Hiking Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

July 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s been a long, long spring and summer. All work and no play makes Dainty a very sad and tense Dot. Good thing we scheduled vacation for this week.

We typically vacation in Provincetown and spend the whole time lying low—as in low on a beach towel. But, as crazy as this is gonna sound, being on a beach towel soaking up the sun can be a bit boring after awhile. Our solution for that is taking a hike.

This time around, we headed to Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s a Mass. Audubon sanctuary on the western edge of the Cape Wellfleet Bay Wildlife SanctuaryCod forearm, right on Wellfleet Harbor. Lots of marsh grass and sandy soil, lots of Cape woodland, lots of birds and wildlife, so bring a camera. And there’s lots of green head flies and sand flies, so arm yourself with repellent and you’ll be fine. There are … let’s see … close to 4-5 miles of hiking trails, so pack a light lunch and enjoy it while watching the shore birds at the end of the boardwalk.

The folks at Mass. Audubon must have gotten some inspiration of Groupon deals, because when we arrived at the nature center they were offering a “half-price sale” on membership. $10 would have gotten the two of us into the sanctuary for the day. For just $29, we could have a year-long family membership that would give us free admission to the 50 Mass. Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries throughout the state. And, it feels pretty terrific to support an organization that is protecting our state’s natural habitat.

Somewhere along this hike my eye decided to focus on the little things nature had to offer. Except for a couple of spectacular angiosperms, I mainly captured slime molds, lichen, fungi and the occasional gymnosperm. (Look at me, throwing around fancy botanical references. I feel like I’m in college again!) The vistas at Wellfleet are beautiful, but some of the coolest things are underfoot.

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Kitchen Cobb Salad

June 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

When staying at our friend’s winter getaway in Vermont, the “fridge-tata” is the breakfast of choice. But it’s summer now, and our summer getaway is our friend’s bay-side home in Provincetown. No fridgetatas here. Lunches call for something lighter, something a little more summery. But just as easy.

Open the fridge. pull out the freshly harvested lettuce from the garden. Assess the leftovers. Make yourself a Kitchen Cobb Salad.

Now, a Kitchen Cobb is not an actual Cobb salad. It could be, I guess, if you just happen to have strips of turkey and bacon and egg and such. The Kitchen Cobb is much less structured, much less formal. Really, it’s anything you find in your fridge that you wouldn’t mind having atop some greens. Leftover roasted asparagus? Sure. Grilled salmon? Why not. A dollop of cottage cheese? Throw it on there. When it comes to a Kitchen Cobb, anything goes.

Today’s Kitchen Cobb benefitted from last night’s meal cooked for eight – steak, salmon, and lentil-bulgur salad, with the leftover pear and red onion green salad as a base. No steak on our salads, of course. We also threw in some roasted asparagus and goat cheese, and topped with lemon-oregano vinaigrette.

Jennifer gets credit for the name. She’s good like that.

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Horsing Around in Amsterdam

May 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Imagine walking around a bustling shopping and commuting thoroughfare just outside Amsterdam’s ring of canals. You pass Dutch bakeries, Shoarma houses, Surinamese restaurants. Ah, the sweet, sweet scents of an international city.

Suddenly, your nostrils pick up something not so … sweet. Or, shall I say, sweet in another way. Is that … manure? You look down quickly to make sure you didn’t step in anything. Nothing there. No carriages passing by, either. What is that?

Following your nose, you turn down a side street. It’s a quiet street, and just beyond there’s greenery—a park, possibly. Ah, that must be the source. You continue walking down the cobblestone walkway, admiring the old and exclusive row of homes. Nice, very nice. One of the facades, though, doesn’t look like the others. It’s more of an arch with large wooden doors. Hmm. Interesting. And … there’s that “sweet” scent again.

The Hollandsche Manege

You have stumbled upon the home of the Hollandsche Manege, Amsterdam’s oldest riding school, established in the 1770s. This building dates from the 1880s is, luckily, open to the public—as long as they are quiet, of course.

I admit, I did not stumble upon the manege. My Amsterdamster friend brought me by knowing I’d love this hidden nugget. Open the doors and there’s a long low-ceiling, cobbled entry leading to a large, vaulted arena. Peer over a 4- to 5-foot tall wall any time of day, and you’re likely to find a riding class going on, or also the “adult swim” version of riding.

But wait, there’s more. Walk through a door to the right and walk up an elegant staircase. Yes, it’s elegant. Really.

On the staircase you get a sense of not only the history of the place, but of the generations that have come here to ride: Each rise is heavily worn. The destination? A small cafe with a patio overlooking the ring.

The afternoon riding class.

And look at this: You can even enjoy a coffee, beer or aperitif while waiting for your daughter to finish her riding lesson. How civilized.

How civilized.

Floating in Amsterdam

May 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

And I don’t mean on a canal. Waaay better than that. Of all the typical things you can do on a visit to Amsterdam—drink beer, eat cheese, visit the Red Light District, take a canal ride, drink beer—here’s something that’s incredibly special and absolutely amazing: floating on a salty pool of water at Koan Float, a lovely spa right on the canal of Herengracht, in the old city.

So, picture this: A small room with a shower and a big plastic pod, shaped kinda like an egg positioned on its side. There’s a hatch that opens up on the small end to reveal that the pod is filled to the hatch rim with water. Step in (that’s after you shower and are completely naked as a baby) and try to sit like it’s a bathtub— you can’t sit. Your body just doesn’t sink. You bob up like a discarded soda bottle on the Charles. Close the hatch and stretch out. Your body naturally floats high up in the very very salty water. Aaaaahhhhh….relaxing.

I can’t stand getting water in my ears – not even in the shower – so they provide ear plugs. And there’s a floaty pillow like the kind you use on a plane – helps a lot. They also give you the option of listening to that celestial new-agey music. Sounds hokey, but do it! And turn the lights out completely in the pod. And just float there. And float. And suddenly you’re just back in the womb, suspended, mind as blank as that Taoist uncarved block. Truly. Amazing.

After 45 minutes, they’ll come on the intercom and have the lights come up and down a bit, letting you know time has expired. I totally missed all of that because I fell asleep. Floating on water! Exactly what your mother warned you about! I did suddenly spring to consciousness, more refreshed—body and soul—than I have ever experienced in my life. I would do this once a week if I could. Hello, some spa in Boston? Get these pods!

Don’t take my word for it, watch this video from Koan Float. And book an appointment for right after your overnight flight. It’ll totally help you relieve the stress and enjoy the rest of your day.

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