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

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".




video

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...


video

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.



Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Church and State

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states that:

" no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, under the United States."

The modern concept of a wholly secular government is sometimes credited to the writings of English philosopher John Locke, but the phrase "separation of church and state" in this context is generally traced to a January 1, 1802 letter by founding father Thomas Jefferson , addressed to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut, and published in a Massachusetts newspaper.

Jefferson wrote, "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and state."

The good people of Ellsworth, Maine also believe in the separation of Church and State. Not by a wall, but by a distance of about 40 feet...


First Congregational Church - Ellsworth's Most Prominent



Ellsworth City Hall



















Monday, February 8, 2016

Neighborhood Ride

I took advantage of the unusually warm weather last Thursday and jumped on my mountain bike to explore the neighborhoods around our house.

We live just south of downtown Ellsworth along Bayside Road. So I rode further south down Bayside until I hit the Trenton town line. Along the way down I hit every side street  (on the west side) that dead-ended at the River, then on the way back I hit every side street (on the east side) that dead-ended at the Ridge.


After two hours of this, it was me who ended up dead. But, at least I had fun fairly close to home and got to enjoy most of what my little neck of the woods has to offer.

 Take a look...


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Birdsacre Amble

I had the opportunity this past week to spend an hour walking around the Birdsacre Wildlife Sanctuary right here in Ellsworth, Maine.

The 200 acre sanctuary is a charitable, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the home and vision of pioneer, ornithologist-photographer CORDELIA J. STANWOOD, as a living memorial to her achievements in Ornithology and life.

In the summer months, the sanctuary is home to the Stanwood Museum, where wildlife exhibitions are on display and educational talks are given. Woodland Gardens, where volunteers built a boardwalk to provide universal accessibility for visitors to the garden with opportunities to enjoy nature and to find solitude within the preserve. And, the Richmond Nature Center, where permanently injured birds, that are unable to survive in the wild, will always have a home.

There are approximately 6 miles of trails at Birdsacre - directly adjacent to the heart of Ellsworth's business district. But, when you're walking on them, it feels like your miles away. They meander through lush fern groves, under canopies of pine, around serene frog ponds, and past natural landmarks with names like: Egg Rock, Queen's Throne, Boiling Spring, Kettle Crater and Big Chief's Fireplace.

In short, a wonderful little garden paradise, right in our own backyard.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Legomania - Part 2

My 5-year old son and I have an interesting and complicated relationship. He's very bright and always eager to learn. But, at times, he's also a little devil who just loves pushing my buttons. Especially when we're playing Lego's. 

Lego building is currently his all-time favorite hobby. So much so that, now, Lego Masterbuilder has overtaken Fireman and Policeman at the top of his list of things he wants to be when he grows up. And, it's always the first activity he asks me to do with him when he gets home from school.

The problem is that he's also VERY particular when it comes to building with Legos. If the vehicle, or building, or monster we're working on is not exactly the way he wants it, he has absolutely no trouble letting me know.  At first it starts with a raised eyebrow, then a groan, and then (when I'm not looking) he removes the offending piece and replaces it with one that he prefers.


As an architect who prides himself on creativity, I like thinking outside the box when playing with Lego's. I don't use instructions and pretty much build whatever pops into my head in whatever way I'm inspired to build it. This, of course, does NOT fly with the boy. If what I'm building isn't "right", then I hear about it. Quite loudly, in fact.

Last week, he asked me to build two Star Wars themed Lego vehicles. An Imperial Star Destroyer and a Tie Fighter. Both projects pretty much went the same way. I started building and he fought me every step of the way. They were "wrong", "terrible", and "ugly". In short, he hated them. Both. And let me know it. Slammed doors, screaming, the works.

However, once he got a chance to spent some time with them, he decided that he, in fact, loved them. How do I know this?  Well, firstly, he didn't destroy them. Secondly, he put them on the "shelf of fame" in his bedroom. Thirdly, and probably more telling, was that he said to his Mom he thought they were "awesome". 

Something he couldn't bring himself to admit to me.

Now, I'm not sure exactly why this is. Maybe he felt bad for over-reacting in the first place. Maybe, he thinks it's uncool to show affection to your Dad. Or maybe, he just likes getting a rise out of me to see how I will react. Whatever the reason, I'm pretty sure I'm going to have my work cut out for me - raising this littlest Wade.

I just hope I survive the "terrible" phase and can move quickly to the "awesome/shelf of fame" phase before I get destroyed. 




Thursday, February 4, 2016

Kebo Dorr Caddy

Last weekend I took advantage of the warmer weather (and the fact that my wife took the kids to Bangor for the afternoon) by booking it down to Acadia for some impromptu winter hiking.

The last time I did that was back in December, for a quick hike up and down Cadillac Mountain via the North Ridge Trail. It was very cold and mostly clear on that day, with just a few icy spots on the top. This time, it was a completely different experience.

Instead of temps in the 20's, it was almost 50 degrees outside. Instead of windy conditions, it was mostly still. Instead of dry trails, they were very wet and snowy. And, instead of an out and back on the ridge, I did a loop to include two new mountains (for me) Kebo and Dorr.

Just like last time, however, I pretty much had the place to myself. I made quick work of Kebo (a mere 407 feet high) then charged up Dorr (a healthier 1270 feet in elevation). Halfway up, the trail became more snowy and near the top I found myself skittering across snow covered ice. At least the views were nice and the trail was mostly flat by that point.

This was not the case on the traverse from Dorr to Cadillac. The half mile Gorge Path trail went straight down then straight back up some very steep, exposed, and slippery rock outcroppings. The fact that there were absolutely no footprints on the trail should have been my first inkling that this was not a popular (safe?) winter route. 45 heart-pounding and knee-scraping minutes later I was grateful to be standing on top of Cadillac. The highest point in the park - a "lofty" 1530 feet above sea level.

From there is was a quick "jog" down the North Ridge to complete the loop back to my car. A little over 6 miles in total with a trip time of a little under 2 1/2 hours. It was my longest event duration since the DNF at the Stonecat 50 Miler, in early November. A truly wonderful afternoon in the mountains!

The other good news is that the foot held up throughout. In fact, it felt so good the next day that I might even try running on it. Imagine that!


At a crossroad near the summit of Dorr


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

There Be Pirates!

Really enjoying my new life as a stay-at-home Dad...


 
















 ...could you tell?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Treasure Hunting

One of the new friends I made here in Ellsworth recently sent me a link to the Schoodic Sculpture Symposium.  

The Symposium is a biennial cultural event that brings together artists, visitors, and communities to create a Public Sculpture Collection in eastern Maine. Each symposium last 6-weeks, from late July to early September. Artists from around the world are selected through a juried process to participate. Visitors can watch the sculptures in progress. The sculptures are then placed at public sites in various Maine communities.

It began in 2007 and since then a total of 34 sculptures have been built and erected along the Down East coast of Maine - from Deer Isle to Calais. Each sculpture is made from genuine Maine Granite but are as different from each other as the artists who conceived them.

Prior to learning about the Symposium, I discovered one of it's installations in Blue Hill. It was carved by Japanese artist Hitoshi Tanaka and it is titled "The Window of the Sea Wind". It drew me in like a magnet and then framed my view of the bay and the sea beyond. It was fantastic!

Now that I know there are others, and have a map to find them, I look forward to searching for these treasures all along the coast I now call home.



Monday, February 1, 2016

Only In Maine

Some daily reminders that I no longer live in New Hampshire...

Paul Bunyan Statue - Bangor

Boot Cars - Everywhere