September 3, 2017 · 11:45 pm
Another great Airbnb (unlike the one I booked in Minneapolis where the weird host cancelled at the last minute). We are in a airy blue-walled room on the second floor of an old wooden house in a neighborhood high on a hill above downtown and the blue waters of Lake Superior. Some nice touches including a Polaroid camera to snap a few shots (haven’t used one in years), a white noise machine, pretty botanical prints on the walls, a map with pins to stick in to show where visitors are from. (Other Des Moines residents had been here, as had visitors from Tehran and Hamburg.) We shared a bathroom with the one other room, which wasn’t an issue.
After a brief stop at The Minneapolis Farmers Market downtown on Lyndale near Twins stadium to pick up huge red dahlias, raspberries, strawberries, scones and banana bread to take to Noah and Rachel’s new apartment on Emerson Street, we drove two hours or so to Duluth (not too much traffic) and tried our first batch of smoked whitefish at Northern Waters Smokehaus, a hip, foodie sandwich shop inside an old brick warehouse renovated into a marketplace with nice shops. I ate the fish on saltines with a smear of cream cheese, as directed.
August 5, 2017 · 3:13 pm
“There’s usually nothing new down there,” my husband muttered as I persisted in heading down a side street (near the new HyVee) in downtown Des Moines during the Saturday morning farmers market.
And he’s usually right. But this time of year, chances are he’s wrong – and he was. Spotting a crowd gathered around a vendor, we arrived at Coeur Bread which turns out to be new (or new to us and this particular market location) and makes noteworthy bread, which is hard to do in such a crowded field these days. The flavors are different – raspberry feta is delicious, “hot chocolate” a little odd but not too sweet, jalapeno corn has visible kernels and a kick. And the texture is perfect – dense, chewy, crusty and dusty on the outside, both the little rolls (sort of the size of charcoal brickets) and the loafs, sweetly wrapped in brown butcher paper with a little brown ribbon.
I was also pleased to see the return of Butcher Crick, which sells gorgeous heirloom tomatoes – all kinds of odd shapes, unusual colors and best of all, discernable flavor. And the sellers are so enthusiastic it’s hard not to suddenly drop $8 on a handful of beauties.
With fresh produce so bountiful and widely available this time of year, I’ve come to restrict my Saturday farmer’s market shopping to things I can’t find elsewhere and raspberry-feta bread and dusty red or tiger-striped tomatoes fit that bill.
February 9, 2017 · 4:32 am
Hanging at our Airbnb Lilypad.
Arnold’s Country Kitchen looked slightly swollen compared to my first visit three years ago. Turns out it is in the middle of an expansion. Fortunately it was open and still serving terrific meat and three sides, albeit in an lighter, less cramped space. Everything was delicious – fried chicken, roast beef, trout, kielbasa mains and sides including mashed potatoes, cauliflower casserole etc. The chess pie with meringue was too sweet for all of us. I guess one sign of nashvilles popularity is the fact that two of the places I visited three years ago have expanded (on site like Arnold’s or new location like the Family Wash).
WHile the rest of the gang went to the Country Music Hall of Fame, I explored neighborhoods some more, stopping at the farmers market in Germantown which has an indoor food court with a cool store called “Batch” that sells small batch food makers’ goods and a jam-packed international foods market. We ended up at the original Barista Parlor coffee house in east Nashville, playing scrabble and dealing with screwed up flights home. OUr flight was messed up by air traffic control issues in LA, of all places, that led our plane to arrive late and leave late from Nashville, too late for us to make our connection in St. Louis. Which is how we ended up flying unexpectedly to Kansas City and driving a rental car through the dark and fog ack to Des Moines.
September 6, 2015 · 8:30 pm
On our drive to Dirck’s childhood home for the last time (it has been sold) we have stopped at some favorite spots during our almost 30 years driving together through Kansas.
The Overland Park Farmers market was overflowing with gorgeous produce but we restrained ourselves since and bought only what we can eat in the next two days away. Peaches, cantelope and a fantastic looking bread from the Ibis bakery stand (our “morning buns” were delicious, a bun made with croissant dough sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.)
On to the flint hills and the old town of Cottonwood Falls with its glorious French revival courthouse. We wandered down the three block brick Main Street, poked around in some antique/junk shops and craft shops, had fantastic sirloin steak sliders in the restaurant At the classy western hotel, The Grand Central Hotel and found a cool old limestone motel at the other end of Main Street along the river that looks like an amazing place to stay, the Millstream Resort Motel.
We drove south along scenic byway 177 through the vast open, gently rolling flint hills, the road almost entirely to ourselves. So much open space, land, sky, road. love that feeling. We stopped briefly at the old Bazaar Cemetery to walk along the old gravestones and hear nothing but the wind blowing through the trees.
Now we are in Wright Kansas, an unincorporated city of less than 100 people, outside Dodge City, packing up the house with some of Dirck’s siblings and their families. Strange. Sad. One of life’s endings.
September 12, 2013 · 6:00 pm
Surprised to find a farmers market outside Beaumont Hospital where I am spending the day awaiting my fathers surgery to be completed. Nice idea and picked up some blueberries. Also a
Surprisingly good cafe inside the hospital, the Mackimac Cafe, with an excellent tuna sandwichand peanut butter cookies. Bakery looked great. Takes the edge off to have this. Comfort food when we need it
August 10, 2013 · 7:13 pm
The Iowa State Fair has lured several visitors our way this summer – this weekend it’s my stepdaughter E. and her boyfriend from Chicago, plus our houseguest from Israel. Next weekend, my son is coming from Northwestern with three or four (he wasn’t sure last we talked) of his friends – from Oregon, Colorado, New Jersey and maybe California.
The weather is perfect today – Sunny, 80-ish, no wind – so the fair is bound to be packed and in its full glory. We got a glimpse of what we may be in for this morning at the jam-packed downtown farmer’s market in Des Moines. And last night, our visitors reported lots of people hanging out downtown at bars like the High Life Lounge , designed to look like a 1960’s tavern, complete with formica, shag carpet and wood paneling…plus Miller High Life beer, of course, (see photo above) and El Bait Shop…
July 18, 2013 · 3:19 am
Back to the USA and steamy weather – it reminded me just how lucky we were with our weather in Europe, which was warm but not muggy or humid. (When I changed planes in London Monday, it had become beastly hot.)
I met my son and stepdaughter, who both work downtown, for lunch at a good Cuban restaurant, Cafecito at 26 E. Congress Pkway (good pressed sandwiches, salads, soup, coffee and loved that it is next door to Chicago’s youth hostel); later visited the farmers market next to the federal building at Jackson and Dearborn where my son’s working (summer internship with a U.S. senator), buying some cherries, raspberries and peaches from vendors with farms in my home state of Michigan.
At night, when I took a wrong train and ended up in Skokie rather than Evanston, my son and I ended up at an excellent Afghani restaurant in Skokie – Kabul House. I had a delicious dish – lamb stew served over sautéed spinach that reminded me a bit of saag paneer.
The Sunday before I left for London (that seems like a long time ago) my aunt took us to several places she’d discovered and we’d never seen before including:
– Prairie Avenue, which has some of Chicago’s oldest homes, and a nice café.
– A hidden new neighborhood just north of the Harris Theater in Millennium Park.
May 12, 2013 · 4:05 pm
Happy Birthday Myra! This is for you! (But others are welcome to enjoy!)
My friend Myra and her family are traveling to County Cork, Ireland (and beyond) this summer so, as promised, here are highlights from our 2004 trip there, culled from entries hastily scribbled in my journal (journal #44 to be precise.) Please excuse any misspellings – chalk it up to tricky Gaelic spelling and my hard-to-decipher handwriting!
Another good resource: http://www.schull.ie/index.html, (complete with a sound track of fiddlely-dee music – as our English friend Francine refers to Irish music).
- We rented a 200-year-old stone house in the countryside with a tiny pond, outside the small village of Ballydehob. (I wish I knew exactly where. Below are some family photos. We shared the house with friends from London.)
The kids (Morgan, Lily, Kate, Noah) and Russ after a run, outside “our house” in Ballydehob, 2004
Noah and Morgan outside “our house” in Ballydehob. 2004
- We spent much of our time in the larger village of Schull (pronounced “Skull”) where we visited the Sunday morning farmers market. (Of course!) We bought some locally-made Gubbeen cheese (my favorite on this trip; the mature, non-smoked version is best!), sausages and bread for a picnic by the water; visited the ruins of a church with a famine (?) graveyard; and had a drink at The Courtyard, which we ended up visiting several times. We watched local musicians play during a traditional sing-along. We also ate one of our better meals at the pub – which, oddly, was Thai food. At the Sunday market, I also bought a hand-knit sweater (which I still wear). Here’s a photo of the kids exploring the ruins by the water in Schull.
In Scull, we also went to a ceilidh (pronounced kaylee) at the village hall – which is not to be missed. It was a cross between a square dance and a talent show, where locals and visitors (from all over including Germany, France and, oddly, the Canary Islands) danced reels and line dances to live accordion music, as well as performed ad hoc. (Francine got up and sang a song. So did a weather-beaten old man sitting beside us who didn’t say a word otherwise. He sang beautifully; Some young girls did Irish stepdancing, a la Riverdance. A little boy played a tin whistle. ) Then we all broke for tea and biscuits (of course!
In Schull the kids also went sea kayaking. One of our best meals was home-cooked – we brought back fresh mussels and salmon that we bought along the water in Schull.
DAY TRIPS FROM SCHULL:
#1) We drove about 45 minutes southwest to Mizen Head, a very dramatic slab of sculpted rock jutting out into the ocean (or so I wrote). We toured the lighthouse station, stood on a suspension bridge above a deep slash in the rock (shades of Ithaca!) and saw several seals. From there we drove to the small fishing village of Crookhaven (see photo at top), where we ate crab sandwiches and seafood chowder at O’Sullivans Bar, sitting at an outdoor picnic table overlooking a narrow channel full of sailboats. A few brave souls (not me among them) tried swimming in the ice cold sea (or “paddling” as the Brits call taking a dip.)
Mizen Head: the most south-westerly point of Ireland.
#2) We took a day trip via ferry to “Clear Island” (see photo below; AKA Cape Clear or Cléire), a wild, largely uninhabited small slab of craggy land which we will forever refer to as “UnClear Island” since the little isle was shrouded in dense fog. But it was a fun trip. During a long hike in the fog, mist and “soft rain,” I completely lost sight of Emma – who I was pretty sure was ahead of me – but when I called out to her, she answered back. Phew! I also had my first ever Irish coffee in the pub by North Harbor, where we caught the ferry back. (see photo below). It really hit the spot since we were chilled from our long slog in the fog. The ferry ride aboard the Karycraft took about 45 minutes and was very amusing, thanks to our skipper, Kiernan Malley, who not only told stories about the area but sang a song or two while playing the accordion and ,presumably, steering the boat (We later spotted him working in a car garage in Schull. A man of many talents!)
Church at Gougane Barra – built on island near monastery/well site at end of 19th century.
#3) Another great day trip: Bantry Bay to the seaside villages of Glengarriff and Castletownbarre (where we ate seafood chowder at MacCarthy’s Pub), around the Beara Peninsula and stunning Cod’s Head cape.
The junction of Main Street, North Road and the pier in Castletownbere
OTHER PLACES WE VISITED IN IRELAND:
We stayed in the pretty and welcoming Oldtown Farmhouse b&b in the village of Stoneyford, outside Thomastown. We really liked the city of Kilkenny, with its medieval castle and cool Kilkenny Design Centre with great crafts (where I bought celtic-design earrings that I also continue to wear!) The Centre has a collection of work by the now world-famous Dublin-born designer Orla Kiely (who has had a recent gig in the U.S. with Target stores). We also visited an amazing 12th century monastic ruin outside Stoneyford (where we stayed at a farm b&b).
- Emma in Co. Kilkenny at a monastic ruin
Mountain view from Oldtown Farmhouse
We stayed in Howth, a small village outside Dublin (we commuted into the city) with a cool cliff walk over looking the ocean. We stayed at a very low-key b&B called Gleann-na-smol B&B (where we found some other visitors from….Iowa). Very nice host family.
- In Dublin we did the typical stuff – walked around Trinity College, St. Stephen’s Green, Grafton Street, at pizza at the Badass Cafe at Temple Bar, walked over the Ha’Penny bridge.
the Ha’penny Bridge
Go dté tú slán (which means safe journey in gaelic – but who knows how to pronounce it!)
Filed under Ireland
Tagged as badass cafe, ballydehob, Bantry bay, Beara Peninsula, Castletownbarre, ceilidh, clear island, county cork ireland, County Kilkenny, crookhaven, farmers market, Gleann-na-smol, Glengarriff, gougane barra, Gubbeen cheese, howth, Ithaca, Kilkenny Design Center, kinsale, mizen head, oldtown b&b, Oldtown Farmhouse B&B, Orla Kiely, schull, Stoneyford, Target, thomastown, Trinity College
September 14, 2012 · 9:31 pm
The lovely view from my relatives’ house in Swampscott, Mass.
I was so consumed by the drama of losing and finding my wallet after a day wandering around Salem last Saturday that I didn’t get a chance to write about all the cool things I found while wandering. So here are a few:
– Peabody Essex Museum and House of Seven Gables are the big attractions and both looked well worth a visit but it was so nice out that I didn’t want to stay inside or commit to one attraction alone.
– Chestnut Street, lovely old street lined with beautiful mansions. And nearby on Essex Street I didn’t visit the Ropes Mansion but I walked around its lovely (free-to-the-public) little landscaped flower garden with gorgeous dahlias (my favorite) and lots of other varieties.
– I ate at Life Alive, a vegetarian restaurant on Essex Street that reminded me of the ones I used to go to in Ithaca during college (albeit a little more upscale). It’s also in Cambridge’s Central Square and Lowell’s Historic Arts District. ( After much pondering of the extensive menu, I went with The Swami – a half bowl for $5.55. It was a mix of brown rice, curry miso, tamari almonds, carrots, corn, broccoli, kale, raisins, onions, and a “sprinkle of nutritional yeast” (which is tastier than it sounds.)
– Re-find was among several alluring consignment stores in town. (I bought a pair of jeans and a top for $20 at the women’s Re-find on Washington Street…there’s a men’s Re-find around the block.
– Gothic-celt-witchy-new england fop vibe: All day I kept walking past one or two people decked out in eye-popping costumes – and not just the girls hawking various Witch attractions. There were people dressed in black corsets and flowing black shirts with crosses and tattoos; guys dressed in top hats and tails and women in Victorian riding gear or some such. Never did figure out what was going on but at one point they did all gather outside a former bank on the Walking & Shopping Mall (Essex Street) that sold their kind of clothes at makeshift stalls inside.
– I also enjoyed sitting on a park bench on the lovely Salem Common and near Pickering Wharf and the tall ship the Friendship (although that will forever be remembered as the-place-I-lost-my-wallet.
Coast Guard Air Station Salem patch
– I tagged along with my sister-in-law when she went to the Saturday farmer’s market in Marblehead – smaller than Des Moines but more high-end and high dollar (some gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and dahlias stuck out.) I also went her to the seafood shack by the water to pick up some lobsters for fabulous lobster bolognaise that she made later for dinner.
– In Boston’s Back Bay, I had coffee at a cute place, the Wired Puppy on Newbury Street and visited The College Club of Boston on Commonwealth Avenue, the nation’s oldest women’s college club (founded in 1890 and host to the likes of Mark Twain), which my friend PJ belongs to and which has lovely old rooms.
The College Club of Boston
Filed under Boston, Massachusetts
Tagged as boston, celts, consignment shops, farmers market, goths, house of seven gables, live alive, marblehead mass, peabody essex museum, re-find, salem massachusetts, swampscott, the college club of boston, wired puppy, witches, women's college club
September 2, 2012 · 2:57 am
After barreling down interstate 35 for six hours, much of the time in the dark and rain, we made it to Wichita at about midnight. Did I really live there? It seems another life, another person, another time. And it was 1987. Wichita had some surprises then and it has them now, little pockets of coolness that a come as a pleasant surprise. The Delano district, a five-or-so block stretch of west Douglas, west of the Arkansas river (that’s pronounced aR-Kansas river I quickly learned when I moved to Kansas from connecticut, and don’t you forget it) wasn’t mUch during the late 80s, sort of a poor man’s downtown with nuts and bolts shops, the carpet shop, the auto body shop. There were always a few interesting places that are still there like Hat man jack’s, a great hat store (where I bought a floppy hat for our Peru trip) and the original Nuway, a loose meat sandwich shop. Now there are lots of restaurants,belittle boutiques, bakeries, tattoo parlours. Among our favorites:
Sugar sisters bakery, bike man, Sweet cheeks (for hip-organic chic mommies and babies),la galette cafe and crepes, TJ’s Burger House….you get the idea.
We also stopped briefly at the old town farmers market downtown where a bluegrass string band planned near the cold ales Keen Kutter building, now a hotel. We picked up some succulent plants for a song, at a stand run by a nice transsexual woman,drank some good cherry lime made, entered a raffle for a quilt run by deaf Kansas. On the way back we hope to try a Vietnamese-Cajun restaurant we just read about in the nytimestravel section. Surprise!