Category Archives: People

Whoopie Pies and Fudge and Cupcakes, Oh My!

Last weekend, Clif and I took our books to the Waterboro Elementary School Craft Fair, a two-day event.  Because the fair started at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday and was an hour and a half from our home, we had to get up at God-awful o’clock to get there in time to set up before the doors opened. Never mind. We had our thermoses of tea and coffee, which we drained dry, and we had a fantastic time where we sold lots of books.

This was a down-home craft fair with a broad range of items, from knitwear to handmade cutting boards to baked goods. One table in particular—Bluebird Baked Goods— caught my attention.

As I like to say, I don’t have a sweet tooth. Instead, I have a whole mouthful of them. Is it any wonder, then, that I stopped to gape at these gems from Bluebird Baked Goods?

Here’s a closer look.

Readers from New England will immediately recognize that these are whoopie pies, and I am a huge fan of this delectable treat. These particular whoopie pies attracted me because they were so neat and tidy and professional looking. Did I buy one? No, I bought two—one on each day.

Now, handsome is as handsome does, but as it turned out, the whoopie pie was as delicious as it looked. The cake was moist and chocolatey, and the filling was thick and creamy. The best I have ever had, and I have eaten my fair share of whoopie pies.

As the table was only three down from ours, I had ample opportunity to gaze lovingly at those beauties and sample other goodies from Bluebird Baked Goods.

Allie Owen, an extraordinarily gifted young baker, is the owner of Bluebird Baked Goods.

Before the fair started on Sunday, I had an opportunity to chat with Allie and—in Paul Hollywood fashion—shake her hand. She started her business when she was nineteen and has a commercial kitchen in her home. Allie’s mother is her inspiration and her teacher. One of Allie’s favorite pictures is of herself when she was a baby. Sitting on the counter, baby Allie is stirring batter in a bowl. Thus a young baker was born.

Allie told me that she loves playing with sugar. Laughing, she said, “Sugar is my medium.”

And Allie is certainly an artist who also designs custom cakes for weddings, birthdays, and other events.

If only we lived closer to Waterboro!

As we don’t, I’ll be dreaming of those whoopie pies and hoping that we go to another fair where Bluebird Baked Goods has a table.

 

 

The Death of a Friend: Esther Bernhardt, 1937-2019

Yesterday, Esther Bernhardt, a dear friend for at least twenty years, died. I was prepared for this death—her granddaughter had let me know that Esther had had a stroke and was not likely to survive it—but I have lived long enough to know that even when you are prepared, the death of someone you love fills you with grief. As indeed it should.

It amazes me that only a few weeks ago we met for lunch at Barnes & Noble and had the type of conversation that I love best. We talked about books, politics, movies, and family. With Esther, I could let my mind range free, and she was always interested, even if she wasn’t familiar with what I was talking about. And for me, that is quite a gift, one that I never take for granted.

Long-time readers might remember past posts about Esther. Born in 1937, she grew up in rural Maine, and I liked nothing better than to hear stories of her girlhood. Even though only twenty  years separated us, it seemed to me that Esther grew up in a time that was far, far removed from my own. She remembered when many roads were not paved and what a treat it was to ride on a tarred road. She told of going to girl scout meetings and walking home alone for miles in the cold and the dark to find bean stew waiting for her. She laughed as she remembered her school bus that had long wooden seats on each side and windows that were only in the front.

“That bus was so dark,” Esther told me the last time we met. “I never could see who I was going to sit next to. I don’t know why that bothered me, but it did.”

“Because you were a child, and those things matter when you’re young. Sometimes even when you’re not young,” I said.

“Right,” she replied with a twinkle in her eyes. And, yes, Esther really did have a twinkle in her eyes. She was the kind of person who had a keen sense of humor and appreciated the ridiculous nature of everyday life. Whenever we got together, we always had a good laugh. Esther was just plain fun to be with.

Exactly a week ago today, Esther called and left a message. She had a new phone number and didn’t want me to think it was a telemarketer when I saw the unfamiliar number. I laughed when I heard that message because that’s exactly what I thought. Immediately, I called her back.

I knew her birthday was at the end of the month, and I also knew she loved my apple crisp.

“How about if I come over with an apple crisp to celebrate your birthday?” I asked.

“Sounds lovely,” she said, and we made a date for Monday, November 25.

Unfortunately, she is gone, and we won’t be able to celebrate together. But I will make an apple crisp in her honor and give thanks to all the wonderful times we shared.

I will also give thanks that Esther died exactly the way she wanted, at home, surrounded by her beloved family. She had a long life filled with both joy and pain, and when we last met, Esther told me, “I’ve had a good life.”

She certainly did.

Farewell, dear friend. How I will miss you. The road to your house was never long and sitting in your bright, cozy kitchen was one of the best places to be.

 

 

 

 

A Sad Time

Yesterday, I learned that a dear friend is dying. We also had a nasty little storm of snow and then rain, the new normal for central Maine.

These pictures perfectly capture my mood.

Having reached the age of sixty-two, I have lost many people and dogs I have loved. It doesn’t get any easier, and maybe it shouldn’t. After all, to be mourned is to be loved.

And how I will miss her when she’s gone.

Twisted Sisters

On Saturday and Sunday, Clif and I took our books and prints to a craft fair sponsored by the Friends of the Wells Public Library. Wells, Maine, is quite a distance from where we live in central Maine, but this craft fair is well worth the trip. We went last year and sold lots of books. While we didn’t sell quite as many books this year, we sold enough so that we were satisfied.

One of the pleasures of going to various craft fairs is meeting and talking to the other vendors. Last year we were across from these three charming, lively women who have dubbed themselves “Twisted Sisters.” Their business card describes them as “Three Sisters Practicing Old Crafts.” This year, we were again lucky enough to be across from the Twisted Sisters. Aren’t those aprons snappy? I heard one customer ask if the aprons were for sale. Unfortunately, they were not.

From left to right: Cynthia Hatfield, Cheryl Pomerleau, and Dianne Pomeroy -Hathorn

Here are some of the lovely items from Cynthia’s table,

Cheryl’s table,

and Dianne’s table.

During the two days of the craft fair, lots of fairgoers clustered around the three booths, and I expect many lucky people will be getting Christmas presents handcrafted by the Twisted Sisters.  (I, too, bought something for a special friend.)

The Twisted Sisters don’t have a website, but this time of year they pop up at various fairs in Maine. If you should come across the Twisted Sisters, don’t hesitate to  buy a wonderful handcrafted item from these sisters who practice the old crafts.

Sure beats anything you could find in a big box store.

About the “Naughty Corner”

On yesterday’s post, I featured this picture of my husband, Clif, and his friend John.

My blogging friend Tialys—who, by the way, has a wonderful blog—asked, “But why are they standing in the naughty corner?” (Clif and I had a good giggle over this question.)

I had never thought of the portrait that way, but I can see Tialys’s point. John and Clif are, after all, standing in a corner. After thinking about the question, I decided that further explanation was needed.

The corner is a backdrop at the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, Maine, and is part of an exhibit called I Am Not a Stranger: Portraits by Séan Alonzo Harris.

Here is an explanation of the exhibit from the museum’s website:

Presented by Waterville Creates! in partnership with the Colby Museum, I Am Not a Stranger: Portraits by Séan Alonzo Harris will include approximately fifty new studio photographs of Waterville residents….This major new work by Harris, an accomplished photographer who is new to Waterville but has lived and worked in Maine for over twenty years, aims to represent the people of Waterville, build bridges across difference, and create a platform for storytelling and community reflection rooted in our shared space.

I Am Not a Stranger includes some of Harris’s portraits of Waterville residents, and if you click here, you will see selected works from the exhibit.

The gray corner was also part of the exhibit, and I asked a woman working at the reception desk if museum goers were allowed to have their pictures taken against the backdrop.

“Oh, yes!” the woman answered. “Snap away!”

Hence the portrait of John and Clif, two very photogenic guys.

The corner backdrop can be interpreted in a number of humorous ways. But it seems to me that the gray background frames the Waterville residents—and John and Clif and anyone else—in a way that gives them dignity and attention that everyday folks don’t normally receive. The backdrop guides your gaze and encourages you to look, really look, at the people in the photographs. The black and white only serves to heighten the mood.

Here is the same picture in color.

Better in black and white, don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

 

Farewell to Shane, a Librarian Extraordinaire

This is the story of how one person can make a big difference in a small town. For the past nine years, Shane Malcolm Billings has worked at our town’s library—Charles M. Bailey Public Library. Shane’s official title was Adult Services Librarian, but like all people who excel at their jobs, Shane was so much more than that.

First there is Shane’s love of books. For a librarian, this should be a given. Why work in a library if you don’t have a passion for books? But for Shane, this love could rightly be called a devotion to literature and to writers. Maybe even a way of life. Small talk for Shane often revolved around books, such as how Anne Tyler can still write a fresh story even though she is nearly eighty.

Then there is his keen memory for the names of patrons combined with what they liked to read. In this way, Shane resembled a bartender in a local pub. But instead of serving drinks, Shane served books, and he had a nearly uncanny sense of what patrons would like to read, often before they did.

The following is a true story.

Several years ago, I went to pick up some books I had ordered through interlibrary loan. Among the books was Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym. Shane happened to be working at the desk.

“Huh,” I said. “I don’t remember ordering this one.”

“You didn’t,” came Shane’s prompt reply. “I ordered it for you because I thought you’d like Barbara Pym, and I know you’ve never read her.”

Shane was absolutely right. I liked Barbara Pym so much that I ordered more of her books when I had finished Some Tame Gazelle.

As if all this weren’t enough, Shane is just plain fun to talk to. He has a wonderful sense of humor yet is sympathetic. Along with remembering books and writers, Shane remembers the names of patrons’ grown-up children who have moved away, and he always asks when they’ll be visiting.

But all good things eventually come to an end, and Shane is leaving our library.

Yesterday, there was a surprise farewell party for him at the lovely home of a library trustee. (There will also be an Open House at Bailey Public Library on Tuesday, August 20th at 6:00pm for the public at large to say goodbye to Shane.)

There weather was perfect—warm but not too hot with nary a mosquito to vex us.

Here are pictures from the party, starting with the setting.

Shane arrived, was duly surprised, and was greeted with a kiss and a laugh.

There was plenty of mingling.

As well as lots of good food.

And, of course, cake.

Farewell, Shane. You have made this town a better place and how you will be missed. Best of luck with the next phase of your life, and whatever comes next, I know you will shine, shine, shine.