Blueberries in Gloucester

When a friend first gave me her recipe for blueberry crisp, I had never heard of Annisquam. For some reason, I thought Annisquam was some place up in Maine.

It’s not – Annisquam is a beautiful waterfront village in Gloucester, Massachusetts. We visited one of its private beaches with friends on a beautiful summer day.

Annisquam

The next day, I realized where I’d heard the word before … in the title of one of my favorite recipes.

I’ve made Annisquam Blueberry Crisp with fresh blueberries in August and with frozen ones in January. I’ve made it with wheat flour and with gluten-free flour. Though the texture may vary slightly depending on the type of flour, it’s always yummy. The port is the secret ingredient.

Blueberries

Enjoy!

Annisquam Blueberry Crisp

4 cups blueberries (or two 10-oz packages frozen, thawed)
1/4 cup ruby port
3/4 cup sifted gluten-free flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

Combine blueberries and port in a well-buttered, 1 quart baking dish. In a separate bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Add butter, cut into bits and blend until the mixture resembles cornmeal. 

Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the blueberries and bake in the middle of a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. 

Serves 6 to 8

What Did You Do This Summer?

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted any of my travels. Here’s my answer to that childhood ubiquitous question.

Spring blurred into summer, beginning technically on June 21 but really on June 2 when I traveled to Tucson for an outdoor family wedding. The weather was hot, we wore shorts and ate blizzards from Dairy Queen in the town of Sierra Vista, Arizona (stay tuned for more details on Bisbee and Tucson).

Dairy Queen

In June, we took a trip to Provincetown and walked Boston’s Freedom Trail. We said good-bye to our Chilean exchange student, wondering when we would see her again, glad of the excuse for a future trip to South America.

In July, my family was consumed and overwhelmed with learning about and planning for my daughter’s through hike of the Long Trail. We explored Vermont – Manchester, Waterbury, and Stowe and hiked through the Green Mountains.

In August, we recovered from our Vermont travels with trips to the beach on Boston’s North Shore, bike rides, kayaks, and swims in local ponds. We listened to music at outdoor festivals, visited farms, ate lobster and pizza, and grilled. We picked flowers and basil and went for a ride in a plane.

Watermelon

Now that fall is quickly approaching, I’m scrambling to get a bit more summer in. I need at least one more trip to the beach, and many more kayaks, bike rides, and outdoor swims. I need to shop at more farmer’s markets, eat lots of tomatoes, fresh corn, and peaches, grill vegetables, make fresh salsa, gazpacho, and zucchini bread.

Farmers Market

When the hot summer days cool off, I want to be ready. Ready to say good-bye to the heat and welcome sweatshirt weather and apple picking season, when I can still ride my bike and make apple crisp, and slowly get ready for fall.

Trip taken Summer 2015.

dipsea News, Breaking dipsea News and More: Marin Independent Journal

ca-195dipsea News, Breaking dipsea News and More: Marin Independent Journal.

I’ve been lucky enough to be a spectator at two of the oldest running races in U.S.: the Boston Marathon (2nd oldest road race) and the Dipsea Race (oldest trail race). You’ve heard of the Boston Marathon but have you heard of the Dipsea?

The Dipsea Race was started in 1905 when a group of runners decided to run the trail from Mill Valley, California, over Mount Tamalpais, to Stinson Beach. That year, 100 people ran it. Now only 1500 people are lucky enough to run the steep and treacherous 7.4-mile race every year.

As a child, we would wave good-bye to my dad at the start of the race then drive 10 plus miles along the windy roads, through the fog, hoping to reach the finish before he did. It was a tough balance – driving fast enough but not too fast or we would get car sick. Then we’d park and run to watch him finish.

We’d watch Dad and the other runners straggle in, bloody and muddy, many getting sick just before or after they finished. I heard stories of those never ending steps (676 steps and as high as a 50 story building), runners coming up fast from behind, slipping on the mud, and taking short cuts. There was no doubt that the race was a grueling one.

My dad no longer runs the race, but my brother does and so does my sister-in-law. They’ve run the single Dipsea, the Double Dipsea, and even the Quadruple Dipsea. An old friend of my dad’s will run it this year for the 45th year in a row. Due to various running injuries, I’d given up the idea of ever running it myself. But a few years ago, on a crisp December day, I ran the course. Not from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach but from Stinson Beach to Mill Valley. I didn’t run the race, but I did run the course. I ran down the steps instead of up them.

For more information on the race, read the website above or check out this article. http://www.runnersworld.com/trail-running-training/tough-love?page=single

Hiking in Marin

One of my favorite things about Marin County, just north of San Francisco, is its accessibility to hiking. Within an hour or less from urban life, you can be hiking on challenging trails with a view of the ocean or in the shade of redwood trees.

On my last visit to Marin, a friend and I went for a hike in the Tennessee Valley area of the Marin Headlands.

Trail head

It was a blustery but sunny day. We hiked along the Tennessee Valley Road to the confluence of the Old Springs Trail and took a left, eventually turning on the Wolf Ridge Trail toward Hill 88.

MH Trail

What was once a former Nike Missile Radar Station, Hill 88 is now graffiti covered buildings with incredible views of the city.

SF View

After exploring Hill 88, we hiked back along the Wolf Ridge trail, wondering about the cannon we could see far below (but without the time or the inclination to discover it for ourselves).

Instead we headed back down the Coastal Trail, toward Tennessee Valley Road and our car. Soon we were back in civilization, eating tacos for lunch (see Tacos in Sausalito), and going about our day.

For a map of the trails in the Marin Headlands click here.

Trip taken: January 2014.

Do You Plan Your Wanderings?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Happy Wanderer.”

I’m a planner. I admit it. But whether or not my children believe me, I wasn’t always one. When I traveled to Ensenada, I let my friend plan our weekend. When I traveled to San Felipe, I went with the flow. On my trip to Australia, we were free and spontaneous. We chose where to stay and for how long, money and a flight home our only boundaries. Even my first trip to Paris and Zurich were simple – I stayed with friends, brought guide books, and decided each day where I would be a tourist.

But then I had children. And the world became more crowded. I discovered that summer camps would fill up before spring. With a child with food allergies, spontaneity was difficult and wrought with disappointment and a hungry child. Slowly, I learned to plan. And now, I always plan.

My hesitation and anxiety about traveling to South Africa was lessened by learning more about the country, where we could and would go. Planning has allowed me to avoid long lines and eat gluten free at Disney, visit our sponsored child in Lesotho, camp at Pawtuckaway State Park every summer for years, be led by a tour guide through Gettysburg National Park, and visit the Senate on a trip to Washington.

But I still love spontaneity. And while doing a little research before traveling to a new place helps me to find the special and unique, or avoid those well traveled and touristy, destinations, spontaneity allows us to change course. To listen to recommendations from other travelers or discover new places ourselves.

Without spontaneity, I wouldn’t have attended a hearing for Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, watched the surfers in Half Moon Bay, or listened to the Wave Organ in San Francisco. I wouldn’t have spent the night in a treehouse, picked strawberries in Pescadero, gone hiking with the Hobart Bushwalking Club, or danced Nia in Santa Barbara. Without spontaneity, I wouldn’t have met Terry from England who later invited me to her wedding in Athens. I wouldn’t have stayed with the dairy farmer in Auckland or gone hot air ballooning outside of Alice Springs.

The travel world is so different than it was – the internet provides information and access to so many places, and apps like Yelp can allow a little bit of spontaneity with less risk of disappointment. You can read about where to go and what to see on blogs and share your experiences on social media.

But there’s nothing quite as freeing as just setting out, doing what you feel like doing at the moment, eating when you’re hungry, and being ready to just let things happen.

Eating Gluten Free in New Orleans

We were in New Orleans where much of the food is cream based and fried and definitely not gluten free. I was leery about finding gluten-free food, but my fears were unfounded. Using our favorite app, FindMeGlutenFree, we were able to eat without getting sick and most importantly, to sample and enjoy some of the local food for which New Orleans is famous.

Where and What We Ate:

Cafe du MondeThe coffee is gluten free, but the beignets, a square piece of dough fried and covered with powdered sugar, are not.

Jacques ImosThough the gluten-free menu was brief and somewhat misleading, the waiter filled in the gaps, and we discovered several gluten-free options, including Cajun Bouillabaisse (though it comes with bread so be sure to tell the waiter), Shrimp Creole, and Lamb.

Meals from the Heart Cafe: We tried the gluten-free blueberry pancakes and a gluten-free breakfast sandwich at this cafe. Even the po’boys can be made gluten free. We sat at a counter in the middle of French Market, chatted with the owner, and watched the people go by.

Mother’s Restaurant: We sampled the many different foods that New Orleans and the South are famous for, including red beans and rice, chicken jambalaya, turnip greens, grits, and shrimp creole. If you go, be sure to avoid the gumbo, fried chicken, fried fish, po’boys, and desserts.

Mr. B’s BistroMost of Mr. B’s dinner items are gluten free, including Mr. B’s Barbecued Shrimp (just be sure they don’t add any bread), the Bacon Wrapped Shrimp and Grits, and Wood Grilled Fish. Be aware of the Panko crusted fish specials, desserts (except the ice cream), and the basket of bread.

The restaurants in New Orleans are many. And so are the gluten-free options. We will be back!

After the Party: Touring New Orleans on Ash Wednesday

When planning a trip to visit NOLA, we did the opposite of what most tourists do. We arrived after the party. The days were cool in February, but sunny. The crowds were there, but not overwhelming and not unruly. Here’s a glimpse into what our family of four (including two teens) saw and did during our less than 48-hour visit.

Bead Trees: We exclaimed when we saw our first bead tree, though its blossoms were few. We discovered more bead trees as we traveled on the Saint Charles Streetcar along the previous day’s parade route.

Bourbon Street: We meandered down Bourbon Street, dodging the partiers, sampling the pralines, admiring the art in the windows. The lights danced around us, the music ever present, the restaurants teeming with people.

Cafe du Monde: We walked right in and sat right down, avoiding the infamous lines of warmer days. We drank the chicory coffee and ate the famous beignets in the room tinted green.

Masks: In French Market, we viewed and compared, selected and haggled, looking for the perfect masks to bring back to New England.

Jazz: Unable to get tickets before we arrived, we waited in line at Preservation Hall, the last people into the 8 p.m. show. We crouched and peered from the courtyard into the crowded room – our feet tapping, our eyes dancing, our faces lit with the joy emanating from the musicians as they played traditional New Orleans jazz just a few feet away. Those with reserved seats were able to sit cross legged on the floor right in front of the band, with an unobstructed view of the tuba and sax, the drum and cornet. The next afternoon, we listened to jazz on the street and in Jackson Square.

Saint Charles Streetcar: We rode the streetcar from the French Quarter through the Garden District during the day and at night, accompanied by tourists, natives, and students (Tulane University and Loyola University are both located just outside the Garden District). 

To find out where we ate, check out next week’s post.

The Eiffel Tower or the Ferris Wheel?

Have you been to the top of the Eiffel Tower? Waited in the long line for the elevator or taken the many (704) steps up or down?

Eiffel Tower Steps

Have you wondered why such a structure was created? Or did you just accept its existence as a symbol of Paris? A check off on your bucket list? A place to see a view?

View from Eiffel Tower

When I took the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower, I didn’t realize that its structure created an engineering challenge for organizers of the Chicago World’s Fair, which I learned while reading the book, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.

After the creation and appearance of the 986-foot Eiffel Tower in 1889, American engineers were perplexed. Designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel’s consulting firm, Eiffel et Compagnie, the Eiffel Tower was created for the Exposition Universalle (the Paris World’s Fair).

Now it was America’s turn. The challenge: to create an engineering marvel for the Chicago World’s Fair that would rival the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower

And they succeeded, but only just in time. Designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., the 2 million-pound Ferris Wheel officially opened on June 21, 1893, during the Chicago World’s Fair. 

London Eye

The original Eiffel Tower still exists: the Paris icon a tourist attraction as well as a dining destination. Though the original Ferris wheel no longer exists, various iterations exist in cities and fairs all over the world. Paris even built their own version in 1900, Le Grand Roue, for the Paris Exposition.

Next time, you’re dining at Le Jules Verne or riding through the air on the London Eye, remember the creators and the impetus for invention.

Trip taken: July 2010. Book read: 2014.