Sunday, August 07, 2011

Our 28th anniversary

Although we celebrated 30 years together this past June, yesterday, August 6,  marked our 28th year of marriage.  It should also be noted that we were married on a Saturday in weather not unlike what we experienced yesterday: humid, warm  with rain in the offing. We could never have imagined the places we would go. . .

Oddly enough, though we spent a quiet anniversary this year -- in the morning we attended an investment put on by Investors Business Daily in Waltham, MA -- learned a few of the basics about technical analysis and how to read charts! Cool, eh?!

After the excitement in the first half of the day we thought to spend a little down time before heading south to Narragansett and having dinner with Andrea and her mom and Matt and Susan. We sat outside, chatted about one thing and another while we started off off with some delicious nibbles -- including Humboldt Fog and sparkling wine from Westport Rivers, launching into several homemade salads and grilled chicken. The evening's culinary portion was finished off by homemade almond buttercrunch ice cream and these scrumptious dacquoise sandwiches Susie created: filled with salted caramel and chocolate ganache! Whoa!!

Humboldt Fog cheese

Andrea livens things up a bit

Matt contemplates all the great food and wine

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Susie's birthday at New Rivers

It was a wonderful evening at New Rivers in Providence -- we hadn't been there for more than a year and our return was long overdue. A delicious meal, lovely setting and a superb ending to Susie's birthday.


Tart for the French Tarte
Sorbet tasting

Monday, August 01, 2011

A quiet Sunday in Orono

Sunday morning found us sleeping in -- again. A cool morning wrapped in quiet greeted me as I climbed out of bed and walked into the kitchen in search of coffee and morning treats -- a ritual equally exercised at home and on the road. We lounged about until late, enjoying the act of doing nothing and just being.

About 10ish I persuaded Susie to join me for a stroll in Bangor's preeminent garden cemetery, Mt. Hope, just up the road from Orono and at the edge of the big city itself. By the time we arrived the day was fast moving toward sun and heat -- but there was plenty of shade where we were. . . (Get it? shade as in ghost?) It's always a pleasure to find myself at that spot where so many diverse threads that have made up the tapestry of a community come together in one place, at one time, for all time:

After spending an hour or so wandering around the stones and collecting a handful of memories we returned to the car and headed back to Orono, passing through the notorious speed-trap of Veazie (but nary a cop to be seen).

The rest of the day was spent with the Bergmans, just relaxing at home.

Later in the afternoon, Jonathan Bergman and his wife-to-be Naomi stopped by -- for good reason since that evening was to be a sit-down between the two families to inaugurate the official wedding planning strategy.  (It would become clear to me before the evening was over, that if Joyce and Linda -- mother of the groom and bride respectively -- if they had directed the Normandy Landings on June 6, 1944, everything would have gone off without a hitch and the Germans probably would have given up on the spot.)

Naomi and Jonathan are to be married this Thanksgiving Weekend
Linda, the mother of the bride
We enjoyed a wonderful dinner prepared by Joyce with Susie's scrumptious dessert for the piece de resistance.

The dishes were soon cleared away, and the women headed off to the living room for their first caucus session where they started the planning in earnest. Having arranged six weddings between the two of them,  Linda and Joyce were no strangers to what needed to be done -- they worked together smoothly, divvied up the necessary tasks, and quickly began identifying who needed to do what when. They were working so quickly and effortlessly I could barely follow what was going on (lacking a critical gene I could only surmise)

I said to myself this must be what it's like in corporate boardrooms around the world -- but then I realized, "No this is what is should be like in corporate boardrooms around the world."

All in all it was a grand evening -- Linda and Barry, parents of the bride, amazed me at how calm and collected they were through the whole thing, and Linda's infectious smile was matched by Barry's dry wit, and both helped to make a wonderful evening that much more enjoyable. We see now where their daughter comes by her winning smile, easy laugh and self-assurance.

This is going to be an most interesting year indeed.

Backroads of Downeast Maine and a return to Winter Harbor

Joyce and Susie at Frazer Point, Schoodic
The weather Saturday morning began with the promise only of uncertainty -- rain perhaps? Thunderstorms? Overcast for sure -- all we could do was hope for the best. And we did.

So, after packing ourselves and a few food items in the car Joyce, Susie, Carl and I headed off in search of used books and, more importantly, used memories. First up was the Big Chicken Barn, home of thousands of used books and other sundry used items (dubbed in the local dialect "antique"), located midway between Ellsworth and Bucksport, along Coastal Route 1.

At Carl's suggestion, we sidestepped the hopeless clogged Route 1A to Ellsworth (taking weekenders on to Bar Harbor) and took the more roundabout but less travelled scenic Route 15 to Bucksport.

After 40 minutes or so of cruising the backroads of Downeast Maine we crawled into Bucksport where a major maritime festival was underway and we caught a glimpse of a US Navy guided missile frigate and numerous navy types ("tars") strolling about the village.

A few minutes later we were back on the highway and soon found ourselves pulling into the parking lot of the Big Chicken Barn -- which is, as you have probably guessed, a very big, very old, chicken barn. We parked in the shade, unscrewed our bodies from the air conditioned interior and stepped out into the heat of a day turned gorgeously sunny but working on steamy. Susie and Joyce broke out the snacks, the four of us broke out our appetites and enjoyed a light repast of cheese, crackers and fruit before tackling the Barn.

After an hour of casual browsing but finding little to hold our attention, we piled back into the car and headed off for Ellsworth and a return to the fringes of Acadia National Park.

Most travelers to Acadia find themselves wandering around Mount Desert Island (which is an island but not a desert), in search of Bar Harbor, Cadillac Mountain or the numerous hiking trails to be found throughout the park. But not us. Oh, no, we were off to that other part of Acadia, on the other side of Frenchmen's Bay, the part that is tucked into a small spit of land and sand called Schoodic Point.

Of course we found the park with little trouble -- but then we knew where it was having spent the summer of 2007 living and working in Winter Harbor, a quirky little community at the edge of western civilization but, and much more importantly, at the entrance to Schoodic Point. And the memories came flooding back:
Winter Harbor in the distance to the right, seen from Frazer Point, Schoodic
Cadillac Mountain and Mt. Desert Island from Schoodic Point
Joyce looking out to sea - and what does she see?

Little had changed at Schoodic, geologically or otherwise, since we were there last. The entrance to the Schoodic Recreation Center, what was the old US Naval Intelligence installation, had been redone and looks much slicker now and less like, well, a naval base. And the life preserver stand just up the point by the parking lot is now gone -- it had been put there the summer of 2007 when two women from Michigan were swept off the rocks by one of the frequent "rogue waves," as they're known locally.  At a different time in history the "locals" would have described the waves as evil gods and such actions as punishment. Either way, one woman drowned and the other barely survived and in the blink of an eye what was just a quiet moment of holiday fun became a lifetime of anguish. And the life preserver is still gone. But most of the wanderers that day probably didn't know the story.

Like everyone else, the four of us wandered around almost as if in a reflective, perhaps peaceful state of mind: Susie strolled down roads much-remembered, Joyce sat amidst the heat of the rocks and wondered what the ocean had in store for us all, while Carl and I clambered about the rocks seeking something, anything in the cracks and fissures. Schoodic has always been a place for contemplation and seeking but without actually finding -- that's why it's so appealing for me, at any rate; that's why I like to return again and again.

Winter Harbor, by contrast, was far less appealing this trip. Gerrish's has apparently changed hands, and is now called "Gerrish for Schoodic Restaurant" -- no, we didn't get it either. The interior had changed dramatically since we were there last year -- and in place of racks of provisions and foodstuffs, were dozens of small paintings for sale dotting the walls and the restroom had been moved, for easier access. Even though it was only about 3pm the food had all been packed away and we were informed the kitchen was closed although the sign out front said "Open 7-5" and listed the specials of the day, none of which were now available. But the four young women were clearly bored, certainly with the few customers that walked in and eager to wrap it up and head out to greener pastures.

And speaking of changes in food experiences in this part of Maine, the four of us finished the day off by having dinner at Green Tea in Bangor, a place Carl and Joyce turned us on to a couple of years back. The service has always been quirky but in a cute way (whatever that means), but this time our server appeared more medicated than funny. And the food was less than stellar, bordering on downright mediocre we thought. But, hey, things change.

Carl, Joyce and Susie
Mongolian Beef -- no,  I didn't think so either