Monday, May 31, 2010

Preservation Hall Goes to the Birds ...

Yesterday Preservation Hall held its second annual Birdhouse Auction. The birdhouses on display in the Main Street garden defied description: there was whimsy, wit, practicality, and, of course, environmentalism since most of the materials used were salvaged and recycled. Half the selection could be purchased through silent auction. All proceeds went to the Hall's building fund: $16,000! Above, a roof shingled with shells from Duck Harbor Beach. I put a bid on Colorful Condo by Katie Fitzgerald, who stood nearby. From the way she watched over her birdhouse, I could tell heart and soul had gone into its creation.
Tracy Plaut, one of the organizers, made two birdhouses this year. The first used a hardhat from the construction phase of the renovation and was for sale in the silent auction. The second, jazzed up with doorknobs recovered on site, went on the block during the live auction, which got under way at noon. I asked what criteria had contributed to the live auction selection.

“It was really difficult,” Tracy said. “We set them all out on tables. We wanted equal representation. If an artist did more than one, we put one in the silent auction.”

Some birdhouses were painted by local artists. Below left, for instance. Can you guess the name of the artist?

Here’s a listen to some bits of conversation I overheard while perusing birdhouses:

“Did you have a great winter?”

“It’s just beautiful. They’re all amazing.”

“These are even better than last year!”

“I’ve got racks of birdhouses in my garage, but these do inspire me to …”

“Bid them up! Bid them up!”

“Hel-lo?!” (Marla on her cell phone.)

“It was a team effort actually.”

“I’m bidding on that one because my granddaughter was involved.”

A birdhouse that drew numerous bids was House for Rent by Bodie Olson, a gourd on which was written, "You decorate. Price is two songs daily." I also really liked the Beachcomber Birdhouse by M. Caroll. Can you tell which one that is below?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Why Guests Should Not Spray Perfume ....

We have a cheeky chipmunk that thinks he owns the cottage. Yesterday’s guests even made a sighting. As the couple was leaving, the man said to Sven, “My wife thinks she saw a small animal in the bedroom. It wasn’t a mouse. It wasn’t a rat. It wasn’t a chipmunk. It wasn’t a squirrel …”

So, our chipmunk has taken to wearing a disguise!

Sven and I got out the ladder and explored behind the chimney where we found a new entry hole. A piece of wood and some nails quickly eliminated that illicit entrance to the cottage bedroom. A few bricks on top ensured even the sharpest teeth cannot recreate the passageway. The real subject of this post, however, is not Cheeky. It’s the people who reported the sighting and what upset me more …

There’s a prominent sign in the living room that says, “Seagull Cottage is an allergen-free space. We do not allow pets or smoking. Please respect this request so our guests with sensitivities can also enjoy their vacation.”

I confirm every booking, and in the letter sent out there’s a phrase our last guests missed: “We also request that spraying of perfume take place outside.”

This is a green B&B and most guests respect our requests. Some don’t. These guests were of the sort who couldn’t care less. They must have skimmed my confirmation email because the cottage REEKED of perfume. It smelled so chemical that I could almost imagine the wife prancing around with an atomizer, spritzing everything in sight.

Over-zealous spraying of perfume is something I encountered a lot in France, especially in elevators. Even expensive perfume is not made with natural ingredients any more. And, many ingredients are kept secret.

The Environmental Working Group has a new report out on fragrance, so do check it out. Here's one short paragraph: “When sprayed or applied on the skin, many chemicals from perfumes, cosmetics and personal care products are inhaled. Others are absorbed through the skin. Either way, many of these chemicals can accumulate in the body. As a result, the bodies of most Americans are polluted with multiple cosmetics ingredients.”

I used to wear French perfume. No longer! How about you?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Call to Action: Help California Ban Plastic Bags!

I watched this darling little girl play in the waves yesterday with her mother and could not help but think how different the world she lives in will be if we do nothing to stop corporations from polluting our seas, our water, our land, our air, our nation.

What California does, the rest of the country follows. "It's like the U.S. is in the Stones Ages when it comes to caring about its citizens," Jared Blumenfeld, Director of San Francisco's Department of the Environment, told the authors of Slow Death by Rubber Duck (reported page 60). "Laws have started to emanate up from the grassroots. Once action happens in a few cities, it's taken up by the California legislature. And then California is big enough that it can affect the national debate."

Beth Terry, at Fake Plastic Fish, brings word of chemical companies suing the cities in California that wanted to ban plastic bags. So, this week the debate moves to a larger arena. Please take a moment to tell friends/family in California and forward Beth's post which lists specific ways to get legislators to ban plastic bags. This is an issue that affects us all. Please take action now!

Innkeeper Visits: Home Sweet 'Om B&B

Innkeeper Wendy Putterman is just as crazy-busy as I am these days, with high season fast approaching, but we both took a couple minutes this weekend to connect because we share a certain philosophy and green lifestyle. It’s unusual for Wellfleet innkeepers to be able to recommend local accommodations since we don’t generally get a chance to visit other B&Bs, so I was delighted when Wendy contacted me. She opened her beautiful home in Great Woods to guests for the first time in 2009 following a divorce, a second life event that we have in common since I’ve been divorced, too. Her B&B Home Sweet Om offers two rooms, to a total of four people. Like me, Wendy serves organic, wholesome food whenever possible. She teaches yoga and allows guests to use the yoga studio in the basement for meditation. There’s a feeling of spaciousness in the living room, with its massive stone fireplace and numerous windows. The B&B accommodations are on the first floor. Guests can eat breakfast on the mahogany deck in summer. I admired the water element in the kitchen garden, where sparrows paused to drink, and the huge paving stones. Of course, the house smells of incense and has more than one contemplative Buddha, but what really knocked me out were the colors. Wendy mixes Provencal accents with bright blue, yellow, and pink. The walls upstairs are pale green. Home Sweet Om is booked in August but has availability for the two middle weeks of July.

(This is the second in my series on local accommodations. If you own a B&B and would like to be featured on Chezsven Blog, let me know.)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Cape Cod Bug Primer

Due to the early warmth and a rainy March, Cape Cod has a large number of creepy crawly creatures around to keep you itching during your spring getaway. Don’t forget to pack the calamine lotion and Deet. Or, be kind to the environment and your skin with a better product that works just as well: Organic Bite Blocker Xtreme Insect Repellent, all Natural, Deet-free. My son gave me a case. No, just kidding. He got some for his daughter, and I inherited the bottle when they left. Okay, here’s a rundown of what’s crawling in the grass and flying through the air this May and June in Wellfleet:

ANTS: Not fire ants, so no sweat. Wellfleet ants guard my peonies. Their smaller cousins come into the cottage if crumbs are left on the counter.

SPIDERS: Not as many spiders as usual, but then perhaps I have at last taken the lead in our ongoing battle?

BEES: Unfortunately, there are fewer honeybees around.

WASPS & HORNETS: We have none here, so I cannot give an update. I asked Therese at the fire station and she said there have been no reports of hornets’ nests since six years ago when one was removed from a path near Long Pond.

MOSQUITOES: Bad year for mosquitoes. They’re everywhere. I have even been bitten while standing in the sun.

FLEAS: No pets here, so no fleas.

TICKS: Yes, there are deer ticks. I would love to provide statistics about the number of new cases of Lyme Disease on Cape Cod in 2009, but the health department does not release such information. We advise guests to be on the lookout after walking in the woods and to always do a tick-check before bed.

BEDBUGS: The Wellfleet health agent sent around a warning again this spring. Bedbugs have made a comeback. They bite three times, the so-called breakfast, lunch and dinner bites. They stow away in suitcases. New York luxury hotels are in the midst of an epidemic. To avoid transporting bedbugs, keep luggage closed and on luggage racks. If you are bitten, tell your host, not Trip Advisor. Bedbugs are the bane of the modern innkeeper. Please do not bring any with you!

Which bugs bother you the most?

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Since it has been feeling like summer, Sven dug out a Vassar shirt that he loves, purchased years ago, probably during a college reunion of mine.

One day, at the beach, a man approached and read the word VASSAR out loud. “Isn’t that a college for women?” the stranger asked.

“I used to be a woman back then,” Sven replied in a very serious voice, flexing his muscles ever so slightly.

So, that’s our Laugh-of-the-Day. Now that I have your attention, on to less frivolous matters: fund-raising events in Wellfleet this Memorial Day Weekend.

Friday, May 28th: Need a new mailbox? Purchase one from the Habitat for Humanity First Annual Mailbox Silent Auction. Over 50 unique creations by local artists will be available. 5 to 8 at the Chequessett Yacht and Country Club. Admission is $10.

May 29: From 8 to 3:30, head to the transfer station for the Cape Cool Annual Yard Sale. Always funky, this event never fails to please and creates scholarship funds for worthy young Wellfleetians, who intend to go into environmental studies.

May 29: Outer Cape Health Services is holding the 6th Annual Bernard Greenhouse & Friends Concert at the Congregational Church. This concert has a record of selling out fast, so call today if you do not yet have tickets, and support our local health services: (508) 487-9831.

May 30: Attend a brunch and Birdhouse Project Auction to benefit Preservation Hall, in the Main Street garden from 11 to 1; $15 entry fee entitles you to lunch. Each birdhouse is unique and created out of recycled materials by a member of our community.

All these events are most worthwhile.

Another reminder: Wellfleet is fortunate to have its own theater. Tonight, Thursday, May 27th, don’t miss the opening of the Wellfleet Harbor Actors’ Theater’s 26th season, which begins in style with Daughter of Venus by Howard Zinn, directed by Jeff Zinn. Daughter of Venus runs Thursday through Sunday, May 27th through June 26.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What the Tide Carries In ...

Fellow Blogathoner Jennifer Walker interviewed me today. Learn more about Swedish breakfast on her blog Morning Chocolate ... Sven and I went to Cahoon Hollow yesterday since I wanted to be able to update guests on beach access. The DPW worked magic. REPORT: Dune Repaired. There's even a platform, with a bench, three-quarters of the way up. Down on the beach, we saw folks edging into the water and a couple digging for razor clams. I don't know if they actually found any. Check out the view:
See any fishing boats on the horizon? Startling fact: Did you know fishermen use bleach to wash down the decks of their boats? I learned this the other day. I had been wondering why there were so many empty gallon jugs of Clorox washed up on Ballston Beach this winter, and here was my answer. Fishermen pollute the ocean, then throw empty jugs overboard. I have not been able to get over the image of the seagull chomping down a plastic bag in the video I posted here yesterday. There’s a spot at Duck Harbor, where it looks as if some giant plastic-hoarder had stored all his treasures. We humans can do better, don't you think?
Beachcombers know the tide carries in all kinds of things. Here are a few photos of objects that do not belong in our oceans:
While this is nothing compared to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I think our consumer society needs a major behavior adjustment. Each of us must do more to stop environmental pollution. Just talking to friends about the problem is a step in the right direction. What have you done about pollution today?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Imagining a Phthalates-free World

Mainstream media is at last focusing more attention on the toxic chemicals in our lives. Last week Time ran an article entitled Cancer, Cancer Everywhere with a list of suggestions gleaned from the President's Cancer Panel report. One of the families of toxic chemicals mentioned was phthalates. Perhaps you saw the phthalates segment on 60 Minutes Sunday night? If not, do watch it here. Phthalates are impossible to spell and even more difficult to pronounce. They also are impossible to avoid.

What exactly are phthalates? Synthetic chemicals which keep substances, like that smelly vinyl shower curtain, soft and rubbery. Another type of phthalate is used in personal-care products. It allows lotions to penetrate the skin. And, of course, phthalates can be found added to the plastic in children's toys.

This morning I was sitting at the breakfast table with our Green Room guests chatting about this and that. Somehow the conversation turned to hazards in the environment – we were no doubt discussing the environmental mess in the Gulf – and I brought up phthalates. Sue is a nurse and teaches nursing. She explained how phthalates are ubiquitous in hospitals. Her team had been trying hard to reuse plastic. Now they must rethink their policies. I feel for the nurses of the world, because phthalates can be absorbed from the air we breathe and the medical industry is not about to change all its convenient disposable blood bags, etc, any time soon.

I am reading Slow Death by Rubber Duck about body burden, a fascinating book and a real eye-opener. I’m on the second chapter, actually, the one about phthalates. The good news is that “phthalates break down quickly in the human body and in the environment. If we stopped making them tomorrow, the global contamination would disappear from most places relatively quickly – with the exception of isolated environments like deep sediments in lakes and oceans.”

The bad news? Well, you know it. Phthalates are in us already.

I was struck by the statement made by the chemical industry spokesperson, interviewed by Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes. He made it clear chemical company executives do not believe phthalates are dangerous and intend to continue producing them. (Honestly, how do these people sleep at night?)

One easy way to avoid phthalates in cosmetics is to consult the EWG’s Skin Deep database to check that specific products are safe.

While we're imagining a phthalates-free world, take a few minutes to watch this disturbing video from Beth Terry's blog Fake Plastic Fish and get outraged. Only a major outcry from citizens will force legislators to get serious about cleaning up our environment.

What have you done to eliminate phthalates from your life?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sven & Robert Finch Enjoy Walking in the Fog

Robert Finch likes walking
In the fog at Nauset Beach,
A special feeling.

(The weatherman predicts dense fog over the next few days. Radio essayist Robert Finch lives in Wellfleet and writes about life for Cape and Islands Radio. The other day I heard his essay on walking in the fog and highly recommend it to anyone who loves the Outer Cape.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

In the Footsteps of Thoreau ....

Henry David Thoreau, the author who has a permanent place in the American psyche, walked up the Outer Cape and wrote about the experience in 1865. “In the Footsteps of Thoreau: 25 Historic & Nature Walks on Cape Cod” is a book we have here, available for guests. It never fails to interest anyone who wants to explore the Outer Cape … While walking Newcomb Hollow last week, Sven and I ran into three men, teachers they said, from off Cape. They had spent the night in a motel and were heading to North Truro where friends would be setting up a tent later in the afternoon. The distance from Newcomb Hollow to Ballston is considerable, and they still had quite a ways to go in order to reach their camping site. Whenever I see modern-day adventurers, slightly stooped because of heavy backpacks, walking resolutely up the beach, it reminds me of the great naturalist and his visit to Wellfleet. Want to bet these young men had a copy of “In the Footsteps of Thoreau” in their backpacks?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Liberty Coin Suite Receives First Guests of Season

This weekend we have a full house, for the first time in 2010. Liberty Coin Suite, below, has no heat. For this reason, we do not book the first-floor room in the winter or spring. Sven loves to sleep upstairs in the off-season because it's so cold and he's a Nordic type. Now that summer is almost upon us, Sven and I moved our things out and did a massive spring cleaning. We installed a new mirror in the bathroom. It is hand-painted by an Israeli artist.

Our Liberty Coin guests arrived yesterday, mid-afternoon. They're avid weekend bikers and spent the afternoon exploring Wellfleet, with an obligatory stop at the extremely popular PB Boulangerie, situated near the head of the bike trail. Today, feeling more ambitious, they set off for Truro, via back roads, some paved, some not. Before leaving they peeked in the Green Room, where they had stayed last year, and decided they like their upstairs quarters equally well. (Don't know what I would have done had they said the opposite!)

This afternoon guests are arriving for the Green Room and the cottage. From the Green Room window, it's possible to view the poppies, which tend to remind Sven of France. Yesterday, when I was heading back across the yard from Seagull Cottage, I was amazed at how ethereal they looked, floating in the sunshine ...

Driftwood Dreams ....

For me, the log above represented the opportunity for an interesting photo. But, Sven who saw the same log, at the same time, thought of dragging it home for firewood. The log also reminded him of his childhood, when logs would float down Sweden’s Klaralven River to the lumberyard, a memory that invoked a soft summer breeze and the calls of excited children, busy building a raft.

A log is a log is a log, right? Wrong. A log can be different things to different people.

One beachcomber sees this log as a bench, to sit and contemplate the sea. Another wonders where the log originated. Did it float across the ocean? Was it local, or driftwood from some distant shore?

A teenager perceives the log as part of a future beach shack, to be constructed out of driftwood and jetsam, high above the tide line. To a child, this log revives memories of having played in the waves on a similar piece of driftwood the summer before.

Two lovers get out a penknife and carve their initials.

A sculptor imagines turning the log into a piece of art.

A carpenter examines the log to see what type of tree it once was.

A scientist wants to cut it open and read its rings.

Take another look. Do you simply want to know where it came from? What does this log conjure up for you?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Winslow’s Tavern Starts the Season Off Strong

At the end of May, before the crowds descend on Cape Cod, Sven and I treat ourselves to dinner at a local restaurant. This year we chose Winslow’s Tavern on Main Street, in the center of town. In the past, Winslow’s has been advertised as a “Barry Family” restaurant, because owner Tracey Hunt is the younger sister of Moby Dick’s Todd Barry. For the past few years, diners may have chosen Winslow's because of its connection to the popular Route 6 eatery but, in my opinion, that is going to change. What they will remember now is the great cuisine, created by Tracey's husband Phillip Hunt, a chef from South Africa, who has really come into his own.....

Winslow's serves lunch, as well as dinner from mid-May to the day before Oysterfest, mid-October. By summer, people-watching will become the name of the game, and the view from the terrace can't be beat. I often recommend Winslow's to our guests and mention the crab cakes with sangria, to-die-for.

Before our meal yesterday, Sven and I had a glass of house wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon, which we had enjoyed last year. Our entrées were spectacular. I loved the swordfish, draped with diced tomatoes and served on a bed of braised lettuce. Olives brought subtle flavor to the sauce. Meanwhile, Sven was imagining a bistro in Toulouse thanks to his pork loin cassoulet. Phillip and Tracey joined us briefly for a glass of an unusual “Pax” Serrat. Tracey told us Winslow’s is one of just three restaurants in the USA to feature this incredible California vintage. It reminded me of rare wines I was fortunate enough to taste in France, stored in my ex-husband’s godfather’s wine cellar and served only on very special occasions.

I asked Tracey her impressions of the season thus far. Apparently Winslow’s filled up so fast over the past weekend that she had begun to wonder how to cope with only a skeleton staff. It so happened that Jacob, a former waiter, stopped in to refill his water bottle while out biking, so Tracey corralled him into service. “Go straight upstairs and put on a T-shirt,” she pleaded. Jacob must have been quite a sight, dressed in his biking shorts, but he managed to charm all the diners in the northern wing of the restaurant. Tracey said she expects lots day-trippers in this supposed end-of-recession year, which echoed my feeling after numerous requests for one night.

I asked Sven to sum up his impressions of our evening out: “I really liked the way they restored that beautiful place, putting pale yellow paint on the walls. Elegant tables, tall wine glasses. Great food, pleasant company, with my wife by my side. What more could a man want?”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cry the Beloved Honeybee

At the Wellfleet Eco-Expo last Saturday, Laura Kelley spoke about the plight of the honeybee. Apparently, colony collapse continues. Apparently, we lost one-third of the honeybee population over the winter. (Read about it here.) No need to be a rocket scientist to realize the situation is dire. The subject is one that definitely merits your attention, but I know next to nothing about it. Colony collapse may be due to widespread use of pesticides, as I reported in this blog over the fall. Since I'm not a honeybee expert, I asked my beekeeper friend to provide a few more details. Here’s Laura:

“No honeybees = no food. For the flowers we love, the plants we eat, and honeybees, we must be non-toxic inside and outside our homes.

Colony collapse disorder was labeled in 2007 after we lost half the honeybee population on the planet. One third of the honeybees worldwide didn't survive last winter. Honeybee keepers are breeding honeybees as fast as possible. More and more homeowners are interested in having hives in their back yards, which is great, but unfortunately we are not able to produce as many queens as needed to feed the human population worldwide. Almonds and apples will be the first edibles to become scarce at our local grocery stores, followed by citrus fruit, blueberries, and cranberries.

Over-development is a problem. Humans occupy the places honeybees used to live and feed. Planting anything that flowers will help the honeybees, for they need to forage.

The best thing we can do to help honeybees become more comfortable on earth is to change our life-styles and become completely non-toxic inside and outside of our homes and bodies.

Everyone who eats or owns land or purchases anything can help honeybees. How? Remember, your dollar is your vote.

Think about where you spend your money. Your patronage shows you believe in an establishment/corporation/local farmer.

Make conscious decisions before spending. Ask yourself, is this company doing the right thing to help our planet?

A lot of establishments claim to be organic or all natural, but are they truly?

We've got to support local farmers and businesses that make a difference. Your patronage will help honeybees because there will be less toxins in the air, water, soil, as well as in the plants that are harming them now.

The immune systems of honeybees have become compromised due to human impact and the overuse of toxins.

It’s up to us now. There are still some honeybees left. We do have a chance of survival, but we must change our habits today. Scientists predict humans have five years to live after the honeybees die, and then we will be eating only gruel (anything that is brown, rice, wheat, corn). Nothing green will survive very long.

Other natural pollinators and human pollinators are not as aggressive in pollinating as honeybees. Humans continue to populate, honeybees continue to loose population – the balance is off. We see what’s happening, we talk about it, but will we react in time? Will these changes be sufficient to reverse the fate of honeybees and ensure their survival?

It's all in your hands now. Since you've read this post and understand what you can do, the one question I have is, will you sign on or will you take part in harming the one creature that is absolutely crucial to the next generation?”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What's New On the Bookshelf?

On a rainy day like today, what could be more perfect than to curl up with a good book? New on the bookshelf, here at Chez Sven, we find two books which I heard agents mention during Muse & the Marketplace a couple weeks ago. The first is called Tinkers, a tiny book, from a tiny publisher, but this debut novel managed to win the Pulitzer Prize for its author, Paul Harding. Vestel McIntyre, author of the second book, read an excerpt at the luncheon Saturday, and I was hooked. I look forward to learning about small-town America in Lake Overturn. Finally, I decided to add Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, a cookbook on gluten-free baking, because more and more of our guests request gluten-free.

Last month's selection included Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. I have been loving that book and don't want the linked short-stories, set in a fictitious seacoast town in Maine, to end. Believe I have one more to read ... What have you been reading recently?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Guest-blog: My Eroded Memories of the Cape

Today, the 18th day of the Blogathon, I am happy to present Alisa Bowman, who blogs at Project Happily Ever After. Along with hundreds of her fans, I follow Alisa’s daily adventures in marriage-land and look forward to the 2011 publication of her book, Project: Happily Ever After. In this guest-post, Alisa touches on a phenomenon I have noticed here at the B&B. Often guests choose Wellfleet because of the childhood memory of a Cape Cod vacation. Perhaps the same is true for you?
Please join me in welcoming, Alisa! ….

Not long ago, I was with my five-year-old at the science museum, near where I live in Pennsylvania. She was playing with sand and water—part of an exhibit designed to teach her about erosion. “If you want to learn about erosion, we should visit Cape Cod,” I found myself saying.

Soon memories were surfacing. There I was as a little girl. I was with Dad and my brothers and we were listening to a guide tell us about the Cape and about how someday, before we grew up, the hook at the end of the Cape would no longer be connected to the rest.

That, my friends, was quite the deep moment for us kids. I believe our exact words were, “Wow.”

Let’s just move beyond the fact that the hook still seems to be attached to the rest of the Cape even though I am now quite grown up. It’s possible our nature guide exaggerated on the timeline. It’s just as possible that I didn’t hear him correctly (after all, I somewhat remember also being told, at some point, that killer bees would invade the north and kill off every single one of us before my 20th birthday).

And, might I posit that it’s also possible that this is a sign from God.

At any rate, my point is this: the memory gave me pause. It did because it was warm and fuzzy. It was the kind of memory that I could wrap around myself on a cold, dreary winter’s day.

My family vacationed up and down the northeast coast and throughout most of the country when I was young. We piled into our station wagon and drove for hours and hours. During these hours us kids frequently complained about who was touching whom. Occasionally one of us peed our pants or threw up.

Every so often Dad threatened to pull the car over if we didn’t shut up already. But, without fail, we eventually arrived at our destination, which was almost always a campground. There we would all sit on the car’s back bumper as Mom timed Dad to see how quickly he could assemble our family’s tent.

Dad hoisted tents in Virginia Beach, various beach towns in New Jersey, The Badlands, Yellowstone National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, The Grand Tetons, Acadia, Lake George, Quebec, Bar Harbor, Rockport, and the Cape.

He was a chemist by trade, but, when on family vacation, he was the Quickest Tent Putter Upper in the US.

Mom, a visual artist, had a particular affinity for the Cape, so Dad put up a lot of tents in that area, usually in campgrounds outside of Provincetown.

As Mom spent many hours each day with her paints and her canvas, Dad took us kids to whatever activity he could find. Occasionally it was the beach, but more often than not it was a nature excursion or lecture.

It was during these outings that I learned about lichen, erosion, plovers, and various sea creatures. We learned about beach grass and about dunes. We learned about those plastic rings that came attached to six packs at that time, and how they were killing sea life.

And those are among my fondest memories of my childhood.

As I watched my daughter play with the erosion exhibit, though, I realized that I had not passed such memories on to her. I owned a tent, but I didn’t know how to assemble it.

More important, I had not taken her on hikes or nature excursions. In the seemingly endless quest to balance work with family, I’d resorted to whatever vacation time seemed easy and mindless. She’d been to the beach. She’d been on a cruise. She’d visited relatives in various states around the country.

But she had not attended a single nature hike.

Shame on me!

That, my friends, will change.

It has been a joy to meet and get to know Alexandra online. I look forward to, one day, meeting Alexandra in person and visiting her in Wellfleet. I probably won’t hoist a tent because I’m quite soft in my adulthood and have become attached to hot showers and nearby toilets.

But without a doubt I will share with my daughter the same gift Dad gave to us kids while on the Cape.

If you are hoping to do the same for your kids, here are some places to check out: Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster, Green Briar Nature Center in Sandwich, Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Another Beautiful Day in Wellfleet!

Another beautiful day dawned this morning, and the birds, outside my window, celebrated with birdsong. Yesterday Sven and I worked in the garden, weeding and planting potatoes, Sven's favorite, as well as more flowers. We did make it to the ocean, as these photos attest. There were a number of first-timers there, in awe of the view from the LeCount Hollow parking lot. Down on the beach, we ran into Alain and Joan Platt with their dog Carly. Our conversation went something like this:

"We've been wondering what you think of the PB Boulangeriebistro," Joan said.

"Who would have ever imagined Wellfleet to have a French bakery!" I exclaimed.

"We like the rustic bread," Alain said.

"Our favorite's the farmer," Sven said.

"But how does it compare with bread in France?" Joan and Alan asked in unison.

So, I gave them the full scoop on my impressions and recounted a conversation with my dentist, who grew up in France, lives in Yarmouth, and now finds reasons to come to the Outer Cape more often. On the way home, Sven and I stopped in to pick up bread. The Platts probably did the same. Check out the progress made on the deck. The restaurant should be open in no time ...