look who’s back

In case anyone was wondering, I’ve spent the past year living on a lake in a small Vermont hamlet. When I tell that to most folk, their jaw drops. “Aren’t you a city girl?” Maybe. But to wake up to the spectacular view of rolling green hills dropping off over a vast lake, surrounded by mountains in the distance. Let’s just say, it’s been special. For the few months of the year it was green, anyway. Today the ground is snow covered. It’s c-c-c-cold outside. And I’m reconsidering this journey. But that’s for another day .  .  .

In the meantime, I’m hoping to get back to posting about my travels and more on a semi-regular basis. What do you say, we start with a little day trip to the Northeast Kingdom here in Vermont:

It’s about a two hour drive to the NEK from the general Burlington area. Through the Stowe resort town and beyond into seemingly nowheresville. Miles of winding roads and endless trees — take the drive in the Fall and you won’t be disappointed!  Know where you are going and there are treasures to be found .  .  .

STOP 1:  The Museum of Everyday Life, 3482 Drypond Road, Glover, VT

IMG_0060This place is a one of a kind marvel. A self-service celebration of the mundane things you and I might, otherwise, not give a second thought to — everything from lowly dust, to safety pins, to scissors — the main exhibition during my visit.

Turn on the lights, view, read and listen your way through a selection of items from the permanent collection and highlights from past exhibitions into a series of spaces dedicated to a single subject. Objects, activities, artworks and uniquely curated experiences await. Above all, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. One curious girl in my crew saw a record player behind what we thought was a curtain of netting to keep onlookers away from objects on display. Only her willingness to crawl under this fragile barrier revealed it was actually a musical curtain of bells powered by said spinning turntable. Magical!

Give yourself a good hour here. There’s a gift shop in the corner with an honor box for cash payment. And don’t forget to turn the lights out as you leave.

 

STOP 2:  Bread & Puppet Theater Barn, 753 Heights Road, Glover, VT

This carefully organized warehouse of giant papier mâché puppets, is far more impressive than the theater they are made for. The Bread & Puppet theater is a traveling troop of performers putting on political & historical puppet shows around the country. I personally found one of the cult-like shows extremely difficult to sit through but was truly mesmerized by this barn housing 55 years of puppets, so carefully arranged on the walls and ceilings that they beg you to create your own stories to match their grandeur.

The Bread & Puppet “Family” also supports themselves through the sale of printed posters, cards and books based on the founder’s original works. Affordable, colorful and powerful artworks that make nice souvenirs if your into that sort of thing. And don’t miss the bus full of crafty treasures for sale parked along the road across the street. It’s hippy-ville Vermont at it’s finest.

Note: Stops 1 & 2 are just down the road from one another and it’s no coincidence — they share minds & resources.

STOP 3: Parker Pie Company, 161 Country Road West Glover, VT

Pie as in pizza pie with a selection of local craft beers on tap for lunch. The local watering hole/general store/gallery. But you are going to have to stop and ask directions because it doesn’t show up on any GPS — if you can even get one working up here — and is far off the main drag. Worth the detour, however, and chances are it will be packed to the gills.

 

STOP 4: Red Sky Trading, 2984 Glover Street, Glover VT

An honor system little barn of a shop with kitchy knick-knacks, local cheeses (pick up some award-winning Jasper Hill cheese — while nearby, they don’t offer tours or have a shop of their own) and home-baked sweets. If it’s a nice day, pull up an Adirondack chair and enjoy a bit of dessert while taking in the scenery. If sweets aren’t your thing, make this stop 3 so you don’t have to back-track after lunch.

Stop 5: Hill Farmstead Brewery, 403 Hill Road, Greensboro Bend, VT

Voted the best brewery in the world five years running, it is a worthy stop to pick up a growler, a bottle or a few cans as it’s not available to purchase in stores — only on tap in select Vermont establishments and here onsite. There are limits to the amount you can buy, especially for limited releases. But the beer is GOOD, you can hang out on the grounds and during the summer, there are often food trucks and music on the property as well.

Note:  The brewery is closed Sun-Tues so plan your travels accordingly. This is not one to be missed. Prepare to queue.

Loaded up with local cheese, beer, artwork and kingdom culture, you are ready to head out of the NEK and back to civilization.

art & commerce

Here’s an interesting pairing — Classic American shoe company Vans has partnered with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam to create a series of shoes (plus clothing and accessories) based on the artist’s paintings. A portion of the proceeds go to support the museum.

Sunflowers on my feet? That could put a smile of my face . . . Available starting August 3, 2018 online at the museum store and www.vans.com Shipping worldwide.

maca mania

MACA PEANUT BUTTER SMOOTHIE

1 cup unsweetened chocolate almond milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 small or 1/4 large avocado
1 heaping spoonful natural peanut butter
1 heaping teaspoon maca powder
1T ground chia seeds
maple syrup to taste
ice

Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy this smokey, nutty combination of flavors.

the perfect hostess gift

Who wouldn’t love to be handed this beautiful opaline glass jar when you arrive at their home? Doesn’t even matter that it is filled with tiny little sour cherries in syrup from the province of Emilia-Romagna in Italy that make a perfect ice cream topping, or cocktail add-on. It’s just one of the most beautiful packages I have ever seen that only gets better as the red syrup drips down and stains the sides with each serving. A truly classic kitchen find!

And at $22.50 for a hefty 1KG jar, it really is the perfect hostess gift, thank you gift or just because sometimes a beautiful package is hard to resist.

Amarena Fabbro Sour Cherries found at The Larder in Beverly Hills, Ca. Also available at Amazon because what isn’t?

to jam or not to jam

Nothing beats a classic Aussie Lamington — the soft sponge cake that slightly absorbs it’s chocolate icing around all sides, covered in sweetened coconut flakes. And yes, I fall on the side of JAM tucked in the center! If you’re not convinced, omit that portion of the recipe.

LAMINGTONS WITH JAM

Sponge Cake

10 T. butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 2/3 cups flour                                                                                                                  2 teaspoons baking powder                                                                                             3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk                                                                                                              Raspberry Jam, seedless

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease & flour a 9 x 13 cake pan.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and gradually beat in the sugar with the vanilla, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Gradually beat in eggs one at a time.

Sift the flour and salt and fold into the creamed mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with flour. Add a little more milk if necessary so that the mixture drops easily from a spoon.

Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 30–35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut the cake into two even layers and spread with a thin layer of raspberry jam — enough to hold the layers together but not to ooze out when cut. Press the layers together and cut into 2 inch cubes.

Icing

3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
4–6 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 teaspoon butter
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract                                                                                        5 oz. sweetened flaked coconut

Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa into a bowl. Add the boiling water, butter and vanilla, then stir until smooth and shiny.

Spread  a small amount the flaked coconut on a large plate. Dip the sandwiched cake pieces in the chocolate icing then immediately roll in the coconut, using two forks to turn and coat.  Replenish the coconut as needed. Leave on a wire rack to set.

Recipe adapted from Margaret Fulton’s Baking Classics

more cool stamps

Suddenly, I wish I wrote more correspondence that required stamps. Because suddenly, the United States Postal Service is producing all kinds of cool stamps.

Here are a few more to add to your collection produced in past years but still available for purchase online:

The Solar Eclipse — a heat sensitive ink that reveals the moon with the touch of your finger. So f-in cool!! Now I wish I’d had an eclipse party. Good news is these are Forever stamps. Buy some now and use them for the next North American solar eclipse in 2024.

How about these round (!) ball stamps. So cute for a kids party invite or just for your favorite sports fan. I so wish you could buy single balls ’cause I’m kinda partial to tennis myself. But the novelty of any of these balls adorning your mail would be charming regardless the sport.

janice

An oldie but a goodie from 2014 still available online. Nothing beats the flower power of Janice Joplin.

succulent

If succulents are more your thing, here’s another round stamp good for international postage or larger envelopes at $1.15 value.

And whether your taste in entertainment leans towards Star Trek or Disney, there are always some great options available in any given year.

These and other cool stamps are available online here.

And what are my favorite stamps I’ve ever purchased?

These Charles and Ray Eames stamps. Issued in 2008 before forever stamps were introduced. But that’s OK. They’re too cool to mail. I framed them instead.

scratch and post

Available today at your local post office — scratch and sniff stamps with the smell of summer frozen treats!

There’s just one scent for all designs, sadly. But regardless, they’re fun, fruity and oh so summery. Post one to a friend today. Perfect for those letters home from camp!

$10 for a book of ten Forever stamps, until sold out.

ice cream challenge

Today’s Contender:  McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream
Location:  Santa Barbara, CA
Flavor:  Vanilla Bean

This not so boring Vanilla Bean ice cream may just be the best vanilla ice cream I’ve ever had. I have in fact, tried a few of McConnell’s flavors and think the texture of their ice cream to be exactly what I love  — rich and creamy, smooth beyond compare made with premium, all natural ingredients. Which makes their vanilla bean to die for. Just as the carton says, a perfect accompaniment to pie!  But it’s damn good alone as well.

McConnell’s ice cream is a Santa Barbara, California tradition going back over 70 years. But of late, they have joined the Los Angeles ice cream boom with scoop shops downtown, in Los Feliz and Studio City. You can also find them in nearly every grocery store here in town for those that don’t live on the east side — at the premium price of $9.99/pt.

There may be more trendy ice cream shops everywhere here in LA these days but I’d pick McConnel’s over any of them to be honest.