Ice Cream Memories

Mara’s Ice Cream Rockaway Beach

I only eat sweets during the holidays when it’s right in front of my face (or rather, my mouth). But the other night, I had a very rare, intense craving for ice cream.  I kept debating internally if I should run out to see if Mara’s Ice Cream Parlor was still open. I texted my husband – If he wanted to go, I’d go. I thought about getting a pint at Key Food but if I was going to eat ice cream calories, I wanted the whole shebang.

Matt responded. It was a go. I feared Mara’s would close at 9pm. I slipped on my flip flops and hustled out the door without makeup (also very rare).There was no time to check hours online.

Mara’s was in fact open and it was hoppin! Seriously, what was I thinking… People love ice cream and it’s the dog days of summer.

I got my favorite: chocolate chip cookie dough, rainbow sprinkles and caramel syrup. It was so so good and satisfied my near-insatiable craving.

As I’m spooning the delicious coldness into my mouth, a memory popped in my head about the classic banana split. I’m sitting in a faux brown wooden booth at Friendly’s. The table is too high for me. My arms are awkwardly stretching over to reach for my banana split. I’m sitting opposite my Grandmother Pauline. She’d take my sisters and I to Friendly’s as a special treat! Most of the time we’d share the sundae, but this time it was all for me. And Grandma allowed me to have the whole thing myself. That’s probably why I remember this moment so vividly.

What’s the story behind the banana split anyway? It’s almost as American as apple pie. I did a little digging and found out the origin is controversial. Several individuals claim to have invented the sundae – David “Doc” Strickler an optometrist in Latrobe, Pennsylvania (1904) and Ernest “Doc” Hazard of Wilmington, Ohio, (1907) are most notable to mention. In 2004, The National Ice Cream Retailers Association certified Latrobe, Pennsylvania as the birthplace.

What’s the connection between doctors, pharmacies and ice cream anyway… one stop shop?

Strickler, after a trip to Atlantic City, where he saw and ate sundaes with fruit atop, was inspired to create his own with bananas. Then, the transport of bananas came through Pennsylvania from New Orleans. Strickler’s business was located near Saint Vincent College. Word of his sundae spread to students’ families back home and quickly gained popularity. Shortly after, the first Walgreens in Chicago adopted the dessert and so began the national craze. To note, this coincided  with the novel ice cream soda fountain sensation.

There are many versions of the banana split today. The classic is: one banana split long ways with three scoops of ice cream – vanilla, strawberry and chocolate. Chocolate, strawberry, and pineapple syrup are the traditional syrup choices. Topping – whip cream, maraschino cherries and walnuts. It’s served in an oblong “boat” dish.

The original from 1904 was topped with fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, crushed pineapple and pitted black cherry. And Strickler used marshmallow syrup!

I haven’t had the classic sundae in probably 25 years and I’m on the hunt to find the decadent dessert. I went back to Mara’s this past week and asked if they sold banana splits. They do not, as their selection is more avant-garde. Nevertheless, get your sweet fix at Mara’s Ice Cream Parlor located at  92-14 Rockaway Beach Blvd., Rockaway Beach, NY 11693. They’re open until 10pm! (718) 474-2268 / @marasicecreamparlor. I’d also like to mention that on Sundays Mara’s has live music in the yard!


tagged in ice cream

Mystery: Pumpkin, Squash or Gourd?

I know… it’s August, why am I bringing up pumpkins? Well, there’s some kind of gigantic cucurbit vine growing in my front garden. 

The plant started off very small. It was growing in shade, under my Echinacea. So I thought it would die off.  But it did not. It’s been getting bigger and bigger each week. The leaves are now 17 inches long and the vine is spreading at an exponential rate.

Pumpkin, Squash Gourd

From what I can see, there are almost six large female flowers. Females have a small ball attached to the flower base. Males grow directly from the stem. Each female can become a fruit. Interestly, I read that gourds cross pollinate easily and that’s why they can be so diverse in appearance.

The plant has been a topic of conversation with passersby and with friends hanging out on the porch. The consensus is, the seed –  of whatever this is – was dropped last year by “my” squirrel (aptly dubbed Bigmouth), who feasts on my gorgeous fall harvest display every year. My thoughtful arrangement includes a varied mix of pumpkins, gourds and corn stalks. 

I’ve written two columns about Bigmouth in past years. We’ve had a tumultuous relationship. Initially I was livid that he was destroying my lovely and expensive decor. I despised him. But as time went on, I got to know Bigmouth. I’d watch him eat breakfast while I sipped my morning coffee on the porch. I started leaving him nuts and seeds so he wouldn’t eat my decorative arrangement. It kinda worked. Our relationship blossomed into a strong friendship based around food. He is also really cute.

I knew Bigmouth’s favorite meal was pumpkin seeds (besides Halloween chocolate), so I assumed the mystery vine was a pumpkin. And guessed, based on the size of the plant.  After speaking to fellow gardeners and researching the internet though, the investigation developed.  It seems the leaves are more akin to a gourd rather than a pumpkin. I found one picture online that’s spot-on but the photo is not specifically identified. The gourd in question is oval, dark green and speckled. 

Pumpkin Squash or Gourd

I remember the gourds I had last year and they were beautiful in color and shape. There are over 700 different species of gourds which doesn’t help narrow things down. I suppose only time will truly reveal the mystery.  I will update you as the plot thickens!

tagged in fall, garden, squirrel

Those Gelatinous Blobs

There’s been a lot of talk around town about those gelatinous blobs floating in the water up at Riis Park and elsewhere. A couple of weeks back I was swimming with friends and they were suspended in every inch of the water close to shore. It felt weird against our skin but that didn’t deter our swim. Although it’s all we could talk about as we were bobbing around, trying to cool off in the water.

Our first thought was baby jellyfish. But that just seemed too simple. And the small black dot in the blob was curious. It made me think this is not something common.

Sea Salps Photo via instagram fishguyphotos (1)

Photo credit: @fishguyphotos 

What I believe is the true answer was revealed by my friend Elisa – Sea Salps. I’ve never heard of these creatures before. I learned they are barrel-shaped, planktic tunicate and they do not sting. They are harmless to us. They appear closer to shore as the water becomes nutrient rich. The translucent blobs eat phytoplankton and move by pumping water through their bodies, which is a form of jet propulsion.

They are invertebrates with a complex life cycle. Normally Salps are deep in the ocean and often are seen linked as chains near the equator and the Southern Ocean. They connect when threatened by a predator or if the water current is too strong.

Whales love to eat Salps (along with 202 other species) and last week I saw whales from the boardwalk!

Check out this  article by Ray Vann, if you’re interested in more details about Salps!


tagged in ocean, rockaway

Alive At Rippers

I turn around. I’m standing on the picnic table bench and I look back. There’s at least 500 people at Rippers . So many that they’ve stretched out the width of the boardwalk, from the building to the sand and a secondary crowd hanging out on the ramp near Dayton. I knew so many of them. Last Saturday night everyone was there to see the Wild Yaks record release show. Band members Jose Aybar, Rob Bryn, Martin Cartagena, Gio Kincade, Patsy Carroll, and Matt Walsh recorded Live at Rippers on Saint Ripper’s Day on October 6, 2019. With the pandemic, the band wasn’t sure the record would ever come out. But it did and fittingly, the show two years later commenced at Rippers.

Photo by Josh Gallagher

Sky Creature, my husband’s band – Matt Walsh and Majel Connery opened. Their set felt like an extraordinarily “floating in the ocean” type dream. The music is like nothing Rockaway or the world has ever heard before. That sounds like a strong statement, but it’s true. The best way I can describe it is, electronic pop with African-inspired beats. And add a professionally trained opera singer (Majel) on lead vocals. It’s special.


Champagne Superchillin’  is a beach rock band with a French twist. They’ve been on the Rockaway scene for years now but I only discovered them in depth this past year, seeing their gigs at the Rockaway Brewing Co. The members rotate at times, but the core from my understanding is Juliette Buchs, Ben Trimble, Charlie Garmendia, Jose Aybar, and Spicy. Their uptempo, all-smiles vibe got the crowd going in preparation for the Yaks.


It’s hard to put into words the feeling of the show that night. People were actually crying; people were screaming and dancing; there was a mosh pit and crowd surfing. Everyone was dripping in sweat but no one cared. It never rained but there was lighting all around us. The Wild Yaks played with 100 percent passion and true joy. The songs sounded great. But It was more than the music and the record. It was a release of energy and love that needed to happen after we all went through the emotionally trying year of lock-down. It was a gift. The community was back together again.

If you would like a Live at Rippers record, visit,  a donation-based nonprofit music label in Rockaway Beach.  A little background from the website: “We believe that recorded music is public art, to be enjoyed together. It is for listening. It is essential for our well-being. We want our records to be available to our community without the barrier of cost. In the spirit of sharing, we give them to you as a gift. We truly believe these records can transform you, the Rockaway community, and the world. A record is a document of communal magic and genuine expression. How can we put a price on that?”

P.S Thank you to The Wave and Cara Cannella for writing about the record release show a few weeks back and sharing about Open Ocean


tagged in music