Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Playing Tourist on our Anniversary...part two

Geez, things have been crazy. I fully intended to finish the posting about our anniversary the day after my last post and then came that blasted alien abduction. I really HATE when that happens.

Anyway, I'm back so here goes:

We decided to have lunch at one of Southern Maine's many tourist traps, Warren's.

One of the most fun things about living here is that every once in a while we get to act like a genuine camera-toting, bermuda shorts and logo t-shirt wearing person "from away." Warren's is made to order. We blended right in with the tour bus crowd looking for the ultimate seafood meal deal. Here's Brendan getting ready to "walk the plank" in search of steamed clams:

Ahoy, matey. Welcome aboard the good ship Pocketpicker. We have it all...the fake fish nets hanging on the wall, the gift shop you can't avoid passing going in AND coming out, the paper placemat that tells you how to eat a lobster and a menu that just says "Market price" next to lobster, clam and crabmeat dishes.

You don't come to a place like this and order a hamburger so we started with the steamers. They were delicious but we could have easily eaten four more servings.

Our main courses were also delicious but obviously designed for smaller appetites than ours. Brendan's seafood newburgh barely covered the bottom of a small bowl and my Coconut shrimp/fried Calamari plate featured three shrimp and a little bit of calamari barely detectable in the heavy coating of batter. Our waitress was a sweet young girl struggling to keep it together as the bus crowd pecked away at her by continually summoning her over to their tables for incredibly petty reasons. I really wanted her to dump the bowl of mussels over the head of the patron who sent them back "because they tasted strange." I would be willing to bet a gold dubloon that he didn't know the difference between mussels and clams and thought he was avoiding the higher price by ordering mussels. My heart went out to the poor kid. She handled him a lot better than I would have.

Despite the Lilliputian portions we did enjoy our lunch together. Hey a day off is a day off. And spending it together was such a treat.

After lunch we headed up to Kittery Point, just a few miles up the road. It is a very historic area, one of the first areas settled in Maine and we knew exactly where we wanted to go...the cemetery. We have become fascinated with the old colonial cemeteries and the stories they can tell about life in the early days of the colonies. This was a particularly beautiful one with old graves as well as some very recent ones.

This is a rock garden planted in honor of a woman who died in 2006. The rock in front is etched with her name, her birth and death years and "Beloved Mother." There is also a bench around the left side overlooking the ocean. What an amazing tribute.

Contrast that with this woman's grave.

No name, no dates. Just "Wife" and the words At Rest and the Pearly Gates to heaven. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say she probably really needed that rest and those gates looked mighty inviting at the time.

There were some glimpses into the local tragedies as well. This headstone spoke volumes of an event that must have been huge news when it happened.

Besides the significance of listing white and negro eleven years after the end of the civil war in a state full of abolitionists I have to wonder what was going through the stowaway's mind. "Oh, crap, I picked the wrong boat to sneak onto!!"

Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time!

The cemetery is full of Victorian era cemetery art, something I find really fascinating. Here's one example.

It's a beautiful place in a gorgeous location.

And of course there were beautiful flowers everywhere

Across the Street were the First Congregational Church, one of the oldest churches in New England...

and the Lady Pepperell Mansion, an exquisite example of Georgian Architechure.

Our final stop of the day was Fort McClary, a Revolutionary War fort at the mouth of the Piscataquis River, the river that flows to the ocean from Portsmouth Harbor.

It was the end of a beautiful day trip. A short ride home, a refreshing nap and then it was off to a special dinner at Vignola, a wonderful Old Port restaurant in Portland. Happy 32nd, sweetie pie! Here's to 32 more!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"The World Will Never Starve for Want of Wonders"

That quote by Gilbert Keith Chesterton couldn't be more descriptive of our short Northern New England summers. It is as if we are being rewarded for the severity of our winters.

In mid-July Brendan and I celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary with a day trip to Portsmouth NH and the Strawberry Banke museum gardens. We've been there in the fall when the summer splendor has passed so we decided this year to take the short trip to see the gardens at the height of their beauty. We were well rewarded. Here are some of the pictures.

A restful spot full of beauty. Such an amazing array of colors.

Impatiens of every imaginable color.

Beautiful cooling fountains

Gorgeous flowers of all colors

And gnarled old trees.

The garden is next to Portsmouth Harbor so we explored the area, thoroughly enjoying the cooling breezes off the water.

An interesting monument

recalling Portsmouth's rich history

We kept walking over a small footbridge to a calm peaceful island

with a breathtaking view of the inner harbor.

We sat at the picnic table on the hill in the shade of the trees and watched the boats and birds for nearly an hour.

Then we walked back into the most historic section of the city, Strawberry Banke and marvelled at these beautifully restored houses from the earliest era of our nation's history.

The walls in these houses could tell amazing stories of courage, deprivation, simple joys and terrible tragedies.

Their classic beauty will never go out of style.

It's so fascinating to think of all of the history that has passed through these doors.

Next it was on to lunch and a visit to Kittery with its historic cemetery, the Lady Pepperell Mansion and Fort McClary...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Functionally Ugly

Clock Losing Numbers by Martin Paul

Oh my! It HAS been a while since I posted. Where HAS the time gone? As usual, the summer is flying by. Why doesn't the winter seem to go by as quickly? We have been busy preparing for Meredith's departure for Grad School in NYC and her transition to REAL adulthood...(translation: she gets to pay all of her own bills!!!!) Part of the process was a super-mega-monster-bargainbasement-everythingmustgo!-garage sale over the July 4th weekend. Here is what our living room looked like in the staging process:

Amidst the chaos there were 154 Beanie Babies (I nearly cried when I realized how much of MY money, time and energy was embodied in that mass of fake fur), a Tamogachi that preoccupied most of an entire summer and fall, countless pieces of plastic jewelry and other chachkis, an entire set of Boxcar Children books, a pen and ink portrait of Mel Gibson and more clothing than an entire middle school can wear in a month...and SO much more. Categorizing everything took both us the better part of a week and when we brought everything out front it covered our entire front lawn.

The event was a success for the most part. Activity was brisk, bargaining was encouraged and after seven hours of hawking her wares (with my assistance) she netted $200 and a painful sunburn. (My suggestions to put on sunscreen went unheard until far too late in the game.) We sorted through the remaining items, carted an entire carload to Goodwill and set aside the rest for a followup event to be held in a couple of weeks with some of her friends who realized that they too could turn those childhood treasures into cold, hard cash.

Stay tuned for further adventures in the saga!

Now, as for the knitting. I've been a busy girl. The title of this post refers to my efforts since my last post. First the good...

Isn't it adorable? It's a baby blanket for Brendan's bestfriend's new grandson done in a tetris pattern. (I was SO hooked on tetris for years!!!!) I found the pattern on ravelry (of course!) and the link to it is here.

I don't crochet so I love the mock crochet edging that is so much easier than it looks! Thanks, Gracielou!

The Bad in the title refers to my agonizing efforts to produce this:

It is the bottom border of a camisole that had me at first glance. I LOVE this pattern and was determined to pull it off. Four frogs later, I finally figured how to correctly count my Yarnovers on each round of 285 stitches and thought I was off and running. Now, I need to disclose that, when stressed, I become a tight knitter. Ok, that's an understatement. I become a "can't-squeeze-the-needle-into-the-stitch-for-all-the-money-in-the-world" tight knitter. So moving the stitches around a 40" circular needle soon became a test of physical strength. And then the unthinkable addi turbo needle BROKE! The cable came right out of the tip. I stared incredulously at the *&$#% thing, muttered one of the beloved late George Carlin's seven words that can't be said on television and threw the whole thing on the floor. Time invested to date?...literally entire days of knitting. And the worst thing of all was that it was Fourth of July so no yarn stores were open. I was forced to stew in my own pity and self-loathing until the next day. In hindsight that was probably a blessing since I was probably breathing fire and steam at that point. God bless Skacel and their unconditional guarantee policy. The next day I was able to calmly walk into the local yarn store where I had purchased the needle, rationally explain what had happened and exchange the broken needle for a new one. I was so grateful that I even bought some wonderful yarn that just happened to be on sale and sitting in the bin next to the cash register calling my name.

Armed with my new weapon, I set about starting the project over. My calming mantra was "loosen up, it will be gorgeous." This effort seemed to go so much better, sliding around the needle like a little greased piglet at the county fair. After finishing all of the rounds I surveyed my handiwork and realized to my horror that somehow the entire piece had become twisted!
How the hell had that happened? I NEVER twist in the round. But the knitting gremlin was sitting there on my shoulder, yelling "gotcha" and laughing his maniacal laugh. This was a project doomed to failure so I cried "uncle" and picked out a different edge for my summer top. DAMN YOU, KNITTING GREMLIN!

Ok, now for the Functionally ugly...

When I broke my needle and had to wait all of 24 hours to get a new one, I decided to use that time productively. While cleaning out closets for the garage sale, I came across piles of old plastic bags. I remembered reading an article on line about making "plarn" from bags and knitting it into reusable grocery bags. I grabbed my scissors, rolled the bags up and started cutting up strips and stringing them together. This is what I ended up with:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you PLARN!...sticky, smelly, nasty but amazingly durable.

I set about knitting it up on the biggest needles I have (17) and this was the result:

Pretty blasted ugly but it will last forever. It really drove home to me why plastic is such an environmental nightmare. It is the ecological equivalent to the cockroach, virtually indestructible and likely to outsurvive every other substance on planet earth.

I made two major miscalculations when I started this project. The first was how unwieldy this stuff was. My hands ached after only a few minutes of manipulating the beastly stitches. And secondly I soon realized that working with plastic yarn on the hottest, most humid days of July was just plain stupid. So, for now, this project will be shelved until the temperature and humidity is more cooperative. I probably also should have cut the strips thinner than I did and not used my good sewing scissors which have now been rendered as dull as a presidential debate. Oh, well. Live and learn.

Tomorrow is our 32nd Wedding Anniversary so my guy and I will take the day off, head out with our cameras and document a gorgeous summer day somewhere along the coast. We'll stuff our faces out in public for a casual lunch and a more formal dinner and spend the day reflecting on how lucky we are to have each other. Stay tuned for some pics and a play-by-play.