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Vermont=Cheese: A Visit to Cobb Hill

17 Jan

Quick side note:  For those of you who read my last post about the release of my new and improved blog format—I have run into some (many) technical difficulties.  I have been trying to resolve them and it is driving me crazy and I need to take a break from it.  In the meantime, I will continue to post here and will let you know when the new site is ready for the big time.

For me anyway.  I look forward to our annual trip to Vermont so that I can eat cheese.

A lot of cheese.

Sure, I can get Vermont cheese at my local grocery store. But, I can’t buy cheese from Cobb Hill.  And it may be the best cheese ever.

Cobb Hill was started by Donella Meadows in Hartland Vermont and is described as a “live-work experiment.”   The people of Cobb Hill aim to “live in a co-housing community comprised of people learning to live lightly on the earth while forming a connection to a community, the land, and a working farm.”  It is exactly what you think of when you think of a sustainable community.  And, for those of us on the outside who have a strong desire reduce our impact on the planet–it is a very cool place to visit and support.

Just like you would expect on a working farm, they  have chickens, sheep, llamas, and of course, cows. And, they encourage people to stop by and see the animals.

They have cute baby cows.

They have sweet mama cows.

The little babies will even lick your hands.

The llamas will look at you.

Their little store is open to purchase milk, cheese, eggs, some fresh vegetables, and locally raised meats. And, their famous RAW MILK CHEESE.  I know you can find their cheese at the local stores in and around Vermont and New Hampshire-but it is so much more special to go right to the source to get it.

They were milking when we were there and it was really interesting for the kids to see where their milk comes from.  It is amazing to me that many kids have no idea.

If you are in the Southeastern Vermont area and in the mood for cheese—stop by Cobb Hill after a great lunch at Stella’s! You will be glad that you did.

Montshire Museum, Norwich, Vermont

30 Dec

We are in Vermont–celebrating New Year’s with my in-laws.  Beautiful, snowy, quiet, and laid back Vermont.  So low-tech that I feel kind of guilty working on my blog here.  This is the kind of place you ask your neighbor for advice—not the internet.

But, we are doing so many neat things that I want to share all of our adventures.

Our first mission was the Montshire Museum —a children’s science museum in Norwich, Vermont–just across from the Connecticut river.  Everytime we are here, we visit the Montshire and the kids always love it.

This particular time was especially fun.  We had never told Grandpa and Grandma that we were coming.  Only my sister in law knew and she was able to keep it a surprise.  The plan was to surprise them all at the Montshire Museum.  This would be a real surprise as we live in Florida and we insisted we couldn’t make it this year.

We watched from the second floor windows as they were getting out of the car.  We watched from the second floor overlook as they walked in and paid.  We sent the kids downstairs to just say “Hi!” to their grandpa. The plan was to play it cool and act casual.

First the kids ran into their cousins.  One of them looked at Rosie and The Bean and said  to their dad, “That looks like the Bean and Rosie!”–their dad responded without even looking at them, “Well, it isn’t.”

I think Rosie and The Bean were a little confused about what to do next.  They just stood there.  And waited for someone to recognize them.

Grandpa walked right past them with no sign of recognition.  And they were a little afraid to approach him.

Finally, Grandpa looked long and hard at Rosie thinking, “That sure does look like my grand daughter.”  Once, he looked left and saw the Bean, he fell to his knees and started repeating, “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.”

It was a great moment.  Luckily, my sister in law got great video of everyone’s surprised faces.

______________________________________________________________________________________

So, the Montshire is a great place to pull off a huge family surprise, or just good place to get let kids run around and learn about science.  We have only gone in the winter but there are a bunch of neat trails that start from the grounds that would be really fun to explore in the summer.

There are all kinds of puzzles, and other hands on activities to keep young (and old) ones occupied.  The exhibits change regularly and while we were there we saw an exhibit on how toys work.  It was a great introduction to electric currents and pulleys.

One of the great things about the Montshire  is it is fairly small so, a couple of hours is the perfect amount of time to see everything.  It has never been too crowded when we have been there so we feel comfortable letting the kids roam more freely than we would at larger children’s museums.

The website for the Montshire is:  http://www.montshire.org/

By the way, my favorite exhibit at the Montshire are the leafcutter ants….I could spend hours just looking for the queen ant and watching them break leaves into bite sized pieces and carry them back to their fungus gardens.

Bakery Review: Ferrara Bakery & Cafe, Little Italy, NYC

18 Nov


I really don’t want to write this post.

I don’t want to tell you to go to this bakery in Little Italy.

We had planned to get to Chinatown early so that we could have some dim sum for breakfast before our flight.  We didn’t realize that none of the restaurants and bakeries would be open until at least 9 am.    We were tourists  and we wanted to get a jump on our day.

The kids were so wiped out that they could barely make a sound.  They were angels.

We had quiet and hungry kids.  We wanted to spend some money.

Yet, our server had such an attitude.  The only attitude we received while in NYC.

The service was just plain terrible. Our server  made it perfectly clear that she did not want us there.

So, I had planned to write this review about her attitude and warning you against visiting this bakery in Little Italy.

But, I can’t.

See that croissant on the top left?  It was amazing.    I don’t even like croissants and I can’t stop thinking about the chocolate croissant we shared.  The cookies were great.  The coffee delicious.  The biscotti perfect.

If I were in NYC, I would go back.  I would deal with rudeness just to eat that croissant again.

From the reviews I have read, there are likely other more intimate bakeries in Little Italy and I was not alone in complaining about the service.   Supposedly, at other times of day tourists line up at Ferraras  for cannolis and gelato.  But, when we arrived they had exactly what we needed–plenty of available tables, clean bathrooms and hot coffee.

And the best chocolate croissant I have ever tasted.

Who cares if the server didn’t like us?

Ferrara Bakery & Cafe

195 Grand Street
between Mulberry & Mott St.
(212) 226-6150

http://www.ferraracafe.com

Hotel Review: Hilton Garden Inn, W 35th St, NYC

14 Nov

As soon as I had heard that I made it into the NYC Marathon (through the lottery), I started looking into hotels. I knew NYC hotels were expensive and due to the marathon, would be in demand even more than at other times of the year. So, about nine months before the big day I began searching for hotels based on a bunch of specific criteria.

I wanted to be fairly close to the NYC marathon finish–as I knew after running 26.2 miles, I wouldn’t want to walk far. I also wanted to be close to the New York Public Library because the marathon buses would pick up there to get the runners to the start line. I wanted to be within walking distance of the Javitz Center–the home of the NYC marathon expo.

And, I knew that I would be traveling with my kids and my mom (four in total) and wanted to be somewhere central, simple—with plenty of room and no bed bugs!.

The Hilton Garden Inn at West 35th St. met all of my requirements.

The HGI is located about 200 feet from the corner of W 35th and 6th Ave—right next to the world’s most amazing Macys, right above Penn Station, and less than a block from 5th Ave. There are tons of restaurants, shops right near the hotel—including a really good Indian restaurant (which I’ll review in a later post). This was perfect for us because my mom is not that adventurous and there were going to be times that she would have to leave the hotel alone.  Being right next to Macy’s, pizza, and a Starbucks made it easier.

We were all flying into JFK and getting to the hotel from that airport could not be any easier.  We took the Long Island Railroad to Penn Station. For about $11.00 per person, we boarded a comfortable train and had a nice (mostly above ground) train ride.  Just about the time the kids were getting bored with the ride (about 35 minutes), we arrived at our stop. Perfect!

They have free Wi-Fi!

The hotel rooms in NYC are small.  They all are.  It is part of the charm of the city.  Our room had two double beds, a desk, TV and stand, and a microwave, refrigerator, and a coffeemaker.  I felt that for the size they had made the best of the space and it didn’t feel cramped or uncomfortable.   It was very clean—since it has only been open a year.  (No bed bugs!)  And the beds were super comfortable (oh, they have a dial on each bed so you can chose the firmness you prefer–the kids loved this feature).

The bathroom was normal sized.  And always had hot water.

Kids standing next to the closet in the little hallway.

There was a tiny closet  and an even tinier closet that held the ironing board and iron.   One perk was the coffee maker, refrigerator, and microwave in the room.  Our last NYC hotel (The Roosevelt) did not have these amenities.  I thought their use of space was very clever.

The view was nothing special—just NYC buildings, but it was just what we wanted.  A view of the city.  (The first picture shows you what we saw….)

The lobby was tiny.  Really– there was only a couple of couches and a couple of chairs—not a destination at all–but a quick meet-up- and- go spot.  (The Roosevelt Hotel had a beautiful lobby.  One that you wanted to sit in and just relax.)  Even though it was small, the lobby was pleasant enough with free hot chocolate, coffee, and really good apple cider.

We got free breakfast as part of the package that I had booked—and it was such a nice way to start the morning.  We were able to go down and get a couple of pastries and bagels for the kids and eat them in our rooms.  Business travelers may want to indulge in the hot breakfast in their restaurant.  It always looked good but we were always on our way out for adventures.

My only complaint was with the concierge.  I called down a couple of times to ask specific questions about shuttles and taxis and was told to just come down and hail one myself.  While I don’t mind doing that, I thought the concierge is supposed to help with things like that.  Maybe I am wrong but I just got the feeling that because I wasn’t asking for fancy dining reservations–they didn’t have the time for me.

In summary, if you need a clean, convenient place to stay in Midtown—the Hilton Garden Inn on West 35th St. is perfect.   Just don’t ask the concierge for anything and you will happy as a clam.

Pros:  Clean rooms, convenient location, comfortable beds, free Wi-Fi, free breakfast with some types of stays, very nice waitstaff in restaurant, well laid out rooms.

Cons: Concierge staff. No safe in rooms (or if there was, we couldn’t find it)

New York City: Recap

11 Nov

As I suspected might happen, we were having way too much fun to keep posting each and everyday from NYC.

Enjoy these photos of the kids in the city…….we had a great time and I think NYC is the perfect place for kids to go when they are young.  It is so diverse, exciting and a fabulous walking city.  We walked miles and miles each day and the kids never complained–there was always so much to see.

We were the most colorful family in the city!

The theme of our trip was hot chocolate, cupcakes and pizza.  Everyday, we had at least one of these things–usually all three.

Doesn't everyone let their children explore Times Square alone?

Hot Chocolate, cupcakes, pizza and WALKING.  We did a lot of walking (and I did a lot of running….)  The kids also really wanted to stay ahead of us—I think the energy of the city was as exciting to them as it was to us.

After seeing West Side Story, the kids were fascinated with performing on Broadway someday…..and seeing their name in lights.

 

Waiting for their 15 seconds of fame (and panhandling at the same time).
The kids on a Times Square billboard.

Times Square with Tiffany (my sister).

Stay tuned for a report from the marathon, reviews of the hotel, reviews of Crumbs, delicious Indian Food, a New york tour book and more……..(oh yeah, I do have a recipe or two to post soon).  Busy busy!

Mr. Snowman Goes to DisneyWorld

10 Oct

My husband is so busy.  I mean, stressed out to the absolute extreme.  So, sometimes to get out of his hair–the kids and I make little trips out of town.  The kids love to spend time alone with me and I love to not think about cleaning the house and have time to really focus on the kids.  And, he loves it because he can focus on his work with no guilt.

 

Don't worry--he's acting!

 

Two weekends ago– a lone weekend with no birthday party plans or athletic events, we decided to head over to Disneyworld.  Since we moved to Florida, we have been many, many times—so many, in fact that the kids don’t really care about the parks much anymore.

This time, we splurged on separate park tickets to “Mickey’s Not So-Scary Halloween Party.”  You might be thinking that it is too early to be thinking about Halloween–in early September–but I have been anxious for fall.

If you haven’t gone, I highly recommend it.  With the purchase of a separate ticket, you are allowed into the Magic Kingdom from 4 pm-midnight on select nights in September and October.  Everyone is given a wrist band and a candy collection bag.  Throughout the park are trick-or-treat sites and lots of candy is given out.  There is a great parade with the headless horseman riding through the streets, grave diggers dancing with shovels, and of course, Mickey and the other characters.  We missed the firework show but I’ve heard it is really good too.  Another perk–no lines!  We were able to ride over and over (without getting off) Buzz Light Year, Winnie the Pooh and Snow White–which are rides we usually avoid due to the long lines.

Making the trip even more special, we took along an old friend of mine.

Meet Mr.  Snowman:

 

Mr. Snowman jumped in the river for a quick swim

 

A long time ago, I lived in Japan.  I taught English.  I loved it–everything about it, my students, the culture, the food.  However, I had to leave and decided to move to Hawaii (there were some other steps in between that aren’t important).  While I was living in Hawaii I would get letters from one of my students, Takashi Yamaguchi (a kind of eccentric science-y type) and one day I received a package with Mr. Snowman and a short letter.  The letter said something like,

“I am Snowman and I have never seen the ocean.  I have never been to Hawaii–please take me to the beach and show me all the beauty of Hawaii.”

So, I did.

I took photos of me and Mr. Snowman hanging at the beach, sipping mai-tais, relaxing in the sun.  Snowman got to see all the sites—Sandy Beach, the Blowhole and the North Shore.  It was a lot of fun.

I never sent those pictures to Takashi.  I bet I could find them though if I looked hard enough.

 

Mr. Snowman meets a bunny!

 

ANYWAY—-My little Bean was really upset that his name was not selected to take home Pops (a puppet in his class that goes home with one lucky child on the weekend).  He, who never ever cries, came running out of the classroom in tears when he found out that Pops was not coming to Disneyworld with us.   So, I suggested we take Mr. Snowman.  He had never been to Disneyworld before and he would love it.

Please enjoy Snowman’s Adventures at Disneyworld—a photo essay:

 

Mr. Snowman in the Car on the way to Disneyworld. He got to ride in the cup-holder. Lucky!

 

We stayed at the Disney Wilderness Lodge.  Mr. Snowman felt right at home with the log buildings, the evergreen trees and the cool mountain streams.

 

He even got to say hello to an old friend from the cold country.

 

 

 

Mr. Snowman's view from his room---"Ahh the fresh mountain air!"

 

 

Mr. Snowman and friends were not that impressed with the interior of the rooms--pretty basic.

 

 

Why do hotels use those horrible bed coverings? They feel awful and look dumpy.

 

 

Mr. Snowman did think the bed was nice and comfy!

 

 

Mr. Snowman, the Bean and the Waiter pose for a shot. What a fun lunch!

 

 

Mr. Snowman loved the Dumbo ride! Look at his smile--he is having the time of his life.

 

 

"This is so fun! Let's go again and again." said Mr. Snowman

 

 

"I am feeling kind of queasy....", said Mr. Snowman

 

 

"Maybe a nice soak in the hot tub would sooth your stomach", we suggested. Mr. Snowman really liked that.

 

 

We decided to tour the sights of the hotel. We saw the geyser.......

 

 

and the waterfall...

 

 

and relaxed by the huge fireplace in the lobby.

 

 

After a day of exploring and playing on the water slides, Mr. Snowman and friends were hungry!

 

 

Mr. Snowman chose a giant cupcake for his lunch. In his world, cupcakes are a healthy choice for lunch.

 

 

He loved it and ate it all by himself...(well, maybe we helped a little). He had a great time!

 

 

Mr. Snowman loved the Wilderness Lodge and can't wait to go back....

 

 

his friends loved the lodge too. However, now they want to take Mr. Snowman to see the real Pacific Northwest.

 

 

Stay tuned for more adventures with Mr. Snowman and friends!

 

Pittsburgh and Primanti’s

2 Oct

I was in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago.  A place that I had never, ever been and hadn’t really given much thought to.  But, ever since we have moved to a medium size city in Southwest Florida–I crave any chance to get out to a real city and some elevation change. Not to mention a chance to get out of the humidity.

I had no idea what to expect. I knew it was home to enthusiastic sports fans— almost everyone on the flight was wearing a Steelers jersey.  The pilot even gave out games scores over the intercom and when it was announced that Pittsburgh beat Atlanta–there was cheering.  ( We just so happened to be flying from Atlanta to Pittsburgh).

My friend Nicole, is from Pittsburgh–and she  going to be at the same meeting.  And she was bringing her new baby along (who was already 2 years old!)  That alone was worth the trip.

And,  one of my favorite bloggers, Michelle, from the Brown Eyed Baker, is also from Pittsburgh and always posts about how much she loves her city –so I thought it must be an okay place.

Everyone I talked to about my trip (which was really only a couple of people) said that while in Pittsburgh, I must eat at Primanti’s.

According to their website: ” Back in the 1930’s, Joe Primanti opened a cart in the Strip District selling sandwiches to truckers on the go. It was decided that he should expand to a small restaurant on 18th Street. The hours were 3am to 3pm to accommodate truckers and the like.  “One winter, a fella drove in with a load of potatoes. He brought a few of ’em over to the restaurant to see if they were frozen.I fried the potatoes on our grill and they looked pretty good. A few of our customers asked for them, so I put the potatoes on their sandwiches.” And the rest is history. The Primanti Sandwich: a true taste of Pittsburgh.”

Yes, Primanti’s is a sandwich place.  A sandwich place that serves  meat (of your choice), coleslaw and french fries sandwiched between two thick slices of white bread.

I ordered a turkey sandwich with cheese and the works (coleslaw and french fries).  And a Diet Coke.

I would say that if you are in Pittsburgh—-you should try the sandwiches.  They were good—-  I  liked the combination of the coleslaw, fries,  grilled turkey and I liked their bread.     But, it was HUGE!  (Lately, I have been kind of disturbed by giant portions.  No one needs that much food in one sitting–unless maybe they are a Olympic swimmer in peak training.)

I also really liked the feel of the location I went to.  It wasn’t touristy at all—more like a hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop that you just ‘discover’ on a quiet street.

Primanit’s has recently been on shows like, “Man v. Food” and even on  National Geographic.  The restaurant chain was named an American Classic by the James Beard Foundation.  People love this place.  I have a feeling that it can get quite busy but I was there at about 3:00 pm on a weekday.  It was empty.

I agree with the recommendations— If you are in Pittsburgh make sure to check out Primanti’s. It is part of the history and culture of the city.  You will get a sandwich that you enjoy. You will leave full.

My only advice:  Go for a nice long walk along the river afterward—all about balance.