Friday, July 31, 2009
Sven is back from his trip to Sweden! I went to Barnstable to pick him up this morning. Upon my return, I found a letter from the town administrator in the mailbox. It may be a form letter, but how pleased I was to read these words: "On behalf of the Town of Wellfleet, we wish to extend our gratitude to you on your work on the Citizens Economic Development Committee. Your extensive knowledge and understanding of the important matters with which this Committee deals have been invaluable to the Town." The letter was signed Paul Sieloff, Town Administrator. I think it is absolutely dandy that the town acknowledges the work of its volunteer committee members and sends such letters once a person has chosen not to serve any longer. In my case, I felt it would be impossible to fulfill such a commitment over the summer, our busiest season here at the bed & breakfast. The term was originally supposed to end June 30. Many of the members decided to go for reappointment, which is great. They will be the guiding force behind implementation of the committee's suggestions. One of the main suggestions, a comprehensive Web site, will soon begin to take form and should be operational by spring, 2010. How wonderful! No longer will I need to post a calendar of events since they will all be located on the new Web site!
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 12:48 PM
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Every once and a while I take time out from blogging to suggest fun things to do over the weekend. What with the rain, the traffic will be heading to P-town. How about going in the opposite direction, to Hyannis where Clean Power Now is auctioning off a 2010 Honda Insight LX hybrid? The car will be on display at Hyannis Country Garden. If you would prefer to bid on art, check out the silent auction being held August 8 at the Castle Hill Center for the Arts in Truro. Get a sneak preview today, Thursday, from 4 to 6 pm. Also worth mention, Jimmy Tingle will perform at a joint benefit for Castle Hill and Payomet on August 2. Don’t miss Patty Larkin’s gig at the Congregational Church, August 6, to benefit Cape & Islands Radio. Is dancing your thing? The Sentimental Journey Swing Band will enchant 100 couples during the benefit organized by the Wellfleet Historical Society, tomorrow night, at the Chequesset Yacht & Country Club. Support the WHS and help get the sign up on their freshly painting building. Jumping forward a week, join Rebecca Arnoldi August 5th at Quiet Mind Studio for Journey Dance. While at QMS, sign up for some great massage. Finally, if you have not seen Noises Off on WHAT’s Julie Harris stage, don’t miss the final performances. The show, which closes August 11, got a rave review in the Banner. If there’s no money for theater tickets, how about gallery openings this Saturday from 5 to 7? Harmon Gallery will present Daniel Maffia’s “Hollywood Icons.” The Left Bank Gallery reception for Graceann Warn and Ellen Grantner will take place from 6 to 8 the same evening. Walk next door to the Cove Gallery for “New Works” by Larry Horowitz. I stopped in last week and admired paintings, including some incredible fish by David Witbeck.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 7:10 AM
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
As I walked at Cahoon Hollow Beach yesterday evening, I wondered whether any of the women around the bonfires were "Mommy bloggers." One of the hot topics at the Blog-Her conference in Chicago this past weekend was blog-ola, whether it is ethical to receive goods in exchange for favorable reviews. It seems many Mommy bloggers receive such offers. These women have formed a tight-knit community whose purpose is the sharing of information on life during and after pregnancy. How I would have loved to have had such a resource when I lived in Paris 40 years ago! (Here in Wellfleet, no one offers free dinners or free tickets or free anything in exchange for mention in this very local blog, not even a measly free oyster or seconds Beachcomber T-shirt.) According to NPR, “More than 1,500 people attended the conference, a mere fraction of the tens of thousands of women who blog.” I really enjoy reading some of these Mommy blogs, like Flotsam, Breed ‘Em and Weep, or Tumble Dry. How wonderful these young writers can express themselves online while putting heart and soul into raising children! On this topic the deep inkwell of emotion never seems to run dry. The writing is so fresh it seems as if the bloggers hit motherhood straight out of some course in creative writing. There are not many folks blogging about life on Cape Cod. The Cape Cod Times presents blog “chowder,” newsy blogs they choose for reasons unknown to anyone but the editor. Actually, the common theme is “issues” related to Cape Cod. The problem is the mix includes newspaper articles, which, in my mind, should be banned from any blogging category that hopes to be taken seriously. So far I have not found a Cape blog worth reading for the writing, with the exception of Elspeth Pearson’s Diary of a Locavore, but I would love your suggestions ... NOON UPDATE: The FTC is considering rules to regulate blog-ola. Read about it here.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 6:33 AM
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Lots of whales visiting Cape Cod waters this month. When I was downtown yesterday, I ran into Mac Hay, outside Mac's Shack, and we exchanged a few words about Summer, 2009: lousy weather, great whale-watching, decent numbers of tourists still choosing Wellfleet despite the recession. I found myself telling him that most of our guests have been a delight, except for the few who would do better at a hotel. He nodded, recognizing the type of tourist. On the way home, I thought about how much I have enjoyed so many of our guests. We had a charming couple from Scotland a couple weeks ago, folks who declared they had "barely scratched the surface" of all the things there are to do here, after a full week's stay. They sent these two photos with the recommendation, "Please feel free to use them on your blog as I think when people see how beautiful Cape Cod is they will definitely want to come. One is of the 'Moon Rise at Cahoon Hollow' and the other is 'Whale Watching off Provincetown'." Such people make the ideal type of guest. They understand that Sven and I are inviting them into our home, as if they were, in fact, family friends, and will treat them as such on condition that they behave with due respect. We may be innkeepers but we are not housemaids. Once guests have taken possession of their rooms, we do not enter, which is exactly how we receive personal friends. If B&B guests stay more than three nights, we will change sheets upon request, as it says on the Web site. Often cottage guests prefer to do the change themselves. Some green guests do not want sheets changed at all, nor towels, and look askance at the whole idea. Everyone is different. Guests from abroad, especially from the UK, have more experience with bed & breakfast stays and get our concept right away. Mac reminded me that unfortunately we cannot satisfy everyone. So true!
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 7:31 AM
Monday, July 27, 2009
Up early this morning to fetch bagels and a croissant for the Liberty Coin Suite guests, since it’s their final day and that is their favorite breakfast, I drove to Sam Cooks, but it was closed Mondays. Second best, Wellfleet Marketplace, had no bagels so I picked up a croissant and a loaf of bread. Using Sven’s recipe, I concocted some great organic oatmeal. There came a knock at the door. I chatted with the folks in the cottage, off to Duck Harbor, the subject of this poster by Vincent Amicosante, available for sale at Harmon Gallery. Then I spent the morning cleaning Liberty Coin Suite and doing laundry. I did find the time to place a call to Cuddledown, since I noticed the sage green sheets in our Green Room need replacement. The sun came out so I could air-dry the linens. Despite the humidity, there’s a slight breeze. While emailing back and forth with a couple regarding a reservation in late August, I received a call from a former guest who wants to purchase a gift certificate for a silent auction to benefit a friend struggling with cancer. “I love your place so much that I want to share it,” she exclaimed. (For more info, contact Jon Schimmel through the Dance Boston Web site.) Sven also called from Sweden where the weather has improved, and his family was celebrating the birthday of grandson Zacharias, who has turned twelve. I also got an email from Simone Reagor, with me on the Economic Development Committee this winter, about a new Wicked Local article promoting the Wellfleet oyster, written by Elspeth Pearson, fiancé to Alex of Mac's Seafood. The article reminded me to post specials for Oysterfest, October 17 and 18th this year. For an early lunch, I walked to The Juice. (Lots of choice on the menu. The folks at the next table couldn't make up their mind. I was tempted to tell them guests had raved about the lobster roll. Less mayonnaise, more succulent bits of lobster meat, tossed in a lemon herb aioli.) Once back home, I checked on arrival time for our next guests. Darn! They did not provide it. (Thank you to everyone who emailed after my rant this past week on the inconvenience of being obliged to wait all afternoon.) So, satisfied everything was squeaky clean and under control, I settled in to work on my novel. Two simultaneous professions are harder than one! Thanks to everyone who makes my day job so pleasant.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 1:11 PM
Sunday, July 26, 2009
No exercise today, unless you count walking back and forth from the main house to the cottage, which I did numerous times while cleaning, doing laundry, etc, all the chores an innkeeper must accomplish, especially on Sundays in summer. Since I want to fit into the dress I bought at Karol Richardson for my daughter’s wedding in September, I decided a walk would be an ideal way to burn a few calories and chose, as my destination, Long Pond. Evening might bring a different perspective. Would there be anyone swimming at this late hour? Could I even take photos? At 8 pm, sensible tourists should already be snug in their rental homes, removing dishes from their dishwashers, or preparing to watch a DVD on the wide screen TV, now a compulsory item on the list of modern conveniences rental agencies suggest Wellfleet landlords provide for summer visitors. In less than ten minutes, I was approaching Long Pond. What’s this I hear? Joyful voices shouting, in … Russian? Sure enough, there were two fathers in the pond with their children, teaching them to swim, or trying. The kids didn't seem too keen on the lesson, more interested in splashing about after hours on the highway. I snapped a few photos and withdrew as quietly as I had come.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 8:24 PM
The other day a guest asked whether there was a real bookstore in town. “Yes,” I replied. “Right after the intersection of Long Pond and Main.” I was fortunate the guest didn’t ask for details because I had not been in the shop for years. Today I decided it was about time to remedy that. I walked to town for fresh strawberries from Hatch’s for tomorrow's breakfast, took a few photos, and, on the way back, stopped in to check out Herridge Books, “quality used books in a village setting.” When I looked around at all the shelves, my heart raced. How very many volumes to discover! I stood there for a few seconds and imagined all the words, all the turns of phrase contained in those books, as well as the hours and energy involved in getting the books published. Peter Hiller, who was down on his hands and knees, lovingly adding a few recent arrivals to the fiction section, stood up and introduced himself. Peter explained his shop specializes in secondhand books, although there’s a bookcase of recent titles near the cash register. The books come from his larger store in Philadelphia. Lucky I didn’t bring Sven! He would never have wanted to leave. There are books for children, books about Cape Cod. Lots of mysteries. Even SWEDISH mysteries, Peter told me. Books on nature, history, art and many other subjects. Down a windy yellow staircase he led me then. The basement is crammed full of books, too, and has a cozy nook for reading. Herridge Books is definitely a funky place to recommend the next time guests ask whether Wellfleet has a real bookstore!
While on the subject of books, bestsellers can, of course, be found at Wellfleet Marketplace. A couple weeks ago we had guests from Berkeley who told me about AbeBooks, as in Abe Lincoln. And, finally, for everyone who loves independent bookstores, here’s a blog written by Mark Fitten, a writer who is using his book tour to promote independent bookstores across the nation. This is one cool blog. Check it out!
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 7:28 AM
Saturday, July 25, 2009
This week I discovered a blogger who decided to offer up some definitions of common eco-terms in her blog Living Green, Living Well. In this domain, I think we all need a little help. Have you ever tried to make sense of which towels are really best for the environment? I received an email this past week urging me to "green" my towels and clicked through to ECO-FRIENDLY GREEN EARTH TOWELS: “100% Cotton - White Only Softer, more absorbent, eco-friendly version of microcotton towels, manufactured in a state-of-the-art, bio-wasted powered, zero discharge facility that produces no emission of effluents into the local water tables ...” I was left scratching my head. With half a dozen other types of towel for sale from the same company on the same site, it seemed obvious I was witnessing a case of greenwashing. I did find some organic cotton towels this winter and ordered up a set of "Green Threads" from Organic Linen Source, located in nearby Quincy. The quality is amazing: soft and absorbent. They wash well, too. But these lovely towels only come in white (pearl) and beige (earth). Still, the next time I refresh our supply, chances are I will go with Green Threads. Organic cotton is much better for the environment than regular cotton. For anyone who does not yet know why, there’s a full explanation at Coyuchi. Ever since we began the bed & breakfast, we have been using Coyuchi sheets. While I love the feel and the fact that they are made of organic cotton, I must admit that it's hard to keep them clean. I know that sounds silly. Use detergent, duh! Well, we try to avoid detergent and go with more gentle washing products from Seventh Generation. The checked sheets are especially vulnerable to stains and sweat. Cuddledown has nice “Certified Eco-friendly” sheets, and I bought a pair for the Green Room, but they are NOT organic cotton. So far, Cuddledown has not added any organic cotton products to their hotel line. I tried Gaiam organic cotton sheets as well, but they're not as soft and need ironing. We air-dry our sheets, whenever possible. There’s nothing like the smell of fresh linens!
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 7:45 AM
Friday, July 24, 2009
Another rainy day! Our new guests said they saw a line of cars, leaving the Cape yesterday afternoon. They plan to walk around Wellfleet on a self-guided tour, using the Discover Cape Cod guide, which I mentioned two weeks ago. That sounds like a good activity for this drizzly morning. Our old guests left an hour ago, off for Logan and then home to Newcastle, England. They were wise to have booked last fall. I admired their ability to get around without a car. Did they like Chez Sven? You bet! What they had to say is at the end of the Liberty Coin Suite list. Check out recent comments here. What a lovely family! I enjoyed watching them interact with love and respect. They plan to take the flex bus to the Provincetown airport. A company has started a green shuttle to Logan. The one-way trip from Wellfleet costs $175 for three people, a bit pricey, but we wish them well. I am grateful when companies bother to contact me. Once Wellfleet has its new comprehensive Web site, all such information will be listed on it, hopefully! Speaking of companies that bother to contact bloggers, I’d like to mention Alex at iguide, who sent me the link to their Wellfleet page. Finally, check out some of the other Cape blog entries, listed at Cape Links.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 10:54 AM
Thursday, July 23, 2009
No one has said it yet out loud, but the Cape Cod weather this summer is really lousy. The temperature feels a good 5 degrees lower than usual, its almost cold at night, and the sunshine can't seem to get its act together. New England has been the only part of the country to have such weather. Never has it rained here for most of the month of June. Remember? It was rainy and cold. Off Cape Cod, the water temperature yesterday was 66 degrees. Off New York, the water temperature shot up to 80. That's an amazing difference, when you think about it. According to NOAA, the global ocean had the warmest June on record. Not good news!!! We do NOT want that ocean so warm due to the consequences: the eventual slowing down of ocean currents, described in detail by Woods Hole oceanographers here. The weatherman was discussing the possibility of a large area of thunderstorms, out in the Atlantic, turning into a hurricane. Hurricanes feed off warm water. I can do nothing about this summer's weather but do feel for our guests. We currently have a small family from England, here without a car. Now, that is a challenge when the weather does not cooperate. They were able to take the flex bus to Provincetown yesterday for whale-watching, but what will they do this evening in the rain? It would be tough for them to get to the harbor stage for WHAT's Wildly Laughing, directed by Brendan Hughes, but it sounds like a great show and tonight's performance is followed by a Talk Back with director and cast, hosted by WHAT director Jeff Zinn. They also will have to miss fiddler Denya LeVine at Artscape in Hyannis. Actually, these guests have already reserved at Wicked Oyster and plan to walk there. Guess I'll have to get out the umbrellas ...
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 7:43 AM
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Daniel Edward Craig wrote July 8 in his blog, "Soul is an essential part of any hotel, and of lifestyle hotels in particular. It is everything abstract: personality, culture and spirit, that intangible feeling that prompts a guest to remark either 'It just felt right' or 'Something was missing.' Soul is often overlooked by hotel executives because we can’t see it, write it into an operating manual or charge a fee for it. Some hotels have all the right elements-beautiful design, quality amenities, competent service but feel like the other definition of soul: the spirit of a dead person. Soul cannot be factory-produced or mass-marketed; more than anything it’s shaped by employees. By defining the hotel's vision and values and using them to guide every decision, management develops the hotel's culture and, over time, its soul evolves organically." Mr. Craig has just made the perfect case for staying at a B&B. Know why? No hotel employee can compete with an innkeeper. I like to think of what we offer as “kid-glove care.” First off, we answer only to ourselves – no boss. Second, you have to be a pretty unusual individual to invite strangers into your own home on a regular basis. Each bed & breakfast experience is unique, based on the personality of the innkeepers, the location, the physical aspects of the B&B, and, most of all, certain choices the innkeeper has made. Chez Sven differs from most in type of breakfast (fresh fruit salad, yogurt, granola, as well as home baked goods), natural amenities, organic cotton sheets, being “green,” the fact that we accept children, our BEDS – no joke, the quality of a bed is really important. How many times have I heard guests come down in the morning, totally relaxed, and declare, “What a great bed!” That special something a good B&B possesses cannot be duplicated. If it could be bottled, we would be millionaires. Good B&Bs have more than Mr. Craig’s “soul.” Think of it as soul, plus. In fact, Sven and I approach our guests as if they were long lost relatives. No hotel can do that. Hands down, B&Bs are the way to go.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 7:29 AM
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
As an innkeeper, I appreciate knowing what time guests plan to arrive and always request this information a week prior to arrival. Approximate time means early afternoon, late afternoon, suppertime, evening. Why do I request this information?
1.) I have a life and schedule activities, like everyone else.
2.) Errands require planning in summer, since there’s traffic on Route 6. Some errands can only be accomplished in Orleans. I prefer to run my errands when my presence at the B&B is not required.
3.) Sometimes innkeepers, too, like to go to the beach.
4.) Exercise is good for the health. We have no space for an exercise bike, so I need to be able to venture out for daily walks.
5.) Registration takes at least 15 minutes. There’s nothing worse than cooking an elaborate dinner, sitting down with a glass of chilled rosé, and having the doorbell ring. Some meals cannot be microwaved. As a gourmet cook, I prefer not to reheat my food.
6.) Wait! I thought of something worse than arrivals during dinner: arrivals after our cut-off time of 9:30, late for those of us who get up early and make breakfast.
7.) I have friends, who invite me to do things. I cannot do anything but sit here and wait if I do not know what time guests plan to arrive.
8.) How about putting a note on the door, BACK SOON, YOU BABOON and making the GUESTS wait? Not an option. We are in the business of hospitality here.
9.) A B&B is not a hotel. It is a small family business, without staff. And, currently Sven is in Sweden.
10.) I reject the idea that guests do not know when they plan to arrive as total hogwash. Everyone has a vague concept of how long the trip should take and possible departure times.
Yes, guests have kept me waiting again. Often this behavior accompanies a last-minute booking, and each year I swear to myself that I will refuse these requests. Such people confuse B&Bs with motels. Anyone who does not have the decency to inform me of arrival time will get minimal breakfast. I may even haul out the lumpy old mattress from the shed. I need to know approximate time of arrival. Most folks oblige me with a response, a few do not. I have learned to beware of those guests who do not. They are usually the ones an innkeeper does not want back.
PS. Not this time. It turned out these guests simply had B&B phobia. Yes, it does exist! While checking in, they regaled me with horror stories of former B&B stays, including a place with unwashed sheets and cockroaches. They said a simple piece of toast would do for breakfast. Wait until the see the spread set out on the kitchen table! I think they were pleasantly surprised by Liberty Coin Suite last night and will plan to return for a longer visit, informing me of approximate arrival time after booking the room ….
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 8:48 AM
Monday, July 20, 2009
Women On Their Way has reprinted a 2008 article about the Outer Cape in fall, written by Meg Noonen for Endless Vacation. The writing is good, but some of the facts are not. When I spot one mistake, I wonder how many I might be missing. One particular statement I found hilarious was that Mac’s Shack is a former colonial post and beam. The author also misidentifies the part of Truro which Hopper liked to paint. The problem with knowing the Cape so well is that freelance journalists, who live elsewhere, cannot get away with such fluff. Can you spot the errors in the paragraph that mentions Wellfleet, Lay of the Land?
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 8:23 AM
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Wellfleet has a special relationship with books. First we had Edmund Wilson and Dwight Macdonald, titans of the 1940s critical world. Nabokov visited Wilson. Wilson married Mary McCarthy. Perhaps this literary connection was what drew Elaine McIlroy to our sleepy little town in the early 1970s. Elaine transformed the Wellfleet Public Library into one of the very best libraries in the country. Money was raised for a new home in a renovated former candle factory. More recently, Elaine spearheaded a drive to finance solar panels for its roof. Citizens who love to read flocked to her side, creating the Friends of the Wellfleet Libraries, which meets monthly and sponsors two annual book sales. The first was to take place last Sunday but it was postponed due to rainy conditions. The book sale is being held today until 1 pm. Since morning means breakfast preparation for me, I rarely get down in time for the opening rush towards the special volumes table. Today's collection of books was especially impressive and throngs of people made it to the sale before I did. All the same, I found a hardback copy of one of my favorite books, Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, which made me happy. Young Madison was also very pleased with her purchases. I heard a man speaking into a cell phone, "I'm at the sale!" There was a pause. "Why, at town hall, of course!" he yelled, as if it were the only sensible place to be. Who knows what one may find? Authors often have copies of books that have been signed by other authors, who were friends. Their descendants sometimes donate them for the sale, and they end up on the tables outside town hall. We can all be grateful to the volunteers who make Wellfleet's book sale such a success. The second sale of the summer will be held August 9th. Don't miss it!
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 9:19 AM
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Yesterday summer lumbered across the Cape like a big black bear and seemed to squat down, right on top of Wellfleet. Hot, humid air made us realize how nice the cool days have been, despite the lack of rain. But, last night, the heavens opened up and at last there was a downpour after a week of pleasant sunshine. "May I take a picture of your garden?" asked a guest. "It's so colorful." For the first time in ages, I took the time to look at what I had created and realized he was right: it was colorful! So, out came my camera, not to photograph a beach or pond, but to capture the butterflies flitting from butterfly bush to butterfly bush. I am grateful to everyone over the past year who has told me, "Love your blog!", as happened yesterday in the comments. Now blog readers, time to unite and vote for Chez Sven in the NECN Cape contest called A-list. Here is the Web site. I need a bit of a boost these days. I realize Cape A-list is not a blog contest, because most innkeepers are not writers, and therefore blog contests of any worth do not have an appropriate category for me, but many of you have visited Wellfleet and know a great bed & breakfast when they see one. Tough to compete with only three rooms, against the biggies, with multiple guests at a time. But, let's try. Finally, help raise money for Wellfleet Preservation Hall by attending this evening's concert at the Congregational Church, "An Evening of Chamber Music with members of the Boston Pops, Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, National Symphony, and special guest Dar Williams." Champagne and dessert reception follows. Do not miss this one, 7:30, and get there early! The last time Dar performed the line was around the block.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 8:25 AM
Friday, July 17, 2009
It's surprising how many guests leave personal objects behind after staying here. This tendency presents a problem. What to do with all the junk? Combs, bathing suits, clothing, books … There have been times when guests will call, or write, and I diligently pack up the object and send it off. These days many of our guests live in Great Britain. Postal rates have greatly increased, so we have decided the guest must pay for postage but the service remains free. As we progress through life, we also leave things behind, sometimes friends, more often attitudes that have been outgrown like last year’s frilly shirt, no longer fashionable. We change jobs, cities, husbands, wives, and, in my case, countries and cultures, as well as husbands. We shed bits of ourselves each time, like the Tin Woodman, losing limbs as the enchanted axe of the Wicked Witch of the East chopped away. The Woodman was reconstructed out of tin and needed a heart. Sometimes I feel like the Tin Woodman, patched together, once a French housewife, then a DJ, now an innkeeper, but forever a writer. That essential part of me I cannot leave behind.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 10:38 AM
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Kayaking is a great way to see nature and get a glimpse of the coastline up close. But first, let me make a confession: I have never kayaked. Oh, I’ve admired kayakers from afar, for sure. I’m a veteran kayak-watcher. I even gave Sven a yellow sea kayak as an engagement present a dozen years ago. In his youth, my husband could do that fancy flip-over Eskimo-style roll where you’re dry one minute and dripping wet the next. He can also spot a top-quality paddle when he sees one. I said to myself Sven’s the type of person who needs a kayak to feel fully equipped for life on Cape Cod, at least that’s what I thought at the time. Since then I have assisted with the transport of his kayak to and fro, even helped him lift it out of the bay for an agonizing slow 50-yard dash to our old car – removal at Duck Harbor proved a lot harder than getting in at Power’s Landing! Our Volvo is rack-less now, which means the kayak doesn’t see water anymore, aside from the rain. Sven has gotten older, too. His kayak ended up stored beside the cottage and became a nesting place for a couple of wrens. All this to explain I am not to be considered an expert on kayaking. I do know, however, that a kayak is the perfect vehicle in which to explore the waterways of Cape Cod. Here is a Web site with information about local kayaking. I often tell guests about Jack’s boat rentals on Gull Pond and suggest kayaking through the sluiceway into Higgins Pond, but this Web site provides other tempting options as well. Betty and Al, longtime Cape vacationers, got the jump on me because they had made reservations prior to arrival and went kayaking in Orleans with Explore Cape Cod. On the water for more than four hours, they returned enchanted. Their naturalist guide was knowledgeable and friendly. “We highly recommend it,” they said. Our guests even saw seals. Explore Cape Cod has tandems and dawn excursions that look amazing. Now, if I could find someone to make breakfast for the guests ....
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 7:25 AM
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Another morning, another breakfast. Well, not quite. We still have the French pastry chef staying with us. What could I do as an encore for my banana bread? Most people love the organic blueberry scones, which I bake right before guests sit down to the table. Today I decided to try something different to make the scones extra special, add fresh organic black raspberries from the garden! Yesterday, on Cape & Islands Radio, Mindy Todd was speaking with a master gardener and fielded a question about raspberries. The caller said her canes had gone wild, what with all the rain this past month. My raspberries also have become a jungle. I picked a bowl and placed the raspberries strategically on the scones, like jewels, before slipping the pan in the oven. First the guests devoured the granola, yogurt, and fresh fruit salad. On to the scones. I peeked through the kitchen window as the chef raised a scone to his mouth. A smile of contentment spread across his face. Success once more!
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 9:05 AM
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Daunting, the idea of serving a professional French pastry chef breakfast! Will my homemade granola satisfy him? What about the coffee cake? Will the subtle mixture of flavors – banana and walnut – be satisfying to his sensitive palate? I feel nervous as the couple sits down at the vintage table outside. Of course, the first thing the chef does is cut himself a piece of banana cake. I finish serving coffee and, unable to contain myself one minute longer, ask breathlessly, “So, how’s the coffee cake?” “Tasty,” he says. Always the perfectionist, I search his voice for hidden meaning. Is he just being polite? Did my concoction pass muster? Will he go for seconds? I tell the story of Lorenzo Dow Baker, who first imported green bananas to the USA. While we are discussing how most bananas today are treated with chemicals, lo and behold, the guest takes a second slice of cake. “You must like it!” I exclaim. “Very good!” he pronounces. Hurray! Success.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 9:38 AM
Monday, July 13, 2009
Our weekend guest was in town for a quick reunion with relatives. She had come to the Cape as a child and said her siblings also treasured memories of Wellfleet. Now they all bring their own children every summer. Twenty-five strong the cousins convene on a certain beach. What a nice tradition! For some families, going out to eat at a favorite restaurant is the activity that marks the highpoint of a week of vacation, one that will be repeated year after year. Gradually that outing becomes a family tradition. My parents used to take me and their grandkids to the Lobster Hutt, now Mac’s Shack. After dinner, we would have ice cream at Just Desserts, no longer in existence. Some families get together for a bonfire on the beach: the smell of grilled hot dogs and marshmallows will be what they pass on as the olfactory sensations that summon obligatory memories of Cape Cod. After years of bonfires on the beach in summer, no holiday will feel quite right without dinner around a bonfire. I have cousins who always included a fishing trip off Duck Harbor on one of their seven days here, whether in a rowboat, powerboat, or rubber raft. Do you have a family tradition connected to Wellfleet?
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 8:42 AM
Sunday, July 12, 2009
In Wellfleet, Oysters can be found in the darnedest places. Silver oysters dangle from jewelry store displays as pins or charms. Wellfleet Chamber T-shirts sport the images of an oyster. Local confectioner Jade Huber sells chocolate oysters in her shop in South Wellfleet. Piles of real oysters await consumption outside The Bookstore and are on the menu at every single eatery in town except Flying Fish, which serves pizza. Wellfleet even has a restaurant called The Wicked Oyster. Art galleries offer inedible oysters to take home by Kim Kettler and other Outer Cape artists. Oysters inspired the Oysterfest in mid-October, where Kettler sets up a temporary Oyster Museum of Art. Of course, shellfishermen collect bushels of oysters out on the flats at low tide and children pick up oyster shells at Mayo Beach. There are so many empty oyster shells that we use them instead of gravel and they crunch under the tire treads on our driveway. Now the Wellfleet Harbor Actors’ Theater brings summer entertainment, entitled – what else? – The Happy Oyster Spectacular Show. Here’s a brief description: “A fast-paced comedy review that places contemporary culture under the microscope - one with a fractured lens. Good Morning America, Garrison Keillor, YouTube, drug commercials, and dating services are just a few of the subjects that fall prey to Subtractive Media's satirical examination.” You can read impressions from a cast member here. If the economic crisis has got you down, go laugh at WHAT every Sunday this summer, through August 30, 8 p.m. Tickets here.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 7:50 AM
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Last weekend’s New York Times travel section carried a three-page article about Cape poet Mary Oliver and her walks around Provincetown, especially in the Province Lands. As I was reading, I came upon the term “pond-walker,” a great way to describe someone who prefers quiet Cape woods to the boisterous Atlantic. Sven and I pond-walk more frequently in fall and winter when the leaves crunch underfoot, than summer. Our pond of preference, Dyer, above, last October. Ms. Oliver, who lives in Provincetown, walks Blackwater Pond apprently. She has written half a dozen books of poetry. The poem quoted in the travel section was about walking at dawn and meeting a deer in the woods. Wellfleet’s great poet Marge Piercy has written similar poems about deer, spotted outside her pane-glass window. She, too, is often inspired by nature. There’s a good chance to find books by local poets like Oliver or Piercy, at the Wellfleet library's annual book sale, which will take place tomorrow morning, Sunday, behind town hall, to benefit the library, of course. This pond-walker will be there, if I can get breakfast served in time!
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 8:04 AM