Red Lion Inn

It will be two weeks now since we arrived at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge for a first time stay there. Our last trip out to the Berkshires, we’d stayed at its sister motel up the road in Great Barrington, The Briarcliff. I’d always figured the Red Lion would be way out of our price range, but after that visit to the Briarcliff we were intrigued by the Red Lion, and lo and behold, it’s more affordable than one might think, especially in a world of corporate Marriotts, Hiltons, and the like. It’s an old inn, born and reborn over the course of a couple of hundred years, the site of a tavern on an old stagecoach stop between Albany and Boston. The outside can be a bit deceiving, and gave Marty pause as he did not know what to expect on the inside. However, I did, as I’d popped into the lobby on our prior visit. It does not disappoint — with its quiet, friendly demeanor, and a genteel elegance, when you step over the threshold, especially during a holiday season, you will be transported to the once upon a time world of your childhood imagination — a romantic world of art, beauty, history, cordiality, charm and grown-ups.
Wonder, awe, excitement — I felt it all as we proceeded to our room on the pet-friendly first floor. Bear in mind, old buildings have quirks, as any interesting personality is bound to, and rooms are not at all cookie-cutter repeats. I’m not even sure it would be possible to duplicate our tiny room, with its odd angles, extra corners, doors backing into each other, and so on. But sweet, sparkling, and welcoming it was, with a cozy fire already lit in the grate. It was the perfect size for us when we had a 20 pound dog, but a bit of a tight squeeze with our slightly-under 50-pound Oonagh.
Fortunately, the innkeepers encourage guests to wander and explore the floors and halls, lingering in endless gathering spaces filled with comfortable seating, art, antiques, books, games, pianos, ghosts, and more. With  plenty of space beyond the walls of our room, there was no need to feel confined, nor did we have any desire to stay put. We’d landed in the world of Nutcracker Suite, and to not give it the attention it deserved would have been most rude.
While we’d been disappointed that the Lion’s Den, the dim, cavern-like speakeasy-style bar with oodles of taps, was closed for renovation, the tiny Tavern bar, around the corner and down the hall, within perfect stumbling distance from our room, did not disappoint. Half-dozen seats, limited, but exceptional libations, Ryan, bartender extraordinaire, prodigal son of the Berkshires, king of The Manhattans that are beyond the Big Apple delicious, it was all just perfect as it was. And that was just day one. Day two was just as glorious, with strolls around the small town of Norman Rockwell fame, before another evening settling in at the Inn. By the time checkout came, the following day, we were prepared to book a longer stay in January, this time in a suite. However, there are no pet-friendly suites, but the gracious and kind Front Desk Manager Miranda showed us one of her favorite rooms, which we promptly booked and plan to adopt as “ours.”
Sigh, if I could live in a room at an inn as “Eloise” does, it would be the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge. I wouldn’t even mind if my room was haunted. I’d be sure to let the spirit know I’m a friendly mortal.

Monday Musings and Ear Worms

We only have one more episode left of “Brokenwood,” Season 7 and unless it gets renewed for another season, that’s it. I’ll miss that offbeat town with its memorable cast of characters — and the soundtrack, sort of folksy-country, and while I am not a fan of country music, I do enjoy the soundtrack to this series, as the country-music loving detective and his crew cruise wide open roads amidst the rolling green fields of New Zealand wine country. The music of one song is stuck in my head lately, but the lyrics set to that music are of my own making — because if I can’t remember the lyrics, I can at least remember the tune. And I rather like my own lyrics. They speak to the daydream always stuck on repeat in my head. So to kick off the week, hope you have your own good daydream to get you through to the weekend.
This is a rolling tune for wandering the dusty back roads of towns urban renewal thankfully overlooked. “I wanna live in a little country town, where the sky is big and the trees are tall, and no-body gets me down.” Haven’t figured out the rest of the story yet but sometimes I like not knowing where it’s going. How about you? Got your own ear worm?
Photo: Harvesting grapes yesterday.

From the Vines

Finally getting a break from the blistering heat and the lousy air quality this weekend, if the forecast is accurate — who knows anymore?
At any rate, the hops and the grapes need picking, and every year the abundance increases. People are impressed with growing these things here, but they’re not difficult really, the vines create beautiful shade, canopy, privacy and ingredients for lovely libations and more. The bounty becomes overwhelming for our little household and while I make what I can with it — tinctures, smoke blends, and grape juice, to name a few, there’s so much more that could be done — beer, wine, jelly, jam, natural dye, pillows, and stuffed grape leaves. Living in a transient community, it’s tough to find makers and takers to share the surplus with. Unless, it’s tomatoes.

Summer’s Flights

Summer is flying by as summer does, and while it feels like my daughter and her beau just landed here; in a too-soon-approaching-tomorrow, they will be on their way again. Such is parenting and life when our nestlings have grown and flown — quite literally. Her sweetheart, @chefsamuelgregory is a French National and it’s difficult and expensive to get a US visa that allows a foreign National to stay in this country beyond 90 days. In the meantime though, we enjoyed an al fresco dinner on the patio the other evening with the full Chef Samuel experience. For me to allow someone else to pretty much navigate my kitchen without me hovering is no small feat, and he was a star. There’s something to be said for a private chef who does it all from shopping to prep to post-meal cleanup. The meal was fresh, simple and delightful — gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella drizzled with homemade pesto became un’insalata caprese, a fragrant mouthful of flavor. Samy made one of his favorite dishes for us because after all he is half-Italian and besides his fresh pasta, which we have yet to try, he made — what else but? Pizza!! With flours from Italy transformed into a pillowy yet lightly crisped and chewy crust. The crust was the vehicle for all manner of toppings and we stuck to vegetarian since the chef and his Lady are veggies. There was even gluten free crust and vegan cheese on one of the pies! The others were layered with an assortment of cheeses — mozzarella, fresh Narragansett mozzarella, creamy Vermont goat cheese, Parmesan-reggiano — on a base of either pesto or perfectly seasoned crushed tomato sauce — and scattered with colorful sweet peppers, figs, radicchio, arugula, herbs from the gardens, and more. While the pizza dough rose, the “kids” ducked out for a quick swim and stroll at a favorite nearby beach before returning to assemble and serve dinner. Mealtime was at dusk, a bit later than we’re used to, but it was a splendid evening in the company of some of the people I love best — my dad, Marty, my daughter and her guy, surrounded by what I love best — twilight descending amidst a verdant summer garden filled with trailing sweet peas, herbal scents wafting from window boxes, and grape vines wrapping and twisting through the pergola, threatening to embrace us all in the glory of one sweet summer evening in the waning days of summer.

A Welcome Rain

Yesterday was a gorgeous rainy day — and I say gorgeous because we need the rain — and the garden is thriving. Still working on one area for redesign, but I love when I can start seeing the vision come together — it’s like when you’re writing or painting and it takes a while and then all of a sudden, there it is, you’re almost there and you can see it. In the meantime, elderberries are ripening and I need to get some before the birds beat me to all of them. They’re great for cordials and immunity boosting syrups. The grapes are blowing my mind, and now that I realize how easy it is to make grape juice, that’ll be on the post-harvest to-do list. Dahlias, coneflowers, and glads are all bursting with blooms, we’ve had a few beans and blueberries, and before long the beach plums will be ripening. That’s just a taste of what we pack into this wee plot of land tucked in between the larger properties that surround us. It’s not really necessary to go big to grow good.

One year

A year ago this weekend we were in Shelburne Falls, a magical place I’ve written about before. Unbeknownst to us, it would be our last “normal” getaway pre-pandemic. By normal I mean mask-free, hugs okay, indoor dining and open mic nights at local breweries — it was all still happening. We’d stopped in nearby Turner’s Falls on our way there, and delighted with what we found, looked forward to returning to explore it there further.  I miss that.

Nevertheless, I’m thankful we have some photos of the time. Photos can make me feel wistful and nostalgic, sometimes sad, sometimes happy, it really depends on the photo, as well as my mood.
Looking at the year-old Shelburne Falls photos makes me happy, I suppose because I feel that hope is closer on the horizon now. In the meantime I have our photos to remind me of that weekend —The Deerfield River iced over, fresh snowfall, misty breath in frosty evening air, and plenty of walks back and forth from the Airbnb across the Iron Bridge, and past a silent Bridge of Flowers into Buckland — for favorite restaurants, the brewery and the coop. We enjoyed the Friday open-mic night at Floodwater Brewing followed by a cozy Saturday evening at the fabulous Blue Rock Bistro, sitting at the bar. Casablanca was showing on the screen and we shared a delicious meal and cocktails. Morning coffee run to Mocha Maya’s and homemade doughnuts from the Foxtrot Diner. Walks through quiet streets with friendly hellos and drivers who actually drive like people live there — and even better — stop to let them cross the street. Places like Shelburne Falls don’t need a pandemic to slow things down and illuminate what truly matters, they never forgot, but for others who have forgotten, our former speeded-up, business-as-usual world would be one of the few pandemic casualties I’d welcome.



Between St. Brigid’s Day, Imbolc, Candlemas, GroundHog Day and St. Blaise’s Feast Day this week, there’s a whole lotta light and candle magic going on. I celebrate the Solstices, Equinoxes and cross-quarter days in some small way, as I find this to be a sort of anchor for the rhythm of my days and the flow of the seasons. They can certainly be something to look forward to, much like the phases of the moon for me. There is endless information available over how different cultures celebrate some of these festivals or feast days, but I prefer to do my own abbreviated versions of various rituals associated with my own Celtic heritage — and as we are now halfway through the dark season and moving into the light, naturally I have candles lit. Keeping it simple means I will actually celebrate with some intention. For St. Brigid’s Day and Imbolc, I have my herbal smoke blend with violet leaf, and a supper of salmon, with my riff on Colcannon (basically a mash of potato and cabbage) of kale and potato — the salmon symbolizes the return of Springtime for me, violets are early harbingers of the warmer days ahead, and the potato is a reminder of the importance of the dark of the underground, as well as the light from above for growth and renewal. Stuff like this is just one of the things that floats my boat, what floats yours?

Love Languages

There are many love languages; I believe food is one of them, and I have probably mentioned this sentiment before. From the simplest to the most complex, scratch cooking takes time; giving and sharing our precious time here is another aspect of love.
I’ve discovered many recipes from assorted cookbooks that I’ve adopted as my favorites, and many recipes I love that people I’ve loved have shared with me. I in turn share the cookies, or the bread, or the carrot cake, or the granola I’ve made from those recipes with others. I’ll share the recipe if they ask, and when they make it for themselves, they’ll always say to me “but it wasn’t as good as yours.” That’s because it didn’t have my own special love ingredient. It had theirs, and they gotta be able to recognize it. And all this sharing, it does keep the love going round and round.


Woke up this morning with vertigo, and it has yet to subside. I did try one of the exercises recommended for it, but that only made me nauseous.
So … I’ve chosen to look at it as a reminder for me to slow down, take it easy, sit with Oonagh on the settee, mend my gauntlets, and make another pair. What??! Make another pair??! That’s taking it easy? Relax.
I use the sleeve tubes and the calf tubes from old sweaters and socks that I can easily felt in the wash, and these have been ready to go for years. All I needed to do was a couple of straight snips for thumbs and openings. When I want to reinforce the snipped edges, then I make a few simple blanket stitches with a contrasting yarn or heavy-duty thread.
I had made up a refrigerator cookie dough (recipe here) the other day, so I sliced and baked that, and I must say, dark rye flour is definitely becoming a favorite grain. I very carefully did a load of laundry, but skipped the shower I had hoped to take. Basically, I’ve had to live my day more mindfully and I’ll tell you, the more we can manage to do this for ourselves, well, for me, I find life more pleasurable when I do so.

Fish-a-ma-jig Friday


Every Friday for a few months now I’ve been making Fish sandwiches on Fridays. I’ve been calling it Fishwich Friday but because I love the way fish-a-ma-jig rolls off the tongue, I’ve decided that if it’s haddock I’m frying then it’s fish-a-ma-jig Friday. When I use pollock? That’s fishwich Friday.

There used to be a Massachusetts ice cream and diner-type restaurant chain called Friendly’s that was a local favorite in downtown Hyannis. It was one of those places with the best marshmallow topping-hot-fudge-sundae-with-mint-chip-ice cream-and-jimmies, fribbles, frappes, burgers, hot dogs, pancakes, scrambled eggs, and … fish-a-ma-jigs.

A grill cook worked behind the counter, with customers watching and gabbing and spinning on their barstools, waiting for their orders. It was a place where lots of kids began their first job, working the takeout window, counter, booth and kitchen service. The waitress uniform was the classic shirtwaist dress, apron and frilled crown of an atomic age parlor maid. Empty-nesters, older part-timers and old-school management rounded out the crew. Dare I say it? It was a Friendly place and its image in downtown Hyannis is embedded in the memory of my childhood. And that’s my story for today, because, yup, it’s fish-a-ma-jig Friday.

*Jimmies aka sprinkles
*Fribble aka milkshake, or is a milkshake also a frappe? Best to look it up. Even I get confused on these New England colloquialisms like fribbles and frappes. Now, as for awful-awfuls, well that’s a story for another day (like never😉).