Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cape Cod Weather

When I was a girl I thought I would like to live on the east coast. Partly it was the lure of New York City as pictured in Vogue which at that time featured many pictures of society ladies and their offspring, especially the fascinating and sophisticated Penelope Tree, who appeared both in the society pages and the editorial pages. I yearned for the exciting centers of culture and fashion that I saw in magazines. Seventeen and Glamour Magazines featured beautiful and stylish girls whose looks and wardrobes I envied.  Disposable income in my family was rather tight, my mother's ideas of suitable hairstyles and makeup for young girls were conservative, and I lived in northern Ohio, far from the meccas of style. Popular novels and movies and a slight acquaintance with boarding school girls fed my obsessions and New England added itself as an ideal place to live.

Time and life took me around the south and the southern plains where I got to experience life in several different states but although I had thought myself permanently settled in the southern plains I was still fascinated by the east coast. When I finally started visiting Cape Cod I loved it, but only ever visited for a week at a time, some portion of which was always spent in Boston. The fact that one of those visits (in August) featured temperatures in the 50's and constant rain was lost on me. I fell in love with Boston and expected to be living in the city when I finally came east. Our plans changed to a move to beautiful Cape Cod with its slower pace of life, outdoor pleasures and extreme marine climate.

Now that I live here I have to credit my upbringing in grey and rainy "lake effect" northern Ohio as the only reason I survive the weather here. We've had rain most of the time, and grey all the time since Sunday, temperatures in the 50s and intermittent strong winds. After 34 years with the 300 sunny days per year Oklahoma City gets it is a shock to the system. Summers here are beautiful, but the rest of the year can be pretty tough. It's no wonder you see Cape Codders out on the beach in any weather, because if you waited for perfect weather in any part of the year when the tourists were not overrunning the place you'd be in the house for the rest of your natural life. Just about everything fun on Cape Cod happens outside on the beautiful beaches and ponds, and it's the hardy people who are not picky about the weather who love it the most.  It's the wet weather that makes my garden lushly beautiful with hydrangeas and rhodys of gigantic size, and it's the humidity that is so good for our complexions and hair but it's hard sometimes to love it.

The other thing that took me a bit of adjustment is that because of Cape Cod's unique situation sticking out into the Atlantic the weather forecasts from the closest major television market (Boston) are without exception always wrong. That's why there is always an umbrella or a rain jacket in the car and a sweater, a wrap, or a big scarf in my purse. Temperatures here change quickly when the sea breeze comes in, and we can never be sure that what we expect will be what we get. I love it, but today, in the midst of one of our endless nor'easters that reminds me that winter is on the way, I am crabby!

I must add that it is something of a knitter's paradise. Lots of yarn stores, lots of knitters, and a climate that allows you to wear and enjoy you beautiful handknits nearly every month of the year.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Deep in the Fall

Tug on the Cape Cod Canal
This week we are getting our first cool weather nor'easter - rain is forecast for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in various amounts and conditions. Skies will be grey all day every day and highs all week will stay under 60° so although we are not expecting a frost here on the Cape we will be losing some heat from the house. I have not turned on the heat yet; Furnace Wars is still on. I'm pretty sure I will make it  until November 1, but after that Shana and I will be on different teams. Fortunately these days she is always hot, so I will not have to resist strenuously right away.  We've been taking advantage of good days to get in a few late season bike rides, getting our exercise and enjoying the beautiful scenery at the same time. There is a nice multi-use path along the Cape Cod Canal which is quite busy in the summer but in fall it is delightful on a bike.
Double Crested Cormorants

I am planning indoor activities this week, mainly holiday gift knitting and binge watching House of Cards on Netflix. What a contingent of vile people! Every episode reveals a more disgusting willingness to cut corners, blackmail, and cheat by every single character. If one seems to be decent you can be sure that the next episode will dispel that illusion. Great show, though. Acting, costumes, sets all perfect. While I binge watch BBC America and Netflix my gift inventory bag is gradually filling up with pretty things. Five completed projects and three others well under way. I do think one of the projects under way will end up being for me because of production issues. It will be pretty good but not quite what I envisioned for a gift. I will have another three or four items that I have not yet started, so it's acceleration time! There will be one gift project that I will make but not knit. Still getting my head around how I want to do it but I am hoping for an exciting and  Pinterest-worthy result.

I resigned my position at A Major Retailer. There is only so much "productivity" I want to provide. When you press for more from people who are doing heavy lifting you are inviting injury and I decided I did not want to do any more. Their loss, although I do miss the people I worked with. Never mind, that's what coffee shops are for! I am happy to have the extra free time, although I have to get it structured a bit better to get more done around the house and take advantage of extra time for projects. My plans for the veggie garden next summer are ambitious in the extreme. There will also be an additional flower bed plus the expansion of another. I am seriously considering asparagus. I think I have a perfect spot where nothing else is planned.

Stairwell at the Schubert Theater
Pumpkin Bread Pudding!
The last two weekends have been busy ones. We attended the opera in Boston one weekend - La Traviatta!  Fancy costumes, beautiful arias! Love, Secrets, Death! The staging was minimal (so modern) but thankfully the costumes were not. I liked the stripped down staging except it seemed unfair for some of the characters to have to sing while crawling about on the floor. Our show was at the Schubert Theater, built in 1910.  It's a rather small house, a bit over 1500 seats, so our seats in the rear of the mezzanine were not bad. We followed the theater up with a stylish meal in a chic bistro including fancy cocktails and desert. It was certainly not an evening we can replicate often, but it was a wonderful treat.

Last weekend a high school friend of Shana's was in town for the Head of the Charles Regatta. Her husband and one son were competing in a couple of races. We met up with Oleta there for lunch and boat race watching. We were lucky enough to have perfect weather and it was great to have a chance to visit. We had an outdoor lunch at the venue, not stellar food but very convenient and the least stressful choice for us so we would not miss the crucial race. Providentially Oleta is an avid gardener and had a lot to say about square foot gardening. It sounds like the way to go, and I can hardly wait to try it. She also introduced us to Uber, Which seems like a great service. We occasionally take cabs when we are in town and it looks like a terrific alternative.

The challenge at home right now is to see how long we can eat out of the pantry, with no purchases outside of milk, bread, eggs, coffee and tea. We are on our second week and still eating good stuff like frozen veggie soup leftovers. Tonight it will be black beans on brown rice, with gingerbread for desert. Next week I may try not purchasing any bread, changing to oatmeal for breakfast instead of toast and making some kind of bread. It's surprising how much we have stockpiled. Of course a few meals have been leftovers from restaurant meals, but only a very few.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Easy Peasy Tomato Preserving

Sometime near the end of the summer the tomato plants that you thought would keep you in fruit all season prove you wrong by ripening all at the same time. If you are like me you planted just enough to see you through the summer and not enough to can (because you hate canning tomatoes). What to do? The easiest possible solution I have found is to roast them. I cut them in half and put them on a baking sheet (the jellyroll kind with sides), with olive oil, garlic salt, pepper and herbs. Cherry and grape tomatoes I leave whole. Into the oven they go on low heat, like 325° for an hour or two, then turn off the oven until they are cool. If this sounds like a pitiful recipe, it is. The timing depends on how cooked you want them and how big they are. The herbs can be anything you have in the garden - this year I used thyme and oregano. I divide the bounty into freezer bags, then stack the bags flat in the freezer until I want them.

They are a great addition to soups. You can make a simple pasta sauce by chopping them up a bit, then adding them to sauteed garlic and onions. Just add pasta. They are ready for bruschetta  just as they are, warm or room temperature. You can even add them to winter salads or hummus just as they are.

Ready for the oven

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Playing Tourist in Boston

Yesterday Shana and I took advantage of the fine weather to play tourist in Boston. We wanted to go into town for the day and had no specific goal except for my desire to eat at the Union Oyster House, so we bought tickets for a guided Freedom Trail tour and went for a little walk around town after a coffee and a circular trip around Chinatown. I have no bump of direction to speak of so I let Shana get us from our car to Boston Common, only to find out that she does not have a bump of direction or a marked ability to read a map. Together we are a disaster on foot! I am capable of reading a map, however, so once I took over we were able to find our way. We stopped at Brattle Bookstore for a look around,  mainly because I am incapable of walking past without going in, but I restrained myself from purchasing anything. Shana was getting sneezy from the dust, so I was probably spared from purchasing only because I did not stay long enough to activate my book lust.

There are a lot of  Freedom Trail tours you can choose from in a full range from basic to deluxe, including a very good phone app to accompany a self guided tour and a guided private family tour.  Even the Duck Tours follow the Freedom Trail. You really don't need a tour at all, or you can just stop at randome places along it, because the Trail is obvious and the markers informative. We chose a guided tour with a fair sized group led by a history teacher kitted out in a complete Redcoat uniform. This tour is operated by Lessons on Liberty, and our guide was Michael Szolka, who seems to specialize in poking a hole in the common tropes of American History. He has taught history in High school and college for many years and has a great style - very conversational and I think every tour you take with him might be a little different.

The Freedom Trail in Boston is marked on the sidewalks with either a painted red stripe or more usually with a red brick stripe on the sidewalk. It's very easy to follow and I highly recommend it. Our tour did not stop at every feature, but stopped at several for an interesting  in depth talk about some of the history we did not know, including some of the things happening outside of our country that affected the Revolutionary War and the outcome. It was great to have someone with a comprehensive grasp of the history of the time with us. Even though the group was rather large I felt like we all got a great tour. The lectures in the Granary Burial Ground were especially informative and interesting.
Demonstrators in the Park

Granary Burial Ground
After the tour we stopped at the Green Dragon Tavern for a pint, then around the corner for a meal at the Union Oyster House, America's oldest restaurant. Union Oyster House is well worth a stop, even if you are disinclined to eat oysters. The clam chowder is stellar, and all of the seafood dishes are perfectly cooked. It's fun to walk around the restaurant and check out the art, memorabilia and decor, including a plaque in John F. Kennedy's favorite booth.

Deluxe pigeon perches

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fall on Cape Cod

Looks like fall is really here. I am seeing posts from my friends telling about walks on the beach with their dogs, traffic is light again (at least during the week), and the nights are cool.

Shana is experimenting with putting up reserves and relishes. Turns out that with a  flat surface stove you can't do water bath canning because of the risk of uneven heat (apparently the heat cycles up and down to maintain temperature) or damage to the stove top. Overheating can cause the stovetop to break, which would make your batch cost $1,000 by the time you repaired or replaced the stove. This would not be acceptable, so it's out to the deck to can on the ever handy Coleman stove. This strategy seems to work fine, since seasonal produce is available now and the weather is good enough for outdoor cooking. She is sticking to relishes and pickles with jam being also under consideration. We will not be experimenting with any produce likely to harbor botulism.

I'm enjoying the chance to visit beaches that are normally unavailable, and taking advantage of the light traffic to pull over anytime I see something that catches my eye without fear of being rear ended. Old cemeteries are a favorite, and there are a lot here of all sizes. So pretty and so peaceful. A lot of them don't have vehicle access, so I just pull over on the side of the road. This is not always a good idea in season when the roads are full of people who do not know where they are going.

I don't think we will have good fall color here on the Cape. We have had a very dry season which will likely give us a lot of boring brown leaves. Looks like we will be taking some fall day trips to enjoy fall color (and hit the farm stands for cider!) Shana has suggested apple picking, but this is really not an option that appeals much to me. Anything that creates work in the name of entertainment is suspect. We'll see. Crisp New Hampshire weather might make me reconsider.

Monday, September 01, 2014

My Annual Labor Day Post

I often have to remind people what Unions have done for them: the 40 hour week, OSHA, uneployment insurance and so much else. Here's my yearly union song - a playlist of Old School union songs.

By the way, the power of Labor has recently been demonstrated by the workers and customers of the local Market Basket grocery chain.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

National Dog Day

At my house it may seem that every day is Dog Day, but this town opens their pool for a dog party before they close for the season:

Richard, does this make up for the chicken video?