Got an early start today, heading out to the Berkshire Mall, about a half-hour or so from Lauren's house, around 9:30. It proved to be too early. The mall wasn't open yet. We hit her local farm market first. This farm market is on Wednesday mornings and Saturday afternoons. Lauren didn't need anything; I bought three pears for later in the week.
We did some quick runs into the mall and Target next. I needed new hair clips. The ones I already had were way too small. I wanted headbands as well, but they were expensive. They'll have to wait. Also took out more money for the week. Neither Target nor Jay Street Video Games had the title Lauren was looking for, Mario Party 10. We ended up riding down to a GameStop about five or so minutes away at the Allendale Shopping Center, then heading back to the Best Buy at the mall to pick up three Amiibos - figures that you use to play some Wii U games. Lauren grabbed Mario and Princess Peach. She also found Luigi on a good sale.
We hit the road after that, making our way across Massachusetts to southern Vermont. The view from the highways and back roads were breathtaking. The leaves are at the height of their fall beauty, bursting in amazing shades of rust, orange, golden yellow, and sienna brown. We passed by sprawling ski resorts with huge, rustic wooden hotels, tiny summer cottages, well-restored mill towns, and farms with cows grazing in bright green meadows.
Heavy dark clouds gathered even as we were heading north. They looked like fat gray cotton balls rubbing reddish and deep green streaks on the majestic mountains surrounding us. We were hit by a few showers, including one that came down at a pretty good clip for about ten minutes.
The rain was long gone and the sun was slowly emerging by the time we finally arrived at Weston, home of the Vermont Country Store. This rustic general store is filled with everything from stuffed Peanuts toys to heavy Vermont flannels to maple syrup and penny candy. They were also busy as heck. Not only was a bus filled with elderly travelers in the parking lot, but Lauren and I saw license plates from as far away as Colorado, Wisconsin, and Nova Scotia.
We wanted to eat at the Bryant House, the restaurant next-door to the Vermont Country Store, but they were even busier. Their waiting room was crowded with people who hadn't eaten yet. Lauren gave them her name, and we walked around in the store for a bit instead. I bought a tiny bottle of maple syrup, a bag of vintage chenille candy canes (I remember Mom had them on her tree when we were little until they fell apart), and a box of my favorite Cookie Buttons, tasty crunchy mini-wafers. (I decided to try their new Pumpkin Pie flavor.)
Made it over to the Bryant House around quarter of 2...then waited another 10 minutes or so. We finally got in around 2. The Bryant House is known for their Vermont and New England specialties, made with the finest local ingredients. They're also expensive, which is why we both opted for a simple meal of a cup of soup, a half of a sandwich, and potato chips. We ended up getting the Grilled Cheese - Vermont is famous for its cheeses. Lauren had the Creamy Turkey-Vegetable Soup; I had the New England Clam Chowder. Yum. It was thick and rich, filled with big pieces of clam, potato, and celery. The potato chips were warm and not too greasy - I wonder if they were hand-made.
Lauren spotted a Christmas ornament shop across the street when we were going to the Bryant House. We strolled over there next. It was awesome. It looked so small from the outside, but it was three rooms filled with ornaments of every size, shape, type, and theme you can imagine. Sports, dance, favorite characters, hunting, animals, pets. candy and baked goods, soda, princesses...you name it, and they probably had it. I saw at least four different lines of Christmas porcelain houses and accessories (including a Disney set and the ones Mom collected when I was a kid) and a small but intriguing section devoted to Halloween. They were the best Christmas shop I'd seen outside of the Winterwood branches in Cape May and Rio Grande. Even so, most of the ornaments were too big for me to carry home. We walked out with nothing.
We did better back at the Vermont Country Store. Lauren saw a pillow that would be perfect to replace the sagging one she'd used for years, and we both wanted to hit the candy jars. I had a hard time deciding among the many varieties of sweets until I saw the individually wrapped fruit slices. That's one of my favorite candies. I bought a half a pound. Also treated myself to some butterscotch peanut butter cups for the way home. Lauren bought raspberry cordials for herself, orange cream drops for her dad, dark chocolate cherry cordials for her mom, and the pillow.
By the time we were driving through Barrington, the sun was out, the clouds were vanishing, and the sky was a lovely shade of blue. We made a brief stop at a Goodwill next to a bank in a small shopping center in downtown Barrington. It was twice the size of the tiny one we visited in Lee yesterday. Alas, the records I would have loved to buy were too big to carry home.
Went straight home after that. After we showed off our purchases and gave Mr. and Mrs. Miller their candy, we went downstairs and had spicy black bean and vegetable soup and turkey deli meat for dinner while watching more of Lauren's wrestling.
Switched to Mario Party 10 after we ate. The latest version of the popular board game franchise switches things up by using "Amiibos" - figures of various classic Nintendo characters - to save game data, roll "dice," and pick up tokens on the boards. You place your figure on the indicated place on the Wii U game pad and gently pull it up again to activate and play. Lauren used Mario; I was Princess Peach. I won the first board, Mushroom Park. She won the Mario-themed shorter "Amiibo board."
Right now, we're chatting and listening to an online radio station that specializes in 20's jazz and big band music while a fire crackles softly in the small cherry wood fireplace in the corner of Lauren's room. Tomorrow, we're going to explore two more near-by small towns, Stockbridge and Great Barrington, including a general store that sounds interesting.