Friday, 30 July 2010

Summer Party

The BWs summer party yesterday was a great success, with good weather and superb food provided by everyone. Special thanks go to Roger and Sue for providing such a beautiful venue and warm hospitality, to Lesley for the dancing and to Jean and Don, Karen and Graham and Di and Nigel for all their help.

Satterly Landing

Satterly Landing Park, Mount Sinai Harbor

History of Mt Sinai

Kayaking Long Island: Satterly Landing


Thursday, 29 July 2010

Quote of the Day

�Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and
narrow-mindedness, and many of our people
need it sorely on these accounts. Broad,
wholesome, charitable views of men and things
cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little
corner of the earth all one�s lifetime.�
-Mark Twain

I read this quote in a guide from The Art of Nonconformity, a great website that I've been following for a year or so on the (ever wise) advice of Brad.

Tuna Tune-Up

I know that tuna and all other fish generally make me nauseous, woozy, sweaty, vomity, and generally not feel so good, but I think I still might give it another try if they advertised it like this:

I found this on the "brog," by the way.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010


San Ramon, Alajuela.
A little spot where young men and young women go to experience their first little taste of the nightlife.
Me? Well, I've never been there... well, perhaps once but I was so engulfed in the ol' hamburgers I never made it to the door...

Control News Before you Live your House

Travel news are sometimes very important for those who wants to visit dangerous places of our world. Here are some last updates you have to know before you live your house.

Pilgrims to the Holy River Jordan where Jesus Christ was baptized could find the place of their pilgrimage closed from the Israelian part. The reason is the high pollution of the river with pesticides and industrial wastes and the possibility to meet swimming bombs and other explosive objects.

The river Jordan is on the 3 place among the most visiting Christian Holy places after the temple of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and Nativity church in Bethlehem and is visited by 100 ooo persons for christening every year.

Israele invested great sums to improve it's part of the river.

Discounted directions this summer
Different touristic paradises offer hard discounts this summer (reported in the news). All those who had strikes and disturbances: Greece, Thailand, Spain, Italy and Hainan

If you dreamed to visit corrida, you have to be in a hurry to book your trip. The Parlament of Catalonia decided to forbid it from 2012.

Because it was the great -if not the main- tourist attraction and the great industry for the region, they have to adopt something similar but without killing the animals, I think.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

I Can't Believe There's Not Butter!

(Note: I changed the title of this post after hearing Angela say something similar to that)

Angela walked down to the main "pulper�a" here in Berl�n just a little bit ago. For those of you who don't know, a Costa Rican pulper�a is basically like a general store or a convenience store, only less general and less convenient. There are now three of these stores in Berl�n, two of which have opened in the last year. Basically, it's where some dude or woman decides they want to open a business in their own home; to open your own pulper�a, there are three main steps:

1. Buy or steal a display counter, along with a few bags of chips and some assorted candies
2. Move your TV to your garage
3. "It's business time!"

This way, you can stay home all day watching TV while ostensibly "working."

In any case, we almost never buy anything in Berl�n because there's just not that much to buy. Plus, I guess I like "weird food," which is basically anything beyond rice, beans, and chips. I also enjoy weird things like "cheese," "cream," "soup," and "flour."*

Still, Angela wanted to make a cake, and we didn't have butter. So she walked to the pulper�a and asked if they had butter. The lady --mind you, this is a lady who runs a general store-- asked what butter was. Not, "No, we don't have butter" but rather, "Butter? What's that?"

Every time someone visits us, they ask, "Why do you guys drive all the way down to Palmares to go shopping? Couldn't you just buy things at that store over there?"

That's why.

*Note: These are four real examples of items that I tried --in vain, and while receiving incredulous looks-- to acquire at the pulper�a before I simply gave up.

Monday, 26 July 2010

The Lure of the Berries

Yes, it's yet another blueberry post....It is so interesting living with people who are totally and truly addicted to berry picking. It's funny to listen to their conversations:

"Where did you find those big berries?"

"I can't say. It was so-and-so's favorite spot that he/she shared with me."

"Do you duck when you are out there picking near the road?"

"Heck, yeah! I don't want people to see me! And I was wearing my camouflage clothing, too."

"I heard two people honk, but I didn't park my car where I was picking."

Everyone has their ways of picking not only the berries, but also their secret spots where "the best" berries grow. Funny thing is, sometimes the people discover that the folks they are talking to also pick in the same location, but at different times. They just keep missing each other.

The truth of the matter is that, almost anywhere you go right now, the berries are so fantastic that there are more than enough for everyone, critters included. It just depends on how far you want to walk, and how many berries you ultimately want to come away with.

Which brings us to another side of the coin, making room in the freezer. When the crop is so bountiful and the desire to pick so strong, the tendency is to just go and go and go. Each time the bucket comes back, it is totally full. What a beautiful sight! But what happens when we run out of freezer storage space? Used to be, we would make jam, but no one seems to eat that around here anymore. Pie and crisp are the two most requested blueberry treats. Berries stored in the freezer mean that one can enjoy the delights of summer all winter long. To these pickers, you can never have too many berries. I guess it may be something like what the ardent fishermen feel. As long as there is a lake with fish out there, or a patch full of ripe berries, you have to go harvest them! The big ones are all getting away, right now, even as I type.

How wonderful to have a year like this, when the crop is in its prime, plump and plentiful. Though I may have to sacrifice freezer space now (as in, I might be cooking a turkey this week, in order to make more room), that pie will taste extra special when it is 20 below zero.

Artisanal Pencil Sharpening

If you've not heard of David Rees, he's the guy who used to do the "Get Your War On" cartoons. He's now moved on to Artisanal Pencil Sharpening. You should check out the website. It's brilliant.

This picture is from there. I love everything about it, especially since it's not a joke. If you send him $15.00, he will sharpen a pencil and send it to you, along with the shavings and a certificate indicating that it's a sharp object.

I wish I had thought of this.

(Photo credited to Meredith Heuer)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Pictures of the Day, July 23, 24, and 25, 2010

The last few days have been filled with work, rain, and fog, but I still managed to get a few pictures out of them:

July 23, 2010: Angela found this huge, weird caterpillar on a branch in our yard. It was a little larger than my middle finger, and it was hard to tell its butt from its face at first. Plus, if caterpillars turn into moths or butterflies, this must mean there are some HUGE beastly butterflies out there... or else this one will form a cocoon and will eventually morph into a toucan (hey, they have to come from somewhere, right?). Nature is gross sometimes.

At least they're easy to prepare. Just chop them up really fine, and cook them with a bit of oil or butter. Serve with tortillas.

Just kidding. I also made barley soup because the weather was so crappy. Thanks again for the Krupnik recipe, Martha!

July 24, 2010: Angela's nephew Maikol was at the in-laws' last night, and he kept trying to stack these little plastic ninjas. The picture isn't the sharpest and certainly not the most in focus, but it captured an interesting moment, and I like it for that reason.

July 25, 2010: Oh lemon bars, I just can't quit you. We have tons of lemons (enough that they can occasionally get mold, as you saw the other day), so I made lemon bars. They were great, but short-lived.

Also, here is a picture that I took out back this afternoon around 2 pm, just to prove it was a pretty boring Sunday. Believe it or not, this is a color photo (in the corner you can see a little red... that's the Formerly Crappy Casita).

Anyhow, that's it for now, and I hope that you found something you liked. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Sunday Photos: Canoe Race Edition

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Rescue in the Wind

Given that yesterday was another big wind day, with a nor'wester blowing at 15-20 mph, it was not surprising when a cabin guest hurriedly escorted some canoeists up to the lodge with an urgent request. One canoe in their party had swamped as they were attempting to cross Gunflint Lake. They had set up a makeshift sail, and it overpowered their craft. All three fellows had gone into the lake, along with their canoe and gear. Greg sprang into action, heading with them immediately to the beach, in order to head out in a motorboat to rescue them.

When he got down there, he surveyed the situation of our outboard state of affairs. Our own motors are still in that limbo world of "water in the gas", and so no motor had been put on the pontoon barge. That would have been the most stable boat to take out into the rough waters. The two 14' Sylvans have 15 hp motors on them right now, but to hold all the people and the gear, he knew these were too small. A neighbor had moored his 40 horse at the dock for the day, but it, too, was a relatively small boat. Then his eyes landed on the boat at the far end of the beach, and he knew that he had what he needed.

We've been storing a boat for our neighbor for several weeks now, and it was pulled high up on the sand. It was the largest, deepest boat that was in working order, and since this was an emergency situation, he knew he had to take it. He took the plastic bag off the prop (while thinking, "Why is this on here?") and then wondered how he was going to get it off the beach and into the water. But of course, there were half-a-dozen fellows standing right there, since two canoes had made it safely to shore. So they heaved and hoed, and were able to push the boat in. In short order, the motor was started, and Greg and one of the leaders were off and running across the lake to the Canadian side.

Greg spotted the trio and their canoe near to the north shore. They had come upon the sand bar, and were standing on it while waiting for the rescue. We were on the docks, watching the situation through our binoculars. They managed to align themselves with the canoe, and started the process of unlatching the packs, loading them into the boat, then picking up the canoe, flipping it over to empty it, and finally putting that across the boat. Once all of the wet fellows were on board, they started to move east. I continued to watch, and when I saw them turn and go west, then turn again to head east, I realized that they must be searching for something. Their partners on our beach decided it must be a lost paddle, and in the end, that indeed was the cause for the search. Finally they gave up on it, and headed across to where we all were waiting.

The traverse was a slow one, due to the hard-hitting waves, and the weight of the people and gear in the boat. In order to see where he was going, Greg stood the whole way while he steered the boat. They made it safely, and soon were unloading at our beach. All was well, with only a few wet guys and a lost paddle, as well as a story to tell.

The gang ate lunch under the canopy of the bread oven, and warmed themselves by the fire that we had burning in the stove out there. We invited them to hang out here until the wind died down, but this fearless and experienced group had a schedule to meet. They were headed to the Height of Land Portage on North Lake, and they couldn't afford to wait. So after refilling their water bottles, and expressing their gratitude, off they paddled , with the wind at their backs. As the afternoon progressed, the wind died down, and I assume that they safely made their destination.

For our part, we feel grateful to our neighbor, for without his boat being available, it would not have gone as smoothly. Thanks, John! You and Greg saved the day for a group of Boy Scouts from St. Paul!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Pictures of the Day, July 21 and 22, 2010

Hello! Here are my Pictures of the Day from July 21st and 22nd. Hope you enjoy them!

July 21st: This is Nelson's car. Nelson and my brother-in-law Ronald came by two mornings in a row to work at our house. They were building a small door to go next to our gate, so people coming over by foot (like our army of nieces) don't have to walk through the bushes or open the huge car gate. In any case, Berlin is full of these old Land Cruisers. They're very cool to look and and they're very rugged and durable, but they are also horrible to drive behind. I especially hate coming up on the tail of one of these while going up a hill, since they're really SLOW and somehow manage to belch out blue smoke. As long as you can keep your car going, you're OK, but if you have to slow down so much that it stalls, then you have to go backwards down to the bottom of the hill and then try it all again, hopefully with a bit more momentum this time.

July 22nd: I'd like to do a "close reading" of this Picture of the Day.

This is the relatively new EPA store near Real Cariari, on the western outskirts of San Jose. I really love EPA, but I'd never been to this new one. EPA is basically like a Home Depot that takes its styling cues from an IKEA (although I must admit that the scorpion is a bizarre touch which seems to have been dropped from the Swedes' plans). If you look at the picture, it's got a few interesting things going on.

First of all, ferreter�a is the Spanish word that means something similar to "hardware store" (Alas! IF ONLY they sold ferrets!). Secondly, whoever designed this store really didn't place the sign well. I'm a relatively tall person, but even for me half of the sign is cut off, making it look like "CDTriangle." Plus, the area around is even lower, which means that you see even less of the sign. And finally, the front really DOES look like an IKEA, doesn't it? Or am I just nuts?

EPA is great because it has actual aisles, and you can look at the products. This may sound like a very basic feature in a "store," although it's something I took for granted before coming to Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, there's almost always an attendant, be it at a gas station, a bakery, a clothing store, or, yes, a hardware store. I guess it's more personalized attention, but it's also a bit annoying if you're used to walking around a store and just looking at crap on your own schedule. It's just weird when you're looking at polo shirts and the lady wants to display every one to you.

And you might not realize it, but having to talk to someone when you go into a store can lead you to pick up a TON of vocabulary. In some cases I now the Spanish word for something, but I don't know the English equivalent (like cuneta, cumbrera, ficha, and soldadura... and those may not even be correct spellings, since I've only heard them spoken and not written out). At the same time, I have picked up a lot of specialty vocabulary that I suppose could be useful if I ever have a build another house in Costa Rica, but God help me if that ever comes to pass again. Somehow, I know know the Costa Rican Spanish words for things like "hinge," "grout" (both gritty and smooth), "masonry drill bit," and what seems to be like 4 or 5 different words for "handle." I probably wouldn't have learned those words if I had known about EPA before... still, I think I prefer just wandering the aisles until I stumble upon what I'm looking for. Plus, how about you try to explain "a sheet of vinyl lattice" in Spanish... it's much easier to just walk around, eventually find it, and point and say, "this thing here."

Anyhow, the reason I went to EPA today is because I was actually looking for a piece of vinyl or plastic lattice to use on the crappy casita, but I couldn't find it anywhere, and at every store in Palmares where I walked in and had to explain what I was trying to find, the attendants looked at me like I was an insane man speaking Martian. But EPA indeed had exactly what I was looking for, and I found it right away! Now I just need to find a way to transport a 1.22 m x 2.44 m piece of lattice, but I have a feeling our Sentra won't be up to the challenge. The saga continues...

That's it for now. Thanks for reading, and have a good day!

Call Her Ms. Peel, Please

This is our seventh summer of hosting pizza picnics at the bread oven. After all that time, we have a pretty good routine down. I roll the crusts, and Greg mans the peel. That means that he is responsible for putting pizzas into the oven, baking them, and then removing them before they burn. One of our guests calls him Mr. Peel, because he is so practiced it at. (Of course, that led to a whole conversation about the old television show called the Avengers, and who played Mrs. Peel, and all of that type of stuff. Funny where things can take you.) This set-up has worked well through the years, except when things get really busy, and Greg hasn't had a chance to make and eat a pizza for himself. That's what finally prompted him to make an exception, and allow for some help behind the tables. Enter Addie:

Tonight was her first experience at learning the peel. We had about forty people show up to enjoy some pizza delights, and Addie learned the fine art of pushing crusts in and taking out masterpiece pizzas. I could see her progress from some awkward first attempts to very smooth moves while keeping those little disks centered on the peel. Whoa, there's some red shoes you think that they made a difference? Whatever it was, Addie now has yet another skill that she can add to her resume in the future---that of a budding pizzaiolo.

(Sorry for the short posts lately. Life's been really busy! You can tell by how late each day I get around to posting. I'll do my best to catch up one day soon.)

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Off to the Races!

Back in the day, a couple of fellows from the neighborhood used to get spiffed up when heading to the canoe races. Here are a couple of shots from two different race events:

And they're off!

Picture of the Day: July 20, 2010

One of these things is not like the others in yesterday's Picture of the Day:

Did you figure out which one? If you guessed "The lime covered in thick, powdery, disgusting mold," then you're CORRECT! The others are just plain limes. I still marvel at how one piece of fruit can go so bad so quickly, when the rest are completely normal and delicious.

Little Darlin'

Little Darlin';  Mystic River, July 2010

Mackenzie Cuttyhunk: photo gallery
Mackenzie Boat Club: Restoration Of Little Darlin

Breton Landscape

We had a great walk yesterday - and great luck with the weather too, only a few drops near the beginning. Lots of people came to hear Yves Marhic give a most enjoyable presentation of the basics of Breton language, and Breton place names in detail. These included settlement words and the vocabulary of the landscape as we made our way through the attractive environment of Lannedern. We won't forget Reunamoic - Little Pigs' Hill. Everyone managed to participate in a noun/adjective matching game when we reached the Chapelle de la Croix in the woods, before strolling back to the lovely parish close in Lannedern.
We are very grateful to Yves for sharing a little of his extensive knowledge with us on this walk, and making it all so interesting and relevant to our surroundings. Anyone with further questions about Breton place names can reach Yves via and he will be happy to answer. A written summary of topics covered on our walk will be available at the party (July 30), or by email on request.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Raising Kids in a Candy Store

Does that title sound like a near-impossible feat? For a while, it felt like it could be. Our humble little store has always included several shelves of candy. Mostly we carry candy bars, and we also have ice cream treats and some various sodas on hand. Wouldn't that be a wonderful place for a kid to grow up? Little ones would think so.

Several years ago, I had a conversation with my then five-year-old nephew. He loved to go shopping, and felt that he didn't get to go often enough. Since he lived in California, and I hadn't seen him since he was very little, he really did not have any recollection of me, and had no idea of where I lived or what I did. When I told him that I lived in a store, his eyes got wide. I could almost see the intrigue going on in his mind, with visions of me living in a place like Target or Wal-Mart. Oh, how far from the truth!

But the reality of it was that, once we started to have children, we were raising them with candy on the shelves of their own living room/store. It was easy with the first one. We just didn't feed him any of it. He had no clue what it was all about. But by the time he was nearing two, he was just dying to find out what all those kids were getting from the shelves when they came in to the store. One day I caught Robert literally climbing the shelves like a ladder, just to investigate what was up there. The secret was out. A year or so later, Greg found a bag of candy under Robert's bed. He had taken one of our camping stuff sacks and had put some candy bars in it. When confronted by his father, he readily admitted to it, saying, "I eat them, and I love it." So much for keeping the secret from him.

What the oldest child has to discover on his own, the younger siblings just get to know by osmosis. Paul and Addie just seemed to always have known about candy, as I don't recall any moment when they didn't. Not wanting to totally admit defeat and call it a lost cause, I knew that I needed to come up with some way of controlling how much candy and treats they would consume, as well as how often I had to endure the pestering about it. So I landed on the idea of Tuesday treat night. Each Tuesday, they could ask for and receive one treat of their choice. Sometimes it was candy, sometimes pop. I noticed that some had favorites and other times it was purely random. For a while, I regularly stocked Reese's Nutrageous, as Paul seemed to gravitate towards those, while Robert was often an ice cream sort of guy. If they happened to forget that it was Tuesday, we occasionally relented and let Wednesday fill in. But if they were gone on some outing and missed it, they just had to wait until the next week. It worked well for me, and I figured that I had the situation nailed for the summer. Once fall returned, we could stop the treats until the next year. But that was not to be, they informed me, as this was to them a year-round gig. I gave in on that one. It seemed reasonable enough.

It must have worked, because through the years, there were relatively few cavities in our household. Paul gave up drinking soda altogether when he was thirteen, and Addie rarely had any herself. Robert may still like ice cream, and I do wonder if he has a particular hankering for it on Tuesday nights. For the most part, Tuesday treat night seems to be a thing of the past, but I am happy that for that time in our life, we were able to find a compromise that worked well for all of us.

Chubby's Tribute to the King of Pop

The top picture is Chubby, hunting a moth in the garage the other evening. I think it's hilarious.

Chubby's been a great cat for us. He's kind of a pain in the ass sometimes (Angela calls him a "terremoto"), but now that Cucho's gone, our former Backup Cat has has really had to step up to play first fiddle. We have to be sure to not compare him with Cucho, since he's actually pretty young still, and he still does a lot of dumb crap. But we're still really glad he's around.

Also, the other night we were looking at some older pictures of Cucho that I've not put up yet, so I may upload some of those sometime soon. I also had an on-going project on flickr to upload older pictures as a backup, but I think I only got up till my pictures from 2006. I should get that going again.

Picture of the Day Catch-Up, July 12-19, 2010

I know you've all been anxious, but don't worry, the wait is over! Here are my Pictures of the Day from the last week or so:

July 12th, 2010: Angela was making some pillowcases for some of our shabby pillows throughout the house. Angela's quite an adept sewer. Sewer? That doesn't seem right. I guess it's "seamstress." But what do you call a person who sews?

July 13th, 2010: Finally got the grill assembled! Thanks to my family for schlepping it down here during their visit!

July 14th, 2010: My class during a "fashion show." I know it's a Barbie kind of thing to do, but they were learning vocabulary for clothing items, as well as related description words. So, they got to wear some of our weird clothes for a fashion show.

July 15th, 2010: The new National Stadium in San Jos�. It sort of officially marks Costa Rica's abandonment of its old ally, Taiwan. See, Costa Rica used to recognize Taiwan as a country or whatever, and because of that Taiwan helped Costa Rica with a lot of development projects, including the "Costa Rica - Taiwan Friendship Bridge" (seriously, that's its name... hopefully Taiwan is building an "Up Yours Costa Rica! Bridge" in Taipei).

Anyhow, a couple of years ago Costa Rica basically ditched Taiwan for China, because China offered us a handful of shitty police patrol cars, as well as a shiny new National Stadium. It's pretty sad, really.

In any case, on Thursday evenings I teach a class right across the street from the stadium.

July 16th, 2010: My mug from Portugal. Nice trip, nice country, and nice mug.

July 17th, 2010: The stomach's been feeling a bit weird lately, and the generic Pepto just isn't working.

July 18th, 2010: Finally, we got to try out out new BBQ with some steak-like things from the supermarket! It was great! The only odd thing is the charcoal in Costa Rica. I had imagined they'd have briquettes, but it turns out that it's definitely wood charcoal. When it comes out of the bag, you can see the wood grains, and sometimes even nails!

It doesn't stay lit very well or long, but I may not be starting it right. I may have to search out some "normal" briquettes... Still, lunch was great!

July 19th, 2010: Mmmm, pistachios. It's strange, but they are in the category of foods that I've gone from hating to really liking overnight. That also includes papaya, cilantro, and tomatoes.

So, that's all for now. Be sure to check out the Leftovers. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Working the Bread Oven

Some years back, in the time after the bread oven was built, Greg had cause to email Alan Scott, the builder/instructor who taught the class for our oven. Greg was asking about the thermocouples that are embedded in the firebrick and concrete. He told Alan that we still hadn't insulated the oven. Alan was surprised, and said that when we did finally do that, we would be quite pleased with the efficiency of it. Now that it is insulated, I can't agree more.

Through the years of baking and pizza making, it seemed that the ciabatta bread I make would always turn out the best. I guess I had nailed the recipe, and since it was the one that the family asked for most, that is what I continued to make. But last week, I ventured out and tried a different recipe, one that I have made several times in my inside oven. It is a honey wheat bread, with some beer in it, and has always been a good one. In the bread oven, it turned out even better.

My biggest challenge in the past, it seemed, was to get a decent crust on top of the loaf. I was looking for one that had a good "tooth" to it, but didn't make my own teeth hurt when biting into it. I found it in this recipe and the insulated oven. On Friday, we baked off a few loaves, and some cabin guests baked up some whole wheat bread. It all went quite smoothly, with no burnt crust, and the bottoms were a perfect golden color. Hooray for good bread!

It's probably time to start planning another pie-baking day, especially given the tremendous berries out there. If you are interested in joining us, leave me a comment, and I will pick a day that works. If your are staying with us sometime in the next month and want to bake something, let me know, too! This oven is much better when shared with the community.

Our final shot is our two little bread-baking helpers, as we took photos of each other. It was a fun time!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Time for the Canoe Races!

The canoe races are just around the corner, and I feel like I am in a race for time. I'm not training to paddle, but I am trying to finish a project. In addition to racing, the evening of fun includes a raffle and silent auction. I am working on a pair of hand knit socks to donate...and they are not done!

But that's not important. What is important, though, is to tell you about all of the fun of the races. This is a fund-raiser for the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department, and it has been happening for more years than I have been around the trail. In my early days up here, the races were held every other week, and hosted by different lakes. In the last several years, the Gunflint Lake homeowners have teamed up with the Seagull-Sag homeowners to put on a full evening of entertainment for the whole family. There are minnow races and games for children, a delicious sloppy joe dinner, some contests, and of course, the action of the races themselves. Three categories of races are included: the regular paddling, backwards paddling, and the broken paddle race. After those have concluded, there is gunnel-pumping, where the racer stands on the back of the canoe's gunnels and propels the watercraft forward by pumping with the legs. It's a hilarious race to watch, with many people ending up in the water. Overall, the whole gathering is a great time to socialize, cheer on the racers, and support the fire department.

But back to the raffle and auction. Each year, the organizers collect many donations of prizes, from gift certificates to handmade items, and put these all on display for the attendees to peruse, and possibly win. The collection is amazing. Sometimes we've been fortunate enough to win a few of the items. It's a lot of fun to hear the names of our friends and neighbors called out, and to watch them go up to collect their prizes. The evening is capped off with the big raffle, a Wenonah canoe.

Tickets are available now at several of the businesses, and you can purchase them on the night of the raffle as well. Put it on your calendars to attend, this Wednesday, July 21, as it is a wonderful evening.

Eatons Neck Coast Guard Station

When I was about 12 years old, my parents along with myself and two younger sisters, swam ashore at Eatons Neck Basin and took an informal tour of the Coast Guard station. I don't think we entered any of the buildings, but instead just walked around the grounds and got a close-up view of the lighthouse and station. It was early on a Sunday morning and so long as we stayed out of their way, the Coast Guard crew did not seem to mind our visit. Some other people anchored nearby had the same idea, and like us, they were on their way about 40 minutes later.

When I anchored here last summer, the station was off-limits to visitors. This was really no surprise as many stations began restricting access as early as the 1980's. Those that continued an open-door policy, soon changed following September 11, 2001.

There are four Coast Guard stations presently located within Long Island Sound: Kings Point, Eatons Neck, New Haven, and New London. Just beyond the Sound are the New York Harbor and Montauk stations, while the Block Island station is now closed.

Coast Guard Station Eatons Neck is the only local station to have a lighthouse on its grounds. The lighthouse was built in 1799 and is the second oldest in the State of New York (Montauk Point is the oldest). A life saving station has existed here since the early 19th century, while the present Coast Guard station was built around 1875.

With a few exceptions, I have  found the stations to be very attractive. Many of the buildings are from the late 19th century, and often look like some waterfront prep school high upon a hill.  The white clapboard siding, red shingled roof, and large flagpole are a sure giveaway however, that this is a Coast Guard station (or once was).

In recent years I have noticed that many of the boathouses appear to be falling into disrepair. My guess is that as boat technology has advanced, the boathouses have become obsolete. Today, many of them seem to be used as a storage facilty or repair shop. If you look closely at the photos above, you can see holes in the roof.

Last week while I was preoccupied with the grounding of the Alabama, a fire broke out at the Coast Guard station in Menemsha, on Martha's Vineyard. According to reports, the boathouse and docks were destroyed by the blaze. I have yet to hear whether or not they plan to rebuild. Whatever they decide, it seems unlikely a new structure will match the character and charm of these old red headed ladies by the sea.

USCG History: Eatons Neck Coast Guard (vintage photos) pdf

Coast Guard USA: Station Eatons Neck

Eatons Neck Auxiliary

Lighthouse Friends: Eatons Neck Lighthouse (map included)

Vineyard Gazette: Menemsha Fire Destroys CG Boathouse

Soundbounder: Eatons Neck Basin

Breton Place Names Walk - Tues 20th

We have a walk on Tuesday, July 20th, starting from the church at Lannedern (D14) at 2.30pm.
Yves Marhic will be talking about Breton place names and how the language works, as we follow a short walk (about 4.7 kms in total) on country roads to a beautiful chapel in a woodland setting. Some long gradual slopes. All welcome, 3�.

Friday, 16 July 2010

A Very Windy Day

To my ear, Gunflint Lake is one of the most quiet places on earth. Most nights, the sounds melt away, leaving us with only an occasional loon call or owl hoot. The days, while busy with many different sounds, still don't come near to the amount of audio stimulation I have when I am away from here. Even in Hawaii, I noticed it was much louder. The sound there that I noticed most was the ocean and the wind. The surf and the pounding of the waves were always in the background. It reminded me of a dull roar--the term my dad used to say to us when he wanted us to take things down a notch. "Hold it to a dull roar!" Yes, Gunflint Lake is one of the quietest places, except when the northwest winds blow.

Today is a very windy day. It came along yesterday, that sneaky west wind, relatively mild in the morning, but in full swing by early afternoon. It blew all day, calmed for a bit in the late afternoon, and then resumed while the pizza-making was at its busiest. The night was a blustery one, and by the time we got up, it was kicking up well. It's really not a problem for me, since most of my day is land-based. Heck, all of my day is such, since I've only been on the water about four times so far this summer. For the folks who are supposed to be out on the lake, today is a bad day.

Before the morning had fully started, we could hear voices down by the shore. I figured they were canoeists, trying to take advantage of the early hour in order to make it to the landing before the big waves rolled in. I've heard of people getting up and paddling at four a.m. sometimes, just to get the big water behind them before the winds became too strong. Sometimes folks will pull over on our beach, and call it quits here. We are about two-and-a-half miles from the public landing, and when you are fighting a 15-20 mph wind, that can feel like forever. These four canoes were determined. They soon were pulling past our main dock, making some decent headway, but wisely sticking close to shore. They definitely had their work cut out ahead of them.

Another group came by around eleven. These folks were still on land, with a plan to put in at our landing and head on east towards South Lake. But by that hour, the wind was really in full fury, with several large waves knocking on the dock and soaking the ramp. They consulted and contemplated, and finally compromised. They decided to find an alternate route east of here, one that would still allow them entry to South Lake, but didn't put them into harm's way. They likely evaded a good soaking by that choice as well. Not everyone was happy, but at least they could continue their trip.

It's interesting how the vacation we plan isn't always the one we face when we reach our destination. But with Mother Nature in charge to some extent, we must take what she sends our way. Plan B is a good thing to have, and in the process, those changes can sometimes bring the most unexpected surprises. We just have to be on the watch for them.

Thursday, 15 July 2010


Last I heard, the Alabama had arrived home safely  in Vineyard Haven. I thought I would end this series with a tip-of-the-hat to the tugboat Gwendolyn. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find much information on her.
I have learned she was built in 1975 and is owned by Gwenmor Marine of Mystic. She is 50 feet long, and is the only working tug in operation along the Mystic River that I am aware of.
If you are as fascinated by tugs as I am, be sure to visit Tugster; a New York Harbor waterblog! Will does an excellent job covering New York's sixth borough, along with other ports of call.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Summer Kids

This happens to be a week when lots of kids are here, staying in cabins. During my first summer, it wasn't until mid-July that I heard the happy sounds of laughter, shouts of excitement, splashing at the lake--all those wonderful kid noises. I remarked to Sharlene that I didn't even know what was missing until they all showed up. But there definitely had been a void up to that point. I'm glad those days are back.

When our kids were younger, of course, we always had those noises around. Most of the time it was good, but occasionally we had to pull rank and call for some peace and quiet. I recently told someone the story of an early morning episode in which one of Paul's stuffed animals was being a bit too noisy for our tired ears. Paul was very good about supplying voice to all of his animals' thoughts. But before coffee, it was difficult for us to manage. This little animal was named Goldy, and we warned Goldy that he had to be quiet. It didn't work. After a few more admonitions, Greg got a miniature piece of duct tape, and carefully placed it over the embroidery stitches that comprised the little stuffed donkey's mouth. Oh my! Was Paul ever insulted over that one! He did learn, though, that his "old folks" needed quiet mornings in order to function the rest of the day.

I think that one of the best things about the old one-room schoolhouses was the fact that all ages of children had to be together each day. In theory, it seems like it would work well for the older kids to assist the younger ones, and for the little ones to emulate the big kids. In practice, it probably didn't always work that way, but a little influence must have rubbed off. It just seems best when there is a varied mix of ages around.

For that reason, I am so glad that we have a wide variety of ages of people in our neighborhood here on Gunflint Lake. It is not a typical and traditional neighborhood, since it is an area of seasonal residence for so many. But I value having neighbors who are in their senior years, as well as having babies and toddlers that we get to see on a regular basis. I think it keeps us all young.

My dad once related the story of traveling to a small town in Texas. He and my mom had promised friends that they would stay there for a few months in the winter that year, just to see what it was like. He said the hardest part was that it seemed like everyone was so old. It was all retired folks, some permanent residents, some just snowbirds. It was a community that welcomed children as short term visitors only. He said that finally one night, when they went out to dinner, the waitress was a woman in her late teens or early twenties. He said it was both a relief and a lot of fun to talk to a young person again. At that point, my folks had been raising kids for twenty-some years, and still had two daughters living with them at home. He couldn't imagine life with only old folks around all the time.

As I write this, darkness has fallen and the fireflies have come out. Our kids have gone to a campfire with friends, and all of the little ones must be tucked in for the night. It's very peaceful. But I am looking forward to tomorrow, when those little people have recharged their batteries and are running around outside, enjoying the nearly-endless days of summer.

Hot Days Tourists' Sufferings

Do you like to travel when the temperature is so high? I really don't. The news in TV show every day crowds of tourists in the streets of Rome and other big touristic centers of Italy. They walk, covered with umbrellas, drink water from the bottles and bath themselves in different kinds of pools and fountains. I do not understand these mad persons. I would never go out under the sun when it's rays are so terrible.

Well, it depends from the time when they can take their vacation. And maybe they have not other possibility to visit these places in an other period. But it's suicide.

I remember, we had to accompany my mother-in-law in Rome in August. It was terribly hot but we decided to rest there for one day and to visit Vatican. I had shorts and a vest top on and did not know it's forbidden to enter the S. Peter's basilica if not completely covered. But I do not stand hot and felt really bad that day. I had giddiness and very law blood pressure. But I wanted to visit basilica so much! Who knows, when I'll have this possibility next time, I thought... In fact, I was not there more.

castel Sant'Angelo
�castel Sant'Angelo� ?? ??????.??????

(If you have to visit basilica, you have to cross this bridge and turn left, as I did. The basilica is about 500 meters from here)

So, as said, I went to the basilica alown: my husband remained to wait near the car because we did not know the city and did not know where to park it, the car, for a moment. No, if you think to visit a big city, it's better to take pubblic transport. You save not only money but many troubles too.

I felt too bad near one of the shops not far from basilica and fall down on it's stairs. The girls in the shop have seen me and gave me water with sugar. It happens very often here, they said. Imagine, they had that water just ready in the shop for those mad like me. I thought about those completely covered persons intended to visit the basilica and about Swiss guards weared with lounge suits. My husband laughs till today when we remember how those bad guards did not allow me to enter in basilica but I just told you that story.

From that time I think twice if I have to visit something in hot summer months. It's better to choose an other direction for the vacation, I think.