Fall Festivities in New England

The Fall season in New England brings about a slew of requisite fun family activities.  Below are  my top five favorites not to be missed.

1. Apple Picking! To be honest my older kids kind of roll their eyes at this one, yet I drag them every year, and every year they love it once I get them there.  There a many places to apple pick in Rhode Island, my favorite is Narrow Lane Orchard in North Kingstown because they also have peaches when in season, and a beautiful (but short enough for the kids) nature trail around the orchard.   There is something about picking your own apples and then taking them home to make an apple pie.  I love giving my kids that farm to table experience whenever possible.  My pie recipe is super easy, and the kids love to help.  I buy ready- made Pillsbury pie Crusts, frankly, because I haven’t mastered the pie crust, and mine  have just never come out as good as the ready- made! For the filling:

8 apples cut up into chunks or slices

1/2 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 T cornstarch

3/4 t. cinnamon

1 t. vanilla

Mix it all together and bake at 350 until top is golden and the filling is bubbling, about 1 hr.

2. The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular! This takes place every October in R.I., this year it will run October 6th through 31st from 6pm to 10pm at the Roger Williams Park Zoo. Similar events are spread throughout the area. In fact  Women’s Day magazine had a great article last year listing these displays around the country.  Thousands of pumpkins are carved, lit and lined up on a trail with music setting the mood to create an enchanting evening experience not to be missed. It is truly unique, and my whole family enjoys it.  I recommend going either on the early or late side to avoid a long wait in line, since this event is so popular.

 

 

3. The RISD sale. Don’t miss the fall student & alumni RISD sale held outdoors on Benefit street between Waterman and Hopkins streets in Providence. October 15th from 10am to 4pm. Be inspired by amazing creativity, meet the artists, and pick up distinctive art at affordable prices.  Also a great place to find gifts of Jewelry, textiles, ceramics, paintings or paper goods, for yourself or others.

4. Pumpkin Picking.  Yes, there is still a place where, like Charlie Brown, you can go to a real pumpkin patch and pick your own pumpkin off the vine. You don’t have to just buy it at the supermarket. (although admittedly, in this area with plentiful pumpkin crops, they can be much less expensive at supermarkets) For the experience, Spring Hill Sugar House is located at 522 Gardner Rd.in Richmond, RI, and is an 8 acre farm that produces it’s own maple syrup and apple cider . It also has a fantastic corn maze and pumkin patch that makes it the perfect fall day family outing. Be sure to bring your camera to capture all the great photo opportunities.

5. Leaf Collecting.  Remember as a kid picking out colorful leaves and bringing them home to iron between wax paper?  I had somehow forgotten to do this for a while, but the beauty of having children is rediscovering some of the simple pleasures we sometimes forget as adults.  Now we go on a leaf hunt, in our yard, the neighborhood, or on a trail, and bring home beautiful leaves.  I iron them between wax paper, punch two holes in the top, tie on a string, and hang them in the windows for pretty (and for me, nostalgic) home-made fall decorations.

 

The air is crisp, time to get cozy and enjoy the beauty of the Fall! What are some of your favorite fall activities?

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Dreaming of Nantucket

Thirteen years ago in a farmhouse in Madaket, Nantucket that coruscated with magical candlelight, we celebrated the wedding of our close friends Jeff and Lisa.    Between moves and babies, and budget, we had not been back to the enchanted island since.  This summer, when my husband and I convinced his Northern Virginia residing, Outer Banks loving,  family to vacation in New England, I knew we needed a plan.    Another friend, Linda, has been to Nantucket every year with her family, and gave me a list of her favorite things to do.  Each suggestion turned out to be better than the last, and her list quickly became our guidebook.

We rented a house in the Tom Nevers area that did not allow dogs.  But Nantucket is such a dog friendly island that we decided to board our dog there so that we could take him out to play during the week.  The Nantucket MSPCA where he stayed, is located just across from the gorgeous Tupancy  Links dog park, and close to dog friendly beaches where he could swim.  This worked out perfectly. Surprisingly, the cost would have been comparable had we boarded him back home.

Vacation began when we stepped on to the ferry,  since we brought our car we made reservations months in advance to secure a spot.  Our week was filled with incredible experiences, not the least of which was just relaxing in adirondack chairs with family,  but here are some recommendations to get you started if you go.

1. Our first night we celebrated my husband’s birthday at The Jetties restaurant, situated at the edge of Jetties Beach.  Live music complemented the delicious food, and my toes were dug in the powdery sand. Heaven. We washed dinner down with sangria full of fruit, which we took over to beach chairs when we were done with our meal.  The children played at the adjacent playground while we soaked in the fabulous setting.

2. ‘Sconsett is an idyllic village by the sea with cottages covered in flowering vines.   We spent the day at the beach, visited the Sankaty Head Lighthouse, and had an excellent dinner at the ‘Sconsett Café.

3. On your way to the beautiful beaches in Madaket, on the far west end of the island, you must stop at the dock near Second bridge, and spend some time catching snapping turtles with your kids. You will need to bring string and some chicken legs from the supermarket. To watch your kids dangle a chicken leg over the dock and pull up a big turtle is extraordinary!

4. On your way back into town stop and have lunch at Something Natural, for yummy sandwiches to be eaten outside at picnic benches in a park like setting. Tucked away at 50 Cliff Rd.

5. The Whaling Museum gives a great overview of the fascinating history of the island, and a few of us early risers took a walking tour around town that further detailed its rich historic past.

6. I think the highlight for us all was chartering a sailboat (the Endeavor) for an evening cruise. It was a spectacular setting, and a great way to view the harbor and the sound.

There were things we had wanted to do, but never got around to, like biking along the extensive paths that criss-crossed the island.  Of course we did manage to squeeze in some shopping at the fabulous boutiques, and have an exquisite grown up meal at The Pearl in town. We love having the opportunity to be all together as a family for a vacation every year, and cherish our time together. If anyone has recommendations for our next visit to Nantucket, please let me know, because after our fantastic experience there, I think we will be able to convince our mid-Atlantic family members to come back.

 

 

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Decisions While Traveling…..Choose Your Path

I’ve been traveling throughout Ireland for the past week, and as a result of not going with a tour group I needed to make many decisions along the way.  The hardest thing for me was to decide which sites to see and what places to visit, since I was only visiting the country for a week.  It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the idea of what you “HAVE” to do versus what you feel like doing at the moment.  I spoke with friends who had traveled to Ireland, and I also read multiple guide books before the trip. Prior to the vacation, we decided where we would stay.  I had hotels booked and the flight, but that was the extent of it.  We had no idea how to get  anywhere after we got off the plane.  I was a bit nervous about that (since I usually like having a plan in place), but things worked out fine. We found our way around easy enough, and we ended up traveling by bus, taxi, plane, train, and automobile by the end of the trip.  People in Ireland are probably about the nicest, friendliest, and most helpful of any people I’ve come across in the world so far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Buses around Dublin, Ireland)                          (Our AWESOME bus driver in Dublin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

(My husband waiting for the train)                 (Our nice train-mates that walked us to our hotel)

Here are the two times during my trip that indecision had me the most flustered:

1.  The first was when we got to Cork, Ireland (about 1/3 of the way through our trip), and the receptionist told me it would be easier to rent a car than to take the train around like we had decided to do the night before.  Basically, I had it in my mind that we would not rent a car as a way to get around (due to traffic, driving on the wrong side, wheel on the wrong side, gas prices, getting lost, having to park, having to pay to park, and just the responsibility of having the car and having to return it at a certain time).  When the receptionist brought it up my first response was, “No, we are not driving here,” but then she persisted to state all the positives of renting a car.  My husband thought it might not be such a bad idea, but I was REALLY nervous about it.  We ended up getting it, which actually turned out to be a good idea.  We were not bound by bus and train schedules anymore, we could do things “off the beaten path,” and it made driving through the country somewhat of an adventure.  It did take me a good hour or so to be okay with the idea, but I bounced back.  We even made it to Kinsale and Blarney (to kiss the Blarney Stone).  Had we not rented a car, we would have chosen one or the other, as we wouldn’t have been able to do both.  It also made it possible for us to go in areas where the buses did not go (like places we stopped at along the Dingle Peninsula).

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Our rental car, a Nissan Micra)                                (The boats in Kinsale, Ireland)

 

 

 

 

 

 

(The Blarney Castle)                                                    (Me kissing the Blarney Stone)

2.  The other situation where I struggled, was when I found out I couldn’t do everything there was to do in Killarney, Ireland in the allotted amount of time we were there.  I had heard and read that we NEEDED to do the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Dingle Peninsula.  After hearing how long it would take to get to each place, there was no way we could do all three (in fact, we could only choose one).  Everything you read from tourist information sites tells you the number one thing to do is the Ring of Kerry.  I felt like I should do it because of this, but I really didn’t want to spend my entire day on a bus with a group of people for an eight hour tour on narrow, windy roads.  I was conflicted about doing what I felt I “had” to do versus what I wanted to do.  Could I really come to Killarney and NOT do the Ring of Kerry?  After going back and forth about what to do, I finally decided not to do what everyone else at our B&B was doing, and we took our rental car and drove ourselves out to the Dingle Peninsula (the rental car came in handy).  It was beautiful, relaxing, and in the end an overall great decision.  I have had to come to grips with the fact that I didn’t do everything that I was “supposed” to do here, but glad with what we did decide to do.  Some things we did were the “touristy thing,” but others were not.  In the end, I’m glad we experienced a balance of both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Downtown Dingle, Ireland)                                     (Inch Strand, Dingle Peninsula)

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Slea Head, Dingle Peninsula)                                  (My Hubby & Me at Slea Head)

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Driving back – Irish Famine Houses)                    (Sheep on the hills on Dingle Peninsula)

(View from the roadways leading to Slea Head, Dingle Peninsula)

Overall, our 10-year anniversary trip to Ireland was a success.  We did many things that were suggested to us (museums, tours, pub crawls, etc.), but we were spontaneous and created an adventure for ourselves as well.  I wouldn’t change a thing from our trip, but we will definitely be coming back to Ireland in the future.  It’s such a beautiful place to visit, and there are many wonderful people here!!!  There are so many more towns to visit and sites to see!  I can’t wait until we return (with the kids next time!).  So whether you choose the path that most people take, or do something that others don’t usually do, just choose the path that’s right for you!

(Slainte!  Cheers to Ireland!)

*  What do you like to do when you travel?  Do you feel obligated to visit the touristy sites?

Kristin Wheeler

Ice Cream Face Melts My Heart

I try to keep sweets away from my daughter.  It’s not to be mean; rather, it’s because I know with my husband around, she’s getting plenty. Yup, he’s the sucker in the family and will do anything to see his little girl’s eyes sparkle. Case in point, our recent trip to Mystic, CT, where my husband gave my daughter ice cream AND part of a brownie.  I am worried, however,  that if she eats too many sweets those veggies will start becoming a lot less appetizing.  I mean, who wouldn’t choose brownies over brussel sprouts?

VIDEO Diary Day 4 (Relaxing DC Style)

Today was a wonderful day.  Relaxing…and just what the doctor ordered!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZONGXOMwbQ8

Video Diary Day 1 (Leaving Rhode Island)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZS6Oo8SZ30

Can It Fit On The Back Of A Camel?

photos by Elizabeth Atalay

 

When I think of spring-cleaning, and my desire to purge our home of unnecessary belongings, I always think back to Razi.  Razi was a local Bedouin, who led my mother and me on a camel trek through the Negev Desert over twenty years ago.  I can still picture my mother, perched atop a camel like the Queen of Sheba. She bobbed and wobbled with each of its steps, letting out squeals of delight and fear as we progressed deeper into the Desert. Razi told me that my mother reminded him of his own, with her enthusiasm and adventurous spirit, even in her later years. Until that day my knowledge of the Bedouins and their life was limited to what I had seen from my narrow tourist perspective. What looked to me like meager tent camps dotted the dusty stretches of land along the Israeli roads. When we stopped anywhere near these communities, we were instantly swarmed by smudged Bedouin children with outstretched hands. I felt terrible for them. From what I could tell, they had no homes, received no education and clearly lived in poverty. As our camels plodded along, Razi spoke about life in the desert and life as a Bedouin. He easily navigated the desolate terrain, and described it as full of life if you knew where to look. He explained that the Bedouin are expert trackers.  He spoke of following the stars and planets like a map in the night sky. He told us about Bedouin poetry and the tradition of oral history. Much of this knowledge, he said, had been traditionally passed on to him, as it was to all Bedouin children. As Razi spoke,  my idea of the Bedouins being uneducated seemed increasingly inane. It dawned on me that being well educated is subject to individual cultures.  I became highly aware that I would perish quickly if left on my own in this environment, despite my university edification. When we stopped for our midday meal, he baked us flatbread with ingredients from his camel pack. He brewed some sweet tea on the fire, and as we drank together, he told us how he pitied us with our burdens and responsibilities. Razi loved his life of freedom, and, to him, possessions only meant entrapment. He had a point. He said that it would be a nightmare for him to own more than he could fit on the back of his camel, thus inhibiting him from the nomadic life that he loved.   At that time in my life I did not own much, and I did not return home and sell all my worldly goods. I did bring back new understanding: that the world is seen through a lens unique to each person within his or her own culture.  This spring, as I part with some of  the things in our culture we aspire to collect, I think of it as unburdening our home, freeing ourselves, if even a tiny bit, from so much stuff.

(This article as seen in part in The Baltimore Sun Sunday Travel section)

 

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Doing Disney World with a Toddler

Strollers are a must for a young toddler at Disney.

I grew up an hour from Disney World and went to the parks far less than my husband did as a Rhode Islander.  His family made the trek to the parks every year and absolutely LOVE parks.  I am less excited about theme parks, but since it is important to my husband we decided to brave Disney World with our 16 month old son this year.

I’ve always thought 16 months was way too young for a park, but you know what? It isn’t. My son had the time of his life for the two and a half days we were in Orlando. The keys to our success were this: stay at a hotel at the Magic Kingdom, go to the park EARLY, plan which rides are suitable for a toddler before your trip and book a character breakfast.

Staying at the Magic Kingdom is more expensive, but you can save money by booking in the off season. If you only have a toddler, don’t go school vacation week: prices double at hotels during this time. The park also raises prices across the board for busy weeks. The main reason I loved staying at the Magic Kingdom (we chose Wilderness Lodge this year) was convenience and the fact if my little guy needed a nap I could get him home in minutes and the rest of our group could stay at the park.

I am not a morning person, but my son is up bright and early between 6 and 6:30 am every day. Another benefit of staying at a Disney hotel is the Extra Magic Hour you receive- you can get into all of their parks one hour before the rest of the park-goers! This is huge with a toddler because you can get to all of the popular rides for them with little to no wait. We made a bee-line to the Winnie the Pooh ride and had less than a 10 minute wait. My son’s favorite ride was the carousel, which he asked to go on “more please” repeatedly. If you’re a night owl, you can also stay later at the park with your hotel key– which could be fun if you have family to babysit or your child is old enough for Disney babysitting.

My husband had the trip thoroughly planned out with what rides were appropriate for our son and had a plan. You can download apps for ride wait times and other Disney tips for your smart phone to make your trip more efficient. We checked out the web site MouseSavers and learned some great Disney World tips and tricks.Micky waffle

My last suggestion for toddler Disney fans is to book a character breakfast. We booked a late morning breakfast at the Polynesian hotel and my little guy absolutely loved meeting Stitch, Mickey, Pluto & Lilo. He wasn’t scared a bit and wanted to chase the characters around the restaurant!

If you were considering taking your toddler to Disney, I say do it! This is coming from a non-park loving, “not a big Disney fan” Mom. Seeing the joy in my son’s face was priceless and he had a fantastic time! Disney might have finally won me over!

What are your tips for traveling with a toddler?

 

Travels to France’s Wine Country

I just returned back home after a week-long journey to France’s wine country. Part of my job as a working mom and wine shop owner is to travel to vineyards in the U.S. and abroad to visit with the great wine estates that I work with and represent at the shop. This trip was amazing– but ever so busy– visiting a different wine region and changing hotels each day. We visited in this order – Alsace, Champagne, Sancerre, Puligny Montrachet, Pouilly, Fuisse and the northern Rhone.  This trip was probably one of the best I have ever had.

Each day I spent time in the vineyards with the owners and winemakers studying the soil, in the winery understanding the  producing processes and of course finishing up with a tasting. The tasting often consists of sampling 10-15 different wines. Of course I am not drinking them. I swish and swirl in the mouth and then spit out. Not too lady like sounding but that is part of the job; otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do the job. I tasted Champagne and wine as far back as 1973 and 1976 respectively – wow, I was only 2 and 5 then.

At Olivier Leflaive with Patrick Leflaive & Winemaker Franck

I was the only person from RI (well except for my supplier) who was asked to go on the trip and was the only woman, which made it all the more interesting. This actually happens frequently since the wine industry is quite male dominated. However the industry has changed over the last 20 years with more women representing part of the pie or should I say wine.

My background hasn’t always been in wine. I worked in the public relations world for some time, before deciding to make a change and dive head first into a life centered around a passion – wine and food. I love the jump I made, my career and helping people find the best wines for them.  Not once have I ever looked back.

Despite that I love what I do and the great travel opportunities that accompany my career, I always struggle when I get on the plane and leave my 3-year old daughter. I worry that she is sad and feel that I have abandoned her. As a woman who considers herself intelligent, I know rationally this is not the case. I am certain that it’s harder on me than it is her, especially when I have planned her days full of activities so she won’t have as much down time to realize I am gone.  But no matter if it is the 3rd or 20th time that I have gone away, the departure is never easy.

Tell me your thoughts. Do you ever have these feelings when you leave your children whether for work or vacation?

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Can’t we keep our babies from growing up?

If you are a mom, the following most likely sounds very familiar on some level. It seems like just yesterday I was laying in a hospital delivery room after a luxurious 29-hours of labor to hear the doctor say “It’s a boy!!!”  From that moment on, it has been a constant struggle to try and make time stand still to keep my little baby just that — a little baby!

 You constantly tell your children all the time, do not rush growing up. Stay a kid for as long as you can.  Are we really giving them this advice for the sake of our children, or is it more for us?   How ironic it is that children spend their entire childhood wanting to be older than they are, while we as parents spend our childrens lives wishing they would stay forever young.

 

How does this happen? Where does the time go? Please stop the ride, I wanna get off!  Truth is, my friends: you cannot stop the ride. You can only hope to slow it down a little to enjoy it for as long as possible.   You look once, and your children are small and look to you for everything. Then, within the blink of an eye, you are waving to them as you drop them off for their first year of college.  I am actually holding back tears now just thinking about it.

 As each day goes by, I see my son growing up so fast before my eyes.  He is growing taller and acting older, and it is sometimes bittersweet, as I have to let him go a little in certain ways.   I have to let go of his little baby face and embrace his big boy face.   I have to let go of the goo goos and gaa gaas, and try to embrace a boy with ideas and thoughts of his own.  I have to let go of my little boy wanting a hug and kiss from his mommy before school, and try to embrace a growing boy who would rather have a high-five from his mom so people will not make fun of him.   Sigh.   These are the things that come with our ever-growing and changing children.

My son has just turned eleven years old, and he’s asking me about the birds and the bees (GULP), asking me to buy him the new brand of deodorant with the chocolate scent in it because the girls like it and then– get ready for this one folks– my son is about to take his first trip on a plane ALONE!!!   Am I ready to throw up??  Ummm, YES!

 I wish there was a way to give some magical advice to all of your parents out there, or some remedy to stop it from happening, but unfortunately, I can’t — because truthfully, it doesn’t exist.  All I can say is your children WILL grow up. They WILL change, and although they will not need you in some of the ways you wish they still would, the fact of the matter is your children WILL always need you in some way.  There is a song that I have heard, and each time I hear it, I think of my little boy who is now growing into a wonderful little man who I love more than myself.  I will leave all of you with a piece of it. Please enjoy every minute you have with your children while they are still young.

 Sunrise, Sunset

 Is this the little girl I carried?

Is this the little boy at play?

I don’t remember growing older.

When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?

When did he grow to be so tall?

Wasn’t it yesterday?

When they were small

Sunrise, Sunset.

Sunrise, Sunset.

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