Category Archives: Farther Afield

March Marches On

Farther Afield

Last weekend we again headed south of the border to Massachusetts to visit our youngest daughter, Shannon and her husband, Mike. We also went there to pick up our eldest daughter, Dee, who had spent the past month in New York where she tended to business concerning her apartment. Now she is back with us for a while.

As we ate Chinese food and discussed books, movies, and television shows, I reflected on how lucky it is that we enjoy talking to each other so much. But bad weather was blowing up the coast, and we reluctantly left early before the worst of it came.

On the way home, I also reflected on how lucky I am to have access to podcasts and other other places on the Internet where I can discover new books, music, television shows, and movies. I live in a rural community in a rural state, and while I love all the nature that’s around me, I also love art and culture. The Internet allows me to learn and explore and to listen to new ideas that wouldn’t ordinarily be available to someone who lives in the hinterlands.

I realize that the Internet is not a source of unalloyed good. Plenty of trolls and bad actors make use of the Internet to spread their hate and lies. But there is also much good that can come from being connected to other folks and organizations. Because of the Internet, I have blogging friends around the world, and for this I am ever so grateful.

I hope we can find a way to minimize the harm of the Internet while keeping the many things that are good about it.


Snow-Gauge Clif

Here we are at the end of March. In Maine this is an in-between kind of time, not exactly winter but not quite spring. In our yard at the edge of the forest, there is still plenty of snow, but there’s also a fair amount of bare ground. At least in the sunnier backyard.

It’s still too muddy to start with spring clean-up, but in a week or two I’ll be able to work in the backyard without fear of losing my shoes.

Here is Snow-Gauge Clif in the backyard.

Now around to the snowier front yard.

Just for fun, here’s a photo of this year’s Christmas wreath, which is definitely past its best.

In late March or early April, depending on the depth of the snow, I always take the holiday wreath apart and throw the greenery into the woods. I think the snow has melted enough to allow me to do this fairly soon.

It’s time, don’t you think?



I came across Jorge Glem and Sam Reider on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts. As soon as I heard them I said to myself, “What can be more fun than an accordion and a tiny guitar (a cuatro)? As turns out, not much. But the music can also be soulful. One thing is certain, this is definitely a unique pairing.

Lunches with a View

Last week, Dee and Clif were on vacation, and except for keeping up with all my lovely blogging friends, so was I.  We played games—Gloomhaven is our current obsession—watched movies, and spent plenty of time on our patio on the edge of the woods.

But because we were on vacation, we splurged with a couple of day trips.

First we went to the ocean, to East Boothbay, to have a picnic lunch on the rocks. This is becoming a summer tradition for us. The views are gorgeous, and because East Boothbay is off the beaten trail, there are no crowds of tourists the way there are in Boothbay Harbor.

For the past few summers, great white sharks have been spotted off the coast of Maine. This is something new.  The sharks are apparently drawn by the warming ocean water and the abundance of seals, their prey.

Dee and Clif scoffed at me as I scanned the water for a dorsal fin. But there was nothing. Just the gulls and the rippling water. However, the next day, there was a great white sighting at Popham Beach, not that far away from  East Boothbay. In our younger years, we have swum at Popham Beach many times. The beach had to be closed until the danger was past.

“See?” I said to Dee and Clif.

They made no reply.

Here’s a little mood music from the great John Williams.

While I felt perfectly safe on the rocks in East Boothbay, I would not go swimming in the ocean now that the great whites have moved north. The sharks have become part of our ecosystem, and we have to learn to live with these big predators. For me, that involves staying out of the ocean and instead swimming in pools, lakes, and streams. Shark attacks are rare, so this might be an abundance of caution. Still…

Our next outing was a little more placid and a lot closer. We went to Hallowell, a nearby town, for lunch and drinks at Burano’s Wood-fired Pizzeria. They have a deck overlooking the Kennebec River, and it was a perfect place to have our lunch. (Because of Covid, we are still not eating inside in restaurants.)

The food was delicious.

We had pizza, of course,

as well as spicy fries,

and drinks.

This was a huge treat for me as we seldom go out to eat or order takeaway.

Now, it’s back to work, and that feels fine, too.

It’s good to rest and have special treats, but it’s also good to return to the regular routine.

And, in a week or so, I should have some exciting news about the cover for Of Time and Magic, Book Four in my Great Library Series.


One More Celebratory Trip: Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park

Last Friday, to cap our celebratory week, we went to Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park, a rocky spike of land that juts into the ocean. (Maine has an astonishing 5,000 miles of coastline, even more than California. How does Maine accomplish this? By a multitude of peninsulas that cut in and out, in and out, from New Hampshire all the way to Canada.)

The lighthouse was commissioned in 1827 by John Quincy Adams, and it has become an iconic image of the Maine coast. The lighthouse and the keeper’s cottage have a simple, old-timey look, very pleasing to this Mainer who loves clean lines and simplicity.

And what is a lighthouse without views? (Look who photobombed the first picture.)

Maine has been called “The Country of the Pointed Firs,” and the above photos certainly illustrate this.

As we were wandering around, admiring the scenery and taking pictures, dark clouds swept in, providing a perfectly spooky backdrop for the lighthouse. (After all, Halloween is coming.)

Dee said, “We’d better have our tea and cookies before it rains.”

“Right,” I replied, and we found a bench big enough for the three of us.

Amazingly, like a scene from a fantasy novel, the clouds swept by, leaving blue sky and sunshine and time to take pictures of monarchs and asters. Alas, the little beauties wouldn’t pose with open wings, and this is the best that I got.

The bee on the rose was a little more obliging.

Now, it’s back to work and projects, which I must admit is a bit of a letdown. No more day trips to the ocean, no more stops for ice cream on the way home, no more late afternoon cocktails.

But what a grand week we had celebrating Clif’s 70th birthday.


Nifty Posts from Some of the Lovely Blogs I Follow:

From Touring my Backyard, Ju-Lyn revels in revisiting the Asian Civilizations Museum and discovering that the ice cream cart outside the museum has finally reopened.

From Thistles and Kiwis, pictures of mouthwatering food featuring something I’d never heard of—tamarillo.

Ever wondered how you could make a snappy sculpture out of a cultivator wheel, some red paint, and part of a log? Wonder no more. Judy, of New England Garden Thread, yet again illustrates that she has more creativity in her little finger than most people have in their whole bodies.

Anne, from Something over Tea, shares pictures of various roadblocks she encounters. Let’s just say that roadblocks in Maine are very boring in comparison.

In the northern hemisphere, it is harvest time for many folks, and at Going Batty in Wales it is picklefest time. Oh, yum!

From Lavinia Ross, of Salmon Brook Farm, a seasonal update of what is going on at her farm in Oregon. Beautiful writing and beautiful singing. What a lovely, lovely voice Lavinia has.



The Celebration Continues: Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park

Freeport, Maine—home of L.L. Bean—is either a retail paradise or a shopping hellhole, depending on your point of view. In the summer there are so many tourists that parking places are hard to find, and most Mainers quite sensibly stay away until the season is over.

However, just ten minutes away from Freeport’s busy downtown is Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, 245 acres of woods and trails tucked between Casco Bay and the Harraseeket River. Wolfe’s Neck is one of Clif’s favorite places, and, as most of you know, this is his birthday week. Therefore, off to Wolfe’s Neck we went with a picnic lunch and a thermos of tea to go with cookies for dessert.

After lunch, Clif and Dee went on a four-mile hike. Because of my creaky knees, I stayed behind and had a delightful time pottering along the edge of a salt marsh.

To get to the marsh, I went down a trail and over a bridge,

past fungi of various kinds and colors.

I came to a steep rocky trail leading to a series of wooden steps and carefully went down to the water. As I reached the shore, a heron flew by, disappearing before I could get a picture.


I was the only one on the little beach by the marsh, which suited me just fine.

On a large rock in the water, birds—cormorants?— rested and watched.

By the shore’s edge, hermit crabs patrolled the waters.

Everywhere, there were fragments of shells, remnants of life that once was. This one reminded me of a shard of ancient pottery. Nature’s art.

All around me was the smell of mud flats and salt water, and I was completely absorbed by the marsh. A place to look.  A place to listen. A place to be.

After a while, I carefully made my way back up the stairs and the rocky trail, and walked to a grassy area where I set up a lawn chair.

Clif and Dee came back from their walk, and we had tea and cookies.

Here are a couple pictures from their hike:

Is it any wonder that Wolfe’s Neck is one of Clif’s favorite places? No matter the time of year, there is always something to see and notice.




Steampunk in Kennebunk

On Saturday, Clif and I headed to southern Maine, to Kennebunk, to set up our wares at a Steampunk Fair sponsored by the Brick Store Museum. The weather was not with us, and it poured midmorning. Fortunately, indoor provisions at the town hall were made for the vendors, and we were dry if a little warm—there was no air conditioning in the auditorium.

But never fear! Fans were on sale and were a big hit.

And even those without fans seemed perfectly happy.

But this deep sea diver must have been oh so hot.

Along with our books, there were other nifty things for sale. Among them were sweet little pins by Miss & Niff’s Trinkets and Treasures,

as well as funky lamps by Light- Q  Creations.

What a good day we  had being with these quirky, creative people. While the rain kept some folks away, we sold enough books to make the trip worthwhile.

Next year, we will return.

A Perfect September Day in Which We Head to the Beach to Celebrate Clif’s Birthday

IMG_2318Sunday was Clif’s birthday, and a week ago, I asked him what he wanted to do on his special day. “If the day is good, go to the ocean,” he promptly replied.

Yesterday was very good indeed, one of those bright September days with nary a cloud in the sky. We packed crab salad sandwiches, grapes, and cookies, and off we headed for our favorite beach—Popham Beach State Park. We love this beach for its broad expanse of sand, especially when the tide is out, but we especially love how the beach is not overdeveloped. On the state park end of things, there is nothing but sand, rocks, sea, and sky, but even when you leave the state park, there are no condos, no honky tonk, no gift shops. Instead, there are a few cottages, one small restaurant, not visible from the state park, and an old ruin of a fort, built in 1807.

After our picnic—a brisk one because of the ocean breeze—we walked the beach. Luck was with us—the tide was going out—and in the clear September light, this beach was even more beautiful and sparkling than it usually is. It was almost as if the beach were saying, “Yes, I show my beauty in the summer to all the tourists, but I am most radiant in the fall, after most of the tourists have left.  It is my gift to all those who are hardy enough to stay here year round.”

We brought our wee cameras, of course, and we happily snapped pictures to record our walk.


Because the tide was out, we headed to an island that can be reached only at low tide.


On the way, I found an intact sand dollar, which I tucked in my pocket for safe transport.


At the island, Clif climbed to the top.


While Clif explored the island, I found a rock seat and had my moment of Zen as I watched the water and the sky. Truly, I could have sat there for hours.


My moment of Zen must have given me a pleasant expression because two women—about my age—stopped to speak to me. They were complete strangers, but I was happy to chat with them. (This happens surprisingly often to me when I am at the beach. For some reason, strangers like to chat with me.)

All too soon, it was time to head back. At the edge of the beach, fragrant roses were still in bloom.


All the way home, we thought about the sea, the sand, the sparkling water, and the deep blue sky. A perfect day that needed a special ending.

“Let’s have a fire,” I said to Clif, “and eat supper beside it.”


This we did, enjoying a meal of baked potatoes topped with chili and cheese.

But before we ate, I toasted Clif, wishing him many more birthdays and a happy, creative retirement.


Wednesday is Clif’s last day at work. But that is another story.

A Trip to Rockland

Our vacation is over. Yesterday, we dropped off Dee at the bus station and bid her a sad farewell. We had a busy but oh-so-fun week, culminating with a Saturday trip to Rockland, which is on the Maine coast.

Once upon a time, say, when I was young, Rockland was what you might call a gritty place—my mother actually called it “tough.” There was a sardine factory right in town, and the harbor was a working waterfront. But then the factory closed, as so many did in Maine, and as an entry in Wikipedia puts it, “Since the early 1990s, Rockland has seen a shift in its economy away from fishery and toward a service center city.” In other words, Rockland had to reinvent itself.

Being on a lovely harbor helped. A lot. Those from away, as we Mainers call non-natives, were drawn by the area’s natural beauty, and many of those who settled in Rockland are affluent. The same is true for a lot of the tourists who come to visit.

Since the 1940s, the town has been anchored by the Farnsworth Art Museum, and gradually, over the years, art galleries followed. So Rockland went from being a gritty place to being an arty town, which, like so many things, has its pluses and minuses.

But in this post, I am not going to get into the pluses and minuses of what happens when a working-class town becomes arty. Instead, I’m going to share some pictures I took of the town and the lovely harbor. I do want to note that we saw a broad range of first-rate—albeit expensive—art. Yes, there were seascapes, but there were also abstract art, minimalism, and everything in between.

Here are some photos of Rockland.

Clif wonders pensively, "When will those onion rings be ready?"
Clif wonders pensively, “When will those onion rings be ready?”


A little café on the main street
A little café on the main street


Boats in the harbor
Boats in the harbor


A beautiful, clear day
A beautiful, clear day


More boats, more blue
More boats, more blue




Apples by the harbor. A Laurie kind of picture
A Laurie kind of picture—apples by the harbor


Now it’s back to work as I try to catch up on all the things that were put on hold while Dee was here. (Library minutes, here I come!)


Bran Muffins and Costa Rica

IMG_8163Yesterday, our friend Diane came over for tea and bran muffins and to tell us about her recent trip to Costa Rica. She brought pictures of lush tropical landscapes, big lizards, sculpture, and buildings with thatched roofs. We learned that Costa Rica has a population of about four million people, with much of the population being clustered in and around San Jose, the country’s capital.

Diane told us that Costa Rica didn’t seem to have the extreme poverty of, say, Mexico. While many of the homes were modest, they were decent, and they all had electricity.

A quick bit of research confirmed Diane’s impressions. According to an article in Wikipedia, Costa Rica has a high literacy rate—well over 90 percent, “with a better record on human development and inequality than the median of the region.” Costa Rica has no military,  and the country is known for “its progressive environmental policies, being the only country to meet all five criteria established to measure environmental sustainability.” Costa Rica plans to be carbon neutral by 2021, and they have banned recreational hunting, which gives them a gold star in my book.

As Diane noted, it is easier to get things done in a country with only four million people, and this is certainly true. The vast population of India or China makes progressive reform and action slow and difficult. Nevertheless, more populous countries could learn from Costa Rica. This country has decided to put much of its resources into education and the environment, which benefits many people rather than just a few. (Even more affluent countries could learn a thing or two.)

No country, of course, is perfect, and while Diane didn’t see much extreme poverty, Costa Rica nevertheless struggles with a poverty rate of 23 percent. Still, it is a country thriving in what could be considered a tough neighborhood—Nicaragua is one of its neighbors.

After Diane finished telling us about her trip, the talk turned to other subjects, to politics, to family, and to one of our favorite topics—movies. Outside, a wet snow fell, making the April landscape look more dreary than it already did. However, when I looked out one of the dining room windows, I saw a crow gathering materials for what must be a nest. So the crows, at least, think spring is coming.

We drank tea, ate bran muffins, and decided we would like to get together once a month to watch a movie together. A perfect frugal activity for Clif and me.

“But we have to plan ahead,” Diane said, “and mark it on the calendar.” Indeed we do. Busy schedules make planning ahead a necessity.

The afternoon passed all too quickly, and it was time for Diane to leave. I sent her home with a couple of bran muffins, which she thought were tasty. It is a good bran muffin recipe. A friend gave it to me many years ago, and it’s a family favorite.

I’ve posted the recipe in my former blog, A Good Eater, but that was a while back. This recipe is so good that it seemed  worthwhile to post it again. These bran muffins go well with tea, with soup, or as an accompaniment to almost any meal. I often add a cup of thawed blueberries to the batter. Somehow, I just love the combination of bran and blueberries, and it’s good for you, too.

Tasty and good for you. A winning combination.

Bran Muffins

1/4 cup of vegetable oil
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of maple syrup or honey
2/3 cup of milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup of flour
1 cup of wheat bran
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 12 muffin cups.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, wheat bran, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, blend the oil and brown sugar. Add the maple syrup, milk, and egg. Mix well. Add the dry ingredients, mixing until the ingredients are just moistened.

Scoop batter into the greased muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until muffins are brown.

An Anniversary Trip to Portland, Where We Walked on the Beach and Ate Mussels

IMG_7942On Thursday, Clif and I will celebrate our thirty-eighth wedding anniversary. Yikes! We certainly have been married for a lot of years.  To celebrate, on Monday Shannon and Mike invited us over to their home for a dinner of mussels, crusty bread, and salad.

A trip to Portland usually means a trip to Trader Joe’s, where I stock up on such things as cruelty-free laundry detergent, shampoo, and toothpaste. Because it was a Monday afternoon, the store was fairly quiet, which meant we finished our shopping sooner than we had anticipated. We had over an hour before we were supposed to be at Mike and Shannon’s. Although I knew we could stop by anytime, I also know how inconvenient it can be for guests—even family—to arrive early and interrupt the hustle and flow of getting ready.

“Why not go to Crescent Beach for a walk?” Clif suggested.

Why not, indeed? The day was reasonably warm, the sun was shining—at least some of the time—and wonder of wonders, it wasn’t snowing. For me, unless the weather is terrible, a walk on the beach is always a good thing.

“Great idea!” I said.

Crescent Beach is one of my favorite beaches. It isn’t grand and doesn’t have the broad sweep of, say, Popham. But except for one Inn, tucked discreetly away from the beach, it is undeveloped.  No condos crowd the sand. No board walk.  No hot dog stands. No honky-tonk. Instead, there are rocks, sky, sand, flats, and water. Just the way I like a beach to be.


On Crescent Beach Clif and Liam ranged ahead, while I walked by the water’s edge and looked for pretty shells, rocks, and sea glass. Especially on an anniversary walk, I like to bring home something from the sea.

Clif and Liam on the beach
Clif and Liam on the beach


After our walk, we headed to Mike and Shannon’s, where we had delectable mussels, crusty bread, and an herb salad. I ate too much but it was so good.


In honor of our anniversary, Shannon and Mike made a donation to Good Shepherd Food Bank, which does so much to help alleviate food insecurity in Maine.

Earlier in this piece, I mentioned how that on an anniversary walk, I like to bring home something from the sea. On yesterday’s walk, I was lucky enough to find a sand dollar and a piece of sea glass.

A lovely reminder of a lovely day.