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Vol 19 Issue 220 A Guide to Finer Living in Connecticut & Abroad MAY 2024

“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” - William Faulkner

The month of May just might be my favorite of the year. Not only because I was born in May (on my mother's birthday no less) but spring always reveals its sense of promise in May. Flowers blooming, budding leaves, and a hopeful shade of green begins to take over the landscape here in the northeast.

The outdoors is calling us to long walks, fresh air, and dining along the coast with friends. The boatyards are bustling with activity. New trailheads are popping up everywhere and beckon us to explore our natures bounty. Its a great time to live on the Connecticut Coast.

Our first story in this issue features Old Saybrook native Craig Dillion and his company Sea Coast designs. They are professionals in all things landscape, stone work, and outdoor beauty. They create outdoor enviroments that are second-to-non and his work speaks for itself. He is the man for your next project! Next up, John Tolmie explores a secret beach in Rhode Island where he was able to escavate amazing fossilized ferns left seeminly just for him thousands of years ago.

Then we paid a visit with muralist Carolyn McNeil. Her artistic visions can be viewed in many public spaces from libraries to murals in New London adjacent the “Whaling Wall.” She often finds herself indoors painting whimsical walls of natural beauty, recreating forest and favorite beach scenes adding a sense of fun and inspiration to otherwise bland walls. Lastly, we tag along with the intrepid Susan Cornell on here latest trip aboard “Star Pride.”


Susan Cornell- editorial

Ellen Lassard - editorial

Rona Mann - editorial

Sara Drought-Nebel - editorial


Carolina Marquez-Sterling - design

Gregory Post - editorial

Deanna Simmons - editorial

John Tolmie - editorial

On the Cover: Photo by Timothy Larenzo

5 What’s Greg Drinking - Vostinic-Klasnic. 32 The Cheesemonger - The Story or Morbier 54
Jeffery Lilly founder / publisher
visit MAY 2024 Vol. 19 Iss ue 220 Feature Stories
Departments Inkct LLC - 314 Flat Rock Place Unit F125, Westbrook, CT 06498 - email: - visit All content of INK Publications including but not limited to text, photos, graphics and layout are copyrighted by Inkct LLC. Reproductions without the permission of the publisher are prohibited. Inkct LLC is not responsible for images or graphics submitted for editorial or by advertisers which are not copyrighted or released for use in this publication
Jeffery Lilly - Publisher 860.581.0026 Bob Houde - Eastern Connecticut 860.303.6690 Rona Mann - Greater Connecticut - 401-539-7762 Richard Malinsky - Shoreline - 215.704.9273
us to receive our media kit with detailed marketing information. Sea Coast Designs 26 Years of Distinctive Landscaping Design
goes Fossil Hunting Rhode Island Style Destination Windward Ways & Tobago Cays Aboard Star Pride Artist Carolyn McNeil Mural-izes Her Passion 10 20 38 48 54 32



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The Premier Resource t o the Connecticut Artisan 9

26 Years of Distinctive Landscape Design for Discriminating Homeowners


t really wasn’t all that unusual. Matter of fact, it was actually pretty common.

The scene was set in Old Saybrook. A 12-year-old boy who had been born and raised in the community decided, as so many young people do at that age, that he wanted to make some money of his own. So, one snowy day, he knocked on a neighbor’s door and said, “I’ll shovel your walk for five dollars.” SOLD! That was his very first sale and the start of something much bigger. Something he would have for his whole life. To a young boy so many years ago, five dollars seemed like all the money in the world, and he liked the feeling it gave him. So, he knocked on another door and another door, and that same day the adolescent decided he would have a business, he would do it right, and he would always treat his customers well.

Craig Dillon says matter-of-factly, “That grew into what it is now.” What it is now is a long way from shoveling a snowy sidewalk, although snow removal is still a small part of what his company, Sea Coast Designs Landscape does for clients throughout the shoreline. But Craig didn’t just “jump” into this field declaring himself a landscape designer. He worked the process slowly and methodically, educating himself and bettering himself every step of the way so that ultimately he could thoroughly educate clients and give them precisely what they wanted.

Dillon next learned to drive his father’s tractor on farmland when he was still too young to drive it on public roads, then spent his high school years working on golf courses like Fenwick, the oldest public course in the state where he learned how to care for large greens with square corners and hazards along a river made of vast quantities of sand flanked by cacti on its sides. This was an education in itself. With the money he made, Craig eventually was able to buy a plow for the tractor, but he didn’t want to be just another guy who mowed lawns and plowed driveways, he wanted a full education...and he got it, in spades!

Following graduation from high school, Craig made his way to Storrs where first he earned a two-year Associates Degree in Turf-grass Management from the College of Agriculture

“I take a degreed approach to the work we do, and that makes all the difference to the owner of a high-end property who wants to complement it with high-end distinctive landscape design.”

and Natural Resources at the University of Connecticut. This provided him an opportunity to study turf-grass science and management along with courses in soil science and fertility, pest control, ornamental horticulture, landscape design, environmental science, and business management. While still engaged in his studies, Dillon gained further practical experience through an internship at Black Hall Golf Course in Old Lyme where he worked on the grounds crew every weekend, managing to balance his college classes around his work schedule. But it was never enough for the young man who wanted to learn as much as possible so that he could build a solid foundation for a successful business; therefore, he continued further studies at U Conn earning a B.S. Degree in Horticulture with a minor in Landscape Design.

Craig Dillon formally opened Sea Coast Designs Landscape with a customer base that quickly was spreading throughout the shoreline fueled by word of mouth from his existing customers. Here was someone who took a different approach to the design, the maintenance, and the beautification of luxury homes, because “I take a degreed approach to the work we do, and that makes all the difference to the owner of a high-end property who wants to complement it with high-end distinctive landscape design.”

In the realm of outstanding landscape design, hardscaping plays a pivotal role and generally is that line of demarcation that separates the homeowner looking for just a mowing and planting service from one who wants a distinctive luxury landscape design. Hardscape design incorporating non-living elements such as

stone pathways, retaining walls, and ornamental sculptures, is the foundational structure of what is considered luxury landscapes, the principles of which are proportion, order, repetition, and unity.

Dillon seeks out clients who trust both the man and the process, so he takes his time in sitting down with the owners to find out exactly what they have in mind, what their dreams and goals are, and what they envision. “I never sit down with a prospective client and ask upfront, ‘What’s your budget?’ because that’s not the primary thing to them. The work is. After they tell me exactly what it is they are envisioning, I go back and come up with a total plan presenting our design first. We then talk about the choices they have for creating that design. I next give them a timeline for completing the work, essentially, the full picture. All clients, especially those who demand nothing but the highest caliber of performance, all want to know the full picture, and we want a full client who’s on-board with us throughout the process.”

There’s virtually nothing that Sea Coast Designs cannot create, so the process between the client and Craig and his crews becomes one of ongoing collaboration. At its most basic there is landscape design, but there is a difference between mowing a lawn every few weeks and putting in some shrubs and the full scope of what Sea Coast Designs offers discerning homeowners: bed management, turf installation and removal, patios, walkways, pool decks, masonry and extensive stonework, excavation, and drainage, retaining walls, spring and fall cleanups, outdoor kitchens, custom built-in fire-pits, and more.


Always, full explanations are given, and choices are made backed up by the extensive body of education and experience this man has that serves as the backbone of his company and its work. Always, the words “distinctive landscape design” denote a combination of aesthetics and functionality, and each job is highly individual, reflective not only of what the homeowner sees in his mind’s eye but what will work given the topography of the area and exactly how the homeowner plans to use what is being created. Will this be a patio for just rest, relaxation,

and personal enjoyment or does the client want to do extensive entertaining and need more space? “Most people don’t realize that the patio they are envisioning is probably too small, that they have to account for the size of the furniture they plan to put on that patio and when the chairs are pulled back from the table to allow comfortable seating, how much more room is needed? Those are the things we think of for our clients and point out. No detail is ever overlooked.”


“We have to know what certain material is capable of doing, if the home is by the beach what plantings are salt-tolerant, we don’t just throw in plants and shrubs without knowing if they are tolerant to the climate and the soil.” Sea Coast Designs works under a promise of innovative and creative craftsmanship, and they deliver nothing less to every job they do.

It’s been several decades since that young boy knocked on his first door in Old Saybrook and asked if he could shovel a walk for five dollars. A lot has changed in the life of Craig Dillon, but nothing has changed in his approach to clients and his work ethic. He’s mastered a solid body of knowledge, amassed some of the finest equipment to do the jobs, and works with a trusted crew to whom he imparts continuing education. Now Craig no longer knocks on doors, new customers are referred to him by the power of word of mouth from his many satisfied clients along the shoreline. Just as he did at age 12, he knew if he had a business, he would have to do it right and treat his customers right. That never changed!

This, then, is Sea Coast Designs Landscape, a solid company with a solid reputation, always delivering to the highest standard. And all performed with that “degree” of excellence!

Sea Coast Designs Landscape may be reached at (860) 853-0150.


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The Premier Resource t o the Connecticut Artisan 19

hirty odd years ago, back in the early 1990s while diving and spearfishing along the shores of Newport Rhode Island, I came across a few unusual black slate rocks. Organic indentations across these sea-tumbled stony curiosities were faded remnants of ancient ferns. More and more elongated pieces of onyx colored slate appeared below the waves and as I kicked through the salty water, the spear-gun in hand had been nearly forgotten. Hunting fish that day took a back seat as my eyes searched the tightly gathered clumps of rubble strewn across the bottom of Newport Bay. Fossils of all kinds had always been intriguing. For some reason there was a voice in the middle of my head that called out to the past. Trilobites, bivalves, mollusks, sea ferns and other ancient fossilized aquatic animals were consistent finds during my youth in Upstate New York with my teen years spent digging for ancient dead-things beneath the sands of the Arizona desert, where much of the same critters could be found as in the hills of New York. Ancient coral beds stretched across the Globe and thus most of the United States. Even in New England most any old Joe could find a little something fossilized just about anywhere… except here in Connecticut. In 1992 the Military planted me in Groton where I served as a Navy Diver at the Submarine Base. The Nutmeg state is world famous for its dinosaur footprints, but not much more in the way of fossils could be found within its borders. What little research there could be done in the early 90s was gobbled up. One source claimed that fossil fish were found around Mount Hope in the Hartford area. There had been evidence revealed of a colossal inland lake that covered a good portion of the Nutmeg State during the late Jurassic. However, the few known sites were plundered long ago and destroyed by unscrupulous


fossil hunters using explosives. So, when I found the fossilized ferns on the bottom of Newport Bay in 1994, it began a decades long hunt to find out more about these strange plant fossils and where their source of origin was located. I longed to dig down, exhume and split open a pristine preserved plant fossil from millions and millions of years ago.

The fossil ferns that I had plucked from the ocean floor had once been alive and soaking up rays from our sun 300 million years younger. They had come from the late Paleozoic Era, an age that birthed the first amphibians, giant insects, and oceanic armored fish. However, the final epoch of the Paleozoic was known as the “Carboniferous Age” or “The Age of Plants”. The earth had been a giant green house with little change in seasonal climate, engendering the ideal conditions for plant life of all kinds to experiment with varying degrees of population. Most traits that are seen in modern day plants today, like seed production, root systems, pollen distribution, efficient photosynthesis, and both parasitic and symbiotic relationships, were developed and refined during the Carboniferous era. The term ‘Carboniferous’ was coined by the Brits in the 17th century to describe the vast coal deposits found throughout England which is part of the same vein of char-slate known as the Pennsylvanian. This vein stretches from Northwestern Europe down through the eastern United States and ending in and around the geographical area of Pennsylvania. These rich coal beds lie atop natural gas and oil where controversial hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is used to extract fuels from deep shale that formed during the carboniferous.

It was also during the late carboniferous age when the super continent Pangaea began to pull apart and reform the ever changing terrestrial and oceanic map of the earth. This rifting or trenching effect happened repeatedly as the seas rose and fell. Sediments carried by rivers and streams also poured into a basin in what is now southeastern Rhode Island, creating a low-lying, swampy area. Here, layer after layer of plant matter stacked atop one another as the eons passed by. The earth is patient and with ever


increasing pressure and a vast amount of time, a vein of coal was left behind with a tiny portion exposed in what is known today as the Narragansett Basin. The record left behind is one of perfectly preserved flora in layers that formed between 259 and 300 million years ago.

Fast forward to this past March and the idea of those fern fossils found diving popped back into my brain as I brooded in the infernal doldrums of late winter. I somehow got the itch to finally cross these fossils off the bucket list and find them. Being outdoorsy is a good thing for one’s list of adventure friend contacts. I tried to think of anyone I knew who lived in an area who might know where to find the source of the fern fossils. The first name that came to mind was an old fishing friend Mike Chase. Mike is the all-around outdoors-man, He makes his own bow and arrow set-ups from scratch, forages wild edibles, owns New England’s finest free-dive shop and can basically build a survival hut with a pocketknife; there isn’t a shroom he hasn’t picked or a fish he hasn’t caught. “Hey Mike! Weird question. You ever run across coal or fossil beds on your adventures?” Admittedly it was an odd question to text a friend, but I figured it was a step in the right direction. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Two hours passed and my phone finally squeaked back. It was Mike with an answer. “Yes, I have a fossil spot up this way. Trees and Ferns and Palms from the Carboniferous.” My jaw dropped comically as I read the text. I could not believe what I was reading. Mike sent a couple other pleasantries which I promptly ignored. “The Coordinates Please!” Mike LOL’d me


and obliged the coordinates with some details and landmarks to look for. He also sent message that his secret spot is not revealed. “People get greedy with fossils, so please keep this a secret so it can be enjoyed for years to come,” Funny how fishing and fossil hunting spots are both sacred grounds.

The weekend came and somehow convinced my wife Kate to tag along. It was a date outdoors but instead of packing a basket lunch with noodle salad and sammies, the car was filled with archaeological accoutrement’s. After an hour plus driving the ever increasingly windy roads of Rhode Island, our trusty Honda came to a halt a half mile hike from Mikes coordinates. We lugged a Homer Bucket, two hammers, a few chisels, a sixer of Red Bull and a positive mental attitude along through the brush. Safety First had turned into Safety Meh. Eye protection? Yeah, they were sadly forgotten in the excitement. Sunglasses were used to shade our eyes from both the sun and the shards of rock that flew as chisel worked on the spine of


black sedimentary rock. A satisfying pop came with the split of the third hammer swing. There was a faint scent of oil as the seam parted completely, revealing six small bronze-colored leaves amongst a sea of iridescent black. Jumping up and down as if on fire or winning the lottery, an involuntary hoot came followed by hailing Kate over to witness a bona fide bucket list goal being checked off in real time. We both marveled at how incredibly well the specimen had been preserved. The two halves were placed in the orange Homer and took the rest of the day hammering and splitting as the bucket slowly filled. Obeying our promise to Mike we were respectful and only harvested what we could carry. A few ‘Surprise’ chunks were taken home to be split next year as a winter project. Secrets in a tiny state like Rhode Island can still be kept. They are shared by few and to even fewer over time. They are like layers of time frozen in rock. Secrets can be cracked. It took thirty years for the right text to be sent, at the right time, to the right person, to crack open the secret of a garden hidden 300 million years ago.

Stay squeaky my friends.

29 The Premier Resource t o the Connecticut Artisan Lyman Allyn ART MUSEUM Celebrating the power of art since 1932 625 Williams Street New London, CT Exit 83 off I-95 Nothing, Then Everything
2024 Power Boothe, Nothing then Everything 2019, oil on canvas, 72 x 72 inches. Courtesy of the Fred Giampietro Gallery. Showing the shifts and threads that run through Power Boothe’s and bold canvases, as well as more quietly compelling ones. SUSAN POWELL FINE ART 679 Boston Post Road, Madison, CT 203 318 0616 Bright Moments Rainy
2024 Opening Reception: Friday, May 10, 5-8pm LIGHT FANTASTIC DAVID DUNLOP
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31 The Premier Resource t o the Connecticut Artisan
“Wine is a journey that starts with your willingness to take chances”

There is something about being from Connecticut that makes you want to“punch above your weight class.”Connecticut has in many ways been defined by what it is not, specifically New York and Massachusetts.

This month’s featured beverage, hailing from Croatia, but above its weight class here in Connecticut, is every bit a pleasant surprise from an unexpected place. What it lacks in varietal familiarity, it more than makes up for in brightness. It pairs well with almost any food or festive occasion and is as hard to pronounce as the roads and rivers that retained their Native American namesakes: Skrlet, by Vostinic-Klasnic.

I like my white wine as dry as the Long Island Sound beaches during low tide. As the days get longer and the outdoor wine sessions become more common, you need a beverage that jumps off of your taste buds to bring you right to your happy place. This is a vino that knows no limits in that regard. It is the product of clayrich soil at the hills of Moslavacka gora, clocking in at a respectable 160 meters above sea level. The farming operation there is organic for all intents and purposes, but refrains from paying for the certification process. Stainless steel fermentation and aging all the way through, just the way we like it at Saltwater Farm and Kingdom of the Hawk vineyards here in Southeastern Connecticut! This is a wine that sips straightforwardly and maintains a consistent presence throughout your enjoying it.

Cheese Shop of Centerbrook (also featured in these pages) and allow our friend, The Cheesemonger to give you expert advice on how best to pair it. Live with this wine, it is a celebration of the need to gas up lawnmowers and plant flowers. Along the shore where shellfish are shucked with great regularity, this is a bottle that will have you shooting oysters!

Croatia, as far as wine prestige goes, is not exactly top of the list for most people. It is a land of diverse topography with climate variance to match, with wines as unique as the regions from which they hail. Despite the fact that the bottle art looks like something you would see framed at a modern art exhibit, Vostinic-klasnic is coming up on a hundred years of producing Skrlet at this family outpost. The varietal itself is native to Croatia, and obscure even by national standards. It requires intense attention to detail, from the early morning handharvesting to the aforementioned steel aging, all to produce a white wine using only native yeast that is as delicious as it is versatile. This wine is playful and pleasant, something akin to how opening your sunroof on a sunny day in the mid to high sixties feels after so many months of cold wet blah in the forecast. Whether you are a wine connoisseur or just a casual sipper, this wine is meant for socializing and spring soirees with family and friends.

When it comes down to a wine that is seasonally appropriate, this bottle of crushable Croatian wine checks all of the boxes. The bouquet is farmers market tulips and daffodils, enticing and earthy. A little herbaceous as the light yellow liquid swirls around the glass before your first sip, the next thing you know your tastebuds are awash with pineapple and peach notes that have you smiling with its versatility. It could be a perfect compliment to a taco Tuesday as easily as a Sezuchan dish, or make a trip to The

Škrlet is the first wine I have ever tried from this region, which means the team at Spencer & Lynn package store in downtown Mystic is for sure going to see me in the near future to purchase a few more bottles of this reasonably priced adult beverage but also to pick their brains about other offerings from the Adriatic Sea region.

Wine is a journey that starts with your willingness to take chances. Seek out this wine and toast something that brings you joy. May your flowers be blooming, the skies a little clearer and your glass never not be raised without merriment.

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The Premier Resource t o the Connecticut Artisan 35
37 The Premier Resource t o the Connecticut Artisan
Scene of forest in Fundy National Park in New Brunswick, Canada by Muralist Carolyn McNeil.

n any given day Carolyn McNeil can be found amongst wild animals, by the ocean or in a garden – all created and given life in murals through her paint brush, imagination, and input from clients.

Exterior scenes include “Racing Seahorses” at Copperwood Grill next to Wyland’s “Whaling Wall” in Downtown New London and “Children Reading in Trees” across from the marina on Market St. in Downtown Norwich (commissioned by Otis Library).

She has also created many interiors, whimsical children’s murals at childcare centers and at Otis Library (world map and “Animals in Trees”). Many others are tucked away in people’s homes.

“I love doing murals. That's all I want to do,” said McNeil at her Norwich home in late September, surrounded by murals of tropical and country scenes with animals she created on walls and kitchen cabinetry.

Her favorite type of mural is landscapes. “Nature is my thing. I have a blast.” McNeil suggested creating one’s favorite environment, such as a beach or forest, can bring joy to those feeling homebound and isolated.

The idea for a mural always starts the same way: with a free consultation and portfolio presentation. She limits her work to within a 1.5-hour drive of her home.

Once she has a good idea of the wall condition, colors, details, size, scene they’re seeking and seasons clients like and don’t like, she usually creates a sample of “scale on art paper” for them, after which she gains even more detailed information.


Once approved, the Westerly native “gets to play,” she said laughing.

“It makes me feel good. It's just refreshing because it’s not a framed picture and it’s not white walls. It’s different. It’s unique,” said North Stonington resident Philipp Baumann of the murals McNeil created for his family. He and his wife, Kim, met the artist at a Jenks Home Show at Connecticut College in New London years ago.

After learning of Philipp's interest in World War I airplanes, the family's love of Disney characters and that the couple's grandfathers were both dairy farmers, McNeil incorporated British Sopwith Camel and German Fokker D.I airplanes, Tinker Bell, and a hidden Mickey Mouse, as well as cows and his family’s silhouette in their expansive foyer mural with a waterfall, birch trees and fields.

Other scenes in their home include a Roman view with pillars overlooking a river in the master bathroom, Hawaiian vista with palm trees in the sunroom, trellis with vines in the mudroom, underwater theme in the children's bathroom and grapevines along the tops of the faux-finished walls in the open kitchen, dining and family room area.

Visitors’ feedback is always, “Wow,” Philipp said during a telephone interview.

Prior to painting a mural on a good-conditioned plastered, sheetrocked, concrete or siding surface, it must be primed, preferably with an eggshell gloss finish. Utilizing her sample and photographs, McNeil then creates the mural with acrylic paint. “Depending on the detail, sometimes I will sketch it in; other times, I’ll just start painting…from the background to the foreground,” she said.

Carolyn McNeil’s kitchen mural with lions is a tribute to famous artist Henri Rousseau. Photo by Jan Tormay
Partial View of Carolyn McNeil’s outside children's mural for Otis Library across from the marina in Downtown Norwich, which pays homage to Frederick Douglass' famous quote, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

Tools range from paint rollers to “roll out” background color in huge murals to different-sized paint brushes for detail work. When completed, she recommends applying a clear, preserving varnish over interior murals.

For those who want to move their murals or are not allowed to paint on their apartment walls, McNeil creates removable wall paintings using canvas, luan (a thick wood) or Masonite.

Exterior murals must cure for two days once finished, especially if it is humid. She then applies at least two coats of a water-based, “dead flat” varnish (that “lays flat” without a glare), which should be redone every two years to protect the mural.

Depending on the size of the mural/removable painting, subject matter, amount of detail, cost of supplies, research involved and travel time, prices typically range between $1,000 and $10,000.

The muralist is very thankful her husband, Andy McNeil, is able to help her. When needed, the talented carpenter, cabinetmaker and Habitat for Humanity Site Supervisor creates frames for Carolyn’s murals and helps her set up staging and stretch canvases for movable paintings.

Venice Dining Room mural in CT home Photo by Carolyn McNeil
Children’s mural by Artist Carolyn McNeil at a Rhode Island daycare.

Helping his wife is “a blast,” said Andy during a telephone interview before they left to pick up a big roll of canvas at Jerry’s Artarama of CT and wood from a home improvement store.

“I know carpentry and I love her to pieces, so to be able to help her just by doing something that comes second nature to me, is pretty fulfilling.”

Currently, Carolyn also enjoys creating animal portraits for clients.

Additionally, Carolyn teaches art at nursing homes, senior living facilities and rehabilitation centers. “The main reason I do it is because my mom was an artist and she was at Norwichtown Rehab and the one thing that kept her okay and being able to be herself was being able to paint,” she said, adding her wheelchair had paint all over it.

Carolyn is also the illustrator of Do You Ever Wonder? A Story for the Child in Everyone by Author Lillian P. Arbour (Carolyn’s second cousin), published one year ago. Cost: $10.

She believes art is good for people’s brains and hearts. "It makes you think. It makes you interact with the world around you in a different kind of way. And for me, it's just a joy to do it."

Being an artist was always her dream.

Bathroom mural in private Connecticut residence created by Artist Carolyn McNeil.
This 4-by-8-foot canvas mural of the McNeils’ dog Golly looking out over a landscape reminiscent of where Writer James Herriot did his veterinary rounds in England.

From the time Carolyn can remember, she has been painting and drawing. The second of five sisters, she believes they all inherited creative DNA from their mother Jane Clifford, who was a painter and writer.

After graduating from Norwich Free Academy’s Art Program and the Paier School of Art, Carolyn said she was confident she could make a living as an artist – even though others, including her father, had doubts. Early stints included working as a designer for Rust Craft Greeting Cards in Denham, Massachusetts and painting faces and pictures on 1.5-inch pins for a shop in Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston.

Later, while working for Frills in Boston during the 1980s Carolyn became friends with Artist Julie Jennings, who taught her to create textile designs on silk. That led to her being represented by New York Agent Ellen Thorup for over 10 years. "At least twice a year, we did designs for Hawaii. I worked for the company (Cooke Street) that did shirts at the time for Magnum PI."

After Thorup died, serendipity ruled again when a former art school roommate asked if she would help her with some large murals and faux finishes. When Carolyn said she didn’t know how, her friend taught her, and they worked together for over five years.

Carolyn still designs clothing with Photoshop twice yearly for an online company, which prints to order for customers.

Advice she gives young people is, “Don’t be afraid of doing what you want to do. Don’t be afraid of being an artist.”

The challenge of creating art is actually part of the fun, “because over the years I’ve had to think of different ways to make a living at it…and you never know what you’re going to do next.”

Carolyn added, “The joy is just being able to do it. I get to not have to think about getting up and going to work and doing something I don’t want to do. That’s the best part.”

People often say they are not artistic or creative, which is not true, she said. “All you have to do is pick up a paint brush; then you’re painting” something original.

For more information or to schedule a consultation for a mural or animal portrait, go to, email carolynmcneil@sbcglobal. net, or text/call Carolyn McNeil’s cell phone at 860-705-9354. A limited number of books can also be purchased through the illustrator.

Cat Library Photo by Carolyn McNeil Muralist Carolyn McNeil at her Norwich home with cornhole art she created. Photo by Jan Tormay
Carolyn McNeil illustrated this book, Do You Ever Wonder? A Story for the Child in Everyone, written by her second cousin, Lillian P.Arbour. Photo by Jan Tormay
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Star Pride (formerly Seabourn Pride) was the first of three Germanbuilt cruise ships initially built for the Seabourn Cruise Line. She was known as Seabourn Pride.

We had some reservations about Windstar because their ships are older. Just how old? Seabourn Pride set out on her maiden voyage in 1988 after being christened by Shirley Temple Black. However, you’d never know she was older – Star Pride was well-maintained, looked new, fresh and classy, and ran smoothly.

A few “fun facts” about her -- After sister ship Seabourn Spirit was attacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia in 2005, Seabourn Pride was fitted with a Long-Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) designed

hen the leaves fall, a little light-bulb goes off in my head, and visions of palm trees, islands, and turquoise-blue waters appear. It’s time to winterize, which means booking something south and sunny. We’ve had some fantastic experiences on cruises and have a penchant for islands, so the decision was cinchy. We’ve also learned what we do like (small ships and ports, no lines or waiting, water-sports and great food) and don’t like (massive floating hotels, belly flop competitions, casinos, and to “hurry up and wait”).

We’ve sailed on different types of vessels – from a freighter in French Polynesia to a historical steamboat in the Amazon – and various cruise lines, but we hadn’t ticked Windstar off the list. Windstar ships sounded nice – small, luxurious, a water-sports platform, and with a reputation for catering to active seniors (the average age is around 48, not sure that’s a senior).

Most of the islands on the “Windward Ways and Tobago Cays” itinerary we’d never visited, so this was a selling point. The Windstar Star Pride departed from Aruba and planned to stop at Curacao, Bonaire, Soufriere, Mayreau, and Man-O-War Bay, with disembarkation in Barbados. As often happens in travel and life, not everything goes according to the itinerary but works fine.


to fend off attackers. Since we were traveling to a few of the filming locations of Pirates of the Caribbean, I felt safe with pirates on my mind.

In 2015, Star Pride hit a reef near the Pacific coast of Panama. The passengers and crew were stranded for over 15 hours on the Panamanian island of Coiba. They were rescued by another Windstar boat, the Star Breeze, and Paul Gauguin’s cruise ship, the Tere Moana. She was salvaged and put back into service in 2016.

In 2018, Star Pride lost power while in Buzzards Bay between Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard. The ship anchored and regained power after several hours.

Soon after, it was announced that Windstar would stretch, renovate, and re-engine its three Star-class ships: Star Breeze, Star Legend, and Star Pride.

On Star Pride’s thirtieth birthday, she was cut in half, wrenched apart, and stretched by adding an 85-foot section in the middle of the ship. The operation was conducted in Palermo, Sicily, Italy, and completed in 2021. Thanks to surgery, she looks sleek, stylish and, as one said, “jaguar-like.”

Our cabin happened to be in the newly added section of the yacht. Trust me, I looked for seams (even tiny leaks) inside and outside.

Between running aground, pirates in the family, losing power, and being stretched, Star Pride has had quite an interesting life already. Did her past worry us?

Direct flights both to and from the cruise are always a selling point. Since flight delays can ruin a vacation, we opted for several of pre-cruise hotel nights at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Aruba Resort. The hotel is new and, while a bit out of the way from the cruise terminal, was comparatively reasonably priced. We found accommodations in Aruba expen$ive! And, booking only two months before departure, there was little availability. We met a few fellow passengers at this modern-style resort overlooking the Caribbean.

The weather in Aruba is the same day after day -- perfect though, windy. The island is also super flat, which makes bicycling everywhere a breeze. It seems you either LOVE Aruba or you don’t. The beaches are some of the best in the Caribbean, and each is public/free. (There are a couple of exceptions, such as privately owned islands that you must purchase a day pass to access).

This Dutch–Caribbean island is, however, developed, so if you’re more of the Block Island type, this may not be the destination for you. If you’re into hiking, geology, or nature, though, there is a desert-like national park that comprises almost 20 percent of the island. You’d think you were in Arizona!


Our first port was Willemstad, Curacao. We simply stepped off the ship (remember, no lines) and walked into the city center. Willemstad is a vibrant city with waterfront cafes and shops. It is easily walkable, so there is no need for an excursion or taxi unless you’d prefer to snorkel or beach it. The city is split into two districts on each side of a narrow channel, traversable by a landmark floating pedestrian bridge, the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge, which opens to allow ships to pass. Yes, pedestrians are literally on the bridge when it opens! Never seen this, it is very cool.

Kralenjijk, Bonaire was next on the journey. Bonaire is well known as one of the best scuba diving locations in the world, with nearly 90 dives accessible right off the shores. If you don’t scuba dive, Bonaire has you covered with incredible snorkeling.

While there’s plenty to do without a formal excursion, we signed up for a Samur Sail, Beach & Snorkel adventure. The Samur is an authentic Siamese Junk boat, hand carved and with quite a life story. We sailed to the uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire. Zodiac then transported us to the beach, where we could snorkel from the beach or participate in a guided drift snorkel along the reef’s outer edge. This island had the pristine white sandy beach of my dreams, followed by a return sail with rum punch.

Our “Sea Day” the following day was filled with bridge tours, cooking demos, spa time, hot tub time, a few drinks of the day, a galley tour, and an on-deck barbecue.

Soufrière sounds like fancy French cuisine but it’s a town in St. Lucia and home to the Pitons, two giant volcanic plugs that are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We hiked to a waterfall and explored the town a bit. St. Lucia feels like it was taken from the South Pacific and set down in the Caribbean. Most of the island is fabulous, but Soufrière is a bit sketchy. With a mulligan, we would have booked an excursion to a botanical garden, a bird sanctuary, or a chocolate tour.

The next port on the itinerary was Mayreau, the smallest inhabited island of the Grenadines (population ~271). We planned a Grenadines Island Escape tour - a sailaway aboard a catamaran through part of the archipelago, snorkeling, and rum drinks. The afternoon was a Windstar beach barbecue where they broke out the


toys from the water-sports platform – kayaks, SUPs, floating lounge chairs, and an inflatable island.

But, due to wind and sea swells, the ship headed to another island, Bequia. Kudos to the Windstar crew for whipping together new excursions, presenting the new port talk, and organizing the passengers on just-signed-up-for excursions. We booked Bequia Highlights, a covered van tour to Fort Hamilton, Mount Pleasant, and The Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary. Our guides’ love of and pride for Bequia made me want to return, as did the charming town of Port Elizabeth, which is walkable and quaint.

For a day that started disappointing, it ended with a newfound love. Things don’t always go as planned, but they often turn out as good or better.

Anchoring at Man-o-War Bay, Tobago was to be the final island before disembarkation at Barbados. Again, King Triton and the weather gods rearranged the itinerary a bit, and we docked at the port of Scarborough instead. Scarborough itself is not exactly a vacation destination. Our excursion to Bucco Reef for a glass bottom boat ride and snorkeling, was about as beautiful and authentic as it gets. Had the small fishing village more notice that cruise passengers were coming, they would have held their famous goat races. Bucco is also known for crab races, but the real action is in the arena, as Bucco is the “Goat Racing Capital of the World.”

Bridgetown, Barbados, was the end of the line for this journey. We did an island tour with a transfer to the airport. Everything worked without a hitch – no stress, no drama, no frustrations on this trip. Windstar nails it when it comes to personal service, organization, alternate plans, fantastic food, and attention to detail.

53 The Premier Resource t o the Connecticut Artisan

The Cheesemonger

The Cheese Shop of Centerbrook


The Story of Morbier ( Mor-Bee-Yay)

If you haven’t heard of this semi-soft and creamy cheese with its distinctive aroma and supple texture, it’s nutty, earthy, and slightly tangy flavor with hints of fruitiness. Or its most recognizable feature, a thin line of ash that runs horizontally through the middle……you’re not alone.

That’s because in 2014 the FDA banned Morbier from entering the United States (don’t worry, it’s back) saying it didn’t meet the food safety standards and therefore couldn’t gain approval for importation.

Why, you ask? Let’s go back to the beginning….

It’s the end of the 18th century high in the Jura mountains in a region of France called Franche-Comté.

Recognize Comté? If you do, you’re on to something.

As one story goes, Morbier was born out of leftovers. Dairy farmers who didn’t have enough milk to make a full wheel of Comté cheese would take their leftover curds from the evening milking and cover them with a layer of ash to protect them overnight. (remember this ash, we’ll talk more about that later) This would then allow them to add another layer of curds from the morning milking… and Morbier was born.

Another tells the story of Morbier being made in secrecy. At the time, farmers would bring their milk to the local village cheese maker, but when harsh weather hit, it would keep them from making the trip. The result was they had to make their own cheese. Following the same method of adding a layer of ash to the evening curds so they could add another layer of curds from the morning milking – and there we have it, Morbier was born.

I suppose we’ll never really know the truth.

So, we’re in a little village, making cheese with leftover milk or in secrecy – we have a layer of ash separating the morning and evening milking’s... now what?

This goes on for centuries. Morning milk, afternoon milk, layer of ash. If I’ve learned anything about French cheese, it’s t hat recipes don’t change. They are deeply rooted in tradition and heritage, often passed down through generations. The recipes are cherished as part of France’s cultural identity any changes to these recipes could alter the taste, texture, and overall character of the cheese. Not to mention, many French cheeses have received protected designation of origin (DPO) status from the EU. This legal protection ensures that certain cheeses can only be produced in specific regions of France using traditional methods and ingredients. Morbier is an AOC protected cheese. (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) which is the French version of the DPO.

Let’s get back to that layer of ash I mentioned.

In traditional cheese making methods a layer of ash serves multiple purposes. It helps regulate moisture, controls acidity, helps to prevent a rind from forming and the growth of unwanted bacteria. And it can impart certain flavors and contribute to the overall development of the cheese.

In early cheese making days, wood ash was used. You know, the residue left behind after burning wood, in particular grapevine stems. It’s said that ash from wood burning has particles of minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium. All good, right? Hmm... So why would this layer of wood ash put Morbier on the naughty list?

Because the ash had an unfamiliar color, and its exact ingredients couldn’t be determined, it was banned from entering the United States. It’s taken nine long years, but in 2023 after several adjustments and modifications the FDA lifted the ban and Morbier has been allowed back!

What’s changed? You guess it. That layer of ash. Today, that layer is made with vegetables and is used more for aesthetic purposes. There’s still a morning and afternoon milking, but with modern technologies in place there’s no need to protect each layer as they once did.

It does sadden me a bit to think we can’t stick with tradition. This and many other cheeses all over the world have been made the same way for hundreds of years. But although they may be a bit different, traditional cheese making values are still in place and Morbier is as good with vegetable ash as it once was with the ash of grapevine stems. And I’m happy that change has been embraced allowing the next generation of cheese lovers the opportunity to enjoy these beloved favorites.

After all, isn’t change the spice of life?


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