Women and the Sea

Women and the Sea ***** by Claire Murray

I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, where pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera.

“In 2004, Claire Murray launched La Vie Claire magazine to celebrate women living creative lives pursuing their passions. It quickly became apparent that there were many others who shared her vision: women who had been enchanted by the sea and who built their lives around this inspiration. Thus the concept of Women and the Sea was born. In telling the tales of sixteen women, Women and the Sea pays tribute to all sisters of the sea.”

 This beautiful book is eye candy for the sea lover. I ran across it as I was going thru back issues of Coastal Living Magazines, to toss in the recycle bin. Looking through them one last time, to see if there were recipes or ideas to file away~ I saw this book I had missed, featured in the March issue for Editor’s Favorite Look Books… “Coastal staffers pick the must-have coffee table books that deserve to be on display every day”. I may have mentioned I have a thing for coffee table books. . .

Wading through the pages of this book is as delightful as wading in the surf~ with the sand between your toes, watching the tide roll in. The photography and prose on the pages will inspire you and make you long to escape to the coast~ beach combing for the perfect shell, waiting for that magical sunrise or sunset. Like the sea, that in its vastness has the power to instantly transport us away from everyday life . . . so does this book sweep you along within the beauty of its pages.

From the foreword by Claire Murray:

“While seductive sirens and beguiling mermaids suggest the mysterious feminine nature of the sea, many real women have turned to it not only for sustenance but also for inspiration. Women and the Sea tells the tales of artists, crafters, entrepreneurs, ‘fishing’ chix, captains, scientists, a surfing school headmistress, and a sandcastle sculptress. In sharing their stories, these women pay tribute to all of their sisters who, too, have long been mesmerized by the lore and the lure of the sea. Maybe they were bewitched in childhood while combing the beach, scouting for perfect shells and sea glass. Maybe they were awestruck by its power when chasing and tumbling in its waves. Maybe they imagined its mythical creatures while packing sand in colorful pails at the water’s edge. For some, this love for the ocean reposed deep in their ancestral genes, needing only a splash of salt water to resurrect it. If there is one word that characterized the lives these women lead by answering the siren’s call, it is ‘joyful’. These women delight in the sea. It intrigues them, surprises them, lightens their spirits, and feeds their souls.”


 “Mermaids are the perfect woman:  beautiful, mysterious, unattainable. I am inspired by a sense of grace, and mermaids offer unlimited opportunities to express grace. The flowing hair and swaying sea grasses~ poetry emerges with each subtle movement.” 

~  Christina Wyatt, Artist


  Christina’s work is full of mysticism, magic and symbolism:


“Their opalescent scales shimmer, their long locks waving down their bare backs. They hold court on the ocean’s floor, bright orange and yellow fish floating in attendance. They cavort with seahorses, bond with goldfish, curl and coil like moonshells, and sleep like Pisces twins on beds of sand and shells. They undulate and sway, these mermaids of sea dreams.”


Beaufort, SC, has an active and enthusiastically supported Arts Council. Mermaid statues, embellished by area artists in 2006, were auctioned off to endow a fund for public art. A few mermaids remain sprinkled throughout town that we ran across on our family beach trip this year. When I saw this book had mermaids, I thought I would include them for a mermaid-drenched review :-) You can read more about Beaufort’s Mermaids here and see a little of sculptor Kevin Palmer’s mermaid-making process from wood frame to fiberglass here.

Figurehead Artist, Dinah Unruh, is one of the only two or three people in the world who still carve figureheads, an art that once was in high demand as each clipper ship that left port had one of these icons~ usually fashioned after a wife, sister or mother.

“She senses their spirit. In her mind’s eye, she sees their faces– alert, calm, strong–these stalwart Quaker women on Nantucket Island’s seafaring past. Shaving by painstaking shaving, their features emerge from antique teak wood. These figureheads, these protectresses of voyages, will not stand watch from the bows of ships as did their sisters of centuries past. No, these women safeguard homes while adding to them their beauty and grace.”

“Much like the captains who placed figureheads at the helm of their ships, an act born of traditions meant to mollify the sea gods and ward off ill fate, Dinah carves figures of protection. Their gaze is constant, their faces set and serene, their smiles quietly suggesting all will be well.”


“Nothing is too lowly for her notice, not the knobby seaweed, not the humble razor clam, not the ubiquitous barnacle, not the broken horseshoe crab carapace. She singles them out, and through her eyes, they reveal their poetry. Painting them as portraits, as species studies, as Bachian pieces of point and counterpoint, Mimi Gregoire Carpenter spotlights that which is often overlooked– discovered hiding in rock piles, stranded by the tide, and tangled in flotsam.”

 “Every single one of your senses is touched. The ocean smells different from any other place. Then there are the words, the rote sound of the waves, the rippling. It evens you out and calms you down. When it’s foggy, the gray wraps right around you. For me, the ocean is the closest thing to what heaven will be like. It’s the closest thing to paradise.” 

~ Mimi Gregoire Carpenter, Artist


“In its quietness, serenity, and beauty, the sea teaches us ways to find our centers as human beings. The sea has a tendency to draw the big picture for us and remind us not to sweat the small stuff. It is that special place that helps us remember the important things in life.”

 ~ Jennifer MacLean, Boat Captain



Claudia Espenschield, Fishin’ Chix  Founder:


“It is an unadulterated joy, I never expected to like fishing, and other women say the same thing. Sure enough, every time they’ll say, ‘That’s just the greatest experience in the world.’ Women are curious, they ask questions, they follow advice, and they share their amazement at what they land, ‘Women scream their heads off even if it’s a teeny fish they have caught. It’s almost as if they have reeled in a Volkswagen.’ “



“Once the ocean catches you, it is if you are in a net. You can’t get away. We have the exact percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean. That’s deep and probably worth lots of thought, but I would rather just play in the ocean, I prefer just to enjoy it.”


~Bev Sander, Las Olas Surf Safaris Founder



Pamela Barefoot, founder of Blue Crab Bay Company, resides on a small peninsula on Virginia’s eastern coast. Professing not to be a cook herself, her claim to fame was clam dip, and noticed that the regional food and gift basket business, as well as the grocery store shelves lacked a seasoning packet for clam dip. Expanding on that, she now spends her days developing and marketing products like Dune Buggies (sea salted almonds), She-Crab Soup, Shore Seasonings, and Inner Oceans seaweed soaps. She leaves the stresses of the business world behind by escaping to her dock with her dogs, her iPod speakers, and her crab pot. Baiting her line she catches crabs that she steams on her dock and takes in the abundance around her:

“When I close my eyes and think of the expansive water of the Chesapeake or the ocean, I feel freedom, a relaxing deep breath. It is peaceful, unifying, cleansing, and ever changing. Water connects us to other continents, other islands, other people.”


   Add cream cheese & mayo to this seasoning blend, along with a can of minced clams for quick & flavorful clam dip.

 Flour tortillas + the magic of cookie cutters + the oven =  fish, dolphin and shell tortilla chips for dip :-)

  Since I was familiar with Blue Crab Bay Company products, I dove at the chance to use some for Food for Thought. So good and easy, I almost feel guilty :-)  You can find their products here. 


 This is a favorite bloody mary mix~  if you prefer the flavor of clam juice, try the Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer.


Miss Beaufort, with her streaming locks of copper wire, stained-glass tail, and beauty queen banner, greets drivers as they come onto Bay Street. She happily swims near a Palmetto Tree at the Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center.



“The sea moves with eternity but waves to ephemerality. No one understands this better than sand sculptor Jennifer Rossen. She spends days, months even, watering, packing, and shaping sand into hobbit-sized sandcastles. These fairy-tale palaces—with their carved domes, crowned towers, choir of steeples and spires—enjoy their day in the sun, inviting imaginations to visit and delight in them, and then they are gone. A trained artist, Jennifer is fine with the brief life of her creations. ‘I only build ephemeral sand  sculptures, which after a time, return to a pile of sand. It is like buying a bunch of flowers; you do it for the beauty of the moment. No one gets sad when the song finishes. Some things just live in the present. That is what makes them magical.’”

You can more amazing sand creations from Jenny Rossen on her website here.


 I was inspired to play in the sand myself. . .and played with brown sugar to create my own sand castle :-)



“Her creations have their moment on the stage, and then the curtain of water rises and falls, reclaiming them.”



Be sure to visit Food for Thought and see what everyone is reading & eating!

  11 comments for “Women and the Sea

  1. Pondside
    August 28, 2010 at 6:54 am

    What little girl hasn’t fallen in love with the idea of being a mermaid? The first time I saw Den Lille Havfrue in Copenhagen’s harbour I was only 7 years old and I was smitten. All of your images for this post are beautiful – the colours draw one in……sandcastle, mermaids, Bloody Mary – except we call the drink made with Clamato Juice a Caesar and serve it with a pickled asparagus spear.

  2. Pondside
    August 28, 2010 at 7:02 am

    I meant to say – you might enjoy a book called A Curve in Time by M. Wylie Blanchet. It’s a wonderful story of a woman and her children on a boat in the Pacific Northwest.

  3. August 28, 2010 at 8:27 am

    How incredibly creative you are, Mary!! That brown sugar *sand* castle is amazing!!!
    All your delicious treats have me wanting to rush to the store for those soups….and maybe even that bloody mary. I haven’t had one in ages!

    How cute your little homemade crackers look…I know Jain has that same dolphin cutter but the others are new to me.
    I’ve been to Beufort, SC but didn’t see the mermaids. :( Must go back!

    Thank you for a WONDERFUL tour & review. You are a whiz at these!!

  4. August 28, 2010 at 9:34 am

    I subscribe to Claire Murray La Vie Claire. It is one of my favorite magazines. Loved seeing more of the book.

    What a wonderful idea for the creative crackers you made! And that sugar sandcastle looks real…

    Thanks for stopping by my blog for a visit!

  5. August 28, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    oh what a beautiful book, i love how used your wee shells… its wonderful the enhancements you make on something already so lush for the eye.

    and mermaids! is anyone not under their spell? i love seeing what you see by the sea! such wonderful pics.

    who knew clam dip could look like art?! fish and shell crackers even… omg i see you made them even! can you tell i write this as i scroll down, so you catch my element of surprise live and in action. what a GREAT idea!

    the colors in your food photos are all my favs… every picture i just study and breath in the sea and surf, then snorkel down the food! i was wowed with the mermaid, but the cocktail is knocking my socks off! each pic gets better, how i don’t know, but the more i scroll the happier i am!

    i learn so much from you… each shot just captures pure imagination. i like that :-)

    OM FREAKIN GOSH, BRN SUGAR CASTLE! you are a genius, an artistic genius… i so love this, i wanna play with you one day, you would run circles around me as i stand in a stupor mouth gapping low. i love that last shot, happy tales to you!

    i am exhausted from the pure pleasure of you~ THANK YOU!

  6. Julie
    August 29, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Mary; I happened upon your website through chance……and after spending the last 45 minutes reading your blogs, etc., it is MY good fortune that my path crossed with yours ! We recently moved to Beaufort ( Feb 2010) and we love it.

    We lived in SE FLorida for a little over 50 years ( egads – makes me sound old ) and couldn’t wait to get out of there. It was lovely back in the late 50’s and 60’s, but oh my – how it has changed. Having visited Beaufort, SC several times in the past 8 years, we knew it would be our home someday.

    . Well, enough about me. Your website is wonderful. Everything you discuss resonates so profoundly with me. Love your book suggestions and will definitely get Women of the Sea. Your dogs are adorable and it’s obvious to me that they are your family – as they should be !

    Bless you for providing me with 45 minutes of pure enjoyment, and I will be coming back often.

  7. August 29, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Mary, you are so very talented!!! LOVE the brown sugar CASTLE! It’s incredible! You are one of my most favorite bloggers!! The cocktails, the little crackers, the MERMAIDS!! I must look up this book next time I’m in Borders. Thanks for making my day once again!!! Hugs to your furry kids!!

  8. August 30, 2010 at 2:11 am

    Beautiful photos! I sure liked the serene and peaceful feel they gave out. Once upon a time, I would have loved to make that sand castle cake, now, though, I’ll pass the idea along to my daughter. :) The bloody mary picture literally made me crave that yummy drink, thought I do without the vodka.
    Have a great day!

  9. August 31, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Mary, how did I miss this one over the weekend? I’m in awe once again with your creative approach to everything you present. Love the tiny little shells as they parade across or around. The brown sugar castle is over the top. Love, love, love how your creative juices just ooze across your posts. The food all looks wonderful, but I’m seriously in LOVE with that tin for Mermaid Oysters. Is that vintage?
    Totally magical post! ~ Sarah

  10. September 1, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    A brown sugar sand castle??!!! WOW! You are absolutely amazing! I love the details that you added to your gorgeous photos of this book. Mermaids are so fascinating, aren’t they? This book looks amazing. Your creativity just wowed me!

  11. July 17, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    This is a fantastic post! I love your cake!

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