Crazy for Swasey

There are plenty of local trails to hike in Exeter and we take advantage of them. But there is one place in our fair town that is more of a promenade than a hike. It’s such a pleasure to stroll the sidewalks of Swasey Parkway along the Squamscott River… with a nod, a smile, a tip of the hat, or a good morning to passersby.

Swasey Parkway 2017

The parkway was a 1931 gift to the community from Ambrose Swasey, a summer resident known for his generosity. At that time, the area beside the river was the site of the town dump, quite unsightly and odorous, and Ambrose Swasey grew tired of passing it on his way to town.

Swasey Parkway 2017

Swasey Leaves 2017

Today it is a popular gathering place for people and events in Exeter. Not only is the park the perfect place to stretch one’s legs and enjoy the fresh air, it is a magnet for family picnics, sunbathing, bird watching, photography, people watching, or those folks like us who are there to enjoy the fall colors.

Swasey Parkway Picnic

Swasey Parkway 2017

Swasey Parkway

We are fortunate to have this area for hosting the farmers’ market, an antique marketplace, summer concerts, a Revolutionary War encampment, Independence Day fireworks, food events and more.

There are also pleasurable sights on the river. It’s a delight to watch Phillips Exeter Academy crew teams launch from their ramp and practice their sport up and down the river… but at this season of the year, we are more apt to see leisurely kayakers paddling along the waterway.

Swasey Parkway view to PEA crew

kayakers Swasey Parkway 2017

I sometimes think of Ambrose Swasey as I walk along the river, a man who at 84 years of age, made this priceless contribution to his community. I don’t think he’d be surprised at how much it is used and loved today. He was truly a man with a vision…

To read even more about Ambrose Swasey, his life and philanthropy, click HERE.

There’s a new restaurant in town!

Not long ago, several gals in our neighborhood ventured downtown and treated ourselves to a night on the town at an exciting new restaurant in Exeter.

The new restaurant is named Otis. Yes, that’s the name and it comes from the business that was housed in that building long ago, the Otis Sleeper Jewelry Store. We were excited to sample the goods because Otis was just named by New Hampshire Magazine as 2017’s Best of New Hampshire… and right here in our town!

Book Club

A photo of a culinary creation from the restaurant was pictured on the magazine cover.

New Hampshire Magazine - Otis #1

Otis is a bistro style restaurant serving American foods with locally sourced ingredients. New Hampshire magazine calls the space ‘intimate,’ as there are only 28 seats for diners. Smaller tables line a long wall. Options for larger tables are limited due to the building’s size. A group can sit at the chef’s table and watch the food being prepared by the professionals or sit at the window and watch all the town’s activity. The window is where we chose to be. From there we were a stone’s throw from the center of town and the historic bandstand.

The atmosphere was lively, the service unmatched, and our food was artful and delicious. It’s a popular spot for diners and at capacity this night with happy diners. As the evening progressed, it almost seemed a party was in progress.

Otis, Exeter NH

Lee Frank is both the chef and owner of Otis.Restaurant was well-know to diners as a chef extraordinaire at several popular seacoast restaurants before coming to Exeter to establish his own eatery.

menu

On the wall was a Chef Gateau quote from wonderful movie Ratatouille, “You must be imaginative, strong-hearted. You must try things that may not work, and you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul. What I say is true – anyone can cook… but only the fearless can be great.”
What a movie that was! There’s a lot of paper on the roll and I’m sure other wise sayings will ‘roll on’ nightly.

Otis

Dining out is a fun way to mingle with friends and step out of the daily grind for a night to enjoy good food and service, and lots of laughter. It was just the ticket. Be sure to check out Otis online. There you’ll find the current menu and be able to make reservations by phone.  I think you’ll be glad you did…

Dill in the garden

Dear Dill,

You may be aware that I do not have many plants in ornamental gardens that spread with abandon or are prodigious self-sowers because I simply do not have room for rampant spreaders.  Having said that, there are exceptions…. namely you, dill. I don’t mind a bit that you have escaped from the herb garden.

Dill

Not only do I like how you look popping up tall and proud against the daylilies, the asclepias, the hydrangea, and Russian sage, you require nothing of us. You seem to adjust to any weather, soil condition, mulch or not. And, oh, your umbrella blooms are a little like 4th of July fireworks in late summer when not much looks so fresh. I must thank you also for sharing a few blooms for flower arrangements.

But, most of all, we appreciate your generosity in sharing your feathery green leaves to enhance our food. Fish, potato salad, dips, soups, egg salad, cucumbers, shrimp salad, and pickles would not taste at all flavorful without you. And it’s so nice that we can freeze your delicate leaves to use all winter!

dill

Finally, I truly appreciate how you feed numerous insects, especially the butterflies and the hungry larva of the black swallowtail. It’s good that there is an abundance for sharing.

Recent freezing temperatures have terminated what we see above ground but you have done your job and spread your seeds. We expected you to freely self-seed anywhere you liked in the garden but if your young decide to sprout in the middle of the lawn, I’ll probably mow around them.

We look forward to greeting your youngsters in the spring…

From the gardeners who maintain these gardens

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I don’t have a dog anymore…

…and it makes me feel a little like an outsider in society.  I’ve always lived with (hate the word ‘owned’) canines during my lifetime: English Setters, Irish Setters, dachshunds, labs, and several mutts.  I’ve lived with and loved cats, too: short-haired, long-haired, Siamese, and several alley cats, all of whom adopted me and not the other way around. My children grew up with canines and felines. But right now, it’s just the two of us and we no longer live with 4-legged residents. We have downsized. Our home is now small and the property is communal.

I have a daughter who says she couldn’t live without being surrounded by her dogs and cats as we had when she was young. Her house is full of them as you can see. They follow her from room to room and gaze up trying to anticipate her next move as she completes daily activities. The family loves them with a passion.

Matter of fact, the large lab mix with the gray muzzle is our old dog, Annabelle, who moved in with my Kentucky daughter when we relocated to New Hampshire. (BTW: I think Annabelle is much happier in that home as rules are freer. Yes, they all sleep in bed with the humans. Yikes!)

Canines

When we first became dog-less, there was a void. No whines or barks. Bowls and toys and brushes and food went with Annabelle. We were no longer are on a first name basis with the local vet. No more dog license renewals. No more scheduling human activities around the dog’s schedule.  It was that empty nest syndrome that I felt when the kids moved out.  I found myself looking at too many of those cute puppy videos on Facebook and stopping strangers with dogs on the street to ask about their pets. Of course, the greatest fix of all is when the grands fill the house with noise and activity and make everything all right with the world, but there I am watching those videos again.

The intense feeling lasted about two years…. although I almost relapsed a week ago when puppies from the Houston floods appeared locally. “Get a grip,” my daughter said. The good news is the dogs almost outnumber the humans in our neighborhood and daily they walk by and pull on their leashes to visit me. They love me and they know I can’t get enough. I can get my puppy-love-fix from my neighbors and my kitty-love-fix from my son’s six-toed feline that visits. For now, that is enough…

 

Plant Lust…

I find myself a little bit out of control in this department. Downsizing from 12-acres to 12-feet causes problems with my compulsion to add to our garden. It’s not really 12-feet but sometimes it feels like it when I come across something I really desire for the garden. This time it was bulbs I lusted after. I ordered narcissus bulbs “Starlight Sensation,” for the following reasons: It’s a creamy white flower that I prefer, it has 3-5 flowers per stem with 3-5 bloomstalks per bulb. That’s a lot of flowers, folks!

And the good news is that it won the Best Daffodil award at the Philadelphia Flower Show this year… and the best news of all is that it’s the very own seedling of friends Brent and Becky Heath in Gloucester VA.  I will forgive myself for this purchase!

Brent & Becky

But maybe not forgive myself for the purchase of two different shades of allium bulbs, red tulips, white tulips, snowdrops, and two more shades of muscari to add to my deep blue muscari that edges the boxwood garden.

Oh well… everything is in the ground and I look forward to seeing what the spring brings.

Grape Hyacinth/Muscari