Painting the dining roomYesterday, my husband, Clif, and I went to South Portland to help our daughter Shannon and her husband, Mike, paint their new apartment. As Clif put it, “We’re definitely doing our bit for Earth Week by helping them with their new apartment.” Yes, we are. Right now, Shannon and Mike’s daily commute is an hour from Farmingdale to Portland and then they must come back again, of course. While we will miss having them “right around the corner” in Farmingdale, South Portland is exactly where they should be. It is true we will now have to drive over an hour to visit them, but it will be once a month or so, much less than their current daily drive. A real savings in carbon emissions. So, clan Graves/Mulkeen is definitely doing its part for Earth Week.

Shannon and Mike’s new apartment fills the whole downstairs of a gracious old house. While the apartment needs painting and cleaning—not to put too fine a point on it, but the previous tenants were far from meticulous—it has wonderful bones, including a built-in China hutch in the dining room, French doors, wood floors, and a fireplace in the living room. The young landlord, who is also Mike’s cousin, had planned to spend a couple of months working on the apartment before renting it, but because Mike is his cousin, he let Mike and Shannon have it sooner. As it is, Mike’s cousin has done substantial renovations, including a new ceiling and a wall.

What a difference a coat of paint makes! In truth, even a coat of primer does a lot to brighten shabby walls. We painted the dining room and the living room, and we’ll be heading down tomorrow to give those rooms a second coat.

It hardly needs to be said that food opportunities abound in southern Maine. After all, not long ago, Portland won the Best Small Town Foodie Award (or something like that!) from Bon Appétit. While Portland might be Maine’s foodie epicenter, the foodie effect spills out to the surrounding communities and even, somewhat, to the rest of Maine. So while our main focus was definitely on the apartment, from time to time our minds did turn to food matters. A few days earlier, I had read about Scratch Baking Co. in South Portland and how delicious and reasonably priced its food was. Shannon mentioned that a coworker has seen customers line up outside the shop before it even opens. It just so happens that Scratch Baking Co. is only a little over a mile from the the new apartment. Eager to see what the food was like, we stopped there before we even went to the apartment. Disappointment! Scratch Baking Co. is closed on Monday. Ah, well, we said philosophically, there will be other times.

Instead, we got some good sandwiches from a shop—can’t remember the name—just down the street, and we sat on the long front porch as we ate. Our dog, Liam, was hitched to one of the posts, close enough to be in begging proximity. The house is only a mile and a half away from the ocean, and there are birds everywhere—cardinals, ducks, chickadees, even pigeons, which I do not mind at all. When I took Liam for an afternoon walk, I walked by a marsh, and I heard a bird song of such astonishing melody and variation that I had to spend some time looking for the bird. I found it—a medium-sized bird with a slender beak and no distinguishing marks. As far as I could tell, it was shades of brown, gray, and white, and it was fairly plump. But what a song! I’m assuming this bird was a male who was trying to attract a mate. I was bedazzled by the the bird’s song, and I hope he was successful in finding a partner.

After a day of painting, we had all worked up an appetite, and we decided to stop at Stonyfield Café, formerly O’Naturals, in Falmouth. We were all in the mood for one of their noodle dishes, and the great thing about Stonyfield is that their noodle dish is a mix and match kind of thing. Clif got his with peanut sauce, chicken, peppers, and snap peas; Shannon had beef, chickpeas, teriyaki sauce, and snap peas (I think!); and I had mine with chicken, snap peas, mushrooms, and carrots with a sesame-ginger sauce. The noodles, served in a big bowl, each came with a generous piece of their brick-oven flat bread. We all cleaned our plates and felt properly nourished, primed for more painting in the days to come.

Note: Mike was sick that day and had to stay home. But he’s feeling better and will soon be ready to help paint.




  1. I am so pleased with how the apartment is turning out – so amazing what paint can do to a place! 🙂 Thanks so much for the help!

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