Brimfield Antiques Fair

Guess what’s coming up soon! One of my most favorite times of the year: Brimfield! What is Brimfield you say? Well, only just the treasure-hunter’s, antique-lover’s, junk-picker’s paradise! 14 acres chock full of weird and wonderful stuff! Brimfield Antiques Fair is held three times a year in Brimfield, Massachusetts, and it is always worth a trip. You literally never know what you will find there! Some years I’ve gone all three times, and some years just once, but I don’t think I’ve skipped a summer since finding out about it in 2012. While a bit more crowded (and a bit more pricey!) than it used to be, it is still very fun to poke around, even if you go just to look.

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Back when I was newly married, and first setting up house, I used to buy lots of things at Brimfield, to fill in the gaps for things we needed, and replace “boring” things with antique or prettier versions, such as intricate silverware or fun little juice glasses. Then I went on a bit of a Marie Kondo-inspired minimalism/tiny house/wanting to live in a yurt kick and went a couple years without buying ANYTHING at Brimfield- just going to look around (which was still wicked fun!) And now, this year, some of the practical little things I purchased for our home back in 2012 need replacing – our cloth napkins are stained, our dish cloths ragged, our juice glasses and all but 1 of our water glasses have broken. So I will once again be shopping for practical things at Brimfield. I love holding out for the treasure hunt. I will gladly wait a year until I find the perfect, old antique thing before I drive out to a box store or order something online. Finding the perfect little thing for your home at Brimfield is just so fun! And it feels better to re-use something and give it a new life, especially knowing that it was made during a time period where quality was prized over quantity and profit.

 It can be overwhelming the amount of stuff there is. I find if you LOVE something and it is totally unique and a cheap price Рjust buy it then and there. If you hesitate at all, take a photo of it (ask the dealer first! sometimes they get mad about photos) and then at lunch, scroll through the photos of things and see which things you forgot about already and which you are still thinking about. The things you forgot about should probably not go home with you.

In terms of practicality, there are a few things to consider. Brimfield is HUGE. There is no way to see it all in one day (believe me I’ve tried, as I’m sure my mother and friends will attest!) If you try to see it all in one day, it is exhausting and I think you end up seeing less in a weird way, cause you are only just skimming the surface. The tents line both sides of Route 20 in Massachusetts. The traffic from Highway 90 is AWFUL. If you can go any other route (such as coming in from the North on route 19/Warren Road – do it! I’ve sat in traffic on 20 for 2 hours before). I’ve tried all manner of parking arrangements- park in the beginning, drive to the very end and park, park in the middle- either way, it does not matter- you will never be able to see it all in one day. Just make sure you wear very comfortable shoes! If you go in July or September, it can be very hot! May is my favorite time to go- what a way to kick off the summer time! No matter what month you go, the earlier you arrive, the better and the more you will get to see.

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Yes, dogs are allowed! This was such a cute pup we met ūüôā

If you end up buying a really big, bulky piece, the dealer will generally be kind enough to hold it for you until the end of the day (most dealers pack up between 4 and 6 pm) at which point, you can somehow navigate your car through the maze to get to them and pack up your find! If you plan to buy a lot of little things, carry a tote bag, or even better, a backpack to keep yourself hands free. Bring snacks and water with you – believe me, you will not want to walk all the way back to your car. I’ve even stashed my lunch by a tree somewhere so I didn’t have to walk all the way back to my car, but I’m not going to “officially” recommend that – hehe it was a good idea though. Of course, there is food to purchase in the middle of it all, but it is expensive and there are not too many healthy options (although that changes every year!) – think “Fair Food”.

I’ve gone in rain or shine, and though I prefer shine, rain isn’t so bad. All the dealers are under tents, and it is less crowded in the rain. Just make sure you wear the right jacket and footwear for moisture or you will be miserable. The fairs run from Tuesdays to Sundays, although some dealers (and entire fields!) do not open until Wednesday, and some do not stay all the way until Sunday. I’ve generally gone on a Friday. It’s not too picked over at that point, and it’s close enough to the end of the week where you can sometimes haggle a deal. Most dealers don’t mind you making a reasonably lower offer (especially if you are buying multiple things from them or a bigger piece). Some dealers are not super friendly- just telling the truth. You will quickly figure out their attitude ūüôā

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Taken  from the official Brimfield Antiques Show Website, the dates for the 2019 shows are: May 14th through 19th, July 9th through 14th, and September 3rd through 8th. Mark your calendar for the dates now, so you can plan on getting there. Have fun!!!

Concord, Massachusetts

Historic homes of America’s literary finest! Cute antique shops! A quaint New England town! These are all statements I’ve heard about Concord, Massachusetts. And then, when I saw the Orchard House while watching Little Women (the one with Winona Ryder) this winter and learned that parts of the movie were actually filmed in Concord, I knew I had to get there. So for our annual Adventure Day, my mother in law Karen and I headed to Concord, Massachusetts.img_7583First on our loose agenda was The Alcott Family’s Orchard House, pictured above. This is indeed what the front of the house looked like in the movie I watched, but pretty much everything else was different. I don’t know why it didn’t hit me that we are visiting the house in 2017, not the 1800s, but I was expecting the orchards, gardens, and surrounding stately homes (Lorie’s house!? haha) pictured in the movie. Instead, we have this beautiful home, full of history, right on the side of what is now a very loud and busy road. And all of the land surrounding the house has been chopped up into house lots. Ah, “Progress”…¬†But, I digress. It was still exciting to be able to tour the Alcott’s former home. Our tour guide was very thorough and knowledgable and shared the highlights of this interesting family’s accomplishments, struggles, and day to day minutiae. Sadly, no photography was allowed in the house, which is a shame, but I do understand. The tours would take twice as long if everyone was clamoring over one another to all get photos of everything. My favorite part of the house were the drawings and paintings done by May Alcott, the youngest daughter, many of them drawn directly on the walls. The Alcott family couldn’t afford to buy their daughter art paper so they let the walls be her canvases and drawing paper but only if she was “trying her very best”. I love that so much. Bravo Bronson and Marmee! Not only did I think it was stellar parenting, but what a talent their daughter truly had! These weren’t just doodles on the walls, she drew ancient figures, cherubs, portraits, and animals- all done so well! It’s worth doing the tour just to see May’s artwork.
img_7591img_7585It was also very touching to see the very writing desk Louisa May used to write her novels, and we learned that she wrote Little Women in just 6 weeks! Touring the house was worth doing, it was a definite highlight of our day trip to Concord. We felt a bit hungry after the tour (it was about an hour long), and I saw a place called Haute Coffee on my maps app, so we headed there. It was a good choice.

Karen and I both drink decaf (such a sadness for me) but this place had some very decent decaf. I can only imagine what their regular espresso must taste like, yum!! Randomly and kindly (hehe) we were the happy victims of a random act of kindness when the women in front of us in line paid for our coffees. Thank you, lady in front of us! Their lunch food was excellent too (homemade pickles served with our grilled sandwiches!), all around just a great spot. Highly recommended for a light lunch and awesome coffee.img_7615img_7611img_7619

img_7643Our hunger sated and our yummy decafs consumed, we took to the streets for a stroll to see the historic homes and businesses up close. We wandered into an open art gallery. We poked into a few shops. We went into a florist that was hugely expensive (a recurring theme in a lot of the shops I found out…) but still beautiful to look around anyways. My favorite shop by far was Nesting. A small shop at the top of a plant-lined staircase, it was packed literally to the brim with unique home decorations, natural curiosities, beauty and bath supplies, jewelry, stationary, kids toys, and antiques. There was so much to look at it was hard to know where to start. But we meandered on through, ooing and awing as we went.img_7635img_7637

img_7633img_7638We then poked around a couple of antiques shops, and even stumbled upon a little gem of a place, a small cheese and wine shop, which we strolled around happily. I had wanted to also include a trip to nearby Walden Pond, but when we drove the few miles down the road to it, we found it completely packed and not free. Just as well, because at that point in the day, I was very tired out (still feeling the slight effects of anesthesia from a procedure at the hospital the day before while simultaneously coming down with a cold). So we bid Concord goodbye and headed on home.img_7646img_7652

img_7649While I thoroughly enjoyed my day in Concord (fatigue set aside), I wouldn’t rush to get back there (unless I started to drink caffeinated coffee again that is, Haute Coffee I would go!). I did find it overly expensive, and quite loud with traffic and crowded with people (though it was just a random Wednesday). I suppose it is essentially a busy suburb of Boston, so I shouldn’t have expected a quaint New England village with people impersonating Emerson and Hawthorne running around the streets. Creepy as that might have been, I did expect a quieter type of place. But, as all of the brilliant writers and thinkers who inhabited Concord no doubt sensed even in their time (maybe especially in their time), progress marches on. Sometimes for good. But more often than not, progress just leads to less quiet time for writing and thinking (I think).img_7589

Tropical Air in New England

When the months of March and April roll around, nearly everyone in New England (even a winter lover like me) is ready for some warm weather. It’s true we do get the occasional 70 degree day in springtime, but mostly it’s just in-between-limbo weather: not too warm to enjoy being outside and not cold enough to be snug in by a fire. This March was particularly cold. On one really raw and rainy day, almost freezing, my husband and I decided we needed some air that felt tropical, so we headed down to The Butterfly Place in Westford, MA.¬†fullsizeoutput_15d7MagicWings2We are enormous fans of butterfly conservatories. Just sitting in the warm air watching the butterflies flit by is so calming. For our 3rd anniversary last year we chose to take a day trip to another butterfly conservatory in Massachusetts: Magic Wings in Deerfield. Both conservatories offer tropical plants, warm air, exotic birds, little quails running around (the quail are the “clean-up crew”), soothing background music, small ponds with fish, and of course, butterflies of all kinds. The photos in this post were taken from the two separate visits to the two separate locations.

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Overall, we enjoyed Magic Wings a lot more than The Butterfly Place, although, being in Deerfield, it is a much further trek from where we live. Magic Wings is much bigger then The Butterfly Place in Westford, and offers more secluded sitting spaces. It also has a wider variety of flowers; it is literally a large indoor tropical botanic garden.¬†While both places have a pond, the pond at Magic Wings is larger and has¬†a bridge over it, where one can perch and watch the huge, multi-colored koi fish swim. I’m not trying to downgrade The Butterfly Place, but Magic Wings is just a truly special experience that can be made into a day long adventure. When we went there last fall, Ethan and I sat under a plant covered arbor for nearly two hours, just soaking it all in.fullsizeoutput_15d4

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MagicWings16MagicWings1So if you need an escape into 80 degree air, and want to feel like you are in a tropical paradise for a couple of hours, look no farther than either one of Massachusetts’ beautiful butterfly conservatories. While Magic Wings holds a special place in our hearts, The Butterfly Place is worth a trip also. You might even have a butterfly land on you ūüôāMagicWings11

Le Lyonnais Restaurant

Ethan and I stumbled across a hidden gem of a restaurant while taking the back way home a few weeks ago. We were driving through Acton, Massachusetts when I noticed a cute white Colonial style house with a sign out front that read: Le Lyonnais Restaurant. “That looks like a perfect place!” I exclaimed, and Ethan dutifully turned the car around. I’m so glad we did, as we found a place that had a cozy atmosphere, attentive service, and really great food.IMG_1820Right on the side of 2A in Acton,¬†Le Lyonnais¬†is owned by Chef Gerard Lebrosse, who is indeed from Lyon, France. All of his food is cooked to order, and he uses classical French cooking techniques that he learned in France. The restaurant itself is so quaint, with four separate dining rooms, each in different rooms of the colonial house. We were seated in a bright room with a lovely view of the river in the backyard. Our server was named Gail, and she was so friendly and¬†attentive, we really appreciated her service. There were fresh poppies on each table, and real candles burning which made for a nice atmosphere. I even liked the bathroom decor- framed vintage prints on an even more vintage brocade wallpaper.


img_1838img_1850And as for the food… it was great! Ethan said his French Onion Soup was the best he’s ever had. I tried the house country pate as my appetizer. Served over a green salad with homemade dressing, it was excellent! Our entrees did not disappoint either. Ethan tried the evening’s special: seafood Paella, which was filled with tender fish, shrimp, scallops, and even lobster. I had the Brook Trout Almandine. It was buttery and delicious, served with rice and many vegetable sides! We both had plenty left over to take home all well- the portions were a very good size. I liked that they offered a fixed price menu, so I could get an appetizer, an entree and a dessert for a better deal than if I had to order all of those separately. I had chocolate mousse for dessert and Ethan had a caramel flan- both were scrumptious. When we were leaving, Chef Gerard came out to meet us, which was very sweet. We complimented him highly of course, he is a great chef!

 

img_1844Going out for a nice dinner is definitely a treat for us. Because I am more confident in my own kitchen and beginning to actually enjoy cooking at home, if I pay a lot extra to have my meal cooked for me, it’s got to be good. Really good. No more chain restaurants for me, if I can help it! Going out to eat is also just too expensive. When saving for Chile, it was one of the things we made an effort to cut out, and since we returned, we’ve still kept going out to eat to a minimum. We go maybe once a month, if that. Which is a shame, because I do love it so much (not having to do dishes might be the best part! haha). So anyways, the point I’m trying to make is that if we spend the money to go out to eat, not only does the food have to be great, but I’m looking for atmosphere and nice service too. In all of these facets,¬†Le Lyonnais did not disappoint. If you’re looking for a special place to get a really nice meal, or if you really love French food, give Le Lyonnais a try.img_1856

Worcester, You Surprised Me.

Worcester, Massachusetts. Generally not on the top of my list of places I want to go (to be honest). It’s usually the city I am zooming through on my way to get somewhere else. It appears to be just houses on top of houses. I never thought of it as overly interesting or appealing. However, my own preconceived Worcester ideas were recently corrected on two separate trips to the city.
img_5133On one of my trips there, a lovely local friend showed me a few of her favorite spots in Worcester. The first was a interesting plant and curiosity shop called Seed to Stem. It is chock full of little succulents, fossils, gems, ferns, and other tropical looking plants. The shop feels like you are stepping into a giant cabinet of curiosities, it’s really awesome. Walking around there was literally a breath of fresh air; because of the¬†abundance of plants in there, it just felt like the cleanest air you could possibly breathe.¬†fullsizeoutput_1513

fullsizeoutput_14f2fullsizeoutput_151afullsizeoutput_1514Cool shop, right?! The building which houses Seed to Stem is also home to some other really funky and unique shops and cafes (even a barber shop). We poked around the¬†Crompton Collective, a mixed dealer antiques/vintage shop which also displays work from local artists and makers. All of this goodness can be found at 138 Green Street in Worcester. It’s definitely worth checking out! To top off our day, we got lunch at a great little Middle Eastern restaurant called Bahnan’s Bakery, which can be found at 344 Pleasant Street in Worcester. I enjoyed some fresh falafel with yogurt sauce and a yummy cabbage salad. I got some grape leaves stuffed with rice and sausage to go, and they were delicious as well.

A couple of months later, I made a second trip to Worcester to attend the Worcester Art Museums’¬†Flora in Winter. Local florists are assigned a piece of artwork from the Museum’s collection and create elaborate floral arrangements based on the piece. The floral works of art are scattered throughout the entire museum, paired with the piece of artwork that inspired them. It’s fun to go through a museum as it is, but when there are gorgeous and creative flower arrangements around just about every corner, it makes for an extra special museum day. (Seed to Stem even had an arrangement on display for Flora in Winter, third picture below).img_0086fullsizeoutput_12d7img_0071

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img_0152img_0105I had never gone to the Worcester Museum of Art before, and I enjoyed it. It isn’t huge or sprawling like the Boston Museum of Fine Art, which was nice, because I didn’t feel like I was wandering in continuous circles missing things (as I often feel whenever I’m at the MFA in Boston). It is easy to see why Flora in Winter is WMA’s most popular and biggest fundraising event. The flower arrangements really made the Museum shine. I don’t think I would go back there, unless it was during their Flora in Winter display. It was just so interesting how the different florists interpreted their assigned artwork. There were also just big and colorful arrangements placed throughout the halls between the galleries, making the whole atmosphere of the Museum more inviting. There is no date yet for the Flora in Winter display for 2018, but I hope you and I can make it there for it.img_0120Worcester, you surprised me. It just goes to show me, yet again, the importance of keeping an open mind; and to never be guided by my own assumptions.¬†fullsizeoutput_1515

A Simple Beach Picnic

This past weekend some best friends and I celebrated a milestone in our lives together: 20 years of friendship with each other. We went back and forth trying to decide on what special thing we would do together. We agreed that a picnic dinner on the beach on Plum Island, Massachusetts was just the thing.

When we arrived on Plum Island, we turned right to enter the Sandy Point State Reservation, paid $5.00 for our car to enter the gated nature preserve, and drove all the way to the very tip of the island, admiring the coastal marsh scenery along the way. We chose our beach spot, spread the picnic blankets, and laid out our feast.
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For a simple (but filling) beach picnic, here’s what to bring:¬†

Logistics~ blankets that can get sandy, an insulated bag or cooler, a picnic basket, flatware & plates (use the real thing! single-use plastic is the worst thing ever invented), a bag to put the dirty dishes in when you are done, a cutting board, sharper knife (to cut the bread and cheese), and if you want to get real fancy, cloth napkins (cloth napkins are also advantageous because they won’t blow away in the wind). For drinks, we each brought our own refillable water bottles. Wine would have been nice, but I forgot it and the glasses.

Food~ we basically just cut up a baguette and made our own crostini concoctions with the following delicious treats: marinated mixed olives, artichoke hearts, roasted garlic cloves, brie cheese, cranberry-fig encrusted goat cheese, blackberries, mixed veggie slaw, and dill smoked salmon. Were I to do this again (which I surely will) I would include some meat too- prosciutto and salami Рand also some hard cheeses Рparmesan and manchego Рto be exact. But we ate our fill and had fun making different yummy combinations.

Practical~ make sure to bring¬†sunglasses even at sunset, so you can safely watch the sun go down. A sweater is nice too because it’s windy on the beach and always colder than you think it will be by the water. Flip flops, because even though I don’t consider September to be a flip-flop month, I regretted wearing my Tom’s shoes to the beach. I feel they will forever be filled with sand now.

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I hope we have a few more warm weeks this season to enjoy another beach picnic. This outing served to remind me that even just a couple hours on the beach is worth it, the simplest meals are the tastiest, and friendship -for any amount of years- is worth celebrating.

Antiques & Castle Hill

Recently, my mother in law and I have instituted Adventure Days- and I highly recommend ¬†them. When both of us happen to have a free day at the same time, we fill up the gas tank, chose a direction, and set off to explore the area fully. Because it doesn’t happen very often, I think long and hard about our itinerary to make sure we see as much as we can and don’t miss anything special in the areas that we drive to. Our most recent jaunt took us to North-Central Massachusetts where we planned to spend our day checking out various antique stores we could find, having lunch in the historic town of Groton, and hiking to the ruins of a Castle on Gibbet Hill in Groton. We did just that, and it was splendid.

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img_1977Seriously, this castle ruin is amazing (Castle History and Map to Ruins Here). ¬†All that is left now is the field stone shell, which is slowly being gloriously taken over by creeping ivy leaves (yes!). This place would be a perfect backdrop for any kind of photography session, especially an engagement shoot, you know, the romantic creeping ivy and all. Besides the beauty of the castle, there is also the hilltop setting to take in. The quick ten minute hike to get up there lends itself to a beautiful view of Groton’s countryside.

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Beautiful huh? You really need to go there to take in this view. Here’s how you get up there- From the town of Groton’s lovely center, take Route 40 (Lowell Road). Less than a mile up that road you will see Gibbet Hill Grill restaurant on the left. Soon after that, you will start seeing small dirt pull-offs on the left hand side of the road. Park in any one of these and the path to the castle runs parallel to Lowell Road and then eventually deviates uphill to the castle. Depending on where you park, it is only a 5 to 10 minute walk up to the castle, with gorgeous country views the entire way.

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We enjoyed lunch in Groton center at Salt & Light Cafe Bistro (159 Main Street, Groton MA) which served fresh and healthy food creatively- my favorite style. It was a well-decorated (look at that couch!), clean place with friendly service and a fairly large menu that we thoroughly enjoyed. Scattered throughout the day we visited a few of the area’s antique shops. The first shop was Hobart Village¬†(445 Main St, West Townsend MA), a sprawling, 2 story, mixed-dealer shop filled to the brim with antiques. Also in West Townsend is my personal favorite shop that I’ve found so far, My Husband & I Antiques (443 Main Street West Townsend MA). Unfortunately when we visited the owner was in the middle of a messy re-decoration of the shop, so my mother in law didn’t get to have the full experience. But usually the shop is styled so well- a mixture of curated antiques (many from France) and natural objects. I love when shops take the time to chose and style their items. The other shops we visited, all of which were fun and worth a visit if you like antiquing, were ¬†The Spaulding Cooperage¬†(1 South St, Townsend MA), Jeffrey’s Antiques (62 Chase Road, Lunenburg MA), and Upton House Antiques (275 King Street, Littleton MA). Go to Upton House if you like primitives!

What a nice time we had, and not very far from home! If you know of any other great antique shops (especially in Massachusetts) please let me know in the comments. I’m always looking to poke around in new ones. Thanks for stopping by the blog today. I will finish up with my favorite photo of the day ~ Until next time, Callista.

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