My Gardens

Living in the northeastern United States can and often is a challenge for vegetable and flower gardeners. Through trial and error, we plod on, learning as we go what works and what doesn’t.IMG_0348I

I’ve played in the dirt most of my life, and yet, my skill set still leaves much to be desired. I try and educate myself on certain plants, soil and conditions, but there is so much more.

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In October, the garlic cloves get planted and covered with leaves. It will be a long 9 months before the garlic is ready to harvest. IMG_0678

Finally, spring arrives and the first daffodil appears and hope is alive, once again.

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Slowly things come to life.

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I smile with anticipation, wondering what will blossom next and if my plants lasted through another harsh winter.

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When summer draws to a close it becomes quite clear. Yes, Mother nature served me well, once again.

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Soon it will be time to hibernate, but not until I pick the last tomato, green pepper and lettuce that cling to life. Yes, it is bittersweet leaving spring and summer. So, until next year, I will continue to dream.

Written by Dennis L. Page

Seafood Extravaganza

Seafood Extravaganza

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Have you ever attended a clambake? Do you like seafood? Do you enjoy having a plate full of crustaceans? Were you exposed to the succulent goodness of chowders, lobster, mussels, clams, crab cakes, shrimp, oysters and crab legs? If you answered, “No” then I offer my condolences because I love it all with a passion.

As a child, I recall the utter shock while observing my dad and his friends consume unimaginable amounts of clams. Of course, they needed to do the preparation of melted butter and homemade cocktail sauce before the feeding frenzy commenced. “How can people eat that disgusting stuff?” I asked myself. As a boy, I did enjoy lobster tails, haddock, and freshwater fish, but the thought of sucking down a clam or oyster turned my stomach. Then I grew up and my taste buds exploded with new found delights.

Not far from where I attended high…

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Seafood Extravaganza

Seafood Extravaganza

Have you ever attended a clambake? Do you like seafood? Do you enjoy having a plate full of crustaceans? Were you exposed to the succulent goodness of chowders, lobster, mussels, clams, crab cakes, shrimp, oysters and crab legs? If you answered, “No” then I offer my condolences because I love it all with a passion.

As a child, I recall the utter shock while observing my dad and his friends consume unimaginable amounts of clams. Of course, they needed to do the preparation of melted butter and homemade cocktail sauce before the feeding frenzy commenced. “How can people eat that disgusting stuff?” I asked myself. As a boy, I did enjoy lobster tails, haddock, and freshwater fish, but the thought of sucking down a clam or oyster turned my stomach. Then I grew up and my taste buds exploded with new found delights.

Not far from where I attended high school was Hinerwadel’s Clam Grove (http://hinerwadels.com). The Hinerwadel family had a stellar reputation in the community. They were locally famous, not only for the hedonistic clam bakes they threw from April until October but also for their salt potatoes. Syracuse was referred to as “Salt City” because of the salt springs (brine) located around Onondaga Lake which was also referred to as Salt Lake. The commercial salt production in the Syracuse area (http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2000/0139/report.pdf) started back in the 1700s.  There is nothing that can compare to having a Hinerwadel salt potato (https://youtu.be/_8A6EsgwEHs). It is a local food that Syracusans treasure and refuse to give up. Participants pay one admission price and  a typical clambake menu includes:

Raw, steamed and fried clams

Steamed mussels

Peel and eat shrimp

Hinerwadel’s salt potatoes

Corn on the cob

Clam chowder

Hamburgers and hot dogs

Tossed, seafood, pasta, and macaroni salads

Chicken breasts, wings, and tenders

Barbecued beef and pork sandwiches

Italian sausage, pepper and onion sandwiches

Desserts include ice cream sundaes, brownies, cookies and strawberry shortcake

Beverages of draft beer, iced tea, lemonade, coffee, and soda are served nonstop throughout the length of the clambake

When I began my working career, the company I was employed by had a very active and involved employees association. The first Saturday in August was always reserved for the employee clam bake at Hinerwadel’s. Employees were given tickets at half price and allowed to bring one guest. It didn’t take long for this to turn into a father and son annual outing. Each year my dad would tell me to not drink too much because we had 364 other days in the year for that. Instead, this was a day for feasting. His other advice was to never drink hard liquor if I was going to eat clams because that would cause extreme nausea. Without hesitation, I never questioned his sage advice. Throughout the summer months, my dad would call me on a hot Saturday morning and ask, “Are you going to get the clams today or should I? If you get the clams I’ll bring the beer. If you don’t want to get them then I will and you pick up the beer.” The girls would be in the pool while dad and I ate clams, both raw and steamed and had a few cold brews together. Oh, how I long for those moments once again.

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Even though I have Sirius radio in my vehicle, I seldom play it if my wife and I are on a long drive. After all these years together, we still enjoy our conversations with each other. One topic we endlessly spoke about on our trip to Myrtle Beach was the number of seafood buffets in that area. We were both salivating like Pavlov’s dogs in anticipation of gorging ourselves on the bounty of choices we would be presented with. I had mentioned to my wife how much I thoroughly enjoyed the seafood calabashes while on a previous business convention trip there. Yes, we were giddy with excitement because these dining experiences cannot be found in the northeastern states. IMG_0738

We knew we were quickly approaching our destination when both of us noticed that familiar, warm ocean haze that hangs in the skyline taunting the visitor with expectations of sand, surf, and warm waters. We checked into the hotel, took Dexter (our 15-year-old West Highland white terrier for a walk), unpacked our luggage for the extended stay, and then took a walk on the beach. It was gorgeous and then our stomachs started to growl with hunger pangs. So, after over 8 hours in the car we both found ourselves back in the vehicle again looking for a place to have dinner.

I enjoy reading reviews of various hotels, restaurants and attractions on TripAdvisor. I feel that is one site where people get to actually rate a place and then offer their own personal feedback that is public. As we drove by a few seafood buffets and I enthusiastically pointed out to my wife how few cars were in the parking lots. “See, TripAdvisor mentioned that place was overrated,” I would boast. Suddenly, in this far off land of novelty shops, souvenir stores, bars, and restaurants, we spotted our oasis. We were about to set anchor in a sea of deliciousness. You see, that tasteless bagel we had for breakfast was now, thankfully, only a faded memory.

We pulled off the main thoroughfare into the Giant Crab Seafood restaurant (http://giantcrab.com) with its distinctive crab, ship, and lighthouse facade. The lot was jammed with cars and my wife had a minor meltdown when she noticed a line outside the front door of the establishment. I suggested we see how long it would be before being seated. Lo and behold, the line of people was only those who wished to have their photos taken. We were immediately shown to our table and gluttony was soon to commence, especially considering they offer 170 items. I made it a point to avoid all salads and bread and immediately dove into steamed crab legs, crab cakes, mussels, oysters Rockefeller, stuffed flounder, shrimp, and clams. At one point, our waitress, sensing I was ready to explode, suggested I stand up and jump around in order to leave room for dessert. I obediently followed her advice and I swear the next day someone was approaching me with a harpoon while I was on the beach.

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Thank you, Giant Crab for your contribution to my 5-pound weight gain from my summer extravaganza.

Written by Dennis L. Page

Strange Events in Alexandria

It’s no secret. I love Alexandria, Virginia. The traffic congestion leaves much to be desired. However, knowing what awaits the traveler at the end of these traffic snarls and delays is the pot of gold.IMG_0728

My wife and I have been fortunate enough to have visited Alexandria and in particular Old Town on numerous occasions. We always find a pet-friendly hotel because our dogs (only Dexter is left) have never been put in a kennel. Thankfully this is a pet-friendly area and even the finest of hotels welcome our friends with open arms. The Morrison House (http://www.morrisonhouse.com) is one place we have stayed at a few times. It is sophisticated, quaint, upscale, warm and tastefully decorated. Plus, it is only a half block from King Street which is the main thoroughfare. Our other favorite hotel is the Hotel Monaco (http://www.monaco-alexandria.com). The Monaco has all the attributes of the Morrison House, but is also a tad more updated and is located right in the middle of King Street. Both cater to our four-legged friends with treats and beds and we really enjoy our stays there.

This year I had someone suggest we try the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center (http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/virginia/hilton-alexandria-mark-center-DCAAHHF/event/index.html) in Alexandria which also happens to be pet-friendly. Surprisingly, we had no problems driving through Washington, D. C. Our travel delay happened in good old Pennsylvania on Route 81 south that seems to have been under construction my entire life. In their infinite wisdom, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation decided to completely close down a several mile section of highway and have all vehicles exit in a rural area. We ended up with a 2-hour delay, driving on winding country roads for approximately 25 miles, with no services. It proved to be a horrible start to our vacation.

Even though I missed the hotel entrance twice, I kept circling the area until I finally arrived, frustrated and tired. I checked in and got Cathy and Dexter settled into our room and went to find a valet to get the luggage from the car that was in the attached parking garage. Approaching the entrance with a valet filled with bags, luggage and the dog’s bed I was taken aback as I noticed a vehicle parked next to the door with a big sticker that read, “HONK IF YOU LOVE FORESKIN.” “Some people are so weird,” I thought to myself as I entered the hotel. Although I pride myself on my open-mindedness , acceptance of others and flexibility, my next shock came when I walked through the crowd of people who were attending the Sexual Summit Conference (http://www.sexualfreedomsummit.org) that was taking place on the main floor of the hotel. Attendees were young and old, large and small, tattooed and pierced, conservatively dressed and provocatively clad. I lived through the era of ‘free love’ and yet, this was certainly a head turner and eye opener for me. I must add that after perusing the cast of characters and if I was young, single, had finished 4 extra dry martinis and it was 2:00 in the morning, chances are I would have still returned to my room with only the hotel’s complimentary USA Today newspaper.

My wife and I had made arrangements to meet her niece and her son who live in Alexandria and  her nephew and girlfriend who reside in Baltimore for dinner at my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant. We had reservations at Austin Grill and Tequila Bar in Old Town (http://www.visitalexandriava.com/listings/austin-grill-and-tequila-bar/160/). The following day we were going to meet two of my three daughters and grandson who reside in the Syracuse area at our destination in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. As we were being seated, I sent a text to find out where they were staying for the evening. Strange as it may seem, the three of them informed me they had just checked into their hotel in Old Town!  The trials and tribulations of our 300-mile road trip melted away when I saw my daughters and grandson arriving in the upstairs dining room of the Austin Grill. Our dinner party grew from six to nine within a matter of minutes.

Yes, vacation had officially kicked off with a bang.

Written by Dennis L. Page