March as the new month for Spring blooms to awaken.  Already, we've seen delicate, white snowdrops and purple crocuses blooming, and daffodils shooting higher with every sunny day.  We've even seen a red winged blackbird at the feeder, which doesn't usually happen until April.  People in shorts and T-shirts have been spotted and the parking lots at the Fort Hill lookout have been close to full capacity with hikers reveling in the mild weather.  Guests have flocked to the B&B this month from as close as Boston and the South Shore area to Vermont and Canada.  I'm not putting my coats away yet, but a site online suggests that a European Starling visit in one's home means that "changes in situations are coming, usually for the better, signaling the end of one cycle and the beginning of a new one."  Sounds like Spring to me.  


Just imagine what Tommy would think of my neighbor, Paco!


  

Monday, January 2, 2017

SO LONG 2016 - GREETINGS 2017

Nature's wreaths
So, where do I start on this holiday tale?  Actually, to be fair, it would be when I asked my son in D.C. what he might be doing for the holidays, which as we all know is just mom code for 'is there any chance it might be here with us?'  This turned into a lovely early gift of a week-long visit attached to his business trip to San Francisco at the beginning of December, so I didn't even have to share him with anybody else.  It's also the reason I am able to continue sending these blogs, as I had managed to lock myself out of the posting site, and my brilliant Santa's helper was able to fix the problem.  Kudos to all the Santa's helpers out there who don't wait for a special day on the calendar to make the world a better place. 
Howling winds arrived for our Winter Solstice, so we postponed lighting the Yule log to avoid smoky fireplace backdrafts.  Sadly for me, the gales brought no snow, but it did sing us to sleep after having feasted on an extra special dinner, and opening our gifts to each other.  Ron got some fleece-lined wool socks from Carnaby Street, a book of monologues for actors, and a new set of colored pencils for a coloring book of mandalas.  I got CD's of my new, favorite artist, Jill Sobule, and a book he loved called Americanah that he says reminds him of my writing style.  And, the Solstice brought us both some peaceful downtime to spend pampering ourselves for awhile in preparation for incoming holiday guests.
Quiet day at the National Seashore
Christmas Eve brought a couple to the B&B Cottage for a quiet holiday getaway.  We managed to find them a few choices of restaurants open on Christmas Day, but the pre-holiday activities are mostly done by then.  The seaside light displays and the gas fireplace in the Cottage afterwards are the best game in town.  And, the raw, rainy evening proved the perfect time for our first, blazing Yule log of the year.  
Bob loves a good fire
With no little ones around yet, Christmas Day was as good an excuse to sleep in as any, despite the bright sunshine peeking through the shades.  With my morning weigh-in a bit over my optimum range, I knew that I needed to put a much needed walk on my agenda.  It wasn't because of overindulging in holiday sweets, as it used to be during 12 years working the front desk of an elementary school.  On the last day before winter break I would bring home multiple grocery bags of sweets from students, parents and teachers.  After the first couple of years, my son started to anticipate this giant haul and would greet me at the front door with questions like, "Did Mrs. Cotman make her chocolate peanut candy this year?  Did Ashley's grandmother bring those butter coffee cakes again?"  It was an embarrassment of riches that was shared with anyone who wasn't already on overload with sweets and would accept cookies, candies, cakes, etc.  But, quite a bit was consumed by us before it all finally disappeared.  My only excuse these days was an aging knee that kept me out of the gym for too long.  Why wait for a New Year's resolution when what I clearly needed to do was make friends with "Gnarly" the knee brace and get back in the game before there were more pounds with which to torture my knee.  After finally finishing morning coffee after noon, my first stop was to our neighbor across the street, who always makes me feel like my visit is a special gift.  I'd made a honey/almond/cranberry biscotti recipe I'd been meaning to try for a long time, and Don was one of my willing guinea pigs.  A few hugs later, I was on my way to our neighbor, Sarah's, at the end of our block with more biscotti.  She's also a great hugger, and received the biscotti enthusiastically even though I warned her they were "healthy".  Walking uphill from there to the trails overlooking the ocean, I was reminded, as I am every time I enter this peaceful place how lucky we are to be this close to such a treasure.  I was enchanted to find that one of the trees, well off the beaten track, had been decorated with seed treats for the critters.  The rest of the day passed quietly with reading and cats who were grateful for the laps.     
An anonymous gift to the birds of Fort Hill

On the day after Christmas we got lots of family:  
2 super nieces, 
1 awesome sister, 
and a car full of wrapped up cool gifts.  

The rest of the week is a bit of a blur as the 2 super nieces came and went, the 1 awesome sister changed plans to stay longer so she could visit with Other Son, Wife and 3 children, who arrived sometime after our bedtime and took over the Studio.  From then through New Year's Eve I vaguely remember taking turns saving the cats from our enthusiastic 13 month old grandson, ordering Chinese food more than once, visiting Paco, the macaw, and a lot of Cheerios, or "Floor-ios" as our son calls them because that's where most of them end up. 
Paco and his new girlfriend
There were 2 tired parents,
3 crazy kids
and a car full of gifts to take home.  

New Year's Eve was meant to be a quiet last evening, eating leftovers in front of a crackling fire with Ron and my sister, before her return home the next day.  And, indeed it would have been if the glass fireplace door hadn't suddenly exploded in a spray of tiny shards.  Luckily, no one was injured, but after a year when it seemed like something broke every month, it didn't come as all that big a surprise.  A fitting end to an Ache-y Break-y Year. 
January finally distinguished itself with a decent snowstorm that covered the Cape in drifts over a foot in places.  It was a win-win, being mostly a weekend event.  The plowers got to make a little money and the more patient of us knew that an incoming warm front would melt it all by mid-week.  

There was also a flurry of guests at the B&B in January that kept our inn-keeping skills sharp.  Two sisters from New York and California came to visit a family member.  A couple looking for a quiet weekend getaway enjoyed grilling their supermarket catch of the day out back.  A missionary couple came to relax for the weekend before returning to their post in Africa.  A fellow storm-lover heard we were due for a Nor'Easter and drove all the way from Stowe, VT to experience it with us.  And, I was thinking it was just about time that we heard from our Wisconsin-born snow lovers, who love to get away from Boston and enjoy the Cape during the winter, when they reserved the last two days of the month.  Just flurries expected, but you can't have a storm every time.    


  
 Let's see what you've got, 2017, starting with our New England Patriots at the Superbowl!  GO PATS signs abound at every turn.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2016 - Winter Solstice - Where Everything Old is New Again

In between catching the first golden leaf in the act of jagged descent and crunching ankle-deep in them beneath looming tree skeletons, Autumn's activities fill up the Cape Cod calendars.  The town of Wellfleet, which is world-famous for their oysters, bravely continued with their annual October Oysterfest despite the mandatory closure of local shellfish beds for 21 days due to the detection of a norovirus.  Shellfish could still be eaten cooked, but the raw bar venders were definitely out of the picture this year.  They good-naturedly came up with nicknames such as, 'NoysterFest", "OysterMess" and "OysterStress", and the festival continued with attendance of around 17,000.  Considering Wellfleet's population of 2700, that's not too shabby.  These two pictures from their website summed it up.
I told you we take our turnips seriously. From their webpage.


Mike O'Connor at the Bird Watcher's General Store in Orleans repeated his annual pre-Thanksgiving 'Hat Full of Potatoes Day'.  Decked out in his funkiest hat in the parking lot, he could be seen generously filling hats with enough potatoes from the bed of his pickup truck to make mashed potatoes for a lot of Thanksgiving tables.  It's no secret that Mike is a vegetarian and his motto this time of year is "Save a turkey, eat potatoes!"
What Wellfleet is to oysters, Eastham is to turnips, but not just your average under-appreciated turnip.  Due to unique soil conditions, the Eastham turnip is bigger and sweeter than average.  So, it wouldn't be November in Eastham without the annual Turnip Festival and the Turnip Cookoff event.  This year's winning recipe, published in the Cape Codder, was for Eastham Turnip Puff Casserole.  I might just have to try this one.  It sounds a lot better than the turnip ice cream recipe that won a few years ago.  That one left me cold... 
That brings us to December, which has ample events all month for the energetic holiday enthusiast.  Between shifting gears to winter chores and making individual holiday plans, one really must just pick a couple of favorites.  One of mine is to visit the Nauset Model Railroad Club open house to see their 6 detailed layouts of 5 different gages.  The new display this year will be the Union Freight layout, which depicts the switching railroad that ran through Boston's busy waterfront streets for more than 100 years.  And, of course, the 'big kids' who set them up are there to talk trains with anyone who shares their passion.  I'm waiting for the grandkids to hit town before I go to this one.  
Christmas Cavalcade at Ocean Edge 2016
Another favorite is our friend Chandler's annual Christmas Cavalcade to raise money for Cape Cod's homeless shelter.  So many of Cape Cod's closely-knit musicians come together to entertain and support this cause, we've yet to make it to the end of the show.  There were some changes to the event on this 13th year, including the location.  The luxurious Ocean Edge Resort on Cape Cod Bay in Brewster agreed to host the venue since the previous space used in Orleans had been converted to a micro-brewery.  This year also offered the first Chanukah song of memory, prompting an audience member to come forward and "dance" with reckless abandon while the rest of us marveled at her lack of inhibition.  Another new act on the bill was a group of belly dancers, giving their veils and finger cymbals a workout to an Indian version of a Christmas carol.  I didn't say they were all great changes, but certainly conversation-provoking.  One of the highlights of the evening is always the musical skit put together by the popular 3-girl band, The Ticks.  This year's effort attempted the story of The Gift of the Magi and was every bit the wonderfully unpolished and enthusiastic gem as years' past.  But, the best, most magical part of the evening, as music filled the room, was the real snow that began falling outside, visible through the giant windows behind the stage.  It was the perfect backdrop and made for a beautiful ride home in the swirling white.  Wow Chandler, I don't know how you did that, but kudos, my friend!      
Fred Boak, of the Chandler Travis 3-O & Jodi Birchall, of the Rip It Ups
Okay, this one is not really one of my favorites, but I can't resist showing off the picture taken of Ron last year when he participated in Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre's community event reading of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  Anyone can participate to read a few lines and share some holiday spirit.  He agreed to reprise his best-dressed appearance and narration this year and to allow WHAT to use the picture in their promotional ad again.  I must say, the man does dress up nicely.
Ron Daniels participating in a community reading of A Christmas Carol
 at WHAT in Wellfleet, MA
So, how do we celebrate the Winter Solstice here?   Without getting into the history of religion, suffice to say that many of the Christmas traditions have their roots in pre-Christian pagan times, and those are the ones that appeal to us.  Lights go up outside, where they brighten the long, cold winter nights.  We put them on the boat, which has become a town landmark in our yard, serving as a beacon to drivers where there is very little other illumination.  Indeed, if we don't put them up early enough, our friends and neighbors begin to prompt us.  We line fence railings to define walkways.  And yes, even a couple of welcoming trees get the twinkle treatment.  Inside, a fire is laid for soft light and warmth of a different source.   Family visits inspire 
creating delicious things to warm tummies and hearts.  If it's just the two of us on Christmas Day, we order Chinese.  For the most part, our gifts are not purchased, and Black Friday and Cyber Monday are non-events.  Some gifts are homemade, but the grand treasure hunt for 'optional gifts' begins anew each January at the transfer station swap shops, and there are gift bags for everyone.  The items can be just for a laugh, or something truly perfect for that person, and everything can be kept, traded, or contributed back to the swap shop.  It's mostly about the hunt and the fun.  
Even though January 1 is just another day in a long progression, we tend to take stock of years as a whole, so certain things come to mind as this marker quickly approaches.  It occurred to me the other day that operating a B&B is a bit like travel in reverse.  Instead of meeting people in their native surroundings, they come to us and some share what it's like to be themselves in their world.  That's a pretty easy way to 'travel'.  In the last few off-season months, we've had all kinds of visitors.  There were guests from Scotland who were avid golfers and were delighted with the information we provided about Cape Cod golf courses.  Another couple from just down the road in Sandwich admitted they were playing hookie from their jobs for a day and asked if we would waive the 2-night minimum.  For playing hookie?  Are you kidding?  Come on down!  We were fascinated to find out that one of our guests was a retired Hollywood stuntman, but not surprised that he was married to a very lovely nurse.  Another couple told us they were coming because they just needed a break from their kids.  We've hosted guests here for everything from birthdays and anniversaries to funerals.  We have a couple who live near Boston who are avid birders who know when a rare bird is spotted on Cape Cod before we hear about it, and are quickly on the phone to make their reservations. 
Crosswinds B&B 2016 "Bird Visitor of the Year"
And, speaking of bird sitings, so far we've been treated to a new species at our feeders every year.  We were beginning to think that this year might be different until I spotted something that seemed odd to me.  I was used to seeing nuthatches, but this one seemed to have an orangish belly.  With a little research, I found that we were being visited by a fairly rare, red breasted nuthatch.  When I reported that to our avid birder couple, they very matter of factly confirmed, "Oh yes, they're making a comeback."       

Crosswinds, the ketch
 And, as long as we're covering critter news, this year's red and gray squirrel relocation count came in at 55, with 38 additional trips for chipmunks.  They're like Doritos, they just keep making more.
New England Patriots and snowflakes - one of my favorite combinations!
However you celebrate your holidays, I wish you peace of mind, warmth of heart, good health and a steaming cup of gratefulness.