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fresh. local. berkshire.

June 7, 2012

it’s a beautiful world out there….appreciate  the wonders that surround you…..

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one word: chocolate.

June 2, 2012

~~~first, a full admission. i am a chocolate addict. i’m not even sure thats quite a strong enough term for it, because i tend to see it more of a primal urge. something that i cannot imagine living without. take my car, my jewelry, even my money, but do not deny me my chocolate.  though my waistline and my purse often dictate my actual contact with the stuff, i do my best to sneak it past myself, whenever i can…..

     living mostly in the south and central berkshires, i obviously know more about the locally produced chocolates in these areas, but i am sure there are delicious ones in north county that i will discover sometime sooner or later….in south county, i certainly have favorites, and being a local who has to drive past most of these places on a daily basis, does not make my waistline or my purse very happy….good thing i am more concerned about my own bliss.

     Chocolate Springs( chocolatesprings.com  ), located in the old lenox country shops, seems to draw my very discerning cravings the most.  whether i am walking in for a brownie, with its delectable ganache and cacao tidbits or a chocolate salted caramel bar, i never leave thinking that i haven’t tasted a tiny piece of heaven…..chocolatier, joshua needleman, does a superb job with both his creations and the overall image of the business itself…he is a great asset to our community, and i hope his chocolate creations continue for many, many years …. oh, yeah, if you have never tried their hot cocoa,well, you really should…

     another landmark chocolate shop is catherine’s chocolates( catherineschocolates.net ), in great  barrington, where just walking into the store puts you in a chocolate childhood bliss….it smells and looks like the quintessential chocolate shop…and the chocolate and treats are oh, so yummy…..i have purchased more gifts from here than i can count or remember…. and you can often see the women in the back, hands enrobed in chocolate, as they create the delights….

     berkshirebark( berkshirebark.com), although not a store, is a favorite locally produced chocolate, and is available in many stores, including guidos( guidosfreshmarketplace.com )…they are delicious chocolate bars in a variety of unique and wonderful flavors…..

     art and chocolate( artandchocolate.net )is a small shop in downtown lenox, and offers both art and fine chocolates from around the world….though the chocolates are not produced locally, i have had the pleasure of tasting many great pieces from chocolatiers around the globe…and such pretty surroundings as you are indulging in your chocolates…..

     this post would be remiss if i didnt put in a word for berkshire mountain bakery(berkshiremountainbakery.com ), because in all truth, i have probably eaten more of their chocolate than anywhere else (except for chocolate springs, of course) in the form of their chocolate bread….something about a chunk of top notch bread filled with chunks of  beautiful chocolate bursting through every bite….. straight out of the bag is a wonderful way to enjoy it, but toast it, spread a little butter and a sprinkle of salt, and you will think you closed your eyes and ended up in heaven….. and if you are lucky enough to get there early enough to see chocolate croissants on their shelves, do yourself a favor and grab one, or four…..they are that good……

     i really try not to overindulge in my urges, but it is really hard when the roads that i drive down every day, have these signs that call out to me as i drive by,  saying….’hey, berkshiregirl, there is some really, really yummy stuff in here,  you’re not going to pass by are you??”  and it doesn’t help that every store i go in is showcasing locally produced chocolate in one form or another…..this post could go on and on, as i have great love for many other local  chocolate delights: ice cream, donuts, cakes, the list goes on and on….but all of this chocolate talk has me heading to the kitchen,, looking for that last bite of  espresso bar that i bought the other day at chocolate springs……do you have a favorite chocolate local to the berkshires? a favorite local chocolate treat? i am always looking for new chocolate to love,,, so i would love to discover something new…… enjoy!

homeade chocolate profiterole….

    

    

    

picking fruit

May 11, 2012

     being born and raised in  the heart of the berkshires, picking fruit was pretty much considered a right of passage……when i was a tiny girl, i remember being carted by my grandparents and elders to the picking sites, and playing while they picked, eating as many berries as my little stomach could hold….as i grew into a child, i was allowed to follow behind my uncles and great uncles, as they ventured through forests and fields, searching out their favorite ‘secret’ spots to gather the fruits,teaching you as they went how and what to pick….you knew you were a really big kid when you were permitted to add your pickings to the mass that would go back home to preserve or make into wonderful delights….when i was a young adult, i boldly went into the wilds to find the most desirable berry patches and abandoned orchards,  my only competition being the bears and birds…..now that i am a mom, nothing makes me prouder than to look over and see my kids picking beside me, knowing that they are competent and knowledgeable ,  continuing a tradition gifted to them by ancestors whose spirits still fill the fields we pick in….

     the berkshires are abundant  with both berries and tree fruits….i grew up picking strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, black capped raspberries, blackberries,  peaches, pears, grapes, crabapples, apples, and the occasional gathering of elderberries and other fruits whose names now slip my mind.  the berries were always my favorite to pick, the most rewarding because you had to be selective and diligent to get the tastiest fruits…..strawberries which can be found growing wild in fields, or picked in farm fields, brought the biggest taste of summer and made the most delicious desserts…..my grandmothers land contained all of the blackberries that my buckets could hold, and their seediness and juiciness was determined by the amount of rain that fell that year…raspberries grew right out my back door, where i could run  and grab a bowlful and  hurry back home to pour sugar and milk on top of them and enjoy on the spot…..blueberries are a territorial thing in these parts, as everyone has their spot that has ‘the absolute best’ blueberries….i myself, think the best blueberries in the world come from the tops of washington and october mountains, in washington, but because it is a huge field in the middle of the woods, i tend not to go there anymore, because i don’t want to be a mama chasing a bear away from her kids, so now i go to a farm in becket that is still in a field, but near to the road and houses….peaches come to the berkshire,just as the heat of summer is setting in, filling the peaches with a goodness that has no words fitting enough to describe its delight…..picking peaches is not that eventful, as most peach trees are overloaded with fruits, so your total picking time is about 20 minutes, unless you stop to eat a dozen or two : ) ……. apples are probably the most quintessential  fruit to these parts, and picking them is a family tradition that almost everyone partakes in…..there are several farms that make it a fun adventure for families, with easy picking and several varieties to choose…..

     now that i am older, i am much more concerned about how my fruit was grown, than i did as a child…..i try to seek out organic farms, and when they are not available or convenient to my hurried life, i go to other farms that use integrated pest management, which is also healthier than conventionally grown fruits….some farms are not very accepting of children picking, especially the strawberry farms(because of their fragile growing conditions), so i will usually look for ones that are child friendly….though,i still slip out without the kids for some of my outings, so i can go to my favorite spots in the woods, and spend time with friends….

    regardless of what fruit i am picking, i find that it brings me peace and solitude, and rejuvenates my soul….when the berkshires are buried under blankets of white snow, with winter winds whipping, i am dreaming of the first fruits of summer, and when summer is here and picking is ready, there will always be one berkshiregirl with her bucket at the ready…..

kayaking….

May 3, 2012

     the berkshires are renowned for the beautiful scenery that frame our communities.  naturally, there are many outdoor activities that are popular with locals and tourists alike, such as hiking, skiing, biking, fishing and boating…..but, the one activity that this berkshiregirl longs for, as she dons her boots and mittens in the long berkshire winters, is kayaking.  i find it is then,rowing in my own little, purple kayak,  that i am fully immersed in the beauty that is the berkshires…..the serene waters… the stately mountains, blanketed in their colorful, deciduous forests…. wildlife at ease, as they welcome visitors, such as myself, to their homes…..all of these things call to my heart, and foster my love of the kayak.

     there are countless places to go kayaking/canoeing in the berkshires.  depending on your skill level and your mood, you could take a short trip or make an entire day of it.  there are several ponds, lakes and also rivers….the main river of course, being the housatonic. i have spent time on the housatonic river in almost all of its seasons….from the almost frigid waters in spring, with the return of the canadian geese overhead and the mallards floating beside me, to the last glimmer of autumnal wonder that is profuse in the berkshires….the  river never fails to inspire me.  oftentimes, the beavers and river otters join me, as i paddle along….many times, the great blue heron, who at other times, appears elusive, jumps ahead to the next oxbow, and  leads me on my journeys….

     if i am short on time, i will usually head for stockbridge bowl, as it is close to my home, and i can make it around the lake in a relatively short amount of time…the bowl is nice, usually fairly calm and you get great views of the surrounding mountains, including a great view of kripalu, the nations leading yoga center.  the waters are usually calm enough to row whichever way you choose, and the birds and water lilies make it a calming and dreamy adventure…. the shores are taken up by million dollar second homes, which actually adds to the wonder of the place…..often times i imagine what it would be like to live in one of those houses, or see myself, back in time,  rowing past president james garfield, as he fished its shores…..

     other spots in the berkshires that are popular for kayaking and canoeing, include buckley dunton pond in becket, goose pond in lee, and the green river in south county…..wherever you end up, dropping your kayak in…you are bound to find bliss and happiness, as these berkshire waters infuse you with a medicine that cannot be found anywhere else on this earth… most locals own their own kayaks/canoes, but places to find them to buy or rent include the arcadian shop, in lenox and berkshire outfitters  in great barrington…… happy rowing….

    

try, try again…

April 15, 2012

     i am here to try again. its not an easy thing for me to do or to admit to, but i am here to try again, nonetheless.  time will tell if i have made the right decision, but if i gave up,  i would never forgive myself.   there is an old proverb that says if you fall down seven times, you must get up eight. well, i am here to say that i have gotten up again.

     berkshiregirl began when my love of the berkshires grew so big, that i knew i needed to write a book….  during the course of writing my book, i would often relate my facts and stories of the berkshires to my friends and family, and anyone else who would listen… i also started a blog online, and when facebook came along, that became a natural progression for berkshiregirl (actually my friends begged me to start a separate page from my personal one, so my wall wouldnt be filled with berkshirethis and berkshirethat), and that was a nice place for me.  with the encouragement of friends and family, i decided to venture further into the business end of it, and bought a heatpress and printer, and started making  tshirts to sell online and at local events…. in the beginning it was just berkshiregirl shirts, but soon started with a berkshirekid, and berkshirebaby line….. i was hoping to further the retail line by selling coffee mugs, hats, etc, and to have them carried in the local retail stores…..

     i have also known for sometime that i have had a hidden illness that wreaks havoc on my body, but soon after the first local fair that i vended, i knew that something was really wrong with me…. i had always had weakness and soreness during my flare ups, but last spring my body took a turn for the worst, and i was forced to rethink the whole business of berkshiregirl…. i had so many days/weeks that i literally couldnt get up my front steps……so instead of vending at local events and helping my business to flourish, i got back on the merry go round of doctors that go along with this disease…..primarys, rheumatologists, dermatologists, neurologists, and any other -ists that you can think of….of course, with my luck, i have a rare disease known as dermatomyositis, with a bunch of other smaller illnesses that go along with it….doctors in these parts are mystified by it, and have a hard time treating me, because of their ignorance to the disease…..

     needless to say, my business stalled, my garden withered and my kids had a very lackluster year…. i let my blog slide into oblivion, before it even got off of the ground……. though i did keep my facebook pages up( they were easy enough to keep active), my writing hit a wall, as i was too depressed to be enthusiastic about it…….but, thats all in the past….i am looking at the future now.  i have gotten my health under control in the last year, and once again am feeling some vitality….. i still dont have enough energy to be a vendor, but am writing again, and coming up with new designs for my berkshiregirl/kid/baby/dog line……. and the blog is back, well, sort of…..it still needs much updating on the pages, but i am going to put it public again, anyways……it just seems like the right thing to do…..

     so, there it is….my lame year in a not so small nutshell……i hope that you find it to be an interesting  read, and some useful information on the pages…. am hoping to fill them with all of berkshiregirls favorite local things and places….enjoy!

an upside down sort of spring

March 27, 2012

     ~~ SPRING arrived here in the berkshires in a backwards sort of way, well actually, it arrived in the midst of what should have been winter. though winter, itself, could have been described as spring like this year…..very upside down to say the least….

     winter took its sweet time getting here this year, and it remained so mild throughout the season, that there was hardly a need for winter coats….my kids hats, gloves, snowpants and most of all, sleds, did not see much use this year, much to my children’s dismay….the canadian geese didnt seem to know what to do, and i saw just as many flying north for the winter, as i did flying south….and as slow as winter was to get here, it was as if spring came along in february, and bumped winter right out of the picture….

     so, in winter came our spring…but, it felt more like summer. are you confused yet? i think that february and march probably had every creature, plant and human wondering….the temperatures started nice in february and skyrocketed in march, giving us many upper 70 and low 80 degree days….the birds returned and started mating, the spring ephemerals  burst out of the still hardened ground, and animals came out of their winter hibernation a whole month early…..the fruit trees set their blossoms in march, when they normally do in april…and people started to put on their ‘summer’ faces, where everything in life seems grand…

     of course, this is berkshire county, and we know well enough to be fooled into complacency, and we were just waiting for that fickle berkshire weather to change again….and it has…..the week after it actually turned spring on the calander, we are finally getting a taste of winter weather, with weather in the 30’s…….so, now the birds and animals are searching out warmth, the blossoms on the trees are being threathened with frost, and i have already put away my family’s winter clothes, so we are now bundled in triple layers of summer socks, and pullovers and spring coats…..my son even resorted to using socks on his hands as mittens yesterday, when he and his sister were having a pass outside….but, i have lived here long enough to know that i just have to stick it out and wait, because inevitably, the weather will do another 360, and i will be back in my flip flops! : )

 

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summer fun….

August 14, 2011

~school is finally out here in the berkshires….and summer is definitely setting in.  color is abundant everywhere that you look….wild reds and blues from local, mating birds…rolling hills of every shade of green imaginable….dancing meadows that hold lighter, but still brilliant shades from local flowers…the weather has been especially nice so far, and we are all hoping for a sunny and warm summer….

~with the school vacation here and the summer weather here, there are plenty of things to do to keep those children happily occupied throughout the season. when the sun is out, there are several parks/playgrounds in the area, and most are clean, safe places for the kids to burn off some energy…particularly nice ones can be found in dalton(off of curtis ave) and stockbridge(main st.)….hiking and outdoor walking paths are everywhere in the county, and maps can be found at visitor’s centers and at trailheads…some nice hikes for kids include, monument mountain in great barrington, bullard woods in lenox, or the ashwillticook trail in lanesboro….

     cultural attractions that are fun with the kids include hancock shaker village, in hancock, where kids can experience what it was like to live primitively in the 1800’s and see farm animals and beautiful gardens….ashintully estate, in the tyringham valley, is the gardens and remains of an early 20th century estate that burnt to the ground, and left 4 giant doric columns overlooking the valley….plenty of fun everywhere you turn….