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.

And it only got better from there, folks…

If you read my post from Friday you’ll know that our weekend trip to Quebec didn’t get off to the best start. We resigned ourselves to trading the unseasonably warm, sunny Boston weather in favor of the cold damp April days Quebec offered because we were excited to see my husband’s cousins. It’s an annual trek we all look forward to, because for one, it’s an awesome city- beautiful and chock full of things to do. Plus, the kids love playing together and the adults never fail to have a good time.  During the day there’s always something to do that appeals to everyone, and at night the kids run around like banshees while the adults enjoy long lingering conversations over a dinner table abundant with out-of-this-world food and wine a- plenty. My French isn’t good enough to follow everything, and after a few hours I give up trying and just drink the wine, which is something I always regret doing when I wake up slightly hungover. I then vow not to repeat the next night, but of course I do. Because it’s vacation. And, because it’s fun. And FUN is just what we needed. We were both still beating ourselves up about not running Boston (yep, STILL talking about that- I know it’s starting to get old, but don’t worry once I run NJ in a few weeks I will be cured of the guilt and regret that compel me to mention it every chance I can get). But anyway, that’s exactly how night one progressed.

And you know how that turned out- with our son pooping in their daughter’s bed. It was awesome. Really a great way to start the day on Friday.

Later that morning – after everything had been cleaned and the kids were settled into a controlled state of chaos- my husband went for his long run, and I went for the kind of run you need to cure your sluggish body of the evil you caused it the night before.

It was f’n COLD. And windy. I ran down by the St. Lawrence and the wind was coming at me from three directions. It was raw and grey and just plain nasty. It felt like a punishment and once again I cursed mother nature and myself for not running and GETTING IT DONE on Monday. Oh well..I slogged my way through 7 or so miles which left me feeling better and ready for anything (or so I thought).

We bagged our plans to visit Gros Isle and instead headed to the Aquarium. It was pretty cool- worth checking out if you’re in town. The polar bears were impressive and the sea lions had lots of personality. And, there was a mini version of TreeGO (an obstacle course type adventure playground) which the kids couldn’t get enough of. Even in drenching rain it was fun. Make note: lots of the Aquarium is outside. If you’re with people who live in Quebec and don’t seem to notice inclement weather you won’t be deterred. If you’re like everyone else in the world you might want to wait for a nicer day.

Later that night.. more wine, more food, more conversation that I could only half follow.. yadda yadda. Put the kids to bed. All is well.

UNTIL………….

I know what you’re thinking- poop again? Well… that would have been awful wouldn’t it? But no, nope, not poop, not this time.  But what then?  What could have happened that would be even worse? Puke you ask? Could it be? Well, why not? At just around 2:00 am everyone in the house was awoken to the sound of my son crying and puking in bed. In the bed we had just cleaned. White sheets, new fluffy duvet.. the works. Yep. Night two was even more exciting and disruptive than night one.  How can this be? Who are these people who bring a pooping, puking maniac to soil the bedsheets at every opportunity?

That would be us.

He wasn’t sick. In fact he didn’t seemed phased at all. In the morning it was my husband and I who hung our heads in shame as another bag of drycleaning was loaded into the car.  Our son continued to race around the house, humming Star Wars songs and demanding snacks every 15 seconds or so (I guess he was pretty hungry after emptying his entire digestive tract onto his cousin’s bed).

That day, after braving the elements to see the waterfall on the north side of the city (luckily a short lived experience as the weather was truly horrendous) we went to the Civilization Museum- also a great place to go when it’s raining.  The exhibits are always interesting and there’s an entire area dedicated to kid stuff- a giant play area complete with costumes and things to climb.  As we walked back to the car the rain turned to sleet and then snow.  Did I ever tell you how much I hate to see snow in April? Well, I hate it.

Anyway.. I’ll fast forward.  We went to bed Saturday wondering if our son was going to produce a hat trick.  What would the late night hours bring us?  We prepared for the worst.  We made him sleep on the bare floor, with nothing to cover him but newspaper.

Ok, we weren’t that cruel, but we did make him sleep in our room with an air mattress and a sleeping bag.  And, sure enough around 3 or 4 am I was jolted awake by the dreaded “mommmmmyyyyy…..” I sprinted out of bed and ran over to him.  He said” I have to throw up!!! “ I grabbed him and ran as fast as I could to the bathroom, heart pounding, sweat breaking out over my brow.  I put him in front of the toilet and forced him to bend over it.  After a few seconds of nothing happening he said “oh, I think maybe I just have to pee”.   So he did, and I brought him back to bed.  That’s it. No accident. So ….that was ok.

On Sunday we left.  Our hosts might have been slightly less sad to see us go than they normally are, but they hid it well.  Maybe they’re devising a scheme to even things out when they come down our way in July.   It poured the entire way home which made for a long ride (the longest 6 hour ride ever, my daughter pointed out) but the kids were actually really good.  Despite what I may have led you to believe, my kids are really quite charrming and fun when they aren’t defecating on your furniture.  It was nice hearing their laughter drift up from the backseat.    And we had a great time telling  jokes and playing trivia.  Gavin progressed from calling the city we’d just visited “Appleback” to learning to say Quebec.  Each kid only asked how much longer about 700 times.

All in all, it was not a bad weekend.  But it sure is good to be home.  And no one woke up last night- for any reason.

How to Ensure You Won’t Be Invited Back

We are quite possibly the worst house guests EVER. We’re up in Quebec visiting family and the unthinkable has happened.  Yes, our four  year old has pooped himself. In bed. Someone else’s bed.  Someone else’s bad with white sheets and a fluffy white duvet with NO COVER on it. At 6:00 in the morning.  Poop everywhere.  Wait til he hears we had to throw out his favorite pjs- the ones with the zebra driving a car.  I never really understood the appeal anyway. I mean why would a zebra drive a car, why is that cute? BUT I digress.  What a way to start everyone’s day.  I bet they’re sooooooo happy we came to visit.

And the weather stinks!  We heard it was beautiful here all week but a dark cloud seems to have settled itself over the city and cold rain threatens.  Mother Nature really hates us for some reason.  On Monday she delivered an unheard of scorching hot April day which prompted us to defer running the Boston Marathon (something we’ve been busting ass for 5 months to prepare for).  I’m still bitter.  And now she’s going to give us rain, snow and maybe even sleet to ensure our lovely weekend away is spent NOT out exploring this beautiful city, but instead struggling desperately through the  days trying to ensure all the kids get along and hoping that  no further horrifyingly embarrassing mishaps happen.  This may be no easy feat given that our son is switching between humming Darth Vader’s anthem and singing “every day I’m shuffling” with impressive endurance (meaning he hasn’t stopped to take a breath in the last three hours).  Somehow I don’t think our hosts think it’s half as charming as we do, and we don’t really find it charming at all.  Also, our daughter has taken to speaking English with a French accent.  I think she thinks her non English speaking cousins will understand her better.  Actually, its probably more effective than Gavin’s strategy- he just yells at them.  And just now we caught the four of them about to sled down the stairs in a sleeping bag…got there in the nick of time.  They were poised on the top step, ready for flight and a trip to the hospital. Thank God for wine.  And thank God we’re with people who like to drink it.