Adding machines and architecture


View of the front of the Mansion from the bottom of the hill.

What do these two things have in common? In 1886, Mr. Dorr Eugene Felt invented the Comptometer, the precursor to the modern-day adding machine. Mr. Felt’s invention was so successful that he soon became a millionaire. Felt used part of his riches to build a summer home  for his family on the shores of Lake Michigan in southwest Michigan. The beautiful 25-room  “cottage” featured stunning architectural details and every modern convenience. Sadly, Mrs. Felt died shortly after the home was completed, and Mr. Felt shortly after that. The home and grounds eventually took on a storied history, being sold to a seminary, then a prison, and finally, the state police, with the beautiful mansion crumbling further and further into ruin. Eventually the building and grounds became unused, vandalized and in disrepair, not unlike Felt’s dreams of happy family summers on the shores of Lake Michigan. Today, restoration groups have restored the mansion to its 1929 splendor. The mansion and grounds are open for tours and receptions.

I first met the Felt Mansion in the summer of 1971, with a group of friends who were having  a beach party on the grounds of the then St. Augustine’s Seminary. Though, at the time I didn’t know the mansion existed, as a large school building had been added between the path to the beach and the mansion, obscuring the home  from view. I met the mansion again in about 2012 on a trip to Saugatuck to relieve the beach party years, and discovered the mansion by accident looking for my old haunts. The dormitory had been demolished, leaving a clear view of the mansion, then under restoration. I returned to the mansion again last summer to tour the completed restoration.

The structure is now beautifully restored, but modern additions of a catering kitchen and multiple display cases  of Felt’s Comptometer caused me to limit my photos to the architectural details and the exterior, capturing the details most in keeping with the original 1929 mansion.

© Huffygirl 2015

My annual spam brunch with Jane, Mark, Beth, Corrine, Cheryl, Erin & Wendy


100_6079, https://huffygirl.wordpress.com, © Huffygirl 2014It happens every year right before Thanksgiving: my annual spam email from Jane Fish. It’s a group email that “Jane Fish” sends out every year inviting all of us to meet for brunch, aka “turkey day brunch” around Thanksgiving time. Included in the group are Wendy, Wendy’s new boyfriend Brent, Mark Elder, Cheryl Davin, Beth Ide, Corrine Castano, Erin somebody, and me, Dave Barry. We are supposed to meet somewhere in Massachusetts at places that sound really real – The Bolton Street Tavern, the Horseshoe in Hudson, The Old Mill or Black Diamond II. The exchange of emails lasts several weeks and are always the same theme. Jane Fish wants everyone to meet for a turkey day brunch. All the members of the group, except me, Dave Barry chime in. This person can’t meet on Monday but could do Tuesday, someone else wants dinner instead of brunch, could they meet at 6 or 7 PM, can we meet after the holidays, how about skiing instead, and on and on. It sounds overly perfect with little newsy asides – is Keith bringing the baby this year, and unfortunately, Mark’s wife can’t come; someone else has soccer practice, and every one of them can’t wait to see the others. I’ve gotten this email every year now for at least ten years. There are some variations. Sometimes I get it again in the spring, as it seems they may want to meet for brunch around Easter too. Sometimes it ends right after Thanksgiving, but this year the group is still trying to plan that “turkey day brunch” now only a week before Christmas. The whole thing sounds very convincing, although a little too fake and cheery to be real. One’s first instinct upon getting this email is to think “oh no, I should reply right away so they know that they have the wrong email address for Dave Barry.” After all, I wouldn’t want Dave Barry to miss all the fun.

But, every year I resist because I know this email is not about turkey day brunch, but some elaborate phishing scheme. How do I know this? What are the tell-tale signs?

  • The email originates from Jane Fish. Really.
  • Everyone in the group chimes in with replies year after year, except me, aka Dave Barry. Yet, no one every says “Has anyone heard from Dave Barry?” or “How come Dave Barry never comes?” The group is totally unconcerned about the perennial absence of Dave Barry, someone presumably so important that they invite him year after year, but don’t miss him when he doesn’t reply.
  • The event never takes place. The emails wax on about all the times and dates for the event, but it is never planned. Replies pass hot and heavy at first, then dwindle, and eventually the exchange is done, with the annual Turkey Day Brunch having never taken place.
  • Everything about the exchange is too perfect. It sounds like a Hallmark movie script. Comments like “I will pencil you in” and reply “I’d feel better if you used a Sharpie” seem sappy and unreal.
  • Don’t these people know about texting? Really – who would spend weeks planning an event via email when a few texts could take care of the whole thing? Or how about an evite or Facebook? It would save so much time, were this a real event.
  • Blocking the senders does not help. I’ve blocked all the email addresses repeatedly for years, yet, every year they are back.

Dear Jane, Mark, Beth, Corrine, Cheryl, Erin and  Wendy,

Unfortunately I am unable to meet any of you for brunch, dinner, appetizers, skiing, Christmas mass, or any other event, either before, during or after the holidays. Sadly, I will miss all the updates about everyone’s kids, jobs, ski trips, sporting events and Wendy’s health issues. I will not be able to meet Wendy’s new boyfriend, Brent. I will never know why Mark is flying solo, or why the Old Mill is closed on Mondays. I am hurt by your continual unconcern for the lack of communication from me, and quite frankly, wonder why you still invite me when I never reply.

Looking forward to hearing from all of you next year.

Love, Dave Barry

© Huffygirl 2014

Hawaii Diary


IMG_5062, https://huffygirl.wordpress.com, © Huffygirl 2014

Haleakalā, Maui.

Today the lava is hot, beautiful, deadly. It’s black steamy fingers both scare and fascinate us. Later, it cools and forms mounds of land that become islands and mountains – the land we now call Hawaii.

Haleakalā, which bears more resemblance to the moon than a tropical paradise, shadows over the the beautiful island of Maui.  At 10,023 feet, this mountain, the remains of a massive shield volcano, is the highest in Hawaii. Hundreds of visitors a year drive the switchback road to the top to see the beauty of the rock and sand formations, and engage in dangerous activities like biking down the treacherous highway. At this elevation, the weather is chilly and can easily drop into the 30’s by late afternoon. You don’t want to be here unprepared.

© Huffygirl 2014

Huffygirl’s Blog moving to Canada!


Today, Huffygirl, author of Huffygirl’s Blog, announced that Huffygirl’s Blog is moving to Canada. “While some might suppose that Huffygirl’s Blog is moving to Canada purely to take advantage of tax reductions, that is not the case” announced Huffygirl today on her blog. “Canada is a lovely county which is clearly underrepresented in the blogging world. By moving my blog to Canada, while maintaining my US presence as well, Canadians will have greater representation, and therefore, greater power in the blogging community.”

Some critics have suggested that Huffygirl’s Blog may become changed, and less American with this move to Canada. To these critics, Huffygirl replies “I don’t know what that is aboot. Huffygirl’s Blog will retain its American flavor despite its new Canadian location, and remain exactly the same, eh.”

© Huffygirl 2014

GM to recall all vehicles ever made


In a surprising move, Mary Barra, CEO of GM announced a massive vehicle recall. “In an effort to provide a safe driving experience for our customers and restore confidence in our brand,  we have decided to issue a recall of all our vehicles. ” Barra explained: “While there is no particular safety concern with all of the models that have not been previously recalled, in the interest of restoring confidence, we have decided to just take them all back. If you are driving a GM car, just bring it in.” Details were sketchy on how customer’s would be compensated for their returned vehicles, but GM officials offered no further explanation on the matter.

© Huffygirl 2014

 

Running Mighty Mac


100_2327, https://huffygirl.wordpress.com, © Huffygirl 2014First, let me say, this is not yo’ mamma’s bridge walk, when 50,000+ people stroll across the Mackinac Bridge each year on Labor Day.  This is a 5.8 mile timed road race, most of which takes place 552 feet above the chilly Straits of Mackinac on the amazing feat of engineering, the Mackinac Bridge. This is the same bridge that is closed during windy weather, least its travelers be swept off into the water below. The same bridge where a Yugo driver met a watery grave in 1989. The same bridge where 400 or so drivers a year avail themselves of assistance from the Timid Driver program, too frightened to drive themselves across. Though the 5.8 mile distance is almost twice the mileage I’ve ever run, Best Husband and I accept the challenge and train to run Mighty Mac.

The day before the race we drive to Mackinaw City at the foot of the Mackinac Bridge,  so we’ll be ready to board the bus to cross the bridge at 5:30 next morning. Once we are settled in our hotel room, BH and I begin our pre-race rituals, for most runners, a cross between runner superstition, preparation, and nervous anticipation.

BH: Pin race number to front of T-shirt.

Me: After checking weather.com, lay out appropriate running clothes for the predicted weather, and affix race number.

BH: Lie on bed and nap.

Me: Lay out alternate running clothes in case weather turns out colder or warmer than predicted.

BH: Lie on bed and nap.

Me: Lay out running accessories – lucky socks, earrings, heart rate monitor and pre-race food.

BH: Continue to lie on bed and nap.

Me: Do pre-race manicure with favorite red polish.

BH: Well, you know.

Me: Stretch hamstrings and tight muscles while nail polish dries.

BH: Wake up from nap and ask if it’s bedtime yet.

It tuns out that BH is much more relaxed about this run than I am.

Sunrise over Lake Huron.

Sunrise over Lake Huron.

Next morning we rise early, wanting to be one of the first to get on the bus to take us to the start at the north side of the bridge. The enthusiasm among the runners as we board the bus is almost palpable. Mostly young people, in assorted neon, black tights and warm weather gear, as we expect it to be a little chilly that high above the straits, which only a month or so ago still sported ice floes. I capture the pink sky with my iPod  as the sun gets ready to peek over the horizon on our right as we cross the bridge on the bus.

And then, it’s showtime, Unlike most races where the runners congregate at the start line and take off all at once, this is a staggered start, since there is not enough room on the bridge to send off all the runners at the same time. We start off with the sun rising on our left, and a mild breeze coming off the water on our right. For this far up in Michigan in May, this is about the most perfect weather we could hope for. There are no mile markers, no cheering crowds, no water stations – just a few race monitors scattered across the bridge. It feels like we had just decided  to get up early one day and run across the Mackinac Bridge on our own.

But despite this idyllic setting, I’m having a little panic. I’ve never run this distance, and once you’re out on the bridge, the only way off is to finish. It’s a gradual uphill to the halfway point of the bridge, roughly 2.5 miles. From there, the rest of the way on the bridge is all downhill, then just a few blocks through the city and we’re done. I can do this. BH and I take off together, pacing each other, as we’ve decided to run this together.

As we pass the half-way point, I know I’m home. Still amazed at how well I’m doing, we speed up on the downhill side of the bridge. We finish the last few blocks through the city, still quiet this early in the morning, and bring it home, well under the time I predicted for myself.

Running Mighty Mac was by the far the most amazingly beautiful race I’ve ever done.  Will I see you there next year?

HG, BH and Mighty Mac in the distance.

© Huffygirl 2014

 

 

 

 

So what’s the big fuss about banana bread?


Aunty Sandy's, home of the best banana bread ever.Up until my recent visit to Hawaii, I thought banana bread was something one baked only when one wanted to use up over-ripe bananas. I have a family banana bread recipe that I’ve made in this instance for years. It is okay, but not outstanding. It only takes 2-3 bananas, and actually, it’s a little dry, but adequate. And that is how I’ve always thought about banana bread – something that keeps bananas from going to waste, and is okay, but not great. Until now.

Banana bread is a much sought-after delicacy in Hawaii. Much like I might pursue the perfect chocolate cake or the best chardonnay, Hawaii visitors search for the best banana bread.  Guide books list the places that sell banana bread and debate which one is the best. At first, I found this laughable. After all, it’s banana bread we’re talking about here. But then, a trip down on  side road off the road to Hana  to the Keanae Peninsula lead us to Aunty Sandy’s, home of the best banana bread ever. (Aunty Sandy’s also has shave ice, but that is a story for another day.)

Aunty Sandy’s banana bread was soft, golden and crumbly, with a subtle sweetness and an unobtrusive banana flavor.  The loaf was still warm when we bought it, and my initial instinct was to buy two. I should have followed that instinct, because when we came back  later to get more, Aunty Sandy’s was closed. But on our return trip we did score some photos of a lava rock beach that we had missed before, and the historic stone church which survived the 1946 tsunami.

Since returning home I’ve been searching for a banana bread recipe that could duplicate Aunty Sandy’s. Apparently everyone else is too, because any internet search on banana bread leads you to blogs and reviews praising Aunty Sandy’s. So far I haven’t found a recipe that equals it yet, so I may just need to make another trip to Hawaii.

© Huffygirl 2014

Hike to the secret beach


Hawaii guidebook writers seem to have a penchant for enticing the reader to a spot so pristine, so secluded, that no one else could possibly know about it. “Imagine yourself slipping into your own private, secluded swimming hole,” or “here’s a beach so secret, so hard to find, that even native Hawaiians don’t know about it.” Or, at least they didn’t, until they read this book along with thousands of others. Best Husband and I are not so naïve that we’d fall for this hyperbole, yet, wanting a little adventure, we allowed ourselves to be seduced down the path to the so-called Secret Beach.

The first rule in following the path to anything labeled “secret” is that the journey must be somewhat difficult. If any ordinary traveler could just fall out of their car and stroll to said secret location, there would be nothing special about it, and said location would remain unworthy of the title “secret.” The guidebook’s directions to the secret beach almost seemed too simple for something so obscure, so special. “…turn right off the first Kalihiwai Road, then right on the first dirt road you encounter.” We had already had enough experience with Hawaii’s carefree signage to have just a bit of trouble with this part. Then, we had to interpret the Hawaiian definition of “road.” We’d already discovered that what we might call a path or two-track at home, might actually be considered a road here. Finally after managing this part, we had to tackle the issue of parking. Seems that everyone else who read our guidebook had also showed up that day, and parking was limited on the dirt track.

Next, the directions said: “…take the 10 minute path to the bottom. It’s slippery when wet.” It had rained a bit earlier that day, so we were forewarned.

And so we began. We spent the next 20 minutes or so on a steep vertical wall of red mud, slipping and grabbing on to branches and each other to stop our untimely slide all the way to the bottom. Fortunately, there were plenty of roots and large rocks embedded into the mud to stop us from sliding to our deaths.

At the end of Mudslide Trail, which we later dubbed it, the view was worth it. A long beautiful, sandy beach and surf surging up onto huge black rocks along the shore. Unfortunately, with the surf so rough we were unable to take the second trail along the rocks to the Secret Lava Pools – a trip we’ll save for next time.

© Huffygirl 2014