Monday, July 28, 2008

Garden Pals

Summer in Maine is such a quick burst-if you blink, it passes you by. This year I have really tried to notice all of summer's little happenings. This morning my husband called Ava and I out to our re-vamped "south side" garden to meet a few new pals who had stopped by for a drink.

What a treat to see these little creatures. They have the best outfits, with the perfect accessories, little furry balls on the tops of their antennae, and silky black stockings on their legs and the most sumptuous fur coats on their tiny bodies. They fluttered all around our heads on their way to each flower. Ava was enchanted.
And I was too.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Breakfast For Dinner.

My favorite dinner menu growing up was the menu featuring breakfast items. The nights when parents just can't bring themselves to actually cook, so a breakfast is served to the children, much to everyone's satisfaction. Eaten at dinner time, breakfast foods take on an even sweeter place in my heart. Perhaps this is because I am a very finicky eater, or perhaps I just like to do things a little differently-you know, really throw caution to the wind, be adventurous. And for me, just about nothing beats pancakes-at any time of the day.

Real pancakes are, real good.

My kind neighbor picked some wild Maine blueberries (not to be confused with the large, tasteless variety often found in stores) for me- he owns his own stone work company, Green Island Stonework and makes the most beautiful stone walls, benches and patios. More on the stonework later...

What a treat, to have these little babies all picked and washed for you! The color of Maine blueberries is such a succulent blue, and I love that the juice stains your hands purple, not blue, when you are cooking with them. Ahh, Mother Nature, tricky, tricky!

I was having one of those days where I didn't know how I would survive until the baby's bedtime, much less through cooking dinner and cleaning up. The blueberries arrived just in time. My husband and our kind neighbor worked on a project while I dreamed about the perfect recipe for this precious gift. Blueberry cake? No, too much baking, it was too hot for that. Blueberry scones? No, too wintery. Blueberry muffins? Please, too everyday. Then it hit me. I wanted pancakes. For dinner. With blueberries. I jubilantly told my husband that we were having breakfast. For dinner. He was less than delighted.

Fine with me, I decided to go stag to dinner, make my own meal and he could make whatever his little heart desired for himself. In under 10 minutes I was at the table, gorging on some of the best blueberry pancakes I have ever had the pleasure of eating. If I do say so myself. I always add a bit of baking powder, sugar and vanilla to the batter, so they really are like cake.

Pancakes for dinner-how divine!

Surprisingly, my husband proved that he indeed can survive on his own, and doesn't actually require my cooking services. He whipped up a grilled salmon, spinach and tomato entree, all gussied up with great care taken to ensure the visual presentation. After 12 years of pretending he "doesn't know how" to cook, even after I have given him countless lessons, I now see the higher truth: It isn't that he doesn't know HOW, he just doesn't WANT to. There is a subtle difference I remind him. Though I truly believe he sprinkled the sunflower seeds on at the last minute, to really up the ante, I was quite impressed with his creation. And I didn't have to cook it-everyone was satisfied.

Pancakes or salmon for dinner? I'll take breakfast.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Something Old, Something New

This dresser has been around. It has been through many phases of my family's life, though I am not certain of it's origins. The best dates I have on it would make it a part of our family for about 37 years. I found a picture of my mom with the dresser when my parents were newly married. Ironically it was in their dining room in one of their first houses. It then did a stint in my childhood home, I even have a picture of my little sister at age 4 sitting in front of it. Then it was off to moonlight in my mother's new home, after my parents divorced. After 9 more years with my mother, she moved to Illinois, and the dresser somehow ended up in my house, as rustic accomodations for my husband's clothes. Obviously, so I could have THE (only) closet for all of my best pals to live. You know, the shoes, clothes, more clothes, shoes and bags.

It never really occurred to me that the dresser needed a face lift-desperately. Until yesterday. The dresser, which I feel I just can't part with, as we have shared so much history together, had been displaced with the recent updates in our bedroom. It needed a new life, a new look, a new attitude. I could relate- I've been there before.

It has good features, it just needed a wardrobe update. Again, I could relate. I did a walking tour of the house to find a new place, a new space, a new purpose for the dresser. I often invite my husband along on these walking tours, to give him the illusion that I need his input on a decorating/repurposing/spacing conundrum. I usually ask him for his help, "just for 6 minutes", I assure him. Typically I just want to unearth him from a welding project and have his participation as my decorating buddy. Though he would probably prefer to decline my walking tour invites, he usually puts down what he is working on and joins me.
Once we had walked through the house-which takes all of 5 minutes-I decided that the dresser should move into the kitchen as a place to store baking gear and pots and pans. "Look!" I exclaimed, "It will just fit by the stove and the knives can go in the top drawer with my measuring cups, the pots and pans in the second drawer and in the third-Eureka! The food processor and cake pans!"

"Great." my husband replied. "Do you need me for anything else, or can I go back to work on my project?" See why I needed his input?!? I just need a buddy sometimes, you know, a cheerleader. I guess I shouldn't have invited him on that walking tour. What a patient man.

I don't typically measure things, I just need to SEE things, as in physically move the furniture into position and then, you know, SEE if it will work. Anyone who has worked with me doing visual displays in my past life can surely relate to this annoying habit.

It was going to work, and wouldn't it be fun, to have a dresser in the kitchen?!? Scandinavian, European, Old World like. Now I was excited. I rummaged in the basement to find my old and dear friend, the white paint. A bit of sandpaper, some rubber gloves (donned, as usual, too late in the project to do much good) and a wet washcloth and the 'ole gal was looking real pretty.

I scavenged some knobs I have been carting around (from a haul on an old retail fixture) for 10 years, and the dresser felt young again.

Fresh and useful even. It told me so this morning.

Monday, July 21, 2008

In love with Motherhood

If you knew me before my daughter was born, you might have worried about how I would adapt to motherhood. I was independent, sassy, opinionated, worked ALL the time, enjoyed my life, traveled, dined out way too much, and my husband and I did whatever we wanted to do, whenever we wanted to do it. We thought nothing of taking a 4 day trip to a new place, with one day notice-we lived for us. For 12 years.

Then I began to feel as though I was missing something, as if all of my frantic, obsessed, passionate living was endless, boring and without purpose. Looking back, I think that must have been what people call "your clock ticking"...but I was never one of those women who just know they have to have a baby. That day never fully came for me. I just felt like there must be something MORE.

I remember how scared I was when I found out I was pregnant. Scared. After thinking it was time to do what was "next" for 4 and half years, ultimately having surgery, and the waiting... How could I have been scared? But I was, and my husband was too. Now I feel sad that I wasted any time feeling scared or unsure of how we would do it-how would WE adapt? Could it even be physically possible for us, two very self focused people, to let go of our lifestyle and welcome this little human, who we didn't even know- that was about to move in with us?

My husband woke me up one night, in the wee hours and said, "Umm, I don't know if you realize this, but in a few months, a stranger is going to come live with us. In our HOUSE!" As though we might have kept her in a pen in the garage.

We even referred to the baby as "the Stranger" for a while, until we saw that first ultrasound picture.

She really never felt like a stranger to me after that. We started calling her "the Baby"-we just thought it was a bit more-polite.

The whole process of being pregnant, being in labor (for 37 hours with no meds-yeah, good times were had by all) and having a human pass from within you, really has been the most epic, fantastic and precious adventure we have ever undertaken. And it has only been 8 months with her "on the outside".

I have adapted, gracefully, willingly, joyfully. I don't even miss eating at restaurants- I sincerely (I mean it, I know, hard to believe) would rather be at home so our little stranger can be snug in her crib and cooking a home made meal for my husband and I, than out having a margarita and whooping it up, like the old days. That ship has sailed.

I am so in love with Motherhood.
And margaritas taste so much better at home.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Maine Harvest Seasons

We set out this morning to go berry picking, as one simply should enjoy during a Maine summer. Much to our chagrin, the raspberry patches were closed due to the rain...I don't think I know a Maine native who wouldn't pick raspberries because it was raining, perhaps the owners of the berry patch needed a day off!?! We will have to reschedule for later in the week-stay tuned...

Maine is steeped in seasonal harvest: potatoes, lobster, fish, blueberries, wood for paper, toothpicks and firewood, Christmas trees, clams, berries, apples, wildflowers, pumpkins...(and I count antiques and other "pre-owned" items as one of Maine's bountiful harvests too!)
These harvests are one of my favorite things about living in Maine and one of the things I am very excited to share with my daughter, now that she is growing up here as well. I have had the pleasure, opportunity and misfortune all at the same time, to have participated in many of the harvests from a working perspective, tending a lobster boat one summer, raking blueberries on my Grandfather's blueberry land, tuna fishing 20 miles off shore in a boat much too small for such purposes, tipping Fir Balsam trees to make and sell Christmas wreaths in the winter, along with tending a sea urchin diving boat in the frigid January waters-yes people do eat these things, but they are mostly from away, as we say.

My family has an historical and almost famous obsession with firewood and potatoes, these harvests are so commonplace, I almost failed to mention them. My Grandfather always attempts to get to the mashed potatoes first at Thanksgiving and he strategically notes where my sister will be sitting so he won't have to compete with her for the potatoes. After my sister has served herself and passed along the potatoes, my Grandfather calls out in his dear and true Maine accent, " Is there anything left?!?"

My father's idea of a family gathering is everyone he has ever known, in full safety regalia "down" at the wood lot, an assembly line of free laborers, furiously splitting, stacking and loading the wood splitter, a frenzied, wordless, choreography, of which we all know the moves, a little too well.

That is my Dad, the foreman, in the orange helmet-his brother is a professional logger-really. Do we still use the word lumberjack?!? M'Uncle (pronounced MUNCLE, conjunction of my and uncle in these parts) is the one without the helmet- but my dad, donning kevlar leg chaps and hearing protection and all-clearly has a thing about safety.
And yes, my then 85 year old Grandfather still managed to make the 4 hour drive for some turkey and the elder's honorable seat on the kitchen stool, operating the wood splitter. He could do it with his eyes closed. He hates to take a break.
There is too much good wood to be split.

My sister and I used to feign serious and contagious illness on Saturday mornings growing up, to avoid my father's exuberant call to duty for wood stacking. I can hear his voice now, prefaced by a whippoorwill whistle: "ALL WOOD STACKERS REPORT FOR DUTY", as he came up the stairs to drag us from our beds and clock us in at the wood pile. We always did heat our home predominantly with a wood stove-those who are familiar with the perfect radiant heat will think fondly of how it feels to be near a wood stove on a sub zero temperature night.

When my sister was in college, she would visit home and announce upon arrival, "I'm home, will split wood for food!"

Maine people have a long tradition of working hard, working the land and maximizing the natural abundance of this magical place, in order to survive-even in the varied seasons and wildly ranging temperatures. (It is not uncommon for there to be a 30-40 degree temperature swing from morning to night in a given day, and it is true, it has snowed in May here...)
It makes me feel happy that I somehow manage to maintain a reasonable body weight for a woman around here, considering my sister and I were lovingly told by our Grandfather at each meal he shared with us, "If you keep eating like that, you'll hit 200 by fall!"
One fall I did hit 200-the fall I had my daughter-we had a great chuckle that Thanksgiving, when I announced to my Grandpa that I really had hit 200 by fall. He was so proud: "You're a good Maine woman" he whispered to me.
The bounty, the beauty, the way life should be.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Twenty years ago...

In 1988 I attended my first semi-formal dance of my junior high "career". It was the Spring Fling, if memory serves, and I was so in love with my date, the boy up the street who rode his skateboard by my house and whom I wanted to marry.

Yes, marry, at the tender age of 13.

I think I should add here that I still do not consider myself old enough to be able to say I have done anything, or known anyone for a duration of 20 years, I mean is that even possible? How have I gotten old enough to say that?!?

That spring night with my lacy collar over my floral monstrosity of a dress and after a terrible mishap with a French braid that had to be torn out and replaced with oh so fashionable baby's breath (SHUDDER!), corsages were pinned on in the living room, parents took pictures and we were dropped off at the school. A blissful (for me) evening of dancing ensued and ended with the last dance, to- of course, Stairway to Heaven, which all girls patiently wait all night for and most of the boys dread.

Well, feast your eyes, here we were. Yes, he did have skater hair, much to my father's chagrin. Mm-hmm, my hair was colored a lovely Sun-In orange and oh, yes, the curling iron was deployed that evening... Oh yeah, and those are braces on my teeth-anyone want to go back and re-live your adolescence?!?

Fast forward 12 years:
He cut his hair, I learned some hard lessons about hair coloring, my braces came off, and I did marry that boy from up the street.

2008 brings us to our 20th year of adventure together. How did I get so lucky?

And yes, I am still so in love.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The local dump-the best store around

As we prepare for a daughter to soon mobilize, we have had to re-think how our entire house is laid out and scrutinize the placement and function of each piece of furniture. Let me also mention that our house is- well, small. Petite, compact so to speak.

When assessing our bedroom, I accepted the fact that we were long overdue for more storage and with our only closet (yes, only household closet-what can I expect from a 98 year old house?!?) totally filled with my best pals- my clothes, shoes, bags and more shoes, something had to be done.

Out to the garage I went to peruse my stash of cast off items that I haven't been able to resist loading into (or onto) the car from the side of the road, or dragging home when no one else wanted them. There it was- the perfect hutch top, salvaged from the trash from my past life in retail. There was a slight problem though, the door openings were, um, good for hiding clothes, sheets and socks.

I scanned the perimeter of my husbands' scavengings, convinced HE must have the perfect fix. Alas, he is a scavenger as well, both of us competing for the precious commodity of storage space for our treasures. We have an understanding regarding our respective treasure hoardes- that while the other's scavengings may be up for use by the other, to complete, or otherwise enhance a project, it is strictly understood that permission must be granted and a complete design proposal must be submitted prior to simply taking the other's treasures for one's own use.

My husband's favorite "shopping" mall is our local dump-he often "stops by" on the way home from work. Okay-about 4 times a week. Afraid he might miss the golden treasure. People do discard the greatest things-he is right about that, and yes, if you don't go almost everyday, you can't possibly keep up with the metal bin inventory. He has taught himself to weld, and what at first annoyed me with the sound and the smell and the ghastly blue glow, has turned out to be a great skill to suit my repurposing needs as well. "Honey, can you make me a..." "Sure!" We have an understanding you see.

He had brought home a large assortment of gorgeous tin ceiling from his dear friend, the dump metal bin, and while I recognized the value and possibilities of this material at the time it came home, I admit I was scorned about the space- my space, that it took up in the garage. But now, it has made me so happy, as my husband snipped and attached perfect squares of tin ceiling to fill the once empty door openings, and voila! My husband's apparel is no longer welcome in THE closet, for it now has it's own sassy accomodations in the new cupboard. Topped with my antique childhood mirror and it gets along well with the other cast off and homemade furnishings in our room.

This repurposing and a much overdue bed position change has allowed room for one more scavenged cupboard for sheets, blankets and yes, can you believe it-even my beloved down comforter. (We do live in Maine, and the winters are so long and cold-diamonds are not a girls' best friend at this latitude-good 'ole goose down is what keeps a gal warm at night!)

The "It" store for the season: your local dump.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Summertime Rolls

One of our favorite places is Bar Harbor, Maine...Mmm-the smell of the ocean, the miles of carriage trails for biking and lakes for swimming, the mountains for hiking and small harbors and coves for exploring. We just returned from our "sort-of " annual Fourth of July trip, 5 days of adventure.

Little Ava swam for the first time in Echo lake and valiantly rode in the bike trailer for 14 total miles, all the while squealing and shaking a rattle in tune to the bell on my bike.

Okay most of the time she was that excited. We also enjoyed some family cookouts at the cottage and Ava logged some serious finger sucking time-we returned home a little tanned, tired and feeling so fortunate that we live near such a magical place.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ahh, My Darling Husband

The love of my life, my first love, the only man who can tolerate me for who and how I am...the bane of my existance...his new obsession is building bicycles-Raven Bicycles- and while our garage and yard are becoming the islands of misfit bike parts awaiting a new life, repurposed-our house has now become a gallery of sorts as well. Alas, I do love the blue Rollfast in the yellow room-but how to keep it with a baby about to crawl?!?

Birthday Apron for a Great Cook

The custom apron for a food and equine lover's birthday is almost complete-just needs the apron strings attached and then it will be wrapped up as an addition to a dinner basket to be assembled just before delivery. How could I resist this Heather Ross fabric of the equestrian accoutrements-for a gal who loves horses? I think this little number will be worn to create many a fine meal...

A new baby on the scene

I have finished a baby gift for a friend's soon to arrive daughter, I whipped up a crazy little crib quilt and a long pillow for nursing back support-oh how you appreciate a little comfort in those wild and harried first weeks! The polka dot appliques are a signature of my polka dot affliction -how delicious! I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of this little creature...

Grand Entrance

Today I make my grand entrance into the blog scape for the first time...Some other great grand entrances have occurred in my life lately, my new daughter, some perfect new neighbors we recently met and the hydrangeas, sweet peas and cone flowers in my garden. Life is in full bloom, I am grateful for certain.