Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Postcards from Maine: By the Water

I don't have any sunset photos from this trip, but we did spend a little time on the dock, where the dinghies are just beginning to accumulate. When we go back in August, there will be many more:

We walked to the Causeway, for only about the second or third time in all of our visits. We will start going there more often, since it's a quick walk to the rocky path and some nice water views:

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Random Postcards from Maine

Random things I liked and wanted to share:

An arrangement of weathered lobster buoys and nets on the back of a lobster shack.

I think it's a great idea to match your rhododendron to your front door. Or vice versa.

A church in Southwest Harbor at twilight.

Mushrooms and pinecones — together at last! Two of my favorite things.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

All Right Already

A photo of Harris will accompany a story about pets in the neighborhood paper next month and he can't stop talking about it. Some of us are ready to move on. 

Possum told me privately that he doesn't see the point of featuring such a small cat when one could have gotten a much bigger, flashier one for the same fee. (Harris's agent negotiated for a tin of sardines.)

Postcards from Maine: Local Car Candy

A sports car collector lives down the road from our inn. He stores his substantial collection elsewhere on the island, but he drives at least some of them, so there is often something exciting parked in front of his house. When we were there earlier in the month, he was using an elegant dark blue vintage Porsche for a few days, and then he brought out this:

According to my limited car research skills, this is a Porsche 1600 Super from 1956–1958. I have to ask you: Can a car be any more red and shiny? Can you think of a more perfect summer sports car? 

This fellow's cars are always in mint condition, by the way. His house has no garage, so he uses canvas covers at night and for rain.

No one ever bothers these cars. We gawk and admire the showpiece of the day, and keep going.

To me, the saddle leather interior is the ideal complement, just as caramel belongs on a red apple. 

Postcards from Maine: Asticou Azalea Garden

We alway arrive too late in June to see the Asticou Azalea Garden (in the town of Northeast Harbor) at its peak. But there are usually enough hints of color remaining to suggest what we've missed. While the azaleas were mostly finished, some rhododendrons and other shrubs were in bloom this year. It was a gloomy day but we found plenty to admire and enjoy in this carefully tended Japanese-style garden. (Someday I would like to come across a cat in it, but so far we've only seen birds and the very occasional frog.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Recent Adorableness

It was time for a Lion photo that didn't feature the velvet armchair, so Possum helped me create some portraits. He says these are inspired by the watercolors of John Singer Sargent, his favorite painter and mine:

We both thought the background for these could use some work, but Lion and Toffee's poses and expressions were right — reminiscent of Sargent's "casual" (oh-so carefully posed) scenes of his sister's family relaxing in rustic European landscapes and hotel rooms. 

In this photo, taken after our formal session, our models are listening attentively to one of Possum's stories about Mr. Sargent in Venice. Everyone wants to go there and spend hours floating around in a gondola (and then eating all kinds of fish, no doubt, says Possum) like Sargent did. Including me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Postcards from the Esplanade

The forecast called for thunderstorms with possible hail and tornadoes. All we had was a little rain and some wind. And this:

Postcards from Maine: Local Cats

We miss our cats when we travel and are always craving contact with purring fur. We were surprised to meet five cats along the Clark Point Road this year, most of whom we'd never seen before. We befriended them with caution, but not because they were hostile— three were a million times more polite, trusting, and affectionate than Wendy ever has been, and this after a mere 15 seconds' acquaintance. A couple trotted over, greeted us with meows, rolled at our feet, and butted our hands for more stroking.

We're cautious because it's risky to lend your heart to a cat on the Clark Point Road because they tend to disappear long before their time, victims of passing trucks and cars, and sometimes coyotes. We are still recovering from the loss of Ruby, a regal brown and russet Maine Coon, who lived across the street from the inn. She would jump in our laps as we ate breakfast on the porch, and join us poolside in the afternoon for a drink. Then she misjudged the speed of a truck, which never stopped. We weren't there, but we heard.

So we meet outdoor cats with enthusiasm but also admonitions to stop hanging around in the street and to be careful crossing it. We try not to get attached, as we did with Ruby. I assume they won't be around for long. It's too bad, because cats really do belong outside. The ones we meet clearly relish their freedom to roam, hunt, and carouse with total strangers. When they aren't demanding affection, they tend to be rather cool and arrogant, with the confidence that comes from catching many birds, bugs, and rodents.

But it's no longer a safe world for them, and that's that. My cats will never roam outside, although I like to fantasize about a high, brick-walled garden where they can pursue bugs and nap in the shade.

This fluffy silver tabby was the only cat who refused to come near us.

She stayed under the car while her friend was much more sociable.

 He looked like a tough guy, but wasn't.

This big Maine Coon type was another marshmallow.

As you can see, outdoor cats are tricky to photograph — one can't get any distance from them. 

 This is Ginger. She belongs to Ruby's family. 

She likes to roll around on the Clark Point Road. Sigh.

We'll enjoy her company for as long as we can.

Postcards from Maine: Lupinosity

I spent more than an hour on the phone yesterday with a very helpful iPhoto Expert from Apple and managed to restore my 27,000+  photos. 

I promise not to show that many here. But I can't resist showing you a lot of lupines. 

We can't get enough of them. They are tall, wild, spiky, colorful, and scented — what's not to love?  

They were at their peak while we were on Mount Desert Island. We figured out this year that some are more blue while others are more purple. Then there was this blue-and-white variation, below:

After a seaside dinner in Bass Harbor, our innkeepers drove us to the town dump, claiming that he had seen orange lupines in someone's garden. But they were gone and we were all disappointed.

We had to be content with purple, blue, pink, and white. So we were.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Garnet Hill Swim Sale: Ruching and Musing

Garnet Hill is having a swimwear sale: a suit that would have cost you $88 last week costs you $48 now. I consider that a reasonable price, since many brand-name suits sell for more than $100 these days. But a well-made suit looks better, feels better, and lasts longer, even if you were robbed at the register. And since I hate swimsuit shopping like all sensible women, knowing what works for me and then shopping on websites with customer reviews makes all the difference — as does trying on the suits at home.

I got this one in these stripes, and I like it a lot:

It also comes in solid black and a few other prints. I look best in a distracting print rather than a solid color. For some reason, these stripes are flattering even though they are horizontal, which should give the illusion of wideness, not thinness. I wear striped tees all summer so I may just be used to the look.

There is nothing all that spectacular about this suit except that it looks good on many body types, is comfortable, and isn't all that revealing. I like a suit I can wear for most of the day with ease. For Maine, I also like a suit that can appear in public — we occasionally get dragged from the pool to do something with the innkeepers with no time to change. Last year it was an impromptu outdoor dinner party for eight (they finally let us put on bathrobes). Once, back in my bikini days, they marched us off to see a parcel of land for sale that simply couldn't wait five minutes. I had to improvise mightily with a bath towel. A suit like this is far more respectable, even with a bath towel for a skirt.

This one has a high, straight back and some ruching across the front, but not too much:

Ruching on a swimsuit has always confused me: Why add extra ripples and wrinkles of fabric in a location you hope to draw attention from? Ruching on stretchy fabric never lays just right unless you fuss and fuss and then try not to move. So most of the time it just looks sloppy while telling the world: "I'm trying to camouflage this problem spot — see?"

I recently tossed a J. Crew suit with so much ruching that I could create a kangaroo pouch to hold my phone and sunglasses, not that I ever did. For some reason, suits that have conservative cuts often feature ruching, so I'm stuck.

Garnet Hill also makes a "retro" suit with folded pleats (which they call "ruching") on the front and back. If you include the lining, you can have as many of eight layers of fabric bulking up the very torso you hoped to minimize. And it probably takes about a week to dry.

I worry about sunburn, so I like coverage, especially on top since I spent many hours reading old New Yorker magazines while simmering in the hot tub (I am only caught up as far as February in spite of all my hard work in there). Skinny straps and plunging necklines and backs aren't for me. I think skimpy suits look more at home on a New Jersey beach or a cruise ship than up in Maine. The same goes for metallic fabrics, sexy lacing and cut-outs, and excessive hardware. Along the New England coast, the prevailing theme is simplicity, and all that fancy stuff is trying too hard. Save it for the hotel pool in LA.

Speaking of coverage, I ordered this rash guard to match my suit:

As you can see, it may be called a "rash guard" (to protect all of us imaginary surfer dudettes from heavy sand exposure) but it is actually the wonder of all wonders: the Swim Turtleneck.

Since the pool and hot tub where we spend most of our vacations (read in hot tub, cool off in pool, warm up in hot tub...) is in direct sun for most of the day, I'd been wearing old, long-sleeved tees plus my floppy hat. The Swim Turtleneck will be a big upgrade in style and practically, since it matches my suit and won't drip buckets when I'm not in the water. It will also provide protection against the cool Maine breeze off the harbor before we hit the water.

I'm waiting for them to come out with Swim Leggings next.

Still No Postcards from Anywhere

The worst has happened. When I open iPhoto, which formerly had more than 27,000 of my photos, I get a "Welcome to iPhoto" page indicating that I have zero photos in my library. I know the photos haven't disappeared completely... at least as long as my Time Machine back-ups are really backing everything up. But all of my numerous attempts to repair the situation yesterday failed.

The next step is calling Apple for customer support. But I know they will want me to switch from iPhoto to the new Photos application, which I'll gather won't suit me as well as iPhoto. I expect it will be dumber, providing less control over how I edit my photos. It will probably also be more complicated.

It's interesting how applications so often manage to give you fewer options while making you work harder to get them. This is because software engineers need to keep their jobs. So they toy and tinker with good products until they realize they've become bad, fussy complicated products. Then they start all over, forcing us to learn new apps. It's tedious. Maybe if they gave software engineers tenure, or something similar, we'd all be a lot happier and more efficient.

I'm more in the mood to show you what I've seen lately than to drone on in paragraphs about less-visual subjects, so I will end this here.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Postcards from Maine... or Not

Postcards from Maine (and my photos of local wildlife and everything else) will be delayed for an unknown period of time. My Mac's iPhoto Library, where I store ALL of my photos, just went AWOL. It's not the first time this has happened recently, but this time feels more serious. I'm taking the recommended steps to persuade it to return to its senses. Fingers crossed that it decides to come home and behave itself.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Lion & Co.

Postcards from Maine will be arriving soon. In the meantime, we are enjoying being back with our cats. We miss them badly when we leave them... sometimes even when it's just for a few hours. All of them except Wendy seemed very happy to see us, too. We had lots of nighttime visits from the four boys; Lion came and went, Possum and Toffee settled in at our feet, while Harris kept waking me up as he perched on my pillow to nibble my neck and chew on my hair.

Observing them with fresh eyes last night, I noticed that Lion's mane is growing long and full again. Will he get all his "floof" back just in time for summer's heat? I hope no one Wendy hasn't been telling him crazy stories about us having central air conditioning.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Glamour Don't: Patient Style

Oh, Madewell, you make great jeans. And thus you thrive, despite some of your less-winning concepts — that every single sweater should fit like a flour sack, for example, or that almost every tee should also function as a tunic. 

But this dress is a different thing altogether. I wonder how many women will pay $118 for this variation on the hospital johnny. At least Madewell's stylists didn't pair it with pastel socks with rubber treads. And it was considerate of the designer to close up the back and move the requisite self-fabric ties further up than usual. But that sure does look like an ID bracelet on her wrist.

I read recently that given all the problems J. Crew has been having, they are replacing their head of women's design with Madewell's head of design. Good luck with that!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Poor Wendy, Lucky Me

So, here we are, back in Southwest Harbor, Maine, after a long, happy, and almost criminally sugar-fueled drive. We stopped to split a cupcake from an award-winning bakery in Kittery. We sampled jams and dessert sauces while stocking up on our  favorite blueberry tea at the Stonewall Kitchen in York. We each wolfed down a glazed blueberry donut from our favorite donut shop these days —  Frosty's in Freeport. Then we went down the street and got German pretzels (they turned into dinner later with butter and honey ham) from When Pigs Fly Bakery. We also did a little outlet shopping, of course (husband always scores huge deals at outlets; I never find anything for me). We had lunch at Sprague's Lobster Pound and did a little antiquing in Wiscasset. Then we visited old friends in Thomaston. Finally, we stopped in Camden to visit some favorite shops and split a grasshopper brownie from the bakery we like. 

Surely that was enough dessert and shopping to last me a week. 

Except that it wasn't. We were forced to drive to Gott's Store before we went to the inn because it is the only place we've found beyond Portland that sells the 93 octane gas our car insists upon. Gott's looks like any old, nondescript grocery store from the outside but is a treasure trove within. It has obscure items we can't find in  Boston and their in-house bakers keep very, very, very busy. I swear I will cut back on my sugar consumption (again) soon, but it's impossible while I'm within a couple of miles of the carrot cake at Gott's. (We also tried their fish and chips tonight — so good that my fish-hating husband enjoyed it.)

Yesterday, our cat sitter took photos of everyone at dinnertime to post on Facebook. Here is Wendy, looking like a sourpuss. No doubt she is thinking: "You're taking a photo so Evil Mommy can see me! I'm supposed to be on vacation from her! She's not allowed to even think about me this week. Now Everything Is Ruined. My Life Is Over!"

Sorry, Wendy. 

We saw three cats while strolling around the neighborhood today. Two were very friendly and flung themselves about our legs and rolled around blissfully as we petted and talked to them. It's always odd when totally strange cats trust me more after knowing me for ten seconds than Wendy has in more than five years with us. Sigh.

For some reason, we have no phone service up here at all, and no email or internet up here unless we are at the inn or someplace with Wifi. This is making life complicated for reasons I'll explain later. But I should be able to post some photos of lupines and lilacs soon. Both are in full, scented bloom right now, and we see them almost everywhere we look.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Vacation for Wendy

Tomorrow we are heading to Mount Desert Island for a week at our customary inn in Southwest Harbor. I can't believe we haven't been there since October; it feels like years.

To take my mind off of how much I'm going to miss the cats, and how they will miss me (the four boys, that is), I'm trying to frame this trip as Wendy's Vacation From Me.

Lucky Wendy will get a whole week without Evil Mommy around to bother her and possibly Cause Her to Die.

Wendy as a foster kitten in 2009. 
As our vet said, "You saved her sorry ass...."

Wendy hates me. I don't know why. I love her, I'm unfailingly nice to her, I talk and sing to her, and feed her, and toss her treats since he hates to take them from my hand. We do not brush her teeth because she thinks it's Murder. When I sweet-talk her, she puts her ears back and slinks low across the floor because she doesn't like me paying attention to her. If I approach her, she takes off while I'm still a few feet away.

I AM allowed to adjust her food bowl while she's eating, so it's easier for her to get to her entire dinner. This is ALL I am allowed to do. I can't figure that one out.

The other morning, I sang her the Wendy Song (don't ask) and kept up a cheerful patter about what a nice pussycat she was, and how beautiful, and so on, while she looked at me, worried and wary. She finally started squeaking in response — hardly any sound coming out as she aired her grievances. Her pupils were dilated, her ears were perturbed and she looked so pained because I was aware of her existence. She'll watch me stroke and praise any of the boys on the bed when she's there, and they'll stretch out and purr and enjoy it. But if I reach out the same gentle hand to her, it's terrifying and she's gone.

The four boys will miss me, but they will have each other for head baths, cuddling, playtime, and hanging out. Wendy will miss her daddy. He's petting her as I write this, in one of their two Designated Safe Petting Spots (1, Leather Armchair, 2. Bed, at Night, When Evil Mommy Is Far Away). There, he can pet her for ages while she gives him hand baths. Must be nice.

I'm not sure how much posting I will do in Maine, but you can expect some postcards sooner or later.