Great places to get snowed in: Simsbury, CT & Newport, RI

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Simsbury Inn -- Staircase

The grand staircase at the Simsbury Inn.

Yesterday was the first day of spring and we still can’t get away from the snow. Last week the temperature topped out in the low 50’s and we had a string of sunny days. The crusty snowbanks had almost disappeared from the streets, even in Boston.

Then, all of a sudden, winter was back with 5 inches of snow. I’m hoping this is the last snow we see this year, but I’m not optimistic. Fall is my favorite season and winter used to be a close runner up, but this winter has really tested my patience. Growing up in the Midwest, I know bad winters: sub-zero temperatures, blizzard conditions and piles of snow are nothing new to me. But I think living in Southern Indiana, where winters tend to be more mild, for 6 years prior to moving to Connecticut spoiled me.

This winter has been especially bad, even by New England standards. February 2015 was the coldest month ever in Connecticut. Massachusetts broke snowfall records for the season and for the month of February.

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Goodbye New England Fall, Hello New England Winter

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I always really miss fall when it’s over. Fall is my favorite season, which is strange when you consider the fact that the most important day of the year — my birthday — is in the summer and my favorite holiday is Christmas (weird for an atheist, I know). Fall in the Northeast, as I’ve mentioned before, is especially grand.

So what is it about fall that’s so special? Some images and anecdotes that demonstrate:

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No beach envy on America’s Third Coast

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Dunes

Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, Indiana.

Staring out at another beach this weekend, I finally decided to put down a few words about my trip to the Indiana Dunes in early August.

Being in close proximity to dozens of beautiful, unique beaches — the tumbled-down cliffs on the Sound, the pearlescent yellow sand of the Jersey Shore, and the scrub-topped dunes of the Cape — is probably my favorite thing about living on the East Coast.

My boyfriend and I both work in politics and while what we do is ultimately rewarding, without our hideaway on Cape Cod I’m not sure we’d be able to make it through the frequent stress and petty problems that come with the territory, especially now that we’re in the final stretch. That’s why we went this weekend: Between Labor Day and Election Day, there really is no other opportunity to take a break.

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A weekend with mom: NYBG Orchid Show

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A few weeks ago my mom came to visit me for Easter. She hadn’t been to New York City in almost 10 years and really wanted to go, so after giving her a little taste of downtown Hartford (lunch at Max Bibo’s and stroll down Pratt Street), we said goodbye to the Nutmeg State and headed for the Big Apple.

Once we were there I found myself at a bit of a loss in how to entertain my mother for three days. My friend Julie – who you met before last year – suggested we hit up the New York Botanical Garden’s orchid show, which was closing out its last weekend. My mom was a little skeptical. She said she had been to the United States Botanic Garden in DC and a few others, and had never been impressed. But she changed her tune once we stepped into the conservatory.

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Cape Cod in the off season

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The sun sets on Cape Cod

The sun sets on Cape Cod

That’s the view from where I’m standing right now, on Kalmus Beach in Hyannis, Massachusetts. Even though it’s a bit out of season, my friend Peter’s family beach house was officially open for business at the beginning of March so we thought, why not? We’re both having some job stresses right now (I’m starting a new one on Monday; he just had the assistant head of his department put in her two weeks), so even a short trip to a cold beach would be worth it.

The weather not only didn’t disappoint, it was unseasonably warm and sunny, although the water was still freezing. Peter warned me in advance that the town was likely to be dead; the “on-season” wouldn’t officially start for a couple more months. But that turned out to be for the best. The beaches were empty, and on the few occasions where we put down our beers and left the porch, downtown Hyannis was just open enough so that most of the local restaurants were hoppin’ but we weren’t bumping into tourists or waiting in line.

I’m a huge seafood fan, and I wouldn’t leave Cape Cod without noshing on some of the local oysters. For this you should probably hit up the Naked Oyster and get the baked oyster sampler ($14 for six – Rockefeller, pesto, barbecued bleu, pomodori, casino and Bienville) or you could split the chilled seafood tower ($43 for four littleneck clams, four oysters, four shrimp, tuna sashimi and a lobster tail). At least order a couple of oyster shooters ($2.50 each). Add the optional dash of pepper vodka ($1.50) and you have yourself a mini bloody mary.

For desert, we took a trip to Four Seas Ice Cream and ordered a quart of the rum and butter. Mixed with maple-flavored whisky, this combination makes a delicious drunk variation on the classic Coke float.

And since this is a vacation, I’m not ashamed to admit that after an afternoon/evening of beer, vodka and maple-flavored whisky, we were not feeling too fresh in the morning – even with the salty sea breeze to give us a jolt. To remedy this, I tried the Cape Cod benedict ($11.95, made with a crab cake and lemony dill sauce instead of the traditional English muffin and hollandaise) at the Sea Street Café.

Besides our various food-related excursions (and let’s be honest, those are the most important), we checked off a couple boxes on the Ubiquitous Kennedy Landmarks tour, including a quick lurk outside of the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port and a stroll around the JFK Memorial at Veterans Beach.