Old World Christmas: The Knee High Feast With Santa at the Famous Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake, WI

In one hand of a four year old dressed in candy striped tights, a red Christmas dress, and shiny black shoes reaching for yet another goody, in the other a plate. The gathered crowd watch in stunned silence as eggs, bacon, sausage, and a huge strawberry started succumbing to gravity as the breakfast plate slid gently to a terrifying angle towards the floor.  A long elfin arm reached down from over the table and leveled the plate, disaster averted.

Above the floor the holiday table was truly a groaning board laden with every possible temptation for brunch. Decorated with piles of Christmas ornaments, swags of cedar, elf figurines,  it was surrounded by children serving themselves with eyes bigger than stomachs.

This was the annual Knee High Christmas Brunch with Santa at the Osthoff Resort. Every little festively costumed face radiated the certainty that dreams really do come true.

Live holiday carols were sung and played on a piano while Mr. and Mrs. Clause roamed around the room delivering messages of joy and cheer to children of all ages. Dozens of elves assisted as children climbed up into chairs where they wrestled with the delicious problem of where to start on the miraculous wonder they had assembled at the knee high table.

As parents guided smiling faces towards another knee high table, the children were presented with not-too-hot chocolate surrounded by bowls of marshmallows, peppermints, cinnamon nuggets, chocolate chips, sprinkles and whipped cream in candy striped containers. Endless confections could be made from the dozens of ingredients enticingly waiting in bowls. The kids were grinning, tap dancing and round eyed as they dipped spoons into sugary possibilities adding to the mug of hot chocolate.

Outside the dining hall awaited Santa, the perfect Santa right down to the dimples. Sincere little faces gazed adoringly up at him and spoke of their Christmas wishes. He held them on his lap and listened as if each child was the only person in the world. As they left Santa, each was given a small hand decorated stocking with a treat inside. They carried these precious gifts filled with holiday wonder as they moved to yet another part of this magical day… the cookie decorating room.

The chef at Osthoff Resort had made hundreds of sugar cookies shaped like Christmas trees, reindeer, ornaments and Santas. Each child decorated with bowls of sprinkles, candies, cinnamon chunks and every manner of festive edible. With pride and excitement grinning children worked away at their sweet projects, creating plates full of yummy treats, their own contributions to the holiday.

Outside the festivities continued with the 15th Annual Old World Christmas Market. A tent the size of a football field had been decorated in every possible way for the holiday.

An authentic Christkindlemarkt, reminiscent of the German celebration with veiner schnitzel & bratwurst, local beers, and sweet flakey kringle. Tall sparkling live trees scent and holiday music filled the air while Russian dolls, Czech blown glass, kissing balls, fresh wreathes and hand knit sweaters were presented as gift ideas. It was a small world created just for the holidays and like Brigadoon would vanish in 10 days.

A vestige of road races through the town, you want to make this turn or end up in the lake.

Beyond the borders of this magical world lay another hidden treasure, the town of Elkhart Lake. Famous for road racing in the fifties through the streets of town, it remains a mecca for sports car lovers world over. It deserves credit as a magnet for foodies and fun lovers as well though, with a home town feel but a very sophisticated sense of style and a highly developed palate.

Osthoff Resort www.osthoff.com

Breakfast with Santa Claus – December 7, 14 & 21, 2019
Join in a festive knee-high breakfast buffet given in honor of Santa Claus. Children will receive a special gift from the jolly old elf.

Old World Christmas Market – December 6 – 15, 2019
Experience the holiday “gemütlichkeit” of a traditional European Christmas Market, reminiscent of the centuries-old German Christkindlesmarkt. International and regional artisans displaying their specialty wares, European delicacies, German Christmas music and Father Christmas are all a part of the 22nd annual Old World Christmas Market. Admission is $7 per adult, children 14 and under are complimentary with an adult ticketholder. Discounted ticket prices for groups of 10 or more are available. Visit www.christmasmarketatosthoff.com for more information.

Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin www.elkhartlake.com


Tropical Beach Lovers Wedding, Puntacana on Dominican Republic has it all!

Standing knee deep in warm undulating turquoise ocean within minutes of getting off the plane from Atlanta. I took a moment to simply take it in. The sensual quality of wind, sun and miles of gentle waves along the shore of this small part of Puntacana, Dominican Republic immediately infuse your soul with peace and send you right into “island time”.

I had come here to consider this site for a wedding weekend for at least 100 guests, maybe more, followed by a week long honeymoon for the bride and groom. With so many things to consider, I sat by the beach and made a list of parts required for the itinerary of such an event, check boxes and all. In order to be sure that there was everything we would need in the area, I had additional inspiration from the handsome bartender at the Tiki Bar on the beach. Doing this research was clearly going to be tough duty….

With hundreds of people invited, one of the elements of this destination wedding is convenient travel for family and friends. Since there are frequent flights from Atlanta, it should be easy for anyone wanting to fly over to the party. With the resort’s assisted arrival and departure program, it took me under 10 minutes from landing to be in the private shuttle for a 5 minute drive to my room at the Westin Beach Resort of Puntacana.

Lodging required for so many guests could easily be accommodated by where I was staying. Guests could each have rooms in The Westin with each spacious room offering a balcony looking over two swimming pools, hot tub, tall palms swaying in the breezes and paths wandering to the beach. The Westin also has a large formal dining restaurant called Anani, a Tiki Bar by the pool, and a charming bar and restaurant on the sand. Along with a Lobby Bar, there is a Cigar Bar by the pool. All of this nestled against a wide white beach that stretches  as far as you can see in either direction with gentle waves providing background music day and night.

The plan was for the groomsmen and bridesmaids to be together. This seemed to be perfectly suited a short distance up the beach to the boutique hotel Tortuga Bay. Modern rooms recently updated stretched along the beach where rooms were hanging over the sand and sea. Additionally, there is a designated area at Tortuga Bay where any guest of Puntacana who checks out in the morning but has a flight home later in the afternoon can relax after checking luggage, and spend the day enjoying the beach, pool and restaurant until departure time.

The bride’s family and the groom’s family each requested a rental house large enough to host siblings and their children, as well as offering a place for gatherings. The bride’s family wanted to host a cocktail party Friday afternoon, catered at this house before the rehearsal dinner. I saw several lovely homes that are part of the Puntacana property for just this purpose.

Friday evening family members and the wedding party would have a rehearsal of the beach side ceremony followed by a dinner under the stars at the Playa Blanca Beach Restaurant. The menu here is fresh and locally caught, and gives the feeling of “going native”. While luscious island inspired courses are served, toes wiggle in the sand as the moon rises over the glistening sea. It is an easy walk down the tiki lighted beach to the Westin after dinner.

The plan also included the groom’s family hosting a catered Saturday morning brunch at their house followed by golf at the La Cana Club featuring a Tom Fiazio designed 18 hole course for as many as liked to play.

Saturday afternoon is to be left for relaxation at the Six Senses Spa, exploring the 50 acre forest reserve called Puntacana Ecological Foundation which includes swimming in fresh water lagoons that leave your skin tingling with freshness, or riding horses on the beach before the wedding scheduled to begin at 6:00PM.

This would be held at The Grill Restaurant, an ocean breeze infused palm covered patio next to the white beach, with a world famous chef who prides himself on his signature taste and texture combinations. The Grill is adjacent to an elegant spacious indoor spaces of tall white beach side galleries.

Sunday morning, the Westin hosts a huge brunch for its guests. It was undecided if there would also be a brunch hosted for the wedding party, but there were many options for locations and catering styles.

As with any plan, there need to be choices. There is a sweet small catholic church in Puntacana Village if that is the bride’s preference. Each of the restaurants has options for indoor or outdoor dining and dancing. Puntacana has wedding planners who will happily help the families design the wedding that dreams are made of, and locate flowers, delicacies but they are very willing to work with a wedding planner from offsite.

There are so many choices, that if you are interested in planning your own destination wedding, I would recommend visiting this site and then talking to one of the wedding planners who have experience and can make suggestions to make your dreams come true! Puntacana beach wedding ideas.

To select from the many lodging options that Puntacana has to offer:Different lodging options for your wedding party.


Port Wines, Century Old Vines and Ancient times along the Douro River in Portugal with Viking Cruises

It felt incredibly indulgent: hopping from my cozy bed just long enough to toss the curtains open, then plunging back into the covers so I could sip coffee while watching the dramatic landscape of Portugal’s Douro Valley ease by the boat. Passing hillsides are carved with narrow terraces from 800 years ago, their singular purpose to provide level space in the impossibly vertical terrain for growing port wine grapes. The landscape looks woven and pleated, a textured view of the mountains as seen sparkling in the sunlight from the river.

We had a whole week on the Douro River, which seems to be marked by the contrast between trips to its historic shores and comforts of the easy, modern river passages.

Mountain climbs up and down restless switchback roads in extremely comfortable coaches led to wandering around in narrow, ancient streets so old you could hear the sigh of ages. You could put your shoes where others had walked wearing clanking armor and touch walls covered in hand-painted tiles centuries old.

Returning to the boat, life was filled with soothing movement along both narrow and wide parts of the peaceful river aboard s/v Hemming. The evening begins with cocktails, chatting about the day’s experiences, and news of tomorrow’s adventures from the brilliant program director, Alexandra. The organization of excursions is smoothly and professionally executed for a variety of activity level preferences and led by guides who make all transitions effortless.

Portugal may not be famous for its exotic cuisine, but Viking Hemming might be the oasis of inspired dining for all meals: luscious dinners in the handsome white linen dining room were exquisite (and frequently followed by live music and dancing in the lounge.

Our cabin was very comfortable for two, including a small living room where I tended to stretch out before dinner, pretending to read but actually just drifting with the passing scenery. The veranda off the sitting room became our pre-breakfast coffee nook while the French porch off the bedroom allowed us to open the sliding door and enjoy the warm evening breezes off the river at night without fear of taking an accidental swim.

We found ourselves in a new environment at every turn: from the vibrant twin cities of Porto and Gaia to venerable teeming universities; from ancient, whispering castles and fierce stone fortresses to small cozy towns of only a few farmhouses. Portugal is not a land of fences – most places, you can rest on a wall built during the Crusades or run your hands over the centuries-old carvings on a cathedral’s lintel. That removed, museum quality so frequent at historic sites is not here – instead, you can believe for a moment that you might have lived in this world.

And history abounds in Portugal. As it was not bombed during WWII, there are buildings still standing which were constructed in the 1400s. Time spent surrounded by these ancient beauties is time well spent. An afternoon at Castelo Rodrigo, for example, a fortress built in 1209, passed walking the shoulder-width granite cobbled paths and marveling at how much of this old stone place was still standing; more of it is being reconstructed by UNESCO.


The seemingly 100-mile view from the top made it easy to understand why this spot was chosen for the stone fortress some 800 years ago; how they built it, however, was much harder to imagine. Two churches, several homes and sheds all made of stone with narrow, winding streets between, a minaret, and a synagogue, all safely sheltered from invaders on top of this mountain, surrounded by endless stone wall. Quite a thing.

The modern Castelo Rodrigo has a few small shops selling local handmade sweaters and crafts, a tiny restaurant and café making sandwiches and pastries, and of course, the vendor offering a wide array of  local port wines. All these are nestled in old stone structures that insist you duck to enter the doorways. Where there were hundreds of people here centuries ago, there remain only 16. While the restoration work progresses slowly, Castelo Rodrigo exudes charm and a sense of hand-built grace that you can feel in every stone you rest your fingers on.

Each day brought a new, magical experience. One evening found us boarding our coaches for a short ride to Convento de Alpendurada for dinner in the gothic vaulted cellars of a beautifully-kept monastery. The next morning’s late breakfast onboard turned into a race of sorts as a tiny, easter egg colored train chugged alongside the river.

Post-race, we visited Mateus Palace — that’s right, the one from the bottles of wine in which we all over-indulged during the 60s. It is still lived in by the same family that built it centuries ago and still guards the seemingly endless fields of grapes and flowers, formal and maze gardens. I found the reflecting pool I remembered from the bottle, still creating a magical illusion, perfect symmetry with occasional ripples.

The university town of Cuimbra was another highlight — this is the very town where J.K. Rowling studied and which served as the site for her Harry Potter’s magical school Hogwarts. Rowling was faithful in her depiction, right down to the hooded, floor-length black capes worn by the students. At one time, Cuimbra was the largest city in Portugal, until the cities of Porto and Gaia surpassed it as financial capitols, thanks to trade routes with China and South America.

Cuimbra is also famous for its unique brand of Fado, the Portuguese form of musical storytelling. Incredibly dramatic, Fado is almost like a one-person opera telling the story of love, loss or pride by highly revered singers, generally accompanied by one or two stringed instruments. This is very serious stuff to the performers, and in Cuimbra, the singers of Fado are akin to demigods.

The library at Cuimbra is divided into three segments on the subjects of Law, Medicine, and Natural Science & Astronomy. Impossibly tall tiers with more than 3,000 books each, accessed by rolling ladders, with sections painted in dark red, dark green or black and heavily trimmed in gold, each containing the world’s total knowledge of those three subjects on intricately carved shelves, gilded rails, and hard-carved wooden ladders – so invitingly beautiful you want to climb about and read them all.

Every day was filled with these adventures. From our start at Lisbon, where we walked the tiny, cobbled streets of Alfama (which remains an intimate community of families who have shared alleys so small you could practically shake hands with your neighbor across the street), to the old port of Belem where the wealthy merchants built enormous wooden fortresses after the devastating earthquake of the mid-1700s so they could watch their gold- and spice-laden ships come and go from the working harbor.

Port wine is an all consuming  topic in Portugal, and they love their wines with a passion. We visited at least one winery each day, and sure enough as you went along you really did could discern the difference between the vineyards.  Technically, in order to capitalize the “P” in Port Wine, it must come from the Douro Valley and have an alcohol content between 20-23 percent.  Ruby Portos are not aged long, just 1-3 years. Tawny Portos can be aged for decades in huge wooden barrels while colors fade and sugars mellow. All are sweet though, and is meant to be enjoyed without further aging although an open bottle will stay tasty for up to a month due to its higher alcohol levels.

The Douro River trip is a peaceful one: once you get past the first lock, you travel from lake to lake with lazy elevator rides in the ship in between. The terrain is restless, lush, and dotted with farmhouses, vineyards, and small towns. The excursions are diverse and captivating, the staff professional. I am already looking forward to luxuriating on my next adventure on the river with Viking!

Viking River Cruises to the Douro River Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQK9xpwmFa4#action=share

Clip from Upscale Living Magazine

Slideshow of the Meteus Palace: http://www.getportugal.com/en/poi-palacio-de-mateus-15281

Castelo Rodrigo:  http://www.visitcentrodeportugal.com.pt/castelo-rodrigo/

Reviews of Portugal’s Port wines:  http://wine.bestcovery.com/best-port-wines

SIDEBAR: Port Wines

Strange as it sounds, the sweet wine that we know as Port owes its popularity to the fact that the  French and the British were squabbling in the 18th century, and the British blocked the  French harbors to shipping which shut off  french wine exports like a tap.


The  British turned to Portugal for its requirement. The Portuguese  began fortifying  their wines with local brandy to raise the alcohol level so that the wine would not spoil as it was shipped in barrels to be bottled on site. This brandy stopped the fermentation leaving a higher sugar level than traditional wines,  a sweeter taste and a higher alcohol level. Since it was shipped from the Douro River city of Oporto it became known as Port Wine.

There are three main types of  port wine: White, Ruby and Tawny.  White  Ports are meant to be drunk young, although some of it does get aged. Ruby Port is barrel aged, also intended to be drunk while young and tend to have a more fruity flavor. Tawny Ports are aged in smaller barrels and have a tawny color.

Just because anything this rarefied could not possibly be so simple, there are dozens of sub categories to each of these type s including Vinho Verde, Vintage and LBV (Late Bottled Vintage).

While on the Viking Douro River  cruise we visited a winery almost every day and sampled offerings from Burmester, Sanderman, Taylors and Croft  as well as many blends. There is a very wide variety, really something for every palate. In addition, the portugese use these wines for desserts, as well as mixing lemon and seltzer with some which I found wonderful on a hot day.

Movie Star History, Grace and Fine Dining at Chico Hot Springs, Montana

After leaving Bozeman civilization for a stunningly beautiful drive through the mountains of Montana, at the very end of the road lies a surprising oasis. Recorded first in 1865 in an explorer’s diary Chico became a mecca for people weary of body from rugged Montana days, or frail of health from all over the region in the 19th century. The natural heat and earthy minerals of these heated waters developed a reputation for relief from everything from kidney issues to skin disorders, while many just came to “plunge” because it feels so good.

We arrived on a cold blustery Montana day in February of the 21st century, with snow in the air, a chill in the bones and the ground crusted over. As we walked past the “Welcome Home” sign by the door, and into the large old fashioned Victorian main lodge, the fire was roaring in the wood stove, wonderful smells were creeping from the dining room, and returning visitors who were on a first name basis with the clerk behind the desk were signing into their favorite room for the weekend. Clearly glad to be “home”. The settled charm of a place with well over a hundred years experience at comforting visitors was immediately felt by all of us. Though we had never been there before, we did indeed feel welcomed home.

As I walked through the door of my room at the Lower Lodge, its comfortable slightly modern western interior, four poster bed and golden wood walls provided a sense of shelter from the harsh horizontal snow outdoors. My recently married daughter and her husband had a room upstairs that made them wish they had known about Chico Hot Springs when they were making wedding plans. I resisted the urge to ask for details, but they felt very cozy in their room.

Chico hourse barnBehind the Lower Lodge we found the Horse Barn, and were greeted by several horses with a layer of snow on their backs, and a sweet dusting of snow in their eyelashes. Chico is famous for horseback trail rides into Yellowstone National Park, carriage rides through the mountains, and ponies to introduce younger people to the ways of horses. The mountains surrounding Chico summon the spirit of exploring on horseback, and the horses seemed ready to answer that call. We also found that dog sledding tours were available there. We were very sorry to miss the chance to see the mountains from a sled with a team of dogs, or from the back of a horse as there is something of that quiet way of travel that stirs the soul in these huge rugged mountains. Every direction you turn the mountains call like a song on the wind.

Chico CottageAfter exploring outside for a while, we decided to take the “plunge” in the hot springs ourselves. Bathing suits in hand we ventured back to the main lodge and through the long winding halls to the huge natural spring pools. On the way we became acquainted with much of the history of this end of the road. The walls are covered with over a century’s worth of photos, maps, newspapers and other bits of history which tell a wonderful story of the evolution of a remote natural resource that has evolved with grace. It also tuned us in to looking at everything inside around us, a real treasure trove of eclectic adventure.

The outer pool is 44’ long and naturally heated with fresh spring water every day. The inner pool is smaller and hotter and under a roof, with “curb” service from the “Saloon” next to it. Both pools make your skin tingle with freshness, your muscles melt with pleasure, and your belief that there could be any problems in the outside world disappear.

After a short nap in my snugly room, we walked back to the main lodge and found the dining room. It is welcoming and comfortable, and everyone seemed to know each other even though they might have just met. We where we were immediately struck by the sophisticated menu.

Montana is famous for its beef, but fresh fish, pork and duck along with their own homemade bread and Chico grown herbs and vegetables were as beautifully prepared as surprising. Perhaps we were seduced by the clean snowy air combined with a long soak in the hot springs pool, followed by the luxuriant and mandatory four poster nap before dinner BUT the offerings in the dining room are a mountain miracle. Beef in Montana has a well deserved reputation, and Gavin’s vanished with barely need for a knife. I ordered the duck, which I try most places that it is offered, and Chico’s was among the best of the best. Crispy outside and richly tender inside. My daughter ordered trout, which she declared wondrously fresh and sweet, with a light lemony salsa on top.

Breakfast at Chico is another distinctive adventure, with three buffet tables laden with everything you can think of for breaking fast, and then some. One whole table filled with fresh pastries, and on top of that there is a menu of specialties! All the offerings were so tempting, so irresistible, that when we left we decided we needed a break from eating for the next 48 hours!

Chico Hot Springs is truly one of the most beautiful ways I have ever seen for taking a break from the world. I would like to go back and stay for a week, ride horses, hike in the mountains, sleep in that wonderful nest of a bed and let the universe take care of itself without me. Spend time in the dining room too, did I forget to mention that? I am sure that I would come home ten years younger and a few pounds heavier.

Luscious Dining and then Chico’s Famous Flaming Orange – the Ultimate follow up.

But the most astonishing thing of all though was their signature dessert, the Flaming Orange. I saw columns of fire erupting in the dining room, but I was so focused on the richness of the duck that I didn’t even think to ask what it was. After dinner though, our waitress informed us about the house specialty. She then arrived at the table with what was clearly an orange that had mounds of cream on top settled into what looked like a small iron skillet. With no fuss at all she torched it and yet another 3’ high geyser of flame shot upward and produced that singular campfire smell of burning sugar with the tang of citrus. It was just as interesting to taste as it was to watch too!
How to get there:
163 Chico Road
Pray, Montana (MT)  59065
get directions

Fishing for Dinosaurs Under the Midnight Sun

In all of my history on the water I did not think 45” of gleaming gold, brown and red with a mouth that looked designed for eating inflatable zodiacs could come out of a lake. My brother Seaver and I grew up fishing stripers and blues along the New England coast on our father’s 32’ lobster boat, so I had seen big fish but this, this looked prehistoric like some sort of relic dinosaur.

Watching in eager anticipation as our guide pulled a fish out of the lake that I had been carefully playing for several minutes, my jaw dropped. She stood almost to my shoulder! A range of words flew through my mind, but the only word that came out of my mouth was WOW!

She had been good fun, and that is right, the big ones are the females. The smaller ones, the males we caught were often chewed up and scarred. Had me thinking that reproduction might be a risky venture. Our guide, Tyler Binns,  confirmed that mating was a rough sport for these guys, and added that they also dine on their own kind. Evidently these Northern Pike grow 1.5” per year for the first four years as nature’s way of climbing up the food chain fast, until they find out which side of the reproductive lottery they land on.

Returning to the lodge by plane

Guides have their own favorite spots, weed patches, rock piles and confluences for each of the four fish types in the enormous Wollaston Lake region. In the afternoon we roared out into the lake in a well-equipped 17’ Lund with a stash of rods, reels and tackle that would make any self-respecting fish wish it had wings. There are 70+ of these boats, roughly 35 at the dock in front of the main lodge. Others stashed remotely around the lake could be accessed by the two float planes which dropped fishermen off early and picked them up in the afternoon from the far regions of the lake.

Lake trout can be 3x bigger

One day Tyler stopped carefully over a particular patch of water that looked completely homogeneous to everything else. With his high tech navigation gear he was able to pick out a very specific spot, a rock pile 90’ down where he had always found huge lake trout. We trolled around and each of us pulled in a 12 pound lake trout, my first. The mounted lake trout in the dining room was three times as big as these, but it still felt like a good deal to me. In Vermont rivers we call a three pound trout a pretty good day. My brother Seaver has been a fly fishing guide in Patagonia half of each year for the last two decades, so this was not nearly as big a surprise to him as it was to me.

Shore lunch chef Tyler Binns

On a normal day, my brother Seaver and I caught 30-40 fish. Not all of them monsters but every one good fun and then carefully returned to the water. The program was to return them quickly and with minimal damage. We only took the time to photograph the beasts, the ones that were worthy of the “brag board” at main lodge.

The exception was the one unlucky pike of 26-28” which Tyler would cook for “shore lunch”. He had favorite spots along the lake where each day he would unload a cooler full of drinks, veggies and a huge skillet, all the fixings for a fresh fish fry. Tyler collected wood, built a fire and prepared a feast as Seaver and I relaxed, enjoying the peace of feeling alone in the universe on this beautiful lake.

The Lounge Brag Board

At the end of each day each guide loaded pictures of the noteworthy catches by their boat on a large digital screen which rotated the images in the lounge above the dining room. The “brag board” provided visual fodder for all sorts of enthusiastic commentary when guests gathered for cocktails before dinner each evening.

Main Lodge dining

After the animated chatter of the cocktail viewing of the brag board, everyone drifts down to the dining room to be impressed with the offerings yet again. The dining room is a huge timber frame space with windows all the way around so no matter where you sit you are looking over the lake. Tables seat 8-10 people so you get to know other fishermen, exchange stories of home and other fishing adventures. Truthfully, the dining is enough reason to visit Wollaston Lake Lodge, but the stories tend to help you ignore the fact that you have cleaned your plate, and are looking forward to dessert!

At the end of each day, a 3 course dinner

Our first night, cranberry stuffed baked brie with fresh fruit compote and home baked toast points served individually as an appetizer. That was followed by truly the best steak I have cut into with a fork, finished by monstrous sweet strawberries sliced over perfect angel food cake all buried under a pile of fresh hand whipped cream. I was too tired to wonder where the ingredients for this feast came from given that the next town was 800 miles away. I simply enjoyed every morsel. Unfortunately for my waistline the menu was this good day after day.

Days at Wollaston Lake Lodge start early and end that way for the most part. Seaver and I walked to the dining hall and found “ballast” sized breakfast then headed to the dock by 8:45 each morning. We were back around 6:00 for a shower, cocktail and fish stories, dinner and bed by 9:30. Repeat. Some people went back to the lounge after dinner, but we liked to walk the path back to our lovely cabin in what would have been the light of 4PM at home.

Our cabin overlooking the lake

We were in fact pretty close to the land of the midnight sun which meant that not only did it stay light in the evening but come full dark northern lights were a regular occurrence. Over dinner it emerged that each of our guides had suggested that we catch this amazing phenomenon later. The possibility of this being part of a betting pool among the staff, perhaps the person guessing the number of guests who actually got up in the wee hours and wandered down to the dock with pillows and blankets to see the sky light up and dance won the pool. Never confirmed but a good laugh. We never did stay up late enough to see full dark, or the 11:30 gathering on the dock to watch the nightly light in the sky.

Our front porch

After 9 hours of fishing, cocktails over fishing pictures followed by a fabulous dinner, our cabin was so welcoming that we never could make a re-entry into the night. Inside our high ceilinged log cabin were three bedrooms with heavy Hudson by type blankets, “cotty” sheets, a huge bathroom, a living room complete with 4 overstuffed chairs, a wet bar and fridge, a dining room table and the endless view of the river out front. Not your “Deliverance” cabins. Huge windows faced over the wide deck covered with sturdy wooden chairs and tables, and out to the lake. Seaver and I stood in front of those windows one night watching a tangerine full moon sinking beyond the pines, creating a wide golden sparkling path to our deck. The only sound was distant loons. The haunting beauty of that moment will live with me for a long time.

It is said that as you age, time spent fishing does not count. Wollaston Lake Lodge provides such time. I promise that your first monster Northern Pike will be a revelation. I found myself reconsidering any future lake swimming. Re-entry from this peaceful, elegant and soul nourishing experience is the rough ride as everything at the lake runs so smoothly and is so well attended to that returning to the airport in Winnipeg feels like pandemonium. Still, once you board your mind will wander back over the days and you will probably start planning your next visit.

Wollaston Lake Lodge is an Orvis endorsed fantasy camp for fishermen with a luxurious approach to “roughing it” by the side of the largest bifurcation lake in the world with 1035 square surface miles of extraordinary fishing led by experienced guides with fully equipped fishing boats perfectly designed for the environment. The lake itself is open only 10-12 weeks each year. Most of the year it can be seen as the Ice Road Truckers make crossings on the frozen lake.


How to get there:

Fly to Winnipeg to be met at the airport by a representative of Wollaston Lake Lodge. They arrange your room for the night with dinner on your own, but the hotel makes it easy. Gather in the lobby at 5:15AM for coffee and pick up by Wollaston Lake guide for transportation to the private air strip and the 800 mile flight north to the lake. Bus ride for a half hour to the Lodge and a welcome breakfast. Your luggage will meet you in your cabin and you will be well fed and fishing by 9AM.




Toll Free 800.328.0628

3910 Thatcher Avenue

Saskatoon, SK S7R 1A4


Body Heavenly ~ Pink Sands Club Spa, Canouan SVG


2 of the 9 spas are over the reef, with glass floors

I have been an incredibly lucky girl, somehow growing up to be an experienced spa hound. I have been invited to some of the world’s most beautiful spas and met some of the worlds most talented masseuses. This image was taken when we went snorkeling at the Tobago Key Preserve.

We sailed just outside of two of the spa villas that are free standing over the water. Each one has a glass floor so that you can watch the fish and coral reef below during your massage. The other seven spa villas, dot the hillside to the left  behind, and the main complex of the Pink Sands Club is on the right.

beach10This is the path that goes from the main courtyard along the sand and to the spa villas. It is a beautiful walk with the music of the sea playing in the background as I walked from the pink elegance of my suite and relaxed grace of courtyard to the secluded environment of the spas. Each of the spa villas is accessed by funicular. I stepped onto wide wooden boardwalks that lead through the lush trees and flowers into the privacy of my own villa.

funiculaWhen I first entered the spa villa, on the left I found a covered porch of dark carved wood which faced out to the beautiful colors of the turquoise sea and the barrier reef that protects the wide white beaches below. The sound is constant and soothing, perfect in its compliment to the pampering environment of the spa villa with its surrounding dark green foliage and brilliant flowers.

spaOn my right was a lovely tiled shower that looked out over the porch and out to sea. Also I found a large changing room filled with soft spa robes, and storage in carved dark wooden cabinets.

I met a lovely dark eyed Balinese masseuse named Made (Mahday) who barely came up to my collar bone. She was very engaging in her interest in exactly what I was hoping would happen to my body under her care.

She offered me several choices for scented lotions, and with that settled she started a brushing therapy from head to toe. Very stimulating and closely followed by a scented exfoliant which stimulated, refreshed and soothed my well sunned skin with long sweeping strokes.  I slid into the shower to rinse off  the lotions Made had applied, and for a few minutes enjoyed the warm water as it ran over my well stimulated skin which was certainly enhance by the sparkling reflections on the tiles as the water splashed around among the blue tiles.

spa4Then began 90 minutes of one of the best massages that I have ever had. Made moved up and down my body in perfect rhythm, releasing my jet lagged muscles, and easing tension in all the tiny places that I am inclined to ignore. Her firm but gentle treatment was gratefully received my body, and not for a minute did I want to go to sleep and miss any of it! I was so immersed in Made’s gentle ministrations that it was a sad moment when she finished. It was then that I noticed that while my skin was richly soft with emollients there was no trace of oil. Very nice.

If you are lucky enough to be able to treat your body to this most beautiful therapy, this particular treatment is called “Tickle Me Pink” and I promise that there is no tickling involved. Just a most heavenly sensation that will have your body humming for hours and hours after you leave.

Video of Pink Sands Club: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMdwGrPzkeA&feature=youtu.be

Finally Out of The Snow!

cropped-swimmer.jpgThe ocean hammering on the beach with the tide ripping along the sand is tonic for my snow weary soul. The salt air is homogenous with my skin, my senses are soothed… finally. I love the snow, especially at the beginning of the season, but I think I am not naturally as kindred to it as I am the warm salty air. There are not too many people in Puerta Vallarta at this time of year. I am told it’s the shoulder season which to me means “peaceful”. For this cold to the bone girl, 80° with not a cloud in the sky means that all is right with the world.

DSCN1295Velas Vallarta is really a large resort, nine stories tall, every room with a balcony facing the sea. The U-shaped surrounds a long lush garden with a meandering swimming pool that drifts towards the surf through elegant palms, brilliant bougainvillaea, cactus’ and succulents, even the occasional small dinosaur iguana lingering by the stream filled with golden koi. The balconies drip with flowers from one balcony down to the one below, and the primal screech of peacocks fills the air now and then. Yup, at this moment and in this place all is right with the world.

I wander down to the beach because I can’t help it and take in how beautiful Bay Bandaras is was with the Sierra Madre mountains plunging right down to the sea on the other side of the harbor. The mountains have a cloud all along the top of them which almost look like snowcaps, a reminder of where I came from, and how lucky I am for this reprieve. But the breeze is warm and I realize I am hungry.

There is a beautiful restaurant on beach, how lucky am I. It has a raffia interior roof and no real walls on the outside. The scent from the grills along the buffet promise an interesting lunch. Better with the first of vacation margaritas. It’s hard to fathom that just a few hours ago it was cold in Vermont, and now it’s tropical, lush and green, the air filled with bird song and surf.

I do wish my daughter Lauren was with me. I miss her a lot now that she’s moved out west. I am going to find a way to bring her this sense of lightness that fills me now. I think of all the friends I would love to be sharing this wonderful moment with too. I wish this feeling for all of you.

For A Clean Ocean: Rozalia Project

Lowering the ROV into Boston Harbor so that people could see what lies on the floor of the bay.

Lowering the ROV into Boston Harbor so that people could see what lies on the floor of the bay.

I have recently joined the board of Rozalia Project, a boots on the ground group of dedicated sailors and interns running  programs along the New England coast with the mission of teaching young people the importance of our oceans. There are many different programs within Rozalia’s mission but this is the most visible. For the last 4 years there have been numerous beaches, coves and harbors cleaned and analyzed with the help of an ROV, a quad pro and numerous volunteers. Bits of trash are carefully collected, sorted and counted, sources determined and solutions discussed and published.

Morning in Boston for World Ocean Day '14

Morning in Boston for World Ocean Day ’14

We spent World Ocean Day in Boston, with Rachel and the interns driving the ROV around the harbor so that visitors could see how much trash collects right there at the dock. We also saw fish and crabs which totally captivated the imagination of the people who stopped by. Children especially got very excited as the tiny robot explored underwater, and this will be where much of the difference in how we view our oceans will take root. If we can catch their imaginations now, they will continue to be aware through all of their lives. As always happens, several small people announced that they were now going to be marine biologists after coming to understand what was under the surface. Of course there is a world of adventures that they will have between here and there so we shall see, but for the moment it is a great idea!

Hickory and Smudge aboard American Promise.

Hickory and Smudge aboard American Promise.

I will be posting more of their features on this site, along with some of my own adventures on the 62′ American Promise, now a living research lab and home to not one, but two (huge) Newffies! You haven’t lived until you have seen one of these 140lb guys climb from a tender over a fender, over the gunwales and under the safety lines with four people pulling and pushing. It is quite a scene, but an integral part of life aboard with this intrepid crew!

The link below goes to a feature video on Expedition Clean featuring Rachel Miller. There are other features which I will post shortly. There is an RSS feed that you can click to get these automatically, or you can get posts on Rozalia Project’s FB page https://www.facebook.com/RozaliaProject


Edruska: A Luxury Cruise in the Caribbean for 5 (Very) Lucky Women.

The ultimate.

The ultimate.

We are a group of five women, 3 professionals on vacation and two teenagers. We are all eager to sail, snorkel and explore as much of the Caribbean as we can fit into our week trip.

I had read a short history of the Virgins as named by Columbus in 1493 after St. Ursula and her following of 11,000 virgins who were attacked by the Huns and sacrificed their lives rather than submit to a fate less tolerable. Spain laid claim to this territory at the time, as it did with the Americas. There was a frontier mentality on the archipelago, which makes an arch from Trinidad to Florida. The native Caribs, who gave us the word “cannibal” already inhabited these islands. They had already absorbed the other native group, the Arawaks, and viewed the Spanish as more fresh dinner. Even the force of the Inquisition was not enough to conquer the determined violence of the Caribes.

IMG_0103As Spain’s hold on this territory began to fade, other nations began to use the Virgin Islands at a trading post due to their convenient location. Piracy flourished, and the term “privateer” was created to mean a sort of loosely legitimized brand of piracy for the benefit of the English, Dutch, French and Danish nations. Eventually colonization began to stabilize the evolving agrarian society based largely on sugar cane plantations, and brought with it the slave trade. In 1717 a census reports 625 people on the island of Virgin Gorda, half of them black. By 1750 the population had grown to nearly 2,000 with the largest number of them being slaves. The sugar beet became a cash crop in Europe at that time, which severely impacted the cane plantations, leading to slave revolts on all the islands. By 1800 the slaves were freed and the white population had all but deserted these islands. In 1893 it is reported that there were only two white men in the BVI, the Deputy Governor and the doctor. The economy was practically non-existent, and in 1917 the Danish islands were sold to the US as a strategically defensive position for protecting approaches to the Panama Canal. Eventually the unspoiled environment and comfortable climate of these islands began to attract tourists, and the islands themselves began to create a stable economy for the residents.

IMG_0926What we are presented with now is friendly people, living laid back lives in an outrageously beautiful cluster of islands. Our charter began at Road Town, Tortola, where we spent the night at Village Cay Marina before departure. The open cab ride up and down the hills and out to Cane Garden Bay for dinner was an adventure timed perfectly for a dramatic tropical sunset revealing the adjacent islands. We walked along the sand to select one of the half dozen ocean front restaurants for dinner. Open porches on a wide white beach, live music, good food and the sun setting over the masts in the bay was our introduction to the Caribbean.

After dinner, we decided to drop by Bomba’s Shack, a popular hang out on Tortola. The structure is made entirely out of drift wood, beach findings and ladies’ underwear. This is a wild experience, and not to be missed. Built entirely out of driftwood with the underwear of visitors who cannot resist an evening swim stapled to the rafters, It became in my mind the world’s largest lingerie display! Every driftwood surface was covered with hand written notes which dated back only to the previous hurricane. After each major storm a brand new supply of ocean worn building materials is delivered to the beach for rebuilding the completely erased previous structure. This has been going on for nearly 40 years. The music was impossible to resist, the other visitors were laid back and friendly, and the famous Bomba Shack Full Moon Party was on!

IMG_0985The first thing I noticed walking up the pier to board S/Y Edruska the next morning was how elegant she looked. Captain Alan Reynolds and his wife Jo-Anne were as welcoming as the yacht herself. Edruska is a 63′ Richleigh Yacht designed by Rich Ford. During his nine years of chartering he meticulously recorded the details of what makes a charter boat powerful to sail and comfortable to live aboard. These notes were central to the design of the yacht, and proved to be very effective at designing a fast sailing boat that is spacious and easy to live aboard. It is not hard to understand why the Virgin Islands are world famous as a cruising destination. USVI and BVI offer short hops between islands, line of site navigation, calm waters, plenty of wind and overall great sailing. Distance between islands is such that you can easily have breakfast in one spot, have a beautiful passage followed by lunch and snorkeling in another spot, and then head out again for a sail to a different anchorage in time to catch a sunset. We left Road Town and had a one hour sail to the harbor of Maya Cove on Buck Island off the eastern end of Tortola. The water is so clear that it is impossible to tell the depth, the beach is white and pristine. We were the only boat there, alone in paradise.

IMG_0933Lunch was served on deck, comfortably under the awning. Cold tortellini salad, with salami and fresh crunchy red peppers, chilled white wine and fruit with one of Jo-Anne’s special sauces on top was the first indication that we were in for many culinary treats on board Edruska. After lunch we headed to The Bitter End, Virgin Gorda. The breeze blew at 12 knots, and proud Edruska made clean and exhilarating passage. Our two 19-year-olds Katie and Jordan had a real desire to learn to sail, and Alan proved to be an experienced and talented instructor. All afternoon the girls were at the helm with Alan quietly near. They learned to feel the hull passing through the water, watch the shape and tension of the sail, observe the wind over the water, and generally perceive the boat as an animal interacting with her environment. He encouraged them to understand the primitive and the romance, but also to read the well laid out instrumentation. We were Gods of the ocean in the buttery afternoon sun as Edruska’s fine hull cut through the water with that telltale shiver of full optimization.

Virgin Gorda is 10 miles long with some peaks rising to 1000 feet over glistening beaches. As we approached, we could see boulders standing up out of the water, which gave way to wide, white stretches of sand. The vegetation comes in a perfectly orchestrated tapestry of color and texture, culminating in a horizon peppered with more of the giant boulders which just barely cleared the trees. The turquoise water below and azure skies above seemed to wrap themselves around this uncluttered place in peaceful isolation. The sun set over the stern, while the full moon rose over the bow. Life aboard a proud ship in the company of friends both old and new created the sense that we all wanted time to stop right here. Alan delivered fresh tropical frozen cocktails, while Jo-Anne made a snack of mushroom caps filled with mixed cheeses. Dinner was sea bass with a very thin crust of potato and Jo-Anne’s wizardry with spices. Next came fresh sweet peaches and sliced almonds in créme frâiche topped with cinnamon.

laurenThe next morning we set sail for a spot at the southern end of Virgin Gorda called The Baths. At first sighting we found huge boulders littered along the shore, and then in piles sprinkled with palm trees which formed the tip of the island. Alan ran us over to the beach in the dinghy and told us to take the “lovely path.” The path is actually a trail through the piles of mammoth boulders. Water flows between them in places, forming turquoise pools large enough to swim in with streams of sunlight poking through. We played like children happily going from one beautiful space to another, over, under, around and between the rocks, swimming in sun streaked caves, and scrambling around the sandy paths. Lovely indeed.

Meanwhile, back on Edruska, Jo-Anne was fixing crab tortillas with shrimp sauce. When we were finally lured in from exploring the shore with promises of lunch, the table was all set. Snorkeling was one of our priorities, so Alan began to plan a route that would take us to the most beautiful spots at the right times of day. The BVI and USVI offer plenty of activity for those who would like to dance under the stars, but we were interested in good sailing, dramatic sunsets, quiet evenings and good camaraderie aboard. So, after another delicious meal, we set sail for Norman Island. The wind was up and we had a fine sail while we sat in the stern and talked with Jo-Anne about the islands that we were passing Ginger, Cooper, Salt and Peter.

eveningWe sailed to Soldiers Bay for the evening and there was nobody else around, just what we wanted. It had been a great day filled with coral and fish, paddling the kayak, and laced with excellent food. The moon performed again, and Alan gave us his night vision glasses. That is when we discovered that there is barely any space between the stars once you can see them all. The three cabins on Edruska are very comfortable, air conditioned and roomy, each with its own head & shower. Still, I slept on the fore deck cushions that night, because the sky was as big and bright as I had ever seen it. As I watched the stars emerge and listened to the gentle lapping at the hull, I felt like the luckiest woman in the universe. Being out in the air under the stars infuses your soul with a kind of poetry and connection to the islands.

breakfastThe next morning began at a lazy pace. I woke to the inviting smell of coffee and cooking in the galley. My friends emerged at their own comfortable times. Breakfast was served on deck, enough for twice as many as we were, and lots of variety. Over the three-course breakfast we discussed the tans that we were acquiring, and I was elected to ask the question. I told Alan that I currently did not have any tan lines, and was hoping not to get any. He had heard this from guests before and said that he would simply announce himself before coming forward on deck. From then on, the forward cushions were known as Lido Beach and total tanning was on.

Our photographer Dana is fearless, and she asked Alan if he would put her to the top of the mast in the boson’s chair. He was happy to oblige. She took of the islands from the top spreader. Watching her up there prompted me to want to see the view from 88 feet up. Before long the others wanted to go up too. My sister Audrey went only as far as the first spreader, due to her concerns with heights. Our captain was very attentive to the person in the boson’s chair and he stopped immediately at the first sign of her discomfort. It was an easy ride down whenever each of us was ready. Alan told me that no other guests had asked for this particular adventure, but from the mast you can see over the islands, from horizon to horizon and down into the coral reefs under the clear turquoise water. Alan wanted us to see The Caves on Norman Island, so we moved Edruska around the point.

Dana had her Nikonos loaded, and armed with a plastic bag full of bread we swam over. The amount and variety of marine life was amazing, and the fish emerged from every crevice when we began to feed them. We even had some time in the company of a sea turtle. The caves themselves are big enough to swim into, and contain a kind of glittery light that makes you want to stay forever. After lunch at the caves we set sail for Lameshur Bay, on St. John’s East End. The afternoon sail was so fast and beautiful that we were all hoping that it would take longer. After anchoring we took a drive into Cruise Bay to do a little necessary souvenir shopping and to clear customs, as this was now the USVI. The mountain road is treacherous with switchbacks and drop offs. The bay road offers incredible views into the turquoise bays. St John’s is 3/4s National Forest, so there are plentiful hiking trails.

anagadaWe arrived back in time for a sunset hike to the farthest eastern point, Ram’s Head. It’s an easy one-mile walk through low shrub, with a variety of cacti. From here there are dramatic views back on to Salt Pond and towards Tortola. We saw a glorious sunset enroute, and got back to Edruska just before dark. Alan’s justly famous frozen pina coladas were served with baked mussels. Dinner was Grouper with salad followed by chocolate souffl� and a dramatic celestial display.

We woke to another perfect day in paradise. Alan is a dive instructor, and Edruska has tanks aboard but the water is only 30′ or so deep and perfectly clear for snorkeling. We set out from the stern with snorkels and swam out to the point. We saw a huge barracuda along the way, and lots of different fish and corals, but the big treat was that we got to hang out with a sea turtle. Alan went right to the bottom and swam next to it looking for all the world like a dolphin. We also found two different types of rays, and some squid during our swim, but it was time to head around to the north side of St. John. Edruska did her thing at 9.5 knots with the gennaker up, and we had a fabulous passage to Leinster Bay, where we stopped for another suit expanding lunch of salmon salad completed by carrots carved into palm trees, green pepper slices for fronds, with olives standing in for cocoa nuts. There is a small island at the entrance to Leinster Bay which demanded exploring, and a wide view of the Sir Francis Drake Channel and Tortola. The kayak went into the water again, and some of us snorkeled. Again we all hoped that time would stop and leave us in this clear water, under sunny skies on a sailing yacht surrounded by good friends. We motored around the point to find anchorage for the evening in Francis Bay. By then it was that lovely time when Alan would come up the companionway with yet another variety of his now legendary island concoctions.

The Savior of the Sea in Little Harbor on Jost van Dyke

The Savior of the Sea in Little Harbor on Jost van Dyke


Dana, Audrey and I firmed up our plans to hijack Edruska. We told Alan and Jo-Anne our plans and they described headlines reading “Crew Resists All Attempts at Rescue.” The next morning we headed for Christmas Cove on the western point of St. John. The girls snorkeled with a spotted ray that Alan told us is always there to greet his guests. In the afternoon we headed for Jost Van Dyke. This was going to be our only real land based party. As the evening came on we decided to have dinner at Foxy’s. This is a spot famous for good food, cold beer and excellent music. We danced late into the night, and slept late into the morning. All of us would tell you not to miss an evening on Jost, because it really makes you feel that life is grand and time is simply irrelevant.

We had become one family of explorers during this week in the Caribbean, and could not believe that it was coming to a close. Just to spend a bit more time together we made plans for dinner at a night spot called Latitude 18 in Red Hook, St Thomas. The girls had hand painted a T-shirt for Alan, which we brought with us and presented with great ceremony. We danced to El Gato Grande until we simply could not dance any longer. It was the perfect ending to a perfect week of roaming free in paradise.

Charter Contact:
Richleigh Yachts
e-mail rich63@ix.netcom.com