Strawberry Banke

If you love colonial New England history and architecture, there are few places better to visit than Strawberry Banke in Portsmouth, NH. Strawberry Banke is living history as it’s finest; a colonial village of historic homes that guests can stroll through at their leisure. Each home is decorated in a different historic American style, and docents at each home explain who lived there and what happened at the homes. There are also people dressed in period clothing who are sprinkled throughout doing various colonial jobs and tasks such as basket weaving, cobbling leather shoes, and tending the beautiful gardens.img_4028img_3971img_4035We made a special trip to Strawberry Banke for their annual Harvest Festival, which is held every October. If you look at the photo above, you can see the white tent set up. The tent was filled with local craftsmen and artisans selling their wares and works. There were also demonstrations going on, such as sheep herding and more animals on display than usual. The festival gave a lively and bustling atmosphere to an already wonderful place. We were a little worried about crowds, but it didn’t feel overly crowded because most people stayed around the main lawn where the tents were set up.img_4021My favorite thing about the place were the gardens (surprise, surprise). The big one behind the main ticket office is very formal and beautiful, with a fountain in the center. Most of the houses have a small section of garden near them, which are all beautiful in their own way. There are also many whimsical touches scattered around: a wooden tower made from weathered saplings decorated with strands of seashells and gourds, a little china tea set laid out on a log table, a dwelling made of branches kids can crawl into, and various arbors and trellises climbing with vines. We also enjoyed seeing the old greenhouse, filled with interesting plants, garden tools, and pretty vignettes.img_3965img_4009img_4002
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Most of the houses were open for self-guided touring, so we poked into many of them. The colonial decor varied in each house for different time periods, which kept it really interesting. I really liked the weaving house, and a nice woman there taught me the very basics of how to weave on a loom and let me give it a try.

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I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into Strawberry Banke. We thoroughly enjoyed visiting there during autumn and the Harvest Festival, but I’m sure it’s beautiful at any time of year. Also, check with your local library to see if they offer passes to the museum. We used our library’s passes, and were able to save $19 each on admission (the full cost). That made it an even better time at such a lovely place. img_4076

Sheep & Wool Festival

We went on up to Tunbridge, Vermont last weekend for the annual Sheep & Wool Festival. Nestled in a lovely green valley in the quaint village of Tunbridge, the festival is a fiber lovers’ paradise. Ethan and I were most interested in the sheepdog demonstration and the sheep shearing and we arrived in time to see both. We took a very long, meandering route up north, through the White Mountains of New Hampshire first and then cut over on route 302 to Vermont. Taking the long way was worth it. The fall foliage is beautiful up north, and driving through all of the small New Hampshire and Vermont towns was glorious. We especially loved the little town of Sugar Hill, New Hampshire where the following photo was taken. Sugar Hill definitely deserves further exploration. I will be going back up there again, and will surely do a more in-depth post on the area.
Processed with Snapseed.But anyways, back to the sheep and wool festival! I will admit, I was slightly disappointed in the festival. That being said, I think a large part of that feeling is due to the fact I am not  much of a knitter anymore. I realized last year that I had to give up a few hobbies or else I would never be able to focus on anything or accomplish anything. So, I still knit Ethan his one hat a year come November, but that is pretty much it. I’ve given up my aspirations of knitting sweaters and other complicated things that I never could wrap my mind around anyways (reading patterns, nope! haha) But the festival was still enjoyable and we had a good wander around for a couple hours, and that was really all the time it took to see everything and watch the two demonstrations- herding and shearing, which were interesting and worth seeing..
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The goat barn was fun to go through, there were so many different varieties. I also liked seeing all of the various vendors. The handmade tapestries were among my favorite things. The flowers around the barns were beautiful as well.

The sheep and wool festival is held at the beginning of October every year. I would go again simply to enjoy the foliage on the drive up there. And next time I may have to pick up some of this gorgeous yarn… Processed with Snapseed.Processed with Snapseed.Processed with Snapseed.

An Afternoon at the Harris Center

Nestled deep in beautiful Hancock, New Hampshire, the Harris Center for Conservation Education is the perfect place to take a walk. The grounds are open to the public and they welcome leashed dogs as well. I happened to be there a couple of weeks ago for an appreciation luncheon that the Hancock Town Library was putting on for it’s staff and volunteers. After a delicious meal and an educational and amusing lecture by one of the Center’s senior Naturalists, the guests funneled out to the parking lot but I just wasn’t ready to leave. The sun was finally out after a cloudy morning and the beautiful grounds of the Harris Center were calling to me… Processed with Snapseed.

I don’t know very much about the history of the house itself other than that it was a grand country summer estate in times past. The historical details on the property abound, from the built in stone benches tucked away under massive wisteria and grape vines to the diagonally latticed windows which make me feel like I’ve stepped into the English countryside. The stone work has just settled into the landscape as if it has always been there. And though I went there towards the end of September, the flower gardens were still filled with colorful blooms, especially the pollinators garden, which was mindfully planted with the appetite of native species of bees and butterflies in mind. The pollinators garden was humming with life as I carefully wound along the globe thistle, butterfly bushes, and coneflower. The garden was planted in the property’s former swimming pool- what a good repurposing idea! Planting flowers is always a good choice.

Processed with Snapseed.Because I was alone, I stuck to the grounds and did not venture out into the surrounding woods. They do have a vast trail system however, and one day I would like to explore all of them. Check out their list of trails here, on their website. But I was more than happy to stick to the grounds and spent well over an hour meandering about. They’ve kept most of the surrounding grassy areas as natural meadow except for pleasant mown paths which lead around the entire property in a large circle. On the far edge near the road, I found a patch of giant sunflowers, just about gone by. I will have to remember it’s there next year and visit just a couple weeks earlier so I can see them in their glory. Processed with Snapseed.

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So if you’re ever looking for a quiet, beautiful place to spend a bit of time look no further than the Harris Center in Hancock, NH. I could have sat on the old stone bench eating grapes from the vines over my head for hours (if the bench wasn’t covered in squashed grapes that is haha) I did sneak a few grapes 🙂 Processed with Snapseed.

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 – and also some hard cheeses – parmesan and manchego – to 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.

Classics Aren’t So Bad After All

Do you want to know why I am a really bad librarian? Well, other than the fact that I quit my library job… I have always been a bad librarian because I said for years that I “hated classics.” *everyone gasps* Yup. I said it. But now, in my older, wiser (ha!) years, I have decided to turn over a new leaf and give the classic literature another go. Perhaps it’s because I am at a different phase in life, or perhaps it’s because I am not forced to read these books in ridiculously large page amounts per night as an assignment, or perhaps because I am not tediously picking apart every passage to write a paper…I will say that classics are not so bad at all. I don’t think I hate them anymore. Rather, I think I love them. And I think I have been missing out all these years. img_2127Maybe we just started with a really good one? I say “we” because at the beginning of August, one of my best friends inspired me to start reading the classics. Because she is a good librarian (really, she is), she has been reading and enjoying classic books all along. I saw her reading Great Expectations one day, and I thought, “really, I ought to be reading that too” and thus the idea was planted in my mind that we should read the classics together to make it more fun for me. We decided to start with Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, because my good librarian friend was already in the midst of it and enjoying it. I picked it up from the library, dove right in, and thoroughly enjoyed it too! To my great surprise, it was a page-turner! I really liked it! I finished it quickly and it got me hungry for more classics. So I read through Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. While not as enthralling as Rebecca in my opinion, it was still a very good read and kept me interested. I will admit, I did have a little hiccup last week with Wuthering Heights. Sorry Emily Bronte… but I just couldn’t finish it. The characters were so unpleasant I truly wanted them out of my mind. I should finish it eventually but I needed a break. So my friend and I settled on Persuasion, my first time reading Jane Austen ever. I’m finding it a bit more difficult to get into then the other three classics I’ve read so far, but I’m only on the 3rd chapter. I’m feeling positive about it though. I log my reading materials on goodreads which is an easy and fun way to keep track of what I’ve read and still want to read. I also love giving books ratings from 1-5 stars. Rebecca was 5 stars. The tea party we had to watch the Hitchcock movie version of the story was also 5 stars 🙂 Classics Aren't So Bad After AllAnd if a movie producer happens to come across my blog (ha!) please, make another version of Rebecca. It would be such an awesome movie. Not that I didn’t like the Hitchcock version, but one in color with awesome music and a beautiful setting would be so amazing. Come on movie producers…

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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An Autumn Fun To-Do List

It could be because my husband and I lived in a warm climate during this past winter making this my 8th straight month of warm weather, or it could be because we have had the hottest, driest summer on record, or it could be just because I love the changing seasons; but I am really excited for fall. The foliage is already starting to change, and though people are saying we won’t have the same brilliant color display we had last autumn, fall in New England is still such a special time of year.
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As I was contemplating the delightful change of season the other day it occurred to me that I ought to make an “Autumn Fun” to-do list. Because doesn’t Autumn just seem like the most fleeting season? Hopefully a to-do list will allow me to make the most of fall before it slips right by me. So without further ado, here is my…

Autumn Fun To-Do List:

  1. Go apple picking! That also entails the subsequent Apple related cooking and baking. This year I hope to make a lot of apple butter and apple sauce, and have someone show me (again) how to can it safely so I can enjoy those treats year round.
  2. A corn maze would be fun. I know there is a huge maze in Sterling, Massachusetts. I also did a really fun one in Lee, New Hampshire many years ago. There is a small one at Washburn’s Windy Hill Orchard in Greenville, New Hampshire that is also a lot of fun. I’m not sure why wandering around lost for an hour in a field is so enjoyable, but alas it is. Especially at night when it is creepy.
  3. Enjoy a pumpkin spice latte. Preferably on a rainy day so I can take a walk after, admiring the colors while wearing wellies and using an umbrella. Yes I know this is rather specific, and with the current weather trend we may never get rain again. However, now that it is on the list, it is more likely to happen. That is just how it goes with to-do lists. Even if the rain doesn’t come (which I sincerely hope it does and not just for reason of providing an atmospheric setting to enjoy a fall beverage), I will still get the pumpkin latte. One cannot resist the fall flavors.
  4. Go to a fair or festival. At least one. I’m very bummed to be missing the Common Ground Fair in Maine this weekend (for the third year in a row! something always comes up!) but I am hoping to get to the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival. You can be sure I will post about it if I get there.
  5. Take a hike, or maybe a few hikes. The crisp fall air is perfect for a hike, and the foliage just adds to the already stunning views. I especially would like to climb Mount Monadnock. My one and only hiking experience with this beloved mountain was not a positive one. I was separated from my group and spent an hour wandering down, not sure if I was on a trail or not, fearing I was lost for good, envisioning headlines declaring my death by bear attack or exposure. Yes, yes, I survived, and perhaps I am being a tad dramatic. Anyways, I would like to give the mountain another go.
  6. Plant bulbs. It never fails that the fall goes by, winter passes, and the spring flowers start emerging. And there I am kicking myself again that I forgot to plant bulbs in the fall. That’s not going to happen again! This spring, I will have daffodils and tulips coming up, I assure you. I also must remember to plant garlic, lots of it! I want braids and braids of it come spring time.

So, there you have it. This is what I hope to be doing in my time off this autumn. What is on your autumn fun to-do list?

Walking Joy

Summer mornings and evenings are for walking. I’ll drive out to my favorite roads and be on the look out for photographs. Walking is not exercise. It is time to slow down, relax, meditate, and pray. I try to calm my thoughts, feel each step, and always try to see things I have not noticed before. Here are some things I’ve found:








And you? Where is your favorite walking place?