The meaning of life


The secret lives of blueberries

A walk seaside with my 18-year-old daughter, yesterday…

Daughter: Do you know there are microbes that get inside ants in the rainforest and slowly take over their brains and tell them what to do? The microbes tell them to climb up to the top of trees, then their heads split open and spores sprout out of their heads and blow away.

Mother, making hand coming out of chest motion: That’s like ‘Alien.’

Daughter: I hope those ant spores don’t evolve and colonize us too.

Mother: Then we would have to climb to the tops of buildings, scaling the walls like Spiderman. Or I guess we could just take the elevator. Or maybe they’re already in us and that’s why we build really tall buildings.

Daughter: Did you see ‘Men in Black’ when the guy’s head opens up and you can see the little alien at the controls?

Mother: I vaguely remember that. Aren’t we made of mostly cells other than our own?

Daughter: Yeah. But what’s weird to me is that none of my cells lives longer than seven years. So there is no cell in me that’s the same as when I was little.

Mother: I don’t think of my cells as me. My self is somewhere else, not in the pieces. Like if I scrape my arm and bits of skin come off it’s not me I’m losing. I guess there’s DNA. My cells keep dying, and the DNA keeps giving the recipe to make new ones. And sometimes there’s a mistake or mutation and then maybe I die of cancer in 30 or 40 years.

Daughter: That’s cheerful.

Mother, pointing at the water: Hey look, baby ducks!

Daughter: Omigod, they’re so cute!!

French vanilla at Strawberry Alley


This evening I sallied forth and strolled the streets of Portsmouth. After a couple of days of humid heat we’re back to the way summer weather should be in coastal New England – brilliant.

I took pictures, and bought a couple of books and a batch of postcards for Anna’s latest hobby – sending and receiving postcards from all around the world (see

There were white kids with dreadlocks sitting on the brick walkway in front of the church, tourists and locals vying for cafe tables all along coffee beach, old folks waving peace placards at passing cars, shoppers, diners, drinkers, hotel people in town for weddings, and the guy who sits outside the Dolphin Striker playing the dulcimer quite beautifully.

Bearing in mind my pleasurable duty to blog for the Carnival of Ice Cream, June edition (thank you, Melissa, for hosting), I stopped at Strawberry Alley, across from Prescott Park and near Strawbery Banke. Strawberry Alley sells a limited selection of Annabelle’s Ice Cream flavors. (Annabelle’s is also in Portsmouth, on Ceres Street, and I must have walked right past it.)

I didn’t want any lumpy chunky stuff on such a clear sweet day, so I had a small French vanilla served in a little waffle-textured sugar cone. This place actually knew what small meant, unlike other popular ice cream wallows around here, and that was appreciated. The ice cream was simple and good and seriously creamy thanks to the 16 percent butterfat.

I walked through the park, past the trailers behind the outdoor stage for The Sound of Music and stopped for a moment to chat with a friend of my daughter’s who is playing a nun and an understudy to Liesl.

I finished my ice cream on a dock looking out across the blue Piscataqua River at the shipyard and a submarine at the repair dock.

So I was wondering, what makes it French vanilla? Let’s ask the Vanilla Queen.

It is a term used to describe an egg-custard base for ice cream.

So, it’s all about adding egg yolks? Recipe: French vanilla ice cream. Why French? Maybe because it’s based on a French dessert sauce called, oddly enough, crème anglaise.

Photos Portsmouth

Fire it up


If we were in the market for some permissible consumer fireworks to celebrate the Fourth, we would be driving down Route 1 to Seabrook in the next few days. There are 8 or 9 stores. Also: tattoo parlors, smoke shops, cheap gas, donuts, dog racing, ladies dancing without much in the way of clothing, and cartons of cigarettes for as low as $19.99.

We like Rudy Fireworks, just over the line from historic Hampton Falls. “Let me ask you,” says Rudy. “How much did you want to spend? I can set you up.”

If you keep going down Route 1, Seabrook ends and you get to Massachusetts. They don’t have much to offer except Keno.

Wikipedia fireworksThe Chemistry of Fireworks ColorsFireworkslandThe Fireworks ChannelNational Council of Fireworks Safety state lawsVideo previews of Phantom FireworksNH Community RestrictionsNH Approved Permissible Fireworks • Office of the State Fire Marshal Enforcement Guide

U.S. Fire Administration/National Fire Data Center & the Department of Homeland Security:
The Dangers of Fireworks

All fireworks are regulated by the Federal Hazardous Substance Act, which prohibits sale of the more dangerous types to the public to avoid injury and property damage. Among these banned products are large, reloadable mortar shells, cherry bombs, aerial bombs, M-80s, and large firecrackers with more than 2 grains of powder. Likewise, all mail order kits to construct fireworks are strictly prohibited.

Portsmouth Fireworks, Tuesday, July 3rd at the South Mill Pond, beginning at 9:15 p.m.

Hampton Beach: July 4th (super shoot celebrating 100 Years)

Greater Boston Independence Day events and fireworks information

Keep cool


Painter on the rocks, Little Boars Head, North Hampton

Seaside walk this morning. Hot and hazy, with a mirroring sea and whisper of coolness rising from the water. Temps will climb again today.

Summer scorcher brings bad air to NH

I parked in a North Hampton Beach sticker spot. Mrs. B was in her car, windows open, cup of coffee, her daughter off with my daughter to high school Fresh Start, looking out to sea. We said our hellos. She was going to work in a Rye garden that day. “Drink lots of water,” I said.

On my walk along the high promontory I saw this picturesque painter away down on the rocks. My pace picked up and my legs beat time: “Must remember, come back with camera. Must remember, come back with camera.”

My camera was in the car. He was still there. I parked illegally for 30 seconds, snapped a few then, at home, tinkered – sharpening, upping the exposure and color like crazy. Hey, everything we see is just lines, light and color! If I kept pushing eventually the image would fade into bright light and dissolve.

Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful.

– Emily Dickinson

Another photo: beachroses

Heat wave makes for busy beach

Great photos by Ron of Hampton Beach strip: 1, 2, 3

Hundreds of dear friends


Portsmouth Public Library

Laura and I went north to Kittery outlets for shorts and t-shirts yesterday and I drove the secret back way through Rye and Portsmouth. I stopped to give her a quick tour of the new library. It’s airy, light-filled and beautiful inside.

We met another couple of library aficionados from Hampton and North Hampton, retired women who used to work in the library at our local school. Seems Portsmouth is a mecca now for Seacoast library lovers.

We wish there were libraries on all summer road trip stops to stretch our legs and minds. What about a place at rest areas to leave reading material and books on tape you’ve finished and pick up another?

In their flight lounges, airline crews usually have a spot to drop off and pick up paperbacks. It’s my husband’s main source of reading material. Think where those books have been! He’s on his way home from Manchester UK right now.

PPL Read-Alike lists
National Book Award winners

Laura’s summer reading assignment for Freshmen Honors English: The Count of Monte Cristo

On the sidebar, I am listing what I read this summer.

In a library we are surrounded by many hundreds of dear friends, but they are imprisoned by an enchanter in these paper and leathern boxes; and though they know us, and have been waiting two, ten, or twenty centuries for us,—some of them,—and are eager to give us a sign and unbosom themselves, it is the law of their limbo that they must not speak until spoken to; and as the enchanter has dressed them, like battalions of infantry, in coat and jacket of one cut, by the thousand and ten thousand, your chance of hitting on the right one is to be computed by the arithmetical rule of Permutation and Combination,—not a choice out of three caskets, but out of half a million caskets, all alike.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson



Some sort of aster?

A member of the Compositae family, I’m almost certain, like daisies, asters, chrysanthemums. I can’t remember and I’m the one who planted it. I feel like an old lady who can’t find her car in the parking lot.

I didn’t weed the back flower garden soon enough this year and now it’s no fun. Plus the soil is rock hard, due to lack o’ mulch, and tools are needed.

“What if I just didn’t do anything to this garden this year?” I was thinking out loud. “What would happen?”

“I’ll weed it,” said my husband, my hero.

Yesterday, after I learned to play mahjong at the gorgeous new Portmouth Public Library for an upcoming Sunday story, John and I sailed with friends out the Merrimack River in their 38′ Hunter sailboat. (You are here.)

A cold front was blowing through, it was cloudy, windy and a little chilly out on the ocean. I cocooned in a couple of bright yellow sou’westers on deck.

Can a cold beer sipped from a glass bottle on the deck of a boat with a white sail aloft possibly taste better anywhere else? Glenn at the helm smoked a fat Cuban cigar, eyes on the horizon. Heading north he aimed for Mt. Agamenticus in Maine. Heading south, likely some North Shore hill or drumlin.

Back in town as the light-late evening settled into calm blue skies we moored at the Newburyport town docks and walked along the river to The Black Cow for dinner. People were dressed in their Saturday night finest. They looked like they were on dates, or wishing they were. We were windburned and a little grubby in boat clothes, flipflops.

“Nothing I’m wearing even matches,” said Jeana.

“True,” said I. “But it’s cancelled out by the fact we came to dinner on a sailboat.”