Best Son-in-Law

Tonight I had to go to Raleigh to teach Mah Jongg. Russ decided on his own to call my Mom and see if she would like to go out to dinner with him. What a wonderful son-in-law and even better husband to do this. My Mom is not settled in to her new place. It is hard to be a widow and be alone even when there are people around. People around she doesn’t know don’t help.

I got home late and Russ was already asleep so I have no idea how their dinner went, but I do know he took her to a very nice place. Now I am going to have to think of something really nice to do for him.

I am seeing my Mom first thing in the morning, so maybe she will tell me how wonderful Russ is, because he is.


Immigration is the Solution

Everywhere we go we see signs, “please excuse us, we are short staffed,” Restaurants, the dry cleaners, the grocery. Unemployment is very low. Businesses can’t handle all the work they could have without more people. We can’t wait for Americans to birth more babies to fill these jobs, there aren’t enough nurses and health care aids to do that. There is one simple solution, the same solution America has turned to through out our history, immigrants.

When we built the railroad across the lower 48 we did it with Chinese workers, when we needed men to dig coal in Pennsylvania we did it with Germans immigrants, when wealthy people in the 1800’s needed house servants we did it with Irish girls. Of course when southern plantations needed workers they did it with slaves, immigrants against their will. But the history of this country is full of American growth on the labor of immigrants.

Those who say they don’t want immigrants now are not seeing the big picture. Who is going to cut lawns, re-shingle your roof, sort packages at UPS?

Florida, the state with the governor who spends state money to fly asylum seeks from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, could probably use a raft-load of strong men to help clean up and rebuild hurricane damage. People who were able to walk all the from Venezuela to America can probably carry lumber to frame houses.

It’s not just Florida, it’s the whole country that is short staffed with a big generation of workers retiring. We need workers and we need workers willing to work at less desirable jobs and that means immigrants. Any American who wants to work can get a job. They might not get the job they want, but there is a job for them. If Americans can’t or won’t fill all the low level jobs I can bet there are immigrants who will. They pay taxes and social security with no guarantee or benefiting from it in retirement.

Stop electing people who say that immigrants are the problem, they are the solution.


Perfect Day With Shay

Shay and I had some quality time today. Russ went into the office and I was not teaching. Shay took full advantage of my at home day. She snuggled me in bed for a long time this morning. “Just read your online news next to me Mom, we don’t need to get up.”

When I did finally get up Shay suggested I do some needlepoint by draping herself over a favorite pillow. “Come sit by me on this sofa, the light is good to work on the black stitches you need to do.” So that what I did. Did I have guilt to be needlepointing in the middle of a weekday? No, Shay demanded it.

I did disappoint her for a bit when I had to run out to get an orchid for our friends who lost their lab this week. Shay made sure that I came home first to pick her up so she could go and pass on her condolences for their loss. Shay is good at wishing people future dog happiness in spite of their current sadness.

After that condolence visit we went home and Shay thought we should play in the front yard since the sun was shinning, but it was not hot. The perfect day to be a dog. We explored all the smells. Well Shay smelled them. And I encouraged her not to roll in the smelliest ones.

Shay got to hide some socks while I was folding laundry. There is never a dull moment when we get into bed as we have the surprise sock tucked in between the pillows.

Then shay got an early dinner of part of a left over angus barn hamburger. She was especially happy that a client of Daddy’s sent us those burgers since he doesn’t eat meat. She knew the client was sending them to her.

It was pretty much a perfect day to be Shay. I was glad I got to spend it with her.


Farewell St. James, We Hope Not Forever

From the moment the St. James Restaurant opened in 2017 it has been a favorite of ours. It was announced at least a year before to be replacing the very smelly and terrible Fish Mongers on Main Street. We were a little skeptical that the new place could get the old fish smell out of the building, but they did it and with such style. The white tile walls and navy leather banquets were anything but fishmongery.

Whenever we thought about going out to dinner the St. James was always top of the list. Then, not two years after opening it was closed due to a gas explosion around the corner in a building attached to theirs. The explosion actually happened in the old Studebaker show room which had been the offices of Durham Magazine for a while where I worked.

Patiently we waited for the St. James to reopen. It took almost three years. It was just as good. We brought friends from Raleigh to eat there and they were looking forward to coming back. Then suddenly word came down that their lease was not being renewed as someone is going to tear down the last three remaining places on the block that survived the explosion to put up something newer and most certainly taller.

So with mere days left to still be a restaurant we went for dinner tonight. The place was packed with well wishers. The staff said the St. James will re-emerge in a new space that is yet to be determined. It’s so sad they lost all that time after the explosion.

The funny thing is tonight we were seated at the same table we sat at the night before the explosion. We look forward to seeing you again soon St. James. Your motto is so Durham, “quality seafood. Reasonably Good-Times.” It’s been so much better than reasonable. It’s been just great times!


Driving Miss Jane

Today I went to see my Mom’s new digs at her retirement community. They are really very cute. One of the things she needs to feel comfortable in her new home is to be able to get around town. Mom drives, but she has no sense of direction and does not do well going to places she has never driven to before.

I went to pick her up and we did a big driving tour of places she wants to visit regularly. The first place we went was her Harris Teeter. I had no idea there was one so close to her place. Check that off the list. She can get there and back in mere minutes.

The second place we went was the bridge center. She is desperate to play bridge like three times a week. We went there and even went it. I am going to introduce her to the owner who can help her find partners. That will make her very happy.

The third place we went was a church she is interested in. She didn’t think it looked enough like her other churches, but I told her she wasn’t choosing it for it’s looks. I need to ask my cousin to take her one Sunday. She is not about to leave the Episcopal church and do the heretic thing I did and join the Presbyterian church.

Fourth we went to Tuesday Morning, looking for an iron. No appliances were available there’s but we found a really nice chair. It fit in my car, we went to cava for lunch then back to Croasdaile where a nice man named Lorenzo helped take the chair to her prime time. It was a very successful day. A few more like this and I hope Mom is going to feel like she is at home.


The Stupidest Political Ad Ever

The midterms are quickly approaching and there is no escaping the overwhelming presence of ads for all sorts of politicians. I am more than a little concerned about the rights of women to have control of their own bodies and making medical decisions with their doctors. It is a slippery slope to a dangerous place if we allow politicians to make medical policies without any medical training.

There is one young man running for congress named Bo Hines who wants to ban abortions. He does not live in the district he is running for. He is young, which is not a crime, but he has no experience in much. Since he doesn’t have a record to run on, other than being endorsed by Trump, he had to call on his grandfather to make an Ad for him.

His grandfather talks about the lesson Bo learned working with him on his farm like “ picking up rocks and pulling stumps. North Carolinian values.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think being capable of picking up rocks makes you qualified to be a congressman. I know there are plenty of them who are as dumb as rocks, but if this is as much as you grandfather can say about you, you don’t have much.

When I went to read about this ad I discovered that this grandfather doesn’t even live in North Carolina and his farm is in Indiana, where the ad was shot. So Bo doesn’t even know ‘bout picking up North Carolina rocks.

For god’s sake, North Carolina has finally made it so the embarrassment of Madison Cawthorn can’t run this time we don’t need to replace him with the rock picker Bo Hines.


Least Favorite Days

There are certain days of the year I love and others I hate. Not all of them are scheduled. Days I love are easy, like Christmas, my birthday, and the summer solstice. Days I hate are Fall back, when we lose an hour of sleep (don’t get me started about why I would do away with changing the clocks), and today. Today is not a day on the calendar I hate, it is the day we finally had to turn on our heat.

Switching over from cooling to heating used to be a month or two apart. We could stop using air conditioning, and just open the windows and live HVAC free. Not anymore. Now we have hardly a few days between needing air conditioning or heating. September has become the most difficult month to get dressed because more the half the month I want to be wearing a white summer sundress.

It rarely gets cold enough to need the heat in September, but come October suddenly, Bam, it is too cold to live in the house without a little heat to take the edge off. Starting up the heat you smell the burning of dust. It’s not actually burning, but it is not my favorite smell. I just hates that once you turn the heat on it means winter is actually coming and we have months to go before we can wear sandals again.

I knew this day was coming. Yesterday I took all my sandals out of my closet and put them in storage. Actually I just put them in a laundry basket under the bed in Russ’ office, but he doesn’t know that. It was my way of admitting that summer was over.

Now that I have gotten this least favorite day out of the way I only have fall back to endure and then I can look forward to some favorite days. It’s only 83 days until Christmas!


Happy Rechargeable Birthday

Russ is officially still younger than me. He is still in a different decade than me. He always will be. At least he is old enough to only want birthday presents, I really mean only one present, that is rechargeable. Thanks to Russ’s Dad, Russ gets what he wants, A big ass, rechargeable light.

Shay and I are trying to make sure Russ has a nice special day, but he doesn’t make it easy. He says he has everything he ever could want, especially now that he has this light.

So if you know him, reach out and wish him a happy day. He’s young, so it is still a good day.


Leaving the House?

Thanks to the pandemic Russ and I got really good at staying home, thus Shay got used to us being home with her all the time. Because of Covid we started accessing risks related to going out. Now we look at everything in relation to how risky it is.

This is Russ’ birthday weekend. Our friends had invited us to spend the weekend at the beach with them. Actually they had invited us for last weekend, but we were too tired from driving home from Maine to drive to the beach. Being such nice friends they gave us a reprieve for a week.

When hurricane Ian was seen heading our way we had to decide if we were going to drive to the beach. Pre-pandemic we might have gone on and done it. Post-pandemic we don’t take the same risks, especially with Shay going with us.

There is no reason to be on the road in bad weather if our lives did not depend on it. Our friends lost their power and internet so it was a good plan not to go. Thankfully they got their power back, but still no internet.

Thankfully we did not lose power here. Nothing too bad happened at our house, but we were in the house for 48 hours without going anywhere. We are pandemic trained, it was nothing.

Tonight we decided to actually leave the house so we went downtown for dinner, leaving Shay home alone. We were gone less than two hours and when we got home Shay was on our bed throwing us some shade. “How dare you leave me alone. You didn’t even tell me you were going out to dinner.”

We need some post pandemic retraining here. It is likely we are going to leave the house again sometime, maybe.


One Year On

I am not surprised that we are having a hurricane today because it is the anniversary of my father’s death one year ago. He was a force of nature. Some considered him a hurricane personified.

It has been some year without him. I am proud of how well my Mom has done. She made the decision to move into Croasdaile Village. She has gotten an apartment, but she is really easing her way in. When I called her this morning she says she has met many nice people, but even that has not totally made her love moving, so she goes back and forth between her house and the new apartment.

Mom is an excellent duplicate bridge player and needs to find a partner to go with her to the bridge center and play. Unfortunately the duplicate at Croasdaile is at night, not when she is up for bridge. I think if she can get some bridge going in Durham she will be happy as can be.

Carter texted me to see how I was doing today. I am at peace on this anniversary. My father was having so many annoying health problems his last few years. He was such a bad patient that I am relieved he went so fast and not in the hospital. I know that all hospitals and medical personal are also glad he was at home in his own bed because he was most like a category five hurricane when he was confined to a hospital.

I miss his sense of humor and wisdom, but I do not miss his temper, especially when it was focused at a doctor. It was just too hard for him to be smarter than everyone else in the room.

Be safe out there today. Stay out of the way of all hurricanes, be they wind and water or the personified kind.


Too Many Snacks

Today was a big full day of Mountain Mah Jongg camp. I loved this schedule of teaching new players Mah Jongg in basically a day and a half. It proved to successful as almost every student was able to pick their own hands and play to the completion of the game today.

The Roaring Gap club was a most fabulous venue for the lessons. Since it is the end of the season the club was very quiet. We had the run of the bar which was the perfect place for the lessons. When we arrived in the morning there were cookies and snacks Along with a huge variety of drinks, and this was just after breakfast.

I got right to teaching every last rule before the four tables of students got to play their first game. We had randomly grouped players together. At each table there was one person who won more than others. So after lunch we put all the winners at one table to see how they could do against each other. It was quiet impressive that two women each won four games.

After the morning session we took a break for what was advertised as a light lunch. Anything but. We had tacos that were served in three taco bundles as well as a beautiful salad bar.

It was right back to playing after lunch, but the snacks kept coming. The last over the top offering, was a cheese platter for each person. Each platter was enough for one table, but then each table got four. I am happy I was busy going from table to table advising players on their best options. I certainly did not need a cheese platter.

The camp ended after five and the wonderful women I had gotten to enjoy the last two days helped me pack up the games and take them to the car. There is already talk for a spring camp for the next class. I can’t wait, but we need to request fewer snacks.


Get Back To Work!

After a decadent month off in Maine I finally had to get back to work. Not that teaching Mah Jongg is a hardship job, but the backlog of people wanting to learn was growing ever greater. Today was the first of my fall semester of the fifteen classes that are already on the calendar and this class is setting a high bar for being fun for me.

If this class had a title it would be “Mountain Mah Jongg Camp” and is my first time teaching in Roaring Gap. I hope it is not my last time. One of my beach students, Tracey, approached me this summer to see if I would consider teaching a group at Roaring Gap. My response was, “As long as I have a place to stay.”

For the record, I did not say, “As long as I have a fabulous place to stay, with a generous hostess, a fabulous club to teach in, yummy lunch, brilliant and fun students, a celebration worthy dinner, and the most comfortable bed ever,” but that is what I got.

I arrived on the mountain before lunch after the familiar drive up from Durham. Carter spent eleven years at camp cheerio here so driving up felt like coming home. I met my cute hostess, Ellen, at her gorgeous house. She had expertly organized the whole event so I just get to breeze in and teach.

We went to the golf club and had lunch before everyone else started to arrive. Originally the class was going to be 16, but due to Hurricane Ian we had an extra refugee from Florida who joined us. Our first lesson was this afternoon and so far they are all A students.

There are six of us staying at Ellen’s so the party does not stop between lessons. After a few drinks at home we returned to the club to have dinner. It was delightful to get to know these women personally rather than just teach them.

This class even has the most beautiful flowers

Now I have to try and turn my extrovert brain off so I can sleep enough to be an effective teacher tomorrow. This has been a most excellent way to get back to work. Being a Mah Jongg teacher is the best job when you have students like mine.


In Trouble Now

Two of my big game playing friends, Lee and Shelayne could not believe that I had never played Canasta. They thought it was time I learned. Lee had us over for lunch with another friends Susan to teach me. We played as partners and Lee was my Partner and Susan and Shelayne made of the S squared team.

It didn’t take long for me to grasp the rules. Just long enough for Lee and I to take the first game. Shelayne said that the tender teaching gloves were off and we played a second round and S Squared won. I can see that I am quickly becoming addicted to this game. I came right home and downloaded a computer version on my iPad.

I have no idea about strategy yet, as I barley have the mechanics down. Lee and Shelayne are ready to play with me again since they know they can beat me at Canasta better than Mah Jongg.

Loving playing games is such a joy and a time suck for me. Thank goodness I m productive in teaching Mah Jongg, which is still the greatest game. I m not sure my mother plays Canasta, but I am going to have to teach her because I bet they play it where she has moved.

Thanks for the delicious lunch and the new Game, friends. I’m free next week to play!


Enduring Friendships

Four weeks in Maine this summer was hard to beat. I honestly was not ready to come home when our time was up. It was such an unplugged vacation with a relaxed rhythm that I really got used to. Usually I am ready to come home from vacation, but this was not like a vacation, but a life.

Today I went to a birthday celebration for a friend in my stitching group. We normally get together once a month, except during the summer, so this was my first chance to be with everyone. This made being home wonderful. I didn’t know I missed my friends as much as I did, because I had other friends in Maine.

One friend had been going through some health issues and I was sorry I was not around to help, but so glad to see her on her way to being herself. Another friend had suffered some back issues so we shared our love of PT. I learned who had gotten Covid over the summer. How empty nest is going for another. Heard about trips people have planned. Caught up on the issues people have with aging parents. These things aren’t shared over instagram, so being together is really the best way to support each other and celebrate each other.

It is a blessing to have a change of scenery, but only when you are with old friends do you realize how important enduring friendships are.


The US and The Holocaust

If you haven’t watched Ken Burn’s latest documentary, The US and the Holocaust, on PBS I highly recommend it. You can stream it on PBS.com.

I feel like I have studied quite a bit about the Holocaust. I read Anne Frank in elementary school, read Night by Ellie Wiesel in high school, taken a number of history courses on WWII, visited Holocaust museums from Germany, to DC to St. Petersburg, FL, watched endless movies and documentaries, and visited concentration camps in Eastern Europe. None of that gave me the same perspective as Burn’s work, that of the American perspective, while it was happening.

I knew that Americans were highly isolationist at the start of the war, but what struck me most is how similar the attitudes of Americans at the time mirror our times today. Immigration was considered a bad thing, refugees were not welcomed, there was a huge group led by Charles Lindbergh called America First, which was for isolationism and racism, even promoting the building of walls around America, people did not believe the news about the treatment of Jews and called it fake, fear of “the other” was rampant and those fires were stoked by some politicians.

It was almost as if a certain past American president had seen this documentary and said, let’s do all these same things again because I can create an empire out of stoking these fears.

What we have to fear is not speaking out about politicians who want to limit the rights, especially of women and minorities. If we don’t, things like the Holocaust happen again. Like in Ukraine as we speak. I had no idea that the word Genocide was created as a descriptor of the Holocaust and we have it happening right now by Putin.

A phrase in Burn’s documentary, “The structures of our civilized lives fall away very easily,” scared me the most. The striking down of Roe, and doing away with voting rights, are just the beginning of the stripping away of rights. If we don’t fight back the people who want to take away rights then we quickly find ourselves in a fascist world that is much harder to take back once the rights are gone.

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote at the time, “There is no compromise for the things we know are wrong.” We know that it is wrong to treat humans differently based on their race, sex, orientation, or beliefs, but people justify it, usually they say for a better economy or for trying to keep the status quo. Denying everyone equal rights does neither of those things. Our economy flourishes when everyone does better.

Please watch the US and the Holocaust and see the parallels between then and now. Allowing these kind of ideals to take hold in America is dooming us to repeat history we should have learned from.


Garden’s End

As we were in Maine for a month I gave up on trying to keep my garden going while I was gone. I harvested everything I could before we left, leaving dozens of cucumbers for friends to take.

When we got home I was not surprised to see that most everything was too far gone, with the exception of the peppers. Today Russ and I harvested what was left, four butternut squash, five tiny Yukon gold potatoes, a couple of green peppers and hundreds and hundreds of cayenne and lemon drop peppers.

Then we proceeded to pull everything out of the ground, the zucchini plant that had grown eight feet outside its bed, the okra plants that reached ten feet in the air with inedible pods eleven inches long, and tomatillos that finally produced hundreds of fruit.

I was amazed how much had actually survived and how much failed this year. The tomatoes were the greatest disappointment followed by the jalapeños, which were both big successes last year. Next year I only need to plant two cucumber plants and probably no cayenne as I will have plenty still left over from this year. Russ is thinking I can make Chili crisp. We shall see.

My two passion fruit vines flourished as plants, but gave no fruit this year. They are considered evergreens so we shall see if they survive the winter and produce anything next year.

I am considering putting a couple things in for fall, but as long as it is this dry I am holding off. No reason for fall heartbreak after summer.


Water’s Importance

Today in Durham it cruelly started to feel more like fall. Actually, it wasn’t so much fall as it was just not devil-heat summer. I didn’t get to wear a sweater, but at least I didn’t sweat through my undergarments out playing with Shay.

Now that the temperature is moderating, now can we just have a little rain. My lawn is crunchy which means that Shay brings plenty of it attached to her fur from rolling in the grass. This causes the need for lots more vacuuming. I will just have to put up with that since I will not be watering my brown grass.

Water is our most important resource and watering grass is the least critical use of it. It really makes me crazy when I drive by people’s house and their sprinkle system is running while it is raining. There needs to be a mandatory rain meter on all sprinkler systems.

I spoke to someone who runs their sprinkler everyday. When I pointed out that our city reservoirs are at historical low points their response was, “I can afford the water.” Talk about missing the point.

Please consider turning your sprinkler systems off at this point of the growing season. Grass may get browner, but as soon as it rains enough it will green back up.


Planning Ahead Dickinsonians

The year was 1979, Carter was in the White House, Three Mile Island was on everyone’s mind, no one was quite sure what was in a hotchee dog, and we didn’t know who Sharona was so instead we danced to Rosilita. If any of this is painting a very specific picture, you might have gone to Dickinson College with me. If you did, I liked you and probably still like you.

The years 1979-1983 were our years in Carlisle. As freshmen we knew it was Friday if it was raining when we woke up because it rained every Friday of the fall of 1979. We didn’t let the rain get us down. We gathered at the Morgan rocks and got to know each other.

Don’t blink, that was 44 years go. And no, you don’t look a year over 44 now, I just don’t remember going to college with any new borns. What this all means is that come June we are going to be having our 40th reunion. It is time to make plans to come back to Carlisle and see each other.

Here is the good news about our 40th reunion, all of us have gotten older at exactly the same rate, so no one cares if you look older. Reunions are not about comparing but instead about sharing. I want to share stories with you. I want to tell you what an impact you made on me while we were in school. I want to thank you for a kindness you might have paid to me that made a difference in my day, year, or life, that you didn’t even know you might have done. I want to laugh about all the fun we had.

Today a small group of wonderful friends joined a church Zoom to start planning our reunion. We all could not make the zoom, so be assured there are more people than just these faces who are working on the plans. The most important thing you can do now is put the date on your calendar, June 9 & 10, and find a place to stay. Remember, it’s Carlisle and there are only so many hotels you want to stay in.

I promise you will hear a lot more about this reunion in the coming months. It’s time to reconnect and get to know each other all over again.


Jim Ketch’s Jazz Class

I am the unmusical person in my family. My father was a wonderful singer ( he had Andy Griffith as a music teacher at UNC), my mother plays the piano beautifully, my sister Margaret was a paid gospel singer in an African American Church in Kansas City and my sister Janet could really play the Saxophone! Then there was me. I was just the musical appreciation society in the family.

I thought music education was important, despite never being offered any myself. Carter played the Clarinet in school. At least she learned to read music.

Tonight at our church we had a Jazz night. The Durham Jazz band came and played outside while we had dinner then after dinner we all went into the fellowship hall to hear a lecture my our own Jim Ketch, retired head of the Jazz dept. at UNC and renowned Jazz trumpeter.

I have always appreciated and loved Jim’s playing which he so wonderfully donates for big church days, like Easter, along with the other talented Westminster Brass players. This was the first time in the the 23 years I have known him that I got to hear an actual lecture on Jazz by him. It was an enthralling almost hour and a half, which felt like about twenty minutes, it was so interesting. He included the Blues and Gospel in the lecture, but there was hardly enough time to touch on such a huge subject.

While Jim was lecturing Russ leaned over to me and said, “one of the only non-engineering classes I took as an under grad was Jazz.” This was a new bit of information about Russ I had never known before. So I really am the only person in the family with no musical knowledge.

I was inspired by Jim and now I want to learn more. Just add Music appreciation to my growing list of things to learn before I die. At this rate I will live forever because my list of things to learn is so long.


The Good Volunteer

In my volunteer organization world there are three kinds of people; the one who volunteers without being asked, the one who says, “Yes,” when asked to volunteer and those who find any excuse possible not to volunteer. Yes, there are micro groups like those who say, “yes,” when they don’t mean it and then don’t show up, but this is not about the micro groups.

I want to send a shout out to the ones who volunteer willingly and the ones who say “Yes,” when asked. You all make life so much easier for everyone. Your generosity and willingness to serve makes you a person I love to know.

When Carter was little, her school needed parent volunteers for all kinds of activities. As a parent who did not work a nine to five job I was often available to volunteer, so I did. I had a number of good friends who worked full time, important jobs and they too volunteered, working these responsibilities into their schedules. Then there were the people who never volunteered. When I was a room parent I made sure to acknowledge that every parent was busy so it was important for everyone to find a way to contribute. If your work schedule was too tight you could volunteer for something that needed to be done in an evening or weekend. The message did not always get through to people and so some people would just argue, rather than volunteer. Those people were off my list forever.

If you are a busy person it is so much easier to be proactive and pick something to volunteer for than to wait and then be unable or unwilling to help. No one wants to be then person who everyone knows is the slacker.

Also if you volunteered once, many years ago that does not count forever. You have to do it again and again. It takes everyone to keep the world running. If more people volunteered regularly the world would be a much happier place.


The Last Farewell

I set my alarm for 5:45 so I could watch the Queen’s funeral. We lived in London during Diana’s funeral. As we were on the north side of Hyde Park we could smell the flowers, most in plastic sleeves that were left in huge mounds at the Palace. Thankfully the Palace learned it’s lessons from that and asked people not to leave plastic or paddington Bears for the queen.

No one does pageantry as well as the Brits, especially when they plan for it. This was a very well planned for celebration of life and you can bet the queen would have been pleased. The things that amaze me are how well they had the timing down. They knew exactly how long everything should take and exactly how fast everyone would have to walk and how many navel men it would take to pull the gun carriage.

As we watch it on TV it makes it all seem so simple, but it is anything but. Just consider how hard it is for people to move around in their uniforms. When we took Carter to London in 2014 we were lucky enough to stumble upon the Queen’s household regiment having their annual picture taken. Just watch this video of how difficult it was for them to get off the bleachers in those boots.

I watched almost six hours of the funeral and as far as I could see there was not a hair out of place. I did get a little nervous when those men were carrying her casket up the steps of St.George’s chapel. It would have been very bad if the crown fell off. I hope the queen was very secure inside that box.

The crowds were amazing, all along the fourteen mile route from Westminster to Windsor. I can’t think of any other human in my lifetime who could garner such an outpouring of love. Seventy years of service deserved every bit of love her country and the world showed the queen today.


Not Cool Enough Yet

We slept with the windows open most nights, but some nights we had two or three blankets on our bed. Eventually we even had to close the windows and have two blankets. It was crisp and refreshing to walk into the bathroom in the morning with a sweet breeze blowing the curtains open, just to go back and snuggle in bed afterward.

We purposely picked August and September to go to Maine to leave the dumpster dive of southern summertime. Maine was glorious. We had a house without air conditioning, but fans in all the rooms. We used the fans maybe four or five days in the four weeks we were there.

Shay says these Maine Rocks are not hot like our driveway at home

We thought we would miss the hellish nineties back home. Certainly by September 18 we should have bearable weather.

Last night Russ and I both woke up in the middle of the night because we were too hot, and the air conditioning was on. Today was not too hot, but we still mentioned to each other that we recognized the humidity level. Well, today was apparently a good day. Heat is returning in earnest here in Durham and it is supposed to be in the nineties for the next couple of days.

Thank goodness I don’t subscribe to no white after Labor Day. I may be wearing a white cotton dress tomorrow. I guess we didn’t stay in Maine long enough. Next year it might have to be Halloween, but then I will have to bring a down coat to Maine.


Home Again

The best thing I did before we left for Maine was thoroughly clean the house. I changed all the sheets, did all the laundry, scrubbed the kitchen. This made coming home from a month away a pleasure.

After a seventeen hour drive, split over two days I would have hated to come home to a mess. Instead I had the rest of my recovered living room chairs brought back and my dining room valances installed thanks to my friend and best decorator ever, Lane so the house looks finished.

It also helped not to come home to the mail since It is held until Monday. Before I left on the trip I did not know if I was coming straight home or who would drive with me. Of course I knew I had Shay, but Russ came with me which made it a much more fun drive. It was mostly fun for Shay because she and Russ sat limo style in the back while I was the chauffeur. We listened to podcasts to help pass the time.

Driving in September when kids are back in school is so much easier. It also helped that the HOV lanes south of Washington were going in our direction when we got there so we gladly paid to drive a good distance without much traffic. In fact the only traffic we encountered all the way from Maine was the twenty miles north of Fredericksburg, VA. Who know why this is always so bad, but it is.

For now I am not going to unpack anything, but just get reacquainted with our big bed and our room darkening shades. A few more hours of pretending I am still on vacation won’t hurt.


Life Changing Sunrise

I didn’t sleep well last night. Being our last night in Maine I was restless thinking about all I had to do to leave, and leave early we needed to do. Russ had a big day today, with zoom board meeting so he moved beds sometime in the night and did his usual working in the middle of the night routine.

I awoke alone before the light. I pushed up the blinds so I could watch the sunrise in all its glorious splendor. The best part of our house is the view from the bedroom as the sun comes up.

So I started documenting the different phases of the sunrise. At first it is just light that seeps into the dark blue sky, like a yellow ribbon wrapping the horizon. The land is still dark and the water was calm as the clouds hung like dark drapes in the sky. There is no sun yet, just light.

Then the yellow ribbon turns to orange, reflecting some of it’s light onto the water.

As the orange ribbon widens slightly the sky starts to turn a lighter shade of blue and the clouds turn from dark grey to cornflower.

Suddenly the clouds are awash in pink, orange and purple with their own drama going on in the sky, yet there is still no sun, just light.

After the best show you have ever seen the loud music starts to calm down a bit just as a tiny sliver of the sun breaks over the horizon.

As the sun begins it’s staring role the clouds retreat into a purple chorus, their pink and orange solo completed.

The orange ribbon widens to move of a tangerine as the sun is halfway up.

And then as she rises to a full ball her light is now effected on the water like a magic carpet leading your eye to her.

And then the show is over. The day has begun and you would never know the opera of the sunrise if you didn’t see it.

I realized that so much can happen in one hour. Once you witness all that the sun can do and change at a sunrise it makes me feel like I shouldn’t waste an hour. The difference in that one hour was life changing.


The Last Hurrah

One would think that four weeks in one devastatingly beautiful place, with all the comforts of home would be more than enough. It wasn’t. As I packed up all our stuff and cleaned the kitchen I was already missing our much easier life here in Maine.

To thoroughly enjoy our last day we walked the Breakwater. Shay would here nothing about being left home so we took her, unsure if it would be too hard for her. It wasn’t. She only lost footing one short second, and never fell through the cracks in the stones. It was a windy, but bright and sunny day and she motored on past dogs who heeded to be carried, having given up a mile into the walk.

There is no giving up on the breakwater. You walk more than a mile out to the light house and the only way back is to walk more than a mile back. I am sorry we didn’t take Shay sooner. Next year.

I am going to miss watching sail boats and lobster boats pass each other in front of our house. The different colors the sea takes on from grey green to diamond sparkling white as the sun reflects on the wind blown sea, to the dead calm blue have been our TV. The birds have been our ballet. The quiet has been relaxing, except for the fun sound of small planes landing at the Owl’s Head strip. Russ has taken to following flight tracker to guess who is possibly flying in from Bentonville, AR or Detroit, MI.

Tonight at dinner Russ said that this has been very restorative for him, even if he did work everyday. The chance to walk to the point everyday is so much better than walking on a tread mill.

I am going to miss waking in our bed with its huge picture window looking at the water reading a novel instead of watching the morning news. I hope that this is a new tradition.

Lobster’s eaten:19 (had one for dinner last night.)


Maine Lobster Report

Lobster is important in Maine. Many people’s livelihood depends on it, from the herring fishermen who catch the bait for lobster traps, to the people who maintain and fix boats, to the lobster people (not just men catch lobsters), to the people who run lobster pounds where lobsters are bought and sold, to the people who ship them and supply them to the world. I am not going to get into any controversy over lobstering because I am unsure of all the issues. What I am going to report on is my own personal, month long enjoyment of all things lobsters and rate each one.

Bob’s Clam Hutt, Kittery

For the record, I have never actually eaten a bad lobster. I have had some lobster stew or bisque that was too salty, but that was purely the hand of the chef and not the fault of the lobster.

McLoon’s Spruce Head

My favorite way to enjoy lobster is a Maine style lobster roll, rather than Connecticut way. Maine style is a split topped hotdog roll, grilled in butter until toasted with the meat from a lobster with barley a touch of Hellman’s Mayonnaise. Connecticut style is the same set up without the mayo, but instead with hot butter to pour over the lobster. Really, who could argue with either way, but trust me plenty of people do.

Claws
Claws lobster tacos

Puritans want to eat a whole lobster, fresh from cooking and pick all the meat themselves. Between the bib and the lobster getting under my fingernails I prefer to just have the roll. I am also quite fond of lobster bisque, a soup with sherry, but usually not hunks of lobster, or lobster stew, a soup with hunks of lobster. Of all the ways we had lobster this month, lobster Mac and cheese was the least favorite, (although it was from a restaurant and not the recipe my sorority sister Janet gave me.)

McLaughlins Lincolnville

This year’s best lobster discovery was a lobster grilled cheese. Since the only one we had was from Archie’s lobster on Mount Dessert Island I have comparison, but it was the top dog in all things lobster.

Archie’s Mount Dessert Island

We ate lobster at many different places in Maine, staring in Kittery at Bob’s clam hut on my way up to Owls Head. Our house was not far from the Down East Magazine winner for best lobster roll, McLoon’s. They must do a good job begging people to vote for them because it was my least favorite. Nothing wrong, just a lobster roll. Now if I were in Durham and had McLoon’s nearby I would get a lobster roll any day, but here in Maine the competition is stiff.

After the Lobster grilled cheese at Archie’s, which is a two hour drive from our house, my second favorite lobster is the roll at Claws in Rockland. Claws has been our favorite shack for years and this year it seems their menu has exploded. The roll is still best, but I also enjoyed the lobster tacos.

Our family total for lobster dishes this year was 18. I did not count the lobster’s eaten by guests or friends we were dining with. I think I can say that I have had enough lobster to hold me until next summer, but I probably will want one last roll just before we cross the Maine border into New Hampshire on our drive home. Yes they have lobster rolls there as well as Massachusetts and Connecticut, but I am partial to Maine.


Time Is Too Short

We may have been in Maine almost four weeks, but it has gone so quickly. My friend Warren is mad that we have not done enough while we were here. What can I say, there is so much to do.

Today, while Russ was working away, Warren picked me up to go to Damariscotta to rendezvous with our friend Julie. Julie came up from Durham, Me where she lives with her husband. So Warren was out with his two Walker’s girls from Durham. We wandered the Main Street. I found lots of good Stocking stuffers, but nothing big. The space in my car is limited so I was mindful to not fall in love with a chair or a rug.

We ate lunch at a Thai restaurant where we were clearly the youngest patrons. September in Maine is all old people. I was fairly certain that the ancient old man sitting at the table next to us was listening to our conversation about how law makers think that they should try and have a say about the autonomy women can have over their own bodies. He seemed to huff a bit. I didn’t bring this to Warren’s of Julie’s attention, but I was ready to take him down if he commented. We could start a conversation about how old people should not have autonomy over their own bodies as well if they think law makers can dictate to women.

After lunch we went to a Hospital Thrift Store that Warren had been raving about. It is only open every other day of the week for four hours and that seemed to bring in the crowds. The ladies who run it do an excellent job merchandising everything . The funniest part about it is they change what is on sale everyday. Today all things Orange, all china and all pottery were 50% off.

I found a vintage covered square glass Pyrex casserole in a rare plaid pattern. It was priced high, but when I took it to the check out the manager gave me 25% off without my even asking. The place was huge and there were only a few creepy dolls on display. I always wonder who is buying them.

As a treat for being good thrifters Warren took Julie and I to Roundtop for ice cream. It is my favorite Maine Ice cream. I introduced Julie to ginger ice cream, which we both got, justifying it as an antioxidant. By the time we had our ice cream the day, which had started out grey had brightened up. We laughed and told stories on the Porch of Roundtop looking out over their sunflowers.

Sadly we had to day goodbye to Julie and head back to Owls Head. As Warren pulled his plumbers van into our driveway it started sprinkling and the fog had rolled into the harbor. This was the first time I heard the fog horn.

Just two days left to ensure I pack in all the Maine things. The time is just too short.


Serenity and Wendie

Russ started his day with his walk to Ash point. It is like walking to the edge of civilization if all human existence stopped one step behind him. He reported the water was warm today as he dipped his hand in from the rock ledge. Shay does not to go on that walk, as it is too far for her. This makes Russ very sad.

I had a different day ahead; lunch with my very dear friend Wendie. We met my first year I lived in Washington DC, introduced by my ground zero friend David. Wendie and David worked together and we all became part of a little pack of friends. Wendie married Bob and together they had the first baby of our friend group, Cory. Cory’s first two years were filled with this cast of crazy “Aunts and Uncles.” She called me Dee Dee, a name that still sticks with Wendie.

When Cory was not quite two, Wendie and Bob left her with me while they went to look at houses in Atlanta. It was a very cold late winter weekend and it snowed so much Cory and I were stuck in their house. I gave her a bath and tried to brush her freshly washed hair. Apparently I pulled it a little too hard and she said, “But Dee Dee, ma hair, ma hair.” It is a sentence that is repeated often in my house whenever we need to say anything about hair.

By luck Wendie was up in Camden last night, having gone to see Sting, yes that Sting, so we had lunch together today. We met at Home kitchen cafe and occupied the very best table for over two hours, much to the distress of other guests awaiting a seat. There is no such thing as time lost between us. As we are about to enter our fourth decade of friendship we can pick up right where we left off no matter how long it has been.

I returned home to Russ who had been working diligently all day. So much for his sabbatical. I lazily read my book and watched the sky and the water turn into one before the setting sun brought out a tinge of pink on the world. Only in this place, without noise or responsibilities, would I allow myself so much selfish solitude.


Misfit Dinner, and I Don’t Mean the Guest

When you rent a house for four weeks you end up stocking the fridge. So for the first three weeks we bought whatever we wanted and cooked or went out. Now here we are in week four. I open the fridge and look around the kitchen and think, “I’ve got to use these things up.”

Tonight our friend Warren was coming for dinner. Looking in the fridge I had lots of different kinds of cheese, some really good tomato sauce from a fancy gourmet store in Rockport, mushrooms from the Belfast farmers market I forgot about and some various veggies. What can I make? Pizza! That was a good plan, but it barley made a dent in the cheese or sauce. We did use up all the beautiful mushrooms.

For dessert I had five tiny apples from Beth’s Market. At first I thought a crumble, but somehow that morphed into a rice pudding with apples. I had Arborio rice, milk, sugar and egg so it was enough of the makings for rice pudding. Thankfully the house also came stocked with vanilla and cinnamon. I cooked up the apples with some lemon and cinnamon which were the perfect tart treat with a dollop of sweet rice pudding. Now we have too much rice pudding left over. Maybe Russ will have it for breakfast.

Warren came for dinner and we had a little editing job to do on something he had written, then we had our dinner made from the misfits. It was all good, but I am worried how the week is going to go with a partial cabbage, a butternut squash, one tomato, some kale and two leftover fish tacos. I’m not sure Warren would want to come back for another clean out the fridge meal. Oh I do have some sweet pickle relish and two kinds of mustard and some yankee version of jalapeño pimento cheese. Even a chopped basket would be easier than this set up.

Fiddle-dee-dee. I will just have to think about that tomorrow.


Shay: No Scary Water, Yes Lobster Grilled Cheese

Russ actually did not work today. I write that and I am unsure if it is true. He was up at 5:30 and could have been working, but not for long as I was up at 5:40. The sunrise is powerful here, even with the blinds. I have not slept past 6:00 most days.

Today we had a big trip to Acadia. We took Shay to see the sites. She did not like sitting in the back of the car alone when Russ was driving. She thought she she be on his lap, which was not allowed. We went to Southwest Harbor to look at a house Russ had wanted us to rent when he first came up with this plan to come to Maine for a month. I vetoed that house on the basis that it was too fancy, too big and too expensive. We had no trouble finding it and Russ agreed that the house we got was a much better fit.

Southwest Harbor is a sweet place, but I like the mid coast much better than Penobscot Bay. There are too many tourists around Acadia and too many campers. Not that we didn’t have a great time visiting. We went to Bass Harbour Head Light Station and Shay enjoyed the walk. On the way we stopped on the Seawall road and thanks to the full moon and a high tide that water was putting on quite a show hitting the rocks. Shay did not like any of that. The sound of water is very scary for her as well as the rocks being difficult for her to walk on.

After that we drove around to the fishing village of Bernard and considered our options for lunch. Which Lobster shack should we choose. The screened in one over looking the harbour in Bernard seemed too crowded for Shay so we doubled back to Archie’s Lobster which was a food truck with a bunch of tables on pavement over looking the harbour. It seemed like the worst choice. Turns out to have been a hidden gem Russ had read about, but didn’t know this was the place.

Archie’s has a lobster grilled cheese that you dip into Lobster bisque. This very well may be the winner of best lobster anything we have had this summer. The grilled cheese had cheddar and pepper jack cheese, which gave the lobster a hint of zing. Shay thought it was a big winner too. Full of goodness we eventually wandered our way home.

I stoped in Camden to run the car through a car wash and Shay objected to that water event also. I guess she would have been OK with it if I had a lobster grilled cheese to give her during the car wash.

Lobster Count:18


Maine Time

After three weeks, with visitors and places to go, Russ and and I are alone and I have settled into Maine time. Maine time means I spend a good portion of daylight hours watching boats and birds. I have come to identify lobster boats by their buoys and sail boats by their length. Twice I have seen a bald eagle fly by my second story window, but being on Maine time means I don’t have a phone near by to catch a photo of her.

If I have one thing to do a day it is an event. Yesterday I met my friend Jamie for lunch in Lincolnville. Maine time means I took a photo of my lunch and not of Jamie. The lack of photo does not indicate the quality of time we had together. Since we both went to high school and college together we have a breadth of overlap that we pick right up on even though our visits are few and far between. I promised next summer to see her more and with some of our Walker’s friends who come to visit.

Maine time means that today’s outing, a badly needed pedicure, had me choosing a green polish in honor of the pine tree state. I never had anything like green toes before.

Meals are not planned, but gathered from the choices picked up at road size stand awaiting in the fridge, making combinations interesting as we need to eat up what we have.

Lobster counts have been kept, but not reported for days. As they are a family count I need to add five lobsters to the total for the last few days. Maine time means we are now craving chicken, since we have only eaten fish for the last few weeks.

Snuggling with Shay is a full time job along with opening and closing the deck door depending on her whim. That whim changes every five minutes.

Sadly I have finished my puzzle, which mysteriously was missing three blue pieces by the time I was done. I won’t have time to do another as I am so deep into Maine time my productivity has dwindled to near nothing.

Maine time means no TV or News so when Carter texted me about the queen I was hours late to begin the mourning. The quiet of our house is addictive, with only bird calls as song.

The sweetness of a month in Maine is not lost on me. It is the rejuvenation of the soul and the calming of the brain. Oh I love Maine time.

Lobsters Eaten: 15


Maine Time

After three weeks, with visitors and places to go, Russ and and I are alone and I have settled into Maine time. Maine time means I spend a good portion of daylight hours watching boats and birds. I have come to identify lobster boats by their buoys and sail boats by their length. Twice I have seen a bald eagle fly by my second story window, but being on Maine time means I don’t have a phone near by to catch a photo of her.

If I have one thing to do a day it is an event. Yesterday I met my friend Jamie for lunch in Lincolnville. Maine time means I took a photo of my lunch and not of Jamie. The lack of photo does not indicate the quality of time we had together. Since we both went to high school and college together we have a breadth of overlap that we pick right up on even though our visits are few and far between. I promised next summer to see her more and with some of our Walker’s friends who come to visit.

Maine time means that today’s outing, a badly needed pedicure, had me choosing a green polish in honor of the pine tree state. I never had anything like green toes before.

Meals are not planned, but gathered from the choices picked up at road size stand awaiting in the fridge, making combinations interesting as we need to eat up what we have.

Lobster counts have been kept, but not reported for days. As they are a family count I need to add five lobsters to the total for the last few days. Maine time means we are now craving chicken, since we have only eaten fish for the last few weeks.

Snuggling with Shay is a full time job along with opening and closing the deck door depending on her whim. That whim changes every five minutes.

Sadly I have finished my puzzle, which mysteriously was missing three blue pieces by the time I was done. I won’t have time to do another as I am so deep into Maine time my productivity has dwindled to near nothing.

Maine time means no TV or News so when Carter texted me about the queen I was hours late to begin the mourning. The quiet of our house is addictive, with only bird calls as song.

The sweetness of a month in Maine is not lost on me. It is the rejuvenation of the soul and the calming of the brain. Oh I love Maine time.

Lobsters Eaten: 15


Sadness for the Queen

Even though she was 96, I am still shocked at the death of Queen Elizabeth. As long as I have been alive she was THE QUEEN. It did not matter that other countries might have had queens, or a singer was “the queen of soul” or “Queen B”, there was only one real Queen, Elizabeth.

Having lived in London twice in my life, the last time on the north side of Hyde Park right near Buckingham palace, I revered her. To my British friends I send my condolences. Monarchy is a complicated subject. To those inside the UK who feel it is too expensive I want to remind them that the best ambassador for tourism in the UK has been the queen. She has been so beloved around the world.

I am especially shocked that the Queen gave an audience to the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, just days before her death. She was up and dressed and holding her hand bag three days ago. Now she is gone. I certainly hope not to be working three days before I die. Liz Truss better do an damn good job, since she was the last PM to have an audience with the queen. It’s an auspicious start to her term.

I am glad that the queen lived long enough to have her big Jubilee. She was feted while she was living and we can morn her now that she is gone. I am going to have a very hard time switching from “God save the queen,” to “God save the king.” She left some really big, but sensible, shoes to fill. God help King Charles.


And Just Like That

Her flight was at 4:40. It takes us about five minutes to drive from our little house to the Owl’s Head airport. She had to check-in in person thirty minutes before the flight and fifteen minutes before six TSA agents came out and opened the security check. With an eight person flight that’s almost one TSA person per flyer.

Comically her ticket said “pre-check” but that did not mean that they were not going to open and search every inch of her bag, along with everyone else’s. Since we had nothing better to do we went outside the airport and sat in the Adirondack chairs next to the covered picnic table which must be the TSA break room.

Shay was very attentive watching the pilot check the plane, which happened to be Cape Air’s newer model with what looked like more head room. Russ looked it up on his new favorite website Flightrader. Turns out her plane is serial number 37, new plane indeed.

We watched her walk out of the terminal along with her co-passengers and hand off her back pack to be stowed in the rear of the plane. No wing storage on this model. She boarded first without a look back. I teared up a little as the flight taxied down to the end of the runway. A rare week together. So few and far between. She’s back to her happy life in Boston. It’s what we worked all those years for, but It doesn’t make me any less sad when she flys away.


Carter’s Last Full Day

It’s Carter’s last full day visiting us in Maine. We have had a fun week even though she has had to work some. It started out as a gray day. I was happy we were not on the schooner sailing by our house this morning.

Tonight we finally went for ice cream at our favorite Dairy Bar Dorman’s. Carter said, “It’s really vacation when you get to go for ice cream in your pajamas.” Carter stayed in the car, but for the record the girls in front of me were in their Pajamas.

We are going to miss Carter, especially Shay, who liked riding in the car in the back with her. I am not looking forward to Shay’s moping when we drop Carter off at the airport tomorrow. I don’t think that even ice cream will make her happy then.


Least Laboring Labor Day

I know that Labor Day is a holiday to honor working people, but since I have not been a laborer since I worked in the printing factory one summer in high school it is normally a day of fun for me. Traditionally if I am not at a Labor Day Picnic I am at home laboring over some much needed chore.

This year we are in Maine. No Party to go to and with the terribly cold rain all day no outdoor festivities. Since this is not my house I have no pent up chores to do; no attic to clean out, obnoxious garage to straighten up, no cobwebs to sweep from eaves. Instead, this has been the most non-laboring Labor Day ever.

I literally stayed in bed playing games on my iPad for a good part of the morning. Then I got up and dressed, made the bed and laid back down to read this wonderful book Suzanne gave me. Around 1:30 I thought it would be a good idea to actually leave our room so I went down stairs and had some leftovers for lunch. Not even cooking to labor over. I worked on my puzzle Karen gave me. I am stretching out finishing the puzzle. Now at 4:00 I’m back up on my bed, looking out over the water, which is free of birds and boats to watch. It’s back to reading, after this short productive ten minutes to write.

I should be fully rested by the time tomorrow rolls around. Pray for sunshine.


The Breakwater Two Ways

What an active day we had today. It started with our morning constitutional walk on the breakwater to the Rockland light house. It was a beautiful day for that walk and it turns out that the light house was open on one of it’s rare occasions. After a good three mile walk in the salt air and we were ready for brunch.

Home Kitchen Cafe has a menu that begs you to try everything, but that would take six months. Everyone else in Rockland also wanted to eat there today. Thanks to my having a friendly conversation with the hostess about her hurt back we got bumped up the list and did not have to wait the 40 minutes that was first quoted.

Brunch and the breakwater wore us out so we repaired home to rest and naps were had by some. There wasn’t a lot of time to hang out as we had a sailing trip on Bufflehead with Captain Dan. Sailing out of Rockland Harbor we went out to the Owls Head Lighthouse. Dan was thoroughly entertaining and Carter and Estelle enjoyed the view from the bow.

As we came back in the harbor we sailed right up to the lighthouse and down the harbor side of the breakwater. It was an excellent and much more relaxing way to enjoy the sites.

We finished off the day by picking up a vegetarian Indian dinner from Namaste. It was a totally different cuisine from our normal chowder.

Shay was thrilled for us to finally be home to snuggle with her. She wishes she had gone sailing too.


Resetting Expectations

Every year we come to Maine we make sure to secure a reservation at Primo, one of our favorite Restaurants. It is wildly popular and usually does not disappoint. Primo is one of the original Farm to table restaurants, with the farm right behind the restaurant. This year we made sure to go during Carter’s visit along with her friend Estelle.

We went early tonight so we could walk around the gardens and admire their perfect rows of many types of lettuce, and Swiss chard and fennel. They do grow a perfect garden. Then there are the chickens and the pigs. So many chickens doing their best to peck up every possible bug. Estelle and Carter loved the whole array of animals.

We enjoyed a drink and some oysters in the barn bar before checking in with the hostess for our seven-thirty reservation. It was more than a little wait for our table. Eventually we were seated close to eight. Getting a table did not mean getting a waiter. That was another twenty minutes. Thankfully one of the helpers mistakenly brought us bread that a different table had ordered. It was well after 8:30 before we placed a drink order.

Our Australian waiter made a half apology about keeping us waiting, but is dripped with insincerity. The rest of his service lived up to our first impression. Thankfully his slowness was not indicative of the chef’s talents.

Our food was divine. Carter and I both had the poached lobster risotto adding to our lobster totals for the vacation. Russ had the octopus and the fig pizza and Estelle the bolognese. The time between our starters and our mains was so long I was ready to go home before the risotto arrived. We couldn’t even consider dessert because that would have taken us into the next day.

We were so late leaving the restaurant we only saw one car pass us all the home for three miles.

My suggestion to ourselves next year is that we don’t come on the Saturday of a long weekend, that we come for an earlier seating and pray for a non-Australian waiter. Nothing against Australians in general, just not this guy.

I know that getting staff this year is tougher than normal. I just need to know that is true for even the finest places. I’m adjusting my expectations.

Lobster Count: 12


Hug Your Pets

I’ll start with the good news, Shay is fine, but we had a little scare after dinner tonight she suddenly started crying and could not straighten out her back. Carter’s friend Estelle, who arrived today, immediately started looking for emergency vets as we were trying to access what Shay had done.

Russ and Carter took her off to the mid-coast emergency vets and while they were waiting to be seen Shay’s back relaxed and she seemed back to normal. The vet said she just made one wrong move that caused the spasm, now she is going to have to take it easy. It was scary, until she felt better.

She got better while waiting for the vet

This was not the way the day had been going. Carter and I got up early and went to the Belfast farmer’s market. The growing season in Maine is short so farmers have to make a much as they can when the tourists are around and will pay top dollar. I was happy to help the local community.

I asked one guy selling goat cheese how his day was and he replied, “ I live on a farm with lots of goats and get to make cheese, what could be bad.” I think it was this man’s second act and it was beautiful. Farming is hard work and we need younger people to be able to make a living at it.

After our big adventure out we came home to wait for Estelle’s bus to arrive from Boston. It was very late due to Labor Day traffic. We are going to do our best to stay close to home this weekend as there are a lot of festivals meaning a lot of traffic. That and we need to keep Shay calm and relaxed at home.

Earlier in the day Shay giving Carter the “wha’ up”

There is no more helpless feeling than your dog crying and you can’t fix her. Hug your pets tonight.


Camden Day

Not surprisingly Russ is working way to much in Maine. The plan was for him to get away from day-to-day work so he could write, which is for work anyway. Sadly, work has gotten in the way of work and of fun! Today he had a day full of calls so Carter and I went out so he could have quiet.

Carter requested a trip to Camden. I have not stopped in Camden this year so it was a trip for both of us. We first had to visit our favorite coffee shop, Zoot. We enjoyed a delicious morning cafe au lait and gabbed. At one point we were laughing so hard, that I snorted and the couple next to us was getting a laugh out of us. Zoot, like so many businesses in Maine this year was suffering from a lack of staff. The staffing issue is compounded by an affordable housing issue. I suggest that the companies that build for- profit dorms do the same things for seasonal workers in places like Maine and Nantucket. That way businesses can offer people jobs that come with housing.

After coffee we went to our friend Warren’s shop, #10 Mechanic. Carter got some vintage Pyrex custard cups to use when making her mis en placé. Warren always takes good care of Carter!

After we went in a home decor store that I mistakenly thought replaced my favorite store. When I mentioned something to the owner, who had chosen her plastic surgeon badly, she said, “We have been here 37 years. That’s 30 years longer than that other store.” Now I miss Jo Ellen’s even more, not only did they have the best inventory they had the kindest owner.

Eventually we had lunch at Greens, a sweet little place. As we were waiting I used the restroom and said to Carter, “If their food is half as good as the cleanliness of their bathroom this place is a hit!” It was.

We wound our way home to find Russ still slaving away, not having even had time for lunch. As he was very hungry we decided to go into Rockland to Archer’s on the Pier for dinner. We left the house with Shay crying her head off. We came home to a mad puppy for having left her out of the fun. While we were at Archer’s we had the best waitress, Jilly, who told us she had been a professional waitress for over 42 years. She certainly was a pro. I searched out the owner Lin, and told her that Jilly was the best wait staff we had been served by in two years.

On the way home we took a number of detours to look, at houses. Carter was frustrated by the many private roads we could not drive down. We still had a wonderful tour as the best way to end our very fun day.


Camden Day

Not surprisingly Russ is working way to much in Maine. The plan was for him to get away from day-to-day work so he could write, which is for work anyway. Sadly, work has gotten in the way of work and of fun! Today he had a day full of calls so Carter and I went out so he could have quiet.

Carter requested a trip to Camden. I have not stopped in Camden this year so it was a trip for both of us. We first had to visit our favorite coffee shop, Zoot. We enjoyed a delicious morning cafe au lait and gabbed. At one point we were laughing so hard, that I snorted and the couple next to us was getting a laugh out of us. Zoot, like so many businesses in Maine this year was suffering from a lack of staff. The staffing issue is compounded by an affordable housing issue. I suggest that the companies that build for- profit dorms do the same things for seasonal workers in places like Maine and Nantucket. That way businesses can offer people jobs that come with housing.

After coffee we went to our friend Warren’s shop, #10 Mechanic. Carter got some vintage Pyrex custard cups to use when making her mis en placé. Warren always takes good care of Carter!

After we went in a home decor store that I mistakenly thought replaced my favorite store. When I mentioned something to the owner, who had chosen her plastic surgeon badly, she said, “We have been here 37 years. That’s 30 years longer than that other store.” Now I miss Jo Ellen’s even more, not only did they have the best inventory they had the kindest owner.

Eventually we had lunch at Greens, a sweet little place. As we were waiting I used the restroom and said to Carter, “If their food is half as good as the cleanliness of their bathroom this place is a hit!” It was.

We wound our way home to find Russ still slaving away, not having even had time for lunch. As he was very hungry we decided to go into Rockland to Archer’s on the Pier for dinner. We left the house with Shay crying her head off. We came home to a mad puppy for having left her out of the fun. While we were at Archer’s we had the best waitress, Jilly, who told us she had been a professional waitress for over 42 years. She certainly was a pro. I searched out the owner Lin, and told her that Jilly was the best wait staff we had been served by in two years.

On the way home we took a number of detours to look, at houses. Carter was frustrated by the many private roads we could not drive down. We still had a wonderful tour as the best way to end our very fun day.


Field Trip

The most wonderful thing about spending a month in Maine is I feel no compulsion to pack a lot into everyday. This makes this a truly relaxing vacation. But today we took a family field trip we could only do today. In our little neighborhood we noticed this sign for The Old Homestead. It stands in front of a tiny shingled house with no driveway, just a small barn and outhouse in back. Since the sign says it is only open 2-4 on Wednesdays we went on to visit.

There was a car parked on the grass so I just pulled up next to it in the yard. We approached the house and realized we had to go around to the side to get in. As the door was wide open I called out a greeting as we came in so as not to startle the docent. She was an 84 year old woman who never told us her name, as is often the way here in Maine. She told us that the house was built in 1773 and inhabited until 1938. It was a lovely tiny home with four rooms downstairs which we could go in and one big upstairs, which we only saw by looking up the staircase.

The smallest room had an antique rope bed and the docent told me it was the borning room. Since the original family had 13 children I think the room got good use. Russ, Carter and I spent a good amount of time looking at the books they had displayed showing the history of the area, the photos of kids in local schools in the 1950’s and a local cookbook.

Carter and I got quite a kick out of the cookbook. They were recipes submitted by local people with very little editing. Consequently there were multiple recipes for the same thing, like Fruit Salad or chocolate pie. In the case of fruit salad I wouldn’t eat anyone of them, especially since they were essentially all the same recipe, except for the one that wanted you to make your own salad dressing, using flour. Yuck!

Carter’s favorite were the two cream Puff Recipes. One titled, “Cream Puffs” the other “Prize winning Cream Puffs.” Which one would you make?

One chapter on sandwiches was down right scary. How many of you have eaten a fruit sandwich like the one described here.?

Things happen slowly here in Maine. Proof, they were giving away 2008 calendars at the Old Homestead. Since they are only open two hours a week it must be taking a long time to move those calendars. Maybe in a year or two they can give away 2009.

All in all it was a very interesting display and we could have spent a lot more time, but they weren’t opened long enough. So we went home and sat on the porch and enjoyed the view. Happy to do not much.


Field Trip

The most wonderful thing about spending a month in Maine is I feel no compulsion to pack a lot into everyday. This makes this a truly relaxing vacation. But today we took a family field trip we could only do today. In our little neighborhood we noticed this sign for The Old Homestead. It stands in front of a tiny shingled house with no driveway, just a small barn and outhouse in back. Since the sign says it is only open 2-4 on Wednesdays we went on to visit.

There was a car parked on the grass so I just pulled up next to it in the yard. We approached the house and realized we had to go around to the side to get in. As the door was wide open I called out a greeting as we came in so as not to startle the docent. She was an 84 year old woman who never told us her name, as is often the way here in Maine. She told us that the house was built in 1773 and inhabited until 1938. It was a lovely tiny home with four rooms downstairs which we could go in and one big upstairs, which we only saw by looking up the staircase.

The smallest room had an antique rope bed and the docent told me it was the borning room. Since the original family had 13 children I think the room got good use. Russ, Carter and I spent a good amount of time looking at the books they had displayed showing the history of the area, the photos of kids in local schools in the 1950’s and a local cookbook.

Carter and I got quite a kick out of the cookbook. They were recipes submitted by local people with very little editing. Consequently there were multiple recipes for the same thing, like Fruit Salad or chocolate pie. In the case of fruit salad I wouldn’t eat anyone of them, especially since they were essentially all the same recipe, except for the one that wanted you to make your own salad dressing, using flour. Yuck!

Carter’s favorite were the two cream Puff Recipes. One titled, “Cream Puffs” the other “Prize winning Cream Puffs.” Which one would you make?

One chapter on sandwiches was down right scary. How many of you have eaten a fruit sandwich like the one described here.?

Things happen slowly here in Maine. Proof, they were giving away 2008 calendars at the Old Homestead. Since they are only open two hours a week it must be taking a long time to move those calendars. Maybe in a year or two they can give away 2009.

All in all it was a very interesting display and we could have spent a lot more time, but they weren’t opened long enough. So we went home and sat on the porch and enjoyed the view. Happy to do not much.


Carter Comes to Maine

This was the day I have been waiting for. Carter was supposed to arrive in Maine on the 9:40 AM cape air flight. For some unknown reason last night’s flight did not make it back to Boston so she had a two hour delay while the plane flew from Owls Head to Boston to pick up the four passengers. I watched her flight on the flight radar 24 website. Even on the sight they show her plane as a tiny little thing.

I had told her to ask to sit on the right hand side of the plane, but she was too afraid to do that. So she missed the hand colored sign I put out in the yard to greet her. She thought it was sweet when she saw it from the ground.

The best part of Maine for Carter is that Shay Shay is here. They have not been together for nine months, their longest separation. Carter and Russ took Shay hiking this afternoon and afterwards Carter did a little face trimming to clean Shay up. Shay was much happier with a Carter cut.

All four of us went off to Claws for dinner. We always go to Claws as soon as a new guest arrives. I have been slack on reporting our family lobster count. I had lobster stew Saturday night. Russ had lobster in his risotto on Sunday at the causeway Restaurant, which we highly recommend. Carter and I had lobster tonight.

Lobster count: 10 and counting


The Elks Lodge

The last time I went to an Elks Lodge it was in Kent Island, MD when I was catering a girl’s wedding. I had not been hired to cater at the Elks Lodge, but at the Rockville Mansion. When that burned down five weeks before the wedding the back up the Elks as her Mother-in-law to be was the head of the lady elks.

After 35 years between visits today’s trip to the Rockland Elks Lodge was a wholly different feel. First of all this Elks Lodge was not a corrugated tin building and second of all there was not a room full of drunk men smoking in the bar. The reason for my visit was an auction that Warren took me to. I knew the auctioneer as I have bought an antique tall case clock from him. He has a shop in Rockland with beautiful antiques.

Warren and I went to the preview and both found some things we wanted, but we didn’t wasn’t to sit through the auction because then we would over bid. So we left bids and will find out tomorrow if we got anything. Instead Warren took me for ice cream.

I came home to find Russ still working. The idea of taking a month off in Maine has not worked out as far as the being off is concerned. I hope that he can slow down a little and spend more time outside.

We ate leftovers for dinner. Russ enjoyed the last of the blueberry pie. Shay eyed his pie and he shared it with her. Who knew this puppy liked blueberry pie so much.

I cleaned the house in anticipation of Carter’s arrival tomorrow on the first Cape Air flight from Boston. I colored a big sign that I am going to put out on our lawn because I think she will fly right over our house as they are coming in for a landing. I am so excited for her to be here for a week.

Too bad Carter missed the auction. She would have been the youngest one there by many decades, since I was the youngest one there. At least I can take her antiquing while she’s here, but I wish she had seen the Elks lodge.


Exploration Sunday

Russ, Shay and I went on a big exploration today. We jumped in the car and drove over to St. George and down to the marshal Point light house. The lighthouse is the one in Forest Gump. They have a pretty little museum, but sadly it was closed today.

Shay has been a little out of sorts the last few days, but loved going to the light house and seemed to get her appetite back walking by the coast.

We wanted to go the the next peninsula over. That meant we had to go back north and then go down to a Cushing and Friendship. This sight seeing trip made us happy about choosing Owls Head as our home base. Friendship is very remote and not terribly friendly. We stopped at the only place we saw open in and hour and a half, a general store. We got a sandwich to share and ate it on a picnic table out in the parking lot. Not exactly scenic.

It was a beautiful day so it was fun nonetheless. Shay especially liked getting to hang her head out the window as we drove.

Tonight we went to the Causeway restaurant at the Craignair Inn, in Spruce Head. It was the finest meal we have had since we’ve been here. We sat on the porch, which was fine until the bugs found me. It is worth another visit, but will sit inside next time. We should have worn bug spray as the causeway connects Spruce Head to Clark Island, which is a Nature preserve with trails. Russ read that it is too buggy to walk those trails.

We love Maine, but we some parts more than others. We are glad to be near civilization, but still in nature.


Everyday is Dog Day if you are Shay

Yesterday was National Dog day. In our house everyday is National, state, city, world and universe dog day. Russ is the most ardent dog day follower. Everything he does is for Shay, his most beloved. So in honor of Miss Shay Shay I wish to make this a mostly picture blog in homage to Russ’ love of Shay.


Never Enough Time With Friends

It has been a great visit with my friends of 46 years, Nancy and Karen. We became great friends in boarding school, stayed in touch in college, attended each other’s weddings, gone to many reunions together and visited each other’s home through the years. Getting to spend some solid days and nights together here in Maine just makes me miss being around them all the time even more.

There is a wonderful sameness in our senses of humor that only comes with so many shared experiences at critical junctures of our development. We can finish each other’s sentences like old spouses, even though we only see each other occasionally. We can always pick right up where we left off no matter how many years there are between physical visits.

Today was a fun day with the highlight being a lunch at Warren’s house and tour of his HoJo collection. Nancy had been a HoJo girl one summer when she was in high school so she took great glee in seeing all the memorabilia Warren had. The amazing thing is he had the weather vane from the very restaurant where Nancy worked.

Before we could go to Warren’s we had to make the big trip to Beth’s Farm Market to get gifts to take to Warren’s as well as some mementos for Karen and Nancy to take home. We bought so much stuff we pretended we were not together because we didn’t want to be accused of cleaning them out.

With a full car we headed over to Rockport and looked at the beautiful houses and then headed to clam cove and the best tuna melts on earth. Warren welcomed us in his new Howard Johnson’s t-shirt. Everyone got the tour and Nancy paid special attention as so much of his collection was exactly like she used at HoJo’s when she was sixteen.

Before we arrived I had predicted what we would be having to for lunch and like Carnac the Magnificent, I got every item he served right down to the make of Lemonade. I’m not saying Warren is predictable, but just like Howard Johnson’s you are going to get the same great quality product no matter which restaurant you stopped into.

After lunch Warren showed Karen and Nancy the rest of his house including many antiques ready for him to take into 10 Mechanic to sell. I saw a number of things I think Carter might like.

It was a sweet visit of old boarding school friends and Warren waved us good bye as we drove out of his driveway on our way to our owl’s head home. We stayed in tonight and had an easy fried rice for dinner, finally eating our tiny raspberry pie we bought yesterday from the store that had just fruit pies made by a fourth generation pie maker.

Life in Maine feels simpler, sweeter and slower, especially with such wonderful old friends. So glad we decided 46 years ago that we liked each other and we still do now.


Sales Isn’t Everyone’s Thing

There are so many wonderful things we love about Maine. The beauty of the sunrise. The pristine water. The clear blue skies.

The single item stores where you know that the pies have to be wonderful since that is all they sell. Or the cheese is the most delicious so they don’t bother selling anything else.

Then there are the the places that sell two items, not always related. Today Nancy, Karen and I went into one we liked, a popsicle/ apron store. We didn’t buy an $85 apron, but we did get a $6 wild Maine blueberry or a raspberry lemon popsicle.

For the most part Mainers are friendly industrious people who put up with those from away because we help their commerce. I’m not sure how many Mainers are buying $85 aprons.

On my tour of fun Maine places I took Nancy and Karen to Belfast. We had plans to also go to Camden, but Belfast was enough for us. We bought fabric and art supplies at the Fiddlehead Artisan, we admired the Dahlias, bought a fly swatter at the best hardware store, looked at shoes in the oldest shoe store in America and ate the best lunch at Chase Daily.

One stop I raved about on the way to Belfast was a bookstore I love. Not for the books, but for the orange Julius cookies. Warren and I always make a trip there for these special cookies and I wanted to share them with Karen and Nancy.

So after lunch we walked down the hill to the book store. Most years I am helped there by an ex- New Yorker who is gregarious and fun. Today when we entered the store I did not see him behind the counter, but instead was a woman. As she was helping another customer, I went to the back of the store to see if she had any of her famous cookies. I spotted four in the glass fronted case.

As I made my way back to the counter I heard her large dog barking at a rather large man in the store. The dog belonged to the store owner and she calmed him down. I asked if she could come sell me some cookies. Her response was odd. “I can’t go back there and leave my dog here, because she does not like this man.”

I looked at the man, who appeared to not be interested in buying anything and was just hanging around. I asked him, “Are you leaving soon?” He felt no compulsion to answer me, nor leave. The store owner asked him if he would come back to the cookie area with us so that the dog couldn’t see him. He obliged her and together the three of us went to the back.

“I’ll take all four of the cookies,” I announced. The women responded, “I don’t want to sell you all of them. How about you take three?” I am unaccustomed to having to bargain to pay full price for a product that someone is selling. If you have it for sale and I want to give you the asking price then it’s a deal.

“I came all the way from North Carolina, like I do every year, to buy these cookies.”

“If I sell them all to you, there won’t be any for someone else who might come in.”

“I have my two friends with me and my husband back home so I wanted four cookies. Do I need my friend to buy a cookie?”

“Ok, I guess you can have them.”

Have them? I’m buying them.

When I inquired where the nice guy from NY was, she said he had left her years ago. “But I bought cookies from him last year?”

“Oh, he took a long time to leave me.”

I handed her the cash for the cookies and thought the New Yorker couldn’t have gotten away fast enough.


Friends Colliding

It was a busy day at my little Maine Cottage. It was change over day for guests, but with a planned overlap. Suzanne and Oliver spent the night here. We awoke to a foggy day so we had to scrap our morning breakwater walk for a game playing morning. I was finally able to begin to teach them how to play Mah Jongg. Oliver announced that I am his favorite person to play games with and have been his whole life. Granted that life is only 20 years long, but I am taking the compliment nonetheless.

It was no surprise that Oliver caught on very quickly. His Chinese language studies helped him be able to read what some of the tiles were. Suzanne also was a fast learner, but a 60 year old brain just takes long than a 20 year old brain no matter who you are. I was able to at least intrigue them with a bit of the game.

Eventually we had to stop and prepare lunch as our next guests, Nancy and Karen my boarding school friends were arriving in time for a late lunch. Suzanne peeled and sliced the peaches and cut the tomatoes for a yummy fresh ricotta, peach, tomato, mozzarella, basil salad. I make some Mexican chicken melts and we had a good lunch ahead of us.

Nancy and Karen pulled in exactly on the predicted time and I was finally able to introduce my oldest friends from high school and college to each other. Since Karen was from New Hampshire and is moving back there I wanted Suzanne to meet her because I thought they would be good friends and neighbors.

Suzanne and Oliver were having enough fun with us all that they delayed their trip home so they could go walk the Rockland breakwater with us now that the fog had burned off. A good walk with new and old friends is almost the best thing to do.

Sadly after the walk Steve and Oliver had to get on the road, but not until they stopped at Claws to get something eat on the way home. Claws was our plan for dinner too. So Russ and I initiated Nancy and Karen into the claws fan club. Thankfully the line was not too long tonight. The couple behind us asked if this was the line to get inside. As obvious first timers I told them, “No, there is no inside. This is the line to order.”

Claws never disappoints and I tried a new lobster item, the lobster tacos. And Russ had lobster Bisque. So that brings our lobster totals up to six.

Now I have two more friends to play with while Russ is working. They brought sweet gifts, the funniest being a bar of soap. It’s great that my friends read this blog and know what I need.

Lobster totals: six