Tuesday, July 18, 2017

In a Big Country

We were once again out the door by 10, this time through New York and up into the wilds of Vermont. Every year, we drive through the countryside to visit The Vermont Country Store in the village of Weston. They sell thick Vermont flannels, penny candy, old-fashioned cleaning and beauty products, beautiful, lacy sleepwear, real maple syrup, classic toys, and their own chocolates, cheeses, and baked goods made in the area.

The drive is half the fun. Vermont is absolutely gorgeous. Its moniker "The Green Mountain State" is well-earned. We passed misty mountains cloaked in vast pine forests, ancient silos and weathered barns, cows grazing in pastures, and endless fields of waving corn. There were clouds early on, but by the time we rolled into Weston, the sun was out and it was a lovely day, dry and warm.

We picked the right day to go shopping. Unlike our previous visits, the dusty gravel parking lot wasn't full. Lauren had no trouble finding a spot for her van under a shady tree not far from the back of the store.

The store itself wasn't terribly busy, either. We had plenty of room to walk around and admire their vast selection. There wasn't even a line for the bathroom. The majority of the crowds were concentrated in the front of the store, where the food is sold. Not a surprise, when they had samples of their most tempting treats out for one and all to enjoy. I ended up with my favorite Boston fruit slices - flat half moon-shaped fruit gel candies covered in sugar. I'm also a big fan of their tasty little Cookie Buttons. Picked up peanut butter this year.

Unfortunately, as much as I love exploring the store, even their sale items can be too expensive for my budget. Their clothes in particular are outrageous (though most of them are well-made for what you get). Not to mention, I only have so much room in my smaller suitcase. Along with the food, I picked up two tiny jars of orange and blueberry fruit spread and a really nifty vintage Crayola tin that included an 8-pack of crayons.

Met Lauren at the main register an hour and a half later. She bought a pile of clothes for her parents and had gone to put them in her car. After she finished, she went next-door to The Bryant House Restaurant to see what the wait would be like. The last time we ate there in October 2015, we waited 20 minutes in a line that was out the door. This time, there was no line. We stood for maybe two minutes while they seated a family who came in ahead of us.

The Bryant House is a historic home made over as the Vermont Country Store's eat-in restaurant. They're expensive but worth it, with sandwiches, soups, and pot pies made from the freshest local ingredients. We both had the cheddar bacon soup with half a sandwich. Lauren's half was grilled cheese with chicken and tomato. Mine was thick, delicious chicken salad with lots of chunky nuts and fruits. The cheddar bacon soup was yummy, too, made from rich local cheese and pork. She had an iced tea with her meal. I had an egg cream - chocolate syrup, seltzer, and fresh milk. I love egg creams, but they don't often turn up in South Jersey. She had a slice of Triple Berry Pie for dessert. I went with a crunchy, just-sweet-enough apple crisp.

After lunch, we strolled across the street to check out a few other stores in town. Their Christmas shop is the only one I've ever seen come close to the Winterwood Christmas stores in Cape May County. They're jammed-full of every kind of ornament you can imagine, for every taste, from colorful kids' characters to sports to animals. Lauren picked up a flocked polar bear with a holly-print ribbon and faux holly around its neck. I saw nothing I could afford or carry home.

The Weston General Store is their next-door neighbor. It's a slightly more touristy version of The Vermont Country Store, with a lot of Vermont-themed sweaters and souvenirs along with the fudge, toys, and flannels. Once again, I didn't pick up anything, but Lauren bought a bag of polished rocks, a Yankees-themed Scrabble card game, and Yankees pens.

We returned to the Vermont Country Store and wandered around for another hour. Lauren wanted to check out their upstairs sales. I tried a few samples, but otherwise didn't buy anything else. Lauren came downstairs with a pretty patterned tank top for her mom and a pair of checked pajama pants for her.

Headed home around 4 PM. This year, Lauren did remember to tell her parents that cell phone coverage in Weston is spotty at best. They did get at least one text through that requested chicken sandwiches for dinner. We were going to stop at a small combination KFC/Taco Bell on the turn-off into Berrington to pick up something to eat anyway. I just bought tacos and a large Baja Blast. Lauren grabbed Chicken Sliders for her parents, chicken quesadillas for her, and a small chocolate bundt cake for all of us to share.

We arrived around 6:30. Mr. and Mrs. Miller were getting ready for tonight's games when we came in. Lauren gave her dad a green, red, and yellow plaid flannel shirt and two nightshirts, one short-sleeved, one long, two Clark bars, and orange creamsickle fudge. Mrs. Miller got the tank top, a sheer magenta blouse, and the larger orange jelly slices. We enjoyed our dinner while discussing the games.

(Incidentally, the local teams mostly did much better tonight. The Phillies topped the Marlins at 5-4, while the Orioles blew the Rangers out of the sky 12-1. The Arizona Diamondbacks also wailed the Cincinatti Reds in a blow-out, 11-2. The Yankees snuck past the Twins 6-3. At press time, the Blue Jays and the Red Sox are 4-4 way into the 12th inning.)

We're currently chatting online, listening to an 80's rock station on Pandora. Tomorrow, we're going to explore the Pittsfield area, including seeing a community production of The Music Man.

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