One Week of Compliments: My Social Experiment

A compliment is a powerful thing, for both the giver and the receiver.

I began pondering this not long ago, during our summer vacation. On one day in particular, two separate compliments (one given, one received) boosted my already relaxed, “it’s all good”, vacation-mode kind of mood to a new plateau. They were the gold-star, finishing touches to my already pleasant day. I hope they has the same effect on those around me.

A couple sharing the pool with us and our little ones told us that we had “a wonderful, wonderful family.” The gentleman also added, “don’t worry he’ll figure out the back float soon enough.” This couple had been watching me try to teach my 6-year old how to float on his back for about fifteen minutes, while my 4-year old proudly jumped into the shallow end, over and over. They saw my son’s patience erode, and eventually we abandoned the floating lesson in favor of cannon balls into the deep-end.

As a parent, these types of compliments make you glow. Of course, we got lucky. This couple caught a snapshot of our family when our kids were NOT whining, crying, grabbing each others’ toys, or tripping each other as they jumped into the pool. It was one of those lazy summer afternoons full of laughs, giggles, and playful banter. Norman Rockwell, himself, would have been impressed. (However, a few hours earlier they would have witnessed our four-year-old’s power tantrum. It was one for the record books!)

That couple’s kind words made me glow, and that glow lasted for hours. Later that evening, after allowing some friends to adopt our little cherubs for the night, my husband and I went out for a lovely dinner at The Mews in Provincetown. I have to give a shout-out to this little place. The food is tasty; the Cosmos are strong and sweet; the atmosphere is vibrant, and the service is terrific.

We only visit this place once or twice a year. On this visit, we were lucky enough to have the same waiter we did last year. We think he is excellent. He has a charming personality. He always gives us just enough time to look at the menu without feeling abandoned, and then offers great suggestions to suit our palate. He gives just as much attention to our cocktails. To top off our evening, he gave me a complimentary dose of a chocolate whipped cream vodka to complement our black-bottom chocolate torte. Ooh La La!

We loved him, and after dinner, we made sure we told him so. Certainly waiters and waitresses work for tips. To me, it’s a no-brainer that you tip an excellent server well. However, I hope that telling him how much we appreciated his top-notch service might also have offset any negative energy he might have encountered from various complainers that evening. (Every restaurant has them.) Unfortunately, I did not get his name. I think it might be Neal, and if you ever find yourself at The Mews, I hope you land at his table!

When we left after dinner, and I was smiling. It was a wonderful end to a terrific day. As I thought about how a small compliment from an anonymous fellow traveler lifted my already good mood, and how it likely predisposed me to extend that compliment to our server at dinner. As I reflected on the smile on his face when we told him that he is one of the best servers we’ve had, I resolved to be more free with my compliments.

I am not one to give out empty compliments, however. I simply don’t perform well when extending a compliment for protocol’s sake alone. That being said, I should not forget to pay compliments when they are due. After all:

  1. They cost me nothing.
  2. They foster the “Pay-It-Forward” philosophy that promotes gracious, considerate and well-mannered behavior all around us.
  3. At work, they go a long way toward improving productivity and morale.
  4. They create smiles for the giver and receiver, and smiles are good for you! They lower blood pressure, boost your immune system, make you look younger, and release endorphins that make you feel good..
  5. So, lest I forget the power of a compliment I have devised a social experiment to compel me to remember. My personal project for the next week will be to pay at least one unsolicited compliment to someone around me each day. I plan to try to measure it’s impact on me, and if possible, to the recipient. Next week, I’ll report my results.Wish me luck!

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She Finds Sea Shells by the Sea Shore – Vacation Memories 2011

Another stellar vacation on the Cape Cod seashore has come to an end. All that remain are photos to be shared with family and friends and a modest collection of sea shells and sea glass to be coveted by our children for years to come.

This was our second year vacationing on the outer end of Cape Cod, and again it had all the ingredients for the type of picturesque getaway you read about. (Then again, you’re here, so I guess you are reading about it.) This vacation was not built around theme parks or Disney characters. We had few opportunities to let Reality TV or Nickelodeon glue us to the couch, save one morning where thunderstorms cornered us in our cottage for a a few hours.

Not once did our kids say they were “bored”. Here’s a rundown of a few of the things that kept us occupied.

  1. The Provincetown 4th of July Parade: This parade might be one of the smallest I’ve sen, but it is certainly one of the most entertaining. P’townis known for a few things; it boasts a rich history as a hub for New England fisherman and Portugese culture; it is home to the nation’s oldest artist colony, and has long been a welcoming resort town for the gay community. The parade incorporates all of these elements, creating a wonderful celebration of its unique character(s). It is truly festive, and much to the delight of my children, every person on every float tossed out handfuls of penny candy. (I am sure their dentist will be thrilled this week.)

    Provincetown 4th of July Parade 2011
    Provincetown 4th of July 2011
  2. Relaxed at Kalmar Village. At our temporary home in this little community of cottages in North Truro, we strolled with the kids on the boardwalk to the beach. I tried to teach my son to do a back float in the pool, and we tossed some bean bags on the grassy common area.
    Kalmar Village's View to the Beach
    Kalmar Village’s View to the Beach

    I have to give a shout-out to this lovely set of vacation cottages. Kalmar Village is a great place to stay if you and your family are looking to take it truly easy. The cottages are modest; the fact that they tend to show their age just adds to their charm. They are just large enough to give our family of four some elbow room, and have just enough amenities to remind you that we live in the 21st century. (Unfortunately, it is tough to break the habit of checking my office email, so the complimentary Wi-Fi is a plus.)

    Kalmar Village Cottages
    Our little neighborhood at Kalmar Village

    They are super-clean, and housekeepers make the beds and change the bath towels daily. Our housekeeper was lovely. She rearranged my son’s stuffed animals on his bed each morning, and as we left she gave both of our children big hugs. If you are headed out to this part of the Cape Cod, you would be well-served to check Kalmar Village out!

    Our Cottage Key
    The Key to our Cottage, and to our Vacation
  3. Sea Shell and Sea Glass Hunting: My 4-year-old daughter has an endless fascination with rocks and shells of all shapes, sizes and colors. The beaches at the Cape, especially if you are on the bay side, have ubiquitous amounts of each. Every walk to the beach resulted in a bucket full of stones with a variety of pock-marks created by the surf and sea creatures of Buzzards Bay. We brought home a lovely little collection of extra-large clam shells that now strategically hold down the paper napkins on our backyard deck. It wasn’t until we began to visit Cape Cod beaches that I learned to art of sea glasshunting though. For you fellow novices out there, sea glass is basically litter that the ocean has turned into art. Shards of broken glass from old beer bottles and the like are tumbled by the surf, smoothing their jagged edges. People with artistic vision and know-how often craft sea glass into lovely jewelry, mosaics or other pieces. Our nascent collection will simply be bound for a jar in my son’s room for the time being though.

    Sea Glass
    A bit of sea glass (photo by takahito)
  4. Race Point Beach: We used one day to visit this beach, one of the many beaches along the Cape Cod National Seashore.
    Race Point Beach
    Race Point Beach and the Cape Cod Dunes

    Its vistas are stunning; the crowds are minimal, and the surf puts the waves on the opposite side of Route 6 to shame. Here, the kiddos had their first real chance to use their “boogie boards” to ride the waves. The current can be deceivingly strong, though, so we kept a close eye on them, lest my six-year-old ride the tide all the way to Ireland. They had a blast despite the limitations imposed by their hovering “helicopter parents”.

    Getting their feet wet
    Getting their feet wet
  5. Sunsets, Sand and Saltwater Taffy: We were fortunate enough to spend much of the week with some good friends who were staying just up the road. As a result, we had several sunset parties on the beach, complete with bonfires and fireworks.
    Sunset Beach Party
    Sunset Beach Party

    We took the kids to Provincetown one or two more times, and let them pick out their souvenir t-shirt, and get their fill of saltwater taffy while Mom and Dad shared a clam roll.

    Saltwater Taffy
    Saltwater Taffy – “So many flavors, can we have some of each?”

All in all, it was a wonderful vacation.

Cape Cod Sunset
Cape Cod Sunset

Can’t wait til next year!

Don’t leave Vermont without eating breakfast here

If you want a good old-fashioned, stick-to-your-ribs breakfast that flagrantly challenges the virtues of the Food Pyramid, The Chelsea Royal Diner, in Brattleboro Vermont is the place for you.

Chelsea Royal
Photo by Milton CJ

In the spirit of full disclosure, “The One and Only Brattleboro” is my hometown. I don’t live there anymore, but many of my family members do. When we bring the kids to Vermont for a visit, The Chelsea Royal is often our last stop before heading home. We go there for breakfast with the kids for a few reasons:

  • The Cajun Skillet Breakfast
  • The old school, vintage diner charm
  • Reasonable prices and a casual atmosphere
  • And did I mention the Cajun Skillet Breakfast?

In all fairness, the Cajun Skillet isn’t really my breakfast. However, it makes my husband begin salivating before we pull into the parking lot. This particular dish is a combo of fried eggs, peppers, onions, sausage, potatoes and melted cheese served in a sizzling skillet. I admit, the aroma of the Cajun spices often makes me wish I ordered it too.

Yumm Omelets
Omelets! - Photo by Greg Turner

I am more of an omelet person. I like to mix it up a bit with my fillings, but no matter what I choose, I am always scraping the plate clean. I am fond of the bacon, cheddar and tomato combo; the bacon and tomatoes are plentiful, and the cheddar is real Vermont Cheddar. (Nothing else will do, really.)

Of course one of the most important ingredients in a hearty breakfast is coffee. Chelsea Royal serves Mocha Joes, a local brand that has been gaining quite a widespread following. I think it’s one of the best brews I’ve had.

The main dining room is a vintage 1938 Worcester Dining Car. This car has been around town for decades in a few different locations, and made its way to the current spot over a decade ago. It’s the last eatery before skiers begin the climb over Hogback Mountain on the way to Mount Snow, and a favorite spot of these same skiers before they get back on the highway to return to points South.

A few things to keep in mind when planning a meal here:

  • Bring Cash. This diner does not take plastic of any kind. Hit the ATM at one of the nearby gas stations before you head in.
  • Be prepared to wait … outside. The waiting area is pretty tight. When we were there last, on a frigid day in February, there were plenty of people standing outside in the cold working up their appetites.
  • Be hungry. Generous portions are an understatement!