Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I’m fascinated with a company that calls itself LG, which I believe stands for Life is Good. For me, Life IS Good, not because of technology--of course I do like tech stuff--but because God is Good, and I'm truly enjoying my life here on earth, with my dear husband, my wonderful children, and lately the leisure and wherewithal to travel, even to local destinations.
We're taking quite a few weekend trips (at least monthly, sometimes more) to some new areas, and returning to some of our very favorite new places:
Mystic: We love Mystic. Not just for its pizza, which is, by the way, very good. We originally found our way to “the pizza that made the movie famous” on my birthday two summers ago, when Jay surprised me with a dinner date there. Ever since, the eatery has been a regular on trips there, along with great bakeries like Bartleby's, and The Blue Squid and Village Beanery we found in the Olde Mystick Village, plus, of course, great seafood clam and crab shacks, like Ten Clams in Olde Mystick and The Cove. If you haven't yet had whole belly fried clams, that has to go on your bucket list.
But Mystic offers so much more, and more than two people could possibly undertake in one weekend trip. So on our several trips there, we have explored the Maritime Studies center at the Williams-Mystic college, where even a walk around is quite enjoyable with its sprawling campus and visible oceanic scenery--breathtaking.
We love combing through the antique shops and the favorite is a thrift store for nautical items, close to downtown, where Jay picked up a ship’s barometer that he loves so much, and where we watched shoppers discuss ocean conditions and weather with the shopkeepers, who seem more likely to engage with locals than shoppers.
We joined Mystic Seaport this year, and have been there twice to board the last wooden whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan, which Jay again absolutely loves. Though my hubby is a motorcycle man, and you couldn’t get him to “be” a whaler man, he does so enjoy seeing all about it and reading nautical books. Our friend Hewitt Schlereth has penned many books on celestial navigation, and our sailing friends, Larry and Pam in Huntington Beach, CA have all contributed to our fascination with the sea and all things nautical.
Our B&B experience at Pequot Hotel Bed & Breakfast in Mystic with Innkeepers, Jim and Nancy Mitchell, was a treat also, where their historic home was beautiful and they welcomed us like old friends--which I think we may become if we stay there a couple more times. Nancy was a flight attendant and Jim is an engineer, so travel and engineering are grand topics of conversation. They have a barkless dog, and we enjoyed a “pet” someone else cares for. 
We take some trips to Foxwoods, for a few slots, but also concerts and gelato, the Mac Store, and other shops, and also to Mohegan Sun, where the Irish pub, The Dubliner, there has become a destination even with no slots. They sent us a $15 coupon which we will surely enjoy. I tried to convince the managers that Irish beer is the “domestic” one and should be the cheaper, and the American beers are the foreigners, and though they agreed and got my humor, they still charged it up the other way. Even Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana famous for his clam pizza has found its way to Mohegan, so really, even for just dining, it is a great place to visit. 
On Thanksgiving we sauntered up to the Lamb Buttery in Brooklyn, CT, where we had a hayride with a song leader, a lovely lamb dinner with all the trimmings. Turkey was an option, but lamb will always win out with me. This dinner-theatre is the former home of the Booth family, founders of the Salvation Army. They also do madrigal dinners, and other musicals. As my daughter pointed out, it’s the New Yorker destination to the country where culture is still offered, but in a rustic environs. Pricey but fun. Maybe a just a tad too pricey once we do wine, cider, tax and tips, which almost doubled the already steep ticket.

Speaking of cider, one other great visit in Mystic, we toured B.F. Clyde's, the oldest steam powered cider mill in the United States, since1881, we not only could watch the cider being made from thousands of apples of many varieties, we also, not to sound like boozers, with Irish beer, Sam Adams, and now cider wine, had to buy some of the exciting apple and cranberry wines in the gift shop, which also make great hostess gifts.
Christmas week, we will do the aquarium and we look forward to the seasonal exhibits, especially the jellyfish and the Beluga whales. We tend to join things so we cause ourselves to return more often. So far in Mystic, it is the Seaport and the Aquarium, the cider mill, and seafood, but we've not finished with Mystic yet.

Christmas week this year also took us to Stockbridge, MA to see the Norman Rockwell museum, which was a lot of fun. They were expecting 20 inches of snow, so we left early, not worrying about missing the whole basement of Saturday Evening Post covers, because as members, we will, God willing, return. Plus membership here gets us invites to a lot of events and parties. What’s not to love? We also stopped in at Prime Outlets in Lee, MA for a shopping spree, spending only a third of what a trip to New York City would have cost us.
Several fall trips now, we toured the Berkshires, but the first year, we made it to Jiminy Peak in the Appalachians just too late for fall foliage, but still a blast. We realized when we made it to Lake George that these things are very close to each other. Now we just need to find out what is in Albany, where West Point is, and when the race track at Sarasota opens. Ha ha. Not kidding. We think that too would be a lot of fun.
On my birthday last year, we did the Berkshire theatre scene, and enjoyed Bernstein’s Candide, in good form at this highbrow summer stock location. Then we gorged on meat at the local steakhouse and really contemplated how understandable it is for New Yorkers to have their outpost residences in places like this.

Yankee Candle shop and factory in Deerfield, MA has a great Christmas shop that is, year round. But at Christmas the candles are on sale, and we scurried around stuffing our cart with many goodies for friends, family, and US. We visited there with our dear friends Bill and Mary early in December, and they knew just what we should see, including waiting for "fake" snowfall at one room's decorations.

On our way back, we visited Northampton (known to the locals as "Hamp" for music, Southampton for pizza and used books, and realized these Hamps could use up more than a day all by themselves.
Our trip to Newport, Rhode Island to see our friend Andi run her full marathon, was also a lot of fun. We hadn’t crossed that BIG bridge (you all know how I LOVE bridges--see Finding My Way), but I was almost calm with Jay’s competent driving and his actual LOVE of bridges. Since Newport was so much fun, we returned to Coventry, close by, but not across the bridge. Actually, we are still using Marriott points for some trips, but this Fairfield is so reasonably priced for seniors, we will pay, get more points, and still be only a half hour from Mystic, Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun and Newport, each. 
This is why we love New England. Nothing is more than 2 hours away, and most things are reasonably priced and really provide a lot of entertainment for the money.
I give all these details to you all, because most people come here and think they need to get to Boston or New York for finding anything worth doing. Okay, I do admit that I am among those who love New York with its endless cultural opportunities, and its easy access to more than one mere mortal could do in any weekend. But, my new home area, though not as vast as New York, is indeed a worthy destination. We have found so much here, we can’t really do it all, so we still haven’t made it to New York City.
We have made it to Boston, one weekend for the Freedom Trail, where we learned more about Jay's ancestor, Billy Dawes, who rode another way from Paul Revere, and as family legend has it, got though to warn of British soldiers because he pretended to be drunk so they let him pass through. Another weekend we did a brewery run at Anheuser-Busch in Merrimack, New Hampshire, and then on to the Sam Adams brewery in Boston, where when you call for directions, they, half jokingly say, “Congratulations on thinking you can find us by car.” They weren’t kidding. We got so lost, but laughed ourselves silly at the warning, even before imbibing beer samples. We really must check out Boston again, to see if Brew Moon is still there in the theatre district near Boston Common. And, yes, someday, hopefully soon, after we save up the $1000 it will take to stay overnight, eat well, and attend a couple of great events, we will make it to New York.
Until then, we will continue to explore our own area, and we have only just begun. New England is LG for sure. And, we thank God for every day of our loft life and our wonderland surroundings. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

LOFT LIFE: Addicted to friendship

When I was 12 years old, a new girl moved into the house catty-corner to mine. I took the first opportunity to greet her, say welcome, and went a bit farther in stating that since she was new, and probably didn’t know anyone, I would be happy to be her friend.
Her response: “That’s weird.”
Okay, so she didn’t appreciate my bold beginning. I guess that’s when I learned that people need you to walk them into things gradually, like in The Little Prince, where he learns that even though he wants to befriend the fox, he has to tame him first. Seems like a lot of energy for what you know is a done deal, but then, socialization has always been my weak area.
So I haven’t repeated that social faux pas in 50 years, dutifully taking the time to behave as though we have to do the taming thing. Until this fall. That’s when I met Sue T. at a trade show booth in Hartford, CT. My instantaneous intuitive assurance that this was going to be a good friend took over.
Strangely, we had booked a weekend in the Lake George area, and the only room available in the Lake George area in order to attend a Christian conference my husband found out about. The problem was, I read the reviews for this motel, and the reviewers said it was dirty, smokey, and “don’t stay there.” Ick. So I was reluctant until discovering the Lake George booth at the expo. The Lake George booth was the ONLY tourism booth at this trade show. Now tell me THAT is a coincidence!
So for some unknown reason--ok, it is a known reason for anyone who truly knows me and my wild intuitions--I said to this perfectly normal looking woman--”Hey, haven’t you always wanted to have a B&B?”
She looked a bit shocked, and then admitted that she really had thought about it. I wasn't shocked at all. As I said, I am intuitive. In the Myers-Briggs thingy, I am one BIG "N" (intuitive). The other areas pale in comparison to my somewhat mystical (Christian) awareness of the spiritual.
“Well,” said I, “this is your chance to try it out. Why don’t we pay you instead of this horrible motel, and we could stay at your house.”
“I don’t think so,” she replied, a bit taken back.
“But, really, it would only be sleeping there. We will be at this conference all  day and most of the evening--and it’s only for three days.”
She was silent.''

I suppose caution is necessary. I mean, there are axe murderers and such out there. So I in no way begrudge the hesitation, even though I knew she knew this was an intriguing, and positive, offer. I thought I would help.
“Do you pray?” I asked
“Um, my husband does,” she answered. And there was more discussion about the merits of Promise Keepers for our men, because it was that org that got her husband and mine praying regularly.
“Well, here is my card. Why don’t you ask him to pray about it, and get back to me. Oh, and would there be breakfast too?” I pushed, chuckling to myself that even I really could see how strange this sounded.
About a week later, after what I suspect was much churning, and maybe some praying, I got a lovely email telling me that she had a gut feeling this could be OK and that we could, indeed, stay with her family, in the spare room.
Wow. I was a tad uncomfortable that my nudging had really resulted in affirmation, but I, like her, had a gut feeling. This was a person I could relate to, and she was someone I really saw as becoming a long-term friend. And, she reads my blog. And, she LOVES making breakfast.
So we stayed, and upon arrival, I think there was an appraisal by Sue's husband and son that perhaps we weren't axe murderers, even though this request was a bit scary in this strange world of ours. It was a lovely two nights with amazing breakfasts--better than at most B&B's, made with such TLC that I know this will not be the end of Sue's breakfast culinary career.

We had a lovely weekend at the conference, but truthfully, I was more excited about finding Sue and her family than the messages, albeit inspiring, at the conference.

Sue and I have become correspondent friends. I don’t know if I will ever actually see her again, but I hope so. She is a fabulous cook, and I suspect that a little encouragement will find her doing what she loves--cooking for people and sharing her talent for seeing the exceptional in the ordinary, which she applies with flair in the kitchen and on the domestic front.
“You could be the next Rachael Ray,” I encouraged.
“I was thinking more, Martha,” she said.
I guess that says it all. Deep down inside she knows she is destined to share her homemaking talents with many. I hope I have been a catalyst to get her moving sooner in that direction. That’s what friends do. What a trip!