Observations from a full-time stay-at-home Dad, part-time adventure seeker, and recent transplant to Down East Maine.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Vacationland in Canada

Permanent Vacationland is on... ahem... vacation. 

Visiting the in-laws, in Canada. Because, somehow,  Maine wasn't far enough North. We will return you to your regularly scheduled blogging on January 1st. When we return to Ellsworth. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Taste of Ellsworth

One of the most appealing things about Ellsworth Maine (other than it's proximity to Bar Harbor, Acadia and the Ocean) is it's vibrant Town Center.  Shops, Cafes, Bookstores, Restaurants, and Pubs fill either side of Main Street. And, Parks, Schools, Churches, Libraries and Community Centers run up and down the intersecting State Street. In the two weeks since I've arrived, I've had the great pleasure of visiting many of these establishments and landmarks.

Below, are a few pictures that will hopefully give you a taste of  downtown Ellsworth. Flexit Cafe, is a great place for that first cup of coffee. Mainely Meat on Maine is a tasty BBQ lunch spot. You could do worse than dinner and a drink at Finn's Irish Pub. If a show is what you want, then The Grand is what you need. And for that post-performance treat, Morton's Moo ice cream parlor will definitely satisfy that sweet tooth!

So, the next time you're "passing through" Ellsworth on your way to (or from) Acadia, do yourself a flavor and stop by this great Downeast Downtown. Your tummy and taste buds will certainly be glad you did!



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Afternoon in Acadia

Last week I went for the first, of what will hopefully be a great many, hikes in Acadia National Park. The trail I chose to hike was the North Ridge Trail. It goes 2.5 miles from the Loop Road to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. And, it marked the first time (in 20 years of hiking) that I ever climbed a mountain NOT in the state of New Hampshire.

The day was cold and clear, with just a little bit of wind. It had rained the day before so there was some residual wetness on the rocks with a few icy spots. Especially near the summit. But, I came prepared and was soon crunching along the ice with my micro-spikes firmly attached to my trails shoes.  

I reached the summit in less than an hour and was shocked to find it completely deserted. Yes, it was noon on a Wednesday. Yes, it was mid-December. And yes, it was in the 20's with the wind-chill. But still. It was weird. Especially since the other 3 times I'd been to the top of Cadillac (by car) it had been absolutely crawling with people.

I stayed at the summit for a good 15-20 minutes, just soaking in the view. Then slowly made my way back down to the car. A very happy hiker indeed! For a first summit outside of NH, I don't think I could have picked a better day, or place, to be!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Dog Days

One of the other benefits of being a stay-at-home Dad, is that I have more time to spend with our “other” child - Riley.

We got Riley from Labs 4 Rescue in 2005, when he was just a pup. And he has been all our family could ask for, and more. He’s kind and gentle. Even when the little ones were pulling on his ears and yanking his tail! Back in Nashua, everyone in the neighborhood knew Riley. We had a big (for Nashua) fenced-in yard and Riley would sit right by the edge (sticking his nose through the pickets) hoping someone would stop by and say hi. And they did, by the dozens. Every day! To pet him and give him treats.

Now that we’re in Maine, and don’t have a fenced-in yard, twice daily walks are the way that Riley gets to explore our new neighborhood. And, believe me, there’s lots to sniff and pee on where we live. Deer, turkey, and foxes are always running through the field behind our house. And, seagulls, ducks, and geese are always begging to be barked at down by the river. It’s been fun exploring with him. Walking through the woods smelling the trees, shuffling along the bay sniffing the breeze, and strolling through the meadow “hot” on the trail of some recent deer migration.

Riley is almost 11 now, and I know that his time with us is winding down. Hopefully, with this new adventure that we’re embarking on, his last years will be his best years!


Monday, December 21, 2015

Making Friends and Eating Bacon

Once we decided to move, but before I finally set sail for Maine, I did a little searching for running groups in the Ellsworth area. Two groups I came across right away were Crow Athletics and a subset of Crow called Acadian Group Runners. I made contact with both groups, to inquire about the running scene downeast, and received many warm and helpful responses.  One of the runners, Andrew Tiemann, even offered to take me out to breakfast at his favorite Ellsworth diner, once I arrived. An offer that I was finally able to take him up on this past weekend.

We met a Martha’s Diner on Route 1 in Ellsworth and, faster than the attentive waitresses could re-fill our coffee cups, we immediately dove into conversation. Andrew has lived in Ellsworth for 18 years, so he had a lot of vital info to share about the area. As a fellow runner and marathoner, the intel mostly revolved around the best places in town to eat. But we also talked schools, politics, real estate, and other non-running related topics.

Our omelets were delicious. He got his usual, “The Lamoine” with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and mushrooms and I went with “The Sullivan”, piled high with bacon. By the end of the meal I was stuffed, but also filled with joy at having made my first, of hopefully many, Ellsworth friends. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

God's Country

Despite having a mere 7,800 souls, Ellsworth has no less than 22 different churches. They’re EVERYWHERE here! Every corner, hill and nook seems to have a house of worship on it. You name the denomination, it’s here in Ellsworth. Apostolic, Adventist, Baptist, Catholic, Calvary Christian, Congregational, Christian Science, Church of Christ, Episcopal, Family Bible, Jehovah’s Witness, Life & Praise, Lutheran,  Methodist, Mormon, Pentecostal, Unitarian & Universalist. So, chances are, if you believe in God (and Christ in particular) Ellsworth has the church for you.

I was raised Catholic and all my children have likewise been baptized, but I’ve become a little dis-enchanted with that particular service. The mindless, zombie-like repetition of prayer after emotionless prayer has left me feeling a little less than enthused about the whole deal. I love the people, the songs and the connection to something greater. But ugh, The Nicene Creed, in monotone, just sucks the life out of me. Not to mention the not-so-recent abuse of children, money, and power.

So, maybe now that we’ve begun a “New Life” here in Ellsworth it’s time to search for a new way to praise God. I’m open to suggestions, and will probably try a few of the many options listed above before deciding. All aspiring faiths must be less depressing, and more uplifting. Less alms taking, and more charitable giving. Less lifelessness, and more life affirming. Less guilt and more glory.  And, needless to say, zombie ritual holders need not apply.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Bass Harbor Sunset

Earlier this week, we decided (last minute) to take a drive to Mount Desert Island (MDI) to watch the sun set at Bass Harbor Lighthouse. Below are some pictures from that trip. It’s such a joy to live so close (10 miles) to such a beautiful place like Acadia. I have a feeling we’re going be spending a LOT of our free time here.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Kitchen - The Final Frontier

As a now stay-at-home parent, the task of making meals for the family has fallen on me. And, I won’t lie, of all the things that scare me about my “new” life here in Maine, this is probably the scariest. In a previous life, as a single Dad working full time, dinners were an endless stream of easy-to-prepare, but nutritionally questionable, processed frozen food. Chicken nuggets, french fries, pizza, fish sticks, etc. Quick meals. Perfect for a crazed Dad who’s short on time and in over his head in the kitchen.

But, now that I have a little more time on my hands, and know a little bit more about the stuff that those sorts of foods contain, I feel like I owe it to myself (and my family) to try and prepare more nutritional (and hopefully more tasty) food options. So, earlier this week (and for the first time EVER) it was time for me to put on my chef’s hat and try preparing a dish using a (gulp) recipe.

The menu choice for this night was a crispy, parmesan chicken. And, despite my initial misgivings, it actually turned out OK. I didn’t burn the chicken (or the house down). I prepared the meal with a minimum of collateral kitchen mess. And, most importantly, the kids actually liked it! Hopefully, as my confidence builds and my culinary repertoire grows, I will attempt some more adventurous dishes.

But, until then, I will continue to keep things simple.

…and the fire extinguisher close by.

The Recipe

The Process

The Result

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Big Day in Bangor

The first adventure we embarked upon as a family, since my arrival to Ellsworth, was to the big City of Bangor.

Bangor lies 30 miles to the north of where we live and boasts a few key things that Ellsworth does not. Namely a Mall, a Multi-plex movie theater and a Starbucks. Among others.  Now, with all our trips from Nashua to visit Jo’s family in New Brunswick, I’d been “through” Bangor a hundred times. But, this was the first time I’d actually got out of the car and set foot in downtown. And, it was actually pretty nice.

So, after dropping Jo off at the Mall to do some last-minute Christmas shopping, the kids and I did a little exploring in Bangor proper. We drove by Stephen King’s House, we visited the giant Lumberjack Statue, we ran around Riverside Park and we checked out a cool Bookstore in the heart of town. It was early on a Saturday morning, but there was definitely a lot activity going on down there.

Afterwards, we took a drive to the highest point in the city to look at the Thomas Hill water tower. It was built in 1897 and has an observation deck at the top from where, apparently on a clear day, you can see both the ocean to the South and Mount Katahdin to the North. It’s only open a few times a year, so we’ll have to keep an eye on that for future visits.

Once Jo finished her shopping we all met up at the movie theater to watch The Good Dinosaur. After the show we did a little browsing at Hobby Lobby and, at least for me and Ethan, spent some time making fun of the goofy stuff they had for sale. We had a late (and loud) lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings and then settled in for the 45 minute drive back to Ellsworth. All in all a good trip to the “Queen City of the East”.

Paul Bunyan
Cool Windows
Hobby Lobby Fun

Water Tower Top

Stephen King's front gate

Fun's Out, Guns Out

Sister City Sculpture

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mainely Research

I always find that the best place to begin an exploration is in a library, or a bookstore. Our latest adventure began at Bookmarc's Bookstore (Stephen King's favorite) on Harlow Street in Downtown Bangor, where the kids and I picked up these three books.

My book, An Explorer's Guide to Maine, is pretty much the perfect "How-To" book in terms of places to go, stuff to do, and things to see in Maine. You name it: Maps, History, Attractions, Restaurants, Hotels, Etc. It's all there. Including info on hours, prices, directions and where or not something is kid friendly. A must have for a first-time Mainer like me!

Emily picked up, The Pocket Book for Daring Girls. A hardcover gem filled with all sorts of useful information for adventurous girls. Subjects include: How to paddle a canoe, how to look at a leaf, how to make your own zipline, and how to be a spy. Fun and informative stuff!

Ethan got it's companion, The Pocket Book for Dangerous Boys. And, I can't think of a more appropriate title for my little trouble maker. Subjects include: Making a bow and arrow, making a go cart, making a bottle rocket and how to tie a knot. And yes, I'll be watching my back from now on!

Now, armed with a little local research, we head off to explore our new surroundings. Join us won't you? We'll provide our maps and guides, if you provide your sense of adventure!