A Grandmother's Love Never Ends

Sunday, August 31, 2014
Getting older has its advantages.  For one, if we're paying attention, we get wiser.  With wisdom comes appreciation....not just for material things, financial security or career success, but for the things we've acquired in life that money and success can't buy.  Sometimes these things are small and subtle and other times they are huge and profound, and have an impact that is so emotionally charged that we cannot describe it and can barely even explain it.  I experienced one of these gifts this week and feel so blessed that I want to put it on paper so that years from now I will have something concrete that will memorialize this feeling.  I think many of you will relate.

My Mimier and Pipier (Dad's parents)
I grew up as an only child in a very tight-knit family that, as was mostly the case back in the 50's, all lived within a close commute.  I was not only an only child, I was an only grandchild - on both sides of our family.  As you would imagine, I was well loved and pretty special in the eyes of my grandparents.  Since both of my parents worked full time from my birth, my paternal grandmother - Mimier, babysat me.  Mimier lived just a few blocks away from us and only a couple blocks from my parochial elementary school, so I'd also walk to school from her house everyday, back to her home for lunch and back again after school.  Back in the day......that's how it worked.  Kids walked to school and went home for lunch.  Mimier took me everywhere with her - on the city bus to shop downtown Cohoes, Troy or Albany, to her bridge dates with her "lady friends", on senior bus trips.  She took me to fancy stores and bought me things I might not have ordinarily had.  Since my grandfather, Pipier, died when I was only 9, Mimier had plenty of time for me and we were very close.   When I was 13 though, my parents moved from Cohoes to Saratoga Lake.  Mimier didn't drive and although she often visited for the weekend, our relationship changed quite a bit with that move.  At 13, I'm sure I didn't realize just how much that move must have affected her.  As a teenager though, I  was probably more interested in things other than family relationships, so the separation probably had less impact on me.

My maternal grandparents lived about 30 minutes away and we also saw them regularly too.  In the summer my parents and both sets of my grandparents had trailers on the same campsite on Saratoga Lake, so we spent a lot of time together.  Sometimes I'd spend a day or two with them during a school break after Thanksgiving.  They loved to travel and took me on a road trips to Florida, to Hampton Beach, and later to Hawaii.  Those were fun times and cherished memories.

We (me and my grandparents) spent every holiday and birthday together, and most Sundays and I never knew a life without my grandparents in it.  I was fortunate to have my Mimier until she died in 1972 at 76 yrs. of age. She lived long enough to see me graduate high school.  My maternal grandmother lived until I was in my 30's.  She got to enjoy my kids for 9 years.

Mimier & Gram on my Confirmation Day

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I always knew my mission in life, my goal, my passion, was to marry and have children.  I was not career minded, I always had my heart set on being a mom.  So when I was blessed with our first daughter, my life-long dream had come true and I didn't think I could be happier.  That happiness was doubled four years later when our second daughter was born.  I was convinced that I couldn't love anyone more than I loved my girls.....my heart was full.   Then four years ago, I was proven wrong.  With the birth of my granddaughter, Elena, my heart swelled and grew in a way I could have never realized.  I fell in love with this precious new life, this offspring of my very own daughter, a miracle of miracles.  How could I not have known what was in store for me as a grandmother??

Growing up I had the best of the best of grandparents - not just my grandmothers, even my grandfathers.  I was cherished and adored and loved.  Yet, somehow I couldn't understand the depth of their love for me.  When my own kids were born, I knew my parents were madly in love with them.  I watched them dote over them, buy for them, feel pride in them...........still I didn't get it.  I remember my Dad always wanting to see the girls, have them visit, etc....I just took it for granted that he was just enjoying them.  I never comprehended the depth of love he was feeling.  NOW I get it!!!  Now I feel it, now I understand the enormity of the love a grandparent feels for their grandchildren.  It's not like the love we feel for our spouse, or our parents, or our kids ..... it's a love that's different, indescribable, immeasurable from any love we've experienced.  It's consuming and unconditional.  Perhaps the saddest part about it is that we figure it out too late.  I wish I'd understood it when my kids were little so I could have made sure time with their grandparents was more of a priority.  I wish I'd understood it when my Mimier was alive and that I'd written her more (phone calls were "long-distance" then), or spent more time with her when she visited for the weekend.  But naturally by then I was busy with boyfriends and such and didn't think about a time I wouldn't have her in my life. 

We were so very blessed to have been able to babysit our granddaughter, Elena, a few days a week for her first 2 1/2 yrs of life.  We had her overnights and weekends and treasured watching her grow.  When my daughter took a promotion and had to move to Indiana 17 months ago, I thought I would die from the heartbreak.  (That is when I realized how difficult it must have been for my Mimier when we moved to Saratoga Lake - and that was only 30 minutes away!)  Somehow though we have survived Laura's move and this past week we were blessed to welcome our second granddaughter into the family.  Our hearts might surely explode with love.  While we are certainly over the moon with joy and love, we are also a bit sad that our relationship with baby Braelyn and Elena will not be the same as the relationship we were both lucky enough to share with our grandparents.  (Disclaimer:  I was more than a "bit" sad, I was weepy for the first 5 hours of our drive back from Indiana.) (Post Script: my grandchildren moved back to our hometown February 2016 after 3 years in Indy.)

But love doesn't diminish by distance or miles, or time passed or even death.  Just today I received a wonderful gift from my Mimier.  While going through a box of photos looking for something, I came across an envelope with a note card written by my Mimier to me in 1972, about 5 months before she died.  The postage stamp was .08 cents.  Inside the card was a picture of this woman.........

Now a few years ago I made a "family tree" for my living room wall.  This tree includes our family, our parents, our kids, grandparents and some great grandparents.  At the time, I added the picture above - even though I had no idea who this woman was.  I just assumed she must be someone in the family and something in me felt she should be included in the "family tree".    So, in the middle of all of us.....just along the trunk of the tree, sits this mystery woman.   For 2 years when I introduced visitors to the family on my tree, this woman has been nameless - just someone who I assumed was 'some' member of the family.  You can imagine my elation when I turned over this new-found copy of the photo and saw, in Mimier's handwriting, "Agnes Blair, Your Great Grandmother".   Finally I know who this woman is - thanks to my Mimier 42 years after her passing........which was in fact September 6, 1972.  That mystery woman at the center of my family tree all this time is my Great Grandmother!  Thanks to Mimier, I finally know.  A grandmother's love keeps giving............even after her death.

There are few things in life more special than the relationship between a child and their grandparents.  If you are a grandparent, you understand this.  It becomes apparent the moment that first grandchild is born.  No matter how much you anticipate and imagine the gift that awaits you with this new addition, nothing can prepare you for it.  If you are a parent - trust me on this and nurture your childrens' relationship with your parents.  Cherish your grandparents if you still have them and remember that one day they will be but a beautiful memory.  The time to love them and enjoy them is NOW!  I am so thankful I was not only blessed with grandparents who were such an important part of my life, but for the blessing of my grandchildren in my life.  There is no greater gift!
Me and  Elena - 8/28/10
Me & Braelyn - 8/23/14

A Not So Perfect Storm

Monday, August 25, 2014
As promised, I wanted to tell you a little something about the center of the story, Perfect Storm.  Most of you have probably either read the book by Sebastian Junger, or seen the movie which was filmed in Gloucester.  You've perhaps eaten fish sticks made from fish caught and processed in Gloucester at Gorton's Seafood Company.  So come along while I take you on a little journey and history lesson about this seafaring town.

"The boundaries of Gloucester originally included  the town of Rockport in an area dubbed "Sandy Bay". That village separated formally on February 27, 1840. In 1873, Gloucester was reincorporated as a city. It was one of the first English settlements in what would become the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and predates both Salem in 1626 and Boston in 1630. Life in this first settlement was harsh and it was short-lived. Around 1626 the place was abandoned, and the people removed themselves to Naumkeag (what is now called Salem MA.  Gloucester lies between Ipswich Bay to the north and Massachusetts Bay to the south. The city is bordered on the east by Rockport, and on the west by Ipswich, Essex and Manchester-by-the-Sea to the west. The town was an important shipbuilding center, and the first schooner was reputedly built there in 1713. Seafaring and fishing have been, and still are, very dangerous undertakings. In its over 350-year history, Gloucester has lost over 10,000 men to the Atlantic Ocean. The names of each of the known lost are painted on a huge mural in the main staircase at City Hall, and also on a new memorial cenotaph on Stacy Boulevard. The list has continued to lengthen despite increased safety requirements."(Wikipedia)

Ok, so enough history.  If you visit Gloucester the first thing you'll note is an abundance of fishing vessels.  It's obvious to even the untrained observer that Gloucester is the home of a very large fishing industry.  It is also the home of several deep sea fishing tour companies and whale watching excursions.  We went whale watching on our first visit to Gloucester when the kids were small and let me tell you, if you're lucky enough to hit a good "whale" day, it's a thrill seeing these massive creatures spouting alongside your ship.

Shipyard Kitty

Another of my favorite stops in Gloucester is Hammond Castle, subject of an earlier blog, along with Beauport, The Sleeper-McCann Estate featured in my previous blog.  Gloucester is filled with art, eateries of all sorts, not just seafood joints.  Although where can you get fresher seafood?
Great place to eat, right on the water!

The thing that you can't help but take away when you visit Gloucester is the reminder of how many lives have been lost at sea there.  As you drive or walk along the "Boulevard" you will see the Fishermen's Memorial, also known as the "The Man At the Wheel".  This sculpture was commissioned as part of  Gloucester’s 300th anniversary in 1923.  Although the base was placed there in 1923, the statue was not unveiled until 1925. "It is an 8-foot-tall bronze statue of a fisherman dressed in oilskins standing braced at the wheel on the sloping deck of his ship. The monument has a square base of sea green granite. It is positioned so that the fisherman is looking out over Gloucester Harbor. The fisherman in the sculpture was modeled after Capt. Clayton Morrissey, a prominent Gloucester fisherman, once the captain of the Effie E. Morrisey. The stone was purposely sculpted with a rough finish to make the fisherman look rugged. Craske posed the fisherman to look as if he was facing a windstorm and was headed toward dangerous rocks. His eyes are fixed on the water and sails, while every muscle is strained to hold the wheel with a firm grip. (Wikipedia)

 "The statue is a tribute to the 10,000 Gloucester fishermen who have lost their lives at sea over the centuries and a reminder that fishing is our country’s most dangerous occupation. The statue is the work of sculptor Leonard Craske (1877-1951) and is based on a 1901 painting by Gloucester artist A.W. Buhler. The image of the man at the wheel was adopted in 1904 as the logo for Gloucester’s Gorton Fisheries, and the national distribution of their products combined with the popularity of the statue have made “The Man at the Wheel” a well-recognized icon of the courage and fortitude of Gloucester fishermen. Inside the base of the statue is a time capsule containing 47 items representing Gloucester history and culture in 1923, and inscribed on the statue is a verse from the 107th Psalm: “They that go down to the sea in ships.” The Gloucester Fishermen’s Memorial was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995". (Taken from http://myweb.northshore.edu)

"The decades long dream of Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association founder Lena Novello and president Angela Sanfilippo became a reality in August 2001, when the Fishermen's Wives Memorial was unveiled and dedicated.  The idea for a memorial to the wives of Gloucester fishermen has been around since the 1930's.  Leonard Craske's model, displayed at the Cape Ann Museum, shows a woman clutching a bundled child, her gesture reminiscent of a ship's figurehead. Craske's proposed inscription was, "They also serve who only stand and wait." The Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association was not interested in either characterization of the role of women in the fishing industry.  Seeing themselves as doing everything but sitting around waiting, the Wives determined to commemorate their contributions, both in the past and in the future they work so hard to secure.  In 1996, sculptor Morgan Faulds Pike, the winner of the GFWA's international design competition, signed a contract to build her vision of The Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Memorial - a woman holding a small child in her left arm with her right hand on the shoulder of a standing child. Morgan Faulds Pike's bronze sculpture stands 12 feet high on its base, a boulder of natural granite.  It took two years to complete.  The inscription around the base of the sculpture reads: "The wives, mothers, daughters and sisters of Gloucester fishermen honor the wives and families of fishermen and mariners everywhere for their faith, diligence, and fortitude." (http://myweb.northshore.edu)

Wingaersheek Beach
The Maritime Museum is really fun and you'll want to spend some time there just watching the fishing boats come and go. There's a lot to see in Gloucester.  Next time you're on Massachusetts northern coast, check it out.  And if you haven't already, check out my Rockport blog http://gwfirecracker.blogspot.com/2014/05/picturesque-rockport-ma.html   as well as Hammond Castle http://gwfirecracker.blogspot.com/2014/05/a-little-castle-by-sea.html
Cape Ann

Twin Lighthouses from Cape Ann

Let's Eat - al Fresco

Tuesday, August 19, 2014
As most of you know, we've been pretty busy this summer checking out some fun venues around Upstate NY.  When one is traipsing all over exploring, one gets mighty hungry and in calming our growly  tummies we found some great places that offered not only great food but wonderful atmosphere.  I thought I'd share them with you today!

The first eatery is by far no secret to most - even though it was our first visit.  Anybody who has spent a day or more in Cooperstown is familiar with the famous Otesaga Resort. "A member of the prestigious Historic Hotels of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, The Otesaga is reminiscent of a more genteel era when a gracious welcome was the standard." (from the Otesaga website)  If you hadn't done your homework, you might actually just drive past the Otesaga assuming your wallet is not equipped enough to afford such a place.  That is so not true.  In fact, the Otesaga offers more than one dining option.  Since it was a beautiful day, (and our budget is limited) we opted for the Hawkeye Bar & Grill.  Reservations are a good idea, but note that reservations guarantee you a table, but not necessarily a table outside as those are first come, first serve.  We got lucky and got to eat outside and enjoy the amazing view of Lake Otsego, or Glimmerglass as it was nicknamed by James Fenimore Cooper. Words are unnecessary in describing the ambiance and view, only to be surpassed by the delicious food and superior service.  While the menu prices were similar to those found at your local sit-down chain, the food, attention to detail and high-end service made you feel your check could be much more expensive.  Our meals were "good to the last bite", even my mojito which put me in dreamland, and were $12 and $13 each.  If you're in Cooperstown, this is one to check out.

Ommegan Fish & Chips (coleslaw under the fish)

My Burger and fresh fruit - Yum!!

Our next adventure took us to Hildene in Manchester, VT.  By the time we toured Robert Todd Lincoln's Estate, Pullman car and Rowland Agricultural Center, we were starving.  We asked the workers in the museum shop for recommendations and one of their suggestions was Seasons, right on the main drag in the village of Manchester.

 It was quickly apparent why Season's was one of the places they recommended!  Oh my my.....let me just say, I can't wait to go back.  I ordered the Hummus Veggie Wrap which was hummus, assorted veggies and balsamic vinegarette in a whole wheat wrap with potato salad and it was so fresh, so light, so perfectly "hit the spot" for $9.95. 
 John ordered one of the daily specials - a 1/2 of a ham & cheese panini, with a small salad and a cup of the soup of the day (some sort of white bean and escarole), also for about $9.95.  Both of our meals were delicious and the service was great. 

 Sitting outside at Seasons was just where we wanted to be on this sunny and warm day. The seating is bordered in flowers - all behind a white picket fence that effectively makes you forget you are sitting on a busy main drag. Next time you're in Manchester, be sure to visit Hildene and stop by Seasons for some great eats!

The third and final al fresco eatery in today's blog post takes us north to Glen Lake.  Just minutes off Exit 20 of I-87 sits a little, unassuming place known to many - the Docksider.

Seated on the shores of Glen Lake, the Docksider is open year round and features an outdoor, covered and heated patio overlooking what might be one of the prettiest lakes around.  Our visit was prompted by a friend who suggested it as a wonderful place with a spectacular view and great food.   She was right on the money!  Not only are you able to enjoy the view during your meal, when you're finished you are able to sit back in one of the adirondack chairs or picnic tables and relax a while longer.  Judging from the crowd that day, I might be the only person to be in the dark about the Docksider.
We opted for fish baskets at my friend's suggestion.  I went with the combo basket of fried scallops and coconut shrimp with fries and John went with the fish & chips.  Both were quite tasty but next time I think I'd try their famous pizza & wings.  Whatever you decide to eat, you can't go wrong eating al fresco at the Docksider.  You might even be lucky enough to see a sea plane while you're there!!

Hungry yet?   There's still some nice weather left, so get out there and enjoy it - hopefully at one of these fine eateries!  Bon Appetit!

Villago - On the banks of Ballston Lake

Sunday, August 17, 2014
Good Morning blog friends!  I've got a quick one for you today, but trust me, it's a goodie.  Last evening John and I tried out a new eatery with our long-time friends, Chuck & Ann Marie.  When I say longtime, I am not exaggerating.....Ann Marie and I have been friends for 57 years!  Right?  That's a long time!  I won't say how old we were when we met exactly (to protect the innocent) but I will tell you we were toddlers.  Chuck was a school chum of mine who I actually fixed Ann Marie up with in high school.  Obviously I had some pretty good matchmaking skills because they will be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary this October.  Anyway, I could write a whole blog post about our friendship.....and maybe will someday.....but for today I'm here to write about our latest culinary discovery since when we get together, the four of us, it's usually over a meal.

Last evening we decided to check out a new place we'd heard some buzz about - The Villago Pizzeria & Ristorante on Ballston Lake in what used to be the Good Times Restaurant.  The owners of Villago are not newcomers to the restaurant industry.  They also own and operate Village Pizzeria on Route 29 in Middle Grove - many actually say Galway.  In fact, Village Pizzario is has been a family-run business for the past 25 years.  My mom had eaten there and raved about it, so when she heard they were going to be opening a new place on Ballston Lake, she was thrilled.

Villago had their official opening back in April.  It seems word has spread because the place was bustling last night.  I can't imagine how busy it might have been on a evening with great weather.  Villago sits atop a small hill overlooking the beautiful Ballston Lake.  If you're familiar with Ballston Lake, you know there aren't many vantage points where you can enjoy a view, unless you go to the public fishing site.  But Villago has a beautiful clearing where the lake can be seen from inside the restaurant as well as from their gorgeous, new patio.  In addition, you can sit a spell on their front lawn.

Since I try to respect the privacy of patrons, I didn't get a great shot of the patio.  I will tell you it was large and busy and guests were kept cozy and warm with several patio heaters.
Last evening Villago was having a special event complete with a Reggae band, the Robonics, playing outside on the front lawn.  Since it was chilly out, we opted for an indoor table.  We got there at 5:00, so we had no problem getting seated, but as the evening progressed the place got quite crowded.  The word is out, and people seem to have heard.
I was hungry for pizza but the Villago offers all sorts of options from delicious appetizers including Calamari, Sam Adams steamed clams, crispy truffle artichoke hearts, warm olives, fresh bruschetta and your typical options like wings.  For your meal you can go simple and order pizza or choose one of their numerous entrees like Eggplant Napolitano, Haddock Pomodoro, Pork Osso Buco, or for your 'basic' diner...NY Strip Steak, Manicotti, or Lasagna.....just to name a few.  Villago also offers a large selection of hot focaccias and paninis, soup and several salads.  We ordered the antipasto and I can say without reservation, it was the best I've ever had.  It was served in a large wooden bowl and consisted of mixed greens, assorted meats, assorted peppers, red onions, chic peas, and their house vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette is served in a 'bottle' so you can use as little or as much as you like and was a perfect blend of oil and vinegar.  Our salad served the four of us for $11.95.

We ordered a medium (8-cut) pizza, but you could also order a personal pizza or a large, 12-cut.  We chose 1/2 eggplant and 1/2 sausage and it was yummy - even for breakfast today.

Even better than the food and view was the service.  Our server, Heather, was so attentive and friendly.  She visited our table often and was sincerely interested in meeting our every need.  Austin who brought our food - first delicious, fresh, in-house baked bread with oil & balsamic vinegar, and later our salad and pizza, was friendly and comedic and treated us like long-time acquaintances, or regulars.  In addition the Reggae event featured some "tasting" opportunities.  A very pretty gal whose name I neglected to get brought us samples of some rum - Blue Chair Bay Coconut Spiced and Banana.  I tried the coconut and let me say, "It was amazinggggggggg"  Ann Marie said the Banana was good too.  If you're a rum drinker, I'd recommend it - highly ;)

Thank you Villago for a wonderful evening and some great food.  We will definitely be back.  If you're in the area, be sure to check out Villago.  Just take Exit 11 off  I-87 and follow Round Lake Road west and turn left at Lakeside Farms.  For a preview of what you might order, check out the link below and good luck making a decision.  If you're like me, you'll want one of everything on the menu.  And if food is not on your mind but you're looking for a place for a snack and a drink - this is your place.  Catch the sunset and make some friends.  Tell them I sent you.

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Thank you for allowing me to share by photos and thoughts with you!  And Have a Great Day!!!

All photos, unless otherwise noted, were taken by Gail A. Welter.  All Rights Reserved. Photographs in this blog may not be downloaded, reproduced or manipulated in any form or fashion without my express written consent.

Another Gloucester Treasure-Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann Estate

Saturday, August 16, 2014
One of my long-time favorite warm weather destinations, most of which take me to the east coast, is Rockport, MA.   Just down the road from Rockport, also worthy of a visit, is one of the first English settlements in Massachusetts, Gloucester.  Gloucester is well known for it's commercial fishing industry.   It is also famous for its portrayal in the movie (and book) "The Perfect Storm".   Earlier in this blog I featured Hammond Castle, a must-see stop in Gloucester, but Hammond Castle is not the only "big house" in town.   Sitting atop a rock ledge overlooking Gloucester Bay is Beauport, now known as the Sleeper-McCann House.

Built by interior designer Henry Davis Sleeper, Beauport was Sleeper's summer cottage. Built in 1907, over a 27 year period, Sleeper continually made additions to his "cottage" which now consists of 40 rooms. Each of the forty rooms is distinguished by a historical or literary figure, theme, color, shape, or object. No two rooms are the same. Sleeper was an antique collector and was known as  "America's first professional interior designer".  After his death, Charles and Helena Woolworth McCann acquired the house and its contents. They preserved much of Sleeper's designs and decorations, but made some modifications, including adding their porcelain collection to the house. Their heirs donated the property to the Society for the Protection of New England Antiquities in 1947, who operate the property as a house museum.

The Sleeper-McCann House has been featured in many books and magazines, including House Beautiful, Country Living and Architectural Digest. It's easy to see why.  As you wander from room to room, each room you enter transports you to a different time and different decor.  While visitors to Beauport are not allowed to take interior photos, Beauport's Facebook page features many.  A link will be provided at the end of this blog.

Take a close look at the detail in every corner of this unique home, from the window shapes, to the chimneys (there are many), the bird houses and beyond.  Of particular note is how each room was carefully added to fit just perfectly in whatever nook would accommodate it.  Sleeper made no effort to make his home look as if it were designed and built from the original blueprint.

Take note of the chimney with it's four stacks diagonal bricks.

Glad I don't have to wash these windows.
Whether inside or out, where you can stroll through the gardens and enjoy a spectacular view of Gloucester Harbor, Beauport is a feast for the senses and well worth a visit if you're in or near Gloucester.  Beauport is open from mid-May-October 18th.  Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $8 for students.    If you need a little more convincing that Gloucester and Rockport are worth the 4 hr. drive, visit my blogs featuring Rockport and Hammond Castle (links below) and watch for an upcoming blog featuring a bit of Gloucester.

Just us youngsters during our first visit in 2006.

Previous blogs on Rockport & Hammond Castle:

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