It is time for another confession: My childhood love of candy has stayed with me as an adult and has even followed me into my senior years. At times, I feel a little foolish to have such a yen for candy, especially chocolate.
I wish I could say that this yearning for candy extended only to high-end chocolate, but that would be a lie. Oh, no. I also enjoy Rolos and Butterfingers, and…well, you get the point. However, I think it would be fair to say that when I can get really good chocolate, I am especially happy, and all thoughts of everyday candy are gone from my mind.
You can imagine my delight—bliss might be a more appropriate word—when seven years ago, a candy shop, Scrummy Afters, came to Hallowell, a city about ten miles from where we live. Hallowell is within the loop of where we occasionally drive, and we stop in from time to time to indulge my passion for high-quality chocolate.
Scrummy Afters has all sorts novelty candy, including many delights from my youth, but what really draws me in is the chocolate they make themselves, which over the years has expanded from a few items to a large selection of delights, including but not limited to turtles, caramels, and toffees.
Our friends Alice and Joel, who are well aware of my candy obsession, very generously gave us a gift certificate to Scrummy Afters for Christmas. Therefore, with a happy heart, I went to this most excellent candy shop about a week ago. Clif, who likes candy well enough but is not as obsessed as I am, came with me and helped select some delicacies to bring home. I could have one of those beauties right now.
Because it was quiet when we went in, I had a chance to talk with one of the owners, Hilary Vallani. (The other owner is her mother, Kim.) Hilary told me that when the store first opened, she had experience in retail but no experience in chocolate making. In school, Hilary studied art—fashion design with a concentration in costume. This focus on art and design is evident throughout the beautifully decorated shop.
A few years in, Hilary took a class and learned about the chemistry, science, and precision of making fine chocolate. Now it is time to go out on a limb: I can without hesitation write that Hilary has mastered the art of chocolate making. I will even go one step further and state that of all the Maine chocolate we have tasted, Hilary’s is the best. Period.
As Clif put it, “The fillings are good, and so are the the shapes. But ultimately, it’s chocolate front and center.” Here is my take: Scrummy’s chocolate has a fresh, smooth, clean taste. It is creamy and chewy, just the way I like chocolate to be. No matter how good the fillings are, I am not a fan of chocolates with hard, almost tasteless, shells. I like deep, rich chocolate that melts easily in the mouth.
Recently, Scrummy Afters has branched out into making funky chocolate that might even be called edible art.
In addition to making the finest chocolates around, Hilary wants Scrummy Afters to be more than a candy shop. They have sponsored community events, including a Harry Potter scavenger hunt, which I know has become a big hit for the young and the young at heart.
Lucky, lucky us to have a shop with chocolate of this quality. We will be returning soon, very soon.
All the finger crossing must have worked because we did not lose our power. Oh, happy, happy day! However, in southern coastal Maine, where the storms always seem to hit hardest, around 20,000 people lost their power. As much as I love the ocean, I am beginning to think that in this time of climate change, it is best to live a little inland.
Anyway, here was the peaceful scene in our yard this morning when I got up.
Monsieur Crapaud was smiling his enigmatic smile. I bet he, too, is glad the storm wasn’t any worse. You can see that he is edged with a bit of ice, but he does not seem to be any worse for wear.
Finally, our wonderful neighbor across the street cleared the snow away from the front of our mailbox before embarking on his own driveway. He knows the limits of Little Green, our corded electric snow thrower. So nice, so nice!
This morning, when I asked my husband Clif to describe the weather outside, he said, “Miserable.” Clif got it exactly right. The weather—a mix of sleet and freezing rain—is indeed miserable, and it’s supposed to continue until late afternoon.
The thermometer indicates that the temperature is at that exact sweet spot for continued freezing rain.
And here’s a photo of our front steps before Clif put salt on them.
My indicator for ice accumulation is this bush outside my window.
So far, not too bad, but we have many more hours of this weather to go.
Naturally, we are prepared for a power outage. A full bucket of water sits in the tub—for us, no power means no water—and there is a fire in our wood furnace. We have turned up the electric heat to the point where the house is warmer than it has been since early fall. Better to start out with a warm house if the power goes out.
Fingers (and toes) crossed that we keep our power.
Here is Shane-Malcolm Billings’s wonderful, thoughtful vlog review of my books, Maya and the Book of Everything and Library Lost. Shane is a librarian extraordinaire who worked in Winthrop for nearly ten years before taking a job at another library. (How we miss him!) He started the excellent book group Title Waves, which is still going strong at the library.
We humans are a species that love stories. It is one of the best things about us, and through his own blog and his work as a librarian, Shane encourages that love. Truly, he makes the world a better place.
Many, many thanks, Shane!
By Maine standards, we are having an extremely mild winter. While we have had a cold day here and there, for the most part the weather has been in the 30s and 40s, not at all typical for Maine in January and now February.
We haven’t had much snow, either, and in sunny spots in town, the snow is pretty much gone. Because we live in the woods, we still have some snow, but it has pulled away from the road, and it seems that we are in late March rather than February.
Readers, it is just plain weird to have weather like this in Maine in mid-winter.
Here is a picture of our road taken in February of last year.
Here is a picture taken yesterday when Clif and I went on a Sunday walk up the road.
As you can see, there is quite a difference. Now, for those who live in a warmer climate, it might seem strange to complain about weather that is still chilly but is warmer than usual for this time of year. And to mourn the lack of snow.
But I was born in Maine and have lived here for most of my sixty-two years. To me, winter means snow and cold, and it feels wrong to have it otherwise. One mild winter by itself would not be a cause for concern, but I am old enough to remember when we did not have ticks, Japanese Beetles, cardinals, or red-bellied woodpeckers. Lots of changes in sixty years.
There are some good things about a mild winter. The ice on the sidewalks and driveways is mostly gone, and it is easier to get around. Warmer weather also makes it less expensive to heat the house, and this is a blessing for those of us who live on a tight budget
On one hand, on the other hand. We humans love to weigh things and make comparisons, to note the bad and the good.
But some of us wonder what it will be like ten years from now, in Maine and around the world.
Last night Clif and I went to Winthrop’s very own Van der Brew for the Dennis Price Comedy Hour. Van der Brew is a huge—but comfortable—place, and it was full, full, full of fans eager to see Dennis’s show.
The line for beer was long, but Clif was patient and eventually got a pint of Lily Bay IPA, which seems to be glowing. No surprise. After all, Van der Brew is a special place.
I have known the buoyant, inimitable Dennis Price for over twenty years. I met him when he was a young intern at the Theater at Monmouth, a summer theater the next town over from us. Dennis is from Virginia, but lucky for us, Dennis decided to stay here, settling in central Maine. Along with acting, Dennis has taught at area high schools and is now the manager of Capital City Improv, where according to its Facebook page, he and his merry band of comics “present world-class improv comedy right before your eyes, ears and funnybones.”
After all, “The world needs more laughter…” It certainly does. As Roger Rabbit put it, “Sometimes in life, it is the only weapon we have.”
And laugh we did as Dennis and company romped, did impersonations, asked trivia questions, and most impressively, perhaps, came up with skits on the spot with prompts from the audience. In particular, their take, wit, and verbal agility in telling a story about the transfer station (once known as “the dump”) had everyone laughing. Holy cats, they were good.
When the humor is lighthearted—as it was last night—it is a wonderful feeling to laugh along with a crowd of people. It lifts the spirits, and if ever there were a time when spirits needed lifting, it is now.