Boat or Bikini?

August holds a special place for me, especially August 1st. Yes, it is summer, but for many of my childhood and teen years, it was when my family would leave for vacation in the Southampton Shores community on eastern Long Island. My recollections of Southampton Shores go back to the mid-1950s although my parents started going there and the general vicinity before I was born.  Unlike the “old wealth” of the Southampton village oceanfront, the areas along Peconic Bay were very middle class in those days and the homes or “cottages” almost exclusively seasonal.


The anticipation for our leaving was analogous to the days right before Christmas for my older sister and me. Although the cottages we stayed in had more than the bare necessities, it seemed my mother was packing for an overseas trip of a year or more. Years later as adults, my sister and I would laugh while reminiscing how we had to be “dressed up” for the trip.  One reason for this was some years we would stop for lunch at the Liberty Inn located in what was then the rural, hamlet of Ridge. Those also were different times. You were out in public and people were far more conscious of how they dressed.

On this roughly two-hour journey which was prior to expressways and parkways extending too far out on eastern Long Island, the signs and sounds of suburbia were displaced by the quiet of woods and smell of grassy  fields and eventually the waters of the bays and salt ponds came into view.

In those early years, my dad rented a rowboat from the nearby marina and with our Dad’s 5 hp outboard motor along with the house owner’s smaller boat served our fishing and recreational boating needs. Eventually, my dad bought a boat and subsequently a slightly larger 16 ft. boat with a 40 hp motor in 1963.

Clearly, Southampton Shores was heaven to me. I never tired of it. There was fishing, swimming, clamming and crabbing along with trips to the ocean beaches and the docks where you might see the catches of commercial or recreational fishing boats. There was also a drive-in theater in nearby Bridgehampton which seemed like going on a camping trip.

Television?  Who really needed it unless you had a rainy day when we normally did something else like a puzzle or a card game?  Besides, you might get one station from Connecticut or on occasion, a second station with a fuzzy picture.

I honestly think our family dog (a beagle named Pino after the cartoon character Pinocchio) enjoyed himself as much as anyone else. This suburban canine had one month of chasing rabbits and the freedom to wander through high grass and swim with the benefit of no lease laws which weren’t necessary anyway.  I would grab a fishing pole to walk down the beach to fish, and he would simply follow along.

As I approached my late teen years, I had combined my interest in marine science and boats with Southampton Shores into some sort of dream of working somewhere on eastern Long Island as a marine biologist riding around in a  26 ft. Lyman boat, but also chasing after pretty girls in bikinis.

This plan had some built-in deficiencies. First off, employment opportunities for much of anything in those years on eastern Long Island were limited.    By the mid and late 1960s, few manufacturers were still building wooden boats although Lyman still did. However, a boat that size was not inexpensive! Lastly, I was shy at that age when it came to girls so I do not think the “bikini-chasing” would have worked out all that well, either.

So, let us fast-forward. I did earn degrees in Oceanography and Biology and although my professional career was about 98% involved with freshwater fish and water quality, I did get to complete a few “saltwater” projects as an environmental consultant.

My sister purchased a house in Southampton Shores in the early 1980s close to where we used to rent. Sadly, she passed away in 2015, but through some interesting circumstances, our daughter is living and working nearby. Thus, the connection to Southampton Shores dating back roughly 70 years remains.

As for the bigger boat? Alas, that never came to be. That same 16-footer, however, spent roughly 25 years in my sister’s garage, and I knew it was in fairly good shape, but I wanted to find it a home, if possible. As I stared at the boat more and more, it was like looking at an old friend.  I decided to keep it and see if I could get it fixed up. It took a few phone calls and some internet surfing before I was directed to someone who wanted to do the restoration work. The work is almost complete. Sadly, I am the only family member left to know the true meaning of seeing her float again. That will be a story for another time.

Then there is the last part: the pretty girls in bikinis. That one did work out because I wound up with a very pretty, blonde in a bikini with whom I have been married the last 37 plus years. Besides sailing together briefly, this part had nothing to do with the boat being restored – not yet anyway.

Note:  Today’s entry was written by my husband, Russell, who documented his favorite month of the year:  August.  Thank you to this talented guest blogger.  He’s a pearl of great value and a romantic.







Posted in August Holidays, bikini clad blondes, Long Island, ocean, Oceanography, recreational boats, Southampton Shores, wooden boat restoration | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Our Musical Adventure in Prague!

Fond music memories from Prague. Maestro Heinz Ferlesch conducted Dvorak’s Stabat Mater in the Zofin Palace with the Berkshire Choral International.

Dr. Mary Ann Niemczura

One year ago my husband and I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. The trip took us to an unexpected layover in Frankfurt, then on to Prague, Helsinki and Vienna. Singing with the Berkshire Choral International in Prague, we began learning the score of Dvorak’s Stabat Mater and later practiced with CDs, sometimes filling our house with music for hours daily.

We allowed a few extra days for sightseeing in Prague before the Berkshire week commenced with about 5 hours of singing daily. Choristers from 7 countries numbered 163. Added were apprentices, faculty and native Czech singers so our ranks swelled to more than 175. The Bohemian Symphony Orchestra accompanied us and had some 80 members. Additionally, we had 4 wonderful soloists. Maestro Heinz Ferlesch of Vienna, Austria conducted us daily.

The venue for the August 10, 2019 performance was the Zofin Palace and where Dvorak also performed his

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A Startling Sight!


Lush greens, full leaves, taller now.

At times, the garden seems to grow

as if by magic overnight.  Good things come

to those who wait patiently.  By habit


I check our gardens and herbs.  A

new visitor, unwelcome by reputation,

appeared on the driveway by the

parked car.  Tan fur, funny, flat tail.


Who are you?  What are you doing here?

Cautiously still, we observed one

another.  Who is going to make the

first move?   Hiding under the car?


Startled by this stranger, I hoped

my husband might catch a glimpse.

Alas, he missed the odd visitor.  On

short, squat muscular legs, it scurried


away.  In quick fashion.  We could not

see where it meandered.  Could not

find a hole large enough for it to use.

A woodchuck I declared.  Was I certain?


Had it been a cat?  No indeed.  This

was an astonishing sight unseen

around our gardens before. No

return visits yet.  Our vegetables are


enclosed and fenced in.  Had the

gate been left open?  Negative.

Mr. Woodchuck was out of sight and

out of mind.  Our gardens safe for now.


Posted in lush garden greens, odd encounter, woodchuck | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

My Advice to Younger Generations


Parental example is a powerful teaching tool. 

Passing down our wisdom to future generations

is a time-honored tradition.  My Dad asked us questions

and taught us how to think ahead, to problem solve,


and to work hard.  Our mother taught us a love

for reading, writing, and gave us the best gift

of all:  piano lessons.  Music is food for the soul

and lasts a lifetime.  Education was highly valued.


Our parents read aloud to us daily.  At dinner,

we were asked about our day at school. It saddens

me that the art of cursive writing seems no longer

taught.  Texting has its place but can never


replace the wonderful tactile experience

of holding real books, turning pages and

reading aloud to our young people.  Libraries

offer story time.  Bring your children.  Allow


them to select books which interest them.

Make religion, philosophy, or meditation

part of your family life.  Learn a foreign language

beginning in elementary school.  Spend more


time playing family board games and less on

television and computers.  Spend time in nature

no matter the weather.  Journal.  Look through family

photo albums and talk about family history.


Involve children in 4H activities which include

both city and country groups.  Bring your children

to museums and symphony concerts.  My parents

gave us a love of learning.  No one can take your


education away.  Planting a garden allows kids

to learn about growing seasons, and a variety of

flowers and vegetables.  Teaching children how

to cook and sew are invaluable skills in life. 


Travel is a great educator.  Learning about

geography, history, cultures, countries, peoples,

and languages.  Remember to do your best are

words we heard often.  Work hard in life!



Posted in 4H activities, advice to future generations, be out in nature, parental example, travel | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Quite the Assemblage


Mr. Chipmunk bounced ahead of me down the walkway.

I found his hideout under the raised bed of herbs.

Hiding in the shadows.  Discovered and photographed.

Quite the assemblage of activity in our birdhouses.


Well hidden in the hibiscus bush, the robins

built a concealed nest.  Stealthily they feed their offspring.

Above on the wires, Mrs. Robin watches us.  Beak

full of worms for her young. Warning sounds.


We retreat from the front porch to allow

her to safely feed her hatchlings.  Pardon us!

The squirrels pay no heed as they scour the ground

for something to nibble on.   More activity in


the three-story birdhouse where the sparrows

have taken up residence.  Rivalry between the

sparrows and wrens continues.  Ongoing preparations

to gather something to feed the young birds.


The cycles of life fascinate and capture our eyes

and ears.  We yield to our creatures of nature to

allow them to go about their normal activities. 

My Dad taught me well.  He allowed the robins


to nest in our apple trees undisturbed.  He never

sprayed the trees so we had no apples to eat.

His “live and let live” principles guided us. The

Cub scouts picked up apples from the ground


to feed horses.  My Dad is also the one who would

pick up worms from the driveway after a rainstorm and

place them back into the lawn.  He taught us about

kindness, caring and love by his life’s examples.


Posted in chipmunks, hibiscus bush, life cycles, live and let live, Mrs. Robin, my Dad | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

What Are Your Plans?


Grill a hamburger or two?

Fly the red, white, and blue?


Friends galore.  What’s in store?

Perhaps you prefer a hot dog


after a morning jog?  Your plans?

Chips, potato salad; what’s in the pan?


No matter.  With two or more,

there’s surely to be fun galore.


As for me, rest, and relaxation.

Waving to neighbors and a word


or two in passing is mighty fine.

What are your plans this July 4th?


Grilling?  Roasting marshmallows?

Watching a parade and paying


tribute to a veteran?  The hammock

awaits.  Time to recline.  Happy 4th!


Posted in A tribute to veterans, Happy Fourth of July!, Independence Day | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

My Talking Trees


When I peruse my garden flowers, bushes, and trees,

it is almost as if we communicate with one another.  So

much beauty to behold in nature.  Therapy.  As if on

cue, I spy a new color and hear the rustle as the


branches sway in the breeze.  Trees speak in a

confidential manner.  Listen!  They whisper to

one another as they notice my presence.  Lest

I forget who really owns the flowers, the birds


chirp incessantly the closer I get to their space!

As if to tell me to stay away from the nests and

birdhouses.  My husband sought shade near the

river birch tree and was shooed away.  I found


him sitting under the apple trees instead.  Our fine

feathered friends inform us as to where we

should be.  After all, it is their domain.  Amusing

how we attempt to co-exist in peace.  Retreating


to his usual spot on the front porch, my husband

noticed a very hungry chipmunk busy chomping

on a geranium blossom.  Did you ever wonder

what all the creatures think of human beings?


Often, I mistake a chipmunk chirp for a bird.

I must focus and listen carefully.  After

dark when I check the yard, I am entertained by

a hopping rabbit.  It has a favorite spot


near the apple trees.  Too early for apples to

fall on the ground!  Meanwhile, Mr. Chipmunk

scampers nimbly and playfully across the short

garden wall.  I take time to smell the roses too.


As I photographed some of the pink beauties,

my head hit the birdhouse above.  Well, I was

loudly informed by the wren inhabitants.  I

beat a hasty retreat and quietly watched indoors.



Vocalizations include chips, chucks, and trilling alarm calls. In fact, chipmunks are so talkative, and their high-pitched communications are so ubiquitous, many people mistake them for bird calls. Click and listen:

Posted in chipmunk, Mother Nature, talking trees, therapy | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Do You Keep a Journal?


Who journals in cursive penmanship?

The teacher in me smiles when I notice

a young person who writes in cursive script.

The day our pen pal letters arrived from Germany,

was revealing in my German classes.


Many students remarked that the students

in Germany had such beautiful handwriting.

And they wrote using a fountain pen and ink.

Some of my students asked what a fountain

pen was. They used ballpoint pens or pencil.


Cursive writing is good for the brain and improves

fine motor skills.  My own note taking in college

involved cursive writing.  The skill is one I still

use today from the ordinary shopping lists or

reminder notes.   In my early teaching career,


students wrote homework assignments in

cursive.  Imagine how surprised I was to learn

that some students no longer learned cursive

writing in elementary grades.  From time to time

I am asked to translate from German.  Some


want to know what family documents such as birth

certificates mean in English. Anyone who has

ever read a handwritten letter from a grandparent,

knows one must adapt to a particular writing

style.  Often, I had to read through and write out


words before getting to word meanings.  The art

of translation has been an enjoyable pursuit for

me over the years.  There is a sense of satisfaction

at being able to provide the English to a last will

and testament for the lawyer or family member.


Let’s go back to my initial question of who uses

cursive handwriting.  I do.  I learned how in first

grade in Massachusetts.  Our mail carrier who hails

from Jamaica learned it in first grade. She arrived here

in fifth grade.  Personally, I find that writing in


cursive allows me to be more creative. My journal

accompanies me to the park for a walk.  Also, to

many waiting rooms where I can jot down thoughts,

reflections, or even questions. Handwriting is a

vital life skill.  Better than blank staring at screens.


Posted in cursive penmanship, fine motor skills, German students, pen pal letters, writing a journal | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Far From the Hullabaloo


Stop the feud!  Time to get along!

The English sparrows have sparred

for days over whose bird house is

theirs.  A big fat sparrow clung


to a stick which came from inside

the house.  He tried to lay claim.

The house wrens had other thoughts.

Surrounding the sparrow from


all sides, they took turns diving down

swiftly from upper tree branches.  Each

blow to its head was met with unwavering

determination.  The sparrow stubbornly


refused to budge.  Thus, the skirmish

continued for days with the fat sparrow

surviving repeated blows to its head.

We took matters into our own hands to see


if we could get the battle to cease.

We mounted another bird house,

a larger one, to a different branch.

It seemed to work momentarily.


The tiny wren assumed ownership

of the smaller bird house.  After each

rainfall, it is enjoyable to watch the parade

unfold:  squirrels climbing branches,


chipmunks scampering about, a rabbit hopping

in our neighbor’s yard, birds flitting back and

forth.  Trees sway in the breeze to proffer

the music.    Let the parade begin!


It seems that Mrs. Robin had other thoughts

and found the perfect spot to build her nest

camouflaged in the hibiscus bush.  She prefers

to be far from the hullabaloo of the others.


Posted in Ensligh sparrows, feuding birds, house wrens, Mrs. Robin, our hullabaloo | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments



It was a glorious day and perfect weather this Memorial Day.  What great walking weather too.  I donned my walking shoes and began walking on Old Sag Harbor Road.  Normally, the area is peaceful, and today was no different. (Or so I thought.)  I sipped some water from the bottle I carry with me.  The route I decided to take crossed over Water Mill Road and followed along a road called Broadway.


Investigating further, I came upon a grassy circle at the end.  It was then I heard a noise.  I stopped to look around and listen when I came upon her:  Mama Turkey crouched down with her babies.  That’s when the trouble started!


Mama Turkey popped up and started charging at me. (It’s not nice to mess with Mama Turkey with her babies!)  I had to full on sprint away when it decided to fly after me. (On land, wild turkeys are surprisingly fast and can reach a speed of 25 mph.  In the air, they can reach a speed of 60 mph.)    After all, I was the intruder, the interloper if you will.   I skedaddled.

IMG_1829(2) - Copy

At that point, I thought I was going to be attacked and was ready to throw my water bottle.  I ran as fast as I could to escape her wrath.  She finally left me alone, but my heart rate went too high.  Lesson learned.  I fully intend to stay away from that street next walk I take.  She was just protecting her young.  Her instincts kicked in to dissuade me from ever coming near again!


Note: Today’s post features our daughter Emily’s account of her unusual walk. Thank you, Emily.

Posted in Mama Turkey, offspring, taking a walk | Tagged , , | 16 Comments