Grace Farms, CT

Grace Farms in New Canaan Connecticut is on the way, or very close to the way, from Boston to New York. It is 3.5hrs from Boston, and 1.5hrs from New York. It is completely unmarked up until you find the driveway, then you will see a sign that you’ve found it. Parking is free, there is a cafe that is open until 3pm serving easy dishes, like one delicious huge house salad, a bookstore/library with just a few quixotic concentrations (art & beauty, justice & ethics), and a tea room where pots of tea are served for $5-$10.

The property grounds have trails are open for wandering but the building is hard to wander away from. Its elegant river shape somehow evokes a mother guiding her hens, you don’t want to walk out from under from her wing.

The Japanese male & female partner architects Sanaa also designed almost all the chairs that you’ll see on the property, like the lovely drop chairs that look like floating mercury thumbprints (your children will ask to get one for home, its better not to google the price).

Stopping by for a couple hours is a chance to luxuriate in beautiful thoughtful design, for free! We had a hard time leaving and ended up coming once more on our way back from Philadelphia. The cafeteria, in particular, is a joy to sit in. Closed on Mondays. And, it’s Connecticut, so do check for ticks before you get back in the car.

3 Days in New Hampshire

Dear New Hampshire, we barely delved into your beauty and depth! Booking this trip a few weeks before, we intended to drive to the White Mountains to smell alpine air, let the girls stretch out with more room, and hike a bit. But we were surprised to find ourselves surrounded by the most pleasant vacation atmosphere everywhere we went. We are stalwarts of Maine trips, accustomed to claims of “Vacationland!” on every roadside sign. So humble, gorgeous New Hampshire with cheerful Hi-Way roadside diners and 40s of beer for sale at gas stations, surprised us.

The airbnb rental, two hours from Boston, and if you’re not already a member, a $40 travel credit!

There were adorable clusters of cottages (1/2) with stone chimneys and miniature yards draped around kettle ponds. The ponds were stocked with paddle boats and lazy canoes. The restaurants had a view of the mountains and the trip advisor reviews, scanned quickly on my phone, said things like “dated, but the pool is heated year round and the food is excellent.”

I was further entranced by the boy howdy tourist attractions sprinkled about the White Mountains. There are railroads everywhere. Some of them serve lunch and ice cream. Others’ climb steep mountains. There is a place called Storyland, a land celebrating stories of the untrademarked variety.

Everyone we met was boisterously friendly, each practically shouting “Hi!” when we passed them on the trails. A restaurant had taped up a sign that read “30 minute wait for food.” This sign was visible the moment you walked in. Were Boston to follow this trend you would see “30 minute wait for water,” and “30 minute wait for acknowledgement” signs tacked up everywhere. Because we’d fallen for the faux-treehouse vibe and this endearing sign upon crossing the threshold of the building, we ordered anyway and had a delicious meal 30 minutes later. As we left, I noted that a new sign had replaced the old one: “40 minute wait for food.”

hiking a 3.5 mile Mount Pemigewasset round trip.

The three-year-old found an 1000 piece puzzle of a Victorian Christmas scene involving unfurled red ribbons with messages written in a German-style font, framed above and below by a sky and snowy field that were exactly the same color. She spread this across the table and spent thirty minutes twice a day furrowing over the pieces, perhaps matching one or two together by the end the hour. “Who can help me with the puzzle,” she asked us many times. “Mom, will you help me?” Our Little Red Hen, except she never did get her vindictive loaf to have for herself. We would take turns sitting with her, managing to piece a few more bits together before the toddler climbed up to sit on our lap and swept them to the floor like dead flies.

“Maybe we’ll get one for home” I said when we had to put the fragments away at the end of the weekend, “only with a more fun picture.”

“No, I want a Christmas one just like this,” she said.

The road up Mount Washington is privately owned and not managed by the National Parks system. This was very curious, and it was not well run. The line to get in was slow, though once you got to the front you realized that genial grandfatherly types were running it, and forgave them the wait instantly. Gravel had washed off the edges of the already narrow road, and the observation center at the top was rundown and clearly over-stretched. There is an option to send a postcard from their post office, a charming idea, but all the postcards for sale are ugly with almost no photos of the mountain itself. The design of the observation deck felt like a soviet-90s buildout. After sharing two toasted hot chocolates (the weird way industrial chocolate powder burns to taste like peanut butter), we sat outside where there was one weary sign about the scenery.

There is one thing they do that is perfectly done: the red and blue bumper sticker that is included with every single price of admittance: This Car Climbed Mount Washington.

Driving back to the rental, we noted that savvy New Hampshirites had flocked to places named things like The Basin and Land of Many Uses. We resolved to do the same next time. As we drove through the trees I could see merry babbling creeks through the trees. To be there on an 80 degree day and poke creek pebbles around with your toes must be heaven. Hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail would also be amazing. And maybe someday seeing one of the huts! (if you want to fall deeply in love with the White Mountains from afar, follow btonevibes.)

Lux is beginning to read on her own. I’d brought up an early reader with a silly plot that we love, Moose Goes to School, and it was special passing moment to get to watch her read it over and over again to herself on the couch. Vacation at its best!

We watched Hello, Dolly twice. I memorized most of the songs as a kid, unbeknownst to the girls and Joe until the movie started, and I did not hesitate to sing along. I had totally forgotten this connection, but the five-year-old immediately recognized the music from the movie Wall-E replays in the evenings on his makeshift projector. The girls fell hard for Dolly. “Everyone knows Dolly,” they whispered as Barbra Streisand danced around the restaurant. “That looks terrible on him and really good on her,” speaking of the feather boa Dolly wickedly drapes on her distracted love interest. “That looks like something Dolly would wear,” they remarked once back in Boston as we walked past a hat shop.

Everyone got spider bites and there were ticks of course and strange hiking blisters. Buoyed with vacation spirit beforehand, I bought delicious strawberry artisan marshmallows that melted right off the sticks at the first sign of toasting and thus had to be plied carefully onto the graham cracker, at which point the girls declared them “too sticky,” and asked for the “the normal ones.”

The Ocean House, Rhode Island

We were so fortunate to be hosted by my mom and my aunt Anne in Rhode Island a few weekends ago. My sister Joanie and two of my brothers were also able to come. My mom had reserved rooms at the Ocean House and we managed to squeeze everyone in together.

On the way down we stopped at Monahan’s for a classic clam shack experience, tables outside near the water, fried oysters or clams (you don’t always see both, actually) and lobster rolls. We should have stopped off at Matunuck’s Oyster Bar on the drive as well, but we regrettably decided to wait until later that weekend (and never made it). My mom from Michigan, and my aunt from Denver, kept exclaiming over the smell of the ocean.

In the fall, the Ocean House puts boxes of apple varieties on the front steps for guests to sample on their way in or out. It was this small perk, and the adorable downstairs candy and doughnut shop, that topped the girls’ memories of the place.

The hotel is absolutely stunning. Its restoration was a labor of love by a local man who wanted to save the land from turning into condos. I could not stop taking pictures of it, and I often found myself hiking around the long way just to see it from another perspective.

Not surprisingly the beauty of the property, the time with my family, all their help with the girls, the extra undisturbed time to put Alma down for a nap, and the long dinners together, were totally restorative!

We were all able to sit on one of the giant teak porches for dinner both nights, watching the slow sunset, eating local oysters, and catching up on all we’d missed in the past few months.

The town of Watch Hill is a five minute walk from the front steps of Ocean House. The tiny carousel was closed for the season, but cozy wood-raftered St. Claire’s Annex was serving breakfast with fresh squeeze mimosas, Huxter was stocked like a slim closet for an elegant east coast surfer with a taste for nice dinners, Ten Sandwiches had espresso and sandwiches, and the iconic pink walls of the Olympia Tea Room were visible through the spotless glass windows.

Ocean House has a free borrow-a-car ahem, borrow-a-Mercedes-Benz, program. You show up at the front desk and ask if any cars are available at that moment. If there is one, they pull one around for you right away. Thanks to all the devoted volunteers, Joe and I were able to go for a short (FAST) drive together. I wanted to show him the rolling green farmland-n-pond drive to the Weekapaug Inn. Then we drove on for a bookstore date to The Savoy. I found the hardcover of a book I’d read on the kindle, Fates and Furies. I loved that book and it was fun to see its beckoning presence in a real live bookstore. (We bought Commonwealth, Substitute, and for the whole family: Thing Explainer.)

After we got back, we handed the car on to my brother and his girlfriend for their own tour.

Oh, let us remain fearless in the face of school calendars. Let September and October always be dotted with crossed off long weekends of refreshment! Let late beach visits and still-long sunny days and hotels that feel peacefully abandoned flourish alongside neatly packed lunchboxes and clean uniforms.

 

What to Pack for the Baby

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This is just a silly easy post to write! But it’s still useful to keep a list around.

What we packed for Alma for her six-week-old vacation: 

a sun hat (mostly useless, poolside umbrellas were a must)

a swim diaper (ended up keeping her out of the sun/water altogether)

two blankets (one warm, one light)

diapers (forgot wipes and bought them there instead)

single-use packets of formula, a bottle, two pacifiers

a warm sweater

two carriers, one nice, one form (see below for detail)

a scarf to drape for nursing privacy or block the sun or for warmth

fun summery clothing inherited from her sisters!

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I like to use a form carrier, like the becco or ergo, in airports. You can leave it on through security and my girls often napped in it right up until we sat down on the plane. They ask you to take it off before takeoff.

And I like to use a sakura bloom silk sling, especially in restaurants or going to events, or generally when I’m not trying to lift children/grocery bags/walk long distances.

Alma’s hotel sleep style:infant_vacation

Mostly she slept like this on our bed because I found the condo crib too deep to be useful–all that bending over and reaching! She is the first baby of mine who likes swaddles, this is my make-shift way of swaddling her. A week after taking this photo, I realized I could simply tie the aden + anais blanket and skip the binder clip altogether. At a second hotel I didn’t even ask for a crib, and used a couch cushion as her bed.

Flying with Alma, I remembered how delightful it is to fly with a baby that age, compared to say, a nine month old. They just curl up, nurse, and keep you company. Of course I had my corner seat to nurse in, with Joe and Joan as my bolsters (Lux was across the aisle, with strangers). I have nursed from a middle seat, with strangers on both sides, it is doable but it’s awfully nice to have a row with your people, if available.infant_vacation

No matter what seat you are in, bring one of those airline pillows that don’t actually do anything for adults; the ones you can buy in any airport gift shop. They work so well for infants. It is my favorite thing to rest her head on that instead of my balanced elbow or propped arm.

The Watermill, Puerto Rico

Permit a few photos that are by no means a tour guide to this beautiful island. Looking at these, I keep thinking of Frederick, the mouse who didn’t work at the harvest but instead stored up smells and the feeling of the sun so he could tell the other mice how it felt, come winter, and remind them summer would return.

This was definitely one of our best days in Puerto Rico. The Watermill is a water park designed to look like an old sugar mill. A bit of an odd theme, but after floating lazily around it several times, I was quite taken with the faux stucco plastering and craggy architecture. It was built by the Dorado Beach development and is available to people staying at the Plantation Village condos (which we were, having booked through inspirato--a condo timeshare service by American Express), people with membership at the Encanto Beach Club, and Ritz Carlton Reserve guests.

It wasn’t busy on the Sunday we were there, which made it feel like we had stumbled on an enchanted theme park, perhaps one that had just floated to the surface from Atlantis-like depths. The girls ran from one spot to another, but there were plenty of no-swimmer spaces that made it easy for us to relax while they played. Most of the pools were 3ft depth, the perfect depth to empower a four-year-old. Joe and I loved the lazy river that circled the property, tubes were provided. And the kid-powered pull-across boats–so easy and fun for them!

It was practically essential to have my mom there with us–one of us stayed/relaxed with the baby in the shade the whole time.

After we’d played in the water most of the day (and applied, and reapplied sunscreen) the girls started climbing the rope bridges and ladders that wove into the pools and through the trees. They were challenging just enough to thrill the girls with their successes each time.

I took most of these photos as the golden hours began in the late afternoon–we finally pulled ourselves away from the place at 5pm, sunburned and joyfully exhausted.

your trip

Adulthood is when you make your own vacations and decide what they will be from the beginning. So much about vacation is inherited or shared with family, which is a great thing. But it’s nice to see the thing that evolves when you decide to make your own vacation. Book it, schedule it, pay for it, anticipate it all yourself.

We caravanned up after first stopping at the Palace Diner just outside of Portland, where we stop as often as we can and have astounding good meals. Perhaps the most astonishing thing about the Palace Diner, the thing that leaves you dazed when you finally wander out, is that their menu appears very standard when you read it through, other than canaries like brown butter banana bread and caramelized grapefruit listed casually under SIDES. Their french toast is listed on the menu as challah french toast, no details added, but once it is set in front of you, you realize the two enormous square pieces have been bruleed, and the crust cracks as you cut into it, the eggy custard of the challah softening around the crisp dark caramelized pieces. But it’s also the type of place where you swear to yourself that next time you’ll order lunch, as you watch the waitress place a triple decker burger or a lush freshly-made-tuna melt in front of someone down the bar.

David and I texted about the meals a little bit ahead of time. We stopped at Whole Foods in Portland on the way up and already had a good list in mind before we got there. Joe and I lived with David during one of our summers on Nantucket, he and I often traded off who made dinner, along with our other roommate Pete. Years later I still have a good idea of what type of thing he enjoys cooking–namely impromptu, very satisfying dinners, tossed together with experience savvy instead of a recipe. And he knows I can manage a more complicated dish using my obsessive devotion to recipes. We spent an enormous amount on supplies for the week, splitting the groceries between us. That was perfect because it left us able to make pretty much anything—squash pie, mussel and bean soup, meaty spaghetti, biscuits and gravy, fresh whipped cream, pie crust—once we were up there. We got take-out one time from the local burrito spot, but all the rest of our meals we made together in the big kitchen.

You know, I’ve started buying those tubes of Immaculate Baking Co. cinnamon rolls and they are just stunningly good. I’ve made cinnamon rolls from scratch, and I don’t think it is worth it when you can have these ready in 20 minutes with your eggs. And I’ve certainly had much worse tasting cinnamon rolls bought fresh from bakeries. Treat yourself.

Dave made fresh pasta noodles and Joe carved a pumpkin to look just like Darth Vader, as Lux had hoped. I bought ribeye steaks for Joe’s birthday, salted and peppered and unwrapped them when we got to the house, and let them age for two days in the fridge. I’m not accustomed to ordering $70 worth of meat from the meat counter, but when four people get to settle down to an amazing steak dinner, it all becomes clear. I did that steak house trick of putting a stick of butter on a plate, flinging salt at it, piling shredded parmesan and chopped parsley on it and then mashing it together until it was one pale green flecked soft pile of butter. We put half loaves of baguette on the grill for a few minutes and then spread all the amazing butter magic over it.

After a couple nights of watching us eat mussels, the girls realized they too loved mussels, loved plucking out the small cooked creature out and flinging the empty shells into the bowl with a tiny clang. Lux ate faster than everyone and adapted a strange third person request, “Any more mussels for Luxy?” eyeing the plates of the adults with desire. I stopped giving her the mussel broth because she wasn’t using it, and we all added more unplucked shells to her pile.

I cannot get over how it feels to wake up in the trees. With tree branches fully surrounding you, like you’ve been suspended in a soft down blanket of pine boughs. Our room was freezing when we woke up each morning. Of the four cabins, the girls’ cabin has the best insulation, and for the the three other cabins, the adults wake to a room that is fully 45 degrees. No matter if you made a fire at midnight, no matter if you plugged in the supposed space heater. If your arm snuck out while you were sleeping, it now feels like a different entity from your body, and you tug it back under the blankets with alarm.

We told the girls to knock on their cabin door when they wanted us to come get them in the morning. It was the first time they shared a double bed. Welcome to your vacation setup for the rest of your life! I wanted to say to them, thinking of the hundreds of beds my sister and I shared growing up. Joan probably woke Lux up earlier than she otherwise would have, but it was swooningly sweet to watch them snuggle in together each night. Joe has been reading Lux The Hobbit (in fact, they’re on their second read-through of it) so he would build a fire and then read them nearly to sleep each night. Then we would wake to the sound of their chipper knocks pounding on the glass across the deck from us. Joe would bound out of bed, out from the warm covers and into the freezing room, to go check on them. A funny switch-up, as of the two of us, he usually wakes the slowest back in Boston. I would force myself to change into some of my stiff freezing clothes, pick out some warm clothes for them to put on, and then we all tramped over to the main house together. The main house has the kitchen and the living room, and the coffee maker!, and is fully heated.

It was so wonderful to have the company of two non-parents, two people who could comment on the weather, the day, the water, and make plans for general amusement. Two people who haven’t rote-memorized the strange rhythms of their children’s moods and begun to anticipate them at certain times of day with vague dread. Probably the best part was the presence of two adults who wanted to play board games after bedtime or tell old stories, instead of slump on the couch as Joe and I typically do. It was really good to watch the girls play and scheme with someone else who could delight in them. Not to mention help them craft face masks, help them climb rocks, help them get a snack, answer a question.

As for the four of us, the adults, there were times when it felt like—oh yeah, college! Here we are, just kids, we’re all the same and together again. And other times when I felt so different and far away from them, the three men—I’m not drinking, not smoking an occasional celebratory cigarette, not skinny-dipping into the ocean jumping from the sharp rocks, not staying up late into the night to watch stars fall. I’m sleepy and oversized, preoccupied and awaiting the next small child’s request, remembering the soft tang of whiskey with bemusement, remembering the self indulgent rush of a nicotine drag with, well, I can’t remember it at all anymore. It’s been so long; maybe five years? I’m grumpy for no reason other than persistent thud of a small heel against my rib cage. The girls are mine and they cling to me when they’re sleepy, and want me to hold their hand, and arrange their food, and nod in affirmation every single time when they say they need to go potty. you don’t need me to do this, anybody can do this for you, I think to myself here and there, but it’s not really true, is it? Not true in the satisfying nearly trademarked way that mom does it. And the next girl is mine too, and I think about her when I make almost any decision for my day. It was that time, 31 weeks. She’s gone from a quiet swimmer to a nearly omnipresent tangle of limbs, waking me up with her flips and kicks, settling into odd positions that makes my abdomen feel like a couch too full of elbows.

But there’s also that male-ambition thing? The thing that stirs men to memorize long ballads so they can play them at the foot of stone towers? To chop and haul wood, build warm fires, frame houses over their families heads? That infects them with the idea to teach themselves to fix a car when there is a mechanic just down the road? Meanwhile I’m puttering around, baking bread from the exact same recipe I’ve used 300x times? I don’t play an instrument, and I didn’t attempt to memorize the lyrics to Lava, as they did (pixar, look it up, it’s cute). I didn’t want to. I probably could have jumped into the ocean, had I told Joe I wanted to and asked him to stay with the girls. But I didn’t want to. What I’m saying is–don’t feel too sorry, or fall too much for my oh if only. And, I suppose, I was a little jealous of their drive and adventurous ambition? I picked up Annie Dillard’s The living while there, a novel of many stories framed around the families who settled the pacific northwest. What were they doing there? Women watching their children die from various freak threats, is what it felt like to me. It’s obvious the glass on my maternal goggles is rather dense right now, that I can’t even read a historical novel without being nearly flattened by the idea that these people risked their children’s lives for a new adventure.

I made a pie from this squash. It’s quite a satisfying thing to take a hearty heavy vegetable, so thick you can barely cut it in half with a knife, roast it until it’s weak, then blend with all sorts of good things and turn it into a dessert. Great recipe right here.

The post about last year in Deer Isle, plus some area rental suggestions.

Berkshires Family Itinerary

The Berkshires is a general term applied to the hills and valleys running along the western edge of Massachusetts. They are oddly sophisticated with grand old hotels and great mansions like Edith Wharton’s The Mount. There are swimming holes, orchards, museums, and lots of long beautiful country roads that smell like damp woods and the rushing wind. Joe and I had been wishing for a couple days there with the girls for a long time, and finally things fell into place.

We drove out from Boston Thursday evening arriving at the Porches Inn, the hotel across the street from Mass MOCA around 9pm. Weekday nights run about $80 cheaper than weekend nights at Porches ($300 total). We had requested a pack n play and a pullout couch for our room–both were already set up as beds for the girls–lovely! It was pouring rain and pitch dark but we decided to show the girls the hot tub anyway. The four of us sat in there with our hair getting soaking wet from the rain, and it felt like such a family memory, I loved it.
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the getty, with kids

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I love these photos. When Joe and I are feeling like things are moving along as nicely as water transported via kleenex, we say things are getting scramble-ramble. “This is too scramble ramble” is how it usually sounds. Meaning this is totally cool on many levels but we’re missing it all. Meaning, our situation was not quite what we were hoping for. As soon as we set foot off the tram at the Getty I realized it was huge mistake to have brought grumpy un-napped Joan along with us, but there we were. Three surely she’ll fall asleep in the car/stroller/once we’re walking…later and we were still stuck with the wide awake Bea.

But anyway I knew when we headed to Los Angeles that I wanted to see my internet friend Noelle and meet her son West for the first time, and maybe even her partner (whom she refers to as “le bf” online) if we were extra lucky. It all came true at the Getty and we got to eat lunch together in a beautiful place. It was a pretty different scene conversationally from the last time we met up, but I was so happy to see them nonetheless. Noelle is deep into life with West but when she climbs out for a few minutes here and there, her food blog is my favorite.

Midway through our meal Joan dumped an entire bottle of water on herself, just as Joe had suggested to me she would, just as I had sagely suggested she would not. Noelle lent/gave/thankyousomuch us West’s backup clothes she’d packed for the day and saved everything because that water was cold.

Noelle told me that my How to Make Mom Friends post helped her make one of her best mom friends that she now picnics with weekly. It made me so happy!

It was scramble ramble; it was good.

family picking walking viewing

Note the Getty is actually awesome for kids. Free strollers available at the coat check, a perfectly simple and pleasing kids art room, and obviously: lots of open space.

Blue and evergreen

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Well here we are first day of spring, and guess what? It’s the season to book your summer trip to Maine. Itty bitty rental agencies across the coast are turning on the wifi and posting their rentals. Most agencies take half at the time of contract, and half a week or two before your rental, so you can save up if need be.

With that on my mind, I dug up my photos from when we went to Deer Isle last October. Just a few hours north of famous Bar Harbor lies a land of charm and warmth beyond anything I’d encountered before. Deer Isle, a lovely spanning island just one green bridge away from the wonderful little town of Blue Hill. It was magical and we fell in love.

October is when rentals are about as cheap as they get. We are off-season-people who thrive with our sweaters and extra socks, when most things are closed and the nooks are quiet too. But you might want to think about visiting in August. That is true Maine glory time, blueberries, sailing, funny town fairs and no black flies (black fly season is May/June), with open ice cream shops. And just maybe, quite possibly, air that is just hot enough to make that freezing ocean look enticing.

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We fell completely in love with the architecture of our rental house. It was a collection of four cabins surrounding one large main building that contained the kitchen and living space. It was the type of place that just grabbed your attention anytime you looked its way. Every perspective of it seemed better than the last. I found myself thinking of the architect constantly–how much thought and planning most had gone into creating such a careful collection.

We had a few days of lovely weather and then it became stormy and rainy for our last few days. We read books, bought the newspaper, and built lots of fire to stay warm in our cabins.

We ate oysters we’d bought on the way up, packaged cinnamon rolls, s’mores, mussels we pulled off rocks on the beach, and fresh bread from Tinder Hearth.

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The pathways between the cabins alternated between dirt and stone slabs. The stone became the pathway—moss-covered and a little precarious. I didn’t pack the right shoes, so in the evening when I walked the girls over to the cabin to put them to bed, and then when I went back again to check on them, I would wear my slippers. The slippers soaked up water from the wet moss. So then I just went barefoot.

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^Our friend David came up with us for a few days and built this blanket fort for the girls.

blue_hill_wine_shopJust before we arrived at our rental the first night, we stopped by the Blue Hill Wine Shop. Shop of dreams! They made coffee in the morning, sold fresh bread, cheeses, salamis, and tons of beautifully affordable wines. They had wonderful front porch for watching the sunset and it was clearly a hub of love and conversation.

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With all the enormous windows lining the main house, we couldn’t help but stare at the layers of ocean, then granite, then trees. Blue, stone, green.  It was the most soothing sight.

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Joe took outdoor showers in the freezing October rain. He promised me they were wonderful and warm despite the pummeling rain. It seemed unfathomable to me that was true, so I would watch from the window. The mist from the cold rain hitting the warm shower water seemed pick him up onto a cloud. By chance, he was reading a biography of Benjamin Franklin at the time and told me about Franklin’s daily naked “wind showers,” with admiration.

We took walks down to the damp shore, the girls delighting in collecting snail shells and stepping on the spongy seaweed. Often we would see lobster boats drive by to check on their traps. Thousands of cracked mussel shells mixed into the rocks and brightened the beach.

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One morning David stayed with the girls at the house while Joe and I drove off to find 44 North Coffee. In the upstairs of a once stately building on a quiet island road, lies a coffee roaster. 44 North, with a jar of triangle donuts by the door, sold on the honor system. Their coffee is meticulous pour-over. Their coffee bags are hand drawn cartoons and nearly collectible. Joe and I brought donuts back for the girls and a big bag of coffee for the cottage.

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It was the off season, yet it felt as if many things were open. Guided by our gps off the island and into quiet backwoods, we found Tinder Hearth Pizza. It was elegantly gourmet in a wood hewn way.The only time we saw a sign for the spot was when we finally pulled in front of the house. A table was stacked with plates, silverware and mismatched glassware. In the front of the room was an enormous brick pizza oven emanating a delicious smell. On “pizza nights” (best checked via Facebook) they welcome people inside to sit and eat. And during the summer, everyone comes to eat and sprawl on their back lawn! We watched as couples came in and picked up their pizzas to go, but all the families who stopped by sat down at the community table. In no time we had friendly local faces on all sides of us. It’s also BYOB which is the best—pulling out the great bottle you’ve picked out, with no upscaled prices.

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^ A #momlife travel moment for me. I envisioned us serenely draped across the boat watching the waves fly by, learning about the wildlife. Naturally everyone wanted to sit on my lap at the same time and I couldn’t hear a word. : )A few affordable rentals in the area for this summer that caught my eye while internet-hunting: a darling studio cottage for $495/wk, a cozy two-bedroom in Brooksville for $1150/wk, a rustic waterfront with a lovely dock for $1045/wk, and a modern two bedroom in Stonington for $1200/wk. And a pleasantly rustic spot on Deer Isle for $685/wk. All prices listed in August rates; other months are cheaper.

The house we stayed at last year is The Sunshine House.

I didn’t have much luck on airbnb.com for this area, Downeast Maine Rental Agency seemed to have the best spots.  

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wildsam city guides

popsicles

I’m headed to San Francisco this afternoon for my sister Joanie’s bachelorette weekend. I’m so over-the-moon excited. It’s my first time to see the city. It’s supposed to rain all weekend. Doesn’t matter. Thank you thank you Joe!

The apartment is clean. The fridge is full. Lux and I made raspberry popsicles, a shared project that is turning into something of a ritual we do together before I go on trips.

wildsam

I’ve been wanting to buy a Wildsam city guide for awhile and I finally had an excuse to treat myself. They are so well done. I feel practically like a native, and I’m still waiting to take off from Boston! A brief city history told through historical documents, an easy to read map of the neighborhoods, ESSAYS (starry eyes here), and interviews with locals. Throw in the nearly-pocket size and a good-looking cover to seal the deal. Incidentally, if you are an East of Eden fan, the founder Taylor Bruce named the series after Samuel Hamilton. More starry eyes.

Ok, I’m off!