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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Entries in travel (27)

    Wednesday
    Dec052012

    Chasing Descendants and Finding Family History

    We've just returned from a trip to London and France and It's no surprise that our two-week itinerary looked a lot like a genealogy research plan. Priority #1 was to meet the newest leaf on our family tree and spend time with the big brother and parents. And like any careful plan, we discovered unexpected surprises and new adventures along the way.

    It's been a very long time since Mr. Curator and I traveled without a genealogy research agenda. Last year at this time, after a New England research trip, I was writing 10-12 hours every day on my new book and nursing a fractured elbow. It seems like one thing rolled into another and now here it is December once again and finally time to step back and take a breath. I do remember a time when a vacation included a break from mail, phones, and daily routine, and I miss it sometimes. 

    For this trip we decided to forgo the wonderful travel apps on our iPhones and use the devices in wireless mode to retrieve email and as handy unobtrusive cameras. Limited cell-phone coverage also meant limited blogging, and and days filled with playing firefighter, snuggling baby, and exploring the neighborhood shops and parks gave new meaning to "social" network. 

    "Unplugging" technology, even minimally to wireless-only, sounded a little scary, but it added so much freedom to our travels that I'm thinking it would be worth doing more often. Instead of shooting out a quick tweet or status post as an instant reaction to sights, and events, pocketing your cell phone gives you time to sit back and reflect on an experience and spend some time thinking about what's going on around you.

     

    St. Luke's Church, London

    As it was, it took about a week for that "aha" moment to occur when I realized a particularly unique feature of our itinerary. Each night we went to sleep within earshot of church bells, whether we were in a London neighborhood, a Paris hotel, or the Cathedral square of Strasbourg. What a treat to begin and end each day hearing chimes and bells calling out the hour. That doesn't happen at home, but it did make me think of how so many of our ancestors' lived within a parish where everyday life was directed by the sound of church bells. (I think there is a post for The Catholic Gene in here, too.)

    We also experienced a taste of ex-pat life as we celebrated a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in the midst of London's Christmas preparations. I was surprised to see that the local grocery store sold turkeys and all the fixins from fresh cranberries to Libby's canned pumpkin pie mix. Turkey is a more traditional Christmas dish in England, so there weren't too many to choose from and they were rather small. Size was vital, we discovered, because the range oven was smaller than American ovens. 

    Mr. C carefully measured the oven and went back on the streets out to stalk our Thanksgiving bird. He didn't have to go far, just around the corner to the local butcher who took the order for the next day -- 5.44 kilos (12 lbs) "dressed" to roast. When I unwrapped that bird I knew it was going to be delicious. Unlike our U.S. grocery store turkeys that arrive in plastic and emerge gooey and messy, this bird was wrapped in white waxed butcher paper, trimmed of excess fat, cleaned of bit of gore, washed, dried, and tied with twine. The "innards" were neatly wrapped in a separate package for the stockpot.

    Behold: The Bird! Why doesn't my U.S. supermarket prep poultry like this?

    We didn't need to do more than season the turkey and slip a little butter under the skin. Our daughter-in-law mixed up her grandmother's special dressing using local sausage in place of Italian, and we made another grandmother's signature sweet potato and apple dish. The only thing we missed was Auntie's Cranberry Jello dish (that hardly anyone eats anyway). In her honor, we made orange finger jello (brought from the U.S.) which was a huge hit with the pre-schooler. It was a wonderful meal. When family members can't be present at a holiday table, food is the next-best way to savor a memory of the past. 

    Ex-Patriot Thanksgiving founded on family recipes.

    Thanksgiving isn't exactly much of a holiday in Britain, and we emerged from our turkey coma to see that the countdown to Christmas was in full swing along the streets of London. Twinkle lights cascaded down storefronts, illuminated trees decorated lampposts and starry banners crossed the streets.

    London Holiday Decorations

    The Story of Dick Whittington and His Cat,
    as told in Fortum & Mason's Chrismas window displays

    We trekked to the local tree lot and brought home a tall fir to decorate. Grand-boy was more interested in the salesman's hatchet than the tree, and decided that every fireman needs a yellow hatchet in his pack.

    Grocery shopping, cooking family recipes, celebrating traditional holidays with a new generation was an early Christmas gift. We had time in Paris and Strasbourg for our own adventures, but it doesn't get much better than chasing descendants around the walls of the Ding Ding Church.

    Friday
    Oct212011

    What I Did On My Fall Foliage Vacation

    I have been home from my New England adventures long enough to recover from jet lag, unpack the suitcases, and learn that what I thought was a fracture is a less serious -- but still mighty painful -- injury. It seems that Boston's famous cobblestones can be treacherous even on the warmest fall days.

    It had been a fabulous day beginning with a drive from Woodstock, Vermont into Boston where I spent the afternoon at one of my favorite Boston landmarks -- the New England Historic and Genealogical Society. I enjoyed seeing the newly-renovated entrance to NEHGS. It gives the building a fresh look with mature plantings and well-designed walkways and benches, and looks like it's already become a favorite resting place for visitors.

    IMG 2312

    After an hour or so doing look-ups in the stacks, I was happy to discover that the hard-working NEHGS staff was still on-site on Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend. I said hello to Brenton Simons, chatted with Tom Wilcox and Kelly McCoulf, and then enjoyed a tour of the archives floor with Tom Champoux and Alessandra Magno. I even had time for a visit with Judy Lucey to talk about donating to NEHGS and organizing home archives.

    What could be better? Dinner with Mr. Curator and a walk back to our hotel would have been a perfect way to end the day; instead I took a nasty tumble on the sidewalk resulting in a trip to the Emergency Room. Cuts and bruises were minor, but the diagnosis of a likely fractured elbow left me in a splint and sling for the duration of our trip. Fortunately, our next stop was my-nephew-the-doctor and his family who made sure I was well cared for, and entertained by their lively two and three year olds.

    We did get to all the great New England fall activities like apple picking, cider tasting, and pumpkin festivals, but avoided the local corn maze after hearing about the family who became lost in the Danvers maze and had to use their cell phones to call for help. Oh, and did I mention cemetery rambles? We got those in too.

    HewittvilleCemetery 11

    Then it was more driving to rendezvous with my son and family in New York where we enjoyed more apples, pumpkins, and a few hours at the New York Sheep & Wool Festival. These things DO have genealogical connections... I'll be getting to those in future posts, but for now I'll be keeping things on the shorter side and letting my arm get back to normal.

     

    Friday
    Jan282011

    Remember to Label Your Gear

    I learned the hard way last year that there was a Very Good Reason we had to label our stuff for camp. Mom always said I was a bad camper and never came home with everything I packed. I guess I haven't changed much because while attending the NGS Conference in Salt Lake City last spring, i managed to lose my flash drive at the Family History Library.

    It's the way of things that I didn't realize it was gone until the next time I went to the library and wanted to save some scanned images. Suddenly, I couldn't find it. The helpful staff directed me to the Lost and Found desk where the Sherlock Holmes of lost data drives brought out a plastic shoe box (yes, an entire shoe box) filled with orphaned USB sticks.

    This young man had opened each drive looking for identifying information. Of course, all I could say was that my drive would have files with "Winsor" or "Kansas" in the title. . . maybe. Fortunately, I must have been the only one with those names because he was able to pull out a drive and double-check with me to be sure it was the correct one.

    While we had the drive open, he showed me how to make a simple Text Edit file which would identify the drive when (note, I am not saying "if") I lost it again.

    Here are three ways to help you find a wayward flash drive:

    1. Rename the flash drive with your last name.

    Labeled Flashdrive.png

    2. Use your PC or Mac simple text editor to open a new document. Give it a few simple lines with your name and contact information, and name the file something like IF FOUND. It's a good idea to use your mobile phone number or email; something that you can easily check when you are out of town.

    Lev FlashDrive.png

    3. Stick a printed label on the outside of the drive. I print labels with my P-Touch Label Maker stick them on everything from my netbook (lost that one in the airport screening) to flash drives.

    With the Roots Tech Conference fast approaching, attendees are starting to think about their tech tools and gadgets for the event. My friend Joan Miller at Luxegen has started her packing list, and I am sure she will have everything neatly labeled. I wonder if Joan was a Girl Scout?

     

    Thursday
    Jul082010

    What I Use for What I Do

    GeneaBloggers has issued a “call to share” genealogy tech tools via a “What I Do” meme. I like Thomas MacEntee’s post today at Destination Austin Family because it addresses my nosier nature and answers that burning question, “Hey, what do you use to . .  ?.”

    More importantly, as Thomas notes, “this meme is important to the genealogy blogging community because it gives others an idea of how we achieve the genealogy "voodoo" that we do do so well.”

    I hope other genealogy bloggers will pick up the theme and share their tools as well, and remember to add a little biographical note to give context to the list.

    CV – Although I have used Apple Macs in the past, I now use PCs only, and rely on several PC-only software programs for some of my most essential tasks. I’ve added my specific favorites to the list in the Genealogy tool section.

    • Genealogy database: Legacy FamilyTree 7.4, RootsMagic 4
    • Genealogy tools:  Transcript, CensusTracker (couldn’t do without it)
    • Writing and Research Tools: Evernote for Desktop, Online, Blackberry, iPod Touch
    • Archive and Research Database: AskSam (full-text searchable for transcribed letters and documents from my family archive)
    • Photo Organization, Meta Tagging, and File Conversion: Adobe PhotoShop Elements 7.0 (for personal and family photos); Adobe Lightroom 2 (for genealogy photos, scanned images); XnView (free version, for quick review, splitting multi-page TIFF images into individual JPGs, other tasks)
    • PDF generator: PDF Creator (easy and free)
    • Blog: SquareSpace (not free, but loaded with features and great spam filters)
    • Car audio: whatever’s in my car!
    • Other tech stuff: audiobooks from Audible.com and my local public library

    Thanks for the great topic, Thomas.

    

    Wednesday
    May132009

    Family Curator Visits NEHGS Spring Research Getaway 2009, Part 3: Researching at NEHGS

    Note: This is Part 3 of a three-part review "Family Curator Visits NEHGS Spring Research Getaway 2009" focusing on the three-day program and the one-on-one consultation sessions.
    Part 1: Preparing to Research
    Part 2:Consulting with the Experts

    Three full days of research at the New England Historical Genealogical Society Library may sound like quite a bit of research time, but it is not surprising that it is still not quite enough. Day One I spent mostly in consultations with the NEHGS experts. The Library was open in the evening, but I left about 5pm to join my husband for dinner, and did not take advantage of the extra research time.

    I vowed to be Focused on Day Two, and went to work immediately after Josh Taylor's excellent presentation on source citation. I have always been a "browser" and took full advantage of the library's open stack policy to examine the volumes on hand for my localities of interest. A handy photocopy machine made quick work of copies for my records, and then I was off to the microtext room where I was pleased to discover the full-text films of the Vermont probate records. Julie Otto helped me conquer my fear of film machines and before long I was making digital copies of the films to examine more closely when I returned home.

    Day Three promised considerable progress, but I had to leave the program at noon and could only attend the morning lecture by Judy Lacey on manuscripts in the HisGen archive collection. Her excellent presentation gave me so many ideas for further research: I would like to return and examine some of the letters, diaries, and journals in the collection with an eye toward finding friends or relatives of my ancestors. I was awed by the extent of the Society's collection; there will be wonderful discoveries in the years to come from this archive.

    So, what will I research on my NEXT visit?

    Local Histories
    Maps and Gazetteers
    Manuscript Collection
    more Family Histories
    Probate Records
    Military Records

    I was determined to use NEHGS resources that are unique to the Library, yet I found myself reading microfilms (can't I get these elsewhere?) and examining various printed volumes. When I returned home and did an internet search at World Cat for the same volumes I found that I would have to request the films from the local LDS Family History Center or visit NEHGS! This reaffirmed my appreciation for the HisGen collection, and made me more than a bit jealous for those researchers who live within easy driving distance of the library. I was also pleased that I had been able to use the digital copy machine to make copies of the microfilms I examined; this will give me many more hours of research time from home as I transcribe documents with the aid to computer enhanced images.

     

    Of course, the online databases also provide unique access to the NEHGS collections. I have found my ancestors in the Rhode Island Vital Records Index, in the Newspaper Archive collection, and in various other digitized resources. The recent addition the indexed TAG articles with The NEHGS Register make this resource indispensable for any researcher working with New England records.

    My experience at HisGen not only extended my pedigree, it also helped me feel confident to tackle research elsewhere. I think this was one of the greatest benefits of the program, I practiced "learning to learn." Thank you NEHGS.

    Wednesday
    May062009

    Family Curator Visits NEHGS Spring Research Getaway 2009, Part 2: Consulting with the Experts

     

    Note: This is Part 2 of a three-part review "Family Curator Visits NEHGS Spring Research Getaway 2009" focusing on the three-day program and the one-on-one consultation sessions. In "Part 1: Preparation" I address some of my own questions before attending the program and review registration and pre-event preparation. In Part 3, I will discuss research opportunities at NEGHS.

     

    Mention "bricks" to a genealogist, and the image of a brick wall appears, followed by proposed strategies for climbing or demolishing the obstacle. But there is another use for bricks as well, one used with great care and skill by the staff at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. My experience at the 2009 Spring Getaway demonstrated the value of building a firm research foundation that can withstand any amount of weight as the evidence grows, brick upon brick.

    Day One of the program, attendees met in the second floor education center the library. Conversation was already lively when I arrived and the room full of participants and friendly staff members. The program began with introductions from each member of the entire staff. I had stopped by briefly the day before and met a few people; it was helpful to see them again and put a name with a face. Staff members introduced themselves and explained their responsibilities at the Society or outlined their areas of expertise. From Event Coordinator, to Archivist, to Genealogist, to CEO, the entire staff were present to offer their assistance.

    Then it was the participants' turn to briefly introduce themselves and their goals for the session. Attendees came from New England, Tennessee, West Virginia, New York, Colorado, and California. Some participants had also attended the NEHGS research trip to Washington D.C. and were now ready to conduct more research at the Society Library.

    Marie Daly, Library Director, opened the lecture series with a virtual tour of the library collections. The Library itself is spread out over six floors in an former bank building on Newbury Street in Boston's Back Bay. The old teller's windows are still visible in the wood-panelled Reading Room on the first floor, but a modern elevator eases access between floors. The second floor holds the Education Center, a spacious room well-equipped for audio-visual presentations, receptions, and meetings; and the third floor holds Staff and Administrative offices. The Society's collections are housed on the first floor (International Books), fourth floor (microtext documents), fifth floor (local history), fifthA Floor (special collections), and sixth floor (open stacks and reading room). Marie's armchair tour was an efficient way to become familiar with the general layout of the library and the collections.

    Following the lecture, participants were invited to sign up for individual consultations with the HisGen resident experts, what Ryan Woods likened to the legendary "Running of the Bulls." Good manners ruled the day, and I found open appointment times even as one of the last to sign the sheets. I was especially impressed with the staff's good-natured willingness to assist attendees at unscheduled times, and found them to be helpful and patient with my questions.

    My consultation schedule for the first day was rather full, but it left me with lots of ideas for research on the second day, and a few remaining consultations. I was able to meet individually with several NEHGS staff members during the program, and look forward to working with the experts I missed in the future, among them Marie Daly, David Dearborn, David Lambert, Michael Leclerc, Gary Boyd Roberts, and Tim Sallis.

    First, I spoke with Joshua Taylor from the Research Services Department, who offered his experience with technology and website creation. We discussed copyright protection through PDF watermarks and he gave me some ideas for design and marketing with The Family Curator blog.

    Later in the day I met with Judy Lucey, Assistant Archivist, to discuss preserving my own collection of family papers and photographs. It seems that as much as I have read about preservation, I still had questions, and it was helpful to talk pointedly with an expert in the field. Judy told me about HisGen's own archival protocol for working with historic photographs, and suggested some ways that I could economically and easily organize my collections.

    I was organizing my papers (and my thoughts) in the sixth floor reading room, when D. Brenton Simons, President and CEO of the Society stopped to chat. I was so glad to have the opportunity to talk with him about publishing opportunities for my research, and hope to pursue some of these ideas in the future.

    I also met with Julie Otto, Genealogist, and solicited her help over and over in my attempts to master the microfilm reader and scanner. Eureka! We did it. Julie is a phenomenol resource with unlimited enthusiasm. She seems to know just where to find any probate record or local history, and was always ready to help, even during a late-night, last-night marathon session. It was fun to discover that we were nearly born in the same hospital (Queen of Angels, Los Angeles) during the same week of the same year (I'm not telling!). Maybe genealogy was in the stars that year!

    My final "official" consultation was with Rhonda McClure, one of my favorite authors. I showed Rhonda the first few pages of a 1852 court case that had me stumped: Heirs of James Winsor vs. Calvin French et. al. With some deciphering, we determined that my ancestor James Winsor, appeared to be "intemperate" (i.e. a man who liked his liquor) and that after his death his estate had been presented with many bills, among them bills to his father-in-law who seems to have paid for his "board and other things" for nearly two years. Funds were deposited in a Rhode Island bank from the sale of Vermont property, and any number of claims and settlements seem to have been litigated. I had been focusing on researching the problem in Vermont, but Rhonda encouraged me to pursue Rhode Island connections, opening the door to a wealth of available documentation and research. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and I left our discussion charged for action.

    I had only one more "Have to meet" on my list, and I was able to find Chris Childs in a free moment to explain a "Childs" research problem. My mother and I met Chris briefly at last year's Southern California Genealogy Jamboree in Burbank, and Mom was sure that "of course he's our cousin" Chris Childs would know just how "our Fanny Childs" fit in the big picture. We knew our ancestor Henry Winsor had married Fanny Childs, but we couldn't find her parents. With information from Aunt Mercy about Fanny's supposed father David Childs, Chris found her in the Childs, Childe family genealogy book; the problem was that she was young enough to be his grand-daughter. Aunt Mercy's note about a second wife gave us a clue, and by searching her name we found a likely family in the next census where the widowed mother was living with a child Fanny's age. A wonderful push in the right direction, thanks to Chris' knowledge and work with the Child/Childe family line. As icing on the cake, Chris then showed me the connection in Ancestors of American Presidents by Gary Boyd Roberts with charts prepared in part by Christopher Challender Child from originals by Julie Helen Otto. It would seem that Fanny is leading us on to other family connections. Maybe Aunt Mercy knew a thing or two after all.

    In his introductory remarks, Ryan Woods noted that availability and expertise of the NEHGS staff is one of the hallmarks of HisGen programs, and I must add my applause to his remarks. The knowledge, enthusiasm, and patience of each genealogist and staff member I met excelled my expectations. My philosophy for attending workshops, classes, seminars is simple, "If I learn one new thing, it's worth the price of admission." Sometimes, I learn two new things, and feel elated. I attended the Spring Research Getaway hoping to learn one or two new things about researching my New England ancestors; my experience showed that the program was a bargain. I learned foundation-building skills that are invaluable, met scores of helpful, knowledgeable people, and feel confident to tackle the next research goal with enthusiasm and focus.

    Read More about NEHGS Spring Getaway

    Part 1: Preparing to Research

    Part 3: Researching at NEHGS

     

     

     

    Tuesday
    May052009

    Tech Tuesday: How to Sky Surf


    In-flight web surfing is now a reality. . . for a small admittance fee (of course). I was surprised to discover on my last flight from JFK to LAX that American Airlines was one of four carriers now offering Gogo inflight internet, on some routes.

    The service works as a wireless hotspot providing internet access for email, websurfing, live news and more. Gogo works with mobile phones and laptops equipped with Wi-Fi, including BlackBerry, iPhone, and Windows Mobil. Pricing varies by flight length and device. For example, the Gogo Mobile Flight Pass for cell phones is $7.95, while the cost for laptop is $9.95 for flights shorter than 3 hours, and $12.95 for flights 3 hours or longer.

    Although I didn't sample the service on my netbook or BlackBerry, it was obvious that my fellow passengers were enjoying the service. A man across the aisle viewed streaming video on his iPhone and one row up another passenger surfed the web and appeared to be logging in for email.

    The Gogo website notes AirCanada will soon be joining American, Delta, United, and Virgin America in offering the service. Routes are somewhat limited at present, mostly between JFK and San Francisco or Los Angeles for American and United. Delta plans to have over 300 routes available by the end of the year, and Virgin America offers service on several routes west/east, and west/northwest.

    When it comes to those extra flight charges, Gogo is less expensive than checking a bag. Travel light!

    Tuesday
    Apr282009

    Tech Tuesday: Tips for Travel and More on Lojack for Laptops

     

    I have just returned from a 12-day trip which included genealogy research in Boston at NEHGS and family time in the Hudson Valley and Manhattan. As I mentioned last week, my research was nearly sidetracked by a lost laptop, but Dear Mr. Curator saved the day with a replacement, and I have learned quite a bit from the experience.

     

    First, when traveling alone, limit your carry-on baggage. With many airlines now charging a fee for checked bags, it's certainly frugal to carry on whatever you can; but, losing items can be an expensive alternative. When I went through the security checkpoint at LAX, I was instructed to place my items in four separate bins -- shoes, jacket, purse, laptop. I also had a small carry-on bag. At some point, that last bin was stopped in the scanner and in the confusion of reassembling my gear, I turned away from that last bin. When I returned to the line, the laptop was gone. Security and airport police could only run the taped video, but as I didn't want to miss my plane, I couldn't wait. I didn't know that I had to be there in person for the search to take place; this was something I found out later when I called security. As angry as I was with my own inattention, there is much to be said for staying focused as you go through security. The confusion and commotion are pretty distracting, and it is hard enough to keep track of boarding pass, ID, shoes, coat, and any other items.

    Second, be aware of any purchase protection services that may cover your loss. I was glad to discover that my new HP mini-notebook was covered from theft or loss by my American Express card purchase within the 90-day window. AmEx requires paperwork and approval, but hopefully I will be reimbursed for the loss. If I had been past the 90-day coverage, I may have filed a claim with our homeowners insurance and paid the $100 deductible charge to replace the laptop. When our sons left home for college, we added computer coverage to our insurance and were glad to have it in force when laptops were a big-ticket item some years ago.

    Third, carry your data on a flash drive separately from the laptop. I was SO GLAD that my genealogy data was on a little flash drive in my purse. This meant that even if I hadn't replaced my laptop, all was not lost. The only downside for me was that I was unable to access my Legacy data without the program itself. With the replacement laptop, however, I was able to log on to the internet, download Legacy and then open my file. I wouldn't be surprised if more genealogy software companies imitate Roots Magic with the Roots Magic To Go feature in the future. This would be a lifesaver.

    During my first session with Joshua Taylor, computer guru at NEHGS, I explained my mis-adventures and laughingly said I needed something like a lojack for laptops. Without blinking, Joshua said that he had used exactly such a service, and it's called just that "Lojack for Laptops."

    The subscriptions service registers your laptop and is activated when notified that the computer is lost or stolen. Standard service tracks the laptop for recovery; premium service also activates a command to securely delete data on the computer remotely the first time the computer is connected to the internet. Mr. Curator thinks this would be worth the price of admission if I travel again!!!

     

     

    Tuesday
    Apr212009

    Tech Tuesday: Needed--Leash for Laptops

    This week's regular Tech Tues column will be brief: avert Genealogical Disaster by carrying data on a flash drive that is NOT with the computer.



    More on "Lojack for Laptops" and "How to Replace a Lost Laptop when Travelling" next time.



    P.S. -- why do I feel that I am in one of Penelope Dreadful's tales?

    Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed

    Thursday
    Apr162009

    Hint, hint

     

    Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed

     

    Wednesday
    Apr152009

    Where is the Family Curator?

     

    On location for research... Guess where?

    Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed

     

    Thursday
    Mar122009

    How Did I Miss?: Weirdness in your own backyard


    New England researchers and other lovers of weirdness take note of The New England Anomaly: Weirdness in your own backyard, The Journal of Unusual Folklore, History and Lifestyle in the American Northeast.

    My favorite of the day, Rate a Shack: We risk our guts so you don't have to! I see that this will be a bookmarked site for my next trip to New England. Flo's Clam Shack in Middletown, RI looks promising!

    Current news and events on the New England Anomaly Newsblog includes more recent postings such as "Breaking the leapfrog record in Willimantic" Conn.

    Thursday
    Aug212008

    Story Hour at the Drive-Thru Window


    Once upon a time. . . two confused Californians were whizzing through a little town in the far northern reaches of Vermont looking for a blacksmith. . .

    Why did they want a blacksmith?" you might ask, for their trusty rental automobile surely did not need new shoes. But that's another story.
    Anyway, as the visitors drove through Hardwick they spotted an old brick building on the street corner. It was clearly a noble Bank at one time, offering financial accommodations to the funds of local businessmen and farmers. The Bank must have moved on to new virtual space or loftier headquarters, and the brick building became a bookstore offering literary enlightenment to the townspeople. A drive ran along the structure's side, right to a window declaring
    "The Story Teller Drive-Up Window"
    In the way of most good stories, it took a while to get back to the treasure; that is, the visitors still had to find that blacksmith. . . but, later in the day. . . before leaving the little town, they made a special point to visit the Drive-Up Story Teller.

    By that time of day, the weather had changed from humid and sticky to humid and wet. The rain was falling in big drops as their car pulled up to the window and they asked the sweet lady for a story. She laughed, trilled really, and leaned in to the metal box to speak.

    "I can't tell you a story," she said. "But, I can sell you a book."
    Cruel words for the fantasy-starved.
    "What?" the travellers cried, incredulously. "No story?"
    "No," she replied.
    "But it says right there," they added, pointing to the sign over the window, "Drive Up Story Teller."
    "No, no," the lady corrected. "This is The Story-Teller's Drive-Up Window. Bank Teller, Story Teller. Would you like to buy a book?"
    Perhaps the residents of Hardwick, Vermont are actually lucky to have The Story Teller offering a Drive-Up Window. Instead of a quick story, they can buy a good weekend read without having to get their pajamas wet in the rain and snow. Maybe that's the Vermont version of living "Happily Ever After."

    Wednesday
    Aug202008

    About that Maine Lobster


    Sometimes a family historian has to step into the present day and pause for a look at events that may be history tomorrow. While most people are tuned in to the what's happening in the water in Beijing at the Summer Olympic Games, lobstermen in Maine are watching the Atlantic water and probably shaking their heads.

    No, this isn't a foodie blog, but readers who have been following along on my New England rambles, may have noted a running lobster commentary. Before leaving Los Angeles on August 10, I noted a small newspaper article reporting on the drop in fresh lobster prices. It seems that the high fuel costs were contributing to higher trapping expenses for lobstermen and less tourists to purchase live lobster when dining out. The result was an expected price drop for retail live lobster.

    If you enjoy these delicious crustaceans, you probably know that restaurants rarely quote a price on the menu. Typically, fresh lobster is sold at "Market" price, cost plus the restaurant's markup and preparation expense. We paid the not-too-high Maine restaurant price of $14-$16 for a fresh lobster roll, and $20-$25 for a steamed 1-1/2 lb. lobster. Probably on the low side of restaurant market price.

    Local home cooks, however, must be enjoying the dramatic price drop in lobster available at dockside markets. This sign on Commercial Street along the Portland harbor says it all: Lobster $5.49/lb. Lobstermen and their families must be having a rough time of it these days.

    Only one year ago, a lobster shortage pushed retail prices to over $15/lb, estimated to be at an all-time high by The Sun Journal Maine newspaper.

    Harsh winter weather, abnormally cold water temperatures and the timing of fishing seasons are blamed for the shortage. "Everything that can go wrong has gone wrong," said Peter McAleney, owner of New Meadows Lobster. . .
    "When it falls, it's going to fall hard," he said.
    And it sure has fallen. Hopefully, lobstermen will weather the times and be around for next season, but this may be the stuff that goes down in the record books as the lean summer of 2008. Spread the word, support the lobster industry and EAT MORE LOBSTER!

    Sunday
    Aug172008

    Maine-ly More Lobster

    Ok, ok, maybe it's cruel, but have you ever seen anything more yummy than fresh Maine lobster with farm-ripened corn on the cob? Especially when it's enjoyed dockside with your favorite people?