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

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

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.

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?

courtesy of brimfield

It was a glorious time at Brimfield yesterday- so many interesting things to see and I love the thrill of the hunt haha. You never know what you will come across and what deals you can wrangle out of the sellers. Some of the dealers are so nice too! I love hearing their stories. Here are the treasures that came home with me yesterday:

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First, I’ve been meaning to switch over to cloth napkins for quite awhile so I finally got that process started. I found these ones- all embroidered with our last name initial! They’re from the 30s or 40s and are in excellent condition.

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Next, this sweet little pale green apron. That second shot is a detail of the fabric- I love that print! The little berries are so cute.

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I found Ethan a funny deer tie and scored this little sewing supplies case made in Germany. Those scissors it came with are so tiny- like an inch long!

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A picnic basket! I was looking for one all day (I saw so many of them!) so I was waiting, pricing them out, comparing.. The waiting paid off because I found this one for the cheapest price, and it’s the only one I found that is lined and has spots to put flatware. I was quite happy about this find.

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I waited until the very end of the day to get this quirky painted tin document box and I’m so glad I ended up getting it because I’ve already filled it …

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Paid 2 dollars for this pretty little “tea” jar, which I knew I would use as a vase. I’m so happy the lilacs are all blooming. They smell wonderful.

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And perhaps my most interesting find were these two old wooden painters’ boxes, completely filled with oil paints and supplies! The dealer was so nice and gave me such an awesome price. He made me promise I would use them though. I will.