Category Archives: Summer

Dinner at the Art Cliff Diner

During the two weeks we spend at the beach each summer, we eat dinner out maybe a handful of times. Part of that decision is based upon practicalities – kids, expense, day drinking and driving, but the fact that we’ve been disappointed with pricy meals in restaurants with menus that attempt to satisfy adults and children, is the biggest factor in choosing either take out (less expensive than dining in with tip/adult beverages) or cooking at home.

All that said, there’s a place in Vineyard Haven I’d been wanting to try for a few years – the Art Cliff Diner. Sunday the stars aligned and the guys and I finally got there and we couldn’t have been happier. The Art Cliff is both a food truck and a stationary restaurant. We pulled into their shared parking lot at what seemed to be the ideal time, about 5:15. The restaurant wasn’t open for business, but the truck’s menu more than sufficed for us.

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There were maybe a dozen options and we were able to find something for each of us – Liam chose the cheesesteak sandwich ($14?) which was as fine an example of that item as I’ve ever enjoyed. The meat was thinly sliced, maybe even shaved, with sweet onions and the perfect amount of cheese. The portion was more than generous.

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For Griffin it was the pig on a roll ($8?), a moist pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw. He declined the chipotle mayo, but I’m sure it would have added a terrific kick to the tender and overstuffed sandwich. I also went with pork in the form of spicy pork taco. The soft flour tortilla ($8?) was complete with juicy pork, greens, a sour cream based sauce and green salsa. It was really, really delicious.

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Quinn went with a ho-hum hotdog ($4) which he thoroughly enjoyed and we rounded out things with two generous orders of fries – one plain and one dusted with grated Parmesan. The fries were fantastic and would make an awesome and satisfying snack solo at only $6.

Our total for a really high quality and nicely presented meal, with soft drinks was a fair and reasonable $57 before tip. I imagine their offerings change regularly, but can’t imagine ever being disappointed by their food.  Have you been there?  Tell me about it!  If you haven’t yet, try it and let me know.

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Filed under Boys, Dinner, Eating, Food, Martha's Vineyard, Recommendations, Summer, vacation

Pacing myself

It seems that so much of life involves schedules and commitments. When we’re at work, during our designated work hours, we frequently have to respond to the demands of others, doing what “they” want, when “they” want it. In my chosen profession(s) I have to be responsive to other people’s needs and, when it’s work time, I don’t take issue with it at all. But, when I’m on vacation, that’s just not happening.

I’m a morning person. It isn’t unusual for me to wake up with the birds and I love the sense of feeling in tune with the earth. Since I need something in my tummy before I can drink coffee, breakfast is a mandatory meal for me. Beyond that, though, I’m winging it. I don’t want to feel pressured to have a meal just because it’s lunch time or dinner time. I want to eat when I’m hungry or to line my stomach before enjoying a cocktail or three. It’s vacation. Unless I have reservations for somewhere, I’m all about eating simply when I feel like it.

Not surprisingly for a librarian, I’m super organized. I prefer to stay on top of things in terms of tidying up, laundry and keeping our stuff under control. I hate the feeling of haphazard inefficiency. Seriously, it makes me more than a little insane. To avoid this, I try to combine errands and minimize the number of times I have to get in and out of my car. Particularly when we’re staying on an island that is inaccessible by car when the tide is in.

I’m realizing that I might be challenging to be around on vacation since I feel about vacation as I do about running: it’s my time to completely set my own pace. Beyond the rhythm of the tides, I won’t be pressured to abide by anyone else’s schedule or demands. It’s my vacation and I want to go with my own flow. Don’t you?

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Filed under Cape Cod, musings, Random, running, Summer, vacation

World Cup recap – bonding over balls and beer

Are you a soccer fan? Prior to the recent World Cup tournament, I certainly wouldn’t have declared myself to be one. When I answered Matt Baumgartner’s call for temporary employees to assist during the tournament, I was responding as a worker, not a soccer fanatic. But, something has definitely changed. This whole soccer thing? I think I like it.

Although two of my boys play soccer, I’ve avoided the moniker “soccer mom” with the skill of a teenager ducking household chores. Not me, no way. I attend games and cheer enthusiastically from the sidelines, but I certainly have no interest in driving around in a minivan with a soccer ball decal stuck to the back window. You know me, I’m not much of a joiner or follower.

The first match I worked was Team USA vs Portugal. The crowd at Wolff’s Biergarten was tremendous – pumped up and loud, but in no way aggressive or obnoxious. I loved their enthusiasm and the excitement was contagious. This was definitely going to be fun.

As “our” team advanced, along with Team Germany, the team of my maternal side of the family, I realized that my soccer playing middle son needed to be part of the scene. I arranged to bring him and a couple of his friends down to check out a match. They were awesome! In a crowd of hundreds, they hung out, clad in red, white and blue, mesmerized by the game and the other spectators. I was impressed by their poise and comfort and knew that Griffin and I would become regulars for the duration of the tournament.

As the matches came fast and furious, so did the communication between my family and me – emails, Facebook messages and status updates. Knowing that my family in Germany were occupied watching the same event as we were, was intensely comforting. Who knew that a ball game could make the world seem so small? I absolutely loved it.

When Team USA was eliminated, we placed our energy into cheering on the motherland, Deutschland. Our German flag accompanied us to the subsequent matches and I cherished the opportunity to be proud of being German in a world that doesn’t always perceive us as being worthy of admiration. The hefeweizen flowed and steins were raised amidst shouts of Prost! and Griffin and I hung out, side by side, united in our interest for 90+ minutes.

Photo: Wolff's Biergarten

Photo: Wolff’s Biergarten

Four years from now, my son will be 19, perhaps not as inclined to hang out in a sports bar with his mom as he was this year. I’d like to think, though, that he’ll someday tell his own children about the times he and I spent together watching the World Cup. If he doesn’t, believe me, I will.

More pictures from the tournament here.

http://www.timesunion.com/seen-events/slideshow/SEEN-U-S-A-vs-Belgium-World-Cup-at-Wolff-s-88979.php

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Filed under Albany, beer, Boys, Events, family, Germany, soccer, Summer, television

Morning thoughts

imageThe sun is peeking out from the soft grey clouds and my private little deck beckons. Listening to the birds and the trees on a quiet morning while the rest of the house still sleeps, is one of my favorite times of the day. No one needs anything, other than the hummingbird who just cruised by the feeder looking for some breakfast. He’ll have to wait.

I’ve been visiting the Cape for 16 consecutive summers and the charm has yet to wear off. Sure, there are places I no longer find appealing (I’m talking to you, obvious consumption Chatham) but, in general, I still appreciate what this place offers me. Despite all the changing variables – where we stay, the layouts of the various houses we have rented, the time of the summer, the composition of our families, which friends visit, the most special thing to me about the Cape is how it itself remains constant. There will be fried seafood and sandy feet and predictable tides. The shoreline may shift and beaches and dunes will erode, but the sun will reliably drop into the bay in a blaze of orange and purple at the end of the day. This, is what I love about being here.

I can’t help but reflect on my boys and how their needs and interests have changed over the years. The amount of props they once required! Strollers and pack and plays, life preservers and diapers – all gone now, replaced by digital toys and, thank God, books. When I packed this year, in my usual style, filling Rubbermaid containers which can double as hampers after the clothing is hastily put into temporary homes in strange dressers, I got my own bin for the first time ever. For years, I’ve shared my bin with my youngest as I’ve placed the big guys’ clothes together. This year their stuff is all together and I have a smaller box just for me. It means something doesn’t it?

Life is changing – every day. Coming to the beach and taking the time to recognize, accept and honor that, while digging my toes in the sand, makes these weeks the most special of the year. I hope you have a place like that, too.

Time to feed the hummingbirds.

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Filed under aging, Boys, Cape Cod, family, favorites, musings, road trips, Summer, vacation

Sipping from Siro’s Cup

With Dominick and Carolyn Purnomo.                            Photo by Joe Putrock, Special to the times Union.

Last night I attended my first Saratoga “event,” the 21st Annual Newton Plaza Siro’s Cup.  I was thoughtfully included in a friend’s group and during a very busy week, it was the thing for which I was most excited.  What to wear? Could I forsake peer comfort with foot comfort and wear flats? Accessories were key and I wanted to feel put together from head (day 2 hair, flat ironed and sprayed) to toes (freshly pedicured in a gorgeous shade of pastel sea foam).  I knew I needed to feel confident in my appearance and went with a whole Goddess of Reading look.  I think it worked.

The showers through which I had driven in Albany had completely disappeared and the air in Saratoga was fresh and comfortable.  The fancy cars, Maserartis, Rolls Royces and my dream car, a 2 door Porsche, were parked on display and the whole thing felt about as swanky as you can get when you’re essentially walking barefoot from your own wagon parked in a grassy field.

Inside the party there was an almost overwhelming sense of stimulation.  People were ON.  The multiple bars set up attracted what seemed to be the most outgoing cliques of friend – there was a definite (and deserved) sense of holding court.  The clothes, the makeup, the hair…there was so much to absorb.  Fashion-wise, it seemed that anything went.  Naturally, there were Nantucket Reds, seersucker and linen adorning the guys and dresses in every length and color on the women.  There was a lot of jewelry, along with a fair amount of serious suntan.

A constantly flowing river of attendees were carried on a current of cocktails. People seemed happy and there were many outbursts of laughter to be heard.  The “first party of the season” feel to it made for an excellent vibe.  It was fun.  I loved seeing my favorite Pirate Girl and am so psyched the she has taken up residence for the season, like the ballet or the writers of Yaddo.  There were other hospitality folks there – the generation II Purnomos, Matt Baumgartner, Michael Cocca.  It was nice to see them being on the receiving end of hospitality for a change.

Many familiar faces were in the crowd.  I mean, I’ve worked in local restaurants for long time and have probably served thousands of people. I had a couple of moments, though, of feeling mildly out of place amongst a crowd who have far more lucrative investments than merely budgeting carefully and buying consigned clothes.  A couple of times I greeted attendees I knew from one restaurant or another and I wasn’t recognized without giving my name or context.  Do I look that different?  Am I invisible as a server?  Have I gained weight?*  Am I aging poorly? It was a little awkward to navigate.

Gnocchi and shaved truffles

Gnocchi and shaved truffles

The scene, though, was captivating.  I could have walked, marveling under the star-filled sky, for even longer, but my belly demanded food and I don’t like eating standing up.  I headed to 15 Church and got exactly what I was looking for – something delicious and indulgent to eat and sip and the welcome of friends I’ve worked with over the years.  I wish Saratoga was closer.

Burrata, tomatoes, basil

Burrata, tomatoes, basil

*no charge for that peek inside my head.

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Filed under drinking, Eating, Events, Food, friends, Local, Restaurants, Saratoga, Summer, Wine

Friendship Garden

There was a time when I felt overwhelmed by the needs of my children.  The attention they demanded caused me to abandon my interest in taking care of any other living things, specifically my plants.  I believe I have one houseplant which survived those toddler years.  It is a shadow of its former self, but seems determined to remain a member of the household.

As the boys became more independent and able to entertain themselves a bit better, I started acquiring plants again.  There was a rubber tree I inherited after a friend’s move, a fern or two, a couple of plants my brother no longer wanted. My house once again had bright spots of greenery.  It was time to direct my attention elsewhere…

My front yard is the size of a postage stamp.  When I moved in 18 years ago, there were a couple of rose bushes and some grass. Simple.  And boring.  Over the years , friends have shared their perennials with me, beginning with Sharon and her purple cone flowers.  I remember her bringing over clumps of flowers and my not getting them into the ground for days.  I was skeptical that they would survive my neglect, but they have thrived in the sunniness of my front yard.

A few years later, the cone flowers were joined by Black-eyed Susans.  I love the sturdy cheeriness of these and usually cut some to have in the house.  I like to put them in an old glass pitcher with the baby’s breath my brother gave me a few years back.  The baby’s breath fills in an area of my garden directly in front of the red bee balm and purple balloon flowers which my friend Donna gave to me.  It’s one of my favorite little spots this time of the year when everything looks so lush.

There are shasta daisies and a variety of ever multiplying lilies, also.  The grass is long gone and mulch and rocks fill in the garden in the few bare areas which remain.  My iris, given to me by both my brother and my friend, Lisa, have long since bloomed, but I’ll need to thin those out come fall because they have taken off.  They’re surrounded in their home in my parking strip by colorful snapdragons.  I don’t recall ever planting snapdragons, but an elderly neighbor always had them in her front garden and I suspect that is where mine originated. I think she’d be happy to know that she left behind some life on our block.

Come fall, I also plan to thin out the geraniums I was given by a work friend. They would take over if I didn’t keep my eye on them! The peony, which was originally in my shady backyard, has settled into its sunny home and thanked me for its new digs by bestowing bloom upon bloom.  I’ll be splitting that this fall, as well.  Right now the peony is home to a cat which Jeter is constantly trying to flush out. Each time he brushes past the star-gazer lilies he marks himself with pollen.  Guess that makes him a flower, too, almost.

The biggest surprise in the garden this summer are the sunflowers.  After years of planting seeds with limited success, this year I left the work to the birds.  They have thanked me for my mostly constant feedings by spreading sunflowers throughout my garden.  In return, when they’re done blooming I will harvest the seeds and give them back to the birds.  Without the birds and my generous friends, my garden, and my life, would be a far less beautiful existence.

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Filed under beauty, Flowers, Gardens, Summer

A rich summer vs. summer enrichment

For those of you with school age children – what are your summers like?  Are they a time to explore new interests, further develop skills and pad college applications?  Are your children busy with summer jobs or camps?  Maybe they’re already tackling their summer reading lists to get a jump on things for fall.  All good things I suppose.

Around my house, though, things don’t look quite like that.  My oldest son has been busy re-watching episodes of Murder She Wrote and mastering the art of making omelets.  He also has a part-time unpaid internship set to begin in another week or so and I know he is looking forward to that experience.  Liam also learned recently how to pay by phone for Chinese food when I forgot to bring my wallet when I picked up the Chinese food, which meant he needed to call in my credit card information.  I think that’s an important life lesson, don’t you?

The middle guy has been occupied with playing lacrosse and watching the World Cup.  He’s been working on his game, both on and off the field, and I had a weird sense of pride when I saw his photo in a recent Seen gallery shot at Wolff’s Biergarten.  He was rocking his red, white and blue and appeared completely comfortable taking in the match while surrounded by beer-fueled adults.  I believe he finally may now understand that spending a little time each day doing homework eliminates the need to spend 10 more months taking Spanish 2 because you failed the class with a 62.5.  My walk last night with Jeter also taught him that I may just unexpectedly come around the corner when he is out hanging with his friends in the neighborhood – a good lesson for him to absorb, don’t you think?

As for my youngest, well, this week he mastered making his own pbj and has been taking even bigger steps towards independence.  Last weekend, for instance,  he attended an afternoon birthday party a couple of blocks away and walked home solo.  Sort of.  The birthday girl’s mom texted when he was leaving and there may have been an older cousin who walked him partially home.  The bottom line is he felt a sense of accomplishment and independence.  That is the kind of summer enrichment I’m looking for.

Summer, for me, is a time to catch up on things – some tasks around the house, a few books I’ve been meaning to get to and visiting friends I don’t often get to spend time with during the school year.  How about you?

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Filed under Boys, Education, SEEN, soccer, Summer, vacation