Erstwhile Dear has bought a domain name, taken a photo and moved to new lands!
This post is a combination of two things.
1. All of the photos are from last week’s vacation (instagrams are perfect for vacation photos, don’t you think?).
2. All of the text comprises my “perfect list” of the things I’d recommend to anyone, anytime, to always do. For the most part, the photos have nothing to do with the text. So sorry, but I think it’ll work.
Here’s the thing about Nantucket. It’s expensive and prohibitive. They charge you to park on the mainland side (cheapest parking is at the bus lot). They charge you to ferry over on the slowest boat possible, or they charge you to fly over on the shortest flight known to mankind. Food also must ferry over, so menu prices will make you wince. Many of the shops seem to be full of cashmere and ridiculous gold jewelry. The drabbest bed and breakfast could cost your whole vacation budget.
But here’s the other thing about Nantucket: the entire thing is encircled with beaches. Each one has a new view, or a new type of wave, or a new feeling of pure freedom to encounter. It’s 99% independent businesses owned by quirky humans, most of them there because they adore the place. The breeze seems to be always blowing. The architectural restrictions that mean every single house must have cedar shingles and white trim? It works so well that your eyes relax and notice all the wildflowers for once.
And it can be relished, truly loved, for not too much money.
Best case scenario: someone with a house invites you out. God bless em, this happens every once in awhile. But other best case scenario: stay at the cutest hostel in the world! Take the shuttle out, or bring your bike on the ferry and bike out. Take the bus down from Boston, bring your bike on the ferry, stay here, and save your pennies for the food!
alright, on to the perfect list:
Milky Coffee and the Breakfast Special at the Pharmacy You can do the brunch scene with it twenty minute waits, or you can do this. Particularly when hungover, I prefer this. Sit at the counter if you can, or just call your order to the girls behind the counter. The breakfast special is a genius combination of onion bagel, bacon, tomato, salt and pepper and cream cheese . It arrives in splendor on a paper plate. They mix your cream and sugar into your coffee, and it turns out dessert style.
Lounging inside and outside the Library An oasis in the heat, the Nantucket Athenaeum is a beautiful free spot: cool inside and full of books! I love to sit for an hour with a few magazines to take a break from the bustle of town. Or bring your own book and sit in their shaded grassy yard.
a walk to the Bake Shop for donuts Just outside town, the Bake Shop competes with Downy Flake for island’s best donut. I love this little bakery for its old school vibe. It’s absolutely full of options and I never know what to order, I just point at a bunch of things and make off with my paper sack of goodies.
Sandwiches in the yard at Something Natural There are 4+ great sandwiches shops on Nantucket but you’ll see stickers for Something Natural on almost every car. The beautiful ambling lawn out front, the addictively fresh Portuguese bread, and the scenic Cliffside Road address surely all contribute to this. Ideal for a quick bike ride outside of town, order one of their enormous sandwiches, pick up a Nantucket Nectar, and lounge in the shade.
Day Drinking at Cisco Brewery Truth is, everyone will tell you to go here. By 4pm this ramshackle lot can be incredibly crowded and you’ll see the line of parked cars as soon as you turn onto Bartlett Road. But around 2pm on a weekday there’s a good chance you can find a chair in the shade. Sometimes there’s a visiting raw bar selling plates of bluefish dip and crackers. Sometimes there’s a portable pizza oven. Sometimes there’s no food at all, just beer of all sorts, waiting for a tasting.
Pennsylvania Dutch Cakes and Bacon at Black Eyed Susan’s If you can get there before eight, you’ll barely have to wait for table. If you don’t, don’t get scared by the crowd out front. Just put your name on the list and walk around town for 30 minutes. Every single thing on the menu is delicious, every seat in the house feels like the perfect spot, and the coffee is bottomless. I do not think it gets better than this.
Pillaging island vintage at the Take-it or Leave-it Everyone is required to take their own trash to the dump and sort the recyclables carefully. Once there (and you can bike there!) you’ll see shack in the corner of the dump’s parking lot. Everyone has a story about their favorite free find here–beautiful editions of old books, the perfect sweater, that grill accessory you needed for the week, a beach toy for your baby, etc. We try to go at least a couple times a week when we’re on island. At the end of the week, we go through our stuff and donate to the pile!
Hat-gawking at Peter Beaton This place is the classiest. She had striped shirts, signature custom sunglasses and amazing sun hats long before all these jokers showed up. Her window is full of ribbon options, the hats are all so enticing and the little sign guiding you to the shop might be the most charming one in town.
Picking up wine from the Bookstore in ‘Sconset If you bring your bikes (or rent them) the longest ride out of town is to Sconset, 8.2 miles. Sconset is perfect for pleasant wandering about, every street is lovely and most corners reveal a view. We love to pick out wine from the Bookstore, a wonderfully curated shop that is attached to the restaurant next door (which is byob, so it works perfectly!). You can always take the shuttle back to town (2 bikes fit on the front).
Waiting in the endless line at the Juice Bar The wall is covered with painted signs listing the choices (fresh watermelon juice! homemade fudge! fresh orange juice and vanilla shake!) the fan blows fresh waffle hot air in your face and, come nightfall, the line is around the block. I take that as a certain sign that it’s the spot to be.
Chips and Burgers at Surfside Beach To me this place is ideal Nantucket: affordable, friendly, simple, and classy. I love seeing the kids run up from the beach with their dollars in hand, lining up for slush puppies, burgers, bags of Ruffle potato chips, or frozen candy bars. Watch out for the seagulls here! They are dive bombers with a keen eye for an unwatched burger. Bonus: surfside beach is the easiest beach to bike to and it has the cleanest bathrooms and showers. You can drive, bike, or take the shuttle.
Bluefish Dip from East Coast Seafood Just before you turn down the road to Cisco Brewery, you’ll see a sign for 167 Seafood. This is my favorite spot to buy seafood–I love the way the shop carries just the right things for seafood buyers, I love how fresh everything is, and I love their bluefish dip. A container of that is the perfect snack for any Nantucket adventure.
Spending Money at Provisions, Straight Wharf Bar, and Straight Wharf Everything this trio of businesses does, they do perfectly. Between the three they’ve got you covered for a morning brunch, a boozy drink and bar snack, or an expensive deluxe dinner.
I just noticed this could also be called “a guide to shade on Nantucket.” ha!
Soon there will be a new pervasive standard for web coding in which elegance and clarity is prized beyond all else. Dancing web ads, auto-play videos, and tiny text will be severely frowned upon.
I forgot to tell you the one thing I actually wanted to share about Lux’s party: our invitation. Joe designed it so that when you opened the email your eyes alighted upon this:
We were inspired by this wedding invitation, which we saw on the wall at a friend’s cottage two years ago:
Last night we planned to go listen to the orchestra that plays outside. I roasted the chicken, spread bread with salty Irish butter, and went to Savenors to buy a packet of those crispy Tate’s cookies.
Then Lux’s mood seemed suspiciously explosive, like we might traipse over to the park put down our blankets settle in with our paper cups of wine and then she would start shouting and pointing with no reasoning whatsoever, just shouting and pointing.
So instead we invited our friend and her boston terrier over to have dinner at our house. We ate the chicken sandwiches at the table and poured the wine into real glasses and Lux tried to feed the dog, Murray, her spicy sesame noodles. After Lux was asleep we started talking about trends lately and the crafting trend of Brooklyn came up. You know, the one where studios have opened and beautiful watches are being made by hand, and crazy inventive sweaters are being knitted, and fine cloth is being tie-dyed in the best way possible. Whenever this comes up I begin reviewing my closet in my mind; wondering if I own anything of that caliber—that I would save for years to come—and more importantly: that would last for years to come.
I have a dress that I bought for my rehearsal dinner four years ago and I’ve since worn it to parties of all sorts, and some weddings, and just recently I wore it to the party we had in the park. The funny thing about this dress is that it’s from Anthropologie. In general I have a very difficult time shopping at Anthropologie. The trouble is that almost every item in that store is so heirloom. Usually there are two floors, both of them brimming with beautiful clothes, every single item could be that dress, or that sweater, or that jacket that you are known for, that embodies your style and makes you the richly dressed girl with lots of character.
I end up not shopping because I have this collision of “who am I?” thoughts: am I the bookish artist? am I the frivolous gardener? am I the spirited crafter? And I leave after admiring the lace bralette and examining the embroidery on the sweater and watching how the skirts’ soft cotton falls just so. And I also might have twinges of fear that say: that dress will try to make you, instead of you making it.
But nonetheless once I got my dress out of the store and into my closet, it became the clutch piece that I rely on and hope to wear for years to come. I’m grateful to Anthropologie for this lovely dress that was available to buy when I needed it and I’m especially grateful for how easygoing and accommodating it has turned out to be. Do you have these pieces like this in your closet? That despite the trend of $10 dresses from H&M or awfully sewn editions from Target, that you’ve managed to get home and love and make part of your life? Or are you considering investing in something truly made by hand?*
*I am! Right now I’m working with a local jeweler to make stud earrings just like I want. But more on that when it happens.
The weather folks said it was going to be 91 degrees that Saturday morning. I had visions of our guests sipping coffee and sweating, while humidity swirled around. Fortunately that dismal scene did not happen. At 10am it was very windy and slightly cloudy, which made perfect cozy breakfast party weather.
+ granola with steel cut oats, dried apricots and lots of seeds. yogurt (Brown Cow), raspberries, and blueberries.
+ three frittate: kale, swiss chard, new potatoes.
+ maple blueberry muffins. One baker friend brought apricot and sage scones, and one thoughtful friend brought Flour treats. Flour treats are the best hostess gift of all time.
+ bacon doused in maple syrup, baked, and cut into triangles.
+ two containers of coffee from Starbucks.
The great thing about this menu was the leftovers were easily incorporated into our week. (people never eat as much at parties as you expect, right??) Lux loved the frittate which is a discovery for me because they have more chopped greens packed per square inch than anything else I make.
Everyone showed up at different times via bikes or just finishing up a morning walk. Lots of the girls wore dresses; I love it when that happens. Strangers walked by with bemused smiles, eyeing the bundle of balloons blowing in the wind and the giddy babies chasing their toys.
I met Ellie and Lena at the library when the girls were five months old. Our babies were rather immovable and barely participated in the playtime, but we noticed they were around the same age and quickly struck up conversation. We survived the winter by getting together every week. Friends like them were so important to my first year as a mom, and I’m so grateful for their companionship.
And of course we all had that moment. That moment of “why don’t we do this more often?” When you realize all it took was the promise of coffee and a few blankets to get people to the park. When you look around and see other families having parties too, and realize, “this is what the park is for!” I hope we do it again this summer, but for now a baby’s birthday was the excuse we needed.
This extreme heat combined with Lux’s approaching first birthday has the early days of motherhood on my mind. The sticky floor in our kitchen, the faint hum of a hundred air conditioners through the window, the smell of baking bricks has triggered a wave of memories I’d forgotten in the last few months. I know several of my readers are expecting babies soon! I thought I would share a few things I would have loved to know in the first month or two.
Lie about your due date on Facebook. Smudge it a little starting two or three weeks beforehand, no one will notice. Majority of first births are late, up to two weeks! To keep the dear friends and family at bay during those endless last days, give yourself a little leeway.
Ask for food instead of gifts. If you have friendly neighbors and hopeful friends, tell them you would love for some hearty food in the weeks after the birth.
A doula might be a bit expensive, but it could be the best money you’ve spent. It could save you the cost of an epidural and c-section! And be enormously comforting to you and husband. It isn’t an indulgence, it is a wise investment. If they do postpartum visits and help, all. the. better.
Sleep with a favorite bed companion for your baby before they arrive, and infuse it with your scent.
Never post about how well your baby is sleeping on Facebook. Nothing marks a new parent more than this boasting, and unfortunately, it can really hurt some friends’ feelings who’ve had more difficult babies. Stay savvy and avoid this topic.
Things that are easiest when the baby is smallest: day trips, plane trips, eating at loud restaurants, and evening adventures.
Nap when she naps. Truly truly truly. If you can do this as much as possible, you’ll feel way better about the bizarro sleep patterns.
Avoid sleep training until three months. Do not spend hours googling methods when they are two weeks old. Your hips have to learn to sway, your mouth has to learn the comforting noises, your baby has to stop being a foreign alien to this world. It takes time, and no one’s cheap tricks will help.
Here’s what the hours of Googling inevitably results in: yes other babies do it. No, no one knows why. Yes, it will stop soon.
The sooner you can quiet the fear of your own intuitions, the sooner you and your baby will feel confident in your decisions.
Three questions you might ask yourself and will later look back and wonder if you were insane: Is little Lux getting enough stimulation? Am I keeping her from learning? Am I being a “good” parent at all times?
*Do you have bits of advice you whisper to new moms? I’d love to hear them, please share. Please ignore these until (..if ever) they are useful to you. : )
The season finale of GIRLS happened this past week, and one highlight for me was book-spotting grumpy Ray reading I Capture the Castle. Have you read it? It might be one of my Top 10. It was written in 1948 by Dodie Smith about a poor family living in a washed-up castle, making do and having fun. Coming of age of a seventeen year old girl, journal style, eccentric father, unexpected visitors…I know that sounds predictable but truly, it is a charmer! I recommend, as Ray did by saying, “This book is so fucking incredible. Anything by a British woman is just…fuck.” (or you could read my longer review here.)
Very apropos too, because the Summer Solstice plays a lovely role in that book and I always wish that I had some sort of tradition or rite to do on the longest day of the year. Is there anything you like to do to mark these kinds of holidays?
We went to bed so early! What is it about being away from your living room, with its built-in suggestion of tasks and chores, and away from your laptop, that makes it so easy to go to bed?! The sun poured through our windows beginning at 5am and I didn’t mind since we’d gone to bed at 10pm.
We had lobster rolls on our first evening. I like a place that toasts the roll, assumes chips are included, and sells it to you for $11. Unheard of in Boston. Thurston’s also served potato salad with fresh dill, bits of red onion, and corn. And a corn and crab chowder that was almost entirely piles of shredded crab. We shared a pitcher of a breezy drinkable beer called Thurston’s Lobster Ale, of unknown origin.
We tried peaches on the grill. Flesh side down, they ended up tasting faintly smokey but wonderfully warm and mushy. We ate them with vanilla ice cream mixed with grape nuts. Apparently this is a standard flavor in Maine. Strangely delicious. “Like a perfectly soggy bowl of cereal,” Joe said. I wouldn’t agree with that since I don’t like soggy cereal, but it does describe the texture.
We went for exactly one hike to the top of one mountain. At the top there was a puddle full of silky mud that Lux fairly slithered into. She ended up coated in mud and had to be hiked back down half naked.
A soup kitchen was raising funds by serving dozens of popovers, four different kinds of jams, and coffee in small tea cups. Obviously we had to attend. Then we wandered out to the rocky shores to hunt for rocks to give our stone-carving friend (we didn’t find any good ones).
I started reading My Family and Other Animals because it was on the shelves of the cottage where we were staying. It’s a memoir of a family that moved to an island in Greece in the 1930s, written by the youngest brother. I love it.
Lux has an empty jar of almond flavoring in her mouth. The perfect size for sore gums to chew on.
Link’s for travel in Southwest Harbor & Bar Harbor: seriously spectacular ice cream at Mt. Desert Ice Cream, piled on lobster rolls at Thurston’s, a soup kitchen that also sells meals at Common Good Soup Kitchen, buy clams, mussels, and eggs only from Rat’s and always from Rat’s.
We’re driving up to Maine tonight. We’ll leave around 7pm and play loud music until Lux decides she’s sick of this hipster scene and falls asleep. In this photo from Maine last summer, Joe’s wearing his t-shirt from Saturdays NYC that he has probably worn every week for the last year. We need a new one, and I love them all.
I hope we can:
pick up some raw milk (for mozzarella/yogurt making)
sit on a porch and play in a yard, two very foreign concepts around here these days
have a tasting flight at Mt. Desert ice cream (strawberry fig balsamic sorbet! girls scouts gone wild!)
see sunrise on acadia mountain in the morning
and garage sale in the afternoon
buy a pile of mussels for dinner and do nothing except set them on the grill, put the lid on, and then pull them off one by one as the open.
I hope you have some summery things planned for yourself. Finally buying a carton of strawberries, perhaps? Treating yourself to a jarful of lemonade? Borrowing the Sunday comics from your neighbor’s newspaper? Stopping to talk to all the dogs? (this is Lux’s plan for sure)
Today I have a brief guide to Nantucket on Show + Tell. The 5 spots I recommend are my most favorite things on island, especially the dump with its Take It or Leave It shack. Show + Tell is a blog run by graphic designer and Columbus OH resident Allison Lehman. Everything there is lovely to look at, but I particularly enjoyed her recent tips on blogging series.
I like that Allie limits her guides to 5-6 things because it makes for easy reading. However, I know many of you are in Boston and probably going to visit this summer, therefore I hope to have a longer guide for you next week. Writing this one for Allie reminded me of all things I truly love on that island.
Every time I pick up this free magazine (usually at Savenors, but they are available all over) I learn so0 much. It’s the best way to find out about the amazing food people around Boston. They have great photography and design, and always the most seasonal of stories. Usually I learn more about food producers that I eventually spot at the markets around town.
For example in this issue, they wrote about a young tech-savvy entrepreneur who is wholesaling fish in Boston: Red’s Best. In the article they noted that if you buy local fish it is typically totally sustainable, not overfished, caught by a small operation fisherman, and amazingly fresh. I had never thought of it that way! I looked for someone selling fish at the farmer’s market yesterday and picked up a pound right away. And that was just the first article I paged to. When you see this magazine around town, definitely pick one up.
There have been at least twenty discussions about birthday parties around here lately.
Here’s a few of the themes we circle around:
Is it weird to call it a birthday party if Lux will have no awareness that the party is for her?
How much alcohol can you have at a party that’s technically for children?
How do we emphasize that we are actually celebrating the crazy year we just had?
Obviously we can’t not memorialize this enormous life change we just went through, right?
Finally, bored out of our minds with this all this adult talk, we decided we wanted it to be on the Esplanade, the lovely park that coils along the Charles River and is full of playgrounds, benches, clean sidewalks, and beautiful trees. So Saturday morning we went location scouting and visited our favorite nooks, to see how they would do under party scrutiny.
The bridge over to the Esplanade is just up the street from us. You cross over four lanes of traffic, and can smirk with pedestrian swagger as you cross. Or you can focus on how the bridge is climbing up into the trees before it swoops you back down to earth among the sailboats.
Lux particularly liked this spot for duck watching and practicing her sideways bench walk:
We settled on this little triangle of grass:
a small pond on one side:
and shady trees all around!
Now that I’ve started thinking about children’s parties, I’m remembering all fantastic things kids get to count on: cake! scoops of ice cream! goody bags! random streamers everywhere, bringing a gift for your friend that you hope they love, musical chairs, and eating too much candy. This is one of those scenarios where kids really get the good stuff, right?