Thursday, April 30, 2009

From Dollars to Donuts...

Why is it important to support unique local enterprise? Let just one bite into a Willow Bake Shop glazed molasses donut be your explanation.  This tender sugary (but never fakey!) goodness doesn’t start in a factory or come in unnaturally bright colors and sure isn’t served up in a company box. It also can’t be found anywhere else but right in our own sweet part of Maine. 

the aforementioned molasses

Willow Bake Shop (Rt. 1 on the Rockport/Rockland line) revived a fond memory of the home-made jelly donuts purchased out of the front parlor of a victorian home in my grandmother’s neighborhood. Even better, hand made donuts with pure ingredients aren’t just some old fogey tale of the good old days, they remain a reality for a whole new generation. But what about the generation after that?

So I thank you, Willow Bake Shop, for serving up a little faith with those tender treats. You are one of many wonderful, original, local businesses I frequent.  Here are just a few of my favorite businesses, a little closer to home:

Hugs for Shirley at French & Brawn and Mel at Fresh Off the Farm — both of you always greet my family personally. You know not just our names, but who we are. These small moments teach my daughter, and me, about the importance of a daily human connection to our community. 

Hooray for the great eats at Boynton & McKay. Phil, Susan and YanMei always seem to know just what we want for lunch, plus they too also make fantastic donuts, along with our other fave — coconut macaroons.

Three cheers for Wild Rufus for getting us out of the 80s with a much-needed expansion of our musical collection. Your musical suggestions are always spot-on. We also appreciate your tireless support (and ticket sales!) of the arts and local events. 

Kudos to The Leather Bench for quality goods and — more important — their great service. A purchase from the Leather Bench wasn’t much beyond the price at a big box store, however the quality, construction and service of my item was well beyond. Try getting that out of a mall. 

Bravo HAV ll for understanding my woe and waiving the fee when I discovered that the video my husband dutifully returned at my request was actually not the overdue movie but that night’s selection.   

Yahoo for Rockport Blueprint, Village Shop and Zoot. Not for any specific reasons. I just dig having those stores in our sweet little town. Oh, and I just like to yell Yahoo! when I can.

And how cute is the zippy new Village Soup Gazette corner? 

There are plenty of other great little places in the Camden area — at least for now. I hope to get to all of you in future posts. 

So as the pessimists fret about kids supporting big box expansion into Camden let the rest of us have a little faith in our town and in our younger generation. Talk to your middle and high schoolers about the importance of small businesses. Appeal to their common sense by reminding them of all the local businesses that gladly purchase ads and hang posters for their events. Explain that the long-term cost of their quick Big Box chemical fix is one day not being able to come home again to the unique Camden of their childhood memories. Us old fogeys need to teach our kids the old indigenous saying that they don’t inherit the world, but borrow it from our grandchildren. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stonington is the Real Deal

This was our last Sunday to sleep in and goof off before the season starts here at the Birchwood Motel.  Sunday's sublime weather called us outdoors. After some poking around in the garden, we took a drive up the coast. Our stomaches stopped us at the Belfast Co-op. Fresh, local eats for three – with drinks and a shared dessert (any sweet by Lindsey Shortz – Let Them Eat Cake – will make you happy) – came in at $20. Yahoo!

Roxy takes to the road

After lunch we took Route One north and turned off for Deer Isle and Stonington. Now this is Maine. Simply gorgeous. 

The beautiful port of Stonington

Arriving in Stonington, we parked the car and took the pooch for a stroll. Roxy – our miniature oodley-something from the shelter – is an instant friend-maker. Sure enough, within minutes Roxy met Josie — a delightful Cairn terrier — and Josie's human companion, Sylvia. 

Charmed by the lovable Roxy, Sylvia invited the pups to romp in her yard while we enjoyed some conversation together. This warm experience with a welcoming local underscores an important aspect of life in Maine – the humanity in our daily existence. People say hello to each other on the street. And the divine view of the bay was an extra bonus. Thank you for your hospitality, Sylvia!

Divine view (A little overexposed, but you get the idea)

On our way back to the car we came across the charming Boyce's Motel. Barrett, the friendly owner, came out to greet us. He showed us a standard room and an efficiency apartment. Both looked very clean and well-appointed. If you're looking for more than a day trip, his rates seemed quite fair. 

For our guests at Birchwood Motel in Camden, Maine, Stonington is a fine trip up the coastline for a gorgeous day. And Bluehill, Brooklin, Castine and Ellsworth are all within reach.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easy daytrip from Camden

I'm embarrassed. How have I not heard about the Maine State Museum in Augusta before? Yesterday's visit made me a fan.

What a fabulous place. Thoughtful, engaging docents know their stuff about the incredible collections housed here: archaeology, history, biology, art, industry, government. A wonderful place for all ages to enjoy. You'll leave with a better understanding why this is called "the Great State of Maine."

Paleoamerican Exhibit ©2009 David H. Lyman

If you want to make a day of it, the State House is just next door. Also consider exploring Old Fort Western, a 1754 National Historic Landmark fort, store and house that is just a few minutes away.

Next visit I'll factor in enough time for lunch, although choosing will be hard. One of my faves is Slates in Hallowell -- an arty little village along the Kennebec River that has interesting locally-owned businesses to explore. Or just a bit further on from Hallowell is the eclectic A-1 Diner in Gardiner.

And then there's the hard to pass up Morse's Sauerkraut on Route 220, just a couple miles in from Route 17. If you can make it past all the tempting European treats and into a booth, order anything with sauerkraut. (Although I can't seem to get past ordering the same thing every time -- Pastrami reuben!) Sampling the tableside crocks of pickles and contemplating the selection of mustards to accompany my lunch always makes the short wait for food fly.

If you want to know more and see more of the state, take the day to explore Augusta. This easy daytrip is less than an hour away from the Birchwood Motel in Camden. A fine plan for any type of weather.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Monday, April 6, 2009

Skis, Motels and Ice Cream

Ok, so I lied. The ski equipment isn't to bed yet.
$25 lift pass on Maine Day could not be resisted.
So we threw the gear in the truck and zipped over to Saddleback.

Gear on the way to do battle

Spent Saturday night at a motel. Snaps for the Saddleback Motor Inn -- immaculate rooms with brand new everything, a nice staff and a wicked clean heated indoor pool and hot tub. Room rate for a family of four on a Saturday night at this brand new place minutes from the mountain was $125. Motels are the way to go. (And not just because we own the Birchwood Motel in Camden!) Staying at this motel got us a clean room at a nice price with our money supporting responsibly run local small business. What's not to like about that?

Looks better in person. Sketchy weather but decent conditions.

And what's not to like about Saddleback? Impeccably maintained trails and lodge. Friendly, knowledgeable staff. Even with a good portion of the mountain closed (due to wind and inclement weather) we were entertained. Just a great family-friendly scene. Other mountains can leave me feeling a bit abused by the costs involved. Saddleback seems more than fair. A good benchmark: lunch didn't break the bank and a bottle of water was a reasonable $1. We'll be back again and again and again.

Coming home a sure sign of spring was spotted while passing through Liberty on Route 3: John's Ice Cream is open! John's -- IMHO-- is THE BEST ice cream in Maine. When in doubt, order Chocolate Chip or Quadruple Chocolate. I'm counting the days until Strawberry Rhubarb.

A Quadruple Chocolate!

Just another great weekend in Maine.