Friday, October 1, 2010

"A wind to shake the world."

 Hurricanes are part of life when you live near the coast, Earl being a recent if soon to be forgotten example. But by now, we all know the drill. We track the little pinwheel on our computers, TVs and smart phones, vigilant for days as the storm either strengthens or fizzles, hugs the coast or drifts out to sea. In the meantime, we kvetch a little on our way to the supermarket to stock up on bottled water, flashlight batteries and canned food. We bring in the grill and the patio furniture. Then we head down to the beach to check out the waves. (Trying to get down to Nauset when Earl hit was like trying to go to the beach at ten am on a weekend in July, with traffic backed up to Grandview. Though I sort of love my fellow Cape Codders for that.)

I’m in the process of researching a new book and I’m not sure any of this will ever see the light of day, but I’ve been reading up on the great hurricane of 1938. Consider how what we know about hurricanes has changed, and how perhaps even what we know now wouldn’t have mattered in the face of a storm so monstrous.

-In 1938, many New Englanders didn’t know what a hurricane was. The word wasn’t even in their vocabularies.

-Before 1938, there hadn’t been a major hurricane since 1869, meaning no one alive had ever lived through one. No Carol or Gloria or Bob, or stories of Andrew survivors huddled in closets as their Florida houses crumbled around them.

-There was no warning. No forecast. No Pete Bouchard. People woke up that morning to sunshine and newspaper headlines about how France and England were caving to pressure from Hitler over Czechoslovakia.

-The arrival of the hurricane of 1938 coincided not just with high tide, but the highest astronomical tide of the year, creating a storm surge that flooded downtown Providence and New Bedford, and left parts of the Cape under 8 feet of water.

-This storm had sustained winds of 121 mph, with recorded gusts of 186 mph. That’s like an F3 tornado.

-The death toll was about 700, and nearly 60,000 homes were damaged or lost.

It’s just rather humbling, and something to think about the next time you’re feeling safe because your car’s gassed up and you have enough peanut to last two weeks.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What I learned from a tick.

Last week, after a nasty bout of what I thought was the flu, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. I started a 3-week course of doxycycline on Thursday night. Today, ten days after my first symptoms emerged, I have rejoined the human race. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve learned:

That something this big " . " can completely kick your ass. People, make no mistake. Lyme makes you sick. Long spells of convulsive chills followed by high fever. Sleepless nights. Headaches (see below). Muscle aches. Sensitive skin. Extreme fatigue. They even list depression as a symptom. Ya think?

The difference between an ice pick headache and a migraine. With migraines, I thought I had the market cornered on painful headaches. Enter, the “ice pick” headache, which lasted 3 days, was unresponsive to most pain medication and felt just like the description, as if something sharp had been driven into my temple. And every now and then, dear Yukon Cornelius would tap it in a little further.

You don’t always get a rash. I think I’d remember seeing a large bullseye on my body. Wait, maybe that’s why people were kicking me that day on the beach.

What "herxing" is.  Short for the Herxheimer reaction, which occurs when large quantities of toxins are released into the body at once. So with Lyme, it’s when you start treatment and the little spyrocetes start dying in large numbers and flooding your system with neurotoxins.  In short, it gets worse before it gets better.

All medical professionals are not created equal. I might have been diagnosed three days earlier had my regular NP recognized that my symptoms meshed with Lyme. Three days later, I went to a walk-in clinic and the symptom-based diagnosis was almost immediate. So the best advice is to learn the symptoms for yourself. Note what I experienced above, add the telltale rash and joint pain. Or Google away.

A lot of people have had this and live to tell the tale. Once I mention Lyme, it seems everyone has a story. (And a few bad tequila jokes.) It seems many have had it or known someone who’s had it. Some have even had it multiple times. Sure, there are horror stories. (Bell's palsy.) For most, the antibiotics were the end of it. Sure hope that’s the case for me.

What menopause is going to feel like. Night sweats. Not fun. Fortunately, I have many, many years before I have to worry about such things. (Delusions, another symptom.)

Doxycycline is a great diet plan.  Most people would mind if their meds made them really nauseous. I’m looking forward to fitting into my skinny jeans.

That I’m going to need a better preventive measure than tucking my pants into my socks. Because that’s not going to happen. Just saying.

Sorry, Kiele. I’ll walk you again in November.

PS. Sorry I went A.W.O.L. for a while. I took a little break after my summer book tour and then had a tight editing deadline on my Young Adult book coming out in June. More to come on that, and living on Cape Cod in the off season.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getting it right.

In Summer Shift, there’s a young girl who dies at the beginning of the novel after crashing her car into a tree on a winding road. We later learn that the main character’s husband died in a similar senseless way. I was not writing from any personal experience here. Like everyone else, I had come across numerous roadside memorials and had always been struck at the harsh, arbitrary suddenness of such deaths; how tragic and unforgiving. How many times have each of us come within inches and been spared? Why some and not others? And so being something I could neither reconcile nor compartmentalize, I chose to explore the subject through writing, which is what writers do.

Today, a dear friend, one whom I’ve known only a few years, told me she was enjoying my novel, though those early scenes in the book took her back to the death of her own teenage son who was killed instantly when his car struck a tree on a winding road in 2005. My initial reaction was horror, that something I wrote might cause this kind person additional grief. She shared with me a website memorializing her son, and I saw photos of him as an infant in his mother’s arms at the hospital, pictures chronicling his childhood and teenage years, up to the photograph of the place where the accident happened, the tree itself with the missing bark, and the place where his ashes now rest. Having a son about to turn nineteen myself, all this tugged at my emotions to say the least.

I was also struck, perhaps truly for the first time, with the enormity of the responsibility authors have to get it right.

When we write, our brains often allow us to go to places we can’t fathom in our own lives. And as we explore subjects, we tap our empathy and imagine what it might be like to walk in the shoes of others. We do some research. We talk to people who’ve had similar real-life experiences. But as I journeyed through this young man’s life eerily preserved in cyberspace, I prayed that I had not in any way trivialized the circumstances of the accidents or victims in my book., that God forbid I may have reduced such real life tragedy to something clichéd.

Based on my friend’s comments, I don’t think that was the case. I hope in some way I was able to write something she could relate to and, as the story progresses for her, hope that I might provide some insight or comforting perspective on her loss.

But the lesson learned here, and one which I will carry forward, is to be mindful that what may be simple exploration of a subject for the author is inevitably harsh reality for others.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

In honor of "Shark Week."

Today I learned there are some big fish swimming off the coast of Chatham.

“The great fish moved silently through the night water, propelled by short sweeps of its crescent tail.”

I was twelve years old when I read that.

"The mouth was open just enough to permit a rush of water over the gills."

I was at Nauset beach, lying on my belly, facing the water. I had on my baggy swim team bathing suit, the straps tied together at the back with a shoelace.

"…The land seemed almost dark as the water, for there was no moon."

My sister had gone off to collect shells at the water’s edge.

"...All that separated sea from shore was a long straight stretch of beach—so white that it shone."

Normally, I would have gone with her. But I was enthralled.

"...The woman laughed and took his hand, and together they ran to the beach."

I stopped reading to look up to the intense blue vastness, and the line that cut across the sky.

"A hundred yards offshore, the fish sensed a change in the sea’s rhythm."

Is that a fin?! No, no, just a duck resting on the surface.

"...The fish turned toward shore."

I’m almost positive it’s a duck.

"...The vibrations were stronger now, and the fish recognized prey."

Where is my sister? Did she go in?

"...The woman felt only a wave of pressure that seemed to lift her up in the water and ease her down again."

The beginning of Jaws continues to haunt me in ways that few books have, the words having somehow lodged in my impressionable gut, forever safe from my reasoning brain.

In the mid- 1970s, there were no great whites off the coast of Cape Cod. All that happened after the break in the Outer Beach, and once the seals established themselves. Now, when the waters warm, annual sightings are a common occurrence. Though no one has ever been hurt. Keep in mind, there has been no fatal shark attack in Massachusetts since 1936. But it doesn’t matter, does it? You read the book too. You know what I mean. The damage is done. Razor sharp triangular teeth imbedded in our psyches.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Eau de Lobster

This weekend I joined some friends on the outer beach for a clambake. Aside from the much-needed rain that pelted us for about an hour, and how, when it finally stopped, the gnats attacked, in my opinion it’s still the best restaurant in town.

Of course, after such a primitive feast, you come home sticky and sand-coated, with very big hair, cheeks plastered with corn kernels and lobster goo. It isn't pretty. With nothing but seawater to use to wash up, I’m guessing I didn’t smell so great either.

Then again, maybe I did. Enter Demeter’s Lobster Cologne, “not for the faint of heart. Probably our most obtuse fragrance but it is ‘dead on’ so to speak….a combination of the sea, sweet meat, and a hint of drawn butter.”

Dab a little behind the ears and you’re good to go. I’m not sure where but come the dead of February, when I start longing to be out on the beach on a balmy, moonlit night with a plate of red claws on my lap, I just might need to give this a shot.

(Other notable scents: Cocktail Party To Go, Crayon, Glue, Suntan Lotion, Between The Sheets and Daddy’s Little Helper…can’t even begin to go there on the last one.)

Thanks for the link, Linda!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Recipe for a happy July.

Anyone can publish a novel but how many people have friends kind and talented enough to create for you your very own cocktail? This summer, belly up to the bar at the Saltwater Grille in Orleans and order a “Summer Shift.” Or have your own party.

(Please rest assured this recipe has gone through rigorous testing.)

The "Summer Shift"
1 part premium vodka (Ketel One, Stoli, Grey Goose, etc.)
1 part cranberry juice
Splash of Cointreau or Triple Sec
Splash of sour mix
Generous splash of key lime juice
Fill to the rim with soda water
Garnish with fresh lime

What's more, starting this week, you'll be able to sample the dishes at the back of Summer Shift at the Saltwater Grille. Clambaked Oysters, Hopkins Haddock, Proud Mary's Portuguese Mussels, and more. (And if you order a salad, chances are my kid will make it.)

Have a safe, happy summer!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ways to crack yourself up.

Write a book. Get it published. Wait a few days. Then Google yourself...

A new genre! What kind of books do you write, Lynn? Literary fiction? Womens fiction? Chick lit? No, I write shellfish romances. Good old fashioned clam meets clam stories. You know, ones that are set in China? Will the public never tire of them?

Ok, John Lithgow. Now we're talking. And a palooza, perhaps even a quilt-making one. In France. And somehow I have been invited to this fete. Magnifique!

Well there's the alphabetical proximity, I suppose. Or is Google messing with my head? Can it know my deepest, darkest secret, that I was once an official member of the Partridge Family Fan Club? Then it also should know it wasn't Danny who came to me in my dreams!

This will be news to my mother.

By numbers? Oils? Finger paints? On velvet?

Whoa! I have NEVER had a video taken of me in a cheap hot tub. Only top of the line, baby.

And here, at last, is when you know you've reached the end of your narcissistic interlude. Still, loving the randomness of having all the words appear in a single post. Like a found poem. A really, really bad one.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The final chapter.

Sure, it could have ended like this. I’m sure some of you thought it would. But those who’ve been patiently following my raccoon saga will be grateful to know this week it came to an end. Project Exodus (which consisted of loud music, bright lights and ammonia soaked rags) was a smashing success. On the second night, while watching TV in the living room, I thought I saw something scurry across the porch. Maybe an hour later, I heard a noise, flicked on the patio light and caught mom climbing down from the roof with a baby in her teeth. They both looked at me. I looked at them. We understood one another. It was time. I flicked off the light and let her get back to the arduous task of transporting and corralling four distressed cubs.

Warning: If you thought I was a nutcase up to this point, it’s about to get worse. You may want to scroll to the bottom paragraph.

So, after eight long weeks of cohabitation what was my reaction to all of this? After seeing the raccoon with her baby, I walked back to the sofa and burst into tears. You should have seen the look on my kid’s face. “What’s wrong?” he said. “It’s all okay. It worked. She’s leaving. WTF?” Maybe he didn’t actually say “WTF” but he might as well have. And who could blame him? I’ve since tried to figure out what was going on there and here’s what I’ve come up with. (And sorry, PMS was ruled out…)

A) Gargantuan relief. That she had finally gone, that this hadn’t ended in some kind of tragedy, that she was doing precisely what I’d been told she would do, taking her little ones off to someplace safe. Things had gone according to plan. When does that ever happen?

B) Gratitude. That these cubs had such a great mother, that things had worked out, that my house hadn’t been destroyed as many warned it would be, and that I’d been able to share this experience, which was a rare and amazing encounter with nature. I had done something from the heart that ran contrary to common sense. (Certainly not the first time, nor will it be the last) And it hadn’t backfired.

C) Ok, maybe I was a little sad that they were vacating after all this time. I’d grown accustomed to their coos each time I opened my dresser drawer for a clean pair of socks. And just maybe I was projecting my own kid’s leaving for college onto this whole experience. (Ya think?)

There’s a final act to all this. That night, one of the babies was left behind. All night long, it roamed around the house and cried for its mother. I was afraid it might attract a fox or coyotes. That morning at 5:15, the dog started going crazy. The baby’s cries got louder. I ran to the bedroom window in time to see the mother carting the last of her brood off into the tall grass across the street. My guess was that she had three babies to keep safe that night, and didn’t dare leave them to go back for the fourth. Not until daylight.

And that’s the last I’ve heard of them. (Thank goodness. I know, I know.)

PS. That morning I went out to buy screen and hardware cloth and sealed up the vent.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Four little figments of my imagination.

When you hear a sound in your walls for eight weeks, but see nothing, you start to think you’re a few fries short of a Happy Meal.

I haven’t talked much about my raccoon roommates lately. I just figured I’d let them do their thing until they got big enough to move on (as promised by at least two local wildlife groups.) But lately, they’ve become a little more nocturnal, waking me around one, and again around five AM, moving through the walls for at least an hour before they settle down. And it took a while but the dog has finally caught on, going nuts every time she hears scratching in the walls. It actually took her seeing the mother raccoon one night on the patio for her to make the connection.

So after nearly two months of cohabitation, because they’ve shown no signs of leaving on their own, today I have begun Project Exodus.

Step one was to evaluate the situation. I’d been warned how destructive raccoons can be. A little after noon today, I ventured into raccoon territory (aka attic and cubby hole) and discovered the damage isn’t bad at all. It seems they’ve designated one small area as their litter box. There are some chewed boxes and torn up insulation, but no damage at all in the attic, aside from the vent the mother comes in and out of.

I knew the mother would be out in the middle of the day, and hoped the babies would be with her.  And when I say babies, I was thinking one or two at most, which seemed all that there could possibly be based on the sounds they made. Obviously, not the case. I snapped this photo of the well-behaved brood in their little nook beside my bedroom dresser. I was thrilled to finally see them, and how beautiful and healthy they look. And I was also glad to see how big they are, which makes me feel a little less guilty about what I’m about to do.

Apparently, there are three ways to try to convince a raccoon that your attic is not the Raccoon Ramada. One. Illuminate the space. For me this is easy. I have light fixtures in both areas where they’ve been living and just flicked them on thise evening as soon as it got dark. Two. Ammonia soaked rags. Raccoons are very clean and the smell of ammonia drives them crazy. They think it’s urine. Three. Blast the radio. Raccoons don’t like human voices. To help that along, I chose a country music station, though I think that will probably torture me more than them.

As I write this late at night, I hear the radio upstairs and I feel kind of bad, like I’m scaring children, terrorizing a family, turning them out into the cold cruel world. Then again, they haven’t left yet. Stay tuned…

Sunday, June 6, 2010

More of What We Cook on Cape Cod...

This Friday, The Cape Codder came out with a great article on me and my new novel, Summer Shift, and the reporter, Laurie Higgins, was nice enough to mention this blog and some recent postings, one of which were recipes from this ancient (1916) Cape Cod cookbook I found, entitled What We Cook on Cape Cod by Amy Littlefield Handy. For those interested, I thought I’d post a few more recipes.

First off, check out the recipe titles, like "Codfish Chops" and "Oyster Shortcake." And I love the simplicity of ingredients. Butter, butter and more butter. Another thing notable, especially for the seafood recipes, is how plentiful and inexpensive everything must’ve been back then. They’d think nothing of making soup out of lobster or serving up oysters on toast. But what I love most of all is the comfort food aspect, the butter-eggs-and-cream crackery goodness, just like great-grandma would have made (had she been from Cape Cod and not Austria, hell bent on sauerkraut and bratwurst….oh well.)

Monday, May 31, 2010

A sea pickle by any other name.

Ok, I should probably be schlepping my book, which comes out tomorrow, in fact. But instead, I’d like to talk about sea pickles, sea beans or samphires, as they are evidently called.

This weekend I took the boat* for an inaugural spin around the Town Cove. On my way down to the mooring, I saw several beds of what I’ve always called sea pickles. Sometimes on a long walk with the dog, I’ll see a patch at the water’s edge, break off a slender tube and gnaw on it, enjoying the burst of sea salty freshness that fills your mouth when you crunch down on a succulent blade, almost like a half sour pickle. While I knew they were harmless to ingest, I never realized they were considered a delicacy until I saw them in the Whole Foods market in Cambridge. Even then, I had no idea how one might use them in cooking.

Then, just last week, this simple recipe showed up on a blog that I’ve recently started following. It seems we Cape Codders are among the .01 percent of people in the world who have access to these little darlings. Who knew?

So, thus inspired, I went down to the beach at the end of my street yesterday and harvested a handful. I sautéed them in a little herb butter, then chopped them up and tossed them on top of my salad. They were great, like tiny green bacon bits, not at all fishy tasting as I’ve read they can be, perhaps because these were still pretty small.

PS. In the spirit of foraging, I also stumbled upon this recipe for locust fritters. Yesterday I noticed the trees were in bloom, such a heavenly scent. Now where did I put that ladder?

*For the record, a 12-foot row boat. Wouldn’t want you to think I don’t need you to buy my books.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The 40-Something-Year-Old Beachcomber Opening Night Virgin

This week, I ran another book giveaway contest asking people to share their Memorial Day weekend rituals. One of the biggest around here is opening night at the Wellfleet Beachcomber, always the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend. Locals who show up and pay the $10 cover get a beach parking pass good for the entire season.

So it’s kind of ridiculous that in all of my life as a Cape Codder, I had never actually made it up to an opening night. Until last night.

For those who aren’t familiar, the "Comah," once a US Lifesaving Station, is located on top of a dune overlooking Cahoon Hollow Beach. It’s a legendary open air bar serving fresh shellfish and fried seafood, and offering live music. It’s a great pit stop on the way up to or back from P’town. It’s also a repository of memories for locals, a place synonymous with summer and all that’s good about it:  sand, sun, surf, seafood, cocktails, friends, music.  People arrive at the parking lot early in the day, head down the steep dune path to the beach with all their gear, then in the late afternoon, peel themselves off the sand and plant their sunburned selves on a barstool for the remainder of daylight, sucking down fresh shucked oysters and ice cold beers.

I was excited to attend opening night, not really knowing what to expect. I’d heard so much about it. Until this year, I lived elsewhere and a with kid in school, heading to the Cape on a weeknight in May was not an option.

So from the point of view of a 40-something-year-old Beachcomber opening night virgin, here’s what last night was. It was a high school reunion for three generations. It was people from all walks of life, from bearded fishermen to professionals to college kids to construction workers and everything in between, just happy to be through another New England winter. It was a room full of people who were accepting of one another, and who had one thing in common, the love of all that is summer on Cape Cod which, on this night, manifested as a little bar perched on a dune overlooking the ocean, moonlight silvering the edges of the clouds and reflecting on the wave caps below.

As I stood out on the deck, flanked by my own high school friends, inches away from a group of girls in sundresses, girls young enough to be our kids, and a group of weathered locals looking old enough to be our parents, this warm feeling of belonging washed over me. And really, it wasn’t just the Patron.

Before I had left the house, I’d said to my 18-year-old son, “in a few more years, you’ll be able to go too.” He rolled his eyes and said, in the nicest way possible, that he was okay with not going to a place where people my age hang out. But he’s wrong. He would have loved last night. It was one giant asterisk in the ageist nightclub world, one culture-straddling exception, one beautiful, ineffable moonlit anomaly. All on one night. All in one bar. In a few years, he’ll see for himself.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Living the dream...

I wrote this the day I was interviewed by Cape Cod Magazine. The June issue is on newsstands now and I’m featured in the “Last Word” column on the last page.

Come on, people. Cape Cod Magazine. It’s a staple in every guest bathroom from Sandwich to Ptown. Lord knows I have my obligatory stack dating back to the mid 90s. Before I moved to the Cape year round, the magazine served as a lifeline. Each summer here, I’d pick one up, take it home, then spend the winter daydreaming, perusing the real estate in the back, and the Cape-y things advertisers were selling. I used to envy the local artists, craftsmen and business owners who were featured, people who had found a way to live the dream.

Newsflash. It appears that I’m living the dream. Though the dream is probably never as dreamy as one might imagine. There are still bills to pay, weeds to be pulled and stuff that needs to be carted off to the dump.

Still, sometimes it takes seeing your life in glossy pages to gain some perspective. Years ago, I envisioned myself living and writing here and now I am. This afternoon I took Kiele for a walk through the woods to the end of Weeset. There was a layer of fog over the water so that you couldn’t see the horizon or even the backside of Nauset Beach. The inlet was still and the sea melted into the sky. As I stood there, the sun broke through the clouds and the light was indescribable, like mercury. I stood there a minute more. Because I could.

I guess I’m living the dream.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I’m definitely a “bag” person.

A while back, I came across this cookbook written by Amy Littlefield Handy, originally published in 1916, that had been scanned into the Google archives. It consists of 80-some-odd pages of recipes not just for seafood but also meats, salads, breads, cakes, preserves, etc. A collaborative effort, different versions of the same dish are attributed to different cooks. The recipes are written in short paragraphs, and there’s definitely an assumption that one knows his or her way around a kitchen.

As a writer, what I find interesting is the language. In a recipe for clam chowder, the cook talks about separating the “bags” of the clams from the “shoulders,” or strips from bellies as we say. And in a recipe for lobster soup, we’re instructed to put “the bones of the lobster on to boil.” Well, I suppose it is an exoskeleton. And in the recipe of Great-Grandma’s Red Fish (below) we’re told to “heat in a spider.” Who knew?

When I read these recipes, there’s a part of me that longs to live in this world, where food was simply prepared and came straight from the source. In one recipe for “Sali’s Polish Soup,” we’re directed to “go into the garden and gather all kinds of young vegetables.” Of course. Doesn’t everyone have a garden? And isn’t it always spring on Cape Cod?

Here are a few recipes from What we Cook on Cape Cod. There are plenty more where these came from so let me know if you like them. (I’m all over the Curried Oysters and Halibut Salad. Will let you know they turn out.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lynn's Bucket List

Last week I held a drawing on Facebook for a signed, pre-release copy of Summer Shift. (Congratulations, Lynne and Leigh!) Given that the book is about a woman who owns a clam bar, I asked people to share with me their favorite food haunts anywhere in the world. The list of entries that came back were fantastic, and I imaged what it might be like to embark on a spiritual/culinary journey a la Eat, Pray, Love that would take me around the world to visit each one. Something about the serendipitous origins of this endeavor, the range of establishments, and the appeal of the destinations themselves made it seem like a great idea. And if I win the lottery, I’ll send you all postcards. (Except the friends who chose Burger King, Bertuccis and The Olive Garden. They’re coming with me.)
In the meantime, thanks to all who participated. Here's the list.

Cape & Islands
Abba, Orleans, MA
Saltwater Grille, Orleans, MA
The Lost Dog Pub (formerly Adam’s Rib), Orleans, MA
Pisces Restaurant, Chatham, MA
Sesuit Harbor Café, Dennis, MA
Thompson’s Clam Bar, Harwich Port, MA (RIP)
Napi’s, Provincetown, MA
Mac’s Shack, Wellfleet, MA
The Beachcomber, Wellfleet, MA
The Dockside, Martha’s Vineyard, MA

Boston & Burbs
Number 9 Park, Boston, MA
Scutra, Arlington, MA
Il Casale, Belmont, MA
Taberna de Haro, Brookline, MA 
Zaftig’s Deli, Brookline, MA
The Lafayette House, Foxboro, MA

Around New England
Harry’s Mount Holly Café, Mount Holly, VT
XYZ, Manset, ME 
The Cookhouse, New Milford, CT
Shannon Door Pub, Jackson, NH
Bangkok City, Middletown, RI 

Other States
Mill Pond Inn, Centerport, NY
Carolina Road House, Myrtle Beach, SC 
Commander’s Palace, New Orleans, LA
Southport Raw Bar, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 
Taverna Opa, Hollywood, FL
Monty’s, Coconut Grove, FL 
The Dock Cafe, Stillwater MN
Lost Pericos, Oklahoma City, OK
Lo Lo’s, South Phoenix, AZ

Balthazar Restaurant, Soho, London, UK  
Zushi, Cardiff, UK
Els Quatre Gats, Barcelona, Spain
Chez Andre, Paris, France

Burger King (Ok, know the person who entered that one and I think it was a joke.)

PS. My favorite restaurant is Michael's Genuine, Miami, FL

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The not so fine (with me) art of public speaking.

Having hailed from the ad world, I know writers who can sell ice cubes to Eskimos, talented public speakers that keep their audiences hanging on their every word. I experienced this in grad school too, as I witnessed authors who spoke to packed houses as if they were chatting with best friends.

And then there are some of us who probably gravitated toward the solitude of writing in the first place because of our general lack of confidence in our ability to work a room. Yes, we saw that yawn, that not so discreet glance at the watch, and read your minds as you wondered what was for dinner. (Liver, hopefully.) And, yes, we actually thought that joke about the funny thing that happened to us on the way here was, well…funny.

And yet, any author who achieves even a modicum of success is expected to step out of her private world and speak in front of large groups of people. Oh, the irony.

The truth is, for years I sucked at public speaking, lips catching on dry teeth, voice wavering two octaves above sea level, hands shaking like a Chihuahua on meth. I practiced. I meditated. I took classes. I even took martinis. But nothing really helped, until the day I magically found my mojo.

It was toward the end of the season of promoting my first novel. I was invited to speak at a literary tea to benefit a local library along with some pretty big name authors. Naturally, I was nervous. I can’t explain precisely what happened to me on that day except that by watching the other presenters, how at ease and authentic they were, I relaxed. They had set the tenor for the event and I followed their lead. That day, I put down the well-rehearsed script, stopped “speaking” and started talking from the heart. Rather than rush through with the assumption that no one cared what I had to say, I slowed down and, guess what? They did care. After the event, I actually had people congratulate me on my presentation. I had broken the code. And while I would never be Jennifer Weiner, who can use the c-word in a room awash in Lily Pulitzer and still elicit adoration, I had finally found the value in just being me.

And so now, facing into a season of promoting my new book, I carry that experience with me. (Along with a jar of Vasoline to lube my teeth, just in case.)

Here are two upcoming events. For a complete up-to-date list, click here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Recipe for “Hopkins Haddock”

With less than a month till its release, I though I’d share another recipe from Summer Shift, my forthcoming novel. It’s the story of Mary Hopkins, a local middle-aged woman who runs a clam bar, and her struggle to move forward by forgiving the past. 

Once again, thanks to Lisa and Scott Moss, owners of the Saltwater Grille in Orleans, MA, for divulging their culinary secrets.

4 fresh haddock fillets (about 8 oz. each)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
½ cup pecans, finely minced
2 Tbs. olive oil
splash of white wine
8 oz. homemade or store-bought pesto
4 lemon slices

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly season the haddock fillets with salt and pepper. Dust with flour and dip in milk. Press skinless side of each fillet firmly into the pecans so they stick. Place the fillets skin-side down on a clean plate.

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Place the haddock fillets pecan-crusted side down in the hot pan. Lightly brown the pecans. Remove the fillets and place them on a baking sheet or oven-safe dish, crust side up. Add a few splashes of white wine to keep the fish moist. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes until fish is cooked through.

Drizzle serving platter or individual plates with pesto and place fish on top. Garnish with the lemon slices. Serve with rice and fresh steamed vegetables or green salad.

Serves 4. Bon appetite!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Become a friend.

Last week, a guy I went to high school with was randomly killed in a bizarre pedestrian hit and run accident in Delaware. Though I barely knew him, it turns out he was a pretty great person, a husband, father and housing advocate for the poor among other things. I learned of his death on Facebook, where a friend sent out an obit to all his former schoolmates. That was a few days ago. Today I went onto my Facebook home page and there he was in the upper right margin with a suggestion, based on our number of mutual friends, to add him as a friend.

As an author, one of the things I’m obsessed with is irony, and things that would perhaps strike others as macabre or creepy somehow to me seem almost poetic and transcendent, at least metaphorically. Here is this man whose life had just ended and yet his Facebook page was continuing on, seeking to make new connections. And in a way, that’s what happened. I stopped what I was doing, clicked through to his page, saw him there sitting at his desk and, for that moment, honored my memories of him and his life in a pure and uncontrived way. I thought about how fleeting life is, and how what happened to him could happen to any of us at any time. It was a powerful, humbling moment that made meaning for me out of something senseless and tragic.

I suppose the lesson here is to be open to life’s strange and ironic moments because they can carry us to deeper insights about the nature of our existence.

As I looked at his page, I was tempted to click on that big box in the center of screen that said “Become a friend.” I imagined some kind of parallel Facebook universe where he was still alive and sitting at his desk somewhere, able to accept or ignore. I can only hope he would have accepted.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Move-in ready.

When I lived on the Cape as a teen, I couldn’t wait to leave. After I moved away, I couldn’t wait to come back. This homesickness manifested in an unhealthy obsession with the idea of having a beach house. When I was here on vacation, I pored through real estate ads, with no realistic hope of being able to afford anything, but just to imagine how it might feel to inhabit one place or another.

A couple of months ago, I was in Key West and came upon this incredible sculpture garden at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, and this piece made of PVC pipe and steel, aptly entitled Dream House (2009) by Susan Rogers. “Susan has created an ephemeral floating, unobtainable façade of the perfect Dream House.” So says the catalog for the Sculpture Key West collection (all of which is fabulous if you have an opportunity to see it).

Genius in its simplicity. Breathtaking views. Affordable. Low maintenance, which is particularly appealing after having spent these past weeks raking and sweeping away winter. And so now, after all these years, I finally have my dream beach house, which I come home to each morning as I fire up my laptop.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Call me grasshoppa...

Over the years, I’ve cultivated a strong belief that there are lessons to be gleaned from things that happen to us. So when a family of raccoons moved into my walls and, upon the urging of wildlife experts, I decided to let them stick around until the babies are old enough to move on, I had choices. I could view it as a nuisance, which it is. My attic vent will have to be replaced. I’m sure they’re trashing my insulation. The mother is noisy and the nest is located in my bedroom, which I anticipate will become more of a problem as the babies grow.

My other choice, to embrace the whole thing as an opportunity for a rare personal encounter with nature. I’ve been to a lot of zoos, and seen many animal babies but of course the experience has always been controlled. In this case, not only is the situation completely out of my hands, but I can’t actually see anything. At the moment, the encounter is strictly auditory. I hear the mother come and go, and move around the attic. I hear the babies cooing and rustling in their nest. As much as I’d like to actually see what they look like, I’m ok with just hearing them. (And hopefully never smelling them.)

Here are some of the things I’ve learned so far:

- To rely on my ears to create a picture in my mind’s eye.

- The power of motherhood. This mama chewed through metal to find a safe place for her brood. And she returns to her nest every evening around 6 PM, bound by her inner clock.

- Like most normal people, my initial reaction was to want them out. But after considering the options, none of which would have turned out well for this family, I was able to shift my perspective. We really do have choices in the way we look at things.

- I’ve come to realize that the compassion people extend to fellow humans doesn’t automatically extend to wildlife. While I’ve gotten a lot of support from like-minded people, I also had a dear friend with big heart tell me I should find someone to come shoot them. I’m guessing most of that is fear-based but the lack of empathy still confounds me.

- I can actually sleep in a room with purring raccoon babies. The sounds they make are almost soothing. (Included this video so you can picture them and hear for yourself.)

- Finally. Never trust a wily wildlife expert. On the phone, I was told they should be leaving in a few weeks. I’ve since done some online research and learned they don’t leave the nest until week 8. So that takes me well into May…..

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Just a character sketch. Really.

A woman’s only son heads off to college. An empty nester, she moves to a house on Cape Cod, and hasn’t been there a year when she is visited upon by a female raccoon who has decided to make a nest for her brood in the woman’s bedroom walls. Does the animal somehow sense that the once full-time mother misses her child, and is now feeling less of a parent, obsolete in some way? Can she know that this woman (surely more than one who is busily engaged in the business of raising her children) longs for some attachment to the universality of motherhood? Through luck or intuition, the raccoon mother has chosen a safe haven for her family. The woman can hope that one day there will be grandchildren, but for now this is her only tie to her lost calling. This timely miracle in her walls, a gift.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The unwitting innkeeper.

Last week I heard a critter in my walls, which sounded like an elephant, which friends convinced me was probably a squirrel, which I just found out is actually a raccoon. A kid in a red truck came by to show me cell phone photos of a monster critter squeezing though a vent in my attic. The kid had been walking by the house with his friends at about three in the afternoon when they came upon the perpetrator. (Nice of him to come back and tell me!)

People who know me know I have a hard time throwing steamers into a pot of boiling water. I’ve rescued my share of injured birds, and have learned to peacefully co-exist with spiders. Hell, I even feel a pang of guilt as I spray Round-up on driveway weeds. I fully admit I take this stuff to extreme levels of weirdness. As a result, hiring some critter control guy who’s going to whack the raccoon is clearly not an option. So I called a local vet for suggestions. She said to call Wild Care, which is a wildlife rehab at the Eastham rotary. The woman there gave me some info and suggested I call the Cape Wildlife Center, where I ended up speaking to a raccoon expert who said this is probably a female raccoon with a nest of babies, and that the “kindest” thing I can do is to let them live there till they’re old enough to move on.

“And how long might that take?” I asked. Two, maybe three weeks.

The not-so-kind option would be to shine bright lights in the attic, toss up some ammonia soaked rags and crank rap music all night long. Hypothetically, doing this would make the environment uncomfortable enough that the mother would pack up her brood and go. However, given that my bedroom is just below the attic vent, and that I’m not a big fan of rap music, I’m not sure who would be going first.

So, for now, I’ve got myself some roommates. Stay tuned…

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Recipe for "Clambaked Oysters"

My next novel, Summer Shift, is about a woman who owns a fictional Cape Cod restaurant called The Clambake. I thought it might be nice to share some recipes at the back of the book, and so I enlisted local restaurant owners and longtime friends Lisa and Scott Moss, proprietors of the Saltwater Grille in Orleans, to help me out.

One of my favorite things at the Saltwater Grille is their Oysters Rockefeller. Lisa and Scott were kind enough to share their popular recipe with me. (I had to tweak it a little to reduce the serving quantity.) I’ve made this a bunch of times now and it’s a real crowd pleaser.

4 strips of bacon, cooked crisp
half of a 9-ounce bag fresh baby spinach
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 Pernod liqueur
1 cup half and half
salt and pepper
2 to 3 Tbs. cornstarch
cold water
1 dozen fresh oysters, shucked
grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook bacon, drain and set aside. Roughly chop the spinach. In a large saucepan, sauté the garlic in olive oil. Add the spinach and Pernod. Cook until spinach is wilted. Add the half and half, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add salt and pepper to taste. In a bowl, combine the cornstarch with enough cold water to moisten. Stir into the spinach mixture. Place the shucked oysters on a baking sheet. Spoon 1 Tbs. of the spinach mixture onto each oyster. Top each with a generous amount of Parmesan, and 1/3 strip of the cooked bacon. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes. Broil for a few minutes more until cheese turns golden.

Serves 1. (Kidding.) More like 3-4.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What are you looking at?

This weekend is supposed to be gorgeous, as it was a couple of weekends ago, one of those late winter gifts that put you in mind of what’s around the corner (unless we’re talking about last June. I won’t even go there. But if you want to see a Cape Codder go fetal, try it). After having spent a full day working in the yard, then taking the dog for a walk, I had major spring fever. And I did something decadent, for me at least. I called the fish market and ordered a fresh steamed lobster. Then I picked it up, brought it home and devoured it. I mean seriously, primally had at it, butter running down my chin, the works. It wasn’t pretty. But it was heaven. And here’s why:

-It was a damn good lobster. A pound and a half of sweet, rich, lobstery goodness.

-I’ll go to a restaurant and not think twice about ordering a $15 dish. (Mostly.) But the idea of spending $15 on a lobster to take home and eat by myself seemed deliciously indulgent.

-I’d put in a hard day’s work and was ravenous.

But there’s something else, and I touch on this idea in Summer Shift, my next novel, which is about a woman who runs a clam bar. Here’s what she contemplates:

“Mary had always believed there was more to what fueled the seafood restaurant business on the Cape, a hunger in people that went beyond the quest for a satisfying meal. It was as if vacationers, even after a full day at the shore, were struck with a primal desire for a deeper communion, a hunger to ingest the rawness of the sea––to become it––as though slurping the quivering flesh of a mollusk or sucking the meat from a lobster claw allowed a return to one’s aboriginal roots, to the dragons of the deep that we all once were…”

I’m not even sure I get to the heart of it there. But you get that there was something more going on that night than just “Lynn eating dinner.” There was this native American-like gratitude for the lobster itself, this celebration of the passage of the seasons, this Tony Bordain meets Man vs. Food carnivore melee, and perhaps most of all this belief that you are what you eat. And that next morning when I woke up, I felt a little more of a Cape Codder. (And a little less thin…)

PS. This weekend…steamers anyone?

Friday, March 26, 2010

My bucket of shells...

When I was a kid, my family lived in New York. Each summer, we loaded up the car with plastic pails squished beneath suitcases crammed with swimsuits, sunscreen and beach towels, bags of Triscuits, Easy Cheese and powdered donuts, all to spend a week on Cape Cod.

Upon our return, the car was always weighed down with seashells which, despite our mother’s protests, my sister and I insisted on bringing home with us. We always had big plans for those shells, to make something out of them or stow them someplace special. Mostly they ended up in our garage. I think now about that impulse to pluck those shells from their beachy context, which is the whole concept behind souvenirs, I suppose, how when you love a place so much, you want a piece of it. For my sister and me, that took the form of a skate case, a gray scallop, a sun-bleached whelk (rarely intact), quahogs and sea clams, some chalky blue mussels, a sad looking barnacle-covered oyster––after all, the Cape isn't exactly Sanibel when it comes to beach finds, the rough ocean here more inclined to pummel than polish. Still, it was the hope of bringing a little bit of Cape Cod back with us to keep that cherished place close to our hearts.
Today I launch this blog with the idea that these posts will be a bit like those shells jangling around in the trunk, each one home for a thought. Some prettier than others but each unique, written with the intention to bring you back to the Cape in some way, or at the very least, to something meaningful, entertaining or thought provoking.

So with a few months before summer, and the launch of my second novel set on the Cape, come...bring your ear close. You might hear the ocean.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Summer Shift in bookstores June 1!

Blogging to launch on April 15, 2010. Stay tuned and thanks for visiting.