Friday, December 30, 2011

I've been away for a while

Today someone drew some outdated information to my attention--information that I had placed on this blog. And it became painfully clear that I had been neglecting my blog. Mostly because I now have a day job, and I'm an artist, and I'm homeschooling my growing child. Something had to give!

So I just went through and deleted all the links that I had placed in the sidebar of the blog, because I realize that some of them were no longer in business. Maybe some day when I have time I can start to blog here regularly again. Because shopping local and buying handmade is a really wonderful thing.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Alexis Grace Consignments - Worcester, MA

I discovered a great consignment shop today, called Alexis Grace Consignment. I never would have found this place because it's located in a convenient but out-of-the-way location. What do I mean by that? Well, it's conveniently located right in Worcester in what I think is the Green Island neighborhood. But it's a street I would never go down otherwise. (7 Harrison Street, not far from Kelley Square) Today I was searching for some products by Worcester soap and candle-maker Melanie Paradise of "A Fragrant Paradise" - I had heard that Alexis Grace carries her line of products.

The minute I walked into Alexis Grace I knew I'd like it. It was attractively designed and, unlike so many other consignment shops, the tables and displays were not smooshed together. The spacious and lovely store made looking at the clothing, jewelry and other products a real pleasure. And the low prices were an even greater pleasure!

The co-owner, Mary, had a mug on her counter from which a wonderful hazelnut coffee smell emanated. When I approached, I did a double-take. "Your coffee's on fire!" I joked. Sure enough, it was a candle made by A Fragrant Paradise. If you can get past the idea of flames in your coffee cup, you will LOVE these candles. They smell so good; the entire room fills with the wonderful gourmet-coffee scents! I picked one up for my mother-in-law for Christmas. It's an attractive mug with a candle that looks like coffee with a pouf of whipped cream on top, and it's only $12.95.

If you like consigment shops you will love this one. There's even a back room where out-of-season bargains can be found. Parking can be found on the street OR in a little parking lot directly across the street from the shop.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Country Pantry - a Central Mass. cafe

The other day my son and I were coming home on Rte. 122 from Petersham, passing through Barre as we always do. We were on the lookout for a place to get apple pie, of course. After all, it's fall and that is one of our favorite weekend rituals for this time of year.

Things didn't look too promising because it was Sunday afternoon. Few things in the country seem to be open. Even the Petersham General Store, which had a new sign touting its new hours (open Sunday) wasn't open. The sign boasting of the convenient new hours stood ironically in front of the locked door.

Suddenly, a tiny restaurant loomed into view. Cheerfully decorated in a country style, the Open flag and the "Breakfast All Day" sign caught my eye. We pulled into the parking lot.

What a cute little place! Cheerful and clean, I could tell that it was new. It turns out that they had only opened four days earlier. The shop was decorated in posters of old movies, with a life-sized cutout of the characters from the Wizard of Oz being the most prominent. "Oldies" music played in the background. The restaurant was comprised of tables, with the cashier counter in the center. It had shelves on it with necessities that a person might have to buy in a pinch: things like cat food, crackers, and dish soap.

We ordered slices of homemade pie. I had apple (heated) and my son had pumpkin. Each one was only $2.50, and was made "a la mode" for only an additional fifty cents. The pie was delicious and so was the huge cup of coffee I had.

The owner, Karen Varney, may well be a familiar person to many, as she is owner of Waterwheel Realty. In fact, the Country Cupboard and the adjacent Waterwheel Village are also hers. She was so friendly, spending quite a bit of time listening to my son's many stories, and talking to us about home schooling. She has done some substitute teaching herself and seemed to enjoy children very much.

Karen also explained to us some of the philosophy that guides her little restaurant's hours. They are open Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. (I have lost the flyer/menu that I brought home, which tells the hours. I think it was 10 to 5 pm). Her thoughts were that since so many restaurants are closed on weekend afternoons and on Mondays, she would be open to meet that need.

After eating our delicious dessert, we went over to the adjacent lot where there were two statues of horses placed realistically in a green, grassy yard. A large old-fashioned grader (i.e. construction vehicle) was placed in a landscaped garden as part of the decoration. A large tent was next to the grader, where one could sit and eat at picnic tables. (It was like a wedding tent, so in all honesty I don't expect it to be there beyond the good weather.) My son enjoyed climbing on the grader and playing imaginatively in the yard. We were there for about an hour altogether, having turned a stop for pie into a time for play and closeness. And we enjoyed meeting and talking to a new business owner, the friendly Karen Varney.

I would definitely stop there again, only this time in addition to dessert I would like to try lunch or breakfast. The prices were very reasonable. Like I said, I can't find the menu, so if you want to know more about this restaurant (such as whether they take credit cards) you can call them at (978) 355-6715. The address of The Country Pantry is: 2291 West St, Barre, MA.

Monday, September 21, 2009

stART on the Street - Worcester, MA art fair

Yesterday I took part in another stART on the Street event. Time is short, so I'll just post my comments here that I said on Facebook earlier today:

"What a perfect day! Every year that I participate in stART on the Street, I get so many friendly people stopping in my booth to talk about the piece that they bought from me the year before, or the time they saw my art at the Bean Counter, or just to chat with me about their cats (one of the major themes of my work). Money is not the only 'payoff' that I get from stART...I get so much feedback, encouragement, friendly conversation and lots of smiles. It's very uplifting. I also appreciate the great local food vendors at stART. It's a great way to try a new place that soon becomes a favorite (like Buddha Hut did for me).

I am grateful that there are so many people who are consistent supporters of local artists like me, who recognize the value of handmade, original work. I see so many of the same faces at stART year after year! (And I am also grateful for the local businesses who support us, too!)

Thanks to all of you who attended stART this year; and don't forget about stART at the Station, a festive art and craft event put on by these very same (awesome) organizers that brought you yesterday's event."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Teeny tiny farmers market - The Flower Cart

In Worcester, not far from what I call "the airport mountain" is a little flower store called The Flower Cart. Now, I never buy flowers, so I have been driving by this little shop for years. But last night we pulled into the parking lot and went in. Why?? I saw a sign in their window saying "farmers market."

I was very intrigued, as The Flower Cart is a cute little storefront squished in between an insurance company and something else. How can it be a farmers market, I wondered.

When I went inside my question was answered. A flower shop like many others, but made different by the bins of fresh produce at the front. Just like a mini farmers market indeed! It turns out that the owners have their own gardens, and they added some other stuff (corn, I think) from another nearby farm.

What makes this noteworthy for me is that we recently lost our second car, and my husband often needs our car for work. That means getting to farmers' markets is even harder for me now, as they usually take place during the day. Some have later hours, but are too far away given our schedule. But now that I know about The Flower Cart, I know that when my husband brings home the car, I can zip over there (they're open till 5:30 pm) and get nice fresh local veggies! I am thrilled.

Here's the info you will need:
They are located at 1405 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01603. Do you know where the Friendly's is on Route 9 as you're headed out toward Leicester? Well it's kiddy-corner from that. Their phone number is (508) 421-6631. You can even give them a call to see what they're selling ...something you can't do with a regular farmers' market. They are open 10 am to 5:30 pm on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They'll also be open Sundays later in the year.

According to their business card they also offer "Seasonal Flowers & Gifts - Gift Baskets & More" More, indeed! :-)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Veg Worcester Benefit by Buddha Hut - August 15

Here's some news I pulled directly from Veg Worcester's web site:

Buddha Hut Hosting Another All-you-can-eat Buffet Fundraiser: Saturday, August 15

Earlier this month, Buddha Hut held the first-ever buffet-fundraiser for VegWorcester. It was such a huge success that they are going to do it again in August. Sweet!

Mark your calendars: the next buffet will take place on Saturday, August 15 from noon – 7pm. It’s only $10 for the all-you-can-eat buffet and 10% of sales benefit VegWorcester programs. Awesome!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sweet Worcester - decadent desserts and designer cakes

Last night was date night for my husband & me. After a great casual outdoor meal at Junior's Pizza Grille on Shrewsbury Street, we set out on foot to find a nice shop for coffee and dessert. I had been hoping for a place with some "atmosphere" but my less-than-comfortable footwear ensured that we could not wander far. The only place within our walking range was called Sweet, and to be honest the exterior did not impress. I could see right through the large window into a brightly-lit shop that seemed devoid of decoration. But the sign said coffee and desserts / open late, so we went closer to peer in the window, and I'm glad we did.

The first thing that beckoned to us was a case full of cupcakes and small desserts. Coffee and coffee-machines were at the back. My favorite dessert is tiramisu, and I could see some there in the case, which clinched the deal for us. We went inside.

The walls are white, decorated only with one poster and a few polka dots. The lights were, in my opinion, a bit too bright. A rack held some free local magazines. My eyes scanned the room and stopped on a doorway leading to something in back. It didn't have a door, but instead had elegant-looking, top-to-bottom curtains pulled back with ties. I wondered--what could this be? I stuck my head through the curtain and could not believe my eyes. A room with atmosphere, dark and dreamy, with a bar and comfortable seating all around. It looked like a secret world in there. Very mysterious--but in a good way.

It was explained to us this way by the wonderfully courteous front counter person, Jennifer: the front room is quick and casual desserts, but the back room is "a dessert experience." There is a Prix Fix menu of special desserts for $9, some of which had familiar names like Bananas Foster and Creme Brulee. I was briefly tempted VERY strongly by the special coffees which includes my all-time favorite, the Nutty Irishman. But we had to pass on the dessert experience. We had spent enough money on dinner and a smaller dessert was what we needed. We decided to have a coffee each, and share one of the ample-sized tiramisus. The tiramisu was good, but the coffee was outstanding! I haven't had such a nice, smooth cup of coffee in a long, long time. To paraphrase the old commercial, this coffee was good to the last drop.

It got more interesting as I began to talk to Jennifer, who was turning out to be a good spokesperson for this establishment. No wordless blank stares or attitude from THIS barista! Jennifer cheerfully explained that the owner buys ingredients from local establishments. For example, the milk and cream comes from Cooper's Hilltop Farm in Rochdale, Mass. But what really impressed the socks off me was that the owner (Alina Eisenhauer) grows herbs and spices on the roof of her restaurant! I love that.

So we will definitely be going back. And on our next date night, we may just skimp on dinner so we can take a trip through those velvet curtains and partake of the dessert experience.