The chicken was the star of the show. There was nothing left of this meal but a small amount of whipped, honey-flavored butter.
Since moving to Rhode Island, Geoff has wanted to attend a May Breakfast, an annual tradition since 1867 in celebration of Rhode Island’s Independence Day—May 4, 1776, the day Rhode Island declared itself independent of the British crown.
Currently, the May Breakfast usually takes place at a local church between late April and early May throughout the state, and it often doubles as a fundraiser for the hosting organization. We finally made it to one today at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church. The girls definitely took advantage of the all-you-can-eat menu of fresh cut fruit, johnny cakes, pancakes, french toast, custom omelettes, bacon, sausage, and an array of baked goods—including strawberry-rhubarb pie.
Volunteers from the community bake goods, cook food, serve coffee, and bus tables, so it truly feels like a community event.
Perhaps it makes us officially Rhode Islanders now that this has become our annual tradition as well.
To find the May Breakfast near you, you might want to check your local churches or do a search for May Breakfast with your town name, since there doesn’t seem to be a comprehensive list of them across the state. Or here are a few other resources:
We’re not big sports fans in our house. So the first day my older daughter played Little League, I realized that it might help her to know the rules by actually watching a few games (we then discovered the Paw Sox). Now with our younger daughter playing ice hockey, a friend suggested that we join them for one of the Brown women’s hockey games.
This weekend, we attended our first game. The women’s hockey games at Brown are thinly attended, despite being free to the public. When my older daughter asked if we had bought the seats we were in, our friend joked that we had bought the whole section. But the low attendance makes it easy to change your vantage point, mid-game. And when the team lined up to re-enter the rink, our girls would run to greet them and lean over to give each player a high-five as she entered.
We found the game packed with plenty of action, and the fans in attendance enthusiastic. There’s also a well-stocked snack bar, which came in handy since my younger daughter was hungry even though we had just eaten dinner. The girls even chose their favorite player — Conway because she was ‘so fast’ — although she was briefly displaced by Najjar when she scored.
And as if that wasn’t exciting enough, they even ‘caught’ an errant puck to bring home as a souvenir.
I didn’t want to start another company.
But then it occurred to me. Why is it so easy for me to find things like balloons or coffee mugs or journals online, but I am often clueless where I’d find these items nearby? Wouldn’t it be great if a website could help me shop in my own neighborhood?
You might say I spend too much in front of my computer, and not enough time in person at the stores near me. Apparently, I’m not the only one. Hence, ShelfDig was born.
A group of us came together to create the website at www.shelfdig.com, and we launched it just this month to the public. We currently have partnerships with over 60 stores in Providence from Stock Culinary Goods to Army/Navy to Creatoyvity to Cluck! to Homestyle.
You can do a search on the site, or if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, we created gift guides for children’s, babies and pet items, as well as gift guides for cooks & foodies, geeks & techies, sports & recreation, and the ultimate ‘buy local’ guide with locally-made items. You can even browse by neighborhood.
If you’re curious, come stop by our table at the Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers’ Market. Our team members (Geoff, Allan, Frieda, and I) will be there to meet-and-greet, offer demos of the site, answer questions, and hand out swag to all passersby (kids are welcome to pick up stickers too!). We’ll be in the market entrance to the South Hallway from 9 am to 1 pm on Saturdays November 21, December 12, January 9 and February 6.
I always thought Providence had pretty cool playgrounds. But then we spent four months in Berlin, where we lived across the street from an “adventure playground” called Kolle 37. And then I realized, Providence could be a lot cooler.
For those who are unfamiliar, adventure playgrounds are areas for children to play with fire, hammers, saws, and other tools. Parents are not permitted. Rather, play workers monitor the area to maintain safety, while allowing children the freedom to enjoy what some call ‘risky play.’
Fortunately, there is already a movement in Providence to try to bring an adventure playground to the city.
This Thursday October 22 at 6:30 pm at the Providence Children’s Museum, there will be a screening of the short documentary The Land as well as a screening of the trailer of my film Imagine Kolle 37, followed by a conversation with The Land filmmaker Erin Davis, Providence PlayCorps Director Janice O’Donnell, and myself. I hope you’ll join us…
We have no shortage of great orchards for apple picking in Rhode Island, and over the years, we’ve visited Jaswell’s, Knight Farm, Sweet Berry Farm and Hill Orchard. This year, we all had our requirements — Geoff wanted cider doughnuts, I wanted it to be in ‘apple valley’ (near Smithfield), and the girls wanted some kind of ride.
So we agreed on Sunset Orchards, where there was a small train ride and tractor ride through the orchards, as well as fresh cider doughnuts, unpasteurized cider, and plenty of apple varieties to pick from (including macintosh and empire apples, my two favorites).
We were a bit surprised how bustling it was there (clearly, we hadn’t ‘discovered’ this place), but once you got out into the orchard, it felt more lowkey. Despite the 18 pounds of apples we bought, not one apple went to waste. And the resulting pie Geoff made, well, I guess that had at least something to do with the apples.
Sunset Orchard Farms
44 Gleaner Chapel Road
North Scituate, RI
After living in Providence nearly six years, we finally made the day trip to Block Island. I’m not sure what took us so long exactly, but now I know what we’ve been missing.
Not surprisingly, the first thing we sought to do was eat – although the smell of bacon and long line at Ernie’s suggested it would be worth the wait, we decided to go somewhere we could eat outside without a wait, which turned out to be the Surf Hotel. Breakfast turned out to be perfectly fine (egg sandwiches on brioche, and reasonable kids’ meals).
We decided to rent a car so we could more easily explore. With six of us in our party, we opted for the circa 1980s minivan on the lot, which was offered to us for an absurd fee — oh but don’t worry, it hasn’t been cleaned, it’s on ‘E’ and it may not start. I’m not kidding – the agent actually had trouble starting the car.
With our cool ride, we drove across the entire island (it didn’t take long). We drove past rolling hills with cows and horses and impressive ocean views around nearly every corner. We parked by Settler’s Rock and walked the rocky beach over to the lighthouse.
I’d say the highlight was Mohegan Bluffs, where you climb down a winding staircase of over 100 stairs down to the water. As if that’s not enough of a barrier, the stairway ends abruptly at a treacherous cliff with a sketchy rope to ‘help’ you make your final leg down to the beach. It is quite beautiful once you make it down – with the ocean up against an enormous cliff, and it’s impressive how many people of all ages actually seemed to be able to make it down and back up without harm (including our four-year-old, although I’ll admit to not being very ‘relaxed’ about the whole experience at the time).
After we returned the car, we walked over to Ballard’s Beach, where we sat on the beach, got a snack, and enjoyed our last ocean swim of the season.
I can’t wait to go back (and I definitely can’t wait for it to be summer again). The only thing that’s missing seems to be great ice cream (and no, Turkey Hill ice cream at the Ice Cream Palace does not count, in my opinion), so next time, I’ll plan to stop at the Sweet Spot in Narragansett when I get off the ferry.
212 Water Street
New Shoreham, Block Island, RI
32 Dodge Street
New Shoreham, RI
When our youngest daughter said she wanted a train set for her birthday, Geoff started researching and stumbled upon the Providence Northern Model Railroad Club.
Located in a nondescript building near T.F. Green airport, the club has spent six years building miniature — in HO (1:87) — railroad tracks that weave through a model of the original Providence train station, the Framingham station, a miniature lumber yard, a Vermont town, tunnels, forests (complete with deer, bears and moose), and more.
The club opens to the public for a few hours most Saturday afternoons, and on our recent visit, a volunteer took us through the detailed work-in-progress (volunteers get ‘permits’ to work on sections).
Providence Northern Model Railroad Club
1175 West Shore Road
Public hours are typically noon – 4 pm on most Saturdays. Call or check website to verify.
Ah, summer. Finally, we’re together again.
Although I do enjoy ice skating and skiing, for me, they just don’t compare to lying on a warm beach, swimming, and surfing. And in Rhode Island, we’re lucky to find everything we need to enjoy summer right here in the Ocean State.
This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather a list of ten of my favorite ways to spend a day during the summer in Rhode Island. I’d love to hear yours too, so post in the comments below!
1. Surf, Beach, and Mini-Amusement Park in Narragansett
For more low-key (read: novice) surfers like myself, Narragansett Town Beach generally offers small (one to three foot) waves, and the water tends to be freer of seaweed than some other local surf beaches. You can set up a surf lesson in Narragansett or rent a board with Warm Winds Surf Shop or Narragansett Surf & Skate, or just head out with your own board. The beach is separated by a surf side and a swim side, so if you’re only up for swimming, you can head to the other side of the beach. Note that Narragansett Town Beach has a fee both for parking and for entrance on the beach.
For lunch, I love Crazy Burger, which has a great selection of burgers, salads and sandwiches for vegetarians and omnivores alike.
If that’s not enough action for the day, then we’ll stop at Adventureland, a miniature amusement park with a carousel, bumper boats and a kids’ raceway.
We usually like to pick up some local seafood at Champlin’s to cook at home later (likely stopping for some ice cream at the Sweet Spot while we’re there), and picking up some local corn at Sunsets Farm on the way home.
2. Bike Ride and Lunch Along the Bay
If it’s not too hot, one of my favorite things to do is take a bike ride along the East Bay Bike Path, which follows the coastline of the bay between East Providence down to Bristol, Rhode Island. The ride isn’t terribly hilly, and it’s so peaceful to ride along the water.
I like to stop along the way at the Audubon Society in Bristol to explore their outdoor grounds or indoor museum.
Although the food is underwhelming, it’s hard to beat the view at Agave in Bristol. Save room for ice cream at Gray’s Ice Cream, which is one of my favorites.
3. Rocky Coast Hike and View of the Bay in Jamestown
When I’m up for a more adventurous activity, I love to hike up Fort Wetherill in Jamestown. It’s a fairly easy walk, even with children, and the views of Narragansett Bay are fantastic. If you think ahead, you can pack a picnic lunch. Or, you can make your way into the town of Jamestown to pick a spot along the water.
There’s also the Jamestown Community Playground for kids that need to let off steam before or after their meal.
4. Beach, Boats, Kites and Seafood in Newport and Middletown
I usually skip Newport’s Easton’s Beach (“First Beach”) in Newport, and head to Sachuest Beach (“Second Beach”) in Middletown, Rhode Island. The water tends to be freer of seaweed, although the seagulls remain as aggressive as ever here, which is why I don’t recommend lunch on the beach. Plus, who needs lunch when you can go straight from the beach to Frosty Freez for delicious soft-serve.
We always like to try to make time to take a drive along the coast on Ocean Drive, stopping at Brenton Point State Park, which typically makes for a great kite-flying spot.
We’ve also spent many pleasant hours over the years in the rental boats available at Sail Newport in Fort Adams State Park.
For dinner, I usually head to Flo’s Clam Shack for my favorite lobster roll and clamcakes. Or if I’m in the mood for a more relaxing sit-down dinner, then I head to Scales & Shells for local seafood or Mamma Luisa for homemade Italian, both favorites that have stood the test of time.
5. Pool, Cake and a Drive-in Movie
Although I do love the ocean, swimming in a pool can often be much easier–no waves and sea creatures to contend with.
If you don’t have access to a pool, see if you can find a friend and get invited by someone with a membership to one (guest fees tend to be about $5-10 per person at local clubs).
After swimming (I like to do laps), I like a treat (shocking, I know). Depending on where I am, I might drive to Eskimo King.
Another one of my favorites is an excursion to Wrights Dairy Farm for some coffee milk and strawberry shortcake.
6. Fishing, Baseball and Fireworks
What could be more American? Start with fishing and a ride on the carousel at Slater Memorial Park.
Then head to a Paw Sox game at McCoy Stadium, where you can grab some beers and a Super Pretzel, some shelled peanuts, or hot dog, and spread out on the lawn to watch the game. If you pick a night with fireworks after, then you can end the night with a close-up show.
7. Beach, Cocktails and Oysters
One of my favorite state beaches is East Matunuck Beach–it’s a bit rockier than some, but it’s has a great atmosphere for children. Plus, you can eat at the waterfront Matunuck Oyster Bar before or after. Am I the only one who finds the beach makes them hungry?
If I’m looking for a more lively beach day, I might head down to Misquamicut Beach in Westerly, RI and have cocktails and lunch at The Andrea’s newly restored bar, right on the beach.
8. An All-Providence Summer Day
On Saturday mornings, you’ll typically find us at the Hope Street Farmers’ Market in Lippitt Park, Providence. There are dozens of farm vendors from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and throughout the summer, the produce increases in variety. You’ll also find the Pat’s Pastured Pork stand for breakfast sandwiches, or Tallulah Tacos for lunch. There’s even a series of local craft vendors if you want to do additional shopping.
On other days of the week, I might head to Venda Ravioli, where you can eat outside in DePasquale Square on Atwells Avenue.
You might not think of the zoo as too appealing on a hot summer day, but the Roger Williams Park Zoo now has Hasbro’s Big Backyard with sprinklers and water play for the kids (and I suppose, over-heated adults). Don’t forget to squeeze in a few minutes to see some elephants, giraffes and gorillas while you’re there.
Then, it’s hard to deny the tourist appeal of Providence’s Waterfire. It was the first event that brought us into Providence before we moved here, and its success has led to its adoption in other small cities. It’s one of the only times you’ll see actual traffic in downtown Providence, as a novelty, I appreciate it, especially since I don’t have to drive.
In my ideal day, I’d begin with watching them light the fires, then enjoy a meal at Figidini or Gracie’s, and finish off with a concert at Lupo’s.
9. Berry Picking and Wine Tasting on Aquidneck Island
When I get sick of the beach (it takes a lot of beach days in a row for this to happen), I love going to Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown for berry picking. They also have a small gourmet grocery shop with other tasty treats.
Then, I’d enjoy a relaxing snack and glass of wine at Newport Vineyards at their outdoor seating overlooking their rows of grapevines.
10. Biking and Surfing on Block Island
Ok, this one is actually on my ‘to do’ list.
It’s a bit absurd to admit, but even after living in Providence several years, I have failed to make the short ferry ride to Block Island. But I’m determined that this will be the year.
List of Places Mentioned (without links):
Narragansett Town Beach
39 Boston Neck Rd.
144 Boon St.
Audubon Society of RI
1401 Hope St
805 Hope Street
Jamestown Community Playground
41 Conanicus Ave.
474 Sachuest Point Rd.
Brenton Point State Park
60 Fort Adams Dr.
Scales & Shells
527 Thames St.
673 Thames St.
89 Atlantic Ave.
Hope Street Farmers’ Market
1059 Hope Street
265 Atwells Ave.
194 Washington St.
79 Washington St.
909 E Main Rd.
I’ve driven by the Swiss Valley Farm (SVF) in Newport, RI dozens of times, marveling at how Newport packs a quaint New England town, rocky ocean cliffs, and rustic farmland into a few miles.
Yesterday, we made it to their Annual Visitors Day. The Foundation is part science lab, part conservation organization, and part farm. They specialize in the preservation of rare and heritage breeds and livestock, like the critically endangered Arapawa goat and the rare Leicester Longwool Sheep. Although the farm is only open to the public once a year in order to protect the animals’ germplasm (semen and embryos) from outside contamination, you can purchase their heritage lamb, beef and honey year-round.
The farm’s architecture is reminiscent of a European village with its rolling hills and old stone structures (which have been impressively restored inside and out). The Visitors Day attracts people of all ages who come out to watch llama and sheep shearing; try out some of their heritage lamb, beef and pork; and explore some of the buildings across the foundation’s 45 acres. They even had some John Deere tractors and vehicles for children to pretend to drive.
This year, Julians arrived with their traveling omnibus, a double-decker bus where they cook on the ‘ground floor’ and have booths for dining on the upper open deck. Of course, the menu at SVF featured heritage meats including whiskey cola pulled pork sandwiches, lamb bratwursts and hamburgers (they did also have one vegan option, but we didn’t order it).
Now, if only I could figure out how to get invited to one of their visitor cottages… veterinarian school?
Swiss Valley Farm Foundation
Annual Visitors Day typically in mid-June
Travelling Omnibus: www.juliansprovidence.com/omnibus
Restaurant: Providence, RI www.juliansprovidence.com