Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Signs of Spring Required

There is rumor of a big snow storm on Friday.

I love snow - and I love winter. But, hello, it's Spring now. I'm done. I'm a fair weather person like that.

The reality is, however, in the two places where I hang my hat, Spring comes in fits and starts - and sometimes never comes at all. As a survival tactic, I look for signs of Spring...sings of change wherever I can find them. The next few days here at Maine-ly Home will feature some of the signs I find...

How's it looking in your neck of the woods?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Still Soaking Up the Sweetness

This past weekend was, among other things, Maine Maple Sunday. A holiday not-to-be-missed around here! Since I've already bored you many times with the details of this obsession, I'll spare you from too many more.

This year we went (as always) to Goransan's Farm in Dresden. Then, set out to find a new sugarhouse -- Mitchell and Savage Maple Farm in Bowdoin. Both fun in their own way, though I am so smitten with the barns and sugarshack at Mitchell and Savage Maple Farm that I'm having trouble sleeping. I know, I'm wierd like that.

A few photos of our Maine Maple Sunday adventures....

{Checking for sap}
{sisters looking at baby goats]
{the barns that are keeping me awake at night}

{the scene. Maine-rs waiting for some fresh maple syrup over vanilla ice cream. we like simple things like that here.}

{the to-die-for sugarshack}

{my little sugar all-sugared-out}

Rites of Spring

My husband doesn't (or, rather, didn't) believe me.

I told him that going to Fat Boy's Drive-In (Yes, we have 1950s-style drive-in restaurants here!) was a rite of Spring here in Midcoast Maine.

He laughed as he climbed in the car to go to the drive-in for the opening last week.

When we got there (much later than I had hoped), there was a line of cars out on the street waiting for a spot. One look (or, was it a listen...?) at the two hungry children in the back and we knew it was not happening tonight.

Major disappointment for all. Even my husband. By now, he'd realized the truth -- it is a rite of Spring (later confirmed by headlines in the paper).We would return soon, we promised the sad little seven year old who had her heart set on eating a grilled cheese and lemonade in the car tonight.

If you haven't been to Fat Boys, you've got to try it. Just once. (Your arteries and waistline beg you, just once.) The drive-in opened in 1955 -- and it looks like a thing hasn't change (though I happen to know that in a Nor-easter a few years back, the coveted sign was destroyed - and now replaced with an identical, though much shinier, sign).

To be there for opening week/weekend is a gift. Okay, that's a totally ridiculous statement. It's not a gift. But, it is an awesome scene. A parking lot of people in their cars ready to embrace summer (even though it is still months away). But, the greasy food and warm-enough (or at least snow-free-enough) weather for waitresses to come to your car are signs of hope for Maine-rs who have been hunkered down for months.

While I'm well aware of this iconic institution - I'm really a newbie. I'd driven by it one zillion times, for certain. But, it wasn't until a decade ago when my Uncle Charlie introduced me to the place.

While we don't eat there but once or twice a year, I'm so glad to know about it -- it is such a classic scene. The minute you park your car, you are transported to the 50s. You find yourself desperately trying to find an oldies station to replace NPR. And, when the tray of burgers (or, crab rolls) and shakes shows up on the tray hanging from your car window, you are have expecting to catch a glimpse of the Fonz nearby. And, in a week where tragedy still looms in Japan and war is raging in the Middle East -- it is nice, if only for a minute, to escape to a different time.

PS. We did, in fact, make it back a few days later. And to prove how infrequently I let my girls eat fries, I've included this photo of my youngest nursing her fry...

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Sweet Weekend on Tap

It's here. It's finally here. Well, almost. Maine Maple Sunday is just a couple of days away - and I can't wait. If you've been following me, you know Maine Maple Sunday is one of my favorite holidays (yes, I think of it as a holiday which should tell you something!). If you haven't followed me, you might want to read about this personal obsession here or here.

Maine Maple Sunday, the fourth Sunday of March each year, is the day when sugarhouses around the state open their doors to let everyone join in this annual rite of spring--sugaring (which is the fancy New England word for making maple syrup). As you drive around the state, you'll see steam rising from the sugar houses and have the opportunity to partake in all sorts of maple-infused festivities from pancake breakfasts to maple syrup sundaes. The farms will be busy with visitors all decked out in their mud boots and great big smiles.

And, if you are lucky, you'll hear some fiddlers and singers singing this chorus of "Maple Sweet", an early nineteenth century New England folk song

Oh! Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble goes the pan,
Furnish sweeter music for the season if you can,
See the golden billows, watch their ebb and flow.
Sweetest joys indeed, we sugar makers know.

It is a very happy and very sweet day. Looking for Maine Maple Sunday events?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to Create Creative Learning Spaces In Your Home

{images via here}

I try really hard to create little creative spaces for my kids. Baskets of holiday or season specific books stashed in a reading corner with a pillow. Baskets of holiday or season specific art supplies for make cards and pictures. Readily accessible, high-quality art supplies. Blank books. Blank paper. Imaginary play things.

But, I envision even more.

Maybe it is the piece of me that always wanted to be a preschool teacher. Maybe it is the piece of me that still dreams of opening an art space for kids (and grownups!). Maybe it is the part of me that misses spontaneous creativity.

I struggle at times to find the best way to create creative play space within our home -- we don't have a lot of extra space -- and, I'll admit that I get frustrated by lots of extra stuff (clutter) everywhere. We don't have a playroom. I always say this is intentional - we want our kids to play in family space. Truth is, I also don't have the space for a separate playroom.

Anyhow, I couldn't be more excited about this resource and blog my Aunt Cathy (thanks, Aunt C!) pointed me to this a.m. - and, even better, the site is offering a giveaway -- a 6-week ecourse on creating creative spaces (say that three times fast!). Needless to say, I've entered -- you should too!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I'm Not Blogging in Support of Japan

I'm joining other bloggers tomorrow in going silent for the day (you won't see a post here!) in support of the ongoing tragedy in Japan. Please think about donating to disaster relief.

Celebrating The Green

I don't believe we have even a tiny bit of Irish in us, but that doesn't stop us from celebrating. After all, we live in a town that devotes an entire week to St. Patrick's Day, kicking off with a parade....and, ending, well, with a whole lot of partying at the local Irish pub.

Thanks to my mother-in-law, my girls looked awfully festive (though a little grumpy in nearly all the photos I snapped - what's up with that?) today! And, my eldest was most relieved that she was guaranteed not to be pinched.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Crafternoon: Quick and Easy Custom Notebooks

I could easily spend a fortune on goodie bags. I love them.

But, I was trying NOT to do that for my daughter's recent fairy-themed tumbling party. I was trying to be thrifty - and trying not to plague other households with a lot of junk. But, I also wanted the goody bags to tie-into the fairy theme...

A glowing ring (fairy magic ring). A flower pencil (a want, according to my daughter - love her imagination!). A notebook (for writing fairy wishes). Fairy-like stickers. And, a flower fairy crown (which will double as decorations while the girls are tumbling). Perfect? Well, good enough, at least.

The fairy crowns were a piece of cake (though a bit time consuming when you start making multiples!) thanks to floral wire and floral tape and a whole slew of fake flowers and tulle.

The thing that hung me up was the notebooks. All the cute notebooks cost a lot. So, I took a gamble and purchased little spiral notepads -- pack of 3 for $1.00 -- with hopes of customizing the covers.

My little fairy and I set to work with some decorative papers I had in my stash, a paper cutter and a glue stick. Easy-as-pie and, I think, super cute.

Monday, March 14, 2011

24 Hours of Us in Southern Maine

About a month ago, I won a "Maine Thing to Do" from 101MaineThingsToDo. The prize? One night (including breakfast) at Stage Neck Inn in York, Maine. Yee-haw! (And, many thanks to both 101MaineThingstoDo AND Stage Neck Inn.)

My mom graciously agreed (thanks Mom!) to watch our children so we could sneak away. And, we did just that. We snuck away. Would you believe that it was our first time away from both girls? And, let's see, the total number of nights without children in seven years...three? Maybe four. The point? Not many. By choice. True. Still, as much as we adore our kids, it is important to have some time for us, right?  

And, it was a great excuse for us to check out a new part of Maine!

York is in Southern Maine, not far from the New Hampshire border. Many, many people vacation in this area of Maine. But, I have never been there. To York, at least - and very little to neighboring areas. There isn't a reason for this other than my husband and I naturally choose to go North. Here in Maine...and well, virtually everywhere.

We started out on our journey with dinner in Portland at the new-ish restaurant, The Salt Exchange. A beautiful atmosphere, the service terrific, the presentation was amazing and the food was really yummy. The restaurant features "small plates" so we sampled quite a few things. My favorites? The beet risotta cakes, the Prince Edward Island mussels and scallops. Mmm. I'm still thinking about the scallops.

Our room at Stage Neck Inn was very comfortable and had an amazing view. Check it out. And our breakfast buffet (with a killer view, I might add) -- yum.

I tried to be artistic and take a picture of our view through the very cool and eco-friendly soap...but, it didn't quite cut it. But, the soap is really cool, don't you think? (In addition to being made out of natural ingredients, the soap is missing the inside of the soap - you know, the little piece that always gets wasted, especially in a hotel.)

Our day in York was bitterly cold and windy -- so we mostly explored by car. Must say, the beaches in the area are impressive! We made a stop at Stonewall Kitchen's headquarters (which includes a store, a cafe and a cooking school!). We loved checking it out and vowed to return with our eldest for a cooking class. Even my husband got into the sampling at the store.

Before heading back, we stopped at Cape Porpoise Kitchen to split a Maine crab with dill havarti panini, some delicious cookies and lattes. :)

It was wonderful to have a little get-away -- and wonderful to come home to happy girls and Midcoast Maine.

Friday, March 11, 2011

New Online Magazine. I'm Smitten.

Really, I can't even begin to describe the cuteness of this new online magazine. You have to check it out for yourself. To.die.for.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Blogging Makes You Do Crazy Things

{image via here}

Blogging makes you do crazy things.

Like what, you ask?

Like acknowledge - and celebrate blogaversaries, for one.

But, I'm doing it. I'm celebrating my one year blogaversary. Today.

March 9th is a hard day for me. It marks huge loss in my life. And, for that reason, it seemed like a great day - a-nothing-to-lose-only-things-to-be-gained-kind-of-day to start my blog.

I started Maine-lyhome not knowing where it would go. Not knowing whether I'd have something to say. Not knowing if anyone would read it.

In some ways, I still don't have those answers.

But, what I do know, is that I am loving this space -- and the channel it has given me for my creativity.

And, I'm really loving that so many of you have sent me wonderful thoughts and comments on and offline.

Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Do-Over-Dinner: Chicken & White Bean Chili

{photo via here}

My in-laws gave me two really great cookbooks for Christmas. One is all about soups. The other is a cookbook which uses Trader's Joes products. The book is called The Cooking with Trader Joe's Cookbook: Dinner's Done! -- and I highly recommend that you snag yourself a copy. Although all the recipes have something that is purchased from Trader Joe's - I believe you can find a substitute for most of those products if you don't happen to live near a Trader Joes.

I made this recipe - called White Lightning Chili in the book - last night. It won Do-Over status - and that is really great news because it is not only super easy, but super yummy. I've adapted this a tiny bit.

Chicken & White Bean Chili

What You Need:
About a pound of diced, cooked chicken. (You can buy "Just Chicken" in this format at TJ's - but I just baked thinly sliced boneless chicken breasts and chopped myself.)
A cups of chicken broth. I am a huge fan of Better than Bouillion 
1 1-lb container of Just Chicken (or 4 cups of cooked and shredded chicken) cut into bite size chunks
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 15-oz can White Kidney Beans (Cannellini Beans), drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can Pinto Beans, drained and rinsed
1 13.75-oz jar Corn and Chile Salsa
Optional: Shredded cheese and plain Greek yogurt for garnish

How to Make:
1.) Pour the broth into a medium or large pot.  Add the quinoa (make sure quinoa is rinsed and drained).  Bring to a boil.
2.) Add the remaining ingredients (making sure beans are rinsed and drained) and return to a boil.  Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed.
3.) Serve in bowls, topping with shredded cheese and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, if desired.

Serves 8

Monday, March 7, 2011

Baby Blogger

Guess someone's been watching me. (I realize this is not an ideal thing.) I wonder what she's blogging about?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Simplifying Begins Today

I have always been very organized--since I was a very little kid. Just ask my big sister who was (still is?) very annoyed by this fact. It's one of the traits that makes me good at my job -- or should I say my jobs - as mom and as consultant. I like everything to have a be in its place. And, I'm on a constant quest to get rid of stuff.

My husband has recently offered a reflection that has me I really organized? Or, do I just organize to cope. I'm not sure it really matters. The fact is that I haven't been good at coping if things aren't organized.

Truth is, however, I feel like I've really lost organizational edge. Not sure if it is the two kid thing. The two coast thing. The two working parent thing. The fact that I live in a 175 year old home that while charming, just doesn't cut it for storage thing. Or, maybe I'm just getting old and tired.

Whatever the reason is, I'm hoping that (and, gosh, I'm being bold to do this publicly) joining Simple Mom for the next five weeks might help kick me back into gear. Each week, on Monday, Simple Mom will reveal a corner of your home that needs to be tackled. You are encouraged to take before and after shots to share. It begins tomorrow -- wanna join me?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Great New Blog: Supper By Six

A good friend, fellow foodie and amazing cook, just started a great new blog -- Supper By Six.

The blog focuses on recipes that she can either make ahead, freeze or make on a Monday night. In other words, the working mom's (or dad!) dream come true. If you are a regular Maine-ly Home follower, you'll know what I mean when I say that a lot of the recipes are likely to make it to the "Do-Over Dinner" list in my house.

Check it out, you'll be SO glad you did.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March Planner

I know that February is typically a dreaded month for most. Not for us - we have so many celebrations in February it gets us through whatever funk others experience.

March, on the other hand, is a really hard month for me. It's long. It jerks me around with glimpses of spring (though it is possible I might not have this to complain about this year) and often has left us with not enough snow and winter-ness to get out and do the winter things we love. And, while it is a month that is filled with lovely family birthdays -- in my life, it is also a month of anniversaries of huge loss.

But, really, if I can let go...let myself think about the good that March has to offer, I realize there is really quite a lot to look forward to. Just look at some of what I have planned:

  • A night away (our first in years!) with my husband at Stage Neck Inn courtesy of 101MaineThingstoDo. Not only a chance to have some quality time with my guy, but also a chance to see a part of Maine, I've never explored.
  • My blogiversary - March 9th. Have I spelled that right? Yup, it's true, I've been blogging for a year this month. I have loved every minute of it - and so love those of you who have encouraged me along the way.
  • A trip to see the much anticipated exhibit The Jar Project.
  • St. Patrick's Day in Bath. I don't have a lick of Irish in me - but, I'll pretend - because in Bath, Maine, it's all about St. Patrick's Day. We have a parade (of course!)...Irish soda bread-making and reubens...etc. Really, this is such a great town to live in! Just when you think there's nothing to do - ta-da!
  • Maine Maple Sunday. My very favorite holiday. :)
  • Indoor grass planting.
  • Trips to see baby lambs at local farms.
  • Maybe even some spring "forcing".
  • And, of course, we'll be trying to squeeze in some more sledding, more skating and more skiing.
See, really, there is a lot to look forward to! What do you have planned for March?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

{photo via here}
Dr. Seuss is one of my all-time favorite authors. Always has been...but even more so since I watched my daughter learn to read with Dr. Seuss books. She loves, as an activity in the car, to make up Seuss-like stories. I'm guessing Baby R might too, someday since we read Oh, Baby, the Places You'll Go! to her in utero.

Probably no surprise to many, The Lorax is my favorite. But, really, I love so many. What's your favorite?

March: Updike's Take

In keeping with tradition at Maine-ly Home, here's John Updike's take on March. Have you gotten your copy of A Child's Calendar? It really is such a wonderful book with a monthly poem by Updike and beautiful illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman.


The sun is nervous
As a kite
That can't quite keep
Its own string tight.

Some days are fair,
And some are raw.
The timid earth
Decides to thaw.

Shy budlets peep
From twigs on trees,
And robins join
The chickadees.

Pale crocuses
Poke through the ground
Like noses come
To sniff around.

The mud smells happy
On our shoes
We still wear mittens,
Which we lose.