Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Enjoying Summer's Happiest Times: Plus more In and Around Town News Items

Expanded version of Appleseed column of Friday, July 14, 2017 as published in the Southington Citizen July 14, 2017

What joy summer vacations can be! Even a brief weekend or occasional time out for R & R.

All the more to enjoy on those happy, mildly warm and sunny New England days.
I think the summer pace effectively reduces the stress of our year-round labors and pursuits, enhancing our energy reserves while nurturing our physical, mental and spiritual health.

I feel the stress myself, even now ... in my retirement years of activity ... which have been focused on promoting community and church service,  it has also opened many doors to me for my passion for writing. 

Important though to tell the stories of people taking personal responsibility for social, civic and charitable service, the rewarding labors for pro-bono work can also be stressful. 

But in the past month, I have enjoyed some “time out” for truly happy moments.
It began on the June 17th weekend on my birthday and Father’s Day.  

Our children and grandchildren gathered at the deck and pool of one of their homes. 

During the aperitifs, both solid and liquid, and a lot of cross conversation, a huge outdoor culinary operation was unveiled by my hosting son and daughter-in-law. The tempting aromas of smoking ribs filled the air, exciting our salivary juices.

With the smoked meat as the center piece, a procession of fruit, veggies, corn, salads and other accoutrements filled the outdoor tables decorated in birthday pageantry.

It was too much of an elegant outdoor dining experience to be referred to as a picnic and the on and off rain was too scattered to put a damper on things as we took refuge under the patio and deck umbrellas as needed.

Well, the food was absolutely superb. But the best was yet to come when another parade of gifts made their way to the table during coffee and simply lucious desserts. All this careful planning for grandma Grace and me to celebrate a man of as many years as the key board on a grand piano!  As the gifts were opened it was clear that Vince and Karen, Rich and Deb, Rob and Lizette, plus grandchildren Lindsey and Robert Todisco and Allie had planned the gifts together with the idea of helping the 'old man' re-build his wardrobe since the parting of 60 some lbs. (No they never call me the old man').

But the real clincher for me that day was the reading of personal expressions of appreciation and love of each family member had written. I loved it and they loved doing it. I sailed home that evening on a white cloud.

Wait, there's a second part to this story...

My grandson, Greg, had been out of town that weekend so he was not available for the aforementioned festivities. But not without a plan on his part. 

Promptly he texted me on Monday: “How about dinner this week, grandpa?” (We get together that way regularly.)  
So, next day, Greg pulls up in front of my house to pick me up in his vintage BMW Roadster.  "How about a tour with the top down before dinner?" I managed to get into the passenger seat. Top down, we toured the quiet countrified roads, hills and curves surrounding the reservoirs, Crescent Lake and the apple orchards, moving along with gritty but legal velocity.

My first ride ever in that rugged red roadster! Sensational! My favorite driver and the wind in my thin wavy hair, my emotions soared as we rounded the rises and twists in six gears, enjoying the magnificent vista.

Bill Close, Founder of Close Harbor Sea Food
Arriving at Close HarborSeafood Restaurant on Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike in Plantsville, one of our favorite dining spots, we entered and promptly encountered Bill Close. He introduced his daughter, Lisa Onofri who, since the restaurant was recently re-built, is now the owner-operator, in a partnership with her brother Rick.

As always, our dinner was a culinary treat, kudos to Chef Frank and the impeccable service of Jackie, our delightful waitress. We decided to dine al fresco ...  good choice for that cool summer evening .. 

Now, I never claimed to be a proper food critic, so I will wisely side-step providing a professional culinary review here. However, I will tell you that with waitress, Jackie's impeccable service and guidance, I thoroughly enjoyed a very light, broiled piece of Icelandic Cod fish over a bed of Cannelini Beans cooled to a paste with garlic, shallots and a red wine vinegar and lemon dressing. An epicurean delight!  Meanwhile, Greg ordered fresh flounder wrapped around stuffed crabmeat over a bed of spinach with baked potato. The house salad with champagne vinaigrette was a perfect touch. 

Now, I had my mind on sampling some shell fish on the half shell even when we arrived so we both proceeded to enjoy the fresh cold flavor of a couple of blue point oysters each.   

Towards the end of the meal, Lisa and Jackie joined us for some light conversation. That’s when I spied Greg signing the meal check across the table. “What are you doing Greg?” 

“It’s your birthday, Grandpa. Happy Birthday”.  Proudly, I hugged him.

Enjoy the rest of your summer days and luxuriate in the company of those nearest and dearest and dearest to you. 

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