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Posts Tagged ‘Maine’

book geraniums captains daughter sandals porch flowers

My reading slowed waaaay down in August, but I read some fantastic books. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Salt Houses, Hala Alyan
When Salma Yacoub reads her daughter Alia’s tea leaves on the eve of Alia’s wedding, she sees trouble – unrest, displacement, grief – and also luck. From there unfolds the rich, layered, multigenerational saga of the Yacoub family, who are uprooted from Palestine during the Six-Day War of 1967. Over five decades and at least as many countries, Salma’s family continue to live: they struggle, they migrate, they work, they fight, they love. A powerful and absolutely gorgeous novel about family, belonging, restlessness, the secrets we keep and the selves we become. Recommended by my colleagues at Shelf Awareness.

The Rules of Magic, Alice Hoffman
The Owens women aren’t like other women: they have certain unusual powers, but they’re also under a longstanding curse. Hoffman tells the story of Franny, her sister Bridget (known as Jet) and their aunt Isabelle. I loved this book; it broke my heart and mended it, over and over, and gave me a few good words about courage. Lush and gorgeous and moving and powerful. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 10).

Epiphanies & Elegies, Brian Doyle
My Brian Doyle kick continues: this is a slim, whimsical collection of poems on Ireland, animals, “wild holy children” and more. My favorites: “Instructions to the New Puppy,” “Lilies,” and “Goose Arrested at the Corner of Winter & Summer.”

The Captain’s Daughter, Meg Mitchell Moore
I love Moore’s insightful, honest novels about family and finding our place in the world. This one focuses on Eliza Barnes, who is called back to her tiny Maine hometown when her lobsterman father is injured. Eliza worked hard to build a different life for herself and she’s proud of that, but being back home makes her question her choices, and she also befriends a local teenager, Mary, who is facing her own crisis. Powerful and lovely and real.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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piece of the world book candle

Immortalized in Andrew Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World, in which she crawls across a field toward her family’s Maine farmhouse, Christina Olson lived a quiet, private life. She was hampered and eventually crippled by a degenerative muscular disease, but insisted on living independently (with the help of her brother, Alvaro) for as long as she could. Christina Baker Kline delves into Christina’s story – her razor-sharp mind, her stubborn family, her fierce pride, the degenerative disease that eventually stole her mobility – in her sixth novel, A Piece of the World.

Christina, with keen powers of observation and completely without self-pity, shares the details of her life with readers: geraniums “splayed red like a magician’s handkerchief,” the sweep of the sea beyond the fields of her family’s farm. She relays her family’s seafaring history, her own love for Emily Dickinson’s poetry, the ill-fated love affair with a summer visitor who eventually stopped writing back. And she delights–cautiously at first–in her friendship with Andy, the young artist who finds himself drawn back again and again to the humble Olson farmhouse.

I’m over at Great New Books today, sharing my thoughts on A Piece of the World. Please join me over there to read the rest of my review.

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rocks nubble light maine

Last Saturday, I woke up to grey skies and spitting rain. The hubs was out of town on a work retreat, and my friend Adam and I had planned to drive up to Maine in search of fall colors and fresh air.

fall-color-maine-early-oct

We almost didn’t go. It had been a long week for both of us, and the howling wind made me want to hunker down and watch movies all day.

I knew I’d get cabin fever, though, and we hoped the skies would clear up if we drove north. So we hopped in my car and hit the road.

We stopped first at the Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddick. It was cold (and crowded, despite the photo below), but gorgeous.

nubble light cape neddick maine

We wandered around and took photos of the light and the waves, then bought steaming bowls of soup from a nearby clam shack (chowder for me, lobster bisque for him) and ate them sitting in the car.

Our next stop was Two Lights State Park, up on Cape Elizabeth. Adam had been there before, but I never had. It is windswept and understated and quietly stunning.

rocks waves two lights state park

We climbed all around the rocky cliffs – which go right down to the water, great slabs piled on top of one another to form a sort of natural terrace.

adam two lights waves rocks

Ahead, we glimpsed the blue sky we’d been chasing (though we never quite reached it).

rocks waves blue sky two lights state park maine

The wind roared in our ears, frothing the waves into whitecaps and sending the clouds scudding across the sky.

It reminded me of being in Ireland, long ago: climbing up to an old ruined fort on the largest of the Aran Islands and letting the wind blow my hair straight back and pull the breath right out of my lungs.

katie two lights rocks

Here, on the other side of the Atlantic, I remembered a favorite line from Anne of the Island:

Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.

Without consciously realizing it, that was exactly what we had done: left the city behind to come stand on the edge of the world, letting the wind – and each other’s company – blow the fog out of our souls.

It was a bracing antidote to the daily frustrations and larger struggles of the week. Just what we needed.

Our last stop was Bug Light – a glimpse of blue sky, a dramatic sunset, and the tiniest lighthouse I’d ever seen.

bug light sunset sky

We headed home (stopping for dinner in Portsmouth) – windblown and tired, but utterly at peace.

What are your best antidotes for soul fog?

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Summer Fri-dates

katie jer cliff walk

My husband and I didn’t do a lot of traveling this summer. Aside from a lovely anniversary weekend in Maine and a quick August getaway to Rhode Island, we stayed pretty close to home.

But our schedules were both flexible enough this year to allow for a new summer ritual: what we dubbed “Fri-dates.” Whenever possible, we planned fun day (or half-day) trips to local spots on Fridays, and soaked up both the summer sunshine and some extra time together.

On July 3, we started the holiday weekend with a trip to our beach (a mile from our house) and a little light reading.

between you and me beach

The following week, J came up to Harvard Square and we spent some time at the Harvard Art Museums – a favorite spot of mine. (The courtyard currently features this cool triangle sculpture.) Afterward, we ate dinner at Daedalus.

triangle sculpture harvard art museums

Our next adventure was quite close to home: Steel & Rye, a hip new restaurant in Milton, the next town over.

steel and rye lights sunset

The patio lights created a lovely ambiance, and the food – including this raspberry dessert confection we shared – was delicious. So fun to discover a new favorite spot in our neighborhood.

raspberry dessert steel & rye

A couple of weeks later, we drove up to Ogunquit, Maine, for an afternoon of exploring. We met some friends for an early dinner and made it to the beach (with ice cream) in time for this luminous sunset.

ogunquit beach sunset

Our next destination was Scituate, MA, a little south of where we live.

sailboats scituate ma

We explored the quaint downtown area, spent a couple of hours reading on the beach, and then ate a delicious Italian dinner al fresco (with live music!).

snicker of magic book beach summer

Next we headed to Crane Beach in Ipswich, MA.

crane beach ipswich ma

More reading on the beach, and a yummy dinner at a hip little place called Salt.

mary oliver winter hours beach

We wrapped up our string of beach dates with another afternoon close to home.

recipes for love and murder cover beach

And a few weeks later, we had an early fall Fri-date: a fascinating evening spent exploring the Science Behind Pixar exhibit at the Museum of Science.

mike sully monsters inc

I love a good road trip or weekend getaway. But it’s been nice to remember that there are adventures waiting in my backyard – and to savor them with my favorite person.

 

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katie jer maine view

To celebrate being married for seven years (and because we really needed a vacation), the hubs and I recently took off for a little trip to Maine.

When we go on vacation, we like to wander and we like to eat. (I also like to sleep in and poke into every bookshop I can find. My morning-person, not-quite-so-book-nerdy husband handles both of these things with great patience.)

studio apartment rockland

We rented a tiny studio apartment in Rockland, a short walk from downtown. There was really just enough room to turn around (or snuggle on the loveseat watching Modern Family on DVD), but it was all we needed for a weekend.

rockland maine main street

Mid-coast Maine is full of little towns with ridiculously cute Main Streets. We browsed the shops in Rockland and Camden to our hearts’ content: books, toys, yarn, T-shirts, cool things carved out of wood.

camden maine harbor

The harbor views are stunning.

camden maine public library

We also explored the Camden Public Library, because I cannot resist a beautiful library.

camden maine library interior

We had a delicious dinner at In Good Company, where we shared several small plates: deviled eggs, stuffed peppers with goat cheese, crusty baguette with fancy butter and thin slices of Parmesan.

appetizers

We also had bowls of gingery carrot-beet soup, and finished with lemon cake drizzled with lemon-thyme syrup.

lemon cake

A little bit fancy and a whole lot delicious.

ocean view mt battie maine

On Saturday afternoon, we drove to the top of Mount Battie, just outside Camden, for some truly amazing harbor views.

jer mt battie view

This spot supposedly inspired Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem “Renascence.”

jer lulus ice cream

Ice cream, of course, is an important part of vacation. The wild blueberry ice cream at Lulu’s, in Rockland, was delectable. (J is enjoying strawberry-balsamic sorbet in this picture.)

Sunday was rainy, windy and cold, but we braved the elements and drove to Belfast to meet our friends Isaac and Katelyn for dinner.

friends dinner

We hadn’t seen them in a year, and we spent hours catching up on our lives, first over cups of tea, then over Italian food and glasses of red wine. The best.

We drove back on Monday (stopping in Portland for lunch), relaxed and so happy after four lovely days together.

selfie mt battie

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Recently, my friend Abigail had two questions for me: “What are you doing this weekend?” And “Do you want to go to Maine with me?”

Abi’s co-worker and friend, Lisa, was getting married in Maine, and Abi and her husband had planned to go, but then he couldn’t get that Saturday off work. She really wanted to go, she said, but she wasn’t eager to make the four-hour drive alone. Would I be up for a one-night getaway to a tiny Maine town, complete with an outdoor wedding?

I was.

abi katie harbor

Abi and I have been friends since our college days in Texas, when we sang in our school choir and on our church’s praise team together, along with the men who would become our husbands. (Together, the four of us make a perfect vocal quartet. She’s a soprano married to a bass; I am an alto married to a tenor.) They moved up to Boston about a month before we did, and I am constantly, deeply grateful for the presence of a longtime friend in a city that still feels new and overwhelming at times.

Bonus: she’s available for fun adventures like this one.

We left on Saturday morning, whiling away the miles with conversation. (We can talk for hours, and do, when given the chance.) We reached our hotel just after 2 p.m., and after a flurry of check-in and clothing changes and primping, we hopped back in the car and headed down a few country roads to the farm where the wedding was being held.

We arrived at 2:55, a little nervous because the wedding was supposed to start at 3. But we needn’t have worried: we had ample time to hang around, drinking lemonade from mason jars, before the ceremony finally started around 3:30. (It was, shall we say, a laid-back affair.)

abi katie wedding

We hung around in the wedding tent (above), enjoying cold hors d’oeuvres, then dinner, and some serious dancing. The party was still revving up when we left – but we were ready for a girls’ night in. We changed into pajamas and flipped through InStyle magazines and talked until midnight. And in the morning, we headed out to explore Camden.

downtown camden maine

We enjoyed breakfast at Boynton-McKay, which included buttermilk biscuits, a delicious omelet (for me) and steaming cups of Earl Grey (for both of us). Fortified, we spent several happy hours strolling downtown, poking into adorable shops.

We visited three bookstores, including Stone Soup, a tiny rabbit warren of used books:

stone soup books exterior camden maine

stone soup books interior camden maine

Abi (who teaches preschool) was ecstatic to find the children’s section:

stone soup used books camden maine

She bought a couple of picture books. I scored a vintage E.M. Forster hardback and a Trixie Belden mystery – I used to love reading about Trixie’s adventures with Honey, Jim and the rest of the Bob-Whites.

After visiting Once a Tree (where I bought a gorgeous, Maine-made wooden cutting board), we headed down a side street for some harbor views:

camden maine harbor boats

We couldn’t pass up the Owl & Turtle Bookshop, with its hilarious sign out front:

owl turtle bookshop sign camden me

And its animals keeping watch over the door:

owl turtle bookshop sign camden maine

The interior is also charming:

owl turtle bookshop interior camden maine

We grabbed some sandwiches (and a blueberry crumble bar) at Fresh Bakery, and then, regrettably, it was time to hit the road.

We hit some heavy traffic on our way back – it took us an hour more than the trip up – but we chatted and snacked and laughed our way back to Boston. We felt the way you feel after the best road trips: tired and hungry but content, sated with sunshine, good talk and the glow of a weekend adventure together.

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Some of the best living this summer has gone unblogged.

Of course, some experiences should remain unblogged. Even in our age of constant social sharing, I believe in keeping parts of my life private and sacred. Some experiences also slip through the cracks because they are so ordinary. I could wax lyrical about the pints of raspberries I’ve eaten this summer, the pleasant lunch breaks with my book in the Public Garden, the sound of the harmonies when we sing hymns at church on Sunday mornings or with friends on Sunday nights. I do talk about these things, sometimes, but I don’t always blog about the things I do, the people I see, daily or weekly.

And sometimes I can’t fit an experience into the blogging box; I can’t come up with anything terribly original to say about an evening with friends or a dinner out or a weekend away. Sometimes I don’t have photos to go with a post. Sometimes, honestly, the effort feels like too much, and I want to simply enjoy it for what it was, without drawing a lesson from it.

I am headed to Texas this week, to see some old friends and cuddle that sweet nephew of mine and hang out with my parents and eat scads of Tex-Mex food. And I thought I’d share, briefly, some bits of this summer that haven’t yet made it to the blog.

We headed to Maine in late June, spending a cool, grey long weekend wandering around Bar Harbor:

maine bar harbor smiling photo

The occasion was the wedding of two dear friends, Isaac and Katelyn, who are utterly in love and simply adorable:

gibsons brays wedding maine

(Small victory: I got to re-wear my bridesmaid dress from Bethany’s wedding.)

We watched them dance amid the twinkle lights:

katelyn isaac dance wedding

And then I put my camera down and we all danced for another three hours. One of the best wedding receptions I’ve ever been to.

In early July, Allison came up for a weekend, from New York, and we showed her around the city:

allison katie lunch sweetwater summer

Her fiance (now husband), Duncan, joined us the next day, and we all walked the Freedom Trail, with a stop at Paul Revere’s house:

jer duncan silliness paul revere's house

The British are coming?

There are no photos of the excellent Italian dinner (or cannoli) we enjoyed, nor of the hours on end we spent talking and laughing together. This is why I don’t always blog about time with dear friends – it is deep and rich and full and unrepeatable, uncaptured on camera but so vital to my soul.

This summer, there have been a few trips to Cafe Luna for brunch:

cafe luna cambridge waffles brunch

But there have been far more simple patio dinners that look like this:

pasta dinner patio lemonade summer

I’ve also managed to do nearly everything on my summer manifesto list (though the outdoor movies didn’t happen this year, the ice cream and fireworks and vacations certainly did). And I’ve savored every last one of my summer addictions, even when I didn’t talk about them here. The dailiness, blogged or unblogged, is precious and life-giving.

What have you left unblogged this summer?

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