Beautiful Blooms

Recently, Colette and I toured the conservatory at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

We had hoped that there would be snow on the ground, and we would have the thrill of stepping out of the snowy landscape into the warm, moist conservatory filled with living, blooming plants...the stark contrast was what we yearned to experience. But even though we had plenty of snow on the ground at our house, there was no snow at all in Northampton, MA. But our disappointment at our timing disappeared instantly when we entered, for we learned that we had arrived just after their spring bulb show, and that all the bulbs were still blooming. Oh, riotous spring blooms! And the aroma!

We learned that conservatories were called "orangeries" in Europe, and were begun by the French who wanted some way to grow citrus in winter. (When we were in England last year, we had tea at the Orangerie at Kensington Palace, which was a former conservatory or "orangerie".) When we left the bulb rooms, we moved into a small room which grew citrus. The smell of orange blossoms! That is one thing I miss about California!

From there we passed through one room after another. Some were divided by continent with horticultural specimens from each. And others were divided by type of plant...ferns, cacti, water plants, etc.

Neither of us had ever been in a large, glass conservatory before, and we decided that they appeal to our inner Victorians...everything beautiful and orderly, showing a fascination with the natural world, and sort of a way to travel to the far reaches of the world without really going anywhere. Plus, we could sit surrounded by exotic plants without fear that a large millipede was going to crawl over our feet, or a monkey drop down on our heads! You're laughing...but that really was what I was thinking!

It's the best sort of bean...a cocoa bean! It was actually labeled "Cocoa Bean - Chocolate Tree".

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit there, and have decided that we need to seek out more of these conservatories. I'm particularly interested in finding one that grows giant lily pads. Have you ever been to one? Do you have any you recommend?

New Hampshire Maple Weekend

Every year, around the end of March, New Hampshire celebrates Maple Weekend. All throughout the state, sugar shacks open their doors to visitors who come to see the process of turning maple sap into maple syrup. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup! 

Hubby and I started out last Saturday by visiting a popular sugar shack and pancake house for breakfast! Steam puffed out of their sugar house's chimney pipe from their wood-fired evaporator.

The wait was long, but the blueberry waffles were worth it!

Then we traveled down a dirt, country road as we followed the signs that led to a family-owned sugar shack. A large number of neighbors and curious maple seekers, like ourselves, were gathered about chatting, watching the operation, and sampling the sweet, sticky syrup.

The sample was DE-licious! And this sweet, little glass bottle full of the liquid amber came home with us!

Pancake Saturday

Since it's Maple Season in New England, I thought it would be fun to have a Pancake Party! Felicity, Walter, and the kiddos came over Saturday for a little morning feast.

I offered four different types of pancakes: buttermilk, buttermilk with green food coloring (as it was St. Patrick's Day), blueberry, and coconut. Hubby wanted buttermilk. And everyone else wanted coconut (with seconds of coconut with a crazy swirl of green food coloring). Coconut pancakes are delicious!...and more filling than a regular pancake. Click here for the recipe. (I served it with real maple syrup, and I used plain flour vs. coconut flour.)

Applewood- and cob-smoked bacon, a smattering of blueberries, and orange juice rounded out the meal. Sticky, happy smiles all around!

Winter Get-Away in Maine

Last week, we went on a two day get-away to Maine! We stayed at the historic Kennebunkport Inn (c. 1899).

We loved the classic interior details and nautical touches, and the friendly staff was top notch!

I adore eating breakfast out. Seriously, I'd rather eat breakfast in a restaurant than any other meal. And this restaurant had comfy chairs, down throw pillows, and a cozy fire going in the fireplace...score! Settled in for a leisurely breakfast.

After breakfast, we explored the town of Kennebunkport. Signs like this one can be found all over town to point you in the right direction.

We drove along Ocean Drive with its views of the Atlantic on one side and classic, New England beach houses on the other. The most notable home being the Bush Family compound, seen here.

While Hubby did some work back at the hotel, Colette and I did a little post-nor'easter beach combing. We saw driftwood, shells, numerous lost mittens, one boat shoe, lots and lots of seaweed, and several dead fish.

Then we headed over to Pineland Farms to try out cross-country skiing for the first time. Although Colette snowboards, and Hubby and I used to downhill ski, none of us had ever been on cross-country skis. It's quite different, in that you can't really turn or stop. So, it's go straight or go home. But we were willing to try! 

Yikes. Just looking down at them, big chicken that I am, all I could think is...they're long and skinny and they won't turn. I'm probably going to die!

But these two were feeling adventurous, especially Colette, who rented skate-style skis and was tackling it with gusto.

And this beautiful, young lady with the dazzling smile is our future daughter-in-law! She used to cross-country ski competitively, so she was the real pro in our group. That's her sweet mom in the background.

We fell, we laughed, we struggled to get up, we thought we had the hang of it, we fell some more, we admired the scenery and the softly falling snow, we fell again. We all definitely want to try it again sometime!

The next day we visited a local nursery (full posting coming on that), did a little antiquing, and then visited two lighthouses before returning home.

We LOVE coastal Maine! Every time we go, we leave with a few treasures (seashells, salt water taffy, and Flying Pig bread this time) and some great memories.
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