Blog Category: Lifestyle (Page 3)

Give peas a chance: June’s Harvest of the Month

Generally speaking peas still get a bad rep. Like Brussels Sprouts, some people never warmed up to them, or are burned by childhood memories of their parents trying to force feed them green vegetables. Not on Martha’s Vineyard. Here peas are celebrated and admired, especially among the youth of our community.

This month we’re helping Island Grown Schools (IGS) highlight peas as their Harvest of the Month (HOM). It’s the perfect crop to represent the essence of the HOM program and the value and importance of better connecting kids to their locally available produce. I like to consider peas a gateway vegetable. If you can get your kids to take part in the growing process, and feast on peas (especially easy with the sugar snap variety), you can get them hooked on vegetables all together.

I recently attended a grand tasting event (so to speak) at the West Tisbury School. 

Throughout the month IGS hosts several “taste tests” where they serve the Harvest of the Month as an ingredient in the local school cafeterias, to encourage students to taste it in a new or creative way and understand its flavor potential. 

The farm-to-school movement at the West Tisbury School is an especially impressive program, and Jenny DeVivo, West Tisbury School cafeteria director and rockstar head chef (she used to be a traveling recording artist so that title is two-fold) always makes it fun and interactive.

Morning Glory Farm offers another clever way to encourage participation in pea harvesting with their annual pea contest. Each year the Island’s largest operating farm hosts a “First Peas to the Table” contest inspired by Thomas Jefferson. In the 18th century Jefferson led a contest among his neighbors at Monticello garden every spring to see who could be the first to grow a cup of shelling peas, and the tradition continues on Martha’s Vineyard today.

Now in its fifth year at Morning Glory, the first person to bring a measured cup of mature shelled peas receives a Morning Glory Farm gift certificate, a voucher for a free trip to the salad bar and a delicious risotto prepared by chef Meg Athearn from the winning peas, plus bragging rights of course.

The winner is also crowned, sashed and photographed for Morning Glory’s archives–and posterity–and left to bask in the glory of their delicious achievement! This year Katie Ruppel took the prize.

What’s not to love about peas? Peas are my favorite vegetable to grow in my garden, and are one of the first things I plant once the ground thaws. They get me excited for spring, and the potential of the new season, plus they’re delicious and packed with vitamin K, A, C and fiber, folate, thiamine, protein and iron. They’re easy to throw in salad raw, or simply sautéed with garlic, ginger and sesame oil. Sugar snap peas provide a welcome crunch in rice or stir fry, and shelled peas make a good addition to pasta and risotto.

Tis the season for potlucks, BBQs, and beach picnics, so don’t forget about the powerful pea next time you’re preparing your menus. Try this easy Pea Pesto Salad recipe, prepared by Harvest of the Month chef Gabrielle Chronister, for a fresh, savory side to celebrate the season’s palatable peas.

Pea Pesto Potato Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup green peas (fresh and blanched for 1 minute or frozen and thawed)

1 cup fresh basil

2 ½ tbl nutritional yeast

1 tbl fresh lemon juice

1 medium garlic clove, chopped

1 tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tbl extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ lbs baby or new potatoes (quartered or sliced in half if small)

Directions:

Place potatoes and ½ tsp of kosher salt in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer 10-15 minutes until fork tender. Drain potatoes and set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, place remainder of ingredients except olive oil, in a food processor and pulse ingredients until everything is combined and evenly ground. With the machine running, slowly pour olive oil into the mixture and blend until smooth and creamy.

Combine the potatoes with the pesto in a serving dish, making sure all potatoes are coated in pesto. Salt if needed. Top with more nutritional yeast and fresh torn basil. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt. Enjoy!

 

Waste not, want not: Greening your wedding or special event on Martha’s Vineyard

Martha’s Vineyard is a popular destination for some of the most elaborate and intimate of affairs, and we’re lucky to be a part of many of them. On any given weekend there could be dozens of weddings happening on-Island, with vendors buzzing about in preparation, and guests traveling in from afar just for the occasion. All of this activity can make for a lot of extra waste, but if you’re careful in the planning process you can seriously reduce what ends up in the garbage.

Planning a green wedding on Martha’s Vineyard, or anywhere else for that matter, just takes asking around and giving some special consideration to the decisions you make for the event. And green weddings can still be just as elegant and chic! Here’s ten ways you can be sure to pull off a beautiful, fun-filled celebration that reflects more kindly on the environment.

Plan an outdoor event during the day. Martha’s Vineyard is home to beautiful beaches, rolling hills and gorgeous wooded areas that make for the perfect backdrop to any occasion. Allow the sun to provide the lighting and reduce your need for electricity in the process. If you’re planning a wedding think about having the ceremony and location in the same place so you can reduce your carbon footprint without the extra transportation.

Ask your caterer about composting. The amount of food wasted every day is staggering, and much of it is unnecessary. According to Island Grown Initiative (IGI) an estimated 11 million pounds of food waste are generated on Martha’s Vineyard each year. Here we ship our trash off-Island where it travels approximately 40 miles before being landfilled or incinerated, using fossil fuels to power the trip (and the return trip). Be sure to ask your caterer about composting the prep, scraps, and leftovers from your event. Many caterers like Kitchen Porch Catering will do this anyway. You can also hire IGI to do it for you as part of their Food Waste Collection initiative. Contact Aaron Lowe at (508) 687-9062 or at foodrescue@igimv.org more more details.
 

Rent or reuse your plates and glassware. Be sure to avoid disposable items at all cost. Many vendors like Big Sky Tents, offer full linen, china and glassware rentals. If you’re renting ask your vendor about eliminating or reducing the plastic wrap they’re usually packaged in. You can also purchase mason jars to be used as drinking glasses or jamming jars after the fact (they make great containers for canning beach plums). Another option is to sell or donate them to a friend planning an event at a later date. Sites like Wedding Recycle and Bravo Bride make it easy for you to buy and sell wedding decor products online.

When it comes to beverages consider a keg or large jugs of wine to eliminate extra bottles and cans. And if you need to serve straws purchase stainless steel ones that you can use as favors. Reusable water bottles make great gifts too!

Use local vendors. Martha’s Vineyard may be small but there’s vendors here for just about everything you need to pull off the perfect event. Try to reduce the amount of people and automobiles that have to be brought in from off-Island. And if you’re looking for gifts for your guests or bridal party opt for locally made items like Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt and Chilmark Chocolates that are made right here with extra love.

Repurpose your formal wear. There’s a ton of websites where you can shop for used wedding dresses and formal wear like NearlyNewlwed and Tradesy. Ask around in your family to see if there’s a dress you can alter to make yours, and consider allowing your bridesmaids to wear a dress they already own. Shop your closet for things like shoes and accessories, not everything needs to be fresh. If you decide to go new consider re-selling your clothes after the fact so they can be used again.

Ask for organic or locally grown flowers or consider decorating with potted plants. If you’re having fresh cut flowers delivered ask that they be transported in buckets to eliminate plastic waste. Have a friend or family member with a garden on Martha’s Vineyard? Consider asking them to grow them for you as a wedding present. After the event donate your flowers to the hospital or local nursing homes that would especially appreciate the arrangements. You can even ask your caterer about using them for an event the next day.

If you’re using potted plants plan to repurpose them throughout the entire weekend of events, including the rehearsal, wedding, or a Sunday brunch. Then give them away as a favor for repotting (the gift that keeps on giving!), or reuse them at home as a lovely and sentimental addition to your home.


Send e-vites or use recycled paper. It’s still pretty common place to send physical wedding invitations, but you can be mindful of the material they’re printed on. IGI’s Food Equity and Recovery Director Sophie Abrams Mazza recommends plantable wedding invitations that can grow flowers and herbs when you plant them–beautiful, creative and eco-friendly! When it comes to save the dates and RSVPs go digital.

Shop thrift stores and secondhand shops. You can find some really cool and unique pieces second hand. Shop around for previously used items that can be used for your decor and tablescaping, like glasses, jars, vases and baskets. On Martha’s Vineyard be sure to check out Chicken Alley Thrift store and the dozens of estate sales and yard sales happening each weekend. You can mix and match pieces for the perfect rustic chic look!

Express yourself. When talking to all of your vendors simply mention your commitment to going green and ask what they can help you do about it, whether it’s reducing the packaging of their items or repurposing the items they’re assisting you with. Martha’s Vineyard is a very eco-friendly community and vendors here are happy to help you make it happen–not only is it the right thing to do but it can often eliminate extra work in the process too.

For additional assistance with planning a sustainable wedding or special event contact KG Events and Design, a certified  Green Event Company on Martha’s Vineyard. 


Capture the big ask with a surprise wedding proposal photographer

A “surprise proposal” seems a bit redundant, after all most people don’t expect to be proposed to when it happens, and that’s the idea after all. But the kind of surprise proposals I get most excited about are the ones that take it a step further, and hire me as a photographer to stake out the proposal location and secretly capture the big ask.

There’s something covert about the whole operation, it requires some stealth action on my part, and reminds me of my early days as a photojournalist for Greenpeace, working behind the scenes to snap quickly and efficiently without being seen. Life as a proposal photographer on Martha’s Vineyard is a bit more casual of course, and I often find myself crouched down in a patch of beach plums or quietly lying on my stomach in the sand (sometimes with my arch enemy, poison ivy lurking nearby) waiting for the perfect shot.

Recently, I’ve been contacted by more and more couples to photograph secret proposals and I think it’s a brilliant idea. The raw and honest emotion and excitement that follows the big question make for some of the most endearing moments I capture all year! 

For the couples we work with it’s a time they’ll never forget, and a story that will be told again and again. Having stunning proposal photos is the perfect way to relive the special occasion, plus they provide a meaningful memento to mark the very beginning of the couple’s next chapter together.

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of assisting a client with a surprise proposal to his girlfriend on the beach. It was followed by a thoughtfully executed visit by two alpacas–which he had also secretly organized, given her affection for the friendly farm animals. Not only was I able to capture the initial shock and joy of the proposal, but the second surprise made for even more emotional photos–it’s not everyday you see an alpaca on the beach.

I’ve photographed secret proposals at some of my favorite portrait locations, including South Beach in Edgartown and further up-Island at a private beach in Chilmark, and each one has been a truly touching affair. Many have been followed by a second reveal, like an unexpected after party of friends and family to join in the celebration, making it that much more meaningful.

If you’re planning a secret wedding proposal ask yourself what types of environments and landscapes are important to your partner? Is there a place on Martha’s Vineyard that holds a significant meaning? Or maybe there’s a personal spot that’s totally out of the ordinary–we’ve even seen couples get engaged at the famous Jaws bridge! Wherever and however you’re thinking about proposing I can help you pull off a surprise proposal that you and your partner will be talking about for years.

Need some more inspiration? Check out some of the featured proposal stories on howheasked.com by The Knot.

Selling seafood by the seashore on Martha’s Vineyard

Life on Martha’s Vineyard revolves around our relationship with the sea. We worry about making time to get to the beach, making boat reservations to get off-Island, and most importantly, making the most of the resources the ocean provides for us. This month we’re helping Island Grown Schools (IGS) highlight seafood as their Harvest of the Month–a sustainable and viable part of our Island economy and history, and a delicious and nutritious addition to our plates.

Hundreds of Island fishermen work through every season, in often dangerous conditions, to guarantee stocked local fish markets and restaurants. These men and women work to assure the livelihood of commercial fishing, and the future of Island fishing families and the trade.

If you don’t personally fish on Martha’s Vineyard you likely know someone that does. Drive by the Menemsha jetty most days and you’ll find fishing enthusiasts of all ages, ‘dropping lines’ into the water, maybe catching mackerel or fluke that they’ll use for lobster bait or that they’ll bake or bread for an easy fish fry. Drive by Edgartown harbor after sundown and you’ll see another contingent of locals jigging for squid. They’ll take it home, clean it, cut it, sauté it and have it for dinner, or even serve to their guests.


Scup is another commonly found fish, but it hasn’t historically been a popular fish to eat here. I was happy to see it recently featured on the menu at Port Hunter in Edgartown–an indication of the restaurant’s creativity and commitment to offering a local catch.  Conch has the same stigma, but Chef Deon Thomas is working to change that with the launch of his new cookbook, Chef Deon’s Island Conch Cookery, which will explore the range of  possibilities of cooking the affordable, sustainable mollusk.

As a food activist I was especially happy to provide my photography services for the book, part of my ongoing commitment to promoting sustainable food practices on Martha’sVineyard.


You can do your part to support the Island seafood economy by asking for the local catch at Island fish markets and restaurants. Quahogs, oysters, scallops, and mussels are especially important aquaculture and make for a delicious and nutritious dinner. IGS’ featured farm, the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, works to preserve and expand the Island’s traditional shellfisheries by farming shellfish from from seed, and we thank them for it. Not only do we benefit from the food and economic boost, but these useful bivalves help provide us with cleaner seas–they serve as a sort of water filtration system, unintentionally ridding water of any pollutants present like herbicides or harmful bacteria.

 

Recently the group also began experimenting with sugar kelp, or seaweed, in hopes of bringing about a new enterprise on the Vineyard, it’s available in limited quantities on-Island so if you see it available you’re in luck!

Stay tuned for my new cookbook Chef Deon’s Island Conch Cookery by Chef Deon Thomas for more inspiration on enjoying local seafood.

 

Enjoy this Simple Fish Ceviche recipe from IGS

Ingredients:

3 haddock, sea bass or any white flakey fish filets

½ cup sweet onion, finely chopped

¼ cup fresh ripe mango, chopped

¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro

¼ cup lime juice

¼ cup lemon juice

½ tsp sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

If using raw fish: Soak the fish in the lemon juice, lime juice, salt and pepper for 30 minutes – 1 hour. Then cut the fish into small ½ inch bites.

If using cooked fish: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place fish filets in a lightly oiled baking dish. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and bake for 12-15 minutes until fish is flaky and moist. When fish is done let it cool completely and cut into small ½ inch bites.

Place remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and toss together with the fish until well combined. Place in refrigerator to marinate until ready to eat. Serve with tortilla chips and sliced avocado and enjoy!

Family portraits on Martha’s Vineyard: Locations, locations, locations

As a resident of Martha’s Vineyard for over twenty years, I have had the pleasure of exploring this beautiful, diverse island, and I love sharing this place with my clients. I’ve discovered so many picturesque locations for family portraits and am constantly amazed with the variety of unique settings our Island home offers. 

When a family portrait client first reaches out about their session, I do my best to get to know them in order to determine the most appropriate place to capture their family. Depending on the time of year, the age of their family members, and thetype of background that appeals to them, I can help a family determine the ideal location that best fits their needs.

Martha’s Vineyard is only twenty two by nine miles wide, not to mention it’s surrounded by water on all sides, meaning you don’t have to go very far to find the picture-perfect spot. “Down-Island” is what the locals refer to as the towns of Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven, and these are generally the most accessible family portrait locations, depending on where the family is staying. 

“Up-Island” or the west side of the Island, is usually a longer drive, but is home to some of the most scenic locations on-Island. Sometimes no traveling is required and a family determines that their home away from home is the ideal setting for their Martha’s Vineyard family portraits, offering an even more personal and nostalgic setting.

For those looking to get out of the house take a trip to the south-east tip of the island, In Edgartown’s Katama area, to South Beach, a three mile stretch of pristine beach, and one of my favorite family portrait locations. Separated from the parallel road by a vast swath of dunes, this location is convenient, requires minimal walking, and showcases the natural, raw beauty of Martha’s Vineyard–with expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean and Nantucket Sound. I recommend this location for its sunsets and secluded, yet accessible location.




Nearby in historic downtown Edgartown is Lighthouse Beach, an iconic Island location with boats, beaches, docks, dunes and pathways, making it one of my favorite locations for its diversity of portrait backdrops–not to mention its stunning views of the Edgartown lighthouse, Vineyard Sound and Chappaquiddick Island. For those that don’t know, Chappaquiddick Island or “Chappy” as it’s called locally, is a small peninsula and occasional island (depending on breaches due to storms) located on the eastern end of Edgartown. The Chappy Ferry runs across Edgartown harbor, transporting cars and passengers across the short 527 foot stretch to Chappaquiddick, a rural island with only one main road.



Another “down-island” treasure is the town of Oak Bluffs, which offers a vast array of family portrait locations all within easy walking distance. From the East Chop marina to the Oak Bluffs Harbor, the Flying Horses Carousel, expansive State Beach, scenic Ocean Park, the charming gingerbread cottages and the beloved Jaws Bridge, Oak Bluffs offers a little bit of everything. The Steamship Authority operates seasonally out of Oak Bluffs as well as the Island Queen, Hy-line, Seastreek and Rhode Island Fast Ferry, making it an extremely accessible location for day trippers too.

The next town over, due west, is Vineyard Haven or Tisbury. Historically the area was called “Nobnocket” by the Island’s original settlers, the Wampanoags, and was first referred to by the colonial settlers as “Homes Hole,” and eventually Vineyard Haven. The storied town is home to one of my other favorite locations, Owen Park, a little-known spot with a casual intimate beach and boat dock. An ideal family portrait location, as it allows clients to relax in the sand, play on the grassy hill or pose along the harbor, offering a wide range of backdrops in very close proximity.



For those families who prefer to head “up-Island” and are looking for an authentically Vineyard experience, I recommend a family portrait session in Menemsha, the quintessential fishing village within the town of Chilmark. Classic and charming, Menemsha boasts a wide variety of nautical backdrops for photos: stacks of lobster traps, long-line fishing boats, colorful shacks along the docks, and beautiful Menemsha Beach.




Visitors flock to the beach in the summer for their breathtaking sunsets, where they get a front-row seat at these daily phenomenons, while enjoying the freshest seafood from the village’s local fish markets. A portrait session in Menemsha allows families to connect with each other while appreciating the timelessness and beauty of one of the Vineyard’s most historic harbors.





Even further “up-Island,” is the town of Aquinnah which lines the southwest point of Martha’s Vineyard and offers some of the best landscapes on the entire Island. The town was known as Gay Head until 1997 when it was formerly renamed to Aquinnah, which is Wampanoag for “land under the hill.” Aquinnah has become celebrated as a center of Wampanoag culture, and is known as one of the earliest sites of whaling, where the Wampanoag first harvested whales by harpoons, long before the 19th-century whaling boom on Martha’s Vineyard. Today, Aquinnah is most known for its colorful clay cliffs, perhaps the most striking and well-known natural feature of the Vineyard, and stunning views of Vineyard Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. For families that are up for a little hiking during their visit, Moshup Beach is a must-visit and results in a majestic backdrop that really captures the scenic beauty of Martha’s Vineyard.


Sometimes it’s hard to believe that so many unique settings exist on our small Island–it really is a photographer’s dream. I’m so fortunate to have access to such amazing locations, and nothing makes me happier than sharing them with my clients. Over the years I have collected dozens of other secret spots to keep in my arsenal, and along with the more popular locations, those hidden gems really show off the diversity of the Vineyard, while complementing a family’s dynamic.

Visiting the Island this summer? Get in touch and we’ll work together to discover the most picture-perfect spot for your family’s portraits.