Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Maine Vacation Advice from a Local

Lobster Wharf Sunset at Pott's Point, Harpswell

A blog buddy is planning a 4-5 day vacation to Maine this summer. She likes quaint towns and nature. I’m sharing my advice as many of you have mentioned wanting to visit here. You can combine all of my options for a 2-week vacation.

Option 1: Acadia National Park (4-5 days) 

Otter Cliffs at Acadia National Park

If you want to stay in one perfect spot, go to Acadia. Bar Harbor is a cute town with shops and good restaurants. You can take boat trips to islands and rent mountain bikes to explore the carriage trails. What’s unique about Acadia is you get mountains, lakes, ocean and islands all in one. You also get a lot of tourists in August but early/mid June is quieter. Make reservations months in advance during the high season. Fly into Bangor and rent a car.

Option 2: Portland and Coastal Towns (4-8 days)

If you want to see my part of Maine, fly into Portland or drive a couple of hours north from Boston.

Waterfront Portland
Day 1: Portland
Explore cute boutiques in the Old Port area. Browse at Longfellow Books. Get Frozen yogurt and fresh fruit toppings at GoBerry. Eat fresh local sushi or reserve weeks ahead at gourmet Fore Street and dine on native ingredients. Spend the night at the Portland Regency Hotel and Spa. Visit the islands of Casco Bay via ferry if you have an extra day.

Days 2 and 3: Freeport, Brunswick, Bath and Phippsburg (or expand to 4 days)

My watercolor of Wolfe's Neck Park, Freeport

Freeport: on your drive up 295 to Brunswick, stop in Freeport to outlet shop or to visit Wolfe’s Neck Park for a picnic and a gorgeous hike along the coast, best at high tide. 

My photo of Bowdoin College in early autumn

Brunswick: college town as your base. Stay 2 nights at The Brunswick Inn (lovely 19th century B&B off the town green) or The Inn at Brunswick Station (modern new hotel by campus). There’s a farmers’ market on the town green on Tuesday and Friday mornings and at Crystal Spring Farm on Saturday morning. The farm is a nice place for a walk in the woods too. Visit Bowdoin College and museums, Gulf of Maine Books, Wyler's Gallery, flea market at Fort Andros, nice public library and several good restaurants in town. Lunch spot favorites: Wild Oats Bakery and Café (quick) or Frontier Café (leisurely). Coffee at Little Dog. Local made ice cream at Cote's at 212 Maine Street (May-August and worth the long line) or at Gelato Fiasco (year round). Local made candy at Wilbur's of Maine. Artsy movies at Eveningstar Cinema and at Frontier. Live classical music concerts at the Bowdoin International Music Festival and musicals at The Maine State Music TheaterArt walks on second Fridays of the month and several year round galleries in town.

My photo of Bath, Maine

Bath: a quaint shipping town. Visit the Maine Maritime Museum, The Bath Book Shop, antique shops, Now You’re Cooking and Reny’s general store. Coffee at Cafe Creme. For dinner get pulled pork and local beer on tap at Beale Street Barbeque or for a more gourmet experience with local ingredients go to Solo Bistro.

My photo of Seawall Beach from Morse Mountain

Phippsburg: swim and walk at 3-mile Popham State Park (best at low tide) or hike Morse Mountain to Seawall Beach. Have a lobster roll lunch at Spinney’s at Fort Popham.

Tidal Pools at Bailey Island

Day 4: Bailey Island, Harpswell. Stay at the Driftwood Inn.  Explore Bailey Island, walk to the  Giant Stairway and eat fresh caught lobster at Cook’s Lobster House. The island is accessible year round by car from Harpswell or by ferry from Portland in the summer.

Optional Day 5/6: Boothbay Harbor or Monhegan Island
Maine Botanical Gardens and Boothbay Harbor.
Or spend a night on rustic Monhegan Island.

More Options:
Camp at Baxter State Park
Hike in the White Mountains,
Stay in cabins on Moosehead Lake.
Off the beaten track: Deer Isle.
Click on my Maine Places label.

If you've visited or live in Maine, please add more suggestions in the comments.  Advertisement links won't be published.

Reviewer's Disclaimer: no free products were received for this post.

It's nice to think of summer today. Remember what I said about March being winter in Maine?
After a week of 60 to 80 degree temperatures, I woke up this morning to all this snow.
2016 Update: In Portland, GoBerry has shut but Gelato Fiasco has opened another store in the Old Port area. The Bath Book Shop closed but a new bookstore opened, The Mustard Seed in Bath.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Draft and Thaw

“My Life in Sentences” by Jhumpa Lahiri is the first article in Draft, a new series on the art and craft of writing in The New York Times. Lahiri is one of my favorite authors for both style and content. Her first story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, won the Pulitzer in 2000. I also loved The Namesake and Unaccustomed Earth. She writes exquisitely about writing too:  
“But only certain sentences breathe and shift about, like live matter in soil. The first sentence of a book is a handshake, perhaps an embrace.”
Don’t you love her metaphors? Lahiri’s experience with writing, of waking in the night to scribble sentences on scraps of paper and having the story come to her like “pieces of a jigsaw puzzle,” is how I go about writing first drafts too. It was encouraging to find parallels. 

I just looked back at my review of Lahiri’s last book and was amused to see that I read those stories in Cornwall. That trip to the West Country was meant to be a vacation from writing, but it inspired me to shift the setting of a novel I was researching in England. I’m revising that manuscript right now.

Lately it’s been a challenge to sit inside writing. As I noted in an earlier post this month, March is usually still winter in Maine.  April is mud season, a time of melting snow and thawing mud. True spring, with everything blooming all at once, doesn’t normally kick in until May. Last weekend temperatures soared to the 60’s, and we’re due to hit 80 today! The last patch of icy snow in my woods vanished yesterday. Nothing is blooming yet and the grass is more dun than green, but I’m soaking in this warm sunshine with delight. More seasonal 40 degree temps are due at the end of the week.

Happy Spring!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thai Turkey Meatballs Recipe

It's a challenge finding simple but healthy meals that the entire family will eat with enthusiasm. My husband's recipe for Thai meatballs served in lettuce leaves is his own marvelous creation. This dish is traditionally made with ground pork, but he switched to turkey to be healthier. The recipe is easy enough for our teenaged son to prepare in a half an hour, and everyone loves it. Leftovers reheat well in the microwave.


1 ½ lbs ground turkey
1  egg
¼ cup breadcrumbs
1/2 small red pepper chopped fine
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
2 scallions (or 1 small onion), chopped fine
juice of ½ a lime
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp Thai Fish Sauce
2 tbs brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch of chilli powder
ground pepper and salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together. 

Form into small ball-patties and shallow fry in 2 tbs vegetable oil for 7-10 minutes.
(Optional: add a drop of sesame oil to the cooking oil for extra flavor.) 

Serve in romaine lettuce leaves with bottled Thai Peanut Sauce 
or Thai Sweet Chili Sauce. Good with jasmine rice or naan bread.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Seawall Beach: March is still winter in Maine

I do a lot of reading during the long winter in Maine, and this month's selection for the book review club is one of my favorites. I'm not alone in my adoration. Having crossed over to an adult audience since its release in January 2012, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is #1 on the NYT bestseller list for children. Novels about dying are too often saccharine tearjerkers loaded with clichés, but this beautifully written romance about teens with cancer made me laugh more than it made me cry.
 “You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how you tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice.” Says Hazel, the 16-year-old narrator.
Since thyroid cancer spread to her lungs, Hazel navigates life with an air tank on wheels. In her support group she meets Augustus, a former varsity basketball player. Bone cancer stole half a leg but not his sense of humor or his hotness. Augustus is in remission with a favorable prognosis, but a miracle drug has only slowed the growth rate of Hazel’s tumors. A wish granting foundation will grant them a dream get away, but is there time? 
“I didn’t tell him that the diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You’re a woman. Now die.” Hazel isn’t sure romance is a good idea: “I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, okay?”
The Fault in Our Stars is as much about living as it is about dying. It was a surprisingly easy book to read. Although the story centers on a romance, cancer is not romanticized. The 34-year-old author worked as a chaplain at a children’s hospital before switching to a literary career. His novels, however, are more irreverent and philosophical than religious. The kids sound and act like real teens, only wittier and wiser. My only criticism is that the characters in Green's books all speak in a similar voice, but it’s a unique voice well worth listening too.

If John Green hadn’t already won the 2006 Printz Award for Looking for Alaska, I’d expect The Fault in Our Stars to be this year’s winner. My 17-year-old son, who doesn't usually read young adult fiction, loves John Green and asked for this one.  AARP recommended this YA to the over 50 crowd. I’d strongly recommend this beautifully crafted novel to readers of all ages. 

Click icon for more
book review blogs
@Barrie Summy

Laugh Watch: "Explaining Londoners" in the NYT Magazine.  The newspaper subscriber profiles are hilarious.

Charity Watch: Authors for Henryville are looking for donations of books and funds to restock the Henryville schools after the March 2nd tornadoes in Southern Indiana.