Life as I know It

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

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sunday to Sunday-Rise and Shine!

On Sunday, the Rise & Shine rests in the Eastern Gut

Jeff and I  work together six days a week, but on Sundays we kick back and enjoy lounging in our screened porch and reading The New York Times. Afternoons are spent exploring, reading, and soaking in the beauty of Maine. I never take a minute of our time here for granted. It is always an adventure.

The little red house belongs to one of my best friends, Virginia. Ginny's home and lifestyle appeared in Country Home magazine about 10 years ago. It was a huge spread shot by my friend Lynn Karlin

Rutherford Island is connected to the mainland by this swinging bridge, the busiest one on the coast of Maine. That is Craig Plummer, bridge keeper, who is waving to us.

Approaching the bridge from the eastern side. Ginny in the bow as we approach The Gut. On the left is our friend Diane's house (it used to be an old dance hall). Diane's house was featured in Coastal Living a few years ago.

 The span between the island and mainland is called "The Gut." Waters on both sides are referred to as either Eastern Gut or Western Gut. I always lower our car windows as we approach the bridge so that I can drink in the scents of the waters and hear the singing of our car wheels as we pass over the old bridge. On one of my birthdays, Jeff hired a lobsterman to usher me under the bridge and around the island. Also, the bridge keeper let me ride on the bridge as it opened and closed. Loved every minute.

Connie, Julie, and Ginny in the bow of the OLIVE, the oldest pleasure boat (still owned by the same family and named after Olive Prescott) in Christmas Cove, where she has always been moored.

Goudy and Stevens are still in the business of building some of the best boats on our coast. The OLIVE was boat number 1 for them.

Approaching the historic town of Damariscotta (which is Native American for gathering place of the alewives) on the river of the same name. Our "Comfort Found-Literary Lodging" faces this little harbor. Damariscotta is an easy walk about town with many restaurants, a specialty bakery,  a great library and bookstore, and wonderful galleries and shops. I love it here and look forward to spending a few nights in our place when it is finally finished. Yes, we will be posting photos, but right now things are piled high, the kitchen is in an uproar, and much more needs to be done.

On Monday a big surprise arrived in the mail. My pal Elizabeth Murray (author and photographer of Monet's Passion) sent the antique yellow pitcher to me as a gift; she called it the "sunshine pitcher." She said that when she was in my kitchen looking around at the yellow pottery she thought to herself, "my pitcher belongs here in this kitchen." I love the pitcher and will use it for one of my favorite cold summer soups (recipe to follow), and it will always remind me of Lizzie and our times together. By the way, I did make the avocado soup for her when she visited, and she pronounced it "the best soup I've ever tasted."

Jeff and I used to roam throughout Maine before we found our cottage. Once we settled in here, we began to dread leaving our home. Last week, we drove 3 1/2 hours north (downeast as it is called here) to the wonderful town of Winter Harbor on the Schoodic Peninsula where I gave a program for their public library Summer Author Series. A lovely couple offered this tiny, but PERFECT, cottage as our home away from home. I loved every minute in this enchanted little place.

As we approached the cottage, we discovered a series of faerie landscapes and houses.

A view out our window that included a great vegetable garden, swing, shoreline, and in the distance, Mt. Desert Island.

I loved this sign that was on the wall in the cottage. So true.

Visiting with children in the Winter Harbor Public Library.

Some of the children I worked with a couple of months ago mailed a few books of drawings and poems they wrote for me. The one on the right side made me tear up. "I say thank you more than the flowers say thank you to the sun. I like you as much as birds like worms." The nicest words ever written to me.

I can't live without 'Heavenly Blue' morning glories in the summer. My first encounters with them was on my dear Gram Mc'Kinstry's kitchen porch in Kokomo, Indiana. They self seeded and were as dependable as the perfection of Gram's pies. They covered an old trellis, and when I walked outdoors they greeted me like hundreds of blue windows. Gram had a "redbird" (cardinal) who thought he owned that trellis of morning glories. He used to scold us when we stepped out to admire them. These flowers always remind me of Gram. 

And on Sunday night-well, who needs words to describe this?

Marilyn's Summer Soup
(this will go into Liz's sunshine pitcher)

Trust me on this one; this soup stops conversation. As people take their first sips, all you will hear is moaning. The recipe was shared with me by my dear pal Marilyn. I've tweaked it and use a different vinegar than was originally called for, and I've added a bit more dill.

Make this 1 hour before serving–no sooner or it will darken–I've sometimes blended everything except the avocado, then added it an hour before serving.

3 ripe avocados
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup half and half
1/3 cup walnut pieces
1/3 cup fresh dill
1/3 cup diced red onion
1 Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt (flaked)
Put all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Chill for an hour. Top with fresh dill.

This is heaven, clouds, a dusting of stars!

Thanks for visiting me and thank you for your comments, book orders, letters, and surprises. 

All joys to you,


P.S. Please stop by Lowe's Garden Grow Along for a short visit and leave a valued comment. Wonderful ideas are posted by 8 passionate gardeners. I love the Mimi Glavin chair of succulents. Visit Mimi and her great garden store The Playful Garden if you're ever in Napa, California

P.P.S. A bonus for you. This last Friday I found out that my friend David Berry, proprietor of the Market Boat, will no longer be delivering his organic foods to our Christmas Cove town landing. This link is a tribute to David. I hope you enjoy seeing the photos and reading the story of the Market Boat.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bean Suppers, Pot Lucks, and my California Gardens

Summer in Maine would not be summer in Maine without potlucks, picnics, and bean suppers. I am a sucker for all these get togethers and revel in the conversations, traditions, and food we share.
Jeff carrying my offering

Last night was the Pemaquid Watershed Association Annual Meeting at the Willing Workers Hall (1897) in New Harbor. I made a large pasta salad, hey, not that original, but it is HOT here, and this seemed like the right thing. The bow tie veggie pasta in shades of orange, green, and ivory looked smashing in a wide glass bowl scalloped with a garland of garlic scapes. 
It wouldn't be a Maine pot luck without an old pot of baked beans

I don't know about your luck with making this summer staple tasty, but I've always had a problem infusing it with flavor. This time I used my big marble mortar and crushed 2 cloves of garlic in a teaspoon of sea salt, then drizzled in about 3/4 of a cup of extra virgin olive oil, which I tossed with the hot pasta.  Yum, very garlicky. Next, Jeff and I diced red onion, tomatoes, garlic scapes, red pepper, and cucumber, and tossed it with freshly snipped basil. Still a bit blah, so I mixed the zest of one lemon and about a tablespoon of seasoned rice vinegar. Not bad, but not the greatest. Any suggestions on how to make the pasta hold even more taste?

My caretaker at Sunflower House sent along a group of photos of my gardens as they look today. YIKES, I need to get in there with my shears and harvest that lavender. Oh, and I wouldn't mind a few nectarines, lemons, limes, figs, lettuce, herbs, and more. 

The tall pots past my potting shed hold the strawberry popcorn, zinnias, coreopsis, and more. The corn is now about 5' tall!

The tin butterfly bucket is in full bloom. 

The lavender beds in our front yard. Nectarine, pluots, plums and lemons.

The back 3-B garden for birds, bugs, and beneficials.

A Pismo concord seedless grape I planted from a whip three years ago.

Check out the bronze lettuce and chard in the potager.

Please visit my Lowe's Garden Grow Along post for some super container ideas.

All joys,


Monday, July 12, 2010

Picnic on the Porch

Some of the best summer evenings are spent with dear friends on our tiny screened porch. It never matters that we're crammed together around the table, elbows bumping, feet tangling, as we pass food and drink. Laughter comes more easily outside. The waves thunder against the ledges, rainbows arch across the cloudy sky, and later, when the candles sputter, and the last of the food disappears, the fireflies begin their dance.

Yesterday I woke early and began the preparations for a picnic on the porch. I trimmed 6 artichokes and blended herbs and lemons for their topping. I popped red quinoa, then cooked it with herbs, shallots, and fresh ginger, mixed with  a spoonful of curry. Three pounds of freshly filleted haddock were cleaned, spread atop a mound of spinach, doused with lemon juice and Pinot Grigio, dotted with butter, and readied for the oven. Jeff sliced Maine sweet Italian sausage and I skewered them with onions and red bell peppers. I baked bread chips, dished out goat cheeses, sliced cucumbers and avocados, garlic scapes, and tomatoes for a salad, and set the table. My pal Marilyn, who makes one of the best Caesar salads in the universe, volunteered to bring that part of our meal.

A storm hit us in the afternoon, misty sea spray drifted through the screens and wet the glasses, and the tablecloth threatened to kite out the window. "Dress warmly," I cautioned our friends, "it is raining and breezy, but we're NOT eating indoors." I wondered if anyone would opt to bow out of the party, but all the hearty souls arrived and the celebration began.

Jeff took this photo of us feasting. Herb Schaal, the designer of the new children's garden at the Coastal Maine Botanical garden (I'll have a post on that garden in a few days) sits beside his wife Cindy, my pal Marilyn, and Heather and Doug.

Tarts devoured, fireflies dancing, stories told, and all prepare to leave.

Thanks for stopping by. I love hearing from you and will try to answer your comments and letters.

All joys,


P.S. Last week my dear friend Elizabeth Murray, author and photographer of Monet's Passion (a newly released anniversary edition by Pomegranate Press) stopped by for a visit and supper. I am including an audio of Lizzie on NPR. Liz is the first female allowed to work in Monet's gardens at Giverny. She is  remarkable. I know you'll be inspired by her words and her work, oh, and let's not forget her TENACITY. I admire that ability to stick to it just about more than anything.
Elizabeth Murray and Toolie

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summer Windowsills

As I walked through our little cottage this morning, I realized how the windowsills change according to season.

Garlic scapes. I love them both for cooking and for their elegant poses, like ballet dancers on stage.

From our walk with Sue and Joe on their favorite beach.

Make a wish.

Sand dollars from Sandy Cove.

Heart rocks from my walks along our shore.



Nothing fancy or long this time, but I did want to say hello to all of you who have written. We are in the throes of a major remodeling (do-it-yourself) project right now, and I promise to post photos and information as soon as we're finished. We are opening "COMFORT FOUND-Literary Lodging" on the top floor of our historic, three story building in the heart of downtown Damariscotta, Maine.

A view of downtown Damariscotta.

Ever yearned for a charming and homey place to stay in the middle of one of the best villages ever? We'll soon be able to offer it for weekend and weekly rentals. You'll love it. Bookcases groaning with select offerings, cloud-soft beds, cozy furniture, and a view, both front and back, of the Damariscotta River and town landing.

Our building is the one with the lights on the right.
The downstairs is occupied by Darling and DeLisle, a gallery of fine studio jewelry and accessories.