Monday, February 28, 2011

Buy American-made, Choose the Braided Rug Company!

Before returning to Wellfleet, I visited the Cambridge Galleria, a place that has come to epitomize life in the city and an experience so dissimilar from anything we practice on a regular basis on rural Cape Cod. I must say I was rather disgusted with all the junk available for purchase, most of it “Made in China.” Apparently Diane Sawyer, at ABC News, feels the same way because this week she is doing a series called the “Made in America Challenge.” Diane will attempt to furnish a house with non-imported objects, which seems like a challenge to me after my mall walk-through. Guess what? I have a suggestion for Diane’s floors: handcrafted rugs designed and made on Cape Cod!

This week Sven and I journeyed to Harwich to choose a rug for under the vintage table in the dining room. Before starting Chez Sven, I had bought a braided rug at an estate sale but the edges have come unraveled, so it was time for a serious upgrade. We found the rug of our dreams at the Cape Cod Braided Rug Company, located on Great Western Road. (There’s an online sale going on that ends today, so you might want to check out the Web site for items that are 10% off.)

The showroom is chock-a-block with marvelous braided rugs, each more appealing than the next. Saleslady Mary Bolduc greeted us with a smile. Mary, who is extremely knowledgeable about her merchandise, participates in its creation, and even touches the rugs with affection when she takes one down from the wall so customers can see what it looks like on the floor. Regular designs read like a map of Cape Cod and the Islands: Chilmark, Monomoy, Falmouth, Oak Bluffs, Provincetown. But it’s also possible to order a custom rug that will match your interior. Custom rugs are a bit more expensive, but what fun to create something unique!

Mary told us that the company
had been in the same family for four generations but was purchased a year or two ago by Tom and Nancy Benton. Their enthusiasm for maintaining traditions is obvious as you walk around the showroom. Now it’s possible to watch while the rugs are handcrafted on an enormous table in the rear of the building. Here’s a local activity our guests will love! Tours are held Monday through Thursday, from 9 to 4:30, but Mary suggested coming in the afternoon to see how the machines work.

Mary told us customers will flock to the Braided Rug Company over the next few months when so many Cape houses are opened up after this long winter. “Osterville really booms in the spring, because of the bright colors,” she said when I asked which rug was the most popular.

While in the factory, we discovered a 3 X 5 Match Hill on sale that will work perfectly in Liberty Coin Suite. We headed for home having ordered one rug, with another under our arm. I was especially glad to support a local industry. The "braiders" at the Braided Rug Company use the best natural material – Mary mentioned a recent switch to wool from Canada since it contains no synthetics – and employ a method that has existed in New England since Colonial times. “For a foreigner, from Europe, I really like those rugs,” said Sven. “What could be more traditionally American?” I think he said it all, don’t you?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What's New On the Bookshelf?

I'm a fan of Karen Russell. Karen is only 29 and writes with such verve and freshness that it takes my breath away. Her first novel, called Swamplandia, is like nothing I have ever read before. No, honestly. The world she describes is so unique that I'm in awe whenever I get time to read a chapter before bed. Have any of you read her well-acclaimed short story collection, St.Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

More Raves for Cape Cod

The Cape has come in at number 10 on TripAdvisor's recently released list of America's top vacation rental hot spots for 2011! The ranking is based on TripAdvisor search data and was selected by site editors. TripAdvisor wrote this about Cape Cod, when announcing the high ranking: "Bursting with old-fashioned New England charm, Cape Cod is a fantastic summer destination for the family, with outstanding beaches, historic lighthouses, miles of bike trails and plenty of options for shopping and dining."

Of course, we all know that, and we know Wellfleet is the nicest town on the whole Cape, albeit a bit too trendy for my taste. (If TripAdvisor is really so on top of things, don’t you think it should have picked up on Wellfleet's trendiness? Do you use/like TripAdvisor? If so, why?)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Should Registration Be Required for Rental Property?

How very many people dream of living in Wellfleet and walking a beach like this one whenever possible! A great number manage to fulfill this dream and buy property here. But often, when they have homes elsewhere, these folks do not spend as much time as anticipated on Cape Cod. So, with mortgage payments looming, the idea of rental in summer becomes incredibly attractive. My parents rented their cottage for years. It was built to receive my family, but the extra income took precedence after a couple years. Sven and I now book that same cottage as part of our B&B. In order to run the bed-and-breakfast, we are obliged to buy insurance, which costs a pretty penny, and obtain a business permit. In the past few years a number of potential customers have decided to rent instead of staying with us because a weekly rental is often cheaper than a bed-and-breakfast stay. Property owners do not have to pay the same insurance as innkeepers. Property owners also do not need business permits.

Every few years the Selectmen propose a bylaw that would create a revenue stream from rentals. Yes, rental property registration is again on the table. I am in favor of this measure. The kicker this time is that property owners would not be forced to register their seasonal rentals but if they do not register, and pay the town a fee, their tenants will not be able to buy passes for the town beaches. To learn more, read Marilyn Miller's article in the Cape Codder.

What do you think? Should rental property be registered by the town? Should property owners be required to have a permit? If the Selectmen follow through with this method of raising revenue, will property owners raise the rent?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Stephanie Stiavetti Leaves Wellfleet

Stephanie Stiavetti is heading back to the west coast today and we wish her well. Last weekend I treated her to PB Boulangerie Bistro, because, frankly, a food writer should not visit Cape Cod without savoring delicacies from its best restaurant, don't you think? We had the mushroom risotto and the new swordfish entree. Both were yummy. Boris told us the cooking classes will not be starting as soon as he had hoped, due to complications in creating a test kitchen in the basement. There were hearts all over the dessert menu, and we tried three desserts. Yum! Sebastien served us champagne. (Merci, Sebastien!) The room was packed. In fact, there were so many requests for reservations that PB had to open up the deck over the weekend, with the heaters turned on full blast. (Talk about success! It's February, for God's sake!) Before we say good-bye to Steph, here's a vignette I wanted to share with those of you who have not been able to catch a glimpse of her fabulous purple hair: Huge mounds of snow everywhere. More snow falling. A small front-loader is moving snow in front of the school across from my Cambridge house. Suddenly, out the window, I see purple streaking down the street. Actually, it's Steph, who has dashed out to intercept the front-loader and is asking the driver to remove the snow blocking my driveway, pushed there earlier by a plow. He actually did what she asked! Just to say, Stephanie is good at what she does, which can be just about anything, I discovered. I will miss her. But, Wellfleet worked its charm, so chances are she'll be back ...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why Duck Harbor Feels Like a Beginning

In the photo above, Sven and Stephanie Stiavetti head onto Duck Harbor Beach. (Every time I walk the access path, I'm reminded of the National Seashore's plan to poison crows, because the crows in question lived near this beach.) The wind was ferocious over the weekend, when I took the photo, and yet it felt like spring was on the way after the few mild days earlier in the week. Walking onto Duck Harbor Beach always feels like a beginning to me. You never know what awaits you on the other side of the small dune. Will the tide be high, or will the tide be low? Incoming, or outgoing? Will the wind make walking the beach impossible? Will there be sand everywhere, or thousands of stones, all different shapes and colors? Will I meet other beachcombers? Will the experience of walking Duck Harbor be memorable, or so-so?

After spending almost two months of 2011 in Boston, I feel like a new beginning is ahead for my writing. I sure hope that impression is correct. Meanwhile, I can report that my innkeeping life will be even crazier this year because not one, but two year-round B&Bs have closed: Stone Lion Inn and Appletree Guesthouse.

Are you at the beginning of something? Do the last months of winter inspire this type of optimism in you?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What's New On the Bookshelf?

With herbicidal spraying by NStar only one month away, on our bookshelf, I have placed Poisoned for Profit: How Toxins Are Making Our Children Chronically Ill, by Philip and Alice Shabecoff.

Now, I admit, I have not finished reading this excellent book, concentrating on fiction this month, but the topic is important and so timely. The authors "follow the trail from corporate coffers through highly paid Washington lobbyists, into the laboratories of scientists-for-hire, to the offices of politicians responsible for regulation, and right back to our homes and schools - which are built, stocked, and 'cleaned' with deadly toxics."

Small children and the endocrine system of the developing fetus are the most at risk. We all need to read Poisoned for Profit to understand why it is so hard to change the status quo, pertinent information here on Cape Cod where citizen outcry has fallen on deaf ears. NStar will not even listen to our legislators, nor to the Cape Cod Commission, all urging a change of policy. Why contaminate our sole-source aquifer with traces of toxic chemicals if there are alternative means of vegetation removal? Could the reason be chemicals are cheaper, that health does not matter?

For a Cape Cod take on this issue, watch Laura Kelley's interview with a young mother and a dog-walker for Cape Cod Matters:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cottage Demolished at LeCount Hollow

During the last winter storm, erosion condemned a house on the dune close to McGuire's Landing, beside a cottage colony called Cooks by the Ocean. Sven and I visited after the kitchen floor had fallen out, visible in the photo above. I already reported on the demotion of this house, but I know a lot of you are anxious about the whole LeCount Hollow situation, so am covering the topic again. According to the DPW, beach access will be repaired once winter storms are over.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wellfleet Mentioned on CNN!

Above, the view from Duck Harbor, in a photo taken last year. While perusing the Discover Wellfleet site this week, I noticed a news item from CNN: Shipwreck Ballast Uncovered in Wellfleet, on Cape Cod. Sven and I often walk down to the area mentioned, coming from the direction of LeCount Hollow, so I was especially intrigued by the article. We have often seen the objects, described in this piece, uncovered by the tide. Sometimes they are visible, sometimes not. I never noticed any shipwreck ballast, but how cool!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Why Wellfleet's Snow Piles Are Not "Snirt"

I have often written about how beautiful Wellfleet is. The scenery seems even more spectacular now that I am only on the Cape over the weekend. I love beaches in snow, and how different the ponds look in winter! Sven was driving around Gull Pond last weekend, when I spotted a flock of gulls in the middle. I'm not a professional photographer and could not capture this image to share with you, but found it fascinating that the seagulls congregate in exactly the same place, whether the pond is frozen or not. Last weekend the Wellfleet snow drifts were melting, but a few remnants remained at the end of the Newcomb Hollow parking lot. Yesterday I learned that this unmelted snow is called "snirt" in Boston, ie. snow + dirt. In Wellfleet, even the snow piles can be beautiful. No one would ever think of calling them "snirt" ...

Friday, February 18, 2011

GreenCAPE to show Living Downstream

GreenCAPE will present a screening and discussion of the documentary Living Downstream, based on the book by ecologist and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber, PhD, this Sunday, February 20 at 2:30. The film follows Steingraber as she travels across North America, working to break the silence about cancer and its environmental links. Steingraber had bladder cancer and gave up a tenured post to speak out on this important subject. Don't miss the free event at the Wellfleet Library and please spread the word to your friends.

A group of us Wellfleetians started showing such documentaries on environmental risks last fall and intend to show more in the spring. I ordered Living Downstream, but it arrived two months later than predicted. I have watched this documentary and highly recommend it. Steingraber coined the expression "carcinogen abolitionist."

Yesterday morning came more news about the risks of drinking Coke, Pepsi, etc.. The chemical that gives the popular soft drinks color has been recognized as causing cancer. Do you still drink the stuff? What say? I think we should all become "carcinogen abolitionists," don't you?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Time to Protest is NOW!

Are you planning on drinking Cape Cod water? Don't let NStar contaminate it.

The CEO of NSTAR, Thomas May, has said in a televised interview 11/08/10 that he listens to customers and responds to e-mails. (Watch him say these words in this NECN video clip.)
Here's his phone number and e-mail: 617-424-2527, Let him know Cape Codders are aware of the damage herbicidal spraying can do to the environment.

Anyone who purchased the Cape Cod Times yesterday was able to read a My View column from Rep. Cleon Turner, as well as three letters to the editor, including one I wrote. The newspaper has a new policy for online viewing, so no more links from the Cape Cod Times on this blog, until that policy changes. In the meantime, here's what I wrote:

"It has come to my attention that the Barnstable County Ad Hoc Committee on Risk Analysis Vegetation Management has concluded NStar can proceed with herbicidal spraying along the power lines of Cape Cod. With all due respect, I would like to point out that those in favor and those opposed at inception were not of equal number. And, there were more voting members representing NStar’s opinion. How can anyone take these conclusions seriously? From my recent reading of Poisoned for Profit: How Toxins are Making Our Children Chronically Ill, 2010, by Philip and Alice Shabecoff, it is clear that the warnings of scientists and health experts are not being heeded nation-wide. Emerging science indicates traces of pesticides in food and water do affect the developing fetus. ADHD, autism, asthma, and cancer are four modern diseases dramatically on the rise. Two weeks ago USA Today reported on the percentage of toxic chemicals discovered in the blood of pregnant women. We need to try to reduce these numbers, not add to them. NStar has safer methods of vegetation management available. I hope the electric company will set an example for other corporations and choose to apply the precautionary principle."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Better than the Cape Cod Times!"

Over the past two months several readers have asked me to report back on LeCount Hollow, where major erosion closed access to the beach in late December and a beach cottage actually lost its kitchen floor to a winter storm. So, last weekend, Sven and I checked out the situation. The house is gone, vanished, no doubt, condemned by town officials. The sign blocking the access road has been moved closer to the beach, but there's still obvious danger. Above, Sven ogles the chasm that opened up to the right of the parking lot.

I was having a so-so day, happy to spend the weekend on the Cape, but not extremely enthused to be doing taxes, one of the activities I dislike the most. Our beach escape allowed me to get some fresh air. As we were heading back to the Volvo, a couple approached with a black poodle on a leash.

"Love your blog!" the woman called out, with a warm smile. Beth Olson continued, "We live in Connecticut. I tell all my friends about your blog. It allows me to stay in touch with Wellfleet. It's better than the Cape Cod Times."

How incredible! I know it's silly, but I'm always surprised when my life intersects with the life of a blog reader. The odds of our being at the beach, at the same moment, were slim. It was impossible to get down on the beach for a walk, so Sven and I were heading back to our car when Beth and her husband arrived.

Her kind words made my day. Thank you, Beth!

If you write a blog, do you ever get recognized by blog readers? Does anyone out there enjoy doing taxes? (Speak up now. Any one?) Does probability fascinate you as much as it does me?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fence Signs Attract Attention on Route 6

Once again, I was down in Wellfleet briefly this past weekend. I was able to notice that the Mobil station is still closed. PB Boulangerie is open. And, the signs above now decorate a fence along Route 6. Be sure you watch the latest video from Cape Cod Matters, below, and call your legislators about NStar's plan to spray herbicides, not a good idea for the health of future generations on Cape Cod.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
Wellfleet is green,
Shouldn't you be, too?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why You Should Say No to Herbicial Spraying

Dyer Pond, above, in all its winter glory. We certainly take our ponds for granted, although the National Seashore posts signs warning of environmental risk of say, adding soap to the water.

It is crucial that we stop taking the purity of water for granted. Endocrine disruption is the issue that bothers me the most. My Swedish husband told me today that a new study shows more girl babies are being born in Greenland than boy babies. Why? Male sperm do not survive in the toxic tide that is sweeping through our environment. Or, perhaps this situation is due to the fact that these chemicals act as "estrogen mimics"? I read in Our Stolen Future how toxic chemicals ride on the Gulf Stream winds and end up in the Arctic. Sperm counts are dropping dramatically, as reported recently in Denmark, a country which is considering a ban on Glyphosate, yes, that same chemical intended for use on Cape Cod.

This is horribly serious. Synthetic chemicals, unregulated in the environment, are disrupting reproduction, causing sexual abnormalities and disease. So, why does no one in power do anything to change the situation? Have they all been bought by the chemical industry?

On Cape Cod, three members of the Ad Hoc Management Risk Committee, including my friend Laura Kelley, have resigned in disgust. Read all about why here.

It is only a matter of time before citizens demand regulation of the synthetic chemicals added to our world since World War II.

You may wonder how this horror story pertains to Wellfleet, one of the more pristine places in New England, pristine at least until Spring, 2011. Despite citizen outcry and the support of legislators, executives of our utility company insist on their plan to use herbicidal spray for vegetation management under the power lines, a choice that will contaminate our sole-source aquifer for generations.

There is an excellent excellent opinion piece on endocrine disruption in the Cape Cod Times today. Please read it and take a stand against herbicidal spraying.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Reserve June 12th for the Wellfleet Harborfest

Pearl looks positively bleak in winter. Nobody hanging out in the marina parking lot except for a few dozen seagulls. But the place will be hopping come early June. The Wellfleet Harborfest committee has just announced details of the first Annual Wellfleet Community Harborfest, a gala event to take place on the pier Saturday, June 11, 2011 from 9 A.M. to 4 P.M. Harborfest seeks to promote boating, fishing and nautical activities. This new festival will inaugurate the summer season and showcase what Wellfleet has to offer as a waterfront community.

Harborfest is to include the following:
• A nautical flea market
• Food Vendors promoting local seafood (think oysters!)
• Educational and informational exhibits pertaining to the harbor
• Recreational and nautical related activities.

Exhibitors will be provided with a 10 by 10 foot space. All exhibitors must supply their own set-up materials. There is no charge involved but any donation, big or small to Wellfleet Harborfest, will be appreciated.

If you are interested in participation or volunteering in some way, contact Paul Pilcher ( or Martha Wilson ( prior to March 1. Paul is also accepting phone calls (508-349-5114). Exhibits should have a relationship to the harbor or marina. Starting a new event is not an easy undertaking, so please spread the word and plan to attend Wellfleet Community Harborfest this coming June!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Why Wellfleet Has Mid-Winter Blues ...

Don’t feel sad if you are not on Cape Cod right now. Wellfleet is like a ghost town. Above, a photo of a cottage, with chimney sealed against eager winter residents, like raccoons. I have been sick with the flu. Stephanie caught it right before leaving for two weeks in New York. Sven has replaced her in Wellfleet, but he came down with flu, too, I made a quick trip to the Cape yesterday to stock up on various cold medicines, milk, etc. I was not able to get to the beaches and apologize to the person who requested a report on LeCount Hollow. Old King’s Highway still boasts an inch of ice, making access treacherous. My mind was on getting as much accomplished as possible, in a short time. While shopping, I caught sight of Sharyn Lindsay and two of her young men. They were talking to a friend who used to sport dreadlocks down to her feet but had a recent haircut and wore a shimmering Valentine’s Day-red wig. This event was the topic of conversation at Wellfleet Marketplace. Work in the parking lot at PJs is almost complete, but now the Mobil Station has started its own project, so filling up the car is problematic. Two out of three gas stations are closed. Wicked Oyster has been open for a couple weeks now and next weekend PB Boulangerie again becomes a destination for gastronomes. I guess it's a sign spring is on the way….

Saturday, February 05, 2011

More Green Changes on the Way in Wellfleet?

The photo above is all blue, except for pink on the horizon, but green seems to be the dominant color in Wellfleet this past week. Get a better grasp of whether our town should become an official "Green Community" by reading this article by Marilyn Miller.

I hope the Town Administrator is not being too ambitious with his proposal. The Green Task Force specifically started with baby steps, because people need time to absorb the idea of change. If you have an opinion, share it with the Selectmen. They would also like to hear how residents and visitors feel about the proposed single-use plastic bag ban. I'm 100% for it, as regular readers know. What say you?

Friday, February 04, 2011

Building Momentum ...

Today I have two important issues to report on from my Boston hideaway. Number 1 is that the Wellfleet Recycling Commission has voted in favor of a transition to bio-degradable packaging. Number 2 is a series of videos called Cape Cod Matters. As you will see in the second of these weekly productions, now being shown across Cape Cod multiple times a day through local-access channels, Laura Kelley continues to educate Cape Codders on the urgent need to protect our drinking water from pesticide residue.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Cape Cod Table

In case you haven't figured it out, I'm a major foodie. And as a newbie to the Cape Cod area, I've been busily building my Cape Cod food knowledge. This adventure has included wiling away countless hours in local bookstores and the Wellfleet library, checking out as many cookbooks as I could get my hands on.

So far, my favorite is The Cape Cod Table by Lora Brody, which I picked up at Main Street Books in Orleans. It's a great collection of traditional Cape Cod dishes, and includes many favorites like clam chowder and kale soup. There are also a series of recipes that I was surprised to find, like the "dirt ball" from the Cottage Street Bakery. If you're unfamiliar with the dirt ball, don't be put off by its scuzzy name. In reality, it's a maddeningly delicious spherical donut that's been rolled in cinnamon, sugar, and butter. Yes, you read that right.

So, I have a question for you all. I need your help. Can you point me towards your favorite Cape Cod cookbook, and let me know where I can find it? I'd love to pick up a few cookbooks that capture the essence of the amazing food that this part of New England is famous for.