Category Archives: Celebrate

Father’s Day by the Kennebec River

Yesterday was Father’s Day. The kids, alas, live too far away to celebrate it with us, but Clif and I are firm believers in celebrations big and small.  Therefore, to mark the day, we decided to go to Hallowell, a tiny city on the Kennebec River, order Chinese food, sit by the river, and then go for a bike ride along the rail trail.

After a very cool spring, summer decided to make a guest appearance, and by late morning, the temperature was in the low 80s.  Did the heat deter us? It did not. Clif and I are plucky Mainers who can tolerate heat as well as cold.  After packing a cooler full of water, off we went to Lucky Gardens to fetch our lunch. Clif, naturally, got to choose—one take-away meal is plenty for the both of us—and he picked General Tso’s chicken. (See what I mean about the amount of food? A wicked good deal, as we Mainer’s would say.)

While we ate on the pier, we admired a mother duck and her ducklings.

And we watched a woman in a kayak go by with her dog. What a good buddy to stay put!

I saw a sturgeon jump, straight up and then back down with a splash, but I wasn’t at the ready with my camera. Darn!

Dealing bravely with this disappointment, we took to the rail trail.

While we didn’t see any more sturgeon, we did see this beauty. I am pretty sure it is a  young bald eagle, but if any of my birding, blogging friends think differently, do let me know. So wonderful to see the river full of life, especially as my childhood memory of the Kennebec River is of it being dark and dirty with no fish or birds. (I’m sure there were some, but back then nobody I knew spent their days by the Kennebec River.) What a difference the Clean Water Act has made, and I am very grateful for the lawmakers who worked together to clean our polluted waterways.

After the ride, we were more than a little hot. What to do? Go for ice cream, of course, at Fielder’s Choice, where we shared a hot fudge sundae with peanut butter ice cream.

A sweet, cool ending.

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A Day for Flowers, a Bike Ride, and Nachos

In the United States, yesterday was Mother’s Day.

There were flowers from Mike and Shannon,

and flowers from Dee.

The day was sunny and warm, just perfect for a bike ride, our first of the season.

We rode our usual route of eight miles, and except for some slight knee pain, it was go, go, go for me. For the past few months, I have been faithfully riding my exercise bike, and yesterday I saw the benefits of this, ahem, boring workout. It’s been a long time since I have started the biking season feeling so strong and ready to go. I am very hopeful that by midsummer, we will be going on longer bike rides.

After our bike ride, we stopped at the little park by Maranacook Lake. So green and pretty this time of year.

How to end this sunny day? With Clif’s nachos, which are far better than any we can get in central Maine.

All in all, a good Mother’s Day from beginning to end.

 

An Anniversary Trip to Bath

Yesterday, to celebrate our forty-first wedding anniversary, Clif and I went to Bath, Maine, a small city of a little over 8,000 people. Bath is nestled beside the Kennebec River, and it is close enough to the ocean for the river to be visibly tidal. Because of this, Bath definitely has a coastal feel.

The day was clear, cold, and beautiful, much like the day we were married, and the ride to Bath, about an hour away, was sheer delight.

We had a gift certificate to J. R. Maxwell’s in downtown Bath, but Clif suggested that we celebrate in stages to make the outing more festive. A great idea, and that is exactly what we did. First, we went to the Kennebec Tavern, which is on the edge of town, right by the  Kennebec River.

I have lived near the Kennebec for most of my life, and how I have come to love this protean waterway, always moving, always unpredictable. In Bath, the Kennebec is wider than it is in central Maine, where we live. It’s almost as though the river is opening up as it rushes toward the sea.

Clif ordered a Baxter IPA, and I ordered a martini made with vodka and Bailey’s Irish Cream. As an appetizer, we had a plate of fried parsnip chips. Very tasty. As we sipped and ate and toasted ourselves, we sat by windows overlooking the river.

Happy was just how I felt as I came to the end of my drink and discovered a little treat at the bottom of my glass.

After drinks, it was off to Maxwell’s for our dinner. Downtown Bath is charming, and here is a shot of the main street.

At home, we almost never eat meat, so Clif decided to indulge by having a steak. Lobster is also something we rarely eat, and I had my own indulgence—a lobster roll, my favorite way of eating lobster.

You might notice that there are both chips and fries on my plate. This is because I couldn’t decided which one to order, and our server suggested that I could have half and half. The fries were good, but the homemade chips were fantastic, perfectly cooked. If we ever go back to this restaurant, I will just order the chips.

And by the way, the lobster roll was pretty darned good, too, made just the way it ought to be—pure lobster meat with just a hint of mayonnaise. Foodies from away like to suggest adding this or that to the lobster salad, and to them I say, “Nonsense!” There are some things that should just be left alone, and lobster salad is one of them.

After this fine meal, did we want dessert? We did not, at least not right away. But after an hour’s drive back to central Maine, we decided that maybe, just maybe, we could force ourselves to have a sundae at Fielder’s Choice.

A sweet ending to a sweet day for a couple of crazy Mainers who go out for ice cream even when the snowbanks are high.

Cheers from an old married couple!

 

Liam is Thirteen

Today is Liam’s birthday, and as the title of this post indicates, he is thirteen years old. I still remember what a little Tasmanian devil Liam was when he was a puppy, and Liam remained energetic in his senior years until he went blind.

Poor dog buddy! His blindness has really slowed him down, and the other day, he banged his beautiful long nose on something—we don’t know what—and now his nose is horribly swollen on one side. Fortunately, his appetite is still good, and his bruised nose hasn’t interfered with his eating.

During a recent storm, some large branches had fallen in our backyard next to the bird feeders. They made excellent perches for the birds, and so we left them there. Liam had his paths for doing his business, and none of the branches were in his paths. However, the rains that came on Saturday did two things—it reduced the amount of snow we had, and it made the remaining snow so hard that Liam can now leave the paths and wander at will in the backyard.

Clif and I wondered, did Liam run into one of those branches and hurt his nose? We have no way of knowing, but we decided not to take any chances. Yesterday, we cleared out all those branches—some of them were quite large—and threw them over the fence into the woods. The birds no longer have perches directly by the feeders, but as we have so many trees in our backyard, it really doesn’t matter. There are plenty of other branches for the birds, and they are still coming in great numbers to the bird feeders and suet.

Swollen nose aside, Liam is holding his own. We have adjusted the way we do things. His blindness has affected his whole system, and Liam is now on a special diet that includes vitamins. No more walks off the leash, and his walks are much shorter.  We don’t like to leave him for more than five hours even though he has never messed in the house while we were gone. No overnight guests who are not family as Liam sometimes barks in the middle of the night to go outside.

However, as we recently told our friends Beth and John, we love our dog buddy so much that we never resent the extra care involved as Liam has aged and gone blind. For the  most part, unless he bumps into something, Liam is comfortable, and his appetite is good.

In honor of Liam’s birthday, here is a picture, complete with a Tolkien quotation,  of Liam when he could still see. The photo, used as a card, was taken on the trails behind the town’s high school, one of Liam’s favorite places before he went blind.

So happy birthday to one of the best and sweetest dogs in Winthrop.

 

Celebrating Esther’s 80th Birthday

Yesterday, I took my friend Esther out to lunch to celebrate her eightieth birthday, which, in fact, was the end of November.  However, between the holidays and bad weather, there really wasn’t a good time for me to take her out before Christmas, and we settled on January.

“After all,” Esther said. “I’ll still be eighty.”

Indeed she would. For recent readers who might not be familiar with Esther, here is a brief history of how we became friends. I met Esther through my mother. They both lived in Vassalboro, a small town in central Maine, about eight miles from Waterville and twenty-five miles away from where I live. As Esther put it, “Your mother was the best friend I ever had, and that kind of friendship doesn’t come along very often.” No, it doesn’t.

I often got together with my mother and Esther for lunch, tea, and other events, and over the years, she became my friend, too. When my mother died ten years ago, I continued my friendship with Esther. Not only do I enjoy Esther’s lively company, but she also provides a connection to my mother, and this means a lot to me.

As if all this weren’t enough, Esther is also a treasure trove of stories about rural life in Maine in the 1940s and 1950s, a time that seems nearly as remote and as different as the pioneer days. Esther was born in Vassalboro, and her family was very poor. But because they lived in the country, they were able to grow a lot of their own food.

“We hardly went to the grocery store,” Esther said. “Going to Waterville was a big occasion. For meat, we mostly ate deer, and when my father got one, we all gathered around the piano, sang songs, and celebrated. But I hated having to help cut up the deer. The flesh still smelled so alive, and it reminded me that the animal had been living not long ago.”

I nodded sympathetically, marveling at her country grit. I tried to picture myself butchering a deer when I was a young girl, and here my imagination failed me. I know I couldn’t have done it.

Esther said, “My father might have killed deer, but when he was haying, he always went in a big circle around nesting birds. He didn’t hunt for fun. He hunted for food.”

Again, I nodded. Hunting for food I understand but killing for fun, I do not.

“We ate some of the meat fresh,” Esther continued. “But my mother canned a lot of it for the winter.”

As Esther spoke, I thought about my own mother, of how she, too, grew up in poverty. My mother lived with her single mother and her grandmother. But they didn’t live in the country where they could grow much of their own food. Instead, they lived in a tiny apartment in Skowhegan, a small mill town up the Kennebec River from Waterville. But it seems my great-grandmother was a resourceful cook, and my mother often marveled at how even when there cupboards were bare, my great-grandmother always managed to put something together for supper.

“The good old days, ” I said to Esther.

Esther is one of those people who really does have a twinkle in her eye, and she responded, “When I wasn’t good and I wasn’t old.”

We both laughed.

Here’s a picture I took of Esther yesterday at Joseph’s Fireside Steakhouse in Waterville.

Happy birthday, Esther! May you have many more.

Living North of North

The holidays are over, the kids are gone, and we are feeling a little despondent. We so love this time of food, family, generosity—oh, the world needs more of this homely virtue—twinkling lights, and, yes, beauty.  Winter is one of the most beautiful times in Maine, and on a clear day, the skies are so blue that I feel exhilarated.

It snowed on Christmas day, a storm that left us about eight inches of light, fluffy snow. Nothing unusual for central Maine. Naturally, this meant we had to clean up the snow, but as the saying goes, many hands make the task light.

Here is Shannon, just barely visible in her blue parka, cleaning our car.

Here is our front deck, after it was shoveled.

Then, as it sometimes happens in Maine in the winter, it got very, very cold.

This little junco is puffed up against the cold. We are diligent about keeping the feeders filled for them and for the other birds.

It is so cold, that the windows in the bedroom are frosted.

But our backyard looks like a winter wonderland, so all is forgiven.

Maine is not the northern-most state in our country, but in the winter, we definitely feel as though we are north of north. Snow, cold, quiet, and a hunkering down for the winter give us the illusion of being separate from the rest of the country. How far removed Washington feels, almost as though it is on another planet.

This, of course, is false thinking. What happens in Washington ripples outward and upward, affecting us all. But during this time of stillness and cold, I can almost pretend that time has slowed down, allowing us to focus on movies, books, and tea with friends.

And speaking of movies…we saw four good ones over the holidays, all worth putting on your list if  you are a movie buff.  Our favorite was Darkest Hour, about Winston Churchill and England’s decision to enter World War II.  A couple of times I was moved to tears, especially as the little civilian fleet left to rescue the soldiers at Dunkirk. Oh, my! Then, there is Churchill’s famous “We shall fight on the beaches” speech.

My second favorite was Downsizing, a parable about climate change, our overconsuming ways, and bright spots of decency. No answers are provided, and the silly sight of a shrinking Matt Damon does not detract from the serious message of this movie.

Third was All the Money in the World, about the kidnapping of Paul Getty III.  Christopher Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey in playing Getty the elder, and Plummer did an outstanding job, especially when you consider his scenes were filmed in just nine days. As for all that money? Too much for one person. Too much.

Finally, we saw the latest Star Wars movie, which was good enough, but it just didn’t have sparkle. The plot was too basic and involved too much chasing. Still, it was wonderful to see Carrie Fisher in her last role—how good she was!—as well as some bright spots that were, alas, not allowed to shine long enough.

It’s been a good year for movies, and there are more to look forward to, perfect for this cold time of year.

So now onward, ho to January and February.