Saturday, December 31, 2011

The cold comes and goes

We know we are having a mild winter for this part of our planet - daytime temperatures have been mostly in the mid-40's (Fahrenheit), with the occasional cold day. Our temperatures differ from those farther inland because of the temperature of the ocean water here. So even though the mountains have snow, we often do not. And even when we are warmish, just a bit inland (the nearest town) can be MUCH (20 degrees or more) colder. Today it is raining. The wind has been from the south, so it is warm (mid -40's). Earlier this week we had howling wind from the northwest, and it was cold (never out of the teens and low twenties - yes, we know it can get colder.)

Our experience of the cold thus far is that the tidal cove tends to freeze near its edges at low tide. In places, the water seems to freeze mid-stream (much like a waterfall can do) as it is running to the cove floor and out to the ocean as low tide approaches. Then, as the tide rises, the ice is lifted, melts at bit, and what remains floats giving a lovely white spatter - much like a fancy moving lace collar - to the edge of the cove at high tide. The gulls do not like to land on the ice, so they are crowded into a smaller area at low tide, which seems to lead to disputes about who can be where.

Mama Bear and Papa Bear have been impressed with the way people here take care of each other. Sawyer's Market made 15 turkeys available to the Westside Food Pantry at its distribution before Christmas. People registered for a drawing, and were delighted at the time of the drawing (you had to be present to win.) These people were happy for everyone who won, whether they personally won or not. One woman cried when she won - she is working, her husband is not, they need food assistance to help make ends meet. Another woman declined the opportunity to register - she said she would not need a turkey, and others would. These people share what is available.

Mama Bear has been cooking. She has tried one of the recipes from her fall cooking class - it turned out well. It was a Bolognese sauce that went with pasta, a Bechamel sauce and freshly grated parmesan reggiano cheese.. We had a romaine lettuce, spinach, green onion, dried cranberry, freshly grated parmesan reggiano cheese, glazed almond salad dressed with an olive oil/balsamic vinaigrette dressing and fresh bread with the meal. She will be making another recipe from the class for New Year's Day. It is a pork loin with a port wine fig sauce. Let us hope it, too, turns out well.

As this year ends, we hope all will find peace and comfort in the new year, with abundant opportunities to live, to laugh and to love.

Christmas 2011

'Twas a couple days before Christmas 2011 when cold and wet arrived at the same time to give Mama Bear and Papa Bear some snow just as they were departing for Baby Bear and Boo Boo's. The Cat waved good-bye as they left, content with her caretaker and happy to avoid the snow, the cold, and the car. The snow endured as they journeyed south ...
at least until they became closer to their destination, where it disappeared. That evening, Boo Boo and Baby Bear joined Mama Bear and Papa Bear for a fabulous dinner at Abondanza II.
Christmas Eve was spent making dessert for Christmas Day (cinnamon-sugar pie crust sticks and homemade apple pie). The New England Patriots cooperated with the spirit of the day by winning their game, and then Papa Bear and Mama Bear joined Baby Bear and Boo Boo on "The Family and Friends Tour." We first went to a home where many of Boo Boo's father's family gathered. We then went to a home where many associated with an "almost family" of Boo Boo's gathered. At both homes we were warmly welcomed, enticed to sample the incredibly delicious food, and share in the obvious abundance of love and joy that brought these people together.
Stockings were hung and everyone went to sleep. Stockings were filled to the top! Presents appeared under the lovely tree!
After opening the stockings and then feasting on popovers with strawberry rhubarb jam from Sea Biscuits Cafe, cookies, pie crust sticks, and hot drinks (tea/coffee/cocoa) we settled down to open the presents. Everyone was delighted by their gifts. And Papa Bear received a treasure trove of Angry Birds items! (What you see in the picture has been augmented by an Angry Birds bookmark from dear friends!)

Baby Bear then went to work preparing our evening feast - roasted duck (with crispy skin and succulent meat), a cherry-balsamic vinegar reduction sauce, potatoes cooked in the duck drippings, and brussel sprouts with bacon, onion and garlic. The rest of us sustained ourselves with tabouli, hummus and fresh pita (continuing the tradition from the day before) - YUM!!

We watched Christmas movies and enjoyed being with each other.

The loveliest angel kept watch over us all from the top of the tree!

The following day Boo Boo and Papa Bear went to The Hall at Patriot Place while Baby Bear and Mama Bear went ice skating. It was the first time Mama Bear had ever been on ice skates and, with Baby Bear's excellent assistance and advice, she managed to avoid falling and to have fun! She is eager to go again should the opportunity present itself.

Goodbyes were said, sleep happened, and the journey home to the House on the Cove was uneventful, except for lunch at Antonia's Pizzeria in Freeport, Maine - Antonia's was a delightfully wonderful surprise!! Mama Bear had a really good cheese steak sandwich and Papa Bear had a good hot pastrami sandwich. We may stop there again should we be in the area. The Cat was glad to see us, reported that she had had a fun Christmas, too, and that she really appreciated her presents and treats.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

December Fun!

We are having fun this month. It is our first time to be at the House on the Cove in December. As we are here without our accumulation of decorations of Christmases past (they are packed and stored at the House on the Creek), we are taking a slow approach to adorning this home. We have acquired a string of solar-powered lights, and have put them on a tree near the cove. They work really well! During the day, the solar panel collects energy. At dusk, a sensor activates the LED lights, which shine brightly for about six hours, when they go out. If the day is sunny, we get all the lights shining brightly - the reds, the blues, the yellows, the greens. If the day is cloudy, we have fewer lights shining - the reds seem to need more power than others and often do not shine after a cloudy day. The lights also shine for fewer hours after a cloudy day. It makes me wonder how well a solar-powered home would work in this environment. The a picture is one Papa Bear took of our tree, at sunset one day, with the mouth of the cove in the background.

We also have a wreath near the door we use to exit to our vehicles. Some of the women who are in the parish of St. Andrew and St. John the Divine in Seal Cove and Southwest Harbor, Maine, spend the month of November collecting evergreen cones, berries of assorted colors (mostly red and white) and lovely mosses. In December, they make wreathes and centerpieces and sell them, contributing their earnings to the Church. We purchased one of their wreathes, and hung it beneath the light next to the door on the side of the house that faces the road. It is so lovely hanging next to our lovely sunshine yellow door! I have volunteered to help with this endeavor next year if we are here. As I know nothing about the wreath-making process, this may be a learning experience for us all!

We also have purchased stockings. As we lack a fireplace, we have hung them in a window that overlooks the cove. Somehow it just seems right to have our sailboat-stockings there!

Lastly, we have this wonderful ornament sent from some friends who live near the House on the Creek. It has a blue background - the very color of our furniture, and fossil coral used to make a schooner. It was made by the Modern Lady of Leisure's brother and will likely be a permanent decoration for our home here.

We attended the retirement celebration of one of our new friends last Friday evening at the Common Good Cafe. It was a gathering of many people from all aspects of the retiree's life - his family, his friends, his colleagues, his church, his children's friends ... you get the idea. The hosts provided lasagna - meat, vegetarian and vegan (though how you can use the words "lasagna" and "vegan" together is a bit more than Mama Bear can comprehend - she went with the meat lasagna for the evening - it was yummy!) and mulled cider. The guests were encouraged to bring a dish to share. We took one of our favorite green salads (romaine and spinach, dried cranberries, sliced green onions, glazed sliced almonds and freshly grated parmesana reggiano cheese, dressed with an olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sugar combo). The food was great, the fellowship fun, and the retiree is a member of a bluegrass band (The Dog Mountain Bluegrass Band), so there was great music. The core members of the band were joined by musician friends - there were banjos, an accordian, guitars, a recorder, a harp, violins, a mandolin, etc. and there was singing and sing-a-longs. One of the violinists (Ruth) did not look at any music all evening, the other violinist (a teenager of great talent - Emma Walsh) also did not need music. It was lively, it was friendly, and it was fun.

There is more music in Mama Bear's future (caroling tomorrow, a gathering to sing more Christmas carols tomorrow evening in Somesville, Lessons and Carols at St. Saviour's in Bar Harbor (a planned joint service between St. John's and St. Saviour's) on Sunday), some more work with the Westside Food Pantry Sunday, and Papa Bear and Mama Bear will attend a Christmas Party on Sunday evening. There are thank you letters to write for gifts and for the Westside Food Pantry, preparations we need to complete before we travel to see Baby Bear and Boo Boo for the holidays (The Cat has her own personal sitter who will be in attendance while Mama Bear and Papa Bear are away), and who knows what else may crop up?

We were also excited to learn this week that we have been enrolled in all the classes we had selected for the Acadia Senior College's winter term that begins in January. Colder weather is suppose to arrive this weekend. We have been enjoying the warm weather from the south that has been keeping the temperatures in the 40's of late, but this is Maine so we should have some cold weather. While some parts of Maine are sporting a white covering of snow, there is no snow here at the House on the Cove, and some of the locals are lamenting that the possibility of a non-white Christmas looms. On the other hand, it is too early to predict the weather for all of the days between now and Christmas Day, so who knows what will happen?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We've been busy!

It has been a busy fall for us! Mama Bear and Papa Bear learned to make a deep-dish apple pie (picture is of an early attempt, we now have a real deep-dish pie plate and a good process for creating the pie). Mama Bear took a course in Simple Italian Cooking from the Acadia Senior College. Mama Bear learned much, has used some of the techniques taught in the class but has yet to try any of the recipes - we lack a pasta machine and the recipes tend to create a LOT of one dish ... but she is thinking about trying one or two sometime soon. Mama Bear and Papa Bear attended two HD showings of operas performed by The Metropolitan Opera in NYC. We saw them at The Grand Theater in Ellsworth, Maine. We saw Satyagraha and Rodelina. Mama Bear loved them both, Papa Bear liked them both, though he liked Satyagraha better than Rodelina. (Mama Bear is hoping we will go to see Wagner's Gotterdammerung in February.) Mama Bear went to the Christmas Chorale in Bar Harbor. The performers had been rehearsing since August and they did a spectacular job! Mama Bear has been doing some volunteer work with the Westside Food Pantry and participating in worship on a regular basis. Mama Bear spent a week in West Virginia visiting her mom. And she cheered Baby Bear during Baby Bear's half-marathon in early October (Papa Bear was minding The Cat). Mama Bear and Papa Bear also spent a 10 days in Scotland in September, which were incredible - much to see and learn with a group of wonderful traveling companions. Mama Bear has done one hike with the Footloose Friends - it was great fun and was followed by a soup lunch. We enjoyed a great Thanksgiving weekend with Baby Bear and Boo Boo (they are such great fun and great cooks, too!) We have also been learning about late fall here. We had attended a "Home for Supper" meal with a group of people and also saw the Ellsworth Christmas Parade. We have been told that it is usually frozen here by now, but thus far we (and others here) are loving the mid-40's, low-50's days. We are watching preparations for winter and Christmas. We have learned that when it snows, you need to have cash or checks handy when you shop - some merchants use a satellite dish for their connection to the Internet, and it does not work when it snows.
The pictures are of fountains in Bar Harbor - the one on the left is at the Village Green and the one on the right is at Agamont Park by the harbor. The fountains are under the wooden teepees.
The lobster traps with the wreathes on them are at Trenton Lobster Pound - just before the bridge to Thomson Island and Mount Desert Island. What you do not see here (because of the angle of the sun) is that at the top, there is a picture of a lobster.
This Christmas tree sits on the end of a dock that is part of Southwest Harbor.
This Christmas tree is between the House on the Cove and Duck Cove. We found the solar-powered LED lights at the hardware store in Bar Harbor.
The wreath was made by women at the church Mama Bear attends.
We had an eight-inch drop from the back door to the ground, which made getting the generator in-and-out somewhat problematic. Mama Bear suggested a granite platform, Papa Bear suggest a wooden platform, and designed and built it. He made the frame in the basement, then he and Mama Bear carried the frame outside, where Papa Bear put the decking on it. The Cat did much of the supervision on the job, with Mama Bear helping Papa Bear when asked. The platform/large step looks good and will make getting the generator out (and back in) much easier. Have had no more encounters with Duckie (though there is another buoy snagged just off-shore: Mama Bear is awaiting wellies before she attempts to retrieve it.) We are discussing the possibility of a garage (we understand that if it snows a lot, we will want a garage as digging your car out can become tiresome.) A garage will be down-the-road a bit time-wise, if we do it. And we defogged Mama Bear's car headlights - Mama Bear bought a kit from our favorite Internet store and Papa Bear did a great job using the kit so that Mama Bear can now see at night without using her fog lights.