Posts from the ‘Travel’ Category

Hittin’ the Long Trail

Welcome to Vermont!

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Where the views are incredible,

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the hiking is phenomenal,

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the the good times are always flowin’,

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Though it seems like months ago, we recently hit the Long Trail to camp up in Plymouth, VT at the Calvin Coolidge State Park. This is hands down the best campground in Vermont, with fun lean-to sites and incredible views of Killington off to the east. Last year our camping trip was totally rained out but we fared much better this year. After setting up camp and fitting in a hike before sunset, we lit up the campfire and enjoyed the evening.

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campfire breakfast, complete with a jug of maple syrup

Next day was action packed (though I had vowed to ‘not make plans’, it turned into a real busy day!), starting out with a trip to the Calvin Coolidge Homestead.

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new visitor center in the mountains

I’m a historical nerd junkie so I think it is so cool to roam around the village where Calvin was born. It has been kept fairly close to its original state.

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village country store

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Coolidge’s farm equipment & horse buggy storage barn

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the one road through the center of the village

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touring the American Cheese Museum

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The Plymouth Cheese Company is a resurrengence of the original cheese factory here at the Homestead, with all new types of artisan cheese being produced by young farmer cooperatives and a new generation of cheesemakers.

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Next we headed south to Weston to visit one of the truly greatest places on earth, the Vermont Country Store. They really have everything, from old handmade toys to HABA products, a penny candy area to old tyme food products. It is an awesome place to peruse.

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this man needs his candy consumption seriously controlled

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checking out the Scale Museum; yes, a museum full of weigh scales

Later in the day it was time to relax at the Camp Plymouth campground which is right along a small lake, great for swimming, bbq-ing, and generally chillin’. They were voted ‘Best Park of the Year’ in 2011, I think because of how they bounced back after the Hurricane Damage. This is where we would’ve stayed as an alternate campsite when we came up prior to the Hurricane last year and thank goodness we didn’t stay. They had amazing images of the campground immediately following the Hurricane and how badly the site was washed away in the 6+’ rains. We would’ve drowned, no joke.  I swam for a long time in the lake; the water was perfect and I’m a fish so I didn’t want to leave, but I had a friend to meet! My friend Tracy from law school lives near by so we met up at the Long Trail Brewery for some sampling.

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No literally, we tried the sampler.

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While this is an adorable picture of us, we were warned by the employees inside that a giant T-Storm and possibly threatening winds were headed our way so we had to boogie out of there and back to our campsite.

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We made it back just in time to cook most of dinner before the skies let loose and the major T-storms rolled in. Normal people would be scared by this, but I swear in coming to Coolidge probably over two dozen times in my life, I have almost always experienced a major downpour on at least one of the evenings there (also: Hurricane Bob my family was there; that was pretty rough). It is pretty incredibly to watch lightening striking the ski trails and towers along the Killington ridgeline. So we rolled with it, tossing back a few Long Trails and watching the campfire compete with the rain. It was great.

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It was difficult for me to leave honestly. I loved living in VT and would move back in a minute if the right opportunity came up. I just can’t get enough of the laid back vibe, beautiful scenery, and friendly people. I’ll be back soon VT!

‘Vacationland’ Maine Bound & Back Again

This past weekend I headed ‘downeast’ to Maine for my best friend’s wedding. It was pretty far north of the Boston area so we stopped part-way in Portland to enjoy the evening before. How cool is Portland, right? It reminds me of Burlington, VT alot because it’s a small city with a BIG personality, both are located on the ‘water’, and it has a hip, progressive vibe that I dig.  We landed first on the back porch of Flatbread overlooking the boats in the harbor for a cool brew.

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It was past lunchtime so we headed to Duck Fat for fries and, well, duck.  We played some word games siting at the counter.

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The man ate fries like a champ, washed down with a beer, while I had the house salad with duck confit on top and a house-made ginger & grapefruit soda.

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I snagged a fry or two and while they were definitely tasty, eh, I think it is a bit overhyped. I like the concept but for the offerings on the menu, they could perhaps be a bit more creative maybe? Duckfat crepes w/nutella maybe? Duck eggs fried in duckfat? I don’t know. Call me, DF, we’ll brainstorm. After a short hiatus/seista at our hotel, we headed back downtown to Portland (I booked about the furthest away hotel from dwtw Portland, HoJo Plaza; it was ‘ok’), for dinner. We really struggled to pick a dinner option. At first, I had wanted to try Street & Co., hearing great reviews, but thought maybe it was a bit pricey/fancy for our mood that evening, and we wanted to be near the water. We picked 51 Wharf but after hearing a review about the place turning into a dance club mid-meal (and sadly, this has actually happened to us before!), I had my doubts. We parked and then hoofed around a bit, passing 51 Wharf, where the poor employees were literally begging for business off the street. And it was completely empty and sad looking. We kept walking and ended up at our second choice option, Portland Lobster Company.

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This place ROCKED. It is definitely the local scene-y spot but with a cute cafeteria-style dining area, live (awesome) music, and great, great prices on legit Maine-caught and fresh, local seafood, we knew we made the right choice!

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cute lobster lights

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We sat with a brew, anxiously awaiting our lobster pager to go off.

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So good! I ordered lobster bisque in a bread bowl, something I NEVER get, and Maine fried baby shrimp while the gentleman had fish & chips.

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We housed it. If you are in Portland, GO HERE. A wicked fun time; I even had a great time waiting in (the long) line for the ladies restroom. There were some hilarious, fun people there on a Friday. I would go again for sure.

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View from the ‘cafe’ back towards the pick-up window and the historic Old Port

We sauntered around Portland a bit after dinner but called it an early night knowing we had a long drive early the next morning. After getting up and a quick run to Panera, I made full use of my HoJo reservation by running some speedy miles on the hotel gym treadmill. I would have preferred running outside but we were in the middle of industrial parks and I didn’t want to figure out where to go. Easy, peasy. I ran between 6.0-6.8 pace for 3 miles; fast for me! We had to hit the road though, with a three hour drive north to Castine. It was a beautiful drive on some parts.

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Fort Knox Narrows Bridge

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We finally made the journey, changed quick in our adorable bunkhouse (thanks L.T.), and made our way to the harbor for the outdoor ceremony at Fort Madison.

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The couple had a very special ceremony; perched right above the water, with schooners and sailboats cruising by, the untraditional ceremony was beautiful and touching.

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Under the pews were bottles of Moet Chandon for toasting the nuptials!

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Loved that and so, so THEM.

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Folks sauntered around the lawn, with imposing cloudy skies, for a while and then everyone headed across town to the reception site, the golf club. They even had a mini-putting green!

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Her overly talented sister made this funky, cool farmhouse banner with the types of foods served on-site. Also, LOVED this.

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We danced our faces off, dodged massive T-storms under the tent (eek!), and then made it to a fun after-party but it was all over so quick! Next morning, we soaked up the views from our bunkhouse cabin and had to pack it up to join brunch at her family’s new GORGEOUS sea-side home across town.

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Our accommodations

The views from ‘back shore’ beach were absolutely incredible. The entire ‘island’ of Castine was so charming and gorgeous but we were hardly there very long 😦 We already have plans to go back and camp.

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Can you see the most iconic farm across the bay here?Image

Congrats to the newly married couple & cheers to many great times ahead! 143

I ate a bunch of ice cream in Columbus, Ohio

 

I owe this post to several people though it is late!!!

Over the holiday weekend (Easter/Passover), I headed to Columbus with the bf to visit his family for Seder and Passover. After a quick pick-up from the airport, we lunched at a pub in downtown Columbus. I had the baked salmon over spinach salad with blue cheese and strawberries. The combination was great but I don’t believe the salmon was baked; more like fried as it was pretty greasy.

We hit up Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream within the first hour of landing.

Jeni’s is pretty famous in Columbus because they use a host of local ingredients like local cream and honey in many of their signature and wildly creative flavors.

I had seen an episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate the other day on Food Network that featured ‘Best Spiciest Foods’, and Tim Allen’s pick was the Queen City Cayenne at Jeni’s so I HAD to try it. First, there was a faint taste of gingerbread/cocoa, followed by a quick blast of hot hot spicy cayenne pepper. Like a five alarm fire going off in my mouth! I loved it!

The entire shop was so cute inside and you can sample a bunch of flavors before narrowing down your pick.

Jeni's delivers and ships all over the country

I was in Columbus to celebrate the Seder with the bf’s family. His sister hosted two nights in a row and I even made (and tasted) my first matzo balls for soup! People actually liked it too, which I hear is a high compliment! We had great company both evenings and amazing food cooked up by her husband; seriously impressive cheffing skills!

Seder table night #1

On day 2 of our visit, we ventured to the Short North Arts District area of downtown Columbus to do some sightseeing and wandering, my favorite part of visiting new places.

We popped into a few stores. This place Tigertree was too hip to be square, with adorable clothing and local artists goods; it was like walking through a real-life Etsy store.  I could have bought everything/anything and been happy. My bf’s sister and I were seriously oggling some cute dresses and housewares stuff.

I liked this chicken-egg machine too; it is so cool that I didn’t even grasp what its purpose was.

Later in the day we took to the streets and sidewalks in a biker gang to explore the Franklin Park Observatory. This park is comprised of sprawling grounds, walking paths, outdoor kitchen and function areas, a butterfly atrium, an apiary, community gardens, and an arboretum.

Wooden suspension bridge

Bike path

Arboretum

being weird posers; I look distracted

Apiary...BUZZ BUZZ

Hives inside the open air apiary; bees are so smart

Cold frames growing starter veggies

Guys 'hangin'' in the grapevines and hop trellises; get it?

French-style low-growing gardens lined the outdoor kitchen patio

On Day 3 we took a self-guided tour of the Ohio State campus.

Architecture building on Ohio State Campus

The legendary 'U' Horseshoe Stadium

And then we ate more ice cream. We hit up yet another famous ice cream shop, Graeters. This place is a bit more old-school style than Jeni’s and reminded me of Friendly’s Ice Cream  maybe. 

I had a good-old standby, Black Raspberry Chip, with jelly beans (as it was Easter Sunday, which in my book, requires candy). We had a great time in Columbus and it was so much more than I expected! I guess I thought it would either be more rural or suburban but the city/suburban line is much less defined than in other cities I have been to; the areas seemed to blend together more seamlessly. Plus while we were there, the flowers and trees were in peak bloom and everything was green, so it truly felt like the official ushering in of spring.

Introspective Amongst the Greens

January was a rough month and although it’s the middle of February now (hello, Valentine’s Day!), I am going to make the effort to catch up on some posts.

A few weeks ago, after getting in a fender bender in my new car (yeah, January was sweet), I took a trip with my mom to western MA to visit grandma for the day. We went out to Mount Holyoke College, which has a beautiful campus, and strolled the Talcott Arboretum. Here’s a few tantalizing pictures of the plants inside the tropical greenhouses, still standing since 1899!

The main rotunda

Daisies

Part of the orchid collection

These are like tiger lily orchids; they were my favorite

Bromeliads, or epiphytes, commonly referred to as 'air plants', hanging; their spores fly upwards and latch onto 'host' plants or other fixtures, and they will continue to grow without any root system; Spanish Moss is also a bromeliad

Dr. Seuss-like pom pom tree

The roof of the main greenhouse; reminds me of the book/movie 'Secret Garden'

Introspective amongst the greens

It was about 15 degrees outside but closer to 79 degrees humidity inside the greenhouse; the roof panels are still handcranked throughout the greenhouses twice a day

My mom & gma being cute

Right next to the Arboretum is the Mount Holyoke Art Museum as well so we stopped in there and I snapped a few pictures, which I don’t think I was supposed to do – whoops!

Bierstadt's 'Hetch Hetchy Canyon'; this painting was the inspiration to Teddy Roosevelt to organize the Park System!

Ganesha

Buddha

After a tantalizing display of flower power and art, we made our way to lunch. My gma treated and took us to a pretty cool bar/restaurant in downtown Holyoke, Johnny’s Bar & Grille. We had a rip-roaring hilarious good time, my gma told us crazy stories about Prohibition and other good time tales. We also had phenomenal meals. I had some variation on an Asian seared tuna salad and my mom had a California Cobb or something similar. Tasty!

Mom's

Mine

In the spirit of not letting a gift certificate go to waste, we had ordered fried pickles as well, which were dank of course, but my gma had never had them before! She raved about them and we sent her home with the leftovers! The restaurant was pretty good; I would revisist when I’m in the area for work for sure!

It really feels like spring today (when hasn’t it this winter though?), and looking at these pictures again makes me excited for real spring to come! What is your first mental association with spring?

Adventures In the North Country

Ahhhh. I’ve been away, adventuring in the North Country (aka VERMONT!) and came back feelin’ more refreshed and inspired about my work than ever before! Here’s a few shots of my adventures:

DAY 1 – ‘Living Machines’/Rochester Gap/Hurricane Irene Alley/Otter Creek Yoga/ American Flatbread

This was the ONLY snow that existed in the entire state while I was visiting last week, a tiny patch of snow at the I-89 North rest stop in Sharon at the Veteran’s Memorial. Weak sauce Mother Nature; can we do something about this global climate change?

I took this shot from inside the rest area which has beautiful views to the west over the Taconic Range. Bluebird sky.

This rest stop is huge, clean, and the perfect stop to check out the first public composting toilets you encounter along the I-89 North corridor into VT. 

I spared you the shot I actually took of the green toilet water (yeah, I took a picture) but here is the magic making it happen – within the interior solarium of the rest stop are these large concrete pots housing filtering plants the size of a small mini-van and graywater system filtration tubing to clean out the wastewater system before returning about 70% of the water back into the building. NEATO! John Todd, the grandfather of Green ecological design and ‘living machine’ technology, who also teaches at UVM, was, I’m sure, an influencing factor to installing this visitor experience at a major public rest stop. Go Green VT!

In other VT news, you may remember a certain camping trip getting majorly post-poned and although the impact was felt very hard in the area I had been planning to travel through, being out of sight and out of mind, I had sorta ‘forgot’ about Hurricane Irene – that is until I decided to take the scenic way up to Middlebury via the Rochester Gap Road (read: up and over a number of giant mountains in the dark, switch-backing my way 40 mi. north and west). This road was a mess and thank goodness, I am somewhat familiar with the driving here…even still, it was super treacherous driving, with the road patched back together with non-construction grade materials and rip-rap, the road edges sliding away into the branches of the (still storm-surging) White River, and crumbled knots of former guardrail lying testament to the destruction of Irene to the Green Mountain National Forest area. I didn’t take any of my own pictures as I didn’t think it really safe to stop and pull off anywhere but this is roughly what it looks like currently:

I feel for VT’ers. It was hard to look at. But VT’ers are tough and they will get back to normal in no time. That’s the spirit of the North Country 🙂 I ventured onward to Middlebury, where I was meeting my friend Meghan to head to a fun yoga class at Otter Creek Yoga at the historic Marbleworks Building.

Namaste'

Nepalese prayer flags for good luck and safe travels ahead

After class, we headed literally next door to the amazing American Flatbread for dinner!

I really can’t write enough about why  their pizza and food is amazing but it is. Also, they are a fabulous company that gives back to VT’ers and the community, is a responsible sourcer of all their ingredients and generally, it is a cool place to eat. I used to work at a farm where we operated a mobile ‘flatbread flatbed’ oven for events and American Flatbread Co. would donate all their ‘seconds’ (aka messed up pizzas unapproved for sale) for us to bake and sell for the proceeds. Nice people. 

This pie was to die. We ordered a Revolution/Ionian Awakening combo. Was amazing, of course. Ran into some former restaurant employee friends (who actually just purchased this particular restaurant) while eating. Super small world.

Specials

I love the motivational banners hung inside

After a long day, we were both beat so we headed to Meghan’s adorable abode and promptly passed out. Here was the gorgeous view out her back deck in the am. Talk about ‘purple mountains majesty’ right?

 DAY 2 – Magic Hat Brewery/Skinny Pancake/Healthy Living Coop/UVM/VLS 

Since Meghan is a teacher, she was up and out of there before I had anywhere important to go so I lounged for a little bit and then had the following conversation with myself, in lieu of having anyone else as a reasonable sounding board:

Me: “Uh, is it too early to go beer sampling at a brewery?”

Self: “No. Maybe you should have some breakfast first though? At least an apple?”

Me: “Good idea self. I think I’ll go to Magic Hat Brewery!”

The front door; I thought he looked like a little robot head

Don’t worry – I called ahead to make sure they were open that early 😉

Totally dude

There was a lot of festive activity going on in here and it was sorta sensory overload. Check it:

So, I stepped up to the ‘bar’ to try some samples and remarked to the bartender my current predicament:

Me: “So, um, do you think I should try a sample since I haven’t had much too eat yet today and it’s only 10 am?”

Bartender: “We have pretzels here! You could totally eat pretzels for breakfast?!” He really wasn’t even questioning the rationality of this, whatsoever. Only in Burlington, right? I tried one sample of the Revelle and brought home two growlers (~ about 4 pints, in a glass jug) of Single Chair* and Encore IPA. (*The Single Chair is currently burning a giant hole in my fridge as I await the first legit snowstorm here in the Northeast…I may be waiting awhile…it is 70 degrees right now. Boo.)

Obviously, in need of food I traveled into Burlington to eat at Skinny Pancake. This is such a treat because I discovered a love of crepes late in life. It was between bfast & lunch so…brunch crepes it was to be! I think I had something called the ‘Pesto Riser’? It had homemade dandelion green pesto (hippy, I know but it worked!), VT cheddar, fried egg, hot sauce, and other yummies I can’t remember.

The menu boards are a bit overwhelming!

Skinny Pancake is another great company that sources as locally as they can in a responsible and practical nature for ingredients. This cute map on the wall shows where in VT a particular ingredient is ‘pinned to’ – creative way to display their vendors I thought.

I left feeling very full and happy. I had nowhere to be so I strolled the boardwalk at the waterfront and snapped some pictures like the tourist I am.

Echo Aquarium and Leahy Ecological Center for Research

Spirit of Ethan Allen; we had our senior year UVM booze cruise on this bad boy

Views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks across the water. This was the coolest temperature day I have experienced this fall so far; I think it was 36 degrees.

You are a tourist

After a drive-by of the UVM campus and sneak peak of the new Rubenstein School of Environment & Natural Resources building construction and renovations, I headed to the outskirts of town to grab some goodies at the Healthy Living Coop in South Burlington. Coops are a remnant of VT that I really miss out on by living in the city. In VT/further North, they seem to be everywhere; in the city – not so much. And the bulk sections of city coops are practically nonexistent. I actually ran into my friend Sean who recently took a job in cheeeeeeeeeeeeese. Good to see you! My box of treasure from HL – tons of cheese from Grafton Cheddar, O Bread Olive Ciabatta (last loaf in the store!), fresh ground almond butter, Boston Post chive dill chevre, trail mix, drunken goat & 2 year gouda, awesome hand lotion from Nubian Heritage (OBSESSED! Just bought their soap as well; so luxurious and smells heavenly!).

Then it was time to make the journey back south towards Vermont Law School. By the time I got there, it was getting dark and I snapped this picture of the campus crazy rabbits that chased me across the grass.

I had a great experience completing my degree here and spent some time catching up with my former mentor from the Land Use Institute before the judging started. She got me all pumped up about work, progress, and the future. I left her office with a huge smile on my face. Thanks Peg!

I was nervous (and atypically, extremely early) I guess so I tried to kill some time taking pictures in the bathroom (totally normal, I know).

More composting toilets! Yeah science!

Alright, it was time to get the show on the road! Eek!

I had a great time judging and will leave it at that for the discretion of the current and future wanna-be lawyers and staff at Vermont Law School but I was extremely grateful for the experience to participate in this important rite of passage for students. They had arranged for a wonderful themed ‘Italian night’ dinner for visiting ‘judges’ and because I was early I was able to snap some shots quick. The catering staff thought I was slightly nuts, for reals.

The pasta bar with toppings

Yummy salad bar

Coffee, tea, and MAPLE BREAD PUDDING. I felt rushed and only had a half a bite of mine 😦 tragic

The common room was set up pretty cute for us, with winter accent centerpieces on the tables. The school is very small overall, both in physical campus size and enrollment, which is kinda nice.

After judging, I raced off to Norwich to visit my friend Tracy who also went to VLS and we had too much fun. I was kinda sad to leave. I also brought home this honorary collector’s wine glass…which the maintenance guy in my building promptly, yet accidently, smashed later that day when fixing my stove. Double whammy 😦

Olive bread being devoured. Look at these olive chunks! YUM!

Whew! That was a huge trip to pack into just two days but I am very happy I went! My VT goodies I brought home will hopefully keep me fueled for a bit and feeling recharged about life generally.

What has inspired you lately?

Everglades – Birthday Bonanza Day 4

We ended our final day of Florida Birthday Bonanza trip with a visit to the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge. We did a quick walk through the cyprus swamp in one part of the park. I am fascinated by ephiphytes or ‘air plants’, like Spanish moss that grow off of bacteria in the air to form long, stringy plants that have no roots and hang down from the upper canopy. I studied these same plants in Belize years ago; they are mysterious to me! Then we drove further into the refuge to walk along the canals in search of alligators! Yeah!

No ‘gators in sight! Crocs. either (did you know that crocodiles are found in parts of South Florida?).

Walking through the canals was so peaceful though, with or without ‘gators (mostly, without 🙂 ), watching the birds glide all around us.

These were some type of wading bird, possibly either snowy egrets or herons.

'Proof I went on vacation' photo

Then we came home 😦 Sad. My birthday week had actually started out with some treats from my mom. She first spied these chocolate truffles while in VT not long ago and then didn’t buy them at the time, but had them special ordered to be delivered to her instead (nuts! thanks Mom!). They are chocolate truffles from Laughing Moon Chocolates in Stowe, VT, and this particular style is chocolate mixed with Jasper Hill Farm’s legendary Bayley Hazen blue cheese! Drooling! Now, I realize only someone as unique as myself could really enjoy these, even solely as a novelty, but they are actually not very ‘stinky’ in a blue cheese sorta way (artisan cheese lovers, you know what I mean, right?!). I think they must melt the blue cheese into the chocolate to form the truffles rather than covering the cheese in a chocolate shell, which is what my mom and I expected when we sliced one open to split on Halloween. They tasted, as the website describes them – “salty and smooth”.

Someone else who knows me very well too got me this gift certificate to the very cool, very hip Sherman Market in Union Square Somerville. They carry tons of great, farm-fresh products from VT, as well as other locally-sourced goods, including meat, milk, cheeses, and of course, syrup! I love the goods in Sherman but it can be somewhat pricey and although I have window shopped many times, I rarely treat myself there (I’m sure they must love that!), so it was very thoughtful of the man to think of picking this up for me! Thanks!

Ah, well, back to the real world. Sigh. At least it looks pretty and autumnal out my window!

Miami/South Beach – Birthday Bonanza Day 3

Day three of Birthday Bonanza in Florida took us all the way south to Miami, specifically to crash at South Beach for the day. Here’s a snapshot via pictures…

View of downtown Miami over the South Beach Bridge

Hipster palms

Soak it in

The water could not be more blue

Paella!

Imagine....

Art deco boulevard

Cruisin'

More art deco detailing

Miami Vice! We're outta here

Quick - escape to the yacht, Grand Theft Auto style!

Superman-flavored dessert?

Stay tuned for Day 4 of Florida birthday adventures!