27 July 2016
As of last week, John and I have lived in the Triangle of North Carolina for seven years. That is a long time!! I grew up in Connecticut, and I think if you had asked me as a child where I would live when I was an adult, my answer would have been somewhere in New England. But, here we are :)
To mark seven years, I thought it would be fun to share a few things I miss about New England, and a few things I love about North Carolina. First up, 12 of my favorite things about New England in general, and particularly the lovely corner of southeastern Connecticut I call(ed) home:
1. Living near the water. There’s a reason this one is first. Growing up, the ocean was 10 minutes from our house, and a backdrop to so many of my childhood memories. I think living near the water just makes everything better and more scenic — a picnic, an early morning or early evening walk, ice cream, a first job selling shaved ice (speaking from experience here), a bike ride… I really miss not having easy access to the ocean, the sound of crashing waves, and that wildly beautiful salt air smell.
2. Dels. The perfect accompaniment to a day at a Rhode Island beach!
3. Plush, soft grass. In New England, the cool, green grass just beckons you to sit on it — unlike Southern grass, which, if you’re able to keep it alive at all, is usually dry and scratchy. The smell of fresh cut grass is also my favorite smell in the world, so I like that it has to be cut more often up north!
4. Charming downtowns. Every coastal community in Connecticut is more charming than the next — from Stonington, to Mystic, to Noank, Madison, Chester, Deep River, and right on down the line. Quaint storefronts, flag-lined streets, stone seawalls, beach roses, general stores, geraniums overflowing their pots, picket fences… you know the look :)
5. Screen doors. I miss screen doors so much!! A neighborhood full of screen doors just seems friendly – it’s easier to see who’s home, and you can hear that lovely summer mingle of sounds (insects buzzing, kids laughing, lawn mowers mowing…) even if you’re inside. Unfortunately, screen doors are just not practical here in the land of AC and spring pollen!
6. Giant trees. Because the neighborhoods in New England are older, they generally avoided the fate of new neighborhoods down here — where every single tree gets razed to make way for building :( (I can rant about this for hours.) I LOVE New England’s huge old trees, tree-lined streets, and tree-shaded lawns so much.
7. Better ice cream shops. For starters, on balance, New England ice cream is just straight-up better than North Carolina ice cream. The shops tend to be in more scenic locations, too. Secondly, I have found that New England ice cream scoopers are uniformly more delightful than Southern scoopers. In New England, scooping ice cream is at the top of the teenage job pyramid — the best, brightest, most smiley and sparkling get the jobs. In the South, those kids go to work at Chick-fil-a :)
8. Stone walls. Few things warm my heart more than a centuries-old stone wall. My parents’ house and John’s parents’ house both have them in abundance, but that’s nothing particularly noteworthy — they’re everywhere! They run along the road, divide pastures, border hiking trails… and look adorable and stately while doing it.
9. Apple picking. It’s not fall for me without a visit to a pick-your-own apple orchard and a cup of cider and a cider donut at Clyde’s. There are orchards in North Carolina, but the best ones are a few hours away, in the mountains — as opposed to Connecticut, where there’s almost literally an orchard in John’s backyard! Delicious apples + crisp, cool fall air and blue skies = fall perfection.
10. New England architecture. Give me weathered shingles, classic colors, granite front stoops, and copper lanterns anytime! Of course, this house is my favorite example :)
11. Larger lots, woods, and open space. Growing up, my house sat on an acre of land, and our lot backed up to an overgrown farm. This is very common in Connecticut, and I adore it. I think having the freedom to roam through woods and streams is so important for kids, and I wish more of these types of neighborhoods existed in the Triangle.
12. Proximity to the Island. Finally, being just five hours from this pretty place would be a dream!!
This post might make you wonder why I don’t still live in New England — but I assure you, there are many things I love about North Carolina! They’ll be coming to a blog near you very soon :) In the meantime, I’d love to hear: if you’ve visited New England, what was your favorite part?
25 July 2016
June has been on an impressive number of road trips in her short life. Over the last six months, she’s driven to Charleston (4.5 hours), Atlanta (6 hours), Hilton Head (5 hours), Cashiers (5 hours), White Sulphur Springs (4.5 hours), and Maine (14.5 hours!!). And that’s just the straight driving time — all of those trips were longer with stops! We’ve learned a few things along the way about taking a road trip with a three- to six-month-old, and I’d love to share our tips with you today…
1. Don’t take the scenic route. This one pains me, because seeking out interesting and beautiful routes is in my blood! (It’s one of my Dad’s favorite things.) But, our main strategy for a successful road trip at this age is to have June napping for as much of it as possible. If we time it right, she has been known to take a three and a half hour nap in the car! (Gold, people!!) Stopping or even changing the sound in the car by dramatically slowing our speed is something that will wake her up, so we stick to the most direct highway route for long, uninterrupted stretches of road.
2. Consolidate stops. We try to make sure that when we do stop, we take care of everything: feeding June, feeding ourselves, a stretch break, a bathroom break, and a gas fill-up. That way, we don’t have to risk waking her up an hour into a nap because our tank is running low.
3. Dress her lightly. June tends to get very sweaty in her car seat, even with the AC blasting, so I always make sure she’s wearing her lightest outfit – usually a thin bubble. This helps her stay cool and comfy!
4. Picnic for meals. We learned early on that expecting June to sit in our laps or in a high chair when we stopped for meals was not realistic – all she wanted to do was roll! (And I don’t blame her.) So, instead of eating in a restaurant, we always pack a picnic blanket, get food to go (usually from Chick-fil-a!), and eat outside. Even at side-of-the-highway fast food restaurants there’s almost always a little grass and a tree for shade. So far we’ve been lucky to avoid rain on our travel days, but in the case of rain or cold, I’d probably bring our blanket into the kids’ play area and let her roll around in there while we ate.
5. Ride in the back. When June is awake, we try to have one adult riding in the back with her, to help her stay busy and happy. We can read to her, hand her different toys, sing, make funny faces, etc. And on the subject of toys, we’ve found that while she’s still interested in her usual suspects on a road trip, she particularly seems to like “unusual” toys: popular items in the past have included an empty water bottle, her stroller fan (she loves to have it blow on her face!), and a board book (smacking the cover with her palm kept her occupied for a good 45 minutes on our last trip!).
6. Keep your schedule loose. The only time I was stressed on our drive to Maine was when I thought we were going to arrive in time for a cocktail party but the traffic was making that less and less likely. If at all possible, try not to have a time you NEED to arrive — that way, if you have to make extra stops because someone’s screaming or has a diaper issue or just CANNOT be in the car seat anymore, it’s no big deal. It’s just part of the adventure!
7. Plan a really good destination. This especially applies if you’re on a multi-day road trip. On our recent trip to Maine, we stayed with John’s sisters and brothers-in-law halfway through, and seeing them at the end of a long day of travel was the best! Then, on our way home, we stayed at an AMAZING waterfront Airbnb with a tree swing, soaker tub, and several small water craft :) We ate takeout pizza on the dock while the sun set the night we arrived, and took a family canoe trip in the morning before we got back on the road! We loved having something so fun to look forward to even though we were leaving our “real” vacation.
I know road trips with kids of any age can seem intimidating, so I hope these tips help! If you have tips that work for your littles (or even remember a good tip from when you were little!), I’d love to hear!!
12 July 2016
There’s always a bit of nervousness when introducing someone new to the Island, because it’s so very close to my heart and my family’s heart. It’s a different sort of place, and it’s not right for everyone, which makes it all the more rewarding when the guests that do come understand that uniqueness, and love it, too.
Last week I had the joy of making one of the most special Island introductions ever, to my daughter. The week wasn’t perfect — it didn’t have to be. That wasn’t the goal. I just wanted her to love it in her own way, and despite a nasty cold and only being six months old, I think she did :)
Swinging at the playground, riding in the boat, taking walks, meeting family (SO MUCH FAMILY), singing songs, grinning at her big cousin Tegan, taking a million baths to try to loosen the snot (ha!), reading books, rolling around on the grass, getting cuddled by everyone… it was a good week.
The neat thing is that since we usually only go to Maine once a year, our experience with June next year will be quite different! She’ll be walking and talking and eating solid food!
My parents made sure that I got the chance to go to this Island every year of my life, and I hope to do the same for June. I can only hope she gets as much joy, peace, and character formation out of it as I have. I can’t wait for all the adventures in store at our special place :)
Up next: a few tips from our epic road trip!
P.S. Maine 2015 and a little Maine film
1 July 2016
As I knew it would be, June was a busy month. (It always is.) I traveled to Hilton Head and to Cashiers. I had two evening work events. We hosted dear friends and visited dear friends in the mountains.
But, we also picked blueberries five times! In fact, we made great progress with our summer fun list, checking off a Bulls game, chicken souvlaki, the Honeysuckle Tea House, and more. So, though those lingering items from a few months ago are STILL on my to do list (and driving me a bit nuts, if I’m being honest), I’m calling June a win. And I’m so excited for July!!
Revisiting my goals for June:
Perfect the scavenger hunt John and I are developing for my Fourth of July cousin reunion
Get an estimate from one more landscaping company
Finish our will
Master an updo from the Small Things archive
Read “168 Hours” and “Radical” for the NR Book Club (didn’t get to either of these, but I did read “Bringing Up Bebe” and really enjoyed it!)
Have fun in Brevard with our friends the Henrys
Host my two dear friends from elementary school
Plan out our July road trip to Maine
— Finish our will
— Master an updo from the Small Things archive
— Move forward in our backyard renovation project (are y’all sick of hearing about these three things yet??)
— Check more things off our summer fun list
— Finish planning and host a baby shower for a dear friend
— Relish our time in Maine
— Email our neighborhood recreation committee about my luminaria idea
— Finish our June in June movie
— Feed June her first solid food!!
As a reminder, here are my 2016 guideposts. If you’ve posted your goals somewhere, I’d love to see – or just drop them in the comments!
20 June 2016
I may have mentioned before that John and I have a three-year vacation rotation for our big trip of the year. It goes: Michigan (2013 trip here), domestic (2014 trip, to California, here), and international (2015 trip, to France, here). (Why Michigan? John’s family has a cabin there, so though we don’t make it every year, we try to go regularly!)
According to our rotation we were slated to go to Michigan this year, but we wanted to go with John’s siblings and parents and couldn’t find a date that worked for everyone. So, we’re postponing until 2017. We’re actually going to do both Michigan AND our domestic trip next year, so it will be a big one! On tap for our domestic travels? THE SOUTHWEST!
We are headed to a corner of the country neither of us have ever visited, and we are excited!! Truly, the photos kind of make the southwest look like another planet. And in some ways, it seems just as foreign. We know very little about the area, and there are so many possible things to see and do!
Even though we’ve got a long lead on our trip, we want to get a jump on planning, because many of the sites require permits and/or guides. But like I said, we’re not at all familiar with this area, so here’s where I’d love your help:
— If you’re familiar with Arizona and Utah, what time of year do you think is best to visit? We’re considering the week around Memorial Day, but I’m worried it might be too hot.
— Any must-dos? So far we have the Grand Canyon, Zion (the Narrows!), Antelope Canyon, and Bryce Canyon on the tentative list.
— Any blog posts or Instagram accounts I should check out for inspiration?
Already so excited!! I’d love to hear your advice and recommendations!
All photos via the Department of Interior’s fantastic Instagram account