Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bravo, Lisa Jackson!

Here's some great news: The EPA plans to review six controversial chemicals and reform US toxic chemicals policy. Lisa Jackson announced this decision yesterday. Some of you may not yet know who Ms. Jackson is. She’s President Obama’s EPA administrator. I wrote Lisa Jackson two weeks ago after seeing her name in a New York Times article regarding polluted water in West Virginia:

"I read with interest of your intention to strengthen water regulations and applaud you on this as a green innkeeper and a concerned citizen. Here on Cape Cod we have a specific problem, which you might not know about, related to ground water. In June 2010, NStar intends to do herbicidal spraying of vegetation beneath the power lines, which must be cleared per Federal law. The utility company plans to use at least four herbicides, which will end up in our sole source aquifer. In a region with sandy soil and private wells, toxic chemicals should not be allowed to enter the ground water supply, especially in 2010, with all we know about body burden. Cancer rates on Cape Cod are already high. Concerned citizens in Eastham, Wellfleet, and Truro oppose the spraying. I urge you to take a stand and recommend NStar use mechanical machinery to remove the brush, as has been the procedure in the past, rather than toxic herbicides. Thank you for your attention."

Now, I cannot tell for sure, but I think her assistants may have been impressed by the volumes of correspondence that are rolling in because Ms. Jackson gave a speech yesterday in San Francisco. She described the movement as “new environmentalism” as opposed to “old environmentalism.” One of the chemicals is BPA. Another under study will be phtalates, in pliable plastic. Environmental Health News reports in full here. To quote just one sentence from Ms. Jackson's speech: “'The power of citizenry should never be ignored,' she said. (For example, mothers of infants concerned about chemical exposure have prompted many manufacturers to produce BPA-free baby bottles.)"

This feels like a major victory. Of course, there's still much work to do. For instance, the Environmental Working Group just completed research that confirms the danger of cell phone radiation, something Sven and I have feared for years. To donate to EWG so they can pursue similar studies on other controversial topics, go here, and keep that cell phone away from your head!

Welllfleet Selectmen Hold Meeting on Use of Herbicides

Yesterday Sven and I went to Duck Harbor, a beach we have not walked in months and months. I feel very close to nature in this beautiful place, with the wind whipping both grasses and waves. Then, in the evening, I attended the Selectmen’s meeting at the library, which will be the main report for today, illustrated with Duck-Harbor photos. It was, in fact, a joint public meeting with the Board of Water Commissioners, the Board of Health, and the Conservation Commission. On the agenda, under New Business I was delighted to find “Preliminary discussion … to consider a response to the use of herbicides in the Town of Wellfleet. Possible responses include, 1.) Adopting municipal policies governing the pesticide use on municipally owned land, 2.) Providing community outreach and education about pesticide use, 3.) Exploring options for clearing vegetation along NStar rights of way.”

If you have been following this blog, you know NStar has agreed to delay their plan to spray up to four herbicides until June 2010. You also are aware that the Selectmen voted at their last meeting to create a bylaw to prohibit pesticide use in Wellfleet. Turns out state law would preempt any such bylaw. “We simply can’t do it,” Ira Wood explained sadly. He also said NStar was not willing to make deals with individual property owners along the power lines, as had been the case in the past. However, NStar will provide “criteria” for the amount of trimming they would require.

Ira suggested community outreach and education, perhaps the creation of a committee to accomplish this goal. Grants exist, he said. “Plainfield received funding for herbicide-free power lines.” (For more information, see this document from the Horsley Witten Group, Sustainable Environmental Solutions, January 2007.) Ira also read a letter from the Department of the Interior to NStar requesting that a specific herbicide not be used on hot days, which would create a more nefarious local environment in the Seashore. This produced general snickering from the audience, two dozen citizens all adamantly against the use of herbicides under any circumstances. I said, “One of the herbicides NStar wants to use is called Accord. Accord has a great-sounding name: world peace and harmony comes to mind. Actually, glyphosate is a known carcinogen, a neurotoxin, an irritant, and can cause liver, kidney and reproductive damage. In recent news, glyphosate has been identified as a common chemical found in acute agricultural worker poisonings and has been linked to intersex frogs.” (The more you dig, the more depressing this story becomes.)

The Town Administrator told us there were 100 properties along the right of way in Wellfleet. Some belong to the town. The Seashore owns 40%. Terry Gips, of the Conservation Commission, raised the issue of living on a sandbar and the fact herbicides end up in our water supply, which caused Dale Donovan to mention the Cape Cod Commission, created based on the concept that the Cape is special and should be given special treatment. Terry pointed out that the percentage of land covered by power lines is higher here than in most other places.

I asked why must Wellfleet organize by itself? Wouldn’t it be better to join forces with other Cape towns to oppose NStar? Celeste Makley waved a copy of Mother Earth News, with an article about the disappearance of bees. She said the Organic Gardeners’ new community garden, near the power lines, is in jeopardy. Someone suggested goats be used, rather than chemicals, as in California and New Hampshire. (Anyone looking for an excellent small business opportunity?)

The meeting concluded with Ira’s suggestion that neighbors be helped to gain an understanding that there are alternatives to pesticide use. He asked the Town Administrator to request those “criteria” guidelines from NStar, which will be posted on the town Web site. Finally, it was decided a meeting should be organized with the Cape Cod Commission, inviting boards from neighboring towns to participate.

Most of the people in the room left at the end of this first half of the meeting. Those of us concerned about the spraying of herbicides, which will seep into our sole source aquifer, congregated in the hallway, and exchanged further ideas and email addresses. The general feeling was disappointment. Unfortunately, a certain member of the Board of Health seems to advocate a neutral stance and reminded us all what a good job NStar did restoring power after the freak storm in December. June 2010 will be here in no time. The Selectmen did listen and offered some options, but we were hoping for greater leadership on this important issue …

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Professional Photographer Shoots Chez Sven Interiors

All morning my stomach did twists and turns. I felt as nervous as a young Argentinian dancer, before her first tango competition. What put me in such a state of excitation? A photographer was coming to shoot interior photos for the soon-to-be functional new Web site created by my Webmaster-son. Paul had turned his nose up at my meager attempts to shoot our bedrooms, so I decided to hire quality. Not just anyone would do. I sent several options through cyberspace before we settled on Dan Cutrona, whom I actually found thanks to a blog follower. (Hat tip to Charles!) Dan arrived on the dot of ten, as scheduled, with his Irish assistant, Jack, and tons of equipment. They set up first in Seagull Cottage after a quick walk through the main house to scope out the job. Dan instantly noticed the beauty of our garden, despite the drizzle, and decided to emphasize flowers throughout, “bringing the outdoors inside.” This choice made me relax. He obviously understood our concept. Once I had said goodbye to our current guests, I slipped over to observe the proceedings.

“Jack, can you move the couch over a little so it’s centered on the window? Great!“ Dan turned to me and explained, “If we’re doing symmetric, it makes such a difference.”

He was right. The shot was perfect.

It’s hard to photograph the bedroom and convey the aerie sense of space that makes guests exclaim, “Why this is much more beautiful than I expected,” but Dan succeeded masterfully.

The team had finished both bedrooms by the time I returned and was setting up on the sun porch. Not much sun today, but no matter if one has the right equipment. Jack suggested a shot through the window, and that is where Dan went. (Here's a closer look at that bouquet.) I was glad Sven’s gingerbread fretwork would be featured in a photo. Some guests rave about the sun porch, the perfect place to relax after a day at the beach.

Following a brief break for lunch, it was on to the Green Room, which is actually yellow, with wallpaper from Great Britain. (“Green” refers to eco-friendly choices in renovation, like salvaged tile, Energy-star ventilation fans, high R-factor insulation, etc.)

“Mind if I move this lamp?” Dan asked.

“He brought the Van Gogh flowers downstairs,” Sven whispered, watching over my shoulder. (Translation: the bouquet of sunflowers I had placed in the Liberty Coin bedroom now graced a Green Room table.) “These guys are very good at what they do. Good taste, too!"

I nodded, having already drawn the same conclusion. Soon the room was rearranged in such a way as to please the eye with every detail. Once the lighting was set, Dan clicked away. Artistic photography is not easy to achieve, and yet he managed to create magic in every room, not simply shooting but thinking ahead what would work best to give context as well as beauty to the shot. I had had the most trouble with the Liberty Coin room, which sports skylights and beams. In short order, Dan had captured its essence from two directions. I learned the value of staging – take away a bulky object that's the wrong color, add a few apples, a throw, or a book – and light. At one point the photographer even asked Jack to stand outside in the rain and hold the door to the sitting room half open.

“Okay, cool! You’re good,” said Dan. "Think we're done."

The most challenging shot? Seagull Cottage, combining living room, dining area, and master bedroom in one photo.

His favorite room to shoot? The sitting room in the main house, with its portraits of my parents, the Victorian love seat, and light blue staircase.

Time required for these custom photos? Six hours.

Sven and I are extremely satisfied with our choice and highly recommend Dan Cultrona to anyone in need of professional photography. Stay tuned for a preview of the new Web site, hopefully within the month.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mushrooming & Chez Sven in Sunday Globe

On a crisp Wednesday afternoon, a few weeks ago, I set out on a mushroom-hunting expedition with Patricia Borns, a freelance journalist from Florida, on assignment for the Boston Globe. Her successful pitch to editors had been Wellfleet’s Russian connections and mushrooms. Before heading to Bound Brook, a great spot for mushrooms with its pine forests, according to Guitta Plau, who taught a fall course at the Wildlife Sanctuary last year, I put Patricia in touch with a Russian friend in Orleans, whom we both talked to over the phone. From their conversation, I discover Irina had “learned mushrooms” as a child.

“You don’t tell your secret place,” she explained. “Everyone has a secret place.”

Hmmm. Sounds sort of like blueberries.

“How did you eat them?” Patricia asks once I have made the introductions.

Mushroom omelets come to mind as I recall an extraordinary meal in France, concocted by a Swiss neighbor who had served several different dishes to emphasize the range of taste wild mushrooms offer. When Patricia gets off the phone, I tell her the French take wild mushrooms to the pharmacist to be sure none are poisonous. She has already been out mushroom hunting the previous day, and even had time to show her finds to Guitta.

“The inconspicuous one was the only edible mushroom,” the journalist laughs. “We had filled two bags!”

On Bound Brook, we take the path beside the Atwood Higgins House, which meanders through pines. Our eyes are peeled for mushrooms, tough to see on the lichen-covered ground. Patricia pounces but the mushroom is one she recognizes from the day before, inedible. Shortly afterward, she finds another and stuffs it into her paper bag. We walk on, imagining Russian ladies with a basket on either arm, full of rosy-colored specimens. Lesson number one: get to mushroom site early. Since there was rain over the weekend, we conclude the area has already been milked – or rather, mushroomed out.

At a fork in the path, we turn right. A bit further on, we reach a large rock. The choice is left, or right. We turn right again. Still no mushrooms in sight. Wait! I find one. Patricia dusts it off and peers underneath. The gills, apparently, are wrong but my mushroom, tall and angular, goes into her bag as well. I’m already hoping Patricia has a good sense of orientation, because we will need it to get home. Lesson number two: be careful not to get lost. My companion tells me people do get lost all the time in the National Seashore, hunting for mushrooms. Fortunately, we come to a dirt road. No need to walk back through the forest.

Our hunt yielded two mushrooms, but also the chance to get to know each other. And, what a great job Patricia did with her article! Check it out here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Food Network to Feature Wellfleet Lobster Roll

On Friday, the Food Network filmed a show here on Cape Cod. The fortunate restaurant was PJ’s, down on Route 6. The dish: lobster roll. Now since it’s Cape Land & Sea Harvest (CLASH) weekend, I thought it might be a good day to mosey on down and have lobster for lunch. Service was quick and easy at the take-out window. My order arrived on a plastic tray, in a five-inch white cardboard container. There were no frills, nothing special. I retreated to the side terrace to savor my $15 purchase, while reading the Banner: “Last summer celebrity chef Duff Goldman was visiting the Outer Cape when he stopped by PJ’s Family Restaurant in Wellfleet for a lobster roll. According to Denise Reeves who owns the restaurant along with her husband, Don, Goldman was so impressed with the lobster roll that he wanted to feature it on an episode of ‘The Best Thing I Ever Ate,’ shown on the Food Network.”

I looked down at my cardboard container and wondered for a moment if Mr. Goldman might have chosen jumbo size, then read on: “When asked what makes their lobster roll get high marks, Reeves said they only use meat from the tail, claw and knuckle, and just a little bit of mayonnaise. ‘We also toast the bun.’”

Time to taste The-Best-Thing-a-Food-Network star ever ate. I took a bite and swallowed. One third of my roll was gone. I let the second bite roll around on my tongue for a bit longer, remembering the lobster roll I had eaten at The Juice this summer. How had it been described? “Succulent Maine lobster meat, tossed in a lemon herb aioli, on a grilled brioche roll”? I was already missing that lemon herb aioli. And, PJs bun was definitely not a brioche. What’s more, if my memory is correct, the lobster roll from The Juice was about twice the size and came with a bag of Cape Cod potato chips. The price was the same, but in my book, the lobster roll from The Juice rated far superior. Far superior? Nah. No comparison. It tasted yummy, with its hint of Provence.

I guess Mr. Goldman must have been really hungry when he pulled up at PJs … Now, had he spent the night at Chez Sven and asked where he could find the very best lobster roll in Wellfleet, I would have told him straight away. I knew The Juice made an extra effort this year because we had a guest who returned ecstatic, saying he had just eaten, and I quote, “the best lobster roll of my life.” Innkeepers do possess tidbits of local information like this one. All a Food Network star needs to do is ask the right person ...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

How to Make Chez Sven's Banana Bread

“Was that your recipe in the Cape Codder, Sandy?” the Seamens’ Bank teller asked with his usual friendly smile.

“Could be. Don’t know,” I said, handing him my checks for deposit.

“Right here, it says Chez Sven’s Banana Bread.”

Nute shook open the newspaper, as if he had kept it at arm’s length, waiting for me to appear. Sure enough. There was my recipe, attributed to Chez Sven B&B! It accompanied a short article about a new Cape cookbook but did not mention my name.

Last winter I received an email about contribution to this cookbook, and offered up Banana Bread, with a short blah-blah about Wellfleet’s Lorenzo Dow Baker, who first imported green bananas to the USA. That was the last I had heard of the project. Not one email did I receive about publication, let alone a free copy.

I made banana bread this morning for our guests, perfect for a chilly day, as the kitchen slowly fills with the most amazing aroma of warm bananas. This is not a food blog, but here's the recipe, so you do not have to search out the cookbook:

6 Tablespoons butter at room temperature
¾ cup brown sugar, not packed
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ripe organic banana
½ cup lightly ground walnuts
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Butter/oil a 7-inch round cake pan.
3. Cream butter and sugar until smooth.
4. Prepare banana by mashing with a fork.
5. Beat the egg slightly.
6. Add beaten egg to butter/sugar mixture and stir.
7. Stir in banana, vanilla and walnuts.
8. Add flour and baking powder. Stir.
9. Turn mixture into pan.
10. Cook 25 minutes until golden brown.

We place the banana bread on a doily on a glass cake stand, cut into wedges and serve warm. Enjoy!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Calling Matt Damon!

It was with mixed emotions that I read about Matt Damon’s commitment to clean up Haiti’s water at the Clinton Global Initiative. Not that the goal of clean water for Haiti should be dismissed as frivolous. Mr. Damon has certainly chosen a worthwhile cause for his charity I simply wish our celebrities would turn their attention to clean-er water here in the USA. Americans are not dying as in the Third World, but they are developing diseases like cancer at a younger age than ever before. There are core flaws to the Toxic Substances Control Act, which exempted 76,000 chemicals, and getting any such laws changed is a challenge. American water needs our attention, too.

For one thing, we need to lobby the EPA to lower the amount of percholorate in water supplies. Ever experienced a jet plane that needed to dump its fuel? I remember being an hour from Paris once, when the pilot discovered a problem that made him turn the plane around and fly back to Charles de Gaulle. From my window seat, I could see jet fuel streaming down as we reached the continent. Cape Cod is on the approach to Logan airport. I wonder how many planes have dumped jet fuel into our waters prior to emergency landings? We need to limit percholorate in our drinking water. (Clean Water Action explains why:
• Perchlorate is a harmful chemical that the EPA claims has been found in 395 sites in 37 states, including 153 public water systems serving over 20 million people. Some estimates are even higher.
• Perchlorate, even in small amounts, can impair the thyroid gland, which controls growth, development and metabolism.
• Developing fetuses, infants and children with thyroid impairment may suffer mental retardation, loss of hearing and speech or deficits in motor skills.)

For so long no one really thought about what was in drinking water. In the city, water came from the tap and was purified. Here in the country, our water comes out of the ground, through private wells. I described our effort to stop NStar from spraying up to four herbicides under the power lines here and reported on a trip to Rep. Delahunt’s office regarding several bills about toxic chemicals here. For a dozen years I have had our water tested for nitrates. We do the test in the spring and the percentage always seems to increase. I’m now beginning to think Wellfleet water should be tested for chemicals, too.

Little by little people across rural America are realizing water resources need protection. Wellfleet's ponds are so polluted from acid rain that any fish caught should not be eaten. The Midwest has a problem with nitrates from fertilizers. Last year I read online about how surprised Chicago officials were to discover high levels of DEET in drinking water. If they have DEET in Chicago’s water, you can bet there’s DEET in Cape Cod water, with all the hikers and regular folks trying to avoid ticks and mosquitoes. When my mother passed away, hospice personnel dumped all her meds down the drain, INTO OUR AQUIFER. This is outrageous behavior, but it seems hospice officials are afraid of the drugs falling into the hands of drug addicts. (Oh, it’s better to pollute the aquifer so we all drink minute amounts of toxic chemicals? The thing is, no one knows what those minute amounts do to the human body.)

Clean Water Action Massachusetts is running a campaign to make baby products safer. If you didn’t already know this stunning fact, plastic baby bottles contain the chemical BPA, an endocrine disruptor. A former guest wrote me about safer bottles invented by a friend whose company is called Lifefactory. Lifefactory is now developing a safe bottle for adults, which will be available in December. (Hat tip to Elise!) Elise also informed me SIGG has admitted it used BPA in its bottles until last summer. (For a full account, see the post written yesterday by environmental journalist Judith Stock at Living Green, Living Well.)

This whole topic makes me feel ill and VERY frustrated. If I am becoming an activist, it is because of my granddaughter. I do not want to leave her a world that is polluted. We have PUR filters here at Chez Sven, but are they enough? DEET, nitrates, herbicides ….Matt Damon, where are you? Do something for America’s water. Here’s an invitation: stay free at Chez Sven in exchange for brainstorming on ways celebrities can be convinced to support Clean Drinking Water for America. Our activists could definitely use a little star power ….

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Researchers Find Possible Cancer Cure in Tick Saliva

In the panoply of the Earth’s creatures, I place deer ticks at the very bottom of the totem pole. These stealthy members of the Arachnid family, miniature conveyors of diseases like borreliosis, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis, are not my idea of God’s most promising contribution to the world. My aversion to ticks is probably due to the fact that I had a close encounter with a tick carrying Lyme. It had sneaked up on me, ridden around on my back undetected for 36 hours, before dropping off, sated with blood, to move into the next phase of its life cycle and bite again. Now, whenever I walk through the woods to Dyer Pond, I wear bug spray and try not to stand in one place for too long, outsmarting any of the attack-tick’s relatives, in search of a blood meal. And my nifty Ticked Off tool for tick-removal is always close at hand. (Readers who crave further details on my Lyme disease experience can search out this summary post.)

The doctor said the attack-tick was probably a nymph, so tiny they’re hard to see. Of course, one could argue the tick merely was the vector that transmitted disease, but I focused my fury on the poppy seed with eight hairy legs that had sapped me of all strength over a period of three months. (I always warn guests to be on the lookout whilst in the woods and flush any adult ticks I do find down the toilet.)

While lying in bed, four summers ago, with hardly the energy to open my eyes let alone make anyone breakfast, I remember wondering what purpose the lowly deer tick could possibly serve. So, imagine my surprise today when I read that ticks may actually have redeeming qualities that could offer extraordinary benefits to mankind. Yes, tick saliva may hold the cure for numerous cancers. Read about what researchers in Brazil discovered here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CLASH and Swimmers at LeCount Hollow

We have availability this weekend – Thursday, Friday, Saturday – due to a cancellation, the dune/parking lot at Cahoon Hollow (above) is again repaired, and Cape Cod will celebrate its second annual Cape Land & Sea Harvest, so come on down! Tamar Haspel, one of my favorite Cape bloggers, had this to say about the event:

“If you eat, there’s something for you at CLASH. We met people who grow food, and people who can help us grow it. There was the beer guy, the oyster farmer, and our personal favorite, the chicken lady, who inspired us to get our first batch of chicks. But it’s not all talk – our meal at the Naked Oyster showed just how well you can eat on what the Cape has to offer. Which is the point, after all.”

The weather will be fine for tours of farms, bogs, breweries, etc., and ideal for a quick trip to the beach, as well. Yesterday Sven and I walked down to Marconi and saw two different types of swimmers in the ocean, which was an amazing shade of early-fall blue …."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cape Cool Holds Wake-Up Call Event

Since I was not yet home at noon yesterday, I could not attend the Cape Cool Wake-Up Call, organized in front of Wellfleet Town Hall, but I did receive a report from Harriet Jerusha Korim, which I would like to share: “It was very much fun! The opportunity to call President Obama, Hillary Clinton, your senator et al, and have an impact continues. The basic demand is to send a serious delegation (preferably including Obama and/or Hillary, as well as key congressional leaders who care) to Copenhagen to negotiate a fair, ambitious, binding treaty.... the acronym being FAB. Others suggest we demand a return to 350 parts per million of atmospheric carbon. It was a very auspicious gathering, especially since my friends from Provincetown decided to conserve energy and stay there, so when I arrived at Town Hall I had zero expectations, but even the town manager made a call. A small but mighty band assembled, and we're planning for October 24 and beyond. (For more info, go here.) The weather, of course, was inspiring and, in a way, the whole point – we want our children's grandchildren to be able to enjoy gorgeous September days like this!”

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back From the Wedding ...

Thanks to everyone who sent congratulations on my daughter's wedding. Sven and I are back, somewhat exhausted, grateful to our current guests from England who let us skip out for two days to attend this incredible family event. Thanks to everyone who checked in today. I will be reporting on life in Wellfleet again soon. Instead, for now, I offer two of my new loves and one almost forty-year-old favorite, above: my son-in-law, my adorable granddaughter as flower girl, and my son, who took almost as many photos of his daughter as of the bride, his sister. Stay tuned for information on the new Web site he is creating for Chez Sven!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Half a Dozen Memorable Events, Summer 2009

This weekend the Outer Cape hosts two fun-filled weekends. Wellfleet holds Boogey by the Bay and Truro, Truro Treasures. Since summer is drawing to a close, today seems a good time to think over some of the memorable events of Summer, 2009:

1.) Guests returned from Cahoon Hollow Beach ecstatic: two humpback whales swam right past the beach at high tide, a most unusual occurrence.
2.) One of our guests, a consultant from the UK, who has lived and worked in New York for over a year, was arrested in Truro because he was driving without a valid international permit on a Saturday night. The cops handcuffed him on the spot and took him to jail. He had to go to court on Monday in Orleans and paid a fine of $100, a holiday he will no doubt remember!
3.) The month of June was the sixth coldest June on record for Cape Cod.
4.) White sharks are sighted off Chatham.
5.) Truro holds first annual Agfair, and it’s a rousing success.
6.) Concerned citizens in Outer Cape towns unite against NStar’s plan to spray up to five herbicides beneath the power lines.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Lesson in Hyannis

Today I embarked on my legislative education by attending a meeting at Congressman William Delahunt’s office in Hyannis regarding possible support of three upcoming initiatives, all related to toxic chemicals. Our band of seven activists met with Neva Flaherty, Cape/Islands representative for Health and Human Services, second from right, above. First Erin Boles (right, above), of the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, described her hope that Rep. Delahunt will support the BPA Act of 2009, sponsored by Sen. Feinstein and Rep. Markey, and now being used as an amendment as part of a food safety bill. (One regular reader sent me important info on BPA, which I will share in a later post.) Erin also told Ms. Flaherty safe cosmetics legislation is due imminently, giving the FDA the authority to regulate toxic chemicals in personal care products and phase out known/suspected carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive developmental toxins. She requested that Rep. Delahunt join lead sponsors Sen. Feinstein and Rep. Schakowski. Cindy Luppi, left, above, of Clean Water Now, then addressed reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act, untouched since 1976, and flawed since 76,000 chemicals were exempt. She asked that Rep. Delahunt become a co-sponsor of a strong bill, one that also prevents federal pre-emption of state law. The seasoned activists provided background, including the startling fact that the European Union has banned over 1100 toxic chemicals in personal care products. The number for the USA? Nine! Wellfleet’s Kristen Shantz expressed her outrage that decades have passed and nothing has been done to control the contents of so many household products. “I want to trust when I chose a product,” she exclaimed. Sue Phelan of Green Cape brought up the “Red Cross” study of umbilical cord blood, spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group. (This study revealed the presence of up to 287 chemicals in umbilical cord blood.) No one had used the term “body burden,” so I did, speaking, for the first time in such a setting.

Having lived in France for 25 years, I had never before attended a meeting like this one, and it was an eye-opener. Ms. Flaherty listened for an hour. She plans to digest the material and send a memo to a colleague in Delahunt's DC office.

For years William Delahunt has been a supporter of Silent Spring, which is trying to figure out why Barnstable County has one of the highest breast cancer rates in the country. I hope he will decide to play a leading role in this effort to limit exposure to toxic chemicals.

Today’s experience made me realize the massive amounts of time, effort, and energy involved in changing legislation. I also developed a greater appreciation of Erin Brockovich for having succeeded in her campaign against Pacific Gas & Electric with regard to contamination of drinking water by chromium!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Weddings, Etc.

People come to Wellfleet in September for a variety of reasons. This week we have guests at Chez Sven from England to attend the wedding of their son, a pilot. He had the opportunity to visit the Outer Cape and thought it was the most beautiful place he had ever seen. Therefore, it is here his wedding will take place, today actually, in Orleans. Sven and I agree that Cape Cod is ideal for a wedding. We had a brief ceremony on Uncle Tim's Bridge, a dozen years ago, after a church wedding in Sweden. Wellfleet will soon have a new indoor venue for weddings, with the renovation of Preservation Hall. And, no post on the subject would be complete without a photo of my daughter and her fiance, who will be married Sunday in Lincoln. Below, the happy couple three years ago. I will give a toast at the luncheon, following the garden wedding. Anyone have any suggestions on what to wish the newlyweds?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

And the Go-Fly-A-Kite Award Goes to ... US Army Corps of Engineers

Perfect afternoon at the beach yesterday where Sven paused to chat with the owner of a 1942 army jeep. Word today in the Cape Cod Times of massive traffic jams at the Sagamore Bridge with one lane, of two, closed for repairs. Our weekend guests got caught in gridlock, after crossing the Atlantic Ocean. They arrived in a foul mood, and no wonder! What is the US Army Corps of Engineers thinking? The Provincetown Banner recently reported that many merchants feel the season has been mediocre, due to the recession, and now it becomes even more of a struggle to get here. Sven and I have to leave for the weekend exceptionally, since my daughter is getting married up in Boston. Perhaps we will have to rethink our strategy for getting off the Cape and back on?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another Good Reason to Live Near the Ocean: Comfort

Today a bombshell exploded in my face when I opened an email from Jane Dystel, my agent, and learned she does not expect to be able to sell my end-of life memoir. Over the summer Jane dutifully contacted over a dozen mainstream editors, and every single one turned her down. “Already have a similar project” … or “it’s too tough of a subject” … or “We published two books we loved about aging and dying parents, written by a caretaker child, and neither of those did nearly as well as we wanted.” Sometimes I feel like Sisyphus, pushing his old rock up the hill. Should I give up? Continue laboring on? Switch to another project and let this one sleep for a while? Am I simply being a masochist? Why do I want to publish this book so much anyway with independent bookstores going out of business, e-books available for a mere $10, and not one established writer stepping up to defend the profession? Isn’t being a successful innkeeper enough? So, off I set for the ocean to digest. It was a perfect summer’s day. The blue-green water offered enough wave to entice tourists out of their usual sunbathing stupor. A few stood near the tide line, watching for sharks. All that popped into view were the heads of three seals, which bounced along for a while until I tried to take a picture, at which point they dove underwater, evidently camera-shy. I passed a fisherman, whose hopeful gaze also scanned the horizon. How mesmerizing the ocean can be! The weekend storm had carved circular ledges into the shore, as if with a giant biscuit cutter. Each ledge belonged to a different person, who had staked his claim with a colorful beach umbrella. Some people wore smug smiles, pleased to have chosen this week of vacation, now that summer has finally dug in its heels. A rogue wave swept the beach. I rolled up the wet cuffs of my linen pants and continued on. Sandpipers hurried along beside me, also having trouble keeping their feet dry. I walked all the way down to Marconi and paused below the dune in an area with untouched, sun-bleached sand that felt good beneath my feet, solid, rock-hard. I liked the way the crust cracked open, setting off a minor avalanche for any sand fleas nearby. I did not come to any conclusion but walking out my anguish helped...

Monday, September 14, 2009

B&B Etiquette: On Noise

Some noise from bed & breakfast guests is to be expected but yesterday evening was out of the ordinary. A seemingly quiet couple morphed into power rangers.

“Hey, Monica! Can you bring me my comb?”

Sven and I exchange glances. These words reach us quite clearly despite the fact the door to the kitchen is shut tight. The man is in the bathroom, on the second floor of our house. His wife is in the main Liberty Coin Suite room.

Sven and I sit at the dinner table downstairs. He’s having steamers. My stomach is unsettled so I grilled a fillet of flounder instead. The air smells of garlic, which I braised with tomato halves and fresh butter beans. It has been a tranquil Indian summer afternoon. We went down to the fish store, since it closes later in the week. I took a nap, then watched an abundance of bees buzz amidst the flowers. The garden was busier than usual after three days of rain. Our new guests arrived an hour and a half early, never a good sign, and went cycling in P-town. Now they’re back. We hear heavy footsteps above our heads. A door slams.

“Well, these guys sure get the prize for noise!” I say softly.

Sven nods as bare feet again slap across the floor and the television roars to life mid-commercial, something about cars. A Billy Mays-type voice booms through the ceiling, words that run together, desperate to sell something.

“Four years of guests and none like this,” I mutter.

“Oh! That’s a Yale student that disappeared right before her wedding?!” the wife exclaims, apparently turning pages in a newspaper.

Is he deaf, I wonder, for her to be talking loud enough for me to hear?

“What?” he calls across the room.

“Turn down the TV.”

Good idea, I think. From the applause, I can tell he’s a golf fan. I stick my head into our sitting room and angle my ear toward the blue stairs. Sometimes Sven turns the television up because he has a hearing problem, but now our TV must be on max. It’s a wonder the couple can hear each other and they’re talking non-stop. Uh-oh. Here he comes. I duck back into the kitchen.

“Got your keys?” she shouts down the stairs as the front door clicks open.

I’m glad to report the night was blissfully silent. Perhaps it took these folks a bit longer to kick into B&B-mode than the norm?

This, too, is the life of an innkeeper. We have been privileged to receive many guests who understand the constraints of being in a small bed & breakfast, sharing a space with innkeepers who live on the premises. Not everyone always does.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Florida Shark Specialist Calls Cape Swimmers “Fat, Dumb & Happy”

No sharks have been sighted off Wellfleet so far, but that fact alone offers no guarantee they’re not out there, near shore, so I advise guests to avoid swimming in the ocean these days. The bay, at high tide, is a much better option. Today's Cape Cod Times has a long article by reporter Doug Fraser about the shark sightings and the seals that are the unwanted aquatic visitors' desired prey. George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research in Gainesville, believes the Cape needs a reality check. "'We've been pretty fat, dumb and happy when we go into the ocean. We think it's like the backyard pool, but it's not,' he said. Using common sense when sharks are in the water, along with lifeguards watching the ocean, could go a long way to averting tragedy. 'Having sharks in an area is not the kiss of death,' he said. 'I don't think this signals the end of recreational swimming in these waters for the rest of the year or in summers to come.' Do you think the ocean is "like the backyard pool?"

Friday, September 11, 2009

Bad-Weather Activities on the Outer Cape

After two weeks of cool sunshine, a storm is on the way, and it is taking its time getting here. Our guests tried to go whale-watching yesterday, but the boats did not venture forth. They called Provincetown this morning and received the same response, “No whales today!” Since the couple has only two more days on Cape Cod, they bit their lips with regret and off they went to Chatham, a pleasant drive down Route 28 to a town that holds itself like a dignified lady compared to Wellfleet’s rustic shellfisher and Provincetown’s bawdy circus clown. Wellfleet’s excellent theater has just started the last production of the season, a David Hare play entitled, The Blue Room, and these same guests plan to go tonight. (They saw Julie & Julia at the Drive-in on Thursday.) Another rainy-day activity is shopping for antiques, down in Brewster, where you can easily run between raindrops, although not an ideal way to spend the day for anyone who is journeying back to Europe! The sand was whipping along the beach yesterday, but the wind is now calm, so a beach walk might be another option with low tide happening around noon? Or, head to the library for a book and curl up with a cup of hot cocoa to wait out the storm …

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Victims of our Own Success

Some time in August I realized I was getting burned out, despite visits from wonderful guests, like the family above from Maryland. Sven and I are delighted our green bed & breakfast has received such an enthusiastic response from the public, but we are gradually realizing an innkeeper cannot give, give, give all the time without being depleted by fall. Sven’s right when he says that we are “victims of our own success…” In a strange way, despite the craziness of non-stop tourists in town, summer is easier because our cottage changeover takes place every one or two weeks. Now bookings are for three, four or five nights. And no, we do not have any help. Three different units change occupants, twice or three times a week. That represents a whole lot of sheets and towels, buckets of homemade granola, baskets of fresh fruit. The rhythm can become exhausting. I have felt it of late when unable to remember names, something I have never had a problem with in my life. We do try to interact with guests, if they show themselves amenable to such behavior. So, it's distressing when the steam of happy new faces becomes a blur. We have had at least three Barbaras. “Remember the small brunette named Barbara?” I’ll say to Sven. “She and her husband were both journalists, and he looked and sounded like John Houston?” “What fascinated me about her is she knew a lot about art in Vienna,” Sven replies, not having drawn a blank at all on these particular folks. Right now we have a couple from England. Hard to forget, because she is at least seven months pregnant, and he swims six laps across Dyer Pond every morning before breakfast. In the cottage, a German family departed today, leaving the place spotless, and an old-er couple (80!) moved in. Our Liberty Coin guests are from East Germany. I chatted with them over breakfast. Since these young men are German, gay, and engineers, they will be easier to remember, no doubt. I find American couples harder to separate in my mind, perhaps because they are less open to socialization. I do remember Amresh and Liz, however. He’s a film professor, and she works for a DVD company that specializes in foreign films. Amresh got Sven to go swimming several times. I guess my husband is an unusual innkeeper with his willingness to walk guests to Dyer Pond and his quadruple masters degrees. Amresh hit the nail on the head when he declared, “When you come to a bed & breakfast, you don’t expect to meet someone who’s really interesting to talk to ...”