September 13, 2014

My Great Aunt, in her 99th Year

I have a Great Aunt who will be turning 99 in the next few months.  Until recently, she lived in her home by herself, but was looked after by a caring nurse that came every day.  Earlier this summer, there was a fire in her home, it started in the kitchen, most likely the toaster oven.  Thankfully, an alarm system sent the fire department and she was pulled heroically out by a fireman.  Thank you, to all of you that help us in this brave way.

Her home, sadly, has become uninhabitable, and we needed to move her to an assisted living facility.  It is impressive, that at 98, she is able to live in simply assisted living, which is only for those that can function much more independently than in a nursing home.  The assisted living facility is nearby, and I have visited weekly with at least one of my children, bearing sugar cookies or chocolate cake.  She has always liked chocolate.

My mother, sister and I have spent a great deal of time cleaning and going through the house.  We are preserving family photos and mementos.  I'm afraid, though, that the amount we had to go through, has been greater than we expected and the task ended up being very arduous.  However, in order to be able to have pictures of one's Great Grandparents, it is very much worth the effort and also the respectful thing to do, not only toward my Great Aunt, but to my own children, who one day may like to see them.

Something interesting came about recently with regard to this particular branch of the family.  Over a dinner several months ago, we were casually informed that we are descended from James V of Scotland.  I had always been aware that our tartan from our Scottish ancestry was Royal Stewart, but my understanding and interest hadn't advanced any further.  Coincidentally, my Great Aunt married a Campbell.  The Campbell clan, unfortunately, sided with the British in 1746 and contributed to the defeat of the Scottish by the British.  As I went through the house, that made me wonder, if she and her husband had ever thought or spoken about that shared, but bitter history.  She thinks of herself as a patriotic American, she was a teacher of English and likes to read poetry in French.  We've honestly never spoken about her Scottish heritage.  But it does make me wonder.

I'm looking forward to visiting her and asking her more about her and our shared family and I feel fortunate to have her nearby, not only as a connection to my family's past, but as an opportunity to show my own children that it is part of our duty as family members to take care of and honor the older generations.  That it's important to take the time to preserve pictures, learn the names of the people staring back at us, learning how they tie us to where we came from.

September 5, 2014

Maine! (Again!)

Camden, Maine
As you might already know, I've been to Maine every summer of my life- it's part tradition and part connecting to our Dad's heritage, he's from a town on the mid-coast called Camden.  Since our Grandmother passed away, we've rented houses in various locations in town of varying sizes (pre-kids, one kid, two kids...)  There's something about the idyllic seaside town, slower pace, mornings with fog and afternoons with bright sunshine that just makes you forget about all the things that typically rattle around in your mind...  A few glasses of wine, some lobster and well executed haddock doesn't hurt either!  If you're headed up to the Camden / Rockport area at any point, here are some standouts that warrant a visit.

At an Acadian dinner in Thomaston, Maine

Shepherd's Pie in Rockport
Shepherd's Pie
At Shepherd's Pie, Rockport, Maine
I had tried twice in the previous year to go to this restaurant without success.  We hadn't had the forethought to make a reservation either time and by the time we got there, the wait and how hungry we were didn't work well together.  This time, we went twice!  At the end of our first meal, I think I said something like, 'this food is literally like crack to me, we really have to leave before they put anything else in front of me because I will eat it ALL."  Did I mention I am supposed to be training for a 10K?  Yeah, didn't happen any time I was near this place.  Both meals I had there, I got the bone in rib eye- it has these thinly sliced fried 'garlic chips' on top and when you mix one with the meat, the chimichuri on top, it is heavenly.  One person with us picked up the bone and gnawed on it.  I will not say who.  Also brought to our tables were the bok choy, the lettuce, fennel and shallot dressing salad (excellent), the chicken (BBQ preparation)- it had either been brined or marinated in yogurt it was incredibly tender, the shepherd's pie (of course!) and an amazing bottle of Italian red from their 'fancy reds' section of the wine list, it was all divine.  For dessert, chocolate pots de creme.  There is only one request I make of Shepherd's pie, and that is that it acquires some amaros for its after dinner drink list.  Some suggestions include Cardamaro and Amaro Nonino, both of which I love.  Other than that, perfection.  And, you probably need a reservation.

Some beautiful images from our meal at Shepherd's Pie:

The bone in rib eye at Shepherd's Pie

The shepherd's pie at Shepherd's Pie

The tender BBQ chicken at Shepherd's Pie

The chocolate pot de creme at Shepherd's Pie

Antiquing?  Decorating?  Visit Rockland Marketplace- an exceptional selection with terrific prices.
Rockland Marketplace
This place I also went to twice.  Because I could NOT get enough!  It's like they are giving the stuff away!  No, really, it is a terrific selection, it changes frequently, the prices are very fair and significantly lower than some other places I went.  If you are in the market for things to put on your walls, check it out.  If you want vintage cast iron pieces, check it out.  I myself am partial to vintage and antique silver and silver plate, I picked up a tremendously cool silent butler / crumb catcher that is silver plate and in good condition for 12 dollars.  Also, a framed print of wild duck hunting for a very reasonable price.  This place is great.  Thank you to the two wonderful ladies that run it!

In the area with little ones?  Check out the local library!
Camden, Maine Library
Lobster town, lobster dress.  At the Camden library
Not only do they have a children's playroom, complete with a train table, duplo legos, a row boat on wheels, a lighthouse that lights up with a big, green scooby-doo mystery style light, they also have (almost every single morning at 10 am) story hour.  This is NO ordinary story hour.  We attended a story hour devoted to Ninjas, which was not only read by a librarian wearing a ninja mask, it was followed by craft time where the kids could make any of three ninja crafts including their very own mask!  The next day, it was a tiny 'fair' complete with face painting, a bean bag toss, a kissing booth (manned by a cast of furry puppets), we even got cotton candy.  There is so much creativity and joy at this library, I cannot do it justice!  We were there almost every day.  Thank you, librarians!

There was also a civil war reenactment while we were there- the 20th Maine Company B were camped out on the library's lawn for several days.  A terrific learning tool for the kids!

Camden Harbor Cruises, be a lobsterman for an hour!
This one, I can't even believe exists, does your child want to be a lobsterman for an hour?  Drive the boat?  Pull up a trap and see the lobsters inside?  Look no further.
Camden Harbor Cruises
Go on the 9:30 1 hour cruise to get a reduced child rate- I think it was like $5 for kids.  They take you out in a refurbished lobster boat and you pull up a lobster trap!  The trap we pulled up had three lobsters in it.  They take them out, rubber band their claws and then the kids can touch them / pick them up gently if they want to.  Warning, they are a little slimy.  Then, they put them back in the ocean and in the open ocean, the kids drive the lobster boat!  It's crazy.

Lobster craziness!  Camden Harbor Cruise

Sewing, Arts and Crafts Store in Belfast, Maine
Fiddlehead Artisan Supply
You might notice that I've written about this store before!  Honestly, this store is so exceptional that it should be written about every day!  The fabric selection, pattern brands, carefully curated book selection and different colored wool felt in this store is like candy!  You want it all!  I went THREE times in two weeks!!!!  The last trip was to buy pieces of different colored felt to make small stuffed 'ewoks' for the kids!  They got to choose their colors.  These were the colors chosen by our little girl:

Ewoks with felt from Fiddlehead in Belfast, Maine

They also have a brand of patterns that I am currently in love with- Citronelle.  Citronelle (Adult) patterns.  I purchased the Susanne adult dress pattern, and am currently hand-sewing it in a robin's egg blue cotton (also purchased at Fiddelhead) with visible coral pink hand stitching.  They also have a matching child's dress!  It is here:  Citronelle Susanne Child's dress and, are you ready to hear about the amazing fabric for this project?!!!  You know the art in the Very Hungry Caterpillar books by Eric Carle?  They have two different fabrics that use that art- one is the caterpillar itself (so cute!) and the other, which I bought to make the child's dress for our little girl, is the caterpillar's food from the book!  It is so unbelievably cute.  One of the best things about this particular pattern and dress is that you only need about 1 yard of fabric to make it.  Why not try it yourself?

Thank you for reading!

xo  Jessica at La Dolce Duchessa