Saturday, October 8, 2016

2016 East Coast - King Arthur Flour Baking Class

One of my yet-to-be achieved goals for retirement was to learn to bake really good homemade bread. Despite collecting and reading lots of books on baking breads, and my valiant tho' somewhat sporadic efforts at baking various types of bread, I seem to always come up short. When we were first planning this trip to the east coast, I looked into visiting the King Arthur Flour facility in Norwich, VT.  I guess I was hoping some baking magic would rub off on me just being in the vicinity.  But once I discovered that there was an opening in a 4-day rustic bread baking class that coincided with the end of our trip, that became a "must-do".  The class was all I could have hoped for and more!  Outstanding instructors, a magnificent facility,  a group of highly compatible classmates (14 of us in total, a mixture of folks from east, west, and midwest), and LOTS of hands-on practice.  Now to practice, practice, practice once we get home!

Friday, October 7, 2016

2016 East Coast - Shelburne Museum, Vermont

We spent two days closing out September by wandering through Shelburne Museum, a museum of art, design, and Americana in Shelburne, Vermont. This unusual museum has a three-star rating in the Michelin Green Guide - the highest possible rating. The founder of the museum described it as "a collection of collections", which is a very concise description of this museum. Lest you think we are a bit slow for spending two days in a museum, be aware that this one covers 45 acres and 38 buildings, many of which are historic buildings, purchased and moved to this location by the founder, Electra Havemeyer Webb, specifically for the purpose of displaying the family's many collections, each one more extensive and amazing then the next.  The link I've provided in the preceding sentence gives more information on the collections as well as on the buildings that comprise this museum. Here are some photos from those two days to hopefully whet your appetite to visit Shelburne Museum:

This was one of the most intriguing exhibits of art quilts by one artist that I have EVER seen!

Same quilt as one immediately above, but this time with backlighting.

The museum has a whole room full of amazing  miniatures executed by a friend of the museum founder 
View from the Blacksmith Shop, looking out 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

2016 - East Coast - New Hampshire

More lovely stone walls, more charming New England towns, now nestled in valleys or perched on hillsides, more church steeples piercing the sky, the mountains blue in the distance, trees beginning to display their autumn coats, rivers and streams running clear over slate and granite.  BEAUTIFUL!

We have been fortunate to have spent our stay in NH at a campground situated between Littleton and Lisbon, where we have had a remarkable campsite right on the Ammonoosuc River, a tributary of the Connecticut River. Every morning we've watched mist rising over this fast-flowing, shallow river until it was burned off by the sun, and one morning watched a fly-fisherman at play in front of our campsite. 

The city of Littleton flies in the face of the current negativism as reflected in the daily news by focusing on happiness - seriously focusing on happiness through things that universally bring us joy.  There are painted pianos in little kiosks scattered every few blocks on the main street inviting people to play, some stores have painted guitars on stands outside their doors encouraging passersby to play a few chords, and an installation of various xylophones on the bank of the river running through town, with a sign saying they are for those with all levels of musical skill, or lack of it. One day we visited a quilt show sponsored by a local quilt guild. The quilts were lovingly displayed in the Opera House, a beautifully restored town hall.  That same day - a Sunday - the town was hosting a farmers market by the river and an arts and crafts show all up and down the main street.  

We came to this city, this campground, so that we would have TV and/or Wi-Fi signal for Monday's Presidential Debate, and stayed because of it's charm and the perfect location from which to explore the White Mountains on driving tours and walking tours. 

One day we visited The Frost Place in Franconia, NH. This museum is the charming old farmhouse perched on a hillside where Frost farmed and wrote for four years, and where he returned for summers for years afterward. The Frost House now sponsors one poet a year to live on the property and concentrate on their art during the months of July and August. There is a lovely nature trail with scattered placards that display poems that Frost wrote during his time in Franconia. This was a relaxing way to spend part of a day in this area.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

2016 East Coast - Maine

Maine - gray mists rising over rocky shores, hard-scrabble fishing villages....this was my recollection from our last visit to this state 33 years ago.  It still holds true, but so does high-impact tourism, expensive seafood restaurants, shoulder-to-shoulder village sidewalks, bumper-to-bumper traffic, kitchey tourist-trap shops.

Our initial goal was to head back to Acadia National Park, which we remembered fondly for wilderness hikes, rocky-shore campgrounds, buying inexpensive lobster and rock crab in little towns and cooking them in seawater scooped within yards of our camper, as recommended by the little seafood shops.  All this is still possible, but not in the towns surrounding the main section of Acadia National Park (e.g. Bar Harbor), as it was 30+ years ago.  Now Bar Harbor is over-run by tourists who arrive by cruise ship, by bus, by camper, by car.  The Acadia National Park overlooks and hiking trail parking lots - on a cold, rainy, foggy, post-labor-day, mid-week day - were overrun/overparked. Our initial response was negative: "Can you imagine what this must be like in prime tourism season?", but was softened eventually by the realization that recognition and use of national and state parks is a GOOD thing.  But subsequently we were saddened by the impact that this level of tourism has on these beautiful natural wonders.  I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that we were fortunate is being able to see the multiple aspects of living in this area.  Bottom line, the Maine coast is incredibly beautiful - that we chose to spend most of our time in the less-traveled, less-touristy areas is not a condemnation of those who would prefer to visit the more touristy areas, which have their own charm....just not charm that we appreciate.

2016 East Coast - Litchfield, CT

We took a day trip through Litchfield, CT on Sept. 13, a pretty little New England town that looks just like one imagines a New England town would look.  Churches, elegant old brick and frame homes, tree lined streets, cute little alley shops....

The surprise for us in Litchfield, was the Tapping Reeve House and Litchfield Law School, the first (?) law school founded in America.  Surprised?  We sure were. Tapping Reeve began practicing law in Litchfield in 1773, and the following year began instructing his brother-in-law, Aaron Burr, in the law.  As others began to come to him for instruction and his reputation spread, his simple classroom became the first formal school of law, according to the Litchfield Historical society. According to other articles I've since found, it is considered the second (College of William and Mary being first).  I'll let the historians among my readers figure that one out (Phyllis and Nelson? - Corrections?).  It was fascinating to see copies of many of the original documents that the Litchfield Historical Society has in it's possession, including student notebooks and students' correspondence with friends and family.

In the Litchfield Historical Society building we learned about the many stone walls scattered throughout New England - who knew there were so many types?  I LOVE those walls and would give anything to have one (an old, existing one of course) at home.

Litchfield also happens to also be home of Whiteflower Farm, one of the best-known purveyors of really excellent flower bulbs and perennials, so of course John humored me and we stopped there to purchase a few additions to the coming spring garden. I was hoping that they had developed a new deer-proof tulip variety that would only be available onsite, unfortunately my hopes were dashed. When I enquired whether I might try interplanting the tulips with daffodils (since deer do not like to eat daffodils), they smiled at me as tho' I were a bit simple and said: "Well dear, you can try...and it might work for a season or two. Or you could build a fence around them; if it is high enough that might work."  We did not buy tulips. Our old apple trees in fall and my garden in summer already provide more than enough food for the deer - why spend money on tulips as a spring delicacy for them?

We moved on to Maine and New Hampshire following Connecticut, but the entire time in Maine we had such weak cell/Wi-Fi signal that it just was not possible to post.  Our current campground in NH offers good Wi-Fi signal, so I am playing blog catch-up tonight while I am still able.  Stay tuned, there will follow a post for Maine and one for New Hampshire before we move on to Vermont tomorrow.