‘Hapless Children’ and dark treasures at Edward Gorey House

Little children don’t enjoy many happily-ever-after moments in Mr. Gorey’s Neighborhood. In fact, they almost always meet a dark and unexpected demise. Take young Ernest, who choked on a peach, or his book-mate Fanny, who was eerily “sucked dry by a leach”.

The unfortunate children are two of 26 characters in one of Edward Gorey’s most popular creations, “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” – an alphabetized picture book of kids who fall down the stairs, get sucked into a mire, or tossed from a sleigh. More to the point, they’re examples of the dark humor you’ll find when touring the Edward Gorey House in Yarmouth Port this season.

“Hapless Children: Drawings from Mr. Gorey’s Neighborhood” explores the artist’s not-so-gentle treatment of children, said Gorey House curator Gregory Hischak. And yes, the clever subtitle is an intentional play off the benevolent nature of public television’s “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

Edward Gorey was a prolific artist, writer, book illustrator and even a celebrated stage designer, who created the sets and scenery for the long-running Broadway production of “Dracula” during the 1970s. And while many know him as the quirky animator of those shadowy figures who tangoed through the intro for the PBS “Mystery!” series, Gorey was also highly sought illustrator of children’s books during the 1950s and ’60s. Amid his rising popularity, he took to creating his own books, which he intended as a children’s literature, Hischak explained. Unfortunately, publishing houses didn’t see the work as suitable for youngsters, so Gorey frequently resorted to self-publishing. Many of his works, like “The Hapless Child” and “The Gashlycrumb Tinies,” became favorites of adults and children – much in the way that Lemony Snicket stories and Tim Burton’s dark animations found cult status some 30 years after Gorey’s work.

“The Hapless Children” exhibit features work from the 1950s through the ’90s, including some original drawings on loan from the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust in New York, Hischak said. And while the collection may be fascinating, the macabre content begs the question: Is it suitable for families with kids?

The answer is an unequivocal yes, says Hischak. Kids are resilient, he said. By age 7, most are ready for Edward Gorey’s books.

The Edward Gorey House is a 200-year-old sea captain’s home on Strawberry Lane, which was purchased by Gorey in 1979 after the artist spent multiple summers with his aunt in Barnstable while working in New York. Gorey moved to Yarmouth Port about six years later and lived in the home for 15 years, until his death in 2000. In his later years, Gorey was fond of visiting auctions, yard sales and estate sales around the Cape, and he collected everything from books and kitschy artwork to shabby-chic furniture, gaudy jewelry, antique glassware, and old farm implements.

If you want to see the exhibit and tour Gorey’s home, reservations are highly recommended as the Gorey House is limiting attendance to a dozen people at a time, due to safety concerns amid the pandemic. Face masks are mandatory, Hischak said, as is safe, social distancing among patrons exploring the 14-room house. After Memorial Day, the museum will likely bring back docents to answer questions and conduct formal tours through the home, he said.

A visit to the Gorey House, including a stop to pore over books and intriguing items at the museum store, should take an hour to 90 minutes, so you might look for a second destination to make a day of it. The area near Strawberry Lane and Route 6A is peppered with historic sites, including the nearby Winslow Crocker House, the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth, and the Yarmouth New Church, now a cultural center and performance venue.

There are also hiking trails and plenty of places for lunch. Heading west on Route 6A, you’ll find the Old Yarmouth Inn, Jack’s Outback and the Optimist Café. A few miles east is Royal II Restaurant and Grill, which is highly recommended by Hischak.

Hapless Children runs at the Edward Gorey House through Dec. 31. Email the museum at edwardgoreyhouse@verizon.net or call 508-362-3909. Find more information online at edwardgoreyhouse.org.

Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer and freelance multimedia journalist.

Find your best intentions for the New Year

After the exhausting year that we all endured, maybe the goal for 2021 should be nothing more than finding new activities to bring us peace of mind. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to shed a few pounds, expand our minds and get more exercise. But this year especially, there may be the need to make our yearly vows manageable — and not a source of additional stress.

Find Balance — And Simplify Your Life

Deb Mareb, owner and instructor at Yoga of Yarmouth Port, prefers the word “intentions” over “resolutions” when describing the changes people make at the start of every year.

Instead of focusing on something that you don’t like about yourself and trying to change it, ask yourself: “What would be a nice picture of your life for you?” she said. Then bring in more of a positive outlook.

One result of the ongoing pandemic is that we were all forced to slow down, Mareb said, adding that slowing down while simplifying your life can improve your outlook. Relaxing your mind while moving your body helps, too — whether it’s part of an instructor-led yoga class or just getting outdoors to walk your dog and enjoy nature. 

If you want to try classes, Yoga of Yarmouth Port has a variety of on-site sessions inside the small studio at 161 Route 6A. Classes include a maximum of five participants, and everyone wears a mask, Mareb said. The studio also has Zoom classes for those who want to practice yoga at home, she said. Find more at YogaofYarmouthPort.com.

Tennis, Aerobics, Weights and More

Maybe you want more variety for your workouts. At Mid-Cape Athletic Club, 193 White’s Path in South Yarmouth, members can play tennis, build aerobic endurance on cardio machines, work out with weights or take a variety of classes — offered onsite and online.

Roughly 90 percent of the exercise classes at MCAC are now available to members via Zoom, said Director of Operations Jennifer Majewski. Among the many offerings: Barre, Cardio Sculpting, Pilates, Spin, Tabata and Zumba.

When the club shut down in the spring of 2020, Majewski said she sold more than half of the gym’s stationary bikes to members who now take Spin classes at home. She said on-site Spin classes will be returning soon, albeit with fewer bikes spaced farther apart to ensure safe social distancing.

Other safety measures at MCAC include wide spacing between exercise machines, improved air filtration, hand sanitizer stations throughout the club, 14-feet of marked spacing between class participants, and mandatory masks for everyone inside the gym, including on the tennis courts. Equipment, exercise areas and surfaces throughout the facility are cleaned with Viking Pure natural sanitizer, Majewski said.

Mid-Cape Athletic Club also has nutrition counseling and private coaching to help members strive for personal goals. Find out more about classes, programs and safety changes at MidCapeAthletic.com.

Healthy Body and an Enriched Mind

Maybe you want to stimulate your mind as well as move your body. If so, consider classes at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod.

Yoga for Wise Warriors! is offered online on Friday mornings. Sessions are accessed via Zoom, and they include some online social interaction before the yoga begins, followed by personal attention from instructor Lee Yunits throughout the hour.

The Cultural Center also runs Tai Chi classes, which are held in Owl Hall with a small number of clients who have plenty of space for social distancing. The routines in Tai Chi involve slow, methodical movements, and there’s not much heavy breathing, said Director of Education Amy Neill. But as with all classes at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod, masks are required.

For those who feel more comfortable exercising at home, the Tai Chi instruction with Holly Heaslip is also available via Zoom, Neill said. However, the center is phasing out its hybrid online/physical classes and looking to begin a new program of online courses that will be available 24/7. Neill expects the new virtual classes will be scheduled in the coming months.

For creative development — which always helps nurture a positive attitude, the Cultural Center runs classes in visual arts, cooking, humanities, do-it-yourself projects, and kids’ activities. All of the courses can help improve your well-being just by participating in something new, Neill said.

“Every class that we offer is all about health and wellness, and just bettering your mind,” she explained. “Something about working with your hands or focusing on something new is always good for your mental health.”

Expand Your Reading…. And Your Horizons

The town’s libraries have been operating with limited hours and curbside pickup since early December, but there’s still plenty of ways to engage with other bookworms.

Read and review topical books online with the library’s Zoom book clubs. A mystery group meets on the second Thursday of every month, and a book discussion group meets on the fourth Thursday. Copies of the books  to be read and discussed are available in advance of each meeting, either via curbside pickup or through Outlook/Libby and Hoopla.

The library also has virtual craft and story times for young patrons. For info on any of the virtual programs call the South Yarmouth Library at 508-760-4820, ext. 1 or the West Yarmouth Library at 508-775-5602, ext. 2. You can also find more at the Yarmouth libraries’ website or sign up for the library newsletter to stay informed about new books and activities.

Practical Advice for Healthier Eating

Looking to eat healthier in 2021? Find advice on diet and nutrition without leaving your home by joining one of the food and nutrition programs hosted by Cape Cod Cooperative Extension.

The extension runs a variety of nutrition and food safety courses for adults, pre-schoolers, seniors. A new free phone-in series on nutrition targets local seniors, who may not be comfortable with the technology involved in video conferencing. The weekly sessions, promoted through the Yarmouth Senior Center, are held every Thursday from noon to 1 p.m. Each call-in program is taught by a Cape Cod Cooperative Extension nutrition educator and includes time for participants to ask questions from the experts, said Kim Concra, a Nutrition and Food Safety Specialist with the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension.

Upcoming programs include: Cooking for One or Two on Jan. 7; Blood Sugar and Sweet Treats, Jan. 14, Fruits and Breakfast, Jan. 21; and Citrus Fruits, Potassium and Blood Pressure on Jan. 28. Call 508-271-1520 for phone access. Learn more about additional nutrition programs at the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension website.

Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer and freelance multimedia journalist.

Yarmouth ice cream shops offer sweet escape

In a summer marked by face masks and social distancing, local ice cream shop owners remind us that ice cream is still ice cream – a quintessential summertime treat that can melt your troubles away.

The 2020 season began in May for most Yarmouth shops with reduced hours, emergency workflow changes and fears about the spread of COVID-19. Business owners say they have adapted to the hardships and scooping is now steady. Shops use recommended health protocols, including some take-out windows and outdoor dining to protect customers and employees. And patrons have been mostly cooperative as they venture out for a break from work or a sweet reward after a long day under the sun.

Cape Cod Creamery’s treats

Cape Cod Creamery owner Alan Davis operates shops in Yarmouth, Dennis and Hyannis, and he said business has been different at each one. The recently opened Dennis location, 716 Main St., (Route 6A) has seen steady traffic this year – mostly from the year-round residents and those with summer homes, he said. Business has also been brisk at the Hyannis shop in the Christmas Tree Shop Plaza on Iyannough Road (Route 132). That shop features a lunch menu and is normally open year-round, he said, but like many restaurants it was closed in March. He re-opened in mid-May and business is now steady but still tracking behind previous years. Cape Cod Creamery’s main location at 1199 Route 28 in South Yarmouth is typically its busiest, Davis said. But this year it has felt the biggest impact from COVID-19, as it relies on customers from the hotels in South Yarmouth, which were slow in getting started this summer.

While there are no takeout windows, Cape Cod Creamery stores have separate entrance and exit doors, so customers don’t pass each other going in and out, Davis explained. The company also made changes to the interior layouts to protect both customers and employees. And all employees wear masks and gloves, he said.

“We just thought, if we outfit the store correctly, we can have people come in and everybody would be safe,” he said. “I think people got to the point where they wanted to get out, and coming in the store knowing that we had set it up safely, they were happy with that.”

Cape Cod Creamery makes its ice cream for all three shops at the Yarmouth location, and Davis said employees have been working on two shifts, seven days a week and 14 hours a day churning out gallons of Sandy Neck Snickers, Cummaquid Coconut, Hyannis Heath Bar, Chatham Chocolate and roughly two-dozen other enticing flavors. While America’s favorite ice cream remains old-fashioned vanilla, Davis says the Cape Cod Creamery’s best seller is Orleans Oreo, with Allen Harbor Almond Joy another top pick.

The key to making any great ice cream flavor is to start with good vanilla, which is the basis for everything, Davis said. Cape Cod Creamery uses Madagascar vanilla, considered the best in the world, along with Colombian coffee and gelato flavorings from Italy, he said. Find a full list of flavors at CapeCodCreamery.com.

The Hyannis and Yarmouth locations also sell “real ice cream” soft-serve, and all locations have gelato and sherbet choices. You can even find Cape Cod Creamery ice cream at local supermarkets, but Davis said he recently cut back on sales to off-Cape grocery stores after opening the Dennis shop.

Beyond the highly rated ice cream, Cape Cod Creamery’s greatest assets are the 40-plus young employees, trained to treat each customer with courtesy and care, Davis said. Customer service is always important, but even more so with COVID-19, he explained.

“If people are coming out and they’re coming to our shop, we need to bend over backwards to say thank you to them,” he said. “They’re making the effort to come to our place. So as good as our service was before, we need to bring it up, even a notch further, so that these people really understand how thankful we are for supporting us.”

Gelato at the window

At Caffè Gelato Bertini, co-owner Cindy J. Duby said business has also been steady after a slow start. The shop opened at the end of May – a few weeks later than normal, and she and her husband Tom plan to remain open until the end of October.

The small indoor area at Caffè Gelato Bertini has remained closed to customers this summer, and all commerce is handled through the new take-out window. Fortunately, the business already had a large window, which was easily converted for take-out, she said.

While scooping has been steady, it’s not as robust as in previous seasons – a trend she attributes to fewer guests at beachside hotels. Caffe Gelato Bertini is located along South Street – the main drag to South Shore Drive, Bass River Beach and some 1,500 hotel rooms. If occupancy is down in the area’s hotels, she explained, “we’re all bound to feel it.”

While Caffé Gelato Bertini has cut back its hours of operation this season, the owners still make more than 100 different gelato flavors, Duby said. The website only lists 24, but when one flavor sells out, it’s often replaced by a new one, she explained. Customer favorites include Stracciatella (a cream-flavored gelato drizzled with dark Italian chocolate) and Zabaglione (a custard-gelato with the taste of Marsala, pine nuts and orange). Her own favorite is lemon, with a little tartness to complement the sweetness.

Duby says most customers have been respectful of requests to wear masks and practice social distancing, and the cafe now has a sign advising customers: “No mask, no service.”

All is chill at Penguin’s Ice Cream Igloo

Patricia Kent-Friedman, owner of Penguin’s Ice Cream Igloo, said she was understandably nervous before opening for business this spring, finding it hard to imagine how things “would play out.” But the Igloo started scooping on May 8, with strict adherence to safety protocols – social distancing, constant sanitizing and setting up the shop’s outside area for safe business.

Penguins, located at 519 Route 28 in West Yarmouth, operates one window for money and credit cards and another window to send out orders, helping to keep a safe and orderly flow for customers.

“It has worked out so beautifully and effectively,” Kent-Friedman said in an email, noting that the sweltering temperatures this summer have spurred customers to cool off with old-fashioned ice cream. The result: business has been “pretty much the same or better” than previous seasons.

Penguins sells more than 60 flavors of hard ice cream from Bliss Dairy in Attleboro, along with soft-serve, sorbets, sherbet, frozen yogurt, and more. Vanilla is still the No. 1 flavor, she says, but Grape Nut, Oreo and Extreme Chocolate are gaining ground. And most everyone loves their ice cream served in a waffle cone.

Customers have been wonderful in accepting the safety protocols – wearing masks, keeping their distance and being patient. And she said they are extremely grateful that “we are able to provide them with some form of happiness, which ice cream does.”

Penguins will also deliver ice cream to vehicles when customers call in advance. “We do whatever we can do,” she said. “I am so blessed that I can provide a lot of smiles … and offer something that people feel safe doing.”

Penguins Ice Cream Igloo does not have a website, but you can find information on the shop’s Facebook page, @penguinsicecreamigloo.

Last but not least…. the Lil’ Caboose

Mary’s Lil’ Caboose Ice Cream and Hot Dogs on Route 28 in South Yarmouth opened on Mother’s Day weekend this year and has seen steady business throughout the summer, according to owner Mary DeSimone.

All food items are served through the take-out window, and tables are spaced at least 8 feet apart, she said. Cleanliness has always been a priority, but now it’s more like an obsession, as she or a staffer cleans and sanitizes all the counters, benches, picnic tables and other surfaces every hour, she said.

The Lil’ Caboose serves soft and hard ice cream, along with sherbet, sorbet, frozen yogurt, shakes, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and soft pretzels. All told the Caboose has more than 50 ice cream flavors, including fat-free, sugar-free, dairy-free and vegan choices. Roughly 90 percent of the ice cream is purchased from Gifford’s of Maine. DeSimone explained that she likes to keep her customers satisfied, and there are a few flavors that Gifford’s doesn’t carry. So she gets her Grape Nut ice cream from Bliss and her Rum Raisin from Creative Creamery.

So what are the top choices at Mary’s Lil’ Caboose? Peanut Butter Caramel Cookie Dough and Sea Salt Caramel, along with the standard coffee, chocolate and vanilla, which is often used in the Caboose’s specialty sundaes. This summer, Lil’ Caboose has been selling three times as many sundaes as cones, DeSimone said.

Find a full list of flavors, along with sundae toppings and business hours at lilcaboose.com.

Andy Tomolonis is a nonfiction author, travel writer and multimedia journalist.