Friday is the first day of summer but it feels like we've been in full swing for at least a month! We've been cramming picnics, farm trips, shorts and tees, lemonade, butterfly catching, gardening and every bit of summer fun we can into every sunny day we've had so far. What have YOU been up these sunshiney days?
Sam is on a bike ride with a friend, Vivian is napping, and I'm enjoying the stillness, a little remembering and some day dreaming.The taste of summer in Maine is still lingering; it just might carry me through these winter months. That and some knitting, hot chocolate and a few good novels (any suggestions for a cozy read?).
Guess where we're going this summer? Home to MAINE! We're spending a whole week back east with my family. And the most exciting news is that the reason we're going is for my little brother's wedding! We love the girl he's marrying and we love Maine, so a happy trip all around.
We already have quite a few books about Maine; I want it to be part of our family culture even if we only visit once in awhile. It's such a big part of who I am, that I want it to at least be a small part of who my children are too. So far our collection is rather modest, but growing. I happen to know from an inside source that Sam is getting a book about ship wrecked circus animals in Maine from his grammy. And a couple weeks ago we found Counting Our Way to Maine , which I've been reading to Sam and talking to him about the trip we'll soon be taking. Here are a few more from our collection:Blueberries for Sal
One Morning in Maine (My personal favorite)
In Maine winters the evenings grow darker much earlier and a warm, toasty fire is always in order.
The cozy evenings and all of us being together again inspired some favorite pastimes. Dan is somewhat of a musical genius (no sisterly bias whatsoever) and he played while the rest of us sang songs ranging from Peter Paul and Mary to the Beatles and eventually some Nirvana and Guns n' Roses. Clay does a mean Axl Rose.
There were card games and stories read aloud. We even played a little speed scrabble, my favorite!
Times seems to move a little slower in Maine. It takes me mere moments to adjust to the more relaxed pace, but days to get back into my normal schedule once home. It was nice to take a pause and just enjoy the simple comforts of home and time with the fam.
One of our favorite places is the Windsor Chair Makers near my parents' house in Maine. They make all sorts of beautiful, Shaker-inspired furniture right there in their shop. And they have an entire house as a showroom that you can wander through and see all of the furniture set up like it would be in a real house.
The house itself is lovely with plank floors, small square-paned windows, exposed beams and large brick fireplaces.
It's fun visiting their shop because you can walk around and look at pieces that are in the process of being made and if you visit during work hours they're happy to stop and explain the process to you.
In their showroom they have three or four of their competitors' Windsor chairs that you can try out side by side. The difference is astonishing! I did not expect to notice such a huge difference, but their chairs just seem to hug your body to the chair and support it so comfortably.
Some day I plan on having two of these chairs, one for each end of the table Clay made.
There's this magical path in the woods behind my parents' house that I love to walk. It's carved like a tunnel through the trees and undergrowth. Fifty years ago it used to be a regular road for cars to drive on, but newer roads got built and this one went unused and the forest eventually claimed it again.
Some of my best memories with my dad are of us in the woods when he would point out the secrets that they had to tell; animal tracks, owl pellets, the way the lichen grew on the trees, sharp and tasty wintergreen buried beneath the leaves. It's fun to see my dad teaching Sam those same things.
Off to one side of the path is a series of ponds all tangled up in trees and moss. My mom used to gather frog eggs here in the spring when she was a little girl (this is the house she grew up in) and watch them hatch in a jar.
To Sam their yard is expansive and huge. Actually, to me, now used to the -1/10th acre lot we're on in the city, it's looking pretty huge too! He loves racing through the crunchy leaves and collecting acorns. We found a stash of them at the base of a tree that had been nibbled, and even saw the squirrel that was the likely owner of the nibbled nuts!
My dad tucked these leaves into Sam's hat as a moose costume:)
Moss grows everywhere in Maine; the moist climate is perfect for it. I never understood why people didn't like moss growing on their lawn; I love it! Though, we tend to be less fanatical (or maybe lazy?) about our lawns in Maine. We mow it and that's about it. Whatever Mother Nature wants to grow there as long as it's green is okay by us. In the picture below all that green is moss beneath the oak tree; isn't it pretty?
It felt so good to be out in the clean, fresh Maine air, walking through the woods that seem quiet compared to the cacaphony of the city, yet have their own bright and varied symphony. In the woods here you can here each sound, separate and clear; there's a wood pecker in the swamp on the left, a car turning into a drive down the road, the snap of twigs as a small animal scurries through the brush, and your own footsteps sounding out clear and distinct.
We're in Maine again! While the clam chowder (white, not red, of course) was certainly worth the plane fare, we really came to Maine because my little brother came home from a two year mission in Brazil! This was the very first time Sam met his uncle Dan, but you would've thought they'd been friends forever; Sam's nuts about him.
I don't know about you, but so many of my memories and feelings about home are tied up in food. Certain smells and tastes take me back immediately and there are certain things that only my mom can make.
Sam had his first taste of Grammy's homemade rice pudding. It's a Swedish recipe from her Aunt Edith, another one of those secret family recipes like the rhubarb pie...
And we couldn't take a trip to Maine without breathing in some of that magical ocean air. I swear it heals what ails you. It's been a warm autumn here and we all basked in the late afternoon sun in only long sleeves and jeans.
Mom packed some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made on her homemade bread. There's something about that sea air that gives you a voracious appetite. And everything tastes better on the beach.
We spotted a bunch of seals out in the water. They seemed to be as curious about us as we were about them and continued to pop their heads out of the water to peer around the whole time we were there. I think they were saying, "Welcome home!"
PS Giveaway coming later tonight!
Well, we're back home in Utah, refreshed and relaxed from our trip to Maine. Here are few memories from the last two weeks:
:: Lobster traps piled high by the river, down the road from my parent's house.
:: Fried clams and french fries with a girlfriend at the restaurant we used to work at in high school.
:: Camden harbor in the evening.
:: Going with my dad to his writer's group at the Wiscasset library.
:: Watching Sam get to know and love my parents.
Ooh, I'd been thinking about this the whole trip! We finally picked up some lobster from a local fisherman just down the road. Would you believe it was only $4/lb? The price of lobster has just gone way down because of the lack of demand due to the sluggish economy, which is a bummer for the lobstermen, but kind of awesome for us.
Lobster is such a messy affair, and that's half the fun. The notion of lobster being a fancy food, must only be held by those who never eat it. Because once you dig in there's no being dainty or delicate about it. It's all juice squirting, shell crushing, meat sucking deliciousness. I remember once I brought a boyfriend home from college and we had lobster. I looked up from dismembering my crustacean to see a look of horror on his face. It felt like that scene in Splash where the mermaid bites right into the lobster, shell and all, only to realize a moment too late that people on land don't do that.
I suppose it is a rather gruesome affair if you're not used to it, and I can recognize the irony in the fact that I don't hesitate to suck the meat out of each and every skinny lobster leg, but that I get squeamish about cooking a whole chicken (I kind of hate dealing with raw meat, which is half the reason we eat so many veggies!). And yes, I will admit that's it's rather hypocritical that I made my dad drop them into the boiling water because I can't handle it, but am all too willing to dig in when they emerge from their steam bath twenty minutes later, an appetizing shade of fire engine red (they're greenish-brown when they go in).
But, all that moralizing and concern about double standards and whatnot is all too easy to brush aside after that first succulent, butter-drenched bite. Oh, baby how I love lobster! It is Heaven on a plate.
Just try not to stare into their beady eyes...
I have to admit, my parents can be kind of rad. My mom suggested going for a swim in the old quarry, buried deep in the woods, a kind of locals' secret. Mom, Sam and I walked the long dirt road and then turned onto the narrow, overgrown path that leads to the quarry. My dad ran on ahead to get his daily exercise.
The path reminded us of some sort of fairy kingdom, overgrown with moss, shrouded ponds and tree-formed forts were scattered along the way. If they didn't bite so awfully much I might have mistaken the swarms of mosquitoes and no-see-ums for little winged fairies!
The quarry is separated by small strip of land from the ocean, and so, is full of salt water, but salt water that's the perfect temperature for swimming. It felt so lovely to loll about in the buoyant, warm water. We all agreed it must have some sort of salutary benefits because we all felt pretty amazing afterward.
Maine has had more than it's fair share of rain this summer, so when we had a really hot day that actually felt like the tail end of July we scooted on down the road a couple miles to the closest sandy spot. And we parked ourselves there for the rest of the day! I've got the sunburn to prove it.
My mom briefly went back to the house to make egg salad sandwiches and pack up a little picnic lunch. Everything tastes so good at the beach. Something about the air and ocean works up an appetite like nothing else. My mom snuck a little fresh basil into the sandwiches and it was so delicious!
The sky was so huge, I wish I could have captured it. How amazing to lay on the sand and see nothing but blue, broken by a few wispy brush strokes of cloud.
When Sam wasn't collecting snails, wading in the water or eating seaweed, he napped in this little shelter I rigged up for him.
My dad took a break from working and rode his bike down to the beach to join us in our picnic. Then he, Sam and I set out across the vast, sandy expanse the tide had left behind as it rushed out. I'd never seen so many hermit crabs! And we practically had the beach to ourselves. How delicious to run across rippled sand still damp from the retreating tide. I love the way it shifts beneath my feet. I felt like a kid again, hunting for treasures, feeling the sand on my sunbured skin.
We are a rugged breed, we Yankees. And innovative and hard working too. Up and down the peninsula my parents live on, nearly every other house has a sign for some sort of cottage industry whether an art gallery, a sewing repair service or a hair salon. It's part of how people make it through the winter when everything all but shuts down around here. Maine is an entirely different place in the winter.
My dad and I got some flowers here for my mom on the way home. Not only are they beautiful, but the prices are way better than at a store and I much prefer their arrangements. It's like that with a lot of these little business. I'd rather do business with our neighbors and it's often better quality, and of course more personal and friendly.
Along with having a little something to sell or odd jobs to do, most Mainers are pretty self-reliant and independent too, whether it's siding your own barn or, like my uncle, adding solar panels and those things that heat water onto the side of his house. He's been working on this project since last summer and it's pretty exciting. He also, of course, sells rhubarb from a cute, little stand and has a B&B, soon to be an off-the-grid bed and breakfast!
My other uncle (in the top picture) has the ultimate homestead. It's so gorgeous, situated right along the river is a little valley nestled in the trees. He has several gardens and grows enough to keep himself fed all winter with the help of his root cellar and some ambitious canning. He also takes it upon himself to outfit a handful of old ladies and other friends and family with plenty of garden extras. When we lived here I'd always see him out and about delivering extra produce. He also taught high school history and was a state representative for many years. I wish my local rep was a gardening, clothesline-using, homesteader!
On a whim I picked up this little travel set of Windsor & Newton water colors and a pad of water color paper sized just right to mail as post cards. I used to paint and draw all the time, up until about the middle of college when I just got out of the habit. Then I married a brilliant artist, and well, I just sort of let art be his thing. But, it's a part of me too and I started remembering that while at home.
Sam and I spent a foggy afternoon by the ocean. He hunted snails and I dabbled in paint and water, enjoying the swirling together of colors and the wet, salty air. I don't think I've ever seen a day where the ocean didn't look beautiful, no matter what the weather. In fact, I love a mysterious, gentle mist to cloak the landscape. It was still warm and the fog softened things, made the view more romantic, quieter, gentler.
I did manage to take a break from painting long enough to gather a few treasures for the Natural History Museum. We've collected quite a few goodies for the museum this trip, including an antique shell collection my dad spotted at an auction!
Our little town held it's annual celebration this past weekend. No matter how grand the floats, how lovely the beauty queens or how copious the amounts of candy thrown at big parades, I always prefer the small, home-grown variety. There was a HUGE parade in Utah for the 4th, but we opted not to fight the crowds. There were rumored to be 1 million+ people there! They're have to be handing out Cadillacs along with the tootsie rolls to get me to brave a crowd of a million- yikes! I much prefer a parade where you can arrive five minutes before it starts (which really means arriving on time because they always start late) park and stand wherever you want, and wave to the little girl playing in the band who lives down the street. That's her in the middle, the cutie-pie with with the brown hair.
Prior to the parade we hit up the book sale put on by the tiny town library. I would have stocked up if it weren't for that darn over-the-weight-limit suitcase! I did buy one book that I've been reading, maybe I'll report in Friday's review...
I'd totally take a kayak tour from these guys, wouldn't you?
I love the creativity and quirkiness that thrives in small towns. The two local markets represented, as did their dog...
Our favorite part was definitely the bagpipe band; it was the coolest! All those old guys marching in unison, all done up in their kilts with cheeks puffing, belting out good Irish tunes. For some reason I almost got a little choked up at this part. I love thinking about the people who settled this peninsula hundreds of years ago (my ancestors!) and the heritage that we still cultivate.
Our cute neighbor from across the street dusts off his antique cars for the parade and he and wife slowly cruise down main street, waving and smiling. And, I don't know if it's like this in your hometown, but since the parade always ends much too soon, and since firetrucks are bright and flashy, make loud noises, and kids love them (as evidenced by Sam below) they're always included at the end of the parade, flashing and honking, the lucky kids of firefighters riding along and waving.
One of my dearest friends who I always visit when I come home to Maine is actually one of my mom's dearest friends too. She taught my Sunday school class when I was about 11 or 12 and ever since then we've held annual girl camp outs with canoeing, foil dinners, skinny dipping, blueberry picking and foot massages. Only in the last few years have the camp outs fallen away as we girls have moved to all corners of the country, but we still try to get together with Chrissy whenever we come home.
Chrissy's home has the peaceful loveliness of a temple. Her home is full of thoughtful details (cool water with lemon when I arrived!); blooming, growing things; delicious and healthy treats and plenty of handmade goodness. She and her husband built their home stick by stick and it's still a labor love, changing and improving as the years go by.
Each thing in her home is there with purpose, there is no excess, no quantity in lieu of quality. She'd rather have fewer wooden spoons, than oodles of plastic ones. Deep blue, glass dishes are washed and dried by hand in a beautiful, gray slate, farm-style sink.
One of the wonderful things about Chrissy is that she LOVES her work as a reflexologist. She derives genuine joy from giving other people comfort and health and considers it a privilege to share her gift. And what a gift it is! I absolutely melt under her hands. Some people just have knowing hands and she is one of those people. She can read the bottoms of your feet and ascertain the health of the rest of your body, even where you're carrying stress or if your digestion is sluggish.
She's one of the most delightful combinations of hippie and Christian; so peaceful and kind, so gentle in her dealings with people, the land, and any living thing. I always feel so relaxed as soon as I cross her threshhold. It's like entering a time warp though. Somehow I passed the entire morning there, well into the afternoon. Driving down the long dirt road to her homestead in the woods, you feel like you completely leave the world and all notions of schedules and hurrying behind you. Spending time with Chrissy is always such a good reminder of what's important; kindness, living mindfully, gentleness and simplicity.
Maine is beautiful. I may be biased, having grown up here, but no matter how many spectacular vistas I gaze on, the green fields and forests of Maine just look like Heaven to me. Last weekend there was a bridal shower for a childhood friend of mine and I was asked to provide the flowers. All that entailed was leaving half an hour early with a bucket of water in my car.
I stopped along the way gathering whatever wildflowers were blooming and plenty of greenery and plants with interesting textures. I assembled the bouquets there before the party and we scattered vases of cheerful wildflowers around the house.
I remember gathering armfuls of flowers for my mom as a kid; lilacs and crabapple blossoms in May, huge, lazy lupines in June, daisies in July. Walking barefoot through the hot, scratchy field grass, stopping to examine a spider web or, if I was lucky, spotting a praying mantis to carry home to show my dad, were all integral parts of summer. My habit of eating and drinking flowers started early; my dad would gather a flowering herb that he made into a delicious iced drink and another he ground up and used to soothe burns.
Sam and I took time to get to know a friendly lady bug. She looks a little fierce in that top picture, but don't worry, she was very nice.
As a kid I used to lay down in the tall field grass among the flowers and enjoy the sense of humming, vibrant life that was so soothing and energizing all at once. I loved the feeling of hiding in the grass; it seemed no one could find you once you lay down amidst that ocean of waving greenery, and yet of still being close enough to hear the call for dinner or the crunch of my dad's tires on the gravel when he drove up the driveway.
Maine really was a magical place to grow up. And seeing it through Sam's eyes during these two weeks of vacation has reminded me of all the little things that made it so. Growing up, I think we hardly came inside all summer, merely to lay our heads for a brief recharge (unless sleepovers were involved, then there was little to no sleeping!) or to grab a bite to eat, although this was often also done out of doors. What need did we have to come inside when the outside world provided all the entertainment we could ask for?
This recipe is so amazing that I've been forbidden to share it online! I'm sorry. I begged and pleaded, but it is a treasured, secret family recipe and my mom insisted it remain locked in the family vault, or at least in her recipe box. And it is SOOOO good! I started angling for her to make rhubarb pie as soon as I got home. Once it didn't appear within the first two days I had to try more serious tactics. Mom came home to a spotlessly clean kitchen and a pile of fresh rhubarb on the table. Perfect pie making conditions!
Sam helped me gather the fresh rhubarb from the garden. This is an ancient plot. I don't know how long they last, but it's come up every year I can remember. I planted some at our house in Salt Lake too, but the chickens got most of it. I'm hoping it comes back strong next year! I might have to bring home a bag of Maine rhubarb to tide us over in the meantime.
Sam has to taste everything, including raw rhubarb. He made the memorable discovery of just why it is that we bake it into pie with plenty of sugar instead of eating it raw!
My mom's rhubarb pie recipe is actually my great aunt Edith's recipe and she probably got it from someone before her. Every other recipe for rhubarb pie I've ever come across generally includes the addition of some other fruit (usually strawberries) to temper the rhubarb. But, I'm telling you, when done right, you only need the rhubarb. My mom's pie is creamy and perfectly tart-sweet. The crust is flaky and toothsome with just the right buttery, crisp, tender texture.
I told Mom I'd make the filling if she'd make the crust. I'm definitely still at the amateur pie crust-making stage and much prefer her crust to my own. There's just a certain intuition that comes from hundreds of pies made that I haven't quite developed yet. Maybe that just means I need to make more pies to practice!
She's a whiz with the rolling pin, deftly wielding it like some sort of trained swordsman. How does she manage to make a perfect circle every time when I always end up with strange lumps protruding out the sides when I roll things out? It's a mystery.
Mmmm, here's the filling all ready to be tranformed, the flavors melded together into perfect, delicious pie harmony. Sometimes I eat a little nibble of filling before it goes in the oven, but ooh! it's sour when you bite into a crunchy piece of rhubarb! There's something kind of thrilling about it, must be the same thing that drove us to eat Warheads and Sour Patch Kids when we were young. Once the pie is baked though, there's only the pleasantest tart note to offset the sweetness.
Oh, Bliss! That first slice was absolute Heaven. As was the second. And the third I had for breakfast this morning. Do you think I can convince her to make another one tonight?
When you come from a place as small as where my parents live it's easy to notice even the little changes. A neighbor down the road got a new sign advertising his bush hogging services and the across the street neighbors got three of the loveliest cows I've ever seen.
Wouldn't you kill for eyelashes like that?
We walked into the field to say hello and they were so friendly and eager to be patted. Cows are surprisingly sweet. Sam can't get enough of them and asks to visit them every time we go outside. I wonder what breed they are? I think the colors are so lovely. I love the idea of having a pet cow to milk, except that we don't ever drink milk. If only they had cows that made rice milk...
One of the things I love about my mom is her ability to find so much joy in simple things. She couldn't stop talking about how rejuvenated she felt after having laid on the sand for a couple hours a few short minutes away from their house. She said she felt like she had been on a mini-vacation. The ocean really is miraculous, I swear just sinking your toes into the sand and listening to the hypnotic waves woosh and kashoosh on the shore can cure all manner of ills.
Speaking of finding joy in the little things, Sam is another expert in this department. I love how he opens my eyes to things I've forgotten how to see. He was excited to gather snails (pronounced by Sam "-nay" with an outbreath of air through the nose preceding it for the "s" sound) and proudly show each one to me. As kids we would hum to snails to make them come out of their shells. It still works.
My dad rode his bike down to the beach and Mom, Sam and I met up with him there. While my parents snuggled and napped on the warm sand, Sam discovered the exquisite feeling of sand shifting beneath your feet as the waves come and go. He was fearless about entering the water and didn't seem to mind the cold one bit. Terns wheeled overhead occassionally collapsing their wings into an aerodynamic torpedo and slicing into the water after some hapless fish. The seagulls chased each other through the clear sky calling "Mine! Mine!" and fighting over bits of sea snacks.
Eventually after wearing himself out in the surf and the sand, Sam had a beachside snack and fell asleep. What a blissful afternoon. We're already planning on going back tomorrow!
There are so many things I love about Maine: the lush, green forests and fields; the fact that when I picked up my dad's car from the shop the guy said "just have him swing by and pay me on Monday" and that they never ask for your ID at the local bank; how people still do things the old ways here, by hand, simply, with basic tools; the food, oh, how I love the food; and how things are more real here, real wood, real leather, real wool.
When I go to the thrift stores in Utah I'm hard pressed to find 100% wool sweaters. People tend to wear more synthetics, but of course, it's not nearly so cold there so you can get away with it. While in Maine, one of the things on my to-do list was to stop in at some second hand stores and stock up on wool sweaters for felting. I love making things out of felted wool and my next project is going to be some felted wool diaper covers. I found quite a few nice sweaters to add to my stash.
That same evening Sam and I walked over to the next door neighbor's who have an art gallery in their house. Little cottage industries like that are common around here. It's part of how people make it in an economy that comes to a screeching halt in the winter. Almost everyone does something extra in the summer whether it's a vegetable stand, pottery studio or art gallery. They were holding a reception for an artist named Frances Wells. I didn't get to spend as much time with the art as I would have liked; Sam kept me busy trying to keep him civilized. He's not much of an art appreciator yet, maybe in a few more years. But, what I did see of the art I really liked. It's simple, peaceful art, all paintings of the Hudson River. It reminded me of the St. George river that's on the other side of our peninsula here (ocean on one side, river on the other), still and graceful, kind of hazy in the early morning.
We ended the evening with home fries, corn on the cob and a bath in the ancient claw foot tub. Not all at the same time, of course. It was Sam's first time eating corn straight off the cob and it was a big hit. There are so many simple pleasures that make life so extremely rich here.
Maine has antiques coming out its ears. We're steeped in history here. On the way home from the airport we stopped at Foster's auction house where they were holding an auction preview. There were plenty of things I could have happily bid on, but my suitcase was already over the weight limit on the way out here...
These were made of metal coated in some sort of enamel. Wouldn't they make the perfect set of dishes to take on picnics? A bit too loud and crazy for every day meals at home, but ideal for outdoor dining on blankets. Bright, happy and of course, not breakable.
Ever since we moved into our house in Salt Lake I've been wanting an old braided rug to go in front of the wood stove in the den. I think that would put me substantially over the suitcase weight limit! But can't you just picture the old grandma that carefully and expertly wove these strips of rags end over end into a piece of art? This kind of art is especially beautiful to me because it arose out of necessity, but even when life required you to use rags to separate your feet from the cold floors of the New England winters, people still sought for beauty. Using whatever means they had they created something beautiful. It speaks to me of self-respect, ingenuity and perseverance. I wish I knew the stories behind each of these antiques.
Wouldn't one of these old desks all cleaned up look so great in a kid's room?
And so many beautiful, inspiring, gentle patchwork quilts. How many little ones' fevers were soothed beneath these quilts? How many graying mothers and fathers talked long into the night on cold winter nights? The stitches are tiny and done by hand, the fabrics delightfully haphazard. I think there's going to be some quilting in my future after seeing these...
Okay, confession, I did leave on a bid on something! We need some more art on our walls in Salt Lake and this print from the 1800s was SO rad! It's a history of fashion and it shows all the popular styles up until the mid-1800s. If I win it I have no idea how I'll get it home, but it will definitely be worth the trouble! And my heart is already pained that I didn't bid on the box lot of tea cups in that top picture. I used to have a collection of mismatched tea cups, but I left them in Maine. I'm trying not to get bogged down by too much stuff, but it's hard when there are things like adorable, vintage tea cups going for next to nothing! I think I'm just going to have to buy a little cottage here so I can fill it with charming antiques.
Sam greeted my parents' chickens like old friends. My mom and dad have a much larger flock than we do (about ten to our two) and they have Plymouth Barred Rocks (like Nellie) and Rhode Island Reds, real Yankee birds. They live in a dilapidated shed that wasn't good for much except looking rather picturesque against the backdrop of the forest. Now it makes a charming chicken coop.
Every day my dad gathers between seven and ten eggs in his special egg basket, reserved just for this purpose. He hoses off the mungus (a word for the gunk on the floor of a chicken coop, invented by my mom and her brothers) for my mom. She likes the eggs to come in clean and shiny, and mungus-free.
My parents give away most of their eggs to my uncle or a family down the road with six kids who my parents play surrogate grandparents too. Sharing your bounty is a real part of the culture around here. The first day I was home a friend from church brought over some fresh strawberries and my uncle brought some flowers over for my mom. Several other friends stopped by just to bring the local gossip. The next day we took some fresh eggs down to my uncle. He was always bringing us goodies from his garden when we lived here; beets, rhubarb, acorn squash. It's one of the aspects of living here that I really loved. People are a bit reticent at first, not as outgoing as westerners. But they'll give you the shirt off their back, and the squash from their garden.
Sam and I are in Maine! It feels so good to be home. No matter where I make my nest, Maine will always feel like home. As we were flying into Manchester my heart swelled to see the green trees, thick like moss over the landscape, little hollows carved out with houses nestled in. I can feel stress rolling off my body like water off a duck just from being here a few days. We're at the family homestead Clayton and I spent a year renovating. It was built by my great, great grandfather. For years it sat empty until Clay and I took on the project- and what a project it was! We've since passed that torch on to my parents.
My dad whipped up a delicious omelet for us when we got home; smoked salmon, Gorgonzola, tarragon and dilly beans! Yep, dilly beans, and they were delicious. He gets pretty adventurous in the kitchen and often hits upon a real winner. The dilly beans that didn't make it into the omelet were quickly devoured by Sam and I. I was glad to see that Sam appreciates my parent's homemade specialty as much as I do.
We almost sold my old, wooden high chair at a yard sale once, but luckily someone thought better of it. I love seeing Sam in it. It was from way back before all the oodles of safety regulations so, of course there's no belt to buckle him in with. Which means you have to do it the old fashioned way: be super vigilant, or grab a winter scarf and wrap him in! With two grandparents enamored with his every move, the scarf seemed redundant.
I smiled upon opening the fridge and finding freshly gathered eggs, a cold pitcher of juice and a bottle of Moxie, the Maine health tonic. The fresh colander of strawberries on the table made me pretty happy too. Don't you love the flavors of home?
It's been eight months since my parents last saw Sam. All his walking, talking, and signing is new to them. He immediately started calling my dad Papa all on his own, which is what I used to call him when I was little. As we grew up, my brother and I eventually shortened it to Pop, so it's perfect for Sam to revive the original name.
As soon as my dad set it down for a moment, Sam grabbed his hat and started marching around the house in it. As long as I can remember my dad has had some sort of "Indiana Jones" hat (or so we called them). This one has a feather clipped to it by some sort of electrical widget. It's so my dad. Funny how those things you once thought were quirky (or embarrassing!) as a kid turn out to be the things you love the most about your parents. Who would've guessed that some day I'd even consider dilly bean omelets a gourmet treat?