I settled in Washington, DC after finishing undergrad for one reason. “It’s the perfect balance of southern open space and northern urban living,” I told all my family and friends back home in Atlanta. But after a few winters in the capital city, even that perfect balance was enough to make me miss my southern homeland.

Every summer in my childhood, I was sent to live in rural Greenville, Alabama with my grandmother. The days were long; the hours moving slower than the molasses on my granny’s homemade biscuits. I passed the time not by watching YouTube or IM’ing friends (mostly because there was no internet access,) but by shelling purple-hull peas, shucking corn, and riding in the back of my uncle’s pickup truck. 

Handy Chef Lex Black People Apple Picking
Handy Chef Lex, and friends, picking apples.

As an adult, summers don’t feel so long anymore. Instead of running through fields of bright collard greens and tomatoes, I spend more time running through metro stations. In childhood I abhorred the sweaty boredom of those slow Alabama summers. But now I purposefully spend my time and money travelling to pick vegetables and play in dirt.

The Farm

The abundance of “Pick-Your-Own” farms in the DC region is like a well-kept secret. With so many options to pick from, I’ve been loyal to one farm for four years; Larriland Farms in Woodbine, MD. Larriland is about an hour outside of DC. But the trek is all a part of the fun. Every year, I round up some friends, rent a car, and drive until I’m surrounded by apple trees.

Larriland Farms is the ultimate autumn escape. Local families fill up the fields and the Red Barn Farm Market. The farm offers hay rides, a straw maze, food trucks, and the friendliest staff around! The first time I visited Larriland Farms, I came only seeking apples but was delighted to find other fruits and vegetables ripe for picking as well. Needless to say, I am a huge fan of the produce and festivities at Larriland Farms.

This Year’s Haul

Larriland Farm Apple Cider
  • 1 bag Spinach
  • 1 bag Kale
  • 7 lbs Apples (Stayman and Braeburn mix)
  • 1 bag Fresh Kettle Corn
  • 1/2 gallon Apple Cider

Be on the lookout for new apple recipes from The Handy Chef, as I figure out what to do with seven pounds of apples.

Alexis Henry Handy chef Lex Apple Picking
Handy Chef Lex picking kale.

Will you go apple picking this autumn?

What do you do with a weekend and an urge to get out of the city? Easy, you take a day-trip! August was full of projects and work days that went well past 5 pm. So I was due for a getaway this September.

Handy Chef Lex (left) and partner Kaia (right). Pictured in “Guesthouse in Easton”

The weather isn’t quite beach-friendly, as autumn approaches. But the leaves aren’t quite crisp enough for apple picking yet. So, my getaway destination needed to be fit for this early September dilemma. After some research, Eastern Shore rose as the perfect destination. And it’s only an hour and a half away from DC!

Easton

My partner, Kaia, and I found a chic Airbnb guesthouse in Easton, Maryland. And we were pleased to find such a wide selection of dining options. Our Airbnb hosts were expert locals who confirmed all the worthily hyped restaurants and warned us against the over-hyped tourist traps (shoutout to Kevan & Chris.)

Breakfast

Rise Up Coffee is a regional chain of coffee shops that we initially didn’t consider for breakfast. But after hearing rave reviews about Rise Up’s breakfast burrito, we decided to give it a try.

When we arrived the shop was packed with local folk. The vibe was communal and home-y. As we were standing in line, the waitress from a restaurant we visited the day before spotted us. She came over, coffee in hand, and joked, “You guys still enjoying the town, yeah?” Clearly, we were right at home in Easton.

Not only was the environment friendly and pleasant, the food was well worth the wait! I ordered the Banana Splat bowl, which was a banana parfait. My partner, always opting for a more savory item than me, ordered Rise Up burrito with cheesy potatoes. Either the burrito was just really really tasty, or I enjoyed it more because I had to sneak bites from Kaia’s plate when they weren’t looking. Probably both.

And of course, the coffee was great too. I drank a hazelnut iced latte with Oat milk. Rise Up met all my breakfast needs: good coffee, good folks, and good food.

Wine & Beer

No matter where we go, we’re determined to find where the locals keep their good wine. Because whether it’s hidden away or in plain sight, there is always good wine. We had a disappointing glass of overly-sweet red wine at one winery. But a local Marylander pointed us to a wine bar we were guaranteed to love.

Snifter's Beer and Wine Bistro. Black craft beer
Handy Chef Lex (right) holding craft beer, with partner Kaia (left) holding sparkling wine.

We pulled up to Snifter’s Craft Beer and Wine Bistro right after lunch time. We entered and met a man named Joe who poured us some delicious flights of wine and beer. My flight of beers included one of the most creative and satisfying beers I’ve ever tasted, the Coffee N’ Cream ale from Burley Oak Brewing Company. Burley Oak is a local brewer which I had never tried before. But I was blown away by this ale. I will be back to Snifter’s, if not only for that Coffee N’ Cream beer aand Joe’s friendly handshake.

St Michaels

This small, bayside seemed to be the “hip” town on the Eastern Shore. Boasting a main street full of boutiques that sell everything from fine cigars to cheesy tourist trinkets, this was a town we could not skip over. We sat in rocking chairs and puffed cigars, waving a folks as they strolled past the cigar shop’s front porch. Kaia and I both have roots in small, southern towns so we relished in that small town feeling.

Lunch

At the recommendation of friendly locals, we stopped by Awful Arthur’s for a quick lunch. The atmosphere had the same seaside charm I loved about St Michaels. My fish and chips was pleasant, but had a bit more breading than I prefer. The best part about this lunch date was sitting on the front porch of the restaurant and watching the passers-by as Kaia and I slurped down our mussels.

Dinner

In each shop we entered, leading up to our 8 pm reservation, locals affirmed our dinner selection. Whenever we mentioned the name of the restaurant, we got responses like:

“Gosh I love that place. You’re gonna have a great meal!”

“Nice, that’s my special occasion restaurant. You know: anniversaries, birthdays, etc.”

Needless to say, Limoncello is a restaurant loved by many in St Michaels. After our lovely meal in the Italian restaurant, I can now be counted in the number of Limoncello lovers.

Kaia and I split a big bowl of mussels as an appetizer. The mussels (not pictured) came atop an incredible red sauce. After devouring the mussels, we ordered the salmon and Branzino. Our fish entrees were expertly prepared, with the perfect flaky texture I always attempt at home but can never quite replicate.

My dimly lit photos do Limoncello no justice; the meal was truly delicious. On my next trip to Eastern Shore, Limoncello will certainly be on my itinerary.

Have you ever vacationed in a small town? What did you discover?

In classic millennial fashion, I proudly call myself a Plant Mom. While I don’t have any roommates, I am accompanied by my many indoor plants. I’ve had most of my plants for over a year. Needless to say, they were all long overdue for some TLC.

Lex The Handy Chef. Black lifestyle blog
Me, holding my Snake Plant

For the past few weeks, many of my indoor plants started drooping and browning. My largest plant is a **corn plant that sits on my living room floor. It was losing life with each passing day. I was confounded by what could be killing my plants. I hadn’t changed my watering schedule or light levels. Then it dawned on me, it’d been a full year and I had not fertilized or re-potted my plants!

So I took a trip to Home Depot to buy a few new pots, potting soil, and all-purpose plant fertilizer. Then I spent the afternoon carefully re-potting my plants.

**Okay, the corn plant died. But I stealthily replaced it with another from Home Depot.

Why I Keep Indoor Plants

Lex the Handy Chef. Indoor plants

For me, and droves of other millennials, caring for plants is a way of grounding my life. I work in a field where everything I create is digital. After working all day, I have no finished product that I can physically touch. With most of my day happening behind a screen, plants provide a tangible outlet.

When properly watered and cared for, they liven up my space, freshen my air, and bring me joy. When neglected, they droop as if literally disappointed. This is real; it’s concrete. And having these plants’ lives depend on me is an anchor to a reality that doesn’t require software updates, but may require some debugging.

I grew up surrounded by lush greenery, often eating things directly from the soil instead of the grocery store. Moving to an urban landscape has been rewarding in every possible way. But I miss that connection to the Earth. So I keep my living room full of as many plants as I can keep alive. While I haven’t started growing my own vegetables yet, I’m excited for the small amount of dirt that I do get to play in.

How many house plants do you have?