photo Whaling-City-Cottage-8-2015_zpsoygeotsf.jpg

a day in the witch city

This past weekend we braved the October mob and journeyed to Salem for the day.  After grad school, my husband and I lived in downtown Salem for over a year and fell in love with the city.  The amount of history and gorgeous architecture packed into their little downtown is staggering.  Our apartment was on Essex St near the House of Seven Gables and we walked everywhere – to the library, to the YMCA, to the market, to the train, to our favorite swimming cove.  Add in my running routes woven through the city and it was heaven for a history and navigation nerd like me.  We got married in the stone rotunda on Salem Common and soon after bought a house in New Bedford.  After which we bawled our eyes out for a few years because we were so homesick for Salem and had zero friends in New Bedford.  But my job required me to be closer to Cape Cod Bay and we couldn’t afford a house in downtown Salem anyway.  Ultimately, it was for the best – we have an incredible group of friends in The Bej and love our life here.  BUT….if we could afford our dream house in downtown Salem and plunk all of our friends and our life from NB there….I’d do it in a heartbeat.  Maybe this gem on historic Chestnut St.

Okay, back to our trip….we put on some serious miles walking around, like 6+ miles.  Our feet were so sore when we got home and we all went to bed at 8pm but it was a good, happy tired.  The crowds were ridiculous, as we expected, but the kids had a blast and loved the spectacle of it all.  It was an awesome day.

Of course I took a zillion pictures, so buckle up.  We parked near this beauty on Federal St.

The lovely potting shed in her carriage house

We then made our way to the pedestrian mall on Essex St and the throngs of people.

Egon….your mucus.

Following the red line of the Heritage Trail around.

We popped into the Custom House, which I’d never been in before.  Here’s the view of Derby Wharf from the upstairs landing.

They had a cool exhibit out back with a replica of their warehouse from olden days, in case you need gunpowder and a cask of molasses.

Next door is the gorgeous Hawkes House.  Oh, the symmetry.

A lot of houses in Salem use rocks as landscaping….and it’s awesome.


The Witch Memorial was mobbed with people but the kids loved the cemetery, checking out the names and dates on the graves.

I’d never seen this urn and weeping willow motif before.

This door handle and lintel are amazing.

We made our way down to the House of Seven Gables after that.

And photographed all the black houses along the way.

There were “blood” fountains all over this side yard.

Back to the masses on Essex St so the kids could spend their mad money.  (June got a pink amigurumi squid she named Steve and Hollis got a toy gun that we only realized was SO LOUD when we weren’t surrounded by 50,000 people).

Then down to historic Chestnut St and the Ropes Mansion from Hocus Pocus.

My favorite….the Pickering House.  Holy fence and finials!

By the point, we were all tired and decided to start heading back to the car.

Hollis said “Mommy, take my picture like I’m in the Walking Dead.”  (He can talk to his therapist about this someday).

They’re officially smoked.  Hollis fell asleep in the car by the time we got back to 95.

Sorry for the really long post!  But it was an awesome day, so much to see, we only scratched the surface.  Next year we’re going to try to hook up with an Airbnb so we can stay longer and most importantly….wander around at night.  My kids don’t scare easily and they were definitely ready to crank up the spookiness.  After a nap, of course.


our trip to cuttyhunk

Holy crow, this summer flew by!  Our spring was chilly and long so we tried to really live it up this summer.  We hit the beach as much as possible, went to Lake George with my cousins, spent a weekend at our friend’s river camp on the Ossipee, had our first annual block party, took the kids to Quassy Amusement Park in Connecticut….and we made it out to Cuttyhunk Island to cap things off.  We went there for the first time two years ago but Hollis had just turned 4 so he was less psyched for a crazy adventure.  This year, the kids were champs about all the walking, we took the late ferry home and did almost all the stuff we wanted to do.  Next year we’re going to spend the weekend out there.  We want to wake up on the island.  Sigh.

Okay, are you ready for a thousand pictures and some island history?

Cuttyhunk Island is the outermost of the Elizabeth Islands that separate Buzzards Bay from Vineyard Sound.  Technically the whole stretch of islands comprises the Town of Gosnold.  It’s only an hour-long ferry ride from New Bedford.

As you get closer to the island (and further away from New Bedford harbor), the water turns a gorgeous green-turquoise.

After an hour and an almost-disastrous spilling of hot chocolate (June, so close to soaking the only sweatshirt she brought), we arrived at Cuttyhunk harbor.

The island is sparsely populated – a couple hundred in the summer and maybe 20 people in the winter – and many of the same families have owned property there for like 100 years.  I don’t think houses ever actually go on the market.  I’ve seen articles comparing Cuttyhunk to how the Vineyard was like 60 years ago.  There are only a couple places to stay the night on the island – at the Cuttyhunk Fishing Club and the Avalon.  Next year we’re definitely going to plan ahead and stay the night.

There’s no public transportation on the island, just walk or bring your bike on the ferry, and most of the locals get around by golf cart.  I saw a few pick up trucks too.  We had a 1 mile walk from the dock to Church’s Beach, a secluded spot on a sandy spit.  We each brought a backpack or tote, plus our wheely cooler and a beach umbrella.  That was it.

We also brought the house-obsessed criminal element to the island.  Hollis saw this place and said “Oh mommy, I wanna steal dat house.”  Me too, baby.  I’m teaching them young.

Finally we arrive at this dreamy beach.

Set up our compound for the day.

Oh yeah, this is the good stuff.  Of course there’s also white wine in a stainless steel water bottle in that cooler.

Drying my Turkish towel on the hot rocks.  I’m basically Gwyneth on Mallorca.

The beach was quite deserted, as you can imagine, but the kids made some friends which was awesome!  The water is about as Caribbean as it gets for Massachusetts.  This is easily my favorite beach in the state.

Soon after I snapped this, Hollis took a chest-first digger on the road.  Oy.  My poor baby!  Good thing we brought a first aid kit.  Needless to say he didn’t get in the water again but he had fun playing on the rocks with his new buddy so it was fine.  I felt terrible for him though.

We stay at the beach until 3:30, then walked back to the dock to say good-bye to the 4pm ferry.

An island tradition is to see the ferry off (literally the island comes out to wave good-bye to the ferry) and then everybody jumps off the dock.  June wasn’t going to miss this so we planned to take the 8pm ferry home.

This turned into a 30 minute jumping free-for-all with kids everywhere.  It was a ton of fun, June could have jumped all day.

At this point, we left our stuff at the ferry dock and moseyed over to the Fish Dock, where they have ice cream, clam chowder, a rustic raw bar and you can get steamed lobsters.

The fish cutting station.

My chowder-loving baby.

Then we walked up Tower Road to the highest point on the island.

On the way I peeped out the vegetable garden of my dreams.

The views from the top were insane.  You can see our beach on the left, on that spit of land.

Looking the other way toward the harbor and Nashawena Island.

There are hiking trails from the top that we didn’t take….next time.  After soaking in the glorious views, we headed back down the hill to explore more.  At this point we still had 2.5 hours until the ferry home.

Oh, what’s up other dream house!  It’s hard to see in this pic but this was a teeny, tiny stand-alone house.  Basically a studio house.

There were painted rocks with inspirational sayings scattered all over the island, which the kids loved.  This one says hugs.

Playing hoops at the community basketball court.

We then cruised back to the Fish Dock to see if the french fry stand was open.  The sign said “3ish to 7ish” but it was closed.  As was the Scuttlebutt, which I think is a restaurant in somebody’s backyard.  But we knew to bring tons of food in our cooler so we were fine.

As we wandered back to the ferry dock, we stopped at Barges Beach.

In the 1940’s a Nor’easter tore through the beach, so to rebuild and stabilize it they buried wooden railroad cars and covered them with sand in 1949.  Slowly over time they’ve started to become exposed and the wood is so beautifully worn.

We got to the ferry dock just before sunset.

Even though it was pitch dark by the time we shoved off, teenagers still came down to give the traditional good-bye to the ferry.  They climbed up the pilings and did synchronized back flips off them.  Our kids fell asleep on the ferry ride home, of course.  They were totally smoked.

But guys, this place is magic.  It’s so beautiful, so peaceful, so chill.  None of our friends have ever been here and some of them had never even heard of the island.  But we are absolutely coming back next year.  We’ll never be Nantucket or Vineyard or Cape Cod people. Too crowded, too fancy.  We’re CTHK people.  Next year we want to stay the weekend at the Fish Club.  There’s still so much we didn’t get to see and explore on the island.  So…till next year, Cuttyhunk, you seductive little squirrel.


{Must Go} The Dunes in Ogunquit

In the early 80’s, my favorite aunt bought a little cottage on the salt marsh by Footbridge Beach in Ogunquit, Maine.  And my life was never the same.  Growing up, we’d make the long drive out from Illinois each summer to spend a couple weeks at my aunt’s house.  For a flatlander girl, hell-bent on being a marine biologist, there is nothing like the smack of cool salt air when you cross the Piscataqua Bridge.


I started spending the whole summer there in high school, working at the Ogunquit Lobster Pound where my aunt was the manager.  Then I stayed on to go to college in Machias, a remote part of Downeast Maine where I studied marine science….and drank Boones Farm in the blueberry barrens.  On school breaks, I’d usually go home to our little cottage, not making the flight back to Illinois.

Read More


the emerald isle

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’m posting some pictures from our 2008 trip to Ireland with my dad and his girlfriend.  I haven’t looked at this album in years but going through it, two things came to mind.  One: hot damn I took a lot of pictures with my old point-and-shoot.  And two: we barely scratched the surface of this gorgeous country.  We had 10 days and focused on western Ireland, starting in Galway City (the center of Burke-topia) and working our way down through the Dingle Peninsula, Tralee, and Killarney.

Even if you’re not Irish, it’s so worth a visit!  It’s beautiful, there’s so much to see, and the people are insanely nice.