Best 5, Rome

My five favorite things, so far. (it’s only been three days) The eight hour red eye is not invited to this list because Lux opted not to sleep for the whole adventure.

This building across from our porch, which I find endlessly delightful to gaze at. neighbors

Pizza Bianca, chewy and salty, super fresh from bakeries around town. The most delicious and incredibly affordable meal for the three of us (perhaps paired with a wedge of asiago and a mix of salumi wrapped in dancing-pig paper?).pizza_bianca

A toddler in Rome! Who knew it would be so much fun? Because of her we stop and enjoy all the squares perfect for cavorting in, the public fountains for joyously emptying her water bottle and refilling, we notice the bells that toll every hour, we count the pigeons wandering past. And loyal bunny is almost gray now that he’s been dragged around so much of the city. Marble stays beautifully cool but it maintains a thin layer of grim just waiting for soft bunnies to soak up. spanish_steps

This careful caretaker in his church, cleaning up the sand for fresh candles, and arranging the ones left burning until they are just so. peace

 

I’m posting many more photos on Instagram as we go. If you don’t use the app on your phone, you can see them online right here.

Old Friends in the Country

Once again Airbnb came to the rescue for a group of old friends hunting for the perfect weekend hideaway. Upstate New York, only a couple of hours from the city (though it’s five hours from Boston) at the foot of the Catskills. Joe and his college friends have gotten together almost every year since school ended for what they call the Grizzly Bear Death Adventure. Usually it is a death adventure–Joe comes back dehydrated, hungover, exhausted and barely fed. This time they brought their women friends along, and we in turn made everything more delicious and cozy. Plus two babies, and puppy that ever-so-patiently played fetch with Lux. morning_roomnew_blanket strata

A very satisfying strata from Smitten Kitchen for breakfast. I made it at home, brought it in the car, and popped it in the oven the next morning as coffee brewed and someone started a fire in the fireplace. I also made two loaves of one of Orangette’s banana breads, with demerara sugar and coconut. Wow, those were good.

And the roadtrip element went fine–Lux is now in a forward-facing carseat, which she loves. I picked up approximately 12 new books from the library for her to read. We stopped after two hours to run sprints in a McDonalds and pick up a bouncy ball from the vending machines. I got one of those gas station mocha cappuccinos as an ode to when Joe asked me out to a gas station for coffee in college. It tasted so bad, but also, so good?

porch river team pancake_breakfast

We were lucky enough to spot a flyer for a pancake breakfast on the wall at the grocery store. (The grocery store was a dismal junk packed place, but they did have local grassfed milk!) I noticed the flyer promised real maple syrup which instantly sold me on the idea. When we arrived there was a host wearing a sport coat and we each got little forms to fill out, to please X if we wanted pancakes and sausage and eggs, and how we wanted the eggs. As three teenage volunteers sat by chatting in the corner, a man in his 70s carefully served us and poured our coffee. Between his tip jar and the donate-what-you-can entry fee, I think they made off quite well from our visit!

lux_pancakes townold_pendeleton handtied photo_cutout

These photo cutout boards remind me of going to the zoo as a kid. I love them, but you rarely see them. Some unknown town artist really embellished Roscoe, there were five of them!bocce_through_the_window bocce

Lots and lots of fires. Fires in the mornings, fires in the evening. Fires in the fireplace inside, fires outside. Fires with smores, fires with bloody marys.

fireside_drinkslawn_racing

And here’s where we stayed, just in case you want to visit too. I think the summer would be wonderful here–creek swimming and grassy lawn games.

Booked!

rome_apartment3

I mentioned that we were using the addictively clickable airbnb to find a spot in Rome. Well, I quickly became overwhelmed by the options and let Joe take over. After a couple of late nights, he found this spot and we booked it! It’s the location we wanted, Campo di Fiori, a one bedroom (4th floor walk up, gulp) with a crib, and the perfect patio. It was important to us that we’d be comfortable just staying in most nights since Lux will probably go to bed early.

This patio + salami + extra candles = best restaurant in town.

large-3large-4rome_airbnb

I appreciate that things like a full kitchen and free wifi are assumed with apartment rentals. It’s amazing how hotels sound so lovely when it’s just the two of you, but with a rambunctious kiddo the space of an apartment seems so much more relaxing.

The only sad part for me with a rental v. hotel, and this is just silly, is that you have to go hunting for your breakfast. I’ve been using Elizabeth Minchilli’s Eat Rome app to scout out relaxed bars nearby for breakfast.

 

Animal Prints in the Hudson Valley

Last weekend we went to a tiny (50 people) wedding in the Hudson Valley. The Hudson Valley begins about an hour north of New York City, and lies about 4 hours west of Boston. We stayed at this cabin, found through airbnb. It was an tough decision to spend a little extra for the trip when we were booking the place (our airbnb hosts required a 2 night reservation) but once we arrived I was so grateful that we stayed somewhere relaxing and fun.

I don’t know how I managed to pack all the cheetah print things (2) Lux owns for one weekend, but there it is. It might explain why the chickens were terrified of her. Yes, the bangs are a situation right now. Product developers: I suggest looking into hairclip glue for toddlers.

There were literally kittens, KITTENS, frolicking in the yard. At the grocery store up the street, everyone casually bought a bag of cider donuts with their morning coffee. THESE ARE MY PEOPLE. I thought to myself.

I sat on the front porch and worked on an embroidery project–badges for the bride and groom to wear around to announce their new status to the world. Lately I am loving these types of projects, especially ones I can give away immediately. Joe sketches it for me and I stitch. Do you need a badge in your life? let me know.

I have not attended very many small weddings but this one was just perfection.

Everyone arrived in time for dinner the night before. It was held at a small inn, and as the evening progressed, toddlers and young children were lulled to sleep and tucked into bed in whatever rooms were available. There was a bowl of mint and many bottles of bulleit bourbon. The guest list was so small that the bride was able to introduce each person to the rest of the group, a real treat when you know you want to be friends with everyone in the room. We drew pictures of our hopes for the new couple. I roughly sketched Cuba (because that’s where they met!) accidentally using a purple crayon for the ocean, but while I put Lux to bed Joe rescued it.

At lunch the next day, we ate for almost five hours. Again toddlers were tucked away in rooms (I walked in on a little one sleeping while hunting for a bed for Lux!) and checked on now and then. Conversation and sunlight ebbed around the tables. Before dessert there was a brief pause to break two pinatas in the yard. Guests favors were little boxes of French macarons and French herbal tea.

Right before we left Boston, Noelle posted this breezy quiche that uses frozen spinach and pie crust. I made it for the trip and we ate it for breakfast every morning. If you’re traveling, I think something like this is perfect because it tastes good at all temperatures and doesn’t get that road-weary look that old sandwiches do. Frozen spinach is my favorite for how easy it is to work with.

 

 

Guide to Boston

Today I have a GUIDE TO BOSTON on Bridget’s blog! I’m delighted have this opportunity. Bridget has approximately 3000 more readers than ED so it is an honor. Bridget’s an all natural mama who I hang out with regularly, and I always leave inspired.

It’s not a comprehensive guide, but it is a collection of the things I write, over and over again, in emails to friends and friends of friends and people I met once who heard I lived here. I will end up writing thirty comments at the bottom of other great things I love, but you just have to stop the buck somewhere with these things. ED needs its own guide to Boston, but until then this is it.

Enjoy!

 

Weekends Away

This weekend, at long last, we’re meeting two of my high school best friends in New Jersey with their husbands. It’s my first time visiting New Jersey for vacation and I think it will be beautiful! The water is supposed to be warm, and the beaches should be empty. I hope Jenny brings her favorite Nicaraguan rum and I hope Grace treats us to Vegan gourmet. We found the place where we’re all staying through airbnb. It has a fireplace and bikes, and best of all: just a quick trip to the beach.

If you’ve never browsed airbnb.com, beware! The site is completely addictive. In October a friend is having a tiny wedding in the Hudson Valley, and we found a spot on airbnb for that too. A little cabin with farm animals. Before Lux I would have been like “um, animals in the morning? No thanks.” But now I booked it almost immediately after I found it. It also has a hot tub, Check it out:

This would never work in our tiny apartment, but I love the idea of renting a room in your home for passing travelers. I also think airbnb attracts a hipper younger traveling crowd than other rental sites, so it’d be a great way to meet new people. Have you used them before?

 

travelogue || new york

I’m listening to saxophony jazz on this rainy day. The buskers we encountered over the weekend all seemed to be playing saxophone.  Lux fell in love with one of them and stopped to wave at him every five steps as we walked away. He waved back every time.

We went to the MOMA to see the exhibit the century of the child. It was clearly very cool but we couldn’t read much of it because of the child. Instead we hung out in the courtyard. And we did leave inspired to buy at tripp trapp high chair. (and fortunately there’s a very informative interactive website, so I can follow up on all the stuff I saw.)

We “waited” for two hours for ramen at ippudo (actually, we left and came back, then snacked at the bar, then got a table). Do you have ramen envy? I did. It felt like all the foodies were talking about ramen. Maybe it was reading that first issue of lucky peach. Ramen restaurants make their own broth combinations, their own noodles, and suggest different toppings like soft boiled eggs. mmmmmm I’d love to go back.

Lux woke up at 6am every morning. Thus we went to a number of coffee shops. If you’re traveling on a budget, just buying coffee in different places is a fun way to tour. (pictured here, Gasoline Alley)

After following them on twitter for two years I finally visited the bookstore Mcnally Jackson. That bookstore is beautifully designed and thoughtfully spacious, despite being rather small. These people know the power of typography.

My second-to-youngest brother Wilson is just starting his freshman year of college. Can you imagine, freshman year in New York? Amazing. We shared fresh churros at an inviting little cafe called La Churreria.

Liege waffles with yogurt, blueberries and coffee from a Japanese cafe called Caffe Bene. They are in Time Square, enormous and have free wifi. It’s an interesting spot to visit—the cafe is styled almost like a retail space with hip library-esque decorations and nice light fixtures. And the coffee, just normal drip coffee, was really good.

I used the New York Time’s free app the scoop to find a few of these places, especially all the espresso spots. I rely on Ashely’s Hither and Thither blog for all good NYC recommendations. 

Buying raw milk

Summer goal accomplished! Buying raw milk is something I wish I could do regularly, but had never done until two weeks ago. I’m intrigued that folks who have a hard time with lactose say that raw milk doesn’t bother them a bit. Even more intriguing was the promise of flavor—raw milk fans say the flavor is nothing like the boiled pasteurized stuff. So we slipped a trip to Robinson’s Farm on the way to the Book Mill and Tanglewood to pick up a few gallons.  In Massachusetts raw milk regulations require farmers to sell directly from their farm property. This keeps me from being able to buy it with any frequency, but I like the idea: see for yourself how clean our shop is, and buy if it looks good.

Raw milk is $8 a gallon! For the farmers this higher price, paid directly into their money box, makes it possible to make a healthy living wage. Robinson’s also makes amazing aged cheese. One of them was called barn dance; best cheese name ever.

Look at all the reserved gallons! While we were there, multiple people pulled up, hopped out of their cars, picked up a couple gallons and headed on their way. Lucky ducks.

We started drinking it immediately. It was delicious. So creamy it almost looked faintly yellow, you shake up the whole gallon to mix the layer of cream on top. It was satisfying in a way skim milk could only claim on TV, one small cup was enough for me….until five minutes later when I wanted more. I am not exaggerating: I think I could taste the green grass the cows had munched to make the milk. And we had to chase down the cows–a good sign! Their pastures ranged far and wide and they were taking advantage of it.*We brought home another gallon and made mozzarella from it. It took one gallon to make 3/4 of pound of cheese. It was so delicious, but now I have no problem paying $6 for 1/2 pound of fresh mozzarella–it’s real work to make fresh cheese!

What about you? I’d love to be able to buy this regularly, and switch over to drinking all raw. Do you get to buy raw milk? Would you if location allowed?

*I’m curious to see what happens to grassfed dairy products this fall. Typical cornfed products are going way up because of the drought out west—will they soon be comparable to grassfed prices? Or will both go up?

Most raw milk farms are in Western Mass. There are several that sell raw milk, including Upinngil and Codman Farm. Cook Farm also sells ice cream and keeps the cows close by for the kids’ viewing sake. I’d love to go there next time.

The Nantucket Perfect List

This post is a combination of two things.

1. All of the photos are from last week’s vacation (instagrams are perfect for vacation photos, don’t you think?).

2. All of the text comprises my “perfect list” of the things I’d recommend to anyone, anytime, to always do. For the most part, the photos have nothing to do with the text. So sorry, but I think it’ll work.

Here’s the thing about Nantucket. It’s expensive and prohibitive. They charge you to park on the mainland side (cheapest parking is at the bus lot). They charge you to ferry over on the slowest boat possible, or they charge you to fly over on the shortest flight known to mankind. Food also must ferry over, so menu prices will make you wince. Many of the shops seem to be full of cashmere and ridiculous gold jewelry. The drabbest bed and breakfast could cost your whole vacation budget.

But here’s the other thing about Nantucket: the entire thing is encircled with beaches. Each one has a new view, or a new type of wave, or a new feeling of pure freedom to encounter. It’s 99% independent businesses owned by quirky humans, most of them there because they adore the place. The breeze seems to be always blowing. The architectural restrictions that mean every single house must have cedar shingles and white trim? It works so well that your eyes relax and notice all the wildflowers for once.

And it can be relished, truly loved, for not too much money.

Best case scenario: someone with a house invites you out. God bless em, this happens every once in awhile. But other best case scenario: stay at the cutest hostel in the world! Take the shuttle out, or bring your bike on the ferry and bike out. Take the bus down from Boston, bring your bike on the ferry, stay here, and save your pennies for the food!

alright, on to the perfect list:

Milky Coffee and the Breakfast Special at the Pharmacy You can do the brunch scene with it twenty minute waits, or you can do this. Particularly when hungover, I prefer this. Sit at the counter if you can, or just call your order to the girls behind the counter. The breakfast special is a genius combination of onion bagel, bacon, tomato, salt and pepper and cream cheese . It arrives in splendor on a paper plate. They mix your cream and sugar into your coffee, and it turns out dessert style.Lounging inside and outside the Library An oasis in the heat, the Nantucket Athenaeum is a beautiful free spot: cool inside and full of books! I love to sit for an hour with a few magazines to take a break from the bustle of town. Or bring your own book and sit in their shaded grassy yard.a walk to the Bake Shop for donuts Just outside town, the Bake Shop competes with Downy Flake for island’s best donut. I love this little bakery for its old school vibe. It’s absolutely full of options and I never know what to order, I just point at a bunch of things and make off with my paper sack of goodies.

Sandwiches in the yard at Something Natural There are 4+ great sandwiches shops on Nantucket but you’ll see stickers for Something Natural on almost every car. The beautiful ambling lawn out front, the addictively fresh Portuguese bread, and the scenic Cliffside Road address surely all contribute to this. Ideal for a quick bike ride outside of town, order one of their enormous sandwiches, pick up a Nantucket Nectar, and lounge in the shade.

Day Drinking at Cisco Brewery Truth is, everyone will tell you to go here. By 4pm this ramshackle lot can be incredibly crowded and you’ll see the line of parked cars as soon as you turn onto Bartlett Road. But around 2pm on a weekday there’s a good chance you can find a chair in the shade. Sometimes there’s a visiting raw bar selling plates of bluefish dip and crackers. Sometimes there’s a portable pizza oven. Sometimes there’s no food at all, just beer of all sorts, waiting for a tasting. Pennsylvania Dutch Cakes and Bacon at Black Eyed Susan’s If you can get there before eight, you’ll barely have to wait for table. If you don’t, don’t get scared by the crowd out front. Just put your name on the list and walk around town for 30 minutes. Every single thing on the menu is delicious, every seat in the house feels like the perfect spot, and the coffee is bottomless. I do not think it gets better than this.Pillaging island vintage at the Take-it or Leave-it Everyone is required to take their own trash to the dump and sort the recyclables carefully. Once there (and you can bike there!) you’ll see shack in the corner of the dump’s parking lot. Everyone has a story about their favorite free find here–beautiful editions of old books, the perfect sweater, that grill accessory you needed for the week, a beach toy for your baby, etc. We try to go at least a couple times a week when we’re on island. At the end of the week, we go through our stuff and donate to the pile!Hat-gawking at Peter Beaton This place is the classiest. She had striped shirts, signature custom sunglasses and amazing sun hats long before all these jokers showed up. Her window is full of ribbon options, the hats are all so enticing and the little sign guiding you to the shop might be the most charming one in town.Picking up wine from the Bookstore in Sconset If you bring your bikes (or rent them) the longest ride out of town is to Sconset, 8.2 miles. Sconset is perfect for pleasant wandering about, every street is lovely and most corners reveal a view. We love to pick out wine from the Bookstore, a wonderfully curated shop that is attached to the restaurant next door (which is byob, so it works perfectly!). You can always take the shuttle back to town (2 bikes fit on the front).Waiting in the endless line at the Juice Bar  The wall is covered with painted signs listing the choices (fresh watermelon juice! homemade fudge! fresh orange juice and vanilla shake!) the fan blows fresh waffle hot air in your face and, come nightfall, the line is around the block. I take that as a certain sign that it’s the spot to be. Chips and Burgers at Surfside Beach To me this place is ideal Nantucket: affordable, friendly, simple, and classy. I love seeing the kids run up from the beach with their dollars in hand, lining up for slush puppies, burgers, bags of Ruffle potato chips, or frozen candy bars. Watch out for the seagulls here! They are dive bombers with a keen eye for an unwatched burger. Bonus: surfside beach is the easiest beach to bike to and it has the cleanest bathrooms and showers. You can drive, bike, or take the shuttle.Bluefish Dip from East Coast Seafood Just before you turn down the road to Cisco Brewery, you’ll see a sign for 167 Seafood. This is my favorite spot to buy seafood–I love the way the shop carries just the right things for seafood buyers, I love how fresh everything is, and I love their bluefish dip. A container of that is the perfect snack for any Nantucket adventure.

Spending Money at Provisions, Straight Wharf Bar, and Straight Wharf  Everything this trio of businesses does, they do perfectly. Between the three they’ve got you covered for a morning brunch, a boozy drink and bar snack, or an expensive deluxe dinner.

I just noticed this could also be called “a guide to shade on Nantucket.”  ha!

Maine Last Weekend

We went to bed so early! What is it about being away from your living room, with its built-in suggestion of tasks and chores, and away from your laptop, that makes it so easy to go to bed?! The sun poured through our windows beginning at 5am and I didn’t mind since we’d gone to bed at 10pm.

We had lobster rolls on our first evening. I like a place that toasts the roll, assumes chips are included, and sells it to you for $11. Unheard of in Boston. Thurston’s also served potato salad with fresh dill, bits of red onion, and corn. And a corn and crab chowder that was almost entirely piles of shredded crab. We shared a pitcher of a breezy drinkable beer called Thurston’s Lobster Ale, of unknown origin.

We tried peaches on the grill. Flesh side down, they ended up tasting faintly smokey but wonderfully warm and mushy. We ate them with vanilla ice cream mixed with grape nuts. Apparently this is a standard flavor in Maine. Strangely delicious. “Like a perfectly soggy bowl of cereal,” Joe said. I wouldn’t agree with that since I don’t like soggy cereal, but it does describe the texture.

We went for exactly one hike to the top of one mountain. At the top there was a puddle full of silky mud that Lux fairly slithered into. She ended up coated in mud and had to be hiked back down half naked.

A soup kitchen was raising funds by serving dozens of popovers, four different kinds of jams, and coffee in small tea cups. Obviously we had to attend. Then we wandered out to the rocky shores to hunt for rocks to give our stone-carving friend (we didn’t find any good ones).

I started reading My Family and Other Animals because it was on the shelves of the cottage where we were staying. It’s a memoir of a family that moved to an island in Greece in the 1930s, written by the youngest brother. I love it.

Lux has an empty jar of almond flavoring in her mouth. The perfect size for sore gums to chew on.

Links for travel in Southwest Harbor & Bar Harbor: seriously spectacular ice cream at Mt. Desert Ice Creampiled on lobster rolls at Thurston’s, a soup kitchen that also sells meals at Common Good Soup Kitchen, buy clams, mussels, and eggs only from Rat’s and always from Rat’s.