Summer Getaway | Hampshire County, Massachusetts

Lord Jeffery Inn, Amherst, Massachusetts

While Boston and the coastal towns and islands of Massachusetts are generally the first options that spring to mind while envisioning a summer vacation in the Commonwealth, the picturesque, green hilltowns of Western Massachusetts offer a beautifully alluring alternative.

Hampshire county, in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, is a flourishing hub for higher learning. Known as home to the Five Colleges, Hampshire county offers a vibrant, intellectual atmosphere that fosters art, historic preservation, unique shopping and dining, and countless stimulating opportunities and activities. All of this in a beautiful, quaint New England setting.

Farmers Market in Amherst Common

Hosted by the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council, I was introduced to many things that I had no idea this area offered. It was all so captivating and has left me wanting to return to find other Pioneer Valley hidden gems.

I spent my weekend staying at The Lord Jeffery Inn, which sits right across the street from bustling Amherst Common. Built in 1926, the historic feel and architecture was right up my alley. I love a true classic, and the white-washed brick of the exterior caught my eye and charmed me immediately.

I fell in love with architecture of the inn

My room

A perfect greeting!

Lord Jeffery Inn's library room

In the library

Beautiful Lord Jeffery Inn

I love the outdoor dining and bar at the inn!

Rooftop fireside at Lord Jeffery Inn

The Lord Jeffery Inn is large, rambling down the block, and architecturally charming

Just outside the doors of the inn, the weekly Amherst Farmers Market was in full-swing, and we quickly got swept up in the local shopping, music, and ice cream being served on that hot summer's day. A friendly, relaxed atmosphere settled on the market crowd, and its clear the residents of Pioneer Valley appreciate and feel completely at home in this joyful, creative, and engaged community nestled in the scenic green hills.

After leisurely wandering through the colorful, interesting market stalls and picking up a few treasures, we headed out to Hatfield, Massachusetts. Hatfield is a town with all the charm you'd envision a historic New England, farming town in the lush Connecticut River countryside to provide. It was there that we would attend a cooking class at Good Stock Farm.

Indonesian was on the agenda for the class that night

I had no idea what to expect from this class, and, frankly, as an unenthusiastic cook, I didn't expect it to draw me in other than on a strictly detached, observational level. I was completely wrong! It was fascinating. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and I found myself absorbed in the lessons, the smells, the textures, the tastes, and in the night's interesting conversations. 

Good Stock Farm cooking classes are held in the stunning home of Sanford D'Amato - Sandy, for short - and his wife, Angie. After buying their home, which boasts a bucolic view of the Connecticut River, they meticulously renovated it with an emphasis on creating a chef's dream kitchen and a workable space for their classes. And they hit the exact right note. With its open living, kitchen, and dining area, and a wall of glass doors that overlooks their land and river, you feel both in awe of the surroundings and cozy in their homey space.

A perfectly set table

In the Good Stock Farm gardens

Sandy and Angie show around their small garden area, explaining the flavors, and letting us sample fresh veggies straight from the earth

Though thoroughly informative, the classes are conducted in a casual, intimate style, with a small group of people. This encourages a good-humored camaraderie around the table, as you learn, chop, slice, mix, and prepare the recipes with those around you. 

Learning around the stove

My husband helping with dessert, as Sandy explains some of the finer points.

It's not just that the classes are enjoyable that make them time well spent, but with Sandy as the teacher, you also get the rare opportunity to work with a legitimate culinary master. As a 1974 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and with a long, illustrious career as a chef and successful restaurateur, Sandy has achieved national recognition and countless awards for his talents. One of the most interesting of these recognitions is when he was personally handpicked by Julia Child to be one of only 12 chefs to cook for her 80th birthday celebration in Boston.

Angie rewards us with post-cooking glasses of wine.

Each dish was spectacular!

Spending hours with my classmates and Sandy and Angie in cooking the meal and then dining was such a joy. We learned of each others' lives, laughed over Sandy's amusing anecdotes around the dinner table, and engaged in the interesting stories we all shared. I think we all had a hard time getting up from that table to go home. It was just such an enjoyable night. I'm already planning on finding a way to get back here for their pizza class in November. If you can find a chance to attend one of their classes or retreats, do it. Trust me, you'll have the time of your life!

Day two in Hampshire county began for me with a delicious brunch at Lord Jeffery Inn and a visit to the Emily Dickinson Museum before heading out to take advantage of the unique shopping in the area.

Brunch with a view of Amherst Common

The Homestead was the home to Emily Dickinson and was originally built in 1813.

Emily Dickinson, the brilliant 19th century poet and arguably Amherst, Massachusett's most celebrated resident, was a native to this town and lived out most of her life in the Homestead. Her home, the Homestead, and the Evergreens, home to her brother Austin Dickinson, can be visited at the Emily Dickinson Museum in downtown Amherst. Since I have visited the museum before and hadn't much time, I made a quick stop in to only see the Homestead. I just can't resist returning to this place whenever I'm in the area. A long visit, or short, the museum is always worth stopping in!

Before leaving Western Massachusetts, I visited Northampton for some shopping. Northampton, also part of the Pioneer Valley and Hampshire county, is a richly diverse, artistic, vibrant city with a palpable energy. It is always an invigorating place to visit!

Named America's Coolest Store by Instore Magazine, the dmg, which excels as a jewelry and craft gallery, is a must-stop while in the area! The colors and artistry which greet you as you enter are pure eye candy. I couldn't stop looking at each piece as I wandered the store.

Each handcrafted piece is a delight to the senses!

For next week's Cocktail Friday post, I will feature more of the dmg. I'll share more photos and the story of this beautiful gallery and store. While there, I received two of the most gorgeous hand-blown martini glasses ever! I treasure them and prominently display them like the art that they are on my dining room bar cart. They are stunning pieces. (So, next week look for more about the dmg and a delicious cocktail recipe here!)

The coast of Massachusetts has its beauty and irresistible allure in the warm months, you'll get no arguments here, but a summer trip to Western Massachusetts is such a treat! There's nothing quite like the lush green hills, the farmlands brimming with the color of a summer harvest, the beckoning water of the Connecticut River that invigorates you as you dip your feet in on a warm day. It is the very postcard image of bucolic New England, and whatever the season, it's worth a visit. The beauty, history, and energy of this area is simply unmatched.


Entering Massachusetts | Old Try Print Giveaway

Photo courtesy of Old Try

Have you all seen the beautiful letterpress prints by Old Try? You haven't? Well, go look then. I'll wait here for you. And their Instagram? Go look at that too. That's where I fell in love with them!

See? Aren't they gorgeous?! I'm totally in love with their aesthetic. It's vintage, yet modern. It's southern, with a dash of northern. It's old-time quality with heart and a wink of humor. And now is your chance to get one of their letterpress prints for free!

Micah and Marianna Whitson, the founders of Old Try, are southern transplants to the north. As they began their lives in New England, they were taken with the unique signs of welcome to each town, village, and city they entered in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, their new home. And I totally get it. As a transplant myself (by way of California), those signs caught my eye too, and I'm thrilled to now have one of these beautiful prints all my own!

So, what do you have to do to get your own Entering Massachusetts prints for free? Head over to my Instagram. Like my giveaway post for one chance to enter, and comment for an additional entry. Simple as that! The giveaway will be closed and a winner chosen Friday, August 5, 2016 at 4:00 PM, Eastern Time. (For this giveaway, we are limiting eligibility to U.S. residents.)


Salem Witch Trials | Elizabeth Howe, July 19, 1692

Today marks the 324th anniversary of the execution of my direct ancestor, my 9th great-grandmother, Elizabeth Howe. She was hanged on July 19, 1692 for the crime of witchcraft along side Rebecca Nurse - her sister-in-law, Sarah Good, Sarah Wildes, and Susanna Martin. Of course, none of these women were guilty of the crimes they were accused of, and the legacy of what was done to these women and men still haunts us today. And Elizabeth Howe's legacy, in particular, is something I hold close to my heart. I am of her flesh, after all.

Kan.del in Salem, Massachusetts (one of my favorite shops of all time) has created a series of Salem Witch Craft candles, each honoring individual victims. I have many of these candles, and was thrilled when they came out with the Elizabeth Howe candle.

Each of these candles comes with their own image on the front, picked to represent each victim, and the story of each individual is on the back.

Elizabeth Howe, at the time of the 1692 witch hysteria, was living in Topfield, Massachusetts, in an area known as Ipswich Farms. She was the mother to six children and the wife of a man who had become blind around the age of 50. Due to her husband's sudden disability, Elizabeth took charge of managing the farm. She took on responsibly that was beyond the limits of what was acceptable for her gender in a Puritan society. She was the boss of home and farm, and she made almost all of the decisions. I believe this was one of the main reasons she became an object of accusation. She had also been accused of witchcraft by a neighbor in 1682. This also made her vulernable to additional accusations, like so many others.

As the boss, for all intents and purposes, of the family farm, most of the first accusations made against her were the bewitching of neighbors' horses and other farm animals. This is the reason I display the candle in my family room, which was historically an extension of the horse barn on our property. This farm, boss lady belongs in an environment that reminds me, every day, of her strength, hard work, and accomplishments. She dealt with hard things and took charge. Society may not have been ready for her then, but she is an inspiration to me now. So, on this day that marks the taking of an innocent and strong woman, I burn my Elizabeth Howe candle in her honor.

A horse stands nearby to represent this farm boss!

Thanks so much for this special treasure, honoring an amazing woman, Kan.del! It has meant so much to me, especially on this day.


Winvian Farm | Litchfield Hills, Connecticut

The main house at Winvian Farm, built in 1775

Located in the foothills of the Berkshires, in the unspoiled northwest of Connecticut, are the Litchfield Hills. This charming, quiet, yet vibrant area of Connecticut has taken special care to preserve its history, while including unique and modern shopping and dining opportunities. The shops you'll find here are generally one-of-a-kind and will usually be housed in beautifully renovated, old buildings and homes. It is the best of both worlds - the historic and the uniquely new.

Fabulous dining in downtown Litchfield, Connecticut

Litchfield, Connecticut is the home to the first law school in the nation.

Litchfield home, built in 1773

Signature white house with black trim you'll find all over Litchfield

The Litchfield Hills are known for their scenic, rolling farmland, lush forests, and abundance of carefully preserved, colonial homes. This scenery has been a draw for many from New York City and other urban centers, seeking a quiet second home, or even a main residence, in an utterly charming environment. Many families have stayed for generations, and there's little reason to wonder why. This is a community very involved and invested in its past and future.

Years ago, I lived just outside of the Litchfield Hills, and when I was looking for a day surrounded in old, New England charm, I escaped to Connecticut's northwest. One of my favorite stops was West Cornwall, a tiny town along the Housatonic River, set against Litchfield's signature green hills. There are so many charming towns to explore in the Litchfield Hills.

West Cornwall covered bridge

West Cornwall, Connecticut

In Morris, Connecticut, one of those charming, rural Litchfield towns, you'll find Winvian Farm, a luxury resort and spa, with a restaurant that serves a delicious, 5-star cuisine. The resort is built around the 1775, colonial home of Dr. Seth Bird. A suite inside the home may be reserved, or one of 18 individual, private cottages on the 113-acre property.

In front of Winvian Farm's historic home

Our cottage, called Industry. Each cottage has its own unique theme and architecture.

Morning coffee on our porch

The tree house cottage

On the Winvian Farm grounds

The Winvian Farm gardens, where many ingredients are grown for the restaurant.

Each cottage comes with a set of its own bikes.

Dress: Anthropologie | Bracelets: c/o Sisco + Berluti | Shoes: Nine West

Winvian Farm feels like a true escape, a cottage getaway tucked into the woods where you never have to leave the property to experience luxury, relaxation, dining, or adventure. After a day of biking and exploring the grounds, we were treated to one of the most sumptuous meals I've ever consumed. Prepared with local ingredients, including from the resort's own garden, it was a true delight to relax with a martini and course after course of expertly prepared dishes. All this while being serenaded by the frogs just outside the restaurant window. And, after indulging in a 5-star cuisine, I ended the day with a glass of wine and a bath by the fire. Truly perfect.

The casual, yet luxurious, atmosphere of Winvian Farm had me wishing I could stay a week, but, alas, I had to get home. Departing was made less painful by the picturesque scenery of the Litchfield Hills I got to meander through on my way home.

On Winvian Farm's exquisite grounds

St. Bridget Church c.1883, Sharon, Connecticut

Thank you, Winvian Farm for the amazing stay! It was truly one of the most unique resort experiences I've ever had the pleasure to experience. I found Winvian Farm to be the ideal way to experience the hidden gem that is the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut.