Thursday, December 29, 2011

At The Beach after a Windy Winter Storm

I suspect most people are familiar with the concept of a pleasant walk on the beach on a lovely sunshiny day. If you ask me, though, the most memorable beach explorations happen as a storm approaches, or after a windy winter today. For two days here, one rainy and one sunny, the wind has been incredibly strong, blowing the patio furniture around and probably too strong for kite flying. Do you know about the Beaufort Scale? I would estimate the past two days as Force 7 or 8, based on the blowing sea foam and resistance when walking into the wind business.

Interesting stuff washes up after a storm. Some stuff you would expect to see like shells, stones, driftwood (above), crab carcasses, and piles of reeds. I saw all this stuff today, and was amazed at the large piles of reeds--as if some reed farmer harvested it and left it in piles at the high-tide mark. (See one of these piles below, with a softball bonus.) Today we saw plastic building blocks, that softball, a tube of sunscreen, and lots of processed wood.

This morning, while breathing in the delicious sea air, I noticed this HUGE black thing on the beach up ahead. It was a bird of prey, a raptor of some kind, and it took flight as we approached. This flying thing was so big that if Gladys had still been a puppy I'd have scooped her up and hid her inside my jacket. (But Gladys is a canine of gravitas and this was not necessary.) The big black flying thing flew in circles above us, getting smaller, then larger, then smaller again as it disappeared over the neighborhood houses. We kept walking, watching for big bird footprints where the thing had been, and sure enough, right by a big, dead, white bird, there were rather large bird prints. Here they are next to one of my own size 7 sneaker prints. Those are big bird feet. I don't know what the white bird's story was. I'm pretty sure it was not an ordinary gull, and I'm pretty sure the big black raptor intended it to be lunch. It looked like yet another thing washed-up in the storm. (I don't go near dead things, but I did take its picture for the record from two angles, neither of which includes a face.)

There are many things in this life that I can say I'm reasonably good at, but bird watching is not one of them. I try to learn about birds because they are so important to Cape May birders. Remember this summer I wrote this for about the Raptor Watch: While this bird talk didn't help me distinguish one hawk from another without reference tools, it did give me pointers on what to look for, like the fingery feathers at the ends of wings.

The best I can do is take as many photos as possible, blow them up on my computer, and then compare them to drawings or other photographs in my collection. This prevents me from enjoying the experience on-sight as much as I would if I knew what the heck I was looking at, but usually I can come up with a probable ID after the fact. So here s/he is, my new friend, Fingers, waiting for an ID. I think those very fingers are sending me to the Hawk pages of my bird ID books...but what kind of hawk?? Well, my bird ID books are about 100 miles from where I sit, so this is going to have to wait! Any guesses?
Update: After consulting my notes and books, I have to conclude that Gladys and I saw an eagle on the bay this week! It had the wrong head to be a vulture, wrong color to be any kind of hawk seen in NJ, and its size ruled-out those guys anyway. I've boiled it down to an immature Bald Eagle (uncommon in Cape May in winter) or a Golden Eagle (rare in Cape May in winter). That. is. thrilling.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I Made a Marbled Silk Scarf!

I made this great scarf at the Bethlehem (PA) Christkindlmarkt this month. There, among the stalls filled with handcrafted holiday gifts, was a large work area with three long, rectangular vats filled with what looked like water with paint floating on top (see left). The area was mobbed with people watching and people doing, and soon I went from a watcher to a doer! This was the perfect Christmas gift from Fred (who also shot these photos)--crafting in a new medium I had never worked with and ending up with a beautiful silk scarf (and I wear scarves).

First, I was invited to choose colors. When in doubt or on the spot, I choose colors of the sea: blues, deep greens, rich purples. My scarf coach, who was very helpful, suggested some bright greens and yellows, and I agreed they would contrast well. The paints were all in plastic squeeze bottles like you might find ketchup in at a casual hamburger joint with red-and-white checked tablecloths. Some of the paints were really thin, and others were thick. My scarf coach knew them all by number and advised me which would spread a lot and which would just sit on the liquid in the vat. (That liquid turned out to be sizing and helps the paint stay on the silk.)

I squirted my paint colors onto the liquid. The resulting blob design (see right) was interesting and I could have stopped there. My scarf coach pointed out the samples on the wall: the French swirl design, the feathered design, and the plain blobs. That feathered design was tempting, and the scarf creator before me made a very cool feathered scarf that turned into a peacock design. Keeping my ocean inspiration in mind, I chose the French swirls. I was to poke a metal stylus into the floating blobs and draw a circle. This dragged the paint into the swirl design. I worked my way down the paint blobs in the vat making swirls and watching what the paint did. That's what I'm doing in the photo to the left.

My scarf coach then suggested adding a flower on either end, and we chose a nice pepto-pink for that. We put a big pink blob at either end of the vat, and a small white blob in the center of each flower. To make the flower I was to take the stylus and draw four lines from the outside of the flower to the center. Then the small white blob in the center got swirled. You can see me making a flower in the last picture.

Okay, so now the paint design is sitting in the vat, ready. My scarf coach pulled a long white silk scarf from a box of many. We each held the corners of a short end of the scarf and placed it on top of the paint for a few seconds. We removed it, and the scarf coach brought us over to a bucket of water. She dunked my creation in there for a rinse, and and then we stretched it out for a look. It was beautiful! That paint stayed on the silk just like it had been in the vat.

My scarf got stuffed in a plastic zipper bag with instructions on what to do when I got home: rinse, gently squeeze out excess water, hang to dry, and iron. It's one good-looking scarf. I've worn it twice so far and gotten lots of compliments and inquiries on the process.

If you're interested you can actually make your own scarf! Look here:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Charming Churches of Cape May Point

We wandered around Cape May Point yesterday, a bright, sunny, dry and windy day. I called it a perfect kite-flying day, but the clerk at the hardware store called it a perfect exterior painting day. Both of of us turned out to be correct according to to evidence presented by the citizens of Cape May Point. They were flying kites and painting fences, riding bikes and raking leaves. We carried Joe Jordan's book, Cape May Point: Three Walking Tours of Historic Cottages, but only for reference. We agreed to go in search of Cape May Point's churches, picking and choosing parts of the three tours in the book.

Saint Agnes's Catholic Church was our first, just across from the Cape May Point General Store. This Carpenter-Gothic style church was built around 1885. It was expecting an early afternoon wedding luckily for us, so we were able to peek inside at the gorgeous stained glass.

The Beadle Memorial Presbyterian Church is just across from St. Agnes on Cape Avenue. Its namesake, Rev. Beadle, was John Wanamaker's pastor back home in Philadelphia at the First Presbyterian Church there (21st and Walnut Streets). Yes, that is the same John Wanamaker from department store fame--he was an early resident of Cape May Point! Beadle Memorial was built around 1882 in the Stick style popular then. It was moved twice (in 1920 and 1966) before landing in its present location, because the of the encroaching pre-duned ocean. Many of the buildings in Cape May Point used to be at different locations but many others were lost to storms and flooding. The Joe Jordan book has some vintage photos of some of these lost Victorian beauties.

Another Stick-style church, St. Peter's-by-the-Sea, is probably the most-photographed building in Cape May Point. This church was purchased from the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, disassembled, moved to Cape May Point, assembled at another location, and finally moved to this triangular, picket-fenced site. Fred chatted-up the guy painting the picket fence supports yesterday (it was a perfect day for that kind of thing).

St. Peter's Beach is just across from the church, and is one of the hot birding spots in Cape May Point which is in itself a really hot birding spot, globally speaking. I had to veer off the church tour to peak at the ocean.
Union Chapel was the last church we visited. This is not the original non-denominational Union Chapel, but was built around 1900. I'm not sure what "soaking" is, but signs were attempting to entice us to one. We resisted.

Lastly, the iconic St. Mary's-by-the-Sea, purchased for $9,000 for the Sisters of St. Joseph around the turn of last century. Originally, this was the swank Shoreham Hotel. When the nuns took over, the Shoreham's ballroom was changed into a chapel and the building's name was changed to St. Mary's-by-the-Sea. This was to honor the priest from St. Mary's in Philadelphia who facilitated the purchase.

When our walking was finished, we stopped to rest at Lake Lily, the centerpiece of Cape May Point, and yet another hot birding spot.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"What's in it for Me?": Formulating a Pre-Holiday Shopping Strategy

Whenever I teach or deliver a conference presentation, I imagine the class or audience asking "What's in it for me?" This little trick helps me stay on-track and produce what we call the 'takeaway', the nugget(s) people remember whether or not they remember my main point, the snazzy outfit I was wearing, or my messed-up hair. The "What's in it for me?" trick works in writing, too. Sometimes it is obvious as in which museum or restaurant to visit in a destination-based article, and sometimes it is less explicit as in a presentation tip used as the introduction to a post about the pre-holiday season at the shore.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when the weather turns crispy, the nostalgic, holiday-inspired, travel writer's thoughts turn to her favorite pre-holiday hang-out. Of course mine is Cape May. I've written before how the Dickensian Christmas there tends to shape up just after Thanksgiving to fill me with holiday joy. This is around the same time that my busy fall schedule starts to relax and permit me to enjoy the season there. This year--and this is the 'takeaway' from this post--I've been planning my end-of-year gift shopping strategy. (Note: I've linked to a bunch of websites here, so if the text is a different color, click on it!)

1. The West End Garage. OMG, I love this place! Since I added this to my list of Cape May must-visit-each-trip list, I have never been at a loss for a gift idea. Everything here is unique. I've heard rumors that they have events there, too, for instance to help men shop for women (but really how could you go wrong here?). I blogged about it this summer for

2. Jersey Shore Alpacas. This little alpaca farm just north of Cape May is run by Jim and Tish Carpinelli, two of the friendliest people in the universe. On Saturdays, they welcome visitors and even supply carrots to feed to the alpacas. This is fun for all ages, even the grinchiest. They have a small alpaca shop where they sell luxurious alpaca yarn (some from their own alpacas), and it's worth noting that this yarn does not irritate skin that is sensitive to sheep wool. If you don't knit or crochet or need a gift for someone who does, they also have garments and other items made from alpaca yarn. Most items were made especially for this shop by Tish or the Efata Knitters in Lima, Peru. I'm headed there ASAP to pick up one of those sock monkeys (from alpaca yarn) that I saw on their website! I blogged about JSA this summer for, and on my own blog here a couple of years ago.

3. The Whale's Tail. I've been shopping here for unique cards and gifts ever since I first got an allowance. It is still my go-to place for gifts of a nautical nature, imaginative kids' puppets, and unusual gifts, jewelry and cards. The Whale's Tail is on the Washington Street Mall which at this time of year is loaded with off-season sales. Here's what I said about the mall this summer for

4. So maybe you can't get to Cape May, or perhaps you'd like a gift reminiscent of America's Original Seaside Resort. Maybe you'd like some Cape May themed note cards? Handmade by me? With my own photos? Go ahead and visit my Etsy stuff is added as I get inspiration or replenish my supply of glue dots. If you missed it, the link is here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Beethoven, My Travel Companion

A major part of traveling is the getting there and the getting home. I select books carefully if someone else is doing the driving (or flying), and when I'm the driver I give thought to what is tuned in on the radio or inserted into the CD player. The recent drive home from the beach at the end of Labor Day weekend was bittersweet--the end of the summer season and all--but my classical station was finishing the much-anticipated Classical Countdown, or its top 30 listener requests. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony won the top spot.

My MINI Cooper has a great sound system and I often imagine myself in this bubble of high-fidelity moving through space. No. 9 never sounded so good as it did that day in all its layers and textures and contrasting movements. This may sound goofy, but that old favorite piece of musical genius sang to my melancholy soul. The third movement, the slow one, in particular seemed to take over my consciousness. This experience of full engagement in over seventy minutes of Beethoven caused me to think about his role in my life journey so far. From what I've read, I probably would not have liked the man very much, but his music is a touchstone for me.

As a Music Theory major in Music History class, I remember having the nicest professor for the one semester out of the four that we studied the Classical Era. Medieval/Renaissance, Baroque, and Romantic/20th Century were tough. We endured bitter professors who displayed no passion for the subject matter and inspired us to rename those courses 'Music Misery.' I'm here to tell you, umpteen years later, their intimidating, no-nonsense approach was not any more effective than the kind and gentle professor. Having that sweet, knowledgeable Dr. Meyer guide us through the music of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and their contemporaries was pure joy. Lesson learned.

In graduate school for Music Theory, we focused more on form and interpretation than individual chords and themes. Dr. Archibald blew the roof off the place when he performed Beethoven's "Waldstein" Sonata (Op. 53) for us in class. This might have been the single most inspirational moment of any of my Music Theory classes. I sat in awe as we dissected the piece after that, labeling the chords, themes and sections of the piece and talking about what was going on in Beethoven's life when he was composing it. Wow. Dr. Archibald was also my thesis advisor. I chose Beethoven's Quintet for Winds, Op. 16, an early work, because there wasn't much scholarship on it yet. I worked for two semesters on that piece analyzing every second of it. I'll never forget Dr. Archibald coaching me to consider the piece of music, and my analysis, as an organic thing growing in time. True that.

That musical education I put so much time into attaining is usually packed away with utmost care in some storage area of my brain. The experience of the Ninth Symphony in the car caused me to go rifling through my books, scores, and notebooks to reminisce about my glory days as a music theory student. The hearing of the Ninth Symphony encouraged me to do some reading which reminded me how Beethoven was a master at using themes and motifs to create impressions. He called himself a 'tone poet' (Tondichter in his own German). His music did not tell a story literally, but these impressions emerge as fanfares and pastoral moments with foreshadowings, reminiscences, and developments of these moments to create form. The impression you get from your listening of the Ninth Symphony will differ from mine just as von Karajan's recorded interpretation will differ from Muti's. It may be simply an aurally pleasing succession of sounds to us, or it could tell us a story. Wilhelm von Lenz wrote that the story told by No. 9 is the history of the universe with the first movement representing Creation. Could be. One thing is sure even to anyone who doesn't understand German or read music: the symphony is an incredible seventy-plus-minute journey to a joyful destination.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Two Busy Weeks in Cape May

My recent two-week vacation was packed with more action than usual but at the same time I actually attained relaxation. I had planned a reading and writing vacation and brought a few stacks of books and notebooks. My main writing would be for's Jersey Shore Blog. I'm contributing there about extreme South Jersey (i.e. Cape May, Wildwood, and points inland) just for the summer season. Therefore, I'd have to experience some adventures so I'd have plenty to write about for the agreed-upon twice-a-week posts.

On my first day, I took a whale watching cruise out of Cape May. I've done this before and only ever seen dolphins, so I was set to write a nice little post about those Atlantic Bottlenose scamps. To my surprise, the captain announced that there were three humpback whales sighted about eleven miles out and we were headed right for them. I'd seen whales off Bar Harbor, Maine, and San Diego, California, but never off the coast of Cape May! But there was one right in front of our boat, spouting and diving, and I got some great whale's tail photos. It was magnificent. Read about that cruise here.

I like boats and I'll take any excuse to ride on one. I also like pirates. We set sail on Wildwood's Dark Star Pirate Cruise on the last day of vacay. Fred and I were the only adults not accompanied by kids, but we had a fabulous time. Those pirates maintained the action and the interest for the entire hour. We learned some pirate jokes, pirate lingo, pirate history, hauled some treasure aboard, and we got to engage in a firefight (actually water) with another pirate ship. I posted about that here.

In-between the whales and the pirates, I explored Cape May. As a lifetime part-time resident, I know this place well, but I always learn new things on these (Cape May Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities) tours. During these two weeks, I toured East Cape May to see the mansions by the sea,

West Cape May to learn about its farms and history, the iconic Victorian architecture including Show allthe Physick Estate,

the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center (including the Sunset Parade), the 2011 Designer Show House (this year on the century-old Cape May Harbor), and I had a seat on the Ghosts of the Lighthouse Trolley Tour. Ghosts are really big this year (in New Orleans, too), so I had to sample a piece of Cape May's paranormal offerings. This tour included a nighttime climb of the lighthouse, another first for me. I have or will post about all of these things on that blog, along with some local farmers' markets and the Ocean Drive. What a fun experience that has been, and I still have over a month of posts left to dream up.

There were two excursions during this vacation that required some mileage and some decent outfits: a very pleasant al fresco dinner party with friends, and a book talk and signing at the Avalon Public Library. I just happened to notice an ad for this in the newspaper, but people I spoke to at the event had been looking forward to it for months. David and Julie Nixon Eisenhower spoke about themselves, their families, and their new book, Going Home to Glory, about Dwight D. Eisenhower's post-presidential years (1961-1969). I had the opportunity to chat with Julie Nixon Eisenhower, and found her quite witty and charming. They were headed to Cape May after the talk, and when she asked me how long it would take to get there, I had the answer: 27 minutes.

Even with all of these adventures, I had to be sure to squeeze in my favorite activity, the beach! I made it to my three favorites, the Cape May Point State Park beach, the Delaware Bay Beach (with Gladys), and the ocean beach at Jackson Street. A Cape May vacation can be so much more than just the beach, though! I hope you will click on some of the links above to get a sample of how I'm keeping myself busy this summer!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Perfecting our Saunter at Three Louisiana Sugar Palaces

The River Road between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is actually a network of roads on both sides of the Mississippi River. Sugar cane was the big money crop here (and is still grown here), and the grand plantations built on sugar remember a grand lifestyle. We toured three of these, perfecting out hot-weather saunters on a sunny June day in Louisiana.

First on the agenda was Laura, a Creole plantation built in 1805 in Vacherie, Louisiana. The tour through the house and grounds was fantastic and we felt the most authentic of the three we'd see. We learned that these houses are supported by huge underground pyramids of bricks because the earth is so soft and wet. The house is painted in traditional Creole colors which set it apart from the white Greek Revival mansions we would see next.

Another unusual fact about Laura is that since its owners were of French descent, they saw no problem with women inheriting property. (The English didn't allow it.) Three generations of women ran the Laura plantation, ending with Laura Locoul Gore, upon whose memoirs the tours are based. The first-hand accounts of family and house history helped make this tour compelling.

It's also interesting to learn that the folktales told by the Senegalese slaves at Laura were recorded by a Louisiana State University professor and eventually became known as the B'rer Rabbit tales.

Just upriver from Laura, and still in Vacherie, sits Oak Alley with its iconic 300-year-old live oak canopy. This shot seems to be everywhere, but I had to take a few of my own. The trees predate the current house and the levee across the street. The 28 oaks were planted by the French owner of a much more modest house exactly 80 feet apart. The idea is for the two lines of massive oaks to draw the cool river breezes towards the house and sauntering people. One hundred years after that modest house, the current mansion was built on the site with 28 Doric columns, eight feet in circumference. (That's thick, but consider those huge live oaks are about 30 feet around!)
People used to sit on the veranda , sipping mint juleps, to watch the ships passing on the river. That's no longer possible since the levee hides the river from view. On the other hand, that levee protected the region during and after Hurricane Katrina.

Our third plantation visit was Houmas House in Burnside, Louisiana. This one gets the prize for the most interesting gardens. Exotic, tropical flowers, ponds, fountains, whimsical garden accents, and buildings populate the grounds along with live oaks, magnolias, and crape myrtles. There is color everywhere. This Greek Revival "sugar palace" was begun in the early 1800s and finished in the 1840s by his son-in-law. Gorgeous hand-carved furniture and fine art decorate the house along with noteworthy architectural elements. The three-story free-standing wooden spiral staircase caught my eye, as did the older, colorful French House connected behind the mansion which contains an open-hearth kitchen. By the way, men are required to climb it first so that women don't accidentally flash them any...ankle. Re-watch the movie "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte"--it was filmed here and Bette Davis got to stay in the house. Today the current owner lives in the mansion, and it was a little odd to come upon his historically-correct bedroom and walk through it on the tour. Odder still, the wedding picture display of his pair of Golden Retrievers...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Orleans Spooks Margaret (Part 2)

"Visitors staying in this hotel would go home, have their film developed, and find pictures of themselves sleeping in their beds...taken from the ceiling!"

I heard this ghost story and many other convincing tales on the New Orleans Spirit Tours Ghost and Vampire Tour. The visitors mentioned above were staying in the Andrew Jackson Inn which at one time was a boarding school for boys. There was a fire in which some of the students perished, and these became the mischievous photographers who also noisily haunt the halls.

Like me, our tour guide, George, is skeptical about the existence of vampires. Thanks to recent movies and television shows, vampires are a big, big topic in New Orleans. Believer or not, George had some interesting stories about them. One tale describes a mysterious and dashing man-about-town from last century who suddenly disappeared. When his New Orleans social set researched his name, they found that it matched another character from generations before in Europe. The two men even matched the same description down to the "diamonds in his clothes" part. Was he a vampire? A ghost?

Whether or not vampires really exist (I hope not), there does exist a community of wanna-bees who hang out in clubs like the Dungeon, just off Bourbon Street. Walking past this establishment, even in the daytime when it was closed, gave me the willies. (It was also uncomfortably close to my own hotel.)

Ghosts and vampires may or may not exist, but one piece of New Orleans culture might be the most chilling of all. In the cemeteries, bodies are buried above ground because of the high water table. These family tombs are like real estate, and as with any property, there is a limited supply. (Do you know where I'm going with this?) After at least a year and a day (an old rule that allows for the quick decomposition that occurs in the NOLA climate), when there is a new body to be interred, the coffins of previous residents are removed and destroyed. The contents/remains/bones are pushed back into the crypts underneath (called caveaux) to make room for the incoming deceased. (Creeped-out yet?) As I mentioned, these tombs are property, and as such can be sold. New owners can agree to let the remains of the previous stay, or, they can insist that the tomb be cleaned out and the bones deposited elsewhere. (Shiver.)

In case you're wondering, no pictures of me sleeping in my comfy white Hotel Monteleone bed taken from the ceiling materialized on my memory card. (Phew!) How would I have reacted to that?! The Monteleone is supposed to be haunted, too, but I haven't heard any tales, or looked for any, either.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New Orleans Captivates Margaret, (Part 1)

Sitting on the airplane, catching up on my journal, I realized I would have to limit my New Orleans posts to the sights and experiences that I found the most interesting. It might seem strange to pair a cathedral with street jazz musicians, and then mention piles of powdered sugar with doughnuts underneath, but these are the big surprises of New Orleans. We did visit the famous Bourbon Street, a few times, but it was close to what I expected. I intend to concentrate here on the delightful surprises.

The Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, sits just north of Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Taken from pretty Jackson Square, almost any photo of the cathedral will have Crepe Myrtle, magnolia, and palm trees in the foreground. I couldn't resist taking a few photos of the Spanish-style cathedral, but I hadn't planned on entering until (of all people) our ghost-and-vampire tourguide advised us not to miss it. It might have been partly the turbo air-conditioning on a beastly-hot day, but to me, the cathedral was breathtaking and I wanted to stay in there and inspect every stained-glass window (those tell Saint Louis's story), every shrine, every ceiling painting, and every piece of Catholic symbolism. This cathedral has more recently (1964) been named a basilica (meaning an archbishop presides here) and the umbrella see left) and bells encased in glass symbolize this important designation. If the Pope should visit, he is greeted with the umbrella, a symbol of hospitality as it is too narrow to protect him from actual rain. The massive organ pipes are framed by an arch illuminated by golden vines and angels reminding me of the prominence of music in this city. The organ was water-damaged during Hurricane Katrina and had to be sent away to be fixed. It was reinstalled in 2008.

I expected to find jazz musicians on the streets of the French Quarter, but I did not expect them to be so good! Almost every block had some unusual combination of instruments playing technically-virtuosic, heartfelt, and intense jazz. My favorite, just down the street from Aunt Sally's Pralines, was a clarinet player endowed with the technical prowess of Benny Goodman jamming with an equally accomplished trombonist. They were playing in a Dixieland style. As a longtime clarinetist who has enjoyed many friendships with trombonists over the years, I appreciated this combination. Music is after all, a kind of conversation between musicians, and jazz is the most personal kind of conversation. As usual, when I heard this clarinet I heard it as my voice even though I never was and never will be as good as the player sitting on this bench. By the way, the bucket says, " My name is Fill=up D. Bucket!"

These guys outside the cathedral were irresistible. I heard the saxophonist alone as I was shooting photos of Jackson Square and the exterior of the cathedral. Then the drummer joined him and added a hot beat and some vocals--WOW!!! I could feel some swing-dance moves coming on, but oh, no partner (shucks).

On the other side of Jackson Square is the famous Cafe du Monde. I couldn't get near this place until my last day in New Orleans because it was so crowded. Finally after our city tour, Linda and I popped in for some beignets in the late afternoon. Sadly though, the sousaphone player who had been there Sunday for this photo was not there to entertain us on Monday. She had the required cafe au lait, but I stuck with a nice cold diet soft drink (they don't say soda). I will admit to making a mess with that powdered sugar, but it was worth it and in my defense, so was everyone else! The small cafe tables were covered with it. I think I might start a movement to replace all Starbucks with Cafes du Monde. What do you think?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Signs of Spring in Cape May, New Jersey

I remember working on an assignment in second or third grade where we had to go out into nature and find 'Signs of Spring.' We probably had to make some kind of visual presentation, but I don't remember that. I do remember finding buds on trees, tiny leaves, dandelions, and probably pansies. I think of that assignment every year when the trees start to bud, and today as I walked through Cape May on a fabulous five-house Private Home Tour, I identified some Cape May signs of spring.

I did notice more traffic on the southbound highways last night, and I noticed more cars competing with me for the best free parking. But I'm trying to keep this post focused on positive things, so I'll point out that there were many folks biking around the city today. These bikes were parked outside Congress Hall.
It was a warm spring day, so there were quite a few people catching some rays on the beach. You can tell it is not summer because those tents on Steger's...uh, I mean Jackson Street Beach aren't unfurled yet.Tulips, of course. It's actually a little late for tulip viewing, but these looked nice on Washington Street Mall. Cape May takes pride in its tulips because the earliest European residents were Dutch.

So back to that Private Home Tour: loved it. I felt like I was being nosy at first paying money to sniff around other people's homes, but each of the hosts seemed pleased to show off their beautiful homes. I'm going to blog at length about this for the Jersey Shore blog, so I won't get into detail here, but I will say this tour was a special treat. Cape May's Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities, the tour organizers, asked that we respect the homeowners' privacy and not take photos inside. Here's a shot of one of my favorites, possibly because the lady of the house is a stitcher and a gardener and that was evident throughout.
Here's my favorite elementary school sign of spring, buds on trees:Each house had a docent stationed on the porch assigned to chat us up until the hosts were ready. One of these docents pointed out something I hadn't realized before. Cape May has trees. Lots of big, old, shade-giving, leaf-shedding trees. Other New Jersey shore towns, not so much. You learn something every tour.