Stuffing

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything. It’s been a very long, very difficult year with the Covid 19 pandemic. But I will talk about that another day…

Today, it’s about stuffing. Thanksgiving is upon us and this year, nothing is the same. Families are being advised not to gather to celebrate unless you all live together. People are planning outdoor meals, which may not be a bad thing because it’s been a very mild Fall so far…in fact, it’s hard to believe December 1 is just days away. My usual plans for the holiday were cancelled, just like so many other people. But I wanted to make the day as “normal” as I could. So it was time to make stuffing. Mom’s stuffing.

Mom always made her stuffing from scratch. No Pepperidge Farm or Stove Top for her! She would reach deep into the cabinet and pull out the old meat grinder. I’m not sure but I think when I was a kid in the 60’s, that old grinder was 100 yrs old….and I’m pretty sure either my sister or my brother has it now, complete with the falling apart shoe box she kept it in.

She would attach the grinder to the counter and run a couple of pieces of bread through it just to make sure there was no left over rust on the inside. And then in would go the onions and celery. By the time she was done grinding, she would be weeping tears from onion fumes but that was all part of the process. Out would come the cast iron frying pan and she would drop two sticks of butter in and melt that down. In would go the onions and celery and the aroma filled the house. It was wonderful. And then of course she would add a significant amount of the famous Bell’s Seasoning. Everyone uses that, right?

In a Revere pan on the stove, she would boil the turkey neck and gizzards and set it aside for later. She had a big yellow Pyrex glass bowl (I still have it!) and she would take “stuffing bread” and tear it into small pieces in the bowl. I always helped tearing the bread. Stuffing bread is really just plain white bread that is not sliced…but is marketed as “stuffing bread”…and yes, I buy it. Once the bread was ready and the onions and celery were soft, she would pour that over the bread and start to mix it up. That water she had that was flavored from the turkey neck would be used a cup at a time to moisten the bread and help mix the vegetables in. She would sprinkle some more Bell’s in as necessary. Can you smell it? I can….

It was a an art to get the water/bread mixture just right. You can’t have too much and you can’t have too little. But you just knew when enough was enough. I watched Mom make this stuffing every year at Thanksgiving and again at Christmas. And then that old grinder would go back in the box for another year.

I made stuffing today. I don’t have a grinder so I chopped the celery and onions by hand. And I weeped over the onions, just like Mom did. I have to confess that I make the stuffing a little different than she did. I add sausage and apple to the mixture. Other than that, it is the same. I tore the bread by hand and boiled the parts, just like she did. She would probably not approve of the additions I make but she would approve of me making it by hand, like she did.

So much is different this year. But I will have turkey, stuffed with Mom’s stuffing and it will feel a little more normal. I hope you can find a little normal in your holiday. And eat stuffing!

Mom

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I’m feeling a tad sentimental today as this date marks 15 years since my Mom passed away. She was 74 at the time of her death and had succumbed to the ravages of throat cancer. She was diagnosed in February of the previous year and went through hell for the next 11 months. But there were some victories along the way and we celebrated those moments.

She was born in November of 1930, the 4th and last daughter of Esther and Maurice Costello. Her older sisters were Rita, Roberta and Katherine (known as Kay). She had no brothers. She grew up in Watertown and graduated from Watertown High School in 1948. She met my Dad while they were both in Junior High School….and they remained sweethearts throughout school. They married in April of 1951.

She wasn’t good enough for my father…or so his mother always said. Don’t all mothers of sons say that about the girl their son marries?  They went on to have 3 kids…Cathy, Ron and me. They led a good life for many years but then life got in the way and the good times were not always so good anymore. But that was their life and they rode the ups and downs like any other family would have. My Dad died in 1980 at the tender age of 50. Mom turned 50 later that same year but never dated (maybe once) and never married again.

She was an interesting woman in many ways. She loved to dance, and she and Dad could jitterbug like there was nobody watching. One of my best memories was having both Mom and Dad participate in a 50’s concert when I was in High School and seeing their picture in MY yearbook, dressed in their finest 50’s costumes, dancing across the stage. Really…who get’s to say their parents are in their yearbook. I always thought it was cool.

She wasn’t the best housekeeper but she did make sure we always left the house with clean clothes, clean bodies and a full stomach. She made the worst beef stew. You couldn’t call it stew…it was really fat riddled chunks of beef, carrots and who knows what else in a broth that tasted like dish water. It was gruesome. She knew it but made us eat it anyway. Apple Pie was not a specialty either. It always looked great until you cut it open to find lots of crust and maybe some apples.

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But she made the best chocolate bread pudding with hard sauce. And she could silence a leg of lamb like you read about. And I don’t care what anyone says, her’s was the best turkey stuffing in the world. No argument. But she did always forget to put the fancy salt and pepper shakers on the table for holiday dinners….

She has a sense of adventure, particularly in her Pontiac Bonneville nicknamed “Black Beauty”. She had rules. Don’t ever call her “Ma”. Don’t even think of putting your feet on the rungs of the dining room chairs. And don’t slam the screen door as you dashed out the back door.

She and I struggled in the later years. Mostly because when my father died, we were forced to be more like roommates and less like mother and daughter. She did her best but struggled with boundaries as I got older (late 20’s into 30’s and beyond). I had to push back and put my foot down and that was not easy. She resented me and I resented her interfering in my life. I came to realize it was the only way she knew how to hold on to me. But when she got sick, none of that mattered. I did what needed to be done for her. And so did Cathy and Ron, albeit from a distance as they lived hours away. But they rose to the challenges when it was necessary. We did the best for her that we could.

Her funeral service was a little different. Thelma and Louise sent a lovely tropical floral arrangement. As we processed out of the church after the mass, the music playing in the church was “When the saints go marching in”. As we said our final goodbyes at the gravesite, the song “Rock and Roll Part 2” was played from a boombox in the back of the family limo as we tossed handfuls of snow in the air. She would have loved it.

She was proud of the three of us. Through circumstances that really don’t matter, she did not have a relationship with her granddaughters. If she had lived, she would have. Just because she did not say it did not mean she did not love us. She wasn’t the demonstrative kind. But we knew…

Fifteen years have passed and I miss her, sometimes more than I care to admit. Sadly, there is no snow on the ground here. If there was, I would have been throwing it up in the air this afternoon as I went to visit her at the cemetery. She would have liked that.

 

Perspective

When I woke up this morning, the score was still the same and the season was still over. It hurt and I was not prepared for it to end that way. For twenty years, we here in New England have been privileged to witness some of the most exciting moments in football history. All of it was brought to us by the the greatest coach in history working with the greatest quarterback in history. Deny that if you dare…

Six Super Bowl rings. Six Duck Boat parades. Six.

But even though we never liked to think of it, you always knew that it would end someday. But is today that day? Nobody really knows. We are just over 12 out from the abrupt end of this football season. There is plenty of time to reflect on this season and where it went right…and where it went wrong. The big question is what with TB12 do? Nobody knows. The amount of speculation this season has been incomprehensible. The talking heads are just that, talking heads. They know nothing. The only one who knows is TB12 himself. He did say he was not inclined to retire. But if and where he plays next season is a mystery not even he knows the answer to. It’s a waiting game. There is pain and angst in Patriot Nation today.

And today there is pain and angst around the world. There are countless homeless people in our own back yard. Children are hungry. People are dying from drug addiction and gun violence. The man who leads this country is certifiably crazy and extremely dangerous. We could be on the brink of another war in the Middle East or with North Korea. ..or both. Australia is burning. Climate change is real. I could go on but I’m hoping you get the point.

A football season is over. So what. Let’s keep things in perspective.

 

Tragedy

Tragedy…it’s a word used often but rarely used correctly. Take a moment and think of all the times you’ve said something was “tragic”. Was it really? In the last 3 days, we here in the Boston area have experienced true tragedy.

Just after noon on Christmas Day, a 40 year old woman drove to the top of a 7 story parking garage and “allegedly” threw her 4 year old daughter, her 16 month old son and herself off the roof of this garage to their death. I can not imagine the layers of this tragedy. Let’s stop and think about it for a moment…

One can suggest that the 4 year old woke on Christmas morning to the magic of Santa and all that comes with that. Can you see her wide eyes as she looked at the tree and saw all the things she asked for? Can you hear her shriek with joy over the Frozen toys, Minnie Mouse, the princess dress she wanted? And what about the little boy. Was he really understanding the magic of the morning or was the box with the flashy truck what caught and kept his attention? Or maybe there was nothing….

At this point, we really don’t know what happened here. We don’t know the life this woman was living. But what we do know is she had to be so seriously mentally ill to think that this action was the ONLY thing she could do to end the pain…and it pains me to think this is what happened. In my time, I have been sad, unhappy, distraught…and at the end of my rope. But NEVER did I think throwing myself off the roof of a parking garage was the best thing to do. But I am not her and I am not judging. I am simply sad that this was the only way out for her. And I’m hoping that her decision and the tragic results will be a wake up call to anyone feeling hopeless. There is always hope and there is help out there.

But this woman and her children are not the only victims of this tragedy. There is a father and husband. There are family members and friends. And then there are the first responders who raced to the scene to try and help. Let’s think of them for a moment…

Imagine working on Christmas Day. Many first responders work this day so that their co-workers with young kids can have the day off to be home with their families. Many of them work for the extra money earned for working on a holiday. Whatever the motivation, always know they work for the love of taking care of people. So when the radio tones went off and they raced to the scene, imagine how they felt on arrival to see this family splattered on the sidewalk. I know the paramedics and emergency medical technicians did EVERYTHING they could to try and save these children. I know that in the back of their minds, they knew these people were beyond help but they tried and continued to try as they raced to the trauma center, only to have them all pronounced dead. I know that the police officers and investigators who arrived on scene put aside their gut reaction to begin the process of determining what happened here. And I know that when they went home at the end of a very long day, they will never be able to get past what they saw. Some things can never be unseen. But there is hope for them. Because there are teams of trauma experts that will be there to help these people work through this tragedy as best they can. It will be a long and painful process. And it will forever change the lives of these people. Never forgot that.

And then today…we had another “tragedy”. A mansion in the town of Concord Ma burned to the ground. The home was built in 1897 and was a 13 room, 5 bedroom, 6800 square foot mansion. It had a massive in ground pool, tennis courts and a lawn/yard that meandered down to the Sudbury River. Rumor has it that relatives of President John Quincy Adams lived here back in colonial times.

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The home belonged to a prominent malpractice attorney and his wife, also an attorney. They were not home at the time of the fire. Nobody was home except a caretaker who did get out of the home. Hopefully no firefighters were injured. The home is on a very remote road, on top of a hill. There are no fire hydrants nearby. This made fighting the fire impossible. The only was to get water to this fire was for numerous fire engines to relay pump water into cisterns (look it up) for the firefighters to draw from. Many people commented on how negligent the town was not to have hydrants…but really, when they built this home in 1897, there was no such thing as a hydrant. And for the town or the property owners to install one, the cost would be astronomical. But as they watched this home disintegrate, would the cost of installing water mains and hydrants have been worth it? We can not know. And we can not judge this town and these owners for not having a hydrant system on this remote road.

So what makes this fire “tragic”?

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Photos are courtesy of @jenyp (capturegirl) from Boston25News.

The tragedy here is the loss of an exceptionally beautiful home. Imagine the contents…imagine the family heirlooms, the antiques, the history. Sure, there is no doubt this property was insured. But no amount of money can replace what has been lost here. So this wealthy family that would appear to have it all, now has nothing. And that is tragic in it’s own way.

Two different tragedies, very different in scope. But still tragic. What an awful few days this has been. If you are suffering, seek out help. And with loss comes the memories you had of the place you called home. Nothing can take those memories away. Be thankful nobody died in this fire. Walls can be rebuilt. From the ashes of these two events, people will rise. There is always hope.

Use your inside voice

For the longest time, I thought it was me. Were my ears super sensitive? Was I just being an old fuddy duddy? (Isn’t that a great term?!) But it became clear to me that many people feel the way I do. Restaurants are just too LOUD!

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When I go out to eat with friends, I want to sit at the table and have a conversation. A conversation that everyone at the table can hear. A conversation that takes places without YELLING. But for many years now, this is almost impossible. I used to love going to certain restaurants for their fabulous food. But I don’t go now because it’s just not enjoyable anymore. Sure, the food is still great but the atmosphere…not so much. Everyone seems to need to be heard. And they need everyone within the restaurant to hear them. So they talk really LOUD. And more annoying is the laugher. You know, the guy that finds everything to be funny and has to let everyone know he thinks it’s funny by laughing really LOUD. And then his friends join in and everyone is really LOUD. And then there are the groups of women who scream to be heard, like fingernails on a chalk board. And all of this gets worse with every beverage that is consumed. And my head wants to burst from the NOISE.

There is no question that some restaurants are designed to enhance the noise…places like the Cheesecake Factory that have really high ceilings. I get it, there are places that should be LOUD. Places like a sports bar with 75 Jumbotron TV screens all around. And if I want that atmosphere, I will go to the sports bar and I will be LOUD like everyone else. But when I go to my local pub or to places like the Colonial Inn or Wayside Inn, I want it to be charming and peaceful and QUIET. I want to have a conversation, not a screaming match.

When did we become a society that lost control like this? Where did our manners go? I beg you all, please use your inside voice when you are inside a restaurant. Leave the outside voice at the door!

And don’t get me started on the parents that let the little ones run freely around the restaurant because they can’t sit still in their chairs….

A little goes a long way…

Everything in moderation. At least that’s the idea, especially when it comes to the use of perfume and cologne.

Last evening, friends and I attended a local production of the musical “Funny Girl”. As we filed into the theatre and took our seats, we settled in with expectations of a great show. And then he arrived. A seemingly wonderful gentleman and his wife (that’s an assumption but probably correct!) settled into the seats directly in front of us. He was in front of me. Within moments, I was caught in an invisible cloud of some seriously strong cologne. I was stunned really…this was some powerful stuff! And every time he moved, the cloud refreshed itself and settled over anyone within a 1/2 mile of him! Honestly, this was a hazmat situation.

I don’t know what brand of toxic chemical this was…but I’m sure it was expensive. And I’m sure he thought it made him more attractive. His wife must be used to it because she seemed unfazed by it as she occasionally snuggled up to him. Within a few minutes, the toxic cloud had permeated my nostrils…and it was only a few more minutes before I could actually taste this stuff. Really, it was that strong. There were times during the 3 hour evening when I pulled my shirt up over my mouth and nose in an attempt to filter the air. When the show was over, we could not wait to get outside and breathe fresh, cool air. But the fragrance lingered…

I got home and gave serious consideration to taking a shower before going to bed. I thought it might help wash away the toxic fumes. I was tired so I just went to bed. And I woke up this morning, still tasting and smelling the remnants of this guy’s cologne. I wondered if there was ever a time this guy thought maybe he was pouring it on too heavily. Did the designer that created this crap have any idea of how strong it was and how people in general use far too much? Does anyone realize just how bad this can be for some people? People like me….

I have asthma. It’s pretty serious and I take 3 different meds daily to keep it under control. Things that trigger my asthma are extreme heat and humidity, inhaling very cold air, breathing around the use of strong cleaning products and strong perfume and cologne. So today I spent about two hours dealing with an asthma flare up because this tool last night bathed in whatever expensive cologne he thought made him more manly.

Ladies and gents, please use whatever fragrance you choose sparingly and please consider the rest of the people in the world that can truly be harmed by your desire to smell fancy. Less is more…

Next on the blog topic list…..Use Your Inside Voice

Loss

My neighbor Jim is an elusive character. He’s in his mid 70’s, still very active. I’ve lived next door to him for 5 years. He’s a retired firefighter but that was his part time job! He was also a painting contractor. He keeps busy working odd jobs, mostly for friends. He golfs now and then. He does not talk much, just sort of grunts if you say hello to him. In the past year, he has engaged me in conversation once or twice. That means he likes me. At least those who know him well say that’s true.

Some things I do know about Jim is that he was briefly married and got divorced many years ago. There were no kids. His house is big…really big for one single man. I’ve never been inside but I’m told it’s nice. He has a nice big deck on the back of the house that he never uses. Ever. And the one thing that always has me perplexed is that no matter the time of the year, the windows in the house are always closed. There is no air conditioning. The driveway is on the far side of the house so I can’t see if his car is at home. The only way I know he is home in the evening is by seeing the lights on in what is most likely his living room. I know that in the winter, he goes to Florida for a few weeks. I also know he had a horrible bout with throat cancer a few years ago but seems to have recovered fairly well.

This past winter was different. Jim did not go to Florida. I did not see him to speak to but would see him come and go from time to time. But then it seemed like he was gone for long stretches of time….days and into weeks. His normal routine would be to be out doing a painting job during the day. He would come home, clean up and then drive away to parts unknown, coming home later in the evening. But as I said, this past winter was different. His paint truck seemed to never leave the yard. His car was rarely at home. Days and sometimes a week or more would go by with no signs of life in the house. This went on into Spring and early Summer. I mentioned this to a mutual friend and was frankly shocked at what I was told. Apparently elusive Jim had a lady friend! And they had been a “thing” for many many years. Well, of course I would not have known that. Good for Jim!

Her name was Betty Lou. I know nothing about her or their life together. I suspect she was a great help to him when he was sick. And then she got sick. I am told it was some time this past winter that she was diagnosed with cancer. No idea what kind. But whatever it was, it was apparently aggressive. Jim was devoted to her care which now explains the lengthy periods of time he was away from home. He stayed with her day and night. He stayed with her up until she passed.  It was a big loss for Jim.

Several people have said Jim claims this was the worst year of his life. I suppose that’s probably true. I also know that Jim’s best friend of close to 50 years passed away this Spring, also of cancer. I think traditionally men are less equipped to manage a loss like this than women are. Loss is hard for everyone and Jim isn’t any different. But for some reason, his loss makes me extra sad. His life was wrapped up in her and their life and now it’s all gone. He is home now, every night. What now?

 

Impact weather day

 

We are having a heat wave. And I hate it. But I hate the media more for making it so much worse than it already is. They seem to thrive on weather extremes. And they really love to use specific words and phrases to hammer home their point.

So here is my list of words and phrases that should be banned in reference to this heat:

Excessive. Dangerous. Historic. Cooling centers. Hot. Really Hot. Splash Pads. Pools. Air conditioning. Shower. Ice cream. Humidity. Dew Points. Heat Index. Hydrate. Check on the elderly. Heat advisory. Extreme heat warning. Heat exhaustion. Heat stroke. Fry an egg. Pets. Kids. Power grid.

There are many more that could be added to the list. But my all-time least favorite (and actually it’s very new) is IMPACT WEATHER DAY.

Weather people…I beg you. Please stop! Thank you.

I’m going back into my air conditioned house where I plan to eat ice cream, take a cool shower, check on my elderly neighbors, ignore the dew point and hope the power grid does not give out!

 

 

Pssst…hey you. Yeah you! I’ve got a newsflash for you….

You are NOT Mark Spitz!

There is a public pool in my City. It opened 55 years ago and is still going strong. But it has limitations. It’s biggest problem is that it’s too small. It’s bigger problem is some of the people who come to use it. The pool does it’s best to cater to the needs of everyone who comes. There are hours for general swimming where anyone can do just about anything. There are always 2 lap lanes but the fact is that during general swim, these lanes are not immune to infiltration by non-competitive swimmers. There is a big shallow end that’s good for kids. At the other end is a diving board and slide. This part of the pool is very deep, mostly because there used to be a very high diving board! They took that away many years ago in the interest of safety. During the week, a mere 45 minutes is set aside from 12:15 to 1pm for “adult swim” only. On weekends, “adult swim” is from 11a-12p. And on Tuesday and Thursday mornings in July and half of August, early morning “adult swim” is from 7:30-8:15. Not much time for us “adults”. But we make the best of it.

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I have been coming to this pool since day 1. As a kid, I spent many summer days camped out with my friends, keeping an eye on all the cute boys and making plans for what we all were going to do that night in the park. Simpler times for sure. I grew up and grew away from the pool as life took me in different directions and working for a living took over for summering in the pool. Close to 20 years ago, I re-discovered the pool and began going every day for adult swim. I worked nights at the time and a nice dip in the cool pool before bed was the perfect thing for a good day’s sleep.

I don’t swim. I can, for the most part but I just don’t. I run in the pool and do some variations of aerobic exercises as I run back and forth in the lane. It’s a great workout. No impact on the joints, gets your heart rate up and gives you great resistance in the water as you move back and forth. I simply love it. The lane closest to the shallow end is PERFECT for me and my exercise routine. The water comes to mid-chest and provides the absolute best possible combination of depth and resistance. But I don’t own the lane. And neither do you!

Over the years, there is a core group of people who come to adult swim. We all know each other and we all know where we prefer to “swim”. There is a flow to the pool and you kinda need to go with it.  But then Mark Spitz shows up. You know, the guy with the tiny Speedo, the skin tight swim cap, the flippers and hand flippers, goggles, stop watch and several additional swim aides. Mark is not a regular. In fact, he is often a day swimmer…obvious by the wrist band you get when you pay by the day.

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Mark arrives after everyone else is in the pool, deep into their routines. And then Mark’s routine begins. He stretches, he adjusts his Speedo. stretches, adjusts, stretches, adjusts….and then despite HUGE letters of the pool deck saying “No Diving”, he dives in to a lane regardless of who else might be there. Every so often, Mark stands at the head of the lane I’m in and tells me in no uncertain terms, that the lane is for “lap swimming” and I need to get out of it and move over to the shallow end of the pool. I am polite and simply say that the pool is for whatever you want it to be and that I am happy to have him swim around me if he’d like. Mark tells me again the lanes are for swimming….and so I stop running and break into a breast stroke and ask, “Is this better?”. And I refuse to move. There have been times when Mark has approached the pool staff asking them to have me move. And he is told this will not happen. So Mark finds a space…adjusts his goggles, starts his timer and off he goes. One lap. Check timer. Readjust goggles. Put on flippers. Swim. One lap. Check timer. Fuss with goggles. Swim. Take off flippers. Drink flavored power water. Fuss with goggles. Swim. Flip turn. Breast stroke. Flip. Stop to adjust goggles. Butterfly stroke….because we ALL need to be impressed. Except nobody is impressed. Finally someone will vacate one of the two roped off lanes and Mark will make his way over to it. And then he fusses with all his stuff all over again. So much times is wasted on all this stuff….just swim! But no…..you are Mark Spitz! When your time is up, off you go and we likely will never see you again. We are oaky with that. Maybe you can find a pool somewhere that caters to the Mark Spitz type. Good luck with that. Because I have a newsflash for you….you are NOT Mark Spitz!

 

And for those of you of a younger generation…omit Mark Spitz and insert Michael Phelps!

Mr.Mouse takes a vacation…with Abigail

 

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It was only a matter of time. The elusive and very private Mr.Mouse was finally dragged on vacation by the ever charming Abigail. There is romance in her heart…but can we say the same for Mr.Mouse?

They boarded the boat and found their way to their bunks…separate accommodations to be sure. Once settled, they made their way to the decks to mingle with the other guests and get to know people. Some folks may have been a little skittish seeing two mice on board but it was quickly apparent these were not THOSE kind of mice. Mr.Mouse was familiar with several guests as he is a seasoned sailor aboard the schooner. He quickly renewed friendships with his crew friends….Sean and Ben, Nick, Elli and AB. And of course Capt’s Doug and Linda. There were several folks he has sailed with in prior years. Always nice to see John and Betsey, Betty and Ralph and of course buddies Harry and Gary!

And then there were the “newbies”…Helen and Fred and daughter Jennifer, Derek and Karyn, Lu and Ira, Jonathan and Ann and their friend Gina, Dee and last but not least Michael. All very nice folks, some who have sailed the schooner before and others making their maiden voyage. Everyone settled in and waited for morning and the thrill of pushing off the dock.

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We were treated to the shipyard osprey in the nest, watching over the 3 eggs waiting to burst open at any moment. These birds are great hunters, flying off the nest and frequently returning with a tasty fish in it’s talons. We sailed away on Tuesday morning at “10:30” and headed out into the bay. The weather looked a little gray with some rain possible but any day on the water is a good day. We made our way across the bay and through the Fox Island Thoroughfare and found ourselves a beautiful spot on Calderwood Island to go ashore and have lobster!

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On many previous trips, lots of pictures were taken. This trip, the camera was set aside for the most part and we all just enjoyed what we were seeing in the moment. But one never gets tired of seeing the beautiful Schooner Heritage at anchor in the cove.

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And then again, seeing her under sail is most impressive…

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The weather was not necessarily the best on this trip…rain was our companion more than we may have wanted. But on our last morning, the skies cleared and the winds came and across the Bay we sailed, past the hills of Camden and back to port.

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Another fabulous trip came to an end far too quickly. So I guess that means I have to go back again….soon! Will Mr.Mouse and Abigail be aboard? Time will tell…

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