Friday, September 30, 2011

The milk pail

There are certain places that have become institutions around here and one of them is The Milk Pail in Water Mill. I'm not sure when it first appeared but I know its been in the same place for over thirty years now and I love to stop there on a trip west for some nice apples.

What's always confused me is the name. If you call yourself "The Milk Pail" one would assume that you sell items like milk, cheese, cream - all sorts of daily products, right? But no, in this cute little farm stand you buy apples. Not just any apples but beautiful, fresh, bags full of apples in every possible species. In addition to that you can buy wonderful apple cider, maple syrup and maple syrup candy, and apple cider donuts. So the question raised in my mind is why wouldn't you call yourself "The Apple Cart" or "The Apple Basket" or something else that would imply apple products rather than dairy? I'll never quite get that, but I do get the shop and I love it.

Institutional stores like this one are few and far between along Route 27. It would seem that the real estate value of property is either too high for anyone to invest in for something as modest as an apple stand, or if family owned for generations, is worth more to sell than to use - and far less work! So I especially appreciate places like The Milk Pail and The Green Thumb. I'm not sure how much longer they'll be around, but they make the East End the charming place it is. May they last longer than I do!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Late September

There's no question at all now that summer is over. I was grabbing a jacket of sweater every morning a week ago - now this week has been humid again - but by the weekend we'll be back down into the 60s for good this season.  I've even thrown the gas-burning fireplace on a couple times to take the chill off in the early morning. I'm wearing socks again, keeping the back door closed until mid-day, and have changed out my cotton chinos for jeans in the drawer. (Only to have to get them out again this week when the temperature climbed again! I wish September wasn't so schizophrenic...)

That's the bad news. Here's the good: every morning is perfect for exercising outside. I walk up into the village and enjoy the crisp morning air, noticing how late the sun is coming up compared to a month ago. The fall bounty from the local farms is amazing. I bought local apples last week and have been enjoying them every day. The setting sun makes me happy to stay at home and settle in for a nice evening, and sleeping is never better. And the fall classic is only a couple weeks away, with the Yankees in the running again. Life is good at anytime on the East End, but right now, it's perfect!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Frozen food

Why is it that someone can't come up with a nice set of frozen meals that taste good and aren't overloaded with calories?

I always like to have a frozen dinner in my freezer for the sake of convenience. If I should find myself alone for dinner, with nothing in the house to eat, I like to pull something out and stick it in the microwave, to be piping hot and ready to eat in minutes. But the problem is that no matter what I buy, they all taste the same. I've bought Stouffers, Weight Watchers, and Lean Cuisine. It doesn't seem to matter if its a chicken meal or pasta, the taste both during and after eating is the same. Usually I can't even remember what it was I ate unless I go pull the cardboard packaging out of the trash and look at the deceivingly delicious looking photo on the front: oh yeah - it was chicken and mashed potatoes!

It seems to me if we can put people into space to float around and do experiments and then trade places with others who come to relieve them, we ought to be able to find a tasty meal to freeze and defrost for people like me who don't want to be bothered making something from scratch.

Fortunately I don't have the need often....

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vacations

My husband and I have not been away on a vacation - just the two of us - since our honeymoon. We were lucky enough to be taken on some trips by my parents when we were younger, and we took the kids on a few car trips and a couple plane trips to Disney World, and any other time we've ever gone anywhere we went with other people. Financially we've never had the luxury of an annual vacation like some people do, where you plan and organize and actually go someplace to see something like the Grand Canyon, or relax by a pool somewhere in the tropics. Our vacations usually amount to car trips to see our grandkids or something along those lines.

So - when Good Morning America announced they were going to give away a trip to Hawaii and all you needed to do to enter was go to their Facebook page and click on "like", I couldn't resist. As I'm working my way through the various computer functions and pages, trying to get to the place I need to enter, my mind is reeling with the thought of a trip to a beautiful place like a Hawaii, including a stay at a fabulous luxury resort, which is nothing less than a fantasy to me. I envision myself walking along the perfect beaches, sitting by the gorgeous pool, exploring the wonderful island and learning about the culture of our 50th state, and sleeping in the luxurious comfort of the well-appointed bedroom. It will be heaven!

Of course it took about 15 minutes to get the page to come up as the traffic was horrendous - everyone was obviously having the same fantasy as I. Once the page finally appeared, I tried to click on "like" according to the instruction for entering, and then the glitch: in order to be processed, I had to allow them access to all my personal information. I have a policy - I never do anything that allows access to my personal information. It's a protection I feel necessary to prevent hacking and computer crashes. I couldn't enter the sweepstakes.

Well, I guess half the fun of fantasies is that they are always wonderful in our heads and sometimes the reality can't possibly live up so perhaps it was a proper ending. I can still see myself walking the beach with an exotic drink in my hand, holding hands with my beloved and enjoying the perfect weather and tropical breezes of the islands. Oh well!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Throws

I used a "throw" for the first time last week. You know what I'm talking about - its that knitted or woven small blanket that lays on the back of a couch or chair in your living room all winter. Or across the foot of your bed.  They're perfect for taking a chill off in the winter when trying to keep our heating bills down.

I have a number of throws in my house. I have a lightweight woven one in the guest room on a chair in case someone wants to sit and read and there's a draft coming in the window. I have three in my living room: one is put away in a blanket chest - it was knitted for us as a wedding gift almost 40 years ago now and it's still in good shape. The colors have no connection whatsoever to our home anymore, although it was made to go with our colors at the time, so I keep it hidden away unless its needed. (Remember those "earth colors" of hte 1970? Orange, brown, beige...) I can't bring myself to throw it out because it's part of our story now - full of memories and good feelings. We had it on the back of our couch when we were newlyweds and snuggled under it together in those early winters when we had no money and kept the heat so low we could barely stand it. It's the blanket my kids lay under when they were sick, watching TV on the living room couch. And it always reminds me of the person who spent all those hours creating it for us. She's been gone for over twenty years now, but seeing that blanket brings her back to life for me.

I have two other throws that I keep out in the winter - part of the "decor" if you will. I bought them at TJ Maxx a few years ago for $14 each and they are one of the best buys I've ever found there. Dark brown faux fur, they are lush and luxurious and originally cost over $100 each. They're the kind of thing you might find in a luxury hotel at the foot of your bed. And when the air is cool, or the snow is falling outside the window, there's nothing more comfortable to curl up under. My grandkids love them and so do I.

No doubt winter is on the way when I've had to use one to keep warm. But what a difference a week makes! Yesterday I was in a tee shirt and had all the windows open. Probably before this week is out I'll be using the throw again. September is a crazy month!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chili

I love the autumn and can't stop thinking about certain comfort foods. One that keeps popping into my head this past week is chili.

There are many things I never make during the summer. I use the oven is little as possible, making good use of the outdoor grill instead. I like cold dishes. like potato salad and fruit, and only fresh corn-on-the-cob can lure me to the stove. But now, the weather has cooled and my mind is turning to the comfort foods of winter: pot roast, homemade soup, macaroni and cheese, and of course, the aforementioned chili.

I'm not a fan of heavy seasonings in my dishes so my chili is mild compared to others, but I love the chunks of meat and beans and all the good tomatoes that are used to create it. But with most comfort foods, a good deal of the pleasure comes from the wonderful aromas that fill the house for hours before the actual meal. Chili takes some time to simmer, allowing the flavors to marinate and blend over low heat. By the time it's finally time to eat, the satisfaction is both physical and spiritual. Not only do I leave the table full, but my soul is equally content at the experience.

I'm trying to resist the urge to make a pot of chili, at least until October. After all, its a long winter and there will be plenty of comfort food to come. But I'm really thinking about those chili beans right now...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tattoos

I've noticed that tattoos, which were once considered to be a fringe phenomenon, have become pretty mainstream. When I was young there were two kinds of people who had tattoos: navy veterans and female bartenders. (That's a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean!) Now, I am continually amused at the "regular" people who have them, from teachers to architects, including one of my sons and both my daughters-in-law. Most of them are more subtle than the anchors and pin-ups of the old WWII designs, including small hearts and flowers which are pretty, I think.

Not only are tattoos pretty well accepted by mainstream society now, there are reality TV shows which I actually enjoy watching about tattoo parlors. The first was in Miami, then Los Angeles, and now there's one set in New York City. From what I can tell there are people from every walk of life getting tattooed now, and even the elderly get in on the act. I'm fascinated with the designs and can see that the artists are truly talented people. Some of the portraiture is amazing. I personally can't imagine ever subjecting myself not only to the pain involved in getting a tattoo, but doing something so permanently to my body. Of course, the fact that I don't even have pierced ears tells you something about my own hang-ups when it comes to pain and body alteration. But I can honestly say, the whole tattoo thing has me fascinated. Maybe some day.....mmmmm....

Friday, September 23, 2011

S'mores and more

Last weekend we had company and they expressed a desire to have a fire at the beach one night. The temperature had dropped significantly in the prior week and we were worried about everyone freezing once the sun went down, but we loaded the truck after dinner and headed south down Egypt Lane.

We were shocked to see the parking lot filled at Wiborg's Beach, which is our usual spot. Not only was every spot filled at 7pm, but there were cars parked further down the street in the clearly marked "no parking" zones. Apparently there was a huge party going on and from what we could see there were cases of beer going down to the festivities as well as pallets of wood for a fire, both illegal of course, and not making it look like a nice quiet night on the sand, so we moved on to Egypt Beach and unloaded there.

It was dark so much ealier and really chilly, although we had all dressed for the weather. We also had blankets chairs so we didn't have to sit on the cool sand. The kids played with a football in the dusk while we worked on getting a good fire going in the container we'd brought along. Once it was too dark for seeing the ball, the kids gathered around the fire with us and the ingredients for s'mores came out. We had cut and trimmed some good branches for toasting the marshmallows and before long there were gooey hands all around.

We didn't stay too late - the kids needed to get to bed at a decent hour. Now that school's in session parents don't want to throw off their sleep schedules too much, even on weekends. And it was fine with me - I was starting to feel the cold. So we put out the fire and gathered our belongings, carried the container and debris up the beach and loaded everything back into the truck.

Our guests seemed to enjoy the evening and I was glad to have had yet another reason to spend a night at the beach. It's a long, cold winter, and the memory of our final night of s'mores at the beach will most certainly help to warm us up come February.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

TV

Someone posted something the other day that prompted memories I hadn't had in awhile. It was about the early years of television, which is strange to me to even think about because I never knew life without TV, so in my mind that must be ancient history! But in reality the whole idea of a "television set" as a piece of furniture in the home is about the same age as I am, so TV was in its infancy when I was young. Thinking back on it now makes me a bit amused.

Television then was a whole different animal than it is today. There was no cable for one thing, and out here on the East End we could get two channels on our television sets: channel 3 and channel 8, both out of Connecticut. We weren't able to receive the New York City channels and the only baseball team we could watch was the Red Sox. Later, when I was in junior high school, more channels could be pulled in with roof antennas that we could turn remotely with a dial on the top of the television set. As the antenna turned, the picture on the set would sharpen or deteriorate, depending on where the signal was coming from. If we were lucky and the weather was just right we could see a show we didn't usually get! It was great.


Every night at 11:00 the Star Spangled Banner player, the flag waved, and the picture disappeared to be replaced by a black screen with a small white spot in the middle. There was nothing to watch until 6 the next morning. Who would want to watch television at 3am anyway? Television sets had a place of honor in every living room and they were fancy pieces of furniture, sometimes, if you had plenty fo money, the cabinet even included a stereo.

About the time that color sets became mainstream - when I was in high school - we purchased our first color set. Not long after that we had cable. It was a whole new world! If I want to I can still see and hear those old black & white television shows in my head: Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans, The Mickey Mouse Club, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Twilight Zone, The Jane Wyman Hour, Hoppilong Cassidy, Sky King, and many, many more. We sat cross-legged on the floor in front of them and there was only one in most houses. They are part of my history and my memory.

Some day my oldest child will remember our very first computer - a Vic 20 I believe it was - or the first video game, Pong,  and how primitive they were. Her children will never be able to imagine it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Patients with patience?

Last week I had an annual appointment with one of my many doctors. I'm beginning to feel like a bit of an expert in doctor's offices as I've visited so many of them in the past few years I have plenty to compare to. This particular office is one of my least favorites. I love the doctor but I hate the office.

I was not in the waiting room more than 5 minutes when I was called in to the inner sanctum, which was a great start! They took my blood pressure, took my pulse, and asked the normal questions about medications and medical updates. Then I was left alone.

I waited. And I waited. Ten minutes, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes.....

Now had I been prepared I might not have minded so much but I had nothing with me to do: no reading no knitting, no nothing! And here's what I dislike about this office: there was not a single piece of anything to read. The office was immaculate, with a black desk that was empty save for a phone and not a speck of dust anywhere. But not a magazine, not a brochure, not a flyer....nothing I could amuse myself with. There wasn't even anything on the walls save one big print of a European scene. No diplomas, no big posters of body parts, nothing! (I remember years ago learning all about the human ear while waiting in a doctor's office with a big illustration on the wall of a cutaway ear!)

People walked back and forth crossing in in front of the office. How difficult would it be, I wondered, to have a rack of magazines hanging on the wall? Of a stack of brochures about the specialty of this doctor? Something....anything to keep me occupied. I stewed and simmered, determined that I was going to make some suggestions to the doctor when he finally arrived, explaining what was needed to make his office more patient friendly.

But... when finally he appeared I was so happy to see freedom in my future and anxious to get done and out of the door, I didn't say a word. Which was possibly their strategy all along.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Moons

I love to see the moon come up over the ocean. There's something amazing about the look of that big white ball rising on the horizon, no matter how full it is or how clear the skies are.

Last weekend we were at the beach when the full moon appeared. At first it was a faint circle of brightness in the fading daylight, becoming sharper and clearer as the darkness crept in. The pale blue sky had patches of pink that formed a circle around it, and the clouds that were moving quickly along altered the crispness of its outline. They swept across the face of it, creating gray patterns and at times obliterating it completely except for the glow. Someone in our group made the comment that it "almost didn't look real" and they were right.

The sky continued to darken as we chatted, snuggled up in our sweatshirts against the chilly breeze coming off the water. Within twenty minutes of its first appearance all was black except for the moon, which looked close enough and clear enough to touch, and the beautiful reflection of it on the water. It illuminated the surf with a sparkling splendor, and a light that was beyond description. I wish everyone in the world could experience it at least once in their lives. How lucky am I to see it whenever I want to make the effort to get down to the beach and watch.

There are many pleasures on the East End and none are any less compelling than watching the moon rise over the ocean. It's a something to be savored.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Reflections

All the ceremonies and activities surrounding the 9-11 anniversary really made me do some reflection about life and death and that space between the time we're born and the time we die. Every generation has defining moments when in their youth they're shocked to discover that the world is not always a friendly place. For my parents it was Pearl Harbor. For mine it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. For my children I imagine it will be 9-11. It's that point in time where we recognize that life can change in an instant and even being a good person doesn't make you safe from the dangers of the world.

For me and many other people, these lessons become even more acutely learned when we face impending death through some disease or accident or other life-changing event. For me, cancer has been a blessing because it has given me a renewed sense of the joy of life and a spectacular purpose to my days. I take none of them for granted, even the most mundane. I find pleasure in the smallest things and take nothing lightly. It's given me some intense living that only I - and others like me - really understand.

Here's the thing: I always thought that I lived my life with purpose and appreciation. I believed - and I tried - to live each day with meaning and to fully enjoy every one. But now that I've been to the brink I know I wasn't nearly as appreciative of if all as I should have been. And I honestly don't think anyone can be until they've been where I've been. I feel blessed to have learned this lesson and still be here to apply it. I try so hard to be a better person now and I start every day asking God what I'm meant to do with it.

My point is this: The innocent people who lost their lives on 9-11 never had the opportunity to look death in the face and then go on living. They weren't given the chance to change the way they lived, or live with renewed purpose and meaning. They were simply gone in an instant, as also happens to thousands of people every day in so many different ways. To me that's the biggest tragedy of 9-11.

I feel blessed to be here and to be experiencing life in a way I didn't know before. I wish everyone had the same chance at least once in their life. I don't like living with the cancer threat every day, but it was and is worth the price.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Autumn

Some people are very vocal about their sadness over the end of summer but I have to be honest - I love it! I love the empty roads,  I love the autumn colors, and I love this weather!

In the mornings I put a long-sleeved shirt on over a t-shirt before I come downstairs. I sit in the living room reading the paper with the windows wide open, enjoying the cool air filling the house with the joy of autumn. I enjoy the dry, crisp air and I find it invigorating to not be hindered by the humidity of August. I like the way the sky is still so brilliantly blue, with pretty white clouds racing across it in the afternoon.  And I love the nights when it feels good to be snuggled in under the comforter rather than trying desperately to find a cool spot on the under side of the pillow. September ushers in my favorite time of the year.

And then there is the joy of traversing empty roads back and forth to western destinations - so much more enjoyable when travel time is more predictable and reasonable. The farmstands that dot the way along the southern route are beautiful with their colorful produce stacked in trucks along the roadside and fields of big orange pumpkins and huge green stems and trailing leaves stretched out behind them. Every trip is like something from a picture book come to life. The blue of the sky meeting the green of the fields and color, bright and lively, everywhere.

No, I'm not grieving over the summer past. It was a wonderful summer, full of lasting memories and wonderful gifts. But the autumn is here now and I'd rather enjoy what's in front of me than long for what's behind.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"Spring" cleaning

A week ago we did our heavy-duty seasonal cleaning in the downstairs of our house. I tend to call it "Spring" cleaning even when its in the fall, because that's what my mother always called it. It's the time you pull out all the furniture, vacuum in all the hidden corners, wipe down all the baseboards and trim, and in my case at least, re-arrange things.

I love to re-arrange furniture. There are some places you just can't do it, like in my living room. We have a sectional which fills one side of the room and can't fit anyplace else. There's a corner tv cabinet which was bought many years ago and it also can't go anywhere else. So this particular room is as it always will be, save for a few little things here and there. But the family room is easy to fool with and although we've had the exact same furniture in this room since we added it on over twenty years ago, I've had it in so many different configurations I can't remember them all. They're easy pieces to move around and there's no television or anything that needs centering, so there's plenty of freedom to do so. We actually managed to find an arrangement now that we've never used before and I'm enjoying the feeling of a new space, even with old furniture.

Everything will stay as is for awhile now. Sometimes we move things when we set up the Christmas tree, but I think we've already decided to put that in a different room this year so my guess is it will stay the way it is until the Spring. And for the moment at least it feels really clean...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Neutrals

I have always loved color. From the time I was very young and chose bright blue and green for my bedroom colors, I've had no fear of color and in fact have always used it liberally around my house. Which is why I find it suddenly very confusing to be drawn to neutrals.

We started by painting our renovated kitchen a nice creamy white and using black and beige for accents. Then we painted the walls in the back room beige. Nice! I liked it, especially paired with the white slipcovers on the furniture. I've already decided that when it's time to paint my living room the beautiful red walls, which I love, will become creamy white and the trim beige. And we're looking to renovate the sun porch/office and I'm thinking - you guessed it - white!

I'm not sure why this change in my thinking, although I do enjoy changing out the pillows and accessories to make my colors change more easily with pops here and there instead of dealing with entire walls. But I must say I'm even enjoying the total black and white theme. I'm having more fun with pattern and texture instead of color.

Maybe its old age, I don't know.  Perhaps I just need to settle in to calm, serene neutrals to spend my later years and I just don't need the stimulation of bright color anymore. I don't think so though. I was still drawn to those bright blue pillows at TJ Maxx the other day....

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sunset

Tuesday afternoon we left Halsey's Marina at 2:00 with friends on their sailboat. It was a picture-perfect day and gorgeous on the water. We motored out of the harbor, hoisted the sails, and steered toward Shelter Island. It seemed as though the world was a million miles away - no phones, no cars, no people in sight. Occasionally another boat would appear in the distance, but otherwise it seemed as though we had the entire waterway to ourselves.

We sailed along the shores of Cedar Point and up into Coecles Harbor where there were two or three other boats anchored. Once we had the perfect spot we settled in to enjoy the day. Dinner was a combination of offereings - each of the three couples contributed. The first course was guacamole dip, cheese, crackers and chips. Some of us enjoyed a bottle of wine. All of us enjoyed the company. The dinner course was a steak salad with fresh greens and gorganzola cheese. There was fresh bread and butter to go along with the salad of course. Dessert was pecan turtle bars, a wonderful combination of caramel, chocolate, and pecans.

It wasn't easy to leave. It was a magical evening of friends and food, in a setting worth a million dollars. On the way home we watched the sun setting in the western sky, a huge red ball slowly disappearing behind the bluffs, surrounded by a pink and blue backdrop. We pulled into the harbor as the lights began to flicker on all along the shore and within another fifteen minutes we were docked and climbing back off the boat, soon to be driving home and back into reality.

I can't think of a better way to end the summer...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mill Hill

Mill Hill Lane was hit pretty hard by the hurricane and I've driven up and down the street a number of times since then to check on things. There were some nice big trees that came down and the whole street was without power for awhile.

It's funny how we can pass things over and over, sometimes daily, and not really notice them. Or at least not notice the fine detail along the way. I've always loved Mill Hill and would be happy to live there because it feels more intimate and less grand than the lanes between Main and Egypt, but lately the scale has been changing, with modest middle class houses being transformed into big rambling homes that take up too much of the property. But what I noticed recently, because I was really looking at them, were the trees. It appears that all the trees on the upper half of Mill Hill were all planted at the same time. They're all the same type and all the exact same size. It would seem as though the lower half of the road was established for a long time before the upper half was, and once building began towards the back lots the village, or town, came in and planted rows of the same trees on either side if the road. They're beautiful trees now, but almost every one of them has a divided trunk, which of course is not a good thing when the high winds come. Those deep crotches in trees make them weaker, not to mention providing a place for moisture to collect and fungus and disease to work its way in. I'm afraid when they're much older we're going to lose more of them.

Of course I'm no arborist and I don't know the history of the street, but my slow passes up and down this week have peaked my interest and I'm going to find out more about the history of it as soon as I can. I want to know when and why those trees were planted. And I want to know why Mill Hill is so narrow. I want to know everything I can about the street because I love delving in to the history of the local area. Especially places I know nothing about. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Insomnia

I seem to have developed a new sleep pattern. I wake every morning about 4am and then I can't get back to sleep. By 5:30-6:00 I finally climb out of bed and get dressed because at that point there doesn't seem to be much of a point in staying under the covers any longer. So my mornings are starting pretty early and its affecting my entire day as I fight off yawns and mental drifting throughout.

When I was young I could sleep like there was no tomorrow. I had no problem staying in bed until 10am on a Saturday and starting my day around lunchtime. I could wake, roll over, and go right back to sleep. It was a wonderful thing. It's been many years since I've been able to sleep like that. For a long time it had more to do with having little children in the house than my own sleep patterns and it was impossible to stay in bed even when I wanted to. But as age has crept up on me its now about other things. Once I wake at all I need to make a trip to the bathroom, which of course makes me more wide awake and then it's more difficult to drift back to sleep again. And once it gets to be early in the morning I might as well forget about it. Then there are other age issues, like gastric reflux, as well as a overactive mind - oh for the days when I had no responsibility or problems! Once I wake up I start thinking about everything I need to do the next day or the next week or whatever, and that in turn makes it harder to get back to sleep. I know that's not an age thing because my husband  is just as old as I am and he has no problem with that at all. He's never had a problem turning off his mind, which is probably a blog in and of itself but I'm not going to go there right now.

I believe I suffer from insomnia. But I think I'll deal with it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Empty

I found myself in an unusual situation earlier this week. I had a nearly empty refrigerator.

Since having family visiting since mid-June, I've been sharing space in my french-door fridge with others all summer. The shelves were filled with yogurts and juice bottles, sauces and condiments, and various types of jellies and relishes that I don't normally use. Each of the two families that took up residence with us brought along their own tastes and favorites, and since children like the familiar, we were stocked with all of them.

I've never had a refrigerator that is jam-packed with food. We've always operated on a very tight food budget and many things were just too much of a luxury - many refrigerated items fit into that category. Pickles, relishes, jams and salsa were rarely seen in our house, for instance, unless purchased for a a special event. We've always been pretty lean in that area and I can usually find space in my fridge for a large tray of lasagna with no problem. There is always room for things people bring to share and I rarely wish I had more space - what we have is fine. But when my son and his wife packed all their food the other day and left for home after having been here for the month of August, I was awed at the empty space they left behind. I had empty drawers, empty shelves, and empty doors. It was the perfect opportunity to wipe down the interior, which I did, and then re-stock, which I'm still doing.

How many chances do we get to start over? Other than after hurricanes when the electricy has been out for days and everything has to be thrown away, I can't remember another time. It was fun and I'm still working on what to put back into my big empty refrigerator. Shouldn't take too long...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A beautiful day...

It's impossible to forget what a beautiful day it was ten years ago when the terrorists attacked. I was already at work at the church office, working on the Sunday bulletin, when the minister walked in and mentioned that a plane had just struck the World Trade Center. We both surmised it was a small place like the one that had hit the Empire State Building years ago, but he wanted to make sure so he walked back to his house next door to see what else was going to unfold. Of course he came back in short order with the news that another plane had struck and the news was buzzing with words like "terrorism" and "war". It was shocking to say the least, and my mind immediately went to my children and where they all were. One was living in Pennsylvania, another attending college, the others were here in East Hampton and I worried about them all. When disaster strikes we think first about the people we love.

Within the hour we had gone in to full "ministry" mode (this was the church, after al!) and had opened the church doors wide for anyone who wanted to come pray. The minister was busy on the phone with the other clericus, planning a service for that evening to provide a place for the community to gather in their grief. It was a quickly thrown-together affair and he asked if I could sing something, which of course I agreed to, imagining there would be twenty or thirty people there. After all, how would anyone even know about it? I left work at 1:00 and went about my day, listening to the television when I could, picking up my son at school and taking him to a doctor's appointment. Life was going on as though nothing had happened, but there was a pall over the world. It was palpable - a sadness and a fear of the unknown.

When my husband got home from work we all piled in the car and headed to Main Street to attend the church service. We were shocked to see people steaming into the church from every direction. There were families, singles, couples, many holding hands and rushing as though it was important to reach the safely of the sanctuary. The following hour was one of the most profound of my life as people of all faiths and backgrounds sang, prayed, and wept together. The Rabbi spoke, the Town Supervisor spoke, the Mayor spoke, and we all reached out to our common God for help in our time of need.

I'll never forget it and I'm sure no one else who attended will either. As we left the church we were given candles to light and leave on the front steps. The stone entrance was bathed in light as each candle burned to the granite, leaving behind the wax remnants in hardened puddles. The world  had changed and so had we. It was a day to remember for sure.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Clean-up!

We had company in our house from mid-June up until earlier this week. Well, maybe I shouldn't call it "company" because, after all, they were family and as far as I'm concerned the house is theirs as well as ours. It's the home they grew up in and I hope it will always feel like home to them. I know they are always welcome here and we love having them come back and spend time.

Our granddaughter arrived in mid-June, followed quickly by her mother and siblings, and they were here until the last day in July. The day they left my son and his family came to stay while their house was rented for August, and they left the day after Labor Day.

Believe me when I say I'm not complaining! We loved having all of them here with us - if we didn't thrive on chaos we would never have had four children! So we don't mind it at all and in fact the energy and life that all these wonderful people bring to our house is wonderful. I love it. But now its time to clean up the house like it hasn't been done in a few months! I need to get to the baseboards, hit the backs of the toilets, and make sure the fridge is wiped down and organized. All summer we were busy and having fun and deep cleaning was not on the menu! So now's the time. And today is the day. My first Saturday to scrub and detail, and hopefully most of it will get done.

I think I'll be in bed early tonight....

Friday, September 9, 2011

Caps

After attending worship at the Dune Church last weekend we came home through Sag Harbor and stopped at Il Cappucino's for lunch. Which got me to thinking about this little restaurant that's been a fixture in the area since the 1970s, and how much I've enjoyed it through the years.

Caps, as it's affectionately referred to by we locals (us locals? Where is my teacher-mother when I need her!), first appeared on the scene in about 1972. I remember it because I was out of school and living with a couple friends in a rental in East Hampton. Being young and carefree, and having jobs which produced regular paychecks, we often went out for drinks or dinner as young people tend to do. One day someone told us about this new little Italian restaurant that had opened in Sag Harbor, with great food and reasonable prices, and we decided to make the short drive over to check it out ourselves. Since the place didn't yet have a liquor license, we were advised to bring a bottle of Chianti, which we did, and at the end of the meal it was donated to the waiter who added it to the growing collection of similar bottles which were hanging from the old tin ceiling. Our source was right on and we loved the place and we've been going every since.

There's a certain charm about Caps which comes from the small rooms all connected to each other with small hallway passages. From the bottles still hanging from the ceiling to the red-checked table cloths, it simply oozes Mediterranean flair (not that I've ever been to the Mediterranean...), from the unbeatable garlic rolls to the paintings of Italian scenery on every wall, it takes you to another place easily. And because of its popularity with locals we nearly always bump into familiar faces once inside the hidden door off the little alley.

If you were to ask me where I would want to eat if I knew it would be my last meal on earth, second only to my mother's house would be Il Cappucino's Ristorante. An institution in the best possible sense of the word.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dune church

Last Sunday we did something I've been wanting to do for many years: we attended worship at St. Andrew's Dune Church in Southampton. In my lifetime I've managed to visit nearly every church on the East End, usually singing at weddings and funerals, with two exceptions: St. Andrew's in Southampton, and St. Thomas in Amagansett, which is also a seasonal church. I was determined to see them both this summer but haven't gotten to St. Thomas yet - probably next year now. But we made the trip west Sunday to attend the Dune Church, as its referred to, and I was not disappointed.

The building was originally a Life Saving station in Southampton that was purchased and added onto in 1879 when it began to hold services as a church. It was moved from its original location but it is situated right smack on the landward side of the dune and you can hear the surf from the door. It's an incredibly beautiful sanctuary, with a dark, stained wood interior, but plenty of light coming through the gorgeous Tiffany stained-glass windows. They alone were worth the visit - absolutely stunning!

The church was packed and had the air of an old world chapel, with rickety old pews comfortably covered with cushions, and wonderful beams and woodwork. The colorful windows were works of art and it was difficult not to spend my time studying them instead of listening to the sermon, but I took the time after worship to walk around the nearly emptied sanctuary and enjoy them in more detail. There was a booklet in each pew with the history of the building but I didn't have time to thoroughly read it and am frustrated now not to be able to find it online somewhere. There were photos of the interior full of sand after the Hurricane of '38, and of the badly damaged exterior as well.  I want to know more about her story and how she came to be such a regal lady holding court over the beach in Southampton Village.

Sitting in the church was the same experience as sitting in so many historic buildings out here - you can almost feel the ghosts of the past joining you as you meditate. What stuck me as especially poignant about this building was that it began as a lifesaving station and has continued that same work, in a different form, throughout its life. I hope it stands forever - and I hope to get back there again soon to enjoy it's ambiance and glory again. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The switch

I am always taken aback by the way it feels as though someone flips a switch in certain months of the year, going from one season to another in the blink of an eye. Within the last week it has suddenly become fall.

In the mornings it's so chilly I need long sleeves to sit in the house with the windows opened. By mid-day it's warm and pleasant. By 6:00 its getting cold again and harder to sit outside for dinner. Soon enough the outdoor furniture will be put away and our extra room - the deck - will be relegated to the status of "storage facility" where the furniture will be stacked and covered and the snow blower will be staged for the winter. How time goes by.

I'm looking forward to the winter. The holidays are going to be fun with a toddler in the family, not to mention the older grandkids who will no doubt bring enjoyment on a whole different level, writing their letters to Santa and helping with the decorations. For me, each holiday, each birthday, and each special occasion if a gift. Memories are the treasure of old age and I am blessed to already have so many.

The chilly air is making me think of the days stretched out ahead of us, ready for filling up with lots of good things. Whatever the winter brings, good and bad, it will include so much to be thankful for. And I'll be grateful for all of it. Here's to a great autumn full of pumpkins and falling leaves, football and wool sweaters. I'm ready.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What not to wear

One of my favorite television shows the past couple years - one of those guilty pleasures we all have - is "What Not to Wear" on TLC. This is like "a make-over a week" show. They find someone who has been nominated by friends and/or family, follow them for a couple weeks with a camera (unbeknown to the subject) and then ambush them when they are least expecting it, offering them $5000 to buy a new wardrobe with their rules in mind. Then they tutor the subject on the right clothes to wear for their body type - and send them off shopping.

There are so many enjoyable features in this one show it's hard to pin them down, but I especially love it when they make these sad people put on their favorite clothes and then make fun of them. The other part I love is the hair and make-up, when the real magic happens.

I truly believe that each one of us has the potential to look like a celebrity with the right coaching. If we have money for a proper wardrobe, and hair color and styling done by a top notch stylist, with make-up also done by a pro, we could all look like a million bucks. I'd love to have the opportunity to have those experts make me look better. Who wouldn't?

I guess that's the real joy of the show - its a little vicarious pleasure at someone else's expense. We don't have to endure the embarrassment of our bad clothes and hair, but we can imagine ourselves in that chair for the final reveal, just enjoying how great we look. It would almost be worth it to totally let myself go for a bit in the hopes that someone would nominate me....then again maybe I wouldn't need to change at all to get nominated....hummmmm

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day

Last week as I drove home from Southampton on Thursday afternoon the traffic was horrific. I couldn't believe the bumper-to-bumper cars in both directions and as I crawled along Rt. 27 I thought about how nice it was going to be to have our towns back this week and now, here we are.

This was a great summer. We did so many things that made it memorable, from traveling for a family wedding to having family with us from June to September. Having children around makes life infinitely more interesting for sure! Our weather has been wonderful and I can't honestly think of anything to complain about. Even our hurricane became a tropical storm before it touched down on Long Island and far less damage was done than could have been.

Perhaps I see things through rose-colored glasses more now than I did before my cancer diagnosis in 2009, I don't know. But I find myself less and less likely to complain and more and more likely to see the silver lining in every cloud. I've learned that life is too short to waste any time feeling sorry for myself or complaining about anything. Nobody wants to hear it and I don't want to think it. So I enjoy life and make the most of every single day if it.

The summer of 2011 is now only memories. But they're great memories! And the fall of 2011 is ahead of us with all the potential to be equally great. Because life is what we make of it and I plan on making plenty of whatever I have.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hampton Classic

Today is the last day of the Hampton Classic Horse Show. I remember when we were newlyweds and the classic was a brand new venture, set on the outer edges of the Dune Alpin Farm here in East Hampton, One year a hurricane came through the week before the event and took down all the tents that had already been set up.

I've only attended the classic once and that was about twenty years ago. We were invited to the big tent and it was fun to take our children, who were pretty young at the time. We put then in the front seats and watched them recoil when those huge, beautiful horses came galloping by only a foot in front of their seats. It was a fun afternoon and an experience.

The Classic has grown over the years and its a pretty big deal now, with television coverage and acres of its own space in Bridgehampton where the tent frames and grandstands are permanent. We haven't had the occasion to go back to the classic until this week. As a new member of the Southampton Hospital Board of Directors I was invited to attend yesterday's events because the hospital is the recipient of the proceeds of the classic every year. It was a great opportunity to get back to the big striped tent and enjoy some time with the horsey set, so we went. I especially enjoyed walking through the boutiques, a virtual shopping mall of tents for the equestrians to enjoy wit lots of leather boots, sweaters, and jodpurs for sale. So many beautiful things to buy - or admire! Because of Hurricane Irene the classic started three days late, having had to take all the tents down and then put them back up again when the storm passed.

I'm not a "horse" person in that I've never had the opportunity to ride or spend much time around them. My ancestors were blacksmiths and raced horses at the track on Long Lane back in the late 1800s and early 1900s so that seems strange to me, that the family didn't stay in touch with horses in some way or another over the years. But they didn't so there was never an opportunity for me to do much other than admire them from a distance, which I always have. So getting a bit more "up close and personal" with these gorgeous creatures was a treat. I love the smell and sound of horses as they stomp and whinny in their stalls and I love watching them work in the ring.

What a nice treat it was to see some of the best of these beautiful animals from the comfort of the big tent. I felt very lucky indeed.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Yikes

Labor Day week-end is always a little bonkers on the East End with frantic people getting their last gasp of summer in before they need to get back to their other lives of school and work in various other places in the world. I think this one will not disappoint if yesterday is any indication.

It started with a trip to Southampton for an 8:45am doctor's appointment. Traffic was already building in the westbound lane and I knew it would be a long trip home even at that hour. I was right. I arrived back in East Hampton and went directly to a house fire on Main Street to help the ambulance crew there. Traffic was backed up for miles as it was routed around Main Street and people were increasingly annoyed at the inconvenience. (I'm sure the homeowner was as well!)

From the fire, which was over about 11, I ran to my daughter's house to say goodbye to her family before they left for Massachusetts. I was there all of fifteen minutes when I got back in my car in time to hear a call for an ambulance to take someone to the hospital. Back on the road and to the ambulance barn to get in the rig and that took care of the next two-plus hours as we navigated the traffic on Rt.27 trying to get home. I was home about ten minutes when another ambulance call went out and I took that one too.

Once home from that trip I had no choice but to stay home and try to get some work done. I have a full day today so the house needed to be cleaned and I needed to work on organizing my weekend. My daughter-in-law and I jumped in the car at one point to wind around the back roads and run to K-Mart and then the farm stand.  It was busy everywhere but the back roads were tolerable. However, the ambulance calls never stopped and by 8:30 last night there had been ten more since the fire call in the morning. I can't even imagine how long it took that crew to get home! I was more than happy to sit at home and listen as others answered the call.

And that was the first day. Today and tomorrow will no doubt be worse. But then, nirvana! The plug will be pulled on Monday and all the traffic will run out the drain like magic. I can hardly wait.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Pelican

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the Pelican disaster here on the East End and it seems worth remembering. It was an event that defined the 1950s for the people who lived here - my parents referred to it often when I was growing up. My mother was pregnant for me at the time and I'm sure like most pregnant women she was feeling more protective and concerned about her family than ever, so it surely made an impact on her psyche.

The Pelican was a party fishing boat that went out of Montauk the morning of September 2nd, overloaded with people and understocked with life jackets. The fact that it went over in a storm and only 19 of the 65 people on board survived had significance for the future of water safety. Now every boat is required to have enough life jackets on board for the number of passengers it carries. There are more stringent laws to govern activities on the water and we have all benefited by the tragedy in the safer passage of every ship at sea.

There were some heroes and many stories on the Pelican that day, all nicely retold in the book "Dark Noon" written by one of our local authors, Tom Clavin. It's a good read and worthwhile lesson in how sometimes everything that can go wrong, does. I'm a lover of history, not only for the things we learn from it, but for what I think is the importance of remembering the people and events that make us the community we are today. The Pelican should always be remembered and the people who died that fateful day deserve to be part of our memory. Let's not forget them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Winding down

Last weekend was the last in August. With Labor Day this weekend we're truly down to the end of the summer now and as great as its been and as much fun as we've had, I'm ready for the end. I am so looking forward to September and October this year!

Those are always two of my favorite months and this year should be no exception, unless we have more hurricanes to deal with.  But even if we see the worst, I'll still be loving the cool nights and warm days of fall. I'm already thinking about pumpkins and corn stalks and soon I'll be making soup and big pans of mac and cheese.

But we have a few weeks to get through now before summer is officially over and I'm hoping they're pleasant ones! I hope for low humidity, warm temperatures, little rain, and lots of activities to close out the season. I've done no entertaining this summer so maybe September we'll actually use the deck for a couple dinner parties. I think I need to go look at my calendar.

August is over now and the feel of autumn is already in the air and it doesn't make me sad at all.
The best is yet to come.