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

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sweet Disposition

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of seeing my daughter Erin graduate from College. It was a bitter sweet moment for me as I am so very proud of the woman that she has become. But, at the same time, I know that her path of life will soon be leading her elsewhere.

She and I have been through an awful lot together. Many ups and downs over the years. But she has continued loving, dreaming, and laughing like no one is watching. My hope for her now is that the “real world” never changes that sweet disposition we’ve all grown to love.


Congrats Erin! I love you. And always will. ~ Dad

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Elliott + Elliott

Yesterday was my first day at Elliott + Elliott Architecture


I will be working part-time (15-20 hours a week) for them. And mostly from home, so that I can continue to take care of the kids before and after school. I will occasionally have to visit the office in Blue Hill, to check in from time to time. But, it's only 14 easy-driving miles away.

I'm very excited to be back working on a team again. It feels like it's been forever. The people I've met so far have been very cool and the firm has done some pretty amazing work over the years.

They've even published a book!



So, it looks like my little mini-vacation is over...

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Morgan Bay

On my way back from Blue Hill today I took a little side trip to the South Surry Peninsula and Morgan Bay. It was a very quiet and pretty spot, with great views across the bay to the mountains of Acadia. We'll definitely be back during the warmer months (when it's most likely a lot less quiet) to do some biking, hiking, and perhaps even visit the beach there.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Sort of Spring

Today was the first full day of spring. So, of course, we had a snowstorm and school was cancelled. Oh well, at least it's pretty. 

Sort of.



Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sieur de Monts

On Sunday, I took full advantage of the lull before the snow storm and drove down to Sieur de Monts, on MDI, to do a little run/hiking in Acadia.

Acadia was first established as Sieur de Monts National Monument in July 1916  (we'll be celebrating it's centennial this year) by President Woodrow Wilson.  It was not until January 1929 that it became known as Acadia National Park. There is a spring at this particular location where, in 1909, George Dorr (the park's first superintendent) built a temple like structure and carved “The Sweet Waters of Acadia” on a nearby rock.

Today, the area around the Sieur de Monts spring includes the Wild Gardens of Acadia, the Abbe Museum and a Nature Center. As well as miles of well-maintained, and easily navigated walking trails. Definitely worth a visit if you're in town.


It was here that I started my adventure. 2 miles on the mostly flat Kane/Cannon Brook Trail,  4 miles up and over Cadillac Mountain on the South/North Ridge Trail, then 2 more miles of mostly flat Kebo/Stratheden Trail. Despite some annoying ice patches, I finished the 8 mile loop in a little over 2 hours (3.5 mph, my fastest hike yet in Acadia) and even had time to add on a couple miles up to Huguenots Head, and back.

All in all, a good "first day of spring" hike.




Saturday, March 19, 2016

Birthday Party

Today was Ethan's 6th Birthday Party. We had it at Playland Adventures. An indoor bouncy house playground in Brewer, ME.  It was a lightly attended event (only one of his friends from school was able to come) but he didn't care. He had fun anyway.
 


Friday, March 18, 2016

The Littlest Wade

Our not-so-little boy turns 6 today. We gave him the option of staying home from school, but he was determined to go. So he went.

Come to think of it, I would say that "determined" is probably the best word I could use to describe him these days. Other words COULD be used. Especially when I'm feeling tired, or annoyed. Words like fussy, stubborn, difficult, precise, relentless, demanding, and critical.

But, what it all boils down to is that he tries REALLY hard at whatever he does. Whether it's Karate, Legos, Hockey, Drawing, Running, Reading, Biking, or Menacing his sister.  He's all in! I guess, as the littlest Wade, he must feel like he needs to work twice as hard to measure up.

He's turning into such an awesome little dude. I'd tell him that he's well on his way to being just like his bigger brother and sisters, but he'd probably just shrug, turn around, and get right back to whatever important thing he was working on.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Ginni Burke

Today we said goodbye to a truly wonderful woman. 


 















To have been half as giving
To have been half as gracious
To have been half as kind
To have been half as selfless
To have been half as inspirational
And to have been half as loved as Virginia Arlene Burke 
Would mean that you led a very full life indeed.

Until we meet again, Aunt Ginni.




Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Meet at the Moo

The calendar might still say it's winter, but Ellsworth's finest ice cream shop, Mortons Moo, is officially open for the season. 

Like Haywards back in Nashua, the "Moo" has a huge selection of homemade ice cream flavors to choose from. And some I'd never even heard (or thought) of before. Like Ginger, Cherry Chip, Blueberry, and yes, even Guinness!

They also have a wide variety of cakes, pies, cookies and candies to choose from. And, a large array of coffees, teas, hot chocolates, milk shakes and espressos to wash it all down with. 

I took the kids there last week for the first time. Ethan ordered Vanilla (as usual), Emily got Mocha Chip, and I went with a Maple Gelato in a Waffle cone. Mmm Mmm Moo.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Got Wood?

Driving around this part of Maine, it doesn't take long to figure out that forestry is big business in this state. How big? How about 8 billion dollars big. Forestry represents about 7% of the the state's gross domestic product, employs 5% of all workers in the state, and has a total payroll of about 2 billion dollars.

There are nearly 18 million acres of forestry land in Maine which comprises 89% of the state's total acreage, making Maine the most heavily forested state in the country. And, with more than 9 million acres of forestland having become certified as sustainably managed, it also has the largest percentage of certified forestry land in the country.

Certified foresting means that landowners must conform to sustainable forestry practices which are measured by an outside auditor who works to ensure they are meeting 20 control standards promoting the protection of wildlife, plants, soil, air and water quality.

So, not only does Maine do forestry big, it does it right. Or at least as right as anyone else in the US.




Monday, March 14, 2016

California Dreaming

Today my eldest daughter traveled to California to visit my eldest son. This makes me very happy. For many reasons...

I am happy that my son has made a great life for himself in San Francisco. I am happy that my daughter is well on her way to doing the same. And, I am happy that they are getting to spend some time together before before she graduates college and before he starts his new job

But most of all, I am happy that they both have a love of life, a desire to explore, and a work ethic to make it all possible. It means I did something right. Or at least got very, very lucky.  


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Campground Research

Since arriving in Ellsworth, we've been scouting out campgrounds to visit with (and perhaps seasonally keep) our Wade Family Camper. 

The problem (good thing?) is that there are so many seemingly great places to choose from. And all are really close by. Campgrounds near rivers, lakes, ponds, mountains, and the ocean are all possibilities. And all within a half-hour drive from our house.

I guess that the benefit of living where people traditionally go to vacation.




Friday, March 11, 2016

A Case of Acadia

The designation "Acadia" in North America is first credited to the Italian Explorer Verrazzano who, on his 16th century map, applied the ancient Greek name "Arcadia" to the entire east coast - north of  Virginia.  "Arcadia" derives from Greek classical antiquity and had extended meanings of "refuge", or "idyllic place". And, those definitions most certainly apply to nearby Acadia National Park.

However, the word "Acadia" itself is pervasive around these parts of Down East Maine and has been used to sell almost everything. Healthcare Companies, New Home Construction, Insurance, GMC Automobiles, Real Estate Agencies, Pharmaceutical Companies. You name it. Acadia has helped sell it.

Now, who knows? These may, in fact, be the most idyllic builders, drug makers, car manufacturers, and insurance salesmen in all the land. But, I highly doubt it. And, I also highly doubt that this version of Acadia is what dear, intrepid, Giovanni had in mind when he coined the term. 

Of course, I thought I'd seen it all. Until I came across this sign while driving around town ...













 

... well, I guess an urn could be considered a refuge, of sorts.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tinker Farm Sunset

I was sitting at the dinner table with the kids earlier this week when, all of a sudden, I stood up and bolted for the door. I opened it up and this is what I saw...
















Now, perhaps it's because our town is near the coast where there tends to be a bit more cloud cover. Or, because our neighborhood sits high up on a hill. Or, because our house is in the middle of a large  open field. Whatever the reason, we seem to be getting a lot more spectacular sunsets here in Ellsworth than I remember seeing back in Nashua.

Maine. Maybe it truly is the way life should be.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Half-Pint Portraiture

This week, Ethan said, "Daddy I want to draw you. Show me a picture, so I can copy."

So, I gave him this:


















And, he turned it into this:






















Not bad for a 5-year old. Don't you think?

He even captured the ever-present smirk.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Further Proof






 

During my travels this week, I found further proof that Ellsworth is a lot more like Gravity Falls than many people would like you to think.



Above is a picture of an abandoned "mystery shack" on the outskirts of town. Other than the sign, do you notice any thing interesting and unusual about the building itself? Something that might connect Ellsworth to that other weird town in the upper Northwest, that I spoke of earlier? Take a closer look at shape of the roof eaves... and oddly placed window...

...Yup, you guessed it...

 















...Bill's been here.
 

*Stay tuned, more mysterious (and silly) stuff to come*

Monday, March 7, 2016

Borrowed Time

When I was 17 years old I had a life-changing experience. And, if it wasn’t for a fair bit of dumb luck, or perhaps some divine intervention, it very well could have been a life-ending experience. Since then, and for the last 29 years, I’ve always felt a little like I’m living on borrowed time.

This story begins, as many do, with a journey. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Family Reunion

We drove down to Portland on Saturday to meet our oldest son and daughter who drove up from Boston and Durham respectively. We stayed overnight at a hotel. Which the little ones loves. We ate, drank, shopped, and swam. It was a great weekend. And now, Ellsworth has never felt so far away.

 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Redemption

One of the many differences between Maine and New Hampshire is that Maine is one of the few (10) states in the nation with a Returnable Beverage Container Program, or "Bottle Bill". This State Legislation (which includes glass, metal, and plastic beverage containers) is designed to reduce litter, conserve resources, and save energy.

The way it works is that consumers pay 5 cents extra for each container they purchase. That 5 cents goes to the retailer, who gives it to the manufacturer, who gives it to the redemption center, who gives it back to the consumer when the bottle is returned. It's like the leave a penny take a penny deal. That 5 cents just keeps going round and round, and no one actually makes any money from it.


EXCEPT, for the redemption centers which receive a 4 cent "handling fee" from the manufacturers - which helps cover the cost of sorting the containers, I suppose.

The other side benefit to the bottle bill (besides the whole helping the environment thing) is that every time I go to the grocery store and see people stuffing garbage bags full of used beverage containers into the redemption receptacles, I get to enjoy the funky/sweet smell of old beer and soda fermenting together in the pores of the machine.


Which is nice.



Thursday, March 3, 2016

Common Beauty

This corner of Maine is filled with such natural beauty that I wonder, to a certain extent, if it becomes commonplace to the people who have lived here for a while.

Thankfully, I'm not one of those people just yet, so every trip to someplace new is a unique opportunity for me to experience something randomly beautiful. 

Take for example my visit to Blue Hill today. I had some time to kill between appointments so I took off down a road I'd never driven before. And, lo and behold, I see this out my driver side window.


Just a random island on the edge of Blue Hill Bay. Probably doesn't even have a name. Locals most likely refer to it as island #1,375,601 - if they even refer to it at all. But, to me, it was so strikingly beautiful that I just had to stop and snap a picture of it.

Here's to hoping we never get so comfortable here as to find this view to be anything less than extraordinary. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Creative Cardboarding

Recently, Ethan said, "Daddy, I want to make a Jeep out of cardboard." And so that's just what we did! We took one of the MANY moving boxes out of our garage and cut, glued, and colored it to look like a Jeep Wrangler.

At first he used it to sit in, and pretend to drive. Then we cut a hole in the bottom for him to really "drive" it around the house. It was a fun, cheap, rainy-day project. He was very proud of it. And, I really enjoyed working on it with him.

Next time he wants to build a motorcycle.

Yup, I'm in trouble.




Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Leap Day Loop

I took full advantage of the unseasonably warm weather  yesterday (not to mention the extra February day) and went for a hike in Acadia. I started at the Asticou Map House and went in a clockwise direction (around Jordan Pond) hitting 4 new (for me) mountain peaks - Cedar Swamp, Sargent, Penobscot, and Pemetic.

New summits meant lots of new trails. My favorite was the easy flowing, and beautifully maintained Asticou / Jordan Pond Path at the end of my trip. Note the photos below and you'll see what I mean

I ended up doing around 12 miles total, in a little more than 4 hours, which I thought was pretty good. And only saw one other person in that entire time. It was quite windy near the summits, and there was just a little ice in some of the shadier spots, but otherwise it was a pretty easy go of it.

All in all, it was a wonderful day on the trails. And, I feel very fortunate to have had the time to explore Acadia at my leisure during the week, while the kids are in school.  I know this will soon change because I really need to find a part-time job, but it's been fun while it's lasted.

And, Acadia will still be there on the weekends, I suppose.



Monday, February 29, 2016

Fashion Queen

So, our little Emily is turning into quite the little fashion designer. This weekend she spent a couple hours up in her room working away. 

And, when she emerged, this is what she showed us...




 















... Not bad for a 9-year old. Don't you think?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Bumming Around Bar Harbor

It was a beautiful day yesterday, so we loaded up the car (with kids and snacks) and headed over to Bar Harbor for the afternoon. 

It was our first time going there as a family in the "off-season" and it was pretty much a ghost town. A very different experience from visiting in the fall. Plenty of places to park, no pedestrians, and almost nothing open. We walked around a bit, checked out the library, and goofed around in the town square.

Eventually we found one open coffee shop, had a quick hot chocolate, then jumped back in the car for a short ride around the one part of loop road that was open - Schooner Head to Otter Creek. It was beautiful, as always, but just a little too windy and cold to do much of anything with the kids - who were already going stir crazy in the car.

However, we did manage to get one keeper of a shot before heading back to E-town...


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Cooking Adventures - Part 3

As previously stated HERE and HERE, I'm trying to make something new for the family in the kitchen once a week. Just to add to my limited refection repertoire and to keep from falling into a repast rut.

This weeks edible entry was beef stew. In a crockpot. I was assured by everyone that anything cooked in a crockpot comes out tasting great, and as it turns out, everyone was right. The beef stew was amazing (at least for me anyway) and we had enough left of dinner later in the week.

Yay, me.


Friday, February 26, 2016

Tiny Tiger

At the beginning of the year we signed Ethan up for Tiny Tiger Taekwondo at the Ellsworth ATA Martial Arts Academy and he's absolutely loving it. He goes twice a week, Tuesday night and Thursday night, and has learned so much already. His class typically has only 2-6 other students and with 2 instructors, he gets lots of one-on-one time.

He's super focused at class, like he doesn't want to miss anything and, as a result, he has picked it up pretty quick. Last week he got promoted to his next belt - white with green stripe. He was so proud. And, this week, he earned enough Cato Bucks (incentives for listening) that he was able to buy a Tiny Tiger character stuffed animal named Baeoh.

Hopefully his interest level will continue to stay pretty high. I think he may have found his "thing".




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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Birthday Wishes

February 25th, 2016 - Today is the birthday of my two oldest children, Casey & Erin. And, no, they are not twins. They were born on this date, exactly two years apart. 

Casey was born in 1992, just after midnight on this day, in a hospital in Nashua, NH. He put his mom through a day and a half of labor before finally arriving on his grandfather's birthday - also the 25th. A great 58th birthday present for his grandpa Skip.

Erin was born in 1994, on a snowy mid-morning day in Methuen, MA. She too was expected on the 24th, but her day and a half of labor was interrupted by an unexplained 12 hour break. Her mom and I figured that she just wanted to be her big brother's first second birthday present.

This year, they are 24 and 22, respectively. And are both very far away from this keyboard that I'm currently typing on. Casey is living and working in San Francisco and Erin is finishing up her senior year at UNH. Needless to say, we miss them like mad. Especially today.

Below is a picture we took of them 18 years ago at place which is little closer to our home here in Ellsworth - The loop road at Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor
















And, this Dad hopes we can re-enact that exact shot sometime very, very soon. Happy Birthday Kiddos! I hope it's a great one for you both.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hike-a-Bike

I tried to squeeze an afternoon of mountain biking into my final few hours of "bachelorhood" on Sunday, but the carriage roads of Acadia were having none of it. They had just a little too much snow and ice on them for my limited (non-existent?) mountain biking skills.

So after about an hour of hike-a-bike (basically giving my bike a nice leisurely walk) I ditched it and went for a plain old hike-a-mike instead. I was near The Bubbles at the time, so I decided to climb them while I was in the area. I'd seen North and South Bubble from the Jordan Pond House, but never climbed them, before today.
Both of these beautiful little peaks have easily climbed trails that go directly to the summits. In addition to being a wonderful viewpoint, South Bubble also has a famous tourist attraction: Bubble Rock (aka. Balanced Rock), a large boulder that was carried by glaciers and precariously deposited at the edge of a cliff. I got close. But not too close.

It wasn't part of the original plan, but I'm glad I got a chance to see these two peaks up close. And, all by myself. I'm really enjoying exploring Acadia in the off-season. I hope I like it just as much when the tourists arrive.



Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Rock On

As an avid hiker, I spend a lot of time tromping around in the woods. And, now that I'm in Maine, I've noticed a very strange thing. The woods here are filled with rocks. Lots of them! Not bedrock, or a few small stones here and there. But, big boulder fields. Among the trees. In fact, there are so many boulders here that you could say that the trees are among them.

Apparently, these rock depositories (typically granite or gneiss) are the result of glacial activity in the area. When the glaciers were formed, they trapped many large rocks within them. When the glaciers receded across Maine, they dumped them back out again. But, only after breaking them up into millions of pieces and tumbling them to a nice smooth finish. 

So, if you come to Down East Maine for a walk in the woods, remember to bring your camera, your patience, and your rock slaloming skills. 

And, don't forget to have a gneiss day!


Sunday, February 21, 2016

South Ridge Sunset

After taking care of Ethan & Emily during February Vacation, Johanne did me a solid and took the kids to Canada for the weekend to visit her family. Leaving me with 2 1/2 days to do whatever I wanted. Provided, of course, I did whatever she wanted, on her honey-do list.

My first stop, as always, on my "bachelor" weekend itinerary was Acadia National Park. Exciting, I know. Right? This is how my mind works. Forget booze, women, and song. Give me trail, mountain, and pond. Ok, and maybe a little bit of ice cream too.


Anyway, despite it being later in the day than my normal start time, I decided a late afternoon red-line hike up Cadillac Mountain was in order. I chose the South Ridge Trail and, long story short, I think I've found my new favorite trail.  It was 3 1/2 miles of gloriously runnable path with fantastic views of the park and the ocean beyond.

I ran up in a fairly quick 55 minutes (despite the snow and ice) then lollygaged my way back down in a glacial 95 minutes, soaking in the views and the atmosphere. With the sun setting on my right and the moon rising on my left, it was quite an amazing experience. Almost magical.


I can't wait to come back and do it again. Next time, with a little less ice, and hopefully a few more friends.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Killing Time in Bangor

While Emily attended February Vacation Art Camp all week, I was tasked with keeping Ethan occupied. All week. In the middle of winter. In Bangor. And, let me tell you, that was no easy task.

Bangor, like most places in and around Down East Maine, slows down during the wintertime. And, the fun things that aren't closed usually don't open until after lunch. So, that left us with very few options. But, we got creative and made the most of what fun there was to be had.


We went bowling (twice) - once with ten-pin (big ball) and once with candle-pin (little ball). We went to the mall. We went to the airport. We went to Tim Horton's, Dunkin' Donuts AND Starbucks. We went to two arcades, a bouncy house park, and the museum.

I think the week was a moderate success, and even my hard-to-please son begrudgingly acknowledged as much. But, needless to say, I'll be quite happy when school starts again. I need a vacation from this vacation.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Art Camp

Our youngest daughter Emily loves Art. Seeing it, thinking about it, and creating it. So, this February Vacation, we decided to sign her up for Winter Art Camp at the University of Maine Museum of Art, in Bangor. It was a 5-day program where students received daily guided tours of the museums exhibits and then created their own using painting, printmaking, sculpture, and drawing.

Emily had a fabulous time. Today, she and her classmates treated us parents to a reception and art show, exhibiting what they had worked on during the program. It was amazing! She was so proud of her work and we were seriously impressed with what she came up with. It was a wonderful experience all around and we're already looking forward to signing her up for UMMA's Summer Art Camp in June.

Here are some photos of her work...



Thursday, February 18, 2016

Glory Road

It's State Championship season up here in Ellsworth, Maine and all the Ellsworth High School winter sports teams have been making the 45 minute trek up Route 1A, by the busload, to the big city of Bangor to compete.

There are plenty of roads in and out of Ellsworth, but 1A is, by far, the most traveled. It connects us to Bangor (and the Interstate) to the North and Bar Harbor (and Acadia) to the South. And, at this time of year, the community traditionally shows it's athletes a sign of support (many many signs, in fact) all along the 5 mile stretch of 1A through Ellsworth on the way to Bangor.

Signs of all shapes and sizes are painstakingly tacked up to the telephone poles along the side of the road. Signs in the shapes of basketballs, and cheer megaphones. Signs in support of the wrestling team, and the swim team. Each one with the names (and sometimes numbers) of the players on each of the "Screaming Eagles" teams, and their coaches.


And the support must be working because, so far this season, Ellsworth has finished third in the state in wrestling, second in cheerleading and (for the first time in the history of the school) won the state championship in swimming. The basketball team plays Orono for the hoops title on Saturday. And with the strong show of support they're getting from the community of Ellsworth, I have no doubt that they'll be driving back down 1A, with that championship trophy held high.


 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Adventuring

One of my favorite things to do with the kids is something I like to call "adventuring". Leaving the house with no real idea of where we're going to go, or what we're going to do. Just pile into the car and see what life brings. And, most times, what it brings is a whole lot of unconventional fun. 

At first the kids are usually rather skeptical of it all. "This is dumb", "What are we doing?", and "Are we there yet?" are a just few of their favorite phrases. But, once they get into the spirit of it, and see how much joy it brings me, they usually come around. Especially if we drive to someplace really cool.

Sometimes we end up at the beach, or by the lake, or on a trail, or at the airport, or on a mountain, or in a field, or at a lighthouse, or in a museum, or near a river. And, yes, we even sometimes end up lost. But, that's OK too. Because we have each other (and lots of snacks) so where we end up is almost irrelevant.

I think being spontaneous is the best way to be. And I'd love it if my children grew up feeling the exact same way. Opening their minds and hearts to new ideas and experiences. Without worrying about what the plan is. Because sometimes the funnest things you can do, happen when you least expect them to.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Gravity Falls


Last night, the kids and I watched the series finale of Gravity Falls - an animated show on Disney XD that the whole family has grown to love.

The series follows the adventures of Dipper Pines and his twin sister Mabel in the fictional town of Gravity Falls, Oregon. The twins spend an adventurous summer with their great-uncle (Grunkle) Stan, in this mysterious town full of paranormal and supernatural creatures. Dipper and Mabel help Stan run "The Mystery Shack", the local tourist trap he owns, while also investigating all the local mysteries.

It was a fun and quirky show with lots of interesting plot twists and life lessons. And, as recent transplants to a strange new town ourselves, we could certainly relate to what the twins were experiencing. We're definitely going to miss sitting down together to watch new GF episodes. Oh well, I guess like every other good show on TV, it will always live on in syndication.

Below is a goofy video clip that we made showing the kids repeating one of the side characters catch phrases...


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Monday, February 15, 2016

February Vacation

This week is February Vacation for the kids. Which means that they will both be attending "Camp Daddy". A free non-profit program, run by me, and based out of my house.

Daily activities will include (but are not limited to): Art, Bowling, Movies, Arcade Games, Board Games, Lego Building, Snow man/fort Making, Sledding, Skating, Bouncy Housing, and Adventuring.

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner  (plus a "light" snack) will be served to the kids during the day. And a big, honking, glass of wine will be served (to me) after they go to bed. 

Wish me luck!

 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

My Valentine

Today is the 10th anniversary of the day I married my valentine. We were married in a secret (not anymore, I suppose) ceremony at our house in Nashua. It was just Johanne, myself, and a Justice of the Peace. It was wonderful. We liked it so much, in fact, that we did it all over again the following year. This time in a church, with family and friends in attendance.

I met Johanne the way most modern couples do these days – online. She was a Canadian transplant living and working at a prominent financial institution in Boston. She was single with no kids and no responsibilities beyond herself and her work. So, needless to say, it was a bit of a shock to her system having to adjust to the parental life I was leading. But she was more than game and soon our little trio became a quartet.

Our ten years as husband and wife have gone by so fast. We've done some many things together in such a short period of time. We raised two (now adult) older children and welcomed two additional (younger) children into the world. We traveled. We laughed. We cried. We went to Disney World. We changed jobs. We bought a house. We sold a house. And, we moved to Maine.

It hasn't always been easy. We argue as most couples do. Good communication has sometimes been hard to come by. She is Canadian (and a woman) after all. So there is that language barrier thing. But, I think our biggest challenges as a couple have revolved around how best to be a good parent. My biggest lesson learned in all that: A feisty teenage daughter and a new mom/step-mom (operating on just a few hours of sleep) is a very dangerous mixture to leave lying around the house.

Looking back now, Johanne had to give up nearly everything she had to become part of my almost fully-formed family. It was a tremendously self-less act on her part. And, the best thing is, I think that if you were to ask her now, she’d say that she’d do it all over again. At least I hope she would.

That’s the reason why I think this move to Maine has been so good for me. It’s given me a chance to help pay her back. To support her as she follows her dreams. And to let her know that, I too, would gladly do it all over again.



Friday, February 12, 2016

Provincial Preservation

Down East Maine is blessed with a great many natural resources - trees, lakes, rivers, and bays. And, is even more blessed to have a great many caretakers of these natural resources. Once such caretaker is the Frenchman Bay Conservancy.

The FBC is a private, not-for-profit, nationally accredited land trust in Hancock, Maine. It's mission is to build lasting relationships and commitments that conserve the distinctive landscapes and natural  resources of the Frenchman Bay and Union River watersheds. Since 1987 it has worked to protect over 6,600 acres through conservation easements or FBC-owned preserves.  The easements cover a variety of land uses, including an organic farm, a working woodlot, blueberry fields, wild forest and marsh.

There are 18 such preserves scattered about the Frenchman Bay area and we are fortunate enough to live right next to one of them, Indian Point. Despite it's decidedly non-PC name, our local FBC preserve is a marvelous little nature walk.

The trail winds through piney woods, over bog bridges down to a crest overlooking the Union River.  The path continues to the scenic point at the confluence of the Union River and Card Brook.  Once there, you can view downtown Ellsworth, or look across the river, to where eagles and ospreys can often be seen.  


The spectacular view of Ellsworth is well worth the short 1/2 mile hike from the trailhead...  

...which is less than 100 yards from our back door. 



Thursday, February 11, 2016

Endless Pastabilities

As the primary dinner-maker for the household, I'm always looking for new things to cook. There are only so many times you can make spaghetti, hamburgers, tacos, fish sticks and chicken strips without having a dietary revolt on your hands. So, once a week, I like to try something new to add to my under-stocked culinary arsenal. This week, that new thing was Lasagna.

I don't know why I chose Lasagna. Something just drew my hand to that particular cut of pasta in the grocery store, when I was instinctively reaching for angel hair. Anyway, the Lasagna noodles ended up in the cart and were destined for that night's dinner plate.

I followed the fairly simple recipe on the outside of the noodle box (thankfully, I managed to remember to grab all the required ingredients before leaving the store earlier in the day) and voila! At 5:35pm, on Monday February 8th, my first Lasagna was born. It came in at a whopping 5 1/2 pounds, had a beautiful golden topping, and was delicious!

The best part? I made enough to have two additional meals. One for later this week, and one (frozen) for another tight-on-time dinner in the future. Three meals for the effort of one. How awesome is that?


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Gold Plated

I recently picked up some new license plates for one of our vehicles. Our first ever Maine plates! My daughter encouraged me to go with the Agriculture Specialty Plate because she liked the sunset as well as the Father and Daughter walking together.

The Agricultural Plate generates funds to be used for Agricultural education in Maine.
The Maine Agriculture Education Fund receives $10.00 from each purchase and renewal fee. Training and materials for teachers, grants for agricultural programs in school and field trips are some programs these funds support. I like that. 

And, truth be told, I like the sunset too.