Saturday, February 23, 2019

Hoping for Spring, Dreaming of Gardens

Have I belabored the length of winter enough?
Well, here is another sign that winter is too long.
I am listening to the Red Sox and Yankees spring training game in Fort Meyers, Florida, as I write this. If we can't be there we can dream of being there.
And if we can't have spring yet, at least we can plant!
Note the snow in the background.
And enjoy an indoor greenhouse.
Now we wait for sprouts!
At the store where we purchased this, the lady who checked us out said that many customers had been asking for two weeks for potting soil and seeds. So we are not alone in this pursuit of green.
Here's hoping for green to get through the rest of winter.

What do you do as you hope for spring?

Monday, February 18, 2019

Maine Seasons: No More Snowmen, or Maine Winter Getaways

Its Presidents Day, and its February break, the week when as many Mainers get on a plane and get out of here, preferably someplace warm and sunny. (Florida is a favorite pick.) But not me, and its snowing. But I'm thinking about spring, wishing it to come quickly.

A less wintry mantelpiece.
Over the weekend the sun was out, and while it wasn't "warm" by any stretch of the imagination, it felt "warmer" because it was in the 30s and crept into the 40s on my sun-soaked deck. There was a different feeling in the air--that tantalizing ever-so-slight warmth from the sun and not so bone-chillingly cold air. My younger dog felt it too. He wanted to be outside and acted a bit spring feverish.

The blue sky could be a
Maine summer sky
if not for the snow
on the landscape.
This is the time of year I start putting away the last of the "winter" decorations--the snowmen that stayed out after Christmas, the Christmasy scented candles, and the lingering Christmas cards taped to the wall. I did that on Saturday with high hopes that even changing out the candles from Christmas green ones to summery blue as well as dusting and decluttering would lighten the air in my home as well.

Summer and warmer days are a long way off here in the far Northeast, but at least I can spruce it up a bit and think about warmer days to come.

Our Saturday included sledding and
a bit of snow baseball. Note: Coatless
means its about 40 in Maine!
Here is a list of my favorite Maine winter getaways for a few hours, a day, or a weekend.

Get Out of the House

The local indoor pool at the Wiscasset Community Center. The center boasts two pools in its atrium- like pool area. The Alcove pool, perfect for kids ages 0 to 99, starts in inches of water and goes about four feet, and a regular lap pool for real exercise. My son took baby swim class here and his big kid swim lessons years later. The hot tub is perfect if you have someone to watch the kids while you soak up some warmth for your shoveling weary muscles. It is well staffed with professional lifeguards and has benches and bleachers for non-swimmers. There are also locker rooms and two family changing rooms. 

The Library. Any local library will do, but mine (called Skidompha! Don't you love that name?) is open till 6 most weeknights, 7 on Thursdays, and until 1 on Saturdays. They offer loads of free family, teen, and adult activities as well. I like to browse for new reads, look at the bright, colorful quilts hanging in the lobby, take a turn at the jumbo Scrabble-like game set up in the atrium, and look at the art in revolving art gallery inside the back entrance. Even 20 minutes feels like a vacation. Most local libraries do so much more than offer free reading material, and because its generally quiet, its a nice place to get away and just think for a while.


Three favorite overnight getaways, with or without kids (and all with pools) are

Harraseeket Inn in Freeport. When we go we check in early to enjoy afternoon tea. This is definitely a pricier option, but its a very lovely inn with all amenities. With restaurants and shopping all over town you can go out or stay in their cozy rooms, dine in the Inn, enjoy the pool, and early to bed. They offer "Serious Shopper" packages with a gift certificate to nearby L.L. Bean.

Samoset in Rockland. I've lived in the shadow of this fancy seaside resort for my entire life. I've swum in its pool. My high school prom was even held there, but never had I stayed at the Samoset until last year. We enjoyed gorgeous ocean views, an awesome breakfast buffet, and the pool and hot tub. Rockland, Rockport, and Camden (the Samoset claims all three towns because it is so central to all three, but the address is Rockport, although you approach from Rockland), also have sprouted dozens of great restaurants in the last 20 years. With the Farnsworth Art Museum  (winter hours are Wednesday through Sunday 10 am to 4 pm) and movie theaters nearby (The Strand shows limited-run movies that are often not in the big theaters and hosts music events, live-stream theater, and lectures) and Flagship Cinemas (typical popular movie venue), you can't go wrong with finding something to get you out of winter for a weekend.

Purity Spring Resort, Madison, New Hampshire. Years ago before we were parents and we lived in New Hampshire, we stayed a weekend here. (Its still only about 2 hours away from Midcoast Maine.) We had a very lovely dinner and enjoyed a tv-less weekend (the resort now has Wi-Fi but still no tvs it appears!), and the pool. With winter skiing, tubing, and sleigh rides, it sounds likes a fabulous place to enjoy a winter getaway with kids. It is located at the base of King Pine Ski Area and along Purity Lake. They offer many packages and simple and comfortable lodgings at great rates. Its a nice getaway without leaving the region.

Many folks take their kids to Massachusetts to Great Wolf Lodge. I've never been there but it seems to be a popular getaway location with a large indoor water park. 

Day Aways
Two Portland-based getaways we've done are the popular indoor trampoline parks Get Air and Urban Air followed by Otto Pizza or Portland Pie for pizza. There is also the Maine Children's Museum in downtown Portland for younger kids and the Portland Museum of Art. This time of year during school holidays and Saturdays these spots can be very busy and crowded, but I think of it as a cheap alternative to a Disney vacation!

What is your favorite Maine winter getaway, whether its for a day, weekend, or an hour?

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Maine Seasons: Two-Dog Days

The first three weeks of the year were cold, filled with colds, and a busy school and work schedule. It was a bit of a downer after the holidays. All we wanted to do was stay home, stay in bed. Then the last weekend in January we took in a second dog from an older friend who is no longer home to care for his best friend. While we had our concerns about bringing another older dog into our home with our energetic two-year-old lab, it has worked out better than expected, and everyone is settling into the routine.
Becoming a
 two-dog home:
I can't resist smiling
when these two happy
dogs greet me with their
enthusiastic tail
wags and cute faces.
Having this second dog has saved my winter from the complete doldrums it was in. Because we live in a rural neighborhood far off the road, Merlin goes in and out without our direct supervision every minute. He usually stays in the yard and returns back to the door within five minutes or within a call out or two. But Ramsay is used to being put on a leash or a run, and because this was a new environment, we've been going outside with him on a leash. Being older and less frisky (although he has a lot of play left in him!), Ramsay takes a slower pace, and he has different habits that require patience. This has made the going-outside routine to take ten minutes rather than the two it was before. Walks have changed from fast and furious five-minute run-rambles up our dead-end road to 15 minutes of sniffing, shuffling, and maybe some light jogging on a fast day. So being Ramsay's caretaker requires a bit of patience.
A two-dog ramble.

At first I dreaded going outside in the cold, but I've bundled up heavily for predawn, mid-day, and late starry night rambles around the yard.

After two weeks of this I realized I wasn't as down about winter as I was before. Having another dog to think about as well as getting outside with the dogs rather than just being a doorman has helped me enormously. The fresh air, exercise, and looking at the stars and snow and hearing the little birds that stick around Maine in winter has helped my perspective.

But oh the hair! I thought our house was dog-hair infested with one, but two has produced infinite amounts and has required far more regular vacuuming than my usual once-a-week sweep-through. Benefit? More vacuuming equates more exercise! (And maybe a cleaner house? Probably not!)
The dog toys have accumulated
with the dog hair!

Ultimately the dogs are happy, and they are making me happy as I watch them adjust and become friends. Ramsay is getting more limber and playful, and Merlin has a companion, and he enjoys the company of people and another dog outside. He's getting more exercise than he was earlier this winter as well. So far, its been a win-win bringing another dog into our home.

Check with me during mud and tick season, which are are just around the corner. (One day at a time, I guess!)

Get outside and play with your dog! Its one of the best remedies for the winter blahs.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Maine Seasons: New Year Traditions, or Open Doors, Open Hearts

Do you hold fast to traditions? I confess that I do not. I feel that some traditions cause too much stress to keep attempting them. Sometimes life gets in the way of keeping traditions the same way or even keeping them at all. But thinking of traditions I experienced in childhood make me feel nostalgic. Traditions I have been able to hold onto during the holidays are getting together with both sides of our family, my husband reading the story of the birth of Christ                                                                       
This family Bible has an inscription that reads
 "Presented to James and Alma
 [my husband's great-grandparents]
by your mother Dec. 25, 1910. Mrs. E.E. Synder."
There are many family photos of his family
sitting together to read about the birth of Christ from
Luke 2 as well as photographs of our family.
from the book of Luke out of a large Bible that has been in the family 100 years or so, and opening stockings and exchanging gifts. There is something binding and bonding about positive traditions that are kept during the holiday season.

My family has never had a tradition for the New Year. One year we moved into a new house. During others we stayed in. One year we were traveling. It seems that every year we do something different for New Year's Eve depending on the weather, invites out, or holiday traditions we haven't completed yet!

Usually on January 1, after a busy Christmas week we like a low-key day in preparation for getting back into the school/work routine.

In thinking about New Year traditions, I went looking for Maine New Year traditions. I didn't find much, although there is a lot on the web about worldwide traditions and superstitions. (I want to dig into the history books and see what was done 50, 100 or even 200 years ago in Maine.) As for current traditions, I did find a local news story of various "drops" happening, such as a clam drop in Yarmouth, a beach ball drop in Bangor, and a sardine drop Down East. These "traditions" don't seem very traditional to me other than they correlate with the big ball drop in New York City. They sound completely goofy and fun.

I recall two traditions on New Year's Day from my childhood. First is taking down the tree and Christmas decorations and hauling them up into the attic for another year. It was a nice bookend to the holiday season which we started the day after Thanksgiving with putting up the tree that my dad had scouted out and cut down while deer hunting.

Another tradition I remember from childhood was going to my grandparents' farm. Around new year (I think it was New Year's Day) we went to see them and everybody was stopping by to visit. And I recall hot mulled cider.
A hot drink can warm hearts.

I asked my grandmother about this. She can't remember exactly when she would make cider, but she does recall making it. This memory is one of many that stands out for me because it is indicative of all that I love about the farmhouse and my grandparents, a warm circle where I was loved and accepted and felt safe. Even today with no one living at the farm, no other place evokes such a sense of comfort and happy memories.

With all thoughts turned toward improvement and resolutions, I don't believe there is a better way to start the new year than by opening my heart and home to showing love to all who enter my life and my doorway. It is hard to always feel kind and patient. It is hard not to participate in gossip. And there are other stretching circumstances that leave me feeling ruffled and annoyed and not very open to others. But if there is anything I can pass on from the love of my grandparents, it is this, an open door and heart and to eliminate negative feelings in order to keep the door open.

Here's a recipe for hot mulled cider. In Maine cider is usually available year round as there is so much put away in the fall to sell all winter. If its hard to come by in your area, try 100% apple juice. The spices will make up for less than robust juice.

Here's the link to the news story about 2018-2019 New Year's Eve Drops in Maine. I'm not sure how long this link will be available!