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My two Things waiting to enter the potato chip factory.

My two Things waiting to enter the potato chip factory.

Yesterday rocked. The day started as a typical dreary, rainy Cape Cod day, and we planned out a bunch of indoor things to do. I dragged the family all the way to Hyannis to check out the Cape Cod Homebrew Supply store, and we got a beer kit to brew up some Cape Cod Red when we get home. Seeing the reaction of the beer factory guys when hubby told them that that I was the brewer, not him, confirmed to me that the way to a man’s heart is through a fermenting bucket.

The kids of courses didn’t find the homebrew supply place quite as fun as I did, so we headed up the road a ways to the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory tour. This is s self guided tour that takes just a few minutes, but it allowed the kids to see how one of their favorite treats is made, and there’s a free sample at the end of the tour at the gift shop.

The best part? Blue skies when we stepped out of the building. Despite a forecast for a full day of rain, we were delivered a miracle change in weather. The family climbed into the car and we headed down towards the trampolines for a celebratory bounce, though we didn’t make it that far. A short distance outside of Hyannis center, I spotted a massive mini golf spectacle called Pirate’s Cove, and pulled in.

I had driven past this place before many times. It’s one of the million dollar mini golf places that I usually disparage, preferring instead the small traditional family-owned places, but for some reason I decided to give it a try this year. I had always suspected that the place could never be a fabulous as it looked from the road, what with all that glitz and fountain aimed at route 28. Boy, was I wrong.

This place had two 18-hole courses, each of which wound through caves, ponds, and waterfalls done up with a pirate theme that would have made Walt Disney himself smile. The holes were crafted to include sand traps and rough areas (made using different textures of AstroTurf) as well as water hazards and level changes.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 crossing a rope bridge to the next hole, which as on the deck of a ship.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 crossing a rope bridge to the next hole, which was on the deck of a ship.

We played the back course, called Blackbeard’s Course. This course is ADA accessible, which means we can take their grandma back another day to play with them. I have never before seen an accessible mini golf course, so kudos to Pirates Cove for being so cool. The course was crowded, but there’s so much to check out that we never got bored while waiting for our turn at each hole, and the hour of play flew by quickly.

Afterwards we headed east along Route 28 in search of locally made ice cream, and found the Cape Cod Creamery. Thing 1 gives this place 4.5 out of 5 stars. They offer a good variety of flavors, and the quality is top notch. I enjoyed the Chapin Cherry Chocolate-and I devoured the whole cone despite intending to only eat about half. It was just too good to toss.

We ended a great afternoon with a stroll around Chatham’s Main Street to check out one of our favorite shops on the Cape: Yankee Ingenuity. I know a lot of stores claim they have something for everyone, but this is the only one that truly does. Even Thing 2, who was not impressed when we told him we were going to take him shopping, happily spent half an hour exploring the neat merchandise. He was particularly intrigued by the Watering Can Fountain, while Thing 2 and I were most interested in checking out the jewelry.

Here I sit on the beach at Nauset Light, pondering which celebrity will leave us tomorrow.

Here I sit on the beach at Nauset Light, pondering which celebrity will leave us tomorrow.

Sometimes I fear that Bad Things tend to happen when we are on the Cape. We were here on 9/11. We were here during Beslan School Massacre in Russia. And this week we’ve witnessed some sort of strange Celebrity Death Match unfolding. Ed McMahon and Farah Fawcett were not surprises as both were in poor health. Michael Jackson was a bit of a shock. His life was such a strange tragedy, like weird art house film that I could not relate to, and his death bothered me because he never did have his big Moment of Redemption that most good stories deliver.

But Billy Mays is more than I can bear. He seemed like such a genuinely nice guy, albeit one that shouted at me from the tube to buy unlikely miracle products. He was a comfortable part of my cultural backdrop, and I was no where near ready to lose him even if I never intended to call right away to double my order for free. I didn’t trust him, but I did like him, and I’m going to miss him.

Maybe it’s the weather causing all this weird Karma. There’s an odd weather system parked offshore that is causing unusual tides here, with highs that are higher than any I’ve ever seen on the Cape. Tides in Cape Cod Bay are pretty dramatic anyway, with low tide revealing vast mud flats and tidal pools that the kids love. Our favorite place to enjoy these tides is at Rock Harbor in Orleans.

Hubby, Thing 1 and Thing 2 head out onto the mud flats at Rock Harbor.

Hubby, Thing 1 and Thing 2 head out onto the mud flats at Rock Harbor. All this is underwater at high tide.

We can walk out for at least a half mile and explore the mud flats, collecting sea shells and hunting down hermit, horseshoe, and lady crabs. The kids like to try to catch the little mummichogs stuck in the tidal pools, though those tiny fish are really hard to nab. Rock Harbor treated us with a nice collection of shells again this year, including two types of scallops, clams, and moon snails.

The greenish snail shell here is occupied by a hermit crab, who was not harmed while making this photo.

The greenish snail shell here is occupied by a hermit crab, who was not harmed while making this photo.

Thing 2 ran around like a wild man, getting completely soaked even though he was wearing regular clothing, not a swim suit. If you can’t get away with that on the Cape though, then what’s the point of being a 6 year old boy?

Thing 2, aka Superman, runs through the knee deep water.

Thing 2, aka Superman, runs through the knee deep water.

Today the weather was foggy and dank, so we headed up to Provincetown to poke through the shops. This was a mistake. Today was the Portuguese Festival and Blessing of the Fleet, which is a pretty impressive event, and also the Cape Cod Getaway MS Bike Ride, which is the largest MS ride in Massachusetts. The crowds were more than we enjoy dealing with, so we left pretty quickly.

For the afternoon we decided to poke through the Gristmill Antiques Gallery in Eastham. Hubby loves the big metal fish sculpture on their front lawn, though $10,000 is a little pricey for a souvenir. I love poking around the place to treasures. I wouldn’t call myself an antique hunter, but I sure do like finding old and used things that I can give a new home to. Today we bought a glass citrus juicer and some assorted flatware for the kids’ lunch boxes. My kids will dine next year with silver that cost me only $1 a piece! I find this particular gallery very acocmodating to kids, and they make us feel perfectly comfortable there with our two Things despite having so many lovely and pricey fragile items on display. I think I found something there to get Hubby for his upcoming birthday as well (and it’s not the huge fish)!

Thing 1 would like our fisherman neighbor to know that she caught a metal fish much larger than the 30 pound striped bass he caught last month.

Thing 1 would like our fisherman neighbor to know that she caught a metal fish much larger than the 30 pound striped bass he caught last month.

Here we are trapsing through the woods collecting ticks as we go.

Here we are traipsing through the woods collecting ticks along the way.

Yesterday was a  big hiking day for us. We started out with an early breakfast of muffins and coffee from the Cottage Street Bakery in Orleans, which is one of the few bakeries I know of that offers up muffins as good as homemade. I was fortunate enough to get one of the last copies of a cookbook they published a few years ago, so I actually do make these exact muffins at home! A favorite treat at the Homestead is the Dirt Bomb, and you are all in luck because I found the recipe online at TasteBook, so you can try them wherever you are. When I make them, I replace half the flour with whole wheat pastry flour, which adds a nice nuttiness to them.

We ate our muffins at a place we call Muffin Point, which is a parking lot at the Fort Hill Area within the National Seashore. This little known parking lot offers one of the prettiest views of Nauset Marsh:

Nauset Marsh, which I would like to kayak some time this week.

Nauset Marsh, which I would like to kayak some time this week.

After eating our muffins, we followed the trail around the Fort Hill area, which loops around some old fields that are now filled with wildflowers and poison ivy. This is a favorite spot with bird watchers because of the great views out over the marshes as well as the many swallows darting around the meadows. In addition to the birds, we also found snails:

Thing 2 will pick up any critter, no matter how slimey.

Thing 2 will pick up any critter, no matter how slimey.

I recommend, though, that you use some sort of bug spray if you go for a hike on the Cape. The bugs are not bad in the open areas, but once you get into swampy woods the mosquitoes will show you no mercy, as we relearned on this hike.

Later in the morning we headed up to the Mass Audubon Society’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary offers some of the best hiking on the Outer Cape, with trails that offer views of the various Cape environments all in one lovely spot. The Nature Center is worth the trip alone–the building has Platinum Leed certification and demonstrates how comfortable an energy-efficient structure can be.

If you come up in late June or early July, you get treated to one of the Sanctuary’s annual baby events. The wee little baby fowler toads were everywhere, and more than one was snatched up by Thing 2, who gleefully allowed the little toads to poop on his hand. We also found fiddler crabs, red wing blackbirds, and tracks from a diamond back terrapin turtle who had been looking for a good nesting spot.

Hubby took this picture of a fiddler crab for you.

Hubby took this picture of a fiddler crab for you.

The Sanctuary is a great place for families to learn about Cape ecology. They offer many guided hikes and explorations, and volunteer guides are frequently found around the trails offering information on the various birds and critters that you can see. If you have young ones, you should plan on spending about 2 hours there, but you can easily go all day exploring the many trails, some of which are only easy accessible at low tide.

And I can’t believe I’m saying this…but check out the bathrooms at the Nature Center while you’re there. No, I haven’t been infected by whatever virus makes my kids need to see every restroom in the country! These toilets are really cool low water use miracles with a funky scrubbing bubbles action. I would love to have these installed at home, though I don’t think the dogs would appreciate it if we went with waterless potties.

That's me bouncing like a happy fool.

That's me bouncing like a happy fool.

Yesterday was a good day here. We checked in with a lot of our favorite local businesses, including Snow’s, where the kids enjoy browsing the toys and I check out all the wonderful kitchen gear; the Hole in One Donut Shop, which has the best donuts anywhere ever; Orlean’s Cycle, which offers the best bike service in the area and good rental rates right on the Cape Cod Rail Trail bike path; and the Hot Chocolate Sparrow, which has great coffee, treats, and candies. It was good to see that many of our old friends are surviving this tough economy and continue to draw big crowds. We did notice one casualty, though: the Sea Dog restaurant in Eastham is no more, which means there’s one less spot for us to grab a cheap veggie burger for lunch.

The big items of the day included our first pilgramage to the trampoline center and a walk around the salt pond at the Cape Cod National Seashore.

The Trampoline Center, which is located on Main Street in Harwichport, has been a family favorite since I was 7 years old. This place is a small field of pits in the ground covered with trampolines–my kids call it the trampoline farm, and they start begging to go here about 2 seconds after we cross the bridge onto the Cape.  Five bucks buys you 10 minutes on a trampoline, which may not sound like much, but about 2 minutes into it you realize that jumping is really hard work! We got two trampolines, and the four of us took turns bouncing around.

Thing 1 and thing 2 catching some air.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 catching some air.

The other big adventure of the day was a visit to the Salt Pond Visitor Center at the Cape Cod National Seashore to pick up a schedule of activities and take the short walk along the salt pond and marshes. This walk usually marks the moment when we all finally relax and get into vacation mode, probably because the views are so calming:

Hubby thinks this is the best spot on Earth.

Hubby thinks this is the best spot on Earth.

We have done a few of the ranger guided activities in the park in past years and plan to participate in some again this year. Thing 1 wants to do the Salt Pond canoe trip with me, which we’ll do if the weather is good that day. Thing 2 enjoyed watching the short movie that explains the formation and geology of Cape Cod–a film I think I’ve seen at least 20 times over the years. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I will say that it involves glaciers, which can make you feel cool even on the hottest summer day.

I don’t know yet what today holds. The weather is threatening rain, but I really want to go hiking and biking, not shopping. We’ll just have to see what we get to do.

Yesterday was a big milestone for Thing 2: he rode his bike by himself without training wheels for the first time ever. We celebrated with a family ride around the little neighborhood we are staying in. Life is good.

Here’s a few things that caught my eye this past week:

  • A “time bomb” for world wheat crop. This sort of thing keeps me up at night. Ug99, a fungus commonly known as stem rust, is wreaking havoc on the wheat harvest in Africa, and could destroy as much as 80% of the world’s wheat crop as is is spread to other continents. Can we adapt our crop to resist it before it reaches the American Midwest? If only Jack Bauer were a plant breed and geneticist!
  • Who wants a Tesla When You Can Drive an Electric ’49 Bentley By Tom Dixon? This is my dream-to take a classic car and convert it to run on a sustainable fuel. Electric is good depending on how you make your electricity, though I scheme to run my dream car on french fry grease. And I want to convert a Ford Model A Pick-Um-Up like this one, only in green or robin’s egg blue.
  • Lettuce From the Garden, with Worms. NTY Op-ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristoff on the state of our agricultural industry. The picture he paints is not pretty, and the concerns he raises are among the many reasons I grow my own and buy from local farmers. I have no good relationship with large argi-farms, but I love the guy who grows my greens and the chap who sells the local grass-fed dairy’s cheeses.
  • Outrageous Oreo Crunch Brownies. If you make these for a PTA bake sale, you will be remembered as a hero.
June 2009
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About me

I am on a personal and professional quest to find a happier, healthier, greener and more cost effective way to live life in the suburbs.