Home for the Holidays

I live in a teeny tiny town in a part of the state that’s largely ignored. For whatever reason, the south coast of Massachusetts has lagged far behind other areas in terms of commerce and development. Even tourism–which the region is prime for because of its beautiful landscape and miles of shoreline– is basically nonexistent in comparison to other parts of the state. We don’t get the crowds that flock to the cape. And we don’t have enough industry to support any significant growth in the year-round population. So that all translates into fewer amenities for those of us who call the South Coast home.

It’s pretty sleepy, but a few times a year our little community comes alive with a spirit that’s bigger and greater than anywhere else I’ve lived. There are three town events that bring us together- a town party in August, a big Halloween celebration in October, and my favorite by far, the Christmas Stroll in December.

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At the Stroll, Santa comes chugging in by boat, and then spends the rest of the afternoon spiriting kids through the village in a horse-drawn hay wagon. The town is packed with people of all ages milling in and out of the festively decorated little shops that are offering good cheer. Sounds of the season (in the form of the elementary school band) waft through the air as you greet friends and neighbors at every turn. Yes, it’s like a Norman Rockwell painting come alive. And I’m not even kidding.

I love to travel, and I often think longingly of all the years I lived in the city (and count the ones until I can return) but there’s no place I’d rather be on a cold December afternoon than in the middle of this picturesque little village, listening to my son pound out Jingle Bells with the rest of the 4th grade band, standing elbow to elbow with friends and neighbors as we sip spiked cider and watch our teenagers flit from here to there, arms linked and smiles wide. It’s like for one day, you can forget about everything else that’s happening outside of our 26 square miles and just be joyful.

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Hey there Jaime!  Always happy to see you!

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It’s called the Stroll because you do a lot of strolling.
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We’ve got a few pretty little shops like this. This is Kates Simple Eats. You can go there and eat, and it’s pretty simple. But also pretty great.

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The fourth-grade band plays first, followed by the more accomplished 5th & 6th graders. It’s kind of like when the Lumineers opened for U2 at Gillette this summer.
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The set is kind of interesting- they play all the Christmas classics like Mary Had a Little Lamb, Twinkle Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Row Row Row Your Boat. But then they do end with a resounding rendition of Jingle Bells followed by the finale of the crowd pleasing Little Drummer Boy. Well, at least I think it was Little Drummer Boy.
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My son plays the drums. He practices at home a lot. It’s awesome.
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Hi Santa. We’ve all been pretty good this year. Ok, well not ALL of us. But most of us. Some of us. All right, honestly, NONE of us have been good this year. But 2017 was awful and brought out the worst in everyone. We promise to be better in 2018.
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I love decked halls.
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And I love Prosecco in my cider.
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Cocoa, cookies and Santa hats for all, except that guy. He didn’t get the memo, I guess.
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If you had cider or cocoa at every single shop you might just float away or at the very least feel like I do today (which is not so good).
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We draw all the big names in entertainment…
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Big names and holiday stars…even Rudolph! The Grinch comes too, but I avoid him because: good vibes only.
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It’s really amazing and wonderful to see so many people on Front Street. This is approximately 2000% more foot traffic than you see on a normal day.

This year it’s especially important to embrace the feel-good days.  The days filled with small moments that make your heart swell. A smile exchanged, a laugh shared, a warm hug- the little things that are actually bigger than you think.

Community matters and communities united in a common goal can do so much. If we all commit to focusing on making positive changes and respecting and supporting each other, the world will be a lovelier place for everyone. We can and should commit to core community values that instill in all generations the importance of inclusion, acceptance, tolerance and living joyfully. Yes, John Lennon- we can all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun.

I see London, I see France…

This Thanksgiving we traded turkey, stuffing, and mashies for wine, cheese, bread and surprisingly good pub food. Bucking tradition to travel this year seemed to be a trend if my friend’s Insta and Facebook feeds are any indication. Lots of people headed north, south, east, and west to celebrate sans pumpkin pie or a doze in front of a football game. We opted to spend a few days in Paris and London before heading down to the middle of France, where we are fortunate enough to have lots of family to spend time with and a house to stay in. Our house doesn’t have wifi or a tv so an extra bonus is that the kids actually have to talk to us! Woohoo!  They pretend to be annoyed by it, but it seems to me like they might actually enjoy our company.  I know–weird, right? Anyway, here are some highlights and recommendations from our latest family adventure.

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First of all, fly Iceland Air. It’s usually the least expensive way to get to anywhere in Europe, they have nice new planes, and the Keflavik airport has cool Icelandic gear for sale, and really, really, really expensive but drinkable coffee. This was probably our 12th trip via Iceland, but all we’ve ever seen is the airport. We need to fix that because Iceland is pretty amazing (you can tell from the flyby and also the 20 infomercial “documentaries” available during your flight). Even the safety video is so beautiful it makes you want to stay.
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We flew into Paris and stayed overnight with my husband’s cousin. This is the entryway to her apartment. I took a picture of this because I love the floor, and the doors, and also I just love that it’s in Paris.
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But then you have to climb 4 flights of these stairs with all your bags because the elevator is only meant for really skinny French people with no luggage.
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This is Martine- our welcome committee and the cutest dog in Paris. I am also convinced she can jump higher than any other dog anywhere. She’s like a circus dog. You can’t tell from this picture because she’s pretending to be calm, so you’ll just have to believe me.
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Friday mood.
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Rue Montorgueil is my favorite street because there are lots of cafes and restaurants to choose from and if you’re wandering in the middle of the road half-dazed from lack of sleep you won’t get hit by a car because it’s pedestrians only.
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We decided to combat our jet lag by walking from Les Halles to the Eiffel Tower – not a short stroll even on your best day, but you get to see lots of Paris landmarks, like the Louvre.
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My kids were mortified that I took a picture of this statue because he’s naked but he looked about as tired as I was just then, so I felt like he was a kindred spirit.
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The Musée du Quai Branly has an exterior living wall so you can experience something cool as you walk by even if you don’t have time to visit the museum itself.
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You even get to see art, like this Olmec piece!
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Everyone loves Paris in the springtime, but Fall is pretty great too.
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The next morning we headed to the Garre Nord pretty early so we could catch our train to London. Yes, that is a bear with wings. The French are interesting.
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We dumped our bags and headed out to explore London town. Wild food and festive aromatherapy- what more could you ask for?
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So many pubs, so little time.
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Rokit is the best vintage store in London. My daughter loved rummaging through the old t-shirts, shoes, coats and other goodies. I spent most of the time alternating between feeling like I’d found old friends and feeling depressed because vintage now means all things from the 80s.  By default, I think that makes me vintage too. Sigh.
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There’s always something to celebrate in London! Girl power! Also, cheese!
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Lunch was in a pub. Isn’t this cute? Plus the pints were tasty. And the food was good. Yes, really.  We were the first ones there because we were on Paris time (or Boston time?) and we were hungry!
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Every time we visit a different city, or country, or really anywhere that’s not home there seems to be some sort of car show or exhibit happening. Even though my husband is a huge, huge fan of all things automotive he swears this is just a coincidence. But I’m not convinced because it happens every. single.time. Case in point- the Ferrari: Under The Skin exhibit opened at the Design Museum just days before we arrived. I wanted to go there anyway, and I did think this particular exhibit sounded pretty good, so win, win.
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This is how Ferrari’s look before they become actual cars.
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Ferraris really are beautiful…
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Vroom vrrooooom
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I love race car driver helmets. I don’t know why, but I do. I also love race car drivers. Have you seen Rush? No? You should, and then you’ll love race car drivers too.
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The rest of the museum is worth a look too. I mean, the building alone is an inspiration.
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See?
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Designer, maker or user- which one are you?
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Ah- the design love triangle. Can’t have one without the others…
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Design is everywhere and influences everything. Think about that.
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Life in a nutshell.
THE UNION TAVERN, CLERKENWELL
How lucky are you when a really great place like the Union Tavern is right across the street from your hotel? Dinner spot!
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Haha- no! We didn’t stay at the Ritz but on our second day we met our friend Paul right outside because it was close to the tube station.
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We didn’t even mean to, but we got to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace- or more accurately we got to see the backs of heads of tons of people watching the changing of the guards.
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Eh, hello there Queen Elizabeth.
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We spent some time on the South Bank of the Thames. Insider tip: get the Fast Pass for the London Eye and plan to explore a bit while you wait for your timeslot.
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Blue sky and sunshine in London? Yes, it happens!
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My daughter would not be happy if she saw this picture, but she’ll never know so…heh heh.  Anyway, this was lunch at Wagamama. I have a hard and fast rule to never eat in a restaurant we can go to at home when we’re away, but everyone loves Wagamama, including me. Rules are meant to be broken anyway, right?
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But then when we left Wagamama we saw this place – the British think of everything! Lunch in an igloo? We could have done that! But yet, I wonder how steamy it gets in there with 5 people breathing and eating and etc?
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Watercolor view of Big Ben and Parliment. Big Ben was under scaffolding, but still pretty.
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I am in love with books. Like completely in love. So, it was really fantastic to discover Books Under the Bridge. A tiny piece of heaven.
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Browsing is so much fun…
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I also love old maps, and they had loads.
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Say hello to Liam Flanagan. He’s living my son’s dream.
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We were going to ride some city bikes, but we ran out of time. Good to know they’re here though.
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The Brand Academy is definitely worth a stop- chock full of products made by emerging artists and designers. Good stuff!
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All the colors.
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If I weren’t a procrastinator by nature (and if I’d brought a bigger suitcase) I would have picked up some Christmas gifts…
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Holiday market finds- love me some colorful lights.
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Here’s Paul! We hadn’t seen him in eons- so it was great to spend the day with him, and get yelled at together by ornery baristas at Nero Coffee.
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I actually hate Ferris Wheels and looking up at this extra, extra tall one felt really intimidating BUT…
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You can’t skip the London Eye, so up we went!
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And it’s so worth it! You get your own personal pod (well shared with like 10 other people) and you feel like you’re headed to outer space.  The views are unparalleled.
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Mid-flight selfie fail.
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The group below us was having a champagne party. Dang it, we were one pod too early…
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Here I am channeling Mary Tyler Moore.
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And this is that unparalleled view I was telling you about.
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That was fun!
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Just walking around is a feast for the eyes, especially when the sky cooperates and gives you this.
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You know there aren’t actually phones in these things anymore.
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Here’s my pretty little London pic.
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Buckingham Palace at sunset…
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Shop goals! When I was in the business of flower making I dreamed of having a shop like this…
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The kids wanted to know how many pubs we were going to visit. Answer: as many as we could fit in (which was 6 in two days).  When in London…
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Being in London near Christmas is extra great because this town takes it’s holidaying to the next level.
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It was only November 19 but there were lights and festive decorations everywhere.
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It made me feel a little anxious and inadequate actually because I know my own decorating won’t be done til approximately Dec 24th.
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Dinner Sunday night was at The Wilmington. We opted for the traditional Roast. I can’t tell you how amazing the food was, you will just have to go and taste for yourself.  Yorkshire Pudding and all the rest.

After London, we headed back to France. I think I’ll share some pics of that in a separate post because this one is getting kind of long, dontcha think? Stay tuned…

Escape to Vermont

If you want to get away from it all for a while, I’ve got the place for you. Head on up to Manchester, Vermont where you can breathe deep and disconnect from everything. I felt lucky that I had minimal cell phone service and no wifi when I was there because it really forced me to enjoy the weekend for what it was- calming, peaceful and oh so far away from the noise and craziness of today’s world.

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We started our Saturday with a quick run (well not quick exactly… so let’s just call it a run).
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There were lots of roads like this. Naturally, we had to stop a lot (to take pictures you know– not for any other reason like being winded or anything like that- though I will point out that it’s very hilly in Vermont).
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Hildene is worth a visit- we reserved some time mid-run to explore the grounds and drink in the breathtaking setting and amazing views.
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Views like this.
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this,
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and this.
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Seeing this made me want to learn how to be a dairy farmer and open up a cheese shop.
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For certain I’m romanticizing farm life, but how could you not–standing in this spot?
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After the run we spent a lot of time drinking coffee and looking out at this. The golden glory of Fall.
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Later we headed out for a hike in these ridiculously picturesque woods to work off some of the jitters that were a side effect of a long, lingering morning of coffee drinking.
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I feel like a Thoreau quote would be appropriate here.
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Like maybe: “I took a walk in the woods, and came out taller than the trees“. I checked afterward, and I was still 5’2, so…maybe I did it wrong?
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One of my favorite Thoreau quotes is “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see“.  So don’t just think of these as trees, ok?
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We made it to the falls. They were a little less impressive than we’d imagined.
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But still, it’s always good to have a destination (and a turnaround point!)
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This weekend was actually a book group field trip that we spontaneously decided to do one night after reading a book that was completely unrelated to Vermont or nature in any way. We were missing a bunch of ladies, which was too bad because they’re all pretty awesome and unique and special. I love spending time with women who inspire me.
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After we made it out of the woods we stopped at this really fantastic bookstore (Northshire) because we felt it was appropriate for a book club trip and also we needed books. Well, maybe we didn’t need the books, but we wanted them. Anything goes in Vermont.
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Manchester has lots of buildings that look like they belong in Vermont.
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See what I mean?
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And shopping is very cute in Manchester.
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Drinking wine and watching the sun sink behind the mountains was alright, I guess.
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We went to Gringo Jacks for dinner and it was really good. Funny story: I’ve only been to Manchester one other time, maybe 13 or 14 years ago and I ate dinner here. There are other restaurants in Vermont, I think. But this one has tacos.
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Also, it’s cozy and they serve really good margaritas.
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On our way home Sunday we stopped at the Vermont Country Deli for the best dang sandwiches around.
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They also have lots of other stuff.
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Like maple syrup, for example.
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Maple wine (um, ok).
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Maple seltzer (I’m sensing a theme).
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Maple candy. It was only after I left that I remembered my daughter loves these. I didn’t buy any. Oops.
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Maple. Maple everything.
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So that, in a nutshell, was my weekend escape to Vermont. It was super relaxing. I highly recommend it. Disconnecting is good. Very good indeed.

 

Runcation Destination: NYC!

Last weekend my friends I ran the Brooklyn Rock n Roll half marathon.  We could have picked a race closer to home, but we’d heard good things about this one and well, if we’re being perfectly honest, we’re more about the party that happens after than the actual running part of the race, so making a weekend of it was too hard to resist.

Runcations are perfect because you get in a really good workout, you feel really proud of yourself and amazed at what your body can do when you insist on it, and then you go out and indulge for the entire rest of the weekend and not feel bad about it. The afterglow of personal glory lasts for at least 24 hours and you can use your caloric deficit to hit the town running (figuratively speaking, of course, because obviously, you do more than enough running at the race). Plus you can button your skinny jeans! Always a good way to start the night.

Anyway, the Rock n Roll series happens all over the country, and though there were many tempting options we chose Brooklyn because we could drive there and because we all love NYC. Usually, when we go it’s all fun and no run so even though we make a habit of hanging out there whenever we can, this trip was something new for us. I’ll tell you about it in pictures:

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We hit the road at around 1:00 after a frantic morning of trying to fit eight hours of work into four. No time for lunch. Good thing Tina brought the Skinny Pop.
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Oh yes we did, obviously.
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Have you ever tried to drive to the Javits Center at rush hour? Let’s just say it’s not a good idea. Plus there’s nowhere to park. We made it to the expo to pick up our race bibs with like 30 minutes spare. My friends weren’t sweating it, but I was having a heart attack.
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Hudson Yards is pretty amazing. We got to take a nice long look at it as we sat in gridlocked traffic.
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Hi there, New Yorker. Thanks for perfecting the art of the 19-page article.
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We finally made our way to the Upper East Side, where we were staying with a friend (a lovely, tolerant friend who doesn’t mind when you invade her space with way too much shit for 2 days). This restaurant on 2nd Ave is a gold standard if you like German food, but don’t worry we didn’t eat there (brats+running=bad)
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We went to The Penrose instead. They have good beer (carbo loading!!) and we had fun watching the after-work pickup scene in action.
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We had quite an adventure getting to the start from Marisa’s apartment because we had the misfortune of picking the one cab driver in Manhattan who had no idea how to get to Brooklyn. How is that even possible? And why didn’t we just get an Uber?  But, no worries- we made it with plenty of time to take this all-important before pic. Thumbs UP!
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We’re here…now let’s run.
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This is the only picture I took during the race, and I think it was an accident.
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13.1 DONE! Let’s share this moment with everyone on our social media feeds! We usually keep our shirts on for our selfies, but clearly, others have different ideas.
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It was only a Mich Ultra, but it was beautiful.
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We look like badasses don’t we? Also, I’m happy to note that I remembered to put on deodorant.
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We hung out with Tina’s crazy friend who flies all over the country to run Rock n Roll Halfs with 30 other crazy people. They flew to NY Friday night, ran Brooklyn, chugged a few beers and then hopped on a plane bound for Denver where they were going to run another half on Sunday morning. As I said, they are crazy.  I would say “goals” but this actually would never be a goal of mine.
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Though that medal is pretty sweet.
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That’s the Hollis Brown Band behind us. They were really good and they have gigs all over so you don’t actually have to run 13.1 to hear them play.
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After the after party we hobbled out of Prospect Park and headed over to wander (slowly) up and down 5th Ave in Park Slope. We found this place for lunch (Gristmill), which had really great food and the people were so nice. Like really, really nice.
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How can you say no to farm fresh gelato that’s as good as nature?
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Actually, I did say no because what I really wanted was some caffeine. Kos Kaffee had just what I was looking for- excellent coffee and super nice people. Again with the nice people. Is that a thing in Brooklyn?
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I really appreciated the fact that the only pumpkin anything in here was an actual pumpkin. I’m so tired of the pumpkin spice craze.
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After we relaxed for a hot minute back at Marisa’s it was time to hit the town again. Amy went to see a friend and Tina and I drank cocktails at a rooftop bar.
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We take our cocktailing very seriously.
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Next up dinner: Is it sad that we care more about the ambiance than the food? We settled on Zia Maria in Chelsea. It was pretty, and the food was good too- so win, win.
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It’s too bad that we don’t have any fun together…
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After dinner, we decided to go study Millenials in their natural habitat so we went to The Biergarten at the Standard.
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When in Rome…or a Biergarten.  When we first arrived we thought we had the stamina to last all night, but alas, this boot was the end. Come to find out, we’re not as young as we used to be.
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Sunday morning we needed to head out early, but luckily we had enough time for coffee.
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Mellow Yellow Coffee and Vibes– honestly could there be a better place for a rainy Sunday morning hang when you’re sore, a tiny bit hung over and not really ready for your 4 hour drive?
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One thing I LOVE about races is the camaraderie and good spirits you share with fellow runners. We met a lot of really great people and were reminded time and time again over the weekend that there is still so much good in the world. We just need to channel that and work together to preserve and protect it.  Does that mean we need another RnR run? I think, yes! Where will we go next? Well, stay tuned…

 

Trippin’ down the PCH during a really crazy week filled with things I want to ignore but can’t…

FullSizeRender (30)Yeah, so we were on vacation last week when the awfulness of Charlottesville unfolded. The fact that it happened is sickening and disheartening, but the worst part is that our “President” couldn’t muster enough dignity or human decency to call it what it was or disavow those who were responsible. Ugh. But as I said, we were on vacation when he was not doing what he should have been doing if he were any kind of real leader or moral upstanding citizen. Sooooo… instead of going on and on about how disgusted I am with his response(s) and the state of the White House in general (except bye-bye and good riddance Bannon, you pillar of racism!!) I am going to show you some really pretty pictures of the really amazing road trip we took while all that was happening.  And yes, I do feel a little guilty for experiencing so much beauty during such a dark time, but I also feel like it was a constant reminder that there IS good in this world; that there are really decent and lovely people out there. Also it was really nice to escape to the Pacific Coast and gaze out over the beautiful ruggedness of the cliffs and be hypnotized by the vast sea and just disconnect from everything for a little while– to recharge and renew my resolve to be better and to do more to help ensure the world is a nicer place for everyone.

We drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 7 days- here are the highlights and places I recommend you go to if you ever find yourself driving down the PCH and the 101.

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I haven’t been to Lombard St in 20 years. It’s still as twisty as ever and lots of people were either driving down it or walking up it. We just took pictures of it. I like the view from the top.
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This is where the streets of the world meet the avenues of the mind.
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City Lights has books, but also so much more. You really just have to go to see what I mean.
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Chinatown was cool! We were going to have Dim Sum, but then we ended up finding a good sushi place on the other side of Union Square, so we didn’t really experience it like we should have…but it’s ok because the sushi was really good.
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I went for an early morning run down the Embarcadero.  It was beautiful and I met a lot of homeless people (not really, but I did befriend a cute homeless dog).
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They don’t call it Fog City because it’s sunny…
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One day we rented bikes and rode from the Ferry building all the way down the Embarcadero, past Fishermans Wharf and up through the hilly (!!!) Presidio, then over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito.  My calves and my buns still hurt from the memory.
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While we were waiting for the bike rental guy to show up we checked out the Ferry Terminal Farmers Market.  It was fabulous- fruits and veg, coffee roasters, baked goods, meats, cheeses, live music and YES!! flowers. Flowers make me happy.  Especially when they come in tin cans.
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This isn’t Muir Woods but it looks like it, right? It’s Andy Goldsworthy’s installation in the Presidio. I thought it was amazing. My kids thought it was just a bunch of tall trees and logs.
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This is in front of Lucasfilms headquarters which is also in the Presidio.  It’s the world’s largest, and also the world’s smallest Yoda fountain.  It might be the world’s only Yoda fountain (but I’m not really sure).
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It was still very foggy which might have been a good thing because riding over the bridge was a little scawwwy.
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There were a ton of people in Sausalito, but we muscled our way through the crowds and rode down the road out of town to check out the houseboats and that was pretty neat.
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Habitat goals. Also #supportthearts
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I could totally live here.
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We took a ferry back from Sausalito because really a one-way bike ride over the bridge is plenty. Plus…that view.
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This was my Rice a Roni moment.
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I left my heart in San Francisco (no I didn’t, but that’s a good caption for this pic, isn’t it?)
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One of my favorite stops was in Pescadero, CA. It is a little tiny town in between here and there and there’s not too much to see but they have this brekkie spot that was pretty awesome.
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Pretty awesome, as I said.
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Actually, there was something to see in Pescadero…this sweet ride in front of this cute coffee shop (which is across the street from the not cute, but awesome breakfast spot).
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We tried to drive all the way down to Pfeiffer Beach but the road was still closed. We did manage to see some beautiful sites in Big Sur anyway.
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Ahhh… so pretty.
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Did I mention how pretty it was?
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Super, duper pretty.
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We like to ride into town with the top down…
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We drove the Pebble Beach 17 Mile Drive but no one was really impressed.  My son pointed out that this cypress is actually not that lonely because there are other trees really close by (cropped out for effect).
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We were lucky enough to be in Carmel for the start of the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The streets were filled with millions (billions?) of dollars worth of beautiful cars.  I love the Porche 911 most of all.
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I also have a soft spot for VW’s (especially buses). True story: We had an orange VW bus for a few years when I was a kid and when my parents sold it I cried.  I still miss that car. We drove it up from Georgia to New Hampshire and my sister and I both got food poisoning at South of the Border. Also, we bought fireworks but we couldn’t light them in NH because it was illegal. But my dad might have anyway. Ah, memories…
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Indeed.
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Quick stop in Santa Cruz…
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We saw surfers, sea lions, and even a giant whale.  It was kind of great.
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We all LOVED San Luis Obispo. What a fun, laid-back cool ass town! We stayed here and you should too, if you like hip, loft style apartment living.
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We saw the SMEG and immediately felt right at home, except this one is black and ours is orange, so this one is way cooler.
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Every apartment comes equipped with one of these, and there are stacks of records to choose from.  We took turns playing d.j.
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Here’s my daughter, she liked the free Wifi.
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Feeling good in SLO
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I liked this building. I hope Cody Johnson had fun playing there.
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Also, I liked this coffee shop (Kreuzberg).
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Except I got chai instead of coffee.
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Bubblegum alley is really gross.
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Really gross.
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We went to Pismo Beach and caught some waves. This is me surfing (just kidding).

 

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Santa Barabara’s Funk Zone is an artist enclave/wine tasting mecca/antique pickers dream.
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Here’s where we had our 11:00 am wine tasting and the kids had freshly baked scones. Win, win.
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Another winery. Very tropical, no?
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Obviously.
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This place made me wish we’d rented a U-Haul instead of a convertible.
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This store had only been open for two days when we visited.  I like that bag, and also everything else.
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Wine, yes wine everywhere in the Funk Zone. Yay for wine.
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And pizza.
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Onward to LA! We had a pretty sweet spot to relax and chill out at for a bit. And connect to Wifi, of course.
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Our pool didn’t have any chlorine- just natural stuff like copper and other minerals, so swimming in it felt really good, and also doubled as a bath. Time-saver!
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I took a lot of palm tree pictures. I don’t really know why except that this view seems very LA.
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Santa Monica Pier is prettier from afar, but it was fun to be up close too. This is the view from Muscle Beach where none of us did any pull-ups or anything. We just watched other people working out and then went and ate tacos.
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Here’s where we ate the tacos- Blue Plate. If you’re in Santa Monica, you should go here for tacos.
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And go at sunset- the view is insane.
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We spent our last night in Japantown. It was very sweet.
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And, we ate French ice cream in Japantown. I don’t know why except that it was there so we did.

Thinking of you Charlottesville and Barcelona!! #thereisonlyoneside #lovewins

48 (or so) hours on Long Island

IMG_8984Last weekend some friends and I headed down to Long Island wine country for a little mini-break. None of us had ever been there, but we’d heard good things. And even though we normally plan a bit better, this is such a busy time for all of us that we didn’t put too much thought into the trip. We booked a house but pretty much left the rest of the weekend open to hap and circumstance. I don’t know if it was because of or despite that, but we had an amazing weekend. It is an absolutely beautiful spot to spend time in, and the quality of the wine is very, very good.  And, if you’re not that into wine (um, what??) there are other things to do too–eating, shopping, antiquing, boating, swimming, bike riding, or just lounging– you name it, you can do it on the north fork of Long Island!

I’m going to tell you our story through pictures because I have like 400 of them on my phone.  I may have been a bit snap-happy. But really, you’ll see why now:

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It’s a quick ferry ride from New London and if you go in April you won’t have touble finding a seat.
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Kontokosta Winery was on the way from the ferry to our rental so we didn’t see any reason not to stop.
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I love a beautiful barn, and if there’s wine to drink inside- well then, all the better!
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Girls are headed in…
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After you!
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The tasting room had us like…
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Time to shop!
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We met a friend who insisted we pose like this.  It works.
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Cabernet Franc is a good way to start off a wine tour- and this one was fantastic. Nice view too…
Fog rolling off the water gave us this view of the barn. Didn’t want to leave, but:
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Next stop: our rental. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this cottage.
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This place had everything we needed and more- plus was kinda like stepping into a West Elm catalog.
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Entry- kick those shoes off and stay awhile!
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I like it when there’s a nice bathroom. Bathrooms are important.
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My bedroom.
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Waking up here was a pleasure (well except for the massive hangover).
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First order of business, relaxing on the patio!
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Friday night we hit the town in our blazers. Didn’t mean to dress alike, but it is what it is: blazer brigade
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Cocktails at American Beech.  We felt like we were in Miami and Tina got attacked by a big palm frond.
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Might have overdone in Friday night, but couldn’t miss a beat. First stop Saturday was Croteaux, the rosé winery.  This place was seriously a little slice of heaven.
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The wine here was as lovely to drink as it was to look at.
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All day.
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Cheers to sunny days and the best of friends.
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So good. I love rosé when the sun is shining and there’s a Citroen Hvan in the background.
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We wanted to sit here but the stools were too tall.
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More ambiance at Croteaux. Would have been nice to stay all day BUT…
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More wine to try! This is Lenz.
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The tasting barn at Lenz.
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Lenz has a great old vine 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Really tasty! Also, their merlot is very good. I don’t usually drink merlot, but this one was pretty inspired.
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Lenz vineyard
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Lieb was next. I loved this place. It had a great low-key vibe: great staff, live music and more really good wine. Merlot again. Maybe I am a merlot drinker after all.
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Listening and tasting at Lieb
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It was too nice a day to stay inside so moved to the patio to soak up the sun and enjoy the view. Nice way to wind down the tour.
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This is Chris, our driver from North Fork Designated Driver. Best decision we made. He was super nice and we didn’t have to worry about being safe on the roads.
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We were probably really annoying.
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Saturday night we had dinner at American Beech (which was top notch) and checked out the local bar scene at Brix&Rye and Lucharitos. No pics of that (probably a good thing).  Happy to report we didn’t spend any time inside here.
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This is American Beech in the daylight. Great spot!
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I loved how the town was cute, with lots to do but not overdone or pretentious.
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Thanks for the memories Greenport! We’ll be back for sure.

Beer Culture on the South Coast

buzzards-bay-brewery1A little while ago I reminded you all how important cranberries are to the region I live in here in Massachusetts (and to the world at large of course!) Don’t worry, I’m not going to dedicate another entire post to cranberries, amazing as they are. This time I’m going to talk about something else we have going on here that’s also pretty special. It’s called beer. Not just any beer, mind you. I’m going to tell you about the exceptional beer that’s brewed right here in my own back yard (well, practically). So, hold on to your drink coasters people, this is going to be good.

It feels weird to say that one of my favorite spots to visit in southeastern Massachusetts is Buzzards Bay Brewing, in Westport. Especially considering that this region probably has some of the most beautiful, unspoiled landscape in all of New England. That’s saying something when our rivals are the lush green mountains of Vermont, the craggy coastline of Maine, the crystal lakes of New Hampshire and the – umm… pizza?  of Connecticut.  Sorry- I spaced a bit there on what CT has to offer. I know it’s lovely but mostly I just drive through it to get to New York, and usually the only place I linger is at Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria in New Haven- which is a landmark in it’s own right, and the pizza is the best in the country (for real, it even says so in magazines and stuff). But anyway, here you’ll find acres of unmarred fields, miles of rocky and white sand beaches, an abundance of the aforementioned cranberry bogs, sun-dappled forests, bubbling creeks and streams, quaint hamlets and quiet harbors. It’s postcard pretty.buzzards-bay-brewing

And that’s kind of the thing with the Brewery too. You don’t just go there for the beer.  You go there because it’s a pretty sweet place to be.  It used to be a farm and the huge converted barn would be cool enough, but the grounds are really what sets it apart. Not the only thing, of course- the beer is pretty darn great too, but I’ll get to that. I want to talk about the setting first. The ambiance, if you will.

Ok, so to get there you have to drive down some pretty dang picturesque roads that take you past fields and farms and beautiful old colonial homes. Then you pull into the property and drive up this long dirt road through a huge open field. You can see the barn in the distance. And, as you get closer you can see the people mingling outside, you can hear the music playing, you can smell the tasty offerings of the Fancheezical food truck that’s always there and you get a little giddy before you even park.

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On Saturday afternoons in the summer it is hands down my favorite place to be. We bring our kids and a picnic blanket and settle in for a few good hours of relaxed fun. We wait our turn for corn hole or tether ball and we save room for a rediculously insane gourmet grilled cheese sandwich from the food truck. And of course we come thirsty! The vibe there is really awesome- totally laid back, with no attitude at all. It’s just lots of people enjoying beer and good company.

img_3144And that brings me to the beer! I was supposed to be talking about beer wasn’t I? Oh yeah!! Well, Buzzards Bay Brewing has a few that I just love. Their three staples are the Golden Flounder, the Moby D and the Buzzards Bay IPA. All delicious in their own right. And throughout the year they serve up specialty brews like my all time favorite- the Sow and Pigs. It holds a special place in my heart because some of the proceeds go directly to the Buzzards Bay Coalition an environmental non profit based in New Bedford that is doing amazing things to help protect our beautiful bay and watershed. Plus, it’s tasty stuff- a perfect light and crisp summer beer. So, if you drink Sow and Pigs, you’re helping yourself but you’re also helping save the Bay! How cool is that?

winter-in-the-brewersAnd whenever you happen to stop in (and you can all year because in colder months the party moves inside!) there will probably be some fun new brews to try. Maybe The Space Left Intentionally Blank will call to you- it’s a pale ale with an intriguing name which makes it way more interesting and fun to drink, or you could sample Lizzie’s Famous 81 Whacks India Red Ale. It’s hoppy and malty- a real killer!  But, perhaps you’ll keep it simple and just go with the Octoberfest because fancy names just aren’t your thing.  Really, you can’t go wrong.  Even if you aren’t a big fan of beer (which- um… what??!!) there is something for you. It’s called Farmers Fizz and ya’ll this stuff is yummy. It’s kind of like Prosecco- so yeah, yum. You non-beer drinkers (whoever you are) will like it.  I know it.

So, we have this pretty awesome brewery in Westport. And, in a few short months there are two – TWO!- breweries opening in New Bedford. Oh happy day! That’s honestly kind of life changing. And, it shows you that the beer culture on the South Coast is alive and well… thriving even. This is great news for all of us who live down here because we are starved for culture of any kind!  And beer culture, yep- I’ll take it!

Cranberries Are Cool

img_4907  Hey, you know what we did today?  We went to the Makepeace Farms Cranberry Harvest Festival.  And you know what else?  It was pretty darn cool.  I don’t know why I was surprised by how many people were there or by how much there was to see and do, because on the South Coast of Massachusetts cranberries are a really big deal.  Like really, really big. Like huge.

I drive by tons of cranberry bogs on my way to work.  Mostly they just look like scrubby fields full of dried up weeds and sandy dirt, but once a year they come alive in glorious bursts of reds and pinks.  When the fields are flooded and the berries rise to the surface and they start to get corralled for harvesting- well, the colors are so vibrant, so striking, so breathtakingly beautiful that you might perhaps be so impressed by the sight that you are tempted to pull over and take a few compelling photos (hey, Instagram opp!) After all, it’s not something you see every day. But, 1) you feel silly doing that and 2) you are running late because you had another hectic, whirlwind morning of trying to get four people out the door at different times and 3) you’re for once lucky enough NOT to be driving behind an 18 wheeler or a Fed Ex truck on the narrow, winding back road that makes up 80% of your commute, so you don’t.  And it’s kind of a shame because it’s sooooo pretty and it will all be gone by the time you drive home.

img_4879Did you know that the cranberry is the state berry of Massachusetts? No you didn’t!!!  Well it’s true. Not only that but cranberry is also the official state color AND cranberry juice is the state beverage of Massachusetts. If you tell me you knew all of that I might have to call you a liar.  I mean, who knows that kind of stuff?  I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a state beverage. But I do now because I went to the cranberry festival!  I hope they ask this question the next time I go to Trivia Night at our local pub. Then I’ll finally be able to answer a question correctly.  Trivia is not my strong suit, but now I know something trivial! Hoorah!

Yep, we sure do love cranberries here in Massachusetts.  Yum, yum.  Actually, can I be totally honest?  I actually don’t really like cranberries. While we were waiting in line for the wagon ride to take us out on a tour the woman in front of me offered me a raw cranberry.  She had a huge cupful.  I don’t really know how she got them, because there were signs posted everywhere warning people not to go in the bogs or take the berries so I knew she couldn’t have done that, because everyone follows the rules right?  Anyway, as she asked me she was popping them in her mouth like m&ms.  Have you ever tasted a raw cranberry?  Ugh, they are the most sour, most off putting, face puckering berry imaginable. And it’s sad because they look so tasty. But it’s a trick. They are only palatable if you boil them down to jelly and add like 16 cups of sugar. I can’t imagine anything worse than eating them raw. And I always pass on the sauce at Thanksgiving (unless my mom makes it- hers is ahMAZing because it has nuts and other stuff like apples and random things so it doesn’t taste like cranberries at all).  And also, by the way, they aren’t great for making garlands for Christmas trees.  I tried that one year because I saw it on Pinterest and let me tell you, it’s really hard to get a needle and thread through those suckers. But anyway, lots of people love them, and they are a very important fruit. Obviously.

So, it’s kind of cool that we live in the cranberry capital of the world.  If it weren’t for our little corner here, Thanksgiving across the country just wouldn’t be the same. And we wouldn’t have craisins.  Oh- also something interesting I learned today- craisins have only been around for about 10 years but they are now the number #1 cranberry product sold worldwide. Craisins are made from the skins of the berries that are used to make juice. The skins used to just be thrown away, but then some genius thought- hey these dried up skins look like raisins, so let’s keep them and call them.. hmmm.. what will we call them?  Ah! I know- craisins! Because it’s a cranberry raisin! And that’s how the craisin was born.  In case you were wondering.

Perhaps you will find yourself here in southeastern Massachusetts one day in early October. If so, please do check out the festival. Or just drive by a bog or two.  I promise that you will never look at a cranberry (or a craisin) the same way.

Silver Linings

map_maine_portlandA few days after the marathon we headed up to Portland, ME. We had been planning to make our annual trek to see Marc’s cousin and his family on Friday, but after everything that had happened on Monday we felt the need to flee. We just wanted to get away from everything- the news, the fb posts, the images that were playing over and over again inside our heads. We had never been to Portland and had always wanted to go. It seemed like a good time to embrace a “why put off til tomorrow what you can do today?” mentality. And it was on the way to Quebec.. well, sort of.

We didn’t make any plans for the two days we would spend there except to book the only hotel we could find in town that had an available room. Spur of the moment trips during a school vacation week leave you with limited options. Lucky for us, the Portland Harbor Hotel was great. My daughter was delighted- when she saw our room she said “this is the best hotel we’ve ever stayed in with walls”. Yes, we have been known to drag our kids to far flung places, often staying in lodging we like to describe as “adventurous”. The kids usually roll with it- never even noticing that there’s anything amiss. The wall-less hut we stayed in during last year’s trip to Mexico registered though, apparently. Don’t worry- it was a nice hut- very nice actually, plus the beach we were situated on was breathtaking and the food served family style was a culinary delight. It was a lovely trip, except that a giant tropical bug crawled in my son’s ear one night while he slept and had to be removed by an EN&T doctor when we got back to Boston, BUT that’s a different story.

AnYWay- back to Portland. We had no idea it was such a foodie hotspot. What a find! We all love to eat!! We soothed our spirits with meal after meal of some of the best Portland had to offer (try Gorgeous Gelato, David’s, Hot Suppa, and the Standard Baking Co if you ever find yourself in Portland) and we savored every moment of our time together. Literally all we did for two days was wander the streets, thinking about where our next meal would be. We held hands, we laughed with the kids, we talked, we listened. We just spent time together. The kids were great – especially considering that aside from a trip to the Children’s Museum we didn’t do much to entertain them. We just wanted to BE. And we were. Portland was good for the soul. Good for us. For the first time in a very long time our only focus was on each other.

It was a quiet, reflective few days. We missed all the madness happening in Boston- we didn’t tune in AT ALL. I didn’t even know the extent of what had happened Thursday night and Friday until we got up to Quebec and heard from Marc’s cousins. And even then, we didn’t talk much about it. It was all still too raw. We were still digesting the event and trying to come to terms with what had happened- to us and everyone else that was there. We were grieving for those that were lost, and those that were suffering so much- who faced such an uncertain future. And we were grieving for Boston. Boston is home. Boston is a huge part of who we are. The main streets and the back allys, the public figures and the neighborhood friends, the landmarks and the hole-in-the-wall eateries, the small celebrations and the big events- we know it all intimately and it belongs to us.

We didn’t do too much in Quebec either. If you’ve been reading for a while you’ll remember what happened last year when we visited. If not, you can read about it here. Well, luckily, nothing like that happened this time. Noone pooped or puked in anyone’s bed, and the weather wasn’t even that bad. Well, considering it was Quebec in April, I mean. The sun even peaked out a little bit. It’s been years since we’ve seen the sun in Quebec! We usually bring the worst kind of weather. But maybe God was smiling down on us.

It was nice to get away for a few days. It didn’t change what happened, and it didn’t make it better. But it made us better. Not totally better- I think that will only come with time- but at least it started us a path that will make us better. Better as indivuals, and better as a family. Maybe that’s the silver lining. You know there always has to be one.