Friday, June 30, 2017

Maine Souvenirs

I bought a real-fur mouse for Harris at the Winter Harbor 5&10. It was $2.89 and he liked it, as you can see. I wish they'd had more than one, but I can probably find these elsewhere. I generally avoid real-fur and feather toys, and I've found that Wendy, Lion, and Possum actually prefer fake-fur mice. But Harris adores his real-fur "growlies" and he must be indulged.

I bought some other good stuff at the store:

  • A pack of super balls, mainly for Toffee. I made the mistake of rolling them all at him at once and he fled to a safe distance. Then we went away for two days. I have only seen one of them.
  • A bag of coin rolls for my husband's loose change, which he piles in an antique salad bowl. I deal with this once a year or so, during football games, but MSNBC news shows could be a good alternative. I only pay attention to football out of loyalty to my husband, who is glued to the set on Sundays from August to February, but neither of us is happy with Mr. Kraft these days, so maybe we'll do the right thing and skip football this year. HA!
  • A pack of clear, colorless plastic toothbrushes (I haven't used any other kind since high school and they are very hard to find. I know this is weird; it started when I saw a Pearl Drops ad and was taken by the beautiful simplicity of a transparent toothbrush. Nowadays, I usually only find these in Paris pharmacies and I stock up. Which I'm about to go and do . . . but these were so cheap! They are so cheap, they will probably dissolve in my mouth.
  • A pack of clear, colorless plastic furniture coasters, which didn't work under our steamer trunk after all. I was hoping they'd stop it from scratching the floor when I vacuum. The worst part of vacuuming is lifting, pushing, and dragging the furniture. Or maybe it's cleaning our old, ratty, Persian rugs, which need multiple "scrubbings" to remove layers of cat hair. Actually, putting the furniture back is probably the worst thing because it all has to be placed just right or we'll bang into it in this small apartment. Using the crevice tool is also no fun at all. Nor is vacuuming under the sofa cushions, since we have a baggy slipcover. I also hate doing the bathroom because it's tight quarters in there. It think the only decent part of vacuuming is the being done part. On the other hand, I hate putting the vacuuming cleaner back in our little closet, too. Anyway, we are prepared for coaster emergencies now.
  • A packet of lupine seeds for the innkeepers. There are supposed to be red and yellow ones included with the usual purple, pink, and white, and we're all skeptical yet hopeful.
  • A bottle of soap bubbles for entertainment at my Dad's 103rd birthday party at the nursing home last weekend, in Pennsylvania. My Dad liked them, and there was a toddler there who loved them. Pretty much everyone was into them until they started dissolving on the printed photos we were passing around and the birthday cupcakes. 

I have to go pack for another trip. I'm going to Paris tomorrow and I'm trying to muster up enthusiasm, both for packing and traveling. I'd really prefer to stay home with the cats, which I realize is not a normal response to a trip to Paris. It's a business trip for my husband so I will be doing my usual routine of wandering around alone during the day, going from one patisserie to the next. I hope my attitude will improve when I get there, assuming I survive the flights. (We have to change planes at 4 am in Ireland.) It didn't help that I read several comments about the plane we're taking that insisted it was the most uncomfortable plane EVER. Except, perhaps, for the plane we're taking home. 

More later.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Postcards from Maine: Odds and Ends

It's strange to be looking at postcards from Maine when we are just back from a short trip to Pennsylvania and are heading out again with our suitcases on Saturday. I don't like cramming all this travel into a few short weeks, and neither do the cats. They are basking in our attention and we are feeling guilty for abandoning them yet again. I'm especially worried about the July 4 fireworks, which terrify them, since we won't be here to talk them out of their hiding places when the booms are finished.

Maine feels like a long time ago. And why do I feel like I need a vacation? Here are the last postcards.

This is pronounced something like Hobbabobba. (Even in Serbian: I overheard one of the Serbian innkeepers talking about it.)

A thread display in Winter Harbor's 5&10. They also zippers and ribbon in a rainbow of shades. Try finding these in Boston now that Windsor Button is long gone.

Winter Harbor is on the Schoodic Peninsula:

A house in Winter Harbor:

Shrub lilac on a wooden fence in Southwest Harbor:

The Southwest Harbor dock:

Pots outside an ice cream shop in Bar Harbor:

Camden Harbor. Check out those old sailing ships:

One of the many color-themed displays in Jo Ellen Designs, my favorite shop in Camden:

Postcards from Maine: The Claremont

When we're in Southwest Harbor, we always pay a visit to the Claremont, which still looks very much as it did in the 19th century. It opened in 1884 to house well-bred "rusticators," the early summer visitors who came to Mount Desert Island to climb, hike, ride, swim, canoe, sketch, paint, socialize, and revel in fresh air and gorgeous scenery.

It was another foggy, cool day when I took this photo of the water side of the hotel from the old wooden ramp to their dock.

Usually, there's a beautiful view of Somes Sound, but not that day:

The porch overlooking the Sound is lined with old rocking chairs. It's also a prime spot to view the hotel's neatly groomed croquet courts, which are used for tournaments and well as casual games.

Inside, the public rooms seem furnished much as they might have been a century ago, or more:

The library has been added to over the years but not "edited" as much as you'd expect. It's full of old treasures/. And it's still almost entirely "improving literature," although you'll see a Stephen King novel there, because he's on the home team.

We say we'd like to spend a night or two here, mainly to play croquet and to check out the rooms. They have been updated over the years, of course, but still have their old-fashioned summer-hotel style, with simple furniture and crisp white curtains and bedspreads. But we are far too attached to our inn and its innkeepers and its pool and hot tub. Maybe someday.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Postcards from Maine: Jordan Pond, But Popovers Elsewhere

Our one sunny day turned cloudy by early afternoon as we took our annual walk around Jordan Pond.

The iconic view of the Bubbles, two peaks in Acadia National Park.

This is a 3.3-mile walk, with pond views for the whole circuit.

The walk around the pond is partly a gravel trail and partly boardwalk, with a couple of short stretches over rocks. I've done it in flip flops, which is foolish but doable. This year I finally found some sneakers (Tretorn) that don't bother me much.

We saw a loon but didn't get good photos. Here are some seagulls having a party instead.

The most interesting sight turned out to be a fellow hiker in a wedding dress:

Afterward, we planned to have popovers at the Jordan Pond House, as is traditional. However, it is early in the season and there were no tables out on the lawn, only in the dining room, which is often noisy and feels kind of "generic" to me, and the "swoop," which is our preferred spot, a screened porch where you have the Bubbles view, shade, and breezes, but no bugs or bees. As we made our reservation we asked for a table on the swoop, and they asked us if we had a dog. We said, "NO!" emphatically. And then they told us that only people with dogs get to sit on the swoop nowadays. 

What?? Anti-felinism in Acadia National Park? Do we need to go to Rent-a-Dog to eat popovers in peace?

So we bagged it and went over to the Asticou Inn and had popovers there instead. We sat under an umbrella on the porch overlooking Northeast Harbor. Their popovers are perfect and the whole experience is completely lovely. Civilized. Gracious. Old-fashioned. Delicious. Plus, of course, their popovers come with all sorts of toppings, whereas Jordan Pond House serves only butter and strawberry jam. 

Our server remembered us enthusiastically from last year  — and we were hoping she'd be around again, too. She brought us both kinds of blueberry jam, butter and housemade lemon curd without our asking. It was heaven.

I like to combine as many toppings as possible on my popovers, to create Abstract Expressionist compositions. All of my work explores themes of happiness, indulgence and calories well spent. 

We ate every scrap of everything, waddled to the car, and drove back to the inn to read in the hot tub for the rest of the afternoon. (I'm pleased to report that it's finally May in Old New Yorker land.)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Postcards from Maine: Astico Azalea Garden

We saw so many rhododendrons in full bloom around Maine on our drive up Route 1 that I was hopeful that the Asticou Azalea Garden would be in full bloom this year. Usually we get to Northeast Harbor in time to see only the very last blooms on a few of the many flowering shrubs in the garden. This year we were too late once again, but the garden is still lovely — always worth seeing. Someday, I hope we'll see it at peak.

We raced over there on our first full day — the only sunny day we had until it was time to go home.


Postcards from Maine: Maine Coon

When we travel, we start missing our cats as soon as we've locked our apartment door and carried our bags outside. (If we're lucky, someone is watching us from the window, and we wave and call up to him.)

As we drive to Maine, I start looking at their photos on my phone before we hit Route 95. By New Hampshire, I'm sorry we left them behind. I'm sure they're already missing us, despite having each other for company amid the extra toys, empty boxes, and lengths of kraft paper strewn around the apartment for their entertainment.

They know we're going away when they see us take out our bags the night before we leave, when their big nylon play tunnel also gets unfurled. Possum sits on the bed and watches us pack, lying on whatever clothes are waiting to go into the bags. Toffee and Harris look mildly alarmed and ask for more attention. The next morning, Lion gets the last word by disappearing before we do — he hides right after breakfast so we can't say goodbye.

The cats do like our cat sitter, though. She comes twice a day, and plays with them and takes photos, which we look for eagerly, at all hours, just in case we missed some.

Several hours out of Boston, we stop to visit friends in Thomaston. They have four cats and we are so cat-starved by then that we are thrilled by any attention they give us, although they are usually not that interested in us. This year, we saw three, and one sat on my foot.

Naturally, we start looking for cats as soon as we get wherever we're going. There's usually an indoor-outdoor cat or two living on the Clark Point Road near our inn, and we search for them as we walk back and forth to town. For a few years we enjoyed a gorgeous cat named Ruby, who jumped in our laps at breakfast on the porch and joined us poolside, until she met an untimely end crossing the street. We still think of her often.

This year, I discovered a regal Maine Coon down by the harbor:

Instinct told me this was a female from her attitude and pretty facial features. I find that male cats tend to be sociable. She wouldn't let me get near her, sauntering away and meowing a warning whenever I got too close. This didn't stop her from putting on a little show:

How I wanted to stroke that fluffy white belly of hers, but it was not to be.

A few days later we spotted her again in someone's yard. She gave me a few more photo opps, and more meows, but no contact:

She went under the bush and knew I couldn't go in after her, so she posed nicely for me as I came closer:

And she was the only cat we saw except for someone who meowed at us from a screened window one day. Even that helped.

Postcards from Maine: Lupines

A few years ago, our Maine innkeeper persuaded us to try a visit in June in addition to our usual trips in August and October. "You HAVE to see the lupines!" he said. We didn't even know what they were. He also told us that the island was much quieter in June than in the high season and that settled it. He's a born salesman — he sold cars and was a haberdasher back in Australia, and he has an antique shop now, where the even the most unlikely items (a lefthanded cross-bow, anyone?) routinely fly out the door. I only wish he'd decide to sell us on visiting in May, July, and September, too.

Anyway, lupines.

We begin to see big patches of them growing wild along the Maine roadways just north of Portland. I know they grow further south, but we don't see them. (And I recently found some in at least two gardens here, on Commonwealth Avenue, but it's not the same effect.)

There's a field of them not far from the inn:

Most lupines are deep purply-blue, but there are pink and white ones, too. I bought the innkeeper a packet of seed that promised some red and yellow ones. We'll see if he's successful.

Apparently lupines aren't fussy, although they prefer cool, wet climates and well-drained soil, even if it's sandy and poor. That explains their profusion along highways, I suppose.

There were some growing wild by the harbor parking lot, so I helped myself to a few for our room. The best way to pick them, if you don't have pruners, is to twist the stem with two hands until you sever it. The flowers have a strong, sweet scent, and it's good idea to change their water often. I changed it twice a day since I had a small vase. In a few days, the dozens of little flowers on each stalk will start dropping and making a mess.

Outside, as the flowers fade and drop, the displays become less vivid day by day. By early July, all the color is gone and you'd never know there'd been a purple spectacle amid all the greenery.

So, in June, it makes sense to celebrate them.