I moved to Sharon, Connecticut from Texas for a position at the Sharon Audubon Center. It was not exactly on a whim but it was part of my ingrained adventurous spirit. I saw the job over the winter, had never lived in Connecticut before, thought "why the hell not?" and applied. Upon landing the position, I realized I was going to live alone, in the woods, alone...I got nervous. I bought coloring books and paint by number. I packed books and clothes and not much more. I've come to miss the era when all my belongings could fit snugly in my car.
This was in the early days of the iPhone (or at least the days when I was still resisting new technology...you should have heard me go on and on about my amazing VHS collection and how I couldn't BELIEVE I would have to give it all up to switch over to these new-fangled DVDs). February of 2010, I sat at the kitchen table in my mom's house, writing highway-by-highway directions for my first journey to the Northeast. For some reason, mom had folded and gotten the iPhone and offered it up on loan as my compass and guide. What a life-saver! Especially since I ventured into cities along the way to experience new and wonderful things. Like Graceland! Does it have an Alamo-esque quality of being built up in your mind and then you arrive and it's much smaller than you imagined? Yes. But is it still mind-blowing to think that Elvis once stepped where you stepped? Hell yes.
Next up was Washinton DC. I don't know if I'm living right karma-wise but I happened to leave Texas just before a snowstorm blew through (if you know anything about Texas, know that they suck when it comes to snow as they have no idea how to deal with it) and I arrived in DC just after a snowstorm hit and was cleaned up. Perfect weather timing. DC was filled with culture and walking, food and finding things for people in my life I already missed.
I made my way North again and arrived one day earlier than I meant to as I skipped Philly. I was completely cultured-out after two days in DC! As I didn't yet know my employers and I was being given a house to live in, I ended up sleeping in my car in a church parking lot. In February. In Connecticut. And I loved it! My car was de-flowered, snowfall-style that night. I have since slept in my car only a few times (the next time being in Glacier National Park in June. It was still too cold to sleep outside even with a 10 degree sleeping bag, tent, hat, etc.) I can't wait to do it again! The only downside is that I'm six feet tall and my baby girl is a four-door Honda with minimal backseat space.
Anyway, moving on. I showed up the Sharon Audubon on the morning we designated as my arrival day. I immediately fell in love with the place as a whole, from the historical property to the non-releasable animals to the beauty of the place. The house I was given to live in was once the carriage house and had three bedrooms. I chose the room closest to the wood stove which I warmed myself with each afternoon and evening. Someday, my house will have one of these. Outside my door was a large pond where beavers swam and geese visited. One of my favorite things to do in the evening was to go up to the bridge and secretly watch the beavers create a damn, much to Mike's dismay. Once in awhile, they would notice me and slap their tails to the water in retaliation.
Now, jump four and a half years forward to the present time. I still go back to Sharon to visit Erin, the wildlife rehabilitator, and to help with events whenever I can. One such event was their yearly Kid's Day. I drove down on Thursday two weeks ago tomorrow and hit all my favorite spots along the way. The main one being Guido's Market in Great Barrington, MA. They have the most amazing and desirable apples. Think of a Granny Smith apple on a stick. Now dip it in the most wonderful caramel sauce. Don't stop there. Dip all that goodness into the greatest chocolate ever created. The end. Oh yeah, and then eat it. And buy another for the next day. They only make these in the fall which breaks my heart but, just like Girl Scout cookies, their rarity only makes them more exciting and desirable. I was going to be on my own that night as Erin was busy so I bought sushi, seaweed salad, pineapple, a chicken burrito and yogurt (plus the apples) to fortify myself for the next couple days.
I continued on my way and made it to Sharon in the late evening, settled in and fell asleep. The next morning, I made my way to my favorite coffee shop in Millerton, NY. Here, I spent many a weekend writing letters, reading and people-watching the locals and Manhattan tourists. I still love to visit this place for their bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches on an everything bagel and a vanilla latte, made just right. After sitting here for an hour or two, I walked around small-town but exciting-town Millerton. I visited Harney and Sons Tea to get a present or two, and later had lunch at Taro's pizza with Erin. This is the best pizza I can find aside from Portland Pie Co. At least I live in the same town as one of them...
That night, we feasted on cheese, baguette and chocolate-covered potato chips. Heck yes.
The next day, Erin was busy and I ventured to Kent, CT to visit more favorite places. These included Kent Coffee and Chocolate shop, the bookstore, the best panini place and J.P. Gifford for more carbs than I needed. My panini consisted of spinach, turkey, avocado, tomato, cheddar cheese and chipotle mayo. I found a couple cookies and a rhubarb/strawberry muffin at J.P. and a couple truffles at the coffee shop.
That night's dinner was two different quiches. One from my recipe when I first started the blog and one from Martha Steward/Erin. Both were fantastic, full of broccoli and cheesy.
The next morning, I ventured out again to visit Bantam, CT for Bantam Bread Company. Their cow cookies (aka pie crust with cinnamon and sugar) are reminiscent of Grandma's house and their dirt bombs (aka dense donut ball-type creation, also covered with cinnamon and sugar) are to die for. One of the latter actually resuscitated me from the brink of heat exhaustion one day four years prior. But that's a different story...
Next I visited Cornwall Bridge, CT to venture into new territory: a cabinet and wood-working shop. Everything in this shop felt good under my touch as it was smoother than smooth. I found a beautifully made oval Shaker box that I immediately wished I had the proper bookcase to display it upon. The rest of the weekend was spent searching for said bookshelf and not found...
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was able to help out around the center with feeding the raptors their daily dose of dead creatures. I stood fifteen feet away from Lia, the Bald Eagle, as I laid her tasty treats on a stump to be consumed later. I was playfully welcomed by my favorite friend Norabo, the Turkey Vulture and had my shoe "attacked" by Manitou the intelligent Raven. I was hissed at by the Baxter, the one-winged Great Horned Owl and sleepily blinked at by Sophia the Barred Owl. Cliff the Peregrine Falcon was nervous as always and Bob the Kestral was talkative and friendly as ever. I miss them all! I also got to help in the rehab room with one particular juvenile Red-tailed Hawk. She needed a (dead) mouse injected with medications and then to be fed with tweezers. Hence the photo of me holding such a majestic creature in my arms.
Sunday came and this was Kids Day. The day I came to help with. It started with projectile bean-bag frogs and ended with me as a giant raccoon holding hands with the little people. All in a day's volunteering for a place that I will always adore.