Friday, November 13, 2015

Artisan Bread Baking Class

As I drive to Vermont on Monday morning, all sorts of worries plague my brain. I'll be late, the class will be cancelled and they didn't tell me, the class will be too advanced for me. As is usually the case with my obsessive worries, none of these concerns prove to be true. I walk in to the King Arthur Flour Educational Center, and meet our teacher. Everyone is very welcoming. The class members have a wide variety of baking experience but we all have one thing in common. We love to bake bread and we want to learn how to do it better! 

It doesn’t take long for the class to get down to business. We practice weighing our ingredients. We learn a bunch of techniques for handling doughs of different consistencies. We make an onion tart, and breadsticks, and get the preferments ready for the breads we will be baking the following day.

It's a beautiful day in Vermont but the leaves haven't changed much yet. Norwich is a sleepy little town. Right across the Connecticut River is the bustling college town of Hanover, where Dartmouth is located. I go to the grocery store there to get wine, water, and goat cheese for my breadsticks. 

I'm staying at the Norwich Inn, an OLD hotel, built in the late 1790’s. I have a cozy room on the top floor. There is no elevator but I don't mind. Later I go sit at the bar and have a salad and some sangria. They have their own brewery and I wish I liked beer more but I just don't so I give it a pass.

In the morning I go for a short run about town. My run is only 30 minutes because it's the week before my next half marathon. Norwalk is very very quaint. At the end I run into some people on a bike tour and get their information. We're thinking about doing a bike tour in Italy next year and we're researching our options.

This is a busy day in baking class. We are making so many different kinds of bread at once it's a little confusing. We take our preferments from the previous day and turn them into the dough for ciabatta, brioche, baguettes, and roasted potato bread. Each bread calls for a somewhat different technique of kneading, proofing and forming into loaves. 

The ciabatta is a loose sloppy dough, slightly sticky, but we learn how to get it on the peel and then into the oven without wrecking it. The brioche is more stiff, we learn how to form little rolls that are squeezed together in a loaf pan to rise. We learn how to form baguettes, and hurray! How to put bread into a banneton and get it back out without it sticking! I've tried it at home before and just made a mess but now I know what to do.

We learn more about baker percentages and how to use them to change the amounts of a recipe successfully. We are even learning how to create our own bread recipes, although at this point it's hard to imagine I’d ever want to do that!

We start working with sourdough starters late in the afternoon and will do more with them tomorrow.

Wednesday is sourdough day. We finish the bagels from the day before and make our sourdough loaves. Two of the loaves we bake on Wednesday, two are retarded in the fridge to be baked the following day. We'll compare the flavor and texture of both loaves.

We also start our rye flour loaves and create our own bread recipe using the bakers percentages and other things we have learned in class.

I discover how and why we slash the tops of our loaves. It's to help them rise, and if they aren't over proofed it won't make them fall. I also learn how to form a boule, or round loaf; how to get it to stand up properly and roundly on its own. 

The rye loaves we start for tomorrow are very sticky; I’m curious to see how they perform. The sourdough bagels are good, but I think I like my bagel recipe better.

I like knowing how to use bakers percentages to scale a recipe up or down, usually down for me, so I can make one loaf instead of two. But making up my own recipe? Not convinced yet that this is something I would ever do, although I could see me trying to use those techniques to take a volume based recipe and convert it to weights. We'll see.

All day during class it simply pours down rain. By the end of the day the rain has stopped, so I take my camera and wander around Norwich taking pictures of the leaves and such in the fading light. Then I go to the Inn's bar one more time for dinner and drinks and end up talking to the town planner and the owner of the inn. I drink a too much and have fun. It is a little out of character for me, but when you’re on your own in a little Vermont town you might as well get out of your comfort zone!

This baking class exceeded my expectations. It was really fun, I learned a lot, and I’ve increased my bread baking confidence. I’d love to take another class there someday. They offer all sorts of classes, I could take my pick!

If you think you might be interested in one of their classes go to their website. You won't be disappointed!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sailing with the Westie Crew

A while back I asked Paula if she and Rich would like to go sailing with us sometime. She said they would love to….but then I thought I’d see if anyone else on the Executive Committee would like to go sailing as well. I really didn’t expect to get many takers but to my surprise eight people ended up getting on board with the idea.

We’ve had six people on the boat, but two of them were children, and at the time we only had two dogs. Eight people seemed like a lot. Our boat is 38’, but the cockpit is somewhat small. I hoped I hadn’t made a mistake.

Any sailboat invitation is contingent on the weather. We picked a date that everyone that wanted to could come and then waited to see what mother nature would serve up on that date. Well the weather was perfect. 5-10 knots, sunny skies, 1 foot seas or less. The trip was on!

We keep our boat in Salem, Massachusetts at Hawthorne Cove Marina. Since it was a Saturday, everyone needed to park next door in the Salem Ferry parking lot. We got there early so we could meet everyone. Lee went ahead and went to the boat to make sure everything was ready for our guests. I took the dogs for a short walk and then waited in the ferry parking lot for people to arrive.

Diane and Dennis were the first ones there. The dogs were so surprised! “Wow! You’re at the boat! This is great!” I walked them over to the marina and they helpfully kept the dogs while I went back over to the parking lot to wait for everyone else.

Amy and Bill arrived next. There were a LOT of people out and both the marina and the ferry parking lot were really crowded. I started to worry that there wasn’t going to be enough parking spaces for everyone, but it was fine. Paula and Rich arrived and then it was time to go.

No one had ever been on a sailboat before. Motorboats and cruise ships yes, but no sailboats. Everyone was game, but Amy insisted on NO SWIM LADDERS! But with all the people and our gear the dinghy would have been too small anyway. We all took the launch to the boat.

The launch was full; I’ve never seen so many people on it. It actually seemed lower in the water. But before too long there we were at Prevailing Wins. Now it was time to see if we all would actually fit.

Well we fit just fine. The food and people’s bags and sweaters went below and the people all spread out above. The dogs had plenty of attention; the people had beer and other drinks. We gave anyone that wanted it a short tour of the cabin and then it was time to go.

For the most part Lee and I did our usual roles. He’s the captain. He determines the course, sets the autopilot, trims the sails. I get us off and on the mooring, fetch stuff and do other miscellaneous chores as needed. But Dennis wanted to help so Lee showed him how to come about and handle the jib. He did just fine!

There were many, many other boats out. I guess people knew this might be one of the last weekend days for sailing and nobody wanted to miss it. The kids were all out in their little boats outside Marblehead racing, motorboats and sailboats zigged and zagged here and there in Salem Sound.

We had enough wind to make things fun but not too scary. After my usual initial bout of nervousness I kind of forgot about things, unless Lee went below. I was having too much fun visiting with my friends and pointing out various sights to worry too much about what the boat was doing.

All of a sudden, it seemed, a patch of fog came rolling across the sound. Suddenly we could only see about 100 yards in front of us, and there were lots and lots of other boats out there who couldn’t see anything either. We decided that the smart thing to do was take down the sails and motor back in.

About the time we got to the mooring field the fog blew past and we could see again. Good timing! Our plan was to go to the marina deck and have a picnic. We figured that it would be a little tight trying to feed 8 people on the boat. But on this crowded festive Saturday we learned that the deck had been reserved by another group. No problem, I said, let’s go to The Willows, a nice park just down the road from the marina.

But when we got to the Willows it was packed. There were cars and people everywhere, and not a table or a grill to be had. I guess all the landlubbers were enjoying the end of summer too! The picnic had to migrate back to the Nill’s abode on Arlington Pond. That turned out to be a fine solution, and a pleasant end to a very nice day!

We learned a few things from this adventure. First of all, 8 people on the boat for a day sail is no problem at all. We could probably do 9 and maybe even 10 people, but that would be the absolute limit. Secondly, nice boating days in September are going to be crowded in Salem Harbor. If you want to use the deck at the marina you’d better reserve it well in advance! And thirdly, if there are enough things to distract me I’m not that nervous of a sailor at all. Maybe.

PS. Most of the photos in the post are by Diane Levesque, our wonderful Westie breeder and a great photographer. I was too busy having fun!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Lee, I Think We Hit Something....

My brother and sister in laws, Mark and Mary, came to visit us at the beginning of September. We hadn't seen them since last Thanksgiving. We used to be neighbors and I miss them a lot. It was fun to hang out together.

We wanted to take them sailing. At first we thought we'd take them to Scituate or Boston, but the Marine forecast on Friday called for gusty winds and 3-5 foot seas on Massachusetts Bay, so we decided that wasn't such a good idea. Instead we would spend the night on the boat on Wednesday in Salem Harbor, go to Marblehead on Thursday and then hightail it home on Friday. They had never been to Salem MA or Marblehead so this sounded fine to them.

On Wednesday it was hot for New England, high 80's, maybe even low nineties. It wasn't very pleasant bobbing around on a mooring in the heat so we went for a short sail instead. It was nice being out on the water. We put up the sails, went out to the islands and picked up a breeze here and there. It's been awhile since we just went sailing, instead of cruising with a destination. It was fun.

That evening we went to 62 Wine Bar in Salem for dinner and then slept comfortably on the boat. The next morning I went for a run in Salem and then we took off. Marblehead is close and we couldn't pick up our mooring there until 3, so we weren't in any hurry. We decided we would go out to Great Misery Island, pick up a mooring and have lunch, then sail around the islands out into the Bay a little and then head to Marblehead. It sounded like a good plan!

There wasn't much wind so we kept the motor on; the sea looked like glass and it was very calm. We were almost to Great Misery when we heard a loud CLUNK and a scrappy sound. The engine stopped, and so did we. "Lee I think we hit something" Mark said. We looked over the back of the boat. About 10 feet down we could see some rather large long yellow thing drifting behind the boat. "It's wrapped around the prop," Lee said grimly. This could be very bad.

Lee looked at me sternly. "Panicking is not going to help." Okay I thought, no panicking, I can do that. I wasn't sure what else I could do though. Fortunately Lee quickly took charge. 

"First we need to drop an anchor" he said and proceeded to do just that, not bothering to mention that we had never had the anchor out on this boat. Fortunately it came out of its container on the prow of the boat without incident and held without any trouble.

"Now I need to go look and see how bad it is" he said. He doesn't like getting in the ocean up here. The water is cold. Fortunately it was very calm, it was pretty hot out, and the water was as warm as it ever gets here, almost 70F.

We used the dinghy as a diving platform. Mark got in the dinghy to keep it steady and over the side went Lee. Shortly afterwards up he came. "It's really wrapped around tight, " he said. "Get me a knife". Gingerly Mary and I handed Lee a knife and under the surface he went again.

The next time he came up he said he was starting to free the prop, but there was a lot more work to do. He could only stay under for 10-15 seconds before he had to stop and come up for air. Mark wanted to spell him, but Lee was determined.

Finally the prop was free. Lee was tired and there were large black splotches on top of his head, from bumping it against the bottom of the boat. After he had rinsed away the salt water and dried off it was time to see if the engine would start. It's not good to stall an engine by the transmission being yanked out of gear by a rope!

But the engine started right back up. We couldn't be sure that there wasn't ANY damage to the boat but we seemed to be functional. We pulled up the anchor and headed the rest of the way to the day moorings at Great Misery.

Here we were in for another surprise. These moorings don't have any lines attached! But there were a couple of other boats moored there; how did they do it? They must have used their own lines. But how did they get their lines attached to the moorings? On a motor boat they could just reach over the side and grab the mooring, but we are much higher above the water than a motor boat.

I tried hooking the mooring with the boat hook. It was a good idea, but it took more coordination than I possess. Finally Mark was able to hook it and then Lee looped the line though the ring on the mooring ball and we were set.

We had a nice lunch relaxing next to the island. If it had been cooler we might have taken the dinghy and gone ashore. The island is supposed to be nice for hiking but it was too hot and everyone didn't have a bathing suit so swimming was out as well. Eventually we decided to head to Marblehead.

We were motor boat sailing along and all of a sudden Lee noticed that we were only making 2.5 knots with the sails up and the motor going. That's not right! Maybe there WAS something wrong with the boat! Lee had us lower the sails, and he revved the engine up to 2200 rpms. After a minute or two we started going faster again. We decided that the boat was okay after all. We must have gotten caught in a current between the islands. Weird!

Once in Marblehead we went ashore and walked around a bit with the dogs and then went to dinner at Maddie's Sailloft again. Lee and I both wanted one of their strong cocktails again! I was impressed that Mark could drink two of their gin and tonics. Those things are powerful!

Back to the boat, and before too long everyone was asleep. But not for long. Around 2 am, right on time, the front blew in. It rained steadily for about 20 minutes and stopped. And then the wind started. Sailboats in the wind are not a quiet place to try to sleep, and Marblehead is not a well protected harbor. Things banged and clanged. The boat rocked and rolled. The wind whistled and sang. The water slapped against the hull. I don't think anyone slept much that night after 3 am.

Around 6 I gave up. I made myself a cup of coffee and looked at the rolling seas outside the boat. The water was dashing up against the dinghy dock. I needed to run but I sure didn't like the idea of riding ashore in a dinghy! But Lee said it was fine and in fact he said it was "not that bad". I didn't want to find out was bad looked like but if my captain said it was okay I was game.

And it was! I wore my windbreaker so I didn't mind too much getting wet in the dinghy. With Mark's help we lashed the dinghy sideways to the dock and clambered out. Not so bad after all!

Once a I had done my run, taken my shower, and braved the journey back to the boat, it was time to make our way back to Salem. There was a small craft warning out and it was very choppy and windy, but in Salem Sound there were not any significant swells. There were waves breaking over the bow of the boat, but we had all the portholes and hatches shut tight and of course the sails weren't up! There were a few other boats out, mostly fishing boats, but a few sailboats too. One large sailboat headed out into Mass Bay. They were braver than we were! We assumed they were also more experienced than we and knew what they were doing. I hope so anyway. They didn't have their sails up. And there was another sailboat in Salem Sound out by the islands with their sails up! We watched them with a bit of anxiety. At first they had their jib up as well as a reefed main, but after a bit they took their jib in and just sailed with their mainsail. Frankly we thought they were foolish, but maybe they were experts, who knows. Better safe than sorry, especially in a sailboat on a windy day!

We made it back to our mooring in Salem Harbor without further mishap. In spite of the prop incident and the crazy weather we had fun. Mark and Mary are good sailing partners. I hope it's not too long before they come out on a boat with us again!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Hanging Out on Moose Alley

Last year Lee read an article in the NYT about going to Northern NH and looking for moose. Ever since he read that article he's been pining away to do that very thing. The only way things like that happen is if we schedule them, so that's just what we have done, and now, here we are!

The very northern tip of New Hampshire consists of a few small towns, and a lot of empty woods. Empty of people that is, the woods up here seem to be teeming with wildlife. Several of the towns get together every year and have a Moose Festival. It's basically a street fair that moves from one town to the next over the weekend but it's also a good time to try to find a moose.

On Friday we drop the dogs off at Diane's and head north. We stopped for lunch at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Campton, New Hampshire. We enjoy fish sandwiches and french fries and a nice view of mountains and a babbling brook.

By 2 pm we are in Colebrook, the location of the Moose Festivities for this date. We walked up and down the street, looking at various handicrafts, talking to people about seeing moose. We get a map of likely moose-viewing locations, and varying recommendations on moose sign and the best time of day to find them. Early morning and late at night are popular, but how early and how late are debatable.

Then it's on the Pittsburg, NH and The Cabins at Lopstick Pines where we will be staying for the next two nights. Our cabin overlooks a lake. It has a porch and a fire pit so we are set.

By now it's close to 6 pm and time to look for Moose on Moose Alley, the moniker given to the portion of Hwy 3 that runs from our cabin north to the Canadian border. We drive slowly for about three miles and BOOM! There he is our first moose. I madly snap pictures and get a few good ones. No other moose tonight but we're happy.

I failed to make dinner reservations for tonight, thinking they would not be necessary in the north country but it turns out I was mistaken. All the good restaurants are fully booked so we end up buying a bagged Caesar salad and Stouffer's lasagna for our dinner. After dinner we try to light a fire in the pit but the wood doesn't want to catch. There is a nice full moon though, glimmering over the lake.

We wake up early to go on another moose hunting expedition Saturday morning. No more moose, but we do see a bear bounding across the road. He's pretty far away though and by the time we drive up to the place where he entered the woods he is long gone. I still think it's pretty cool even if I didn't get a picture to prove it.

Back to the cabin for some breakfast and then off we go for a hike on the Moose Alley trail. 4 miles through woods, moss, ferns and mushrooms. Its very quiet and peaceful with no wildlife to speak of, just birds. We meet a guy that maintains the trail and except for some other people we meet at the very end of the hike that's the only other people we see.

Then we drive to Garfield Falls for a picnic lunch. its a beautiful falls but it seems crowded after the peace and quiet on the trail. Some people have three golden retrievers and one is reactive, barking at other hikers. At one point and exclaim crossly when the dog barks at me (yes I'm hungry I know!) and the woman says "they're dogs they bark!" I'm furious but don't say anything, knowing I won't say anything polite but Lee defends me. "Actually we have three dogs, and they WONT bark on a hiking trail, because they are trained!" I love that man!

We eat our lunch on a rock by the falls and then go back to the cabin for a stretching a shower and some ice cream. We end up being totally lazy the rest of the afternoon. We try dinner at Murphy’s Steakhouse, which is one of the restaurants we were unable to book on Friday. Although the Inn where it is located gets mixed reviews the steakhouse itself is a nice restaurant with a homey flair.

Sunday morning its time to get up early and go for a run. Once again I’m running on the main road, toward the town center of Pittsburgh and back. I’m doing 800 meter repeats and its pretty hilly so my times are all over the place. I feel like I’ve gotten a good workout!

We pack up and get ready to head home. I have to go to the front desk and get us checked out. Since its Sunday there’s a bit of a line in front of me. The people at the desk are telling quite a story. “There was a fly in our cabin, and my husband was trying to kill it, and he did! But he broke this thing….” She proceeds to show the nonplused manager at the desk a picture on her phone. “We want to pay to have it repaired or replaced, of course.” The manager looks at the handyman, who just happens to be in the office. The handyman has an amused expression on his face, but doesn’t say a word. The lady trying to check out keeps babbling on: “I just can’t stand flies and my husband was just trying to help.” The husband doesn’t say anything either. The handyman, looking like he’s trying very hard not to burst into laughter says “don’t have any idea what that costs….”. The lady continues “well you have our name, and phone number, and hey! You have my credit card! You can just charge the repair to me.” Finally the manager says “we’ll let you know” and the lady and her silent husband go on their way. Everyone in line by then is trying not to laugh.

After checking out we have breakfast at The Happy Corner Cafe. I have their famous pancakes and Lee has an omelet. Its all very delicious, and filling. No need to stop for lunch on our way home.

We enjoyed the northern tip of New Hampshire. I’d go back there, but not necessarily for the Moose Festival. I bet the moose are out even when they aren’t being celebrated.

Since I’ve told several people about this adventure they’ve said “oh we used to see moose right in our backyard”! This includes locations in Candia, right outside of Manchester, and even on our very own street, before the nearby subdivisions were built!

I doubt that there are any moose still living around Arlington Pond. If I saw one on one of my early morning runs I think I would give him a wide berth. They are gentle creatures, most of the time, but they sure are big!

Friday, September 18, 2015

A New House in Minny

Hello from the suburbs! I've spent the weekend in Minneapolis with Sarah and Erik, mainly to get away from my lonely house while Lee is out of town, but also of course to hang out with my daughter and son in law and their adorable dog Mika. And to see their new house!

I flew into Minneapolis Friday afternoon. Sarah picked me up at the airport and from there we went straight to her house. I had seen pictures but I was very curious about this new abode. I knew it was an architect's dream home, but I was still very impressed. They were very lucky to get it in Minneapolis's hot housing market.

When we walked inside the first thing I thought was "wow, I could be walking into one of my aunt's nice houses in Saint Louis County back in the 1960's". It's very mid century modern, and it's funny to think that for them this style of house is their grandparent's style, much like a Victorian house would have been OUR grandparent's style. It gives me a new appreciation for the suburban houses of the 60's with their clean spare lines.

Sarah showed me around and then it was time to get ready to go out to dinner and then go see The Music Man at the Guthrie Theatre. Suzanne, Erik's mom, picked us up. Sarah now lives around 5 minutes from her mother in law. I envy them both!

We met Erik and Chris, Erik's sister, at 112 Eatery. We shared a bunch of very delicious appetizers and a few main courses AND a slice of Tres Leche cake, and then we were off to the Guthrie.

I love the Music Man, and so does Sarah. It was the first musical she ever saw. The acoustics at the Guthrie are excellent, and the cast, for the most part, was very good. When you have seen it as many times as we have, and listened to the cast recording 1,000's of times as well, it can make for a fairly critical viewing. So, I thought the chorus was excellent, both the old ladies (Pick a Little Talk a Little) and the kids (Shipoopee was very well done). The barbershop quartet was wonderful, except for one A Capella entrance that was initially out of tune. Little Winthrop lisped his s's adorably, but it's very hard to compete with a 6 year old Ron Howard from the movie! Marion had an absolutely fantastic voice, but wasn't as drop dead gorgeous as Shirley Jones (see I told you there was a very high bar).

The only real disappointment was Harold Hill. The guy that played him did a perfectly okay job, but that part carries the show and demands a charismatic actor. They need to be funny, a little sleazy, and ultimately romantic and sweet. That's a lot to ask of any one person. This Professor Hill was adequate, even good, but he wasn't fantastic. Oh well!

The drive back to the suburbs after the show seemed endless. I thought that by now I knew Minneapolis pretty well, after all Sarah has lived there over 10 years. But they are out in the Western suburbs and I'm pretty lost right now, plus Minnesota is in the middle of construction season and several highways are closed, making it difficult to find a direct route anywhere.

For some reason, although I didn't go to bed until after midnight I woke up at 5 and couldn't get back to sleep, so Saturday was a pretty sleepy day. Sarah and I took a Pilates class in the morning. I do some Pilates-type exercises, but this class used something called a reformer, which is a padded platform with moving parts connected by springs. You can make the exercises easier or more difficult by the strength of the springs that are attached between the different sections. I was able to do at least a modified version of most of the exercises, and I wasn't very sore the next day, except for my glutes, which is kind of great since that's a difficult muscle to work on. It's fun to try different workouts!

We had a pretty lazy afternoon, but we did take Mika to a park for a short walk. Boy it was hot, at least for Minnesota. I think it hit 90F, and I'm just not used to that kind of weather any more. We tried to get Mika to get in the water and cool off, but she wasn't very enthusiastic about that idea. Sarah stood in the water up to her ankles and Mika went in then but I think it was just to get Sarah to come back out. 

We went for an early dinner to a place called Hola Arepa, a place that makes amazing Venezuelan sandwiches They also make yucca fries and really nice watermelon mango white sangria. We stuffed ourselves silly and I was in bed asleep by 9 pm. I slept almost 9 hours, unheard of for me.

In the morning it was cloudy and cooler and I was glad because it was time to go for a run. Sarah had said I could take her car to go run by a nearby lake, but she has a manual transmission. I don't think I've driven a stick for over eight years. I wondered if I would remember how, but it really is just like riding a bike, I had no trouble at all. Once I parked the car I decided to run on an attractive bike trail that I found. Minneapolis has the most amazing bike trails. Sarah and Erik live probably five miles outside the city but they could easily take a bike trail into work without having to share the space with cars. It was a nice run too, mostly flat. I'm glad it was cooler though because even in the low 70's those 8 800 meter repeats were pretty tough!

After cooling off and taking a shower we headed to the St Pauls' farmers market. My sister-in-law Cathy and her son Andrew were manning (and womaning) their stand. They have a farm south of Minneapolis where they raise grassfed cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys. Andrew has a great blog - - where you can read all about the ups and downs of running a small family farm. 

St Paul has a nice farmers market. Everything is locally raised and grown so there were lots of veggies but not much fruit. We decided to see what we could get at the market and determine our dinner from there. We bought meat from our family farmers, veggies and flowers from the other stands, and we did find some rhubarb, so we bought that as well. My niece Nicole was in town so she was coming over for dinner. She is in the nursing program up in Duluth and just happened to be in the Twin Cities this weekend. 

After eating brunch with Cathy at a nearby restaurant we headed back to the suburbs to plan our dinner. We decided we would have grass fed skirt steak, grilled veggies, couscous from Trader Joe's and for dessert a strawberry rhubarb crisp. I volunteered to drive to the nearby Trader Joes for the strawberries and the couscous. I had been there earlier in the weekend with Sarah, and I was having fun driving a stick. How difficult could it be?

Just to be safe I searched for Trader Joes on Google Maps. I chose what seemed to be the closest one and I was on my way....or was I? The Trader Joes I went to with Sarah had been five minutes away, this one was farther, much farther. Oh well! And they didn't have fresh strawberries either so I had to get frozen. I still don't know what happened, but I managed to get there and back, eventually.

While Sarah and Erik grilled steaks and veggies and cooked the couscous, I volunteered to make the crisp. I selected a recipe and started gathering the ingredients until we suddenly realized that Sarah didn't have rolled oats, just steel cut, which are great for breakfast, not so much for making a crumbled topping.

I went back online and googled "strawberry rhubarb crisp no oats" and up popped a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite recipe sources anyway! If you've never heard of her she's great, delicious food made in a tiny New York City apartment and tested thoroughly so every recipe is not only delicious but trustworthy. The crisp came out great - thanks Deb!

Monday was my last day in Minny. Sarah took the day off and we had a good time accomplishing errands, eating lunch and window shopping. I made it almost the entire weekend without buying anything but finally succumbed to a sweater and pajama pants on sale at Anthropology. Well I always need more sweaters for the boat, and some of my pjs need desperately to be retired so they almost fell into the category of need. Almost.

We drove by Dogwood so I could get some of their coffee which I love, and then it was time to take me to the airport. Because of the time change I didn't get into Boston until 8pm that night, and the heat wave that graced most of my trip to Minny had landed on the east coast. I actually had to turn on the air conditioning! Oh well my tomatoes liked it, but I had to get up early to run for a few days.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Nova Scotia

On July 27th we drive to St. John, New Brunswick. We cross the border with the dogs; their rabies certificates are all in order. The guard asks "Do you have guns or pepper spray?" OOPS! I blink. We carry pepper spray on the dog’s poop bag clip. “No,” I say confidently. The guard continues down her list. "Do you have alcohol?" I start to answer no as well but Lee's conscience gets the better of him.  "A box of wine,” he admits. "How many liters?” asks the guard. Well it turns out we’re legit after all. We’re allowed 1.5 liters apiece and the box is three liters. We hide the pepper spray in the glove compartment for the remainder of our trip and we’re good to go.

St. Johns is very foggy. We go downtown, which may be very nice but there’s no way to tell, we can’t see a thing. Somehow we end up having sushi. I guess we thought fresh seafood = good Japanese food, but no. Bad sushi. Don't get sushi in St. John!

We wake up on Tuesday and its still foggy, really foggy. Today is our day to drive the Fundy Trail and enjoy the views but we can’t see a darn thing. The people in the interpretive center are super nice, however. We watch a short video, where we can see what it would look like if we could see. We take a short trail to a suspension bridge and then walk along the Salmon River. Then we drive to a waterfall but we have to take turns going down the cable steps to see it; its too steep for the dogs. I play with the shutter speed on my camera and smooth out the water. 

After the Fundy Trail its a long drive to the Hopewell Rocks, where we can experience the incredible tidal range in this part of the world. The fog lifts and we eat ice cream at a quaint little shop. All homemade, the guy has been making it there for 30 years. A grand piano sits next to the wash room and the ice cream is delicious.

The rocks are just plain amazing. The 52' tidal difference means that when the tide is out you can take a walk on the ocean floor, and when the tide is in the ocean covers where you are currently standing about 25’ deep. We get there at low tide and the ocean is a big mud flat. At high tide you can't go down to see the rocks. It would be fun to go back at high tide to see the difference. Maybe some other time.

Our destination for the night is Moncton, New Brunswick. We stay in a nice hotel, the Delta Beaujour. We decide to eat dinner there, at the Windjammer Restaurant. This is old school fine dining: oysters, ceasar salad made at the table, rack of lamb, Dover sole.

In the morning we are moving slowly. We barely get out the door in time to see the tidal bore on the river. The bore is a wave of brown water that curls up the river as the tide suddenly comes in. So strange! People actually surf it.

We have crepes for breakfast at a sidewalk cafe, then walk the dogs down to the river one more time before we leave. Now it's full, a normal brown river, gleaming in the sun.

We spend the day driving to Cape Breton and experience all sorts of weather: sun, rain and in between. At one point a rainbow appears between us and the car in front of us, a fleeting apparition. The Sea Parrot Cottages where we will spend the next few nights are right on the ocean. Our cabin is pleasant and we are happy to be going nowhere for the next few days.

Thursday dawns bright and sunny. I go for a run along the road (there is really only one road) and then we hop in the car and drive north on the Cabot Trail. the car climbs Stanley mountain and we are treated to spectacular views. We choose the Middlehead 6 mile hike. The view are lovely but I take a tumble hiking in my running shoes on the rocky trail. I’m bruised but okay. The dogs are troopers enjoying all the smells and attention from fellow hikers. Warm sun, cool breeze, waves, rocks. After our hike we drive up to Neil Harbor for ice cream, light houses and more views. 

We stop for lunch on our way back at the Coastal Cafe. Because of the dogs we have to get carry out and eat in the car but the food is great. We have local crab on a ciabatta roll, and a burger that we share. We stop for more views here and there on the drive back. We both agree that the Cabot Trail is as beautiful as anything we have seen anywhere in the world, and that’s say quite a lot!

After relaxing for a bit we drive back down the Cabot Trail and have dinner at the Lobster Gallery. On the way there we take a wrong turn and almost end up taking a one car ferry, oops! It would have been fun, but I was hungry. I get a whole lobster and with help from the instructions on the placemat and a motherly waitress crack and eat the whole thing myself. I’m feeling quite proud of myself! Usually I make Lee do it for me.

We drive home in the light of a  glorious full moon. The moon path lights the ocean and fills me with awe.

On Friday the rain and fog return but we've planned for it. This is our day to visit the many artisans along the trail. Here is a quick summary of what we found. Glass: too gaudy or expensive. Wood: beautiful intricate  boxes and carvings. I buy a wooden hummingbird. Leather: boring. Pewter: mostly jewelry. I buy earrings made in a Celtic knot. Iron: interesting stuff. The owner is a lonely talkative guy. Lee buys starfish iron hooks for our someday bathroom remodel. 

Dinner that night is at the Chanterelle Country Inn. Hummers buzz around the screened porch. The weather clears and we eat our dinner to lovely misty views. The food is very much like home cooking, local, fresh. I have a salad with beets and blueberries; Lee has wild mushroom soup with mushrooms found on the property. 

On Saturday its time to bid farewell to Cape Breton and drive to Halifax, Nova Scotia. We loved Cape Breton and there is a lot more to see. Its not very far from where we live so I hope we go back someday.

In Halifax we are staying at the Prince George, a nice hotel at the top of the hill. We go down to the river and walk the dogs on the carnival-like boardwalk. We have dinner at the bar at the Foggy Goggle. The Lobster bruschetta is fantastic. Its fun to talk sailing with the guy next to us at the bar. I can sound like a Sailor anyway. I have a concoction made with vodka, St Germaine and ginger beer. I think its good enough to have two so I do.

Sunday is hot, with a high of 83F. It was very sunny and it really did feel hot, honest! I do my 800 meter repeats in a run around the Citadel . Then we eat a Turkish lunch and go on a tour. We observe the huge cannons lining the fort walls and I admire the kilts on cute young men, but I have to go put my feet up and get out of the sun. Later we have dinner at Chives, a foodie place. Another delicious meal; sea scallops and gnocchi and lots of nice fresh veggies.

On Monday it time to start on our way home, but we are not in a hurry. First we drive south of Halifax to the little village of Peggy's Cove that boasts a very cute lighthouse. Then its on to Lunenburg a town of colorful buildings. The Magnolia Grill is famous for their fish cakes and allows us to bring the dogs on their back deck. 

We drive across the interior of Nova Scotia so that we can take the car ferry from Digby back to St John. This is a new experience for all concerned. It takes about 3 hours, not counting the time to embark and disembark the boat. Its very comfortable and relaxing. The only drawback is that the dogs must stay in the car. Neither of us like leaving them there very much but at least we can check on them periodically and they don’t seem to mind. As we make our way back across the Bay of Fundy the fog socks in again. We never really do get to see what St. Johns looks like when its not buried in murk. I guess we’ll just have to go back some other time so we can see!


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