Getting a Natural Sugar Fix

I often get asked if I was born in Maine or if I moved here. And my response is typically that I am a "New England Mutt" since I was indeed born in Maine (Kennebunkport to be exact!), but spent the majority of my formative years growing up in Tamworth, New Hampshire, before moving on to high school in western Massachusetts (NMH in the house!) and to Maine for my undergraduate degree (yay for USM!).

A few weeks ago, I went back to my old stomping grounds in New Hampshire to visit my family for New Hampshire's Maple Weekend (and to celebrate my mom's birthday). Growing up in such a rural area, the frost heaved dirt roads we ventured down to visit our favorite sugarhouse and creamery did not faze me at all. To get to Young Maple Ridge Sugarhouse in North Sandwich, New Hampshire, you have to head down a long dirt road for what feels like forever. Just about when you swear you must have missed it, you crest a hill and see the billowing steam from the roof of the sugarhouse. Get out of your car and you can smell the sap boiling already. The owner, Ida (who I went to school with longer ago than I care to think about!), and her family were there shaving ice to make syrup candy since mother nature did not cooperate with having snow around. My munchkin loved trying to get every last smidge off of the fork before digging in to her maple syrup covered vanilla ice cream. Like many of their visitors, we stood in front of their vast select of maple syrup bottle sizes, maple candy, maple cotton candy... the list goes on and on. My parents asked my daughter what size syrup we should get and the smart little lady obviously opted for the biggest bottle I've ever seen. It's like a growler of syrup. Her eyes lit up (perhaps from the size of the bottle or maybe just from her sugar high) and we made our way out.

The next stop was just a bit back down the way we came. The Sandwich Creamery in North Sandwich, New Hampshire, is a boutique creamery that sells ice cream and cheese the only way we know how out in the country. It's honor system all the way. Peering into the case to chose of flavors, it's hard not to just pick one of everything. I opted for their Mexican coffee, which was coffee based with cinnamon and chocolate covered espresso beans. I'm drooling just thinking about it! Sliding our money into the slot in the wall, we made out way back out into the cold with our sweet laden haul. A call to the cows and pigs and off we went. With her sugar coma wearing off, the kid snoozed in her carseat as we made our way back to my parent's house where I grew up.

Maple Weekend always marks the sign of Spring even if mother nature didn't really get the memo. What traditions do you have as we round the corner from winter to spring? I admit that these expeditions are much more fun with the kiddo in tow and it is certainly a flashback to go back to where I spent so much time of my life.