Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Old Mill Flashback

As a crow flies, it might be a five minute bike-flight to the Old Mill from their cottage. But Nate figured it would probably take at least twice as long to get there on the ground. You had to follow Hillside Road past his cottage, then make a left onto Mountain Road and stay on that road for a while. He’d only been by the turn off for the Old Mill in the car when his father was driving. 

He overheard his older brothers talking about riding their bikes there when he came into the barn to put air in his tires.

“Can I come too?” he asked.

“Nope, you’re too little and it’s too far,” they'd told him. 

But he followed them anyway.  Nate peddled as fast as his legs would go to keep close enough to hear them, but far enough back that they couldn’t see him. They always left him out; he’d just turned eight and they weren’t that much older at eleven and twelve. 

Trees rose from the ground on both sides of the road, one after another, only inches from the pavement, and formed a canopy over-head so thick the sky was blocked from view. Nate wiped sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand and wished he’d brought his water bottle. 

When Nate rounded the next bend, he saw them turn onto a gravel road. Stopping his bike, he glanced around, taking a deep breath and stepping from one foot to the other. This was the farthest he’d ridden from the cottage and all he could see in every direction were trees. 

He turned down the gravel road hoping they hadn’t gotten too far ahead. The Old Mill came into view after a few minutes and as he got closer, he saw their bikes leaning against the building by a set of double doors that were ajar.

The old building looked like it was ready to fall down. It listed to one side, rustic old boards and wood chips littered the ground around it, and the two windows he could see had no glass. 

Leaving his bike by the water wheel he crept forward and cautiously peeked inside the doors.

“Hey, what’re you doin’ here?” Chris said, spotting him. “You weren’t suppos’ ta follow us.”

“I ’m old ‘nuff,” he replied, lifting his chin a notch higher.

“Hey Chris, maybe he wants to see the kittens we found in the back room,” Sam said, elbowing him.

“Oh, yeah. Nate, there’s some kittens back here. Come and see,” Chris said giggling as he led Nate to the small room at the back of the building.

Nate stepped into the storage room and his brothers slammed the door and locked it.

“That’ll teach ya’ to follow us.”

“Hey, lemme’ out,” Nate said banging on the door.

He could hear them laughing. “We’re leavin’ now. Bye.”

He looked around the small room. There were no kittens. He saw a window, but it was too high for him to reach. Nate sat down and tried not to cry, but it was no use. Big fat tears slid down his cheeks and he gulped great breaths of air as he looked around and tried to think of a way out.  Surely they would come back for him.

Hugging his legs to his chest, he put his head down on his knees.  Then he heard her.

“Look around you. See the boxes. If you stack them, you could reach the window.”

He looked around. There was no one there. But Nate closed his eyes tightly and in his mind he could see her. Long dark hair pulled back with a ribbon, about his age, in a long blue dress with ruffles at the sleeves. The same girl that had helped him when he fell out of the apple tree and broke his leg. She had sat with him then until his grandfather found him. He couldn’t see her, but had felt her presence beside him. Just like now.

He stood and pushed the wooden boxes next to the window, then stacked them one on top of the other. He’d stopped crying, but was shaking as he moved two more boxes next to the three, then another box beside that, making stairs to the window. He rubbed his leg before he started climbing. 

Balancing on the top box, he could reach the window sill. He found a smooth place and pulled himself up, climbing with his feet on the wall, got one leg over the sill and brought himself up to a straddle position. There was no other way than to fall to the ground outside. Nate gave a shove and pushed himself away from the wall, falling on his backside in the wood chips below.

“You still there, girl” he said out loud, brushing the chips off his legs. “Hey? Girl? Well, thanks.”

There was no answer. 

He ran to where he had left his bike.  He’d been afraid they would hide it from him and then he’d have to walk all the way home, but it was still there.

Nate peddled as fast as he could to the end of the gravel road, then screeched to a stop. Which way should he go? He was turned around. He looked at the ground and saw the bicycle tracks heading left, so he turned in that direction and rode like the wind. It seemed to take forever, but he finally saw the turnoff from Mountain Road to Hillside Drive and home. 

Boy, were his brothers ever going to get into trouble for this. Nate grinned as he went in search of his mother.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

25th Anniversary Dinner at the Side Door Cafe in Gleneden Beach

 “Happy 25th Anniversary” written in blue and yellow chalk adorns the sidewalk outside the entrance to the Side Door Café in Gleneden Beach. I called ahead for reservations and mentioned we were celebrating this special event. Inside, our table is decorated with red rose petals and a twisted red streamer down the center. That’s just the start to our delightful celebratory evening.

A refurbished tile-production warehouse is the home of this exceptional café, just off the beaten track of Highway 101. From the booths and tables situated around the room, you can see a large window at the front of the restaurant and a cozy lit fireplace to the side. The high, dark, exposed beams at the ceiling along with the mahogany-colored walls give the interior a rich elegant feeling. Hanging plants drape the sides of the booths and different colored pots of plants placed around the room add to the lush interior. 

Our waiter is friendly and eager to make our dinner a memorable one. He smiles at our delight in the chalked welcome at the entrance and the decorations at our table. Throughout the dinner he appears and disappears, as if by magic, taking care of our every whim.

The smell of freshly baked bread wafts through the room. As plates pass our table to their respective guests, the spicy rich aromas of the entrées tease our noses: Parmesean Encrusted Fresh Halibut atop Cappelini Pasta, Dungeness Crab Cakes on a bed of Sautéed Spinach in a pool of Tomato Saffron Broth, Fire Roasted Rack of Lamb with Summer Vegetable Risotto, Seafood Fettuccini tossed with Sherried Pesto Cream Sauce.

We have eaten at the Side Door Café several times before and know exactly what we want for our anniversary dinner. Honey Mustard and Herb Rubbed Local Chinook Salmon drizzled with Marionberry Glaze, accompanied by Fruited Wild Rice and Fresh Sautéed Seasonal Vegetables, a Caesar Salad to split, and a bottle of Cristom Pinot Noir (2007 vintage) completes our order.   

While we wait for our salad, we glance around the room. Even though it’s summer, the small fire gives off an intimate warm glow as if respecting the muted conversations and ambiance of the evening.

Our wine’s smoky cherry nose gives way to sweet spices of anise and cinnamon with a raspberry fruit follow through on the palette. The Caesar Salad is cold and crisp with a tangy pleasant bite to the dressing. The superb Salmon flakes easily and the Marion Berry sauce adds a wonderful sweet flavor to the hint of honey mustard coating. Fruited Wild Rice is an amazing accompaniment and soaks up some of the berry sauce. Sautéed vegetables of zucchini, onion, and carrots complete our dinner. 

We remember to save a little room for dessert, and choose to share the bread pudding with chocolate chips, which does not disappoint. Custardy bread pudding with chocolate chips layered throughout and a drizzle of chocolate syrup is a piece of heaven and a perfect way to end the evening.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Memories of the Neskowin Beach House

Neskowin Beach House 1962

I would stick my head out the window eager for the sweet smell of ocean air, squirming in my seat, barely under control, and ask for the umpteenth time, “Aren’t we there yet?” 

In the summer of 1958, we were on our way to the beach cabin for three weeks. My younger sister and brother and I, the oldest at ten, sat crammed together in the back seat of the Pontiac amid boxes, books, sacks of food, toys, blankets and other necessary items for our extended stay. 

The weather-worn beach cabin sat at the top of a sand ridge and from there you could hear the dull roar of the ocean and see its blue expanse, but not the waves themselves. A two-block flat section in front, filled with tall skinny stalks of lime-green pokey grass and purple-flowered stinging nettles, had to be trekked before you climbed over the last big dune to the glorious white sand beach and the ocean. We made clever paths around the plants, jumping from rock to sand to driftwood to avoid being poked or stung on our bare legs or feet.

The rugged wooden deck along the back of the cabin faced the road and a golf course across the street. The deck became a source of several major foot splinters, as we were always running and usually without shoes. Dad paid five cents for each golf ball we found and we would take our earned nickels and walk to the country store to buy penny candy from barrels lined up across the front of the counter. The store smelled of cinnamon, and the shiny wood floor felt cool and smooth on our rough bare feet.

“Will it be the licorice, the jaw breaker, or the peppermint today?” the grocer would ask.

The house had a living room with a hide-a-bed and fireplace, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen with an ancient stove that Dad had to light a fire in before Mom could make coffee or breakfast every morning. 

I slept on the hide-a bed in the living room, and one night a bat came down the chimney. I was terrified and hid under the covers while Dad killed it with a broom. The next morning we were amazed to see how far the paper-thin wings spread out and how scary it looked.

Mom would set out a 500-piece jig saw puzzle on a card table and we would add pieces to the picture, finishing it by the end of the vacation. At night we played Hearts or Gin Rummy, or read. Dad always took me to the school library to check out my favorite books, Sue Barton Student Nurse and the Nancy Drew Mysteries to read while I was there. 

The handsome horses from the stables at the end of the street attracted me like the flies around them. Dad would rent the one I picked out and lead us, usually two at a time, around the streets of the small town. When I turned twelve, I could ride the horses on the hour-long tail rides down on the beach and became inevitably smitten by the leader, usually a cute teen-aged boy.

This special time in my life exemplified complete carefree family time. We stayed and played together during trips to that magical cabin for the five years it owned us. In 1963, Dad sold the beach house to build a Sports Camp, and the rest of our summers growing up were spent working there. Ah, yet another memorable story for another time.

Monday, February 6, 2012




Thursday, February 2, 2012

Yeah! I won Story Star's Children Fiction Story of the Year for 2011!

I won Story Star's Children's Fiction Story of the Year for "Captain Nolan the Sandbender Saves the Ocean."   It was inspired by a trip to the beach with my grandson Nolan. Here's the story again: 

Nolan grabbed his blue bucket and shovel and raced to the ocean, filling it with sea water to build the biggest sand castle ever. Again and again he filled his bucket as his sand castle rose towards the sky, two then three stories tall with towers, walls, a drawbridge, and a moat. He carefully set pieces of shells, sand dollars, driftwood, and stones into the sides of the castle as armor.

On his last trip to the water, Nolan noticed the ocean had changed to a dark black blue color, and this time his bucket felt heavier. As he turned towards his castle, a wave crashed behind him with an angry loud clap. Water raced ahead of him and he ran to protect his castle.

Luckily the moat captured the sea water and his sand castle was safe.

When Nolan dumped the bucket of water into the center courtyard of his castle, out fell a lobster and a large shell of an astonishing iridescent purple-blue-pink color.

The ocean gave another loud roar that caused Nolan to drop his bucket and shovel, close his eyes, and clasp his hands over his ears.

When he opened his eyes, he was surprised to see the lobster frantically waving his claws trying to get Nolan’s attention. He stared as the lobster began to speak.

“You must help us. I am Lord Lobster and this is my Lady Sand Crab. We are the Rulers of the Cold Ocean. Evil Earl the Moray Eel is the Ruler of the Warm Ocean and he is trying to take over our territory. He has destroyed our home, threatened to eat us, and has all the creatures of the Cold Ocean living in fear.

Nolan looked at the other people on the beach around him. They didn’t seem to see or hear the talking lobster.

“But how can I help you?” asked Nolan.

“We see you have built a magnificent sand castle that meets all of our needs as Rulers of the Cold Ocean. We want to move in,” said Lord Lobster. Lady Sand Crab sat atop Lord Lobster’s back as he climbed to the top of the castle and set her on the highest tower. “This is a place fit for your beauty Lady Sand Crab.”

“This suits us perfectly, young man. Now, if only we could send Evil Earl the Moray Eel back to the Warm Ocean, we could get back to life as usual.”

Before Nolan could answer, the sky turned dark. The air smelled of rotten eggs and tingles ran up and down his arms. He looked up to see a sky full of ferocious-looking black winged creatures flying in battle formation.

“Oh no, they have found us! We truly do need your help. Lady Sand Crab, it is time to give super powers to our rescuer,” Lord Lobster said as he pinched Nolan on the big toe. Suddenly Nolan’s bucket became a shield and his shovel a magical sword.

“You are now Captain Nolan the Sandbender. You have the power to push, pull and shape sand to use it as a weapon against Evil Earl the Moray Eel and his band of black attackers.

Captain Nolan the Sandbender took a few practice swings with his sword. It sliced through the air, bringing up clouds of sand that swirled and opened into shapes in the air like fireworks, arrows, balls, missiles, and giant clouds.

He flung his sword towards the sky and sand particles flew towards the black formation of creatures at great speeds, knocking them sideways and ending their attack. They scattered in fear for they had never seen such power in the sand before.

One of the larger flying creatures at the front of the formation swooped out of the sky towards Lady Sand Crab. Captain Nolan the Sandbender instinctively jumped in front of her and flung another sand missile at the creature. It fell to the ground screeching and clawing its way toward Lady Sand Crab.

As it moved toward her, it changed shape into Evil Earl the Moray Eel. It gave a scary snarly grin as it slithered closer, its mission to destroy them. But Captain Nolan the Sandbender was not going to let that happen. He knew he had to try everything in his new power to defeat Evil Earl the Moray Eel and return the Cold Ocean rule back to Lord Lobster and Lady Sand Crab.

Captain Nolan the Sandbender waved his sword and created balls of sand that flew towards the eel catching him and hurling him out over the ocean. The last sand ball hit him directly and he gave a cry of defeat as he fell helplessly into the Cold Ocean, never to be seen again.

“Thank you Captain Nolan the Sandbender. You have defeated Evil Earl the Moray Eel and his band of black winged creatures. Now Lady Sand Crab and I are safe and we can restore order to the Cold Ocean,” said Lord Lobster.

Captain Nolan the Sandbender waved his magic sword and the sand flew in the air in a swirling flowing spray that covered the sand castle. When the sand settled, the sand castle was magnificent again. The drawbridge was open to receive Lord Lobster and Lady Sand Crab. Towers rose from each corner and the walls surrounding it were decorated with sea shells, sand dollars and sparkling agates of beauty.

Lord Lobster lifted both claws and clicked them loudly. Suddenly a legion of lobsters came from the ocean and surrounded the sand castle. At his command, they lifted the castle from the beach and slowly moved it towards the ocean. Waves broke over the castle, but it remained in one piece as they disappeared into the depths of the sea.

Captain Nolan the Sandbender watched them leave with pride. He had defeated Evil Earl the Moray Eel, protected Lord Lobster and Lady Sand Crab, and built them a glorious sand castle to replace the one that had been destroyed. All would now be well with their Cold Ocean Kingdom.

He turned back to the beach. Gone was the glorious sand castle he had designed and built for Lord Lobster and Lady Sand Crab. In its place was the sand castle he had started to build earlier in the day. His shield and sword were again a bucket and shovel. He began to notice the sounds and smells of the beach and the warmth of the sun. He saw Grand Poo Bah and Grand Poo Mah sitting in chairs just a few yards away.

A flash of color from the middle of the sand castle caught his eye. He dug into the sand and found a large perfectly shaped iridescent purple-blue-pink shell. Lady Sand Crab must have left it for him.

He picked it up and walked towards Grand Poo Mah. “Look at what I found in the sand! And you won’t believe who it belonged to.”