Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Another Honest Cottage Kitchen

It takes a lot of work to live a simple life. Nowhere is my simple life more obvious than in our tiny Maine kitchen, which is NOT outfitted with anything fancy or any modern "conveniences." Slice, mix, grind, open, brew, shred, wash, drink, dry, grate, can, hand works fine, but it takes a bit more time.

I was tickled to receive a post from my friend Debra Jean today. We're on the same wavelength, probably because we live in similar old cottages. I met Debra and her wonderful daughter Nicolette when they attended a talk and book signing I did on Cape Cod in late June. Nicolette is the one who said that their cottage kitchen is "HONEST and humble." I think ours is the same. Honest, humble, and the epicenter of island life in Maine. 
Elbow grease turned plywood and linoleum into useful and beautiful. The small alewives (fish) handles were forged by local blacksmith and artisan The Scottish Lion of Bristol. Can you see the big mortar and pestle on the counter?? I found that it Vernazza, (Cinque Terre) Italy. Jeff lifted it, "Ugh, do you HAVE to buy the heaviest thing available?" Yep, I needed this for making perfect pesto. It is made of Carrara marble, and it weighs about 10 pounds, which doesn't sound like much weight UNTIL you have to carry it onto the plane.  
Not necessities, but these things make me smile. Salt and pepper lobster shakers, a lobster sugar dish, and a cautionary sign.

I use these old friends every day. Some of them are from my grandmother. Others are finds from tag sales and antique shops. Cooking in iron makes everything taste better. 

I love this sign. Hmmmm, I wonder which industry funded the printing of it? I think it is hilarious, especially "Take a bath oftener than once a week."

This is a trivet from the old Portland Stove Works. It was used on a woodstove and is in the shape of "The Pine Tree State."

It wasn't until the night we moved in here that I realized we didn't have a single drawer in the kitchen. Luckily, Augustine, our lovely old Hotpoint, has a drawer for our cutlery. Everything else goes into tins and crocks.

Ok, it is NOT a totally "honest kitchen." I don't like appliances. The toaster is hidden under a French linen dish towel that my pal Lynn brought back from her trip to France. The apple cutting board is from a local tag sale, and the big board behind the apple is from a cottage my friends owned. I think the board was part of their floor. Oh well, it works for me.

All glassware is from a church auction and tag sale.

The lobster dishes are my favorites. I also love the Swanky Swigs with stars and boats and the old tumblers with boats. The dishes and cups with sea creatures were given to us by all our wonderful employees at my old business, Heart's Ease.

Our cupboards were the ugliest...plywood. Jeff took off the doors, sanded everything, and then painted the insides with a glossy linen white (all paints are Benjamin Moore). Not so bad now.

Fancy storage? Who needs it? An old Folger's coffee jar on the left, a peanut jar (why a fish logo), and small red-lidded peanut butter jars serve me well.

The two chickens hold salt and pepper. They were given to me by my friends Barbara and Jane who owned the cottage down the road. They're the ones who gave me the floorboard cutting board.

 Recycled dishtowels are my curtains. Look closely at each day of the week, but especially Saturday, which must have been party time.

A big pitcher and some martini glasses dance with a glass. This is very Wizard of Ozish.

Sunday is mellow as Sunday should be.

What is that screened thing on the refrig? It is a late 1800's garde manger from Paris. It was the one thing I wanted to find and tote home from France. Everyone assured me that we'd never locate a real one, but we did in Isle Sur La Sorgue flea market. Little iron hooks in the top hold saucisson. This was a challenge to pack and carry onto the plane. You should've seen the look on the face of the customs official. The basket is also from France. We met the man who not only grew the willow, but also wove it, then carried the finished works of art to market. I use this basket for our Farmer's Market.

When we moved in, our counters, back splash, and floors sported that very 1940ish blue marbled linoleum. Jeff worked for days and days with a pry bar and putty knife removing the linoleum. Then he installed thick and forgiving slabs of Vermont soapstone for the counters, back splash, and sink. The thing about soapstone that I really love is that you can set hot iron right on it without any damage. Also, if you get a scratch or scrape, just rub on some olive oil, and it is fine.  One minor pain, you can't let water sit on soapstone or it gets a gray mark. Again, just rub on a dab of olive oil.  

What could be simpler than a wire dish dryer? I do the washing, Mother Nature does the drying.
 The big water jug (above) holds our supply of drinking water. Our everyday water for showering and dishwashing comes from an open reservoir and spring about a two minute walk from our  house. Yep, we brush our teeth with frog water, but we drink deep spring water from ...

... a spring that is under our South Bristol Town Hall. We take large, empty containers to Town Hall and draw our water from a spigot at the side of the building. Lots of times we run into neighbors and catch up on the local gossip. This is also a great area for meeting new people. 

And right around the corner and down Clarks Cove Road is the little studio of famed American painter Willard Metcalf (1858-1925). I keep hoping that some weekend, when I am pawing through cheesy prints and paintings, that one of his works will flop out in front of me. "Old painting-$5.00." I wish. Anyhow, I always go out of my way to walk or drive past this small studio. It makes me feel good, especially when the pink roses are in bloom beside and over the double door.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next you have an honest kitchen? Send me a photo if you do.



P.S.  Stop by the Lowe's Garden Grow Along blog for my new posting

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dinner for the Diva

This time of year is bittersweet for me. Summer winds down to mists and chill nights, the scent of fallen apples fills the air, and my dear friends leave for other lives. The goldfinches, who fill our home with their sweet songs, gorge themselves at the feeder hanging from the balsam fir in preparation for their journey south. The squirrels and chipmunks chitter and skirmish as they carry away fallen seeds to stow in their cache, and my human friends begin to pack their bags.

Virginia is an old friend who has been in our lives since the late 1980s. She met us through our little cottage on Orcas Island, which she rented. She said when she stepped through the door she KNEW that we were fellow Maineiacs, as crazy for Maine as anyone she'd ever discovered. Our Orcas cottage was outfitted in Maine antiques, Maine books, (Coatsworth, Beston, Louise Dickinson Rich, E.B. White, etc.), and even old plaid Maine camp blankets. 

When we finally met in person, we felt like we'd known each other for a lifetime, but then, isn't that how true friendship always feels? Ginny, who lived in Anacortes, Washington most of the year and Maine in the summer, asked us if we would loan her our cottage on Orcas in exchange for her Maine cottage, and we said an emphatic "YES!" 

I never dreamed, as we drove down the Bristol Peninsula toward Christmas Cove, that Virginia's cottage was one I had always loved. I burst into tears when we walked through the door of her home, which was once (before she restored it) the island market. I finished Sunflower Houses at her kitchen table overlooking the South Bristol Town Landing. And I lived in her home as I finished the illustrations for  Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots

So, it is because of our early years in Virginia's cottage that we bought here over 15 years ago. We feel at home in this historic fishing village, which isn't touristy like so many other areas.

An old restaurant chalk board sports the sign "Diva Dinner to honor Virginia."

Our porch is the place where everyone gathers.

My friend Eleanor who is a great gardener, cook, and person.

Eleanor always arrives with a gift, usually home made...the best kind of offering.

Jodi, who taught at Cordon Bleu and is the most amazing and inventive chef I know. I was intimidated to cook for her, but she actually said "ummmmmmm" over some of my food and asked how I did it. Was she just humoring me?

Patrick and Alli

Max (Virginia's son our adopted god son) and Alli enjoying a fire and playing ring toss.

Honestly, Patrick NEVER relaxes, but here he is relaxing. He is Virginia's adopted son and has been a part of our lives since he was a child. I remember watching him handle a boat when he was about 9 years old...his skill is flawless.

Max grew up on the rocks in front of our cottage. He named them "Jurassic Park." Here he is introducing Gen to the rocks.

Some of the group on the porch.

When Ginny leaves at the end of the summer, an empty spot opens in our hearts. To celebrate her and her friendship, we threw a "Diva Dinner" last Friday night. What I most loved about the dinner was the gentle yet spicy mix of friends from every generation-from Wesley, who is just a few months old, to adults in their mid-80s.

Faretheewell, Virginia! We will all miss you.

The "Diva" taking photos for her sweet memories.



P.S. We are working steadily on Comfort Found Literary Lodging and are breathlessly approaching the finish line. We've been installing antique lighting, hanging old maps of Maine, and stuffing the bookcases with some of our favorite reads. Today Jeff is painting the trim in the kitchen and moving on to the final room. It is charming and homey in the apartment, and I love being in the heart of Damariscotta, which bustles with life during the day and calms (translate-sidewalks rolled up by 9) at night.  I promise to post some photos of our project next week.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Farm to Table

Greetings! Thanks for visiting this blog, which is all about healthy foods and, of course, about me and my cheeses. Aren't I a gorgeous goat? (If I do say so myself) 

This is the site of one of the last saltwater farms in our area. It is owned and maintained by the Damariscotta River Association, a major force in conservation. Our Farmers' Market is held on these grounds, surrounded by fields that slope to the Great Salt Bay, birdsong, happy people, and a rainbow of dragonflies. We also watch the Monarch butterflies deposit their eggs on the Asclepias patches that skirt the fields. This is a magical farm and is the perfect place for a Farmer's Market.

This giant sunflower keeps watch over the children.

The Damariscotta River Association's Children's Garden. It's a good one, and I love it that they haven't stuck it in an out-of-the-way area. They had just topped the garden beds with kelp from the Great Salt Bay. 

The children's garden is on the edge of our Farmer's Market. A perfect place for the kids to work and play. Note the mailbox, which can hold a supply of children's tools.

The fabulous Goranson clan (Goranson Farm) who pride themselves on offering some of the best, freshest, organic produce along the coast. I've been buying from them for years, and they've never let me down.

Hahn's End cheese "Where the cheese stands alone."

Oh yikes, this is one of the most wonderful cheeses I've ever tasted. "City of Ships" has a deep, nutty flavor unlike any cheese I've eaten. I served this at a party, and it disappeared in five minutes. Once you taste it, you'll understand why.

"Hootin" Gluten Free Bakery in Damariscotta

Elaine Waldron of Damariscotta maintains an absolutely gluten free kitchen. She offers pies, cupcakes, cakes, breads–you name it she'll bake it-gluten free.

Fiona is one of the fabulous cheese makers from Appleton Creamery, Appleton, Maine. Appleton Creamery offers apprenticeships through Maine Organic Farmers-MOFGA- (information on their web-site), and they offer artisan cheese making and home dairy workshops. If they do a cheese making workshop while we're still in Maine, I plan to attend. I've made wonderful ricotta and yogurt cheese, but my skills stop there. These workshops are limited to 5 people. Nice and intimate. Check out their web-site for information about the classes.

Herbed goat cheese with red pepper. These are delicious.

I think these are the most beautiful cheeses in the universe. Sealed in beeswax and decorated beneath the beeswax with ferns and herbs. I want one, but I don't want to ever eat it, just display it somehow in the kitchen or tucked into my garde manger.

These are soaps made with goat's milk. Offered by Appleton Creamery.

The "Mushroom Man" from Oyster Creek Mushrooms arrives with not only mushrooms, but also his educational charts.
You can order on-line. I love their dried mushrooms, which are perfect for soups and dips.

Chicken o' the Woods TASTES like chicken and can be prepared exactly the way you do your favorite chicken recipe. Grill, bake, roast, or fry it and you'll have a light chicken taste without the meat. I think it is exquisite. Couldn't you see this as a table centerpiece? Hey, I'm having a going away party for a friend this Friday...I think I'll nab one instead of a bouquet. It'll do double-duty. Table decoration first and a meal for us on Saturday.

This would've filled my shopping basket.

The last of the week's offering of freshly picked mushrooms.

I was so happy to discover a local coffee "Roastmaster," Dan Sortwell of Big Barn Coffee, Wiscasset, Maine. He had just roasted his fair trade, organic coffee a couple of days before the market. The aroma was intoxicating and I am a tea drinker. We tested a sample and had to buy some for was great. I'm going back for more.

My chair is the empty one-somebody has to take the photos. Everyone is facing our Bristol Peninsula. John's Bay is the body of water. With binoculars, we could see our little cottage. Thrumcap Island is to the left.

And in the end...well, food, family, and friends are what it is all about.

Happy summer meals to you all,