Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Crafting=The Antidote to Our Dependence on Antidepressants?

Years ago when I was living and working in the rat race of Washington, DC, I had little or no crafting in my life.

I worked. I worked out. I went out. Something was dreadfully missing, but I didn't know what.

It was until I left that world that I realized that what was missing from my life was good old fashioned handiwork.

Really, I should have realized it long before I did. Every once in a while when I'd take some kind of creativity class (cooking, soapmaking, etc.), I'd come away happier, lighter. But, at the time, these things weren't part of my everyday life, so as soon as the class was over, so was that little rush.

When I left "that world", I started crafting (I've dabbled in all sorts of things over the years--you know how it goes, if you are a crafter, you get obsessed with something for a while and then onto something new.) and I was happier. More relaxed. Less obsessed.

It's a lesson I learn over and over again. Life interrupts my creativity. For example, for a good six weeks while I was re-entering the work world and moving, I didn't have any creativity in my life (with the exception of writing and shooting some photos of my kids). I was functioning--but something was missing. I didn't realize it until my toddler handed me my knitting needles and some yarn (man, my girls are so smart!) and I seized the moment to cast on some stitches. Honestly, it was this instant relaxation for me. I remembered. And, now, while life has not yet (will it ever?) slowed down, I am trying to incorporate some of this into my life. I'm baking bread again. I'm drawing with my daughter. I'm knitting. Just here and there - but it is something.

Well, I cannot tell you how excited I was to read in the June issue of WholeLiving that there is actually some science to this. According to neuroscientist Kelly Lambert (no relation) at Virginia's Randolph-Macon College, hands-on work satisfies our primate craving to create solid objects. She also says (I love this) that, "It's like taking mental-health vitamins, building up resilience--our ability to bounce back from hardship--by reminding our brains that we can have some impact on the world around us."

So, all my fellow crafters--and aspiring crafters -- get crafting -- doctor's orders.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Appreciating the Small Things Amidst Meltdowns

I must confess that September isn't going exactly as planned.

The beginning-of-the-school-year-starting-back-to-work-and-weaning-baby-emotional fatigue is whipping me.

And, of course, that unexpected trip to the ER with my eldest (she's okay, despite taking a full-force face plant) the afternoon before I was supposed to leave on a business trip didn't help.

But, one of the big lessons I've learned (and need to keep reminding myself) about mothering is that one must not bite off more than they can chew -- and, one must learn to appreciate the small things.

Like hydrangea.

Yup, I set out (see my September Planner) to snip some of my neighbors hydrangea to enjoy now and into the future (they dry so wonderfully). And, I did it. :)

What small thing do you feel good about today?

Monday, September 27, 2010

THE Fair

On Saturday a.m. while we were driving to the Common Ground Fair (a near 2 hour drive from our home), my cranky 6-year-old asked me why I like the fair so much.

"Well," I began..."Some people believe that Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth, I think THIS is." (Was that wrong?)

Now, I had her attention, evidenced by the puzzled, "Why?"

"Because this a place where people gather. People who are rich. People who are poor. People from all walks of life. They gather here because they share an interest in rural Maine living. They care about keeping Maine traditions like farming and spinning and fiddling alive. They care about good healthy food. They care about people. They care about the Earth. It is what they have in common--and it is really wonderful sometimes to be among people who care about similar things."

I couldn't see her, I was driving. She might have been rolling her eyes. But, she was quiet, nevertheless. 

I could go on and on (as some of you have had to endure in-person) about all the wonderfulness of the fair. The amazing food. The terrific music. The exquisite crafts. The endless interesting workshops. The happy, animal-filled barns. And, oh, the fiber! But, instead, I'll just share some photos (and a few words). Hope you enjoy.

Food! Wood-fired whole grain pizza with pesto; sustainably grown lamb kebabs; locally grown roasted vegetable soups; Maine potatoes every-which-way; locally-made ice cream; and, more, more, more!

Prize carrots (and, so, so, much more!)
Solar-powered juice.
Pie in a Cone
All food vendors at the fair are required to be as sustainable as possible. Their "packaging" must be minimal (you won't find lids or straws, for example) - and completely recyclable and compostable (volunteers collect the plates and scraps and recycle/compost). One vendor got really creative - instead of pie on a plate - they make a pie crust cone and fill it with the pie filling of your choice (blueberry, pumpkin, apple...). YUM.

Discovering animals!
Wagon Rides

Spinning (Yes, she's spinning directly from the rabbit!)
Marching in the Parade
Happy, happy Mama!
Jumping in the hay and lovin'(?) it?

Petting sheep.

A very tired fair-goer ready to go home.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Anticipating Organic Goodness

This weekend - Friday, Saturday and Sunday -- is THE best fair around. Honestly, I don't think there is anything else like it anywhere. I'm told it is the longest running and largest organic fair in the country.

Sponsored by the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association, the Common Ground Fair is 3 days of organic goodness. You can gather information, watch demonstrations, eating amazing food, march in the vegetable parade, dance to terrific music, shop for local artistic wonders and bask in the happiness that surrounds you.

I know, it sounds a little too good to be true. Trust me, it's not. You even take a short hike through the woods (or alternatively ride a horse drawn wagon) to get to the fairgrounds -- how charming is that? The only bummer in my book is that there is no chocolate or coffee there (a little pick-me-up would be helpful mid-day!)...not Maine grown, after all.

Anyhow, our little family looks forward to this all year long -- and, each year that we attend we buy one of the posters to add to our collection on our kitchen walls. And, I'm in love with this year's--what a happy rooster!

Will I see you at the fair? If not, stay tuned on Monday for posts on all the organic goodness.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The F Word

Certain people in my extended family won't even utter the word "Fall" -- it is, their eyes, the "F-word". Not me. I love Fall - and embrace it with big arms. Sure, I love summer, too. But, Fall is the best. In the words of my husband (who also loves Fall), "We can't do anything until December - we're booked - it's Fall, after all. May the super harvest moon shine upon you tonight -- and, may you, too, find greatness in this coming season. Apple cider. Crisp nights. Colorful leaves. Sweaters. Harvests. Soup season. Fall festivals. And, on and on. Welcome Fall.

A Timeout To Get Excited About

Enough said?!

(Thanks, Mom, for finding this bottle of vino for moi. I don't think my dearest is that excited that it has become part of our decor--I think he wants me to drink it and be done with it. But, it makes me giggle every time I see it, so I think it'll just be a fixture around here.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

MainelyHome Guest Blogs on LoveVermont

My littlest sidekick is guest blogger over on LoveVermont -- the lovely blog authored by my cousin. Be sure to check it out!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Taking Family Photos

Every year there are a couple of weeks when I'm together with my two siblings and their clans. It is a time I look forward. And, for all of us, it is a hectic time with ups and downs. Someone (and, I'm not limiting this to the children) is always having a meltdown. In any event, we always try to get a group shot of the little ones who now total eight and range from 16 months to 17 years. (Why we don't try to get one of the adults really is a mystery - and a huge mistake.) It is a near impossible task. Someone is usually MIA -- or there is at least one child not up for the assignment. This photo (please forgive me sweet baby J for exploiting you in this way) sums it all up.

Apples and Greek Food, Oh My!

In a panic, afraid that I might somehow miss all the apples (which is funny because I usually go MUCH later than this), I insisted that my family, amidst a very hectic weekend schedule, drive to our favorite organic apple picking spot.

Although I'm not sure he was totally into the idea, my husband agreed that it would be a nice way to spend the day (it was September 11th). Step out of our ordinary life and do something high quality with the people we love.

We almost turned around three times due to the whining going on in the back seat. I'm hungry. I'm car sick. I hate apples. Blah, blah, blah.

We kept going. Because sometimes parents just have to do that. Ignore the whining, keep going.

In the little city of Lewiston, Maine, which lots of people gripe about, but we kind of like (at least to drive through), I spotted a little sign that said, "Greek Festival Today". It was a no-brainer - a little Greek food is exactly what we needed. Though we wondered just how good a festival it could be. Did Lewiston have a big Greek community?

With some sleuthing and a map, my husband, my hero, found it. Not an easy feat. We almost turned around several times (picking up on a theme here?). Couldn't be there - a residential community. Sure enough, we landed at a hoppin' Greek festival in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It was quickly evident we'd struck gold.

Yum. We all devoured yummy, yummy Greek food - and, we even had a chat with Senator Snowe -- who apparently goes to church there.

Full and happy, we ventured on.

Rest assured, we had not missed the apples. At Ricker Hill, the organic apples were the most plentiful I'd seen. Gorgeous apples everywhere. In 12 minutes, we picked 40 lbs.

It was a fun-filled day with some unexpected adventures. In my book, that's the best kind of day.

Now, we'd better get cooking applesauce.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chop Chop!

I have struck gold. I just discovered this fantastic new quarterly magazine that is perfect for my foodie family. I picked up the latest issue at a newsstand while recently traveling in Washington, DC. It is full of activities (this one featured grow-your-own lettuce in a shopping bag; a word search; etc.) and fun (and healthy!) recipes to try out with (as in - cook with) your kids. I HIGHLY recommend it.

What's in a Picture?

Do you ever look at a photo -- perhaps one you took today or many years ago - and find that it can completely change your attitude?

Today, I woke feeling tired, discombobulated, overwhelmed, etc.

But, then I came across this photo of my baby I took a week ago.

It has changed the course of my day.

That always-happy, what-adventure-am-I-going-to-take-on-next smiley face is magical.

Thanks, Baby R, for the inspiration today.

Friday, September 10, 2010

This Weekend: Your Chance to Tour a Lighthouse

When I was working on my September planner, I hadn't realized that this Sunday, September 18th is the Second Annual Maine Lighthouse Open House. How could I not know this? I love lighthouses. And, while one of the many wonderful things about living in Maine is that lighthouses are part of your daily landscape, it is not often that one stops to really explore these beacons.

Maine Lighthouse Open House is a great opportunity to visit the many lighthouses that line Maine's coast -- and, of course, learn a bit about Maine's rich maritime heritage.

I've always thought it would be incredibly romantic to be a lighthouse keeper. Though I mentioned this the other day to a friend and they said, "except in the fog." Whatever. I'll live in my little fantasy world.

In any event, I'm hoping to convince my family to make it a day-long adventure...but, I may lose this battle given the fact that the stripers are running on the Kennebec River AND a certain little six year thinks that a playdate is in order.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September: A Planner

I do love summer, but quite honestly, September is my favorite month. The month usually (hope I'm not jinxing myself here) has lovely weather--warm days and crisp nights--and it is filled with subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) changes. Of course, I've also learned now that I have school-aged children, that September can be an exhausting month as new routines are figured out. But, here's what I'm hoping to do this month.
  • Snip hydrangeas from my neighbor's yard (don't worry, he knows!) and put them around the house. They are so lovely dried--and a reminder of summer.
  • Enjoy as many days and/or evenings at "camp" as possible!
  • Pick apples. My favorite pick-your-own apple farm is in Turner, Maine. It grows organic apples--and is a beautiful setting. 
  • Go to the beach. The beach, in my opinion, is good just about anytime of year. September beach days can be chilly...but nevertheless wonderful. And, the light -- oh the light!
  • Make applesauce. There is nothing better than homemade applesauce--especially in the mid of winter. I have great memories of watching (and helping) my mom and dad make applesauce. And, now it's a tradition I carry on. 
  • Go to the Common Ground Fair. I will dedicate much blog space to this--this IS one of my favorite events. What isn't to love about an organic fair!?!? Oh, the fiber! And, let's not forget the buy local, eat veggies kid parade.
  • Go camping somewhere in the north--perhaps one our favorite spots at Baxter State Park.
  • Harvest herbs from the garden. Usually I make a lot of pesto with the basil and then the others just die away until next summer. But, my aunt has challenged me to figure out how to effectively dry herbs. So, stay tuned.
  • Make (eek!) rose hip jam. Always wanted to do it. Will this be the year?
  • Put mums in my window boxes and on the granite stoop. (This is earlier than usual -- but this exceptional summer has put all of our gardens and garden containers ahead of schedule...and they are looking might ragged at the moment.)
What's your September planner look like?

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    September: John Updike's Take

    As is my tradition here at Maine-ly Home (I love how I just create traditions and act like they are official.), I begin each new month with one of John Updike's "month" poems. If you haven't gotten a copy, yet, I highly recommend A Child's Calendar - a beautifully illustrated book (by New Hampshire artist Trina Schart Hyman) which includes a monthly poem by Updike.


    The breezes taste
    Of apple peel.
    The air is full
    Of smells to feel--

    Ripe fruit, old footballs,
    Drying grass,
    New books and blackboard
    Chalk in class.

    The bee, his hive
    Well-honeyed, hums
    While Mother cuts

    Like plates washed clean
    With suds, the days
    Are polished with
    A morning haze.

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    And, She's Off

    Well, my little first grader is off on the bus. I'm pretty sure that I'm more nervous than she is...though there is one photo that seems to show just a little apprehension on her part...

    But, I love this shot. It's as if baby sister is giving big sister some sage advice.

    Now, I just have to remember not to pepper my little girl with questions upon arrival home. She has a rule (yes, I know, it is clear who is boss in this family....) that there are no questions allowed until she gives the signal. Fair enough, I s'pose.