Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Back at Bailey Island, I watch boats sail by lobster pots. The summer’s heat feels less oppressive with a cool ocean breeze lifting my hair. It’s warm enough to brave the icy Maine waters without a wetsuit.

For a special treat, we’ll have lobster, coleslaw and mudpie parfaits at Cook’s Lobster House. After dinner we watch the sunset. It’s like being on vacation at home. I guess we do live in “Vacationland,” as it says on the license plate.

Rainbow colors reflect in the water. The sky is deeper than the sea.

The pink lavenders after sunset are even more beautiful than the orangey flares that precede them.

The moon shines over the twilight sea. Islands float on the horizon as the boat sails back into the harbor (click images to enlarge.)

photo of Stella (in her summer buzz cut) and me (in summer frizz)
by my friend Jennifer Mirsky

At home, we observe the British tradition of “sundowners”on our deck. My English husband prepares a Pimm’s Cocktail for guests. We grow borage in our herb garden for the edible purple flowers that garnish the cocktail. Beware: it is stronger than it tastes.

Recipe for Pimm’s Cocktail:
1 part Pimm’s No. 1 Cup to 3 parts Sprite (Lemonade soda in Europe)
thinly sliced cucumber, lemon, orange
garnish: fresh mint leaves and borage flowers

Cheers! Savor these last days of summer….

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bailey Island Cliff Walk

After 2 months of rain, summer has finally come to Maine. 
 The evening light brings out the ocean blues and ochre grasses. 
 Waves crash in pure white. Seagulls glow.

Rosehip and poison ivy line the path along the cliffs.

Wildflowers are blooming…

…attracting bumble bees.

At Giant Steps the ocean boils. Listen to the crash of waves.

The sea calls for a palette of blues, greens and purples.

Painting on location, I see beyond what is there.

I found a face cut in stone with a storm brewing.

The island dips her fingers into the water, reaching for the horizon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Julie & Julia Movie Review

Recipe for a delightful movie:
1 blogger
Meryl Streep as Julia Child
2 good marriages
gourmet food

Mix ingredients in Paris and NYC. Spice with a pinch of rejection. Then add 2 book deals. Serve to an audience of bloggers, cooks, gourmands and people old enough to have watched Julia Child on TV.

Julie & Julia is a movie about an ordinary woman, Julie Powell, who cooked her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child (1961.) Julie cooked all 524 recipes in 365 days while working full time(!) She blogged about the experience. The other half of the movie follows Julia Child to Paris with her diplomat husband in the 1950s. Julia falls in love with French food, learns to cook at the Cordon Bleu and decides to bring classic French cooking to Americans by writing a cook book.

My mother used to watch Julia Child on TV, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking was on our kitchen bookshelf. After college, I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For special occasions my husband Henry and I shopped at Savenor’s, Julia’s butcher. We hoped to run into her near the ostrich steaks but never did.

Even though I can’t eat classic French cooking (I’m lactose intolerant,) Julia was my introduction to the love of fine food. There was the promise that gourmet food can be made by anyone. Well, anyone with a block of butter, a butcher knife and six hours spare time!

Reviews in The New Yorker and the NYT stated that the Julie/blogger part couldn’t match the Julia/chef part of the movie. The reviewers claimed that Meryl Streep doesn’t do a fine impersonation of Julia Child; she IS Julia. This was true. The screen lit up with Julia/Meryl in Paris. Julie's attempt to cook Julia’s recipes in just one year was a fun premise for a blog but didn’t work as well as a movie plot. Especially because the character in the movie was whiny and self-involved.

As a blogger, I was hoping to see more about the blogging community. Hollywood portrays Julie as an isolated journalist counting her comments and tracking her stats. My personal experience is that blogging is all about the interactive community of commenters AND other bloggers. True, Julie was blogging back in 2002, when most people didn’t even know what a blog was. There weren’t hyperlinks on the profiles to connect bloggers back then. But didn’t Julie have a few blog buddies?

I checked out a bunch of blogs before I started mine in January 2007; one was Julie Powell. Her blog was an inspiration to me, especially her fairytale story of going from “secretary” to “author,” thanks to her popular blog. Then Julie got a movie deal. In reality this doesn’t happen often, but this was a rare, true Hollywood moment.

One part of blogging that the movie captured well was the supportive/exasperated husband. They have an argument in which he shouts something like: “Are you going to put this fight on your blog?!” My husband thought this scene was hilarious. Henry, a master chef in our kitchen, loved all the cooking scenes too.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

Are you looking for a good beach book that isn’t trashy? Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead is a coming of age story set in a real African American beach community on Long Island. Whitehead describes it as an imperfect Utopia for youths in search of their black identity.

Sag Harbor is based on Whitehead’s childhood and reads more like a memoir than a novel. There is no over-arching plot. The chapters are more like linked short stories or personal essays. Some worked better than others. The Gangsters was a page turner, but the one about scooping ice cream for minimum wage (and all you can eat) made me melt with vicarious boredom. Even so, Whitehead made me laugh, such as when he described the flavor Rum Raisin as “the polyester of ice cream.” The chapter was titled: “If I could pay you less, I would.”

Whitehead skewers racial stereotypes found in novels:

“They were every shade of the dessert menu of words beloved by romance novelists to describe African American skin, chocolate and caramel, butterscotch and mocha.”

Whitehead’s humor offsets the racial tension of his 1980s narrative. The central characters are teenaged boys whose parents were the first generation to go to college. These doctors and lawyers send their children to private school in New York City. Their kids work hard to fit in with their white, privileged classmates, but they also crave a black identity and street cred.

Only during the summer can these boys hang out together and be themselves or the selves they believe they should be. They play with B.B. guns and talk tough, imitating gang members. This would horrify their mothers, but the parents are working in the city on weekdays. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt….

Whitehead’s story really hit home to me. I’m two years older than the author. We both grew up in Manhattan and went to the same college. My friends and I danced at the NYC clubs mentioned in the novel. The landscape Whitehead describes is familiar even if we didn’t cross paths.

I started reading Sag Harbor on the ferry to Nantucket Island (featured in the photos) and finished it on a harborside beach. I love when my reading material matches my setting, but Nantucket is the opposite of Sag Harbor: near relentlessly white except for the seasonal domestic employees from the Caribbean and a handful of other families. I had to resort to fictional diversity.

Although the focus is on teenaged boys, Sag Harbor is literary fiction intended for an adult audience. Teenagers would relate to Whitehead’s well-drawn characters, but they might not get the 1980’s pop culture references and find the pace too slow. It would still be an interesting book to read along with your teenager to discuss race and peer pressure. Whitehead has an original and engaging voice. Listen:

“The sky over the wetlands was a fine, simmering blue, slowly boiling up morning. Before you lay the dead, misty surface of the bay, and imperturbable line of dark gray, a slab of ancient stone come out from under the earth. A reversal there: the sky was liquid, the water a solid screen. There were fewer boats then to zit the surface of the bay. No one to be seen at that hour, emboldening that cherished dread of early risers, that you were the only being alive and awake in the world. Occasionally some drowsily dipping seagull shot into the water....”

-Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

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@Barrie Summy

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