All Aboard the Spooky Caravan!

Aboard the spooky hayride

Note: My heart goes out to all who have suffered due to Hurricane Sandy. New Jersey was one of the hardest hit and I am wishing everyone there, and everywhere, a speedy recovery.

I love tradition, friends, and adventures close to home. Every fall I look forward to getting an email from my friend Andi inviting me along on the “Spooky Caravan” – a day long adventure through New Jersey or Long Island that properly celebrates the fall season, samples local produce and products, and ends with a haunted house or hay ride.

The pumpkin patch at Stony Hilly Gardens

This year Andi and our friend Stephen went all out. They rented a 15 passenger van, Andi handed out trick or treat bags full of candy, and they plotted a perfectly timed route that took us through rolling farm land into rural New Jersey, which is the kind of pastoral landscape I had no idea existed in that oft-maligned state and less than an hour from New York City.

Foraging for Butternut squash

We were victorious in the corn maze!

The day began with a pick-your-own adventure at Stony Hill Gardens. We took a hayride out into a huge field, oddly situated under high-tension wires, and picked apples, pumpkins, and vegetables. We also conquered that favorite of farm fall traditions: the corn maze.

Corn maze navigation. Photo by Stephen Musgrave

A beautiful horse friend at the Valley Shepherd

After I picked half my weight in apples and we filled up on hot cider and doughnuts we loaded ourselves back into the van and headed to the next stop: The Valley Shepherd Creamery in Long Valley, New Jersey. It was the perfect place for lunch on a sunny mid-October Saturday. The farm features a shop where you can buy beautiful cheeses right from the source, and also bread, sausage and other picnic essentials. As we ate our local bounty we sat at a picnic table and watched sheep, llamas and a beautiful draft horse wander around in the pasture in front of us. Did someone say pastoral?

Artisan cheeses and sausage at the source!

Horse and sheet at the Valley Shepherd

We followed up lunch with a quick stop at the Long Valley Pub and Brewery for a tasting flight of their local brews. While it wasn’t on our original itinerary it was right around the corner from the creamery and seemed too perfect to resist sitting out on their large stone patio to take in the waning afternoon.

Tasting flight at Long Valley Pub and Brewery

As the sun began to sink we pressed on through small towns, forests and more rolling farmland to the Beneduce Vinyards. I had no idea New Jersey even had wineries, much less decent ones. Beneduce is a friendly, welcoming affair. We hadn’t been there five minutes when I was invited to stir some vats of freshly made wine. I’ve never had the chance to get hands on with the wine making process at any other vineyard I’ve been to and I really loved it.

Stirring the new wine at Beneduce Vineyards

For the wine tasting we got to sit in our own private green house and sampled 5 of the vineyard’s wines, all for $5. It felt really special and convivial and I hope to go back and take a tour of the vines themselves.

Me and spooky tour organizer Andi at Stony Hill Gardens. Thanks Stephen Musgrave for the photo!

The day concluded with us sitting around a bonfire at a “haunted” farm, roasting marshmallows, looking at the stars through the woodsmoke, and marveling at all the bounty that was so close to home.

Spooky caravan! By Stephen Musgrave

North by Midwest

Minocqua, Wisconsin

Being from the East Coast I feel that I was raised with a bit of snobbery where the Midwest was concerned. It wasn’t that it wasn’t nice, it was just that there was very little reason for me to go there. Besides airport stopovers in Chicago and Minneapolis when my mom and I would fly west to visit family in California, Wyoming and Colorado as I child, I never spent any time there. That changed in my earlier twenties when, the course of one year, I drove across the country three times. I got to explore Minneapolis, Madison and Chicago and found that hey, these are really nice places with a lot going on! But still, my snobbery remained in a small corner of my heart.

Afternoon walk on the Bearskin State Park trail with bonnet handmade by Donna S. White and Cachemire et Soie sunglasses by Jimmy Fairly

This fall I had the opportunity thanks to work to revisit my beloved Detroit, as well as Chicago and quick stops in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. The highlight of my trip, however, was three days in Minocqua, in the north woods of Wisconsin, about a 5 hour drive from Milwaukee.

Fall in Minocqua, WI

I was there for a day-long gathering of arts service providers, but had some extra time to appreciate the landscape.  I had no idea that the north woods is a huge summer destination for residents of Chicago and Milwaukee. The desk clerk at the hotel told me that the town of Minocqua has a year-round population of 5,000, but that swells to over 70,000 during the summer. I came right between fall foliage and holiday season and the Waters, a large, old time feeling log-cabin resort complete with indoor water park, was nearly deserted. No matter. I enjoyed my in-room fire place and having the hot tub in the water park all to myself.

Lobby at the Waters, Minocqua, WI

When I wasn’t working I found myself with plenty to do. My first night I enjoyed a hearty dinner of sandwiches and locally brewed beer overlooking the lake at Minocqua Brewing Company and the second night specially prepared Bratwurst at Otto’s. Otto’s is filled with treasures that the owners have brought back from all over the world, including beer steins and authentic suits of armor. That is when I remembered, “Oh yeah, this part of the midwest is still very German! That town further south from here named Rhinelander is no coincidence.”

Otto's in downtown Minocqua, WI

The north woods is home to many talented artists who are excited about their communities and dedicated to their work. One place that serves as a gathering place for local, national and international talent is the Campanile Center for the Arts, whose Executive Director also runs Loon Land Trading Company, a store full of north woods goodness.

Trestle bridge on the Bearskin State Park trail

A major highlight was a late afternoon walk on the Hiawatha and Bearskin State Park trail. Located along a disused railway line, it begins in Minocqua and passes over two, beautiful wooden trestle railway bridges. I loved the sun reflecting off the lakes, where I watched fishermen bringing their boats in for the day, and met year-round residents out walking their dogs.

As I looked around me the landscape and the trees reminded me of a place I know very well: Maine. It’s about the same latitude, has the same industries (tourism, logging, farming), and the same kind of vegetation, as well as hard working people who are filled with ingenuity. In fact, playing my Maine card was a smart idea, as my host announced, “She’s a real person, she’s not from New York! She grew up in Maine!”

Also, apparently I’m not the only one who loves this region, because the New York Times just ran an article about the north woods “supper clubs” in last weekend’s travel section!

Blogs a la mode

Rock'N'Girl by Stephanie Rousseau, Used with permission.

Et hop, mes amies, c’est la rentrée! It’s the time of year when we hunker down, get back to work, and put our flip flops and bathing suits away until next season. It’s not all sad though, because la rentrée also brings cooler weather, crisp days, new fashions, and renewed energy for all of our projects. In that spirit, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite blogs that are sure to provide you with some good fashion tips for fall styles (and all year round) as well as reflections on summer travels, crafts, art and life in general. These are not all the blogs I read, bien sûr que non, but the ones I find myself returning to the most often. As a note, many of these blogs are in French, but they also offer you the option to read in English. Bonne lecture, mes amies!

By Glam  Stephanie is a talented illustrator (she did the drawing that opened this post) and has incredible taste in clothes, shoes and make up. She is perfectly glamorous while understanding that she, and most of her readers, have a budget to respect. Stephanie also documents her travels around Paris, its small streets, shop windows, and sunsets and provides fantastic fashion, design and pop culture commentary.

Cachemire et Soie  Anne-So’s writing reminds of some of the best personal zines I used to read. Lyrical, emotional-yet-spare reflections on travels near and far and some of the quieter moments that make up the fabric of our lives. She takes beautiful photos and a keen eye for detail, plus a great eye for style.

Garance Doré  One of the best known French fashion blogs from a globetrotting photographer and illustrator now living in New York. I love this blog for its street style, inside look at the fashion world, and Garance’s personal reflections.

Dandy Prof  Fashionable life on the tenure track from a newly minted professor negotiating queer sensibilities, sociology and gender studies while wearing a skirt and tie. The Dandy Prof was also my style consultant for many years and prevented me from exiting the apartment looking *too* crazy. I’m really sad she doesn’t live in NYC anymore and I can’t borrow her clothes.

Jesse Anne O Another south Brooklyner who loves thrift stores, vegan cooking and fashion, handmade and vintage clothes. Like me, she shares a riot grrrl past!

Fashion is a Playground  Dreamy photos of a very stylish lady in Parisian and greater-France landscapes, with some travels further afield.

No Good for Me  A fashion mix tape that indulges fashion, beauty, music and pop culture as guilty and necessary pleasures. Also powered by former zinesters!

The Dandy Prof shows off casual academic style

Here are some of my other top blog picks (in no particular order):

Eleonore Bridge

The Cherry Blossom Girl


Punky B The Fashion Diary

Play It Like a Girl

Lili Brunette

Slanelle Style

Stop By the Corner

Coco Cerise

Verte Cerise


Le Blog de Betty

Fashion for Writers

Money Smart Fashion

What are the blogs you like to look at for fashion and lifestyle inspiration?

Fall in Manhattan’s Squares

Usually I try to get out of town in the fall to see the leaves changing and the seasons passing. While I did take a brief detour to Maine earlier this fall I sadly have been prevented from taking any serious trip to upstate New York or Long Island due to academic obligations. I even had to miss the annual spooky caravan that Andi organizes!

However, some solace has come through my farm share, which keeps my regularly updated on what produce is in season that week, and the goings-on in the two squares I walk through between work and school. I was treated to some autumnal delights at the epically huge Union Square Greenmarket and at Madison Square Park (which I think is an unsung hero of a beautiful, well funded, well-used park!).


Orange pumpkins, yellow tree in Union Square

Selling fall leaves for $8 a bunch would surly give old time Mainers another reason to think the city life is ridiculous

Bold fall colors at the Greenmarket

I just about fell in love when I saw that huge pile of radishes! Meanwhile, in Madison Square Park…

Jim Campbell's "Scattered Light" creates a flutter of light at twilight

...and a very determined squirrel finds a goldmine in a pumpkin placed high in a dead tree

The squirrel caused quite a stir and was much photographed. It’s moments like these that remind me why I love New York.