Rudy’s Resolutions for 2014

By and large, Rudy would rather skirt the issue of New Year’s resolutions. “Resolutions were made to be broken,” he has asserted more than once, while lifting his leg over forbidden turf.

Who, me?

Who, me?

That said, here are a few thoughts he’s been playing around with. Whether they will pass from resolutions into practice remains to be seen.

1. There will be no more guilt. (Thanks for the brioche, Koen…it was excellent, by the way. And many additional thanks to whoever left the chair pulled out from the table. It was just the boost I needed.)

Caught red-handed, courtesy of Allison Uchima, who happened to be coming down the stairs at just the right moment...

Caught red-handed, courtesy of Allison Uchima, who happened along at just the right moment…

2. I will catch up on my reading…

Happy about the Sox...

Go Sox!

3. …and try not to doze off.

More sports!

More sports!

4. Also, I will try to expand my reading beyond Sports Illustrated (but it’s hard).

5. I will demand a few more places to rest my head.



Not bad...

Not bad…

Getting there...

Getting there…

Are you kidding?!

Are you kidding?!

6. I will continue to punish any toy that dares call itself durable.

I've got you now...

I’ve got you now…

…and I won't let go...

…and I won’t let go…

a personal best of under 60 seconds...

…a personal best of under 60 seconds…

7. And I will get ready for my closeup.

How's this, Mr. DeMille?

How’s this, Mr. DeMille?

No, my paw looks too big!

No, my paw’s too big!

I look like a Cadillac!

I look like a Cadillac!

…and I will cut back on the mascara…

Bat, bat...

Bat, bat…

7. Lastly, I will commit to learning more about my ancestry. Why, for example, do I feel so comfortable wearing a babushka?

I dream of Kiev...

I dream of Kiev… [Josh Allen caught this poignant moment]

How is it that I even know that word?

But enough resolutions…there is work to be done.

Right about here...

Right about here…

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Rudy at The Scene of the Crime

“It’s purely circumstantial,” Rudy informed me. “I’ve been watching The Good Wife, and I know what it takes to convict.”

Look into my eyes...

Look into my eyes…

His brown eyes widened and for a split second I entertained the notion of innocence. Then I took another look at the crime scene:

1. Chair tipped at a suspicious angle.

Exhibit A: The Chair

Exhibit A: The Chair

2. Bright yellow EMS messenger bag splayed out on the floor.

The Crime Scene

The Crime Scene

3. Mangled remains scattered in the vicinity.

Coincidentally, the EMS bag had accompanied Rudy to Stockbridge not too long ago. Most of the bag’s contents had been unpacked when we got home: his small down comforter (for familiarity); two yellow tennis balls (play); large bag of nuggets (obvious).

I'll keep my ears open...

I’ll keep my ears open…

I had neglected, however, to empty the zippered pocket on the front flap of the bag. It contained a small clutch of Mother Hubbard puppy treats and a Ziploc bag of backup kibble. These bags now lay in shreds not far from the messenger pouch, whose zipper was fully unzipped.

Forensics wanted a closeup

Forensics wanted a closeup

“Look at my paws,” Rudy protested. “Could anyone in their right mind call these ‘opposable thumbs’? I think not! How, then, do you explain the zipper?!” he cocked his head in that adorable, confusing way. “Answer me that!”

Who you calling beady?

Who you calling beady?

He was throwing so many question marks and exclamation points at me I couldn’t see straight. I shook my head and thought a moment, remembering his agile grasp on the tennis balls, the uncannily human way he gripped them between his paws, using the “thumb” claw to pin the balls in place before ripping them to pieces.

This proves nothing...

This proves nothing…

“I, I…,” I stammered. “But then who?”

“We’ve all heard the mice running overhead in the bathroom ceiling,” he said shortly, wiggling those little dark eyebrows. “You do the math.”

Heh heh heh

Heh heh heh

I looked at the chewed bags, the zipper, and tried to calculate the uncounted numbers of missing biscuits. He was right. It wasn’t enough to get a conviction.

Probation, possibly, with time off for good behavior. Plus I’d be checking for some concrete evidence on our next walk….

Oh those eyes...

Oh those eyes…

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Rudy on Norman Rockwell’s Christmas in Stockbridge, Massachusetts

It’s best to just jump right in.

Everything has changed, which became abundantly clear as we prepared to head off to the 24th Annual Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas festivities, December 6-8. Subtitled “A Norman Rockwell Holiday,” the weekend-long event culminates in a crazy reenactment of the painter’s famous 8-foot-long Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas painting, which appeared in McCall’s magazine in December 1967.

The painting itself, at the nearby Rockwell Museum

The painting itself, at the nearby Norman Rockwell Museum

Our room at the famous 240-year-old Red Lion Inn–which features prominently in the painting–had been booked before we’d come into partial possession of a little terrier mix dog named Rudy.



Rudy is many things to many people, but in appearance, which is the first thing you notice, he appears to have a brainy little dachshund head joined to a barrel-chested Jack Russell body. The barrel chest beautifully conveys that Rudy is all heart. Below that, he is all stomach.

The Red Lion Inn has an allotted number of dog-friendly rooms.

The dog-friendly Red Lion

The dog-friendly Red Lion

Sadly, all were spoken for by the time our need for one arose, so we checked out nearby Camp Wagalot, a massively popular doggie daycare that has tongues wagging.

And then, at the 11th hour, a Christmas miracle occurred—a cancellation—and suddenly there was room (or should I say, a dog-friendly suite) available at the Red Lion Inn.

It's a great place to meet up with friends

It’s a great place to meet friends

Thank you, Michele, most awesome innkeeper! Rudy had a cozy living room, full kitchen, beautiful bedroom, and his choice of bathrooms. Not to mention a spacious crate to stretch out in if we couldn’t take him with us as we jaunted around Stockbridge.

Rudy hits the street

Rudy hits the street

What a fabulous weekend. We saw it through different eyes, for sure. Eyes that were only a foot off the ground, and there were a few unexpected dustups (that freakish mannequin on the sidewalk in front of the lovely 1862 Seasons On Main B&B inspired a machine-gun burst of frenzied barking as Rudy strained to bring her down),

Whoa, freaky!

Whoa, freaky!

but mostly we soaked up the essence of a Rockwell Christmas. Caroling on the porch of the Red Lion Inn on a crisp winter’s night,

Spotted amongst the carolers...

Spotted amongst the carolers…

historic house tours (see where Rockwell stayed before moving here for the last 25 years of his life!), and lots of good cheer throughout the day.

And, of course, the reenactment of the painting on Sunday.

Cars begin to arrive

Cars begin to arrive

As the orange traffic cones went up, blocking general traffic on Main Street, Chief Rick Wilcox, who modeled for Rockwell when he was a kid, motioned a stream of vintage cars into empty parking spaces.

Cars continue to arrive

Cars continue to pull in

A ’55 Oldsmobile Rocket 88,

Glorious cars!

Glorious cars!

’55 Studebaker, ’51 Mercury, and the calendar flipped back to a day long ago, somewhere in the 50s or 60s, when soda fountains still existed.

Studebaker President

Studebaker President

A few minutes before noon, Tony Carlotto drove his bright red centerpiece into the middle of Main Street.

The Red Car

The Red Car arrives

A small evergreen tree, its trunk carefully wrapped to protect the car’s finish, was placed gently on top. And there we all stood, somewhere back in time, our frozen breath suspended in the air.

Rudy's view from the RLI porch

From the Red Lion Inn porch

Rudy wasn’t there to see it. He was back in the room, paws crossed, watching a football game. The weather had turned cold and damp, and he’d covered most of Stockbridge, multiple times. He liked the sidewalks there. Found a few bushes that he frequented. But he really liked that suite and is very much looking forward to the next assignment.

Chilly but nice!

Ciao from Stockbridge!

Future travel blogs may or may not include Rudy, but going forward this blog will also chronicle his additional exploits. Which are many.

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Blooming Inspiration at the Boston Flower Show

Just when we’re desperate enough, a concentrated dose of spring comes breezing our way at the annual Boston Flower & Garden Show, down by the city’s seaport.1. No shortage of inspiration (I'd like this fountain, please)

Yesterday’s heady blast of blossoms, color, and horticultural imagination is timed to remind us that yes, in fact, there really is another kind of mix beyond wintery snow and sleet—one involving seeds and plants and easy outdoor living.2. …and maybe this pergola, too

Really, not a moment too soon. Water gardens, intimate nooks, and crazy chicken coops inspire all kinds of future dreams.8. And surprising spectacle...

3. On a smaller scale, nice!9. Lucky chickensHobbit houses and greenhouses and stork-like explosions of flower arrangements tickle the fancy and kick-start our dormant imaginations.4. And the hobbit house to go with it

5. Tiny and inviting14. silvery seating,How’d they make that teeny little terrarium?

A really tiny hobbit-inspired garden

A really tiny hobbit-inspired garden

What’s holding up the locust trunks in Booth 28, and how deep would I have to dig in a couple of tree trunks to support my own glorious bamboo covering?

6. An organic awning to try at homeCould I duplicate the logs edging that display of roses? I really like that fountain…. Seedlings, garden ornaments, and orchids call out, and I’m hankering after a Tuli Fisher handmade garden tool. Or a pergola incorporating stained glass. A bocce spot. Maybe my own nursery.

13. Beautiful bocce,In the end, though, it’s just a treat to shed the puffy down coat that’s been trailing me like a bloodhound for months, for a delicious preview of that awesome summer temp where body and air merge to become one. A reminder. Something green this way comes.

18. …and the glorious simplicity of the coming spring

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The Enfant Terrible of Retail

It’s been longer than intended, but let’s jump right in. In the interest of drama, here’s my own personal best (worst) recent encounter with a cranky storeowner, and if you’ve got a similar story of your own, I’d love to hear it.

Tina’s drew me in, with deep shades of Aegean blue…

My first impression, glancing into Tina’s European Fashions, in this pretty coastal New England town that shall remain nameless, was that it looked promising—striped sailor shirts and Greek knick-knacks—despite its quaintly dated name. Sure enough, crossing the threshold was like stumbling into a Greek taverna. Lively music blasting, flowy cotton shirts rising to the rafters like flags on a mast, olives everywhere (oil, soap, imported Kalamata in tin cans), and saints and Greek islands pasted to the walls. A rapid-fire conversation (in Greek, with Tina, an older, attractive bundle of energy) was galloping along behind the counter. I was enchanted, bought a few trinkets, accepted a sesame bar from Tina, and decided to come back the next day to jot down a few notes and peruse the icons.

Look closely, you can make out some goodies….

Thank the Greek gods I did, returning in the late afternoon to select a few more items before casually mentioning to Tina that I’d like to include her in an upcoming travel story. Not focus on, mind you. Mention. She skewered me with her dark Greek eyes. Had I somehow unwittingly managed to insult every member of her family going back to the time of Homer?

Then. “Don’t write about me,” she yelled. “Go find somebody else!” Her accent was hopelessly charming but her words threw me for a loop. “I don’t want nothing! I don’t need nothing!”

It dawned on me, maybe she thought I was trying to sell an ad. “It’s for a story,” I began lamely. “I’ve had too much tragedy in my life!” she flung out her arms, and now I was at a total loss. Her friend, seated behind the counter, grimaced in some sort of distant galaxy’s version of half-hearted sympathy, and then she shrugged, in the manner of ‘why don’t you take off running now and don’t ever look back?’ But for some humiliating reason, I couldn’t stop myself. I needed to explain, or else walk away, but the simple fact was that Tina had my credit card and I wasn’t getting through to her. She rang me up, ran my card, excoriated me a little more for good measure, and sent me on my way, clasping a tiny wooden icon and no single shred of dignity.

I’m so small you can’t even see the backside of me, slinking away…

Would I go back again? Only in deep deep disguise. When curiosity (and lingering humiliation) prompted me to go online to see if anyone else had had a similar experience, I found a mixed bag. Half the customers called her rude; the other half found her warm and irresistible. My own experience split the difference. I loved the shop. Tina’s a trip. Maybe you should go there. Just please don’t tell her I told you.

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Pearls at Newburyport

Hard to believe that Newburyport was a hardscrabble port town with a seedy waterfront scant decades ago. The polished little brick burg gleams like a pearl in an oyster shell, begging to be plucked. Much ado can be made of the numerous restaurants strewn about town like driftwood, or sparkly little shops scattered like beach glass, but the fact of the matter is there’s no escaping the water or the history embedded in the bricks. You feel it breathing up from the cobblestones. It’s a walking town for sure, where you can soak up some serious Federal-style architecture, tuck into an Upper Crust pizza, or satisfy an endless craving for seafood. Then polish off the day with a Dolce Freddo mascarpone gelato and a stroll along the banks of the mighty Merrimack, winding to the sea, as pretty, pitiless, and ever-present as it was in the 1630s.

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Key West in New England

A couple of things spring to mind when I think of Key West—tiny roosters crowing at dawn, sun-soaked colors, and a kicked-back breeziness that goes much deeper than Jimmy Buffet. Because before Buffet, there was Hemingway.

Napi’s Restaurant

Ernest loved it down there at the southernmost tip of the U.S., and not for the river of beer flowing on Duval Street (a more recent development, and he went for the stronger stuff anyway). Mostly he was captivated by the island’s untamed wildness and genuine eccentricity, which live on.

As we slouch toward the dog days of summer, with temperatures rising and hopefully a hint of humidity on the horizon, there are three coastal hot spots in New England that keep insinuating themselves into my brain—places where I catch a faint whiff of that same unbridled wildness. Places that put me in a Key West state of mind. Minus the roaming chickens, but just barely.

Crazy Burger

Napi’s Restaurant (Provincetown, MA): I never locate Napi’s by design, it seems, only by accident. With Freeman Street’s jungly, overgrown gardens and quirky mosaics, it’s slightly surreal here, like stumbling into someone else’s dream world, set apart from the rest of P’town, although only a block from Commercial Street. Inside, Napi Van Dereck had elaborated on this otherworldly feeling, cobbling together an interior that raises scrap and salvage to crazy new heights. The food’s good, too, at this long-time local institution—Portuguese kale soup or Thai veggie wraps.

Crazy Burger Café & Juice Bar (Narragansett, RI): The twinkling fairy lights and aging trellises have just the right casual Key West vibe—you could pluck this place from its location near Narragansett Bay and drop it down on Whitehead Street without missing a beat. And the burgers really ARE crazy—from vegan to ostrich.

Friendly Toast

The Friendly Toast (Portsmouth, NH): The retro interior is colorful and unstudied, the wait staff pleasantly tattooed. The Toast is a bit of Wild West on NH’s abbreviated seacoast, and breakfast is epic, with Drunkard’s French Toast and awesome Omar’s Home Fries: “a huge pile of red potatoes, broccoli, onions, parmesan, corn, artichoke hearts, and a touch of soy sauce.”

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Peaks Island Escape

Adjectives ensue on the ferry ride to Peaks Island from Portland, Maine. Frothy, brilliant, sparkling, sea-salty. Everything a quick 20-minute ferry ride should be. The boat docks at Forest City Landing, where Casco Bay ferries have been unloading since the 1880s.

It’s easy to dream here on tiny Peaks Island. Of tall ships and seaside cottages and endless blue seas and crisp breezes. You can bike the four-mile circumference in 40 minutes, according to Brad, who rents transportation at the unbelievable rate of $15 for four hours at Brad’s Island Bike Rentals (115 Island Ave.; 207-766-5639). But there’s no need to rush—beaches here are plentiful and accessible, a welcome change from the beach-rights squabbling that invades many seacoast villages like red tide. So take your time and meander as you crisscross this one-by-two-mile knob of land. Dream a little dream.

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Best Farmers’ Market in New England?

For a little taste of southern France in northern New England, the Burlington Farmers’ Market on Saturday is the ne plus ultra. Translation: fairly unbeatable.

Vendors crowd Burlington’s City Hall Park and spill onto Saint Paul Street, which is closed to traffic during the market, making the experience even friendlier for the throngs of shoppers, kids, and dogs weaving among the tents. And although I’m not exactly sure how you’d go about ranking farmers’ markets in the first place, any event that combines just-picked vegetables, dense artisanal bread, curried sweet potato hummus, and homemade toffee crunch within food-fighting distance of each other, plus trail mix spiced with dried crickets, has got to be a contender.

In the category of takeaway, it’s an ethnic smorgasbord, with Anatolian falafel wraps, Samosa Man, A Little Peruvian, and Pak-Afghan Foods. Plus strawberry-rhubarb pocket pies from The Farm Between and piping-hot grilled sausage from Doe’s Leap. It all goes quite nicely with Theo’s Maple Lemonade. Guilt-free nirvana—you’re supporting the local economy.

Between the views, the snacks, the fresh air blowing off Lake Champlain, and the fact that everyone here walks and bikes, you practically bump into the feel-good endorphins. While getting a literal taste of Vermont. And thankfully a picture’s not worth a thousand calories, so you can peruse these photos to your heart’s content. For more information, see

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The Largest Freshwater Lake…

…in the East holds a scattering of islands strung together like fish on a line, generously strewn with some of the prettiest farms and fields in New England. The Lake Champlain Islands rise out of the mist like Atlantean remnants, with views to the horizon, and roads with names like West Shore trailing along the water. The lake is everywhere.

You can read about it in Yankee magazine about a year from now, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak preview. Isle La Motte, North and South Hero, Grand Isle, and the peninsula of Alburgh offer unparalleled biking, swimming, fishing, and boating, along with a couple of farmers markets, a smattering of art galleries, inns, b&bs,  and not much else besides exceptional, unspoiled beauty. With solstice just around the corner, I can’t imagine a sweeter place to celebrate our summer’s brief but lovely season.

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