Friday, April 30, 2010

MayFair Weekend

In Bath, Maine, the first weekend of May is a good one.  A really good one. It's call Mayfair Weekend. And, if you live in Bath, you have the date ingrained.

Mayfair Weekend marks the kick-off of summer. (The truth is, summer can still be a long way away, but, it marks the hope of summer, for certain.)

This weekend everyone in Bath will be out and about...look what's happening:
  • City-Wide Yard Sale. All across town families, organizations and businesses will host yard sales. If you are a yard sale junkie--this is a heavenly day for you.
  • Opening day of The Bath Farmer's Market. The Bath Farmer's Market, held on the waterfront, is a wonderful gathering of local farmers selling a full range of things -- vegetables, flowers, seedlings, eggs, milk, cheese, meat -- and baked goods. (Be sure to try the Maine-style molasses donuts. Yum!)
  • Maypole Dancing. Yes, you read that right -- a traditional Maypole Dance held on Main Street, complete with fiddlers.
  • Scavenger Hunt. Sponsored by Main Street Bath and local merchants, the winner will receive a $50 Gift of Bath (a gift certificate to spend at one of the downtown stores).
  • Barbeque at the Skate Park. A fundraiser for the town's great skate park is just what you need after getting up at O-dark-thirty to hit the yard sales.
  • Tent Sale. Merchants on Front and Centre streets will host a tent sale with bargains galore.
  • Storytelling at the Gazebo, face painting and kids crafts. Fun activities (and bribes for coming along to all those yard sales with you) for kids.
  • A Fundraising Walk. A 5k fundraising and awareness building walk for the local Chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
Learn more about any of these events at Visit Bath.

What's happening in your town this weekend? Whatever it is, I hope it is a fun weekend for you.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Birthday Crown for My Birthday Baby

Today, my littlest daughter turned 1!

To think, 366 days ago, I had no idea who this little being in my belly was...and, now, well, I just can't imagine our life without her.

Sure, it has been a year of many, many sleep deprived days/nights. But, the joy of watching our little flower bloom makes it all do-able. (Remind me of this the next batch of sleepless nights....)

In keeping with tradition (a tradition I sometimes curse in the wee hours before birthdays) in our little family, last night I made her a birthday crown--her 1st birthday crown. Her big sister helped me think through what exactly should be on this crown ("roses, of course!")...and I set to work while the girls slept.

I "felt" (which is a key component of my crowns), but, I do not know how to sew -- and, well, sewing is required. I am what my friend Barbara calls a "wild woman sew-er". I just turn on the machine and start creating. No patterns. No rules. No idea what I'm doing. Consequently, each crown is unique--not only in its details, but in its construction.

Last night, while making the crown, I seemed to have more sewing challenges than ever. But, amidst my frustration, I had a happy heart. I was sewing with my newly-acquired sewing machine. It belonged to my Nana who died last year, just a few months before what would have been her 90th birthday -- April 29th--the day my sweet baby Rose was born. Life can be so bittersweet sometimes.

Anyhow, back to the crown. If you are interested in making a crown, I just discovered that Juicy Bits and Balancing Everything have great tutorials (In fact, now that I've found these tutorials, I just might try to follow one next time...hmm, theirs are way more professional looking than mine!)

A few of my own tips/suggestions:
  • Use 100% wool felt for the base of the crown. I prefer to either use extra thick felt to give the crown enough stiffness to stand up. Alternatively, sew two pieces of felt together (I noticed the tutorials use this approach and use interfacing to stiffen). Great sources for wool felt include Weir Dolls and Crafts and A Child's Dream. (You can also purchase needle felting supplies from these sources if you are inclined to needle felt a design on the crown.)
  • Use 3/4"-1" elastic (I cover the elastic by sewing a "tube" out of some scrap fabric.) as the back half of the crown -- it works wonderfully to keep the crown in place.
  • For adorning your crown, consider ribbon (I have a great stash of vintage ribbon that I love to use for these.), buttons, flowers, etc. Check out this collage for some really adorable crowns (kinda make mine look lame).
Want a felted crown, but don't want to make one? Check out Etsy. There are SO many adorable ones -- even personalized!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Conversation and Coffee: Latte Da!

 (Photo from El Mono/Latte Da Website)

A few years ago, when I was still living in the big city and dreaming of returning to my small town roots, I had a dream of opening a coffee shop.

I even had a name picked out.

But, then, in the two places where I hang my hat, they just so happened to have perfect coffee shops.

Yup, perfect. Cozy atmosphere. Good organic coffee. Locally made baked goods. And, "regulars". (And, by the way, I think it is safe to say that I'm considered a "regular" in both.)

I know, I know, I went on this whole spiel a month or so ago about the ten best investments you can make, including making your own coffee. And, well, I do make my own coffee. More than I used to, in fact. But, for me, having a really good cup of organic coffee in a cozy place where friends and strangers gather is a critical and grounding experience for me. The conversations, the friendship, the smell of good coffee--all really good stuff.

Well, here in the Eastern Sierra, THE coffee shop (wonderfully named Latte Da) -- the best little coffee shop ever -- closes its doors at the end of October and re-opens when fishing season begins.

I've been anticipating the opening for quite some time (read: a long winter without my favorite hang out)...and, I'm so happy to report  that this past weekend marked the opening.

On opening day, I arrived shortly after the doors were unlocked (I had to drag my kids out of bed...)--and, things were just as I'd left them in the Fall. A fire was burning in the old stone fireplace, the smells of freshly baked pumpkin spice cake and good coffee beckoning and friends talking and laughing.

I was so caught up in the socializing and reconnecting that I didn't even realize that there were some folks "from away" sitting in the corner of the coffee shop.(This is particularly funny given the shoebox-size of the coffee shop!) I didn't notice them until they stood up and walked to the door...then turned around and said, "This has been the highlight of our trip. What a charming experience."

On the beautiful painted walls (Kelly, friend and proprietor, is quite artistic) of Latte Da, there is a quote, "Where coffee is served, there is grace and splendor and friendship and happiness." So very true.

I recently learned that this quote, written by Sheik Ansari Djezeri Hanball Abd-al-Kadir more than 400 years ago, goes on to say, "All cares vanish as the coffee cup is raised to the lips." Yes. Exactly.

I'm signing off to head there now -- for a little friendship and a really good cup of joe.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday Shoesday

Tuesday Shoesday is a weekly feature on LoveVermont. And, the author of LoveVermont just so happens to be my cousin. My much-more-hip-than-me (And, younger, which I point out simply as my attempt to rationalize my lack of hip-ness.) cousin.

Each week Kate features some really awesome, super cute shoe that she has found somewhere.

And, each week after reading Tuesday Shoesday, I sigh (sometimes I even chuckle) as I look at the photos of the uber-cute shoes and then at my feet.

You see, when I left the big city and my big city job to return to my small-town roots, one of my aspirations was to have a job and a life where I could wear my Dansko clogs regularly.

I'm totally serious. I even told my boss this when I resigned.

Well, I'm pleased to report that I have that life --and that job.

I wear my Dansko clogs nearly every day. And, I'm super excited to have just found and purchased some summer clogs. (My mom who is not a big fan of the chunky Dansko, will, of course, be horrified.)

Now, don't get me wrong...I'm plenty intrigued by the very cute and hip shoes that LoveVermont features (keep up the good work, Kate!)...I might even get a featured pair one of these days...but, I'm also pleased as punch to be walking around in my clogs.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Crafternoon: Felted Bowls Oh My!

Although I come from a family with generations of knitters, I have somehow missed the knitting bandwagon.

Truth is, I've tried to learn --but it has never clicked. Until last month. And from one month to the next I've gone from a non-knitter to a knitting fanatic. I'm hooked (Too bad I didn't learn to crochet, that would be a great line!).

Now, don't get too exited, I'm not knitting anything fancy yet. But, I'm knitting almost every day--and each day my stitches look a little more consistent and I get a little more ambitious. And, the production is significant--I'm cranking out finished projects lickety-split.

Sweaters? Scarves? Mittens? Socks? No.


Yes, bowls. 

I found this very simple pattern from a book called One Skein: 30 Quick Projects to Knit or Crochet. The bowl is knit (much like a hat pattern), then felted in the washing machine. I've now modified the pattern some to create the depth of bowl I prefer (Aren't I fancy having the confidence to alter a pattern?).

A Knitted Felted Bowl: Before and After

The knitted/felted bowl is a great quick project (I can crank one out while watching an episode of Brothers and Sisters, for example!:)) and a great way to use up miscellaneous skeins of yarn.

When I tell people I'm knitting bowls--and even when I show them a finished one they are a little perplexed. "What would I use this for," they ask.

C'mon...what wouldn't you use this for?

A place to put your shell collection, a top-of-the-dresser catch-all, a gift basket, a planter, a coffee table decoration....use your imagination! (The collage below -- a collection of SOME of the ones that have been made by my aunt, my mom and me in the last month--might give you some ideas of how to put these bowls to use!)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I'm Smitten with Smitten Kitchen

My friend Kate loves to cook and to bake --- and, she's really good at it, too!

So, naturally, when Kate suggested I check out SmittenKitchen, I didn't waste another minute.

I've been a loyal follower ever since.

Not only are the recipes (at least the ones I've tried!) really good--but, the reading is good, too. I think what I like best, however, are the photographs. The photos, taken by the blogger and cook herself, are so inviting, you can't help but want to tie on your apron, roll up your sleeves and get cooking.

Smitten Kitchen's recent recipe for Lime Yogurt Cake with Blackberry Sauce really grabbed my attention. Especially because I just so happen to have a bag of gorgeous blackberries that my brother-in-law picked and froze for me last Fall.

I made the cake on Friday for a Crafternoon gathering--and, I must say, the cake is yummy. It is moist and tangy--just the perfect cake for Spring and Summer.

I think the cake would certainly taste good made with lemon (or maybe even a combination of lemon/lime?) and would be equally divine with a sauce made of Maine blueberries--or, maybe even made with those early summer strawberries.

Lime Yogurt Cake with Blackberry Sauce
(This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, with a few edits and words of my own.)
What You Need

1 cup whole milk plain yogurt (I used 2% Greek yogurt--which I love to use in recipes!)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
zest of one lime
1/4 cup lime juice
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt

12 ounces fresh blackberries (I used frozen--my brother-in-law had picked and frozen for me.)
1/4 cup water (I used about 1/8 given the berries were frozen.)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

How to Make

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan (A springform pan would probably be even better.). I put some parchment paper on the bottom, just in case (I have had too many disasters!).
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, sugar, lime zest and juice. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition. Sift (Okay, I didn't do this. I don't believe in sifting. Not because I'm an experienced baker who can say with certainty that you don't need to do this, but because, I'm lazy.) flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together, right over your yogurt batter. Stir with a spoon until just combined.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let stand for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the pan to loosen. Flip the cake onto a plate and flip it back on the rack.
  • Combine blackberries, water, sugar and lime juice in a blender or food processor.
  • Purée until very smooth, then press through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. 
  • Cover and refrigerate until cold.
How to Serve
  • Put a slice of the cake (slightly warm or room temperature) on a plate.
  • Drizzle blackberry sauce over top.
  • Garnish with lime zest.
Time Saving Tips:
  • The cake can be made ahead of time. Just be sure to wrap tightly in plastic wrap--and store at room temperature.
  • The sauce can be made ahead of time and put in refrigerator for a day -- or frozen for future use.

Altitude: I made this cake at 7000 feet and didn't make any adjustments!

    Friday, April 23, 2010

    It's All About the Fish

    I love fish.

    I love to eat them.

    I love fishy things (Not stinky things, but things with fish on them...pottery, paintings, etc.We even make fish prints of fish we catch -- check it out in the photo above.).

    I even like to catch 'em ( I have discovered, however, since marrying my husband that I'm not a hardcore fisherperson by any stretch....I just enjoy an occasional afternoon of fishing.).

    Well, it's a good thing...

    Not only did I marry into a big fishing family (My father-in-law is known as one of the area's fishing gurus and actually writes columns on fishing, for starters.), but also, in the two places (have I explained that yet?) I live, it's all about the fishing.

    Okay, maybe not all about the fishing....but a lot about the fishing.

    April marks the opening of fishing season. Up here in the Eastern Sierra (California), where I am currently, this weekend marks the opening of fishing season. Now, I should point out, up here in the mountains it is also still ski season...and some of the frozen lakes haven't even opened up. But, nevertheless, the businesses that had shut their doors at the end of fishing season in the fall are opening up...and fisherpeople are arriving. Might be a little hard to hold that flyrod with a frozen hand, but by golly, they'll be fishing.

    Me? Well, I'm sort of a fair-weather fishing person (and, I have this problem where I think like the fly, not the fish...) instead, I'll be enjoying a big cup of coffee on my very favorite coffee shop (more on that soon) that opens its doors tomorrow at 7 a.m. for the first time since November.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    Happy Earth Day-Take 2!

    It is a little hard to get your hands dirty when there is a frost and it is snowing.

    I guess I'll have to figure out plan b.

    Happy Earth Day

    earth day

    For those of you who don't know...(c'mon, you must know!), today is Earth Day.

    In the spirit of the day, I'm going to get out from behind my screen and go enjoy this planet...

    ...breathe some fresh air
    ...get my hands dirty
    ...drink clean water
    ...admire the natural scenery

    I hope you'll do the same.

    Of course, if you are inspired to use this day to make a pledge, join a campaign, donate to the cause, or simply learn more, there are lots of great options. A great place to start?

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    Organic Fabric Give-a-way - Oh My!

    As you'll see in tomorrow's post, I plan to spend Earth Day away from my screen and in the great outdoors.

    But, before I do that...I just have to share this news. Twelve really cool designers (one is a favorite blog on MainelyHome) are giving away some of their organic fabric as a Earth Day promotion. Start with Betz White's blog, then move onto the designers below.

    Have fun drooling over these designs and good luck!

    Birch Fabrics
    Cloud9 Fabrics
    Cottage Industrialist
    Daisy Janie
    Harmony Art
    ink & spindle
    Swanky Swell
    Umbrella Prints

    Crafternoon: A Felted Rose

    A couple of years ago, my mom invited me to come with her to a short needle felting class. Needle felting? "Yes," she said, "we'll needle felt a doll".

    I had no idea what she was talking about.

    But, the idea of an evening out with my mom and, well, a break from my toddler was so appealing that it really didn't matter.

    So, I joined her.

    And, I am so glad I did.

    From that night onward, needle felting became "my thing" from then on.

    It is a relatively simple craft (all you need is barbed needles, a piece of foam to protect your lap and some wool roving) -- and, moreover, incredibly forgiving (the fact that I'm not good at details, or following directions for that matter, doesn't affect what I'm working on). I've been surprised at what I've been able to make -- from 3-dimensional figures to appliques.

    Not a big fan of kits (remember what I said about not being good at following directions?) -- and considering myself a bit of a purist -- I was surprised to find myself considering a needle felting "mold". But, I just had to.

    The kit/mold made by Clover (a company that makes all kinds of handy little crafty kits) promised to help me create a 3-dimensional rose--and the potential for use of roses in my life is huge thanks to the addition of my baby Rose.

    I bought the kit. But, quickly I learned that I also need to purchase a felting pen and a felting mat.Suddenly, this project was intimidating me (the bigger investment I make in tools always intimidates me)...and I was wishing I'd just stuck to my simple piece of foam and barbed needle.

    Finally, with all the tools in hand, I sat down to make my rose. It was SO easy (except that someone should have advised me that I'd need replacement needles for my needle pen....)--and in just 20 minutes I had cranked out a really cool looking 3-dimensional felted rose.

    So, now with Bay Rose's 1st birthday just around the corner, I'm busily cranking out roses...brooches for the grandmothers, decorations for her crown...ah the possibilities!

     Here are the materials you'll need for this project.

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    A Life of Parties

    I love a good party, don't you?

    On this stormy day, I'm having lots of fun dreaming about parties...and P is for Party is fueling my dreams.

    Take a look. Get inspired.

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Do-Over Dinner: A Cheater's Risotto

    Photo from Williams Sonoma

     I love risotto.

    Good risotto, that is.

    And, in my twenties, I cooked a lot of it. I loved the process of making it -- one cup of liquid at a time, stirring, stirring, stirring. It was almost always a "crowd pleaser".

    In all likelihood, if I was cooking you dinner during that my period in life, it was risotto.

    Now, however, while I still love the process of making risotto, my life doesn't really lend itself to standing over a stove for at least thirty consecutive minutes--consecutive being the key word. Not even close.

    Naturally, when I ran across a recipe for a baked risotto in the recent Williams Sonoma catalog, I just had to give it a try. And, well, it won "do-over" status in my house. While I still intend to make risotto the old-fashioned way from time-to-time, it is nice to know with relative ease, we can still enjoy this yummy comfort food.

    Baked Risotto with Grilled Asparagus
    (Recipe from Williams Sonoma)
    Serves 4-6

    • 3 Tbs olive oil
    • 2 leeks, white and light green portions halved, rinsed well and thinly sliced (I had no leeks, so just used yellow onion)
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
    • Kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste
    • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine
    • 4 1/4 cups chicken broth, warmed (I used veggie stock)
    • 1 1/2 lb asparagus, tough ends trimmed
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
    • 3 Tbs unsalted butter
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    2. In dutch oven (3 1/2 quart is what they recommend -- but mine is at least 5 and it worked fine), over medium heat, warm 2 tbs oil. Add leeks (or onions, in my case); cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and salt; cook 1 minute. Add rice; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, 2-3 minutes. Add wine; cook 1 minute. Stir in 3 cups broth, increase heat to medium-high and bring to simmer. Cover; bake, stirring once halfway through, until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, 25-30 minutes.
    3. Coat asparagus with 1 Tbs oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill in batches (Williams Sonoma recommends grilling on a grill pan they sell -- but, we used our outdoor grill.), turning occasionally, until  tender, approximately 7-8 minutes. Cut on bias into 2" lengths. Stir 1 1/4 cups broth into risotto; stir in cheese, butter, asparagus, salt and pepper.

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Do-Over-Dinner: Watercress Soup

    Just when I thought all my cooking inspiration was gone...

    Just when I thought that a "do-over-dinner" was no longer possible... walks my father-in-law with a bucket of freshly-harvested watercress from a nearby creek.

    My Mom immediately suggested watercress sandwiches.

    While those little tea sandwiches are tempting (she made a delicious batch for my baby shower a year ago), I had my heart set on soup. So, I searched high and low for a recipe that seemed "just right".

    After finding a handful of recipes that were either more broth-y than I was looking for or too laden with cream, I decided to make my own.

    And, well, it got "do-over-dinner" status...!

    I'm headed out to the secret spot tomorrow to gather up some more watercress...

    Recipe: Watercress Soup
    About 4 Dinner-Size Servings


    • 1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
    • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    • 1 Yellow Onion, Finely Chopped
    • 3 Cloves of Garlic, Thinly sliced
    • 3 Medium-sized White Potatoes, Peeled and Cut into 1/2-inch Chunks 
    • 3 Cups of Chicken Stock
    • 1 1/2 Cups Water
    • 2 Bunches (2-3 Cups) Watercress (thick stems trimmed), Coarsely Chopped
    • Coarse Salt (Sea or Kosher)
    • Fresh Ground Pepper
    • Lemon Wedges and Greek Yogurt for Serving
      1. Heat a stock pot (I use a Le Creuset 7 quart dutch oven--my very favorite kitchen item.) over medium heat. 
      2. Add oil, butter, garlic and onion. Saute until fragrant and translucent (a minute or two). 
      3. Add potato and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook 1 minute.
      4. Add stock and water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender (5-10 minutes depending on how big your chunks of potato turned out).
      5. Stir in watercress. Let simmer 1 minute.
      6. Season with salt and pepper.
      7. Puree (an immersion blender is easiest -- but, if you don't have one, puree in batches in a traditional blender or food processor).
      8. Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a wedge of lemon (and, some yummy bread, too!)

      Wednesday, April 14, 2010

      Crafternoon with Mom: Hot Water Bottle Cozy

      A few years ago, a friend of mine (who also lives in a cold 160+ year old Maine home) told me she fills a hot water bottle and places it in her bed about 15 minutes before bedtime. She claimed it was just what was needed to take the edge off those cold sheets without cranking up the heat. I thought it was odd, but decided to give it a whirl. I was hooked the first night. So, now I'm frequently placing hot water bottles in all of our beds. Not only does it take the edge off, but it also warms up the toes! I've been admiring some of the cute hot water bottle covers on the market (Yes, if you aren't already aware, there is a big market of cute hot water bottle covers out there.) and decided that crafting one was surely the way to go. I have plans for making one out of upcycled felt (I felt old sweaters and use as fabric.), but just haven't gotten to it, so I put my Mom to work knitting one. She used some old chenille that had been lying around (what a great way to use up yarn!) and this free pattern available from Lion Brand. Now, our beds are cozier than ever!

      Tuesday, April 13, 2010

      Talk Time Tuesday

      I was lucky to have one of the world's greatest Dads. Seriously, one of the VERY greatest.

      Unfortunately, neither of my girls ever got to meet him--and that makes me really sad. But, I've tried to find little ways to include him (sounds odd, I know) in their lives. It seems to work. He definitely is a known quantity -- and it seems to be in a healthy way. In fact, my oldest daughter (the baby obviously has no clue) loves it when I tell "GrandJim" stories.

      Tonight while we were snuggling and reading in bed (sadly, something we don't do nearly as much as I'd like due to competing demands ---read: baby demands to be breastfed at that time), I told her that when I was little my Dad and I had a special night that no-matter-what was my night. It wasn't my brother's night. It wasn't my sister's night. It was all mine. We called it Talk Time Tuesday and we could talk (or not talk) about whatever. It was a wonderful thing then -- and a wonderful thing to hold onto now (I loved it so much that my husband and I used to have our own Talk Time Tuesdays more than a decade ago.)

      While I told my daughter this story, her eyes lit up. Her excitement (or maybe it was desperation to retrieve some of "our time" that has been lost--or at least greatly reduced--by the addition of a sibling) was so contagious...and I knew right then it was our time to start having Talk Time Tuesdays. I suggested the idea and grinning ear-to-ear she replied, "YES!"

      So, today -- well, more likely tonight -- will be our very first Talk Time Tuesday and I can hardly wait!

      Monday, April 12, 2010

      A Culinary Tour of Maine -- Anthony Bordain

      Maine is known for its lobsters.

      And, maybe, known among some for its potatoes. But, I don't really ever hear Maine touted as culinary destination.

      But, really, it should be. (Fresh seafood. Locally grown produce. Good, real flavor. And, plenty of terrific restaurants.)

      Perhaps now, after tonight's episode of Anthony Bordain's No Reservations (a good episode--definitely check it out) it will be. Mr. Bordain travels to some great local flavor spots - including one of my very favorite's -- a little very funky and rustic seaside shack in Rockland called Conte's.

      On the one hand, I'm thrilled to see my taste gets a celebrity seal of approval and tickled for Mr. Conte's well-being.

      On the other hand, I dread the fact that our little off-the-beaten-path-favorite-date-place is now going to be not-so-well-off-the-beaten-path.


      PS. We were actually at Street & Co (our first time there!) the night Anthony Bordain's crew was there preparing to film.

      Found: Best Ever Beach Bag

      Beach season is fast approaching...or so we are told.

      Well, I was lucky enough to have a little beach time on the West Coast (Santa Cruz, specifically) the last few days.

      And, well, thank goodness.

      In addition to the much-needed family-and-beach-bonding-time, I found the best beach bag ever.

      For those of you who are serious beach-goers, you know this is a HUGE find.

      It is big (big enough for beach towels, beach toys, lunch, sunscreen, the works!). It is waterproof. It is made in super-cute fabrics. And, it won't break the bank. The "Four Boys" bag, made by Scout for Bungalow Co., costs $45 and is described at an "all-purpose vacation, summer camp, road trip and boating stow-away bag."

      As far as I can tell, the bags only downfall? It isn't made locally. But, well, it'll be used locally!?!?

      Post Easter Recycling

      So, I'll admit, despite growing my own Easter grass and coloring eggs with natural dyes, I still did manage to have some eco- no-nos. Among my no-nos was purchasing plastic eggs. Well, thanks to Craft Test Dummies, who posted ideas for recycling those plastic eggs, I'm not going to lose too much sleep over this no-no. Brilliant (and fun!) plastic Easter egg recycling ideas include make-your-own egg-shaped sidewalk chalk and a egg rattle snake.

      Happy Blogiversary

      I woke up this morning and realized that Friday was my one month blogiversary (do you think this is how you spell this?), and it made me smile. Sure, one month is no big deal in the blogosphere. But, nevertheless, it is noteworthy to me.

      I have had a ball so far.

      I have loved...
      ...having an excuse to read lots of other blogs (not that I was holding back before)
      ...reading your comments (many of which are on Facebook not my blog)
      ...learning about the tools and widgets and such that come with the territory

      If you've been following me, thank you. I have to admit that it is more fun to write knowing there is someone reading.

      I welcome your thoughts, your comments, your ideas as Maine-ly Home continues to evolve.

      Saturday, April 10, 2010

      Oh Fiddlesticks!

      One of my very favorite activities--the Maine Fiddlers Concert--takes place tomorrow, and I won't be able to make it for the first time in several years. Oh fiddlesticks!

      This concert (now in its 10th year) takes place at The Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath, Maine and is, in part, a fundraiser for Maine Fiddle Camp.

      The event features some of the best fiddlers and traditional musicians in the state of Maine. It is not only great music, but also great fun. Honestly, you life isn't complete until you participate in a contradance while seated. :)

      At the end of the concert, anyone and everyone with a fiddle in the audience is invited onto the stage for a little fiddle jam.As you watch the fiddlers pile on stage, you wonder just where all those fiddles were hiding during the concert.

      Rumor has it that Maine has more fiddlers per capita than any other state (I heard this but have never been able to substantiate...but decided a few years ago it had to be true.) -- it is just another reason I'm in love with the state. I mean, what's not to love about a state full of fiddlers (especially if you love fiddle music - which I do!)?

      A couple of years ago I purchased my first fiddle -- at the store in Newcastle, Maine that sells fiddles and oriental rugs (I'm serious). I finally got up the nerve to start learning it about a year ago. I'll be honest, it is a slow and painful process (I tried not to get discouraged when my fiddle teacher said, "Are you sure that you want to learn the fiddle--it is a very hard instrument."). But, now my six year old has a fiddle too. She's learning it as a violin -- but, I know in my heart she's a fiddler. Someday we'll be climbing up on stage (and attending Maine Fiddle Camp) with the rest for the jam. In the meantime, we'll just keep trying to make it to as many concerts as we can.

      And, if you have time tomorrow evening, hit The Chocolate Church Arts Center for the 10th Annual Maine Fiddlers Concert. You'll be glad you did.

      Wednesday, April 7, 2010

      Nature Rocks!

      I happen to live in two (yes, two - it's complicated!) beautiful, nature-rich areas. And, it is a good thing, because we like to play in nature. For our little family, figuring out how to "be" in nature is second nature. Still, sometimes it is nice to have a little help thinking about what nature-rich activity to do -- and how to make it even more engaging for little ones. Well, I'm pleased to have just learned about a fantastic new website called Nature Rocks

      Through partnerships with The Nature Conservancy, REI, the Flora Family Foundation and American Camp Association, this national program aims to inspire and empower families to play and explore in nature.The website has all kinds of tools like a "Find Nature" activity which enables you to search for a variety of natural spots by zipcode; a "Find Activities" feature which helps you figure out an activity appropriate for you (by age of children, duration of time available and location); and a "Connect" feature which enables you to connect with others.

      So, if you want/need some inspiration to get outside,check out But, whatever it takes, get outside.

      Me? Well, I'm heading to the Pacific Coast for a few days...sea lions, beaches and coastal cliffs.

      Tuesday, April 6, 2010

      Breaking the Rules: Dinner Games

      One of the many "when I'm a mother" proclamations that I made was that I was never going to let my kids play games at the dinner table. I had (have!) this vision that dinners should involve the whole family eating and talking. My vision never included separate meals and it certainly never included giving my children games and other activities to occupy them while we ate.

      I am pleased to say that my vision of family meals is a reality. And, well, until lately, I've managed to keep games and other activities off the dinner table. 

      Imagine my dismay when my awesome sister-in-law gave us a set of "Dinner Games" for Christmas this year. I tucked it away vowing that I wouldn't use it. (No offense K, if you are reading this!)

      Well, not too long ago after several nights of frustrating meals...(Surely, you know the kind...rationing out bites, arguments about what was being served, threats, bribes...), I pulled out the Dinner Games.

      Much to my surprise, this game is full of ENGAGING, largely conversation-based activities/games. It not only got us through the meal, but got us through the meal laughing and happy. So, I'm sold...and I owe my SIL a big thank you (and perhaps an apology?). We still strive to have dinners without activities, but a night or two a week, we pull out the Dinner Games.

      Intrigued? Desperate? You can get your own set at Hearthsong.

      Monday, April 5, 2010

      Crafternoon: Egg Dyeing at A Whole New Level

      About a week ago my super creative and crafty friend Jeanne started posting photos of beautiful eggs on her Facebook page. Each day her posts included photos revealing more and more beautiful eggs.

      If you've been following me you know I have a thing for, naturally I was intrigued. 
      I asked Jeanne if she'd teach me this technique -- and she agreed to teach me today. I just returned from this late morning/early crafternoon with Jeanne and -- WOW I am totally hooked.

      First, a little background…
      A pysanka (plural: pysanky) is a Ukranian Easter egg, decorated using a wax-resist method (think batik). The word pysanka comes from the verb pysaty, "to write", as the designs are not painted, but written with hot beeswax. are a symbol of life. Great care is taken in making these eggs—each color, symbol and design carrying great significance (read more about the symbols, colors, etc.) According to Wikipedia, a large family typically creates 60 or more eggs by Holy Thursday, takes them to church on Easter Sunday to be blessed, then gives them away to family and respected outsiders. A bowl full of pysanky is typically kept in the home, serving not only as a colorful display, but also as a protection from dangers.

      Now, back to crafting—making psyanky.
      The process, in a nutshell, involves using psyanky tools (metal pen-like tools that are “filled” with beeswax and heated) and beeswax to “write” designs (we used a catalog of samples as our inspiration) on white eggs. The eggs are then dipped in dye (one or more colors, depending on your design)—the dye affixing to the egg wherever wax hasn’t been applied.

      I picked what I believed to be a relatively simple design and began by drawing grid lines to help guide my drawing. (I just read a tip that you can put elastic bands around the egg to accomplish this without pencil marks.) Then, using the psyanky tools, drew my design with wax. I first dipped my egg in yellow dye to create yellow flowers. Then, I put wax on the yellow flowers and dipped my egg in orange dye. Before dipping into my final color (blue), I put wax over the orange areas in order to ensure they remained orange. After letting the dye dry a bit, I melted the wax off the egg by candle flame.

      And, ta-da, my first psyanky egg.

      Okay, it is far from a perfect work of art, but I still think it looks pretty cool…

      I was lucky to have a wonderful and creative (oh, and very patient) teacher. But, I’m convinced, based on reviewing some of the materials that my teacher had on-hand, that this technique could be learned by book. A kit which includes everything you need to get started is available at Magic Cabin. But, a Google search reveals a lot of other resources, too.

      A big thank you to Jeanne for adding another fun craft to my life. If only Easter wasn’t yesterday, I’d be gearing up in full force (and gladly ignoring my huge to-do list) to start cranking out psyanky eggs.

      Sunday, April 4, 2010

      Eco-Eggs Gets My Vote

      On Saturday we put the Eco-Eggs Easter Egg kit to the test. The whole effort was great family fun--an experiment for all. We loved watching how blueberries, paprika, purple sweet potato (among other things) colored eggs.

      The verdict? Pretty, softly-colored eggs. The blue was amazing. The yellow sweet. The other colors were very pale, but together they all looked beautiful.

      If you are looking for bright eggs, Eco-Eggs is probably not the dye kit for you. But, I'm sold. And, I was especially sold when my 11 month old picked up one of the eggs and put it in the felt good knowing she was sucking on dye that was as natural as it gets.

      Easter Grass Centerpiece

      Well, it worked...(Why is it that I always seem so surprised when my projects actually work?) the Easter grass I planted a few weeks ago grew in time to be the perfect centerpiece. I'm quite pleased. Simple. Elegant. Natural.

      Friday, April 2, 2010

      Forcing Spring Update

      Well, it worked. I "forced" Spring into my home. If you've been following my blog, you already know that a little over three weeks ago I cut some cherry blossoms in an attempt to "force" them into bloom. It worked. The result is glorious and just what the doctor ordered to help bridge that gap between Winter and Spring.

      One of the extra highlights for me was the my father-in-law, known by many as the gardening guru, had never heard of such a thing...and was so impressed with the result that he called me for advice on how to implement!

      Try it. Surely there are some branches within your reach just waiting to be "forced".