I remember my first car because……

It’s been a tough week and I’d been looking for endless mind numbing online distractions when I saw that my friend, Rolan DeLoach​, commented on a post I was prohibited from adding to because I wasn’t a friend of the original poster.  The topic was “What was your first car?”

Admittedly I know nothing about cars. I always looked for something safe (though affordable was more important in early years), reliable (see previous note) and able to cart around a few friends. Most of my early cars were nothing more than cheap. I did find the reliable vehicle later on and purchased five count em five Honda Accords and managed to get 300K miles out of each (well 297K and change on one). I only stopped my Honda affair when my lovely mother-in-law gave us a fabulous deal on her car because she worried about safety as my last Honda approached the 300K threshold. None was ever bought new. I believe in Accords and this posed a problem for me. During my Honda decades, I thought they had the worst possible advertising and I felt my fabulous track record as a customer was perhaps encouraging more of the same awful ads. I just want it known here that I bought the cars despite the advertising not because of it.

But back to the first cars, the ones I drove before I’d found the resources and rationale to go with Hondas. In the early years odd colors seemed to attach themselves to the most affordable vehicles. I did have my standards. There was one color that no matter how cheap the car, I would not buy – sea foam green. Still hate that color but once slid pretty close with a sage green car. But it was not, I repeat, not, sea foam.

Below are my first cars with photos found on the web based on distant and blurry memories. I didn’t care enough about cars to photograph my own.

Now about those colors…..

AMC Ambassador

Forest Green – AMC Ambassador 1969, Photo Source: http://www.metacars.com

1) Forest green AMC Ambassador that I used in my carpool commute to Tufts. Mom sold it to me for $1 and simultaneously that was the first day that I had a migraine. Too much excitement used to do me in.  The car’s claim to fame was  a vivid yellow bean bag chick perched on the dashboard. His name was Cluckles, and eventually he succumbed to the strength of the sun and just started eroding away leaving all those little beans scattered about the car. He’d had a tough life. My co-commuter, David Sheehan, of the brand new GM car each year Sheehans, tried to steal him every time I drove. Just envious I guess, he never had toys, food or tiny beans anywhere in his car. Each time we commuted, we’d arrive at the school for whoever had the earliest class which often meant ‘not me’ and so I’d sit in my car after everyone left listening to AM radio and frequently locking myself out in the Tufts commuter lot.  Tufts in Medford on the Somerville line was a big dark city outside the campus walls, at least as far as this suburban girl was concerned, but it did have certain advantages. If I locked myself out, I’d find a tough-ish looking local kid and ask him to break into my car for me. It had a certain name that breaking in technique, but I don’t remember it now. In any event, these kids always got me back in the car much more quickly than the security guard I tried once. They were always very helpful to the young co-ed in distress, and that’s probably what started my “bad boy”phase, I mean they had such useful skills.

AMC Gremlin Periwinkle blue 2013-10best-fashion-branded-cars-3-1973-levis-edition-amc-gremlin-photo-488324-s-original

Periwinkle Blue AMC Gremlin. Photo source: AMC Gremlin Periwinkle blue 2013-10best-fashion-branded-cars-3-1973-levis-edition-amc-gremlin-photo-488324-s-original

2) Periwinkle Blue AMC Gremlin that corroded through the floor board. I think I bought this in Medford from a classified ad. I liked the color, never had trouble finding my car in a parking lot, and I figured it was at least better looking than a Pacer. One day as everyone from my first ad agency, DF Sullivan Company, left for a meeting at the then called Sullivan Stadium (now Gillette Stadium in Patriot Place, Foxboro),  I, the receptionist, was asked to pick up the president of Sullivan Stadium (a relative of the agency). My car smelled bad because there was a hole in the floor board and dampness had set into the car so I spritzed my Chanel #5 as I drove and the top fell off and went through the floorboard. I’d frequently lost change through that hole, but the top off the cologne was a big loss as the bottle was nearly full.

Buick Skylark Orange

Orange Buick Skylark Photo source: Mecum Auctions 2012 Spring Classic Spotlight: 1970 Buick Skylark … http://www.victorymusclecars.com

3) The haunted Buick Skylark in orange that I kept longer than I should have because someone with car knowledge told me it would become a classic and the same vehicle would never be recreated. I attended my first car auction with a car knowledgeable friend of my father’s at the auction on Route One maybe Saugus or Danvers, MA. I think I paid a couple hundred bucks. Interesting experience but my tutor was a more decisive guy than I, and I would have probably preferred shopping longer, but that wasn’t to be. I swore the car was haunted because, very frighteningly and without warning the car would accelerate of its own accord. There was no discernible pattern. I never could get anyone to figure out why, but it had a pretty powerful engine that gave me some minimal coolness factor with guys that I didn’t understand, but basically the car scared me. I was only minimally distressed when that one gasped its last. It was totalled (hit and run) on the New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day cusp – the price of getting home earlier than the thugs and late night revelers in the neighborhood.

I’d like to know what the years were on these cars, and maybe could check my lifetime record with the Registry of Motor Vehicles, but I am sure my record would just reiterate what I already know –  to this day I have never owned a brand new car (too practical for the insurance premiums) and I think I only bought one car in the same decade it was built.

What was your first car? What do you remember about it?

(c)2015 by Alison Colby-Campbell

The Truth About Duck Eggs, Hay Bales, and Snow Banks as High as a Moose Eye.

IMG_8786 Duck eggs

After a failed maple syrup expedition in New Hampshire, we could have died when a tractor in front of us kept dropping hay bales into the street narrowed by very high snow banks. We dodged the second bale and then thought “we must save others” and pulled alongside the truck on a straight-away country road to warn the driver.

“Do you know you’re losing hay bales? You’ve lost two in the short time we’ve been behind you.”

“It’s okay my wife is driving behind us picking them up.”

Not really okay, grinning dude, when you must have lost her three bales back and now unsuspecting out-of-staters who don’t anticipate things like having hay bales dropped in their path on a road that should be earmarked for vehicular traffic have to swerve to avoid them.

We could have gotten into a lengthier discussion but a car with two passengers honked and shouted profanity at us for stopping alongside the hay truck, even though we pulled to the curb as soon as we could tell the all smiles hay driver that his inventory control was faulty. Seriously, hay bales should require seat belts on this dude’s truck. The in-stater car folk honked again and for good measure shouted “Mass-holes” as they passed and drove off.

IMG_8785 Duck eggs

Wow, where was the love for saving their lives? So be it. Some people don’t know when they’re being helped and simply assume the worst. Multiple heads shook in disbelief within our vehicle, and that side to side motion brought into sight a sign pitched high in a snow bank. Duck eggs for sale. It wasn’t a farm, just  house, where a guy had a wife who wanted to see what it was like to live with two ducks. And well, 50 ducks later, they’re selling eggs.

Putting all our duck eggs in one basket

Putting all our duck eggs in one basket

I’d heard duck eggs are healthier and better for baking, as well as larger than chicken eggs. Last year we bought a few in Maine and made some super silky, rich scrambled eggs. We briefly discussed whether ducks lay eggs in winter or whether the mounds of snow would prevent them from getting off their roosts. But we needn’t have worried. Ducks, dozens of ducks greeted us. There were curly tailed, fluffy, up right walking, multi-colored ducks strolling the path to their little house nibbling at the snow banks as the traveled.


Duck eggs must have a bit of a mystique about them. Through the several sources I read there were many contradictions.

True: Duck eggs are more nutritious than chicken eggs. Caveat: how much better they are is in dispute. Plus they have more yolk so more cholesterol, but also more protein.

IMG_8793 Duck eggs

True: Duck eggs have harder shells. Caveat: one source said duck eggs last longer because they have harder shells than chicken eggs, but another source said they last a shorter time because the heavier shell is more porous. To test for egg freshness with duck eggs use the same method as used with chicken eggs. Put an egg in a glass of water – if it sinks it’s fresh; if it stands on end, it’s not as fresh but still edible. If it floats – have oatmeal for breakfast.

True: Duck eggs are better for baking and mostly can be substituted one for one with large chicken eggs. Undisputed.  http://www.moosemanorfarms.com/cooking-with-duck-eggs.html

True: Duck eggs are often but not always edible by people who are allergic to chicken eggs. Check with your doctor first. Undisputed.

True: Duck eggs are larger (about 1/3 larger) than chicken eggs. Undisputed.

Amazing three-headed duck?

Amazing three-headed duck?

True: Ducks are more prolific egg bearers than chickens. The best egg layers coincidentally carry our family name. They are the Khaki Campbell which lays well over 300 eggs per year.Undisputed.

True:  Many domestic ducks are from the mallard line which sometimes makes identification difficult. Personal experience.

True: Donald Duck was modeled after a Pekin Duck, a large white domestic duck weighing 9-10 lbs. Pekin is a type of duck. Peking Duck is a Chinese dish. (Aside: Donald may be the cartoon character but I think Indian Runner Ducks are actually funnier.) Source: http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/Ducks/Pekins/BRKPekin.html

Pekin Duck by my best estimation.

Pekin Duck by my best estimation.

True: Duck eggs are harder to find and more expensive than chicken eggs. Here are two sources for finding duck eggs in Massachusetts. Always call first and try to find the most local producer possible.

http://www.agrilicious.org/local/fresh-duck-eggs/massachusetts  http://www.farmfresh.org/food/food.php?zip=02114&food=288

True:  Ducks make nice friends.


Duck egg nutrition – http://www.ohadi.com/duck-egg-nutritional-facts.html

Duck identification –http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/Ducks/BRKDucks.html


Egg colors: http://www.fresheggsdaily.com/2012/02/rainbow-of-egg-colors.html

(c)Alison Colby-Campbell


IMG_7453 NYC Sightseeing

I’m more of a country mouse than a city mouse, but I prefer to think I am a country mouse with visiting privileges. The city this week was New York and virtually everyone can tell by the smile on my face that I’m not “one of the city-folk”, so when I arrive I take a defensive stance to ward off people who might prey on tourists. I try to sound very knowledgeable and practice rattling off streets and cross roads for cabbies while at heart I know despite the number of visits I make to New York, I will forever be the wide eyed tourist. Just check out this tourist photo gallery slide show, if you need proof.

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Regarding New York  service…

Our hotel DoubleTree by Hilton on West 36th between 8th and 9th is in a section known as Hell’s Kitchen which doesn’t sound very inviting at all. http://doubletree3.hilton.com/en/hotels/new-york/doubletree-by-hilton-hotel-new-york-times-square-south-NYCSQDT/index.html . But the DoubleTree is well located and affordable in an up and coming neighborhood near the Javitz Center http://www.javitscenter.com/ The Javits  Center is an enormous venue for shows and expos that is large enough to host both last weekend’s boat show and travel show simultaneously. But back to the hotel…..it has horrible elevator service – we were on the 8th floor and mostly walked down rather than wait for the elevator. My room had a view of other less glamorous buildings, though I did enjoying playing voyeur peeping through the windows at designers working there.  My shower door couldn’t be opened all the way without confronting the toilet. But I’d go back again.  Why? Service and value.

Walking back to DoubleTree west 36th Street between 8th and 9th (see flags) as snow starts to fall

Walking back to DoubleTree West 36th Street between 8th and 9th (see awning) as snow starts to fall

The front desk gave us three recommendations for excellent and affordable restaurants, worked through the quirks of my antivirus-ware to get me internet on my tablet and lap top, and regardless of the hour we wandered back into the hotel someone always greeted us with a smile, a warm cookie, and kind word. Most impressively, when we decided last minute to leave early to avoid the pending blizzard, they took off the charges of our last night on both of our rooms without hesitation and packed us up some warm cookies for our 5 hour drive home. Nice.

There is a saying that water seeks its own level and so it was with the recommendations for restaurants we received from our hotel front desk. Especially for newly opened Oovah http://www.oovahnyc.com/tablet/index.html. Chef/Owner Giovanni Morales and Owner Stephen Hoover transformed their previous venture Market Cafe into Oovah barely two weeks earlier and the transformation is complete. I whipped out the camera to capture the unique beauty of the restaurant before we’d even had the recommendation to dine there.

Oovah Tapas and Wine Gallery http://www.oovahnyc.com/

Oovah Tapas and Wine Gallery http://www.oovahnyc.com/

Our party of three arrived on a tough night – a broken water main meant the staff of  Oovah could have been biding its time expecting to close after the last cocktail guest left. We, however, showed up hungry. Right before we headed elsewhere an owner came out and said “Don’t go. We’ll make you dinner.” It seems they sent someone out to buy the gallons of water they would need to be operational. We had no restrictions on what we could select and the decision was tough. The food is influenced by Guatamalian cuisine and other than a dessert or two is gluten free. We never missed the gluten and didn’t realize that until later.

Enjoying crisped pork tacos

Enjoying crisped pork tacos

We selected tapas-sized courses and shared: Kale caesar salad, shrimp ceviche, crisped pork tacos, the best fries in the world (aka Hand cut papas fritas with white truffle oil, parmesan and herbs), and waiter Chris’ recommendation of Mama Sonia’s pepper stuffed meatballs. We were hooked. Really hooked. Especially when accompanied by an excellent Carmenere Reserva, Tres Palacios 2012, and despite the fact they were out of a chocolate cake we’d all wanted to try. No one looked askance as we requested individual checks with the liquor separated out. Alcohol is not expensible – so we cover our own costs there. Ultimately our dinner costs were less than an entrée in most other places.

According to Answer.com there are about 24,000 restaurants in NYC. We were in town for 4 nights. But the food and service was so good at Oovah we went back the next night to see what they could do without being hampered by pesky water mains, and because we wanted those fries again and a second chance at the cake we’d missed.

Oovah Team provides exceptional service

Oovah Team provides exceptional service

We were even more impressed on dinner #2. Everyone welcomed us back  like old buddies and we hit the menu hard but were forewarned that the chocolate cake was still not available. Brussel sprouts, bistec y papas (steak and fries) for two of us, another round of crisped pork tacos, pan seared scallops and the dish that will live in our memories as of one of the best combinations of flavors: Cassava gnocchi with cassava, pork lardon, garlic sauce. The sauce was so good combining the brightness of lemon, the savory lardons, and other fabulous herb tastes that came forth in turns, that we could leave none behind. We liked the scallops as they were but took them out of the original sauce and added the cassava and they were better still, and we ate every smidgen of cassava sauce.

Creme de Pamplemousse Rose Grapefruit cordial

Creme de Pamplemousse Rose Grapefruit cordial

As dinner came to a close my friends wanted an after dinner cordial so I asked for a Grand Marnier. The owner came out with a couple of samples of other options both straight and on ice and apologized for not having Grand Marnier. Something I’d never tried before Creme de Pamplemousse Rose from France was sweet and smooth and very definitely grapefruit for those of you who have forgotten your French. So my choice was made.




The worth waiting for chocolate cake - Abuelita Chocolate and Nutella drizzle

The worth waiting for chocolate cake – Abuelita Chocolate and Nutella drizzle

And as we were served the cordials, the floor manager, Jonathan, brought out the elusive chocolate cake. Jonathan had whispered to me earlier in the evening that they were trying to make it in time for our dessert, but we didn’t tell the others for fear our timing might be off. Surprisingly Oovah came through again. They’d made the cake in the time we’d had dinner so we wouldn’t go away disappointed.

While the restaurant is still so new, there was no line waiting to get inside. I think and I expect that to change if they keep offering the superior guest experience that we enjoyed.

People always talk about service with a smile. And that’s fine although grinning staff can feel a bit perfunctory – I think the smile part of that phrase should be the one left on the customers’ faces and in the case of DoubleTree and Oovah….the smiles were sincerely shared.

(c)2015 by Alison Colby-Campbell


DoubleTree http://doubletree3.hilton.com/en/hotels/new-york/doubletree-by-hilton-hotel-new-york-times-square-south-NYCSQDT/index.html

Oovah Tapas and Wine Gallery http://www.oovahnyc.com/

Javits Center http://www.javitscenter.com/


Powered by Sun and Beauty in Haverhill MA

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The vast beauty of my city (Haverhill, MA) presented itself like a gift and I experienced a near perfect winter day. It would have been perfect if not for that hopping robin. Continue reading

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Christmas Trees – 5 Reasons to Get One, 3 Ways to Get Rid of One

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A friend came by with a 6-pack of saws (always have the right tool) to help us bring it down to size while also creating a bonus, pine-scented yule log. Continue reading

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The Panic of Tracking Santa

IMG_6455 Santa Claus at Haverhill Fair

Bradford Church Fair Santa

By all accounts, as a young kid, I was a “follows the rules” type of girl and when my mother turned on the black and white tv on Christmas Eve and we saw on the evening news  that radar had tracked Santa and he had left the North Pole, I went into panic mode. Must get carrots for reindeer (animals have always been the priority), cookies for Santa (with milk or would he prefer gingerale), hang stockings by age and specifically do it with care whatever that means, must get to bed, must be asleep or Santa will pass us by. That adrenaline burst, of course, did nothing to induce the requisite sleep.

I’d implore my siblings to get to bed as they dillydallied; they were so dangerously slow that they put us at risk.

CCI12212014 (1) Christmas 1959 Kids Bobby Karen Alison Grandparents Ora Donald Parents Walter Nancy ShirleyEventually we’d go upstairs in our new Christmas pjs, and my mother would read, or rather perform, “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. She gave each of us the chance to tear open the shutters and throw up the sash, a process that resulted in a direct view of the night sky from my bed next to the window as the spring-loaded shade unsprung and typically flew off its perch in the process, and we couldn’t take the time to fix it; WE…HAD…TO…SLEEP!

Invariably a light traveled across the sky. It’s him, it’s him, he’s getting close. Must sleep NOW!!!!!!!! But just can’t.

CCI12212014_0001-001 (1) Christmas in the 70sSomehow we did, and we awoke at what must have been midnight (or 8:00 pm if you knew how to tell time) to the distant ringing of sleigh bells and my parents loudly proclaiming “Wake up, wake up, Santa has been here, Santa has been here.” With the grace and cacophony of  thundering buffalo, four kids charged for the staircase that led to the gift obscured tree. Then mayhem.

CCI12212014-001 (1) Christmas On Santas knee at Jordan Marsh KarenThis is one of my favorite holiday memories. As a Christian, I know now and knew then that Santa was never the reason for the season. He was more the clown who showed up to entertain the kids at the birthday party.  Yet his role was not insignificant. He was like a parable, he reinforced messages of joy, giving and receiving, of gratitude, the possibility of miracles and for every kid who asked for a pet monkey, a real baby tiger, and her own reindeer, he showed year after year by living example that not everything we ask for will be given to us, that for reasons we can’t always understand, what we want is not always what is best.

And so this year on Christmas Eve after the family revelry and meal, we will drive home and I will keep an eye on the sky looking for the star in the east and the traveling light across the horizon that both signify that He is on his way.

Merry and blessed Christmas, to all and to all a good night.

(c) 2014 by Alison Colby-Campbell

PS we can now track Santa on the American/Canadian NORAD system on line:  http://www.noradsanta.org/.




This gallery contains 7 photos.

This year I changed my thinking. It’s not Halloween or Thanksgiving; this year Christmas is my favorite holiday. Continue reading

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