When we were kids, our parents would take us on “Mystery Rides” on summer evenings spent on the Cape. I think we usually ended up at Sundae School or Chatham Light. Or maybe one of the bayside beaches.
I still love a good mystery ride.
The rain let up yesterday afternoon just in time for a late afternoon Mystery Ride with our own babes. We were at the lighthouse on Sunday and it was too early for sundaes (actually… it’s never too early), but I had the perfect (sort of mysterious) place in mind.
I’ve wanted to visit the Cape Cod Lavender Farm in Harwich for ages. It’s hidden among conservation land, at the end of a long, unpaved path. Just when I thought we were lost, I started to smell the lavender. Just heavenly.
We arrived just before the little shop closed, picking up a bunch of lavender that had been harvested the day before. The gentleman there encouraged us to walk around, pointing us in the direction of a castle and some fairy doors.
I don’t know who loved this little set-up more, me or Grace. It was enchanting– the whole farm was, really. We stumbled upon a bunch of kindness rocks and fairy houses, all the while being lulled by the calming lavender fields around us. I bet I could take a legit nap there. Or at the very least, chill out for 20 entire minutes.
CAPE COD LAVENDER FARM
I have a feeling we’ll be back to the Cape Cod Lavender Farm for a plant or two before the summer’s over. It has definitely earned a spot on our Mystery Ride destination list.
The details: The Cape Cod Lavender Farm is located at 41 Weston Woods Road in Harwich. It is open 10 AM – 4 PM and 12 – 4 PM on Sundays.
Who needs a vacation alarm clock (set for 3 hours earlier than you desire to wake up), when you have a toddler at the foot of your bed?
I woke up like this. With Grace pinching my toes and yelling, “Hellooooo!”
In an effort to spare the rest of our family the 4:30 wake-up call over the 4th of July weekend, we snuck out for some early morning walks down to the beach. The Cape might be my favorite place on Earth. Except for the place where they make popcorn (I’ve never been to a popcorn factory, but I just know it’s magical).
Not a bad way to start the day.
We covered 3.5 miles on Friday on our own, and 2.5 miles on Saturday with my brother and sister-in-law and their own mini-human alarm clock, my niece.
6 AM pajama parties on the beach are the best.
And with the entire world still sleeping, we had the beach to ourselves and our pick of the prettiest shells.
Any day we are lucky enough to wake up at the Cape (even if it’s at 4 AM), we are lucky enough.
I spent a quick 24 hours in Birmingham, Alabama two weeks ago, wrapping up my final few days of work with a visit to one of the city’s middle schools. I was able to fit in a bit of exploring between meetings and thought I’d share a few highlights.
First and foremost, people in the city could not have been more warm and welcoming. We tend to stay out each other’s way up here, so it always takes a minute to realize that when someone in an elevator wishes you a nice day… that’s all they’re doing. They’re not trying to get you to donate to Save the Whales, or sell you something, or steal your handbag. It’s a refreshing change. (Though I do sort of prefer keeping to myself.)
Oh hi, Boston College.
I stayed Downtown at the historic Tutwiler Hotel, which is now owned by Hampton Inn (love thatfree breakfast and wifi). It was a quick drive to the school and airport (less than 10 minutes to both) and was within walking distance of the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Civil Rights Institute, the Board of Education, and the Birmingham Public Library. It was the perfect home base for my short visit.
The trail includes more than 200 detailed signs (each featuring photographs, historical information, and quotes from Civil Rights leaders) and connects 70 places of importance to the 1963 Birmingham Civil Rights Campaign. The trail begins at the Civil Rights Institute, which was just a few blocks from where I was staying, so I made sure to check out a number of the signs after dinner — really moving and beautifully designed.
Being a vegetarian (and a rather choosy one, at that), I am not always the best person to make restaurant recommendations. And in fact, I wouldn’t recommend the place where we ate dinner the night we were in town (can’t win ’em all!). But, a bit of Southern hospitality at its finest: a gentleman overheard me and a co-worker chatting about dinner plans our connecting flight from Atlanta to Birmingham, and tracked me down at the baggage claim with two recommendations, Bottega and Hot and Hot Fish Club. He seemed to know what he was talking about (which is more than I can say for myself).
We stopped at Arlington on our way from the airport to our hotel. The house is open for visitors most days, but I believe you need to schedule a tour in advance if you’d like to have a guide with you. We picked up some information at the visitors center after buying our tickets and toured the house and gardens on our own.
Arlington is the only former plantation home still standing in the area. The gardens were pretty, and the magnolia trees on the property were extraordinary. Most of the furniture has been replaced and it seems like a number of outbuildings (including a reproduction of the original kitchen house)were added for weddings and other special events hosted on there. I am not sure what I was expecting (and perhaps we caught things on an off day), but there was sort of a weird commercialized, scrubbed up vibe there.
One of my favorite places to go when visiting a new city is their art museum. I was so impressed by the Birmingham Museum of Art and how accessible it is. Both museum entry and parking are free, and the museum itself is bright, airy and really easy to navigate. It was perfectly unpretentious (Detroit Institute of Arts is similar — I am obsessed with that place), which is how I like my museums. The African ceramics pictured above are from the collection of Birmingham artist Dick Jemison. I just love how they are displayed; it struck me as a room full of personalities.
There are several hands-on art areas throughout the museum, as well as a dedicated art space for children, making this a great place for families to visit. They also have a restaurant on site, and a fantastic gift shop (I picked up a small sketch book and some Monks Meditation tea from Huntsville, Alabama’s Piper & Leaf).
Grace and I have been trading colds for what seems like months. After a rough night (and more snow), we really needed some fresh air. It’s good for the body and it’s good for the cranky, wintered over soul.
Couldn’t help myself.
After breakfast and Irish music in the neighborhood, we drove out to Lincoln (about 30 minutes from the city) with our Audubon member cards in hand to see the baby (and, like, grown up) animals at Drumlin Farm. Our first stop was the Yellow Barn to see the tiny black lambs before eventually making our way to the baby goals kids.
A real, live pile of kids.
The sun was shining, the chickens were clucking, and the lambs were climbing in and out of the hay bin (I respect any creature that passionate about snacks). It was the perfect day and the perfect way to start breaking out of my winter rut. It’s a deep one. (Speaking of which, I am working on a rut-busting plan. More on that later.)
This does not answer the chicken or the egg question… but I like it nevertheless.
This makes me so hopeful for spring.
Added bonus: We got to see nearly every character from our favorite bedtime story, The Very Busy Spider, on the farm today.
It has snowed 7 feet during the last 3 weeks here in Boston
I am about to quote a Florida Republican and member of the NRA (on the topic of winter, of all things)
It has come to this. My ability to use my own words is buried, along with my car, under all that snow. However, the former Congressman’s words (in this instance, at least) felt spot on.
After Nick cleared out the SUV and picked up some iced coffees (always iced, even when the thermometer iPhone weather app thing reads 4 degrees), we bundled up Grace and took a quick drive around the neighborhood.
I’m not a betting girl, but if I were, I’d say there will still be snow on the ground come Marathon Monday. [Side note: our friend Sarah is running Boston in support of the MGH Emergency Response Team. If you’re wondering what marathon training during this historic winter is like… welp, she’ll tell you.]
With no room for both cars and snowbanks, driving around here has felt a bit like living in a (mostly super-dangerous) video game. Last Thursday, it took me two hours to get from the South End to Southie. I was an hour late for daycare pick-up (fortunately, Nick was able to get there in time). Most of those two hours were spent in my own neighborhood, trying to navigate too narrow streets, while attempting to neither hit a pedestrian nor get hit by a bus.
I always need to get a life. And this is a really, really great grocery store.
A sneak peek at Whole Foods Market South End
Tonight, I had the chance to get a sneak peek at the store before it opens this Friday, and couldn’t wait to share some of the highlights. So I stayed up past my bedtime. And delayed getting a life.
Let’s start with this: It’s big (like… 50,000 square feet big). There’s parking. It’s T accessible (Silver Line, Red Line/Broadway, and Orange Line/Tufts Medical Center).
And it’s pretty.
South End’s Ink Block
The store occupies the old Boston Herald site in the South End’s Ink Block development. I love that Whole Foods acquired the old Herald sign and incorporated all sorts of newspapery (not a word, but hey) elements in the store’s decor.
As a flagship store, Whole Foods Market South End features several new retail concepts, including a one-of-a-kind Fish Shack, just around the corner from a frozen yogurt bar (you now know where to find me…).
Juice and smoothie bar
The store’s juice and smoothie bar will serve menu options as well as just about any juice or smoothie customers can dream up (you now know where to find me, after I’ve moved on from the fro-yo).
The bulk food options go far beyond the usual nuts and seeds. Offerings top 250 items and include bulk salad greens, pre-cut fruits and vegetables, bulk liquids such as aminos, and a special super foods bar.
milk + honey at Whole Foods Market
Oh. And there is a spa inside Whole Foods Market South End… yes, you read that correctly. Just beyond the Whole Body department is a milk + honey spa (another first for Whole Foods), which will offer a range of services including facials, hot shaves, shoe shines, manicures and pedicures.
Wine, beer and spirits
In addition to a huge selection of wine and beer, Whole Foods Market South End Market will be the first Massachusetts Whole Foods Market to carry spirits. I’m going to sit in this gorgeous leather chair while Nick explores 40 linear feet of craft beers (I don’t really even know what that means, but it sounds pretty cool).
A few unexpected treats
Kombucha on tap
A full service coffee counter featuring Boston’s first modbar, cold brew coffee on tap and single origin pourovers
A Bikestock machine that sells bike parts (located outside, next to the bike racks)
An Art-o-mat (an old cigarette vending machine refurbished to vend… art!).
Grand opening details
If you’re in town this Friday, I highly recommend stopping by the Ink Block for Whole Foods Market South End’s Grand Opening. 5% of the day’s proceeds will benefit five local non-profits and Josiah Quincy Elementary School’s choir will perform before the store’s bread breaking ceremony (much tastier than a ribbon cutting).
Meet me at the frozen yogurt. Or the juice bar. Or the spa. Or by the cheese… let’s meet at the cheese.
We’ve snuck out of town for some warmer weather. And yes, I know you’re not supposed to tell people you’re away, but let’s be serious:
What happens on vacation ends up on Instagram and I can’t resist sharing a good sunset shot.
All the important and valuable things are coming with me (Because, hello… the important and valuable things aren’t things. They’re people). So, I guess I’m not really worried.
If you’re spending this Monday getting sucked into a Polar Vortex (Do we capitalize that? It nearly froze my eyelashes off last year, so I am guessing something that powerful and terrifying deserves capitalization.), the least I can do is give you a little mental vacation.
A few of my favorite vacation photos
Here are a few of my favorite vacation photos (and memories) I’ve collected over the years.
North Adams, MA
A couple years ago, we spent a long weekend at Porches, visited Mass MoCA (and an old burial ground, because I am a creep) and climbed little mountains with our little dog.
U.S. and British Virgin Islands
And now I want to go on our Honeymoon again. Like, real bad. We stayed on St. John, but took a few sailing and day trips to places like Virgin Gorda. We snorkeled in caves, spied on sea turtles and drank Old English ciders (because gluten allergies do not take vacations no matter how badly one craves a cold beer). I took 9,000 photos. And did lots of floating.
Boothbay Harbor, Maine
This is why Maine is called Vacationland.
Aaaaand… a bonus photo of Clark.
The dude knows how to do vacations.
Also On Tap for Today:
Working on some festive posts and giveaways (which I shall draft on the back of a cocktail napkin — attempting to unplug whilst on vacation!)
Thanks to C. Columbus, his holiday and his poor navigation skills (He was headed to India, right? …Also: The same day is celebrated as Native American Day in South Dakota and Indigenous People’s Day in places like Seattle and Minneapolis. These seem like much more worthy holidays.), my office was closed on Monday. I kept Grace home from daycare (“We’re havin’ a Diva Day!“) and joined my parents and younger brother for a walk in the woods.
We bundled up the baby and headed down to the Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk (about a 40 minute drive from the city) and followed a two mile loop through the woods and marsh and across a few streams. Most of the pathways are flat and there are designated trails for strollers and wheelchairs.
I picked up all kinds of gorgeous fallen leaves (and, feeling inspired, got out my watercolors as soon as we got home) and then convinced myself during the drive back to the city that I had poison ivy. I did not. In other words: A normal day, but with fresher air, fewer people flipping me off in traffic, less noise, and more vibrant scenery.
A walk in the woods
We used my parents’ Audubon membership (which seems like a very grown-up thing to have) to access the wildlife sanctuary, and I remembered how much fun we had at places like this and the Trailside Museum when we were younger. There are a number of Massachusetts Audubon sites close to the city, so I figured it was worth checking out. I didn’t realize how much programming (including art classes, yoga, and something called an Owl Prowl…) they do at individual centers.
And how’s this for timing: Memberships are currently discounted ($32 for a family or individual membership) through the end of November. I am now one membership card closer to becoming America’s Next Top Nature Model a fun parent.
Reasons why I am the least enjoyable person to be around this time of year (an abbreviated list):
The only pumpkin-flavored things I like are pumpkins. I don’t want my coffee to taste like a gourd. I want it to taste like coffee. Same goes for my M&M’s and my gluten-free beer.
And don’t get me started on fall colors. I love our condo. I don’t want to make it ugly with brown and orange stuff.
I am allergic to wool. Your sweaters had best keep a safe distance from the hives that are about to creep up my neck.
I’m not ready to say goodbye to tomatoes. If summer tomatoes were a person, and that person was my boyfriend and that boyfriend broke up with me, I would not give his stuff back.
Nick (who is very much a real person and was once my boyfriend) and I were married in the fall of 2012 and our caterer nearly sent me to a home with her “festive” dessert display at our menu tasting. I like to think I was a pretty easy-going bride (don’t we all?) and also thought I had made my firm “no fall colors” policy quite clear, so when she rolled out a table festooned with fake leaves and plastic pumpkins, I barely contained a simmering rage.
This year, though, I can’t help but look forward to cooler mornings, crinkling leaves and carving pumpkins. I am guessing I have my daughter to blame thank for that. Seeing her experience new things is just the best, whether it’s her first time in the water, her first time eating solids, her first time being held by a strange man dressed as the Easter bunny or yes, even her first Fall (I felt like capitalizing the season would help you see that I meant that, and not that I delight in watching her tumble over and potentially become injured). Watching Grace reach for a giant pumpkin and squeal in delight as she grasped its stem has me changing my ways. All those adorable fall outfits hanging in her closet don’t hurt either. And if I really dig deep, I guess I could cop to an affinity for soup and scarves.
This weekend we took advantage of the late summer (very-nearly-fall) weather and spent the afternoon at Ward’s Berry Farm in Sharon, Massachusetts. It’s about 30 minutes from the city and not far from where I grew up. After walking around a bit, we ventured out to the pumpkin patch to find that their healthy, growing pumpkins were bigger than our healthy, growing child (and too big, frankly, to fit underneath her stroller… or like, in my handbag). So instead of picking one up there, we took 100 photos and then ventured back to the farm store and purchased a smaller, much more portable, sugar pumpkin.
I also picked out a few of these gorgeous heirloom gourds and white pumpkins. They’re like the gateway drug of fall decor… fall-ish, but not brown and orange. I am dying to make one of the succulent topped pumpkins I saw in the fall issue of Country Gardens (side note: I am 900% obsessed with Next Issue… which is how a city dweller with no garden comes across such gems as Country Gardens.) Perhaps I can make green and white the new blackbrown and orange? And then maybe I will get a show on Netflix about my life as an over-tired working mom who wastes time making succulent topped pumpkins when she should be, like, sleeping?
In addition to a tremendous selection of farm fresh produce and local treats, Ward’s is also home to Sunny Rock 4H Club’s barnyard animals. Grace was sort of ambivalent about the goats, but Nick got right in there. The man never misses a chance to feed the animals.
Did I mention they have mini horses?
If you asked me who my all time favorite television mini-horse is, my answer would obviously be: It’s a tie between Lil Sebastian + Mini. Duh.
You know, fall’s looking pretty good, after all. (But do not tell that caterer I said so.)
We made a quick trip to Maine this weekend to see Nick’s parents, and made it back to the city in time for our niece’s birthday party. By the time Sunday evening rolled around, I was ready to face plant into bed… but forced myself to do laundry first. You know, so I would have something to wear come Monday morning.
Oh, and before we dig into my own Instagram feed, I came across something worth sharing this morning: Brendon and Danielle are hosting a fantastic yoga challenge (starting today) that focuses on modifications. I love that there is room for everyone to practice in yoga, and this challenge reflects that.
Okay. Let’s look at pictures of my trunk. And the harbor. And my dog.
This is what “packing light” looks like these days. After visiting my parents on the Cape over the 4th, we had a pretty good sense of what was necessary and what we could leave home. I am not sure why I packed 100 diapers for a 36 hour trip, but hey. In addition to the obvious (ye olde Pack ‘N Play), we have a couple baby items that have been great for travel: this Skip Hop outdoor blanket which folds up beautifully and easily wipes clean (bonus points for for detachable insulated bag – we used this for Grace’s rash guard and swim diaper last weekend) and the Puj Flyte infant bath, which also folds up (sensing a theme?) and fits in most sinks. I was afraid Grace had outgrown the Flyte (we used it for her first few baths at home), but it actually works even better now that she’s, welp… sturdier.
I will never tire of this view. Dusk in Boothbay Harbor is just incredible. I remember one of my art history professors in college talking about how the light in Maine is magic. I thought he was high. Now I think he was just telling the truth (also, he could have been high).
Other magical things in Maine: This aptly named “Little House” nestled just along the harbor. When I’m old I want to live in a little house (specifically: a tiny house).
I’ve been sharing pages from my sketchbook lately on Instagram. I’ve always loved to draw, but I’m finding it especially productive as a way to quiet my brain a bit at the end of the day. I’m the first to admit that I’m tightly wound and the last few months? On another level. I’ve been breaking out some paper, a pen and a set of watercolors most nights after Grace goes to sleep (and, inevitably, before she wakes up again). There were a few Audubon field guides at the cottage (plus, like… real birds outside…), hence the, um... birdoodles.
An old, old wooden ship.
Clark loves heading North. He also loves pretending to play guard dog behind decorative screen doors.
How I close out the weekend: brewing a pitcher of peppermint tea to sip cold throughout the week. Super refreshing. The Yogi Tea quotes help.
New animal obsession: hedgehogs. I picked up this set of notecards at Target (no surprise there). More hedgehog cuteness: Biddy the Hedgehog’s Instagram account. He fits in the palm of your hand, he visits National Parks, he is magnificent.
Aaaaaaand a tiny OOTD: Grace’s party dress for her cousin’s birthday. Wouldn’t be a party without a bow.