Friday, December 31, 2010

To Pack or Not to Pack?

A lot of retired Cape Codders – or, rather folks who have retired to Cape Cod – do not stay here in winter. They often leave our beautiful beaches before the November winds begin to blow off the ocean and return mid-April to smell the spring flowers. Often Florida is the escape of choice. Some people choose to spend a month in Europe, Puerto Rico, or Mexico. The latest trendy destination seems to be Costa Rica. Not many folks leave Cape Cod for Boston. That’s what I will be doing, in order to take a few writing courses at Grub Street. Before leaving, it’s necessary to get everything in order:

Me: “I’m really pleased with myself. I got a lot done today.”

Sven: “You mean in your office?”

Me: “Not only in my office, but also elsewhere. I mean, I’m leaving for two months. That’s a whole lot of organizing to do.

Sven: “Uh-huh.”

Me: “Tomorrow you need to pack. Have you thought about that? After all, you’re going to be away for one month.”

Sven: “One month!!#&#?”

Conclusion: Sven has become a real Cape Codder. The idea of crossing the bridge for a stay in the city apparently has no appeal ...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

End-of-Year Update ...

I cannot believe 2010 is almost over! I have been posting daily to this blog for over one year and a half, sharing numerous photos of the ocean, like the one above, taken at Newcomb Hollow this week, and offering my impressions of Wellfleet, a town for all seasons. In the coming weeks, my posts will become more infrequent because writing a daily place-blog is not something I can very well accomplish from afar. Be sure to check out the Discover Wellfleet site, which offers fabulous photos of our town, as well as tons of information on what's happening here. Did you know W.H.A.T. is holding a Jacques Tati festival this week? Or, that New Year's eve at PB Boulangerie Bistro costs $190 for a five-course meal with champagne and the event is sold out? During the month of January, Stephanie Stiavetti will pinch-hit, reporting on her impressions of living on Cape Cod. I expect Wellfleet to be a totally new experience for this gal from San Francisco. Let's hope it doesn't snow too often or too hard! It will be interesting for us all, myself included, to experience our beloved town through the eyes of a talented writer, who is a newcomer to these parts. I hope you will welcome Stephanie warmly. In the meantime, check out her fabulous blog about eating gluten free at The Culinary Life.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Major Erosion at LeCount Hollow Beach!

Yesterday, no equivocation at the junction of LeCount Hollow Road and Ocean View Drive – the Beach-Closed sign had been placed at the spot where beach guards check stickers in summer, and it was impossible not to see it or notice the concrete blocks preventing access by car. In the distance, a Keep-Out sign decorated a temporary sand berm that protected the wider parking area. Sven and I walked down and carefully stepped over the berm, determined to scope out LeCount Hollow Beach. As we drew closer, I realized the ocean had swept away most of the fence, and taken a large bite out of the sand dune. (In the second photo, below, you can see the broken pavement's edge.) Sand and ice covered most of the parking area, which had been swept clean by the town. While there was no detritus left by the storm, the scene reminded me of the morning after a New Year’s Eve party, where it had gotten so late that no one had bothered to clean up. It felt as if everything was reshuffled. The beach seemed wider than usual and quite impressive, with angry waves still rolling in. We were not the only gawkers. A slow but steady stream of people had parked at the Beach-Closed sign, creating a row of cars in front of the cement blocks. Sven stopped to chat with one couple. The wind was still strong and sand devils twirled their way across what was left of the deserted parking lot. To the left, through barren bushes, I glimpsed the house whose floor and kitchen had been surrendered to the storm, according to local newspapers. How awesome the power of the ocean!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What's New On the Bookshelf?

Squeaky Green by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry was a Christmas gift from one of my daughters. Even I learned a few things from this book. Ryan and Lowry take us on a quick journey through the American home, posting hazard signs where appropriate. What types of products should we avoid, how does one clean safely, where can one find used furniture and avoid flame retardants – the authors present a lot of useful information in a fun way and invite us to join them as recovering users of the toxic products stocked in the local supermarket. Why should we switch to non-toxic? All together now: “Toxic chemicals can cause cancer, asthma, or endocrine disruption and create havoc to our environment!” What did I actually learn? One should dispose of carbon water filters as hazardous waste, rather than throw them in the trash. I was reminded to beware over-sized detergent caps. I discovered cleaning out my washing machine from time to time with one cup of white vinegar might be a good idea. And, dust mites. Oh, got to do something about those dust mites! Seems they are everywhere. Here’s a plan for 2011: get this book, detox your home, then give it to someone you love, who still believes commercials.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Winter Storm!

New England is having a blizzard, but Cape Cod, so far, has gotten sleet and rain. Only one inch of wet snow covers the ground. Sven and I went to the ocean before the storm began. The bottom ten feet of the ramp at Cahoon Hollow had been eaten away by the sea. No doubt there will be much erosion at the various beaches. We did not explore further because it was cold, and windy. The weatherman predicts gusts up to 60 miles per hour this afternoon. We are heating up the house and cottage in case high wind brings down power lines. Outside, the wind is already howling. At such times, I feel grateful to have a hearth and home, a warm bed to snuggle up in, a good book or two to read if the power goes out. I always worry about pipes freezing in such situations. Hopefully that will not happen this time.

Thanks go out to Patrick Burns, who emailed, "Hello. I'm one of the lifeguards at Cape Cod National Seashore, usually stationed at Marconi. I enjoy reading your blog. I found it last spring when you linked to the 'Coastal Geology' photos I took showing the dune erosion along the lower Cape. Here are a few I took yesterday. The lighting and weather made photography tricky so the photos are a bit grainy and blurry, but I did get some that show the Markle house in Ballston, the Murphy house on Nellie Road in Wellfleet, and the end of the parking lot at Lecount Hollow." Patrick included a link to his most recent photos of beach erosion, caused by the storm, which was the most powerful in 50 years.

Do you like wild weather? If so, what do you like about storms and blizzards? Do you think the recent tendency to wild weather is due to climate change?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Beauty of Nature Heals All Wounds

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

There was a line at PB Boulangerie Bistro yesterday at 10:30. It took me fifteen minutes to get inside and buy bread. Since it's Christmas, I bought this "buche de Noel." While the pastry was tasty, I must admit to being disappointed. That's the problem with PB. We have become accustomed to such excellence that anything inferior doesn't cut it. My daughters came yesterday but wanted to dig at old wounds from a divorce twenty-two years ago, not my favorite way to spend the holiday. No merry Christmas at our house, but here's hoping yours is jolly ...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Why I Still Send Out Christmas Cards

Now that Sven and I run a B&B, I contact a few former guests every Christmas. I always think of my mom at this time of year. What pleasure she took in giving and receiving Christmas cards! Who doesn’t like holiday messages of good cheer? I guess that's why I still send out holiday greetings. Addressing Christmas cards is no longer something most people do, which seems like a shame to me, although I did hear on NPR this morning that Cape Cod sends more Christmas cards than any other part of the nation. Anyway, there I sat yesterday, in front of the woodstove, writing cards, a bit later than usual due to my trip to California.

As I turned pages in my address book, it occurred to me that this annual ritual becomes more tedious every year, not because there are more cards to write but for another reason: friends have passed away. I decided to cross off those names in my address book. My mom’s friend Ethel Levy, no longer of this world. Ken Kimball, who moved from Massachusetts to Maine, also deceased. My daughter’s favorite teacher, not with us anymore. But fortunately there are new names to add as well …

We received a lovely card from a French/German couple who stayed at Chez Sven last May. Helene wrote, “Thank you again for your hospitality at Seagull Cottage. It was like a paradise after visiting Washington and New York.”

My absolute favorite card for 2010 is the beauty above. I did not know Ernst ter Haar was an artist. We have received Ernst and his wife twice now. Ernst is originally from Holland. Toinette is African-American from Pennsylvania. The card shows half his face, and half her face. In the middle sits their son, in an inner tube, holding what looks like a toy gun. The title is "American Family." (The card, for sale to benefit Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund, seems to be all sold out, since no longer on the Web site, but you might want to visit anyway and bookmark for 2011.)

Besides Christmas cards, I send out a New Year’s greeting every year to former guests, the French way. France has this great tradition: cards at New Year’s, rather than Christmas. And, you get the whole month of January to remember to send them…

Does anyone else out there still send Christmas cards?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What's New On the Bookshelf?

It’s rare that an airport purchase surpasses expectations of minor distraction, but Half Broke Horses did just that. The red and black jacket stood out on the display. The photo of three kids from another era intrigued me. The unusual title was vaguely familiar. Then I read the first page and was sold. Half Broke Horses did not disappoint. This memoir is dubbed a “True-Life Novel” because author Jeannette Walls, who tells her grandmother’s story, based on fact, has filled in the details with her imagination. I loved the voice of Lilly Casey Smith who, in the first chapter, manages to save two siblings from a flash flood. She describes the hardscrabble life in Texas and Arizona, pre-World War I, in a very matter-of-fact kind of way. There were not many professional choices for strong women at the time. At 15, Lilly becomes a teacher, rather than a nurse or a secretary, then saddles up and rides 28 days to her first one-room-school assignment. The other star of this book is the Wild West, with its bright blue skies, dust, and sagebrush. I had finished reading by the time I reached home. Apparently, Jeannette Walls has also written a great memoir, translated into 23 languages. I ordered The Glass Castle through the Wellfleet Library yesterday evening. Have you read it?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What Tide Do You Prefer?

My favorite tide is outgoing low. In other words, walking a beach right before the tide turns and starts coming in again. Here are four photos taken at low tide in spring, summer, fall and winter. Let's take a vote. Which tide do you prefer?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hydro-Fracking Opponents Obtain Moratorium

There's no shale on Cape Cod, just sand. That's why our utility company's plan to spray herbicides under the power lines is such a bad idea. Toxic chemicals will filter down into our sole-source aquifer. We drink this water. In thinking about water, which we have not done here for a while, it's important to remember the battle being waged in New York and Pennsylvania where some legislators think injecting toxic chemicals into the ground to recover natural gas deposits is okay. It's not. New York State residents were able to obtain a moratorium until May 2011. Check out the details:

What Really Happened? Did We Win or Lose?

On Saturday, Governor Paterson issued an executive order barring horizontally-drilled high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York State until July, 2011. At the same time, he vetoed a bill that would have barred all hydraulic fracturing in the state until May, 2011. .

Fact: New York is the first state in the union to legally impose a statewide moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF).

"Fact: The governor and both houses of the state legislature have called for a moratorium on HVHF because of substantial health and safety concerns.

Fact: By the time the executive order expires in July 2011, New York will have held off HVHF for three years-some HVHF well permit applications will have been sitting on the shelf in Albany for more than two and a half years.

Fact: Under the new executive order nothing is permitted now that was not already allowed under the de facto moratorium that's been in effect since June 2008.

At heart, the ultimate success of our efforts will depend upon one thing and one thing only-our ability to educate people about the realities of fracking. This was made evident last summer when two polls showed that an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers want nothing to do with fracking once they understand the risks involved. Every day that we can delay HVHF is another opportunity to provide the public with the facts."

For more information, go to Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Brooke’s Advice

One of our summer guests, a charming young woman from France, shared a letter from an American friend who loves Wellfleet. The friend’s take on our town is fascinating, especially her recommendation of the Beachcomber, which I try to avoid:

“Great news! I’m so glad you will be in Wellfleet. Here are my recs:

1.) The Beachcomber for lunch, or later, for music. This beach bar on top of the dune is the single best spot in Wellfleet. It gets pretty crowded during daytime and sometimes the parking lot fills. You might have to pay for parking, but then they give you a voucher for food. The person at the B&B can tell you how to get there.
2.) Any of the beaches are beautiful. All the ocean beaches are located off Ocean View Drive. You will need to purchase a pass though in advance to park at the beaches. You can ask the person at the B&B where to get this pass. Cahoon Hollow is the one the Beachcomber is on. If you get there early and park before 11 you can walk up the dune and go to the Beachcomber for lunch.
3.) If you get a parking pass, you can use it to park at the ponds. If you need to cool off, or go for a quick swim, try Great Pond. If you want to canoe/kayak, choose Gull Pond. It’s neat how two ponds are connected by a small stream. Again, the person at the B&B can tell you how to get there. I don’t recommend hanging out at the pond’s beach as there are too many screaming kids.
4.) If you are in the mood for a pretty hike that takes you through woodlands and marshes (several different landscapes), you can visit MA Bay Wildlife Sanctuary on Route 6. The person at the B&B can also show you how to get to Great Island. You can hike there. It is on the bay, not the ocean. Therefore, when the sun sets, it does so behind the water, just like it looks when the sun sets in California. It is one of the few places on the East Coast where you can see the sun setting behind water. It is nice to bring wine and cheese and watch the sun set. Wellfleet has some of the most interesting nature and landscapes I have ever seen.
5.) Wellfleet also has a drive-in movie theater and a regular indoor cinema. That’s fun if you like drive-in.
6.) The Flying Fish café is the best place hands-down for breakfast. Their pancakes are amazingly good although the service can be slower. For dinner, try Moby Dick’s, right on Route 6. Delicious seafood, lobster, etc. There is usually a long line but it moves quickly. You can bring your own wine. So, you can drink as you wait in line, which makes the wait go faster. I don’t think the others are that great. There are a lot of bad ones, so be careful.”

Hmmm. Good advice for the most part. Respectfully, I do not agree about the restaurants, but I like the way this person suggested consulting the innkeeper, which is the best way to get tips on what to see and do locally ….

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dreaming of Wellfleet ...

Today I'm posting from afar, rainy Southern California, to be exact. I opened my email this morning to find a musical greeting from the Cape Cod Modern House Trust.

Seeing images of "our" woods and ponds, in the snow, made me long for Wellfleet. Winter there is very special, a quiet time for reflection and renewal.

I spoke on the phone this morning with Laura Kelley, who attended the second-to-last Ad Hoc Vegetation Management meeting in Barnstable yesterday. Laura pointed out that the science proposed by our utility company is 30 years old. Herbicides like Glyphosate (Round-Up) have been banned in some countries. Emerging science, from the past two years, tells us that herbicides are not as safe as the chemical companies want us to believe. The more I read, the more I realize corporate interests control our country. Laura is right to stand firm on protecting fragile Cape Cod and our water supply. I am proud to know this ferocious soul who speaks the truth.

A few months ago, I went to town hall and read Annual Reports from the early 1980s. I was surprised to find pages and pages detailing characteristics of certain herbicides used at the time in Wellfleet. I was struck by how different the attitude was back then. Over the last 25 years, chemical companies have succeeded in deluding us. How successful their marketing arm! We have been lulled into a stupor, happy to believe toxic chemicals can be used without any consequences. This is simply fallacy. Just yesterday Time Magazine ran an article about recent research on autism. The article indicates that living within 1000 feet of a major highway in Los Angeles raises the risk of autism in small children. They are subjected to breathing in toxins every day.

From the film "A Chemical Reaction," I learned how a town in Canada banned herbicides. This act of defiance pushed the chemical industry to action. The result was the preemption state laws here in the USA. Only 13 states refused. (A preemption law means that a law created at town level cannot be enforced if it is contrary to a state law. Since MA state law allows herbicides, Wellfleet is not free to ban them.)

Body burden has been a concern of mine ever since I watched Bill Moyers react to learning about the toxic chemicals in his own body. We have been subjected to a massive experiment. It's time to say, "Enough!"

When I look at the pristine images of Wellfleet in the Cape Cod Modern House video above, I'm reminded of the power of nature. We will need a lot of it as we struggle against the corporate stranglehold on our country over the coming years ....

Friday, December 17, 2010

7 Great Gifts for Fans of Wellfleet

The holiday season is here. Why not surprise your loved ones with a gift that reminds them of "Wellfleet!", the town we all love the best? Here are six suggestions that can be purchased online:

For Moby Dick fans, ie. practically everyone: a stainless steel water bottle from Moby’s Cargo.

For the sophisticate in your life: a 36” square silk scarf created by the artists of Matenwa, Haiti, designed by local artist Ellen LeBow and available at Ra Ra.

For friends who winter in Wellfleet: a Bookstore gift certificate.

For all your sweeties who crave chocolate: chocolate oysters from Wellfleet Candy Company.

For sweeties who prefer jam: Briar Lane jams and jellies.

For the whole family: an eco-platter, full of oysters, from Mac’s Seafood.

And, for those of us who prefer to use the phone:

For your favorite chef: a PB apron. No online service yet, but if you call and provide a credit card number, this unique item can be shipped.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How To Keep Kids Busy At Wellfleet's Mayo Beach

Mayo Beach, at low tide, is the perfect place for children. Here's a game I invented. You give each child a list of objects. The goal is to see who can find the most items on the list:

1.) The whitest feather
2.) The biggest clam shell
3.) The smallest oyster shell
4.) The shiniest mussel shell
5.) The prettiest stone
6.) A sand dollar
7.) The most colorful piece of plastic
8.) A broken balloon or a Lego
9.) The most interesting piece of driftwood.
10.) A discarded horseshoe crab shell.

This game is a great way to discuss both nature and plastic pollution, as well as which man-made objects should not be washing up on our beaches. It can be played at any season, even in inclement weather. When my kids were small, it was easy to find the final item, but today there are fewer horseshoe crabs around. If you played a game like this with your children or as children, what else was on your list?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Prizes Galore at WHAT's Online Auction

Question: What is more spectacular than this winter sunset over Wellfleet Harbor?

Answer: The amazing array of items available at WHAT’s annual online auction.

Have you ever dreamed of going on an African safari? How about spending Christmas week in New York City in a luxury apartment? Do you need a new resume? How about a back massage? Or, would you prefer thrills to start the New Year aboard Jeff Zinn’s silver BMW R1150RS?

These items all await bidders. I know which one I want. How about you?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wellfleetian Organizes American Friends of Georgia Gala

Marusya Chavchavadze’s face lights up when she describes her work. Marusya is Executive Director of American Friends of Georgia (AFG) and a year-round resident of Wellfleet. Recently she organized a gala in Tbilisi to celebrate the non-profit’s 15th anniversary. American, European and Georgian corporations bought tables, many at the last minute. A 70-member jazz band provided atmosphere. A Canadian auctioneer convinced guests, from ambassadors to bank presidents, that they would not regret bidding on such items as paintings by Georgian artists and international trips. By evening’s end, AFG had raised $47,500. The money will be used to fund two worthy projects. The first sends Georgian children with leukemia to Germany for radiation treatment. The second provides vocational training for internally displaced persons, most of whom lost homes in Ossetia in 2008.

“Everyone said it was a very high-quality event,” Marusya told me proudly this weekend. “We’ve gotten to the point where people over there, in the know, realize AFG is doing something to help the most vulnerable populations.” She teams up with Lena Kiladze, who is Executive Director on the ground in Georgia. “We are trying to reintroduce the concept of philanthropy,” Marusya explained.

Looks like the two women are succeeding. This charity gala was quite the event, and several corporate donors, impressed by the level of press coverage, signed on for long-term relationships. One Israeli even suggested hospitals in his country should be considered as an alternative to travel to Germany ...

For more details, visit the AFG Web site. While there, how about making a tax-deductible donation? Marusya said she would be happy to hear from anyone who has friends on the boards of American foundations if you have already maxed out on contributions for 2010. Wellfleetians probably remember the colorful textiles sold in past years on behalf of AFG at Oysterfest and at the “Deck This Hall” crafts fair. It’s also possible to make a targeted donation, which will allow AFG to be present at such local events in 2011.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wellfleet’s Fourth Annual “Deck This Hall” a Success!

What has 15 hands, 30 feet, and one head? That would be Wellfleet’s Preservation Hall Board, of course. Members work well together, walk in step, and seem to have singular vision. I saw five of them during the half-hour I spent at the crafts fair and wreath pageant yesterday. What a joyous occasion it was! If you missed “Deck This Hall” because of the inclement weather, let me share my impressions without wasting any more time. The wreaths were set up in the future great hall, along un-insulated walls, and on tables. To the left, Tracy Plaut, one of the main organizers, assigns numbers for the silent auction.

Crafts people had set up stands both upstairs and down. Lots of fun Christmas gifts were available for sale. Cape Codders were buying candy, Wellfleet greeting cards, pottery, T-shirts, jewelry, tote bags made of recycled material, and much, much more. During the afternoon, it was possible to tour the renovated building. At the doorway, Dede Ledkovsky hawked lottery tickets. Santa came at 1 pm, stopping at the Lighthouse Restaurant, a few doors up Main Street.

And, of course, there were the wreaths. I loved Kim Shkapich and Jim Lotti’s train tracks and Lego creation with the words LOVE and HOPE spelled out in wooden blocks. Professional landscaper Victoria Pecoraro dreamed up For The Birds, Too, which offered birds a home and food. The bidding began at $75 for this wreath. At 1:30, the price was up to $90. By the end of the day, most of the wreaths had found homes.

Just look at the beautiful stained glass windows from the former Catholic Church! The renovation may not yet be complete, but it was clear that the space is already serving its purpose: bringing the community together. Friends would hug as they went from wreath to wreath and stall to stall. “I know you!” someone exclaimed behind me. “I see you all the time. I’m Teresa!” Wherever I looked, people embraced.

Before leaving, I stopped on the front steps to speak with Prez. Hall Vice President Anne Suggs, who said in a wistful voice, “We were standing in there last night, imagining it when the walls are actually white!”

What was she referring to? Completion of our marvelous GREEN community center and the wedding ceremonies that will take place in Preservation Hall, starting in June, as well as, seven months later, the 5th Annual “Deck This Hall” 2011. Mark your calendars now!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why I Enjoy Going to the Beach in Late Fall ...

What I like about the beach at this time of the year is the suspense: you never know what the ocean will look like until you get there. Yesterday we went to Newcomb Hollow at low tide, and the Atlantic was quiet as a lamb. Waves lapped at the shore. Blue water stretched to the horizon. A gentle breeze was blowing. The contrast between the blue sea and the beige sand was striking. The sand had been reconfigured yet again, so that the top part of the beach was higher and almost reached the level of the parking lot, and the lower part sloped dramatically. This new configuration made it difficult to walk along the shoreline, so we did not stay long. We hope access to LeCount Hollow has been repaired after recent erosion. It will be interesting to see how the winter storms affect Wellfleet's beaches. There were a lot of people in town for "Deck This Hall" weekend, mostly non-residents, as far as I could tell, back to check on their summer homes one last time in 2010. Quite a few were out enjoying this rare day at the beach. Tomorrow I will report on the Preservation Hall Wreath Pageant. Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Yummy Holiday Treats Abound At PB Boulangerie Bistro

Oh, my. Yesterday I stopped in at PB for bread, on the way home from Orleans. The man in front of me in line was having "one of this, and one of that," a slice of pizza, a lemon tart, an almond croissant. He left with a paper bag full of lusciousness. I was stuck in front of the pastry case during his order. Now that the holidays are here, PB seems to be producing buches de Noel almost every day. The "buche de Noel," which translates as "Christmas log," is a traditional treat, available in bakeries in France, during the holiday season. So far, at PB, I have seen individual slices that seem to have raspberry filling, and others with chocolate. They look yummy, but fattening. It's almost as if the pastry chef is trying to decide which type of buche he/she prefers making. Sometimes the whole buche is for sale. The chocolate buches I saw yesterday made me swoon, but I restrained myself and requested a loaf of bread instead, as usual.

"Anything else?" asked the young lady in green, polite as can be.

"Let me have that apricot tart, please," I muttered, succumbing in one fell swoop.

Fruit doesn't make you gain weight, now does it?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Snow's Wins Raves at Christmastime

During the holidays I'm always reminded that Cape Cod has its own super store, a place to find just about anything. My mom used to love shopping here. Anyone who has lived on the Outer Cape knows I'm referring to Snow's Home & Garden Center, our "department" store, located off Main Street in Orleans.

At Snow's, the salesmen and women are amiable, knowledgeable about the merchandise, and eager to help out. They position themselves throughout the store and greet customers as if we were all neighbors. Shopping becomes such fun that you barely notice the dollars flowing out of your wallet. No, actually, I should add the prices are quite reasonable. The problem is the choice. Whoever does the buying for Snow's has a discerning eye. When I go in, I usually want everything.

I had paused this morning to examine a display of books about Cape Cod, below, when I overheard someone talking to a guy named Dexter about the assortment of Christmas decorations. Dexter was saying supplies are selling out faster than last year, which is a good indication the economy must be improving. "We don't know why, but things are going great," he concluded.

Over in Christmas tree ornaments, Ken was chatting with some other shoppers. He told me the fake trees are already half gone. "People like this store," Ken added, when I expressed surprise.

In years past, I have found great gifts for Sven's grandkids in the toy section. The housewares aisles can't be beat. Linens are chosen with care. There's a wide selection of curtains and candles. Snow's sells paint, too. This store even offers the handyman in your life hardware and gadgets to ogle while you are busy shopping. But, what really makes Snow's the place to Xmas-shop must be the trains display, bigger and better than ever. Kids and adults alike become mesmerized. When Sven accompanies me, he becomes a child again. I think he could stand there forever. These trains are every little boy's dream come true. Snow's trains have proved so popular that one of the tracks now stays up all year.

Have you shopped at Snow's while on vacation? Does your town have a similar family department store that isn't a chain? Have you finished your Christmas shopping?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Preservation Hall to Hold Weekend Crafts Fair

The latest reports indicate a risk of flame retardant in butter (Philadelphia Inquirer) and BPA on dollar bills (Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow and CNN). I assume BPA is also rubbing off onto fives, tens, and twenties after close proximity to cash register receipts. Perhaps gloves will come back into vogue? Instead of such somber thoughts, let's think about this weekend's "Deck This Hall" event in downtown Wellfleet to benefit Preservation Hall. There hasn't been much publicity, so a lot of folks may not be aware of what's in store, although today's Provincetown Banner brought an article about last week's wreathing party. This morning I made a second wreath. I'm calling it "Birds' Organic Delight." Santa will come to Main Street, of course. Local merchants will be selling their wares in booths on Sunday. In fact, this year's crafts fair will be bigger and better than ever. Check out the full calendar here and come on down!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Why Re-investment in Chez Sven Makes Sense

Above, the newly sanded floor in Seagull Cottage. Sven and I believe that re-investment in one's business is the way to go. Seagull Cottage is already one of the nicest accommodations in Wellfleet. Ten years of coming and going had left black spots near the doors. Now the spots are gone thanks to Old Towne Floors, a Wellfleet business. We like to hire fellow Wellfleetians, as much as possible. Some people, like my daughters, for instance, would probably say we should have saved the money used for the cottage renovation. They are worried about my having no retirement savings, a concern I understand. But I think it's also good to help the local economy. This morning I was talking to Angelo, the marvelous lab technician at Outer Cape Health. He kept repeating how happy he was to have a job. A lot of people don't. And, investment in one's own business makes perfect sense. There's a good chance one of the other inns in Wellfleet may soon close. That's right, Chez Sven's main competitor will change hands, and there's no guarantee the new owners will choose to be innkeepers, with a seasonal economy, during a recession that never seems be over. I cannot end this post without asking everyone to take a stand on the latest madness in Washington. Please read the excellent summary at Time Goes By. I did not vote for President Obama to have him cave to smug Republicans. Social Security is in jeopardy with this latest proposal. Oy! What is this country coming to?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Support Locals Through the Wellfleet Food Pantry

No one wants to admit to being in dire straits, but Sven and I have been hearing echos of need more and more often. People hold yard sales, accept lower wages. Businesses cut back. Remaining personnel work harder for their salaries. The service trades folks are overjoyed with every job they get. So many people are hurting, and Christmas is right around the corner.

On excursions into town, Sven always asks folks how they're doing. There's evidence that although service jobs still exist, more and more large firms are laying off workers. The recession is hard on almost everyone, not only contractors and carpenters, but society as a whole, including Chamber of Commerce members whose regular customers are out-of-work, folks who not only cannot afford these beautiful cards at the stationary store but have missed out on local oysters for quite some time now and may sit home eating cat food instead.

Yesterday I received the following email:

"The Wellfleet Community Forum is appealing to residents, non-residents, visitors, and businesses on behalf of those in need at this time of year. We are most fortunate to be a part of a special place endowed with natural beauty and caring folks. When the tourist season ends and the cold weather sets in, there is a dearth of jobs and other ways for people to provide, especially during these difficult economic times ... One way we can assist our neighbors is to contribute to the Food Pantry. The pantry is in particular need of non-food items not covered by food stamps such as tissues, cleaning supplies, and toiletries. There are donation boxes at several locations in town including the library, COA, Wellfleet Market Place and Grace Chapel Assembly of God (the location of the food pantry). We encourage a contribution of any food or non-food item to these collection boxes. However, some might find it more convenient to send a check. Money is very useful as the Food Pantry is able to purchase food items from the Greater Boston Food Bank at very reasonable rates as well as buy other items in bulk or on sale. Please realize no contribution is too small. Consider sharing what you can with others in this community. Checks can be made out to the Wellfleet Food Pantry, PO Box 625, South Wellfleet MA 02663."

Some bloggers have a tip jar and ask for contributions. If you read this blog and enjoy it, I ask not for a contribution for myself this holiday season, but that you make one for Wellfleetians in need. We had a great season at Chez Sven, with lots of guests from abroad. Not everyone was so fortunate. Show some solidarity this holiday season with folks in our town, the place you love the most. As I wrote in an earlier post this fall, requests for food assistance is up 40%.

Republicans and Tea Baggers sound off on socialism, but I don't agree with them. I think we need to look out for our fellow man, which is what socialism is all about. I sent my check out this morning. How about you?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Thoughts on Being a Place-Blogger ....

What a charming little town! Wellfleet offers two great places to meet people. One is the library, of course. The other? Our Swap Shop. Yesterday I deposited a plant at the Swap Shop door and stepped inside. Sven followed close behind. A curly-haired man was perusing the day’s offerings.

“I liked your blog about the turkeys,” he said in a chipper voice.

Not sure if I had understood, I glanced at Sven to judge his reaction.

“It should be fun …” The man’s fingers started furiously typing on an imaginary keyboard. “Your trip to practice writing.”

This statement made me raise my eyebrows, realizing here was yet another stranger who reads Chezsven Blog and enjoys it. When you write a place-blog about life in a small town, I guess encountering readers is to be expected.

Sven held out his hand. “I’m …”

“Sven. Yes, I know. Name’s Mark.” The man turned back to me. “I like the way you write about the realities of Wellfleet in these tough economic times. Like how they’re teaching the kids at school to eat fresh food, but it’s more expensive, and not everyone can buy it.”

This new Elementary School initiative is a topic I have not yet covered but apparently should. I’ve heard about the school nurse and her plan to start a vegetable garden, the way a group of parents have done in Truro, surely material for a blog post in the spring.

We also discussed Noam Chomsky, who owns a house here, and Sven told Mark about the online interview we had just read on Chomsky’s reaction to Wikileaks. I bet Noam Chomsky likes Wellfleet because he can go about his business without harassment. We’re good to our celebrities in this town.

I was a minor celebrity once. When I did radio in France, my photo was plastered across one third of all the buses in metropolitan Paris for a full week, much to my daughters’ chagrin because their friends kept asking, “Isn’t that your mom’s picture?” At the beginning of every show, I would say, “C’est Sandy Beach…” (Yup, my radio name was Sandy Beach) “…en direct du petit studio de CVS…” (NOT the pharmacy) “…et je vous invite á vous promener sur les ondes avec moi.”

In a way, with this place-blog, I've started up those walks again ….

Sunday, December 05, 2010

How Would You Describe the Ocean?

As we were climbing back up the dune at Newcomb Hollow Beach yesterday afternoon, it occurred to me how very many words are appropriate in describing the Atlantic on a nice late fall day. Here are the adjectives I came up with (and, I admit, I got a bit of help in this game from my brother, the former editor.) The Atlantic Ocean, A to Z.

If you want to contribute your own suggestions, please do:


Saturday, December 04, 2010

May the Chemical Wars begin!

Yesterday I drove down to Barnstable for one of the final Ad Hoc Vegetation Management Risk Analysis Committee meetings. It was organic landscaper Laura Kelley’s turn to speak. Laura described walking the rights-of-way passages, under the power lines, and finding evidence of past herbicidal spraying, barren areas where nothing has grown back, one of which is in Wellfleet. She explained how rights-of-way passages are used by folks walking dogs, and by children at play. The State of Massachusetts Children’s Act of 2000 protects kids at school. Shouldn’t children also be protected while walking the power lines? She then described three of the five herbicides the utility company intends to use and warned that testing has not been done on a combination of these products. In Holyoke, MA, the area beside the town’s water supply has been granted an exemption from spraying. Laura argued that here on Cape Cod, we sit above our water supply. Polluting it with traces of toxic chemicals makes no sense. Alternatives are possible, like what she called a “Green Carpet” plan, where low-growing natives species, like blueberries, could be encouraged to grow. “It’s clear we can live without herbicides,” Laura concluded and suggested following the Precautionary Principle because, “we don’t fully know what the effects may be.”

I was watching the representatives of our utility company, present at the table, who became more and more agitated as the presentation went on. I got the impression that these men truly do not understand what the fuss is all about. “It’s the purity of our drinking water that’s at stake here,” I wanted to shout.

Chair County Commissoner Sheila Lyons pointed out that Barnstable County looked into banning herbicide spraying, as did individual Cape Cod towns. “We don’t have that ability,” she declared. The utility company is simply “one entity that will contribute to the problem. The biggest contributor is ourselves.”

Did you know Mashpee is one of the two Cape Cod towns where the spraying will not take place? This fortunate situation is due to the fact Mashpee enacted a ban in 1981, before the State Preemption laws were created. Some background: I learned from the film “A Chemical Reaction” that Hudson, Canada, succeeded in banning herbicides in 1991, and this act of defiance made the chemical lobby push back hard to prevent similar bans by individual towns in the USA. Only nine states were able to resist. (Check whether your state adopted the State Preemption Laws.)

We all have a lot to learn about toxic chemicals in the environment. I admit I used to be ignorant. A dozen years I tried to kill my mother’s Virginia creeper with Round-up. Now I know how dangerous Glyphosate can be. During Laura’s presentation, turf specialist Finbar Phelan explained how he had switched from using pesticides to compost tea for the safety of his staff. He described restoring biology to the soil, mentioned how toxic Glyphosate is, and stated, “There’s a better way to do it.”

No two ways about it. Herbicides kill. (“Cides” indicates a product that kills. Anyone who has studied Latin will remember this suffix comes from the verb caedo.)

A few months ago I went to town hall and checked the annual reports dating back to the early 1980s. I discovered Wellfleet did not enact a similar ban to Mashpee’s. What I found fascinating, however, is how worried Board of Health members were at the time. They detailed the herbicides to be used in town and used several paragraphs to describe each synthetic chemical. It’s tragic that the chemical industry has managed to make the world believe herbicides are safe. They aren’t.

Science is catching up slowly. The old maxim “the dose makes the poison” no longer applies. Now researchers are realizing even trace amounts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals have negative effects when ingested or absorbed through the skin, as with BPA.

I learned this week that the California legislature has had the bad sense to allow a new pesticide for strawberries, one that is a neurotoxin, methyl iodide. Read about it here.

If you want to join the struggle against pesticides, I suggest making a contribution to one of the many environment groups now active in the county. The one I support is Environmental Working Group, which has a great pre-Christmas offer. Check it out!

The good news is more and more people are waking up and becoming educated on the dangers of living in a toxic world. They are demanding that Congress rein in synthetic chemicals, of which thousands exist now with no regulation whatsoever. We must stop this chemical madness and protect our planet and ourselves. May the Chemical Wars begin!

Friday, December 03, 2010

A December Day in the Life

First thing this morning I rushed to Barnstable to hear my friend Laura Kelley do her presentation to the Ad Hoc Vegetation Management Meeting, chaired by Sheila Lyons, and will share my impressions tomorrow. I drove down Route 6A, with its stone walls and picket fences, such a pretty drive, which I often recommend to guests as an alternative to the highway. On the way back I stopped in Harwich for more ceiling paint, as well as in Orleans for flowers and organic fruit. Those of you who follow this blog may remember that we are in the midst of renovating Seagull Cottage. The insulation is done, as is the wallboard. Sven painted the walls this week, but ran out of ceiling paint. The floors are to be sanded on Monday. When Phillipe Rispoli, at PB Boulangerie Bistro, asked if we had room for a special friend of his, I could not say no. So, this afternoon Sven and I attacked the Herculean job of putting the cottage back together. This was no small task. Above, proof that we succeeded. I should have taken a Before photo, as well, but you will have to use your imagination: empty rooms, plastic all over the floor, etc. Whoops! I forgot the flowers. Now the room looks perfect, almost. Again, I was reminded that at 63 and 72, we really are not young enough for the arduous work innkeeping sometimes entails, but, as Sven pointed out, I probably should have simply said no to guests in the cottage this weekend. At 5pm, I stuck a roast in the oven, then made the bed and cleaned the bathroom. We had dinner at 6. Our Green Room guests arrived at 7. I'm heading to bed, but Sven will stay up and greet Philippe's friend who is to arrive at midnight. What a busy day!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

How Looking Forward to a Vacation Influences Mood

This afternoon Sven and I went down to the sea at low tide, in search of exercise (Sven) and serenity (me). Newcomb Hollow was deserted except for one lone person walking a black dog. The wide expanse of beach stretched out in the distance. The only sound was waves, crashing at the ocean's edge.

The beach, in winter, turns this amazing shade of powder blue, visible above. It's partially the color scheme that does so much for the spirit. Beige and light blue forever, if you ask me.

Sven and I chatted a bit about The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, which we saw last night at WHAT, but I really had other things on my mind. As we walked along, I thought about my vacation, in the near future now, and it occurred to me how important this period of time is, weeks spent in anticipation, where you can look forward to a totally different experience.

I know some of you have commented in the past about looking forward to your week or two in Wellfleet every summer, explaining that the idea of escape to Cape Cod is what keeps you going the rest of the year. I don't think it really has to do with place though, because leaving Wellfleet, for me, has nothing to do with it. Rather human nature makes us long for something different, sort of like the grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side-of-the-fence-syndrome. In my case, I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to spend time in Boston and take a few writing courses, an activity so very different from innkeeping. And, it's this idea that puts me in a happy state of mind.

Once a wise lady in France told me we always should have something to look forward to, and I think she was right. What do you think? What do you look forward to and does the anticipation period put you in a superior mood?