Tuesday, June 24, 2014

(Almost) Never a Dull Moment

While we were visiting Vermont last month one of the few souvenirs we picked up was a little set of cues for several country cycling routes of various lengths and degrees of difficulty.There is something to be said about novelty when you are out for a day on the bike, but I enjoy riding the same route many times every bit as much. Even on my usual route each ride is different. The wind strength and direction is different, the weather varies, I run into different people every time.

Today was my first time out on the bike this season and I hit the jackpot for novelty even though I only rode thirty miles. On the way out I was looking at the birds and vegetation, noticing what had changed since last fall. On the way back a couple of unique things caught my attention. I was riding along next to a nice pond in an area that runs alongside a road. Usually I am looking at the pond there, but this time I was looking at one of the houses because it  had an especially appealing porch. There was a fox sitting out in the yard in front of the house scratching its ear without a  care in the world. Apparently it has a den under the porch.

Later, just as I was gearing up for an overpass over Route 6 I was coming up on two girls on bicycles going the opposite direction. I thought they had two big dogs with them, so I slowed down a bit to look at the dogs and give them a little more room. Turns out they were not dogs at all but adorable miniature horses. The girls were exercising them, and getting them up to a comfortable trot by riding along with them on bicycles.

My pictures are horrible of course, because I had only my phone with me and that was shoved up the leg of my shorts, not handy for a quick pic. Still, I do have proof!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Garden Workout

Yesterday I took advantage of my Father in Law's visit to move a couple of sizeable shrubs from the front yard to the back yard. There were two dwarf Alberta Spruces installed as foundation plantings shortly before we bought our house. I'm sure they were designed to improve the curb appeal of the house, and they are very nice shrubs, but they were not at all what I wanted there. Even though they grow slowly and will only reach 10-12 feet tall over the course of 30 years, I don't really want large evergreens so close to the front of the house. What I want is cascades of New Dawn roses. I have the roses and the trellises in place; all that was required was the retirement of the existing spruces. I was prepared to lop them off at the foot if I was unable to get them out, but John was willing to get in there with the fork while I dug around the base. We were able to move them to the back fence, where they will anchor next years project if they survive the move. I had thought we might dig out the extension to my front beds while he was here, but I decided I did not want to break my helper and guest!

Before dinner we went up to Sandwich to walk down to the beach on their beautiful boardwalk across the marsh, taking Roxy with us to provide her with an entertainment that did not involve leading me repeatedly to the treat cupboard. We could not take her down to walk on the beach, much to her disappointment, because dogs are banned from the local beaches from June 1 to Labor Day. During that period the beaches can be crowded, and we do not want the tourists to be offended by the sight of DOGS.

When we left Sandwich we drove down to South Cape Beach to see what was happening down there to the parking lot. It's still very much under construction as the repairs to the parking lot were just approved in late March. Storm damage in recent years have really taken their toll, but because the parking lot there is between the beach and the marshes a lot of environmental issues had to be addressed. We'll be short of parking all summer but next year accommodations will be much improved.  Underground piers will resist future erosion on the shore side of the beach.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Father's Day Fun

This year we were lucky enough to have Shana's father here for Father's Day. In celebration we drove down Cape to Provincetown, visiting some of my favorite Atlantic beaches on the way.

After breakfast at Ann & Fran's Kitchen in West Yarmouth we drove through Chatham to admire the beautiful houses and the stunning beach. Chatham Lighthouse Beach is not only wide but deep, and although parking is somewhat limited there is no charge to park. The beach rose, Rosa Rugosa is in blom now, and the fragrance is intoxicating. It's an invasive invader, but so pretty! The Chatham lighthouse is lovely. It is a working lighthouse, so access is limited; we were not there on a day when it was open, but since John is having some knee problems it was not too disappointing to miss the climb.

We drove on down route 28, stopping on the way  to do a little shopping at  Monomoy Salvage, where not only is the available merchandise irresistible but the owner (Carol Sherman) turns out to be on the Board of Selectman for Mashpee Massachusetts. An interesting conversation about Mashpee doings and political issues quickly ensued. What a nice surprise! We picked up a few lobster floats to decorate the front of our shed and a couple of iron hooks and away we went.

On the way we stopped briefly at Nauset Beach, my personal favorite, and one I sometimes always have a hard time finding. I always look for it  farther down Cape and it is actually in Eastham.

We continued on to Race Point Beach, part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, where Shana wanted to show John the Old Harbor Life Saving Station. The station was not open when we first arrived, but be came back on the way back from Provincetown to visit it properly. Race Point is a good choice for beach goers because the dunes are not steep there. You can come and go with without too much effort going up and down the dunes. The only down side is that it is all the way down Cape, and I don't always want to go that far.

In Province town we took a little stroll, did a tiny bit of shopping at WA visited a few galleries, fell in love with an unaffordable painting by a local artist, and had a cold drink (iced coffee, in my case!) Off to Mac's Seafood for our dinner fixin's, a stop back at Race Point, and home again.

For Father's Day we had decided to indulge in a seafood feast, featuring steamed lobster and Wellfleet Oysters. We had never prepared either one of these items at home before but true to our usual cooking theories we plunged right in and invited guests to enjoy them with us. There was much discussion at various tones of voice about how to cook the lobster. We had our pot, and I had prevailed with my insistence that the beasts be cooked and eaten outside so my house would not smell of crustacean until the end of time. The point of contention was the means of cooking. I favored the turkey frying apparatus; Shana was sure the Coleman camp stove would serve, but John and I thought it lacked BTU output. It turned out we had left our propane tank in Falmouth at Thanksgiving when we last fried a turkey. I was sure we would end up cooking the lobsters on the kitchen stove; John stirred the pot by suggesting that he saw  propane tank next door. Needn't have worried, the lobsters came out perfect. We could refine our post-pot preparation techniques, but they were just delicious. Personally I do not eat raw oysters, but I assumed that since John does he would be able to shuck them. Nope. You Tube to the rescue with a good video showing how to do it, and I was able to get them all prepared in short order with no injuries to myself or the oyster.

Today we will swing around to the other extreme and get out in the yard for some serious digging and moving plants around.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Take Us Out to a Ballgame

Shana's dad is visiting and for a special treat we took him out to see the World Champion Red Sox. In general I am not much of a baseball fan, and I may have mentioned that Fenway Park is my exception to the general rule that the only thing worse than baseball on TV is baseball in person.

We had planned, and had reservations for, a delicious early dinner at Union Oyster House, changed the reservations to Legal Seafood on the waterfront, then finally decided to take a Duck Tour instead to give Shana's dad more of a look at Boston and a bit of local history. We planned to follow up with a more casual dinner at Fenway. The day was really rainy up until game time, so a mobile tour was to be preferred to walking around. The timing worked out great for us. The only thing that did not work out well (only for me personally) was that vegetarian or fish options proved impossible to find at the ballpark. In theory you can get a chowder or a lobster roll there but it was late, I was starving, and I could not locate them. Ah well, Union Oyster House will be a must on our next trip to town. The rain stopped just after we settled into our excellent seats, and the game was exciting (we won handily over the Cleveland Indians). A trip back to our car by subway, with only a short period of being unable to find our garage rounded out the night. It was interesting to see how active Boston is after midnight, especially a game night. The city is small enough that a lot of residents walk home or out to the clubs after the game. Here on the Cape they mostly roll up the sidewalks at 6:00 pm.

In the plans for the rest of John's visit is a drive to Provincetown featuring a stop at the beautiful Cape Cod National Seashore, a sampling of our famous Wellfleet oysters, and checking out a few of the many excellent Provincetown  galleries. If I have my way, lunch will be at the Wellfleet Bookstore and Restaurant. Their food is excellent and the bookstore is a treasure trove of unique books both old and new.

Monday the fun will be over as I put him to work in the yard digging out some shrubs and extending a bed. I want to take advantage of the manly muscles!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

June at Last

June is finally here and things are growing like crazy. I did not pay the price for planting dangerously, except that some things went in while the ground was probably too cool for germination so nothing was gained there by a too early planting. We were bold with our window boxes and pots because we are expecting a visit from Shana's father next week and we wanted everything to look as good as possible. Newly planted pots never look as good as the ones that have had a few weeks to relax and grow a bit.

The shady garden looks great, and my hosta/hydrangea corner garden is filling out beautifully. Hydrangeas are getting off to a bit of a slow start this year. I can hardly wait to see what that corner looks like when they start blooming. The shrub border is filling out well, although Shana was disappointed when she realized that it will be years before it looks really mature. She came to that conclusion herself, so I was not the bearer of bad news this time. We will have a shrub border of eighteen beautiful quality shrubs/small trees without spending a cent this way, so I don't mind the wait so much. I'd love to be able to go the instant gratification route like we did with our privacy hedge, but both of us know that is a very spendy way to go, even if it is much more exciting. At least this year my border looks like shrubs instead of sticks. It looks so much like shrubs that my neighbor was inspired to clear out the brush from his side of the fence and lay down mulched leaves so the transition is harmonious.

We've spent all of this year's reno money and are back on the budget of Normal People. Not nearly as much fun as dreaming up beautiful projects. This week we will be doing a few indoor projects. We have the paint for the kitchen backsplash area, and a bit of paint for an outdoor decorative paint project.  I also have in mind a little sign to paint using an old fence picket from our old fence. We went to Cape Cod Pickers Sunday to pick up a couple of furniture items. We are moving a little console upstairs for our entry area and replacing it with a low stereo cabinet and replacing a struggling little shelf and basket unit in the kitchen with a little hutch. The hutch is pretty old and super cute. A real one of a kind find. Kind of yellow like our pine cupboards and will not only accommodate out kitchen textiles like the tiny piece we are using now but will also provide some shelf space above - maybe I can display my Corning Cornflower pans! I am picking them up tomorrow (it might take two trips) and will post pictures then. We got both for about half what we would expect to pay for a nice new media console (on sale, with discount) alone and both are good quality and good looking pieces.

We spent a couple of hours Sunday afternoon at South Cape Beach. It was nice and cool, with little wind and plenty of sun. It felt so nice that both of us are burnt to a crisp. Why do I learn the same lesson every June?