New Hampshire in Mid-Winter

It’s been an icy, icy world out there lately. December and January seemed especially brutal with days on end of sub-zero temperatures, wind, and a couple of ice storms. On New Years Day, with just 2 degrees on the thermometer, Ethan and I set out for a northern adventure. We just had to get out of the house! And we wanted to see the snowy mountains. We bundled up and hit the road, temperature plummeting the more Northward we drove. fullsizeoutput_2cfa

fullsizeoutput_2cfcWe meandered through small towns, such as Grafton and Warren. We tried to take smaller, back roads as we went. Route 118 from Warren to North Woodstock was particularly scenic. From there, we jumped on highway 93 North so we could go through the Notch. The Notch was socked in with fog it was so cold, but the glimpses we got of the mountains were beautiful.fullsizeoutput_2cf6After a quick stop at the Garnet Hill Outlet in Franconia, we made our way to Sugar Hill for a late lunch at Polly’s Pancake Parlor. Situated on a hill overlooking a gorgeous mountain view, Polly’s has quite the spot. If only the food lived up to the location. I hate doling out bad reviews, but the food just wasn’t that great. But the options were many, so perhaps we just made some bad choices (I had the quiche of the day and Ethan had a reuben as per usual). Their peppermint cappuccino on the other hand- yum, yum.

fullsizeoutput_2cfdAfter our lunch, we went over to Sunset Hill in Sugar Hill to take in the view above. Still a  little foggy, but lovely none the less. We were starting to lose light, so we meandered towards home from there, though we were far from it. We went through some little New Hampshire towns that I had never seen before. Most interestingly, we stumbled upon The Brick Store in Bath which is on the National Register of Historic Places as the oldest general store in the country- how cool! It had loads of old character, we had to go in and have a look around. Thankfully, we caught them just before they closed for the day. My favorite thing was the wide front porch with all the rocking chairs. Too bad it was below zero out, it would be fun to sit there and enjoy a treat from the store. fullsizeoutput_2d66

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Other towns of note were Haverhill and Etna. Both new to me, and both very colonial and charming. The moon was rising when we were in Haverhill, so by the time we drove through Etna, it was too dark for photos. Haverhill is along Route 10 in New Hampshire, and Etna is situated atop a hill off a side road- you’ll have to use your GPS to find it, but it’s worth finding- well, hopefully, I did only see it in the dark. fullsizeoutput_2d67fullsizeoutput_2d65Well that was our little mid-winter, sub-zero, just-have-to-get-out-of-the-house adventure! Hopefully we can repeat it in warmer temperatures. There’s a certain rocking chair in Bath calling out to me…

Hancock Through the Seasons

Here are some photographs of Hancock, a gorgeous little New England Village tucked away in Southwestern New Hampshire. I was fortunate enough to work as the Children’s Librarian there for one year, so I enjoyed Hancock through each season.

Spring:

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Flowers sprouting up around town. Budding trees in front of the Hancock Inn. Apple trees with new leaves in the orchard on Norway Hill. Irises on Main Street. Trees in bloom in front of the Hancock Town Library.  Lilac bushes in front of a colonial house.

Summer: img_6197

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Processed with Snapseed.old dublin roadElliot's GardenMy most favorite view off of Old Dublin Road. Flowers at the farmer’s market in the old circular stables. A place of sanctuary at the Harris Center. Giant bubbles from a performance I planned at the end of summer reading.  Scenes from the Tour Hancock Gardens summer garden tour. A walk down the dirt sidewalks of Main Street. Storm clouds approaching Nubanusit Lake. Walking Old Dublin Road. The Elliot’s amazing private garden.

Autumn: img_4153

hancock main streethancock autumnwillard pondHancockInnnorway hillGolden trees on Main Street. Ivy growing up an old colonial house. Norway Pond stillness. Main Street littered with leaves. A walk on an old dirt road. Kayaking on Willard Pond close to sunset. The historic Hancock Inn. The fall colors starting to appear at the apple orchard on Norway Hill.

Winter: 

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hancock winterA snow storm in February blankets an old colonial home. Lilies brighten up the winter day inside Fiddleheads Cafe. The huge tree outside of the library covered in snow. The Hancock Inn and it’s Fox tavern is a cozy place for a winter’s evening meal. Frost patterns inside the library’s windows.

No matter what season you visit Hancock, it is always going to be beautiful.

Lake Towns: Meredith & Center Harbor

The biggest lake in New Hampshire, Lake Winnipesaukee has always held a special place in my heart. My grandfather has owned cabins on the lake for decades so my family have taken summer trips up to Center Harbor for many years. Center Harbor is a special little town full of unique spots, and nearby Meredith is bustling with arts and antiques. Both towns have awesome little shops and food options. And both towns are right on beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee, are right down the road from one another, and are definitely worth a visit. The photos are not in any real order, and my descriptions of places will provide links when available if you’d like to know more particulars. img_8293

I’ll start with one of Center Harbor’s best restaurant, Lavinia’s. Though I’ve only eaten take out there once (and it was great food!) everyone who has dined there that I know has always thoroughly enjoyed it. My sister told me that you can eat in the very top cupola section, which has an amazing view out over the lake. I’m not sure if they still offer that, but if they do, I’d recommend a reservation. Two of my favorite shops in Center Harbor are the yarn shop, Patternworks and the book shop, Bayswater Books. Both are fun places just to browse. The book shop has lots of beautiful little trinkets and gifts which are fun to look at as well. Sandwiched between the yarn and the books is Keepsake Quilting, a large quilting shop with tons of fabric choices. This was my favorite shop to go in when I was younger, before I realized how much time quilting takes and how difficult it is. I would also pick out my fabric with high hopes, but I never did get around to finishing a quilt. Hopefully I will someday. Now I don’t even go in the quilt shop because I don’t want to be tempted into another hobby, but I hope to have the time to do quilting eventually 😉

img_8291Another classic Center Harbor spot is the Yikes Craft Gallery which features work from various local artists and craftspeople. If you’re looking for a unique gift to give someone, I bet you could find them something in Yikes. And my favorite place in Center Harbor is Dewey’s Ice Cream Parlor! They have my favorite ice cream flavor in all the world: Phantom Berry! It’s black raspberry ice cream with chunks of brownie and swirls of brownie batter. YUM. I made sure to get a cone of that good stuff every day we were there 🙂 For a summery eating experience, try Red Hill Dari for all your classic summer food, ordered at a pick-up window and eaten outside.

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Moving on to Meredith, the Main street winds up and around uphill, and is filled with antique shops, art galleries, and a really yummy coffee shop with a book store inside and a cozy fireplace. There’s a shop that sells homemade soap, a kitchen gadget shop, and a cool health food shop. All of my photos from Meredith are places that can be found just by wandering along the Main street. When going between Meredith and Center Harbor on Route 25, be sure to stop at Moulton Farm. It’s a huge farm store filled with gorgeous produce and other products. I think they even have a corn maze in the fall.img_8231

img_8237 img_8331And no trip to Center Harbor or Meredith is complete without walking down to the docks and just gazing out at the water. If you can catch a sunset, that’s even better. Though these local spots highlighted in the post are fun to visit, my favorite part of being there is to wake up very early and kayak across the glassy water, and hear loon calls echo from one end of the lake to the other. I’m thankful to be so familiar with these fun New Hampshire towns. I hope you will be able to visit them too 🙂

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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 🙂MagicWings11

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