‘Tis been a season of West Coast adventuring. Not a singular season as much as a series of seasons. From the flower blooms of April to the rain-belt of mid-September, I’ve ventured high and low this year, with Portland at its epicenter.

What started as a realistic attempt to see if west coast living is really my jam (and hence my family’s jam), developed into a multi-pronged effort to visit Portland as much as humanly possible within a 6-month period.

After forfeiting my family’s usual spring break vacation this year – they headed west to Los Angeles – I decided to spend the week in Oregon, my casita away from home.

I’ve written about Oregon in the past, but something has always drawn me to this place. There’s a sense of spirituality in the shifting mountain mists, the coastal waves, the smell of white pine and Douglas fir. Oregon makes me want to shed my New York mask, pull on checkered flannel, and just be. And smell. And do. Hike, watch, drink, and eat. All of the local tidbits and doodads, the hearth-baked artisan breads, the grass-fed meats, the stinky cheeses, and the only-to-be-found in the Pacific Northwest edibles – marionberries, cloudberries, Rainier cherries, Walla Walla onions… I have yet to eat geoduck (pronounced “gooey-duck”), but someday. At the very least, it’s on the list.

I did barehand my first full Dungeness crab, nose to tail, while watching those humbling coastal waves roll in; dunking sweet day-caught meat into browned butter prepared by the most utterly talented Portland-area chef, Althea Potter of The Southeast Wine Collective. So there’s that.

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Hey, are you guys still there? Fantastic. Because it’s time to dish up part two on Antigua’s Jumby Bay Island, and it’s all about the food.

As in fresh-from-the-farm organic food. Plucked from the lady hen herself. Did I tell you that I’m now a chicken farmer? It’s all true. I learned how to enter a chicken coop without any of the residents escaping (harder than it seems) and cautiously step over forty or so chickens who like to greet their visitors like some kind of frenzied poultry paparazzi. It was all very zen, believe me. There was no screaming, no panicking, no running, no clinging to a ledge for dear life, no Hail Marys before plunging my bare arm beneath the feathered breast of a she-hen guarding her egg with a fierce case of stink eye. I may pick up the hobby this summer. Nothing beats fresh, still-warm chicken eggs. Nothing. And I’ll sacrifice life and limb to do it.

Fortunately Jumby Bay’s supremely talented kitchen and farming staff were there to help out with the remainder of our meals. Leaving that one joyous experiencing of plucking my own tomatoes, snipping some kale leaves, trimming herb flowers from the organic garden, and yes, even harvesting my own eggs…to an isolated incident of tomato salad-making for two. Forever encased in that memory box in my brain with the boldface letters A-N-T-I-G-U-A printed on the front. It’s a good set of memories.

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It’s the year of travel, or so I hope! 2018 is off to a good start with a January long weekend in Antigua.

The Caribbean ranks high on my list of must-visit destinations, particularly during the dead of winter when below zero wind chill temps make the simple act of walking the dog around the block a daunting task.

For the past few years, we’ve opted to fly south during the winter months, spending our time in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica (again), the Dominican (again), Barbados, St. Barths, and the Cayman Islands. We’re lucky that we’ve had the chance to travel so much and build up some serious Caribbean island chops, believe me, I don’t take this for granted. Plus, it puts us in a good position to share our experience at an island previously unexplored: Antigua.

I confess that prior to our trip, I wasn’t well-versed in all things Antiguan (and will even admit to having hopped on Jet Blue flight 743, due south, without having checked to find out exactly where in the emerald green Caribbean archipelago we’d be landing).

For the geography buffs out there, Antigua lies just east of St. Kitts, south of the US Virgin Islands, and north of Guadaloupe and St. Lucia. It’s one of the top islands in a chain that looks like an elongated spine that meanders from Puerto Rico in the north to Venezuela in the south.

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