Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Trip to OOB

It’s gloomy today and I don’t have any news to share with you, so I thought I’d take you to the Maine Coast with Mom and me. We went last fall to Biddeford to see our friend Sandra who grew up with my brothers and me. We got a room in a motel in Saco, just up the road.

Sandra had left me an email just before we left, stating that she would be in OOB that day, and we could call her there. That was a mystery, but whatever! We called her and went out to dinner with Sandra and her handsome son. Seafood, of course! I finally asked her about OOB. Silly me, that’s what she calls Old Orchard Beach!

Saturday we got up early and Sandra took us riding in her car. I had seen a very intriguing picture that a friend had taken at OOB and wanted to get some pictures myself. I loved it there off season! The amusement park was closed up, as was the boardwalk. I found them both to be especially intriguing in this state. No crowds and cotton candy. No noise, no shoving. Just us, seagulls and a stiff wind.

The weather started much like today--cloudy and drizzly in the morning and clearing up when we finally got to Portland Head Lighthouse. I say finally, because we got lost and went back to the same intersection and started again at least 3 times! Sandra was mortified that she kept losing us, but we spent the afternoon laughing at ourselves and had a great time.

The lighthouse is beautiful and historic. It is on the site of an old fort from the Revolutionary War era. There is notice of a wrecked ship just off the shore there. It probably hit the rocks the Maine coast is notorious for. The rocks make up the rugged shoreline that you see on calendars and postcards. I could stand for hours watching the waves crash up on the rocks and the seagulls reeling in the wind. As you can see from the slide show I did!

Mom and I split a “lazy lobster” dinner that night. Lazy lobster is chunks of lobster meat already shelled and prepared. Dipped in melted butter with simple side dishes of coleslaw and French fries. A treat seldom afforded with my meager paycheck!

I wanted to see OOB again in the evening light, so we drove around a bit, and took even more pictures at OOB and the lighthouse,  Back at our motel we slept very well.  On Sunday, we got an early start and stopped to shop the outlet stores in Kittery. They call them outlets, but very few are. Most are higher-end retail stores. No great deals there, I’m afraid, but I found some wonderful fuzzy pajamas and a pretty ¾ sleeve shirt.

We had a great time, made some discoveries, found some treasures and got good pictures--A good weekend haul! It was also fun to reconnect with our old friends and tell and retell the stories of our pasts! Check out the slideshow on the right for more pictures of OOB and the Portland Head Lighthouse.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It's Coming...or How Shabby is Chic?

Yes, Spring is coming. We've had a week of remarkably warm, sunny weather. The snow has melted and the creeks are high. Oh yes, in New England we call them rivers and brooks and rivulets. And rushing water is everywhere. I love the sound of the small river that runs by my "house"! The beavers have made a bit of a dam, so the water is falling from it making that wonderful water white noise that calms the spirits. I have a very rustique wooden settee down there, so I can sit and meditate by the water.  Now that the snow is melting from the adjoining woods, I can walk the plank over the rivulet into the woods and lay in the hammock I hung between two trees.

In April and May all seems possible! The things I will grow! The flowers and herbs! Tomatoes and Swiss chard! My 'plot' is half barrels and large plastic tubs. Big pots and a perennial bed on the retaining wall by the edge of the drive. The rest of the yard is paved or a rough rugged lawn. By mid- June the woods fill with sticker bushes and goldenrod, and the blackflies come and hang in clouds around your face and bite your ankles. A screen porch would be nice...

I don't live in a house. It's a ramshackle old building (below on the left) that used to be a hardware/lumber store. The old lumber mill is a museum across the street (right). Our building is an old post and beam structure with some of the old stone foundation still standing on one side. Snakes and salamanders are apt to show up in the basement to surprise us at any given time. My apartment is in the back of the building, overlooking the woods and river. My brother and his son and daughter live in the front and upstairs. The walls are a combination of exposed beams, rough paneling, planks and rough drywall. I've painted some walls and covered others with sheeting. I have 5 windows in all.  On a sunny day, the living room is bathed in light till late afternoon, when the shed area roof shades it, keeping it cool in the summer.

The floors are a joke! They are mostly painted plywood, wavy, up and down over the main beams, higher by the walls. The kitchen is ramped up about 4 inches higher than the rest. Some of the kitchen has old asphalt tiles, other had spray paint spatter finishes of different colors- there was even a section of sticky black tarpaper! I've put a subfloor over that and vinyl roll remnants. At least it is washable now! Other rooms have area rugs. I warn people not to trip on them when they walk through. I always wanted to live somewhere funky, and I got it.

Last Spring, I cleaned out an area of the building I call a shed room. It is uninsulated and has a garage door like a loading dock. I covered the opening with 3 screen doors from Home Depot. I now can open up the garage door and make it a screen porch! I hung sheer curtains over the screens to billow in the breezes. I brought in my twig settee, opened an old army cot for a daybed. I decided on sea-glass colors--I covered cushions and pillows with green, turquoise and blue pillowcases that I can wash when they need it. I covered the walls with white sheets, hung swag lamps and potted plants. Made a very rustique coffeetable from an old barn door, and bought some cheap art to go with a couple of nicer paintings I hung on the walls. I even brought in a table that I can craft on, when I'm not reading or snoozing the evenings away. Folding screens hide the storage and workshop area.

Right outside is a small "patio" where I grow my flowers and vegetables along with a fountain I found at Home Goods.  It's so nice in my shed room, that I spend every evening there when it's warm enough. That whole project probably cost $300 including the cheap screen doors, pillowcases, sheets, art and fountain. Now I have a 3 season room that, when the garage door is open, brings light and fresh air into the rest of the house. The cats are content to spend all their time in there watching the birds and chipmunks play.

How shabby is chic? I can make any space not only liveable, but comfortable and even charming without spending money. I grew up in the house that Dad built and didn't move out till I was 21. I don't know how many times I redecorated that bedroom! Then I lived in so many apartments that I couldn't count them. I can remember at least 35! I lived here in Western Massachusetts till I was 24, moved to Denver and then a log house in the mountains for a while, came back here 20 years later and settled into this place about 10 years ago. I've decorated and cutened up every apartment I had with whatever I could get. Some people might cringe at my "house" but shabby is chic here. I have everything I need and all the space I could want. When I entertain, people "love what I've done with the place."

My favorite place to shop for shabby chic is the side of the road! In the Spring, people start putting things outside with free signs on them. Or they have yard sales and whatever is left is free. Goodwill doesn't drive up here to pick things up, but someone will probably want what you leave! I have found a computer desk, a microwave, many chairs, a retro dinette set, dishes, silverware and countless other thingies on the side of the road. Trisha and I love to go to the yard sales too. I usually set a limit of $5 or $10 for the day and see what treasures I can find. What I don't want goes on the side of the road for free!

Meanwhile, I'm thinking photography classes are in order!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring Flooding and Lovely Memories

It's raining. Last night it tried to turn into snow, but rain won out. The river out my window is high, though not a threat.  I love spring rain. It turns the grass green and starts the bulbs growing. That yucky brown thing I call a garden will soon be up and blooming!

Staying inside today has prompted a memory to share with you. A few years ago my Aunt E. was cleaning out her barn, and she thought to give me a big plastic bag full of cloth scraps that had belonged to my Grandma. My Dad's parents lived next door to us, so we were really close to them when we were kids. Grandma died when I was 12 and Grandpa when I was 14. I miss them so!

 It looked like a bunch of rags to me until I started to dig through it. There was a slight scent of mildew, but not much damage. I started to take things out of the bag and stack them up around me. There was some yucky old quilt batting and some gauzy stuff, not attractive then, but now I'd think of something to do with it. I started to see colors-my next handful was scraps of the most adorable vintage cottons. I kept pulling them out. There were triangles, squares and even a butterfly. Grandma had planned a quilt!

Farther into the bag I found the unfinished bodice of a sweet little girl's dress. Had she been making it for me? Then there was some really pretty orchid satin and tulle trimmed from the bottom of a gown. By then I was getting teary-eyed. My Grandma had died in September, and for Christmas that year, we all got gifts that she had wrapped for us before she died. Since I loved the color purple in any form, she had given me a string of collected purple buttons and some purple ribbon. Had she saved this orchid fabric for me?

Grandma was an Olde Yankee (my term) from way back. She was born and brought up in northern Vermont. She came to Massachusetts to work in the mills and met my Grandpa. She never had much and never wanted more. She raised 5 boys and one girl and had a bright sunny disposition. She loved to entertain her friends and family. The old farmhouse had been in Grandpa's family since pre-history (late 1600's or early 1700's). She never quite kept on top of the housework--my younger uncles were rough and tumble farmboys, not the easiest to clean up after!

 That's my Dad on the left. He would have been 83 this year.

We kids loved to go over there after school. Grandma made each of us feel special. I often played with her sewing things. Her old button tin gave me hours of enjoyment. She had some beautiful old dolls I played with-she'd help me piece together doll clothes for them. She was always cutting up old clothes, many donated by church ladies, to make yoyos, which she strung into clowns for the kids or the church fair. She'd have me cut up nylon stockings to make filling for the clown heads. My brother Richard would gather the punky apples from the orchard and he and Grandma would cut out the worms and make apple pies. Jimmy usually liked to hang out in the barn with the uncles and their friends, often coming home with new swear words and interesting facts of life. If Grandpa could pin the boys down he'd give them buzz cuts with his electric clippers, singing the whole time.  As you can imagine, we hated to be called away for supper.

In the bottom of the scrap bag I found some pieced together quilt squares. Not really pretty, maybe made with old mensware. And there was some yardage of a pretty rose fabric with sweet little flowers on it. That scrap bag brought back so many memories! I had a good cry, but it made me feel like she was there! Her unconditional love reached down through the decades to me here in my living room.

I have the dolls now and I have a penchant for collecting old sewing supplies. I buy jars of buttons at yard sales, just to poke through. I have Grandma's mother's sewing table too. So it goes back another generation. I don't have a daughter, but I try to impart these stories and feelings to my dear niece, who lives next door. She comes over here every day or two to do crafts and tell me about her days. We have reading contests and share ITunes on my computer. She's also very close to her Grandma, my Mom, who tells her stories while getting out the art supplies. She hangs her art all over the refrigerator.

I live in a neighboring town, next to a small river, in an old post and beam barn-like structure that used to be a hardware/builders supply store. Across the street is an old mill that used to run on hydro power from the river's flow. Another building across the river is filled with old machinery and belts that harnessed the power of the moving water.  It was a booming business in this little town. My grandpa and my Dad shopped here when they needed to build something. Grandpa made gutter hooks at a little forge in the old corncrib and put them into barrels and shipped them out to the hardware stores. I keep finding them around here. The past combines with the present in many ways, and just like the river flooding its way by me, life keeps rolling on. I love that!

Happy Spring everyone!  Take time to remember the good things.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It's Sugaring Season!

A couple of weeks ago I posted about signs of Spring, one of which is sugaring season.  Here in New England and Eastern Canada we make maple syrup from the sap of the sugar maple tree. You can read more about it here.

The weather has finally started to cooperate and the sap is running. Last weekend the first of the sugarhouse restaurants opened up. So yesterday Trisha and I made plans to go to South Face Farm Sugarhouse.  I'd been salivating for weeks thinking about the waffle with blueberries and maple syrup that I'd have there. Since my lap band surgery, I have had lots of trouble eating breakfast, and usually manage to barely eat 1/4th of a waffle.  So we planned to go for lunch. I got up early enough to have a huge cup of decaf and a breakfast bar and get some housework done. When Trisha called and said she'd be right up, I took my book and sat outside in the sun. It felt so good when the wind was quiet! The sun was dazzling and the roof was dripping. We took off on our scenic ride to Ashfield.

Worried that it might be closed when we got there, I had an alternate plan. But there were cars in the yard and it was still open. We opened the door and went in. The front door takes you past the boiler, and the steam was rising furiously and escaping out of the roof vents. The smell of this steam is heavenly. Hopefully this is what clouds smell like, if I get to heaven!

There was no sign-up sheet, as they were not too busy on their first day. We got seated right away and perused the menu over hazelnut coffees. I ordered my long-awaited waffle with blueberries on top and Trisha ordered a waffle with bacon and eggs. We oohed and ahhed as food came out of the kitchen. It didn't take long for ours to arrive. I slathered butter into every hole in that waffle then smothered it in syrup. The blueberries covered the center and dyed it all purple.  That waffle absorbed the syrup and softened up to just the right consistency of butter, syrup and crispy cooked batter. Ahh, the first bite was Spring incarnate!  I very carefully chewed and chewed. Heavenly. Taking my time, chewing thoroughly, putting my fork down and resting between bites, I ate the whole thing! I was so happy.

The building looks like an old chicken coop to me. It is long and low and on a slight slant. They have whitewashed some of the interior walls and covered others with weathered barn-board. There are short gingham curtains on the windows. The room glows in the afternoon sun. The walls are hung with old kitchen or farm implements along with old pictures and posters of flora and fauna. The room gradually filled up with families with kids, older couples, friends getting together -- people from all over.  The waitresses were chatty and sweet. We could see someone walking around in the kitchen with an aluminum foil hat with horns on it.  The mood was easygoing and fun.

 After paying at the checkout counter, we looked over the displays in the "waiting" room, then we left for our ride.

All I have to do is look at Trisha and tilt my head north and she says "Let's go!" We drove through Shelburne Falls, Colraine and into Jacksonville, Vermont. There is a little store there we like to stop at. It smells like Patchouli and is filled with beads, peace flags, jewelry, incense, tarot cards, yoga mats, India bedspreads, "smoking paraphenalia," gemstones, smudge name it. The place takes us back to the Psychedelic Shop in 1968! We bought a few treasures and left to drive home a different way, (cause you gotta!) route 8A into Charlemont. Another little store, this one is the local bakery, deli, liquor and gift store. Another cup of coffee and a snack for the road. We chattered and laughed all day, making plans to go to Niagara Falls later in the year, telling stories about this and that. A lovely early Spring afternoon!

So, see? Spring is coming! The sap is flowing. Heaven is in the air!