Magic, Tidal Pools, & Chocolate Cake

What are little boys made of?

What are little boys made of?

Snips and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails

And such are little boys made of.




The sun-kissed days of summer are taking their exit cue and while I can hardly wait for the crisp days of autumn, I am savoring these last weeks of warm breezes and bright blue skies.  Little Man has been enjoying our daily outdoor adventures, especially now that he is at this grand age of discovery and observation.  Should we stumble upon a family of obstinate geese or a fanciful and energetic butterfly, he is entranced; magically his vibrating being becomes quiet and still for a few moments.  His intensity and curiosity for this wide world, for the seemingly mundane or often ignored, renews my own zeal for life and I find myself, also, in a constant state of wonderment.

Enders Tidal Pool1

Enders Island - Fishers Sound


While we were at Ender’s Island, he had the pleasure of discovering tidal pools.  I had mentioned in a previous post that one side of the island consisted of slabs of rock gradually descending into Fisher’s Sound.  Here, tenacious life thrives, rooted firmly to withstand the constant rush of waves.  Small white barnacles framed the edges of rocks where air and water met and chartreuse seaweed danced with each surge of foaming water.  Also here, cohabiting in these shallow pools, were hundreds of tiny black snails.  Little Man, who was secured with his father’s grip on his overalls, sat with feet submerged, picking up and examining every snail his greedy little fingers could find.  And so we sat, contently with only the sound of the waves and boats, reveling in the simple joys of our natural world.  This moment I captured in my soul and  preserved in my heart.  In future days when I can hardly believe how old he is, or we are, here is where I will come again to play among the tidal pools.


When snails are in short supply, that magical moment of quiet and stillness can be conjured by appeasing LM’s sweet tooth.  Our family favorite this summer was a Chocolate Zucchini Cake, or Chocolate Courgette Cake if you are partial to alliterations.  Zucchini and buttermilk make this cake remarkably moist and semi-sweet chips scattered on top add a double dose of chocolate and a little texture.  Be sure to use a great quality cocoa powder, such as Scharffen Berger, Green & Black, or Ghirardelli for the best results.




Chocolate Zucchini Cake

2 ¼ cup Flour

½ cup Cocoa

1 tsp. Baking Soda

1 tsp. Salt

1 ¾ cup Sugar

½ cup Butter, softened

½ cup Oil

2 Eggs

1 tsp. Vanilla

½ cup Buttermilk

2 cups grated Zucchini (from about 2 ½ medium zucchini)

1 cup Chocolate Chips

Butter a 9 x 13” dish.  Sift together flour, cocoa, soda, and salt.  Beat together sugar, butter, and oil.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Beat in vanilla.  Mix in the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour (in three additions).  Fold in the zucchini.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top of the cake.

Bake at 325°F for 40 – 50 minutes.  Cool cake completely in pan.


– I do not recall where I picked up this recipe but is is not an original of mine.


This excerpt is from a popular Nursery Rhyme.  And from what I can remember of my own childhood, little girls are also made of similar stuff.


Ender’s Island, CT


A few weeks ago we found ourselves in New England. Our particular reason for being there wasn’t a very joyous one, as we paid tribute to my late grandmother.  However, she lived exuberantly and finding moments of pleasure and beauty during our trip was only appropriate and honorable.


We started with a short visit to one of my brothers (I am the ring leader of seven: four brothers and two sisters.) on Ender’s Island, near Mystic, Connecticut.  It is a small island.  Very small.  In fact if you stand over its heart you can look from side to side and see water.  (This observation halted my lull to sleep as I suddenly realized we were completely surrounded by water.  Then I thought it was curious and exciting, then proceeded to drift off.)  The island is home to a Catholic Retreat, a place of peace and solace for those who need it.  My brother works there whilst going to school and pursuing priesthood.  Watching my siblings become adults is delightfully riveting.  People with whom I used to create Playmobil worlds, steal sun-warmed berries from prickly bushes, and was forced to do things such as share my M&Ms are suddenly doing things like getting married, joining the military, or becoming a priest.  At times this makes me feel old.  Most of the time it makes me thankful I’m no longer in my twenties!


Enders2Enders9Purple Flowers

Back to the island.  Ender’s Island was exactly what my heart needed before such a sobering weekend.  Stone walls and buildings are scattered among green stretches of grass under large shady trees.  Everywhere you turned there were little gardens filled with bright flowers, blooming bushes, and statues of saints and deities.  A small sandy beach on one end and large slabs of rock going into Fisher’s Island Sound provided immediate access to the refreshing smells and breezes of the salty sea.  Mr. H, who loves all things calm and composed, proclaimed that he’d be content sitting in a chair and watching the ocean and sailboats for the rest of his days.  The Little Man, whose current passions and hobbies are anything but placid, had many things to explore plus doting Grandparents, uncles, and an auntie to give his tattered parents a break.

The tranquility of the island is mirrored in its people as the few I met were overwhelmingly sweet and generous.  From sharing Lindt Chocolates to casual conversations between meals or in the gardens, we were, and are, so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit this little haven.


Next up: Boston!