Chasing Winter

GondolaMonkeys

I’m sure you are totally over winter — as most normal people are. And then there’s my family…chasing winter for the last fresh snow of the season.

Don and I left our Stowe, Vermont vacation earlier this month wanting more. We had such an amazing time and kept saying how we couldn’t wait to take the girls. How they would love the mountain, the ski conditions (no ice!), the shopping, and most of all, that they would be able to go out to eat! There was talk about going next season, maybe a few weekend trips.

And then you have one of those moments when you realize that life is too short to wait. So on a whim, we found a townhouse to rent for the weekend and within five days, we were at Stowe with our monkeys for an absolutely perfect winter family weekend.

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For those of you who don’t ski, Stowe Mountain is a much more difficult, challenging mountain than what we’re used to at Loon Mountain. It’s a steeper vertical with more black diamond and double black diamond terrain. I was super nervous that one of my monkeys (not mentioning any names here!!) would head down a double black trail ahead of us. I’m so proud that she didn’t! The monkeys stayed with us, listened, and skied their socks off! Don and I can’t believe how much more confidence and control they have on skis this year; we couldn’t stop smiling all weekend. Can you tell I’m a proud mama?

Whirlaway

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I cooked up a storm last week to get ready for our weekend away (pumpkin muffins, blueberry beast bars, cornbread, roasted veggies, chicken salad). Eating breakfast and lunch at the townhouse would minimize the risk of allergic reactions. As you can imagine, it’s really difficult for us to eat out. Sweet Pea can’t eat at a restaurant that has peanuts in the kitchen and Bean needs a scratch kitchen without flour flying around (no pizza on the menu, not a lot of baking, etc). So happy to report that Bean didn’t get glutened! We had delicious meals at Flannel (Topnotch Resort) and Crop Bistro & Brewery. Both restaurants took great care of us and we were so grateful to relax and enjoy a meal together!

Crop

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We didn’t realize how long it had been since we went away with the girls — not including staying with family. A few years, at least. The girls were giddy with excitement exploring the townhouse, playing hide and go seek while we unpacked and got settled. We rented the “Village Retreat” through Stowe Country Homes, who did an amazing job cleaning the kitchen in preparation of our stay. Not a crumb in sight! We ran the dishwasher and washed all of the pots and pans to avoid contamination. Traveling with these two is no walk in the park…but it’s 100% worth it. We didn’t have to spend much time in the kitchen because I did most of the cooking in advance. After skiing both days, we were able to shower up and hit the town to walk around, shop, and hang out at the coffee shop.

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There were so many laughs and moments of true happiness last weekend. And even some tears as we packed up Knight to head home. Don and I have always felt a special connection to Stowe, and now we know the monkeys feel it too. They have already asked if the mountain will be open for April vacation. Oh, those monkeys! We will ski this weekend at Loon for the last time this season, then hang up our skis and pray that the snow here in Newburyport melts soon. As Sweet Pea said, “It’s almost hiking season!”

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Vacation is…

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Indulging on dessert.  Can you say vegan cheesecake?  Heaven at Plate, our absolute favorite restaurant in Stowe’s Lower Village.

Eating out every meal, which isn’t always easy when you’re gluten free and dairy free.  Every restaurant easily accommodated us —  not surprising for Vermont but still impressive.  There’s a big food scene at Stowe with tons of chef-owned restaurants.  We ate some of the best meals we’ve ever had.  Ever.  The best part was that we did’t have to cook ALL WEEK.  What a treat!  I’m inspired to try some new recipes, and excited for some home cooked goodness.

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Drinking wine nightly.  Our favorite bottle was at Hen of the Wood, a 2013 Cousin-Leduc from Loire, France.  Olivier Cousin plows his vineyards with his horse Joker, and I’ve never smelled a wine quite like this Cabernet Franc.  Waiting to see if our wine shop in Newburyport can get their hands on this bottle and a few others from our trip. 

Relaxing with a hot mug of chai tea for me, espresso for Don.  We took time every day to relax for an hour or two on the comfy couches at Black Cap Coffee, the only legit coffee shop in town.  It has a no-fuss, cozy atmosphere with wifi and space in the back to paint pottery or make necklaces.  The monkeys will definitely like it here!

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Reading time.  Elin Hilderbrand books are my go-to vacation reads, no matter the season.  I finished her latest, The Matchmaker, and started reading Beautiful Day.  I love the consistency of the Nantucket setting in Hildebrand’s books, as well as her vivid character development and healthy dose of island drama.  Don brought his Kindle and was engrossed in Slaying the Badger by Richard Moore.  Always a cycling book lately.

Skiing as many days as possible (three).  Thank you to Stowe Meadows for ordering us passes in advance, saving us  time and money ($89 per pass vs $108 at the ticket window).  Tip if you go: only put one pass in your pocket per person.  The touch-less card reader scans every pass you have in your pocket, making all of the passes valid for that day.  That would have been a pricey mistake!

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Capturing every most moments.  We discovered the time option on our phones and used it to get this shot at the top of Goat!  I still can’t believe we made it down that double black diamond alive.  Goat is arguably the most difficult trail on the mountain with 2,341 feet of intense ledges, boulders, and moguls just to keep things interesting. The award for crazy things to do in Stowe goes to Don…I would never have even looked over the edge!

Laughing at the time I thought the trail National was a cruiser and ate 5 moguls.  I don’t think that one will ever get old.

Listening to different languages.  We frequently heard French and Spanish on the mountain and around town.  There’s a strong European influence in Stowe with its Austrian roots.  It feels like you’re further away from home than you are.  One of the things I love about Stowe!

Spa-ing at Topnotch.  Yes, it’s a verb.  I usually set up a massage when we’re on vacation, and this trip was no different with a Thai massage.  I’ve only had one other massage like this at the Mandarin Oriental in Boston.  Topnotch exceeded my expectations, deeply stretching my sore muscles in every direction.  If you haven’t had a Thai massage, put it on your bucket list.

Trying new things: a Tai Chi class at Topnotch.  Don and I both got into the zen of Tai Chi and plan to look into classes at home in Newburyport.  No matter what service or class you take, Topnotch welcomes you to enjoy the pool, sauna, relaxation rooms, etc.  Next time we’re staying all day!  The Topnotch spa is just decadent.  Absolutely love it there.

Shopping, shopping, and more shopping.  Every store was offering 20-40% off.  Not just certain items — all winter and sometimes entire stores.  Amazing brands at reasonable prices.  New hat, belt, blazer (consignment), and boots!  Maybe March is the best time to shop in Stowe?  Mark the calendar for next season! 

Packing everything (except my Bogs, which I needed for snowshoeing) and coming home with lots of extra bags!  Surprisingly, I packed well — probably because of our new duffels.  Absolutely love them.  As you may have read in a previous post, I hate to pack.  Might be turning a corner here…

Showering daily, sometimes twice a day.  Can you even imagine having time for such a luxury? The shower at Stowe Meadows had amazing water pressure and I’m totally into their bathroom fixtures.  Maybe it’s because we’re renovating our bathroom?

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Remembering being in Stowe with Bean when she was 2 1/2, and again with both girls 3 years ago.  I love making memories as a family.

Dreaming of maybe owning our own house here in Stowe one day.  Would love that!  We’ll be back in July with the monkeys for the Hot Air Balloon Festival.  They are already making their list of places to go…

What does vacation mean to you?

Ski Town Style

Rackscarf2New Wool Hat :: Pistil  {similar – purchased at Shaw’s General Store in Stowe last week}
Favorite Coat :: Patagonia
Fringe Infinity Scarf :: 14th & Union  {on sale for $4.49 – seriously!}
Location :: Antique Canadian front door at Stowe Meadows in Elmore, VT

Sorelboots2New Black Boots :: Sorel  {also purchased at Shaw’s General Store in Stowe last week; already have brown and LIVE in them}
Location :: Outside Plate in Stowe, VT with freshly falling snow

Zaradress2Wool Dress :: Zara  {the one I told you about!}
Necklace :: a gift from Mom a few years back
Fleece Lined Leggings :: Heat Holders  {the warmest winter leggings}
Location :: Hen of the Wood in Waterbury, VT after an outstanding dinner

GAPthredUP2Navy Boatneck Top :: GAP
Beige Leather Clutch :: Garnet Hill
Paisley Skirt :: Tinley Road from thredUP
Navy Leggings :: Splendid
Suede Boots :: UGG {similar}
Location :: Topnotch Spa in Stowe, VT after massage and Tai Chi class

Pistolhat2

Wool Hat :: Pistil  {in love with this hat}
Cozy Sweater :: Victoria Secret  {practically vintage}
Beige Leather Clutch :: Garnet Hill
Location :: Black Cap Coffee in Stowe, VT for my daily chai

Stowe Meadows

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Wait until you hear about the B&B we called home last week!  Don and I are typically not B&B people.  For years we stayed at big chain hotels, but as the years have passed, we now gravitate to smaller boutique hotels with personalized service.

Don found Stowe Meadows online last summer when he was searching for hotels that catered to gluten free guests.  We didn’t know if such a hotel existed and were thrilled to learn about Stowe Meadows.  The property is owned by a couple with Celiac Disease in the family; when they have a guest that’s gluten free, everyone eats gluten free.  So we found time to take a vacation and booked it!

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On a Sunday night, we drove up the rambling country dirt road to Stowe Meadows in Elmore, Vermont with fresh snow just starting to fall.  I saw photos online of the B&B, but I couldn’t help a little ohhh and ahhh at this exquisite property when we arrived.

Stowe Meadows is truly a hidden gem!  This one-of-a-kind property is perched on a hill with stunning views of Mount Mansfield and Stowe Mountain.  Don and I were greeted at the door by Erich, one of the B&B owners.  He was super friendly and welcoming but not overbearing.  We met his wife, Caroline, later in the week.

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Don and I were the only guests during our Sunday through Friday stay.  Stowe Meadows’ decor is true mountain style with stone fireplaces, exposed reclaimed wood beams, and a gorgeous trickling fountain to name a few features.  We stayed on the lower level in the Alpine suite with a picture window view of the mountains.  It was really tranquil with a super comfortable four-poster bed, double sinks in a spacious bath, and ample storage.  To be honest, it felt like we were staying at a friends’ house (a really big one!), and we were very much at home during our stay.

Breakfasttable

When Erich showed us to our room, he asked what time we would like breakfast and confirmed that Don and I are both gluten free and that I’m dairy free.  He asked if there were any foods we didn’t like.  As you may have guessed, breakfast at Stowe Meadows is tailored to your dietary specifications.  Who doesn’t love a custom breakfast?  Each day we devoured two courses of the most delicious, clean, satisfying breakfast we’ve eaten while traveling.  It was the perfect way to start the day, leaving us full and satisfied.

The only drawback is that Stowe Meadows is located 15 minutes from Stowe’s Lower Village, or 25 minutes to Stowe Mountain.  The drive is beautiful and we had time to relax and chat in the car, so it wasn’t an issue for us.  We’ve stayed in Stowe’s Lower Village in a townhouse, an Inn, as well as another property 10 minutes from the mountain.  They all have their pluses and minuses, but if you can swing the extra 15, it’s well worth it. 

When Don and I visit Stowe again without the monkeys, we would definitely stay at Stowe Meadows again.  It is perfect for a romantic get-away in any season — especially Fall and Winter.  What’s your favorite spot to get-away from it all?

A Bluebird Day

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Don and I are halfway through our Stowe, Vermont get-away.  It’s our fourth time here and definitely not our last.
 
We love the grandeur of Mount Mansfield (the tallest peak in VT).  The skiing is phenomenal with long, wide trails to cruise as well as steep challenging runs.  Farm-to-table restaurants are at every turn, not surprising with the Vermont Fresh Network.  Eating out here is easy with tons of gluten free, paleo, and vegan options.  Wait – did I mention the shopping?  Oh, the shopping!  I’ll share some of our finds in a more in-depth review next week.  Back to the skiing…
 
GraydayOur first ski day was a snowy, snowy, snowy gray day.  We explored the mountain and managed to ski some of the runs Bean planned for us.  I felt frustrated with the conditions.  I love speed and couldn’t move as fast as I typically ski with mounds of snow everywhere.  I’m all about a fresh coat of powder but this was a LOT of snow.  Because I don’t know the mountain, I couldn’t tell if the mounds were powder or moguls.  Not the best ski day for me but we had a great time together none-the-less.  
 
GondolierYesterday was a blue-sky stunner of a day, or in skier speak, a bluebird day.  The trails were machine groomed packed powder — my favorite conditions.  I skied the fastest of my life on our first run down Gondolier.  I needed to get some speed out of my system after the day before.  It felt incredible.  We skied all over the mountain in record time.  No lift lines!  It was “like you read about,” as my Dad says.  My mind was clear from turn to turn, trail to trail.  I flew as if I had wings.  Skiing gives me such a rush.
 
BluebirdDay
We had the trail to ourselves for so many of our runs yesterday.  For us, it’s like being on our own beach.  We are skiing separately, but always connected.  I love this about our relationship.  Skiing side by side on a tiny trail like Switchback was so romantic.  It’s perfect.  And it’s so us.  Two skiers dancing with the mountain, together. 
 
We have two days of skiing, shopping, spa-ing, snowshoeing, and eating ahead of us.  We’re savoring every minute but seriously missing those monkeys!  Thank goodness for FaceTime. 
 
Next week you can expect reviews on our favorite Stowe spots and recommendations.  Wait until you hear about where we’re staying!  Until then, may the skies be blue and the trails look like my favorite corduroys.