My Budding Curmudgeon

<a href=””>Sail</a&gt;


Sailing (not us though) on Martha’s Vineyard.

Curmudgeon: 1. archaic: miser. 2. a crusty, ill-tempered and usually old man. -Merriam-Webster

My husband is the type of guy who takes out a desk calendar every Sunday and asks everyone what they’ve got going on for the week.

He’s a bit of a control freak. Maybe it’s from being a lawyer for nearly 30 years and having to keep track of billable hours. He’s so used to being accountable for his time that he has a hard time relaxing on vacation. The longer the stretch of open time laying before him, the more unmoored he gets.

We’ve been on vacation for less than 48 hours and he’s thrown out some stuff I’ve never heard in 33 years of marriage. Here’s a sampling:

“Why can’t cats be house trained?”

“We have only four hotdogs! What are we going to do?”

“I just went to the store and there are no hotdogs anywhere!”

“I just spent $125 at the store and we’ve got nothing to eat.”

“I can’t believe I forgot to bring the Bisquick.”

“Are you crazy buying corn on the cob up here? OK, you can buy four ears.” (I buy six for 4 people.)

“I can’t believe I left all my vitamins at home.”

“I don’t have a book to read. I don’t want to use your Kindle. I’m going to treat myself and go to the bookstore.”

“I forgot to buy the Vineyard Gazette. I have no idea about the tides.”

“I can’t see (an eye infection) and I can’t walk (achilles tendonitis).

“My legs are dead.”

“Why would I want to go swimming at the YMCA in the summer?”

“There’s a new golf course in Chappaquiddick.” Me: “Hey, let’s go!” Him: “We have no clubs, no bags, no game and no money.”

“I need a new dump sticker, but I left my tax form at home. How am I going to prove ownership?”

“I’d take out the recyclables, but we don’t have a recycling bin.”

“I can’t believe I just spent $15 for a small bag of cherries and $8 for a small can of cashews.”

“The chip aisle was stripped, but I managed to find a bag.”

“Maybe we should have tried the Scottish Bake House before spending $25 for a pie.”

“Do you realize that ginger ale you bought was $6?”

Me: “Hey, let’s go sailing.” Him: “In what? Do you want me to spend $50,000 to rent the Shenandoah?”

Son: “Happy 4th Dad!” Him, swirling his pointer “Whoopdeedoo!”

Son: “Let’s go get some beach chairs.” Him: “I’m not paying $80 for beach chairs.”

“I bought cold cuts for a G Sandwich, but we need bread. Let’s get some at the store.” After going in three stores, “There’s no bread anywhere. Let’s get out of here.”

“There’s a Beverly Hills Cop special on Encore tonight. Let’s watch it.” Son: “We don’t get Encore.” Him: “We get it at home, why don’t we get it here? Do we get HBO?”

“We have to be at the picnic at 6 o’clock. How are we going to manage the beach today?”

After eating lunch, watching tennis and a brief nap: “Are we going to the beach today or not?”

On the way home from the beach: “I hate to tell you this, but there’s not much for dinner.”

I tell him I am going to write a piece and call him a curmudgeon. “Your father was a curmudgeon,” he replies. “I’d appreciate if you call me a budding curmudgeon.”





I Love Farmers’ Markets


Hen of the Woods mushrooms from Chatfield Hollow Farm in Killingworth, CT. 

I’ve always wondered why people wait in long lines for Vietnamese spring rolls at the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market on Martha’s Vineyard.

That is until I stood in line for 30 minutes for fresh fish at the Madison, CT., Farmers’ Market on Friday. In the off-season, I drive 25 minutes to Atlantic Seafood in Old Saybrook, CT.  There are closer fish mongers, but I like Atlantic’s owners. They’re friendly, fair and split and clean lobsters for me. Best of all, they’ve got fantastic seafood, a slew of gluten-free delicacies, and tchotchkes like tiny fishing poles doubling as flame starters.

Once summer rolls around and Interstate 95 becomes a parking lot, I hit the Madison Farmers’ Market. Though I detest grocery shopping, I look forward to the Friday market, where you can buy everything from brick-oven pizza to homemade kettle corn. Sure there are veggies, but there’s also grass-fed beef, organic chicken and lamb and even exotic mushrooms. Did I mention it’s got all this and isn’t so cool it’s off-putting?

There’s a festive, almost fair-like feel to the market, a general slowing of pace and letting down of guard. People who avoid eye contact in the supermarket actually stop and greet you. Old friends and neighbors hug and kiss, catching up on the latest gossip and family news. A guitarist or band entertains the crowd, which includes everyone from young moms wheeling strollers to senior citizens. You can usually count on a few well-behaved dogs too.

At least 20 people were ahead of me when I joined the fish line, but I didn’t mind. A man and woman in front of me struck up a conversation about a ravenous woodchuck in the woman’s garden. I boldly interjected with a few gardening war stories. This would never happen in the supermarket, where shoppers hunt for the shortest lines, are glued to cell phones and roll their eyes when you unintentionally hold them up.

A friend of mine calls today’s chronic state of urgency the “Jiffy Lube” syndrome. People want to get in and out of everything as quickly as possible: the bank, the dump, the car, the doctor, vet, deli, church, the YMCA parking lot. I’m guilty of it too, but I don’t like it. I don’t remember always feeling so pressed for time.

I’ve always been struck by the silence in most supermarkets, almost an unwritten code that there’s no talking.  It’s pretty much a solitary outing, perhaps explaining why so many people dread it.

The farmers’ market is a different animal. Strangers stand in line and exchange recipes, recommend items and shoot the breeze. Vendors share snippets of their lives and throw in cooking tips. I especially like the way the vendor from the trawler Jenna Lynn II of Stonington, CT.,  offers simple cooking advice. Scallops: toss with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and broil until carmelized. I added a bunch of chopped cilantro and a handful of shrimp for good measure.

Though a recent transplant from Missouri lamented that New Englanders are cold to newcomers (an observation I will not refute), we soften and become a little more open at farmers’ markets. Maybe it’s the fresh air, sun and breeze or the promise of fresh food, but we’re at our best when we’re there. I only wish I could bottle it for my supermarket runs.


Shrimp and scallops from the trawler Jenna Lynn II out of Stonington, CT. Toss with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and a handful of chopped cilantro. Broil or grill for an easy summer dish.



New England Foliage

<a href=””>Delta</a&gt;

I don’t know about other Connecticut residents, but one of the things I love about living here is it was home to Mark Twain, whose observations about nature and life are spot on. One of my favorite Twain quotes is “Climate is what we expect. Weather is what we get. If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.” I think this is part of the reason I no longer consult I’ll leave that to my guy friends and husband. We tend to complain a lot about the weather in Connecticut, but we’re treated to two beautiful displays of foliage every year in spring and fall.


Subtle hues in spring as trees bud along the Connecticut River in Haddam, CT.


Spectacular fall foliage along the Westwoods Trail in Guilford, CT.

Walk the Talk

<a href=””>Magnet</a&gt;


Take two or more women, give them an open road or trail and you’ve got the ingredients for great conversation. Meandering dog great, but optional.

I met a marvelous woman nearly 20 years ago who fostered one of my children as a newborn.

We exchanged Christmas cards over the years, but never saw each other until last January, when she wrote and asked if she could meet with us. We met over a classic 1960s Long Island lunch of deli sandwiches and potato salad in my kitchen. We talked about getting together again, but life got busy.  She was caring for her elderly father in upstate Connecticut. He died last winter, leaving her to sort through his things and clear out his house.

She and her husband moved to a condo in May, but we finally got together on Wednesday. We decided on a hike because the weather was glorious. Though we barely know each other, we chatted non-stop for nearly three hours. We covered everything from dogs to how cruel people can be. Case in point: her adult son provided respite care to two teen-agers while their foster family took a week vacation. A week turned into six weeks, and you guessed it, the family said they didn’t want the girls back.

I’ve heard of people doing this to animals, not kids. If someone did that to a dog or cat, they’d be charged with cruelty to animals. If there’s not a law on the books to charge foster parents with abandonment in these situations, there needs to be. That behavior is inhuman and should be punished.

Her son’s family did the decent thing, taking on the girls as foster children. Their family of four went to six overnight, but they’re managing. When she asked her 12-year-old biological granddaughter how she felt going from the oldest to a middle child, she told her she loves having big sisters because they do her hair. Sounds like a pretty well-adjusted kid.

Women love to bare their souls during walks and runs. It doesn’t matter if we know each other or not. Put us in sneakers, give us an open road or trail and we’re drawn together like magnets. Everything is on the table: incurable illnesses, marital strife, the DMV,  wedding planning. Men, not so much. I go hiking with my husband and struggle to keep the conversation rolling. I’ve been running with a guy for the past three weeks and the only thing I know about him is his first name is Pat.

Maybe we can chalk it up to the fact that men and women really do come from different planets. My husband read, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” during a recent trip and loved sharing excerpts with me. I only wish that he had waited until we were on a walk to discuss it.



Pedal to the Meddle

<a href=””>Meddle</a&gt;

I meddled in a tiny incident of road rage tonight in my leafy Connecticut suburb and was told by a creep in a black pick-up truck that I could “f– off too.”

I don’t ordinarily get involved. You never know who’s packing, but this guy was screaming at an old man in what bordered on elder verbal abuse. My only regret is I didn’t get his license plate or a video.

Here’s what happened:

The pickup truck driver was heading down a main road and wanted to make a left turn onto a side street leading to our beautiful New England green. He waved the driver out, but he didn’t move. So Pick-up Man made the turn and proceeded to shout “You’re in the middle of the road and I’m trying to let you out you douchebag. I hope you choke on your f—— ice cream.” He actually backed up so he could scream directly into the car window.

I looked at the guy like he was insane and that’s when he fired the F-bomb at me.  I think you know what I said back. I’m sharing this because there are jerks everywhere and no community is immune. Our town suffered its latest incident of hatred today when a racial slur was spray-painted on a house.

I’m saddened by this incident, but not surprised. Over the past several months, I’ve seen increasing signs of disrespect around town, including littered streets, smashed mailboxes (including mine), damaged Realtor signs, drivers failing to give cyclists, walkers and runners a decent berth, honking horns and tailgating.

When I first moved to Guilford, CT., 14 years ago, I was charmed by its slower pace and general laid-back vibe. I lived here for eight years without hearing a car horn, even at a right turn on red. People waved you into parking spaces at the supermarket and nearly  everyone returned their shopping carts.

I recently met a guy who decided to move here in part because of the supermarket parking lot. He said he and his wife surveyed the lot and were impressed by its blend of white and blue collar vehicles: pick-up trucks, old Saabs, General Motors’ and Ford sedans and sprinkled with some luxury cars. Today, not so much.

You never know where jerks will surface. The guy getting ice cream tonight never expected to get a verbal lashing with his cone. I guess all we can hope for is not becoming jerks too.












Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

I like to get up close and personal with my subjects, but sometimes it’s just a blur.


A sailboat on Long Island Sound in Connecticut.


My Mom at her grandson’s wedding. She underwent a knee replacement a few months before it so she could dance at the wedding. Here she takes a break to watch the scene.

The Great White Whale

<a href=””>Volume</a&gt;


I went to a tag sale looking for a small desk or vanity. I left with a wooden whale bearing the message “Save the Room.”

The whale was hard to spot, a white blob in a tangle of extension cords in a ragged red laundry basket. But once I saw it and the cursive message scrawled in black Sharpie, I wanted to know more.

The owner, a Cape Cod-area artist, made the whale in a last-ditch attempt to save his recovery meeting room at a nearby church. He says people are so hopped up on coffee  that they can’t keep quiet at their dawn meeting. That would be OK except the noise angered some neighbors, who wanted them out.

With their meeting place in jeopardy, everybody tried to behave.  When things got loud, people shouted “Hey be quiet,” which just made more noise. It’s like the mother on her lounge chair during my recent trip South. She implored her boisterous sons to behave “because everyone’s trying to relax.” They weren’t annoying, but she was. I finally retreated to a hammock out of her range. Note to Mom: When you tell kids to stop, follow through. If your pleas are ignored, let the boys play.

Much like the kids, the meeting-goers ignored repeated pleas to turn down the volume, so the artist made the whale. At first, he scribbled “Quiet please!” on it. When that failed, he got desperate: “Save the Room.”

I think you know what happened. The artist eventually brought the whale home, where it sat in his house gathering dust. It ended up on his front lawn with some old furniture, home goods, sports equipment and a scooter. He’s making room for an in-home studio, happily selling me the whale, a ceramic teapot, flower stand and handmade mirror for $20. Oh, and as a parting gift, I got a tiny painting.

The meetings? Still loud. “They’re all a bunch of boneheads,” said the artist, shaking his head.

I cleaned the whale and plan to hang it in my kitchen. I think I’ll use the “Save the Room” side or paint it. Asking people to be quiet in a kitchen makes no sense at all.