Sunday, October 26, 2008

Arcadia Management Area - Richmond, RI

Melissa and I wanted to head out for a day hike. After a little research we came up with Arcadia Management Area in Southern RI. It covers Richmond, Exeter, Hopkinton and West Greenwich with a total acreage of more than 14,000 mainly wooded acres. It was an absolutely beautiful day with a bright high sunshine just warm enough. And so many trails it’ll take us a solid month to hike them all.

We decided to keep the hike to about 4 miles. So we chose to head to the Browning Mill Pond Recreation Area, which has a convenient parking area as well as beautiful views of several ponds, whose names I can’t remember. We hit the Arcadia Trail across from the parking area. There was this great walkway that I can only assume was built by the parks department. It extended across a small river and overlooked a crystal clear pond.

If there’s one thing in this world that bothers me it’s spiders. Well, only really big spiders or even medium sized ones that have fur or crawl on me. And of course all we saw was spider webs, spiders and spiders in their webs. Good times for me.

Just a few hundred feet into the forest and it felt like we stepped into the deep woods of Maine. It was incredibly peaceful, except for my cell phone; business knows no day off. I keep it on vibe so I don’t bother the animals - besides it’s smart to have in an emergency. Arcadia Trail has a nice flow to it, over ponds and lakes and of course winding through the woods up and down novice type hills. It was full of wildlife as well. We (Melissa) saw a dozen or so small frogs. She’s got a great eye for those little guys. There are also the typical birds, chipmunks and squirrels. Oh yeah and a fair amount mosquitoes and flies.

I don’t know what it is about hiking for us but it seems we’ve started to really pay attention to what the forest has to offer. We’re noticing different trees and bushes as well as the most incredible mushrooms I’ve ever seen. As we follow the trail now we both are looking a little deeper and with wider eyes so as not to miss the details. It’s really refreshing to connect with nature this way. I think I’m going to start bringing field guides with me so I can identify certain things. It’ll be nice to know what the heck it is we’re looking at. I can only get by so far with my Discovery Channel education.

The one and only disappointment for the day was the fact that Arcadia Trail didn’t loop around like we originally had thought. According to the map that is supplied by the Parks Department, it should have connected to a smaller foot trail to the west just before Ten Rod Road. What we found was the trail had overgrown and a few trees had fallen to cover the footpath so all was lost going in that direction. Unfortunately, we had to double back, which I really don’t like to do. It’s the same feeling you get when you have to double back in a car. You’ll drive ten miles out of your way just so you don’t have to turn around. Well in this case there was no other option but to turn around.

One of the coolest things about following the same path back is the different perspective you gain for the land that you just walked past. Things really look different from the other side. Hmmm…

When we got back to the car we decided that we wanted to see what else Arcadia had to offer so we drove around a bit. It’s BIG - really BIG. Melissa and I talked about how amazing it’s going to be to discover these new trails together. I really love being out there with her. We drove down Ten Rod Road and took a right onto Brook Trail, which led us through an entirely new set of possibilities that we can’t wait to explore. To end the day, as we drove down this small dirt road we saw something crossing in the distance. Well as we drove closer I realized my worst nightmare. It was the biggest spider I’d ever seen that wasn’t behind glass or on TV. Can you imagine how big it was if we could see it from our car! Well I got out to take a picture of it. – but made sure I left the car door open so I could make a quick getaway.

Get out of the house and get down to Arcadia Management Area. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. Enjoy!

Bob Black
Williams & Stuart Real Estate
870 Oaklawn Ave
Cranston, RI, 02920
Work: 401.942.0200 ext 28
Mobile: 401.261.1599
Your Friend in Rhode Island Real Estate
Visit MyBlogLog and get a signature like this!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Reali's Fine Italian Cuisine

We’ve lived in this house for almost a year now. There’s a restaurant on the corner that for some reason we hadn’t been to… and literally, it’s a 5-minute walk. The other night, we were out running around and worked up an appetite. Knowing we didn’t have much at home to pull together to create a meal, we had to decide where to go. Melissa suggested that we finally try Reali’s.

When we walked in, we were pleasantly surprised to find a warm, inviting atmosphere… the customers seemed to know the staff, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. Reali’s has a $33.99 pre fixe dinner special that includes dinner for two and a bottle of wine. We asked for that menu and were quite impressed by the choices. I went with the chicken marsala, while Melissa chose the baked scrod. Our wine choice was a cabernet from Chile that was quite good. While we waited for our entrees, we enjoyed our wine and the delicious bread with rosemary olive oil that our server delivered. Out of curiosity, we took a look at the “regular” menu and were surprised at the wide selection of entrees and appetizers. Their bruschetta alone looked like it would be enough for an entrĂ©e.

When our meals arrived, we were again very pleased. My chicken was very tender and I remember commenting about how good the marsala was. Lots of garlic, and very tasty. Melissa enjoyed her very large piece of scrod as well, which also came with plenty of garlic! Her side dish was roasted potatoes, which she said reminded her of her Dad’s. I definitely felt that we got a good value for our money, and once again, were able to get a delicious, reasonably priced meal without heading to a chain restaurant.

We didn’t have room for dessert, but maybe next time! We’re looking forward to trying the other dishes… we’ll definitely be back.

Reali's Fine Italian Cuisine
79 Putnam Pike
Johnston, RI, 02919
(401) 231- 3004

Bob Black
Williams & Stuart Real Estate
870 Oaklawn Ave
Cranston, RI, 02920
Work: 401.942.0200 ext 28
Mobile: 401.261.1599
Your Friend in Rhode Island Real Estate
Visit MyBlogLog and get a signature like this!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

5 Tips for a Green Home

Eco-friendly. Carbon footprint. Global warming. Energy-efficient. These catch phrases have become part of our lexicon as we’ve become more aware of our impact on the environment and our role in protecting it. As a homeowner, there are some simple, inexpensive steps you can take to make your home energy-efficient. Get started on the road to being “green” with these five tips:

Change Your Light Bulbs

By replacing just five incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, you can save $100 per year on electric bills while using up to 75 percent less energy and removing greenhouse gases from the environment.

Buy ENERGY STAR® Appliances

ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances, such as refrigerators, washers and air conditioners, meet a higher level of energy efficiency set by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy than standard models. According to ENERGY STAR, if just one in 10 homes used ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances, the impact could be compared to planting 1.7 million new acres of trees. And, switching to these appliances is not only good for the environment, but easy on your pocketbook. Although these appliances may costs more, you can reduce your energy bill by $80 per year.

Seal Up
Cracks and air leaks represent cash seeping from your doors and windows. Get rid of air leaks in doors, windows and other areas by caulking gaps and cracks. This will help decrease your heating and air conditioning bill. But make sure you use silicone sealants. Acrylic caulk tends to shrink, while silicone sealants are waterproof and won’t shrink or crack, creating less waste.

Use Less Water
Did you know that roughly 60 percent of a home's water consumption takes place in the bathroom, according to the California Urban Water Conservation Council? The largest culprit is the toilet, which accounts for 27 percent of your household supply every year. By installing low-flow toilets, showerheads and faucets, you can save thousands of gallons of water each year. In addition, replace leaky fixtures. That slow-dripping faucet can waste as much as 2,400 gallons of water per year.

Adjust the Thermostat
When adjusting your home’s thermostat, the rule of thumb should be: turn up the dial in the summer and down in the winter. Lowering the temperature by just one degree will reduce your electrical costs. And if you use a programmable thermostat, you can program your air-conditioning and heating systems to reduce output while no one is at home or at night while you sleep. Ceiling fans are also helpful in circulating the air to keep the room cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Going green doesn’t have to be overwhelming or costly. By making just a few small changes within your home, you can help decrease energy consumption and help make the world a “greener” place.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Where have I been?

Well as most people know who’ve read this blog with any regularity I haven’t been very active lately. Life takes over and as a result, the blog suffers. It’s not like I’ve been sitting on my ass just going through my day. I’ve been very busy with work, the gym and a social life. I’m sure I can do better at putting my thoughts on screen but I’m finding it difficult to fit that in. However, I’ve made a decision to dedicate a small portion of each day to get my thoughts out.

Since the last time I blogged, Melissa and I have been busting our butts (literally) at the gym. We’ve both started to lose weight and see results in our clothing. It’s a great feeling and I’m looking forward to dropping a total of 65 lbs and keeping it off! We’ve changed how and what we eat which has had a huge impact on our weight loss. In the back of my mind I always knew the only way to get healthier was to make big changes in those areas even though it took me several years to get motivated enough to do something about it. Having a supportive, loving partner has made this transition a breeze. I could go on and on about how we’ve changed our lives but I don’t want to bore everyone with what would appear to be gloating.

Work has taken off for me and I’m out doing more than ever before. In fact, I just had another closing yesterday. Albeit it wasn’t the million dollar closing that I’m hoping for someday, but it still counts. I have a good amount of activity in the pipeline and hopefully we’ll start closing them in bunches soon.

Socially, Melissa and I have been pretty active. Last week we went out three nights in a row. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot but for us it was a stretch. Luckily one of the days was with old friends who we haven’t seen in a long time. It was so nice to spend the evening with them and catch up on lost time. We’re hoping to fit in an apple picking session and maybe King Richards Faire before it ends on October 19. I’ll be sure to let everyone know how that goes. Also, Dale Chihuly who happens to be the leading glassmaker in our country and perhaps the world, is showing at RISD. We’ve been excited about this for a long time. Again, I’ll keep you posted on how amazing it is!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

George Washington Management Area

A hike was on the agenda for the afternoon and we wanted one that wasn’t too far from home, so we chose the Walkabout Trail in the George Washington Management area in Chepachet.

The first thing we noticed was that it was noisy. This is also a campground and there are two ponds, which people were taking advantage of, because it was a beautiful, warm summer day. It actually wasn’t until we were halfway through the short 2-mile blue trail that we heard nothing but our footsteps. One of the things Melissa and I enjoy so much about hiking is the sense of peace, so in that respect I feel like we missed out. I imagine that if we had planned for a longer hike and hit the 8 mile orange trail, it may have been more enjoyable. I also think that in the fall it may be quieter.

That being said, the trail had lots of rocks and fallen trees, which added some interest, and there was a bit of elevation in spots. It wasn’t difficult by any means, but you certainly had to watch your step. The woods were lush and green with lots of wild mushrooms and vegetation.

I haven’t given up on this spot, but I think that next time we may check out the Angell Loop, where there is an historic Indian gravesite. We would also plan for a longer hike.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I Was an Extra on "Brotherhood" Yesterday!

About 5 months ago I Googled “Rhode Island casting companies” and up popped LDI Casting which handles casting for the Showtime series Brotherhood along with many other movies, commercials and extra work in Rhode Island. I was intrigued by the possibility of doing something like that so I registered. I input my physical stats and uploaded a headshot. I never really thought I’d hear from anyone because I’m not a professional actor. Two days ago, to my surprise, I received a call about some background work for Brotherhood, which is shooting locally until late October.

I wasn’t totally sure what my role would be even after I received the email with my call time. I was told I would be “Land Worker #14” and I was to bring my work boots. Once I arrived at the crew facility, I quickly realized that I was in a different world. We were finally told what we’d be wearing and it wasn’t looking good because it was very hot and very humid. I had to don a full Hazmat Suit complete with facemask, hardhat, goggles and thick rubber gloves. Apparently our group of extras was going to be cleaning up a mock mercury spill in Providence Harbor. Man it was hot... have I said that yet?

Once we finished with fittings we were led to a place they call “holding”, which feels like a holding pen for cattle. In came the call, time to head to the set. Now I’m really getting excited. We loaded into a van and headed over to our set, which was along the East Providence Bike Path right next to the Squantum Club. It was amazing seeing the inner workings of Hollywood production. Ethan Embry and Jack McGee were the two actors in our scene. Unfortunately, Jason Isaacs, who plays Michael Caffee was not there. As we stood by during rehearsal it became more apparent that we’d be out on the rocks down by the water.

If you’ve ever seen the movie E.T., you can get a good idea of what we looked like in our Hazmat Suits. As I walked by Ethan Embry, I asked him if he wanted to switch roles and he asked me if I meant just for today, or for the rest of the shoot? It was really nice to have a little interaction with him. He seemed really cool.

The extras director put all of us into place and gave us a little direction as to what we should be doing. I was up on a cliff overlooking the “spill”. It was a little slippery but I was glad to be up there because of the very mild breeze. The shoot went very smoothly and we really only had to do about 10 takes, but in the suit if felt like 10 hours. We finished up and immediately headed back to craft services to have lunch and cool down. Some of the guys started to succumb to the heat. A big guy wrapped in plastic is a bad combination.

Lunch was awesome and everything I expected. I took my time eating and made sure I was one of the last people to finish so I could soak up the experience. As I headed out to the lot I made my way by the actors’ trailers and I came across Jack McGee. I stopped and told him how much I like his work on Rescue Me. Jack was great. He asked my name and thanked me for being part of the production. He has a new fan in me.

I’m so happy to have been lucky enough to have done this and I hope to do more extra work in the future. Make sure to look for me when you watch the Brotherhood. I’ll be the guy in the yellow suit.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Scituate Farmer's Market

As I was writing my Rhode Island Weekend Fun post for my real estate blog yesterday, I realized I had never been to the Scituate Farmer's Market. So off we went this morning. It runs from 9-12 and I had an open house at 12, so we wanted to get there as soon as it opened. I'm glad we got there early, because we got lots of good produce and goodies, and were able to take some time to talk to the vendors and farmers. It turned out to be a popular spot, with lots of regular visitors.

Our first stop was where we met Linda Couture of Butterfly Meadows. She offered samples of her homemade sauces and syrups, which I can tell you are amazing. She makes a Honey, Lemon and Lavender Syrup that is out of this world. We also picked up a Peach Chipotle Sauce that has just the right amount of smokiness balanced by sweet peach puree. Delicious.

I was starving when we arrived which was a mistake because all I wanted to do was eat everything. I decided on an Organic Zucchini and Onion Quiche. It was fantastic and I really loved that it was made with free range chicken eggs and organic vegetables. Melissa had a scrumptuous Blueberry Scone. Next time we go we'll be sure to take a little more time to speak with the owner about her products.

Next up was a pitstop at the Wildtree stand, were we met Donna. She gave us the background of Wildtree and all of the products. I can tell you I came home and used the Dill Dip Blend on my lunch and it was fantastic. It's a great blend of dill, sea salt, onion and pepper. Simple, yet so complex in flavor. I loved it.

Fresh flowers stood out as soon as we got out of the car and now we made our way over to Gayle's stand. Bright, beautiful, fragrant and fresh these flowers are directly from her backyard and all I can say is, she's got great soil. Melissa's going to bring them into her office this week to show off our find. We'll be sure to keep close tabs on Gayle's flowers thoughout the remainder of the season because we can't wait to see what she'll have next.

We then moved down to the next stand which was run by a man by the name of Alfred. He's a retiree whose home gardens provide enough fruits and vegetables to overflow his tables. We grabbed a bag each of the doughnut peaches and shiro plums. Get up there and buy them as soon as possible because they're worth the trip. Alfred appeared to really enjoy everything about being at the farmers market and particularly, offering his produce - from his yard - grown by him. To me that's the essence of localism.

Over to the White Oak Farm table where we met Roger. He had a bounty of fresh vegetables and we snatched up a Sicilian Eggplant. I find that most farmers who come to these markets always bring their best produce, which is good for us.

Right next to Roger was a young pottery artist by the name of Nidal. His pottery is colorful and imaginative and of course we bought a piece.

As we continued on we discovered Dan Tortorella and his delicious pestos. We bought the Olive Pesto but next time it'll be the Tomato Pesto for me. Dan's pestos had many levels of flavor, which I love, and he sells heads of garlic the size of baseballs. Man that's a wonderful thing this time of year. I've been pushing Melissa to make her gravy and this garlic would be perfect.

If you like salsa, then Howards Corners salsas and chilis are right up your alley. We met owners Kim and Fred and even though Kim was a 49er's fan, I still really like her goods. It's lucky for them that Fred was into the Pats or I would have kept walking! I consider myself to have a pretty good palette when it comes to food and I have the waistline to prove it. This salsa was more flavorful and chunky. The Carrot Pepper Salsa, which I bought, had a hint of sweetness with a nice crunch. I couldn't help myself and I scooped up some of their BBQ Chili as well. All I can say is football season is on the way and after talking football with Kim and Fred, all I could think about was gameday food.

Perhaps Melissa's favorite stop was Tim and Meghan's table. Melissa has been vegetarian for more than a year now so when she saw the vegan sign she fell a little bit in love. Cupcakes, cookies, brownies, pancake mix and hummus are just a few of the wonderful vegan offerings made by Tim and Meghan. We picked up some of their spinach hummus, but I'm sure she'll be going back to learn more about everything they make.

Finally we came upon Hopkins Farms. Tables full of all sorts of fresh fruits and vegetables ruled, and off to the side we found the pickled items, along with the different jams, jellies and relishes. It's going to take a long time for us to try everything, but I'm sure we'll try. We met Kathy from Hopkins, who told us a little bit about the farm itself. Also present was farm owner, Robert Hopkins. He sure knows how to grow things because he had the most produce of anyone at the market.

The story of the day was the amazing bounty that can be had in Rhode Island. I'm full of pride when I see so many people come together from all walks of life with one common interest aside from making money. Because let's face it, you're not going to make millions at a farmers market. One common thread binds them all; they love what they do. I'm happy to say we've found our new farmer's market and I'm looking forward to our next trip.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Roger Williams Park Zoo: More Than You Think!

Melissa and I were out doing something fun this past weekend. So many of our adventures start with waking up early and seeing something on TV that looks like it may be fun, and this past Sunday was no different. We headed out to Roger Williams Park Zoo - not only for the incredible display of animals but also for the newest exhibit, Flutterby. This is an unbelievable gathering of colorful butterflies all housed in a large building that resembles a greenhouse.

Flutterby is the newest incarnation of special attractions that RWPZ is putting on this summer. If you’ve ever been to the Zoo for the Dinosaur exhibit then you’ll know exactly how spectacular the Zoo staff can make things look. We must have taken 75 or so pictures just in the butterfly exhibit. I never realized that I’d enjoy myself as much as I did. You’re totally immersed in the world of these butterflies. I even managed to save a Buckeye Butterfly that was stuck to the exhaust vent from a certain doom. As amazing as the pictures are, being there in person is even more amazing.

The main portion of the Zoo has been under a $35 million dollar upgrade over several years. Go to to find out about all of the incredible upgrades they’ll be making. Some of the most significant changes will be the new world-class polar bear exhibit that will be nine times bigger than the old one. Personally I can’t wait to see how this turns out. They’ve put a pair of bald eagles in the area where the polar bear exhibit used to be housed. According to a Zoo employee, the eagles were rescued after being found in the wild with injuries that left them unable to fly.

Another huge change is the elephant paddock that is under a total transformation. The concept behind all of the renovations is to bring the animals and the visitors closer together. It’s going to be amazing and we’ve already seen examples of how they execute this with the giraffes. The giraffes just happen to be Melissa’s favorite so we always spend a little extra time there. You really get up close and personal with them while they eat. The big three would be giraffes, elephants and surprisingly camels. But I think once the polar bears come back she’ll fall in love with them too. I think anyone within 50 miles should make it a point to get to Roger Williams Park Zoo this summer and more so once they finish all of the exhibits. Now through September 1st.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Rhode Island Blood Center and The Tomorrow Fund Annual Celebration

Awareness Ribbons Customized - I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Rhode Island Blood Center and The Tomorrow Fund's Annual Celebration of life on July 30th. It was a gathering of donors, recipients and staff from both organizations in a show of appreciation for all of the hard work and dedication that everyone puts into fighting numerous medical issues that children with cancer face every day. The event was held at the Rhode Island Blood Center's Providence location.

We heard from many speakers who shared their stories of how being a part of this wonderful cause has affected their lives. Barbara Morse Silva from Channel 10 and Heather from the Jones and Heather in The Morning show on LiteRock 105 spoke about their experiences with The Tomorrow Fund and curing childhood cancer. We also heard from 15-year donor Tony Deller who shared a story of how and why he started donating and how it’s made such a huge difference in his life.

The most touching moment of the day came when Carlene Lawrence spoke about her 3 year old daughter, Autumn, who was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was only 2. I’m not afraid to admit that I was very choked up when she told the story of how Autumn fought off Leukemia and then had to take on another battle with another form of cancer that required extensive chemotherapy. I looked around the room and many people were wiping their eyes. Carlene is happy to report that Autumn is doing very well and appears to have the cancer on the run.

While she was being treated for Leukemia, Autumn received dozens and dozens of pints of blood, platelets and plasma. This is where all of the generosity of the donors comes in. Our simple donations - whether they are a quick whole blood donation or a two-hour long pheresis donation, make all the difference in the lives of so many people that we never even see or meet. I’m very proud of the fact that I am a long time monthly donor of platelets and I look forward to helping in any way I can for the rest of my life.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Why Haven't You Been to Whole Foods?

Is it because you think it's too expensive? Is it because you think it's new age hippie food? I regularly shop at Whole Foods and here's why:

  • The produce is much better tasting than what we get at the typical grocery store. We prefer to get our produce from farmer's markets, but when we can't get there it's Whole Foods for us.

  • The staff is knowledgable. Any time we haven't been able to find something, we ask the closest team member and even if it's not their "department", they will track it down. They may ask other team members, and they will walk with us across the store to find it, rather than just say "aisle 9".

  • The bulk section. This is how we save money at Whole Foods. The bulk section is an entire aisle of rice, beans, grains, cereal, granola, and flours. Anything that we normally would buy in a box, you can find here. So we end up using less packaging, and paying less.

  • The samples. We have gone to Whole Foods on a weekend morning and basically ate our breakfast there. They are very creative with their displays. Some sample tables have someone there explaining what the product is and answering questions. In addition, any time you want to try something, they will let you. We once were at the antipasto bar and Melissa wanted to try some spiced beets before we bought them and the team member that helped us thanked us for asking and enjoyed one with us!

  • The cheese department. Unbelievable. It's a little overwhelming at first, but again, they will let you try anything that looks good to you before you buy. Usually they have a sample of something out with some crackers.

  • The bakery department. We have caprese sandwiches for dinner at least once a week during the summer, so we visit Mike in the bakery department who is always very friendly and slices our loaf of Italian or Ciabatta and sends us off with a smile.

  • The "Bars". The Cranston location has approximately 6 "bars". Some are salad, some are prepared foods, some are desserts. It's a great way to try food you've never tried before. Tofu, tempeh, dolma, tapenade, couscous, spinach pies, falafel... the list goes on. It's also a good way to get ideas. Melissa once saw a quinoa and apple salad that inspired her to go home and make one with the ingredients listed on the sign. It's become a favorite recipe at our house!

  • The brownie bites. It's bad news when these are on sale... we usually buy them. They don't last long! They often have samples of these and it's pretty much the first thing I look for.

  • The health and beauty section. We're really starting to become aware of what we use on our bodies as well as what we put in them. The products in their health section are made with natural ingredients. The Whole Foods 365 brand shampoo and body wash are very reasonably priced, as are most of the 365 brand products.

  • The Bags. This is where we bought our reusable shopping bags. And at $.99 each, there's no reason not to use one. Whole Foods no longer uses plastic bags at their stores. We bought our bags many months ago and they're still in great shape. We just keep them in the trunk. Also, we just found out from a friendly team member at the East Side location that if your bag rips, they replace it at no cost.

I haven't even touched upon the floral section and the meat and seafood departments. If you've never been to Whole Foods, I would suggest making your first trip when you have some time - at least an hour. You're going to want to explore.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

2008 South County Hot Air Balloon Festival

The South County Hot Air Ballon Festival is This Weekend!

July 18 4-10pm
July 19 5:30am to 10pm
July 20th 5:30am to 6:30pm
URI Athletic Fields

Chosen at one of Yankee Magazine's Top 20 Rhode Island Events, the festival is in it's 30th year and features:

Fireworks - Music - Pig Races - Catch & Release Pond
Antique Cars - Pony Rides - Petting Zoo - Amusements - Craft Show

Friday is $10, $3 for children 12 and younger.
Other days admission is $7, $3 for children.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Jaswell's Farm - Smithfield, RI

We took a drive over to Jaswell's Farm in Smithfield, RI today. I wanted to throw some vegetables on the grill for dinner and it was late in the day on a Sunday so we checked Local Harvest to find out what farms in the area would be open. Turns out Jaswell's is open daily from 8-5.

When we got there, we saw a sign that told us that we could pick our own strawberries and raspberries. Melissa loves strawberries and was very happy to see that they offered an option to pick our own off the vine.

We were greeted by Allison, who gave us our container and showed us where to go. She explained that today would probably be the last day, as it was the end of the season, so we didn't expect much. When we got out there, we were happy to see that there were more than enough strawberries to fill our pint.

When we headed back to the stand (which is so much more than a stand... there are all sorts of fruits, vegetables, baked goods, cheeses...), we picked up our squash, corn and peaches for the grill. We also made sure we grabbed a pint of blueberries (which we snacked on driving home!) and a delicious apple pie for later. Their fruit butters are amazing, too and we were sure to get a jar of apple.

Allison and her nephew Paul rang us up and we talked about the documentary "Vanishing Orchards" that our friend Rachel the video editor worked on a few years ago that features the farm.

It's nice to see a family working together and it feels good to buy produce directly from the source. Food tastes so much better when it doesn't have to travel so far.

Jaswell's is celebrating their 110th anniversary. I recommend a visit - take the kids and pick your own fruit! Blueberry season is right around the corner...

Jasewell's Farm
50 Swan Road
Smithfield, RI
(401) 231-9043

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Providence Restaurant Weeks

It's back! Providence Restaurant Weeks is running from July 6-19th. Many Providence restaurants are participating, including Mediterraneo, Pane e Vino, Local 121, Hemenways... and many more! These restaurants are providing a three course price-fixed menu (lunch $12.95 and dinner is $29.95). Prices don't include tax, tip or beverages. This is a great way to get a sample of what the local restaurants offer. I know we'll be checking out some restaurants that are on our "to try" list!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Green Your Fourth of July Cookout

Fourth of July Weekend is fast approaching. Are you having a cookout? Are you, like a lot of Rhode Islanders, beginning to seriously consider your own carbon footprint? Starting to think about how making simple changes to every day activities can make a big difference? Perhaps you've already made changes... discontinuing the use of plastic bottles, plastic bags, recycling more. Well good for you!

Here are some ways you can continue your good work into the summer while still enjoying your backyard holiday weekend barbeque:

  • Use a gas or electric grill. These two options are cleaner burning than charcoal. But if you must use a charcoal grill, try an eco-friendly option. You can find Cowboy Charcoal at your local Whole Foods, which uses no coal, fillers or chemicals.

  • Serve meals using reusable dishes and utensils. You can find inexpensive tableware at discount stores for under a dollar each. If you have a lot of cookouts, you probably use a lot of paper plates. For a small investment now, you'll end up saving - money and trees. Bonus: last minute cookouts won't be a hassle because you'll already be prepared - how many times have you had to run to the store for paper plates at the last minute? If your crowd is just too large, consider biodegradable tableware and utensils.

  • What are you serving? Support our local economy by using locally grown or organic food whenever possible. Check Rhode Island farmer's markets for vegetables, fruit, meat and poultry. Besides, the less time it takes to get from the farm to your table, the fresher it is... and the better it tastes. This is a picture of the delicious bounty Melissa and I picked up at the Aquidneck Growers Market one day last summer.

  • No bottled water. If you buy two PUR water dispensers, put one outside (in the shade - maybe on a tray of ice) and keep one in the fridge and rotate so you're putting cold water out each time. Keep a cooler filled with ice and an ice scoop so that your guests can help themselves.

  • Recycling. Make sure you have clearly marked recycling bins for soda cans, etc.

  • Bug Repellant. Make your own or use nontoxic, natural bug spray. Burt's Bees makes one using herbs - rosemary, lemongrass and citronella oil.

Enjoy your Fourth of July weekend!

Tazza Caffe and Providence Open Market

When I got home from my open house Saturday, we decided to head downtown and check out the Providence Open Market. The market is in its second year and includes art, food and antique vendors. I don't know if it's because we got there after 3pm or because setup for the PrideFest Providence Block party had begun, but there were many fewer vendors than I expected. We only saw one produce stand and the website advertises it as including a farmer's market. The spring series ends next weekend, and it returns in the Fall. I really had high hopes for this open market... we decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and try again in the Fall.

It was a warm day and we had skipped lunch so we stopped into Tazza Caffe for a drink and a late lunch. We were pleased with the service, prices, food and drinks. Melissa got a mojito, which had plenty of mint and lime. Perfect for a warm summer day. I got a nice cold Gansett and we both got the portabella mushroom, spinach and herbed goat cheese panini with sweet potato fries. Whenever we have something we really like at a restaurant, we try to re-create it at home. I know this will be one to try!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Breton Point, Newport

Living in Rhode Island affords us the opportunity to get to the ocean in 30 minutes - give or take 10 minutes, depending on where you live. Unlike living in a landlocked state like those of the Mid West, Rhode Island has over 400 miles of coastline when you include the numerous bays, coves, and offshore islands. And in my opinion, one of the jewels of this vast coastline is Breton Point in Newport.

This past Saturday was the perfect day to enjoy all that Breton Point has to offer. And by offer I mean nothing but a cool ocean breeze and plenty of sun and waves. What more could you ask for? To me, nothing tops the smell of the ocean on a gorgeous summer day. Melissa and I try to get there every chance we get.

Most weekends, the serious kite flyers are out. All you have to do is look up at the sky to be entertained for many lazy summer afternoon hours by dozens of colorful kites.

We usually put together a nice lunch and drop a couple of blankets down right in front of the break wall. It’s a spot that we have to ourselves more often than not. We’ll be there this summer every chance we get. Only, of course, when I’m not holding an open house or out with clients. See you there.