Wednesday, September 9, 2020

On My Shelf: The Magic Ship, Set in Maine with a Historical Backdrop

A big ship, summer breezes, and a world about to change.

I finally finished The Magic Ship by Sandra Paretti. I picked this one up time and again, and it didn’t grab me, but this summer it finally did. Maybe reading pandemic style helped as this book is also about lives disrupted and somewhat "quarantined" by a world-wide event, World War I.

Romance
It is a tale of summer romances (clean) that emerge when a German liner takes refuge in Bar Harbor during the height of the summer “cottagers’” season, August 1914.

Don’t expect huge fireworks or a scandalous mystery. This is a nice easy-reading story about an unexpected event in the life of a small harbor town and the new and unexpected relationships that change people’s lives.

History
It also tells a story from Maine history that I didn’t know about, that is of the German ship Kronprinzessin Cecilie holing up on Maine’s coast until the authorities of Lloyd (the North German shipping company that owned it), government officials, and ship officials can figure out what to do about the ship, its passengers, and its cargo (loads of gold!). The passengers are off-loaded (many to their disappointment at not completing their journey in England or Europe as expected) and given passage via train back to New York as is the cargo, but some passengers choose to stay in Bar Harbor, as well as the crew, and that is where the story gets interesting as the lives of the crew intersect with the lives of the summer residents. In the backdrop is the ship, always the ship. Some of the characters are based on real crew members of the Cecilie. The rest are likely fictionalized, but they are believable character portrayals of wealthy socialites of that time.

Author of Note
Also of note is that Sandra Paretti was not a Maine author, or even American, but a German authoress who wrote historical fiction and whose books were very popular in their day. Also Sandra Paretti is not her real name. The author bio in my copy of The Magic Ship says her seven novels had been translated into 11 languages (from German) and that she was a “number one bestselling woman novelist.” The Magic Ship was published in 1979 and listed as $10.95. The end page has a pencil inscription of $12.50, so apparently on the second-hand market, its value went up. 

Last Word
While there is nothing truly magical about this book, and as it was written in the 1970s, it doesn’t have the same catchy themes and writing styles that contemporary authors and publishers use today, I thought it was an engaging read, especially because I am a sucker for old-style straight-forward real-time narratives (old school writing). Plus I love that it is based on a historical event, right here in Maine in the summer.

The "magic" of reading this book is in catching the feel of a place and its people in a short moment in history, in an idyllic summer setting during the heady pre-World War days. It’s a little piece of historical summer magic.
Maine has a fascinating history of coastal exploits; sometimes it takes an old book to make us aware of them. Don’t disregard older books, there are treasures waiting to be mined.

2020's Maine Magic Ship
I read The Magic Ship earlier in the summer, and then this week I read in Down East Magazine, published in its October issue, a story about another cruise ship that just this summer tied up in Eastport, Maine's harbor to quarantine. It was fascinating the way the townspeople were intrigued by the ship and its occupants and tried to connect with them from a distance (pier to deck). Unlike in the Magic Ship, the crew was not allowed to disembark. I had not heard about this ship coming to rest in Eastport’s deep fishing harbor, right along its newly built pier, for a month, while awaiting orders about its next "safe" voyage. The story by Jaed Coffin definitely caught my attention. It's worth a read.

You can read more about the real story of the Cecilie here, here, and here, and its service to the United States military!

On My Shelf: Monica Wood's Books Set in Maine

Maine Settings, Maine Author

I love to read books that are set in Maine. Some are memoirs, some are fiction, and some are children's. Today I want to tell you about two I read by Maine-born and raised author, Monica Wood. One is her memoir and one is fiction.

The first is When We Were the Kennedys.
This title appealed to me because my family name is Kennedy (no, not those Kennedys). This is Monica's childhood memoir of growing up in Mexico, Maine, a mill town, but her name was not Kennedy. 

The story takes place around 1963, the same year President John Kennedy was assassinated. She writes about how she lost her own father earlier that year suddenly when he was on his way to work at the paper mill. It is a sweet story about surviving loss together as a family in a close-knit neighborhood. Although I didn't grow up in a mill town, I can relate to the feel of growing up in small town Maine. I've been to Mexico and can see that mill town feel as I read this. Her writing is clear, and if you like somewhat sad but not downer memoirs, you'll enjoy this. I also love the cover that shows Monica's family in their now retro clothing styles. It screams summer in Maine circa 1965. 

I recently finished Wood's 2015 work of fiction The One-in-a-Million Boy, that also deals with a death, that being of a young boy. It is a sweet story that shows the difference one life, even a child's life, can make. The story is also set in Maine but admittedly it has less of a Maine feel than her memoir. It has a lot of characters who need healing. I at times felt a little lost, and didn't connect well with the parents of the boy in the book. The boy and the older woman, Ona, are very likable, and I wish the story had been more focused on the nameless boy and his 104-year-old friend, Ona.

I recommend both of these books that take place in Maine.

Here is a link of Monica Wood describing her memoir.
Here is a link of Monica Wood discussing The One-in-a-Million Boy.
Here is Monica Wood's website.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Maine (Favorite) Seasons: November

Surviving November

How can November be one of my favorite seasons, you may wonder. November can be cold and dreary, a preview to the long winter to come here in Maine. But November IS my favorite month of the winter "half" (more like 3/4s) of the year. I have always enjoyed the first Saturday morning of November.

Real Fall 
Usually dawning cold and crisp, the day may start with going to the local Early Bird Sales where the shops open at 5:30 or 6 for deals to start holiday shopping. Maybe I've made
The dogs are hunting season ready
with their colored bandanas.
We enjoyed the sun and 64 degrees on our
south facing deck on the first weekend in November.
muffins, popped a movie on, taken a walk, or curled up with a good book and some tea. Halloween is over, which I have a love/hate relationship with; the weather has snapped to cold, we've started having morning frost, but by noon the sun can feel warm, and maybe we will see a snowflake or two soon (the forecast says, yes, maybe this week!). Hunting season and wreath-making starts as does the craft fair season. Wood smoke curls from chimneys, the sun glints through the bare trees (and with shorter daylight hours and the sun lower in the sky, we get to enjoy what sun there is), and the sun is up in the mornings again with the "fall back"/reversal of Daylight Savings Time. Folks finish up yard work, planting their garlic and other spring bulbs, and finish topping off the wood pile. I've already seen a few pickups with plows loaded on.

Celebrations Begin
November also marks my birthday month, which is followed by the holidays, a time for family and friends, remembering, thankfulness, and looking to the Advent season.
Baby shower cupcakes,
an early birthday candle,
and pumpkin candy represent
 the various celebrations of November.

This year I started November with no power due to a rainy, windy storm on Halloween night. Then I got to host my sister-in-law's baby shower, which is super exciting because this will be my brother's first baby! Next we get to celebrate my son's fall baseball team with a team party.

Gratitude
With all that's wrong in the world, it's good to look around and see what we can be thankful for this November. I choose to keep it simple and focus on all the blessings God has given me. Life is not easy. It throws us curves. We have challenges, bad days, tough years...but God is good, even in November.

Surviving November Links:

Hate "Falling" Back One Hour? Read "5 Tips to Help Your Body Adjust to the Time Change."

Easy Thanksgiving and Christmas Activity to Encourage Gratitude: Make a Gratitude paper chain for your Christmas tree. We did this a few times when my son was younger. Every day we each had to write at least one thing we were thankful for on a strip of construction paper, and we added to them our chain. Then we added to our Christmas tree.

Did you have a November kind of year? Are you in a tough place right now? David Jeremiah is doing his series "When Your World Falls Apart." Good, good stuff straight from years of study, experience, and Biblical teaching.

Tired of Halloween Candy? I love Squash Soup. Here's a recipe, or Panera Bread makes a delicious one that I find in the deli at my local grocery store.

The Great Pumpkins of Damariscotta
And speaking of squash. My local community hosts an epic Pumpkinfest every year. I wrote about it years ago. It keeps growing, right along with the Giant Atlantic Pumpkins that are grown, weighed off, and then decorated along Main Street and in front of many area sponsor businesses. The weekend is full of tons of activities and a parade, which we participated in for the first time ever with two of the teams my husband coaches. The kids had a blast despite how long it was to wait to start and then finish the parade route!
Parade time at Pumpkinfest.

A literary themed great pumpkin
at Damariscotta's Pumpkinfest 2019


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Maine Seasons: Apple Picking Time


T'is the season for apples, apples everywhere. Even though it seems (to me) that apples are clearly a special Maine harvest because they go so well with the fall colors and cooler temperatures, apples are actually harvested in all 50 states and produced for commercial sales in 32, with Washington state being the top producer. There goes my idea that Maine has the market on apples!
Apple picking is a great
family activity!
Photo at Biscay Orchards 2009.

As for the statement "As American as apple pie"? Well, did you know the apple originated in Kazakhastan and that China is the world's leading producer of apples?

Orange Pippin lists 77 apple orchards in Maine. Another source says 84 apple farms produce 1 million bushels from 2000 acres of orchards.

I think Maine is a great place for apple picking. And now is prime picking season. The weather is glorious, a great time to be outside. I swung by my local orchard to buy an already picked bag of macs because I've promised an apple pie for homecoming.

However, apple picking has always been one of our favorite family activities. Many orchards offer other fall activities such as corn mazes, hay rides, and pumpkin patches, and products like honey, fresh pressed cider, homemade donuts, fudge, corn...yum!

Here in no particular order are my favorite midcoast-area Maine apple orchards:

Hope Orchards, Hope, offers a wide variety of apples with limited picking hours. They encourage you to bring your own bags. I noticed on their Facebook page that last week they had beautiful peaches available. A few years ago they offered pick-your-own carrots, which my husband did to make harissa pickled carrots! Check the website or call for times/prices!

Biscay Orchards, Damariscotta. You can pick your own or stop by for an already picked bag. Here you drive right out to the orchard and really get to wander around and pick to your hearts' content, or till your bags are full. An attendant is there to offer direction to your favorite varieties and bags, and will weigh your apples on the way out. You pay at the apple shack near the road. I have been here a lot with my family and class trips. Friendly locals own and keep the farm going, and it offers beautiful views of Biscay Lake. If its a warm day and you're so inclined, pull into the small beach area to eat your fudge or apple tart from the apple stand. They usually offer samples of apple varieties and tastes of their yummy fresh nonpasteurized cider! So good! Also be aware, they are a cash or check only business!
Orchards often offer more than
apples. One year Hope Orchards
had pick-your-own carrots.


Bailey's Orchard, Whitefield. I hate to say I haven't picked here in years, but when we lived a bit nearer to it, Bailey's was our go-to apple picking spot. This orchard also offers the sense of adventure of walking up (a bit hilly if my memory serves me) into the orchard and feeling miles away from civilization. Its a beautiful orchard set on 100 acres offering up to 50 varieties. In the barn they offer squash and other fall treats.

School House Farm, Warren, is a full-on three season farm stand that has been family-owned and run for 38 years! Along with the full complement of spring, summer, and fall offerings they have orchards that are pick your own, open until November 1, according to the Facebook page. Check them out if you want a full farm stand buying opportunity. They make homemade donuts as well.



Where is your favorite place to pick apples?


All Things Apple!


U.S. Apple Stats: Maine is NOT even on their list of top apple producers! Oh well. How many bushels does the U.S. produce overall? Find out here!

Maine Apples is the website of the Maine Pomological Society! Look for an orchard near you on their website and a lot more on the Maine apple industry, history and recipes.

Want to know which variety works best with your recipe? See this list from the Farmer's Almanac with a few recipes attached.


Monday, September 2, 2019

Maine Seasons: Labor Day Weekend

Its Kieve weekend, or what is known across the U.S. and Canada as Labor Day weekend. To me, though, it will always be Kieve weekend, a weekend that in my youth and teen years signified a church camping weekend at a local camp facility. We would play games, swim, have a camp fire, our own version of the Gong Show, a kids' talent show/music or a movie, church on the lakefront, and lots of great food and fellowship. The weather often follows a similar pattern in Maine over Labor Day/"Kieve"weekend.

Found this baptism photo from
2013 at Camp Kieve Weekend.
Note the cloudy pre-fall weather!
Move in on Friday afternoon and evening was always hot and sticky; by Saturday morning it was cooler, but temps went up throughout the day, enough to move everyone to the lake in the afternoon after family games and lunch. By Sunday morning maybe those in tents were wet from a late rain shower, and it was definitely cooler. Sweatshirts and blankets would come out for church time, and those getting baptized usually were shivering after their holy dunk. After a large all-church cookout there'd be more waterfront fun, and by Gong Show and campfire time, we'd all be bundled up again, with Monday morning dawning cool and damp with cleanup and packout and a little sadness ahead (for end of retreat, end of summer, start of school). Yes, its Kieve weather for sure this year as well, although that particular camping tradition has ended, sadly.
Blueberry and bear-sighting field
at Nesowadnehunk Field
Campground in Baxter State Park.

Across Maine, Labor Day is usually associated with one last camping weekend, closing up camp, picnics, and back-to-school shopping. Although school starts have crept up earlier into the last week of August in recent years, many school districts stick with beginning the Tuesday or Wednesday after Labor Day, which was my experience. Its a good demarcation from summer to fall despite the Autumnal Equinox not arriving for two to three more weeks.

There are many campgrounds across the state, some more remote and woodsy and others that offer lots of spots under trees for campers and tents with theme weekends and lots of activities. Some favorites in the area are

Pemaquid Lake Campground and Duck Puddle Campground, both on Pemaquid Lake, in Midcoast Maine. Both are popular for family weekend getaways, and they also offer seasonal sites. I've never stayed at either but I know many people who have. They offer lots of activities, facilities, and beautiful lakeside and on-lake fun.

Acadia National Park offers some
 of the best Atlantic Ocean views.
Sebago Lake Campground--A popular inland retreat that functions as a day spot for the beach and a campground. Sebago is the deepest and second largest lake in Maine (beat out by Moosehead Lake, another popular hunting, camping, four-wheeler, sno-mobiling area that unfortunately I've never spent much time in!).

Acadia National Park--It has it all--ocean views, beaches, mountains, biking trails, and Thunder Hole! It gets busy in the summer but is a very beautiful place to visit, one of Maine's most popular tourist attractions.
View from Cadillac Mountain, Acadia.

Baxter State Park--Ready to rough it? Like to hike? Baxter is another of Maine's most popular camping/hiking destinations as the park encompasses Mount Katahdin, the state's largest mountain. I can say I hiked it once, and that was more than enough for me. But on my most recent visit three years ago, I discovered there are plenty of other non-uphill hikes for non climbers like me. There are also cabin campgrounds, and I found a place to kayak and admire the mountain from a lake. I walked to see Big Niagara Falls and saw a moose after dropping off the hikers, and observed a mother deer and her fawns while hiking around Sandy Stream Pond. Make reservations early to stay over and to hike. The best way to find out availability is to call. Check the website for history, lots of information, how to prepare, and where to stay.

Here is a link to probably almost all the campgrounds in Maine with all kinds of information about things to do in Maine!

Here is a link to the Maine State Parks Campgrounds: https://visitmaine.com/where-to-stay/campgrounds.

Happy Camping! 

   Happy Labor Day! 

Happy Fall!

   Happy Back to School!


Daicey Pond Campground offers
great views of Katahdin for non hikers!

What is your favorite camping or Labor Day weekend tradition?



Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Favorite Beach: Popham

Maine has reached full-swing summer mode with tourists, seasonal businesses open, and hot weather. Its the weather Mainers dream of all winter long.
Epic castling at Popham is a highlight
of summer in Maine.

Summer tends to be a time of frenetic activity for most Mainers who are trying to cram every ounce of fun (or seasonal work) into the ten or so short weeks of perfect or nearly perfect weather.

These last two weeks we've experience some hot, hot days (for Maine) with temperatures in the eighties and nineties, a Maine heatwave!

How do we survive this massive jump from temps in the forties and fifties to eighties and nineties? We complain! 
And then we go to the lake, put in the air-conditioning units, eat lots of ice cream, and dream of snow.

My absolute favorite way to stay cool is to swim. I have a number of favorite private and public spots where I can do this, and many Mainers have their own family camps or local neighborhood swimming holes. There are plenty of free or low-cost beaches, (take your pick of ocean or lake). And for all the rest, well, drive around and notice all the blue pools that pop on lawns when the temps rise above 80!

Enjoying cool, refreshing Maine
 lakes are a favorite way
to stay cool in the summer

My favorite beaches are Pemaquid and Popham. (I blogged previously about Pemaquid and a favorite lakeside swimming hole we call the Mills.)

Popham is a special and large beach with good rolling waves, large tides, and sand bars. It is 14 miles from Route 1 down the Phippsburg penisula. Go to Bath and head East on Route 209. Its a long but pretty ride! Leave early because depending on where you live its a bit of a ride and on hot days the parking lot fills up quick, in which case you may feel your trip has been wasted. One time that happened we were able to find paid parking at Percy's Store, but sadly that was demolished this year!

Back to the beach. It is one of Maine's treasured (and most popular, according to the Maine State Parks website) sand beaches. So much of Maine's coast is rocky, not the miles of long sands such as are found in New Jersey, Florida, or on the West Coast. Popham is a good place to surf, picnic, search for shells, explore a rocky island during low tide or make epic sand castles. It is a day-long adventure from which you should leave feeling fully sun-baked, relaxed, and starving (because the seagulls have stolen your lunch!)

Popham's glittering ocean (at ends of two rivers)
 and soft sand attract many locals and tourists every summer.

One of my favorite things about Popham is planning my day around low tide, so we can walk over the sand bar to Fox Island. Its hard to describe, but here is a view from up on some of the rocks of Fox Island looking back toward the beach area. Sometimes we spot seals feeding. We wade in the lower depressions of water left behind in the tide's wake waking to and from the beach. It really feels like the ends of the earth, and its magical.



There's much more to say about Popham,
but its an experience to have for yourself. 


Six Tips for Visiting Popham

1. Plan to arrive early, probably by 10 a.m., to be sure you can get parking.
2. There is a fee: $6 for Maine residents/$8 for nonresidents, or use your state park pass.
3.There are no concessions at Popham, so pack a cooler accordingly. (We like to stop at Amato's in Bath for the best Italian sandwiches in Maine. There are one or two places to stop for something along the way, although we never have!)
4. Don't leave, wave, or hold your food where seagulls can grab it. They WILL steal it and enjoy your Real Italian from Amato's.
5. There are changing rooms, outdoor showers, and bathrooms.
6. A beach cart, sled, or pull wagon are helpful for hauling all that beach stuff. Trust me, its a bit of walk to sit near the water or anywhere close (or far away) from other beach-goers!

More on Popham:

Maine's State Parks site.

A great article in the Sun Journal about road-tripping to Popham, with links and some history too.

Happy Summer!





Monday, April 29, 2019

Maine Seasons: Mud, or Waiting for Baseball

The sun came out after a week or more of clouds, showers, rain, rain, and more rain! The blue skies and bright sun were so welcome. The dogs wanted to go on their morning walk right away. I call it a walk, but it is really a push-pull-stand-wait-pee-on-everything-smell-everything-taste-some-fresh-grass-or-other-doggie-gold exploratory adventure. Its also like going to a doggie bar to pick up ticks! (I call my dogs "tick magnets, not chic magnets!") Often the dogs need a good toweling off too because...

this is Mud Season, Maine's fifth season that falls between winter and the two weeks of spring we enjoy in June. Everyone's yards are soft and mucky, and everyone's floors are constantly covered in dirt. With a lot of dirt driveways and roads in Maine and after the snows melt and the rains come, its a perfect recipe for mud.

One dog has found a nice big puddle in the woods behind our house. Of course he likes to roll in it as if its a personal pool just for him. (But the bad "B" word (bath) follows, and he hates that.) Between kids, boots, dogs, and baseball cleats, the dirt problem in the house can become a real trial.

We are in full-fledged mud season in Maine.
 Notice the garden is barely starting to sprout green things.
As mentioned above, we are also in the dreaded time that the ticks become active. With the snow gone, the ticks emerge from their winter nests in the leaves and dirt. The lyme disease-plus problems are growing, and the mantra is check, check, check, every time for ticks. There's a wealth of information about what to use to prevent ticks and tick bites, but with a proliferating turkey population, birds, squirrels, skunks, deer, etc., etc., ticks come in from all kinds of sources! The saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is very true in this case, but they still seem to catch us all by surprise. I pick them off my dogs multiple times a day. Thankfully there is now much more information available on the prevention of and treatment for Lyme disease and coinfections that can be transmitted by the various ticks in our area. One excellent resource is the Maine Lyme Disease Support and Education nonprofit that a friend of mine started after her own battle with Lyme. She and her cofounder are a wealth of experience, information, and support!

As for flowers, this is also a season of waiting. Snowdrops and daffodils are starting to show their bright heads in the sunniest spots, but in our yard the green stalks of the perennials are still pushing up through the warming dirt. Only last week I found patches of ice and snow tucked under some bushes near my home.

We are also still waiting to have a season-opening baseball game. Either the weather makes it impossible to play or the fields are just too wet and muddy. I remember during one Little League season, the coaches were wearing their boots to practice. Winter can be so very long here, and while most of the country's high schools are probably nearing the ends of their seasons, we haven't really started ours. May will be a fast and furious month of games.

On the bench, waiting to play.

With all this mud and waiting, I've been thinking about why we continue to stay in Maine. There are many reasons, but I know that coming through a long season of winter makes Maine summers very special. Because it takes extra time to arrive, summer can be so very perfect, with days of sun, pure fresh air, ocean breezes, cool mountain air, humid days that are short-lived, and pristine land and wide spaces on land and sea to stretch, swim, and enjoy summer.

First, we have to get through the trial of mud season! But God's timing is perfect. I love this from the book of Ecclesiastes 3:11:

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."

This is the kind of summer day and views we live for in Maine.

Locals: What view is this?

On My Shelf: The Magic Ship, Set in Maine with a Historical Backdrop

A big ship, summer breezes, and a world about to change. I finally finished The Magic Ship by Sandra Paretti. I picked this one up time and...