Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Chez Sven is Featured in Nordic Way!

Today I received the June issue of Nordic Way. Since its articles are not yet posted on the Web, I decided to copy out this lovely piece by Anders Neumeuller for all our blog readers to enjoy:

“Once upon a time Sven Rudstrom’s grandmother ran an inn in Eksharad in the province of Varmland. Now he is following in her footsteps, albeit in a scaled down version, at his Chez Sven Bed and Breakfast in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Here you can sample the best of Swedish hospitality a la Cape Cod in one of two cottages set in a lovely garden.

Located in one of the oldest houses in Wellfleet, Chez Sven is tucked away in the woods along Old King’s Highway, a scenic dirt road that has a history of being used by tax collectors in colonials times. Atlantic beaches are two miles away, and you are close to the National Seashore Park, several fresh water ponds, and the center of Cape Cod’s “art gallery town”.

Apart from being a “green" B& B, where you sleep on “100% organic cotton sheets laundered with non-toxic washing powder” and get freshly baked bread served with homemade organic yogurt and “Peace” coffee in the morning, Chez Sven’s greatest asset is its two hosts. They can give you an insider’s view of Cape Cod, but above all share their interesting life stories.

The couple met in Paris where Alexandra Grabbe, of Russian aristocratic background, had been a housewife and a radio personality and where Sven-Olof Rudstrom worked as a teacher at the International Lycee in St. Germain.

Like all Varmland folks, Sven is full of stories and “quite a raconteur” according to his wife. And as he has taught history of art, psychology, religion and social science, there is a lot of substance in what he talks about. As a young man he was fascinated by Sweden’s northernmost city of Kiruna, where you really experience the midnight sun. An avid skier, he decided to live here with his first family. Even after his divorce, he stayed on for seventeen years bringing up two of his four sons there.

Alexandra and Sven moved to Cape Cod to be close to her aging parents. Sven brought his love for the outdoors and practical “Swedish can-do” with him. He renovated the house and cottages with love and respect and, above all, keeping them allergen-free. During the renovations he found a 1798 Lady Liberty penny under the floor, hence you can today stay at Chez Sven’s Liberty Coin Suite with antiques and hand-crafted period reproductions. Guests can also stay amid the flowers in Seagull Cottage, an independent building with a full kitchen.

The high season is July, August and September, but the B&B stays open all year round. Among last year’s visitors was a Swedish-American actress whose boyfriend realized that he had actually lived in what was not the B&B as an adolescent. He also told his hosts that his father had entertained Faye Dunnaway in the house some forty years ago. Another couple chose the B& B for a romantic rendezvous – he drove down from Montreal and she few up from Baltimore. They returned a month later and he proposed. Alexandra and Sven are invited to their wedding!”

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Sven went off to Sweden for his annual family get-together this week. It is rather lonely without him, quiet. In Sweden, everyone is celebrating "midsommar" today. It is also the official start of tourist season for Cape Cod's bed & breakfasts. Thunderstorms are predicted all week. Now thunderstorms do not necessarily mean bad beach weather. Usually the rain comes late in the afternoon. It was sunny for most of the day. I bet the beaches were wonderful. I got to go for a walk last Monday, when my brother was visiting. There was no mung. The water was clear and beautiful. Children were frolicking on the beach. Up in the parking lot, I spotted lovers staring out to sea. The ocean really is mesmerizing. The first thing I would do were I a visitor is hurry up Long Pond Road to Ocean View Drive. We had three couples arrive today. None of them rushed out. I guess they liked what they found here at Chez Sven.

The last thing Sven did was complete the outdoor shower. He did a great job. I’m sure it is the fanciest one in town. I haven’t figured out how to turn off the water from the outside, but at least I have been able to get it to work. Our cottage guests seem very pleased with the idea of being able to shower en plein air.

We are full, totally booked all weekend. We even have a clever couple in the Studio, the best deal in town. The Chamber of Commerce monthly flyer announced some members were having trouble filling rooms this year. Not us! Check out this wonderful review on Best Green Hotels Web site.

An oriole built its nest in the maple next to Seagull Cottage. The bird streaks back and forth, feeding its young. Every time it reaches the nest, the babies start clamoring for food. It will be fun to watch them learn to fly. And, our wild turkey has all the neighbors talking. She struts her stuff every day now, on the edge of the garden, babies in tow. I took a photo of her through the screen in the dining room. How close she was!

Last July a journalist wondered off the street into Stone Lion Inn. They got the most amazing review. If that would only happen to us. I can see the headline now: EXOTIC WILDLIFE AT GREEN HOTEL...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Two Small Eateries en Route & Mac’s Shack

If hunger strikes in Eastham, two noteworthy options exist, right on Route 6.

If you like Pizza, stop at the Red Barn. The chef uses both traditional and fresh, imaginative ingredients. Slices of three types of pizza are always available and can be reheated in minutes. Sven and I stop at the Red Barn a lot in winter on the way back from Orleans. We like Toby’s Special but recommend everything else we have tried, too.

A tad further along, after the Brackett Road intersection, there is a new Thai restaurant tucked away between an ice cream shop and a bike rental place. If you are organized, call ahead for take-out (508 240 3888). Royal Thai serves most of its traditional dishes fast. The food is tasty and relatively cheap.

Mac’s Shack in Wellfleet opened last week, replacing the well-established Lobster Hutt on Commercial Street. The exterior makeover is fantastic, including brilliant reorganization of the parking lot. Inside, the picnic tables remain. Here is Sven, on his way back from eyeballing the raw bar. We ordered the tuna special. It was served with fresh spinach and garlic mashed potatoes. While the food was excellent, the noise level is still problematic. That didn’t stop diners with children from packing the place. Special mention goes to the sushi, made on the premises, and the Thai-influenced dishes: scrumptious!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Dog Days

It is hot outside. The dog days of summer have begun. The dog-less days, too. Starting this weekend, beach stickers are required for access to all Wellfleet beaches, and beachgoers are kindly requested to leave their canine friends at home. In Wellfleet, during high season, dogs without a lease are only welcome on the beach after 4 pm.

In winter, when Sven and I have more time to beachwalk, we often meet people out walking their dogs. Sometimes the dogs are walking their people. The animals always run up to Sven, waggling their tail. Unfortunately, he cannot touch them due to allergies.

My neighbor Judy Rhodes has a new dog because her beloved Molly passed away last month. “Pal” is cute as a button. Now I am not a dog person, but I took a liking to Pal immediately. I also could see how extremely happy he makes Judy. She runs a bed & breakfast up the road and was very supportive last year when I was learning the ropes. I am glad she has found such a nice companion.

I remember one pouch Sven and I saw last winter, an extremely good Frisbee player. He had his owner trained to throw the Frisbee down onto the beach, over and over. This was at Lecount Hollow on a very misty spring day. The Lab would retrieve the Frisbee joyously, running back up the dune to deposit the object at his owner’s feet. (I remember thinking I wished I could throw myself into some mindless activity with such abandon!)

Dogs are also not welcome at Wellfleet ponds in the summer, a regulation which makes more sense that the ocean prohibition. This dog is sad because he traveled all the way from Boston and was looking forward to a nice swim.

I have noticed that dog owners often chat with their dogs while out on a walk. Here’s a woman whom I found especially amusing. She got her pets to hurry home from Duck Harbor with the promise that they could watch a Red Sox baseball game on television! …

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Worms, Anyone?

If you look up into the air at Chez Sven,you get a view of trees. Here are some especially beautiful leaves that grow on a tree next to Seagull Cottage. In October, they will fall to the ground and eventually become humus. That is, unless I interfere, scooping them up to create compost. A good compost heap has alternating layers of green and brown. I like to think of it as lasagna. Add a bit of this, and a bit of that. Let it all percolate and you get a marvelous soil-enhancer, natural to boot.

Last week one of our Seagull Cottage guests asked if she could put her garbage in the compost. I was embarrassed to have to say no. I went into a long-winded explanation of my reasons. The short version: worms have laid siege to my composter! What happened is this: I added a handful of red worms to the compost, thinking their presence would improve the quality. In fact, the worms took over. They had babies, and the babies had babies. Much to my frustration, there was never any compost left to sprinkle in the garden because all those worms had quite an appetite. They ate their way through my garbage, consuming the dried leaves as well. Every time I went to pick up composting materials at Hatch’s, it was to feed the worms. Soon I was transported trash cans full. We are talking really hungry worms, here!

Cape Cod’s sandy soil needs compost if you are to get anything to grow. This year I decided to take matters in hand. First I removed the black plastic composter, washed it, and repositioned it in a different part of the garden. Then I ordered a proper home for the worms, called a Can-O-Worms. Finally, I invited some of the biggest and juiciest to move. Oh, they didn’t come willingly. I had to drag them out, squiggly and ducking under the closest bit of decomposed matter. It occurs to me that there is not space for them all in the Can-O-Worms. Worms, anyone?

Monday, June 12, 2006

June Day in the Life

I get up at 7 and down a quick cup of coffee and cereal. Our guests from Montreal are leaving and want to eat early, so I set the table and get everything ready for breakfast. Sven is up early, too, off to the garage with the Volvo for a tire change. Outside the grass has grown several inches from all that rain. The sun shines for a second day in a row, and the sky is bright blue. I make a mental note to ask Sven to mow the lawn. The birds are singing, relieved that the wind and rain are finally over, at least for a while. Bad weather is deadly for the local economy. Cape Cod had several inches of rain. It has made all the flowers grow. Our reservations have slowed because Summer 2006 is almost entirely booked. We have decided to make the Studio available, too. This weekend Sven and I completed a quick renovation job on our third bathroom, the one Studio guests share with us. We did a trial run with the Canadians, who felt so comfortable that they decided not to move over to the cottage for their last night after all. Sharing the bathroom worked out fine. While I wait for our newlyweds to awake in Liberty Coin Suite, I contemplate an order for sheets. This Anna Sova 100% organic cotton, 325 thread count, feels like linen. My “swamp” guests left yesterday with a Cuddledown catalogue. That’s how enamored they were of the Chez Sven sleeping experience. They also commented on the down pillows. (I call them “swamp” guests because they were in Wellfleet to photograph the White Cedar Swamp. I can't wait to see their photos. For more of mine: 4/11 blog. Their comments remind me that a good Bed & Breakfast is, after all, bed and breakfast, in equal parts. Both need to be top-notch if customers are to return.) I fill out the Cuddledown order form, in order to obtain another blanket for the Studio. Then I hear a truck coming up the road. It is the UPS man with a delivery from Emz Blendz. I ran out of her lavender sugar scrub and am delighted to have more. That is one of the perks of running a green bed & breakfast. When you search out amazing products for your guests, you get to use them, too! This year Emily has introduced a pear bubble bath. The sample I tried made the house smell so heavenly that I purchased a supply for summer guests. I am placing the Anna Sova order when unusual visitors cross the yard, a mother turkey and three chicks. Out I rush to snap this photo, which proves more complicated than I would have thought. Wild turkeys blend in with the surroundings ... We have been full for several days and it is only mid-June. This afternoon I intend to take a break from bed & breakfasting. It feels like laundry and breakfast and cleaning is all I have been doing recently. Maybe we’ll even get to the beach for a spell? …

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Hatch’s Opens for the Season

Find fresh fruit fast at Hatch’s, conveniently located right on the Town Hall parking lot. Hatch’s also sells veggies and flowers. Next door, shop for fish and lobster. Loyal customers return every summer for the friendly staff, fine service, and quality merchandise.

Hatch’s is the oldest fish market in Wellfleet. In 1971, Rob McClellan started selling fish here as a summer job. He bought the shop in 1982. The next spring Rob asked sister Lauren to market produce. The two never looked back. Fourteen years later they are still going strong.

Rob seems to have a penchant for fish. “Just look at this flounder,” he tells me. “It’s beautiful!” Indeed, the fish he is filleting is fresh and will find its way into flying pans all over Wellfleet. Rob enjoys selling high quality fish and does so with gusto. As I take a few notes, he turns to suggest a recipe to a customer who has just bought some mussels. Rob hires local kids to mind the fish counter. The fact that he works right alongside them heightens the camaraderie.

In front of the other half of the shop, Lauren displays fruit that makes the mouth water. She buys local and organic whenever possible. A vegetarian who once picked apples, raspberries, and cucumbers in Oregon, Lauren knows her produce. The fruit she sells actually has flavor. The flowers and veggies aren't bad either. Wellfleet regulars have also come to appreciate her homemade salsa, pesto, and fruit popsicles.

Most of the berries I serve for breakfast at Chez Sven come from Hatch's.

The best time to shop is morning or early afternoon. There is always a rush at the end of beautiful beach days, so plan accordingly.

Hatch’s is a seasonal business and stays open until late September.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Moby Dick's – A Whale of A Meal!

Whenever Sven and I are preparing for the season and get too exhausted to cook dinner, we go to Moby Dick’s on Route 6, one of the most popular eateries around. Sven goes wild over the fried calamari as a starter. I prefer the chowder, rich but surprisingly easy to digest.

Moby’s is quite a trip. The walls are decorated with marine one-of-a-kind signs and objects, studiously collected over the years by current owners Mignon and Todd Barry, as well as members of Todd’s family, who opened the restaurant in 1982.

The service is top-notch. While there is always a line in summer, it moves quickly. Competent young people from England, Ireland, Scotland, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, and the USA obviously know what they are about. The hostess takes your order with a smile. Another member of Moby’s private UN ushers you into the dining room. No sooner have you sat down than a third staffer appears with the seafood platter you have chosen. Rapid service is possible because the menu is very straightforward – corn or baked potato and cole slaw are typical sides – but the seafood is fresh and cooked to perfection. No wine or beer is served, although you can bring your own.

Moby Dick’s is the only restaurant around where you will actually see the owners working alongside the staff. Mignon and Todd Barry don aprons and serve, when needed. Todd always stops by tables to ask whether everything is okay. This desire to please is one of the reasons Moby’s was chosen as the Best Restaurant for Family Dining on the Cape last year. When the prices are right – and they are – what more could you ask?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sven's Birthday Party

This weekend we had a birthday party for Sven who turns 68 on June 6. He is always amused at how guests think him to be much younger: people guess 45. I intended for the party to be a surprise, but my daughter Stephanie was unable to keep him away from home for long, due to the rain. It was not a beach-walking day! He seemed pleased by the celebration. Most of his American friends came.

If I have not been blogging much recently, it is because the season is getting under way and there is so much to do in the garden. Also, we have had non-stop guests, which means more laundry and other chores. After Portugal, Canada was front and center. Our charming Seagull Cottage guests arrived with a case of wine. I enjoyed speaking French with them. They were seeking peace, and found it.

Then this weekend, we received an American woman, about to marry a Swede. What fun for both her fiancé and Sven to speak Swedish together! Sven enjoyed showing them photos of our own wedding. As they were leaving, the young woman commented on how much she loved the Shikai shampoo, which she plans to use from now on. I am always delighted when guests come away with some useful green information, even if it is only changing to a product that is good for the environment ...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

What You Should Know About Drinking Water in Wellfleet

I didn’t think much about water before moving to this fragile spit of sand we call Cape Cod. Water came from the faucet. Municipal water didn't taste good but was safe to drink. Here, in Wellfleet, most residents get their water from wells. We all share the water that flows in lenses under us. Our aquifer is replenished by acid rain. We pump H2O up from the aquifer. We put H2O back in the form of wastewater.

This give and take worked fine until recently when nitrate levels up and down the Cape rose. This rise coincided with a marked increase in population: we live in such a desirable location that everyone wanted to join us. What goes into the ground in one yard, inevitably ends up in wells throughout the neighborhood. High nitrates may be due to a neighbor's failing cesspool. Maybe someone put too much fertilizer on a lawn. Or, perhaps the new four-bedroom house across the road played a part. Unfortunately, people = waste = nitrates.

The situation is the worst in the Central District. A report on the situation in 2002 can be found here. A Central District municipal water system is now under construction.

Since Chez Sven is a green bed & breakfast, we may be a little more preoccupied with water quality than at other local establishments. We use Pur filters and bottled water. All bed & breakfasts are supposed to test their water annually. Our spring test results just came back: 4.9 ppm. (The State does not advise drinking water that contains 10 ppm. For the Cape Cod Commission, 5 ppm is the advisable limit.)

Recently I have noticed a sheen to tap water, so I did an experiment. I poured water into a clean vase and let it sit for a few days. Sure enough, there was a slightly oily residue on top. Next I poured filtered water into a clean vase and waited. I am glad to report the surface remained clear.The water in our town is probably cleaner than elsewhere on the Cape because 61% of Wellfleet is National Seashore

What can tourists do about the situation? Be aware of the problem and stay informed. Request bottled water in restaurants. Ask whether your hotel or bed & breakfast filters its water and uses biodegradable detergent. And, finally respect Wellfleet’s water resources …