Friday, October 29, 2010

Pumpkin Patch Failures

Are you tired of me talking about how much I love Fall? Sorry. It runs deep.

Anyhow, one of my VERY favorite Fall activities is getting pumpkins. In part because of the part because of the photo opportunities.

This year's pumpkin gathering, however, didn't go exactly as hoped.

Attempt number one. Vision. A hayride to pumpkin patch. Charming in concept; disappointing in execution. The day turned out to be exceptionally warm (75!) which meant the girls were in summer clothes which wasn't what I had in mind for the pictures. The second disappointment was that the pumpkins were ever-so-obviously (evidenced by the huge empty box marked pumpkins) planted in the field and were miniature (look at the disappointment on Baby R's face!)- hardly appropriate for carving. Sigh.

Attempt number two. Weather chilly enough to seem more appropriate. Pumpkins large enough to satisfy. But, pumpkin hat forgotten and only 11 minutes at the pumpkin patch on the way to take Dad to the airport.

Result? A beautiful and huge pumpkin...and exactly 11 minutes of great fun with my pumpkins.

The Not-So-Brilliant Halloween Decoration

I must admit, I was rather impressed with super simple and inexpensive Halloween table decor.

 What I didn't anticipate was this.

I know. There are SO many things wrong with this. My toddler climbing up on to the table. My toddler reaching into where a candle might be lit. My toddler eating candy. Oh, and, the fact that I took time out to grab my camera when I discovered the Candy Corn Caper in action.

Clearly, she must have seen someone else do this...In any event, the display is clearly coming down.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Weekend Halloween Festivities

Man, oh, man. There are SO many local Halloween-y options for the weekend. Here are just a few I have my eyes on...
  • Trick or  Treat Tromp. It takes place in Bath at Waterfront Park from 3-5. Parade. Candy. Photos by awesome photographer SoggyDogDesigns. Learn more.
  • 15th Annual Pirates Party at the Maine Maritime Museum (Bath, Maine). 
  • Camp Sunshine Pumpkin Festival at LL Bean. Pumpkin carving (and lots of other activities) for a cause.
  • Red Cloak Haunted History Tour. The Lady in the Red Cloak wanders the streets with a lantern in hand (I've seen her for years and always wanted to know what she has to say. Of course, there is the risk she'll tell tales of ghosts living in my 170 year old house. Get the scoop on the tours.
And, of course, we've got to carve our own pumpkins, put finishing touches on our costumes and gear up for trick or treating.

OooLaLa! It's National Chocolate Day!

Did you know? I didn't. But, thankfully, the Internet informed me in time. You see, I'm a huge chocolate fan.But, not just any old chocolate. Good chocolate.

Honestly, it is my biggest weakness (no comments from the peanut gallery on other weaknesses). I could do without sugar. But, eliminate dark chocolate from my life? Can't be done, I'm afraid.

I credit (blame?) my French genes. My grandfather Pierre was also a huge chocolate fan. He typically started a meal by thinking about what chocolate concoction would end his meal. Love that.

Even one of my very closest friendships has a rich chocolate history. I'm serious. A woman I met while studying in Africa shared my chocolate passion. But, chocolate wasn't easy to come by. She and I would buy chocolate (Cadbury chocolate was the only chocolate available) in Nairobi and stash it so when we were in the bush we could have small rations of chocolate goodness. The moment I knew when this lovely woman would be my friend forever? When I gave her (she stole?) my last piece of chocolate when we were camped out in Samburu -- days away from seeing chocolate.

Today, it seems, there are so many wonderful chocolates on the market. I'm a big fan of Endangered Species Chocolate which not only is delicious, but also practices sustainability and gives portions of its procees to organizations near and dear to my heart, like the African Wildlife Foundation. My current chocolate of choice? Chocolove Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almonds. It is the perfect concoction of sweet, salty and dark rich chocolate. And, as an added bonus, a love poem inside!You've got to try it.

If you are in Maine, there are all sorts of chocolate wonders. Havens has been making chocolate wonderfulness since 1915. You can even tour the chocolate factory! Or, chocolate and blueberry combinations like Maine Munchies. Or a local favorite, Main Sweets -- her needhams (a Maine chocolate tradition which contains potato!) are to die for.

Whatever your favorite chocolate concoction is, I hope you enjoy some today -- it's mandatory.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Summer Job That Keeps on Giving

When I was seventeen, I wanted a summer job away from home. Not just anywhere. Not just any job. Specifically, I wanted to wait tables at the Maine seaside resort where my Dad had waited tables many years before.

It was out of the question. They [my parents] said so.

Then, miraculously, through business, my Dad [the meanie referenced earlier] met the owners of the neighboring small Inn [If you are looking for a wonderful place to stay on the coast of Maine, I highly recommend this place--Rock Gardens Inn and Cottages]. They just so happen to be hiring a full-time babysitter for the summer for their three year old son. They weren't, however, eager to have a 17 year old living in their staff housing. But, they took a chance on me--and, I'm so glad they did. For the next few summers and periodic school vacations, I was the babysitter.

On most days, it was an exceptionally fun job. Seriously, what's not to love about taking care of children on the coast of Maine? But, I think one of the most rewarding parts of the job was the relationships I developed with the family. To this day, they are a part of my life. (They were there to meet my first born in the hospital!)

One of the many wonderful experiences this "job" afforded me was the opportunity to meet - and get to know their grandfather -- great American painter, Will Barnet. He is a remarkable man with endless energy, patience and charm. One of the times I stayed with the family at the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park, Mr. Barnet took me out to galleries. We hopped on buses (yes, buses!) and rode from gallery to gallery. He introduced me to people (what people, I have no idea); he talked to me about art. He exposed me to a world I knew nothing about. I was in awe of the whole experience. Galleries. Buses. People in fancy clothes. Had I really comprehended who he was, I might have been intimidated. But, to me, he was this completely approachable grandfather figure who was taking me on an outing in the city. It is a memory I will cherish forever.

Mr. Barnet, now 99, continues to paint in his Gramercy Park studio every day. Yesterday, Mr. Barnet was featured prominently in the New York Times. The article tells his story -- and the photos show the kind and approachable man who opened up my world in a whole new way.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Crafternoon: Featuring My Husband!

I know, I know, it has been much to long since we've crafted over here at Maine-ly Home. Believe me, I'm suffering. But, it's back. And, I'm really pleased to share this "crafternoon" (which was more like a whole lot of early mornings and evenings) with my husband.

Move over, Martha Stewart. Meet my husband.

My crafty (who knew?) husband took a bright yellow plastic kayak and turned it into a totally camouflaged vessel designed for "looking for" ducks and geese.  It wasn't easy.  

He researched what ready-to-buy camo boats look like; he researched options for how to effectively cover plastic (I scored big points when I pointed out that Krylon makes a spray paint especially for plastics--and, wouldn't you know, he discovered they make it in camo colors!); he researched what patterns of reeds and grasses make you most sneaky;  he researched accessories (e.g. clips to attach duck decoys); etc.  
Armed (!) with duct tape (yup, it comes in camo, too!), spray paint -- and his own stencils (yes, he made stencils! I asked him, jokingly, if we were going to use those same stencils to decorate our bedroom. He didn't take it as a joke, so now I live in fear that I might come home one day to be living in a stenciled duck blind.) 

Ultimately, he created his very own, one-of-a-kind, waterfowl-seeking hide-a-way. Pretty, cool, huh?

Now, let's see what he can do with some wool, buttons and a glue gun!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Curse of the White Picket Fence

{photo via here}

A house with a white picket fence. Every girl's dream, I'm told. Well, I have that house -- a house with a white picket fence. It's vintage, to boot.

Like many historic home owners, I have a love/hate relationship with my 170+year old beast. I love the stories the walls tell. I love the wide pumpkin pine floors. I love horse hair plaster walls. I love the clawfoot tub and pedestal sinks. I love the high ceilings with elaborate plaster ceiling medallions. I love the look of old windows with the ripples in the glass and pulleys that make them work.

I hate the lack of storage. I hate that nothing is level. I hate that plaster cracks (and, therefore, I never hang anything in fear). I hate that beautiful white trim must be painted. I hate that those charming old windows leak air and rattle (oh, and have lead paint). But, do you know what I hate the most?

You guessed it. My picket fence.

It's not that I don't still love the look of a white picket fence. I just hate the upkeep. Have you ever tried to paint a fence with toddler in tow? I did it once 5 years ago - and now I'm doing it again. Yesterday, I set out to tackle it all on my own. Grand ambitions - slap on a coat of paint in an hour. Reality? I painted the gate and one section and it started to rain. Grrrr. I repeat. I hate my white picket fence.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

In Honor of Water-Blog Action Day!

You may or may not know, but today is Blog Action Day. It's a pretty cool annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day.  The idea? Raise awareness and trigger a global discussion around an important issue that impacts us all. This year's topic? Water.

Not unlike many people in the developed world, I take water for granted. I assume that when I turn on my water faucet, water - and, more specifically, clean water, will flow abundantly. I also assume that the waterways that are so key to my personal grounding - and my recreation--will not only continue to exist, but be healthy, clean and full of life. (Not likely, given that 40 percent of America's rivers and 46 percent of America's lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming or aquatic life.)

I take these things for granted - and, yet, I have personally experienced and/or seen that water - let alone clean water -- should not be taken for granted:

I grew up in rural Maine on a 55-acre hobby farm. Blueberries, chickens, sheep, pigs and acres and acres of Maine loveliness. But, a decade after moving into this home, we were no longer able to drink our well water thanks to groundwater contamination from a now-designated Superfund site that was miles from our home. For more than a year, my family was forced to take showers in the local public school locker rooms and cart bottled water home for drinking and cooking. Not horrible in the scheme of life, I know, but a hardship for us at the time. Eventually, the groundwater contamination situation meant our rural home was piped into town/city water. Since then, while I love the taste (and the concept of) well water, I'm a pretty big believer in town/city water.  

I've also seen time and time again (I am - or at least I was pre-children - an avid traveler - the developing world my preferred destination!) that in the developing world, water, particularly clean water, is a rare commodity. In Africa, women walk miles and miles (Continent-wide, African women walk 40 billion hours each year to fetch water for their families!) to collect water to bring to their families. Sadly, all that hard work, and, in all likelihood, their families are drinking water that potentially threatens their lives. It's true. In fact, almost a billion people on the planet don't have access to clean, safe drinking water.That means one in eight of us are subjected to preventable disease and even death. 

I have also witnessed the powerful impact of "water wars" in a California region near and dear to my family's heart. Critical ecosystems have been drastically affected (huge efforts are reversing this trend, thankfully!) by the water demands of the City of Los Angeles hundreds of miles away. 

As I sit here writing, I sip on a glass of clean water from my kitchen faucet. I am grateful. I am hopeful that today as bloggers around the world unite on this issue that we are making a step towards ensuring that everyone can have access to clean water. It is a matter of life and death.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A New Take on Trick or Treat

Last night my daughter sketched out her vision for a trick or treat bag. 100% self-inspired. (Not only the ideas - but the idea of creating a trick or treat bag to begin with.) And, honestly, I'm in awe of her little notes and sketches. I

I'm a little annoyed by one thing though. In the bottom righthand corner of her elaborate drawings, Little Miss Sassafras (my new nickname for her), wrote (in her phonetic writing), "My mom always has very bad ideas."

Seriously? Was that necessary?!

Apparently, when she inquired about how to make the 3-dimensional felt pumpkin shape that she had determined would serve as the base for her trick or treat bag, she didn't like my ideas of paper mache or wet felting. Were those suggestions really lame? At the time, I was thinking they were not only clever, but downright generous. I mean, afterall, do I really have time to take on a giant wet-felting or paper mache project with my daughter? Not now, my Little Miss Sassafras. :)

In any event, I had to laugh this morning about the irony in my life. Still wounded from the little note about my bad ideas, I read my email which included one from Garnet Hill (one of my favorite catalogs) and discovered a totally adorable burlap trick or treat bag. And, not only is the trick or treat bag adorable, but it benefits Unicef (for every bag purchased, Garnet Hill will make a donation -- $3.50 -- to provide a child in the developing world with one year's worth of micronutrient powder).

 {photo via here}

Do you remember as a child (or am I dating myself there?) carrying your trick or treat bag in one hand and the little Unicef box in the other?

For more information visit,, or

Friday, October 8, 2010

How Do You Find the Best Fall Color in Maine?

Last week my husband and I were exploring back roads (one of our favorite past times) and I burst out into laughter.

I turned to D to explain my outburst, "Do you realize that we are surrounded by amazing colorful leaves and we almost aren't even noticing them? Can you imagine if some our friends from out west were here?"

He concurred.

Although I sometimes become blinded by the color...or should I say, blind to the color? But, I do love it.
 If you are in Maine - or coming to Maine, you'll be happy to know that we (the state) try to capitalize on this season's color. You can find "the best" color with this foliage map. Yes, a foliage map. We are heading into the "peak" zone this weekend.

{map via here}

Happy weekend.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Applesauce Tradition

Piles of apple cores. The smell of cooking apples. The moist sweet-smelling steam of apples simmering. The sticky foodmill.

Simple things with powerful memories.

As a child, throughout my childhood, we made applesauce as a family. We all picked the apples. We all washed and cut the apples. Mom stirred the apples on the stove. Dad cranked (and cranked and cranked and cranked) the food mill. And, for months and months to come we ate the perfectly, naturally sweet and pink (from the peels) applesauce that we stored in our freezer.

Making applesauce is a tradition that I proudly carry on.

This past weekend, my eldest daughter and I set to work to turn 40 lbs of apples into deliciousness. She jumped right in. Grabbed her apron. Washed her hands. Said enthusiastically, "what's my job?"

For the next few hours we talked and took turns cutting apples, stirring the pot, and running the cooked apples through the hand cranked food mill. Half-way through the process she turned to me and said with a huge happy sigh, "I love the smell of apple steam." She's my girl, for sure.

Baby R (when do you think I should stop calling her a baby?) woke up as the first big batch was ready. I put her in her chair and handed her bowl. As if she knew what was coming, she started chanting, "Yum, yum, yum."

Suffice it to say, she liked it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The OTHER Fair

As you know, I am a huge fan of The Common Ground Fair. A non-motorized, organic fair that celebrates Maine rural living.

But, I'm also a huge fan of tradition.

And, in my family, it is tradition to go to the Cumberland Fair (pronounced Cumberland Fay-eh).

Been doing it most of my life. My sister showed our sheep via 4H there. I've carried around dumb big stuffed animals won there. I have eaten a lot of fair food there. I do believe I developed my dislike for carnival rides there (read: vomiting was involved). Spent lots of money there. (By the way, in case you are reading this aloud, you should be pronouncing "there" as "thay-eh".)

Of course, in recent decades (I couldn't really mean decades?) my attendance has been sporadic. But, this year I decided to go. I went to the fair with my girls, my mom and her boyfriend and my niece.

I had a ball. I let my eldest eat cotton candy. We ate fair food. We checked out the fair entries (ranging from crafts to pickles to home grown veggies). I played a couple of games (and won dumb big stuffed animals that my daughter proudly carried around). I watched with a smile as the carousel twirled about with my daughter and her cousin. And, I witnessed a very intense game of whack-a-mole with my mother holding one of the mallets. I'm still in shock. Let's just say that if you are in my family and you believe in an after life (which I'm not saying I do), you really don't want to come back as a mole.

When Two Obsessions Collide

If you are a regular at Maine-ly Home (thank you, if you are!), you know that I have an obsession (it's genetic in my family) with mason jars. And, just this week I confessed my obsession with cute packaging.

Well, what do you suppose happens when the two collide?

{photo and idea by Sue Baker via WhiskerGraphics Blog}

How divine!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I'm Drooling Over This. An Online Workshop By Betz White - Oh my!

As you might recall from previous posts, I love felt. 

And, while I'm by no means an expert felter, I lover to dabble. 

But, more than that, I love to look at all things felt-related. 

Over the years, Betz White has been one of those felters/artists/crafters I have drooled over...

And, now, oh, my goodness, I could take an online course with her. You can, too! Check it Out.

Felt & Stitch Holiday Online Workshop 2010

by Betz White on Monday, October 4, 2010 at 8:14am

Announcing: Felt & Stitch Holiday Online Workshop 2010
October 18-November 12
Get ready for the season with my holiday online workshop. I’m bringing back the original Felt & Stitch Holiday workshop for all of you that missed out on it last year! Join me in my virtual studio to make wonderful felted wool projects for your holiday décor and gift giving. I’ll be teaching and working with you along the way through a combination of blog posts, downloadable PDF’s, and videos posted weekly. Learn and collaborate with others in the class through a combination of blog comments and the class Flickr group. Projects will include ornaments, home décor and small gifts, designed especially for this workshop and are not available in my books or anywhere else!

I'm so excited to be able to offer you these projects again this year! I put together this slide show to get you inspired for the season and this special event.

Felt & Stitch Holiday is jam-packed with ideas, techniques and projects you can start making right away. Inspired my book, Warm Fuzzies, this workshop will focus on small projects made with felted wool sweaters and/or craft felt. You will learn the basics of working with felt, a variety of applique and embellishment techniques, experiment with needle felting methods and more. Each week I will post wonderful holiday projects for you to make applying these techniques. I will share with you tricks of the trade. Even if you have never worked with felted wool before, you'll complete this workshop feeling like a pro! You might also feel a bit like Santa with all of the gifts and décor you’ll create.

The Details:
This 4-week workshop begins October 18 and runs through November 12. Cost of the workshop is $40. Once registered, participants will receive a password (via email) granting access to a special blog page created just for the workshop. Each Monday I will demonstrate a technique. On Wednesdays I will post a project for you to make using that technique. In addition to the workshop blog, you will have access to the class Flickr group where you can share photos of your finished projects, ask questions and take part in discussions. Feel free to take the course at your own pace on your own time! All workshop content will be available to participants through December 31, 2010.

Registration opens today! Visit my shop for more details and to sign up now!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Confession: My Weakness

{photos via Whisker Graphics}
I have a weakness for packaging. I know, I know. I spend a lot of time talking about ways to reduce packaging -- and here I am admitting that I have a weakness for - a love affair with - packaging. Especially packaging for handmade/homemades.

So, naturally, I am tickled to have discovered this really, really cool packaging stuff by WhiskerGraphics. A wonderful palette of twine (Just imagine the possibilities...tying...a loaf of quick bread; a stack of handmade cards; a couple of yummy soaps; a cellophane bag of candies or other treats. Oh, the possibilities!) and a whole bunch of printables -- yes, graphically appealing, affordable, customizable printables that you print on your own printer. Recipe cards, labels, bookplates, etc.

And, just to make matters worse, WhiskerGraphics has a fantastic blog which is chock full of crafty goodness.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

October: A Planner

So, I'm feeling a little gun shy this a.m., putting together my October Planner when I haven't finished the items on my September Planner.

But here goes... are some of the things I have planned for October:
  • Making applesauce. Have I mentioned that I have 40 lbs of apples awaiting...? :)
  • Checking out Damariscotta's Pumpkin Festival. It's famous. It's all about pumpkins. Contests for size, contests for carving. Pumpkin food. Pumpkin parade. They even have a regatta (both motorized and unmotorized) in the harbor with boats made out of ginormous pumpkins.
  • Mums. I need to purchase mums for my porch. But, first, the painters need to finish painting it (my porch, that is). 
  • Knitting.
  • Going camping with my family. We're headed to Baxter State Park this time.
  • Pumpkin picking (location to be determined) and pumpkin carving. 
  • Baking goodness with pumpkins.
  • Costume making. Butterfly. Caterpillar. Flower. Butterfly catcher. Oh my. (Ideas welcomed.)
I just know there is much, much, much more I want to do in October. But, think I'll still with this list for now.

What do you have planned for October?

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    McDreamy Weekend

    {photos via LL Bean}

    Despite the heavy rain and wind predicted for today, this weekend - the first weekend of October - promises to be beautiful. Here's a glimpse of what we'll be doing...
    • Going to the Bath Farmer's Market. Just because that's what we do. On Saturdays we go to the market to get our veggies, fish, eggs, cheese and honey sticks!
    • Catching the end of the Cumberland Fair.This is the Fair I went to as a child. Classic. Farm animals. Rides. Games. 4H. "Best of" awards for crafts, vegetables and other handmades. Oh, and fair food Maine style.
    • Making applesauce. I have 40 lbs of apples waiting..
    • Going to LL Bean's big bicycle extravaganza to check out the big bicycle sale (20% off!) and maybe a glimpse of Patrick Dempsey---actor (aka McDreamy on Grey's Anatomy), Mainer and founder of the Dempsey Challenge - bicycle ride to benefit cancer research. He'll be at LL Bean from 2:30 to 3:30 on Saturday, just in case you are wondering....
    What are you doing this weekend?

    October: John Updike's Take

    In keeping with tradition here at Mainelyhome, here's John Updike's poem "October". If you haven't yet purchased a copy of the book a A Child's Calendar, I highly recommend it.

    The month is amber,
    Gold, and brown.
    Blue ghosts of smoke
    Float through the town,

    Great V's of geese
    Honk overhead,
    And maples turn
    A fiery red.

    Frost bites the lawn.
    The stars are slits
    In a black cat's eye
    Before she spits

    At last, small witches,
    Goblins, hags
    And pirates armed
    With paper bags,

    Their costumes hinged
    On safety pins,
    Go haunt a night
    Of pumpkin grins