Sailing Away

Gay Head cliffs, Aquinnah

This Sunday, my daughter and I leave the boys behind and head east for a sailing trip with our Connecticut cousins.  We’ll make our way from Cape Cod to Martha’s Vineyard, then spend a long weekend in Edgartown.  I’ve been eagerly anticipating this trip from the moment we planned it and can’t believe it’s actually here!  I’m dying for her to experience the thrill of sailing – crossing my fingers that she loves it as much as my sisters and I do.


Two summers ago, our family spent a week on the Vineyard and the trip was by far my favorite that we’ve had with the children (the photos shown are all from that trip).  At one point during a fishing excursion my son looked at me and said, “Mom, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so happy.”  And he was right.  You know you’re doing what you love when time slips away and your joy-filled soul has no room for worries.

Lucy Vincent Beach
Lucy Vincent Beach

My posts and photos from that trip are without a doubt my absolute favorites, so I am sharing them here, here, and here as many of you are new to the aesthete and the dilettante since I first posted them.  I hope you love them as much as I do.  I can’t wait to share with you what I discover this time around.  Until then, Happy Summer!




Summers to Remember

644_1108542276121_1303757050_330342_5091_nAnother summer has come to a close.  Looking back over the years, I am most nostalgic for the summers spent sailing with my grandparents in Canada.

My sister Kathy, Grandpa, and me at the helm circa 1976.
My sister Kathy, Grandpa, and me at the helm circa 1976.

  Our journeys always began in Penetanguishene, Ontario, where we would gather provisions and fish from the docks while our grandfather readied our boat, Mañana.  Our grandmother would stow bags of buckwheat flour, baskets of oranges for juicing and eating, peanut butter, honey, homemade bread, and cornmeal for crusting and frying catches of the day.  Milk was stored in the freezer (so delicious with its icy shards when paired with our peanut butter and honey sandwiches!) along with emergency meals for the days we hooked nothing but bottom.

Kath with our grandparents.
Kath with our grandparents.

Leaving port was always filled with excitement!  When the lines that bound our boat to the dock cleats were tossed on deck and bumpers were hauled aboard, we would motor out of the marina onto Georgian Bay.  I remember the smell of Manana’s diesel engine and the eager anticipation of cutting the motor and unfurling her sails.   How I loved watching land drift further and further away until it was out of sight!  This meant there was no turning back and I could finally enjoy the thrilling juxtaposition of our boat’s intimate quarters against sailing on open, unprotected waters.

Kathy in the hammock  and our cousin Robin on the canoe, soaking up sunshine.
Kathy in the hammock and I on the canoe, soaking up sunshine.

We sailed during the day, passing time with backgammon matches, boat songs and turns at the helm, then anchored at night, staying a day or two in one of the protected coves my grandparents had named after each of their grandchildren.  The moments of navigating our boat through the narrow, rocky passage ways to reach our secret coves were often fraught with tension.  I recall being confused at how they could yell at each other while anchoring but then be so calm and loving afterward.  They contended that it wasn’t “yelling” if you were on a boat – it was simply “speaking with urgency.”

Days were filled with blueberry picking (for my grandmother’s buckwheat pancakes), fishing, swimming, canoeing, exploring, and napping or reading in the bow hammock.  After dinner we would play cards or tile rummy and look over the next day’s nautical charts.  Many nights ended with time in the cockpit marveling at the stars while our grandfather taught us constellation names.  Their brilliance against the black of night is something I still dream of today.

Fishing with my grandmother.
Fishing with my grandmother.
Kath and our mom with Northern.
Kath and our mom with Northern.

Baths were taken in the bay with a bar of Ivory, chosen for its inability to sink.  I can still feel the cold water inching up my legs as I eased down our boat’s ladder.  If the temperature was unbearable, my grandmother would pour buckets of water into the dinghy and let the sun warm it before washing our hair.

Braving the cold Canadian waters for a quick dip!
Braving the cold Canadian waters for a quick dip!
A dinghy bath.  It's the only swimsuit I remember her wearing!
A dinghy bath. It’s the only swimsuit I remember her wearing!

Every trip had a different crew, with parents, cousins, and my Aunt Sally all taking turns.

Clockwise from top left: Robin, Kathy, Rod, and me, rocking the Jordache sweatshirt circa 1983..
Clockwise from top left: Robin, Kathy, Rod, and me, rocking the Jordache sweatshirt circa 1983.
Canoeing with my cousin Rod.
Canoeing with my cousin Rod.

Save for one year, Kathy was always with me.  I can close my eyes now and see her curled up in a sleeping bag with a book on her favorite starboard bunk.  She cherishes those summers just as I do, and we dream of returning, together with our families, someday.

Kath and me.
Kath and me.

Image 9

Catch of the Day


Life lesson: When a man who has sailed trans-Atlantic several times subtly suggests that you reschedule your deep sea fishing trip due to weather conditions, you should probably listen.

“There are 5 to 7 foot waves out there, and 25 knot winds…sounds a little pukey,” said my father.

“We’ll be fine!  Hannah and I never get sea sick!” I replied with a smile.



So the three of us set out for our afternoon adventure on the Atlantic.  Hannah told the guides she wanted to catch something big and something for dinner.  We succeeded on both counts, though felt admittedly “a little off” for about half the trip.  (My father, of course, was completely fine.)


As you can see in the photo above, our “something big” turned out to be really big – we caught a brown shark.  What a thrill!


Our “something for dinner” was this beautiful little Wahoo.



Our pelican greeting committee, below:


Hannah filled their hungry beaks with our leftover bait fish.  It was pure comedy.



Tell me he does not remind you of Billy Idol.


We devoured the wahoo (one of the best tasting fish we’ve ever had), then fell into bed exhausted with the boat’s rocking motion still lingering in our minds.


A huge thank you to our guides Tripp and Eric for giving us everything we asked for and making it so fun.

all photos via the aesthete and the dilettante

It’s Been Quite a Ride

Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

I am ready to close the proverbial door on 2012.  Anyone with me?  It has been a year of great highs and lows both personally and globally, but glass half-full kind of girl that I am, I prefer to reflect on the moments worth celebrating.

One of the highlights of my year was launching this tiny little blog in January.  Talk about a learning curve!  Starting with the retelling of a crazy adventure that was too good to keep to myself, I dove head first into the blogosphere intending to share my, well, my love of life I suppose.  I leave the year much more tech savvy than I entered it and with a clearer sense of where I want the blog to go.  The new format (which I hope you have noticed today!) is part of that focus, and I look forward to bringing you more original images and content that take advantage of this clean, wide, streamlined layout.

my dressing room

February brought what continues to be my most widely read post.  From India to Indiana, it seems women everywhere are still searching for the perfect nude pump.

sleeping sails

Beautiful and unexpected weather visited Chicago in March, bringing runners and revelers to Lake Michigan months early.

 upside down chick

A visit to The Museum of Science and Industry on the last Saturday in April taught our family  a lesson about Perseverance.


In May I counted celebrating Mother’s Day with my mom as one of my greatest blessings.

mini carrot cakes

I also leaked her closely guarded carrot cake recipe.

sharpie triathlon tattoo hugs

Ah, June.  My first triathlon was a great high and horrible low all at once, and because of that I walked away with tremendous gratitude.  And exhaustion.  Thank goodness my little sister sharpied our  favorite expression on my arm before the race because I almost sank  and think it may have saved me!


sea turtle

A trip to Kiawah Island in July brought us close to creatures big and small.  Witnessing the journey from shell to sea for a group of loggerhead turtles is something I will never forget.

Lucy Vincent Beach


fishing nets

the bare essentials

Martha’s Vineyard in August was the best part of summer.  Exploring Lucy Vincent Beach, fishing with Captain Tom Langman, and wandering Menemsha were highlights of the vacation.


September brought autumn’s arrival.

apple picking

And October, a trip to the apple orchard in Wisconsin.


And my 40th.  Yes I’m fussing with my candles.

The Sartorialist

Fashion blogger and photographer Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist came to Chicago for a book signing in November.

peppermint bark

ginger cookies

Cookies and chocolate were all over December – just ask my poor neglected bathroom scale. Which brings us to the New Year.  Resolutions or no resolutions?  I’m already working on my list….

All images via the aesthete and the dilettante

A Fishing Story

As we walked to the end of the creaky dock on Menemsha Harbor where Captain Tom Langman moors his no-frills Boston Whaler, I knew in my gut he was the man to take our family fishing. Weathered by years in the sun and covered with markings of boat grease and struggles with fish, I could see he’d spent a good portion of his life on the water.  He greeted us warmly and held out his hand to help us aboard, and after quick introductions asked what we wanted from our afternoon.  Our focus was definitely on a good catch, we said, but we also wanted a tour of the Vineyard and its surrounding waters from his perspective.

Sensing she was the most intrepid fisherman on the boat, he warmed to my daughter immediately.  And what endeared me to him most was that he never – despite her slight stature and young age – questioned her capability.  When the fishing rod belt was too big for her tiny waist, he didn’t balk at knotting it to fit her and letting her give it a go.

His instincts were dead on as she reeled in, with a bit of assistance, one of the biggest fish of the day.

Another thrill was my first catch of the day – a gorgeous, perfectly sized sea bass:

Maddeningly, a bluefish tore away its bottom half before I could get it in the boat! Needless to say, I didn’t feel guilty about this:

I hope he was the one who ruined my sea bass!

After reeling in more than we could possibly eat, Captain Tom cruised around the neighboring islands, docking on Cuttyhunk for a brief excursion.

He took us back by way of Buzzards Bay as we shared stories in the afternoon sun, dropping a line in the water from time to time.

Cruising into Menemsha Harbor, Tom suggested we offer our catch to one of the best restaurants up-island in exchange for dinner preparation for our family (we hauled in almost 30 pounds of fish, after all!).

In a truly unforgettable moment, we traipsed into the restaurant inn with windblown hair and salty sea skin, three giant fish in tow.  Not only did the chef agree, he seemed genuinely pleased and excited.  Grinning from ear to ear, we returned to our cottage for long showers and a rest.

From the oysters with creme fraiche:

to our bluefish stuffed with lemon and fennel, grilled and served family style with out of this world sides:

we delighted in not only the best meal of our trip but also the knowledge that the diners around us were being served the fish we caught.

This post is dedicated to my grandfather, Bob Fletcher, who would have been 97 years old today.  He taught me everything I know about fishing and much of what I value in life.

all photos via the aesthete and the dilettante